Tag Archives: cancer

Music and Meaning

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Concert Tee!

Concert Tee!

 

Fess up–as quilters we are natural hoarders. It begins with fabrics and thread, different needles, pins, machines, thimbles, interfacing, machine feet, you get the idea. I have another collection that my husband hates anew every time we move house: my records and record players.

just some of the records

just some of the records

This is not all of the albums. I have other nooks and crannies and boxes with albums. I started collecting when I was 15. Nobody thought it was cool then. People ask me “why are you a collector of a dead format like vinyl?” My answer: economics. I used to come across the odd $20 spending money at that age. One CD used to cost about $25 in those days. So I could scrape together the money for sales tax and get one CD, or I could be smart and get almost 20 records–they averaged about $1 apiece at the flea market! I also got records for free at the market because I was a good customer.

The habit starter

  The habit starter

This is the lovely Philips HiFi that I got from my Gramps in 1996. Today it serves as an aquarium stand. Our reef tank sits up there–30 gallons! This machine is an interesting piece and I’m so glad I still have it. It started out as a stereo in 1946–the year Gramps went into the Royal Navy. Of course, it was oak covered in a mahogany veneer. Can you believe they covered actual hard wood with plastic veneer?!

Anyway, by the time I got it the veneer was crumbling and making a huge mess. When I stripped off the veneer with a heat gun (truly toxic work and I should have worn a mask, but hey, I was a kid) the wood was revealed and was nice but only in places, so I decided to paint the piece. I used lead based white house primer and mallard green paint that was so old it didn’t stir properly, so it was streaky. I coated it with about three coats of high gloss polyurethane.

It stayed green for years until I met my husband and we moved into our first home that we bought together. The green didn’t go with our furniture. So I brought out the red! So it’s been red for the past decade or so.

Another question I get about it: Does it work? Answer: it needs new tubes and the turn table needs a new belt. The AM radio does work–picks up stations as far away as Seattle, which is quite a distance from here. But with the aquarium on top, the lid obviously stays closed and it serves as a stand.

I used to sit in front of this hifi where those circles are (the spots where the speakers are covered by rough fabric) with my open bottle of vodka and I’d line up my codeine tablets on the salmon coloured carpet. I used to play songs like “I can’t make music” “My little town” and anything by Art Garfunkel, James Taylor or Carole King and cry. There was a great deal of sadness in life back then.

I had developed borderline personality disorder but it was completely unnoticed, not monitored, and I was twisting in the wind. I had tried to seek help for myself but everywhere I sought it followed the belief system that because I was still in active addiction I was unable to be helped. I would have to quit drinking, which would be the easy bit, and quit those pain killers. Not so easy. I still have to make a conscious decision every day to not allow any minor discomfort to be an excuse to take pain killers of any sort. But regardless of the latter, there is something condemning about telling someone in dire straits that they are, essentially, unhelpable. It makes the addiction take an even firmer grip–at least, it did for me. I wouldn’t quit opiate pain killers until 2004, when my choices were to move on to heroin because of my high tolerance, or death.

I started hearing the same music differently after I was released from the detox facility in August, 2004. I found that my entire music collection was vinyl– a very physical format. One has to remove the disc from several layers of plastic and paper and then place a needle on it. And then you have to be careful around the stereo because you don’t want any skipping. Also you can’t go too far away because the record only plays for about 17 minutes on one side. I used to stack my albums on one of those steel spindles that drops the records down. Kind of like an in-home juke box set up. But I put too many on there once and broke the spindle! ūüė¶ Big sad emoticon!

I still love records as a mom, wife, quilter, etc. And I love having my collection swaddling me in my home along with all my other stuff–mounds of fabric, threads, journals, books of poetry, CDs, paints, canvas, beads….But I’m so glad that they have more meaning now. It’s kind of like whenever I hear the lines at the end of “A Song For You” which was written by Leon Russell but made famous by the Carpenters in 1972: “And when my life is over, remember when we were together/we were alone and I was singing this song for you/we were alone and I was singing this song for you.” Karen Carpenter died at 32 in 1983, and this is why many fans listen to this song and wonder over it’s prophetic meaning. But I hear it and think about my old life and am glad that it’s dead.

Now the trick is keeping myself alive–and keeping the desire to stay alive. I’m older than Karen was, and most people in highschool thought I’d be the first to die, and I’m not. Katherine passed away from cancer. I need to reconcile the old labels I got: “crazy” “reckless” “dangerous” “unhelpable.”

Wish me luck.

 

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Explore with me

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Explore with me

 

 

 

 

explore sugar block

I think it’s very interesting that this month’s Sugar block (a fun BOM over on Amy Gibson’s sweet little blog)¬†was an elaborate pinwheel which even included some paper piecing. ¬†She called the block “explore.”

Now in her post about this theme she mentions how we all tend to be creatures of habit and want to do the same things. I’m so there! Like she said, I like to eat the same foods, watch the same tv shows, pick Bronwen up, or conversely drop her off at her scheduled places (I am the proud owner of a solar powered key chain that flashes “Mom’s Taxi.”) I just generally go about my day and do the same things.

Yesterday was my birthday. This year was that fun year where I got the terrific birthday gift of needing to renew my driver’s license. That was amusing. But I got a lovely ice cream cake and an enthusiastic daughter who insisted on putting all the candles around it. We had to convince her that daddy would light them, though.

Ice cream cake!!

 

Just to save you the trouble of counting the candles, I am 33 years old now. I have lived longer than many friends ever thought possible. This is one of the things me and the psych talk about all the time–living as long as I have is an accomplishment. ¬†At least, to him it is. For me, not really. Like eating the same foods or taking the same route home from work, I’ve tried to get people to understand how it bothers me that life is so much like one of those punch card machines in a workplace. Wake up. Punch in. Have lunch. Punch out. Back to work. Punch in. Go to bed. Punch out. What’s truly depressing about this analogy is that even my doctor who sits and listens to this often agrees with me. He’s admitted to me that he feels like that a lot too. Well that’s no good! It feels like I’m preaching to the choir!

So okay. I keep myself busy. But I try to find different ways of quilting that teach me new techniques and keep my hands busy. Just last week I finished a mystery quilt that was a terrific Kimberly Einmo design called chain of stars:

Chain of stars quilt top

 

I did it all in batik fabrics that were on sale at the Cloth Castle.¬†I’ve never worked solely with batiks like this before. I consider this a bit of a stretch for me–it’s a traditional, yet modified block placement of a Jacob’s ladder quilt. I don’t do a ton of traditional stuff, so making this was interesting. (Although I did end up ordering her flying geese ruler and jelly roll ruler because they look like they’re pretty awesome and I think I will be making more flying geese.)¬†Now to do this quilt required some planning. I had to number the fabrics and make sure they all coordinated just so. I think it turned out great!

But sometimes it’s just as fun and gives the same feeling of accomplishment when one gets to just play at the machine. So I found another pattern I liked that was in Jenny Doan’s “Quilting Quickly 2” class on Craftsy¬†that was a prism quilt made of two jelly rolls (I used one jelly roll called “flirt” and extra yardage but you get the idea). Straight line sewing, and minimal crucial match points. I even had enough left over to make an oversized saw tooth border:

Flirt prism quilt

 

The next truly traditional quilt I’m going to tackle (after I’m done all the other things I long to make, haha!) is the double wedding ring. The class is available finally on Craftsy. If you’re an addict like me, it is a very helpful class. But I digress.

Quilting makes me feel warm, both literally and figuratively. The iron and sitting under a quilt sandwich while stitching it does work up a sweat on hot days. Figuratively it makes my heart feel like I’m connected to my Auntie (in Italian, Zia) over in Italy who had to be the best with an iron that I’ve ever seen. She introduced me to the power of a pressure steam iron. I have a Rowenta just like her old one now and I wouldn’t trade it for any other wimpy iron! I think of her all the time when I’m pressing.

I think of my grand mother (in Italian, Nonna) who lives in Canada but in the Kootenays, which is far enough away from me that I only see her once or twice a year. She is an avid crocheter, knitter, and can make her 1960s Singer, well, sing! She’s one of those lucky people who can see an image on a pattern or walk up to any doily and figure out how it was made and replicate it. She and I are quite alike. She has always lived her life on her terms (although we suspect that she and my grand father, who is almost 11 years older, were arranged to be married. She won’t admit to this.) and I think she’s fairly satisfied with what she was delivered. She’s recently suffered a stroke which has shaken her sense of mortality loose a bit.

I remember when she had her first mastectomy about 12 years ago. We went to visit because we were worried for her and wanted to be there. I remember leaning in to give her a hug and kind of making it a side-lean so that I wouldn’t brush up against her prosthetic. I was afraid of it. A part of my unbreakable Nonna had been cut away, just like any other mortal. But she took my other side and pulled it in tightly, saying “You’re not going to break me!” in her typical irreverent tone. She had kicked cancer’s ass by going full boar and having the breast removed when she didn’t have to. Removal of the tumor and radiation was an option but she didn’t want the suffering just to save her boob. I admired that then and still do.

My iron wielding Zia in Italy passed away from cancer about three years ago. I saw her last in 1995. She too lived as she wanted, but within the parameters of her generation’s tolerance. Meaning, she had an elementary school education only; she was a wife and mother. That was her lot and she accepted that. However she had the loudest voice at the table and was large and in charge. Man she fought her illness. But I never had the money to get over to her in time before it killed her. Something invisible to the naked eye killed her. It was an impossibility to me. I was in the hospital after a suicide attempt when she died. I had to borrow the common area phone and talk with Nonna, numb the both of us, saying how hard she fought.

And that’s what life seems to be for people like me. Sure, I am not ill with cancer or some other horrible affliction. But I do have a host of psychiatric problems that date back almost 20 years. Just like me, each morning they’re there to greet me. Punch in. Punch out. The best I can do is keep stitching and keep one foot in front of the other, just like everyone else.

Brownen's embroidered feet