Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unafraid to Try (Hidden Art of Homemaking)

In Cindy's post on Chapter One of Hidden Art, she reminds us not to compare our own strengths with those of others--especially in the areas where we feel lacking.  Annie Kate also posted a reminder that "each homeschooling mom and family is unique."  I have occasionally been astonished when somebody said that something I did caused them to feel intimidated. Because, my friends, I am a screw-up.  I make mistakes all the time.  My house is homey but not what you'd call deliberately decorated, unless you count the revolving procession of vintage radios and clocks.  I kill houseplants, and anyway my husband's allergies keep us from "bringing in the outdoors" to any extent.  Our couch cushions are the ones that came with the couch.  I think my only real gift, at least in the areas of homemaking/making stuff/finding hidden art, is that I stopped worrying a long time ago about not being able to do much of anything perfectly...I just do it anyway. 

You know how Elizabeth's Enright's character Mona plays the piano?--too fast and with lots of mistakes? Did you ever notice that it doesn't keep her from playing? Her brother Rush is a better pianist; Mona is a better actress; but they will both give just about anything a try.  If people eat my casserole, wear my crocheted scarves, listen to the offertory I play (I fill in at church occasionally), or use homeschool ideas I've worked out, then who am I to make an extra fuss about what I left out or did wrong, or sulk because I didn't have fancier yarn or organic ingredients?  Edna Staebler wrote that one of her friends mentioned "a good-sounding recipe that used cardamom," but by the time she got some cardamom a year later, she'd forgotten where she saw the recipe.  Life is too short to worry about what you don't have or can't manage: try it the best you can, or find something else that you can do.  If you only know how to crochet granny squares, then make them in beautiful colours.  That same friend of Edna's was the one who gave her a hard time about homemade yogurt, saying it should be made "fresh every day with goat's milk"; Edna, we assume, said nuts and went on making yogurt when and how she wanted to.

I realized early on that I was never going to master my mother's icing-roses technique; I'm still trying to figure out how she made the waxed-paper bags to squirt the icing through! Believe me, I've tried, and it eludes me. So I settle for frosting-with-sprinkles, and nobody complains.  You know what, though?  My mom used cake mixes.  I make a variety of scratch cakes--nothing too complicated, don't get intimidated.  I guess that's a hidden art--as in, hidden under the sprinkles.

Yesterday I sewed my first thing ever with pleats--a wrap dress from an 18-inch doll pattern book I hadn't used before.  I had been holding off on making that dress.  I bought the pattern book last fall, and we found a nice piece of green calico fabric at the thrift store, and I even bought the bias trim to go down the front.  I sewed some other things in the meantime, but I hesitated on that little dress because I worried that it was not going to turn out well.

Well, you know what?  It did not turn out perfectly.  I had to re-do the bias trim because my first try at it looked awful...and I really did go slow and use Angry Chicken's bias-tape technique.  Even now there are a few places where I need to go back and hand-sew it down.  But in the great scheme of things, it's one little dress; and Dollygirl likes it, and it looks fine on her Kit doll.  Some things are just harder to get right, and bias trim and I (like icing tubes) were never meant to be best friends.  But better to have a dress with a few idiosyncracies than a piece of fabric and an unused pattern, right?  Dollygirl thinks so.

I rejoice in my friends' gifts and talents, and yes, sometimes often I wish I could do this or that as well as that other person.  But life isn't a competition, and nobody is going to judge us harshly because our oatmeal cookies are just oatmeal cookies, or even if we sometimes play too fast and make mistakes.  Go ahead, have the courage to try.  And may we all have enough of a sense of humour to laugh when it doesn't all come out perfectly--and then to try again.


Renelle said...

I love it when people just have a go. I was encouraging my son to have a go at something the other day and said to him "Life is too short mate, have a go!" his reply was "Why do people say that, life is the longest thing I've ever done!". Made me laugh. The fact that any of us try, have a go at anything we deem challenging, is beautiful in itself. Thanks for sharing all you lovely thoughts and all the previous posts I've been reading for months. Warmest Wishes, Renelle

Mama Squirrel said...

Thank you, Renelle!

amy in peru said...

of course, this one brought tears.
and i love you all the better for it.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Excellent! Thank you.

Cindy Rollins said...

This reminds me of the saying that if something is worth doing it is worth doing badly. Did C.S. Lewis say something like that? Anyway, thank-you for the distinction. I think blogging has been like that for me. I just started doing it and sometimes I have ended up hating my own work but in the end it has been a learning process with a few surprises tucked in here and there.

Heather said...

Wonderful thoughts! Also I love that you used Enright's Melendy kids as your examples. I'm starting the third book in the series and all because I saw it mentioned on here in a previous post!

Annie Kate said...

Thank you! I too play too fast and with many mistakes...and I can't get things together...and my house always has piles of books waiting for shelves...and our yard is always full of the dogs's sticks.

But it's so wonderful to try to do what we can when and how we can, to stretch a little bit but not too much.

So thanks for your encouragement and for mentioning my post.

Mama Squirrel said...

Thank you all back for your generous comments! It is fun to have a bit of extra "company" on the blog this week--looking forward to the next chapter.