Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Some Hearts, They get Weary...

Another Christmas

It's just going through the motions. Buying poinsettias last minute to give the place some hint of holiday - to save face with passers by, if nothing else. Decades have passed without any real cheer of parties or gifts - not on Christmases, not on birthdays, not at all. Yes, occasionally wrapped somethings that, like the poinsettia's, camouflage a greater emptiness in an unfilled space. Plans and promises that are never fulfilled, and hopes that no longer see even the slightest air of flight. It's those holidays that are spent with someone who would rather spend their holidays with someone else. A life shared with someone who is saving up for time lost with someone else.

 The moral of this tale: live your life in the moments you have to live them in, not in the moments you can never retrieve, or the moments that may never come. Be present to all creatures and to all things.

 A Colloquy with Myself
By Bernard Barton (1784–1849)
        “As I walked by myself, I talked to myself,
  And myself replied to me;
And the questions myself then put to myself
  With their answers, I give to thee.
Put them home to thyself, and if unto thyself
  Their responses the same should be,
Oh! look well to thyself, and beware of thyself,
  Or so much the worse for thee.”

WHAT are riches? Hoarded treasures
  May, indeed, thy coffers fill;
Yet, like earth’s most fleeting pleasures,
  Leave thee poor and heartless still.
What is Pleasure? When afforded        5
  But by gauds that pass away,
Read its fate in lines recorded
  On the sea-sands yesterday.
What is Fashion? Ask of Folly,
  She her worth can best express.        10
What is moping Melancholy?
  Go and learn of Idleness.
What is Truth? Too stern a preacher
  For the prosperous and the gay;
But a safe and wholesome teacher        15
  In Adversity’s dark day.
What is Friendship? If well founded,
  Like some beacon’s heavenward glow:
If on false pretensions grounded
  Like the treacherous sand below.        20
What is Love? If earthly only,
  Like a meteor of the night
Shining but to leave more lonely
  Hearts that hailed its transient light:
But when calm, refined, and tender,        25
  Purified from passion’s stain,
Like the moon, in gentle splendour,
  Ruling o’er the peaceful main.
What are Hopes? But gleams of brightness,
  Glancing darkest clouds between;        30
Or foam-crested waves, whose whiteness
  Gladdens ocean’s darksome green.
What are Fears? Grim phantoms, throwing
  Shadows o’er the pilgrim’s way,
Every moment darker growing,        35
  If we yield unto their sway.
What is Mirth? A flash of lightning,
  Followed but by deeper gloom.
Patience?—More than sunshine, bright’ning
  Sorrow’s path, and labour’s doom.        40
What is Time? A river flowing
  To Eternity’s vast sea;
Forward, whither all are going,
  On its bosom bearing thee.
What is Life? A bubble floating,        45
  On that silent, rapid stream;
Few, too few, its progress noting,
  Till it bursts, and ends the dream.
What is Death, asunder rending
  Every tie we love so well?        50
But the gate to life unending,
  Joy, in heaven! or, woe in hell!
Can these truths, by repetition,
  Lose their magnitude or weight?
Estimate thine own condition,        55
  Ere thou pass that fearful gate.
Hast thou heard them oft repeated?
  Much may still be left to do:
Be not by profession cheated;
  Live—as if thou knew’st them true.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Artists Gypsy Journey...

The Artists Gypsy Journey.... I was born in Texas, spent my childhood in the Midwest, spent my adolescence in New Mexico, and my early adult life in Southern California. Most recently we have returned once again to our Midwest roots. We traveled constantly when I was a child. We flew often but in the summers we would pack up the station wagon and take long, rambling road trips across the Great Plains of Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana into the Colorado Mountains, and further west all the way to the Pacific Coast Highway where we would wind the coastline hundreds of miles south into Orange County California. My mother was fascinated with art and history and we would visit the museums and galleries where we learned of the crafts of the local cultures and we tithed to our travels by collecting bits of art along the way - carved pipestone ashtrays in Minnesota, Corn Husk Dolls in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, Black Hills Gold jewelry in the Black Hills, and pottery in Colorado. Other times we would venture into the Southwest, traveling through the Wild West of Kansas and Oklahoma, onward deep into the heart of Texas where we would tube down the Brazos River and eat sandwiches at the Gristmill at Gruene, and tour the galleries and local arts of the Hill Country where we found impeccable quilt work and embroidery and toll paintings. Further South where Mexico spills into Texas and the sounds, aromas, flavors, and colors all come alive with music we ate spicy food and found pinatas and glasswork. Then we would travel Northward through the oil fields of West Texas and into the Northern Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico. It was here that my mother and I would spend countless weekends, every weekend, for nearly seven years, prowling the art galleries and museums of Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque. We lived a five hour drive from this epicenter of the global art community during my teenage years. I went to school and worked two jobs. My mother always had two and sometimes three jobs. Moving to that remote place had been a regrettable decision and we counterbalanced that bleak life by working endless hours every week to escape for just a couple of days every week to a place where art envoked life and we could breathe air in color. When tips at our nightly restaurant jobs didn't yield the money we needed for our weekly escape, we started making crafts to sell to the local stores and galleries at our destination - bits of jewelry, dolls, sewn fabric ristras. Inexpensive items the stores could sell to tourists as "New Mexico Made". We would stay as long as our money would hold - never more than two or three days. Every weekend we walked for miles and miles and prowled every nook and every cranny of every art gallery and museum we came across. And every week they changed. We came to know the artists through their work and watch their evolution of their craft in great detail. Week to week they added new pieces and old favorites went the way of hungry tourists with American Express cards. In those days I dreamed of ever owning a piece of hand hammered metal jewelry, or a real painting to hang in my own home. As our inspiration by those we admired blossomed, so did our own talents. I began as a clay sculptor when I was eighteen, with much acclaim in art galleries in the Sangre De Christo Mountains of New Mexico - the same galleries we had prowled for years as glossy eyed admirers had found a reason to invest real money in my first venture as an artist.. In 1990 I was the youngest artist to have been featured in "The Collector's Art Guide" and had worked picked up and featured by museums in Texas. Over the years our commercial interests have ventured through clay sculpture, textiles, textile arts, painting, ceramics, metalwork and jewelry. From there we ventured into textiles and crafts targeting a mainstream market for affordability for the customers and for our own income needs. Any artist will tell you that the career is an accidental journey. There is no defined path. A university degree does not necessarily reflect a modicum of insight or talent. And insight and talent are not a constant fluid. Writers have blocks and artists do to. We need breaks. Breaks to pursue intellectual interests, to travel, to read, to grow. And then one day you pick up your old tools again and you create with an entirely new rainbow of talent. In 2006, we began travelling the Intracoastal Waterway from Maine to Florida and along the Gulf Coast to Texas. For 3-1/2 years, me, my 72 year old mom, and our 3 kitties on leashes made jewelry by night and sold jewelry to stores and galleries along the coastline to develop our craft as jewelry designers and to immerse ourselves in the journey our learning the needs of our customers. We recently settled in a tiny town in South Dakota - what I like to call Costa Rica North. It's not an easy life but it's a good life. Join us! Visit Our Jewelry Store on Etsy

Sunday, August 18, 2013

One of My Favorite Quotes: "Anger is the Energy That Evokes Action. Action Is the Energy That Evokes Changes."

I wrote this in response to an email from a friend but I thought I'd share my portion of the conversation: In 1993, Bonnie and I took another Epic Road Trip that lasted 19 months. We were selling home decor crafts to stores the way we sell jewelry now. Clinton was newly elected and money was flowing. We sold to tourist areas in the mountains and beaches and to regular towns and cities. At that time there were droves of Asians with cameras in every store and store owners were pulling their hair out because they were coming through and buying nothing but photographing everything. Every piece of merchandise in every store. Smart people knew something was up but nobody could really figure out what. The economy wasn't bad - in fact, it was good. Gas was cheap and people could afford to take vacations, retired people could afford to Snow Bird, etc... At this same time, WalMart (an Arkansas based corporation who heavily funded the Clinton Presidential campaign), was booming. They were opening stores in every little Main Street community and people were excited to "have a big city store" in their small town. Gift boutiques that we had regularly sold to began going to WalMart to buy merchandise to sell in their stores "to their country customers who weren't smart enough to know where they got it from". And they got a way with it for a while because WalMart stores were still fairly sparse by todays comparison, so if they drove 50 or 100 miles and resold the same merchandise for 2 or 3 or 5 times profit, then lucky them! Or so they thought. Well, also while Clinton was in office he opened up Free Trade with China which made our economy even stronger. We thought. When he did that though, American manufacturers began shutting down - first a trickle....... then in droves. So all of the "Buy American" campaigning that was going on in Walmart stores and everywhere else at that time came to an eventual halt..........although Clinton was out of office before it totally ceased so a lot of people only remembered cheap gas, nice vacations, and money flowing. For the record, I loved the Clinton's at that time too. During all of this, as Walmart emerged in every Main Street American town, Main Street American folded. People who had been excited and eager to "run to Walmart" with their daily profits or their weekly paycheck, eventually found themselves out of business and out of work because WalMart could beat them on every angle and even if they couldn't, they beat them to the draw on whatever money people had to spend and there was "really no reason to go anywhere else." Shops, stores, businesses of every kind folded and eventually people left those small towns in search of jobs elsewhere, or they would up working for the only store in town (Walmart) at minimum wage, minimum hours, and relying on social services to provide what Walmart was required to in terms of healthcare, or enough pay to feed a family. Cut to George Junior, and well, he's just a flaky dumb drunk bastard. No, I don't like the Bush's. He did great things for the economy in Texas and it overflowed to New Mexico and maybe a few isolated places where his family has personal financial interests. That wealth came at the expense of people in 49 other states who struggled to maintain jobs, mortgages, etc... under any number of things that fueled the Bush family's personal interests. I do see why people in Texas don't see what everyone else see's about George Bush but I have a feeling they're about to get a big giant dose of it and will probably blame Obama. I don't like Obama either! And for that matter, I don't like Oprah! I will admit, Bonnie and I lived in California for ten years and we lost perspective on the rest of the country during those years. In 2006 we left and we've pretty much been gypsying our way East to West ever since - three years now on another Epic Road Trip. What's different? What's changed? Americans, for starters. In 1990 - our first road trip that lasted 12 months and was primarily centered in Texas and New Mexico, people worked. Stores were open 6 days a week from 9-6. Store owners could be found early in the morning and long after closing every single day. The store owners of fancy shops weren't prissing around like primadona's on a throne. They were always the ones in work clothes, doing manual labor, fix store displays, cleaning, helping customers, unpacking freight, etc... 21 years and a generation later and stores are rarely open 30 hours a week. Usually Tue-Fri 10-5 and "maybe" a couple of hours on Saturday. Even with that they rarely show up on time, never leave a minute late, regularly close the entire store for an hour lunch, and often take more than the hour. They also very often close to pick their kids up from school or run household errands. And when we do find them, they CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN that they aren't making ends meet. Well no shit!!! And I say, "You probably ought to extend your hours. People who have jobs and make money can't shop here because you aren't open on their lunch hour, or the weekend, or after 5 o'clock." Answer almost 100% of the time, "Oh I'm sure that's not it. People who are rich don't work." And I think to myself but I don't say it, "How many rich people come in here then?" I don't have to say it. They're out of business before they ever start. Americans are lazy and rude. It's absolutely utterly true. We go in stores all the time, as a seller and as a customer, when owners and employees are too busy playing whatever computer game has seduced them to say "hello", "may I help you", even just smile. I've had store owners who were complaining about their buisness revenue and writing me hot checks, leave our business meetings to go farm their Farmville farm. I'm not kidding you! Too many Americans settle for failure! Disability * Unemployment * Food Stamps * or any other hand outs are FAILURE! If you don't have a job and can't get a job, then go do something to market yourself to contribute positively to society, your family, yourself. Good freakin' grief!!! I can think of TOO MANY people that I personally know who are milking the system because probably they're in an intimate relationship with their XBox. If my 73 year old mother can do what she does every single day then I don't know a living soul who shouldn't be utterly ashamed to be living on government hand outs. In addition to all of this, in the Bush Years that we were away and also the Clinton years prior to that, a lot of things with regard to employment laws changed. It has become no longer financially viable for businesses to hire full time employees so an average work week for most people has been drastically reduced from 40+ hours per week to somewhere slightly above 20. This was true for us in California too, and the California model was to supplement the hours with unemployment pay and/or whatever government assitance was available. Apparently that has become the model of new generation. For Bonnie and I it just meant we always worked 2 and 3 jobs. Not to mention having multiple at home and online businesses. It's largely an issue of what effort people are willing to go do and what they're willing to settle for. In offices where I had 2 or 3 jobs, at every single one of them I was surrounded by co-workers who thought I had it easy and passed that off on some favoritism. It wasn't favoritism, I had 2 or 3 additional incomes. It even came up at work on a few occasions that I should defer my own pay raises or bonuses "since I had it easier than everyone else." And with that kind of pettiness, you wonder why I would just rather be off doing my own thing. Additionally, we are no longer a leading agricultural based economy. We're also not a manufacturing based economy. And well, not technology either. During the Bush Years that we were away, all of the technology and service jobs were outsourced to other countries. We've become leaders and adding hormones to our food supply - so much that our exported food in now banned in many countries. I even do my best to avoid eating American food. There's a reason so many of us look like the People of Walmart. Remember back when we all thought Roseanne Barr was the fattest thing we'd ever seen? I look at those re-runs now and think she looks better then than a lot of people do today. It's frightening. With Free Trade now open with China, we are no longer a manufacturing based economy. We can compete with quality but not the price. And honestly, a large population of Americans don't give a shit as long as they have the biggest tv on the block and most be-spangled ass in the state of Texas, they don't give a rats ass what the quality is or where it came from. We also don't necessarily own our own wind, water, and mineral rights any longer. I do see wells pumping like crazy from North Dakota to South Texas, and people get giddy and excited at the site of it. I remember the days when wells pumping meant money was flowing but money is no longer flowing in those areas where the wells are pumping at full capacity. Why? The revenue from those mineral rights is not going directly into the communities like they used to which means the land owners no longer own the mineral, wind, and water rights, or the landowners don't live in this country anymore. And then the myriad of little problems from community to community that collectively paint a broad and frightening picture. From the "California" dairies that have drained the water table and financial resources of communities from New Mexico, Texas though the upper Midwest and are still traveling selling their same medicine show of "good paying jobs, good benefits, financial viability to the community" to the "California" hog farms that are selling the same Medicine Show in Iowa, Oklahoma, and beyond. Same sales pitch - same results. They make big promies and they arrive with foreign workers, contribute nothing financially to the community that is positive and drain all the resources and move on again and again and again and again. The wind farms, which are little more than a new version of the old Walmart story. Our government is spending money to improve highways and roads to accomodate the vehicles it takes to haul in this equipmenet, nobody locally is gaining financially from it (not working people for sure), and guess what?.............when they get this all in place they're going to be selling our wind back to us in the form of electricity at whatever price they set. Or let's just say, gas was 90-cents a gallon when Clinton was in office and $4.00+ a gallon with Obama in office. Water will be no exception if the water table is continually drained from community to community the way we are hearing it is. And the fracking! The freaking fracking!! What will that do to the water table? The honest to God truth of the matter is, our government has screwed working class people over. And yes, even if you do have a membership to some small town, trailer trash excuse for a Country Club, you're probably in the overall perspective of things, still working class. That is, if you work. If your ski trips are courtesy of "church missions"........that's just another hand-out. You're not really royalty. You're delusional. But the reality of this is, if we do nothing for ourselves, then we've settled for failure. Turn off Candy Crush - read a book. Turn off Honey Boo Boo - read a book. Instead of buying another expensive computer game - buy a new software program and learn how to use it. I'm one to preach, I know. I have very little materially. I guess I've never been a materially driven person. Our house burned when I was 19 and I realized how quickly one could lose every single thing. It was a pivotal point in life because when you've lost everything, you have everything to gain. I started putting my money and my time into reading, learning, and unintentionally traveling. I have made exceptionally good money at times in my life but I have always re-invested it in books, software, education, and life - theatre, symphony, travel. I may have nothing to show for it but then again, when we all die, we all take nothing with us anyway. You ask, "We are in trouble. I see it everyday at work....you just say it better than I do! How or when will it be fixed?" I answer, It will be fixed when we fix it and if we don't, it won't. Just after I published this piece, a friend shared a compelling Facebook post on this same subject matter. Thank you James Gallini. "There are now 11 states that have more people on government assistance than are working. Last month, the Senate Budget Committee reports that in fiscal year 2012, between food stamps, housing support, child care, Medicaid and other benefits, the average U.S. Household below the poverty line received $168.00 a day in government support. The median household income in America is just over $50,000,which averages out to $137.13 a day. To put it another way, being on welfare now pays the equivalent of $30.00 an hour for a 40-hour week, while the average job pays $20.00 an hour. This is unsustainable...thank you republicrats and multi-national corporations for turning our country into a service industry with few incentives and opportunities for upward mobility. We have a nanny government that feeds, clothes, and cares for us while illegally monitoring our thoughts, actions and speech. Our nanny tells us ghost stories of 'boogie men' under our bed that they must protect us from without proof that they exist. The government nanny is a classic abuser...they slap us and then tell us how much they love us. We must break our chains of slavery..."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Soul of a Needle and Thread...

The Soul of a Needle and Thread…











I was standing in the yarn aisle of a local craft store today when a woman approached me, "Excuse me. Do you know anything about knitting?" Then she proceeded to tell me that she had just taught herself to knit a purl because she was having her first grandchild and today they found out he is a boy. Now she is standing in the yarn aisle ready to make hers, & his, fist blanket.

She had bought a lovely skein of that funky yarn that looks like it does all the stitches for you, and we knitter know, it doesn't. It's difficult to work with for rookies. So she returned it and was going with a standard baby yarn in winter white. She wanted to knit a blanket that only knit & purl. Something very simple and elegant. Could I help? I gave her my business card and told her to email - I would write her a pattern and return it tonight. I wrote two.  Instructions for both follow at the end of this blog.

There is a distinct energy from the soul that transcends into tediously handcrafted work.  If you ever start a piece of knitting, or crochet, or detailed needlework, and put it away for a few years, when you pick it up again even years later, your mind starts playing the scene from when you held it last – whether it be the music you were listening to, the conversation you were having, it’s a snapshot our your soul at that particular moment in time.  It’s uncanny!  Every sweater, every garment that my Bonnie Mommie ever made for me felt like a luxurious, generous, warm hug from her every moment that I had it on.  Whether it were conscious or subconscious, her soul is always wrapped around me in the garments she makes.  I remember as a young girl, the back-to-school wardrobe that she made for me every year before school.  Plenty of pretty dresses for me to wake up to and look forward to wearing on school days when my naturally nocturnal spirit would rather lie in bed.  Rather not go at all.   Big circle skirts overflowing with ruffles and trim.  Lovely dresses with puffy sleeves and pinafores with applique, embroidery, one even had a dollie in a heart shaped pocket.  An apron to hold my giant 64 box of crayons.  Dresses to match my dolls dresses.  And even a pair of jeans with pretty red ruffles on the pockets and hem with a matching peasant blouse, for 2nd grade school trip to the zoo where jeans were the required wardrobe.  I had always refused to wear pants, convinced, if not slightly paranoid, that even putting a pair on would turn me into a boy.   Oh the horror!

By the fourth grade I had decided to design my own back to school wardrobe.  A pair of pants in royal blue like Olivia Newton-John wore in Xanadu (similar to the ones that M.C. Hammer made famous a few years later) with a matching peasant blouse.  A peasant blouse cut off one shoulder (also similar to one Olivia Newton-John had worn in the same film, so had Christy McNichol in “The Pirate Movie”.  The outfit was bright red with yellow trim (because I liked the colors on the McDonald’s French fry boxes) and I paired it with an A-line skirt that had big, metal yellow zippers down each side.  And mini-skirts because Barbara Eden in “The Harper Valley PTA” was my hero!

While my designs were the all the rage of the 4th grade and all my teachers at school, it was really my mother’s ability, willingness, zeal, and support in executing them that was so impressive.  I was into the makings of a life long education in art, craft, and design at her heels.  In my earliest memories she was never without fabric, thread, yarn, hook, needles, or hoop in hand – unless of course, she was sanding away at greenware, hovering tediously over bisqueware with a delicate brush.  I would spend my childhood trailing behind her fingering bolts of fabric in the fabric stores as she called out “wool, linen, flax, cotton, polyester, rayon, tulle, crepe, sharkskin, matalese, brocade, silk…..”  and having me finger the fabrics behind her and repeating them by name; memorizing them by touch.  She would make her selections and wait her turn at the cutting table while I busied myself in gigantic books of patterns  and make a mental note of all the beautiful dresses I would make when I was old enough to wear them. Or stand mesmerized in front of walls of beautiful buttons, choosing the ones I would ask to have for the fabric she was having cut.  It never failed, I would see her finishing up and run to get my instructions for gathering notions – the list of zippers by size and color, buttons, etc…  And every single time when it came to buttons she would say, “Get the ones that you can get the most in the right color for the cheapest price”.  Well shit!  That’s nothing close to what I had already chosen.  The ladies at the  cutting table could always read my mind and laughed sympathetically under their breath.  I don’t think Bonnie Mommie ever had a clue. 

She might have thought them frivolous but I probably could have had them had I had the courage to ask.  Buttons became somewhat of an obsession, certainly an investment piece, in my later years.  I had grown to think of them as jewelry and well worth the investment.  When I explained my position, Bonnie agreed.  I was in my twenties by then.

A psychologist asked me one time to describe my childhood.  The only word that came to mind was “ideal”.  It really was.  It certainly had it’s dis-ease:  the constant moves, the unhinged family, the instability of people and place but the thread that held that all together was the discipline and organization of what could have easily been a very cluttered life:  home made (custom made) garments, home made (tailor made) meals from scratch, family sit-down meal (every meal), long family vacations driving in the car that inevitably bring one to meditate on life and the world we live in),  ballet classes, baton twirling classes, art classes, reading, the early discipline of letter writing and thank you note writing (when I was too young to write or sign my name – every letter, every Christmas card, every thank you note had to contain an original artwork in crayon “because if you don’t sign it or write it yourself it doesn’t count”, Bonnie Mommie would say).  To this day even my kitties sign their own Christmas cards with a personal ink-pad paw print.

In my first year of junior high school, all that had never been ideal in life imploded and rang out with the thunder of a very ugly divorce.  I will say, my parents didn’t do divorce gracefully and in the 30+ years since, nothing has changed that.  It is an undiscussable subject.  Sibling might have helped bear the weight of that burden, I don’t know.  It’s like an unending death.  In an instant, every memory – every family vacation, every school play, every ballet recital, every birthday party, Halloween party, Christmas, or Easter is erased from all conversation.  It’s a bitter pill for each bitter parent.  It’s a bitter pill for the new spouse.  No longer can you ever make mention of any moment of joy that preceeded the culmination of lava that finally spewed forth.  And in this same instant, this girl is alone.  Twelve years old and alone in a new town, among new strangers, in a new and most-unfriendly school (teachers and kids alike).  In some instances perhaps even cruel.  Certainly these days it would be called bullying but in my early life of only-childness, I was taught not to complain, to be grateful for the kids that teased me because I didn’t have sibling and it was that that makes you tough.  In this aloneness of environment & spirit,  I was also hours and hours and hours – and days and days and days alone in life.  My mother left for work before 5am and normally returned from her 3rd job around midnight.  I didn’t have friends and for my own safety, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, or have the curtains open, or let anyone know I was home alone.  Many years later I would come to fully understand the necessity of this but it was lonely.  Even my 12 year old poodle died that first year. 

I spent the first few years of my adolescence in tears and sadness.  Bonnie listened when she was home and would coach me.  She would spend her very few spare hours making me new school clothes that we copied from outfits I found in magazines and bought fabric for off of yardage sale tables at Alco, a local discount department store.  I would often wake up to new dresses neatly pressed and hanging on my door knob.  The night before, in one of my many floods of tears, she would coach me, “You go to school.  You hold your head high.  You smile big.  You say “hello” to everyone.  If they’re mean to you, say something nice to them.  If they say mean things about you, say nice things about them.  If they don’t invite you (they never did) let them know you are happy for them.  As hard as they make it to like them, make them think you like them anyway.  Don’t ever let them know they cause you the pain they want you to feel.  If they don’t think they won – they didn’t win.”  Day after day I would.    Complaining was never tolerated in our family – crying wasn’t even allowed when I was an infant.  In that same vein, I was taught to laugh at fear and laughter was an early defense I was taught in my earliest childhood.  Certainly I grew up with an element of real fear.

From the 7th grade to the 9th grade, from ages 12 to 15, I would come home from school every day – do my homework, count my calories, make my dinner, bake the next recipe in the cook book I had been working my way through one recipe at a time, watch multiple 1950’s tv series on cable (“Leave It to Beaver”, “Dobie Gillis”, “Father Knows Best”, etc…) and spend my evening plowing through unfinished needlework projects my mother had started and not finished in our previous life.  I embroidered Christmas tree skirts, cross-stitched pictures, and whatever else I found in her boxes of unfinished projects while I waited and waited for her to come home.  She waited tables at a pancake house for breakfast, had a real estate career that she attempted to keep track of between pancake house and the dress shop she managed and was a buyer for, then worked the night shift at a Mexican food restaurant.  Her weekends were no different but she could take me to work with her on Saturday and Sunday, where I would help her bus tables or do the store window and mannequin displays.

While I had dabbled at sewing, I was around 15 when I really made genuine attempts.  The thing about sewing, knitting, crochet, or any of those long lost arts is you really need someone at hand, to shadow you and remind you stitch by stitch what your brain and hands argue about with every next stitch.  Like dance, it’s not so much a thing one learns, so much as it is a language in and of itself.  It takes the daily discipline of repetitive reminders to fully comprehend.  I had bits and pieces of that – an invaluable gift for sure.  But I didn’t really know enough.  I would cut and sew and spend my hours whittling away and then Bonnie would come in like elves in the night and correct my seams to make my garments presentable.

 At the same time I was enhancing my knowledge of crochet – something I had learned the basics of as a toddler.  Although I had had the stitches down pat since I was 3 years old, I didn’t have enough knowledge of crochet to work from patterns.  I was inspired by a long lost stack of old magazines I had found in an antique store in rural New Mexico.  The woman who owned the store really specialized in antique dishes and the stack of magazines and newspapers was really what she used to wrap them with.  I pleaded with her and she sold them to me for 10-cents a piece.  I didn’t know what they were at first but they were the most beautiful lace I had ever seen.  I knew I would be getting married one day and we wouldn’t have the money for a wedding so I thought I’d start working on lace for wedding dress – ten years or so should be plenty of time to finish one.  Funny now but I seriously thought it at the time.  The books were all patterns for Irish and Celtic lace bits.  Some of them had photos or diagrams, other didn’t and I would eventually work them up just to see what they looked like.  They were published in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  In those days, most newspapers published regular columns with needlework patterns.  I would also learn in learning from them, quite by accident, that most of them were written in British crochet which is not the same as American crochet.  I did figure this all out on my own though – of that, I was very proud.  It was also therapy for the extended family periphery that was often  far too much to bear.

When I was 20, Bonnie Mommie and I took our first year long gypsy art trip in an old beat up Chevy Bonanza pick up truck that belonged to my uncle but had been left abandoned at our house because it was too much of an eyesore to park in his own neighborhood.  We sold art  (clay sculpture) by day and spent our nights in the hotel rooms – me cutting and Bonnie sewing, an outfit for each of us nearly every single night of that year.  Fabric was abundant and cheap in those days and that was when I really started to become an excellent seamstress.  Cutting patterns was excellent training ground.  As we traveled, we toured upscale and expensive dress shops and department stores along the way.  More than window shopping, we devoured garments for the knowledge they had in store – the way the seams were finished, the way the pieces were cut, the buttons, lapels, zippers, hems, trims, cuffs and collars.  Bonnie fingering them to pieces and talking out loud, “this seam is turned to the back to give it a certain line…..that garment is French seamed just the way I do it………..oh look!  What a wonderful use of grommets.”  I trailed behind her just as I had as a child among the bolts of fabrics, and inhaled her every discovery.

I was in my early thirties and we were both working in a theatre office in Los Angeles when a co-worker overheard me say how much I hated ready to wear garments.  That we sew all of our clothes has never been a secret and our new found address near the Fabric District of Downtown LA was our sheer delight and bliss.  Nevertheless, our co-worker seemed stunned.  “You don’t like to wear clothes that you buy in a store?”  I was sort of shocked at her shock but in hindsight I don’t know why.  It is stereotypical to think of home-made anything being inferior.  How ignorant are the masses!  Custom fit, tailor made clothes had been the wardrobe of my entire life.  I do hate those store bought jeans that crawl up your crotch while simultaneously falling below your butt crack.  Far from superior, but someone who had never known custom fit would never know.  It’s what so many people never really have the opportunity to know – luxury is not expense or wealth – although it can be those things.  Luxury is not incompassionate, exclusionary, or unkind.  By definition, “Luxury is the state of great comfort and extravagant living.”  In my lifetime of experience, luxury is a big warm smile greeting you on a dark ugly day, the warm soft hug of caring heart – if not in person, in the spirit of handmade garment, the discipline of a decadent life, the discipline of a hard won education, tailor made clothes, travel that exasperates ones soul and fuels one’s imagination and thirst for life.  The but greatest of luxuries is kindness – coming and going, ever flowing.  Luxury is ideal! 

That baby that grandmother is knitting a blanket for will be swaddled in a luxurious love from a woman who stretched her intellect to learn a new craft, just so that she could knit that child an eternal hug that he could pass on to his child who will wear that same hug, and sense elements of her struggle to learn and to conquer.  What an indelible, if not silent and even invisible, legacy to pass on to coming generations.

Earlier this week I received a thank you note from an old and dear friend for a gift I had made her:

““I got something really wonderful in the mail today. It was beautiful and brought back memories of seeing this girl in a mini wearing bright colors with a sad look on her face. She was the prettiest little thing in clothes she made herself. Very talented, warm and inviting. All the other girls were jealous and gave her a hard time but the truth was they were jealous at the fact she had more talent in her little finger than they even thought of having. I was proud to call her friend and I still am. I loved you as a young girl and have an awful lot of respect and admiration for you as a woman. I thank you, my friend, for my treasure in the mail. Lots of love to you and Mommie Bonnie and all the kitties. My life is better at having you still in it!!!! Now if I could just get you to drive this way that would be even better!”   - TCB

What luxury to have a friend who sensed something of me she never really knew, and who in the decades of our distance, she never lost sight of.  I have to say, when I read her profound words my heart broke a little and I fell into a bit of melancholy in that I didn't apparently fool everyone with my false bravado.  And yet somehow, my soul felt a distant and warm and comforted hug in the acknowledgement of all that that little note said.

I think junior high school and high school are probably not fond memories for most people.  Maybe they are.  I don’t really now, I guess.  I do think it’s unwise to dwell in one’s past – and unwise to dwell in moments of pain and sorrow.  It’s too easy to miss the beauty of the present.  I was reminded of this last summer driving down an old, familiar, Nebraska farm road.  I had driven it so many times in worry over bills, worry over an uncertain car, worry over uncertain weather, but mostly worry over an uncertain tomorrow.  It was never a beautiful road.  In my memory it was always muddy and  slushy, weeds lining the road side and junky cars along the way.  Somehow last summer it was green and lush, full of hope  not fear, brimming with smiles and not fear and loathing.  The only difference being, as I noted in that moment, that I wasn’t driving down that road on that particular summer day, hoping to make a sale that would pay my rent on time, or pay my bills.  Just driving for the sheer joy of seeing it again.  And then my mothers words came back to me, “.  You hold your head high.  You smile big.  You say “hello” to everyone.  If they’re mean to you, say something nice to them.  If they say mean things about you, say nice things about them.  If they don’t invite you (they never did) let them know you are happy for them.  As hard as they make it to like them, make them think you like them anyway.  Don’t ever let them know they cause you the pain they want you to feel.  If they don’t think they won – they didn’t win.”

Much Love,
Angela Catirina

P.S.  Below are the two baby blanket patterns I wrote for the soon-to-be new grandmother  I met in yarn aisle.  Great for beginners, they contain only knits and purls – no increased, decreases, or anything to intimidate someone just starting out.

So here they are for anyone interested:

Option 1: This option will make a hemmed blanket which will give you a small hemmed finish around the entire blanket - similar to a blanket with a binding only the binding will work into the knitting.

cast on desired number of stitches to achieve desired measurement (120-130)

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: Knit
Row 4: Purl
Row 5: Knit
Row 6: Knit; CO (cast on) 5 stitches at end of row
Row 7: Knit 5, Purl 1, Knit across:; CO 5 stitches at end of row
Row 8 & every other even numbered row (WS - wrong side of blanket) Purl 5, Knit 1, Purl across to last 6 stitches, Knit 1, Purl 5
Row 9 & ever other odd numbered row (RS - right side of blanket) Knit 5, Purl 1, Knit across to last 6 stitches, Purl 1, Knit 5

*Repeat Rows 8 & 9 until you have reached desired length for blanket & end with a right side row facing you ready to be worked next; then proceed to work the last 8 rows

1a: BO (bind off) 6 stitches; knit across to last 6 stitches, P1, K5
2a: BO 6 stitches, purl across
3a - Make sure this is a right side row) Knit across
3a: Purl across
4a: Knit across
5a: Purl across
6a: knit across
7a: Purl across
8a: BO knit wise - leave a tail long enough to hem one edge of the blanket. The blanket binding will fold naturally around at the Purl rows to form a natural hem. Hem using a chain stitch method with a tapestry needle. If you're adept at crochet, you can add a simple chain stitch around the edge with the same or a contrasting color as an added embellishment.

Option 2: With this option you can make a simple square blanket without a hem. We'll knit a selvedge edge instead.

*CO (cast on) desired number of stitches to achieve desired length for blanket
Rows 1-5: knit each row
Row 6 & all even numbered rows: P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, Knit across to last 5 stitches, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1
Row 7 & all odd numbered rows: P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, Purl across to last 5 stitches, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1

* Repeat rows 6 & 7 until you have achieved desired length. Then work last 5 rows as rows 1-5. Bind Off.

Either method will work very well. I think method 1 will be a slightly more luxurious finish. The hemmed edge just adds a more luxurious touch. Option 2 is also an excellent option and will make a lovely swaddle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Golly WOW!?...........Might the United States Close Their State Borders?











California taxes move people out

California taxes move people out
Walter Williams
Published: Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Several prominent California cities have declared bankruptcy, including Vallejo, Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino. Others are on the precipice, and that includes Los Angeles, California’s largest city.

California’s 2012 budget deficit is expected to top $28 billion, and its state debt is $618 billion.

Democrats control Calif-ornia’s Legislature, and its governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat. California is home to some of America’s richest people and companies. It would then appear the liberals’ solution to deficit and debt would be easy. They need only to raise taxes on California’s rich to balance the budget and pay down the debt — or, as President Barack Obama would say, make the rich pay their fair share.

The downside to such a tax strategy is that people are already leaving California in great numbers.

According to a Manhattan Institute study, “The Great California Exodus: A Closer Look,” by Thomas Gray and Robert Scardamalia, roughly 225,000 residents leave California each year — and have done so for the past 10 years.

They take their money with them.

Using census and Internal Revenue Service data, Gray and Scardamalia estimate that California’s out-migration results in large shares of income going to other states, mostly to Nevada ($5.67 billion), Arizona ($4.96 billion), Texas ($4.07 billion) and Oregon ($3.85 billion).

That’s the problem.

California politicians can fleece people in 2012, but there’s no guarantee they can do the same in 2013 and later years; people can leave.

But given the widespread contempt for personal liberty and constitutional values in our nation today, there might be a way for California politicians to solve their fiscal mess.

They can simply stop wealthy people from leaving the state or, alternatively, like some Third World nations, set limits on the amount of assets a resident can take out of the state.

This would surely be within their jurisdiction and would not raise any constitutional issues, because it would serve a compelling state purpose. In other words, if California were to set up border controls to stop people, as East Germans did at Checkpoint Charlie, before they cross the state line, such action would be protected by the 10th Amendment.

The fact that many Californians have managed to get their assets out of the state complicates the issue.

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

This is known as the commerce clause. There’s no question that people who pull up stakes and leave California affect interstate commerce; California has less tax revenue, and recipient states have more.

What California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris might do is sue Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Oregon in the federal courts for enticing, through lower taxes and less onerous regulations, wealthy California taxpayers.

Were California to take such measures and have a modicum of success, one wonders how many Americans would be offended by such an encroachment on personal liberty.

After all, how would forcing an American to remain in a state differ in principle from forcing him to purchase health insurance?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He writes for Creators Syndicate and may be contacted at:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Giddy'up!.......Corn Bread's Homecoming











We started out this morning in Virginia and I was still undecided when we left as to whether we would head Southwest toward Eastern Tennessee, or cut due West through West Virginia and into Ohio. Fate led us towards Tennessee as the day progressed. We rambled through Abingdon, VA - a tiny town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Range and just beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, known for it's history of Martha Washington, and a favorite stop of ours for many years now. From there we followed our instincts through Bristol, TN and on towards another tiny town - Jonesborough, TN, home of the International Storytelling Center and host to annual storytelling festivals - something on my Bucket List. I haven't yet had the pleasure of attending one. Then East towards Greenville, TN - home of the President Andrew Johnson National Historic Site and Museum. Eastward still through the foothills of the Smoky Mountain National Park and Gatlinburg, Piegon Forge (Home of Dollywood), and Sevierville (Dolly Parton's home town). 

It's a work day though and often times on work days it's difficult to separate the necessity of getting the job done from the sheer gift of what each day brings. We know this trail well - we've travled it for decades now and we lived here for a over a year. In fact, it was our home in Pigeon Forge, TN that was Corn Bread & Apple Jack 's first home - a rented house on a moutain side with lots of tall tress for them to climb and raccoon, squirrels, birds, and bunnies to befriend and give chase. We gave them Tennessee names so that they would always have a piece of their birthplace with them - not unlike Catirina being a ghost town near San Antonio, my hometown - or Bonnie being a Scottish name.

We brought Corney & Jack back here a year ago and were somewhat surprised that they seemed nonchalant about the visit. They LOVED this place!! A kitty's best dream for sure! I hadn't thought of it since because of their nonchalance but when fate turned us this direction today Corn Bread turned absolutely giddy.

He was doing cartwheels in the car all day. Determined to ride on the dash to help lead the way. Patient, ever patient, with each stop we had to make. He licked and combed his fur, cleaned his paws, washed his face, and then gave Sugar Brithces & Moonshine a good grooming and a good grooming agian. They all sat at attention and it was obvious he was the master of the days ceremonies. I was utterly happy to see him so utterly happy about a visit home, and equally trepidatious of the idea that perhaps he thought he might find Apple Jack here. Whatever his joy, it was contagious!! The little girls, Sugar & Moon, were every bit as excited as he was as we drove the long way through the foothills of the Smoky Mountains thorugh Gatlinburg and into Pigeon Forge where we visited the old house and then went to the park near the Old Mill and the stream where we used to take Corney & Jack as kittens to learn to walk and to visit the ducks.

It's a work day - but I don't ever have to remind myself that every day is a work day. It's a beautiful day - I do sometimes need to remind myself that every day is a beautiful day ♥ I signed the guest book at the Old Mill Restuarant - "Bonnie Mommie, Angela Catirina, Corn Bread, Sugar Britches, Moon Shine, and our guardian angel Apple Jack."