Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last night was one of those nights when things did not go as I had expected. The internet, phone, and cable were out, so some of the things I had planned I couldn't do (post a blog, or look for a vintage embroidery pattern for a napkin special order I need to do). I felted another alpaca bag that I knitted for another special order and it came out totally different from the last one I knitted. It's expensive yarn - not the kind you want to make mistakes with. Dora has been regressing in her potty training - intentionally having "accidents" on our bed - so I had a set of sheets to wash that I hadn't planned to do. At bedtime, she got up three times before staying in bed. The third time, she wandered into the dining room naked, having removed her footed pajamas and pull-up before coming out to tell me she had to go potty.

This morning I woke up exhausted, partly from an interrupted night of sleep due to restless pets, snoring husband, and wakeful baby. As I sat up in bed to put on my glasses, I wondered just how long I can keep this up. I have all these little side projects, a full-time job, a marriage, a child, friendships to maintain, pets to care for, a house that is begging for attention, a partner for my blueberry bush patiently waiting to be planted in the backyard. All of these - for the most part - are things that I enjoy, yet I feel so much chaos and tension with all of them swirling around me that I often feel completely overwhelmed and unsettled. It's not the same kind of obsessive anxiety I have struggled with in the past, but more of an ever-present buzzing, a background noise preventing full focus on any one thing.

I accomplished one thing last night - creating a revised header for the blog, with a grass background for spring and summer. The weathered picnic table at my dad's house will return as the background this fall, because I love that as well, but it felt like time for a little modification, a little brightening up of the welcome to this space. I finished a baby gift for a friend as well, and if I get it in the mail quickly it might actually arrive before the baby does. Of course, we walked the dogs, too, and picked dandelions gone to seed to blow on, and snuggled on the bed. Those little moments felt like time well spent.

Last weekend, Mandy and I had our first market weekend. We were completely set up and ready to go by twenty after seven. Our little table, covered in burlap and decorated with little bottles of spring flowers, looked amazing. We were pleased to discover that no one else at the market had quite the same kinds of things we did. There were two others with textiles but with totally different aesthetics, and no other knitters. We had many visitors, saw old friends, met new ones, chatted with potential customers, basked in many positive and warm comments. I missed our first sale, at the other side of the market buying kale and asparagus. We each sold a few things, and got one special order. We handed out many of our business cards. Neither of us came home with our antique cigar boxes bursting with cash, but we came home wealthier just the same, feeling like we'd accomplished something, started something special that we can both be proud of and enjoy.

I didn't sell a single knitted item, even though I'm much more confident in my knitting skills than in my sewing and embroidery. Perhaps it is the season, perhaps its that my knitted items aren't as lovely as I think they are - I'm not sure. My prized white alpaca clutch was lovingly touched by many - it is very, very soft - but it didn't sell. I went into the market hoping that we each would sell one thing, so I left very happy, but surprised. It hadn't really gone the way I thought it might. That's ok, though - the way it went was still good, just different, unexpected. Perhaps this is the way I should try to feel about everything I do. Just because it isn't what I expect, just because things don't happen right when I want them to or exactly the way I imagined them doesn't mean its not still a good, positive thing. It's easy to get overburdened and distracted by the background noise and the cable being out and the naked toddler sneaking up on you when she's supposed to be in bed. The key is to let the other things - the things that do go well even if unexpected - drown out the other noise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I have been really, really, really busy. We've had family in town, and work has been hectic, and every evening has been filled to the limit with crafting - getting ready for our first market weekend this Saturday. I'm thrilled that Mandy and I were accepted to sell our craft items at the Asheville City Market, but also overwhelmed that the first market date is this Saturday and I have hours and hours of work to do.

I've been so busy that I missed the weeping cherries in bloom on Blue Ridge Avenue. They must have been in bloom for all of 12 hours, because I'm on that street nearly every day - somehow I missed them. I nearly missed my lilac blooming, but caught sight of it tonight when I let the dogs out after work. I made dinner with the kitchen window open, the scent of lilac and spring grass floating into the kitchen.

I made quite possibly the best dinner I've ever made tonight. I don't know why I've never tried it until now, but tonight we had gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, fresh basil, lemon, and butter. It was so delicious. I shouldn't have taken the time to make it, but it was so perfect, so lovely. This summer, I plan on making lots and lots of variations of that dish - gnocchi with asparagus, peas, lemon and tarragon; gnocchi with roasted vegetables; gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce.

After dinner, Dora and I walked the dogs. This was the first night I really noticed all the birds, a loud Mockingbird serenading us as we climbed the hill. I handed Dora a dandelion gone to seed, showed her how to blow on it just right to make the white fluffy seeds float all around us in a cloud. After bath, Dora laid on her bed and looked up at the red woodcut on her wall. "Mama, I see sheep!" she said. I told her that Grandma Carol made that. "For me?" she asked. I told her that Grandma Carol was my mommy. She said, "Carol is your friend?" "Yes" I said, "Carol is my friend". "Ooh, I like Carol" she said. My eyes welled up as I thought of us having our first conversation about my mom. I've told Dora about my mom before, but this is the first time we've actually talked about her. It was very, very sweet and very special.

I am so busy, I should have rushed through tonight - thrown together leftovers, skipped the walk, put off the bath for another night. But we had such a perfect little evening together - beautiful and fragrant and lovely and touching. I could have missed it, just like the weeping cherries. I am so, so glad I did not.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

slip between the sheets

Last week Dora and I traveled around Ohio for my uncle's funeral. We stayed with my in-laws, my beloved Aunt Joanne, and in my childhood home with my dad and his fiance. Each night, in a different bed and with a different bed time, we snuggled up together for sleep. For being dragged all over the state, being asked to sit still during a funeral service, and having no consistency in diet or schedule for 4 days, Dora did incredibly well. She had a few meltdowns but was overall a sweet little angel, breathing softly in the bed next to me, sucking her fingers and holding her night-night close.

I thought about my mother a lot over the weekend. I was in Ohio for her brother's funeral, surrounded by members of her family - people who knew and loved and understood my mother, who miss her in the way that I do, who remember her sense of humor and her personality. It was Easter weekend, a gloriously warm and sunny spring weekend, with daffodils all around - a time of year that my mother loved. As I slipped between the sheets next to little Dora, dwarfed by the big bed, I thought of sharing a bed with my own mom as a kid when we would travel - in hotels, at family members' houses. I have an older brother, and when beds were in short supply I slept with my mom and my brother slept with my dad. It was always such a treat - a special night for just mom and I. She would jokingly tell me not to kick her, but I know now that she probably - at least sometimes - loved those times as much as I did.

At the funeral, my cousin's husband had put together a little book of stories and photographs about Uncle Roger's life. The book included a story about my grandfather, Carl Brady, being one of only two men not laid off from a job at a door and sash company. Each week, Grandpa Brady took five dollars to each of the men who had been laid off. When the stock market crashed and accounts were frozen, my Grandma Brady's father, Charles Albert Keuhn, let Grandpa Brady borrow the money to keep up with the payments. My Grandparents went on to be successful business owners, running a lumber company in Barberton, Ohio for many years.

I hold on to these stories of my mother's family more strongly than I ever have in the past. Much of the genealogy of my family has been researched and established - my mom and her sister have worked for years gathering that information, even traveling through Tennessee and North Carolina with my dad in search of answers. I feel fortunate that those details have been worked out, and it's fascinating to look back at the charts and dates and imagine the lives that have led to my own unique experience. It's the stories that go along with these charts and dates that I hope we don't lose hold of - the details and insignificant moments that could easily get overlooked but that paint a picture of those we have lost in a more vivid, colorful light.

I have often envisioned myself gathering together letters from my mother to try to more clearly understand her experience as a mom. I have already caught a glimpse of some of this through the letters I have found - a letter written when my older brother was just a toddler, into everything and keeping my parents on their toes just like Dora does now; cards sent later to my Grandma Brady, detailing our latest accomplishments and challenges as young adults. Sometimes these notes seem filled with insignificant moments or mundane details, but to see my mother's handwriting, to read her words again - even a to-do list can become priceless, can point to commonalities I would otherwise have no way of knowing.

On Easter Sunday, after church, Dora and I drove south through the sunshine. In West Virginia, the lumbering hills around us were just beginning to turn green. In Virginia, we traveled through bucolic farmland, vibrant green fields dotted with yellow daffodils and forsythia, pink weeping cherries, white Bradford pears. We played "spot the farm animal" and ate raisins. We saw baby lambs, little calves lying in fields with their mamas, a spindly legged sable colt silhouetted with its mother against the Virginia sky. It was such a beautiful, beautiful day, even if spent in the car.

I try to reconnect with my mom now through those old stories, and by staying close with her family, with photos and letters and pure reflection. What I didn't anticipate when I lost my mom is the way we would bump each other in the universe, time compressing between us as we slip between the sheets next to our daughters. Joy and sorrow and love and beauty collapse in on one another, and my mom and I are in the same place even if for just a moment - regarding a lovely spring day hand in hand in hand. When I gave birth to Dora, I felt a connection to all the mothers in my line - united by the transformative power of birth. I did not know then, as I am beginning to see now, that the experience of mothering brings that connection, too. Whether mundane or profound, that is a detail I am so thankful I have noticed, so moved to have experienced. The sun shines on me now just as it did on my mama, even if the clouds are gathering sometimes, even when the day's journey is too long. In that way, in that place and time, we are together again, now and always.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


My uncle Roger, my mom's brother, passed away this week, and I'm headed to Ohio for his funeral. Uncle Roger has two beautiful daughters who are two of the kindest, most compassionate women I have ever met. He also has four wonderful grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and a second great-grandchild on the way. He was my mom's oldest sibling. He lived in Ohio all of his life, but traveled through military service and to spend time with his daughter, a missionary in Ecuador. He loved airplanes, history, woodworking. He and his wife, Erma, were married in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, in 1952.

Rest in peace, Uncle Roger.