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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Measure by measure


"I think I've got it," D said, and he pulled the piece of folded silk taut between his fingers, waiting for me to pin it just so. When I was done, he moved his level a few inches to our left and started on the next section of curtain hanging from the rod he'd installed earlier with the help of the same level. Fold, level, pin; fold, level, pin. All in the name of perfecting a hem.

These curtains are going to hang in our bedroom, which means no one but us will see them. If any part of their hems happens not to fall exactly one inch above the carpet, only we will know. So I was more than a little amused, sprawled on hands and knees this afternoon with D and his level, our chins practically grazing the floor as we measured on.

But these curtains -- something we started the weekend before with D's aunt, who came out to help us make them as her housewarming gift -- they are for us. Our first home decor project to dress up our most private space. It feels right somehow that we're taking the time to make it as close to perfect as we can. Even if using a level is kind of hilarious.

I'm sure that if we were more experienced, we'd know some sort of trick not involving carpenter's tools to do this properly, but we're also accustomed by our nature to making do with what we have (within certain limits). There's fun in improvisation, seeing if our inventions will work. There's a little high I get when they do. And of course, disappointment when they don't.

I've been improvising around here a lot in the wake of the last month or so, letting parts of my old routine fall away in the hope that I will open myself to invention, some kind of insight on how to treat myself, a self that feels foreign. "You're getting your bearings," a friend said to me. "You won't always pick the right tools for coping, but trying them out is part of the process."

So a level it is for now.

14 comments:

Corinne said...

I've always thought that making a bedroom as lovely as you can helps sanity :) Even if no one but you sees it. It still counts.

French Fancy said...

I'm going to tell you a secret, CT. About two years ago I hung some cream curtains up in our bedroom and pinned the hem. Hmmm, I've not yet got round to sewing them.

signed

A Slob

x

Sherlock said...

It's nice to work together on something like that especially when it's just for the two of you :-)

TKW said...

At least you aren't bickering constantly during home improvements! That's definitely good!

suzicate said...

Your hubby sounds like mine! Is he an engineer?!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Corinne -- it so does count. We finally caved and bought nightstands too a few weeks ago, and they were ready to pick up on Saturday. I smiled waking up to my alarm on a pretty wood surface instead of the edge of an old computer cart.

FF -- believe me, the thought crossed my mind as we were pinning! "Wouldn't it be easier to leave it this way since no one's going to see?" I think it's really my fear of what to do with the part of the hem that isn't going to be long enough to attach it to the lining (shortage unintended, but there you go). Nothing's ever straightforward with these projects -- but you are not a slob! :)

Sherlock -- I think so too. I'm more and more frequently looking for such projects for us since I enjoy doing them with D. Not sure if he's quite as enthusiastic, but when there is a project that needs doing (like painting our guest bedroom), he agrees that it's so much nicer with a companion.

TKW -- oh, we have our moments when we disagree about how to go about doing things. But in general, things don't get tense.

SuziCate -- he is, but he works with software most of the time. He gets his physical engineering skills from a lifetime of tinkering :)

theycallmejane said...

I love your friends comment at the end. Very, very wise!

C. Troubadour said...

I thought so too, Jane. I think recognizing what tools are even available is also half the battle! (To keep running with the metaphor, I would never have thought of using the level if D hadn't suggested it.)

BigLittleWolf said...

Paraphrasing: "opening yourself to invention and insight" - brave, and not easy to do.

But always worth it.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I think the process of beautifying your home is a wonderful metaphor for the process of invention that you describe.

And the invitation stands for your and D to head this way when you're done. Our bedroom could use new window treatments. :)

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- thanks. Not sure how open I've gotten, but the intent, at least, is now fully there.


Kristen -- it helps that it really is our home :). Fewer rules about what we nail on the wall (if we nail on the wall ...). I guess in some ways I'm taking possession of me too instead of answering to a landlord.

As for home decor projects, we're not professional by any means. We'd have great fun helping you out (field trip to the fabric store!) but I'm not sure I can guarantee the results ...

French Fancy said...

I saw one of the pins on the floor this morning and thought of you - yes, your way is definitely better.

Hope you are cheering up now the weather is brighter. I know people go on about the sun and spring and all that - but I really do believe it makes people feel a bit happier. Things will be alright in the end, you know.

Good Enough Woman said...

CT, your posts are like little classic essays. Great language, great connections from beginning to end. Such a pleasure.

And it's so great that you and hubs do those things together. I think my hubs and I might have done more of that had we been together much before we had kids. It seems like now we usually just divide and conquer. But jobs that that are so much better with a partner. And my hubs in an engineer, too, so he gets VERY precise about things. Well, actually, now, he's a math lecturer, but undergrad he was trained as an engineer. It's in his blood. He loves symmetry so much that it's hard for me to hang paintings the way I want to. He wants the all right in the middle. Always in the middle.

We do very little home decor because I don't like to fight against his love of symmetry. In fact, so far, I haven't even had the heart to challenge the way he privileges symmetry.

But having even curtains, that's totally different. Of *course* it's nice to have even curtains. :)

Like FF said, I hope the changing seasons are lifting your spirits a bit.

C. Troubadour said...

Aww, GEW! Now I'm blushing. I think that's the nicest compliment anyone's ever paid me about what I write here.

Dividing and conquering would be nice for speeding up our progress in some ways. I think our most recent projects have just happened to be multi-person efforts (painting the guest bedroom would have been much harder, what with needing someone to do detail work with a small brush while also needing someone to use the roller for the big spaces).

And precision is so in our husbands' blood! Oo symmetry, that's a tough one. We haven't had any major standoffs about it, but we did have a debate on whether the finials on one of the curtain rods have to be equidistant from the center of the window. (One end of the rod is jammed into a corner because of the way the window is positioned, so there's less room for the finial to stick out at that end. This means the other finial has extra inches of rod behind it unless we saw the rod to the right length.) Interestingly, I was the one who begged for symmetry in this case. I would have thought D would have gone that route automatically? I'm still puzzling that one over.

Spring is helping on other fronts, especially since we have new things in the garden. If we can keep the rabbits from eating them, we may have irises and lilies in the near future :)

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Measure by measure


"I think I've got it," D said, and he pulled the piece of folded silk taut between his fingers, waiting for me to pin it just so. When I was done, he moved his level a few inches to our left and started on the next section of curtain hanging from the rod he'd installed earlier with the help of the same level. Fold, level, pin; fold, level, pin. All in the name of perfecting a hem.

These curtains are going to hang in our bedroom, which means no one but us will see them. If any part of their hems happens not to fall exactly one inch above the carpet, only we will know. So I was more than a little amused, sprawled on hands and knees this afternoon with D and his level, our chins practically grazing the floor as we measured on.

But these curtains -- something we started the weekend before with D's aunt, who came out to help us make them as her housewarming gift -- they are for us. Our first home decor project to dress up our most private space. It feels right somehow that we're taking the time to make it as close to perfect as we can. Even if using a level is kind of hilarious.

I'm sure that if we were more experienced, we'd know some sort of trick not involving carpenter's tools to do this properly, but we're also accustomed by our nature to making do with what we have (within certain limits). There's fun in improvisation, seeing if our inventions will work. There's a little high I get when they do. And of course, disappointment when they don't.

I've been improvising around here a lot in the wake of the last month or so, letting parts of my old routine fall away in the hope that I will open myself to invention, some kind of insight on how to treat myself, a self that feels foreign. "You're getting your bearings," a friend said to me. "You won't always pick the right tools for coping, but trying them out is part of the process."

So a level it is for now.

14 comments:

Corinne said...

I've always thought that making a bedroom as lovely as you can helps sanity :) Even if no one but you sees it. It still counts.

French Fancy said...

I'm going to tell you a secret, CT. About two years ago I hung some cream curtains up in our bedroom and pinned the hem. Hmmm, I've not yet got round to sewing them.

signed

A Slob

x

Sherlock said...

It's nice to work together on something like that especially when it's just for the two of you :-)

TKW said...

At least you aren't bickering constantly during home improvements! That's definitely good!

suzicate said...

Your hubby sounds like mine! Is he an engineer?!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Corinne -- it so does count. We finally caved and bought nightstands too a few weeks ago, and they were ready to pick up on Saturday. I smiled waking up to my alarm on a pretty wood surface instead of the edge of an old computer cart.

FF -- believe me, the thought crossed my mind as we were pinning! "Wouldn't it be easier to leave it this way since no one's going to see?" I think it's really my fear of what to do with the part of the hem that isn't going to be long enough to attach it to the lining (shortage unintended, but there you go). Nothing's ever straightforward with these projects -- but you are not a slob! :)

Sherlock -- I think so too. I'm more and more frequently looking for such projects for us since I enjoy doing them with D. Not sure if he's quite as enthusiastic, but when there is a project that needs doing (like painting our guest bedroom), he agrees that it's so much nicer with a companion.

TKW -- oh, we have our moments when we disagree about how to go about doing things. But in general, things don't get tense.

SuziCate -- he is, but he works with software most of the time. He gets his physical engineering skills from a lifetime of tinkering :)

theycallmejane said...

I love your friends comment at the end. Very, very wise!

C. Troubadour said...

I thought so too, Jane. I think recognizing what tools are even available is also half the battle! (To keep running with the metaphor, I would never have thought of using the level if D hadn't suggested it.)

BigLittleWolf said...

Paraphrasing: "opening yourself to invention and insight" - brave, and not easy to do.

But always worth it.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I think the process of beautifying your home is a wonderful metaphor for the process of invention that you describe.

And the invitation stands for your and D to head this way when you're done. Our bedroom could use new window treatments. :)

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- thanks. Not sure how open I've gotten, but the intent, at least, is now fully there.


Kristen -- it helps that it really is our home :). Fewer rules about what we nail on the wall (if we nail on the wall ...). I guess in some ways I'm taking possession of me too instead of answering to a landlord.

As for home decor projects, we're not professional by any means. We'd have great fun helping you out (field trip to the fabric store!) but I'm not sure I can guarantee the results ...

French Fancy said...

I saw one of the pins on the floor this morning and thought of you - yes, your way is definitely better.

Hope you are cheering up now the weather is brighter. I know people go on about the sun and spring and all that - but I really do believe it makes people feel a bit happier. Things will be alright in the end, you know.

Good Enough Woman said...

CT, your posts are like little classic essays. Great language, great connections from beginning to end. Such a pleasure.

And it's so great that you and hubs do those things together. I think my hubs and I might have done more of that had we been together much before we had kids. It seems like now we usually just divide and conquer. But jobs that that are so much better with a partner. And my hubs in an engineer, too, so he gets VERY precise about things. Well, actually, now, he's a math lecturer, but undergrad he was trained as an engineer. It's in his blood. He loves symmetry so much that it's hard for me to hang paintings the way I want to. He wants the all right in the middle. Always in the middle.

We do very little home decor because I don't like to fight against his love of symmetry. In fact, so far, I haven't even had the heart to challenge the way he privileges symmetry.

But having even curtains, that's totally different. Of *course* it's nice to have even curtains. :)

Like FF said, I hope the changing seasons are lifting your spirits a bit.

C. Troubadour said...

Aww, GEW! Now I'm blushing. I think that's the nicest compliment anyone's ever paid me about what I write here.

Dividing and conquering would be nice for speeding up our progress in some ways. I think our most recent projects have just happened to be multi-person efforts (painting the guest bedroom would have been much harder, what with needing someone to do detail work with a small brush while also needing someone to use the roller for the big spaces).

And precision is so in our husbands' blood! Oo symmetry, that's a tough one. We haven't had any major standoffs about it, but we did have a debate on whether the finials on one of the curtain rods have to be equidistant from the center of the window. (One end of the rod is jammed into a corner because of the way the window is positioned, so there's less room for the finial to stick out at that end. This means the other finial has extra inches of rod behind it unless we saw the rod to the right length.) Interestingly, I was the one who begged for symmetry in this case. I would have thought D would have gone that route automatically? I'm still puzzling that one over.

Spring is helping on other fronts, especially since we have new things in the garden. If we can keep the rabbits from eating them, we may have irises and lilies in the near future :)