Sunday, March 30, 2008

happy birthday to me

and George, too. We had a joint party on the 29th, which is in between our two days, and it was lovely and mellow blah blah blah. Okay, now for the good bit, I'm recovering my living room furniture! Woooo Hoooo! Thanks to my Fabulous Aunty Jane I have some delicious striped fabric for the chairs and some wonderful swirly purple fabric for the couch. I'm delirious. Its just perfect.
My living room furniture was used when I bought it, and after more than a few years of living with children, its in sorry shape. The stuffing is coming out! Its just terrible, and with our current finances I had despaired of finding fabric that was both cheap and stylish, much less finding cheap used furniture I like. My chairs, in particular, have a lovely shape to them... sort of trapezoidal, as you can see in the pic. I like that. I'd just about come around to acceptance of the fact that I might actually have to replace them with something rectilinear, when voila! the perfect fabrics at an excellent price, and happy birthday from Aunty, besides. Oh happy day.

I'm taking a page out of Morgan's book and reinforcing the "decks" of the chairs with cardboard wrapped in duct tape. Mo, of course, is the queen of paper and tape and has, from time to time, branched out into cardboard. Snort! That's like saying I'm a traditional quilter who has "branched out" into less traditional work. She can make anything with cardboard or paper or some combination thereof, provided there's enough tape in the house. George and I are careful to never run out - good heavens, can you imagine if she decided to switch to glue? No, far far safer to keep the house stocked with tape. I nearly had to defend my roll of duct tape while making new chair decks - surely that's for me, isn't it mommy? Superfast diversional tactics involving double chocolate cookies and coco with marshmallows. Whew.

Mo has been playing with the idea of Art lately. It seems that Art is something specific from her perspective. Its something that is produced on demand, for the consumer, as it were. All this glorious construction that goes on in my home all day long isn't Art. She has clearly researched the matter via that ubiquitous gallery of artwork pertaining to children, the refrigerator, both in real homes and via television. According to her research, adults (the recipients of Art) like pictures of flowers, houses, trees and cute animals. So when Morgan makes Art, that is what she makes.

This past Friday, Mo went with George to a photo shoot with our local artists group. It was decided that this year we'd get a professional photographer to shoot all our work for the brochure at once (I was able to have mine shot by the same guy a couple weeks ago, since I needed slides for a show before the group shoot). George managed to explain this all to Mo to her satisfaction, but didn't realize that she expected to have some of her work shot also. Turns out she brought a painting of a bird (adults like birds and since mommy likes red, this bird has a red tail) and was quick to speak up when things were wrapping up and she seemed to have been overlooked. The photographer, happily, was charmed - he was also shooting everything in digital, so taking a bunch of extras of a little girl with her painting didn't cost him more than an extra minute of his time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

not exactly a eulogy

for my grandmother, Rita Higgins, who died on Thursday, March 20. It was the first day of spring, which is appropriate, since she loved to garden. Also appropriate, given that she was a "good little Catholic girl", she managed not to die on the Holy Weekend, which is not a football weekend in the Catholic Church, go figure. You can see already what I mean about this not being a eulogy. If it were, I'd have said what everyone was saying about Grandma at the funeral, that she was such a lady. No, it was the Catholic thing, I'm sure of it.

Not that being a "good little Catholic girl" is inherently a bad thing - it certainly served Grandma well many times, but most especially with regards to her 13 children. Many of them have left The church, but rather than disowning any of them, Grandma simply prayed to the appropriate saints for them to return. On the flip side, she really was a good little Catholic girl, especially on the subject of You Know What.

Despite having 13 children Grandma avoided any mention of You Know What - when she could get away with it that is. And she got away with it a great deal for awhile - to the extent of having her children wait at separate bus stops so "people" wouldn't know that she had had You Know What so very many times. Unfortunately for Grandma, my mother, her second child, was a very modern, feminist Catholic girl. As in: the Pope is in Rome, and I'm on the Pill.

My mother's attempts to bring the Feminist revolution home to roost centered around educating her mother and sisters on the subject of You Know What, my Aunt Jane especially, who carried on my mother's tradition of dragging Grandma into Those Kinds of conversations whenever necessary. Many family stories revolve around these conversations - feminist daughters staunchly insisting on being specific about "down there" and the ailments and happenings appertaining, and Grandma staunchly resisting. Surely, we don't need to talk about that.

Nothing like a family of strong minded women.

Its interesting what gets talked about after a death. Joys and slights dominate conversations. In a family of strong minded, passionate people, there are plenty of both. Happily, everyone managed to, if not overlook the slights, keep the ire to a tolerable level during the wake and funeral per se. Beforehand and in private are another matter entirely. Passions ran high. I spent the weekend with my aunt Jane (who has played the parts of mom and older sister to me many times) while she wept and raged and vented. Despite the outpourings of grief and spleen, during the proceedings themselves she did her mother proud and was every inch the lady.

At one point, in the midst of all the venting and ranting and raging, Jane asked me where I'd learned to be so patient. It certainly was an occasion for me to exercise my patience to the fullest, but it got me thinking. I'm not terribly patient, by nature. I'm as fiery and passionate as anyone else in that big, overheated family. Somehow, though, I've learned to channel some of that passion into a trait I think of as steadiness.

There's a concept in yoga, tapas, that means something like inner fire. Its often translated into vigilance or dedication, but it has always made sense to me, on some primal level, that in order to move into stillness, in order to be utterly steady, even in the most ridiculous of yoga postures, one needs a measure of inner fire. So in that sense, my steadiness is an expression of my passionate nature. And somehow I've learned to be steady outside of yoga. If anything, I'm better able to be steady in the midst of an emotional storm or other crisis than in the cool detachment of asana.

When and where did I learn to be steady? Some of it I learned from my own mother, for sure, who could be utterly calm in a crisis, provided she could take charge of things. And some of that comes from Grandma, who definitely had her steady and staunch moments. Several relatives referred to her as a strong person, and strength, in one form or another, has been a recurring theme in the family - in a sense, it has been the root of a good deal of the disagreement about Grandma's health and care in her later years: Ma is strong and doesn't need care -vs- Ma needs care so she can continue to be strong. Its also a root of other conflict in the family: who shall be the strongest and prevail? Strength is undoubtedly a Higgins family value, especially amongst the women.

The strength that is the trademark of the Higgins women is expressed in me as steadiness. Its one of the better expressions, but I've worked on that, too. From dabbling in zen to yoga to the weird philosophical side of radical unschooling, I've been working on this stuff at least twenty years. It hasn't been easy. Inner fire ain't always pretty when it surges to to surface.
So I spent several days being steady for Jane and (I'd like to think) in honor of my mom and grandma. My own garden, I'm sorry to say, is sadly languishing at the moment, but I hope to get to that soon. I'm intending to plant some more perrennials along the borders and stock the beds with onions and greens.

Monday, March 10, 2008

OMG I'm the Breadwinner!

Its been a long few months, but things seem to be settling down. I'm certainly not anywhere near as stressed out as I was this past fall, thank goodness!

Work is going okay. Turns out no-one in the whole shop knew a blessed thing about plaster, really, so I've been turning that around, looking things up online and asking "well duh" sorts of questions like "can we have a thermometer for the Water?" The boss thinks I'm some sort of genius . Too bad he can't pay me a "genius" wage! But at least I feel like I'm helping a small business get itself together in a serious way as well as helping my family in a serious way.

There was a little friction early on with the other employees - three rednecks with chronic drug problems and an older guy who used to drive buses and has no other skills. The rednecks were a bit nonplussed at the idea of a girl doing a man's job, so I came out to them, which actually helped quite a bit. At least it gave them a different box to put me in. Going out on an installation job helped, too - they expected me to balk at the idea of going up to the top of the scaffolding, but as far as I was concerned, it was inside! Woooo hooo! I could hold on to the damn Wall even if my vertigo acted up. Compared to working on the roof of my house it was a piece of cake. So I stood up there telling stories about building a house without knowing my ass from a hole in the ground until they were laughing so hard they could barely keep their tobacco in their mouths and that was the end of the issues with them.

The bus driver is more of a problem since he was, before I came along, promoted to shop foreman. Of course, he was promoted because he can't install for love or money and the rest of the guys could fix most of his casting mistakes out in the field one way or another. So here comes Meredith, who actually seems to get the hang of this plaster thing (its soooooo not rocket science - its not even cheese making!) Around the time its starting to be clear that I can cast circles around this guy (just let me get the R9 mold) the owner of this circus finally manages to hire a new operations manager and promptly tells Busdriver he's not the foreman of anything any more. Naturally, Busdriver takes this out on me by first being a general bastard, then insulting me full volume in front of everyone else, then claiming to the boss that I harassed him. Fortunately the boss didn't buy a word of it and started sending Busdriver back out on installation jobs (just for the patching) leaving me to take over the shop however I like.

Its a moderately entertaining job, as jobs go. I get to be on my feet most of the day, which I like, and I get to make things all day long, which is also okay, even if it is mostly crown molding for people with more money than taste. The best part is that the place is kind of a shambles, so I spend a lot of time saying "I know there's a better way to do this" and then figuring it out. I'm good at the figuring it out part. Most of the time, the tools I need are actually somewhere in the shop, its just that no-one knows what *that* box of junk is for. It just seemed too important to throw away.

How did a business get into this state, you ask? Lemme tell ya! Once upon a time there was a guy named Steve who was your basic geek with his own True Love and successful small business. He got cancer and sold the thing at a loss and this other guy named Tim lucked out and got a whole business on the cheap. And I mean everything - including a bunch of illegal alien employees who he foolishly got rid of, leaving absolutely no-one who knew anything at all about plaster.

Tim isn't the sharpest tool in the box. He's a veteran of the Iraq invasion, which isn't saying anything one way or the other, but he was a low level officer in Military Intelligence. Go ahead and laugh, he fits. He went to West Point but on a - oh, wait, are you done laughing yet? put your coffee down, there's another one coming. He went on a golf scholarship. Yes. He really did. His favorite story about West Point was that he was supposed to memorize "really hard stuff" (the headlines of the New York Times) every morning before inspection but found that if he got his shoes shiny enough, no-one bothered to ask him anything. Yup. Military Intelligence. Anyway, the West Point thing gives him connections, so that's how he was able to buy a business in the first place. Its his Chance.

Tim's first operations manager (since he at least has the sense to know he's not the sharpest tool in the box) was sort of a disaster and quit just before I arrived on the scene. He had some sort of brain injury - another vet - and even though he took a course of some kind on plaster casting could neither reproduce what he'd learned or teach it to anyone else. Utter shambles. The new o.m. is much better. He's been to college but, like me, would rather work on the physical and vaguely artistic side of things. In his case, cabinetry and painting interiors. He's also done photo processing. So he knows how to use a hammer, paintbrush and a thermometer, which is good enough for me. He also has a quirky sense of humor and appreciates mine.

And that's about all there is to say about work for the moment. George is settling in to the stay at home dad thing. He's getting a lot more guitars done, that's for sure, now that he's not having to worry about paying the bills. So that's good. I've shifted my energy, in terms of quilts, to entering various quilt competitions. I've done a few small quilt shows, but I just got a bunch of slides shot so I can enter big shows. The one weird thing is they (the competitions) have themes, so I can't just send any quilt to any show. I have to find one that fits the theme. Lovely.
The crow and the pitcher, back up at the top, there, are my own personal "theme" for last year. I call it "The Nature of Abundance". Forget pessimism, throw some rocks in the cup and make it full.