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Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

I’m getting to the age where my friends are starting to die.
It’s not an easy place to be. Inside, I still feel like I’m young – much like Wanda Sykes, I still think and act like I did when I was 26. This mild self-delusion is only compounded by Dear Husband and I not having children. Since we don’t have fast-growing, proto-people in our lives we’re not often reminded by the relentlessly steady passage of time. Thanks to good genetics and relatively healthy living we’re both pretty well-preserved for being in our early 40’s. So, barring minor changes in hair, clothing style, and the normal changes associated with age, when I look in the mirror I see pretty much the same face I’ve always seen staring back at me.
So, when one of the folk I knew back when I was young dies it tends to give me pause.
A couple of weeks ago I got word that a guy I knew back in the 90’s passed away. He wasn’t that much older than I (just shy of his 51st birthday). And, though I knew he was in poor health, I’ve witnessed elderly people hang on for years despite worse health profiles. Given all this I had every expectation he’d be tottering around for a while yet.
When I heard he was gone I messaged my best girlfriend from those days. She and I became friends around the time we met him. And, though neither of us were good friends with the deceased he occupies a large space in the background of our memories. I had been deliberating going to the service – would it be appropriate for me to attend given he and I weren’t close? After my chat with her I decided I should go – if for no other reason than to honor the place he held in our memories.
I also decided to spread the word around to some of the people I knew from back then too. There’s a group of us who still keep in contact on FaceBook. My departed friend never participated in the stuff that brought us all together but many in the group knew and loved him. I suspect that post was where my ex, R, found out.
A word on R: He and I dated between the spring of`97 and fall of `98. As with most young love affairs ours was deep and intense. Looking back it feels like we were together for a longer than a year or so. I think what makes it seem longer was the post-breakup, back and forth, phase that followed our split. After dragging each other through the mud for 4 more years he finally cut ties. Since 2007 we’ve mostly been ignoring each other on social media. In 2012 I felt like it might be nice to reconnect. I sent him a long message owning my part in why he cut ties and apologizing. During that conversation, he allowed that his behavior was also less than angelic. I tried to keep in touch after that but he let it drop. At the time, I saw it as him setting a boundary so I did the respectful thing and honored it.
Fast forward to two weeks ago.
The day of the memorial came and I was nervous. I had heard that R and his wife planned to attend and hoped it wouldn’t be weird. I had arranged to go with a friend of mine, who also knew the deceased, and hoped that her presence would help me avoid any awkward scenes.
For some unknown reason my friend thought it would be appropriate to bring her two youngest children. Predictably, the kiddos got antsy (I mean, what did you expect would happen in bringing them to a gathering of sad, old people?) and she used that as an excuse to bail well before my ex and his wife showed up. She was my ride so I was at the mercy of her whim.
After returning home I moped around, trying to process the closure of another door to when I was young and my life was still ahead of me. As the afternoon wore on I got to feeling isolated and decided to check FaceBook as a distraction. I noticed my ex – the man whom had been ignoring me on social media for 5 years – had liked one of my photos. In that simple “like” I saw a glimmer of hope: maybe, just maybe, enough time had passed to where he can let bygones be bygones.
So I reached out.
I’ve largely thought that applying tone/emotion to text conversations is a fool’s game. But, all the same, I couldn’t help but be struck by the distant nature of my ex’s end of the conversation. It almost felt as if he were making polite small talk with me, despite my attempt to be sensitive to his loss (I met the deceased through him, mind you). I don’t feel like I was making the conversation about me and my experience either. Unsure of how to handle how the dialogue was going I decided to say goodnight. But, before doing so I asked if it would be okay if we stayed in better touch from here on out.
“Perhaps.” He replied.
Constant Reader, I’ve been mulling over that reply ever since. And, honestly, I still don’t know how I feel about it.
On the one hand, I feel like I should just let it be. A while ago, as I nursed my ego after a friend decided to step away, my sister told me: “Parachles, you deserve friends who enthusiastically want to be your friend. You shouldn’t waste time on anything less.” She was right then, and she is no less right now. If my ex can’t/won’t let the past go enough to see that 41 year old P is vastly different than 21 year old P then I should wish him all the best and get on with my life.
But, 5 years ago I did exactly that and I’m right back in the same place today. Something inside just keeps coming back around to wanting to re-forge this one association. I know myself well enough to know that, in another few years, I’m like to end up face to face with another version of this exact same scenario. (I mean, none of us are getting any younger. Someone else I ran with back then is bound to kak off sooner or later!)
One thing I’ve learned over this short life of mine is when you’re coming up against similar scenarios over and over again it means you have something yet to learn. So, there’s the probability of a lesson I’m missing in all this. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I’m still not entirely sure what that lesson might be.
Anyhow, I’m sorry to say that I have no tidy resolution with this essay. So, if you were looking for a pretty little lesson you could take away with you I’m sorry to be a disappointment.
Perhaps, for all of us, something of that sort will come along in time.

Cleaning Out The Closet

The professor handed out the class waivers as I sat nervously in my seat, looking around the class at all the young, normal-body weight people around me.

I got the waiver and started to scan it.  When I reached the second paragraph my heart sank to my toes as I read: "By signing this I confirm that I do not have any of the following physical conditions:"  followed by a laundry list of physical conditions (any of which could have benefited from the class).  Smack at the end of that list I see: "obesity, body fat ratio of >23% in  men/>30% in women, and waist circumference being greater than hip circumference".

I had been a bit worried about registering for a PE class at my college in the first place.  I feared that the professor would be disparaging or single me out based on my physical condition.  I also worried that the other students would be (at best) disdainful or (at worst) downright cruel.  I was stepping into the world of institutional Physical Education... and my previous experiences in that world had been scarring to say the least.

But I gave my worries the middle finger and registered anyhow. Participation in this class was part of my action plan for success in one of my other classes this quarter (Health and Wellness, where one of the final projects was to create and implement a wellness plan for ourselves.) Additionally, I wanted to add some structured physical activity to my long day of sitting in lecture and, hopefully, use the class as a vehicle to finally complete the c25k program I'd started and stopped a few times in the last year.  Besides, to the people who ascribe to a traditional "thin is wonderful" mindset, what better candidate would there be for a class called Cardiovascular Conditioning than my fatabulous self?

But in reading the waiver all those worries came flooding back:

  • Was I now unworthy of participating in this class because I have a BMI of 52?

  • Was I going to spend the rest of the quarter being the one all the students possessing "thin privelege" in the class titter about?

  • Was the teacher going to laugh in my face and tell me to get out of a classroom?

I decided to hold off on signing the waiver and discuss my concerns with the professor after class.  The hour drug on and as I listened to his description of what we were going to do this quarter, I kept thinking to myself: "Gee, what he's describing is not THAT difficult... This sounds like c25k kicked up a notch. I know I got this."

At the end of class, I approached the professor, pointed out the verbiage on the waiver and expressed my concern about putting my name on something that would amount to a lie.  His initial response was not the most inspired.  He sighed, looked at me and said: "Well, for you I just recommend giving it a try."  Understanding myself well enough to know I might have been reading non-existent tone into his comment I further went on to discuss my current level of fitness with him and restated my concern, stressing the message that I knew I could do this, I just wanted to make sure he knew it too.   He replied by explaining that the waiver is actually quite old and its verbiage hadn't been updated in some years.  He also went on to say that this class commonly features a wide range of physical ability in it's students: everyone from 60-year olds, pregnant women, asthmatics and arthritis sufferers. Even morbidly obese people have participated.  With that confirmation my worries were resolved and I went to the locker room to dress out for the rest of my classes.

This experience caused me to analyze my tendency to worry about how the people around me will react to my size.  See, I've always worried about my size negatively impacting my interactions with others during daily life scenarios. Normal events like: doctor appointments, gym locker room interactions, group fitness/activity classes, family discussions, and leisure activities would all elicit an undercurrent of anxiety in my mind. I can cite several experiences during the course of my life that have reinforced this particular anxiety, but those experiences were not the root of the behavior - more they reinforced the need for the behavior and encouraged it to become a knee-jerk reaction for me.  And, honestly, the core experience that started the downward spiral to where I am now is really not important - I can't go back and change what happened.  What's important is that I see that this coping mechanism has become limiting and need to address the issue.

I am a firm believer in the power of honesty and importance of integrity as we walk through this life.  I want to be the kind of person who, when people hear my name they think: "Wow... Sarah's just a great person to be around.  She's intelligent, funny, honorable and loyal.  The girl's got integrity."  I want people to know that I am exactly who I say I am.  With this in mind, how can I say I'm a Fat Activist when my initial, knee-jerk reaction is to shy away from being a visible example of a proud, fat woman who doesn't let her size get in the way of her goals?  How can I say I'm a proponent of HAES when I'm not willing to stick my neck out and educate people about it... not only by talking about it but by living it?

Granted, knowing the problem does not mean the problem can be easily solved.  It gives me a place to start at in trying to resolve the issue as well as a tentative map to follow as I navigate the path in correcting this behavior.
So, I'm not feeling all that hot today - I used an OTC sleep aid last night (did you know that NyQuil actually sells liquid benadryl as a non habit-forming sleep aid now?) and feel all groggy and hung over as a result. :P  I know I ought to be studying or working on my presentation for Leadership (which is about 75% done)... but I just don't feel like it.

So, I'm going to post about something that happened yesterday on Facebook.

Before I do, I'm going to warn you right now that this post will probably be on the long-ish side... I won't feel offended if you scroll past and apologize right now for taking up so much real estate on your friend's page. :)

Lately, I've been feeling a lot less apathetic.  Maybe this is a result of not working in the soul-sucking environs of The Pap Factory, maybe it's a result of spending 3 to 6 hours a day in the intellectually stimulating environment of campus.  Regardless, I've been a bit more inclined to activism lately.  Especially when it comes to Feminist and HAES related issues.

When you think about it, HAES and Fat Acceptance are encompassed by the general realm of feminism.  Size Bias effects women far more than it does men.  Sure, men are starting to feel the sting of it, but it's not such a knee-jerk reaction to shame and vilify a fat man as it is a fat woman.  It's far more common to add the word "fat" as a qualifier when insulting a woman.  Terms like: "Fat Cow", "Fat Bitch", "Fat Cunt" are commonplace when insulting a woman.  Aside from "Fat Bastard" the "fat" qualifier doesn't often surface in the realm of men's insults.  I mean, who of you have ever heard of someone insulting a man by calling him a "Fat Dick"?  I've more often heard "Fat Dick" being used as a positive adjective (eg: "Jim has a nice, fat dick.") rather than a negative statement regarding a man's character.
But I digress...
Fat men are able to buy reasonably priced clothing of quality make that will fit their bodies. Fat men are able to actually touch and interact with the clothing they buy in almost every store. And the sizing is straightforward and simple to understand:  A man with a 42" waist can be reasonably assured of walking into a store and being able to buy a pair of pants with a 42" waist off the rack and have them fit when he gets home.  Additionally, the purchase of that clothing is not as like to impact the wallet of the fat man as it is the fat woman... Men make more than women and men can own/wear five suits/outfits over and over again and still be considered fashionable.  (We women all know that it's unforgivable in the fashion world to be seen in the same outfit twice in a week!)  Additionally, those five suits, with care, will last that fat man a lifetime.  Five feminine ensembles will not last a fat woman a lifetime due to rapidly changing fashion cycles and the general poor construction/quality of women's garments.
This just one example of how FA is part of the Feminist Agenda.  I could go on for hours about the discrimination fat women experience in other aspects of life - especially when seeking out medical care (which is where HAES comes in to play).  My intent with this essay, however, is not to list all the injustices fat women deal with every day.
To put it most succinctly: westernized women fight a constant barrage of body-shaming, unfair expectations and image-based challenges as we maneuver in this world.  Women of size fight the same fight, just multiplied by 1000.  Susie Orbach posed to us that fat is a feminist issue 35 years ago (in her book of the same name).  It's a sentiment as true now as it was then, and this is why I am passionate about it.

So... back to yesterday.

I shared an image on FaceBook about what being a feminist doesn't mean. (See below the cut.)
Cut to reduce the impact on your friends page's real estateCollapse )

I thought nothing of it... I mean, we share links on FaceBook all the time.  If I see something I dislike, I scroll on by... as do 90% of the rest of the people in my list of friends on there.

But one guy had to reply:

"Does that include the right to own carry and use a firearm for defense of
self and property or just the right to be raped and murdered in the
politically correct manner"

After I got over feeling gobsmacked by his reply, It got my dander up and I responded.
I'm not going to go into the back and forth here.  If you want to check it out, go ahead. It's one of the rare public posts on my FaceBook page (as this post will be on here).  I'm not adverse to your adding me on FB if you like though. :)

Now I admit I may have misinterpreted the core message of his sentiment.
Mind you, I was a bit het up over being automatically painted into a corner with the subgroup of feminists who believe that guns have no place in our society.

See, every member of any group brings varying levels of participation and belief in the ideals of the party line.  Personally, I believe in the right to keep and bear arms... but I feel we ought to regulate it more than we do.  I also believe that the NRA cares more about the welfare of the gun manufacturers than they do the second amendment rights of it's members.  (Historically, the NRA has been the first to throw the good of it's members under the bus to preserve the interests of the gun manufacturers.)   Not every feminist feels the way I do, but our difference in opinion on that one issue does not change the greater belief in promotion of equal rights for women.

But for how irritated at I was at his unfair casting of me alongside a certain group within the feminist party, I was both livid and appalled at his casual use of rape as a threat.  Not that he was threatening to rape me personally.  His comment held the tone of a threat of rape as the eventual consequence of my being a "gun-control agitating feminist".

I have a firm policy of "live and let live" on FaceBook.  I ignore the stuff my friends post that I don't like.  I expect the same courtesy in return.  If am not granted this courtesy, I un-friend and block the offender.  This is not to say I don't welcome debate - I do!  I welcome rational debate that don't not involve invocation of fear tactics and implied threat of bodily harm. I've stated this code of conduct several times on my wall as well as in my notes on there.  If a person brings the: "believe the way I do or you'll get fucked up!" argument to the table, well, that's not rational debate. That's fear mongering, and I don't tolerate it.

With this in mind, my first reply was rational and ended with a mild chiding over his use of the threat of rape as deserved consequence for my anti-gun agitating, feminist ways.  I mean, really, there is no circumstance under which the threat of bodily harm, either implied or overt, is an acceptable debate tactic.   And, specifically, the use of "rape" during debate with me reeked of chauvinism (I mean, come on... he would have never posed the same point during debate with a man.)  The back and forth devolved from there.  He adopted even more of a chauvinistic tone toward me: diminutizing me by calling me "Darlin' " then belittling me by adding a: "Oh, look at the little woman try to think with the big boys!" tone to his final comment.  At that point I decided to end what had de-evolved into a charade of true debate and de-friend/block the man.

That, effectively, ended the conversation... but it didn't end my mulling it over.

Aside from the chauvinism, what bothered me so much was how his original comment was so saturated in rape culture, victim blaming and fear-based rhetoric.  His message seemed to speak to how I needed to live in fear of being raped by every man I happen across in the street. And that, my friends, is all kinds of messed up.

The idea that I deserve to be raped because I am a feminist and all feminists feel that guns should be outlawed is just plain vile.  The idea that he expressed such sentiment without blinking an eye is even more vile.  Both sentiments illustrated to me how deep rape culture and victim blaming is in our society.

I live in a pretty liberal town.  Sure, it's insular... but it's a place full of aging hippies so there's a lot of tolerance despite the insularity.  The streets are, largely, safe and we all walk around unmolested.  I could, if I wanted to, walk from home to the nearest convenience store at midnight and be reasonably sure of my safety in one of the sketchier areas of town.  The man who made this sentiment is a local.  He grew up here and graduated from my high school.  We didn't know each other in school, but he is, currently, friends with two guys who are the kindest, crunchiest, goddess-loving-est, hippies I know.  He had a wife (who recently passed away, and he has my deepest empathy there), and a mother.  I'm sure  he has sisters, and many female friends... all of whom he would never wish harm upon.  But his statements on my Wall spoke to a core belief that says: "You are a great girl... but if you get raped because you weren't afraid enough to pack a gun everywhere you go, you deserve it so don't come crying to me."

I was honestly shocked that this guy could possibly harbor such a belief, even unconsciously.

I was also saddened.
I strongly believe that fear is the root to many of our social issues.  For example:

**Racism: Try as we might, we can't seem to shake it off our collective boot-sole.  Imho, the root of racism lies in fear of the unknown/different coupled with ignorance that the racist individual projects upon people outside his/her race. (When really, if that racist fellow just took the time to get to know his African American neighbor, he would probably find more similarities than differences.)

**The concept of "Stranger Danger" is deeply socialized into my generation.  Now we are watching as that deep, indoctrinated, fear of strangers has manifested itself in the form of trends that cripple our children's social development like "helicopter parenting".  (Now, we know kidnapping and child molestation are out there... but the rates of such crimes haven't really changed in all this time.  Those crimes, however, are made more visible now by the media.  It just seems like our world is more full of terrors than it was 60 years ago. It's not strangers as a whole that we need to caution our kids about... we need to teach them to be selective about what strangers they approach.)

Fear is a tool used by parties in power to keep us masses weak and divided.
Ever since 9/11, the message has been all about what new thing to be afraid of:  Spinach, bananas, BPA, being underweight, being overweight, Barbie dolls, the brown guy next to you on the airplane (when we've had more instances of white men inciting terrorism in this country than any other race), President Obama's religion (since when did being a Muslim mean you're part of a plot to overtrhow the government? O_o), getting regular pap smears... the list goes on and on.  The reason behind all this fear?  A scared populace is easily manipulated.  How else do you think President GWB got away with getting us into two overseas wars for no good reason?
A good friend told me years ago that "fear is merely a choice." This concept resonates with me still.  So, every day I make myself think about something before I allow myself to be afraid of it.  I assess risk and conduct myself based on that assessment.  Is it a good thing I've skipped my women's health exam for the last few years?  No... but based on my history I am reasonably sure I don't have cervical or breast cancer so saving the money those tests will cost is probably ok.  Is there a chance I could get salmonella from my spinach?  Sure. Now I wash my spinach and reap the vitamin and mineral benefits from that wonderful, green, leafy veggie.

If I go out of my home suspecting all the men I run across as wanting to rape me then I'm crippling myself.  99% of men are not rapists.  And in suspecting all men as rapists I am cutting myself off from learning about a lot of neat people.  If I felt this way when my husband and I were getting interested in each other, we would have never met.  Knee-jerk fear based on gender hurts everyone.

The comment put forth by that man on FaceBook showed to me how deeply fear has been indoctrinated in our culture.  Even in this, relatively safe, pocket of America it's a constant influence.  Unless this undercurrent of fear is addressed and eradicated at the root, how can we ever expect ourselves to rise up and challenge the malignant status-quo we find ourselves in?

I'm sad to report that I don't have the answers.  What I do know is that I refuse to live my life crippled by indoctrinated fear, and I hope there are enough out there like me being vocal about it to wake the rest of the country up.

Holy crap! A Meme!

How this works: Comment with your favorite color and I'll respond by asking you five questions so I can get to know you better. Update your journal with the answers to the questions. Include this explanation in the post and offer to ask other people questions.

Here's what cyanide_n_gold gave me:

1. What is your favorite kind of Girl Scout Cookie? 
Good question! For years I was all about Thin Mints.  But I was introduced to Samoas three years ago and now I'm torn between the two.

2. Is there a TV show that you could watch for hours on end if you had the time?
It varies.  I tend to get passionately involved with programs and consume them in an orgiastic glut until they're gone (Lately it's been House of Cards on Netflix).  I do keep going back to M*A*S*H though... there are so many episodes that I can't exhaust them so easily as I can more recent series'.

3. What is a place you've always wanted to travel to?
I've want to travel anywhere and everywhere in general... we grew up so poor that we didn't even go to Canada (which is obscenely close to my hometown) more than a handful of times.  The first country/continent I can remember wanting to travel to, though, is Australia.  Blame Paul Hogan if you will (and I know well that Australia isn't all like what you see in Crocodile Dundee) but it got stuck in my mind a long time ago that it would be pretty neat to explore there.  Books like "The Thorn Birds", "The Ladies of Missalonghi" and "The Australians" didn't help that much.  Later, when Bill and I started talking expatriation and he suggested New Zealand I got a bit excited.  Now, I know NZ is far from Australia, but it's a huge step closer to actually visiting Australia than where I am now. :)  (Nothing has been decided on the expat front, mind you...)

4. Looking around the room you are in right now and only within that room, what are your 5 favorite items?
My laptop, my smartphone, the box my little sister bought me in India, the Canopic jar Bill made when he was student teaching (It's stopper has a Cthulhu-shaped head), and Jinks (yes, he's an organism... but he's one of my very favorite items in this room.)

5. What was your favorite cartoon growing up?
Goodness, that's a tough one.  I liked them all fine, but I've always been kinda fickle about television shows.  I will start out loving them, but loose interest if I have to wait a long time between episodes or seasons. (This is what happened with Glee... I loved the show, but the mid-season breaks it takes are unacceptably long and smack of hubris.)  When I was a child, I don't remember feeling particularly wedded to any one serial cartoon.  I do, however, have many fond memories about the animated movies I watched as a child.  The Hobbit, The Return of the King, The Last Unicorn, Shinbone Alley, Animal Farm and Watership Down were all seminal viewing for me as a child and I remember them all fondly.

Now, comment and I'll give you some questions. :)

Embracing the Gerbil Wheel.

With the advent of inclement weather I have been less inclined to go jogging. 

I don't mind running in the rain so long as that rain is in spring, summer or early fall.  See, the rain is warm-ish then.  This time of year, the rain gets all mixed up with wind chill and mid-30F to 40F temps and makes for a hugely unpleasant experience.  You can have all the technical running gear in the world (which I don't - that shit's expensive!), but it does nothing for warmth once you saturate it with near freezing rain.  All you have after that point is a bunch of cold, wet fabric on that flops around and weighs you down. :P

So, after assessing our budget I decided to bite the bullet and join a gym.  There's one reasonably close to me that offers a month-to-month student rate (which I now qualify for).  The dues are cheaper than the gym I used to belong to... plus this gym has the nicer amenities that my old gym didn't have - like lockers and more than one shower.

It bears mentioning that I've never done well running on a treadmill.  And I think elliptical machines are a tool of the devil.
To be fair, I did most of my treadmill running before I got my Vibrams, and we all know my problems with extended exercise in standard running shoes.  Also, I used to have major foot-strike issues during treadmill running... I've almost twisted my ankle more times than I like to think about on treadmills.  Again, this was all back when I was using standard shoes though. Regardless of "new shit coming to light" I still have the unpleasant association of treadmill running = shooting pains across the balls of my feet and chronic near-ankle twisting. 

Sadly, the weather is going to continue to misbehave for the next 4+ months... this I cannot change. So, while treadmill running is NOT my preference, it will have to do for now. 
Yesterday was my first day accessing the gym's services.  I ran through w4d3's interval routine again to make sure I could do it after taking two weeks off and did fine.  Today, after dropping B off at work I went over to the gym and, ran w5d and felt pretty good!  The kind of treadmill used at this gym isn't as bouncy as the treadmills from the last gym - I think this helps in keeping my foot strike alignment in more or less correct order.  Of course the football ache is a non-issue with these shoes.

At the end of my run, on impulse, I decided to attend the Power Yoga class. 

For the record: I've been doing yoga off and on for 16 years.  Lately I'd been doing a runner-specific Vinyasa series from YogAmazing after each run.  It seems to stretch me out better than just stretching would. My runner-specific routine is pretty gentle lasts about 20 minutes.

Today's class was an hour and 45 minutes, and boy did it kick my ass. I was actually reminded of the Yogi Steve Ross' class while in this class.  Except the Yogi running my class didn't have the relaxed attitude, fun music and jokes Steve Ross' classes have (which, imho, is key to an enjoyable session).  I suppose if I want to have a Steve Ross-like class I ought to become a yoga instructor and teach in the Steve Ross style, eh? (It's either that or move to Southern Cali - which I don't think I can convince B to agree to.)

I did pretty well, all things considered.  I had to drop out of the flow several times to regain my breath and composure... but that's what the instructor suggested I do as I needed to (I introduced myself to him before class started and initiated a brief discussion about his expectations, my level of flexibility and modification accessories that were available.)  At the end of class he stopped at my mat and praised me for being able to keep up as much as I did.  As I was leaving the studio he said: "I hope I see you next Saturday!" 

Will I go back?  Probably.  It works well for me to go to the gym after I drop B off at work. His class starts at 8:00 am - which is right about when I'd be finishing up with that day's run.  Additionally, I'm of the firm conviction that I need to squeeze every bit of my money's worth out of this gym while I have the membership.  I'm not under contract, and my plan as of this moment is to discontinue my membership once it gets nice enough to go back to running outdoors. 

Now, even though I've had a nice, early lunch and a latte I am pooped.  I think I'm going to take a nap for a short while.

So, most of you know I sew.  It would be nice to style myself a seamstress, but in reality I have nowhere near the chops to self-apply such a title.  I'm just a woman with intermediate sewing skills. 

For the last decade I've used a bare-bones, modern Singer electric like the one here.  (Singer doesn't actually make my modern machine anymore it seems...)  It's been a good machine, if a bit cranky over the last couple of years.  As we were moving to this apartment I found a cabinet-mounted, vintage Singer 66k for $35.  I grabbed it for a sewing desk to use in the work room.  As a lark, I decided to try out the old girl after I set the table up in our work room.  Unsurprisingly she didn't work, so I folded her back up and used her cabinet as a desk for my modern machine. 

Years go by.  My modern machine becomes demanding - needing frequent tune ups and bogging down/eating my work more and more.  Just before Halloween it decided to crap out in the middle of a project (which I complained about bitterly at the time and won't re-hash here).  Since then I've not done much on it.  I did try to make a pair of gloves but that ended in tears and pain.  B's birthday came around and I had to dismantle my sewing area for the party. 

After B's party I decided I didn't want to go to all the tear-down and set-up I'd have to put myself through by using the dining room as a work area again.  I started to research ways to make my old set up in the work room usable again.  I got myself a cheap computer hutch from Craigslist, converted it into a sewing hutch and started moving furniture around.  All my sewing supplies and projects are nicely stored in the hutch.  I dusted off the sewing table with the old Singer in it and set it up - thinking to use it as a cutting table or something.  Then I pulled out the Singer and really looked at it. 

Not a bad old machine, really... I thought it was such a shame I couldn't figure out what was wrong with her.  I decided to tinker around a bit and nearly jumped out of my skin when I plugged her in and she started to run!  After unplugging her I looked underneath and saw that one of the leads going to the ancient power regulator had come uncoupled.  In all the moving around, the lead had worked around to where it was completing the circuit. 

This small discovery changed everything! I had, originally, thought her motor was shot.  Here it was just a minor lead/power pedal issue... I can troubleshoot stuff like that in my sleep! 
So, I fiddled and tinkered around with the power regulator and knee bar and got the whole thing to work... I just couldn't get the power regulator to let the motor stop.  Being as the power regulator is attached to the wooden cabinet by a thin, metal bracket I was not comfortable letting it sit there plugged in and keep converting all that excess wattage to heat.  Last I checked long-term heat and old wood don't play well together. I uncoupled the power regulator and started to research how to fix the problem.  

During this research I thought about all the experiences I've had with vintage machines vs modern ones.  Every post-1980 sewing machine I've owned (the total is 3 now) has become problematic within years of getting it.  On the other hand, my cabinet machine and my mother's vintage Featherweight seemed to be bulletproof.  Even my mother's neglected old treadle machine's action was smooth and quiet... that machine would have run beautifully if she had just put the leather belt on it.  None of those vintage machines had EVER been serviced (at least to my knowledge, that is) in my lifetime either. 

On the other hand, my modern machine requires a tune-up nearly every time I sit down to sew a project.  It binds up if it has more than a shred of fluff in the feed dogs and tends to run loudly even in after it's tuned up.  Also, If I try to sew anything other than cotton it tends to skip stitches or eat the fabric.  Oh yes, and making buttonholes with it is a chore sent straight from hell.

This realization led to the decision to look into putting my modern machine into semi-retirement and using a vintage machine for my everyday sewing.  I started by researching how people used to sew with the 66k despite it's lack of reverse drive.  Some 66k's were fitted with after-market reverse attachments produced by a company called Revco.  Sadly, since Revco went under in the `80's those attachments are rather thin on the ground.  I really didn't want to buy another 66k "head" to cannibalize for the attachment either.  More research yielded the workaround used before the reverse attachment became popular (just turn your work around and stitch back over your last few stitches).  Now it was time to hunt down a new power regulator that would preserve the existing knee bar assembly (not essential, but the knee bar is damn cool).  These are also thin on the ground and cost a mint when you can find them. :( 

Then I looked at Craigslist. 
A local guy was interested in trading a newer 40's-era Singer 15-91 for "something unique".  I didn't have anything he wanted, but he was willing to sell it to me for $50.  I snapped it up and brought my new baby home - whereupon I was surprised to find that it fit in my cabinet!
This baby has a reverse drive and potted motor assembly (much less prone to problems than the 66k's belt-drive motor).  Also, she uses the standard Singer bobbin - which I have a ton of - where the 66k uses thin bobbins. (I do have some thin bobbins, but not so many that converting to using them all the time would be convenient.)
Singer 15-91
Even before her tune-up (during which I removed a quarter-sized mess of old fluff and dirt from under her feed dogs alone!) she fired up and stitched like a champ.  Now that she's all cleaned up and has gotten a good drink of oil she's ready to take on whatever I throw at her.  I do have to get down to some cabinet repair though... it's suffered more than a few scratches from all the enameled cast-iron being moved across it and the veneer on the top of the cabinet is flaking up at the edges.  I also need to go over both machines with a good dose of T-Cut to restore the shine of the enamel.

Of course, I'm very excited about all this.  My modern Singer can go into semi-retirement now. :D  I do have to purchase a few bits and bobs of hardware to round things out - a hand crank assembly for the 66k (no need to mess with that old power regulator at all now. Plus a hand-crank machine will give me more control when working with small items), a kit to adapt the 15-91's foot pedal into a knee-bar assembly and some new decals to replace the old ones that have flaked off (these last two are cosmetic details more than anything... but they'll make me smile.) All of these conversions will cost less than $50 combined.

So, there you have it!  Krooked Needle is now up and running again with new digs and a new machine!

During all this B asked me: "Why are you spending money on these old machines?  Wouldn't you rather have a new one?" 

Once I got over my initial "D8" reaction I explained to him how the old machines are from a time when things were built to last. Today's machines may have a bunch of bells and whistles, but they're only built to last for a certain amount of time before they crap out... The expectation of sellers is that you're going to pitch the old one and buy a new one.  Vintage machines are solid - There are no plastic components on either of my vintage machines.The machine "head" is enameled cast iron, the gears and moving parts are all steel.  Even the cord is covered in rubber! The closest thing to plastic you can find on either is the 15-91's Bakelite tension knob.
Vintage machines were also meant to handle a wide array of fabrics with ease.  Even though they're classed as "household machines" they can still handle everything from multiple layers of denim or canvas to a single layer of lace with no problem.  Most of these old machines can be snatched up (with a cabinet even) for less than $100.  My modern machine cost about $150. Lastly: These machines are just freaking cool!  These are just some of the reasons behind the burgeoning movement towards going back to vintage machines you'll find in the crafting community lately.

If any of my friends who sew out there are feeling frustrated with their modern machines, I highly recommend looking into a vintage one.  My preference is pre and post-war era Singers, but don't let that constrain you. Anything pre-1970 or so ought to grant you a good little machine that will endure beyond your lifetime! 


It appears as if Bill and I won't be relocating to BC in the near future. 

Thank you, America, for not making me move. :)


Most of you know about my undying love for my Vibram 5 Finger shoes.  Any comfortable running I've been able to manage gets placed firmly at the feet of my Vibram KSOs.  

So, I ran across this contest giving away a free pair once a month for the entire year of 2012.  
Of course I'm shouting this out to everyone.  Even if I don't win a pair (and I sincerely hope I do.  My KSOs are great, but I really wish I had a pair of Sprints for running in the summer) a chance for someone to get a free pair of the spendy little suckers is not one to keep a lid on. 

So, if you have any interest in possibly trying a pair of Vibrams out but don't want to shell out $100 for something you're not sure you'll like, get on over there and toss your hat in the ring. :D


It's been awhile since I posted.  Not because I don't love ya'll still... just I've been a bit busy lately.  Today, however, I don't feel well so I'm keeping things low-key.

Work has been slow - like there isn't any kind of slow.  I'm looking for a local gig, but that's slow too.  Suffice it to say, finances are a concern... and had tormentedartist not found a job recently we would have been really screwed this month.

My car was hit about mid month.  Our old neighbor autopiloted here after tying on a few too many at the bars.  Once he realized he was at the wrong place, he tried to turn out of the parking lot and collided with my car on the way.  I heard the sound of the impact from my front room (I was sewing) and went out to see what happened.  He was trying to leave the scene as I came out.  After I stopped him from leaving and he and I went back and forth a bit the police were called.  They arrived and arrested him for DUI.  They also seem to be charging him with hit and run (they checked as much in the accident report)... I suspect they'll charge him with failure to carry insurance information as well. 

Anyhow, the damage to my car is purely cosmetic - it still drives and all the lights work.  My insurance company, however, deemed it a "total loss" as the cost of repairs exceed the worth of the car.  They're cutting me a check for the worth of the vehicle minus what they would get for it in salvage and letting me keep the car.  Not bad, eh?   And my financial concerns from above just got a little less worrisome. 

I went to my BFF's wedding reception in Seattle on the 18th.  It was fun!  I met a few new people and caught up with a few others. I also tried to make it to where the guests of honor didn't have to do much but enjoy themselves.  Apparantly I did my job, because I got a call from BFF the next day thanking me for all that I did.  :)

My running program got derailed around the middle of July.  I injured my hamstring group at work shortly after BFFs wedding and just haven't been able to get back to running since.  I've been cycling almost every other day - anywhere between 3 and 6 miles each time.  So I haven't been sedentary during this time... just getting my exercise from different arenas.  I still plan on revisiting the program in the future so all is not lost. 

A Lot Can Happen In A Year...

Back in the days when tormentedartist and I were still in that "I-like-you-but-we're-not-yet-a-couple" stage I wrote a story titled "A Lot Can Happen In A Year".  (It's around if you dig... but the content is somewhat adult so you have to dig a lot.)  

The way things really went down between B and I is very different from the contents of the story I wrote. Most of this last year has fallen on the mundane side of things - not that it's not been good! Real life tends to be more mundane than extraordinary. That's just how things go.

Having said that, a lot HAS happened in the last 365 days.  Starting with one very significant event: we got married.  

My vows expressed the idea that that day was an ordinary day that would now be extraordinary to us.  This remains true.  Today is an ordinary day in that babies are born and people go about their lives just like any other day.  The main difference is: exactly one year ago today my best friend and I decided to cement the bond that story started to forge 5 years ago.  It's a bond that's weathered hardship and worry while making the joyful times more wonderful.  It's also a bond that keeps getting stronger with every passing day.  

A lot happens in a year.  It just so happens that on an ordinary day, 365 days ago, I married my best friend.  

Thank you, tormentedartist, for being the best husband a girl could ask for.  I love you. 


West Country Girl

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