Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

An Afternoon of Strawberries and Aprons

Mom's bottle was usually a
BubbleUp bottle, since that
was cheaper than 7Up.
When I was growing up in the late 50's and 1960's, it seemed like my mom lived in our kitchen. Of course she did--think about what it took to do just the ironing back then. Mom would take one of her big, white, just-laundered damask tablecloths and sprinkle it with water from a BubbleUp bottle that had a metal sprinkler head on it, getting it nicely damp. Then she'd wrap the tablecloth up in a bag and put it in the fridge for awhile before it could even be ironed. Everything for her, from cooking, to ironing, to cleaning, took two, three, or four times the steps and work it does today. It was a world away from our own kitchens of convenience--push button microwaves, steam irons and high-tech vacuums.

There was always an old pop bottle
in the fridge with a cap like this in
it for sprinkling the ironing.
There's another thing I remember from our kitchen too. I remember that mom was rarely alone in it. When we came home from school, one of her girlfriends would be there and they'd be sitting at the table, drinking coffee and eating toast. I remember thinking, "when I grow up, I'll never just sit around and eat toast. Ever!" Now I'd give anything to sit in my kitchen and eat toast with a girlfriend. We may have convenience, but we are solitary soldiers in our kitchens compared to my mom's generation. They were in and out of each other's kitchens all day long and that's something that's been lost for awhile.

What we do have though, even though it can't ever replace real, human, one-to-one contact, is social media, Tweeting and texting--and it's gone a long, long way in helping me feel like I have someone to eat toast with in my kitchen. I live in the heart of a University town, surrounded by 19 year old students and cranky, old mathematics fellows (professors), so it's not really fertile girlfriend ground. I've always been able to make friends easily and often through my workplace--hospitals and travel agencies were full of girlfriends and friendships blossomed quickly. After moving to Oxford though, it was hard to get used to not having that outlet for meeting friends, but as Henry Ford said, "Don't find fault, find a remedy." And I did.

My neighbourhood has never proved to
be a good place to meet new girlfriends.
I decided to embrace the new way we have of connecting to one another online and started nurturing our B&B Facebook page, and learning how to use the strange and mystical world of Twitter. It didn't happen overnight, but slowly, slowly, I started to connect with kindred spirits and began to make new friends. Sure, they're friends I've never met, but I believe the heart can traverse through time and space. Even Einstein knew that. He spent a life's work trying to define the 'unified field'. The field beyond time and space that connects all life, all love, all eternity. It may be a lofty way to describe Twitter, but I think the mechanism of the unified field is how we all really connect. The heart, my heart, isn't limited to the four walls of my kitchen--it can reach out with simple zeros and ones into the digital world and find a Karen or a Bernadette or a Lisa or a Susan and a Kim.

Most days by 1pm Oxford time, my Twitter girlfriends back in the U.S. are just starting to stir and reach for their first cups of coffee. It's also the time I'm usually ironing or folding laundry, so Tweeting back and forth with them has made my kitchen far less lonely. Plus I have so much more in common with them than the crabby, old professors walking by my house. We're all kindred spirits, but we're also all connected by the common bond of being crazy, fully card-carrying fan-girls of Susan Branch. This means we have the common bond of loving the simple and ordinary arts of homemaking which, through love, is elevated to an artform. We're Anglophiles, sewers, creators, laughers, believers in love, magic, kindness and butter on toast. And we have just as much fun together in the Twittersphere as I did with my crazy dorm-mates back in college. All friends who've never met, but whose hearts connect in that field beyond time and space.

Most of us don’t need a
psychiatric therapist as
much as a friend to
be silly with. 
~Robert Brault

Sometimes we Tweet crazy things back and forth, like my long-time love affair with Tom Selleck or about the ghosts that haunt the B&B, and there's even been a virtual pillow fight. Typos turn into running jokes and there's always someone there to listen. Sometimes the conversation turns more bittersweet, just from a simple discussion about ironing--which turned into what we had to iron as little girls, which turned into talking about ironing our dad's handkerchiefs, which turned into talking about the smell of Old Spice, which turned into the common, loving bond of missing our dads. Like I said, hearts connecting through time and space, without the need for a physical bond other than our phones or computers.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there. When the
soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Which brings us to 1pm yesterday, in my kitchen making strawberry jam, when the girls back home were finally awake and the flurry of Tweets began. After a few minutes I tweeted a photo of my cute Cath Kidston apron and said I was the 'eclectic cook', cooking up the meat for Jack's meals and making strawberry jam. Then someone else Tweeted her apron, and so it began--an afternoon of sharing aprons.

My Cath Kidston apron, the Tweet
that started an afternoon of
aprons--and even better, stories.
Right away I could see how beautiful all the aprons would look together, they had a glow to them, their own loving field, and I knew each one held a story. I asked everyone to share a photo of an apron, so all afternoon the aprons came, one by one, each one as individual as the person who wears it.

Have nothing in your house that 
you do not know to be
useful or believe to be beautiful.
~William Morris

The aprons of kindreds
Lisa, Lyn, Maria, and Karen

If God had intended us to
follow recipes, He wouldn't
have given us grandmothers.
~Linda Henley

The aprons of kindred spirits Georgie,
Cindy, Cynthia and Gabi.

Homemaking is surely in reality the
most important work in the world.
What do ships, railways, mines, cars,
government, etc. exist for except that
people may be fed, warmed, and safe
in their own homes? The homemaker's
job is one for which all other's exist.
~CS Lewis

The aprons of Laura, Georgie,  
Kimberly and Belinda.

Some were the familiar Susan Branch pattern
and fabric that look so pretty hanging,
like four maids, all in a row. 

This beautiful apron of Maria's below was
made from Susan Branch's original
fabric, which is happily available
again on Spoonflower, along with
old favourites and new designs.
for free on Susan's website and it makes
a very special gift or a treat for yourself.

All of the aprons blended so sweetly and
these belong to Kim, Georgie and Kimberly.

Kim's beautiful aprons are perfect against
the pine furniture and her kitchen treasures.
She has two framed and very special heirloom
recipe cards from her mom and grandmother
over her kitchen stove--along with her
grandma's pie pan. They keep her mom
grandma right by her side as she cooks.
The best kind of heirlooms you could have.

We had Christmas aprons that everyone ooohhhed and ahhhed over. The top apron is the Susan Branch pattern  with darling Christmas fabric, made by Maria for Laura after they first became friends--also meeting on Twitter with the help of Susan. A perfect reminder of the start of a friendship between two kindred spirits.

Nellie's Christmas apron blended
right in with Cindy's plaids & stripes.

Bright colours mixed with bold colours
mixed with whimsical patterns
for Jane, Georgie, Laura & Kimberly.

Nellie's aprons below reminded me of my
own past. The top photo looks just like
the aprons worn at every Lutheran
Church potluck I've ever attended, and
the bottom left is from the Pike Place
Market in Seattle, my hometown.
The cute one on the bottom right
are the colours and berries that Nellie
likes to use to decorate her kitchen. 

Lisa sent a photo of a more manly
apron amidst her florals and Karen's
were light & airy pastels. Who knew
aprons could hold so much personality?

We had bittersweet moments too, talking about the glamour aprons our moms and Nanas used to wear when they entertained. Glamour aprons were usually half aprons made of netting, crisp organdy or voile. They were for special occasions only, and would be changed into once the nitty-gritty of the cooking was done. Georgie remembers her Nana wearing the pink one at Christmas and I remembered my mom's red glamour apron with gold rick-rack. 

Mom's red net apron was gathered and full--very bouffant. I used to flounce around the house in it pretending I was Marilyn Monroe or Dorothy Provine (my favourite paperdoll person). The glamour aprons were so versatile too. I'd wear the colourful ones as a cape or a skirt, and the white organza apron usually served as the bridal veil for my marriages to Dr. Kildare or President Kennedy (true child of the 60's).

Thank you Georgie for sharing the glamour aprons and the memories.

The fun, tweets, and apron sharing lasted until about 5 or 6pm Oxford time, so what 3 or 4 years ago would have been a solitary afternoon alone in my kitchen, just me and my strawberries, turned out to be an afternoon of frivolity, jokes and shared memories; what any afternoon hanging out with girlfriends is--and all because of talking about aprons.

In everyone’s life, at some time,
our inner fire goes out. It is then
burst into flame by an encounter
with another human being. We
should all be thankful for those
people who rekindle the inner spirit. 
~Albert Schweitzer

In case you hadn't noticed, the world around us is changing drastically--poke your nose out your front door on any given day and you can't ignore it. Some of the change can be frightening, but I find most of it exciting and invigorating--especially the new ways of loving and connecting to one another. I wouldn't have survived my eight years in Oxford without being able to Facetime, text, Tweet, or chat. I've embraced the digital age with bells on and it helped me survive the transition and the loneliness of leaving my family and friends behind, when I moved to Oxford and began a new life.

Any 'Outlander' fan-girl will
understand this photo of Avebury.
Every time Stuart and I are at Stonehenge or the village of Avebury, I marvel at us humans. We've advanced so far and in so many ways, yet here we are, still reaching out to one another in the dark just as we did when Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago: lighting our fires to brighten the night, telling our stories to one another, comforting our losses and laughing at our foibles. As C.S. Lewis put it, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'Wait! You too? I thought I was the only one.'

So thank you for yesterday Twitter girlfriends--thank you for taking the time to share both your aprons and your stories with me. You, and your aprons, are all as lovely as can be--and the jam is delicious! It would be wonderful to be all together in one big kitchen--but as it turns out, the whole world is our kitchen. What a nice thought. xxxooo

And there's one more big, big thank you!!
To Susan Branch from all of your crazy
fan-girls, we thank you from the bottom of
our kindred hearts for bringing us all together.

Instead of deadlines and dread,
my home now smells like
strawberry-apple bread and joy.
I should bake more often.
~Dr. SunWolf