Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Notes

Well, it has been a long, gloomy month in my neck of the woods. A few weeks ago, I broke down and invested in a SAD lamp for my winter blues, and either it really works or I'm highly suggestible. Okay, I am highly suggestible, but that doesn't mean the lamp doesn't work. Could be both.

Whatever's going on, I've only had one or two days of feeling lackluster and sort of "Oh, what's the use?" I think one of those days was because I hadn't been sleeping well, and the other was because I live with an adolescent who believes himself to be God or one of His close associates. You'd have to sit in front of a SAD lamp for days at a time, maybe years, to not feel depressed after dealing with a cranky teenager.


One of the great things about being a writer is that you can go down all sorts of rabbit holes in the name of "research." Recently, I've gotten very interested in quilting in the 1930s. It all started when I watched a wonderful PBS documentary called "A Century of Quilts: America in Cloth." Quilting took off like a house on fire after the Great Depression because it was something a woman could do that didn't necessarily cost a lot of money. Newpapers printed patterns and ran columns such as "Nancy Page's Quilting Club"* (Nancy Page being the nom de plume of Florence LaGanke). There were quilting bees and lots of contests, and you could buy yourself a copy of Needlecraft magazine for a dime.

Domestic history has always been one of my favorite areas of study. I like learning about how families lived throughout history, and what women's lives were like. I especially like reading about what women cooked and what they made. Last week I bought a couple of books about quilting in the 1930s, and both of them are chock full of amazing, beautiful lively quilts. Hard times, yes, but sometimes I think the greatest art is made when life is less than easy.


I'm about ready for spring, aren't you? Do you have any spring dreams? I think my spring will revolve around writing and quilt making. My mom and I are going to the big quilt show in Cincinnati in April, and I'm set to make quilts for the school director and the administrative assistant for Our Fine Lower School. 
This is our last year at Our Fine Lower School, and I'm feeling sort of sad about it. I went to a lunch at the lower school library last week for a visiting writer, and all the teachers there told me funny stories about Will and wanted to know how Jack was doing. It's such a loving, nurturing place, unlike Our Fine Middle School, which is a jungle. Okay, not a jungle. Maybe more like a big city where no one knows your name.

Anyway, I'm going to make springlike quilts and plant some flowers in my garden and look forward to May, when I can go strawberry picking. These thoughts, I hope, will carry me through the next few gloomy weeks. What will help you make it over to the other side of winter (or summer, for those of you suffering through the heat down under)?

*for an interesting video about Nancy Page, go here: http://vimeo.com/28386634

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent, etc.

"To discover what you really believe, pay attention to the way you act--and to what you do when things don't go the way you think they should. Pay attention to what you value. Pay attention to how and on what you spend your time, your money. And pay attention to what you eat."

--Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God

So Lent begins today. I have decided to give up snacking--i.e. mindless eating. It's funny to think of snacking as a spiritual problem, but I believe for me that it is. It's eating as a way of not feeling--not feeling bored, not feeling sad, not feeling whatever feelings are inconveniencing me. Instead of lifting my problems, fears, and anxieties up to God, I hand them over to a box of Wheat Thins. I believe this to be a spiritually unsound practice.

Sometimes I snack to shore myself up through the making of dinner, the last burst of the day's activity before relaxing with a book or my knitting. Most of my snacking, in fact, takes place between 3 p.m. and dinner. It's like I need little pops of pleasure to help me make it through the day. If I were a smoker, I would be lighting up, but I'm an eater, so I eat.

I think it's safe to say that food is a crutch for me, and so this Lent I'm dropping the crutch and seeing what happens. I'll keep you updated.

My S.A.D. lamp just popped off, and now the room seems dark. I bought the lamp last week and have been using it since Friday. It's very bright, and the first day it gave me a terrible headache, so the second day I wore sunglasses. Then I read that it's all about the light going into your eyes, so now I sit in front of it unshaded, thirty minutes every morning.

You've heard of S.A.D. lamps, right? They're to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, i.e. the winter blues. Is it working? Well, I can say that I've felt perfectly fine, even a little bit perky, for a good stretch, and we've had a lot of gloomy weather since I plugged in, so maybe. Or possibly it's the placebo effect. It may all be magical thinking. But I'm not moping around, and that's good, especially for February.

One of my teeth has almost straightened out! Well, actually, it was my only crooked tooth, and it's been that way since I was ten. Very strange, almost forty years later, to see it as God intended, a vertical little number to the left of my front teeth, not overlapping anything. My neck may be sagging, my knees wrinkling, my age spots multiplying, but my teeth are finally getting straightened out thanks to these confounded braces. I'm new again!