Monthly Archives: February 2013

incunabula


incunabula n. the early stages of the development of something

Tiffany-Grace-tiara-shop-at-selfridges-fashionhorrors-3

When I came upon this word, I thought of mitosis. My brain instantly snapped to the images I used to stare at in biology textbooks in high school…the ones with the little pink chromosomes so neatly dividing themselves. I suppose the inference is accurate as cells are undeniably the early stages of development of something – whether it be a child or an illness. It can have both a hopeful or sinister context, like so many things in our lives. All of my unfinished knitting projects also come to mind. They are like little physical manifestation of incunabula.

Creating things excites me. My entire career has been about making things and nurturing incunabula into something tangible. Many years ago after my dreams of becoming a writer fell off due to lack of funds, a budding accounting career at Deutsche Bank proved to be the wrong path,and a job writing advertisements for clinical trials was just too boring, I fell into the role of product development for a watchband company in Rhode Island. It was a small, family oriented company. My first months were spent making spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Somehow I had become a computer whiz at Excel and I believe that was one of the reasons why I was hired. I also got to correspond with vendors in Asia, which was my favorite part. I had a wonderful boss who gave me opportunity and the ability to see and learn about the genesis of product. From drawing and concept, manufacturing and samples, to the final packaged consumer good. It was like magic. I loved seeing something come from nothing. Every trip to a store became like a museum visit, looking at things for seam lines and country of origin, trying to figure out how they were made. I fell in love with the process. Back then, I worked on watchbands and some small jewelry items, but I still treasure those years.

Later I moved on to a job at a curtain rod company with more responsibility. This time I was the driving force behind the product vision. I worked with a designer who became one of my best friends in the world and together we came up with so many ideas and worked to make them into tangible goods. I traveled to mainland China and toured the factories for my projects and my life was changed. I remember calling my husband after a long day at a resin manufacturer, crying hysterically having seen the factory dormitories where the workers slept – 6 to a room on bunk beds – in a room smaller than the average bedroom. Yet they were so sweet and courteous – and I was incredibly humbled. All of those products on those shelves were no longer inanimate objects. People made them and when I was directing my projects, these people that were grateful for a crowded bunk and a bowl of rice were responsible for the outcome. To this day I do not view the things I buy the same way.

Later on I went on to work for a tabletop company handling their crystal and glass product. Glass blowing was like watching incunabula in action. I traveled all over Eastern Europe visiting small glass factories and watching small glowing blobs of sand turn into beautiful glass vases and bowls by someone turning a pipe, blowing and making it look so easy. I traveled in cars across the rolling hills of Poland and Romania visiting places that are probably gone as the art of glass blowing and making has shrunk considerably. Even back when I was there the workers would talk about how so many of them had moved to cities to become taxi drivers or other working class professionals as the money was good and they didn’t have to worry about factories closing. The American taste had changed and no one really spent money on handmade, lead crystal or glass. I feel special having been able to witness such a beautiful art and to have met such amazing artists.

The culmination of my product career was at a company best known for it’s signature blue box and amazing jewelry. Way back when I started working with watchbands, I remember coming home my first week on the job, completely excited and overwhelmed, and saying to my husband “Someday I could work for Tiffany.” And then it came true. I worked on dozens of wonderful projects, some of the finest things I have ever held in my hands. Last night while I was watching Downton Abbey and noticed all of the ladies wearing diamond tiaras, I remembered the tiara I last worked on before I left on maternity leave and it made me incredibly proud and happy.

I have been part of many an incunabula over these years. My career was very much my child and now it is all grown up. I made the choice to stay home and nurture a new incunabula – my son, Graham – and the journey will be no less difficult or rewarding. Through these many years of working I have learned how to bring an idea to fruition and nurture it to completion. In a way I was training for this all along.

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fly


fly vmove through the air under control

flywheel

My son is 18 months old and in a lot of ways I am not very much older. When he was born my whole life changed, not just in the theoretical sense but in the actual sense. I gave up my full time job to take care of him, moved from Brooklyn to the suburbs, and went from having a very defined path to a dirt road with no blaze. I don’t mean this in some macabre manner, but when I found out I was pregnant the old me started packing her bags because she knew she was on her way out. So the past 2 years or so has been a kind of painful rebirth. As he’s cutting teeth, I’m learning how to make mommy friends (sometimes more painful.) While he’s trying new foods, I am trying to learn to eat less of them. And as he has taken his first steps, I have found my own wings. But just like he didn’t get up and start walking like a pro from the start, neither have I. I stumble…a lot. But I have found one thing in the past 2 years that makes all the difference in my life. Exercise. Specifically, indoor cycling or spinning.

I have never been good at riding bicycles. I can remember the first time I went to Block Island with my husband crying hysterically because I simply sucked at it and we had no car so I had no choice if I wanted to see the island. I fell off the bike several times, in front of large groups of people, near shorelines, etc. Days after our little excursion, my ass hurt so bad I could barely move and I did not have the urge to do it again for awhile. Many years  later when we moved to Brooklyn, I purchased my husband a bike and he would ride to various neighborhoods, watering holes, even over the Brooklyn Bridge. I desperately wanted to join him…but I was just terrified and completely awful at it. We even spiffed up my old Schwinn ten speed with a gel seat and I got a new, red helmet, but after several riding sessions filled with tears and screaming, we just gave up. My shiny red Schwinn has a place of honor hanging on my workshop wall waiting for me to someday be able to ride it in all of it’s glory…and perhaps someday I will. However, these days my saving grace has been a bike that goes nowhere.

It starts when I schedule my class online. Free time is hard to come by, but I can squeeze in 45 minutes at some point, even if it has to be at 6 am. I put on my spandex and pull back my hair and head to the studio for sometimes what will be the most relaxing part of my day. When I get there, I grab a towel, a bottle of water and put on my velcro shoes with the pedal clips. Then I go to my favorite bike, number 36, and get her set up. My seat is a 5 and pushed all the way forward and my handlebars are usually at a 6. I borrow one of the gel seat covers to avoid soreness and make sure it’s securely positioned for my ride. I hang my towel over the handlebar and wedge 2 bottles of water into
the holder meant for one, snap in my shoes and start to pedal. I check my positions – saddle, second and third – and then take in my surroundings, sizing up the competition and avoiding my reflection in the mirror.

My favorite instructor is a singer and dancer on her bike (I have no idea in real life what else she does) and when she turns down the lights and raises the bass, I forget all about the dishes in the sink and the baby with the fever. It’s me and my bike for the next 45 minutes. My favorite part is at the beginning when we “fly” by turning the torque all the way down and bringing the RPMs all the way to 100 for a full minute or more. The adrenaline pumping and the music blasting makes me actually feel like I am flying. When we’re done with the sprint,  we start the climb. Usually we’ll start in the saddle and my legs feel like I am cycling through quicksand, raising the torque to make it harder and harder along the way. At some point she’ll let up and let us rise to third and use our full thigh strength to be able to pedal quicker. It makes me feel so strong and powerful. Sometimes it’s Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Sweet Child of Mine.” Other times it’s Usher or Jay Z that get me over the hill. Regardless, I feel more like a warrior than a mom.

The leader board in the studio lets us all see who’s winning and I rarely put myself on it. Still, I can tell where I rank amongst those that
do. Most of the time, I come in third or fourth place. Other times I win the class. It’s in my nature to be competitive and I’ve learned that it can be a very powerful force when it comes to getting fit. Throughout the class, we rise and fall like a tide of riders going nowhere. I like to imagine what it looks like to the instructor as she watches an ocean of people pretending to ride bikes. I think it must either be humorous or moving…or maybe both. Either way, it feels good to move so fast and not have to worry about getting hurt…like driving a sports at the fastest possible speed without a worry that you could crash crash.

The class ends the way it started – with one last glorious fly – one last chance to make it count. Then I stretch, I hydrate and I head home a winner. I may not get a shower for a few hours and I might have to wrestle with a diaper genie while my son runs naked in the same room, but for 45 minutes I wasn’t a mom, housewife or trying to be anything than on that bike and feeling the beat. For 45 minutes I flew.

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