Sunday, December 15, 2013

Finally Finished!

For the last few years I've been a member of an online charity quilting bee. Each month myself and a group of amazing ladies would make a couple of quilt blocks, and we'd each take turns designing & finishing quilts. I had been feeling overwhelmed by life early last year, and when Flickr changed over to their new format, I decided I was done. I resigned from the group and started spending my online hours over at Pinterest instead.

I was supposed to finish this quilt in like May of this year--and I finally finished it at about 2:30am!

I was sorry to leave Do Good Stitches, and hopefully I'll be able to re-join in a couple years when I have more free time on my hands.

This quilt turned out so pretty-I'm so glad to have been able to work with all of these wonderful ladies!

Monday, April 15, 2013

2nd Quarter Finish-A-Long Goals

I'm linking up to the 2013 Finish-A-Long over at shecanquilt!

Right now I'm down to the lowest number of projects-in-progress in recent memory. I only have 9 projects going! Amazing, right? I'm hoping to finish one quilt a month for this second quarter of the year. Here's my mosaic that I started with this year:

I've started one more project that's not on here, but I'm really excited about it! I'll post pictures a bit later, sine I've only started cutting so far.

Here are the goals for Quarter 2:

I've started working on this really old heart applique quilt again, and I'm hoping to finish it by the end of the month. I started it when my friend Katie was pregnant with her daughter, who will be turning 8 this summer. I think she's a bit old for it now! I'm using raw-edge machine applique, so it's going pretty fast! DONE! Finished 5/10/13

Next up is this old farmyard quilt I started making when Ben was teeny-tiny--6 years ago! I used the Yellow Brick Road pattern, which is fun and a great pattern for beginners. I tend to try to add way too many fabrics into my projects, and this is a great example of that. It's really just too much. But, I'd much rather finish it and give it away than have it sit in my cupboard! The blocks are all done, so I just need to piece the top, quilt, and bind it!

My last goal for this quarter is Will's quilt. He wanted to make a quilt, and chose this robot fabric, and this "Ninja stars" pattern. He's done all the ironing and rotary cutting, and I'm going to have him do the sewing and probably quilting too. We started it about 2 years ago, and are about 3/4 done with the cutting. I'm ashamed to say that this has become an old UFO (Un-Finished Object) because of me! He asks to work on it often, but it's so hard to find time when the little kids are occupied enough that I can give him all of my attention while he's using very sharp instruments. I'm pretty sure that's what Bob the Builder DVDs were created for though, so I'm going to try to work on it with him whenever he asks, and hopefully we can get it done by the end of June!

So there we are! These three projects are my oldest WIP (works in progress). The oldest one after I finish these was started in January 2012, so I'm really excited to start getting these old things done. Especially since I stopped them because I'm not in love with them anymore, and it will be nice to have them finished and out of my cupboard and my crafty conscience!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

1st Quarter Finish-A-Long Finishes

Turns out I'm not a very consistent blogger. It's been three months since my last post! Oh well--at least I've been using that time to get some good sewing done! I'm happy to say that I finished all of my goals from my original Finish-A-Long post for this first quarter! Yay! Here's the original post so you can see where I started! On to the finishes!

1. Do Good Stitches Lemon Squares quilt:

This turned out to be a pretty big quilt! The quilting pattern looks kinda like stage lights or laser beams or something, which was pretty fun to do. There are close-ups and pics of the back here in my Flickr set. I still need to deliver it, which hopefully I'll do pretty soon here.

2. Doll Cuddle Packs:

I got them all finished! More pics again on Flickr. I'm going to give one away, and possibly try to sell the other two extra ones on etsy.

3. Evy's Dress (and matching doll dress):
The dress turned out looking like a nightgown, and I don't think I'll ever use this pattern again. But Evy likes it, so I think that's what matters most, right?

4. Old-Timey Nine-Patch Quilt

It's FINALLY finished you guys. After 11 years. Incredible. I didn't think it would ever happen, but here it is! More process pics and pics of the back on Flickr again.

5. Old Aprons:

I'm not very happy with these. They looked fine on the dress form the pattern maker used for the pattern cover, but that shape on a real person with real hips is just not flattering. But they are cute, and perfectly functional, so, maybe I'll fine someone to give them to?

6. The Saccharine-Sweet Triangle Quilt:

This was pretty hard to piece, because triangles are weird! I used up every last scrap for the back, and quilted it in an awesome radiating X pattern. 

So there you go! Accomplished all of my goals! Woo hoo! Time to start making and working on goals for next quarter!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back to quilting!

I tend to always have a bazillion sewing projects going on at once. I get really excited about some new idea, work really hard on it, and then end up putting it away before it's finished. Sometimes I put it away because I'm in the inevitable "I hate this because it's too hard and not turning out the way I want!" slump, or I get really excited about some new idea I can't wait to start, or life just happens and I don't have time for much sewing for a while. I was very thankful to find out that I'm not the only one, and that this is pretty common among quilters!

Well, all last year I've been trying to finish projects, and restrict myself when it comes to starting new ones. By September or so, I realized that I was getting bummed out whenever I thought of sewing, because I had given myself a bunch of rules, like forcing myself to finish 2 things before starting something new, etc. So this year, I'm doing something a little different!

I currently have 14 things in progress (well, 15 actually, I started something new yesterday for a swap I'm in!). My goal for the year is to finish all of these projects! It will keep me busy enough so I don't start too many new things, but I'll have a bit of freedom to still be creative when I want to! For motivation, I'm linking up to the 2013 Finish-A-Long and continuing in the Project UFO group on Flickr hosted by Angela. So, my goals for the first quarter of this year are:

1. Do Good Stitches August quilt:
This is already pieced, basted, and about 1/4 of the way quilted, so should be pretty easy & quick!DONE! Finished 2/12/13

2. Finish up these four cuddle packs.
Just need to add a buckle to one of these, but I'm having a hard time finding the right one at stores!DONE! Finished 1/19/13

3. Finish up Evy's dress-the first dress I've ever made for her!
The dress itself is done, but I need to either figure out a way to take in the waist, or maybe add a sash or ribbon, because it looks like a nightgown! Also, I still need to make the matching doll dress.DONE! Finished 2/16/13

4. The Old-Timey 9-Patch Quilt:

I started this about 10-11 years ago! I had to take it apart at least twice, because I didn't like the direction it was going. I still don't actually actively LIKE it, but this is the best I've gotten it so far, and I'm not changing it again. One thing I do like about it is the on-point construction. All the books and tutorials I found had you cutting setting triangles, but that just seemed crazy, so I constructed it in rows, and then sewed the rows together. It was a little weird in the middle sections where everything is offset, but I kept the whole thing on my entryway floor as I was putting it together, so I didn't get confused. I need to get it done, and out of my head and cupboard!
I finished piecing the back just before Christmas, and it's now basted and ready to be quilted.DONE! Finished 3/17/13

5. These old aprons:

These are almost finished--I got discouraged because they were very floppy and weak since I made them with quilting cotton. I'm going to add some fusible fleece and call it good!DONE! Finished 3/15/13

6. And lastly, this super-sweet triangle quilt:

I made this using the Scrap Attack tutorial from Stitched in Color, and I also trimmed the tips of the triangles like described by Sew Katie Did. This is the first time I've done anything with triangles, and I don't think I'll be doing it again. It looks amazing, but takes forever, and is just a pain to work with the bias edges, and uses up a ton of fabric. But, the top and back are done, so I just need to baste, quilt, and finish it! DONE! Finished 4/2/13 Whew! That's all of them, just under the wire!

Hopefully I'll get all of these finished this quarter, and start on the next batch next quarter!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Child Abuse

For the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about child abuse, foster care, and parenting. I've decided to share my story, and some thoughts, in hopes that it might help someone out there.

I've spoken about parts of my story to many people, but it's hard to put all of this out in the open. It's hard to speak ill of your family, even when they are clearly in the wrong. It's hard for people who are abused to admit that it wasn't their fault. And it's hard to think about things that are much more comfortable to repress. 

My Mom was very physically abusive to me as a child. You know that feeling when you get super pissed about something, and you just want to punch someone or break a window or something? But you don't. Because that is BAD. Well, my Mom did. Whenever she got angry, she would hit me. I remember crying for some reason when I was 4, and she picked me up by one arm and threw me into my old crib, and kept hitting me over and over screaming at me to "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" I couldn't understand--how could I stop crying if she was hurting me and scaring the crap out of me? This became a regular pattern. She would lose her keys and get angry and flustered because we were late for something, and she would hit me because I couldn't find them. She would hide food and candy, and if I snuck something, she would scream at me and hit me. A lot of times I remember the "punishment" but I have no idea what happened to start it off. When I was in 5th grade I remember she threw me on the floor of the kitchen and was trying to spank me, and I was crawling and squirming away and crying, and she kept screaming at me to hold still so she could hit me. I had this 5-foot-tall inflatable T-Rex at some point, and once she threw me across my room, my head hit my bed frame, and then she tried to suffocate me with that dinosaur thing. Stuff like this happened several times a week. I would hide in my room until my Dad came home, or play outside as much as possible. I rode my bike and climbed trees with the neighborhood boys, and spent as much time as I could with my best friend, who lived next door. Her Dad always called me their "rental child," because they brought me to Great America, family reunions, vacations, and I was always over there. I ran away three times. I have very few memories of any other kind of interacting with my Mom--she was always watching TV.

My sister is 5 years younger than me, and as kids we didn't have a good relationship. On the one hand, I wanted to make sure my Mom didn't hit her. On the other, my Mom kept her away from me, and taught her to tattle on me--so a part of me hated the way she would unknowingly bring down more abuse on me. I actually had thought I did a good job of shielding her all these years. But just a few months ago she told me she remembered watching one of the times that my Mom hurt me. She remembered one time she told on me for doing something, and my Mom started strangling me, and she thought my Mom was going to kill me. She was screaming at my Mom to stop, and pulling on her, and couldn't do anything to help me. It kind of hit me then, that I had no idea that she had also been scarred. My sister was never in my mind in the moments when I was being beaten, so it never occurred to me that she might also have been traumatized.  

Now, you're probably thinking, "Where was your Dad? Why didn't anyone call CPS? She should be in jail!" Honestly, I'm not sure what that time was like for my Dad. I told him about it, it distressed him, he talked to my Mom about it. There were times when I called him from work begging him to come home. I appreciate the sucky place he was put in, and I don't blame him, but obviously the behavior continued, so more should have been done. Many other people in my family knew about it. They saw it. People at Target or the grocery store saw it. But it wasn't bad enough for CPS to get involved, even if someone had called. I never had any bruises. I remember my Mom once proudly telling a friend that she never hit me where it would show, and she never used anything but her hands. Her dad had hit her with hairbrushes and belts and had purposely slammed her foot in a car door--she would NEVER do anything that bad.

The thing is, my Mom could not control herself. Her problems had a long history. There is a known history of depression at least four generations back in my family. Her father was extremely abusive. She had lifelong health problems, depression, weight problems. She didn't have the tools to deal with the challenges of parenting. Every single time she hurt me, she would come back and apologize, and mean it; a lot of times she would stop in the middle and just burst into tears. She asked me a bazillion times if we could "just start over." I'm not trying to excuse her behavior. It was awful. But throwing her in jail or taking me and my sister away would have been the wrong answer. We hear of child abuse or other crimes, and our automatic reaction is to throw them in jail forever! In my Mom's case, having a Nurse visit regularly while I was a baby to help with breastfeeding, attachment, and to be a resource when she was having a hard time would have been invaluable. Having my grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc., offer help when she was yelling at me in their presence, instead of just waiting uncomfortably in another room, could have helped her to realize how bad things were. Having a social worker or general practitioner who was in contact with all of her doctors and could coordinate the different medications, could be in charge of her overall well-being, and make sure her mental health was addressed would have helped a great deal. Also, there were so many times that she would be screaming at me or hitting me in a store, and people just walked away. As a victim, that is so discouraging. It perpetuates the feeling that you deserve it, that you're bad, and that the behavior of your abuser IS ok, so there's no reason to try to do anything. I had thought about calling the police several times, but the fact that so many people had seen it and walked away convinced me that would futile. I even tearfully told one of my Mom's coworkers who I really looked up to. About 15 minutes later, her friend came over, and she laughingly told her friend how much she loved babysitting me, and how sweet it was that I told her about my Mom hitting me. I still don't really understand their reaction--why was this revelation and my trust in her funny? That made me decide that there was no point in trying to get help. The abuse finally stopped when I was almost 13. My mom pushed me across the kitchen, slamming me into the kitchen table. I ran at her and pushed her as hard as I could, knocking her down. I screamed at her that she would NEVER hit me again, burst into tears, and ran out and locked myself in my room.

My parents got divorced very shortly after that. My Stepmom moved in the same day my Mom moved out. My Dad and Stepmom are still alive and might read this blog, so I don't want to go into a lot of stuff, but my stepmom also had a horrendous childhood that left her ill-equipped to deal with my sister and I. She was very emotionally abusive, although she never "yelled" or hit me. She would bring up every wrong thing I had done in recent history every time I did something wrong. She would get right in my face and remind me of every time I had ever messed up or done a bad job or didn't listen. Middle school was pretty awful for me. I had three parents, but wasn't a priority to any of them. I made a lot of choices that I knew were just plain stupid, but when you're alone and constantly told how awful you are, you tend to look for any kind of acceptance, even though you know it's a lie. My Stepmom would also always try to "teach me lessons." For example, once I forgot to empty the dishwasher, so that night when I called to get picked up from work, she "forgot" to come. I didn't have a cell phone or change, and everyone else had left, so I had to walk home alone at midnight. I didn't thank her for making dinner once, so she decided she would show me how easy I had it by not making me dinner for a wekk or something and making me try to deal with it--because that would make me appreciate all her hard work! I moved out right after I graduated High School, but the abuse didn't stop until several years later. I had gone over to their house when Will was a few months old. She started talking to me about all the terrible choices I had made, and all the bad things I had done, and how awful my wedding was, and Will was in his carseat screaming and I was crying and I just was paralyzed, because that's what happens when you have someone like that doing that to you. And then I looked at my baby, and I decided that THIS SHIT IS GOING TO END RIGHT NOW. My baby would not suffer from anyone who had made me suffer. I picked up his carrier and walked out--and honestly, it was MUCH harder than fighting off my Mom years before.

My stepmom had NO idea what a good parent-child relationship should be. She had such severe abuse as a child, which hadn't been dealt with yet. Again, I'm not excusing her, but I see why she was so broken. Personally, I think that there should be court-ordered counseling for the whole family in cases of divorce when kids are involved. That would have been a good step for my sister and I, and hopefully a counselor would have been able to see my Stepmom's need for help.

My Mom died about a week after Will was born, and I haven't spoken to my Stepmom for several years (her choice). I see my Dad several times a year, and things are pretty good there.

I've wondered (and honestly so has Scott) why I'm not "more messed up" after having such awful mothers and such a traumatic childhood. I've come up with several reasons. Firstly, while I never attached properly to my mother, I did to my father. He worked nights until I was 4 or so, and cared for me during the day. He held me while he bottle-fed me, read me books, took me to the park almost every day. He loved me, and spent time with me, and talked to me, and cooked with me, and looked me in the eyes and made sure I KNEW that he loved me. He might not have been able, for whatever reasons, to stop my abuse, but he was able to prevent it from ruining me completely. Secondly, my Mom didn't enjoy hurting me. She wasn't sadistic or psychotic. She just didn't know what to do. She did the wrong thing, and she knew it. children who are maliciously abused often suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder and other life-long issues. I was spared that, because I knew I was worth a lot to someone. And lastly, meeting Scott's family and joining the Church.

In high school, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of good, dorky Mormon boys. They were nice. They rarely swore. They didn't drink. They said nice stuff about their moms. When my Stepmom decided I couldn't have lunch money for a while, Scott bought me food and Dr. Pepper. Once Scott and I started spending more time together and I met his family, I honestly thought it was fake. I couldn't believe that his parents both were that kind and worked that hard every day and loved each other like that. I couldn't believe that they had three boys who loved them and looked forward to spending time with them. Scott was a 16 year old kid who talked with and joked with his mom, and listened when she asked him to do something, and had birthday parties. They are such a typical family, but they love each other, and work to help each other. They didn't yell at each other, didn't hit Scott when he was a kid, forgave each other. Once I decided it was for real, I realized that it was possible for me, too. When I started investigating the church, I loved the up-front teachings on the importance of parents' roles and responsibilities in the Family Proclamation. Admittedly, I still made plenty of mistakes and bad choices, even after joining the church. Breaking through my selfishness and desire for self-preservation over all else is one of my biggest struggles. But I've gotten to the point where I am so content and at peace with my life, and happy that things have happened how they have. I have married someone who is amazing and good and loves me, and wouldn't ever even think of being intentionally unkind. And I finally got a mother who is an example of what I hope to be, rather than what I desperately DON'T want to be. And I have a chance to make things right in my own children, who are seriously awesome.

So, here are some things we all can do, in my opinion, to help prevent and heal child abuse:

--If you see someone yelling at, insulting, or hitting their kids, PLEASE say something. DO NOT go over and yell at or be angry at the parent, but kindly and calmly saying something like, "Hey, it seems like you're having a tough day! Is there anything I can do to help?" or "She looks very scared, and you seem like you're having a hard time" is good. Look the child in the eyes. Try to find a way to non-confrontationally let the parent know that the behavior is not ok, and that you'd like to help. They may tell you to piss off. They may take that kid home and beat them more. But that kid will be given a tiny speck of hope, that maybe it's not their fault, and maybe it IS wrong for their parent to do that to them. And you might be able to actually help someone get through a difficult time. Good people, with good families, don't just somehow end up being child abusers like the media so often portrays. Many have VERY high ACE scores that affect their ability to deal with stress. Be compassionate and empathetic, and don't assume that a person is just evil.

--Listen to your friends and family members. Thinking back, there were several times that my Mom tried to tell her friends how hard it was for her to keep her temper and how she didn't want to hurt me. But they just laughed it off with variations of "Oh, my kids drive me crazy too!" and "You have to punish kids or they'll never learn!" She was severely depressed and needed help, compassion, and understanding.

--DO NOT HIT YOUR KIDS. DO NOT INSULT YOUR KIDS. Please familiarize yourself with normal stages of child development. I love the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. Remember that it is your job to teach your kids proper reactions to situations by word & example, not to punish them for not knowing. Think, now, about strategies for avoiding hurting your kids when you are angry. Think about the triggers that make you the most mad, and what you can do in the moment to prevent bad decisions. Walk away, put your hands behind your back, take three deep breaths, count to 10--think of ways you can avoid outbursts. Never insult your children. This is especially hard when you're talking to other people. It's so easy to say something that may be true, but is unkind or unnecessary when your children are present. Involve them in conversations if you're speaking about them. They are there, they can hear you! It hurts them to know that their parent is willing to share their inadequacies with others. Think of how you would feel if your spouse said something similar about you in front of your friends. Is it an insult that would make you feel hurt & angry? Or is it a compliment that would make you feel proud & loved?

--Admit it when you make a mistake. It is very important for you to apologize to your child when you do something wrong. This does not make you seem weak. It is a wonderful example to your kids, and shows how much you love them. Feeling that shame, apologizing, and being forgiven in order to move on, will be instrumental in helping you avoid that behavior in the future. If you ever do something, and think, "Geez, I'm glad my husband/wife/a social worker didn't see that...", you need to talk to your spouse or someone else. It's very important to admit your wrongs right away. The more little things abusers get away with, the more big things they will be willing to try. I'm not trying to say that you will become a child abuser, but it is important to you, your kid, and your spouse to admit it when you do something bad, and talk about it. Maybe talk about this together now, before something happens, so you both understand that when these confessions come, they are to be met with love and helpful advice on how to prevent future problems. We all make mistakes, we all do things we regret in parenting. Understanding that, and candidly looking a your mistakes, allowing yourself to forgive yourself and be forgiven by your spouse, and solidifying a game plan for the future will help you so much! Don't wallow in your guilt, don't blame your kids. You should never ever have any kind of variation of "Why do you make me hit you!?" going on in your thoughts. Accept what happened, accept that it sucked, and move past it, and try to do better. Because you CAN, and WILL. Also, be sure to forgive your kids, and let them know that they are forgiven. Help them learn about their mistakes, don't rub them in their faces. Don't bring up past wrongs. Trust me, they remember. Wait until you've calmed down and don't feel the need to berate or lecture. Remember that kids (and adults) all make mistakes, and our goal is to learn from them, make them right, and do better next time, NOT to make people feel really bad about how stupid they were to teach them never to do it again.

--Your children will not be taken away if you admit that you're suffering from depression. The world will not scorn you if you admit that parenting is freakin' hard, and that you need help. Please, please, reach out. Talk to your spouse, parents, friends, doctor, church leaders, or try to Google for resources in your area. Don't compare yourself to others. We all have struggles. We all are fighting a hard battle. For some people it is much less obvious, but that doesn't mean it's not still there. Only compare yourself to you. Some days you will feel like you are stuck and will always be an awful parent. Please, at these times, remember all the little good things you did. There are lots of them. Think about one thing you want to work on tomorrow, and congratulate yourself for your effort and any little achievement. None of will EVER EVER EVER be perfect, but we can be a teeny bit better every day.

--If you have been, or are being abused, please seek help. There are programs all over the world to help people in abusive situations, even if you're told by your abuser that it won't work. You deserve to be loved and treated kindly. Seek out counseling or someone you can trust to talk to. And as hard as it is to comprehend, I can confidently say that peace will be very elusive until you can forgive those that hurt you. It took many years, but I have learned this myself.

Now, I'm not a professional. I'm not an expert. My situation wasn't "that bad," and I know that. But what I want you to know is that hurting kids is BAD, we all can help in little ways that might not seem significant at the time, and that it IS possible to end the cycle of abuse. I still live in fear that my kids will hate me, and that I'm just a really terrible mother. But I also have hope, and a great support system, and the faces of 4 kids that actually love me and each other to inspire me to be better than my ancestors. And, someday, we'll be foster parents, so we can help other kids who have had it much worse than I did to know that they are loved and good worth it.

Email me at colleenamareena (at) gmail (dot) com if there's anything I can do to help or encourage you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival

I finished this quilt a long time ago, and for one reason or another never got around to posting about it. Seeing the Blogger's Quilt Festival going on this week was just the inspiration I needed!

I made this as a baby quilt for my niece Gracie. Heather Ross is my all-time favorite designer, and when she came out with this line, Far Far Away II, a few years ago, I was in love! I was lucky enough to find a bunch of it on sale online a while ago, and stocked up! 

These prints are all a linen-cotton blend, with a nice heavy drape. I thought it would be great for a Fall baby! I love the way this colorway is so vintage-looking, yet so fresh at the same time!

I had a hard time deciding which pattern to use for this quilt. There are so many little scenes and characters, and I didn't want to cut anything off. I finally drafted my own pattern using two different 12" finished blocks. 


There were just enough prints, that at this size there wasn't too much repeat! I'm planning on making a Real Big size quilt with all three colorways for me to keep forever my daughter soon!

The only bad thing about this pattern, and this fabric line honestly, is that in order to have full fussy-cut scenes, there is a lot of waste, especially with the Rapunzel towers. I cut the Owl & Pussycat print two different ways, so that saved a bit of fabric, but I had quite a lot of towers & other scraps that I couldn't bring myself to throw away! Then I remembered Megan's beautiful quilt using my all-time favorite fabric line, also by Heather Ross, Far Far Away 1. So I trimmed my scraps to 2 1/2" x whatever size they already were, arranged them all over my dining room floor, commissioned my husband to figure out the math, added in a bunch of Essex linen in natural, and came up with this:

The binding is also Essex linen. It was the perfect match for the FFA2 in both weight and color. I really hate mixing fabric types, so finding the Essex was great! Binding in linen, and to be honest, quilting with it, is a little bit of a pain. It wasn't horrible by any means, but way more difficult than regular quilting cotton!

I hand quilted it in a light pink Gutermann hand-quilting thread, 1/4" away from each seam. I love how it frames each little square!

My great friend Hilary Reimers took all these pictures for me while our kids played at the park--she is always so awesome and generous and kind, and I love being able to have her as my friend! I think she deserves the "Best Quilt Photography" award, don't you? :)

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : ~36" x 48"
Designed, pieced, and quilted by : me!
Best Category : Baby Quilt, Hand-Quilted Quilt, Favorite Quilt Photographer

Be sure to head over to the Blogger's Quilt Festival to vote and see almost 500 (yes, really!) amazing entries!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Incredible Experience

I want to share with you, and remember for myself, something amazing.

Yesterday was kind of a hard day: it was a day where Scott had a full day of school and then a full day of work, so I was on my own all day. Some creepy guy came up onto our porch and was babbling nonsense right in front of my unlocked glass front door, and freaked me out completely. The afternoon was busy and hard--I'm supposed to be in charge of the pirate costumes for Will's upcoming school opera (The Pirates of Penzance), which involves me having to be in charge of things and call and email people and coordinate things and ask people to do things, and is just way out of my comfort level. Anyway, then my friend Monique randomly called and said, "Can I bring you dinner tonight? Great, I'll be over in about an hour." What? How awesome is that? It was just such a kind and spontaneous thing for her to do, which totally lifted my spirits, made me stop whining to myself about how hard things were going, and totally turned my day around. It also made me feel a little guilty. So many people over the last year have helped us so much, and I haven't really done anything awesome for anyone. I felt like I needed to start looking for opportunities for awesomeness, and be more awesome!

After the kids were in bed, I read this post from an amazing woman who is parenting traumatized kids, and whom I have long admired. She mentions a moment where she was overcome with grief, and then 

"Hearing a very kind voice ask, 'May I hug you?'  I accepted, and received a very thoughtful embrace.  'What are you feeling?'  I explained the loss of my friend and how he died.  Didn't expect to feel as overwhelmed as I was, by the sight of the fire.  This complete stranger asked me questions about my friend and created a space for me to grieve for a few minutes.  J was exactly what I needed at that very moment." 

I didn't think I would ever be courageous enough to do something like that--to get out of my comfort zone in that way, to, in my mind, invade someone's privacy like that. But it would be really good if I could.

Today we went to Park Day, which is honestly just as much fun (if not more so) for me as it is for the kids, because it's the only time I have with my friends. Afterwards I decided to go to the new Chik-Fil-A that just opened up, which is about 20 minutes away. I had to drive on 880, which I really don't like, and was worried about getting lost. Then I started thinking about that story up there again, and said a tiny prayer that I might be able to notice and act if a similar situation arose near me. Finally I got to the corner where Chik-Fil-A was, and as I was stopped at the light, I looked over, and there was a young man doing some seriously awesome stuff with a sign for some new housing development. He had earbuds on, and was throwing and spinning the sign, and smiling like crazy, and sweaty, and waving at people, and he just looked SO happy. I know it sounds simple and just something you might see anywhere, but it just gave me such a fluttering of happiness. Immediately, this video came to my mind. If you haven't watched it, please do. It will seriously make your heart feel so good:

I wanted to thank that young man for making me feel so happy. I wanted to thank him for working hard, smiling, and being so full of joy. When is the last time I did that? Did my very best work at my job, so hard that I got all super sweaty even on a cold cloudy day, and still had a huge smile on my face, still waved at and interacted with those around me? Has there ever ever been a time when someone has seen me doing my "job" of parenting my four kids and had a spark of joy? Because I want there to be. I want people to think, "Wow, look at that lady with all those kids! She must be so busy, but she looks so happy!" instead of "Wow, look at that poor lady with all those kids! She must be so busy and overwhelmed! I feel sorry for her!" I was so inspired by that young man, and I was so grateful for it. Plus, positive reinforcement is the best way to influence desired behaviors, and I want our society to be full of people like that young man, who work hard and are happy. I wanted to do something. I realized that I had some cash in my wallet, which very, very rarely happens. I decided I would go talk to him and give him a couple bucks. I started getting all shaky and sweaty and nervous as soon as I decided this. What if he were just faking it? What if he was really a jerk and would yell at me? What if he was an alcoholic and would just go binge tonight? Then I remembered that video. I wasn't expecting tears or heartfelt prayers of thankfulness, but by this time I had decided that I was hoping for a chance to do something good, a chance arose, and I needed to take it! So after we ate our food, I took my sleeping Max and confused Evy out of the car and walked over to him. I went up to him, and said something along the lines of, "Hey dude, I just wanted to let you know that you totally made my day, and it makes me so happy to see someone working so hard and doing such a good job and looking so happy, and, um, thanks, and, um, can I give you this?" And I shoved the money into his hand, and said "Have a good day man" (yes that was a direct quote--I'm not so great at thinking during anything the least bit confrontational). He said thanks and gave me a big smile, and I walked away. I was still shaking at least 15 minutes afterwards. I wish I had articulated a little better, and looked him in the eye better, and asked his name, and checked out the sign company's name from his shirt and then call them and tell them how great their employee is. But hopefully he understood, from my super-fast nervous little speech, how happy I was to see someone working hard, being good at what they do, and being happy about their work. That's what I hope to be, and what I hope my kids will be when they grow up. And hopefully he felt a little good, and appreciated.