Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015 . . .

Wrapping up the year can be anxiety producing. We hope to accomplish so many things in a new year, but sometimes life gets in the way of our plans. I guess it is good that one year has only 365 days! 2016 will be a leap year, so the year will have one extra day on February 29th! Each new year offers us a new start. So, it is out with the old and in with the new!

An altered jar holds our little notes of thankfulness. During the past year, we each jotted down things that we were grateful for and placed them in the "thankful" jar, as they occurred. We will open that jar tonight and reminisce. Tomorrow we will restart the process.

We will open our other altered jar of resolutions tomorrow. In the meanwhile, I am taking time today to assess what I have accomplished in the past year. I will make some plans and set some goals. I will write them down on little pieces of paper, just like I did last year, and place them in our jar. My husband and I enjoy this new tradition.

I posted photos of these jars, here on my blog, last year. If you would like one, please let me know. I will be happy to make one or both for you. They are a nice way to remind us of what is important. Here they are again:

I had surgery this year in September, and by the time I was well enough to work in my studio, it was almost Christmas! I managed to make a few cards for special orders. I will have a lot more ready for next year, as I am planning to ramp up my card making. Here are a few that I made this year:

There are just a few hours left in 2015. It has been a year of learning and coping for my husband and me as we spent the entire year focused on my health. I have been given the green light by my surgeon to resume a normal life. I am ready. I could never have gone through the surgeries and recovery without the loving care that my husband bestowed on me. He dedicated himself to taking care of me, the house and our real estate business. He needs a rest and I hope this year will bring him the rewards he deserves for his selflessness.

With all best wishes for the new year, and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Focus on friends . . .

It feels nice to be remembered. You know  . . . the feeling you get when you receive a card or phone call out of the blue. . . or, these days, an email or text message, from a friend who just wanted to say, "I'm thinking about you". Perhaps it has been a while since you were remembered this way. If so, you are not alone. People are not reaching out directly to others as much as in the past, due in part to the phenomenon of social media. Most days, the best you can hope for is to be tagged so a friend's post catches your eye when you check your Facebook account!

I was thinking about this while I was in my studio making Christmas cards. I used to send greetings out in the mail a lot, and for all occasions . . .  or no occasion at all. But the ease of grabbing my tablet or phone changed that. I can make a quick post telling the world about the oh-so-interesting thing I just did, ate, or saw. I can tag friends so they feel included. But is that the way I should be reaching out? I think l have been duped by technology to believe I am in touch with my friends by tagging them in my posts!

There are times during the day or evening that someone pops into my head and I think about them for a minute and maybe say a little prayer for them. I might think of how nice it would be to see them for coffee or something, but the thought leaves me and I get absorbed into whatever I am doing; and at that moment, I don't even contact them electronically.

I have decided it is time to act when thoughts of others come to mind. Today I put a little stack of cards on my studio work table. The pens are there already, so I can sit down anytime of the day or night and write a note. I will buy some stamps today and keep them right there with the cards. This will be my new habit. I am getting better at following through on establishing new habits, so this should be relatively easy. I mean . . . how long can it take to walk into my studio, take pen in hand, and write a thoughtful note? Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? What a nice way to take a break! It should also release me from the guilt I feel when I look at my TO DO list and see friends names penciled in along the margins. My friends deserve more than a faded penciled in note along the margins of my TO DO lists.

I mentioned I have been making Christmas cards. They will appear in a post after Christmas. I know that some of my blog readers will be receiving them from people who placed orders with me and I don't want to show them here before they receive them. :-) I do have a couple photos to share with you, though.

It isn't really a Christmas card, but I like it and will make more for Christmas!
This was sent to a friend who thought of me while I have been recovering from surgery and sent me a special gift.

My annual winter scarf project is going a little slow!
Between drowsiness and watching Christmas movies on ION and the Hallmark Channel,
I cant count my stitches unless I stare at my needles. This might be done by the time we actually have  snow this winter!
Christmas Eve is just one week away. I love all the excitement of the season with special shopping, making gifts, sending cards, listening to beloved carols and watching heart-touching movies. But more than all of that, I love the Season of Advent and what it promises: Christmas Day and the birth of our Savior. I am hoping I will keep up more with friends in the coming year and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand. 


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A fresh perspective . . .

It is finally cold enough to get all the winter clothes unpacked and into the closet. Even though I tried to be ruthless when I sorted, donated, tossed and packed them last spring, I have discovered some weary-looking garments in my winter wardrobe. I shudder as I think that I actually went out the door last winter wearing them....thinking I looked good!

Wait....I didn't go anywhere last winter, except to the hospital and doctor's office! At the time, I  must have thought it would be okay to wear such tired out clothes. It matched how I felt, and I really didn't look good anyway! Illness and surgery have a way of taking away the idea of dress to impress. Instead, last winter, I dressed to survive. I felt marginal and the weather was brutal. I wore layers and layers of clothes. Polar fleece was my best friend. Elastic waists and sweatshirts and sweatpants one or two sizes too big were the norm for comfort due to bandages. Anyone who saw me didn't see the real "me"...or at least, that's how I felt. Yet, what they saw was probably more the real "me", than I would care to admit! The no makeup me. The no hair color me. The baggy sweatpants me. The zapped energy me.

I learned a lot of new things about myself through my illness and surgery last winter.  I also observed the world around me with a new understanding of what it is like to be compromised by health issues and totally reliant on others. I thank God for my compassionate and capable husband.

I had usually been on the helping side of sickness, not the patient side. Except for a few out-patient surgeries, and some bad cases of the flu, my health had remained good for six decades. I knew how to help an ailing friend or family member. I received my training at an early age, when my mother's parents moved in with us.

I was 7 years old when my grandmother had a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side and unable to do things on her own. My grandfather was unable to take care of her by himself, so they came to live with us. The big table with its six leaves, the buffet, the china cabinet, and the piano were all moved to one end of the dining room in our farmhouse; and the room became their quarters, complete with hospital bed, wheelchair, commode and overstuffed rocking chair for Grandpa's naps. My father and mother cared for Grandma and I helped out as much as a 7-year old could. I learned how to make a bed, how to make up a sick tray, (as my mother called it), and how to make someone comfortable. I learned to listen for signs of distress and would run to their room if I thought they needed something. I enjoyed being their helper.

My mother needed me. She was strong, but she was small and handicapped. Years later,  when in her 70's she learned that what she referred to all her life as her affliction was the mildest of the three types of cerebral palsy. Her condition never deterred her from having a normal life. She just improvised a lot. She got the job done.

Watching what my mother could accomplish in a day was really quite amazing. Small and "afflicted", she did more than many able-bodied women. At the time,  she was raising children, cooking big noon-time meals for my father and the hired men, doing lots of laundry , and was nursemaid to her parents.

A bit of an aside, but a recent  observation. . . We learn from our parents and we pattern our mannerisms after them. I noticed that when I cook at the stove, I stir with my right hand while I "hold on" with my left. My mother had to hold on to keep her balance, but I don't need to. I do it because I learned it by observing her. Now that I noticed it, I think of her whenever I cook and a little smile graces my lips. ♡

Back to my understanding of what others are going through when stricken by illness or a disability . . . Even though I was my mother's helper and I was aware of her small size and her limp; as a kid, I never really considered the effort it took for her to do things. She just did what needed to be done. Period. Now I have some idea of what it was like for her, and not just for a year, but for her entire life. I am more appreciative of the effort she put into raising me and guiding me. My childhood was normal because she didn't let her disability dampen her spirit or her will.

Almost all healed from my surgeries, I have a renewed spirit and a fresh perspective. I want to accomplish so much more in the coming year than I have been able to in the past few and I am more inspired than ever because I know what it is like to be physically down and out. I will not take my health for granted . . .  or my wardrobe... I need to work on both.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bringing in the Cheese

November 20, 2015

So many memories of other Thanksgivings come flooding back to me at this time of year. I touched on a few of them in my last blog post. This week, as I was walking around the house one day, humming various hymns of Thanksgiving, I smiled and gave a chuckle over one beloved family story that came to mind. Most of the songs my sister and I learned as a pre-schoolers were those we sang in church or we heard at home on my parents' record player. Many were hymns sung by popular singers of the day, such as Kate Smith, Tennessee Ernie Ford, or Perry Como. Anyway, as I recall the story, my sister was overheard in church as she sang out, "bringing in the cheese", which would have made more sense to a little girl in the 1950's than would "bringing in the sheaves". I guess my parents had a good laugh between themselves over it and it became a family tradition for one of us to bring it up every Thanksgiving in song. :-)

There have been other memorable Thanksgivings.  Most of them were good, but the worst one was on a Thanksgiving morning. It was hunting season. We lived on a dirt road. There was a field across the road and on the other side of the field was the railroad and a lane that ran along side it. My sister and I, who were probably 13 and 9 years old, respectively,  happened to see a deer running across the field toward our house and following behind it was a pickup truck barrelling across the bumpy field. We ran to another window to get a better view as the truck crossed the road in pursuit of the deer and drove into our field right next to our house. The truck caught up with the deer and was driving along side of the frightened animal. A hunter, who was in the open box at the back of the pickup, lifted his rifle and fired a shot at the deer. Thankfully, he fired in the opposite direction from our house and our window.  We both screamed and ran to tell our father what we had seen as the deer and the pickup truck of hunters continued past our house and deeper into our field.  My sister and I were both aghast and quite frightened. We cried and cried. We asked our father to do something; but as I think about it, I don't think he was very keen on approaching the mid-morning poachers with their rifles on their shoulders. If he did anything, it would have been a phone call to the game warden. Our father was a man of few words when it came to things of a serious nature, especially things that were not for children's ears, so I never learned the outcome of the pickup truck hunting party. It was a good thing that our Thanksgiving dinner was at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Geneseo. The change of scenery helped us all put the morning's incident behind us.

Since then, most Thanksgiving days have been less traumatic. If the dinner was at our house, my father would saw a giant Hubbard squash apart and the two halves would just fit in the big oven to be baked the day before. On Thanksgiving morning my mother would roast a huge turkey with homemade stuffing that she put in the oven at 4 a m. It needed to feed a hungry crowd of up to 25! Now, when there is going to be a big crowd, or to ensure leftovers for everyone, we might roast two smaller turkeys. They cook faster and are not so heavy and unwieldy! The Hartwicks like to baste the bird with butter to ensure crispy skin that some of us fight over!  ;-)

Once, when I was single, I invited my mother to come stay with me for a week so I could make her a Thanksgiving dinner. I invited a friend over, too. The extras were all prepared and were kept warm on the stove. When it was time to take the bird out of the oven, after checking it a few times for doneness, the oven door would not open! I ran over to the neighbors' house and the man of the house came to my rescue by removing the oven door!

I have more stories, but will save those for another year. What are some of your stories? I would love to know! Please share with me, if you wish.  :-)

In the meanwhile, allow my husband and me to extend the warmest of wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thankful . . .

This is a special time of year for me. Growing up on a cash crop farm, this was was the best part of the year.  All the crops would be in the barns and my father would work shorter hours. He would be home for supper and stay home. I liked it when Daddy was home in the evening.
In summer, his hours were long, and often he wouldn't come home for supper, so my mother would pack the big wooden picnic hamper with sandwiches, salads, fresh sliced garden tomatoes, sliced peaches, cake or cookies, and a big metal Igloo of KoolAid. I thought it was fun to ride in the backseat of the car with my older sister and all the food while we headed out to find the field he was in. When we found him, my mother would pull over to the side of the dirt road and park in the shade while I anxiously waited for him to make his way up the row to meet us. If you want to see what the setting was like, watch the movie, "The Natural". Several of the scenes for the movie were shot just across the road from where we would have our summer suppers under the trees. You can see the trees that we sat under for our meal at the end of the movie when the main character, Roy Hobbs, (played by Robert Redford), has returned to his homestead and is playing catch with his son in the sunlit field. Those trees are still there and sometimes when my husband and I are out in my old neighborhood, we go down that road and park under the trees just so I can relish the memory.

Our summer crops, sweet corn and peas, went directly from the field to the canning factory. During the winter, the stored crops would be bagged by my father, uncles, and hired men, and sold to wholesalers, local farmers, and people from town who liked to buy directly from the grower. We sold seed oats and wheat, eating and seed potatoes, dry beans, hay, and straw in the winter.

I am thankful for the memories from my childhood and for the new ones I am making every day. As I write this, I am enjoying a Sunday afternoon with my husband. We are having snacks and watching the Buffalo Bills game on TV. A new favorite memory in the making. :-)

Thankfully, I can report that my surgeon is very pleased with my progress. He changed the order for my bandages and now I have much more freedom. I think my nurse visits might end next week. I am adding foods and activities back into my diet and routine. 

I am feeling stronger and finally made something new in my studio. It is the banner pictured above. I made it to fit our living room fireplace mantle. It describes how I feel about this time of year and about my life. Thankful. For those who are interested in its construction, I used DCWV's paper-backed burlap for the large and small flags and some DCWV 12x12 Wild Saffron papers from my stash for the background, the die cut oak leaf shapes and the letters that I traced from a stencil set.

This week I will be my reentry week into my sewing room. I have a very special quilt to make. I pulled some batiks from my stash and then made a pilgrimage to the quilt shop to round out my choices. Along with this project, there are many UFOs that I pulled out this weekend from my closet. I am hoping within a few weeks that I will have some things moved over from the UFO pile to the finished pile! Since I still need to take it easy, sewing should be a good fit! So, with that being said, I will sign off for now.

Thank you for stopping by. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Back in my Studio for Halloween!

After a handful of attempts at working at my table in my studio, I finally succeeded. I got a little tired out the first day that I spent a few hours in there. Picking up the tools and materials needed for the simplest projects were surprisingly challenging! I enlisted my husband for backup. He punched paper shapes and reached heavy paper stacks and boxes of supplies for me. This is in addition to his constant care giving, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry . . . and running our real estate business!

Since I don't have new projects to post, I pulled a couple favorites off the shelf. I made these a couple years ago and planned to make several more this past year to sell...but that plan had to take a back seat to two major surgeries and recovery. I am happy to have the chance to make more for next year and will have them available by next August. Yay!

Below are some photos of two 6" x 6" handmade mini albums. These are custom created from plain chipboard and designer papers and embellishments. There is space for various sizes of photographs and tags to use for journaling. Each album comes in a matching box.

And here is the second album . . . 

That was a lot of photographs for you to wade through. If you made it this far, congratulations! LOL.

We are prepared for beggars' night here in our little village. Kids can go trick or treating from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Halloween night. We usually have 250 to 300 little goblins and ghosts come to our door. They come from all of the neighboring farms and rural homes that are spread out too far apart to go house to house for candy. I missed out on the fun last year because I was sick. I hope to help my husband pass candy out this year. It is remarkable how organized and safe the whole event always turns out. At 8 p.m., the street gets quiet. Only a few stragglers who got a late start ring our doorbell after 8. There is no vandalism, there are no tricks, ... just treats! Any candy that is left over gets bagged up and taken to our real estate office.

Thank you for stopping by and taking time out of your day to read my blog. As always, your questions and comments are welcome. 

And until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow if His hand.