As November sat staring me down, my over-achieving brain was starting to zoom in on the upcoming holidays. It’s expected – I’ve learned that once we pass Rich’s birthday, at the end of October; and Zack’s birthday, at the beginning of November – the logical list to start making is Christmas shopping. I have always been one to ‘shop ahead.’ I used to start my Christmas shopping on December 26th, in the mad-with-returns stores snatching up all the holiday clearance items I could fit in my cart. It didn’t matter in whose hands those items would end up – it only mattered that I ended the year with a stock pile of goodies that would be a surprise to me eleven months later when I shoveled out gift closet.
How times change.
If you’re thinking about ‘shopping ahead,’ get a couple of teenagers and see how that goes. That I’ll die without it hoodie they want in October? By December, that band/game/character/color/style is so over. And please don’t pick up the toy of the year two days after one Christmas, thinking you will land at hero status the next. Is it January? That toy is outdated and dumb or for babies. The only solid buy ahead items are socks and pajamas. Try that with your teens. You will not reach hero status. You will find said socks and pajamas sometime in April, behind whatever couch they were sitting on at the time of unwrapping. You will fly into a rage. What!?!?! How dare you?!?! This is why people think kids are entitled!! This will be met with looks of innocence paired with claims of Oh, I had no idea where those went…That gift closet? It’s now where we keep the liquor (calm down, it’s locked).
The past two years have brought a different November brain tease. Because my husband was kind enough to buy me a Cricut for Christmas in 2018, I no longer make lists of things to pick up in the weeks following the start of November – I now make lists of Oh, I think I can make that! items I find on Pinterest or local boutiques. Yes, the famous Cricut. It came into my life when Rich was away on a business trip. Keith, the UPS man, showed up with a large box with large letters reading “Cricut.” Looks like somebody’s getting a present…he said. Not me, I replied, I have no idea why you brought that here. Oh crap, it has our name on it. Still. Still. I rang Rich up as soon as was appropriate (Did this count as an interrupt-able phone call? One where he’d have to step out of a meeting? It seemed super urgent to me, this rogue box, but…). Why’d you buy a Cricut?? Silence. Welp, he said, it wasn’t supposed to come labeled. Damn.
Subject dropped until he arrived back in the Ville. And until I gave him the obligatory transition time from work mode to home mode. And some extra transition time, just in case. So again, Why’d you buy a Cricut? He replied, I thought you could use a hobby. Oh. Okay. Friends, if you’d like to see your wife go from zero to holy-shit in less than three seconds – this is an excellent start. I’m not quite sure how long I spent listing my hobbies because I blacked out almost immediately, but when I was done, I’m sure Rich had a very clear understanding of what my hobbies were (cooking, cleaning, taxi driving, talking to teachers, signing people up for things, paying bills, planning vacations, shopping for groceries, making lists of my hobbies). It didn’t go great. Rich immediately back tracked all the way to No worries, I’ll send it back.
What? No. What? I just wanted to list my hobbies. I didn’t say I wanted it to go back. I just wanted to name all the things I do. Add to the list of the things – that I would try to learn this strange machine, utterly fail, possibly throw a tantrum or two and then we would send it back. First, I had to work through the five stages of stubborn. Send it back, ha! Take away the chance to see exactly how little I needed a hobby? Never. Nice try, sir. And off I went, demanding said gift be wrapped and placed under the tree so that I could feign my surprise on the 25th. Which I did. Although, I’m relatively sure all family members knew it was not a surprise based on the repeated mumbles over the following weeks as I announced more discovered hobbies. Cleaner of the place where one stair meets another! Returner of poor Amazon decisions! Collector of the cable remotes from Kylo’s backyard hiding place! Straightener of pictures sent awry by the sheer speed of children running up and down those very clean stairs!
Hobby. Ha! As if.
And here I am two years later. Recovering from a crafter’s injury obtained while testing out a new-to-me sewing machine pre-inherited from my mother. Testing out a sewing machine? Who am I? Oh, just the woman who said she’d never join the masking making bandwagon. Now nursing a needle wound acquired while learning that one should not try to push the fabric under a running sewing machine’s needle thingy. While making a mask. Yes. I’ve gone from a woman who didn’t even own a pair of mom scissors (don’t cut paper with those!!) to a woman who has the whole dang kit and kaboodle, including my very own lower level workspace of which I am actually fairly territorial. I can be two floors up and sense if someone has left a glass of water in my arts and crafts area. I mean, yeah, okay, hobby? Still on the fence. I like to think of it as more of a lifestyle. Not only do I head on into the office every morning (which is five steps from the living room), but I also do all the things and run a pretend store of custom made knick knacks and t-shirts. Did that sound like bragging? Oh, my bad. It’s no worse than my husband’s need to tell the above story over and over. Way to go, sir.
I think I was hobby-less for quite some time because growing up – I only had one hobby. Back flips. And front flips and flips with twists and flips that sometimes landed in a heap on the floor, across a 4-inch plank or clothes-lined on the uneven bars. My hobby was full time gymnastics – one that took up all available time (spoiler alert, not every one gets to be an Olympian, but we still have to put in loads of hours) including weekends. A hobby, therefore to me, was something to which you dedicated most of your life. Period. From kindergarten thru college, going to school a side gig to doing gymnastics. Gymnastics was my full time obsession. Hobbies gone wild. When it was over, I was completely confused about the large blocks of time now available in my life. Person after person told me to get a hobby, find a hobby, learn a hobby, acquire a hobby, hobby, hobby, hobby. I was, at that point, starting in the workforce – so hearing of hobbies really just sent me into a panic of WHEN??? And there it was – my vision of a hobby, after twenty years of leaps and landings was something requiring twenty hours per week, minimum. So, yeah, when??
It wasn’t until I hit the tennis courts in Raleigh nearly ten years later that I realized that hobbies didn’t have to be lifestyles. Though I still dove in pretty hard to tennis – practicing until I could play in multiple matches a day, packing a lunch, clean sports bra and extra socks – basically living at various tennis centers. All to be a ‘just okay’ player (spoiler alert, not every one gets to go to Wimbledon, but we still have to put in loads of hours). Not as time-consuming as gymnastics – but still, it was a lot. When I moved to Virginia, tennis went off the radar for a time. I had too much going on with this new role as a wife and (step)mom. Tennis would have been great for me in that stressful time of figuring it all out. But, in my mind, if I couldn’t play multiple matches a week, there was no point in getting started. Although I did, eventually. And I did play less and I did end up dropping a level because I played less and it sucked…but…
Right, so the Cricut. I loved it. I hated it. I threw tantrums. Rich ran into various hiding spots to dodge incoming rolls of vinyl that had failed to cut into its destiny as an amazing piece of artwork. I kept at it. I, weirdly, learned boundaries. Yes. Boundaries. I limited my time in the land of arts and crafts to limit the chances of frustration and storm outs. I realized that a couple hours was fine, but several hours often ended in disaster. I realized that cutting and pasting after 8:30pm often ended in either tears or obsessing about what went wrong while I was trying to sleep (and often both). Sure, sounds super logical now that I’m saying it out loud – but as a person who really only had one hobby for the first half of their life, and an all-consuming hobby at that, well, boundaries were completely new (and felt very adult-y). I slowly built a pretend store with real customers – generous friends and family supporting my habit – while I found my creative side. I went from copying things from beginner Facebook groups to coming up with my own ideas (spoiler alert: not everyone gets to be Joanna Gaines, but we still have to put in the hours). I haven’t gotten as far as admitting to needing a hobby, but, well, we’ll see.
Which brings me to the flesh wound.
My mother’s sewing machine. Did I say machine? I meant machines. She had two and both came home with me over the past few months as it become more evident that her sewing days had come to an end. It is hard to be excited about new toys when they come in this fashion. They arrived with both accessories and a range of emotions. Stepping into her crafting room to collect and clean hit me hard – a glimpse into a life with various projects at various stages of completion…and realizing that she left that room one day without realizing she would not be back. I felt waves of sorrow and panic – what should I do? I felt inclined to take it all home, these half sewn quilts or partially hemmed pants, to finish them – and then what? Take them back and show them to her?! No pressure there for someone who had yet to figure out where the machines’ on/off switches were. I ended up taking home bits of fabric that I thought might be turned into test runs in motorized stitching. How hard could that be?
Did I mention I’m stubborn?
I started on the hard one – the embroidery machine. Fail. Major fail. I started again. Walked away. Started again. Determined it broken, obviously not a ‘me’ issue. I moved over to the normal machine with a printed pattern for a simple mask – everybody’s making them, why not? How hard could that be? Cut a rectangle or two…add some elastic and pins…shove it through the feeder, sewing the edges…add some pleats…pin those…shove that through the feeder, OH SHITE!!!!! Needle through the finger. Alert! Yes, straight through. Mid-mask. It was going so well. I jumped back, pulled my foot off the pedal and pulled out a, well, bloody digit, hoisted it in the air and yelled for a bandaid. I did this with zero intention of quitting – the mask was nearly done, nary a drop of red to be found. And I did finish. And I’ve made a few more, but nothing more advanced (and nothing more damaging to my fingers – though I now understand why there was a gnarled chopstick in the pile). The sewing machines have stopped staring at me, beckoning for the birth of a new hobby, but I’m glad they’re here, tucked into the corner of the basement. Will I ever tackle those half finished quilts? I mean, currently doubtful as I couldn’t tell you the difference between a straight stitch and a herringbone nor I don’t understand what you do with the pins that get bent when you hit them with the needle. But you never know.
It turns out, I do love a good hobby.
Even if it hurts.