Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sewing for Christmas

For a few days, the design wall looked like some kind of a chop shop -- I had begun making three aprons and was working on them simultaneously. First I made the eighteen pinwheels, then cut the side triangles and pieced the strips; the borders, top bands, neck band, and side ties were also made assembly-line style.

I was having a wonderful time! The project was the kind of thing that if I only had a little time, I could do a little something. And by this morning, my chop shop wall looked like this!

I had bought yards and yards of a pale grey with white dot fabric and had used some of it for something else, but there was still enough for three apron bodies, and that was the fabric I had in mind when I'd opened the chop shop.

Spent a fair amount of time downstairs sewing today (certainly I wasn't going out to get in the crowds of shoppers!), and now the design wall looks like this!

Loving these aprons. Might have to make one for myself (these are for three friends who do not read the blog, silly people). But first, I've string pieced three pair of potholders from the same fabrics and as soon as I get some Insul-Brite (tomorrow!) I can sandwich and quilt them, and bring them up to the living room to be hand bound in front of the Netflix screen (yes we're watching "Orange is the New Black"!).

The two quilts for my three-year-old grandsons are at the machinists now and I'll be picking them up prolly on Tuesday. I have begun work on a tote bag for another recipient. With my purchased gifts almost complete (and most are even wrapped!), I'm enjoying the hand-made part of Christmas.

That black spot that appears on the photos is courtesy of the camera lens, not big oil blotches on the projects!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's a Long Story . . . Part Four

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you may recall how devastated I was last winter when I learned that my job of the past thirteen years was being eliminated -- I was downsized due to decreased enrollment at a very expensive school. Early on my efforts at finding another job were fruitless: No one wanted to even interview a woman in her late sixties with spotty technology.

The school kindly provided for me a number of sessions with an outsourcing professional. A kind, bright and optimistic woman, she helped me revamp my resume, look at the kinds of things I was good at, and how to best sell myself to prospective employers. (Her being a quilter enhanced her likability.) She looked at finding a new job as just a piece of making the adjustment to what had happened. She said to me, "Oh, six months or a year from now, you'll say 'Losing my job at the school was one of the best things that ever happened to me.'" As much as I liked and respected her, my response was, "Baloney."

I jumped at the first job that was offered to me, partly because I was afraid there wouldn't be a second possibility and partly because staying at the school through the end of the academic year had become untenable. We'd met with a financial planner and four mornings a week running the office of a very small church seemed like it would work for us. And so I left the prestigious Quaker school and went to work in the office of a church that just happened to house a little school for about a dozen and a half autistic children. My mornings have been filled with phone calls from parishioners alternating with very young boys in near-adult bodies coming in to use the copier, visits from salesmen alternating with the shrieks of anger coming from a pupil who can't communicate her feelings any other way, preparing the bulletins for Sunday alternating with the near constant running of the vacuum cleaner as the students practice occupational therapy; not to mention falling in love with one young girl.

Having my afternoons and all day Friday free was new and fun, but after the newness wore off, it occurred to me that I might volunteer again in the pastoral care department at the hospital. Sister Angela was long gone, but I met up with a very pleasant staff chaplain who was eager to add me to his roster. When we met, he looked at my resume and spoke about another opportunity. I decided to pursue it.

Last week, a lady from the HR department of the hospital phoned to offer me a paid position as "hospital chaplain, casual." After some training, I would be part of the team of relief chaplains, working a few shifts per month as the sole chaplain in the 600+ bed hospital. I would be carrying the trauma beeper, responding to all Codes, performing baptisms for babies not expected to survive, picking up referrals for in-depth pastoral care visits, checking the family waiting rooms, and all kinds of other things. The work would be mostly on weekends and holidays, and it was unclear how frequent the shifts would be or how long they would last. There were unanswered questions, but was I interested?  and could I begin sometime in December?

I didn't hesitate for a minute. I'd been getting ready for about twenty-five years.

Then, after I'd chased the tears out of my eyes, I wrote to the outsourcing lady to tell her that yes, of course, she was right.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's a Long Story . . . Part Three

After seminary graduation, I was a bit at loose ends. I still felt as though hospital chaplaincy was where I belonged, and I loved theological education. I was earning enough money as a part-time at-home medical transcriptionist, and enrolled in the S.T.M. degree program at the seminary, choosing a concentration in pastoral care and taking one class at a time..

No longer a full-time seminarian, all I knew was that I still believed I was called to hospital chaplaincy. Part-time medical transcription was placating the demands of the checkbook. The way to do pastoral care in hospital was to do more CPE. I was accepted into a learning group at a different inner city hospital where for an academic year I spent parts of two days week in group work and floor work, this time covering the kidney transplant and oncology floors. I learned a lot more.

At the end of that year, I applied to and was selected for another part-time CPE unit back at the first hospital. The group was, again, diverse, and I learned more and more about hospital ministry and about myself as I spent two days each week and on-call every Thursday night. I began to branch out -- in addition to the floors I was assigned and the on-call in the ER/Trauma Center, I spent time with exhausted, drained medical staff and more time with families of very sick people. I well remember the day that a Mafia kingpin was brought into the ER. He passed away within moments of his arrival, and I spent much of that afternoon with his bewildered and immaculate wife and several men in suits whose connection with the deceased remained unclear. I didn't ask a lot of questions. One day the President was coming to Philadelphia and a trauma bay was kept at the ready along with a blood supply; fortunately, they were never needed.

A second unit followed back-to-back with the first and at the end of that time I had completed four units and much of the S.T.M. degree.

Six months or so later, I found myself at loose ends. I was close to the end of my studies and was no longer in a hospital setting. At-home medical transcription was lonely work. When a telephone call came from the school where I had worked before going to seminary, a call telling me that the head of school was without an assistant and would I like to return, I accepted the offer. I had not lost the feeling that hospital chaplaincy was where I was supposed to be, but it seemed impossible, so I closed that door and embraced Quaker education.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a Long Story . . . Part Two

In my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the pathway to professional ministry is twofold: a person must complete a seminary degree (M.A.R. [two years] or M.Div. [four years] depending on the area of ministry), and simultaneously must undergo a candidacy process with the local synod.

I began seminary in September of 1992, and entered candidacy at the same time. The first year was difficult -- we learned a full year of Koine Greek in one month, did weekly translations from Greek to English, studied Bible, church history, Christian education, liturgy, and other subjects. I felt as though I was treading water, struggling to keep afloat in these foreign courses. It wasn't until second semester when we studied pastoral care that I felt comfortable.

The summer following that first year was the summer of CPE, clinical pastoral education. I spent ten weeks at a major inner city teaching hospital that was also home to a high level trauma unit and regional spinal cord injury center. There were six of us in the group, diverse by gender, ethnicity, age and religious preference. We worked hard: Every sixth night I was on call, spending the night in the hospital and hoping for sleep. Every sixth weekend there was a 24-hour shift. I learned a lot. I sat with the dying, contacted families for drive-by shootings and other kinds of gunshot injuries, spent time with an HIV-positive new mother of twins, performed emergency baptisms, stayed with people whose diving accidents had rendered them quadriplegic.

It was exhausting. And I loved every bit of it.

As I moved through the candidacy process, I came to understand that my denomination would not -- at that time, at least -- permit an individual to complete a degree with a goal of chaplaincy. They required that a person become ordained and serve a congregation as a parish pastor for a minimum of three years. While I did not feel that I had been called to be a parish pastor -- I had no interest in presiding, marrying, burying -- I was aware that ten years earlier I had no inkling of being a hospital chaplain, so I pursued the path laid out for me until I came to the internship year. While working at a nearby church as a paid intern (half-time for two years; the other half-time was seminary classes), I knew for certain that this was not what I was supposed to do, that pursuing ordination and using a congregation for three years for my own purposes was just wrong.

I resigned the internship, withdrew from the candidacy process and met with the dean at Seminary who laid out an alternative path for me to complete the M.Div. and I graduated with my class, with no idea what I would do next.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's a Long Story . . . Part One

A long story that begins back in 1986, I think. I had seen a small blurb in the church bulletin that the local hospital was seeking volunteers to be trained to work in the pastoral care department. I had no idea what this would mean, but Something told me to look into it. I met with a fearsome woman, one Sister Angela, who was second-in-command in the Pastoral Care Department. At one point she asked, "Why are you here?" "Either God is involved with this or I'm totally losing my mind," I told her, thinking I should head for the door voluntarily before she threw me out. "Well, I think you have a lot to offer," she replied, "and training begins in two weeks."

I worked as a pastoral care volunteer two mornings each week, and found it to be so rewarding. After about a year, things in my life changed, and I was no longer free during the day because I had taken a full-time job. I found that I missed the hospital work tremendously, and phoned Sister Angela to see if what she thought. What she thought was that I'd had enough experience on the job that she'd like me to come in on Friday nights from six until ten and carry the beeper so that the on-call chaplain could be relieved for a bit. I did that for two years.

It was during those nights when I was the only active pastoral care person in the hospital, responding to Codes, Traumas, and deaths, that I came to believe that this work was what I was called to do.

I looked into it. To get a job as a hospital chaplain, a person had to have a seminary degree, denominational endorsement, and four units of clinical pastoral education. I was woefully underqualified, not having had more than a single semester's worth of college, all told. But the idea never went away. I spoke with my pastor who said it certainly sounded to him as though I was being called to do this, and suggested I not look at all that was ahead but simply to begin to work towards an Associate degree. So in 1989, I left my full-time job, returned to at-home medical transcription, and began degree programs through an unusual model for adults returning to college at Thomas Edison University. I earned a B.A. in two and a half years.

The letter accepting my application to seminary came the day of my 30th high school reunion.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bas Bleu -- Bah!

I've been getting their catalog for a few years now, and have enjoyed going through it and dog-earring various items. Never got around to ordering, though, until this morning.

I'd seen three items I wanted for Christmas or Birthday gifts and Googled Bas Bleu to get to the website. The first Google suggestion to come up was Bas Bleu Free Shipping. Well, it wasn't exactly free shipping but was a flat rate of $4.99 shipping if the order totaled $50 or more. So I went to and put my three items in my cart and -- look! -- my total came to $53.97 plus $11.50 shipping. Snarl.

I phoned Bas Bleu at 800 433 1155 and was put on hold for a while until a representative came on to speak with me. I told her what was going on. She knew nothing about it and wanted to know where I heard of this reduced shipping fee. While we were on the phone, she Googled Bas Bleu Free Shipping and saw the offer. But couldn't do anything about it. She put me on hold again while she went to confer with her supervisor. Then she came back.

And she told me that she couldn't take the order on the phone and give me the discounted shipping. She said I must place the order on line, get an order number, then wait two or three hours for the order to come up in their system and then call back (and be put on hold again to wait for her, I imagine) and ask for the adjustment (waiting, I would think, a second time on hold while she talked with the supervisor). I declined.

Off I went to Amazon where I found my three items, one for $6 less, one for $3 less and one for $2 and change less, and free shipping.

Sure, I'd rather support a small, specialty business. But not at a cost of nearly $20 for three items.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sewing, Sewing, Sewing . . .

. . .  and this is all I can show! It's a tote bag for my granddaughter who is 1-1/2 and attends nursery school one (or perhaps two?) day per week. I had made her a tote bag back in the fall, but it turns out she needed a bag that would hold a looseleaf binder. At 1-1/2? Ye gods.

Bought the fabric at Gene's last sale, and made the bag in the past week, kind of guessing at the dimensions. Instead of the heavy duty pellon interfacing I usually put in bags, I put in a piece of left-over batting and then used my walking foot to quilt some straight lines across it.

Put it in the mail this morning.

Now back to work on Those Things Which May Not Be Shown!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

That Time of Year . . .

So the reason I've not been blogging very much isn't because I'm not sewing. Actually, quite the opposite is the case! I'm sewing like a fiend. But I cannot share my projects. Yet.

First up is ChookyBlue's SSCS (Secret Santa Claus Swap) where my last piece is this close to being finished. Which is a good thing because the parcel to Somewhere has to go in the mail by Friday. My recipient lives far from Philadelphia . . . .

Then there are the familial Christmas gift quilts. Both of the three-year-old boys are on the list for this year, and their quilts are totally different from each other. One is at the Machinist's presently and the second one is also this close to being finished.

In the handwork department, a couple of pot holders to go in a birthday parcel are a little less close to being finished, but that will change tonight, I believe.

So this has been one of those times that the Mike F approach has been called for. And, as always, it has worked.

In areas other than sewing, life has been busy! Last week we had symphony tickets as well as chamber orchestra tickets, and then at the end of the week I decided to go back to the school where I used to work to see their production of "The Music Man." I was nervous about going there, but the call to form a boys' band was irresistible, so my sister and I went and had a very good time. I didn't run into anyone I didn't want to see, and the production was superb.

Recently I've been involved in a new weekly volunteer opportunity, but I'm not going to write about that yet because there is the potential that it could lead to some paid work and I want to see how that plays out.

So, Near Philadelphia, things are hoppin'. In the best ways.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Dinner Date

On Saturday we drove down to Cape May to have dinner at Louisa's. It had been about a year and a half, so we were way past due.

We left after lunch. The drive takes two hours at best, and we accomplished that, arriving around two o'clock. We walked down to Cheeks at the Beach and then past The Mainstay and around the Hughes Street block before getting to the mall.

It was nice that the mall and, in fact, the whole town, wasn't deserted. There were people here and there, in and out of the shops. We went to our favorite shops and tried some new ones. We were surprised at how much money we spent on things that weren't in our minds! But we had the Christmas List with us, and that accounted for some of the spending.

We were among the first to arrive at Louisa's and it was totally full with people waiting when we left about an hour later. Joe tried the leek and potato soup, something we've thought about before, and liked it. I had a last-of-the-2013-Jersey tomatoes and fresh mozzarella salad. We both had cod. With the signature brown rice and light cabbage salad, I always feel virtuous about my eating, so had a piece of absolutely delicious fig cake.

Then we went out to shop walk some more before the drive home.

It was a delightful afternoon and evening, and I'm so happy that we did it because today the weather has turned raw and cold, even with a bit of flurries in the early morning, and we probably wouldn't have thought of going to the shore again until spring.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

At Last! A Diagnosis!

I suffer from delight in Multiple Project Disorder!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

What I Did This Weekend

My friend Pat put photos from our retreat on Facebook and among them I found the two projects I worked on. Thanks, Pat!

This is a queen-size quilt for our bed. The background is Kona Blue Bell and the prints are all Rowan/Westminsters that I thought went well together. I had done all of the cutting and a little bit of the piecing before the retreat, and was happy that I was able to get it all together by dinnertime on Saturday. 

This is my second project from the weekend. The blocks came from a swap (or two) that my friend DesertSky organized more than ten years ago! We did several rounds of them, and I'd already made two or three quilts from the massive stash of blocks. Then a few weeks ago I discovered these and decided to put them together in a quilt for one of the grandsons. You can't really tell from this photo, but the sashing has alphabet letters on it. This photo was taken before I started the borders (which I didn't get done and will complete this week).

Monday, November 04, 2013

Autumn Antics

Eight of us spent the weekend away in Lancaster County. Oh, it was grand! Helen and I have been going out for a weekend twice a year for more than ten years now, and some of the others nearly as long. 

The place we'd been staying, a small bed and breakfast, closed a couple of months ago; we initially went into panic mode, fearing that our semi-annual getaways were over. Then we began with research mode, ultimately settling on a professional retreat center just ten minutes farther from home than our previous place. Of course change is hard (and for Lutherans, very hard indeed!) and for the last couple of days before we went, Helen and I shared many anxious emails. 

But not to worry! All was well; all was far beyond well! 

Helen, Judy and I began Friday together with lunch at TDFKAZ and then -- since Gene had thoughtfully sent a generous coupon in the morning email -- trundled out to Burkholder's for retail therapy. I'd initially thought of going to Intercourse and wandering around there for a bit before checking in at the retreat center, but after leaving Gene's place, decided to go straight to our destination with the hope of a wee nap before the fun began.

The sleeping rooms were pleasant, comfortable, and generously sized. The work room was spacious and well-lit with lovely cork strips on the walls. We had been provided with as many work tables as we wanted; there was even a podium which I used for making announcements! Despite missing Marsha, who had to bail out for a family function, the eight of us had a splendid time. There were other groups retreating, and the delicious and abundant meals were taken together, cafeteria style, with assigned tables. We became friendly with a group of women who were meeting down the hall; at first they cautiously lurked around our open door, but after being invited in, they returned often and bringing their friends.

I didn't remember my camera, so I don't have photos of the projects I worked on (though I'm hoping someone else took some and will send them to me). These two beauties are Kathy's work; she is a prolific quilter who does a lot of different kinds of things. I will share any additional photos that I receive from our lovely time together.