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Sleep on in Peace Now

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All now is in preparation for our 2nd annual Christmas party. Last year we invited friends near and dear to gather clad in Ugly Sweaters to add to the mirth.

This year the theme is “Fiscal Cliff Be Damned – Let’s Make Merry.”

It’s a fine excuse to whisk away the cobwebs, straighten up the nick-knacks, spiff up the pillows, shine the glass and basically not think about anything — I hope. My plan: “If I break this up room-by-room one each night this week, the place will be in fine shape by the weekend and food prep will rule party day.” The sweep-up keeps my body busy and my mind focused on trivial details before I attempt to sleep.

So I start with the master bedroom – shifting this and that, clearing the raft of clothes piled from the last laundry load, making order of the child-made craft collection we’ve accumulated through the years, adding a beloved photograph to the memory wall, tackling the bookshelf where some disorganized elf has come to play (uh, that’d me me), finally making my way to the reading corner and its comfy chair. Under the ottoman sat a mass of stuff I did not recognize: daughter Marjorie had evidently hefted some items in one night after school or confirmation, I know not which. There I found her Action Bible, some worksheets from a month ago, that library book we had looked for high and low and finally had paid for in desperation so she could attend the school dance. A few other books rounded out the lot, except for one more item — the treasured school photo compilation sheet from her Kindergarten year – 2004-05. I pause. The memento reminds me of what my invented busy-ness was set up to avoid.

Smiling back at me were her 24 classmates and six adults – the principal, two teachers, two aides and the school nurse. I know them all. Bright, fun, curious, serious, squirrely – The Mrs. L&D class had it all. There’s Abby who froze with stage fright during the nursery rhyme play; here’s Austin who farted on my leg while reading aloud one day; Rebecca shared Fruit Loops that one time; Alexia’s art was sublime; Gabby lived up to her name; garrulous Matt was just the same; Madison’s pig tails were her calling card while Reece looked like a boy honor guard. I love and cherish the memories all. Last girl on the keepsake photo montage was our little Mo – tiny in shape, big on personality, showing her 6-year-old shy grin. She’s the girl who continues to steal my heart, test my patience and dash me with her confidence. Eight years later we look at one another eye-to-eye.

fallen petalI think of her classmates growing up too, making their own way in life, gaining friends, learning more day after day, and all that is ahead for them. All week I’ve had the children of Newton, CT in my thoughts – the sadness there is beyond my comprehension. But seeing our daughter’s class brings the suffering closer. A leap of imagination and her class is theirs. My empathy for the people who loved those dear ones deepens. Oh! The children of Newton belong to me, too.

XXXIV

Sleep now, O sleep now,

O you unquiet heart!

A voice crying “Sleep now”

Is heard in my heart.

The voice of the winter

Is heard at the door.

O sleep, for the winter

Is crying “Sleep no more.”

My kiss will give peace now

And quiet to your heart—

Sleep on in peace now,

O you unquiet heart!

— James Joyce (Chamber Music)

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I’ve Gotta Make a Dress

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SewingDiaryBatch53_imageIt’s a constant refrain in my brain over and over this time of year – “I’ve Gotta Make a Dress.” Sometimes it’s a suppressed whisper, other times a downright command. I’ve Gotta Make a Dress!!
What’s really weird is that I don’t even sew, at least not since junior high school, and I probably never will learn that vaunted skill.
So, what is this dress business? Carol, a dear co-worker from a couple of jobs ago, taught me this idiosyncratic phrase. Her tale was thus:  she had a million and one things going on one holiday season when a sweet church lady called to tell Carol that in addition to the full-time job, full-time family and full-time Christmas load, Carol would need to make a dress for her daughter, Sarah, to wear in the church play. The Church Lady gave Carol time– a couple of weeks — but Carol kept putting that dress off. In her scurrying and hurrying Carol would remember, “I have to make a dress.” Until the thought was waking her up at night, “I have to make a dress, CRAP!”
In her fun and goofy way, Carol taught me this coping mechanism, this mantra that means in essence, I’ve got a lot to get done in a short amount of time. When stress hit work, she had all of us saying, “I gotta make a dress.”
For a Food Bank marketing person this is truly the time of year when your head is spinning and you run from one event to another, fielding requests, talking to people who want to engage in what you do. It’s also the time of year that your family has more events, more commitments, more church, more life.
I relish this time, I really do! My phone rings near constantly at work; I stick a barrel in my car two or three times a week or wheedle a co-worker to make a delivery to some excited giver. I feel popular! I know I’m part of a customer service team bringing in the much-needed food to feed up to 97,000 people in our service area a month. With about 250 food drives going simultaneously, it’s no wonder that just short of Christmas I dream not of snow falling but of food bank barrels – I’m holding up walls of them, they’re flying overhead, my family can’t move because the house is filled with them.

That's life - a work in progress.

That’s life – a work in progress.

It’s my fourth Food Drive Season and each year I learn more, do more, talk more, drive more and sometimes, sew more. The difference this year is some temporary help has come our way to make it so I can help market more. What use is a barrel sitting in some corner with no food in it? Let’s get the word out, tell the world FOOD DRIVE SEASON!
Just because it’s our food bank’s busy time, doesn’t mean the personal commitments of the Christmas season and let’s be honest, everyday life will cease. We’ve got meals and desserts to make and share; laundry to do; ugly sweater parties to grace with just the right ensemble; Advent skits to learn; lessons to plan; crafts to make; rehearsals and concerts to attend; people shuttle to and fro; a house to decorate; presents to find and wrap and give; secrets to keep; house to clean; letters to write and meetings (all kinds) to attend. Thank the Lord for a husband and partner who picks up my utter slack, or Christmas at our home would be a pathetic mess.

Always good advice.

Always good advice.

Then there’s the second job I have that has a deadline each December 31 that brings more flurry to my mailbox and to my door. That brings scores more people to interact with, emails to write, explanations to be made and more tasks for me to remember.
This all to explain the dress is not quite made and my blog has quite sad, too, having had no attention from me for the past month or two.
I’m not complaining or ranting or moaning, you see. No, no, not me! I just can hardly wait to see how pretty that dress will be.

Where the Books Meet the Shelf

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I guess it’s something about the DNA. Our daughters have inherited our love our books — what a joy that they can learn, grow, change, embrace, discover, escape and blossom through books. HOWEVER, we do not have infinite space to collect books. Before this next project our small home boasted 11 bookshelves in all and each are bursting with non-fiction, history, classics, mysteries, fun fiction, mysteries, realistic fiction, fantasy and historical novels.

Both bibliophiles are library junkies who bring home up to 20 books (the very limit you can borrow) each at a time and devour them all. We donate the books that aren’t keepers, but recently Mo’s small bedroom was at the limit for books.

Being our resident style maven, not just any bookcase would do. We searched our local second-hand stores and behold this sweet find at Junkee Clothing and Antique Exchange in Reno, NV:

The finish was one of those hideous faux paint jobs.

The first phase was the real challenge. Although the piece of furniture is made of good, solid wood, not plywood or sheet wood, the previous owner had used a faux finish that resembled plasticized wood. (Gotta question the judgement there; why not just buy a plastic shelf?)  After sanding and sanding and sanding, then scrubbing with plain water for better part of two hours, the finish just oozed off. Sick! But the result was that we had a clean canvas on which to work.

Next a coat of white spray paint on the exterior. We took turns painting, with me teaching the nuances of spray painting and Mo learning so that she can do this with other projects in the future.

Painting outdoors — a must.

Next step, applying the sweet turquoisey-teal color our girl knew would accent the existing small bedroom. Again, we took turns with the paintbrush and roller so that in the end, we were both proud of our part in the product.

Then, to make it one of a kind, she selected ribbon to festoon the outline. A dark pink on light pink scroll patterned ribbon framed the shelving with style.

We used a glue gun and worked quickly together. Definitely a two-person job.

Now ensconced in her room, Mo has arranged each shelf by genre with some of her special memories to set off her beloved books.

The finished product shines.

For me, the best part was doing this together. She learned a lot about seeing a project through from start to finish and I got to spend a glorious day with her and now have the books off the floor.

Memories, They Can’t be Boughten*

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This is the house that Papa built.

This is the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

This is the drawer,

That broke the dresser,

That stood in the house that Papa built.

These are the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

This is the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

These are dear children, comic and foil,

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

First grade treasure based on the children’s favorite, “The Snowman.”

Out poured the keepsakes, saved from spoil,

To delight the dear children, comic and foil,

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.
Four cheers for family with new-found riches royal,

Who revel in keepsakes, saved from spoil,

To delight the dear children, comic and foil,

Part Deux: “The Snowman.”

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built. 

A treasure from the first day of Kindergarten

** Title inspired by Lyrics from John Prine’s “Souvenirs”

____

Thank you Mother Goose for your inspiration.