Friday, 29 April 2011

Talk, Tolerance, Tattoos and Being True

Sitting in the sun. Cup of lemon, ginger and ginseng tea by my side. A slice of self-made honey and linseed bread on a plate, with real butter.  The kitchen window is open and the sounds of my neighbors sitting outside chatting mingle with Mary Chapin Carpenter singing on my computer. I am waiting for the doughnut dough to rise and shall then start baking some sugary goodies for tomorrow. Still not decided on whether to fill them with strawberry jam or vanilla custard, or maybe I'll just let them be all simple, cardamom goodness. Heavy decisions, oh so heavy decisions...

A week has passed, the spring is well and truly here. I have no great plans for the next couple of days, though it is the May Day weekend which means all sorts of parties and revelling all around. I think I am just going to be. Enjoy the sun. Happy people. Smiles and laughter. I am right now as I write feeling so at ease, so peaceful that I think there's more to this than a home filled with sunshine and the scent of freshly baked bread, lovely though it is. And of course there is. Things happen. Life throws you a curve. You stumble. You fall. And maybe for a moment you wonder if it really is worth it getting up again. And then you shake such silly thoughts out of your head, brush the dust from your skirt, straighten up and say, it's all life. 

And the three greatest gifts of moving on
Are forgiveness, hope and the great beyond.

Mary Chapin Carpenter
'Leaving Song'

This morning I actually got shocked while looking into my car rear-view mirror while being stopped at the street lights on my way to take the Daughter to the kindergarten. Whose eyes are those?!? Only a few weeks ago my Daughter run her little finger underneath my eyes asking me why my eyes were surrounded by blue. Why I had a  silent look in my eyes. She's a perceptive little girl, that one. And today, if we forget the crows feet and the inevitable baggy bags under those peepers, I realised for the first time in a while that there was a sparkle in those silent eyes. And, maybe, they were not so silent anymore. 

What happened? Nothing, really. Except moving forward. Taking charge of things. Baking and sewing. Reading and writing. Talking and listening. One evening, I was driving home around 10 p.m. from my cleanup shift at the Daughter's kindergarten. Its a Waldorf Steiner kindergarten and is run partly by the Support Society in which all the parents belong to, and all the parents take part in helping any way they can, which includes cleaning the kindergarten instead of hiring cleaners. So, I'd done my shift, was driving home. My Mother was sitting at home as the Daughter slept, in case she woke up, and I stopped the car by the bridge that runs across the river, for a moment. To see the last rays of the sun disappear behind the fjells. I was tired. My nailpolish chipped. My hair dirty and matted. And I felt very, very happy. And as I got home and my Mother left, I made myself a cup of tea. Sat in my reading nook in the kitchen and listened to the silence. There was still an eerie kind of light outside, and again, I felt so very happy. How little does it actually take!

In a couple of weeks I'm heading to Tallinn, Estonia for a few days to rest and relax with a lovely friend of mine. Plans include sitting in the sun, the shade, with a glass of wine in hand, good conversation, watching the world hurry by. Spa treatments. Pampering. I recently found out there's a newish vintage shop in town, so I plan to take a peek. My friend recently made a full turn in her life by changing from the life on the fast line to getting newly trained to a new job within the church, helping people. I need to talk to someone about the issues around religion, God and humanity that have been buzzing in my mind lately, someone who does not think that faith means faith in your own perfection or that divine means belief in your own divine right to do whatever it is you wish to do, to others and to the world. That as long as you keep preaching your own beliefs to others, it doesn't really matter what you yourself actually do.

Yeah. I trust people. I want to trust people. I want to believe that people mean what they say. And yet, of course I know that it is not always so. But sometimes I feel like literally shouting. Put your money where you mouth is! Practice what you preach! Words are just words and appearances just appearances, if we don't do as we say when there's nobody watching, no audience to see how we're behaving, then what an earth do those words really mean. Nothing. I've met people who preach tolerance and open-mindedness. And yet their tolerance, or their open-mindedness have never been put to test, and when they are, you see their faces change, their attitude towards you shift just a little. Yes, they should be saying, I tolerate as long as I myself don't have to deal with it in any way in my life. 

My Sister and her Life Partner are having a baby. And it is my Sister's partner who is having the baby. Yes. They are both women. And I love them both dearly and can't wait to be an Aunt. I'll be sad if I see some of you people leave my blog because of this, but we were not put on this earth to judge, it is not to us. So so many things have happened this spring that have made me realise really just how skin deep the so-called tolerance of some people really is, and how deep their self-centredness. Chronic illness. Bisexuality. Homosexuality. Mental illness. Different skin color. Different religion. No religion. Gender. Political views. Taboos? Still??

I made an appointment to have a tattoo made. Its not my first, but I haven't had more for years and years because I was told not to. And I let someone make that decision for me. I have always loved tattoos, no piercings for me, please, I don't even have pierced ears, but tattoos I like. So now I am going to have two. At a go. And frankly, have hard time believing I'll be stopping there. And I think they will go very nicely with my frilly apron, thank you very much. 

And now I must excuse myself and go bake the donuts. And I'm going to wrap some in a tea towel and take to my neighbors outside. Spread the smiles, people. Share the happiness. There's too much cruelty, intolerance, rudeness and insincerity in the world already. We don't need any more. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers and Home

I should be sleeping. Not sitting up here, listening to music, writing, seeing how the night is getting shorter and shorter, and the day longer and longer. Soon, the sun will not go down at all. I have practically not slept for a week now. Well, let me see, ok, five days and counting. Kind of lost track by now. And even though the first rays of sun start sneaking onto my face at around five in the morning, it is not the sun that is keeping me awake. Awake and half asleep. The past week or so has been from hell. No way to sugarcoat it. Learning about humans. Well. All I can say is this. Life, how many lessons are you still planning on teaching me? Have I not had enough as it is? Oooh I love to learn but c-o-m-e o-n n-o-w!

Could've fooled me.

Seeing as my brain has been somewhat preoccupied, I have also been unable to eat much anything. Unable as in have simply forgotten to eat. Tends to happen to me when life goes all humpty dumpty on me. And hugs and more hugs to the lovely lady friend who came laden with groceries, made me eat, brewed me camomile tea and talked and talked and talked to me until there were no more tears to cry. And then we got into my car. And started driving. No destination. Went to a gas station to get more tea and croissants. And drove through the countryside. And walked through the forest. Me in my jeans jacket, kneelength skirt and ballerina shoes trying not to trip on the still snowy forest path. Until we got here.

Its a war memorial, of sorts.
I say of sorts because
though the people whose last resting place
this became,
came here for war,
it speaks of

And to me,
this is what it has been a long time,
a place of
tremendous peace.

And driving back. We laughed. Even to us, this was a slightly unusual way of spending the evening. But this is what friends are for. This past week, I think my phone bill has tripled, no, make that quadrupled. Yes, I have arranged some travels. Tallinn for a few days in a couple of weeks. Rome and Dublin. I need to travel now. But mainly I have talked about life, the universe and everything with my nearest and dearest, my friends, my sisters, my brother. And I have felt their support, I have felt them standing next to me, whatever may come. They know me. They know that despite my strength, because I have chosen to be so open, I am also open for people who may not always live up to my trust of them. This we know, the world is full of people who will walk all over you and through you as if you're not even there. And yet, still, however, what is hope if not a thing with feathers...

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

Hope that even though this night, you might again sit up without being able to rest, maybe tomorrow will bring you peace. I need time to think. Time to get back to me.

So, since my brain has indeed gone AWOHL on me, I have been sewing a lot. Thinking about starting to actually post the stuff I sew as worn by me. As soon as I can get someone to take the pictures. A four-year-old with a digital camera does not all that good pictures make. So far, I only managed to get some pictures of our home...

My ├╝ber-girly 
thingybobbies by my desk.
And drawings by Lil Miss.

Not exactly a
man-cave, I know...
Pic on top right is of us three kids
fishing with our thirtysomething dad sometime
in the 1970's.

Now, let's be polite here...

Kitchen reading nook.
Got the chair from a friend.
Made new covers 
found two of those
lovely old blue satin pillows.

The rare stuff on the
bookshelves that is other than
Picture is of my Mom in the
early 1960's.

Changing art show in
My Dad put up the shelves.
They're all wonky
because the wall construction was
so irregular.
Gonna put up some more supports,
just for appearances sake.

Newspapers on the
livingroom wall.

Oh well. At least I can say this. My life is not boring. Could actually use a little bit more of that and a little less of the roller-coaster ride. But, hmmm, would that be my life then? Guess not. Sigh. So no worries. Maybe I'll try if I can catch some dreams after all, before the sun starts creeping up on my face again. And maybe tomorrow morning, it will indeed be the sun that shall wake me up and not my restless mind. 

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Works In Progress - Sewing, Baking and Me

Sometimes I think that I really should attend a course on '' think every word you say trough at least ten times before you speak'' or something, since I really, and I mean really, sometimes practically spend my days with my foot stuck in my mouth. Honestly. If you only knew the level of un-sophisticated blubber I am capable of. And by this I mean silly, I-am-seriously-going-to-make-such-a-fool-of-myself, blubber. Ok, I am only human. Its not like everything I say has the power to change the course of history. But really, do I have to be quite so silly sometimes? Sigh. Its like sometimes my brain decides to hang a ''Gone For The Day  - Be Back Later'' sign and play a little hooky with me, leaving me and my heart to our own devices. Oooooh. So not a brilliant idea, I tell you ladies. And cross my heart and hope to die, most of the time I am a fully if albeit sometimes a bit quirkily functioning adult, wholly in possession of my senses and yes, I wager to say, perfectly sane with not a neurotic streak in sight, I promise you. So why, lord have mercy, do I manage to still get myself in these situations??

Oooh yes.
Funny as in want to
stick your head in the sand and hope
no-one noticed...

Yeah, the people who know me well also know that this is a part and parcel of my personality. It does not mean that I am stupid. Nor does it mean that I am like so many of my dear Victorian ladies, prone to hysteria and walking around constantly with a bottle of smelling salts in my hand. But I guess I'm just not a calculated sort of person.  And I'm not sure if I will ever become one, nor if I ever should become one. Maybe I'll just keep getting sillier and sillier until I'm about eighty and no longer care about being anything but a crazy old lady in droopy brown kneesocks and a cane that I shall keep waving at the youth that I will inevitably think are all going rotten. And I shall wear weird flowers in my hat and goodness, probably the same clothes I am wearing now, or at least something similar, since like someone so kindly pointed out to me just the other day...I already dress like a granny. Now, let me defend myself for a mo here, I am quite sure I know of no old lady who would wear some of the stuff I do, but I get the point. Just recently, I saw this discussion going on in a web forum, about how people react to you when you wear any obviously vintagey or such clothing, and one of the comments received was '' Even my Granny dresses more modern than you do.'' Cute. And to the point.

But on to works in progress...other than me, that is...some of which has been in progress for longer than I like to admit, but that are finally now starting to come together.  

An old lace collar attached to a basic dark blue tee.

And that there on top is my 
needlecushion from 1949.
It actually has the date embroidered on back.

Dress being made with a 1940's Advance pattern. I put
a white hankie underneath the collar so
you can see the cut.

A white broderie anglaise top that I had no
pattern for but just sort of
drafted. And therefore ended up
with a scoop neck with just a tad too much of scoop...
Hence the need for the V-shaped part on front. 
The waist section is still missing,
going to make the back waist section partly elasticated
to do away with the need for a zipper.

A skirt. From a fabric my other Sister says is
slightly lunatic.
And I love it.
Pencil shape, with a pleated section
in the back giving some walking room.

And then acquisitions...

A vintage navy blue polka-dot skirt. 
Already worn this one, and love it.
To bits. 

A dress told to me to be from the 1940's.
Wouldn't bet on it but paid peanuts
for it and absolutely love the fabric.

The top is so worn through that
it barely holds together,
so most likely this one 
is going to end up being
a summer skirt.

An apron. A frilly one at that.
Ok, this is an old one, made a long time ago.
Just haven't gotten around to posting it.
It's actually made from an old
curtain, also so thin at places
that it rips all too easily,
but its an apron 
so it's kind of meant to get all
dirty and stuff.

And....tadaaah...Red Shoes!
Absolutely love these ones.
Took them out dancing one evening 
and had no problems 
walking the next morning.

And since I have been making an absolute fool
of myself once again and therefore
have also managed to do some stupid pacing around the floor 
and if I were the nail biting type
I probably would've bitten my nails to the quick....
... some baking was in order 
to calm meself down.

I give you...

Buttermilk Cornmeal Biscuits

They're lovely. 
Highly recommended, were you
being silly or completely sophisticated...
Get the recipe at Baking Bites.

All righty.

So here I am. Sitting on a sofa. Saturday evening. Old Peter Pan on the telly, Daughter's favourite. She is sitting on a turtle pillow on the floor completely immersed in the world of Tinkerbell et al. Her hair is in wet tangles down to her bottom, just washed with ballerina shampoo. The sun is still shining outside, and I really, really hope I haven't managed to make an all-out mess of things this time. I might make fun of myself and my silly antics, but somewhere in me I guess there is still the little voice that says thou shalt not. Thou shalt not be different. Thou shalt not be even a little bit strange and certainly thou shalt not be anything other than what people expect you to be. I try not to listen to that little voice, and I can only hope the people who really matter can see me as I am and not as anything that others suppose and expect me to be. If that includes sometimes silly, so be it. I shouldn't think that it can be all that bad now can it? 

I do so hope not.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

In The End Only Kindness Matters

Back to the writing board. For a few days now I've had this feeling that there are words just beneath the surface, linking hands with each other, forming little clusters, little sentences that end up becoming pieces of text. Chapters. Who knows what. They've been tapping on my shoulder. Hey you. Remember us? We Want Out. And out they've come. I've been inspired. Poems. Words. Why is this, you might ask. Like I said the last time, things have happened that to other, more world-weary among us, would probably mean very little, but that to me, the ever-idealist-me, mean quite a lot more. And I have, as ever, been left wondering about the nature of humanity. Humpf. Yeah. I hear you. Humanity, she says. Well, let me start by a question.

The quality of being humane.

What do you do if a friend you've known for most of your life seems to be turning into someone you really, really no longer can comprehend? Into someone you would never, never in your life as it is, and as you in your life are, want to be around if you met them this very day. If after every time you spend time with them, you come out feeling like you've been dragged through something dark, something so negative that it takes you hours, days, to gather your thoughts back to yourself. That because they know you so well, because they are, used to be, such loved friend of yours, their negativity manages to touch you much deeper than that of a stranger ever would. What Do You Do? I am at loss. I try to reason. I talk. I try to touch that part in them that I still believe is there. I try to tell myself that this is temporary. That this is not the person I know. That this is not the friend I love. That she is still somewhere in there. And yet. When I wrestle with the effect of her words, the effect of what my brain understands to be unwitting cruelty, I realise that I might not, after all, be strong enough to deal with it. That after all. I am only human. We all are. And sometimes, not so nice things are done in the name of honesty, friendship and good advice. And it makes me sad. And naturally, makes me wonder. How much are we supposed to grin and bear, in the name of friendship?

And I already know the answer to that.

Unfortunately, I've had to deal with rather a lot of unpleasantness from people lately. Well, not people as such, but some people. To the point where you start feeling like ok, who cares, I'll just be unpleasant right back. And yet, I refuse to do that. Because like I've said so many times, here and elsewhere, isn't this exactly what people who revel in negativity, who take joy in taking your joy, who choose to be argumentative even when it is not called for instead of just well, being kind, want you to do. And wouldn't that be giving in to the whole culture of cynicism, of coldness and I-care-about-nothing? It would indeed. Well, bring a little positive psychology to the picture, please. 

This is also starting to sound like repeating myself, but if right now you are thinking to yourself, yeah, well, easy for her to say, she's probably one of those sunny-side-of-the-street people, never had to do a days battle in her life, then, love, let me remind you otherwise. 

If I walk on the sunny side of the street it is because I indeed fought more than a days battle to get there. I have seen more than most regular people ever will, and yet, I am happy to say that I still get hurt. Yeah. You read that right. I am actually happy about the fact that I still get hurt. That I cry oh so easily, at cruelty, at injustice. I say silly things to the people I care about, like, well, I care about you. And goodness what does it say about the world today, about the world I've seen, that one should think that saying a thing like that to the people you care about is silly! If I miss someone, I just might send them a message in the middle of the night saying I miss you. I tell people, You are important to me, do take care of yourself. Damn, I've even been known to say I love you to someone without waiting for them to say it first. Because lets stop here for a second. How would that work if no-one ever said anything nice, anything kind, anything loving to anyone but just waited, waited, waited until something of the sort was first said to them? Kinda catch-22, don't you think? But oh, wait, aren't we kinda living in a world like that already...

So to hell with it. Just be silly. Be brave. Close your eyes. Open your heart. Let it out. True. You might get laughed at. You might get your words thrown back at you. You might get hurt. But you might also get a smile. You might see that your words touched somebody's heart. That because of a simple thing you did, you said, somebody is, if only for a few moments, a little happier. That you made a difference.

A few years ago, I was standing in a supermarket line. Few days before Christmas. People everywhere with their shopping trolleys filled to the brim with stuff. Me with my few little pieces of shopping, tuning out. Until something from the front of the queue reached my ears. The couple there apparently did not have enough credit on their account for their purchases. Which were not plenty. Just your basic groceries. So they begun to choose things to leave out. I saw people in the line turn their heads away. Heard conversations stop. And then an old man in front of me walked up to the couple, handed out his card to the cashier, without any unnecessary bravado, and told her to put the groceries on the card. Which the cashier did. And as the couple begun to thank the man, he just very simply shook their hands, wished them merry christmas and walked back to his place in front of me. And as one of the other people in the queue said to this old man that what he did was such a nice thing to do, all he said was that as we none of us get to take anything with us from this world when we leave, isn't it better to give before its too late

So, this man had money to give. It wasn't much and it probably made no difference to him either way. So why is it so difficult for us to part with words that have the power to make someone feel better, just like it seems to be so easy for us to part with words that have the power to make us feel so much worse? Why not spread the kindness. Start today. Because, in the end, only kindness matters.