Farewell, America!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In less than 24 hours, I'll be on a plane. Waiting for an 18 hour flight to begin and counting down the hours until I am halfway across the world - further abroad than I've ever been in my life. And I'll be amidst people who look like me. Any guesses as to where I'm headed? I'll give you a hint: it starts with a Bangla- and ends with an -desh.
That's right, I'll be heading to the mother country for the entire break. Three and a half weeks of balmy weather that is the polar opposite of Manhattan right now. Three and a half weeks of family, new experiences in a new country, amazing photographic opportunities, and time without a cell phone or a laptop.
Can I say that again? No cell phone and no laptop. It scares me just to think about it. But that means that I won't be posting up anything for the next three and a half weeks unless I get the rare opportunity to get on the internet for an extended period of time. You'll hear from me some time in January, with a plethora of amazing stories and lived experiences. Or so I hope.

On another note, although it is a little late for the Tuesday Project x Project post, I finished my skirt! I actually got buttons, if you can believe it. I feel so accomplished to have finished everything before I left Enjoy the pictures below, and have a great winter!

Check out some more knitting projects that I've done.
And take a look at some of the photography that came as a result of my trip to Bangladesh at my DeviantArt.

Project x Project: Minor Frustration

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why is there not a button to be found in Manhattan past 6pm? Honestly, I have to get this out of my system - there are no craft stores in the city it seems that are open past 6pm and, even without craft stores being open, there is nowhere that will give me buttons! I even went into Urban Outfitters and attempted to buy the extra buttons that you get with coats off of them, but no, you must buy the entire coat for one little button. But, I digress.
This week has been otherwise a really good one for projects; I have finished my skirt (except, of course, for sewing the buttons on), I have started a new Photoshop project, and I am generally closing up shop for the year. It's nice, but also sad. My Etsy won't open until January for logistical reasons (such as: how will I ship if I'm overseas?) and there are a lot of things milling about in my head that I can definitely put into motion come next year.
But for now, it's all about taking a break from my regularly scheduled programming and starting something new. Sewing? Cooking? I've said these things before, but there are probably other things that I want to work with while I'm away. I was thinking about doing some more intense photography things over the winter break and also perhaps doing a bit of drawing, as I have indulged myself by getting a new sketchbook.

Anyway, that is all for later! For now, I have to get over my frustration at the small things. All my projects are coming together quite nicely, but they are taking a bit more time and effort than I thought. Such is the way of the errant crafter...

Check out the final result of this skirt project!

Monday Muse: No Worries

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting this one in under the radar, it seems, but hopefully it will provide you with some musings tomorrow!
I am now finally getting over my cold and, in the days that preceded the oasis of wellness that I am now experiencing, I had a lot of time to think, sulk, and most of all worry.

Worry is something that infiltrates my life periodically. When deadlines are involved or I have shown up late to something or when I just plumb forgot - those are the moments when I worry. These worries get turned into questions of hindsight: What could I have done to get here faster? Why didn't I look up when the store closed? Why didn't I take better care of myself earlier? And soon that worry balls up together, merging with all the other minor worries that have been in the back of my mind from both the future and the past, and becomes a hysterical upset. The worry itself brings my life to a screeching halt.
Now, it's not to say that we as people shouldn't plan well and take care of ourselves early on and whatnot, but we also need to realize that we are not automatons. We are not going to do the exactly perfect thing at the exact right time for ourselves, then wash and repeat. Instead we are going to make mistakes, eat poorly, and feel embarrassed sometimes. And that's ok.

It really is ok.

So my prompt of the week, both to myself and to everyone out there who is reading, is to spend a week without worry. Think that's a monumental task? Then go a day, or perhaps just a few hours.
Breathe deeply when you're worried, put things in perspective and think about whether this will matter ten years out, laugh at yourself for all the embarrassing times that come up rather than admonishing yourself again and again. And, most importantly, do not let it ball up into a knot of worry so tight that you just can't get out. Good luck.

Read some more posts about lessons I've learned.

Saturday Feature: HowStuffWorks

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Due to a massive cold that hit me starting yesterday and into the weekend, I have been too tired to do much of anything save sleep, drink water, and take that one French final. So, this post is a Saturday feature rather than a Friday feature - but other than the difference in alliteration, the website is still awesome!

HowStuffWorks is a website of monolithic proportions, involving podcasts, blogs, and articles about just about everything. I typically listen to two of their many fabulous podcasts (Stuff You Should Know and Stuff Mom Never Told You) and read the blogs daily. They keep me updated on everything from this intense TRON hotel room to how to grow a moon garden to the psychological effects of product advertisements. All in all, both the blogs and the podcasts keep me waist-deep in nerd knowledge. And I love it.
The articles are also very thorough - for instance, I woke up this morning with the song "Home on the Range" stuck in my head and I wondered: are there really American antelopes? For those of you that don't already know, one of the prominent lines of that song is "where the deer and the antelope play..." So, I got on my trusty laptop and searched up the word "antelope" and, lo and behold, they had a listing of antelopes, where they were from and their ecology. Awesome. Now I know that antelope does not apply to just one animal, but is a class of four-legged beast and that there is also a mislabeled faux-antelope called the American antelope. I can feel the nerd power coursing within me.

Anyway, I think that this website and its various features can keep someone who enjoys knowledge entertained for many many days - so check out HowStuffWorks.

Check out some more media that I absorb in my follow-up series Caught My Eye.

Mid-Week Observations: Where is Home?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Home has been a strange concept for me since moving to New York, and perhaps even since I started thinking about my own cultural identity. I feel as if I am only renting in this life - both the physical space that I inhabit and the thought processes that I use to define my life and personality. Going to Bangladesh this year presents another sort of home. An ancestral home, a place that I have relatives that are not in my nuclear family. And in some ways that strengthens my sense of home and in some ways it fragments it.
Let's start with the first one.
Having more homes in my life will be a good thing, I believe. It will bring me away from my thoughts that there are only 3 of us - my father, my mother and myself - and widen the bonds between all of us. Bangladesh is also an adventure, a faraway place that I don't remember very well and haven't had much connection with since a very young age. These things all foster my sense of "home" and may allow me to find it.
But, as for the second issue, it also introduces a completely new place that is hard to reach and also disparate from the two homes that I have struggled to forge in the States. I live in New York, but I am from Seattle and the Seattlite in me wants to go home while the New Yorker in me wants to stay and appreciate the beauty of this big dirty city that I love. Seattle is comfortable and it has all the old friends; New York is hard to put up with at times, but has been a big factor in some of the most fulfilling moments of my life. Bangladesh... where will that fit in?
Having multiple homes is something that a lot of people struggle with - for me it's a struggle of personal identity, but for others that I know it's more about the literal space. Living in China and living in New York, for instance. All international college students and people who hail from faraway states can echo my sentiments. Who are the people that you want to know forever? Who are the people that you want to have around you? What kind of house/apartment are you going to live in wherever you choose to be? These are the questions that plague us and excite us at the same time.
So, when I think about my own situation, I think about the negatives a lot. The fragmentation of my culture from my location, the separation of my family members across oceans and large tracts of land. But there is always a silver lining, a bright patch in the cloud of negativity. It is the new connection and safety net that I will garner from having people I know I can trust around the world. And if that bright patch shines enough, it might just blot out all the sadness of being isolated here on my own.

You may also be interested in reading my post The South Asian Question or my opinion piece Discrimination and Mixed Metaphors.

Project x Project: Skirts and Artwork

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I am working now on my second mysterious knitting project - a teal wool pleated skirt (pattern courtesy of Knitty). I won't show you a picture of it just yet, but I am about halfway done with that and I am working towards the finish line hopefully before I leave the country - and my knitting needles - behind.
I have also made the decision to launch my Etsy shop once I have returned to campus in January because I don't believe it would be possible to sell my things from Bangladesh. In the meantime, I'll be working on some new pieces for it, which is really exciting!
In the meantime, enjoy a new drawing that I made to celebrate the end of classes and tie a lot of my photographs together:
(click to see it better)

And, as for goals for the winter break and the future, I really want to learn some cooking and hand sewing. I know the simple work of both of them, but it will take some dedication to get me past just repairing a hole or cooking a very simple curry. Wish me luck!

See the finished skirt project!
And check out some more drawings and art that I have created.

Monday Muse: Finding Inspiration

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yesterday, I watched a lot of TED Talk. TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) brings me many inspiring videos of their conference speakers, such as the ones I've posted below. But I wanted to take this post and talk about something that I often overlook when seeking inspiration: finding things in myself that are inspiring.
Oftentimes, I will watch a video or read a story about someone who has done something awe-inspiring. Kavita Ramdas when she speaks on her experiences of talking to women the world over... Eve Ensler telling us to embrace our inner girl... Tony Porter speaking on behalf of men against violence towards women... William Ury's Abrahamic walks... Bart Weetjens with his rats... All these stories are amazing and interesting, and I think "Woah, how could they possibly have done that?"
It seems so intense, so amazing, so radical that they have done these huge things of their own volition. I get pumped up on their amazing journeys, and then... I get down on myself. I think "What have I done in the past year? What have I done in my life that could be comparative to that?"
It starts that cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism that I try to avoid in the rest of my life. I try to separate myself from judging my body, my mind, and my skills too harshly in most concepts. But when I look at someone else, those ideas fly out the window. What happens then?

As my Well Woman peers would echo: this is a classic case of perfectionism.

Not in the traditional sense, mind you. Perfectionism towards yourself is something that I avoid like the plague, letting myself do as well as I can and being proud of that endeavor. But seeing perfect people everywhere else? That is something I do every day. Think about any time that you do something new - don't you get a little flash of fear that you are not going to be as good as some people in the group with you? Even if you know that they've been doing this stuff just as long as you? Or if they are an expert on it from their own long hard work?
I think in our society we refuse to believe that people who are good at something had to work and fail and try again before they attained that position. We just see the perfect part and that's where it stops. And that's something that sorely needs revising.

So, this late Monday, I challenge you to... watch a lot of TED Talk. And, of course, I also challenge you to love yourself by not judging yourself against others. And, also, give others that you see the same break that you are giving yourself. That means: do not think that everyone just grew up perfect and you did not. Do not hold them to some phantom standards that you think are higher than you could ever reach. This is a key feature of accepting yourself and your own personal accomplishments.

Check out some other places I have found inspiration in the Caught My Eye series, as well as some other lessons I have learned in this life.
You may also be interested in some of my opinion pieces, such as Writing Live, Discrimination and Mixed Metaphors, or Single Sex Education for Women and Girls.

Friday Feature: Le Blog de Big Beauty

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fabuleuse, non?

I just discovered this blog recently from another blog that I really enjoy - Already Pretty!
This blog is about a plus-sized French woman who adores fashion and is a pretty well traveled person from the looks of it! Currently, she has some pieces up about a trip to New York that I believe she is currently on, and it is great reading.
Oh, you don't say... You don't speak/read French? Never fear! The English translation is posted below the main post in French, so read on non-French speakers!
Part of the reason that I enjoy this blog is because it is interesting French reading - previously I only got practice from my classes and reading the news (never a laugh and a half, I'll tell ya), so when I found this blog I was really happy to dive into my French reading comprehension.
Anyway, it boils down to this: this is a great blog for both style-nerds and occasional French readers, it is also a great one for larger women as well as those who just want to read about awesome fashion ideas. Check it out!

Take a look at my media-rich follow-up series: Caught My Eye.

Mid-Week Observations: Mindset

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perhaps my brain has been wrapped too tightly around finals these days, but I have been having a mental block on work. Everything I attempt, everything I go to for stress relief, and everything I should be getting done get lumped into the same unpleasant association in my mind. There is something negative about taking time off and there is also something negative about working on something for a number of hours because it is due the next day. Where is that coming from?
This post is going to sound a little bit preachy, considering that I already do a Monday Muse about these sorts of things, but I think it deserves to be restated. You are influenced by your mindset towards situations and what you choose to think about something.
I have been testing myself on a small scale this semester: treat everything as an opportunity rather than a stresser. It has worked with limited success. When it comes to thinking about the zine library work I do, I treat it less like work, which has a negative connotation, and rather like an opportunity to read a bunch of zines. But with things that I don't want to do, it gets a little harder. Who wants to write an analytical paper for class if it's not an intriguing subject to you? I know there are researchers and people who enjoy writing analytical papers, but for me that's not a mindset that I can put myself in easily. So, I have to come up with a new challenge.
What could that be? Brainstorming ideas for it even gives me a headache. What could make work like that seem more fun when we are so close to the end, so close to not having to do it any longer?

I think it has to do with brain science.

Now, I'm not talking about the brain science of memory function or re-wiring your neuron connections so that you become some sort of cyborg worker - I mean stimulating a very primitive part of everyone's brain: the reward center. For me, that is perhaps the only way that I can get through these troubling times. Reward, reward, reward yourself for your accomplishments. Even if they are little, even if they seem like they aren't chipping away at that mountain of tasks that you have to complete, give yourself something that you love. It could be a shower or it could be a few hours of extra sleep, but give yourself those opportunities to supplant the opportunities that may be "lost" in doing the drudge work that you don't necessarily want to do.
Good luck with finals, college kids, and know that you are every day inching closer to the point where you will be doing something you love and that will not seem like work at all.

Check out some other lessons I've learned in this lifetime.

Project x Project: Headwrap Complete

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Victory in the face of finals!
I have completed the knit headband (one of my two secret projects, in case you were keeping score), and it's glory is featured above!
Having other projects like that one really keeps me sane in the face of other more overwhelming tasks, like art projects and essays. I am occasionally asked why I like to be crafty and make things with my hands, and I think that this is the true reason. It is something that I can do with my body rather than my mind, and it helps me de-stress in a lot of ways. Although sometimes it can be a little stressful - as when I am folding 20 zines in the computer lab and checking how much time I have left until class - at least it is something that I enjoy doing and something that rewards me at its completion.
Have a happy Tuesday, everyone!

Check out some other creative projects and knitting that I've pursued.

Monday Muse: Get It Out

Monday, December 6, 2010

When I am writing, I become completely absorbed. By the words on the page, by the feel of the pencil in my hand or the keys underneath my fingertips. Rarely, in the rest of my life, do I get to be so focused.
The same thing happens only when I am talking out an idea with a close friend or my father, setting out a random spray of words that might congeal into some sort of cohesive whole. And I know, when I get stressed, that this focus goes completely away. I don't call people. I don't write. I let myself sit in the dark recesses of my mind without any way out.
The remedy to this, of course, is not one that people find easy, nor is always within reach. Although it may seem like the simplest advice you can give, it is often the easiest to forget: get it out.
I'll write it, I'll talk about it, I'll set it down as an art project, as a squiggle, as anything that will help me express the emotions that I'm feeling inside. And this works not just for stress, but also for any difficult emotions - from sadness to anger to ambiguity and confusion.
So, in this late post, I challenge you to record your thoughts and feelings in whatever way possible this week. Maybe it's to just get over the stress of finals, or maybe it is because something else is going on, but it will benefit you to take the pressure out of your head and put it down somewhere else.

As a side note, I will be hosting two sessions of a Knitting Meditation workshop next week through knitting club and Well Woman - Monday (the 13th) and Tuesday (the 14th) for anyone who wants to attend! Times will be posted shortly.

You may also be interested in some other lessons I've learned through writing, including 3 Ways I Beat Writer's Block to a Pulp.
Check out some of the writing that I do put down.

Project Check-In: Great Success!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

(click for a larger version!)

There's nothing like completing something to make a week complete, and this week resembled a stress ball like no other, let me tell you.
I made good on four claims this week: finishing Phase 1 of Etsy preparation, making a micro-mini zine, emailing the zinesters that I have admired from afar in my zine assistant job, and (the biggest one) finishing my life-size final drawing project.
The final product, pictured above, is probably one of the hardest and most stressful projects I have worked on in a very long time. It is 4 ft x 9 ft in size and, although I could have done a traditional life-size version of me, I decided to go abstract and multi-media on the assignment. Thus, it is a mixture of ink and brush, pencil, and pen drawing. Although I "started" by making outlines and studies before Thanksgiving break, this project boiled down to me doing a little work here and there in class and then spending my Saturday from 10am to 5pm (7 hours) in the studio to finish it up. Just like my NaNo novel, it ended up with me as a crazy marathon artist plunging into the depths of prolonged creativity.
This week was a great success on many fronts, but I think the best one is that I found that I could beat stress by confronting it head on and pummel at least some of it into the dust. While I still have papers and other work to do, I allowed myself this week to give into the temptation of working on other projects and finally finishing up a grand one. Let's hope next week goes just as well!

(click again!)

Check out more of my creative projects in my Project x Project series.

Friday Feature: Think Simple Now

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yesterday, I took a day away from blogging because I was endlessly stressed. So, this morning, when I was thinking about the piece I wanted to feature today, I thought of one that always makes me feel better: Think Simple Now.
Think Simple Now is the blog of Tina Su, who writes a lot about feeling better, confidence, and de-stressing your life. There are also some really great and funky posts about how to read faster and productivity, so if you check through the site, you can see why I love it so much.
I am always sort of a silent blog reader - reader, but not commenter - and I think that this site really provided me what it's clarion call is: Creativity, Clarity & Happiness. When I am seeking some personal love and healing, I would check out any of the Think Simple Now blog posts below.

Read my media-seeking follow-up series: Caught My Eye.

Mid-week Observations: Near Death

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I recently heard from my father about a death of someone close to him. I did not know this man well, but I knew him in passing. He was in poor health and there were a lot of complications; we knew that he was going to die at some point, though it was still a shock when it happened.
This death made me very emotional - not because I knew the man well, but just because I knew him. I started thinking about the reality of death, the fact that we don't know when it comes, but it will come. I have always thought that I will not be scared of my own death, and I ascribe to that, but the death of others is different.
I believe that on the first day I heard the news, I described it like this: the saddening thing about death is that we no longer get to cross paths with that person again.
This is perhaps a simple cognitive piece. You can understand this intellectually without much effort. But the emotional impact is much less straightforward. In my heart, I cannot reconcile the passing of any person I know.
Their bodies do not vanish, this we know. They are put into the ground or they are burnt into ash, but they do not physically leave. Instead it is the mindset that they are unable to rise from that place and come back. They are stagnant, while we move.
So this brings me back to my earliest musing on death. I feel the loss of this man, even if I do not know this man so well as my father or his family. Because I can no longer experience the awkward moments of saying "hello" to this man, I can no longer spend time with my father and him at the movies, I can no longer wave goodbye after dropping him off at his home.
And that means that someday I will not be able to do any of those things with people that are close to me. I will not be able to cross paths in any capacity with those people again.
Being near death is much scarier than being dead.

Read some more lessons I've learned in this life.