Saturday, August 01, 2015

Alphabet Club: A for Ancestry

They only met online, but it
changed their lives forever
The Alphabet Club is the brainchild of Serendipitous Jo and Chiara of the Grey Tail. You can read about it here, but the short answer is that each month a group of stitchers will talk about words specific to our languages (dialects, regionalisms) related in some way to our stitching. You're invited.

I signed up, but let me tell you, I've spent the last month racking my brain. Just what "A" word would I share?

Then, when the dude and I were walking around Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, I had an idea. (We were traveling home today so this post is a little later than I would have liked.) As I've reviewed what other people have written about, I realize that my take on the exercise is a little different from other people's. But I'm sticking with it.

My word is ancestry. I know you all have ancestry, whether you know much about your forebears or not. But there is a sort of slant way of looking at it in America, which I think is pretty particular, but may be shared with some other places where there are many immigrants. Maybe not; let's find out.

What are you?

In America, if someone asks, "what are you?" they have a very particular meaning in mind that almost every other American understands immediately. They are not asking whether you work as a lawyer or plumber or teacher or doctor. They are asking what your ancestry is.


Almost no one will answer "American" even if we have been here for generations. Oh, when the Olympics are on or on the Fourth of July, people will embrace that identity, for sure. But when faced with the question "what are you?" people will go to great detail to tell you what their ancestors' countries of origin are. Usually, I stick with 3/4 French Canadian and 1/4 Polish, even though my great grandfather left Vilnius when it was Russian, and there's possibly a little Lithuanian in there. And the French Canadian--there are claims to Native American blood as well as the shame of being part Campbell. But generally speaking I round up. (There are those who will tell you they are 1/16 something or 1/32 something else.) 

This struck me particularly in the French parts of Nova Scotia because I realized 1) I had only vague knowledge of the Grand Deportation* --how can one claim a heritage when one doesn't know its history? 2) I came to the realization that names I knew from my youth--in the 1980s, three-quarters of New Hampshire natives were of French Canadian descent--were completely Anglicized (for example, we pronounced Gagne, "Gag-knee") (frankly I can't even pronounce my own name in French with a straight face**) and 3) related to number 2, there were names that were French that I had no idea were French. Interestingly the greatest of these was "Melanson" which was just everywhere in Nova Scotia, and especially important historically. 

I had a similar experience on a teaching trip I made to Poland, the land of my people. Where I realized that besides eating pierogies every now and again, and celebrating (in a half-assed sort of way) Wigilia, I was Polish only insofar as I was Polish-American. That is, I had much more in common with other Americans than I had with Poles.

Now this may be different for people who still speak their ancestor's language(s) in the home, or who live in ethnic encalves, but I'm pretty sure if someone who is 1/32 Italian shows up in Rome, they are going to feel pretty disconnected from the ancestry they hold onto with both hands.

I'd love to hear if people in other parts of the world have this sense of ancestry.

I will add a couple of photos of "French" and "Polish" Santas that I have stitched, but I need to dig them out of storage.

*To be fair, my people are from Bas Canada (Quebec) and not the Maritime Provinces.

**True story. In second grade, when I started CCD (religious education) each teacher read out the names from their list of students to gather their classes. Faced with my name, which isn't that difficult, the teacher called over an old French nun to say it. When I heard it, I had no idea she was calling my name. At the end, they asked if anyone's name hadn't been called, and I raised my hand. They assigned me to a new teacher, presumably one who could say my name in English. ;)

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Movie of the Blog

If you got a movie deal about your life based on your blog. Who would be the leading lady and why?

I think you’re going to be shocked by my answer, but I’m going to say Judi Dench.

What?! I hear you shout, I thought you were all about showing the world that we’re not old ladies?!?

Listen, we’re making a movie not a documentary. We’re dealing with Hollywood. You know, the guys (I use the term advisedly) who think it’s perfectly acceptable for an ancient man to woo twenty-somethings. Think Harrison Ford (55 at the time) and Anne Heche (29) in Six Days Seven Nights. (If you want more examples, go here).

Women practically disappear from the screen when they reach a certain age. If you’re not sure what I mean, you should watch this. You should watch it even if you do know what I mean. It’s NSFW, but it is hilarious.

We already can’t convince the media that there are young(ish) people who stitch, how on earth can we go up against Hollywood and win? So I figure, let’s get Judi Dench. She’s good. And she stitches. She even stitches the word “cunt.”

In a perfect world, it’d be Janeane Garofalo, right?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Work-in-Progress Wednesday...Soldiering On

So much for finishing before the next Wednesday rolled around {cue sad trombone}. Not only did I not finish, I didn't even get to the part I was teasing you with. Instead of stitching, I:

  • celebrated my anniversary with dinner at a restaurant who's motto was "Love is...getting fat together. So eat more!" (We did not know this when we planned to eat there.) 
  • taking my second oldest niece to a minor league ball game in Delaware that went on f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
  • making potato salad and watermelon feta salad (really, try it!) for Sunday dinner
  • having my hair done 
Can that be it? Because I feel like I was run off my feet between last Wednesday and this! I'm sure there were lots of little things to do that didn't even make it to the calendar. 

Today, I continued work on Shining Star while I was getting a pedicure. The manicurist, who did not speak English as a first language, asked me about my stitching.

Mani: You like sewing?
Me: Yes.
Mani: You must have so much patience.
(I've talked about this before here.)
Mani: How long have you been working on this?
Me: This piece, or cross stitch generally?
Mani: Generally.
Me: 25 years.
Mani: You could be a teacher. Teach kids. You don't see that many people doing this now. Mostly old ladies, retired ladies.

Wow--two of my pet peeve stereotypes in one short conversation! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Postcard Blog Hop

Serendipitous Jo (I've completely rechristened her, which I am very careful not to do IRL because I hate being called Nikole or, worse, Nik) (but she couldn't think of a clever nickname, and since I think of Donna at Needleworker Not in Paradise as Jo--she was when she started blogging--I have to distinguish.) Let's get on with that sentence, shall we? Serendipitous Jo is hosting a postcard blog hop, and I'm next to share. 

I received this postcard form Katie at Jeremiah's Mom:

I thought this one would fit well for all dog lovers. Now if only we could learn from them.

Thanks, Katie, for reminding us all the things our pets can teach us. Her note reminds me of this quote:
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. --Edward Hoagland.

As readers know, I have a rescue dog called Stella. She's been in our lives for just over six years, and that's how long the dude and I have been working on becoming part dog.

Be sure to check out the other hoppers at Serendipitous Stitching.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rules, Rules, Rules

Serendipitous Jo and I were talking back channel about my anti-public record keeping post. She was saying that stitchers accumulate and need to be encouraged to use the things they accumulate. To which I say, really? Why not just do it?

In fact, I said this:
But then just use it! Why do you need rules for that? That might actually make an interesting post. I am incapable of using the things I own because...
And she said we should ask you what your self imposed rules are. Maybe you're a one-at-a-timer? Or you have to stitch a certain thing before you do anything else? Or you have to stitch some boring bit before you can move on to the good bits (if so, be specific). Maybe you have to backstitch as you go.

So what are your self imposed rules for stitching?

Me, I just let stash accumulate. I guess my thing is starting loads of projects in January. But since I have projects that took me ten years to finish, I think the truth of the matter is that I'm just not that worried about when I stitch something, just that I have something to stitch!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Work in Progress Wednesday - Shining Star

Thank you! I'm so glad I've found the rest of you. Honestly, I've been thinking about writing that post for months but I was worried about being kicked off the stitching bloggers' internet. Now we all know.

(This happens to me at meetings all the time. We'll be sitting around the table getting nowhere with some problem or action item, and finally after ten minutes of everyone staring at the center of the table, I'll say the most obvious thing and this somehow works to move us along. And then afterwards, people come up to me and say, "Thank you for saying what everyone was thinking." So that is my role in life: saying the unsayable, being willing--or unmannered, unsticking things.)

Of course, now that puts the pressure on for me to really bring something to my WIP Wednesday post, doesn't it? I appear to have exhausted my resources by sharing the Christmas carols story.

I ran out of Forest Glade, the color I am using for the words. Used it all up. Even after I had read Mary Agnes's admonition to keep your dye lots and color numbers and "stop stitching several strands before you absolutely run out." But I kept on stitching with that color because: magical thinking! Of course it was going to be enough. I'd just be able to eke it out. 

I have a plan. You'll just have to wait until next Wednesday (or until I finish it, which I'm hoping will be before next Wednesday).

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Don't Care How Much Money You've Spent

"Konstanz (5033710308)" by Yannick Bammert - Konstanz.
Licensed under 
CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I don't care how much money you spend on your cross-stitch. There. I've said it.

You do spend money. You don't spend money. You spend the money you're "allowed" to spend. You spend more than you're allowed to spend. You "buy" yourself extra money by stitching. You earn it but you don't buy anything with that extra money.

Maybe you're keeping track for yourself. Good for you. That's not that interesting to me as a reader.

One of the things I can't tell from reading most of these Stitch from Stash posts is how much money you have. I don't know your fiscal budget; how much money you make; how much you owe your creditors. No idea. These reports are completely out of context.

I also don't know what kind of person you are. If you're  parsimonious, then I am completely unimpressed by your ability to not spend money. Seriously, if you're not spending money on anything. what's one more thing not to spend on? If you're completely loaded, who cares if you keep your spending below $25 per month? It's not like you can't let loose on every other kind of spending.

Have you had to take control because you have some kind of compulsive spending problem? Because that, I want to read about.

You know what? If you were starving your children so you could buy the whole collection of Belle Soie, I might read your update. But if you're not spending money again this month? Who cares? I don't spend money on cross-stitching most months.

Good luck to you with your record keeping. But post after post after post of "spent $x on this" bores me. And I'm not reading it.