Ya Don’t Know Whatcha Got Till It’s Gone

Are you like me?  When you know people are going to be staying at your house, do you look around and see all the things you have been neglecting?  I’ve gotten pretty house blind, as my mother calls it.  It’s my house.  I’m used to it.  I don’t notice the dust or flaws like I used to.  I have better things to do – like sew!  Cleaning and keeping everything updated and organized have taken the backseat to actually enjoying life!

We are going to visit my daughter in Arizona.  This is the first trip that we have gone on since our youngest bird left the nest.  That left us needing a dog-sitter.  My son, Alex, could have come every day – a few times – to let her out, but she hates when I leave anyway, and I thought a week of being here in an empty house would be too hard on her.

So, I asked my mother-in-law, Sara, a dog lover, to come stay here.  She was more than willing.  She’s so excited for a “getaway” and she loves my dog.  I can’t remember if it was Sara’s idea or mine, but as it ends up, a couple of her widowed girlfriends are going to come stay for a few days, too!  They like to do overnights. They watch movies, do puzzles and go shopping.  I’m happy for Sara that my vacation is also becoming her vacation!

But then, you know what happened – I started seeing my house through their eyes.  The shower rod and curtain needed replaced.  The blanket closet needed cleaned out and organized, so they could open the door without being showered with comforters, my dog’s chair in the three season porch need recovered, the front porch windows needed cleaned…..well, you get the point.  So, that’s what I’ve been working on. 

(These are my plants and a nativity scene I couldn’t bear to put away after Christmas. All sitting on my barn door table. The door is from my grandparents barn. )

 To be honest, I didn’t mind cleaning that much.  I haven’t “nested” in a while.  The kids are grown and gone.  We rarely entertain anymore.  And like I said, I’ve used my off work time to sew!

As I was cleaning the three season porch, where the dog likes to sit and look out the window and drool and shed all over, I started to admire all of my things.  I have a bottle collection, birdhouses, etc. decorating the windows.  With each swipe of the dust rag, I was flooded with memories and love for the person who made the object or gave it to me.  The bench my deceased father made for me sits out there, and a cabinet that my grandfather made when I was a little girl.

Sitting on the floor, after an hour or so of cleaning, I remembered my granddaughter, Layla, now 12 years old, playing out in that porch.  It was the place where children loved to play.  My nephews, Luke and Nick, my great nephew, Hunter, my great niece, Lilly, and of course, Layla all found a magical world out there, and I realized that I had kept some of the decorating that I had originally done with them in mind – even though they are all too old to care about those things anymore, and rarely come to visit.

I sat wiping down the child size, white painted chair, and tears filled my eyes.  The passing of time washed over me, flooding me with sadness.  Sadness that I can’t go back and hold those precious little ones again.  Not the grandchildren, nieces or nephews, and not my own babies.  I sat and wept and realized that those were the best times of my life.  And yet, when my children were small, I didn’t know it.  I didn’t know those were such special times.  I never thought about that they would end – only with anticipation when I was feeling overwhelmed.

I guess it’s something one can’t imagine.  As the title says, “You don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone.”  I didn’t know what I had then, so now I wonder, as I look around me – what do I have now that I’m not realizing will not last forever?  

My creativity has become the child in my life. And I guess that’s why I’ve been neglecting my house – I didn’t do that enough when my kids were here. A lesson learned too late is better than never learned at all. 


WIP It!  WIP it Good!

WIPs. Works in Progress – for those who don’t know the lingo. I’ve read a lot of blogs written by people who fess up to having twenty plus WIPs. And I’ll admit, when I read them, I think, What??? How could they leave that many projects midway to move on to something better or just different?  

I’m a finish what you started kinda gal. Maybe it’s those strong work ethics instilled in me at a very young age. Work before play and all that jazz. But today I was thinking about the project that I am working on – another Libby’s Log Cabin, because I started one, realized it was going to be too big, so made is a lap size, then had several center star blocks and many two inch strips leftover. So one night when I just needed (yes, NEEDED!) to sew, I thought, what the heck, may as well make another. The first one, I made for my son’s girlfriend, Tara, so I’m calling the second one, Tara2. 

 The first one was a huge hit on the Quiltville Open Studio on Facebook. It’s kind of like when you stand in line at the amusement park for a roller coaster ride. The line is long and you may stand there for an hour, and then the ride is only five minutes! But it was so great that you are willing to walk right around to the back of that long line and wait again!  (Photo from coastergallery.com) 

Anyway, I’m over halfway done, and I started thinking of a different pattern I’m dying to try. It’s a Hilltop Houses pattern that’s been floating around in my brain for a while, but now it is knocking loudly at the door. It wants out!  Suddenly, a thought came into my mind- I could just stack up all the Tara2 components and stuff them in a bag for later! Of course, one part of me when into a panic! Noooooo! You have to finish what you started! You can do the houses quilt next! Just be patient.  

But another voice spoke up – what if there is no next time? What if you never get to make the Hilltop Houses and you wasted all this time making the quilt that you’ve already made – same colors, size, etc.? And that’s when I realized that maybe these multiple WIP people are not so crazy after all!  

I had ten extra minutes before leaving for work today, so I ran back and sewed on a couple more strips on the log cabins. I realized that I am enjoying the process. And I anticipate the finished product. That was refreshing. I never want to be sewing begrudgingly.  

I truly doubt that I will abandon this project for another, but I was happy for the epiphany that multiple WIPs are not actually a “bad” thing. These people are just embracing life, making the most of every moment. It doesn’t mean that they are flighty or indecisive or hard to please. They just want to try it all! And I don’t blame them.  

To appease my wandering mind, I have decided that I am going to make another design wall, and do a little more organization. Then I will start the Hilltop Houses AND continue working on Tara2. The best of both worlds? Or am I becoming a multiple WIP person? I guess it just doesn’t matter. The key is to keep going. Keep creating! Making the world a brighter place! Painting by Mary C. Lengel (my mom)

Gratitude as an Attitude 

Cubed steak and mashed potatoes. Gravy. Corn. Biscuits, which some might call rolls.  No frozen Stouffer’s lasagna.  

Drew, my oldest son, doesn’t live that far from us. Just under a two hour drive. Yet with his busy schedule with work, two step children involved in numerous activities, a wife in chronic nerve pain from a surgery and just diagnosed with lupus – and our schedules, etc., it seems we have a hard time getting together. I’m excited, because they are coming to our house for the weekend. We haven’t had Christmas with their children, our only grandchildren, yet.   Better late than never!

This winter has been full of illness. I seem to have a chronic cold or sinus something and sore throat. It just hasn’t been cold enough, I don’t think, to kill all the germs! So when I asked my husband for suggestions on what to fix for dinner when everyone is home, he said, “Frozen lasagna! That’s easy.”  

“Good idea,” I responded. I knew I’d have enough energy for that. I checked the Kroger ad and found it was even on sale.  

I sent Drew a text asking if he thought that sounded okay. With teenagers, you never know when they have decided they hate a certain food that they used to love. I asked Drew if that sounded good or if it sounded Yuck!  

His reply was, “Eeh, that’s fine.”  

I got off work – a long day of data entry and gray skies, and I was feeling pretty low. In the middle of trying to perk myself up, while sitting at the red light, the light turned to green – or I thought it did. Actually, it was the green arrow, but I was going straight! Straight into oncoming traffic! Luckily, the old man about to turn into the side of my car slammed on his brakes and shook his arms at me angrily.  

I’m sure my eyes were as big as saucers, and I pleaded with him through over exaggerated lip movement, mouthing, “I’m SO sorry!”, and drove on. Tears rolled involuntarily down my cheeks. I had to admit, the release felt pretty good, but it had me questioning if I am depressed. Do I suffer from S.A.D.?  

Once at the grocery, I parked, dried my tears and headed inside. I decided in that moment that I would make my son’s favorite meal – Cubed steak and all the fixin’s. Yes, it’s much more work than frozen lasagna, but not only did I think he needed to feel special, but I needed to feel a special purpose.  

Walking through the aisles of the grocery, I couldn’t help but notice that people seemed exceptionally friendly. I thanked God for them. I was sure their smiles were heaven sent. I passed an older gentleman, who looked poor and lonely. He averted his eyes, so I could not give him a smile. I pondered about what his life might be like, and although you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, I decided at that point that I needed to choose. Choose to be happy for all that I’ve been blessed with. Choose to be grateful. Choose to fulfill myself by doing things I enjoyed! 

And the cubed steaks were on sale!! A sign from God? 

Once home with groceries put away, I texted my son, “So okay. Cubed steak and mashed potatoes it is!”  

His response? 

“Saayyyy whaaatttt?”

I’d say the extra work is worth it if it brings about a response like that! Sometimes, it’s in the giving that we receive. The key is the focus. I changed my focus from feeling sorry for myself to feeling lucky to have a family that I love and who love me and love my cooking!!  

This is Drew and the flag quilt I made at his request a couple years ago. 

Gifts Given and Received

Yes, my son, Alex, (shown here ice fishing with his dad on the pond behind his house)is all moved in, and it is official.  We are empty nesters! We finished the move on December 31st.  I didn’t really feel the emptiness that night, because I was exhausted!  But the next evening, Mike and I were watching the movie, The Giver – which I would highly recommend.  It was about halfway through the movie, and I had him pause it, so I could take the dog out.  As I stood on the patio looking up at the starlit black sky, waiting for Siddha to do her business, I wondered what time Alex would be coming home.  And that’s when it hit me.  The realization that I would not be wondering that any more.  He has his own home now.

Motherhood – or parenthood – is like a fantastic roller coaster ride.  You start it slow, rocking and nurturing, then you put on the gas and speed it up.  “I can’t wait till….” precedes everything from walking to talking to whatever the next step in growing up might be, but as they near adulthood, you start to realize how fast it’s been going and put on the brakes to try to slow it down.

By the time my third child came around, I realized there was no hurry!!  I didn’t try to rush the process anymore or listen to society’s guidelines for what age each milestone should be reached.  I didn’t worry about how long he was in diapers, how long he had a bottle or how long he lived at home.  I had wised up and realized that all would happen in its own time.  But moreover, I realized that this was the beginning of the end.

I really thought I’d be anguishing over the empty spot in my life, but things have shifted, and it actually feels quite natural to not have any kids living in the house.  Mike and I have found a new groove – doing our own things, doing things together, and sharing the housework.  He seems to listen better – knowing Alex isn’t there to be my audience, and maybe he needs me to listen to him more, too.

Alex comes by everyday to go to work with Mike, so I see him at least once a day.  He seems happy, and I’m happy that he’s happy.  He still shares his stories with me, which makes my heart glad.

I finished Tara’s quilt top last week.  I opted to have it long arm quilted by Virginia at Walnut Creek Quilting.  She is fast and affordable, and it saved my neck and back! I had it back from her within THREE days!  I hurried to get the binding sewn on, so I could take it for “show and tell” at my BOM (Block of the Month) club. Here’s my first block and the book we’re working from. 

Last night I delivered the quilt to Tara at her and Alex’s house.    I made her let me take a picture of her with it.  I posted the picture of Tara with her quilt on the Quiltville Facebook page.  This morning I had over 2,000 likes!!!  Unbelievable.  I have to say, I think it had something to do with the pretty girl with the beautiful smile sitting underneath it.  😉

Tonight my husband is going to a guy party for a friend’s birthday.  I have a friend coming over to work on our blocks for BOM. I’m truly looking forward to more sewing – less cooking, laundry and cleaning!

I guess we don’t always know what is good for us.  You don’t know what’s inside the box till you untie the pretty ribbon and tear away the paper. 

Open to the Gift

Christmas Eve. Hard to believe it is here already. I just hung the stockings on the mantle. I usually wait till evening, but our celebration will be this evening after the large gathering at my moms, and the kids are all adults now, so they won’t be peeking inside. In hanging them, I realize that I am missing one more stuffer. Darn it! Maybe I’ll get my husband to stop at the store. He is always going somewhere. Spit in a skillet, you might say.

I have a cold. Not fun on Christmas. Or any other day for that matter. But worse when you know you are going to be around approximately sixty people! I hate that I may be contaminating them, but I’m not the only one with this nasty virus; my mom has had it and two of my sisters.  I just won’t hug anyone. And I’ll keep my anti-bacterial gel handy.

My youngest son has his house almost ready to move into. They’re waiting on the special order toilet. It had to be an unusual distance from the wall or something due to the floor joist that they don’t want to cut for the pipe. They ordered it in time, but the place they get their supplies from faxed (yes, they still fax!) the order to the wrong number. I guess everything happens for a reason.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that soon my house will be an empty nest. I’m looking on the bright side and making plans. I want to clean out cupboards and get them organized. I haven’t done that in years, because it felt like a lost cause. I want to paint the shelves in my pantry, along with the basement steps. After my son takes all his hunting gear from our breezeway, I want to paint the walls and trim in that room, as well.

And of course, there is quilting. I have Tara (my son’s girlfriend)’s quilt top almost done. Debating on whether to quilt it myself or pay to have it long arm quilted. I need to make the basketball court quilt for my nephew, too. And my friend and I joined a block of the month group at the local fabric store.  I’ve always wanted to do a block of the month, and I’ve always wanted to be part of a quilting collective.

Lots of plans and positive things to focus on.   I admit I was waffling back and forth for a while there between mourning the loss of motherhood and the passing of time and the possibility that the future holds. The problem with the future is that it is unknown. I have been a mom with children in my house for thirty-five years! It was all I dreamed of. You know, some dream of becoming a doctor or flying a plane. All I wanted was to be a mom! I wasn’t the best mom, but I know that I loved it, and I loved my children and gave my life to them. Now they’re giving it back. I have to take it as a gift, right?

So Happy Holidays to everyone! May you (and I) see the blessings around us and open our arms to the possible!

River Run

Sunday I was sewing.  I’ve been working on a quilt for my son’s girlfriend.  While the Viking hummed, I was overcome by the need to cry.  Or maybe you would call it a realization that I needed to cry.  I’d been feeling heavy in my heart, and I’d been so tired for the past couple weeks.

A song came on my Christina Perri Pandora station that finally set the flood gates free, and I sat weeping while I sewed.  It was as if on each tear sat a woman.  Some I knew. Some I did not.  But I felt their pain, as if my own, and I was overcome with the burden of the woman’s journey.  (I later realized it was a bit ironic that as this all surfaced, I was working on a quilt for my son’s – most likely – future wife.)

My husband, Mike, returned home from fishing.  He and his buddy weren’t having any luck.  The river was churned up and too muddy.

I went out to the kitchen to talk to Mike while he ate his lunch, but I could not stop the river of tears from flowing.  He seemed unaffected.  Or maybe he was afraid to ask what I was crying about.  I decided to share with him – whether he desired that information or not!

I told him I was feeling the pain of every woman in the world that day.  I made reference to John Coffey in The Green Mile and how John could feel everyone’s suffering and see in his mind the horrible experiences they carried in their hearts.  I told him that’s how I felt – like John Coffey.  The Green Mile is one of our favorite movies, and the reference seemed to help Mike connect to what I was going through.  I am sure, too, that he was happy that my tears were not directly his fault.

I went on to explain that although women have come so far in the world, they are still repressed and suppressed.  They struggle to say what they want and need, because of these patterns from the past that women should shut up, be quiet, stuff their feelings, take a “chill” pill, and let the man rule.  I told him I knew it was hard for him to understand, because, after all, he IS a man!

Sometimes, I can talk to him and think he is a brick wall and there’s no getting in.  But this day, the door was open.  He felt what I was saying.  He volunteered examples of women we knew and how they let their significant others rule their lives, and now these women are ill or have chronic pain or discomfort.

We talked about how women seem to sacrifice themselves just to keep a man, even if the man doesn’t really make them happy.  It’s as if success in life has been defined by the ability to keep your man happy.

As we discussed it all, my tears subsided and I realized he got it.  He wasn’t judging me.  He wasn’t thinking, “Silly women.  Can’t wait to get out of here.”  He didn’t tell me to take a pill (and never has), and he didn’t brush me off as being hormonal.  His heart was open, and he was sharing my pain.

We’ve been spending a lot of our spare time working on a house that my youngest son, Alex, bought to fix up and move into.  He’s in a serious relationship, and he’s twenty-six now; both good reasons to seek out his own place.  Although I have been encouraging him to make this next move in his life, it has been a struggle for me, as well.  He has always been a big supporter in my life.  He’s a good listener, a great story teller, gives great hugs – and it seems, just when he can tell I need one.  He’s the go-to when I need help.  In short – he’s been my support system. And I don’t want to lose that.

I’ve noticed a change in our relationship with the entrance of the girlfriend, but I’m okay with that – most of the time.  I think she and I will be good friends, and I hope that I can be a support system for her, because she is a woman, and I know she has fears, too, about these changes in her life.  And as I put the pieces of her quilt together, I pray that she stays true to herself, because if there’s any man out there that would honor and respect that, it would be my son (or his brother!  My current daughter-in-law actually told me that my sons are a “rare breed.”)

As Alex steps into this next phase of his life, and Mike and I settle into our empty nest, I’m letting go of the part of me that wanted to mourn the loss of what I thought was the best part of my life – being a mom.  I’m actually looking forward to the possibilities this new life will bring. I hope to grow closer to my husband, to be a support system to my children, and I’m looking forward to more time to sew and quilt!



Finish Line

After a summer of busy days and hard to keep quilt class dates, my students (and nieces), Allie and Rachael, finished their wall hangings!  




Allie chose the pattern, which she stuck with but Rach decided to change hers up. I love them both. 

I love a finish! But I’m going to miss hanging out with these two. We shared more than just stitches and fabric. 

Someday when they have more time, I hope we can do it again. Until then, I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with them and proud of their end result. 

Return to Me

Lately, I feel like all I do is buy things and return things.  It’s giving me a complex.  Like – am I so hard to please?  Am I fickle?  Wishy-washy?  Or are the products of today just shoddy and inconsistent? Am I just not in touch with who I really am?
I’m not much of a shopper.  I hate exhausting myself browsing through stores, fighting crowds, trying on clothes, checking prices, etc.  I’d much rather be in my studio whipping up a quilt or some other creation.  But life requires me to go to work, to social functions, and I require myself to take pride in my appearance.
I try to be frugal, but my taste is not of the WalMart pleasable level.  Although – it’s not Ann Taylor either.  More like Gap or Lands End or Eddie Bauer.  I watch for sales and free shipping, and I do most of my shopping from my computer.  (Driving to these places takes way too much time – an hour one way for me.)
Whenever I need anything non-clothing, I use Amazon, and I’ve used Thrive for food items (if you haven’t tried them, you should!)
My “Return Queen” status started a couple months ago.  I ordered a pair of skinny jeans from Eddie Bauer along with a button up shirt and a cardigan.  I was quite pleased with the tops, but the jeans seemed a little too much like second skin.  I tried them on for my husband, and he just laughed and said, “A little tight, don’t ya think?” They were a size 8, which is what I wear, and they fit.  They just looked tight.
So, I returned them.
Next I ordered an essential oil kit from Amazon.  I spent a bunch of time researching which were the best, then went with the set that fit my budget.  When they arrived, I could smell them outside the package.  A good sign – right?  Well, I took out the lime scent, and I doused my car freshener with it, but the next day it smelled like nothing.  I tried one more scent before putting in the request for return.  Luckily, they just credited my account and I didn’t have to ship the product back.  I was a little confused by this, but after talking to a few other people, I found this was common.  I guess they didn’t want them if they didn’t work either.
I went to a local department store and bought a dress with a bohemian flair and a crocheted cardigan, which I decided (after getting home) didn’t do anything for me.  I had purchased them for an upcoming wedding.  I took them back.
While I was at the store, I searched and tried on about ten other things. I had a dress at home.  I just didn’t like that it showed my over 50 thickening waist. So at my oldest son’s earlier suggestion, I finally grabbed a pair of Spanx.  I bought a new pair of earrings and a big faced watch and comfortable dress shoes to wear with the dress at home – my spike heel pumps kill my feet now that arthritis is setting in.
I put on the entire outfit at home only to find out that I’d rather look like a tomato than wear that undergarment that makes me feel like I’ve been taken hostage by a roll of duct tape.  Next, I put on the watch.  It was just one link too big.  (Unfortunately, there was no sales person to help me and adjust the watch – a sign of the times?)
I tried to remove a link.  My husband tried.  My son tried.  We YouTubed it, and all tried again.  Finally, disgusted, I put it back in its pretty box and threw it into the return bag with the Spanx.
In another attempt to avoid the shopping mall, I ordered a maxi dress on Amazon.  It feels amazing.  I could wear it 24/7.  Unfortunately, I look like I’m pregnant or just chubby.  In my mother’s words, “Yeah, it doesn’t do much for you.”
I threw it in the box to be returned.
I ordered my mother a pair of Crocs.  Too big.  Ordered her a smaller pair (verdict still out), and while I was at it, I found a cute pair of Crocs for me and ordered them.  I love Crocs, because they are so comfortable!  But the pair I got were too small, but not small enough to warrant an entire size larger.  I threw them in the return box.
Before this, I returned a remote control for my son.  It was advertised as a universal for TV’s, and it ended up being one for a DVD player.
I returned a battery operated LED Ottlite brand task light that didn’t illuminate anything.  I suppose if you were in a completely dark room, it would emit light, but I wanted it for when I was working on handwork – coloring with colored pencils, painting toenails, quilting by hand or embroidering.  What a disappointment.
In writing this, I have noticed a theme.  Aging.  I guess I’m trying to buy youth.  The ability to wear a sheath dress without a muffin top.  Skinny jeans without looking like I’m trying to be a teeny-bopper.  A light to improve failing vision.  All these things are taken for granted in youth.  And I’m not saying that at age 54 I need to succumb and just wear housecoats and give up doing the things I enjoy.  I just think the task of finding the right thing becomes more difficult.
I once had a young woman who was a size 18 tell me that in her mind’s eye, she was a size 10.  I guess that’s my problem.  I’m 54 years old, but in my mind, I feel enthusiastic about fashion, quilts, music, books and activities that a 30 or 40 year old feels, but my body is telling me otherwise.
I’m not sure what the answer is.  I guess – don’t give up!  Things might be tougher, but it’s worth the effort.  And I’m sure it isn’t going to get easier, so I guess I’ll stop my whining, quit beating myself up, accept myself and move forward.  It helps to remember that I’m not just a body.  And it’s not how I look that matters.  It’s who I bring to the table.  It’s who I return to.  And even more important, I just realized, is to live in this moment with gratitude for all that I am and all that I can do.  Cover

Progress At Last!

Quilt Class resumed last night!  It seems that summer is just as busy as the school year for these two girls. 

But they both made it last night and even brought another niece, Chrissie, who was spending a few days with my 81 year old mom. I grabbed the opportunity to present a new quilting experience to some youth. I love making memories!  

Here’s Chrissie and her first quilt block. 

Here’s Allie and her progress on her HST wall hanging. 

Rachael made the same blocks but different fabric and came up with her own design. 

I have so much fun with these two!  They are creative and soulful!  Wise behind their 20 and 24 years. 

What’s better than an evening with soul, sewing and smoothies????  Not much!  

Rach and Allie hope to give their first quilt creations to their mamas. Hopefully we can keep our schedules in sinc, so they can complete them before the end of the year. 

Rachael told me she was looking at Pinterest and saw so many more things she wants to make!  I’m so excited!  Spreadin’ the love!

Shirt Quilts

A few years back, my sister presented me with about 10 of her husbands work shirts. She asked if I had any use for them, and in true crafter/quilter style, i didn’t turn them down. I didn’t have an idea right then, but knew one would come to me some time! 

One day I was looking through my stash, determined to not buy anything for my next project and I thought of those shirts. They’d been hanging in my closet for a couple years. I decided to make quilts for my sisters two boys. After all it was their dads shirts. 

I made a more traditional one for her oldest son. Then did a random one for her youngest. I used the big stitch method to quilt them. 

I’m not sure that they were exactly thrilled to receive quilts, but it’s my hope that they’ll keep them forever and when they look at them they’ll think about the hard work their dad does every day to give them a good life and they’ll remember how much their Aunt Chrissy loves them.