Tuesday 1 December 2009

On Dropping Out and Then Coming Back (or, Trying to Ignore Physics)

This feels awkward. I'm still here, and I've desired to write lately, but there's a little something that keeps getting in the way, so I'd like to deal with it. Namely, not being around for a couple of months. I'm going to go beyond a simple apology because although what's been occupying my time and life really has been personal (and broader than what I'm going to write about now) and there are a lot of details that I'm going to omit here because yes, they're personal, there's something really important that I've learned that I'm going to write about because it's a lesson that I cannot let myself forget.

Mr. S. was right.

Ha! He'll like that....Actually, it's more along the lines of him, frustration in his eyes, sitting across from me at the kitchen table, saying "you can't take care of everybody."

Now, most of you who know me could probable take a stab at what would be my usual response to that. "No, but I can try...."

Guess what, I failed. How do I know? Because in trying to take care of everybody, I failed to take care of myself. I ended up with a huge thyroid hormone imbalance (I'm dependent on thyroid hormone replacement as my thyroid decided to mutiny a couple years back and I had it dealt with) and a massive B12 deficiency. While being pregnant. (p.s. baby's o.k. and kicking up a storm) Crawling on my hands and knees up the stairs to go to bed at 6pm wasn't a big enough hint. Having to bow out of volunteer commitments wasn't a big enough hint. Mr. S. doing the laundry, the cleaning, etc., etc., to cover for me wasn't a big enough hint. Even Safiya looking at me with a smile after a rare moment of light-heartedness from me and saying "Mama, I like your face like that!" wasn't a big enough hint. Not caring; being too tired to care after a lifetime of being able to find a little bit of beauty, no matter how small, in every single day didn't do it either. Actually, it was the not caring that frightened me the most (although, at the time....)

I don't do weakness well, and I certainly don't do vulnerability well. I understand that many, many people are dependent on something external to themselves for their mental health. To be brought to that lesson in a physical way (and by my own doing) was a harsh lesson for me. I am dependent on this:

That's my daily medicine. That is one molecule, one vital link, in all the hormonal workings in my body. And to this I say to myself, to remember: You cannot argue with physics. If you don't pay attention, sooner or later the physical world is going to smack you, and you'll be caught by surprise. Which brings me to gratitude. I have a great husband and daughter, a social safety net that provides free access to excellent physicians, and I have education and experience enough to know my way around the system to get what I need when it hits me that I am in need. That is, I am fortunate that my life has back-up and resiliency to allow for stupid self-care.

Hopefully I won't have to use it again. And it is my hope as well (and it's been proven already) that the lovely people around me also have back-up and resiliency to allow for my stupid self-care (which regretfully translated into neglect for some of my loved and much-liked ones). And to them I say, with much gratitude and humbleness....thank-you.

Now, let's carry on......

Saturday 28 November 2009

This One is For Ruthy

Back in October at Thanksgiving, we were fortunate to meet up with old friends for the evening. Good people who now live far away and live separate lives from us - we were just getting to know them before they moved, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to see them again. I was taken aback (in a pleasant way) when she said, "Hey! You haven't blogged in a while!"

So this is for Ruthy, because she's the kind of person who so easily reminds me of the wonderful things in life to be grateful for.

I am grateful for (in no particular order):

The warmth of Safiya's little hand as we walk (she still takes mine automatically whenever we set out somewhere).

Cats. Somehow we've ended up with two cats. Cats are ridiculous creatures, and they make me laugh.

That tenacious streak in Mr. S. and that he's got my back.


My mother and I can drive eachother crazy (Mr. S. often says it's like listening to one person argue with themselves), and probably we both often fail to live up to one another's standards of what we think a mother or a daughter ought to be, but we've got the kind of relationship where after tensions rise, that's it, we're done, now let's go watch a sappy movie and cry together. She tries so hard to be a good person all the time (I've only recently gotten her swearing - it was necessary, and I was so proud of her), she's trustworthy, reliable, slightly crazy (as all mothers are), and I like her the way she is.

Morning sun. That first cleansing morning light.

People who don't remind you of your faults when you've failed, even when they're pretty obvious. I think that's called grace.

After a summer of not being in the studio, coming back and feeling like I'm falling in love all over again.

And that trepidation/joy feeling of new growth (five months of it so far, to be more or less exact :-)

I love that Safiya's drawn the baby upside-down and that I apparently have a gazillion legs.

Like I said, a lot to be grateful for.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Summer Sweet

Sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes tomorrow is rainbow day at music camp and your Mom happens to have a pillowcase with a rainbow on it at home.

Sometimes you're lucky.

Friday 19 June 2009

The Complex Life

Safiya took this picture on the subway the other day. I love it.

Someone said, roughly speaking, that the "simple living" movement is a misnomer; that's it's really complex, rich, meaningful living that we're after, and that "simple" does not mean "easier". My life has certainly felt like that recently. Rich and busy since the last time I posted. So, to kind of update on at least one layer of my life:

Our neighbour removed the 10'x10' metal shed in our backyard so now Safiya has the largest sandbox (read "mudpit") ever...Hmmm, what else? I'll probably expand a lot on some of this stuff later, but since right now I'm supposed to be getting ready for the Leslieville Tree Festival tomorrow, here goes:

There was the day that my friend Katharine and I decided it was a great plan to take our four kids to the Textile Museum of Canada's annual fabric sale, walk a couple of subway stops to Royal Ontario Museum, and then top the day off with another friend's school fair (they all slept really well that night) ::

A new icecream place opened up right across from our favourite local park (bad idea, really bad idea :-) :: There's been the conflicts and dramas of childhood played out in said park, with many hugs and the stretching of confidence and bravery and the holding tight of her hand :: She had her friend over for her first sleep-over ::

Bike Pirates is a new favourite haunt, where Safiya has handled a wrench with much frustration and little aplomb, but has made new friends and changed her first set of brakepads (I'm so so proud) :: we've got a homemade bike trailer in the works ::

She and I went out of town with friends for a couple of days :: my good friend Lara's much anticipated baby was born, safe and sound (yay!) :: There have been visits from family, a graduation, and much last-minute house cleaning :: A rather dismal craft fair last weekend :: The farmer's markets have started up :: Music and swimming lessons have ended for the summer, and beach season has started ::

And in-between everything there are books to be read, questions about advertising on cereal boxes to be discussed, sarcasm to be discovered, popsicles to be bought with her own money, really bad jokes to be laughed at, sculptures of dinousaurs to be made, food to be made, arguments to be had, and a lot of laughing.

She's getting really big. And it's happening so very fast.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

The Litterless Lunch and Food Fit for a...

King? Queen? Sultan? A hungry kid and her mom.

Today is Wednesday, which means we have lunch at Sultan's after swimming lessons at the community centre. We are fortunate to have an amazing network of community centres in Toronto which provide an astonishing array of classes for large and small for very little money. We are also fortunate to have people like Tamara and Samer who provide the yummiest falafel ever, not to mention homemade lentil soup, vegetables with garlic sauce, and other delectable handmade Jordanian food (vegan and gluten-free not even on purpose!)....mmmmm.....it's only 8:45 in the morning and yet I crave already.....that's Tamara walking away in the picture below, protesting the picture :-)

Safiya has been taking classes at this particular community centre for a couple of years, so it is a ritual and delight to walk in at lunchtime. She orders "the usual" and has started being in charge of the money, and we chat with Tamara and Samer and watch Danforth Avenue life pass by, usually playing "I Spy" as we eat.

That white sauce on the vegetables is the garlic sauce. It's basically just garlic and oil blended together. Soooooo good.

This Wednesday ritual has also provided me with an opportunity to practice and perfect the litterless lunch. We try to eat mostly at home, but it would be foolish to pass up good Toronto food and the opportunity to support our small restauranteurs, so I always carry our water bottle and cutlery roll with us. And now, I've added a couple of tiffins (got them here, but I'm sure there are many places to get them) and, on Wednesdays, a lug-a-mug (Tamara makes Safiya a special sweet black tea with fresh mint that we savour on the way home). At Sultan's they gladly fill up the tiffens instead of the foam one-use dishes that are offered, as do most restaurants if you ask nicely and just emphasize that you're weird that way :-) Or, even better, with a smile say that you're trying out the first "R"; the reduce one. Most of the time no explanation is necessary, which is great.

The tiffins took a while to take, as with any new habit, but they're perfect for picnics, which we will be doing a lot more of as the weather gets warmer, and, also important, leftovers from restaurants, even ones that are sit-down with china (apparently if you have kids, you have left-overs :-) I don't know the energy input required to make these, but they're light, unbreakable, I can pass them down to Safiya, and they're better by leaps and bounds than recycling, which also requires high energy input and doesn't always happen as it's supposed to. Sometimes the recycling thing seems to me to be just a salve on the eco-conscious, kind of like buying indulgences were to the church in the Middle Ages.

So, if you're in Toronto, say hi to Tamara and Samer at Sultan's, which is at the north-east corner of Main Street and Danforth Avenue. And bring your tiffin :-)

Monday 25 May 2009

Mending Mondays: Evolution of a Patch

Remember the yelling hole in the pair of cords that I was working on patching? Well, two weeks ago I finished it, with little ado but a lot of satisfaction. So, using the tutorial that I posted worked fantasticly (is that a word?), although when it states "most pants have extra fabric that you can steal from to make a patch to match" (maybe that's another tutorial I'm thinking of - I vetted a lot of patching tutorials, you know :-) this is not true of factory made pants made by say, G*P (that's a swear word around here). They are stingy! I had to steal that little extra front pocket that I only ever use for tampons, and since these are destined for a guy friend, I doubt he'll miss it....

Here's that hole:

1. Inside reinforcing patch (just used a scrap of mine) to prevent further tearing, pinned, seen from the wrong side (the inside of the pants):

2. Seen from the right side:

3. I basted it on the right side so that I could see where I was going, and knew to stay on the inside of the pins:

4. Basted patch, seen from the wrong side:

5. I zigzagged around the edges of the patch:

6. Seen here from the right side of the pants:

7. And then, on the right side of the pants, zigzagged the edges of the hole (I know, this is getting really ugly):

8. So, the inside reinforcing patch is done. Now, made a matching patch from that little pocket and sewed it on the outside. Now, ideally, you'd have enough fabric to turn in the edges better and be picky about whether the patch itself was already a little worn, but whatever:

Ta-da! Considering that he said not to be to picky 'cause they're just hanging around pants, but they're his favourite, I say "not bad!" and pat myself on the back.

It's a crazy number of pictures for such a little thing, but I went a step further than the other tutorial by adding an outside patch as well. I think it's a really effective, thorough way of repairing clothes, and I fully intend to keep doing it this way. Also, I have to teach Safiya how to do this, 'cause she's just taken a pair of scissors to her newest jeans that she got from Granny. When I asked her about it, she said, "That's o.k.! We can just patch them!" Ha!

Thursday 21 May 2009

In Which a Young-ish Woman's Brain and Body Start Arguing

I found this awesome pillowcase on Mother's Day. It made me laugh out loud in the thrift shop. Seriously? Ahhh, 1976 (it says so on the pillowcase).

I need pillowcases like this to remind me of everything. Could you imagine? I mean, if you sat and embroidered or silk-screened "email your cousin" or "pick up soymilk" on a pillowcase, you would remember, right?

It's been a month, almost. For a while there I was falling asleep with Safiya at 9pm, which does wonders for tiredness (kind of) but nothing for blogging. And then it got into the guilt loop of if-i-take-a-look-at-the-blog-it-will-remind-me-that-i've-neglected-it. And then life got a bit crazy, and there were obligations and duties just like there aways is, and grabbing moments while I could became very important. It's odd that although this place is a retreat for me in many ways, to someone on the other side, the majority of my life and joys and fears and worries and work are in the background. It's like I've put a really pretty flower-shaped-crafty tatoo on my arm that becomes a focus, an identity, but there's the whole rest of my body that is covered up.

And I feel that writing only about the tatoo is becoming limiting.

This may go somewhere, it may not. For once, I'm not promising anything...

Thursday 23 April 2009

Green Dress for a Green Award

This is one of my favourite fabrics, and I've been saving it for something special. Tonight is the Green Toronto Awards, and Not Far From The Tree is a finalist! Yay! Safiya and I are invited with Laura to the reception beforehand, and then Mr. S. is joing us for the awards later in the evening. I'm really excited for Not Far From The Tree - cheer for us!

I made it this morning, out of a pink tablecloth (the back), that favourite fabric of mine (which was an apron), some other scraps, and some vintage buttons. Green dress for a green award (we hope!) - an offering to you, dear readers, to balance out how curmudgeonly I was yesterday. I was thinking late last night that maybe Earth Day for some people is like Christmas for others. It doesn't make sense to waste resources in the middle of a long cold winter to have a big party, but sometimes it's what people need. It's the corporate "sponsors" that irk me, not the people I know, my neighbours, celebrating Mother Earth :-)

Now, I need to give Safiya a bath to remove the honey from her person before we leave....

I'm so excited! Wish us luck!

Wednesday 22 April 2009


Yes, that's me yelling. This is my obligatory Earth Day post. Mostly, "Earth Day" makes me feel like cussing.

So, two quotes. The first, from one of the best movies ever, The Princess Bride. The second, from Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, who became fourth Caliph of the Islamic Empire in 656. You can regard whichever one you like as the most authoritative.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

"Truly the destruction of the earth only results from the destitution of its inhabitants, and its inhabitants become destitute only when rulers concern themselves with amassing wealth, when they have misgivings about the endurance of their own rule and when they profit little from warning examples."

Now, I'm going to go back to clapping my hands to save Tinkerbell......

Monday 20 April 2009

Mending Mondays: Mending Myself

The cold knocked me out. The rain knocked the kitchen ceiling out. This means that as soon as I recover I'll be on the phone trying to find a roofing company who will just do repairs and not try to convince me to replace our whole roof. Of course, if the guy with the dreads in this video came and told me to replace our roof, I'd do it in a heartbeat ;-)

Don't ask me how I found that. Sometimes a girl just wants to know how to make shingles. (ahem. he shows up at 4:55 by the way. you know, in case you're wondering.) And randomly, the only good thing about getting a wicked cold and sore throat is that I get to crack open one of the last jars of garlic I made in the fall:

Mmmmmm dill pickled garlic. That'll cure 'ya.

And, unfortunately, keep the cute shingle guy away. sigh.......


p.s. yes, i know it's tuesday again. i started this post yesterday and then went for a nap. sorry - one of these days my body will catch up with my brain :-)

Sunday 19 April 2009

Hunt and Gather at The Workroom

I love The Workroom. Karyn lives craft. It can't get much better than that. And she's created such a welcoming space; it's airy and cosy, which is quite a feat. Too bad it's on the other side of town from me, but that makes it more of an event for me when I do get down there.

And the fabrics! I do my best to only buy second-hand fabrics, but I think the biggest compliment I could give to Karyn's fine eye is that her selection has tempted me many a time to fall off that particular wagon ;-) (I haven't given in yet, but I think it's inevitable....)

The show today was lovely - not quite as hopping as the last one, which was actually good because I'm fighting whatever cold nastiness Mr. S. has and I'm feeling a little lopsided. This allowed me to peruse many of the craft books that Karyn has for sale (and perusal :-) So, my pictures may be a little lopsided too - for a better idea of the whole day and to check out the other vendors' loveliness, check out Karyn's pics.

All of the vendors (links here) are truly talented and it's a joy to see all the jewel-like cases of goodness spread out like a specially selected, intimate, and well considered bazaar. My case was a jumble, as usual - I've really got to work on my visuals, I think. I got to hang some stuff (thanks Becky!), which helped a lot.

Mr. S. is unwell, and since I was feeling it coming on, Safiya stayed home with him, which was just as well, but I did miss her. Lately Mr. S. and she have started a tradition; whenever I do a trunk show here, they make a new piece of clothing for the resident doll, something which Karyn very kindly gave her blessing to. Miss Doll will have to wait until next time, sad to say.

I slipped out a bit early, slugged home, and am curled up pathetically in the spare room. At least most of the day was really nice :-)

Friday 17 April 2009

The Story of the Mountain of Sweaters

I have an Aunt and Uncle who are great jokers, storytellers, and generally good to hang around with. Come to think of it, most of my aunts and uncles are like this. But, growing up, this particular couple was always regaling us in amazement with tales of how things just "happened". Coincidences, good luck, or what have you; good stuff somehow always happened to them. They were always so lucky.

As I got older I realised two things: one, they work very very hard, and two, they are genial people, that is, they talk...to practically anyone, and they pay attention. And so, I believe, they make their luck. This was an important lesson for a serious, reserved introvert such as I.

And so, I'm glad my Aunt and Uncle are in my life, because without them, I would have never met Sara (well, I'm glad for many other reasons, obviously), and without Sara I would never have been able to fill my latest order.

Sara was at Seedy Saturday. She was selling recycled sweater longjohns (coolest thing ever - she did the One of a Kind here in Toronto, and she's got an etsy shop - check out the cute undies - but I really wish she would make more of these!). We started chatting about craft, and then she said these magic words: "so I've used all the arms on all these sweaters, but what am I going to do with the bodies? I have a mountain of wool sweaters at home!" Well...

Seedy Saturday was fantastic (I was there with Not Far From The Tree - that's another post), but underneath was this panic gnawing at me: how was I going to fill an order for three (turned into four later) wool blankets all at the same time? That's a lot of Value Village coasting.

I got up courage and mentioned that I might be able to help, or that she could help me? Later that week she emailed me an invite to come over and there was this amazing picture attached:

So I went over, found out she's a wonderful person, and that it was true: she did indeed have a mountain of wool sweaters. We bartered a bit and voila! (although I still owe her a pie :-)

Now I have a tiny mountain of done blankets.

Thanks Sara!