Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Birds

It's that time again.

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


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bonnie's Barn Comes Home

 I've written about this piece here and here, so I'm not going to go into a lot of details now. Suffice it to say that when I was asked to test instructions for making a free form barn, I found a picture on line that reminded me of a night when my sister Bonnie and I were lost in Lancaster County. There was a harvest moon and barns everywhere. I had had a difficult time picking out a picture for a project. My sister had been in a serious automobile accident, and I was more focused on her wellbeing than I was on quilting.

Once she was discharged, I was able to concentrate on my project and when I ran out of fabrics for the field in front of the barn, I went over to Bonnie's house and raided her stash for the little scraps that I needed.

Bonnie's Barn ultimately went on to be exhibited along with the other barns in the series at three shows. And then she came home. And wouldn't you know, the day she arrived was Bonnie's birthday!

Bonnie's Barn, hanging where we'd always intended, in our dining room, thanks to Himself.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Feeling Sheepish


Finished Size: 6" And there's really nothing further to say. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Signal Flags?

A week or so ago I gave in to the urge to make Tula Pink blocks out of bright solids. It's been an enjoyable process.

Initially I had planned to make sixteen blocks (they finish at 6") and put wide white borders on them, then apply a 9" template to cut wonky blocks. Turned out to be a bad idea -- they really wanted a 12" template and that just was going to use up more fabric than I wanted to spend on this project.

Himself is partial to tiny cornerstones under almost any circumstances, and I thought they might work very well with these blocks. So I made nine more and went with that plan. We're both pleased with the outcome. He says they look like signal flags. He's right.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

More Blessed

My church sponsors a food pantry for the area and, unfortunately, has many patrons. To gain access, guests need to go to the church office and the secretary will accompany them to the pantry where they may fill a bag or two twice each month.

Some are like clockwork, the secretary tells me; they are there on the designated day, no matter what. Others are frequent visitors but not quite as regular.

A month ago Laura wrote to the congregation with the idea of providing Christmas gift bags for the adults who come to the food pantry. She wanted to make about fifteen bags, mostly for women, but some for male patrons. She said she was looking for someone to come help her put bags together, one afternoon early in December.

Look no further!

Today was the day! Laura and I spent an hour in the great room, ending up with seventeen gift bags. I didn't get a photo at the end of the project, but here is what things looked like at the beginning.

People were so generous! Each female patron received a scarf, a piece of jewelry, a candle, a lotion and/or bath gel, and something else. I had made enough pot holders to contribute so that each recipient had one of those. There were socks, wallets, gloves, dish towels, word puzzle books, all kinds of things.

We had fun and I got the distinct feeling that this is just the first year we'll be doing this. I think I'll aim for twenty pot holders for 2017.



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mooo!

It's been a while. A while since we heard from the COW*. But, you know, if I'd been mooing about the election campaign and about the results of the election, I wouldn't have gotten anything else done. No point in going on about any of that (and to moo you the truth, I'm a bit tired of reading about it elsewhere).

But.

I hate my lamp post. I love my home and almost everything about it. We've replaced some doors and fixtures that weren't to our taste. But for some reason, it took for ever to get around to the lamp post. This autumn I decided I'd get a new one and have it by Christmas.

So on October 20 (a little later than I'd planned), Himself and I trucked on up to the lighting store and placed an order. Paid in full up front. The sales slip said it would be shipped October 27. The salesman said I'd have it in two weeks.

Two weeks went by. And then that damn election happened and with all of the non-mooing that I was doing, I forgot about the lamp post. Until yesterday. When I decided I'd better get myself on up to that there lighting store and find out what's what because once the post arrives, I need to contract the electrician to install it. So I pulled out the sales slip with the intention of going there this afternoon. Came home from work at noon to find a message that the guy had called! This morning! Imagine that! Perhaps he was wanting to come by today to deliver it. But, no. His message was that the lamp post would be shipped near the end of next week. And arrive here sometime the following week. If he could be believed. But in any event, entirely too late to get the electrician to get it in before Christmas.

After Christmas comes January, and the ground will be too hard to have the post installed. They could have contacted me weeks ago to say there was a delay. They could have put some pressure on their supplier to honor the commitment they'd made. So I did take myself up to the lighting store today and canceled the order and requested a full refund. If I'm going to have to wait until spring to put it in, I told them, I might as well deal with someone else who would treat me better. They apologized. I accepted the apology. And accepted the refund, too.




*Cranky Old Woman

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tula Pink Blue Yellow Orange

Over the weekend I got an urge to make Tula Pink blocks. I've made a couple of hundred of them in various color schemes. I didn't think I'd need to make more. But that urge came upon me and it wasn't to be resisted.

I've had a fine time.

My plan is for twenty-five of them, so you can see I'm nearly there.

I have a setting for them in my mind, something I haven't done with them previously.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Part Ten

My Guild retreat was this past weekend, and what a fine and splendid time the almost-thirty of us had! Our location was about 40 minutes from home, and because of some tricky business at the turnpike interchange that made me anxious, Himself offered to deliver me and pick me up. I was quick to accept.

My first order of business had to do with another pair of ballerina feet. One bee participant was truly daunted by the pattern and asked if she could do something else for me. Of course she could. So I had her block to make. It went together much more quickly than the first one did!

Here you can see it in the six sections before they were joined together. It was sort of late at night when I finished them and I thought I would wait until morning to put them together. So I made a couple of pot holders.

 I mentioned previously that one of my bee mates had given us a paper-piecing task for this month, and that it would be challenging. I was very, very glad that I had spent my 80 Minutes for the past nine weeks working on that skill because there was a lot to keep in mind as I pieced these arcs for Sarah.

For me, angles are difficult. There were a couple of times when I was stressed to get the piece applied so that it would cover the entire section, even though I had cut the pieces even larger than the recommended size. This was a problem with one of the yellow segments. I've learned to use tape to reinforce a stitching line after I have to rip something out.

This is the second of Sarah's two arcs and this one was much more cooperative! Sarah gave us extra arcs and shoulders and centers in case we want to make more for ourselves. I'm going to pass on this because I've got a new idea for the blades/spokes that I'd been working on earlier.

Speaking of which, one of my retreat projects was the final assembly of those blocks. There's a picture below. I'm pleased with the outcome. This quilt measures about 47 inches square and will be a gift for one of the babies (I think there were three the last time I counted) that are due this spring.




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Part Nine

I am so grateful to Susan for developing the 80 Minute Challenge! In nine weeks, I have gone from inept to confident as a paper piecer! Granted, I spent more than 80 minutes each week; most weeks, it was probably double that. But it was the discipline, the setting aside of the minimum of 80 minutes and working on learning a new skill, that paid off.

I have received word that the Queen Bee for this month has selected a challenging paper-pieced design for us to make. And I'm up for it!

So it seems there should be one more post on paper piecing. And then I'm  moving on to a totally different skill. Stay tuned!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Grace

Today a Facebook friend invited folks to check in, to share how they are feeling at this point. I wrote:

Still sad and somewhat confused. I've read way too many analyses of why/how this happened, blame and accountability cast hither and yon. I do not plan to march on Washington (or anyplace else) and I do not plan to sign a petition asking electoral college members to break their pledges. I am trying to focus on what Hillary said, quoting John Wesley, about doing all the good that I can. That's where I am today. And thank you for asking, because I needed to sort out feelings into words.

And that is where I am today. Tomorrow I might be someplace else.

This is the image that has stayed with me. It seems this young mom was taking a walk in the nearby woods, trying to clear her head about the election, when she encountered Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. She reports that she and Mrs. Clinton shared a hug and some pleasantries. And someone took a picture.

Two days after the worst day of her life, Mrs. Clinton certainly would have been justified in saying, "I'm sorry. I need my space." But she didn't. Instead, she set a lovely example.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Make America Kind Again

Of course I'm crying. Crying not so much because she lost (though there's that) but because he won. For me, there's a difference.Crying because the people of this country apparently share the values he represents.

At breakfast, I said to Himself, "I'll take today to feel sad. And tomorrow I'll move on. Because this doesn't change who I am."

Then something happened. I drove to work through the rain, and standing in the parking lot was a woman. Standing in the rain. With no umbrella.

I feel sad. Terribly sad. But this didn't change who I am. And I can't really wait until tomorrow to move on when there is a woman in the rain today, a woman who just happens to be Hispanic.  I parked my car and I opened my trunk. I took out the extra umbrella. I walked over and handed it to the woman. Her eyes were full of tears, too.


Friday, November 04, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Part Eight

Reporting in early this week. Eight weeks of 80 minutes (in some cases, more) of concentrated effort has yielded the following. I can paper piece. Thank you, Susan, for this challenge. I will continue a bit longer and branch out a bit.







Monday, October 31, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Part Seven


Well, y'know, it turns out that the "not very challenging" paper pieced spokes pattern really paid off for me. Those 36 arcs went together very easily and in the process, my body-memory mastered the steps for getting everything in the right place. Body-memory is my own term; there may be an official one. It's like when I first started working at the hospital, where the Emergency Room is a bit like a labyrinth, after a night or so I discovered that my feet knew the way around to do the routine tasks, whether my brain knew it or not. This may not make sense to you. But it does to me. Another way to look at it would be in terms of a musician learning scales in preparation for more complex pieces. Those spokes were my scales.

This week my 80 160 minutes yielded what is in this picture and in the one below. I'm paper piecing a block for a quilt that I'm going to donate to a charity. It is a very specific quilt for a very specific charity and I'm excited about it. I'll tell more in next week's installment.

The block I'm making -- with pretty much success so far -- has six sections to it. Three are finished! The other three are in the second picture, well underway. But I've learned the hard way that when I'm sewing something complicated, when I get tired, to set it aside until another day. So that's what I've done.

I suspect you can guess what my block is, and I'm fine with that. It would seem to mean I've done well!

I must say that during my 80+ minutes this week I have invoked the spirit of my paper piecing godmother. I hope I haven't drained her energy in doing so!

No cats were harmed during this effort.



Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tell the Truth



On its face, this picture leads one to believe that this post is about the current political situation.

It isn't.

As you may recall, a couple of months ago I became involved with a multi-church effort to resettle a large refugee family. These Congolese people had spent many years (in some cases their entire lives) in a camp in Tanzania and came to the USA at the end of August bringing with them little more than the clothing on their backs.

They've learned so much in the two months they've been here and they have so much more to learn. In fact, I've been asked to head up a team to identify and teach life skills across a wide spectrum: from which foods need to be refrigerated to how to take public transportation. A big issue this week was how to adjust the thermostat. Initially my team was to be called "American Life Skills," but I thought later "This American Life" might be better. Then it occurred to me that the real name for the team should be "First World Problems."

Anyway.

They're learning, and as their English improves ("I am fine. How are you?"), it becomes easier for them to learn practical things.

We're learning about them, too. For instance, they are appreciative. They never fail to say "thank you" when we take them things or give them a ride to English class. They are easy laughers. Some kids are prone to tantrums, no matter what their culture.The children and the adults alike are spontaneously affectionate; hugs abound with every encounter.

And a big, still unanswered question has come to my mind.

In anticipation of the change in the weather, Cherie and I went to their home a couple of weeks ago to assess their warm clothing needs. We'd been told that the agency we work with had given them coats and hats and gloves, but we felt the need to check and be sure that everyone would be okay on that first day of a big drop in temperature.

We told the family we were there to talk about coats and asked to see the ones they had. They told us they had no coats. None. We looked in the big downstairs closet. No coats. None. We asked permission to check upstairs, and permission was readily granted. There we found coats, a few more than one coat per person. So we decided to focus on scarves, gloves, and hats, and are nearly there.

But the questions were raised and have stayed with me. Why did they say they had no coats? Did they not understand what we were asking? We had noticed that the family had all kinds of things that they did not need, especially clothing of sizes that wouldn't fit anyone in the household. Someone speculated that in the refugee camp there was some sort of a barter system where they could trade things they didn't need for things that they did; it turned out that this was accurate. But still. They knew they had coats. And told us otherwise. There's a chance that they didn't really understand the question. Or perhaps they simply wanted to increase their stash of trade-ables. Or some other explanation that I can't fathom. It doesn't really matter. I'm certainly not condemning; rather, trying to understand.

The big question, though, that I don't know how to answer is this one: Is truth a universally understood concept? Is truth telling an ethic across cultures? Or do people from some cultures -- much like our own little ones -- need to be taught the difference between truth and untruth? This question group of questions rattles around in my brain and I've no idea where to find the answer. Google was useless. My daughter is an anthropologist, and I mean to discuss this with her at my earliest opportunity. Meanwhile, dear reader, if you know anything about this . . . .well, your comments would be most welcome!



Friday, October 28, 2016

Back to Italy: Part Four


Our last port was Positano, and when we pulled in, the weather was iffy, to say the least. Joe and I had nice memories of Positano from a previous trip and decided to take the tender from Star Flyer to the shore. It was a bumpy ride. We walked for just a little while, then stopped at a cafe for a light lunch. After lunch, Joe went on to visit the church and for once, I declined. I headed back to the dock and boarded the tender. The ride back to the ship was so rough that when we arrived, I was wet all the way through from the sea splashing against the side of the tender. I was relieved when Joe finally returned on the last tender before sail-away.

The storm began in earnest an hour or so before dinner was to be served. We were in the cabin and the ship was rolling around in the sea; water was beating against the porthole and it was sometimes unclear whether it was rain or waves. I crawled over to the porthole side of the bed to take a closer look; Joe looked, too, and decided he just had to go up to the deck -- a storm at sea -- how could he resist? After he left, I had to work very, very hard to crawl back to the other side of the bed. The sea was so very rough. I was glad I had had my shower earlier; I surely would have fallen down.

In time things settled down and Joe returned with reports of a broken boom and shredded sails. He said that when he was passing through the dining room, the tables which had been set up for dinner, were shooting glassware, china and cutlery to the floor. Then came the announcement through the public address system. In the calmest possible voice we were informed, "Dinner tonight will begin at 8:30 rather than 7:30."

The next morning, the cruise director reported that he'd been sailing for 28 years and had never experienced a storm of that magnitude.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Back to Italy: Part Three

The urgency to write about our trip to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast has passed. Here are some photos from some of the places we stopped. There will be one more post about this trip

Valletta, Malta






Porto Empodocle




Sicily







Positano