Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Day....

Another day lies before me. I rose this morning, hours before the sun did. I spent my quiet time in thought, and ended up wondering what the day will bring? Will it be an eventful day or just an ordinary one?

I can't say that I live an 'exciting' life. Well, not one that most would describe using that word. But, I am content, and find exciting things in most every day. so I might beg to differ with someone who thinks my life is boring. Alright, so I'm not constantly on the go, or joining some earth-saving cause, or adding my two cents worth of art or literature to the immense world around me. What I am doing is living and enjoying my life, moment by moment. I love discovering the little things that prove to me that no day is really 'ordinary'.

It thrills me to meet new people and learn about them by listening to their stories. Old people like to talk with people and talk about their experiences or their younger days. Sometimes they just want to have someone listen. I met such a woman who owns a little antique shop nearby. She'll soon be 85 years old, and she's got a joy for living. She's a definite 'people person' and enjoys talking with the few customers who frequent her business these days. I believe she keeps it open only for the fact that someone might come in with whom to talk! She's sweet and warm, friendly and interesting. Meeting her that first time worked into a two hour visit! She so impressed me with her story of eating yogurt in a crystal bowl with a silver spoon, that I cannot eat yogurt from a container with a plastic spoon without feeling somewhat guilty!

Life is always bringing little surprises. The other day, in the midst of a strong rainfall, I stood on my front porch and surveyed the soggy yard. As I glanced toward my neighbor's house, something caught my eye...a small bit of red was poking out of the green leaves on the Camelia bush. I couldn't believe it! I'd given up hope of ever seeing it bloom, since it's been planted for two years without a hint of a bloom. My eye followed the line of new plantings to the back where another Camelia has been located for nearly three years, again without a sign of a blossom. There, too, were bits of red peeking through. I could almost hear the words, "oh ye, of little faith" being spoken from the Heavens. I am over-joyed to know that patience does pay off!

There are little lessons along life's way that we will miss, if we aren't careful. Blessings sometimes wait to be found, they don't always hit you right between the eyes. If we're keeping an open eye, and open heart and an open mind, they are more likely to find us.

So, I begin another day...it won't be an ordinary day, for none of them ever are.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Wonder....

I wonder. Is there anyone out there who is reading this blog? Please let me know if you are...it's encouraging to know there's someone reading, and gives the incentive to keep writing.

I wonder how true the weather report will be today. After 5 days of rain, and a chill wind blowing fiercely yesterday, I look forward to a nice, sunny, somewhat warmer day today.

I wonder how the Farmer's Almanac can get the weather prediction so close to correct a year or so beforehand, when the Weather Channel can't predict correctly a week ahead.

I wonder what colors to paint the rooms in the house. I haven't yet decided, and therefore, they remain 'builder's white'. Though it's light and clean, white is also a bit 'stark' and cold. I like warm and inviting rooms, so while I continue to wonder what exactly to do with them, I fudge the decorating by throwing color in with quilts, pillows, artwork, throw rugs. It works for the moment, but I think it's time to make some choices.

I wonder why it takes me so long to decide on anything. I think I know. If it's a permanent thing, or semi-permanent, it means I'll have to live with it, even when I've grown tired of it. I do like variety and flexibility, so it's hard to make decisions that will last. If it's something like what to eat, I don't usually care what the meal is, as long as it's tasty and fills the vacant spot in my stomach.

I wonder how people are managing to survive this tough economy. My heart goes out to them all, especially those who've lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their homes. Money, or the lack thereof, is hard on a marriage. These days are hard on everyone....and I wonder how the President's plan will work to repair years of stupid decisions by others, and how long it will take for people to get back on track after all this. I wonder what devastation will be left behind for them?

I wonder why I have so many wonders....

Friday, March 27, 2009


Last night I had the opportunity to sit in with a group of men who were 'jammin'. It was a relatively new experience for me, having done this only one other time with this type of music, years ago on the West Coast. I've been at a lot of 'jam sessions' through the years, with a teenage boyfriend's band, my brother's group, and others. But, this was what seems to be the 'signature' music of the South...Bluegrass.

In a previous blog, I talked about my love of all sorts of music. Bluegrass is one that I've not been very exposed to, but I do like it, and want to know more about it.

So far, every soloist in our new country church, sings their special music selection in a Bluegrass Gospel style. My style is quite different, and I kind of 'stick out like a sore thumb', though I am well received all the same. I want to add the Southern style of singing, so that I can be more diversified.

The men last night sang a lot of familiar music, old hymns with a different rhythm. I was invited to sing with the group of nine guitarists and mandolin players. Fortunately, most of the music was played in a comfortable key for my soprano voice. I enjoyed adding that to the men's tenor and baritone voices. I look forward to doing more of this in the future. Since this group is a 'throw together' bunch on a regular Thursday night basis, I can go whenever my schedule allows, as the others do.

Life is always adding little blessings and enjoyable moments. I'm happy to say that this was one of them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My daughter tells me that it's time for me to have a more up-dated hair-do. Why? Because my head has worn the same style for twenty years or so, with little change? If I might defend that statement, my 'do' has been similar for all that time because that's the way my hair naturally wants to lay.

Oh, I could fight it with a curling iron or rollers or any one of a number of other tools. But that's too much work. Why fight what nature offers? I could let it grow again, as I did for a few years in the mid-90's, but I think at this age, I don't need that long hair weighing me down. I don't need to look like some hippie with grey-streaked mop. I want light and easy, carefree.

That brings me to hair color. My girls have all, at one time or another, done something to change their hair color. The only time I ever did anything was the summer a million years ago when I sprayed a "Sun-In" product in it. My intention was to have natural looking sun streaks, but what I got was a brassy blonde. Never again, especially after the year I spent in Cosmetology class, using chemicals and treatments on other women. The whole process and the time it took taught me that I didn't want to be bothered with it for myself. So, I am a dark brunette, with silver threads.

My hair is not as shiny as it used to be, and the grey is getting more abundant. That's alright with me. I like grey hair, and especially the silvery-grey that mine appears to have. At this age of sixty-one years, I am quite comfortable with myself in my own skin. I'd like to lose a few pounds, but I don't want to change my hair...not color, not style, not length. I'll just make it look the best I can, and enjoy the freedom of not having to deal much with it. Like it or not, Kids... this is Mom's look.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A True Story of Our Shipwrecked Ancestor

My GrGrandmother was a Nantucket native. She had a half-brother, by the name of Owen Chase.
In 1819, at the age of 22 years, Owen became the first mate on a crew of 21 men on the Whaleship Essex. The ship sailed out of Nantucket Harbor for the waters of the South Pacific, prepared for a trip that would take an estimated two and a half years.

Four hours out, a storm blew up, the ship tossed and battled with the sea. The captain of the ship wanted to turn back. First mate Chase convinced him that the crew of novice sailors would abandon the effort, should they return to Nantucket, so the ship sailed on their voyage. After a year at sea, they had butchered a number of whales, but knew that they would need to continue hunting if they were to make a profit. They continued around Cape Horn.

On November 20, 1820, they farmed in the 'whale grounds' , 2000 miles off the west coast of South America. One of the three small whaleboats, which contained Owen's crew of 8 men, was found to need repair. The men returned to the Essex in order to make the needed repairs. As they worked, a large male sperm whale, with a length nearly as long as the 87 ft. vessel, was seen to be approaching the whaleship, about 50 feet from the side. With little warning, the whale rammed the side of the boat. Dazed, the monster rested beside the ship until he regained his normalcy. Then he turned, swimming away from the ship. Suddenly, as if with extreme intent, the whale turned again to swim with purpose toward the Essex. Again, and with a great fury, the huge fish rammed the ship, this time at the bow. With great strength, he pushed the Essex backward, and as he did, the 20 year old vessel, with ribs built in sections which were pegged together, weakened under the pressure. As the ship began to drink in the sea water, Chase's crew loaded their small whaleboat with enough food and water to last 60 days.

The men in all three whaleboats were adrift on the sea, thousands of miles from solid ground, with too little to sustain them all. Each of the small crews suffered horrible experiences of hunger, thirst, vitamin deficiencies, exposure, hallucinations, and death among them. They buried some at sea, as was their custom of the day, but some were cannibalized, as a last resort to survival for the others. At the end of 84 harrowing days, the survivors numbered eight. The Captain, George Pollard, was one of them, Owen Chase was another.

During the next year, 1821, Owen Chase wrote and published his account of the shipwreck, entitled "A Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex." Eventually, Chase returned to the sea, as a successful captain on a number of whaling voyages. Twenty years later, a sailor named Hermann Melville boarded the ship, Acushnet. He'd read Chase's book, and was excited to meet Chase's son, William, who lent him a copy of the account. In 1851, Melville published his famous book, Moby Dick, which was based upon Owen Chase's narrative.
My search has left me with more wonder than information of his life. I have found that, over the years, he'd been married four times. I've read, too, that he was haunted by the recurring memories of the horrors he'd suffered on the Essex. In his later years, he was found to be hoarding food in the attic of his Orange St. home on Nantucket, and some writings deem him 'insane'. He died in 1869, at the age of 70 years on the island of his birth.
What a sad life I see in this man. He chose the sea, as so many did on Nantucket. It was a lucrative business in those days. It may have been his love for the water, it may have been a love of money. It may have been for reasons that I'll never know. What I do know is that from
his return to Nantucket until his death, he seems to have suffered in many ways. I search, still, for more on the life of Capt. Chase. I want to discover some small shard of information from the days before he boarded the ill-fated Essex or after his return that will show me that he had some happiness in his life. I continue to hope so.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thoughts on Tattoos

Call me old-fashioned. I'm not enthralled with the current fad of tattoos. My impression of those whose bodies are covered with tattoo-bearing flesh has always been that of 'roughians', tough bikers, gangsters of some kind. I've had to change that idea over the last few years, with even the tiniest women of meek manner adding ink art to their bodies. I've seen some work that I can admit that I thought was well done and even beautiful.

But, that being said, still I don't care for the idea of permanently stamping one's body parts with art. (If your argument is that it can be removed, why not get a peel and stick one, instead of one done with an electric pen and ink. It would be far less painful, and less expensive, to boot!) I've seen brides in sleeveless or strapless white gowns, bearing huge 'tats' on their forearms or shoulders or chests. I don't find that very attractive.

When one of my daughters got her first tattoo, it was small and located over her heart. I remember telling her that she'd look pretty weird as an old woman, with a sagging chest and a tattoo that was being dragged down with gravity as well. Her answer was, "no, I won't, Mom, because everyone else will have them too." She had a point.

I suppose I could live with the idea of ONE bit of artwork on a body, the way men used to do. These days, however, most people don't stop at one. They've become 'walking art galleries'. I don't have even one and am not likely to get one now... or ever. If I'm ever tempted, which I wouldn't count on if I were you, I will make my way to the nearest dollar store and I'll buy myself a wash-off type that the little kids wear.

I will admit that there is ONE good thing that might come about by the wearing of a tattoo, or several. That is it would make body identification easier, should the need arise.

I prefer to remain a 'blank canvas'. Tats are just not my style. Take that for what it's worth. Consider, too, while you're at it, that my hair-do has been pretty much the same for twenty years or more. Like I said, call me old-fashioned.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Music has always moved me. No...not moved me, as in 'dancing', but more precisely, emotionally.

My earliest recollection of music was that which I heard in Sunday school at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church. I'm sure that someone must have sung something to me as an infant, or that I heard a radio somewhere, but my earliest memory is of Sunday school. I heard those same hymns when my parents would sing together on our Sunday afternoon drives. Daddy sang lead, with his baritone voice, and Mom sang harmony with her alto voice. I can remember 'feeling good' when I heard them singing those familiar words.

Later, in school, my art teacher put music on to inspire 'moods' while we created masterpieces with paint brushes and clay. Mr. Stowell, my music teacher, played classical music for us, to introduce us to the sounds of Bach, Beethoven,Brahms and the other classical composers. It was something I enjoyed, but my love of some of the 'long hair' pieces came when I was older. Rock music was what I liked most then, and was encouraged even more by the on and off boyfriend I had throughout high school. He had a guitar and he'd formed a band. How could I not be encouraging?

And, speaking of long hair, I was a teenager during the 1960's when the term had a new meaning. During those years, musical groups were letting their locks grow long. The look was quite different from the Doo-Wop groups of the fifties and the early sixties. The music had gone from rock to Motown's soul sounds to the British Invasion. I loved it all!

As I evolved into the 70's, folk rock was big on my list. Everybody had a message about something...war, peace, love, rebellion. I seemed to be inspired by the messages and the music,
the soft, acoustic sounds. When disco made it's arrival, that sound got my feet going! I added that to my list of affections.

From that day until now, I've been carried along by the waves of various styles that were the current rage. There are favorites, of course, in every type of sounds. I'm still partial to the softer sounds, rather than hard rock or heavy metal. (I can't bring myself to call those music.) What I find myself singing these days, more often than anything else, are the old hymns. The sounds I remember from my childhood days echo in my mind. Those sweet, time-aged words that reach so far down into the soul are the most precious sounds to me. I sing them to myself, to my grandchildren, in church.

They say you can never go home again, but as far as music goes, I have come home to my roots.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Coffee: I love coffee. I wake each morning and, after a compulsory trip to the bathroom, I stumble to the kitchen counter to make a pot of the stuff. I can barely wait as the strong brew follows its path from the funnel to the carafe below. Sometimes I can't wait, and pour a mugful before the entire pot has finished filling.

It took me a many years to find out that I liked coffee. I'd always been a tea drinker. When I went to work at a realty/insurance office, there was a never-ending pot of coffee going, and that's when I began this habit. I created my cup with a lot of sugar and a great deal of dry creamer. In time I discovered that half and half was my additive of choice, and I drink my java with no sugar at all now, if I make it at home. I will admit, though, that I have to order 'sugar on the side' when I get a take-out cup of coffee, and often add something to sweeten a cup when made by friends. Everyone's recipe for a pot of coffee is different, and different brands of coffee tend to need adjustment to match up to the taste of your normal cup.

Motel rooms often provide a two cup pot and pre-packaged coffee and dry fixings, so that when their customers rise, they will be able to have their first cup of their morning drink. I appreciate their efforts, but I prefer to dress and go to a coffee counter somewhere, for something that resembles my version of a cup of joe.

Coffee has long been a companion to women when they meet together for a short social time. Many business people have a coffee cup on the desk or in the vehicle while traveling. My husband actually carries his large travel mug everywhere, drinking coffee all day long. (His buddy and former workmate always kids him about his 'Magic Tea Pot') I limit mine to two cups a day, but rarely drink that much, considering that my coffee cup is really two cups in size.

I wake to a mild headache which is chased off with that first mug of hot coffee. It seems I'm mildly addicted to the stuff. I'd better go drink that waiting cup while it's still hot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Four Day Party

After a good little vacation from blogging, I'm back and rarin' to go. My few days away from here have been fantastic, rewarding, and successful....and a little tiring. A big celebration went on for four days, with a houseful of daughters a son in law and grandkids here for Mom's birthday.

We had such fun, as we generally do when we're together. As with every family, there are occasional sibling disagreements, and we did have one of those, but all in all, it went well. Peter brought the Karaoke, and we took turns performing. The cameras were clicking, so the memories are recorded for all time. All this will be put into our scrapbooks. I can only imagine what future generations will comment about when we're long gone!

After cooking marathons, feeding frenzies and snack attacks, the bunch of us needed the dancing and Zumba we did nearly every night. I'm sure that even with that exercise, a few extra pounds stuck. I guess I'll go on a diet of 'rabbit food' for awhile, and continue the Zumba moves. I've got a doctor's appointment in April, and I don't feel like getting any grief.

Gram was in and out, according to how much of the mass confusion she could handle. She seemed to enjoy it when she was here, but sometimes the noise of so many people is a little much for someone who lives alone. She's a trooper, though, and was thrilled with the idea that her grandchildren thought so much of her that they would take time off and travel as many as 900 miles to join her on her birthday.

We gathered for photos of all of us in our sweaters, as planned...and Gram wore one of her own, as I knew she would. It was fun to see us all in one place wearing her handiwork.

I enjoyed having the gang here, and I hope that we'll have many more celebrations together in the future. Yes, I was tired, but staying up until 1:30 AM for a few nights will never kill me, and I'll soon return to my habit of falling asleep in front of the TV.
Now I've got work to do. I've got to shop for diet food and and to get moving, to start my walking again, adding dancing, and recording every calorie I eat. It's almost time for swimsuits, and I'm not ready for them! I'll let you know how things work out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is It Gardening Time Yet?

The weather has been absolutely beautiful during this last week or so. The temperature has been in the 70's every day and one day, it was nearly 80.

Boy, what a change from a week ago Sunday when we had 4 inches of snow on the ground!

The daffodils are in bloom, the fruit trees are blossoming, the roses are beginning to uncurl their leaves. Much of the garden is awakening, and I can't wait until it's in all it's Spring attire!

I dare not trust that we're beyond the night-time freezing weather that we experience here, and so I do not set out new plants or seeds until mid-April. A few years back, we had an Easter freeze that ruined the peach crops and killed my weeping cherry tree. I itch to get my fingers into the dirt again, but I will wait just a little longer. Of course, I could always get out there to prepare the beds.

Because the family will be gathering, beginning today for a five-day visit, the gardens will wait for any attention at all until next week. Besides, the weather channel reports that on Friday we'll get a blast of cold air (44 deg), and then it will steadily climb again.

The see-sawing temperatures tease me. Like the sirens of the sea, they call me to the gardens. Just when I'm geared to begin the tasks at hand, the horrible weeding chore and the de-clumping of the hard clay, a wave of cold hits and all enthusiasm for the work outside departs from me. Then, another beautiful, bright, sunny, warm day arrives, and the cycle begins again.

Looking at the dry heads of the Autumn Joy sedum and the sleeping grasses in the gardens, I'm taunted. I want to clean up the areas and ready them for the new season. I long to 'redecorate' the flower beds that will greet me each day come Summer. But, I must endure a few more weeks of this indecisive weather before I attempt an effort in that direction.

Until then, I'll pour over my gardening magazines and drool on the photos of the gardens I dream will one day be mine. "To everything there is a season"...and this is the season of waiting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Thoughts

It's almost time! The kids will be here this weekend...and the final count is ..who cares at this point! My four daughters, 1 husband, 4 grandkids and the local family will be here! We'll visit, laugh, sing karaoke, eat and celebrate Mom's birthday. It'll be good to see my girls again.

I so wish that Tim could be here too, but my son will be on his way to Alabama for some schooling for the USAF. We're used to not having him around for these sorts of get-togethers. The Air Force has owned him for over 20 years now, and he's at their beck and call to fly around the globe delivering paperwork to various bases. I told him that he's seeing a lot of the world. His answer was 'yeah...one base at a time.' I guess he's not seeing much of anything except military buildings unless he's on leave at the same time. He was able to line up some 'off' time while he was on duty to England, so he took the chance to see Ireland.

Family time is important to me, and the older I get, the more important it seems to be. We are so scattered in this day and age. Not only my family, but the families of most of us these days, seem to be separated by time and miles. When I was growing up, all of the family lived in the same town where we were raised and where our parents before us grew up. We knew no other place as "home." There was a comfort in that, a knowledge of things "familiar".

We've all moved out of the family homes and many, or just a few, miles from where we were raised. We've formed new places to call 'home', new friendships in new environments. I guess that's why family visits are more important than ever now. We are drawn to what is 'familiar' to us, and what could be more so than the faces of those we love and know so well?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Family Reunions

Family reunions happen all the time, though we may not call them that. When members of the same related group get together for any reason, I call it a 'reunion'.

Our seven kids are scattered between three states, and obviously that means a good number of grandchildren are, as well. When our NY girls decided to come for Gram's 83rd birthday, it was only natural that the Ga. girls would come too. One family of four won't be able to spend even one night, the other six will be here for from three and four.

As we email and phone to and fro, a full visit of celebrating is looked forward to by all. Here at home base, I try to keep the records straight as to who's coming and going on what day and time and which rooms they will occupy. Mike and I spend time going over the menu plans and making shopping lists. We've got a number of 'fussy eaters', so there has to be something that will accommodate everyone's palate. That's not so easy!

I'm still awaiting word on my nephew's acceptance of the invitation, so I'm figuring them into the mix. Late last week my daughter thought it would be a good idea to ask my cousin in a neighboring state if he'd like to bring his family to the celebration. I did so, and then invited his sister and her husband, in another near by state. She asked if her two children's families could come along too. Suddenly the party of fourteen had jumped to thirty possible guests. After a minute of stress, and then a good deal of anticipation at seeing those I've not spent time with in a long while, I mentally prepared a longer shopping list.

As Mike and I worked all day to clean and furnish our new sun room, we kept in mind how many we'd need to seat for the party and picnic supper following. We finally managed to get the seating and tables arranged in our minds, but left the porch in a state that Mom wouldn't suspect anything if she popped in from across the street. The extra chairs and folding tables would be added on Sat. morning while one of my girls kept her busy at her own house.

I kept checking my email for updates from the new invitees. On Sunday morning I still hadn't heard from my nephew's family, but there were messages from both of the cousins. No one from either family would be coming after all. Ok. With disappointment, I subtracted fourteen from the last number. We are at fourteen and holding until such time as I can add my nephew's four.

With all the confusion associated with these types of get togethers, I go through a myriad of emotions. While I love my family members, sometimes personalities don't mesh or immaturity over-comes adults, and there are 'unpleasantries'. At other times it's a big group of goofballs having a terrific time singing karaoke or eating everything in sight or laughing the hours away.

The fun starts on Wednesday. Would anyone else in the family like to join us? I can't even read the shopping list any longer due to the changes, so if you're coming would you mind stopping at the grocery store on your way?

Friday, March 6, 2009


Why is it, I wonder, that we often put off doing things? I mean, really! If you don't do the deed, it will still be there waiting for you until you do. Once the work has been done, it's gone, at least until the next time it needs to be done. Well, maybe that's the answer to the 'why?' right there.The same job might need to be done again, and again, and yet again.

So much of our day is filled with mundane, repeat tasks. Day after day, we need to make the beds, fix meals, wash dishes, collect the mail, etc, etc, and etc. Booooooooooooooring! Well, maybe fixing meals isn't boring, but most of the rest of it is. Isn't it more fun to just do something else? Maybe we could do some gardening or some creative writing or scrapbooking? (Choose your passion!) The danged other stuff won't go away, so surely we can ignore it and take the time to have a little fun.

I have noticed, however, that the 'undone' things not only stay, waiting, they seem to grow as they wait for someone to show them some attention.

A sink full of dirty dishes is not pleasant to tackle or to look at. So, why wait? Wash them when there are few, rather than waiting for the empty cabinet to signal that unless you take on the task, you'll be eating out of the palms your hands.

Beds? Unmade beds, with all their wrinkles and lumps are not comfortable to crawl into at the end of the day. It's so much nicer to look at a smooth, well-made bed and is so much more welcoming to a weary body.

The mail would be more exciting if it was anything other than utility bills and junk mail. I hate that all that money is spent on paper,ink, postage and employees who create and distribute the ads, only to have them all end up in the dump.
Ah well, I think I've just talked myself into not waiting to do those menial small chores. If I do them when they are 'little', just think of all the time I'll have to play on the day the I'd be playing 'catch up' because I put them off.

Ok. I'm off to don my armor (my Nikes and their coordinating Tshirt emblazoned with the motto, "JUST DO IT") I'm going to collect my weapons of warfare in the battle against the dust bunnies, falling dry leaves from the house plants and the dirty mirrors. By noon I'll be able to see all those wrinkles that have been hiding behind the splashed water spots. Hmmm... maybe I'll wait on the mirrors.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Gene pools are funny things. You never know what you'll end up with as a result of the genetics you've been born into. My brother looked a lot like my Dad, and the older Tom got, the more he looked like Dad. My other brother looks like my father's mother's side of the family. Me? I started out looking like Dad, and now, the older I get, the more I see my mother's maternal side coming through.

It's not just hair, eye and skin colors that you get when that old gene pool flows into you. It can also be ailments, body shape, personality, talents that you receive. I seem to have inherited both parents short stature, my
father's wavy hair and blue eyes and ruddy complexion. My outgoing, friendly nature comes from Dad, too, as Mom is friendly, yet more reserved. Dad's sister was prone to heaviness below the waist, as am I,
and his father, normally very even-tempered, could be quite the opposite when provoked. I've gotten that trait from him, I guess.
My mother's dark hair and smile (as we've both been told that we 'sparkle' when we smile.) were passed to me. It seems I'm (unwillingly!) inclined toward growing non-cancerous 'things' on my skin as Mom does and her mother did. Mom is extremely cautious of things, afraid to fly, not very adventurous and not a risk taker. Though my issues are different, I have my own share of fears, the list of which seems to elongate as time ticks on.

One day I was talking with Mom, and we were lamenting about such things, and she apologized for passing along all the 'bad' things. I told her not to worry...it's just genetics. Then I laughed, because her name is Jeanette....'it's just Jeanette-ics!"

I told her that she'd passed on plenty of good things! I've become more like her, in many ways, with her gentle, quiet, spirit as I've aged. I'm still adventurous and like to have fun, but I've also become more of a homebody than I used to be. (That may be, in part, that I don't have to be running hither and yon with the activities of five children these days! ) At any rate, there are many needlework and hand-work talents that have been passed on through Mom, which I am blessed to have received. She says, 'you got it ALL, from everybody on both sides, I guess." She's referring to my ability to do a multitude of creative things from art to crafts to calligraphy, from singing to writing. These are not things I find difficult, they just seem to come naturally, though sometimes they are frustrating to 'perfect'.

Mom's Dad was in the US Coast Guard and at times was the Station Master. I'm sure he must have had hours with little to do. I would imagine that the cards with the amazing script and fancy lettering were done during some of those times. My father's Mom would sit and paint and draw with me for hours, Dad too, got that ability from her, as did his sister and at least one of her daughters. Someone in the family must have done some serious writing, Dad did a little, Mom did a little, both of my brothers and I just let the words flow from the pen. My father's father was a soloist at church, and that came along to me from him. Nothing of us is our own, it seems.

I heard yesterday that scientists have figured out how to choose what your baby will look like. If I was still in that age group, I'd say 'No thanks. I'd rather have a surprise! " I'd rather let God take the old jar of genes, shake it up and pour it out as He sees fit.

Sometimes we're blessed with good things, sometimes we aren't as fortunate. Whatever we get, we just need to do the best we can with it.
I think that's the best way to go.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mom's Art

When my mother was about 12 years old, she became fascinated with knitting. She'd seen the mother of her friend, Judy, knitting beautiful sweaters and she wanted to do it too. Never being one to be very bold, she didn't ask to be taught. However, being what she terms 'very stubborn', she was carried on the winds of determination, and she taught herself. She went to the library and borrowed books to instruct her how to do the stitches and patterns. There was one obstacle, she had no knitting needles. It was depression times, and money was scarce. With "Where there's a will, there's a way" as her life-long motto, she did not give up. Somehow, somewhere, she does not remember either, she came upon some long nails. Two of them became her first knitting needles.

That was more than 70 years ago. Since that time, she has used her skills to knit useful and lovely things. During World War II, as a teenager, she knitted socks and sweaters for soldiers. After she and Dad were married, and babies started coming, she knitted tiny sweaters and hats and booties for her own children and her nephews and a niece. While I was in my school years, I always had at least one pretty sweater of her making in my wardrobe each year. I can remember one of my favorite grade school teachers, Miss Muriel Porter, always remarking to me about my beautiful sweaters and how lucky I was to have such a talented mother. She was one of many who complimented my mother's skills.

My father always had a pair of knitted socks to keep his feet warm. I, too, had knitted socks that worked so well in my ice skates and snow boots. Along with hats and matching mittens, I was shielded against the East coast cold. I think, at various times, we all had slipper socks which she'd made, too.

Mom didn't work outside the home, but she worked at her craft. Often I'd arrive home from school to find her sitting on 'her' end of the couch with knitting needles clicking quickly against each other. This wasn't 'work' to her. She was doing what she loved to do, creating. For a number of years, she made knitted layettes which were donated to Birthright, for new babies she would never meet. She knitted lap robes for Veteran's homes or for RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program). She sold baby items she'd made at a consignment shop called Whimsey's, and gathered individual customers who came to her time after time for custom-knitted suits, sweaters and other items. I often have wondered how many babies, how many people were clothed in my mother's creativity. How many elderly veterans had their knees covered by Mom's projects?

In time, new family members came along and a new generation was begun. They, too, were blessed to wear small-size creations with lovely patterns. The boys wore cables and ribs, the girls had lace and shell stitches. There were miniature Fisherman knits sweaters and cardigans, pull-overs and jackets. Tiny hands bore mittens, wee feet wore booties, little new bald heads were dressed in Grandma's hats. Each of us was a walking gallery of Mom's art.

Babies quickly grew to school aged grandchildren, and still, they were presented with Grandma's creations. On to college, into marriage, the sweaters continued. Grandma became GrGrandma to eleven, and the knitting needles continued to click.

These days Mom's sight is sorely affected by Macular Degeneration. She was declared 'legally blind' by the eye doctor, but Mom will not be deterred. Her sight presents her with challenges which make it more difficult to complete her work as swiftly. When she adds a stitch, or drops one, it's hard for her to know, until she's well beyond the error. When she finds it, she must unravel rows and rows sometimes, in order to repair the mistake. I saw her frustration at the end of last year, as she strove to work on sweaters for my four daughters for Christmas (2008) Time and again she would measure. Over and over again she would check the pattern of her pieces. They had to be 'just so' or they wouldn't be right.

On Christmas morning in New York state, two of Mom's thirty-something granddaughters tore open their gifts. When they reached Gram's, tears were shed as they touched the softness and the multi-patterned Fisherman knit pull overs. Here, at our house, where the others had gathered on Christmas day, the scene was similar. When I opened my gift from Mom, there was a surprise! I, too, had an ornately-patterned cardigan Fisherman knit! Watching the struggle she had as she worked on my daughters' four sweaters, I had no thought that I'd have one, too. In fact, I feared that the girls would be the recipients of the last of Mom's handwork. But, she will not be defeated! She is currently in the process of making her own new Fisherman knit garment.

What a blessing it is to have these gifts, her quilts (a story for another time) and all the knitted and crocheted items including the four sweaters that I wear. I've saved many of the tiny baby sweaters. I also have several pairs of mittens, hats, a cozy, fringed afghan with cables, diamonds, lacey patterns knitted into it. There are crocheted, lacey, white placemats, table doilies, handmade table cloths with her croched lace trim, crocheted and tatted lace on sheets and pillow cases, hand-quilted placemats, tatted lace snowflakes and Christmas tree ornaments. There are tatted crosses in my Bible, to mark the places I am reading. These are treasures which I show off. I am so proud of the things my mother has done, and every one of these gifts made by her diligent hands and determined spirit is precious to me. I wish I still had so many of the other items she'd made, but as life moves on, things wear out.

All four of my daughters and two of my granddaughters will be here next week to surprise Mom and to celebrate 83rd birthday. I have requested that all of them bring their latest sweater from Mom. She will undoubtedly be wearing one of her own, as well. I'll request that Mike wear his rainbow striped Mom-knitted socks too! We'll gather for a photo, nine of us, and after processing, we'll present that photo to Mom and each keep a copy for ourselves, as a reminder of her birthday and of her love for us.

It is my hope, that no matter how long God grants life to Mom, that she is able to continue to create as she does. Her busy hands have blessed so many in so many ways, and she has enjoyed every moment of it...almost as much as we appreciate her efforts!