Waiting on a baby….

For the next few weeks, I’ll be hanging out with my youngest daughter as she awaits the birth of her first child.  She’s not alone in this endeavor; many who love her are anxious for this little chap’s arrival.  In the meantime, I finished my abuela quilt, and have found it to be perfectly snugly.  Those extra rows of quilting didn’t mar the softness of the flannel backing, and give it a lovely crinkly feel.  Don’t know when I’ll get around to quilting the next project.  Right now bigger issues loom.

Bigger is a term my daughter is quite weary of living, but of course her baby will come on his own good time.  As we chat, I hear in her tone a gamut of emotions, swinging from elation to heavy doses of exasperation.  I smile at her impatience, for once that fellow makes his appearance, all she has ever known will be thrown out the window.

Very crinkly, just as I had hoped.

Motherhood is a never-ending path.  It’s led me away from Silicon Valley to watch the whole process begin anew.  And I’m changing too, from someone’s mum to someone else’s grandmother.  I don’t feel old, my hair is still nearly all brown.  I quilt, but I also adore crunchy guitars.  What makes a grandmother a grandmother anymore?

A baby, that’s what.  but not my baby, and that’s the coolest part.  My daughter moans and groans, sometimes from contractions, but mostly because she feels enormous and achy.  And I get to partake of it all from a small distance, but enough of a gap that all I feel is love.

I love the batik binding; it’s from my birthday quilt.

I’ve rejoiced when my sisters and friends had their children, but while I was made an aunt and godmother, those titles aren’t the same as an abuela.  An abuela comes to stay with her hija, an abuela hears all the blah blah blah.  An abuela, regardless of hair colour, is the closest thing to a mama as a mama, but with just enough separation allowing the abuela a most glorious role.

I’ll get nearly all the cuddling joy with none of the pain.  Or very little of the agony.

Raising children has been a thrill, and now the cycle repeats itself, albeit it in a different manner.  It’s no longer the 1990s, and odds are this grandson won’t grow up in England.  He’ll likely dwell here in California, but maybe trips to foreign lands will dot his childhood.  Goodness only knows where his life will take him, that’s years in the future.  Right now we’re concentrating on the next few days, one of which will end up being the day of his birth.  For the rest of his life, that day will carry all the connotations that surround such an auspicious moment.  Funny to consider it now, that one of the next days will turn into such a treasure.

That’s what this author/abuela does, while the mum-to-be wishes it was already here.  And as the abuela, I recall those days, long ago, wishing eagerly for my kids to arrive.  But then I was like my daughter, only thinking of the here and now.  Now, as the grandmother, my musings are those of one with perspective.

In the shade.

In the shade.

It’s like making a quilt, how smooth fabric becomes wrinkly in a matter of one wash cycle.  It happens so fast, which a new mum simply can’t grasp.  To her, each day lasts about thirty; why doesn’t this baby just come out?  Yesterday I gently reminded her that she would never be pregnant for the first time ever again, to which she rolled her eyes.  I smiled, knowing those words went in one ear and right out the other.  Maybe there are a few gems of wisdom that just can’t be shared.

In the meantime, we wait, and later tonight we’ll snuggle under that new quilt, feeling a little person poking about right under his mother’s skin.


A Somewhat New World Order

On the cusp of every major change is this quiet lull, where all the emerging forces are stealthily simmering right under the surface.  This past weekend, my husband and I spent time with my dad, and our daughter.  A changing table was the last big piece of the nursery puzzle to be sorted, and we managed to tick that task from the checklist mid-Sunday afternoon.

Photos courtesy of my husband….

All my daughter has to do is pick up some storage bins in which to place the pocket diapers, cloth diapers and covers.  We have Snappi’s with which to affix cloth diapers, but she also wanted good old-fashioned diaper pins, which made me smile.  Personally, I think those Snappi’s are pretty sweet, but as long as the diaper stays put, who cares in which manner it is accomplished?  Now we wait for that baby to decide when he wants his birthday.  As each day passes, I think, “Well, it’s not going to be this day.”

Pocket diapers currently reside in the basket, but will soon be in their new home.

Pocket diapers currently reside in the basket, but will soon be in their new home.

Over the last eight and a half months, my youngest has undergone a transformation like no other she will ever endure, at least for the first time.  Ironically, my father has trod a similar path, and the parallels make for good conversation, when we all descend upon Dad for a visit.  Both he and my daughter are nauseous and tired, also weary of their situations.  My daughter’s confinement is nearly at an end, and while sleepless nights will continue, soon enough she’ll be feeling somewhat like her previous self, albeit permanently altered.  The same can’t be said for Dad, which none of us mentions, but that sentiment floats about, as if we could catch it in a bottle and seal it away forever.

I'm reading from The Runaway Bunny, which is one of my favourite children's stories.  My daughter noted it was the first book her offspring was hearing.

I’m reading from The Runaway Bunny, which is one of my favourite children’s stories. My daughter noted it was the first book her offspring was hearing.

But that isn’t how life works; people are born, then they die.  We can’t look back at Dad’s tenure with chemo and say, “Well, that was a total waste of time and effort.”  We have no idea what his PSA would have done sans Taxotere, nor can we judge how that drug now affects his overall health.  We can strongly speculate, but maybe Dad would have had this deterioration regardless.  I feel helpless, so does he.  But he remains fairly chipper, for feeling so crappy.  He’s taking morphine now, and that helps a little.  He doesn’t feel like he’s going to die soon, what he told my daughter, while my husband and I were out checking the charger on Dad’s boat motor.  She mentioned that in the car, after we left, and I wondered if my father felt it was easier to say that to his granddaughter, rather than to me.

All these new and exciting parts of life, and my grandson has yet to arrive!

Perhaps all these observations can’t be helped, the writer in me being so introspective.  I’ve put The Hawk away for….  Well, for who knows how long, but I did reach a good stopping place, at page 504.  This novel can be broken up into one-hundred page chunks, and last Thursday I inadvertently completed a chapter that neatly ended at yet another of those one-hundred page hunks.  With a second grand-baby due in May, I can’t rightly conjure as to when any writing will again commence, but I have come to relative terms with this novel; it’s not going to be finished anytime soon.  By summer both of my pregnant daughters will no longer be pregnant, but this abuela/author has plenty to keep her busy.

More quilts and comforters than our summer-like January temps require, but every baby needs lots of beautiful blankets.

More quilts and comforters than our summer-like January temps require, but every baby needs lots of beautiful blankets.

And that’s a part of this new world order as well; the changing of the guard.  Or guards; no longer is my life a swirl of noveling feats.  No longer is my dad living with cancer as a side note; his quarterly Lupron shots are like footprints washed away by the rising tide.  My youngest can still see her feet, but has a hard time recalling life before pregnancy.  And truly, all those lives we once lived are gone.  Each day brings a new challenge, and new gifts.  This time last year, I was busy with The Hawk, thinking I could complete it by the end of 2014.  My dad was starting chemotherapy, and both of my daughters were simply themselves, no freeloaders attached.  But nothing remains static.  And while some of these alterations aren’t ideal in outward appearance, they are blessings, a few in odd disguises.

That’s the saving grace in all this, embracing that which looks unembraceable.  Okay, so unembraceable isn’t a word, but that’s the key.  I hate seeing my father so ill, nothing about that seems correct.  But as I gladly anticipate the coming grandchildren, equally I have to accept my dad’s condition.  It’s not easy, nor do I always do it with aplomb.  Yet, griping about this or that is useless, and negativity detracts from the joys.  Sometimes going to my parents’ house is like living in the present and the past simultaneously.  They have two televisions, side by side.  Mom’s is set to westerns, Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, and the like.  Dad’s shows either sports or Law and Order.  While I’m there, I listen to Dad, my eyes noting a black and white screen or vibrant colour, as if I’m straddling two worlds.  Then I’ll gaze at my father, and I see my paternal grandmother, right before we left for Great Britain.  She was dying of lung cancer, her voice raspy and weak.  My dad is starting to sound that way, although much of that is chemo-related.

This is the way life evolves, sometimes so slowly we find ourselves wondering how it was ever any other way.  Sometimes it’s a flash of blinding light, and once we can see again, nothing is as we remembered, sort of like Saul on the road to Damascus.  I guess I’m trying to note these changes, that definitely is the writer in me.  I want to say I remember this very moment, or those over the past weekend, where my youngest was bemoaning still being pregnant to her languishing grandfather, who laughed along with her.

I want to remember this, to tell my grandson and granddaughter.  These are the moments early in our new world order they will only realize via stories.  But this is their history, and it is important.  For all that is lost along the way, I wish to pass along what matters.

Lots of Quilting

Today I’m not writing anymore than this post; sometimes I need to take off a day, or three, just to catch my breath.  In the meantime, I have plenty to sew, as well contemplating The Hawk.  I’ve left the story with a big trip slated for Eric and Lynne, which is going to affect the entire cast.  But I’ll deal with that fallout next week.  This weekend I’m going to see my dad, who is now on morphine for pain.  Not sure what that means in the big scheme, what I hope to discover before I sit to write next week.

I have been working on the abuela quilt; yesterday afternoon was spent either with me at the sewing machine, or I was outside, pinning cloth diaper covers to the line.  A gal who works with my husband gifted our family with a treasure trove of covers, not to mention three bags of twelve month to 2T clothes!  Other goodies were included, but to this former cloth diapering mama, these covers, all in very good shape, were like gold.

Usually quilts hog the laundry line; yesterday it was diaper covers!

Usually quilts hog the laundry line; yesterday it was diaper covers!

In our day, these sorts of covers weren’t cheap, and they were mostly made of plastic, which eventually cracked, then went into the bin.  Technology has vastly altered cloth diapering, to the point where I feel I’ve earned at least a masters in the subject.  Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the babies upon which to place these covers.

But as I wait, I’ll bind a quilt.  Well, first I’ll complete the quilting, after this post is done, then attach the front of the binding.  This weekend, amid visits with family, I’ll find a comfy chair and hand-sew the binding to the flannel back.  Then this project will get popped into the washer, and come out a beautifully crinkly blanket.

If you look to the right, you can see the missed row; can't forget to sort that!

If you look to the right, you can see I missed a row; can’t forget to sort that!

Or that’s the current plan.

I received a new walking foot for Christmas, and between this blanket and the two for my grandson, I have been very pleased with the results.  I even used the foot when piecing the backing, and I had no tugging of the flannel, which was fabulous.  Nothing like the right tools for the job to make the task go smoothly.  And right now, easy-going is the name of the game.

2014 was a year of instigating change.  2015 looks to be the year of adapting to those alterations, one chapter, quilt, and cloth-diapered bum at a time…

A little something just for me….

Amid writing, waiting for a baby’s arrival, and wondering if/when my dad is going to feel better, I’ve started a lap quilt for myself.  I cut out the fabrics last week, have been sewing them together since Saturday.  Today I’ll complete the quilt top, and possibly sort the rest of the sandwich.  I’m pretty sure I have an adequate backing, batting is sufficient, and the binding is laying atop in the above photo, some scraps from my birthday quilt supplemented with strips from prints within the quilt.

After nearly a year of this, I have accumulated enough of a stash to pull a quilt outta my hat.

Right now my life is sort of on stand-by.  My youngest daughter is due quite soon, but not soon enough that I have to be there.  Meanwhile my father is trudging along, chemo late effects causing him days worse than when he was actually receiving chemotherapy.  At this moment I’m home, poking about with words, hawks, quilts, and the occasional basketball game, which suffices until baseball season starts in a couple of months’ time.

The flower print caught my eye, and I couldn't say no.

The flower print caught my eye, and I couldn’t say no.

By then, I’ll be an abuela.  For now, I’m waiting.

And while I wait, I keep busy.  Writing takes up the bulk of the morning, but there’s an afternoon aching to be filled with activities.  This quilt is partially made up of fabrics my eldest gave me last year for my birthday.  The other main print is a cream, flowery cotton I bought at Joanns, with a hint of plum; I found it in my stash, and immediately had to use it in a quilt.

Sometimes that’s how it goes, like getting the idea for a novel.  You just run with it, and not worry where it will take you.

This is a rather busy quilt, but it’s mine, and I like it.  (I could easily say that about The Hawk, hmmm.  I wonder what that means.)  It’s twelve by fifteen four-inch squares, with speckles of squares from past projects.  I also like to do that, as if I’m incorporating other quilts within what I’m currently creating.  I want to quilt this more thoroughly than most of my previous projects, so I’m eager to finish this part of the process.  I’m sure my daughter feels the same about her situation, but we have to wait, allowing these things to take their own sweet time.

I still need to sew the binding together, but at least the pieces are in place.

I still need to sew the binding together, but at least the pieces are in place.

As for my dad….  He and Mom went to breakfast on Sunday, which was a vast improvement compared to when I saw him last week; he was as sick as I have yet to see him.  There’s no plausible explanation, other than cancer sucks and chemotherapy has drawbacks, sometimes severe.  Just as there is nothing I can do to speed along these last weeks of my daughter’s pregnancy, I can’t heal my dad.  It’s a slightly helpless sensation.

So instead, I’ll sew.  And write, don’t forget the writing.  And amid those tasks, I pray.  And tomorrow is another day….

Few Things Are More Invisible Than Writing

I was going to title this post: Nothing Is More Invisible Than Writing.  But that’s a fairly finite statement, and I like having wiggle room.  Instead, let’s note that few things (VERY FEW THINGS) are more invisible than writing.  Ha!  Try arguing with that.

The reason I’m compelled to write this post is that I spent much of the morning writing.  And now, early afternoon, I wonder what I did all day.  My husband has taken his mountain trek, and has over twelve thousand steps to show for it.  My pedometer reads…. Oh jeez, 799.  Seven hundred ninety-nine lousy little steps; what was I doing all morning?  Not very much it seems.  Hmmm….

This time last week I’d been a busy sewing bee; two small quilts were put together in a matter of days, and now both are happy to wait for the arrival of my grandson.  Making a quilt is so visible, man, no way to miss the hum of the machine, the fabric spread out, spilled safety pins on the floor.  Quilting is like putting oneself so visibly on the map, while writing is about as squirreled away as one can get.  I write, but I’m the only one who knows it.  Words are safely tucked out of sight, as if all that sturm und drang never occurred.  But it did; I might not have oodles of steps to prove it, but today I furthered the plot a little more forward.

Maybe not much more forward, but some ground was gained.  And in a long story, any ground is good ground.

But now, an hour after saving today’s chapter, shutting off that side of myself, I’m feeling lost.  Well, okay, not lost.  I’m feeling somewhat deflated.  When I spend time sewing, all I’ve managed is calculable, either in that the quilt wall looks depleted, or sewn rows have accumulated, or there’s a basted quilt lying all over my work table.  It’s tangible; I can put my hands on it, show it off, admire what I’ve made.  There is so little of that in writing, but never before have I understood how singular a task is writing, how solitary.  How silent; other than my fingers hitting the keys, writing is about the quietest job imaginable.

Now, I’m not talking about what happens after a book is done.  Let’s be clear about just what I do mean; the crafting of a story is so off the map, it’s like it’s happening on another planet.  And that planet is uninhabited, so there’s still no chance of anyone noting all that a writer has done.  It’s like the words are sucked into a black hole, soundless and void of existence.  Like is there a story about Eric and Lynne, Sam and Renee, Stanford and Laurie and Seth and Marek?  How do you, dear blog reader, even know if I’m just blowing smoke?  Maybe there is no hawk after all….

It’s possible, well, except for the excerpt I posted months ago.  But beyond that, all this blathering about a hawk, some hawk, THE HAWK; what is all this truly?  Why does it matter, who even cares?

Well, um, I do.  I’ve been working on this story since October 2013.  Now it’s mid-January 2015, and with ninety-three chapters done and dusted, I just needed to point out that there is more to my life than quilting.  Quilting is still wet behind the ears when compared to the writing.

You see, I am a writer.  You may have no manner in which to perceive it, yet, I write.  And in those words, another world exists, people laugh, cry, and love.  It’s very similar to real life, at least at this point, because the story hasn’t ended.  And I have to remember that, when I get in a tizzy (like right now); one of these days I will finish this novel (I will, oh I will….).  And when I do, then this time that is writing The Hawk will turn into something else.

But for now, yeah, I’m a writer.  It might not appear that way, it might not appear at all.  But it’s true, even if it’s all fiction.

Where do I go from here?

So, in the last few days, I’ve made two small quilts, watched plenty of football, chatted with my dad, enjoyed copious amounts of music, plotted out fabrics for future comforters, and made a long list of necessary cleaning.  Today will be full of mopping and vacuuming, but thankfully the writing has already occurred.  For, in addition to noted above, I’ve also added over six thousands words to The Hawk.

And honestly, right next to my husband’s beloved Green Bay Packers advancing to the NFC championship game, managing two chapters’ worth of words is the highlight of my weekend.  Hearing my dad’s chipper voice was also a godsend, but it’s tempered by how he’s achieving that upbeat mood; Dad’s taking a lot of painkillers these days, the late effects of Taxotere not easy to beat.  But at this point, all I want for my father is to be comfortable.  I can further a novel from my own processes.  As for my dad, all I can do is pray and wait.

I don’t know if The Storm Warning was tied into my father’s health, or that once again I’d be pounding on a keyboard, stirring fictional drama.  Thankfully the finished quilts carry far less angst; they are for my youngest, one of which she is fully aware, the other a surprise.  We abuelas have a trick or two up our sleeves, and not all those secrets are novel-based.  Although, some of these fabrics hearken back to my childhood favourite, Babar the Elephant.  The surprise quilt is one of nostalgia, which over the years will turn into memories as I read Babar to little ones, who will grow with the idea that an elephant in a green suit is nothing over which to worry.

Other storms will arise, but wise kingly pachyderms always soothe.

The quilt of which my daughter knows is one for which she helped choose the fabrics.  This was months ago, when Dad felt he had another twenty-five years, right after my daughter learned she was expecting a boy.  Yes, baseball season was in full swing (pun intended), so this little blanket owns a strong autumnal sense, couple with her choice of a woodland theme.  Hedgehogs were a staple of her English childhood, alongside a green-suited elephant.  How that will evolve for her impending offspring will be a joy to discover, which I am greatly anticipating.  It’s not just the novel that’s back on track, but grandmotherhood is knocking on the door, and while I’ve had a small taste of it with Master Z, it’s not entirely the same as what is approaching with my own daughters’ bundles of joy.

It’s like experiencing my dad’s illness from where I stand, fully outside all he endures.  I can ponder his health till the cows come home, but only he can live it.  I can’t explain it better than that.  Yes, I am a grandmother of sorts.  But I’m not yet an abuela.

Still, I’m preparing in the best ways I know how, sewing up a storm, squeezing in the words now that muse is back.  How it returned and why, I won’t question.  I’m simply grateful for the scenes that spill from my fingers, furthering this story.  At least I am in somewhat control over The Hawk.

But not completely in charge, which is probably good.  Soon my life will be dictated by a small new person, who won’t understand Babar and baseball for a few years.  But that little chap will be wrapped in love, via arms and quilts and gentle kisses.  This is the way love is passed, through contact and stories.  I don’t have any sort of road map for it, but that’s all right.  I don’t possess more than an inkling about how The Hawk will end, yet day by day, chapter by chapter, I’m getting there.

It’s like sewing a quilt, or any other metaphor for life; one square, one word, one day at a time…

Stirring the writer within me….

This morning I sat under my scrappy quilt, pondering how those gathered fabrics now held distinct meanings, from those included in my dad’s chemo quilt, to the ones in my youngest daughter’s whale comforter to batiks bought especially for my eldest’s Mijos quilt.  I especially appreciated the simple straight lines sewn through long ivory strips separating the scraps, for those lines reminded me of a tale spun over ages of time.  Which led me to thinking about The Hawk.

I haven’t said squat about that novel lately, but it’s never far from my mind.

Lately my brain has been chock-full of medical hoo-haa, some of it unpleasant, much of it thrilling.  One grandchild is due in a matter of weeks, the other in May.  A grandson will arrive first, followed by a granddaughter, and if I’m not sewing baby quilts, I’m crocheting baby blankets.  Writing feels like an ancient pastime that has long passed me by.

But in the quiet of this morning, after prayers were said, while I snuggled under that scrappy quilt, I ached for a moment where my ill father and those blessed babies didn’t intrude.  I needed a minute, or three, where I could escape, and where better than to poke my nose back into a book that hollers to be completed.  Quilts and baby blankets are easy to finish, or they require a finite amount of attention.  A novel is wholly different, and the comfort it gives this writer is just as complex.  It’s like that long straight stitch, going from one end of the quilt to the other.  Follow that seam, and you’ll find a story intact.

I’m not sure I’ll manage any writing today; perhaps it was just enough to read most of a chapter, tweaking sentences here and there.  But my authorial heart has been stirred, what I require for myself not as someone’s mother, daughter, or grandmother.  I love to quilt, and to crochet.  Yet my mind aches for the creative force that writing provides, and after several months of sitting silently in my computer and resting on flash drives and in email accounts, maybe the start of 2015 also means The Hawk will take flight.

These characters are as much a part of me as my dad, my daughters, and those impending grandkids.  Actually, Sam, Renee, Marek, and the rest are even closer, because I know them like the back of my hand.  And I cannot wait to continue telling their tale.  I have no control over what happens to my father, or how my descendants will turn out.  But to those within The Hawk, I am in charge.  In very few situations do I get to boldly make such a claim.  Going to enjoy it while I can.


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