Friday, November 25, 2016

My most expensive quilt yet

Still fretting over the fact that I couldn't do a craft fair this year, I'm trying to get my quilting mo-jo back. I have a few very wintery items that look so cute in person, but not that great in photos. Of course I could retake the photos, repost on Etsy and stop my complaining, but where's the fun in that? 

I was so hoping for the up close and personal that only a craft fair can give. The big ones scare me, and are very expensive. The sellers, or rather vendors, are pros at what they do, they have equipment that goes up in a flash and they have lots of stuff to sell. I just want a semi-folksy one, where people walking around with a burning desire to purchase an upcycled rag quilt stop and stare, their mouth wide open in surprise and say, "I. Want. That." Let it go, Jessica, let it go, no craft fair for you this year. They moved the date, you can't do it, move forward.

Two quilts I had cut out but had not yet sewn together awaited my attention. It's definitely easier sewing them up on a completely different day than I cut them out on. Less disruption, less mess, more table space for that thing...what's it called...starts with a D...Yes, dining, there's more room for dining without finding quilt fuzz in the lentils when I stay organized, do things in a measured way and take my time. 

Voila, I introduce Bah-bah-rah the Sheep Quilt and Annie the Raggedy Little ABC Quilt! They are both snug as a bug in my supply closet in the guest room. The Etsy descriptions says about Bah-bah-rah:

Bah-bah-ra (and please don't call her Barbie, she hates that) is ready for some all-season, sleep-inducing, counting-sheep-until-you-snore snuggle time! This blue and white sheep-themed rag quilt is just the thing to add a bit of extra warmth to your bed, a touch of whimsy to your sitting chair and some wooly wonder to your couch.

Measuring 4 feet square, Bah-bah-ra likes to call herself a quilt, because "throw" doesn't always end well with lambs. She's petite yet sturdy, warm but not too warm, and is ready for years of spills and thrills, washings and dryings, and will continue to get softer and softer, as all good sheep do.

This one-of-a-kind rag quilt is made entirely from upcycled materials. Flannel, denim, cotton, prints, checks, florals - this has it all yet still is easy on the eyes and the touch. She's sandwiched with cotton flannel to increase the sheepy feel, and will continue to get more wooly with use. She's been snipped but not sheared, washed in perfume-free detergent, dried and groomed in my wolf free home. I'm not sheepish to say, she's so ready to join your flock!

The listing description leaves out the whole part about this little lamb of a quilt depositing a large wad of quilt fuzz in our washer's drain pipe, causing a small flood in the garage, taking up untold hours of my husband's weeklong vacation from teaching, the various contraptions he's purchased to help unclog this mother of all clogs, and the endless quarters I fed into the washing machines at the laundromat down the way to get us some clean clothes. We still have a clog and, admitting defeat and moving foreward, we have an appointment with a plumber. If I add up materials + labor + shipping & handling + plumber, I may have a new price range for lovely Bah-bah-rah. Probably the same cost as the entry fee in a really great craft fair. I coulda been a vendor!

Shhhh, the sheep are sleeping.

They like to sleep all curled up.

Counting squares has been discovered to be much more advantageous than counting sheep.

Annie is a little, um, well, she's a bit puffy.

She tries to work out, but she just can't lose that extra bit of fluff.

But she didn't clog the plumbing, she's pinning all that on Bah-bah-rah.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What to do when someone dies

This was supposed to be one of the last photos I took with my Mom. She was in a nursing home, I was flying back the next day to California, and I didn't think I would see her again. So what did we do? We took silly pictures of our genetic similarity, the ability to bend our fingers upward into ski jump shapes. My Mom's fingers at 93 years old were not gnarled with arthritis or pain, she even still had remnants of her last manicure. I got her ski jump fingers, but I didn't get her pretty nails.

We also talked while I caught audio of it. We sang the Wallpaper song together. I told her she was the Best Mom Ever. I cried a bit, but I don't think she could tell. I haven't been able to listen to that yet, but someday I will. Then I kissed her goodbye and told her I would see her next time we were together.

More weird hand photos.

This in fact is the last photo I took with my Mom. It's after I flew out again after my Mom went into hospice. It's pretty obvious I didn't think it would be the last photo, because I look really goofy. This was a Thursday, I hadn't slept since Tuesday night. Little did I know I wouldn't fall asleep again until Saturday morning, after my sweet Mom died. There was still a long, long haul ahead of us here, I didn't have a clue what was in store.

I used to think I knew what to do for people when there's a looming death in the family, or when a death has occurred. But I've learned a lot from being on the receiving end. None of the following suggestions were because of anything people did not do for us, rather, because of the outpouring of love towards my Mom and my family, I've been inspired to brainstorm ideas. Ideas to tuck away for the future when someone needs more from me than the words, "I'm so sorry, what can I do?"

First and foremost, show up.
You cannot mess that up.
Just visit, or call, or text, or email.
Communicate in any way. Silent hugs work too.

Flowers are nice.
But so are gift baskets, food baskets, plants, and cards.
Each and every card means so much. 

On the subject of food. In the depths of either a long hospital stay or a hospice experience, food becomes a wonderfully practical way to show love and care. "Shovel ready" foods are especially great, something that goes down fast and easy and is a few button pushes on the microwave from being ready to eat. Two of the favorites of my family were some homemade pot stickers and lasagna. I appreciated the big salads, because who can even think of making a salad during a time like that? Not me, but I needed some good healthy food that didn't take one bit of brain power.

Others brought over some breakfast things. Arriving with a favorite coffee drink would be terrific too. Think easy to eat, throw away containers, clearly marked cookware, freezable, comfort food, nothing involving knives or cooking or calculations of any kind. My family also received some wonderful fruit baskets, and from California our friend Marilyn sent a huge tray of dried fruits and nuts, we attacked that like starving squirrels. 

Many of my family's friends visited up until almost the end. It could not have been easy for them to see my Mom deteriorating so quickly. We often use the reasoning that we would rather just remember people in their better days, and sometimes that's what the person or the family wants. But those visits, those dear friends standing in my Mom's room turned into a hospice room, looking serious and devastated, made me feel comforted. It was so sad, but they were not afraid to show up and be there with us. 

A friend offered to put together a beautiful program for my Mom's service. My sister-in-law Chris went through a lifetime of photos to find some for the program, and then created three lovely photo boards for the dinner after the service. Another friend dug through their photo albums and found a picture of my Mom at her baptism, we had never even seen it. We put it in her program. A funeral is such work, when you're at your lowest, so getting a perfect photo from a friend is a wonderful gift.

A pretty orchid from our friend Joan.
In the back, a plant sent from Doug and Colette.

One of the photo boards my sister-in-law Chris made.

When my husband and I got home, we arrived to food left by our dog sitter, fresh flowers from friends, cards, lunch dates, invites to a cabin trip, hugs and tears and lots of love. 

It was a month today since my Mom died. My brain fog is finally going away. My husband has a theory that when someone we love dies, someone we have loved all our life, our brain undergoes a physical transformation. All our synapses related to that person start getting rewired, and it's not pleasant. I can't say my brain actually hurt, but it came close. I felt fuzzy headed for weeks. This is above and beyond the grief, this was a mental journey I had no choice but to make. I'm not a daughter anymore, I don't have a Mom. Rough stuff, even when you know it's coming. But every time I needed a bit of encouragement, there it was in the form of a card, or a call or a hug. Thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Go Cubs Go!

This goes deep.
My Grandma, Mom, Aunt, Dad and Nephew.

My Mom and her fellow Cubs' fans, in the 1920's.
This goes very deep.

I remember exactly where I was when the Cubs lost the chance for the 1984 pennant. I was pumping gas at the NW corner of Eastern Avenue and Arden Way in Sacramento. Yes, this goes incredibly deep.

With both parents from Chicago and bigger brothers in Little League, I was pretty much born to be a Cubs fan. Born to be disappointed, year after year after year. But it didn't matter, I would never switch loyalties. When the Padres are happy, my husband is happy and that's fine. And sure, I'm glad when the Giants are doing well, but if we catch a game in SF and the Giants are playing the Cubs. Fogetaboutit. It's blue and red all the way.

How did I survive this run-up to the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series? The first part was a blur. My Mom was very sick, then she was dying, then I was on a plane flying back East, then she died and when I came to the Cubs were serious contenders. They beat the Giants and they beat the Dodgers. Wow, this was happening!

I found out that I'm not cut out for winning. Because winning in baseball takes losing some games, being behind some innings, making some errors, and the horror of all horrors, the other team scoring.

My typical routine through this was: miss the first few innings until my husband came home from work and have him tell me gently what that score was. Then and only then could I even look at the TV, but more likely I was too stressed out to actually watch. I could barely listen on the radio. I got lots of housework done, even ironing some shirts.

Wednesday night, if you had a video of me in our house, you might have been tempted to call the men in the white suits. I was ironing, I was dusting, I was doing the dishes, I was taking not one bath but two baths, thinking the lavender scent would soothe me. I was pacing. I was inside, I was outside. I could not sit still. Watch the game? Ha!

When the Indians tied it 6-6, I was a goner. I was on the porch in my pajamas, I was rocking madly on the futon, I was in bed in a fetal position, I was on the floor in the TV room, curled up in a ball plugging my ears yelling at my husband to tell me what was happening. I couldn't take it, so I finally went to bed for good.

Then I heard clapping, lots of clapping coming from the TV room. Hope? Would life go on? More clapping, but I still stayed in bed. I came out to peek, but couldn't take the pressure. So there I was, in bed when the Cubs got the Indians out in extra innings to win. I ran out in a blur, jumped up and down screaming, opened up the front door and screamed some more, drank champagne, screaming the whole time.

The Cubs won the World Series in 2016, three and a half weeks after my Mom died. It was not bittersweet in the least. It was very, very sweet.

"As long as these are bear cubs and not big cat cubs,
I'm willing to be humiliated."