Saturday, March 30, 2013

Scattered and Floating, Near Philadelphia

My last Spring Break is nearly over and it has been a time of many feelings. There were joy and gratitude as we got to see all six of our grandchildren. But there have been other feelings, too, feelings that are intense, but difficult to pinpoint. What do you call it when a major life decision is made for you by another, rather than your making it yourself? Resentment, for a start. When you realize that, truly, you are close to unemployable because of your age and that in all likelihood, you will be unable to find another full-time job? Panic, and other things. When the financial planner asks you to make what appear to be irreversible decisions about your long-term future? Confusion, lack of comprehension . . . .When you discover a part-time position that seems custom-made for you and pays a fraction of your current salary? Cautious optimism mixed with worry.

It has been two months now since I learned that my job is being given to someone else, and the feelings have been all over the chart.

There are still three months until my salary comes to an end. Three months of working very closely with the man who has told me I am no longer needed. Three months of moving towards end-of-year celebrations. Three months of planning and preparing for the next academic year, a year that does not include me. It grows more and more difficult to be the upbeat and thoughtful presence I have always tried to be.

I've been feeling grey, mostly, with tiny bits of hope in the midst of all of that grey. I've made this dozen blocks that are greys with bits of brights and like them very much. I believe you can click on the photo to see them better.

I like them scattered and floating, kind of like me. Now I need to figure out if it is possible to set them that way.


Monday, March 25, 2013

In Which We Visit Richmond

Joe and I spent the weekend in Richmond, driving down on Friday and back today -- with a quick unexpected stopover in Alexandria for lunch with Andrew and the boys. This little trip was exactly what we needed.

We didn't do anything truly exciting, but excitement doesn't seem to matter as much any more. What we did was watch and play with Nate and Aberdeen and enjoy Tom's company, too. Anastasia was having a work weekend -- she had rehearsals and concerts each day or night and left very early this morning for a teaching stint at a University. But somehow she managed to find time to make a batch of snack mix for us to munch on our trip home.

The absolute highlight of the trip was watching Aberdeen take her first independent steps just moments after this photo was taken. She has her brother's (and proud grandfather's) coloring: gorgeous red hair and blue eyes. She had been walking while holding on, and all at once took the plunge. She was so proud and happy! And so were we!

I birthday-gifted Nate with a visit to Build A Bear and he took it so seriously, waiting patiently for a large order just ahead of us. He chose a black bear with a great deal of character.

On the way out of town today, we made a brief stop at Quilting Adventures where I picked up some absolutely gorgeous fabrics of the periwinkle variety. Photo tomorrow, perhaps, when I'm not quite so ready to crawl into bed!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Amazing Surprise

Dear Fabric Fairy Godmother,

Thank you for the heavy box that arrived at my house without warning today.

Thank you for the yards and yards of fabric that were within.

Thank you for the calicoes and the seasonals, the skeletals and the balloons. Thank you for the ornaments and the spiders, the florals and the stripes. Thank you for the FQs and for the great big pieces.

Thank you for a wonderful surprise, and for brightening my day without measure. Thank you for providing plenty of potential projects.

Whoever you are, thank you so very, very much.

Your most grateful recipient,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recent Finishes

I have had some quilt finishes while I've been unable to blog, and I thought it was time to share them.

First up is the quilt for Justin and Tal's baby. I had made them a wedding quilt a year or so ago, and when I had fabric left over, something told me to go ahead and use it to make a baby quilt -- I just knew they would be needing one before too long.

Baby is due this summer and I think this quilt of bricks has turned out very nicely. I imagine that Justin and Tal will be very surprised when they see the fabric!

Recently I posted a baby quilt that I had called Lemonade. It was intended as a gift for a coworker, another one who does not have a contract for the coming year. Her first grandchild is due this summer also, and I wanted to make a quilt for the baby.

When she told me that the baby is a girl and, in fact, is the first girl to be born into her husband's family in seventy years, I knew that Lemonade simply would not do. She needed Pink Lemonade and I immediately got to work. This is made from the same nice yellow Kona as Lemonade, and assorted Kaffe and Kaffe-ish scraps. I'm going to give it to my colleague soon.

Finally there is the Mittens quilt. I had held this swap about five or six years ago, and had put the top together shortly thereafter and then it just kind of sat around. A couple of months ago, I took it to my machinist to work her magic. She actually quilted a mitten motif into the project. I put the binding on last week.

Ironically, my intent had been to hang this quilt in my office next December through February.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's Happening Here, Near Philadelphia

Apparently I have been so Missing In Action that my absence is cause for concern.

You don't know how good that makes me feel.

With the unwelcome news that my job is coming to an end, my blogging mojo seems to have gone the way Marsha's sewing mojo went a while back. Fortunately, Marsha's has returned, so I have hope mine will, too.

Here's what is going on:
  • As you may recall, my job will end on June 30 (actually June 28) unless I leave before that. As we move closer to the end of the school year and all of the celebratory events that come with that, it is harder and harder to be present.
  • Hunting for a new job is a demoralizing experience. The process is so different from the last time I applied for a job (and let us not talk about how many years ago that was, actually). Everything is done on line in the most impersonal way possible. is well named. It is "virtually" impossible to present oneself in person. I feel discouraged and close-to-hopeless much of the time.
  • However, here's what's good on this front: I have two excellent letters of recommendation and a third in the works. I have had a first-of-three-sessions with an outsourcing professional that the school is paying for, and the woman is phenomenal. I told her I wanted to work for her. I have a Stephen Minister (lay person trained in active listening) who I meet with weekly and she is superb at helping me deal with the vegetable soup of feelings that I experience. I have scheduled an actual interview with an employment agency for later this week.
Here is other stuff that is going on:
  • I'm not going to buy a new sewing machine, but was very appreciative of all of the input that y'all readers provided! I believe that I was just looking for something to make me feel better. My Bernina 1031 is still going strong, and if I end up unemployed, I'll have plenty of time to practice with the walking foot.
  • Our regular group (well, most of our regular group with one delightful ringer) spent last weekend at White Oak. I traveled out with Helen rather than Honna and since she and I are both in similar circumstances, we had good conversation and understanding. It was an excellent weekend and it is hard to think that there is a seven-month wait for the next one.
  • My family has been so supportive. My sister, niece, and daughter-in-law in particular have expressed interest and concern without being smothery.
  • I agreed to make a quilt for pay for someone. The fabric and design are not what I would have chosen, but I am doing a good job and it could turn out that I do more of this. I can't post any photos. I don't believe that the intended recipient reads this blog any more, but I don't know that for certain.
  • I'm reading more. I'm doing some hand-sewing/binding/applique. I have another little baby quilt, Pink Lemonade, finished and will share that soon.
  • I'm evoking another comment amnesty for the most part on past posts and will try valiantly, yet again, to be prompt with comment acknowledgment and response.
Thank you for sticking with me. As the proprietor of the Last Exotic Marigold Hotel reminds me, "Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it isn't the end."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In Which I Paper Piece At Last

With gratitude to my wonderful tutor, Bobbi P, and teaching assistant, Pat D!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Smitten with Spokes

Someone on Pinterest posted this photo of a most marvelous QIP*. I became smitten, "repinned," and went off to the source, a blog called Michele Made Me. Now I don't know Michele, and I don't know how much time I lost wandering around her blog, admiring her wonderfulness. But I do know I'm still smitten with her "baby boy quilt."

Thing is, though, she doesn't site a source for the pattern or explain how she made it. I'm going to try to figure it out. Or perhaps one of you, my readers, is familiar with the design and knows how it was done. Or could refer me to a pattern.

I could write to Michele to inquire. And perhaps I will. But I thought this quilt to be amazing enough that I wanted everyone to see it and join me in smittenness.

These days, I'll take any kind of smitten I can get. As I cope with the news of my job loss, I have bad days and worse ones. Yesterday was one of the latter. Today is a good day, partly because of this quilt and the possibilities it holds.

*Quilt In Progress

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Sniper Quilt

When my friend Blogless Kathy J's son decided to take some time away from college to figure some things out, she knew it was the right decision. When he joined the Army, she was still on board. Then he was accepted into a prestigious unit based in Kansas, a unit where he would be trained as a sniper. This wasn't quite as wonderful to her, and when his unit was sent to spend a year in Afghanistan, Kathy -- a person with a positive spirit and amazingly high energy -- knew she had two possible choices: to spend that year slowly losing her mind from worry or to harness that energy into something constructive.

She began to make a red and white quilt to give her son when he would return home.

Then it dawned on her that all of the guys in his unit were some mothers' sons, and with this realization, she bought a couple of bolts of red and white fabric and commenced a plan of making a quilt for each of the men in the unit, plus their driver. I don't know how many she ultimately produced, nine or ten comes to mind. As the year approached a close (and Sam earned a Purple Heart), Kathy reached out to the Usual Suspects for help and a group spent a Saturday piecing and pressing. Two long-armer friends quilted them, gratis, and a bunch of us volunteered to bind.

I finished binding the one I was assigned on Sunday.

And Sam will be home on Friday.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Hanging Baskets, Part One (I Hope)

While I was wandering around on Pinterest recently, I came across this block along with an excellent tutorial on constructing it. In keeping with (a) my penchant for all basket blocks and (b) my interest in making more complicated quilts as opposed to ones that get done quickly, this pretty much fills the bill. I really, really like the block and think it would be fun to make a quilt based on it.

The snag is that the block in the tutorial finishes at 6"which is a bit on the small side. So the hunt begins: I need to do some research to learn the name of the block and whether there is a pattern that is larger than 6" available. 12" would be great, but I'd be equally happy with 10" or even 8".  I don't care whether it has the flange or not Let the hunt begin!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Another Baby Quilt Flimsy

There are thirteen of us who are losing our jobs, just under ten percent of the faculty, staff, and administration combined. Some of us are getting together one morning next week to have coffee and discuss ways we can support each other.

One of them is a woman about my own age who, in fact, graduated from my high school a year ahead of me. I didn't know her then, but since she came to the school we've felt a special ancient history type of connection. She is a school-year-only employee and  is expecting her first grandchild this summer (after sitting by and watching me acquire no fewer than six in the past seven years!). I had planned to make a baby quilt over the summer to give to her when she returned at the start of school in September. I had some jelly roll strips left from the baby quilt I made for Andrea, and I bought some lovely yellow Kona at LQS and this is what I have to show for my weekend. I'll get backing and batting and floss and tie it. The binding is made and hanging on my wall. I'm liking it a lot and

I think

I'll name it




Lemonade . . . .

Friday, March 01, 2013

Lemonade Recipe

It's been a month now since I received the lemons, the news that I am going to lose my job. I posted a picture of lemons at that time and said I was off to find the lemonade recipe -- you know, "when life gives you lemons . . . make lemonade."

I don't know that I've found the perfect recipe yet. But I certainly have been able to identify some of the ingredients:

  • Support from those who care. I continue to find little notes, little gifties (a flower or two, a package of Girl Scout cookies) left on my desk. Reminders that I matter.
  • Self care. I'm carving out time to do more of the things I enjoy (other than buying fabric -- but I've done a bit of that, too!). Cooking more. Staying home more.  I have been meeting with a Stephen Minister who helps me process this whole thing.
  • Looking at re-employment. I've been working on a resume. I have two letters of reference and a meeting to request a third. I've looked at What's Out There in the way of job possibilities. I've unabashedly picked the brains of coworkers who are more familiar than I with the nonprofit sector.
  • Considering options. Do I want to find another full-time job? At my age and technology skill level, is that even an option? Would I really rather find a part-time job? What about working for a temp agency where I can decide when to take time off rather than adhere to a school calendar? Is it possible that I am ready to be a Retired Person?
  • Counting my blessings. Of which my dear husband is at the top of the list. I cannot begin to tell you how caring he has been. How open. How thoughtful. And how angry! (I must list that because I have not been angry about this loss. I have been sad, terribly sad, and confused, but not angry. And it seems as though somebody should be angry and he's doing it so well!) 
  • Additional blessings -- friends who will listen, people who have "been there" and have survived and shared their lemonade. Adult children who express their concern sweetly and without trying to give too much advice. Emails of support. A genuine letter that came in the mail yesterday from a former colleague.
  • Fantasy. Thinking about having the time available to go to be with the Virginia people when it works for them. Imagining some nice vacations. Thinking about returning to hospital chaplaincy and/or another volunteer activity. Having unlimited sewing time!
  • Looking outside of me. I think this has been the most important ingredient -- I have been so content when I have been doing things for others. I joined a Pay It Forward before I received the lemons, and have absolutely loved making small gifts for people, for no occasion, no reason, just to do it. I got such satisfaction from putting the Malaria Quilt together and am eager for it to come home from the machinist so I can bind it. I made a baby quilt for a colleague who received the same lemon gift a week or so before the baby was born. I made another baby quilt for a neighbor. I'm about to finish up yet another baby quilt -- this one for a Circle Sister whose granddaughter has been in hospital since her birth five months ago. 
So, those are the ingredients I've identified thus far. My job will end in June, just in time for the lemonade season. Perhaps the full recipe will be revealed by then.

It's a strange thing that independent schools do. In most places job loss means something like "You're finished. Pack up your things. Hand over your keys. It's been lovely." But in the private school world, due to the timing of contracts, people learn in January that they don't have a job after June, but continue to work at the job for five more months, ducks on crutches receiving pitying looks and attempted hugs from well-meaning coworkers who have been spared. One hopes to be able to do it with grace and dignity.