Category Archives: childhood

Culture of Lack

My husband Robert and I have worked together in Honduras and Panama. One of the things that impressed us was the resourcefulness of the people in recycling goods. There was very little trash. They used up everything they had. Picked up used nails. Wove baskets from weeds, stitched clothing from scraps. We could not help but think of all that our culture of abundance throws away.

My mother was born in 1915. May father in 1912. Depression era mentality. Culture of lack. My father never threw away anything. My mother used to melt together the leftover small slivers of soap. I have stories.

Today I completed a hand-stitched quilt made of throw-a-way fabric. Small pieces of linen leftover from garments I have sewn. Small lengths of embroidery threads. A small piece of loosely-woven multi-color cotton homespun-type fabric I’ve been hoarding for a long time.

quilt1

front – embroidery and hand stitching

quilt2

back – We are all made of stars

 

 

I have a difficult time throwing away small scraps of fabric. Among other things.

What do you have a difficult time throwing away?

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HEART TO HEART

Have you ever experienced someone crossing your path and you knew at once it was divine intervention? A few weeks ago, a woman was walking past our shop on Magazine Street and she made a sudden decision to go inside and look around. That woman was Claire Koch. She saw the beautiful fabrics, and she told me the touching story of her daughter’s experience with ‘heart pillows’. Within that conversation we developed an idea, and within minutes we had a plan. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 20-22, we will have a “Heart-a-Thon” and sew as many heart pillows as we can. More details below. But first, Claire’s story – so appropriate for this Valentine’s Day: “My daughter was born 6 weeks early during a hurricane evacuation.  But that was not the shocking news for me.  It came when the doctors told me something was very wrong with her heart and she would need surgery.  My baby had her heart “fixed” at four months of age.  It was not lost on me that I lived in a country where the best health care in the world was provided to my precious baby.  I made a deal with my God: if he made sure my baby recovered I promised to one day help other children. That was the beginning of my 16-year journey to this point.  Once my daughter began to grow up and become more independent, I started to look for organizations I could join to help other heart children.  I had a difficult job finding the right organization that I felt used the funds completely for the kids, and one where I could be a volunteer for as well.  Until I read about HeartGift in the newspaper. HeartGift in a non-profit organization dedicated to providing lifesaving heart surgery to children from developing countries where access to specialized medical care is either scarce or nonexistent.  Participating pediatric physicians donate 100% of their time and talents and HeartGift assumes all other financial obligations for the child and mother. The only thing the families are responsible for is seeing their children grow and flourish. HeartGift has five chapters in Texas and one here.  We could not achieve our success without our partnership with Children’s Hospital here in New Orleans. I have been with HeartGift since 2011 and have seen 20 children through the surgery and recovery process.  I have been at the airport welcoming a weak and frail child, only to watch that same child return to the airport 5 weeks later to run past angered TSA agents.  But it is the courage of the mothers that gets to me each and every time.  These mothers leave their villages and countries for the first time and make long trips to New Orleans to seek help from complete strangers in a foreign land.  They hand over their child to us.  It is amazing to see the hope and trust in their eyes.  While I have spent many hours in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) I have noticed every year we see a few heart shaped pillows arrive for the patients.  In the past, a local Boy Scout troop made twenty or so pillows for the kids each year.These pillows do not just brighten up the room but proved to be more effective to use than a regular pillow to press against a child’s chest post-surgery when a child starts to cough.  Coughing is normal post surgery, but can be extremely painful.  The nurses use a pillow to press into the child’s rib cage to help cushion the child’s ribs as they cough. I happened to meet Emma when I was walking down Magazine Street.  I am so excited she has offered to do a “Heart-a-Thon” to produce needed pillows for all the children in the Heart Center of Children’s Hospital. Currently, there are 22 beds in the ICU.  Many of them are filled with little babies who do not need the pillows, but the kids who are two and up, as well as teens, could sure use some of your loving handiwork! The pillows will be a valued dearly by the children recovering from heart surgery, their families and the staff of the Heart Center at Children’s Hospital.” DSC00331Come join our “Heart-a-Thon! Uptown Needle & CraftWorks will donate fabrics.  Clair has already purchased fiberfil. Now we need you – to cut out hearts, sew, stuff, and hand stitch – for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of your time on either of the days above. We will have sewing machines set up, fabrics and scissors at the ready. Experienced sewists needed to come and assist! You will be glad you did.  February 20-22, Friday and Saturday 10-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm. Below are a few pictures of some of the kids HeartGift hosted last year. You may get in touch with Claire Koch at Claire@ClaireKoch.netLearn more at HeartGift.org. kids 

Gleaming White Paint Covers Neglect of the Past

This corner cabinet has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My father took it with us every time we moved. At one time it was built in, but somewhere along the way it was detached. Like anything this old, it carries stories. Not only family stories, but the stories of it’s life before my father claimed it.cabinet1
In my advance of years I’ve become somewhat of a hoarder when it comes to furniture and things that evoke memories. I don’t want to let go of them. But sometimes one must part with things that are meaningful. I am happy I did not part with this piece because it now has a new life in gleaming white paint. the amazing thing about paint is that it hides a multitude of sins. This cabinet was coated with some type of varnish that kept bleeding through the white enamel that I applied.  The only thing that covered that goo was spray enamel with built-in primer. After years of built-up grease and grime this piece is really a beautiful piece of furniture – after it’s covered with gleaming white paint. This little corner cabinet has a new home in the shop and holds colorful yarns. I’d love to see somethings you have re-done into something new. Send me a pic.
cabinet2  photo 2

Super Dad!

My father, James A. French,
age 5 or so

Warning: If you’re squeamish about bugs, read no further.

My father was a Super Dad. He was the exterminator, in more ways than one. He banished monsters from under the bed. He shooed ghosts away. He could rid our house of darkness by repairing one television set. Within hours we had light again. A poor family’s hunger was squashed flat because he brought them two of our chickens. With the threat of a dose of castor oil he fought away a dread disease that threatened to keep my brothers home from school, and miraculous healings occurred.
He was a master at magically fighting all.  But most amazing to me was the fact that he could rid our home of roaches. Now, these days this prolific and nasty insect is not that much of a problem with modern chemicals that promise to last for years. 
But back then, in the 1950’s and 1960s, roaches were like the plague. Especially in the part of town we lived in. They were huge beetle-like creatures. And they flew! A fly-swatter was sometimes the weapon of choice. Daddy sprayed them with something, perhaps it was DDT, I don’t know. But they would always come back after a few weeks. I suppose the chemical killed the live bugs but didn’t harm the eggs, so after the new hatchings became big enough to make their presence known, he would have to spray again. And again. Especially after Mama found a roach in the loaf of Sunbeam bread. Or lying belly-up in the pot of vegetable soup. Her screams called for immediate action. That would do it.  So Daddy brought home a new chemical that someone said would work better than the last thing he tried.  Always this magic liquid was praised as the new miracle. Something to save us at last from the creatures’ soft legs that skittered across our faces in the deep dark of night.
One of the most graphic true stories I ever read was in Don’t Quit Your Day Job, a collection of essays on writing by writers compiled by Sonny Brewer.  The piece was by Pat Conroy on his work as a youth sent out by Roman Catholic nuns to assist the indigent in a public housing complex. Conroy deftly describes his journey into this forbidden den of drugs and violence to help those in need. In his innocence, he has no fear, and he has faith that his help is needed and desired. He comes upon one of his assigned apartments where a woman lives who is blind. She is a prisoner in her apartment because of fear of being harmed by the vermin who prey on the less fortunate. Over time, and because of Conroy’s youthful tenacity, she finally opens her door to Conroy and he enters her less-than-spotless home. He takes in the scene and tells it so explicitly that I am there, looking over his shoulder. He describes the kitchen wall. It is black. And it is moving. He realizes the wall is covered in roaches.
A vintage metal pump sprayer. (from Etsy)

Our house was certainly never that bad growing up.  But I can certainly relate to that description. Just the sight of one of those critters and my imagination grew them out of proportion to their true size. They were giants. So my father would bring home the magic formula that promised to rid our abode of the beasts once and for all. The method was simple. The instructions called for mixing the insecticide with a certain percent of water before spraying.  I can only guess how my father mixed this – he was a stickler for following directions so I’m sure he did exactly as instructed. The sprayer was a simple metal canister attached to a hand-pumped sprayer. You filled the canister and re-attached it by screwing it onto the hand pump mechanism. By pulling back on the hand-pump, the liquid was sucked up into a tiny metal tube. By plunging the hand pump forward the liquid was sprayed out by the force of the air across that tiny metal tube. 

Over and over again, Daddy pumped and sprayed, pumped and sprayed. His face and wrinkled brow bore the look of determination to save his family. The rest of us would all be fast asleep as he sprayed along every baseboard in the house, around every door, in the closets, everywhere vermin could hide. 
The next morning they were gone.  And my father was his jovial self again, going off to work as usual. Thus the life of the exterminator, off to repair another television so the silence in our house would be eliminated after the phone bill was paid. 
How did your dad “save” your family? What are some memories of your father, as we approach this Father’s Day?