It’s time for a vacation! Tomorrow we leave on our yearly winter getaway to Arizona. My daughter moved there about five years ago.
Very convenient! The winter prior to her moving there, I had declared to my husband that I wanted to start going someplace warm in February. February is the longest winter month. It’s the month that the last of the Vitamin D has been sucked from my body. Living in the Midwest, the sun is hard to find in the winter months!
I need a replenishment to get through till May when the flowers start to bloom and brighten the earth.
The other day, I looked at the empty pots on my patio and started planning in my head what to plant. I had to remind myself that I still have a few months to wait!
We had all the arrangements for our trip west planned out. My mother-in-law was coming, as is the routine, to stay at our house and give Siddha, my dog, a bunch of grandmotherly love, while I am not there. Sid tends to mope about or sit in the chair in the front porch, looking out toward town, waiting for me to come home.
She’s such a mind reader, I don’t know why she can’t understand when I tell her I’ll be back in a week. Last night I was standing on the back porch, waiting for her to do her thing. She headed toward me to go in, then heard my phone text alert. She stopped, then turned toward my mom’s house. How did she know that my mom was texting me to come over? I get lots of texts, and lots of texts from my mother, but it’s only occasionally that they prompt me to head to my mom’s house. Maybe Sid does understand that I’ll be gone for a week, and that I’ll be coming back, but maybe she still doesn’t like it!
Anyway, my mother-in-law’s brother passed away unexpectedly. A wonderful life-loving man – died in his sleep. I’m happy for him; who wouldn’t want to go that way? But it was a shock to everyone who loved him. So now my MIL is gone to New Hampshire to be with family and attend his memorial service.
Luckily, my son, Alex and his fiance’, Tara
live nearby and said they could stay at our house and take care of Siddha,
till Tuesday when my MIL, Sara, can get back. Whew! So last night I hit the grocery store and bought a bunch of food for Alex and Tara and eventually, Sara. Hopefully, that will make it a little more worth their while.
Our flight goes out late tomorrow. I’ll have time to take my mom to WalMart, vacuum the house, mop the kitchen, clean the shower and finish packing, without feeling like I’m under a time crunch. I hate rushing!!
I can’t wait to feel that Arizona sun! To sleep in without setting my alarm to get up for work. To hang out with my hubby,
who is always at his best on vacation. And last, but nowhere near the least, I can’t wait to see my girl! (I miss her more than I let myself realize, because if I realized it, really felt it, it would be the undoing of me.)
Hasta la vista, Midwest frigid temperatures! I’m off to visit the sun!!
What is it about the holidays that make one travel back in time? The other day I was reminiscing about spending time at my uncle and aunt’s house when I was eleven. I grew up in a house of seven to nine children (some left before others were born), so you can imagine how lost in the crowd a child might feel.
Spending time in their house, as my aunt was just expecting her first baby, I felt like a princess. Suddenly, my opinion mattered. People cared what I had to say and what I wanted to do. I look back quite often with gratitude, as this was a wonderful gift to me.
Today, I woke up with my ex-boyfriend of almost thirty years ago on my mind. I lay there in bed thinking – why am I thinking about him? Then I started to worry – was this a premonition? I had recently heard that he is on kidney dialysis for a genetic disease. It makes me so sad. He was an extreme outdoors man; I can’t imagine him being stuck in a bed. I did the only thing I could do. Said a prayer and started my daily routine.
Later in the morning, as I stood on my patio waiting for my dog to do her business, I had a flashback of my oldest son, not quite two years old at the time, sitting in the red metal car that my (now) ex-husband and I had given him for Christmas. I had found that antique at a garage sale and put it in the storage cage in the basement of our apartment building till Christmas Eve. I wonder if I can find that picture….He was the cutest little towhead with blue eyes. Sigh. Those were the days. He’ll be bringing his sixteen and twelve year old children up this weekend for our Christmas celebration. I’m excited to see them!
Christmases with small children are the best. Children get lost in the magic of Christmas, and it is contagious! My dad, who has been gone over five years now, loved to see the children open gifts, but he thought adults buying for each other was stupid. He said, “If you want something, why don’t you just go buy it?” Yep, a real romantic. Not! He was conservative and practical. And Mom says that’s the way she liked it. I’m not sure if I ever believed her, but I guess she just appreciated Dad for the provider he was and didn’t need the show.
In 1987, when I was a single mom of two children, I was living on a very meager income. Abigail was six and Drew was two and a half. My oldest sister and her husband bought us a Christmas tree and gave us their old Christmas decorations for it. Then they bought a bunch of presents for the kids and wrapped them. They put the gifts in a big cardboard box and put it on my front porch. I told the kids that Santa left it there. This story is one of love and generosity. My sister, Kathy – and my other siblings, for that matter – has always had a generous heart. She loves to buy and give – even when it’s not Christmas. Her own kids were only fourteen and twelve at the time, and she still took the time and money to make sure my kids had a good Christmas.
Right before the Christmas of 1988, the guy that I was just thinking of this morning broke my heart. I was hurting pretty badly. My little sisters, Carol and Amy, and my niece, Marie, who were only fifteen and thirteen years old at the time, bought me a beautiful scarf and a Swatch brand watch.
They didn’t want me to not have any gifts to open for Christmas. It brings tears to my eyes thinking back. I still remember that scarf. It was so soft – navy with white flowers. The Swatch was multi-colored with that plastic see-through band they came with. Having gone through a divorce in 1987 and then having my heart broken in 1988, their undying love brought joy to my aching heart.
My husband, Mike, is horrible for figuring out what I bought him before Christmas. And he always lets me know that he knows – or he tricks me into telling him. I could never understand why he would want to ruin his surprises. But one year, I got him! I bought him the rolling tool box he was wishing for. I hid it in the shed behind our house. Just so he wouldn’t get suspicious at no gifts for him under the tree, I took an orange and wrapped a note around it telling where to find his gift and wrapped it in a coffee mug box. He thought I gotten him a softball! That was my best success at surprising him!
A few years ago, Mike proclaimed that he wanted rain gear (for fishing in) for Christmas. He showed me exactly the jacket and pants in the Cabela’s catalog. He wanted them so badly that he kept bringing it up. Of course, I ordered what he wanted, but every time he mentioned the “rain gear,” I said, “Did you say reindeer? You want reindeer?” The kids were grown by this Christmas, so I got them in on my plan. I told them to buy their dad some type of reindeer and wrap it up. I hid his rain gear in the back closet. On Christmas Day, every gift he opened was a reindeer – one was a little stuffed ornament, one was the stuffed guy that sits on the table and sings, “Up On the Rooftop,” and another was a hard resin knick knack. Every gift he opened, I would say, “You said you wanted reindeer, remember?” By the time he opened the last gift, I think he was truly wondering if he got his rain gear.
My daughter, Abigail, lives in Arizona and has for five years now.
I send them a box of gifts and goodies each year. She works in the retail business, so chances are, she’ll never make it home for Christmas. I try not to dwell on it and anticipate our yearly February visit with her!
My youngest son, Alex, is now engaged and expecting his first child. Next year, we will have a little baby to buy gifts for!
I’m sure I could go on with memories past, but it’s time to focus on the present. I’ve still got baking and preparations to do at the house.
So I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. And if you feel like sharing your favorite memory with me – holiday related or not, I’d love to hear it!
Allie and I met last evening for Quilt Class, now dubbed QC (texting shortens everything). The prayer flag
that she worked on all summer is now complete, so we were left with, “What will the next project be?”
I had recently read the book, Wise Craft Quilts by Blair Stocker. So SO much inspiration from this book. You should check it out! I love the organic feel of her projects. Plus she uses a lot of what she already has on hand, which inspires me to use my scraps and the huge pile of muslin (that I bought from my brother’s rummage sale) and all the old jeans that people have been throwing at me for years!
With a blank canvas in front of us, I decided to take Allie on this new exploration with me. I showed her the crazy quilt center block set in a neutral fabric square in Blair’s book and said, “Let’s do this.” (I was going to show a picture from the book, but not sure on permissions and such, so just get the book and check it out!)
We dumped the scrap bin on the floor and started sifting through. I let it be Allie’s choice of colors, as I had thought she would be the one ending up with this joint project. She started with muted blues and navies, but as we went, corals and melon and green and turquoise made it into the pile.
We started with 6 1/2″ muslin foundation blocks, but then we realized that our scraps were probably too small. I cut the blocks down to 4 inches, and we got to work.
Crazy quilt piecing looks very forgiving, but we didn’t find this to be true. You have to make sure you cover all the raw edges, and this requires some planning ahead. Most difficult for both of us was breaking out of the traditional piecing of squaring up or symmetrical thinking. Allie got a bit frustrated, and I wonder if she will want to continue with this project, but I am addicted! I love it! I wanted to continue into the night and not stop!
I can see myself going bigger with this concept. I’d love to embellish with doo-dads or big stitch quilt it.
Sewing with Allie is very therapeutic for me. She’s more like a grandchild, since her mother, my sister, is eleven years younger than I. Allie and I connected from day one of her life.
We have a flow when we are together. I love our discussions, and I love getting silly with her and going deep. She makes me laugh. She makes me think. I look forward to QC, scheduled for every Wednesday at 5:30, although with her schedule (she’s still a college student and a Barista) and mine, we manage to get together every other or every third Wednesday. Sometimes she invites her friend, Kristen, or her boyfriend, Elijah (but she calls him Jim…?). And sometimes my niece, Rachael, joins us, although she’s off getting her doctorate degree now, so no time for QC!
I hope to inspire others to create and to carry on this tradition of quilting. Possibilities abound. And it’s not just for old ladies anymore! It’s become an art!
Arizona was very hard to leave. Yes, for the usual reason of having to leave my daughter there, but also, because I LOVE – IT – THERE.
Every time I step foot on that Arizona airport tarmac, I am filled with emotion. I feel every part of my body relaxing, and it’s as if I am finally “home.”
I’ve always dreamed of living in Arizona. As far back as I remember, it was my dream home destination. I think I’ve written about this before, so I won’t ramble on.
My daughter, Abigail and I were discussing this feeling in me during our last visit. She wondered if I carried a connection to the desert, since I lived there in my formative years – I lived in southeast New Mexico when I was 21.
Abigail and her husband, Adam, moved to Tempe in 2013.
Adam was accepted into the master/doctorate program with tuition remission and a stipend. They have been there since, as he is still in school. They both hate the desert. They hate the heat and how it imprisons them. They long for the green of the Midwest and the changing seasons and colors that go with it. My daughter stated, “I’m sick of tan!”
Abigail and I chatted about changing perspective. The sooner we accept and embrace a situation, it seems the sooner we are released from it.
It was easy for me to talk to her about it. Easy for me to say – See, this is what you need to do!
Upon our return from this short visit, my husband, Mike and I were walking from the airport back to my car awaiting us in long term parking. Long term, but not long enough.
The sky was matte gray, the temperature a damp 59 degrees, and a saturating, chilling mist seemed to be coming from every direction. Mike sneezed, and I wiped my running nose. “Welcome back to reality,” I stated, sarcastically. “I miss Arizona already!!! I’ve got shell shock!” I added, dramatically.
We drove the hour to our house, where we were greeted by our dog, my mom and later, by our adult son and his girlfriend – so much love. Even so, I found myself wondering – WHY? Why do I have to live in the Midwest? Why can’t I live in the desert where my body feels good and my heart feels happy? Why did I put down roots so deep in a place that doesn’t feed my soul the way the desert does?
The next day, I felt a bit of self-pity seeping in. Okay, well, maybe more than seeping. Maybe it was becoming my reality. Maybe I was becoming a river of self-pitying tears. That voice that said – I hate Indiana. I hate my job. – was taking over.
And then, I remembered. I remembered what I told my daughter. “Maybe if you embrace this place, you will be released from it.”
Physician, heal thyself!
I cannot be a victim of my circumstance unless I choose to be.
Shift. Shift. Time to change perspective and focus. The things out of reach always look better than they do up close.
Again, I choose gratitude as my attitude. And from there, happiness grows! I’m still not giving up on my dream of living in the desert. After all, dreams are necessary to keep us looking forward. But in the meantime, I will carry it in my heart! I focus on the possible. And not on being a victim of circumstance.
I know I’ve said it before, but what the heck were they talking about “the lazy days of summer”? Summer is always so busy! Not that I’m complaining, because if you know me, I truly live by the old adage – “idol hands are a devil’s play things” – or however that goes. That’s how I remember it from my childhood years when my mom kept us busy from sun up to sun down with chores.
I have kept up with my Instagram posts. They are quick and easy and don’t have to say too much; a picture is worth a thousand words, right? So you can check me out there – unless that’s where you found me here!
My husband and I took a quick trip to middle Michigan. It was his idea, which totally surprised me. I made the reservations through VRBO, giggling as I did so, because I booked a place with a quilt shop on the property! Hey, I made sure there were bike paths (for him/us) nearby!
It was the most amazing place we have ever stayed. I want one in my back yard now. Like a quilting/writing studio/getaway!
Okay, yeah, back to reality.
As soon as we arrived, I headed into the quilt shop. It was my dream quilt shop. Young, beautiful, friendly, hip women/owners to greet me and an up to the moment selection of fabric. I purchased some Halloween prints and made my brother a wallhanging when I got home. I got the panel on Amazon. All three of my children let me know they’d like one, so I ended up ordering three more panels and making three more.
I also purchased a Maywood Studios Texture Illusion jelly roll while I was there. I love this line, and want to get some yardage to go with it. It’s so cool how it looks like wool, but it’s cotton!
I did use a bit of the jelly roll to make myself a new Noodlehead Super Tote. It isn’t exactly the design I was thinking of, but I decided I wasn’t buying anything else to make it. I was determined to use what I had in my stash. I used a pair of my oldest son’s jeans. He was the guy who would wear them till they were patches (patched by me) upon patches. Good memories.
I’m loving having a new bag to carry, and it makes me smile, so I guess that’s a success! It will be perfect for our upcoming trip to Arizona to see our daughter!!
Anyway, back to our Michigan getaway. Mike was set on going back to Petoskey, so we loaded up the bikes and drove up there to ride. We rode a bit in Traverse City, but I’m telling you, that place is so busy. I couldn’t handle it. Which turned out to be a great thing, because we headed north where the trails going from Petoskey to Harbor Springs were amazing. We actually pulled off to the side of the trails, cut down a VERY short path and waded in Lake Michigan at a beach where only one other person was present, and he was reading a book under a tree. We searched for Petoskey stones. Mike found one. I didn’t, but the cold water on my legs and ankles (I’ve had some tendinitis) felt amazing.
It was a great trip. If you are looking for a getaway, the Cardinal Nest is so unique. You just have to experience it. It would make a great place to get away with a group of creative people or quilters. The basement was all set up for that type of thing – mainly quilting! (I even heard Mike telling a friend on the phone that it was the coolest place we have stayed!) And just so you know, I’m not getting paid to say these nice things. Just sharing for the sake of sharing.
Next up is a fall, quick trip to Tempe, so I can put my arms around our daughter. Gratitude is an attitude (Oprah’s line?), so I’m focusing on the three times I will have seen her face to face this year, instead of the many, many weeks I wish she was here (or I was there.)
I have a bunch of old CDs in my car. I rarely listen to them. My commute to work is short, but lately, even short is too long for the repetition on the radio. Today the CD I listened to was an old One Republic. I got caught up in the song, “All I Need.” I was touched by the line that talks about things not turning out like you thought they would. And they say, “Did you think you could find it, better than you have it?”
I found myself nodding and I wondered if anyone else looks back at their life and thinks, “Wow, this is not how I thought my life would be!” Obviously, I am not alone, because here’s this song about it.
It sounds as if I am a little unappreciative of my life, but that’s not it at all. I could have chosen different paths, and things could have been different, but like they say in the song, “All I need, is the air I breathe, and a place to rest my head….”
It would be easy to look back and say, if only……
But even through all the tough times, all the rocky roads I chose, the stupid choices I made, I have learned so much. I truly believe that had I chosen what seem to be the hard path at the time, that would have taken me in the direction that I really wanted to go instead of the path of least resistance that led me to a hard life with many unseen hills to climb, I would not have found the spirituality, compassion and empathy that I now possess.
I hear others whose lives have been the typical – graduate from college, get married, have three kids, attend church and ball games and do all the socially acceptable and expected things – judging others who have not made good choices and have ended up divorced, poor, living on welfare, struggling in life. And I feel bad for the judgers. Their lives seem empty and without meaning. I cannot and do not want to join them, because I was one of those who chose the rough road, and if this is where I ended up because of, or in spite of, it, I am grateful.
I’m sure when people see me now, driving my Lexus and living in a nice home, they don’t see the nineteen year old young mother, with a deadbeat, drunk and abusive husband that I married, because I wanted to have someone to love and accept me and a place to call my own, being so hungry that I wanted to eat my daughter’s baby food. They don’t see the abuse that I left two marriages to get away from. They weren’t there to see my current husband and myself and three kids living on a meager income, so I could stay home and hold my own baby when he cried and to greet our older two when they got off the school bus with their joys and their sorrows. They don’t know what my husband and I went through to make it to this twenty-eight year anniversary this month.
I have always had something to be grateful for, even when my stomach was caving in and grumbling I could look at my dark haired baby girl smiling up at me. And as life went on I was blessed with two glorious boys that I never imagined I could love as much as a girl.
I have to say that I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love for quilting and the joy that it brings me if I had not been so desperately poor. It all started with the patchwork quilt I made for our daughter, then eight-years-old, so she’d have something special under the Christmas tree that year (she’s 35 years old now and still loves and uses that thread bare quilt.) My husband used his skills that year to make our oldest son a toy box that looked like a truck. If we had both been working and had plenty of money, we would have gone to the store and bought the latest trendy toy, and it would be forgotten and our lives would not be as rich as they are today, both having taken our creativity to a new level.
They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I truly believe that. I’m blessed to have an open heart. I reflect with gratitude at all the lessons I have learned, and the doors that have opened because of them.
It wasn’t the woods that really that drew me. It was “away.” And being only eight years old, the woods behind our house was as far away as I could imagine going without a car.
When things got tough at home, I’d pack my doll suitcase with all my doll’s clothes and make my plan to go to the woods. I’d sit and fantasize about the life of love and acceptance I would have there. I’d live there when I grew up, I imagined, with my little girl with beautiful blonde curls – not unruly mousy dishwater blonde hair like mine. And there would be no man. Men were scary and unpredictable, and I didn’t see the need for one.
I didn’t ever take my packed suitcase and go. After fantasizing about my future adult self living there, I would stow the fantasy away as a back up plan. Yes, that’s where I could go. That’s where I would go. The woods.
As an eight year old, I had realized just how far my legs would take me. And the woods was far enough. It was the same distance south as my grandmother’s house was west. Yes, I could make it that far if I wanted to.
I didn’t ever go there. Not alone. I was afraid. Afraid to be alone. Afraid of the unknown.
I had “tired legs,” as my mother recalled. There are pictures of me at the zoo in the stroller with my older sister pushing me and my brother, three years younger than I, walking beside the stroller. My legs were tired, Mom had noted. It was very sweet of her to let me have the stroller, although I’m sure she was just desperate to be done with my whining and sulking. (I was a very sulky child, I have been told.) And I’m sure my younger brother couldn’t wait to run free!
My grandmother, who was the ultimate example of unconditional love, lived across the pasture from us. We loved to run across he pasture to visit her. I remember, after one such visit, standing at the edge of the pasture, looking at our house in the distance, my belly bulging with chocolate kisses, rootbeer and popcorn. My blood sugar coming down from it’s spike, I was overwhelmed and depleted of any energy. My legs would feel wobbly and my body felt as if it were made of lead. I’d start to cry, and my older sister, trying to distract me, would try to convince me to run. Sometimes it worked. Others, I’d trudge through blinding tears and salty sweat rivers back to our house.
It would be many years before I realized that my legs weren’t “tired”, as my mother had thought they were. It was my mind. I was easily overwhelmed. Most tasks seemed insurmountable. I didn’t have a “can do” spirit. I had a “can’t do” mindset. My mind was more powerful than my body, and it was convinced that most things were just too difficult to even try.
Many years later, self awareness made me realize that I could do things with a different perspective. Instead of thinking about all I had to do or get done, I could just sing a song, dance and play music, and suddenly the tasks would be complete. My legs are strong and can carry me a long way. I have discovered mind over matter.
Once, while visiting Chicago with my daughter, niece and brother, we were in search of a particular pizza place. My brother had seen it on the internet and said it was supposed to be the best! We walked what seemed for miles, him with his nose to his smart phone GPS, and the rest of us obediently following him on his quest. The sun was beating down. My shins were burning from my non-supportive tennis shoes.
My mind went back to my childhood and my “tired legs,” but as it did so, it stopped on a memory. Another brother, five years older than me, was driving the car. My older sister sat shotgun, and I in the backseat (in more ways than one.) We were just out for a drive. Out for freedom from adult domination. We saw some people walking down the road, and as we approached them, my brother told my sister to yell, “Hey, if you get tired of walking, start running!”
We all thought we were pretty funny and clever, and as this memory played through my mind, I repeated my older brother’s words to the rest with me pounding the concrete walks of Chicago.
“Hey, if you get tired of walking, start running!”
We were a bit delirious by this time, and everyone started to giggle. I decided to do it. Just start running. Everyone followed my example, and to my great surprise, it really did seem to help. Running took different muscles than walking! We were laughing and running and running and laughing, passing other people walking, and I am sure they thought we were escaped mental ward patients or high on crystal meth, but we didn’t care. We were from out of town, and we were hungry!!!!
We finally made it to the pizza place. It was a lot further than my brother admittedly had anticipated or calculated. We each drank a pitcher of water – no exaggeration, and the pizza was the best we’d ever have – as promised! We were all too tired to walk all the way back to the train, so my brother paid for a very, scary, taxi ride.
(There’s two morals to this story; most times, the best things may be a long, hard, hot walk away, but the destination is worth the suffering in getting there. And, letting someone else drive your life can be a bit terrifying!)
As an adult, I have realized that I have and still do let others shut me down or drive me around. Sometimes, I still let people sit on my legs, letting my desire for their approval to keep from going “to the woods,” that place of unknowns, that place of alone. I let them drag me around and convince me to settle for a frozen pizza, instead of making the effort for a scrumptious Chicago Style deep dish pizza.
Today, I remembered that my legs aren’t tired after all. And if I get tired of walking, I can just start running!