Friday, November 19, 2010

Oysters and Pearls

I pick Graham up after school every day, and I've always loved that luxury. I get to hear about the day while it's still fresh in his mind.

Yesterday he was upset, because his classmates and teacher were angry at him in math class. During an electronic math game, he didn't work his math problems quickly enough, and so his class didn't beat the other class. The electronic nature of the game meant Graham's answers could have remained anonymous, but the teacher indicated it was Graham and then called him a name. Graham became teary while telling me the story, and then I did, too.

I mulled it over last night, and remembered what it was like to get in trouble in school (especially in front of my peers). I was an excellent student, but took any mistake of mine and brooded on it, often for years.

In third grade, I accidentally tripped my teacher Mrs. Stern (yes, her real name.) We were walking to gym class, and I was first in line behind the teacher. The girl next in line bumped into me, and I tripped forward, causing the 70-something-year-old Mrs. Stern to go crashing down onto the linoleum. She didn't get hurt, but I quickly went from being Teacher's Pet to Enemy Number One. She stood by my desk that afternoon, tapping on it with her long fingers, saying she had told us many times not to walk so close behind her. I felt completely ashamed, and after that, she was wary of me.

That quarter, I got an S-minus in "Listens to and follows directions."

I never told anyone at home about it, but this was one of those moments that burrowed into my head and didn't come out for years. I watered and cared for a few other similar situations to punish myself with whenever I was feeling anxious or sad. At the time, it made me feel like I was probably a bad person.

So this morning on the way to school, I said: Graham, let me tell you something.

A teacher's job is very difficult and stressful. And I would guess most teachers go into teaching to help all of the students, not just the ones for whom school is easy. When you were having trouble in math yesterday, your class was frustrated, and so was your teacher. But she should not have done what she did. Everybody makes mistakes, even teachers, and she made one yesterday. You need to forgive her for that.

Don't let what happened continue to bother you anymore. I used to beat myself up over little things I did wrong, for years. For years, Graham. And that's ridiculous. You're going to make mistakes, just like I did. Just like everyone does, and you have to let them go.

I've come to think of it like this, Graham. Do you know what an oyster does when it gets a little piece of sand inside?

"Yeah," he said. "It makes a pearl."

Well, I said, it does make a pearl. But instead of spitting that piece of sand out, an oyster keeps the sand, and adds to it, and adds to it, trying to make it smoother and feel better. In reality, it just keeps making it bigger and bigger. And we do that, too, with worries. We keep them inside and work on them, and they get bigger than they need to be. Just spit them out, Graham. Does that make sense?

He thought a moment. "You know," he said, "that's a very good analogy."

Do you feel better? I asked.

"A little," he said.

I still have times where I let myself or someone else down. I'm not perfect. But I know those moments don't define me. And instead of sucking on those moments, I just forgive myself. Then I spit them out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Farewell, friend

Yesterday we said a very premature farewell to Harrison's cat, Abigail. He adopted her from our local shelter early this year, and she was a beautiful cat. She was, Southern Pines thought, about one year old when she was pulled off the streets, and I'm sure she had some cold months before finding the warmth and security of the shelter of the ... well, shelter.

In August (in fact, the day this picture was taken) I came home from work to find Abigail with two different-sized very large, and one small. I rushed her to the vet, who looked her over, did some tests, and sent us home with some medication for a possible eye infection (although neither one of us thought that's what she had.)

Over time, our poor Babs became incontinent, lost her appetite, became constipated, had a few seizures, and eventually had lost so much weight she was becoming weak and wobbly. We took her to the vet again yesterday morning (Steve and I), and he said we had run out of treatments (we had tried a bunch.) Dr. Ricks told us she was on that terrible downward slide toward death, and if we let her, she'd survive until she was just bones and skin. That's not much of a life. We decided there and then for a peaceful end for her. The doctor is convinced she had either a neurological disorder or a brain tumor, uncommon in cats, but not unheard of.

We held her while she became drowsy from the sedative, and the doctor took her from us. She is being buried on a farm near town here. I tell myself that she was lucky to have had time with a family -- the warmth of sunny windows, companionship of other cat friends, good food and table treats, cozy laps and gentle brushings. And while I try to take solace in the ten months or so we had with just doesn't seem like enough.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Introducing Miss Ann Grant

Here she is ... Ann Grant's lovely sampler from 1829. This sweet girl was just ten when she stitched this massive piece. It's about 21 inches by 22 inches and stitched in wools on a 28 count linen. You can click on the picture to see it a little larger. Here is what the verse says:

In the soft season of thy youth
In natures smiling bloom
Ere age arrive and trembling wait
Its summons to the tomb

Remember your creator God
For him your powers employ
Make him your fear your love your hope
Your confidence and joy

Ann Grant worked this sampler in the
10th year of her age 1829

It's always fun for me to reproduce a sampler on the computer, because I can really see the piece come to life. Areas that are faded suddenly stand out. Patches that are worn or missing show back up in the graph, and it's such a joy to see how the original looked when it was new.

I bought this sampler from -- I've purchased a number of samplers from this United Kingdom supplier. I hadn't really been looking for a new/old sampler to buy, but found this sampler one morning on their site and immediately claimed it. There are a few things that drew me to this sampler.

First, the colors are lovely. Any time there is red in a sampler, I am immediately interested. There's something about the color red that just makes art look alive. And red when combined with pinks and putty-beiges just knocks me out.

The house is fabulous -- I love that it's 3-dimensional (you can see the front and the right side.) Four chimneys. A 3-dimensional lawn, too, which is slightly unusual (the fence wraps around the left, you see.) My husband said he really likes the tree, which is big and over-flowing with flowers, leaves and birds. There are butterflies, birds, a dog, a fancy peacock, a few moths, a parrot, a rabbit, and a TINY man to the left of the tree.

There's also something about those three dividing bands around the verse I really enjoy. It's unusual ... striped berries and some leafy stars. They'd make great designs for banding around a basket.

Since I have the border finished, I can also tell you that this piece was stitched on a slightly unevenweave fabric. The sampler is almost square, but the piece, when stitched on evenweave linen, will be taller and thinner than the original.

I wanted to share a picture, because I know you guys enjoy seeing what's next on the agenda. The plan is for this one to be released in time for Nashville Market in February. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek!