Saturday, March 1, 2014

On friendship

"Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.”

Thanks to facebook I think we have all been forced to use the term “friend” a little too indiscriminately. Recent occasions, when someone I consider to be my friend has done or said something to me so unbelievably cruel it has taken my breath away, have made me seriously question the designation “friend.”

Generally speaking I don’t make friends easily or quickly. I am an introvert and making new friends is difficult for me. Forging relationships is a scary business because it means I have to put myself out there. Not only does it require letting another person in to see the real me, but it requires no small effort on their part to get past all my surface warts and prickles.

I find I prefer to spend time with people who listen when I talk instead of just waiting for their turn. Do that and I will try to do the same. Also, if you can find it in your heart to leave the drama out of conversations we will both be better off for it. I don’t appreciate drama in any form. Just tell it like it is or don’t tell it. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a good and lively conversation, but I much prefer a conversation of substance. Small talk is not my forte and empty conversation is a complete waste of time, mine and yours.

For the record: it is not much fun to spend time with people who are constantly trying to one-up me because their kid/dog/car/house is better than mine. I appreciate hearing about your children and your home and your whatever, but I expect the same from you with regards to mine.

Like most, I enjoy being with people who genuinely care about me. Me. In turn, I promise to care about them. It is not that difficult. Superficial friendships are not my style. If you are my friend, I care.

In the past year or so I have tried very hard to weed out from my life those people who are a complete drain on my well-being. I have a small circle of amazing friends who value me as much as I them. If you are reading this, chances are you are one of them and for that, I thank you.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ode to Mom

You were on my mind rather a lot yesterday and again today.

Yesterday evening CJE and I set up the quilt frame. Your quilt frame. The only quilt frame I have any experience with at all.
It fits rather nicely in our great room. The new stapler Karen got you, and subsequently let me take as part of the whole quilting package, is a dream. So much easier to operate than the old one. So easy, in fact, I was able to get Jessica’s quilt on the frame mostly by myself.

Which is both a good and a bad thing.

Putting this first quilt on what is now my frame was definitely a bittersweet operation. Gosh, I miss you, Mom. I miss both your expertise and the haphazard way you used to approach this:
    “We’re not building a piano.”
My anal-retentive personality quirks are not doing me any favors. Without you here to balance me out, I am likely to get out the tape measure to make sure everything is square instead of trusting my eye as you always did.

In the spring when Willa, Karen, Carolyn and Nolda (and hopefully Sheri) are all here to help with the big quilts you left behind, I hope I can control my urge for perfection and just enjoy the time with them doing something you and Karen and I did so many times and had such fun doing.

I never realized or appreciated how much our different personality types complemented one another when it came to these projects we cooked up. There were many, many times your casual, good-enough attitude drove me crazy. I strive for perfection, apparently to the point that, that too, makes me crazy. I can see now how my type-A perfectionism probably made you want to run screaming from the room at times.

I’m sorry about that.

Ideally a mix of the two is incredibly helpful. I can certainly see that now.

I am just praying that I can channel you over Spring Break. You have to be here with me, Mom, so I can not be quite so picky and anal and make everyone want to go home. After all:
    “We are not building a piano.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

I say tomato, you say tomato

I am strong in my faith.

I call this time of year Christmas. That is what works for me.

If you celebrate Hanukkah . . .

If you celebrate Kwanzaa . . .

If you celebrate something else . . .

If you celebrate nothing at all . . .

It really takes nothing away from me and mine.

I am strong enough in my faith that your faith being different from mine does not lessen mine. I feel no threat if you do not believe as I.

If you wish me a Happy Kwanzaa, I can sincerely wish one right back to you without changing the fact I am a Christian. After all, why wouldn’t I want you to have a happy holiday of your choice? I intend to, so why should I wish any less for you?

Why do we all have to be so mean and hateful to those who don’t believe as we do?

I am aware this is a nation founded on Christian principles. However I am also aware those principles transcend the man-made boundaries of faith. Many of the Christian principles held dear by those of the “faith” can be found under the auspices of many other faiths all over the world. It is also true the pilgrims came to this part of the world to escape religious persecution. Yet, here we are.

Love is the greatest commandment Christ gave us. However, the idea of loving thy neighbor appears in one form or another in all faiths. The variations are so slight as to be non-existent.

So why do we have so much trouble with it? I believe it is the most difficult because it is the most important. Big things are tough. Many of our neighbors are not easy to love, but we are all, Christians and otherwise, beholden to try and keep trying.

Why do Christians think it is all our own? Collectively we are arrogant and narrow-minded. The mob mentality takes over and it is ugly. I like to think, as individuals, we are not all like that. Although I must admit I see very little evidence of it. Too many Christians wear their faith like armor and defy anyone who dares believe anything but what they do. I find it difficult to believe this is what Jesus intended. That whole “love thy neighbor” things goes right out the window for those insecure in their faith and blind in the belief that their way is the only way.

I sincerely believe neither Jesus nor the founding fathers of this country intended for us to live an insular life. It impossible to love and help our neighbors when we refuse to descend from our self-made pedestal and get to know the needs, wants and wishes of our neighbors.

The holidays are nearly upon us. It is Christmastime. Hanukkah is next week. Kwanzaa begins on December 26. Is there some real reason we can’t all have happy holidays?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thoughts of home

We were supposed to get first frost last night. It didn’t come, but the tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and squash are safely in the garage anyway.

I got up this morning to a beautiful mist laying over the land. It is thick enough to the north that our customary view of the Columbia River is obscured. Disappointing in a way and yet it gives the landscape an ethereal and mysterious quality. It also make me very happy to be snug in my comfortable home.
While CJE and Liam sleep in this Saturday morning, I am taking a moment to pause and tally up a few of the changes we have wrought since we moved in six months ago. There is still a great deal to be done, but I like to think we have made a dent.

The 7-9-10+ foot jupiter hedge between us and the river is a bit more contained at about six feet. It is still five or six feet deep, but I can easily see the water from the windows of the front room and from the comfortable chairs on the deck. At least I can when the mist hasn’t crept in.

    A side note about jupiter. When CJE was in the midst of trimming the juniper hedge, he asked our son, Liam (who’s six), to help him by hauling away the trimmings in his little red wagon. Mid-way through the hauling, Liam was sneezing and coughing and he came up to Chris and said: “Dad, I’m allergic to jupiter.” Trying very hard not to laugh, Dad told him: “OK. Well, we won’t send you there then.” From that point juniper will always be known as jupiter in our little family.

The nasty 12 foot arborvitae flanking the entryway are gone. Thanks to some dear friends who came down for a mini working vacation. The bushes were so overgrown and full of bugs. They nearly blocked the entryway completely. Removing them really opened up the porch and enabled me to see the river from my kitchen window. At least I can when the mist hasn’t crept in.

The dark and dirty little cave of a bathroom is gone. In its place is a well-lit, brightly-painted bathroom with handy features like a towel bar and a light over the vanity.

The enormous (and overwhelming) red wall in the front room is gone. In its place is a wonderful soft green (pollywog) wall that we have found the more we live with the more we like. Instead of an abrupt and harsh frame for the view, we have a lovely shade of green that seems more like a continuation of the outside world. Oh, it is very nice.
These are just a few of the ways in which we are slowly but surely making this house our home. I am excited by the images in my mind of the changes another six months will bring.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

for Mom/from Mom

My mother died a couple weeks ago after battling lung cancer for several months. I can honestly say I believe she was ready to be done with her mortal coil. Dad passed away five years ago, and Mom missed him so very much. In the end, the confident knowledge the two of them would be reunited in Heaven enabled her to slip peacefully away.

Mom was a strong confident woman. She approached life with a head-on, can-do, no-nonsense attitude and expected everyone else to do the same. As a general rule she was pretty visibly disappointed when/if they didn’t.

Mom had very clear ideas about personal responsibility and behavior. Lessons from Mom were absorbed by her four daughters in ways that worked best for each of us. How my mother ever managed to raise the four such very different personalities that my sisters and I represent is nothing short of miraculous. Some of us had to be more of a challenge for her than others, but Mom was adept at giving us the space to be just who we were and still give us the grounding and sensibilities in her eyes we needed to have.

Mom never accepted “I can’t” as reason for not doing something. Each of us jolly well could and she made damn sure we knew it every second of every day.

My mom’s legacy is a fascinating conglomeration.

When I stand out in my garden surrounded by vegetables, flowers, weeds and all manner of growing things I can easily say . . . this is my legacy from Mom. I can remember when we were young every spring when it came time to start planting, she would have us each select three or four different vegetables which would be “ours” that year to nurture all the way from seed to jar. In this manner we learned how to plant, grow, harvest and process all different sorts of fruits and vegetables. Thank you, Mom.

Then, when I sit down in my craft room, I thank the mother who raised me and taught me how to do all these amazing things. Thanks to Mom:
    I can follow a pattern to make clothing and adjust said pattern to fit.
    I design my own fabric creations and bring them to fruition.
    I take quilts from the design stage all the way to completion/ready to go on a bed.
    I do everything from sewing a simple seam to many more complicated techniques and I know how to use a seam ripper.
    I am capable of both hand embroidery and crochet. (Sorry, Mom, I never could embrace knitting the way you did.)
These are just a small taste of the many, many things our mother taught all four of us girls.

During the course of an average day I can stop myself dozens of times and say: “Thanks Mom.” Thanks for showing me how to do this or that and sometimes even for just making me believe I could even if I didn’t know how. More than anything else, Mom believed in imagination. She believed: If you could imagine it, you could do it.

I think that’s it really.

Mom’s legacy is my inherent belief in myself. The belief that I am capable of tackling just about any project, thought or idea and figuring out a way to bring it to fruition.

Thanks Mom.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

String to short to use

10) May 2012: We put our house on the market.

9) July 2012: We find the house we want to live in for the rest of our lives.

8) August 2012: My husband’s father is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

7) October 2012: Our offer on the house we want to live in forever expires. The owners give us a six-month extension.

6) January 2013: We receive a low but negotiable offer on our house. After a couple weeks of back and forth, the offer becomes a bit more viable and we accept.

5) early March 2013: My mother is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

4) mid March 2013: The new owners close on our house. In the meantime a shingle blows off the roof of the garage and a soon-to-be-ex neighbor tries to throw a wrench in the whole deal. We move all our belongings into storage, our pets into a local kennel and our homeless bodies into a friend’s motor home.

3) late March 2013: My mother begins treatment for cancer. We travel to the house I grew up in to prepare it for market and get Mom ready to move.

2) early April 2013: We get her house on the market and Mom moves to Kansas City to live with my oldest sister. We close on our new house on the same day my father-in-law dies. With the help of a couple of long-time friends and my husband’s co-workers we move all our stuff from storage to the new place.

1) mid April 2013: My husband flies to Chicago for his dad’s funeral while I am furiously unpacking boxes in an attempt to make this house a home.

Welcome to my nightmare. Now you know why I have not written in quite some time. I am still reeling from the stress of it all. HELP!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God & Country

I love God.

I love my country.

That being said, I prefer to live my life quietly. I wear neither my religion nor my patriotism on my sleeve.

I pray for myself and my fellow man. I participate in the events of a local church and attend services regularly.

I fly the flag of the United States of America on a staff at my house. I vote when called upon to do so. I rail against the tendencies of my government to interfere in the aspects of my life where I feel it has no place.

Normally I don’t say much to anyone about either of these particular aspects of my life as I find them both to be quite polarizing for most people. However, events of this past week have had many of the friends in my social media circle screaming about both God and government to the point that I can no longer deny my own strong feelings.

Many are saying the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary happened because our government has kicked God out of our schools. Really? I think that might be crediting our government with more power than it really has. God is in our schools. God is everywhere we are. Contrary to popular belief, God is all powerful, not the US government. If the parents of the children attending our schools have done their jobs and taught their children to love God, then God is with them everywhere they go.

As far as our government allowing or not allowing God in our schools? What does that mean? He’s already there. What the complaint really is is the fact that our government doesn’t allow corporate prayer in our schools. I am OK with that. My son loves God and Jesus. His faith allows him to pray and live a joyful life. Someone else’s child may call God by another name such as Allah or Buddha and have a true love for their faith that gives their life peace and joy. Who am I and who is the US government to deny them that?

This country was based on freedoms and freedom of religion tops the list.

The problem with giving our government the ability to put God in our schools is: whose god should they put in? Yours? Mine? Theirs? Even those of us who call ourselves Christian can’t agree on God.

Some of us believe He is all things to all people and no matter what name He is called, He answers. Others, who also call themselves Christians by the way, believe God is . . . well, to be honest, I don’t know what they believe except that they seem to want us all to conform to their beliefs. In my mind this is not a reasonable expectation. If that’s the god they are wanting in the schools, even I, who call God, God, have a problem with that.

Do I believe God was in Sandy Hook Elementary last week? Yes. I do. My God was there. Weeping at the senseless tragedy of it all. Knowing it was going to happen before the event occurred. Knowing He was going to be called upon to pick up the pieces. Knowing, even as He did in the beginning, the free will He had given His people was going to break His heart. He was there to gather all those souls to Him and take them home.

Was your god there? If not, why not? Because the all-powerful United States government told him to stay away? Do you even know how ridiculous that sounds?