Saturday, February 10, 2018

There's Something I Want to Say

(and this is not it. Not really. I'll have to think more on what it is I really want to say. In the meantime, there is this.)

I'm here to get my once a month post in early.

I've been to Houston for a checkup. My radiology oncologist has bowed out. He says I no longer need him. I liked him a lot so I'll miss seeing him. He always came in and shook our hands then sat down and made eye contact with me while he talked. He was reassuring and matter of fact. On the way home, I thought about how the doctor we see on our cancer journey becomes the favorite one, the one in whom we place our trust. And sometimes, we forget that there is a whole gol-darned team behind that doctor, a team that is helping to make (and keep) us well. I breathed a silent "thank you" to my radiology team. I won't ever know all of their names but nonetheless I am deeply appreciative of their efforts.

I'll still have to see another member of the team because of the medicine I take and the possible side effects. My radiology oncologist told me that people were keeping a good eye on me, with blood tests and CT scans and X-rays. Because it seems like "your body likes to make these things." I suppose I won't fuss about the fact that I'm traveling to Houston one time in each of the first four months of 2018, since they are keeping a good eye on me. I hope after April that I will be able to go less frequently.

I've had my birthday. It's always good to know I made it through another year!

It's Mardi Gras season around here, which means I'll be off for Monday through Wednesday of next week. It's raining now and rain is predicted into next week. I'm not planning on getting out in any of it. Not in this weather.

Things are somewhat depressing around here. It's probably a combination of the weather and the general situation in our country and the world right now. But I've had a couple of reminders this morning that there is still plenty of good in the world and that's the part I want to pay attention to. I want to be one of the good ones, in whatever way I can.

Today would have been my grandmother's I don't know whatieth birthday. I think about her a lot when I am sewing and quilting. 

Well, that's it for now. I can think of nothing else to say. And I have no recent pictures to share.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Decay All Around

Casualties of winter—the pot may be a goner, but spring will return and maybe the fern will too. It's been such a unusually cold winter this year. I was so happy not to be cold this weekend!

And my prayer flags that I made in July of 2015 are showing their age. Leaving them out to rot is an exercise in letting go, which doesn't come easy for me. It also seems like we/I need prayers like these more than ever.

"Be Well," my hope always, and my prayer for my sister. Hope, that thing with feathers that is often hard to hold. I have to include here friend Cyn's encouragement from the time I posted these when they were brand new, "The assault on hope doesn't mean hope is down. Hope is an evergreen. Hope is your shadow. Hope is a forever friend." That's the kind of thing I need to hear often these days.

"Breathe," "Light," "Love," breathe light and love? Breathe? Be light? Spread love? The cotton is fading and fraying.

"Peace to all who mourn." Over the holidays, I knew of a couple of families who were mourning. May peace come to them. 

The first flag in line is "Joy." Joy might have been the first one I made.

Some have suggested it's time for new flags. I say, "not yet." Let's watch these slowly wither and die. 

I'm so ready for spring to arrive.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When You Fall, Get Up and Begin Again

(Warning: This is long, probably boring, and could certainly be classified as navel gazing (at it's finest?)! But I kind of needed to clear up the fog I've been in for the last month or so.) 

The week before we were to be off for Christmas break, I had the flu. I worked two days before I finally admitted to myself that I was sick. Sick enough to see a doctor. I'd had the flu shot and thought I couldn't possibly have the flu. As I now know, that's entirely possible. I missed a day and a half during that week.

On the 15th, the last work day before the break, I was ready and looking forward to quiet times of reflection, reviewing and remembering 2017, and thinking about things I wanted to work toward in 2018.

We left that evening, heading out to our little place in the country. We stayed there until Thursday (the 21st). While I was there, I finished up a table runner I was making for my eldest daughter. She bought her first house last January and she was going to have us over for Christmas Eve gumbo.

This is the front of the table runner. The red border fabric was an estate sale purchase. The strips in the middle came from Tuesday Morning. 

This is the back of the table runner. This is what happens when you don't plan so well and your top ends up being larger than the piece of fabric you wanted to use for your backing. You add a group of strips in the middle (or thereabouts) of the backing fabric and voilĂ , your piece of fabric is now good to go! 

I was able to spend time with my journal and last year's planner, thinking about and writing about the blessings and the foibles of last year. I thought about the things I might like to focus on in the coming year. I made a list of possible words and themes for the year.

I get overwhelmed thinking about goals. I've about decided I'm just not a goal oriented person, and maybe that's okay. For me. I wonder why I write in journals and why I write here. I enjoy it, that's all. I remember once, at work, the faculty had to set measurable goals showing improvement in one of the areas they deal with. One of the professors said something like, "Do we have to be so specific? Can't we just point in the general direction and hope for the best?"  I think that's a "best way" for me to deal with looking ahead and "planning" for the new year.

Anyhoo...I mostly decided that 2017 was an unremarkable year. There were a few things that stood out, a few blips in the road, but mostly, it was unremarkable.

We came home from the country on Thursday afternoon (21st). On Saturday (23rd), the wheels began to fall off. 2017 began to deliver on The Remarkable. My leg began to hurt. I couldn't stand without pain, I couldn't walk without pain, I couldn't sit without pain. I could not even lie flat in the bed without pain. I struggled through that day. Sunday morning (24th), when I tried unsuccessfully three times to walk to the kitchen to fix my coffee and eat a little breakfast, I decided I needed to get myself to a doctor if I didn't want to spend Christmas Eve and/or Christmas in the ER.

I have never been in so much miserable inescapable pain. I called my aunt to ask her to bring me to Urgent Care. She had to stay in the car because she has a compromised immune system and well... flu. I hobbled in and registered. I could not get comfortable. I knew I couldn't sit. So I did my best to get in a corner where I paced and hoped not to call attention to myself. I set my purse down on the floor to get rid of the excess weight. I discovered as I was bending over to set it down that if my left (hurting leg) was up off the ground a bit and my weight was on my right leg, the pain eased up a bit. So I stayed in that position for a bit. When I stood up and looked toward the waiting room, sure enough, there was a young man staring at me with a look of concern and morbid curiosity. Gah. I had become that person you could not not look at.

When they called me in, the lovely doctor decided she couldn't give me a steroid shot because my blood pressure was too high. Well, duh. I was h-u-r-t-i-n-g! I asked if I could sit and try to get it down but she decided she's give me a shot of something else and prescribe a steroid pak. But as she was going out the door, she said, "You're not diabetic, are you?" I told her I was taking medicine and my a1c is well managed and my regular doctor seems to mostly think of it as pre-diabetic but nope, she wasn't buying any of that. So she prescribed a pill you take once daily (and it can take up to two weeks to build up in your system). Can I tell you how helpful that was?

I made the effort and went to my daughter's house for Christmas Eve. I couldn't stay long. I hated that. I visited a bit, ate a little gumbo, and went back home to bed. I was hurting worse on Christmas Day and decided I just couldn't get up and go for Christmas. I've never missed a Christmas Day at my parents' house. It was sad. So Christmas came and went.

At some point after Christmas Day, I called my doctor and she sent out a steroid pak. I also started taking some leftover pain pills I had. They were prescribed to me and I checked with my pharmacist to make sure they were okay to take with my steroid pak. At that point, I was desperate for relief. I didn't quite trust myself to make the wisest choices for myself. Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I began to feel a little better. Meaning I could lie in the bed without involuntarily moaning and groaning in pain.

On New Year's Day, I felt good enough to go down to my parents' house and visit for a bit. Mostly I laid on the couch and they sat around while we talked. I'd get up for a bit and eat a bite, then I'd go back to horizontal. The visit brought me some happiness in spite of the pain.

I had an appointment with my doctor on the 5th. I called to see if I could get in earlier and I was able to go on the 3rd. She did an x-ray of my back and sent me home with two prescriptions. The x-ray showed arthritis in my back, which I already knew I had. She scheduled me for an MRI on the 12th.

In the meantime, work had started again on the 2nd. I was still unable to move much. I worked for a few hours on the 8th because I had paperwork to be done. I had appointments at MD Anderson on the 9th and 10th for a CT scan and checkups. I was walking a little better by then and fortunately I didn't have to do much walking for those two appointments.

The very excellent news from that trip was that my scans were clear and my tumor markers were normal. We visited with another patient while waiting for the CT scan. She and her husband both have cancer. One of them is terminal. But she talked about how people don't understand some of this unless they've been through it (or have helped someone close to them walk through it). Sometimes things start happening, and you can't help but wonder if those things are related to the cancer. I'd wondered for a bit if my leg pain was a sign of something new happening with the cancer. So I was more than usual grateful for the "all clear" news.

And that brought me to a sort of mantra/theme for the coming year: "begin again." I'd been seeing it in various places on the internet and in my reading. I'd gotten off track with my exercise and my eating. So, one of the things I am pointing in the "general direction" of this year is the idea that I can "begin again" to take better care of my body.

I think I worked Thursday (11th) and I came in after my MRI on Friday (12th). Then we had a long weekend for Martin Luther King Day. I laid around and recuperated some more. We were to return on the 16th, but we had a weather closure. I laid around and recuperated some more. We were to return on the 17th (today!), but we had a weather closure. Guess what? I am laying around again and recuperating some more!

The pain is less than what it was but it is still with me. The MRI shows a mild to moderate bulging disc. They are referring me to a pain management specialist. There is an injection that helps some people and not others. He will evaluate my situation to see if that might be helpful for me.

And now I have a few things to say to 2017 and 2018.

2017, seriously? That's the note you chose to leave on? Debilitating and unrelenting pain? Geez. That's how you want to be remembered? You just listen to me. I'm upset now. I'm angry. But I'm going to tell you right here, right now--you are more than pain. You're the year I went to the Houston Quilt Show. You're the year I made it through with all good reports from MDA. You're the year that brought so many good times with family and friends. You're the year I pulled out projects that were over 30 years old and I finished them.You are another year for which I can be grateful. But, good-bye, 2017. And yes, thank you.

2018, seriously? This is the first impression you want to leave on me? This is how you want our relationship to begin? In pain? You're just going to follow in the footsteps of 2017, and deliver up more pain? If 2017 went and jumped off the Calcasieu River Bridge, would you follow mindlessly along and do the same?? Let me tell you something, 2018. We have gotten off to a crappy start. But I'm feeling better. I have stumbled out of 2017 and I have fallen into you, 2018. And I'm feeling grateful. So we're going to grab hands (metaphorically don't have hands...I do) and we're going to walk together. We're going to get to know each other and we're going to become dear friends, 2018.

Friday, December 15, 2017


(from our weekend, 12.08.17-12.10.17)
Earlier in the week, a friend mentioned the possibility of snow over the weekend. There was none of the usual hype when there is a possibility of atypical weather events for us. I'd read it was going to snow around midnight (one hour), and again around two a.m. (for about two hours). That was a precise prediction. I doubted we'd see snow. 

My husband's alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. (long story). I woke up and told him I was going to the bathroom and then I was going to check to see if it was snowing. It was! I delighted! 
This is the scene that greeted me that morning. And there was more! It snowed. It stuck. We were enveloped in the silence and the brilliance. 
I took the photos below were taken after daylight arrived. I'd forgotten how satisfying it was to walk in crunchy snow. It was hard, leaving my footprints on the pristine ground. I had a little talk with myself, telling myself that the snow was a temporary experience. I admonished myself to enjoy it right now, in the present moment, accepting that it would all melt away. Like life itself. What, you don't have talks like that with yourself?


The snow arrived in the early morning of December 8. We were there in the woods to remember my son's death six years ago. The last texts and photos I received from him were about the snow and sharing the snowman he'd built. I still have them on my phone. He was in Pennsylvania at the time. I asked if he'd sent the photos to his sisters. This was the day before he died. I never got an answer. And now, here, six years later, we had snow on the anniversary of his death. 

It felt to me like a gift. I was grateful.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Grief Rituals

Grief often brings surprising little rituals. Rituals that help us cope with the changes in the lay of the ground we walk after a loved one has died. Every December, I go to the student art show and buy at least one piece of pottery to honor my son's memory. I started doing it in 2012 but it wasn't until 2014 that I realized I'd created a ritual of doing this. I can be dense at times!

This year there was a new color among the pieces--the color red. It stuck out more to me since they had several pieces of that color displayed together. And when I saw the red pieces all gathered together, I knew what my color choice would be. All I had to do was figure out which piece I was going to buy. The choice comes down to price and personal aesthetics. There was a lovely red platter that appealed to me, but the price was too steep for me.

After much debating with myself, I ended up with this red bowl. You can just barely see the lighter color at the top edge. It's basically half red and half that lighter color.
Some years, I go later in the day and there isn't much left to choose from. I went early this year and they had plenty of mugs for sale. That big red platter (shallow bowl?) in the upper right corner of the photo was the one calling my name. But because of my budgetary constraints, I resisted its siren call.
Here is a sepia tone version of the photo.

Friday will be the sixth year. It doesn't seem possible. Now there are more smiles and laughter at the memories, and fewer tears. I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Here in FunkyTown...

I've been in a bit of a funk for a while now. Can't decide what the problem is. I keep showing up here sporadically to bemoan the fact that I am in a funk.

I'm still sewing a bit, finishing old projects and trying to decide what I'm going to do about getting the quilt tops quilted. One does not make deals with God but I've jokingly told my parents I hope to live long enough to be able to use up all my fabric. And that I'm hedging my bets for a long life by buying more fabric here and there! I've found some bargains at a couple of local estate sales. I'm not really buying up too much fabric. Mostly I'm only buying what can be considered too good of a deal to pass up. I do not want a big pile of fabric to have to figure out where to put and how to use.

Mostly I'm sewing at our little place in the country, on the weekends. Here at home I'm trying to get back into a pattern of writing in my journal and doing artsy type projects. I'd like to begin to meditate again. Sometimes I'm lazy and undisciplined, and I allow myself to be distracted by time suckers like Facebook.

The funks, they come and they go. I guess that's the good news. The feeling is not permanent and will eventually pass.

This is not an old project. It's new. My aunt gave me the fabric that was already cut in strips. The pattern is a rail fence pattern. When I got it all put together, she found the border fabric and the black in her stash and gave them to me. I can't remember if I have a backing fabric ready for this one or not. I hope to quilt this one myself on my regular sewing machine.

I'm kind of already thinking about next year. 2017 feels like it has flown by and I can't remember half of what has happened in the past year. I keep having really good ideas about how I want to do a better job of living in 2018. One thing for sure, I'd like to live more mindfully. And not to wile away so many of my hours poking around the internet. In the meantime, I'd like to ground myself in what remains of 2017 and to savor the days I have now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


It may just be a baseless superstition but another thing that seems to happen when you don't show up on your blog for a while is that you get spammy comments. I had one and deleted it. Hopefully that will be the end of that.

Today's post will be a two-fer and then I might be done for a while with posting older projects that I've finished.

First up is one that is called "Endless Wells" (or maybe "Hidden Wells," I never can remember). Many years ago, our Kroger's had fabric and other WalMart type things that were not typical of grocery stores. When they decided to quit carrying fabric, they had a huge clearance sale. I can remember my mother and I went more than once to gather the bargains. I still have fabric from those excursions!

This one was a pain in the "uh-huh" because of the bias cuts. I had to sew four strips together, then cut squares out of the strips, then cut the squares into four pieces (cutting diagonally, which caused the fabric to stretch) and then put them back together again. I'm afraid my piecing skills are definitely not exemplary in this quilt. But it is done, and I'm happy! You can't see it very well, but the backing fabric is a rust and blue fabric with paisleys.

This quilt was also made with Kroger sale fabric. I started it sometime in the middle seventies. It was a quilt I was making for my husband. About three fourths of it is hand quilted. I got impatient and wanted the project to be completed so I practiced my free motion quilting on the remaining squares. Again, this is not an exemplary representative of my quilting skills! But it is done, and I am happy!

This is another one of those areas where some of my treatment for some of my cancer extracts an ongoing price from me. Because of chemo induced neuropathy and stiffness in my finger joints caused by the medicine that is supposed to be an extra protection against the breast cancer coming back, I don't think I could ever really do the kind of fine motor movement needed to hand quilt. Acceptance is good. Gratitude is also good. It's really a small price to pay for survival. So, cut my losses and move on (one of the few areas in my life where I can actually do that!).

I've still got a few tops to go that were the result of block swaps done when we were living in Houston and I was a member of a quilting guild. I think I counted eight or nine more tops that are ready and waiting to be quilted. I need to get batting and backing fabric for most of them. And maybe money to pay someone to long arm quilt them if my own free motion quilting skills do not improve. But they will improve. I need to practice.

And I need to not be afraid of messing them up. Or of them not being perfect. I need to not let my fear paralyze me. That's true in quilting and in life, right?