Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dawn of a New Year

Dawn on the Palouse

I captured this photo when Dale and I drove south to Moscow to pick Julie up before Christmas. We left in the dark, and watched Idaho come to life as the sun rose over the snow-covered wheat fields.

All Things are Passing

What better way to walk through the final door of one year
and into the next.

Peace to you in the New Year.
~ Margaret

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Dance: Redwork Penguin Towel

I finished this redwork pattern a couple days ago.
It's a holiday kitchen towel that I made for my daughter Julie.
Penguins are her favorite!


I love his little fat belly
and his stubby round tail.


Now ... smile for the camera!
I want a nice portrait.

Click on the images to see larger versions.
Or read a few extra details in Cameo's Corner in my Stitcher's Studio.

Sunday Secrets: December 30, 2008

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

Frank took a week off, so no new secrets were posted on the American site last Sunday. Following are a few secrets posted well over a year ago (I found a treasure trove in another fan's photo gallery). I thought I'd share a few today.

Yes, I realize it's Tuesday. I'm on vacation ... this whole WEEK feels like a lazy Sunday afternoon.


In high school, the guy I asked to the 'girl date' dance was gay. I didn't know. I didn't know what "gay" was! So naive. I asked him because he was smart and funny. We had fun. I've always fallen for the smart and funny guys.


I've attended a LOT of funerals. I used to be 'the funeral singer' ... you know, sorta like a Wedding Singer, only I specialized in funerals. One thing about funerals ... people's defenses are down and they show their true colors. When celebrating a life, there is usually as much laughter as tears. I love that.

When I laughed at my mom's funeral, I got a scathing look from one of my brothers. I didn't really care. My experience told me that I was acting appropriately. I was showing my true colors. Was he?



Thank you for adopting my two oldest girls!


As a kid, I watched adults, looking for the ones I could use as role models. I especially watched married couples. There was a lot about my own parents' marriage that I didn't want to emulate. I was blessed enough to find two couples from church that showed me another way. That's the kind of marriage I now have.


Yes. Yes, I am. ;)

Closing Out the Year


Normally, at this time of year I start re-writing my lists.

I love lists.
Have I mentioned that before?

I don't do New Year's "Resolutions" so much as give myself a set of goals. They usually come in categories like ... Home Improvements ... Books to Read ... Stitchery Projects ... New Crafts to Try ... Dragons to Slay.

Over the years, I've found that though I still enjoy projecting these ideals by committing them to paper, it works a bit better for me to catalog my goals and achievements as I go along. Life takes many twists and flips, so it's usually not practical to have the same goals at the beginning of the year as what life presents as the months unfold.

If I steadily build my list of my goals and achievements week by week, when I get to the end of December I get to see the good I've done rather than be swallowed up in discouragement for the plans that I made but didn't see through to completion.

In this light, my lists of ideals and hopes becomes more of a list of possibilities and dreams than a To Do List that stares me down and dares me to finish. Those kinds of lists always leave me feeling like what I've done is just not enough. Those kinds of lists leave me full of doubt and regret.

And what good are those kinds of regrets? I have them, then kick myself. I've chosen to refrain from doing that as much as possible.

Regrets don't help anything.
Now, I know that.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Macro Monday - Christmas Elf


Macro Monday is easy to play,
snap a macro (or close-up) photo,
post it on your blog
then go to Lisa's Chaos and sign Mr Linky.




The Christmas Elf

I made this stocking for a gift exchange.
It holds a bottle of sparkling cider
and an invitation to lunch.


She started out flat, of course.
I stitched her on a muslin towel,
then sewed her into shape.

She's a sweetie.
As is her dolly.


Who couldn't love a face like that?
[Complete with purple smudges from the tracing
that hadn't evaporated yet.]
I like to think she got into the grape jelly.

She a darling, all right ...
All the way down to her toes!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mom

Today marks eleven years since Mom died.
Those places she touched my life,
those myriad places,
remain tender.

I love you, Mom.
I miss you today.












Emily Codispoti

1997

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Dance: Redwork Elf Stocking

Here's the other Christmas gift I finished. I found this cute pattern through my wanderings through blogland. This pattern is from Wee Wonderfuls.

I made it for the gift exchange at my Quilters group. I'm very pleased with the outcome.

Click on the image to see a larger version of the stocking and read a few extra details in Cameo's Corner in my Stitcher's Studio.

Happy Dance: No Cats Doorhanger

Now that the Christmas gifts have been received, I can post a couple more finishes.

This little banner gets slipped over a doorknob, reminding Kira to stay out of the bedroom! I made this for my married daughter.

Click on the image to see a larger version of the doorhanger or read a few extra details in Cameo's Corner in my Stitcher's Studio.

Beautiful You

I found this quote on the FOUND website.
It appeals to me.
We do create a heck of a lot of our own reality,
Especially the reality between our ears.
I strive to craft beauty and creativity there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gnaw on This


I do that. Take things in. Ruminate on them. Hold them for, perhaps, longer than they deserve to be held.

I can find myself zoning out when someone talks to me, pondering some part of a sentence they said previously. Turning the idea over and over.

I understand this passage on a visceral level.

I suppose this blog is one way to put down some of those held thoughts so that I don't have to keep gnawing on them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Macro Monday - Christmas Ornaments


Macro Monday is easy to play,
snap a macro (or close-up) photo,
post it on your blog
then go to Lisa's Chaos and sign Mr Linky.



On the Christmas Tree


We set up our Christmas tree this afternoon. Taking the tissue paper off each ornament is a precursor to Christmas morning, each ornament a renewed gift to oooooo and ahhhhhhh over. Most of our ornaments are handmade by me and the girls.

The graceful beaded spider waits for Christmas like Charlotte.


There's a set of faux stained glass, sparkling in the lights.

Another set? Wooden animals given to me by the
Children's Library staff when I moved from California to Idaho.

A sweet cottage painted by my sister
when she was a very young navy wife.

A miniature stocking designed by Just Nan, stitched by me.

Bread dough ornaments sculpted from cookie cutters.
These were made on a very memorable day
at the dining room table with my three little girls.

A Very Merry Christmas to All!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Secrets: December 21, 2008

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

This morning was rife with poignant secrets. I found five on which to add my thoughts.

[Gentle warning: there's some R-rated stuff here today.]

From Post Secret France
I'm finding my own now!


Let's hear it for the journey!


I had a backyard barbeque one summer. I was thrilled to get to provide some nice steaks. They smelled great. Then one vegetarian party pooper had to expound on how horrible the conditions are for the cattle that supply the meat. She wouldn't shut up. She also didn't change anyone's mind. She just put a damper on my party. Why'd she bother coming? She KNEW it was a barbeque! ... I hear she occasionally eats meat now.


No. It doesn't.
But once working through the pain,
the love making soars.


The last Chrismas I had with my dad, he was in the hospital with a heart attack.
We celebrated with gifts when he got home.
It was the best Christmas Dad and I ever shared.
I waited my whole life for it.

You Can't Ever Go Back


That's the thing about secrets.
Once you know them,
you have to figure out what to do with them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Revealing Secrets


I did something a little bit brave today.

I told a relative stranger two secrets about me.

You all know how I love reading other people's secrets. How I'm a bit of a voyeur. How I like to peek through the windows of other people's minds to query how they think, find out what is important to them, how they live between their ears, what things they try to hide from the world, from themselves. I like to see if the secrets other people hold are the same kinds of secrets I hold.

Well, today, over on Facebook, I told a former high school classmate of mine a couple of secrets. (No, I'm not going to reveal them here ... they wouldn't be secrets any more!)

The first is a secret desire. It's not life-altering or deviant or anything. It's just something I'd like to do in the next four years that I've considered doing since I was a teenager. I voiced it aloud to my husband for the first time last night. I told my classmate about it this afternoon. It's just a little bit naughty. Something middle-aged married women usually keep to themselves.

The second secret. Well.
:: cough cough ::

The second secret is BIG ... at least to me. It's about something that happened in my past. Something I'm not too proud of. Something that took over 30 years to come to terms with. I've told a couple of my sisters. My best girlfriend. My Ex. My sweet husband. My counselor. And one trusted sweet friend from high school. That friend is actually the one that helped me find resolution.

So now that the situation is resolved, I don't have to hold the secret so close. Oh, it's still a tender spot in my psyche. When I shared the secret today, I didn't tell my classmate the details. But it's as if ... as if I'm trying it on for size. These words. This secret. I'm testing the carefully chosen language on my tongue (on my keyboard) to see if I dare say this louder than a whisper, louder than a sigh. I'm testing to see if the words still hold the power of a falling hammer over my head.

So, I told a relative stranger my secret today. I have no response yet. But I'm sitting with the knowledge that this secret is now out ... and so far, I'm OK with it.

The sweet friend that helped me through the situation is like the above quote. We found something filling us with tenderness and ache that connected us. We did have some similar wounds. We sought each other out. We helped each other resolve an issue or two.

But why I chose this former classmate today, this Facebook friend, this relative stranger, is yet to be revealed. Perhaps I recognized something in this person that doesn't yet have a name. That is part of the mystery yet to unfold.

-*-

Oh. By the way. I now know what secret I'll write down and send in on a post card. It's not heart-wrenching. It's fun!

Christmas in Blogland


Lisa's Chaos is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. She takes marvelous macro photos that just make me drool for the detail she captures.

PLUS, she has an excellent sense of humor.
Check out this post!

Oh. And in case you're wondering, here's what a pickle has to do with it.

For more Christmas Pickles, check out these images.


These pickles are from
Star Shine's gallery on Flickr

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Your Choice


I was told earlier this week, "I stay away from people like you. You know. Happy people."

In other words, 'I feel lousy, my life sucks, and I don't want to be aware that anyone has a life that doesn't suck.'

Yeah, right.

In my philosophy of life, SO much about how good or lousy life is depends on the attitude I bring to it. My circumstances may be lousy, but I don't have to be lousy in the situation. I can choose to bring a different attitude to the situation.

Like ... gratitude for the little things I do have, the little things that are going right.

Like ... trying some different ideas to try to help change the lousy situation. I can choose to bring an attitude of possibility.

Like ... setting up some reasonable, personal boundaries so that I don't allow others to deplete me of my time and energy.

Like ... lowering my expectations so that when things go better than expected, I can celebrate what stopped being lousy.

This is not to say that I don't have my share of down days, or that I don't have days where my concentration is off and I have a hard time staying focused. (I was in the latter state today!) But it is to say that so much of what happens in my day does depend on my own choices.

Here's one of my favorite stories from my single-mom days.

When I was a single mom, I had a full-time job working for the county assessor. The pay was less than $12,000 a year. My ex was not giving us any money for child support. I was raising two preschoolers, and because I was working full time, they were in daycare. I lived in government subsidized housing. I was on food stamps. I was using the WIC program for milk, cheese, peanut butter, etc. Financially, I was in a tough spot. But I had my college education and a bit of pride, and was trying to do as much as I could off the public dole.

Swallowing my pride, I finally went to the welfare office to see if the kids and I qualified for Aid to Dependent Children. I had to make an appointment during regular work hours ... meaning that I had to lose job hours in order to see if I could get welfare. That, by itself, was not an easy choice. But I did it. I took in all the paperwork, answered all the questions. I followed through with the appointment with the social worker.

She did all the calculations, then looked up at me and said, "Oh, dear. You earn $5.00 a month too much. You don't qualify for assistance."

"Really?!?" I grinned. "Excellent!"

She looked at me, very puzzled. "No. I don't think you understand. You will not get any aid."

"No," I insisted. "YOU don't understand. This means I'm making it!"

I left the appointment elated. The woman continued to stare after me with a perplexed look on her face. That was not a reaction she usually saw or could believe.

But to me, it was a choice. I could be upset that I was so close to getting some more financial help. Or I could choose to be glad that, tough as things were, I was making it! I was finding a way to support my children when my ex-husband would not.

I DID have brains in my head. I had the ability to choose my path. I had the ability to try things until I found something that worked. Then I chose to have an attitude of gratitude rather than one of a pity party.

At least for that morning, I chose to believe that I was doing OK and if I kept working at it, my life with my girls could get better and better. All I needed to do was be persistent, apply myself, try new things, accept the opportunities offered, continue to learn new skills and upgrade my talents and abilities. Eventually, I did dig myself out of that hole.

I chose to look up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All My Mothers


Yesterday our quilt group had their annual Christmas party. It's one of my favorite days of the entire year.

These women! These wonderful, cranky, loving, caring, old hags!

There's all kinds, you know?

  • The one that's legally blind and mumbles all the time ... yet comes faithfully and can still tie the quilts beautifully.
  • The one that has poor memory and has to ask me each week what my name is and how long I've lived in town.
  • The one with MS that sits beside the one that had polio as a kid.
  • The one with mental illness and an eating disorder that sits beside the kindest, gentlest woman you'll ever meet.
  • The two that smell like an ashtray and have minds as sharp as tacks.
  • The old grouch that used to run the event, but now is tied to her oxygen tank, now only able to wheeze out orders.
  • Our mighty "mother superior" who is wonderfully irreverent. She now falls so often that she is covered in bruises.
  • The two that used to teach in elementary school that gently guide us step-by-step through processes and keep us laughing with tales of days gone by.
  • The child of the Great Depression that still hates to see any scrap of even the ugliest of fabrics hit the trash can.
  • The one with a quirky sense of color.
  • The one with the mouth of a sailor and a heart of gold that goes out to all canine critters.
  • The recent survivor of breast cancer.

We're all so quirky. So individually interesting. So collectively talented and caring. The number of excellent cooks in the group! So many are widows. Too many whose children passed before they did. These women that take each other to doctor appointments, cook meals for the homeless, give of their time now that their treasure is gone. Give their hearts, their humor.

These lovely women who invited me into the room a decade ago when my own heart was rent because my mom died and my family lived so far away. They put a needle in my hand. Gave me a few directions. Started talking. Allowed me to listen. Took me into their hearts and became the sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers I so craved.

Yesterday, we were party animals together. We ate. We drank. We played games. We exchanged gifts. We reveled in each other's company and humor.

Then we put on our thick coats and hats, helped each other dust the snow from the cars, walked the lame through the gathering snow, and gathered each other into our arms and hearts once more. Some, likely for the last time.

These women!

I'm blessed to be one among their number.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Allow Time


Sometimes those who serve, serve best, who only stand and wait.

I'm learning to allow some relationships to take their course instead of pushing for an immediate solution to problems, instead of forcing my way around the road blocks.

It's not easy for me to be patient, to be quiet, to sit in watching waiting.

But I'm learning.

It's easier to wait things out in one area of my life if I get busy in accomplishing things in another area of my life.

I put my energy into the people that love me and want me ... who choose to have me in their lives right now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Take Good Care of Yourself


I had to take this phrase to heart today.

I watched something on TV yesterday that got under my skin. I ended up staying up way too late, not falling asleep until after 1:30am. Then I had oddball dreams ... something about seducing a priest ... something about not having privacy in a bathroom ... oddball stuff like that.

So ... little sleep, and what I had was fitful. I awoke knowing that I had an impossibly full day today. I was frantic before I even got dressed.

Enter my sweet husband by way of a phone call from work. He had a plan and laid it out for me. He made some excellent suggestions. He helped me write a simple To Do list, then made me promise to not add a bunch of stuff to it. He reminded me that it's the Christmas season ... things get busy ... pick and choose what the priorities are ... let some things go. (For example ... so what if I missed a Today's Phrase yesterday. Who's going to get amped about that?)

So I took a shower, got dressed, ate some 'brain food,' and concentrated on one task at a time, first things first, easiest things first so that I could have the high a few quick accomplishments can generate.

That man is smart. I do well to listen to him and follow his advice. That's what I ended up doing today. I was good to myself ... and the rest of the family benefited from a happier me.

What did I manage to do?
  1. Made labels for the cookie packets
  2. Wrote out a note card to go with tomorrow's Christmas gift exchange
  3. Swish and swiped the bathrooms
  4. A couple loads of laundry
  5. Welcomed my friend over to stuff cookie bags for tomorrow's party
  6. Made the pumpkin cheesecake for tomorrow's party
  7. Ate a healthy lunch
  8. FINISHED THE ELF STOCKING!
    [wasn't sure this was going to get done, and it turned out CUTE ... pictures soon!]
  9. Wrapped the gift for tomorrow's party
  10. Went to my daughter Jodie's band concert
  11. Went to dinner with my sweet husband, daughter Jodie and Jo's best friend
  12. Prepared the Quiche for Jodie's French class tomorrow morning
  13. Cleaned up dishes and rebooted laundry

Amazingly, I'm feeling OK. Not too worn out, even though only limping around on five hours of sleep. I managed to have a good attitude all day. Bonus!

A nap may have helped, but I think doing a good bit of stitching helped even more. There is something about the rhythm of stitching and the creative process that is extremely beneficial to me. I'm a much nicer person to be around if I've had time to stitch. It's my favorite way to be kind to myself.

And everyone around me benefits from that simple attitude adjustment!


[ Be sure to check out Calamity Kim's blog!]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Spend Your Sunday


Ahh. Are there any better ways to spend a Sunday?

Well, I might be able to think of a couple.
Singing and lounging in bed are right up there
(uh, perhaps not at the same time ... who do you know that sings in bed?)

Still. Reading. Dancing. Staying warm on a cold winter day.

I'll spend my Sunday like this!

Sunday Secrets: December 14, 2008

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I'm more than intrigued by this sociological experiment. This is the only secret I felt prompted to post today.

I want to do something like this soon.
I love being the sweet friend to make someone's day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On My Desk - Fudge

The official On My Desk photo meme has ended.

Ahhhhhhhhh.

But I enjoy this idea so much that I'm going to continue it on my own. It may not be every Wednesday or even every week. But every now and again, I'll post an image of the project that's high on my priority list.

Today, we're back in the kitchen for Five Minute Fudge!

Fudge Makin's


This is the third year that we're making fudge wreaths as our gift to extended family, friends and neighbors. We'll make a dozen this year! All the makin's are ready to go. Dale and I hope to do two per day over the next week or so.

It's ho Ho HO Time!

Dreams into Reality


This still happens to me. It did again last night.

I liken it to Harry Potter, trying to learn occlumency, trying to keep Voldemort out of his mind. But when his defenses are down, especially when he's sleeping, the evil creeps in to Harry's brain. His dreams are as vivid as consciousness. He awakes screaming. It all feels so real.

Sometimes my memories reawaken as dreams in the night. I feel the presence of the other. I feel all the emotions. It's vivid. I shake myself awake, a part of me aware that my mind is going down a dangerous path. In my half-sleep state, I talk to the person involved. I whisper things aloud that I wish I had the courage to say face to face. I practice being brave and whole. I forgive both of us again.

I'm getting better at shaking these dreams off. But sometimes, they are just too vivid; the emotions too persistent. If I can't return to sleep in an hour, I ask my sweet husband to awaken and help me. His gentle presence, his deep voice, his rhythmic breathing, woos me into the present, places my feet firmly on the ground -- or more precisely, my head gently on my pillow -- and I sleep soundly for the next few hours.

Often, reality is much better than dreams.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Set it Down Like It Matters


One of the life-changing days I had in counseling had to do with the essence of this message.

I'd told my counselor the story of something that had happened which was extremely traumatic for me. Someone I loved and was once very close to said something to me shortly after my father's death that was so offensive and false, that it wounded me to my core. Why? Deep inside, I was afraid what was said was true. I believed this person more than I believed what I knew about myself.

The trauma lived over and over in me, repeating itself each time the memory arose. It wasn't like it was something that happened back then, it was like it happened over and over and over. All those conflicting emotions boiling to the surface. So it was hard to tell my counselor about it, and have to live it again, on purpose.

[ That is, of course, a tell-tale sign of post traumatic stress. ]

I thought about that confession to my counselor over the following week. On our next visit, I tried to back pedal. I tried to make the person who hurt me not look like such a demon. That person isn't all bad. Lots of people like this person. This person tells great stories and is often funny and charming. This person has a good heart. This person is sincere.

My counselor looked at me and said, "I didn't see that person as awful. What I heard you say was that this person hurt you."

I burst into tears.

Yes. Exactly. Nice as that person is most of the time, that person hurt me in a way few others had. Finally, someone saw it and acknowledged my pain. I was heard. I was shown the compassion I needed in the way I needed to hear it.

My counselor and I worked forward from there. Now that incident does live in my past instead of striking terror in me in the present.

It's so darn important ...
'for someone to see the hurt done to them, and set it down like it matters.'

A former college classmate of mine, Kim Barnes, did this for herself. She's written two memoirs, the first of which was a runner up for the Pulitzer Prize. Her writing is like liquid gold. Gorgeous, lyrical prose. Beautiful, haunting descriptions.

Kim had a rough time growing up. So she wrote it out. Like it matters. The telling of her story spoke to the hearts of many.

Last month, I got a chance to talk with Kim for the first time in about 25 years. I told her how brave I thought she was to be able to 'say all that stuff out loud, to write about it.' She told me she wasn't brave. It was something she just had to do. She's a writer; she writes! Later, when inscribing the copy of her book I just bought, she wrote, "Remember that your story is sacred."

Those words have stuck with me. They've given me courage to share more of my own story here on my blog. I do it, I suppose, not so much for you readers (though I hope that some of my words will spark some reflection of your own). More, I do this for myself. I am finding my voice. My own version of courage to set down what I've learned in my 51 years ... like it matters ... like it's sacred.

Because, to me, it is.

*-*


If you want to read Kim's exquisite memoir, you can find it at Amazon.com

In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

by Kim Barnes

Thursday, December 11, 2008