Category Archives: hope

Advent Joys (also a post about Buttercup….)

Advent started later than usual this year, due to Christmas being on a Monday; it was strange not lighting candles right after Thanksgiving, but now that it’s already the 8th, candles flicker on our coffee table each evening, and I relish their gentle glow, as well as pondering the day’s Advent reading.  Our house isn’t overly decorated; I’ve given the majority of baubles to my daughters, through which their little ones are learning our family’s traditions.  And then there is one member who has claimed various quilts as her own….

Buttercup is probably around eleven years old; she is a rescue dog my eldest and her hubby adopted right after they married in 2012.  A basset-beagle mix, she was christened the grand-basset upon her entry into our family, and while actual nietos have arrived, she still earns her fair share of attention.  Last year when I quilted the tree skirt my eldest had sewn, we joked that it would belong to Buttercup once it found its proper place under the tree.  And sure enough, as soon as it was set out, BC claimed it as her own.

However, she’s still very fond of the sofa….

Now attired in her traditional Christmas sweater….

This Advent season has a reinforced message for my clan, what with waiting for a baby as well as the birth of Christ; Little Miss was eleven days late, and while Lil’ Sis isn’t officially due until this weekend, this weekend is practically upon us, dude!  If nothing else, an infant will join us before we celebrate Christmas, and I wonder if in looking back at this special season, will I recall the eagerness to snuggle a newborn alongside more weighty notions?  Babies at Christmastime seem extra special, or maybe I can say that being a grandmother, ha ha.  I’m trying to get much accomplished now, because very soon the days will be greatly altered, although we have no idea exactly when that change will happen.  And Advent is much the same, preparing our hearts for an immense gift that occurred over two thousand years ago, and is still happening right this minute, even if Buttercup sleeps through it.

I made the Christmas quilt a couple of years ago, I think? And the one on the sofa is the Mijos Quilt, one of the first I ever fashioned.

There is a quilt to finish, placemats and coasters too, presents to wrap, and still to purchase, ahem.  But more there is the peace to be found regardless of tasks and stresses, a peace that might seem slightly shaken by a newborn’s cries, a peace sometimes rattled by current events, but a perfect peace that overcomes all distractions.  That peace lies within our hearts, no way to keep it out, if we just look for it.  Buttercup is a good example of that peace, plopping herself on whatever quilt is handy, and at my daughter’s house, there’s a good number of them.

Or she finds what remains of a lap in which to snuggle.  And this is our call during Advent, to claim as our own the best gift of all; Christ’s peace abounds in unfathomable mercy, complete joy, immeasurable love.  Every evening as I light candles, I’m reminded not of what I didn’t accomplish that day, but of how each day I am blessed by that fantastic grace which goes so far over my head I can’t truly contemplate it, but still I try, for it matters so much.  In all the things I need to remember concerning this holiday, Christ’s peace tops the list.  Amid all the holiday bustle, may that peace be yours this Advent season.

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.

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!

Christmas Place Mats (Also known as the lull before the calm…)

I spent much of Saturday completing the place mats, while watching American football.  Hand-sewing is very complementary to viewing footie, especially when I’m not overly intrigued by the teams, just listening to the play-by-play.  Stitch by stitch those bindings were attached to the back of the mats, and suddenly the last one was finished.  They have been washed, and are waiting to be taken to my eldest daughter’s house on Christmas Eve.

So first a little about these mats; they are fashioned with four and a half inch squares, then quilted with a stitch in the ditch, followed by more quilting in the middle of the squares, then again in the middle of those sections.  My initial place mats weren’t even dreamed up as such; they were merely to explore quilting a blanket in more than my usual not-that-quilted manner.  But they worked so well as place mats, that’s what they are used for.  And as Christmas approached, I wanted to make some for my daughter, for our annual Christmas Eve dinner at her place.

My foray into quilting isn’t the only new tradition.  As children age and start their own families, customs evolve too.  These place mats will serve us well over the years, and will be added to as more family arrives.

Now, about this lull before the calm…  Basically, I am ready for Christmas.  Other than getting veg on Christmas Eve, the rest of it sits wrapped under the tree, chilling in the fridge, or hiding in my closet.  A few errands need to be run today, but laundry is in the washer and dryer, my kitchen floor has been mopped, cards have been sent, goodies have been baked and nearly all distributed.  We’ll drop off a plate at the garage my husband uses when the cars get persnickety, but just about all the loose ends have been knotted together.  Christmas is just a few days away, but I’m feeling good about things (especially since the place mats are done, whew!).  All I want to do now is relax, letting the meaning of this holiday wash over me.

Yes, there remains the candy cane ice cream to make, stockings to stuff (even big kids like Christmas stockings), red potatoes and cream to buy for the ubiquitous garlic spuds that grace every Christmas dinner (Easter too).  Oh, and broccoli.  I always serve broccoli, along with my grandmother’s marshmallow fruit salad.  Our Christmas meal isn’t elaborate, I don’t want to fuss over it.  In my realm, Christmas is about as much peace and joy as one can get.

It’s the fourth week of Advent, the wait is nearly ended.  We lit all four candles last night, and I’ll light them again this evening; I love candles, especially these that signify such tremendous anticipation and fantastic expectation.  Some years I read Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, but this year I’ve pondered the meaning within my heart, and through my daily Advent readings.  And now, three days away, I’m pleased that all the prepping for the holiday is nearly complete.  The prepping of my heart is an ongoing process.

Still, this time of year is special, bringing out decorations and Christmas dishes, preparing surprises for those I love.  Just between us, my dad is getting a bright orange Giants hat, Mom some extremely orange Giants slippers.  These are things they would never buy for themselves, but their love for San Francisco’s baseball team permeates much of their spring, summer, and when we are lucky, the autumn too.  Plus, what does one buy their parents?  Christmas is a time for deep considerations; a saviour was born into our world, to save us because he loves us.  But tangible gifts delight hearts young and old.  It’s a time for sharing love, and sometimes a loud orange SF hat translates love just as well as hug.

I’m not always at Dad’s side, but he can wear that hat anytime he wishes.

The place mats are a similar corporeal display of affection, plus they are darn pretty too.  The backing fabric is the same on all seven, a sugar cookie recipe, but it’s not an especially durable piece of cotton.  My eldest said it frayed badly when she employed it in her tree skirt, and was happy for me to use it up.  I managed to get all seven mats backed with it, so this year’s mats will have that thread (ha ha) of continuity.  More will be made next year, for additions in the works.  But these for 2014 are set, and I am pleased with them.  Every year when they are put on the table, my family will think back to 2014, some times being difficult, most of them beautiful.  Hard not to think good thoughts at this time of year.

Wishing you all a most happy Christmas!  Let the true meaning of this season bring you great calm.

A Family of Quilts

Finally this project has reached the artist’s completion.  Once these quilts are in the hands of their owners, then I can say it is truly finished.

But for today, oh my goodness, I have reached the sewing end, and what an end it was.  Amid road trips and sporting events, familial milestones and the warmest Silicon Valley summer not only in my brief memory but for those with much deeper roots, five comforters have come forth, tied together by fabrics and manners of quilting.  Not sure I’ll ever again embark on such a vast endeavor, but after I wrote the Alvin’s Farm series, I said, “No more mega-tomes!”  And then last fall I started The Hawk, and look where that’s gotten me…

Ahem, anyways, let me explain these quilts, just a bit.  I ask for your indulgence, because like Alvin’s Farm and The Hawk, initially the idea was small; I wanted to make a toddler quilt for a lad named Ritchie.  And then I learned Ritchie had two older sisters.  And then I thought about mom-daughter quilts, and what about Ritchie and his pop?  And then…

And then I had five quilts in the queue, sort of like how I wrote Alvin’s Farm, then ended up with five more books in the kitty.

Maybe other novelists plan out a series.  I certainly didn’t; it sort of hit me like a sledgehammer, until I wrote the last sentence of The Timeless Nature of Patience.  At times I needed that sort of nature to muscle my way through these quilts, and I occasionally feel that way about The Hawk.  Because sometimes a project, be it a blanket or a book, screams to be acknowledged, even if time feels constrained and outside events conspire to squeeze out what little a person has to run on.  But the proper fuel always finds its way into the tank; these quilts are bound by more than cotton (and some poly) threads.  They are the culmination of a little bit of my brain (and a lot of my heart and soul), and I will never forget how they came to be.

Alvin and his clan were from a poor night’s sleep, dawdling on the computer.  The Hawk emerged from a dream.  These five quilts are all about giving.  And I guess an argument can be made for the stories too.  But a quilt is more personal, no one else will ever use it but the one for whom it was made.  In that manner, books and quilts are very different.  But today, let’s focus on the fabrics.

Ritchie’s quilt was born of a good-sized scrap leftover from my daughter’s whale comforter.  I added the solids, some tone on tone, and just adore how one print stands out against the vibrant hues.  I hope this blanket assists in teaching Ritchie his colours.  If nothing else, it will aid in nap times, backed with snuggly microfleece also from my daughter’s whale blanket.

The big sisters quilts were planned with some matching fabrics, also coordinated with some in the mom-quilt.  For Ritchie’s four-year-old sister, I concentrated on light blues, and I especially like the bird print, near the bottom.

I backed it with an adorable frog flannel, pieced with coral at the bottom.  I went with strips for these quilts, easier to put together, plus I wanted to try this method.  I think it worked pretty well.

For the nine-year-old sister, I used fewer juvenile fabrics, although the feel is still youthful.  It’s a little longer than the other two, but is backed with a cute cloud flannel print, reminding that childhood is a precious moment, not to be given away too soon.

Both sister quilts are bound with fabrics from each other’s quilts, and some from Mom’s quilt.

As for Mom, she has a patchwork, to tie in with Ritchie.  I went a little colour-crazy with this quilt; I wanted it to be full of hope and excitement.  It’s backed with a light purple cotton, and was stitched in the ditch, like the sister quilts.

Mom's quilt is on the right, Ritchie's on the left, with a placemat between them, buffered by the Big Sister quilt top on the far left...

Mom’s quilt is on the right, Ritchie’s on the left, with a placemat between them, buffered by the Big Sister quilt top on the far left…

The binding is scrappy, like the girls’ blankets, and I even threw in some of the butterfly material from my curtain-making days.  No fabric goes to waste in this grotto!

DSCN5178

And speaking of such, for the dad I went back to the brother-in-law stash, adding some solids used from Ritchie’s quilt.  I backed this quilt in a dark royal blue that looks purple at times, then bound it with a lighter blue.

It was the last of the group to be completed, and I actually finished it on Wednesday night, watching a documentary about Harry Nilsson.  I washed it yesterday morning, then threw into the washer the nine-year-old’s quilt.  And once that blanket was dry, the project was done.

No revising, no last edits.  Once a quilt comes out of the laundry, there’s no more to be done than to present it to whom it belongs.

That will happen next week, no real hurry, as it’s still plenty warm here in the South Bay.  But autumn is batting its long eyelashes, as the days grow shorter, leaves falling from trees.  One of these days we’ll get a chilly night, but by then these quilts will be in the proper hands, providing comfort.  And that’s all I wanted to do.

At the end of the day, or the beginning of the morning, I just want to spread a little love.  Be it through fabrics or novels, here you go, enjoy!

Feast Or Famine (Or Fabric)

Sometimes writing has very little to do with quilting.  Like right now, in the middle (or hopefully perhaps the end of the middle third) of The Hawk, there’s so much to note to the reader, and some of it I know.  Some I don’t, which doesn’t bother me, it comes with the authorial territory.  But where a quilter or sewing enthusiast enjoys bringing more fabrics into the fold, a writer’s preference is to keep it simple.  Don’t beat a dead horse.  Redundancy is a drag; um, did I already say that?  Well, if not, then yes, repetition breeds boredom. Right now I’m trying to maintain a steady course with the noveling, but it’s hard, having been away from this story for months, also in that this is a LONG story.  Does the reader need an occasional gentle nudge, maybe.  I’ll know later on, but for now, the squiggles are piling, and that’s what’s important.

Because when the words aren’t there, well, that’s no fun at all.

That’s sort of like trying to sew without fabric.  Now, I live in a small house, so there’s no way I can establish some monstrous stash.  However, when a quilt comes a’calling, I go a’buying some cottons.  I did that today, after the writing was finished, for a quilt back, and a baby quilt.  Buying fabrics for baby quilts is still new, but boy, I’ll tell you, I sure like it.

Nostalgic whimsy; I love this print, which will be a quilt back for a special little girl...

Nostalgic whimsy; I love this print, which will be a quilt back for a special little girl.

Never before have I had two such fascinating hobbies, which at times are so similar, and at others diametrically opposed.  Writing taught me much in the ways of patience, which is so necessary for quilting, like when standing at the ironing board, pressing seams.  And quilting has given me a new appreciation for fashioning vibrant landscapes with only prose.  Writing demands my morning brain, when the words are still within my grasp.  Sewing requires a different sort of butt nailed to a chair (unless I’m pressing seams), the kind that travels well into the evening after all the good words have been used.  Last night I sewed past eight p.m., watching the Giants take a series from the Cubs, finally getting the mum-quilt-top put together.  It’s now hanging on my quilt wall, and will be placed into the actual quilting queue perhaps as early as Sunday.  Yesterday I did no writing, for the husband is back, the retreat over.  While he acclimated himself to home, I quilted the little sister comforter, stitching in the ditch, then attaching the front of the binding.  Tomorrow I’m spending the day with my eldest, a sewing gig for us ladies.  I’ll chat with my daughter while hand-sewing the binding for that quilt, as well as the toddler blanket, as Buttercup whines for our attention.  I know that part of the routine well.

Waiting patiently for the binding to be attached to the back.

Waiting patiently for the binding to be attached to the back.

I’m a lucky woman, able to balance these rewarding pastimes amid the usual trappings of life.  But then, it’s been one helluva summer, and autumn is looking to continue in that vein.  Thank goodness American football is around the corner, and as for the Giants…

Okay, they’re still in contention for a playoff spot, if the Dodgers’ three top pitchers happen to get abducted by aliens.  Barring that, watching San Francisco play has become more of admiring rookies filling in spots all over the infield.  Meanwhile, I consider plots for The Hawk, mulling over fabrics for future quilts.  And as I wrote today, from Eric’s POV, how important is the essence of hope.  Not for my baseball team, ahem, but for all that sits on the horizon.  Babies to be born, books to be finished, quilts to be compiled; I don’t know the outcome of any of those realities, but that’s all right.  It’s like writing The Hawk; I don’t know all that’s coming, but I know the end.

And in the end, that’s the main thing.