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Your Stories

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

This afternoon, I sent out an email to the five winners of copies of The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold – congratulations to our winners!

I received many emails with your childhood stories – some that made me laugh and others that made me cry.  I’d like to share some of them here with you:

Hi Kathy, I can’t think of anything except my Mom would always tell us to go play in the street when we were really bad and driving her nuts. I know she didn’t mean it but others might have thought that wasn’t very motherly.

I was raised by my schizophrenic mother and grandmother.  My mother (god bless her) was also color blind.  Her hobby was sewing.  She made me a cheerleading uniform one year from fabric that she got on sale at the fabric store and then proceeded to paint my shoes. It was awful. I was blue, green, pink and purple.  I was one messed up looking cheerleader.  I was embarrassed to death, but if I could have her back for one moment I would wear whatever she made me.

I haven’t thought of any great stories from my childhood, my mind is a blank I have no memory of my childhood.  That could be good or bad.

My father always made me eat everything on my plate, I mean everything. One night, after I finished some sliced tomatoes,  he told me that I couldn’t leave the table until I had eaten the tomato seeds, no big deal you think….well, you try to pick them up off of a plate with a spoon, fork, or any other utensil. It’s next to impossible. And of course he wouldn’t listen to me trying to explain this. I had to sit there for a very long time until he finally figured out that I couldn’t even pick them up. And that is a mild example of the control he tried to exert over my mother, brother and I.

I don’t like to talk about my mom, but….one time we were eating dinner and she was so upset, she took one swipe of the table with her arm and totally cleared the table.  I swore I would be a patient mother after that…joke was on me.  Now I know some of what she must have been going through that day to get her that upset.  We learn not to judge unless we have walked in those shoes.

I was considered a ‘mistake’ when I was born right while my mom and dad were in the middle of a divorce.  My parents never let me forget that I wasn’t wanted.  I never even had a birthday party.  Then my father had an affair on my mom resulting in a half-brother from the other woman.  He left that child for my mother to raise and she was even less loving to that child if that’s possible.  I ended up pretty much raising him even though I was just a kid myself when he was born.

Yep…I’m one of those that had a perfect mother…and she’s still the perfect mother and grandmother. I am so blessed…but a funny story about her…when one of us smarted off, I can’t even remember what it was about…she looked around for something to give somebody a little spank on the hiney and all she could think to grab was her flip flop…so she hopped around trying to get it off and we all laughed so hard nobody got in trouble! Hilarious and still brings a smile to my face!

When I was 3 I ran ahead of my mother and sister (age 8 ) to get to the church first.  When my sister offered to go get me my mother told here that I was “old enough to pay attention.”  Unfortunately, someone took me away.  The good news is that who ever took me let me go and I found a woman who found a policeman and eventually my parents came to get me.  This was in the late ’40s in Greenwich Village (NY).  Since then I’ve never been very good at leaving my home base.  I’ll travel and visit people but I prefer to be at home.  My mother never gave a clear explanation as to what actually happened and I have no memory other than finding a kind woman who found a policeman.

My childhood was “normal” – whatever that is!

My mother had a ‘nervous breakdown’ (what exactly is a nervous breakdown and when do *I* get to have one?) when I was very young so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and uncle.  They were sexually abusive to me and the results affected me my entire life.  A few years ago, she tried to cry on my shoulder about how she had been abused by her father when she was a child – the same man that she left me with when I was 4 years old. I never could really forgive my mother for putting me into that situation knowing what would happen to me.

I think the craziest thing about my Mother was she was always moving us or talking about it. By the time I’d gone from 1st grade to 12th I had been to 20 schools. My high school years (4) were all at the same school. But my elementary school years were a nightmare with 4 and 5 different schools every year.

Well…here goes. You ask about a mixed up childhood, so here is my brief story. All my life even from my earliest memories, for some strange reason my mother favored my brother in all that he did. I was always second best and it was so very obvious, that when I was married the first time, my husband even commented on it. My Mother is untreated bipolar and also has a large area of hypochondriac. If you say you have a sore throat she is in the doctors the next week. She is jealous and is so afraid of anyone getting attention. Later in life I found out that I actually belonged to the man that I called dad’s brother, yes I am my uncle’s child. I have watched my mother steal and cheat people all my life. Things she does really drives me nuts. Please do not post my name with this.. it is way too embarrassing and my children do not know.  When I confronted my mother about my parentage she simply replied, everyone makes mistakes and you were just one I had to live with for appearance sakes.

I don’t think my “moment” is on par with Helen’s, but around 1975 or so, at a family dinner, my mother made the comment, as though she was updating us on late-breaking news, “And now they are saying that maybe there was a conspiracy to shoot JFK.”  I was so stunned by the depth of her lack of awareness, that I really couldn’t say anything, but I never thought of my mother in quite the same way again.

Thank you all for sharing your memories with us.

 
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What Are They Thinking?

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’d like to take a minute to post a quick little quiz about children’s sporting events – and the parents that attend them.

Let’s just say you had a problem with the way a coach is using the players on the team (playing time, positions played, etc).  Would you:

a) Send the coach an email

b) Speak to the coach at practice

c) Take the coach aside before and/or after the game to discuss your concerns

or

d) Scream obscenities expressing your opinion of the coaches abilities across the field in the middle of the game in front of all the other parents (including those from the visiting team) and all of the children

Apparently, certain parents think the correct answer is d).

Because that’s the perfect way to show a great example of sportsmanship for our children.

If these parents have so much to offer in the way of coaching expertise, then I would suggest that they join the other coaches and give up their free time with their families to run around the field night after night, rain or shine, trying to teach soccer skills while at the same time controlling a large group of children, some of whom think it’s funny to throw rocks at each other, call each other names, threaten each other with bodily harm and generally act in a way that does not promote learning the game of soccer or any other game, for that matter.

I’ll personally make sure they receive the sign-up sheet for next year’s coaching positions…

 
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Knitting – Trying Something New

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 27, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting

Mike and I have a long commute to work every day (one hour each way – yes, that’s TWO hours in the car together every day!) and I’ve decided to take advantage of that time in the car to work on some knitting projects.  Obviously, he’s the one doing the driving – I am in no way recommending knitting while operating a motor vehicle.

After the success of my felted purse, I decided to try to make another to give as a gift.  I saw some beautiful multi-colored wool yarn in blues and browns and thought I’d give it a try.  I have no idea what this is going to look like once it’s felted…but that’s part of the fun, I guess. So far I’ve completed the two side panels and am working on the handle:

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I also added some fuzzy brown yarn at the top of the purse – when the rest of the yarn felts, it should really stand out (or at least that is the hope, anyway). 

The purse handle is simple, but is REALLY boring to knit (which is perfect to do in the car).  But I think I want to branch out and try some new techniques on a different, slightly more complicated project that I can do at home while watching all those reality TV shows (by the way, did anyone watch Project Runway this week?  What did you think of Kenley’s ‘hip-hop’ outfit??!!!??).

So I picked up some cashmere yarn the other day and am trying the pattern on the package – a scarf with some cables.  Here’s the project so far:

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It may be tough to see in the photo, but there’s a pretty cable-knit pattern throughout the scarf.  This is the first time I’ve ever tried knitting cables – they’re not hard to do (you basically knit stitches out of order), but you really have to pay attention to exactly where you are in the pattern.  Not something to try while zooming down the Atlantic City Expressway…

 
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Happy Birthday Michael!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 27, 2008 in Cards, Crafts, Family Stuff, Today's Photo

I just wanted to wish a happy birthday to my dear husband Michael.

Here’s the birthday card that I made for him (it’s so hard to make a nice masculine card, but I like how this one turned out using brown velvet and embossing):

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Thanks, Michael, for sharing your life with me!

 
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Fall Reading – The Poisonwood Bible

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 23, 2008 in Books I'm Reading

I finally finished my latest read – The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  I say ‘finally’ because it seems like I’ve been reading this book forever – at 543 pages, this is a VERY long read – and one that does not move along very fast, I’m afraid.

But the book is well worth the effort.

The Poisonwood Bible follows the story of the Price family living in Africa in the early 1960s as missionaries.  The story is told from the perspective of each of the four daughters – Rachel, the oldest daughter who really just wants to be back in the US wearing pretty skirts and makeup; Leah, one of a set of twins who idolizes her father and will do whatever it takes to make him happy; Adah, Leah’s twin sister who is disabled after an injury at birth but remains very intellectual; and Ruth May, the fun-loving baby of the family who spends her days playing with the native children.  Parts of the story are also told by their mother, Orleanna, who looks back at her life and her mistakes and asks for understanding and forgiveness.

The father of the family, Nathan, is controlling and hell-bent on converting the locals to Christianity while his wife and daughters do the best they can to cope with life in Africa.  The book focuses on the political atmosphere as well as the daily struggles of life in the jungle – killer ants, snake bites, starvation, drenching rains, and the distrust of the native people toward whites. 

According to the author, this distrust comes with good reason.  She uses the setting to inform the reader about the unfair and morally corrupt practices used by the Belgians, French and the Americans during this time period on the Dark Continent.

Even after the Prices are no longer missionaries (although Nathan holds out until his death), the author continues to follow the sisters and how they are influenced by African history until the present day.

A few scenes and lines that will really stick with me from this story…

The title comes from the fact that the word bangala means ‘most precious’ – but it also means ‘poisonwood’ (a tree that causes a horrible rash if touched) – it depends on the inflection used.  At the end of all of his sermons, Nathan Price ends with “Jesus is bangala!” (with the wrong inflection, of course) – which is not a big draw for the natives to Christianity.  The same is true when he insists on baptizing children in the river – which is avoided by the natives because of the crocodiles.  They can’t understand why this white man wants to feed their children to the crocodiles…again, not a big attraction for this new religion.

Nathan Price does not understand why the Africans do not grow crops such as tomatoes in their rich soil.  He carefully plants some seeds that he brought with him and while they do grow into healthy plants, they never produce any fruit – they flower, but then the flowers wither away.  It isn’t until later that he realizes that there are no bees in Africa necessary to pollinate the flowers and produce fruit.  This is a real metaphor for life in Africa – we cannot try to impose our way of living upon this part of the Earth – the very nature of the place will not allow it.  We can bring and plant the seeds, but without the missing ingredients, nothing will take root.  And who are we to say that our tomatoes are better than their manioc?  How can we be so sure that our way of life is best?

Adah explains toward the end of the book that the jungle has ways for renewing itself and its people.  Like the killer ants – they eat everything (even small animals) in their path – but this destruction includes parasites and other dangerous pests.  Adah also remarks that in trying to save babies with vaccinations and medical care, we have created other issues.  Before vaccinations, people in that part of the world had nine babies in the hopes that one would survive, Adah remarks.  And just because we help to save all the children doesn’t mean that people will stop having those nine babies – this had inadvertently led to issues with a starving, overpopulated Africa.

One other line that stood out to me…Leah is talking about how the jungle takes back everything eventually – all the villages, if left in their natural state, are taken over by vines and animals in no time.  Along that same thought, she discusses her children born to her after marrying a black man.  She mentions that, “I look at my own boys, who are the colors of silt, loam, dust, and clay, an infinite palette for children of their own, and I understand that time erases whiteness altogether.”  I walked away thinking how true this is in our world of today – although we try to divide ourselves into black and white, how long will it be until nature takes us all over and we all become shades of gray?  How can bigotry continue to exist in a world like that…and how long will it take to get there?

This is not a light book – and these are certainly not light topics.  But in following the story of the Price family, my eyes were opened to some history and current day issues that I had not considered before.

 
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Yard Sale Day

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 21, 2008 in Yardsale Finds

Yesterday we held the annual Torrence Family Yard Sale.  We try to coordinate our yard sale with Pitman’s Fall Craft Show every year to maximize the number of shoppers (we’re not the only ones in town to use this philosophy – there were a LOT of yard sales yesterday).

What a TON of work!

I’m trying to decide if it was worth all that effort to lug all our old, unwanted stuff out of the attic/basement/back of the closets in order to haul it outside into our driveway at the crack of dawn (yard-salers arrive as early as 6am in Pitman) and sit there until noon while complete strangers (and some nosy neighbors) come to your home and judge you by the quality of the items you are offering for sale (I felt like saying, if it was GOOD stuff, I’d be keeping it for myself!).

At the end of the day, we made a profit equivalent to what I could earn working at my job for a little less than 3 hours.  And my job does not require hauling heavy boxes and large pieces of furniture up and down narrow stairways and out onto my lawn for strangers to peruse.

The good news is that after selling some stuff, donating some stuff to charity, and leaving some other stuff out at the curb (after shlepping everything outside, I was not about to carry anything back inside!) our basement and shed are now practically empty.

The attic…now that’s another story.  But another yard sale?  Not anytime soon…

 
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The Hair I’ve Always Wanted (At Least for a Day or Two)

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 19, 2008 in Family Stuff, Today's Photo

It’s been CRAZY around here with back to school madness the past few weeks.  Having three children and only two parents is definitely an equation of inequality (as you can see, I’m brushing up on my freshman algebra skills). 

Last night was Back To School night both at Andrew’s high school and Matt and Emily’s elementary school.  Mike and I had to divide and conquer – the same tactic we’re using for all of their activities lately. 

After the laziness of the summer, I’d forgotten (maybe on purpose from the scars it left) how insane it can be to work all day, come home in the evening, jam in a super-quick dinner (cook, eat and clean up in 15 minutes or less – now THAT’S something they should demonstrate on the Food Network!) and head back out for more – until we finally collapse into bed to grab a few hours sleep before we start all over again.

But back to the title of my post…I managed to squeeze in a haircut this week and asked if my stylist could PLEASE straighten my hair after my cut.  Here was the result (and the hair I’d like to have):

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Just for reference, here is my hair in its normal state:

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Quite a difference, huh?  My own daughter didn’t recognize me when I went to pick her up from school.

Unfortunately, the straight hair only lasts until I wash it. :(

I suppose I could go to the salon once a week and have it straightened regularly…not sure if that’s in the budget, though…

 
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Yay! Stampin’ Up! Online Ordering!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 10, 2008 in Cards, Crafts, Other items, Scrapbooks

Good news – you can FINALLY order Stampin’ Up! products online – and it’s about time!

Just visit my Stampin’ Up! website (a link can also be found down below in my Blogroll) and click on the “Shop Now” button. 

Feel free to email me with any questions – happy shopping!!!!

 
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I’m Hosting a Giveaway!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 9, 2008 in Books I'm Reading, Local Community, Uncategorized

Yes, that’s right – FREE STUFF!!!

A while back I posted about a book that I read while on vacation, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, which has just been released in paperback.

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You can read my review here – it was a great read to which anyone who has had a less-than-ideal childhood can certainly relate (although we don’t all kill our crazy mothers, thank goodness!).

Well…I have been contacted by the publisher and have FREE COPIES of the book to give away – how great is that?!?!

So…if you are interested in a copy, email me at kathy@thetorrences.com to enter the giveaway.

Feel free to include a description of a moment in your own childhood that proved your own mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/grandmother was just a little bit ‘crazy’, as Helen describes her own mother.  Or if your own childhood was perfect (I’m sure there are some of you out there!), give me an example of someone else’s childhood moment.

I’ll post some of your responses here (anonymously, of course – and only if I have your permission) and will choose five winners at random on September 30th.

All winners must reside in the US or Canada – and no PO Boxes, please.

Good luck!

 
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I’m Now Officially a “Soccer Mom”!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 8, 2008 in Family Stuff, Today's Photo

My kids have played many sports and have participated in lots of other activities over the years (baseball, wrestling, flag football, basketball, karate, dance, gymnastics…you name it, we’ve done it!), but this is the first year that two of them are actually playing soccer.

Emily started with her first Micro-Mini Soccer on Saturday:

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She managed to get her game in before tropical storm Hannah came roaring through in the afternoon.

Then Matt played his first game on Sunday on Pitman’s traveling soccer team.  He did a GREAT job playing defense!

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It’s going to be a busy season…

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