How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Weed

Psychologists have a term—sublimation—for a process whereby certain negative urges are converted into positive behavior.

I’ve been feeling the need to sublimate.

You see, I’m feeling a lot of intense energy lately, much of it negative and a reaction to the daily news. I read what is going on in my country and the world and I get angry or scared, and frustrated.

For my own sake and for the sake of those around me, I need a way to release that stress.

I need a way to sublimate that energy.

Weeding is the answer. It has taken on new meaning for me this summer.

It’s always been an endless activity here, where the crabgrass and clover run free, amid pavers and garden beds.

I’ve always dreaded it a little, seen it as necessary evil, a fact of gardening life to just be dealt with.

Then I saw this strange little cartoon.

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I really did try to find info about this for purposes of attribution. Nothing.

At first I found it disturbing and peculiar but now, every time I kneel down to weed, it inspires me.

When I weed now, I redirect my negative energy and think about the ripping off of heads and pulling out of spines.

I know this doesn’t sounds very “loving hands at home.” It may shock you.

But I’m not advocating actual, literal violence.

And I’m not fantasizing about large-scale head ripping. I’m not imagining pulling just any spines. Just a few specific spines.

It doesn’t work for everyone–some of the people who frustrate me a great deal are immune because they are, seemingly, spineless . . .

So I focus on the others. One in particular.

It’s oddly cathartic, this directing of negative energy to the task at hand. Where I once flinched at the sight of crabgrass, now I eagerly approach it—it has the best long roots.

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If I work too quickly, the roots break and the weed comes back. Sublimation has made me a better, more careful weeder—I want that whole spine.

I finish a weeding session calmer than when I started. AND my patio looks better than it ever has.

So here is my advice to you:

Don’t hate—sublimate.

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Can This Marriage Be Saved?

IMG_4076In the spirit of the long-running column, Can This Marriage Be Saved?, from the magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, today’s post will explore a troubled relationship in my own home, and its chances for success.

Kerry’s turn:

I didn’t want a new love. I had lots of others I was involved with and the relationships were comfortable. I had a busy, fulfilling life and the last thing I needed was weaving.

But weaving was so charming! I’ll admit, it wrapped me up and tied me into knots. I was completely infatuated! I dropped my other relationships or rushed through time with them, in order to spend more time with weaving. I didn’t care about any of those others—I thought about weaving all the time.

And weaving wanted it that way. It wanted all of me.

I liked that weaving was deep and complex and demanding. I didn’t mind the inconvenience or the cost or the quirkiness. I didn’t love everything about weaving—the physical abuse that came from dressing the loom, the temperamental little fits it would throw, if everything wasn’t just so. But I was willing to overlook all that.

I was in love.

Lately, though, weaving is different. The tension is weird. It’s like, if I don’t give it all my time, it does things wrong on purpose, just to punish me. Every time we get together—and I really am trying to spend time with it, as much as I can, I mean, I have a life outside of weaving—every time we get together, it messes with my mind.

It acts up, does little things to confuse me and get me all nervous and unsettled. And it tells me it’s all my fault. I don’t know, I just don’t feel so comfortable and happy with it anymore.

Weaving’s turn:

At first, it was great; she was great. She gave me all her time and treated me as her top priority. I never made any secret of what I wanted from her—devotion, time, energy, forgiveness.

I know I’m not easy. I’ve heard that before and many of my relationships fail because people think I’m too demanding. But she claimed to want that from me. She said she loved that not everyone could make it work with me, and that she wanted to learn everything about me, even if it took a lifetime.

She’s changed. She doesn’t spend time with me like she did and, even when we’re together, she’s distracted and irritable. If things don’t go exactly her way, she stomps out of the room. And she blames me.

And she’s definitely seeing others. It’s clear she’s cheating on me with chocolate and quilting, and she even thinks she should spend time with her family! And her cats! I mean, she knew that cats and I wouldn’t mesh well, but she got more of them anyway!

I’ve about had it with her. She knew I was looking for a monogamous, committed relationship and now I see her as a dilettante. I can make things very uncomfortable for her if she is going to treat me so casually . . . .

The counselor’s turn:

Like so many new couples, Kerry and weaving got caught up in the halcyon newness of the relationship. They focused on the here-and-now, all the perfect little moments together, and didn’t plan for a long-term commitment.

Their early total devotion to each other was unsustainable—we all need other people and interests in our lives. Kerry set up false expectations when she spent so much time with weaving and swore she’d never leave it, but weaving should also know, from past relationships with others, that relationships ebb and flow. Weaving can’t expect 100% of Kerry’s time and affection.

They both need to know that relationships are difficult and that, to last, consistent effort needs to be made. Consistency is a key—the relationship needs to be a priority every day, they need to spend time together, get to know each other at a deeper level, and not expect everything to always be wine and roses.

Weaving is not willing to put up with an on-again/off-again affair. Kerry will need to decide if she is willing to commit to the demands it will place on her. She knows that the payoff to that commitment is great . . . but is she willing to make hard choices?

Weaving needs to be more patient. The relationship is new and weaving is not the easiest partner to get along with. Weaving needs to remember that passive/aggressive behavior—the petulant breaking of warp threads or tangling of pattern and tabby wefts—are never a healthy way to deal with stresses in a relationship.

These two have strengths that can complement each other and I believe the relationship can, indeed, be saved. Patience, consistency, and relaxed time together should help them get through this tangled web they’ve woven. Come on you two–make it work!

The Death of Sunbonnet Sue: It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Girl

Sunbonnet Sue, Strangled by a SunflowerIt was a dark and stormy night. A young woman, wearing a sunbonnet and an apron and known as a pillar of the community, was found dead in highly suspicious circumstances. When contacted, a neighbor said, “I didn’t really know her—she was quiet. But she seemed like such a good girl—who would want her dead?”

Sunbonnet Sue was dead. And I, for one, was glad.

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I spend a lot of time writing, in hushed and reverent tones, about crafts made by “loving hands at home.” I realize that this adds to a pervasive stereotype of makers—quilters, knitters, gardeners, bakers—as old-fashioned, traditional, proper, boring good girls.

It’s easy to lose track of the real, complicated human beings who choose to express themselves by making things, people who are creative, who have strong personalities and opinions, and who are funny!

The life cycle of the quilt and embroidery pattern known as Sunbonnet Sue serves as a perfect example of the ways people, real people, have used one icon to serve lots of different purposes and express a lot of different views of the world.

The original Sunbonnet Sue sort of stands for the stereotype of the prim, faceless crafter. In a previous post, I referred to her as ubiquitous and, in the United States, in the early- and mid-20th century, she really was!

trad sueImages of Sunbonnet Sue originated in book illustrations from the late 1800s.

book sueBetween 1900 and the 1930s, Sunbonnet Sue started showing up in embroidery and quilt patterns that were widely disseminated in the US, according to Carla Tilghman in her very interesting academic paper about the evolution of Sunbonnet Sue (I found the paper at www.academia.edu/5767883/The_Life_Death_and_Resurrection_of_Sun_Bonnet_Sue but am unable to create a link that will take you there–sorry!) At one point, patterns for making a Sue quilt appeared in 900 newspapers!

Sunbonnet Sue clearly struck a chord with many women, offering a sweet and innocent image of childhood.

But Sue was always such a Goody Two-Shoes! The quilt and embroidery images of her showed her in namby-pamby good-girl activities, watering flowers, playing with her dolly, just standing around looking cute.

According to Tilghman, in the heat of the feminist movement of the 1970s, some quilters, feminists all, decided that prissy Sue needed to die. From their collaboration, came the quilt, “The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue.” The quilt was composed of twenty panels, each quilter killing Sue off in a different way.

And they didn’t allow Sue to die a peaceful death either . . .

Some of Sue’s deaths were just regular misfortune—she was hit by lightning.

Sunbonnet Sue, Struck by LightningShe was tied to railroad tracks.

Sunbonnet Sue, Tied to the TracksShe was eaten by a snake. (I LOVE this one!)

Sunbonnet Sue, Eaten by a Snake It could happen to any of us, right?

But this Sunbonnet Sue was also a citizen of a complicated world, dying some pretty modern deaths. Sue died at Jonestown, Guyana—yes, she drank the KoolAid.

Sunbonnet Sue, GuyanaSue died at Three Mile Island.

Sunbonnet Sue, Three Mile IslandShe self-immolated.

Sunbonnet Sue, Self Immolation

She ran afoul of the mob.

Sunbonnet SueShe committed Sue-icide.

Sunbonnet Sue, Sunbonnet Sue-icideI have to admit, seeing this quilt for the first time made me downright gleeful. I love the subversive attitude and the wit. Lots of people found it distasteful, though—I read quilting forums where people railed against these makers, and prayed for the souls of the poor dead Sues.

I do believe this is the sort of thing about which reasonable people may disagree. Give me funny, irreverent crafters any day!

Sunbonnet Sue has continued to evolve. I’m sure there are people out there making traditional Sues to give to cherished grandchildren but others still choose to kill Sue off in gruesome ways and also to reinvent her as a 21st-century kind of gal!

If you go looking, you’ll find lots of images of “bad Sue” patterns these days. Bad Sue lives as she wishes. The website for Urban Threads, for instance, offers lots of patterns for thoroughly modern “Sinbonnet” Sues—goodbye to innocence! Goodbye to prim! These girls embrace the 7 Deadly Sins, as well as roller derby and tattoos.

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The Deadly Sin of Sloth

sinbonnet toughIn today’s world, there are Sues for every taste, as many Sues as there are makers. If you are a modern maker, you didn’t need me to tell you that you are complicated and multi-faceted. You didn’t need me to tell you that you are naughty and nice, and that you have a sense of humor and awareness of the world around you.

If you were going to make a Sunbonnet Sue that represented you, what would she be doing? If you remember my most recent post, mine might be pulling weeds with one hand and wielding a cocktail in the other! Or crafting with attitude!

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The Most Interesting . . .

cat and sunsetHe’s had 15 lives . . . and counting.

Curiosity can’t kill him. It only makes him stronger.

The sun sets at his behest.

He doesn’t always choose chicken but, when he does, he prefers it poached in white wine.

He’s the most interesting cat in the world.

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The photo was taken by my brother-in-law of a stray cat who has since landed in a very fine home, befitting his status.