I’ve made another patchwork square for your Dear Daughter quilt. This one is called Farmer’s Daughter. I fussy cut the bees for some pieces, but left others so they look like they are scurring under the centre pieces. It would have worked more effective if the red fabric had less white. I’m hoping it shows from a distance.
With every finished square, I include a letter to you. Often I think about my words as I add little stitches to pull the bits of fabric together. The repeating action of sewing concentrates my mind and I can focus on what I want to say. Other thoughts can wait, which fits nicely with the topic I’ve chosen this time. Time to launch in to my letter….
There are no two ways about it. Life can serve up some real humdingers of moments, that we’d prefer to write out of our day. We all have them. We really do. Easy to dwell. Easy to let them pull us down. Easy to let five minutes of something not going our way, to make the whole day feel like a write-off.
So often we forget, dismiss or simply don’t register the simple joys in life, instead focusing on the bad. It’s the way we’re wired. A survival trait.
In basic terms, since time beyond, we are set up to pass on warnings and danger messages so we, and the rest of our community or tribe, survive. There is an immediate benefit from hearing about a wolf seen attacking local sheep. Less true of learning that the lilac down by the river smells particularly good this year. Especially if you depend on your sheep, rather than lilacs, for survival. In this case, focusing on the bad saves lives.
In modern terms, the gossip might fly about the cafe in town that’s linked to a possible food poisoning outbreak, or the road works that add time to your journey and cause major inconvenience. All will be discussed in detail and at length, while a rainbow overhead fades unnoticed.
With the focus on danger and disruptions, it does mean that we need to work a little harder at seeing life’s joy and making it part of us. Hang on. Wait a minute. Why does it matter, you may ask? Good question. I should cover that first.
I think it matters because each of those moments of joy lift our spirits and strengthens us. In contrast, being under a cloud of stress and anxiety leaves us depleted. Try tackling a day in that state and I think you’ll see the advantage of experiencing an uplift instead. Even if it is only fleeting.
By focusing on the small, or seemingly less critical (think lilac), we also glimpse the bigger picture. We gain perspective. It takes us out of ourselves and that is a good thing. A moment to step back, regroup, and then on to tackle at least some of what life can throw at us, slightly stronger than we were before.
Let me give you an example. It’s spring at the moment. We’ve spotted the first swifts of the year, flying over the house. What a sight for winter weary eyes. Often they are flying as pairs, but soon they’ll be more than we can count as they weave and streak through the sky above our heads, outmaneuvering flies to munch on.
Here comes the part that always catches my breath and makes me smile: they’ve flown all the way back from Africa to our patch of the world. Reportedly, without stopping. Just take a moment to think about it. Those little birds have covered thousands of miles, and they do it every year of their lives. Awesome. We witness only the end and the start of their epic journey.
I’m not sure why I was so worried about the traffic jam now. I’ll leave earlier. Although, I might loiter a little longer to watch the swifts dart above my head. ‘Tis a joy.
So how do we see life’s joy in our daily lives? Like gold dust it can be spread thin and difficult to grasp, but with practise it becomes easier. Look around. Stand still and look up. Stop, listen and notice. Take a moment and experience it. For one moment, give yourself permission to not think about the past or overthink the future. Be.
Here are some ideas on how to lose yourself and see the joy:
1. Go outside and take a camera. There is nothing like spotting something new – be it flower, insect or street art – to make you look. I mean really look. Frame it in the camera lens. Take the photo. (this is one of my favourite ways – just look at my instagram feed) Alternatively draw it.
2. Do something you really enjoy doing to the best of your abilities. Entirely for you. Baking, playing the harp, drawing, plant a seed. Concentrating. Getting lost in the process. If you make something, feel free to throw it away at the end, if you want. It’s all about the journey. (Although cake is nice. Just saying.)
3. Spend time with someone you like/love and enjoy their company. Fly a kite. Laughter is compulsory with this one, of course.
4. Find music that really resonates with you. Play it. Dance. Sing. Tap your toes. Lose yourself in it.
5. Meditate. Cloud watch. Stand out in the summer rain.
You will find your own method. Lose yourself in the process. Take no baggage with you. Tomorrow can wait. It will take practise, but the good news is that what ever method you choose, it will make you happy. In a better place to deal with whatever comes next. I know you can do it.
Wishing joy to all.
your loving mother
Spring is in full motion in our corner of the world. I’ve woken to hear the most amazing bird songs, this week, and find myself not rushing up, but enjoying the songs. Not chirps, but full on musical movements! Like an orchestra is playing outside my window.
In the garden, bulbs are popping up overnight. Not really overnight, but I swear they weren’t there the day before. If they hadn’t been there the year before, then I’d begin to think that someone is sneaking into the garden and planting them while we sleep.
(Cyclamen with tiny bug on edge of petal)
Just buds mostly, at the moment, but full of the promise of colour and scent, ready to attract all manner of bugs to visit them. The garden will soon be full of life again.
(Lesser celandine in the woods)
On the home front, I’ve been aware of a change in the children. Especially my two daughters. If you’ve read my previous post , you’ll know that we went to see Hidden Figures over the weekend, as a family, and loved it (I’ve reviewed it, if you’re interested). Go see the film, if you haven’t already.
This week, both girls seem more confident in themselves. Just little things, mostly, but I have noticed that they seem to believe in their abilities a little bit more, especially in maths.
(pulmonaria in the garden)
Maybe I’m imagining it. Wishful thinking, but maths homework has been done without me being asked for help. They come home saying that they understand the topic they are doing in maths, more easily. They’ve helped fellow classmates. They even express the ambition to do well in the subject and how can I help them?
Has the film inspired them? I didn’t see that coming.
I took them hoping to broaden their minds to the racial issues. Giving context and a historical view, which I think it did. And more, it appears.
There is a fine line in parenting. So easy to push, when really what is needed is for eyes to be opened. It makes me wonder how else I can open their eyes to opportunities without appearing to lay out a carved-in-stone career plan. I guess that is my challenge. The fine line we all walk, bringing up children.
So not only is the garden budding up, but children as well. Reminds me why I love so much being a gardener, and a parent too.
Word of the week – budding.
Weathervane quilting square
I’m going to cut straight to the chase. This is the first of a series of letters that I’m going to write you. They are inspired by the Farmer’s wife sampler quilt. This was a competition where the wives of US farmer wrote letters to the next generation of farmer’s wives. Each letter had an associated quilt square or two. The squares can be put together to make one quilt. (read more here)
I am going to do the same. One letter. One square. Until I’ve made you a quilt. Using the squares from the Farmer’s wife book.
Seeing as we’ve been talking about this today, I’m focusing on the question of makeup for this first letter.
I know that a lot of your friends talk and brag about wearing makeup. Some even wear it to school, pushing the rules to their very limit. Like a lot about starting secondary school, this is all pretty new to you. You are an outdoors, active girl who has always been more interested in climbing mountains than the different shades of eye shadow. You would rather be stargazing than investigating the pros and cons of long-lash mascara. And I love you for it.
Let me start by putting this in perspective from a mother’s point of view. The most usual reasons that children choose to wear makeup is to look or feel older. They want to be like everyone else or they lack confidence in their own looks. They may argue differently, but there is no credible reason for most 11 to 12 year old girls to wear makeup on a daily basis.
My message to you is :
First up. I want to talk about you. You are beautiful. There is no good arguing with me on this one. You need no artificial improvement. You have a natural beauty which is only improved by your smile. Even a hint of a smile is sufficient. This point is not up for debate.
Secondly: Be yourself and try not to rush through childhood. Enjoy being 11 while you can. It only lasts a year. Make the most of it.
This is the time to be silly and have fun. Start to work out what you like and don’t like. The beginning of the rules that will guide you through the rest of your life. If your friends want to wear foundation to school, then that is their choice, and they should respect your choice too. I have brought you up not to follow your friends like a sheep, but to question what you want to do. Enjoy now. There is time to be 14…..when you are 14.
Next: look after your skin. Avoid clogging your pores with lots of daily makeup. I’ve set you up with a good daily skincare regime. Make it a habit. You are good at drinking lots of water and eating healthily. At this stage you will do yourself more of a favour if you keep your complexion clear. Not spots.
Finally: you don’t need makeup to make you confident. If you are true to yourself and can look people straight in the eyes, then you will not need the mask provided by makeup. If you can be kind to yourself and believe in yourself, then you’ll wake up every morning confident and ready to face the day. No eyeliner required.
If and when you are ready to experiment with makeup, then I’m happy to help. We’ll make it fun. Start subtle and go from there.
But not to school. Not at 11 years old.
Believe in yourself.
Your loving mother
Thank you for reading. If you want to learn more about this project, click here.