Friday, February 29, 2008

The Homeliest Gal in the Hills

Larry, who works in the college guidance office, popped in to see me this morning. It was clear that on the drive in, something came to mind, and he began thinking, "Well, just who on the campus is old enough that I can share this with?" And he made a beeline for my office. Sheesh.

Unfortunately, he was right. I am old enough. Again I say, "Sheesh."

Larry wanted to wish me a Happy Sadie Hawkins Day. I knew what he was talking about, but something seemed amiss. So I did a little research.

If you are old enough, you know what this is all about. If you aren't, you can get up to speed (you should pardon the pun) by going here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Right, I've Capitulated!

For years I've rejected the whole concept of the cell phone. I get annoyed when I'm on a train, or in a doctor's waiting room (such as the eye doctor's, with drops in the eyes preventing me from reading), for example, and am hostage to someone's banal conversation. I really don't want to hear about whether he was a good kisser or how terrible it was that they were out of prune juice or how the blood clot is progressing. I get powerfully annoyed when I'm having a meal with a friend I haven't seen for a while, and the guy at the next table is selling his shares of Exxon. I become downright livid when a guy in the 18th row, center, has forgotten to turn his phone off during the concert. I've said many times, proudly, that I believe myself to be the last surviving person who has no cell phone and has never been to Disney World.

You see where this is going.

And it's not to Disney World.

Close friends and at least one family member have urged me to get a cell phone, so that I'm safe when traveling alone. (Never mind that my radius 99 percent of the time is two miles.) I've declined. I didn't want to become the annoyance that plagues me. I don't want yet another monthly bill to pay. The price of even the most minimal plan that I could find was in the neighborhood of forty dollars per month! The phones themselves are expensive and come with gadgets that I'd prolly find addictive. And, frankly, I didn't want to be that available. People can catch me at home or at the office, or leave a message. I can't imagine sitting in church and receiving the news that the prune juice had been located!

But there's a Biscuit in the oven, a Biscuit who -- please God -- is nearly baked. And I'm on call to be with Sam (who at one point was the Muffin) when The Time Comes.

So I've given in. The terms of my capitulation are these: (a) I bought a phone that was cheap! Twenty dollars! (b) I bought a phone that has no monthly bill, much less forty dollars! It came with ten dollars worth of minutes on it and I bought a card that held another twenty dollars worth of minutes. Which are to be spent at the rate of twenty cents per minute. All of this will last two months and then I will need to take myself back to Radio Shack to buy more minutes, if I'm so inclined. (c) I've given the number only to Sherry/Chris and to Joe. (d) And I'm still not going to go to Disney World.

It's something else to deal with. Need to charge it at night. Need to remember to put it in pocket in the morning. (Need to remember to wear something with pockets!) Needed this very morning to ask one of the seniors to show me how to turn the ringer to vibrate so I don't disturb people (Joe and I tried last night for longer than we should have to accomplish this; it took Scott fewer than 15 seconds). But I've got it, and when Biscuit is imminent, I'll know, no matter where I am. And here's the coolest part: I got to select the sound that the phone will make when it rings -- and, guess what -- one of the choices was the flute solo that Sherry played at her senior recital! You know, the one that goes BAH, ba ba ba, ba ba ba, ba ba BAH ba! Isn't that just downright nifty!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dancing with the Red Queen

A couple of people have written, asking me if I'm okay. I've not been blogging as much as I used to, as much as I like to. I've not been emailing as much as I used to, as much as I like to.

And I'm okay. Thank you for inquiring!

I'm reclaiming my life! So many of the Things That Matter fell by the wayside during the months I was doing transcription. This morning, for example, Joe and I began to tackle an enormous (I'm not saying exactly how enormous, but imagine an overflowing laundry basket . . . ) collection of stuff that accumulated and, I swear, bred during the time of neglect! Bills, recipes, mail, flotsam all abound, and I'm sure when I get to the bottom of it there will be jetsam as well.

I've been asked to serve on a new, relatively short-term committee at church and at the first meeting this somehow evolved into my co-chairing it. We've been spending a little more time with Sherry and family, helping them to get ready for Biscuit's arrival (stay tuned, stay tuned!), and I've been finally sewing at long last in increments greater than twenty minutes.

Another Whackie Girl is at the machine quilter's, the YBR for Sam's big-boy bed is in the hand-binding stage, the wall hanging for Biscuit is ready for sandwiching (how appropriate!), a Laurel Burch Jungle Songs project is being assembled for an upcoming baby shower, a couple more Festival of Trees are finished, yet another new BOM has begun. And it all feels so good.

Before the Dancing Ladies became my logo, Alice (of Wonderland fame) running with the Red Queen was my symbol. The genes in my family of origin have a chromosome (or two) for doing too much. Bonnie and I have it and so does Susan. The rest seem to be spared, though I have my suspicions about Kristen. We come to the fork in the road and go down it, believing somehow that if we get it all done, we'll get the opportunity to go back and follow the other path. We just want to do it all.

Carroll writes:

"'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing.' 'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you wanted to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'"

This isn't to say that I race through everything. It's more of a convoluted explanation of taking on too much.

The Dancing Ladies logo came about at approximately the same time as the encounter that inspired my recent post, Slow Cloth, Healing Cloth. I began, at last, to know that there are choices to be made, and that it is better to do fewer things with intentionality than many things with mixed results.

Right now I'm catching up. And for a brief time, I've resumed the jog with the Red Queen (at my age, the knees won't support "running very fast").

I am okay. I am so okay. It will all settle down at some point and I'll resume the dance with the ladies.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Aunt Helen Would SO Approve

I don't have any idea why I got to thinking about my Aunt Helen this morning while I was puttering around. She's been gone for so long; I'm thinking it has been more than 30 years. I know she never got to meet our older son, Tom, who has the same name as her late brother, my father. She was one terrific aunt, one of those people who even on the hottest summer day looked like she'd just stepped out of the shower. She favored dresses (especially green ones) over shorts and was frequently seen wearing pearls. Her fragrance was "Emeraude" by Coty and to this day I can't have a whiff of it without believing she is somewhere behind me. She was given to idiosyncratic speech; she called her girlfriends "kid," and one of her most frequent lines, used to express astonishment or surprise, was "Golly day!" The expression I loved the most was used as an emphatic affirmative: "I hope to tell you!"

Anyway, I was thinking about Aunt Helen this morning when we finally got our long-awaited snow day. I literally sprang out of bed when the phone rang at 5:28 to start the snow chain. I had great plans for the day.

One of the things I did was swap out some fat quarters. In my alleged spare time, I run a small swap list. There are about thirty members and we do three or four swaps each year. Some swaps are fat quarters according to a specific fabric line or color scheme. Other swaps are blocks -- sometimes pieced, sometimes appliqued.

Recently I found I'd become enamored of brown fabrics. Not brown prints or brown solids, particularly, but the kind of brown that "reads solid" from a squint but when you look at it without the squint, you see that it is a nice, interesting brown. I bought a few fat quarters and wanted more. Didn't see too many more that spoke to me, but I knew what to do. I organized a FQ swap called "What Can Brown Do For You?" and the last of the packets of fabric arrived a couple of days ago. I spent a happy fifteen minutes swapping them out, and then set my own pile aside for future fondling while I determine a project.

Another recent swap came to a close this week, too, and seeing as how it was Snowball blocks, it was appropriate that I would swap them out today as well. The idea for the swap had come from dear Nicole. Go to her blog and locate her post of September 18 called "Missing in Action." Yes, it will take you a couple of minutes but -- trust me -- it is worth it. Doncha just love those Snowball blocks? What she's done is alternated light and dark ones in diagonal rows and then added corners to her setting triangles. So simple. So gorgeous. My eyes went from Nicole's blog to the pile of batiks festering in one corner of the sewing room. Batik and black Snowballs, I thought. That could be spectacular. I put out an announcement and a major snowball fight began almost immediately! The Snowballs came hurling in, some from as far as Canterbury, England; others from right here Near Philadelphia. Swapping them out took a little longer than I'd planned, but once it was done, I couldn't wait to get them up on the wall. Ask me --go ahead --ask me if I like the way they look.

"Kid, I hope to tell you!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Aware that it has been a little while since I last posted anything at all quilty, and having a day at home with no major obligations, I thought I'd remedy that situation.

This picture is the first three of the Festival of Trees blocks that I first admired on Juliann's blog. I wish this woman lived down the street -- I could see myself running down to consult, to chat, to invite her up to spend an afternoon sewing together and talking about books. Anyway, she posted pics from her Festival of Trees and that was all it took. I was Googling away, trying to find a place where I could get them, too. They come as BOMs, and are wool on wool. The big red one took some time to do, but the others were finished in an evening or two. The thought was that I could get this finished in time for Christmas, 2008.

This block is a preview. By two months from now, I will have many of them! An on-line group that I belong to has an ongoing project where each month we receive one persons's fabric and heart's desire and/or instructions, and we make a block and send it back to her. I had bought a collection of hand-dyed FQs at Lancaster last year and really had no plan at all for them. So I am sending each participant two pieces of hand-dyed fabric, each combination unique, and asked them to make me a Basket of Chips using Kona black for the background.

They will receive my kits the first of March and should have their offerings back to me by the first week of April. I think these are going to make a striking quilt.

Finally we come to a birthday gift a couple of weeks ago from My Beloved. I'd been looking for a bulletin board to go over my cutting table, and he seemed to think I needed one as well. Actually, he thought I needed two, and that is what he bought for me. And then we dear enough to hang them up!

I have a couple of other things in the works. One is a secret quilt top that I pieced the weekend I was at White Oak. It is going to the machine quilter this coming Saturday and when it is back, bound, and received by its rightful owner, I'll post a pic. Another is a YBR that I'm doing for Sam's big-boy bed. It is yellow/red/blue/green homespuns, very simple, and tied with blue and yellow floss. I'm tying and tying and tying at present. As soon as it is finished, I'll post a pic before it goes off to keep the boy toasty.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Benefits

Salary isn't the reason a person works at an independent school.

It is everything else. It is the benefits, the ones that are not listed on the employment contract.

Of course it is about snow days (not that we have had any this year), about winter and spring break, about summer hours, and about beginning-and-end-of-year parties.

But it is also about so much more.

It is the Quaker values: the emphasis on simplicity, justice, equality; about opposition to war; about looking to find "that of God in every person."

It is being around the future.

It is about life's wonderful transitions.

It is about energy, initiative, and creativity on the part of both teachers and students.

And it is about celebrations, whether it is a basketball tournament won, an unanticipated college acceptance, and over-the-top observances of all manner of holidays.

Today the lobby is filled with flowers -- red, pink, white; carnations and roses -- in honor of Valentine's Day. As a fund-raiser for some project or another, the Upper School kids have taken orders and will deliver flowers with one's greeting attached, to anyone on campus. It is fun to watch the hustle and the bustle, it is great to see the delighted smiles, and it was particularly splendid to receive a single long-stemmed pink rose from one of the associates in the admission department!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Seven


I've been tagged, not once, but twice, by the current popular meme.

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

Let's See . . .

1. Done. Linked back to Connie and Perry.

2. Done.

3. Now is where it becomes more challenging!

One:
In September of 1980 I took my older son for his first day of school -- to the same kindergarten room I had once been in.
Two: I loathe poinsettias. But anemones, daisies, cosmos, violets, lilacs, hyacinths -- bring 'em on!
Three: I've lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Ohio again, and back to Pennsylvania.
Four: I almost never think to turn the television on. Sometimes I'll watch what Joe has put on, though.
Five: For a while, back in the olden days before computers, I made my living typing dissertations for doctoral students at Kent State. For an additional fee, I would set up their footnotes and bibliography entries -- a task most of them detested, and I loved!
Six: As a hospital chaplain, I spent a lot of time in the trauma center, on the cancer floor, in the neonatal intensive care unit, and as a liaison between the operating room and the family waiting area.
Seven: I haven't always been Lutheran.

4. I'm not going to tag any specific people. If this Meme speaks to you, consider yourself tagged and jump in.

5. Moot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old Word: New Use

thought·ful (thôt'fəl)
adj.
1. Engrossed in thought; contemplative.
2. Exhibiting or characterized by careful thought: a thoughtful essay.
3. Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes.
--American Heritage Dictionary

It's a word I've heard ever since I was a little girl. My mother used it frequently, always using the third definition and most of the time in a negative sense, chastizing me for not being thoughtful, not anticipating her needs and wishes. It was sometimes used in a positive sense; for example, when I brought her a handful of violets on May Day. But for the most part, I never liked the word because it was used to describe what I was not.

This past summer I read some books by Bill Bryson. The first one was A Walk In The Woods, and I just loved it. It was about his hiking the Appalachian Trail (well, some of the trail) with his oafish friend, Katz. Most of the adjectives for Katz are ones I wouldn't care to have ascribed to me. But time and again, Bryson would use "thoughtfully" as a way to describe Katz's comments and observations.

I came to understand that Bryson was using the second definition. A definition that was brand-new to me. And it is wonderful! Since the summer, I've taken note when people speak or write or blog thoughtfully: Exhibiting or characterized by careful thought. My favorite blogs are those that are written thoughtfully. Ms. Goodneedle and Chez are the absolute antithesis of each other, but each writes thoughtfully. So does Tanya. I like these thoughtful blogs, and I like to hear thoughtful speech. Because it seems to be contagious: I end up reflecting on what has been said, and my own utterances become more thoughtful.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Being Green

First it was the kids at school.

And then it was the preacher at church.

See, the thing is, I don't like to drink water from a glass or a cup unless it is part of a meal. And I've been told repeatedly how important it is to drink sufficient water throughout the day. So the whole bottled water craze has been wonderful for me. I keep a bottle on my desk, one in my car, one at the computer at home. And I drink enough water! Early on it struck me that it was expensive to continue to buy bottles of water, and so I took to refilling them from the water fountain or from the kitchen faucet (can't drink water from the bathroom tap, but that's a whole nuther issue). Would refill 10-12 times and then get a new bottle.

The kids at school, unsatisfied that the only recycling we were doing was paper, demanded that the school acquire comingled recycling containers for plastic beverage bottles and aluminum soda cans. This was great. Then someone noticed how quickly the containers were filling up, how many empty plastic water bottles are discarded each day. I began to feel some pangs of conscience. I tried refilling my bottles more times. I tried getting up from my desk and going to the fountain.

Then last week at church we had a sermon -- a part of a series on stewardship -- on environmental stewardship. The preacher provided a Lenten challenge: that instead of giving up cookies or some such for Lent, to choose to make a change that would benefit the environment. And that was when I knew it was time.

Now I have a quart-size permanent -- not disposable, not recycleable -- water bottle on my desk. In the morning I go to the cafeteria and fill it half-way with ice and then the rest of the way with water. Stays nice and cold until lunchtime when I get to do it all over again. Two more, one for home and one for the car, will complete the set-up.

Kermit was right: It may not be easy being green, but it has to be done!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bill on my Bed!

My dear sister started it by giving me the new William Morris FQ collection as a birthday gift this past weekend. It wasn't a surprise -- she knows me all too well and asked early in the week if she could get it for me. She was afraid I'd hurry and do it myself. I hadn't, though it did get me to thinking: If one collection of FQs is good, wouldn't two be better? We were all at Sherry's for a joint Sam and Grandmom birthday celebration. (He got a Horton the Elephant book and a small Big Wheels among other things and seemed just as pleased with his gifts as I was with mine.)

Quite a bit of fondling ensued. Then on Tuesday, the evening hand sewing group gathered at my house to bind, baste, and banter, so I put my FQs out on the table to make everyone feel jealous. Boy, did they feel jealous! Especially Marsha.

Honna arrived late, as usual, and bearing a pink gift bag. And just look what it contained! A couple of yards of this wonderful print from the same line! Did she do good or did she do good?

So I've been thinking about a project for Bill's prints. My first instinct is always baskets, but I have a William Morris basket quilt on my living room couch (you can see it here) and am sort of thinking that these Morris fabrics should become a quilt for our bed since the one on there now is about twenty years old and starting to look tired. I was thinking about Bear Tracks and how beautiful these quilts are, especially if four different prints are used instead of two. And then I was thinking that April is my month to send out fabrics to my friends on the Fat Quarters list, and I could have them each make one of the blocks for me. And the more I thought, the more I believed I'd made a plan!

Some background will be needed, and I think this will be just right. I'll be out in Lancaster County this weekend (that's right -- the semi-annual White Oak getaway!) and perhaps I'll see some at the Old Country Store or at Sauder's. If not, then I happen to know exactly where my Hancock's catalog is!

If things should happen to go according to plan, I'll have my top finished it time to hand it over to Kat to quilt when I see her this July at Chautauqua, and -- viola! I'll be sleeping with Bill by October!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kent Kapers II

You may have noticed her as a relatively recent addition to my sidebar. We met when Joe and I lived in Ohio the first time. I was young, married only a few years, and childless. She was 15-or-so years older, widowed, and mother of four. Our paths crossed when we trained to be volunteers at the university-sponsored crisis intervention center. She didn't need the lessons in active listening; it was a piece of who she already was.

She'd say things like, "It's okay that he isn't funny. The world needs an audience." I'm not sure just who she was trying to convince; she loved people who were funny. The first time she met Joe she told me, "Hang onto him. He's going to age awfully well." (She was right, of course.) She'd fling GWTW lines back and forth with me the way Honna does.
She wasn't and isn't a quilter, but she embroidered the most exquisite strawberries on a muslin maternity top I made when I was expecting Sherry. She served a spectacular breakfast on Sunday mornings as an alternative to church. She is the kind of person you can call in the middle of the night to leave her bed and come stay with one's preschoolers while one goes off to have yet another child (and she does it with grace and humor). Her living room was where I fled the day I had no idea that it was post-partum hormones that were making me so wretched; she straightened it out in a jiffy. So many times she served as family for me, healthy family. I imagine she had no idea whatsoever how much of a wisdom figure she was for me, and how much of a bulwark. This is starting to read like an obituary, but no! read on!
She took up blogging this winter and is a refreshing addition to the blogosphere. She writes the way she talks: in an intelligent and straightforward and frequently funny fashion. She writes with confidence and conviction. She nails it. Just look at what she wrote yesterday.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Just Hit "Escape"!

Yup. That's the Escape key. And he's escaping.

And so am I.

Back in October I added a part-time job to my menu of activities. Things on the housing market were discouraging and I thought that an additional 8 or so hours per week would be fine. After all, I had done this with little or no stress during the years that I helped the foot doctor.

I returned to medical transcription through the agency I'd worked for many years ago. Eight hours wasn't enough for them; the minimum amount of work that they would accept from a part-timer took ten, and sometimes twelve, hours to complete.

My sewing time suffered. My reading time all but disappeared. The opportunity to be spontaneous with friends vanished. Cooking more and more involved the crock-pot and take-out. But worst of all was the invasion into time with family. I spent too much of the time that Amy and Andrew were around at Christmas hooked up to the computer. I missed a day with Sam because of transcription. The precious hours of sitting with Joe and hand-sewing in front of a movie were awfully scarce.

Medical transcription for anyone who knows the language is a great at-home job, and it is something I look forrward to doing in three or four years when I retire from the school. For me, right now, it can't be an add-on. This morning I gave my two weeks notice.

I just missed my life so much.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

One Box [of Fabric] at a Time



My new hero is Kim. I'd been following her blog for a little while, enjoying the details of her life and her fine writing. And then, on January 25th, I realized how absolutely astute, patriotic, and brilliant the woman is.

Many quilters' blogs have featured badges that proclaim their participation in a fabric diet. In short, they're not buying new fabric, but working solely from their sizable stashes. While stash is not my personal particular problem (it's more a UFO/WISPS/PIGS kind of a situation for me), I certainly understand, and for a while I applauded their efforts.

Not any more. Kim had a moment of profound insight when she realized that the slump in the nation's economy is directly connected to the whole fabric diet phenomenon. You can read the entire post here. Count me in, Kim; count me in. My country needs me and I answer the call!

Won't you join us?


Saving the World's Economy . . . One Box [of Fabric] at a Time

Friday, February 01, 2008

Man's inhumanity to man . . .


It was Robert Burns who said it.


Just when I begin to worry that I've reached the point where I'm totally dulled to news of violence and senseless killing, because there is so much of it, I read this and feel the tears fill my eyes. I cannot imagine the kind of mind that dreamed up this particular wretched scheme.


The full quote is "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."