Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It is officially the first full day of summer, which means changing my blog layout to reflect the season. I know many bloggers never touch their layout, considering it their brand. What I have tried to do is keep my photo and font the same, even when I have changed colors and styles.

Well, today’s photo is a little bit different, although it won’t change again. The picture before was a stock photo of books on a windowsill. I decided if it is going to be my brand, I had better use my own books on my own windowsill. And that is what I have done.

So this is my summer theme for now, a hot blue and yellow sky. It is very hot here at the Shore this week, which is good for the merchants and the tourists and bad for most people with MS. Heat affects nerve conductivity and our limbs turn into floppy noodles . My brain turns into noodles too when I am hot, I have trouble thinking straight and have zero strength or energy. I used to spend hours on the beach every day when my kids were little. Here the beach is a way of life. Not any more for me though. Sitting on the boardwalk for a little while after the sun has gone down is more my speed now.

I would have stayed sequestered in my air conditioned room today except I had a futile follow up with Dr. Wonderful about my continuous shoulder pain and virtually useless right arm. At least he attempts to offer me ideas and solutions. And empathy. The three pain management physicians I have seen have treated me like a hot potato.

He didn’t disappoint me. He spent a long time evaluating my range of motion and talking to me about maintaining the strength in my arm and what his theories are on why I still have so much pain. He asked what I am doing to manage the pain. I told him since I am pretty well out of medicine, mostly breathing and relaxation exercises. “Well, keep that up” he said with a straight face. I guess the days of wine and narcotics are over. :( Such a great guy, though. A truly good person and generous doctor. I’m not quite discharged as hopeless yet, but close. I’ll go back in six months.

Ah well. There were worse ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon. It was good for me to get dressed and made up instead of sitting here in a tattered Manhattan College t-shirt , crap pants and fork-in-the-toaster hair. Not working has caused my personal standards to, um, slip a little. To none. I had no idea how simple no standards were until I descended, but it is very freeing.

I really need to pull myself together, but for now I will relax and cut myself a break.

Happy first day of Summer everyone!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

All Done

Finished the first quilt I've made in almost 20 years. Working full time, I never had the time to sew the way I liked. It has been so gratifying to get back to a hobby I loved.

I think it came out very pretty:

Onto the next project. I have a massive co-pay for my new electric wheelchair and my roof is leaking in a way no one can either discover or fix. So to raise money for both these financial black holes, I am offering custom quilts through my Etsy shop,http://stitchesthroughtime.etsy.com

Fun stuff!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting There

Almost done!

Finished the top.

Basted together the top, the batting and the back.

I had changed a few things. I decided on another flannel I had with yellow and blue dots, very simple, for the back. And I decided to tie/knot quilt it instead of machine quilting.

I like the backing better, but I’m not thrilled with the knot quilting. For one thing, I should have had the tie ends come out on the plainer backing instead of the busy front. But that didn’t occur to me until I had done about 20, so forget it, no way was I changing it.

I had planned on binding it with a white ruffle. But then I decided to do this old and easy fold-over of the backing. I felt the ruffle was just too frou frou.

The first side went well.

Then when I went to do the next side, demons possessed my sewing machine. I'll spare you the horrible pictures. You'll have nightmares for weeks.

This occurs at least once with every project I work on, because, as I have said before, my machine is a POS. I believe the working title for this model was The Mangle, because that is what it does to my work. I will be sewing along, happy as a little clam, when all of a sudden the needle starts jumping, the bobbin jams and the motor freezes, leaving a mess of screwy stitches, mad lumps of thread and crooked seams.

I ended up ripping out the stitches more than five times the entire length of the second side. Replaced the bobbin. Oiled the thingies that are supposed to be oiled. Talked nice to it.

All to no avail. It actually began to cause the flannel to disintegrate from the constant sewing and ripping.

So I have decided to take a break. I’ll give it a chance to pull itself together and see if it decided to behave in a little while.

I also have started a larger, throw patchwork quilt that is coming out pretty.

I was going to ask for a new machine for my birthday but I don’t know if I can hold out until September without taking drastic revenge on The Mangle.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Max 1, Bruce 1

A few weeks ago a friend told me he had learned Bruce was going to be making a surprise guest appearance at Max Weinberg’s Big Band concert on June 11 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.

If you told me Bruce was going to be somewhere buying a newspaper I would show up, never mind a “secret” performance. So I sprang for tickets and we made plans for a big evening.

My first companion had to cancel. My second companion had to cancel. At 8:30 the night before, I invited a third person (I know, I am sounding more and more popular), dangling the prospect of Bruce like a carrot. Max was incidental. They agreed, although it meant a tiresome trip to Red Bank from NYC. Such a good sport!

When we got to Count Basie, all I could consider was when would Bruce show up, how would he be introduced, what would he play. I am thinking that is what other people had on their minds too, as they were quite possibly the rudest non-audience I ever encountered. At least we were sitting in our seats. By far 30% of the attendees stood in the lobby throughout the evening, making enough noise to drown out jets landing at Newark Airport.

In articles I read before the concert, Max indicated his swing band was something he had wanted to experiment with for a long time, a concept I think is incredibly cool for a person who could easily rest on his laurels for the remainder of his life.

Nicely fortified with pre-concert drinks, here we were, hundreds of people in the lobby ignoring the fact they were in a theatre and the rest of us waiting for Bruce. And then a funny thing happened.

The band started to play. And proceeded to Knock. Our. Socks. Off.

I was expecting pleasant little renditions of Big Band era chestnuts. Which would have been fine until Bruce showed up and the real fun began. But the true surprise was the outstanding musicianship of each of the 11 band members and the wild, noir sound they created as they played numbers not from the forties, but from the 50’s and 60’s, a period I never had much appreciation for. Until last night.

With each song, the spectre of Bruce retreated. After about a half an hour, I wondered how on earth they would fit him into the show. After 45 minutes, I thought bringing out Bruce would alter the entire dynamic of the amazing music the band was playing, not for the better. Max was stiff as an MC, but dazzling as a 59 year old drummer, playing homage to his heroes, among them, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra and, naturally, Count Basie. The rest of the band, each of them singled out during the evening at different times, was spectacular. By the final numbers I was approaching: “Bruce who?”.

(I forgot my camera, so I present one of my famous, sought after, Life Drawings of the scene.)

A surprise guest was Charles Giordano from the E Street band and they covered “Kitty’s Back” in the same vibrant, enthusiastic jazz style they had packed the rest of the evening with.

To his credit, Bruce never did appear. Wise decision. The audience was on their feet for these extraordinary performers and them alone.

Those inconsiderate losers in the lobby? They’ll never know what they missed.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Started

Because I felt ambitious last night instead of my usual knackered to within an inch of my life, I actually gave the quilt a start.

First squares traced:

And first squares cut (thank goodness for rotary cutters!):

Then it was give it a rest, because if I keep working when I'm tired the mistakes accumulate faster than a powerful locomotive.

So it was back to it this morning when I was well rested less tired than last night.

Finished tracing and cutting the squares:

Laid an old cover on the kitchen floor and blocked out the quilt:

I decide I like it!

I roll it up as-is into the cover and will unwrap each row at a time:

Time to sew. This is where the magic happens:

Now by 'magic' I am referring to several things. None of them involve any skill on my part.

* It is magic that I can even find the machine on my desk, it is so messy.
* It is magic whenever I can wind and install the bobbin, which suddenly and mysteriously clogs and ceases to work without rhyme or reason, in less than 30 minutes and without saying the F word a thousand times.
* It is magic when it sews anything properly as my machine is a POS. And I don't mean Point of Service.

So I moved on to pinning the first pieces together:

Had my most important tool handy:

And began to sew:

The first three squares are done:

And finally, ta da, I have my first strip complete!

One row down, eight to go. And then the batting. And the backing. And the trim...

I need to go lie down for a while just thinking about it.

Wasn't that fun?!?

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Project

I had to stop at Joann Fabrics this afternoon (isn't it hard to believe that there is basically only one fabric chain in our area?!?). They didn't have what I needed, but there was some fabric there that was just begging to become a baby quilt.

So I figured, better fabric than a kitten, and home it came.

The five fabrics are a soft, squishy white, three cottons with a good night, wish upon a star theme and a soft yellow striped flannel that I will use for the backing as well as patches. I will trim it with a white ruffle. I've blocked out a Trip Around the World Pattern on paper and the fabric is in the washer for it's first bath.

Can't wait to see how it turns out! I'll keep you updated as I put it together. Unless it looks like crap, then we will just pretend the whole subject never even came up. lol

One bad thing about being out of work: having very little money.

One good thing about being out of work: having time to do the things I love, like quilting.

Thank you, Aunt Joan, for teaching me how to quilt all those years ago. I still hear your voice every time I fit together a corner. :) I treasure those memories.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

A True Life Coach

I am not what you would call a huge sports fanatic.

My idea of a thrilling competitive event is The Booker Prize award. Or perhaps a spelling bee. Ok, I do enjoy a good Yankee game once in awhile, but that is a family tradition. There was always a Yankee game droning in the background in the home I grew up in. Even in December. I swear.

I have seen, in my whole life, maybe 3 entire basketball games. Not attended, have seen. When my kids were playing/cheerleading, I brought a book to the games and sat reading. Hey, I was a devoted mother in every other way. And ironically, it is one of the few things they do not point out as one of my myriad failures as a parent (that’s their favorite sport.) Even they realize attention to a sporting event was too much to ask.

But I still knew who Coach John Wooden was. And how I discovered him was completely by accident: I caught him on a PBS special (naturally, lol) and I was mesmerized. Coach Wooden passed away this Friday just a few months shy of the age of 100.

His PBS tapes were riveting. He was so soft-spoken, you really had to stop to hear him. He was matter of fact and had no airs, but you wanted to listen. And you wanted more when he stopped talking. He reminded me very much of my grandfather, who I adored. But my grandfather’s love and goodness and wry wisdom were only known to a few of us. John Wooden had an impact of tens of thousands. His simple philosophies were sometimes corny plays on words, but they had a commonsense meaning when you considered it.

As someone who is fascinated by our family histories, by how we develop into who we are through the people who influence us, I was as interested in John Wooden’s parents as I was in him. Even though he had a personal gift of peace and humility, his parents, especially his father, had a tremendous impact on who and what he became.

His parents were not wealthy people and they lost their Indiana farm when Wooden was a teenager. Even worse, while they had four sons, they lost two baby girls to things that were so commonly fatal a century ago. These events would be enough to make anyone bitter. But the Woodens apparently were able to transcend their tragedies with an enviable faith and personal strength. Enough so that their legacy, especially the elder Wooden’s, lives on over 100 years later.

These are the things that Joshua Wooden, born in 1882, impressed upon his son, so much so that John Wooden always had them with him on a piece of paper for his whole life:

• Be true to yourself.
• Make each day your masterpiece.
• Help others.
• Drink deeply from good books.
• Make friendship a fine art.
• Build a shelter against a rainy day.
• Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Some of Wooden’s own maxims:

The greatest gift you can give your children is to love their mother.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Ability is a poor man’s wealth.

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

John Wooden’s Web Page: http://www.coachwooden.com

The web page also outlines the Coach’s Pyramid of Success, more plain but thought-provoking, character developing building blocks. The Coach always said building character was the most important thing, before basketball.

Because it is not an innate skill for me, I so admire people like John Wooden who can adhere to simple gifts with apparent serenity and composure. I always have good intentions, but they usually go straight out the window as soon as I am stressed. And noble ideas for mindful composure stick to me as well as a Post It note that has a layer of lint on its adhesive.

But that is the journey, isn’t it? We can’t all be born fully formed John Woodens. I have struggled for 55 years to get to where I am today, and I cannot consider that time wasted. I am reminded again that every day is a new opportunity for a masterpiece. If I don’t get there, I can try again tomorrow. At the very least I can focus on my Note To Self, which is always on my blog: Life is Good. Love it. Be Grateful.

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