Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Love and the NRA

I don't go to church regularly. Shhh! don't tell the nuns. But last weekend I went to a quilt show some distance away, and stayed overnight with good friends. Friends who go to church. So I went too. When I occasionally go, it's like slipping into an old and comfortable pair of slippers. They know me. They're molded to the shape of my feet. And I know them. The responses come effortlessly to my lips, the hymns roll smoothly off my tongue. So why don't I go every week, you ask? Thereby hangs a tale, or a blog, or two, for another day. I never expected to become a person who doesn't go to church. But life has a way of turning out other than how you imagined. In more ways than one.

The reading for the day was from Corinthians.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude or self seeking, nor easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.........."

I was glad I'd come. I've always liked those words. They lingered, like the taste of a fine wine, as I drove homeward. Comforting words. Words to inspire one to aim high. Until reality intrudes. The reality that love is not always patient, or kind, and is sometimes rude and quick to fly off the handle.............but wait! There's been a mistake. Because that wouldn't even be love then, would it?

And while we're on the subject. I was driving along today behind an SUV. I squinted to read his bumper sticker. It said "NRA* --- Sportsmen for Crist**". My mind immediately conjured up a picture of a handsome, bearded man, with soulful eyes, Biblically attired, who instead of a shepherd's hook, had a rifle slung on His shoulder. But then I noticed there was no "H". Truly an Emily Latella moment. Never mind.

Another day recently I was behind a cop. His bumper sticker advised me to "Smile. I could be behind you." So I did. Because I'm an agreeable person. And because it's comforting to know those guys have a sense of humor.

*NRA stands for National Rifle Association.
**Charlie Crist is the newly elected governor of Florida.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Our monthly quilt guild meeting was today. After all the boring stuff, minutes of the last meeting, treasurer's report, etc., we had Show and Tell. Yup. Just like in kindergarten. And just as much fun, if you had anything to show, or anything to tell, which I did not.

"When do you sleep?" I whispered to one prolific quilter as she passed me on her way to the front of the room. She was staggering under the weight of four big, beautiful, finished quilts. She gave me a "duh" look, and replied "We've had two months!" [we took a break in December]. Yeah, I thought, that explains it. These women look well rested. They certainly don't look undernourished. So, where do they find the time to be so productive?

I oohed and aahed with the best of them, as quilt after beautiful quilt was held up for inspection. Mentally, I was taking a tally of my own dismal accomplishments in the needlework department since January first.

  1. I finished a sweater for little grandson, T, that I had started knitting in Ireland, two summers ago. Yes, I'm ashamed it took me so long, but I'm taking a bow anyway because it's finally finished!
  2. Mended torn out knees on two pairs of the YS's jeans. Torn out while doing BMX stunts, or rather after he had sailed through the air, independent of the bike, and crashed to earth, apparently on his knees.....shudder. He continues to strenuously resist all offers to teach him how to quilt---no adrenaline rush there, I guess.
  3. Resewed two seam sections that were coming undone on my all-time favourite, floaty cotton, around-the-house, dress. They were probably protesting the constant wear.

There is no number four. Hence the glumness. The problem appears to be procrastination. While those productive ladies are busily stitching, I'm busily rearranging my one thousand and one unfinished projects, so the groaning shelf on which they rest doesn't come crashing down. Maybe I can buy some time by redistributing their weight. But first I have to open each one out and stroke it so it knows I still love it and will get to it soon. After that it seems like a good idea to make a written list of these same projects, in order of 'urgency to finish', with side notations on what is done, and what remains to do. And let us not forget the time devoted to daydreaming about new projects to start. Arrggh! I can't believe my brain allows me to do that. If I worked steadily for two to three hours a day for five years I might make a good dent in the pile. So why would I even consider starting something new? Does familiarity really breed so much contempt? I love all my half-done projects......

Steps need to be taken. If I talk [or write] about my quilting projects, then I have to spend an equal or greater amount of time actually working on them. At the end of each month I will give an account of what I have finished in that month, here, so I can't weasel out of it. If I ever figure out how to put pictures on here, I can even provide pictorial evidence, for those who might be inclined towards skepticism.

So. In this spirit of renewed determination, I spent the afternoon working on a quilt top that I finished six years ago. The pattern is called Goose in the Pond. The fabrics are green and white with a little bit of yellow. I went on a digging expedition into the depths of the closet in my sewing room and emerged, triumphant, with a nice piece of batting of suitable size. Further digging produced the perfect backing fabric. I sandwiched all my layers in the prescribed manner, secured them with pins, proceeded to the sewing machine and stitched in the ditch. Now all that remains is to apply the binding. Before you break into wild applause I should add that this quilt is two feet square. With a little bit of luck, the friends I'm going to visit this weekend will still have that cute little table for which this topper was intended when I started it all those years ago. And if they don't, I'll still have the satisfaction of adding a number four to the list above.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Let Me Tell You 'bout the Birds and Bees

It's always possible when I hit " publish" that that's it. The well could now be dry, my blogging days over. But I'm an optimist, and Irish to boot, and at home they always say "the Lord will provide." I don't know about the Lord, but Liz came through with some inspiration in a recent post.

The whole subject of the birds and the bees was pretty much shrouded in mystery back in Ireland in the fifties. The most a child with an enquiring mind could hope for was to glean a little info here, another little bit there, then try to cobble it all together in a way that made sense....

In our fourth grade class there was at least one girl who was "well up" on the mysteries of the grown-up world. I'll call her Nora, to protect myself in case she should stumble upon this and come after me with an axe. I didn't particularly like Nora. She was a large, pale girl with a doughy complexion, and small unfriendly eyes. And she sat directly behind me at the back of the class.

Some chance remark on the playground tipped her off that my information on where babies came from involved storks and cabbages. So she embarked on a mission to educate me. After all, we couldn't have people running about, entertaining such primitive ideas. She felt she was doing a service to society, and to me in particular, although I was less than grateful for her efforts on my behalf. Not least because they were delivered into my ear in full view of the nun up at the blackboard, droning on about fractions.

I was appalled at the revelations, and not altogether sure she wasn’t making it all up. My parents, surely, would never do that? And how could a kind and loving God, the same guy who looked down on us with His beard and His gentle eyes, from the wall over our kitchen table, have such a twisted sense of humor as to make it necessary to be a contortionist if you wanted to be a mommy some day?

Next time we went out the country for a visit with the relatives, I watched
my uncle and his wife with new interest. I had attended their wedding the year before, and they had recently had a baby. I was fascinated that they had been able to maneuver themselves into the necessary positions, as explained to me by Nora. I decided that even though it sounded messy and complicated and embarrassing, I might as well get over it, as it seemed to be the way things were done.

Those nuns have a lot to answer for though. We were not encouraged to think of the human body as beautiful. The feeling they most encouraged in us was shame. Better to cover up. We'd have it on our conscience if, God forbid, a boy should have an impure thought after glancing at us. It was a sin, they told us, for girls to wear trousers. Proof positive that there was a bottom under there. It was a sin, they told us, to wear a sleeveless blouse. Consider, if you will, the sexiness of the upper arm. Feeling aroused? Wanton hussy! Go put your burqa on this minute....The onus was on us, they told us, to keep things under control in our dealings with the opposite sex. Men and boys, they told us , were in the clutches of forces over which they had scant control. They depended on women, whether they acknowledged it or not, to be pure and strong and keep them off the devil's doorstep.

When our own children were born I wanted to be sure that they would not have to depend on furtive whispers at the back of the class from a modern day Nora. I tried to answer the inevitable questions with humor and at least a smattering of truth. Too much, too soon, is as bad as too little, too late. But I'm done. It's much more fun sitting here on the sidelines, chuckling , while Liz wrestles with the questions.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When the Mooooon is in the Seventh House...

Great deal on clearance rack at favourite store last week. Liz Claibourne pjs in pretty pastels --- stripey bottoms, pale blue top, lace trim. One pair only. L. Grab. [Go away to mull it over, come back, it'll be gone, so yes, decidedly, grab.] Even though L is pushing it. Fine for the top. Like 'em roomy. But dodgy on the bottoms. They need to stay UP. Rationalised ---need L for length, else they'd flap around the knees.

Smiling smugly, paid and left. Tossed in the wash.

Ready for bed, swanning around the kitchen in elegant new attire. Bend over [gracefully] to start dishwasher. Bottoms slide to floor. Leaving bottom....bare. Inner Princess averts eyes. Inner Nazi snorts. Obviously, some stitches are called for. Note to Inner Bargain Hunter --- first, make sure it fits. Note to Inner Alzheimers patient [memory issues]---write that down.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Flylady Cometh

After a few long, meandering posts recently, my Inner Nazi barked one morning, as I passed him in the living room "Genug! Kein blogging mehr! Wir mussen das Haus sauber machen! Wir mussen auch die Weihnachten Ornamenten to put away....Gott in Himmel! Still with the Christmas ornaments?"

"Ja, ja," I mumbled as I shuffled onwards. I hadn't yet had a cup of tea, and if it's co-operation you're looking for mister, don't get between me and the tea kettle at eight a.m..... He drew himself up to his full six foot two and curled his lip at my comfy, ratty robe. He himself looked very smart in his uniform, brass buttons winking in the early morning light. He was dressed to the shiny, laced up military boots. I was wearing my slippers. Handsome he was, in that Germanic, blond, blue-eyed way, but what a hatchet face! Come on, I thought. Could you manage a smile? Or at least allow me eine Tasse Tee zu haben?

He gave an involuntary shudder and I smiled with satisfaction. "Yes," I said. "I am perfectly capable of inflicting even worse damage on your language, if you don't move aside and let me make some tea."

The Inner Nazi was activated by the Flylady. Interest in the Flylady came with the usual New Year determination to finally, this year, get it all in one sock.

So now...........

My sink is so shiny I've taken to wearing sunglasses in the kitchen. [They look especially fetching with the ratty robe and slippers.]

My laundry basket is empty.

My kitchen drawers are organised. The YS came home for the weekend and couldn't find a blessed thing.

I've been boogie flinging all over the place.

One 'hotspot' in the bedroom was a neat pile of notebooks from pre-blogging days. Another was a collection of newspaper clippings. Articles of interest and inspiration, interspersed with recipes to try....someday. Referred to by the OC as my "history notes." One sample from the pile was titled "Fresh Year, Fresh Start", a detailed list, room by room, of what one needed to do to get one's home and one's life in order. The date? December 27 th. 2003. It got flung.

Die Ornamenten sind weg.

Between the three of us, we got a lot accomplished. When the IN started moving towards my sewing room, I cut in front of him, but the FL got there first. My cheeks burned with shame as I stuttered about my plans for a clean sweep in there, and some big-time flinging, and the merciless turning of hoses on hot spots......I just wasn't sure where to start was all...."Baby Steps," she chirped enthusiastically.

The IN has gone to the mess hall now for some chow. I hope he stays there. The FL has fluttered off to pester some other poor soul. She'll be back tomorrow. [Just please, have mercy and don't bring him with you!] So here I am, at twilight, limping at last to the computer. I come to you from a shiny sink, an empty laundry basket and toilets you could drink from. Now may I blog?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Tale of Two Ts

The grownups always told us to savor our youth. "The best years of your life," they said, getting all misty-eyed at the too-sudden demise of their own. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I had a normal childhood, untraumatic, and reasonably happy. The sixties were fun, whether because they really were fun, or because we were on the threshold, waiting impatiently for our real lives to begin. Elvis was on the radio, crooning "wiiiise men saaaaay, only fools rush iiiin ...". Four lads from Liverpool were driving us all crazy. Cliff Richard was warbling "when the giiiirl in your arms is the giiiiirl in your heart..." No wonder we were all half daft and dreaming of romance. You know what they say about life. It's what happens while you're busy making other plans.

There was what Stomper Girl calls an Inner Princess inside me. She was a free spirit, wise, witty, and willowy. To know her was to love her. She was not, however, visible to the naked eye. You had to be a noble prince, or my Dad, in order to see her. And T. O'Conner certainly was not a noble prince. He was a long drink of water, with spectacles perched on his bony nose, to whom an aura of coolness inexplicably clung. Probably because he hung out with the in-crowd at school, one of whom had what most boys their age, at that time in Ireland, could only dream of having: a van, known as the Passion Wagon.

What the naked eye did see was a tall, coltish girl-child, with wavy hair and freckles. The nuns saw a quiet child, conscientious, responsible, a good student, a possible convent recruit, all the things that, socially, marked you as a total loser.

Boys and girls all went to school together to the nuns until about age six. The boys sat on one side of the room, girls on the other. T. O'Conner and his ilk made a career out of flicking spitballs across the room. It was a relief to the feminine gender when they were finally herded off to be whipped, literally, into shape by the Jesuits or the Brothers. But we hadn't seen the last of them.

The Jesuits occasionally held dances in the auditorium of their School for Young Savages, I mean , Gentlemen . Girls from all the girls' schools around town were invited. These dances were big events on our social calendar. Occasions of much twittering, and speculation as to who might get to dance with whom. Hair had to be fixed, and, since we spent most of our days encased in our school uniforms, great thought had to be applied to the question of what to wear.

What to wear indeed. Did I mention that I was a good girl? a tall girl? a girl whose mother dressed her? My mum, who was an excellent seamstress, made most of my clothes. But for one dance she splurged and arrived home from town with a new outfit for me from Todds'. I guess it never occurred to her that I might be picky; that I might want a say in what I wore. She just assumed I would love whatever she picked out for me. And be grateful. And I was. Grateful. For the thoughtfulness. Somewhat less so for the outfit.

In her vicarious excitement about the dance, Mum insisted on "setting"my hair, and then expertly applying, to my unwilling lips, a little of her own ruby red lipstick. But, most inglorious of all, on my twinkling toes I had to wear my sensible brown leather shoes, [my feet were too big for any of her shoes]. I would have traded my soul to the devil for one pair of "bad for your arches" slipons. My mother was a great believer in sensible shoes . For children. She herself got honorable mention in the Imelda Marcos sweepstakes.

I went off to the dance that night feeling like Tweedledum, resplendant in my new, brown, box-pleated skirt. Which ballooned out ridiculously from my waist, only to crimp back in around my knees. My new pink jumper clung embarrassingly close to my ribs and collar bones, announcing to all the world that Marilynn Monroe had nothing to fear.

The sensible thing to do would have been to go hide out in a tree until it was all over. I should have trusted my gut, that told me loud and clear I looked like a clown. But Mum said I looked lovely. And in her eyes I probably did. After all, I was wearing her choice of clothing, her choice of shoes, her choice of lipstick, and my hair was fixed the way she liked it. But --- there was always an outside chance that gorgeous George or some other handsome fellow would see right through the clown costume to the princess within.

Things were about to change. We were coming to the times that I would love. Times when they didn't throw you in prison if you went out without "setting" your hair. Times when fashions became more natural, more Molly-friendly. Twiggy, and bare feet, and flowers in your hair were just around the corner.

Bravely I stepped out on the dance floor for the first dance of the evening, a Paul Jones. When the music stopped I found myself eyeball to eyeball with......drumroll please....... T. O'Conner. Who, do I need to remind you? was no great beauty himself. He took one look at me and took to his heels. Almost forty years later, I have still not forgiven him.

When The OC and I turned fifty, and it started to look like certain of our offspring might soon be saying "I do", I should have issued a warning. But I missed my cue, certain memories from childhood having faded almost into oblivion. And so it came to pass that we became grandparents to a little boy named....drumroll please.....T! Today is his fourth birthday. Gradually the gorgeous T has supplanted the lanky geeky one in the Instant Images Department at the Funny Farm. Happy birthday T! I love you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Blogging Comes to the Funny Farm*

*The Funny Farm is the real estate between my ears.

This time last year I had no idea what a blog was. When Liz, my DD, started one, I wrinkled my ancient nose, cocked my ancient head and said "Eh? What's that you say? A blog? What in tarnation be that?" Patiently, she tried to explain. But, as they do in the face of most technobabble, the eyes of the Ancient One glazed over. So, steadying her voice and trying hard to keep the I-don't-have-time-for-this-crap tone out of it, DD sweetly told me to just type in and all would be revealed.


Lights came on all over the Funny Farm that night; rocket ships roared into the wild blue yonder; the farm band broke out in celebratory oompah-pah, oompah-pahs; fireworks razzle-dazzled into the heavens above; a choir of angels sang over the oompah-pahs; all the denizens of the farm jigged and reeled in ecstacy over the fields, and a strange glitter came into the eyes of the Ancient One. A tiny seed had been sown.

It has been mentioned on these pages before how slowly the penny drops down here on the farm. For a full six months I hogged DD's blog. And waxed poetical in her comment box. And pompously opined on every subject she raised. And generally acted the buffoon. Until, one day in mid-July it dawned on me. Mommy needs her own blog.

Because the particular brain cells required for setting up a blog do not live on the Funny Farm, DD wasn't out of the woods yet. With patience and grace and the "assistance" of her smallfry, she set the whole thing in motion. Kind of like getting a kid you know can ride the bike up on it, steadying her for a moment, then giving her a tremendous shove to send her careening off down the hill.

The Ancient One was exhilarated by the wind in her hair as she whizzed over hill and dale. The denizens of the Funny Farm were intoxicated by the fresh air whistling through the ears at the farm boundaries. But elsewhere in the kingdom there was disgruntlement . Down in neighboring Curmudgeonly Hollow mutterings were heard about "this blogging nonsense". Horror was expressed by the youth of the region at the thought of mother, the technologically challenged one, taking over the computer, twiddling buttons at will, and generally increasing the chances of crashes and freezes and such. It was hoped it might just be an ill wind that, given time, would blow over.

So the Ancient One blogged her way randomly through July, August , September and October. She was really starting to enjoy herself. Then NaBloPoMo came along and transformed her from a casual blogger into a rabid blogmaniac. It began to look like the ill wind wouldn't be blowing over after all.

She is holding fast. Nobody will be prying her ancient fingers from the blogbike's handlebars anytime soon. She craves contact with intelligent life forms; more than can be provided in a five minute phone call..... She regularly casts blogbottles upon the waters, and hopes someone finds them on another blogshore, and sends them back with a friendly "Ahoy!"

At first I told myself "I'm doing this for me." Right....... But truly, I am. Because I love to write. I love what happens when I sit here, clueless, and start with a tiny germ of an idea, and it grows, and from the din and clatter of the farmyard, I mold and carve and shape something coherent. But most of all I love it when I throw the bottle out there and it strikes a chord with someone, touches a nerve, tickles a funny bone. I love it when I connect. And that's why I blog. So thank you DD , for bringing blogging to the Funny Farm, and for pushing your ancient mother down the hill on the blogbike. Wheeeee!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

On the Subject of Knickers

My darling daughters should be gratified to hear that their mother no longer wears granny panties---those awful, elderly looking undergarments that come all the way up to what is anatomically known as the "waist". After holding out for many years, fashion and availability made me cave. Now said undergarment ends a few modest inches below my bellybutton.[Can't resist---what does an older woman have between her boobs that a younger woman doesn't? I usually forget jokes as soon as I'm done laughing at them, but this one has stayed with me, to the tune of much eye rolling from les hommes. The answer, of course, is a bellybutton, but I digress.] I realise an inch or two is a small concession to fashion, but it keeps me in my comfort zone, no panties peek above the slightly dropped waist of my jeans, and my bottom is covered, which, unless I'm greatly mistaken, is the purpose of panties.

I am morbidly fascinated, when shopping for underthings, by the phenomenon known as a thong. For this few inches of skimpy fabric they want how much? So that I could spend every waking hour twitching and wriggling as though there were ants in my pants? Because there would be fabric, all day, in a place where fabric was never meant to be. Better, if I can make so bold a suggestion, to wear nothing at all.

When I was growing up, as soon as summer departed, my mother bought winter knickers for us. She was a practical woman who loved me, I'm sure, and wanted me to be warm, but she was disturbingly unconcerned about permanent damage to my delicate psyche. Darling daughters [and concerned passersby], granny panties are haute couture compared to those abominations. Not only did they cover the bellybutton, they had legs that plunged almost all the way to the knee. Even in that far distant time they were very uncool. Todds' department store provided them in two luscious colours---Pepto Bismol pink and Mawkish Blue. I don't think my younger sister, the cooler one, ever wore them. No,no, darlings....your auntie wasn't that cool [or wanton]. She merely shoved the offending garments under her mattress, pilferred her summer knickers from the back of the hot press and went about her business. But me? I was a martyr for the cause. If Mum said I had to wear them ,I was unaware of options that didn't involve me freezing my young butt off. My sister has a lovely name, but in Irish [and the nuns always used the Irish versions of our names] it is Siobhan --- yes, exactly like the bald one. She suffered years of torment from her peers,
who would snicker "shove on your knickers, your mother's coming...."

I loved to ride my bike to the other side of town to visit my Auntie Ita. She was not really my aunt, but an elderly friend, who had introduced my parents to one another. She fed me banana and jam sandwiches, and treated me like a grownup and was great fun and I loved her. In Auntie Ita's neighbourhood there were lots of children who went to posher schools than I. I was delighted to be accepted into their group and happily followed them around. One day we ended up in a field where there were lovely, climbable trees. Imagine my surprise when they encouraged me to go first.......what an honour.......until I attained some height, and chortling and guffaws broke out below. Two late I remembered what I was wearing under my billowing skirt.........I squirm still at the humiliation I felt that day. To think that I trusted them and thought well of them. Amazingly, it didn't scar me for life as I undoubtedly thought it would at the time. I still trust people, for the most part, and believe the best of them, unless they give me reason to do otherwise. But , as a precaution, whenever someone invites me to climb a tree with them I always insist that they go first.........and I never, ever wear granny panties any more.......

Friday, January 05, 2007

Please Don't Scribble on My Nice New Year.......

……..or at least, if you must, use your very best handwriting. The belfry is crowded with crazy bats, all flapping their wings and clamoring “pick me! pick me, anyone can see, I’m the most important thought in here, let me sit on your shoulder and twitter in your ear, ignore those others, they’re insignificant compared to mememeeeeee!” Welcome to the funny farm, that acreage between my ears.

Organizing my nice new calendar is a welcome respite from fending off those crazy critters. The pristine pages lying before me--what mysteries will unfold on them? What joys? What happiness? What sorrows and surprises? What silliness? What hurts? What misunderstandings? What laughter? What forgiveness? What love? Timidly I approach their vastness and their purity, pen in hand, hope in heart.

Carefully and neatly I transcribe all the mundane details, the fine print, of everyday life: birthdays, anniversaries, dental and doctor appointments, reminders of when this should be done, and that. And DRAT! I messed up in October, wrote all the November notes there instead. Scribbled them out, softly muttering obscenities under my breath. A bad omen? No. I prefer to think of it as human frailty. To mess up so soon? When I had hoped I could creep quietly, unnoticed, into this new terrain, and make a better job of it than last year. And carefully dot all my “i”s and cross all my “t”s, and watch my wayward tongue. My satchel is full of all the tools I’ll need: ideas, knitting needles, empathy, fabric, sewing machine, paints and brushes, smiles and kind words, wire for my jaws, an awe-inspiring new camera, compassion to replace the anger and impatience which got the upper hand too often last year; love for those who love me when they must sometimes wonder if it’s really worth the effort; and a little sprinkling of high-mindedness to help me love those people it’s easier to dislike.

I am going to be a better, braver, nobler, kinder person this year. Thus spake the hopeful one on January the fifth, two thousand and seven, even as the bats were flapping in her belfry. Wish her luck, as she does you, because, human frailty being what it is, we're going to need it. Happy New Year everyone.