Good-byes Suck

Good-byes suck.  My mom hates the word “sucks,” but I’m sorry, that word just sums it up.  Maybe I should improve my vocabulary.
My daughter, Abigail, img_2126-3came for a one week visit – Wednesday to Wednesday.  She lives in Arizona.  1,845 miles away according to MapQuest.
I took four vacation days and had the weekend in there, so only worked one of the days she was home.  Abigail used that day to clean out her armoire that still sits in our unused family room.  It was full of all her artwork, art supplies, mementos, receipts and bank statements from her college years.  I can only imagine how it must have taken her back.  When she shared what she had found, I was transported back to those days – the wonderful days when she only lived sixty miles away!
Abigail found this photograph among that artwork and after I admired it, she gave it to me to hang in my bathroom.  I love it!img_2291-1
She also went that day to see a friend who had just had a baby.

I didn’t get to do a lot of quilting while she was here, but we took a road trip to Lake Michigan for a “water” fix.  img_2123-2

I took along this WIP and sewed on the binding, so my daughter could take it to her friend for her new baby.img_2282img_2282-1This is a picture of Audrey, Abigail’s friend, and the quilt made for Baby Etheria.

Although I miss my daughter already, I’m happy that she was happy to go back to her hubby (minus the 105+ degree temps there.)  I’m happy to have my comfortable routine back, although having her here brought an extra sparkle to my life.  Abigail always reminds me that I need that sparkle, even if I have to find it within myself.

I’m going to get back to my Genny and Ruth quilt.  I’ve almost got the top completed.  img_2312
Of course, there’s many other projects I have swirling around in my brain.  Guess I’d better get sparkling!
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Lashing the Whip

“They say sitting is the new smoking,” she parroted.  Quite truthfully, every time I hear that, I want to say, “No, it’s not.”  I have a sit down job.  It’s enough pressure to just have to GO to work, let alone thinking that going to work is going to kill me!
“I jogged for an hour this morning in the pool with a jogging suit on,” the same woman spouted.
I know I was just staring at her as she spoke.  I have to be careful what my face looks like when I’m thinking.  I’ve been cursed with that RBF (resting bitch face.)  In my mind, I was imagining her in some strange get up, running in the water, like the Bionic Man, all slo-mo with twangy weird sound effects in the background.  Image result for bionic man runningBut my face probably looked like, “You are lying, Bitch.”
I don’t know this woman.  I was just getting some steps in on my break, and she was passing me going the other direction and busted me on it.  “Getting some steps in?”
Was it that obvious?  Was I counting out loud or walking deliberately?  Did I look like I had no destination?
Ever since I got my Smart Phone with the step counter, I have become so aware of my footfalls. Every step I take, I am conscious of the registering of that step in my phone.  If I step away from my desk without my phone, I hurry back and stuff it in my pocket – don’t want to miss a step!  My pants are always falling down, the weight of my iPhone 6 Plus weighing them down.  I’ve resorted to wearing belts.
The other night I was walking down the hall in my underwear and t-shirt.  I was all ready for bed and realized I’d forgotten my glass of water, so just hopped out of bed and headed to the kitchen.  That’s one of the perks of the empty nest.  No one to say, “Gross, Mom!  Get some clothes on!”
Anyway, as I felt the Berber carpet on the bottoms of my bare feet, so foreign since I’m always in shoes or sandals or slippers, I heard this little voice in my head reminding me to walk harder to make sure my phone registered the steps.  And in the same instance, I thought, I don’t even have my phone on me!  What does it matter how I am walking?  A small bit of panic set in – have I forgotten how to walk naturally?  How obsessed with “steps” have I become?
One day, I walked on the treadmill after work, which I quite often do and have done for years.  I stopped at two miles, then checked my phone, which said I’d only walked 1.8 miles!  I was ripped off of two tenths of a mile!  I posted this on Facebook, to which my adult daughter commented, “What did you do before you had a phone?”
It was a simple comment, tongue in cheek on her part, but it really made me aware that I wasn’t letting life just be life.  Everything is a measurement.  Everything a competition.  I had to wonder, how many times have I missed something really important, because I was thinking more about “how many steps” I was getting in?
I used to take walks, and during those walks, I was noticing the trees, feeling the breeze and letting my mind be one with nature.  Lots of epiphanies came to me during these meditative outings – poems, solutions to problems, peaceful feelings, creative ideas – all now replaced with 1-2-3-4 – step harder, go faster, go further, etc.  You get the point.
Don’t get me wrong.  I like the new fitness craze.  I like that people are becoming more aware and getting out and moving.  I’ve always exercised.  When my kids were little, I memorized Jane Fonda’s Workout, so I could workout behind the couch while my kids watched their favorite video.  Later I did the Fat to Firm video, while my youngest son played on the floor beside me – and got stepped on a couple times. My adult children still remember the funky moves and will sometimes mimic them in reminiscing.
I remember when the powers that be came out and said that twenty minutes of aerobic activity three times a week was enough. Then they increased that to thirty minutes. Then they said it was five times a week.  Now it’s 10,000 steps a day.  I feel like the old nag on Gone with the Wind, hooked to a wagon, and Scarlett, so desperate to get home (or make me get 10,000 steps a day) is lashing me with the whip!
A common question in my house is, “How many steps did you get in today?”  It then becomes the competition to see who got the most.  Who is competing? What’s the prize for the winner?  I picture my husband jumping up and down with his physically demanding day job, “I win, I win! I get to live longer!”
I’m not sure what my answer is.  I guess I can commend myself for caring, for trying, for being aware of my trying and for what I am losing in the process.  I’m pretty hard on myself, as a rule, so I think the key is to ease up.  Keep doing my best, but like all those texters out there who have to be staring at their phones when you are talking to them, or when they are driving, I need to just put my phone down.  Do what I can do and stop measuring it.  Enjoy life!
“Comparison is the thief of happiness.” Right?

Rejection Will Not Stop Me

This week I had a rather discouraging reminder.  People don’t want to pay what a handcrafted item is worth.  I mean, I guess “worth” is in the eye of the beholder – or the beholder of the pocketbook.  Even so, as an artist and crafter, I put my heart and soul into the things I make, so when someone wants to pay the same price they would pay for something off an assembly line or from some third world country, I am insulted and disappointed in humanity. 
My niece, Allie, is a barista at a local coffee shop.  coffeeI had purchased a few of the empty coffee bean, burlap sacks from the place at the local farmer’s market a few years back and made a bag out of one of them.  I carefully cut the bag, centering the beautiful green logo, so the bag displayed the brand.  I lined it with a matching fabric depicting a somewhat Monet type garden print.  I made sure it had an inner pocket, because we all know how important that is!  Then to set it off, I put authentic leather handles on it.   It turned out very “French Country” looking.  French CountryI took it to a holiday craft show, but it didn’t sell. 
A few months later, I listed the bag in my Etsy shop, and when the app offered to post it to Facebook for me, I let it.   This was a big thing for me.  I don’t know why, but I have trouble sharing things or rather – selling things! 
The bag brought about so much praise and appreciation from all of my FB followers, and I ended up selling it to a local person for $25.  The person who purchased it has expressed a wish for two, but I only had one.  Some of my FB friends, who thought the bag was “so cool,” suggested I sell them at a local artsy shop that sells things for people and keeps a commission.  All of this inspired me to make another bag.  Unfortunately,  I had used the other two coffee bean bags to cover my dogs chair cushions.  I asked my niece to check on more bags at the coffee shop. 
Allie texted one day and told me the coffee bean bag guy was there and told me to come down for my choice of bags.  I went there after work and purchased a few. 
Right away, I got to work making another bag.  This time, I decided I put more into it.  I’d give it more usability.  I zig-zagged the burlap to prevent fraying.  I double-stitched the weight bearing seams.  I gave the lining an inside slip pocket AND an inset, zipper pocket.   Then, as an added bonus, I made an attached lanyard with a lobster clasp to hold keys (great for preventing one from digging in the bottom for one’s keys).  Last, but not least, I installed a magnetic closure.  bag
I listed the bag on Etsy, again posting to FB.  Although it got rave reviews from followers, I got no offers to purchase it.  I set it aside with my other Etsy listings (at the bottom of the haystack.  I think listing on Etsy is like putting your things on the bottom of a haystack.)
One evening when Allie and I were creating together, I showed her the bag.  She suggested she take it to work and see if her boss wanted to sell them in the coffee shop.  I shrugged and said, “Sure!”
Long story short (wait, this is already long, so longer story shorter?)  After a week or so, the manager of the store texted me and wanted to know how much I needed for the bag.  She then suggested $10-$15.  I assured her that the bag had more in materials and hardware than that price.  She wanted to know if I could just make some basic ones without all the hardware to sell at that lower price.  (I wanted $30 for my bag.)  I replied that I would throw some together if I got time. 
So, keeping it real, I was actually pretty upset.  It would have been different if she hadn’t had the well constructed, designed and thought out bag right in front of her, but to think it would even be worth my time to bother sitting down at my sewing machine – after work, in my fun sewing time – to spend at least an hour to make a bag to let them sell for $10-$15!   And that would include the price of my materials!  The manager had even consulted with the wealthy owner of the coffee shop on this! 
People don’t know what goes into making things.  They haven’t priced a yard of fabric or know how much time it takes to make things.  I get that.  I’ve tried to sell quilts before, and it is rather insulting what people want to pay.  I guess we can thank Wal-Mart and other stores who sell “faux” quilts for the price of a few yards of fabric. (I call the faux quilts, because they are really just mass produced flat comforters.)
I don’t create for a living.  I guess I can be grateful for that.  No starving artist here, but this all sure explains why artists starve!  I sew because I love it.  I love creating!  I love sharing my craft! 

I guess when you get into selling your creations, the rejection factor jumps in there.  I mean, if you are an artist, sewist, whatever, you know what I mean.  People are always willing to give praise, but it’s when you ask them to get out their wallet that you realize the real appreciation isn’t there.

As an artist and creative person, I remind myself that I create, because that’s what I do!  If someone else likes it, then that’s just icing.  If someone is willing to pay money for it?  Then that’s a great bonus (more money to buy more fabric!)  But rejection will not stop me from creating.  Creating keeps me sane!

Teaching and Sharing

My mother-in-law is back from a month long trip to Florida and ready to get her QAYG quilt done.  She’s doing some straight line quilting to attach the back to the batting and front and give it a little more depth and texture.  It can be quite frustrating for her, because she doesn’t see as well, and she has arthritis.  It’s so tempting to jump in and just do it for her, but she wants this to be her own work, and I don’t blame her.  And teachers teach, right?  They don’t do!img_1176

Last night my niece, who has been busy with college and work, was able to come and work on her wall hanging.  After a quick, early supper of salads with all the fixin’s, we headed to the studio.  She’s decided she’d rather go with a prayer flag, inspired by an article on prayer flags that I had sent her a while back.

Allie is using the same Mary image as I found in this image on this website:  Michigoose’s Gander at Life and Quilts. 

Her center flag is the image of the Virgin Mary.  We took the pre-printed block and ironed on some fusible.  Then she carefully cut out just the Mary image and ironed it on a black print background.  She used a gold satin to border the black, which really set it off.

She left with the block, embroidery floss and more fusible, so she could embellish her Mary block with embroidery and prepare other images for the other flags.  I can’t wait to see where she goes with it!  I’ll share pictures once she gets a little further.  This girl has so much creativity and is quite the artist.

I love teaching and sharing my creative passion!  It’s just about as great as creating myself!

Beer and a Ding Dong!

Cindy Lou (a fictitious name) works for a law office.  She comes into my office occasionally.  She’s my friend on Facebook, and I love to read her posts.  She writes about being a young mom with a tongue in cheek perspective.  She exposes her anger, her failures and foibles, and by the time you are done reading, you are literally L-ingOL (laughing out loud.)  One time, she went so far as to post a picture of her toddler daughter lying in a pool of vomit to illustrate her story. I could not have done that, but it was hilarious!
I think most parents could relate to her stories.  They usually start with her perception (a fantasy) about how expected things to play out, and then how it all crashes down around her.  I love that she sees the irony of it all. Best of all, she finds the humor and shares it with the rest of us who have “been there, done that.”
Cindy Lou’s Facebook posts are always followed with comments and compliments, and many have encouraged her (starting with me) to start a blog.  I know I would follow it.
Today, Cindy Lou stopped in my office.  I asked her if she’d started the blog yet.  She told me she had good intentions, but then her grandmother died.  She said, “there’s nothing funny to write about right now.”
We chatted for a few minutes, and then I told her, don’t let the sadness stop you.  People don’t always want to laugh.  People love stories of perseverance and surviving.  Not everything in life can be funny (- or can it?)  And I don’t think that finding the funny in a person’s funeral or death would be disrespectful.  I mean – I think that once a person dies, they lose their ego, so they would probably love to see that their death brought someone joy!
Anyway, as I spoke to Cindy Lou, I realized that I was probably speaking to myself (aren’t we always projecting our issues onto others?)  Was I taking life too seriously?  Was I making mountains out of mole hills?  Was I seeing the death instead of the life?
My dad passed away five years ago.  He was my next door neighbor, a big support system to me in my adult years and a constant that seemed to hold the cornerstone to the “everything’s going to be okay” building of my life.  I miss him every single day.
Shortly after he passed, my daughter moved clear across the country.  Arizona.  Almost as far as she could get!  Another heart breaker.  She was (and remains) my friend and confidant, and I loved nothing more that meeting her for Starbucks and shopping.  Now, it’s twice a year.
The next year, a fellow artist, art teacher and mentor/friend of mine died. She was the person who always had words of wisdom.  And she was also the person that I thought would always be there.  She was supposed to live forever.
It was at that point that I felt the fantasy of my life crumbling around me.  I was convinced that life (or death) was out to punish me.  All the bad things that are spread sporadically throughout other people’s lives, I felt, were catching up with me.  I’d “had it too good.” I started living life just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  My three kids were grown and gone.  My purpose was done.  I’d hit the top of the hill and just figured this was it – “all downhill from here.”
Through my quilting and creating, I have found new purpose, joy and reason for living.  I make my own sunshine, create my own marshmallows for the next foot to drop on, and I’ve found support in places I never imagined – one of which, by the way, was inside myself. Yes, you can be your biggest support system!  Crazy, huh?  We always think we have to have someone to turn to, but that someone can be our own self!
But back to Cindy Lou; I think I’d like to hear HER side of it.  I’d like to hear the memories she has of her grandmother – and I think that other people would, too.  And more than that, what a great tribute that would be!  If her Nana was anything like my grammas were, there’s bound to be stories of root beer and chocolate covered raisins, quilting and knitting lessons, being told by one gramma to be quiet and stop chewing your gum like a cow, while the other turned up the music loud and watched and clapped, as we ran circles around her living room.
My (ex)husband once told me he loved a strong dark beer with a Hostess Chocolate Ding Dong.  I cringed.  The thought of that bitter beer with the sweet chocolate!  And then I tried it.  AND loved it.  It was a perfect balance of bitter and sweet; each accentuating the other. I think that’s how we have to see life.  The bitter makes the sweet sweeter, and vice verse.  You just can’t get stuck in one or the other.  Too much beer and you’ll be down forever.  Too much sweet and you’ll burn yourself up.  Balance.  That’s the word, I guess.

Be The Change

So, are you a Fixer Upper addict like I am?  We watched the most recent episode last night –  which I believe is the last of this season. (sniff, sniff). We had DVRed it.  Well, I say “we,” but I guess I may be talking about the “mouse in my pocket” and me, because my hubby doesn’t really care about those shows.  Surprised?  Yeah, me, too.  I mean, after all, he’s a contractor.  He’s fixering uppering all the time.  In my mind, I’m thinking these shows would give him ideas and inspiration.  I guess he just wants a break.

Anyway, I almost forgot what I even referenced that show for.  On the show, they had this sign made by Jimmy Don, their metal laser cutter, that said, “Be the Change.”  I sat staring at that wall of decor with that sign in it, and I thought, What’s that mean?  Be the change.  Be the change.  I pondered, Is there a change in my life that I need to “be”?

I thought about how it seems that most people hate changeChange the placement of the products in WalMart and just listen to the frustration!  (I’m one of those b!tchers.  I just want to go get what I want and get out.  Not sniff it out like I’m some beagle in a rabbit hunting competition).

At work, everyone has been freaking out for the last six months, since we changed (magic word there) software.  Yep, the data conversion has required cleaning up; there’s been new ways of finding things; lots of new things to learn; etc.  I’ve had my frustrations, as well, but for the most part, I’ve tried to stay positive and enjoy learning and the possibilities it has presented.  I’ve never seen a group of people so afraid of things changing.  I remember when I first started working here – almost ten years ago – and when I tried to change things up to a more efficient routine, my co-worker let me know, THIS is the way it’s ALWAYS been done!  (Don’t worry, I kept plugging way – or should I say, chipping away – till it was done in a more efficient manner – mind you, there’s still so much more that needs to change.)  Hey, was that me Being the Change?

Think about the word “change.”  Here’s the first definition:  to make or become different; alter.  (Did I hear someone screaming?)

In this world of sheep, change is a dirty word.  Most people don’t want to be different.

How about the word used in “change the baby’s diaper.”? Ugh.  We all know what that means.  Pee and poop, sometimes contained within the diaper, sometimes NOT.  Very unpleasant.

When I was eleven or twelve, I was changing my baby sister’s diaper.  She was my pride and joy, and I loved her as if I had given birth to her.  She was my mother’s eighth child, so Mom was happy to have my assistance in the daily care.  Anyway, one day, I was changing her cloth diaper, and she wouldn’t lie still, so I stuck her with the pin!  I know!  Horrible!!!  Guess that’s why I still remember it.  (And I’m not sure of the significance this story has to this blog post, but I thought it was entertaining.)

And lastly, what about “the change”?  My gynecologist told me, as she gazed at the results of a pelvic ultrasound last year, “Your ovaries haven’t made eggs in a LONG time.  They’re all dried up.”  I wanted to slap her.  I was actually a person who liked to have a period.  It was such a wonderful release.  But now that I’ve entered “the change,” I don’t get to menstruate.  Oh sure, there’s perks (we all know what they are.)  I guess it’s symbolic.  Maybe I don’t like change!  When I had a period, I knew everything was working as it should be.  I guess that’s part of why people don’t like change.  It takes away the security of the known.

Bon Jovi sang, The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.  Seems like an oxymoron if you ask me, but I get where he’s coming from.  The old spiral effect.  Just keep going around and around, and eventually, you do hit the same place again.

I guess I’ve just gone from here to there and back again, and I’m still not quite sure what the change is that I need to be, but I’m sure there’s something to it, or it wouldn’t have got caught in my head.   Maybe “Be the Change” is just a clever way of saying, if you don’t like the way things are, then change what you can change.  Mom always said, “if you act the way you want to be, you will be the way you act.”  Maybe she was saying, “Be the change!”

In Gomer Pyle style, I say, “Well, shazam!” and “golly!”

Well, hope you enjoyed my ponderings.  It did give me a little more clarity.  If I don’t like the way things are, then it’s up to me to make them different.  Or my favorite – it’s up to me to change my perspective (because, let’s face it, there’s things you can’t change.…..)

 

Rebound

Written Friday Night:
Tonight I went to the Southwood vs. Oak Hill basketball game.  I’m somewhat of a homebody, so staying home really sounded more appealing.  But I had not been to any of my nephew, Matthew’s, ball games this year, and I felt a bit guilty for not being supportive enough.  My husband, Mike, had been to several, but most of those were during the week, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep after the excitement of a game, and there’s the reality of having to get up early to go to work. 
Tonight was a Friday night, though, and sectionals! I arrived at the game and found a seat beside my sister.  She informed me that it was going to be an upset if we won, as we had not ever beaten Oak Hill!  At first, I felt defeated and a bit bummed, because I didn’t want to see them lose, but then I remembered that the power of positive thinking can do a lot! 
As you probably guessed by now, we got that upset!  We won!!!  It was a most intense game, and I was impressed with how much Matthew has improved from last year.  My ears are still ringing from the roar of the crowd.  It was so exciting and fun!! 
During the game, I found myself so aware of the crowd and the emotion that they were all experiencing, and afterward, I realized the many reasons that these people go to the game.  Some are old guys who used to play basketball in their youth, and they are there reliving their glory days.  Some are parents who are living vicariously through their children, or just there to support and pray that their child finds happiness in the game.  And I’m sure there are many other reasons, but as I was thinking about all this, and realizing how much fun I had watching and cheering, praying and calling upon my deceased dad to help Matthew find his confidence in his ability, I found gratitude.  Gratitude that these young men get out there and put on a show for us spectators.  Because, you realize, that’s what it is.  It’s not much different than when Matthew’s sisters sing or play musical instruments or perform in plays – only ball games have the goal of winning. 
I wonder if these ball players realize the gift that they are giving to their audience.  The spectators are drawn out of their ho-hum lives, the daily grind, into this excitement and competition, hopes and dreams – if only for that couple of hours.  And it gives them something uplifting to talk about the next day – instead of the usual who has cancer or who just died or what they’re going to eat for dinner or what chores need done or what bills need paid and all the other troubles and routine that seem to build up in adult lives. 
I wonder if they realize – that ball game is NOT just about winning or getting the most points.  It’s much larger than that.  It’s about giving joy to the world.  And I just want to say thank you to my nephew, Matthew, for getting out there, playing the game, doing the work, taking the criticism that others always have to give, and for taking the risk that any performance holds.  And I just hope that he sees the bigger picture.  And I hope that he feels gratitude for himself and his teammates.  Win or lose, it doesn’t matter.  Because you played the game!  And I thank you for that! 
I think a ball game is like life.  It’s not about the end result.  It’s the journey. 
Saturday Night!
IMG_1456
Matthew Holding the Sectional Trophy