Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Simple Things

As I wrote in another post, I'm an introvert. I love watching people and being the proverbial "fly on the wall" though. Even as a kid, I would stand back and watch before feeling comfortable to join in.

I've been watching some acquaintances for quite a while now, not understanding the way they have chosen to live their lives. There is much activity and stress, never enough time to take a breath, barely time to answer the phone or emails and many times the choice to not answer. There is lots of drama, lots of things they feel they need to do socially and I'm reminded of ants scurrying around an ant hill. I know there must be a method to the madness but it eludes me. As I watch without saying anything, I know I could never live my life that way. It must work for them so I'll just continue to watch but I'd never join in.

I found this poem, I can't remember where, but have kept it in a folder on my hard drive for quite a while. It's simple, it's sweet, but it narrows down what is important to me.

by Linda Smith
A cozy couch, hot coffee, thunder
A warm fat blanket, a baby under
Soft Pajamas, a book to read
A chair that rocks, a cat to feed.
Warmed by the fire, plenty of bread
The children sleeping snug in bed
Friday nights, a wooden floor
Pumpkin pie, my friend next door.
And nothing...nothing...nothing more.
If that is all my whole life brings,
Before they tie on angel wings
Well, then my friend
We've lived like kings.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Good Wife

I've been on the internet since 1997 and it's opened up a whole new world to me, most of it good. When I first was able to log on and join some groups, I "met" many wonderful people but there always seems to be one or two in every group that enjoy controversy and causing problems. It inspired me to write a very short story about 3 or 4 years ago. The Good Wife is extreme but I think it has a point to make.

The Good Wife turned on the computer, waiting impatiently while the screen flickered then glowed softly in the dark room. It was twilight. John had just called. He was working late again. She felt like crying, but shook the feelings away. It was weak to cry. She’d just find something on the computer to entertain her until he got home.

The house was quiet. Her kids were grown and gone. Scott, her eldest, had called earlier to say they wouldn’t be making the 100-mile trip to visit this weekend. She knew Belle had to be behind the cancellation. Belle…distasteful name, distasteful wife for Scott.

Earlier in the day she had joined an e-mail group for parents of children with attention-deficit disorder. She snorted. Bad parenting disorder is what it should be called. She scanned the e-mail and couldn’t resist firing off a reply to someone who asked for advice in getting their child help at school. Seems the little darling was a behavior problem. She knew the behavior must be due to the kid being in daycare 100 hours a week. Parents these days sure didn’t know how to raise kids.

“Maybe if you’d spent time with your child when he was younger, you wouldn’t be having problems now!” she began the e-mail. She continued typing for some time, hit the “send” key and sat back feeling better. It was high time somebody started speaking up and pointing out other’s errors. None of this “politically correct” stuff for her!

She logged onto one of her favorite sites…Themestream. Ahhh, plenty of fodder for her opinions here!

She checked out the parenting section and read an article about teen mothers. She felt her face redden and her teeth clench. Kids shouldn’t be having sex and then writing about the experience on the internet when it got them into trouble! She started typing furiously, adding a comment to the “Talk Back” box. Yes, she had plenty to say about this!

The Good Wife thought back to when Scott married Belle. If that little hussy hadn’t lured him away from his perfectly good home with the promise of sex, Scott wouldn’t be married to her today. Didn’t matter that he was 25. Belle wasn’t good enough for him. She had an alcoholic father didn’t she? She probably drank in her spare time too and ignored the baby. Bad genes don’t suddenly turn good, she thought.

Hmmm…maybe she’d check out the section at Themestream about addictions. Clicking on the appropriate link, she waited for the page to load and once again thought about John. For the past six months all they’d done was fight. They’d probably have another fight when he got home….if he got home. Some nights he just stayed at the office. Maybe he was having an affair? She shook her head. That didn’t bear thinking about.

The page was loaded and she selected an article. This one looked good. It was about the psychological reasons behind addictions. Clicking the “Talk Back” section she started typing, “God-fearing people have no need for drugs and alcohol. Whining about your pitiful childhood won’t change the fact that you are weak. Get some backbone!”

A small smile lit her face as she pushed the “send” button. Oh, she was doing some good in this world, that’s for sure. Even if her beloved son wouldn’t visit and her husband didn’t come home, she was connected to the world and helping to straighten it out.

Let’s see, the Good Wife thought, where shall I go next?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Inevitable Death

In what seems another lifetime, I worked as a nurse. Most of my career was devoted to critical care nursing, a very intense and extremely busy environment that left little room for examined thoughts. Well into my years as a nurse, I had my first child. While taking care of a dying patient one day, it hit me like a clap of thunder that the elderly man in the bed could be my son many, many years hence. I knew I'd be long gone and wondered who would be taking care of him, who would be there to comfort him, who would be there to hold his hand when the end came? Would he be alone? Would it simply be an overworked and overtired nurse there to see his last breath?

Somehow in that moment, I became more fully formed as a human and a nurse. I always knew the patients I took care of were loved by someone but never truly personalized their experience until I imagined that one of the people I loved most in the world could be in that bed. From that moment on, I encouraged visitors and relatives to stay by their loved one, to be part of the experience of death that is as old as time itself.

Our modern world has taken note that death can be a better experience than it has been in the past. Hospice care is an integral and comforting part of a dying patient's last days but I think the greatest blessing is having a loved one by their side. We come into this world with at least one person who loves us and I think it's important to go out the same way.

The past few weeks have brought tragic news to two dear friends. One is losing her father to terminal cancer and the other her mother. While nothing good can be said about losing a loved one, especially one as loved as a cherished parent, there is a blessing to be found in knowing you have time to say good-bye, time to help each other with the heartache that such a loss entails and time to plan for the end. Both of my friends want more than anything to be available and to help their parent in their last days on earth. Both want to be the person there at the end, just as their parent was present at the beginning of their life. Both want to comfort and help and do something as simple as hold their hand. Love transcends all grief, and I pray they will heal and grow and look back to realize what a gift they were given to be there with hearts full of love at this sad yet inevitable time.
To my dear friends, I hope you'll find comfort with the following poem.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am a 1,000 winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sun on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled light
I am the soft star that shines at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there; I did not die.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Are most stitchers introverts?

I was reading an interesting discussion the other day on a needlework board and most of the people who answered sounded like they were more introverted than extroverted. There is nothing wrong with either though if I were to guess I would think more people who are introverts would rather have the extrovert's capability, that seemingly effortless ability to be with people and look like the life of the party. I seriously doubt there are extroverts who wish they could be on the other side.
First, let's get a definition.

Enjoy time alone
Consider only deep relationships as friends
Feel drained after outside activities, even if they were fun
Good listener
Appear calm and self-contained
Think then speak or act

Like to be in the thick of things
Relish variety
Know lots of people, considers lots of people friends
Enjoy chit-chatting, even to strangers
Feel stoked after activity
Speak or act then think OR think while speaking

OK, according to this criteria I'm an introvert and it's something I've known a long time. People can drain me. As a teen, I had a Peanuts poster hanging in my bedroom "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand". (note to self, that might be nice on a sampler). And though the wording on the poster is more extreme than I feel, I do know that I get my energy from within and not without. Extroverts are revitalized by being with others, I'm revitalized with my own pursuits such as stitching and reading or creating something. I love being with people with whom I have a deep relationship but the energy can get sucked out of me with cocktail chit chat and forced meet and greets.

Unfortunately, the extroverts in my life feel I should be more like them. My mother-in-law called before a recent trip suggesting that we go visit her cousin and her uncle while we were in the area. First, I've never met these people, I've never talked to them much less exchanged a Christmas card with them and I doubt I've ever even seen a photo of them. To say that meeting new relatives while I'm on vacation sounds dreadful would be putting it mildly. I also love when I get these unasked for suggestions and that someone else feels they have the right to use my vacation time for me. It would be different had I called her and asked if there were any fascinating relatives that we could meet while we were in the area. Of course, I wouldn't have done that in a million years and she knows it thus the little prod on the phone.

Instead of feeling guilty, I prefer to look at the advantages of being an introvert. And lucky for me, I just found a top ten list that I feel is suitable:

10) Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships
9) Maintain Long-Term Friendships
8) Flexible
7) Independent
6) Strong Ability To Concentrate
5) Self-Reflective
4) Responsible
3) Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking
2) Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity
1) Studious and Smart

How lovely that sounds, it's music to my ears to know that there are such nice features of being an introvert. It hurts when the extroverts in my life try to change me or look at me as though there is something deeply wrong. Thankfully, I don't allow those kinds of people to be around me for long, however there isn't much one can do about a mother-in-law except grin and bear it.

I can't say if most stitchers are introverts but I know I get a lot of meditative time from both stitching and my daily walk alone. The only person I allow on my walk is my husband because I know we can talk about important things or not at all. My neighbor has long wanted to walk with me but after a few walks with too much chit chat I decided I'd rather go alone so I appease her with something we both enjoy, dinner out with the husbands once a month. She's lovely, she's fun and bold, I enjoy watching her in action as she's the quintessential extrovert. I can admire her the way I admire a lovely flower or a work of art but I can never be like her and to those who want me to be, don't even ask!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Punch Needle

Have a look at my first attempts with punch needle. The design is from Waxing Moon. I took a class about a month ago and am so glad I did. I've always loved the look of hooked rugs but after trying to hook one a few years ago, I decided it wasn't for me. So, when I first saw punch needle making a comeback a year or more ago, I thought it looked just like a miniature hooked rug and wanted to try it. Surprisingly, it was very simple and quick. My LNS has many models on display and lots of ideas for finishing. I encourage anyone to try it out. It's very simple and quick. I plan to put this one on the top of a basket I have that looks like a shoebox. I'll attach it to the lid and add some cording around the edges.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mountains or ocean?

I remember taking a quiz in a woman's magazine a long time ago and one of the questions was "which would you prefer, a mountain retreat or an ocean retreat?" I chose ocean even though my family had a cabin in the mountains where we'd spend much of our time escaping the summer heat of Phoenix.

As fate would have it, my husband, his sister and older brother inheirited a ramshackle beach cottage years after I took that quiz. It's in Mexico and located right on the ocean. We'd never in a million years be able to afford such a location in the U.S. His family bought the place 35 years ago when the area was just taking off and were able to get the pick of oceanside lots.

The house itself has never been fancy, a living room, a bathroom, kitchen and 2 bedrooms. The main focus is the patio with a magnificent view of the Sea of Cortez. On a clear day you can look across and see the Baja Pennisula in the distance.

Through the years, weather, humidity, sand and time have taken their toll on the place but we have always loved our trips there despite the rundown condition and the primitive facilities. There are two water tanks on the roof but we can't drink the water and only use it to wash. The shower is barely a trickle and most trips I skip even trying to take a shower and boil some water on the stove and take sponge baths. Brushing teeth involves using bottled water, always a feat trying to rinse the toothbrush that way. The bed in the master bedroom is the original bed brought to the house over 35 years ago and sags in the middle, both parties ending up rolled together whether they want it or not. The windows rattle fiercely with the strong breezes and the gaps let sand accumulate in the house. The stucco on the outside is peeling, the roof has never been replaced and all the furnishings and kitchen goods are discards from one place or another.

Despite showing her age, despite her quirks, the house has been a much loved part of my husband's family and now a part of mine. The ocean air, exploring the tide pools, gathering shells, the tradition of watching the sun set into the sea, cooking out on the patio, watching the ocean life including dolphins and seals and our big discovery one visit of bleached whale bones (yes, we brought a rib home and it now sits in our garden) are all a part of the magic of the house.

For years the house didn't have electricity and that was part of the charm, lighting kerosene lamps and Coleman lanterns when it started to get dark, playing board games and Charades with the kids with no TV or video games in sight and the best part of darkness was sitting on the patio in chairs with our heads back looking at the starlit sky, sometimes seeing meteors and many times seeing the space shuttle arc through the darkness.

My husband's dad has been dead five years and we have slowly started to "improve" the house. The roof has been replaced as have the windows and doors, the outside re-stuccoed and repainted, we now have electricity and for the past few months we have been working on the inside with a new tile shower and fixtures in the bathroom and new tile on the floors including out onto the patio which has also been extended. The kitchen is now gutted, the old gas refrigerator long gone, the annoying- at- times tiny gas stove is history also. The propane tank has been removed. New cabinets are being made and new furniture is being planned. We'll definitely be more comfortable but in a way it's bittersweet.

The end of one era of the house is in sight. We will continue to enjoy the house and make memories there but I realize that the magic and beauty of the place has never had anything to do with beautiful tile, modern appliances or stylish furnishings. The perfection hoped for with the new improvements will make us more comfortable but not happier. The location, the loved ones and the traditions are things you can't improve with money and are the things that make us miss the place when we aren't there and cherish the place when we are.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer Solstice

I learned something new today. I've always known June 21st is the longest day of the year but I didn't know that it's an even longer day in Tucson. Summer starts for most of the northern hemisphere at midnight today but I learned it starts at 11 p.m. in Tucson so we have an hour longer than most places due to our location. Of course, it seems to me, summer starts here months earlier, in fact I often wonder if summer is just a permanent state in my area. To celebrate our extra hour of summer, I decided to start my blog today.

I'm not really sure why I decided to blog as I've resisted the temptation for quite a while. We'll just have to wait and see if I have anything pertinent to say or not. I'd love to be able to write inspirational, life changing words but as you can see, with the title I've chosen, I feel most of it will be scribbles. I love to write but my one true hobby is needlework and I'm hoping I'll have something to say about the needlework world also.

More later. I'm off to enjoy my extra hour...

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