Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Being a Frump-a-Dump

I feel like I should post something, but I have only been a frump-a-dump and have nothing much to report. I do my usual things that I have to do. However, most of my time has been wasted as follows: I've been killing time watching movies on the computer, trying to read but not giving it my all, knitting half-heartedly, and really nothing else. I have been more scatter-brained than usual.

My aunt's memorial service isn't until October 11; I'll feel good when that occurs. I think it will help shut the door on this sad/do-nothing phase of my existence. Also I have something fun coming up this next weekend which I am sure will lift my spirits.

I am tired of my own sad, blah posts. I apologize to my readers for having nothing interesting to say! I am going to insist to myself that I list some things for which I am thankful. It's really not that I have been feeling so awful and down on life, but just have been feeling kind of numb. So, to give myself a jolt back to normal, here are my gratitudes:

I am thankful for
(1) faithful blog readers who keep encouraging me even when I am supremely boring
(2) my husband; I am the luckiest person alive
(3) my two children - love 'em!
(4) getting re-acquainted with my cousins over recent years; "family" has new meaning to me now
(5) the beautiful changing leaves; fall is my favorite
(6) our sweet, needy cat
(7) sleeping under quilts
(8) choosing my own work hours; best job I've ever had
(9) bright blue skies, white puffy clouds
(10) writing a gratitudes list which, miraculously, actually helped lift my spirits!

I don't know if this video link will work. If so, please enjoy the quaking leaves from Up North on a windy day.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Memorable Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Also yesterday, my favorite aunt died early in the morning. She'd had ALS, and I felt relieved that her suffering ended on my birthday. Whatever Heaven is like, I feel blessed that she is there - happy, peaceful, pain-free, as I hope Heaven to be - on my birthday.

A couple of nightss before my actual day, friends and I gathered. DB on the left celebrates her birthday a week after mine. I gave her a water cup that says "what happens tonight ends up on Facebook tomorrow."

Fall colors are not at their peak yet, but here and there one can see a tree that's more far along. This pretty tree is at the care center where my dear aunt just died. Her husband, my uncle, still lives there. He has dementia, and I don't know how much he understands about his wife's passing. Such a sad end of life for two intelligent, caring, dynamic people.

My mother, age 93, is now the last living member of her original family of two parents and 7 siblings. I hope she'll stick around for a while yet.

P.S. Thanks for kind emails and notes I have received. I really appreciate them. It has been a tough couple of weeks, but I'm feeling OK. Hoping to get my sewing mood back very soon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Books: Banned Books

September 21-27 is Banned Books Week. Want to read a book that was once banned? I perused a list that explained where and why the books had been banned, but I'm not including all that detail (and also not including all the books). Just look over this list, and be amazed. Who would ban these books?? Today is my birthday. In protest against censorship, you can give me a birthday gift: choose to read one of these books. (I have a book review below this list.)

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (ashamed to say, this author was banned from speaking in a Minnesota school district)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Here's my weekly review: Let Him Go by Larry Watson. Watson is the author of Montana 1948 which I read several years ago and thought was excellent. Twice I have read other Watson books, hoping they would match the excellence of Montana 1948. I don't believe I have found one that matches.

Let Him Go is about an older couple whose son died; they are looking for their former daughter-in-law and their grandson. They had lost touch and wanted to re-establish contact. It was entertaining (in a sad sort of way), suspenseful (a little), but also predictable (sort of). I wouldn't call it great. I think I may be in a minority. Other reviewers rave about this book, so perhaps you would love it, too. My sister, the bookstore owner, also loved it.

I give it three stars for being a good story, not a bad way to spend a few hours reading, but not among the greats.

She is engrossed in a good book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Joys and Sorrow

Last weekend our annual cousins' gathering occurred. The weather was cloudy, rainy, cool - short on sunshine that we have enjoyed in other years. Fall colors are just starting to develop and were changing daily. Here's a photo showing the undergrowth that has changed previous to the leaves above. I love the twisted lines in that tree trunk.

It was good to be together with cousins. Our aunt is in hospice care, dying of ALS. Her children kept popping out of our little chats to take phone calls from the hospice staff or from other family members who were at their mother's bedside. It kept an awareness of her fragile condition uppermost in our minds and leant a pall of concern over the weekend. It was loving concern, however, and I think it was good for us to be together.

Saturday night the cousins got a call saying that the hospice staff thought their mother would not survive the night. They packed and left within minutes to drive the four hours back to the care center. They made it to her bedside in time; thankfully she survived, and the rest of us were able to get back home and also see her to say our goodbyes.

It was a joyful yet bittersweet weekend - being together, enjoying food and conversation, attending church together and singing beautiful hymns. It was all touching.

We were able to visit and express our love to our aunt. She is in tough shape. She can hear and is alert-minded, but her body is going downhill pretty fast. She is on morphine to help keep her comfortable. At this point it would be a blessing if she could slip off to Heaven. I fear, however, that she is going to linger for a while.

It's an emotional time; I feel like I have a black cloud hovering over me. My daily routines are clouded by my sad thoughts of my dear aunt. ALS is a cruel disease. My hope is that she will soon be free of its ravages.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Books: Cousins' Book Club

I do not have a review today. I am with my cousins, discussing a book I reviewed two years ago. The book is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. My review is re-posted here below the photo. We cousins gather once a year and discuss a book. This year they chose a book I had already read, but loved, so I was happy to read it again.

Please read something and tell me about it. Did you find a book you could not put down? A book that gave you great joy? A book that taught you something? I book that you keep thinking about?

What joyful things books are, are they not?? Have fun reading this week.

Review from August, 2012:
Definitely 5 stars! This was a great book! It's so good that I don't want to say a lot about it, in fear that I will ruin it for you, a potential reader. Please read this book! It's about a man who walks across England to visit a friend who has cancer. But it really is about WAY MORE than that. It's the human story, with all our foibles, fears, mistakes, regrets, joys, and loves. Just a great, great book. The writing is beautiful, the characters are very human. This book will break your heart and touch your heart... definitely one of my faves.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Aunt

Not only has my aunt moved into a care center, I found out she is in hospice care. It makes sense for her condition, I suppose, but I was not ready for this. I'll take a couple days, talk to my cousins, get used to this news, then I'll go see her.

My dear, favorite aunt... I wonder how my mom is going to take this news. If my mom outlives her sister, my mom will be the last living sibling of the original 7.

Heavy heart.

my aunt with her children, a couple years ago

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thanks - Great Thoughts From You

First, thanks for your kindnesses regarding my aging family.

Second, thanks for your advice regarding my quilt top question.

I have smart readers of my blog! You rock. I was inclined to leave that "mistake" in my quilt top, and you all confirmed that idea for me. Yay! It's no longer called a mistake. It's called a design decision.

Thought I'd show you a photo of my favorite aunt and uncle. They now live in the same care center, although on different floors. Now they can visit each other every day.

They are both very intelligent. My aunt is especially fond of words and of language. She is eloquent and wise. She is an author and a wordsmith. So it was especially cruel and ironic that her ALS began in her mouth and throat. Her speech began to be impaired. Soon she could no longer speak. Then she could no longer eat. Now she is permanently on oxygen. Her mind, as it goes with ALS, is still sharp as a tack. I feel so sad for the attack of this disease on such a wise, intelligent, lover of language.

My uncle, also very intelligent, is such a gentle, funny, and caring man. He has dementia and now rarely initiates conversation.

Please pray for families who are suffering through awful diseases, especially ALS.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What Do You Think?

I managed to put together two tops this weekend. Even while being a bit distracted, I could work with pre-made blocks; and most of the scrap pieces on the blue top were also pre- made. That made it easy to sew mindlessly, just what I needed.

Here is a top on which I want your advice. The blocks are sewn into rows, but the rows are not yet sewn together. There is a mistake in this top. Can you see it? Before I sew the rows together, should I fix it? I am inclined to leave it as is. What do you think?

This blue one is going to Quilts Beyond Borders.

P.S. Thank you for your kind sentiments in response to my post of yesterday. I appreciate it!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Hard Part of Life

I'm almost 62. I am the youngest of four siblings. Our mom is 93. She finds it shocking that all her children are in their 60s. Soon we'll start into the next decade!

I went to see Mom a couple days ago. I go about once a month. She lives 150 miles away. I am starting to feel wistful and sentimental. I don't think my mom will be alive a whole lot longer. She has had congestive heart failure for quite a while. She becomes extremely winded from the smallest exertion of energy. It's hard to listen to her difficult breathing after she just walks a few feet and puts on her nightgown. I don't think her heart will be able to keep up that hard work for much longer.

I'm not a doctor, but I think I'm pretty close on this one.

Anticipating losing one's mom is a strange thing. She was always so energetic, busy, full of vim and vigor. I loved that about her. I miss that energetic mom. She does, too. She told me she feels "old and useless." That makes me sad. She lives in assisted living now, and I think that adds to her feeling of being "useless." She owned her own condo before this; she was proud of being independent and still going strong into her 90s. Her mind is still strong, and she can still enjoy one of her great loves: reading.

My mom's younger sister, my aunt, recently moved into a care center, too. She and my uncle now live in the same residence again (although on different floors). He has dementia, she has ALS. It is hard to see my favorite adults aging and becoming weak.

On my dad's side there is one sibling left. My aunt, who was the youngest of how many? Eight, I think. She has Alzheimer's, and her husband just died. She is alert enough to know what's happening and that she can no longer live in their house. These are really tough times.

I have not been very motivated to sew. I have done a little, but I just feel a bit restless. I can't settle down to a book, either.

I'm letting myself plan ahead for some painful loss.

It's part of life, but it's the hard part.

Canada Geese, just because

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Books: Reviews Written Prematurely

Last week I learned something: don't write a book review before you have finished reading the book. I did that last week, and later that Friday evening I finished the book and was able to write a much better review. One doesn't feel the whole impact of a book without reading the entire thing! Here is my review, re-written and much more complete, after finishing the book, The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.

Two Australian nurses, sisters, both sign on to serve as nurses in World War I. They are sent by ship to Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, then to Greece, then to the Western Front in France. Working together at first, they later receive separate assignments.

As the story develops, the sisters learn to love each other in a much closer, sisterly way than they had before. They are very close as the book draws to a close. They each, of course, witness some gruesome and awful things happening to soldiers as well as to doctors and nurses with whom they work. The physical and mental wounds are horrendous, as they are in any war. The medical field is only then starting to notice what they call Shell Shock and we call PTSD. It's a reminder of the long-term effects and terrible legacy of war.

The sisters' parallel lives and "smallest membrane between alternate histories" (p.505) becomes important as the reader contemplates what really happens in the end. This book sneaks up on the reader and makes itself felt without ever being preachy or loud... very well-told and a solid read with some things to ponder about war in general and about WWI in particular.

Here's a 2nd review. It doesn't get top billing, because the book was not very good.
The Quarry by Iain Banks
Characters I didn't like have a reunion and talk in full-of-themselves ways about memories. I felt like I was listening to inside jokes only half told by drunks. Boring. Not much happens. They are looking for a lost video tape. One guy is dying of cancer. The one semi-interesting person is the narrator who is autistic. At least he has some real character. The others are unlikeable.

Don't waste your time on this one.

a floating little library in Minneapolis

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Quilt Photography Here and There

Today I convened a Study in Quilts: Photographing Quilts in Nature.

Well.. it wasn't much of a study, and it was only one quilt. Husband and I drove around to some random spots not far from home, looking for fun places to photograph my quilt. This was inspired by Quiltdivajulie who recently photographed quilts of hers in some very unique places. I thought that was a great idea. Since we live not far from the Mississippi River, I decided to go in that direction and see what we could find.

Quilt at Home

Quilt on Fence (historic community near our home)

Quilt on Hammock, Quilt on Swing

Quilt on Old House - Edition 1,2,3,4 (doesn't this sound fancy??) haha.. these are historic buildings from the 1830s - before Minnesota was a state)

Quilt on Balcony (do you see the Fair Maiden?)

The Quilt Princess

Quilt at River

Quilt at Jail (it's an old one-room jail built in 1915)

Quilt on Dock

Quilt Under Willow Tree

This is the most-photographed quilt I own! (Its design was inspired by a crossword puzzle in the newspaper.)

Oh, look -- a spider web!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday Books: WWI

I am doing something a little bit risqué.. I am writing a book review before I finish the book! I promise if I manage to finish the book by the time this post goes live, I will edit this review, if necessary.

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally... it is about two Australian women - sisters - who sign up to be nurses in Europe during World War I. It takes us through their adventures which are quite harrowing at times. It follows the two sisters who end up having separate assignments.

It's a very interesting book, but it's long (513 pages). It is not a quick read for me. Even though it was published in 2012, the writing is done in a style that seems appropriate to its time setting: the mid 1900s. Though I'm not an expert in writing-styles over time, it just feels "old" to me and slows down my reading. It has taken me a long time to get to my current point, about 100 pages from the end.

Nurses were recruited and then sent by ship to Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt, then on to France. They work in a variety of settings, from a hospital well away from the front to a "clearing station" very near the front and the shelling.

Of course their work is messy, difficult, very long, and they encounter some horrendous wounds and scared soldiers. At least by the time WWI happened, the medical field had learned about ether, cleanliness, and some pain management. Surgeries didn't have to be done "live" like they were during our Civil War. It was still a pretty gruesome thing and very messy. After all, it's war.

There are surprises in the story all along.. I don't want to spoil any of them for you, and I certainly can't give you an ending spoiler as I am not there yet! I like the book -- I'd rate it somewhere between a 3 and a 4. It hasn't totally grabbed me like a 5-star book does, but I like the characters, I'm glad I am reading it, and I look forward to seeing how it ends. (This was a book club assignment which I am finishing late. Discussions are online, so I can go on as a latecomer and add my 2 cents worth.)

Wouldn't it be nice if what they thought had turned into reality -- that it was the "war to end all wars?" Try to imagine our world without any wars since 1917. We sure know how to make a mess of things, don't we humans?!

But, hey -- we know how to be creative, too. Look at this -- a library cake! Too cool!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Laboring on Labor Day Weekend

I got a lot done over our long weekend! I was doing the FUN kind of labor. Most of it was in the sewing room. These are my most recent finishes... a quilted bag and another quilt for Wrap a Smile:

Last night I made brownies! (I know.. after a pie, we didn't really need brownies, but I only made a half recipe. Baking sweets is my favorite kind of kitchen work.)

And as a recap, here is what else I did over the weekend (not pictured: several loads of laundry, a little bit of reading, and one gargantuan nap)--

Monday, September 01, 2014

Memory Moments

Recently while cleaning out a cupboard I came across a box of letters I had sent home between 1974 to about 1989. I decided to get rid of most of them, but, of course, I had to at least glance through them to see what I wrote about back then. Those were the years of early marriage and then having our two kids. That was interesting and fun to read about. I gushed about our cute kids.

Christmas 1986
Christmas 2013

A couple of things gave me a little jolt of surprise at how much I had forgotten. One was an incident at work in those days before we had kids. I was in the clerical pool, and I do remember one day my boss called me into his office and talked to me about a possible new professional position they were hoping to open up; he thought I might be good for the job. I remember being shocked and flattered. But I also remember being young, awkward, and stupid. In my memory I stammered around and pretty much said nothing and the whole matter was dropped. But as I read these old letters I saw that the process went on for quite a long time. My boss kept working on getting the new position approved; people kept talking to me about the position and saying that my boss had said for a long time that I could "do more than secretary." Man, I don't remember any of that!! I don't know if they ever created that new position. I quit that job before it ever came to fruition, because I had set my sights on a different career path, which I am very glad I did.

It came as a relief to me that I maybe didn't come off quite as bumbling and awkward as I remember myself. Apparently my boss didn't give up after that first conversation, which is how I had remembered it. Whew! Maybe I was able to cover up my "young girl nerves" better than I remembered. I was in my early 20s and doing a lot of growing up while on that job. I'm glad they didn't see me as a total idiot.

There was another position I filled of which I have ZERO memory. That is a very strange feeling. Apparently I was on the board of a local non-profit agency. The term was for 3 years. I have no idea if I stayed in that board position for the full three years. I don't remember even one day of it! It was weird to read about some of the stuff I reported regarding that board position. Now-days I would never accept such an offer - being on a non-profit board is much more work and responsibility than I would want to take on; I also don't think I have the skills those boards need. Maybe they just needed a warm body back then.

How about you? Do you think your memories of your early years are correct and reliable? I did! But now I am really second-guessing myself. Maybe I've twisted ALL my memories! It makes me wonder how accurate we all are... what about memoirs people write. How accurate are they??

Oh -- I need to reassure you (in case you wondered) that I have saved a few of the letters in which I talk about my new babies and my toddlers and the cute things they did. They are both adults now, and I thought they might get a kick out of reading those letters.