Sunday, January 10, 2010


Cold outside, beautiful light streaming in the windows onto my bead table/sewing table. It's a lovely old thing with a wooden top and cast iron legs. It used to be a two person desk in a schoolroom. It has old carved and written words on it, and glue I've spilled on it, and my grandmother's pincushion, and a complicated mess of beads and potential projects and needles for almost any kind of beading or sewing project you can think of. Yesterday I sat down in this lovely spot to work on some mending.

Mending is very satisfying work for me. You take something that is basically good that needs some small (or large) repair and make it usable again. Yesterday I worked on my daughter's jeans (third time for this - I am now to the point of patching patches, but they are still going strong), a pocket area rip in my husband's suit pants, the hem on a bathmat I can't bear to part with, some socks with cats on them, some reusable grocery bags that just had little rips that I didn't want to see get bigger, and my old brown backpack that I bought in 1979 when I gave up my car and decided to carry everything myself.

The backpack used to have a label that said "Dolt" on it, which I thought was funny. Nice archaic word that as a teacher I thought I should endeavor to transcend, as in "I may be a dolt but I work hard to overcome it." With the hidden message, "and you can, too." And we are all dolts at some things. The backpack became the picnic basket, toy holder and diaper bag when the kids were young. It went on many adventures. And now, with its newly repaired seam and some trimming where the fiber was unraveling inside the bag, it is ready for more. Maybe a farewell visit to Tai Shan, the born in DC Zoo panda who is now 4 and who has to return to China soon.

Mending things is something I've done all my life. Now it seems either quaint (who knows how to hand sew now?) or incredibly hip (the green alternative to buying new stuff.) It can lead to a basement full of things to be repaired, but it can also reinforce the "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" attitude, which requires a lot of "make do" to be successful.

Having had enough money to have some flexible funds for playing (buying yarn, music equipment, lunches out) I am now in the position of having to be more conservative with my spending. I don't anticipate it being difficult since I've lived on very little at various times in my life, and I'm confident that I can do it again. But being able to mend things should help the process. How wonderful to have the time to do it!

Of course, I am also mending myself. With age, you have to do more maintenance that you do when you are young. And working in a highly stressful environment, especially the last 3 1/2 years, was taking its toll. It made sense to stay working long enough to retire, but there were costs. The good news is that I am sleeping better than I have in years, and some other annoying health things are getting attention and improving.

If I apply "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" to myself, I guess I am working on the first three objectives. I want to use up every last bit of life experience that I can. When I am worn out, I will make do (for more experience, and hopefully more learning in the process). And when the time comes, I will let go of this life and "do without". I am not going to surrender to inertia and start dying while I am still alive. But anyone who knows me can tell you that - I'm pretty engaged in whatever comes along.

Right now, I am mending.


  1. One of the best gifts that I have received was a sewing kit from my mother. She took a basket and added everything she thought I would need (extra buttons, needles, thread, scissors, a pin cushion, etc) and placed them inside. I used it just last week to repair some loose buttons on my favorite purple velvet coat. At first, I was perturbed because I didn't think I 'had time' for such things. "Stupid, silly buttons, how dare you try to fall off!" But, while I was mending, I had a few moments to think about my best friend who gave me the coat after seeing it in a store and thinking it too lavish to buy. She surprised me with it as a Christmas gift. I thought about Virginia Winters and how there are only a few months that I actually get to enjoy my coat. And, I thought about all that I have. Not just possessions but good friends. Turned out, those moments mending weren't so bad after all.
    Thank you for sharing a beautiful lesson to those of us who are just starting our careers.

  2. Jane you have given me new initiative. I would retire but cannot and age-ism is apparent in all walks of life but esp in nursing it seems and makes life sressful. I am especially impacted by your comment of using every last bit of life experience that you can as I am stuck in a tidal state (should I and how, or shouldn't ) I really enjoy reading your blogs (and oh by the way still have a book of yours from 2004) Shall I pass it on ?

    Thanks Donna Gomme ("Nathan's Mom"

  3. Inspiring, Jane!

    This morning, I was thinking, "I may not be retired, but I AM retiring"!

    That being said, I did some hand-quilting last night and it was deeply satisfying.

    Have you ever read the novel, "The Art of Mending"?

    I love you and love reading your blog!


  4. I like to glue broken things.Life is bumpy and things get broken.Sometimes stuff that has sentimental value falls off a table and breaks.I always say glue and a happy thought can fix a lot of stuff that's broken.Sometimes we throw things when we're angry and we immediately regret it.Sometimes we get parcels in the mail that have been damaged in transit.I say glue and a little love can fix anything.Glue and Love.That's the ticket.

  5. My sister says that there is a book called The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg. The main character is a quilter. I need to check this one out.