Monday, December 31, 2012

A Happiness Project

I get very introspective/contemplative/pensive on New Year's Eve.

It gives me an excuse to sit around and do nothing while claiming to be "thinking" and "writing".

I think about what I have done, what I have learned, what I need to do, what I can do better.

And for the first time in a long time I feel pretty happy about things.  Oh, I still have a long way to go, and can make a long list of the things I can do better -- I still can't play a stringed instrument, I'm still not organized, I don't blog every day and my butt is still the same size it was last December 31st.

I need to send more cards and letters.  I need to visit those who need a visit.  I need to walk more, enhance my yoga practice (read:  start), eat more fruits and vegetables, work for peace, completely boycott Wal-Mart and avoid all drive-thru restaurants (except for Starbucks.  I'm not a saint.)

I need to appreciate who I am and what I do best.
In 2012 (ie, today) I learned/realized that what I do best is make people happy.

I make people happy when I teach them something new.
I make people happy when I play the piano with my wacky and inaccurate enthusiasm.
I make people happy when I blog.  Here you go, friends -- now be happy.
I make people happy when I make them something -- cookies, a blanket, supper.
I make people happy when I listen to them.
I make people happy when I show up.  (Now, I know this sounds pompous, but every Sunday when I walk through the doors at Our Lady of Providence and Pat Burton greets me with a hug and an "I'm so glad you're here," I know I have made him happy.  Showing up and being present is a great gift.)

Making people happy makes me happy.  So, I'll close with one happy story.

Last month, as Clay and I were laughing and talking about 30 years of marriage, I made a off-hand "promise" that in the next 30 years, I would never get mad at him again.
With one month down, I am happy to report I have kept that vow.

It should be noted that: A) he is pretty terrific; B) he works hard at keeping me happy and rarely gets mad at me; C) our children are all grown up and therefore we don't have all those parenting differences/arguments; D) we are both a lot wiser, more appreciative and more patient with each other than we were in 1982.

(Here is an amazing thing.  I just tried to list the things that made me angry in the past, and each thing I typed seemed small, petty and not worth getting mad at in the first place.  Ahh.  Enlightenment is lovely.)

And here is another amazing thing.  These past 30 days -- despite the holiday and everyday stresses -- have been some of the best days I can remember.  I joked with Clay that on November 29, 2042 (the day after our 60th Anniversary) I was looking forward to really getting mad at him.

I think, instead, I'm looking forward to looking back on the best 30 years I can remember.

Peace.  And happiness.

PS  Have you read this book?  You should.  And follow her, here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Few Random Things

When you don't blog for a while, you have a lot to catch up on.  So here you go:

Random loot from India.  Look at that yarn!  Clay has a very interesting story to go along with this yarn, and if he would blog about his adventures, I would link to it here.  (Hint, hint.)

Psi Otes had a crafty fall social/brunch -- we made ornaments, treats and cards for the patrons of our Community Diner, and we served dinner there on December 17.  At this table, the girls were putting together snowman chocolate bars, complete with little hats and scarves:

We also made paper ornaments and fancy balls with glitter and floor polish!

Stockings for Brittany and family:

From gingerbread house day (this one is Tommy's):

And a sweet and rare picture of Zoe, because you know she hates the camera:


Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Little Sewing Tutorial - Advent Calendars

 Advent calendars are a happy memory.  In our Christmas boxes, I have kept calendars from many years -- a Hallmark version, a Tomie dePaola calendar, one from Germany.  The little windows are all permanently folded open and they look pretty raggedy, but I could never throw them away.  On the Antiques Roadshow, they call old paper things like this "ephemera"  --   so much classier than "old paper things."

This year, I made several Advent calendars.   It all started with this:
I wanted to make something nice for a chili supper/auction a friend was organizing, and since it was in late November, thought an Advent calendar would be a fine idea.

I already had most everything I needed, having just purchased some wool felt in beautiful colors from BenzieBazaar on Etsy.  

I used this pattern from Skip To My Lou for inspiration, and put a Bible verse, a chocolate and a suggestion for something fun to do that day in each little felt envelope:

Then I cut out circles of brown cardstock and little larger circles of scrapbook paper, punched them and tied each envelope closed.  
I needed something to display the calendar on, and just happened to have an old window frame upstairs that I was trying to decide what to do with -- it worked perfectly.  

That evening, after the auction was over, I got a note from a friend who asked if I would make her one.  Of course.
This one was a little different -- I glued wooden discs to buttons and sewed them on, then tied twine to the flaps and wound it around the buttons to keep the envelopes closed.  

THEN, I decided to make two more calendars for the boys.  I had many different Christmas prints, so decided to sew up 48 little bags.  Here's how I did it:

First, I measured out strips of material, 18" long by 6" wide.  (I did take a picture measuring and cutting, but my cutting board looks so awful -- paint, sticky stuff, etc. -- I just can't post it here.  But I'm sure you get the idea.)

Next, turn down the narrow edges twice to form a hem, press and sew.  (I didn't measure -- I know you are shocked.)
Sew up the sides.  (See, I told you this was easy.)
Then, pinch the corners together and sew across.  Again, I didn't measure.  Just choose a width and sew all your corners the same.  Remember, the wider you make that pinch, the wider the bottom of your bag will be.
It should look like Batman:
When you are doing a bunch of something -- little bags, quilt pieces, etc -- it works nicely to chain them together as you sew, one right after the other, then clip them apart.
Flip inside out, and viola!  A little bag!
Then I made some little clips with mini clothespins and wooden discs that I fancied up a bit:
And a bit more on the second go-round:

 Fill them with treats (which I got at the Dollar Store -- pencils, Little Debbies, granola bars, candies, straws, etc.)
and hang them up
or put them in a basket
(A few of the treats were a little too big for the bags.  I need to remember that for next year!)

I started a pinterest board of Advent calendars, and am already thinking ahead to next year -- I think recycled, painted vegetable cans just might be my next project.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Fill in the Blank

I feel blank today.  I am guessing you do, too.

This morning, I had a hard time getting out of bed.
I had a hard time thinking about leaving the house.

I cried.  Again.

Because I want to fix things.
And I want to fix things because I am a mom.  And a fixer.

My advisor has hugged me, made me laugh a little and given me a figurative kick in the ass.

So, it's time to fill in the blank.
Here is my focus today:

I cannot fix the world, but I can_______________________.

I cannot fix the world, but I can see good in the world.
I cannot fix the world, but I can try to understand the pain of others.
I cannot fix the world, but I can care deeply.
I cannot fix the world, but I can work to change my little corner of it.
I cannot fix the world, but I can try.
I cannot fix the world, but I can keep fear from overcoming me.
I cannot fix the world, but I can be present.
I cannot fix the world, but I can love.

Your turn.  Go.

I'm going out now.  To work, to be with friends, to try to do some fixing.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hey there

I know.  I haven't blogged forever.
I've been a little sick, but after two rounds of antibiotics, I think I've almost kicked it.
I've been a little busy writing, and great things are happening -- I will fill you all in soon.
I've been reading a little, and knitting a little and sewing a little.  And working a lot.
And while I've been thinking about Christmas, not much is happening.
Stay tuned.