Reflections on Independence – on America

Yesterday evening I watched a baseball game and, afterward, fireworks.  It was a moving experience, standing in a stadium on a warm western evening, watching and listening to the celebration of our nation’s independence.  I cried.  It was hard to think of what I might write, here.  Democracy always hangs in the balance.  It is not a state of being – we have to work for it every day.  This realization takes me back to an experience I had last summer, in Washington D.C.  I wrote about witnessing the Declaration of Independence.  Upon rereading my reflection, it seems even more powerfully relevant today.  Retirement tip #11 – Do not take freedom for granted.  Pay attention.  Be kind.  Stay involved.  Use your voice – young people need the wisdom of their elders.  Go see the Declaration of Independence if you can – it’s the best read in the universe.  Vote.

I stood inches from the Declaration of Independence, in proximity to tangible evidence of this nation’s identity.  I started to cry.  As a teacher, I have read about and taught students about the Declaration of Independence.  That Sunday morning, it became unexpectedly real for me.  Fragile parchment spread with faded, gracefully executed script.  Signatures penned by the very hands of men who conspired to create a new nation.

The Rotunda of our National Archives was filled with whispering patient visitors.  We waited, in a group of perhaps 40, at the foot of wide stairs, and then advanced into a round room.  Such beautiful stairs, landings, walls – marble and polished granite everywhere.  Gleaming iron-spiked barriers, gracefully determined to protect this sanctuary.  A banner hung in swag, tacked to the center of the domed ceiling, a time-line tracing the evolution of amendments to our Constitution.  Gilded cases in circumference, held documents written more than 200 years ago.  I imagined the warm palms of Colonel Timothy Matlack, Thomas Jefferson’s secretary, scribing the words.  I imagined serious men gathered, searching for the best words to express their frustration, their beliefs and determination, electrifying yet still, hot, humid air on that day in 1776.  The Rotunda, where I stood, was cool, dim, vibrating with measured voices, every pair of eyes fixed on words beneath glass.  It was not hot or humid or turbulent with the excitement and trepidation that first gave the words life.  It was pure awe.  It was like being in church.

The passage of time whittles away, in increments, at these documents and their meaning.  Air and light subtly degrade and disintegrate the paper upon which our promise of freedom is written.  Those who take responsibility for preserving this heritage have given great thought to the particulars of doing so.  It is not a photograph of these documents in a book that the people desire – it’s the real deal.  Crisp and delicate paper traced with faded ink; the spirit of each man who touched that paper.  That is what we line up to see.  I am so grateful that these treasures have been preserved and made accessible.

In the context of unfolding events this July, I recognize that more consequential than the potential of time’s chemical decomposition, these documents face intellectual weathering and a dream of independence that has not yet been fully realized.  The proper tone and spirit urged by Thomas Jefferson must be continually kept in our sights.  The truths understood by our founding fathers seem self-evident, but not to all people – not in all circumstances.  The unalienable rights to which we feel so firmly attached cannot be taken for granted.  We must hold tightly to the belief that governments derive power from the consent of the governed, every citizen, and that people have a right to reject power that does not seem likely to bring about or preserve their safety and happiness.

As I reflect on my visit to the National Archives, the connection that I experienced to my own birthright, I find myself weary with concern.  Troubling words that reflect conflicting values and political ideologies creep, like rising water, into our tomorrows, my tomorrows, and yours.  I hear liberty and independence parroted, but I am not sure that I really hear of care for the protection of the rights of our people.  We have heard hollow tone and misplaced spirit before; we have ferociously defended against what Dwight Eisenhower called demagogic extremists.  We seem to be charging at windmills with self-serving arrogance, resentment and anger, greed, and righteous indignation aimed at reviving that which we have already determined is not right.

Being that close to our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence changed my sense of who I am.  Those became words that belonged to me as a citizen and I cried at the very thought of being in the same room with them.  I will not forget what it feels like to be inches away from the evidence preserved for me by our National Archives – that all men are created equal and that we all deserve to be treated with this level of respect, despite our differences.  In order to form a more perfect union we must embrace our lack of perfection and dedicate ourselves to lifting one another toward our highest aspirations.  When I listen to those who appear to elevate themselves at the expense of others, I will remember what it feels like to stand in the Rotunda of the National Archives, seeing the signatures of men who believed in one another and took a risk, trusted one another, to declare that we deserve to be free of bigotry and oppression.

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Filed under Democracy, Retirement, Writing

Thinking Back…

Alone

 

My eyes will not open regardless of internal commands.  Inside, I sift through memories, to ground myself.  Sometimes people ask about your first.  First memory, first kiss, first love.  The first fragment that I really remember is taking a bath in the kitchen sink.  Water enveloped my face.  I remember breathing water, and then it was gone.

 

Fear of dying is over-rated.  Once you know, it’s just a matter of waiting.  Years ago, a horse reared with me in the saddle.  The two of us went over backward. I thought I was about to die.  It amazed me how still and peaceful I became.  My cheek, pinned against gritty soil, registered the warmth of the earth.  My eyes focused on a saturated blue summer sky, massive oak trees from ground level, and sand near my nose.  The horse, with no thought of being in danger of dying, struggled to right himself.  His legs, cast against the fence, churned the air and struck metal rails, creating sparks of panic.  His neck and upper body lunged upward, only to fall back on mine.  He was stuck.  The saddle horn dug into the ground between my thighs, cradling him upside down like a candlestick holder.  It would take a thoughtful sideways roll to move him off of me, away from the fence, to bring him to his feet.  But he was not thoughtful.  Horses are not particularly smart.  In a panic, they are worse than brainless.  I’m sure it was an accident of balance that helped him recover.  His hooves landed nowhere near me, and so my skull did not mash into the earth as I had supposed it would.  I have never again worried about dying.  Being under a writhing horse, however, could be preferable to lying in a hospital bed attached to life with plastic tubes.

 

You would think the first real memory of an event would be hard to recall, but it isn’t.  I was a toddler, age undetermined.  The kitchen was square, open in the middle, with a metal legged grayish Formica topped breakfast table.  On one side of the room, a round bodied refrigerator, ‘50’s style.  On the other was a counter that stretched wall to wall, linoleum on the top – some kind of marbled green effect. The cabinets were green, too.  I think they call this color Apple Green when found on a Hoosier or three legged stool in an antique store.  Somehow I had managed to climb a step ladder to the counter to reach a bottle of Brer Rabbit Molasses.  No specific details to help me understand why, but I know the bottle came down.  A puddle of molasses flooded the counter and dripped to the floor.  It was all over me.  My mother was furious.  The cavernous gash she cut into my heart that day has never healed.  My mother taught me much and gave me many things, but like other mentors I have found in positions of power over me, she destroyed my trust.  It shouldn’t, but that feeling outweighs all that she has given.  It has something to do with “I didn’t mean to do that.”  Sometimes, one needs to trust that bad choices might be made and lousy things can happen without intention.

 

When I was very little I started teaching.  We set up boxes for tables, pillows for stools, and played something we called Post Office.  We took envelopes from the junk mail, affixed S & H Green Stamps, sorted the mail by recipient, and delivered it.  I established the procedures and taught my friends how to play.  I have been doing this ever since.  As a classroom teacher and a school principal, I have spent a lifetime directing people toward something orchestrated and, hopefully, worthwhile.  I watched my daughter, some years ago, teaching a little friend to play a game that they called Orchard.  They sat on either side of a rail fence separating our back yards, with mud pies, bark plates stacked with twigs, and piles of pebbles.  How and why the two girls arranged these things to make meaning was never apparent to me.  I smiled inside, though, watching my child teach another how to play.

 

I could never tell you who my first love might have been.  It would depend on the definition of love.  I could cite Jamie Long.  He passed me a note in the fifth grade, gracing me with the knowledge that I had been chosen to be his girl during that particular week.  It didn’t last long, but then none of his affairs did.  I was exhilarated, nonetheless.  Still, I would not call it love.  I don’t count my father.  I think that a man who taught Driver’s Training, the behind-the-wheel class, might have been my very first heartfelt Romeo.  I could not tell you his name or even what he looked like, but I remember a song that was popular at the time.  I found love on a two way street, and lost it on a lonely highway…  I remember hearing those lyrics with his manly face and large capable hands in my mind.  I would grip the steering wheel without confidence and he would reassure me, calm me, put his hand where mine should be and instruct me on the Ten O’clock – Four O’clock grip.

 

I think I was in lust, more than love, with Dinky.  I clearly remember that first kiss.  Medicine Bow, Wyoming – somewhere in the mountains outside of Laramie.  I went to a summer camp to work as a counselor.  I’m sure Dinky had a name but I couldn’t tell you what it was.  Dinky was his camp name. Whose idea was it anyway, to put 17 year old kids in the role of camp counselor?  He was positively lovely and my young body flew to him like steel to a magnet.

 

I can see myself in a gray cardigan sweater wearing patent leather Mary Jane shoes, my Kindergarten year.  Wooden plaques cut and painted to look like life sized Campbell’s Soup children decorate the wall.  I hang my sweater on one of the wooden pegs protruding from the foot of a soup kid, with his chef’s hat topping a round face, dancing eyes welcoming me to a place that is not home.  My mother walks away, and I have no idea when she will return.  Outside, there are swings, a sandbox, and a slide.  The children and teachers are getting ready for a field trip of some sort.  I am aware that the children will board a bus soon, but I am painting the hot gunmetal-gray slide with a cattail dipped in rainwater.  I watch, fascinated, as the water evaporates, my strokes melting into a mere shadow, and then vanishing.  When the noise of the other children dies away, I know they have gone without me.  The gate to the playground is locked.  I am alone with a tall slide, a pool of dark water at the base, and a clutch of cattails.  I paint the warm metal and watch my brush strokes evaporate.  Eventually the teacher returns with my classmates.  It could be hours later.  This was a significant day.  I discovered how nice it can be to be left alone.

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Making Home Away From Home

Traveling is… unsettling for me. I keep trying to recreate home; it’s like camping, making a circle of the things that civilize the wild. Sitting around the open hearth on makeshift stools, recreating meals that are meant to be crafted in a kitchen, pitching lean-to ceilings to block the open sky. People camp to be out of the home and then simulate the comforts of home to shield them from feeling that they are sleeping in a strange and vulnerable space.
We have been in South Carolina for a few days. This air cannot be tamed. No circle of things from home can dull the thick thrum of cicadas or hold the moisture at bay. Drowsy heat and steamy sounds roll around in slow motion, wrapping everything, softening every edge. It’s not easy to move thoughts or bodies. Insects sing triumphantly, rejoicing in undisputed dominance. Birds and bugs and vegetation own this land. People push them aside in a continuous struggle. Like Sherman’s army bulldozing it’s way across the South to the sea, people roll out pavement and nail Georgia pine into structures that, unwatched for a season, are swallowed by Kudzu and bored through by flying, crawling, sawing creatures of the undergrowth.
We have moved from one Airbnb to another. Each home is a unique expression of its hosts. I better understand, now, how my own home is me. In each place we visit I try to make my circle in the woods. I bring my books so that my mind does not stray too far from where it lives. I bring handwork so that my fingers will feel at home. We stop to buy food so that our most basic urges to break familiar bread together will not be compromised. We travel like we shop for produce, wavering over unfamiliar fruits, reaching for what we know, trying to find ourselves in strange places.
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I’m ready to be in the desert again, where heat is crystal clear and sharp. In the shade, relief. In the sun, gently baking into one’s core. Day’s end is marked by evening breezes. Cool night air creeps across suffering stones like water, slaking an eternal thirst.
We have eaten the local cuisine and mostly enjoyed it, but we are struck by the magnitude of financial loss – every meal out seems to take us another giant step into debt. The plane fares and car rental and lodging are a combined expected cost. That cost is like a Christmas tree. Each excursion results in expenditures hanging like decorations on the tree. Some are exquisite but many seem perfunctory. There’s an empty spot on one side. We might need tee shirts to take home to our kids. We decorate that side of the tree with rather plain shirts off the $8.00 table because the really memorable shirts are $20.00.
Do we travel to find out who we are or who we are not? Do we imagine how we would arrange our own furniture in a cave, as Rebecca Solnit muses in A Book of Migrations? Are we turtles, carrying home on our backs or do we plunge into pools without a suit on, trusting depth, temperature, our own ability to swim? I wonder if this journey expands or simply affirms my sense of who I am in this world or in my time. I have mingled with populations busying their individual ways through their Southern lives. I have conversed with couples recently retired, trying to color a new life by hosting traveling strangers in the sanctuary that they call home. Retirement tip #10 – Consider getting to know who you are before planning to spend your retirement traveling. Perhaps this will help you go deeply, to your roots, instead and of landing you at a campsite that requires you to be a turtle. 

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Modern Quilt Composition

This is the result of the Bill Kerr workshop last week.  I took the pillow tops in as a jump start.  We decided to add the complexity of another color – the teal.  My stack of rectangles are all in gray prints that read as solids, and solids.  The sides are engaged “Jenga” style by one inch bars that reach, first from side to side, then from left to right, and at the top from right to left.  This little wall quilt is 32 wide by 42 tall.  I am thinking of quilting it with simple wavy lines to accentuate the height and contrast with the very consistent repetitive geometric overall composition.

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Filed under Bill Kerr, Fabric, Farmer's Wife Quilt, Modern Quilting, Quilting

Early Morning Walk

It is the season for hot days.  I went out early to walk the trails in the Petroglyph National Monument.  Basalt boulders with curious white sides here and there.  Scrub vegetation.  Hot air balloons sailing among the thin clouds.  Sand and signs of life.

Trail Head

Trail Head

 

The Ridge

Looking over Albuquerque – boundary to the open space.  See the balloons in the distance?  Every morning – balloons!

Carin

Carin along the trail.

Evidence of Struggle

Evidence of a struggle…

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Coyote Tracks

Lizzard Trail

Lizzard Trail

 

 

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Call a Plumber

Retirement tip #8 – If something plumbing related does not work, call a plumber.

I am, as you recall, not retired.  However, I am practicing for that eventuality.  I’m off work for over a month.  Dear Hubby (DH) is on contract.  He is home on the weekend (if he manages to get the weekend off when the district budget is due – he’s a school district Finance Director).  I’m busy creating a honey-do list.  His head is in Excel and Visions.  Short story to illustrate why this is not a good combination.

I tried to hook up the hose to water some things out front.  There is a spigot by the front door.  It protrudes out of a hole in the bricks that form the exterior wall of our home.  It was kind of loose – wiggly.  There is an anit-siphon valve on the end of the faucet.  Water sprayed from around the place where the valve is attached to the faucet but not a drop came into the hose from the actual faucet.  Hummmmm…

I put it on my honey-do list to “ask” about this.  He grumped that he was working on something else but hauled out a pipe wrench to remove the anti-siphon valve.  I became immediately concerned.  I offered to couple two hoses, bringing water from the back yard until we could give this front yard faucet more attention.  (I did caution that it would be disastrous if the pipe wrench were to twist the copper pipe, causing it to rupture, instead of removing the siphon valve.)  And so…

When water began shooting across the porch from the ruptured copper pipe that no longer had a faucet attached the question that immediately arose had to do with the location of the water main shut-off.  Retirement tip #9 – Identify where your water main shut-off valve is in advance of the need to make use of it.

It turns out that there is one just next the sidewalk in front of the house.  But there is one inside of the house as well.  We found that first.  (The plumber showed the street-side main to us at a later date.)  With water turned off DH considered how to chizzel the bricks out of the wall in order to get to the plumbing problem.  Eventually it occurred to us that there would be access inside the house, on the other side of the sheet rock on the facing wall.  That turned out to be true.  DH busted out a square of sheet rock to expose the copper pipe in question and then confidently went to the hardware store to buy parts to repair it.  Long story trying to be shorter, the second trip to the hardware store was to buy a cap (called, I believe, a Shark) to signal surrender.  We needed to cap this so that we would have water for the weekend pending a call to the plumber.

It gets better.  The Shark was not sufficient to eliminate water leaking from the pipe.  It seemed that this water was coming from higher up on the pipe.  Something else wrenched?  So more sheet rock started coming down.  When the entire length of copper piping was exposed (about 12 feet up to the ceiling) it was ascertained that there was no leak from anywhere else – this seemed to be the Shark’s issue.  A quick reapplication of the Shark corrected this problem.  Meanwhile, the wall looks like a war zone.

It gets even better.  While the water was turned off via a gate valve in the utility room there was apparently a problem with that valve.  Returning to the utility room we found a pouch of water had formed behind the latex paint around the valve handle.  We poked it with a sharp object.  Water whooshed out.  Swell.  We called a plumber.  We really did not relish spending the weekend without use of facilities to bath and etc.  The emergency plumber wanted 300.00 just to come take a peek.  On top of that the hourly rate and materials.  I hung up on him.

We packed towels around the shut-off valve and then turned on the water.  Everything held.  On Monday we called our favorite plumber (Dave did not return a call on the weekend – fie on him!).  By end of day on Monday, all was repaired.  Dave put a ball valve in the utility room.  Those don’t tend to fail like gate valves often do, so if you have a chance to change out a gate valve for a ball valve, do it.  He fixed the faucet.  And… lemons to lemonade, he does sheet rock on the side.  With that wall exposed, we decided to wire in electrical for our stereo set-up and to bring cable to a perfect place on the wall (into one of those recessed boxes) to hang our flat screen TV.  Turns out Dave (who knew he was a contractor???) can do the electrical work as well.  I knew I liked Dave!

Until we meet again…

P.S. Start on May 30, 2018 to follow my “Tips for retirement”

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Filed under Plumbing, Retirement

Learning About Composition in Quilts (and all kinds of other things…)

Today I had a marvelous experience.  It was mostly in my head but I did sew some.  Bill Kerr taught a six-hour workshop on composition in quilts.  I am thinking about my creative work differently this evening.

Number one take-away: Something unifies and something creates complexity.  The unifying element might be design or shape but it can also be color or proportionality or texture.  I made those three pillows from my modern gray tone Farm Wife Blocks.  I took them with me to the workshop.  My question was this – what should I choose to do with a small wall quilt that would not be matchy matchy but would complement the pillows.  To my surprise the answer was not about shape or scale, it was color.  I discovered that putting the same color in the wall hanging was not necessarily my best option to complement the pillows on the bed but, rather, that another color with the same general saturation in a complementary  but different hue could be the answer.  Hence, my raspberry pop in the pillows will be complemented with a deeply saturated teal.  Not the Chartreuse that I had chosen for the pillow backs.  Not the same berry color.  Teal.

Number two take-away: There are levels of design – a hierarchy.  One one level there will be geometric shapes, because my pillows are geometric.  One another level there will be proportionality, because my pillows graduate from a complex pieced six-inch block to larger and larger plain geometric shapes.  But that final level of design will be value and color.  I will not repeat the design in the pillows, but I will echo the first level in that I keep with geometric shapes.  I will not repeat the proportionality.  I will choose two sizes of the rectangular shapes to repeat – a rectangle and a smaller square.  I will repeat those shapes in a more traditional manner, letting the color pops be my third level of design.  I will use the teal and the raspberry along with many grays, to echo the grays in the pillows.  I will let the Winter White be a constant in every block.

I’m liking the thinking that goes into this.  The “intention” as Bill puts it.  I have an intention.  I want the small quilt to be on the wall near our bed in such a way that the first thing you see is the quilt on the wall.  Then you notice the pillows on the bed.  And finally, on the end of the bed there will be a lap-size quilt that takes all of those colors into one creation.  When I fold that quilt to lay on the end of the bed the trio of will be a trifecta of shapes and colors that harmonize.  This is so cool!

For the quilt on the wall I want to use Chinese Coins, stacks of gray prints and solids with the occasional teal and raspberry layer.  The stacks will be flanked with Winter White.  The quilt will not be bound but will be sans binding, just turned in pillowcase style.  I will quilt it in the ditch – invisible.  No texture to sing out of that quilt.  Just geometric shapes and color.  For the quilt on the end of the bed I will do the same thing – Chinese Coins stacked.  Same thing… Same thing…  Just the proportion will change.  Bigger pieces.  Bigger quilt.

BillKerrTeaRoomQuiltDesign

One last thought.  I have enough feedback on the Chartreuse pillow binding.  I will remove the binding on the one I am now making.  I will leave the chartreuse backs but put teal binding on the pillows.  (I hope my half yard purchase will be sufficient!  I’ll need to buy more but NOW I am on a mission and I KNOW what my mission is.)

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Last thought…  I bought some amazing fat quarters at Southwest Designs.  I have, in mind, a Kaffe Fasset diamond quilt.  For now, however, it is on hold.  My Farm Wife blocks need cutting.  My Bill Kerr wall hanging needs making.  My Bill Kerr lap quilt to go on the end of the bed needs making.  And, I need to write.  I need to paint.  I need to live because I talked at length with Lorraine.  (Thank you, my friend.)  We are in agreement.  We have mostly stopped reading for pleasure.  Stopped listening to music.  Stopped watching movies.  Stopped writing.  Stopped painting.  We play at being ourselves while our intellect and heart remains on hold – waiting for things to pass, like a fever.  This country is stronger than poisonous division.  We will get through this. We will recover.  And then our quilts will speak to the beauty and layers of complex design that represent the diverse and respectful nation that we truly are.  Tip for retirement #7: Appreciate learning.  No matter what is going on, don’t forget; learning is the elixir.  It is the secret of longevity.  It is the joy that feeds the spirit.  Keep learning.

Until we meet again…

P.S. Start on May 30, 2018 to follow my “Tips for retirement”

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Filed under Bill Kerr, Democracy, Modern Quilting, Quilting, Retirement

Spare Time = Shopping

The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt is trickier than I expected.  The three blocks thus far created (six if we count the modern fabric blocks) have all come out different sizes by extremely small but important amounts.  My cutting of the pieces has been meticulous but I suspect that the ¼ inch seams on my Featherweight is not.  I was very careful – and yet…   What to do?  I decided to make a set of pillows out of the modern fabric blocks.  They are to die for cute regardless of size!  Must not waste that effort.  I will make three potholders out of the 30’s blocks.  I learned a bit about my preferences for color combinations with those.  All Farm-Wife-Frugality aside, I’m not going to be random about my scrap combos.  I broke down, went to the fabric store, and bought four ½ yard pieces of complementary Kona solids.  I’m okay with a variety of colors but within each block the harmony needs to be evident.  Just MHO.  I will begin again, today, with the Farm Wife Sampler blocks but I am going to piece them by hand.  I will cut and then bag the pieces, seams marked with a pencil.  It will be handwork.  It will take a long time.  So be it.

On Tuesday I went to my Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  Someone needed to sell their Sunday spot at a Bill Kerr workshop on modern quilt design.  I didn’t sign up for any of the three days that he is presenting because the cost is steep and, well I don’t know.  I guess I have a lot of projects in my brain.  I hesitate to add another – and yet…  This AND YET stuff is piling up.  First I break down and buy fabric for a scrap quilt.  Then I sign up for a workshop that I don’t really need and buy fabric supplies for that.  I have to be honest here (and this is a critical thought for retirement preparation) I have too much time on my hands.

When I am at work five days each week, with only Saturday to run errands and Sunday to play with my leisure pursuits, I make choices.  I take care of business.  I don’t do a lot of the things that I wish I could do.  I don’t discipline myself to write every day.  I don’t paint unless I’m in the mood and, when the mood needs to land squarely on me on a Sunday morning, the mood-time thing doesn’t coincide often enough.  That is one of the reasons I enjoy quilting.  I can leave it all strewn across the dining room table and then pick up one little part of it, sew for ten minutes, to eat the elephant one bite at a time.  The other things seem to take more preparation, concentration, consistent attention.

So here I am, spending my lovely mornings on my patio in Albuquerque – this weather is perfection.  I get a little of this done around the house.  I get a little of that done in the yard.  I sew some.  I write some.  And then there’s that something I need.  I go shopping.  Beware, those with transportation, time, and a multitude of places to shop.  I’m spending way too much money.  It’s just too easy to go back to Southwest Decoratives to grab a second set of fat quarters (because they are buy-four-get-one-free this week); recall that I now have a set of three pillows to make (wink, wink).  And I’ll need to make a visit to Joann’s three times to use the coupons that are specifically dated in order to purchase the pillow forms at half off.  Tuesday Morning is only two doors down.  I don’t even need to move the car!  There’s always something good at Tuesday Morning.  So, it goes.  Tip for retirement #6 – Spend the first month of free time indulging your whims but then plan to shop with purpose.

Until we meet again.

P.S. Start on May 30, 2018 to follow my “Tips for retirement”

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Filed under Farmer's Wife Quilt, Quilting, Retirement, Uncategorized

About books…

June 1, 2018

Last Sunday I had a coupon for 60% off any one item at Joann’s and so I bought a book.  BTW, I love books.  You should know that.  This is something that will not change in retirement but there’s a good chance that I will finish more of them.  There are books on shelves in the living room that I hope to read again.  There are books piled on the nightstand that I am in process of reading.  There are books on the table next to my recliner in the family room that I am also in process of reading; one we are reading together, with multiple bookmarks to indicate where each of us left off.  There are books in the kitchen; cookbooks are, to me, like shoes to some women – every cookbook is dear for some recipe or another that I dream of making someday.  I have a darling little cart, meant to hold I don’t know what, in the bathroom.  Here we go with the bathroom again!  Sorry…  Anyway, it is stacked with books.  On the lowest tier we keep several fresh rolls of TP but on the middle shelf are all of the novels that I still want to read.  (BN has a table offering one free if you buy two.  I do that.)  I have at least five waiting to be read.  On the top shelf I have non-fiction.  Magazines about art and quilting.  Books about politics and education and quilting.  Cookbooks and patterns for quilting.  Always something about quilting.  The book I bought last Sunday is called The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird.

I browsed the book before bedtime and found it hard to put down.  I really like the concept.  There are letters from farm wives written from 1930 to 1939 to the editor of a periodical called The Farmer’s Wife.  I find these letters to be so touching.  These are messages sent to a future that the writers will not see.  In large part, it was the reading of these sentiments that prompted me to begin chronicling my summer of change.  The message was consistent.  Don’t pine for that which you do not have or cannot control.  Be grateful for what you have and that which you can control.  Want for less.  Appreciate simple things and treasure those people who are part of your life.  We all know this, deep inside, but it bears reminding on occasion.  I am safe, sheltered, well-nourished, and loved.  I live each new day replete with memories of amazing past experiences.  Tip for retirement #5 – Be contented.

Today I begin another amazing experience… The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt!  My first block is a cutie pie.  I have a bin of 1930s repro fabric left over from a quilt that I made for my daughter when she graduated from high school in 2001.  I’m resisting the urge to buy more fabric in order to gain the color harmony that I am so spoiled to desire.  I will use my scraps, like a good farm wife would.  (And just so you know, I was a farm wife for almost a decade.  I know the life.  It’s not where I am now, but it is in my heart.)  AND… with a nod to my reborn Modern Quilter self, I will make a twin block of each 1930s block in modern fabric.  I will use two fat packs that I was lucky to purchase from #Trelotta in Denver.  One stack is a Moda collection called Behind the Scenes by Jen Kingwell Designs.  There are 25 different low volume fat quarters in that bundle.  The other, somewhat smaller bundle, is a pack of 12 Kona Cotton Solids in every possible shade of gray.  The modern fabric combination will make my double of the Farm Wife Sampler perfectly stunning.  I finished the first block using retro fabric first thing this morning.  The precision of piecing small bits of fabric on my Featherweight was fabulous.

Until we meet again…

P.S. Start on May 30, 2018 to follow my “Tips for retirement”

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First Day of Pre-Retirement Preparation + Tips to be continued throughout summer!

May 30, 2018

This is about retirement.  Sort of.  Well, yes.

Today is the first day.  Disclaimer, though.  I have not yet retired.  School is out for the summer; I am an educator.  Several weeks ago, I signed that paper saying that I intend to return to my job next year.  And I do.  But that would be the last year.  I’m pretty sure.  I think…  So, this is like peri-menopause.  Peri-retirement.  I’m facing it.  Trying it on for size.  Grieving the loss before I actually lose it.  Celebrating the freedom before it is actually mine.  This summer is my first go at retirement.  Not just catching up on things I never do all year long while working five days a week – well maybe a little.  Not taking that trip that I could never plan during the school year except during spring break – although I do plan to go to Georgia to meet my new great gransons (yes, twins).  Not relaxing, doing a lot of nothing, because I simply can’t do that when I have only weekends to clean and run errands.  I plan to live each day as if it is time to tackle things.  This will not be summer as usual – the break between total consumption by the job and another year of the same.  This will be the summer when I prepare for the possibility of not ever having another year of the same.

It’s hard facing endings.  I know that thing about endings really being beginnings.  I know.  But it is still hard.  I love the work that I do.  I love the children and the teachers and the whole idea of shaping future generations with love and knowledge and passion.  I’ve been teacher and a principal and a director and an instructional leader for 35 years.  It’s hard to convince myself that I do not have an obligation to keep giving what I can – sharing what I have learned.  It’s hard to let go of the hugs and smiles and bright eyes that come alive when I engage the mind that lends them light.  But, at some point I need to step aside.  There are children that I mentored who are mentoring other children now.  My message to the future has been sent, time and again.  I need to trust that the future will be what it will be, and that I am there in the passions of those that I taught and those who are still teaching me.

So, enough of deep mind and heart; on to my day, the discoveries, the wonder of new beginnings.  I’m started with the intention to take a bath.  Seldom do I have time to do this, though I love to soak in a tub and read. But here’s a thing!  I went all practical on myself.  I tend to take a shower or a bath after I clean things.  It feels good to get the dirty off and then step out to a new hour of the day and a different task.  I took a look at our bathroom before I stepping into the tub.  When I was a kid my mother taught me how to clean a bathroom.  Then it became my chore.  Once a week, rain or shine, I cleaned the bathrooms.  I doubt that I was even sure what a dirty bathroom could look like because I cleaned them so often that they were never dirty; I cleaned them anyway.

My bathroom, now, doesn’t get much attention.  I’m always at work – who sees it?  Coordinated towels, artfully arranged on bars, speak to my husband; do not disturb – these are decorations!  Use the towels hanging on a hook by the shower. Pictures are hung and the counters are organized with Kleenex boxes and bottles of lotion selected because they match the décor.  I cringe to think that I have not really cleaned this bathroom since last summer.  I wipe out sinks and get the mirror once in a while.  I just recently scoured the shower pan (if you have never tried Barkeeper’s Friend I highly recommend it for just about any scour job).  I put a bit of bleach in the toilet regularly.  But the surrounds!  Oh, my goodness!  I ignore what I can’t see.  Tip for retirement #1 – Accept that there are a lot of things you don’t see any more but that those things are still there.

I grabbed a bottle of foaming bathroom cleaner, sprayed liberally, and used towels that need to be washed to mop up the invisible layers of dusty accumulation.  Suffice to say, it was wonderful.  I didn’t see that it was dirty before but I can see that it is cleaner now by the amount of grime on the towels.  I primarily tackled the little room that houses our commode; a separate room with its own door.  I then took the project out into the main bathroom, as far my pile of towels would take me, reserving one towel for the tub.  After I took a very nice bath, I used the last towel to clean the tub.  I put the bathmat into the tub so that I would not need to stretch to clean the far sides of the tub.  That turned out to be quite liberating.  Tip for retirement #2 – Clean tubs while standing in the tub instead of from the outside – it’s much easier. The usefulness of jetted tubs, BTW, eludes me.  I never use this feature of the tub.  I have a hot tub out in the yard that I regularly enjoy, but the jetted tub inside is not used to its full potential.  I cleaned carefully around each nozzle and vowed to use the jets the next time I take a bath.  At that point I was not in the mood to clean any more.  Tip for retirement #3 – Be satisfied to clean part of a bathroom with intention to do another part on another day.  If that floor has gathered semi-invisible layers of grime in every corner and on seldom used surfaces for the past year I am certain that the dirt will still be there tomorrow.  I will get it eventually.

Now, it is time to be artistic.  First, I am composing this daily musing.  Then, I can draw or paint or quilt or I can water plants, which I consider to be an artistic endeavor.  I can do anything I want to do or part of anything.  Just like cleaning the bathroom, it is not important to do everything or finish anything now.  Tip for retirement #4 = Don’t stop doing things that need to be done, but do what you want to do, as much as you want to do, keeping in mind that tomorrow is another day.  Until we meet again…

 

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