Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day, 2014

Someone wrote to make sure I was all right; I am. My posts have been less frequent this summer,  and in most cases, seem to lack their usual sparkle (my observation, not my reader's).

It feels like a busier summer than usual. Nickel-and-dime busy rather than big bucks busy. Though we certainly did drop some big bucks. We put in central air and have enjoyed it (though this has been one of the nicest summers I can remember). It started out with great concern about a sick friend (who is flourishing as of this writing) and ends with concern about two friends' husbands. Support has been needed by a couple of friends undergoing stressful family situations. Haven't seen as much of my daughter and her family as usual; they've done a great deal of traveling.

Early in the summer I rather quickly put together 4-1/2 tops to turn into lap quilts for veterans in wheelchairs. There they sit. I really want to get at least a couple of them completed for the ingathering we have set for the first week of October. Sewing-wise, Birthday Party sits waiting for me to order the fabric for her final border, I've begun hand-buttonholing nine Monster blocks for my #6 grandchild's 2nd birthday/big-boy-bed quilt (in May), and have all of the fabrics washed and ready to go for the Lady of the Lake Swap. Have learned of a couple of pregnancies, and have some baby quilts in the planning stage.

My blogging mojo has been hiding; I don't think it has vanished. I'm grieving the loss of the autistic school from The Little Church. A vigorous search for a new tenant is underway; possibilities rise and fall, rise and fall. One day one of them will take. Meanwhile, it is lonely in that setting. Monthly lunches with my sweet cousin are still a pleasure, but we see that she is losing more memory and becoming more clumsy. This is the second consecutive summer in many, many years that Labor Day doesn't mean back-to-school for me; perhaps someday I'll get used to that.

Our almost-a-week at Chautauqua was enjoyable despite some snags, and this past weekend we traveled to Baltimore to meet up with Tom and his family. The Inner Harbor area was mobbed and waits at restaurants seemed interminable. The little ones were real troopers. We all enjoyed the National Aquarium.

A couple of really wonderful things that happened this summer are somewhat related. In late May or early June, a friend's daughter applied for a position with the government that would place her overseas for a year. She needed a non-family reference and asked if I would write a letter for her. Then, just a week or two ago, another friend's daughter contacted me to ask if I would write a letter of support as she embarks on an adoption process. Of course I am at the age and stage of life where these kinds of requests should be unsurprising, but I was surprised to be asked, surprised and honored that my input should be valued, and I loved thinking back over the years I have known these two women and how exciting their futures are. A third friend's daughter leaves in a month on a mission trip to India; she didn't need a reference, but I was genuinely happy to help her out financially.

Re-reading this, it appears I'm in A Phase.

Phases pass, thanks be to God.

And thanks to the friend who asked if I'm all right.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Two Good Things

When we were driving on I-86/Rte. 17, from time to time we would see blue and white signs urging people not to text and drive, and telling how many miles to a "Text Stop." Then, the rest stops were re-labeled as Text Stops. This was the first I'd seen this kind of sensible effort and I was mightily impressed.

At the final Chautauqua lecture that we attended, the presenter informed the audience that CVS pharmacies had taken a pledge to no longer sell tobacco. Again, I was impressed.

Way to go, New York State and CVS!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Scant Week at Chautauqua

If you are thinking there is something familiar about this dancer, you are right. The group at the top of my blog dances outside the Hall of Mission at The Chautauqua Institution. This wonderful soloist performs somewhere between the Amphitheater and the Hall of Philosophy, on the brick walk.

We hadn't planned on a major vacation of any kind this summer; we had spent some money having central air conditioning installed and decided that a couple of trips to visit offspring and possibly a Cape May weekend would be our vacation.

Then we found out that Chautauqua had a special program for 55+ -- gate passes, dormitory accommodations, breakfasts and lunches, for Week 9 of the season, Sunday through Sunday, all included. The theme for the week was Health Care: From Bench to Bedside. We decided to go for it, even though I had to work the Saturday preceding and the Saturday at the end of the week. We felt a truncated experience was better than none.

The accommodations were at the North end of the campus, a good mile's walk from the Amphitheater; twin-bedded rooms, very comfortable, sharing a bath with one other room. The meals were very, very good for institutional food, with lots of fresh vegetables and a couple of choices for each meal. The shared bath turned out to be awkward, but we managed. Joe sailed and painted. I attended lectures and read. We both relaxed, napped, and attended evening programs. We decided that although the program had very good value for the money, we both preferred to be closer to the plaza, more in the thick of things, and probably will not repeat the experience.

We heard the Chautauqua Symphony once, went to see "Chef" at the Cinema, got together off campus with an old friend we hadn't seen in 30-some years, and learned about adolescent hospice and palliative care, childhood trauma, advances in nursing, cardiac wellness, efforts to have various medical disciplines communicate and research together, African perspectives on death; we saw a group called Dancing Wheels.

One of the best evening entertainment offerings was a group of Beatles impersonators. They were tireless, presenting song after song after SONG, and urging the audience to sing along. At one point I looked out and saw all these white-haired people singing at the tops of their voices, "We all live in a yellow submarine," and thought it to be comical. But all too soon the group began "Hey Jude," and Joe and I found ourselves belting out "Na, na na, na-na-na NA," and feeling ridiculously sentimental. Our kids would have been amazed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Letters . . . We Get Letters . . . We Get Lots and Lots of Letters

Well, not letters, as in the put a stamp on it variety. Responses, messages, input. We get lots of them.

Apparently my comment on the ice bucket craze touched a nerve. I heard from a bunch of people who shared my sentiments. And I heard from some who needed to tell me how important this phenomenon is. Golly, one person sent a blog comment, a Bloglovin comment, and a private Facebook message, each written separately, all to take me to task for my position. A bit of overkill, I think.

Yes, I have a friend who's dad died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. And I have another friend who has a much-too-young son with this diagnosis. I know it is a horrible disease and that it is tragic that there is no cure. I've sent contributions, in fact, not just to this cause but to others when the spirit has moved me.

I still think this promotion is dumb. And I can sleep very well at night knowing that there are others who feel passionately that it is a great and glorious thing.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Photo Says It All

The latest craze on Facebook. It took me a couple of days to figure out exactly what was going on.

Apparently, one person challenges another to donate money to a charity OR have a bucket of ice and water dumped over the head.

It is supposed to raise awareness of ALS*, though on none of the posts I've seen so far does anyone say what ALS is.

And most of the posts indicate that any charity at all is okay.

So, if I'm reading this all accurately, many, many people are publicizing the fact that they would prefer to have a bucket of ice and water dumped over their heads than to donate money to a charity.


*Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a horrible illness that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal column, incurable and progressive, leading to total and complete paralysis and death, within 2-5 years of diagnosis.

Thursday, August 07, 2014


I've known this day was coming. I've known it for six months or more. Knowing hasn't made it any easier. Not one bit.

The autistic school that is housed at The Little Church where I work has grown and is continuing to grow. There are no more than four students in each classroom; this means that pretty many classrooms are needed. A dear little lad with blonde hair will be joining the youngest children's room next month. A bigger girl with a glorious mop of curls will probably come to the school beginning in November. The school doesn't take too many new children at one time, but the director is already looking ahead to a likely February admission. Teachers must be found for these new students. They need more space.

A Roman Catholic church in a nearby town closed its school last year and that property became available to rent. So "my" school is moving there.

Today was the last day that the pupils came to school at The Little Church. The U-Haul will show up on Monday morning.

When I first started work at The Little Church, fifteen months ago, I was apprehensive about this population that was new to me. James is a big teenager; he has no language and makes a lot of loud noises. He is intimidating. But harmless. Across the hall was where Gina and her teacher hung out. Gina had a horrible temper and wasn't the least bit shy about showing it. Shrieks of rage would fill the air several times each morning. For a while. And then, gradually, the tantrums decreased, and I would hear her reply to her teacher's questions: "What is your mother's name? What is your telephone number? Show me happy. Point to 13. Where is something red." When school reopened eleven months ago, she was ready to share a classroom with the two other girls and their teachers. The change in Gina was incredible; her loving, firm, and patient teachers have worked a near miracle with her. I got a goodbye hug from her as I left the building today and was nearly successful in quelling the immense lump that filled my throat.

Alvin  has red hair and glasses. He looks like a child from a magazine cover; he is that cute. He has no words, or at best just a few, and is unable to explain why he cries on Thursday mornings upon arrival. But he works hard and is learning, and I believe the words will come. Slowly. Michael drools a lot but has a magnificent, winsome grin. He has a lot of words and a stuffed hippo named Hippo that travels with him. He colored a picture for me one morning.

I've learned so much from these kids and from their  teachers, young men and women that I admire so much. On a practical level, I learned very early on to look both ways when coming out of a room, because these kids don't stop or veer from their chosen path. I haven't been run over yet, but I have been groped a couple of times by one of the younger boys as he passed by. I've learned that there are all kinds of goals and all kinds of accomplishments, and positive reinforcement in liberal doses works wonders. "Nice job, Michael!" crows his teacher twenty-or-so times each morning, and though I'm not in the room, I can visualize that grin as he revels in the praise. I've learned that it can take a long time to learn to set the table, but it will be learned eventually and it will be learned correctly. I know now that fluent language isn't the only way to communicate and that teachers can be relentless detectives when one of the kids has a confusing issue.

The school is growing. More students and more teachers will join the group in their new quarters which will be bigger and in better condition than the present space. They will thrive there, all of them.

But oh, how I'll miss them.

Friday, August 01, 2014

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

The day started out a little bit shaky -- cell phone charge didn't take, congestion at the gas station, line at the bank, uncertainty about the route . . . .

But boy did it turn around!

I took a new route to Lancaster County today, and it turned out to be just wonderful. Bucolic vistas along the way, no zoomy trucks, cows (the black and white kind) in abundance. Just gorgeous.

I got to the meet-up place, The [new] Old Country Store well ahead of time and leisurely selected fabrics for my three remaining monsters, for Elizabeth's Bee Blocks, and just a couple of black-and-whites for me. The [new] Old Country Store preserves the spirit of the original with a few tasteful touristy items. I didn't go up to the second floor, but the fabric selection was abundant and nicely priced. Two delightful surprises: (1) the gracious clerk at the check-out happily allowed my phone to charge in her spare outlet while I shopped (Thank you, Lavinia!) and the cutting table personnel now cut 1/4 yards!

My dear niece showed up right on time and we tried to figure out how long it had been since we had done this. It had been too long. We bought some amazing little soft-bristled sponge-like things for removing silk from corn, and headed over to The Kling House where we began with chilled peach soup (astonishingly good!) and then shared a grilled sandwich while we caught up. Next we perused the Kitchen Kettle Village shops. Each of us had a specific errand: She needed to get a chain refinished at the Brighton store and I wanted to visit the pocketbook shop. I'm fed up with Vera Bradley's bags at present -- the fabrics are hideous and the prices exorbitant. I have a summer purse I bought at the KKV shop prolly five years ago and it is still serving me well. Today I bought one in late summer into autumn tones.

Had the presence of mind to stop at the Flourtown Farmer's Market before coming home, even though I was tired, and picked up some poached salmon and hand-made whole wheat pasta. I then thought to look at my phone, which I hadn't done all day, and there was a message from the library that the books I requested were ready for pick up. So I stopped there, just before the cleansing rain began.

I'm so tired I need a bit of a nap. But -- oh my goodness -- I've got two new books to read, ten quarter-yards of assorted fabrics to fondle, yummy fixings for an easy dinner, confirmation that the new route to Intercourse is excellent, and memory of a truly lovely visit.

What a wonderful day!