Tag Archives: loss

Still Writing

Safety pins waiting for me to decide how I want to baste this project.

Been a little distracted, but the work continues.  What is gratifying is that even if I only manage half a chapter, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming, so I must be on the right track.  When not writing, I’ve been gearing a quilt to completion, having sewn the halves together, fashioned a backing, basting it, and am now in the process of hand-quilting that sandwich.  It’s soothing to do either at the close of day, or early in the morning, as I did this morning, my husband having taken the day off to celebrate his birthday.  While he snoozed, I sewed, the time change tricky for me to acclimate to.  Not that I sleep in much anyways, but….

A longer view…

We went to breakfast, then it was time for me to attempt to wrap up a chapter begun yesterday, interrupted by various taskings.  And quite a bit of thought directed at the church shooting in Texas.  I don’t say much about current events on this blog, yet what happened in Sutherland is hard to write about, for there are many levels of sorrow within my heart.  My prayers go out to the injured and to the families and friends of those killed.

Monday’s word count: 1,083

Today’s word count: 1,473

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.

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.

Quotes Here and There….

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly, I’ve been asked to provide three quotes in three days.  Today’s was easy, just plucking it from a recent post: Git ‘er done, courtesy of my father.

Dad from March 2006

Dad from March 2006

I’ve been thinking about Dad recently; he died coming on a year ago, and this time last year he was….  Still at home, but not for much longer.  He had prostate cancer, COPD, and on the fourth of March 2015 was diagnosed with heart failure.  I remember that day like it was yesterday; for several weeks I’d been helping with my new grandson as well as assisting with Dad’s care, and that was the same day I was going home.

I wasn’t away more than a week, returning to my dad in hospice care at his house, but after only a few days, it proved to be too large a task for Mom and family.  Dad went into a care facility, and died less than a month later.

His health spiraled down so quickly, yet now I’m grateful that he didn’t suffer longer than he did.  And as for us….  2015 was full of many joys, what with The Burrito and Little Miss’ arrivals.  But as they grow, my father isn’t a part of their corporeal lives, although he’s never far away.  My kids tell me how much I sound like him, as if I could pass along his character simply by speech.  And if there was any statement I associate with my father, it’s his gravelly admonition to git ‘er done.

Those words can be attributed to a variety of meanings.  Right now I’ll slap it in my life alongside The Hawk as well as a baby blanket that is in the process of being hand-quilted.  Yet when thinking of my dad, I am most proud of how he was a recovering alcoholic.  The last ten years of his life, five of those spent battling cancer, he had been sober.  I never imagined he could stop drinking, and am still so thankful for that gift.  His last days were one kind of inspiration, but that final decade remains within me.

Thanks again to Laura for giving me a chance to reflect upon someone so loved and still greatly missed.  We’ll see what tomorrow’s quote elicits.

A life I never imagined….

The Burrito is back home, and happy to be there.  His mama is pleased as well, so are Grandpa and myself.  We elder two slept so well last night, I’ll assume the former two did the same.  It’s Monday, 13 July, and after I write this post and take a shower, I’ll edit three chapters of The Hawk.  Yup, life is totally back to normal….

Lol….  The new normal, of course.  My father would have been seventy-one this past weekend, and being in my hometown stirred a host of feelings that previously I have never experienced.  I’ve never lost a parent, never been a grandparent before either, hmmm….  This time last year my mom, siblings and I were planning a big bash to celebrate Dad turning seventy.  He’d finished his last round of chemo, or had one more to go; I should recall this fact, but my youngest was pregnant and I was caring for her as well as Dad as well as sorting shindig details and….  Now a year later, the Burrito sits alone.  His sense of balance is quite impressive, although he doesn’t get into that position by himself.  Still, he manages to not fall over, well not immediately.  He stays on his cloth-diapered bum, grasping for whatever is close; Duplo hippos and cacti, or his feet.  I think the cloth diapers give him more stability, or at least more to sit upon.  If nothing else, he’s mastered this achievement, and looks pretty cute in having done so.

What struck me most this weekend was how this new normal has enveloped me so thoroughly; Dad has only been gone for three months, but oddly it seems like longer.  What does that imply?  Perhaps the grandbabies enhance the sense of alarming change, as well as soothing the gaping hole left by my dad’s death.  Or were Dad’s assorted illnesses so overwhelming that it’s easier for me to accept his passing, knowing fully well he’s in such a better place?  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s something.  This new normal isn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be.

Well, it’s not so bad for me.  My mom still aches, but she too keeps busy.  Yet, I didn’t live with my dad, he wasn’t my best friend.  He was my father, living in immense pain, and now he’s free.  Sure I wish he was here to enjoy the great-grandkids, but that wasn’t meant to be.

I have a full agenda for today; after some revising, I need to mop my kitchen, ha ha.  I plan to do a little fabric shopping, then get to the store for groceries.  The quilt I basted nearly two weeks ago is waiting to be finished, and the one on the wall….  Oi.  I’ll think about that after I quilt the WIP.  But amid all those tasks remains the lingering persona of a man who had been with me all of my life, but no longer loiters actively in this realm.  A few days ago Mom asked me how I was doing, and I said that the grandchildren have been an enormous blessing.  And that is one piece of a larger truth that for the most part I have a hard time expressing.  My father’s death is another step on my journey of life.  And while it’s not one of the more enjoyable bits, it is fashioning me into whoever I am still to become.  None of this is of my own strength, let me add.  It’s grace, pure and simple.  And by God’s grace I will muddle on ahead, giving thanks for sitting Burritos and a smiling Little Miss.

She’s making her own noise, six weeks old and happy to be there.  Soon enough she and her cousin will be fighting over Duplo hippos; thank goodness their Lego-loving auntie has plenty to go round.

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!

Making the Dadland flag….

First, thanks to Laura for Dadland; that pretty much sums up where I’m living in the new normal.  Let’s say that Dadland is a county within this novel country, and this modern quilt constitutes the colours that once I get this baby completed will fly with honor.  Or drape over our sofa with similarly good intentions.

I’ll pull that Dadland flag over myself as I watch the San Francisco Giants this year, pondering what might Dad have thought of this or that play.  In Dadland, even if Dad’s no longer a citizen, the reverberations are lasting.  An improv quilt that initially held few notable qualities other than being my first attempt at floating squares morphed into a statement on the sinking of a British ocean liner, one hundred years ago might I add, then was truly revealed for its worth.

Although I still think of Winsor McCay when I stare at this piece.  World War I in 1915 in the blue, orange and beige, with a hint of green and yellow, representing the Lusitania’s passengers.  Some lived, many perished, as the Irish coast was in sight.

I rue not having snapped more shots as this quilt top came into being, but I found myself sewing even before I’d had a shower.  The thrill of piecing this project was infectious; every morning between sips of tea I fashioned small blocks, going between the grotto and the living room, not thinking about much else.  Which was a nice change, after the last couple of months, thinking about way too many things and not getting even close to my sewing machine.

I found that improvisational quilting requires the creative mental spark throughout the putting-together-the-quilt-top process, unlike how within my traditional patchwork scheme once the fabric goes on the quilt wall, it’s simply a matter of sewing those cottons into rows.  That part has felt tedious in my last couple of quilts, a sensation I couldn’t shake, nor did I appreciate.

Seams were pressed open, which was also a first, and most were of the quarter-inch variety, but not all….

Yet in making the Dadland flag, not a moment was dull.  It was at times slightly frustrating, until I turned a section sideways or completely upside down.  Then I was happier.  Of course it helps that none of the fabrics I chose were directional, a note to self for future modern quilts.

As the quilt emerged, it wasn’t until it was almost done I saw my father within it.  Wider at the top, it’s also more scattered in colour, much as how Dad’s early years were fraught with plenty of complications.  As he aged, his life settled, some difficulty involved of course, but he was sober the last ten years of his life, for which I am still amazed and grateful.  And that was while battling prostate cancer, which turned into bone cancer.  Which coupled with COPD and heart failure killed him.

The darker bottom prints signify that era of Dad’s life, but the hues are lively, the beige filler fabric not the same as what started out at the top.  I didn’t have enough blue and orange to fashion a decent-sized quilt, so I knew more colours would be necessary, and I’m partial to dark pink.  The navy blue and cream print isn’t one of my faves, but I had plenty of it, and didn’t want all solids.  And little by little, all of these fabrics turned into something far more than merely a step into the improv quilting realm….

This isn’t just floating squares, it’s about barely scraping the surface of comprehending loss.  But it’s also about life, for death is part of living.  Boats are sunk, men pass away.  Sometimes those men are fathers, of daughters who fancy themselves as artists of sorts.  And sometimes those daughters, even ones at forty-nine, still think of their father as Daddy.

The county of Dadland is an intriguing one, like no county I’ve ever visited before.  Looking forward to seeing more of it, day by day by day….