Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Report: Processed Food

I didn't eat processed food for one week. Well, I admit to having a bite here and there of the kids' ham and cheese melts (and by bite, I truly mean tiny sliver). But, I ate no store-bought bread, no cereals, no treats, no candy, no cookies, etc.

I ate scrambled eggs, fruit, veggies, home-made turkey chili, home-made pumpkin bread, butter, milk, yogurt, peanut butter and drank a lot of coffee.

Here is what I found:

1. On the two days that I ate only fruits, veggies, peanut butter and oatmeal, I felt great. I lost 5 lbs. in two days. I didn't have big dips in my blood sugar levels. When I was hungry, I felt hungry but I didn't feel shaky/weak/confused/agitated. I simply felt hungry. I didn't feel cravings for foods, because when your only option is another hard-boiled egg, well you just don't want it that badly. When your option is Oreos, there is a much stronger pull.

2. On the days I introduced more carbs (albeit non-processed carbs) like rice, potatoes and home-made baked goods, I gained back the weight I'd lost and felt much more bloated. Much more.

3. When I ate too much, even if the food was unprocessed, I felt bloated and overly full.

4. When I was eating so well, on days one and two, I didn't find I needed to drink so much water. In fact, I only drank about 40 oz. on those days and still lost the weight and felt less bloated and lighter.

Overall, the experience taught me several things. One, I was eating a lot of processed food that I wasn't even thinking about: lunch meat, crackers, bread, a treat at Starbucks, etc. In addition to eating a ton of processed food, that left little room for fruits and veggies. I ate nearly twice as much fruits and veggies this week than in previous weeks. Second, food is food. If you eat too much of it, no matter what it is, you will feel unwell. Third, just because something is homemade and "unprocessed" doesn't make it healthy. Perhaps if I stuck to a much more rigid definition of "processed" it might make a difference (like not using wheat, dairy, etc.), but for my purposes, I simply meant no added ingredients I couldn't pronounce and stuff found in a box or can. I made lemon posset, for example. It has sugar, cream and lemon juice. That's it. And I ate it. And it's just simple junk food. It's not "healthy" because I can name all the ingredients.

In the end, I went from 138.6 pounds to 135.6 pounds. That's fine. It doesn't feel drastically different, though. Maybe because I've been eating lemon posset and home-made pumpkin bread slathered in real butter........

Still, the experience was extremely helpful in allowing me to see that it IS possible to live without processed food, that I WILL feel better with a diet richer in fruits and vegetables and that my blood sugar is directly linked to crap.

And now...........we're going to trick-or-treat and I'm going to wolf down some dodgy mini-Snickers bars.


Quote 12 of 52

This week's quote is from an author I admire but whom I've never been able to read with much gusto: TS Eliot. I have several of his plays and poetry collections sitting on my bookshelf , but I've never been able to sit down and gut it out. I do, however, love this quote:

One starts an action simply because one must do something.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tooth Fairy Bag - Another Fig Plucked

Today, I had six hours alone. Six. I hardly knew what to do with myself, and as I sat drinking Starbucks, listening to the quiet of the house, I thought it might be a great time to sew my little tooth fairy bag. I considered doing this as a project with Maggie, but I have recently come to accept myself and my limitations, and I know that a sewing project is hard enough for me as-is. I didn't want to subject poor Maggs-face to an episode that might include tears and/or the phrase, "For Christ's sake."

Okay, so I got out all my supplies (having to unearth them from the storage closet), and I threw them all on the table in typical Amy-fashion, all half-hazard and slightly askew. I had the computer and directions sitting next to me, and I began threading needles, cutting squares of fabric and sewing wonky stitches up and down pieces of purple felt, Van Morrison playing in the background, rocking my gypsy soul.

It was very easy, which means that if I'm saying that a kindergartner could easily have accomplished this task. The directions were cake. The bag came together just as described. It took me all of 50 minutes, and that includes time spent digging out my supplies, adding cream to my coffee and turning up Van more than once.

Here is the finished product:

It wasn't until later, driving around town feeling all domestic and crafty, that I realized I sewed the tooth all the way onto the bag, forgetting to leave the top open to hold the child's actual tooth.

For some reason, I thought this was hysterically funny, and I couldn't stop laughing about it for at least a full minute, nearly crying.

Incidentally, I went to Barnes & Noble and looked at other simple sewing books, particularly projects for kids (my level anyway). The thing about it is this: most handmade stuff just doesn't appeal to me. If I want a good tote bag, I'll get an LL Bean Boat & Tote. I can't imagine making my own clothes. I have no inclination to make clothes for my daughter's dolls. So......I'm glad I did it. I think hand-sewing is HIGHLY preferable to using a matching. And one day, I will sit in a rocking chair next to a fire, and I will quietly sew a quilt by hand.

Until then, everyone is getting tooth fairy bags.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

More on the diet........

By "diet" I simply mean the diet of unprocessed food (as opposed to calorie reduction, etc.). Anyway, here's the thing: it's very hard to eat well if you eat out, at all. Yesterday, after a field trip to the pumpkin patch, Maggie and I went out to eat. I chose sushi, because I think of sushi as fairly healthy, fresh and unprocessed. I had a roll (crab, avocado, salmon on top) and I ate some of Maggie's chicken teriyaki and miso soup.

And then....I felt awful. I was very full. I felt sluggish all afternoon. And come on: I saw the people making the food right in front of me. What gives?

Then, I thought about the salt. The salt! I got on the scale this morning and am back to 135. That's fine, but I think the point is that when I lost those 5 lbs. and now that I've gained 2 back, I really think so much of it is the SALT. There is so much salt in processed food and in restaurant food. So much.....

When I cook at home, I use much less salt (and I'm pretty liberal with my salt), and when I'm focusing on eating fruits and veggies, well there's just not so much salt.

I ate some more of the leftover chicken teriyaki for lunch today, with steamed rice and peas. It's sitting a little heavy, but I'm okay with that.

So far, the days when I've felt the best (less bloated, more energy) are the days when I ate homemade, unprocessed, healthy food. I mean, of course it goes without saying. But saying something and experiencing something are two different things entirely.

Also, I got Jamie Oliver's e-mail this morning. If you all haven't seen his show, look it up online. I cried every week. He's really inspiring. In today's e-mail was a list of the top 10 worst processed foods. Here they are:

1. Chicken McNuggest (24%)
2. Hot Dogs (19%)
3. Fake Cheese (14%)
4. Lunchables (13%)
5. Spam (9%)
6. Twinkies (5%)
7. Soda (5%)
8. Artificial Sweeteners (4%)
9. Diet Versions (4%)
10. French Fries (3%)

Quite the list, huh?

Here's the link to Jamie's website:


He's fabulous. His site has tons of recipes, too, and they're all very simple and unprocessed. They're not necessarily "healthy," but at least they're real.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Just Have to Say.........

I was going to wait until next week to weigh myself after eating no processed food for a week. I will certainly weigh myself at that time, but I just wanted to write in today and give an update.

In two days, eating nothing processed but eating full meals and still eating within my calorie range (drinking wine, eating salmon & avocado and eggs), I have lost..........

5.4 lbs.

So, I started on Sunday weighing 138.6. Monday morning I weighed 135.8. Today, I weigh 133.2.

I have worked out for 3 weeks, hard. And I've not been able to break 135. Now, I stop eating junk, and I drop 5 lbs.

Okay....I'm off for the day.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Wow....just a carrot

I went to have my afternoon snack: a carrot and hummus. Then, I thought: does this hummus constitute a "processed" item? I mean, it does come in a tub, from the grocery store (Trader Joe's nonetheless). So, I looked at the label. Wow. There was some stuff I couldn't pronounce. In hummus!

I'm eating a raw carrot. And it stinks.

So far today, I've eaten:

Scottish oats, raspberries, 1 tsbs. pure maple syrup, 1 tbsp. half-n-half
Coffee w/half-n-half
1.5 hard boiled eggs
1 Banana
1 Apple w/2 tbsp. peanut butter (peanuts/salt only)
1 Carrot (large)
Handful of Strawberries (thank you California)


Figs 10 & 11

This week I'm attempting two figs. First, I am not eating processed food for one week. I feel this is the perfect time to do this because since coming home from Paris, I've eaten nothing but junk. Well, that's not exactly true. I've eaten some good food, but I've complimented it with handfuls of dodgy stuff like bunny crackers, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Dairy Queen Blizzards, and peanut butter filled pretzels. It's been a binge. I have gained about 6 lbs. I am bloated and feel sluggish.

So.....I am going to attempt a week w/out processed food. This means no store-bought bread. No crackers or cookies (unless I make them myself). No candy. Nothing out of a box, unless for some reason I chose to make pasta. Then, I think I'll go with the dried stuff. But, the point is to stop eating all this stuff filled with junk and chemicals.

I'm not sure if I'll lose weight. I hope I'll feel better. I hope I'll sleep better. I've already done it for over 24 hrs. and I have to say, it's not exactly hard, but it does require some thinking and planning.

For example, I usually eat toast in the morning. I eat healthy bread (Milton's), but it's processed and, thus, is out. So, for the past two mornings, I've eaten oatmeal with pure maple syrup and berries.

For snacks, instead of eating handfuls of crackers, a bowl of Grape Nuts or a bite at Starbucks, I've eaten hard-boiled eggs and fruit.

For lunch, I've been eating home-made turkey chili with salad - home-made salad dressing (which is so much better anyway).

Last night, I ate salmon with mango-salsa and a glass of wine.

Now, I'm not out in the back planting wheat and corn and hoping to harvest it by Friday so I can eat some toast. I do realize that packaged/processed food can have a place in a healthy diet. But I also think an occasional detox from all of it does a body good, and I've always wanted to see if I can do it, if it will be difficult, and if it will be worth it.

So far, I've nearly eaten and had to clearly avoid the following: Honey-Nut Cherrios that my kids had spilled on the floor (yes, I was considering eating handfuls of them while I was helping the kids to clean them up), chocolates from See's candies (why do they give you samples?), a Smarties roll that my son got at gymnastics today, Goldfish crackers and leftover pasta my kids didn't eat (it was a Lean Cuisine, which they love and which my daughter always finishes by saying: You cook so good, Mommy).
I weighed in yesterday at 138.6 (for those of you following my other blog, you'll know what that means). I'll weigh in again this coming Sunday. I'm not trying to diet. I'm just getting rid of the processed junk. Home-made junk is totally acceptable.

Whew.....it's going to be a long but hopefully good week.

The second fig I want to tackle is sewing something by hand. I've thought about this for a long time, because I have this idea that sewing stuff makes you a better mom and person as a whole. I'm not sure why that is. I just have images in my mind of loving mothers in cozy houses whipping up adorable children's confections and quilts on their sewing machines, the foot pedal humming softly against the sound of children frolicking outdoors.

I know. Really, I have no idea where I get these ideas. I certainly wasn't raised with them.

Well, I have a sewing machine, which I bought so that I could make my sister's daughter a quilt. That quilt turned into a total fiasco. I was pregnant at the time, and the machine kept jamming, and I kept crying and my husband kept coming over to me and asking me (begging me) to give it up, buy a quilt and be done with it. But I was dead-set on that quilt, and when I finally finished it (you can't imagine the angst), it was not even usable because the damn thing was about to fall apart simply as I handed it over to my sister.

So, I put the machine away and swore it off. Then, I thought that maybe I could be a partial domestic goddess and go all 1872 on everyone and hand sew.

So, it's on my list. I would love to hand sew a quilt, but I also know my limitations, and so I'm going to start small..........very small.

Here is what I plan on making:


Wish me luck. I am glad my husband is gone, because I suspect that something will go wrong here: I won't be able to properly cut the felt, my needle will break, etc., etc. Sigh. Then again, it could be a blast and then everyone I know will be getting tooth fairy bags for Christmas, and it will be my signature gift: tooth fairy bags and a bottle of booze.

Wish me luck...........


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quote 11 of 52

This week's quote comes from Siddhartha, which I have officially finished as of this morning.

I dog-eared the page with this quote, and when I finished the book and went back to read this particular passage, I loved it still.

Here it is:

Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf, which is blown and is turning around through the air, and wavers and tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars, they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, in themselves they have their law and their course.

When I first read this passage and underlined it, I thought that a person had to be one or the other. Now, as I think about Siddhartha's journey as a whole, I think a person most likely has to be both - a leaf at times, a star (hopefully) in others.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fit #7......again.......

This week I am going to finish reading Siddhartha. Finally. I have to say that now that I'm half-way into the book, I'm enjoying it much more than I thought I would. It is compelling, and even if I can only muster a few pages a day, those pages leave me feeling quite full and satisfied. It is a thought-provoking book. I'm not sure I'd describe it as a novel. It reads sort of like a textbook at times, or one of those English poems that I could hardy get through during undergrad....you know, Chaucer and the like. Anyway, this is not exactly Outlander (yes, I loved that book), but I do find myself thinking about the book when I'm not reading it, and I also find myself examining my own life and its meaning more often. When I do this, I often think about Siddhartha's journey, which seems similar to my own at the moment, even if our circumstances are so drastically different. Maybe that's it though......circumstances are the small stuff.

Well, that's it for this week. I should post my impressions toward the end of the week. I am excited. It's nice to read a book of such substance, that I suspect will have a deep and lasting impact on my view of the world and my own life.


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Visit

I took Maggie last Wednesday for her visit to an art museum. As I posted earlier, there is a Wayne Thiebaud exhibit currently on display at a local museum, and I thought it would be perfect for a five-year old because Maggie does love cakes and pies and all things pink and purple.

We arrived at the museum, and Maggie was thrilled with just that. I'm not kidding, she was all beside herself to be going somewhere alone with me, somewhere she'd never before been, somewhere full of promise. I love seeing the world through her eyes because it reminds me that life is still exciting and wondrous, and seeing her so pump
ed to go to our little museum made me feel badly for thinking I had to put this visit off until I could take her to a "real" museum in New York, San Francisco or even DC.

Well, we arrived and got our tickets and each wore a little blue square sticker indicating we had paid our dues.

Right off the bat, Maggie was full of questions. There was a large wooden sculpture in the entrance of the museum made into the shape of an animal - antelope, deer, etc. - and she was very curious about this. When I told her it was made of wood and that art can be made of many different materials, well she was all obsessed with this idea for the rest of our visit. We walked past the wooden sculpture. Then, she ran over to an African mask and some clay vases. She was running up and down the halls, before we could even determine where the Theibaud paintings were housed, asking me, "What's this made out of? How about this one Mom?"

We finally did get to the exhibit. We looked at a few paintings on display outside the main room, and Maggie was fine with that but it was hard for her to stand still for very long, which meant that I only got a cursory glance at each piece. We did stop and look at one painting, a man in a tree, in a park, at night. Maggie was curious about this painting, because she couldn't figure out why a man was in a tree, in a suit, in the middle of the night. But then, just when I thought we'd have some sort of existential conversation about the meaning of life, Maggie was gone, running up and down the exhibit and saying, "Mommy, you have to see this painting. It's totally amazing."

That was her phrase for the day: totally amazing.

She liked Thiebaud's art and especially liked his work done in pastel-colored paint. She kept thinking the paintings were still wet, because the paint was very thick and still glossy looking. I tried to explain the concept of oil paint, but really I think I was just talking out of my ass because I have no idea why the paint still looked wet, if his thick brush strokes mean anything and how his paintings come out looking like something when, if you look up-close, it's all just a smattering of this and that, all half-hazard.

Then, Maggie came to a drawing, and it was hung next to a painting.

Maggie: "What is this one made out of?"

MamaP: "Pastels. They're like crayons. What do you think of it?"

Maggie: "I like it."

MamaP: "Does it look different to you, different from this other one?" And I pointed to the painting.

Maggie: "Yes, it's different."

MamaP: "How is the crayon drawing different from the painting?"

Maggie: "Well, the crayons stick to the paper and stay there. The paint just kind of drips down."

I wanted to kneel down to the floor and bow my head in thanks: she's brilliant. It's true.

We breezed through the exhibit, and I was at times a little frustrated that I couldn't linger, read about the work, decide how I felt about all of it. But Maggie was running amok and some other patrons (there was a van drop off from a local assisted-living facility) were giving me dirty looks.

We wandered around the rest of the museum, and for some reason Maggie was totally enthralled with the elevator. Now, the elevator was quite large and seemed somehow really modern and cool, but really, she's been in a thousand elevators. Still, this was really "great" and "cool."

There were, as I said, a lot of "totally amazing" pieces of art, and each room we entered I had Maggie point out which painting drew her attention first. They were usually paintings of flowers, and I don't really like flower paintings, but whatever. It was very cute.

I have to say that a lot of California art looks a lot like paint-by-numbers landscapes. But hey...who am I to say?

Then, just when our visit was coming to a close, Maggie entered the modern art section of the museum, and she fell in love and was utterly taken and mesmerized by a sculpture of a cowboy riding a flying horse that was attached to another flying horse, and the horses' eyes were made out of red light-bulbs.

This was truly, truly "totally amazing." This was stop-and-stand, mouth open in amazement amazing. Maggie walked around the entire thing, oohhing and ahhhing and asking me if I was actually seeing this thing.

I was. It was horrid. Wretched. God-awful.

But hey, who am I to say?

Then, when I thought it couldn't get worse (there was a ceramic sculpture done in that blue-and-white Dutch tile kind of ceramic - and the sculpture was a semi-automatic rifle and a grenade), Maggie fell in double-triple-love with a sculpture that was depicting a death-row inmate being put to death, and there were a bunch of protesters with signs depicting each side of the debate. And to top it all off, there was a foot pedal on the floor, and if you pushed the pedal the whole thing started flashing lights.

Dear God, Maggie pushed that pedal a thousand times.

When we left the exhibits, we headed downstairs to the cafe where Maggie chose a cupcake and chocolate milk. We split the cupcake and she sucked down the milk.

I asked her later what her favorite part of the day was, and she said the paintings and the cool elevator.

I have to say, my favorite part of the trip was seeing her so excited about the modern art stuff. I call it stuff. I should call it art, but I can't bring myself to type that out. Sigh....

Anyway, I loved it because she loved it without any preconception, without any idea of what she was loving or if it was the right thing to love or what other people (me, for instance) might say about it. She just loved it, red lights for eyes, foot pedal, everything aglow. It made me look at all of the art differently, because I realized how much we like or dislike what we experience based not on our own taste but on what society says is "right," and (to be honest) how we like to think of ourselves.

All-in-all, it was a lovely day. Maggie bought a Thiebaud post card in the gift shop and drew a heart-breaking picture of herself and her father, holding hands underneath a rainbow to send to him in Afghanistan. I nearly cried when I saw it.

And then I thought: now that is art.


Quote 10 of 52

This week's quote seems appropriate to me because I've been thinking lately of all the trips I want to take, all the countries I want to live in and the things I want to do when I finally get to these places - like development projects, rambling through the Cambodian jungle with my kids and horse-trekking in Iceland.

So, in light of these dreams, when I came across this quote, it reminded me that it's not just the destination that matters - something I know, of course, but a concept that is often difficult for me to apply to my daily life.

The quote is by Robert Louis Stevenson:

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

PS - the painting is of Stevenson and was done by John Singer Sargent, 1887. Wouldn't it be fabulous to have a painting of oneself by someone like Sargent???

Hope everyone is having a happy Monday. I'll be posting today about last week's fig - taking M. to the art museum for the Thiebaud exhibit. Good times!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Best

Last night, as I was putting Maggie to bed, I told her we are going to the art museum this week to see an artist who paints cakes and pies.

Maggie, "We're going together, just you and me?"

MamaP, "Yes, just you and me. To the art musuem."

Maggie, "Is it close?"

MamaP, "Yes, only twenty minutes."

Maggie, "What will we do there?"

MamaP, "We'll look at the paintings and talk about them and tell each other what we think."

She thought about this for a few seconds, and then she reached up, put her hands on my cheeks and said, "You're the best."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fig #9 - The Art Museum

This week, I'm doing something I've wanted to do for a while now: I'm taking my daughter to an art museum.

My desire to do this began about two years ago, when I was sitting at the computer one day looking at art.com. Maggie came up to me, and I put her on my lap and we started looking at the art. I asked her which pieces she liked and which she didn't like, and even though she was 3 at the time, she had clear preferences and opinions. On top of just her likes and dislikes, I began to ask her about the art itself, about the paintings, and she started to tell me what she thought of them, why she liked them and what she thought about the subject matters. It was fascinating and enlightening and thrilling. We do it still; though I admit to being lazy about it recently. We do have a few Renoir books downstairs, and we sometimes flip through those, and Maggie tells me which ones she likes and why she likes them and what she thinks about them. It's all so wonderful because it makes me look at the paintings in a new light and I realize how powerful and compelling art is for all of us.

Maggie's favorite painting (thus far, obviously) is by Hopper. Her two favorite artists so far are Edward Hopper and Degas. She loves Degas because she loves ballet. But Hopper is her true love, and there hasn't been a painting of his that we've seen so far that she doesn't like. Well, but her favorite is entitled "Hotel Room."

I asked Maggie what she thought of this painting, and she said that the women in the painting looks sad to her. I think that's such an interesting observation and comment, and every time we come back to this painting, she says the same thing: that the woman is sad.

Interestingly, I was in Madrid a few months ago, and a friend suggested I go to see the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a fabulous collection of art that is really staggering in that it was collected by one family. Anyway, I went, not knowing a thing about it, and low and behold, I walked up face-to-face with Hopper's piece, "Hotel Room."

I thought of Maggie and vowed to take her there one day, to show her the original piece of art and to see if she felt the same way about the painting in person.

So, this week I am taking Maggie to her first art museum. It's a small museum here in town, and I wouldn't have thought to take her here except for something that happened last week. I was getting the mail and I received a large envelope from a relative I rarely hear from. In fact, I'd not spoken to her in years. Inside was a small note and a newspaper clipping from the New York Times about a new exhibit at our local gallery from a famed local artist. I myself had never before heard of him, but when I read the article I was intrigued, and I vowed to take Maggie with me.

The artist is Wayne Thiebaud, and below I'll post a few of his pieces. Maggie and I are excited, and I think that while I'm there I'll sign her up for art classes. I can't wait to hear what she has to say about our visit, which I'm planning for Tuesday or Wednesday.

I think one of the best things about having kids is that you get to view the world through a whole new lens......

I'll post later about our big adventure...........


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quote 9 of 52

This week's quote is a classic. It's Emerson, and it reminds me that I have some Emerson and some Thoreau sitting next to my bed, given to me by a friend years ago I would have least expected to give me such a book. Well, there I go....adding to my reading list. I'm looking at Siddhartha right now.......Sigh.

The quote:

What lies between us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fig #8 - The Purge

I have finally purged my closet. It took some time. In addition to being busy with other things (two dead car batteries, a faulty transmission and my in-laws visiting), I think it's just emotionally hard for me to part with old clothes. Well, it's hard to part with old anything: clothes, furniture, books, relationships. I think we do a lot of what we do in life because of habit, because what is comfortable is comfortable, even if it doesn't work. At least we know the bad, which is better than gambling on the different.

For me, clothes have been a challenge. I keep my clothes from my old self because, after having two kids, I think that getting back into my old clothes is a sort of badge-of-honor I need to earn and then wear on my sleeve. See, I didn't go to hell in a hand-basket just because I created, housed, birthed and fed two small beings.

I know. It's silly. I get it.

The China clothes were the hardest, because that was my thinnest self, and I always like to hold out that I'll get back to that girl. The word girl is about right, too, because I was 25 when I left China, which means I was 23 and/or 24 when I wore those clothes, and why the hell am I competing with a 23 year old anyway? And of course, I feel that if I get rid of those clothes, I'm somehow closing a door on that chapter of my life. I suppose it would be okay to close that door. I returned home 10 years ago, a decade. So, I suppose it's time to move on........

Well, as you may recall from those many moons ago, I wrote about the idea of turning all those China clothes into a quilt. Normally, I would toss this idea around my head for a while and then give up on it altogether for whatever reason: too expensive, can't quilt, etc.

But, with all these 52 figs hanging around in my head, I decided to get right on it, which I did. I finally admitted to myself that I hate sewing (I tried to deny that for a long time and had some really bad experiences with my sewing machine because of it). In light of this acceptance of myself, I looked on Craigslist and found a woman who happens to love sewing and specifically quilting. I met her a week later, carrying in all my loads of silk and cotton qi paos and Dynasty-style jackets.

Three weeks later, I met her again, and she had transformed my clothes into a beautiful, queen-sized quilt.

I have to tell you, honestly, hand to my heart, this quilt makes me happier than any object has made me in a long time. Happy-happy. I sit on it. I sit under it. I finger it. And I think about all the days I wore this particular dress to teach in, or that particular dress out for dinners or that silk jacket out with the Madames, a pair of motley Chinese women with a penchant for liquor and married men.

Emily, the quilter, included all the buttons and details from the dresses, so I can see the top of one or the bottom of another. I look at one patch of the quilt and see the slit of one cotton dress that hit me just above my knee, where a red satin frog-button sat. I see the ruffled collar of a cotton sun dress I wore my last summer in China. I look at the sleeve of a black silk jacket covered in butterflies that I had made my first weeks in Chengdu, that I wore at my swearing-in ceremony.

Wearing those clothes again couldn't have made me any happier than having this quilt. So, even if I set out to purge myself of all these extra clothes, I ended up acquiring a piece of my own history that is full of memory, that I can sit on top of or crawl underneath, forever.

Okay.....here are the pics:

The blue outline below is the Chinese double-happiness character. I had a tin coffee mug with this emblem painted onto the side, and I used that coffee mug every morning while I taught class. I drank instant Nescafe coffee out of it, and I swear that one day I will find a packet of that stuff and make it again, for old-times sake. Until then, the remnants of that old electric-blue Dynasty style jacket now detail double-happiness for me on my new quilt.

That's it. I sleep with it on me every night, grateful that fall has arrived in Nor Cal and I have use for my new quilt.

I love that I set out to do one thing - purge my closet - and ended up with something else in the process.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back: Quote 9 of 52

I have been gone from 52 Figs for a month now, and in that time I've considered giving up on my little blog entirely. Here's the thing: when you blog, people comment on your blog. And sometimes those comments aren't very nice. Sometimes, those comments are sort of personal and wretched. So, I told myself that I would simply stop blogging. I was sort of going with the whole theory that I don't want to give someone the rope the hang me with.


In life, what would happen if we stopped doing what we love (and I love 52 figs) just because someone else didn't like it, had some awful comments about it or felt compelled to run it down?

So, I'm here and starting again with a fabulous quote from Robert Frost:

There is nothing I'm afraid of like scared people.

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