On the cusp of action: A published draft

Things don’t have to be the way they are.

This surprisingly controversial statement is at the heart of all social change, technical innovation, home renovation projects, make-up counters, and dreams for better lives for our children. One day, we lay eyes on some something and it hits us–”Oh honey, that just won’t do.”

The tricky part is what comes next. Once you see the problem, what comes next?

Seriously, what comes next for you? (Don’t think for a moment that you just get to sit back and read! I’m typing, so you’ve got to put in some effort, too!) What does it take for you to go to Home Depot and get what you need to fix the sagging fence? What shocks you off the couch and into a community meeting? A protest? What threshold must be met in order for you to start sketching your idea on a napkin? What astronomical alignment are you waiting for to start your book?

This is a particularly pressing question because I find myself wondering what has changed that has led me to start typing after years of talking a good game about starting my blog back up once I get my thoughts in order. Once I finished grad school. Once I learned more about leadership. Once I got settled into parenthood. Once I got used to my new job. And it’s not just blogging. I’m sketching out notes for potential workshops talking with friends about and on podcasts. What’s different now? How can I trust that I’ll keep this up? Why should I get my hopes up that this will be different from past attempts at changing my world?

The easy answer: I have homework from my leadership program that is challenging me to design and pursue an adventurous expression of my life purpose—a quest, if you will. I’m being a good student and doing the homework as assigned, wrestling with it head on while the coursework has my attention.

Another take: I have a toddler. Life may never be as sweet or as frenetic as it is right now. Little One is in a constant state of flux, a living embodiment of the power of transformation. A year ago, she could barely sit up on her own, and now she’s running, talking, and attempting to make her own lunch. Some days she wakes up and entire areas of cognition have been upgraded overnight. Oh wow, she can suddenly pick up cereal with a pincer grip. Hey, she knows to walk to her room when I say, “Time to change your diaper!” This creative, changing energy is contagious. At least blog posts are more sanitary than a pile of used Kleenex.

And another: The tension between my contentment and my unrest has hit a tipping point and something has to give. I have a *good* life. I have love and comfort and fulfillment and gentle intrigue and relatively benign things to complain about. I have financial security, physical safety, and the ability to indulge my dreams, rather than chasing them for fear of my life. This is an amazing life, and I have it because of a combination of privilege, social support, dumb luck, and hard work. And I know, deep down in my bones, that it is not enough for me and mine to have comfort. Things do not have to be the way they are. I must barter with Life for this ease, not with liberal guilt, but rather by contributing to positive systemic change.

This is the point where I want to curl up into a ball. There is too much that should be different. It’s all too big. I’m just not that important. Why even start when I know I’m just going to fail? At some point. Eventually.

And here is the giant pile of bullshit that smothers my (our) (your) good intentions and revolutions before I (we) (you) even get off the couch. Stories have great power to provide meaning in our lives, but we can’t fall prey to the narrative. We cannot define success as a well-defined plot arch that ends in a clearly obtained goal. And I’m not calling bullshit because life just doesn’t adhere to this ideal. I’m calling bullshit because this ideal doesn’t work in the real world.

Take a moment. Breathe this in: the world isn’t changed by solo adventurers in three-act hero’s journeys. There are no magic words, perfect policies, or definite movements. The world is a system of systems, and systems don’t work like that. They’re messy. Unexpected. Apply a ton of pressure to one spot, and the outcome doesn’t change. Sneeze on some other lever, and everything shifts. Into something you have never conceived. The difference may only become apparent long after your action—systems don’t care much about human timescales. You must be always present to what really is, not what we assume is there. And we must hold our dreams lightly in case they no longer make sense.

This is the paralyzing paradox: we cannot know the effect of our actions or our inactions. When we have the urge to act, we must do so with only the faith that it will ultimate serve.

Returning again

I have been away from this place for quite a while. I am returning because I’m quite sure I have myriad things to say; yet the time at which I have amusing thoughts and the time at which I can write never seem to overlap. So I am writing anyway, hoping that something of use will fall out of my head. Maybe not this post, though.

Some adventures from the last few years:

  • Completed my Co-Active Coaching training and certification
  • Gone on scuba trips to Fiji and Palau
  • Successfully made it through pregnancy and childbirth
  • Learned that I am rather good with babies
  • Been promoted to management at work
  • Taken up painting again
  • Enrolled in CTI Leadership and completed the first two retreats
  • Started wearing socks with curse words on them

My intention is for this blog to become a place for me to post my thoughts on whatever I find intriguing, amusing, delightful, challenging, and strange. The world is full of such things, so I should have no problem finding things to post.

Cincinnati Chili

Chili in progress...

Cincinnati Chili is my favorite type of chili.  It’s a sweeter chili with a different flavor profile than the Oklahoma chili I often eat.  A few people have asked about what goes in it, so I thought I’d post my recipe.  This recipe started with one I found online years ago, but I’ve lost both the original print out and the url.  However, I’ve ended up tweaking it enough that it’s pretty much mine at this point.

I only add cheese on top.  Wikipedia will tell you about other traditional additions.


1 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
spoonful of minced garlic
2 lb. ground beef (no leaner than 90/10)
1/4 cup chili powder
cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar OR molasses
1 bay leaf
1/2 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
20 oz. beef broth
15 oz. tomato sauce
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
cooked spaghetti (I use homemade buttermilk pasta, though that’s a different post.)

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook onion until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add beef.  Cook until brown.  DO NOT DRAIN.

3.  Add everything else. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Cool and refrigerate overnight.  (This step is option, though highly recommended.)

5. Remove bay leaf.  (If refrigerated) Reheat gently over medium heat. Serve over hot spaghetti. Top with cheese.

*The spices with no measurements are to the cook’s taste.  Some recipes have 1 tsp. each of cinnamon and cumin and 1/4 tsp each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg.  I like more allspice, cloves, and nutmeg.  Truth be told, I haven’t actually measured any of these in years.  I just start grinding spices until it starts smelling good.

Life is good

I can’t believe it’s already late December.  The fall flew past in a blur of tests and papers.  I have every reason to believe I’ve graduated, though my degree hasn’t been officially awarded yet for some reason.  Nevertheless, Dear Husband and I are currently on my graduation vacation in the Bahamas.  I look forward to having more brain cells to actually post on here again.  Until then, here’s a picture of my crocheting while scuba diving.

Sometimes, you just need to crochet some rope.

Dread and Hats

So I’ve been working on the Dread Pirate Cthulhu for ages now, and finally the stars have aligned.  And here he is!

Tentacles are better with sea shells and beads...
...and a jaunty feather.
Yar, I'm a parrot.
Fly away, little monster!

Cthulhu is not the only project I’ve been working on.  I’ve finished a couple of hats, too.  Given the horrible heat wave, you’d think I’d make things that aren’t so warm, but they’re just so much fun!


Slouchy hat slouches.
Colorful hat is colorful.


So I realized that I haven’t been linking to the patterns I’ve been using.  And I have insomnia, so it seemed like a good time to fix that.

All of my lovely Cthulhus based on Amber’s patterns at Cthulhu Crochet and Cousins.

Squiddy is a Kraken from the book Amigurumi Knits.

The hat is a pattern from Allison at L & B Yarn Co.  I’ve also knitted two pair of fingerless mittens from another pattern by Allison, but they seem to have never made it to the blog.  I’ll remedy that later.

The flower on the hat is from Lucy at Attic24.

The server monkey is from the book Mr. Funky’s Super Crochet Wonderful.

The fuzzy scarf and needlefelted parrot were not from any particular patterns.  However, I learned to knit while making the scarf using the Knit Witch’s YouTube Channel.  I am still working at mastering the skills she demonstrates.  Anything I did right while making the parrot came from Craftzine.  While the parrot is generally good-natured, despite his association with the Dread Pirate Cthulhu, the Angry Birds Needlefelting tutorial got me through the initial confusion.  Then I discovered that needlefelting is just poking something with a small, pointed stick. A lot.  Very relaxing.

In the future, I’m going to put the credits for patterns in the actual posts and add the best resources to my links on the right sidebar.

And then there was fail…

So, despite the crazy pace of the last six months, I had been on a streak of successful projects.  Scarves, monsters, hats, mittens, even squids!  But crafting is tricky.  You are reliant on your own skill, the quality of your materials and tools, and no small amount of luck.  My luck ran out yesterday on a new project bag.  Not for good, mind you, but definitely until my poor sewing machine has been serviced.

I decided to make a project bag for an upcoming trip.  I’m going to be traveling an ungodly amount of time on planes (seriously, 36 hours of scheduled travel time EACH WAY), so I’m going to need a lot of knitting and crocheting to keep me sane.  I had an old pillow cover that I have been meaning to make some of for years (and more recently at Christmas), and it seemed like the perfect centerpiece for the bag.  The design was simple–a basic square bag six-ish inches deep with bamboo handles.  I decided to quilt the panels using a thin batting and use a heavy canvas behind that to add stability.  And it was going swimmingly…

Quilted Panels: Complete
Quilted Panels: Complete

I even succeeded in getting the zipper into the top panel and the inner pocket.  But then, disaster struck:

Tension fail

My darling sewing machine went psycho.  The tension refused to behave.  I adjusted the top tension.  I adjusted the bobbin tension.  I dismantled all user-serviceable parts and reassembled the poor thing.  I defuzzed it.  I did all that again for good measure.  But the unruly loops remain. I’m not sure if my bobbin is messed up or something more fundamental.  All I know is that the project can’t be salvaged in time for my trip.  Alas, I broke down and bought a bag at Target that fulfills all me needs except that it’s not nearly as awesome as this bag will one day be.

But that’s the way of craft. It all works, until it doesn’t.  Lucy summed up my feelings on the matter quite accurately.

Damn it to hell!