Monday, September 26, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Part Two

Well, last week I paper-pieced two pretty nice segments and expected to continue with this for the second week of Just 80 Minutes.

Change of Plans! Strangely enough, on Tuesday night when the Guild came to the Bee Blocks part of the agenda, dear Cozy was Queen Bee and she asked for a pair of pickle dish blocks. With lots of paper piecing. And [shudder] curved piecing. Paper piecing and curved piecing in one block. Ye gods.

So on Wednesday morning I began my work. I have put in way more than 80 minutes of paper piecing this week. Here is what I have learned:

1. There are many ways to make a mistake on a pickle dish arc. I will not enumerate them.
2. One can rip out on paper piecing. But only one time per seam.
3. When attempting curved piecing of paper pieced arcs, one must remove the paper first.
4. There's a rhythm to it.

Cozy's recipe calls for bright colors for pickle dish bases and inside points on both arcs, light colors for the smaller arc, dark colors for the larger arcs, lightest colors for the shoulders and gray (not pictured) for the center to which all four components eventually will be affixed.

I'm getting the hang of it, though this morning I found the words to "A Boy Named Sue" running through my head, i.e., my next project will not be a pickle dish!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Back to Italy, Part One

The trip started on Labor Day. Joe and Blackberry had spent part of the weekend camping with a large and varied group of family members, but came home on Sunday and right away started pulling things together.

We knew Star Flyer would be waiting for us in Rome on Wednesday, but decided to go a day early to begin to adjust our timing.

Our hotel had a nice rooftop bar and deck where we met a nice couple from Argentina. I was able to use my very bare-bones Spanish to offer to take a picture of the two of them without sparking an international incident. I also took these pictures before we went out to Piazza Navona for our dinner.

The plaza is a busy place and is great for people watching. It is also great for food. Joe never chooses calamari for himself but is always agreeable when I suggest we get an order to share. This particular batch was crispy, tasty, and just right. Back home it was Gene's Birthday, and I thought of Honna, Judy, and Helen and how often we'd observed this date with calamari!

I have a major passion for risotto and always order it if it's on the menu. Especially in Italy. It's more of a northern Italian dish than a southern one, and in the area where we were it was hard to find risotto other than a shellfish type (I have a shellfish allergy). We found this fantastic mushroom version for dinner that night and I was happy as the proverbial clam!

After breakfast on Tuesday, we went directly to the Pantheon. This was my third time there and it was early enough that there was hardly anyone inside! What a treat. I think the reason that this building moves me so much is because it is a reminder that long before Christianity, people knew there was god.

This is the third time I've taken a picture of the oculus. If I were to return, I would undoubtedly take another.

In the small piazza outside the Pantheon were gathered interesting people, including what seemed to be a drawing class. The weather was lovely and we just enjoyed being in Rome.

We stopped in at a nearby church and on the way out, Joe was inspired to comment, "That must be a REALLY important church. It has TWO beggars!"

And then it was time for lunch, a couple of errands, and the ride out to Civitavecchia, the port where Star Flyer was waiting for us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Display!!!!

So, on Sunday afternoon, despite the jet lag (I promise the travel post is coming soon!), I really, really wanted needed to go over to the Mancuso show at Oaks. My Guild had a special exhibit at the show, and two of my larger quilts along with my Paint Chip Challenge had been juried in. Joe was happy for me and although the shipboard head cold had begun to impact him, he accompanied me. What a thrill it was to see my quilts on display! This was a first for me.

The Paint Chip Challenge. Mine is in the center. We had to pull two paint chip samples out of a can, add one color and neutral(s), and make a quilt that was no larger than 24" finished. Mine is called Saramanda because Sarah and Amanda pulled my paint chips for me. It is a Barrister's Block.

Fewer Than Fifty [Shades of Gray]

Gato Limpio; Joe's in the photo because he was of immense help with the design.

Meanwhile, at the big show in Chattanooga, the SSOBB quilts were on display, too! Alas, I couldn't be two places at once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: First Check-In

I worked more than 80 minutes Monday morning on paper-piecing. I thought it would be good to start with a pattern that I've already had success with. My approximately 100 minutes (jumping up a couple of times to move clothes from washer to dryer, etc.), yielded two fan arcs. At the beginning, I had to rip out twice, but by the last three blades on each fan arc, I'd hit my stride and was doing well.

Next week I'll do more of these.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Just 80 Minutes: Introduction

About three weeks ago, someone posted a question on Facebook: "What could you do if you dedicated 80 minutes a week to learning a new skill, worked on a project, or dedicated your time?" The writer is a teacher of gifted students at the high school level; some of her students are also her FB friends and with school starting up soon, she wanted to get them thinking about the upcoming semester. Now, I'm not officially one of her students (though over the years I certainly have learned from her), but I was going through an insightful period when I read the post, and it spoke to me. I suggested she start a Facebook group dedicated to this question and that we each invite Likely Suspects to join. Well, she did, and I did, and the group is thriving! 

At the time, I was recovering from a back spasm, resettling refugees and getting ready for a nearly-two-week trip (more about which very soon!), so I committed to beginning today. I'm fortunate to be in a position to dedicate my 80 minutes in one go, and despite my early and continued resistance to paper-piecing, each Monday beginning at ten o'clock, I shall work at paper piecing until I reach the point of being at ease with the technique. Stay tuned for my weekly updates.

Does this sound like something you'd like to do? Already we have women doing these things: quilting projects, Bible study, scrapbooking, sermon writing, renewal of cooking interest. What could you do if you dedicated 80 minutes a week? If you're on Facebook and are up for the challenge, search for the public group Just 80 Minutes and ask to join. And we're off!

Official Group Description: What could you do if you dedicated 80 minutes a week to learning a new skill, worked on a project, or dedicated your time? My Themes in Literature students work on a project every sixth cycle day for approximately that amount of time. Some have started businesses, written and recorded songs, built miniature models of houses, learned to play instruments, created workout plans, or refined artistic skills. Others have researched history, interviewed family, or worked in genealogy. Join this group, tell us about your intention, and start working! Report in once a week, or 6 day cycle, on your progress.
I really recommend reading THE FIRST 20 HOURS by Josh Kauffman, as you consider this challenge.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Back to Quilting!

It feels like a long time since I posted a quilt picture on this blog.

Late in September each year, my church holds an Oktoberfest to benefit Lutheran Disaster Relief. I usually donate a baby quilt to the silent auction. This year, after I finished the lavender and rose elephant quilt for my coworker I decided to make another one in gender-neutral colors for the Oktoberfest. I really do enjoy hand-buttonhole stitching and these elephants were a joy to play around with.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Hospitality to Strangers

Note: Sections of this post that are in green are from the liturgy at my church on August 28. You'll see why.

It started on August 14, when an announcement was made that a group was meeting at a social service agency the following night to talk about resettling a refugee family. I didn't know anything about that kind of project and I decided to attend, just to see what it was all about. I invited my sister, a member of a different church to come along.

It turned out that there were three congregations -- Quaker, Lutheran, and Swedenborgian (or New Church) -- interested in sponsoring a family of seven people. This group was traveling with another group of four extended family members, but the agency was going to handle their resettlement. We only had a husband and wife, their four children (9, 7, 5, and 3) and their 18-year-old niece. There were three attending from my Lutheran church and the youngest of us, a guy named Ken who I hardly knew, made the commitment to lead the effort. The other two churches -- along with my sister's Roman Catholic group (she'd invited two of her friends to come along) signed on. I took the attendance sheet home and created an email list.

Hymn 526: God is Here!

God is here! As we his people
meet to offer praise and prayer,
may we find in fuller measure
what it is in Christ we share:
Here, as in the world around us,
all our varied skills and arts
wait the coming of His Spirit
into open minds and hearts

It was three days later that we got the word that "our family" would be arriving on August 31!  A second meeting at the agency was called for the evening of August 22. I took out the materials we'd been given and saw a list of what needed to be provided for the family in terms of furnishings and knew that the way that had to be done was with a table, so I began a two-column document that I thought I'd hand over to whoever would be taking that responsibility.

Fewer of us came to the second meeting than the first. As my husband pointed out, next to Christmas, the two weeks ending with Labor Day is the worst time to try to get a group to do something. But for me, it was the best possible time: The school where I work was closed for two weeks. 

The agency director said the most pressing need, of course, was housing. A place for them to live. A place for seven people including four young children to live. A place with four bedrooms because the family was hoping eventually to be approved to be foster care providers for two additional minors. Ideally, Our Family was to be within easy visiting distance of the Other Four. Julie knew some people who had purchased a repurposed convent and Ken knew of a four-bedroom house in his neighborhood. They became the Housing Team, with another couple of people.We didn't have a lot of other ideas. 

We moved on to identify participants for the other ten teams. When the Furnishings Team was mentioned, I felt my hand go up and heard myself say, "I'd like to handle that. And I'd like someone from another church to work with me." From across the room, came a voice, "I'll do that." I spent two minutes with Donna at the end of the meeting, just enough to exchange emails.

The next afternoon, the welcome news came. The owners of the former convent had agreed to rent the property to our refugees! And it was big. It was so big that there would be room for the Other Four to live there with Our Family. The property became known as The Nunnery and we began thinking in terms of Our Big Family.

Psalm 112: 

Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion
. . . .
They have given freely to the poor, and their righteousness stands forever

I cannot tell you how many emails flew back and forth between Donna and me during the next eight days. Nor can I tell you how many additional emails came into play, how many generous people responded to the need. I can't tell you how many miles I drove. Nor can I tell you how many hours how many other people spent doing all manner of things to get The Nunnery ready.The women's organization from my church gave me $800 to spend as I needed. My own Circle handed over $150. Donna and I shopped and begged; a young man from her Swedenborgian congregation, Clayton, became the third member of the the team. We put notices out to our respective congregations, we told our story to local thrift stores who slashed their prices and in some cases just handed things over. My Circle sisters passed around a list and many needs were met through their generosity. I met a gravelly voiced guy called "Vic the Mattress Man," who gave me rock bottom prices for what I needed. Near the end of the week, the alliteratively named Tina Shema, manager of a thrift shop, said, "Just give me a list of what you still need and I'll have it there."

Sure there were snags. There were moments of frustration. We operated on adrenalin and little sleep. Donna and I discovered, though, that temperamentally we were twins who had been separated at birth. Our work together was seamless.

A Reading From Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.4 Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6 So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

And it came together. As we somehow knew that it would. Among other things, we located ten beds with the necessary linens (including two blankets per bed), couches, loveseats, comfy chairs, dining tables and chairs to seat 11, a couple dozen bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths; dishes for 20, drinking glasses, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, end and coffee tables, nightstands, dressers, lamps, trash cans, paper products, toiletries, kitchen utensils, curtains, backpacks, school supplies, area rugs; truly everything a family of eleven would need. Oh, and five soft, cushy teddy bears, perhaps the most important thing. I made each of them a bow from my scraps.

I am a person who, despite a seminary education, does not have the kind of continual deep awareness of God’s presence that many other people seem to have. I have times when I know God wants me to do something or another, but I seldom have that visceral, deeply emotional connection with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But on Sunday, August 28, all Three were working overtime. I was in tears through most of the service.  The lessons aren’t chosen by the pastor; they are appointed through the Revised Common Lectionary. Each Scripture reading, each hymn, even the sermon by our vicar tied into the not-quite-a-week I had just experienced. A week where Lutherans and Swedenborgians, Quakers and Roman Catholics, most of whom had never met until a few days ago, by God’s grace, were making Something Happen.

The Gospel: St. Luke 14

13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

And then came August 31. Snags had dashed our hope of having everything ready with a day to spare. The Food Team was arriving at 3:00 with our guests due around 4:00. I got to The Nunnery around 2:00 and started making beds. A young Quaker, Cherie, appeared out of nowhere and began pulling new bedding out of plastic, then ran around plugging in lamps and checking lightbulbs for functionality. I was panicky and hot and tired. But we pressed on.

Hymn No. 710 Let Streams of Living Justice

Let streams of living justice flow down upon the earth.
Give freedom’s light to captives; let all the poor have worth.
The hungry’s hands are pleading; the workers claim their rights,
The mourners long for laughter, the blinded seek for sight.
Make liberty a beacon, strike down the iron power.
Abolish ancient vengeance. Proclaim your people’s hour.
The dreaded disappearance of family and friend,
The torture and the silence – the fear that knows no end.
The mother with her candle, the child who holds a gun,
The old one nursing hatred – all seek release to come.
Each candle burns for freedom, each light’s a tyrant’s fall.
Each flower placed for martyrs gives tongue to silenced call.
For healing of the nations, for peace that will not end.
For love that makes us lovers, God grant us grace to mend.
Weave our varied gifts together: knit our lives as they are spun.
On your loom of life enrobe us till the thread of life is run.
O great Weaver of our fabric, bind church and world in one.
Dye our texture with your radiance, light our colours with your sun.

Just as I finished the last bed, Joe came over. He hadn’t seen The Nunnery since the day he’d measured it. We toured the first floor. Wonderful aromas from the Welcome Meal that the Food Team was preparing filled the kitchen. Then we went upstairs. I wanted him to see how the bedrooms had all worked out. It took a while.

When we came downstairs, the living room was full of people I’d never seen before, tired people who had been traveling for two days, beautiful people dressed in wonderful African-print clothing. I stopped, speechless, stuck in the doorway, my eyes filling once again.

I had the same feeling as when I first laid eyes on my first grandchild:

I was witnessing a Miracle.

Hymn 805 Lead On, O King Eternal (last verse)

Your city’s built for music: we are the stones you seek.
Your harmony is language. We are the words you speak.
Our faith we find in service, our hope in other’s dreams.
Our love in hand of neighbour. Our homeland brightly gleams.
Inscribe our hearts with justice, your way – the path untried:
Your truth – the heart of stranger, your life – the Crucified.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


This is a National Geographic picture of a refugee camp in Tanzania.

I don't know if the one where "my" refugees lived looked like this. I could have been even worse.

At least three of them were born in a place like this.

For eleven people, today is the first day of the rest of their lives.