Friday, January 22, 2021

Tears of Relief

I am not a television person.   It is not that I am a screen snob -- I spend countless hours on my laptop, sometimes to the neglect of virtually everything.  But I can rarely be cajoled into watching TV, even programs I actually like.  This Wednesday, Inauguration Day, was an exception.  I sat in front of the screen all day long, missing moments only to shower and do other necessaries.   And all day long, I had tears of relief running down my cheeks.  The smallest details set me off -- the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, where for the first time I can remember, the person reciting the Pledge also signed ASL for the hearing impaired.  I realized that usually someone who is deaf must have to look up in the little box at the side and miss the actual action, but here they could watch what the rest of us were watching.   A small and so-sensitive touch that someone included in the ceremony and started my tears going like faucets. If this administration can think of that small detail, who knows what levels of inclusion might be possible?   And when I saw the assortment of bodies and races and ages and levels of talent, from very amateur to very professional,  in the Parade Across America, I lost it again.  I felt so proud of the courage and vulnerability and pure joy I was watching.   Seeing three former Presidents join together in welcome, knowing that a fourth would be there if his health had allowed, hearing the young poet, seeing the new President bouncing his baby grandson .. . it was just teardrop after teardrop all day long.   I know that the honeymoon won't last, in fact today already some people are back to being their jerky selves, but it was a day of pure  joy for me, and long overdue.  And honestly, listening to Dr. Fauci talk openly the next day about re-joining the World Health Organization and explain the science behind variants and modes of infection, without having to put a positive spin or baby-down his language, was so refreshing that I got misty all over again.  I look forward to sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, with a President who talks like a grown up and refrains from childish personal attacks.   As I told my son, I am a happy old lady.

Even my Inauguration Day cactus got into the act.  It seems to be thinking that it might be safe to bloom again.

Monday, January 18, 2021


This coming week will hopefully be the beginning of a new chapter here in the United States.  We are far from united at the moment, but this is a moment of hope as we listen to the sane and sensible words of the President Elect.  I am still hanging onto every news development, still shaking my head a lot, but hoping that the inauguration will go peacefully and that many people, some as yet unknown, will be brought to justice before all is said and done.  I am also hoping that the huge number of people who believed the president's and his supporters' lies will finally be willing to look at the truth of what has happened, at how they were betrayed.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Jack and I are back on the dominoes circuit.  Evan is such a lot of fun and, despite our worries about the pandemic, it is good to have this time with him.  We look forward to it every year.  Every week follows the same pattern, and has for years, almost as if the evening is scripted.  I cook a meal, and Evan is a graceful guest.  He will eat whatever I serve him, but some weeks he eats more than one helping and says over and over, "This is good.  This is good," so those menus go on our regular rotation. 

We play a simple game of straight dominoes, several sets a week.  At the end of the season, When Evan's parents return from Florida, we count the tally and declare a winner.  Every set of dominoes contains one blank tile, which adds 50 points to a hand if one is left with it at the end of the round, and a game set  is over once a player hits 100 points, so no one wants to be left holding that tile.   Jack and Evan call this tile "the stinker," and Evan greets it with delight every Sunday when we open the box.  He looks around for it and then, every week, exclaims, "There he is!  There is that stinker!", as if its existence had been in doubt.  He and Jack both do a high five and yell together, "There he is!"  The whole evening is peppered with stinker phrases: "No stinker this round, where could he be?  He's hiding, I know it, he's hiding!"  And they laugh and laugh and laugh. 

It has become a pattern for me to promise every Sunday that I plan to beat them both, and then one of them  will ask, "what did she say?", with the other answering, "I wasn't listening."   And they laugh.  It is simple and silly and miles away from thoughts of politics or illness or conflict.  We look forward to it.  And these days, of course, Evan is our only social life, so maybe it means just a little more.  His parents, in Florida, have been able to get the Covid vaccine.  We here in Michigan, which has gotten repeated shortages of serum, have not.  This is one of the things we are hoping will change after the shift in national leadership, the different deliveries to Republican and Democrat led states.  We would like to see all of the states treated equally, without the vendetta that the president called on our governor with predictable results.

We've had a little luck with our game camera this week, although the woods have been mostly still during the day.  It is time, past time perhaps, for me to try another model to see if we can get better photos, but it is still a thrill for us when an image is captured.   We've had shots of several deer but this is the first antlered buck we've captured, and we think we finally have evidence that the smaller animal I sometimes spot is a fox.

The photos are terrible, of course, but we are easily amused.

One of my (14 year old) granddaughter's drawings, a still life, was posted on her school's Instagram page, and that was a thrill for me to see.  I've seen very little of what the kids are doing this year, and I have missed being more a part of their lives, so every little glimpse is precious.

Not much else is new, of course.  We are playing the New York Times' Spelling Bee, sometimes texting back and forth with my DIL to check on one another's progress.  That has been fun and, just as with the  grands, every contact is precious.  I am working on a few projects and a couple quilt tops.  We are healthy.  These days, that seems more than enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021


We enjoyed our annual New Year's Eve chocolate fondue via Zoom this year, and it was more fun than I would have dared hope.  We just sat in our different houses and talked and snacked and laughed.  I am so glad we did it.    And although I wasn't there to take my usual million photos, I managed to catch a couple screen shots!  Just seeing their faces makes me so happy.

Jack and I expected to be in bed long before midnight but he set up the Apple homePod speakers I bought him for Christmas and told Siri to play Beatles music and moved on from there to every song and group that either of us could think of.  The next thing we knew, I was singing the night away.  I was stunned at how easily all the words from the songs of my youth came back.  It was midnight before we knew it and we ended the night by dancing in the living room to Neil Young's Harvest Moon.  A nice end to an awful year and a hopeful beginning to the next one.

The years ended and started with snow, twice during the holiday, and my snow plow service didn't come to plow us out.  We had several inches before we gave up and tried to clear it ourselves.  I left phone and text and email messages but no one ever got back to me, even as of today.  Fortunately I was able to hire a couple of young people on our "next door" internet app to come and do the work because Jack and I, working together, weren't making much progress.  But this week I will start the frustrating search for a new service -- not easy to do once you've waited for the snow season to begin because their routes fill up quickly.   And if I can't find anyone I will have to swallow my annoyance and call our old company and play nice.  They did promise me, after all, not a month ago when I called just to confirm, that I was on their list to be plowed out whenever it snowed more than 2 inches and we had way more than that . . . twice!  In fact our letter carrier left a note complaining that she couldn't safely come up our driveway.    I would be surprised to learn that they either didn't work during the holiday or dropped me off their list since all local businesses are crying about how much the pandemic has ruined their business.  One would think they would actually be eager to work when the opportunity arises, and many other companies were; we saw their trucks all week up and down our street.  I've known several people in this part of the world who made the bulk of their yearly income clearing snow so it's no small thing.  Anyway, the driveway is clear  now, the mail carrier is happy again,  and snow is not predicted again this week, so hopefully I'll get it all sorted out tomorrow . . . since I forgot to do it today.  It is hard for me to remember to worry about snow when it is not snowing.

Speaking of our mail carrier, she brought me an unexpected box yesterday, which said on the outside that it had been ordered and sent by Jack's daughter.  Inside was an ember coffee cup, which I just recently saw featured in an article on the internet.  It is temperature controlled through a phone app --- what WILL they think of next?!  It claims it will keep my coffee or tea hot for as long as needed, preventing those last swallows of cold coffee I have every morning.  The cups are ridiculously expensive and something I had thought about getting for Jack because he is the one who enjoys his coffee HOT, but I decided he would not really appreciate it - and I learned I was right when I tried to get him to try the cup with HIS morning coffee.  And it is for sure much too expensive for us to want his daughter, who is expecting a baby, to buy.  When I thanked her for it she said she is "catching up", so I have lots of mixed feelings.  Jack swears he didn't say anything about my hurt feelings, and I hope that is true.  And truly we don't want any of the kids to spend money they really can't afford on us, because we have or can get anything we need.    The ember reviews say that many people find it very worth having, so maybe we will, too. I had kind of expected that I would pass it on to Jack after a polite interval because temperature matters more to him than to me, he keeps a cover on his cup to try to keep the coffee hot, while I let mine sit until I remember it is there.   But it was kind of nice to be able to dawdle over my coffee this morning and to have it be as good when I finished it as when I first poured it.  Still and truly, I did not need a gift from his daughter  - the lack of a gift was never the problem - but of course it was very nice of her, and I will try not to think too deeply about it.   I am not good at letting slights, or perceived slights go, but I will work on it because of course I want our family gatherings to be frequent (when they are safe again) and comfortable for all of us, and I do care and want the best for his kids.

Election drama is coming to a head, and I hope it will finally peak -- maybe today, surely by the 20th -- and that the whole Trump era will finally get out of the collective American spotlight so that we can move on to the many problems we are facing these days.  Meanwhile we will try to carry on as we  have, staying as safe as we can and being grateful for what we have.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fingers Crossed for 2021

Except for a few teenagers who got their first drivers' licenses or first serious girl/boyfriends this year, no one I know has had anything good to say about 2020.  And while we all know that expecting things to change at the turn of a calendar page is superstition, pure and simple, the new year does seem a natural time to reflect and evaluate this arbitrary time frame we call 2020.

In my life things are as good as anyone in their right mind could hope, and have been all year.  Even so, looking back, it doesn't look good.  From my shoulder surgery in January, to my brother's broken back at the end of February, to the Covid quarantine that kept us from our families starting in March, to my sister's hospitalizations in August, September, October and December, and her ongoing side effects from Covid-19,  to the many relatives on Jack's side who have been diagnosed with the virus, things have been tough.   And frankly, since there is no bright line between 'then' and 'now', I consider myself an optimist by merely hoping that things will get no worse.  And so, as I have been telling those who ask, my resolution for 2021 is to do the best I can to stay alive. Nothing more.   If the people I love will do the same, it will be a very good year, indeed.  Anything else good that comes my way will be the cherry on the cake.

Happy New Year.  Stay safe out there.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Lovely and Sad

According to the calendar, it was Christmas this week and, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic that is getting worse instead of better, it was as good as good could be.   Which is to say, it was sad and filled with longing, but also filled with moments of joy, and those are the parts that I need to hold onto.  We are, after all, living through the first pandemic where we could see and talk to our families on Zoom instead of just communicating by letter every few months, and that was the saving grace of the day.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to be out of touch for weeks at a time.  I had a wonderful visit with my son, my daughter in law and my grands as we opened gifts and talked and laughed.  Gosh, I love them all so much.  It felt so good to be 'together,' even virtually, although of course it also highlighted how far apart we are.  I ache to hug them and I warned them that when things 'open up again,' they should just plan to do things with me 24 hours a day for the foreseeable future, because I  have a lot of catching up to do!  

We also did a Zoom meet with Jack's kids -- they had asked him to not open any gifts from them until the meeting, and of course we complied with that (as we had also done with my family).  It was interesting, especially in one respect  -- although Jack insisted that I help open them, there were no gifts for me, although of course I had been very much a part of choosing the gifts (and helping decide the budget) from us to them, including making a quilt for his daughter and embroidered towels for his DIL.   I am giving up on the idea that we will ever be close and am surprisingly at peace with it.    I did not like my mother's second husband at all and so, although lord knows I always included him in gift-giving and celebrations, I can understand where they are coming from.  Still, it was a little sad, and will take more effort for me to try to be loving to them going forward.

My grands seemed happy with their Quarantine quilts and said lots of nice things about them to me; my daughter in law (whom I think of as more than a daughter) told me they never questioned the color of the backing as far as she knew.  They are so grown up now.  I am sure they wondered but it clearly did not spoil things for them and I was grateful for that.  She also told me that my grandson texted a photo of his to his girlfriend, which I saw as the Gold Star of approval.

Other than the Zoom gatherings with my family and Jack's, the two of us had a quiet day home together.  I made an almond pastry and sausage for breakfast, and I stuffed a boneless chicken for dinner -- I bought a few chickens from our local poultry farm and bought one of their deboned chicks on a whim.   I will definitely buy them again, it really was pretty amazing to be able to just slice the roasted chicken and stuffing all at once into a neat little serving size!  I didn't have any kitchen twine so the stuffing was a bit messy one one end, but the next chicken will be tied up in a neat little package and I think it will make a nice presentation.  We spent so much time on Zoom that I never had time to set the table as nicely as I had planned, but that is not the sort of thing Jack would even have noticed, so there was no point stressing about it.

Now, even though it is a week away, my mind is obviously turning in the direction of the New Year because I am already thinking along the lines of resolutions, although I am doing things a little differently this year.  I signed up to do a Secret Santa project for 2011.   At some point I will be given the name of another sewer/crafter and I have committed to making one small gift every month for them, and then mailing them all at once, in time to be opened on Christmas morning.  Some stranger will do the same for me.  I am a little nervous about it because some of the women who were in the group last year made some pretty cool stuff, but I think it will be fun and hopefully will get me to try some new ideas.  There will be a theme every month involving nature, as well as a suggested skill.  The January theme is “winter walk” and the skill suggestion is trapunto, a puffy style of quilting.  I am already working on a trapunto star in glisten-y fabric that I plan to make into a small pillow (because a winter walk makes me think of the way snow sparkles in the sun), and I am hoping to make a pair of mittens to go with it.  I have never done trapunto and I have never made mittens, so I feel like I’m off to a good start (but I plan to cheat on the trapunto and use the embroidery machine to do it.  Not even January and I'm already cutting corners!).  I also signed up to be part of a group where we commit to finishing a dozen projects that we started and put aside — and of course I have MANY of those.  We will number our UFOs from one to twelve, and then every month the leader will draw a random number and that is the project we will complete, sharing photos at the end of the month.    I am hoping this idea will help me get more done next year than I did this year.  A long shot but worth a try.

I suspect that New Year's Eve will be bittersweet.  It is my tradition to spend that evening with my son and Jen and the grands for chocolate fondue and Jack has joined in for the last few years.  It is always a joyous celebration that generally involves food, fondue, Christmas crackers and games.  This year, of course, we will not be together and I am already feeling sad about it.  But, chocolate fondue or not, a new year will begin and we are certainly ready for that.  I hope to spend this week tying up a few loose ends from 2020, and then I will be happy to kick this most disappointing year to the curb.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Binding Time

We are still just staying home so nothing is really new to report, but I have made some small progress in the sewing room.  Although I was told not to expect them until next year, the Fed Ex guy brought me the six small quilts I sent out to be quilted a few months ago.   I have always put the binding on my quilts myself, and I was dreading it this time because hand stitching is barely possible for me these days and, even when I try, it is not pretty.  It always seems like such a shame to put so much effort and money into a quilt and then mess up the binding, which I have done repeatedly.  But the quilts are not much good to anyone with unfinished edges, so I decided to just get them done and over with machine binding.

Quilt number one went the way they always do.  Not well.  Although it doesn't look bad "from the back of a galloping horse," as they say, the machine top stitch is not only messy but, in some cases, had to be doubled.  I have set it aside for now, but this is a binding that I need to consider ripping out.  Although I am toying with the idea of just going over it with a contrasting decorative stitch instead, to obliterate the mess that I've already made.  Or just leaving it alone.

But then I found both a new product and a new tutorial, and now I have the first three machine edged quilts EVER that I am pretty happy with.

The product is called "chenille-it" and it creates a cute, fluffy edging that I love.  I simply sewed layers of the 5/8" flat binding onto both sides of the quilt edges (which we first serged to prevent fraying), tossed it in the washer and dryer and voila, a pretty cute result.

(WHAT was I thinking when I chose that blue backing for this orange and yellow quilt?!  I was looking for a bright pop of contrast and I sure got it!)  I like the old fashioned cozy look that this binding gives the quilts.  It comes in lots of colors and I will be experimenting with it more going forward.

I also found a tutorial on flange binding and am really happy with the result of this binding, too.  The prep work takes more time than a regular binding would, but my first effort wasn't half bad.  I like the look of it and plan to use it again.  It doesn't show so well in the photo because the navy edge blends in too much with the brown chair, but that little pop of color on the inner edge of the binding makes me happy.  Best of all, it hides the machine stitching pretty well.  

I wish I had discovered these techniques before I finished the Grands' Quarantine quilts because those, like every quilt before them, have sloppy edges.  But at least the quilts I make for next year's Christmas will hopefully show some progress.  :)

Aside from sewing, it's been a slow week.  Jack sent flowers again, they do add a bright spot in these more dreary days.  The florist has been trending to red and white this month, with touches of red berries, pine branches and pine cones, which I especially enjoy.   And I made the pancetta-broccoli quiche recipe that I got from my friend Barbara at Cat Patches -- we both loved it and it will be a welcome addition to our supper routine!  No danger of us starving any time soon.  :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Second Anniversary

Jack and I quietly celebrated our second wedding anniversary this week.  We took little note of the first and this year we had no choice but the celebrate without fanfare.  After missing the boat entirely last year we had promised each other, at a minimum, a nice dinner out, but those plans, like so many others, were changed by the pandemic.  At first I planned to cook but we decided that we would order a carryout meal for dinner instead.  That way I wouldn't have to fuss and we would be able to support a local business, even if a carry out meal is never quite as good as either a restaurant or home cooked meal.  But even that was not so easy because we discovered that our first and second choice restaurants are entirely closed.  So we settled on one of the only places open for take out, a local smokehouse.  Although I set place settings on the table, we ended up eating out of the provided containers because it seemed like moving the food to a plate was only going to make it less hot than it already was.  I wore the dress I was married in and we added a candle and a bottle of wine to dinner and called it  good.   A second anniversary, we learned from Mr. Google, calls for cotton or china gifts.  I created a piece of cotton fabric from scraps for a card and embroidered element 2 (Helium) from the periodic table onto a cotton shirt for my chemical engineer husband.    Jack gave me a china ornament for our tree.

I suppose like all marriages, ours seems both longer and shorter than two years.  I suppose it seems shorter because we have been nearly constant companions since 2012.  I guess it seems longer because we are well settled in, and because there have already been a fair number of changes.   In these two years, after over a year of my providing our only transportation,  Jack started driving again after being "grounded" after his strokes.  I sold my house and we bought another, but many of our plans for this house are still on hold; the huge flood that impacted much of our area and neighborhood has put workmen in short supply.  One of our wedding guests went onto hospice care, went back off again, and is doing well, against all odds.     One of the couples who attended our wedding is married now, and one guest, sadly, has been widowed..  Two of the children who were guests are now driving, and one was invited to join a national soccer team.  My grandchildren, who played cello and violin at our wedding, have gotten even more proficient but their orchestra has had to stop meeting because of the pandemic.  Jack's daughter got pregnant earlier this year, a quarantine baby, after he had all but given up on ever having a grandchild of his own.   We took a few mini trips to see family and a weekend at Lake Michigan, but no major traveling happened because of a variety of family illnesses and emergencies and now no plans can be made until  Covid-19 is under control.   I've damaged and repaired a variety of body parts, and several of our children have had a variety of upsets and changes, good and bad.  All in all, like all of life, these two years get a mixed review.  We are happy together, but being apart from our families has been hard.  There are, I'll admit, things from my 'single' life that I sometimes miss.  But I am not unhappy where I am, either, and I can't imagine being with anyone else.