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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What to say before I get back to reporting on sewing projects

Hi folks.

I know it has been a while since I posted and I know you understand. 

We are regrouping around my daughter's situation and that takes time, and effort. She is a remarkable, remarkable person. 

As her mother I can't fix any of this for her but there are some things I can do. One of those is to follow her lead  and do what she needs me to do. That includes not asking her every day how she is feeling. It's pretty clear that we already know the answer to that.

I wasn't quite expecting how much learning this was going to require of me. I have been so lucky in that for some reason none of us are asking why and are just more or less accepting this. I am in fact just very grateful right now that this will be more something that will require some major life adaptations, now and in the future, rather than facing something even more serious. We have all been affected by the situation of the young girl who lives right across the street from Katrina, who the very same week this all happened was diagnosed with a difficult, but hopefully treatable, cancer. May she survive and may my daughter adapt to a new reality.

The truth is, and we all know this, is that in every family there always is something. Right now this is our thing. 

I am also understanding that the most powerful thing anyone can do is keep it normal. You just can't let that be taken away from you. I remember a long time ago in another context really understanding the adage that living well is the best revenge. It is time to understand that again.

I also believe, quite deeply, that whatever lessons you need to learn in this life will come back to you again and again until you learn it. My daughter has always had trouble with uncertainty, she is highly organized about everything to sort of a world class degree, and here she is now asked to learn to live with a long term chronic illness with an uncertain future. The way she is rising to this completely amazes me. Completely.

Me, I have always had trouble with hyper focus on an issue. My general approach is to hit things with a hammer until I fix it. My sewing self education has been a relentless example of this - I keep at it until I understand it, and I have no idea how many people have been left waiting for their dinner as a result.

And now here I am helpless. A test of faith indeed, as it always is when there are no other choices left, which I believe is exactly the point.

Which bring me back to the importance of being normal, or turning my mind away from what I can't do, to what I can. To doing what you would in normal times to make these times normal again.

You know it sort of works.

I am learning that despite the adaptations and the no turning backness of things like this, the more you can be who you always were and the more you can let the person you are worried about be who they always were, the more you can shrink the challenge down to manageable size.

And in all of this for me sewing is no frivolous thing.

After all I have been sewing since I was eight years old. To keep doing that now is to be bigger than anything that happens on the day.

Does this make sense?

So this past weekend I went on a three day sewing retreat where I sewed a lot, talked a lot and saw what other people, my good friend sewers, were making. I wasn't worried about anything all weekend except maybe what ever did I do with that piece I needed for the back bodice that I was sure I packed.

And right now, tonight, I am making a red cape for a Little Red Riding Hood costume for my middle grand daughter named Heidi.

Now what in the world can be any saner than that?

We are going to be alright.


Jodie said...

So well said, Barb. I'm sure your entire family will have days where they feel they are doing it, living well, with this at the edges instead of at the centre. And then there will be days for all of you where it's all so overwhelming. On those hard days I wish you grace and your daughter hope. "My phrase" that I'm known for to my students and teacher friends is "It will be fine". And it will. Sometimes I say that just to hear it and remind myself. Sometimes it's to my students in a firm confident voice so that they know I believe in them (even when I'm a tad concerned about recipe choices they are making ; )). So, I give it to you. My confidence and belief in you and your family. It will be fine. Best to all of you.

MaryEllen said...

You always have such a positive/realistic spin on life & what you are going thru - you have many friends who dont even know you or your daughter praying for you all. Sewing does have away fo healing & helped me thru a tough family illness.

Jacq C said...

I could not agree with you more. We have a family member who is very unwell, with the round of appointments and adaptations it became clear there was no room for her to be herself. The absolute joy on her face this weekend when the family managed to find a way for her to still be the hostess, to share her garden and to find a craft project she felt able to tackle was a gift. In the midst of upset and upheaval it’s so important to still be able to find some time to focus on things that define who you are and what brings you joy and accomplishment. Your sewing retreat sounds like just the ticket. Wishing your family all the very best x

Eirini said...

I just wanted to say how much what you said resonates with me! Right now a dear family member is going through a difficuly medical situation and more than even I understand the value of the focus-on-what-you-can-do attitude. Thanks for reminding it to me!

Marianne said...

What a beautiful and thoughtful perspective, The strength of your family and your love for each other is so clear. Yes, we all have stuff to go through, even if we’d rather that not be so. :) Praying for you all.

karenviser said...

I agree 1000% Making and creating is the only way to survive any crisis, big or small. I don't know what people who don't make stuff do in challenging times.
Your family sounds spectacular!

Jan said...

The first thing I did when I found out my father had incurable cancer was to start making a quilt. I had never made a quilt before. I get it.

Kansas Sky said...

Oh, you are so often on my mind as I am sewing. Your book is generally nearby, as I am always rewarding myself with rereading a chapter, so my hopes for you and your daughter and family are constant. Please know that "strangers" out here are cheering you on, and just by reading your work, I hope we are helping to keep your dial at "normal". You are remarkably resourceful yourself and you can teach a whole lot more than sewing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Jean Shaw said...

Come for the sewing tips; stay for the wisdom. Thanks Barb. Deep peace to you and yours.


Chabe said...

Thank for sharing your journey with us!
This line really made me chuckle..."and I have no idea how many people have been left waiting for their dinner as a result." This is the reason sometimes I put off starting a project: cause when I start, it's hard to pull away from that sewing machine!
I really need to see sewing as a therapy of sorts, and keep at it in good times and bad times.
All the best to your family!

Judith Newman said...

I saw you last evening at the Fabricville "Friends & Family" sale - I wanted to come over and ask how the family was doing but the crowd was insane and I didn't pick up anything and I didn't get to ask. It turns out I didn't need to. You've let us know. Sounds like you're carrying on. That's really all anyone can do. All the best with carrying on.

annie said...

Thank you for encouraging me to keep going.

beckster said...

Barbara, I am married to a chronically ill disabled man, and you are so right! There is nothing more important than being as normal as you can every day, laughing at whatever you can find to laugh at, and remembering to count your blessings. There are people who appear to have an easier road (who knows?), but there are definitely people who have a worse one. I hope you continue to maintain your equanimity and that your daughter continues to show her strength. As long as we are here, we owe it to ourselves to enjoy our lives as much as is possible. I assume we are going to see sewing from the retreat?

Mary Beth said...

My Grandma taught me to crochet; we spent a very pleasurable afternoon, in the last week of her life, winding balls of yarn. Vision and cognitive declines meant she hadn't been able to do any handcrafts for awhile, but the feel of the yarn put her hands into the right motions immediately and a smile on her face. Comfort and normalcy.

Jane M said...

I had a very challenging personal time five years ago and remember sitting at a sewing retreat and simply feeling the love and affection in the room embrace me in a cosmic hug of comfort, shared love and perseverance. Even now, when life is so much easier, I am touched by how a community and a common passion can make all the difference in a day. So hugs to you and your daughter and family.