Sunday, October 18, 2020

Fall Colors

Colors of all sorts are on my mind this week.  First, since the leaves in our back yard have begun to change color in earnest, Jack and I invited our favorite photographer over to take our pictures again.  Karen has lost so much business this year during the  pandemic because her main income is from wedding photography and large events have been banned all year.  So we decided to at least have her do our photos a couple of times which is, of course, a drop in the bucket but, we figured, better than nothing.  If all her friends chip in a little, maybe it will make enough of a difference to matter.  I am saving our favorite shots for a possible Christmas card, but here is a little sneak preview.   We sure have gotten shaggy this year!  One would never guess from the look of us that it was not all that long ago that Jack worked as a Chemical Engineer and I as an attorney, both for conservative employers.  I confess, I kind of like this throwback to my hippie days!

I finished my Quarantine Quilts for the grands and sent them off to be quilted, but I was in a hurry and made a series of errors.  One big error was that I submitted both identically sized quilts in the same order.  The quilts were returned today and I discovered that somehow I must have mixed up the order numbers, because I ended up with the wrong backing on the wrong quilt.   Since both quilt backs are cuddle material, and both colors are pretty neutral, that might not seem like a major life event, but I am a little sick about it -- Renée just re-did her bedroom in cream colors, so the cream backing was supposed to be on her quilt, but it ended up on Joseph's quilt instead.   Joseph's backing was supposed to be gray, but the gray backing ended up on Renée's quilt.  So frustrating.  Although the quilts are very, very similar, Renée's has just a little sparkle and a little bit of French language, since that is what she is studying, while Joseph's lacks the sparkle and has a bit of Spanish.  And each quilt has borders of their respective high school colors.  So I can't just switch the recipients.   I expect to get them both bound and wrapped this week.   That shouldn't take long because I intend to machine-sew the bindings instead of hand sewing them;  I want them sturdy enough to wash frequently since I hope they will be well used.  After that, I have until Christmas to convince myself that my error won't spoil the gifts because there is nothing I can do about it.  I hope the kids still like them, despite the less than idea color choices.  They are both well mannered and would not purposely hurt my feelings for the world, and I know that they will act pleased by the quilts, but I  hope that deep in their hearts they aren't wondering how I got it so wrong!


I also got another little star quilt finished.


I hung a few pictures on our walls this weekend.  Hanging things is a job that Jack claimed for himself and he has been reluctant to give it over to me, even though his last few attempts have been just a bit off because of his defective vision. As a result, most of our walls are still bare, well into our second year here.   I've held my tongue and have not changed the things he put up, but today he was busy raking leaves and told me to go ahead and hang the things I had set out.   I don't know whether he is aware that his attempts haven't been up to his usual standards or not, but I was glad to be able to do it myself without having to say why.

I have undoubtedly said this before, but Jack functions so well that I forget sometimes how much of his vision was affected.  He has never complained in the three years since his strokes, but he once mentioned that my face in the hospital room was the last thing he saw clearly before the strokes occurred.  I know that I would not handle such a loss with such grace.

The election is just over two weeks away.  I have voted and I am trying to stay out of the news cycle as much as I can.   We are not seeing people so there is no one to influence, we've put up our signs and offered ourselves as volunteers (an offer that has so far not been responded to), and there is really nothing else that I can do.   It will be a long, anxious couple of weeks, even so.

I discovered a blog this week that lists, under a tab labeled Gratitude,  things that the author is grateful for.  Not every day, not any specific number, just small things, which she calls 'serendipities."  I need reminding these days that, despite things out of my control that sometimes make me anxious, life is good, and so I am hoping that I will incorporate her idea in my posts from now on.  It helps, sometimes, to stop and remind myself how fortunate I am.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I completed the "quarantine" quilts when I did, in time to have them quilted before the Christmas rush at longarm shops, because my embroidery machine is back in the shop and I am not sure I would be able to get them done in time now. 

2. For the luxury of having more than enough to eat.

3. For our continued good health.

4. For cozy evenings next to my husband, with a glass of wine by the fire.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

And The Beat Goes On

Maybe it was the news of the expected baby, maybe it was the cooler weather, I don't know.  But something seems to have given me a little bit of 'oomph' this week, at least for a couple of days.   I made two little quilt tops, about 40" square, a size that I really should be able to quilt myself on my home machine.  But, contrary as usual, I decided that I Just Don't Want To, and I sent them out to be quilted instead.  I suddenly have a dozen ideas for quilt tops that I would like to get done this year. I loved making these small ones that were finished in a day or two.  I've started on my next one, the same design as the blue and green quilt because I have uncovered several charm packs that I've accumulated over the years with no clear purpose.  It will be finished tonight or tomorrow.   I am still working from fabrics in my stash, although I had to pick up border material for the ones I made this week because, although I have boxes of material, I don't have a lot of yardage.  We'll see how long this small burst of energy lasts, hopefully long enough to get a couple more done and whittle down that scrap pile!  I have suddenly relaxed into making things that are super simple, which takes the pressure off.   I have in mind a few others that are almost too easy to justify doing, but I think I will do them anyway.    If I don't care for them when they are finished, I don't have to keep them, after all.  There are lots of places where the warmth of the quilt is more important than my opinion of the design.  But I have to admit, I like these first ones.  Jack likes the star best and it is a very simple pattern so I'm happy to make more, but I need to find or purchase some background material first.

I told my husband that, according to the internet,  his new grandchild is about the size of a strawberry this week.  That charmed him and his daughter, so I sewed up a couple of masks for her with strawberry fabric and we put them in the mail.  I am glad to see him start to relax and have fun with the idea of a new baby coming into our life.


I've been told that my grandson has a girlfriend, and was warned Not to bring it up with him, which is not going to be a problem since I haven't talked to him in weeks.  Those exciting teen age years!    First loves, first heartbreaks, so many milestones.   I miss those kids so darn much.

My sister is still ill, but they have discharged her again from the hospital.   They ran a million tests and told her they were going to run a million more but then, with little notice, they sent her home instead.  She is still suffering from lots of very unpleasant symptoms, as well as pain.  No one seems to know how things will progress from here.   I understand that these terrible, drawn out effects from Covid-19 are relatively rare, but they are frightening when they happen, and even more frightening when they happen to someone you love.  I feel terrible for her.   She is glad to be home, and we are all hoping that the quiet and comfort of being in her own place will help her truly recover.

Monday, October 5, 2020


Once, more than 40 years ago, I became so upset over a college friend's plan to get her mutt-dog pregnant so that her children could "experience the miracle of birth," that I stood up, told her I didn't want to see her again, and left.   And I never did see her again, although she made a few overtures over the years.   I have no idea what became of her, and have not wondered much about her, but I have wondered more than once about me, and what  made me snap like that.   Certainly, I considered that her plan to purposely impregnate a dog with no plan for the pups, in a world over-run with unwanted pets, was irresponsible at best, and I have not changed my mind about that.  She was, I thought, a selfish, silly woman, but there are many of those, and I did not view it as my job to chastise the rest of them.  I can't say, exactly, that I am sorry about shutting her out of my life.  But I am still surprised at the memory of my snap, and that fascinates and confuses me on some level.

A similar thing happened this week.  A childhood friend, someone I was close with in elementary school but only in Facebook contact since then, is a Trump supporter.  She and her posts are one of the reasons that I took myself off Facebook, to avoid ugly confrontation.   This week she sent me a sappy "meme" saying that we could respect one another's different opinions and still "play in the same sandbox."   She added the question, will you still play in the sandbox with me?

I could, and probably should have just ignored her text.  Instead,  I snapped.

I responded that Trump had, several times, supported and refused to condemn white supremacist groups.  I could not understand how my friend, herself part of a large Jewish family, could overlook or support that.   And I told her that I would no more play in a sandbox with a Trump supporter than with someone who had given  support to the death marches.

I suspect that the isolation is making me a bit dramatic.   Once again, I can't exactly say that I am sorry,  and I have no regrets about losing her friendship, but I am again bemused to have had such a BIG reaction to such a little irritation.

Perhaps it does not surprise you that I have not held onto any relationships from childhood or college?  I will be 71 years old next month. It is a good time to consider who I want to become, where I want my focus to be, going forward.   I am not sure whether it is time for me to become more tolerant or to speak out more forcefully.   There is, after all, a time honored tradition, at least in children's literature, of cranky old people in every culture; perhaps I should use this year to embrace it.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

October Surprise

After so many months of predictable ordinariness, this week had little ordinary about it.  We were surprised by the ring of the doorbell last weekend, a very unlikely event in the time of Covid.  Unexpected visitors simply do not happen these days.  Outside the door stood Jack's younger son, Zack, and his wife, Katrina, telling us to come outside for a surprise.  We could see a masked woman getting out of the car but it didn't register with either of us who she was at first because she was the last person we expected to see -- Jack's youngest child and only daughter, Abi, was standing in our driveway with her boyfriend, Ben, all the way from their home in the District of Columbia, with no prior notice!  We were stunned.  They claimed that they were there to drop off Jack's gift from last Christmas, a wallet that Abi had back-ordered, and when he took the wallet out of the box he discovered (with a little prompting) that under the wallet was a sonogram!  They were actually in town to announce Abi's positive pregnancy test and to tell Jack that he was going to be a Grandfather.    

I'm afraid that social distancing went out the window during their tearful embrace and for the week that the visit continued.  Although we tried to be more careful and more distant than would have been normal in the past, and although we did try to visit outdoors as much as possible, we also shared some time inside our house as the temperatures got colder, and Jack, with my encouragement, also  spent time alone with Abi.  They drove to a local forest to go walking, went target shooting, and visited her favorite coffee shop and cafe.  I spent a lot of time cooking and sanitizing.  Although we grilled steaks and had all the fixings, my biggest culinary hit for this crowd was my homemade pretzel bites and smoked gouda dip.  

Now that Abi has returned home, while Jack continues to adjust to the news he had been craving for the past decade, we will quarantine again to be sure that Nothing Bad Happened.

My sister is in the hospital again; she has permanent lung damage from "Covid webbing," as well as shingles and some new stomach problems, all tied, she is told, to the virus.  She has been in the hospital for well over a week again this time, while they are trying to get her pain and the infections under control.  We do not take the threat of this virus lightly.  

I gave Abi a little rag quilt I made when she first told me she wanted to have a baby, and have already started trying to decide what baby items to start sewing.   Meanwhile, I finished the two "quarantine" quilt tops for my Grands and sent them out to be quilted.  When they are returned, I will need to label and bind them, but then I will be able to wrap and put aside my first two Christmas creations.  That will be a good feeling when it happens because they are my largest planned projects for the holiday.  This week I plan to monogram a few towels for my family and Jack's, more little Christmas tokens to pack away.  My daughter in New Orleans phoned me several times this week with ideas of things I could buy for her gifts this year, so I am well into planning mode.

Our circles of contact are growing.  My son, a university dean and mathematics professor, has been teaching two classes a week; many of the students opt to attend virtually, but some students choose to be instructed in person.  My granddaughter will be starting in-person classes this week, which also means that my daughter in law, who works for the same school system,  will start teaching in person.  My grandson's school plans to begin in-person instruction at the end of the month.  We are all waiting to see how their schedules work out since they will attend different hours at different schools.  I have offered to pitch in with chauffeur duty as I have every other school year, but with a bit more trepidation than usual because of the virus.  We will figure it all out and do it as safely as possible, probably with masks and open windows, but there's little doubt that it will be a more stressful than usual year.    I know it will be good for the kids to have 'real' school again -- they have missed being around their friends so much --  and I have to admit, I will be glad to see them under any circumstances at all!

Saturday, September 19, 2020


Our little trip to Ludington was very nice.  We found outdoor eateries for dinner, and ate the food we brought with us in our room for breakfast.  Ludington, which has had very low infection numbers, was fairly militant about the mask requirement.  Virtually every store and elevator had a sign advising that they would call the police if you refused to wear one.  So we felt comfortable there and were able to maintain a more than safe distance from the few people we saw.  The attitude was so different from our local scene, where the infection rates are much higher, but people (including store owners) are claiming that their "individual rights" are being trampled on by the governor's executive orders about masks.  Petitions are circulating to restrict her powers even though there is clear evidence that our state has fared better during this pandemic than states where no mask edicts were attempted.  In Ludington, the streets were mostly empty.  But we felt safe going into the shops that caught our eye; the business motto was "stay safe to stay open," which seemed both friendlier and more sensible to us.  

The weather was not especially warm, but lovely all the same.  We had some sun each day and it never got colder than the mid 60s in the day time, although there was sometimes a stiff breeze by the water.  For our outdoor dining, I was comfortable in a long sleeve shirt, sometimes adding a light fleece jacket.  

Since Ludington is on the west side of the state, we went to the beach each evening, hoping to watch a sunset.  Although the days seemed clear, and the sun began setting as usual, it would disappear before reaching the horizon, just below the position in the picture below.   We read in the news that the smoke from the western wildfires had reached Michigan, and we speculated that the sun was being covered by a smokey haze.  All we knew for sure was that it disappeared from view about an hour before sunset.


On the morning we left to return home there was a freeze warning, and when we ate lunch outdoors that day, we were both very cold even though the restaurant placed a propane heater next to our table.  For that meal, I wore two sweatshirts and a jacket and still felt uncomfortable, and even Jack, who rarely seems to feel the cold, was chilled.  Today, as I write this in the middle of the day, it is about 45 degrees outside.  We started a fire in our fireplace this morning and I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the onset of colder weather -- if it were not for the pandemic, this might be the year I would try to convince Jack to go south for a bit when the weather gets really cold.  This year it feels like there are fewer options.  I will cook a pot of chili this weekend to have with our fresh baked bread, trying to make the best of the best part of lower temperatures.  It is only September still, so I know we will have warmer weather again this year and I will have more time to adjust to the idea.  

I never felt completely relaxed on this trip and I blame the political news that kept creeping in for that.    I disabled my Facebook and Twitter accounts before we left,  and it has been a struggle not to go back in to check them.   There seems to be no avoiding the headlines, and of course the neighbors have political signs on their lawns and the balance of those is troubling.

Even so, it was good to get away, and good to return home.  We will self-isolate now for a couple of weeks to be sure we didn't pick up any illness on our adventure, but we are pretty confident that this was a safe trip.  

Our local quilt shop/Babylock dealer called this morning to say that my embroidery machine repairs are complete.  They offer curbside service so we will pick that up this afternoon.  And since I cleaned the house before we left and did our laundry the night we returned, I should have plenty of time to sew tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Getting Away

I disengaged my Facebook and Twitter accounts this week.   It was a surprisingly difficult decision and I am already missing social media a surprising amount.  Facebook, especially, is where I keep up with cousins and friends who I have not seen in person for years, and even my children post photos  and milestones there that I would not otherwise see.   But the political postings were making me crazy, especially seeing people I know post things that seem to me objectively false and yes, I'll say it, stupid, was taking the fun out of it.  I would have had no idea, absent Facebook, that so many people I know are Trump supporters who support things that are anathema to me; I will never look at them the same again, and it is hard for me to figure at this point whether that is good riddance or a sad loss.  And the final straw was when a random stranger, apparently a "Facebook friend" of an actual friend, told me I was a c--t and should shoot myself after I "liked" my friend's political content.  That is not the kind of social life, virtual or otherwise, that I am willing to accept into my life.  And so the withdrawal begins.

It is chilly again this week, going into the 30s and 40s at night and into the 60s or low 70s during the day.  We are already talking about adding another blanket to our bed, something my husband resists more strenuously than I do since I am always cold anyway.   Our house is surrounded by oak trees and the acorns are falling, the rat-a-tat-tat of them falling on our roof increasing every day.  And the deer are grazing up closer to the house again, perhaps drawn by the acorns.


Traditionally this time of year, with the children back in school and teachers back at work, signals a slowing down of travel and fewer crowds in tourist areas, so we decided to drive a couple hours west to Lake Michigan for a few days.   We have often stayed at the old Stearns Hotel in Ludington, simple accommodations in the first hotel built in the area in 1903, and recently found out that they have rooms equipped with a kitchenette,  (gas) fireplace and sitting area in case we need to keep entirely to ourselves.  I packed a bag of fruit and cheese and wine, and cereal bars for morning, to tide us over until we figure out whether we can find outdoor dining or whether we need to find a market for food.  Some people hate the hotel because it is old and a bit shabby, but it is clean and we love the high ceilings and plaster details.  


Although the weather is too cold to really enjoy the beach today, the lake has a calming effect on me, and I hope to drink it in with my eyes until it smooths out the wrinkles in my mind.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Labor Day Weekend


This week it feels as if summer is gone for good.  It has been cold and often rainy and I have used a quilt to cover myself every time I sat for any length of time.   It has been a strange week, too, as the construction company was finally able to complete our new roof, blocking us into the house and garage for hours at a time.  It was strange to me that I chaffed at being blocked in even though I didn't need to go anywhere;  I just like having the option, I guess.

The cooler weather seems to have given me a bit more energy, although my feet still hurt enough that I cannot walk or stand for any length of time without discomfort.   I roasted and pureed half a bushel of tomatoes to freeze, stripped a pile of corn on the cob to freeze for winter soups, made a delicious vegetable soup with all the leftovers, and did a variety of other neglected kitchen tasks.  I am still baking bread at least weekly and we cannot imagine ever going back to "store bought" at this point.

In the sewing room, I finally got to work on the two "quarantine" lap quilts I have wanted to make for my grandchildren as Christmas gifts and was making good progress until my embroidery machine threw the embroidery foot and lodged a needle somewhere deep down below the bobbin mechanism, freezing the machine and forcing me to stop.  Since the quilt shop/Babylock dealer is closed down for the holiday weekend and still has limited hours because of the pandemic, this will stop me cold for at least a couple of weeks.  Although I am not happy about this since it has taken me months to get motivated, there is plenty of other sewing work for me to do if I can just keep the momentum going.

I arranged some of Jack's furniture downstairs near the wood burning fireplace which I finally had inspected but we still haven't lit.  We have gas logs in the upstairs fireplace and they are so convenient that I am spoiled by the ability to just turn a knob and have a fire.  But I have fantasies of having our families here with fires going in both rooms so that people can spread out and visit.  I do not expect that will happen this winter because the virus numbers are still so volatile, but at least the fireplace rooms will be ready.

Which is not to say that the house itself is "ready."  This is a big house, much bigger than we need or even wanted. We bought it because it is in the city, near hospitals and shops, but still has a country feel because of all the  trees.   I could easily do without the entire lower level but since it's there, we really need to get it organized.  Oh, and the sewing room; we really need to get that organized, too, and I have no excuse for not doing it.  It could easily be another year before we are really 'moved in' in any truly meaningful way.  The pandemic has provided the opportunity, but not the motivation, so the work still waits to be done.

My sister was finally released from the rehab facility a day ago, even though she is far from well.  She still tests positive for the virus and has been warned that she is still at high risk for heart attack or stroke and advised to spend her time sitting except when the visiting nurse stops by to help her with mild physical therapy.  She is happy to be home, but since we cannot visit her, I am more anxious now that there is no one always there with her. She told me that she woke up last night, for instance, and did not know where she was, and fortunately did not cause herself any harm when she tried to get out of the bed on the wrong side, thinking she was in the hospital.   Her son lives nearby so she is not uncared for, but I do not like being so far away.

I have been slow to hang pictures or photos in this house because I was waiting for Jack's furniture and also to purchase the few pieces that we know we will want to replace.  But I finally went ahead and hung a number of family photos just because I miss them all and we are enjoying them even more than we might have in other years.  I smile every time I look at the sweet faces of my grandchildren, and seeing our children and siblings also warms my heart.   I think I will start hanging other things on the walls now that I realize how much more homey it makes things feel and how much it lifts our spirits.

Now that we have an outdoor grill and are cooking outside a bit, we set up an old wrought iron table and chairs so that we can eat outdoors when the weather is pleasant.  We bought a chiminea this week and enjoyed our first outdoor fire, using for fuel the many small branches that our trees provide with every storm.  

I am planning to brave going out for a haircut this week!     The salon I go to is careful about limiting the number of people they allow in at one time, and careful about wearing masks and keeping as much distance as possible, but I am still more nervous than I'd like.  I am not sure when my mountain-man spouse will choose to do the same.  By contrast, the Barber shops near us where Jack might go are less careful, so Jack is in no hurry.   Fine with me.

Best news of all, my son's family is planning to stop over for an hour this weekend to visit.  It will be a short visit by plan, and we will stay outside and use masks and distance, because they are back working "in the world" and they are afraid of accidentally bringing the virus to us, especially after our scare with my sister.  I am so eager to see them, this will be a definite high point and will sweeten summer's passing.