Quilting Together the Past and the Present

The handprint quilted into the quilt above is mine.  Surrounding it are the handprints of my husband and grandchildren.  Twenty-seven years ago, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck headed to Wyoming.  We were delivering some oilfield supplies.  My children’s father was driving; it was late at night; the marriage was failing and I was thinking about my friend who was dying of cancer.  The idea for the quilt came to me; I don’t know how or why, but it did, and I started it the next week.  Different shapes, of different colors, were hand appliquéd onto a white piece of fabric.  I bought the thread intending to hand quilt it, with the different colors running through the quilt, an alternating triangle border pulling it together.

I often wondered why, when you would hear the stories of quilts, uncompleted, “discovered” in an attic, or box in a closet, they weren’t finished.  I learned, and understand now, life has it’s own plan sometimes, and it might not include finishing a quilt.  I carried the quilt, and it’s thread, from home to home, town to town, from the end of one marriage, through the failing of another, until now.  Children grew up and had children of their own; I found a good marriage, a happy place and decided I was ready to finish it.

The quilt like my life, metamorphised a bit; I needed to find a couple of replacement triangles that almost match; a couple spools of thread disappeared and had to be replaced; the stitches are bigger, and there were stains from the colored fabric bleeding onto the white.  My quilt and I have aged.  The colors match others I have chosen for our house, it will still keep a child, or grandchild warm, and if my husband wants to snuggle under it, while the fireplace warms up the house, it will keep us warm as well, while reminding us of the love of the handprints-the best warmth of all.

Our pasts never really leave us.  We can modify them, redirect them and flat out lie about them, but they are still our pasts.  Bring your past into your future, embrace it and quilt it together with your future.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with many things to be thankful for, both past and present.

Peace…

The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!

Peace….

Feminism? or Survivalist…

Helen Reddy’s song was released in 1971..  I was 12 and have been singing ever since.  I didn’t always understand every nuance of what it meant, but I loved the rhythm and it felt like a powerful song for a woman even at 12.

It’s sometimes easy for me to write personal things about myself; I have few secrets, although every woman needs a couple…  What I do struggle with, is writing and including anyone else in my stories.  The responsibility to write about any one else, in a way, that totally depicts my thoughts can be overwhelming.  I have spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking how I could tell this story..

I tend to be strong willed, there was a period of my life where I had my control taken away from me, then I over compensated by seeking more and more control (another blog 🙂   My parents would tell stories of me jumping off the barn, of arguing so much my Dad was sure I should be a lawyer, of wanting things to be black and white.  I didn’t try out for anything in high school, unless I felt like I could win, and if I thought I would lose, I wouldn’t try. My mom always encouraged me to do things, that she felt like she had missed out on, but she had little experience to share with me.  She was a woman of her generation, as I am a woman of mine, and even Mom sometimes thought I was too independent.

One dictionary definition of independent:Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting.

Relying on others; whoa that is a scary thought, one even now I don’t entertain very seriously.  Years of training to not rely on people, because of disappointments, that I bear part of the responsibility for, have taught me to rely on myself and to encourage others to rely on themselves.  Stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility, flip the switch.   Ok, so I’m stalling..  🙂

Mom and I were standing in the kitchen, of the old farmhouse; she was doing dishes and I was standing 12 feet away.  We were talking about “what had happened to me.”  “Mom, did you know?”  She turned and looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t, but even if I would have, what could I have done?”  My heart broke in a million pieces.

It didn’t break just for me; but it broke for Mom too.  She thought she was powerless; it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, because she loved her children, was loyal and steadfast.  She was raised in a time, when few woman, stood their ground, especially in rural North Dakota.  If any woman was to divorce?  You were a hussy!  Create a scene? You were crazy! Deal with your own trauma? Unheard of!  Go to the police?  Mom was raised by strong Baptist parents, you worked hard to raise your family, buried your head and survived.  She survived, but I choose to survive in a different way.  The shame is not mine, it is not yours.  We survive.. we thrive.. “to make a difference, in the life of one child”, regardless of that child’s age.  🙂

I am teased about how can I be a Conservative Feminist;  I laugh because I am who I am, a complicated Christian, believer in the separation of Church and State, fiscal conservative, believer of individual state’s rights, feminist.  Be who you are.  Whatever brought you to this place, made you who you are and it’s a beautiful thing.

Hugs to my survivor friends and family.  I am so proud of you.  We are going to make the changes..

Peace

Happiness? Finally!

The last few weeks, I have had a weird feeling; every once in a while (it happened both times when I was driving), I have felt this sensation.  Wanting to sing, and smile, I have thought, “What the heck?”  Believe it or not, I spent time thinking about what could this feeling be.  The feeling is happiness!  There have been a challenging few years in my past; dealing with one crisis or turmoil, after the other.  I had forgotten what true, clear, bell ringing happiness felt like.

Coping becomes second hand to us; it becomes natural after a long period of time.  We don’t necessarily feel unhappy, but happy?

There is a friend of mine,  who has had a similar couple of years. I shared my happiness thoughts with her, and she said, “I’m always feeling like the other shoe is going to drop.”  “Life is good, but how long can it last?”  This is what I told her and told myself, “Whatever is going on today, if it’s good, hang on to it!  Embrace it!”  If we enjoy and embrace the good days, we will have lots of energy saved up for that one day, “when the other shoe may drop” or at least droop.

Wikipedia says happiness is: a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.

“Reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being”, that sounds like we have some control?  🙂  ahhh, so if I have some control, what are some steps to take?  My comment I make to my children sometime is, “Did anyone die?”  They usually give me that look, but really unless someone died, it can be fixed or at least overcome.  That sounds like an insensitive thing to say….but coping is sometimes insensitive.. it’s tough, and challenging, and honestly…you have to cope in order to be happy.

Google “steps for happiness”, and you can have a hundred (more) opinions on what it takes to be happy.  One that pops up a lot is giving.  I agree with that 100%, but giving all the time makes you codependent and an enabler, topics for another blog for sure!  How about taking?  Can taking make you happy?  Taking time, taking love, taking a compliment, taking credit for your good works, taking a hug, taking a hike, taking a trip, taking help?

Hopefully some things to think about; take happiness.  I wish you all “that feeling that you can’t describe”; be happy.

Peace.