The Morning a Child Is Born

Today Little Miss arrived.  She was a few, well, several days late, but that’s according to speculative calculations.  She did seem rather fond of being where she was, and a little coaxing was required.  Yet now that she is with us, I feel like she’s always been here.

I chalk that up to how much she looks like her mother at that age.  And her slightly spitty disposition, albeit very pleasant overall, rings bells from years ago when her mum was that tiny.  How is that, I wonder, on this now afternoon that a child was born.

Yet seconds turn to minutes, changing to hours, and suddenly it’s past lunchtime, and I’m pondering this new family member (who looks remarkably like an older family member), as well as considering how blessed we all are by her health and beauty and simply her being with us.  Not that her birth was fraught with complications, other than she wasn’t in any hurry in being born.  Just that life is precarious, yet, it begins anew day after day and today my granddaughter took her first breath, had her first bath, was christened with a moniker that I adore.  We’ve all been calling her Phil for the last several months, as her folks wanted her name to remain under wraps.  As my husband and I walked from the labour ward, I slipped, speaking about Phil, I mean….  Little Miss, I laughed at myself.  A little miss who lifts my soul, as well as those who call her daughter and granddaughter.

Showing off; he's not even four months old and could stand by himself, grasping onto the coffee table's edge....

Showing off; the burrito isn’t even four months old and can stand by himself, grasping onto the coffee table’s edge….

And niece, grand-niece, great-granddaughter, and don’t forget cousin.  The burrito will meet his cousin later today, and I wonder if he’ll pass along nuggets of newbornhood; keep them on their toes, he’ll gurgle, while Little Miss might flash her dark eyes, or show off her light brown hair, with a hint of a curl.  I cannot express the level of joy I possess in the lives of these two descendants, who will grow up together, getting into countless scrapes and building a friendship lasting their entire lives.  That’s another reason this day is spectacular; I might be pushing fifty, but these babies are bound for years past mine, and I get to witness not only those moments, but relish this one, as they meet, as I held that wee girl, as the sun began to glow from the east.

Hours ago her life began; already new chapters are being written, quilting her into the fabric of my family.

A Finished Heart

There’s a story behind this quilt; a few days after Dad died, during the Easter/Passover weekend, a young woman the same age as my youngest was involved in a head-on collision.  I’ve known this lovely person since she was nine, and even though my soul was aching over my father’s death, my heart and thoughts were with another family across the country, wondering about the health of their child.

I love Moda’s sea theme; I used the whales in my youngest daughter’s quilt, and another amid the low volume prints.

Fortunately this woman suffered just broken bones, in the words of her mum, with whom I was in close contact for those initial weeks. Still, broken bones are injuries that while will heal, the severity was alarming; I wrote a poem about it, after getting to chat with that gal, which made my day for hearing her chipper voice, then speaking to her mother, who enlightened me to the full extent of the damage.

I quilted this in a diagonal manner, and other than a few puckers, it came out well.

I quilted this in a diagonal manner, and other than a few puckers, it came out well.

As she said, there was no head, spinal, or internal organ trauma; still all those lower limb issues will take months to knit themselves back together.  Thank goodness that woman has youth and determination on her side, not to mention a fantastic family and so many supporters flung far and wide.  I am so lucky to be amoung them, and on their behalf, I’ve sewn this quilt.

It’s a heart from my hands, also from the multitudes.  It’s made with fabric, also many prayers, much love, and flannel that might feel warm as summer arrives, but will be ever so cozy in autumn and winter, when the owner has full mobility and needs something under which to snuggle.

Marbled gray flannel became the back, as I had enough of it on hand.  The binding is scrappy, leftover from the batiks used on the front.

Marbled gray flannel became the back, as I had enough of it on hand. The binding is scrappy, leftover from the batiks used on the front.

It’s also a demarcation for me personally; probably one of the last traditionally pieced quilts I’ll make.  I won’t say it’s the definitive final traditional outing; never say never.  But probably.

I love a colourful binding, especially against the gray, and around the low volume prints.

I love a colourful binding, especially against the gray, and around the low volume prints.

Since I finished this quilt, I’ve constructed some improv mug rugs and a wall hanging.  It’s been a busy time for me, waiting for a baby, wrapping up the edits on The Hawk.  In fact today I did nothing connected with that novel; instead I sewed, snapped photos of a pixilated heart while clouds kept shadows at bay.  I watched a terrific Giants’ victory in Milwaukee, hehehe, and am awaiting what will hopefully be another sporting win for the Golden State Warriors tonight in Houston.  It’s been a relaxing holiday, a good day to consider one’s blessings.  This quilt and for whom it will be sent are two.

While I was outside, I shot this of my husband's green beans.  He's quite proud of them, lol....

While I was outside, I shot this of my husband’s green beans. He’s quite proud of them, lol….

And more blessings are expected this week….  In the meantime, I’ll pack up this comforter, for a trip to the post office most likely tomorrow.  Best to get it sent sooner rather than later.  Later I’m hoping to cuddle a new grandchild!

Pondering the written work….

Ruminating about sewing is so much easier than discussing my other crafty endeavors.  With the pixilated heart quilt, I’ve taken plenty of photographs, in part that my eldest has been gushing about that project, and maybe in the snapshots I send her, she’s distracted, a little bit, from the project upon which she cannot escape.

She’s still waiting on that baby, bless her.  And truthfully, it won’t be much longer now….

Still, those are mere words, much like what I’ve written in The Hawk.  More words than I can shake a stick at, but some of them, a couple of sentences actually, define this tale, one early on, and now I’ve reached, all the way in Chapter 89, another theme that will echo throughout the rest of the novel, regardless of how much else I still have to write.  (I’d like to think I’m halfway done, sure, let’s go with that….)

But I can’t give away much here, or I don’t wish to, because that would spoil it for anyone who has read Part One.  I can share the completed quilt top, no harm in that, because the person for whom it will go has no idea.  Putting together this particular quilt top has been an amazing process, cementing my decision to turn my sewing adventures in a more improvisational manner.  While I love the colours and visual flow, I’m ready to quilt without a ruler or plan.

Blowing in the breeze, as shadows fall along the bottom, the sun having peeked out while I was shooting this quilt.

Blowing in the breeze, as shadows fall along the bottom, the sun having peeked out while I was taking this shot.

But writing isn’t that free-form, or at least not my fiction.  Poetry, sure; throw caution to the winds and see what results.  But especially with The Hawk, so much ground work has been laid, that this far into the book, I have to respect the framework while adding onto the structure.   And while I know how it ends, I still have to get there.  However, after reading through Chapter 89, I feel a little more secure in where I’m going.

Assuaging Buttercup that she will always be a grand basset helps, as does sporting my Giants colours....

Assuaging Buttercup that she will always be a grand basset helps, as does sporting my Giants colours….

But it does drive me a little crazy, not being able to expound upon that other than to say, “Oh, cool!  I’m going to write this and that and….”  It’s very similar to what my daughter is facing, these last days of being pregnant.  She knows a baby will result, but what will that child look like, how will she be?  And that’s not even bringing the actual birth into it; that’s a huge part of the process, but it’s also fleeting, in that she’ll undergo labour, then WHAM!  Here’s your first child, to whom you will be connected, in one way or another, for the rest of your life.  Sure, the initial years are a tightly woven quilt of ever-changing fabrics, but those linens remain attached, even through repeated washings.

I know this well; it’s my eldest who in 2007 encouraged me to participate in NaNoWriMo.  That same daughter brought me into quilting.  Goodness only knows where else she might lead me!

However, for The Hawk, I’m being guided by a different force, a search for my Father.  Eric notes that to Lynne, early on in the novel, and after I’d typed those words, I realized the road this book was going to take.  It’s more than a story about a guy who….  And a good long chunk into it, I’m finding another layer, tucked away inside that magical blue barn.  This notion wasn’t at all present back in the autumn of 2013, when I started this story.  It evolved over the months I have worked on this book, also during the time of literary quiet, when quilts ruled the roost.  And writing this book has prompted me to appreciate those prose-less days, for the story isn’t the only part of this that has altered.

I’m different too.

Both of my daughters have transformed significantly in the last year; the eldest is on the cusp of one of the most outstanding alterations that will have happened to her, so far.  I love being a mother, but writing and sewing have also fashioned huge impacts upon my life.  So has becoming a grandmother, hee hee.  Books, like life, need time to percolate.  Quilts do too, for all of the best things take time.  Maybe my daughter is sick and tired of waiting on her baby; I know I’d love to have The Hawk wrapped up.  But thankfully I have a modicum of patience stored away, which makes it easier for me to take writing as it comes, waiting on a grandchild in the same cognizant manner.  Nothing worthwhile appears overnight, or not very often.  For now I’ll satisfy my soul in one more chapter for the day, another cup of coffee, then some hand-sewn binding upon that heart quilt.  If my daughter calls today with some labour-like good news, fantastic.

If not, no worries.  I have a hawk, and quilts, to keep me busy….

Waiting for a baby….

Long ago (well, not that long) there was just Buttercup, the grand-basset.  Buttercup likes walks, food, belly rubs, and quilts.  Okay, she likes laying on soft coverings, and my daughter and son-in-law like protecting at least one end of their sofa.  But while Buttercup thinks the burrito is fine for a visit, there’s no telling what she’ll do when a small person moves into her home 24/7.

Right now Buttercup rules that roost, be it on the couch, her parents’ bed, or anywhere else she lands.  She’s still the grandest of the grand-bassets, and always will be.

However, and don’t say this too loudly in her hearing, grandkids have usurped her place.  Oh, I still scratch her belly and croon sweet greetings when I see her, but little folks of the human nature have slid BC down several rungs.  My daughter is still waiting for her bundle of joy; I visited with them yesterday, and I have to say there are few things in this world more beautiful than a very pregnant lady.  My daughter pshawed my compliments, but one day when her little girl is due, my not-so-little girl will understand my gushing.

Not sure what Buttercup is going to make of it all though.  She’s quite a proprietary creature, her bed, her iPad, her dog door.  Once a toddler is trying to escape through that bolt-hole, what will happen?

And in the meantime, there are still projects for this abuela to complete; I’ve sewn up the pixilated heart quilt top, finished last night as the Warriors squeaked past the Rockets, while the Giants slipped by the Dodgers.  Today will be one of fashioning a binding and backing for that patchwork heart, the story behind it tumultuous but endearing.  And it’s truly up to my impending granddaughter to how much I manage to sew.  So many stories associated with various comforters; I was working on one for myself before the burrito arrived, and now he finds that quilt very intriguing.  Nothing more rewarding than seeing one’s handiwork capturing the fancy of a grandson.

Well, except for the beauty of my pregnant daughter, and of course, Buttercup.  She’s a treasure all her own….

One more quilt for Dad….

I finished this quilt a few days ago, snapping photos right after Silicon Valley received some blessed rain.  Not sure if those things go hand in hand, but we’ve had cool temps for a while, the perfect time for a quilt.

Especially a quilt like this, ushering in my modern/improv quilting life.  What better way to practice this new technique than make one last quilt connected to my dad.

My first comforter was for Dad, although not in the beginning, much like this attempt at floating squares.  Dad’s first blanket was actually meant for me, because it was my first go with quilting, and I wasn’t about to foist it on anyone but yours truly.  However, Dad was undergoing chemo at the time, and often found himself chilled.  He appreciated that blanket, even using it a few times this year.

This blanket wasn’t planned for Dad at all.  I wasn’t even into improv quilting before he died, although I had asked my husband for a book about modern quilting earlier this year.  But as so much changed this winter and spring, so has my quilting method.  I dove right into this project, once the last of the baby quilts had been completed, and for a time, I had no handle on what this piece meant.

Initially it was an attempt at a score within Sherri Lynn Wood’s new book The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters.  Then it became an ode to The Sinking of the Lusitania.  Then suddenly it was for Dad.  Or maybe it was about Dad, because I wasn’t going to give it to anyone.

This quilt is all mine, not from greed, only in how much it means to me, for many reasons; modern quilting, floating squares, Winsor McCay, and my father.  I used it the night I finished hand-sewing the binding, watching basketball well protected under its perfect length.  Now it’s been washed, photographed, and sits on the back of the sofa, as more cool weather heads our way.

More sport as well; Golden State starts its run at the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday evening.  I’ll be happy to watch the Warriors and Rockets safely snugged under this lap blanket.  Well, unless my daughter is in labour.

I'm rather fond of that one small orange square....

I’m rather fond of that one small orange square….

If she is, basketball and quilts will wait.  And one day, that little granddaughter will have a terrific story about how her abuela whiled away the time sewing fabrics not measured with rulers for perfect edges.  Just letting that rotary cutter slice at will, then fastening pieces in what might appear an indiscriminate nature.

One little piece of tropical fabric sneaked into this binding; I love the randomness of this entire quilt.

But everything happens for one reason or another.  I machine quilted this diagonally, also a first, the binding a scrappy assortment from the binding bucket.  I even pieced the batting, wanting a true from left field approach to this quilt.  The back is fabric I bought on a whim, with large scraps from what had been used on the front.  I wanted to follow Wood’s use what you have adage, and this quilt complies with that idea all through.

One more note about the binding; in a previous post, I remarked how the bottom fabrics, representing Dad’s later years, were darker than those at the top.  Yet, he found great peace in his final decade, what the lighter coloured binding means.  This is why I sew, why I write; to set into this world fragments of my memories.  Perhaps these recollections are only for me, but maybe they will resonate with others.  If nothing else, I think it’s pretty.  And I can’t wait to make another!

Fulfilling Dreams

It’s been a few months since I’ve done more than write blog posts, well, I participated in NaPoWriMo last month, but daily usage of my keyboard has been minimal since around mid-January.  I bring this up because over the last week I’ve been retyping poems created in April, to publish them in what will be a slim volume of poetry to be released one of these days.  And in retyping those poems, I’ve reacquainted myself with an action that over the last eight years has been employed far more often than not.

Well, most of the last eight years, from late 2007 to late 2013.  Since October 2013, my writing output has been scattered, although prodigious when I get around to it.  But getting around to it has been a chore, what with life intruding.  That’s the cranky old writer in me talking, bless her heart.  The last decade I was blessed to turn into who I had always wanted to be, an author.  Along the way I’ve become a quilter and grandmother, amoung other gifts, and it’s been a little tricksy, as my eldest likes to say, while the writing and sewing have met, danced a bit, then sulked to other corners of the auditorium while family took center stage.  Family still rules the roost; that eldest is just waiting for her baby to appear, as are the rest of us.  But I’m three-fifths of the way through The Hawk, and once I complete this round of edits, I will start writing.  And in the meantime quilts appear, or disappear into the washer to make an even more lovely reappearance.  Yesterday I finished the binding on the Dadland flag, and currently it’s being washed, although I tried it out last night while watching Houston and LA in the NBA playoffs; it’s long enough for me, wide enough too.  Just needs some grandkids crawling all over it, what my eldest texted after I shared this photo.

So, in this past week, as I’ve typed poetry, making small revisions, a slightly noticeable ache crept into my shoulders, which made me smile; I’m exercising some important muscles, the writing muscles.  Not too much mental fitness being stirred, although that’s waiting, I can sense it as I delve further into The Hawk, edits becoming more prevalent than in the previous chapters.  And that’s good too; the first half of that novel has been revised, but these later pages need a good looking over.  Still, there’s a difference between scrolling through a few chapters each morning, and writing a chapter.  And while I can’t do much about getting my brain ready, other than being familiar with where I left off, typing four or five poems here and there has reminded my upper body of what it takes to pound out a novel.

Butt in chair, yes.  Shoulders straight, no slouching, and deep breaths are just as important in the writing process.

Oh, the writing process….  I could wax on that for ages, but more to matter is appreciating that I can and do write; for how long was that my heart’s desire?  I have to be honest; I never dreamed about making quilts.  That crept into my life on very stealthy feet, then sledgehammered me into submission one cut of fabric at a time.  But writing, ahhh….  Colour excites and music soothes, but my true (he)art is the written word, be it prose or poetry.  April is a good month for me to grind out a poem a day, even if calamity swirls, reducing the output somewhat.  Now April has passed, and so have some of the storms.  We’re waiting on a baby, and I’m chugging along with The Hawk, eager to set that story back into motion.  And yes, other cottony puzzles ache to be solved.  But the sewing will just have to amiably learn its place, which after my impending granddaughter and her burrito-boy cousin and the rest of my clan comes after the writing.

Last year it was about quilting.  2015 is all about hawks, or so I hope.  I won’t be naive enough to assume that I’ll complete that novel by New Year’s Eve, but I want to make headway.  I made a note from yesterday’s reading, and it strengthened my resolve about this story; Lynne and Eric are talking, and Eric ponders his wife’s faith, and if he’ll ever endure a similar trial.  And suddenly the end, which I’ve held in my head from early days, meant even more.  What happens later to Eric will be a test of his faith.

Hehehe….  Now that’s what stirs this author, more ways in which to torture my characters.  Which is not at all torture for me; it’s fulfillment.  Boy, what does that mean?  Nope, not going there.  Just going to end this with a grateful nod to my Maker for blessing me with grandbabies and fabrics and words and more love than I can hold even with palms pressed close.  And the acknowledgement that if one opens their eyes and heart wide enough, the desired treasure rains down abundantly, along with gifts unconsidered, yet just as beautiful.

Meanings of Life

Cream tea on Mother's Day, spent with my eldest and husband, and plenty of English-type goodies!

Cream tea on Mother’s Day, spent with my eldest and husband, and plenty of English-type goodies!

I made a bigger than usual pot of coffee this morning, not all caffeinated, I will add.  I usually drink a two-thirds regular to one-third decaf brew, but just a couple of cups.  The last few mornings Silicon Valley has been blessed with cool temps, so I’ve enjoyed my java without feeling overheated.  Still, two cups just wasn’t enough, so this morning, I have plenty of joe, to start off the day perfectly.

No, not a cup of joe, but my scone from Sunday, although I did take a bite, to make sure it was tasty.  I wasn't disappointed....

No, not a cup of joe, but tea alongside my scone from Sunday.  Very tasty, especially with freshly whipped cream….

Life is truly good, you know.  It just gets complicated at times.

I’m blessed with many children, some of whom I’ve known since the day they were born, some who have entered my life through the years.  And now grandkids are arriving; we had a surprise visit from the burrito yesterday, although he’s not so much into swaddling these days.  He’s three months old, awaiting his little cousin, who might arrive sometime in the next week!  The burrito was a happy chappie, until about eight o’clock, but babies have their moments, and this abuela savored all of them.

No longer a tiny guy, but still plenty small enough to cuddle.

No longer a tiny guy, but still plenty small enough to cuddle.

Life is truly good, you know.  It just gets noisy at times.

The burrito seems very taken with the grandchild quilt, or maybe he was laughing at his grandpa.

The burrito seems very taken with the grandchild quilt, or maybe he was laughing at his grandpa.

As I wait for my other grandchild to appear, I’ve been sewing on the Dadland quilt, and that’s been coming along very nicely.  I’m skittish about using cotton to back a quilt, because for whatever reason my basting never seems adequate, but this time I pinned that sucker to within an inch of its Dadland-flag life, and no shifting occurred.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am about that, because not only are puckers to the bare minimum, now I have the confidence to back more quilts with cotton, not flannel, offering a broader choice of designs.  This afternoon I’ll complete the quilting, which has been done in a diagonal manner, and maybe tonight while I watch the Warriors game I’ll even start attaching the binding.  That improv quilt might be ready for the washer soon, at which time I’ll throw in the blankets and burp cloths used by the burrito during his stay.

Using a dependable walking makes quilting so much more enjoyable; I borrowed my daguther's foot, the best I've used, and chalk up the successful quilting to this particular tool.

Using a dependable walking foot makes quilting so much more enjoyable; I borrowed my daughter’s foot, the best I’ve used, and chalk up the successful quilting to this particular tool.

Life is truly good, you know.  It just gets messy at times.

And then there’s The Hawk; part of the reason I made more coffee this morning was I wanted to savor it while reading through the daily three chapters I revise.  Not that I need java to get through edits, but I so enjoy sipping a warm, sweet beverage while I make occasional changes.  I haven’t gone through this novel in its entirety, or what I’ve managed to accrue, in a good while, and it’s been a thrill to reacquaint myself with characters and plot that have been a part of my life before Dad started chemo, prior to grandchildren, like a gateway to a world that is no longer.  The Hawk dates back to October 2013, which in the grand scheme isn’t that long ago, but for me, those months having passed were big stepping stones that now gazing back, I wonder just how I managed to reach this spot today relatively unscathed.  I don’t think it has much to do with drinking coffee, or modern quilting, or even traditional quilting.  I was working on The Hawk even before quilting entered my realm.  And I’ll probably be writing that novel for at least the rest of this year, what with grandkids and quilts in the mix.  But that’s okay, because time away from that tale has whetted my appetite to return to it in whatever amount of words I can muster.

Life is truly good, you know.  It just gets changed up at times.

I’m a blessed woman, more than I can note within an entry on a blog that switches from one tasking to another.  Ten years ago I had no idea all these pastimes were waiting on my doorstep, itching for me to step over the threshold and immerse myself in new landscapes, wide vistas, oh and return to America, to Silicon Valley no less.  Yet here I am, up to my neck in novels and fabrics, grandchildren right on my heels.  And while not everyone I love is within my physical reach, I’m far more aware now than a decade ago of how life works, what it means.  And that is probably the biggest gift of all.

Life is truly good, you know.  It just comes round once, so revel in it at all times.