Monday, December 22, 2014

The Journey

In 1994 I found life on the Internet, introduced to me through my former romantic partner and best friend, Scott.  Over the years I have met hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people through chatting on the Internet, many with whom I am still close friends 20 years later.  I would frequently drive down to the Bay area for a long weekend to have an Internet party with the chatters.  Every summer I would take a trek across the United States and meet up with many others.

One of the things I learned is that the people I was virtually meeting were genuine delightful people and if we chatted long enough, I could weed out the icky ones.  I was smitten by a man I met briefly on the channel a group of us used and we met for dinner when I drove through his town.  A romance bloomed.  No, not just bloomed but immediately hit flashpoint intensely hot.  The distance was long and far apart.  We tried to make it work for about a year and then gave it up.
The Journey
The journey brings
Joyful delight in the
Surprise of the velocity
The synchronicity
And the easy peace
Blends with the sobering logic
The realities
Of distance and freedom and lives
We wish on the moment
As we travel the night through the stars
And hold to the now
Vacillating between the dichotomy
Of the journey and the reality
.....we momentarily walk away
never leaving.....
.....with no place to put hands
soaking in sweet succulant richness.....
.....except to wave
and living the memories.....
.....for the realities never fade
we smile.....
And the journey continues
Touching us lightly, suredly
For the future is this moment
And a magical wish is made on guiding stars

my fella
I vowed to never again have a long distance romance.  It was too difficult being apart.  It was too difficult to let it go.  And then a mutual friend introduced me to my future husband.  He lived in Pittsburgh, PA.  I lived in Portland, OR.  I fought it, giving him every reason to run away screaming.  And then he won me over.  Now, 18 years later, I am still in awe of this person who brings me such happiness and joy (and grief and irritation ;) ).

As I sit to watch the tree lights blink and twinkle and bring magic to our little world, I am reminded how thankful I am to have been brought to this very specific place in my journey.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Shortest Day

There is something magical about Christmas lights.  Everyone wants to show off their tree and decorations.  I am no exception.  And I know my house isn't decorated fancily, but I love to sit in the dark and watch the lights blink and change and twinkle and show off their beauty.  In fact, I keep the window's string of lights up all year, faithfully plugging then in when I get up every morning.  In the summer I can't see them until about 10 pm, but I know they are there, showing off their colors.

I am leaving Christmas night to fly down to see my mom.  Doug isn't one to care about decorations and I know he will not be plugging in the lights for the tree while I am gone.  We have very different attitudes toward decorations.  We drove past a beautifully well-lighted house.  Every inch of the house was framed, the trees swirled, bushes sparkled, lawn touched with animals frolicing around the yard.  It was magical.  I gleefully laughed at the magic.  Doug said, "Wow, think of the electric bill for that house!"  I laughingly replied, "Oh Darlin, you have such the holiday spirit!"

Reveling in the holiday spirit, yesterday I took my grandgirl to see Mary Poppins at the Northwest Children's Theatre.  When she was a wee little one, she watched the movie every day for two or three years.  Actually she alternated between watching Mary Poppins and The Aristocats.  She loved flying kites and her father would take her out to fly them when weather permitted.  It was the full Broadway production, a bit different story than the Disney movie.  We loved it.

And so the magic of the shortest day of the year is upon us.  Today we will have only a bit less than eight and a half hours of daylight.  This means two delightful things.  First, it means that summer is rushing to meet us again!  And most importantly, it means I have a bit longer to sit and watch the lights blink and change and twinkle and show off their beauty.

Happy Winterfest!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Bit of This and That

I have been a bit busy lately, sewing when I can and wrapping gifts, shopping, wrapping more, sewing and then sitting, eating popcorn while I take a little break.  Right now I am on a kick of watching Medium.  Netflix are great for us who don't watch TV in prime time.
Mosaic windows
The mosaic porch windows are steady during the three heavy wind storms we have had so far this winter.  With winds over 60 mph and gusts over 100, I was worried that they wouldn't be safe.  So I took them down, but they were swinging just fine with no fear of breaking. The birdbath planter did fall over and crashed.  I like this as a planter, so I will look for another.  The bird cage I have hanging over the bath was knocked off the hanger, also.  A big breezy.

Quilted hanging for Mom
I made a hanging for my mother's door to her room in the nursing center,  The hanging was made from a beautiful block that was sent to me by LeAnn Weaver of Persimmon Quilts.  I simply put a frame of turquoise around it and quilted it.  I bought a cool 12" hanger for it also.  I know most people already have these hangers but I didn't and now I feel like a real quilter! ;)

Lastly I finished a book pillow for my grandgirl.  I followed someone's link to a picture of this and thought that it would be simple to make.  After this day, I have to rethink that idea.  This was a simple project that took me all day.  Yeppers, all day.  First, I found this 10" block I wanted to put on the pocket.  No instructions except measurements, but that ain't no thang.  First to find the right fabric in my scraps.  I didn't want to cut into stash if I didn't need to do so.  Kaity's favorite colors right now are black and hot pink, and teal.  

Pocket pillow for Kaity
I did have those colors, plus a fat quarter of black with white alphabet letters for the back.  The pink was stash, but it was perfect.  I cut the fabrics...wrong...had to cut again.  Then I thought to make half-square triangles the simple way (two pieces of fabric face-to-face and sewing 1/4 inch down a center line both sides).  Then I thought how smart I am! and sewed each piece again to get four cuts...oh wait, that was wrong.  Unsewed everything.  Resew and then LO AND BEHOLD I did the same thing again!  Frog stitched (rip-it! rip-it! rip-it) those puppies and then carefully sewed everything again.  This time I got it right *beamin with pride*

I had a pillow insert but how large to make the cover?  Went with my guess.  Sandwiched the pocket and started quilting it.  I chose teal thread on the black.  It looked gorgeous!  And then I hit the hot pink...not so pretty and I hesitated and the quilting went a bit wonky.  Of course, the teal quilting shows up much stronger than on the black (which is great!).  Oh well I can live with it.  And then stuffed in the pillow and of course, the new cover is a bit too large.  But it is squishy enough for now.  I like how it turned out.  And Kaity has two new books that will be in that pocket Christmas morning :)

Shopping all finished except one gift.  Everything wrapped.  Things going south on Christmas night are all packed.  Now I have time to finish the two quilt tops I started last week.


Those little nagging irritations

My mom and my grandgirl, Kaity 2004  This picture takes away all irritations :)

*Telemarketers who use auto-dial and can’t seem to be there when I actually answer the phone.  If I have the courtesy to answer the phone, they should have the wherewithal to be on the other end without me having to wait for them to irritate me.

*People who make unconnected leaps in their arguments.  What does prohibition have to do with the legalization of prostitution?  What does the cost of pomegranates have to do with socialized health care?

*Students who ask, “Will this be on the test?”  Don’t they understand that every pearl of wisdom from my lips may be important someday?  What happened to knowledge for knowledge’s sake?

*Narrow thinking.  Stereotypes.  Unyielding boundaries.  Unacceptance of others’ reality and truth.

*Ethnocentricism.  Racism.  Sexism.  Ageism.  Ableism.  Homophobia.

*People who talk on their hand-held cell phones while they drive.  Multi-tasking is great, but not when I am on the road with you, please.

*People who can eat anything during the holidays and not gain an ounce.  Actually people who can eat anything at anytime and don’t have to directly apply it to their hips (to bypass all the in between).  We call them “lucky,” but they can be damned irritating.

*Students who say, “I missed class today; did I miss anything important?”  No, I answer; I wasted an entire hour of the students’ time.   Or, “I missed class today; what did I miss?”  Like I am going to give them an hour’s worth of lecture over the phone. Yeah sure buh huh

*Telemarketers who greet me like we are old friends and ask how my day is going.  Cut to the chase so that I can hang up faster and get on with my going day.

*People who say “Patience is a virtue.”  Don’t they understand that “Instant gratification is not soon enough” (Carrie Fisher)?

*People who procrastinate longer than I procrastinate.

*Students who have missed half the term and ask on the last day of class if they can do extra credit in order to pass.  Yes, I tell them; next term when you retake the class.

*People who change lanes during rush hour without signaling.  People who ride my ass when there is no traffic.  People who drive like they are still in Boston.

*People who dial the wrong number and then get angry at me for not being the person they wanted to call.

*People who have a difficult time seeing that other people do not react, see, or live in the same reality as them.  One of my favorite quotations is from Steinbeck’s Cannery Row:  “It is all fine to say, ‘Time will heal everything, this too shall pass.  People will forget’ and things like that when you are not involved, but when you are there is no passage of time, people do not forget and you are in the middle of something that does not change.”


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lookie Lookie Crafty Lil Me!

I've never been very good at crafts.  It started in Brownies and continued through Scouts and I never improved over Kindergarten labors.  Oh sure, I can sew fairly well and I can make a quilt now and then, but when it comes to making crafty things out of wire and pine cones, it just never works.  The result of my labors looks nothing like the picture in my head.  The worst is using felt.  Those felty things are just too child-like when I am finished.  I know I am not the only one who has this problem, as an easy Internet search will attest.  My daughter-in-law and my grandgirl have the same disability.  So I see these wonderful lil things people make and am in awe. 

My attempts at crafts look similar to this picture.
But once in a while I think I will give something a try.  Now usually I sit down until this urge passes.  Not this time.  When I saw these cute little sleighs made from candy canes on A Spoonful of Sugar blog, I thought I would give it a shot.  And since it is made mostly of chocolate candy bars, I knew if it sucked I could just go with another vision in my head: I could eat the mistakes!

I started with candy canes, Kit Kat bars, and little bags of M&Ms.  It started out well.  I glued one of the candy canes onto a wrapped Kit Kat bar and set the second candy cane underneath so it would not dry lopsided.  I continued to do this for all four sleighs.  I then wrapped and tied ribbons on the M&M bags and glued them together.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself as they were looking like the exact image in my head!  I felt I had probably finally overcame my crafty disability.  And then the cat hit.  Poor thang just wanted to get some head pets, but she missed the table and grabbed the paper where the candy canes were drying.  She pulled that paper onto the floor, breaking some of the candy canes.  Okay, pride cometh before the fall...

I decided smashed canes were okay if they held their shape.  And because they were in plastic, they did!  So I glued the other cane onto the Kit Kat bar and the sleighs were ready to dry.  Now to just stick on the M&M packages and the Santa...we are ready to rock and roll!

Not perfect but pretty darn good, if I can say so myself.  YippeeSkippee!  I'm a crafty person :)  Who knew?


Friday, December 12, 2014

It's Not Like That Anymore

I was at a Weight Watchers meeting last week.  The big discussion from before Thanksgiving until New Years is the food at parties and the temptations, the events, deciding our goals for the holidays.  And a few older members lamented they could no longer eat what they wanted and walk it off.  And the leader said, "Yes, accepting that we change as we age isn't easy.  We have to recognize it's not like that anymore."

It's not like that anymore.  Powerful statement in any aspect of life.  Accepting that change happens, has happened, is sometimes sad.  Sometimes happy.  Sometimes mixed blessings.

My mother used to make pumpkin bread every Christmas and mail it up to me.  It's not like that anymore.  We used to have long conversations every week or so.  It's not like that anymore.

I loved to drive across the states, leg up on the dash, singing at the top of my lungs with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen.  It's not like that anymore; fibromyalgia causes too much pain sitting long distance. I was a barefooted country-city girl.  I had an international student write a description of me in her English class.  She said "she walks on her feet," meaning I kick my shoes off while I teach.  It's not like that anymore; neuropathy foot pain makes it too painful to walk barefooted.
I decided not to give my mother the quilt I was making.  I remembered she doesn't really like using quilts.  She likes hangings, so I am making her a small hanging to go on her door.  And the quilt will go for the kids in the Adopt-a-Family project for 2015.  Here's the quilt so far.  I just need the 6" red border and then to quilt it.  

Things change and it's not like that anymore.
And the beat goes on...

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Those Little Things

There are some issues I feel the need to address :

There are so many things out there which surprise me.  I thought life was a complex system, but I did not realize how often it comes down to those little things which make or break us.  Like the fear of public speaking.  We fear this more than illness, dogs, heights or death.  Jerry Seinfeld once said, “We would rather die than give the eulogy.”  My students confirm this.  Georgie Jessel once said, “The brain is a wonderful thing; it never stops working from the time we are born until the moment we stand up to give a speech.”  My students’ grades confirm this.

It would seem that one of the greatest problems in any marriage--at least according to Ann Landers or Dear Abby or Ask Amy or any advice columnist, and the plethora of responses from her readers--is which way the toilet papers rolls off the tube.  I have never seen such prolific responses to any other issue.  It seems this may be a more important issue than money or control or interdependency.  Apparently those who like it to roll from the top are in the majority and are adamant about this flow.  My elder son says he actually changes how paper rolls off a tube when he visits “those idiots who do not know any better.”  Seems, if this is true, it may be a simple process in selecting a partner.  Just check out their toilet paper.  Okay!  Toilet paper.....check!  We are compatible!  I guess the issue of attraction is already there; you are after all in their bathroom.

There are other rules of toilet paper I have learned over time.   For example, you must replace the roll if you use the last of the paper.  Apparently all points are null and void if you sneakily refuse to use the very last of the tube and leave two or three squares hanging there in order to avoid changing the roll.  Another thing to remember is that you must leave the paper a clean break-off, not left hanging sloppily nor with the second ply off-skelter.  Oh yeah, and apparently men monitor the use of toilet paper as if it was the stock market or a precious commodity.  I was shocked when I left Doug’s place in Pittsburgh for three months (I had been back east on sabbatical) and he had just started using a new roll as I returned.  He said he had to “really stock up” when a woman friend was coming to visit us.  But perhaps 24 rolls for a three-day visit was a bit sarcastic?

Since we are in the bathroom, we might as well address that toilet seat.  Apparently men think it looks like an uncluttered, finished room to leave the seat up.  Many a marriage has broken up over this issue if we are to believe Dear Abby.  Women say they hate the feel of cold porcelain and/or toilet water against their bare skin when they stumble into the bathroom in the dark of night.  Men say women should check before they sit down.  Women say it is an easy matter for men to just put the seat down when they flush.  Men say it is not fair that they have to lift and unlift the seat and women only have to sit.  Think of the relationships which could be saved if each in the couple would put down both the seat and the lid--like closing a cupboard door :)

Another thing which seems to ruin relationships is the use of the word, “nice.”  As in, “How do I look?”  Men apparently do not understand the impact “nice” has on a woman.  Pay attention fellas; she will change clothes every time she looks “nice.”

Relationships at home are not the only problem.  There are many letters written to advice-people about issues in the office.  Like those people who leave the last tiny bit of coffee in the pot.  This happens even with huge signs around the coffee pot area which state, “The person who uses the last cup of coffee in the pot must make the next pot.”  All the ingredients are there; it takes about two minutes to start the next pot, but there are those who leave about a fourth of a cup in the pot to avoid making a new batch.  These are the same people who left a few drops of milk in the carton in the refrigerator to avoid tossing out the carton.  I think Abby suggests we shoot them, but I may have that wrong.

So go figure...all these issues and those like them are apparently the most important aspects in our lives.  They are more discussed than war or earthquakes or abuse.  Hey, come to think of it.....I wonder how Bush and Obama each unroll their toilet paper?

And the beat goes on......peace :)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Softest Flannel With a Cozy Fleece

Now that the Adopt-a-Family project is finished, I have started my newest project: a quilt for my mother for Christmas.  She doesn't like heavy.  Her favorite blankets have always been electric.  I tried giving her flannel sheets once.  Not a good idea.

warm flannel, soft fleece, easy pattern
So in her nursing center room, she can get very cold.  In fact her last roommate kept the air conditioner on high all the time because she was a hot person.  Mom always froze.  We brought her  one of her favorite afghans and she was happy.  It is soft and cuddly and apparently the first afghan she knitted way back when.  She has made hundreds of them since.

And what do you give someone who lives in a shared space that holds two beds and two bedside tables, with space for wheelchairs and walkers?  So I decided to make her a quilt.  It is flannel.  Soft wonderful flannel.  And I will put a fleece backing.  No batting to keep it light and soft and cuddly.  She loves bright so I chose flannels that are bright. tempered with warm browns and tans.  She likes modern, compared to my more traditional or crazy.  So the pattern I have selected is called "Ins and Outs," featured in the newest easy quilts magazine.  She will either use it or not.  But I am having fun making it, thinking that she can stay warm if she chooses.

poor winter-shocked hydrangea
On another note, I returned yesterday from a visit with my mom and sister.  My flight left at 6 am for home (hey!  It was $30 cheaper!), so I had to get up around 3 am in order to shower, get gas, return the car and make it through security.  I arrived home about the time Doug was waking up, so I had him take me to breakfast.  As we left the restaurant, I say this poor winterized hydrangea.  It looked so much like I felt with no sleep that I needed to bring it home with me somehow.  A photo was the best I could do. I did get an hour nap that afternoon.  Poor winter-shocked plant didn't get that nap.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Old Dog, New Tricks

I recently went to a quilting, sewing and crafts fair.  I decided to go to one of the classes that was offered.  For $5, I could learn to do English Paper Piecing.  What fun!  This instructor's method was supposedly a "new and exciting" method.  Since I don't know the "old and boring" method, I have nothing with which to compare.  But here's how it works:

With notecard weight paper hexagons (we used hexagons), we lightly glued the fabric to the paper.  And then sewed them together to form the shape I wanted to make--Grandmother's Garden.  I made up 11 of them for my flight and time down to see my mom.  I finished five of them already.  I need new hexagon notecards!

In this process, I found a bunch of new favorite tools.  First, I have been wanting some Wonder Clips to try for binding.  I was going to ask Santa for some...but the fair happened first.  So I bought a package of 10.  Santa can get me the package of 50 :)  They are my newest favorite tool!  

And then I found this great little lap board.  It is specifically for applique, but useful for so many other things. The back is a fine sandpaper to keep the applique pieces in place; the front is slightly padded.  The instructor used a mini iron on it, even though the pad itself says they have no idea if it can be used for ironing.  I do want one of those cool mini irons that look exactly like a big girl iron but small.  Santa list!

The third thing is this needle threader!  Yay!  The regular needles are fine but applique needles can sometimes get the best of me.  This threader will do the trick.
This isn't me.  Just sayin

And there is one more thing.  I need a light when I travel because no one keeps their house bright enough to handsew anything.  I use an OTT light at home.  So I searched.  I bought a bendable necked focus light at IKEA.  While it was easy for travel, it's focused light is not the best.  And then *hearing the angels harmonize* I found a neck lamp that actually works!  It stays where you put it on your breast...just sits there happily lighting the sewing board on your lap.  

So far (six hours so far), this has been a good trip.  Mom is doing great--still loopy but healthy.  No fights with relatives yet.  Life is good.


Monday, December 01, 2014

It's the Adopt-a-Family Season!

Quilts for the kids in the families who are "up for adoption" this year
Every year my quilting friends and I support Portland Community College's Cascade campus Adopt-a-Family program.  This program is cool.  A person or a group of people, or even an entire division can adopt one of the families who applied and was selected to have a merry Christmas.  The student organization, ASPCC, has had this program for many years.  I used to adopt a family each year, making sure the mother and the children all received a quilt from me.  When I could no longer afford to give the one family the type of Christmas I thought they needed, I decided to make the children of the families quilts.  

The first year I was able to make maybe 10 quilts for the children.  I allowed the organization to hand them out as they saw fit.  I mentioned I had done this in my quilting forum, The Quilting Bee on Delphi forums, and soon others in the forum wanted to participate.   The next year we had perhaps 50 percent of the children covered.  And every year since we have had a quilt for every child under the age of 20.

This year there were 23 families with 62 children.  Each child under 20 years old received a quilt.  There were five kids over age 19; they received a pillowcase.  Some of the younger children received a pillowcase as well.  There was one pregnant mother (as listed).  We had a little preemie quilt that I gave to her.

A special thanks goes out to my wonderful generous friends: Peggy Trickler, Jan Munson, Cathy Berg, Sharon Gretz, Kathy Yount, Leslie Peterson, Val Bradley, Lynn Wingard, and Wilma Young.  To see these beautiful and delightful quilts, check out this website: AAF 2014.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Holiday Fair with a Flare of Hail

Yesterday my daughter-in-law and I went to the Christmas Bazaar, an annual tradition for us.  Three hours of wandering, greeting people, looking at handicrafts.  My daughter-in-law and grandgirl kept moving through the booths twice as fast as me, so I would attach myself to another family and ask if I could adopt them, since my own left me.  They all agreed :)

This bazaar takes up two buildings at the Expo Center.  It used to have only handmade crafts and goods for sale in the larger-first building and then commercial and larger things in the smaller second.  But over the past couple years, we have noticed a major change.  This year there was probably more commercial vendors than handcraft artists and they and they were blended in with one another throughout the building.  It did make it more difficult to find and focus on the small verdors.  And although I did find a few unique items for my nephews and nieces, not nearly as many as in previous years.  I think this is because the cost of materials that has hurt the price of the item.  The artist needs to ask for more for each item in order to make a profit on the item.   I would pick up something gorgeous and put it down; couldn't pay the price no matter how deserving of that cost.

So today we decided to go to a Holiday Market in Vancouver, WA (right across the river from me) that had only handcrafted items.  It was very small and there were so many beautiful things, but nothing we wanted to take home.  And the prices!  Oye!  :)

As we stepped out of the hotel where it was housed, we were greeted with a hail storm!  It wasn't that cold (neither of us had on a coat), but by the time I arrived to my car, I looked like I had styrofoam all over my hair :)

One more recipe for delightful pumpkin!  This is a Weight Watchers recipe that is awesome and only 3 power plus value points each (I don't remember where I found it):
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes (3 points plus value)
servings: 12  Prep time: 10 minutes  Cook time: (they say 30 minutes but I say 50)

1 C graham cracker crumbs
3 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 C canned pumpkin
1 C Weight Watcher Whipped Cream Cheese Spread
1/4 C brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

preheat oven 325.  Place cupcake holders in muffin tins.  Melt butter.  Combine the crackers and salt with the melted butter.  Evenly put the crumbs into the cupcake holders and lightly press own with finger tips.  Bake for 5 minutes or until brown.

Mix together the pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar, egg whites, and spices until smooth.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the cupcake holders.  Bake for another 45 minutes or so (they said to back for 25 minutes but we found the middle soft like pudding rather than firm like cheesecake, so I kept adding in increments of 10 minutes and using a knife to test the middles until they were firm and yet light).

Let cool and serve at room temp or chill and serve cold.  Yummy!
Enjoy the day and smile unexpectedly at people out there in the world!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Treats

Thanksgiving was a wonderful day at our house, with smells and voices and laughter and SURPRISE! no fighting :)  I planned to eat lightly, but well.  I don't care about potatoes, so I could skip those but give me stuffing!  And I can live without butter but give me a roll!  It was a good day, with lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and trivia questions.

I love pumpkin pie.  I love all things pumpkin :)  I tried two new recipes for pumpkin from Weight Watchers.  I will post the recipe for the one I call Pumpkin Pudding.  Simple and delish.

Pumpkin Pudding

1 box of sugar free/fat free Butterscotch pudding
1 Cup fat-free milk
1 15oz can pumpkin
use spices as listed on the can

Mix all together and refrigerate.  Makes four large servings a 2 points plus value each.  It gives me the pleasure of pumpkin pie without the points.  And is filling.  Life is good :)
While I was cooking yesterday, I was focused on chopping and chopping and chopping  I caught a sound or a movement and I happened to look down at my feet.  What did I see?  Zoë steadily staring up at me, hoping hoping hoping!

Drop it!  Drop it!  Drop it!
I hope your Thanksgiving was as delightful as was mine.

She Asked Nothing for Herself

It is getting closer to the Giving Season.  How can I tell (besides the decorations already up in the malls)?  Like many of you, I have started receiving pleas for help from different agencies.  These pleas come in many different forms: pleas for money donations, pleas for time donations, pleas for the donations of foods, toys, clothing.  Some agencies send you things in their plea letters, things like cards or address labels or stickers.  They tell you these are free gifts, but they know that most people feel guilty using these things without sending in some money donation.  It’s rather a cost-effective process.

My college also has programs for needy students and their families.  They gather food for Thanksgiving baskets as well as toys and gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah.  Frequently there is a tree on each campus where an ornament on the tree is actually a request for a specific toy or CD or movie, or “something appropriate for a boy, 10.”  In 1999 they started doing something different. Their program since then is to adopt a family for Christmas--taking on the expense of a family for the holidays. 

The first year when I received an email about this program, I looked down the list of families.  All were single mothers; all had one or more children.  The children asked for one or two gifts -- those children over age 13 usually asked for gift certificates for music.  Younger children asked for specific toys.  The mothers often asked for perfume or lotion sets, or something practical like bath mat sets.  I scanned down the list, thinking what I’d like to do.  These families all moved me in some way.  Then I saw Family #5:
Mother: asked nothing for herself
Daughter, aged 13: asked for a gift certificate for music.

I looked at this mother again.  Asked for nothing for herself.  A sob escaped my lips.  I covered my mouth and looked again, and as much as I wanted to remain quiet within my almost silent shared office, another sob escaped my lips followed by another and another. 

Asked nothing for herself.

It was Christmas 1981.  My sons were 9 and 11.  I took a seasonal job at UPS so I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. to return at 6 p.m. and immediately going to the store across the street in order to work until midnight.  On weekends I would work for my friend who is a quadriplegic all morning and then return home to do bookkeeping at the store.  I would then return to the store two hours later to work a 9 hour shift behind the counter.  The extra money I earned at UPS would help pay for heating for the winter.

You need to picture this house.  For $135 a month, it was a small two-bedroom house.  Ten years earlier, before we moved in, a car had parked too close to the house and had slid under it.  The landlord had covered the gaping hole with plywood, but never repaired the “basement area.”  So when the east winds blew, air would come up through the floorboards.  I had no carpeting to mellow out this cold breeze.  While I tried to tape the windows during the winter, the air would filter through the plastic “storm windows” I had created.  Many a time I would blanket off most the house so I only had to heat the front room, but with the winds blowing through the floor, it was difficult.  So, even though I did all I could to help, as well as keep the temperature at 64f degrees, our heating bills were huge all winter.

Christmas was approaching and I had no extra money for gifts for my kids.  I told no one of this situation, but continued to work as many jobs as possible, hoping I could take a little out of the heating money to buy them something.  One day I received a letter from one of my professors asking if he could build a bike for my sons.  I had mentioned that the bike I had given them the year before had been stolen; he said he had many bike parts around in his garage.  He also asked what he and his wife could give to me. 

I immediately replied how much I would love for my sons to have a “new” bike and thanked him for his thoughts for me, but I needed nothing.  I sealed the letter and went on about my life, happy that my sons would have a special gift.

On Christmas eve, he and his wife arrived with this incredible multi-colored, multi-parted 10-speed bike for my sons.  They had tied a ribbon around the handle bars and weaved more ribbon through the spokes.  I invited them in for hot chocolate and when they came fully into the house, I then saw a bag of wrapped gifts.  For me.  For my sons.  It was a very bright Christmas.

How many times do we as parents want the best for our kids.  We don’t want them to miss out on the important as well as the trivial things that make each of our lives a little bit nicer, easier.  But to do this we often must deny ourselves important things.  I went for years wearing the same underwear, sometimes pins holding them up, because I could only afford to buy clothes for my growing sons.  They needed shoes.  They needed underwear.  They needed school supplies.  How many times do we say, “No, don’t think about me.  Just make my children’s lives a little bit brighter, please.”

She asked nothing for herself. 

I adopted this mother.  Doug and I showered her and her daughter with love and things she can't afford for herself.  I wanted to make this the best Christmas ever.  I wanted to reward her somehow for her love for her child, for her unselfish care for her child.  I want to give her something to make her own life a bit brighter for herself.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Switching Things Around

I want a long-arm quilting machine.  I am looking at a Pfaff 18" neck, the frame set up to work a king-sized quilt.  Since the majority of my own quilts are smaller (lap sized and twin, as well as crib-sized), I would be still working mostly those.  But I want it to be able to go as big as it can. 

I also want to be able to use it, which means a dedicated space large enough to house this machine and frame.  The basement could be converted but then I'd have to be in the basement with little natural light.  I like lots of natural light.  Lots.  So what's left?  The garage!  But wait...Doug needs places to put his stuff.  Our garage is split into two, with a short wall between the spaces.  My side of the garage is 20' x 10'.  And that is the space I want to convert into my quilting area.  My sewing area will remain in the main house because there is no room for both in 20'x10'.

Before my mother had a stroke June 1, I had a designer/contractor come to give me an estimate for converting this space.  The plan was to convert the space and it would be finished about the time the quilting machines would be on "their best sale of the year" the end of July.  Unfortunately I wasn't home for two months and Doug and I never talked about the cost, where the money would come from, and where the stuff he is storing on my side would go.  So when the designer called me in California, I had to tell him to put it on hold.

Zoë with her new friend Bear on the new bed in the new guest room
Now move along this month.  Doug has a music space in the basement.  I asked him if he wanted to take over the guest room as a music room and we make the computer room into the guest room. He jumped at this offer. His computer went into the music room and my big computer went into the guest room.  I don't spend much time on the big computer, so it seems to fit. We made the switch, in part, the last time I was south with my mom and then when I returned.  We bought a new bed for the guest room.  And we are off.

Oh and the garage...we agreed to check into how to finance the remodel (straight loan with equity or revolving account with equity) and then give the okay.  Convert the space first and then wait for a good sale for the long arm set.

And life is good.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Vacation Plans

When my son returned to his job after he completed his month-long stay in the hospital for chemotherapy treatments, some of the staff were sitting in the staff room, talking about vacations.  He said he really wished he could take a nice long vacation.  One of the women under his supervision said, "You mean after taking off over a month!?"  He looked at her and said, "You mean the month I was in hospital getting treatment for cancer?"  She was shocked.  He said he regretted his comeback. He had chosen not to tell anyone about his cancer; he didn't want to be "that guy" that is looked at differently because he had cancer.  She had not known.  But it does say something about how we view vacations.  As a full-time working single parent, going to college full-time, a week off from school was a vacation.  Or taking off an evening from my job to attend my son's music recital was a vacation.

Recently I took Doug to downtown Portland for the weekend to celebrate his birthday.  What fun!  A very nice historic hotel.  An afternoon tour and tea at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens--a city block of peace and beauty in downtown Portland.  Dinner at a kinda fancy restaurant in a beautiful historic building. We were going to head out with a stop at Saturday Market (on Sunday), but decided to come home.  It was a glorious vacation!

Lately some people think I have been on many vacations as I travel down to visit my mother.  You say "vacation," I say "longdamndriveandthensleepinsomeoneelsesbedwithoutmyfella."  Potatō/potahtō  

I'm joining Pig next trip...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Travels With Zoë

I love to drive.  I love the freedom of the open road.  I love the people I can chat with as I stop to take a short break.  I love the changing scenery, the changing colors, the hum of the tires.  Every time I get into the car, I know there are adventures out there, just waiting for me to find.

I am so tired of driving.  Sounds crazy but I have been driving up and down the I-5 corridor every three weeks since August.  I live in northwest Oregon; my mother lives 30 miles east of Los Angeles.  And I have been trying to visit her often since she had a stroke June 1. I spent the first couple months down with her, but needed to come home to revisit my husband.  Family is like that, right?

Just another rest stop
So I have been driving down south, staying a week, and driving north again.  My pup, Zoë, goes with me.  Understand, Zoë really hates the car.  She hates riding, hates my music, and hates the idea of travel.  She gets carsick, poor thang.  So I have to give her Dramanine.  It stops the carsickness, but she does sit in her car pouch, glaring at me for the next 1000 miles.  We do have it down, though.  Rest stop: I get out and remind her I will be back.  I open the moonroof and lock up the car as I hurry to the restroom.  I usually have to hurry because I have put off stopping for a bit too long.  Then I return and Zoë is already ready to gt out, her little paws on the sides of the carpouch.  I buckle her into the leash and we take off.  She sniffs and wanders and visit with others and then pees, returns to the car and we are off!

This last trip south, I realized I was just tired of the whole thing.  I was tired that my mom had a stroke and is bedridden, her level of dementia increasing daily.  I am tired of being away from my fella for week or so at a time, sleeping on my sister's guest bed, trying to live a normal life for the duration.  I am tired of the same nothing landscape on the drive.  I am tired of California politics, voting commercials and, oh hell.  Just tired.  So I decided to pay new attention to the drive and revitalize the trip.

First thing I noticed was this crazy fog just north of Eugene, Oregon.  It was ground cover, but high ground cover.  I had noticed it on my last drive home, but thought it was smoke.  And here it was again.

As usual, Mt. Shasta was stunning.  It can sit right on the freeway, in your face.  My favorite rest stop if at Weed.  Don't know why it is my favorite, but it is.  Perhaps it is the green grass, the nice sidewalks, and a backdrop of Mt. Shasta. 

I love mountains almost as much as I love the ocean and lakes, but not quite.  Actually I love everything bits of nature that helps me see that my little problems are no match for the majesty of nature.

Near Colinga turn-off, there is a large area of hills that have this huge huge really huge fence.  It makes no sense to be there.  Was it a prison?  The fence didn't look like a stronghold.  Was it someone's property that they wanted others to stay out?  It really was out in the middle of nowhere, so that didn't make sense.  Zoë and I talked about this fenced area many times over a bottle of water and came up with nothing. 

The last time I drove, I had cell reception and called Doug to ask him.   He looked it up.  Nothing as sinister or heavy as I thought.  It is a paper recycle center and the fence is to keep the papers from flying out onto the freeway.

Driving home, I always stop by Aunt Ruth's in Bakersfield for a little visit.  Here she is with Zoë.  Aunt Ruth is my dad's twin sister; she is 94.  Zoë likes to stop there because she can get out of the car, wander in the backyard, and maybe Aunt Ruth will have a treat to sneak her.

Leaving Bakersfield heading up to I-5, I always pass orange groves.  They reminded me of the time my sister and I had been lost in the orange grove behind Uncle Lloyd's house in Redlands, California.  Now, we were told to not to wander into the grove, but did we listen?  I must have been maybe four or five years old.  Uncle Lloyd's house was so cool.  Classic Redland's bungalow with stone walls and a big porch.  They had a grand piano in their living room.  So cool.  I would slip under the piano and pretend to be asleep so I could hear the grownup chatter.  we were found, but it was scary to be lost so close to home. 

The final piece to this specific drive was the changing colors along the freeway in Oregon.  Such glorious reds and yellows among the evergreens.  Hard to take great shots with my cell phone at 75 MPH...

That's it until April.  I no longer drive south in the winter through the mountains nor through Sacramento and Tule Fog.  So I will be flying.  Without my travel companion, Zoë.  She misses me when I am gone; I miss her.  But she really really does hate the car (and we both hate those little bows that the she gets at the cleaners!).


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Some Thoughts on Veteran's Day

I have a little problem with the military.  Oh I know the importance of the military.  I understand that a strong show of power is important to keep our country safe and secure.  That's not my problem.  And I have a great respect for all the men and women who have been in the military, fighting for my freedom to say what I want and do about anything I want.  I thank you all. 

My dad was a sailor.  He was drafted into the Army and quickly joined the Navy.  He and Mom were married already and she followed him to New Orleans, where he was stationed.  Like many men in the military, he learned skills he could use during peacetime.  For him, it was what became his favorite trade: metal shop skills.  He later became an electrician, but his love of working with metals remained.  He always said if he didn't have to think about supporting his family, he would work in a metal shop.  But alas, he had two daughters and a wife.  Time to bring home the bacon.

Dad and Pat and me, 1952

So, I guess I don't really have a problem with the military.  It is important and I am thankful for all the men and women who have served our country.  No, it's not a problem with the military but it is a problem with war.  Yeah, that's it.  I have a real problem with war.  

In today's paper, a comic strip called Red and Rover had the little boy, Red, hugging his dad, thanking him for what he has done for his country.  And then he continued to hang on and his father told him he could let go.  The little boy said no because he didn't want him to go off to war again.

Lorraine Schneider's 1967 flower-power poster, saying, ''war is not healthy for children and other living things," came to mind as I read that comic strip.  I thought about the little boy, then to all the little boys and girls who's fathers or mothers were not home because they were in another country, defending my freedom.  And while I knew that war was not healthy for living things, I had not thought as much about the impact a parent's service had on the children and the family left behind.

So thank you so much for the great sacrifice you  made in my honor, all of you.  Mothers and fathers and children and grandparents and sisters and brothers and neighbors and all of us.  Thank you so very much.