Tag Archives: family

I say “Yes!”

‘Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no.’
James 5:12b 

I have been on a hiatus because I gave a resounding ‘Yes!” to family, friends and work commitments during the past few weeks. I am living what I preach to my children. When you say “yes”, give your whole self to the person or project, holding nothing back. If you can’t, then you need to say ‘no’.

During the past weeks, I finished sewing and delivered the great t-shirt memory quilt (see notes below) to my niece for her graduation from high school.

I traveled back to North Dakota to be present for another niece’s graduation open house. Then… I survived the end of my school work year, a recall election in Wisconsin, moving our son to a new home, our granddaughter turning two, and many retirements and support for dear friends.

This past weekend I came to the end of my commitments. On Saturday night, I walked out of my sister’s home and saw this view from her front porch

I held my hands up to the sky and rejoiced. Then, I called to my family so they could share this awesome spectacle. Beautiful.

When life gets busy, I carve time in nature for comfort. A long walk. Sitting outside to soak up the sounds of wind, water and wildlife. Time to kneel down, give thanks and garden.

I am so thankful. I am so blessed.

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So, how did I make the T-Shirt Quilt?

  1. To make this full size quilt, you need between 35 to 45 t-shirts
  2. I went to the public library and checked out the book How To Make a Too Cool T-Shirt Quilt. I also visited the authors website. The book has a few template examples as well as providing directions for designing your own. I went with a ready-made template that was in the book. I took a picture of the template with my iPad and referred to it multiple times as I was making the quilt.
  3. I cut out my blocks (4- 16 1/2 by 16 1/2; 8- 16 1/2 by 12 1/2; 3- 16 1/2 by 8 1/2; 4- 12 1/2 by 16 1/2; 7- 12 1/2 by 12 1/2; 2- 8 1/2 by 8 1/2; 1- 8 1/2 by 12 1/2; 2- 8 1/2 by 4 1/2; and 7- 4 1/2 by 4 1/2)
  4. I arranged my blocks until I found a color combination that was pleasing, then I took a picture of my arrangement with my iPad so I wouldn’t forget my layout.
  5. I purchased French Fuse to back each t-shirt section to reduce stretching. I cut and ironed the fuse onto each block.
  6. I sewed the blocks together following a diagram from the How To Make a Too Cool T-Shirt Quilt book.
  7. I purchased a flat twin size sheet (red), cotton batting and basted my quilt top, batting and backing together.
  8. I machine quilted around each individual block. It was a little tricky. In addition to the basting, I pinned each section as I sewed.
  9. I made a binding from scrap material I had on hand and bound the edges.
  10. Then I whip stitched the binding to the back as I watched many old movies.

For more information on how I started this project, see my blog posts for the Great T-Shirt Memory Quilt Challenge Week OneWeek Two,  Week Three and Weeks Four and Five.  After week five, I took a break (for many, many months) and when I started it again, I didn’t blog about it until I this post. Happy sewing.

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I Call This Family Meeting to Order

Every Sunday, mom and dad held a family meeting. This meeting was called to order around our kitchen table following the family luncheon, but before dessert.

The meeting began when dad finished eating (whether we were ready or not). Dad, sitting at the head of our table, was the chairman. Mom sitting on the opposite end, with pen and calendar in hand, was our secretary.  We, my sister, two brothers and I, were the peons…I mean dutiful subjects.

Roll call was unnecessary because it was obvious we were all present. So, the first order of business was to review the happenings (aka committee reports) of our previous week. As a family of six, with one family car and a variety of extra curricular activities, the amount of organization required to move the car and its driver (mom) from point A to Z each week was monumental. This meeting was extremely important to all of us because if we didn’t pay attention, we might be forced to walk home, alone, in the dark, for miles, uphill.

The committee reports from the previous week usually centered around miscommunications such as, “Why wasn’t I picked up after basketball practice?” “How come I had to walk home carrying a trombone and sissy got a ride carrying nothing?” and the dreaded, “I walked home but the doors were all locked and I had to sit on the front steps waiting and starving!” Mom did not enjoy the previous week’s grievances because no matter how hard she tried, we really had too many activities for one car and driver.

At this point, Dad would quickly move on to new business, the upcoming week’s schedule. Dad started by going through his week, one day at a time, Monday through Sunday while mom filled up the calendar. Then my eldest brother, seated at my dad’s left, had his turn highlighting all his events for the week. This usually resulted in calendar adjustments and much negotiating about pick-up and drop-off times. Next, in order of seating, was my baby sister. Dad would look to her and say, “What do you have on Monday?” Being all of four, she would look to my mom and whisper, “What do I have on Monday?” Mom would say “You are free on Monday.” My sister would look to my dad and say, “Nothing.” You get the drift, this continued painfully for each day of the week.

This is about the time the family meeting started to become extremely frustrating for me… and being seated at dad’s right, I still had mom and my little brother’s schedule to listen to before it was my turn. Yep, every week I was last and this whole process was aggravating because we were not allowed to interrupt if it wasn’t our turn. So, even though I knew my Monday and Thursday were in direct conflict with someone else’s pick up times, I had to keep my mouth closed and wait.

To curb my growing unrest, I would tune out and become creative. I have never believed you have to eat everything on your plate, so my leftover food became my canvas for artistic expression and tension relief. I was especially proud of my mashed potato sculptures and you should have seen what I could do with peas. While this completely entertained me, Dad was not a fan. In fact, I began to draw his negative attention. “Sit still.” “Stop playing with your food.” “Put your hands in your lap!”

This is the point in the story where it could have become very ugly. But luckily, I was blessed with parents who believed that children should not only be seen, they should be heard. One family meeting dad bellered, “Why can’t you just sit still and wait your turn!” I put my utensils down, turned and said, “Dad, why don’t you change the meeting so we go around the table and talk about everybody’s Monday. Then, we talk about everybody’s Tuesday. That way I don’t have to sit here waiting for my turn when I know that I have a conflict with everything that mom is writing on that calendar.”

Dad looked at mom. Mom looked at dad. They had a way of communicating without talking that was wonderful and also slightly creepy. Mom finally nodded and Dad said, “You know, you would make a good lawyer.”

From that day forward, our family meetings changed. While it was still painful, it was no longer excruciating. And, being wise, wise parents, they made us clear the table before the meeting commenced so I was no longer tempted to use food as art. Kind of miss those days.

Lost and then Found

This past week, I have been grappling with memories and mementos. Last year during my one week spring break, I sat in an ICU with dad and helped him transition from life to death. This year during my spring break, I have gone through boxes containing the memories of his life because his house has sold and everything had to be moved out of the home by the end of the month. Wow. Life is ironic.

Tonight is the anniversary of his last speaking moments on earth. I know. I stayed through the night with him in the hospital. I told him it would be our very own slumber party. You see, one year ago today dad had been removed from all support and the doctors were unable to tell us how long he would linger. Because my siblings and I had spent the previous days in the hospital, we had to divvy up the remaining nights so dad would never be without one of us. This first night was my night and I felt so very protective of this wonderful man.

Some say there is a ‘God Spot’ in our brain. Actually, it is spots. Spots that light up during brain scans when people ponder religion. Recently, I heard of another study where a certain area in the brain, when stimulated, creates a phenomena similar to a ‘near death’ experience. These scientific studies are very different from what I have actually experienced. While science is trying to explain near death experiences, I have actually lived through two.

Before I share my dad’s story, I need to let you know that death has not been a frightening topic in my family. In the 1940s my grandma had a near death experience. She died on the hospital operating table but was revived. She told the family and later all of her grandchildren that we should not fear death. She vividly recalled being lifted out of her body, sitting up in the corner of the surgery room and looking down at her body and the doctors and nurses working on her. She felt warmth, comfort and saw a light but felt she needed to return to her body because she was a single parent and my mom needed her. So she did. Throughout her life, she embraced each day and did not fear the future or dying.

Eighteen years ago, I was at my mom’s bedside when she died. Her last words assured us that passing from this life to death was not scary. She held our hands, talked about loved ones that were no longer here and then said, “Beautiful, beautiful” and was gone.

Dad and I were alone when he had his experience. As the night unfolded, I held his hand and recorded his words (for my siblings) to do justice to his journey. It all started a little after midnight as we went through a series of episodes over a 3 1/2 hour time span.

Dad: “Take me to the river.”
Me: “What dad?”
Dad: “Jordan… I am crossing the river… Zion.”

A while later
Dad: “There’s so much to do. I want to go to sleep and wake up and everything will be okay.”
Me: “I love you dad. I want that too.”

Dad: “The light changed. Could you send it on?”
Me: Speechless and with a kiss and a hug for this wonderful man.

Dad: “She is waving to you.”
Me: “What?”
Dad: “She is waving to you. Tell her hello.”
I looked to the corner of the room where dad was pointing and stood up and waved and said “Hello! Hello!” I wondered if I was waving to mom. With tears in my eyes I asked “Is that mom?”

Dad didn’t reply but soon greeted his mother, father and his Uncle Edwin and then struggled to breathe and to find peace.

It was 3:35 in the morning when I texted my husband two words, “Please come.” I am married to the most wonderful man. He jumped out of bed and came to the hospital and sat next to me with tears in his eyes as we said goodbye to my dad. My husband would have stayed with me throughout that night but the doctors felt this first night would be unremarkable so I sent him home at midnight. Those four hours dad and I spent together alone were full of love, tears, a little laughter and great, great sadness.

I have realized this past week, that while I have lost dad I am finding him again through the items he stored away. These items convey the spirit of my father. His laughter. His energy. His ingenuity. His silliness. His love. It enfolds me.

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing”

Got Goals?

“Let us cultivate our garden.” 
― Voltaire, Candide

Dad used to schedule meetings with us. He thought important times in our lives required special recognition. He wrote these meetings in his calendar.

The summer after sixth grade, dad scheduled a meeting with me. These meetings were usually held at the kitchen table but occasionally at a restaurant or local ice cream parlor.

This particular meeting was at our kitchen table. I remember it with clarity.

Dad: “This fall you will be starting junior high and I want you to think about what you want to do with the next three years of your life. What are your interests? What do you want to accomplish? What classes do you want to take?”

Me: “Okay.”

Dad: “To help you do this, I want you to write down three goals on this piece of paper. Once you have written them down, I will put them in this envelope and seal them and keep them for you. In three years, I will give this envelope back to you. Then you will be reminded of this day and the goals you wrote and reflect on your junior high years. Did you accomplish your goals? Did you alter your goals? Did you achieve more? Less?”

Me: “Okay.”

Dad: “You see, it is important to go forward in life with purpose. Anyone can live from one day to the next with very little effort. To get somewhere in life you need to make plans, think about your talents, think about your dreams and then forge a pathway to that reality.

Me: “Uh huh.

Dad (pushing a piece of paper and pen across the table to me): “I will give you some time to think. Then I want you to write down three goals for your junior high years. Do you have any questions?

Me: “Ya…Daddy, what’s a goal?

Dad looked at me with his lopsided grin, realizing he had forgotten to factor in my age and inexperience. Then he continued our meeting with more explanations and much encouragement.

I learned a lot about goals that day. His goals. Mom’s goals. Work goals. Family goals. With fledgling confidence, I wrote down my goals and started a journey of being forever driven.

Three years after our meeting, true to his word, dad returned that envelope to me. Not surprisingly, I accomplished all three of my goals plus more.

Goals prepare us for the future. Goals provide us with direction and the freedom to reach beyond our wildest imagination. Goals help us believe in possibilities while distancing us from the voices of those who would be our detractors. Some goals are reached, some goals are altered and some goals are abandoned as we adapt to our ever-changing life.

This weekend, as my husband and I were traveling, we talked about our goals for the next ten years of life. Where do we want to be (both literally and figuratively) ten years from now? I am not sure yet, but I will be, once we finish writing down our new goals.

Picking Up the Tangled Threads

I have been dreaming about my dad. As I go through the boxes of his life, I experience new insight into this wonderful man. This past weekend I emptied stacks of cardboard boxes from his storage room. I organized the items and recycled the cardboard because I found a couple of bugs crawling within. I do not want them to take up residence in my home.

Sifting through the boxes has been one long, arduous treasure hunt. We found his Marine Corps dog tags, a beautiful print from a trip to China in 1979, a 1968 hotel receipt from Hamburg, Germany, a wooden book made in a one room school house on the prairies of North Dakota, and a letter he wrote to me. Each item has evoked emotion; from awe, to wonder, to exasperation (now why did he keep that) to tears (the silent drip down your face kind). It has been quite an undertaking.

Sometimes the emotion became too much for me. At those times I would walk away from the mess and take a break (trying not to think about escaping bugs).

During my breaks, I read, I napped and I worked on a sewing project to gift myself. I love to sew. My husband gets tired of pins and snipped threads mysteriously depositing themselves all over our house. Figuring it was time to solve the thread problem, I found a wonderful pattern to make a thread catcher.

Last night, after I finished sorting and sewing, it occurred to me I had been guided to work on this sewing project on this particular weekend. While picking up the tangled threads of dad’s life I was literally creating something to catch threads. How life expanding.

Today, I feel better and very thankful. Thankful that dad asked me to do something with all of his boxes.

Each life is a story. Dad’s story, woven with threads from family, work and faith, created a beautiful life tapestry. I look forward to sharing his story, tangles and all.

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Do you have some tangled threads in your life?

If so, may I suggest the Triangular Thread Catcher Tutorial (from Edna at Needling Things) for some free, easy, keep your hands and mind busy therapy.

I was able to complete my thread catcher in no time at all using fabric scraps I had on hand. I plan to make more of these delights for friends.