Friday, March 12, 2004

Growing Up Doesn’t Mean Having All The Answers...

I was going to write about something else entirely... my dislike of getting receipts together for tax time. Even though I keep a fairly good system, there is always a pile that appears AFTER I get everything in, so this year I am rechecking all the corners of my office where stuff might be lurking... but tonight’s episode of Joan of Arcadia contained a scene that I just loved - because now I can see it from the parent’s perspective.

Joan’s Mom finally admits that she’s been grumpy because she’d been having trouble sleeping, worrying about her new teaching job. Joan says something about thinking grown-ups had all the answers and her Mom replies that there are just more questions.

I can SO remember that feeling of looking at the grown-ups and thinking that it would be nice to have all the “control” and all of the answers. Erin is beginning to question rules and bedtimes, wanting more of the privileges yet balking at also accepting greater responsibilities... and it is like looking back in time! Funny how your perspective changes.

My definition of OLD keeps changing... especially as my own age creeps up into the category I could once barely imagine being. I think mine will always be about 30 - 40 years older than my own age, so I won’t start to worry until there aren’t too many 130 year olds around to compare myself to!

If I am to truly learn and grow as a person, then I hope that I always have more questions than answers. Maybe if my children see me still willing to ask and adventure, their own quests won’t seem as scary...

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Pride Factor...

Cross Stitchers are a proud bunch. It’s funny how that word has come to have a negative meaning in so many ways. To call someone proud is to imply that they are boastful or somehow full of themselves. “Proud as a Peacock” isn’t a compliment... and yet today was one of those days when I wish that more of the world had the kind of pride that stitchers do.

Remember when things were built to last? Remember when most of the world actually took pride in a job well done and not that it was done as quickly and as cheaply as possible... or with as little effort and expense as you could get away with?

Trying to teach my girls to take pride in the things they do, even the smallest of tasks felt like a foreign concept today. From the knock off/copyright infringements that a local store was selling as “the real thing” to trying to explain to Erin why something should be neat and readable as well as just “done” hearing a friend complain about a new purchase that is already falling apart after a few months.... I spent most of the day wondering if most people are really proud of the work that they do anymore?

Cross stitchers are proud... the GOOD kind of proud. I look at so many of the beautiful pieces, made up of so many careful stitches and I know that they still take pride in something that they love. I once explained to an interviewer that when you are working on a piece for someone as a gift, you can’t help but think about that person and the fond memories that you have or the feelings you have for that individual. Each stitch becomes like a tiny prayer or wish... and if you look at how many stitches make up some of the pieces given as gifts... that is a LOT of “I LOVE YOUs”!

I read a book a few years ago about a female artist who went to live among the Amish for a summer. Though she knew that she would never be a part of their culture and world, she still came away from her stay with an incredible respect of how they lived their faith in almost every moment of the day. Any task, however menial, was worth doing properly and beautifully. While I doubt I will ever jump for joy at how well I have dusted or scrubbed... I still felt an echo of what the author was trying to convey ... whatever you do, it is worth doing to the best of YOUR ability (not to measure up against some impossible standard but to the best of your ability on that given day at that moment) and to rejoice that you are ABLE to do it.

I think that more of the world needs to take PRIDE in what they do and learn from stitchers or other creative souls.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Reliving Wonderful Memories Amid the Cold....

Last March Break, when we went to Disney, I started a tradition for our family. I keep a “Doodle Diary” in my small sketchbooks when I am at trade shows sometimes... little cartoon snippets of the days and events. I began a new Family Doodle Diary for our trip to Disney and it was something that the girls loved to read and reread over the past year. The second entry in that special Doodle Diary was this year’s trip to Myrtle Beach and I am just getting caught up on the entry for Saturday (our traveling home day) tonight.

While they have been pouring through all of the pages, last Wednesday is certainly one of my longest doodle entries... and also their favourite to review. I wish that I had had blog access down there to share all my excitement the following day instead of almost a week later, but the thrill still remains. Thanks to Diane Merlock who attended the retreat and her husband, Randy, we were ROYALLY treated to an evening of enchantment and magic at MEDIEVAL TIMES in Myrtle Beach. It was truly an evening that none of my family will ever forget!

For those of you who have never heard of this franchise, the premise is a fantasy-lover’s dream come true. You drive up and park in front of a castle (I am told they are each a bit different) and cross into a world of wonder. The girls were a bit afraid of the two guards at the front door until a lovely wench called them “princesses” and led us into the ticketing area where we had our photos snapped, got our seating assignment and crowns to help us identify which knight we would be cheering for at the tournament. We then walked into a Great Room, complete with murals, banners, gift shop and bar areas amid suits of armour and tapestries. My girls looked ready to burst... and I could feel the “perma-grin” setting in on my face, just like the first day at Disney. Erin, being at that gruesomely curious age, just had to take a tour of the Dungeon and torture equipment with Nick. Bethany went along to prove she “wasn’t a baby”, but my Mom, John and I decided to quench our thirst at the bar. I also spied a wonderful stuffed dragon that I just HAD to add to my collection! The girls were in the midst of telling me all about the torture equipment when the Master of the Hunt wandered by in wonderful leather armour with a REAL falcon on his arm! Every so often, the trumpets would sound and the Chancellor (with a wonderful voice that could melt honey) would announce the evenings details. Diane had warned me that something special lay ahead... but you can imagine my surprise when I was called forward to kneel before the King and be knighted a Lady of the Realm!! Talk about fun!! Obviously word had spread about how heroically I defended Teresa, Queen of the Borders, in Nashville!!

The King and his lovely daughter (who was dressed in finery that had both my girls drooling to play dress-up) retired to the dining hall and the Chancellor began to tell which groups could enter after them. When he asked us to show our enthusiasm, our yellow & red group let out a mighty roar (thanks in part to Nick’s loud bass and my two girls trying to scream their heads off) that earned us the respect of the realm and the chance to enter the hall third. Had I had my full voice instead of a croak, we might have entered even sooner!

Not only would our seats have made a hockey fan jealous (center ice), the girls were thrilled to find pennants to wave at all our places. This did cause a few moments of concern for eye-poking and nostril twanging until they got settled in their chairs, somewhat puzzled at the large oval of sand that lay before us. “Where is the screen?” Bethany asked me in one of those loud, little kid whispers. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. Was she ever in for a surprise!! Our serving wench treated them like little princesses and explained that they would be eating the whole meal with their hands... can you imagine the grin on their faces?? Then the show started and every single one of us was swept away into a world of chivalry and honour. The story was far more intricate and riveting that I had even dreamed it could be... the sight and sounds of swords clashing and lances shattering as horse and knight thundered towards each other was SO inspiring that it made my fingers want to twitch and sketch.

We cheered ourselves almost hoarse (well, I was already there!) encouraging our wonderful knight...I could see the stars begin to twinkle in both my daughters eyes as they got caught up in the pageantry of this hero on a horse. When our knight kissed one of the flowers and tossed it to Erin, I saw that first glimpse of hero worship that will no doubt cross her face many times in the years ahead for movie stars, singers and cute boys. Not that much later in the evening, our knight won a token from the fair princess and galloped back to Bethany where he lowered his lance to let her slide the token off. Her eyes were the size of dinner plates... and shinning with the excitement and magic of it all. She is taking the “scarf” (which our knight autographed after the performance) to Show and Tell at daycare this Friday and only grudgingly let it out of her sight for Erin to take it in on Monday to show her friends.

There are just TOO MANY wonderful memories from that evening... from Bethany saying “Look, Mommy! The horses are tap dancing!” when the four horses and knights do some fancy footwork.... and reassuring her that the “dragon meat” (chicken) is not a GOOD dragon that we are the sigh of contentment from the back of the van as Erin whispers “My friends are not going to believe it when I tell them about this!”

I smiled into the darkness... reluctant to let that magic go and come back into this century. That feeling still lingers almost a full week later.

Thank you Diane and Randy for giving us all such wonderful memories and surpassing our expectations of what Medieval Times are all about!!

Monday, March 08, 2004

I’m Back... and Still In Awe of the Determination of Stitchers...

We’re back from Myrtle Beach feeling rested, ready to take on our routine again.... and surrounded by piles of laundry and e-mail!! I shivered most of the day after the nice weather last week and the chance to wear a t-shirt and shorts most days.

It didn’t start out that way. We left Bangor on the 26 of February not knowing that we were flying into some pretty fierce “weather”. Luckily our flight path took us through Atlanta that got 3 inches or so of snow instead of Charlotte that got over a foot!! We know how to deal with that up here in Canada... but they just aren’t equipped to handle Mother Nature dumping that much white stuff on them. One flight out of Cincinnati was “scrubbed” but we made it on a later flight and still managed to hook up with my Mom and John in Atlanta then just had to get through a bit of wicked wind to land in Myrtle Beach. All of our bags arrived safely and we checked into the resort.

Sarah from the Lazy Daisy, our host for the event, and Teresa Wentzler made it down by supper time, but Teresa’s luggage did not. I also learned that Karen Weaver from Black Swan had had to turn back in the horrid weather... so it began to look as if I would be teaching FIRST instead of last... and my voice was showing the strain of the past month’s workload. Would it hold out?? I also began to worry how many stitchers would make it to the event... but I never should have doubted!!

The next morning as we gathered and shared our storm stories of convoys through the snow and sleet or arriving early and sleeping in cars until check-in time, I was humbled and amazed to discover that all but one stitcher had made it... and she showed up by noon!!

A more tenacious, dedicated bunch of stitchers I have yet to meet... and they were such darn fun to spend time with too. I doubt that all of us would have tried so hard, or faced such traveling conditions for any other event. Friends and colleagues couldn’t understand the determination to drive through all that icky stuff “just to sit and stitch”.. but it is so much more than that!! (Isn’t it??)

This was the chance for fellowship and fiber fondling... for restoring creative batteries and sharing a love of a craft that remains hard to put into words.

To the women of Myrtle Beach 2004... thank you for all the memories, the laughter, the hugs, the feedback and the fun. When “Summer’s Magic” comes out in print, your heroic efforts to get to this event will be remembered in my dedication... because you inspire me!!