Sunday, December 28, 2008

Big News: Carrie & Danielle, Pre-order on Amazon

Big news! I'm now a contributor to, a website "for seekers and agents of change, for fashionistas and entrepreneurs - for deep thinkers who dig pop culture." The site was founded by the authors of my favorite book of 2008: Style Statement.

I'm going to be writing on a number of topics, including the Style Statement concept. Click here to see all my posts (click the post titles to view the full article and leave comments.) Please check out the site, leave comments, tell your friends...

More big news! My book is available for pre-order on Amazon!!! This is the book I've spent the past two years editing. It features essays and knitting patterns by myself and others, as well as several photos by my husband.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thought for Layoff Season

"Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, 'Grow, grow.'"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's Done!!

It's done - it's off to the photographer. It's a whole lot bigger than the original! I need some sleep!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm on Carrie & Danielle!

Carrie & Danielle featured my Style Statement Journey on their site! Kvell, kvell.

Leaves Q&A #5

I understand leaving the tail of the yarn at the bottom of the leaf for attaching to the tree, but would you like the end from the top of the leaf woven in?
No, please leave the tail at the top, too. The larger tree is going to be in the form of a banner, and I'll use the tails at both ends to attach the leaves to the background.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Leaves! Showing up in my mailbox! Miraculous! Thank you everyone!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Style Statement: Creative Joy

Suzyn Jackson, August 1974
Writer. Designer. Mama.

An object that I cherish: a teacup, made by hand: imperfect, poetic, fine.

Even thought it's completely over the top, I secretly love: flowers in hair.

My definition of sexy: naked & happy.

What I'd like more of in my life: friends, dancing, walks in the woods.
If I had more of that, I'd feel: joyful, connected.

I'm my best self when: I'm well rested and fed.

If I could become a master of anything, I would like to know the most about: color.

I am the kind of friend who: might not call for a few months, but will carefully consider, and maybe even make, your Christmas present.

The best material gift I've ever received: my engagement ring.
I cherish it because: It was designed for me. It embodies my husband's love. It sparkles.

Some works of art that have moved me are:

I describe my inner rhythm as: Vivaldi, Bach

My favorite flower is: Pink lilies.
If this flower had its own personality, I would describe it as: exuberant, large, unafraid to be what it is.

My favorite form of play is: tickling my sons.

Creative means to me: artistic, fertile, rich, expansive, design, make, compose, dance, poetic, sing, mother, handmade

Joy means to me: light, life, laughter, bubbles, sparkles, sexy, rich, happy

Also, read about my Style Statement Journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Style Statement: the Journey

My style statement is Creative Joy.

I've struggled with style for a long time. I always figured that once I figured out what I want to do when I grow up, I'd also know how to dress. The logic fails there a bit, when you consider that not all architects, or writers, or professors dress alike--not by a long shot! But in the meantime, I had developed a fairly stable, non-offensive, somewhat dull style that I'll call "classic." And a thing for red shoes.

So I was thrilled when I came across Carrie & Danielle in Domino magazine, and beyond thrilled when I heard about their book.

The gist is this: you answer a flood of insightful, provocative, soul-searching questions, then you sift and sort through your answers, and you come up with a two word "style statement" that sums you up, body and soul.

While I was working through the book, I was certain I was going to be "Creative Light." I loved all the puns in "Light" -- travel light, lighten up, radiant, plus one of my passions is color, which is really just light bouncing around -- but I ran into a snag.

When you get towards the end of the process, Carrie (I assume it's Carrie's voice at that point) tells you to make sure that at least one of your words could describe a sofa. So I tried to imagine a Creative sofa, and immediately I thought of a scary cross-stitch lady with a purple polka-dotted sofa and a lot of cats. I ran screaming to look for more words.

I pulled two more: Classic and Joy. The description of "Classic" in the Style Vocabulary hadn't particularly stuck out at me, but my synonyms sounded like home: "quiet, tasteful, supportive, strong, proven, simple, complex, independent, elegant, clean". Joy turned out to be what I was trying to get to with Light, without the "fewer calories" connotation: "light, life, laughter, bubbles, sparkles, sexy, rich, happy".

This was it!! Classic Joy! I wrote it down and did a dance for my 9 month old son! I could see my Classic Joy living room. I picked out a Classic Joy haircut. It explained SO MUCH. I promised myself to save up for an Hermes Red Berry scarf.

Then I mentioned it to my husband. "Classic? Classical? I don't really see it." I read him my synonyms, and he scrunched up his nose. "Well, I was thinking of Creative, too..." "Yes! That's you - you're totally creative. Creative Joy - I love it!"

Hrmph. Now, I often feel that my husband knows me better than I know myself. But I wanted to be right on this one. I argued that Creative felt like WHAT I do, not HOW I do it. Yes, I'm a creative person. But it doesn't feel like a style to me. (I was still reeling from that purple sofa image.)

So I decided to give it a test drive. I bought a "Classic Joy" handbag on ebay. It arrived. And it was nice. A little conservative. In my mind, the style statement was becoming "Classic (but not conservative) Joy."

Then I went shopping. Whenever I shop, I always struggle to find a middle ground between "boring" and "dumb." "Classic" seemed to be that middle ground. I came home with really useful stuff - black trousers, a nice turtleneck sweater, a pair of jeans that fit. Nice. A little conservative.

Your style statement is supposed to help with more than just clothes. It's supposed to be a guidepost for building a life. And in that sense, Classic Joy wasn't really working for me. It explained where I am--technical writer, huge corporation, thing for red shoes--but not where I want to go.

By the next morning, a new little voice was whispering... "there is poetry and fire in my soul." I sat down with a pencil and notepad to figure this out.
Creative Light
Classic Joy
Poetic Fire
Creative Classic
Creative Joy
...Damn if my husband wasn't right.

Classic felt right because it was where I have been living for a long time. It's safe. It's frugal (and you've gotta know I love a bargain). But it's not my core. Creative makes my stomach squirm a little bit, because I know that Carrie & Danielle are going to make me own it.
  • That means, instead of using my creativity to feed my frugal itch...
    That new sweater is too expensive. Instead, I will buy one at goodwill, rip it up, and knit a new one with the yarn." (yes, I actually did this in college.)
    ...using my frugal self to feed my creativity.
    I will save up for truly gorgeous yarn, so that I can wear a work of art.
  • That means saying no to the MBA and maybe to the MFA.
  • That means doing morning pages once my boys are asleep.
  • That means digging out some old manuscripts from digital mothballs.

Deep breath. Whoo boy.

Also, read my Style Statement Profile.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Leaves Q&A #4

What's the maximum I can knit?
I don't think I'll be able to use more than a few hundred, total. The response so far has been very encouraging! If you're really on a roll, send me what you've got now, so that I can get started on assembly.
Thanks everyone!

Leaves Q&A #3

Would you like the leaves pressed or unpressed?
No need to press, thanks! I think they look more "natural" unpressed.

They will be coming through the customs as "knitted ornaments" as I think the Customs people might get suspicious of something marked "leaves".... could possibly be finest Canadian weed.
You make a very good point!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leaves Q&A #2

Are these leaves supposed to be small? I made one from yarn I used to make a baby blanket, so it is fairly thick yarn, and the leaf was much smaller than expected. It's height was about 2 1/2 inches and less than 2" wide in the center. Does that sound right to you?
Yes, they're fairly small. Depending on the yarn and the needles you use, they range from 2-4" long. If you want to make them a bit larger, do another row of YOs, to get to 11 st total, then decrease the same way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leaves Q&A #1

How soon do you need it?
I'd like to receive all the leaves by October 11, though the sooner the better. I have to assemble this thing and get it photographed well before the end of October to make the deadline for my book.

What will happen to the tree once it is complete?
You know, I hadn't thought much about it--I've been so wrapped up in the book. I will hold onto it at first to use in any publicity appearances for the book--I think it'll be a great showpiece. (The finished tree will be about 4' tall). When all the book hoopla is done, I may donate it to a children's hospital or shelter. Does anyone know of a place that would accept it?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hey Knitters!! Call for Leaves

Please help me knit a Tree of Life to be featured in my upcoming book, Knit It Together. (See, we're knitting the tree together. Get it? Get it?)

Here are all the details.

Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!!

Update: click here to see all updates and Q&As on this project.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wedding Pics

A friend recently asked to see photos of my wedding dress, so here goes:

I made the dress (with mucho help from my maid of honor) from a Vintage Vogue patter.

I knitted the shrug (very helpful with the stiff October breeze).

The shrug slid off at the perfect moment...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pain au Chocolat Hack

This is my favorite breakfast treat:
  1. Buy Costco croissants (they're a steal!)
  2. (important!) Freeze them
  3. Take one out, and make knife slits through the middle (as if you were cutting it open like a hot dog bun)
  4. Slide a bit of bittersweet chocolate into the knife slits
  5. Pop in the toaster oven at 300 for 10 mins

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The hardest thing to do...

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to say what needs to be said, and then shut up. Not soften, not backpedal, not repeat what you've said and add layers to your argument. And not ask for an immediate response.

In fact, when you say what needs to be said, it often needs to be digested.

So, there are actually three steps. (As a techwriter, oh, how I love a nice process.)
  1. Say what needs to be said
  2. Shut up
  3. Walk away
Not easy.

But I've learned something: just as giving up anger is something you do for yourself, and not necessarily for the person you're angry with, saying what needs to be said is its own reward. Whatever reaction you get is secondary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

PT#22: Leaving the Skin on Your Hands

Having a baby in the house involves a lot of hand-washing. Not only are you suddenly changing (an inordinate number of) diapers, but when you learn about your newborn's immune system (which basically doesn't exist for the first few months) you instantly become a germ-o-phobe. If you want to have skin on your hands by your child's first birthday, stock up on:

  • Gentle soap - Softsoap makes a nice aloe vera version. Antibacterial soaps aren't necessary
  • Ultra-rich, non-scented hand cream. I like this stuff, my brother-in-law swears by this stuff

Friday, August 8, 2008

PT#21: Boppy boppy boppy!!!

Ahhh, the boppy! (There are tons of different colors.)

I'm still using mine, and it's been a godsend. Warning: graphic nursing talk ahead!

It shows a lady sitting cross-legged on the carton, but that doesn't work. The best way to use it is in a chair with arms, to hold the pillow up. We have a gliding rocker in the nursery, and that's heaven! If you want to use it in bed or somewhere where there are no arms, you'll need to put pillows (or what I used - a bunched-up robe) under it to raise the baby's head to the right level, otherwise you'll end up slumping (ow) or the baby will be dragging painfully at your boob (double-ow).

I also always keep a burp cloth draped over whichever side his head is on, to catch spit up and spray (so bizarre when your boobs keep spraying!) The boppy comes with a zip-off cover that you can toss in the wash - and you can get more covers a la carte.

I hope there is a lactation consultant at the hospital for you. If not, consider calling one in for a consult - it was very useful. Insist, if you must. I had to ask three times, because my chart showed that my guy was nursing on schedule, but we had the technique wrong, so it was very painful. It's not supposed to hurt!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

PT#20: Where is the baby going to eat?

While one of the nice things about breastfeeding is that you can feed the baby anywhere, at a moment's notice, it's nice to have a special place set up at home especially for nursing (works equally well for Papa to give bottles.) First of all, you'll need a nice chair. The back should come up behind your head, because there's a very good chance you'll fall asleep in it from time to time. A rocker is really nice, and helpful to calm down fussy babies (My older one wouldn't fall asleep without the rocker; the baby will fall asleep anywhere...) Dutailier is the best brand (made in Canada!)

Around this chair, you'll want a reading light (yes, you can read and nurse!), and a table or shelf for a drink, the bottle, a notepad... y'know, stuff. You might want other things within reach, too, like music and a shelf of baby books.

Finally, you need a boppy. Boppies are wonderful - it's a big crescent-shaped pillow that fits around your waist and holds the baby in the right position. In fact, I'll write a whole boppy tip, tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

PT#19: Where is the baby going to sleep?

For the first few months, at least, you'll probably want the baby in your room, because we're talking feedings every 2 hours or so. Options include crib (if it fits in your room), bassinette (like a cross between a crib and a Moses-basket), a new contraption that has three sides and attaches to your bed, or right in the bed with you.

This is a very personal choice, and it's a good thing to talk about before you come home with the baby. But then remember - when Mama gets home, she has every right to change her mind. As many times as she needs to.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

PT#18: Breastfeeding: A Parent's Guide

Breastfeeding: A Parent's Guide

This is a no-nonsense guide that I referred to over and over. In contrast, I couldn't get through the introduction to the La Leche League tome someone gave me ("If you don't breastfeed you're evil" was the gist.) This is just practical information.

Forgive me for straying into TMI territory, but I had EVERY SINGLE problem in the problems chapter, but I got over them all, and breastfed for longer than some of my in-laws thought proper. You don't need antibiotics for a very mild case of mastitis - a hotpad will do the trick.

And look! Another older edition for a penny!

Monday, August 4, 2008

PT#17: D.W. Winnicott

D.W. Winnicott

There are many books by him on the market. This is the one I have, and it's a nice collection of essays. His very very comforting point (though I can't find the exact chapter right now) is that you know your baby better than anyone, and that your instincts will be correct the vast majority of the time, and you shouldn't subvert your instincts and common sense to whatever "expert" happens to be in vogue.

Friday, August 1, 2008

PT#16: Happiest Baby on the Block

The Happiest Baby on the Block

This doctor set out to figure out colic, and damned if he didn't. Even if your baby doesn't have full-blown colic, these techniques are invaluable, and they work!

Bonus tip: swaddling works, but my babies were so big, they'd squirm out of their baby blankets in two minutes. The solution? A single flat jersey sheet. Wrap it around and around... they're not getting out of that! My oldest still sleeps with his; it's his "summer blanket."

Thursday, July 31, 2008

PT#15: Your Child's Health

Your Child's Health

This nice heavy tome, or one like it, is a great relief when your child gets ill in the middle of the night. It tells you what to look for, and whether to call the doctor tomorrow, now, or hop in a cab to the ER.

Look, the 1991 edition (which I have) can be had used for a penny (plus shipping)! Aaak! All my bargain-hunting synapses are exploding!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PT#14: Take Books with a Grain of Salt

You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure it all out from books, and here's why: for any and every approach to parenting, there is a book. Most of them contradict each other, and most of them take the tone "if you don't do it this way, you are ruining your children." Talk to people you trust, and most importantly, trust your own instincts.

I remember early on with my oldest, there was some issue we were grappling over, and I asked a family friend who had 6 kids of her own and has run a pre-school for 30 years. What should we do? "Whatever works," she said.

That said, my next few tips will be for the books I found most helpful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PT#13: Perchance to Dream

Sleep now. Get as well-rested as you can before the birth. Maternity/paternity leave sounds like a nice break, but you will not sleep a solid 8 hours for a long time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

PT#12: Rob-ease or Roe-Biz?

Best baby shoes, do not come off, and allow the foot to develop naturally. Totally unnecessary until baby starts to "pull up" to standing. Available at Nordstrom's and and lots of other stores--also, Target has pretty good knock-offs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

PT#11: Rubber Baby Buggy Sockies

Best baby socks, the only ones I've found that don't come off almost instantaneously. (They come in different brands - they're the ones with little puffs around the ankles, like baby pom-poms.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

PT#10: iPoddity

When you're packing your bag for the hospital, don't forget your ipod - it was very nice to be able to shut the whole world out for a while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PT#9: Loosey-Goosey

Being pregnant makes all your joints loosen. If you go to get a manicure or pedicure, make sure you tell them you're preggers (if you're not showing yet), so they don't over-massage your joints. And only go to a very well ventilated place - nail polish fumes smell ten times worse when you're pregnant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

PT#8: Take Care of You

This one needs no explanation: Elizabeth Arden Red Door Pregnancy Massage. Ahhhhhhh...

Monday, July 21, 2008

PT#7: Quick Change Artist

Babies spit up. No getting around it. You can have a burp cloth permanently on your shoulder, but you're still going to get nailed from time to time. I came up with a solution that worked for me: I kept a pile of clean t-shirts right in the baby's room. (They were the nice men's XL t-shirts I'd worn throughout the pregnancy.) When you get splurched on, you can have a fresh t-shirt on in about 5 seconds.

Friday, July 18, 2008

PT#6: The Smell of Poop in the Morning

Diaper Genies use expensive refills. The Diaper Champ uses ordinary kitchen-size garbage bags.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

PT#5: Those Essential Crotch Snaps

Ok, I've got a bunch of these tips saved up, and not much time (or headspace) to write anything else right now, so I'll start posting a pregnancy tip per day 'til I run out.

Babies don't walk til about 1 yr. So for the first year, they spend a lot of time being picked up by their armpits. Don't even bother with any clothes that don't snap under the crotch, because they'll just bunch up when you pick the baby up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PT#4: We All Scream

People crave different things - for me it was ice cream. My favorite thing that my husband got me during my whole pregnancy was this. Did you know it is possible to love an ice cream scoop? It is.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

PT#3: When Hearts Burn

Heartburn is a fact of pregnant life. Believe it or not, there is a limit to the number of TUMS you're supposed to eat in one 24-hour period. But there's no limit to how many Stoned Wheat Thins you can eat, and they work almost as well!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hey, It Works....

If you're happy and you know it, kiss your mama
If you're happy and you know it, kiss your mama
If you're happy and you know it, then you really ought to show it
If you're happy and you know it, kiss your mama

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

PT#2: Comfy, Comfy Troll Shoes

Buy crocs. They may not be stylish, but they're heaven on swollen, sore pregnant feet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Zen Mama

Embrace your exhaustion. Do not count the minutes until the baby falls asleep, for they are as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach that you will not see for quite some time, because you swore that you would never be the mother sponging spit up off the flight attendant with some soda water. The baby will sleep when the baby sleeps; you will sleep when the baby goes to college.

Yogurt on the tray. Yogurt on your blouse. Yogurt on the ceiling. Yogurt on Aunt Mabel’s antique sideboard that your sister keeps offering to take to her house “to preserve the heirloom.” Yogurt is everywhere; the universe is yogurt. Be one with the yogurt.

The tantrum is an illusion. Only the soul is eternal. Repeat—the tantrum is an illusion. Contrary to appearances, the child will not die if his crackers are in a green bowl instead of a blue bowl. Attachment brings suffering. His attachment to the blue bowl is bringing you suffering. The tantrum is an… OH FOR CRISSAKES, HERE’S YOUR STUPID BLUE BOWL.

The happy dance of a toddler is eternal.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Pain of Attachment

I think I'm starting to get it. Starting, mind you. I'm certainly no expert, and I'm only barely "living" it, but. I'm starting to understand the Buddhist principle that attachment brings pain.

I remember one evening in college, over coffee with a professor, railing about this idea. How could you not be attached!? Attachment is how you express passion! What would life be without attachment?? She smiled and said that detatchment was a journey, that no one expected a mere human being to be completely detached. I still thought it was all hogwash.

Gretchen Rubin, who studies happiness, talks about it in social science terms as re-framing. Library fines: a shame and a bother, or a small fee for an amazing resource?

Eckhart Tolle take a more spiritual bent, discussing "radical acceptance." Can you accept each moment for what it is? That's the beginning of the spiritual journey.

I came up with a pretty good formulation several years ago:
If I am complaining, it is a sign that I either need to
a) change the situation, or
b) change my attitude towards the situation.
It's the serenity prayer, as rendered by a technical writer.

But it's only recently that I've started to recognize the pain, and see that it's directly attached (har har) to the attachment, and for me the attachment comes in this form: wanting things to be different.

Wanting a spend-thrift friend to be budget-minded. Wanting my house to sell quickly in this market. Wanting my boss to understand my career aspirations better than I do. Wanting DC weather to feel like Seattle. If I focus on any of these things long enough, I can induce a fair tizzy of anxiety, depression, rage, and yes, pain.

I guess my magic formulation is missing the "wisdom to know the difference" part. I think I should be able to change these things, if I just work hard enough. I'm attached to the idea of the thing changing, and I'm attached to the idea of my efficacy in changing it. Why, hello brick wall--we meet again.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The First R: Reduce

6 cobalt Baggu Bags: $38
Klean Kanteens for the whole family: $70
Teapot with strainer: $35

Fewer recyclables, less garbage: priceless

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PT#1: Bra, Sweet Bra

I hereby declare Wednesdays Pregnancy Tip Day. Until I run out of tips.

Pregnant boobs are big and tender. Start wearing a nursing bra now. Here's my favorite. It's soft and comfy - like a sports bra only friendlier.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Call to Action (Thanks, Dr. Pausch!)

In Randy Pausch's fabulous Last Lecture, he mentions the "best piece of advice pound-for-pound that I have ever heard."
And I think all young ladies should hear this. Syl said, it took me a long time but I’ve finally figured it out. When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do. It’s that simple. It’s that easy. And I thought back to my bachelor days and I said, damn.
Damn indeed. I wish someone had told me that in college.

That line--as well as many others--stayed with me. I started to think, y'know, that applies to the women, too. And it certainly applies to parents. And at work. And--woah--politicians!! In fact...

Doesn't that apply to just about everyone? "Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do. "

What if you couldn't say anything? Make an excuse, make a joke, tell a story, apologize. What if all that mattered was what you did? Would the people you care about know that you care about them? Would the people you respect feel your respect?

What if you only thought about something long enough to decide what to do and make a plan of action--and then you let it go 'til you actually did the thing. Would there be a lot more peace and quiet in your head?

Since my head is not a very quiet, peaceful place most of the time, I certainly have a lot of thinking... uh, doing to do.

I've been talking about doing more writing for a long time now. Here's my blog.

What have you done lately?

Hello, there...

Just getting started. I'll be back with more soon.