Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting the Family

When I was growing up (way back in the dark ages), Sunday was the day to visit family.  And most Sunday's found us on the road traveling to my aunts and uncles and then as I got older to my married brother and sisters.  When I think back on these visits what I find most interesting is that my father was the one who insisted and orchestrated these visits. It was as though he had a mental list of the family members that he felt responsible for and cycled through visits to their homes each time his schedule allowed for a visit.  Most of my extended family lived in New York City or the surrounding areas, so a visit was an all day affair from our New Jersey home place.  There was a particular etiquette to these visits also.  You never went empty handed.  We usually made a stop at a bakery and brought some type of pastry.  You never visited over a meal time although if an invitation to stay for a meal was extended you accepted and you always accepted the invitation to have coffee or a drink.  Occasionally you actually brought a light meal with you if you felt that feeding you would be a hardship for the family.  Sometimes you brought an item that you thought might help the family in question.  And there is no doubt in my mind that my father probably slipped some cash to certain family members who were having difficult times financially.  Most importantly you didn't overstay your welcome.  Now once these visits extended to my own siblings, the rules changed a bit.  You still brought something but often you stayed longer and usually a meal was prepared for us.  These visits had more of a parental feel to them.  After my father died my mother continued to visit us all.  I lived a days ride away but she visited me faithfully about twice a year until she was 79 years old.  Then she felt that the eight hour drive was more than she could safely handle.

Family also visited us at times.  So there was a lot of visiting going on and a lot of opportunity to get to know the extended family.  My mother was always ready for company and felt that she had to have something to offer should someone decide to drop by. 

I sort of wish we still visited like this.  I hope my sons develop into "visitors" of each other as they get older.  But, they live pretty far apart and they didn't see this modeled for them (except by their grandparents) while they were growing up.  But it was a simpler time back then and it seems like we had the time to sit around and talk and get to know each other.  Truth be told, I was sometimes bored with the whole exercise as a child since it meant countless hours in the car driving to a household that often didn't have any members my age and where conversations sometimes happened in a language that I never learned.  But looking back from the vantage point of my years, I'm very glad for all the visiting that we did and feel fortunate to have had a father who felt it was important to maintain relationships with his family.  Too bad I didn't realize the significance of this earlier on.  Perhaps I would have done better at passing on the tradition of family visits.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cuddle Quilt - Done!

I recently wrote about purchasing a Cuddle Quilt kit while visiting in Indiana.  Well, I finished it in about two days.  I was originally attracted to both the fabric and the method used to construct the quilt.  The fabric is a very soft fabric and it is put together using a strip method.  Turns out that this is not a new construction method, just new to me.  You attach each strip to both the backing and batting and the previous strip so when you are done there is no further quilting to do (although I've seen these done with traditional fabric and people have added additional quilting).  All you do is add a binding.  It seemed like a nice method to use when your quilt focus is primarily the fabric - for instance if you are using a novelty print.  Of course I learned a lot (as always) while making this quilt.  First of all, the adhesive is not as easy as the instructions make it seem.  The fabric itself has some stretch to it and the advise to use 1/2 inch seam allowances is important to make up for the stretch and the nap and be sure that you are catching all the layers.

So here it is:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Long is 20 Years?

Sometimes 20 years seems like a long time and sometimes it seems like no time at all.  This morning I was thinking about what my life was like 20 years ago.  I was in my mid-30s and had a 9, 6 and 3 year old.  We had just moved to Virginia to the nicest house I had ever lived in during my adult life.  By this time I had moved so many times that I was determined to die in that house.  (I've moved again since then).  During the last 20 years I've watched by boys grow into men; attended countless sports events, plays and ceremonies for them including 8 graduations and one wedding, gotten divorced, remarried, lost my mother, a nephew, both my new in-laws, and two beloved aunts and saw my sister cheat death twice. As I said, I moved again -- to an even nicer house.  I've visited Hawaii and travelled outside the US for the first time in my life.  I've changed jobs from one that worked best for a Mom to the best job situation of my career and then left that to try the life of retirement.  It was an action packed 20 years.

Fast forward ahead 20 years and who knows what my situation will be...if indeed I will even still be here.  I will most likely move again if my husband or I develop physical problems that make our two story house difficult to access.  My beloved Golden Retriever will no longer be here.  I will undoubtedly lose other loved ones.  And perhaps gain others.  I still have one more graduation for son #3.  My "Places to See Before I Die" list still has quite a few destinations on it.  But, the most important thing at this point is to not assume that there are 20 years left.  Do it now.   That should be my new motto.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dog Swim Day

Once a year my town hosts a swim day for dogs at the local pool.  It's always during Labor Day weekend and the end of the swimming season.  After the canine party they drain the pool for the season.  We went last year and had a blast!  Owners are allowed in the pool with their dogs and that's what makes it so special for me.  We let our Golden Retriever swim in local lakes but they're not places that I would get into myself.  He also likes the ocean but only ventures past the surf when one of us is in the water.  We tend to visit beaches with rather strong undertows and rough surf and as I've gotten older I've decided that I'm no longer a match for the strength of the Atlantic Ocean.  But the pool.....that's another story.  I love the opportunity to be in the water with my best companion.

Last year I learned that not all dogs naturally can swim.  This year I learned that my dog will not only swim out to retrieve a favorite toy, but will swim just to be with me.  He will swim out to me or just swim with me across the pool.  Apparently he loves being in the water also and the experience is enhanced by being able to share it... a sentiment I have expressed about many of lives experiences.  He swam and swam until his body was tiring but I'm sure that if I had suggested another go at the water he would be right beside me.

This year I took a few underwater pictures just for fun.  I love the color of his coat as he swims under the water.

I wish there was a place to swim with him regularly and (I think I've blogged this before - but since I have no readership I'm not too worried about repeating myself)  my dream would be a doggie wellness center where you could join your favorite companion for a swim whenever you please.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Fish Quilt is Finished!

I've finished the fish quilt and it is boxed and ready to send to my step-son. 

As with every other quilt I've made, there were many lessons in this one.  Most importantly I learned that I need to be more careful when cutting stripped fabric on the bias for the binding.  I ended up with cuts going across the stripes in two directions.  I also need to find a neater way to apply the binding.  I'm not real pleased with how that turned out.  But, otherwise, I think it came well.  Some of the features sort of developed along the way.  I decided to add a Pig Fish:

a yellow fin Tuna:

and a Marlin.  The marlin is an iron on patch.  It was a late edition because he caught his first Marlin after I had pieced the top of the quilt:'s the back:

So, on to the next project which I think will be the cuddle quilt. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Special Gifts

Lately I've been thinking about my three boys - or I should say, men.  They are all in their 20's and my contact with them is sporadic and infrequent.  I was the same way at their age so part of me understands.  The other part sort of wishes we had a closer relationship.  We don't share a lot, but I hold onto the belief that my mothering has been an important part of their life and that underneath what seems like indifference is a thick layer of caring that they find difficult to express.  Every so often, though, along the journey of parenting, you get a glimpse of that caring layer.  Over the years each boy has given me a gift that is special to my heart.

Son #1 lived through more of the poor years than any of the others.  He would often accompany me to craft fairs at his school or in the community and he actually seemed to enjoy them.  Twice when he was young (about 12 or so) and we were at a craft fair, I admired something but wouldn't buy it because our budget was so tight that I didn't feel I could splurge on anything that didn't have function, especially for myself.  But each time he snuck back to the fair and bought the items with his own carefully saved money.  I still have the fish made out of a painted rock - even though the fins have not stood the test of time too well - and the flower pot painted with my favorite lilies of the valley.  Thanks son #1 for first of all recognizing that I liked those items and for using your savings to see that I had them. 

Son #2 saw me admire a bonsai tree at a vendor in the local mall.  I wouldn't buy it because my gardening skills are not the best and I was sure that I would kill it.  But he believed in me and wanted to see me have the tree without regard to my success or failure in keeping it alive.  That meant a lot to me.  The tree lasted several months but then eventually died under my unskilled hand.  I kept the pot it was planted in for a long time and am a bit distraught that I don't know where it is just now.  Hopefully it is safely wrapped in one of the boxes in the garage.  He also bought me on another occasion a special necklace declaring that I was a #1 Mom.  It seemed like he genuinely wanted the world to know that he considered me a good Mom. Thanks son#2 for believing in me and for wanting to let the world know.

Son #3 saw the mother in me and had to endure perhaps more mothering than the others.  One Christmas he bought me a special locket, had it engraved and filled it with his picture and a piece of his curly hair.  I wear that sometimes when I'm especially worried about him or wondering how he is.  Another year he made me a basket, but wanted to add to it and fill it with something he knew I would enjoy.  He picked out chocolate candies and a nice blue sweater.  I thought it was so special for him to want to enhance his gift with things he knew I liked.  I may never get rid of that sweater no matter how worn it becomes.  Thanks son #3 for knowing what I would like and for wanting to enhance your gifts with the picture and lock of hair.

I hope my sons hold on to their gift giving skills and use them in their relationships with their future families.  I hope they cultivate that caring and thoughtful side of their personalities and don't let it get buried under the busyness of career and everyday life.

I love you guys. It is a privilege to be known as your mother.