why is this a big deal? well, let's start at the beginning, shall we?
way back in 8th grade, (oh what a horrible year that was) i wanted to take woodshop. i had done some woodwork at summer camp, and my dad used to let me whittle little pieces of balsa wood with him sometimes. i wanted to make spice racks and shelves. i did NOT want to take home economics. i had no interest in cooking (still don't) and had not the first clue about sewing. but i was told by a droll "counselor" that the woodshop class was full, and "besides, you're a girl, you should want to take home ec." (don't get me started...)
so? i took home ec.
and i burned things. and broke things. made mushy spaghetti and sour yogurt. caused a small fire in one of the ovens with my "partners." got yelled at frequently by the teacher, who had very low frustration tolerance. even for a jr. high school teacher. plus, she spit when she talked. (and she had yellow eyes...so help me god...yellow eyes!) ;) but i digress.
so, i couldn't cook. so what? that's what restaurants are for, right?
next came the sewing unit. now HERE was something i might get into, i thought. beautiful colored fabrics with all sorts of wonderful designs and textures. i was intrigued! our first project? pillows. "easy" pillows. ok, i could handle this. sounded fu , i'd make a cool throw pillow for my bed. so off i trotted to the local fabric store beside my best friend, lauri, and we lovingly chose our 2 favorite patterned fabrics - our excitement mounted to make our fancy pillows. (we were with lauri's mother. she told me i picked "cool" fabrics. i loved her.)
my teacher, who shall remain nameless because i'm nice, took one look at my fabrics (curled her lips over her green teeth) and told me the materials i picked didn't match - that i chose badly. that i chose the wrong type of fabric. she said colors that "clash" don't look good together and that my fabric was muslin and we were supposed to get linen. well, it would have helped to know the difference...and so what? i thought. i like these designs.
then we sat down at....the machines. the teacher reviewed threading the needle, quickly. i remember hearing something about bobbins and tension. stitch length was mentioned. there was a pedal and knobs, lots of knobs. she walked around, her spittle spraying in a fine mist over our heads as she elaborated on the running stitch, the presser foot, the spools and bobbin case, drifting down the rows of machines with her arms clasped behind her back...past all of the other girls happily stitching away.
i remember her standing behind me and just watching. watching while i fiddled and fumbled and fussed with the tiny thread...i was at least 89 steps behind the other girls. i don't recall the exact nuance of every word she said to me, but i remember a few things. i remember how she made me FEEL that day...and every day after that. inferior. stupid. as if something was wrong with me because i couldn't get the hang of this thing. pointing out my mistakes to the rest of the class. shaking her head and tsk-tsking through that gap in her teeth. answering my questions with rolled eyes and sighs.
(now as legend has it - this same
today, i can tell you this. i finished that darn pillow. and it was awful. seriously, it was horrible. it was crooked, lumpy, buckled, ugly, falling apart, and of course - mismatched. i hated it. i hated that class. i hated that teacher. and i thought i hated sewing. i kept the pillow, but i came close to failing home economics, and probably would have, had my mother not made me a pie to take in for extra credit. (thanks mom!)
i never touched a sewing machine (or took another semester of home ec) again. but i have always been drawn to the fabric section in craft stores...touching all of the materials...eyeing the designs. *sigh* but i can't sew. i almost failed home ec, for pete's sake! what girl fails home ec? i suck at sewing.
or so i thought.
until last december when my friend danielle (hi danielle!) and i got together to create our "december daily" scrapbook albums. when i showed up at her house i was surprised to see a sewing machine on her dining room table, and her mother there showing her how to use it. she showed me, too. and use it we did. on paper, mostly - we made pockets, we sewed through page protectors, we sewed vellum - we did it! (but i will admit to feeling a slight butterfly in my stomach when i first saw that machine. silly, huh?)
i was excited about this breakthrough, and kirk must have picked up on my enthusiasm, because he and his mom went in together and got me a sewing machine for christmas this year! i have to confess, i was shocked...and a little bit freaked out...when i opened that package. but i am not the girl i used to be. i'm a grown woman with 2 college degrees, for heaven's sake! i can do this, right? so, together with my mother-in-law, i got it out, we watched the video, i wound the bobbin and threaded the needle, and made my first seam. cinch!
and tonight, i made a little pillow. nothing fancy, nothing like the one i was supposed to make back in 1987...but a cute little eye pillow that i filled with lentils and herbs to relax the eyes after a long day. simple, cute, and I SEWED IT. it is not perfect. but it's done, it's use-able, it's mine. i made it.
if it seems like i'm making a mountain out of a molehill about that home ec disaster...you could be right. i was pretty dramatic in 8th grade...and getting chastised by a teacher is definitely not one of the worst things that can happen to a girl in junior high. but the point of my story is this:
as adults, whether we are parents, neighbors, aunties, babysitters, daycare providers, or teachers - we have tremendous influence over children. the kids i work with in foster care have taught me this in a huge way. we might not think they're watching, but they see what we do. we might not think they're listening, but they hear us.
so i would just like to encourage all of us grown-ups not to be those adults who impress upon kids a sense of smallness, fear, insecurity, or weakness. let's be the adults who encourage kids when they need a boost, empower them to try things they might not think they can do, inspire them to try new things, and help them to learn from their errors instead of chastising them for being human...so they can believe in themselves, try new things, make mistakes, and try again.
so take THIS, mrs. H from 8th grade! ;)
i CAN sew. thbbbtbbbpt! *sticking tongue out*
eat. my. shorts.
(okay - so i haven't matured emotionally past the age of 14, but i'm working on it.)
thanks to kirk and marti for the wonderful new toy, your votes of confidence are a truly memorable gift.