Saturday, April 28, 2007

Where Did I Put My Thinking Cap?

Meggie recently nominated me as a thinking blogger. Which made my day. Even if certain lurkers are rolling their eyes and muttering "If they only knew her!" Writing is something I love to do. When I was very little, I remember covering a piece of paper with scribbles and presenting it to the parents for approval. Not being Hollywood caliber actors, all they could manage were weak smiles and puzzled looks. Bummer. Took me a few more years to unlock the riddle of the written word.

I even loved the physical act of writing. Loved dipping the nib into the inkpot and scratching along the page, doing writing exercises in Senior Infants! As an adult, when we lived in Montana, I took calligraphy classes from Denys Taipale, an awesome scribe. The things I loved as a child are the things, I have found, that I've come back to as an adult.

As a quiet, not-quite-the-life-of-the-party teenager I set out to write a Great Novel. But ran into all kinds of roadblocks which could be summarised by the realisation that I needed to live more, experience more, before anything fictional I wrote rang true.

I heartily resented that, of all the English teachers I could have had, I got stuck with Sarge. A diminutive, hatchet-faced nun from England, who regarded us as a bunch of hooligans. She assigned an essay every weekend. While others groaned, I was off and running. Just give me a topic. And when I'd hand it in she'd give me an A, and a pinched smile. Gradually it dawned on me, I could have been writing in SansKrit and I'd still have gotten an A. Or Swahili. Or in the style I'd handed to the puzzled parents so long ago. As long as it had the required number of pages. All Sarge cared about was quantity. Content or quality was irrelevant. Which left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I wasn't much interested in getting an A I didn't deserve.

So off to Dub-a-lin in the green, in the green, to college, and the weekly letters home. In which I spun the trivia of my boring existence into comedy for the entertainment of the folks.

Went to NY, one summer, to work, and met the YC [younger edition of the OC]. When I returned home, more letters to write.....and so it went. Three years here, four years there, make friends, move on, write letters....And all of the friends said "Write, Molly, write!" And I did. And stashed the scribblings under the bed and in the closet,and in the night table drawer.....

When things got turbulent, which they did, and I wanted my mum or dad, who were thousands of miles away, I turned to the best way of dealing with and figuring life out that I knew---pen and paper. And sometimes what I wrote was so vehement, I gouged right through the page. And often the writing was rendered illegible by the angry tears that splashed on it as I wrote. And I often railed at God for permitting me to make the most momentous decisions of my life when I was so young and the clue bag was so empty. How blithely I kissed them goodbye and disappeared over the ocean and the horizon! Never giving a thought to the future, when we'd have children, and that pesky ocean would still be there, between them and their Irish grandparents.

But I scribbled on and we muddled through. And moved . And moved again. And moved some more. And just when you'd think you just didn't have it in you to do it again, you did it again. The only difference between us and the Tinkers is that we wash. And write.

I always viewed computers with suspicion. One memory etched in my mind is of Liz, working into the night to finish a report on The Scarlet Letter. I had read drafts along the way and thought what a clever, insightful girl she was. Finally, the night before it was due, she went to print out the final draft. And the computer made a gulping sound and swallowed it whole. She was distraught. And my distrust of these new-fangled machines was confirmed.

Until, many years later, the same Liz started a blog. And I was captivated, and charmed. Because it made me feel connected to what she was thinking in a way that nothing else did. Not phone calls, not letters. So I had to shelve my reservations and start one of my own.

And found wonderful people I'd never have connected with in a million years by any other means. And now one of them has made reparation for Sarge.......Thank you Meg!

I have no idea how to put the TB logo on here. But I do know how to pass the compliment on. There are some I could name, but hesitate as it might smack of nepotism! This Thinking Blogger thing has been going around for a while, and many of the bloggers I read regularly have previously been nominated. So I would like to nominate Isabelle, Tanya and MJD. They always give me food for thought and another way of looking at things that I might not have come to all by myself...... And I wish them luck with the logo!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HRH the Queen

.......Interim quilt for little grandson........

........Appliqued cat and flowers in the bushes.....

....Mystery quilt. Started in Belgium; quilted in Minnesota; mysteriously neglected for several years; finally bound and finished in Florida.

....Scrappy star quilt. Bonus Beantoes at no extra charge....

HRH the queen invites all her loyal subjects to a rare event--a display of Finished Projects. Lest ye look upon her, based on her last post, as a lazy, good-for-nothing layabout who never finishes anything. An FP being one of the rarest sightings in the realm, she trusts that you will be suitably awestruck. After you have viewed the display, and oohed and aahed appropriately, you may come to the throne room to kiss the royal hand.

In related news, a carrier pigeon has just arrived from Tir na nOg to inform that the Lady Rise [Of Riseoutofme fame] will soon be arriving for an extended visit. And she will be bringing her whip. Sewing machines will buzz,scissors will snip, needles will fly. Watch for many more projects to reach completion. Oh dear....I think I feel a fainting spell coming on.....

Postscript to loyal subjects: Don't look for too many pictures in future posts here. As pretty as they are, the stress of uploadage [my own word--like it?] is too much. I have aged a decade since I started this post and wept hot tears of rage and frustration. Each picture took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to get on here, and I could not get the pictures where I wanted them[obviously not at the beginning of the post].Also, I do have more than four FPs but uploadage being so molasses-like, I didn't think I'd live long enough to upload more than that. Oh well... I have once again worked my magic [or would that be 'evil spell'?]on our computer. The ladies at the library are thinking of providing me with my own bed over there. The computer master [OC] is off in northern climes. And would prefer anyway that the wench, I mean queen, was on her knees scrubbing the royal water closets and floors than writing nonsense for the edification of imaginary loyal subjects. And so,henceforth, it's back to the stress-free written word. I'm going to go lie down now.....happy viewing---IF I can get the bloody thing to publish.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Unfinished Project Queen

Tanya posted on this a while back and tossed it out for whoever wanted to take it up. My spirit was willing but my abyssmal photo uploading nonskills seriously slowed me down....

First off, you should know that I'm the undisputed queen of unfinished projects. Want to take away my crown? OK. How far back do your unfinished projects go? Thought so. Not as far back as mine! Since mine date back into the mists of history, before some of you were born. Case in point: A crewel embroidery pillow kit. It shows a scene depicting a seagull [Jonathan Livingston] flying over a stream. Remaining to be done? Some leaves and the bark on some trees. Number of years I've been procrastinating? Thirty plus. Aghast, are you? How do you think I feel? I started it when Liz was in diapers. Cloth diapers. 'Nuff said. I'll post a picture when it's on the couch!

Fast forward to 2004 when I started the Star of Bethlehem quilt for my little grandson, D, who will be three this summer. Who still does not, to my shame, have a grandma-made quilt of his own. The problem is I bit off more than I could speedily chew. In that I decided to do a lot of hand quilting. Big mistake. Hand quilting is not my forte. My forte is in the starting blocks. There with the adrenaline of a new project. With the choosing of the colours. With the thrill of the first cut. With the thing taking shape before your eyes as each block is finished. With the design decisions about borders and binding. The eyes of the non-quilters are glazing over by now, as they think "this woman needs a life!"

In the meantime I made him an interim quilt, entirely by machine, with no hand work save for the basting and binding, and which will be in the mail this week. The star will get finished. I'm hoping by his birthday, in July.

In between the Jonathan pillow and the star quilt there's a deep pile of other projects, sighing in the closet, patiently waiting for their turn to get finished and brought out into the sunlight.

It frustrates me, this inability to stick with something until it's finished and then, and only then, begin something new. It is a serious character flaw. Am I afraid ,that, like an only child, one project would be lonely? That it needs siblings? So they can mutter darkly together in the closet about the neglect they are suffering?Come to think of it, if I had raised each child completely before giving birth to the next, I might have made a better fist of I thrive on chaos? I yearn for a tidy life, but even now, on the eve of my dotage, it's not happening.

Neither of my daughters has shown an interest in quilting. Liz knits and crochets and is generally handy with a sewing machine. California Girl is too busy with horses and dogs and keeping body and soul together to bother with the domestic who will finish my mound of half made quilts before I die? Who will layer and baste and quilt them? Who will label and bind them?

"Not I," said the Pig.

"Not I," said the Cat.

"Not I," said the Duck.

So, like the Little Red Hen, I'd better get cracking and do them all by myself! Two more birthdays and I'll be face to face with the big six o. And then the slide down the slippery slope will start to pick up speed. And time will be running ever faster through the hourglass. The time to start is now.....the way to start is to quit jabbering about it, pick up a needle and sew!

If you're a quilter and made it this far without falling asleep, maybe I could get some input on how to bind the star quilt, when it finally gets that far. I'm thinking black, but welcome suggestions.....

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Zoom, Wobble, Zoom

I married one maniac and gave birth to another.

After storms to the south of us, storms to the north of us, a tornado warning right over us and howling winds all around us, the sun finally peeked out around noon on Saturday.

Almost simultaneously the OC emerged from the computer room where we thought he had sequestered himself for his annual eleventh-hour assault on the tax forms, and brightly suggested a bike ride.

In spite of the lunacy of the idea, the Bean and I understand that he is unaccustomed to sunshine in the frozen north. And to opportunities this time of year to ride a bike. Forced Family Fun is a hallowed tradition in our family. The OC has always loved the idea of commandeering all his ducklings, and their mother, to ride bikes along behind him, or trot around the track with him on weekends, at the various places we've lived. Traditionally he has ignored groans of protest, assuring the ducklings that, in years to come, they'd look back on these times and this torture with fondness and gratitude. Mother Duck herself wasn't exactly wild with enthusiasm to subject her feathers to the buffetting being visited upon the trees out back....But, recent posts notwithstanding, I'm still loathe to be called a sissy. We decided to humour him....

Bikes were hauled out. Tire pressure was, with only a few "expletive deleteds", checked and adjusted. Water bottles were procured. Sunscreen was applied. Sunglasses, hats and biking gloves donned---we take our biking seriously around here! Then "into the valley of death rode the six hundred." Or, at least, into the teeth of the gale rode a party of three....

The sun was bright and the wind was gusting. The trees all around were dipping and dancing as I struggled to keep my seat. They soon left me in the dust. Zooming along like arrows from a powerful bow. But this doesn't bother me. I'm happy wobbling along at mom speed, and happy that they, for now, are happy too.

Our route provides many opportunities for extra mileage. I took advantage of none of them. For the day and the weather that was in it, it was enough that I was out! The menfolk took advantage of all of them--loops, cul-de-sacs, doing some of the side trips twice.... Which meant they zoomed by me again and again. The OC would whiz by and breezily intone "use your gears," as I zig-zagged, donkey style, up a hill. A red-blue-grey blur of Bean would zoom past, intent on either getting ahead of his father or on maintaining his lead. It always has to be competitive, which makes me y.a.w.n. I felt like an old B52 bomber plodding through the skies, while F16s broke the sound barrier all around me. Showing me up with all their tricks. Executing loop-de-loops, turning upside down, spinning, spiralling, diving, defying gravity, while the gusting winds concentrated all their efforts on trying to knock me off the bloody bike.

After back-tracking three times to retrieve my hat, which the cheeky wind repeatedly snatched off my head, I gave up, and wedged it between handlebars and brakes.

An hour after lift-off we were home. It felt so good to stop. So virtuous to have gone at all. Wind-blown, snarly hair, aged bones, creaking pleasantly, and a raging thirst for a cup of tea! The OC was well pleased with himself. Taxes done? Check. Golf with the cronies? Check. Two months of magazines and mail read? Check. Visits to the Ancient Ones? Check. Time spent with mother duck and last remaining duckling? Check. Appointment with a psychiatrist? Who? Me? Checkcheckcheck.

Postscript: I know that people everywhere are saddened by the horrible events at Virginia Tech. Me too. Seems silly to be writing such trivia as the above....but maybe we need distraction, some nonsense to smile about, when all we can think about is what kind of world we're leaving for our children.....


Friday, April 13, 2007


A wind from the north blew the OC home for the weekend. I set off in good time this morning to fetch him from the airport, making sure I had plenty of gas and money for tolls. Turned on to the parkway and realised, too late, that even though I had money, I didn't have a quarter for the entry booth. Frantic scrambling in my purse for change turned up only a nickel.

"Better than nothing," I thought, tossing it in.

There was a loud, angry "brrrr!" from the machine. I shrugged and drove on. It's been known to gyp me in the past, so I didn't beat myself up with guilt over it.

When I got to the next toll booth however, as the attendant was handing me my change, I remarked that she might want to keep one of the quarters as I hadn't had one when I got on.

"Oh no," she said. "I can't do that."
She handed me a card and said
"You'll have to write a check and send it to this address."

I looked at her incredulously, searching her eyes for the twinkle that would tell me she was pulling my leg. I didn't find it. She was totally serious.

"So," I said. "You want me to write a check for twenty five cents and spend thirty nine cents on postage to mail it, instead of just giving it to you?"

"That is correct," she primly replied.

"Well, thanks a lot," I said, and drove bemusedly away.

Between you, me and the wall, it ain't gonna happen!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Bird is on the Wing.....

.......... but because blogger is anally chronological and I am Html-elly inept, you have to scroll back to April 3 rd to hear her sing!

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Caged Bird Will Sing Later...

I was in the mood to blog last night. Not quite ready to loosen my grip on the Real Women theme, I rambled on and wrote a long, meandering post. Went back and tweaked the wording here, the grammar there. Hit the publish button and off she went, flying like a bird, out into the blogosphere, in search of readers.

Went to bed happy. "To sleep, perchance to dream." And dream I did! That the Mag, headmistress from my schooldays,[more respectfully known as Sr. Margaret], was looking over my shoulder at what I'd written, shaking her head sorrowfully, and saying to me in her quiet, whispery voice "Not the most suitable subject for Good Friday, eh, Molly dear?" It was a talent she had. An ability to induce shame and guilt in the most innocent child....

"Oh crap! She's right!"

Suddenly I was wide awake and fumbling for my glasses. Stumbling to the computer to clip my birdie's wings. A sigh of relief--- no comments yet---one never knows what hour of the day or night our friends down under are up and need ever know what a Philistine I was...Opened the window and in she flew. I grabbed her out of the air and stuffed her back in the draft box so fast, and in such a flurry of feathers, she never knew what hit her. I'll keep her there 'til next week when she'll get anoither chance to fly.

Meanwhile, the house is full of the aroma of apple cake for The Bean's [youngest son's] birthday tomorrow. Landmark occasion, he's turning twenty. No more teenagers. Happy Birthday to my "baby", all six foot four of him, and Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Embracing The Inner Sissy

Looking back, I don't think my parents gave us the impression that boys were better than girls. But I got it from somewhere, and it took a long time to shake it off.

Maybe because I wasn't small and dainty, I decided, in self defense, that whose who were, were inferior. I played with dolls and teddy bears, sure. But I was also a fearless tree climber. Kitty W, our neighbour, used to holler out her window at me, as I roosted with my book in the tree at the end of our garden ---

"You be careful Molly Bawn! One of these days you're going to fall out of that tree and break your arse!"
I never did.

I was also a nimble dancer-over-rocks at the seaside; avid explorer of tide pools; tireless collector of seashells; builder of sand castles and enthusiastic sand dune runner. At home I threw my rubber ball endlessly against the wall outside our kitchen, sing-songing the rhyming litany of tricks to do on each throw, before the ball came back to my hand, whilst my mother yelled intermittantly about the fate awaiting me when I broke the window. Maybe my tall gangliness seemed more suited to a boy. Maybe I was secretly jealous that my mother made cute smocked dresses for my baby sister, but it never occured to her to make such pretty things for me .....

Maybe I dreaded, worse than death itself, that the boys in the neighbourhood might call me a sissy. Boys had all the power and all the freedom. To be considered a sissy by them meant you were a very low life-form indeed. Or so it seemed to me.

Things did not improve when I started to develop what, years later, my youngest daughter would call "pokes", as opposed to full blown bosoms. Oh, the mortification of it all! And the very last straw was when I had my first visit from "Auntie Jane". Not a child given to tantrums, THAT caused a meltdown of mammoth proportions. I still remember standing on the stairs, shouting at my poor bewildered mother about how unfair it all was. How come boys didn't have to endure such indignities? And what do you mean it's going to come back every month for the rest of my foreseeable life? Just kill me now and be done with it....

Of course, in time, I simmered down and resigned myself to my miserable fate. What choice did I have? What choice did any of us have?

Being female meant you were at the mercy of men. Only the most wanton of hussies would dare to ask a boy out. So one waited and hoped. I despised those of my peers who gussied themselves up of a Saturday afternoon, to wander into town and swan around, and sip coffee, which back then, was a very sophisticated beverage, and hope the young lords would notice them. It seemed demeaning to me somehow, like being a heifer at a cattle mart.

So I'd wander off, "lonely as a cloud", to walk along the banks of the Shannon, no doubt harboring a vague dream of meeting an equally lonesome, misunderstood soul of the opposite gender along the way. He would, of course, be stunningly handsome,in an understated sort of way, because, as shallow as I wasn't, that was the top priority. Hmmm. Of course the chances were slim to none anyhow, as the "happening" place was not among the lonely reeds by Shannon's banks, but in town at the Savoy cafe.

Once in a while, in town, some older man would smile at me and say "Hey handsome!" Blushing furiously, I feared I was being made fun of, because women were supposed to be pretty, not handsome. Further confirmation that I was falling way short of society's standards. Besides, of what use were the opinions of grown men, when the ones I pined after were snot-nosed adolescents who didn't give me a second glance?

"Youth is wasted on the young," my Dad used to say. I think he may have been right.

It was marriage, that finally set me on the road to enjoying being female. The long discussions, way into the night, with someone who let me see a side of him that no-one else saw, and who seemed to understand me in a way that no one had before.....That, and having children. That rush of fiercely protective love when I first held my babies in my arms. The wonder and awe as they learned to talk, and walk, in spite of having me as their mother. The realisation, when you have sons, that boys are just as sensitive, just as vulnerable, just as much in need of love and protection as girls, since society still expects them to be more stoic about life's little vicissitudes.

I have finally embraced my Inner Sissy. Since all my children are tall, I sometimes even feel small! I glory in my sissiness. I love sissy clothes. I don't care if my husband and son laugh at me when a romantic movie makes me cry. I'm not embarrassed to have to ask them to open those confounded jars for me.

Because I'm strong in ways that they are not. For which the OC gets some credit. He always expected more of me than I thought I was capable of. He came to me from a mother who was an uber-hausfrau, cook and baker extraordinaire, deft juggler of home, family and job---an act so impossible to follow, that, had I been less naive, I'd have run for my life. He took an enormous leap of faith, considering that I couldn't boil an egg when we got married. A few years into it he let slip, truthful to a fault, that even though I wasn't exactly beautiful, I had a nice face..... And great hips for bearing healthy children.[I didn't have a cast-iron frying pan handy at the time...] Gee, so it wasn't, after all, my stunning beauty and incisive wit? Someone teach that man to lie for God's sake!

Everyone has regrets in life and I am no different. But being a woman is not one of them. I wouldn't trade my Inner Sissy for all the tea in China.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Real Women.........

This is giving me bloggers block!

Its not that I don't have ideas, I do. But maybe that's too raw; or this is too emotional; or that's way more of me than I'm willing to put out there; or, or, or!

"So, do it already," my brain has been impatiently nagging. Finally, I came to the conclusion that all the things I've considered would be covered by this:

Real women......are not afraid to let their imperfections show.

I tag Tanya Brown, Riseoutofme and Meggie.

No prizes for guessing which one is me in the picture above.....