Planning for a break

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I remember the week I was to have my wisdom teeth out. My sister had hers out a few months before. She’d been laid up for a week. I think my parents had taken advantage of her crankiness to send me to live with my cousin for a week (during which time I learned how to make tuna fish casserole and why I should clean my room). When my turn came, I had A Plan. I was, at the time a Very Serious Musician. I liked Wagner, despised Haydn and read music history for fun. (Ok, some things actually don’t change.) During my week of convalescence I laid in a store of books and created a plan for systematically listening through my entire classical music collection. This plan would ensure that my week of recovery would get me through every single CD I owned.

I got my wisdom teeth out. In a fit of deferentialism, I did not fill my pain med prescription. (We learn things as children…) I ended up watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, drinking chocolate milk through a straw and crying for pain when my mother came home. Early. With my ten year old brother. Who had chicken pox.

I may never have forgiven my brother because instead of my meticulously laid out classical music plan, I spent the week babysitting him.

Anyway, this returns to my memory because
a) I’ve never forgiven him
b) I have another week off

I’m older and wiser now, and I know that either I will rest in the week or I will get around to all those things I never have time for – not both. Or at least not both on a particular day. So far I’m getting fillings done (another reason to remember back to that week), volunteering in Thane’s classroom (I NEVER volunteer because I’m always busy at work) and probably going to Costco to lay in a goodly supply of sunscreen. Thus the knowns.

In the unknowns, some of the things I might do include:

  • Organizing the attic
  • Organizing the basement
  • Practicing my guitar
  • Reading books on business (I just bought Lazlo’s Work Rules to prepare me for my first day, and on the advice of my outgoing VP of HR also bought a book on how to win at your first 90 days.)
  • Sharpening up my increasingly non-existent/dull programming skills
  • Reading up on my new industry
  • Video games (Tragically I’ve finished the entire Fable series and I like happy cheerful goodspirited games – a vanishing genre. Also, my best Minecraft worlds are (ahem) on my work computer. My work computer, which I love, and I only have about 18 hours left together. Farewell good tool!)
  • Playing Ingress. (GO RESISTANCE!)
  • Meeting up with people I like who I’m always like “we should have coffee” and never have time to have coffee with
  • Packing for Mexico
  • Sleeping in
  • Reading lots and lots of Facebook
  • Pressure washing the back fence and getting the yard ready for spring
  • Making really, really good dinners
  • Picking the kids up early from school and hosting playdates from parents who invite my kids over on school nights which I can never reciprocate
  • Going on a hike in the Fells
  • Bringing the car in to have the artistic flourishes (scratches) Thane added a few years back removed
  • Finally organizing my music so I can listen to it on my phone
  • Organizing 14 years worth of digital pictures
  • Donating that cat food that makes Tiberius throw up but that is really expensive medical type cat food
  • Writing some decent blog posts
  • The thing is I know better. I know I’ll get like four of those done (sleeping in and too much Facebook are like, locks – chances are looking good for some Ingress too). The whole point of this week is to stop being productive for a week. To rest. To relax. To recharge. To lay down for one deep breath the heavy load I carry every day. But I’m always gobsmacked at just how unproductive I am when I stop being productive. I am a creature of great inertia. When I’m “going” I power through work at a phenomenal rate. But when I stop… you’ve met no one lazier.

    So – we’ll see! I’ll let you know how I do on my list. And hey – if I’ve been meaning to get coffee with you, give me a call!

    Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen

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    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon
    For the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
    For the loser now will be later to win
    For the times they are a-changin.

    – The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan
    Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/times-they-are-changin#ixzz3WOWjRwf5

    I was late with my blog post this week. It’s the first time this year I didn’t put up a real post on the right day, and I’m rather pleased that my scheduled posting time has worked so well. (And hey, I put up an “I’m not posting post” which practically counts.) And to be truthful, it wasn’t because things aren’t happening in my life, or because I ran out of time.

    It’s because I didn’t know what to say.

    Life goes through these long periods when you just don’t have much change. I’ve stared my Christmas update in the face many a year and wondered what I’d really spent the twelve months doing, other than slowly accruing happy memories – a accruative drip building the stalagmite of my life. And then there’s a period where woosh! Things change!

    I’m in a woosh period right now, although a pretty minor one. The big change (not to leave you on tenderhooks) is about my job. Specifically, I got a new one. I’ll be leaving my current employer at the end of next week. I have a little time between (and an impromptu trip to Mexico for April vacation – woo!) and then I start a New Thing. I suppose that’s only one area of my life changing. (We’re not moving.)

    In this blog, I very rarely talk about work. (I never want to wonder if my boss or client read something.) But I spend 10 hours or so a day on my employment – more time than on any single other thing I do except maybe sleep. I dream about work often. (Which I hate, by the way.) I try hard to not go to sleep thinking about work, but I fail more often than I succeed. And my labors (and my husband’s) make possible the rest of my life – my tithe at church, my farm share, my children’s carefree childhoods, trips home and on vacation, the pink house in which nearly everything needs to be updated or fixed… all of it. It matters a lot where I work, and how, and with whom. It matters how long my commute is, and how much I travel. It matters a lot whether I come home satisfied with the works of my hands (well, mind) or anxious and disappointed at my day’s labors.

    Five years ago I made a big move. I have learned SO MUCH in those years. I’m stronger, more polished, better informed and more capable than I could have imagined. I also have some idea of how much I DON’T know (way, way more than I know!). I’m not sure you ever get over the anxiety of wondering if you’ll actually be any good at a new job. Five years ago, I truly didn’t know. But now, I’ve done this a few times. It’s worked out each time.

    (Hmmmm this post is just as boring and vague as I was afraid it would be. Oh well.)

    tldr;

    I’m moving jobs. I’m SO EXCITED. I’m nervous. I’m thrilled beyond belief. I will miss my old work friends. I’m really going to enjoy the time in between. And hopefully it won’t mess with my blogging schedule too much!

    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone
    If your time to you is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’

    Brenda’s Stoneham Selectman Voter’s Guide April 7, 2015

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    On Tuesday, April 7th 2015, Stoneham Voters will head to the ballots to select our town’s leaders. If my engagement with the Bikeway has shown anything, it’s shown how critical great town leadership is to improve the experience of living here.

    [3/26/2015 10:39 pm: Edited to remove “pros” from Caroline Colarusso that are also shared by Erin Sinclair – see comments for details.]

    Recommendations

    Town Moderator: Lawrence (Larry) Means

    Stoneham Selectman (2 slots):
    1) Thomas Boussy
    2) Caroline Calorusso

    No recommendation (advise me!):
    – Constable
    – Housing Authority
    – Planning Board

    One of the great challenges I’ve realized lately is how hard it is to get information and form an informed opinion on local politics. There’s very little easily available information. If you don’t know where to go for what information there is, the problem is worse. This means that new folks to town, or people who aren’t amazingly well connected, either don’t vote, or don’t cast a knowledgeable vote on the election that may have the most impact on how they live. Will the town have a bikeway, or not? Will we bring more people to our downtown, or not? Do we build affordable housing, or do we lose some of our autonomy and have state oversight to guarantee we have affordable housing? How do we balance our tax base, infrastructure needs, education spending and other services? It’s local officials who decide those key issues.

    I had tried to figure out how I’m voting in this upcoming election. The Selectman’s race is particularly a difficult one for me. I’ve had some personal conversations with some folks in Stoneham about who they’re voting for, and why. I should mention that my thoughts below are my private opinion, and not as well informed as I’d like it to be. I’m certainly open to corrections, amendments or additional thoughts from you – or the candidates – about the elements I’m thinking about. I really wish there were an independent, clear, easily accessible voter’s guide for Stoneham voters. As far as I know, that doesn’t exist. This isn’t that – this is my opinion.

    The selectman’s race was one I thought a lot about. It’s a crappy job. It pays something like $3000 a year, requires considerable time and effort, and brings with it a ton of aggravation and abuse. One has to think through the motivations for why you’d do it. Idealism? Service? Love of power? Love of attention? Desire to change the town? Desire to help your friends? Family habit? Greater political ambitions?

    Tom Boussy
    Tom is the one candidate for Selectman I feel I can wholeheartedly endorse. Tom worked very hard on the Bikeway (before we brought 800 people to a town meeting to forcefully exert the will of the people). He’s energetic and enthusiastic about making the town a more awesome place to live. Tom and Anne Marie O’Neill represent the forward-thinking contingent of the selectmen (you know – the ones who DIDN’T vote against the Bikeway in the October meeting.) I feel like his motivations have to do with an energetic enthusiasm for the town.

    The second selectman vote has been hard hard hard for me to decide. Frankly, I don’t like any of my option. There was a second vote (Devon Manchester) whom I was excited about. I heard (admitted hearsay!) that he withdrew because the State Republican Party told him if he opposed Caroline Colarusso they’d never support him again. I resent having my choices limited for me like that.

    Robert Sweeney
    I quickly ruled out Bob Sweeney as a choice. He’s definitely been one of the folks who has never taken a public stand against the bikeway, but quietly worked to make sure it didn’t happen. (Someone had to be working hard to make sure it didn’t happen!) He has been dismissive of other voices in the community, and has a tendency not to show up for his duties. He didn’t even show up for the televised Candidate Forum. No, thank you.

    So now I’m down to two, and I have a number of pros and cons for each.

    Caroline Colarusso
    Pros:
    – Spent time on the finance board, which is another thankless task

    Neutral:
    – Given the number of elections, it’s clear that she sees selectwoman as a step on a larger political path. On one hand, that means she’ll be posturing to make herself look good for the next run. On the other hand, it gives her a motivation to show up and do work.

    Negative:
    – I dislike that (assuming what I heard is correct) she used her position with the state party to remove competition in the race
    – I am not sure she’ll be a strong advocate for new residents in Stoneham
    – She keeps talking about taxes instead of services or growth

    Erin Sinclair
    Pros:
    – Not an incumbent

    Negative:
    – She’s Bob Sweeney’s daughter, and if they’re both elected we’ll need to get a nepotism allowance for her to serve [ed. 3/26 see her note in the comment regarding this]. I don’t actually think the town needs MORE nepotism.
    – She’s also a salaried town employee. That seems like a conflict of interests that would require special handling.
    – When I asked what she’d done for the bikeway, she said that she was a “private citizen” and therefore hadn’t done anything. I am also a private citizen and I did do something, so I’m not super impressed with that answer. You can see my question and her response on her Facebook page.

    Larry Means – Town Moderator
    From what I’ve seen, Larry has done a good job in a very thankless job. His opponent has a platform of making passive aggressive jabs at Larry, and then not showing up for voter information forums. Not impressive. So I’m ready to vote for Larry!


    So that’s what I’m thinking. I’d love your feedback. Who are you thinking of? Why? What did I get wrong? What resources did I miss that a Stonehamite should know about? How are you making your decision? Who do you recommend for the races I don’t have an opinion on?

    Resources:
    – Here’s a copy of the ballot for April 7th: http://www.stoneham-ma.gov/sites/stonehamma/files/file/file/april_7_annual_election_ballot_proof.pdf
    – A number of the candidates did an hour long interview with Stoneham TV. Not mind blowing, but it gives you a good perspective on how they think on their feet (and who cares enough to show up): http://stonehamtv.org/ondemand

    A fine gift

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    Now that I’ve set off a frenzy of speculation among my friends and family about the vast secret to be revealed at 3 pm (instead of 11 am) I’m really feeling the pressure. This post needs to be funny, insightful, tender, touching, well-written and actually completed on time. Breathe, Brenda, breathe.

    (Oh, and Adam, if you’re reading before you’ve gotten home … stop.)

    So, several years ago my mother-in-law came to visit. This isn’t all that unusual, although I’ve noticed that visits tend to be clustered in times where the temperature is higher than 50 and lower than 80. (Something about “attic” and “no air-conditioning” and “lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia”.) My mother-in-law loves me dearly, and often brings me what can best be described as LOOT. This often takes the form of clothing, jewelry, furnishings and other lovely objects that she thinks we’ll enjoy. My husband, not being a girl or a child, gets the smallest amount of loot. It’s ok – he had his turn until I came along.

    Well, on this particular trip, Laureen left behind a pair of boxer shorts. They were in a box of other things she left. I looked at them and figured decorative boxers had to be for Adam since I do not wear boxers.

    The infamous boxers

    The infamous boxers

    I put them on his dresser and moved on with my life.

    A few days later, I found them on my bedside chair. Hmmm. I replaced them on the dresser. They returned to my chair.

    “Your mom left you these boxers, honey. You want to put them away?”
    “They aren’t mine! Look at that fabric. That’s not manly fabric. Plus, they have no fly. She clearly meant them for you.”
    “I don’t wear boxers. They’re obviously yours!”

    Now at this point, a sensible person would call my mother-in-law, ask for whom the boxers had been intended and settle the issue. I waited until my husband’s back was turned and snuck the boxers into his underwear drawer. The next day they were in MY underwear drawer.

    It, um, kind of escalated from there.

    The fabric is admittedly lovely

    The fabric is admittedly lovely

    I put them in his work bag. He once got through several months by stuffing them into the arm of coat at the beginning of spring. I stuffed his pillow with them. He put them in my music bag. I think I found them in my cereal box once.

    I noticed some time this winter they’d been gone for quite some time. Now, it’s entirely possible to play this game too well. For example, we had a similar, uh, exchange of goods with a friend and a video game CDROM (the best hiding place in that exchange involved a false top on a hat) and that CDROM hasn’t been seen in over 5 years. Either it’s hiding in our house somewhere in a completely epic plot twist or… it’s actually been lost. I casually mentioned to Adam that I hadn’t seen the boxers in a while. He looked both concerned and suspicious. (Do you really think I’d lie about that in order to throw off suspicion? Little innocent Sunday School teacher moi?)

    This Christmas Tree hides a DARK SECRET

    This Christmas Tree hides a DARK SECRET

    On Christmas Adam pulled out a particular present with extra pride. “Brenda, I don’t think I’ll be able to return these. I just really hope you’ll like it. I mean, promise me you won’t ever get rid of this gift, that you’ll keep it forever. It means so much to me for you to have it.” I, not being a churl, promised.

    Now, I thought the box was a little large for the diamonds and opals it clearly contained, but my suspicions were not yet roused. I tore open the paper. And the next set of paper. There were, if I recall, six separate wrapping jobs. And at the heart of this package was, of course, the boxers. And I had promised to treasure them forever! Argh! Social engineering! Upping the ante!

    Then I had an idea...

    Then I had an idea…

    I laid them out in plain sight since then, to make him nervous. Then, on Sunday, he left for a week long business trip. Before he went, I made a trip to Michael’s for two thingies of stuffing stuff, some needles and some heavy duty brown thread. While Grey and I watched the departure of Frank Burns and the arrival of Charles Emerson Winchester the Third on M*A*S*H, I reached deep back into my home ec lessons and converted the boxers to a beautiful throw pillow. To make my victory complete, I am adding Adam’s name as a possessive. In gold glitter.

    Nothing says "your move" like gold glitter

    Nothing says “your move” like gold glitter

    I’m so proud of myself.

    I discovered, in the course of preparing the pillow, that each set of shorts has one pocket, on the right hand side. (Seriously, what were these actually intended to be?!) Having used all my batting to stuff only one of the boxers (I thought it might expand out of the package? I was wrong.) I decided it was only sporting of me to stuff the other boxer into the pocket of the pillow, unchanged. I’m curious to see if he finds it before he reads my blog.

    Which of course brings me full circle. He boards an airplane tomorrow at 3, and I suspect that unlike his wife, he will relax on the flight instead of getting wifi to do work. So ideally my surprise will be intact when he walks, unsuspecting, through that front door. MUAHAHAHAHAH! MUAHAHAHAHAHHAH! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

    Your move, love.


    I also have, in the course of preparing this post, gotten my pictures from March and Piemas posted.

    Don’t you cry for me

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    The other night, I tucked a tired Grey into bed. It’s his most philosophical time, since every nine year old knows that the best way to get your parent to linger and not shut off your lights is to start talking about your rich internal life at 8:55 pm. As I returned to his bed with the water (and before I turned on his music and summoned the cats), he softly sang to the tune of “Oh Suzanna”:

    Farewell old master, that’s enough for me,
    I’m going straight to Canada where colored men are free.
    (A href=”http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Song_of_the_Free”>Song of the Free

    I was, shall we say, surprised. “Where did you hear that?” It being a way to extend bedtime, he freely answered. “From a book about the Underground Railroad.” “Was it about Harriet Tubman?” “Yeah.” We talked about race and equality. We talked about good people sticking up for other people against bad laws. I had that ever necessary conversation about how actually we don’t call our friends colored anymore. And after a successful ten minute delay, I kissed him goodnight.

    But it brought me back. I haven’t explicitly thought about my encounter with the Underground Railroad in years. As so many important encounters do, this one started in a grade school library. I got to thinking about how the reading I did in that fourth grade corner of the library changed my life and outlook on race and gender. It helped me see a world outside the Inland Empire farming town, and to see that life from someone less blonde and blue eyed than I was. It wasn’t just Harriet Tubman who spoke to me, but a whole range of these strong, amazing, not-white female characters in this great set of books. I hadn’t intentionally set out to read minority feminist adventures. But I did. And I was – and am – greatly influenced. I’d never before realized what a great collection this is, or would be.

    Freedom Trail: The Story of Harriet Tubman

    by Dorothy Sterling

    by Dorothy Sterling

    I have not read this book in over 25 years, but I remember this: Harriet had no advantages. She was black. A slave. Young. A woman. But she was gritty, determined and resourceful. This book did not sugar coat the hardship of slavery, or the dire danger of escaping. Harriet is gravely and permanently injured. But she risks snakes and dogs and slavers, overcoming so much, to escape. And then, once escaped, she goes back again and again to help others in the same journey. This is a book that inspired me by the capabilities even a young girl could have. It also helped me understand just how lucky my lot in life was. Harriet seemed very real to me, in the pages of this book. It made it clear that it wasn’t some intrinsic merit of mine that gave me a life of comfort and love, and her a life of persecution. But it did tell the horrible story of slavery in a way that didn’t condemn a white person to shame. I could choose to see myself in the helpers & conductors – the allies. I think I’d like to re-read it.

    Island of the Blue Dolphins

    by Scott O'Dell

    by Scott O’Dell

    I’ve always had a fondness for survivalist stories. I devoured almost all of them in the genre I could find: Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, The Mysterious Island, My Side of the Mountains…. This is a slim but compelling volume in that larger lexicon. It was particularly important that instead of “White person trapped in savage environment” (See…. all the others above except My Side of the Mountain) it was the story of an Indian girl. And she was not left for a few weeks, or a few months. She created a whole life for herself, by herself. It’s a heart-song to independence and self-reliance.

    Journey to America

    by Soniya Levitin

    by Soniya Levitin

    A friend and I were talking about how you introduce your children to the horrors of man’s inhumanity against man. You can’t responsibly raise children who have never heard of the holocaust… but it can be tempting. I’m not sure I want my children to understand how evil we truly can be. This book was introduction. It’s an escape story from the point of view of a young Jewish girl who fights with her family (and alone) to escape from Nazi Germany – with her violin intact. It touches on the hard edges of the horrors, without delving into them. There’s a narrow shave, but a happy ending.

    Journey to Topaz

    by Yoshiko Uchida

    by Yoshiko Uchida

    In counterpoint to that was this book. Of all of them, this might have been the hardest to deal with. It was geographically very close to me. And WWII is described as such a morally clear war from the US perspective. It would have been easy for me to get through childhood not knowing about the Japanese children uprooted from their homes and sent to internment camps in the US. Yoshiko Uchida’s descriptions were memorably evocative. I can still almost feel the grit and dirt in the barren and beautiless camps. Her life had started very similar to mine, and then had taken this left turn through no fault of her own. It hit very close to home.

    Julie of the Wolves

    by Jean Craighead George

    by Jean Craighead George

    Leaving the WWII theme and returning to “awesome girls surviving in inhospitable circumstances”, we head up to Alaska for an Eskimo adventure. I don’t remember thinking about how appalling it is for a child to be literally safer with a pack of wolves in the arctic than with her family. I do remember how cool I thought it was to make friends with a pack of wolves. I believe I was cheering for her never to return to civilization. This one was again on the more mature side of the spectrum.

    Naya Nuki: Girl Who Ran

    by Ken Thomasma

    by Ken Thomasma

    This is the book that started my obsession. Ken Thomasma came as an author to speak at my school when I was in second grade. We got a number of signed books from him in my grade school library. I read Naya Nuki over and over and over. I remember driving and looking for the places in the hills where Naya Nuki would hide out. The story is of a Shoshone girl captured by Nez Pierce slavers – who escaped and ran her way back over hundreds of miles and through countless dangers to be with her people. (Although she had to leave behind her friend – a much less important character named Sacajawea.) The countryside was my countryside. I mean, I had seen and touched the man who wrote the book! This was real! And it was a fantastic start to a reading life.


    That was hardly all I read as a kid, of course. I had plenty of other books in the reread queue that were not about amazing non-white girls. But I’m in retrospect impressed with that list. I find myself wondering if some forward thinking youth librarian pulled these books out, made them attractive, brought them to my attention. I do not know. I kind of hope so.

    Dear Librarian from Whitstran Elementary back in the ’80s – thank you.

    Quilts and connections

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    On Monday, there was a package on my doorstep. It was a box and it was (astonishingly) NOT from Amazon. (The Fedex driver must have been mightily confused by that!) It was from my beloved sister. I knew it was coming. I had an inkling of what was in it, and opened the box with the expectation of seeing an old friend.

    Our wedding quilt

    Our wedding quilt

    This quilt is just about fifteen years old. It was my sister’s first quilt, and is made with my favorite colors. The white around the edge is done with the silhouette of Mt. Rainier. In the corner, the dates and our initials are embroidered – the last time my initials would be BJJ instead of BJF. (Which, side note… changing your initials might be harder than changing your name!) The reason it was sent back to me is because quilt backs are not as durable as quilt fronts and sometimes when it spends a decade on your bed it can get torn. Maybe. (Maybe this is kind of a regular thing with all our quilts. Maybe.)

    BJJ & ARF August 5, 2000

    BJJ & ARF August 5, 2000

    There was also Thane’s baby blanket. He was old enough to vote on his colors. (Grey’s was ready for his arrival, and was themed with dragonflies. He was also lucky enough to get dragonfly curtains which still hang sparkling in his room.) He opted for the Pigeon theme. PIGEON! He was – is – absolutely entranced by it. In this cold winter, where bundling up in blankets against drafts and chills is a necessary comfort, he has been delighted to wrap himself up in Pigeon. (I have dreams, you know!)

    Don't let the pigeon hog the heat ven

    Don’t let the pigeon hog the heat vent

    Grey dug out his quilt from his room and demanded we all cuddle up on the couch in our Aunt Heidi quilts. Well, if you insist Grey! (I’m not cuddled up because I was photographing the situation, obviously.)

    Couch snuggles

    Couch snuggles

    I had this idea, when I was young, that it was impossible to do anything my sister was good at. This was for the obvious reason that I might not be as good at it as she was, and this was completely unacceptable. Things this ruled out for me as a youth included: photography, poetry, cooking, fabric arts and Georgette Heyer novels. Some of these we’ve clearly swapped places on. My niece asked – looking at our senior pictures – why her mother was holding the camera instead of me. I became a half-decent cook. Poetry I love to read but never wrote. And I’m the only one of my family who hasn’t read Georgette Heyer. (I KNOW!) But fabric arts were, and have remained hers. (Well, other than a very unfortunate encounter with a bright neon-striped apron in the year of Home Ec I was forced to endure before I absconded over to shop with the boys.)

    The tradition of quilting, and of giving a baby a quilt, is one my sister comes by honestly. My mother can sew well – I have a cloak of her making in the closet. But she was of the age where women were taught to sew because it had previously been practical… but where it ceased to be a survival skill for a well equipped woman. I’m sure my grandmother can sew too. But it was my great grandmother whose sewing I remember.

    I don’t remember when I got my quilt. It must have been after we got back from Africa – I doubt it crossed those oceans. Perhaps it was given to me when I lived in Merced. I can’t remember life without it. My great grandmother (Grandma Finley – my mother’s mother’s mother) made all three of us crazy quilts – my brother’s being made when she was north of 84 years old.

    What is a crazy quilt? The most practical of all quilts. The depression quilt. Here’s mine:

    My crazy quilt

    My crazy quilt

    My sister’s quilts are made with cotton fabric of a consistent weight. The fabrics are selected for color and pattern, and cut to create the design – then sewed back together. It’s an art form – a lovely one. But creating a quilt like that is certainly a cost. Fabric costs almost more in a fabric store than clothes do in a clothing store.

    But the fabric on my crazy quilt was not purchased for its loveliness or pattern. What you see on my quilt are the dress shirts, worn out skirts, curtains, blouses, dresses, slacks and tablecloths all worn out past repair or reworking. My grandmother collected the fabric from worn out garments (and buttons – we had her button box for a long time and it was super fun to play with!) and then when a child was born she reached into that treasure trove and put together a quilt. I’m quite sure a few of those squares come from my mother’s childhood dresses. I have cuddled myself in the castoffs of my ancestors, put together to warm me by the thriftiest of them all.

    You can see how each quilt square was put together by different pieces of fabric – whatever would fit. There are no squares on my quilt made of a whole piece of fabric, although the same fabric will show up in multiple squares.

    This block has no fewer than 12 different fabrics

    This block has no fewer than 12 different fabric pieces

    Each of those tiny, tiny squares of fabric is sewn to its partners to create the block. What a labor of love. How long did she spend composing the squares – piecing them together like a puzzle? I can see the thoughtful look in her eyes – rimmed by old-fashioned golden spectacles – as she contemplated the pieces. (She had a tremendous sense of spatial reasoning. She was famous for being able to pick the perfect size tupperware for leftovers at a glance. She also cleaned our clocks regularly at Chinese Checkers. She died when I was in my late teens, so I knew her well.) And each of those seams is TINY. Not an 1/8th of an inch more fabric than was absolutely required for those seams was spent.

    My favorite block

    My favorite block

    The differences in the kinds of fabric (there are thick cotton fabrics, thin gingham pieces worn almost to the woof, synthetic fabrics – all manner of clothes) mean that those unforgiving seams have pulled apart in many places – unrepairable because there isn’t enough material to bridge the gaps. The different squares were then sewed each to the other. The actual quilting portion of the quilt was incredibly simple. She sewed the filling and the back on at the edges, and then tied each quilt-square corner with a green yarn knot. I think this all meant that she could put together the entire quilt on her regular, workaday sewing machine – without any specialized machinery. Practical to the utmost.

    There’s a lesson in that crazy quilt. My great grandmother was born in 1900. She was coming of age in World War I, and was a young mother when the Great Depression ravaged a generation. She watched all the young men of her daughter’s age go off to war when World War II hit. I can imagine her as a ruthlessly effective Rosie the Riveter. (She actually was a switchboard operator.) She learned – and she taught – that waste was not only morally unacceptable, but that the ability to make the best things with the least waste was a skill to be proud of. (Well, modestly proud of. She wasn’t a big fan of pride.)

    My home and my life overflow with good things. I have bags of perfectly good clothes and toys I’ll summon some charity to haul away for me. I never know what to do with the spare buttons that come with my clothes – my memories of her keep me from just throwing them away, but I might as well since I never repair any clothing. But perhaps, in her memory, wrapped in two generations worth of love-wrought quilts, I could consider myself pleased with what I have that is durable, of great value, and be content.

    7 weeks

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    Well, this is the first Thursday I soundly missed my 11 am target. It was, of course, because I did not write my post. My Wednesday was busy! I hope you forgive me friends. I did manage to pull of the discipline for at least 7 weeks. I think it’s a great habit for me, and feel like I’ve been writing more, and more enjoyably.

    Part of my posting delinquency has to do with a lack of good topics. So in lieu of actual good writing, I’ll give you a grab bag of thoughts.

    1) My boys are in an awesome spot
    Grey and Thane have just been rock stars this week, in the behavior zone. I was prepped for a horrible week of “What do you mean I have to go to school every day” following five consecutive Mondays out of school. But no! I’ve had children doing homework without being told the minute they get home. I’ve had children cleaning their rooms when asked. There’s been cheerful chores doing, tremendous snuggles, and book reading. I don’t know what happened to MY children, but man I’m sure enjoying the kids I have this week.

    I was trying to think of a good way to thank Grey for his behavior tonight, without including junk food. Adam is doing aikido again (yay for him!) and so I had the kids myself. I picked up Grey and asked how his day was “Awesome!” and his homework situation (done at the Y!!!!). Then I offered him the chance to make the evening meal, with my active support/training and a grocery run if need be. He decided to make omelettes “Like Aunt Andrea made”. We stopped to pick up ham for cubing. (And Lucky Charms. And the tortilla chips I like that Peapod doesn’t carry. And bananas since every single banana I’ve ordered on Peapod for the last month has arrived frozen.) And then Grey sliced the ham and the chives, and I taught him how to make omelettes! Next up: teaching the children how to eat dinner….

    2) Imagine how easy our commute will be this spring
    All over New England, working parents have been doing rock-paper-scissors over who gets to leave early enough to get to work by 9 am, and who has to drop off the kids and saunter in at the crack of 9:30. (This is an improvement. Last week it was the crack of 10.) I didn’t think anything would make my normal commute look good… but having all the lanes available and the traffic just normal-bad will feel like a vacation. And parking… the lots have been full a lot lately, leaving my carpool to park in a $34 a day lot that’s about 1/3 mile away in 12 degree weather. Getting back to a reliable 3 block walk from a $18 a day lot will feel like a cheaper and easier life! Add in a commute that’s only an hour, and the mind boggles!

    3) I don’t understand how a capitalist society can not have gloves for sale right now
    I got in a car accident (I was rear-ended by a hit and run driver) last Thursday night. The car is like $999 dollars damaged. (This is how you can tell you have a $1000 deductible.) I was sore, but I’m ok. What was I doing Thursday night? I was driving to Target to buy more ski gloves for my kids because they would lose their limbs if they weren’t firmly attached to their bodies. I don’t blame my kids too much – I always lost gloves too. (Still do sometimes.) But in Target, there were swimsuits. Summer dresses. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk. And not a single warm glove to be found. Seriously, I would give a lot for a store that sold clothes you would be appropriately dressed walking out of the store wearing, and gear that you actually need right now. I simply do not understand how it is effective selling to try to pawn off on me stuff I can hardly imagine using while refusing to sell me things I desperately need. That’s how you get a grown woman on the verge of tears in your aisles after having risked LIFE AND LIMB to get to your store… thumbing up the Amazon app on her phone and picking next day shipping. Do better, Target, and all the other retailers in the US.

    4) Lent has begun
    By the time Easter arrives, the snow may have muchly melted. It is a time of transformational waiting, and I suspect I will feel that even more than usual as we go from the frozen heart of winter to spring. Six more weeks.


    I’m really looking forward to someday going places and doing things again. I’ll be sure to let you know if that ever happens!

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