The Pink Chair

Hello, I'm back, after a more-than-a-year-long hiatus where I've been trying to figure out what I'm doing and where I'm going... Honestly, I'm still working on that (why rush it? har har, *sigh*) but while I do, I thought I'd post some projects that I'm working on starting with this pink chair.

Isn't that cute? I picked the frame up for $20.00 and I had it upholstered in Lotta Jansdotter's Kulla pattern in the color Rosey Cheeks from her Glimma Canvas line. I love it! It's an extremely comfortable chair and it's Heather-sized. I can sit in it with my legs tucked up (like I am as I type this post). My feet touch the floor when my back touches the back (I'm short so that doesn't often happen). And the arms are high enough to be comfortable but low enough that I can knit without bumping them. It's the perfect chair for me, and now it's in one of my favorite colors. 

However, for the past couple of weeks it's been in the living room like this:

Hidden under the afghan my Auntie knitted for me when I was in high school. Why? Because I had the realization that this chair, in this lovely color, in this lovely fabric, is a dirt magnet. Full confession: I can be a little messy. I loved this fabric so much that I went and had a fairly expensive, beautifully done, upholstery job done using it, knowing full well of my proclivity to ruin things. I'm the person who breaks all of the glassware in my house. It's so bad that Hun has threatened to get me a t-shirt that says "I'm the reason we can't have nice things." 

So it may have been a less-than-ideal choice, which hit home when the talented woman who did the work said that this new upholstery can last on this frame for sixty years! No pressure. Here's the thing though, I maintain that there comes a time in a person's adult life when they should stop making all decorating decisions based upon what hides the dirt the best. I'm not suggesting that when you turn forty you should move to a home with white carpeting and white upholstery, but you should be able to pick a color other than brown at some point in your life... Even when you, not your children, are the person most likely to drop a bowl of spaghetti on it.

I was worried that I would either live with it hidden to keep it pristine, or reveal the upholstery and probably ruin it, but then I thought of option #3 make a slipcover for it:

That's what I'm going to attempt to do. I ordered four more yards of the same fabric to make a washable slipcover, in order to (hopefully) preserve the upholstery. Yes, the irony of spending all of that money on the upholstery only to turn around and slipcover it is not lost on me. However, in all fairness, it was too broken and sagging when I bought it to be slipcover-able. That part had to be done no matter what. 

I've never actually made a slipcover before, so I can't begin to guess how it's going to turn out. But this handy-dandy book, that I've had laying around for years on the off-chance that I might want to do this very thing some day, has great instructions. I am hopeful that I can do this.

I'll show you as soon as I'm done. It'll be interesting, that's for sure. I'm trying to figure out the arm-engineering. Do I cover the wooden arms or find a way to make the slipcover work around them? I know which one would be easier but I'm not sure I want to base my slipcover decisions on the path of least resistance. Hmmm....

I'll leave you with this photo I call "Fuzz Butt Snoozing on My Linty Couch." Cute huh? I mean the dog, the couch needs a tape rolling in the worst way.

Awwww.....

See you soon,

Ode to a Flooded Basement

I don't know what you do when your basement floods but I write a poem. Unfortunately my poetic inspiration is limited to Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. Anyway, without further adieu I give you:

Ode to a Flooded Basement

One warm and misty morn I woke

And much to my surprise,

Upon my morning rounds I saw

The tide’s begun to rise.

 

“Are you beside the shore?” You ask

“Down beside the Sea?”

“Why no” I answer for alas,

The tide has come to me.

 

For down upon my basement steps

This morning I did tread,

Where I surveyed the dampened room

Which filled my heart with dread

 

For long ago a silly man

Whose motives aren’t quite clear,

Believed he should assign himself

The role of engineer.

 

And looking down upon the pit

Designed for the foundation,

He had the rather clever thought

Which needed exploration.

 

Sure it was a cellar

But its purpose could be dual,

For where most could see a cellar

He could see a swimming pool!

 

“I can see it now!” he then exclaimed

And then he made the statement,

“We have only but to drain

The water INTO the basement!

 

The people who will buy this house

Will surely be delighted

To have a springtime swimming pool

For friends to be invited!”

 

No one on the job site dared

To offer up dissension,

Because this man was just so pleased

With his clever new invention.

 

“Everyone will want one!

This is sure to be a hit!

I’ll call it ‘The Cellar Swimming Pool’

I’ll need to patent it.”

 

And thus it was our house became

The prototype du jour,

As he would install four more drains

Which ended in the floor.

 

Now every wet and soggy day

As the room begins to flood

We’d like to have him for a swim

And drown the stupid dud.

 

Well, we don't really want to drown him. Just make him stand there in bare feet for a while.

Happy Hump Day to all! May your basements, if you have them, be dry.

H

My Thoughts on Grace, Humility and a White Bear

(Interspersed with pictures of pretty, icy trees around our house... to break up the long text... you'll thank me by the end.)

Grace is something that is very important to me. In fact, I would say that teaching my children how to show grace is one of the most important lessons I hope to teach them.

What is grace? I’m mostly glad you asked, “mostly glad” because what it is, is hard for me to define. I have an expanded definition, but I’m going to try here.

*Religion paragraph to follow, brace yourselves my non-religious readers.*

In Christian circles we talk about grace as being “God’s unmerited favor towards us.” We humans are a messy bunch. As we move through our lives, even the kindest of us will cause pain to our fellow humans both deliberately and unintentionally. We don’t deserve God’s grace, yet He gives it.

*Religion paragraph completed, now back to secular-friendly thoughts.*

But that definition doesn’t work for human-to-human relationships. Saying that my giving grace to you is me showing “unmerited favor towards you” sounds raw-ther presumptuous. Besides, didn’t I accidentally back over your garbage cans last week? Yessiree, on any given day, I may be the one in need of some unmerited favor!

Ten days after the ice-storm the trees were still icy. It stayed that cold.

Ten days after the ice-storm the trees were still icy. It stayed that cold.

For us mere mortals, grace has its origins in humility… The prideful can’t be gracious; they’re too centered on themselves. However, humility is another thing that is really hard to define, but after many years of thinking about it, I think I might have unraveled it at least in part.

For starters, I like half of what C.S. Lewis once said about humility “Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.” The thing I like about that quote is that it clears up the notion that the expression of humility lies in the “woe is me, I stink” mentality.  “Woe is me, I stink” lands a person wallowing in self-pity, where they can’t help but think about themselves even more, not less. (Besides, you don’t stink, no one does. There are some things that you’re good at and others that you’re not. Just be realistic in your self-assessment without falling into decidedly unhelpful self-abasement. )

However, the second part of that quote causes me some problems in the practical application. It sounds like Wegner’s work on thought suppression where he’d tell his subjects “Don’t think about a white bear.” which naturally made them think about a white bear. Now you’re thinking about a white bear, aren’t you? As Wegner discovered, the harder you try to not think about something, the more you think about it.

Meaning your efforts to think about yourself less are pretty much doomed from the start:

“OK, today I’m not going to think about myself… here I go, not thinking about myself…. OK, I’m not going to think about myself starting…… NOW!..... OK, NOW! Maybe I should make a chart to check off when I’m thinking about myself….”  Doomed indeed.

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Instead, I think about humility as the way we view ourselves in relation to our fellow humans and how we understand our place in the universe.

Here are three seemingly incongruous things that are true about all of us all at the same time:

1.       I am insignificant

2.      I am indistinguishable

3.       I am important

*A brief aside: in my humble opinion the ability to hold seemingly-contradictory-yet-true ideas in tandem is a skill that is being lost. Many contradictory things can be true of something, it just depends on the angle from which you’re viewing a thing, as I’m about to illustrate.*

Taken in order:

I am insignificant. For that matter, so are you. I don’t mean that as a statement on the value of human life, it’s a simple, true statement. In the vastness of the universe, in the infinite expanse of time, among all of the billions of people who have lived and who will live, we are very, very small. Our lives aren’t even a punctuation mark in the pages of the history of the universe.

The current western zeitgeist is focused on everyone being special.  While there is value in encouraging people to reach their full potential, there is also value in remembering how small we are in the grand scheme of things. One thousand years from now the world will only remember a few people alive today. Billions of equally special, equally insignificant people have gone before us and have been long forgotten. Billions more will follow us and they’ll be forgotten too. (I know I sound incredibly depressing right now but it’s still a good perspective to have in your head. It’s VERY grounding.)

Being mindful of how insignificant I am is so important. When I’m acting like the world revolves around me, when I am very impressed with myself, when I think I deserve special treatment, remembering how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things gives me valuable perspective.

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I am indistinguishable. I am no more or less important than any other person on the planet.

I pay lip service to this, but as a person from one of the wealthiest countries in the world, who is in the richest 5% of people in the whole of the world (as are most people in first-world countries), with all of the freedoms and opportunities available to me; this is very easy to forget in practice. Having those advantages can give me the illusion that I earned them or intrinsically deserve them, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Have you ever thought about how much of your life is random chance? You could have been born at any time, in any place, to anyone. How different would your life be if you were born in North Korea? If you were born as a woman in Afghanistan? If you were born into poverty in a third world country? So many of the things that we take for granted, which we may internalize as making us important or special, of which we may be proud, are nothing more than the outworking of random chance.

My life is the way it is through the interweaving of chances, choices and circumstances many of which weren't mine and many of which were completely beyond my control. None of those things make me any more valuable than anyone else; I can’t even take credit for the fact that they’re true of me.  

White bear! (ha ha, thought I’d lighten it up a little…. OK, back to deep(ish) thoughts, right after this tree.)

Our neighbor's maple, poor thing.

Our neighbor's maple, poor thing.

I am important. And that importance carries a HUGE responsibility.

To the people around me, to my friends and most importantly, to my family, I am very important. I am the only mother my children will get, and they will learn what kind of person to be from me. To love them is one of the most important responsibilities I have.  I am the only wife my husband will (had better) have while I’m alive. I can make his life happy or miserable by how I treat him. My presence can enhance the lives of my friends or drag them down and being worthy of their friendship is another of the most important responsibilities I have.

Have you ever had a random stranger make or break your day by how they treated you? Maybe they let you go ahead of them in the check-out line; maybe they were snippy with you while you were trying to help them? Perhaps they told you “we’ve all been there” when your kid was having a fit in the store or maybe they looked at you with distain as you carried your darling screaming mimi out to the car? We’ve all had random acts of kindness and random acts of rudeness affect our day, haven’t we?

I am important in every interaction I have with every person I encounter because I hold the ability to make their day better or worse depending upon how I treat them.

This one almost missed the house and scared the snot out of Hun.

This one almost missed the house and scared the snot out of Hun.

OK, lots of words... circling back around to the topic of grace, I’ll give you my definition:

Grace is giving people the space to be human and responding to them with kindness and understanding even when they’re being difficult.

So how do I attempt to combine these two things in practice?

Well, here’s how it would apply to a stranger who is being rude to me:

Because I’m insignificant, I’ll do a quick assessment to see if I did something that I need to apologize for and if nothing comes to mind, I’ll figure that their rudeness is not about me. I’ll generally assume that they’re having a bad day.  They might just be a rude person in general, but it’s a lot easier for me to show grace to someone having a bad day than to someone who’s generally nasty, so I just assign “bad day” to rudeness for my own sake.

Because I’m indistinguishable, I’ll remember that I have bad days too and that everyone is entitled to a bad day and that I’d like for people to cut me some slack if I’m having a bad day.

Because I’m important, I’ll figure that maybe if I’m nice it might make their day a little better. Who knows, my being nice may even be a turning point from bad day to good day for them? OK, maybe I’m not THAT important but it can’t hurt to try.

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So, shall I continue to share my wild success at spreading grace wherever I go?

I’m sorry, I can’t, spreading grace is definitely aspirational for me, particularly if someone is in front of me and driving under the speed limit.

Another aside: We once spent about thirty minutes behind an elderly couple driving soooooo sloooooow that it nearly killed me. I finally decided to narrate what I thought must be going on in the car:

“Edna, do you remember which peddle is the gas?”

“No Hubert, why don’t you try pressing them and see what happens?”

“Well alright, I guess I’ll try the one on the right.”

“OOOOOH HUBERT slow down! We just went zooming along there!”

“I know, Edna! I think we almost went twenty-five miles per hour!”

“You’re a speed demon Hubert. You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Maybe I can drive with my foot on the gas and the brake at the same time so we don’t pick up too much speed.”

My children think this is hilarious but it’s not overly charitable.

It also takes all of my willpower not to irritate easily irritable people. I’m very good at being irritating, yea even gifted, it’s not a thing about which I’m proud but it is true.

Yes, I am most definitely a gracious work in progress and my goal is to get better at it. I am trying and I am having some success at it.

You know two happy side effects of trying to be gracious?

The first is that I don’t take things as personally as I did once upon a time. The practical outworking of my being insignificant is that I don’t often assume that anger or rudeness directed at me is actually about me (unless I just backed over your garbage cans).  When I give people the space to be human with all of their foibles and the messiness that entails, I can allow them the space to be less than their best because I’d like the same grace to be given to me at my “less-than-best” moments. Believe me when I tell you that it’s freeing.

The second is that I am so much more compassionate to people around me. When I stop looking at their behavior from the perspective of “what did I ever do to them?” I can look at them and ask “What’s wrong?” with sincerity. Giving people the space to be human, issues and all, lets me reach out to them as a fellow human with my own unique set of issues. The fact that I am no more important than they are means that they are as important as I am. With that perspective comes the ability to give grace freely.

So there you go, thoughts on grace and humility; deep topics that have been on my mind for some time which I have now (hopefully) in placed in your mind.

Thank you for reading and grace to you all!

And whatever you do, don’t think about a white bear.
H

Awww.... so cute! Too bad they eat people snacks. This decievingly adorable photo of a white bear is from National Geographic

Awww.... so cute! Too bad they eat people snacks. This decievingly adorable photo of a white bear is from National Geographic