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…

PTSD: Please Don’t Call Me Honey

There have been traumatic events over the course of our history.  The PTSD that Veterans experience has started to come to the forefront of our awareness.  My son has a friend, who experienced such severe PTSD, that we worried for his safety.  We all know that the suicide rate is high for Veterans with PTSD.  What is it specifically and why am I writing about it?

PTSD.va.gov defines the symptoms as:

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD (en Español), but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

Now, Luanna why are you writing about PTSD? Are you a veteran?  No, I’m not, but read through the symptoms.  Do you recognize any of them? in yourself? In a friend?  I worked with “At-risk” students for years.  They became my specialty; I could see the best in them, even the days when it was challenging and even when they could never see it in themselves.  Many of the students displayed the symptoms. While most of us have not fought on foreign lands; many people display PTSD.

My abuser called me honey.  To this day, if a male calls me honey, I cringe inside and feel anxious… all these years later.  I dated someone who would call me honey, and I had to close my eyes, breathe, and say to myself, “This is not that person.”  It almost became a mantra, I used to get through a snuggle, for Pete’s sake….. “This is not that person, this is not that person, this is not that person……………

There have been days, when I feel this butterfly in my chest, one, than more…. I want to drive fast, be reckless… I have..  PTSD can be real.  Identify it and get help for it.

Peace…..

We Can Only Tell Our Stories

We all know stories; stories passed down through our families, fables of our cultures, gossip about the neighbor.  How do we know when we can share a story; have a teaching moment, use someone as an example either negative or positive?  This is the deal, unless it’s our story, we have to be very careful.  I like the “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.”  I am pretty open with you about my story, but I don’t tell all.  Maybe I will someday, but that will be my choice…it’s my story.

A friend called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “I want to tell you a story,”. She began to share some family history and after about thirty minutes of discussion, she said “I think I know someone who may have been abused.  How do I get them to tell me?”  Well that’s the crux, you can’t get anyone to tell you anything. They need to be in the right place to trust and to share, and you might not be the person they tell their story too for any number of reasons.

Many people have the ability to bury their abuse and the pain of pulling it out might be too much for them.  We have to respect that.  Survivors are doing just that, surviving and their process is not ours to judge.  I’ve noticed that surviving is like an addiction in a way.  If you stay away from the subject, you’re good, even though it might be lurking in the background, but I can imagine that for some, dipping your toe in the past might cause you to jump in, unable to swim, only gulping water.  Many victims, who haven’t achieved survivor mode, feel guilty and ashamed, because they’ve been told that they are guilty and shameful.  Some have told their story and weren’t believed, or worse yet shunned for their openness.  Many have buried themselves in addiction of drugs, alcohol, food, or abusive behaviors leveled at themselves or even become abusers themselves.  So many stories buried behind covers, that for some reason or another can’t be opened.  It’s so sad.

“What can I do?” was her next question.  What a wonderful person, to ask “what can I do?”  You can set an example of not telling other’s stories.  Be a safe place, listen and be trustworthy.  It’s not enough to say your trustworthy, BE trustworthy.  Have you ever heard that saying that if someone has to tell you they are something, they probably aren’t?  We set the examples; we screw up, but we have to try hard to set the example.  I have had many people tell me their stories, after I have shared mine, or said I was writing this blog.  They feel that if I can trust them, they can trust me back.  I don’t forget their stories and only share them generically.

We we all need to tell our stories when we are ready, and for some people that may be never, but be ready……the person they choose to share it with, could be you.  It’s an honor to be that person.

Peace..

You Would Know Four Things About Mom..

I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back.  One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class.  They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom.  They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue.  There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10.  It was a way to break the ice and it worked.  If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.

September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death.  I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me,  but there were four of us kids.  She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with.  We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church.  Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad.  That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.

You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop.  Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry.  I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends.  Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls.  We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.

Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them.  Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway.  If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped.  The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.

Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice.  They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go.  All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary.  Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine.  Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.

I thought about it one night, her last night,  and realized something.  I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before.  We will be here as long as you need us to be.”    The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready.  Rest in Peace Mom.

Peace…..