Friday, August 27, 2010

august 27 - weekly reflection (week #33)

When I moved my mother cross country to be closer to us, I inherited a number of boxes of her stuff which we didn't have time to go through before the move. These boxes sit in our basement guest room and I generally keep that door closed at all times. It had been my goal to sort through them this summer but ... well ... best intentions forgotten in the busyness of summer fun.

I did unpack a number of boxes of her sewing materials and stored them in the empty dressers we also inherited upon her move (we have LOADS of drawer space now.) Needing some embroidery thread to finish one of my projects, I started rooting around the many bags, over-sized metal shortbread tins and tote bags looking for the thread. In a beat-up vintage handbag I found this treasure:

I do not remember my mother doing crewel work when I was little. She did more needlepoint than is probably beneficial for any one house (read: many many pillows will be coming my way) and she taught me so that is what I think of when I consider my mother's crafting days. But this humble little piece - the hoop and needle still in place where she stopped - this one made me pause and then marvel. And my reflection for this week is truly that: I've been thinking all day about my mother's quiet talents, the gifts she secretly cultivated and which she also far too easily let slip away.

My mother also sewed most of her clothes while I was growing up. And at 85, she still comes over to use her singer machine that now sits in my basement. She has altered a number of her pants and skirts in addition to piece work for our family. When I told her I had purchased the DIY dress kit for Cowgirl, she rather shyly said "I could make something for her if you want me to." As I type that, tears come to my eyes as I realize my mother never truly appreciated her talents and I, her daughter, I always took them for granted.

What has been gnawing at my mind all day is the fact that we so often overlook and undervalue the gifts of those closest to us. My husband is a very generous, loyal, thoughtful person but I obsess over the daily tasks he seems to regularly overlook. My mother's talents and skills seem unremarkable because, well, she has always been this way and done those things. I needed to call her about dinner tomorrow night and I so mentioned the crewel work. "Oh that!" She replied. Apparently she had been taking lessons to learn the various stitches. When I informed her it would be a crime not to finish it, she told me "oh, you will find lots of unfinished projects." Apparently there are 2 needlepoint stockings (one for Cowgirl and the other for my brother's youngest daughter) she has started "but I just keep forgetting to do them."

I will not let her forget. And I am doubling my efforts not to leave a legacy of unfinished work - dreams, projects, aspirations - for Cowgirl to sort through. In addition to my mother's love of collecting material, I apparently inherited a curious mind and desire to try lots of new things. I did not inherit her patience (in that regard, I am more like my father, not wanting to bother with all the details) but I am more determined and disciplined than most of my family. I guess I inherited determination from Cowgirl. I hope that will carry through to my making her the dress. And I will be sure to seek my mother's expertise in the project. In fact, I am thinking I would rather she sew me a cute little something to wear.

a project i am needing to keep on top of: a page for The Sketch Book Project. And in keeping with the theme of this post, i want to be sure and acknowledge the inspiration of Kristen's work for this page.

Meanwhile, I continue to think about the other things I may over look and undervalue. What about you? How do we build in time to pause and take in all the gifts that surround us? And then make time to verbally say Wow! and Thank You.


  1. That is beautiful, fine stitch work you have shown. Yes, it's true we so often poo-poo our talents, especially as women. You are doing your mom a service to now appreciate her talents. I think it's wonderful that she is still with you to enjoy and talk about these things.

  2. That truly is a treasure - and so is this post.

  3. What beautiful needlework! I adore handsewn pillows and all needlework. I have dabbled (badly) in embroidery since my grandma taught me two stitches at age nine. I never got good at it but I just love the way handwork clears my mind and relaxes me. I really should start it up again. Like your mother I have a dozen unfinished embroidery projects :). It's funny you should post this because I've been trying to write a post featuring one of those embroidery pieces but just can't get what I want to say right. Maybe later this weekend when I have a little more time to think it through.

    It is funny to think of the things we take for granted in our loved ones. Growing up I never thought much of my mother's artistic talents. she was just always dabbling in some craft or doing some folkart painting but I never really considered it special until recently when I began playing about with art myself. Now I can see how talented she is. The same is true for my Grandma's cooking. I never realized what a good cook she was until I moved far away from her and started craving her special dishes. No one made them like her and sadly she took her secrets to the grave.

  4. A thoughtful post. I think we have simply become so busy and distracted that our minds slip right over the details that are so very important. Too often, we only remember these when the person is gone. My clearest memory of my grandmother is her sitting under a soft light in my living room, mending a hooked rug, her crooked arthritic fingers still able to work the hooks and rags.

  5. What a thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing.
    When my Mom died I so wanted to have something she had made. I had many things from my aunt (her sister) who did rosemaling. But Mom always said she wasn't creative. But I did find a picture that she had done in needlepoint which had been stuck away. So I now have it framed.
    I sometimes wonder what my children will remember of me. What will they want to keep?
    I have discovered the joy of creating - it is for me.

  6. Love this post and so happy to be an inspiration! Yay, yay, yay, that MADE MY DAY! I LOVE THE JOURNAL ENTRY AND COLLAGE!!!!

    This post is very intriguing. I totally relate to becoming numb to the amazing qualities in those that I am around all the time. Good reminder. And also what a great reminder to not sell ourselves short and embrace ourselves and our talents - and finish projects :)

    When I first started reading this I got a little sad because for some reason I jumped to the conclusion early in this post that your mom had passed away. I was so happy and relieved to read on and find out that she hasn't passed away and that you have her to talk to and be close to. What a gift! Her work is beautiful.


    I am loving all the pictures of old sewing stuff. It brings back so many memories of my mom's sewing basket. My mom and grandmother were great at sewing. Me? Uh, not so much :)

  7. Dear Lis-what an amazing gift your mother has!! And thank you so much for sharing this with us! Her work is just stunning...truly. I often wonder,too, about the women in my family ...from past generations...did they have dreams and yearnings, creative outlets and gifts that they ignored, buried, threw away because there was no support and validation. I think of how lucky we are and our daughters more so...where we can nourish and develop our talents and gifts.
    BTW-before I forget...I am SO glad that you bought the dress kit for Cowgirl! aren't they absolutely deliciously cute? I can't wait to see how it turns out-I am sure that you will do a fantastic job and that Cowgirl will love it! hope your artistic retreat was great!I can't believe that Summer is almost gone...I am kind of glad because it has been sweltering over here:)

  8. Oh my word! And this is what you were thinking of packing up and sending to me to complete?!!! Believe me, my skills are not worthy! Absolutely beautiful, and there is such artistry even in the placement of the beautifully coloured blooms. Your mother has great talent, and how marvellous that she can still think of stitching at the age of 85.

    I think a lot about talents. I believe everyone has something wonderful to share, although many may not see those talents in themselves, or may downplay them. It has also been wonderful to see how my sons have each developed and what their talents are, to watch as they stopped doing things because I was choosing and taking them along, and actually started to choose to do what they enjoy.

    I'm also (as you know) deep into trying to finish all my unfinished projects, and am making good progress. It will be SO liberating when I can finally start a project knowing there is only maybe one more on the go...

    Lots of love!