Sunday, February 17, 2019


During the recent clean-and-reorganize session down in the sewing studio, I uncovered sixteen blocks from that Tula Pink book that I had begun and apparently abandoned. They were mostly greens with five that had rust in them and a couple that had purple. I was astonished. I stuck them up on the wall and for the life of me couldn't come up with a plan. The colors were kind of harsh. They didn't seem to relate to each other, even though they sort of did. I was about to just stick them in the box I'm getting ready for a scrap swap next month when my husband came along and took a look. He wasn't anywhere near as disenchanted as I was. 

"Make a couple more purple ones," he suggested, "and we'll see what that does." So I did and then we started playing with possible arrangements. The orange diagonal was his idea. The cream lattice was mine. He thought that orange cornerstones down the middle would help to accentuate the orange stripe. He was right. He thought that green cornerstones on the green side and purple cornerstones on that side would be good. I made the cornerstones and then, on a whim, reversed the plan, putting the green on the purple side and vice versa. Some of the rows are sewn together. By the end of tomorrow, they all will be.

And -- voila! -- we've got a baby quilt that has some interesting stuff going on. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019


Himself and I are finding that recently the topics of our conversation together go back in time to our earliest years together. I suppose that this is typical for people who have been together as long as we have. The other day we talked about something we have never talked about before and it has stayed with me because it is something I had never thought about in depth.

We hadn't been married six months when we left everyone and everything we knew to move to a state two-days drive from Near Philadelphia. It wasn't our choice. This was 1968 -- you may remember this as the Vietnam War Era -- and when the draft board promised Joe that he'd be called up in just two weeks to serve in the Army or Marines for three years my then-fiancee considered his options. Soldiers were needed in Vietnam and there was every reason to believe that would be where he would go once his basic training was complete. A lying bastard Navy recruiter assured him that if he enlisted for four years, with his education as a draftsman, he'd spend most of his time on shore duty; there was no call for draftsmen in Saigon, Danang, or other places in the news. We had a cartoon showing a young man being chased by the draft board, running into the arms of the Navy recruiter. This was us. We married with a three-month extension before active duty began.

So once basic training was completed, we were off to Pensacola, Florida for a one-year stint. Arriving in mid-January, we quickly found and rented a cute little duplex house with a blooming camellia bush  on the front lawn, adopted a kitten, and set up housekeeping. We were 22, about to turn 23.

Then Joe reported in for duty and learned that the draftsman he was replacing, Paul, was leaving shortly for a one-year tour in Vietnam, replacing the draftsman he had replaced in Pensacola.

The physical manifestations for me began almost immediately. I had intermittent bouts of gastrointestinal distress. Worse than that were the headaches: The first one was so horrible that Joe took me to the emergency room where it was diagnosed as a tension headache. They were to occur once or twice a week for almost that whole year, putting me to bed with heavy pain medication.

Until this past week, more than fifty years later, we never talked about the strain we were under during that year. Or how my health suffered from the stress. Until this past week, I never put into detailed words the many questions needing answers that would be a year in coming: Would Joe go to Vietnam? Would he return? Would he return as a whole person? Would his hands -- his livelihood -- be intact? Would I become a widow at 23? Where would I spend that year? Would I stay in Florida where I had a secure job and could rent a small place (because by then we were living in enlisted housing that we'd have to leave once Joe was no longer on staff) but where all my relationships were short and transient? Would I return to Near Philadelphia and spend that year living with my in-laws? Would the in-laws allow the dog and cat? Would I be able to find a job Near Philadelphia that would allow me to rent a place that would allow the dog and cat? Would the very young marriage survive a year apart?

As it turned out, the answer to the first question was "no," rendering all the others moot. When the year was nearly over, the Navy Captain that I was working for kindly offered to have Joe extended for a second year in Florida; at the end of that time, this same man arranged for him to spend the remainder of his enlistment on the most benign kind of sea duty possible, a tender that seldom left port and even then for only four days at a time.

All of this has been swirling around in my mind for several days now, almost as though I were living this on-going trauma again. I am writing it all now to see if that might make it go away.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

An Extravagant Welcome

A few years ago, my blog friend Lynn shared pictures of a quilt that she was making for her church. It took her a couple of years, and she generously documented her progress so that others could make similar quilts. Lynn named her quilt "An Extravagant Welcome." I thought it was a beautiful quilt (it's pictured above) and nothing would do but that I would have to have one. I organized a block swap and the participants wrote little tiny biographies about the people that they had made; there were people of many races, occupations, sexualities, you name it. There was even a green-complected witch dressed in a Hallowe'en print outfit. My finished quilt, pictured below, was given to my younger granddaughter for her bed.

A couple of weeks ago at our congregation's annual meeting, someone raised the question of flying a rainbow flag outside of the church to indicate our welcome to  LGBTQ people. A respectful discussion ensued. Someone raised the point that by extending a specific welcome to a particular constituency, we might be leaving out others, that we might be saying something like, "If you haven't yet figured out exactly where you stand on every issue surrounding sexuality, this isn't the place for you." We have LGBTQ members at our church but they aren't treated like something special; they are just like everyone else.

Somehow in my brain, this question connected to our pastor's recent sermon. He grew up in East Berlin and well remembers the Wall. He told us he had been taught that the Wall was to protect the citizens, to keep Evil Others out. But he knew that it was also to keep East Berliners in. I continue to think about the possible connection with the rainbow flag issue, and about another Wall much in the news today.

When we were in London this past autumn, I stopped by St. Paul's Covent Garden and saw their welcome sign. Instantly I knew that this Anglican church was definitely where this Lutheran would worship in the event she ever moved to London. This sign is truly An Extravagant Welcome.