Saturday, 8 September 2018

Fun? Not So Much

It’s been my habit to work on a self-portrait each year around the time of my birthday. A few blogs ago, I showed you a screen printed crow who would serve as my model for my self-portrait this year.

I liked this piece of art because it showed a quiet crow, contemplative and tranquil. It’s almost as though she is saying, “Lots to squawk about, but that’s not my job right now. Time to listen.” Maybe she’s telling me, “Just BE!”

Here’s how my tranquil crow, not quite finished, is turning out:

She is basking in the beauty around her, counting her blessings, of which there are many. She’s taking a rest, and learning to “just be”.

But that is easier said than done, Already, she’s probably dreaming about something else she’d like to be doing next. And that’s where the problem lies right now:

I’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. It started with tingling and numbness in my fingers, which has graduated to a burning pain at unexpected moments in the day and many more moments at night. It’s been getting worse over the last few weeks, to the point where doing the two things I love most, writing and creating art, are only exacerbating the problem.

So this is what “just being” is all about?

And yes, I’ve consulted with lots of medical folks, with more to come. The most common advice is to give the wrist a rest. Just let it “be.” How ironic!

I am very aware that carpal tunnel syndrome is a very tiny fish in the sea of sickness and misery where other diseases swim. But it is my little fish, and right now, to me, it feels big.

I never imagined that “just being” would amount to a new lifestyle.  No chopping vegetables. No gardening. No doing the dozens of things we do thoughtlessly with our leading hand: opening the car door, turning a key, reaching for the coffee pot. We depend on our hands for so much. The resident sweetie has been doing double duty. Apparently I have some big lessons left to learn that “just being” will have to teach me.

I am going to buy some voice recognition software for my computer in the hopes that I will be able to write that way. But until that happens, the crow is going to be sitting in silence.

Before I sign off for a while, however, I wanted to share something. This summer I read a book that challenged and inspired me, Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone was just what I needed to help me move on in my journey, and is helping me now as I adjust to this current state of affairs.

Whenever we are confronted with difficulties, when we feel useless and are looking for a way out, when we are looking for a new path to walk, the first step out into this new reality, says Macy, begins with practicing gratitude.

The practice of gratitude promotes a sense of well-being and trains our minds to notice the upside of things. It opens our eyes to the interconnectedness of all things, and helps us to gain a perspective on our place in the universe. As we list the things for which we are grateful, we develop a more positive view of life.

I've discovered that this week on a date day with Al.

We hiked together in sunshine, watched people enjoying life together, admired beautiful Arbutus trees leaning out over the water, ate great food  -- so much to be thankful for. It opened my eyes again to the good things and moved the focus off myself. 

Yes there's pain and frustration -- in your life as well as mine. We will acknowledge that, but we do so coming from a place of gratitude for all that we do have and experience, and that makes all the difference.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Oma's Still on a Learning Curve

It’s been more than 2 months since I last blogged. Several times I tried to write something, but the crow was definitely not cooperating. The results weren’t what I wanted to say, so they’ve been left on the cutting room floor.

Last week, however, the crow flapped her wings and squawked. I knew I had to get something off my chest.

Here’s the backstory:

We had a wonderful summer, but quite busy. We had our annual campout by the sea, and the family was together again for most of a week.

On one evening, the kids and grandkids hosted a belated birthday party for family and friends, which was delightful.

And at the end of that special week, we were thrilled to welcome a new grandchild, Mitchell Fen, into our family. Seven granchildren...such blessings.

And this is the rest of the story:

For each of the other grandchildren, even for Farrah Hope who lives in heaven, I had made a quilt.

Here's the first baby quilt I made for our oldest grandchild, Karina. She's 14 now, and still loves to cuddle with it.

Now it was time to make one for Mitchell.

If you’ve followed my posts, you know that I have almost entirely given up traditional quilt-making in favour making fibre art.. A beautiful homemade bed quilt is a thing of beauty, involving a lot of planning and precision. Fibre art is a horse of a different colour. I go with the flow and let it happen. I love it! So making a traditional baby quilt is a stretch for me.

Mitchell’s mom helped me pick out the colours, but the rest was up to me. I paged through books and magazines, looking for a design that appealed to me, and that would tell Mitchell how much his Oma loves him. After all, a quilt is a blanket of love. I found something I liked, but the artist in me said, “Yes, but, what if you changed this part of it, and added something here, and ...” I could see this quilt in my head. I was off and runnnng.

You know where this is going, don’t you? This quilt was heading for a train wreck. There was so much unsewing and redoing and tearing out and starting over that at one point I confided to the resident sweetie, “I wonder if I could just ask my quilty friends if anyone has a finished baby quilt I could buy and give to Mitchell.” He frowned. Not a good idea. I confided my frustrations to a few people – nothing like a little venting to let out the steam.

After the vent, on to plan B: grit my teeth and get on with it. Two days before Mitchell’s baby shower, I had most of the quilt top put together. There was supposed to be a train appliqued to the top, so I pinned on a paper facsimile, folded it all into tissue paper, and stuck it in a bag. It wasn’t done, but it was close enough to see what it would become. End of story?

Nope. All that lamenting and venting? It came back to bite me in the butt. When Steve and Andrea were about to open my gift, someone who’d heard my whining said brightly, “Oh, do tell them the story of this quilt, and how hard it was to make.” Suddenly, the room quieted – all 31 folks, even the half dozen kids – after all, everyone likes a story.

There were so many other takes on the story of making this quilt, but I didn’t tell those stories. Instead, I stumbled through most of what you’ve just read, and it wasn’t pretty. I was very thankful that Mitchell was sleeping sweetly and didn’t have to hear my whiny self complaining about making a quilt for him.

And that’s why the crow has been squawking this week. I need to make it right, so here’s the story I wish I’d told, and which his mom and dad can read to him when he is older:

Once there was an Oma who loved her little boy very much, so she wanted to make him a blanket that he could sleep under and carry around with him, a blanket of love.

Oma started right in. She had lots of good ideas, and she had a dream about what the quilt would look like. It would have a train on it, and some railroad tracks. She imagined how her boy could play with his toy train on the quilt.

She worked hard, but sometimes she made some big mistakes. She had to pull out the stitches and start over again. That was not fun. But she remembered who she was doing it for. She kept thinking about how nice it would be when it was all done. He could cuddle under the quilt while his daddy read him the story of the Little Engine that Could out of the same book that his daddy had read to him many years ago.

Oma kept working at it, even when she was tired and cranky (which does happen, even to Omas). But she kept working through the hard part, remembering the story of the Little Engine that could.. She told herself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...” And she did!

Mitchell, my dear little fellow, when you cuddle under this blanket, may you feel the love that your oma stitched into it. May it keep you warm and happy. And may you know that even when something is hard to do, if you love someone you will keep trying. And you will succeed.

Oh, and one other thing to  remember:  whining will come back and bite you in the butt...