Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A neighbor brought me over a bouquet, which included this beautiful lily, probably 8 inches across.  Unfortunately I have a thing about lilies--some have a fragrance which reminds me of funerals, of that smell of stagnation. The day lilies that grow in our garden don't have these, but Dave knows not to bring me any lilies from the store.

This lily was so beautiful that I brought it into the house.  By the end of the first full day, though, I realized that it would spending its time out on the front porch.  I tried again the second day to bring it into the house, thinking it had "aired out."  Nope.  I did this dance for several days, finally realizing that the lily, in all its glory, had to go, as now I could smell it even though it was out on the porch.

But before it did, I took pictures of it.  It was truly a glorious and lovely flower, rich and vibrant in color and texture.  A stunner. I hated to see the visuals of it go, but happy to let the fragrance fade away.

Life, and blog post numbers can just slip by.  Happy 600 posts to this blog (a few back).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Love Letter to the Shuttle Program

Can't believe the shuttle program has ended--it's been such a constant in my life for so many years so I took for granted the rhythm of a shuttle lifting off, a shuttle landing.  And no, I never did see a lift-off or a landing which is one of those things that are a regret.

So here's a video tribute to the shuttle.  It's about 8 minutes long, but an enjoyable 8 minutes (funny clip of Buzz Lightyear near the end).

P.S. Thanks to Maggie Koerth-Baker of Boing Boing for the title of this post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

All Is Safely Gathered In

When I was a young mother I moaned to MY mother about how I never got anything done.  The laundry always piled up;  sometimes as quickly I as I could move it from the dryer, fold it and put it in the drawers, it would be used, dirtied and find its way back to the blue plastic mesh basket in front of the washer.  Meals were a never-ending story and I resorted to “closing the kitchen” just so I could get the breakfast dishes washed and put away before it was time to haul out the peanut butter and jelly for lunch.  The bathrooms always needed to be cleaned, the floor rarely seemed to be free of crumbs or sticky places.  And those sticky places migrated from floor to doorknobs, to car handles, to walls.  If I could have strapped on the 409 in a giant backpack, squirting and wiping as I went I MIGHT have conquered the dirt.  Just maybe.  I began quilting because I wanted a “bedspread” (what we called it then) for my bed, however I soon saw the advantage of quilting: it stayed done.  I didn’t have to resew a seam as it didn’t unpick itself in the night.  The patches would still be there, done, when I was ready to assemble them into a quilt.  And then somewhere this stitching and patching and quilting took a turn and became my art, my way of expressing creativity.

I think I moaned to mother for years and years. Then the children grew up, the bathrooms needed cleaning only once a week, then the children left.  Dishes rarely pile up and sticky places don’t spring up like mushrooms overnight.  The dust and dirt of housework and I have made our peace with each other, leaving lots of room around my job as am adjunct college professor (English) to happily spend time cutting and sewing and creating quilts.

But there’s this healthy strain of ADHD in my family, and I can easily flit from pile of fabric to pile of fabric.  My intention was to take stock each Friday, slow down and commend myself on whatever I had accomplished in order to notice my work, to smile and be aware that I completed that which I set out to do.  To reap a little harvest from the sowing (sewing, too) that I had done earlier.

So, today, here is the quilt I just finished: All Is Safely Gathered In, a quilt about sowing and harvesting.  I began this three years ago, trying to work with an original block I’d drafted–simple in design but it carried a nice big punch with those new large-scale prints that we were all investigating.  How to make them work?  Place them right up against each other in nice big squares and shapes–let that fabric shine. When I was casting about for a name, I talked it over with my husband.  How about something about harvest? he asked, and the phrase from a favorite hymn jumped right out at me.  When I was that young overwhelmed mother, I could think of nothing more satisfying than walking around the house at night, the last child in bed, the open book fallen to the floor, the night-light casting its golden glow on the cheeks and hair of these children who kept me so busy during the day.  I fell in love with them all over again, storing up these feelings of satisfaction every night against the onslaught of the day.  And now, many many years later those children walk their houses at night, picking up the books, bending over to plant a kiss on their children’s soft cheeks.

I sowed children and stitches and tasks uncompleted and time and more time and I am now reaping grandchildren and quilts and houses that don’t get quite as dirty.  While I’m not done, I feel like I have some sense of the law of the harvest.  And it is immensely satisfying, I must say.

I was drawn to not only the Kaffe Fassett fabrics (rich in coloration and detail) but also those of designer Martha Negley and Phillip Jacobs (who designed that border).  I loved making this quilt, but it did take me three and a half years from inception to this stage–awaiting its label on the back.

Photo taken by Judy and stolen from her website

I’m actually doing two labels–this one and the dotty quilt label, titled Come A- Round.

This one's stolen from Judy's website, too.
Here's a picture of that other quilt, unfinished.  Check the quilty blog later, for a photo of the quilt, finished.  Like next week.

But few have spoken of the actual pleasure derived from giving to someone, from creating something, from finishing a task, from offering unexpected help almost invisibly and anonymously.” –Paul Wiener

--This post, in a slightly different form, was published as well on my quilty blog: occasionalpiece.wordpress.com.--

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Fonts and I go way back, back to where we only had copy machines and typewriters and I used to cut apart interesting magazine page titles in order to get at a particular font, that only they could print.

Then came computers, desktop publishing (remember that phrase?) and font bibles.  And suitcases.  And TrueType.  And other words that mean nothing to me, but are a way for me to get fonts.

I bought my first font disk probably 15 years ago and am still using some of those fonts still.  I just downloaded a few more free fonts from Font Squirrel, a website with a good amount of free fonts (the picture is a clipping from their Display Font category). 

In another life I would have been a graphic artist, with about as much employability as my current degree in writing.  But how incredibly cool to study fonts, maybe design a few, and play play play with fonts all day long.  I even read font blogs and subscribe to a newsletter.

Blogger has a few fonts, and a few more if a person wants to go into the guts of the machine.  All are dictated by how they look on the digital web, so the place where I can really go crazy is print.  I add interesting fonts to my church lessons (no one sees it but me).  My lesson plans for school are a riot of fonts as I use particular fonts to highlight various points in the lesson plans.

My students may love fonts as much as I, but they may not type with them, nor gussy up their titles in Comic Sans, or some Gothic number, for fonts are a private passion, best kept under wraps.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th, 2011

Something a little different this year.  Inspired by A Year in Pictures, I decided to shoot my fireworks this year in black and white.  It helped to concentrate to block out the (very) annoying musical soundtrack some dude was playing next to me.  I'm a purist, preferring oohs and aahs of small children and even adults to the mish-mash of country music, excerpts of speeches from the former President, and a Sousa clip or two.  Which runs into another preference of mine: Sousa should be played by big marching bands with swinging epaulets and shiny brasses, not crammed into a tinny radio speaker.

So we sat on the lawn, gazing up over the trees that have grown taller each year, saying things like, "Remember when we first started coming here, how there were no trees in our way?"  We had positioned our lawn chairs just right, allowing the dark shadow of a palm tree to block the streetlight's glare.

A few thundering explosions of green, yellows, red, and those white lights that go all wiggly-like as the embers burn out.  Then it all stopped.  Dead stop.  We got up and wandered to where we could see the mountain where the fireworks are launched; it was being traversed by a sinewy, fiery snake of flames.  We watched for a while, told the dude with the music that the mountain was on fire, then grabbed our chairs and drove further downtown to see if we could see the fire.  We were going against traffic, their shining headlights another sinewy snake made of double-eyes.  We tried to photograph the fire, but no--you had to be there.

We made our way across town this time and saw people lining the streets gazing up at the mountain, neighbors gathered sprawled in lawn chairs, some men shirtless in the heat.  Remnants of barbecues, the coals glimmering and the ice chests nearby.  We dodged spinning firecrackers thrown into the street, laughing at the whoops and shrieks when firecrackers exploded.  "These are our peeps, Dave," I said and he gave some sound like--maybe yours, but not necessarily mine--but then nodded in agreement.  Our peeps.  Our town.  Our smoking mountain now being doused by water cannons from flashing trucks high up on the ridge.

Back home, relaxing, I heard the thudding of launchers some ninety minutes after the beginning.  I holler to Dave to come and see and we stand gazing out the upstairs bedroom window, watching the second half of the interrupted show.  Still some trees in our way, but the best sounds come through: thudding cannons and our oohs and aahs at the brilliant lights, high up in our hometown sky.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Half the Sky

My friend got me into listening to audio books on my digital device, and my mother and I have started a mini-book club; we choose a new book every few weeks and listen to it together.  I don't usually post here about books (perhaps I should), but this one is a little different.

This is a difficult, yet sobering, book to listen to or to read.  My 83-year-old mother chose it for us to listen to because she is a far-reaching thinker and astute observer of the human condition, but because of its depictions of the difficulties that women face in developing countries, I thought it might be difficult to listen to, esp. in the sections of human trafficking, female circumcision, and maternal mortality.  But I'm glad I persevered.  I listened to it while quilting: working on cloth and patchwork and piecing--a so-called woman's set of skills--listening to the deprivations endured by so many women across the world.  

I read a quilt blog this past week where a fellow blogger linked to some of the brouhaha over whether or not there should be more racial diversity in our quilting world.  While a legitimate topic of discussion, most of it trended to whining about privilege and money and bias, along with some slander here and there.  I just wanted to shout, "Wake up, whiny quilters!"  I thought the discussion was a curious maelstrom, considering there are those who can't even begin to contemplate owning a new piece of cloth, let alone the luxury of pursuing art and hobbies. I told my husband after listening to this book, I realize how good we have it here in the United States, and while we already tithe to our church--which has many humanitarian projects currently going on in the world--I wanted to do some more.  

My husband's family has a long legacy of philanthropic attitudes and projects, so perhaps I'm just now coming awake to some of those possibilities.  As a family we've talked about Kiva, which offers micro loans to help others, however, I was quite impressed with the stories in the book about Camfed, which strives to educate girls in Africa.  No, I just didn't find a Do-Good Badge on the ground and pin it on.  But if you choose to read this book--and although hard to read in some parts, I believe all women should read it--you might find yourself at the other end of it wondering how you can help from the boundaries of your own life.  I know I was moved to tears at many points, but the authors weren't yanking on emotional heartstrings for pathos or for pity's sake.  They were informing me, changing my vision of the world.

We don't need to give up everything and go to these countries to live as they do, although if you feel called to that mission, you will do much good.  As Kristoff and WuDunn point out, sometimes our well-placed 25 bucks can make a huge difference to some young woman, or a young mother across the world.  I generally have no hesitation plunking down amounts far greater than that in quilt shops or in excess shopping at the mall.  Listening to this has made me realize that I can do better than simply amassing more fabric for my stash, but I don't think it's either/or.  I can do both and make a difference in a life as well.

If you are intrigued, they have a great website, with a whole list of different opportunities that, for the price of a few fat quarters, I realize I could leave another lasting legacy besides my quilting.