Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

I am giving thanks for family. I am always glad when my son comes home from Boston, which he did last night. This year is special because we have a new member of the family, Maggie Louise, who was born just nine days ago. My daughter made a hat and sweater for the baby to wear home~

She didn't know if the baby was a girl or boy, so there was the decision to be made about a name.  Many were tried. Maggie fits just right~

Maggie spends most of her day eating and sleeping.  My daughter will sometimes catch her awake for a photo~

We are delivering Thanksgiving dinner to Maggie's house this year.  I think I'll go wake her up~

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Until further notice, I will be holding the baby~  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

No News

There are instances where no news would not be good news, like when you're waiting to hear about a job interview or trying to buy a house.  I have been in both of those situations and waited with baited breath for news.

In my current time and space, no news is good news. On Tuesday I was scanned, measured, mashed, and relieved of two vials of blood, and I haven't heard a word.  That's good news because if there was a concern, I think I would have heard something by now.  The results should be shared with my doctor within a week, and her office will send me a copy.  I will put the paperwork in a file and out of my mind until someone suggests it's time to get something or other checked again.

That's the scenario I choose to focus on.

This morning Ken and I were treated to brunch with friends.  They invited us to their home, crafted a delicious meal, and then took us for a long walk on wooded trails that surround their neighborhood.  It was a crisp fall day and being outside was invigorating.  I don't get that same feeling alone on the treadmill. It was engaging to walk and talk about families and books and ideas.  A thread that ran through all the topics was how fortunate we are to have good health, independent children, and opportunities to do the things we enjoy.

I had a rough day at work yesterday and there are no indications that things will get easier any time soon.  I got caught up in that and ended the day angry and frustrated. Then I got upset with myself for letting the situation get the best of me.  

Today with friends turned that thinking around.

Monday I have a paper due for my class.  That will keep me busy tomorrow, and while I work I will hold onto the feelings from today.

The journey continues ~

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Update

I drove home in the dark last night.  I stopped on the way to vote.  I was tired and almost didn't, but someone I know was on the ballot for select board.  I know what that feels like and wanted to lend my support.  Parking was easy, and I was quickly in and out.  I was in favor of all three referendum questions, and they passed, so I felt a part of that.

I was getting home later than usual because I had an appointment with the osteopath after work, my third visit in a month.  She's doing some heavy duty work to get my body figured out.  During the second visit she noted that my aorta was palpable.  She advised me to ask my primary care physician to schedule an ultrasound of my aorta.  I had a physical planned for later that week, and my primary care doctor agreed that I should have an ultrasound.

It came up again at yesterday's appointment.  The doctor mentioned she saw my aorta pulsing.  She felt my wrist and said my pulse was bounding.  She said it could be normal for me, so we'll see what the test shows. 

Next Tuesday morning I have enough tests scheduled every half hour to hold me for awhile, starting at 7:00 with the ultrasound and continuing with a mammogram, bone scan, and fasting blood work.  The last three are routine.  I've promised myself a big breakfast to celebrate afterward, and I'm treating myself to a haircut in the afternoon.

I thought October would be the month to get myself in shape.  I am still working toward that goal, but I did accomplish something else....

I am now the proud owner of a smart phone.  I have been on my daughter's cell phone plan for years.  For months we have been talking about updating her phone and bringing my communication into the 21st century.  I didn't feel ready, but I don't know that I ever would on my own.  Each day I learn a bit more. I have sent and received a few texts.  This evening I added a few contacts.

I never know when I might want to call a friend ~

Friday, October 9, 2015

Studio Space

I brought order to my studio, aka sewing/guest room, in early September so I could take photos.  I thought I might take a few more pictures but the room has been pressed into service since I got it organized and realized its potential.  It's time for the reveal~
Ken crafted this thread shelf

Stacks of squares and possibilities

Sewing corner with work table & design wall

Natural light from the north & west, with room to spread out
The room is not large by any standard, but I have room to move and plenty of surfaces to use.  It's a pleasant space, whether I'm sewing or updating photo albums or generating ideas.  There's lots of dreaming goin' on~ 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hello October

I spent September trying to feel better.

Over Labor Day weekend I attempted to fend off a UTI, drinking copious amounts of water for days.  I thought I had it licked...then had to admit I didn't.  It took ten days and two different antibiotics to clear up the infection, and I still wasn't feeling 100%.

Ten days ago I saw my massage therapist and mentioned I was feeling run-down and couldn't get a handle on what was wrong.  She suggested a doctor who uses muscle resistance to assess how a body is doing.

I called and she had an opening this week.  I saw her Tuesday evening and was fascinated by the process. I held out my right arm, determined to stay strong as she lightly pushed down.  How hard could it be to keep my arm out straight?  She pointed to different points on my body and there were times when I was completely helpless as my arm gave way.  She said that generally I am in good health.  However, my brain is disorganized, my blood is weak, and two of my lower vertebrae are out of whack which is affecting my bladder.  She gave me an exercise to do, recommended a daily teaspoon of blackstrap molasses, and encouraged me to make an appointment with an osteopath, which I have been meaning to do for weeks. 

The next day I called the osteopath for a new-patient appointment, which I thought would be weeks away.  Just twenty minutes earlier they'd had a cancellation for this coming Monday afternoon, late enough that I can go after work.

Just for good measure I made an appointment later this month for a physical with my primary care doc.

The doctor mentioned that I am in the process of waiting and need to continue to be patient.  She said that my heart is "tired" and that I can protect it by gently placing my hand on my chest, which I have been doing for months.

I have asked the universe for help.  I feel that those pleas have been answered.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Start From Now

Students started classes last Tuesday, September 1.  I am always disappointed when school starts before Labor Day because in my mind that holiday is part and parcel of summer vacation.  This year was one of those years when the first Monday in September came too late to wait for school to begin so back we went, with gorgeous summer weather continuing without regard for where we need to be between 8 and 3.

The room I'm in this year is even smaller than I originally thought.  It is not half the size but one third the size of a regular classroom.  At nine feet wide and twenty-seven feet long there are limited options for room set-up.  I do have a small desk in the back between the file cabinets and the bookshelves.  At just a glance it is obvious that there is only room for one small table, one teacher, and a couple kids at a time.

The good news is that there is a second door to the room in the back that goes between our room and the computer lab.  Past occupants had covered the door with shelving and supplies, so I didn't know it was there.  Now I keep the door open most of the time, which helps dramatically with air circulation.  I appreciate the natural light I can see through the windows in the computer lab.

The back door makes is easier for me to come and go, which I do often.  There will be times when students are in the lab for classes or testing, but once I figure out the schedule I will have what I need on the cart and be able to do what I need to do.

My current perspective took a few days to evolve.  When I first saw my space for the year I was crestfallen.  I knew I needed to devise a plan to make it work for me, which is when the importance of the second door became apparent.  I have perfected slipping out quietly to make copies, get necessary materials and information, and take on additional duties.

The other thing that helped, at least it did when I started the process on Thursday, was to register for a course that starts tomorrow.  I am reminding myself of the benefits of learning with other educators as I sit here with a five-page syllabus in front of me trying to remember how to be part of a group discussion online.  We do have three classes in real life; the first one isn't for a few weeks and can't come fast enough.  My first thought tonight was that I wasn't ready to make this commitment.  My second thought was that if I don't do it now I may never decide I'm ready.  My third thought was to write a post about it because my fears look less threatening in black and white.

So much has happened this year that has left me feeling vulnerable that I've forgotten how it helps to write, not about the details necessarily, but about the feelings that come with the ups and downs of daily living.  I remembered tonight and feel better already.

Last Tuesday, as I headed out for the first day of school, I loaded my stuff into the car and climbed into the driver's seat.  There on the steering wheel was an envelope, blank and unsealed [Ken's trademark move in case I want to use the envelope again].  Inside was a card with a sepia toned photo of a woman walking along a railroad track while balanced on a rail.  The words above the photo are:  Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning.

Isn't that perfect?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I go back to work tomorrow....  I had a different plan.  I was going to teach reading last year and then get a job as a classroom teacher.  I applied for jobs and did get one interview, where the principal was encouraging but didn't offer me the position.  I will continue to apply for classroom positions, but the clock has run out and for now I need to return to the job I had last year.

Some things have changed.  There will be no lunch recess duty for anyone because there will be no formal mid-day recess, which is a good thing.  Classroom teachers will be responsible for taking their own students out for recess during the course of the day.  I like that I will spend more time teaching.

Another thing that has changed is the location of the literacy classroom.  The room this year is half the size, a long narrow room with no windows and just one door at one end.  There is space for only one teacher so I will hit the road and work with students in their grade-level classrooms.  That's okay with me; I will enjoy being out and about throughout the day.

I very much wanted my own classroom this fall, but there are trade-offs that work to my advantage.  I haven't had to go into school yet because I don't have a classroom to set up or curriculum to align with standards or lesson plans to write.  I have squeezed every last moment out of summer vacation because there literally isn't anything for me to do to prepare for students.

During the school year I will have plenty time to dedicate to taking a graduate class or two.  My certification is up for renewal next summer and I still need continuing education units toward that.

Perhaps the best trade-off is that I will have the flexibility to be available when my daughter needs me in November.  She has given me the okay to share that she is pregnant.  She is an independent woman and capable of doing this on her own, so I am on deck to help how and when she asks.  It has been fun to be in on some of the preparations.  I do my best to maintain a calm exterior, but between you and me I am wicked excited!

Sometimes I make plans and the universe has a better idea....    

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August Transition

The first few years I taught I looked forward to and dreaded summer in equal parts.  I looked forward to unscheduled days with my kids, warm sunny weather, time to do the things I enjoyed, and the chance to catch up on all the appointments and home maintenance I didn't have time for during the school year.  I would hit the ground running the day after school ended and go full tilt until the day school started up again.  I wore myself out and never felt like I got everything done.

At some point I figured out that I couldn't save all the fun stuff or all the chores for the time between school years.  I was curious to see if I could remember to live that lesson this summer.

It helped that Ken and I left on vacation just two days after school ended in June.  The trip was literally a "break" in my routine and took us to places we hadn't been before.

It was a summer for a variety of firsts.  Ken and I bought season tickets to the Maine State Music Theater, a slate of four performances at the theater on Bowdoin College Campus.  The musicals this summer were The Full Monty, Sister Act, The Music Man, and Young Frankenstein.  We enjoyed each one and the fun story lines were especially appreciated.

The two quilting retreats were another first for me.  Each experience took me out of my comfort zone and gave me the opportunity to stretch.  It was fun to learn new techniques, meet quilters and designers whose work I admire, and work beside women I wouldn't have met otherwise.

The retreats gave me something else too ~ the joy I feel when I create and sew.  I had forgotten that just twenty minutes of sewing gives me a chance to change gears and recharge.  Even working at twenty-minute intervals projects move forward, and during the time in between I'm thinking about and planning what comes next. 

I haven't rushed to finish anything this summer.  Like quilting, life is a work in progress.
Slow Stitching block for Color Quilt

Block in Completely Cauchy style

"Roberta" block for Color Quilt

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Slow Stitching Retreat

The Slow Stitching Retreat, made possible by Samantha Lindgren of A Gathering of Stitches, happened this past weekend in Washington, Maine.  The setting was a picturesque camp, complete with cabins, lodge, fire circle, and paths through the woods.  We were privileged to spend the weekend with Chawne, groundbreaking quilter of Completely Cauchy, and Carolyn Friedlander, talented designer of fabric and patterns.  We learned techniques together, had meals together, and enjoyed the slow pace and slow stitching together.  The weekend was made all the better for me because my daughter was able to attend, too.  She and I rarely have time to sew together, so we made the most of the opportunity. 

The porch of the lodge, perfect for rocking and slow stitching
The barn, where we asked "How small can we go?"
Lots of room to work in the barn
My small log cabins made of Shot Cotton, 2.25" square unfinished
Work space, with good light in the lodge, to cut applique
Basting stitches in red, applique stitches in off white
Appliqued halfway around the outside edge
Finished "Roberta," at 15" square my smallest quilt yet
Again, I came home from a quilting retreat with a new perspective. 

It never occurred to me that I could get so much satisfaction in going smaller in my quilting; I am using techniques I learned this weekend in my work started at the July retreat.  I will share that project in my next post. 

I have always shied away from applique because I didn't know where to begin, much less how to get a pleasing finished look; now I know where to begin and with each stitch I am more satisfied with my technique.

I have been sewing since I was a little girl.  In learning as I go I didn't learn the secret to how to thread a needle, which Night Quilter explains here, or any of the various tips I've picked up while working with other sewers.  It's fun to share stories and ideas and shortcuts.  It's fun to ask, "How small can you go?" and watch quilters finish complete blocks that are smaller than 3" square.  I'm sewing the skinniest strips I never imagined because I picked up hints on how to do that this weekend.

I realized months ago that this summer was going to be different from what I envisioned.  When Chawne mentioned this Slow Stitching Retreat on her blog, I followed the link.  My daughter was able to go, so we made plans.  Return visits to Samantha's blog turned up the Quilters Color Weekend.  I am grateful for the timing of these retreats and for the opportunity to work with the teachers and quilters I have had the pleasure to meet. 

Sometimes change needs a push....

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Imposed Interlude

I'm back online after almost two weeks of internet trouble.

It started with an early morning thunderstorm.  The internet went out for several hours.  Then it came back intermittently.  Over a period of days I made several attempts to troubleshoot with tech support.  When I reported there was static on the phone, it was determined that a lineman should be dispatched, which took several more days.

By the time the lineman arrived Wednesday morning the internet was completely gone and the phone was all but unusable.  The good news was that everything up to the pole was in good working order.  The bad news was that something was definitely wrong in the house.  It wasn't his job to diagnose inside problems but he made phone calls to tech support to check numbers to narrow down where the problem might be.  He suggested we upgrade the underground wiring from the pole to the house.

I left for a long weekend and returned to find Ken had pulled new wire.  The good news was that the connection on the outside of the house produced a perfect signal, confirmed when Ken hooked the modem up outside.  The bad news was that there was still no internet in the house and there was still static on the phone.

We started troubleshooting inside, checking connections in phone jacks and locating where the wire comes into the house.  With the help of a mirror, we pulled the wiring up and out of the junction box downstairs.  One of the wires had broken off.  It's a wonder we had internet and phone for as long as we did.

It has been a solid day and a half with internet connectivity and static-free phone service.  Do I dare say the problem is solved?  It's good to be back.

News from the Slow Stitching Retreat coming soon ~

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Connecting The Colors

Thirteen years ago I knew I wanted a yellow kitchen with blue accents.  It was the only combination that felt right.  When we moved to our current house, I duplicated the wall color and added even more blue~
The windowsill above the kitchen sink
This past weekend those colors were front and center in my second color palette, along with splashes of different shades of purple~
Yellow & blue tables side by side make me smile
A year ago orange started showing up in my wardrobe and decorating choices.  I hadn't paired it with aqua but that combo, with splashes of green, is the basis of my primary palette~
The bottom left corner says it all
So I shouldn't have been surprised when I surveyed my fabric choices on Friday as I thought about what I wanted to sew with on Saturday.  I had grabbed the prints that most appealed to me for a project, along with pieces I had that most closely resembled solids.  Turns out I don't stash solids but buy them as needed.  On Saturday we shopped at a locally owned fabric store before we began sewing with quilter Heather Jones.  The only fabric I bought that morning that wound up in my squares was dark orange~
"Coins" on the left; "Log Cabin" on the right
Upon reflection, I saw that all the fabric I used from home was given to me by my daughter.  She often cleans out her stash so I have lots and lots of her "seconds" on hand.  It turned out that what looked like random selections went together beautifully, a point brought to my attention through my primary palette~
The paint chips hone in on what colors stand out
Yesterday I re-oriented the room where I sew.  Eight years ago the room was primarily a guest room where I used my sewing machine.  Three years ago I started calling it my sewing room.  This week I ordered a new table and have plans for a design wall.  Yes, the room will still be a nice space for guests, but primarily the room will be my studio.  I didn't know I wanted such a space until the weekend with color.  Now I know....

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Quilters Color Weekend

That's the official name of the retreat.  People who are on Twitter can put a hashtag in front of that and follow the "goings on" of the weekend.  Yesterday the idea behind our work here got a bit clearer.

The air cleared a bit so I got a better photo of Islesboro from the deck~

That's the dining room from the deck~

Here is the room where we are working~

This is my work space~

My area includes the floor where I laid out my collage.  My assignment before I came was to pull together images from magazines and elsewhere that appeal to me, to not give a lot of thought to why I like what I selected and to not try to make the pictures fit together.  That was our work yesterday, to lay out our pictures in a way that makes sense to us.  It took quite a while, and this is what my original collage looked like~

I was surprised at how the colors flowed from one into another, when color is not what I focused on when I selected the pictures.  It turns out that was the point of the exercise, not to think about it but to go with what naturally appeals to us.  I was even more surprised when I learned I could separate my original collage into three separate collages where the colors looked like they were destined to go together~

Then I matched squares from paint chips to each collage.  This collage process is what Amy Butler, our leader yesterday, uses to design fabric.  Her work is more intricate than what we accomplished in one day, but the basic steps are the same.  She repeatedly asked us to trust the process and follow the steps, and by the time I saw the potential for three collages she had me convinced.  Then I pulled out the fabric that I brought from home just because I like it, even though it's not the colors or the pattern I would normally select.  I honestly thought maybe I could finally do something with it this weekend~

Here's my primary collage - the one that came first in the organization of images~

Uncanny.  Then I looked at the edge of the material and realized it was designed by Amy Butler.  Quite the trip, this journey through color.... 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Retreat In Northport

I made it to Northport, my destination on the coast of Maine.  What a gorgeous place.  I have driven on back roads in this area though not all the way to the ocean.  I knew where I was the first 45 miles but put all my faith in Google maps the last 15.  And I almost made it but stopped at a motel on Route 1 to make sure I knew where I was going.  I was just a mile away.

This is the dining room with a view of Islesboro in Penobscot Bay ~

It was a bit cloudy so I will get more photos tomorrow.  There were two tables beautifully set and  dinner was delicious.  There are ten of us here for the retreat, in addition to three leaders, and we had time to chat before, during, and after dinner.  Five attendees and the woman who organized the weekend are from Maine.  The other two leaders are from Ohio.  There are also participants from California, Florida, North Carolina, and Massachusetts.  We are a range of ages with a variety of experiences.  From our comments it sounds like we are all glad to be here though not exactly sure what to expect.  Tomorrow we make collages and the next day quilt squares.

My only sentence during my introduction was, "I am pushing myself out of my box this summer."  I wonder where I will wind up....

June Trip

Over the course of nine days we traveled 2316 miles across thirteen states. Our northeast region is complete with ~

farms, factories, and funeral homes
garden centers, gravel pits, and gas stations
car dealers, train yards, and truck stops
power plants and playgrounds
churches, schools, and hospitals.

It came to mind that our country of rural and urban, grass and concrete, mountains and rivers is a nation made strong by our diversity and hard work.  I wish every politician would take the time to see what I saw ~
Factory on the Ohio River
Crossing from Ohio into West Virginia
The view up the Ohio River
Farmland in Virginia
Making hay
Building construction around George Mason University
Rebuilt Woodrow Wilson Bridge from VA into MD
Construction where hometown fields used to be
Bridge into Delaware
Today I am on my way to the coast of Maine for a few days of color and quilting.  I will let you know how it goes as the journey continues....

Monday, July 6, 2015


It's good to go away, and it's good to come home.  Then there's all the laundry, accumulated mail, sorting, and putting away that needs to be tended to.  This trip had an excellent element to the unpacking in the Fiesta!ware.  Some pieces are for me and some are for my daughter.  Look at the colors~

Ken picked out the sauceboat because it turns out he likes the color tangerine.  All the poppy pieces are for my daughter, as well as the red tray with handles and the medium sized bowls I now know are labeled "bistro."  The small bowls are my choice for berries, snacks, or ice cream.  Ken chose the bowls that have square bottoms; the red pitcher was my prize, although the oblong platter that is really a bread plate is fun, too.  The three pieces at the top of this second photo were special selections not bought as seconds~

Once the pieces were unpacked, washed, dried, and sorted as to who got what, I needed to make room in my cupboards.  Clearing out kitchen cupboards can be tiresome or fun, and in this case it was the latter.  I had to question why I am still hanging onto bowls we've had since the beginning but no longer use and how many drink glasses two people really need.  The goal has been to add color and usefulness, and our latest purchases accomplish both.

Friday, June 26, 2015


From New York we headed to West Virginia with a specific purpose in mind: to visit the Fiesta Dinnerware Factory in Newell, a town in the uppermost reaches of the state across the Ohio River from Ohio.  Truth be told it would have been easier to find if it had been in Ohio.  We got turned around in East Liverpool and asked directions of a AAA tow truck driver who offered to lead us to our turnoff.  We thanked him and headed up the hill.  We didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this~

There were bins and bins of Fiestaware in the parking lot.  We went into the outlet store to see what was what and learned that the manager decided to leave the leftover "seconds" from the weekend's tent sale out for people to peruse and purchase.  Oh, my~

A salesclerk handed me a list of items with their prices, which was all well and good until I realized the items were not labeled.  I had no idea what anything was called!  There were a few other people there so we talked to each other as we looked and called out if we found anything matching a description.  It was a beautiful day on the Ohio River and a lot of fun~

Ken and I each had a crate to fill and managed to find the right sized bowls and platters, and a pitcher I've had my eye on for years.  Though these "seconds" were a fraction of the retail price,  I wanted to find pieces I would really use.  It was late in the day and we had just a half hour to shop, which was a good thing because the amount of dishware was overwhelming~

It will feel like Christmas when I get home and unpack the boxes~ 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hey, Wealthy Californians

I have a suggestion for all those wealthy people in California who are complaining about their brown lawns:  move to the state of New York.  No, I'm not kidding.  I have just traveled across the state and I can tell you there is no greener, more lush place in the country.  There are thousands of square miles of green.  Here are just a couple examples of what you could do if you decide to make the move~

You could own a vineyard on a lake, like this place on Seneca Lake, in the famous Finger Lakes Region~

You could own a farm overlooking miles of green~

There are roads to get you where you want to go~

And more green just over that hill~

The magnificent skies are an added bonus~