Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the January Intelligentsia.

#39: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#33: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#32: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#31: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#21: St. Elsewhere
#19: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Cat
#14: Sara from Aryanhwy
#3: Mina from Kmina’s Blog

Thoughtful ThursdaySeveral times over the past couple of weeks, Intelligentsia Member Ana has blogged about the push-pull between trying to change yourself and resolving to just get through the day, accepting yourself as you are. This tension has become particularly relevant to me lately too, given my recent illness (which, by the way, now has a diagnosis, and since some of you have been asking, thanks, I am now better than I was but by no means fully functional).

Normally, I am someone who loves to challenge myself. In pottery, instead of working on things that I already know how to do, I constantly push myself with new techniques, new shapes, new sizes. I chose a career that involves constant mental stimulation, and even more than most in my field, I seek to learn new things and master new sub-areas. A couple of weeks before I got sick, I decided that I would soon undertake a new fitness regimen; deeming yoga too easy, I decided that I should take up Pilates.

I think that was the moment when the Universe said, “Hey now, yoga is too easy? Are you sure? Let’s see about that.”

Right now even with all of the medications, I can’t do a downward dog for more than a few seconds before my wrists give out. Meanwhile the students around me, most of whom are in their 60s and 70s because I am only taking the “gentle” and “slow” and “therapeutic” classes, stay upright the whole time. It’s not a competition, I know that, but if a 70 year old woman with a full cast on her arm held a pose long after you’d flopped to the ground, you’d make comparisons too.

Competitiveness aside, or perhaps because of that competitiveness, it turns out that yoga is exactly what I need right now. The first yoga class I took after my initial recovery from being unable to walk or do anything with my arms really cemented this fact. The class focused on Moon Salutations. I’ve done yoga hundreds of times over the years, and almost every class has focused on Sun Salutations. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as Moon Salutations. The teacher talked about how even in yoga people are typically trying to push push push, and that on this day we’d do something else. How most exercise is about compression, and that we were trying to expand. Most yoga focuses on yang, but that day we accepted the yin.

Yin, that’s what I need.

Perhaps if there’s anything good to come out of this illness, it is yin. There is still room in my life to work on becoming, which is my natural state, but now I get to practice just being. Not just during yoga, but in my daily life: accepting limitations, slowing down, taking a literal and figurative breath.

I have blogged many, many, many, many, many times about zen non-attachment as it pertains to pottery. I’m quite good at yin when it involves a breach in yang. I’m not so good at yin for its own sake, yet. And yes I realize that trying to improve on yin is in itself not yin. I can’t turn off yang entirely; I can’t stop being me. But maybe now I’ll find a little more balance.

How is your balance between yin and yang, between slow and fast, between accepting and pushing, between being and becoming?

P.S. Big big points to anyone who gets the reference in the title of the blog post without Googling.

It’s the fourth Monday of the month, which means that it is Perfect Moment Monday!

I’ve written over and over about unfortunate pottery incidents that have happened over the years. There are so many things that can go wrong, at every possible point in the process. Even once you bring it home, you never know when a piece, or half a dozen, will tumble and crash.

Every now and then, everything goes right.

Find more perfect moments at Write Mind Open Heart.

Perfect Moment Mondays are back!

My perfect moment started with a non-perfect moment, one that harkens back to a post in 2008 and another one in 2008 and another in 2009. Pottery is a fragile endeavor, whether through my own error in the creation process, someone else’s error in the pottery studio, or a butterfingers accident at home.

Before Burrito and Tamale were born, I’d reached a pleasant pottery homeostasis. I’d made pretty much all of the projects I’d had in mind: a full set of dinner plates in three sizes, all sorts of bowls, cups, mugs, garlic pot, vases, even a couple of serving dishes. Then, a few months ago, I opened the kitchen cabinet, and every berry bowl I’ve ever made came crashing down.

(Sorry about the takeout containers, and the avocado pit, and the granola bar wrapper, and — uh — the dirty diapers.)

These demolished berry bowls had been some of my very best creations, and they were all gone. To make it even worse, I would have to live indefinitely without any berry bowls, because who knows when I’d get back into the pottery studio again. It would be years, right?


I’m back!

Oh, how I missed you.

Head over to Write Mind Open Heart for the triumphant return of Perfect Moment Mondays.

Thoughtful ThursdayStill in limbo. It has gone from being delicious to excruciating to a chance to practice being patient and back again.

One of the things I’ve been doing while in limbo checking out alternate scenarios in case this job doesn’t happen — how would it play out if we stay here, where else might we move, etc. Mostly, though, I’ve been keeping tabs on our potential new city.

Any new housing listings being posted in the desired areas? An exciting new option might come along, or the owners of the house we’ve already settled on may decide that they can’t stand this limbo any longer and need to rent to someone else.

I already know which organic market I’d shop at. Which farmers markets operate on which days.

I’ve drawn up a short list of preschools — not for this year, and probably not for the next year, but the one after that.

I know what route I’d take to get to work every day.

I know which gym my husband should join, and I know where to find yoga classes for myself and for my little budding yoginis.

I have scoped out every playground within walking distance. I know which museums have reciprocity with my existing museum memberships. I know which pumpkin patch we’d visit for Halloween.

The one thing I don’t yet know, the one thing I haven’t allowed myself to search for? Where I’d do pottery.

For each of the other cities we’ve thought we might move to in the past year, I looked up all of the options and settled on a pottery studio. By drawing this boundary, I’ve simultaneously given myself something to look forward to and kept myself from getting too entrenched in one possible future (as if the farmers market and yoga schedules are not entrenched). The line is arbitrary and artificial and silly, but the existence of a line means that I stay (vaguely) grounded in reality instead of only What Ifs.

Sort of like when I was in infertility limbo. In each city where we lived during IF, I had selected an OB, a prenatal massage therapist, a studio for prenatal yoga, a doula… I’d picked out names, and strollers, and car seats… I literally read a dozen books on pregnancy the first year I was TTC… but I didn’t allow myself to buy a single baby item. In that case, it was already too late to keep myself from getting mired in What Ifs. The boundary was more about waiting for reality to catch up with fantasy. It’s a good thing that I established that particular boundary: if I’d actually bought a car seat when I started TTC, long before I ever got pregnant with Burrito and Tamale that car seat would have passed the expiration date.

Do you ever draw lines for yourself? Do the lines represent real, meaningful boundaries, or are they arbitrary?

Show and Tell: Raffle Prize

November 4, 2009

Show and TellThis week for Show and Tell, I present a pair of nesting bowls. I did the glazing, but they were thrown by someone else (I can’t make bowls this big yet). I’ve donated these bowls to the raffle for Share Southern Vermont, the organization for bereaved parents run by my bloggy friend Cara. The drawing will be held on November 15, and you can enter online. You can even designate your raffle tickets toward specific prizes, so there’s no chance you’d waste the karma of winning on a prize you don’t want.

Side note about the glaze: This is an example of form following function. The glaze bucket wasn’t big enough for me to dip the bowls in one dunk, so I glazed each bowl in sections. The overlap of glaze in some areas but not others caused a wonderful pattern. This glaze in particular has different qualities depending on how thickly it’s applied, resulting in variation in color as well as texture. The photos don’t do the bowls justice, if I do say so myself.


For everyone who has said that they wish they’d win some of my pottery, here’s a great chance to control the odds — with the additional benefit of donating money to help bereaved parents. If you’d like a chance at winning these bowls or many other great prizes, enter the raffle right now!

Show and TellSince I will not be leaving the hospital for at least a couple more weeks (currently 30w1d and counting), I might as well go back to the Show and Tell I would have posted a couple weeks ago had I not been hospitalized.

More than a year ago I showed you a lovely pot I’d made that I dropped on the concrete floor when I was taking it out of the kiln. This pot was intended to sit in my pantry holding garlic (hence some decorative holes for proper aeration). I talked about my approach of Zen non-attachment with pottery, and how that Zen does not extend to fertility.

Unattached Pot

I subsequently showed you other examples of ruined pots that required Zen non-attachment due to no fault of my own, ranging from smaller incidents inside the kiln to The Great Pottery Calamity of 2008.

I may approach things with a Zen attitude, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want replacements for the ones I’ve lost.

During my most recent round of pottery, I was set on finally replacing the lost pot. I decided to make some backups so that I’d be sure to end up with at least one for myself — having long ago given away three very nice pots with similar shapes, some for garlic, some without holes, to members of DH’s family, who showed a range of levels of appreciation (you can probably guess who was insufficiently appreciative). Finally, I have my garlic pot… and then some.


My favorite of the bunch, not intended for garlic because there are no holes, from a different angle.

A close replacement, in form and function if not color:

Not that any cooking has been taking place in my house at any point during this pregnancy. But whenever garlic eventually gets purchased, it will have a home, finally.

Show and TellSorry that I couldn’t post last week to show you the prizes won by the winners of my Blogoversary Contest. Turns out that being horizontal is not conducive to climbing stairs, fetching cameras, photographing pottery, etc.

1st Prize which will be sent to Birdless whenever I can manage to put the package together and send my husband to the post office (she preferred a blue-ish bowl over the prize I’d originally planned). It’s cereal-sized — unless you’re my husband, in which case you’d need a bigger bowl for cereal. Hopefully Birdless eats normal portions of cereal; or, she can eat whatever she wants in it. The inside swirl was done with glaze; the pattern around the rim is carved into the clay when it’s leather-hard using the wheel and — get this — a pencil. That pattern at the rim is a bit of a trademark for me (almost all of the bowls in my house have that pattern). Thanks to the swirl, this is one of the bolder pieces I’ve made:


2nd Prize for Lori. Yes, those are L’s for Lori (or for Lavender Luz if you prefer). The L’s go all around the cup in a decorative pattern. I was experimenting with wax resist.

I won’t be making any more pottery for a loooong time, so in future Show and Tells I’ll keep showing you some of the pieces I made in this last batch as well as various non-pottery things. Next week: A resolution to my episode of Zen non-attachment, my very first Show and Tell from over a year ago.

See what the rest of Miss Lollipop’s class has to offer for Show and Tell.

Show and Tell: Odds

July 22, 2009

Show and TellI’ve been quite lucky lately. Aside from the whole getting pregnant thing, I’ve also won several contests online. Let’s review, with an eye toward the odds in each contest.

In February, as I have mentioned before, I won a handmade pillow when Kristin‘s car needed a name and I suggested “Manatee”. There were four people who made suggestions, with one entry each for the two prizes, meaning the odds were 2 in 8. Those familiar with 4th grade fractions will realize that 2 in 8 reduces to 1 in 4, but I think the true odds were still 2 in 8 because one person could theoretically have won both prizes. This contest was merit-based rather than random, though, so the true odds may have been different.

In April, I won a gift certificate for maternity clothing from Sticky Feet. Winning is a relative term, since I received a gift certificate for $50 then spent another $200 of my own money — it was pretty exciting to buy maternity clothes after so many years. (Apropos of the Thoughtful Thursday about doing it all from a couple of weeks ago, she is currently giving away a book on “Momnificent” balanced living.) My odds of winning that contest were 2 in 29.
(Out of respect for those who aren’t in a place to see such things, as a policy I am not posting belly shots in the body of a post — and in fact haven’t taken any at all so far during this pregnancy — but if you really want to see a faceless version of me wearing some of the clothes, go ahead.)

In May, I won a pair of adorable baby booties. I first entered a contest on Cool Mom Picks, where I was one of probably thousands of entries, then also entered a contest on the knitter’s blog, where I was 1 of 28.

In June, I won a bunch of YoBaby Yogurt, a bib, and a bowl from Gotcha Baby. Since the vouchers for the yogurt will expire before my babies are eating solids, I’ll have to eat the yogurt myself. Unlike yogurt, the bib and the bowl will keep until the babies are old enough to eat solids. Odds of winning that contest were 1 in 7.

Why am I telling you about the odds? Because I have a new contest coming soon: a Blogoversary contest! Because it was my Blogoversary two days ago!

Unlike the lottery, which I am too math-knowledgeable to ever play, blog contests tend to have excellent odds. All of my past contests have had excellent odds:

Bridge contest (which started an online and now IRL friendship between Lori and me, and also won her a vase): I didn’t set the odds in advance; 5 people guessed, though if a correct answer hadn’t happened, more guesses would have kept coming, but basically 1 in 5 (required actual knowledge of geography)
Prize for Lori

Guess the Size of Lori’s Vase Contest, in which Wishing4One won her own tiny vase despite being 250% off in her guess: 1 in 3 (required picking a number)
Second Prize

Creme Contest, for which Kathy won a bowl: After no one guessed correctly the first time, I reset the odds at 1 in 10 (required some combination of thinking and picking a number)

Dirty Laundry Contest, in which Neeta won her choice of artwork from Wall Blank: Odds preset at 1 in 11 (required picking a number)

Holy Fucking Shit Contest, a.k.a. Guess the First Beta, in which Fattykins got to pick anything I could carry back from Spain and chose pottery: 1 in 32 (required picking a number)
Vase for Fattykins

Guess the Second Beta Contest, in which Julia won a bowl that I didn’t manage to photograph before mailing: 1 in 13 (required picking a number)

The upcoming contest will have preset odds of 2 in 21 (two prizes available, mostly involving picking a number but some knowledge/thinking would be helpful). The prizes will be pottery that I made. One will be similar (though not identical, because identical work is impossible and undesirable with this style of pottery) to the dish that I gave Lori. That winner will have a choice of colors, in case they aren’t a fan of yellow and brown.
The other prize will be regular pottery, assuming next week’s glaze fire doesn’t end in catastrophe — if it does, I will be very sad, but I do have some other pottery stockpiled, so the second winner will get something good, not an exercise in Zen.

For those of us who have been screwed over repeatedly by the odds of successful reproduction, 2 in 21 is pretty good. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, see what else is going on at Show and Tell.

It has literally been almost a year since I’ve properly worked in the pottery studio, partly because work obligations have precluded attending my usual class and partly because the Great Pottery Catastrophe of 2008 took the wind out of my sails. I did take one class in a very different technique, but I haven’t sat down at the wheel in far too long. I’d been toying with the idea of building a studio in my home, but once I learned that I was finally pregnant, I decided that it should wait (high startup costs + toxic chemicals + 2000 degree heat = not great with curious little ones running around). My pottery pursuit was put on indefinite hiatus.

Last week I got an email about a summer pottery class with a new teacher (one who was not implicated in the Great Catastrophe). I wanted very much to take the class, but I decided that I shouldn’t because it’s not a good idea to do pottery while I’m pregnant. It’s a great hobby for infertiles, but not as good for pregnant women, between the chemicals used in the glaze and the physical strain of certain tasks. Plenty of women are able to continue pottery throughout pregnancy, but since twin pregnancy is higher-risk than most, I thought that it would be prudent for me to opt out. This sensible decision made me sad, because I miss pottery a lot, but I’ll do anything to keep these babies safe.

I mentioned this to my husband. He said, “You should take the class! You can stay away from the chemicals and modify things to take it easy. It will be a long time before you can do it again. For once, we won’t be traveling much so you’ll actually be in town for most of the classes. Pottery makes you happy.”

His optimistic clarity was one perfect moment; I foresee many more perfect moments to come — starting with my first class tomorrow!

Perfect Moment
Lori from Weebles Wobblog is in charge of Perfect Moment Mondays. And she’s up for a blog award for being so inspiring — vote early and often!

Ever since I took up pottery, I’ve had a rule that I’m no longer allowed to make pottery purchases. I still browse in stores and arts festivals, to appreciate others’ work and to give myself ideas, but anything that I’m able (or potentially able) to create is off limits — if I want it, I have to try to make it myself.

That rule did not apply when I went to a shop in Madrid run by a pottery cooperative. I actually went just to look, and I saw lots of cool stuff, but I could not resist one item that I found. Technically it is a ceramic sculpture instead of functional pottery like I usually make, so it doesn’t violate my No Purchase rule. As decent as my pottery skills are in certain ways, it would truly be impossible for me to make one of these.

Remember how I was drawn to Don Quixote, both because of the then-upcoming trip to Spain and because of the quixotic, impossible dream of IUI #7 (the one that worked)?

I just couldn’t say no when I saw this. Yes, it cost a lot of money. Yes, it was extremely inconvenient to transport across the ocean (height = 14 inches tall, but happily it’s not as heavy as you might imagine). Despite the downsides, there was no way I could go home without it — especially since at the time I knew I was pregnant, and that the character of Don Quixote had already taken on additional meaning for me.

Don Quixote

This handsome fellow now sits next to Don Quixote and Rocinante in pen and ink, creating a little Impossible Dream corner of the room. I’ll show you what they look like together soon, but first I have to show you a couple more installments of Infertility Art — or perhaps a more apt name would be Fertility Art?

Join the Show and Tell circle.