Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Unlikely Christmas Story

Do you remember the theme song from the movie MASH? It was a song called "Suicide is Painless". It's not.

On Thanksgiving Day our family and friends all gathered at my daughter's house for a wonderful feast. Her housemate, Stephani, had done the bird, and I can honestly say I have never had a turkey that was more perfectly done. She had done a salt brine on the inside of it and then a rub with wonderful herbs and spices. We were all up and happy that day, with lots of laughter.

Stephani has spent the past two Christmas Days with our family. Her family is all in Tennessee, so she opted to stay in Seattle and celebrate with us. I made her a Christmas Stocking at the same time as I made the ones for my son-in-law and his sweet daughter. My daughter and her husband and Stephani had talked about what games to bring with them this year for that after-dinner, after-presents lull.

On December 10, 2009, Stephani ended her life. She researched it thoroughly and found a way that would be fairly easy. She timed it so that she knew none of her housemates would be home until that night. And at about 11 am she left this life.

This event has blown apart everyone whose life Steph touched. All of us who loved her - and still do - are left feeling shocked, angry, betrayed, hurt, and deeply saddened. She very effectively hid what was going on inside her from all of us - even those with whom she lived.

She left all of her belongings to the young man who she knew would be the one who found her. She left letters for the other housemates, but no explanations as to why she chose to do this.

There was no way to have our usual Christmas just two weeks after this happened. So this year, I bought an artificial tree with fiber optic lights and place plain silver balls on it instead of our usual hodge-podge of ornaments. My husband and I decided that we wanted to have food that was totally unlike what we usually have for our feast too. We decided on Asian food. We had Butter Chicken and nan, and Mongolian beef and pea pods with water chestnuts for our main meal. We had crab rangoon, coconut shrimp and pot stickers for appetizers. We had that wonderful chicken and coconut soup with the lemon grass and cilantro as our second course. And for dessert we had a rice dish with nutmeg, cinnamon and coconut milk that was sweet and lovely.

Maybe next year we will be able to go back to some of our traditions . . . but I think none of us had the heart to do it this year.

Stephani - wherever you are, I hope that you are at peace. I love you and always will. And damn it, I'm going to miss your laugh.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No means No

Painting by Titian of Tarquinius' son raping L...Image via Wikipedia

My daughter and I had an interesting conversation about something that had come up between her and her husband. Her husband was trying to take her picture in the car. She didn't want him to do this. He did it anyway.

Later, she told a third party about this. The woman said, "why did you not want your picture taken?" She said, "because when I look at pictures of myself, they don't look like I feel, so I don't like to see them. They make me feel bad about myself. So I don't like it when people take my picture."

The woman turned to my son-in-law and asked, "Why did you insist on taking her picture when she was telling you not to?" He said, "Well, I was teasing her . . . it's kind of like when the little boy pulls the little girl's pigtail. The girl says she doesn't like it, but it makes her know that he likes her."

The woman said, "Women do not like to have their hair pulled. And that piece of thinking that you just described is the reason that we are living in a culture where rape and abuse happen to women. When a woman says "No," it means "No."

I thought about this for a long time after my daughter told me about it. These are the things I feel about it.

1) I hate the fact that my daughter feels the way she does about having pictures taken. I completely understand it, because I feel much the same way. But I hate it anyway. She is a beautiful young woman and I wish she recognized that in the photographs she sees of herself.

2) Her husband is one of the sweetest young men I have had the pleasure to know. He was raised with a whole bunch of sisters, so you would think he has a better understanding of women than most men have. And yet he still believes that teasing is fun. Has teasing ever been fun? If you are the teaser, it's like being a bully and that can't be fun. And if you are the teased, you are the victim and that's not fun.

3) When and why did boys learn that when girls say "no" it means "yes?" And why don't men realize that if they learned that somewhere along the way, it was erroneous? When these men were little boys and their mother said "no," didn't they recognize that she meant "no?" If a man is working for a woman and she says "no," he knows that it means "no." So can men accept a serious "no" from a woman who has more power than them, but not from women who don't have that kind of power?
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

The escapades of Dutchy and Buster

Squat outhouse (i.e.Image via Wikipedia

My mother came from a family of four kids - two boys and two girls. There father worked for the railroad, so they travelled around the northern Midwest while they were growing up. Places like Minneapolis, Superior, WI, and Marquette, MI were their homes. Mother was the third born, with one brother and her sister being older. Her younger brother was very close to her in age (about 11 months I think) and he was the one she was always closest to in her family.

When the two of them would get together as adults, I would hear stories about the time they found a rowboat tied up in the dead river, so they stole it and made it their transportation to go out to a small island in the middle of the river where they could drink beer while underage and fish to their hearts' content. Later when their newly acquired boat was stolen from them, they were irate and felt that it was completely unfair - never thinking about the fact they had done exactly the same thing to someone else.

Another thing they used to love to do was hop freight trains. They would just ride them for a few stops and then get off and catch another one going back in the direction of home. It was just an act of a couple of kids who were looking for fun and adventure and were clueless about their own mortality - as are we all in our youth.

They were growing up in the depression, so they made their fun in ways that didn't require money. Sometimes when they would jump off the freight trains, before they could catch one back home they would find themselves starving. My Uncle was a handsome kid (became a handsome man) so he would approach people's houses to ask if there was anything he could do to earn some food. If he got a chore, mom would help him complete it quickly and then he would share whatever food he received with her as they made their way back to the tracks and headed home.

When they were very young, one time they decided to ski off the top of the roof of the house. They found appropriately long pieces of wood and strapped them onto their feet. Well, they didn't think about where the trajectory of their flight would carry them, so they sailed off the roof only to land atop the outhouse, which was occupied at that moment by their strict German father. Needless to say, Grandpa was not amused, and their skiing days were over.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Blame Game

Illustration of a scribe writingImage via Wikipedia

Trying to keep a journal has always been a challenge for me. I would start out with this beautiful blank book and go great guns for a while, writing about books I was reading, reflections on how things from those books applied to my life, what things were happening in my kids' lives, expressing feelings about people in my past or current day-to-day life. Then one day I wouldn't write in it - and suddenly a month had gone by with no entries. In this, like everything else, I seem to be really good at starting, but not so good at finishing things.

Today I will throw the blame for this deep character flaw of mine squarely on the shoulders of my parents. Perhaps if I had done something like learn to play an instrument, and they had made me stick with it even when I fussed and said, "I don't wanna," I would have learned how to discipline myself regarding seeing things through. My parents were always otherwise occupied. They didn't have the time or the inclination to press things in this manner. I started learning to play the violin in grade school, but neither of my parents showed the slightest inclination toward making me practice. And when I WOULD practice, my older sisters would all complain about the noise until I stopped. So much for playing the violin. I'd climb the tree in the back yard with a book stuck inside the waistband of my pants, and read until someone called me back in to eat dinner. That seems to be the one thing that I required no encouragement to do - read, (although I guess noone ever encouraged me to climb trees either, but I did that as often as I could).
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ah, those crazy French

Paris Exposition: Champ de Mars and Eiffel Tow...Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr

Cleaning my bedroom today, I stumbled onto photographs my daughter and I took when we were in Paris. There is one shot that truly gave me pause. It had the same effect on both of us when we took it in the first place. It's a photograph of the American Embassy in Paris - but the thing that is noteworthy is that the steps in front of it are completely covered in socks. Both my daughter and I were completely perplexed by this scene. We assumed it was meant as some sort of protest - but had no idea what was being protested against or why.

While I was thinking about Paris, I also reflected on recent news I had heard. Apparently after Michail Jackson died, there were a large number of his fans outside Notre Dame Cathedral. What I heard on the news was that a crowd had gathered and they were "moonwalking" around the cathedral. It seemed like such a strange juxtaposition to me - the celebrity of Michael Jackson and the somber nobility of Notre Dame - strange bedfellows, as the saying goes.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

walking and quilting - not simultaneously

JournalImage by fiveforefun via Flickr

Went walking with some women this morning first thing in an attempt to get my required exercise in before I was fully conscious. Mall walking is good if it's raining or too cold & windy to enjoy being out of doors in the elements. I saw all sorts of people in the mall this morning. There were elderly couples - who might feel more sure footed on an even walking surface. There were a couple of people who seemed to be training for fast walking races. There were some who were out there for a leisurely stroll.

It's actually pretty pleasant to be in the mall before any of the stores are open. There aren't crowds milling about that you have to either wait for or get around. I tend to avoid shopping malls as much as possible usually because I don't enjoy being in groups that large.

On the other hand, if I am attending Sew Expo or the Houston Quilt Show, I don't seem to even be aware of the crowds for the most part. My attention is focussed on the fabrics, the quilts, the beauty of the things surrounding me and not on the people in those instances. I have only attended the Houston show once but would love the opportunity to do it again. There were incredible quilts of all sizes and descriptions, made by women (and some men) all over the world. Some of the pieces I found particular interesting were the small quilts that were called Journal Quilts.

The idea is that you make one quilt each week (or in some cases each day) that somehow shows what is going on in your life at the time it's made. Some people begin that kind of series when they are confronted with a difficult passage in their lives - an illness in the family or a death of a dear friend, something of that magnitude. They find a way to work through the feelings they are experiencing while creating something that will be meaningful for them always.
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks NYE2005Image by Mr Magoo ICU via Flickr

Fourth of July was kind of a fizzle of July for me this year. It was way too hot for my taste. We went to an open house at a friend's new home and then came back home and listened to all the popping and cracking that always accompanies this particular holiday. I did a few water color washes to use as backgrounds for some ATCs and called it a night.

I'm currently reading David Guterson's The Other. It is set in the beautiful northwest (like his Snow Falling on Cedars) and the landscape is lush and green - the aspects which make me love living out here in the Seattle area. I am hoping to get over to the Olympic Peninsula this summer. I have never gone all the way to the coast on the peninsula, so I would love to see the Hoh River.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Victory Gardens were a little too early for my awareness.

However, our next door neighbors always had a huge garden where they grew lots of vegies, but also strawberries and raspberries - which were delicious right off the bush while they were warm from the sun.

They had a number of sons in the family though, and their sons were always out digging the weeks from the garden. I don't have sons, or daughters who are willing to help with that kind of work. My husband doesn't do it either. There was only one year when I had a good vegie garden - in Illinois when I was pregnant for our first child. I grew brocolli, carrots, beets and zuchini. We also had two wonderful peach trees in our yard which I would dry for my daughter to chew on home-made fruit leather.

This year, my flower gardens have gone completely untended, due to my arms being injured. They are overrun with weeds I'm afraid.

I'm sending my daughter and her new husband to Italy for their delayed honeymoon. The plan is that they will go in either October or in January. They will see Rome, Florence and Venice. David has never been there, so Emily will enjoy showing him the places she knows and they will find more together I'm sure.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

creativity snafoo

Six pages of this little zine seemed to come together fairly rapidly and smoothly. Now the last two blank spaces are staring me down. I seem to be in some kind of creativity black hole. Q'est que c'est?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

swap-bot and trades

Today I finished up a swap called "getting to know you". It basically involved writing a two page letter telling my partner about myself. It felt kind of self-indulgent to me when I was writing it, but I know that when I received the one from my other partner, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Hopefull this woman will find mine as interesting.

I have just finished a little thing called a "button fairy" for another trade. Today I went out and bought a box so that I can send it without it gettting damaged en route. It was fun to try my hand at something new and she turned out really cute - I would be happy to receive her. That's sort of the way I guage the things I make for these trades. If I would be happy to receive what I make, then I can send it on confident that the person receiving it will be happy with it too. That is one of the things I have enjoyed about the trades in Swap-bot. They have enboldened me to try making some things I had never done before.

I'm currently working on a zine for another trade in that group, and I'm enjoying the process involved in creating that. I have received zines from a few people before and I always think they are pretty cool little snippets of where the person is at when they compose them. I'm finding that it isn't easy to do them though. Since it's in writing and it'll be out there in the world, I want it to be good. It is supposed to be eight pages long, but the host of the swap wants them bigger than you would get from a single page of 8 1/2 X 11 inch paper, so I've made it out of two pieces and will staple the end result together.

physical therapy

I've been in physical therapy for tendonitis in my lower arms since April. Today was my last scheduled session and I am glad to be done with it. The PT clinic I've been going to is very good, with friendly, professional staff on board, but I'm just tired of the routine of having to go into the clinic twice every week to deal with this.

The tendonitis is much improved, and I've been much more careful at work to try to not complicate the problem. I will continue that plan of action, along with the strengthening exercises the PT people gave me to do . . . and hope I don't have any repeat of the pain I was dealing with in April.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Welcome to my blogsite. Come in and get comfy.

I'm not quite sure what purpose I want this blog to serve for me at this point. I'll set out on my journey and share the things I see and find. Feel free to make a comment anytime.

Right now I have a lot of things going on in my life that aren't usual. My husband is in a profound depression and is temporarily off work because he cannot function in his job in the state of mind he is in.

I recently injured my arms - tendonitis - badly enough that I had to take a month away from my job just to rest them and work with a physical therapist toward getting them better. They are much improved, but I am being very careful at work not to reinjure them. Because of my arms being injured, I have done no yard work this year. My daffodils and irises have been beautiful - but you couldn't see them for the dandelions I'm afraid. I have also stayed away from sewing or making anything since I didn't want to make matters any worse than they were.

I'm looking forward to getting started on some new projects soon, and to finishing up the few ufo's that stare at me each time I walk into my sewing room.