Today? We bust out our zip-fly! (or, if you want to try something from my archives – a button fly!)
Day three of our stretch jean sew-along! We’ve assembled our supplies, then cut and marked our pattern. Today we get to stitching, with our front pockets. You know what’s super-cool about these pockets? They are abso-fricken-lutely gorgeous! They are made with pocket stays (you will not want to make a trouser without them, after today!), hand-set rivets, and a french-seamed finish!
Before we start, I can tell you a little about my sew-alongs. They are relatively detailed, and talk quite a bit about construction theory and tailoring values. They aren’t especially “cookie-cutter” sew-alongs and you may find the posts a bit longer than typical offerings. That said, I have had many satisfied “customers” (I don’t charge for these, or use ads or affiliate links) tell me they learned so much from these posts. Comments like this keep me motivated to be as detailed as possible!
Let’s get started!
I’m holding a little tin chip in my hand. “6 months”. A little green coin, a trinket. I have it sequestered for a new friend, who’s asked I sponsor her in her sobriety. When the time comes for announcements in the group I introduce myself, say her name, stand up to bestow this little chip on her. Her face pulls down and she is crying, gratitude. We meet halfway and I hold her close and give her a hug because she is precious. I am honored she shares with me. I am delighted to see her.
Somehow this love was installed in my body and it flows without end every single day. My heart lights up when I see people. I am less angry. I find myself searching the hardened faces at the grocery store. I find my heart cracked into a million little fragments, and light flows through.
Yet there have always been impediments to the experience of love and lately those seem to be financial. My dog is ill and needs a $950 operation. My own medical bills have piled up with, what looks like some degree of mishandling from my urologist. Our home needs some proactive work (re-sealing the deck, repainting, and moss cleanup on the roof), and I’d hoped to fix an attic space into a livable one to better outfit my daughter with a study space for her colelge year. In trying to work a bit more, I’ve had the work of teaching the children how to run the household. Despite their willingness and general competence, this is taking a little time. I’ve had an influx of jobs lately, and I’m behind. I’m not angry about this, just surprised how much I’m struggling with the changes.
And when I set those worries aside I can take a few steps and enjoy the goodness I have. I can hold my daughter’s hand in mine. I can laugh at the kitty clawing at my window screen and gently remove her, instead of feeling angry. I can move on from conversations full of hate and misunderstanding. I am starting to speak up a little more. A little more directness.
Tonight my friend, my “6 months” friend, is in my heart. She has shown more vulnerability and sweetness – and smarts – than so many I’ve et. And I’m thinking of how the world is full of scorn and derision for those addicted. But those who are addicted have a bravery that few people can grasp.
This last week my son took care of kittens at a friend’s, while the family was on vacation. Tonight was his last night “on duty”, so the four of us travelled up the hill to help – I, to play with the kittens while my son cleaned their litter boxes. My daughter drove the BMW with Ralph as passenger; Nels and I walked so Hutch could get a walk too.
It’s a steep trip, and for me a slow one. The summer night air is balmy and gorgeous; I can feel at the edges of my restlessness and know I am working too hard, too much. I am not slowing down to enjoy all that I can. I have dozens of bills – medical bills, veterinary bills, and household bills – and I’m letting these things creep into my mind. They’re my responsibility, true enough, but somehow it’s twisted and they occupy my head.
My children, though, still have the right sense of proportion about things. My daughter picks a cornflower before dinner – she is thrilled when I put it behind my ear, peeking out from beneath my head wrap. At dinner, in the booth of an Italian restaurant, she triumphantly slides in next to me than comes in close and holds my hand, her fingers wrapped around mine. I am often stunned how this little daughter, who was a blonde little thing with beetled-eyebrows and a sharp voice, has turned into this lovely bloom, this slender reed. A strong woman and a gorgeous one; a fierce and compassionate bloom.
At home my sewing studio is well-organized. I am halfway through a project today; I hang up my rulers and click my scissors onto their magnetic storage bar. I open the door to my son’s little computer room. He’s curled up on his chair, gaming. He is eating popcorn from a paper bag and his little bundled body in a too-loose striped shirt fills me with an inexplicable surge of affection. “Get dressed – we’re off to dinner,” I tell him. “‘kay,” he responds, his eyes on the screen, his hand reaching out for me. The kids are always hugging, reaching out for me, holding me, kissing me. My most profound blessings.
Later, on the walk down from our last kitten night – the family returned home while we were there, so we got to exchange warm salutations – I tell my son about tonight’s meteor shower – the Perseids. He is as joyful as if he’s never seen a meteor shower before, smiling and looking up, his hair shining blue-white in the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I think to myself I want to feel the way they feel, I want to see the world the way they do. I want to know I’m as beautiful as they see me. I want to return to that Place they inhabit. As long as they walk beside me I know there’s a chance I can.
A cardboard box filled with kraft paper; I remove gifts, setting them on the counter. Wrapped in tissue: findings from another sea. Teas, candied ginger. A paper-wrapped parcel of fine chocolate. Two bolts of sumptuous flannel fabric – a pea green plaid, a yellow plaid. Set aside and I run my hands over them each; fine robes for Christmas.
A wooden box, masterfully if plainly constructed, with a fire-branded logo. A note. And opening the box: a plastic shark. I recognize it as nearly identical to the one my children used to play with in the bath.
Then when I call my brother – to thank him and his wife, for the package – he laughs about the shark. “Do you recognize it?” I am confused for a moment. He can’t mean my children’s toy, as he never gave them baths and wasn’t there when they were small.
He says, “It’s just like the one I gave you a black eye with!” He is gleeful.
I am thinking, Oh that’s right. A childhood fight – we were still living in the bus, so I was seven years old or younger. I am set back for a moment. I am blinking at the road ahead, the phone on speaker in my lap.
What I say is: “That’s the only black eye I’ve ever had.” But now I’m thinking of a man who beat me. He never gave me a black eye. I think when you’ve been terrorized it can come to you, visit at any time. On a sunny day, in a lighthearted laugh with your brother.
The shark is now installed in my bathroom, hovering above the glass bar lighting fixture. I cooked and cleaned today, instead of leaving it for my children and spouse. I am coming out of a state of living where I was caring for the children, the home. We are moving and growing; I am working more, and the children are learning how to run a home. They are willing participants, and they are strong.
Yesterday they waited at a bus stop and went to the dentist. The children were gloomy; I woke them up and scolded them when they did not do housework quickly enough. We sat in the living room and we talked about the challenges in the household now that I work. The children listened, and ate the simple breakfast I made – creamed wheat, coconut oil, brown sugar. They put the dishes in the sink and I cleaned the kitchen after they left, then moved to the studio to finish my work.
After their appointments, my mother returned them home – food in hand, of course. They quite circumspectly did not eat hot foods for a couple hours, as the hygienist warned them off. Once they were home we piled in the car and off to the beach; meeting with a new friend who was visiting from inland. I realized well into the meeting that I hadn’t taken a break for quite some time.
After a coffee date, we two women and our four children climbed the jetty down to a little partitioned beach. We showed the visiting girls the tidepools: anemone, barnacles, limpets, chitons, starfish – and the little crabs under any rock you overturn. Every size – from a pinhead to a few inches across, and every manner of color: white, blues, greens, deep purples. The anenomes we instructed – you could touch them. Be gentle! They are gentle to you.
I know I live in a beautiful place. I never forget it. But I don’t often see it as it can be seen to visitors. That itself, was quite a blessing.
When I was thirteen, one evening during a week-long family reunion we went out as a crew to a drive-in theater. I remember what was showing – Bird on a Wire and Arachnophobia. (Great drive-in fare – and not films I’ve felt compelled to revisit later, either!)
The adults in the family smuggled us in. My brother, sister, a few cousins – we hid in the back of a pickup. The adults were probably half-lit, or at least they hadn’t thought it through. We underpaid, pulled into our spot, and everyone tumbled out. At that point the wary drive-in employees – probably teenagers themselves – came over and required payment for all attendees. I seem to remember it was a very near thing – we almost didn’t have enough. I remember we weren’t able to get snacks for the films. I remember worrying about this. Because I was a kid, and the adults in my life didn’t have their act together.
Today I wonder at my parents, aunts, uncles – that they could be okay with this sort of behavior. It isn’t that they were full of avarice or greed. My family was always the generous sort, and very kind. But I suppose like most other families, their morality was relative. They didn’t care too much about other people, when they wanted what they wanted. Most people behave like that at one time or another.
I’ve tried to raise my children differently. I never wanted them to see me take advantage. I didn’t want them to learn that way of life. Not just because it isn’t kind, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to others. But because it’s a scraping way to live – always thinking of the next grift, hoping for a rescue, hoping to not have to be responsible for one’s share. Hoping things go my way. Feeling “cheated” when Life Happens. An acquaintance the other day – who found a large amount of currency but didn’t get to keep it – because someone else saw them pick it up. And the thing is, for just one moment (or maybe longer) this person thought that money SHOULD be theirs. Because they live life thinking they don’t have enough. Scarcity. It becomes a way of life if you’re not careful.
I don’t want to have that mind. I don’t want to grasp. I don’t want to live in a fearful state, if I can help it.
Today my neighbor shouted at me, as I walked to my car. When I went to see what the matter was, they seemed very upset. They told me our cats had been climbing on their (new) car, and had made muddy pawprints and scratched the paint. I listened, and responded with feeling – “Wow – that sucks.” They talked a little longer – angry, but not telling me anything new.
I told them, I am open to your suggestions.
To my surprise, this person had none. They hinted they would “make” me pay for a new paint job on their car, and take pictures of our cats. (I’m not sure why they wanted to do that, except they seemed determined to have a fight.)
They then told me my daughter had been rude.
This, perhaps, is the only moment I felt my own anger rise. My daughter is unfailingly courteous, and conducts herself with a calm that adults sometimes find threatening. My neighbor was obviously upset and resentful, and had allowed adrenaline and rage to get the better of their faculties.
I held my tongue at this slight against Phoenix, though, while I made sure to listen. Not to argue. I thought of the ten cats or so that aren’t ours, who roam the neighborhood. The ones who climb on our cars, and run around under the deck doing cat-things, and scratch up our stairwell, and kill little birds and voles. I thought to myself what my mind would be like, if I were to get angry about all this and try to find these neighbors out and shout at them. I thought of “townie” life – a neighbor on one side with a sad, neglected dog who cries out during the day. A neighbor on the other who lets their dog wander around urinating and defecating in the neighborhood.
I thought, What would it be like if I were angry about all these things?
I thought, What if I cared about something like a car more than my responsibility to all living creatures?
So, yeah. I can’t help my neighbor much. I let them know I would not consider it rude if they were to make their grounds less hospitable – to shoo the cats. In a neighborhood full of cats as ours is, perhaps a car cover or parking in the garage might be an intelligent solution. I did not share this thought, as it seemed my neighbor wasn’t ready to move past their anger, not at this time.
One thing I thought of: we can keep our cats indoors. I wouldn’t do this just based on someone else’s car, but we had been discussing already for other reasons. In fact, Phoenix and I had been talking about it this morning! So, when I went back over to my neighbor’s later in the day, I expressed my desire to have a harmonious relationship while we lived near one another, and my hope an indoor cat solution might work for all of us (note: they hardly seemed mollified at this offering).
But, I said – “I’m not sure that will solve your problem.”
Because I can’t really solve my neighbor’s problem. Not their real problem.
But I am glad I don’t have problems like that, myself.
Can you believe it? We’re up for another sew-along in just a couple weeks! (Reminder: all my sew-alongs are cataloged here!)
Because – there really are a heck of a lot of reasons for you to make your own jeans!
Want to join us? Sign up to join (after you enter your email address, simply read on)! You will receive six emails in all. Easy-peasy:
For this super-awesome sew-along, we are going to do something scary – design our own custom jeans! The sew-along launches on August 15th, for my mom’s 67th birthday (mom jeans! wooooo! and always on trend!)
And let me tell you a little secret. When people compliment your jeans, and you say, “Thanks! I made them!” – nothing will be so fabulous.
Today was white-knuckle ugly. It seemed everywhere I turned there was something to try my patience – starting with the morning’s discovery that our little kitty Herbert Pocket got into a bowl of popcorn and later vomited about twelve large piles throughout the kitchen, bathroom, and hall.
It went a bit downhill from there.
But there are those little things.
My kids were happy and healthy. I was tired this morning, but I made them a good breakfast. We sat together at the kitchen table. They hugged me a lot.
I did the things I was supposed to do. I put aside things I wanted, in order to help a few others.
I breathed deep while waiting at the doctor’s, instead of playing on my phone. I practiced Stillness.
I hosted a few people even though I was tired.
My children were glorious, lovely individuals; and I’ve had some influence making that a reality.
I let someone be kind to me, and I let myself be entirely unguarded.
I crept into bed with my husband and he held me close for a bit and we talked about our day.
So today kind of got the best of me.
But tomorrow is another day.
Some readers won’t appreciate it, and I am sad for that, but this is the only visual I’m comfortable sharing from my recent illness. It took a few days to realize how seriously sick I was. The dehydration and infection really set me back. My husband helped me by carefully monitoring my medications and helping me take them. As soon as the antibiotics kicked in, I felt a little better. When the stent was removed, I was better still.
I am doing very well indeed these last few days, but I am sad too. It only took a few days to bring me so incredibly low. It’s a hard place to be. I fled my Buddhist practice during those very dark, very painful times. I could only show restraint in the way I communicated – and even then, I grew sharp. My husband came home later than I’d thought he would (should?) and I shouted, “Where have you been?!” I was doubled over in pain and very frightened. I felt very helpless.
I somehow recovered and then I jumped right into work.
So I am working again, and I am glad. But for these ten minutes I can admit, briefly, I would like to be able to rest a bit more. Can I do it? Will I let myself? Or do I just need to admit my weakness for a bit?
I want to be spoiled. I want hot chocolate chip cookies. I want an Aster & Bay face scrub. I want the hummingbirds to visit more often. I want a kitten to cuddle. I want a vacation I don’t have to pay for. I want dinner brought to our home, and to stay in bed. I want someone else to clean up my desk. I want the yard weeded and the deck lights strung instead of telling my husband to do it. I want to wake up tomorrow and have someone make me a pile of hot waffles.
But instead I settle for writing a bit. For taking a hot shower, and dressing in my soft pajamas. My daughter spends an hour with me before bed, holding one another and talking about our day. About our lives (“You’re a good role model to everyone around you,” she tells me). About our aspirations – for now, for the summer, for life.
She is off to bed, then my son joins me. He’s put the kitchen in order, and then readied for bed. His face is bright and keen from the evening’s wash. Sleep comes, for all of us, and soon. I’m tired enough I think I won’t stay up much longer. Just enough to write a bit, and then another night in our home, safe for now, and ready for respite.