Yumiko Sekine, author of Simplicity at Home, grew up in northern Japan, learning traditional crafts and quilting from her mother and grandmother. Just as I did growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Yumiko appreciated quilting and hand-crafts. She still does, and so do I.
Finding new uses for scraps of fabric saves money and demonstrates the beauty in things that are slightly imperfect.
One of her designs reflects the motif in my new memoir, My Checkered Life.
Her idea for holiday decor: “For Christmas, I like to hang little wreaths around the house. I make my own, using evergreen branches, from my garden, a scarf hanger, and a small ornament. I make several at a time and give them as gift.” Yumiko attaches greenery to the hanger (you can bend a wire hanger into a circle) using twine or strong thread, then adds an ornament in the middle.
Repairing broken dishes, finding new uses for scraps of fabric, and dying stained clothes are examples of a kind of resourcefulness that not only saves money but also demonstrates the beauty in things that are slightly imperfect. Many of these ideas are inspired by Japanese traditions, but they work equally well in the West.
Author and Crafter Sekine suggests that the home arts of an Asian culture can blend well with those from North and South America and also Europe.
The topic of my next memoir My Checkered Life: a Marriage Memoir suggests a blending of two cultures: my husband Cliff’s from the West Coast, cities in Washington state and California, and mine from the East Coast, a Mennonite in rural Pennsylvania. The stories also hint at possible conflict–even clashes!
Excerpt from My Checkered Life, “Heritage”
I finally met my husband’s mother just days before our wedding. “Ooh, this is positively beautiful,” she said, as her hand caressed the satiny skirt of the wedding gown I had fashioned by hand. I knew immediately she approved of me but she cautioned, “You and Cliff may have quite a time adjusting to married life.” She used the direct approach and didn’t mince words about the huge difference obvious in our backgrounds: Her son was a Westerner used to city life, and I, his bride, a woman from the east coast with a rural Mennonite upbringing. I knew she cared about how we would fare, but I heard caution in her words.
For the wedding service, we had picked the hymn “In Christ there is no East or West,” with lyrics that continue, “in Him no North or South, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” The words expressed my intention and hope, but as a starry-eyed bride, I had not lived them yet, nor had they been tested.
The first days of our honeymoon, camping in the Smoky Mountains, highlighted our differences:
Mom and Dad Beamans’ wedding gift to us was a gas credit card and the use of their red Ford pickup truck with a white topper. The topper, a fiberglass canopy covering the pickup’s rear bed, supplied a raised mattress for sleeping and storing suitcases and camping gear, a Coleman lantern, ice chest, and stove.
Honeymooning and hiking suck the energy out of you, especially if you can’t get a decent night’s sleep. We were, after all, in the mountains, the camper parked on an incline. It was hard to find a level spot to park the camper. And we moved almost every day. I realized I had married a true pioneer, an explorer. “What’s on the other side of this mountain?” he wondered. His ancestors must have ridden across the continent, bouncing along in stagecoaches more than a century ago, filled with wanderlust, shouting “Giddyap!” I would have been content to stay two or three days at the same site. But, no, “Let’s go to Clingman’s Dome tomorrow. It’s over 6600 feet high. We’d have our heads in the clouds!”
My head wasn’t in the clouds anymore. Being married to a super-energetic guy was going to be work. It was hard to keep up. We did scale part of Clingman’s Dome, and I have a picture of my husband leaning against a brown forestry sign at the top, the observation deck at the summit. He actually did look tired too. Leaning slack against the sign, it appeared as though one of the wooden posts was holding him up. But not tired enough to slow the pace.
The clash of the cultures had begun. A young wife whose only experience of camping was Laurelville Mennonite Camp with cabins and a dining hall serving food cafeteria-style was matched with a man whose family exuberantly camped in the wild. In tents. With a gas stove and a Coleman lantern, roughing it.
Does Asian decor appeal to you?
How have you had to adapt to a different culture? Adjust to differences in a friend or loved one?
Good morning, Marian!
I think every family is its own culture to some extent. When people marry, there are always some adjustments–personalities as well as “cultures.” My husband and I had very different backgrounds. I think he adopted more aspects of mine. And no camping. 🙂
I know your husband has a scientific bent, whereas you extend your family’s “culture” to the literary. As I tap these words, it occurs to me, though, that poetry has its own mathematical aspect: metrical feet and rhythm. I suspect there were other differences too in your upbringing.
Lucky for you, no camping! Thanks, Merril. 😀
You’re welcome, Marian!
We had/have very different families and upbringings. I hadn’t even thought of it in terms of him with math and me with reading and writing. 😊
Interesting connection to the hymn, the home arts, and the blending of East and West in culture and in marriage. I just read these passages in your memoir, and now you have woven even more strands into them. You are living a graced and grace-ful life, Marian.
I like your pointing out the presence of grace in our lives: times when we have been granted favor. It’s easier to see these “grace” moments when we have been on the journey for awhile–down the road a piece from the hurly-burly of raising our children and pursuing a career. As an advance reader, thanks for noticing and making such fine connections, Shirley. 😀
Perhaps this is a bit simplistic on my part, but I think East and West blend because love trumps all. I’m looking forward to reading your novel when it comes to fruition as someone who has also had a long and happy marriage.
I like the prophetic in your comment here. I do hope my memoir reads like a novel and proves that love conquers all. Our pastor’s wife told me that happy marriages are marvelous. . . and rare. Your marriage is rare and wonderful, but it probably hasn’t come about without struggle. Thanks, Pete. 😀
Great stories! In so many cases, the differences are what bring real richness to a relationship. Patience and understanding sometimes required!
Great insight, Arlene. Differences are probably what attract us to our partners in the first place, but then we have to find common ground.
By the way, I like your new Gravatar: relaxed and inviting. 😀
I love how you and Cliff made it work. It always takes time and patience to build a marriage. Paul was raised in a city in post-war England, I was raised by German immigrant farmers in Canada. Some huge differences but we managed with lots of laughs.
You and Paul have bridged huge gaps. Laughter certainly helps, and a determination to make it work as we too have discovered. I remember during the pandemic you said, “My husband is the one I’d choose to be quarantined with.” That says a lot. Ha! Ha! 😀
HI Marian, it is lovely that you managed to make your differences work well. I must admit that Terence was my third serious relationship. By that time I was quite street wise and made it clear upfront to him what I did and didn’t do. For example, for me, camping has never been a yes, but going to every museum in the world is. He and the boys always follow along and come with me although I would be happy to tour some places on my own. He’s never minded and he sometimes does things I don’t like doing on his own or with friends. That is a different approach but it also works.
I believe you are pointing out that individual pursuits help companionship to work. Yes, I can imagine you leading the charge to museums far and wide–and partnering with other family members with your artistic kitchen creations. Thanks for chiming in, Robbie! 😀
Marian, there is so much in this post that illustrates how much unties us who grew up in different cultures! A Japanese quilter, who makes beautiful Christmas wreaths, the kind my Mennonite ancestors fashioned as well. Indeed, “in Christ there is no East or West’! Loved this post!
So, you have made beautiful Christmas wreaths from clothes hangers too. It makes sense because hangers are sturdy and versatile, just like a good marriage. Thanks for your kind and wise comment, Elfrieda! 😀
OOps, I meant “unites” not unties!!
Oh, Elfrieda, I often make mistakes, especially on other bloggers’ websites. When I see a comment with a tiny error on my own blog, I usually “edit” it out. I wish others would do the same for me when I press “send” and then say “oops!” 😀
what a fun honeymoon story and yay to using the scraps that take up space in our homes!
It’s good to see you here again, Joan. I wonder if this means you have survived the move to your new “digs” just before Thanksgiving. I’m guessing you found new homes for those space-hogging scraps. Ha! Ha!
Hubby’s family immigrated when he was 6 so he didn’t grow up with lots of family. I, on the other hand, grew up with grandparents and great-grandparents close by. He wanted to be quiet on holidays; I wanted to be with my crazy family. We had to balance our 2 extended families (neither of which living close to us so always travelling) and worked through our different expectations. He prefers holidays alone or a short visit with family, and he’s ok to let me see my folks (with the kids and guinea pig) on holidays without him. I always make sure to leave nice meals and treats, and we connect via phone and text often. We’ve been criticized but this works for us and we’re happy!
Hi, Jenn! You are a shining example of how partners in an “Opposites Attract” duo can make it work. I’m certainly not one to criticize. My next memoir discusses the hordes of people in my family socializing vs. the sparse family gatherings in my husband’s experience.
I like how you snuck in “guinea pig” in your comment. Haha! 😀
I enjoyed the excerpt from My Checkered Life, as well as the picture of your rebel sweetheart going out the in door. Have you said when the book is coming out/available for preorder? I don’t want to miss out!
My target date for publication is Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2023. However, there may be a delay. I am compiling a list for those requesting pre-orders, and you are at the TOP, Liz! I appreciate your enthusiasm! This is the spot for announcements. 😀
Great, thank you!
I don’t either! I am looking forward to this read!
You were East and West, Stuart and I were North and South. Mennonite and Lutheran. Conscientious objectors and WW2 and Vietnam Veterans (parents). It looks like a lot of us connect with your opposite attracts marriage. Healthy differences but not always easy to embrace. I enjoyed reading this and the responses here
It looks like we found our “True North” in the partners we chose so long ago. It occurs to me that Presbyterian may have been a compromise between the disparate Mennonite and Lutheran churches in your case. I definitely identify with the phrase: “healthy differences but not always easy to embrace.”
Blessings to you and to your family during this demanding season! 😀
Oh yes, certainly a compromise but one that Stuart was totally open to. My father: not so much. He squirmed to think of his granddaughters being baptized as babies. 😉
I know the feeling!
Overall I’m not taken with Asian decor, but we do have one large decorative plate that features a carp going upstream. It was a wedding present to my grandparents and I have inherited it so it hangs on the wall in our dining room. Fortunately my decorating style is eclectic, so it works.
Mine too! A carp going upstream seems like a hopeful image. I guess one moral of our stories is to be careful what we buy for relatives . . . ! Thanks, Ally. 😀
Marian – you have a wonderful way of writing your story that encourages readers to look back on their “checkered life” with appreciation. Thank you for the introduction to Yumiko Sekin.
You’re welcome. Rebecca. Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed Yumiko’s linen home goods, very comfortable and versatile! 😀
Now that was some interesting honeymoon. I do like Asian decor. I have quite a few pieces in my home. Congrats on what looks a great read Marian. <3
Asian decor is calming to me too.
Yes, our honeymoon experience was so bad we returned to the mountains the following summer to have a “re-do.” It must have been uneventful because I don’t remember much about it except that we didn’t sleep in a camper–lol! 😀
This entire post is one evoking recognition, Marian. From the excerpts of your new memoir (I love seeing the images!!), to reusing materials and hating waste, to a clash of cultures in our own relationship as a Belgian and American, and to adapting to a new culture as we speak, only having arrived in Colombia two days ago.
We are ready to adjust and while I easily get used to being thrown into the traffic chaos immediately, I have a harder time appreciating cold showers again. 🙂
Liesbet, you are certainly a Mistress of Adaptation if there ever was one! And, welcome to Colombia! I believe you are conversant in Spanish, so that’s also a good thing.
Again, thanks for your Squinty-eyed attention to detail in the edits. I am wondering now what is the time difference for us in relation to Easter Standard Time.
Here’s to a quick adjustment to a new culture (even cold showers), and a timely reunion with Bella! Thanks for your comment. It’s good know you have arrived! 😀
I’m now in the same time zone as you, Marian. We lost an hour flying from Houston to Miami and on the last leg, the time stayed the same. Easy to call Mark’s family on MA. 🙂
All good! 😀
Opposites definitely attract and 42 years later its still working between the cockney boy and the posh girl is what he calls me…lol…just because I don’t like jellied eels or pie,mash and liquor …but hey thats what makes the world go round and cultures oh we have mix in our families and we have to learn and adapt plus accept but its all good fun at times 🙂 I hope you have fabulous weekend , Marian 🙂
Way to go, Carol! I guess “posh” has a variety of definitions. I didn’t associate the word with not liking certain foods or drink. I agree, differences make the world go ’round.
Happy weekend to you too! 😀
Love your stories about your young days. Your honeymoon reminded me of my own. Andrew loved to fish. He rented the “honeymoon cottage”at a state park for a week. I didn’t fish, in fact, I couldn’t stand to touch worms or fish. We drove along the creek looking for fishing holes. He fished and I read a book. I will confess that just being with him was a joy. He still likes to fish!
Oh, Bonnie, I didn’t know this tidbit about you and your guy. At least your honeymoon cottage was not on wheels!. Be thankful for that. 😀
Hi Marian – thanks for introducing Yumiko Sekine and her philosophy of repurposing. I do like finding new uses for old things. I enjoyed your excerpts, too. One of my kids climbed Clingman’s Dome last summer and I heard all about it! There are many adjustments, even when the cultures are the same. And here in the U.S., as you have experienced, there are vast differences in American ways of life.
You said it so well: “There are many adjustments, even when the cultures are the same.” That’s especially true when you’re established in a profession with your own (separate) identity. But that’s what makes the world go ’round. Right?
Thanks, Barbara! 😀
It is, indeed, Marian!
I have always been fascinated by Far Eastern cultures and art, especially Japanese, and we are the proud owners of many Japanese items that decorate our house and, indeed, ourselves (we both have kimonos instead of dressing gowns and I also have Japanese hairpins).
I love quilting too, a craft that I learnt only recently and which kept me busy, happy and sane during Lockdown! Thank goodness I had just bought my first ever sewing machine!
Marian, I feel you and I have so much in common, marrying an artist from a totally different culture and going camping on our honeymoon, except we were backpacking and only had a small mountain tent. We chose the Scottish Highlands for our first hiking trip together as a married couple and we still remember it with fondness, just as you do.
I very much look forward to the second instalment of your memoirs and find out what else we have in common!
Oh, my, Maria! Thanks for pointing out our similarities. I imagine you had very (!) close quarters in the Scottish highlands. And it was probably cold and windy, but romantic with your honey.
Thanks for mentioning my next memoir, a sequel. I plan to offer opportunity for pre-orders, so watch for it. 😀
I love your East-West comparison theme Marian. Your hymn selection could not have been more fitting. I also like that Cliff’s mom had a kind warning of sorts. She was all too-familiar with her high-energy son. With both grown children and grandchildren now, what I see is that it worked. Congratulations on your newest adventure – your second book. 🙂
Well, about the current adventure: Yes, we are collaborators even more so this time, I in my studio looking out at the street; Cliff is facing the lake with his multiple screens. Trouble is, we’ve worked on this for so long, we’re both weary. At least I don’t have to outsource the artwork of which there is plenty! Thanks, Melanie. 😀
Sorry to be late due to computer problems. I’m now getting email on my iphone, but can send email out from my laptop–or come right to your website as I did today. Other issues are getting sorted out, one thing at a time.
I love this East-West theme and I laugh because I have photos of camping trips with Vic where I slid down a glacier or shivered all night even in our jackets and sleeping bags or carried a backpack while 6 1/2 months pregnant. I was tough, but not that tough–and sometimes I got angry from being pushed too hard. He wanted to climb to the top of the mountain and I loved playing by the streams, but like you and Cliff, we found a balance and compromise. Buying rural property pleased both of us and Vic used his exuberant energy remodeling the falling down farm house.
I look forward to your coming book.
It’s nice to get computer problems sorted out. I had hoped my web guy would update the Welcome page today, but it didn’t happen yet. So, I have patience. Yes, one thing at a time.
There are several parallels between your and Vic’s relationship and our own. Striving for balance and compromise is the only way to survive and be happy. I’m glad you are able to stay in the “falling-down” farm house, renovated and still your cozy nest. Thanks for the good wishes, Elaine. 😀
Marian — Ohhhhh, I’m so excited for you and your next book!
I appreciate your enthusiasm, Laurie. You know what it takes to “birth” a book, that’s for sure. 😀