Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Flowers of One Garden

I'm getting ready to release "The Flowers of One Garden" which has a lot of elements I love in samplers, a mermaid, Adam and Eve and a large red house. The verse reads "We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one sea. the flowers of one garden". I released (in pastel colors) the very top part of the this sampler with Adam and Eve earlier this year. I decided to extend it to make a very large piece that looks totally different from the earlier design. It's stitched on 36 count Meadow Rue from Lakeside Linens and is 315 stitches wide by 385 stitches high and measures approximately 17 1/2 inches by 21 1/2 inches. She's a big girl! I used all Gentle Arts Sampler threads with the exception of the red and that is "Bandana" from Crescent Colours.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This is the time of year to count our blessings and to give thanks. My life has been blessed in many ways and first and foremost are my husband and children.
I'm thankful to have such a wonderful husband, someone who is kind, considerate, a great dad and who loves me despite myself. He's always there to pick up the slack and after 20 years he's still happy to accompany me on any journey. My only request: in order to continue this bliss he must never retire and get underfoot.

In eleven years, my children have gone from this:

To this:
I'm thankful they have grown up to be good friends, thankful for their senses of humor, thankful that my daughter is a risk taker with a gentle spirit and that my son, despite struggles in grade school, has a heart of gold and has advanaced to college and is doing well. I'm thankful for what they have taught me by being their mother. I'm also thankful my son got a decent haircut a week after that photo was taken.

I'm grateful that I have good friends and that by marrying my husband, I was blessed with acquiring his sister as my friend. I'm thankful that my hobby has allowed me to meet more people and to add them to my list of friends. I'm thankful we have neighbors who are our friends. I'm thankful my mother-in-law lives 100 miles away. Don't ask...

I'm grateful I'm not an only child and that my sister and brothers are there to help with our parents who aren't doing well. When one of us gets tired, another picks up the load. I'm thankful my siblings all turned out to be adults that I enjoy and my only regret is living too far away from them.

I'm thankful to live in the United States, and no matter what problems we have,( and every country has them), I'm proud to be an American. But I'm also thankful for the opportunity to visit other countries and places.

As usual, I have more to say but will end it here. On this day of Thanksgiving let us give thanks for all our blessings.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

I love vintage images, especially Halloween and Valentine's Day. Lucky for me, I have an aunt who is very similar, unlike my mother who de-clutters whatever she can find. My aunt gave me an old scrapbook full of cards, postcards and other ephemera from when she was a young girl. Many people, my mother included, would have felt it was junk and just thrown it away. To me, it's a treasure trove of images from the 1930's and I'm grateful to have it.
I think almost every Halloween as a kid, I was a witch. I had a black hat, a black cape and a rubber bat on a stick that I carried with me to trick or treat. Witches fascinated me then and continue to do so now. I love collecting vintage witch images.
I certainly am not into devil worship but I suppose witches represent magical possibilities to me. With a spell or a look or a twitch of the nose (Bewitched) they can make things happen. Whatever they want can be obtained. Not that I think that's necessarily a good thing, but it could come in handy sometimes.
I love Halloween today, maybe not as much as when I was a kid, but I still love the season, the excitement of trick or treating and remembering the hope that magic was open to me on that night. Happy Halloween to all!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Deftly Wrought

This is my newest design that I call "Deftly Wrought". The tiny samplers at the top are stitched over one and the rest of the piece is over two. I got the idea for the mini samplers from my friend Tedra who added an over one sampler to her French Alphabet design. The poem is original and since I like Mary Engelbreit I decided to give it a Mary E. flavor with the cherries and checkerboards and teapot in the first mini sampler. It is stitched on 28 ct Country French Cafe Mocha linen using DMC threads.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Football and Doughnuts

Years ago my son's 6th grade teacher was so excited that Krispy Kreme doughnuts built a store in town. She told me "when I'm in that store I'm with people who are just like me. I feel so comfortable there." I assume she would have felt completely out of place in a health food store.

My friend Connie came to visit recently from Nashville. We used to work together years ago and were pregnant with our boys at the same time and have stayed in touch ever since. She's a rabid Tennessee Titans fan and got us tickets to see the Phoenix Cardinals and the Titans play. For me, football is remembrances of hearing the crowds on TV screaming when my brothers and dad would watch the games on the weekend. To say that I am not a fan is to put it mildly. I don't even understand the game. A football game to me is a health food store to my son's 6th grade teacher.

Connie's enthusiasm was contagious though. Despite the amount of testosterone in the stadium, she was in her element. This was her Krispy Kreme store. She brought us both Titans jerseys to wear to the game, she had temporary tattoos that she wore and even Titan earrings. She was thrilled that my sneakers matched the Titan colors, though I certainly didn't plan it that way. Here she is 45 minutes before game time:

She had a poster made because the game was on CBS. It said:


By air to

See McNair

McNair being the Titan's quarterback. Sadly, he had an injury and didn't show up at the game. But that didn't ruin her enthusiasm though the 90 degree heat was fixing to ruin mine. Especially when I learned football games last 3 hours. How they last 3 hours when each quarter is only 15 minutes long is still a mystery to me. I learned the man in the green cap signaled a commercial when he stood on the field but the commercials certainly weren't 2 hours of the game. As I said, I know nothing.

I do like to people watch and that was fun, in fact I probably missed most of the important bits of the game in being distracted by the people around us. The young couple who were pregnant, thank goodness the two huge beers he bought were for him and the friend next to him. The man in front of us who had a freckled neck like my brother and couldn't stop screaming "Cardinals!!!!!!" every 15 seconds. His enthusiasm started after his second beer. I wondered if he'd be able to talk the next day. And the cutest sight of the day, the dad with his son who must have been four. He had a sparkly cardinal painted on his left cheek and a Cardinal jersey to match his dad's. They left halfway through the game, maybe to seek a seat in the shade rather than the full sun or maybe 3 hours was too long for a 4 year old, I know it was a tad too long for me, but then I'm over ten times his age and don't understand football.

I do wish they had marching bands during the halftime in pro games, that must only be for college games. The cheerleaders were cute, the fireworks with each Cardinal touchdown were exciting and I was amazed that the crowd noise sounded just like the noise from TV football. Maybe I assumed that sound was really like a TV laugh track? It just struck me that it was for real.

Unfortunately for Connie, the Titans lost 20-10. But we had a great day anyway. She told me of an elderly lady she sees at the Titans home games. She sits in the same place and is at each game. She also found her working as a volunteer in the gift shop at the hospital where she works as a nurse. Behold your future Connie...and thanks for a great day.

Monday, October 03, 2005


My friend Laurel is the one who inspired me to take a more active interest in gardening. She loves it so much she even planted her subdivision's common area with trees and cactus. Her free time is spent on her knees digging and planting. My free time is spent more with stitching but I still love the results I get when I focus on gardening.

I wish I had more time to devote to it as the results are worthwhile. especially in a climate where it's difficult to keep things growing and anything green is cherished. I love pots of flowers, lots of seeds and plenty of water. I love birdhouses and garden ornaments. I like the surprise of throwing out seeds and discovering what pops up. It's like a treasure hunt to find an unexpected beautiful flower. This is the time of year when we are weeding and cleaning out the flower beds. I'm getting ready to plant seeds now in October as the autumn and winter rains are great for the wildflowers I like. I especially love poppies and found some different poppy seeds when we were in Switzerland, ones I've never seen before and I'm hoping they'll work here in the desert too. As I said, a treasure hunt and I look forward to hopefully finding my Swiss poppies blooming in my garden someday soon.
Before we built our pool, we built a small pond with water lilies, water hyacinth, horsetail, cattail and fish. I loved it especially since it attracted colorful dragonflies but it had to come out when the pool went in. I think it inspired my friend Nancy to build her own pond and I was happy to give her all our waterlilies and now I can still see them when I visit her.
Gardening is such a sharing experience, I have some Nile River plants that Nancy had in her garden and they are so easy to pluck a stalk or two off and plant in the dirt and soon there is another plant. Hers eventually died off and she now has them back after plucking stalks from my plants and taking them back home to plant again in her garden. Geraniums are wonderful for the same reason, pull a leaf and part of the branch off and stick it in the dirt and you soon have another whole plant. I also love sharing seeds. When my flowers go to seed I pull all the seeds off and put them in a big jar and they are ready to give away or ready for me to plant again the next season. I'm sure many of my zinnias are the great-great-great-great etc grandchildren of my original zinnias.

Gardening is always a work in progress. I've never gotten expert enough that I'm happy with the results in all areas of the garden. Some years one spot is barren and another is boldly blooming. Other years it's the opposite. Every year the garden landscape changes especially since I throw out so many seeds, I'm never sure what is going to sprout. This year I thought I'd have a zillion zinnias like I do every year but they seemed to poop out on me and I only got a handful. But I keep on trying, keep on spreading seeds and digging holes and planting pots. I love color and I'll continue to garden and be pleasantly surprised with anything that blooms.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Whenever I travel, I find it hard to believe that I can be plopped down fairly quickly and easily in a completely different setting from the place I just left the day before. It's almost surreal.

We returned from Switzerland recently and the differences between where I left and where I went were extreme. I left 100 degree dry heat, adobe type houses with weeds that are left in place just because they are green and went to a country where everything is neat as a pin, flower boxes are in every window and the temps at the time were 20 to 30 degrees cooler than home. The cars are smaller, people actually walk or bike everywhere, public transport is superb, dinners last for hours and the table is yours as long as you want, and the people are multi-lingual.

We traveled by planes, trains, buses, trolleys and gondolas and every bit of public transport was spotless. Zooming through the Swiss countryside by train I wondered if Disney had designed the path as it looked too beautiful to be real. Not a piece of grass was out of place, flowers bloomed in every window box and gardens were rampant. Our hotel rooms sparkled and I joked we could have eaten off the bathroom floors. People were helpful and all the public transportation was on time to the minute. Swiss precision and Swiss engineering and Swiss timing are legendary and definitely not a myth. The trains were so smooth I felt like I was gliding and even in the gondola traveling up into the Alps while dangling thousands of feet in the air, I felt like I was in good hands.

We spend a lot of time in Mexico and wondered to ourselves how two cultures could be so extremely different. There is no way I would trust dangling in the air in a Mexican designed gondola (is there such a thing? I doubt it...). The country is not neat as a pin, if things get done, they get done on "Mexican time" which is to say, maybe they'll get done and maybe not. Quite a few years ago we had a front door installed in the Mexican house and it took the workers all day to install it using a hammer , screwdriver and a chisel, no other tools were in sight. That door was crap, it never worked right, always stuck and scraped along the floor, it was hung wrong and was a pain to use. I can't imagine the Swiss ever giving the A-OK to indicate that a good job was done on that door.

In trying to be fair to Mexico, it's a large country that is only now starting to get a middle class. The climate is hot, and not conducive to wanting to do a lot of work in the heat. Switzerland is about the size of Arizona and is a prosperous and stable modern market economy that is well educated. Their unemployment rate is 1.8 percent. Mexico's unemployment is officially double the Swiss rate but more importantly "underemployment" is at least 25 percent. We have only to look at the rush of people trying to illegally cross the border to know that times are hard and have been hard for years in Mexico.

But people are the same everywhere and we found the Swiss to be just as welcoming as the Mexican people. Their countries are different but both are proud of their heritage and both are interesting countries to explore.

And lest one think that Switzerland is the most idyllic place, as I was beginning to believe during most of my trip, it took one stop in Zurich to realize that all countries have a seedy underbelly and the Swiss had theirs displayed for all to see in their national museum.

Carefully placed along the walls in the beautiful medieval art section of the museum was a powerful photographic exhibit of four Swiss drug abusers, a no holds barred look at drug abuse in the Bern area. And while I really wanted to concentrate on the medieval art, the photographic images kept pulling me over to have a look, sort of like a horrible accident that you slow down to view. These weren't the images I was expecting in a museum that showcases all that the country cherishes, all the items that are beautiful and spectacular and represent hundreds of years of Swiss history. But they are the images I brought home in my mind and they answered the question that I had, yes, Switzerland has its share of problems just like any other country and there is no country on earth that is free from trouble and heartache and pain. It was a little like finding out there is no Santa Claus but it was also a relief to realize this country wasn't as unreal as Disneyland, no matter how clean and tidy.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Designs

I released 3 new designs last week. The first is called Quaker Meetinghouse. I used traditional Quaker half medallions for the border and added a "meetinghouse" as the focal point. I don't think I've ever seen a Quaker design with a house on it and since meetinghouses are a major part of Quaker communities I thought it would be nice to have one. A stitcher can add initials of their family around the flower using the traditional Quaker alphabet.

My second release is a small Adam and Eve done over one with non-traditional colors. I thought it might be fun to see one done in pastels. The linen is "Bittersweet" by Lakeside Linens and is a soft pink. The threads are Crescent Colours. The verse reads "We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one ocean, the flowers of one garden". Stay tuned for "Adam and Eve Revisited" which will be a very large Adam and Eve in more antique colors, lots of red and a very large house at the bottom.
And last is Medieval Mermaid. I love mermaids (if you'll notice, I even put one in my Adam and Eve piece) and thought this might be a different look than what I've seen in other mermaid designs. The quote is from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". It's all in one color, which makes it easy to stitch, and uses Gentle Art's Shaker Threads, Black Raspberry Jam.

I'm busy stitching away on a model that I call "Remember Me". It has a large floral border and I'm using NPI silks including one of their new "Northern Lights" overdyes for the border. I started this 3 times using 3 different fabrics and 3 different colorways before I landed on the current one. I love bright colors and in trying to make this a more muted, antique looking piece I just wasn't satisfied. I have another very large sampler waiting in the wings to be stitched. I'm calling it "Sweet Bird" for now and am still mulling over thread colors in my mind as I stitch up Remember Me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Innocence Lost

Today I came across a book I bought the summer before my daughter went into 5th grade. It was $2.99 in a bargain bin and is called "A Year in the Life of My Daughter". The "preview" on the back cover states this:

This unique journal offers the rare opportunity for parents to capture a single year in their daughter's life -- a year they can relive and remember as they flip through the pages in years to come. It is filled with "thought starters," writing prompts organized around the four seasons that reflect the issues, interests and challenges that parents and their daughters face."

I LOVED this idea and when I bought it I had every intention of documenting my daughter's 5th grade year. But did I ever get around to it? No. And for that I am sorry.

5th grade was what I consider the last year of innocence in my daughter's life and from what I've read, that is common for most girls. At 10 and 11, girls feel invincible and able to do whatever they want. The world is their oyster and they feel capable and good about themselves.

5th grade was the year she had her "most favorite teacher", the year she earned her Black Belt in karate, the year she had a group of friends who just "clicked" and a best friend she thought would always be there. It was before she knew what it was like to wear a bra. It was before she knew what it was like to have a crush and not have it returned and conversely before she knew how it felt to not like someone but have them tease you because they like you. It was a time when the girls she knew didn't wear makeup and didn't talk constantly about boys but talked about their own interests.

It wasn't until after 5th grade that she lost some innocence when her best friend went off with another group of girls, girls who acted older and tougher than they felt and later when another good friend moved out of state. And another piece of innocence was pinched off when she felt the betrayal of a friend's cutting words. But worst of all, it wasn't until later that the tragedy of suicide struck the son of her "most favorite teacher".

I look back and remember that the morning of 9-11 I was having a conference with her "most favorite teacher" a teacher who said "I really don't need to even have a conference for a child like her." It was a contrast in feeling pleased to have such a child and in feeling horror while watching the events of 9-11 unfold that day. I sometimes wonder if that was the signal that my child was soon to lose her innocence, just as the country lost theirs that day.

None of us can grow up without losing our innocence. Our lives will never again look as good as they do from the vantage point of a 10 year old. It's a necessary step to survival in this world to realize that bad goes along with the good but even though it's a passage, to a parent it feels cruel that our children have these lessons to learn. And we pray that the lessons won't hurt too much, that our children will be able to handle whatever is thrown their way and we hope they know we would switch places with them in a minute and bear any hurt for them if we could.

High school is coming up this fall and I have made a vow to use this book for her freshman year. There are new journeys to document. She has survived the growing pains of junior high, she is older and wiser and she is happy. I may mourn the loss of innocence but I am thankful for the happiness and for the strength she has acquired in the journey.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Old Friends, Old Memories

Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) wrote: The companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.

The photos above are ones I scanned of my best friend from childhood, Barby. She's sitting with the Shrinking Violet doll I received one Christmas and my younger brother is next to her. She was 8 1/2 and I had turned 9 a few months before.

I received a camera that Christmas so we took turns taking photos of each other. I'm the one in my nightgown in the grass and this was Christmas morning. She probably dressed and ran over to see what I received from Santa. As I remember it, she was the one who told me there was no Santa but coming from my best friend, perhaps it made it easier to hear, I don't really remember.

And that's the funny thing about childhood friends, they often remember things we have forgotten and vice versa. In a recent email she told me she used to tell her daughters night time stories about a long, long time ago when she was a little girl. And of course, those stories included me since we were inseparable for many years.

My first clear memory of her is coming home from somewhere and seeing her mother talking and having coffee with my mother at our kitchen table. I went into my room to find her playing with my dolls and remember feeling a need to protect my territory. I don't remember if any fight happened, probably not, we were only about 4, maybe 5 but we became friends and stayed that way through the years.

Neither of us had a sister (well, I did much later when I was 12) so we enjoyed pretending we were sisters and loved thinking we looked alike (we didn't). She took ballet and always had her hair in a bun and there was a period of time I always wore a bun too. Maybe that was my mother's idea as my hair wasn't exactly tame but maybe it was our idea so we could look alike. So much is lost in childhood memories which is why it's wonderful to have someone out there who remembers mine as much as I remember hers.

I was reading in another blog and found this: I don't like to be the sole memory holder of something special. A memory is meant to be shared.

I find it comforting that she remembers our childhood and so much about my life such as my childhood home, my childhood bedroom and toys and our childhood projects. She wrote recently: One of our girls' favorite stories was about when we would walk to the library, and agonize over our books, bargaining who could get which one, then stopping by Googie's for french fries and a hot fudge sundae, then going home, getting a big bowl of orange slices, and diving into the first book. We'd call each other for progress reports/reviews. BR5-O249. Then trade books. Then act out the books with the Barbies, until Tommy and Billy took all the Barbies and undressed them, then reposed them in their exact positions.

She recently reminded me of our "secret" clubs, the Tut Tut Club, and the Girl's From A.U.N.T. (with the motto, Be Kind to all Aunts, both kinds). She and I both remember going to each other's cabins in the mountains to escape the summer heat. Hers was on a lake and we'd take the rowboat and row around. My family's cabin was on a creek where we'd skip stones and sit on the rocks with the water meandering past us. When we were in the city, our summer began by "toughening up" our bare feet by running back and forth to each other's house on the hot pavement. One year we both went away to summer camp, different camps, but I still have the letters she wrote in a shoebox stored away somewhere.

We remember writing a neighborhood newspaper with gossip about the hated girl next door kissing a neighborhood boy and the girl's mother getting hot under the collar at us for writing it. I remember her dogs Dingo and Princess and she remembers my cat Esther. Even my own sister can't remember any of this stuff as she either wasn't born yet or was too young but Barby can
remember me with braces, as a gangly pre-teen and pre-husband and children. She remembers my parents as their younger selves and I remember hers. There aren't many people left in the world who remember these things and in my book that counts for a lot.

Our childhood seemed to close around the time my sister was born. I got the sister and she got the swimming pool we both wanted and most of that time is hazy to me. I went away for the summer to visit my aunt in Illinois, she went and visited relatives in California. By high school we were good friends again and we both got a boyfriend at the same time but a year later she moved out of state. Since then we've written, some years more than others, and we've married and had kids and raised families. To me, she'll always be a part of me, a part of my family and a part of my history. One of life's gifts is a good friend, but a good friend who holds part of your history inside herself just as I hold part of her is more than a gift, it's a treasure.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

My walk

I started walking daily about three years ago and there is rarely a day that I miss walking two miles, sometimes more, but always two. Usually my husband comes along but depending on his schedule I often walk alone and love it. It's fun to see what is new in the neighborhood, what house is for sale, who is outside working in the yard or walking or jogging. My path takes me through the back part of the neighborhood, across a little park and then out onto a dusty desert road. Once I get out of the neighborhood, I love seeing the changes that the seasons bring.

I live in the Sonoran desert and though we don't get the traditional seasons, we do have definite changes of nature here. Most people think of a desert as hot, barren and dry. Yes, we are definitely hot much of the year and only receive 12 inches of rainfall annually but our desert is lush with many different plants and animals.

We don't have sand dunes or rocks without vegetation or a landscape devoid of any animals. We have ancient saguaro cactus, prickly pear cactus with beautiful pink blossoms, mountains that really are purple and animals such as coyote and the funny quail with their little topknots bobbing as they usher their puffs of newly hatched babies across the road.

When I walk, I'm not in such a hurry that I can't stop and examine nature a bit. One day I saw a huge tarantula peering out of his hole in the ground, another day a snake slithered past. Thank goodnesss he was the friendly kind. I often see snake tracks cutting across the dirt in the road. Many times I've seen coyote scooting across the road, they are mangy and thin and always run away and not towards me for which I'm grateful. There are rabbits and prairie dogs and usually a lizard or two, sometimes big lizards, sometimes tiny. They all seem to wait in the shade doing pushups during the hot months.

Currently, the weather is hot and dry and we are waiting for our summer monsoons to start. The days must get hot enough to bring the moisture up from Mexico to produce the storms. When they come, they are fierce and the washes flood, and there is lightning and thunder. The mornings start out hot without a cloud in the sky and by the afternoon the clouds have built and the rain comes. It's a much appreciated and much looked forward to time of year.

We also have a winter rainy season and if we get enough rain there are wildflowers everywhere by spring. The Saguaros bloom then too with huge white waxy flowers. They remind me of ladies with new Easter bonnets.

It took me a while to appreciate the beauty of the area. I like the saying "Bloom where you're planted" and decided to adopt that as my motto about a year after we moved here. I missed the place where we used to live with trees so green and tall that you couldn't see the horizon, the change of leaves in the fall and mild snow in the winter. It took me some time to adapt to the desert again (I grew up in Phoenix) but now can't imagine where else I would live. We are four hours from the ocean and 30 minutes from the top of Mt Lemmon which is an 8500 ft mountain that is always cool in the summer and has skiing in the winter. So for now, I'll continue my walks and appreciate my surroundings and give thanks that I can experience such a unique environment.

Friday, July 01, 2005


My mother-in-law, who is 76, recently got a girlfriend. She is now going to weekly movies with her friend and even traveling together with her. I'm so happy for her as for many years I wondered who and where her female friends were. Oh, she had social acquaintances, but I never heard her speak of anyone special, no one that she could call to tell the latest dirt or anyone who could give her a shoulder to cry on. There was never a special person she went shopping with and no one to call for advice. I didn't understand it as my own mother has had the same best friend since 1952 and has played cards monthly with the same group of women for almost as long.

Growing up, I'd see my mom on the phone with her best friend daily. They lived on opposite sides of town so they weren't together daily but they almost always had daily contact via the phone. Once a year they planned a getaway to another city to do their Christmas shopping. When both had kids that were grown and gone, they took trips together, sometimes the husbands came along, sometimes they went on their own. They've been through everything together, the raising of kids, weddings, divorce, the death of parents and they now are stepping into the scary world of old age together. And for that I am very grateful.

My mother doesn't live close to me and her best friend is there to help now that her memory is failing. She watches her like a hawk and sends me letters telling the details of what my mother's life is like now. She misses hearing the things my mother can't remember such as details of her children's lives or about the grandchildren so I try to fill her in as best I can. She's there to take her to card club and there to remind her of appointments and of what the doctor said but mainly she is there, as she has always been, with her love and friendship never wavering.

Long ago a friend told me "men come and go but your women friends will always be there" and I realize the truth in that statement when I see my mother's life. She still goes to her monthly card club and still talks to her best friend daily. Her world has narrowed in many ways, but the love of her best friend is as full as ever. That's why I'm so pleased to see that my mother-in-law finally has a girlfriend, it's never too late to enjoy the delight and comfort of a good friend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Simple Things

As I wrote in another post, I'm an introvert. I love watching people and being the proverbial "fly on the wall" though. Even as a kid, I would stand back and watch before feeling comfortable to join in.

I've been watching some acquaintances for quite a while now, not understanding the way they have chosen to live their lives. There is much activity and stress, never enough time to take a breath, barely time to answer the phone or emails and many times the choice to not answer. There is lots of drama, lots of things they feel they need to do socially and I'm reminded of ants scurrying around an ant hill. I know there must be a method to the madness but it eludes me. As I watch without saying anything, I know I could never live my life that way. It must work for them so I'll just continue to watch but I'd never join in.

I found this poem, I can't remember where, but have kept it in a folder on my hard drive for quite a while. It's simple, it's sweet, but it narrows down what is important to me.

by Linda Smith
A cozy couch, hot coffee, thunder
A warm fat blanket, a baby under
Soft Pajamas, a book to read
A chair that rocks, a cat to feed.
Warmed by the fire, plenty of bread
The children sleeping snug in bed
Friday nights, a wooden floor
Pumpkin pie, my friend next door.
And nothing...nothing...nothing more.
If that is all my whole life brings,
Before they tie on angel wings
Well, then my friend
We've lived like kings.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Good Wife

I've been on the internet since 1997 and it's opened up a whole new world to me, most of it good. When I first was able to log on and join some groups, I "met" many wonderful people but there always seems to be one or two in every group that enjoy controversy and causing problems. It inspired me to write a very short story about 3 or 4 years ago. The Good Wife is extreme but I think it has a point to make.

The Good Wife turned on the computer, waiting impatiently while the screen flickered then glowed softly in the dark room. It was twilight. John had just called. He was working late again. She felt like crying, but shook the feelings away. It was weak to cry. She’d just find something on the computer to entertain her until he got home.

The house was quiet. Her kids were grown and gone. Scott, her eldest, had called earlier to say they wouldn’t be making the 100-mile trip to visit this weekend. She knew Belle had to be behind the cancellation. Belle…distasteful name, distasteful wife for Scott.

Earlier in the day she had joined an e-mail group for parents of children with attention-deficit disorder. She snorted. Bad parenting disorder is what it should be called. She scanned the e-mail and couldn’t resist firing off a reply to someone who asked for advice in getting their child help at school. Seems the little darling was a behavior problem. She knew the behavior must be due to the kid being in daycare 100 hours a week. Parents these days sure didn’t know how to raise kids.

“Maybe if you’d spent time with your child when he was younger, you wouldn’t be having problems now!” she began the e-mail. She continued typing for some time, hit the “send” key and sat back feeling better. It was high time somebody started speaking up and pointing out other’s errors. None of this “politically correct” stuff for her!

She logged onto one of her favorite sites…Themestream. Ahhh, plenty of fodder for her opinions here!

She checked out the parenting section and read an article about teen mothers. She felt her face redden and her teeth clench. Kids shouldn’t be having sex and then writing about the experience on the internet when it got them into trouble! She started typing furiously, adding a comment to the “Talk Back” box. Yes, she had plenty to say about this!

The Good Wife thought back to when Scott married Belle. If that little hussy hadn’t lured him away from his perfectly good home with the promise of sex, Scott wouldn’t be married to her today. Didn’t matter that he was 25. Belle wasn’t good enough for him. She had an alcoholic father didn’t she? She probably drank in her spare time too and ignored the baby. Bad genes don’t suddenly turn good, she thought.

Hmmm…maybe she’d check out the section at Themestream about addictions. Clicking on the appropriate link, she waited for the page to load and once again thought about John. For the past six months all they’d done was fight. They’d probably have another fight when he got home….if he got home. Some nights he just stayed at the office. Maybe he was having an affair? She shook her head. That didn’t bear thinking about.

The page was loaded and she selected an article. This one looked good. It was about the psychological reasons behind addictions. Clicking the “Talk Back” section she started typing, “God-fearing people have no need for drugs and alcohol. Whining about your pitiful childhood won’t change the fact that you are weak. Get some backbone!”

A small smile lit her face as she pushed the “send” button. Oh, she was doing some good in this world, that’s for sure. Even if her beloved son wouldn’t visit and her husband didn’t come home, she was connected to the world and helping to straighten it out.

Let’s see, the Good Wife thought, where shall I go next?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Inevitable Death

In what seems another lifetime, I worked as a nurse. Most of my career was devoted to critical care nursing, a very intense and extremely busy environment that left little room for examined thoughts. Well into my years as a nurse, I had my first child. While taking care of a dying patient one day, it hit me like a clap of thunder that the elderly man in the bed could be my son many, many years hence. I knew I'd be long gone and wondered who would be taking care of him, who would be there to comfort him, who would be there to hold his hand when the end came? Would he be alone? Would it simply be an overworked and overtired nurse there to see his last breath?

Somehow in that moment, I became more fully formed as a human and a nurse. I always knew the patients I took care of were loved by someone but never truly personalized their experience until I imagined that one of the people I loved most in the world could be in that bed. From that moment on, I encouraged visitors and relatives to stay by their loved one, to be part of the experience of death that is as old as time itself.

Our modern world has taken note that death can be a better experience than it has been in the past. Hospice care is an integral and comforting part of a dying patient's last days but I think the greatest blessing is having a loved one by their side. We come into this world with at least one person who loves us and I think it's important to go out the same way.

The past few weeks have brought tragic news to two dear friends. One is losing her father to terminal cancer and the other her mother. While nothing good can be said about losing a loved one, especially one as loved as a cherished parent, there is a blessing to be found in knowing you have time to say good-bye, time to help each other with the heartache that such a loss entails and time to plan for the end. Both of my friends want more than anything to be available and to help their parent in their last days on earth. Both want to be the person there at the end, just as their parent was present at the beginning of their life. Both want to comfort and help and do something as simple as hold their hand. Love transcends all grief, and I pray they will heal and grow and look back to realize what a gift they were given to be there with hearts full of love at this sad yet inevitable time.
To my dear friends, I hope you'll find comfort with the following poem.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am a 1,000 winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sun on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled light
I am the soft star that shines at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there; I did not die.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Are most stitchers introverts?

I was reading an interesting discussion the other day on a needlework board and most of the people who answered sounded like they were more introverted than extroverted. There is nothing wrong with either though if I were to guess I would think more people who are introverts would rather have the extrovert's capability, that seemingly effortless ability to be with people and look like the life of the party. I seriously doubt there are extroverts who wish they could be on the other side.
First, let's get a definition.

Enjoy time alone
Consider only deep relationships as friends
Feel drained after outside activities, even if they were fun
Good listener
Appear calm and self-contained
Think then speak or act

Like to be in the thick of things
Relish variety
Know lots of people, considers lots of people friends
Enjoy chit-chatting, even to strangers
Feel stoked after activity
Speak or act then think OR think while speaking

OK, according to this criteria I'm an introvert and it's something I've known a long time. People can drain me. As a teen, I had a Peanuts poster hanging in my bedroom "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand". (note to self, that might be nice on a sampler). And though the wording on the poster is more extreme than I feel, I do know that I get my energy from within and not without. Extroverts are revitalized by being with others, I'm revitalized with my own pursuits such as stitching and reading or creating something. I love being with people with whom I have a deep relationship but the energy can get sucked out of me with cocktail chit chat and forced meet and greets.

Unfortunately, the extroverts in my life feel I should be more like them. My mother-in-law called before a recent trip suggesting that we go visit her cousin and her uncle while we were in the area. First, I've never met these people, I've never talked to them much less exchanged a Christmas card with them and I doubt I've ever even seen a photo of them. To say that meeting new relatives while I'm on vacation sounds dreadful would be putting it mildly. I also love when I get these unasked for suggestions and that someone else feels they have the right to use my vacation time for me. It would be different had I called her and asked if there were any fascinating relatives that we could meet while we were in the area. Of course, I wouldn't have done that in a million years and she knows it thus the little prod on the phone.

Instead of feeling guilty, I prefer to look at the advantages of being an introvert. And lucky for me, I just found a top ten list that I feel is suitable:

10) Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships
9) Maintain Long-Term Friendships
8) Flexible
7) Independent
6) Strong Ability To Concentrate
5) Self-Reflective
4) Responsible
3) Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking
2) Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity
1) Studious and Smart

How lovely that sounds, it's music to my ears to know that there are such nice features of being an introvert. It hurts when the extroverts in my life try to change me or look at me as though there is something deeply wrong. Thankfully, I don't allow those kinds of people to be around me for long, however there isn't much one can do about a mother-in-law except grin and bear it.

I can't say if most stitchers are introverts but I know I get a lot of meditative time from both stitching and my daily walk alone. The only person I allow on my walk is my husband because I know we can talk about important things or not at all. My neighbor has long wanted to walk with me but after a few walks with too much chit chat I decided I'd rather go alone so I appease her with something we both enjoy, dinner out with the husbands once a month. She's lovely, she's fun and bold, I enjoy watching her in action as she's the quintessential extrovert. I can admire her the way I admire a lovely flower or a work of art but I can never be like her and to those who want me to be, don't even ask!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Punch Needle

Have a look at my first attempts with punch needle. The design is from Waxing Moon. I took a class about a month ago and am so glad I did. I've always loved the look of hooked rugs but after trying to hook one a few years ago, I decided it wasn't for me. So, when I first saw punch needle making a comeback a year or more ago, I thought it looked just like a miniature hooked rug and wanted to try it. Surprisingly, it was very simple and quick. My LNS has many models on display and lots of ideas for finishing. I encourage anyone to try it out. It's very simple and quick. I plan to put this one on the top of a basket I have that looks like a shoebox. I'll attach it to the lid and add some cording around the edges.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mountains or ocean?

I remember taking a quiz in a woman's magazine a long time ago and one of the questions was "which would you prefer, a mountain retreat or an ocean retreat?" I chose ocean even though my family had a cabin in the mountains where we'd spend much of our time escaping the summer heat of Phoenix.

As fate would have it, my husband, his sister and older brother inheirited a ramshackle beach cottage years after I took that quiz. It's in Mexico and located right on the ocean. We'd never in a million years be able to afford such a location in the U.S. His family bought the place 35 years ago when the area was just taking off and were able to get the pick of oceanside lots.

The house itself has never been fancy, a living room, a bathroom, kitchen and 2 bedrooms. The main focus is the patio with a magnificent view of the Sea of Cortez. On a clear day you can look across and see the Baja Pennisula in the distance.

Through the years, weather, humidity, sand and time have taken their toll on the place but we have always loved our trips there despite the rundown condition and the primitive facilities. There are two water tanks on the roof but we can't drink the water and only use it to wash. The shower is barely a trickle and most trips I skip even trying to take a shower and boil some water on the stove and take sponge baths. Brushing teeth involves using bottled water, always a feat trying to rinse the toothbrush that way. The bed in the master bedroom is the original bed brought to the house over 35 years ago and sags in the middle, both parties ending up rolled together whether they want it or not. The windows rattle fiercely with the strong breezes and the gaps let sand accumulate in the house. The stucco on the outside is peeling, the roof has never been replaced and all the furnishings and kitchen goods are discards from one place or another.

Despite showing her age, despite her quirks, the house has been a much loved part of my husband's family and now a part of mine. The ocean air, exploring the tide pools, gathering shells, the tradition of watching the sun set into the sea, cooking out on the patio, watching the ocean life including dolphins and seals and our big discovery one visit of bleached whale bones (yes, we brought a rib home and it now sits in our garden) are all a part of the magic of the house.

For years the house didn't have electricity and that was part of the charm, lighting kerosene lamps and Coleman lanterns when it started to get dark, playing board games and Charades with the kids with no TV or video games in sight and the best part of darkness was sitting on the patio in chairs with our heads back looking at the starlit sky, sometimes seeing meteors and many times seeing the space shuttle arc through the darkness.

My husband's dad has been dead five years and we have slowly started to "improve" the house. The roof has been replaced as have the windows and doors, the outside re-stuccoed and repainted, we now have electricity and for the past few months we have been working on the inside with a new tile shower and fixtures in the bathroom and new tile on the floors including out onto the patio which has also been extended. The kitchen is now gutted, the old gas refrigerator long gone, the annoying- at- times tiny gas stove is history also. The propane tank has been removed. New cabinets are being made and new furniture is being planned. We'll definitely be more comfortable but in a way it's bittersweet.

The end of one era of the house is in sight. We will continue to enjoy the house and make memories there but I realize that the magic and beauty of the place has never had anything to do with beautiful tile, modern appliances or stylish furnishings. The perfection hoped for with the new improvements will make us more comfortable but not happier. The location, the loved ones and the traditions are things you can't improve with money and are the things that make us miss the place when we aren't there and cherish the place when we are.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer Solstice

I learned something new today. I've always known June 21st is the longest day of the year but I didn't know that it's an even longer day in Tucson. Summer starts for most of the northern hemisphere at midnight today but I learned it starts at 11 p.m. in Tucson so we have an hour longer than most places due to our location. Of course, it seems to me, summer starts here months earlier, in fact I often wonder if summer is just a permanent state in my area. To celebrate our extra hour of summer, I decided to start my blog today.

I'm not really sure why I decided to blog as I've resisted the temptation for quite a while. We'll just have to wait and see if I have anything pertinent to say or not. I'd love to be able to write inspirational, life changing words but as you can see, with the title I've chosen, I feel most of it will be scribbles. I love to write but my one true hobby is needlework and I'm hoping I'll have something to say about the needlework world also.

More later. I'm off to enjoy my extra hour...

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