Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sewing Like a Fiend

I've been sewing a lot! It feels good. It is a comfort to me while "stuff" is going on. Here are some quilts I've finished and some tops I have made that need to be finished:

All of these tops are made from blocks made by a wide variety of people. Some blocks I won, others I bought, others were given to me free.

Some blocks I made:

All that has not even made a dent in what I want to make and what's on my to-do list. Time to head back into my sewing room.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Books: Gendarme

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian

This is historical fiction, a story of the Armenian Genocide which took place in the 19-teens. I knew very little about it; I am glad to have now learned a little.

The title character, the gendarme, is a para-military policeman whose job it is to guide a group of Armenians being forcibly removed from Turkey and marched to Syria. Along the way he is smitten by a young woman who is among the evacuees. His character is complex. Even though he does some horrible things, one finds oneself liking him. The duality of our nature, exhibiting both good and bad, is excellently portrayed in this book.

The gendarme's memory had been damaged by a war wound to the head, so he has never re-examined anything from his past war years. When the book begins, he is a 92 year old man living in America, experiencing upsetting dreams. At first he does not know if the dreams are true memories or if they even depict his own life.

The book goes between his life at age 92 and his dreams of the past. The writing is just beautiful, odd to say about a disturbing topic and unhappy story. The horrible parts were not gruesome, and the ever-present complexity of human beings makes the reader like most of the characters through their good and their bad times.

An excellent read, fascinating and very well-written.

reading while at war

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sewing When I Can

Life has gotten busy again. It seems to be a normal occurrence for Fall. The leaves have been just beautiful. Sadly, I have not ventured out of the city too much to see great expanses of beauty, for example along a river or lakeshore. I did enjoy the beautiful colors along the freeway as I drove to my Wednesday sewing group. It's about 30 miles from home, so I had plenty of time to drink in the gorgeous fall colors. I'm trying to memorize them for enjoyment in my mind through the next few months of white and gray.

I have been trying to keep up with work on my weather quilt. It depicts the high temperature for every day of 2016. I have January-July sewn together. August-most of October is weighing down and distorting the top part in this picture, because they're not attached except with pins right now. When I finish August-December I will sew them all together. It's starting to show the return to blues and purples that will come with November and December. I think it'll be a pretty quilt when it's all done.

This week I attended an interpreter conference which was excellent. I do love my job; how lucky I was to "fall" into it so many years ago! I complain about having to attend workshops, but when they are well done it rejuvenates me and encourages me to be a better interpreter. Though I only work about five hours per week, I should strive to be the best I can during those five hours.

I'm in the middle of reading an excellent book and look forward to telling you about it soon.

Friday Books: a Mystery

I read Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger. I don't usually read mysteries, but I wanted to try one by this author for a couple of reasons: he is from Minnesota and his books take place in Minnesota, and I read his non-mystery book, Ordinary Grace, and LOVED it.

This one was interesting at first. The story piqued my curiosity. Family issues and the introduction of the baby were well done.. I could relate to the daughter falling instantly in love with the baby. I liked the setting with familiar names and places (though I've never been to the Northwest Angle - it is on my bucket list).

By the end of the book I resolved again that I'm not interested in mysteries. I wanted it to hurry and end, and I found some of the events a little far-fetched. Maybe that's the nature of mysteries... but I will say, if I have to read another mystery, I would try another William Kent Krueger book, because it was pretty good "for a mystery."

Note: the last three books I have "read" were actually audio books, so I listened to them. I'm experimenting with it, and finding places I can listen (while sewing) and can't listen (while lounging on my bed - 3 guesses why).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Books: Astronauts

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Col. Chris Hadfield

For some reason I wanted to dislike this book. Probably because I never liked science too much, and I sometimes wonder if we spend too much money on the space program. However, I found myself enjoying the book.

Hadfield is an astronaut who decided at age 9 while living on a farm in Canada that he wanted to be an astronaut... and he made it against great odds. This book is the story of his journey to becoming what he wanted to be, decisions he made to improve his odds, and the fun he had in his career over the years. He ended up going on three space flights and got to do a space walk at least once.

Some of the day-to-day stories were quite fascinating: all the work that astronauts immerse themselves in, even if they never make it into space.. they are constantly studying and preparing to do so, or preparing to be a vital support system to those who do go. Then he also talks about the daily "grind" of being in space: how to brush your teeth in space, how zero gravity affects everything -- for example, one's sinuses won't drain, so it's like constantly having a cold, and the taste of food is lost. Also interesting was how re-entry into gravity feels, both in the first few moments and in the weeks following.

I found it all quite interesting, and most of all I admired Hadfield's attitude toward life, work, relationships: work hard but don't be a show-off, accept the bumps and lumps as part of the normal journey through life, enjoy the ups, learn from the downs, be humble, and remember that no one gets where they're going without the immense support of hundreds of others who came before or who work behind the scenes.

I'm glad I found this book and enjoyed it, despite myself.

photo by Beth Polvino

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Days of Our Lives

Haha! That post title used to be (maybe still is?) a title of a TV soap opera. It seems appropriate for me to borrow it today.

So.. I am beginning to recover from all the turmoil of the last month, the death of my mother being the biggest trauma. I didn't expect it to be this hard, because at her age, 95, I thought I was ready. Nope, I wasn't. I miss her. And, as I look back on the days before her death, I am so thankful that I got to be there and witness her strength, her faith, her kindness. I took pictures when friends and family came to visit and say goodbye. I am not going to share them here, but I am so happy I have those pictures. Mom's face lit up with joy when visitors arrived. That was one of the things I loved about her - her friendliness and love of life.

But, as I say, I am beginning to recover. My tears have been very close to the surface and have fallen freely, but I'm getting better at thinking and talking about my mom without crying every time. People have been so nice, and that really helps a lot.

While I've been overwhelmed, Husband has been working very hard. We're both so tired. I wish the two of us could get away for a short vacation.. maybe a date night is something we could accomplish.

Life keeps tick-tocking along. I have not been back to work but will return this week. I am looking forward to working again. At first I was afraid to go back, thinking I'd burst into tears too easily. But now I'm ready.

Random Pictures:
my mom on her 95th birthday last March

last weekend I was on a retreat where I worked on this word quilt and made good progress... this is approximately the top half

books I donated to my Little Free Library in memory of a fellow quilter and LFL steward who died of cancer:
above: the sewing room I go to on Wednesdays.. the tree outside was absolutely beautiful

quilt top I'm taking to the machine quilter this week.. I can't wait to get it quilted!

child's quilt top I made while on retreat last week

I'm loving our cool, beautiful fall days. We turned on our heat this morning.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Friday Books: Being Mortal

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (audio book)

This is a book about end of life issues and how our system of medicine delivery has addressed these issues, or failed to address them. It is really fascinating. The growth of hospice has been a big blessing in changing our patterns, but there is still much we need to alter to make a person's last months of life as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

My own mother died just two weeks ago, and we lived through many of the scenarios Gawande brings up in this book, such as assisted living no longer being an option, moving her to a nursing home, starting hospice care, and then her end of life. It was comforting to me to read this book and see that our mom's experience and ours as her survivors were pretty good when one looks at what could have been.

This book explores the attitudes of the health field and our society toward death and dying, and challenges us to think more carefully about how we care for one another. It's an excellent book for anyone from a random reader with curiosity about the topic to a health care professional wanting to improve services.. providing food for thought for all.

Maybe my Mom is in heaven with an endless supply of fabulous books (and her friends and loved ones who paved the way to heaven).