A Stitch in Time

First off, I’m kind of ashamed of myself. It’s been a bloody long time since I even sat down with the intention to write. I’m so sorry to my precious little bloggy. It’s terrible, I’ve been neglecting you again. But it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, believe me. And, even worse still, I’ve been neglecting all of my wonderful blogging chums who I love and adore ever more. I’m sorry dudes! I haven’t been around making my usual cheeky comments on all of your wonderful posts. I’m sorry. I’m a self-involved asshole. Send R.O.T.O.R. to collect on my bounty. And don’t let the execution be a swift one, because I certainly don’t deserve it.

I miss you guys. A lot.

For a long while the best part of my day was connecting over all of our posts. Logging on and having a laugh at EI’s latest cinematic adventure or another one of Brian’s witty comments. I don’t even know who T9 has been crushing on these days, or what Zoe has been reading. Is Mikey still churning out those hilarious podcasts? And Dee, that gentleman across the pond who makes me smile, I miss being enlightened and delighted by your posts. I haven’t been around so much, but trust me when I say that you are all in my heart and thoughts every day.

I don’t want to make excuses for my absence, so let’s just call this an explanation and hope it charming enough that you’ll let it slide, just this one time. There just isn’t enough time, like ever. I have no idea how I’m keeping my head above water these days. It feels like I’m doing a desperate doggy-paddle in the middle of the ocean, no shoreline in sight and I’m gulping down more and more water as I struggle to stay afloat. But I keep struggling, because I’m not ready to give up yet, even though it’s so very very tempting some days.

In short: I’m working like a dog, I’m deep into the wedding planning, I’m trying to keep up with my social life, and there’s just no goddamn time to excel at everything all at once. But I want to, so desperately. I’m a shitty juggler, but there’s a big part of me that just belligerently refuses to accept that. With so much on the go, some aspect of my life was bound to suffer. So blogging and writing have taken this hit. And it’s funny, because one of the things that I do to stay sane when my life is a hectic disaster is write. It helps me find my way. I write to escape. I write for reprieve. I write because it feels good and it makes me whole.

I love writing. It matters and it makes a difference in my life. But if I’m being totally honest here, there has also been a major shift in my creative focus these past months and that will certainly shoulder some of this blame. I’ve been escaping all of my stresses with something else, something other than writing. A demanding an insatiable hobby, a jealous and possessive new mistress in my life. I’ve been doing an absolute fuckload of embroidery projects. Yep, you read that right. In the spare time that I do have for creative pursuits I’ve been putting the thread to the needle like a badass motherfucker and I’ve been stitching until my fingers are throbbing sore.

…and it’s been a super fun time.

I fucking love embroidery. There, I said it. But I do still love writing, too.

I’m creative and I’m zany. My imagination is an ogre. I have to focus it on something to survive, my very life depends on it. Sometimes I feel like I’ll die if I don’t find something for the ogre to do. She’ll crumple my cranium and toss it in the bin like an old grocery list if I don’t. I am compelled to create. Something, anything. A piece of writing, a kitschy craft, a silly doodle, making a killer mix CD, or even the shitty ass job I do of wrapping gifts. All just a bunch of ways that I package little bits of my imagination and send them out into the world so I can live. Really live.

The embroidery thing is something my friend The Magpie showed me. Back in the spring, she sent me a wonderful surprise birthday package and it was filled with supplies to jump-start this new hobby.

embroidery supplies

I was excited, but a little too busy to dig into them until the summer. That’s when this embroidery thing really took off. I started out small, trying something simple at first. A little gift for my darling Joce-force.

star wars embroidery

Then, inspired by those wicked pillowcases The Magpie made me last Christmas, I made myself an awesome little robot buddy. He’s since been framed and now lives on my desk at work.

robot and dog

And then, because I really wanted thank The Magpie for showing me this awesome new hobby, and because I wanted to up the ante a little with my newly evolving skills, I made her a birthday gift.

cheeseburger

It took a lot of time, and my craft still wasn’t perfect. But I loved making this weird little cheeseburger for her. I did it on a canvas, another great inspiration from The Magpie herself.

cheeseburger again

And then when that was done, I was feeling so confident and proud of myself that I decided I was really going to put my new-found embroidery skills to the test. I decided to stitch all of the table numbers for my wedding!

I found some beautiful fabric, bought a bunch of frames to put the finished pieces into, and then got to work.

I spent an entire long weekend stitching tirelessly to get them done.

my table numbers

number 8

nine nine nine nine

It was so much work, but I poured my whole self into every single one. And I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

And now I’m tackling another canvas project, larger scale than the last. The cheeseburger for my friend was an 8 x 8 and this one is a 12 x 12, which is much more challenging. I can’t stitch at this one for very long periods of time because my hand and arm ache if I do it for too long.

peacock

But it is really coming along, slowly but surely. I think I’m going to raffle this piece off at our stag ‘n’ doe party next month. People like that sort of thing, right? They’d want to spend a bunch of money trying to take this bad boy home, yeah? I hope so. Otherwise all of that aching has been in vain.

Looking back over all of these projects, I can really see how much I’ve improved since I started a few months ago. Persistence goes a long way. Also, looking back on how I’ve spent my creative energies this past summer I feel really happy. Because even though I haven’t been writing I’ve still been channeling my creativity somehow. I might be stressed as fuck at work and at home, but I do have an outlet for all of it. I’m not going to suddenly and unexpectedly implode because of all the pent-up pressures. I haven’t been letting them pent. I’ve been releasing my daily anguish in steady streams through my relentless embroidery projects.

So know this, dear readers and friends: Even though I haven’t been around a whole lot lately, I’m still here. I’m still insane. And I’m still every bit as zany and ridiculous as I ever was.

And I’ve still got lots of writing in me yet. My creative focus is just temporarily shifted. Sometimes there are words in my heart just dying to be put to page, and other times there’s a vision in my head that only the needle and thread can bring to life.

It’s hard to strike a comfortable balance sometimes. All summer long I was feeling really fucked up and stressed out. And maybe my feelings were just too tedious to try to pin down. I’m just glad that I’ve been given a really frigging rad alternative means of expressing myself. It helped a lot, especially during all those times this summer when writing just wouldn’t do.

Embroidery rules!

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Holiday Review

Well, there’s another Christmas come and gone. And a new year will dawn in a couple of days. I hope you kissed someone special under the mistletoe, ate entirely too much, and maybe even made an ass of yourself at a large family gathering. That’s what the holidays are there for, after all.

My holidays were fun, even though they veered off course a time or two.

The holidays started with the launching of a new tradition. My sister arranged a “Cousin’s Cocktail Christmas Party” and it was a great success. We got together with our cousins and their spouses/partners for some drinks, snacks, and general merriment. We then went to a comedy club to yuk it up. It was fun. Some of my best memories of Christmases past are of playing with my cousins. Our parents would get us all done up in fancy little outfits and try to impress upon us the importance of “behaving ourselves” at the dinner.

cousins at christmas

And obviously we’ve all grown up a whole lot since those days, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much fun I still have with my cousins.

cousins christmas

Overnight we were harassed by an ice storm of disastrous proportions. We woke up to a world that had been completely consumed by ice.

ice storm

ice storm 2

ice storm 3

The storm took down countless trees and power lines. Over 250,000 homes in the city were without power for anywhere from 24 hours to a week. My cousin Ryan slept over at my sister’s place after the Christmas party, and awoke the next morning to find a tree had fallen onto his girlfriend’s car.

tree on car

The storm wreaked absolute havoc on the city, and I was glad to head north and out of the icy mess for a few days. But the fun just didn’t stop coming. On Christmas Eve I got sick. Really sick. Feverish, coughing, totally congested. I felt like a bag of assholes. My dad cooked up a feast and I barely even nibbled at it. My appetite was nowhere to be found. We then went to my mom’s for drinks and board games, which I normally really enjoy. But instead of having a bunch of Christmas fun with my family, I sat on the sidelines bundled in blankets, sweating buckets while a perpetual coughing fit racked my body. I was one pathetic sight.

On Christmas day, I was supposed to accompany D to his family get together. But I felt so goddamned shitty I couldn’t even get up off the couch without draining the last vestiges of my strength completely. I had to choose my battles wisely. D went on without me, and I stayed home. I laid on the couch and watched the entire 6 hours of The Stand miniseries on DVD. I had just finished the book, and my mom had the DVDs of the miniseries, so she let me borrow them. And they came in handy, that’s for damn sure.

The following day I felt well enough to go to lunch with D and his dad. At least I could be a part of some of his family celebrations, for his sake. But we didn’t do a lick of Boxing Day shopping. I usually love getting out there with all the other crazies, ripping shirts off of shelves like a maniac and bitching about getting cut off in the parking lot by some asshole who isn’t even looking. Jesus, he isn’t even looking! What is he, BLIND OR SOMETHING?

But even though I wasn’t in peak physical condition for enjoying the food, the shopping, or the gatherings, I was still plenty good at enjoying presents. And you know Smash loves presents. Just a recap for anyone who may not be familiar with this facet of my personality: I FUCKING LOVE OPENING PRESENTS. I can’t stand unopened presents. They make me insane. My fingers positively itch with the desire to rip and tear if they get within five feet of something that’s been wrapped up. It’s a compulsion.

I opened a lot of great gifts this year.

presents

Some of the gift highlights:

Star Wars Salt n Pepper Shakers!

star wars salt and pepper

Enormous Batman Mug!

batman mug

New Hobo Mittens!

mittens

Bitchin’ New Watch!

watch

A Big Bottle of Booze!

booze

His and Hers Robot Pillowcases! (My friend The Magpie embroidered these for me and they are absolutely stunning, I fucking love them to bits.)

pillowcases

And A Shitload of Chocolate!

chocolate

And I got tons of other great stuff too. I’m lucky. I have a lots of people in my life who love me and want to give me things that I love for christmas. Things that make me squeal with delight like a little kid. I’m probably the easiest person on the planet to buy gifts for. I’m easily pleased and I’m not picky. If I can have a thrilling time shredding a gift of its wrapping, I’m set. And as much as I love tearing into a pile of presents, I love giving great presents too. I know that everything I picked out for my loved ones this year was well received and will be cherished forevermore.

Even though the weather was truly frightful and my immune system totally flaked out on me, I managed to find some enjoyment in the holidays this year. Got some fantastic gifts, started a fabulous new tradition, and I took some time to plan my next big moves for the upcoming year. I’m really looking forward to the new year. I’ve got big plans brewing for 2014. It’s going to be my year. I’ve got a list of goals a mile long and I am going to be dogged in my pursuit of every single one.

Peace out 2013, it’s been a slice.

Outside the Lines

I have an artistic streak. It’s not a wide one by any means, but it’s there. Not to brag or anything, but I took art classes all through high school. Passed ’em and everything. And I was known to colour a real mean book back in the day. My friend The Magpie gave me some grief about this a few weeks ago. Said it wasn’t really believable that I could be artistic. I took umbrage to that. Then I proved her wrong by designing a killer logo for her blog, which you can see here on her site. Yep, that badass little magpie is my creation!

The artistic muscle just doesn’t get flexed as much as it used to, which is a shame because I shouldn’t be letting it get all rusty and shitty like the rest of my muscles. I did a watercolour of Jodi Foster for an assignment in high school, which this girl in my class later called “seductive” during the class critique. I could do that again, probably. All I need are the supplies and an idea!

But I might also be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps. You don’t just get up and run a marathon after years of outstanding achievements in laziness have atrophied your body. You have to wheeze your way up the stairs instead of taking the elevator for a few weeks. Then do some calf raises when you’re forced to stand on the subway on your way to work. Then take your first tentative jog around the block in the blackness of night because glaring bright sunlight and the gazes of a hundred hateful pedestrians aren’t very kind to your chubby cantaloupe legs.

Stick with it long enough though, and even the shittiest muscles will tighten up nicely. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s an old runners saying.

That’s what I’m hoping will happen for me. I’ll take a few baby steps, do some paint-by-numbering, and before you know it I’ll be right back to seducing the mysterious and sexually ambivalent girls of my art classes prior with my astonishing works of genius. But just, like, a friendly seduction. I don’t want to turn my whole life upside-down.

Sometime late last year, The Magpie was telling me about this cool paint-by-numbers kit she got with really awesome designs. A cat wearing a fancy coat carrying a fish purse, an old hippie man getting on a cable car in San Francisco. Cool stuff like that. I remembered how much fun I used to have doing paint-by-numbers as a kid and promptly rushed out to get some myself. I got a miniature one with some badass dinosaurs on it that I thought was going to be a real piece of cake. A couple of strokes in and I realized that this was going to take a lot of patience. Which is something I don’t possess in abundance. Also, it was looking hella shitty right out of the gate, so I just kind of gave up on it.

A couple of weeks later, I had to go to the craft store in my hood because I needed supplies for our awesome Halloween costumes. I strode purposefully down the aisle with the paint-by-numbers, just to see what was up. It was there that I found something even better than paint-by-numbers. Something even more lazy and indulgent. Pencil-crayon-by-numbers!

And it just so happened that it was another miniature scene with badass dinosaurs. Fuck yeah, this is my lucky day!

mini dino craft

Excited, I shelled out a whooping $2.99 and raced home to get started on my colouring adventure. When I got home though, I realized what bullshit those teeny tiny pencil crayons they supply you with are. Holy shit, they’re smaller and skinnier than my pinkie finger. And look at how small the fucking thing is compared to a real pencil crayon! I almost want my money back. Almost.

small pencil

small pencil 2

small pencil 3

And don’t even try to tell me that the pencils crayons are so small because I’m doing an activity for children. It clearly states on the packaging that this activity is suitable for anyone ages 8 to 88. They could have at least given out pencil crayons halfway between normal and Oompa Loompa sized ones. Oh well, just another of many great “you-get-what-you-paid-for” moments in my life. But I ploughed ahead with them anyway, despite the functionally impossible size.

ages 8 to 88

The road map to completion that they give you is even crazier. Holy shit, this is an intricate design for such a small-scale craft! And some of the tinier crevices don’t even have the recommended colour guides written on them. How am I supposed to know which colours to mash together in that tenth of a space?

crazy road map

road map

I started off dutifully enough, trying to follow the directions as precisely as possible. And it was coming along nicely too. I’m not going to seduce anyone with this piece, but I’m cool with that. At least I’ve accomplished more here than I did with the paint-by-number version.

About halfway done, and for some inexplicable reason, this little project of mine got stowed away in a desk drawer. Promptly forgotten about for a while, gathering drawer dust. It was starting to look like these dinosaurs were headed the way of extinction just like the paint-by-numbers ancestors that came before them.

But then all of a sudden, one night when D was out, I got this urge to finish what I’d started. I dug the dinosaurs out of the desk drawer and got to colouring. This time was different though. This time I was going to do it my way, guidelines and suggested colours be damned! No matter how hard I tried, I knew it wasn’t going to look anything like the picture on the package. So fuck it, I’m taking over creative control of this bitch!

The artistic streak had awoken from its slumber at long last. I coloured with abandon, and let myself get lost in the process. Before I knew it, D was home and I had a masterfully coloured dinosaur scene to show for my time spent alone.

finished

final product

Needless to say, he was quite taken by my work. I hadn’t intended for it to be so emotionally overpowering, but I’ve since learned that you just can’t stop the bubbling over of intense emotion that results from viewing this spectacularly coloured dinosaur scene. It makes me want to high-kick something. Hiii yaaaa!

I forgot how good it feels to create something. It doesn’t even have to be anything good. Just create something, anything at all, and you will feel good about yourself. You can look scrutiny right in its shrivelled old face and say “frig you, man!”

Indulge your creativity! Let your imagination soar! Live your passions!

Colour some fantastically rad miniature dinosaurs and display them proudly on the wall beside your desk at work for all to see! Because you refuse to be labelled incapable of anything that you know you’re truly capable of. You’re capable and your can-do attitude will never fail you if you trust in it.

But you’ll probably do a few more of these pencil crayon dealies before you move on to conquering the current art scene, just to be safe.

Found! My Sweet Jams…

I am feeling so incredibly triumphant right now! Which is remarkable given the hectic and scattered day I’ve been having…

Ever since we moved back in May, I have been looking for this goddamn mixed CD. Why is it even important, you ask? Surely you must have made it with the songs in your own library? Songs which you undoubtedly have access to and could burn onto a new CD, yes? Actually, it’s important because the Magpie made it for me as a 25th birthday gift. It is divinely original, it cannot be manufactured again. It simply cannot!

So I got the CD at the end of April and lost it at the beginning of May… which means I really haven’t even had time to appreciate it. I can’t believe it’s been lost this long though. I absolutely abhor clutter, so it’s not like there were a lot of places for the friggen’ thing to hide in my apartment. All summer I would go through these bouts where I desperately had to find it, but couldn’t. I would get this feeling, like this time is the time. Today is the day I find this CD! But I would always come up empty-handed.

I was seriously considering the possibility that maybe I left it in D’s old car, which has since been sold to my parents, and that by now it had been tossed in the garbage. I imagined the little happy face on the cover all smudged with crud, wasting away in a landfill, lost to me forever. But then this nagging feeling that it was still within my reach would prevail, and I’d start my search all over again.

I’m forever misplacing my things. Which is strange, given how orderly and meticulous I am with certain things. Until D put the key rack up in the front hall for me, I never knew where my keys were. I never know where I’ve last placed my favourite necklace, my metro pass, important documents for the impending tax season, or my iPod. When I need things, I just scramble around like a maniac, cursing ferociously, until they’ve finally been located. One morning I almost walked out the door to work barefoot, until D reminded me that shoes are a necessity on the subway. I’m so bizarrely orderly and absent-minded at the same time.

I may not work through all of these issues today, but for now, I’m very pleased to announce that after months of fruitless searching I’ve finally come up successful! Buried in an old Coleman cooler with stacks of other CD’s, video games, books, and other hidden gems, my mixed CD gazed impassively up at me. As if to say, “I’ve been here all along, silly!” I lifted it ever so gingerly from the cooler, ran my fingers wondrously over its beautiful handcrafted cover, and then lovingly promised to never misplace it again.

When the Magpie gave me this CD on my birthday I was so totally excited. I greatly value all of the mixed CDs that people have given me over the years. It’s one of the most unique gifts you can get. There is no other CD on the planet with these exact same songs. Who isn’t touched by the offering of sweet jams, all of which have been expertly engineered with you in mind? Heartless jerks, that’s who.

So now that your interest has been appropriately piqued, I present you with the contents of this jealously coveted gem:

  1. Drain You: Nirvana 1991
  2. Pretend We’re Dead: L7 1992
  3. Violet: Hole 1994
  4. Deceptacon: Le Tigre 1999
  5. Downtime: The Gandharvas 1997
  6. Oh Mandy: Spinto Band 2006
  7. Close to Me: The Cure 1990 (re-release)
  8. Divine Hammer: The Breeders 1993
  9. Take Me I’m Yours: Squeeze 1994 (re-release)
  10. Ramble On: Led Zepplin 1992 (re-release)
  11. Only Shallow: My Bloody Valentine 1992
  12. Undone: Weezer 1994
  13. Blimps Go 90: Guided By Voices 1995
  14. Little Trouble Girl: Sonic Youth 1995
  15. Alone & Annoyed: Eric’s Trip 1996
  16. Homeboy: Adorable 1993
  17. I Am The Resurrection: Stone Roses 1999
  18. Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying: Belle & Sebastian 1996

These are “songs that I like that are mostly from the 90’s on your 25th birthday” quoth the Magpie. She knows that the 90’s is my favourite decade of music, and so she gifted me with the songs that she considers to be quintessential 90’s tracks. There are a few exceptions, but awesome ones. I had no idea who The Gandharvas were until I met the Magpie, and I must say they have very quickly jumped to the top of my list of favourite bands.

I have been irrevocably affected by their awesomeness, and The First Day of Spring will haunt me forever. Although this song isn’t on the disc above, I recommend starting there for your first taste of The Gandharvas:

I’m touched by the amount of time that she spent making me this wicked CD, and I am so happy that I finally found the fucking thing! I’m so excited to listen to it again and to discover its greatness. It’s just what I needed to melt away the stress of the day. This is no small win, it’s a tremendous victory! My finest conquest of the day, and validation that my frantic searching was not in vain.

I would definitely recommend that you seek out these tracks and give them a listen. Go forth and explore some wonderful new music! Or fall in love with old favourites all over again…

I wish you groovy listening, friends.