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Bold Move

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Bold Move
Be Bold

Be Bold

This month’s Sugar Block! It’s called Bold. I really like it, especially because it was my first block in the new house. It was very difficult to undertake, because the cords for the iron and the machine were in the air and the cutting board was taking up a lot of space, along with pencil crayons and felts strewn all over the place. We’ve been here for a week and I managed to squeeze some sewing in. I think that’s amazing.

empty apartment

empty apartment

Bronwen was the best at keeping the kitty company for the ferry ride and was great at getting him settled into the new house. My sister said this picture was a sad shot. Personally I think it was a crazy day and this was the calm before the storm.

The truck

The truck

This is the behemoth I drove from Victoria, onto the ferry (at the commercial rate because I was 13′ tall and 33′ long) and then through to the north of Surrey. (For those of you not from these parts, that means I drove for about 3 hours). I even managed a three-point-turn in this puppy with no help!

fish tank hilarity

fish tank hilarity

This was probably the most comedic aspect of the truck unload process. The classic joke “how many <insert person’s title here> does it take to <insert mundane task here> pops to mind. It really did take three full grown men to move one aquarium. Okay, I’ll stop ribbing them. My husband is bent over to help the other guy on the end to slow the tank down, and they had it balanced on two dollies. The tank is 120 US gallons and empty it weighs about 300 lbs.  Luckily there were no injuries or issues with it. (It’s in the carport now.)

coming together

coming together

We got to hang up a few things since we got here. First was my big collage. It’s 4’x4′. I think it looks wicked cool in our entryway. I love the house’s original “pendant” light there.

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This is a scrap fabric rug I’m making in the shape of a heart. I think it’s super cute and I look forward to finishing it.

craftsy inspired tool wall

craftsy inspired tool wall

Right before we left the island a lovely lady, Bonnie, who is a garment maker, gave me a big stash of quilter’s threads! Loads of aurifil, marathon metallic, and YLI polyesther! Perfect for embellishing!! I also thought I’d hang my rotary cutters and specialty rulers since in the old house they used to get lost under stuff all the time. I love the fact that most people would use my area as a dining room. In this house it’s a quilter’s den.

quilter's den

quilter’s den

As you can see the fabric has started bubbling out of the bins and I’ve configured things in a somewhat functional order. I was proud I managed to get the design wall batting up on my own!

pressing board

pressing board

My first official sewing project was to make a pressing board. The ironing board got trashed at the old dump. It was rusted and wobbly. I got a 2′ square piece of plywood, cotton batting (three layers), some strip yardage I made a while back that was simply taking up space, a staple gun, and duct tape. Layer all those together, staple, and cover the staples with the tape, and you have a killer pressing surface!

sooooo excited!

sooooo excited!

In other news, I  just treated myself to a mystery quilt workshop with my idol, Amy Gibson!!! This will be the first thing I get delivered to our new address! Way to start off on the right foot!!!

Scrap Happy block 1

Scrap Happy block 1

This is what I made today:  a 15″ square lone star as part of the 2013 Scrap Happy quilt along. I got my Y-seam skills on and made a truly scrappy block! This is the first time I’ve ever made a lone star that is not meant to have each row matching colours. I think I like this more random look. Suits me fine!

So now you all know what’s been going on in Handy Danielle land! I hope you are all doing well and I can’t wait to get back to regular updates!

Love,

Handy Danielle

A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move

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A birthday, a job, a sewing machine, and a move
mighty bail of batiks

mighty bail of batiks

Remember these batiks I collected last week? Well, they’re part of my awesome-possom blossoms quilt. It’s definitely my very most expensive and labour intensive quilt top! I have made 90 10″ blocks for this oversized queen. It means an awful lot of applique. Too much applique for me to do in a reasonable way by hand. So. I collected the money I made from selling off some of my homemade jewelry and a quilt that had been commissioned and grabbed my new sewing machine!!

Who wouldn't want to be a quantum stylist?

Who wouldn’t want to be a quantum stylist?

This machine, compared to my old one, can do basically everything except embroidery and all my housework. Otherwise it’s got 800 some stitches and came with 18 new feet! I bought nifty threads for applique and dove in to do really give machine applique a try. I know I’ve bad-mouthed this before, but I’ve seen it done so much and with such killer stitches that would be stronger than decorative hand stitches, so I leaped in. And I must say, with a machine that is nicely engineered and has a few extra niceties like needle down and better tension control, the process hasn’t been nearly so grueling. See, part of my issue before was that I would try the blanket stitch and because there was no speed control or needle down, I couldn’t effectively pivot around curves. It would take forever to get anywhere and the results would be better if I’d done them by hand! Here’s an example:

machines do not always make things easier...

machines do not always make things easier…

Look at that hilarious machine applique! hahaha! I learned that speed control is everything and also, for thinner fabrics like my batiks, tear away stabilizer, mi amigos and amigas! It will def make your life totes better.

The other trick I learned from one of my applique classes was to “window” your fusible web by tracing your design from your template onto the fusible’s paper side. Then cut on the inside of the line by the standard 1/4″.

windowing applique

windowing applique

I know it’s not totally clear on the white fabric, but I gotta work with what I have. The part that is bare fabric is the part that forms the design. The next step is to trim away the remaining fused fabric on the pencil line. Then you fuse it down to your background.

blossoms units

blossoms units

So what’s the big deal about all that? Well, as you can see from the dark batik background, it’s shadowing through the white blossom applique pretty harshly. That’s no good. So the reason it’s “windowed” is because the next step is to sneak in behind the white and trim away the dark stuff! It’s actually a brilliant idea, although a lot of work. But I think it will be worth it!

Oh, check out that hot pink blanket stitch!! I’m so pleased! The machine has a really great feel on the foot pedal so I can tell when it’s going to make a stitch. It also finishes a stitch in the needle down position when I lift my foot, so all I need to do is slightly lift the presser foot (I’m using an open toed satin stitch foot; works like a dream!) and pivot. It doesn’t get much nicer than that!

closeup blanket stitch

closeup blanket stitch

Also, today is my husband’s birthday! So to celebrate we got him an ice cream cake from the Marble Slab. It promises to be delish! It caps off a difficult couple months of job searching. He accepted a job on the mainland. So it’s across the Georgia Strait we go, back to the lower mainland where I spent many of my formative years. The only way we’re going to have any acceptable standard of living over there is because they’re a busy firm and my husband is finally going to be an associate, not just an articled student.

Right now he’s got our daughter in packing mode filling up today’s box. We tend to do one or two boxes a day when moving. That way there’s not a crazed packing binge the week before moving day. We’ll be leaving within the month. I get to drive the moving truck because I’m the only one licensed enough to do it. That will make for some awesome reportage! I promise to take pics of that for sure!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this rattling on. There’s loads going on, lots to do, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. But I’m using it as an excuse to finish all my quilting projects so that I can just slip all my tops into a bag and travel free of little bits and pieces. I will miss my island home.

Have a good week everyone!!

 

 

 

 

 

Service

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Service
July Sugar Block

July Sugar Block

Here’s this month’s block that Amy Gibson calls “serve.” It was an interesting combination of techniques: quarter square triangles, paper foundation piecing, and the basic nine patch assembly. It was a fun task to grab some stripes and make them line up the way I wanted them to. I’ve always had an irrational fear of stripes in my quilting–probably because they never lined up in one direction, like when my grand mother used to force me to wear striped pants when I was a kid! But they worked great this time around and I’m so happy!

Anyway, Amy put it to us to “serve.” She quoted the Bible and seemed to find some solace there, and that’s cool. I liked her bullet list at the end of the entry that was a bunch of down to earth methods to be a better person. Like patience in line, giving people your seat, doing others favours when they ask you to (ie getting them a drink from the fridge while you’re on your way over; there’s a common request in our house!) etc. Just being good. I’d like to think I follow those tenets of living. Although depression makes it very hard sometimes.

For those who’ve lived with a person who is depressed they probably think it’s a selfish disease. It looks like that on the outside. But it’s not. It’s an exhausting disease. And any medications don’t help. And for the same reason depressives often fall on depressant drugs like alcohol and pain killers, the pharmaceutical companies produce meds that have the same sedating effects. It’s a drag, quite literally.

Bronwen's tomato sprouting seeds

Bronwen’s tomato sprouting seeds

One thing that’s been inspirational lately is watching Bronwen grow up. She has developed interests that I never had at her age, like nature. This girl is a whiz at sprouting seeds and keeping plants alive.  Her father and I are terrible at it, but she’s got a green thumb. She also remembers factoids about certain trees, plants, and animals. She makes sure our fish and invertebrates are doing well each day. It’s so refreshing to hear her spout off about that stuff. Don’t get me wrong–she’s a normal kid, too. She loves video games, cartoons, Disney princesses, and being colour coordinated.

When she was a baby she felt like a small animal that was constantly unhappy. My husband and I were fighting day and night to keep her and ourselves alive. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t feel love for her at that point and I’m not proud of that. But in “service” of this person that I wasn’t particularly fond of yet, I did all the laundry, diaper prep for the diaper service, bathing (in between my own mandatory sitz baths), and bottle cleaning. Now she’s school age and we can talk things through. We are happy we served her well and she is a happy, thriving child about to enter kindergarten.

an earring bundle!

an earring bundle!

I just sold these earrings yesterday. It was so awesome to see a happy lady take some merchandise off my hands. Some of you may not know this, but I actually make jewelry too! I just haven’t made any lately because I have a full inventory! So there you have it: another facet of me. It’s a lot of fun meeting people who will be wearing my goodies.

This lady who came to my home had two very gregarious young boys. The oldest told me he was five and by the looks of his brother (who was dressed in a super hero costume) he was likely around three. They immediately spotted the trappings of another kid’s house: building blocks laying around, balloons, and of course they couldn’t resist the keyboard at full blast. Now the old me (especially prior to motherhood) would have dwelled on those kids making such noise. But in service to my client I talked to the kids about kid stuff and talked with their mom about mom stuff. It was fun, really. And it was all following the basic tenets of being a good person, I think. And I think that’s what I read into Amy Gibson’ s blog post about service. Give it a read. See what you think.

mighty bail of batiks

mighty bail of batiks

These are just some wicked awesome batiks that I wanted to show off! They’re for my next quilt! I never used to think much of batiks but I’m starting to really like them.

Have a fun week everyone!

Tired of this

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Tired of this

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It’s been crazy and fun and exhausting around here. I’m assembling my Craftsy workshop quilt that Amy Smart designed, called “hopscotch.” I thought that was an interesting name considering what’s going on around home.
I’ve been keeping my head down with my quilting so that I don’t lose my mind. Yesterday I took off and drove up the highway to a new fabric shop where I picked out an awesome pair of jelly rolls and layer cakes–enough for two quilts I’ve been meaning to get to.
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Bronwen and I spent our first ever night alone on Tuesday. My husband had traveled to the mainland to a job interview. “So what?” you ask. Well, this is big because in the past I never would have had the emotional energy to take that on. We went to the splash park, ate Mickey D’s, and read stories.
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Bronwen graduated from preschool last week! The kids sang songs for us and wore amazing paper mortar board hats. The teachers (miss Dianne is standing and miss Mary Helen sitting) wrote sweet little grad blurbs about each child and gave out even cuter diplomas. I am no crier but man that was the height of cuteness!
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I’m in love with this month’s Sugar block! It is called “teach.” The quilt is “hopscotch” and the block is “teach.” How schoolish. I feel like I’ve done a ton of schooling since moving to this island 12 years ago. I got two degrees, a husband and a daughter. I also got post partum depression, PTSD, worsened borderline personality disorder, committed two suicide attempts which resulted in lengthy hospitalizations–all of which schooled me.
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The quilt below is called “granny squares”. It’s a pattern from Amy Gibson’s “twisted Irish chain” class. It was an anal retentive pattern that required a lot if organizing, but it was worth it. I had fun making a biased border for the edging! Never tried that before!
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So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m desperately (feverishly, really) trying to keep quilting to keep my disorders at bay and prevent anxiety attacks and depression. I haven’t had one in over a year and I intend to keep gaining more time between the last one and the present. My husband told me that’s what allows him to be supportive of this expensive hobby. If it means I’m not hoarding pills to overdose on, he can handle it. Now if only one of the damned jobs he’s applied to would pan out!!
Wish us luck!

Borderline

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Borderline

Hi! Remember me? I blog here. It’s almost halfway through June and for those of you out there with kids, this is a CRAZY month for school! I have a preschooler who’s about to graduate to Kindergarten and even the preschool is hoppin’ with stuff to do. Every once in a while I’ll hear Bronwen singing a song to herself, under her breath, and when I ask what she’s singing, she says “mommy, it’s for school!” Not to mention all the stuff on the calendar that means alotting time on this day or that day for family BBQs and graduation day.

Talk about tired!

Talk about tired!

So I’ve been busy with that and also finishing the Dr. Who quilt. My friend Amanda has been waiting patiently for it and I’m in the home stretch to hand it over. It was one of the most advanced projects I’ve ever taken on–everything was paper foundation pieced, some of the sub-units had 50 pieces!! It was quite the exercise in patience. But at least I got all 20 blocks done and have completed the assembly.

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I love this quilt as you go method. I can more easily quilt each block in my machine and then assemble the top with little sashing strips. I sewed the front and backs with my walking foot and then sewed the front together by hand. I had a classic tv marathon while doing this–it was definitely Columbo time after being relegated to my sewing room for a month.

Time to go mobile

Time to go mobile

So I rolled up each row like cords of wood and took my show on the road…to the family room, anyway. Once I got each block sewn together and then each row, it was time for a border treatment that I’ve been dying to try! And I must say, for a first time effort, I think it came out pretty badass. I made a big border with two narrow strips of the same navy fabric that predominates the quilt and one wide white strip.

bare naked border

bare naked border

I took a tip from a Cindy Needham class and she said to ditch everything before quilting. I must say, I’ve not heard this bit of advice before, but I thought what the heck? It’s only a few long, straight seams down the border. So I did. Then she said to work your design from the big stuff to the small details. For me, that began with quilting the navy strips with these squares. The next step will be the feather structure.

A note about thread:

You know, I wondered for ages what everyone was talking about when they praised Aurifil thread. So I bought a spool of green 50 weight Aurifil thread from my quilt shop. It was expensive and they only carry a very select few colours. They carry lots of Sulky, YLR and Gutermann. I use those a lot–Sulky and YLR for the more novelty stuff or quilting, and Gutermann for piecing. So anyway I tried my green Aurifil in the bobbin and on top to piece something (I don’t remember what). And the jamming and breaking was absolutely crazy-making, as my mother in law would say. So I put the spool on my rack and would stare at it longingly. “Why won’t you sew? You’re such a pretty colour!”

So on a whim and taking a risk, I wanted green feathers on my border treatment for this quilt. I used lots of variegated polyester thread to quilt the blocks out and wanted the border to be just as awesome.

Anyway.

I wanted to take the opportunity to make a truly arresting border for this quilt as I haven’t really had much artistic license in making it because the patterns were all very specific. I was always of the belief that quilt borders were kinda like backs–just there to make the quilt larger. But not anymore!

I figured out what would make the Aurifil work in my machine, too, by the way.  It works only if I use Gutermann in the bobbin and the Aurifil through the needle. Weird, I know. But at least I will get use out of this Gucci thread that I likely won’t buy again. Here’s the Aurifil feathers:

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Along the navy strips I used an ivory Gutermann to do scribbling and cross hatching. The feathers were a blast! I used the same green thread to paint in the background. I found that it made the feathers stand out much more than if I’d left the background alone.

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See? It really pops the feathers out, which I figure is important, as I took the trouble to quilt them. As a last bit of awesomeness I thought I needed some sparkle, since this was all quilted with cotton thread. So I wanted to use my 14 weight polyester thread and do some bobbin painting.

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Check out that backbone on the feathers! I used that 14 weight variegated polyester in my bobbin and used a Sulky metallic thread in my needle. The trick to this technique is flipping your quilt upside down and delivering the heavy thread to the front! Now the spines of my feathers sparkle and I love them!

So here’s another word to the wise should you want to take on a border like this: make sure to stretch and walk around lots. I have serious body aches and sore hands from handing this quilt and all the thread painting. Honestly–it’s in my legs, hands, neck and arms. It’s a bummer. But the borders are almost done and this puppy will be ready for binding!

Have a good one and I’ll be back soon to update you on quilts and life in general.

Kindergarten

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Kindergarten

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Bronwen said “this looks like a boring school” as we pulled into a parking space before kindergarten orientation.

As we went inside we met another girl, Caroline, who immediately asked if Bronnie was heading for kindergarten in September. They immediately started playing ring around the Rosie.

I love how kids become fast friends. I grabbed a pic of them in the library reading Pinkalicious books before they went off to their future classroom.

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As we adults talked about indoor and outdoor shoes, food choices, and school supplies, the kids made butterflies.

So the moral of that story is: I wish adults would quit taking themselves so seriously. It’s silly.

Ready for a revelation??

Okay. I have been doing the Dr. Who quilt for my good friend, Amanda. If you go to the Quilted Thimble’s Facebook page you can see all the blocks so far.

Sci-fi themed stuff is kinda angular. And not right angles that we’re used to in patchwork. No–the slight angles that require paper foundation piecing prevail.

So. Here’s the issue I’ve run into too many times: sewing my seam, folding back the fabric ready for pressing, only to find that it doesn’t cover the foundation despite it being the correct size.

Here’s something I stumbled upon as I sat there, annoyed at having to frog stitch tight number 1 stitch length seams.

Step One: Lay your first fabric (right side up) on your foundation. If you want, hold it with a pin or glue stick.

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Step Two: Fold your second fabric at the angle needed on your foundation.

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Step Three: Sew your seam. Trim your excess fabric from the seam allowance.

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Step Four: Press and trim around your foundation.

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You are done!

Well, hopefully that helps you out should you be mired in paper piecing like I am! (Has anyone else noticed that there is a real prevalence of this method in patterns these days? Check out what designers are up to. You’ll see what I mean.)

Have a good week everyone!

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Trying

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Trying
striking a pose

striking a pose

I alluded to this in last week’s entry–my husband went to work and found out he’d been laid off. Since then he’s been scouring our community for junior associate lawyer work. But the well is pretty dry, and I’m not overly surprised, as we were pretty desperate for his articling job that he just lost. So it might mean another move for us, even though we are terribly home oriented people and don’t like our place to be in upheaval.

Me and my husband have been trying for years–and I mean trying for a better life. I met him on our first day of college. I was searching for myself (I guess that’s pretty common for first years) and he was on the path to a law career. Now, 11 years later, he is about to finish articling, take the bar admission course, and become a bonafide lawyer! It was a long road. It has been a very tough road. And just when we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, poof! No more payroll.

One thing we’ve worked hard at the past five years has been raising our daughter. Now that she’s five she has shown an interest in quilting and hand embroidery, as you see in the picture. I gave her a swatch of my fine even weave Irish linen and she has picked up on a basic running stitch. Seeing that makes me forget the peril we’re in. Seeing her play with her friends on the farm field trip we went to is also a nice way of dealing with things. 20140515-174211.jpg

Bronwen saw me piecing the present big project together last night and said she’s interested in learning how to use the machine. I told her she’s a little small yet but she’s more than welcome to learn on the machine I’m using now. It’s getting a bit old and let’s face it. for the amount of sewing I do, I need more features! Let’s settle for the easy stuff, like, say, needle down! The women at the store were aghast that my machine is that basic!

My latest quilt project is a science fiction classic quilt: Dr. Who!

sonic screwdriver with nifty free motion

sonic screwdriver with nifty free motion

Lately sitting down after some intense paper piecing, making a mini sandwich out of the block, and free motion or walking foot quilting is really soothing. I never liked machine quilting in the past. Too annoying on a small machine like mine. But I’m getting some good results, finally!

weeping angel

weeping angel

The weeping angel had to be the hardest block I’ve run into thus far. So many little seams, holy!! But, again, worth it. I stitched some snowflakes with variegated thread. I think it turned out okay.

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Cyber Man was fun! I got to do some pulley stitching. Although I like to call it “tape drive.”

Every day I’m sitting down to piece, quilt, and press fabrics into shape. I’m trying very hard sometimes. Other times not.

anniversary candles

anniversary candles

So please, do take time to celebrate the small things that make the big problems dissipate. These are our anniversary candles that we light every year. On the 13th we celebrated our eighth anniversary! Anyone who’s married out there knows you have to try each day to keep your marriage healthy and happy, as though it’s human. We are all human. We need to help each other.

Applique is okay!

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Applique is okay!

Applique. This word alone can cause anxiety for quilters. But before you grab a dose of Ativan, check out the prescription-free ways of alleviating that feeling–there are fusible web products that can hold the fabric down while you machine stitch it to the quilt. Here’s my example of the first time I ever attempted applique by machine. It was done on a Dresden plate and is a totally laughable piece of work! I made sure to add lots more interest by hand with some embroidery and hand quilting. I think the block is still cute, but I learned that I am just not a machine applique person. I see some people out there online who are just amazing at it but I…well…produce some interesting results, shall we say.

machines do not always make things easier...

machines do not always make things easier…

Okay, so I’m not so hot with the machine. But anyone who knows me can likely understand that. I’m just better when stuff is done with my kinetic senses. So needle turn applique it is! This is the only way I’ve gotten good results–invisible stitching (or barely visible).  And I have a nifty secret: I don’t use an iron and seldom need those tiny applique pins. As you can see in the image below, my petal has a crease where it will fold. The trick to getting this crease is to simply pinch it in your fingers. It’s just like any other finger pressing, only you’re pinching your seam allowance. Then you have your line to follow. Oh, and to hold the fabric in place I use Roxanne’s applique/basting glue. It comes out in the wash and is it ever strong! Don’t bother with glue sticks!

needle turning a petal

needle turning a petal

Now how to make a nice pointed petal. Simply stitch to the very end of your crease (where it crosses over with the crease for the other side). Then take your needle (be sure to use a straw/milliner’s needle for applique–much easier) and stick it in the end of your fabric and with a circular motion twist the fabric down and under itself. Make sure your doubled-up seam allowances are seated on top of each other and give the corner a slight tug to bring the point out more. Take a stitch to hold it in place and carry on down the other side! I want to make a video of how to do this so it’s as easy to grasp as possible. I promise to post that as soon as I can.

turning a corner

turning a corner

petals for spring!

petals for spring!

I am doing hand applique for a quilt pattern called “tuilleries.” The pattern calls for machine work but I’m just not fond of it, so here I am doing it like Frank Sinatra: “my way!” Therefore I’m not doing all the panels the same with three sets of these petals, as the pattern calls for. I am including things like butterflies, flowers, and sweet little birds. I will keep you posted on this quilt’s progress!

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Who could resist this sweet little bird?! I love him!

Major!

Major!

Good thing I used glue drops to hold things together or Major would have ruined everything by his sitting on the applique pile.

I know this post was sort of short, but lots of pictures makes up for it, I think. If you like the idea of any sort of applique let me know! If you have machine secrets, I’d be more than happy to hear them because even though I’ve seen it done, and even tried it a few times, I can never get it to work as well as I can by hand. Comments are welcome!!

Have a good week everyone!

Presence

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Presence

So have any of you lovely people found yourselves addicted to blocks of the month? I sure have.

It started with the craftsy block of the month classes, which are free. Then I got into paid classes. Then I found out about a great (and economical) block of the month called The Sugar Block Club, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Last year’s cute blocks are in my latest sampler that I’m still quilting (it’s an oversized queen bed quilt that I’m doing by hand, so yeah. It’s been a very long time in the quilting). They came with recipes for goodies, if that’s your thing. This year’s blocks are about going “beyond the block,” so there’s recipes and reflective themes around which the blocks are designed.

an embroidered quilt label

an embroidered quilt label

This month is “Presence.” I find this theme interesting, as I have joined several blocks of the month groups from all over the internet and have been having fun keeping up. By the end of the day I get a chance to read and get caught up on correspondence, whether that be email or facebook or anything else.

Lately I’ve been on the phone more than usual. My grand mother was just in a serious car crash that broke her arm and killed her friend that was travelling with her. It has been very sad for us. Luckily Maria’s family went to my Nonna and told her they bore no ill will and they forgave her for what happened, even though it wasn’t her fault. We’re greatful that Nonna didn’t have another stroke from the incident’s physical and emotional strain. She suffered a stroke last year trying to help Nonno back up after he fell getting out of bed.

It’s very sad and one of the hardest things in my life to sit back and witness my grand parents getting older. I mean, it’s going to happen, I get that. But my grand parents are very strong willed people. They grew up in Mussolini’s Italy. My Nonno was a very young man in the war and kept as a POW for two years in Cologne Germany after liberation while the countries were able to cobble up a rail line to get people back to where they needed to be. My Nonna is 10 years younger, but suffered in her own way at that time. She had to raise her brothers from the age of 11 after her father died of the flu. Her sisters and mother worked the field and considered her still too young and needed the house run. To this day nobody manages a house like Nonna. It is always pristine.

Having said that, this concept of “presence,” as put forward by this month’s sugar block, I’m intrigued by the history of that. What is meant by that term in this case is to spend quality time with your loved ones. No screens, no divided attention. It’s funny because my grand parents wouldn’t have had the time for “quality” time either in childhood or as parents themselves. They were hard workers–and still are, as much as they can be. They still live in the same house they built in 1956. It’s a typical two storey rambling house from that era. Superficial things are different about it now, such as the vinyl siding my Nonno installed back in 1989, the “new” kitchen that was done in 1974, the carpeting that was replaced in 1986. But otherwise the place remains the same.

They worked very hard to pay for that house in cash. Never had a mortgage. Nonno worked Christmas eve and Christmas day shifts at the Cominco mine for triple time so they’d have extra money. Quality time? Time spent not working was a waste for this generation.

My parents were very similar to this, in a contemporary sort of way. Yes, they had a mortgage, car payments, credit card debt, the usual stuff. But because of those factors, they worked hard in their white collar jobs. Mom was a legal secretary (and still is) and my dad was (and still is) in the aviation industry. By the end of a work day, we’d sit together and have dinner, and then ask to be excused from the table and me and my sister would blast off downstairs to the TV room. My parents would stay upstairs and chat, or more commonly, watch their own TV.

This was light years before the internet became ubiquitous as it is today, so TV was pretty much the only diversion of the time. I never blamed them for not spending “present” or “quality” time with us as we grew up. They were busy. Parents who care are busy. That’s how I saw it.

But now I’m a parent. I am busy and I care about our daughter. So does my husband. But sometimes the best way we can spend time with Bronwen is to sit and do our own things. She likes cartoons. I like reading or watching craftsy classes, sitting downstairs quilting, or dashing off a block or two for my BOMs. My husband likes to play zombie games on his phone. The one thing that is “quality time” in the traditional sense is bedtime stories. We do make a point of having that. Cody and Bronwen go to the library once a week and pick out new books. When we have the extra money we buy books from those Scholastic book orders through school. So she has a healthy love of books that we are proud of.

books and games!

books and games!

So are we “present”? Well, half way, I suppose. I think it’s a matter of finding what works with your family. I know some parents who refuse to allow their children any TV at all. The kids can only use the internet for homework, and no phones after a certain time of night. It seems like a lot of work to have a daily battle about this, especially if the kids happen to be teens. Not a battle I’d want to fight! But they do it because they want to keep the bad out as best they can. I don’t argue about it with them. I just feel like that’s the same attitude as the war on drugs or the war on terror in the States. It’s a hollow comfort for those who believe we need that kind of approach.

Anyway, I hope all your families are experiencing positive time together in your own ways. Have a good week!

Oh Bronwen!

Oh Bronwen!

Forgiving your Mengele

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Forgiving your Mengele

Don’t get me wrong–I’m no revisionist claiming that the atrocious acts that this notorious doctor perpetrated didn’t happen or were less disgusting and assaulting to the human beings it was done to. No. I watched a film on Youtube called Forgiving Mengele. At first I thought that this incredibly noble woman was alone with her plight, as are all Holocaust survivors. But then I got to thinking all survivors of any abuse have our own suffering, often inflicted by a kind of Mengele in our lives. For me that’s the hardest aspect of living now–finding ways to stop hurting.

According to Eva Kor (the focus of the film) the only way to heal one’s self is to forgive your worst enemy. In her experience, carrying all that hate was toxic and making the rest of her life excruciatingly difficult.

What blew me away was that other survivors in this film disagreed with her concept of forgiveness, saying that to simply say she forgave Mengele for the murder of her twin sister (he conducted unconscionable experiments on twin children, often dissecting them alive after injecting chemicals just to see how they affected the body) was hollow and impossible for them. Some of the victims even raised their voices to her saying that she was wrong to feel the way she felt! It was very powerful.

As a youngster when I was being sexually abused it was so easy to hate. Therefore I thought it was the correct way of feeling! I hated everything and everyone, reserving my most acerbic disposition for men. I hated my father, male teachers, even any male friends I had in school. They were all evil. That is until I felt the security of a man who got in my corner and said “If I ever find that guy, I’m going to nail his nuts to a post and kick him over.”  That’s a direct quote from my very first boyfriend. He loved me and was appalled at how nothing was truly done to mitigate all of the insidious abuses done.

See, it didn’t start out with a full on sexual assault. No no. It was much sneakier than that. Much more devious. I was in the kitchen in one of our family homes that we had over the years. He had asked me for a drink of Coke. Being a nice little Italian girl hostess I jumped up to get it. I got a glass for myself as well. He drank his fast. It was a hot day. I drank mine as well. The glasses were sweaty. So was he. I kept moving away from him on the couch, but he kept squeezing closer. He said that my bum was big enough and I didn’t need more pop as I got up to get more. He forced me to sit back down because he was so close to me now. He kept telling me to sit. Bear in mind that I was 13 years old, maybe 120 pounds and he was the same age but well over 200 pounds. He easily intimidated and kept me sitting, sweating. I remember needing to go to the bathroom so bad. I waited until he was gone before I got up. That was the first time I ever felt so trapped and afraid. It would become familiar for two years while the violence and intimidation escalated.

After everything came out–all the gruesome details about what happened to me and I was still reeling from how to deal with what happened, I found out another interesting piece of the puzzle. My abuser had been forced to watch pornography and the actual sex act between his parents. This had been going on since he was about five years old. Knowing that, it made it a little easier to understand why he might choose to act the way he did. Don’t misunderstand–it was his choice to do what he did. He didn’t have to. He could have chosen to find out that what had been done to him by his father was also wrong. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. It just passed through him onto me like an electrical current.

Of course, I’m at that point in my life where I’m interminably frustrated, even tormented with the concept of forgiveness. I’d love to forgive. But knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally. I tell this to my psychiatrist every time I see him. “How’s it going?” “Intellectually? Fine. Emotionally? Shit.”

I think that’s why I love hand quilting so much. Every stitch, especially in an echo pattern around a Dresden plate, gets you further and further away from the centre. It’s like drinking scotch. “Forget the pain for now.” I want the pain to be forever gone, but this is all I have for now. I do believe that forgiveness can help someone’s recovery, but so far I’m just not that noble. I would, if called upon, go to court and testify against this guy with a vengeance. They’d have to pry me off of the witness stand. I can only hope that he gets caught taking his violence too far. I believe it will happen. I hate knowing it but it seems likely. He’s a Mengele. He seems possessed by his need to hurt women.

They say Mengele used to shout for twins when cattle cars were unloaded at Auschwitz. Every train load “Zwillinge! Zwillinge!” Only my Mengele didn’t shout for me or for any other victims. He simply found us and used us up.

Stitches are steps

Stitches are steps