Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

So, today I turn 50.  I think that’s worth a blog.  50!

What does being 50 mean to me?  Well, basically it means that I have survived infancy, childhood, teens, 20s, 30’s and 40’s, and have landed upon this milestone relatively unscathed.  Okay, the old heart has a few fresh bruises and the hips have a bit more cushioning than strictly necessary and the eyes require assistance.  But other than that, I’m doing pretty well and the landing went fairly smoothly. 

Weirdly, in the last year or so, I’ve had more fun than I’ve had in ages before that.  I attribute that to not being fettered by an ideal I fought to preserve for nearly 30 years that, as it turns out, was complete and utter bunk.  The first 16 years were, at least, interesting in the challenges and stumbling blocks.  The last 14 were, not to put too fine a point on it, an exercise in futility.  Sometimes, I admit, I am too stubborn for my own good.  

Se la vie! 

What have I accomplished in my first half-century on this planet?  Well, I have three incredible daughters that are, bar none, my greatest achievements.   As a parent I never looked at these three amazing people as belonging to me.  I saw them as the people they are and looked at my role in their lives as being a mentor, a teacher; the one charged and blessed with guiding them to become their own persons.  They are children of the Universe, having come into this world through me, not to me, and I am proud of all of them.  Somehow they managed to turn out not too bad at all in spite of my blundering and floundering.

I learned a lot from my daughters.  They taught me how to love.  I cannot imagine a love more true, more pure, more deep than the love I feel for these young women.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to know them. 

I have to admit that in my youth my aspirations never included becoming a wife or a mother.  Thank the gods I was wrong about the mother part.  Without exception, that has been the most rewarding and amazing thing that ever happened to me.   If I accomplish nothing else in my time here, my small role in bringing those three wonderful people into the world is enough. 

The wife part was another matter entirely.  For some reason, I never quite managed to pull it all together.  Where I saw marriage as a partnership, a friendship, a lover-ship and a respect-ship, the two men that collectively “shared” 30 years of my life had a decidedly different perspective on relationships.  In short, they had no real interest in me.  They both had a very different agenda than mine.  And it had nothing to do with sharing anything – except, in the end, maybe an address. 

Not that I am the easiest person in the world to live with, either.  I bear my fair share of the burden of responsibility for the lack of connection.  My own fears and phobias would challenge even the stoutest of constitutions.  I’m stubborn and idealistic and cynical and somewhat jaded.  I’m also creative and innovative and resourceful and unconventional in my thinking.  I often wear my heart on my sleeve.  I’m unpredictable and can be fiercely protective of my home and the things and people that I love.  Personally, I think I’m rather unique and, given half a chance, would prove to be quite fabulous.  

I'm really learning, for the first time in my life, how to be me.  Without restraint or restriction.  Without guilt or fear.  I’ve spent too many years trying to impress, only to be repressed.  I’ve heard too many people tell me that I’m crazy while trying to shove their opinions and perspectives down my throat.  

I used to think that I was invisible; that no one cared enough to bother listening to me, let alone hear me or even see me.  In truth, I think, I may be too powerful for most people to handle.  If that sounds vain, well, I'm not going to apologize.  The fact is that I’ve been shut down by too many people in my life, cut off, pushed away, isolated, and the only reason I can think of for it is because they don’t know what to make of me.  They don’t know how they are supposed to react - it apparently never occurred to them to just be honest and open.   I used to blame my own fears, but I think that’s not entirely the case.

Why I ended up with the men I ended up with remains a mystery.  They both had enormous and awesome potential.  They both, it seems, were as afraid of their own potential as they were of mine.  In hindsight, I saw that potential, but missed the fear that disabled it.   I saw through the brick walls they had erected and fell in love with what lay behind them.   It was the creativity, the humour, the sensitivity, the thoughtfulness, the genius that I loved so much and wanted so badly to connect to.  It was the brick walls that I constantly ran into.  It wasn’t enough that I had my own baggage to deal with; I seemed to be expected to carry theirs as well. 

I still have hope that there is someone out there that, unlike the last two, isn’t afraid of me.  Someone who isn’t afraid to challenge me and be challenged by me.  I guess that’s what being 50 means to me.  I can finally be myself and not have to compromise my values, my feelings, my dreams because someone, who is supposed to love me doesn’t have the balls to stand beside me and say, “This is my partner and I’m proud to be the one to share in her life!”  As of now, nothing less is acceptable. 

I have learned also to be grateful!  I am grateful for all the things, people and experiences, good and bad, that have led me to this moment.  I am not one year older; rather I’m one moment closer to finding and having all that I desire in life.  I am one more moment away from all the pain of the past.  I am in the ever-present moment of awakening to all the wonders the Universe has to offer.

So Happy 50th Birthday to me!  Happy re-Birthday, Toni.  Welcome to the dawn of a new age, a new life, a fresh start filled with all the very brightest of blessings.  To those who will share this new age, new life and fresh start with me, brightest blessings.  And to those I leave behind as I step forward into the next adventure, brightest blessings as well. 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who Knew?

There’s something really very…  interesting about wearing a purple bra.  If you don’t own one, go out and get one, even a cheap one, and put it on.  You’ll see what I mean.

I hate bras.  I hate putting them on.  I hate wearing them.  I hate hand-washing them so they don’t fall apart after two wears.  I hate buying them.  I hate them.  Always have. 

Just like my license to drive, I never wanted a bra.  I never understood why or how they came to be deemed necessary.  They are awful, horrible things. 

Then again, my mammarian endowment is quite modest.   I dare say that if my development had ended a little farther along the alphabet, that I may very well have a different outlook on the matter.  As it is, my B (for boobs, no doubt) cups are in no danger of runnething over.  To achieve any semblance of cleavage, help is required and I’m always astounded at how a couple of tiny swatches of fabric and a bit of elastic can turn a broad valley into a canyon as easily as they do. 

Still, I cannot bring myself to dress without first donning one of the infernal things, except on the weekends when I know that I don’t have to and in the evenings when they are being pulled off as soon as I’m in the door after work.  I’ve grown quite adept at removing them without taking off my shirt, though it takes a good deal of discipline no to deposit them in the trash bin when I do. 

I have yet to find one that is comfortable, that doesn’t have straps that slip off my shoulders and doesn’t say: Hand wash on the label.  Every time I fill the sink to accomplish this feat, I envision myself beating the damn thing against a rock.  Then there’s the hang-to-dry problem.  I was banned from using the shower rod years ago.  Now that I can hang them on the shower rod if I want to, I can’t bring myself to put my intimate apparel on display should company drop by and I forget to remove them.  It’s silly, I know.  It’s not like people don’t naturally assume that I wear a bra.  But do they need to know firsthand what they look like?  I think probably not.

For the past 38(ish) years, a bra has been an integral part of my daily routine.  Typically they are white or beige, plain rather than lacy.  I tend to avoid under-wires and look for simple features such as having the straps adjustable in the front where it’s easier to do.  I have owned strapless and convertible bras that I have purchased for specific outfits.  I’ve even owned a few black bras over the years.  Generally, however, they are cheap, functional and uninteresting garments.  If they were kittens, I’d definitely be charged with cruelty and abuse for the way I handle them.

It might be an age thing.  It might be a single thing.  It might be I’m simply losing it.  But a week ago I walked into a store and purchased three new bras.  Just for fun.  One is black and lacy.  One is red and lacy.  And one is purple with a pretty little bow.  They all have under-wires.  They all turn my broad valley into a curvy canyon. 

I’ve heard women say that wearing pretty underwear makes them feel good.  I thought this was rather bonkers, a bunch of feminine drivel.  But it’s absolutely true!  No less uncomfortable, but uncontestably true!  I’m wearing a pretty purple bra and I feel fabulous! 

So fabulous, in fact, that I also spritzed myself with perfume, drew eye-liner across my lids and lengthened my lashes with mascara.  If I’m not careful, next I’ll be lacquering my toenails and getting a French manicure! 

What is happening to me?  Sheesh!

Until about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead without make-up on.  Once I even made my kids late for school because I forgot to put on mascara and had to turn around half way there to go back and put some on.  On another occasion when I found myself out in public without make-up, I sat in a dim restaurant with my sun glasses on so no one would know.  
Rumours started circulating that I had a black eye and the speculative source was my husband (small-town postulation at its finest!).  While I never did cotton on to the pretty underwear thing, the make-up thing was a huge priority.  I figured I needed all the help I could get.

Then disaster struck.  In 1997 I became the fortunate winner of the Shingles lotto.  As an added bonus the break out was on my face rather than my ribs and, in the process of self-medicating for a simple rash combined with the discovery that my 60-year-old feather pillow was somewhat mildewy, I ended up with a bacterial infection on top of the painful Shingles.  A round of tetracycline later, I was back to normal.  At least I thought I was.  I ended up with a lingering aftermath called Rosacea and to this day I cannot use soap on my face lest I wish to look like a scaly, blotchy freak of nature.  It took another two years to concede to the fact that make-up, even my adored and precious mascara, was an irritant not worth the anguish it caused. 

Free from the demands of make-up, both on my time and finances, I adopted the attitude of not caring.  Au naturel, baby!  That’s me.  Who needs the distress?  No one appeared to be cringing in horror when I walked into a room with a naked face.  I could adapt.

A few months ago something happened.  I’m not sure what it was that made me notice, but I became acutely aware of other women.  I noticed their hair, their make-up, their clothes, their perfume, their jewelry, their shoes…  I didn’t exactly sit there and compare myself to them, but I noticed.  I wondered how long it took them to put themselves together the way they did.  And why?  I tried to imagine them without the polished nails, the immaculately coifed hair, the layers of cosmetics, the painful looking footwear...  I wondered why I wondered.   Did these things matter?  Did they make any kind of real difference? 

Bah.  Just a lot of nonsense.

So what compelled me to buy those bras?  What compelled me to put on make-up and splash on perfume?  And why does wearing a purple bra feel so good? 

These are just some of the mysteries of being a woman in the 21st century.  A single woman.  A woman whose ovaries are in their death throes, but continue to display a damnable desire to live.  An intelligent, resourceful and creative woman.  An independent woman.  A woman who has survived two very weird marriages, raised three pretty amazing kids in spite of the men she lived with and has two adorable grandchildren.  A woman who manages - rather well - a small public library.  A woman who owns her own home.  A woman who thought she knew her own mind…

Seriously!  Who knew a pretty purple bra could make such a difference?  And why didn’t I discover this years ago?  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

DIY - Hope Chest

Many, many years ago – close to 35, I think – my father made a cedar-lined hope chest for me.  It was designed to be upholstered so that it could function as a seat as well as a cedar chest.  My intention at the time was to needle point a cover for it so that it could be finished.  For reasons that I no longer recall, the needle point cover never got made and the chest never got finished. 

Filled and sanded, my old cedar chest
awaits a major facelift.
Until recently.  Today, in fact.

A while back I was looking at it, thinking that it really has been useful over the years, but that it needed a facelift.  It was battered and scarred and more of an eye-sore than it needed to be.  I determined to re-vamp it and finally get it finished. 

I had a notion of what I wanted to do with it, but before I could start, I needed the fabric to upholster the seat.  My first thought was:  contact my sister!  She’s an avid quilter and so, I reasoned, probably spent a good deal of time in fabric shops.  I shot off an e-mail explaining what I wanted and why and was rewarded a couple of weeks later with about 20 photos of potential fabrics to choose from.  I also learned that there was a difference between a fabric store and a quilting shop.  While both sold fabric, fabric stores sell all kinds of fabric whereas quilting shops sell fabric more specific to the interests of quilters.  Who knew?

The amazingly gorgeous fabric my
sister found for me!
Anyway, my sister did make her way into a fabric shop one day and obliged me with some pretty spectacular choices. But photo #8 was the instant winner!

E-mails were exchanged.  Arrangements were made.  Money was forwarded.  And, eventually, the fabric arrived in the mail.  The project could finally begin.

Each colour took only a few minutes to
apply, but each layer took a day.  
The next order of business was to choose paint.  I took the fabric to the hardware store and began the tedious process of matching the colours: green, yellow, orange and red.  I found four that I liked and were fairly close and ordered them.  A few hours later, I was loaded up (as was my credit card) with all the bits and pieces I would need to get things happening. 

I must digress…

Once I knew what fabric I wanted and was waiting for it to arrive, I sanded, filled and sanded the hope chest in preparation of the real fun. 

Digression complete…
It took two weeks to get to this stage.

The bare wood required primer.  So that’s what I started with.  Two coats over two days followed by two more days of curing passed before I could start painting with the colours.  There was still one more thing to do, though.  I had to tape off the stripes.  There was no planning involved; I just started taping off areas as the mood moved me.  I felt that random thicknesses and spacing would be more fun than measuring it all out with precise widths.  I had no idea what it would look like or how it would turn out. 

This is what the cedar chest looked like
before the transformation.
As the days passed and the roll of painters tape slowly dwindled, the transformation took shape.  It was a bit of a wearisome process with all the waiting and patience that were involved.   I prefer not to have to wait and be patient, especially when I’m excited about something.  And I was excited about this.  I wanted it done, already.  I wanted to see it finished.  But paint has its own pace and will not be rushed. 

At least not without consequences…

Nothing dire, or terribly dramatic, I’m afraid.  I just got a little too eager after the painting was done and plopped the top onto the box to see what it looked like put together.  The result was pleasing and so I left it in situ overnight.  Unfortunately, the paint was still tacky and the lid stuck to the bottom and so I was compelled to do a few touch-ups.  Sigh…

My semi-successful attempt at
In the meantime, I set about upholstering the top.  The only other thing I have ever upholstered in my life is a foot stool that I made in grade nine woodworking class.  It was more or less like wrapping a present and I figured that doing the top of the hope chest would be an approximate  reprise of that, only on a slightly larger scale.  Let’s just say that it isn’t horrible.  I mean I can live with the results.  (I kind of have to now, anyway.)

I left the touch-ups to dry for two days.  After that I couldn’t stand it anymore and I set the upholstered top in place.  There were still a couple of things left to do – put the hinges back on and attach the handle, but I was distracted by other demands that life was dishing out and was forced to leave those for a few days. 

The finished cedar chest ready for public consumption.  
So today, after digging two fence-post holes, weed-whacking, plant shopping and plant planting, I decided to finish the hope chest.  Guess what?

Yep the touch-ups were still tacky and the top was stuck to the bottom again.  Sigh…
One day I will re-touch-up the freshly damaged touch-ups.  As long as the lid is closed no one (but us) will ever know.