My Millionaire Fantasy

If I had all the money in the world, I would not spend it on fancy cars.  I would not by an enormous mansion on a hilltop.  I might do some traveling, but I’d probably spend most of my time close to home. 

No, if I had all the money in the world, I’d use it to support artists.  Artists of all stripes.  Seasoned artists who have been in the game a long time, burgeoning artists who would benefit from some early successes, visual artists, fiber artists, woodworkers, singers, writers, dancers, makers, creators, everyone. 

If I had all the money in the world, I’d give it to the people who add joy to my life through their gifts.  No one should have to stop doing the art they love because they can’t afford to make it.  Show an artist some love today!

I wanted to list some of my favorite artists, but that list could go on forever.  Instead, tell me about YOUR favorite artists, be they underground or all over the place!

The Oozma Kappa Sweater

I’ve been super pumped about Monsters University since I heard it was coming out.  Monsters Inc. was my favorite Pixar film until Up came along, and I’ve always wanted a sequel.  I’m perfectly content settling for a prequel, and I finally got to see the film, at a drive-in double feature no less!  I had to sit through Despicable Me 2 first (I must admit, I’m not a big fan of Despicable Me, I don’t know why…I feel like I should like it, it’s got the cute factor going on, and the silly factor, but it’s missing something I can’t quite put my finger on).  But I had a HUGE smile on my face from the second Monsters U started, and it did not go away the whole movie.  If you love Monsters Inc. and just want to spend a little more time in that world, go see it RIGHT NOW.

If you’ve seen the movie and you’re a knitter, you probably honed in on the Oozma Kappa sweater. I know I did.

I saw it and became obsessed with knitting it.  I kept poking my little sister, who couldn’t care less about knitting, as the movie carried on:  “LOOK AT THAT AWESOME SWEATER!!!!  I MUST MAKE ONE!!!”  (Side note:  One benefit of seeing a movie at a drive-in theater is that you don’t have to be quiet.  I took full advantage of this.)

I think what most compelled me about the sweater (aside from the fact that I adore this franchise) is how simple it is.  I love the colors, I love the lettering, I love the simple stripes…I just LOVE IT.  And I could not get the project out of my head, which means I have to do it.

I don’t have a huge budget for yarn right now, so I went to Wal*Mart.  Normally, I’m kind of a snob about knitting something you’ll actually wear out of yarn from Wal*Mart, but this is for me and it’s just for fun, and I don’t have the money to be more snobby.  My first thought was Simply Soft, because it’s cheap and you get a lot of it and it’s pretty decent for sweatering, but then I saw that the Hometown USA came in the PERFECT color.  It’s a super bulky yarn, but I’m kind of obsessed with it right now (I’ve been making all of my crochet food with faces out of it), so I snatched up a few skeins of it in Monterey Lime.

I finished up a sleeve tonight, but I’m probably going to redo the sleeve cap because I hate the shaping of it right now.  It needs more curve, right now it sort of ends at an abrupt point:

I’m extremely excited in a very nerdy way about this sweater.  Probably I will come up with a pattern for Ravelry maybe.  I’m just sort of eyeballing the sizing rather than taking any measurements because I’m super lazy, I’m not even sure what size I’m making right now, and redoing patterns for sizing is a bitch, so WE’LL SEE.  I would like to probably redo it in smaller yarn if I have magic money fall out of the sky and land on my lap.

The New Rules of Blogging

I gave this post a misleading headline because it’s snappy and sounds good.  If you clicked on this expecting to read some awesome post about how to blog in the modern world, you should probably stop reading because really, this will be a post about how I’m an incompetent blogger and should really just stop trying and go live under a rock somewhere and stop bothering everyone else with their big fancy “consistent” blogs with a “unifying theme”.

When I started this blog, this was me: “LALALA, I CAN WRITE BLOG POSTS, I WILL JUST WRITE A BUNCH OF BLOG POSTS AND THEN I WILL WRITE A BOOK AND THEN I WILL BECOME FANTASTICALLY RICH BEYOND ALL IMAGINATION.”

(A truth about me hidden by some earlier posts on this blog: I use capslock. Excessively.  With no shame or regrets.)

I was in a good place emotionally, and health-wise, and I figured I would write inspirational posts about how to be awesome and not suck at life.

Unfortunately, some of those posts got a lot of attention.  People were all, “OMG I LOVE YOUR BLOG.” You would think that would be a GOOD thing, but success tends to create a deer-in-the-headlights effect on me.

This is what my brain did: “People like this.  Now is your chance to TAKE ALL THEIR MONEY.  No.  Now is your chance to WRITE SOMETHING BETTER.  But we all know the truth, and that’s that you don’t really have anything to say, and they’re just being nice anyway, but they EXPECT AWESOME THINGS so the next thing you write better be the most AWE-INSPIRING PIECE OF WORDPLAY ANYONE HAS EVER LAID EYES ON.”

Oh, and then there was that time I decided to give the blog a theme and totally failed to ever write another post (except for the handful of posts that I wrote that had nothing to do with the theme).

Also, over the course of the next year or so, I settled into a nice downward spiral.  Not anything awful, just not as ~*~inspiring~*~ as before.  I gained weight, and felt I could never blog again since one of my most successful posts is about losing weight.  I felt crummy, and figured I could never blog again since I’d previously written about feeling positive.  I ate ice cream and potato chips every day for a week, and decided I could never blog again since I once wrote a post about vegetables.  I stopped doing yoga, and feared writing about anything ever again because I had, in the past, written posts extolling the virtues of yoga.

Basically, I psyched myself out of blogging by giving myself too many rules.  And then I did nothing (except for the brief moments when I did something).

But, as is usually the case with crap I dip my toe in and then abandon for whatever reason, I kept getting feedback.  Months would go by without me posting a damn thing, and suddenly I’d get a comment on a post I made a year ago.  Sometimes, it was someone who had randomly stumbled upon one of my posts and decided to voice their feelings about how lame they found it.  But other times, it would be someone who had stumbled upon a post that really helped them.

Here is a thing I have found to be true: Even if I do nothing, stuff still happens.  So if I did even the TINIEST SMIDGEN OF SOMETHING, more stuff might happen.

So I would like to possibly endeavor to do more with this blog.  Starting with a new set of rules for what will happen in the future.

THE NEW RULES OF THIS BLOG

(which probably should have been the title of this post, but it isn’t as eye catching you see):

  • There is no schedule. Posts will happen whenever I damn feel like it.  Which may mean that, even after this sweeping declaration of intent, I may not post anything for another four months.
  • Posts do not have to be inspiring.  They can be a picture of my cat if that’s what is in my heart at the moment. If they end up inspirational as a by-product of stupidity, fantastic.
  • The theme is there is no theme.  If I want to write about the healing powers of avocados one day and why I think Barney and Robin from How I Met Your Mother need to be together forever the next, that’s okay.

That’s about it.  See you in four months.

Claiming My Name

When I was born, my mother gave me a common name.  She did this intentionally, as she had grown up with an unusual name and it garnered her more attention than she’d wanted.  My mother has always strived to blend into the background, to not call attention to herself when in public, to not stand out.  She gifted me with a name that she hoped would provide such a life for me: Jessica. The second most popular name for girls born in 1984 (second only to “Jennifer”, the name people most often mistakenly call me when they forget and just remember the “J”).

Unfortunately, my mother had given birth to a little girl who feared blending in, who desired attention, who wanted to stand out and be noticed.  She gave birth to a little girl who loved being a freak, a weirdo.  Of all the unique snowflakes out there, I wanted to be the most interesting, the one that everyone stopped and stared at.

Things were fine until I started high school.  In elementary school, I’d been the only Jessica in my class.  But in high school, there were at least seven other Jessicas in my grade.  I shared most of my classes with at least one of them, if not more.  And I started to learn to wait.  If a teacher asked a question, I would raise my hand.  But if they called on “Jessica”, I waited.  It might not be me.  It might be one of the other Jessicas.  I would wait.  They might not mean me.

As an adult, I’ve worked in several different places, or joined different groups.  I grew accustomed to hearing the following at job interviews, and on my first day at work: “Uh oh, we already have a Jessica.  We’ll have to call you something else.”  At which point, they would come up with my new “work name” so that they could easily identify me from the Jessica that had already established her dominance just by being there and having the same name.  I was a second-rate Jessica.  They already had one of me, and now I was extraneous.

It’s funny, I never realized the toll that had taken on my life until the last day of Hoop Path Retreat.  In Hoop Path, we start each session with blindfolded movement.  This particular day, Baxter had opened the space by reminding us that we are not our jobs, we are not our clothes, we are not our children, we are not our bodies, we are not our emotions, etc.  But under that blindfold, I made one more connection.

We are not our names.

I realized that all of that learned behavior…feeling like no one really wanted to talk to me, feeling extraneous, feeling like anyone acknowledging me probably meant to acknowledge someone else…I realized it had worked its way into my subconscious and had manifested as my reality.  You must not mean me.  I’m in the way.  I’m unnecessary.  If any one of us were dead weight, could be easily abandoned, it would be me.  I let myself land in second place, despite a longing to be in first.  I let myself take second place in communities, in relationships, in work environments.

I made those connections and they hit such a powerful nerve that I sobbed heavily under my blindfold for an entire song.

Last year after Hoop Path, I started creating my own Maidan* story.  I knew how old my Maidan was, how she felt, what she wanted, but I didn’t know her name.  I figured when the right name came to me, I would know it.

Under that blindfold, making those connections, I knew exactly what her name is.

Her name is Jess.

I am not my name, but I still love my name, and I have the right to own it.  I have the right to relish hearing it called by others.  I have the right to stand out.  I have the right to be unique.

Over the years, I’ve taken on nicknames from time to time, usually given to me by others.  Nicknames stick to me very well, and I embrace them, usually because I embrace the people who gave them to me.  Even my own mother hasn’t actually called me “Jessica” since I was four.  In recent years, I’ve joined the burner community, a group of people fond of renaming themselves to better fit the self the identity they’ve developed for themselves.  I have more friends that go by nicknames than their real names, to the point that I don’t even know some of their real names.

I do not need a “burner name” because Jess IS my burner name.  I am Jess.  That is the me that I identify with.

The next time someone dares to tell me, “Oh no, we already have a Jessica,” I will say, “The hell you do.  Bitch, you ain’t seen a Jess like me.  I guarantee you I’m the only one you have.  And that’s what you’ll call me.”

Because I deserve it.

*In Hoop Path “mythos”, the Maidan are an order of holy women who used hoops and hoop dance to connect with and understand the world around them.

The Big Rainbow Tree Sweater

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I made this last year to take with me into the woods and wrap around a big tree.  In addition to this piece, I made about ten or twelve additional tree sweaters, either hand knit or sewn together from sweater scraps.  I am most proud of the rainbow one, though.  I’d envisioned a rainbow gently swirling around a tree, and that’s exactly what I got.  I had received a request for a pattern, so I wrote this up, intending to make it public somewhere a bit less fleeting than Facebook, but I never did.  Until now.

I wanted to post this pattern to Ravelry, but apparently they need an outside link, so that’s what this is.  What am I even doing with this blog anymore?  Apparently posting knitting patterns for giant rainbow tree sweaters, that’s what.

Here we go:

Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver in the brightest freaking colors I could find, at least two skeins of each color used.

Needles: 8

Notions: A tree to wrap up when you’re done.  Some cookies wouldn’t hurt either, to reward yourself when you finish a stripe.  Netflix is a helpful tool as well.  I watched a lot of Dr. Who while working on this beast.  The cat is optional.

414119_10151233874436354_1966758258_oYou can use any colors you want, as many as you want, and make it as wide or as long as you want depending on how many stitches you cast on and by making sure you increase and decrease in the same spot every time.  It would probably look really cute as a scarf.  :)

What I did was to cast on 20 sts in each color.  You could easily adjust the width of the stripes by changing the number of “middle stitches”.  For this pattern, there are 10 “middle stitches” and 10 “border stitches” (5 on each side) for each stripe, 20 sts total.

When I worked the first row, I twisted the yarn between each color change to make sure the blocks stayed together, and continued to do so over the whole piece (like you would with intarsia).  It should go without saying, but make sure you’re keeping your yarn twists to the WS.

Cast on your colors in the opposite order you want them to appear on the right side.  For me, I cast on 20 purple, 20 blue, 20 green, 20 yellow, 20 orange, 20 pink = 120 total.

The diagonal slant is formed every 4 rows.  You could work it every 2 rows for a sharper slant, or every 6 rows for a more gradual slant, etc.  On slant rows, you decrease one st from the color block at the beginning of the piece, and increase one st from the block at the end.  You increase and decrease one st each from all other blocks.

Row 1 (WS): (P3, K2, P10, K2, P3) 6 times (follow this pattern across each color)

Row 2 (RS): Work in pattern

Row 3: Work in pattern

Row 4 (First slant, set up new color): First color block: K2, P2, K10, P2, K2tog, K2.  All other color blocks: K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2. After all color blocks have been worked, CO 1 st in same color as the first color block worked.

Row 5: P1, (P3, K2, P10, K2, P3) 5 times across middle color blocks, P3, K2, P10, K2, P2 across last color block.

Row 6: Work in pattern

Row 7: Work in pattern

Row 8: First color block: K1, P2, K10, P2, K2tog, K2. Next 5 color blocks: K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2.  Last color block: Inc in final st.

Row 9: P2, (P3, K2, P10, K2, P3) 5 times across middle color blocks, P3, K2, P10, K2, P1 across last color block.

Row 10: Work in pattern

Row 11: Work in pattern

Row 12: First color block: P2, K10, P2, K2tog, K2. Next 5 color blocks: K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2.  Last color block: K1, inc in final st.

Row 13: P3, (P3, K2, P10, K2, P3) 5 times across middle color blocks, P3, K2, P10, K2 across last color block.

Row 14: Work in pattern

Row 15: Work in pattern

332205_10151227148931354_640842905_oRow 16: First color block: P1, K10, P2 K2tog, K2. Next 5 color blocks: K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2.  Last color block: K2, inc in final st.

Row 17: K1, P3, (P3, K2, P10, K2, P3) 5 times across middle color blocks, P3, K2, P10, K1 across last color block.

Row 18: Work in pattern

Row 19: Work in pattern

Row 20: First color block: K10, P2, K2tog, K2. Next 5 color blocks: K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2.  Last color block: K2, inc in next st, P1.

*NOTE: From here on out, you are going to work colors in the pattern established.  Each slant row, you will K the 3rd & 4th sts from the end of the color block together in the first color block, and you will increase 1 st in the 3rd st from the beginning of the last color block, working remaining sts as follows to form the slant: (K2, inc in next st, P1, K10, P2, K2tog, K2) until you reach the end of the row.  Turn and work in established pattern for the next three rows.

When you reach the end of a color block, you will K the remaining st tog with the last st of the new first color block, cut and tie the yarn.  Work the row as established, completing a new full color block at the end.  Work three rows even in the established pattern, then begin removing/adding the next color by starting at Row 1 again.

Once you get the pattern going it should make sense and be easy to follow.  If you have any questions, let me know.  :)

Finishing: -Weave the ends in.  Or don’t.  You’re going to wrap it around a tree anyway.

-Wrap it around a tree.

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Smiley Things (Or: Let’s Talk About Blogging)

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog in a while.

Or maybe you haven’t, maybe you were just passing through, read a post, and moved on.  That is okay, too.

It turns out that blogging has the capacity to stress me out, particularly if any of my posts become popular in any way (popularity to me equals a hundred or more people reading any given post, because that’s a lot of people, even if it doesn’t translate to massive, worldwide, Gangnam Style success).  I get stuck inside my own head.  What if the next thing I post doesn’t inspire anyone?  What if people are rubbed the wrong way, what if no one likes what I have to say?  And who am I to say things, anyway?  Just another voice on the massive expanse of Internets.

I gave my blog a theme, and then immediately froze.  I ran out of ideas, or the ideas I had weren’t good enough, or I didn’t think my mood was appropriate for updating a blog that I started as a way of helping/inspiring/motivating others. 

So what do I do?

Simplify. 

Quit talking myself in circles. 

Every post doesn’t have to be a sweeping, epic, moving analysis of the human condition.  It doesn’t have to address any deep fears, solve any problems, or change any lives. 

I just have to enjoy writing it.  Blogs are, at their core, an outward expression of the person writing them.  And no person is just one thing all the time. 

Most of my posts are about being happy, changing your attitude, getting healthy, etc.  But me, the person, has had a rough several months in all of those areas.  I want to post, but I don’t want to bring everyone down.

So what do I post about?

The little things that make me smile.

For the next indefinite amount of time, my posts here will consist of things in my day that made me smile.  Even if those things are silly or small. 

Recognizing the smiles might help me realize I’m smiling more than I may think.

So to start, here’s what’s made me smile so far today:

What’s made you smile today?

In Defense of Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer: Gives away her music. Does what she loves. Lives her dreams every day.


(Photo by Mark Wagstrom)

She’s recently come under some extreme scrutiny for inviting volunteer musicians to play with her on tour stops. The thinking seems to be that since she raised so much money from her recent Kickstarter project, she doesn’t have the right to not pay these people. A lot of her fans appear to be turning their back on her because of it. Some are saying the people who volunteer are being suckered into playing for free.

Amanda wrote a blog post defending her position, the TL;DR version being: “YOU don’t have to play for free. But I hope you won’t criticize me for wanting to, and hope you would try not to criticize or shame other musicians for making their own decisions about how to share their talent and their time.”

Some of these people volunteering to perform with Amanda might never be able to get on her stage if she were only taking paid performers. For those people, performing with Amanda is a dream come true, and the sheer magnitude of that experience* outweighs any possible paycheck. In that regard, Amanda is doing those people an incredible service.

Experiences like that are worth SO much more than money. This is the key point that her nay-sayers are missing. And at the end of the day, regardless of how you feel about Amanda, each and every one of the volunteer musicians made the choice to be on that stage. No one twisted their arm. They had a reason for doing it and that reason clearly outweighed the desire, or even need, for a paycheck.

It comes back to that dirty word, “should”. Lots of people think Amanda “should” pay her volunteer performers. The only people who are angry about it are those who feel she’s doing those people a disservice.

Ask the volunteer musicians themselves if you think she did them a disservice. I’ll bet none of them would say yes. How they feel about their choice is all that matters. Telling them they “should” feel mistreated when they don’t is the only real disservice in this situation.

Here’s the deal: Amanda never truly asks anyone to work “for free”. I’ve been to her shows. I’ve watched her pass the hat around to help support the artists on the stage with her. I’ve put money into that hat.

Amanda started her career as a busker. Frankly, as a fan, I LOVE that she crosses those busking roots over into her stage shows. I admire her for wanting to share the stage with people that LOVE being on it.

If the hat doesn’t get passed around (which is, as it seems from her blog, sometimes at the discretion of the artists themselves), she takes them out for dinner. She buys them a drink. She allows them the opportunity of the rush of playing a high energy show for a very enthusiastic crowd. For a performer, that can be a pretty amazing reward.

As a fan, I have always paid for Amanda’s music, even when I could have gotten it for free. If the music came at a suggested price, I would always pay a buck or two more. Even though I don’t have a huge income, it’s important to me to support her, because a) I love her art, b) she inspires me, and c) I want her to be able to keep doing what she’s doing.

I can only assume that every fan who contributed to her Kickstarter felt the same way.

Amanda has always done things her way. Her career has always been an extension of her theater and busking roots. Money she earns may go to staging flashier shows and packaging fancier products, but Amanda is a street performer at heart.

If we, as her fans, admire and support that and give her money for those reasons, why should we demand she does things differently just because she “has money now”?

Why are we so quick to support someone who’s struggling, then knock them down when they’re not? If she hadn’t earned a million dollars on Kickstarter, we would love the fact that she’s using volunteer performers, touring from the groud up, inviting people to share the stage with her. But since she “has the money”, now we don’t.

She even broke down her expenses for the album and tour, and people are still complaining.

Frankly, it makes NO SENSE to complain about an artist making so much money. The only reasoning I can see is that the people complaining are upset THEY don’t have that money. Perhaps they don’t feel any one person “should” have that much money. (There’s that dirty word again.) But we, the fans, are the ones that gave it to her, because we love the service she provides.

As a fan, I WANT her to have as much money as possible. I WANT Amanda Palmer to have the means to fulfull any dream she concocts. I WANT her to be able to perform and present her art the way she chooses. I WANT her to stick to her roots and tour the way she’s always toured, amping up the awesome with her increased income. I WANT her to continue to create and inspire, and for these reasons, I will always happily give her my money and support what she does with it. Especially when she says shit like this: “If I wind up truly loaded someday, it means I’ll probably buy an abandoned church somewhere and turn it into a free 24-hour circus brunch bar for everybody. Cross your fucking fingers. We’ll all win.”

Another underlying reason for my support is this: The idea that if she can do it, I can do it. Supporting Amanda Palmer is, in a way, supporting my own dream.

Here’s where I want to get a little personal. I’m a hoop dancer. I’ve gone back and forth trying to make my living off of it. Maybe someday I will, maybe I never will. I have occasionally made decent money teaching and selling handmade hoops, and for a while I was also performing.

I have never once been paid for a performance. I have never once been upset about that. I’m not a professional and I may never be one. I’m not rich. I have bills to pay, too. But I love the experience of performing, and hearing just one person say they enjoyed watching me makes it worth my effort.

I never really considered the exposure vs. paycheck argument until some well-meaning friends brought it up and planted the seed. I’m friends with a lot of performers who DO strive to be professional, who DO want to make this their living, and who DON’T want to do unpaid gigs if they can help it. I have nothing but respect for these people. They are doing amazing and admirable things with their lives.

Unfortunately, I am not driven by a monetary bottom line.

My currency is experience. My currency is happiness. If I manage to make some money off of those things in the process, it’s a bonus. Money has never been a driving force in my life. I have quit jobs that “paid me what I’m worth” to work more happily for ones that “didn’t”. SHOULD they have paid me more?  SHOULD I have been more upset about it? Maybe. But I DIDN’T CARE. The worth of my piece of mind was so much more important than an extra dollar or two (or even five) an hour.

Still, I let the fact that I wasn’t getting paid keep me from new performance opportunities. Eventually, it contributed (with a mishmash of many other factors) to my slow disappearance from the performance circuit.

And I didn’t even realize it until I read Amanda’s post.

I have missed out on a lot of joy, a lot of experience, a lot of happiness based on the idea that I “should” be paid for it. On the idea that my performing for free hurts everyone. However, when it comes down to it, the only person whose happiness I can control is mine. If performing makes me happy, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or less of an artist for doing it for free. It makes me happy, it makes the people watching happy. There was a currency exchange there; whether or not others recognized that currency is irrelevant.

Thank you, Amanda. You continue to inspire me. You continue to motivate me. And in exchange, I will continue to support you.

*Let me emphasise here that I am talking about the EXPERIENCE of playing one of these shows, not any potential EXPOSURE. That’s a whole different argument.