Archive for the ‘downshifting’ Category

Moving to the Gal Pad…

April 6, 2011

When I made the decision to separate from Rumpole, last August, he moved into our recently completed basement suite which we called his Man Pad. There he had already moved his office, and I had decorated the space as he desired, with images framed that he enjoyed regularly viewing. Mousey, when she came to visit always insited on visiting the Man Pad, to get fresh looks at what I had labelled Grandpa’s Gummy Dragon, a really cheesy Chinese plastic dragon one of Rumpole’s clients had brough back from China. It smelled like recently imported Chinese plastic goods in the Loonie stores smell, a nasty, virulent rotten vegetable odour. Rumpole was wierdly attached to this artifact, and Mousey also. She did say it smelled strange – sort of like dragons smell, she said.
Like a somnambulist, I moved through the paces of finding a lawyer who practiced matrimonial law, severed our joint bank accounts, set up my own bank account and began the process of trying to figure out where I would land in order to begin to piece a solitary life together. By the end of September, I had engaged a realtor to assess the saleability of our house and to advise as to what needed to be done to it for us to get the maximum amount of money for selling it. Rumpole merely had to rubber stamp all the documents that had to be signed by both of us. This he did readily for the necessary real estate documents, but negotiated fiercely for the legal separation agreement, as he would,being a lawyer himself.
While we haggled over the terms of separating assets, I prepared the house for showings and open houses, did the necessities to maintain things in ship shape, started divesting myself of hundreds of drawings, teaching aids and studio supplies and also gave away objects and equipment I realized would not be able to be accommodated in the size of space I knew I could afford to live within. Having to make these decisions helped me to focus on practicalities and not make any hasty and panicking moves.
Within four days of the first showing of the house, we had recieved an offer, conditional on the purchasers selling their own place. It was a reasonable offer, and within a week we had a back up offer to buttress it. Must hand it to Rumpole – he bargained up the offering bid like the most skillful Persian rug purveyor – although at times during the bargaining procees with buyers he came close to losing the offer – but he is experienced in knowing just how to pressure during a deal and restrained his capacity for flaring up in anger and frustration.
As we waited for the buyers to show their place and in turn recieve an offer on it, I began the process of finding myself an apartment in the centre of town. I had absolutely no idea what was available, but knew that whatever place I could rent had to be walking distance to all necessities since I no longer can drive. I must have looked at 10 or so different apartments and was ready to give up when I found just the right apartment. And, lo and behold, our buyers recieved a firm offer for their place and we had a closing date for the sale of our house – December 4.
Meanwhile I was having lawyer problems on the separation agreement front. The lawyer I had engaged was a mother to three children, one of whom had special needs – so she was often unavailable to deal with amendments that cropped up during my bargaining with Rumpole. But, I must have had a collection of horseshoes and shamrocks gathering dust somewhere in the deeper recesses of my midden of a studio, because the house sale completed on the same day as Rumpole signed our separation agreement.
I took a risk in November in putting down a deposit and month’s rent on the apartment that best suited me, and had organized a move and clearing up of the house that proceeded like clockwork. Many friends came to my aid in effecting the move. I had enough time to move my stuff to the new apartment and then spend a week getting rid of our spoor and making the place clean for the new family of mom,dad, grandma, three kids under ten and one on the way about to take possession of my old digs.
Margaret, my sister, Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, her two sons, Ron and Rosalie, a young painter friend helped move my stuff into the new Gal Pad with a rented U-haul which caused us a bit of grief – otherwise the move went smoothly and after rolling out the rug and assembling my bed, placing the boxes of stuff into the apportioned places, we repaired to the Kingfisher and ate a celebratory dinner, en masse.
It took me a month to shake out the disposition of my possessions, as I was also house-sitting for LookingforBeauty who was basking in the Mexican sunshine.
Since end of January I have familiarized myself with my new surroundings, set up a studio in the bedroom and generally have been busy and quite content.
Mousey loves coming over to the Gal Pad to do overnights, or for lunch. She knows where everything is, particularly the treasures I have stashed in different places for her to find and be delighted with.
Friends and family come by for coffee, tea, to drag me out to outings, to come and eat a meal with me.
I have a beautiful view of a ravine, and these spring days delight in the early morning bird repartee, the subtle sunrises and my new life, in general.
And yes, this old dog is learning new tricks – Flamenco dancing with the castanuelas, the tango, reviewing ballet core exercises, Spanish, and is carrying on…carrying on…

Going to the dogs…

April 11, 2009

This past month has been health month for Jessica, our, Scottie, and me, both. I have undergone numerous tests for a heart blockage and for measurement for a new lens for my left eye. Jessica had to have some dental cleaning done and some blood tests to determine her overall health, after all, she is a ten year old, but vigorous, Scot. She welcomes visits to the vet’s – there are cookies there, and plenty of admirers to compliment her on her greying black sleek body, her shiny black eyes and her remarkably loving temperament.

Now that she is through with the trials of teeth cleaning and ear-hair plucking, she is feisty and energetic as is appropriate for any being in the new Spring-time. Last week she also went to the groomers and recieved her spring clip, which always make her have a little vanity induced sprightliness. She seems to feel, as I do, the same insouciant joyfullness whenever she is freshly groomed. Yesterday, I too went to have my spring hair-cut, so we both prance about the house and yard like a couple of ageing divas. Rumpole is amused with our new-found flirtatious gadding about. Spring has sprung at the Stepford household.
Meanwhile, the yard has also gone to the dogs, so to speak. Our fences are falling down and no longer will stand up when propped into proper position. Time to bite the bullet and have new fences installed. According to all the local wags, “good fences make good neighbours”, so I have to beard Lookingforbeauty, next door, to agree ro a simple and effective separation of our two plots of suburbia. She wants, it seems, a new re-reiteration of our old fence – with no embellishments such as latticework, which she deems as trifle fussy, and frankly so do I.

On the other side of the property, Gary and Laurie seem also to want a repeat of the six-foot fence that separates our back yard from theirs. My own idea is to lower the fence to four feet there, so we can get more afternoon sun for my planned vegetable garden. Next Saturday, our garden Guru, Matthew, is coming by to break turf on the back yard and rototill the manure and compost for the planned vegetable beds. I have wonderful visions of Swiss Chard, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, pole beans and herbs to start out my little gardening effort. Also maybe some yellow Hungarian peppers.

Since Jessica is almost a vegeratian, I will also have to plant zucchini, as she really likes to chow down on smallish zucchinis. (She always raids my weekly vegetable sack and extracts any zucchini in it as her treat.) Any garden plan has to take into consideration the eating habits of any dog which might currently be living with us. It may be that turnips should be on the to-grow list, as Jessica is wild about chomping turnips, as well.

I figure I have two good months of establishing a little veggie plot before my late June eye-operation, which will prevent me from mucking about in the soil. Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis is going to have some growing space here for herself, in exchange for weeding in July and August, while I recuperate from the operation. We should be able to share in any growing bounty at harvest time, and then plan to increase the size and scope of the veggie garden next year.

The Green Dress…

February 11, 2009

Twenty-three years ago, after seeing an afternoon client, I made my way to the fabric store to browse through the selection of swing-season fabrics. These to me were fabrics that might see one through Spring and Summer, of the colour temperature suitable for those burgeoning, bright and longer days. “Saturated, jewel colours” I kept in mind as I parked my Toyota Landcruiser a block from the fabric store.

It was the beginning of February, which up North meant sunny cold days, hoarfrost on the trees, with a hint of the promise of lengthening days and hence the arrival of Spring. Third Avenue was slick with ice. The berms at the side of the parking spaces had much reduced due to alternating days of warm and cool. A habitual hangover from driving lessons more than twenty years before, I turned the front wheels of the truck toward the edge of the sidewalk, disembarked and walked in my mukluks up the block to the only fabric store in town. The sky toward the west had a warm glow. It promised another clear and gorgeous winter day for tomorrow. The street was mostly deserted of pedestrians, and on my brief walk I ruminated over just exactly what I wanted to buy.

I had earlier determined that I wanted to make two dresses to serve as a sort of formal uniform for dress-up occasions. I hated the selection available at the local dress shops. They had nothing to suit my austere taste. I liked clothing which skimmed my body loosely, allowed for free movement, a certain modesty, simple details, well made, of beautiful colours. No elaborately opulent patterns for this simple middle-aged woman, Thank You. I also like materials which were of good quality and had good weight and drape.
This was a tough call for a Northern City, where most of the stores had the recent styles on hand, but little of classic nature which might outlast the switching diktats of the fashion world. The closest one could come to acquiring this kind of clothing was to find a skilled dress and pattern-maker, cloth of good quality and have something tailor made. I didn’t have a lot of money to hire this chore out, so decided to wing it, buy and alter a pattern, myself, and do the cutting, fitting and sewing over a period of months.

Once I entered the fabric store, I headed directly to the pattern section. I liked Burda patterns at this time, and spent some time browsing the selection of dress patterns available. The right design presented itself, fortunately, and it promised to be one which could be altered in different ways, as a sort of variation on sleeve lenght, neck detail and skirt length. It was classic, subtly constructed and attractively austere. It just needed the cloth of the correct weight and drape and colour.

It took me less than 5 minutes to find the correct cloth. Beautiful mid to light-weight rayon, solid coloured in the most delicious jewel colours. I stood and drooled over the colour selection, playing with the drape and the sizing in the fabrics. In the end a marvellous Winsor Blue solid and what might be called a Grass Green solid were the ones I selected, hauled up to the cutting counter and presented for measuring into the needed lenghts. I also found some muslin which I bought in the same amount. I needed to make a muslin variation to practice altering and revising the pattern before committing it into the final versions. Then found some thread and zippers, interfacing, buttons and seam binding to match both colours of cloth.

I was so thrilled to have this project to begin working on. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were treated to a fashion parade of me, flouncing about, bedecked in the two fabrics. The Grass Green fabric was for a dress to be worn for weddings, engagements, bridal and baby showers, and the Winsor Blue was to be made into a dress to serve for more emotionally somber occasions – funerals, memorial services, retirement parties, partner dinners. I figured to have my formal dress needs looked after for the next fifteen years.

Diagnosis and treatment for Leukemia (AML) intervened and put stop to my sewing plans. However, two years later, after we relocated back to the Lower Mainland, on a sunny February morning, I pulled out the pattern and the muslin and coloured fabrics. I took and noted my measurements with my Anyu’s help, and began cutting and constructing the muslin version of the “dress”. Lots of pinning, unpinning, altering, basting and pulling of stitches – until a pale facsimile of the dress took form. And – it fit and flowed and draped beautifully, reassuring that the making of the Green Dress would result in a successful Garment – one which would have an extended and valued life.

By the end of March, the dress was complete, with an inside worked by hand to be as beautiful as from the outside. It gave me enormous pleasure to work the unseen parts of the dress, and the pleasure of hand-stitching a beautiful edging repeated in the observation of the same. The dress, finally hemmed and pressed, was beautiful. It hung from my shoulders gracefully; draped over my poitrine modestly; flowed with movement and its hem was a perfect edge.

The following summer I wore that green dress to two weddings; the following fall to a memorial service. Every year for the next fifteen years, that Green Dress took me to many weddings, christenings ,bridal and baby showers, summer trips to the theatre.
I always felt like a million dollars in it. I dressed it up with inherited jewelry, scarves and costume jewelry from second-hand stores, shawls and a variety of shoes to suit the occasion.

Finally, last year ,my body had changed enough in its conformation that the dress no longer looked so great on me. My breasts had settled to a lower part of my torso, and the fit of the Green dress no longer seemed the same. The fine handwork I had done on the unseen side of the dress had held up well during the many years it was worn. The cloth also had maintained well, and still hadn’t broken down to seem old. I took the dress down to the Salvation Army Store, hoping that some younger woman might see in it a labour of love and good use, with still some useful wear in it. It had served me well, as the only Spring, Summer and early Fall dress that I owned and wore for well over a decade. I loved that dress, and then released it.

The beautiful Winsor Blue material I made into a cullotte and blouse outfit. That lasted me for fifteen summers, before being relegated to the resale aisle of the Salvation Army Store.

I have always felt that clothing was to serve as a beautiful second skin; that it should be comfortable enough to forget while wearing; that it make us add colour and pattern to the world in the manner of butterflies and; that they should be made beautifully and last a long time. The Green Dress saw me through a period of my life – from the age of a young matron of 43 to an older woman of 60. it was time to let it go, and for me to find a new uniform more appropriate to my current chronological age and my ageing physical appearance.

Now I am on the hunt for a pattern and colour of a dress to make as a uniform to last me into my mid seventies. This is my February and March Challenge this year. And I look forward, with the help of Rumpole this time, to construct this new all-purpose dress.

I figure owning two dresses in thirty years is an accomplishment of a modest sort.