It’s time for me to ‘fess up: I did not do the Pinterest challenge assigned to me by Renee, the winner of the Pin Us To It prize at our 4K giveaway.
Now, I bet some of our newer readers, brought here by our connections to other post-academic blogs, are thinking “WTF is this Pinning shit?” So before I launch into a discussion of my crafting experience, let me say this about Mama Nervosa: it’s a non-niche blog. We don’t just write about being ex-grad students, or just write about being feminists, or just write about being Moms, or just write about secretly reading super goofy quasi-pornographic YA lit in sixth grade. We write about all of our experiences, and some of those experiences include stuff that’s very typically feminine or maternal. We simply aren’t interested in fracturing our identities into separate blogs or saying that how we feel about ourselves as brainy feminist women has nothing to do with being mothers or crafting disaster-ers. I’ll try to make some connections between this craft experience and some of the stuff I’ve been thinking as I quit grad school towards the end of the post, so stay with me!
From our inception as a blog, we’ve been preoccupied with Pinterest and lifestyle blogs because they’re such an integral part of the online mommying world (read this recent article from Jezebel for a taste of it). Jen is pretty ok with Pinterest: she recognizes its flaws, but overall, her experience with Pinterest is positive. I… let’s just say I feel differently.
My wonderful friend and doula/nanny extraordinaire, Renee, picked a great family project for the pinning challenge: a little fairy garden. I appreciated that she picked a project that:
- Could be interpreted in a lot of ways.
- Didn’t require a lot of special equipment or any special skills.
- I could do with my kids.
Jen and her kids had no problem mustering enthusiasm and imagination for their fairy garden.
Buuuuut. My kids were not into it.
First of all, we have this thing at our house. We don’t pretend that things that don’t exist actually exist. Things like Santa or the Tooth Fairy. We are clear that Mom and Dad are responsible for surprises like that. Mind you, we LOVE to play pretend, and can be princesses, ballerinas, dogs, and switch roles (Mommy/Daddy/big sis/baby etc) with the best of them. We can read stories about Santa and the Easter Bunny and enjoy them. We just don’t act like they are real.
This category includes fairies. Fairies are pretend. We love fairies, but when I tried to get the girls enthused about building a play garden for pretend creatures, they just didn’t get it. If fairies won’t actually come to the garden, then why should we build something for them?
OK, so I switched tactics. “Let’s make a garden for itsy itsy spider!”
Itsy itsy spider is a pretend game we play a lot with Holly, our 2.5 year old. If you make your fingers wiggle and crawl like a spider, she will crow with delight, delicately pick your hand up in her palm and coo, “Hiiiii, itsy itsy ‘pider!” or sometimes, “Hiiiii, itsy itsy itsy ‘pider!” She hugs and kisses itsy itsy spider. Perfect: it’s imaginative, it’s tiny, and we can actually do the spider thing and “use” the garden.
We discussed making some rock paths and a house for itsy itsy spider. Aaaand. When I tried to get them do work on it with me, they just wanted to make piles of rocks, or got in fights about who got to live with itsy itsy spider. And I’m pretty strongly opposed to finishing craft projects for my kids instead of doing it with them.
I thought I would do a different project I’d saw on Pinterest, that required no help from kids and would be great for Mother’s Day.
How cute, right?? And the directions are so simple: you use a printed out image as a template, black paper on white, boom. Done. SO SIMPLE THAT ANYONE COULD DO THIS CORRECTLY SIX TIMES AND HAVE MOTHER’S DAY GIFTS AND BONUS ART FOR ONESELF, RIGHT?
First, I had to drive to three stores to find the oval frames that I wanted to use. I wanted oval frames because I’ve been looking at art arrangements and want some diversity to our typical square, black frames (we want to hang our pop art so it looks more like a cool, purposeful arrangement instead of a college dorm). Target only had one, Michael’s only had one, so I went to Hobby Lobby (which I try to avoid, since it supports stuff I think blows). And lo, a bounty of frames in all shapes, sizes and colors spread out before me, at a merciful 50-80% off. Perfect!
I bought 4 oval frames and 2 square, wood frames (they didn’t have all the ovals I wanted, but I figured whatevz, I’m flex). I brought all the supplies home and then spent a week grading, packing my office, and preparing for a big trip.
The day before we left, I sat down to a movie (the enjoyable and almost-too-close-to-home Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham) to get ‘er done.
First of all, don’t do this project with cardstock for the silhouettes. It was really hard to cut and tended to bow at the edges, so smaller details (like the curve of lips) got lost. And my hand hurt like hell.
Also. Measure shit. I did not consider the difference in sizes between my daughters’ heads. I bought a size that worked great for my 2yo, but none of them work for my 4yo.
I did not figure this out until after I’d cut out all the heads, because I am a flake.
This was the day before I left on our trip, the last day I had to do art projects. This was also time I could have — should have — spent grading. After getting really irritated — I mean, cursing and throwing stuff irritated — I put it all in a basket and said fuck it.
Here’s the thing about me: I will start it. I will do it. But I am not great at keeping it going. I lose energy fast. I lose enthusiasm. You can see this in the numerous, brief affairs I’ve had with domestic interests (crochet — I did finish a project or two!, knitting, canning, gardening) and career paths (I tallied up the # of careers I considered just during graduate school and it was something like 14). I started a grassroots organization and it did great for awhile, but when the going got tough (that means that members weren’t doing the things we needed them to do), I lost steam. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m lazy. There’s a huge gulf between the kind of person I want to be (a finisher, a bring-it-on-home-er) and the person I am (get-the-ball-rolling-er). I would like to be a finisher. I would like to be the kind of person who writes a whole book, or knits a kickass barn quilt, or makes silhouettes for her family, or gets a law passed, or writes a dissertation. I would love to do those things. But that is (apparently) not my style.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I work my way through some of the inventories in What Color Is Your Parachute 2012. And here’s where I connect all the dots. One of the exercises asks you to think about all the jobs you’ve ever had and what you liked about them. It’s simple listing but themes emerge quickly.
I like work that is:
- Social. I like people.
- Collaborative. I like working with people, and prefer it to isolation.
- Low pressure (so, not based on commission!) and gives me a lot of positive feedback.
- Includes a lot of variety and novelty.
- I would be working on my own.
- It is high pressure — I’d need to make money, I’d need to get projects done on time.
- It is outcomes focused.