Journalling

Remember when journalling was a thing some years ago? At the time I had already been writing in my books since I was 14. I was well into it by then. And ‘guided’ journalling in groups was not for me.

I don’t write in my journal every jour. I write when I am wrestling with something or when I am bored.  Of course I have written a lot about love, especially love affairs. And self-love and love for my kids. Career decisions. Moves, locally or internationally (the U.S., Japan, and Turkey). Those are some things I wrestled about. I wrote about adventures, though less introspective writing was mostly composed on a computer to report to others.

Sometimes writing spurs me to think of more immediate, concrete things, which I then brainstorm. The last pages of my books are usually gone because I have used them for lists.

When I was young (20s and 30s) I carried my journal in my bag and would sit in a cafe and write in it. I was cool, man. This was mostly in Corvallis or Eugene, Oregon It gave me something to do and showed that I had a legitimacy for being there. It wasn’t a time for great introspective writing. That I did at home.

Now I write in my journals when I am alone. Sometimes I write when I am lonely. I often write when I am troubled or bored (usually not both at once). There is something about putting words on paper, even if they are becoming more illegible as I get older. It’s not necessarily creative writing, though sometime there is a good turn of phrase. It is definitely stream of consciousness, though I try to use paragraphs. I write in the colour of the time, sometimes in pencil. I like hard bound books, though the one I am writing in now is softer. I got it because it says things like ‘you will go far’ (check) and it was a ‘Molly & Rex’ journal. My journals these years are a far cry from the blue student notebooks I started out with. It often takes a few years to work through an empty journal, so I want the book to be something I like.

My handwriting has indeed gotten atrocious, as my mother’s did and my grandmothers’ when they were quite old. But it is not meant to be read by anyone else but me. I told my daughter years ago that she could read them or throw them out, so perhaps there may be a reader, but highly doubtful.

The box of old journals is in the back of a cupboard. A few years ago in a frenzy of downsizing, I took out the loose things in them and recycled them, something I probably regret. My first ex-husband actually threw away ‘our’ two years of journals. They were in a box by the door when I was collecting my stuff, having just left him. He was a Viet Nam draft dodger from Wichita Kansas and was into some weird ‘guru’ and sent him money (of course). He kept wanting me to look like his sister, who had been in a beauty contest. Once he was haranguing me (in winter!) about shaving my legs and I threw the razor at him. So that was mostly what those journals were about.

It used to be that a lot of people kept journals. Now they post comments (as do I) on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. Obviously a lot of mean-spirited people don’t bother to wrestle with their demons in private; I recommend journalling. My grandmother, Julia, wrote a retrospective journal when she was old. I used it as a basis for a book about her for my family. My other grandmother was given a book to write in when she was old, but it was more of a log. One did not share one’s inner feelings or thoughts, I suspect. My father did not keep a journal at all, but I found some memoirs, so those are going into the Farky stories subject to great editing. Perhaps sometime I will tell my own story from my journals.

Writing assumes a reader, but it is not clear who the reader of my journals would be. My writing is for getting more clarity in my thoughts and feelings, sharing with the ether. I would be appalled if someone else read my journals now. However, after I am dead, I don’t care. Whether or not I ever read my own journals again, I don’t know. In the meantime, I continue to fill my books for myself.

Facebook and me

I read Facebook every morning and off and on throughout the day if I am at home. It is the equivalent for me of reading the morning newspaper. I can read the ‘real’ news from Al Jazeera or Wall Street Journal or CBC, among others. In fact, some of my Facebook friends are journalists (Mitch Potter, Scott Peterson, Hugh Pope, for example), so I get to read their pieces hot off the press. Many of my Facebook friends share interesting things they have found and some I share on. Like in the newspaper, I skip lots of junk.

We tend to live with others like us, a trend that is bemoaned by some, understandably. Thus my Facebook friends for the most part have similar thinking on many topics and in a variety of languages– Turkish, Italian, French, English. These may be people who share thoughts but they are also a motley crew from a variety of age groups and cultures. I am lucky in how rich even these surface friends are.

Some people sneer at the notion of Facebook friends, but I think it reflects how we relate to people in physical life. We have a lot of acquaintances and a few friends. We interact on Facebook more with our ‘real’ friends. We stop to look at their family or travel photos. With other friends or closer acquaintances we may share articles or videos or just skip what they have posted.

Related to that is the fact that now that I live in a small town, my Facebook friends here are mostly acquaintances and most of them know each other. Many of them have lived here all their lives or most of their lives. Living in other countries (except perhaps for the U.S.) is not a part of their consciousness or experience, just as living in one place all my life is not part of mine. They often share different things, from how they feel to local issues. I feel like I have two audiences for my posts, the local one and the global one. Some things I share to educate the local one and some I share to show my international friends where I am and what I am doing.

I like that we can share photos on Facebook. People can look at them or not. I remember the days of yawning through slide shows of someone’s trip to somewhere or having to sit down while the person showed me her photo album, complete with running commentary. That is fun to do sometimes, but on Facebook I can see the photos on my own time and comment if I am so moved.

Memory pages are a new feature that is kind of interesting. I look to see what I have posted in that past and truthfully it makes me a little homesick for my cafe. I have also observed that the comments we post are different now. In the past there may have been a comment on the weather or on how I felt, but it seems people don’t do that so much anymore. There are more comments on pieces we share and less on how we feel.

One of my enjoyments if not meditation is the games on Facebook They generally involve manipulating pieces to solve place puzzles. The bubble ones also involve aiming. They keep my logic skills honed is my current excuse. Sometimes I am right into the game but many times I am also ruminating on something else at the same time.

When I had my cafe, Facebook was an integral part of my advertising. I made my Molly’s Cafe page and group and I used those to invite people to events (poetry readings, music, dinners, for example). Then I could also share photos after the events.

I know a lot of people my age who eschew Facebook They are afraid it will harvest their personal information (possible, but really, how special is their personal data?) and they have heard bad things about it. I report to my ‘real’ friends in person what I have learned from the new on Facebook, but they are not tempted.

So yes, I like Facebook. I have some real friends and some FB friends on it that I may or may not interact with. Mostly it helps keep me in touch with the world far and near. It’s pretty amazing considering I am in the last generation that used only snail mail and phone calls to stay in touch.

A Trip to the Police Station in Istanbul

This is the first of many visits I made to the police in Istanbul.  This station has since been remodelled and is quite nice.  The police have not changed…

Nov. 2002

The legal troubles with my house have spilled over to my contractor, Cevdet, as the landlady has filed a complaint against him, saying he did not spend the money on the house. Since he had refused to give his address to her lawyer, the papers had to be served at the police station. They called him and told him to pick them up. That was a Friday. On the Monday I went with him to be a witness.

The police station in Beyoglu is in a side street off a side street. It is housed in what was once probably a very elegant apartment house. We had to go up marble stairs that were very worn from the many years of traffic. The bureau we went into was probably someone’s home at one time. The ceilings were high, and there were many doors leading off the corridors. The rooms had been painted in the past few years, a not too nasty yellow, but they had probably not been cleaned in quite some time. There were bits of paper on the floor and near the doors there were trampled dust bunnies, like old lint. The cabinets were old and some had broken doors. The desks were crammed together, like in most government offices I have been in. The policeman who took our statement—well, Cevdet’s actually—used a manual typewriter, although there were a few old computers in use in the other office. The policeman we dealt with shared an office with two other officers, with two more in an adjoining room. We were told to wait in that room for a while as he finished up with another “customer”. As we waited, one officer was doing something on the computer—I figured he was playing a game—and the other was reading the newspaper. This is very common in Turkey. It seems to me that in most workplaces in North America, it is frowned upon to be seen reading the paper while on the job. Here it is normal. I suppose the police in particular need to keep up with current events.

Finally we were called into the first room. The officer we dealt with was probably in his forties, and if we hadn’t been in Turkey, he could have been taken for an Irish cop. He was somewhat overweight, with graying hair, glasses, and a stern but still somewhat kind demeanor. Cevdet explained the situation and explained why I was there. The officer asked if I spoke Turkish and, like many people do around foreigners, acted as it I were perhaps a little simple. We established that I was an English teacher and so of course he had to ask about lessons for his son. I assured him that if his son came in and talked to me we could work out a special price for him. Once he had taken the bulk of Cevdet’s statement, he showed Cevdet a piece of blank paper and sent him out to the stationery store to buy a ream of it. This apparently was a kind of “gift” or service for the officer to look kindly on the case. While Cevdet was gone, the policeman asked me if I would talk to his university student son on the phone and proceeded to get him on the line. Actually, his son spoke fairly good English, though his proud father seemed intent on getting him into a course. He was pleased when I told him his son spoke English pretty well.

While I was waiting in the office, there was a disturbance downstairs. A woman was yelling and screaming, though I could not make out if she was the culprit or the victim. No one in the office I was in batted an eyelash. I suppose they are used to it. A few other men wandered in and out, some in civilian clothing. One was joking with them and called one a maniac. I was a little surprised that he was so casual with them until he wandered back in in police uniform.

In general the policemen were a little bemused at having a foreign woman sitting in their midst. They were brusque, but by the time we left, “our” officer was nice to both of us and I told him to send his son to talk to me. The report he typed up so quickly was going to be sent to a sort of lower judge, and hopefully it will be resolved favourably. It was an interesting visit to the police bureaucracy and hopefully all will be well.

My creation story

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sampler by my mother, Dorothy Joyce Stone Farquharson

My grandmothers and my mother made things and so do I. For the most part, they made things according to directions. So did I. However, now I do stitcheries that come out of my head and as I make them, I often think about what I am doing and why.

First, why? Because I can. Since I am retired, I have the time to do what I want and getting into stitches is what I want to do. It is relaxing, as I generally do it with a movie going on my laptop. It is rewarding because I see what I have done, in contrast to much of my professional work, which was much less visible. Frankly, I am a bit obsessed with making these pieces. I literally cannot go a day without working on something.

How is more complicated, of course. For the stitchery pieces, I have learned to make a border first, and sometimes I even measure it to fit a frame. Or not. I usually start from the bottom and work up, making it up as I go. I don’t draw a design, though I might have one vaguely in mind. Since I use fabric that is meant to be for cross-stitch or tapestry, I usually end up with shapes that are based on the geometry of angles– squares, triangles, straight lines. Even the round parts are a little angular.

The colours I use are determined by a few factors. One is what I am trying to represent. Obviously I use blue hues for water and sky, greens for trees and bushes, many colours for flowers. How much of a colour I use is determined by how much of it I have. Sometimes I am using up colours, which ends up in a more shaded area. Sometimes I have a lot of a colour, so I try to come up with ideas to use it (especially red, as I don’t care for red but ended up having a lot of it). And of course once I have used one colour, I have to decide what other colours will go with it. I like playing with the colours. What goes with what? If I know I will be using several shades, how should I do it? I prefer vibrant colours, but I use everything.

Some of the embroidery thread was my grandmother’s, so that thread is decades old. My sister has some beautiful pieces that Marney did probably in the early 1900s. Some of the thread is left from some of the projects I have made, such as the one for Meadow and the similar style one for me. And of course there have been other projects. I also buy bags of thread from Value Village, some of which is also quite old, judging by the labels with prices as well as the brands. I like that the thread is being used, especially since I doubt there is anyone in my family who would be interested in using it. I am using it up.

One of the things I have noticed about the art I see here in Ontario is that it is very much based on nature. Frank Carmichael, one of the Group of Seven, was born in Orillia, and like the other members, he focussed a lot on the wild Canadian landscape. I would say that the ideas I come up with are partly inspired by the beautiful river my sister lives on, where I have stayed for weeks at a time. My version of nature is more impressionistic, as I can’t draw a ‘real’ thing to save my life.

I also realized that the person looking at my pieces has to look at them closely. Recently an artist I met look cursorily at a piece and said ‘I see a tree.’ Well, there was much more than a tree! The flowers and water depths and sky shadations are also there, sometimes dominated by a tree or two. My pieces remind me of some of my grandmother’s garden embroideries– one has to look closely to see the different stitches.

In the past, I followed directions for pieces I made. Some were from kits, which provided the yarn or thread and even needles, along with a grid and colour scheme. My first counted cross-stitch I made for my daughter when she was a Rose Princess in Portland, Oregon in 1995. It took me more than a year to complete. Then my friend Nancy came across a pattern in the same line, so she gave that to me for my 50th birthday. I then had to go in search of the required embroidery floss, which I did with Meadow on a trip to Portland. That one took eight months of off times from grading papers at Koc University. My friends would drop by and I would show them my progress. It went from being fairly unrecognizable to, oh there is a lady and there is the garden. Another friend gave me a gold nazar to hide in the garden. Another piece I still have (the others I gave away) is from a book I found. Again I had to go in search of the thread for it. It is full of mistakes, of course, but only I can see them and now I don’t even look.

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I have also made some pieces from buttons. Some people look at them and exclaim, “Oh my god, you sewed all those buttons?!” Well, yes. Sewing buttons is not so hard, though it seems to have become a lost art. Again, I use the buttons to make a picture. I have buttons that were in my mother’s button box and some I found recently at VV obviously came from a button box, as the buttons were quite old.

Of course I knit and crochet, though I am not that good at it, truthfully. However, I have made some bags that I like and I made some things for my grandson that I think my daughter did not like that much. In fact, when I went to her baby shower, I was the only one that had made something by hand.

Ah, mistakes. I think mistakes made a piece more individual. I have a male friend who does cross-stitch and the back is as clean as the front. There is a kind of Turkish work that is absolutely reversible. Not mine! The back is a mess, as I figure no one will look at it. Sometimes I make mistakes in stitching or colours or direction that are too far gone to undo, so I leave them. They add character. Obviously I am not a perfectionist. I have some Turkish village pieces that have mistakes in them and I think they add to the individuality and character of the pieces.

Adult colouring books are the rage now, especially among aging baby boomers. Actually, my grandmother, Marney, coloured in her adult colouring book in the late 1970s, so they are not such a new thing. I have seen articles that discuss how they help people keep their minds sharp. I joke that my stitchery is my version of an adult colouring book, so inshallah my mind will stay relatively sharp as a result. My eyes are another matter. One of these days the stitches will be too small and I will have to move on to something else. That is what my mother did, until she could not do any work due to arthritis and then Parkinson’s. In fact, I have started to make some pieces using larger mesh with yarn.

Whatever the case may be, I love using colours and I hope other people like my work too. I do it for me, but I like to share the stories that go with it.

Paying it forward

So this is my paying it forward story.

I needed to get new lenses for my glasses, so I went to Hambly’s downtown. They have been in business in Orillia for 30 some years. Mr. (Dr.?) Hambly was very attentive so I would get the lenses I wanted. $275. Gulp. I am a retired lady with a very limited budget, so I told him I would come in the following week to pay half and then the following month I would pay the rest and pick up the glasses then. Accordingly, I went in with $150, leaving $125 balance.

One day recently I was in Apple Annie’s downtown, where they sell old-fashioned candy. I was buying some fudge (my treat) and the kids in front of me had pooled their money to get some candy but did not have enough. I gave them 50 cents and asked the young girl if she knew what paying it forward meant. I explained and we were all happy.

That afternoon the guy from the glasses shop called to tell me my glasses were ready. I said I would be in when I got the rest of the money. He informed me that the balance had been paid. What?! I asked if he could tell me who it was but he said the person didn’t want me to know. I was flabbergasted.

However, there is a dilemma. One good friend and I exchange baked goods and occasional coffees or lunch. Is she my $125 friend? This is not my sister’s modus operandi. Beyond that, I have a few acquaintances only. I can’t ask either friend or sis if they were the mysterious donor, because if, say, my sister were not the one, she might then feel guilty for not thinking of it. (Or not, knowing my sister) I have told them about it, but neither has admitted to it.

I was telling someone about this and she asked if Mr. Hambly were sweet on me. Ewww! He is even older than me and I am certainly not interested in anyone being sweet on me. Perhaps he was doing his human wish to help out a retired person. Or not.

This is a sweet mystery to me. People can be very kind, and I appreciate the kindness involved.

PS I did ask my sister (nope) and then I asked the friend. She just ignored my question, so what do you think?

Teaching again

I was an English (as in a second language– or third or fourth) teacher for 25 years, but I had not taught in several years. However, recently I was substituting for a teacher who was not around to start his class. I was teaching again at a local university campus.

Beforehand, several people commented that it would be like riding a bicycle, but even that has changed and most of those people were not teachers. When I was teaching full time, I always had lesson plans and activities floating around my brain for those times when great activities weren’t or we had time to fill. I wondered if they would come back.

Planning a lesson is basically planning some hours of mental activity to help students get this frustrating but necessary language. It is sort of like taking care of kids. What shall we do now? I was not sure if my estimates of time would work anymore or how much we would use the textbook that they actually did not have.

It has been interesting. I always love the students and over the years there have been few that I did not like (usually those who thought they knew English grammar better than me, a mere woman). In this class there were seven Mexican students on a special program and one Chinese student who was born in Canada but was almost immediately taken back to Hong Kong. I spent the most time with her because three afternoons out of four it was only me and her. We talked a lot and I tried to help her fix her pronunciation and give her strategies for dealing with the language.

The thing I had not remembered about teaching is how it is always in my head. I think about things we can do in class, the problems the students have with the language, how to organize the class, something challenging for them to do. The class does not stop at the appointed hour– I take it with me.

I enjoy teaching and I like the students. However, having been retired for a few years after a lifetime of working very hard, I can say that I don’t like working. I don’t like having to be up at a certain time and on the road at another one. I always have two bags with me, one for me and one for the class. I have to dress better than when I go downtown and certainly better than when I stay home. For more than twenty-five years I spent many hours in class and outside of class thinking about lessons and students. As program and school director, of course I spent times thinking about curriculum and assessment and how to direct teachers. I left that all behind when I had my cafe, and then I left the cafe behind (literally). This program is rather ethereal, to say the least, and I find myself thinking of all sorts of way to help improve it. But – nope nope nope.

Now I remember what teaching was all about. I am glad to dip my toe in it again, but I sure do not want to do it full time. I love seeing these young people ready to open their individual oysters of life, but I don’t have to be a large part of it. Teaching is a wonderful profession, but I am now a retired lady and am happy to have my time to myself.

Old Books: Louisa May Alcott, Prester John, Baron Munchausen

 

Here are three more quite old books that I have recently read. I will put them in my space at Carousel and I hope the next person will enjoy them. A lot of people pass by old books and don’t actually read them because they are old. They look interesting on shelves and some are cut up and made into arty décor. However, some of the books I have around were hits in the day and of course some become classics, often because they were used in school. For example, this copy of Prester John was No. 54 in the Teaching of English Series.

I had heard vaguely of Prester John and then after I had read it, I saw a reference to it in Baron Munchausen. It was the grand adventure of a young Scots boy who travelled to South Africa to run a store. While in Scotland he had seen an African man preach in the church but then that night he and his buddies saw the same preacher practicing what seemed to be a tribal rite on the seaside. He meets the same man in South Africa and in fact is caught up in the tribal revolt led by Laputa. This great big black man was trying to restore the various tribes under the aegis of Prester John, a sort of Christian king of Ethiopia in the 16th century. At any rate, our protagonist, David Crawfurd, got in and out of many physical and psychological scrapes in a thrilling tale. It was written in a very readable way and I appreciated that the author, John Buchan, Lord Tweedemuir, was not condescending to the various characters. This book was first published in this series in 1927 and this current edition was the 1944 one.

IMG_3356Recently I came across Recollections of my Childhood Days by Louisa M. Alcott. I happened to also come across a PBS film about Alcott, so watched it after I had finished this book. I had no idea she was so prolific and I hadn’t known much about her family life, truthfully. She was a very strong and interesting person. At any rate, this book is mostly childhood stories, but she starts off writing about her own real childhood. The stories have morals, of course, and are a little insipid, as was the style then, but I really enjoyed her prelude. This little book was published in 1890, so I hope lots of little children have read it.

Finally, the Baron Munchausen. I had heard of the Baron, in the context of him being a liar. I can’t imagine why. This book starts off with him being threatened on either side by a lion and a crocodile. As the lion is about to pounce and the crocodile, mouth open, is about to engulf him, the Baron falls to the ground in uncharacteristic fear, so the lion jumps into the crocodile’s mouth. The book is also illustrated with the heroic Baron’s deeds, such as jumping into an attacking wolf’s mouth and pulling him inside out. I am not sure when this volume was printed, but the introduction states that the original was published in 1793 or 96. The writer of the introduction identifies the ‘real’ writer and says that he got the stories from other cultures. Regardless, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the adventures because they were so unbelievable. In the second part of the book evidently there is some satire, but since I am not very familiar with the history of the time, I didn’t really get most of it, though what the elite and the governments were doing back them were probably not so different from what they do now in their ingrown ways. It was very nice to meet Baron Munchausen after all this time and I highly recommend the book.

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