Yesterday was the pre-trial hearing and the judge has said he won’t be ruling in favor of my petition to relocate.
To write that this is devastating is an understatement. I’m still processing my grief. I couldn’t even offer my daughter comfort as I had to turn her over to my ex a couple of hours after I heard the news. She’s crushed, too.
So this is where I am: broke, homeless, separated by 1,000 miles from my husband and seven-year-old son, and trapped in Illinois for another four years.
I’m going to withdraw my petition to relocate. There’s no reason to go through the expense of a trial now. Next I face my ex’s petition for more parenting time, as well as his petition to throw me in jail for losing the house. The absolute worse outcome sees me in jail and having lost my daughter in a year’s time. So, you know, good times.
While I await for those load of bricks to fall I have to find housing for me and my daughter. Since the judge could limit me to staying within twenty-five miles of my ex, I am really limited in where we can settle. I’ve already started the process of signing up for food stamps. I looked into Section 8 Housing and found that the wait list to get on the wait list has closed.
I also have to finish up pictures for the book. I’m halfway through and should be finishing them up in a week or so. Getting those turned in will trigger the release of the rest of my advance which will be used immediately for my legal fees.
I have also started the process of reporting my ex for his predation of an underaged girl. It might have happened eighteen years ago and isn’t an issue as per my ex’s lawyer, but that is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen just once. There has got to be someone out there who will take it seriously and look to see if he has harmed any other girls in the intervening years.
I am not okay. I am upset and gutted by all of this. My anxiety has been high and I’ve had to dole out my medication in dribs and drabs because when it runs out I’m done. My depression has raised its oozing arms to drag me back into a world of remonstrances and accusations of worthlessness. None of this is fair. None of this easy. None of this is going to be okay for a very long time.
Despite having access to an experienced in house seamstress (me), my children have rarely asked me to make them costumes. For three years straight, when she was five to seven years old, my daughter Charlotte was a cat for Halloween. It was a costume that required only a black leotard, cat ears headband and some face paint. Up until last year, my son Ben wanted to be various Star Wars characters, using store bought costumes.
Still, I have made some costume pieces for my children. For my daughter it was a dress to wear to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. We don’t go to the Faire often, averaging about every other year, so we like to make the most of it. When Charlotte was eleven she decided she wanted to dress up for our visit.
I showed Charlotte a dress idea I had pinned on Pinterest. It’s a reconstruction of the dress worn by Kiera Knightly in the movie King Arthur. She approved the design and we headed out to the fabric store. I guided her to the kinds of fabric that would work and she picked out the color. We chose an olive green cotton drill. It was heavier than what was used in the pattern and movie costume, but I wanted something solid and a bit more hard-wearing.
The making of the dress was ridiculously easy. While drapey tunics use a lot of fabric, I love them for the ease of construction and customization. The belt was made from ribbon I had on hand, with a snap fastener as a closure. That day at the faire she had a great time swanning around, shooting arrows and eating turkey legs. She’s outgrown the dress now and I have it packed up. Perhaps one day there will be another child eager to use it for dress up.
Ben’s costume story is more recent. Last year he decided a week before Halloween that he wanted to be Purple Link. On such a short deadline I ended up buying parts of the costume and sewing the rest.
The leggings and shirt came from the girl’s section at Target. I used a Simplicity “Indian” costume pattern that I had inherited for the tunic. Both tunic and hat were made from purple broadcloth I bought. The belt was made of brown cotton drill from my stash as well as yellow and brown felt I had on hand. I used hot glue to tack the Velcro fastener for a closure. The hat was made from a self-drafted pattern. The whole costume took a couple of days.
He was pleased with his costume, even if his classmates didn’t know who he was supposed to be. And Ben has kept the shirt in his regular clothes rotation, always a plus. The various costume pieces have been worn since during play and pretend time.
I am certain these won’t be the last costumes I sew for my kids. We have plans to join a boffer LARP that runs in Colorado once the move is finalized. That will require costuming for them. And there are still plenty of Halloweens to be had. I do hope I’ll have a bit more time for sewing the next time, though.
“It took many years on a forever-steep learning curve to figure out how to be me apologetically and to accept every bizarre part of my past. When I stopped worrying about having friends, or being fat, or following a predictable path, or trying to be a commercially sellable artist, I began to come into my own. By standing strong in my uniqueness and walking with faith in a universal, positive energy and in myself, I found my power and glory.” — A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys, Mia Michaels, p. 5-6
I’ve been back in Illinois a few days now. It’s hard being separated from my husband and son. I even miss the cats. It’s hard not having a place to call my own. It’s hard not knowing what the future holds.
But it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Charlotte and I are staying with friends who are doing their all to make us welcome. I have people who love us sending messages of support hourly via social media, email and text. People are helping me research. People are lifting me up. And I have resources. The library is going to be my home base the next few weeks. It gives me access to the internet for communication, air conditioning and even a place to take step-by-step pictures.
Charlotte is being upbeat about all this. As long as she has access to the internet and time to draw she’s happy. She might not deal well with change same as me, but things are familiar enough to help her cope. It helps that season five of Voltron hit and so she has a whole world of Tumblr fandom to keep her busy.
I am focusing on pictures for the book. The house I’m staying in is lovely and quirky and perfect for indoor shots. For the outdoor ones there are plenty of parks around. People have given me lots of advice on taking the pictures. Their help is starting to show as the last batch I sent my editor got a big thumbs up.
As difficult as the next few weeks will be, I know that I will survive them thanks to the incredible support structure I have around me.
Driving through Wyoming last week drove home how much I had missed the land I grew up in. At a rest stop I collected sprigs of sagebrush. The familiar scent of Russian olive trees hung heavy in the air. The wind sung to me through the aspens. I left Wyoming twenty-two years ago and it was calling me home.
My longing is tempered by years of learning about social justice topics; especially colonialism and this country’s horrifying treatment of indigenous people. The knowledge that I live on stolen land colors my dreams of the future.
As we drove, Charlotte pointed out places to build a castle. “That’s part of the Wind River Reservation,” I told her. “I don’t think the Shoshone or Arapaho would appreciate us building there.” The entire trip back I was aware of all the reservations we drove through, all the casinos we passed, all the roads and creeks and passes we crossed that had “Indian” in their names. I come from a place that has herded various tribes onto parcels of land and monetized their very identities.
If I am allowed to move back to Wyoming, how do I, as a witch, practice without adding to the harm already done. The question is especially tricky as I have no cultural heritage of my own to fall back on. My sister did the Ancestry.com test a year ago. Genetically, we’re a mix of Irish, Western European and British. That knowledge doesn’t give me any real answers, though. In the same way that I don’t feel part of football culture just because I am American, I don’t feel any more connected to those cultures just because of my DNA.
So where does that leave me? I can make sure that I don’t appropriate any Native American spiritual practices, something I strive to do anyway. But I don’t know if that is enough. Do no harm doesn’t delineate levels of injury. I feel a responsibility to go beyond, to do more than just the bare minimum.
I’m not quite sure what that will involve, or how it will look. As I figure it out, I’ll write about it here.
“I used to think money had to come in a certain ‘valid’ way: for example, make money each day, save up, have a budget, etc. But I discovered that there is another way that is just as valid, and maybe even more accurate which I think of as lush, feminine wealth. My income comes in chunks—I lived the freelance lifestyle, and there’s nothing steady about it. A chunk here or a chunk there. I also receive abundance in a lot of different ways—places to stay, artistic patronage, etc. It looks different from the ‘traditional’ way of earning money, I know, but this difference isn’t a problem, it’s an asset. When I started embracing the different kinds of wealth that come to me—some that comes in W9s and money, some that comes in other forms like inspiration, kind words, support—I feel, and I am, rich.” — DIY Rules for a WTF World, Krista Suh, p. 160
Charlotte and I pulled into Bolingbrook just before midnight last night. It was the end of a 2,400 mile journey that took us to Wyoming and back again. With the exception of the 2 1/2 hours we sat in traffic due to construction and accidents it was a good trip. We drove out to Laramie to drop off my husband, son and the cats.
My husband, Stephan, has a new job in Laramie and we’ve signed a lease on a house. After a day of getting them settled, Charlotte and I loaded back into the Jeep and headed out on the road again. We swung up through Worland to visit my grandmother. That added half a day to our trip, but I hadn’t seen Grandma since 2008 and I wasn’t about to skip a chance to see her.
Driving through Wyoming I got to show my daughter all the things I loved about my home state. I wasn’t trying to convince her to want to move there, I just wanted to give her an insight into where her mother came from. Charlotte kept pointing out places where we could set the castle I plan to build one day.
The drive also gave me a lot of time to process what’s been going on. Where I grew up is not an easy place to love. You have to look for its beauty and if you can’t find it, the land doesn’t care. I watched the landscape roll past us, desolate but dotted with life determined to thrive. I thought about how I had been raised to know that life isn’t easy and won’t hand anything to you. With that in mind, I was taught, I was supposed to be grateful for anything life gave me and not complain. Never ask for anything more, was the prevailing wisdom. It took thirty plus years for me to unlearn that second lesson. Life might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight for what I want.
I’ve got two more weeks before I get an idea of whether or not my relocation petition will be granted. I’ve spent almost six thousand dollars on this fight, and I will spend thousands more to finish it. I am not trying to take Charlotte from her dad, I’ve been adamant from the beginning of this legal battle. I’ve stated that I would work with him to make sure they have time together. But I can’t let him have full custody of her.
My ex-husband is a homophobe who has not supported our daughter since she came out as a lesbian last year. He hasn’t taken her mental health issues seriously, ignoring and denying her repeated requests for help for months until I intervened and got her into therapy and on medication. In the past he preyed on an underage girl, chatting with her about masturbation and being “friends with benefits”. The list of reasons why he can’t have her full time goes on and on and on. Charlotte needs to have a relationship with her father. She also needs to be protected from him.
Life isn’t easy. Neither are the decisions I have to make. If the relocation isn’t approved I will remain in Illinois. I’ll get a studio apartment for me and Charlotte. My husband will remain in Laramie. His new job pays more than his previous one. There are opportunities for advancement there and he will be enrolling in the Masters program for Health and Kinesiology at the University of Wyoming. My friends and family in Laramie have already set to making my guys feel welcome and loved.
This will be an extreme hardship on all of us. I’m going to suffer financially. Charlotte will still have to deal with a move as we won’t be able to stay in the surrounding area. My son will not have his mother. My husband will have to be a single father. My daughter is worth fighting for, though. She is worth suffering for. I’ll be beside her, looking for the beauty in the bleak scenery for as long as she needs me.
I’ve been reading blog posts the last couple months about packing up to move: tips on box size, labels, if you are using a moving company, if you aren’t, lists to make, things to do, ways to pickup your life in one place and shift it to another location.
Those posts don’t cover things like how to deal with the unexpected emotional fallout when you realize you have to leave your plants behind. There’s no advice in how to fend off a feeling of panic when you have to break up the set of glassware you got from your great grandmother, packing the glasses in one box and the bottles in another. I have yet to find any tips on how to decide what to pack and what to get rid of when you don’t know how long your belongings will be in storage.
The consent judgement will be entered into record on June 12. That is our vacate date. I learned it yesterday. There was, not a sense of relief, but a recognition and determination that filled me when I read the e-mail. After months of not knowing when I had to leave my house, now I had a date. Now I can shut down utilities and start packing in earnest. Now I have one less “I don’t know” hanging over my head.
Now I know when I become officially homeless.
It’s not that we don’t have a plan. We will be driving out to Laramie, where I have family and my husband has a job offer. He and our son and our cats will be staying with my cousin and his family until they can move into a house we’ll be leasing from a friend. After they’ve been dropped off, my daughter and I turn around and head back to Illinois. That’s where it gets complicated.
My petition to relocate hasn’t been approved. The pre-trial hearing is scheduled for the end of June, with the actual hearing following in mid-July. And so I have to stay in Illinois with my daughter until I find out if I will be able to take her to Laramie with me. The plan is for us to crash with friends, stay in hotels and camp. It sounds all very adventurous, but I will admit to being anxious about the whole thing.
There is still the possibility that my relocation request will be denied. In that case we have to head back to Wyoming to get my son and husband and cats and bring them back to Illinois and find a place to live. Seeing how the idea is to move to a place where the cost of living is cheaper and there is a support structure, staying in Illinois sees me stuck in the same situation I have been over the past year.
There is no alternative, however. I will not live someplace where I can’t have my daughter with me.
So I keep packing boxes, hoping to get everything packed up in time so I can finish the reshoot of pictures for Sew Witchy. I will continue to run the 50% off sale over at my Etsy store until the 9th of June. Then I’ll shut it all down. I will try to stay so busy that my Jerk Brain doesn’t have time to work its way back into existence.
If anyone had told me in March that my new best friend would be a bag of rice, I wouldn’t have believed them. But after my marathon photo session for Sew Witchy I’m ready to name that bag Wilson and get matching tattoos.
The thing is, I’m a writer, not a photographer. That didn’t stop me from saying, “Yes, of course,” when Llewellyn asked if I could supply the step-by-step and finished project photos for the book. I’d snapped pictures for this blog and Instagram before with my phone. How hard could it be?
Oh ho! Let me tell you: I was woefully unprepared for how hard it was. And while I think the final photos turned out all right, I have no desire to do this again. (Famous last words, I know. Although they’re easy to write now as I don’t have any ideas for another craft book.)
I went into my photographical journey thinking that the hardest part would be how much longer it would take to complete each project. I figured it would take twice as long so that’s what I planned for. Instead, I quickly realized it was taking more like three to four times as long. I was photographing each step, even if I didn’t think it needed to be documented because the book was meant to be accessible to new sewists.
As an aside can I just talk about what a trip it is to write a book about sewing book when you are self-taught? Several times I would stop in mid-stitch and question if my technique was “proper”. Was this the sort of thing a beginner should start with? I had to look up terms to make sure they meant what I thought they meant. At every step I had to stop and make sure that I had adequately explained what to do. Just writing instructions and then photographing the various stitches used in the book was a process that took days.
So, back to the pictures. I had sent sample photos to the art director months before and was told I needed to use a tripod and provide photos in both horizontal and vertical shots. My local library had tripods I could check out which addressed the first issue. The second was a bit trickier. The tripod couldn’t hold the camera vertical leaving me at a loss of what to do. I came up with the brilliant idea to shoot step-by-step photos on a white piece of foam board. I’d take one shot and then rotate the foam board 90° and take another “vertical” shot.
I only got through the first day of that when my friend Randy, who does photo art layout and design for a living, kindly told me that my brilliant idea wasn’t really. He’s the one who clued me in to the bag of rice trick. (Actually he suggested a bag of beans but I’m more of a canned beans kind of witch, so I instead filled a sandwich baggie full of rice.) I would take the horizontal pictures, then balance the camera on its side on top of the rice, which was balanced on the tripod. This added to the time each picture took, but it meant that there weren’t as many pictures that looked like I had taken them during an earthquake.
As difficult as all the above was, getting shots of the finished wearables was an experience on a whole ‘nother level. The sample robe was modeled by my son Benjamin. He is a ball of chaotic energy, rarely able to stay still for even a microsecond. A good 99% of the photos I took were blurry. Eventually Ben ran out of patience and refused to pose any longer, leaving me with exactly two pictures I could use. To all the child photographers out there, you have my utmost respect.
In the end I took over 1000 pictures. (Not counting the pictures I lost one day when I returned the camera to the library without transferring the day’s photos over to my computer. Fun times.) Of those, about 350 were sent on to the art director. By the end my everything hurt: back, legs, feet, head and hands. My house looked like a tornado had hit a craft store and dumped the debris all over it. Dishes didn’t get washed. Floors had gone unvacuumed. Cats had not been pet. If my husband hadn’t stepped in to take care of things while I toiled the family would have been wandering around hungry and disheveled.
I’ve always been the type of person who learned by diving in the deep end. This is no exception. And I did learn. The pictures I took at the end are world’s better than those I took at the beginning. I’m in no hurry to put my newfound skills to use, though. I’m going back to amateur camera phone photos.
UPDATE: After writing this post, I got word from my editor that I need to reshoot all of the finished project shots. I sort of took their comments on my first sample shots a bit too far and ended up with very sterile shots. Fortunately, the editorial team sent me a document with notes for each shot. And, a friend offered me the use of a tripod that can do both horizontal and vertical shots. So my best friend will be retired and I’ll be able to get the pictures done faster.
I am lucky in that I get to work with so many lovely clients. Justine is a friend from my LARP days, and an honest-to-goodness mermaid. And I mean mermaid in the old-fashioned way; the kind that would sink your ship while painting her nails.
I’ve made a few pieces for Justine over the years, including two corsets and a bustle. She approached me a couple of months ago about making her some dresses for an upcoming vacation. Her specifications were: skater dress with a ballerina neckline and pockets out of knit fabric.
Next was fabric. Justine provided me with two “must have” choices from Spoonflower, and then a list of other choices from JoAnn Fabrics and told me to choose one for a total of three dresses.
The Kitschy Coo pattern is as easy to put together as advertised, however it doesn’t give you much margin of error. I learned this quickly when I cut out the first dress and found myself without a large enough section to cut the front and back bodice pieces. It was my fault for not laying everything out ahead of time, a mistake born from overconfidence.
I dealt with that mistake by redrafting the two pieces. I added princess seams to the front and added a center back seam to the back, which allowed me to use the fabric left after cutting out the skirt and other parts. I made sure that when the new pieces were basted together they matched the size of the original bodice piece. I also reinforced all the seams.
These changes led to a slight complication when the dress was finished. There was an ugly gap at the back. A quick pin and seam fixed that.
The other alteration I made was to the neckline. Justine wanted it just a little wider. This involved not only adjusting the bodice pieces at the neck, but also making sure the facing was the right length.
Despite figuring out the issue of laying out the pattern, the other two dresses had their own challenges. The fabric for both was a one way design, which meant making sure I was placing the pieces in a way that the designs looked good when sewn together. This isn’t a major issue, it just means slowing down and taking care. The whole project was a needed reminder that even seasoned pros need to remember the basics when working.
Adding the pockets meant altering the sewing instructions as well. Instead of one long seam from arm hole to skirt edge, I had to sew the top and bottom separately and then sew them together. If I had been using just my regular sewing machine, Kenny, I could have done the continuous side seam. But with my serger, Sergei, that wasn’t an option. This didn’t affect the look or fit of the dress in any way.
The most important part of all of this is that I created three dresses that fit Justine’s specifications. She has worn them several times since I made them last Summer and gets compliments wherever she goes.