Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pandemonium tackled…


IMG_6028Just a quick update on my task of reducing the amount of clutter in my home. Progress is happening; however, this chaos did not happen overnight, nor will the solution. I feel great about what has been accomplished so far. Hope does exist that I will get a handle on this situation. Eliminating the excess is somewhat difficult with my mom living with me, because much of the stuff actually belongs to her. (Remember the remains of four households, plus our belongings has been jammed into my home.) Fortunately, I have been able to do most of what has been accomplished without her watchful eye. I do not want to hurt her feelings, yet the state in which we have lived for a number of years is just not productive for anyone. We all have treasures that we want to keep, but at this point, who can enjoy the treasures when we can’t even find them? Having to look for everything you want is exhausting!  I know that once this massive job is completed, I will have a renewed and healthier outlook on life and can get back to what I want to be doing!

I am missing my daily quilting routine and can’t wait to get back to it. However, this process is one in which I don’t seem to be able to find the balance to do both. Once the house is done and I am at peace with that, I will be back on my machine and working on my quilts. In the meantime I am taking advantage of the time when I rest, to read other blogs and enjoy what others are doing.

Please know that I am embarrassed to even post these pictures, but you will see part of the dilemma with which I am dealing.  Resolution is forth coming, and I will be happy when I can post the after pictures once I have completed taking control over my home!

I am linking up with Connie’s Tuesday’s Linky Party at Freemotion by the River. I love Connie’s work and then of course, I enjoy all the other bloggers who link up on this fun party.

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Just exactly how did my home become a candidate for the “Hoarders” show? I have never claimed to be the world’s best housekeeper, but our home was always comfortable and certainly livable, and definitely clean.

During the past twenty or so years I have accumulated more items in my home than one would think humanly possible. My mom moved from a home where she had lived for more than 30 years. She moved to the High Bridge which crosses the junction of the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers outside of Comstock, Texas where she fished and had a wonderful life for several years. There she lived in a fully furnished three bedroom mobile home. Eventually the rivers dried up, and she sold the mobile home and moved to the San Antonio area, where she bought another three bedroom mobile home and placed it on a lot in a small town near where I live. The yard work was too much for her, so my husband was doing it and that did not set well with my independent mother. A building project began and when mom realized it was a small apartment complex for seniors, she sold her second mobile home and moved into the small apartment, where she intended to live the rest of her life. She was happy there and loved her new little apartment. After each of those moves, I became the keeper of her excess treasures with which she could not part and “perfectly good” furniture which she wanted me to have. The house began becoming more crowded, but was still manageable.

In 2007 my husband, who had been retired for the past five years, took a position as Superintendent of Schools in a small town near Corpus Christi. I resigned from my teaching position in San Antonio to join him. We were not interested in selling our home so we simply scavenged what was absolutely necessary for us to live in a small two bedroom rental in this new small town. Scavenging left our home in somewhat disarray, but not terrible. While we there I took a position as Secondary Curriculum Coordinator, so we were both in new jobs that were quite demanding. At the same time I started my Masters degree and a Principal’s training program which required my attendance at the Regional Service Center at least two, and sometimes, three nights a week. We were attending numerous meetings in the evenings for both of our new positions. We stayed busy to say the least. In November of that year Mark became ill and when the doctors did a CAT scan, they determined that he definitely had kidney cancer and were unsure about a spot that appeared on his liver. Consequently, the surgeons removed part of his kidney and later determined that the spot on his liver was simply a birth mark. Thank goodness!

Once the kidney cancer was removed, Mark’s recovery was quite difficult. He seemed to struggle every day until the doctor’s finally determined that he was diabetic. The day that he was diagnosed his blood sugar was at 600. They mentioned that he should have actually been in a coma. Little did we know that we had been adding to his problem every day by having fresh squeezed orange juice from the orange tree right outside our back door at this little rental. Duh!!! Attempting to get his diabetes under control, we completely changed our daily routine. We ate differently and began a walking regiment. However, progress was still slow.

Some time during the year my mom came to visit and stayed about two weeks. During that stay, I became sadly aware of a number of issues that I had not noticed before. She was repeating herself quite often, as most people her age do. I noticed was that her balance seemed to be compromised, and there were definite signs of Parkinson’s disease. My concern for her grew throughout the year, but she was still functioning on her own and liked it that way.

My daughter had graduated from college and was engaged to a great guy named Todd. They set the date for May of that year, and we began the planning of their wedding. She and Todd were living in Sweetwater, we were near Corpus and the wedding was to be in Marathon. We made several trips to Marathon which was all the way across this big state. We shopped and made many phone calls and emails to one another. Though this venture was pure pleasure, it still added a certain amount of stress to my life. The wedding was beautiful and fun for all that attended. Amanda describes it as “the wedding of her dreams.”‘

Amanda and Todd

Photo courtesy of Sam Roberts Photography

To continue this long and drawn out story, my husband’s contract was not renewed at the end of the year. And, obviously I resigned my position so that we could move back to our home. Mark was still quite ill and in fact, was in bed when it came time to pack up and move. So my daughter came to help. We literally threw our stuff in a moving truck, and when we arrived at our home, we unloaded as quickly as possible because Amanda had to return to her job. So the house instantly became a mess!

In the meantime, I was attempting to find a teaching position in San Antonio or the surrounding area. That process required hours on the computer filling out applications, researching districts and then going for interviews. Ultimately, I did not find a position in education. My years of experience worked against me in an economy where districts were cutting back and hiring new teachers whose salaries' were much less than someone with 15 years of experience. I become quite distraught because I needed to work, so I took a job at one of the large chain fabric stores. While working every day the following incidences occurred and kept my life turned upside down.

Approximately two months after we moved back, my mom took a fall in the parking lot of her apartment complex and broke her arm. The repair involved surgery to place pins in her arm and several months of dealing with a cast, along with doctor’s appointments, x-rays and such. Based upon her injury and what I had observed when she came to visit us, we made the decision to move her to a small guest house on our property. Before we could get her moved, major renovations were necessary on the guest house. During that time mom was staying with us so that we could care for her. Then she got settled in her little guest house. Disrupting a person’s life at her age leads to some unexpected results. Every week she wanted me to rearrange her furniture, which I did willingly. We traded out furniture week in and week out. This went on for several months until we found the arrangement that seemed to work best. I finally had to say to mom, “No more moving furniture!” I was doing this after working full days at the fabric store, and I was getting worn out!

For seven months after her fall she complained of pain in her hip. The doctor seemed certain that it was simply arthritis. She finally told the doctor that she had been dealing with arthritis for many years, and this was different. So he x-rayed her only to find that she had fractured the hip when she fell. Back to the hospital we went for more surgery. She was there several days, and when she was released she had almost instant relief from the pain she had suffered with for the past months. The doctor and I both felt horrible that we didn’t x-ray her completely at the time of the fall.

Four days after she came home, mom’s femur snapped completely into. You see, her hip had been stabilized but with severe osteoporosis her bones were brittle. She simply turned and her leg broke. This break was complicated in that the surgeon had to reconfigure the pins in her hip to accommodate the rod that he was putting in her leg. When she awoke from surgery mom experienced several weeks of what is known as anesthesia paranoia, where she was convinced that the nurses and doctors in the hospital and the rehab center were experimenting upon her. She was genuinely scared and would not let a nurse touch her. In turn that meant that someone (me or my husband) was with her 24 hours a day for weeks. Finally, her mind seemed to clear and the paranoia went away. As I have mentioned before, her recovery was agonizingly slow and is still ongoing.

Along the way, my job changed from sales associate to assistant manager, and finally to manager at the fabric store. Retail management is quite a challenge as you may know. As the manager you are given a certain number of hours with which to staff your store, and that number is always shy of what is truly required. As the only salaried employee, the manager is expected to fill in the gap, which meant many long days and late nights. My heart was torn everyday between my job and caring for my mother. My husband had been taking good care of her, but I felt a huge responsibility toward that end. Finally, I resigned to stay home with her. Mark found a job through the oil boom of South Texas, known as the Eagle Ford Shale. His new job would entail sales with an equipment leasing company. His first day was to be November 6, 2011.

On Labor Day, the day before he was to start his new job, Mark was barbequing. Suddenly the grass under the gas grilled ignited and moved rapidly under the storage building between my house and the guest house. The fire quickly became massive and was out of control. Neighbors came with shovels and hoses and tried to help my husband get the fire out. Of course, 911 was called and before the ordeal was over three days later, eight different fire departments with heavy equipment including helicopters and bulldozers were involved in containing the 440 acres that was ultimately burned. The storage building was a complete loss and mom’s roof and windows were damaged. Fortunately, no other structures were burned. The 440 acres was undeveloped wooded land behind our home. Once again, thank goodness!

Mom’s place was damaged enough that she did not need to stay out there, so we moved her into the house with us. We moved from our master bedroom downstairs and put mom in that room. Our bedroom became one of the two upstairs. Once again, we found ourselves moving furniture almost on a daily basis. As time has moved forward, mom’s mobility has become more restricted. Her needs have increased dramatically. All the while, my house has been becoming more and more of an issue.  My plate has been full with some things over which I had little control. Day after day mom suffered with unrelenting pain. I was becoming overwhelmed with depression.  I found myself paralyzed, stifled in my own home.

Mom is doing as well as can be expected. I know there will come a day when I will no longer be able to keep her at home, but until then we have adjusted to living together. I want her to be with me as long as is possible. She and I will know when that time comes, and then we will make the decisions we need to make. For now we work through the challenges we encounter, and I find myself sometimes frustrated. Mom has a quirky sense of humor, somewhat different than mine. Most of the time, we end up laughing over whatever we saw as a problem.

So, this long tale is how my home came to be in a state of pandemonium! My mission now is to recapture my home and find the peaceful tranquility that I so long for through quilting, while I enjoy spending time with my husband and mom and making many more quilts. I truly believe that if I live each day as if it were my last day, I will find pleasure in all that is around me. Each day I am moving forward with my goals, making progress and seeing my efforts paying off.

If you made it through to this point, I would like to say thank you. I do realize this was a long rant!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Enough is enough…


Import 5_2012 138Let me preface this post with a brief bit of information about what has been happening around our place. Our lives can only be described as rather chaotic for the past five years, and today I’ll spare you the details. Chaos is not always a bad thing. In fact, chaos can be fun. However, there comes a point where it seems to take a toll on my mental condition which is somewhat questionable anyway. LOL …well, I have reached that point. I am determined to take drastic and necessary measures to reduce the bedlam in our lives and in our home. Two wonderful events recently, including a trip to Rhode Island and a 40th reunion, have left me refreshed and changed my perspective on the way we live our daily lives. I have previously posted about those fun events.

We have a beautiful 3400 square foot home, and right now we would probably qualify for the messiest house in which people actually function. I have never been nominated for the Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot, but I have also never found myself paralyzed from the suffocating feeling of reaching maximum capacity of stuff in my house. I have absorbed the remains of my mom’s moving from three different three bedroom homes and a small apartment (including my sweet mama), mixed with the 39 year collection that Mark and I have accumulated. As quilters I am sure you can all relate if you think just about your quilting stuff alone. Now multiply that by a full household times five. We have entirely too much stuff…

I have enlisted help from a wonderful friend, with whom I worked for a number of years at one of the major fabric retailers. Neither of us are speed demons, and this is not a race. We are familiar with the way the other thinks and works, and let me tell you we could accomplish some major work together at the fabric store. Nina happens to be one of those people with organizational skills that are somewhat different from mine. Obviously my skills in that area are lacking or have taken at least a five year vacation. And as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” It is not working well at all. Nina and I are tackling the unsightly issues of overcrowding and disorganization in my home. I promise to post before and after pictures on another day. This may seem unrelated to a quilting blog, but for me it is a huge aspect of quilting. I love the tranquility of quilting and the creative process makes me feel fulfilled and happy.  Attempting to find the peace that comes with the “hum purr” of my little sewing machine is harder in the midst of a monumental amount of stuff surrounding me. So just for a few days I am putting my quilting project on the back burner and seeking resolution to this pandemonium!

Last week Leah Day’s post about your storage options in the studio was intensely interesting. I enjoyed her sharing the detailed thought process that she goes through to determine the best option for her space. We all have our own way of decision making and different processing methods. Maybe because I taught school for years, I find myself fascinated by the thought process of others. Leah’s way of thinking has helped me to look at my own dilemma with new eyes. So please stop by again to find out where this wild and crazy ride leads me…

1973 Honeymooners


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is this Hill Billy quilting or what?


hill billy machine

The last couple of times I have sat down to quilt, my machine has acted like a bad little girlie. So after following Leah Day’s advise, I went one by one through the list of possible problems. She came back to life and stitched a picture perfect stitch when I finished the list and sewed on regular two fold cotton fabric and used the straight stitch foot that I always use. Anyway, I am back in business and the darn thread keeps coming off the first hook. My conclusion was that the spool is getting lighter weight because of the amount of thread I have used, so like any good hill billy quilter who uses a straw to keep the thread from bouncing off the spindle, I decided to add some weight with a couple or three extra safety pins in my straw. Perfect solution!!! Works like a charm.

Now I know that Leah’s UFO on Sundays is all about finishing projects. I think I may hold a record for actually taking the longest time ever to quilt a single quilt, but I am still moving on at the rapid pace of a snail on Lovely Lou. So since this is my UFO, I am going to link up with her today. I have been pebbling after watching and learning from Leah’s tutorials on various pebbling styles as well as considering the input from other bloggers who took the time to comment,  and I cannot even begin to describe how much I have enjoyed this filler for this particular quilt. If you have followed any of my other posts you will know that this quilt is for my breathtakingly beautiful daughter, Amanda. As you may or may not know I decided to learn Free Motion Quilting with the help of Leah Day and other bloggers on this quilt, which is almost the size of Rhode Island—a king bedspread that will reach the floor and have plenty to tuck and cover the pillows.

Being the individual that I am, I like for there to be meaning in whatever I am doing. It’s kind of like when I see a person all tatted up, if they can explain to me why they chose the particular images that they have tattooed upon their bodies, I seem to be much more accepting and can appreciate the art value a bit more. If they just chose a random image, then I think they screwed up. It just has to have a personal meaning! Well, in that same way of thinking, I would like to have purpose for the stitches that I put into a quilt. These pebbles have a significance in our lives in that we have always collected rocks (or pebbles) from every where we have visited. My husband has a great eye for finding rocks and arrowheads and other cool items because he is always looking down when he walks.  I, on the other hand, have a few scars to prove that I am usually looking up when I walk. Amanda walked many miles with her daddy as a little girl, picking up rocks and learning about nature. Anyway in my view, the pebbles in this quilt put a bit of her daddy in here and represent the love between my husband and our daughter in some odd fashion. And that makes them particularly fun for me to quilt.

Below you will see that I started in the center of the quilt and failed to follow Leah’s sage advise by making small pebbles, but as I went along I adjusted the scale which resulted in better looking stitches. The block on the left with the tailor’s tack is the center of the quilt and the pebbled blocks are 2” squares.  Staying true to my word, I am not ripping out stiches unless I absolutely have to. That way at the end of the project, Amanda and I can sit and laugh at my first attempts and then appreciate my more developed skills. Regardless, she will love the quilt and so will I. 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fun, fun, fun…quilting on hold!

You may think I have fallen off the side of the earth, but that is not the case! After attending my 40th (yikes) high school reunion, we came back by my daughter’s house and brought Mia, our granddaughter, home with us. Oh my, there is just nothing like being grandparents! The best part of being a retired MeeMaw is that I can put everything else on hold to play. She has been with us for almost two weeks, and today I will take her to meet her mom and dad. She has missed them, and they are certainly ready for Mia to come home.

We have had a blast, even though she is fighting tooth and nail for her independence. She likes to dress herself, and that’s okay with me. Sometimes her choices are a little odd, but I don’t care! Mia is 3 years and one month old, with just enough baby left in her that she likes to cuddle up with me at night to read her books. Sometimes, she will even let me still hold her while she drinks her Sippy cup. All sweet times for me, but I have to admit I so miss that little baby girl. How fun it is to watch her grow and become a little lady. She has a great imagination and is as smart as she can be. Today we measured and weighed her and marked it on a special wall in my house. She is 42 inches tall and weighs 40 pounds.Mia 42" tall and 40 lbs

Her PawPaw brought home an old motorized car for her; however, it has no motor or battery. Resourceful best describes my husband. So as you can see in the video below, a good time was had by all. Only one trip down and back up the driveway for MeeMaw and one for PawPaw—being that both of us are way out of shape and soft as marshmallows. We eventually tied the car onto Mia’s tricycle so that she could pull her stuffed toys around, and that stopped the whining for more rides. She has lots of energy and has enjoyed this silly, fun activity!

Mia’s having a great time! MeeMaw is exhausted!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflections …

Tumbleweed heads, Emma and Gina, at our 10th reunionThe small west Texas town of Monahans is known mostly for it’s sand hills, tumbleweeds and oil fields. And, that is where I traveled to for my 40th high school reunion last weekend. The town itself was never pretty, although some of my classmates found beauty in the sunflowers growing on those sand hills as they were leaving to return to their homes near and far. Just as most young people from small towns sprouting their wings, I was more than ready to leave that ugly little place as a new high school grad. I wanted to move on to college and live my life in some idealistic setting other than Monahans. 

Going back is not so uncommon for those of us who still have relatives there, but on this trip I experienced a  connection to my home town that had never existed before. As much as I tried to escape Monahans at the sage old age of 18, my roots were firmly planted there. My big brother and his sweet wife live in the house where we grew up. My father and one of my grandmothers are buried in the city cemetery. Years ago when I would return home I would visit the cemetery and every single time, I would be struck by grief and sadness for days. My sweet daddy died in April of my senior year in Monahans. At some point along the way, it occurred to me that my father would not have wanted me to be sad when I thought of him, so I stopped going to the cemetery. Last Saturday afternoon Mark and I went to the cemetery for the first time in about 30 years.  A peaceful calm prevailed.

Coincidently, as we walked through that cemetery, I noticed a couple of other cars had driven in, but I was deep in thought and holding tight to the fond memories of my father and beautiful grandmother. By the time my father passed into his Savior’s arms, I had fallen madly in love with the man of my dreams, the man that was standing beside me the day my father was buried in ‘72 and was walking beside me in the cemetery on this pleasant Saturday afternoon forty years later. Familiar family names appeared on grave after grave as we walked and talked and enjoyed the beautiful tributes that families had placed there in honor of the ones they had lost. Walking and talking has been our style for 43 years together. We, as with any couple, have had our own struggles over the years, but a strong and steady friendship has carried us to where we are today. We began our abiding camaraderie in Monahans. We were married there about a year after I graduated from high school. Mark had finished college and taught high school biology for a year before we tied the knot.

I don’t know how many attended the reunion, but it was a smashing success--a project spearheaded by a wonderful friend that had only recently returned to live in the community where we grew up and where her father still lives. Gina’s college majors were photography and journalism, skills put to good use for well over a year in planning and preparing for our grand event. During the weekend she took well over 1500 photographs and is now putting together a commemorative DVD for us. She made an incredible effort to contact every person that had ever attended school with us from our elementary days all the way through high school. She followed lead after lead to locate those who had moved away for they, too, had become links in the chain that connected us to one another. Yes, she had help from other class members and my frail thank you cannot express how deeply I appreciate their efforts to create this amazing event. However, Gina is the individual who envisioned what this reunion could mean to those of us who would attend. I will be always grateful for her big heart, her quick wit, her tenacious spirit and her remarkable commitment to bringing us all together once again to enjoy the enduring friendships that had developed when we were little kids. Gina, you gave each of us from the class of ‘72 a priceless gift of wonderful unforgettable memories.

We were a diverse group of rednecks, with common threads tying us together, taught by teachers who challenged us with exceptional intellectual rigor and hard working parents who set before us the example of good work ethic and family values. Our teachers and parents expected the best out of us. Many of our class have been astonishingly successful in their careers and happy in their lives. The class of ‘72 produced the owner of one of the largest oil consulting firms in the United States. From this group of small town kids several terrific ministers emerged. For the most part their ministries began while we were still in school. They lived their daily lives by the strength of their faith, not by preaching to us, but leading us by example. We have published authors, bankers, insurance agents, architects, designers, realtors  and numerous other honorable professions. Some of us became teachers, principals and other specialists in the field of education. Members of the class who chose to remain anonymous generously donated the funding for our entire reunion, including a fun pizza party after the football game Friday night and a wonderful prime rib dinner on Saturday evening catered by a landmark restaurant known as the best steakhouse throughout the vast area of west Texas. Most of us had eaten there on special occasions when we were in high school, and the meal served on Saturday evening most certainly lived up to the stellar reputation by which they are known. We received terrific goodie bags filled with tons of cool items to commemorate this special gathering of old friends. All, provided by the generosity of gracious members of our class who I hope will accept my sincere thank you and appreciation from all who attended this exceptional reunion. Not only career successes did we recognize, we were happy to see that many of us are still happily married to our high school sweethearts, including two couples who celebrated their 39th anniversary Saturday night at our reunion. It seems as though what our teachers and parents expected from us turned into exactly what happened!

We have lost a significant number of our classmates. Significant, in that each person lost was valued and sorely missed as we gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our graduation. I suspect all of our classmates have suffered the loss of loved ones, whether they be children, parents, spouses, siblings or other members of our families.  Mark and I were remembering many of those folks that Saturday afternoon as we walked through the cemetery. As we got closer to the others who had arrived at the cemetery, one of my very best friends in school and his wife, also a member of our class and his high school sweetheart, came into view. Mike and I always had fun together and were reprimanded by a number of teachers who did not appreciate our warped senses of humor. Turns out, I married his cousin, the best decision that I ever made. I quickly recognized the other couple as one of Mike’s best buds in school and and his wife. John suffered the unbearable tragedy of losing a son and was there to visit his grave. I suppose other classmates found themselves at the cemetery sometime during the weekend.

As the reunion continued later into the evening, I heard time and again from classmates that in their most desperate hours of need one or more of the Monahans class of ‘72 had been there to support them during the most horrendous tragedies of life.  I am certain that had we all known of the losses, more would have been there for those individuals during their time of need. But as life goes, we had scattered like seeds in the wind so we were not all aware of the particular times each person was hurting. Last Saturday night in Monahans we reverently honored those that we have lost. We comforted one another privately and publicly. We cried, we laughed, we reconnected with values that we learned as children in this small west Texas town.

Looking back at that ugly little town in west Texas, I am proud to have come from Monahans with it’s sand hills, tumbleweeds and oil fields!

Dave and Darla, Mike and Jennie celebrating their years of wedded bliss.

Photographs courtesy of Regina Ray McGinnis

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Finally, Setting Triangles finished…Let’s go Pebbling


IMG_0777Finally, I have finished outlining all of the flowers in the setting triangles on this huge quilt. Never in a million years did I think about the triangles taking as long as they did, but there have been many interruptions. I love the thread build up and the final effect. Amanda was pleased when she saw them in person. Now I can move on. I initially quilted feather wreaths in each of the blocks (with some really ugly stitches) but they are going to stay just as they are.

I am moving to the sashing now to try my hand at pebbling. My mom asks me every day if I am finished with the quilt, and my answer is not yet. She thinks I have gone completely bonkers. I am enjoying the process and the learning that has occurred in making this quilt, but I may take the prize for the longest time ever  spent quilting on one quilt. Oh well, I am in no hurry and want to make “Lovely Lou” absolutely beautiful for my daughter. She is certainly worth every stitch and every hour put into this effort of love.


I am joining Connie’s Linky Party today over at Freemotion by the River. I love seeing what other quilters are doing and always get some kind of inspiration. Thank you, Connie for hosting!    Freemotion by the River Linky Tuesday button

My first attempts at Pebbling…

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I just finished watching Leah Day’s Pebbling Tutorial for the sixth or seventh time today, and the above is evidence that practice is certainly required to master this filler design. However, instead of stitching on scraps, I have used this quilt “Lovely Lou” upon which to learn Free Motion Quilting. So ugly stitches, pitiful traveling skill and all, I am continuing to learn from the generosity of Leah Day and other bloggers. The above block is only a 2” square out of this quilt and I figure by the time I stitch all of those 2” squares I should have pebbling down pat, at least at this scale.

I would like to know from other quilters, would you stitch in the ditch around each 2” block to contain the pebbling or allow the back to have a more free-form organic look to it, without a box stitched around the pebbling. Amanda loves the idea of using this quilt as a reversible bedspread on her king size bed. What do you think?

Friday, September 14, 2012



IMG_0982Being a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother has led to the best times of my life. My mother has been a great parent and friend to me and a wonderful caregiver to many of our family members over the years. Mom wanted to be a nurse—but financial constraints and life, in general, never allowed her to follow that path. Instead, she checked groceries in one of the local supermarkets in the town where I grew up. My father worked in the oil field as a laborer for most of his life. He passed away when I was 18 years old after suffering a heart attack (40 years ago). I have always been sad that I didn’t get to know him as an adult.

About four years ago mom fell and broke her right arm and fractured her hip. To enable me to care for her we moved mom from an apartment a few miles away into a small guest house about 50 feet from my kitchen door. Shortly after her hip had been surgically stabilized, her femur literally snapped into when she turned from the toilet to the sink. Severe osteoporosis has made her bones brittle and fragile. Her recovery has been agonizingly slow and has taken quite a toll on her physically, emotionally and mentally. Almost exactly a year ago it became clear that mom needed to be in the house with me for her own safety and well being. As her needs have increased I have been able to fill in the gap and hopefully that will be possible for a long time to come. She has shared many sweet stories and some tragic events about her life with me over this past year.

Being mommy was (and still is) wonderful, and I love my daughter with all my heart. The challenge with parenting is influencing your child’s every day being and hoping that you are making the right decisions. Amanda grew into an independent, strong woman with drive and ambition. Her artistic abilities are amazing, and her home is inviting with a personality that reflects the individual that she has always been. She is married to a man that I adore. Todd, a twin, is a good provider and loves his family. As one of two, he had to learn to share most everything in his life (including his birthday), while Amanda was an only child and rarely had to share much of anything. Todd’s dry sense of humor makes me laugh, and his ethics make me proud. My husband and I love spending time with them and appreciate that they are adults leading their own lives. Together, they blessed us with Mia, our beautiful granddaughter. However, moms are on duty 24/7 and that is best left for young people. Becoming a grandmother is different, only fleeting moments of fun-filled special times are there to be cherished. Those sweet moments pass in the blink of an eye. Mia lives about five hours from us, so any time she comes to stay with us is bonus time!  

My life seems somewhat similar to the quilts that I so dearly love. I don’t always get to spend the time quilting or blogging about quilting that I would love to be doing. I am often busy with mom (the top of the quilt) and occasionally with Mia (the bottom of the quilt). I love the top and the bottom of the quilt, but each has it’s own challenges. I guess I sometimes feel like the batting in the middle of that quilt sandwich, being pulled into shape while trying to balance a life with my husband, who is the love of my life. Mark is giving and kind to me and to my mother. Of course, Mia has him wrapped tightly around her heart. Mark and I have always remained friends, first and foremost in our marriage of 39 years. He respects me for who I am, an unorganized, messy crazy woman who loves to quilt and is almost always late for everything. Before my father died, Mark made a promise to him that he would take care of me. He has kept that promise and much more.

Since returning from our trip to Rhode Island, it has been hard to get back to daily quilting. Our trip was great fun and a bit wearing on both me and mom. I yearn for the peacefulness that quilting gives me. IMG_1085Just had a few hours on the machine over the weekend and about an hour this morning and that little bit of time did wonders for my soul.

As time permits I am continuing to work on Lovely Lou for my sweet Amanda…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My First Quilt…Rough Start



This picture is my first quilt, Rough Start. I cannot remember where I got the pattern, so I am sorry that credit can’t be given where it is due. I love the fabric colors (purple, green and yellow) in this queen size quilt. For a beginner this was a difficult pattern, as it was all cut on the bias. I had never used a rotary cutter, and I didn’t have a clue about how to carefully iron bias pieces to avoid stretching the fabric. Somehow I did get it pieced anyway, and then came the issue of quilting her. I quilted her with a walking foot (in the ditch, sorta) on my Featherweight. I did not enjoy the quilting process at all, it was boring and much harder than I ever imagined. I had been told to roll the quilt and found that like moving a log through the 4 1/2 inch harp space. It was difficult, to say the least. One valuable lesson that I learned was that the print backing was very forgiving of my mistakes. Just so happened that the print on the back is my favorite fabric in the whole quilt. I hand quilted a grid on the green border while sitting in the hospital with my father-in-law. When I finished her, I thought I would just have to be a hand quilter because I would not ever do the rolled quilt and walking foot process again. However, I was determined to quilt—a life long goal.

While I did not know how on earth I would get it quilted, my daughter picked out the fabric and found a pattern for “Lovely Lou.” By then I had spent many hours studying about cutting, ironing and piecing quilts. I had years of sewing experience and was always quite meticulous, but had not pieced quilts other than Rough Start. I spent hours with Lou piecing, ripping, piecing, ripping, piecing…until I was pleased with the result. I actually took her completely apart twice. Then the question of quilting this king bedspread size quilt arose…

At one point I thought I would have someone long arm “Lovely Lou”, but I did not feel right about that. It would not be my work. I had never heard of Free Motion Quilting until I came upon The Free Motion Quilting Project. What a relief! Then a friend told me that FMQ was just too hard. Well, then I had to learn; a challenge had been issued, though my friend did not realize what she had done. I spent hours and hours watching videos and reading every  word on Leah Day’s website. I was amazed at her generosity in sharing all the tutorials on her website. I ordered the tools that she recommends from her Day Style Designs Quilt Shop and was thrilled with the difference they made. I practiced and practiced before I started quilting “Lovely Lou.” I especially loved her tutorial about puddling the quilt around the machine. Lou has many ugly stitches, but my daughter is happy that her quilt is the one on which I am learning.

After a week of having fun in Rhode Island with my family and now chasing little Mia (my granddaughter), it has been a while since I have been able to touch my machine. Can you say “quilting withdrawals?” Leah has engrained the “quilting habit” in my brain. I will finish Lou as soon as Mia goes home and then move on to the next quilt which will be a gift for a wonderful friend. I  have not picked out the fabric nor a pattern yet, but that will come when my efforts on “Lovely Lou” are finished.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home from Rhode Island…



This beautiful quilt is a Dresden Plate that my grandmother quilted. I took this picture while on my trip to Rhode Island, where I spent five days having the time of my life with my family that I have never really known. I had soooooooooo much fun, but now I am home. Today I rested. Tomorrow I hope to clean house a bit, get the laundry caught up, and then pick up my granddaughter, Mia. She will be with me a few days.

My major unfinished quilting project is still “Lovely Lou.” It seems as though I have been working on her forever, but I spent many hours piecing and ripping and repiecing her before I even thought about how to quilt the mammoth. I am so ready to get back to my sewing machine to finish “Lou,” but I suppose she is going to have to wait a few more days until Mia goes home. This little girl keeps me too busy to quilt! She will be three on September 9, so those of you with children at home amaze me that you ever have time to quilt. There is definitely a reason that God gives babies to young people!

As you may know, I closely follow Leah Day on the Free Motion Quilting Project, the greatest quilting teacher on the planet. Although I am excited about her new project designed to finished any unfinished projects, I have no other projects started at this time. For years I had unfinished projects everywhere, but I purged them a long time ago and pledged to not find myself in that position again. I try to keep my attention focused on just one project at a time; however, I have a stash of fabric with plans for many new quilts and clothes for my granddaughter and my mom. All too often I am tempted to start another project, but I know myself too well—nothing would get finished.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Party in Rhode Island…



My cousin, Debbie, and I are having a blast at a family gathering at Debbie’s house in Rhode Island. I have a family the size of a freaking’ army that I had never met before. Debbie and her husband, Dan, threw a great party, and I met family members that I didn’t even know I had. I saw family members that I had not seen in 48 years! How great is that? The food was terrific, and the atmosphere was perfect.

Debbie and Dan, thank you for a day I will never forget. One of the best gifts I have ever been given…the opportunity to know my family!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Visit in Rhode Island



I am so thrilled to be visiting my sweet Uncle and many cousins in Rhode Island. The one and only time I was here before I was ten years old. My mom (81) and my uncle (87) have always been great friends, even though they have lived so far apart. We are having a wonderful visit!

Their mother, my grandmother, was one of the most prolific quilters ever. I wish I knew how many quilts she made in her lifetime, my guess would be in the hundreds. All pieced and quilted by hand, with beautiful stitching. I have her frames and her cotton cards, which she used to prepare the cotton batting for her quilts. She had picked the cotton herself and after dinner every night she would pick the seeds out of the cotton and card or batt the cotton for her quilts. She rarely had the money for fabric so many of her quilts were made from flour sacks and scraps, but she had a wonderful sense of color and made beautiful quilts.

The quilt pictured below is on my uncle’s bed, and I just love it. When my grandmother died, she had enough quilts that each of her 6 living children received five brand new quilts. She had always given the grandkids quilts when we each got married, so the 30 that she had stored was just a drop in the bucket. She was my hero!

                                IMG_0904         IMG_0901         IMG_0902

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beautiful Morning in San Antonio, Texas…



What a beautiful morning in San Antonio, Texas! The temperature is about 75 and the sun is just above our tree line. My neighbors free range chickens are in my yard, and the roosters are crowing like crazy. I love that they come to my yard for all our bugs and to talk to me. A perfect morning to hang out in the quilting studio/garage with “Lovely Lou.” Still working on setting triangles, outlining the motif on the fabric-who knew it would take this long to do these beautiful flowers? If I were getting paid by the hour on this quilt, I could be debt free by now! However, I am quilting just for the love of quilting and this particular one for my sweet daughter, Amanda.  I seem to be rather slow, but loving every minute of the fun project.

Waiting on photos from all my family and friends! I am in the process of photographing all my old quilts so that I can share the lineage from which I come. Quilters in that day had to be resourceful—no modern conveniences like FMQ, rotary blades, Magic Genie Bobbin Washers, Machingers’ gloves or Supreme Sliders. By the way, the Bobbin Washers, gloves and Supreme Sliders are available from Day Style Designs Quilt Shop. I happily buy those products from Leah Day in return for the wealth of information that she shares on her blog, The Free Motion Quilting Project.

amanda and mia

Amanda and Mia   

Photo by Sam Roberts Photography

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Need to Finish “Lovely Lou”…


IMG_0782I am feeling the need to finish this project. Amanda was home a couple of weeks ago, and expressed her excitement and approval of “Lovely Lou.”  She has painted her master bedroom in preparation for receiving this quilt (bedspread size). It has been well over a couple of years in the making from picking out fabric with Amanda and finding a pattern that she liked to actually learning how to free motion quilt with my little Singer Featherweight and Leah Day, a great teacher and mentor.

Soon I will be making a trip with my mom, flying for the first time in many years. I never liked to fly anyway and could handle it only after a few drinks. Then 911 happened, and I have not forgotten the horror I felt. I suppose it is morbid, but I need to finish this quilt before I fly. What if the unthinkable happened? Who would finish “Lovely Lou?”  So that’s all for today, I am going to go quilt.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Project working…


IMG_0820Excitement does not describe how passionately I feel about this project.

Today, I posted on my Facebook a request from all of my family and friends for pics and information about quilts that they own. The picture on the right is one of mine that I will tell more about when the project launches. It is really old from the Shipley side of my family. What a fun way to give credit to our quilters from yesteryear. Those quilters were not so spoiled all our many conveniences of today. I have one that I cannot wait to show you, it is so funny and as folk~art as they come! That one is from the Dalton side of my family. Those of you who quilt today, please join us as well.

Also, the call went out to my hometown of Monahans, Texas. We have a great communication tool going on Facebook thanks to a couple of cool gals and they know who they are. I would love to commemorate the Monahans quilters, both current and past. You all are a part of the history of this great community, so get out the cameras/phones/videos and let me have ‘em. Be sure to include information about you and the quilt/quilter.

I’ll be updating the blog so stay tuned…


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Away from my machine again…


Import 5_2012 219

I have been playing with my granddaughter, Mia, instead of quilting. I miss the “humm~purr” of my machine, but there is just nothing like being “mee-maw” to this little girl.

We have dug in the dirt, played on the swing set, put together puzzles, colored and swam in the neighbor’s pool. What fun we have had!

Mia and her parents live about 5 hours from me. When I have the opportunity to keep her for a few days, both quilting and blogging about quilting goes out the window. Mia wins, hands down. She will be with me until the weekend, so until then, I will be away from my machine, again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Motif emphasized…

Popping flowers with thread
These awesome flowers are just popping with life with the thread outlining. I am having such a great time working on this quilt! Still undecided about what to do with sashing and borders, but I am following a couple of expert quilters who have some great ideas. One in particular, and that would be the amazing Leah Day. So, you will just have to wait and see what design comes about on this quilt. Keep checking back…
Mark just finished knapping this cool little arrowhead!cool little arrowhead

Monday, July 23, 2012

Plenty of Practice on FMQ Fundamental Skills…


Setting triangle in "Lovely Lou"“Lovely Lou” has presented me the opportunity to practice many of the basic fundamental skills of Free Motion quilting. Stitching in the ditch is harder than I thought it might be, but with this quilt I am working on that particular skill. 

I just spent a few minutes on the phone with a friend from years ago. We taught school together way back in the 80’s. What fun it is to have enduring friendship with someone even though we haven’t seen one another in years. Laughter is good for my soul, and with this friend I can laugh. A treat, for sure.

cool rockAnother really cool rock that Mark came upon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday quilting…

awesome flower
I believe I am seeing an improvement in my stitching. I am searching for that “Humm-Purr“ as described by Cindy Needham’s June Tutorial on SewCalGal’s awesome blog. I am still playing around a little bit with tension, but only in small increments on the upper tension. In all my years of sewing experience I have never had to adjust the bobbin tension. I usually wait for the sewing machine doctor to handle that when I have my machine serviced. That practice has served me well.
Outlining these awesome flowers has been like painting with thread. The thread is a beautiful soft yellow color and when the thread builds up, it appears a soft gold. I am liking the effect.
happy plantsRecently I moved my plants to the end of my table where I work. They are happy campers and I am much more attentive to them while indulging myself in this “quilting habit” as Leah Day mentioned.

Another addition has been the treadmill, since Mark and I share the space we are encouraging each other to create a “walking habit.” Also, here are a few of Mark’s rock polishing endeavors.


treadmill for

polished rocksmore polished rocks, crystals, and just cool rockspolished crystals

Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting Back to the Quilting Habit...

Leah Day has inspired me in one more of many positive ways. I have had  a wonderfully refreshing relief from my daily routine. Now I am ready to return to my habit of quilting and have more fun.  After a break and coming back to Lou, I have made changes while considering a more modern approach. Although I haven’t caught up with Leah’s QAL, I am attempting to apply much of her teaching to the quilt I had ready to quilt. This quilt is for a lively young woman who is best described as a fun and modern (in all the good ways) individual. I want the quilt to reflect the same qualities.

IMG_0704I had done a Loopy Loop in the setting triangles around the quilt. The setting triangles are inside three borders. IMG_0724When I came back and looked, I was not pleased with the effect. So I have spent several days armed with my seam ripper and plenty of patience. I have replaced that filler design with simple stitching on the motif of the fabric. I am liking the thread build-up. I would love for this quilt to come out of the washer with that old fashion crinkled soft feel, but done with a modern twist. Designing the quilting aspect of this quilt or any other is a new skill set for me, and I am open minded about making changes—another “Leah Lesson.”

While ripping I took the opportunity to review many of Leah's fabulous videos to better enforce my grasp of the many aspects of FMQ. I must say once again, she is the best quilting teacher I have found on the internet. I have spent a considerable amount of time looking. I have years of sewing experience and even done some hand quilting, but those skills are not the same set as FMQ skills. No other teacher is willing to spend such dedicated effort emphasizing the basics and other wonderful techniques of FMQ so freely.  Thank you, by the way.
The stitching on the back of the quilt is looking fairly cool. I am looking forward to seeing improvement as I quilt Lou. The print fabric on the back of the quilt is forgiving. I am not happy with the little pointy blobs where I hesitate to move the quilt, but experience will hopefully help with that issue.
                                             IMG_0738     IMG_0739     IMG_0743   IMG_0747
I think Leah’s latest design, Branch Out with Bare Branches, will have a cool effect somewhere in this quilt. I would definitely like to use her Infinity Tree, but that may be beyond my current skill level. Although I have been practicing on scraps, I have yet to be pleased with my result. I will continue working on the amazing Leah Designs.
IMG_0736I have added an item to my arsenal of quilting must haves. Because of Leah's instruction, I faithfully use my Machinger’s gloves (available right here from Leah’s quilt shop) every time I quilt. I tie off my threads and consistently take time to bury them, which I do with every thread break. I have found that in order to effectively tie off the  knot and thread a needle to bury the tails, I must remove my gloves.

Burt's Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme is an incredible help to control those tails efficiently. When I hand quilt I use beeswax or other product to control my thread. It only takes a tiny bit and then before I put my gloves back on I use a bit more just so that it soaks in to my skin. After working for one of the large retail fabric stores I thought it interesting to learn that fabric absorbs the moisture from your skin just like a wick. So try out Burt’s Bees, and you will be amazed--you'll have experienced a super moisture treatment on those busy quilting hands!