Posted by wendiwendy
I was around five years old when I fell prey to my first obsession…Donny Osmond. Even now, I can close my eyes and perfectly remember hearing him croon, “Hey there lonely girl…” I was absolutely mesmerized, and read everything Donny-related that I could get my young hands on. I had his posters on my wall, and the first album I ever purchased (for $4.99 plus tax at K-Mart) was by the Osmond Brothers.
I stayed devoted to Donny up until junior high, although I never abandoned him…I just moved on to other fellas like Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb and, oddly enough, Rod Stewart.
As I went through my childhood, I dabbled in other hobbies…things I wanted to become obsessed with but it just never really happened. Stamp collecting, various crafty things like the weaving loom with loops of fabric (I made a lot of pot holders!), those projects where you nailed small nails in a pattern and then you would weave/wind thread to make an image (maybe these were called String Art?), and latch hook projects.
It wasn’t until I saw an ad for the American Sharing Program when I was about 12 years old that I hit upon my next serious obsession…pen pals. This ad was in the back of something similar to the Weekly Reader, a little in-class magazine that we used to receive. The concept was simple: mail them a piece of paper with your name, age and address along with a SASE, and they would send you the names of three people near your age who also wanted pen pals. I was already in love with writing and this just seemed amazing to me. Getting my own mail! Talking to people all around the country!
I used ASP for years and it was always so exciting to receive a new envelope full of potential pen pals. Not everybody wrote back, but I kept in touch with many of those people all through high school. At one point I had 98 pen pals, and my poor father was scrambling to keep up with my requests for postage stamps. But it was so exciting! Every day (except Sunday) I had something to look forward to as I waited for the mail. I absolutely loved making friends this way.
Eventually somebody sent me a friendship book, which was a little homemade ‘book’ made of pieces of paper stapled together. They were always made for somebody, usually by someone else (although sometimes people made them for themselves). The first page would list the ‘owner’ of the FB. Each person would take a page, stick in an address label and perhaps list their interests. Some people would only request pen pals from certain states. Some would sign the book but put “NNP” (no new pals) and then pass it on. You mailed the FBs (as they were called) along with your letter, so they traveled the country. After a while, this was how I found my new pen pals. FBs morphed into “slams”, which were made the same way but had a sign-in page on the first page (you would stick in an address label and assign yourself a number) and the following pages had questions on them. Each person would answer the question (labeling their answer with their assigned number). When these FBs and slams were all filled up, the last person to sign was supposed to return them to the person they were made for.
I knew people who swapped these by the box-full, but I usually just got 2 or 3 per envelope from those who swapped them. It was a little side-obsession to go along with the act of writing letters. Ah…but eventually, once I was done with high school, I was introduced to cassette tapes as a medium for communication. (I still remember the pen pal who sent me my first tape: Allen Siu from Hawaii. A super sweet guy, that I actually got to meet when he visited Chicago.) Eventually I was sending tapes to probably half of my pen pals – I had a Walkman that I would use, and dictated my letters while I was driving to and from work or just relaxing in my room.
Pen pals were a huge part of my life until the kids came along. Even after Eric was born, I still managed to find time to write long, long letters and send multiple tapes out to my good friends. But once Paige came along, and especially when I became a single mom, I found myself too pressed for time and had to stop writing to most of my pen pals. (Now I’ve reconnected with many on Facebook, which is such a gift!)
After the kids came along, I had other obsessions: rubber stamp art, fabric art, quilting, and creating graphics with PaintShopPro (back in the late ‘90s). Rubber stamping and quilting were the most serious (and the most expensive!) and the day I sold my last rubber stamp on eBay was kind of a sad one. At one point it seemed like I would never, ever lose interest in this hobby that consumed me (I had a library index card file cabinet filled with rubber stamps), and now I look back and wonder how I spent so much time doing it. I used to attend classes and workshops, I was on stamping forums on Delphi and Prodigy (remember Prodigy?)…I was obsessed!
I know ‘obsession’ is kind of a nasty word…some of these things could be called ‘hobbies’ or ‘creative pursuits.’ But the way I fell into most of them was rather obsessive, so I’m just owning up to it. I had my obsessive moments with musicians too – Tom Petty (I used to go to every concert he played in the Chicago area), Depeche Mode (ditto) and Toad the Wet Sprocket. (I just ran across their signatures on quilt squares that I was collecting for a Toad quilt I planned to make for myself…I actually did make the band a quilt, with squares signed by their fans and road crew, and gave it to them at the last concert they played in this area before they originally broke up…House of Blues Chicago, Dec. 31, 1997. It was actually pretty easy to get the chance to talk to them after their concerts, and I was so happy they all signed quilt squares for me! I have got to make that quilt someday soon.)
I guess my last obsession was making candles, which I started in January 2000 and ended up turning into a business by the following year. With the candle business winding down, I’m curious to see what I turn to next. It seems like I always have to have a creative outlet of some kind. I’m drawn more and more to food and cooking these days…hmmm….who knows?!