Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Exercise. Patience. Inspiration. Internet

To envigorate my body with good, physical exercise. I joined Curves for the New Year and intend to work out there three times a week every week. Frankly, I'd rather pursue some other form of physical exercise. Gyms seem so artificial. I like walking on the beach, gardening or yard work -- purposeful exercise. But the beach doesn't lure me when the temperatures are low and the winds blow cold and strong. So tomorrow is my first session at Curves scheduled for 9 AM. Yesterday at registration for Curves, I was weighed and measured. The weighing wasn't so bad. I was daunted by the measurements. But wait. They insert those numbers into a computer and pop out %s of body fat. Now THAT really hurt. The goals I set are to lose 14 inches -- yes, 14 inches of body fat from everywhere and 10 pounds.
To be more patient with elders. To stop expecting them to see the world as I do.
To seek inspiration everyday. Make time for art everyday. I have a fine place to work and play at home with good light and pretty good storage for supplies. I work part time. Larry and I share all household responsibilities. So there really can be no excuses.
To limit time on the internet. I love the access to a world of information. I love google and use it for work, for art, for play. But it is a seductive tool and so easy to move in and out of websites going from one doorway of information to another -- and before long hours have passed.

May every stitch bring you closer to the calm clear space in the center of your soul

Knit - knit⋅ted or knit, knit⋅ting;
Verb (used with object) -
1. to make a garment or fabric by interlocking loops of one or more yarns by hand with needles or by machine; 2. to join closely and firmly, as members or parts: the tragedy knitted the family closer together. 3. to contract into folds or wrinkles: to knit the brow; to form or create from diverse sources or elements: she knitted her play from old folk tales and family anecdotes.

My mother was an avid knitter. Knitting, in fact, was her passion, her one indulgence from the work of creating a home for her 6 children and husband.
In my memory, I can't see a time when she didn't have a knitting project in process: hats, mittens and sweaters; little jackets and coats for small children; celtic sweaters; and argyle socks for my paternal grandfather. But, now in her 86th year with failing vision and hands stiffening from arthritis, she is unable to pursue the avocation that gave her such peaceful hours and gifts of love for her family.

"I like making a piece of string into something one can wear".
Author Unknown

My mother raised 5 daughters but she only produced 1 knitter. No, it wasn't me. Oh, she tried to teach me to knit when I was young but I had neither the inclination, talent or patience. To me, it seemed to take forever to make just a few rows of something-that-looked-nothing-like-what-it was-going-to-be .....

In recent years, however, I fell in love with the exquisite yarns available to knitters: hand-dyed, cotton, linen, silk, alpaca, cashmere and mohair. My tactile sense, my love of texture found it difficult to resist their fragrances and the feel of these lovely yarns. I would visit them in shops but I only touched and smelled, then walked away: I am not a knitter. Walking away, I suppose I remembered the slow, clumsy attempts of a girl struggling with something she wasn't very good at doing.
Oh, I liked the clickety - click of my mother's metal needles; I liked seeing the yarn moving rapidly through her hands. But I didn't want to do it myself.

(used without object) - 1. to become closely and firmly joined together; 2. grow together, as broken bones do; 3. to contract into folds or wrinkles, as the brow; 4. to become closely and intimately united.

Recently I asked my mother how she got started knitting. Perhaps, there was someone she knew who knitted? Or something beautiful she wanted desperately to make for herself?

These questions came to me this past autumn when finally I gave in to my fiber obsession and enrolled in a series of 5 knitting lessons through the adult education program at York High School. I remembered 'knit'; I remembered 'purl'; but I didn't know how to begin and I didn't know how to stop.

During Christmas weekend, while my mother was in Maine on a holiday visit, I took the opportunity to ask all my questions. She said it was 1943 when she began knitting. My father was fighting in Europe; she was pregnant with me with lots of time on her hands. A family friend named Kitty Bell (a spinster!) gave her an exquisitely made baby sweater as a gift and that gift became the catalyst for a life-long avocation. She was intrigued by the process and she loved the result of the work. She said she'd never seen hand-knitted work before.

She had to learn to do it for herself.

(Praising her work, I mumble to myself "I can do it, too."

Kitty Bell, who lived on the second floor of the three-decker house (my grandparents lived on the first floor) and another knitter, a Mrs. Watkins who sold yarn from her home, taught my mother to knit. She loved it; she was immediately good at it and she never stopped loving it and enjoying the results of her efforts. She knitted for nearly 65 years -- until age, vision losses and arthritis slowed her down. Now, she says she is not pleased with the result of her work; it doesn't meet her standards.

It makes me sad to think of the loss to her of this great comforting and satisfying joy.

But in 1943,my mother was young and alone and frightened; knitting was a way to pass the time
. She said she never went out in the evening while my father was overseas; she had a lot of time and some good friends to apprentice her to the craft.

In my mind, I see her sitting by the radio listening to war news and quietly knitting; perhaps one of her 7 sisters visited in the evening while she struggled with her first knitting attempts.

Noun - the fabric produced by knitting -
1. a knitted garment; 2. a style or type of knitting; the basic stitch in knitting, formed by pulling a loop of the working yarn forward through an existing stitch and then slipping that stitch off the needle.

A wonderful thing happened on this holiday weekend. I brought out my first knitting trials to show my mother; I asked her help. I asked my questions and listened to her stories from the war years. And then a miracle happened: I saw my mother as a young woman; I saw her youth emerge through the stories. I saw enthusiasm -- excitement -- confidence -- knowledge -- skill and her love for the craft in a way I'd never seen before.

It was magical
: it has been a long time since I've seen my mother glow as she did that late Saturday night.

Between us, a new bond was created by sharing the love of craft and the mutual joy of using one's hands to make something beautiful for a loved one.

It was a lovely moment ........ one I will always treasure.
Title credit: from Earth Heart Designs

Sunday, December 28, 2008

These are a few ......

. . . . . of my favorite scenes from 2008
Some nice memories, too:
My Mom: After a Mother's Day Lunch
with sisters Nancy
and Michelle
A flower arranging summer

started when Michelle invited me to a workshop at the
Emily Dickenson House in Amherst, Massachusetts

& continued with a lovely weekend with
Shelly, Katherine, Esther, Noah and Ari
at their new home in Florence MA
Tony: first grandchild - first love
At a baseball game in June with Larry & me
and a young lady who later broke his heart (and shall remain nameless)

Victoria's visits ~~
surfing lessons in July and theater camp in August

Sand castle building too in August at Long Sands Beach
with Shelly, Katherine, Esther, Ari and Noah

In Pennsylvania for a Leon Redbone concert
at Mt. Gretna in Lancaster County

Driving along Cape Ann after seeing
Garrison Keilor at the South Shore Music Tent
Motif #1 in Rockport

Second place in the Rochester Fair

Three generations:
Daughter Molly
Grandson Dylan & Greatgrandfather Clark

Shelly and Esther came up for a weekend in November
Esther and I went to an American Girl Doll Tea and Fashion Show
They spent the weekend and we feasted on pasta and wine
Esther and I cooked Sunday brunch.

Here they are:
after brunch, playing on the beach on beautiful November day!

Be Yourself .... Everyone Else is Taken

"Many of us are living out the un-lived lives of our mothers...." (Gloria Steinem).
My mom, Doris is 85; youngest sister, Michelle, 46 and me in the middle, 64. My mom was raised in the Great Depression and married at 19; she got her GED at age 75. She raised 6 children: 4 have master's degrees; 1 is an artist; 1 is a writer; 3 are teachers; 1 is a self-employed musician/caterer.
I have been a human services administrator -- cum fiber and fabric craftswoman.
"When you age you become wiser in so many ways .... Experience has shown you the potential of the human spirit." (Coretta Scott King). Wiser, yes, and more patient. More focused and less flighty as told by Caroline Myss the medical intuit. More confident; I am more sure of what I want in my life and what gives me joy.

"Expected the unexpected ~~~ life is never what you think it is going to be." ( Kathleen Kenyon). Larry and I found one another in our 30s; lost one another in our 40s. But the real end of the story is that we reclaimed what we had lost. Our lives changed again when his dad came to live with us.....and once again when I got sick in 2006. We role with the punches and accept was life gives us......

"The important things is to try and enjoy life . . . If you wake up in the morning and you a have a choice between doing the laundry and taking a walk in the park, go for the walk."
(Christine Lee)

Just DO it! Don't hesitate. Don't wait.

Be yourself.
If you have a talent,
don't neglect it."

(Andree Ruellan

"I couldn't live without heroes ......."
( Mimi Weddell)

I seek out mentors ~~
I look for heroes and heroines
and sometimes I've been disappointed.
But I keep on looking . . . . . .

"The happiest people I know are simply
those who are cheerful ....."

(Helen Gurley Brown)
Oscar Wilde

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Good Time.. Kind .. Forgiving & Charitable

I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time,
when it has come round ... as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time;
the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year,
when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.

Charles Dickens

Yes. It has been a good time. A kind and pleasant time. Although the ice storm followed by two heavy snow storms caused cancellation of quite a number of holiday events ~~ dinners and parties with friends and shows ~~ the days that preceded the holiday were still full, indeed.

Stephen and Joanne arrived from Seattle by way of Amherst Massachusetts on the Saturday before Christmas and left on Christmas afternoon. What followed was a series of small events ~~ decorating the tree ~~
~~ dinners in favorite restaurants ~~
~~ Christmas eve lobster dinner and Christmas day brunch.

They left in the early afternoon;
I looked at Larry and said,
"Christmas day festivities never ended this early before!"
And then I promptly lay down for a nap. A lovely long and peaceful nap.

Tonight I cooked a chicken dinner ~~ mind you a 3-course chicken dinner that began with small cups of lobster bisque, included corn pudding, a traditional New England dish, for Larry's dad, and the grand finale as far as the men are concerned, was mincemeat pie and ice cream.


Tomorrow we head for Massachusetts for a family party with my Mom and siblings and their families -- about 30 strong. It will be fine and lovely to see my family. In fact, this is the first year that there haven't been 'words', high emotions, and down-right nasty fights.....holidays seem to do that in my family. I am never ever in the thick of things. Not ever. I play the mediator, if anything. But this year, survival amidst the ice storms and power outages kept feelings at bay. A good thing.

I haven't seen Amy and her family yet. They were to come up on the Sunday prior to Christmas for a 'blended' family Christmas affair but a 20-inch snow storm barred the way.

So tonight I am full of the joy of giving love through the gifts and talents of my kitchen to Larry and his Dad. I am joyfully anticipating the day with my Mom and family.

And, if that were not enough: Shelly, my youngest sister and her daughter Esther, and my Mom are coming back with us on Saturday evening. We have holiday tickets for the Seacoast Rep in Portsmouth preceded by lunch at Warren's, a local seafood establishment since the 1940s.

And I feel blessed.

Do all the good you can . . .

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
At all the times you can!

John Wesley

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Everything is softer. . . more beautiful

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

Norman Vincent Peale

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Infinite Expectation of Dawn

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that the chief end of man here is to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever.' " Thoreau

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's the start of a new season

I've finally had to admit that summer is gone; Indian summer days will no more lure me from my work. Autumn is dwindling in its last days.

It's been cold here for nearly a week. The long temperate autumn suddenly disappeared and I was not mentally prepared to put on layers of heavier sweaters and jackets; so I shivered my way through several crisp-snappy days before giving up the ghost of summer-in-my-mind.

We've had heavy frost some mornings and lately, driving rains and high winds that caused power outages on the day before Thanksgiving; some towns in Maine were still without power on Friday!

This weather does not lure me outside; I want to stay inside, make soup and gingerbread, drink hot tea and work on projects. With the Thanksgiving feast a sweet and savory memory, I've returned to my holiday gift-giving projects.

I love making gifts for the people in my life ~~~ the personal touch that says 'you mean a lot to me'. You mean 'this much to me' and embues the gift with something more than a thing purchased quickly at the mall amid the crush and throng of other shoppers all in a rush to get somewhere else. Fast.

Making gifts is a long-standing tradition in our household. When Victoria was little, I would make her a fancy new dress for the Nutcracker ballet and often a matching one for her dolly. Christmas day might find a thick woolen cape for her to snuggle into on cold winter days. Or a new hand-made doll with hand-made doll clothes.

Tea cozies, quilted centerpieces, placemats, pieced and quilted tablecloths also came from my studio as gifts for family and friends. And packages mailed with gifts for family most often have a the special treat of home-made cookies.

So with winter upon us and the celebration of light and love, I am working on wearable art pieces: a jacket for Amy; artsy aprons for my caterer-sister and her partner; a quilt with rocket ships for Dylan; knitted scarves for sisters and sister-in-law.

And loving every minute I spend with my projects and my family, with music, and tea, and good loving feelings.

And remembering that there were years when I was not well enough, hadn't enough physical energy to make gifts for the holidays ~~~~ had barely enough energy to enjoy the holiday.

Ah, but this year is different; this year I have returned to the joys of Christmas past!

And for this I am most thankful.

What brings you cheer and helps you to spend your love on loved-ones?