Saturday, May 30, 2009

Making History

Greetings from a bright summer Saturday on Vashon Island, or as the natives think of it, “another shitty day in paradise.” OK, the natives don't think of it that way. I saw that on a t-shirt a guy was wearing in a documentary about the South Pacific Islands a few years ago.
It was warm yesterday and is on track to be warm today and tomorrow. Rick is recovering from yesterday's BCG treatment, and at the moment is playing Go Fish with our grand daughter Allysan.
Our older son JD is at WORK! Yay! The kid has a job! He's going to spend the summer with a shift running the register at the Chevron station up in town. His friend and music collaborator Charlie has the same job at Mom's, the 76 station south of town, so they figure they will be the convenience store kings of Vashon and will have plenty of grist for the rap lyric mill from their experiences.
Drew is still asleep. It's what he does during the day.
We had a busy week. Friend Sonya (you can see her above, getting prepared to drive back home on Thursday) came up on Monday and we had a good week together, hitting Granny's and the Lost and Found store, celebrating my birthday and Rick's, and visiting friends Alice and Becky, both of whom were under the weather (surgery, and pneumonia, respectively). And we talked of old times and old friends.
It is a great thing to talk with someone you've known for over 40 years, remembering our youth and the people we both knew then, telling each other more current news about the ones we've each kept in touch with. Some of them are gone now, including Sonya's ex-husband, Randy.
Randy was a storyteller, a punner, a bluegrass musician, and a welding major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, when I met him back in 1967. In that arid place and time, he ended up playing rhythm guitar and dobro in the rock band I was in. Thanks to Randy we were playing country rock before it had been recognized as a genre.
It was a little strange, especially considering that Van Webster, the leader of the band, had announced that he wanted to form a blues band. I was in it to imitate Janis Joplin as much as possible without the drinking and drugs. Bruce Willard was the bass player, “as loveable as a speckled pup,” as Randy said. Drummers came and went, as drummers do. It was in college that I began to suspect that all drummers were crazy. Crazy or not, there's something different about them.
We played at a coffeehouse in Cayucos every weekend for the first year or so, and finally gelled as a band. In 1968 we started playing for dances, private parties, restaurants, and bars, for which I had to put on make up and pretend to be 21, as well as appearing at Poly Royal, Cal Poly's annual “country fair on a college campus.”
One month I made $100 from singing with the band, and felt like I was on the road to prosperity. Turned out to be a really short road. All you musicians know what I'm saying.
Sonya was Randy's on again, off again, sweetheart in those days. She occasionally came down from Santa Clara to visit him, and that's how I met her. We became friends. Sonya took me on my first trip to a Salvation Army, the beginning of a lifetime of second handing.
My mother was mortified.
There may have been women at Cal Poly with whom I could have made friends. I guess I never met them. I wasn't interested, at the time, in meeting girls who were there to get their “MRS degree.” It wasn't that I didn't want to get married myself; I thought there was more to life than that, that's all.
Randy and Sonya married in 1970, I believe, down at Montaño del Oro State Park. We ate the chili which Sonya had prepared, tossing in clove after clove of garlic. The cloves all disappeared in the chili, which was a mystery to me. Where did they go? How could a whole clove of garlic just melt? I guess if you apply enough heat and time, that's how.
In 1972 I rented a room from them in their house in Santa Clara, where they lived with their infant daughter Mackedie. During the months I lived there Sonya and I hit the thrift stores, the tofu factory (deep fried tofu cakes...mmm), and the store that sold Deaf Smith peanut butter (heroin in a jar). We got into my '58 Chevy and drove up to Skyline Boulevard to enjoy the forests and fields and views up there. We went to see Funny Girl at a drive-in. “The shoes are all wrong for that period,” Sonya said. We went to the Montalvo mansion in Saratoga, which is now the Montalvo arts center. We went to the Winchester Mystery House and took the tour. We went to Cost Plus Imports and looked at the goods, and I bought a red enameled silver ring which is long gone.
We went and saw Dave Van Ronk in concert up at the winery on top of the hill overlooking Los Gatos. When Mackedie began to cry at one quiet point, Dave Van Ronk growled, “Broil that child.” Big laugh from the audience. “Fuck you,” Sonya said. This was an appropriate use of profanity, in my opinion.
Good times.
I was supporting myself by working for a temp agency, so it is amazing to me that we did so much in the few months, less than a year, that I lived with Randy, Sonya, and Mackedie, but we were young and having a good time. Friends came over to their house and we played music and ate great food and laughed a lot. I'm not sure why I moved out and came up to Washington to live, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I came up here and met Rick, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It's all history now, but it's great to sit down with Sonya to relive a little of the past, and to go out with her and hit a thrift store again, and make more history.
Oh my gosh - got all the way through that and forgot to tell you what that other picture is: that is Dick and Jane's Spot, the house and yard that is art over in Ellensburg. That is a whole 'nother blog. We'll get to it in time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Contingency Plan

It was on an episode of 30 Rock that Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) turned to Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and said, “What is your contingency plan for a crap storm of this magnitude?”
Or words to that effect.
Most people become aware that life is full of surprises. You know the famous quotes: “Life is what happens while we're making plans.” “When we make plans, God laughs.”
It isn't that setting goals or making plans is wrong. It's just that we never have sufficient information in advance to know what to plan, or whether a goal will be attainable.
Lovers leave, toddlers throw up, cars break down, someone we love becomes physically ill, or mentally ill, or dies. Our house turns out to have rats, or burns down (well, at least that takes care of the rat problem). Many of us have life histories of which we hope our children will never learn the whole truth, and our children grow up to have lives of which they hope we will never learn the whole truth. A drug dealer moves in next door, or maybe we end up becoming the drug dealer. None of us talked about that career track with the guidance counselor, did we? How many of us planned to get fat, or become addicted, or disabled, or to love someone who turned out to be unfaithful?
Sometimes we make plans and they do come to fruition and we realize, hey, this isn't what I want. Then some wise ass will come along and say, “Be careful what you wish for.” Then we have to resist the urge to whack said wise ass a good one up the side of the head.
So life is not perfect; in fact it is quite challenging at times. We get used to that. We learn to live life as it comes at us, and we try to acquit ourselves with grace and integrity. Most of us. We still make plans, but life happens, and we have to change our plans.
The peculiar thing about hardship and adversity is that it can lead us to faith in something greater than ourselves. How many times have you heard people say something along the lines of, “I never would have asked for this to happen, but it has made such a positive difference in my life?”
It's true. There's nothing like a really horrible turn of events to open your eyes to how you are surrounded by love, how noble people can be, and how precious life is. Your priorities get shuffled, and you realize that what you thought was important was getting in the way of what is important. What's important? Your relationship with the infinite; the love of friends and family; the joy in your heart when you wake up and think, “Wow, I'm still here.”
It might seem like a stupid idea, having to suffer to appreciate what is important and real. I bicker with God about this: “OK, I learned a lot, but couldn't I have learned it from a less painful experience?”
Apparently not. Life is a harsh but effective teacher.
So make your plans. Set your goals. Just don't get too attached to them. Be prepared to become educated. Have a contingency plan for crap storms. My number one contingency plan is to close my eyes, bow my head, breathe deeply, and pray: “Help.”
I've read organize-your-life gurus who seriously ask, “Where do you want to be in five years?” and I can only seriously answer, “I have no idea.” I have vague ideas. I'd like to be alive, and at least as healthy as I am now, and able to enjoy a slice of marionberry pie, a good read, a good laugh, and the love and companionship of my friends and family. Not necessarily in that order.
I can get along without the marionberry pie. I just don't plan to.

PLEASE NOTE: I am assuming that the photo of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin is an NBC publicity shot. I found it on the Chicago Tribune site. If anyone wants me to take it off, please let me know and I will. FYI, I am not making any money off the blog or the use of this photo.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Allysan is 7

Today is our grand daughter's seventh birthday. We will be going down to Dockton Park where her mom and other grandmother are throwing a party for her this afternoon. It's a beautiful day, so the various adults and kids who show up will be able to enjoy the park, which has picnic tables, a little playground, public bathrooms, a swimming dock, and public slips where weekend sailors come out and tie up. There are also a few liveaboards anchored there.
I tried to sing Las Mananitas to her this morning, but couldn't remember all the words.
"How lovely is the morning, as we sing hello to you
God's early morning blessing, we're pleased to bring to you
On the day that you were born, the flowers came into bloom
On the day of your baptism, the saints rejoiced with song
The morning sun is rising and...mmm...mmm...through
Rise early this bright morning as we sing hello to you"

Yup, I need to look those words up.
I am remembering the night she was born. She came into the world about 11:30 at night on May 16, 2002. When the moment came she almost literally flew out - when I said this to her uncle Drew later, he said with amazement, "The baby caught air?"
Well, sort of. And the doctor caught the baby.
And here she is.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Practice of Forgiveness

I saw an old boyfriend of mine yesterday. He was smiling and raising his arms to the sky and talking about what a beautiful spring day it was. Maybe a little irony there, as it had poured rain all day. I smiled and exchanged a bit of small talk in passing, and we went our ways.
Afterwards I thought about how differently I perceive things now than I did all those years ago. I was in my 20s then, and I was madly in love for a few months, and then he dumped me. I grieved the loss deeply and went around cursing men in general and him in particular for the next year or so. Gradually I moved on to other disasters, and I got over it.
When I saw him yesterday I smiled at his upbeat goofiness, which was always one of his most endearing qualities. Then I remembered his deep depressions. Almost 40 years on I felt compassion for his suffering, and whispered a prayer for his ease of mind, and marveled at how easy it is to forgive now.
What seemed like the end of the world 40 years ago is now the understandable passion of a young person who was subject to the whims of loneliness and hormones and insecurity. I was afraid no one would ever love me. I was afraid I'd never marry, or have children, or experience the fullness of family life.
I got over that, too. Forty years down the road the marriage, the children, and the fullness have all come to pass. Wow. Especially the fullness. Many people are experiencing this unexpected fullness of family life in these hard times, but that's another story.
The thing is, I worked hard on forgiveness over the years. I worked at learning how to forgive and let go of old hurts and resentments. The first time I was able to say I had forgiven someone who had scarred me in childhood, I felt such a lightness of spirit and joy, and thought, boy, if people knew what a selfish act forgiveness is, they'd do it a lot more.
What I had not understood is that in forgiving you are not letting someone off the hook for their sins; you're letting yourself off the hook of carrying your resentment for their sins. I've learned that you can't forgive out of hand, immediately or because the preacher says you have to forgive. It's a mistake to try to forgive without dealing with your feelings about what you're forgiving. Forgiveness is not an intellectual choice. It's a shift in the gravity of the heart.
It gets easier with practice, and with time. The hormones and loneliness and insecurity lose some of their power to whack you around. When you're an adult most people are hesitant to be abusive to you, but when it happens you're more likely to realize that it's about them, not you. It still hurts, because you're human and you have feelings, but you know it's not your fault.
I'm not saying you never do anything wrong – don't go down that road. You and I and all the world will be screwing up until the day we die. That's another thing I've learned in 60 years. When I screw up, I try to make amends, except for the times when I really don't give a rat's patootie. Not giving a rat's patootie is another gift of age, by the way. At long last I do not have to be responsible for everyone and everything. Ah.
It's always a good day to stop carrying around something that's weighing you down. Start small. Forgive someone for getting in your way in the grocery store. Not out loud – that would attract attention you don't want. Work your way up to old lovers and abusive family members. It won't undo anything, it won't erase the scars, it won't make life easy, but it will make your heart lighter and your life a little happier.
And that's worth a whole lot more than a rat's patootie.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Few More Quilts, a Few Thoughts

Here are some more of the quilts that were in the show last weekend. I took a lot of pictures, and it is a pleasure to share them.
We've had a quiet weekend. Our grand daughter was here, with a cold. Our older son was part of "The Mother of All Shows" on Saturday night, a variety show at the "O" performing arts space here on the island. The building is a former manufacturing building, and feels pretty much like a warehouse. This event went from 6 p.m. to midnight last night. JD and his partner Charlie Kimmel performed their set a little after 7 p.m. They do hip hop, I guess is the label, and they sounded pretty good, although they kind of puzzled the predominantly older crowd of hippies, artists, and activists. It is confusing to be confronted with a couple of white kids who grew up on this comfy island practicing an art that grew out of black urban experience.
I've been puzzling, too, but about angry right wingers, and how I always feel I must please them, and how impossible it is to please them. For me it's all about my mom, whose right wing politics were fairly irrational and often hysterical, and whom I could not please no matter how hard or what I tried.
The yapping, slavering dogs of the lunatic right have been in a frothing frenzy over the recent political events and a former shipmate of my husband's sent a lengthy screed about how Obama wanted military personnel to pay for their medical treatment for war wounds.
Now I read about this proposal when it came up recently, and thought, what a boner. How could the Obama posse get this so profoundly, disastrously wrong? The notion was quickly denounced by everyone on both sides of the political aisle, and it was retracted, and some one called it "a rookie mistake." A stupid, heartless, rookie mistake.
I remembered that veterans of the first Gulf War had to sue the Bush administration for their benefits - the benefits that were part of the contract they had with the country when they enlisted, but which the Bush posse tried to cut - and I shook my head at a government that asks people to die for their country but doesn't want to live up to the government's side of the bargain. I felt just as angry at the Obama proposition - hey, let's have our wounded soldiers pay for their care through their private medical insurance! Yeah! That'll save the government money!
It argues for a broader perception of "equality," doesn't it? Human beings are equally greedy, thoughtless, and hasty to benefit at the expense of other human beings. We knew that, right?
Which reminds me - a friend was telling me how disappointed she is with Obama. He has not lived up to his campaign promises. I told her that I didn't feel that way, and she said I was an optimist, but she was a pessimist.
I told her that I was probably more cynical than optimistic. I did not expect miracles when Obama took office. I did not have high hopes. I expected that a guy crazy enough to want to be president of the United States would assume the job and then run into the inertia of government. He's only human, and he's only one human. The Bush posse had been together literally for decades, making their plans since Dick Nixon resigned. Obama's posse is a crew of politicians of varying talents, values, and aims, who are being called in to work for the Obama administration's goals. They share that Democratic failing of not being a cohesive, focused group. As Dave Barry put it some years ago, Democrats have the administrative skills of celery.
So the new guys in DC have done some spectacularly stupid things, like commission airplanes to fly low over New York City and terrify the populace, and propose that wounded soldiers pay for their own medical care. They get in trouble for these stupid things, and some lose their jobs.
When Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face while they were out hunting, we laughed. He didn't lose his job for doing something so boneheaded, and he didn't apologize. As I recall, the guy he shot apologized for getting in the way of the Vice President's shotgun.
Oh yeah. Good times.
People screw up. I am pleasantly surprised when government does anything that I perceive as "good." I believe that is cynicism, not optimism. What I do like about the new administration is that it is not ruling by fear so much as the previous administration. That is something I perceive as "good."
Anyway, I got this email screaming about Obama's hatred of the military, and you know what I did? I wrote the guy, asked him where his outrage was when the Gulf War vets had to sue for their benefits, and told him to leave us alone and stop sending us hate mail. I know that his outrage has little to do with the rights of the military, but I had to try to talk to him. I knew I'd regret it. He wrote back that I was using pretty hateful speech for a confirmed liberal. This from a Swiftboater who once cussed me out for not hating John Kerry, and who swore to have nothing to do with us, but has persisted in sending us hysterical emails over the years. So I marked his email as junk.
I thought about it a lot. Why do I keep feeling like I have to try to get irrational people to see reason when I know it's impossible? I think it goes back to my mother, I really do, and it occurred to me that it would be nice if I could mark the old hate messages from her as junk, and not have to think of them or listen to them anymore. If only it was as easy to block that internal chatter as it is to block email from an angry man who can't handle black presidents or uppity women. It is such a disadvantage to try to be respectful and reasonable to someone who is neither.
These are some of the things I think about in the middle of the night when I'm not thinking about my husband's illness or how we're going to pay our bills or where we're going to be living in a couple of months. I'm feeling assaulted by life these days, and am wanting to be more careful about how I use what little energy I have.
I take my peace in the flowers blooming in the yard, and the beauty of these quilts, and the small graces that come to me, like my son who argued with me yesterday cooking dinner today for Mother's Day, and the sincere love of my grand daughter, and my husband thanking me for doing some small ordinary household chore. I am loving spring, and my family, and my friends. Thank you all. I appreciate you so much.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Shopping for a Computer

I went shopping for a computer at Fry's down in Renton today. I told myself that I was "just looking," but my old computer died a couple of weeks ago and I missed having a computer terribly, so going to Fry's "just looking" is kind of like going to the animal shelter and "just looking." Odds are you won't come home alone.
I did not come home alone. I came home with what I am thinking of as my Mother's Day present from me to me, a cute little Lenovo desktop PC with a dual core processor, 6 GB of memory and a 640 GB hard drive. It cost about $550, which was acceptable to me, and at least a thousand dollars less than the ones I was looking at online.
Of course it has all the latest bells and whistles, including the Vista operating system, which has had mixed to bad reviews, but I couldn't wait. Know what I mean?
I like that it has memory card slots, and can play and burn CDs, and has lots of USB ports. I like that I can connect it to my printer. I also like that it has the Microsoft Office Premium software.
I did look at the Macs, in what I think of as the "Apple Chapel" section of Fry's. They are beautiful, indeed, and I was tempted, but there was the price issue, and the fact that I've been using a PC for several years now and have liked it. I may have to get a Mac just so I have one. I started on Macs and I miss them, and there are things I could do...
For straight out writing, though, I'm good with a PC and MS Word. And for mobility I have my Acer netbook, which has Linux OS.
Ah, life is so damn good.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Quilts, Etc.

OK, here are a few more quilt photos. In order they are:
Six blocks of the sock monkey quilt.
The Community Quilt, which will be won in a raffle at 4 p.m. on Sunday of Strawberry Festival. Standing in front of the quilt are Catholine Tribble, on the left in the quilted vest, and Annie Miksch, on the right. Annie is also a gifted quilter, but none of her stuff was on display because she gives it all away. If you know Annie, you know that makes perfect sense. Annie does not do good; Annie does EXCELLENT. It's just who she is.
Next, a detail of the quilt that had the gingko-leaf shaped quilting. If you look closely you can see it.
Then, a close up of a square from the crazy frog quilt. I'm not sure why frogs would be wearing clothes or be flying through the air with the clothes flying off, but there it is. The person who made it said she had the fabric for a long time before the design came together for her. I apologize for not getting her name. I apologize for not getting anyone's name – mea culpa. I was so dazzled by the quilts I did not note the names of the quilters. Sigh. I'll make a note of that for two years from now.
Finally, the photo I attached to yesterday's email alerting people to the new blog posting, the one with my friend Becky, my unrelated twin, down in the lower left hand corner.
In other news, it is raining steadily here today. It varies from light steady to torrential, but it's all rain, all the time. At the moment it is torrential.
Rick went to work for a few hours this morning, then came home and went to bed, which is where he is now.
Woke up to a note from our son JD in the tabletop diary:
May 5, '09
Rick and I took notice. Rick said, “Well, he was the safety officer at his last job.” I said, “It's amazing to me that the kid who gave us the most grief is now the one who tells us how to behave.” My friend Becky told me for years that JD would end up being a bank president, or something like that. At this point I really see what she was talking about.
The dog – well, he always wants to go out when I get up to go to bed, and he did that last night, and when I went to the door to whistle him in a few minutes later, he didn't come. As Rick says, you don't feel like standing there whistling, clapping, and calling for 15 minutes in the pouring rain in the middle of the night. I thought, oh well, I'm going to bed, I'll hear him when he scratches on the door. Instead I went to sleep and did not hear him.
It was nasty out there last night. I could tell because there is a dog a few houses up the hill who starts barking every time I whistle for our dog, or call him, or toss a ball, or walk out the back door, or sneeze. I whistled and called for quite a while and all was silence. So even the neighborhood sentry couldn't be bothered to come out and do his stuff. I can't imagine where Jive was that he didn't come into the nice warm dry house. And he ain't talking.
I am re-reading a good book: The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. It was originally published in 1951, the year before Tey died at the age of 55 or 56 – her birth year is listed as “1896 or 97.” If you have read her books you understand why her readers mourn her early passing and the loss of her potential for writing more books. Here is a list of her published novels: Brat Farrar; The Daughter of Time; The Franchise Affair; The Man in the Queue; Miss Pym Disposes; A Shilling for Candles; The Singing Sands; To Love and Be Wise.
They are considered mysteries, but more than mysteries. I am not sure if I've read them all; I'm thinking as I start this one again that maybe I'll just read all of Josephine Tey again. I will not betray here a word of plot; I merely invite you to read, or re-read, Josephine Tey, and if she strikes your fancy, you are in for some good reading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Island Quilters Feed the Soul

Becky and I went down to Camp Burton last Saturday to see the quilt show. It happens every two years, and it is always worth the wait. The intricate patterns and passionate colors lift you up and make you feel glad to be alive in a world where quilts happen.
Patchwork quilts are one of the original recycling projects – using bits of worn out and used up items, as well as things like patterned flour sacks, to make new and beautiful covers for beds in a time before central heating and electric blankets, or electric anything. Many quilts were stitched by candlelight during winter evenings, I imagine.
Quilts now are not so much recycled material as new cloth that has been carefully chosen and coordinated to make stunning original works of art.
This show included quilts that the guild had done as a group – the “mystery quilts” and the “block of the month” quilts were the ones I noticed.
The mystery quilt is a project whose instructions are given out monthly over a year, and the quilters have to follow the instructions and use their imaginations and fabrics to put the whole thing together. The results are several quilts with the same pieces cut out, recognizable as all the same, but radically different from one another.
The block of the month quilts are made by quilters who receive instructions for one square a month for a year. They make the squares and at the end of the year they put them together and finish them in their own original borders. These quilts are not so recognizable as being part of the same project, because they vary so widely in their colors, composition, and borders.
Then there are theme quilts and the one-of-a-kind quilts: florals, orientals, children's; appliqué quilts; embroidered quilts. I loved some of the whimsical quilts – one quilt was made of fabric with sock monkeys, and another featured frogs flying through the air.
You have to look close to see the actual quilting, the patterned stitching which holds the quilt together. Patterns are varied and beautiful, done by machine or by hand. One of my favorites was a gingko leaf pattern.
Catholine Tribble was there with the Community Quilt which will be auctioned off at this year's Strawberry Festival. Catholine is featured in a square on this year's quilt.
I have a warm spot in my heart for Catholine. Last year she made an appliquéd and embroidered hand-quilted work of art, about the size of a pot holder, and on one side is a representation of Women, Women & Song in 1988, Then, and on the other side Women, Women & Song in 2008, Now, based on publicity photos of the trio. It was in a show at the Blue Heron Art Gallery last year.
The quilt show was as always breathtaking in its beauty. I am always blown away by the skill and artistry of these quilters, their eye for pattern and color, their patience and craft. I'll never be a quilter myself, but boy do I enjoy the works of the people who are. Hats off, ladies. “Beautiful” barely begins to say it. Only two years to go until the next show.