Being Thankful

It’s early May and spring is in full flush; roses in our front yard emit a beautiful fragrance while honeysuckle in the back reminds me of my youth.  I’m training one bush along the chain link on the eastern side of the house, while a lone sunflower heads northward.  I planted more than one seed there, but at least one survived.

Nine more struggle on the west side of the house, snails are eating them, poor babies.  Grass is still green, although we won’t water it, just sparing enough agua for the fruit trees, roses, and flowering bushes.  Oh, and for the apple tree my husband planted in our front yard a couple of years ago.  It sports tiny apples, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb, but it makes him happy, so who am I to complain?

Truly, I can’t gripe about anything, and that is made more profound by the spate of misfortunes suffered by those in our circle.  Two cases of cancer, the death of good friends’ adult child, lingering injuries to another from a car accident which occurred last year; these aren’t just coming in threes, but en masse, and I’ve been offering prayers of condolence and healing through the roof.  As I sat at my desk, staring at story notes, the simplicity felt like a slap; paper clips and flash drives, stationary and post-it notes clutter a somewhat organized work space.  But for those in turmoil, nothing appears normal.

I recall those days from last year, when Dad was sick and my youngest was a new mom and my eldest was awaiting her baby.  Little Miss is coming on a year old, while The Burrito is almost fifteen months.  I was graced to soothe the loss of my father with those wee ones, but no such luxuries exist for those who are now enduring hardship, which makes my prayers important.  Peace is often the most essential element required.

Two little ones for whom I am exceedingly thankful!

Two little ones for whom I am so thankful!

As my faith moves along its own little road, I grasp more and more to it, for life’s storms don’t pay attention to weather forecasts, but rush in as they please, rocking foundations that might just be newly laid.  A good year past Dad’s death, I’m in a fairly productive groove, continuing with The Hawk, sewing here and there, even finding time to nurture some ragged looking sunflowers.  All of that seems a very long ways from this time in 2015 when I was trying to find my footing in a post-Dad world, the New Normal as my sister put it.  But as I wrote to the mom of the daughter still struggling to regain her physical health after being in a head-on collision, their lives haven’t merely hit a hurdle or detour.  A new roadway has been formed, and all of them are taking steps along that altered horizon.  Those sorts of paths are never anticipated, and the changes can be utterly disconcerting.

Which brings me back to being thankful, also peaceful, not easy tasks, I will admit.  But there is so much in this life to rattle our peace of mind, calamities notwithstanding, that peace of mind is vital to our own health, physical, mental, and emotional.  Having turned fifty, ahem, aches and pains seem to have increased as if my body knew that milestone had been reached.  Well fine, I say to myself, I’ll drink those eight glasses of water each day, lay off the donuts, increase the steps on the pedometer.  But just as important are the less tangible efforts to maintaining serenity, passing it along where I can, and lately I feel that occurs on a daily basis.  Yet that too is something for which to be thankful, that in the minor frets of my life, like snails chomping on hapless sunflower plants, I can stay grounded in the goodness that is 99% of the rest of my day, backaches aside.  For even in the darkest moments, good purposes remain.  The darkness reminds me how bright are the sunny days, and when they return, how blessed I am for them.

Which then enables me to rejoice with those who rejoice and more vitally, to mourn with and console those in dire need.  That ability is not of my own making, but grace freely given, and gladly accepted.  It’s a circle, which becomes stronger through the sorrows and the joys.  It’s being thankful for all things, regardless how they appear, even snails, ugg.  Yes, snails need their due.  Not sure why, but I won’t ponder that.  My hubby can sort them out, for which I am also exceedingly thankful.

Building a Big Quilt

This shot was taken by my husband, the rest by yours truly....

This shot was taken by my husband, the rest by yours truly….

I suppose this is like writing The Hawk, but much less time is necessary.  I’ve been working on this since February, taking several breaks throughout March.  Now I feel it’s time to get moving, not that I’m planning on using this for months, although it’s been cool lately, small storms blowing through.

This will be for autumn when I’m feeling like wrapping around myself a large colourful blanket.  Still not sure if I’ll back it with cotton or flannel, but the top is coming together.

Initially I made small blocks, then added some together to fashion a few large ones.

Initially I made small blocks, then added some together to fashion a few large ones.

What I want to accomplish with this quilt is shade and size.  Depth and lightness.  A quilt encompassing but broken in stages.  I’m thinking a very light pinkish-red for sashing, maybe a couple of different hues to bring all these random blocks together.

This is the biggest single piece, for now...

This is the biggest single piece, for now…

I’m thinking nothing fall-like in shades, I’m thinking how wonderful it will be to drape myself in this decadently vibrant creation.

And I’m thinking of hand-quilting this baby once it gets to that point.  I’ll recline under it in the summer evenings while watching baseball as stitches are weaved through three layers, bringing all this sewing into one cohesive piece.

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Some log cabin blocks have been made; I love sewing these blocks!

I love walking into the sewing/writing grotto and spying this on the quilt wall.  I love peeking at the assembled fabrics that gather on the table to my right, waiting to be made into yet one more block.

Every time I turn around while writing, these collections of colour fill the available space.  To the left I’ll add another row of blocks, one of these days.

Maybe it’s a lot like writing The Hawk, of which Part Ten is underway.  It’s slow-going though, unlike the last few sections which have flown from my brain like no time remains.

Lately that mood has been for the sewing.  I don’t mind; all things in their own good time, be they fabrics or fowl-themed novels.

A Peek at the Beach

All pics taken today at The Hook in Capitola.

All pics taken today at The Hook in Capitola.

Before I started sewing, I went to the beach.  I have more photos of the Pacific from The Hook in Capitola than is good for me.  And again I’ve added to that collection, a few more snapped on a pleasant sunny California day.  I brought along a friend, who is nearing the end of her visit.  We’ve had a lovely week together, capped off by this excursion to the ocean.

As I strolled, peering down at the changing waves, I considered the alterations since I last trekked about this stretch.  It was New Year’s Eve 2013 or New Year’s Day 2014; so much has occurred since that rather brisk end of year/beginning of another as the sun rose, signaling another day, but so much beyond that.  Dad was alive, no sewing going on, The Hawk in its infancy.  No grandkids either might I add, and fifty loomed in the distance.  Now that’s on the cusp as well as nearly a year since my father died; how funny are all the parts that converge as time passes.

But the ocean keeps ebbing and flowing, one of my favourite parts of observing it.  It never stops regardless of what is happening in our lives.  And even better is how it never looks the same.  If all my Capitola photos were compared, no two would be exactly alike.  A wave’s height and breadth can’t be repeated; each visit to Capitola is as unique as every dip and curl of the water.

I try to keep that in mind as these changes seem daunting, or still so odd; can it be that my father has been dead almost an entire year?  Well, it had been over two years since I’d stepped onto the sand; time does not stop.  But my perception of time has been wrenched from how I used to consider days and weeks….  Over the last few months, the minutes and hours have blurred as if I live in two worlds, that of right where I sit and a far less corporeal existence more like the rolling of waves.  Dad’s gone, or is he?  Maybe he’s behind my shoulder as I type or was he at The Hook, walking by my side.  Eternity doesn’t seem so fantastical of an idea as it used to be.

Not that I feel ill, although I do note more aches than previously; I am an abuela, after all.  I’m also keenly aware of how beautiful is this life, how expansive like the Pacific.  These past forty-nine years are but a drop in the bucket, like all the pictures I’ve taken at The Hook, all the words written, quilts sewn.  A vast horizon awaits, draped in mystery and joy.  Sometimes it will look like the ocean, a grandchild’s gorgeous smile, or the warmth of my husband’s strong arms.  But how much is tantalizingly just past my view, but as familiar as these photos as if all my days will be spent at the beach.

What a terrific notion, ha ha.  Maybe Dad is fishing along the Sacramento River, one of his fave spots.  Our time in this realm is mysterious, or maybe it’s as obvious as the earth revealed at low tide.  I love viewing the beach in this manner, like a blanket has been pulled back, proffering a peek at a usually hidden world.  Our lives could be deemed the same, the outer layers like high tide, but underneath, ahhh….

Bring on the continued mystery!  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Fit For a Baby

Been thinking about writing this post for a while now, amid a visiting Burrito, basketball games, revisions, and a very tender right shoulder.  Not sure if the pinched nerve was from too much cross-stitching while my grandson visited, excessive weeding while ground was soggy from recent rains, or simply age.  Possibly a combination of all three, but what can an abuela do?

Doll quilt to the left, for later days....

Doll quilt to the left, for later days….

Ha ha, I can quilt!  And for the last six to eight weeks, that was my occupation, geared for one bambina due in May.  Her parents are college buddies of my eldest and son-in-law; weren’t all these young folks just cramming for finals and the like?  Um, no, that was ages ago.

Ages of time wrapped up in my memories, sewn together with thread, held in a gift bag for my daughter and her hubby to deliver in a couple of weeks.  I’m so glad my shoulder waited to act up after I’d finished the hand quilting on the baby blanket, the other three pieces quilted on my machine.  All came out well, distinctive from one another, and I even made a spare rug mug for my daughter, tiny scraps I couldn’t bear to throw away.

A mug rug for the new parents; these are one of my favourite projects, for they are easy to assemble, and use up scraps for the batting as well as the backing.

Makes for more memories, or something for Little Miss to enjoy.

I’m in a break from work at the moment, no sewing or writing as a friend is visiting, Easter just around the corner.   It’s a time of reflection upon life as a whole, life in parts, life in a modicum of pain.  Pinched nerves don’t heal overnight, not when fifty beckons.  After weeding on Tuesday afternoon, I actually fell asleep on the sofa, not something I frequently do.  But this body is changing, and there isn’t much I can do for some of those alterations.  That’s a sobering thought, but it’s also comforting, in accepting one’s parameters.

I do what I can, and move on to the next task assured of the strength waiting for me.

In April, I’ll return to The Hawk; my hope is to complete Part Ten before the end of June.  I also hope my shoulder won’t hinder that plan, of that I can only wait and see.  I’m working on a blanket for myself, large colourful improv blocks that currently brighten the quilt wall with no clear direction for their eventual use.  I don’t mind, they aren’t going anywhere.   For how busy March was/is, April might be calmer.  And that’s good.  A year ago my father was dying, and while we didn’t know the timetable, every day was a little lifetime of its own.

Yet, isn’t that how I should view this day?   Quilts and plans and cups of tea with a good friend make for a fulfilling twenty-four hours, and this day, 24 March 2016, will never be lived again.  At this time last year I had no idea what the next set of minutes would reveal for my father, myself, and the rest of our beloveds.  I felt to know so little, and who’s to say I know all that much more now?  I don’t know how the quilt on the wall is going to end up, not sure what I’m going to do with Walt and Callie in The Hawk.  After reading through the last two parts, having introduced all those folks in Karnack, Texas, what will they signify for Eric, Lynne, Sam, Renee, and the rest.  Questions and queries abound!

At least I know this; an improv baby quilt is done, whew!  I thoroughly enjoyed the hand-quilting, which meandered all over the place.  Sewing around little foxes and diamonds was somewhat tedious, but I like the overall quilted look, and it was a great way to unwind each night, often with the Golden State Warriors winning another game.  What I find intriguing is how hand-quilting didn’t mess up my shoulder, but cross-stitching seems a beast.  Some things in this life are inexplicable.

But that too is okay.  I guess I do know a little more than at this time last year, yet I like mystery.  I also find the notion of each day being a lifetime pretty interesting.  Balancing the big and little, be it stories, quilts, or people, takes an appreciation of just why I am here, doing what I do.  I don’t want to know too much, that would take the fun out of it, as well as the desire to keep writing, sewing, striving to love.  Yes, sometimes love isn’t easy.  But it is necessary, because without love we aren’t more than clanging gongs.  And in this chaotic world, love is all that keeps us afloat.  Occasionally it feels as unpleasant as my niggly shoulder, and just as uncertain; why does it hurt, how did I cause it, when will the pain disappear?

Some sun illuminates the quilt....

Some sun illuminates the quilt….

I don’t have an answer for those inquires, only the rock-solid sense of keep writing, sewing, even weeding.  Keep moving and loving, and inhale the blessings of this life-day as they come.

The Hawk, Part Seven

I had planned to release this later in the week, but realized that today being Leap Day, what a fabulous opportunity to publish a novel!  Or a slice of a saga; Part Seven of The Hawk is a little shorter than the rest, but plenty is packed into this fifty thousand-plus installment, which is available in all formats on Smashwords.

Happy Leap Day to all!

Why I’m a writer….

On this last day of quotes, I didn’t have to look hard for inspiration.  To my left in the writing/sewing grotto is a poster, and while I no longer participate in NaNoWriMo, the notion of fifty K in thirty days brought me to where I am today.  Thank goodness for Chris Baty: There’s a book in you that only you can write.

Ten years ago I had no idea this noveling journey was on the cusp of my horizon; I was living in Yorkshire, England, homeschool three teens, assuming my authorial dreams would merely dwell within my own head; hah!  My eldest twisted my arm only slightly to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, and by the end of November 2006, I had one hundred thousand words which later turned into my first novel.  Other issues swirled amid those words falling on paper; we made the decision to return to America, after over a decade spent in what is still my second home.  But while Britain lives within me via tea and a deeply rooted sense of history, the words began there through an unconsidered manner of writing; just do it.

That’s a quote for another day, because to just do it implies a task in need of completion.  That initial book was plotted out the month before NaNoWriMo began, but the notion of creating fiction had lingered for….  Oh my goodness, as long as I can remember!  So many story ideas were scribbled in notebooks; I like to say I have more plots than sense.  But how to release those lives, histories, drama?  The only manner is to simply write.  Don’t worry you might be telling a tale previously shared.  No one can tell your story in your manner but you.

Why is this notion so necessary?  Partly for all the ways someone else could unravel said yarn, nobody else possesses my experiences, which subtly and not so subtly enrich the story.  Like no two quilts are the same, neither are books, regardless of the subject.  And beyond the mere output of the tale told is the effect upon the storyteller.  My first novel is, ahem, not my strongest, but it ushered in more books, leading to where I sit today, with a behemoth that centers upon a most vital theme, that of trust.  Which takes me back in time ten years, believing that maybe I could crank out fifty thousand words in one month, because there was a book in me that only I could write.  Isn’t that a compelling reason to write that book you’ve always wanted to?  Nobody can do it but you!

Substitute book for whatever burning desire lays within your heart; life is short, no time to shove aside dreams that simply don’t go away.  I was forty when I started my fictional escapades, so age is no factor, well, not for words.  I won’t be training for a marathon, although maybe with The Hawk, I am, ha ha.  But it all began by embracing what is possible, not fretting over would it be good, might it be appreciated.  A new world is waiting to be explored; get writing and find your own yellow brick road.

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for three quotes in three days.

A little heartache along the way….

As I prep The Hawk Part 7 for release, I’m brought back to something Eric said to Sam in Part 4: I know I’m new at this faith stuff, but he didn’t spare his own son.  Why shouldn’t we expect some heartache along the way?

Writing this novel has been an exercise not only in faith that one of these days I’ll finish it, but broadening my trust in God to get me through the less stellar parts of life.  As I noted yesterday, 2015 was teeming with delights.  It was also bittersweet, and to be honest, since I started The Hawk, my family has undergone great change.  Shortly after the writing commenced in October 2013, Dad saw an oncologist at UCSF, who recommenced chemotherapy.  Suddenly Dad’s journey with cancer was taking a severe left turn, but this is how life, and death, proceeds, not always how we would imagine or prefer.  In 2014 I did little noveling but a lot of driving, for my father as well as two pregnant daughters.  That year I wasn’t even sure if The Hawk would fly, ha ha.  I detailed my stalled efforts in a poem, which I recently reread, reminding myself how much life has altered in the last few years.  Yet, that is the force behind our existences, although not always are those changes pleasant.

A theme I constantly revisit is that need for change, which leads to growth, which often translate to heartache along the journey.  Within a novel, drama is essential, and the same holds for life, but how we deal with heartache doesn’t have to be over the top.  Christ asks for us to know all is well regardless of the oncoming storms.  And to even give thanks for those storms, for within the maelstrom is the opportunity to cling to him.  In Part Seven, Marek tells Lynne that when we pray for God’s will, we are handing over the burden, allowing Christ to continue the mystery, as well as do all the work.  We are walking in the dark, Marek notes, but sometimes that’s the easiest thing.

Yet, our human natures chafe at that idea, for we want to be in control.  Last year I sat beside my ailing father, control long out of his hands.  It was out of mine too, whether he was sleeping peacefully or aching for painkillers.  Within the fiction, I want to share these truths, as well as the lasting joy that lingers, albeit in manners I don’t fully understand.  But that’s fine.  As I said a few posts ago, it’s not for me to determine the purpose, only to engage in the process.  And when that process turns painful, to then seek peace from the most secure and eternal position; on my knees or with eyes closed, fully aware I’m not alone.

Not even Christ was spared, but in his sufferings, I know mine are understood.

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for the impetus behind this post.