Friday, November 20, 2015

For The Birds!

Last month, I wrote in this post about our experience of being landlords to a colony of sparrows. I told how we'd finally taken the time to take all of the birdhouses apart and clean out a couple of years' worth of nest accumulation. I went on to say that when we were finished, I had taken some scraps of batting and put them on the floors of the houses, hoping to provide a soft foundation for the occupants' winter use.

I was proud. I felt virtuous. Not only was His eye on the sparrow, but so was mine!

I was in for a surprise.

They didn't like the batting. They really didn't like the batting.

First we found one of the batts on the ground. We thought I had cut one too many and dropped it. But then we found another. And one day Joe saw the event pictured above: The occupants of that birdhouse were pulling the batt out of the house!

Here it is happening again in the upper level of the duplex.

One sparrow couple worked so hard to get it out, but it got stuck in the door hole and was there for a couple of days.

We intervened. We pulled it the rest of the way out. And then checked to remove the batts from the other houses. We want happy tenants. We didn't know. We were trying to help. We were foolish.

On Monday of this week, all at once, we saw sparrows flying back and forth, hauling dried grasses and things to the door holes. It was time to start their winter nests.

Without any help from the landlords.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gato Limpio!

Here's the story on this flimsy: 
  • A couple of years ago when the Renegades were off at a quilting retreat, the topic of paper piecing arose. People either did or did not like paper piecing. There wasn't much in the way of middle ground. I declared, "I'd rather give a cat a bath than paper piece."
  • This month, a particularly talented member of our Guild was Queen Bee. She gave each of us some arcs for paper piecing and some fabric for the alternate spokes. We were to add whatever else we wanted. Generous Sarah also gave us additional arcs, as well as patterns for centers and shoulders. She said we could make arcs for ourselves, but please not to share the pattern as yet.
  • I chuckled and tried to think who I could get to do that paper piecing for me and asked all my friends who had dirty cats if they would do it. 
  • Not really.
  • I made Sarah's arcs; they were not only remarkably easy but actually fun!
  • I made more and more arcs. After awhile Joe said, "What are you going to do with all those?"
  • I was stuck for an answer. So he created a design.
  • I bought cerise fabric. I made mylar patterns for centers and arcs.
This weekend was the Guild autumn weekend retreat. I took all of my arcs, my patterns, my white fabric, my cerise, and Joe's design.

And now *Gato Limpio! is a flimsy!

*Clean Cat in Spanish

Saturday, November 07, 2015

A Nice Outing

We drove up to northern New Jersey yesterday and took the ferry to Ellis Island. Neither of us had ever been before, and while I'd thought it would be a nifty outing, we just never got around to it until I learned that my great-niece is doing an internship there this semester. Funny how that became the impetus to take the trip!

We learned a lot. My impression previously was that Ellis Island was a dreadful place where immigrants were mistreated. I learned otherwise.  Yes, of course the sheer numbers of individuals meant that they were managed like cattle. But not mistreated. It was the steamship companies who brought the people via steerage who abused them, causing many to become ill before landing.

The museum/park was so interesting. We like to start with the orientation film. The National Parks do a terrific job with that. Throughout the museum were black-and-white images, information plaques, and artifacts. Joe observed that the dormitory set-up reminded him of the berthing compartment on a Navy ship. One thing that I noticed was in the food area: The menu for the day was posted (including beef stew for the main meal three consecutive days!) and pieces of the china and silver services were shown. Most people were processed within a day; some were hospitalized until they were healthy enough to be admitted, and actually only two percent of the immigrants were rejected and sent back home -- at the expense of the steamship company.

We had a surprisingly tasty lunch with Abby at the cafe on the premises; we caught up with what is going on in her life and her aspirations for the future. She recommended we visit the Tenement Museum in NYC, and I'm already looking for a date to do just that!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Mercy Quilts for Veterans

Our monthly hand-sewing group, the Uvulati, met on Tuesday night. We've been together for pretty many years, gathering on the first (or second) Tuesday of each month to work on binding, hand-piecing, hand-quilting, embroidery, hexies, whatever, while we solve the problems of the world and sing a little as moved by the spirit. Over the summer, we usually try to each produce a quilt for a charity that we've agreed on and this year we made small lap quilts for hospice patients at the VA Hospital. Six of us brought ours this  month; there are two more to be collected at the December meeting and then they'll be delivered.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Scrabbling with Speedy

These internet relationships, well, they're complicated.

It was in the late 90s, when the world wide web was still very new to me, and a virtual friend named Desertsky (pronounced Desert Sky, not de-ZERT-ski) invited me to join a small internet group list called "Fat Quarters." Her friend Bonnie Hunter and another friend Jill [surname forgotten] had decided it would be fun to form a new group of people who mostly didn't already know each other. I "met" a fabulous group of women through this group, many of whom I'm still in contact with today, even though the list became defunct as blogs and Facebook bloomed. Most of us are minimally connected through FB.

Early on, Marilyn and I hit it off. A prolific quilter, Marilyn soon became known as "Speedy." She was full of ideas, and actually carried them out. No stack of UFOs for that gal. At one point, she and I decided to deplete our flannel stashes by making pairs of blocks, sending half to each other, and putting them together for charity quilts. We must have made a half-dozen each.

Marilyn and Kathy came to Lancaster at one point early on, and I drove out to meet them for lunch. That was the sum-total of our in-person experience. One lunch. But we had so much more. She encouraged me as I explored the possibility of hospital chaplaincy. I supported her as she watched her husband lose his cancer battle. I could always count on her for a word of wisdom; she told me once that I was "a constant in her life."

Marilyn participated in most of the block swaps I ran over the years, with Speedy always being the first to send in her creations. And they were perfect. And beautiful. She was a generous and thoughtful friend. Spontaneous gifts would show up in my mailbox with no identification, no return address, just the suspicious postmark "Corte Madera, CA."

As a Scrabble opponent, she was the best ever. A linguistics major, Marilyn knew more words than anyone I've ever met. I used to have fun creating definitions for ones that she would spring on me, and we'd go back and forth, refining and improving said definitions. I'm a decent Scrabble player, but on the occasions when I'd defeat Marilyn, I'd feel exuberantly proud. Especially since most of the time in my games with her my rack would be filled with one-point vowels and the occasional N. I connected Marilyn with the next-best Scrabbler I know, my nephew Scott. The two of them trounced me regularly.

In the middle of last week, a side message on a Scrabble game said, "Missed a step. In the hospital with two pelvic fractures." I responded appropriately -- telling her the hospital was MY turf -- and then the game went quiet. I imagined she hadn't had her phone charger with her and the phone battery needed juice. Yesterday I started to worry. Surely someone would have intervened and helped charge that phone. "Worrying about you," I texted.

The phone call this afternoon was from a number in San Francisco. Turns out it was Marilyn's number, but it was her son calling to tell me she'd died in her sleep, probably not long after playing "BA" for eighteen points.

Like I say, it's complicated. One lunch together, about twenty years ago. And so much more: laughter, blocks, wisdom, camaraderie, faithful friendship. And an unfinished Scrabble game.