Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Smell of Love

My niece has published a blog post about smell and memories, and this got me to thinking.

I came from a relatively small family (pun intended). I have a total of five cousins (all still living) and just three aunt-and-uncle combinations (all gone now).

The aunt that I was closest to while growing up was my father's sister. Before I was old enough to go to school, Aunt Helen used to take me to her Circle's luncheons. That's my earliest memory of church: watching/helping Aunt Helen and the ladies produce chicken a la king in the church kitchen.

As I grew up, I realize that in some ways she was stuck in a different time period, always with a 1920s style haircut and a favorite expression of "Golly Day, Kid!" She was partial to the color green, frequently wore a single strand of large pearls, and her signature fragrance was Emeraude, by Coty.

When I was a child, she lived in a row house in North Philadelphia. On important occasions, the entire family would somehow crowd around the table in her small dining room, but I always got down as soon as I finished eating because I wanted to go sit in the wonderful wooden rocking chair in the living room, and look at the National Geographic magazines accumulated nearby. The front porch was about the size of a handkerchief, and I loved it because it provided a view of the busy schoolyard across the street.

Our family wasn't very demonstrative. Looking back, I know love was there, though seldom mentioned. Aunt Helen somehow had a knack my mother lacked: She made it clear that she loved me.

When Aunt Helen passed away, very suddenly, Joe and I were living in another state, and couldn't afford to come home for her funeral. I felt awful, and I still feel bad about that, forty years later.

Not long after her passing, still living far from home, I was shopping at a very big clothing sale at the local department store. It was crowded and as I was rifling through a rack of sweaters and shirts, someone came up behind me and began her own search of the tops. My next breath confused me mightily. Only one person in my entire life had carried that scent. Emeraude, by Coty. I didn't turn around, I abandoned the sweaters, I moved away and out of the store, needing to believe that somehow, some way, Aunt Helen was still in my life.

Thanks, Susan, for jogging this memory today.




Friday, December 26, 2014

Tying One (or Two or Three) On


After  the apron for Eli met with so welcome a reception, I knew I needed to make two more -- for Nate and Aberdeen, both of whom like to help their parents in the kitchen. I was able to finish Nate's by the 24th, and put the finishing touches on Aberdeen's this morning.

We had a quiet Christmas, due in part to a couple of developments impacting our extended family. Quiet, but nonetheless lovely. I worked the evening shift at the hospital and came home tired and sad to reflect on a couple of lovely families for whom Christmas will  never, ever be the same.

We'll be seeing our Virginia personnel beginning on Sunday; of necessity, blogging my slow down a bit.







Thursday, December 25, 2014

SSCS 2014


I've been a participant in Chooky Blue's International Secret Santa Christmas Swap since the inception of this wonderful project. Each year I'm assigned a partner in another country (always Australia for me, as it happens). The exchange is open only to active bloggers, and my job is to follow the blog of the gal I've been assigned, learn about her and her family, find out what her tastes are and imagine what sort of gift would make her happy. Then my task is to make her an ornament and a gift. All of this without letting her know I've been lurking around!

All the while, someone else is doing the same for me!

Here are the lovely things that Kris (also from Australia) at Tag Along Teddies made for me! Look all al that lovely embroidery! Look at the cute pattern she sent for me to try out!

And look, please look, at this darling apron she made for me! I've made and given a lot of aprons; it is something I enjoy doing. I can't function at all in my kitchen without an apron. And this is the first time anyone has made one for me! Thank you, Jenny, so very much for your thoughtful and generous gifts.

Meanwhile, I gathered things to send to my partner, Jenny at Bird on the Border. I usually send some postcards and other information about the Lancaster County Amish to my partner, and I did that this year. I made an embroidered tree ornament and included a bit of chocolate.  And I made this apron for Jenny and also included in the package a little faceless Amish doll for Jenny's little granddaughter.

Thank you once again, Donna, for a wonderful exchange!


The Birds, 2014

An important part of Christmas for me since I've become a blogger is to publish my friend Frank's poem that he shared with me many years ago. I've shared it each year with my readers, and -- God willing -- I will do it again next year, and the next and the next.





THE BIRDS





IT WASN'T THAT HE DIDN'T LIKE CHRISTMAS

HE ENJOYED THE HOLIDAY FUN

ALL THE BRIGHT COLORS AND SUDDEN GOOD WILL

AND THE CHILDREN'S HAPPY SUSPENSE



BUT HE COULDN'T BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS

IN THE INCARNATION I MEAN

GOD LIVING A MAN-LIFE LIKE HIS? WHAT FOR?

IT JUST DIDN'T MAKE SENSE TO HIM




HE SAT BY THE FIRE

WARM IN HIS HOME

ON CHRISTMAS EVE ALONE

THE FAMILY GONE OFF TO MIDNIGHT MASS




HE HEARD A THUMP AT THE WINDOW

AND THEN ANOTHER

SOME MISCHIEF BOY OUT FOR FUN HE THOUGHT

HE WENT TO THE WINDOW TO CHASE HIM WITH A GLANCE




BUT FOUND NO BOY

BUT A SPARROW FLOCK

LURED BY THE LIGHT AND SIGHT OF WARMTH

HAD TRIED TO COME THROUGH HIS WINDOW



THEY HUDDLED NOW IN THE SNOW

WITH NO PLACE TO GO

AND HE FELT COMPASSION FOR THEM

HE PUT ON HIS BOOTS AND JACKET AND SCARF

AND OUT HE WENT TO OPEN THE GARAGE

TO GIVE THEM SHELTER



BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME

SO HE TURNED ON THE LIGHT

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE WENT AND GOT BREAD

AND THREW IT MANNA LIKE UPON THE SNOW

A PATH TO FOLLOW

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE TRIED TO HERD THEM IN

SHOUTING AND WAVING HIS ARMS

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME




I'M SCARING THEM HE THOUGHT

I'M SO BIG COMPARED TO THEM

AND DIFFERENT




IF BUT FOR A MOMENT I COULD BE A SPARROW

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH THE DOOR

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH.....THE DOOR



FRANK A. VOLLMER 



Monday, December 22, 2014

The Holiday Party

One of the reasons that I chose to accept the position at the school for autistic children rather than the continuing care community was my belief that I would like working with a variety of ages, not just people close to my own age.

I was right. The teen-age boys at the school are learning simple household tasks and courteous conversation. "Howayou?" inquires Arthur as we pass in the corridor. Edward, who is about ten or eleven, I think, is becoming competent in Swiffer use, mopping around my feet as I sit at my computer. Even the littlest students are learning skills and social interaction; I was truly tickled the other day when little Michael (who has Down syndrome in addition to his autism) was using the paper shredder and when he encountered a bit of a jam was able to clearly say to me, "I need help."

Last week was the holiday party for faculty (everybody else) and staff (me). It was held at one of the teacher's beautiful homes. The place was packed. Because not just the teachers were in attendance, but their handsome young boyfriends and husbands. And their children. I lost count of how many people under four were present. Young moms were tending fussy babies and discreetly nursing while pregnant teachers were watchful, knowing their turns are just around the corner. One of the teachers wasn't there because she was busy being a bridesmaid for her friend. Mothers knew when their little ones had had enough, and took them home. And, for a group of people so young, they turned out to be darned capable cooks (everyone brought something to share). I had a glass of "Jingle Juice" that someone had concocted; it was delicious, but when I heard the entire contents, I put my glass down and went back to my bottle of Poland Spring. I had to drive home.

And when I got home and Himself asked, "So how was it?" I was delighted to tell him: "It was wonderful! NO ONE talked about a hip replacement! NO ONE is getting ready for a colonoscopy! NO ONE has a husband who was just diagnosed with COPD!"

Yes, I surely did make the right choice.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Thank You

A little more than a month ago, I wrote a blog post about a brave and caring young woman from my church. She had gone to spend several months in India, working with an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women in that country.

I wrote about Sambhali Trust's goal of giving each of their graduating women a sewing machine so that she could sew for her own family and also possibly begin to earn money by sewing for others. $65 would purchase a hand-crank sewing machine in India. They had twenty machines and needed twenty more. Mindful of how important sewing has been in my life, I quickly told my friend I would pay for a machine and would ask my Circle at church if we could use some of our outreach funds to purchase a second.

I was naive.

I did not count on the generosity of my Circle sisters, many of whom responded that they would individually cover the cost of a sewing machine.

I was very, very naive.

I did not even think of the generosity of my blog readers and my Facebook friends, who filled my inbox with requests of where they should send their money. Within a few short days, commitments had come in to purchase nearly thirty sewing machines for our Indian sisters.

Today fifty women graduated from the empowerment class. Fifty women each received a sewing machine. Fifty women now have a future.

I am overwhelmed tonight, overwhelmed by the generosity and support of the people I know. Overwhelmed to have been a part of this effort, to have helped my friend to make a difference for the Indian women she went to serve. Overwhelmed, thankful, and filled with a tremendous joy.

This might be the best Christmas ever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's Cookin'?

This most splendid photo appeared on FB a few days ago.

It is Grandchild #4.

Happily Cooking.

And wearing his mother's apron that I had made for her a few Christmases ago.

It was the first of many aprons that I made from that particular pattern.



The wise and perceptive grandmother sees a need and addresses it.

This apron for Eli will go off in the mail immediately. There are cookies to be baked and left for Santa.





Sunday, December 14, 2014

Once Is Enough

Over the years, I've bought a lot of fabric on line. During my taupe phase, I bought and bought and bought from pinwheels.com and was always pleased with speedy, friendly service. Then there was equilter and they, too, were speedy and friendly. I'm getting antsy looking up the links at the moment, but trust me when I tell you that Pink Chalk Fabrics is a lovely place and Fabric Worm has the very best hand-picked bundles, and Glorious Color puts all of them to shame with speed of delivery (and don't get me started on their scrap bags -- be still, my heart!). No complaints about the on-line fabric giant -- Hancock's of Paducah -- either.

Someone had told me not to mess with Fabric.com, that this was a giant company whose goal was to put all the others out of business. I had enough places to spend my money, and never really thought about shopping there until December 5.

On that day I needed a particular fabric. None of my regular vendors had what I wanted in the quantity I needed. Google led me to Fabric.com and I placed an order. What I needed fell just a little short of the total needed to get free shipping, so I added a little something more. Each day I was filled with anticipation as mail time came. But mail time was all that came and went. No parcel from Fabric.com  Yesterday morning, December 13, I received an email telling me that my fabric would be shipped on December 15, ten days after I placed the order. We'll see when it ultimately arrives. I'm glad it wasn't something I needed to finish a Christmas gift.

And it's back to the little guys, the independent fabric vendors for me.




Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Miles!


Miles was born on December 19th and this year the celebration of his birth two years ago will be held today.

I don't believe he is ready to move into a big boy bed quite yet, but when that time comes, he'll have a quilt.

I loved making this quilt. The pattern was for a crib-size quilt, so I made the blocks and sashes bigger and added a generous border. The background is a nice gray Kona and everything else is batik. Everything is hand-buttonhole stitched. The machinist used a meander pattern. Please look at some of the monsters up close and personal. They won't bite!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Black and White Retro TV Stars



April a year ago, a big crowd of us went to Black Rock on retreat. We had friends from two other states come to join us and, by gum, we had a wonderful time. Dear Kathy thought a block swap was in order, and nearly everyone chose to participate. The theme she came up with was "Retro Black and White TV Stars." We were to use only black, gray, and white fabrics, to make 12" finished star blocks, and that was pretty much it. I wanted my quilt to be big, so I made a variety of blocks to swap and saved a bunch for myself. I had a lot of fun trying out some new, complex star patterns.

If you look closely at Block 2B, you'll find a real retro TV star, Lucy, and in Block 4D are The Three Stooges.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Oh, Boy(s)!

At last we had a day that was good for photography, my photography assistant was available, and I was home at the proper time (late in the afternoon before the sun goes down).

Four quilts have been retrieved from the machinist, bound, and waiting patiently for documentation. 

They are made with Kaffe/Westminster fabrics for the feature parts and with Kona solids for the alternate blocks or background.



Way back when I was birthin' babies, Miss Scarlett, we didn't have the option of knowing the gender ahead of the delivery. I wouldn't have found out, anyway. That's just my preference; I find no fault with those who can't wait to know!

And it certainly makes it easier to have the right quilt ready when the baby is, finally, born!

The first quilt is Louisiana blocks and the second one is the Mazed pattern, though some of the blocks are pieced backwards.

I'm pleased with both of them.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Patty, Patty, Who Are You????

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my young friend who is volunteering in India for three months, to help improve the lives of women in one particular city.

I wrote of a need for sewing machines, easily purchased in India for as little as $65. Many wonderful blog readers and Circle sisters and Facebook friends decided that they needed to help my friend, and the checks have been rolling in.

One reader, dear Patty, a no-reply commenter, asked for particulars as she wants to send money for a machine. But when I clicked her profile, there was no way to get in touch.

Patty, patty, please email me (my email is on my profile) and share your addy with me so I an help you help my friend to help Indian women.

Anyone else who feels moved to help with this effort, you're most welcome; if you email me I'll provide details on how to do that.



Two Friends

It feels like quilty content has been meager of late. However, today is a bright, clear day Near Philadelphia and we hope to photograph some recently completed quilts that should appear on da blog soon. Picked up quilts from the machinest and have done a great deal of binding. 

Meanwhile, here is my favorite photo from Thanksgiving: Grandchild #6 and his good friend, Blackberry.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Going Gentle

Out of concern for confidentiality, I don't post very often on this blog about my experiences as a hospital chaplain. Here, however, is a story about something that happened a few weeks ago; it may give insight as to why I feel honored to have this job:
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


Thus says the poet about facing death.

It was about four o'clock in the morning when the telephone rang, and a nurse from the emergency room asked if I could come down to the cubicle where a woman was going to pass away very soon. 

She was 89 years old and was lying on her back, her face turned toward the right where the young male nurse who had phoned was standing with his hand on her shoulder. On her left, another nurse was softly stroking her hair. At the foot of the gurney were two or three others, one of whom had grown up in my church and had become a nurse as a second career (but not before getting what appeared to be a bazillion tattoos). The cubicle was quiet; the beeping function of the cardiac monitor had been silenced.

She had been a hospice patient for two years and was reaching the end of her journey. Her nearby family was away at the seashore, and another daughter, the one most concerned about her, lives three or four states away; there was no way any of them could get to the hospital in time. "Don't worry," the young male nurse had told them. "We'll take very good care of her. We'll treat her like family."

"This is my first patient death," the young man told me. "It's a good first death to have," responded a colleague. There were perhaps a half a dozen of us, standing quietly around the patient, listening to her gentle, slowing breathing. 

We joined hands -- with the one nurse still stroking her hair and the other with his hand on her shoulder -- and I offered a prayer. I thanked God for her life and for all that she had meant to her family. I thanked God for the care she had received this night and for the adoptive family surrounding her. I spoke of our assurance that God had created her and would receive her into his arms at the end. I prayed for comfort and for mercy.

When I finished, the patient was still and the tattooed nurse from my church listened for a heartbeat; there was none.The "first death" nurse said, "You know, I haven't sorted out what I believe about life and death and an afterlife. But she took her last breath in the middle of your prayer. That has to mean something." 

They thanked me for coming down; I thanked them for calling me. It had been a privilege to be among them, this adoptive family. The patient went gentle into that good night; there was no need to rage against the dying of the light.


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dissing the Director

I'm in my third week, now, of my new part-time job at the school for autistic kids.

And I love it.

In all of the years that I worked at the Quaker school, the one thing that bothered me was I was well aware that by and large the school was for [mostly white] people of privilege, people of wealth. Students with multiple Coach handbags. Boys and girls with demanding, entitled parents. Kids who were all preparing for college, and we aren't talking community college but competitive, costly schools. And  that bothered me. I felt somehow that because the students were -- for the most part -- wealthy, the work I did was less important. I don't know how my mind made that connection, and I am pretty sure that it is an erroneous connection, but that's how I felt. I used to think that if I did the same job at an inner city school where families were struggling, it would be more meaningful.

The school where I now spend my mornings could not be more different from the Quaker school in almost every way. These students won't go to college; they aren't rich, and their parents certainly do not have any kind of an air of entitlement.

The work I do is varied and not particularly challenging. I send bills to the various districts who utilize the school for their difficult kids. I laminate teaching aids and cut out laminated objects and apply velcro pieces so kiddos can match colors or objects. I answer the phone and the door. I file, deliver messages, make copies, and order supplies. I do anything I am able to do that will free up a teacher or an administrator to spend more time with the kids. I laugh every day.

This morning one of the teachers gave me a headzup that she was going to send Michael to the office to ask me to make a copy. When he came in, I was concentrating on the bill I was trying to prepare. The School Director saw him and wanted to know what he needed. Something jogged my memory and I went out to the space where Michael was and his little face lit up and with a huge smile he exclaimed, "Oh, THERE you are!" He handed me the paper with the post-it note requesting a copy. I made the copy and we had a little chat about doing things to be helpful. Then off he went, back to his classroom. And the Director grinned and said, "Boy, did I feel dissed!"




Monday, December 01, 2014

Thanksgiving, 2014

We double-dipped this Thanksgiving. My lovely niece hosted 22 people on Thursday, and I cooked for 14 on Friday -- all of our kids and grandkids. The din was impressive.

Even more impressive was the grace-saying. Some years ago, Joe decided that a hymn we'd sung in church would make the perfect grace for Thanksgiving Day. The first year he read the whole thing, and after that he asked our sons and son-in-law to help. This year, for the first time, the next generation participated as Sam read his verse flawlessly.

It was a wonderful couple of days. Saturday afternoon I reported to the hospital for a 24-hour shift and we ate turkey and gravy for dinner on Sunday night.

My new job has me not working at the school most Mondays; that is not to say these are going to be days of leisure. Today I made my very favorite turkey soup which took hours and hours and while that was going on I made four loaves of applesauce bread. The loaves are on the short side, but smell delicious and I think they'll be great with the soup.

Now, just because I like all of you so much, I'm going to share the soup recipe which is based on one from Julee Rosso's book Great Good Food. The first time I made it, I had no clue what a rutabaga might be and if that should be the case with you, just trust me, please; it is perfect in this soup!

Take your turkey carcass that still has a decent amount of meat on it and put it in your great big soup pot with a tablespoon of minced garlic (I use the kind from the jar), 2-3 cups of chopped up celery, 2-3 cups of chopped leek, 1-2 cups of chopped onion, 2-3 cups of chopped carrots, a cup of chopped parsley and a whole lot of chicken broth from a can -- usually about 64 ounces, but have more on hand for later. Bring all of this to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and simmer for 3 hours. Then let it cool completely and because you need to go through and pick out the skin, bones and fat and you don't want to burn your hands. Use your colander to strain the broth into a big bowl and save it. Everything else is in the colander. Put the broth back in the pot. Pick through the mess in the colander and once the skin and bones and fat are removed (and this is one messy job and if you have a dog you'll be tripping over him because he'll be convinced you are going to drop some of that turkey), put all the veggies and meat back in the pot. Take one great big rutabaga and peel off its waxy outside and then with your mighty knife, cut it into slices and dices, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch size. Add them to the pot with a cup of barley, bring to a boil again, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice to taste (I like lots of lemon juice) and throw in another cup of chopped parsley.

Bon appetite!