Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Quilt for a Small Boy

" The fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves..." Rats! I so wanted to believe it wasn't my fault. I thought maybe it came of being a Gemini --- this wild enthusiasm with which I start each new quilting project and then the fizzle when I'm halfway through . There are four grandchildren. Three of them have gotten a quilt that I made especially for them. The youngest is two and a half and still hasn't gotten his. The spirit is willing --- I want to finish it --- but the flesh is weak. I haven't put one stitch in it all summer. And why? --- it's no longer a new project, and I have the attention span of a fruit fly.

Three years ago I gave the expectant parents some quilt books and told them to pick the pattern they liked best . They picked the Star of Bethlehem which I'd never made but was excited to try. We talked about fabric and colors . They had definite ideas . Primary colors on a black background. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the whole ' black on a baby quilt ' idea. But, considering the beautiful quilts the Amish make, I got over it .

As I pieced the quilt top any lingering doubts vanished --- the bright colors on the black background were stunning! I made a border of smaller stars and found a cheerful yellow kite print for the backing. I basted the layers and started quilting, the stitching that actually holds the layers together . My favorite parts of making a quilt are the initial planning of the design and the actual piecing, but I also wanted to hand quilt in the black spaces on this quilt . And that's when the big go-slow started. I just didn't think I would procrastinate this long !

Today a friend invited me to come over and sew . A start was made. It will get finished, even if I only stitch for 15 minutes a day. I'll put a "sleeve" on the back so that if he is already six foot three when it's finally done, he can at least hang it on the wall in his dorm room.

Whenever I mention "the quilt" to my son, he cackles hysterically.... and the longer it takes me the louder the cackling gets ...Oh ye of little faith... When it's finished I'll figure out how to post a photo on here as proof that I do, once in a while, finish something , in spite of those stars.....After all, what does the Bard know about quilting?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Minutiae of Existence...

"So what's new today?"the OB cheerfully asks on the phone each night from his new nest in the north. And, "Vat you do today M?" on the nightly visit to the elders. They really don't want to know. Mostly I've been moping and wandering and thinking about what I should be doing, but this persistent cloud of inertia has settled over me.......Enter the Flylady via "notinyourear"! I can do anything for 15 minutes.....Where to start? Two areas where the cat has barfed [he's feeling mopey too]. And of course they're not on the tile, oh no! For barfing purposes the softer, lighter, more absorbent surface is preferred. To give me some credit, I had cleaned up what was removable, blotted thoroughly and sprayed. But then it sat, and sat....

So, Flylady-inspired, I attacked the first spot. Armed with an old toothbrush and a cup of warm water, the better to coax the stain out. Dip and scrub, dip and scrub. I could hardly see the stain, which was good. But then, you guessed it, I knocked the cup over and sent a puddle of water sinking rapidly into the carpet. The first word to fly from my mouth was not a pretty one. Long ago I had a very ladylike and demure vocabulary. And then I got married. Military men are not known for mincing words. And then I had children, including three of the male variety. You can guess the rest. My vocabulary is now, on occasion, quite salty. And I must say, in certain circumstances, there is nothing so satisfying as a carefully chosen, vehemently enunciated cuss word.

While I was muttering and mopping, Master C wandered curiously by. " Whatcha doin' ma?" Sniffing the cup, he discerned that there was still a small amount of water in the bottom. So he inserted a delicate white paw to test the waters and finding them good, stuck his head in for a drink because, as everyone knows, water always tastes better when it's not in your dish....

Now, where was I? Well, you can see what I mean about wandering and moping and straying off task...

Note to the picky: I did not allow myself the luxury of writing this [playing] until I had vacuumed for several 15 minute segments---three cheers for the flylady! But then I permitted myself a bonus---I came and wrote it at the library---where there are people and books......ahhhhh.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Heather in the Hills

In the summer of 1989 we spent some time in Ireland en route to a new AF assignment in Germany. Today, on a purge of piles of scribblings, I came across a journal I kept that summer. Several hours slipped away while I sat on the bedroom floor reading and reminiscing.... one of the places we visited was the village church at Cratloe, where we got married . It's a tiny church, out in the country, up on the side of a hill where heather grows wild and thick and plentiful. The girls picked armloads of wild flowers with lots of heather mixed in, and Liz announced to her aunt, myself, siblings and cousins that if she ever got married she wanted heather in her bouquet!

Today she and her husband have been married nine years and I'm wondering, did the heather ever get in there? And you're wondering---hmm, mother of the bride---how come you don't know? Well, nine years ago, we had been back from yet another overseas assignment [this time four years in Belgium] for just one month before The Big Day. We were still living out of suitcases and could still be described as being "of no fixed abode". So, I wasn't exactly in the loop for flower selection! And if I had been they could not possibly have been more beautiful. Certainly the color of heather was there..... She was a beautiful bride and married a lovely guy and I'm wishing them "Happy Anniversary" and many, many more.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Peter Pouncey Stole My Heart

Is it possible to be happily married and love your husband and still fall in love with another man? One whom you have never met, no less? One who writes prose like a poet; who, with a few spare, well chosen words can conjure a world of feeling? If so, then I am officially in love with Peter Pouncey.

I do not have a favorite genre or a favorite author. I don't care much for science fiction. Spy novels and mysteries leave me cold, and I hurry past the romance shelves at the bookstore with a shudder. My taste in books, if you want to call it something, is eclectic. My favorite book at any time is the one I'm reading now.

This summer, by accident more than design, I seem to have read more books by male authors than usual. I loved The Kite Runner, and The Piano Tuner held me in thrall. Then, at the library recently, I picked up Rules for Old Men Waiting. The author's picture showed a serious, white-haired, older gentleman looking out quizzically at the camera. Intrigued, I brought him home. War and marriage and loss and love. I laughed, I wept, I was mesmerised, and jealous of his use of language. And now, too soon, it's over and I'm bereft. I love you Mr. Pouncey. Write another.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Slow update.

They've been back every day this week--Mama Thrush and Jr. I think her patience is wearing thin. She sits on a branch in the tree, next to the birdfeeder. She looks exasperated. He cranes his chubby little neck to see her from his own perch in a bush under the tree--three inches off the ground. He doesn't seem to get it. That she wants him to come up.

"This is where the goodies are, Jr. You have me worn out carrying seeds down to you, one at a time. Now get your butt up here!"

But he continues to sit. Maybe his belly is so fat he can't get it airborne? Master C and I have decided that, cute as he is, when he goes to bird kindergarten, he'll definitely be in special ed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Random Thoughts While Pulling Weeds

You know how a tune gets into your head--maybe you heard it at the supermarket--and stays long after its welcome has worn out? Well, today the following came unbidden to my brain:
"Oh Godhead hid devoutly I adore Thee, Who truly art within the forms before me", and decided to stay. No, I didn't hear it at the supermarket, and no, I'm not off my rocker. I'm pretty sure it's a hymn we had to learn at school. I wasn't kidding about those nuns, even now, forty years later. It came early. Stayed through sweeping the garage. Still there after washing the car. Clouds prompted me to go pull weeds. I wouldn't do that in the middle of a sunny day in August, unless I wanted to blister my brain.....The words continued to dance in my head as I weeded around the mint and the tarragon, heavenly smells!---badgering me to think about them.

"Oh Godhead hid devoutly I adore Thee". If anyone asked me "Do you love God?" I would answer unhesitatingly "yes". [That there is a God is a given for me.] How could you not love the Being who made the world so beautiful? I guess it would be harder if I lived in the Middle East and my family got blown up by terrorists......But I don't, and where I'm at, I'm counting my blessings.

"Who truly art within the forms before me". One of the 'forms before me' was a particularly vigorous weed that thrives in these parts. Called a weed, it was, in fact, a thing of beauty, sending out branches from a central stem, like spokes of a wheel. It had a tiny flower that would fit on the head of a pin. I could see, on really close inspection, that it was actually made up of several little blossoms clustered together.....

I think of other forms in which I see children; their children; the wild flowers that hide among the trees out back; the way a mother bird knows exactly how to prepare her young for life on the wing; the amazing way bamboo grows and spreads, and how it provided such great cover this spring for the quail and their [at least fifteen] utterly adorable babies; the ominous clouds building for the afternoon thunderstorm .......

My boys are gallivanting around the country this week and so I'm alone. With the cat and the birds, the weeds and the random thoughts.........

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Bird watching for Cats"

When I brought "Bird Watching for Cats" home from the library the OB laughed. "Are you going to get him his own pair of binoculars now?" he asked. But, indoor cats get bored. How much eating , sleeping, grooming and furniture clawing can you do before life-threatening ennui sets in? True that boxing with the YB, and tearing through the house at breakneck speed with him in hot pursuit is a lot of fun, but, he's not always here. And the older folks? Suffice to say that between cooking and wandering off on their bikes or disappearing into the North, a fellow is sometimes hard pressed to find a lap to curl up in.

So what's a young, playful cat with an enquiring mind supposed to do? Watch birds. Following the advice of the authors, I set up a bird watching window for Master C. The best one was in the bathroom. The sill is low and he's in the habit of sunning himself there anyway. Occasionally a lizard or squirrel happens along. There's a nice maple tree outside and plenty of bushes to provide cover for the birds..... I fished around in the garage and found an old bird house from the YB's boy scout days, filled it with birdseed and hung it in the tree. Next, a hummingbird feeder. Then, for some color, I planted impatiens and begonias in all the spare flower pots I could find and set them under the tree in the shade.

At first nothing happened. But gradually word spread among our feathered friends and we started having visitors: blue ones and red ones; bright ones and dull ones; long tailed and short tailed; speckled and unspeckled. Master. C is fascinated by them all. When he's watching birds he's perfectly still, his entire body a study of focused concentration. And now he's got me addicted too. Late yesterday afternoon we were both at the window, riveted. We watched, fascinated, as a harried mother thrush with a faded, speckled breast gathered some seeds from the feeder, flew to the ground under the tree and popped them into the waiting, wide-open beak of a very fat , very hungry baby thrush. Only the wide open beak and his very new and sprightly speckles gave away the fact that he was a baby. He was just as big as mom! And, apparently, insatiable. She made many more trips to the feeder , then back down to fill the gaping beak, one time even knocking some extra seeds to the ground, then digging around in the leaves to find them again and pop them into Jr.

I'm due for another trip to the library this week. On my list to look for is "Dancing with Cats'.......Master C can hardly wait.....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Elephant in the Garage

An elephant has been living in our garage for five years. Gathering dust, making no demands, bothering no one. Except the OB perhaps,who, every once in a while, has peevishly asked "Can we get that thing out of here?" 'That thing" is the elephant, a white elephant. Doesn't everyone have one? Ours is a very large doll house. Built in California in the eighties by my brother. But it never got finished. Visiting from Ireland, my brother eventually had to go home. We, being an A.F. family, had to move, and move again, and then move some more. Each time "the house" got crated up and carted along. Five years ago it followed us to this house, found a perch on a high, sturdy shelf in the garage and has sat there quietly, gathering dust, making no demands, bothering no one, until this week.

With the OB adventuring in parts northern, I have found myself at somewhat of a loose end. A few days ago I awoke with a plan. Suddenly I knew that our elephant was yearning to be brought inside, yearning for a little respect, a little dignity. Yearning perhaps for someone to take an interest in finishing the job that was started so long ago. In the past the problem has been it's size. A two storey colonial, we usually couldn't get it through the door. If we could there was no place to put it without seriously snarling household traffic. Fast forward to here. Almost empty nest, plenty of room, large doors. And so to the plan. Cunning and sly I am. Never ask a man to work on an empty stomach. So I plied the YB with coffee and a big breakfast preparatory to asking him to lend some muscle to my plan. Between us, mostly him, we wrestled the placid but unwieldy beast down from its lofty perch onto a card table where I carefully and thoroughly dusted and vacuumed it. But not only that. Insects of indeterminate species had, delightedly I'm sure, come upon it and said "Oh, look dear! What a cozy place to set up housekeeping and raise our multitudinous children,"and proceeded to do just that. So a chisel was required to rid the inner walls of their very sturdy nests. Finally "the house" was ready to come inside. I staked out my spot in the living room, measured not just twice but many times, laid down four small pavers as foundation, then called my moving man, the YB.

With front doors thrown wide open to the obscene heat [central Florida in August is for "mad dogs and Englishmen" only] we carefully carried our cargo from the garage, through said wide open doors and onto it's resting place. End of story? Aghhh, not quite! You know the saying "It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind"? Well, I did. But men, in my experience, have no patience with that; not the old variety, nor the young either. So, how to adjust the location, alone? ......Tennis balls--brilliant! The house bobbed gently, like a boat on a placid lake, a little to the left, no, more to the right, a tad closer to the window, and finally perfect. All accomplished without anyone popping a blood vessel--I was so pleased with myself.

On the nightly visit, the inevitable nightly question--"what did you do today?" Pick a white lie to cover my white elephant:
  1. scrubbed the floors until they gleamed
  2. washed all the windows
  3. made 25 jars of fig preserves, instead of letting the birds feast until they burst
  4. redid the living room with new curtains and paint
  5. planted 15 saplings in the north forty, with my bare hands.
......any of which would bring a happy smile---and at this stage it's all about making them happy. Why lie?.......because elderly people from eastern Europe are not equipped to handle the truth, not when the truth involves a middle aged woman, who is related to them, spending/wasting most of a day playing with a dusty old white elephant and then inviting it to live in her house. Such a person belongs properly in an insane asylum. Nevertheless that is what I did, and I had such fun, so sue me.......

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Drugs, Mom, drugs"

"You need drugs, Mom", he said from somewhere behind me in the darkened kitchen. From my perch on the stool by the stove I couldn't see so much as hear his eyes rolling. It's hard ,when you're nineteen and know everything , to be patient with your aged mother ["Dude,they were thirty nine when I was born!"] when she's hunched over the stove at two in the morning, heating milk for hot cocoa ."...and guess what she's reading? ---my freshman composition book ---'Style--ten lessons in clarity and grace'! I mean, get a LIFE.

Old people should be in bed, asleep, that time of night so that us nocturnal creatures can peacefully bang and clatter around the kitchen, foraging for something to still the munchies. And why is she up, stirring and reading so late? Get this--I'm chillin' with my friends, it's late, my phone rings, she wants to know where I am and why I'm not home, so she can get to sleep. Seriously dude, look at me . Six four, attitude to spare --who's gonna mess with me? And she thinks I can't take care of myself?!"

Plate loaded, mission accomplished, he kisses me paternally on the back of the head, whispers "drugs mom, drugs', and vanishes into his room. I sip the last of my cocoa and reach the end of the chapter. As I'm closing the book I notice my bookmarker , a relic from years of raising children, says "say no to drugs". Cocoa is drug enough for me. Maybe now I can finally get to sleep.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I write best on a bicycle....

Our recent acquisition of a four-bike bicycle carrier opened up a whole world of far-flung bike trails this summer. The carrier and the fact that life as we've known it for the last five years is about to change dramatically has spurred us to spend more time than usual together, much of it pedalling the length and breath of the county. My companions, the OC [Old Curmudgeon] and the The Bean [youngest son] have the whole alpha male thing going, one being the incumbent, the other the challenger. The one is intent on losing accumulated poundage, the other on amassing muscle. And so they ride at man-speed--hard and fast, getting a thrill from testing their endurance. It may just be a bike trail in an obscure county in central Florida, but for them it's just a blink from "Le Tour" and they're the peleton.

And me? I'm just happy to be on the bike, puttering along at mom-speed. We rode bikes everywhere when I was a child so it's like a comfort activity [like comfort food...]--something I've always known how to do. The thrill for me lies in watching the butterflies flit, feeling the sun warm on my skin, stopping to watch a huge gopher tortoise remodelling his burrow. Something about the rushing air, the buzz of insects, whizzing along from merciful tree cover to blinding sunshine, then back again into cool, green sets my brain on fire! The ideas tumble over each other , each one wanting center stage. I've written brilliant stuff in my head on these bike rides. Brilliant drafts of brilliant blogs---not one of which I can remember when I get home. And that's a problem. As soon as the bike is back on its hook in the garage, the ideas shrivel up. Does this mean I have to take a tent and camp out on the Withlacoochee Trail just to keep the creative juices flowing? What I need is a small handlebar-mounted desk and a pencil holder next to my water bottle cage......While my brain is wrestling with how this fantasy could be accomplished The Bean comes zooming towards me, skids a u-turn and herds me towards the car.

While they drip all over the pavement and mop themselves with towels, I retrieve some dry jerseys from the trunk. So they're not yellow, but who cares?