It Isn’t Just a Log …

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There’s one remaining piece of a large tree branch sitting at the back of my yard, leftover from a pile of trimmings that were cleaned up more than a year ago.  It was easily missed and I only noticed it was still there months after the job was done.  I rarely visit the back of my huge yard, except to take out the trash and that’s usually when I’m also getting ready to go somewhere else and not taking time to observe anything near the path.

This little log isn’t in my way, and the two or three times I’ve seen it laying there, I’ve thought I should pick it up and toss it but I don’t.  It’s not a priority, it doesn’t appear to be in the way of my lawn care guy – the grass is always neatly trimmed even though this log never seems to get moved.

Today while standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes I observed a man in the alley trimming a neighbour’s trees and loading pieces into a truck, and I thought about my log.  It’s out there covered in snow (until I brushed some off for the photo) and sitting above the surrounding area just enough that it’s visible from the house.  And I wondered what I could do with it; the first idea that came to mind was a cool crafty Christmas decoration, like a few I made ages ago with scrolls of the sheet music for Silent Night printed on parchment colored paper rolled up and attached to the wood with big red ribbons …

And then it happened.

You see, it doesn’t actually have to be Christmas for my mind to be swept away by all the little Christmas things that used to be part of our lives.

Before I go on, this isn’t a Christmas post in January.  It’s isn’t meant to make people feel sorry for me and I already know about and appreciate the real meaning of Christmas; this is about human experience, not religion.

When you’ve grown up with and carried over into your own family the many fun and happy experiences of nearly half a century of Christmases shared and then something changes, something goes away forever, and nothing comes into that space to bring about a new joy, there is sadness and emptiness.

Families change over years. Usually they’re growing, first with children being born and raised, then with marriages and grandchildren.  Traditions are started and passed on.  Most of the time the changes are happy ones.

I used to love getting ready for Christmas, crafting up all sorts of new things to decorate the house and make everything fun and exciting for my kids and my husband. I was the happy little Christmas homemaker!  It gave me joy to prepare and sew and bake and turn the house into a jolly space.

Of course, once our kids were grown up, some of that naturally changed and mellowed, and there are no grandchildren yet so our celebrations had already become more about fun social interaction and lots of fancy food treats than about waiting for Santa.

But now that Pat is gone, we seem to be in a strange place.  The things that used to be exciting about Christmas – getting together with family and friends, sharing meals, playing games – also happen at other times of the year that aren’t so closely associated with the big annual event that brings on emotions, stress, and at times, at least for me, confusion.

My brain wants me to remember it and to feel about it the way I always felt, but my heart seems to need a quiet, relaxed time with no pressures or expectations, no hurry, no pomp and circumstance.  I want to enjoy it, but then get on with things and not drag it out.  It’s nothing anyone else can change or fix and it doesn’t matter how many people I see or don’t see over the holidays.  Christmas comes, I laugh, I cry, and then it goes.

Obviously I do want to see my family and friends, and I’m able now to get into the spirit of Christmas to a certain extent, especially since my daughter loves to bake and decorate herself so I try to put in a good effort.  I think my son likes the meals and snacks the most and whether or not we had a tree probably wouldn’t matter to him!  But in general, I often have as much or more fun and enjoyment with them on other days of the year to which there are no strings attached.

Of course, I still want to celebrate Christmas, but it won’t ever be the same and the part of me that’s waiting for that just needs to catch up.  Some of it is middle age and learning that many of what I saw as Christmas experiences can really be enjoyed any time at all.  Some of it is the fact that our family has grown smaller rather than larger.  And some of it is because he isn’t here anymore to share it with me, with us.

So while I might have snatched up that little log and turned it into something cute several years back, I think I’m just going to let it sit there for now.  And one day, if the right idea strikes me, it will become something beautiful. It has potential and it sparks memories, so it’s already more than just a log.

Confusion!

Hi all,

After some practical considerations – which I clearly should have thought through more carefully about a week or two ago! LOL – it’s become obvious to me that I need to move My Pinterest Adventure posts about quilting over to my website after all, so I’ll be posting them regularly there and if you’ve started following them and wish to continue, please visit me at Ann Walsh Quilting

If and when I switch it up and try some of my non-quilting pins, I will post them here 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Little Things

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Yesterday marked five years since my husband’s accident.

I’m not one for paying a lot of attention to the anniversaries of sad occasions, mostly because once something like that happens there are plenty of other days all through the year when the sadness hits and I remember him with love and often tears every day of my life.

But somewhere in my mind as that date approaches it will always trigger a kind of apprehension as I find it also affects the holiday season for me because my last memories of “normal life” with him were over Christmas and New Year’s of 2012, and because that Saturday morning was spent putting away Christmas decorations before he went to work.  It was the last thing we did together on the last day that was normal; the last time I spent with him before saying goodbye and sending him off for the day that would end tragically.

So there is sadness and grief and mourning that will never end.

BUT this year, I also found myself smiling as I was reminded of some of the simplest things I enjoy now that I either didn’t like or didn’t know about before I met Pat.

I used to eat mild cheddar cheese and only mild.  Pat loved strong cheese and didn’t enjoy the mild, so I was gradually introduced to medium and then to old and eventually found my love of good strong cheese that I have today – the stronger the better.  The one stage I couldn’t get to was the blue cheese stage.  He loved it and I still can’t handle it.  But I’m grateful he got me to tolerate and then love strong cheese!

I hated yogurt and couldn’t understand why anyone would eat it, let alone grow bacteria themselves and make their own! LOL  Pat loved yogurt and ate it regularly, and when our son came along it was one of the first foods I introduced to him as a baby and he gobbled up even the plain stuff.  Yogurt was a staple in our house for Pat and both kids; eventually I tried eating some of the fruity varieties and over time I developed a taste for it.  I’ve loved it for years now, I eat it regularly, and if all I have in the house is plain and I want yogurt, I’ll make it work.

I’m sure I probably heard music from Peter, Paul and Mary at some point in my youth, but never really paid attention to them as a group. Pat knew their stuff very well – he was into totally different music than I so I was exposed to a variety of it over the years, some of which I liked and some not so much!  But Peter, Paul and Mary are, to this day, one of my very favourite groups and their music is deeply rooted in my heart.  I also learned to enjoy music from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bachman Turner Overdrive, the Eagles, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles, along with a lot of other random music that wouldn’t have been on my radar when I was single.

One of the gifts Pat gave me the first Christmas after we started dating was a mix tape he had made with songs from his collection that I got to know and enjoyed while we went for drives in his Scirocco. Today while driving on the highway, I had to smile when I chose the 70’s music station and found myself singing along.

Peanut butter was a take it or leave it thing for me until I met Pat who practically survived on peanut butter and bread!  He didn’t even need the jam.  I don’t honestly know if a day went by that he didn’t grab that snack, even well into his more recent years, and it eventually became a treat for me which isn’t always a good thing because when I get a craving for it, I’ll eat it right out of the jar on a spoon! And when I do, I think of him.

Thanks to his routines, I always remember to check my tires and my washer fluid before I head out for a long drive and I never let my gas tank get low during the winter.

And sometimes when I stop to write myself notes so I don’t forget things now that I’m middle aged, I smile when I’m reminded of how many little notes he used to write for himself even before we got married – I called them “IMP” notes, because he always wrote that at the top! – how they were spread out everywhere, and how I used to tease him about them.  But he always remembered what he was supposed to remember.

So there are many significant and beautiful memories that I carry in my heart.  But sometimes it’s the little things that come to mind that make me smile and remember how much he did for me, how much he taught me, and how much he showed me about life that I didn’t already see.

Five years ago seems like forever, and then it seems like yesterday.  Because his spirit will always be with us 🙂

 

Mom Drives (rides) Thru

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My eighty-three year old mom doesn’t get out much. Literally. She does great in her own home with everything adapted to suit her needs so she can happily putter, craft, cook and do whatever she wants to do in comfort. Going out is a pretty big deal and she doesn’t relish it for various physically inconvenient reasons, but we pack up her walker and her other accessories once in a while when we really have to go somewhere whether she likes it or not. She’s not unsociable by any means, and she usually has fun while she’s out, but understandably these activities get to be more and more like work as we get older and staying home is so much easier!

Today we have appointments in the city and these trips always include lunch. Usually we stop and go in somewhere, but after the active morning mom asks if we could just eat in the car and I’m on board with that. I have a couple of other stops to make anyway – for which she has already planned to sit and wait in the car – and I figure we can grab the food, park outside one of the stores and eat and then I’ll go in and take care of business.

So we decide on the McDonalds drive thru and here’s how it goes …

She wants a Big Mac and fries. I anticipate that she will also want milk because she always drinks milk with her lunch at home and always orders milk with her lunch in restaurants, but when I ask her if she wants milk she hems and haws and just as we pull up to the speaker and a lady starts talking to us – I hate it when people in my car aren’t ready to order when I get to the speaker! – mom says “oh, just water”. I tell her the meal comes with a drink anyway and all she wants is water? She decides to go ahead and have the milk.

So I’m ordering at the speaker and I ask for a Big Mac meal with milk. She doesn’t hear me say “meal” so while I’m trying to talk to the speaker and listen to the lady, mom’s reminding me in the background “with chips!”

I’m trying to answer the lady asking me what kind of milk mom wants, white or chocolate, and as I’m saying “white” mom says “white” and then, adamantly, “chips!” while I’m waving her off behind me so I can hear the lady through the speaker.

Then the lady asks me if there’s anything else, and I’m trying to order my own meal and mom is still going “with chips!!”

Finally when I’m done, I turn to mom (calmly , of course) and I’m like: “I asked for the meal, that means it comes with fries.”

Mom:  “I didn’t hear you say ‘meal’. I don’t know how these things work.”

So we pull ahead to pay and mom is buying lunch. I grab her big black twenty-something pocket purse from the back seat (she wanted a new one which I imported from North Vancouver for her in a lovely updated color, style, and size that she was happy with but after several months it’s still sitting brand new in her living room and we’re still hauling this mini suitcase around).

I get the money out of her wallet and then hand it to her along with her big purse (she’s already got my nice compact purse in her lap).

I pay at the window and we’re chat-laughing with the lady while she gets the change. I hand mom her change and she’s taking her time putting it away into specific compartments while she’s chatting and I tell her she needs to take it up a notch because as soon as we get up to the next window they’re going to throw the bag at us while we drive past and she won’t be ready.

She’s still fussing with her wallet and tells me again that she doesn’t know how these things work. I say well you’re in the seat that has to be ready for the bag so hurry up. Now she’s trying to get everything together in her lap while she’s laughing.

Finally when we get to the pick up window she’s ready for me to put her purse in the back seat. I take the first bag from the window lady and hand it to mom and tell her now it’s her job to look inside fast and make sure we got what we ordered, because there’s no third window up ahead and there’s another bag coming out right away.

She’s ready to slap me upside of the head and she’s huffing and scrambling to open the bag and figure out what’s in there. She starts listing it off and I’m already driving away with the other bag in my lap, laughing at her.

Me: “By the way, you don’t pull up to a burger joint these days and ask for chips.  They don’t know what the hell you mean.  If you’re at a Fish & Chips place, that’s OK, they know.  But here, they don’t know.”

Mom: “They don’t call them chips anymore?”

Me: “No, they’re fries mom.  They’ve been fries for a long time now.”

As we’re leaving the parking lot she starts getting concerned about how she’s going to hold all this in her lap and eat her meal while I’m driving.

“We’re stopping, mom. We’ll eat when we stop.”

“Oh, that’s right”, she says, “we’re stopping at the store.”

Yup, we’re stopping at the store … right before I pee my pants …

The Meltdown

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Definition of meltdown

1:  the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor

2:  a rapid or disastrous decline or collapse

3:  a breakdown of self-control (as from fatigue or overstimulation)

I’m sure everyone has their own experience of a meltdown or perhaps, like me, you’ve had a variety of them under differing circumstances.

I don’t remember using the term “meltdown” much, if at all, before the past few years of my life when it became the most descriptive word I could use to put a label on my complete losses of emotional control.  I know that only the third of the above definitions refers to emotions, but I would have to effectively combine all the above definitions into one to come close to some of my own experiences: the rapid collapse and melting of my core resulting in a breakdown of self-control.

I suppose I’ve had what would be considered meltdowns in the past, from frustration and exhaustion with a situation I was going through, people I was dealing with etc. when the stress became too much in the moment and overwhelmed me.  Sometimes throwing up your hands and screaming it out in the sanctuary of your own home is all you can do and you know it will pass but you need to get it out so you can breathe again and think a little more clearly.

I’ve also “melted down” on occasion when I’ve been afraid of something; I remember a time when I was pregnant with my first child and I got suddenly violently ill one day.  It lasted for hours and while I was leaning over the toilet, in between crying and being sick, I was praying that God wouldn’t take my baby (my mother had suffered several miscarriages and I was afraid of what was happening to me).  But there was a solution once I saw the doctor, it was just a wild stomach flu, and all was fine again as it passed.

The hardest ones are those that come from pain.  Broken heart pain.  Because there is no solution.  The pain doesn’t pass, and even when you think you’re doing pretty well, you suddenly aren’t.  There’s no situation to resolve, there’s no doctor to make it better.  And you know that once it’s over it won’t be the last.  Those are the kind of meltdowns I have now, at what seem like the silliest times, over the smallest things.  But the truth is that they aren’t over small things at all.

Broken heart pain meltdowns are always about far more than just what is happening in the moment.  They’re about everything that has happened up to that moment and about the things we cannot change or fix or make disappear.  They aren’t about moving forward or time healing.  They’re about never being able to mend a broken heart.

So today I had a trifecta meltdown.  Bet you didn’t know that was even a term, did you?  Yup, it was a frustration, fear, broken heart pain meltdown.

I was hanging some outdoor blinds.  The fact that I have to do this in order to keep the sun and heat from blasting into my house is already a frustration beyond description. I HATE SUMMER.  I hate bugs, I hate heat, I hate the sun shining directly on me.  It makes me physically ill in ways I won’t describe here in detail.  It makes me unable to concentrate or sleep properly.  There is nothing at all about it that I enjoy.  And the temp was expected to reach 24 today so I needed to get it done because after the town crew removed most of my trees last year, and until I can get a few new ones planted, the only thing keeping those UV rays from barbecuing my windows will be those outdoor sun and heat blocking blinds.  I thought I’d have time after the snow melted a few days ago to hang them before the roasting began, but alas, here we are again with no spring at all.  Just six months of annoying snow and then summer. (And no, disliking one thing doesn’t equal liking another.  It’s not the cold of winter I despise, it’s the constant, inconvenient, messy, hard work inducing snow.)

Hanging blinds is never a fun project, but I thought I could start early in the morning, take it one step at a time, go slowly so as not to fall off my ladder, and get them up before the sun got around to the front of my house.  So, with a positive attitude and feeling like I was taking care of business, I gathered my tools and extension cords, dug my ladder out of the shed, put the screws in my pocket and went to work.

I didn’t even think to spray myself with deep woods off – a blatant error on my part because I am the best insect repellent ANYONE ELSE could ever have.  Just sit next to Ann and nothing will bite YOU.  Sure enough, two minutes in, standing at the top of my ladder with my hands full, there’s a bee and mosquitoes and I’ve got a welt on my neck (insert profanity here …).

I drilled the holes I needed, climbed down, and got the bug spray.  This was the beginning of the end, although I didn’t know it just then.

Back out to move the ladder and drill the next set of holes – thankfully the blinds came with a template that you tape up first so you don’t have to do any measuring yourself, which is, incidentally, a wonderful idea that every single blind company should incorporate…

My yard isn’t level.  Anywhere.  Safely steadying a ladder is always a challenge.  After becoming annoyed with the ground under my step ladder and worried that if I leaned too much one way I would end up crashing down in some kind of twisted position that required a call to 911, I decided to haul out the extension ladder to see if I could arrange it differently and get to where I needed to go.  Got it out on the lawn and it wouldn’t extend, so after kicking it in a few places to no avail (insert more profanity here …), I grabbed the hammer and pounded one end until it moved.  Then I carried it over near the window, shifted it around a few times, and gave up because I promised myself I would not take any stupid chances.  Down went the big ladder, and I went back to the step ladder.  Once it finally settled into the ground, I managed to finish getting the first set of brackets in place on the smaller of two windows.

The next window was too long for me to tape up one end of the template and be able to grab it from the other end once I had repositioned the ladder yet again so I had to climb back down and go into the house for a “reacher” as my mom calls it.  I have one because my now deceased aunt had one and I brought it home with me “in case” I might need it to reach for something.  This might be the first time I’ve used it, although my memory in summer heat is not reliable at all.  It proved helpful once I had climbed back up the ladder and needed to reach the hanging end of the template so I could tape it up and drill the holes.

Fast forward to getting the second set of brackets screwed onto the house – nothing too interesting other than more sweat and itchy bug bites and the fact that each time I had to go back in the house, I had to face the hot sun beating down on my step as I came out of the still shady front yard.  You know how the radio always tells you the temp is different in the city than at the airport?  Well I can do that in my yard. “It’s 17 degrees at the front, and 35 degrees on the side step, watch out for those UV rays …”

I was ready to try putting up a blind, thinking that I probably had to wait for Kate (who’s been sick for a week and was at the hospital being diagnosed with pneumonia just to keep things exciting) to hold one end for me, but when I unpackaged it I found it much lighter weight than I’d imagined, so I forged ahead.  Once I had steadied the ladder in place for probably the tenth time so far – between moving it from one end of the window to another and then to the other window and so on – I climbed up, blind in hand.  Of course I couldn’t see properly to the other end to get it in properly.  I struggled with it a few times and finally gave up.

And then it happened: the rapid collapse and melting of my core resulting in a breakdown of self-control.  Everything was just suddenly, randomly, publicly wrong because I don’t have my husband and I was in tears.  And if you aren’t sure how it escalated to that point so quickly, I will tell you:

  • I was hot and tired.  I hate being outside when it’s warm and this project was taking MUCH longer than anticipated so the sun was now moving around to me. (frustration)
  • I was bombarded with fearful thoughts of how I’m going to get through the forecasted extreme hot dry summer over which I have no control and for which I have no solution because my previous successful options for cooling off have been taken away from me due to other issues. (fear)
  • I had no way to hang the stupid blinds myself.  MYSELF.  I shouldn’t have had to be out there myself.  I shouldn’t have had to try to figure this out myself.  I should have had my husband there to help me, to climb the ladder and drill the holes and screw in the brackets and put up the blind with me being the extra hand to hold the open end and tell him when it was clicked in the right place.  I have to do everything my damn self.  (pain)

And I lost it.  Randomly, suddenly, publicly, right there in my front yard over a blind.  But it wasn’t over the blind.  It was because of the broken heart pain that is always there and never goes away.  It just simmers until it boils.  And today it boiled over.  Again.  And as I stood there holding that stupid blind in my hand, staring at my house, crying like a baby, and swearing out loud because I try so hard to do things myself, to be independent and learn and build and fix, I knew it was just a blind, but it was a blind I couldn’t deal with MYSELF.

I knew I could have called someone to come and install the blind.  I could have found someone to help me for free; I could easily have paid someone to do it.  But it wasn’t about the blind.  It was about every single thing that I have to do alone, to figure out alone because he is gone.  Him.  My husband.  My extra set of hands. My strength and support.  The other half of my heart.

I was picturing myself calling my friend to please come and just hold the other end of the blind for me, but I knew I would be crying and have a hard time explaining how this simple task had me in tears.  I knew if I tried to hire someone, they probably wouldn’t be able to come right away and I wouldn’t be able to ward off the 24 degree heat this afternoon which is why I had persevered to that point already.  And then as I was making a final attempt to get it locked in place before completely giving up, my sweet neighbour lady – who, unbeknownst to me had been working in her own yard – walked over and reminded me that I probably shouldn’t be up on that ladder without someone standing by and she offered to get her own ladder so she could stand at the other end and help me.

And I was grateful.  Because that’s all it took to get the blinds up.  Five minutes of help from an extra set of hands.  She didn’t see me crying, but when I told her I was having a moment because it’s times like this that just keep reminding me my husband is gone, she gently sympathized, saying that her husband always helps her on the ladder 🙂  As it should be.

Until next time …

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Book

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Well, I finally did it – I got it all put together and printed as a book.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not, and there’s been something nagging at me for a while, since I started blogging about the story of my husband’s brain injury.

I’m just not the self-publish-and-promote-myself type of person, you know?  I’ve always figured I could just put things out there and if people wanted something, they would come for it, whether it was my music, my handmade crafts, my quilting services, or now my story.  I don’t see myself sitting somewhere selling my own book, but if someone is looking for a story, and it can help them somehow, I’m happy to share it.  I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but that’s me 🙂

So when a company that helps people get their blogs published into books found me – I didn’t even know about them until they followed my blog, which I’m sure is a great marketing strategy for them! – it seemed like the right time to get it done, to take a step.

I ordered one copy just for me, to see what it would be like to have my story in book form.  I have to say it was an overwhelming experience to hold it in my hands and read it as a book rather than a series of online posts.  We read so much online these days, but there is something more real about a book.  Hard to explain, but I’m sure book readers out there will know what I mean.  And it’s lasting.  So if the whole internet blows up one day, I will still have the book.  My family will still have the book.  Of course I have files and I could print things out on paper, but it’s not the same as a real book.

So here it is, the story from start to finish – or at least to Pat’s finish line.  I’ve already had inquiries about ordering copies for others in my local area, so I’m placing orders in bulk and if anyone is interested, please contact me.  The company is in Europe, they ship quickly, and they set the base prices, so no, regardless of what you pay, I’m not going to get rich!  In fact, because of the quality of the paper they use the price is higher than you might expect so adding anything for me just seems like too much.  But that’s OK because I never did it to make money.

I did it for personal reasons; it was therapeutic, and it’s the kind of thing I wished I had found to relate to when I was in the middle of it all.  And it’s also for Pat because through it he will be remembered in a concrete way and he would want to help others by its being shared. And while he will always be remembered by us and others who knew and loved him, somehow a book seems concrete; who knows where it can travel to, whose hands it might end up in down the road, or who it could help even years from now?  Books are lasting and often carry with them their own stories apart from their actual contents.  There’s always a story “of” a book as well as the story within it.  Each reader will have their own 🙂

 

To Read, Perchance to Dream …

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I actually cashed in some Chapters/Indigo Plum Rewards on the weekend.

No big deal for a lot of people, and you’re probably wondering why I would even mention it.

But for me, this is monumental.

As a child I loved books. I read many, so many in fact that part of the explanation for my eyesight changing rapidly during those younger years was the amount of time I spent reading books.  I had an aunt who loved books and every gift she gave us included books.  Whenever she cleaned out her own library, we got more books.  Thanks to her love of reading, my own children inherited many classic collections.

I don’t remember when I shifted from reading to other pass times while making sure that my children had lots of books and that I read to them often, usually daily.  Even as an adult, I enjoyed children’s books, and I found particular ones especially entertaining.  But I had lost my own desire to read for fun and found that I only picked up a book when I wanted to learn about something or someone, finding non-fiction to be my genre of choice.  That is, when I actually did read something, which wasn’t often at all.

My daughter has been an avid reader and book lover all her life.  I’ve spent a lot of time with her in book stores over the years, me perusing the non-fiction while she got lost in the wonderful land of dreams.  I envied her on more than one occasion; I wished that I could lose myself in a good book for a quiet afternoon or weekend, that I could experience the anticipation of getting home from work or some other activity and settling in to find out what happened in the next chapter of a book that had captured my interest.  Many snowy and rainy days I watched her curl up with a coffee and a blanket and enter another world for hours on end and wished I could do the same.

I love the smell of books.  I love the look and feel of the paper in the ones that have uneven edges.  I DO judge books by their covers and there are some really cool ones that even have raised designs on them!  I love to be in bookstores.

But I’ve always felt a bit sad that I didn’t actually love reading.  Any rewards I built up over the years were the result of purchases made at Christmas for my book loving girl 🙂

And then it happened.

I was standing over a book display while Kate searched for something to add to her library – and she does have a library such that when she still lived at home we had to keep close track of the value of her book collection in our home insurance records – and I was so  frustrated by my lack of interest in reading.  I just wanted to read, to be “a reader”.  I felt left out of a huge world of wonder.  I wanted to go home that day with something I could curl up in a chair with and lose myself in for a few hours.  I knew that was what she was going to do!

So I picked up a couple of books that looked interesting and read the summaries on the inside covers, checked with Kate to make sure she didn’t know of anything particularly bad about them (I cannot handle horrific or bloody themes, or graphic sexual content!) and I settled on a couple with themes from the second world war era which has always caught my attention; one was a true story.  I started to feel excited, I made my purchase, and I came home, got settled, and started reading.

Don’t laugh, but that was just two weeks ago and I’m now finishing my fifth novel, having ordered three more online last week and picking up two at Indigo on Saturday, taking advantage of the rewards I have collected buying my daughter books!

Now when I go to the bookstore with her I’m no longer just enjoying the atmosphere and feeling like I’m missing something.  I’m part of it now.  I’m searching for stories that will take me away to other lands, other places in time, and I’m anticipating getting home where I can cozy in and read.  I’m totally enjoying it and thankful that I’ve finally found my way back to being a reader!

For now, I will sign off, as I simply must go and find out what actually happened to The Woman in Cabin 10 …

 

 

Which Santa comes to your house?

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One day in the future, when people (Ok, maybe just my own kids…) look back on things I have written, they will see that I somehow – and unintentionally – ended up with an annual Christmas rant.  It’s not like I plan these things; it’s really just too easy with the material I’m given to work with.

This morning I stumbled upon a post on social media that involved a parent seeking a professional gift wrapper she could pay to wrap the Santa gifts and write out the tags for her kids because they knew what her own wrapping style looked like.  Yes, I read it twice.

Pause… Breathe … Regroup.

(If you really suck at gift wrapping, go ahead and pay others to do it if you must.  Or if you have a need for all your gifts to look like Martha Stewart wrapped them, you are entitled to that.  I’m addressing the idea of having to go this route because of a situation created that could have been avoided altogether.)

Now I’m not going to tell anyone how to do their Santa thing in their own family because that’s everyone’s own business.  (I do have some opinions about how some of what you might choose to do affects other children, but that’s in another post already…)

If you enjoy running around like a headless chicken for the month of December embellishing with ever increasing fervor the commercialized and over active Santa Claus of 2016 – in between trying to find new and exciting ways for your shelf elf to appear on each of twenty-four busy mornings and hoping the comparisons done by children will rate your efforts worthy – then you just go for it and have fun!

However, when people share their complaints about stress during the holiday season, and then talk about things like having to buy special paper just for Santa gifts – or in the above case, actually paying someone else to wrap and write on tags – I have to ask what the heck you are thinking getting yourselves into this mess.

I think that once you have to start farming out your Santa duties because you can’t fake out your own kids anymore, you’ve dug your hole too deep and maybe it’s just time to  fess up already.  Why didn’t you just start with unwrapped Santa gifts the first year?

But now you’re paper committed; it starts with having to buy special paper every year and hiding it strategically, hoping the kids don’t see it, because if they do, you’ll have to take it back to the store and exchange it for new stuff (true story from a retail clerk).  Then they start to recognize your wrapping style.  What a bummer! No chance at all that these uber observant probably borderline genius kids you’re trying to fool just might have heard something in the air about Santa not being real?

(I don’t believe my adult children – after 28 and 30 years – would be able to pick my own wrapping out of a pile unless they knew which paper I used, but perhaps they missed out on that gene.)

It’s too late for many.  But for what it’s worth – from my life experience and subsequent observations – here’s my unsolicited advice for new parents contemplating the variety of options:

KEEP IT SIMPLE FROM THE START.  Seriously.  Your kids will still have lots of fun and you won’t get migraines.  They don’t need a lot of extra balderdash to make Christmas special. They will come to appreciate what YOU make it, and what society says won’t matter if YOU don’t care.

Tell your kids about the REAL SANTA, not the fake one.  It’s so much easier to deal with over time and it teaches your kids to share and to give.  The real Santa lived hundreds of years ago – St. Nicholas – and he did deliver presents to kids, and everything we do now under the name of fake Santa actually started with him, but it’s gone far beyond a kind and loving gesture.  It’s turned into a commercial cash grab and parents are jumping down the rabbit hole every time something new comes along.  Why embellish?  Why build on lie after lie until you can no longer find enough ways to keep it going any longer?  Why not just tell the truth up front and have fun with it and let everyone enjoy sharing in the spirit of Santa?

Kids like suspense and anticipation. You decide what they’ll be waiting for at Christmas.

Will it be some guy in a red suit who delivers big expensive gifts to some kids and no gifts at all to others?  The guy who actually visits some homes in person but never visits others, or who phones certain children to chat while others never hear from him?  The guy who after many decades now needs to depend on stuffed elves to keep track of kids and entertain them for a month before he comes himself?  The guy who painstakingly wraps gifts for certain kids in special paper they’ve apparently never seen anywhere else while simply tossing the gifts of other kids under the tree as if he had no time left to decorate those?  This 21st century Santa is no longer the wonderful character of old fashioned movies.  He’s probably in therapy trying to keep up with the parents of today.

Will it be the guy you have to explain about every year because the rules keep changing, society is constantly upping the ante, and nobody wants to feel left out of the excitement that is supposed to be about making kids happy rather than competitive and greedy?

Or will you have your kids wait for the special surprises that will be left for them by loving family members who are carrying on the tradition started by a real person of playing Santa to make others feel happy and loved?  No lies to cover up, no extravagant commercial trends to keep up with, just the spirit of Santa Clause that lives on in truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passage of Time

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Does anyone else ever find themselves thinking, in a philosophical sense, “how did I get to be this old?”  Of course, I expect that everyone ponders this question and I do realize that I’m not as old as some who will be reading this, but that’s not the point.

I was daydreaming today while out for my walk (which isn’t a great idea when there’s a skiff of snow on the sidewalk, but I managed not to slip while lost in my thoughts …) and thinking about my aging body, mobility etc. and I wondered how it is that I’m over fifty.

What is “fifty” anyway? Or fifty-one?  What does it mean?

I remember when I was a child looking towards the turn of the century, thinking about how far away it was and that I’d be a whole thirty-five years old by then (I think I was probably about ten at the time).  It was so far away.  But it came and went and is now almost seventeen years behind us.

I also remember thinking that if my parents remained in good health, based on their ages when they had me I would probably be over forty when I had to face losing one or both of them and that by then I would be a fully grown, experienced and wise adult who could handle that loss (of course as a child you know that you would be lost without your parents, but being over forty is beyond imagination).  I’ve since learned that you are never “old enough” to lose a parent.

I have children who are older now than I was when I got married; older than I was when I had them.

But sometimes in my mind, I am still young; I’m still the child, the newlywed, the young mother until I look around me and realize that everything has changed.

It makes me think of all we learn about our souls being immortal while our bodies age and deteriorate and I wonder if that’s why this happens in my mind sometimes, as my thoughts move through my life’s experiences frame by frame.  Maybe it is precisely that eternal, spiritual, intangible part of me that sometimes sees it all as if it were one big event outside of the constraints of time.

I am just me, I’ve always been me, and I’m not sure that there is a fifty-one-year-old me or a “me” of any other age anywhere along the way.  Is that why it’s sometimes difficult to grasp the passing of time?  Because it’s really only the body that is aging while the spirit is free to exist in any moment of time that has already passed by merely remembering?

The mind is a tricky thing, storing every moment in a pile of moments that often seem to blend together in a way that makes it seem as though any one of them could be right now.  Memories come back with flooding emotions and suddenly I can be right there in that place, feeling whatever I felt at that time, but experiencing it right now in the present.

Changes in our bodies mark time.  Calendars mark time. Seasons mark time.

But sometimes I think our innermost selves exist outside of time in a realm we cannot possibly understand, even though we are sometimes allowed to see just enough to be left wondering …

What is fifty anyway?  Or fifty-one?

 

Accept Your Limitations

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Readers will already know that I agree with Dr. Laura nine times out of ten.  But even if you don’t, there are some things that I believe are universally helpful, and something she talked about recently inspired me to share.

The original line she referred to was from a Dirty Harry movie in which Clint Eastwood said. “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

She talked about how we all have borders, so to speak, the edges that at the same time outline the area between things we really aren’t good at and things we excel at and show us our limits.

She gave the example of some people being built for effective sports competitions while others might train and work hard yet never be as good as another who is naturally gifted in that area.  She talked about accepting our limitations and not comparing ourselves to others, which leads to unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment.

I’ve heard these things before, but sometimes when one person puts it in a slightly different way, it’s more effective.  I liked the way she presented the idea of looking at our limitations as a way of determining how to get the most out of our lives in order to be happy.  Here’s a synopsis:

There are things we’re really good at

We should do them as well as we can and enjoy the fact that we’re good at them, without always wishing we were better or as good as another at doing them.

There are things we’re only so-so at doing

We should do them as well as we can without always wishing we were as good at them as we are at doing the things we’re really good at doing.

There are things we just suck at doing BUT …

If we enjoy the process or the activity, we should still do those things and enjoy the parts we can enjoy rather than never doing them just because we can’t be really good at doing them, or as good as someone else is at doing them.

I think most of us tend to avoid doing things we aren’t good at and focus on doing things we do well but spend our time wishing we were even better at doing them.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive for improvement along the way because that’s part of the journey and the enjoyment, as long as it still allows us the ENJOYMENT.  But if that constant striving somehow prevents us from actually enjoying where we are and what we’re doing, it’s an obstacle to our happiness, not a tool for our betterment.

This made me think of my own real life examples, how I spend my time, and how I see my limitations in my own mind.  The following activities aren’t the only things that could fit within my borders, but this is just a blog post, not a novel…

So, without trying to sound boastful, I’ll start with what  I’m good at, free motion quilting.

My quilting hobby has sort of taken on a life of its own.  I started out knowing nothing about it, found myself enjoying it, did what I could with what I knew, and then wanted more.  I ventured into different areas to see what I liked, tried some techniques and styles that I loved and some that I didn’t enjoy at all, and have found my niche in a vast world of quilting ideas.  I’ve learned many new things along the way from fabulous quilters and teachers and I admit that at first, I had trouble looking at my work without comparing it to theirs.  I wanted to be able to do what they do, the way they do it. Others would compliment me on what I was doing, but I was focussed on mistakes and imperfections, always wishing I could do something more.

Then I discovered that even though I admired various stitching patterns and could practice them and get them pretty much the way I wanted them to look, I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing them.  I found that others were turning out a little differently than the ideas I was trying to imitate but still looked lovely.  I think this is when I started to realize that we each have our own style of stitching and even if we’re trying something that we’ve seen someone else do, no matter how well we do it, it will still turn out differently because it will have our unique touch.  Quilting is very much about how our brain learns, interprets and executes our stitching.  Our hands are tools.

I’ve also discovered that working within my own abilities and limitations (aging eyes, shoulders/back/neck strain, table size etc.) is where I am now and whatever I can develop within that area is great, and there is always room for improvement within that limited area, but if I were to spend time dreaming of being able to do something that is outside those limitations it would stop me from enjoying what I do.  I could bemoan the fact that even what I am doing now causes me pain in various parts of my body and wish that I had learned at a younger age so that I could have perhaps done different things or be even better at it with more years of practice behind me, but why bother?  I’m enjoying it now, as it is 🙂

I’m not interested in becoming a famous quilter, or a designer or even a competitor.  I just love to quilt and some people buy my quilts and that’s great!  Yes, others who are well known and competing get higher prices for their quilts, but they are also in a place where I don’t think I would be comfortable, and a lot of time is spent traveling, teaching, writing books etc.  I just want to quilt 🙂

I’m not going to buy a bigger house to have a dedicated room for a long arm quilting machine that would allow me to make bigger quilts and not have to sandwich them on the floor (the biggest advantage I can see).  Yes, it would open up new possibilities perhaps, but my physical limitations would still come into play because I couldn’t stand all day at the machine (currently I use a sit down long arm) and there would be a large learning curve going from manipulating the fabric under the needle to manipulating the machine itself  along a track all over the stationary quilt, and while I’m sure with time I would learn, that is time I would have to take away from actually DOING what I now enjoy doing: quilting!  AND I have no need to make huge quilts; I’m happy making lap quilts/throws that accent homes and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time because I get bored quickly and am eager to move on to the next project.  So working within my limitations allows me to do what I love doing, using what I have available to me, whether it’s equipment or physical mobility.

I’m only so-so at photography.

I like the idea of taking great photos and I’ve often wished I could master a technical camera; I have a pretty decent one and I’ve taken a course to find out about all of the settings and features I could put to good use (didn’t complete it).  But I discovered that I really didn’t enjoy all the ins and outs of technical photography and am actually more interested in the photo editing side; I like working on the computer and I would like to learn more about photoshop so that when I take a basic picture I can have fun messing around with it.  But again, this is a so-so area for me.  Learning a program like photoshop takes time and perseverance and I’d rather be quilting.  But I still play with it once in a while when I want to make a poster or design a logo or a picture collage or make something look cool for my website.  I’m not intending to become a photoshop guru.  I don’t aspire to have a photography business.  And I’ve found that my new iPhone camera is pretty cool all on its own and there are classes even for that one so I can stay in an area of basic picture taking that satisfies my own curiosity and needs.  it doesn’t upset me at all that I’m not mastering the fancy camera sitting on my shelf; I can do a few neat things with it when I want to and that’s good enough.

I suck at sports.

I’ve never been athletic.  I remember being signed up for softball as a child because my dad took my brother to registration night and I was along for the ride.  My brother wanted to play ball and I think I must have asked to play because I was caught up in the moment.  I have vivid memories of being in the field and having the ball rolling on the ground towards me and trying to use the method the coach showed us for stopping a grounder.  I sucked at throwing the ball, so I hated it when the ball came to me and I was then responsible for getting it to the right person to complete a play.

My family golfed, and I eventually tried golfing because they were doing it all summer and when they weren’t golfing, they were talking about golfing, so I figured that if I wanted to be part of it I would have to go.  I hated it.  And I’m pretty sure they felt the same way about having me along because I hated being hot and having the sun on me, I hated the endless walking (in my case, back and forth across the fairway, in and out of the trees), the bugs, being lousy at hitting the ball, and I complained…a lot.  It has been suggested that I think of it as a nice walk in nature that happens to involve hitting a ball along the way.  I prefer to think of it as enduring torture because I get lunch at the end.  Over the years I’ve tried here and there and I still suck and I hate it (although I did go once with a friend and hit some good shots, but the enjoyment was the friend time, not the golfing!). I might get a bit better at it if I really worked hard, but I don’t care.

However, as Dr. Laura suggests, we still shouldn’t completely avoid things we aren’t good at if there is some enjoyment in it for us.  We just need to focus on the part we like and allow ourselves to have that without being upset that we suck.  So I’m perfectly willing to meet people at the nineteenth hole for a yummy lunch and a visit!  I will play a game of soccer with a fun group of people just for fun, and I wouldn’t even mind playing baseball with no pressure because having fun with people you enjoy being around is a good thing.  I will never be an Olympian and I’m OK with that.

I also agree with what Dr. Laura said about a lot of this understanding coming with age and life experience.  But she also hopes that younger people might listen and learn so that they can get there sooner than many of us did.  I hope so too 🙂

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(If you want to see an inspiring example of what happens when people embrace their limitations and work within them, check out this video on youtube that I came across just this morning.)