Thursday, September 20, 2012


Last night I spent some time in my sewing room (aka the treehouse).  It's a wonderful room, more than I ever dreamed I'd have, especially back when I was sewing everything from my babies' terry cloth sleepers, to my husband's work jeans, to a play teepee for the pre-school.  I did all of that sewing on the dining room table. At this point in life, I have no little ones underfoot, and I have a beautiful, tucked away room, with wonderful equipment.

As one thought leads to another, I found myself thinking about the very first thing I ever sewed for myself.  I'd been pestering my mom to teach me to sew for quite some time - even though she had no sewing machine, and she didn't sew for us.  I don't know where I got such an urge to make my own clothing.  Mom agreed to borrow a sewing machine from my uncle (it had been their mother's - it was an old Singer treadle machine that had been electrified). Then she took me shopping for pattern, fabric, and notions.

In the early 60s, we didn't have big shopping malls in all the suburbs, but there were little shopping strips clustered here and there.  The one nearest our house was called Robbin Center.  Besides the drug store, hardware store, dress shops and shoe shops, there was a little department store called S&L.  I'm fairly certain it wasn't a chain - just a little, stand alone department store.  My mom took me there to choose a pattern, fabric, buttons, and thread.  The pattern was for a sleeveless "shift" that buttoned down the front, and I was in love with the fabric - a quality cotton, in a geometric print of blues and greens.  The fabric was beautiful and affordable, and the clerk reinforced what my mother was trying to show me about the print lining up on the grain of the fabric.

Now, this is where my brain took off in a whole new direction - the ability to go to a little department store in one's own neighborhood and get everything you need to make a dress.  There were choices of thread and buttons and drawers filled with patterns in that one little store, and you can be certain it was like that in lots of other neighborhoods, as well.  When I got into junior high, I was allowed to take a bus downtown, and every department store (Dayton's, Powers, Penney's, Donaldson's) had a fabric and sewing department, plus there were two stand-alone fabric stores I knew of - two entire stories each, of just fabrics, trims, patterns, and notions.  Whether one went to department stores or the stand alones, there were knowledgeable sales clerks, and the quality and selection of fabrics was good.  And the notions!  Walls filled with cards of buttons, zippers in every length and color imaginable, threads in an abundance of colors and weights.

I can't quite figure out what happened - now, though I have many fine quality fabrics in the treehouse, most of them were purchased online, or in the two far-flung quilt shops I've found since moving here, neither of which is in the neighborhood.  There's a remodeled Joann's Fabrics about 10 miles away, but since the remodel, it is filled with scrapbook papers, glue, and artificial flowers.  The fabric section is reduced in size, and the quality and consistency of fabrics has diminished steadily. 

I've read online that some folks have battled - and won - to keep the fabric section at their local Walmart.  It just seems so sad that one has to battle to have a place to buy simple needle and thread, where if you are lucky enough to find a fabric you can use, you have to ring a bell, or stand in line, and practically beg the person to lop of a chunk of fabric for you.  For those who didn't keep that section, where do they buy needle and thread to sew a button back on their jacket?

That first shift dress was worn until I grew too tall to wear it decently.  My next dress was a "princess style" with seaming up the front, sewn in a lavender linen blend.  Walking down the rows of fabric in S&L, all I had to do was touch that fabric and feel how it draped to know it was the one for me - too bad the helpful clerk that checked the grain didn't tell me that lavender isn't my color!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


(A pretty view of my garden before my long, rambling post.)

Yesterday I removed all the posts I've placed on my Facebook page that could be construed as political.  I had a bit of a wake up call a couple days before that, when one of my most conservative friends got on and left me an accusatory comment regarding something I'd posted, which was, ultimately, political.  My intention was to point out what I considered animal abuse - something I care about a great deal.

Not only was I accused of posting non-factual crap (I had actually verified the truth of it from three different sources), I was accused of having, in the past, posted anti-Catholic statements, and of showing disrespect for another political candidate.  And while I have no memory of doing either, I was set into a tailspin by these accusations, and seriously considered deleting my Facebook account, and slinking away with my tail between my legs.  I was truly upset by what was said to me for a couple of reasons, but the most important was this - never once has this friend congratulated me when I have announced the birth of a granddaughter; never once has this person hit the "like" button when I've posted a photo of my garden or a completed piece of art.  I've never gotten birthday wishes or been told that good thoughts were winging my way when I admitted to a difficult time.  The only comment ever left for me by this person was on this one link to an article with political connotations, yet *I* was the one accused of stirring up political crap.  Ironically, every time I sign onto Facebook, I get those advertised "you might be interested" things showing me the political things that particular person has liked, and have never taken it personally. 

So here's the deal.  I don't really want to leave Facebook, though I've thought about it numerous times. The crazy dramas and bad spelling and punctuation are enough to drive any thinking person away.  As people reveal themselves in crazy ways there, I'll admit I've lost respect for a few friends and relatives.  But it's also the only way I have anymore to stay in touch with some of the artists I really enjoy; it's the best way to follow certain people who have messages that inspire and uplift me.  And, frankly, it's the only place to play some of the online games I really enjoy.

What I'm doing in this post is laying out who I am, at the core of my being, and I'll tell my Facebook friends that they are welcome to come read this, and if they disapprove of me after that, by all means unfriend me.  You see, I'm 61 years old, and I thought that by this point in time, it was ok to just be me.

In one paragraph - As I said, I am 61 years old, twice married, mother of three, grandmother of six (only four of which we got to "keep").  I was raised half Catholic, half "weird."  I do not participate in organized religion, but am deeply spiritual and subscribe to what some call "the old ways."  In polite company, I call myself a Pagan - my entire life is steeped in gratitude and appreciation, which I consider a prayer.  Politically, I refuse to register for any party, which I guess makes me an independent; I base my votes on what I can see of the candidate, not on party lines.  Truthfully, I'm probably an ordinary moderate, leaning to the liberal side.  I have worked since it was legal to do so, at age 16 - I started as a waitress in a pizza restaurant, spent more than 20 years in the stock market, have owned my own businesses, and now work in the non-profit sector.

In the 1960s, when my high school friends (many of whom are now rabid conservatives) were enjoying the era of "sex, drugs, rock & roll," I was working as a waitress, to buy my own winter coat.  Later, my natural skills with both language and mathematics allowed me to land a spot in the research department of a brokerage house - and there I worked my way up as far as I could, until experiencing FIRST HAND the glass ceiling.  I was deliberately roadblocked by management as I became one of the first registered assistants, who was only allowed to do that after signing forms promising I wouldn't try to go any further with it; after being "snuck" the study materials to become licensed.  When my then-husband and I tried to buy our first house, we were denied financing because the banks would not consider my income - as a woman, I might become pregnant, so my income could not be considered. 

During my youth, my disabled vet father and my astrologer mother did their best.  My father worked in a factory, my mother kept the house.  We moved and moved and moved, trying to satisfy my father's restlessness, born, I'm certain, of the limitations he felt having no legs.  My mother, the night owl, sat up late at night after all the housework, laundry, gardening and canning was done, working on charts - determining all those planetary placements without the help of a calculator.  When she wasn't studying her craft, she was reading anything she could lay her hands on - I still credit her with my love of reading.  She and her brother taught me the love and appreciation of all the things in the world - birdsong, the power of stones and crystals, how to determine which mushrooms are poisonous, the beauty of geese on a pond.  Our weekend activities usually revolved around walks in the woods, "picking" trips to the dump or gravel pit, or learning to make our own soap, bread, candles, or wallhangings. That love of all that's in the world is the basis of my spirituality.

Have I "dissed" the Catholic church?  Often in speech, never on Facebook.  I have a direct relationship there, as well, and feel I have the right to do so.  It is not for me - I do not consider priests beating young boys with rubber hoses to teach them a lesson to be spiritual.  My husband (who was actually headed for seminary at one point in his life) has been slapped by a priest.  My father was beaten.  My grandmother was refused burial in a Catholic cemetery because her husband had been married previously (and still, my grandmother's mother went to Mass every single day, even when she was so old the only way to get into the church was to CRAWL up the steps - and no priest ever offered to help her up the stairs).  When I criticize the church, I do so not as an outsider, but as one with personal experiences that have driven me away.  Only once did I have to sit through a reading from Paul, with my children by my side, to realize how much he hated women, and to know I would never expose my children to that again.  I don't feel that church cares much for people like me - women.

I stayed married 25 years to an alcoholic, because I wanted to do what was socially acceptable.  I hid my unusual upbringing and "strange" spirituality, because I wanted to be socially acceptable.  I worked when other kids my age played, because I wanted the clothing and the hair cuts I thought were socially acceptable.  I have blurred and obscured who I am, because I want EVERYONE to like me.

My moral mistakes are numerous (though none of them involve illegal drugs or other people's money) - and though I cringe at the memory of each of them, I hope I've also learned from them. I cry often - when they play the national anthem at the Olympics, Fourth of July parades, toilet paper commercials with puppies and babies, through most of "Steel Magnolias"... you get the picture.  I show off pictures of my children and grandchildren often.  In general, I can be pretty annoying that way.

Now I feel as though I've made a terrible mistake.  I thought that because I was over the age of 60, because I've raised three children who are balanced and contributing members of society, because I'm interested in the well-being of all people and animals, and because I still work and do my fair share, it was safe to reveal who I am, at the center of my being.  I thought it was ok to express my personal opinions on my own page, as long as I didn't go after someone on theirs.  I've lifted the veil on who I am gradually because I *enjoy* having a wide range of friends.  I think that our differences of opinion broaden my world, and those who are similar give me comfort and I don't want to lose any of them.  BUT - I am tired of losing me; I'm tired of feeling like I'm the only one who fears offending; I'm tired of veils.

If you cannot accept a 60-something, recovering Catholic/Pagan, pro-choice, animal-rights, gay-rights, human-rights, nature loving, fiber artist as a friend, please unfriend me now.  I promise I won't hunt you down.