Friday, January 29, 2010

The Pieces Come Together

This quilt is made of squares,
with flowers in the corners from dresses of long ago ~

Squares are sewn into rows ~

And rows into a section ~

That when joined with the others ~

Makes a rainbow that glows in the sun ~

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I have had the luxury of time this week. Ken worked four days out of town. I took advantage of that to ignore the dust bunnies collecting in the corners and the paperwork piling up on every available surface. Instead of cleaning or cooking I spent hours at a time at the sewing machine. It has been a long time since I have been so focused on one project, and the reward is that I have finished the quilt top I have been working on. I will have photos to share tomorrow.

The time alone in the house gave me the time and space to work, but I have not always been able to focus on a project even when I had the opportunity.

The difference is that this month I have followed Jan's 28-day meditation challenge at Awake is Good. I don't think it's a coincidence that I have felt calmer and more focused.

Meditation has "changed my mind."

After some trial and error, I found that it works best for me to meditate for a few minutes before bed and a few minutes when I first wake up. For the first several days my mind would not settle down and thoughts continued non-stop. I tried a variety of strategies, including visualizing treetops and floating balloons and sending thoughts on their way.

Then I started saying a blessing of loving kindness for myself and others:

May you be happy,
May you be well,
May you be safe,
May you be peaceful and at ease.

My breathing slows and my mind calms. I have been sleeping better and waking without anxiety.

I didn't know that saying a simple blessing could make such a big difference.

Then I realized that I can access the calming effect of meditation during the day, while I am petting Leo or making tea or walking down the driveway to get the mail or sewing. I can slow down and pay attention to what I am doing in the present moment, which calms my mind and helps me focus.

I never thought that letting go of thinking would help me be more focused.

It feels like so much more is possible.

Monday, January 25, 2010

While The Wind Blows

I have been sewing for three days. Today I finished putting together the final rows of the last quarter of the quilt. Once I sew together these fourteen rows and connect them to the other three sections, the quilt top will be complete. I am pleased with how things are coming together.

A serious storm moved up the coast of Maine today. It's warm enough that instead of snow the front brought heavy rain and high winds. All day I watched rain hit the windows on all sides of the house, and as the light faded a high wind warning was issued for our county and surrounding areas. When the lights flickered, I filled the bathtub with water, brewed a pot of coffee, and put a flashlight in my pocket. I figured if the power went out I could pin quilt rows together by the beam of light.

As I sat at the sewing machine this evening I listened to the wind blow. It's warm enough that I'm not worried about being without heat. I am home alone, with the prospect of losing power, and I am surprisingly okay with that. I thought about how hard this would be if I had kids at home trying to do homework and needing to take showers. I have just me to worry about and I'm doing alright.

My thoughts turned to one of the posters I had framed to hang in the room where I sew. It's one of four posters I chose to have professionally framed, and I kept it because I like the artwork that is above the saying, which truthfully I have never understood, until this past week-end. It's a few lines from the Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell:

Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity. If you don't realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant.

The journey continues....

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Few Things Worth Mentioning

The year has barely started and already I have learned a few things worth mentioning.

I learned while reviewing the photocopies of checks in my latest bank statement that my massage therapist writes "Thank You" on the face of my checks before she deposits them. I went back through last year's statements, and she wrote that on each check. Talk about putting positive energy out there. That was a day brightener.

The days are getting longer. Bonus question: Did you know that the sky catches fire before total darkness descends?

There is a bookstore on the corner of Front Street in Bath, Maine that sells used books to raise money to buy books for the public library. I bought five books for $18.85. Yes, K, I found a copy in excellent condition.

In mid-January mini carnations look especially beautiful and smell especially wonderful.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The World Goes On

A poem by Mary Oliver came to mind today. While I have been enjoying two days of self-imposed hibernation, and given the choice could enjoy many more days of the same, the world goes on. I can listen, or not, and talk, or not, and often I do not make the right choice the first time. I am still learning to let go and breathe, while I look for my place....

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, 1992.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inside Looking Out

It was predicted that we would get two to four inches of snow. By noon yesterday we had almost eight inches. I had planned to make a trip out. Instead I stayed in, content to look out at the snow while I worked at my sewing machine. The beauty of the room where I now sew is the pair of windows. From where I sit, I look to my left and see our only neighbor ~

and when I look across the room I see the backyard ~

Surrounded by white, I am creating rainbows ~

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lessons In Quilting

I started the day thinking that the last thing I need to be working on right now is a quilt.
I have always found a way to fill my days.
I am never bored.
Now I want to make room in my days to do things I haven't done before.
So why did I start making a quilt?
By mid-morning I figured it out ~ the answer lies in the process.
Start with a big idea.
Create the pieces that will make the whole.
Make a plan. Make changes.
Be flexible. Have patience.
Begin at the beginning and keep going.
Line things up.
Leave some wiggle room.
Take time to appreciate the details.
Celebrate incremental successes.
I have discovered the blueprint for making room for what comes next.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wild Bunch Squared

My daughter has an uncanny ability to find bargains. Last November she was raving about fabric she found at a statewide discount store. I didn't think too much about it until she showed me the designers' story online and the website* where you could buy the fabric, at three times the discount store price. The colors are vibrant and the patterns are bold. I know how much she likes the material, and how limited her time is, so for her birthday I offered to make her a quilt. She gave me carte blanche to design whatever I wanted. It's a surprise. I will post a picture after it's finished and she has seen it. My process is to cut, cut, cut squares in a way that I get the greatest number of squares out of the fabric I have. This meant that there was little left over ~

Yesterday I spent several hours laying out a design with the 729 three and a half inch squares. The next step is to sew, sew, sew.

*The designers are Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. The fabric is from their Wild Bunch collection.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is It Time?

Early in December, not long after my last job interview, I was talking to a friend on the phone. We have been friends for forty years, and it's safe to say she knows me almost as well as I know myself.

I said that if the job didn't come through I was going to have to do something different in the new year.

She said yeah, she'd heard that before. She said that's the same thing I said last year.

I hate when that happens, when a friend zaps me with the truth at close range.

She was right. I knew it.

We had this conversation just before my presentation for the entrepreneurship skills class I took last fall. The last class was December 15, the day I was scheduled to share my business plan with classmates.

My presentation went very well, better than I expected. My plan was commended for its detail and conciseness, although a three-page plan does tend to stand out among plans of a dozen pages or more. My PowerPoint went off without a hitch. We had fun, which has always been my goal, and classmates made excellent suggestions about marketing and production. They think I'm onto something and should aggressively pursue the sale of my product.

Then two days later I had a cookie swap for ten people at my house, and three days after that my son came home from California. Then it was Christmas and New Year's, and then it was time to clean up after the holidays. This week my youngest son is home and...and...and....

To humor myself, and so I could tell my friend I was trying, I told myself I needed a sign to know if I should go forward with my idea for a business.

Early last week, while I was in Boston, someone explained to me how he prints out his own postage for packages at home to save time at the post office. Then I saw a television commercial where a postal carrier explains how easy it is for a customer to have packages picked up at their house.

That's not that big a deal though, is it? Anyone could benefit from that information [especially someone who has a business that involves sending packages to people].

Early this week Mir wrote a post at Cornered Office where she mentioned how much she likes using Quicken to track her finances. I left a comment, and she emailed me to emphasize how much she likes the Quicken program.

That's a coincidence, right? I have Quicken on my laptop and learned during my class that it's a great tool for someone with a small business. A lot of people use a computer program to organize their finances [especially someone with a small business who keeps their own books and wants to have well-kept records for an accountant].

Two bits of information. No big deal. I believe in three. For signs to be important, they need to occur in three's....

Today I realized while I was vacuuming [talk about being in a meditative state] that I did receive a third sign. Several weeks ago I started talking about what kind of image I wanted for marketing purposes. I found a photograph I liked, and I shared it with several people, who liked the idea. The photo is copyrighted and not exactly what I wanted, and I haven't heard back from the artist, so I set the idea aside. This week my friend who-knows-me-well sent me an email with a drawing attached, a sketch that her stepdaughter did when she was asked by my friend if she could draw something for me to use. With small changes, it will be just what I had in mind.

Three. That's three, Sharon. Now what do you have to say?

I say that this isn't what I had in mind. I had a nice little hobby, no pressure, that I was going to do on the side. I wanted to go every day to a "real" job where I would work with other people, earn a regular paycheck, and make use of the degree I spent two years and lots of money to get.

After more than two years of job hunting, dozens of applications, and more disappointment than I care to recount, I think it may be time to change my intention.

I say that I believe that the universe hears our intentions, though whether it chooses to listen or not is out of our hands. If I go forward with this idea for a small business and put all my eggs in this basket, then I am saying that I intend to succeed. Until now I didn't have any eggs in this basket, and I kept the basket hidden. If I put this intention out to the universe, I need to be ready to deal with what happens next.

A new year is under way.

There is a follow-up meeting of my entrepreneurial group on January 26 where we will discuss strategic planning.

I have set that date as my deadline.

It may be time to "just do it."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Six Days In

It has been less than a week since the new year started and already I have learned some things about myself.

I love sugar.

Thoughts run through my mind nonstop.

I am becoming addicted to walking on my treadmill.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Almost thirty years ago I stopped putting sugar in my coffee. I was a two-spoonfuls-of-sugar-a-cup girl. I would cut back to one spoonful, but before I knew it I was back to shoveling sugar into the cup. In 1980 I had a new baby, and I wanted to be a good role model. It was a leap year, and February 29 called to me to do something to mark the occasion. I stopped putting any sugar in my coffee. It worked.

I still put sugar in a cup of hot tea. Since the holidays I have cut way back on the sweets I am eating. But I have increased my tea intake, I think in part because I want the sugar, the amount of which has increased as well. Starting with my afternoon tea today I am going to cut back to one spoonful of sugar. Fingers crossed it sticks.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I think all. the. time. Since I made the commitment to start a meditation practice, I have become aware of the thoughts that run through my mind unceasingly. The good news is that I have become aware of this. I am learning that this is part of the process of learning to meditate ~ to become aware of thoughts that fill the space I am trying to clear out. The interesting thing for me is that I am now conscious of how much time and energy I spend thinking about thinking.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I have a treadmill and I know how to use it. I experimented with changing my routine, but the best time of day for me to walk is early afternoon. I look forward to it. I miss it on the days I don't make time. My whole body feels better on the days I walk.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Just six days of paying attention to what I eat, when I exercise, and how often thoughts pass through my mind have led me to make small changes. It makes me wonder about what else might change in the next few weeks.

Let the journey continue....

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Sticky Start

The snowflakes started falling New Year's Day and continued through the early morning hours on Sunday. The 18 inches that piled up looked light and fluffy until we started clearing out yesterday ~ the snow had a sticky factor. Ken must have stopped a dozen times to clean the blades of the snowblower. It took me two hours to clear the deck, tapping the shovel after each load to remove the sticky snow.

I have been mulling over the stickiness factor and decided this morning that it bodes well for 2010. I am optimistic that two new habits will stick with me this year.

The first is meditation. Jan at Awake is Good is running a 28-day meditation challenge this month. She is offering support for everyone who wants to join in, as well as helpful ideas about how to establish and maintain a meditation practice. I am starting at square one but have made the commitment to stick with it.

The second is more attention to what I eat and how often I exercise. For encouragement I am following along at Mir, Kira, Lydia, Joshilyn, and Gray have challenged themselves to lose ten pounds in ten weeks. Their posts will chronicle what they learn and how they change their eating and exercise habits. My goal is not to lose weight but to eat better and exercise more. I think after ten weeks I can stick with the changes I make.

The bottom line is that I can take these positive steps in this new year. I have no excuse not to.