Friday, October 31, 2008

conventional wisdom=da bomb

Warning: heavy analogy use ahead.

You know how they say that after you experience a major change in your life, like a divorce or the death of a partner, or a job loss, you should wait a year for things to sift out before you make any major decisions? I think I might have some insight into why that's a really, really good idea.

When my school closed last fall, after I'd been part of it (and it a part of me) for close to seven years, I grieved. It felt, truly, as though a sister or a very close friend had died. I think part of the reason might be because I'd been deriving much of my identity through my work at the school. I was a teacher first, and a mom second. Offering progressive education in this decidedly non-progressive city felt like a really important mission, and much of the meaning in my life came from my work. When I was exhausted from work struggles, I could at least know, at the end of the day, that I'd done more good than harm.

When it died, all that was gone, and last year was a very, very difficult time. I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt that I wasn't really accomplishing anything, from day to day. An important character in my life story had just been vaporized. I felt like I'd lost my best friend. I kept waking up in disbelief, only to have the reality of it crash around me once again.

Add to that the particulars of the death: it wasn't as if my beloved friend (the school) died a natural death, or even a sudden death. It was protracted, and painful, with much dissent among family members about when and even whether to pull the plug. The years leading up to the end of my school were agony.

When it ended, I felt profound relief, but then I had to figure out what to do with myself. Homeschooling was no more than an emergency, stop-gap measure. I would gladly have gone back to teaching if I could. I worried that I was doing the wrong thing: that I really should be working my ass off to create a new school in this community, that it was a fool's mission to focus so heavily on my own children, when they will, more than likely, be just fine, no matter what kind of schooling they receive. My "real work" had been working with other people's children, and it felt somehow morally wrong for me to turn my back on them.

And now, suddenly, a year later, everything has shifted. It's not so much that my life and my work are now suddenly imbued with moment and importance. Editing and tutoring are hardly the stuff of profound meaning; if I don't do these things, someone else will, just as well or better. It's more that my perspective has changed. I can handle it, suddenly. I can face a long, crazy day of running around to lessons and playgroups and teaching commitments with peace and a smile, rather than a groan. I don't need quiet, quite as much. I'm not finding myself sitting on the couch escaping into a novel, day after day. I don't feel sad anymore.

It's been a year, and I think I'm ready to put the school behind me.

This imbues everything I'm doing with a new sense of purpose. Now that it's clear that TSS is really, truly gone, and isn't coming back, my most important work is clearly the work I do with my own children. I'm excited about homeschooling this year, and more relaxed about it at the same time. I want to make their early school years what they really should be, and I'm ready to find out about how to do that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

working on the house

Last summer (07) I was consumed with worry over the looming demise of my school. I didn't accomplish much other than a whole bunch of sock knitting. This summer (08) we got a lot done on the house, and I still added several new pairs to my sock drawer.

We scraped and painted the side of the house, and worked on the porch spindles:

I also installed a much-needed and long overdue walk around the front garden. I got concrete pavers for this project. It was easier and cheaper than the flagstone I'd planned, and I was pleased with the result:

I really want to get back to my thinking (out loud) about alternative education, but I am so freaking busy actually alternatively educating, I just don't have time. I'm hoping to get back into it after the fall semester ends and my adjunct teaching responsibilities end. Until then, I'll leave you with a link to my new favorite Camp Creek Blog. I agree with almost everything she has to say, and that's really saying something. Thanks to JoVE of Tricotomania for turning me on to a new blog.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

let's see if I remember how to do this...

Well, now that I've neglected the blog for over a month and completely lost any readers I might once have had, it seems a good time to reveal that I am now completely, devotedly, overwhelmingly obsessed with spinning.

I've learned a great thing about knitting in the last month or so: that its start-up costs are very low. Buy a couple of pairs of needles, a skein or two of yarn, download some simple beginner pattern from the internet, and poof! You're a knitter.

Not so with spinning. What follows is a sort of tour of my recent spinning acquisitions. Please be gracious and DO NOT add up everything I've spent on this stuff, and especially do not email that information to me or to anyone related to me. The good news here is that in addition to a new obsession, I also have a few new jobs, so it's all coming out more or less even.

Now then, here is my spinning wheel.
Yep, it's a Ladybug. I pretty much love it. I mostly love how cute it is, and how well-constructed, and how modernist it is in its construction and design. It spins well, too, although I am still learning. I'd like a smoother and mellower take-up, but I think I'll adjust (and keep tinkering).

Here's Little, treadling away:
I'm spinning every day, but mostly not on the wheel. At some point in the last month or so, I ordered a few spindles from Carolina Homespun, and wow! I love spindling more than I love knitting! That big fancy spinning wheel up there is mostly being used for plying, because I am doing the vast majority of my spinning on spindles. They're portable, they're beautiful, they're impeccably made, and they are completely trouble-free. If you can spin, you can spin on a spindle. The wheel is relatively fussy: get it out of whack in some way and you're not spinning. There is nothing to go wrong with a spindle. And so, I have (ahem) more than a few.
In the vase is a Schacht Hi-Lo, a big one made by Jim at Susan's Spinning Bunny, and a Cascade Shuksan. The tiny ones are a Bosworth mini and a delightfully light and pretty one by True Creations. Here's a close-up:

The little True Creations spindle has some pygora on it, which comes from a goat (!) which would be my first ever non-sheep spinning. It is incredibly soft, and very slippery.

Here's a Cascade Mt. St. Helens with some merino and silk:
And a sweet small True Creations spindle, with some Ashland Bay merino on it:
And my very first favorite, bestest spindle, also by Jim at True Creations:
It's bigger than any of my other spindles, and it spins f o r e v e r. When I first started spinning on it, I kept looking down to see if I needed to give it another whirl, and it was just spinning. Still. Over and over, it just kept spinning. It's now got me completely spoiled.