Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Makers

This afternoon my daughter and I watched a couple of hours of Makers: Women Who Make America. I'd seen it before and she had seen parts of it but this is the first time we'd sat down to watch it together that way. It gave me the opportunity to share some personal memories that put some things in perspective for her.

I recalled where I was as particular dates were mentioned. 1972, when Title IX was passed, I was in the eighth grade and my older sister was graduating from high school. I got married in 1980, the year Oprah dared to ask for a paycheck equal to her male co-worker. A record breaking number of women were elected to Congress in 1992, the year my daughter was born.

Yesterday was a day of memories for me, too, as I watched Vice President Joe Biden on The View. He talked about the Affordable Care Act and how it will give women more choices because they won't have to be dependent on their jobs for health insurance anymore. When he said that I was suddenly back in 1984, driving my daughter to daycare, holding it together until I'd dropped her off and then crying the rest of my one hour drive to my job that provided our family's health insurance. Or on the phone with a neighbor, begging her to look after my baby whose fever was too high to leave her at the day care center, knowing that my paycheck would be docked if stayed home with her myself and we couldn't afford that. I cried on the way to work on days like that, too, knowing that I had no choice. I was the primary breadwinner while my husband was in seminary and we both hoped our situation would be different once he graduated and got a full time job.

Today I watched a clip of Elisabeth Hasselbeck and company on Fox News discussing the Vice President's comments, saying women don't go to work just for the health insurance and it's insulting to say that they do. I'd go back and pull a quote out of that one for you but, frankly, I don't have the stomach to watch it again.

And I can't tell you what I think of them or their opinions because my mama taught me not to use language like that.

But it strikes me that comments like those shared by Hasselbeck and Crystal Wright show their ignorance of the lives of those whose experience differs from their own. Could it be that when they say that “people” don't do such and such they're actually saying “real people”, “right people”, “good people”, you know... “people like us”. Because those other people just don't matter. Not as much as “our kind of people” matter.

And this, to me, is the difference between conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives, by definition, are trying to do the least they can. Conserve your resources, your time, your energy. Don't spend anymore than you have to of any of it. Look after your own needs and let everybody else take care of themselves.

Liberals want to do the most they can for as many as they can. Find the money somewhere because there are people who need it. Change the laws so everyone knows their rights are protected because they've endured enough and we shouldn't make them wait any longer. Your success makes life better for me, too, because we're all in this together.

I guess that makes me a Liberal.


My 8th grade school picture


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Puzzling

I grew up in a family of puzzlers.Wherever two or three are gathered during the Christmas holidays you will likely see a jigsaw puzzle in progress. Hours are spent assembling the picture and bonus points are given for complexity.

My Aunt Becky is the Master Puzzler, picking out the most intricate, detailed pictures with the most and often oddly shaped pieces, accumulating a great collection of her own over the years. She has now begun to pass along the best of these to the rest of us to enjoy. The most challenging one I recall was a transparent lucite puzzle that included straight pieces in the middle, not just on the edges. You didn't know if a piece was part of the edge or the middle or even if it was upside down or right side up.

This year my family received from Aunt Becky a 1,000 piece puzzle with a picture of a giant, multi-layered hamburger. It looked delicious, but we soon discovered its particular challenges. Did that green piece belong to the lettuce on the bottom layer or the third layer? Was that red one part of the tomato on the second layer or the slice of bacon on the top? That yellowish brown piece might be part of the bun but was it the top, middle or bottom – or maybe a piece of cheese. It didn't help that the missing piece often turned out to be two or three oddly shaped pieces instead. It took about 4 days but we got it done.

As I spent hours pouring over the pile of pieces, making myself take time out from the usual routine, a few life lessons began to surface. I'm listing them here, in no particular order.

It takes many pieces to make the whole picture. And it wouldn't be complete if even a single one was missing.

Whether you're talking about an extended family or about the larger picture of your life, every piece has it's place. The shadows help us appreciate the highlights.

Small things can make a big difference.

Subtle color shadings or contours determine whether a piece is the one you need or just another one on the pile. Similarities in color or shape do not always guarantee a good fit.

Get help when you need it.

In life, as in jigsaw puzzles, we need each other. We can do more together than we can separately. Even when the progress seems slow, the journey is better because we're not alone.

Proximity can lead to unexpected conversations.

Just by being there, bending over the table, scrutinizing the pile of puzzle pieces, we may find ourselves talking about things we might never have brought up in the usual hustle and bustle of the holidays. Family memories are shared, details filled in about stories we thought we already knew, words of encouragement shared that we never realized were needed. Relationships can be reinforced in these “Oh, by the way...” moments, just because we were there.

Be patient.

Piece by piece, the picture becomes clear. Don't give up or you might miss it. When the picture begins to appear we can become too eager. But if we rush to fill in all the blanks too quickly something vital may be overlooked.

Last, but by no means least....

You know the missing piece is right in front of you. It just doesn't look the way you expected.

Let's hope we keep our minds and hearts open so we may find our missing pieces this new year, even when they come in unexpected ways.



Friday, November 22, 2013

That Day in Dallas

I was five years old, watching As the World Turns with my mother the way we always did during lunch, when Walter Cronkite broke in to announce that President Kennedy had been shot.

I lived in Oak Cliff, the south part of Dallas, a few miles from where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured later that day at the Texas theater. My family was acquainted with the police officer who was shot and killed when he confronted Oswald on an Oak Cliff street.

I remember my mother crying. It was probably the first time I saw her cry. As she made up the beds after we'd gotten the news she punched the pillows harder than usual, as she said "Why would anyone want to do that to that man?!"

I went outside and climbed up to the top of our swing set in the backyard. From my perch I could look to the north and see the skyline of downtown Dallas on the horizon. I have a very strong memory of thinking how strange it was that the things they were talking about on TV were really happening, right over there.


For the next several days there was nothing but news coverage about the assassination on TV, including the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and then the President's funeral. The images stay with me - Caroline kneeling with her mother beside the flag draped coffin in the rotunda, the caisson carrying the coffin, the grief-stricken faces of Mrs. Kennedy and the President's brothers, the horse with the backward boots, John John's salute and the eternal flame.


When I was a teenager I went on trips with my church's youth choir. Sometimes, after singing at a church in another city, we would stay in the home of the church's members. Once, I recall our host making comments about us being from Dallas, the "city that killed the president."


As I grew up in Dallas , I went to movies at the Texas Theater, worked a couple of summer jobs near where Officer Tippett was shot, and often drove along Stemmons Freeway overlooking Dealy Plaza and the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

But never without thinking of that awful day.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rainy Day Memories

The SD card in my phone died a couple of days ago. Fortunately, I've got photos backed up on Google+, Facebook, and Flickr with my best photos on 500px. But while checking to make sure I hadn't lost anything I really wanted to keep I ran across this one and I just had to stop and look at it again.

I took it while spending the weekend in New York City with some very special friends in July, 2012, when we were surprised by a summer shower. Ducking into a doorway to get out of the rain and wait until the storm had passed, I snapped this photo. I'm not even sure why but it's become one of my all time favorites. 

Maybe it's because I've always loved rain and it takes me back to playing in puddles when I was a kid. Maybe it helps me remember to stop and look for the beauty and serenity that might be right in front of us when we're surprised by life's little inconveniences. 

Or maybe it just reminds me of the company I was keeping that day.




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Word Games



It's not that the words won't come.
It's that they won't stop.

They chase each other around in my head
like kittens around a couch.
I never know when one will pounce
demanding my full attention
only to be nudged aside by another
squirming to take its place.

I see each newborn idea
take its first steps
standing tall
stretching out
reaching wide
gathering others in to join the party.

And there they go around the couch again
inviting me to come and play.









Sunday, March 17, 2013

When Irish Bears Are Smiling


I think my friend, Ali, is the most Irish friend I know so I wasn't at all surprised when she asked me about a special teddy bear project. Ali has ordered several of my handmade teddy bears before so she was familiar with my work. She also knows I enjoy a challenge.

Ali sent me her favorite old hoodie and ordered two teddy bears to be made with it. She's lost a lot of weight during the past year and can't wear the hoodie anymore, but she hated to just get rid of it. Turning it into teddy bears seemed to be a good way of keeping the old favorite around. The extra challenge was that she wanted me to take the shamrock off the hoodie and put it on one of the bears.

The soft green knit of the hoodie was easy to work with. I trimmed the fabric close to the shamrock and appliqued it to the back of the bear. Since the shamrock was so large it fit better on the back, which is flatter, rather than sewing it to the more rounded belly of the bear, which might pucker or distort the shape. For the second bear, I found a small gold shamrock patch and ironed it on the front. The finishing touch for each bear was blue eyes, just like Ali's.

So, Happy St. Patrick's Day! Enjoy the pictures!

























If you'd like me to make keepsake teddy bears for you
 leave a comment here, find me on Twitter
or check out my Etsy shop: 





Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Special Bears

This is the story of two very special bears. They were born the day my Twitter friend, Linda, asked if I could make teddy bears from an old bathrobe. I'd been making bears for years with recycled clothing so I said, "Sure, I can do that!" Then she told me what she wanted to do.

Linda and her sister lost their father about a year ago. I remember how we had talked on Twitter about the loss of a parent and our group of friends gathered around to encourage and uplift her.

Linda told me that she had her father's favorite robe with his initials on it and she wondered if I could use it to sew two teddy bears, one for her and one for her sister, and put one initial "L" on each bear. She even emailed me a photo of her father so the blue eyes of the bears would match his. I told her I would be honored to do a project like that. 

I decided to complete the construction of both bears before trimming the initials close and turning the edges under to sew them on. I saved the faces for last, as I always do, and added ribbons around the neck matching the color of the initials. 

When Linda received the completed teddy bears she tweeted me and said, "All I can say is...wow...amazing...speechless...they are just beautiful bears!" She also said her mother was "blown away". I do love a happy customer!

You can click on these photos to see them full size:
























If you'd like me to make custom teddy bears for you
leave a comment and tell me what you have in mind
or you can find them in my Etsy shop.