Surprise Birthday Flash Mob

This Sunday, an unusual thing happened. My friend Marilyn stopped by with a parcel. That wasn’t too unexpected, so I invited her in for a cup of tea. I was giving her a tour of my house (aka: the house I went back to work to afford), when I noticed my friend Astrid outside, holding another parcel. I started to get suspicious. And then Selah and baby Morgan showed up. Then Laura and Joe, and Judith.  Yep.  That’s right.  It was a surprise birthday flash mob.

Surprise Party Flash Mob


Selah, the ring leader, in cahoots with my husband, had set the whole thing up. I was completely snookered.  In retrospect, there were clues, and it was delicious fun to think back and see the scaffolding of the plan going up.  I always, always, had wanted a surprise birthday party.  So it was fun and thrilling.

And then they attacked me with henna.  Yep, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Astrid come at you with a syringe full of dye and a gleam in her eye.

Astrid's Gleam

People drew designs on me both fun and meaningful. Selah, who’s birth I’d attended as a labor partner/doula, drew a caduceus. Judith drew lightning bolts to help me skate faster. Kai drew a Mayan calendar. Marilyn drew plants to help my garden thrive. Astrid filled in my skating number and drew a sine wave. Laura drew a spider for my spinning. And Eric filled in the back of my neck with a set of beautiful spirals.

Eric's Spirals


The hardest part was having to sit still for hours while the henna dried. I’m not a sit-still kinda gal.

Painted Lady


But it fit in nicely with my New Year’s resolution: be happy doing less. For the past two decades, I’ve cranked my main spring tighter and tighter each year to get more work out of me, both professionally and on personal projects. This year I’m working on building in emptiness and down time into my schedule. To be a human being, instead of a human doing.

What did the people at work say about my arms being covered in henna tattoos? Absolutely nothing. I think after spending a year with me, nothing I do surprises them anymore. That or Amazon is just an incredibly cool place to work for.


Madrona 2012: A Very Fine Birthday

Last year, my birthday sucked. I was saying a final goodbye to my dreams of making a living in the fiber arts. It was poignant, because I spent the whole weekend teaching at Madrona, a wonderful fiber conference, surrounded by everything I was giving up. The day after Madrona, I would start full-time work again. A daunting prospect after being self-employed for ten years. My husband was sick and couldn’t be with me. I felt like an utter failure and spent the evening sobbing in my hotel room.

This year was the antidote to last year. I taught at Madrona again, with a room full of lovely women who shared my passion for things that glow and blink. It was a mellow and peaceful class. They gave me permission to blog about derby and non-weaving things. I don’t have to words to explain why that was important (or rather, I do, but it would take about 10,000 of them) but it was huge to me. I’m an eclectic, shy, multi-faceted person, and it’s hard for folks like me to feel 100% accepted, and in that moment, I did.

I had lunch with a friend and mentor, and that was a wonderful treat.

Class continued. We wove. Things lit up. We turned off the lights and there were moments of illuminated beauty. I had a great time, and I hope they did as well.

Eric and Kai came down that evening and injected some family pack bonding into the evening. We ate Mexican food, tussled on the bed, made bad jokes, and I fell exhausted into bed and slept well.

The next day, my actual birthday, I spent taking a class with my favorite tapestry weaver in the whole wide world: Sarah Swett. (I can say this only because I consider Mary Zicafoose a rug weaver.) Sarah combines both being a hoot-and-a-holler as a person with amazing technical skill that takes my breath away. She doesn’t teach often and I consider myself lucky to have gotten into her class.

We wove tapestry bags. Tapestry is something that makes my brain hurt. I’d taken a class with James Koehler, and was blown away by his mastery and technique. But his brain worked very differently than mine, and as soon as I stepped away from his class, his teaching fell right out of my head. Sarah’s teaching settled into my brain like a faithful dog and curled right around my cerebellum. I came away from the class with an enthusiasm for tapestry and a belief that I might actually be able to weave a tapestry I was happy with one day.


Oh, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka: the yarn harlot) is considering taking up an affair with a bad-boy loom. A loom with its brake smack in the center of the warp. With a tricky warp tensioning system that is just waiting to unspool her warp all over the floor. A handsome fellow, dark and mellowed with age, something rare and fine, but temperamental… I worry for her weaving adventures on it. Though I suspect a swat team of Canadian weavers is likely to descend on her if things get out of hand.

Several people asked questions about my unfinished projects, some asked kindly, some more pointedly. Here are the answers, in case you’re wondering, too.

What about WeaveCast? Will there be more?
I don’t know. I hope so. Between more-than-full-time work, family, and doing the things that keep me happy and sane, I haven’t found the time to edit audio. I’ve got several episodes recorded that I’d like to produce, but I don’t know when I’ll get to them. There’s another fibery concern that’s considering doing a weaving podcast–a group that’ll likely do a much better job than I ever did–so even if I don’t get around to it, you still have hope.

What’s the status of the birthday blanket?
The first 13-yard warp is woven. The second 13-yard warp is lying on the floor of my studio on lease sticks, ready to go through the raddle. I really, really, wanted to get it done in time for Madrona 2012, but two other time-critical projects got in the way. One was my producing Linda Ligon’s memoir This is How I Go When I Go Like This as an audiobook, the other is still under wraps. I feel mortified that the birthday blanket isn’t done yet, and I promise that it will be done before I am. My other worry is, now that I have a smaller presence in the fiber world, how will I get the word out when it’s done?

I came away from Madrona 2012 feeling like the fiber arts world was welcoming me back. It won’t be what it was, it’s scaled back from when I was trying to make a living publishing weaving content. But you know, the things that drew me into the fiber arts are still there: the love of making beautiful fabrics, the friendly people, the meditative work.

A lot has happened in the past year: I’ve gotten a new career. I watched my friend Selah birth her son. I took up roller derby and played in a game in front of 300+ spectators. A long-time chronic health issue that has plagued me my whole life was diagnosed and addressed. I’ve let go of a lot of expectations.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know what I’m working towards. I don’t have a master plan. It’s strange to be like this, but also peaceful.