Thursday, December 19, 2019

That Time My Younger Self Visited

I'm doing a project that is designed to foster a mindful beginning to the coming year. One of today's assignments was to draw a map of a neighborhood you lived in. As I was drawing my map, this memory floated to the surface and I wanted to write a bit about it all. It's still such a visceral memory/experience. 

We moved from this neighborhood the summer before my 4th grade year. They were buying everyone out so they could sell or tear down the small frame houses and build bigger homes. It was a move up for our family, to be sure. But my mother mourned this move deeply. We often went back by to see if our little house was gone. One day it was gone and there was an empty lot. Sometime later, a nice brick home stood in the place where our little frame home had stood. The home where we hung out on the porch to wait for my father to come home after work. The home that had a heater with a vent in the floor that kind of scared me. It could have swallowed any of us up if we'd stepped wrong and fallen. Maybe I thought the devil lived down in there? It was also the home that heralded the arrival of my younger sister and brother. My first "best friend" lived across the street. The place itself, the land where our house was, holds many sweet family memories.

The neighborhood is not that far away. One day I was in the area and had time to kill so I drove by. All but one of the older homes have been torn down and new homes are on most of the old lots.

I circled around to the back of where our house was. That lot was empty so I stopped there. I was in a meditative mood and looking across to the gully when a young girl appeared, as though she had crossed the gully from our old backyard. It was like seeing a young doe in the woods. We were both a little unsure of what we were seeing and maybe we were both a little wary. But our eyes met and I knew she was my younger self.  The vision lasted only a few moments longer. It was such a sweet communion. I felt so loved and at peace afterwards. I cried. Tears well up as I write this now.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Rambling Sunday Thoughts

It's been eight years today since we lost our son. It's hard to believe it's actually been that long.

On Friday, I went to the Student Art Sale and bought two pieces of pottery. I've been pondering how much long I will keep this ritual/collection going. The rituals of grief do change during the years and it may be time to let this particular ritual go. Life seems to be an ongoing process of figuring out what works for you, noticing when the thing you figured out is no longer working for you, and then adjusting your course accordingly. I've been really deep in that work lately, though I'm not sure I am making any measurable progress.

I kept this piece for my desk at home. It's holding a portion of my various colorful pens I'll be using in my planner/journal. I'm trying to color code things. Sometimes the different colors seem chaotic to me. Color choices in my planner/journal doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things. It's one of those distractions that I need to dig a little deeper into, and ask myself a few questions. For one thing, what more complicated or difficult task or decision am I avoiding by spending so much of my time and energy on choosing colors for my planner/journal?

When I first considered choosing this piece, it reminded me of one of those beehive drawings that show the hive hanging from the tree. Looking at it now, it also reminds me of the pot my mother used for baking beans! I think she probably still has that old pot.

I looked up beehive symbolism and found this. It's more about bees than beehives and I'm too lazy to dig any deeper into the accuracy of the sentiment but I like it very much and aspire to be more like the honey bee in my own way thinking. Lord knows, we certainly have enough (too many?) ants and spiders in our current world.

The other mention of bees comes from Frances Bacon (1561-1626). He uses a parable of the ant, the spider, and the honey bee to describe the best method of attaining knowledge. 
The ant, he says, works hard, collects data, and makes a big pile of data. The spider takes the substance from within and constructs a beautiful web - a pure theorist with little regard for empirical evidence.

Bacon claims that we philosophers should not be like the ant or the spider, but like the honey bee that goes out and collects data, mixes it in with his own inner substance, and then spits it out to build a gorgeous honeycomb of knowledge. 

We brought Christmas flowers yesterday. I like the basic arrangement but felt like I could have used some ribbons or bows around the base of the arrangement. I'll tuck that idea away in my little head for future times.

Flowers and hair, I am no good at arranging either. I suppose I am learning as I go. I've figured out to handle my hair. I go to bed with it wet and let it arrange it's own self. I'm sad that I've been forced to learn to arrange flowers for my son's grave. That's one trick I never would have bothered learning on my own. 

Circling back around to Frances Bacon, I found his quote here.

“The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes the middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.”

Francis Bacon

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Seeing the Good, For a Bit

For several years now, I've known about and lusted for a Traveler's Notebook to use when I journal. Some of them are expensive (and that's the ones I liked best) and I was never able to justify the money on something as seemingly trivial as a notebook. Plus, I didn't know for sure what size I wanted and since it was such an investment, I did not want to take a chance on being wrong!

Then I discovered a group on Facebook where they bought and sold the brand I wanted. The first one that popped up at a price I was willing to pay was the larger pink one in the picture. Someone had tried to decorate it with ink circles and splats and didn't use permanent ink. I expressed my interest and ordered it. Then I began to sweat bullets because the owner had put a sticker on the front (that I did not want to keep on it). I'd asked her if she would remove the sticker so I could see how bad it was underneath. Although she said in her original posting there was no damage to the leather under the sticker, she wouldn't remove the sticker for me, saying she didn't want to damage anything. So while I waited for my shipment to arrive, I imagined how ugly whatever that sticker was hiding was and chided myself for being so foolish as to purchase the darn notebook (years, I tell you, years I looked at these notebooks*). But it was love at first sight when the notebook arrived. I carefully pulled the sticker off and what was revealed was nowhere near as bad as what I had imagined (isn't that so often the case?).

On that very same day, the smaller pink one was listed. I ordered that one too (though I had no idea what I was going to actually do with it)! This one was very new and had no blemishes on it. That made me nervous (and still does).

The green one was listed about a week later and I decided I needed that one too. I'm using it for a wallet and that is working out very well.

What I like about buying used is that they notebook already has a bit of character to it. I don't have to worry about protecting it like I do with the pink one. I really doubt I'd ever buy one brand new for that reason.

So I've been busy writing and doing collages and other things for my own entertainment in these notebooks. It's therapeutic!

The pages in the larger book are long and narrow, so I am somewhat limited as to what I can do in the notebook, but I do enjoy adding color here and there. This is a page I did not long ago.

The quote is "What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?" (E.M. Forster)

* When we were first married, I found some bedroom furniture that I wanted. We couldn't afford it at the time, and I visited my furniture at Sears many times. There was one old guy who would always come and try to sell the set to me. I told him I wasn't ready to buy just yet, but when I did, I would be sure and ask for him (at the time, my husband was selling and getting commission so I wanted this guy to get the commission, if there was any). I'd go look, come home and measure our teeny-tiny bedroom and ponder just how many pieces I could fit in the room.

The day finally came that we were ready to buy. My husband and I went together to Sears. We got there, and asked for the salesman who'd been so patient with all my looking. Poor guy had up and died on me! Another salesman got lucky that day. I hope he breathed a silent thanks to the other salesman.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Therapeutic Ramblings

Last weekend I was in Houston. I thought sure I was going to be told I had osteoporosis (the doctor told me that was what was going to happen). I had myself a big plan to build bone density. I made a list and a check off chart and everything. I kept up with the list and the chart for a few days but somewhere along the way I totally fell off the wagon. I quit caring if I even tried to exercise or watch what I ate.

My bone density results are essentially the same as the last time I was scanned. I see that as an opportunity for me to straighten up and fly right. But I haven't straightened up.

(An eerie window photo taken in Houston of mannequins who looked to be made of ceramic.)

Today I spent the day with my mother, my sister, and my aunt. We went to a couple of estate sales, timing our visits so we could get the 50% discount. Tomorrow the discount will be 75% but you're taking a risk in waiting if there is something you really want.

On one hand, I find going to estate sales fun and interesting. There are bargains to be had. Perhaps bargains on things you didn't know you needed, but still, bargains. I found a London Fog rain/trench coat with a removable lining. I'd been looking for something like that for a while but didn't want to pay the prices I'd seen. This one cost me $7.50. I'd also been looking for a used typewriter that worked and I found one today, an electric one, for $12.50. I want to use it to type things for collage work. The thing I found that I didn't know I needed was a four foot level with a ruler along one of the sides. Weirdo that I am, levels have always appealed to me. I have a couple of smaller ones...somewhere. I've played with the one on my phone. I'll use this one to keep track of the poles on my quilting to frame to make sure they are level.

On the other hand, there is something sad about seeing people digging through the detritus of a deceased person. I noticed it is often times older people who are looking for the treasures. Surely they have already accumulated enough of their own stuff? I know I have, and I don't know how to defend myself from my own complaint. Except maybe to say there is something virtuous in buying used goods? I'm there, digging for my own treasures, even as I look at the others with pity and wonder what empty spot they are trying to fill by buying things they didn't know they needed until they saw them at the estate sale.

One of the sales we went to today was that of a family member of the company my father worked for all of his adult working life. They were a kind couple as far as I've ever heard. I'd been around them as a child at company picnics. She gave us a lovely Martha Washington bedspread for our wedding. I still have it...somewhere. In fact, I'd seen in the pictures posted of items for the sale that there was one for sale. Briefly I thought about hoping to buy it if the price was right. Hers was pristine as the day it was purchased. Why do we (some of us) think we need things to remind us of special moments and the generosity of people around us? I'd like to be better at letting go of the physical reminders. Too often those reminders become clutter that weighs us down.

I bought the London Fog coat from their sale. I can wear that and remember those two people who I did not know well, but who left indelible marks on my family simply because my father worked for him for so many years.

He was the first to die.

I bought the typewriter from their sale. There was a paper in the typewriter. The words said something about the typewriter needing assistance. There was a note that the "X" key had gotten stuck but it had released itself. We laughed because we thought another customer had plugged the typewriter in to see if it worked and left the notes for future customers. I kept the note. I thought I'd paste into my journal, my own bit of detritus from the day.

But when I got home, I had time to read the rest of the note. Here is what it said:
I'm glad to have uncovered the typewriter and need to plan to use it more.
I'd tell myself I was glad to have uncovered the typewriter and that I needed to plan to use it more.

But then, this (as typed, she mentioned elsewhere that her skills were rusty):
Now, howdvdr, I need to get some supper ready, and then go to the Guardian House to see Bill. 
I see a poignant glimpse of love. And I feel their loss, as I have felt my own loss.

What I have learned, what I continue to learn, is that fear of loss is no reason to run from love.

Monday, June 03, 2019

52 Weeks April

I got a new laptop several months back. I chose not to have "The People" transfer all my documents and photos over from the old laptop. I did it myself. I also bought a second external hard drive because I was afraid the old one wasn't going to work on the new laptop. It did and now I have my stuff scattered hither, thither, and beyond.

All of that is to offer my excuse for not having put up my March 52 Weeks pages. I thought I saved them somewhere but I can't find them now and I'm just too less of caring to photograph them again. So what we have here are my April pages.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

52 Weeks February

I'm a little slow posting February's weeks. I'm keeping up with this fairly well. I'm also working on consistency in my health goals. I need to work a little harder on those.

I've had a lot of dental work done during February. You can see evidence of that in weeks 6 and 8. The work is continuing into March. Things will (hopefully) be finished up this month. 

I'm still working on learning how to use my quilting machine. I've had a little trouble that I hope to resolve this coming weekend.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Spring Haiku and Dem Bones

One lonely azalea
blooming where she is planted
harbinger of spring

 At one time, I had a redbud tree in our front yard that was my harbinger of spring. Sadly, we had to cut it down. This weekend when I saw this single bloom on our (huge) azalea bush, I was reminded that spring is indeed on her way to us.

I've been working on my "build bone density" plan. I have a chart and every day I fill in the square on the things that I have done on my list. I've had to accept that I'll never do it perfectly and that just because I won't do it perfectly does not mean I should sit down and not even try. On some days, that is the temptation--to sit. This feels like an uphill battle and I am working on climbing that hill.

I've talked with our wellness person at work. She is helping me set up a strength training routine. I"m grateful to have that resource. I'm often surprised that more people around me do not take advantage of the various things the wellness person can help with. I'm doing that twice a week and hope to soon move up to three times a week.

Since we've switched to daylight savings time, I'm trying to walk 30 minutes 5 times a week (wellness lady's "prescription"). That gets me the 150 active minutes recommended by whoever recommends stuff like that! I may get back to playing tennis. It's been so long. I am afraid I won't have the stamina needed to play three sets (or 30 minutes, whichever comes first), much less do three 30 minute rounds.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bumps in the Road

It's my birthday month. January was my checkup month (the first one of 2019, there will be more). For a month now, I have been pondering the news I was given at my last visit. The medicine I take to protect me from recurrence of breast cancer causes low bone density. I do not (yet) have osteoporosis but I do have osteopenia. They want to start me on bone medicine. The doctor (bone expert) prefers Prolia injections. He made it all sound so safe and simple. I resent him not being forthcoming with me. I want to give him "what for" and tell him how rushed I felt when I saw him. I wish I'd seen him before I saw my breast people. I feel like she would have taken time to talk things out with me. She did call me back after I left a message but the phone call felt rushed too.

I've been looking around and that stuff comes with some heavy duty (possible) side effects. Maybe none of them will affect me. But if they do, it could be debilitating. I think the truth of the matter is the people recommending this stuff do not really know what all it can do or how long it stays in your system. It does seem to help increase bone density. I mean, it's made from something in the ovaries of genetically engineered Chines hamsters, what could go wrong?

I've joined a Facebook group of people who have been on the injections or are considering the injections. Someone on the group mentioned dried plums (prunes) being good for building bone density. The study was sponsored by the plum folks so I'm taking it all with a grain of salt. But I have a little time before I have to decide what to do. I have a few options. None of them are all that great. For now, I believe I'm going to try the prunes (6-8 per day, a nice sweet little snack!), and get back with my regular walking program, along with a few other helpful things. We'll see how it goes.

The thing is, what good will it do me to not have a recurrence of breast cancer if I am laid down by this medicine? Granted, maybe that won't happen to me. Maybe it will all be just fine. But if it's not, what then? I've said I don't know how to make this decision. I've talked to a few friends. My GP is not at all alarmed by the prospect and praised Prolia. I have an appointment next week with our wellness nurse at work. I've laid things out for her in an email. I just want to talk about possible consequences of my choices.

This has been a discouraging development. I feel a bit like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I probably can't ignore osteoporosis but maybe I can live with osteopenia a little longer. The bone doctor says I'll likely have osteoporosis in six months.

I came across this Thoughtograph/thang when I was transferring files from my old laptop to my new one (let me say I now understand why they want a hundred bucks to transfer files over from old to new). I feel as uncertain as I have ever felt in this journey.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

52 Weeks January

Something new I'm trying this year: a (more or less) daily collage that I do in an old calendar. When the week is over, the page is finished. I'm going to try and post each month as I complete them. We shall see how that goes. Maybe this will mean I will at least post something here once a month?

 Week One

Week Two

 Week Three

Week Four

Monday, January 14, 2019

In This Moment

When you look up from writing in your journal and it feels like
you're looking at a tiny abstract work of art
and all it is is
the inside of a security envelope with paint slapped on
and mounted on an ordinary paint chip from the hardware store.
Add the smell of the lilac candle,
and just for a moment or two, 
you wonder how life could get any sweeter than right now,
in this moment.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Bucket List Item Procured!

One of the biggest surprises for me in 2018 was my purchase of a used quilting machine. It all came about in what felt like a magical way. I'd only been looking and dreaming about owning a quilting machine for over 20 years. Every once in a while I'd check online listings for machines. On this one day, I decided I'd check Facebook Marketplace. I saw a new listing for a complete setup, and it was located in my area. The price was good. I contacted the seller and we went to take a look at everything. The machine belonged to his mother, who had died over a year ago. It had been sitting in an empty house all that time. There were a few less than perfect spot. Dogs had chewed on the wooden frame. Rodents had chewed the power cord for the machine. In spite of those few issues, I fell in love.

We heard more of the story from the son. His mother had purchased the setup at a Houston Quilt Show (several years back). For a couple of reasons (one of them being that she got sick), she never got the chance to actually use the machine. I wanted a little time to research the machine and the frame, and to check reviews for possible issues with the machine. I told him I'd let him know in a couple of days if I wanted the machine. He'd only had one other person come to look at the machine and she'd decided it was too heavy for her to manage.

I knew I was entering a personal danger zone because the guy was nice, he had a sweet family, and I was in his mother's house with loads of evidence of her craftiness (thread! fabrics! yarn! patterns! loads of stuff!) and I was hearing this sweet woman's stories--and identifying with her. I needed a little space to keep myself from saying I'd take all the things for no other reason than there was a sweet story involved! So I went home to think about it. I dreamed about it and dug around on the internet for more information. I called a couple of days later to tell him I wanted it. I'd asked for a reduction in price, and we "met in the middle" on that request. In retrospect, I could have been less enthusiastic and waited another week or two. By then he might have wanted to pay me to take it off his hands! But I didn't want to stick it to him, and he didn't want to stick it to me. We both got a fair deal.

We picked most of the equipment up the day after Thanksgiving. When I started putting things back together I noticed a few (important!) things missing. For instance, the presser foot was nowhere to be found. Twice, he texted me back to let me know he'd found more things that went with the machine, including the missing presser foot!

Over my Christmas break, I worked on putting everything back together. I watched my DVDs on how to load the quilt and adjust the machine. I had a DVD for the machine and a DVD for the frame. Both DVDs had differing instructions for loading the quilt. It took me several tries (and left me with sore and pin pricked fingers) to get the practice fabric loaded. Loading the quilt is the most important and time consuming part of the whole deal. I had a few mishaps with the practice fabric, one of them being that I kept forgetting to put the blankety blank presser foot down! I've used sewing machines all my life. This was a mistake I ought not to have been making!

I finished my practice piece and decided to "go big or go home" so I loaded one of my quilt tops on the frame. Sure enough, I forgot to put the presser foot down a couple of times. I had to rip those stitches out and begin again. But it all worked out and I was able to complete my first actual quilt top! There is only one small area that should have had a little more quilting because I'd....wait for it...forgotten to put the presser foot down and didn't realize it until I took the quilt off the frame. I'll fix that in some less than perfect way. The good news is, the machine tries to tell me when the presser foot is up and I'm learning to recognize that sound sooner rather than later. I'll get into a very precise order of action that will help me remember to put the presser foot down. Everything is so new at this point and there are so many details to remember before starting to quilt.

I'm going to name her, the machine, but I haven't thought of anything yet. I thought about naming her after the original owner but that seems a little weird.

She's not the latest and greatest model but she is simple and easy to maintain. She's also surprisingly easy to maneuver! I have a stitch regulator, but alas, the rodents chewed the cords on that too. For now, I am learning to regulate my own stitches. Maybe one day I'll see if someone can fix the cords for me. Or maybe not.

This room was a bedroom added on to my grandparents' house. A couple years ago, my uncle and cousin detached the room from the house, pushed a trailer underneath the room and hauled it up to our property. My grandmother kept her quilting frames in this room. She would have been tickled pink to see this setup and to know I am sewing in the same space she sewed in.

The red strip is the side border of the quilt. The purple is near the top. The edges are the hardest part for me to sew right now. There is too much thinking involved and I tend to slow down, which messes up the stitches. But practice will bring progress!

And here is my first completed machine quilted quilt! All that is left to do is to put on the binding. My time ran out so that project will be waiting for me when I return.