Sunday, March 23, 2008

Random Easter Thoughts

The nuns were constantly coaching us --- to say our prayers; to offer up life’s little frustrations for the intentions of the poor souls in purgatory; to say “aspirations” under our breath in idle moments, as a sort of insurance policy to help us get into heaven; to avoid occasions of sin; to guard against impure thoughts; to practice self denial at every opportunity, the better to discipline our bodies and our minds, and, in Lent, to go to Mass every morning for forty days. The next step would have been a hair shirt under our gymslip. It’s a wonder any of us grew up normal at all.

As we moved into our teens we’d press them for specifics. “ Impure thoughts” and “Occasions of sin” were wide-ranging topics. We were bright enough to pick up on their hints that everything we daydreamed about, anything that might give us pleasure, probably fell under the above headings. We also mutinously thought that a lot of what they passed off as “gospel” was utter rubbish. But the Church still had a stranglehold on every aspect of life, and so we kept our skepticism to ourselves. They could guilt us into the motions but they couldn’t control our motivation.

Pedalling like mad to Mass every morning for the forty days of Lent, for instance. Braving the wind and the biting February cold, at a God-awful hour each morning, instead of being tucked, snug in bed, getting the 8-10 hours of shut-eye required for healthy growth. Not out of piety, though that was what everyone was supposed to think. Oh no. ‘Twas all a cunning plan to arrive at the altar for communion at the same time as a particular bespectacled, blond lad. With a little strategic planning a person could even maneuver themselves into position so that, seemingly by utter chance, they’d end up actually kneeling beside said lad. And then a person would be on cloud nine for the rest of the day. From the distance of forty years later, it makes me think of a dog chasing a cat. Does he really have any clue what he’ll do if he catches it?

Those forty days seemed like an eternity back then. Not any more. Here we are, on the day before Easter, and Ash Wednesday seems like yesterday. No more pedalling like a wild woman in the half-dark of forty early mornings. Though when I do go to church these days, it's for the right reasons!

Even though we weren’t as pious as the nuns would have liked us to be, I miss the certainty of those times. I miss the rituals. I miss the way the year was sectioned off in parcels. There were the summer holidays, best times of all, then there was Advent, and Christmas, then Lent. And, if you managed to slog through those dreary, purple-draped days, you were rewarded at Easter with the arrival of Spring, and a new outfit to wear, and a big candy-filled chocolate egg from Cadburys. We’d all give something up for Lent, candy most often. Forty days and forty nights without chocolate! No wonder we could hardly wait to rip the silvery paper off our chocolate Easter egg! But not so fast! First we had to go to Mass and then eat our breakfast. Only then……

Easter dinner was a special, best cutlery, good china, leg of lamb affair, with a strong possibility of trifle for dessert; an airing-out-the-sitting-room-and-inviting-Auntie-Ita-over kind of event. Special. Exciting. Fun.

We never seriously questioned the basic beliefs we were taught. Everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, had the same beliefs. Priests were like little tin gods. No one would dream of questioning them, or of being less than completely respectful to them, and we all know the sorry end that led to. Turns out they were all too human after all.

I still think about what I’ll “give up for Lent” every year when Ash Wednesday rolls around. Some things are easier than others. I’d probably more easily cut off an arm than give up drinking tea. And my feeble attempt to deny myself that jolt-me-awake cup of coffee in the mornings never made it out of the starter's gate. But I think they were teaching us something deeper. Not just to give up candy, or sugar in your tea, or coffee, or cigarettes, or desserts. They were teaching us to control our appetites, rather than letting them control us. All those exercises in self denial taught us mental discipline. They were good for us, though we didn’t think so at the time. Like Latin verbs. Who knew then that the day would come when we’d actually be glad we were forced to study that stuff?

Easter, to me, is about new beginnings, about it never being too late to start over. The resurrection symbolizes that. Or more secularly speaking, the phoenix rising from the ashes. But the old lessons from the holy nuns were hard learned. So I still say my prayers on occasion, though these days it's more like firing off an e-mail to the Big Boss now and again. I still offer up life's little frustrations ---crazy drivers, traffic jams, mal-functioning computers --- for the intentions of the poor souls in purgatory. And I have been known, in tense situations, to whisper "aspirations" under my breath, though not always of the prayerful variety. Occasions of sin and impure thoughts are fairly thin on the ground when you're looking sixty in the eye, so, since I've been such a model student, I'm hoping some of those deceased nuns from days of yore will wedge a saintly foot or two in the pearly gates, so I can slip through without trouble when the time comes!

I wish you a Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy New Beginnings!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Guess, Velcro!

My quilt was not the first picture in the last post. My superpowers don't extend to popping out a full size quilt in twenty four hours!
Sorry to disappoint, Rise. That Ocean Waves quilt won first prize in the pieced category, very deservedly too---it was the first quilt she's ever made! I wasn't quite that ambitious for my first quilt. It was a Trip Around The World. And it has taken a few trips around the world, and is worn and faded, and would hurt your eyes, so I won't show you. But the cat loves it, and that's what matters around here.

Velcro has such good taste! The one she liked best is mine. Probably a bit too cutsie for my sister! I don't usually do cute, but I had some Debbie Mumm fabric with little girls on it, and one thing led to another, and I enlarged one of the girls on the copy machine, and used an applique version of her in the center and did an Irish Chainy thing around her, with red fabric I got in Germany a gazillion years ago, and dolled her up with bits of ribbon, and flowers, and beads in her hair, and outlined her in black embroidery, gasp, pant, and quick layered and pinned and machine- and hand-quilted, and slapped on some binding, and pricked my fingers a million times in my rush, and by golly, I must be out of my mind, it's only a quilt challenge for the love of Mike, not the Indianapolis 500, and I'll never do THAT again!! Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On The Therapeutic Powers Of Quilting

Sometimes, in the on-going battle of the sexes, you need a member of the opposition on your side. And so it was that I went to see my therapist last week.

I’m a simple, uncomplicated person with simple, uncomplicated needs. One of which is to be accepted "as is." The Logic boat, alas, left the dock long ago, without me. Ditto for HMS Rational Thought and HMS Emotional Equilibrium. Their absence, however, is amply compensated for by my wit and charm. Not to mention my humility. These are not new revelations. We need to get over them already, and move along. Sometimes we do, but occasionally we stumble.

My brain, whose workings seem perfectly normal to me, operates in ways mysterious and exasperating to the above-average male.

He wants the short answer.
He is not interested in the ramifications of THIS point of view, or in a treatise on why THAT course of action MIGHT be better.
He wants to cut to the chase.
He wants to dispense with the bullshit.

He wants brevity, above all, it being the soul of wit.

I, unfortunately, don’t do brevity.

He wants the “yes,”
Or the “no.”
Without the preamble.
And I am unable to deliver.

And so the sparks fly.

Which brings us back to my therapist, who is quite famous. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Dr. Bernina? He has coaxed women all over the world in off the ledge, again, and again, and again.

And since he operates the Central Florida branch of his practice out of my sewing room, he can usually fit me in at ten seconds notice. Where else could you find such convenience?

In addition to my male-induced stress levels, our quilt guild’s challenge was due on Thursday. This year’s theme was Black and White with a touch of one other colour.

We’d had three months warning, and I had amassed a variety of suitable fat quarters, but because of my procrastination superpowers and life's pesky habit of interfering with quilting time, I had not started anything. All was not lost however. I still had twenty four hours.

Quilting is a lot like writing. If you’re feeling uninspired you just have to start writing down words, and moving them around until they start making sense. Likewise with a quilting challenge. Thinking is good, but action is better. You have to dive into your stash and start moving fabrics around, and see how they work together, and hope that the juxtaposition of one with an unlikely other will start pistons firing in your brain. Then all you have to do is make sure your fingers are nimble enough to keep up.

And keep the coffee coming……

So, early Wednesday morning, fortified with coffee and oatmeal, I slipped into Dr. Bernina’s office. The gentle, hypnotic hum of his voice had the desired effect. I started with only a hazy idea. But by noon we were smokin’!

Lunch------never occurred to me.
Supper……a cup of tea.
At midnight we were still huddled. The good doctor shared his insights.
Something coherent was taking shape.

Creative juices were flowing. I was even feeling benign towards persons male.
At 6 a.m. as the sun came up, we were into the final furlong, the doc and I.
At 7 a.m. I put the last stitch in my quilt and emerged triumphant from his office. Time to hit the shower, me and the sandpaper that lined my eyelids.

My entry was not brilliant. At best it was cute. But at least I had done what I had, belatedly, set out to do.

An impressive number of guild members had spent time with their therapists too, with satisfying and creative results.

Various ribbons were handed out, one even finding its way onto my little offering. But before you go slapping me too hard on the back you should know that it was for third place in its category, which had four entries in all!

Best of Show went to an exquisite wall hanging, designed and appliquéd by one of our most talented and artistic members. Her appliqué is amazing, and if you zoom in close you’ll see the beautiful beadwork on the flowers.

Never underestimate the therapeutic powers of making a quilt! I expect to be pleasant company for the next few weeks, thanks to Dr. Bernina. I will even try to be brief, pithy, and as succinct as it is possible for a person to be who chewed a big chunk off the Blarney Stone.

Men everywhere should just accept that women are never going to have thought processes exactly like theirs and love us JUST THE WAY WE ARE.

Of course there's always the danger they’ll expect us to reciprocate.
I’m not sure I’m ready to give up trying to get them to think as we do, which, as any sane woman knows, is infinitely the better way!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Look What I Found In My History Notes!

It's Monday. Clean-up-after-the-weekend day. Vacuum- straighten- tidy- pick up- laundry-day; toilet-scrubbing, rubbish-binning, cat-litter-changing, lists-for-the-week-making day.

Slight diversion from the riveting morning in the boondocks routine provided by the bird in the garage trying to commit hari-kari on the window. Finally manoeuvered him out the door. Hope he has enough brain cells left to find worms for his dinner....

Back to the riveting stuff. Yawn.

Aha! The accumulation of various parts of last week's papers, derisively referred to as MB's History Notes. Among which pile I found an article that led me to this u-tube clip. I hope you find it as hilarious as I did! And speaking of moms, if you haven't visited Lily [of Not In Your Ear fame] at her new digs, stop in and see her today. Your funny bone will thank you!


Saturday, March 01, 2008

And The Loser Is........

I had my camera in the car yesterday, intending to show my M-I-L the pictures I’d taken of our guild’s challenge quilts. At least I thought I had..... But when I got to the Cave I couldn’t find it. Never mind. It’s probably on the kitchen counter. I’ll bring it tomorrow.

Today is that tomorrow.

No camera on the counter.

No camera on, in or under the washing machine, the bed, or the sofa.
No camera on or under the tables or the chairs.

Panic in my throat. Where did I put my beautiful camera?

The sewing room! Maybe it’s in the sewing room.
No camera in the sewing room.

Becoming irrational now. With rapidly blurring vision I check the fridge, the stove, bathrooms, drawers, garage.
No camera.

The car. It must be in the car! That’s where I intended to put it.
No camera in the car. Nada, nothing, zilch.

To no avail.

No camera anywhere.

Already in the doghouse this week for….
Being too emotional,
Ditto irrational,
Ditto hot tempered,
And unwilling to listen meekly to lectures on my shortcomings.
I’m almost sixty, after all, not six.

I didn’t think it could get any worse. See what I get for thinking?
I can’t believe I’ve lost?...misplaced?.....or had stolen? my insanely expensive, wonderful camera, bought for me by my underappreciated, extravagantly generous, long suffering husband.

How could I be so careless?
I don’t deserve to have anything nice.

I cannot live with this shame.
Marikosan,bring me my sword.....

Calm down;
Let’s not be hasty;
Dry the tearful torrent;
Cold water on swollen eyes;
Comb the hair;
Big, deep breath.
There….doesn’t that feel better?


A recap---
Where did I go yesterday?
The library.
The Cave.

Could I have forgotten to lock the car door?
Could someone have dared to open it and have taken my camera?
I have an optimistic view of people. Unless someone is obviously a villain, I assume decency.
I am not often disappointed.
Nevertheless, I am in the habit of locking the car, and never leave tempting goodies in full view of the curious, or persons with dubious intentions.

Glum, dejected and disgusted, I still had things I had to do. First stop: the Post Office. Half way there I glanced towards the passenger door……

And what to my incredulous eyes did appear???? Drum roll please!

My camera!

The case just barely peeking up from between the door and the seat! Where it had fallen, I now vaguely remember, going a little fast around a corner yesterday.

The nuns were right. There IS a God, and He is merciful to miserable sinners like me. And I just may have to go to church tomorrow. And my trust in my fellow man is intact.

You can put away the sword now, Marikosan.
We won’t be needing it today.