My story to tell

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I was thinking today about drama and stories, most specifically the ridiculous drama often seen played out on social media. Sometimes I have to just laugh when I see certain people calling others out for airing dirty laundry in public, when they themselves are among the worst offenders.

Our family was — and is — full of stories, but with very little drama. From as far back as I can remember, Mom had a particular phrase that measured what would or would not be shared: “Is it your story to tell?” If the answer was “yes”, then you could pass it on. If the answer was “no”, keep it to yourself. Talk about a drama squelcher!

Once I moved out on my own, I missed out on many of the family stories. Mom was not one to pass news back and forth, as she assumed that my sister and I were talking to each other regularly. Especially with good or exciting news, where it would be really fun to share, she just didn’t think it was her place to, as she would say, “Steal our thunder.” It took us a while to figure this out, as Melody would often tell Mom something that was going on, and then not say anything to me because she thought Mom would have already told me. Mom, going on the “it’s not my story to tell” principle, wouldn’t have said anything and I would find myself completely out of the loop!

With Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and so many other ways to communicate instantly, information or misinformation can quickly spiral out of control. Before you pass on personal news, ask yourself, “Is it my story to tell?” The results will be worth it.

Tea and a book

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Since getting married 33 years ago, I have had to find my own little corner of the yard for tea and a book, as my spouse “didn’t do outside”. But Georgia surprised me a couple of days ago by arranging this small tea table for me, under the big elm tree where it is always shady. She brought the African violet outside from in the house, but the heat would have quickly scorched it, so I stopped by Lowe’s and found this hanging basket of Lobelia, petunias, and other tiny flowers to hang from the branch.

My new cozy spot for tea and a book, under the elm tree by the clothes line.

My new cozy spot for tea and a book, under the elm tree by the clothes line.

Each of the past two mornings I have headed outside early with my book, to visit with the birds and enjoy the early morning breeze. Today the hummingbird came to the Rose of Sharon, then flitted over to the feeder. He didn’t linger, but visited the other Rose of Sharon and then flew away. But he at least tried the hummingbird feeder, so I can expect him to return.

I had to giggle at the contrast between my cozy little corner, china tea mug (for Sundays, the rest of the time I have my Close To My Heart thermal cup), and my reading material — Young Money: Inside the hidden world of Wall Street’s post-crash recruits, by Kevin Roose. The book content is nowhere near as bucolic as my setting!

Transformation

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Our backyard is undergoing a wonderful transformation from a place where stuff (mostly weeds) just grows out of hand and is ugly to a place of order and enjoyment. Tonight the first of two new raised beds was built with great excitement and anticipation. And perhaps my favorite part of the project is that it is not MY project. My input to date has been a bit of advice here and there, and reminders about what veggies can be planted when.

I loved watching my granddaughters fill their little wheel barrow with garden stones, wheel it from one side of the yard to the other, and add their stones to the base of the bed. They were so proud to be able to help “build” the new garden. And they are planting pros. Lily has three years of gardening at church under her belt, and Olivia has two. When planting time comes I know they will be in the thick of things. Veggies that are grown as a family taste better to everyone!

Next comes the herb garden. I can hardly wait.

King Olivetti

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I heard yesterday on the radio that typewriter sales have reached a 20-year high as companies are beginning to realize how little privacy they have with emails and other electronic documents. Back in 1981, after years of wanting an IBM Selectric and as I was ramping up Elite Business Services, the silver-tongued salesman at the typewriter store introduced me to the most revolutionary typewriter since the Selectric: An Underwood Olivetti ET121 Electronic. Because it was so pricey ($1700), I wrote up a formal business plan and took Daddy on as my financial partner. This morning I ran across the following description of my new typewriter (lurking under my bed at this very moment).

Stately, shiny, grandly King Olivetti reigns on his oaken throne. Hidden within his gloomy countenance are all the words of the universe, keys waiting to play the melodies of our lives. His servant waits patiently to collect the secrets of the world’s imagining, carrying paper as white as a virgin’s conscience, and as sterile.

When fortune shines, the servant is showered with kind words like soft spring rains and King Olivetti sings songs of special sweetness. But a misstep, a misspeak, and he hurls invective like thunderbolts at the unfortunate maiden who cowers before him.

Can you say “love-hate relationship”?

Flashback

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I was rummaging around today in my storage room, and ended up cleaning out a drawer in my old pink filing cabinet. I stumbled on this journal entry from July 14, 1998, and was struck by how appropriate it would be for today.

The prompt for the day’s journaling was: If someone followed me around this last weekend, what comment would he/she make about my “real” life?

“Wow! You sure pack a lot of living into the time allotted to you! You’re so lucky to be part of a loving family, to come from such a caring bunch. You’re lucky, too, that your family is so healthy and long-lived…you, too, can look forward to turning 84 someday. It’s too bad the family “pool” didn’t hit the lottery, though — you could have really spread it around!”

The 84-year old I was writing about was my Great-Aunt Evelena, whose birthday we had celebrated a few days before. And tomorrow we will celebrate the 87th birthday of her niece, my precious Aunt Betty, once again surrounded by that same loving family, along with my two little granddaughters — a generation that wasn’t around back when that journal entry was written.

Sharing the garden

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When Mom was battling breast cancer, she spent countless hours out in her little side garden. Much of that time was shared in the company of a family of blue jays who became tame enough to take nuts from her lap. Hummingbirds frequented that garden, as well, and the feeder was often the site of fierce battles between hummers. In the years since her death I have felt that blue jays and hummingbirds are messengers sent from Heaven, just little reminders that she is there and still busy loving us.

This morning I headed out to the back yard fairly early to get some weeding in before the day heated up. No sooner had I walked outside than I heard Mr. Blue Jay screeching “Good morning” as he flew across the yard. I answered him, of course (as I always do), and shortly Mrs. Jay arrived, as well. Their presence was a benediction and brought such a feeling of peace.

I did a little weeding (pooped out way too soon for what still needed to be done) and then sat down to catch my breath. A small sound drew my attention across the yard to the Rose of Sharon, where a hummingbird was busily drinking from the flowers. As I watched, he visited every single blossom on the plant, then moved over to sample a couple of tomatoes (unsuccessfully, of course) and the red crystal hanging from my wind chime. Finding no satisfaction there, he then headed to the opposite side of the yard, where he sipped from every blossom of that Rose of Sharon plant, too. Tomorrow morning I will retrieve my hummingbird feeder from storage and hang it from the newly pruned lemon tree, to encourage him to invite his friends for more visits.

A hummingbird visits a feeder

A hummingbird visits a feeder

Georgia has big plans for the back yard, and we all have been working diligently to clear out, prune, and generally whip it into shape. Having the critters come and enjoy it with us is a gentle reminder of why we need to be gentle stewards of our planet…starting right in our own back yard.

Reading outdoors

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One of my favorite activities has always been sitting outside in the garden with a cup of tea and a book. This is an especially wonderful thing to do early in the morning when the air is fresh and the day is full of possibilities. During the school year I generally get Lily up and off to school, so my early morning reading has fallen by the wayside.

But not this week. I have gone on a major reading jag this past week, excessive even by my usual standards, and my early morning reading has come back into play. Yesterday morning I started Leila Meacham’s Somerset, and today by mid-morning (607 pages later) I had finished it. There is something so splendid about a multi-generational historical romance that just pulls me in and won’t let me go until the end. (Tomorrow I’m off to the library to find Roses, the sequel.)

Olivia encourages my reading outdoors. She loves it when I sit outside on the patio while she swings or plays in the dirt. When I’m hanging clothes out to dry, she will often say wistfully, “When you are done, Grammy, will you please go in and get a book and tea and sit outside with me and read?”

Now to find a chair more comfortable than the folding wooden one I have now. One with piles of cushions. And maybe a footstool!

Working

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As most of you know, I love being a retired, “stay-at-home grammy”. Unfortunately, sweet granddaughter hugs and kisses are psychic payment, but don’t go very far towards paying the bills. So I’m beginning to mull over the idea of going back to work part-time. I suppose I could bite the bullet and substitute teach a day or so each week, but can’t get too excited about the prospect. And my days as a lingerie model are long past…the last time my lingerie boss called because his model had backed out, I explained that I might not really be what he was looking for, as I was about seven months pregnant. He agreed.

Making creative messes is probably my greatest skill, but most households have their own resident expert in that capacity. And our Wal-Mart no longer hires the elderly or infirm to serve as greeters (thank heavens).

I’ll have to give this idea more thought.

Work at Home

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momfawn:

Tonight I would like to introduce you to one of my special “imaginary friends” so that you, too, can enjoy her new blog. Like many of us, she is “stretching” out into new territory with her blog, and broadening her artistic horizons. So it is now my pleasure to introduce Linda and realmessagesrealtime. Enjoy! – Fawn

Originally posted on realmessagesrealtime:

Yesterday was a busy day. Even though I have 1000’s of saying magnets and many sizes/styles of the word art on canvas I still make more! I guess you could say my inventory never runs low and I’m well stocked. I am getting ready for a weekly show in Munds Park. Throughout the summer months people head to Flagstaff and surrounding areas to well.. you know.. ESCAPE the brutal hot. People have asked me “Have you spent a summer in AZ yet?” I just smile and tell them I lived in San Antonio for 5 years with high temperatures + humidity. That equals HOT to me. So I work at home with the AC on all day.. Thank you Lord for the opportunity to not sweat while I work!  Business beginnings right in the ole living room. Humble, grateful  beginnings. I’m  able to work all day and all night without…

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Dresses and memories

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Today I am celebrating (from a distance) the 39th wedding anniversary of my sister Melody and her husband, AKA “the best brother-in-law in the world”. I pulled out my photo album from 1975 to remember and reminisce, and was reminded once again of our mother and the amazing dresses she made for us over the years.

The first dress of note (other than Easter and school dresses) was made for my cousin Lenita’s wedding in 1954. I was the flower girl, and very much in awe of my glamorous cousin and her beautiful friends. But my floor-length white dress made me feel elegant and grown up, and definitely an important member of the party. (That spring, much to my dismay, Mom cut it short for me to wear on Easter.)

Fawn as Lenita Wood's Flower Girl, March 1954

Fawn as Lenita Wood’s Flower Girl, March 1954

Mom’s next masterpiece was an absolute dream in deep blue taffeta, with the scalloped overskirt trimmed with pink rosebuds. I remember her sewing this one while very pregnant with my little brother, and how difficult it was for her to pin up the hem. But I had a very important concert at San Bernardino Valley College, and she wanted my dress to be just perfect! I have the publicity shots for the concert, but none of my blue dress…but I could sketch it out from memory.

When it was time for the Harvest Festival “Bell of the Festival” competition (basically “Miss Arroyo Grande”), Mom was right there to design and sew me a dress appropriate for a young lady of good family in the 1890’s. She agonized over getting the bustle just right, and stuffed the leg o’mutton sleeves with tissue paper. (The winner wore an emerald-green satin dress appropriate for a lady of the evening or a saloon singer, but her grandparents were locals. My first lesson in regional politics.)

Harvest festival 1966 - my second try at the competition

Harvest festival 1966 – my second try at the competition

My favorite gown (today, at least) I was able to wear twice. First for Christmas Formal my junior year in high school, and then again when Cuesta College held a formal dance. The most remarkable thing about this dress is that the bodice is actually inside out…proof positive of what amazing finishing work Mom did. It was rose-colored silk brocade, and I still have it, even though it is several sizes too small!

My rose brocade gown with the bodice sewn inside out.

My rose brocade gown with the bodice sewn inside out.

Here’s the important dress Mom didn’t make. That’s a story for another day.

Fawn and Ken outside the Parlier Justice Court, June 12, 1971.

Fawn and Ken outside the Parlier Justice Court, June 12, 1971.

The dress that got me thinking about Mom and her dressmaking was the beautiful candlelight wedding gown she made for Melody’s wedding. Melody looked so lovely that day, both bride and groom so shiny and new and full of promise. I can’t believe 39 years have gone by (in addition to the bride’s gown, Mom also made the Matron of Honor’s dress and that of one bridesmaid).

Melody and Ken, July 19, 1975.

Melody and Ken, July 19, 1975.

I had to wait until 1981 for Mom to make my wedding gown. I’ll never forget our conversation when I called to ask her to make my dress, and then started describing it to her. “Oh, you mean a wedding gown wedding gown! Do people do that for second weddings these days?” I assured her “people” did, and that I wanted to, and that it was really important to me that she be the one to make it. I was looking for a grown up bridal gown…way too old for a fairy princess dress…and it turned out perfect! (For that day, too, Mom made more than one dress. She made one for my Matron of Honor…my sweet sister…and for one of my bridesmaids. I didn’t even see my finished dress until I was ready to put it on.)

Daddy walking me down the aisle, June 13, 1981.

Daddy walking me down the aisle, June 13, 1981.

Mom said, "Don't tell me you're getting on that motorcycle in your wedding gown!"

Mom said, “Don’t tell me you’re getting on that motorcycle in your wedding gown!”

My perfect gown underwent a total transformation many years later to make it the perfect gown for my daughter, whose style is very different from mine. All the frou-frou lace and train disappeared, leaving a sleekly elegant simple gown for Mom’s youngest granddaughter to wear. (And there’s a pattern here, too — Mom and I together reworked my gown for Georgia, and we each made an outfit for a bridesmaid!)

Georgia and Nick dancing

The constant thread that tied all these beautiful clothes together was Mom’s vintage Singer sewing machine…made the last year before Singers sewed backwards and forwards. And the love. Always the love.

Happy Anniversary, Melody and Ken. Thank you, Mom.

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