Deconstructing a wedding dress

decon 1I imagine many women will gasp at the thought of cutting up a perfectly good wedding dress that likely cost quite a bit. Many of you know that I am part of an organization called Tiny Hearts Angel Gowns, where volunteer seamstresses turn donated wedding dresses into small wee gowns for babies who don’t come home. My sister Suzanne introduced me to this group, and I decided to join as I enjoy sewing and believe this is a good match for sewing experience and what speaks to my heart. I must admit I am so humbled and grateful for the women who have wholeheartedly donated their beautiful dresses for this cause. I also am grateful for Rachel’s initiative in starting the chapter in our area.

Now, many of you have asked how I can actually cut apart such amazing dresses. The fact remains that reselling a wedding dress is difficult to do, since they are fitted so well to the owner, finding an alike body type, who likes the actual dress style and colour is a difficult challenge. Many women said they have often thought of giving it away, but didn’t have any options to do this, or were keeping it for a christening gown (which they may or may not have done), or for their own girls or granddaughters. For whatever reason, many dresses live long decades in closets… one woman’s dress spent over 45 years in her closet until she called me.

So, how much nerve does one have to have in order to feel comfortable taking such a special ornate dress apart? I confess my first wedding dress I deconstructed was my mother’s dress she wore in 1945, and this in order to make ornaments for my family members. I waited a month before cutting it to see if I would have any dreams of my Mom talking about the dress! I was nervous, but it went well.

I take pictures of every donated dress that I receive. Yesterday, after receiving an email asking me about the process of cutting the dress, I decided to document a complete deconstruction mostly through pictures. First off, please know that we treat the dresses with the utmost care and respect. I don’t take this lightly, by any means. Let me show you this light beige dress (thank you Terri): 
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The first step I take is to really examine the dress to see how it was made. In this case, the dress had many layers of crinoline that we cannot use for our little gowns. I removed those layers cutting close to the seam. Once this removed, I was able to determine the dress had a lining, and multiple layers of fabric. I then proceeded to unsew the seams using scissors or my exacto knife.

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Each layer was removed, seperated or unsewn. There was very little wastage and lots of individual parts and large sections of fabric.

 

The second picture in this section shows what is left over.The tools I used are sharp scissors an exacto knife, and for cleaning up, a good vacuum and a lint brush for my clothes!

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In the next few months, I will get to work on these pieces of fabric and will share some of the gowns so you can see the transformation from start to end. I extend a huge thank you to all who have donated and help us spread the word about our organization.

Of Poppies, Denise and Joy

April the 5th next month will mark the one year of my sister Denise’s passing. Much has happened since then, and although we’ve managed well through the various celebrations, all with much remembering, some tears and many smiles, there are still days that pull me into the grieving bubble.

I feel it’s a bubble because it encases me completely and for anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, my thoughts and emotions are focused on Denise. It sometimes manifest itself because of someone or something that we shared is part of the moment.

Of late, a few strange things have been manifesting themselves, and to some, they could be called coincidences, to others, they could be call totally unconnected unrelated events, and to myself, and others, manifestations of Denise’s essence.

I believe they are manifestations and they bring me joy. They bring on tears but that’s part of the beauty of missing someone, tears of longing. They bring on deep thoughts, and challenge my belief system. They bring me ribbons of memories that are vivid and multisensed – the sound of her voice called me “kiddo”, the sight of her face, the sense of her presence.

Recently, I’ve been hearing lots of Neil Diamond songs, and this is expected as Neil Diamond is actually giving a concert tonight in our city. Denise loved Neil Diamond, and I shared this admiration for the singer. She and I saw many concerts of his and I cannot help but think of her when I hear him sing. Giving his concert, the local stations have played many of his hits, but it’s still strange that I seem to hear them each time I drove to work, and around town.

Denise loved poppies. I named last year’s Camino Journey “the Way of the Poppies” in honour of her. She always praised my poppy pictures from the Camino, and she used to tell me this would be the part of the Camino walk she would most like to experience – to see fields and fields of wild red poppies in real life. I’ve seen at least 5 sightings of Poppies in the last week alone.

Am I paying more importance to poppies as the date gets closer to April 5th? Perhaps. But, could it be something else inciting me to see these poppies?

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After all, I changed the dates of my Camino last year, after I spotted a picture of huge red poppy amongst the many pictures of Denise I was gathering for her memorial. That picture somehow mysteriously disappear from the group of pictures, and I just considered this a manifestation of Denise’s essence.

Late last week, My daughter Lisa told me about a series of painting workshops called Paint Nite. You buy a ticket for the evening, and an instructor walks you through painting a pre-chosen piece of art. I decided to select one, and I picked the week of early April. And wouldn’t you know, the chosen art piece for April 7th…

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This brings me lots of Joy, and happy memories of Denise. I am sure that as I am painting these poppies thoughts of Denise will envelope my creativity. This will be a wonderful evening.

 

COMPASSION… to love together with.

two-hands-holdingAccording to Wikipedia Compassion means “to love together with.” 

What a beautiful way to describe that word – Compassion. When I think about compassion, I think about helping others who need emotional, spiritual or physical support. But how much more beautiful does “Love together with” seems to be than just being of support.

Compassion requires us to be called or drawn to reaching out to others who need us. And it need not be in traditional ways; we can, in fact, extrapolate that any action of supporting, helping, listening, encouraging, listening, empathizing, soothing, or comprehending is part, comprehending.

With this concept in mind, we can recognize that we show compassion in many ways, at various times of the day, and likely without even know we are showing it. And there lies the key – the key to transforming our days into manifestations of comprehension.  With awareness comes insight, and now we can see that our days are filled with compassion and when seeing such compassion we will be entices to let it linger, let it live, let it thrive.

How do we do this? By being aware of our past actions, and by wanting to expand that influence even more than what it is today. By seeking ways to show compassion, even with the simple act of a smile and a nod.

It’s in us to give, we do it every day, but likely not in a way we can notice it. Now that we know just how masterful we are, how influential we are, how benevolent we are, we can build on those actions and continue to grow and give.

I know, many of my readers are … shall I say, “Realists” and a few of them are “Pessimists”. Whatever our collective outlook, my outlook is positive; I believe in the power of positive, love, caring, joy, support and happiness. In the end, we need all types to make this world work.

I have been blessed to live on the positive, beautiful, encouraging and loving side. I love living here, and I believe that with the additional focus on compassion, my world will continue to develop and bloom; this in the most beautiful and amazing way.

Compassion is something we all practice – now let’s make compassion an even greater part of our lives. The world needs it now.

Keeping his spirit alive

Syls DadJanuary 21, 1970 – I don’t remember much about the actual day other than my brother Paul and I were in our big bed with my sister Monique who was asked to tell us about Dad’s passing. I can’t remember if Mom was in the house, or at the hospital but I remember the actual moment the three of us sat on the bed. My brother was 5, my sister 16 and I was 9.

This was 45 years ago today. Growing up with out a father was difficult and challenging. There is a special relationship that daughters have with the first man in their lives and the relationship I had with my Dad was far too short of time. Not one special occasion went by without my thinking of him and wondering how that event might have been with him there.

The more important events certainly made me miss him even more, but over the years the grief made room for remembrance. I still have moments where tears appear and the yearning to have just one more day with him, as unrealistic as this may be, becomes a dream.

I have a very strong belief that when we die our essence-spirit-core is still present, not in a human mortal way but in other less obvious ways. A gentle wind that brings on the faint smell of Old Spice, the feel of his crisp Air Force shirt on my cheek or the warmth of his big hugs. Memories, no doubt, that come on for no special reason but to remind me of him.

Today I was going through some quotes about grief, trying to find one that resonated with me. Pages and pages of quotes just didn’t seem to mean anything to me until I read this one:

“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you’re going to take whatever lesson that person was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life… it’s a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.”  – Patrick Swayze

I couldn’t have said it better… My father has always been, and always will be alive in me, in my heart, and in my soul.

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The Ripples of our Actions

butterflyPerhaps you have heard of the butterfly effect The name of the effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

I truly believe that our actions create reactions, and we often know little of those reactions or consequences. Although many find the word consequence to be of a negative connotation, a consequence is simply a result or effect of an action or condition.

I try to think of the consequences of my actions, but I am well aware that I have no idea of the breath of depth of these outcomes. I take pleasure in reading stories of a pay-it-forward type of action that trickles down and affect dozen, hundreds or many even thousands. A simple one that I read about of late was an unbroken chain of pay-it-forward coffee chain at a local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. The “I’ll pay for a coffee of the next person behind me” action lasted almost the entire day shift! What a fun and encouraging event.

Our words have immense consequences, both positive and negative. A genuine compliment, a kind uplifting comment or an encouraging statement can change someone’s day in a matter of minutes. Conversely, a insulting comment derogatory words can negatively impact someone’s self confidence. All our actions have the possibility of uplifting or bringing down people.

This past week I was privy to an action that created nothing but anger, disappointment and a lot of head shaking. I participated in one of the city’s largest craft fair, offering my handcrafted folded fabric ornaments. I take pride in my work and ensure that only the best quality ornaments are offered to the public. I carefully measure each piece of fabric that is used, and I constantly check for accurate creation of the end product.

As we were setting up for the 6 day fair, a letter was circulated that informed us artists of a certain group of women who would be having lunch outside the craft fair area, and would  then visit the various kiosks. When I chanced outside the craft area I was privy to admire the many women that were dressed with class and affluence. There was an air of sophistication that could be felt as I watched them mingle drinking unique cocktails and chatting away. BCF 2We were asked to consider giving a donation to the group. Knowing a bit about this group and some philanthropic activities, I opted to donate a Breast Cancer ornament whose profits are returned to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt this was an appropriate donation given these were women and the likelyhood that most knew someone who had been affected by this disease.

A few days later, I was told that my ornament was in the back office, and it wasn’t used for the networking event because it’s value was far below the expected $100 value. I stood there in utter shock. None of us knew of this arbitrary expectation of donation value. I’ve run events and when there are donations that are of lesser value, we bundle them up to create a combined prize, therefore, the fact the donation was of lower value did not negate its potential for a nice combined gift.

I felt quite insulted that someone based on their own judgement deemed a donation to lack worthiness for their event. Giving it back seemed to be akin of a virtual slap in the face and a pure dismissal. Somewhat like leaving a penny tip to a waiter – worse than not leaving a tip at all, a penny tip is a loud and clear statement of unworthiness. I discussed this situation with many of my neighbor artists of the craft fair, and each and every one of them (men and women) felt this was appalling, insulting and devoid of compassion and gratitude.

It is unfortunate that the actions of one sole person who had the task of managing the donations tarnished the reputation of the entire group. In reading the profiles of some of the group’s leaders, I don’t doubt that most would not have acted this way, however, the only action we were privy to experience was that of the outright rejection of a valid albeit less expensive gift, and one associated with a cause, no less!

A few hours later, the rejected beautiful ornament (I may add as per all the feedback I received) was rightfully bestowed as a gift to someone who battled breast cancer and was now in remission. This person will appreciate this small token as a true gift of caring for what this recipient has gone through to win her battle. This gift would  not be looked upon as lacking a set value of X dollars, or a well-known label of X name.

ripplesWe can recognize that the power of our actions, immediate or delayed affect others. Perhaps if we consciously take a moment or two before making our decisions, we might recognize that like the beating of the proverbial butterfly wings, our actions will have rippled effects… hopefully positive ones!