Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Webby Goodness

In college I heard a speaker talk about the differences in how males and females communicate. While I tend to shy away from generalizations, this one struck me so deeply as gospel truth that it's stuck with me all these post college years.

The speaker said that men tend to think linearly. That B follows A and C comes after that. Their points line up in a logical succession. If a man is explaining how to fix a bike tire, he will tell you, from beginning to end, how to fix that tire.

She then said that women tend to think and communicate in a way that resembles a spider web. A spider web takes time to construct and follows a pattern that is decidedly not linear. A rough outline forms and then the web gets structure from supporting strands. In other words, if a woman were to explain how to fix a bike tire, she might start with the bike tire, but may branch off to tell you about her first bike, what color it was. You might hear why the bike was that color and how that color was her favorite from the ages six to twelve but not after that. You will, in the end, hear about how to fix the tire, but you might learn more than that.

Which is why I love running with my friend Ellen. (See what I did there? A spider web moment). We run together once a week; a highlight of the week for me. It's not about the run. It's about the talking. Our conversations have a flow to them that resembles the spider web pattern above. An issue we discussed last week weaves itself into this week's talk. There's no need for explanation. I can say, "And you know what else?" And Ellen will know exactly where it's coming from and often where it's going.

Sometimes, we might not even finish the discussion about how fifth grade math is going for our kids when we've moved on to the new restaurant or car repairs or why we like shoes that have white laces. It's okay. We'll get back to it. Eventually.

I find this true at Thursday coffees, though I haven't been in a while. A group of super cool, hip moms gathers at a local cafe every Thursday. The group is fluid, open and friendly. Depending on when I arrive, there might be three or fifteen women huddled around three or four tables, bubbling over with coffee and food and sometimes projects. If I sit still and watch, I see the same thing happening here. Smaller groups discuss a topic, someone from across the table jumps in to add a relevant bit and soon the entire table is discussing exchange students. Then a side issue arises and the smaller groups huddle off again. It tumbles along like a girl in a long dress rolling down a hillside. Pure joy.

Our minds and voices cause a stir in the air, create an aura of intellectual activity. We are seeking the right words to explain our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and giving the space to think out loud, challenge assumptions, arrive at new conclusions. Sometimes I don't know I'm worried or angry about something until it comes up in a free-flowing, thought-and-speech -for-all.

Working from home as I do, I tend to isolate myself. I get comfortable writing and sewing in my little spaces. But when I do venture out for these visits, I find myself renewed, excited, full. I don't know if all women are like this, and I don't know if all women need this kind of interaction.

But I need my spider web moments.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ode to Late Summer

Walked down to the dock through a gauntlet of spider webs. After the kids stop running the path between water and house, when the sun blinks closed the day, and the motors stop their incessant churning — then the spiders get to work.

A duck breaks my still reverie, calling to his mate. I pause from the delicate, frustrating task of removing fine silver homes from my shirt.

From where I sit I can see across one tiny portion of the great expanse of Grand Lake. Two peninsulas frame our inlet and, rather symmetrically, one egret sits on each, facing each other. One I can see in perfect silhouette, he's in the shade of the rising sun. The other, his white feathered body catches the full glinty glory of the sunrise. I wonder if they are siblings—the Mary and Martha of the avian world. Two disparate souls connected by a body. Or is that carrying things too far?

The one in shadow appears to be lengthening; maybe he's aware of my gaze.

Fish flip up, breaking the surface, taunting the anglers who've jut left the inlet in disappointment. This always make me giggle, if if I'm in on the joke.

It's always quiet at Grand on Sunday mornings, but this morning there seems to be a late summer melancholy kicking about. The promise of summer boat rides, the plans with friends, the ease of days spent in swimsuits, eating the fat, juicy fruit of summer - it's all gone. It happened, for sure. And it was good. So good.

Now homework awaits our return home. Piles of paper demand attention. Kids have needs in so many different areas I feel I can't summon enough of the right responses at the right times to meet all their inner unspoken but totally obvious needs.

Push it back. Scrape off the worry like so many webs clinging to me. I'm here. I'm at the lake. I'm on the dock. Alone. I can breathe, and sit, and think. This is where I can see these children, my children, for who they really are. When they don't know I'm studying them as they play.

I woke with a pall of melancholy myself. So strong I felt I could have burst into tears. I still have a sense of the ending. That's inevitable, normal even. Walking a line between pleasant memories and the bitterness of walking away from them.

And there's today. All of it. I see a spiderweb I managed not to destroy. A giant fish jumps next to me, reminding me to smile. My daughter's feet slap on the wood of the dock, then she settles into the hammock, quiet for a short time. I'm alone. I'm not alone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just Take a Bath

I drove home from soccer practice last night listening to the shrieks and cries and horrid moans of an unhappy little boy. Yes, my sweet precious angel hollered the whole way home (a thankfully short commute) because I decided he would bathe instead of shower.

While not normally cause for such alarm, precious angel was tired. And hungry. And hot. And doggone it that boy wanted a shower. In my best stern mommy voice I also asked him to bring in his shoes from the car. The horror. Waterworks all up in here.

One daughter covered her ears. One daughter made funny faces hoping to cheer him up. Both actions caused equal and utterly opposite reactions in their brother. That's the trouble with physics.

We made it home with him wailing to his heart's content. I stopped trying to reason with him when his words became unintelligible. The line between reason and hysteria had been crossed miles ago. Finally home, the girls scattered, probably thankful they could escape to the relative quiet of their rooms and their homework. He went to his room, covered himself with blankets and continued that post-cry whimpering, short-breathing things kids do when they know they're not going to get their way, not fully committed to trying anymore but still kind of aggravated. In lighter moments, it's kind of funny.

I started a bath, thinking of my mother. I dropped in gobs and gobs of bubble bath, another unusual event at our house. We're usually cycling through too many bodies to luxuriate in bubbles of aromatic ambiance. My mother's prescription for everything when we were growing up was a bath. I'd say, "I have a headache." She'd say, "Take a bath." My sister would be stressed over tests: "Take a bath." Even our brother was advised to take a bath when under duress or illness.

My son had the same reaction we did. Dude was pissed. Our mother's one-stop, cure-all works-every-time solution seemed to mock our displeasure. "Just take a bath," we teased her, had become her code for: "Tell someone who gives a crap." She wasn't really belittling our emotions, reducing our stress to a simple action, confining our unhappiness to the bathroom (Freud would for sure have something to say about that.)

In our angst, we overlooked her genuine care. We wanted her to wallow in our drama. We wanted her to stomp her feet with us. We wanted tears, balled fists, reaction. Anything that indicated she was on our side.

The way she did that, though, was to offer a quiet space where no body could pour salt in our emotional gashes. Where we could be alone to sift out the thoughts, shake loose the dross and soak away the metaphoric and physical dirt. She's a smart one, my mom.

I plopped the sobbing boy in the tub, tears streaking down his dirty soccer field face. I wish I could say instantly his troubles were over. No. It wasn't as fast as that. But, he did sit for a while. Then he began to play with his action heroes. He finally tried the new shampoo I'd bought for him. In the end, he climbed out of the tub quieter, calmer, happier, and ready for bed.

Sometimes, I want to throw the same kind of fit my son did. I want to shout and scream and tell people they're all stupid. Of course, as an adult, that's just not done. However, the prescription remains the same at our house. Just take a bath.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Almost Ready for the Shop

I need to finish the edges of the bows, but many of you have been asking for these so I wanted to whet your appetite. Let me know what you think. And as always, thanks.

Here's how I think I'll list them. WITH a band, in color of choice, and three bows with alligator clips. Clips can attach to the band or into the hair. Three bows and one band for $21.00.

For one bow, all with clippies attached, no band, $7. Three bows, no band, $20. These are light, so I'm doing shipping free.

Still waiting for my white, brown and black grosgrain. It's coming, people.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ripping Seams

Of Weddings and Dresses

I have a friend who is planning her second wedding (and marriage). This is all very exciting and fun and we are all atwitter with plans and ideas. She asked me, to my great honor, to make a dress for her daughter, who is in second grade. Now, if you know me, this type of project sits firmly in my wheelhouse (which is a phrase people are throwing about like pennies these days but we can talk about that some other time). In fact, it might BE my wheelhouse.

Since the friend lives far away, we designed the dress through text and IM. I sent images of fabric, dress patterns, sashes... and she replied yay or nay. We recognize this kind of seat-of-the-pants decision making may not pay dividends; the color may be all wrong (it's not), the size may be ghastly (it won't be. I know how to measure). But it's kinda too late, because that picture up there is the dress.

It's not completely finished. I need to handstitch the lining to the zipper, which I'll probably rip out and resew, possibly using a T-square so I can get the edges perfect. The hem can't be done until I'm in the presence of the wearer of the gown and she'll most likely, as kids are wont to do, grow in the intervening weeks. But, you can see it's rather a lovely gown, perfectly respectable for any 8 year old attending a wedding.

I took every single instruction to heart when constructing this dress. I took no shortcuts. I ironed the fabric before I cut. Made every pattern mark I could see, double checked the dart placement, even ironed every seam. If the pattern asked me to trim to 3/8" then by golly that's what I did. I wanted the dress to be spectacular. I ripped out the seams attaching the bodice to the skirt three separate times, each time growing more frustrated that the gathers were hanging wonkily. I cursed myself. I cursed the dress. But darnit, in the end, that skirt hangs like liquid silk flowing from a...oh, it's just perfect, okay? Take my word for it.

In Which I Attempt the Ill Advised

On Sunday, I decided to make myself a sweet little knit tunic top before church. I'm not sure exactly what spirit possessed me on that fateful day, but I guess I was feeling adventurous. Or dumb. I threw the fabric out on the floor, didn't iron the pattern, let alone bother pinning it in place. I didn't check measurements, didn't even fold the fabric as suggested because I wanted that dress and I wanted it now. I figured, three seams, unfinished edges and I'm out the door. What could be easier?

Ha. Using a hastily cut mess of fabric and unmatched thread, I sewed that sucker together in under an hour. It's fine, passable. But it's ENORMOUS. I like roomy clothes but my husband asked with fear and trembling: "Is it a moo moo?" There I go taking things too far again. I would not wear it like that to bed. Essentially, I had to take it apart, cut it down and sew it back together again. Not only that but the thrill is gone. I knew I was taking short cuts, and I knew I would pay for it. I didn't care as long as I got that dress.

But now, when I look at it, I ask myself a remarkable question. Why is this friend and her little girl worth so much trouble when I'm not willing to give myself the same effort?

Oof. Are we worth the effort we give to others? I'd like to reply resoundingly, "YES!" But this anecdote reveals that what I want to believe and how I behave are utterly opposed. Sure, I wanted to make a beautiful gift for my friend, and I was confident in my sewing skills. It still leaves me wondering. Should others get more from us than we get from ourselves? Do we bend over backwards to please others to our own detriment? I'm not suggesting I'm a used up rag with no value. I'm just kicking around some ideas about worth, time and effort.

What do you think?