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August 2008


evening sing along with my parents

This is my reality. A family sing-along. A house with sealed windows. So many types of cheese that I can't keep track. Stores where you can find everything you need just a stone's throw away. Auditioning for the community choir. Art and history museums. Restaurants that serve only local food.

Realities are funny like that. Whichever one you're in, it quickly becomes yours, out of necessity. All realities are similar in some ways - friends, laughs, frustrations and good times, sharing meals and sharing music. They are also very different in other ways due to poverty and other forms of systemic oppression.

My reality is already quite different from theirs. But I know their reality. It was mine, and will always, in some way, remain mine. One can't be in a place for three years and not fully live there. And so I will remember the hard reality that is being lived several thousand miles away, south of the border, by normal people, my friends, and my children. Today is the first day of school, and my children are present in my thoughts today in a very tangible way. Even though I'm far away, I can guess that Victor might be putting together the map of Africa, or that Sandra Luz has sat down to remove hardened corn kernels from the cob.

countdown to goodbye day 3

countdown to goodbye day 7

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tarahumara girls

Also very present in my mind is the tragedy that befell my small town several days back. If you read Spanish, here's an article. It appears that one of the warring drug cartels called the local police, told them to leave Creel, then came in and shot thirteen people, including a baby. No police or any officials arrived for hours after. Many people mentioned in the article, including the priest "Padre Pato" who is taking the lead in the mobilization of the community against these atrocities, are either friends of ours or we know of them. One of the victims was the cousin of one of my students.

Marijuana is grown in the mountains surrounding Creel by some indigenous peoples who need the money in order to feed their families. Often, they aren't paid by the local drug lords for their work, and if they demand payment, they are promptly shot and the local authorities look the other way.

Next time, when officials speak of the war on drugs, think about what happens if they wipe out one cartel. A power vacuum emerges and there is violence to gain control. People are killed and communities are terrorized. It isn't our reality, but it is a frightening reality for the people who live it. Marijuana has never killed anyone in the United States. The fact that it is illegal, however, kills hundreds and hundreds of innocent people in Mexico. Alcohol kills. Cigarettes kill. Big Macs kill. The Drug War kills.

I do know that this first day of school will be a different one, as the children have, undoubtedly, picked up on the sadness and fear of their parents. My hope is that they find comfort in the reality of the classroom - a place where they are loved, respected, and encouraged to be loving and respectful in turn. My heart goes out to all of my friends in Creel, today - Adrian, Juan, Eduardo and Maria; Gaby and Diego; Elena, Victor and Sabina; Gaby, Beto, Victor and Benjamin; Mauricio, Arturo, Adriana, Arturo and Laura, all of the Padres de Familia, and all of my students, and the many other friends that  don't have easy access to the internet. Estan muy presentes en nuestros corazones - que tengan la fuerza para seguir luchando contra la injusticia, que la comunidad encuentre la paz en el duelo comun, y que sepan que los queremos mucho.

Mexico March 15 2008

family time

florida beach

Florida beach at sunset with a good book.

I've been operating on Family Time this past week and a half. What with the visit to Florida to see Patrick's family and the arrival of my parents in North Carolina for a 10-day stay, I've had precious little time to spend in front of this here computing machine.

Family time is good. Family time is...
...completely forgetting about your normal life.
...watching adult siblings act like children once again.
...road-runner fast.
...molasses slow.
...a whole different dimension.
...full of stories past.
...celebration and eating out.
...deep breaths and deep belly laughs.
...wonderfully human, in all ways.

So much to write, so little time. I am sure, however, that my time is being well spent.


rolls of dirt cheap fabric
... and oodles of dirt cheap, expensive fabric. Enough to make me faint out of shock. Have I moved to the land of milk and honey? But really - if you live anywhere near Durham, stop reading this right now and head to Decorative Fabrics on W. Main and Watts. The owner is retiring to Florida, and you can fill up bags of remnants and upholstery samples for $2 a piece. These big rolls were selling for $5-$10 a roll. A roll. Will somebody pinch me, please? My goodness.

$2 bag for all remnants and samples

Upholstery fabric isn't something I've had the budget to consider until all of this fell into my lap for basically nothing. What hadn't occurred to me is that, even if your local store isn't going out of business, you could probably get a good deal on odd cuts and remnants, which happen to be all that you need to make some outright smashing bags. And coats (I have my eyes on a few versions of this pattern, in green, yellow or even a blue velvet).

But, enough of this coat talk. We're heading to Florida this weekend, and coats will be the last things on our minds. (That's a lie. I will continue to think about my future coat. Thinking can't make you any hotter than you already are. I'm just sure that I'll be the ONLY person in Florida thinking about a coat.) We'll be there for a week to celebrate my in-law's 30th anniversary. We're hoping to hit some springs, go for some hikes (is it still considered a hike if you don't walk up any hills?) and spend as much time at the beach as Patrick's Irish skin will allow. I've packed the embroidery hoops and will be toting around some handwork wherever we go. Be well, my friends, and enjoy your weekend!

anna tunic

anna tunic take two

anna tunic button detail

Meet Miss Anna. If Nina Simone's Feeling Good is my theme song, the Anna tunic is my theme shirt. Why? Buttons.

I know I must have sung the praises of button covering kits before, but this merits redundancy. Funky buttons can make the entire garment come alive. I'm just so bummed that I can't see the buttons when I'm wearing the shirt. Perhaps you'll understand if I turn my back on you in the middle of a conversation. Ha!

The pattern: I found the language intuitive and the diagrams helpful, although I wouldn't recommend it for a newbie due to some trickiness in attaching the yoke. It took me about three hours to complete, and at least half of that was spent ironing and cutting the fabric. A word about sizing - I cut out a Medium, as per my measurements, but I had to go back and take in the seams by one inch on each side seam under the arm. (I tapered the new seam into the waist line). I'm guessing this is because I'm bustier than I am broad in the back. Just keep this in mind while cutting out the pattern. Go with the size indicated, then be sure to try on the bodice once you've sewn the initial side seams and before you've sewn the lining and exterior bodice together at the underarm seam. If the underarm seam is a little floppy, pin it and sew the seam again to meet your own dimensions.

The sewing machine: Yum. Everything about it is perfect. My stitches look really pro - something that was definitely not the case on my old machine. Truth be told, I'm having a difficult time writing this post because I'm looking with longing to my left, where my machine sits ... batting her eyelashes and begging to be used. I'm such a sucker for that look!

Back with another project soon!

drum roll, please


The studio is up and running! Whenever I walk in here, I swoon. I love it - the 9-foot long table and shelving that Patrick spent days refinishing, the antique Mexican sewing machine perched up high, the wedding ring quilt and crocheted blanket that I found at my local thrift store, and, of course, my new sewing machine and serger. I went with a Bernina Aurora 430 and a Bernina 1300MDC, a combination overlocker/cover stitch model.

I promise more detail soon, but I have to run to get to my class on how to use my new serger. I'm experiencing a creative bottle neck - so many ideas and projects, how is one to decide where to begin?

Perhaps some meditative bird watching before taking the project plunge. Yes. That sounds good.

bird watching from the studio 2