slings & arrows

After a brief hospital visit on Saturday, I was discharged home with a directive to make an appointment with my nephrologist, a small bottle of narcotic pain medication, a hole in my arm from IV fluid administration, and relentless attendant nausea and pain. I slept pretty well that evening – eventually – but the last few days have been rough.

In the shower this morning I cough and gag. I have steered clear of the narcotic pain medication as it makes me ill. Instead I load up on ibuprofen; only problem is, I’m supposed to eat when I take this stuff, and the nausea makes food difficult. I struggle some cereal down; hop in the car for my first day back at work..

I had a tidy two months off, and the time flew by. I’m surprised to find myself cheerful as I walk into the little government office where I work. I work with women who function as clerks; today I witness a man trying to bully one. He leaves, then comes back a few minutes later. In the meantime, my coworker has called for a bit of backup. Nothing dangerous but still. Unpleasant. “Ugly behavior,” I say, when he leaves. My coworkers cope with this sort of thing with a lot of dignity. They inspire me, because I’ve been disrespected recently and, even though I behaved myself, it still stings.

It’s beautiful out: stormy, but the sun breaking through now and then. Home from work (then yoga); my partner is searing garlic in a pan. My children are playing at their own enterprises; today was my daughter’s last-ever quiz in Biology so she’s happy. “Pay attention to me!” my son suddenly says, from the couch. He comes over and wraps me in his arms. “I love you. I missed you. Why were you gone so long?”

Why the hell do I give any good goddamn about how anyone else treats me, is what I’m wondering.

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

tea & crumpet sew-along: creating your pattern

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
OK stitchers – let’s get going! Today we are just talking about, and putting together, our dress pattern. Before jumping into creating your pattern, make sure you’ve done your homework. Use the first weeks in March to read and review our supplies post, and watch the videos I recommend there! And if you have any questions, please email or comment! Continue reading

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

tea & crumpet dress sew-along! save the date

Hello you fabulous stitchers! Today I am announcing my April sew-along: a short, very feminine spring dress I have been calling the tea & crumpet!

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
Yes, someone’s been re-living the nineties! This feminine spring dress can also be worn with traditional heels or flats. My second sample of the dress will be a 40s-inspired wool crepe and yes, I will be posting soon!

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
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longing, deprivation, and resentment

how to teach children Manners

Here’s The Problem

When my young children were in an organized playgroup there was a portion of the afternoon’s activities where toys were distributed to the little ones for a play session. The adults handing out the toys would march this toy basket past each child and announce, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!

Now – I am not kidding. The adults would do this when there was literally no cloud on the horizon. They’d say it whether a child had started to express a preference – or not. It was like a mantra.

And as you can imagine, for clever children this very sentence – this very, “I expect you to be a bunch of brats in a minute!” kind of thing – actually inspired some of them to feel anxiety. I mean, it makes sense. They were literally being told they were going to get something – and it wasn’t going to be something they’d like. And for some kids, that has become an all-too familiar and discouraging experience.

longing, deprivation, and resentment “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”

And trust me – the irony of adults telling children not to complain – adults who I noticed did a whole heck of a lot of complaining about their lives while they’d stand around the picnic table – was not lost on me.

We tell children that kind of thing – you know, when we don’t want them to take too many cookies. Meanwhile, we can go out and buy as many cookies as we’d like. No one can stop us. In fact I’ve seen lots of grownups “throw a fit” when the cookies they want aren’t in the store, or cost too much.

“You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”

Catchy rhyme, but – yeah. I’ve never liked that phrase much. As a matter of fact, I don’t like any rude phrase we levy at children to get them to shut up, sit still, or behave. (What makes it rude? The fact we would never, ever want someone to say it to us when we were upset!)

So – I don’t talk to children like that any more. I guess I think more of kids than that. And I guess I must think more of adults too, because here I am (partly by request), writing about a way to do it differently.

Now – this is a little awkward, but I gotta get something out of the way. I can’t write a little editorial here and be All Things to All People. So if you’re somebody who is now thinking something like: “What? You are crazy. The world is entitled enough as it is! Kids today are greedy, loud, and rude! Now we aren’t even allowed to say something like that? That’s just GOOD MANNERS. That’s common sense! Kelly, you are just Political Correctness gone mad!” etc etc – then here’s the deal. I am really happy to engage with you on these topics. Some other time. This piece? Is probably not for you.

But maybe you’re not quite in that place. Maybe you’re not that resentful about life in general. Maybe you’re an adult, a grownup – a teacher or daycare provider or a parent or carer – and you don’t want to talk to kids like that. You’re tired of nagging at them. What you really want to know is, if there is a better way.

Well, guess what? There is!

Here’s Why We Do It

So let’s look at WHY we say this stuff to kids. Because that will help us stop. The reasons are a bit multifacted, but not too complex.

People say this stuff to kids because, first: they don’t want their kids to grow up and be jerks. Or greedy (meaning fat, where food is concerned). Non-parents say this stuff to kids because they don’t want kids to have things nicer than what they had. More about this, in a bit.

Secondly, people say this to kids in an attempt to get their kids to behave so other people think they are good parents (or teachers, or whatever).

Thirdly, people say this stuff to kids because they (weirdly, in a way) want to pre-empt their kids’ pain. No one wants to see a child cry. It is embedded deep within us – yes, even the child-haters out there – the desire to care for them. Trust me – I get it. One time my three year old’s ice cream scoop fell on the floor, and he began to cry. My mother immediately leaned down to his face and said, “Well don’t get upset!” I retorted: “Mom, he’s three. What’s he supposed to be upset about? World Peace?” Like – can my kid have a minute to cry?

Now my mom loves my son – a lot. She was saying that because his discomfort upset her, and she hadn’t learned how to manage her feelings. Because her parents hadn’t helped her when she was little.

Because finally: people say this stuff to kids (shut up, don’t complain, life isn’t fair, etc) because of their own childhoods, where they were treated without courtesy or emotional intelligence. This explains why non-parents, who seemingly don’t have much skin in the game, will say some atrocious things to and about children. Non-parents say this ish as much as parents do.

So let’s talk about why these reasons, are crap reasons.

Don’t want your kid (or some other kid) to grow up to be a jerk? Focus one hundred percent more on yourself. Easy-peasy. Model the behavior you want to see in the world. Whether you are in the grocery store line, in traffic, or at home. Yes, even at home, where you behave the worst. Do better – instead of expecting other (small, vulnerable) people to, just because you can bully them into submission.

Second: caring what other parents, or adults, think of your parenting (or teaching style, or whatever)? Well, you are right! Lots of them are judging! Would it make you feel better if I told you “Don’t worry, the people who judge you are running around thinking unpleasant thoughts about other people all day!”? Because that is the truth. No one likes to be judged – or gossiped about. But are those the people I am going to parent for? No. I’m going to parent for my kid, and for me. I’m going to let those other people have their bad times and I’m going to be kind to them because they probably need some kindness. And no, I don’t have to hang out with them!

Third: you can’t pre-empt a kid’s pain, and it’s rude to try. If you look deep back in your childhood, you won’t appreciate the adults who tried to do this to you. This one is the trickiest of all. Lots of people have a deep-down embedded worldview that Life Is Unpleasant, so we must manufacture ways to teach kids about this; or maybe, when kids discover this, we have to RUSH IN AND TELL THEM, like some kind of insufferable person barging in all the time. Is life unfair? Aw, hell yeah. Are kids going to find this out? Yup! Are we supposed to make it more unfair? I can’t really write more about that than has already been written – here’s a fabulous piece, for instance. As a parenting guru once said – I paraphrase: “Adversity is good for children – but not when organized and created by the person supposed to care for them.”

And before we move on, let’s think about the logical extension of manufacturing unpleasantness for kids. A few years ago a friend of mine told me that my partner and I, and the behavior or our children, was so inspiring it almost made her re-think having children. But she said she never would, because she knew that if she had kids, she’d beat them. See – she herself was beaten, quite a bit. For her own good. She lived in a dangerous neighborhood, and they were poor, and life was scary. Her carers were strict, and violent. To keep her safe. She told me this – that she could never have kids, because she knew she would beat them – with tears in her eyes.

Now – those carers had every “justifiable” reason to beat this child. Should they have?

I’d love you to think on that for a minute. You’re thinking it’s an extreme example. It’s not extreme, in that it’s not rare, and hitting children is little different than using emotional or verbal violence on our children.

We are all complicit.

We need to change.

Here’s How To Change

Each of us needs to ask ourselves: are we responsible to help children, or aren’t we? If we truly want to teach children how to handle unpleasant or awkward social experiences, we should be a little willing to let those unfold a little bit – instead of prematurely rushing in to prevent (and thus inadvertently exacerbate!) these situations. As my friend Hafidha commented on the topic:

Hafidha's comment
It takes discipline, and our own emotional maturity, to do better. The most eye-opening thing about, “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit” – as well as the other things we say – like, “Because I said so!”, “Life’s not fair, get used to it!” and “You need to learn you aren’t the center of the universe!” – is that the adults who say these things are never, when I look at it objectively, adults who are particularly good role models.

We all have problems, it is true. But I have learned to take my parenting advice from the best. Not just anyone who has an opinion. I take my advice on “manners” from children and adults who model grace under pressure. I take my advice from parents who treat their children with respect. I take my advice from people who demonstrate they can speak their mind with directness – and kindness. From people who can disagree without devolving into name-calling or violence. From people who demonstrate empathy – and courtesy.

And “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” – is not an empathetic, nor a courteous, thing to say. 

So how do we “teach” children manners?

We lead by example. (This isn’t a new concept – it is heralded in all the world’s religions, and also is based in scientific study.) Your example will go so much further than you realize – when your child is developmentally ready to emulate it.

We acknowledge that children are people, just like us. It’s pretty unfair to demand a child accept a situation with perfect equanimity when we could hardly do so ourselves. Let’s remember we all know what it feels like to have a huge freak-out – and let’s work on being the adult we’d want helping us when we struggle.

We stick up for vulnerable people being put down. Kids provide the most opportunities to do this. It isn’t that hard. It actually often brings a lot of joy!

We model courtesy toward others. We model this even when we don’t particularly like something that person does, or says, or represents.

We model direct confrontation. We show bravery instead of saying nothing in the moment – then later gossiping or complaining or worse.

We slow down. If we’re feeling frustrated, angry, and upset – we take responsibility for ourselves, and commit to some self-care.

Lots of grownups can’t, or won’t, do these things. Statements like “You get what you get” are merely forms of hazing. If a grownup says this sort of thing it’s most likely the adult doing the hazing is just repeating the behavior she endured. This is what makes the conversation so difficult. The grownups who do this the most, are the least likely to listen to a new approach.

But – that’s Okay. Because you listened. You read until the end of this piece. You can speak up and be kind to children. You can be a Helper – instead of a Shamer. You can work on your own discipline, gratitude, self-control, directness, openness, and grace under fire. Now that? That is the assignment of a lifetime!

And finally: I have a girlfriend who regularly interacts with children – she cares for her children and other people’s children – and in the many hours I’ve spent with her I have never heard her say anything demeaning, belittling, or cruel to a child. As you can imagine, children love her very much. As you can imagine – if you are good at deductive reasoning – children behave really well around her. I like it when I get to hang out with her. She’s a lot more fun than many grownups I know. 

It’s funny how it works out that way.

hurtling toward another muffled week of winter

Work has been hard, as I’ve been feeling ill. Pain comes and goes; today it didn’t start until the afternoon. But it must be taking its toll all day, as I’m considerably less energetic than I’ve come to count on. Now: lying on my back, temples feeling squeezed, lower back a dull ache and fire.

So today I fought to keep it together and to run the household. I’m only half-assing that for the most part. I can’t pay bills right now, so into the little wire basket they go. Sewing up my latest online tutorial, and the low-light in my basement studio and the deep cold (even though I wear a coat) is a deterrent. My kids ask for food and we put something together. My son hugs me – he’s over five foot tall now and will soon be reaching for things on the shelf that I can’t get. His hair still smells like sweet straw. His nose and cheeks still look like boyhood, when I watch him sleeping. Blond hair, caramel skin, against the white of the pillow.

Phoenix, she asks me about when she was born. I hold up my hands and remember how small she was. I remember holding her close. Funny, as the kids still put their arms around me and put their head to my breast. They will never not-remember how that feels, I suppose. I somehow lost that experience with my own parents. I have no memory of seeking them out in that way. Something got broken along the way, I suppose. But I always knew they loved me dearly.

The car has a light on, some kind of engine problem. We had a lovely, lovely person donate Phee’s tuition for this quarter – but soon I will need tuition for Spring. I am frustrated because I can’t seem to get the house in order. But – why should I? We have been down for the count. Ralph has been ill – he is also only a few classes away from earning his Bachelor’s Degree, which is kind of amazing, but it also means he’s working hard. In fact it seems everyone in the family is working hard on their projects. Family life seems never to stay in one spot for long. I am a veteran in that I don’t fear the future like I used to. But the present, the right-now, it seems to slip through my grasp as soon as I try to cling to it.

tryna catch a woman that’s weak

Shortly after I arrive home, the pain begins. It starts as a bit of a pinch, a bit breathless, and as usual I don’t really notice for a bit. But after about a half hour I come into awareness. So now: fright. The pain is rising, clashing, a small crescendo in my lower back – this time, on the left. The pain isn’t the hardest part. It’s the fear. I know how much worse the pain can get. I know it won’t kill me, but pain is my master. Pain like that, anyway.

By the time I am stepping into a hot shower – a futile distraction, a bit of comfort to my bones while my body runs riot and S-H-O-U-T-S! at me from the very within – by that time my hands are trembling. I am in a state of heightened awareness, of stillness. It has been about fifteen months since I’ve entered the hospital. I hope to stay out, tonight.

Out of the shower and I shakily dress myself. A hot pad for my lower back. I am shaking too much to type or text. I lie in the bed and gently rock back and forth, and shake. But maybe it won’t get worse. 

And this time, it doesn’t.

Today some good things happened.

– watching my son shoot baskets, dribble the basketball, his lanky frame looking more and more like his father, the man I met when he was a boy

– sitting next to my mom on the bleachers and trying to tell her about a film I recently watched. And singing, “Across 110th Street” to remind her

– my daughter showing me things that make her laugh, and make her angry, on her phone. My daughter climbing into bed with me tonight while I suffered, and telling me she wouldn’t leave my side until the pain was gone

– my husband at the oven, baking hot pita bread, and washing his hands then coming close to hold me

– the moon tonight on a drive on the beach Highway… lonesome and cold and bright as a beacon

hurt feelings

In the car, and a cup of coffee by my side, and my on just a little further away. And he says, “Mama – is that a dove, or just a pigeon?” 

I look up, “Oh… Oh Nels, it is a mourning dove!” because the morning is bright and beautiful and so is the bird. And then I look at him, and he looks at me out the side of his eyes, and he smiles. We are both so happy.

I turn down the hill – we’re heading off to a swim date – and I say, “… why’d you say ‘just a pigeon’? Poor pigeons!” 

He responds: “Because they’re common.”

I look at him again. Now his smile is sly.

“I hope no pigeon heard me say that.”

***

At arts and crafts, my son makes me a Valentines Day flower from paper, bubblegum pink on a green stem The instructor is impressed – Nels has remembered how to fold a tulip from a year ago, when he went ot public school. He gives me the flower – “For Valentines Day!” and I see a dark-skinned, slender youth cuts eyes and smiles a little at us.

Life has been just a bit hard, as Ralph has been sick. I’ve twice the housework but I’m not feeling so grand myself. So many of my little plans, they’ve been put aside.

It’s OK, though. I’ve got my little son at my side. My daughter puts her hand in mine. They’re growing older, but they don’t forget their love for their mama!

maxi dress sew-along: cutting and marking

Welcome back to our sew-along! Today we will be cutting our fabrics and marking them. It’s a lot of work, and some people dislike cutting. I, however, enjoy it quite a bit! It is a good time to familiarize myself with the pattern I’m about to create.

First, we need to prepare our pattern a bit more. For instance: I am installing a zipper in the back, and although 3/8″ is perfectly adequate for a zipper installation and, in fact, would mean the seam allowances would be entirely hidden by the zipper tape, I am going to advocate for a larger seam allowance to show off our flat-lining technique. This means we will be cutting the fashion fabric with a 1″ seam allowance at the back seam only; we will cut our lining pieces somewhat larger still in order to flat-line. I am going to be adorable and actually show you how to draft for the flat-lined pieces here, too!

So first: the bodice pieces, fashion fabric:

Now: the bodice pieces, for the underlining:

More About Plaids

more about plaids!

More About Plaids
First: if you are just finding my site, please do join up with me at Bespoke/Hogaboom. This is the best way to reach me, as comments close on old blog posts!

So! Today one of my online sewing groups is finishing up a shirtmaking module as helmed by David Page Coffin, shirtmaker extraordinaire and author of two shirt construction books (here, and here).  I finished my version of a menswear shirt several days ago, and yesterday took a few pictures (OK more like a dozen). I also wanted to drop a few plaid-sewing tips here as I find myself more and more excited about working with plaids; you can read a bit more about the pattern in my pattern review.

More About Plaids
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his name was always “Buddy”!

I am exhausted. I’ve been working hard. I’ve been helping others. I’m right at that point where I might have to rest a bit more. Just for a while.

I’ve moved to veganism. My body – about a year into vegetarianism – is once again making a shift, an adjustment. I feel – as I have before – sluggish, slow. I take a great comfort in the friends who are supportive and loving, and who understand that for me this is a big life change.

I try not to talk overmuch about the change – but think on the reciprocal, as I am constantly surrounded by people talking about and consuming meat and dairy, and often offering it to me as well. As when a co-worker said to me on Friday: “Chicken pot pie – doesn’t that sound good?” I smiled and answered, “Not to me!” because that seemed the most honest. I swear the foods we eat can be as divisive as the religious rituals we practice or forgo.

Tonight – my son is crying, upset at something I said. I coax him down the stairs, promising an apology and a hug. He has never in his life been able to resist these things, I suspect because he so earnestly wants peace between us restored. But he is angry, so: he backs down the steps. When I hold him in my arms he tells me he loves me so much. I feel the same. He is getting taller.

Will he still hold me close even when he’s larger than I?

My daughter and I are up nights studying her large textbook. She seems thrilled to acquire formal knowledge; the first time we’ve openly shared this love between us. I am brought back to my early years myself, although of course her class materials are much more dense than they were when I was her age. We make little jokes and we watch YouTube films helping us with the concepts: protein transport and tagging in the Golgi Apparatus; ribosomal synthesis; microtubule components of the cytoskeleton. Her body slides close to me and we study together. Several pages a night; likely part of my exhaustion.

Tonight after a shower the house is settling; the pets have had their last meal. A few cookies and some almond milk and then together making a night as a family.