Festivities and Fabrics

Sometimes the best gift isn’t a tangible item.  Sometimes the best present is those you love close and rowdy, wet and splashy.  Dad’s birthday party this past Saturday was at my sister’s house, where a pool pleased the younger crowd.  Dad stayed dry, in a chair, yet his joy was infectious, a quiet, low-key happiness that tied us all together.

Well, that and all the yummy food…

My family is known for eats; there was more food than we needed, but sewing enthusiasts will understand.  Sometimes a plethora of fabrics are necessary, although fabric isn’t as perishable as macaroni salad.  We took home hot dogs and tri-tip, a gorgeous cantaloupe and home-grown tomatoes.  And now that I’m home, a quilt queue is calling my name.

For my brother-in-law, who loved plaid shirts and hunting.

For my brother-in-law, who loves plaid shirts and hunting.

First up is the Brother-In-Law Quilt, which has been cut, arranged, even rows sewn, although not together.  I was going to start that last night, but instead I cut fabrics for another quilt, while still one more loiters on the quilt wall.  My peripatetic life as of late has precluded writing, but quilting, well, quilting comes in stages, like planning for a big bash.  You need an outline of guests, then a menu, then a location…  Equally in quilting, you need fabrics, then to cut those fabrics, then to arrange those fabrics…

For my youngest daughter's bestie!

For my youngest daughter’s bestie!

And when the purchased fabrics aren’t quite enough, you raid your stash, and come up with a few more.

What's sitting on my quilt wall, for a toddler.

What’s sitting on my quilt wall, for a toddler.

We didn’t need any more vittles on Saturday, but the love wafting along my sister’s patio was thick, giggles from the pool rife, familial chatter vying with my brother-in-law’s smoker to fill the air with heavenly sounds and scents.  Parties are never long enough, but luckily we seem to meet up often, due to holidays or special days or just the need to bond with relatives.  How precious are these days, summer or not, when a clan can reconnect in person?  So many social media devices at hand, but hands are meant to be clasped, then wrapped around each other.  Love is best shared when voices and faces match up alongside aging bodies that can still get out and about.  Relatively, my father is young at seventy, but chemo has altered him, none of us can deny that.  He still uses that chemo quilt, although triple-digit heat hovers.  Dad has a hard time feeling the heat, but the love, oh the love…

The love trumps everything.

For me, quilting is borne of a similar love, for colour and cottons, combating idle hands and to share a tangible aspect of my creative heart.  I can’t always be in the bosom of my most beloved, but I can sew them a little piece of my affections.   And the affections aren’t always for those well-known.  At times they are for strangers, but only on a linear plane.  Someday Dad won’t be here, but my memories will last until I can’t recall them, and his quilt will suffice as a marker of this extraordinary time and a great love, lasting until those threads fall apart at the seams.  I’ll think back to small swimming children, delicious smoked tri-tip and creamy chocolate cake, and the hugs which don’t translate via emails and letters, but are intoxicating when received, perhaps a little like a quilt.

Those rows aren't going to sew themselves together...

Those rows aren’t going to sew themselves together…

And speaking of quilts…  Best I get to work on one!

The Days Are Just Packed

I’m stealing a Calvin and Hobbes book title, but it’s the plain truth.  Except for my daughter’s wedding two years ago, I’ve not been this busy in ages.  It feels good, because while I’m only getting older, I’m still able to do what I like, which lately has been quilting.  And driving.  Not much writing, none really, but that’s all right.  There is a time and season for all things.

Scrappy's Big Sis waiting on the quilt wall...

Scrappy’s Big Sis waiting on the quilt wall…

2014 has been a year of fabric.  And chemotherapy.  I *hope* 2014 stands as an anomaly for the latter, a beginning for the former.  It hasn’t been much of a year for words, other than those exchanged with my dad in batches while he has Taxotere pumped into his veins, then more chats as that medicine alters his body.  Chemo #10 is eleven days away, the last round.  Dad just turned seventy, which is itself quite a feat, but mixed with his recent battles stands out to me even more.  We’re throwing him a big party this upcoming weekend, another event squeezed into a summer that has raced past, ticked off by quilts and road trips and sports.  Truly the days are teeming with adventures.

Nearly two months later, I started to put together this quilt, which initially was going to be for me, until the Birthday Quilt came along.

Nearly two months later, I started to put together this quilt, which initially was going to be for me, until the Birthday Quilt came along.

Recently I finished the Former Roomie quilt; unbeknownst to my eldest, I also sandwiched into that endeavor Scrappy’s Big Sister, which I gave to my daughter yesterday, a surprise for which she was very pleased.  Yesterday Germany beat Argentina for the World Cup, while the Giants managed to blow Arizona out of the proverbial water with two grand slams, one from their power-swinging pitcher Madison Bumgarner.  I don’t begrudge missing those games, for we visited with our eldest and her other half all afternoon, Buttercup too.  I hadn’t expected to see them until this weekend’s big bash, hence the green scrappy quilt staying on the QT.  However, now I can note that quilt’s completion, amid the scattered remnants of this post.  I made the rows in mid-May, and there they sat on the quilt wall until last week, when strips of green were sewn between them, the whole thing a scrap-lover’s heaven, from the pieced-together batting, backing, and binding.   That quilt is indicative of my summer, what with revisions here and there, me as well, up and down freeways trying to piece together all that matters most.

For some strange reason as I sewed the rows together, the quilt began to shift, like it wanted to be an Aztec temple.  I didn't understand this at all...

For some strange reason as I sewed the rows together, the quilt began to shift, like it wanted to be an Aztec temple. I didn’t understand this at all…

My dad, my kids, quilts and plots.  And my husband, when I get a chance to see him.

But sometimes that is how life is; more irons in the fire than one has irons!  And surprisingly the only side effect seems to be driver’s elbow; my left arm, just under my elbow, aches after about ninety minutes of driving.  I dug out a strap I used when stitcher’s elbow was a problem, which seems to alleviate the pain.  That denotes my age, which I cannot change.  Otherwise, I feel good, what with piles of shirts to cut into 4.5″ squares for my brother-in-law’s quilt.  That’s the next project on the sewing table.

Shirts my BIL donated to the cause, plus some camo, as he's an avid hunter.

Shirts my BIL donated to the cause, plus some camo, as he’s an avid hunter.

Maybe this seems like a lot, maybe summertime is when the body, and mind, are supposed to take it easy.  I wanted to start writing the sequel for Heaven…Mississippi this month, don’t think that’s gonna happen.  I wanted my SF Giants to maintain that massive lead over the LA Dodgers, and well…  Well, at least San Francisco took the series from the Diamondbacks.  The All-Star break starts today, even ballplayers need a day off.  But as for this quilt-crazy author…

Snapped by my youngest last week as I hand-sewed Scrappy's binding while we watched footie semi-finals...

Snapped by my youngest last week as I hand-sewed Scrappy’s binding while we watched footie semi-finals…

Not so much in the way of rest and relaxation until the weekend, once deviled eggs and fruit salad are made, corn husked and placed into pots of boiling water.  Those are our contributions to the birthday party, and after I’m sure they have been sorted, I’m going to find my dad, who will probably be inundated with kids and grandkids and friends.  I may not do more than shoot him a friendly smile, to which I may not receive much beyond an understanding grin.  And if we get a few minutes to chat, perfect.  His voice is pretty raspy, but that doesn’t seem to hinder all he has to say, about the present, the past, even the future.  He has plans, in case the Taxotere doesn’t quite keep his PSA in check, radium treatments one possibility.

The finished second scrappy quilt!

The finished second scrappy quilt!

But that’s months down the road, hopefully further even.  Maybe this time next year, God willing.  And God willing, I’ll still be quilting, and hopefully writing, and maybe those Giants will be winning.  In the meantime, there is this day, which has a list of to-do’s already waiting.

Scrappy backing too...

Scrappy backing too…

Writing this post isn’t on the list, more of a way to get my morning started properly, as jasmine tea is sipped, windows open to catch some early cool breezes.  The day is packed indeed, but there is always room for a little more love.

A Quilt For a Former Roomie

I finished this quilt two days ago, but other events have precluded me from posting about it, namely The World Cup.  The first semi-final was the sort of game that just seemed unreal.  The second semi was everything soccer is about.

I watched the first fifteen minutes of the Brazil-Germany match with my youngest daughter, who has been around all week.  She came back with me, after my dad’s chemo session, and it’s been lovely having her around.  At about twenty minutes into the game, her former roomie called, while I was stitching the binding for that young woman’s quilt.  My daughter took the call in the sewing grotto, for it was already 1-0 Germany; what more damage could be done?

A silly question, for within the next ten minutes three more goals were scored, or was it four?  It was so many that I can’t even recall now, as over and over I jumped up, scurrying to the grotto, calling out the scores: two nil, three nil, four nil…  By halftime it was five nil, a nightmare for the host nation, a bizarre score more akin to baseball.  By the end of the evening, that quilt was basted and so was Brazil, a 7-1 crushing defeat that could only be made worse if Argentina happened to beat Holland the following day.

Which, ahem, they did.

My life is bound up in what I do; sewing, writing, watching sport.  Other things too, loving my nearest and dearest, and that’s where the quilts come in.  This week has provided my youngest and me plenty of time for chats, amid the sewing and footie.  We spoke of her goals, and mine too, a quest that is something along the lines of everyone needs a quilt.  And a book or two to find comfort within.  Making this quilt has brought me great personal pleasure; I love the florals and the bright solids.  Seeing it in person, the solids aren’t quite so bold, but in photos it seems they stand out starkly.  I like how I quilted it, and tomorrow it will be in the hands of its owner.

It is better to give than to receive, although I don’t know if the Brazilians would agree…

I don’t always make sense, but I do make quilts…


Four rows sewn; this was how it started.

Four rows sewn; this was how it started.

I said those very words yesterday afternoon to my husband while explaining how I quilted the Former Roomie Quilt.  Instead of following along the rows with a quarter-inch seam, I sewed halfway through the squares themselves.  And by the end of the day, I had quilted that baby, including the scant quarter-inch seam around the perimeter.  This morning, I’ll attach the front of the binding.

So many steps in quilt-making, but then, many good things in this life are based upon building blocks, and sometimes those steps aren’t easy to explain.  Tutorials do wonders for something like sewing; they’re not so handy for writing.  I couldn’t sit in front of a camera, or narrate a power point about how to write a novel.  Writing a novel is far more invisible, much like making a baby.

But quilting, well, it’s a tangible process, that gives me intense pleasure, especially since I came across a tutorial that makes the final stages of sewing the binding a breeze.  Sometimes I wish I could locate a site that explained how to leave a manuscript alone for say, oh, two and a half years, then come back to it with a viable plot.  I’ve recently done that with Heaven…Mississippi, but then I wonder if that’s the fate of The Hawk.  In two, four, or eight years, after how many ever quilts have been fashioned, might I return to that behemoth and give it a conclusion?

About two-thirds put together.  But many stitches remain.

About two-thirds put together. But many stitches remain.

No tutorials available to answer that question.  It’s much like my dad and chemotherapy; he just had his ninth dose, one more to go.  His PSA is down to 6.8, but will it remain that low once the Taxotere is truly out of his system?

Inquiring minds are dying to know…

As I tried to explain to my husband my new quilting process, he was watching the Giants.  The Giants…  I’ve given up on them, for now.  Maybe that doesn’t make me a very loyal baseball fan, but through the month of June they squandered an 8 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers, and just typing that makes me a little heartsick.  I was safely tucked away in the sewing (but not that much writing) grotto, yet, San Francisco managed to pull out a win, behind the erratic but formerly brilliant (and two-time Cy Young award winning) Tim Lincecum.  Maybe Timmy is indicative of my writing, at this current moment, aching to return to its previous glory.  But I have to give thanks for the plot stirring in my head, which doesn’t have to do with The Hawk, but characters just as beloved.  I left Kendall, Sarah, Heath, and Ben dangling on a rather thin line, but now I have a notion of how to rescue them.  And while no, it doesn’t have to do with quilting, it does have a lot to do with my dad’s current path.  When my husband and I visited him together last, Dad bemoaned how crappy he felt, and what lousy company he was.  I remarked that if he didn’t mind us coming to see him, we certainly weren’t bothered.  He smiled, for I know he loves the distraction, what he said more than once as we readied to leave.  That we had made the last two hours fly by, even if he spent all of that time huddled under a blanket, spitting up, or dabbing at his watery eyes.  After nearly thirty weeks of chemotherapy, Dad is showing all the typical signs, but his spirit is mostly unflagging.  I put all these symptoms and moments under my writing hat, where by now they are crammed tight, waiting for release.

What I didn’t know three years ago, when I wrote Heaven Lies East of the Mississippi, was that I had to wait for my father to undergo chemotherapy to complete that tale.

Awaiting the binding (and for the seamstress to finish this blog)...

Awaiting the binding (and for the seamstress to finish this post)…

Now, I could be daunted by that fact; what in the world will I endure to finish The Hawk?  Maybe very little, maybe…  Let’s not go there.  Instead, let’s concentrate on quilts, or the Former Roomie Quilt, which by the end of this day will have an attached front binding, and probably a good part of the back binding hand-sewn into place.  Not while baseball’s on, mind you.  The Giants start an inter-league series with the A’s, oh jeez.  I’ll sequester myself in some baseball-free zone, as a needle carefully winds in, then out, of the fold in the binding.  Another quilt coming under the hammer, another book waiting in the wings.  Another day of my life on a journey I never expected in the sewing, noveling, and cancer-witnessing variety.  It doesn’t always make sense, but it all means something.

Tennis and a quilt top…

Last night I finished the Former Roomie quilt top, also made the binding, while my husband watched a Magnum P.I. rerun.  I took a couple of shots of the quilt top last night, with my hubby’s assistance.  Then I snapped a few more this morning, in between shots of tennis.  I love watching tennis, especially Wimbledon.  And this morning’s match between Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber was one of those that needed as much of my attention as I could manage.

But still, there was a quilt top to properly photograph.

I like hanging them from our laundry line, in the early morning, although I probably could have gotten out there a few minutes earlier, to better avoid the sun.  However, I was tied to the television, which I never watch, unless it’s live sport, or Doctor Who.  Taped sport holds no appeal; the winner is already known.  Live sport, be it American football or baseball or tennis or football, oh my goodness…  I am made helpless, as tension and drama and athleticism explode from the screen, truly the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.  Checking my computer, I saw that Sharapova was down 2-0 in the third set, so I hurried to the living room, turned on the box, and sat with yarn in my hands, as Kerber went up 3-0, then Maria won a game, 3-1.  Then I remembered I wanted to photograph the quilt top before the sun rose too highly.  But which point to miss, what shot to abandon?  Quickly I gathered the good camera, the quilt top, catching glances at magnificent points, as Kerber went up 4-1.  Taking the fabric outside, I pinned it to the line, snapped a picture, ran back into the house, caught a bevy of baseline shots, went back outside, and by the time I came in, Kerber was still leading.  Another upset was in the making.

Photographed from the back, which I think is just as beautiful as the front.

The men’s draw has been as expected, all four top seeds basically unbothered.  The women’s draw is another story entirely, what with only the #3 seed of the top five remaining.  Maria had a fantastic opportunity, what with Serena Williams out, but even as she won a game, Kerber continued making incredible shots, and unlike Maria, no unforced errors, until she doubled faulted on her serve.  At 5-4, with Maria serving, I scuttled into the grotto, taking photos from the camera, then checked the tennis; to my shock, Kerber was ready to break Maria’s serve to win the match, which she did!  Sharapova won this tournament ten years ago, but has never taken it again, losing in the final in 2011, the closest she has come to earning another Wimbledon crown.  This year the women’s title will be in new hands, and I’m pulling for Sabine Lisicki, who lost to Marion Bartoli in last year’s final.  But we’re days away from that action.

In the meantime, there’s another quilt top in need of a backing and batting and so forth.  That will happen next week, a post-Fourth of July activity.  Too much sport calls for my attention, like that football game between the US and Belgium this afternoon, more footie throughout the week, and of course, tennis!  I don’t play any sports, but my appreciation for that pastime is enormous.  It’s certainly not like writing, or quilting; it’s physical, calling out of the player all they have to give.  Writing does that, yes, but in a cerebral manner, which sport also requires, but the body is put through the wringer.  And the older I get, the more I enjoy watching those younger push their frames to the limit.

I’m happy to plop on the sofa, or sit at the sewing machine, admiring all their hard work.

A spool of quilt binding, awaiting its final destination.

A spool of quilt binding, awaiting its final destination.

Still, fashioning a quilt top isn’t easy, nor is basting it, although this one isn’t overly large.  It’s fifty-six by seventy-three inches thereabouts, and next week it will possess innards and a back.  Next week one man and one woman will have hoisted their respective rackets to the heavens, while a select few footballers will be aching to reach their final.  The glory of achievement, be it in fabrics or sport or tall tales continues, blessings after blessings indeed.

A Quilt For Buttercup

Somehow I knew this would be the result; a quilt for my daughter and son-in-law has become a quilt for their hound.  Buttercup seems intent on keeping possession of this blanket, bless her little basset-beagle heart.

She’s a wily dawg, low to the ground, mostly unassuming, sitting so lady-like, paws crossed over each other.  However, she has the mind of a highly trained bloodhound, sniffing out the best presents upon which to lay claim.

Well, not really.  But she loves to sleep, especially on a nice, soft quilt that my daughter just happened to spread out on the fake grass outside their back door.

Perhaps my offspring is the wily one; is this her way of subtly hinting that another quilt needs to find its way to their abode?  Maybe.  If nothing else, it makes a great shot to post on the blog, while other quilts simmer, books too.  I’m about to start revisions, as my husband is watching our hapless San Francisco Giants on TV.  I’m paying attention to the Costa Rica/Greece footie game, 1-0 Costa Rica who is playing with only ten men.  Five minutes remain of that game, with a little stoppage time.  Buttercup could care less who wins the World Cup.  Now that Mexico is out, I’m pulling for the US to do well, and I like Columbia, who surprised Uruguay yesterday.  And if Costa Rica can hang on…  I like underdogs, maybe why Buttercup is so beloved.  She was a rescue dog, who has turned into our grand-basset, even if she lounges on the Bonhoeffer quilt.

I don’t know what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would make of that, but hopefully he won’t mind.  Buttercup looks so peaceful, I’d hate to disturb her precious slumber. (Meanwhile, in Brazil, Greece has hit an equalizer, 1-1 going into extra time…)

Blue Is Beautiful

My favourite colour is blue.  I’m not picky; just about any blue will do.  This morning some morning glory caught my eye, and I had to snap these shots, not only for the blue, but the blessing, the precariousness, the treasure.  These are flowers to me, weeds to others, only blooming in the morning.  In a few hours, their beauty will be gone.

I’ve been reading Heaven Lies East of the Mississippi; up to chapter 7, with only minor tweaks here and there.  It’s been a pleasure to rediscover the thrill of a novel, one that is done (hehehe), and how close it is to that place where blue morning glory hovers delicately over the story.  Of course, I need to write the sequel; no publishing prequels without having at least a rough draft of the conclusion tucked away in a flash drive or eight.  But that sense of an active literary gene pulses through me, in a manner that needs to be noted just as much as the morning glory.

It’s fragile, yet dependable, for it does come back, if not each morning, then whenever the time is right.

A lovely cooling breeze wafts through open windows this morning, as jasmine tea cools, tennis rolls on; Rafael Nadal is making his way through the early rounds at Wimbledon with a little bump in the first set, but smooth sailing in subsequent games.  Some sewing beckons, as does a rather dirty kitchen floor.  But three more chapters of a very special novel await my attention, a story about loss, renewal, and love.  Sort of like the morning glory, maybe a little like tennis.  Certainly much like my life, which is draped in blue, but not in the blues.

To me, blue is the colour of love.


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