Last week, I chatted with a husband and wife, parents of one of Wyatt's classmates, at a cocktail party. They were incredibly friendly and unassuming, but a few minutes into our conversation, the woman asked the question I've come to dread the most in social situations. She asked, "And what do you do?"
When I'm asked, "What do you do?" I often want to shout in response, "EVERYTHING AND NOTHING!" But because that kind of response would be rude, I usually look away, maybe down at my feet, mumble something about what I used to do and what I used to be, and then trail off about how I'm now a stay-at-home mom.
I'm not ashamed of my current occupation, but I am not at ease with it, either. When I was younger, I was adamant that I would never, ever be a stay-at-home mom. I remained firm in my resolve until shortly after Wyatt was born. When I stepped away from the legal profession, I had absolutely no plan for what I would do next. It has been almost five years since I quit my job, and I have yet to figure out my next move. I feel like I have never been busier day-to-day, or less productive (or less important) in the eyes of society. And while it felt liberating to shed my "lawyer" title, being a "stay-at-home-mom" sometimes makes me fear that I am betraying the feminist movement simply by breathing air.
But my cocktail party friend wasn't asking big questions when she asked what I do. She was just trying to find out about me. As I began to mumble my response to her question, I felt myself look down at my shoes. In that moment, though, I suddenly noticed my feet and felt how firmly they were planted on the floor. Feeling unusually calm and secure, I looked up at her again, and just as, "I practiced law for awhile, in Los Angeles and here in San Francisco, but I don't do that anymore," was out of my mouth, I heard myself add, "and if I were being fancy, I'd tell you that right now, I'm in a 'period of reinvention.'" To my amazement, she and her husband laughed appreciatively and said they might have to borrow that phrase sometime. We went on to have a lovely conversation. And yes, I talked a bit about making cheese and knitting.
Reinvention is proving to be pretty challenging for me. Exploring things is fun when it goes well and disappointing when it doesn't. Take this week in cheese, for example. Thanks to David Asher's email consult, I learned that our aging goat cheese had taken a wrong turn. I had initially emailed him not thinking anything was really wrong with our cheese. I was just curious how I could dry out the cheeses because they were sticky. But they shouldn't have been sticky, and by our third email exchange or so, he had seen a photo of our cheeses. David's diagnoisis: Unwanted ecologies.* The cheeses are now in the compost. But because we can all learn from failures, here are photos of our failed cheese:
And before you decide I'm crazy for ever thinking we could eat these, I want you to know that they look worse in these photos than when I first emailed David. I'm not sure what went wrong with this batch, but it smelled about as good as it looks.
One nugget of advice that David offered in our email exchange was that we should always taste our cheeses fresh before we put them to age. We have now tried enough batches of cheese to have an opinion of what tastes great, so we will keep up this practice, now with more educated palates.
At the same time our cheese was falling prey to unwanted ecologies, I completed knitting a trio of children's accessories I designed in Sincere Sheep's Vitamin C color of Shepherdess yarn. I started with a pair of convertible gloves, moved on to a reversible cowl and finished a coordinating hat the other night. All three designs have already been through at least two iterations each at this point because Wyatt is so clear on how he wants his accessories to fit. He loathes floppy cuffs on gloves or mittens, for example. In the coming days, I'm planning to take some photos, figure out how to write the patterns, actually write the patterns, find someone who can act as a technical editor for my patterns, and figure out how to open a shop on Ravelry. I'm curious whether I'll enjoy this process and whether anyone will respond to my virtual cry of, "Patterns for sale!" in the ridiculously saturated marketplace of knitting designs. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I've always felt like I'm winning at life when I find the marvelous things and unique details I can bring to what I do. Whether I'm an expert or a novice, and whether the result is amazing or absolutely stinks (even literally, sometimes), I want to feel grateful to be doing my work and learning from it, instead of focusing on how long it's taking and how imperfectly it's turning out. That perspective shift is going to take some practice.
*Who knew there was such a non-judgmental way of saying your cheese is bad?