Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Focus focus focus

So, yesterday I was supposed to finish Conner's pillow and the Thanksgiving banner and work on my deep cleaning project. I sewed. I cut and sewed all day. Did I finish Conner's pillow? Did I work on Conner's pillow? No and no. Well sort of. I needed to empty a bobbin so I could fill it with navy blue thread. Did I do that? Yes. It took me hours of sewing to do it. Oh, and I rounded the corners on the front and back. I did nothing on the Thanksgiving banner. Deep cleaning? Ha! I washed the dishes. Period. That was the extent of my housework yesterday. So what did I do? I grabbed a stack of flannel scraps and started a quilt. Just cuz it was the right color to empty that darn spool. That stack of scraps is almost gone. I still have a pile of cut squares and some bits and pieces I can use. And 18 finished blocks and a couple half done. I need at least 24, preferably 30. Why do I do things like this? Yes, it eased the congestion in my flannel bin. And at least I didn't play solitaire all day. But good grief, just six weeks til Christmas, one week before I need to have all the stuff for Keri's family done, 10 days until I need to have my deep cleaning done. And I start another quilt. I don't understand me.

Michele is coming in a few minutes to take some of my Christmas fabric and visit. And talk about machine quilting. I am so not an expert. I have a huge stack of projects waiting to be quilted. Huge. Maybe I can get that figured out with Mom's machine and finish some UFO's. Maybe I should do that in January. In the meantime, I need to finish what I have started recently. And decide who to give the snuggly flannel quilt to. That I didn't plan on making. It would be perfect for Keri, but I don't think she would like it. sigh

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time to get working....

It has been ages since I have posted anything. Time to get back to writing. And other things. This time of year is so busy; so many things to do! I am currently working on Christmas projects and some Thanksgiving decorations.

Have you ever noticed how the stores are filled with decorations for Halloween and Christmas but it's hard to find good Thanksgiving decorations. I am making a banner to celebrate the day that was created to celebrate gratitude. Actually, a second banner. I gave one to Tonya yesterday. They are quick and easy to make and look great, even if I do say so myself.

The Christmas presents are harder with so many to make and a tiny budget this year. I am persevering. hee I have two finished, five if you count holiday hotpads I made for my daughters. One more and the Thanksgiving banner should be finished today. I hope. If I can get focused. Keri's things all need to be finished in about a week so I can send them to Montana with her friend. So, why am I writing and not sewing? Guess I had better pray for focus and get the gears in the sewing machine turning.
Sewing machine...I am so glad I got my mother's sewing machine running again. Richard helped me move it into the family room so I can sew in comfort. We have been using the wood stove in the family room to cut heating costs. Since I turn the furnace off around 10:00 every morning, it gets pretty chilly in my sewing room. Darn chilly. Downright cold. (see what I mean about focus....)

Sewing machine.... with the help of the owner's manual and a sewing machine repair book ($1.00 at a yard sale) I got the old Pfaff Automatic 260 purring like a kitten. Perfect tension, great stitches, and it will sew over just about anything. Yippee!! And I did it myself. If I want fancier stuff like a blanket stitch for appliques or decorative stitching, I head back to my sewing room and use the Babylock. Which is what I should be doing now, adding decorative stitching to a little tote bag I am making. Wait, maybe I should finish that banner and the pillow first. Oh my....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On reading Ivan Doig

October 5, 2006

An old friend of mine, Wallace Stegner, has a list of new Western writers in his book Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, copyright 1992. Of course, I didn’t know the late Mr. Stegner personally, but when you read an author and find you are on similar ground, he or she feels like a friend. I was delighted to find this list. I love book lists. Not only do you have a new list of delights for your own mind, you get a peek into someone else’s mind. I have been sampling his list. One of the first writers on that list is Ivan Doig and it was a name I had heard before. So last time I went to the library I took part of Stegner’s list with me and picked up English Creek by Ivan Doig.

A friend loaned me a copy of one of Mr. Doig’s books several years ago and told me he was a good writer. I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it was the book (which one I don‘t recall) more likely it was me. I went through a long painful time when I had a very difficult time reading. Even when I enjoyed a book immensely, I was likely to put it somewhere with a bookmark in it half way through and forget about it for weeks. Then I would pick it up, look at it, take the bookmark out and put it on the shelf. So I was willing to give Ivan Doig another look.

I just finished English Creek. Oh my. If you grew up in the Mountain West, you know these people. Strong people, sometimes individual to the point of eccentricity. Real people with virtues and vices and vices they called virtues. Good to the bone, though, most of them. Mr. Doig’s writing is beautiful, poetic in places, words to linger over and savor. Some of his characters use “ahem” colorful language, but he doesn’t use four letter words just to be using them and there is line he does not cross. This was an interesting read about strained relationships in a family and among friends. Worth you time.

And I have a new friend. Can’t wait to read another of his books…the only question is which one.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Today I canned salsa

Early September, 2006

Culture runs deep. I came from pioneers who didn’t always know where their next meal was coming from. Any extra garden produce was canned or dried, “put up” for the winter. Both sets of grandparents were poor by today’s standards. Their homes were small, two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom. My maternal grandparents in my earliest memories slept in an alcove off the kitchen; privacy consisted of a curtain that ran along the side of the bed.

My grandparents did not receive welfare. They did what they could and if the money ran out, they ate what they had in the house. Granddad H loved Zoom cereal and ate his fried eggs so black with pepper it was hard to tell the whites from yolk. I remember being surprised after Grandma died at how empty his cupboards were. His cupboard contained a few dishes and glasses, a salt and pepper shaker, the ever present box of Zoom and, on the top shelf, a bottle of whiskey. Sometimes there were a few cans of peaches or beans.

I don’t remember him being sad or worried about this state of affairs. He always reached in his pocket first thing when we arrived and dug out his little leather coin purse. He rummaged around in it until he found a nickel apiece for us and dropped those worn nickels in our outstretched hands with stiff shaky fingers. “Go get a milk nickel,” he would say with a smile. (A milk nickel was a chocolate covered ice cream bar and cost $0.05.) I remember one time Dad asked him how much money he had left. He admitted to giving us much of what he had, he was down to two bits. (for the younger generations...$0.25) Dad chastised him for giving away his last dime, but Granddad just smiled. He was generous to fault and loved to make children happy. Daddy was very careful with his money and I could see that he had some resentment toward his father as he handed him a twenty dollar bill. (That went pretty far in the mid fifties.)

Funny how traits are remembered for good or ill and those memories are passed down through the family. Grandma H was careful and planned ahead. She canned everything she could in the summer to keep her family during the winter. Granddad didn’t plan ahead quite so well. One time when he had been drinking, he invited some of his buddies home and gave them jars of Grandma’s home canned produce. I understand she was not very happy about that. There must have been quite a commotion for the memory of it to have been passed down all these years.

I don’t remember my mother’s mother canning. She came from Holland and her ways in the kitchen were not the same as my mother’s. Mom remembers a time during the depression that her father picked wild apples along the Oregon roadside on his way to work so he "would have something in his stomach". My mother learned most of her cooking from Mrs. Anderson on the ranch she and dad worked on for a bit. Dad cowboyed and Mom helped in the kitchen. Mom wanted to be American and nothing old world stuck.

Mom and Dad were both young during the Depression and took food and food wasting seriously. Though they never said so, I believe they had both gone to bed hungry when times were bad. We were simply not allowed to leave the table until we had eaten everything on our plates. Dad often lectured us on being grateful for what we had. I spent hours at the table one Thanksgiving because the canned asparagras they bought for a treat made me gag.

Mom canned peaches and pears and green tomato relish. She made bright green sweet pickles that were saved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And green tomato mincemeat. Nothing was wasted. Tomatoes and peaches, pears and apples were purchased by the bushel. We were very rarely allowed to eat the peaches and pears fresh, they were to be canned. If we had plenty, Mom would slice and sugar them for dessert. Dad would pour cream or milk if we didn’t have cream on peaches, a habit I have never tried. Apples were kept in wooden bushel baskets in the garage on the wall next to the house. Dad covered them with an old rug to keep them from freezing. The apples were for pies, but we could eat them if we asked first.

So I find myself canning each autumn, a sort of learned reflex, born of having parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who knew times of deep hunger. I know people who love to preserve fresh garden produce, taking great delight in the whole process. I do not love to can. I find myself doing it grumpily, sometimes resentfully, yet I am the one who plants all those tomato plants and all those pepper plants and now tomatillos, too. I go to the orchard and glean peaches and apples after the pickers have finished. Nobody forces me to. It is entirely my own choice. It’s messy and time consuming and tiring, but I cannot imagine not doing it. I must admit that commercially canned peaches have next to nothing in common with home canned peaches. So, for as long as I am able, I will continue this hated yet compelling habit of canning. Today I canned salsa and tomorrow there will be more tomatoes and peppers to pick.

Rinda Fullmer
Copyright 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

What does blogging mean to me?

What does blogging mean to me?

The granola tagged me with this, so here it is.

1. Are you happy/satisfied with your blog’s content and look?

The content I am happy with, or maybe saying that it makes me happy to write the content is more accurate. As for the look…no I am not happy with that. I am not well enough versed in the art of computer graphics to make my blog look the way I would like it to. Blogger doesn’t have enough choices for me. I would also like to figure out how to add pics and links to my blog. As for the sidebars…they are pretty much nonexistent except for the stuff that Blogger puts there. Again, I need to spend some time and learn how to do it all.

2. Does your family know about your blog?

Define family… My husband, who has never yet read my blog, knows about it. My three daughters are the only ones who have ever visited and left comments. I have not told my siblings or my father about it. I guess I should. Maybe I will. Someday.

3. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog? Do you feel it is a private thing?

It’s never come up. I started my blog as a way to send some of my poetry out into the world, but it has turned into a sort of memoir. I take some risks in what I write in my blog, talk about things that have left a deep impression on me that some people I know would be uncomfortable talking about.

4. Did blogging cause positive changes in your thoughts?

Yes. I have found an authentic voice…one that is my own. It has opened the door to memories I thought I had lost forever. Reading other people’s blogs has opened my mind, has given me insight into other points of view, and sparked my desire to write.

5. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or do you love to go and discover more on your own?

I was reading the blogs of those who commented on mine before I had a blog, except for my youngest daughter. I bugged her until she started a blog of her own. I love to read blogs. I usually use one of Granola’s blogs as a jumping off place. She has great blog rolls.

6. What does a visitor counter mean to you? Do you like having one on your blog?

I like having a counter on my eBay auctions. I don’t have one on my blog. I would like that. I just need to be more of a techno babe.

10. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing?

Depends on how it’s done. It’s a frequent thing in the world, but it’s only helpful if it’s done right. Never had any on my blog, so I couldn’t say how I feel about it related to blogging.

11. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them?

No. I am one of the least political people on the planet and I don’t go to political blogs because they don’t interest me. I am not afraid of politics. Several members of my family are very political, including my dear husband. I just get uncomfortable when they rant.

12. Were you shocked by the arrest of some bloggers?

Seems like I heard about it on the news. I wasn’t shocked. I was shocked 10 or 15 years ago when we took classes so we could have foster kids. I had no idea what some children go through. 9/11 shocked me. It takes a lot to shock me these days. I do, however, sometimes get shocked when I walk across a synthetic carpet and touch a door handle. It’s even better when I touch another person, cuz then we are both shocked.

13. What do you think will happen to your blog after you die?

I have started writing it in my word processor, something that took me a bit to figure out. I will make a hard copy, maybe several. It is turning into my life history, a way for my children and grandchildren to know me as a person and not just a mom and grandma.

14. What do you like to hear? What song would you like to link to your blog?

Oh, wouldn’t that be fun!!! I love most music and I would want songs to match the blogs, each one pertaining in some way to theme of the blog. A lot of what I am writing now would need a my favorite rock and roll from the 50's and 60’s in the background.

15. Five bloggers to be the next victims.

I will pass on this one.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Library

The best thing about summer was swimming lessons and the best thing about swimming lessons was the library. The Idaho Falls Municipal Swimming Pool was a short couple of blocks from the Idaho Falls Public Library. Woolworth’s was right around the corner, but that is a discussion for another day. My mother, once out of the house and that close to the library, could often be persuaded to drive the extra couple of blocks to the library. Once I entered those magic doors, the rest of the world fell away. It was just me and a big room full of books. Nobody had to tell me to be quiet. It was quite simply the most wonderful place I had ever been.

Looking back, it wasn’t such a large building. The library was made of purplish red bricks with a wide staircase flanked by imposing white pillars, not a common sight in Southeastern Idaho. The glass doors opened to the wonderful smell of old books and bindings. The bottom floor held tables for studying, the Children’s Section, the nonfiction, and, of course, the check out counter. Upstairs on a balcony that went clear around the building was the adult fiction. When I was in high school I heard about the section under lock and key which was also downstairs, inconveniently located behind the circulation desk.

My library card was pink cardboard with a metal piece on it that held my number. I signed that card when I was six or seven. I could check out any book in the Children’s Section by showing that card. I carried that responsibility with all the dignity my skinny shoulders could muster. I was so careful with the books from the library that the wholesale marking of books I was introduced to in college was shocking, a sacrilege. I walked along the stacks lightly touching the spines of the books. I met Pippi Longstocking and Mary Poppins, Caddie Woodlawn, My Friend Flicka, and Misty of Chincoteague Bay. I read about the Bobsey twins and a horse called Fury and Betsy, Tacey, and Tib. I wandered in The Secret Garden and cried over Black Beauty. The hardest thing about going to the library was choosing. I could only check out two books at a time. During swimming lesson season I would race through the books and go back for more the next day. I learned early on to pick long books for the winter, books I couldn’t get through in a day or two. It was much harder to get Mom to drive us to the library in the winter over the snowy roads. It was also harder to race through a book when I went to school five days a week and had homework as well as household chores.

When I reached the mature age of fourteen, I was allowed into the adult fiction section. That first climb up into the balcony opened new vistas for me. Now I read the Bronte sisters and Jane Austin. I fell in love with Heathcliff and Mr. D’Arcy. I got dreamily lost in the jungles of Green Mansions. I thrilled to the swashbuckling adventure stories like The Count of Monte Cristo. I swallowed authors whole and then went on to cultures. A Tale of Two Cities just naturally led to Les Miserables. When I was sixteen or seventeen I read War and Peace and couldn’t stop reading Russian literature until I had absorbed all the library had to offer. My parents were more than a little concerned about my Russian period, my father worked for the government and the Cold War was in full swing.

I graduated from high school and went to college, where I found that libraries could take up more than one room. Summer vacations I went to the library in Idaho Falls and checked out books to fill coffee breaks and lunch hours and those long summer evenings when I felt stirred up and restless. I married young and moved first to Menan, a tiny farming community, then to Shelley, another dot on the map. I read constantly during my first pregnancy, but not library books. I was too far from the library to check books out when I went to town. I just wasn’t sure when I would get back. I read some of the books on my mother in law’s shelf and reread some of my own books. After my beautiful baby girl was born, I found it even harder to get to the library, so I bought paperbacks. And so it happened that I didn’t get back to that hallowed hall before it was remodeled in the early ‘70s. I have driven by the new Idaho Falls Public Library; now even the new expanded version seems small. Worse, it looks modern. It isn’t the same place at all, although it occupies the same lot. The magic is gone.

Rinda Fullmer (who still loves libraries)
Copyright 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mr. Howell

I lived in a growing community when I was in high school. Lots of baby boomers and lots of government work. We needed another high school, so I went to school from 7:00 to 12:00 noon. The kids who would go to the other school went from 12:30 to 5:30. My last class the year I was a sophomore was English as taught by Mr. Howell.

How he got a job teaching impressionable youngsters in very conservative half Mormon Idaho Falls remains a mystery. He was 35ish, a womanizer, smoked, drank, and had diabetes. The first day of class he stood up and told us he thought grammar was so much bunk and we were on our own if we wanted to learn it. But he would be delighted to teach us literature. He was true to his word. Half the time he either gave us an assignment out of the hated grammar book (which we were then expected to correct ourselves from the teacher’s edition sitting on his desk) and left or didn’t show up at all, sometimes leaving a page number on the blackboard in his ungainly scrawl.

When he was there, and completely present, he taught us more about literature than I learned from many a college prof. It was in his class that I learned that not everything written is as it seems to be on the surface. It was from him I learned the magic words simile, metaphor, symbol. He hated poetry, so we had none of that, but we did go deeply into much of the good modern writing that he loved.

I started to write…not just the phony baloney soap operas that I had been writing to entertain a few of my friends, but long maudlin essays on truth and beauty. I would stand at his desk until all the other students were gone and then I would hand him pages of sophomoric dribble. Mr. Howell would accept them graciously and actually read them. He was a generous reader and told me my essays were refreshing and that he enjoyed reading them. Then we would discuss truth and beauty and symbolism for a few minutes. Just Mr. Howell and me. Those discussions were the jewels of my days. I missed the bus and walked two miles home in the snow for them.

One day I asked Mr. Howell if he would recommend a book for me to read. Oh, heaven! He started rattling off a list of books and authors that I should read. I wrote as fast as I could. I still have that list; it is one of my treasures. Some of my favorite books have been taken from that list. Some of the books I have not yet read, and do not plan to read. If my parents knew that my sophomore English teacher recommended that I read The Last Temptation of Christ (Nikos Kazan…long Greek name) and The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), I am sure they would have had him fired. I have picked up The Last Temptation once or twice and looked at it, but I have not read it. I read The Catcher in the Rye a few years after he recommended it and wondered what all the fuss was about. I didn’t find it particularly good or terribly shocking. I enjoyed Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger) much more. But then there was Crescent Delahanty (Jessamyn West) which I read when I was fifteen, and have reread five or six times as the years have gone by. It’s a different book every time I read it and always a delight.

Mr. Howell told us that sex was always good in a book and suggested that there was sex in the story we had just read. No. No….there was no sex in that book, Mr. Howell, we all said in our own way at the same time. Quite an uproar. He laughed, throwing back his head so his longish blond hair flopped back down on his forehead. When it was quiet, he asked us about the boy and girl who held hands. Yes, but that wasn’t sex we said. That was just holding hands. Fifteen and sixteen year olds know the difference between sex and holding hands. Just ask them…they can tell you. But the desire is there, he told us. The desire is what makes it interesting, is what drives so much of what people do. There may not have been anybody going to bed together in that story, but there certainly was sex. We had to admit he was right. And he still is.

I think someone must have blown the whistle on him. Mr. Howell didn’t teach at the high school the next year. His obituary was in the newspaper before I graduated from high school. Someone found him dead in his apartment. A diabetic coma, the newspaper said. He died alone.

I never got to thank him for teaching me to read. Again.

Rinda Fullmer
Copyright 2006