Thursday, December 2, 2010

Missing someone?

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I apologize for not writing to you for a few days.  Have you lost someone  you loved since last Christmas? I have. And for a bit, it's been really difficult to get myself around Christmas this  year.  Daddy lived with me the last five years of his life, and he died February 9, at the age of 93.  He lived a full life, was full of wonderful stories to tell, wisdom, and wit ... and despite the normal amount of "parent-child" angst, was my hero.  He was one of those people in my life, who loved me unconditionally, no matter what dumb thing I might have just done. For months, I wondered how I was going to cope without him, and then I realized I was doing it ... and that I was okay.  Oh don't get me wrong, the hole is still big, and the empty place still hurts.  But as all the Hallmark and American Greetings cards say, he really isn't GONE, he's just out of sight. 

But then it was time to dig out the Christmas things, and gear up for the Thanksgiving turkey ... and that crippling feeling came back in spades.  Thanksgiving came and went, and since my silly turkey didn't thaw out until Monday of this week, it was a rather "oddball" observance of "Turkey Day".  In the middle of all this, there was a medical emergency, so I found myself making a hasty phone call to a man who presides over a homeless shelter here in town, to come get the turkey carcass, legs, thighs, wings, and veggies for soup. I wasn't going to have time to make it.  I always made "Thanksgiving Soup" after the big feed, and Daddy was my best customer.  I found comfort in making sure SOMEONE would have warm filling soup, even if I wasn't up to making it.

Now that the medical crisis has past, and I'm settled in my big blue chair (which was HIS big blue chair), with the Christmas Tree in the corner in all its splendor, I realize that though I miss him, and decorating the tree without him was indeed a lonesome experience, he IS still here. I can hear what he said about the ornaments as he unwrapped them. He marveled at the choices I've made over the years, in ornaments or other trinkets I collected, and why they were important.  I remember his grin when he unwrapped the pipe  ... "that's for Bing Crosby, and the White Christmas movie!" ... his questioning eyes when he unwrapped a sheep ... "the Lamb of God" .... birds, fox, fish, a tiny Bible, angels, train cars (his dad worked on the Erie Lackawanna Railroad years ago) ... kitties, photos of kitties now gone from my house but not from my heart.  Everything on that tree has some significance to me. One ornament is of a little bird dressed as a letter carrier, sending "air mail".  That was when one of my children wasn't with me for Christmas.  As I put each ornament on the tree, he was there with me. I realized I was smiling at them as I unwrapped them. 

Yes, I miss him. Far far more than I ever thought I would.  If there's someone missing from your life this season, take comfort in the reality that as long as you have your memories, that someone is NOT gone ... just "out of sight".  Open your heart, do something productive in your loved one's honor. Sign up to ring the Salvation Army Bell for an hour or two. Fix a food basket for someone you know who might not have a full pantry right now. Wrap a gift for the Toys for Tots program the Marines spearhead.  Take heart. Have hope. and ... be at Peace.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holidays ... holy days ..

I love this time of year. Autumn leaves, harvests, Thanksgiving, with Christmas hot on its heels.  Making lists, checking them twice, fishing out the decorations and laughing over the ones that were forgotten in last year's packing them up ... the glass pizza slice Sara bought for her dad after his heart attack, when all he wanted was pizza and it wasn't on his menu ... a bell, or a star ...   putting away the normal clutter to make room for the delightful clutter that goes along with these holidays ...

... but this year is different.  Daddy lived with me the last five years of his life, and those five years were a gift I cannot describe to you. Idyllic? Heck no!!!  He drove me NUTS!!  I would go out to the woods when he got the better of me, and rant and rave ... even called my first born and told her to come get him, I'd had it!  In those five years, the lines were blurred.  Parent - Child, Parent - Parent, Child - Child. Our roles overlapped, changed places, evolved.  It was a time with him that let me know him better, let go of some of my childish angers which were unnecessary .. gave him time to understand me as I have become, rather than as the little kid that helped him build a garage, or shovel snow. 

He was the last of the parents.  Mother died in 1999, my in-laws died in 2008 and 2009 ... but Daddy was still there. My kids are grown, with families of their own ... lives of their own ... but Daddy was here.  And he's not here any more. 

I feel more than just a little ... lost.  I'll be unwrapping the ornaments myself, and putting them on the tree. He won't be looking at each one as he unpacked it, hearing me tell him why this one or that one was important. Part of me is terrified to face the holidays without him, the glue that kept our little rag tag family together for my entire life. He was there for my kids when I wasn't. He was there for mother, when I wasn't. He rang the bell for the Salvation Army on the corner of 9th and Market in Wilmington for 30 some years ... heckling his friends on payday to pony up some money for the pot. He'd rake in more in that hour than all the other bell ringers did in weeks.  He'd sing, too, he and his buddy would harmonize Christmas carols as they stood there in the weather.  Long after he'd retired he could still be found at 9th and Market, ringing that bell. 

But maybe, just maybe, as I go through the motions of digging out the Christmas things, making turkey stuffing the way Nana did, I will find that he's NOT really gone. He's in every little bit and piece of it.

If you're looking at the holidays and thinking how will you cope with someone missing, stop and look again. Those people are NOT gone.  They're in every fiber of all you are. Smile, even through tears, and realize without all that they were, you wouldn't be what you are.  That is the most perfect gift of all. That is the gift you will have forever.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Thanksgiving Recipe for You!

Since I was typing this out for a recipe swap, I decided to put it here for the rest of you as well.  My grandmother "Nana" always made her stuffing this way, and it was absolutely yummy.  I really can't remember what my mother did, as we always had TG at Nana's house. So I'm the 3rd generation.  My daughters would make the 4th!!  Anyway, enjoy!!  The soup is my concoction.  YEARS ago I remember seeing a recipe for "turkey frame soup". I have no idea what went in it, or even where it came from ... but after years of practice, this is what I do, and I've had many satisfied customers!
Thanksgiving, before and after!!!
  • 1 bag crumbled Peppridge Farm herb stuffing (NOT CUBES)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 cup white raisins
  • .5 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2-3 strips crispy bacon crumbled
  • diced celery hearts (all the good parts out of the middle of the package) and leaves
  • diced mushrooms (if your family will eat  them)
  • diced turkey liver
  • chopped chives  (I add these, freeze dried, in addition to onions)
  • diced scallions (those long skinny green onions, cut 'em up all the way into the green)
  • 1 tsp freeze dried garlic
  • 1 tbsp "poultry  seasoning"
  • egg/butter/liquid (see below)
while you're doing all this, put the turkey "innards" in a pot to boil ... save the stock, and the liver.  I usually let the outside critters have the rest.  And they know it.
put the bacon on to cook, and make it crisp.
dump the bag of PF into a bowl. Using their guidelines, add butter,egg, and instead of water use 1 cup white wine (no whining here, you can drink the rest) and any additional liquid needed from the pan of turkey innards. Add the goodies from above.
stuff the bird cavities, and bake.  I found it better not to tell people what's in it. They enjoy it more that way. Most folks can't figure apples and raisins in with onions and celery!
        clean off the turkey carcass of whatever meat you can, and deposit the ENTIRE CARCASS into a huge pot.  Cover with water.  Add to it:
  • the big pithy leftovers of that package of celery
  • the long green tops of the scallions
  • the rest of the innards from that earlier pot, if you didn't already  make gravy out of it.
  • if you can get it, buy a box of Turkey Stock.  If you can't find it, cover with water and add a tablespoon of poultry seasoning.
Put the pot on the stove on the lowest setting (unless you have a reeeeeally big crock pot), and go to bed. 
The Next Day:
        you need a second large container, and a large colander.  Gently pour contents of pot-that-cooked-overnight thru the colander into the new pot.  Set that aside for a bit.  Gently paw thru the contents of the colander for any meat you might want to use in the soup pot you set aside.  This is a good job for husbands. What you don't want goes (in my house, anyway) outside for the critters.
     Now.  into said soup pot you set aside, add:
  • any turkey you wish, diced
  • any diced onion or celery you have left (or a bag of frozen if you don't)
  • some more freeze dried onion, chive, poultry seasoning (I'm heavy handed with the freeze dried spices. garlic is good too if your family likes it.  I use a brand called Litehouse, they make a whole raft of freeze dried stuff.   Lighthouse offers a variety of freeze dried spices and even mushrooms and you can check out the full line here : or at your local grocery store. ( I found mine with the refrigerated salad dressings)
  • a cup of that stuffing left over from dinner
  • a cup of barley  (be careful with this. when it cooks, it SWELLS!)
  • and if you wish, a package of frozen vegetables for soup, or leftover veggies from TG dinner.
  • cup of white wine
    Simmer that a bit until the barley plumps, then fill freezer containers and  label 'em "Thanksgiving Soup"! 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape"

"blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape."   It's an expression of which I do not know the origin, but certainly one out of which I get a lot of mileage.  This weekend is a perfect example of that. Unexpected medical "urgencies" (as opposed to emergencies), which could very easily louse up the next few months, domino style. I'm sure you're familiar with such things.  You get all the dominoes lined up ... have your plan set.  And then something knocks over the first domino.  And down go the rest of them. 

What's your "cure" for that. What do you do to "cope" with things.  I have a few things that come to mind .. one of course is obvious to a quilter. Another quick fix is to spend some quality time with my cat.  I look at his eyes, his whiskers, listen to his purr, rub him the way he likes best ... Or I tend to my violets.  All of these things may remind you of your GRANDMOTHER, but they work. That, and I think about "blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape."

It really doesn't matter what your faith perspective is (I like that commercial where the gal who plays the part of Divya on Royal Pains says "I believe that all paths lead to God") ... the bottom line is the same.  Be flexible. Let go. Let God (He's going to be up all night anyway).  Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. In the overall scheme of things, does what you're upset about, does what upset your dominoes, really change the world? Maybe it alters your short term plans, or even your long term goals.  But then you really have no guarantees as to what tomorrow will bring anyway. Today's all we really have.  A friend of mine takes his dog for a walk on the beach. I have a photo of him standing in the water, maybe a bit more than ankle deep, at dawn, with a cup of coffee.  What an incredible start to a day.  I watch my little furry buddies come for dinner after dark, and smile, and think "what a neat sight for the end of the day".  

SO, be flexible. Bake a pie with the lemons you were served. Remember that the bitter makes the sweet all the more sweeter .  Instead of shaking your fist at the snow, close your eyes, tip your head back stick out your tongue and be a child again, catching snowflakes as they fall. Favorite TV show get pre-empted by a sporting event? Go curl up with a book. Fix a pot of tea. NOT in the microwave, but in a pot. Properly steeped. with a pretty cup. Take care of your spirit, and let it be flexible, so it doesn't break.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Emmerson ...

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The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like Emerson. I like Thoreau!  I'm learning to use a quilt frame system, ideally it would have a mid or long armed sewing machine on it, but for now it plays host to my Bernina.  I have doodled with it, and was pleased with how easily I segued from moving the quilt to moving the machine!  But I can tell, there are a LOT more capabilities with the second method.  Shapes, designs ... quilt a little here, and a lot there ... And each time I remove the project from the frame, and look at it over all, I'm pleased with  myself.  Of course, the REAL "feel good" came when I dragged my first attempt to the Quilt Shop to show Sherrie.  She positively glowed at me!  THAT felt good. It was the "reward of a thing well done, that I actually DID!" 

It's true of so many things, when you get right down to it. Not necessarily limited to a craft, or a hobby. It could be true of a long awaited letter  you finally sat down and wrote; it could be the new recipe you wanted to try on your family, but were afraid of their reaction to "change".  There are no limits!  Last week, when I went through some of the boxes to find things for the new resident in Oscoda who is starting over, I was pleased not only with what all I amassed for her, I was also pleased with having succeeded in moving things to the new shed, out of the garage.  I need to do that again. There's still far too much chaos in the garage.  As I moved the boxes, and sorted through them, I located photos friends have been nagging me for;  I found things that have been packed since our exodus from Arizona five years ago. What fun! I was reunited with possessions, and felt enriched.  Memories were renewed and refreshed, and I felt like I had accomplished something at the end of the day.  Big deal, you say, I moved 6 boxes.  YES!  BIG DEAL!!! It was well done, and I felt the reward! 

Tackle something tomorrow. It doesn't need to be a world changing thing, choose something you can achieve, and DO it!  And then bask in the glow of the reward for a job done!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The best gifts can't be bought ...

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There you go, here's some nice links to help you with your Christmas Shopping! I have to say, though, the best presents to give are the ones you don't have to buy. Is there something you're good at? something you like to do? From Bird Houses to wall art, place mats to quilts. Several years ago, my son was then a college student, and as all college students are, broke! That year he made a barn for a Nativity scene, and his lady made the figurines. I treasure that to this day. In fact, it's time for him to make a bigger one, for the bigger Nativity figures I have! (yes, I put out several Nativities, and half a dozen trees ... I just love everything about Christmas.) Every year my firstborn makes Christmas cookies for me. I look for those first, they're special, and then I HIDE them from the overgrown rodent in my house who would eat them all up!! One year when my middle child was still in grade school, I was gifted with a rosary she made for me. Yup, still have THAT too.

Do you have a family member who loves to feed the birds? Make him or her a bird feeder, or a bird house. There are many patterns and designs on the internet there for the searching. Do you knit? How about a pair of arm warmers! They look like mittens, but the fingers are open, and just a hole for the thumb. I saw a pair I loved for 18 bucks in the mall, and then came home and started looking for a pattern for them.

Are there little grandchildren in your family? Buy a story book, and a blank cassette tape. Sit down in a quiet room, and read the story out loud, while recording your voice. Your grandchild will be able to follow along with you, and hear your voice, even if you're far away!

Just little things to think about ...

Carpe Diem

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Lord Chesterfield (1694 - 1773)

For some dumb reason, sleep eludes me tonight. Maybe because I'm a few hours from finishing a quilt for a very dear friend who is facing surgery next week. Maybe it's because I feel guilty for neglecting my blog for a few days. Maybe ....
What it REALLY is, is a guilty conscience.
My friend is in his mid70s, and the surgery is for cancer. He's going to have a rotten few weeks, ICU, then a step down unit, then in-house rehab at a skilled nursing facility.  He's in California, and I'm in Michigan.  He told me months ago that the kitty kwilt I made him in 1992 is falling apart from daily use, would I make him a new one. I hunted thru my stash, and lo and behold I had enough of the original kitty print to make a new quilt. And every time I geared up to work on it, something or other would happen, and it would get postponed.   Now I'm working long hours, because I want to get it to him before his surgery. I am ashamed of myself for putting it off. It was a simple request, and there's no valid excuse on my part.
Maybe therein lies my message to you tonight. (this morning? it's a little after 2 a.m.).  Don't put things off ... it may turn out that you waited too long.
I have the most wonderful primary care physician.  She has seen me through the loss of three parents, a sick husband, my own ills ... and a few weeks ago we sat together in the visitors lounge of ICU, where my husband had been admitted.  We shared a tear or two, as we both lost out daddies this year, 6 months apart.  She knew her dad wasn't in the best health, and wanted to get home to India to see him before he got worse.  One reason or another, and she didn't go. Then she got a phone call that he was dying. She ended up sitting on someone's desk in Detroit, trying to get clearance to fly home to India, but there was a paperwork snag. During the 48 hours she camped in the airport, frustrated and anxious, the call came that he had died.  i know the things in her mind, I know she's having difficulty forgiving herself for not going sooner, for not having her travel paperwork in order.
We never really know what lies ahead. We are promised today, yesterday is over, and no one knows what looms for tomorrow.
Don't do it. Don't put off making that phone call, making a visit, finishing a quilt you started with a particular recipient in mind.Think about it. My challenge to  you today is to pick at least one thing  you've been putting off, and GO DO IT!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Luke 3:11


He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.  (King James Bible).

Yesterday was amazing.  It began with a wild eyed ride in a raging windstorm to Saginaw for a medical procedure for hubby, arriving there, being told the procedure wasn't expected to work, driving back home two hours later in the continued storm. While I drove, I was trying to figure out how I was going to come up with $200 bucks by the end of the month. I was tired, frustrated, worried, and scared.  Pulled into my driveway, just as the friend who helps take care of things about the house that I cannot do was unloading her cleaning supplies.  We talked a bit, then she asked if we had any kitchen appliances, or pots, pans, things we weren't using, that she had met a lady who just arrived in town, starting over, with absolutely NOTHING.

When Daddy moved in with me 5 years ago, almost all of his kitchen things remained boxed up in the garage. We certainly didn't need any of it, and I had just shoved it aside to deal with later. Here was the perfect solution.  As I rummaged to find the boxes of corning ware, and other stuff, my spirits rose. Soon I was on the kitchen floor, digging in the cupboards. I don't need 4 pie pans, so two went in the pile.  By the time my friend left, her car was filled with all manner of things, and we were thinking ahead to Christmas. Last year our family  decided rather than to buy each other presents, we'd put the money in a kitty and spend it on a family in need. And I felt so much better.  In doing as the Lord commanded, my spirits were lifted. My own problems didn't go away, they're still there. I'm still worried about that two hundred bucks. But there is a peace inside me for having been able to help this person who is worse off than I am.

Look in the closet of your own life. Do you have "two"?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Never scratch with a short stick!

"Colours fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure." Edwards Thorndike
It's funny the things people say that stick with us ... when some of the really important stuff slides off the radar! I'd like to think I have a half way decent memory, but there are days I sure couldn't prove it ... when I can't find my glasses (because I shoved them to the top of my head) or I've lost my car keys (clipped to my purse where they belong). I think the quotes that stay with us survive for a reason.  Because Someone, who knows more about life than we do, thinks those quotes just might come in handy some day. 
I spent hours today trying to learn and understand all that Google has to offer ... and at the end of the day I'm not sue just what all I've really learned. Then I look for a quote to share with you, and in reading through potential offerings, I find bits and pieces of wisdom to tuck away in my own mind.  This was one of them.  A lot is said about antiquity,  and the study of cultures long gone. And it's true, though their buildings  have crumbled and the pottery has been smashed, the scratchings on walls, even in tombs, survives. The people who put those words somewhere hoped they would endure the tests of time. They wanted future peoples to read them, to learn from them, to preserve them even further. 
An English teacher once told me there were only seven basic plots to literary works. I don't see how that's possible, but then she knew more than I did.  When I think back on my school days, it's the bits and pieces the teachers said at odd moments that stuck with me, long after I've lost my letter sweater, my yearbook, and got rid of my class ring because it made my finger break out.  It has been the words that lasted.
Even in my quilting experiences, it is often the inscription on an older quilt that piques my interest, rather than the design of the quilt. On my bed right now is an oversized quilt that was made in 1992, and almost every block has an inscription. Words of encouragement, some are prayers, some only signatures. Time and washing have faded those inscriptions, but they are still treasures to me, and will continue to be long after that quilt is permanently retired. I've considered cutting the quilt up into smaller quilts, so that I may drag some of it around with me when I travel, or put a piece of it across the back of a chair ...
So, in the grand scheme of things, have a mind for the words you speak! You'll never know if they'll be remembered, cherished, or forgotten, but as the prayer says "make my words good and tender today, for tomorrow I may have to eat them!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Critters ...

"The purity of a person's heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals." 

I really believe that to be true.  It's migration season, and the Canada Geese are here, gearing up for their autumnal flight. Groups of them waddle across the roads here and there, and the local folks always stop their cars to let them cross safely.  Except, this weekend, someone ran one down on Skeel Rd.  What would possess a person to knowingly run down a goose on an otherwise quiet street.  Surely this is not an example of bravery, or of skill, nor was the goose killed to put food on someone's table. No, this was just a cruel act.  It doesn't say much for who that person sees when he looks in the mirror.  

So many pieced quilt patterns are named for critters,  such as "Bears Paw", or "Goose Tracks" ... and appliqued quilts are full of animals.   Here in my little acre, the local wildlife know they'll get  a meal, and safe places to hide or build nests.  And when one is killed on the road in front of my acre, I pick up the broken body, and lay it beneath a tree, in peace ... 

As I write this tonight, a young 'possum has stopped by for some dinner.  Cute liddle guy. I am sure this will be his first winter, and I hope he's strong enough.   

Next time you're making "flying geese" units, or a "bear's paw" block, stop and think about the critters whose names have become familiar quilt patterns to you.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finish each day and be done with it ...

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I really wish I was better at this. It's not a matter of holding grudges necessarily, it's that I tend to go over and over and over again in my mind what transpired, how I felt about it, what I did or didn't do right ... or wrong ... and I'll bet if you could be 100% honest with yourself, you're probably just as guilty.  I should be more like my cats.  If they have a bad day, or speak out of turn to each other and end up in a fight, once it's done, it's done. On to the business of purring, washing, napping, or the never ending pursuit of the catnip mouse.

In quilting there's the luxury of the "do over".  if we botch up something, we're free to un-sew it ... and take another shot at it. But we don't get "do overs" in life. We can't turn back the clock to unsay  something blurted out, or make a different decision than the one we made (which now appears to be a wrong one). When dawn comes, we have a new day ... peppered of course with the fall out from days gone by, but still new, nevertheless.   The trick, then, is to make a better, more informed plan today than the ones of yesterdays gone by. They're over, they're done. Kaput. Finis.

So ... what's the plan for this new day.  If  yesterday's goals were unattainable, then perhaps a more realistic set of goals for today is in order. Cleaning the whole house probably isn't a realistic goal ... but certainly you can tackle one room. Put it straight, and things where they go. I can guarantee you'll feel better for doing that, and be proud of yourself.  You'll have something at the end of the day you can measure. Unfortunately, there are some days when you can be busy all day and at the end of the day feel you have nothing to show for it.  But, I'll bet if you really think about it,  you probably DO have something to show for your day.

The key is to leave behind the "blunders and absurdities" to which Emerson refers.  Don't begin your day on a low note, but rather on a good note. You woke up! You're alive! You have another day in which to make a difference, whether it's within the four walls of your home, or the building in which you work, or the neighborhood in which you live.  Each new day is a gift. Receive it gratefully, and make the most you can of it.  And when the day is done, leave it behind, sleep secure that the Master watches over you.  Tomorrow is the new day. Begin it serenely.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

pearls of wisdom...

"I've learned that every loss or defeat reveals an important surprise…for time will prove each setback, was a blessing in disguise."~Linda Ellis

How true. Swiped this little quote off a friend's FB page. I think it was put there just for me, this time.  Yesterday was a major setback (and disappointment) in my husband's ongoing medical treatment. We had all of our eggs in the basket that was dangled in front of us. But, the surgeon decided to go another route.

  My initial reaction was anger. REAL anger.  I was spitting mad. The kind of mad when Dennis needs to tell me to put a sock in it, I'm out of line.  (he didn't, but he would have been justified).  Weeks of preparation, too many 200 mile round trips to Saginaw, scrounging up the funds to cover procedures required that weren't covered by medicare or medicaide ... all those things just gunnysacked on top of my anger.  Drove home in silence, pouring rain, and frustration.  Watched some TV, talked on IM with a kid who makes me very ashamed to ever feel sorry for myself ... and eventually went to bed with the kitties (who were grudgingly forgiving me for not leaving more kibbles out for them).

But, in the light of dawn of a new day, I guess I'm grateful. Grateful that the doc didn't proceed with something that probably wouldn't have worked, and would have opened up a new can of worms in terms of potential complications that could have made things a lot worse.

Things happen for reasons, and most of the time we aren't privy to those reasons. To be in a state of grace would require swallowing that anger, and replacing it with something more productive.  How often are we rerouted in our daily endeavors, never thinking that in the Grand Scheme of Things that rerouting is a blessing.  So, I shall go plop in my big chair, and spend the afternoon binding a quilt, and watching the birdies at the feeder.  Anger breeds nothing good.  And with each stitch, I will be thankful ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For every safe road ....

"For every safe road, there are hundreds of paths that lead only to darkness."  

I pondered what to share with you tonight. As my day unfolds, I save the random thoughts that come, or quotations I see (and remember!), and wonder which of them will pull words from me. It's kind of like looking at a basket of scraps, of every hue and pattern, and wondering what to make of them.  This particular quote came from an episode of Beauty and the Beast, a particular favorite program of mine that saddened me when it ended. When contemplating making a quilt, the easiest thing to do is to pick a pattern, and then go purchase the colors and designs that would best compliment it.  That way, one avoids the "paths that lead to darkness".  However,  no matter what you chose to do, eventually you have to face the scraps. Eventually you have to face the darkness and the fears that lurk there.   Carole Coski came up with a pattern that effectively uses up scraps of any size or shape, any color, or texture. It allows us to "Boldly Go where no quilt has Gone Before!" (giggle. must be my night for TV quotes.)   Anyway, all those dark paths that we encounter during out days on earth are still part of us, even if we managed to avoid going down them too far.  We learn from them. We process information, and if we're lucky, figure out how to keep them from harming us beyond repair. But we really can't avoid them entirely.  

There's something to be said for spending an afternoon with Carole's pattern for scraps.  You can't run away from the ugly fabric, or the things that turned out to be utterly atrocious. Ya gotta use what your fingers pick up next! Them's part of the "rules".  But with persistence, and by staying with it, soon your ugly experiences in fabric (or in life) begin to take on a new shape, a new identity. What emerges is a hodgepodge of colors and shapes, that then is defined with a squared ruler into something you can cope with ... something you can USE.  Whether you choose to sash these new blocks of fabric you make, or whether you just sew them edge to edge, all the scary, icky parts come together into a symphony of their own.

So it is with life. You try your best not to take the unsafe roads, but you can rest assured you'll fail, and find yourself deep into the dark from time to time.  Go back. Retrace your steps to a time and place when all was well, and mentally cross off that road you were on as a poor choice.  But don't throw out the scraps.  Toss them into the basket that is your life, your heart and mind.  And then, on a sunny afternoon, or a quiet evening before a fire, put the basket on one side of you, and some strips of fabric (the safe roads) on the other, and begin.  Soon you'll have something made out of even the bad experiences.  As you wade through the scraps of the dark paths, they cease to have the power to hurt or frighten you.

I've just put the kettle on ... if you'd like some tea ...

Monday, October 18, 2010

“You must live in the present ...

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau

I was looking for a quote about faith, but found none that said what I am feeling this evening. So, back to Thoreau.  A lot of things have been happening lately, to me, to my family, to my loved ones, to people in my circle of friendship. Some of these things are real "faith testers" to say the least. I have been reminded lately that we are only guaranteed "today" ... yesterday is over, and tomorrow is an unhatched chicken.  We never know what moment may be our last, or what moment may be the last for someone we love.  I ache for a quilter friend of mine who lost a treasured pet.  I worry about impending surgery for my spouse. Another dear dear friend prepares to boldly challenge cancer.  I think back not so many months ago, when I sat in the living room on a Monday night, talking with Daddy, about this, that or the other thing, I can't even remember what at this point. Seventeen hours later he was gone.  For months I curled inside of myself, wearing his sweater, and going over and over in my mind did I tell him I loved him enough, did I do all I could have done, all the "Monday morning quarterbacking" techniques to which human nature falls prey.

But Daddy lived in the present.  He lived each day the way he wanted to (often much to my consternation). I wonder now do I live each moment given to me, or do I squander it worrying about things I cannot change, or worrying about what might happen tomorrow. I make it a point to smell the flowers in the grocery store. I make it a point to put food out for my critters, and marvel each night when they come to eat ... I never tire of looking at them, and appreciating their Maker's handiwork.

Am I as good a steward with my time? with my abilities? Do I put into each day as much as I take out of it? At the end of the day, can I say I was all I could be? Food for thought. My challenge to you today is to look at your day's efforts. Were you all you could be? Were  you a good steward with your time and abilities?  Perhaps tomorrow you might think about these things ... and do without procrastinating. Don't assume you told  your kids you love them as they set out for school. Don't figure the rest of your family knows you love them as they go about their tasks.   Dig out that quilt you've been meaning to finish, and finish it.  Think about it ... !

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today's thought ...

“America is not like a blanket-one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt-many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.” Jesse Jackson quotes (American Civil-Rights Leader, Baptist Minister and Politician, b.1941)

I had to laugh when I first came across this. My husband isn't "into" quilts. For him, it's a blanket. Me, on the other hand, I cannot sleep without a quilt!! At one point, I sewed half a blanket to half a quilt, and put THAT on the bed, and explained to the housekeeper that it was a 'blankquilt'. I know she figures I'm a nut to begin with ...

So much of Jackson's quote is overlooked these days ... Our country is so divided by so many things. While I am not about to wax philosophical on politics, I will dare to say that it would behoove every American to step back and think about the vision of a quilt. Hey, even a "crazy" quilt. How many times in quilt making have you turned up your nose at a piece of fabric, either for its color, or its pattern, and yet when it gets put into the quilt it gets lost in becoming part of the whole. It's not longer that ugly duckling piece, it becomes part of the supporting cast of the quilt's design. I think it's that way for the whole human race, for an individual country's demographics, and for each town and community across the map. So what do we take away with us after reading that quote. Simply this: that in the grand scheme of things, we are all part of that utterly breath taking quilt the Lord sees.

My challenge to you is to take another look at your stash of scraps. See the individual pieces for their unique beauty. None of them are ugly, not when they're part of the whole.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Today's quote ...

“How much piecin' a quilt's like living a life...The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut 'em out and put 'em together pretty much to suit ourselves...”

I have no idea to whom I should give credit for the quote, but it made me smile to read it. Hope you do too!! So many times I've looked at some fabric, just sure as can be as to what I'm going to do with it. Never seems to turn out that way, though, as along the way ideas germinate, grow, and I find myself chasing another rabbit.  That's a favorite expression of mine  ... "chasing rabbits" ... it covers the crazy directions my thoughts go when I least expect them.  If you've ever chased a rabbit, you'll understand the analogy.  I think the reference to our "free will" is a good one though.  The Lord does give us the pieces we need for our lives, but what we do with them is entirely up to us.  And that can backfire.
I still think as a whole, we tend to over analyze things, from soup to nuts. Including quilts. And most assuredly, we over analyze our lives.  Everything we've been given is really very simple! Unfortunately it is in our nature to complicate.  So along the lines of what I said yesterday, and this delightful quote for today, SIMPLIFY!!! ... and enjoy the book links....

Found some interesting books today on Barnes and Noble, sharing them with you, below.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eschew Obfuscation ...

Nope, that isn't a typo!  It's in the same league with KISS, which translates to 'keep it simple, stupid'!!  English teachers have been known to post it above the blackboard.  One guy who writes a political commentary, uses it as his nom-de-plume ,,, it's been T-shirt humor, bumper sticker humor, you name it.  I even had it printed on my checks awhile back. In a nutshell it does not embody its own advice!  Avoid confusion. Keep it simple. And yet, even if you never heard of that quote before, we're all guilty of obfuscation. We want to be thought of as educated, "knowing", well versed, you name it. However, in reality, we would get so much further down the road if we simply kept it simple!  I am reminded of my newest issues of quilting magazines, particularly the  ones showcasing winning quilts from various national and international competitions.  I guess my quilts, and my taste in quilts, eschews obfuscation. I like them simple, unadorned, pleasing to the eye, and not so heavily embellished as to make the recipient afraid to use the danged thing!  A friend of mine (not a quilter, but if he's reading this he'll know who he is) says 'less is more'.  And in quilting, that's often the case.  Clean lines, colors that work together instead of fighting each other, and not mixing a lot of methods of quilt making into one project. I saw one recently that (honest injun) had brodery perse, silk ribbon embroidery, some yo yos, trapunto, plain applique, English paper piecing,  redwork (done in multicolored metallic thread no less), and if there was any plain vanilla piecing in there, it got lost in the shuffle. It was mind boggling just looking at it. As a quilter I was impressed that the maker knew how to do all those things, but the bottom line was not what I'm sure she had hoped to achieve.  It looked messy! I think we all need to get back to basics once in awhile, crank out the old tried and true skill builders like churn dash, or Ohio star, even log cabin blocks. There are so many diverse fabrics available now that the traditional log cabin block takes on a whole new meaning when done in batiks!

I think the same lessons are true for everyone in their daily lives. How often we multi-task, do forty-leven things at once (and thereby not giving any of them the attention they deserve), and use all the big words in our sentences when simple ones would do quite nicely.  How often do our kids take on far more than they should, not leaving them time to simply be kids ... so over extended by extra curricular activities that they fall behind.   How often does the Director of Something end up taking on umpteen other leadership positions when the one she has to do primarily is in and of itself a full time job.  The old expression "if you want something done give it to a busy person" comes to mind.  And what is the end result? Burnout. 
My challenge to you today is to sit down and take inventory of yourself.  What do you that you could do more simply, what do you do that you really don't need to be doing at all?  Do you stop to smell the roses in the grocery store? If you're too busy to do that, then you're too busy!  Think about it!!   

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The gift of friendship ...

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” Elie Wiesel quotes (Romanian born American writer; Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986. b. 1928)

I had a friend, she was a member of my block of the month group for many years. We never met face to face, but then that's the downside to the internet. She enriched my life, none the less, and felt that I had done likewise for her, though I often wondered how.  She developed cancer, and fought courageously, but did not win.  Before she died, she called me, told me that she wanted to be my fairy godmother, and put me on the first step toward my goal of being a long arm quilter.  She packed up and shipped to me her tabletop quilting frame from the folks at Handi-Quilter. It came, and I will admit it overwhelmed me.  I was also working the better part of ten hours a day at the hospital, caring for elderly parents, and had very little time or space to devote to learning to use this gift.  SO, it got boxed up again, transported to Michigan, loaned to a friend who didn't do anything with it either, and last week it came back home to me.  Today my spouse and I figured out how to set it up, and load a quilt on it, and I took it for a test drive. Didn't do all that badly, either.  I'm looking forward to a long relationship with this thing, and to someday buying a sewing machine with a longer throat. But for now, it is enough.

Joyce's friendship was a gift. Not because of her generosity, but because of her courage in the face of adversity. She worked in a New York City's cop shop ... in fact had met the folks from Animal Planet who do critter rescue. We often talked about that.  During her illness we talked many times on the phone, and no matter how determined she was not to, I always managed to make her giggle before our conversations ended. The last time she called me, she said she "didn't know what to say to me".  She was sure she had no more laughter  left.  But before she hung up, she was laughing. That was the last time we spoke.  

I miss her. Her name is still in my outlook's contacts list.  Silly, I doubt she can get email wherever she may be now. The Lord answers knee mail, but not sure how it works with regular folks.  Some times I'm so discouraged at the prospect of finding employment that works with my physical limitations. Then I think about Joyce, and the frame, and quilting in genera, and I know I can't quit. I can't throw in the towel.  

Is there someone in your life who touched you in a way no one else ever did ... who believed in you when all you had to share were pipe dreams ...  Is there one whose friendship has marked you?  Think about it.  If there is, and I will bet there is, don't let her down. Be all that you dream of being ... stay in the game. Don't quit.   Honor that friendship.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life is what happens when you're making other plans.

If you haven't watched Mr. Holland's Opus, you should.  He wants to create a masterpiece, but is always finding himself derailed by something unexpected along the way.  I don't think there's a person alive who hasn't found himself in that same boat at one time or another.  I've always wanted to be a master quilter.  Not just a "quilt maker", but the person who does the drop dead gorgeous quilting, whose sewing machine stitches beauty into every quilt top.  Piecing and Applique are arts in and of themselves; but the quilting makes or breaks the quilt.  I found years ago I lacked the patience to hand quilt, my mind raced so much faster than my fingers could go.  Then I learned to machine quilt, and dreamed of having a long arm machine. But first ....

There was so much to learn, about piecing, which is where I started.  Then someone exposed me to applique, and I vowed never to do any of that ... unless it involved nails and a hot glue gun.  Next I found myself teaching beginning quilt making.  My students were funny, pleasant women, some of them timid, some bold enough to try anything. I found that in order to give them a good foundation, I'd have to learn (gasp) applique.  Margo helped with that, and soon I found myself at the feet of the late Laurene Sinema, for whom applique was a passion. Life changed again, and I found myself remarried, to a man who doesn't particularly like quilts, he'd just as soon have a blanket, thank-you-very-much, so my quilts became gifts to children, and people's pets.  And life changed again.
One of the gals in my block of the month group developed cancer, and almost on her deathbed said she wanted to be my fairy godmother, and give me that first step toward my dream of longarm quilting.  She sent me her tabletop quilt frame, designed for machine quilting.  I couldn't bear to deal with it, so I boxed it up and ignored it.  Until now. And I think "now" is the right time, because now I appreciate the gift for what it was, and am ready to carry out her wish for me.  I'm sure some of my initial efforts will be less than stellar, but they will not be wasted, as they'll go to folks who need the warmth of a quilt.  I doubt I'll ever be one to create a "competition quality" quilt, but I've found that that's not a goal that will keep me warm at night.  Instead, I want my quilts to be loved, used, slept on, slept under, slept with, in short, USED.

And like Mr. Holland, when I've run my race to its end, I want to see that my real "masterpieces" were the quilts that were loved by cherished pets, or by children, or that warmed the hearts of the elders.  What will be your opus?

Leave the light on ...

Try to leave a light on when I'm gone, something I rely on to get home, one I can feel at night, a naked light, a fire to keep me warm.

Those are the words of a song that my daughter posted on her facebook page.  When we were little kids, no doubt we had a trusted blanket, or stuffed animal to which we seemed to be permanently attached.  My firstborn had "I-Cat". My middle daughter had her "holding blanket", and my son had his "T-cat", who has been there thru thick and thin ... and even made an appearance at his graduation from college.  She earned that right, to be sure. All three kids had quilts and blankets made for them, some by me, some by others.  But the one that sticks with me most was my son's.  He was 4 or 5, I think, and on one of my forays into a fabric shop was smitten with a particular piece that was blue hearts, inside a log cabin layout.  It was one of those preprinted quilt fabrics, all you had to do was quilt it.  He announced he wanted a "Love" quilt.  Nothing else was to be done but that I buy a chunk of that, and quilt it for him. He supervised my daily efforts at the frame, counting each block as I finished it, and coming home from kindergarten each day asking if it was done yet.  Finally, the last block I machine quilted just to get it DONE!  He was obsessed with that thing.  Then he told me why.  The hearts told him how much I loved him.  Snif!  All the pricked fingers and nagging was forgotten, as I wrapped him up in it and held him.  In later  years borders were added when he graduated to a twin sized bed.  Laura's quoted song made me think of that again ... 

Have you gifted your loved ones with the "something to rely on to get me home"?  To this day I leave a small light on at night ... not sure why exactly, my kids are grown and gone and not likely to show up in the dead of night, but for some reason I leave a light in a window.  My younger daughter (the middle kid) insisted we buy a proper "holding blanket" for my son, so here I was, waddling around in the mall 12 months pregnant while she went from store to store to find just the right one ... 

... and to this day, the dearest people in my life have been gifted with a quilt. That piece of love to keep them warm.  My best friend and quilting mentor and I made "me and thee" quilts.  Each of us made part of the other's quilt, and I'm not ashamed to admit I drag it everywhere I travel. It lives on the back of my chair, but it goes on car trips, overnights, any time I am gone for any period of time.  I take her love with me.  

My challenge to you, have you given your loved ones the "something to rely on to get them home",   ... have you put the lighted candle in the window of your heart?  For those of you old enough to remember war years, the saying was 'leave a lighted lucky in the window' ... 

peace ... 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simplify. It's good for you.

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau

I believe this to be true of quilting. I've been a quilter most of my adult life.  My stuff was stashed under the bed, or in a closet, or behind a chair, literally "here, there, everywhere". When we bought this property, there was a 9 x 9 "barn"  perpendicular to the line of the garage, and I claimed it for a sewing room.  Initially, it was a mess. I did what I could, but my stuff was still in tubs, orange crates, you name it.  Two summers ago, hubby and friends gutted that building, and rebuilt it from the floor up. I even splurged for a piece of blue carpeting .. lace curtain, and a new chair! When I got everything moved into that room, arranged to my liking, I utterly freaked out. I was totally overwhelmed by all the "stuff" I had.  In fact, down right panic struck, my first words were "I've got to sell half of this stuff."  My  son then reminded me, "Mama, it's a long time to have a hobby! You've accumulated this over a lifetime!" I had asked for shelves on three walls, 18inches down from the ceiling. Off I went to the local pizza shop, and bought pizza boxes in various sizes. Each is labeled with the contents, each has at least ONE unfinished top, and in some cases 2. I was still overwhelmed.  SO, I began to simplify. Take down a box, finish what's in it, and go to the next.  I culled the library for books I do not use, and boxed them up ... either took them to our public library, or sold them.  I got rid of things I know I will NEVER do ... sold some kits on Ebay.  Now I can go into my quilt room and cope with what's there.  If I never bought another inch of fabric I'll be busy for the rest of my life.  We know that's not gonna happen, there will always be that piece of fabric that calls to me ... after all, "she who dies with the most fabric, wins!"  Solitude in my little red quilt shed is pleasant, as my sewing machine hums, and quilts come to life. Poverty is replaced by the abundance of colors, textures, and 'richness' of the fabrics. the poverty I felt at not having anything to show for my  labors has been replaced with the wealth of jobs well done; of the satisfaction of knowing what I've created will enrich someone ELSE's life.  And the frustration I feel over the weakness of my body due to my disability, is replaced with an inner strength: I have created something. I have conquered another pizza box. I have put a smile on someone else's face with the gift of my quilt. As I conquered the chaos, I created a haven, a serene place to go and be among the colors and textures I love so much. As I have simplified the little red shed, I have found peace. Thoreau knew what he was speaking about. He was right.  My challenge to you is this: Simplify. Let go of what you don't need in your life. Let the wealth of what you DO have inside you replace your feeling of poverty. Be strengthened by taking control of things you CAN control, and let go of the rest. Pile up the UFOs (Un Finished Objects) of your life, take one down, finish it, and go to the next. You will find your peace, your treasures, and your strength. I Promise!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chins Up!

Do not despair of life. You have no doubt force enough to overcome your obstacles. Think of the fox prowling through wood and field in a winter night for something to satisfy his hunger. Notwithstanding cold and hounds and traps, his race survives. I do not believe any of them ever committed suicide.
-- Henry David Thoreau 

I like Thoreau He says it like it is.  I have despaired of life this week;  and in my whimpering and whining, two trusted friends reminded me that the tools I have been given are my pen, and the ability to put words together to help another face his own trials and tribulations.  Despite what was unfolding around me I locked myself into time at the sewing machine, and quilted a bunch of tops that have been sitting there waiting for me to take the hint.  Often when I go to my quilt room, I am overwhelmed by the stash of fabric, and the collection of unfinished quilts.  Paralyzed, in fact by the very thing I love to DO! And this "very thing" that I love to do is often the medicine I need.  In putting pieces together to achieve something useful and pleasing to the eye, I soothe my tattered soul.  When I am the piecemaker, often I become the peacemaker. In my sewing, I turned from things I cannot change, or fix, to something I CAN change, or fix.  Nine quilts will find their way to new homes, where they'll offer warmth, bring the message that someone cared enough to take the time to make them.  Maybe they'll end up in a cat's bed, or maybe they'll end up tucked around someone who watches TV late into the night.  Maybe they'll be draped across the back of a chair to cheer up a room.  I won't know where they go, or what benefit they provide.  But isn't that the way life is? Do we ever really know where our words encourage someone who's down, or where our words soothe a tired heart. Do we ever really know what 'ripple' effect our lives create? I would like to think that I have touched lives. I would like to think that I've given someone else the courage to soldier on, when perhaps cashing in would seem more appealing. One thing I cannot control, however, is just who that person is that I might reach. I don't get to choose.  I would like to have met Job, or even David.  Both of them had their share of ups and downs.  Poor ole Job didn't think he was ever going to get a break, and David vacillated between thinking God rocks and God doesn't care!  I can relate. Yet they survived. Their lives touched many, who touched others, who touched even more ... and still touch lives today.  

SO, it's back to the sewing room I go.  Nine are done, time to do the 10th.  My challenge to you this day is to finish something you started long ago, and let it do  what you created it to do.  Maybe your "thing" isn't quilting, that's okay. Finish SOMEthing you've started, and give it wings to fly ... 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quilts are like friends

Quilts are like friends - a great source of comfort and warmth.

There's a lot of truth in that.  Our little quilt group always has a "comfort" quilt ready to go in a moment's notice, for someone who just got clobbered with bad news, death in the family, or other such nasty-ness ... We're a rather eclectic bunch, scattered all over the country (and some on foreign soil).  If we all lived in the same town, we'd show up on each others' doorsteps with a casserole, or our sleeves rolled up ready to wade into the middle of the problem and help. But we're not.  This little piece of technology, however, keeps us close.  SO, when something happens, a quilt is bundled  into the mail and sent with love ... and when it arrives at its destination, the reaction is almost always identical ... tears, a smile, and the recipient immediately wrapping herself up in it.  I know, because I've been "gifted" twice. (2 separate groups).  Neither time did I have a clue what my sneaky little sisters in stitches was up to .. and the mail lady had a grin on her face when she came to the door with a lumpy package!   I've dragged my comfort quilts all over with me. Taken on trips, first thing in to the suitcase when I have to go somewhere, taken to the hospital when I had to wait out husband's surgery, taken on long car trips, you  name it.  One's on my bed, one's on the chair I'm currently snuggled into.  My challennge to you is this ... Make a small quilt or two, "throw" size.  Pop them into a pillow case to keep them dust free.  The next time someone you know has something really awful happening, and you can't BE there ... send the quilt. (and replace it in your stash for next time).  You're sending a piece of yourself, you're sending love an a hug.  You'll be glad you did!   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Have the courage ...

Have the courage to take your own thoughts seriously, for they will shape you.
-- Albert Einstein

Nothing releases the "inner you" so much as expressing your thoughts. This is especially true when you look at fabrics that are outside your color safety zone, and dare to dream! There is no such thing as "the wrong quilt". Some may be more appealing than others, but no one has the right to say one is all wrong! Years ago, a Mexican co-worker wanted one of my quilts. Since most of my stuff was best described as Victorian, or worse: oatmealish, I didn't know quite what to offer him. SO, I took him to a fabric store. GASP! He started with orange, and went from there. 7 or 8 fabric choices later, I retreated to my sewing room to assess the damage to my peaceful Victorian senses. ORANGE! Talk about being outside of my safety zone. In the first few days, I couldn't cope with those fabrics longer than half an hour, before I had to go pet my cat to be soothed. Then, as the quilt took shape, even SHE betrayed me, by flopping over on her back on said quilt, in total kitty abandon. As I sewed, I tried to understand why these colors were so hard to deal with. It was because they stood up to be noticed, and I'd always found safety in blending in. The longer I worked on that quilt, the more it grew on me. The end result was four MORE quilts out of the leftovers!

Today's challenge ... pick some wild color outside your comfort zone, and set yourself free!