Page 3 of 122

Let’s Talk Pin Poppets

My Fainting Couch Pin Cushion

Thanks to COVID-19, I have time to carefully gaze upon and consider various objects I live with. Today  I pay special attention to and ponder pin cushions. In the Middle Ages, pin cushions were called by several names, my favorite being Pin-Poppet (in no small part because that’s what Sharon Howell, my friend from across The Pond, calls me). Pin Poppets were a way to showcase prized collections of needles and pins. Having a plethora of pins and needles was an apparent status signal, probably because pins and needles were expensive to make or purchase, what with the need for swords and protective body armor being so great and all.

The familiar tomato pin cushion came into play during the Victorian era when tradition held that placing a tomato  on your mantel kept evil spirits at bay. (Next time maybe we’ll talk about my favorite way to keep the dreaded evil spirits moving on past my house: colorful bottles.) What to do when tomatoes were out of season? Grab some red cloth, fill it with sawdust or dirt, tie it up, and hope the evil spirits had wet macular degeneration. As was the hallmark of Victorian home decoration practice, it wasn’t unusual for women to fill parlors to the brim with  pin cushions of every hue and design, and their most prized pin cushion was always the ubiquitous tomato pin cushion that did double duty monitoring evil spirits and storing pins and needles.

I can’t remember ever owning a tomato pin cushion. Does that surprise you? My studio is a tiny little ole’ space, which means I don’t keep anything that isn’t cherished or needed, but I do stray towards excess when it comes to pin cushions. I have five, and they’re all favorites.

I discovered my Fainting Couch Pin Cushion in a little church bazaar in beautiful downtown Cashiers, NC. The price tag said $5, and the volunteer apparently misread my appreciative gaze with price reluctance because she immediately blurted out, “I’ll sell it to you for $3.” Money well spent, if you ask me. Not only can my pins and needles recline in comfort as they wait to be called into action, but there’s storage space underneath. All this for only $3.00 (I offered to pay her the full $5.00, but she wouldn’t take it.)

 

This little beauty comes from my friend Peggy Thomas, a woman who is fearless in the face of big projects like creating the searchable database for The 70273 Project (Speaking is that, Peggy and Gladys Loewen – also a wicked good organizer and fearless woman –  need volunteers to enter info, so if you know your way around Dropbox and an Excel sheet – or are willing to learn – and would like to do something productive and hugely appreciated by people around the world, let me know!) Isn’t it adorable?  It lives on my studio altar.

My friend and German Ambassador for The 70273 Project Uta Lenk gave me this pin cushion (gifted me the pins, too!) when I admired it while watching her stitch hexies during some down time at the Patchwork Gilde Exhibit in Celle, Germany a few years ago.

The Engineer surprised me with this heart-shaped wrist pin cushion – had it sent to me while I was staying with our daughter through some health issues she had several years ago. He heard me lament that I needed a pin cushion that went around my wrist, so he did what any amazing husband would do and went shopping to find one that’s heart-shaped. Perfect for a man who loves his wife (even after 47 years), the wife who was born on Valentine’s Day, right?

Last but definitely not least, this pin poppet belonged to my mother-in-law. I claimed it for myself after her death. She and I didn’t make quilts back then, but we did take many, many, many sewing classes together. Stretch ‘n Sew, to be exact. Remember that? And when The Engineer came into some money the first year we were married by winning a radio show contest, he went straight to his mother to ask what kind of sewing machine he should get me for Christmas. She sent him to the store to get one just like hers – an Elna  Super. I still use it. I wish I knew where she got this pin poppet, but that wouldn’t make me cherish it any more. As you can see, it’s made in colors of 1970s, and the base is velvet. It feels SO good resting in the palm of my hand.

Though I haven’t quite figured out all the details (I do already have the crushed walnut shells, though), I will eventually be making pin poppets from the tops to laundry detergent containers as soon as I get finished using them to draw circles for another project I’ll be telling you about later.

Now it’s your turn. You know I’d love to hear stories about your favorite pin poppets – ones you own, have inherited, or remember fondly. Feel free to use  my new, improved, easier-to-use commenting system or find me on Facebook or Instagram or join us around The 70273 Project Facebook Campfire to regale me with all your pin poppet stories.

The School Bell Tolls for Yours Truly

a bookcase filled with books and memorabilia

My bookcase – part library, part museum

Throughout my career as a college student, I took an overload of classes. Such is my nature. And now, thanks to sheltering-in-place and the willingness of so many teachers to offer their classes and workshops on zoom and other platforms, I am in overload heaven.

Here’s my current class schedule:

~ Get Right with Money offered by my amazing friend Nona Jordan
~ Yoga Nidra, also offered by Nona (Today is Day 21 of my self-designed 100+ Day Project: Operation Flexible Mind, Flexible Body.)
~ delicious offerings on quilting and life in general by my brilliant friend Jude Hill over at her internet nest called Spirit Cloth
~ Sharpened Visions: a Poetry Workshop (offered through Coursera by California Institute of the Arts)
~  Foundations of Positive Psychology, Resilience Skills (offered through Coursera by University of Pennsylvania. I’m writing a book about an incident in my family’s history – May 5 and 6, 1933 when my daddy’s family was held hostage by 5 armed bandits – and, judging by how they went on with their lives, resiliency seems to be something they excelled at.)
~ Art on the iPad, taught by Susie Monday
~ Convivial Creativity, offered by Carl Nordgren and Mark Tully through the  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of North Carolina Asheville
~ Dream Yoga/Lucid Dreaming, offered by Linda Go through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute University of North Carolina Asheville
~ Seven historical lectures about the War Between the States and life during that era
~ Writing Raw with my long time amazing friend Julie Daley
~
 another one-time workshop on resiliency through the Resource Center for Women and Spirituality in the South
~
 4 art quilting classes I purchased a long time ago and kept meaning to get around to taking them
~ Supercharge Your Chakra Practice taught by A idea Judith
~ Sacred Beekeeping through DailyOM.com

For the longest time I have petitioned the Sweet Spirit of Surprise to make learning opportunities available that I can get to and afford. She delivered, and I am oh so grateful, though I can’t decide if my hoggish behavior will energetically support continued online offerings of interest or drive them away. Let’s go with what’s behind Door #1: continued opportunities for me to learn from the comfort of my own studio, a place I can get myself to without inconveniencing The Engineer to play Driving Miss Jeanne. On February, I was given permission to drive, but after my last eye treatment, I’m afraid to put myself behind the wheel of anything but my computer.

Gotta’ scoot. Class in an hour, and I’m still not dressed. Wait – it doesn’t matter what I wear, so I choose yoga instead.

Oh, and by the way, I ditched my old, clunky commenting system and now have a shiny new system that’s easy to use, so tell me: how are you spending your at-home time theses days?

If a Tree Falls in the Middle of a Waterfall, Does It Make a Sound?

a tree in bloom over a waterfall

View from my Studio Window, Before

She buds.
She blooms.
Over the course of ten days, she comes into her full glory. Every day I sit looking out my studio window, mesmerized at the splendor of her branches gracefully sheltering the spot my log once called home.

Today, as I eat a pack of crackers and call it lunch, I listen to Clarissa Pinkola Estes tell the story of her trumpet vine and how its raucous blooming annoyed the neighbor man. One spring he harrumphed over and asked her to cut it down. “I can’t do that,” she told him. “It’s an old vine. And beautiful.” One day she arrives home to find that the neighbor man has cut the vine down to the ground. And on her side of the fence, mind you. Once the initial wave of grief passed, she digs up the vine, plants the roots, and in a short while, the vine is growing again.

blooming tree lays across waterfall

blooming tree over waterfall

 

broken tree

 

I cover my mouth in horror of the neighbor destroying the trumpet vine, pick up another cracker,  and look back out at my tree of graceful blooms . . . to find it laying in the water. Tracing it back with my eyes, i see where the tree trunk snapped, the blooming limbs landing in the falls. Once again I cover my mouth in horror and disbelief.

Later, while I am on a business call, The Engineer and Mother  go out, cut off a few small branches, smash the ends, dip them in a root-activating powder, and plant them in soil. The trumpet vine grew back, so I’m hopeful these will begin to sprout, too. Maybe in a few years, I’ll sit mesmerized under the beautiful blooms framing the waterfall (I’m on my 17th day of yoga, so I might be able to get down and back up by then – it could happen.) I’ll spread out a quilt and picnic under the gloriously blooming tree, telling her the story of her grandmother who once thrilled my eyes and salved my broken, grieving heart with her beauty.

You Wood Miss Her, Too

a waterfall

Last night was a brightly colored weather calendar.
Rain fell sideways for hours and hours and hours.
Wind threatened to turn our stationary house built upon a rock
into a house boat
and send us down the falls.
Thunder came in one gigantically long clap
that knocked pictures off the walls.

The lightning came indirectly from Mother Nature
as the electricity danced with our generator in a mechanical two-step
on, off
off, on.

It was a frightening night
to say the least.

We woke to an ebullient waterfall
telling us the story of last night in her own language
of loud, full, boisterous falls.

a waterfall

And then I noticed it.
My log was not there.

a waterfall

Years ago, in another night of
raging, threatening weather,
the log was wrested from the place  she then called home
and came to perch on the edge of the largest drop
of our waterfall.
Right on the edge, I tell you.

a log in the water

She lived on the edge
in shade and sun,
this log did,
with just enough of each
for her to become her own ecological system.
Plants sprouted on her
grew on her
bloomed  on her
then died on her.

a frozen waterfall

The water rushed around her.
The water froze around her.
Beavers skipped over her to get to the other side.
Driftwood pieces scooted by.
Some waved at her,
some didn’t find her worthy of attention.
And still she stayed just the way she was, this bole,
totally un affected.

A boy and a man play in a waterfall

One summer, she taught Handful how to play her version
of Pooh sticks.
His glee was infectious
just as she knew it would be.

She became my womentor,
I spent many an hour
talking to her
watching her
listening to her
learning from her.

I don’t mind telling you
that I already miss  her terribly.
I also don’t mind if you know that
I cried my way through the morning.
She may have looked like just a log
stuck on the edge of the falls,
but to me
she was more.
Much, much more.
She was my friend, my guide, my muse.

I admired her steadfastness,
her stillness,
how content she was being
a log.
She didn’t try to be water
or a boulder
or a bush.
And you know what?
As good friends as we were,
she never once asked me if the sticks
that attached themselves to her end
made her look fat.
She didn’t allow the rushing water
to steer her from her course
or move her from her perch
or frazzle her.
Nothing phased her.

She didn’t get flashy
or show off
or (try to) steal the spotlight from the falls.
Most people didn’t even notice her
till I pointed her out.
She was who she was
she was where she wanted to be,
she was fulfilling her life’s purpose,
and that was Enough.

I’ve been making some internal changes
in my life of late,
inspired in part
by The Log.

There have been other dramatic storms
since she took up here
so why did she choose last night
to let go and move on?

Perhaps she’s taught me everything I need to know.
Perhaps it was just plain time for her to go.
Perhaps you’ll say
”It was just a log.”
You’d be wrong.
But then again, maybe you’ll say
”I know you’ll miss her
and I understand why.”
and then you’ll be right
and I’ll be grateful.

Treatment #13: Will the Eyes Have It?

woman wearing hat and face mask

Wednesday, 08 April 2020, Day 29 of Sheltering-in-Place: Today is Eye Treatment #13, and as I both expected and feared, my vision has declined. Today I lost 10 letters.  That’s almost all the letters I’ve gained over the last year. Despite knowing the erosion of vision since the last visit, I am sad, bereft, and discouraged. I’ll take it easy tomorrow, then bounce back into the studio on Friday and get back to work making face masks. Thank y’all for your constant loving support.

Finding Smiles on Sheltering-in-Place Days 25 and 26

Saturday, 04 April 2020, Day 25

Gorgeous weather is the bearer of hope.

When we need more supplies to make masks, there is no choice but to go out. Before we enter the store, I give The Engineer a 4” x 44” strip of fabric with instructions to cover his nose and mouth then tie it in the back of his head, and I do the same. Next we both don gloves. Back in the truck, The Engineer says – and I quote – “I felt like an idiot when you made me wear that makeshift mask and gloves . . . and I think it’s the smartest thing you ever made me do.”

I choose yoga, sketching, and short poems for my 100 Day Project, and I start early with a Yoga Nidra this morning led by my amazing friend Nona Jordan. I haven’t adjectives to tell you how wonderful it was except to say that I am now looking forward to a spot of yoga in each day. Yoga will change my life. That much I’m sure of.

man pushing grocery cart

Small pleasures: walking through the grocery store downwind of the blue hyacinths that will soon grace our home.

a grandfather and grandson got out for a ride on the lawnmower

On the way home, we get behind a grandfather and his grandson who apparently decided to break the bindings of cabin fever by taking the lawnmower out for a spin.

There is much to smile about well before noon.

Sunday, 05 April 2020, Day 26

Handwritten sentences: I will not be cranky today.

Affirmations help some days.

fabrics and papers

Chore charts are set aside as we all pitch in to do what needs to be done while mask-making for friends and family continues full steam ahead. The floors are a  garden of thread and scraps of fabric. There’ll be plenty of time to sweep later.

47 Years Ago Today

Me, 10 days before meeting The Engineer

47 years ago today, The Engineer asked me to spend the rest of my life with  him. I’d been invited to a wedding shower and was voicing my reluctant enthusiasm about the prospect of attending. He tapped my nose with one finger and said, “You know, when we get married, you’ll have to go to wedding showers.”

“But you haven’t asked me,” I managed to blurt despite the somersaults of my heart.

Silence, 2, 3, 4 . . . then  “Well, will you?”

”Will I what?” I said, turning to look him squarely face-to-face. “If you want me to marry you, you’ll have to be clear in your proposal. I request and require clarity so there’s no misunderstanding.”

He slid off the sofa, took to one knee, held my hands while looking me straight in the irises and asked, ”Will you marry me?”

”I sure will!” I said on my way to planting a big fat kiss on his mouth.

Before he left that night, we sat outside in the swing, quietly reflecting on what happened earlier. “Let’s not tell anybody just yet,” he suggested – an idea with which I fully agreed. We both wanted to sleep on it, it turns out, to be quite sure in the light of day, and besides, it was April Fool’s Day, after all.

We met on Saturday, January 27, 1973
became engaged on April 1, 1973
said “You bet I will” (a.k.a. got married_ on July 31, 1973 – six months after we met.

It all happened quite fast, our togetherness, and I haven’t regretted my decision once (although if I knew then what I know today on Day 21 of The Great Sheltering-in-Place Adventure, I’d’ve asked him to study hairdressing on the side).

Sheltering-in-Place Days 17, 18, 19, 20

Waterfalls, moss, boulders, plants

A view of a different part of the waterfall as we walk up the path, holding onto the handrail The Engineer built for me when I was first diagnosed with wet macular degeneration

Friday, Day 17 ~ 3.27.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s 10 a.m. and we are just getting up. While I fantasize about sleeping late, actually doing it ruins the entire day for me. By 10 a.m. I should have much of my To Do List done. Then and only then do I earn time to stitch and write, says the dreaded Voice of Authority on the Committee of Jeanne. (The other COJ members are saving up for a firing squad. I just might create something to sell and contribute to the cause.) Daily accomplishment/productivity is important to my mental health and survival during times like this.

Planning book on red fabric

My weekly planner that functions more like a record/ledger

This year I’m using the Ink + Volt Planner.  I love the look and feel of the red book linen cover and the two ribbon markers, though I only use one so far. Weekly “planning” works better for me this year, though I don’t use the planner quite as it Is designed to be used. So far (and especially now) I use a sticky note (fear of commitment?) to create a Task Well – a list of things I would like to accomplish during the week. Once I’ve done something from the well, I note it in the day it was accomplished (in pencil – again, I ask: fear of commitment?), complete with a box that I then tick off in green ink.  I like structure and accomplishment –  I thrive on structure and accomplishment – I miss structure and accomplishment, but I find it incredibly hard to come by now when time is in plentiful supply. Is it grief or avoidance?

The NC governor issued the official shelter-in-place decree for NC, effective from 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, 2020 to April 29, 2020. We – Mother, Alison, The Engineer, and I – have already been at this for more than two weeks, but there’s something unsettling about it being official and applicable to everyone in the state.

Hosta, moss-covered tree stump

Hope (hosta reaching to the sun) and History (moss covered tree stump)

Saturday, Day 18 ~ 3.28.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC/Fayetteville, GA/Cashiers, NC

Last night Alison said she missed her jewelry, and that sparked an idea that The Engineer fortunately agreed with. We spent the day in the truck, driving to Georgia and back, giving Mother and Alison an hour in their homes to fetch creature comforts and necessities.  It still feels like we’re in a post-apocalyptic movie when we leave the house. They made their lists on the drive down, and they each forgot only one item.

The roads are eerily empty, and I am relieved that there are state patrol cars at the state line. Even though the governor’s decree doesn’t go into effect till Monday evening, it feels like we are doing something wrong, scary, dangerous.  In nearby Highlands, police are stationed at each end of Main Street because apparently people are renting cabins and coming up expecting to shop and dine as if on holiday. The governor as well as Jackson and Macon County officials add into their decree that any rentals less than a month in duration (unless for essential workers) must be canceled and anybody coming up to stay a while must bring enough food and medicine to get them through the two weeks they will spend in self-quarantine.

It was a good day. I close it out as I always do, with a list of Grins and Gratitudes.

Chore chart

Chore Chart V.2

Sunday, Day 19 ~ 3.29.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s surprising how tiring 9 hours in the car can be. We sleep late, nap long, and continue  binge watching Downton Abbey late into the night.

During our waking hours, I hand out the new individualized Chore Charts I created – one for everybody – intended to keep everyone in their own lane, doing their own chores. Each chart has space for everyone to write in other things they want to accomplish (They’ll likely use it about as much as I use my store-bought planner.). I reduced the number of chores, deleting some and combining some, till I have 8 daily chores, two per person. Thursday will be out entire house day, so everybody adds one chore on Thursday. I write the chores on slips of paper, fold them, and let everybody draw – a DIY scheduling that relieves me of that thankless grumble-inducing task.

To sweeten the pot, I institute weekly challenges. This week it’s water intake. Whoever drinks the most water (measured in 8 oz increments) between Monday morning and Saturday night can hand off their 2 Sunday chores to the person of their choosing. (Even though I’m putting much back into their hands, I have a feeling I’ll be real busy on Sundays.) Another week it will be walking – whoever walks the most steps wins the challenge. That’s all I’ve been able to think of so far.

Small art quilt blocks

Small art quilts, lifelines during former dark days

Monday, Day 20 ~ 3.30.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

I am cranky. I don’t want to be, and I try not to be, but I’m cranky, and I can list you reasons. I vow (again) to be kinder and friendlier, and even as I write that, I know that despite my best efforts, it won’t last. There’s simply not enough chocolate to carry me through. Should a chocolate shortage develop, you’ll find me eating bark and vines and howling at the sky from atop our chimney made of gravestones.

Today while trying yet again to bring order to The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug (my studio) (I believe physical environments enkindled and/or support emotional and mental environments, and I need all the help I can get!), I find the small blocks I made during some dark days I lived through in the Way Back When. Funny how many of them I remember. I immediately envision ways to bring them together in one art piece, but my heart settles on nothing yet. It will come, and I think it involves rope. That’s all I know for now.

Supper is at 6 p.m. every day, and for dessert, I stitch as we binge watch episodes of Downton Abbey. (We’re on season 6 and planning to watch the movie next.) Then I think we should make a list and watch movies featuring people who find themselves plucked from their normal everyday life and marooned in a new, surreal existence. Who knows? Maybe we’;ll find them motivational, maybe educational.

Maybe I’ll gift myself a couple of just-stitching days and that’ll be just the ticket I need to get me in productive motion again. Shoot, maybe I’ll even spend some serious time on that book I’m itching to write.

Day 16, an Outing

Bojangle’s sign

Lowe’s with mountains and clouds as a backdrop

Today was my day to cook breakfast, so we ventured out for a PICkuptruckNIC. Went to Bo’s for a biscuit, then – because he is showing withdrawal symptoms – a stop by Lowe’s. I admit it was more than a bit scary – after all, we haven’t been out of the house in two weeks. We never left the truck, though The Engineer and I did go into Lowe’s – he in search of supplies and me wanting to feed my Fitbit. People tended to make sure there was space in our togetherness, and most women wore gloves or kept their hands in their pockets. Why did I feel like holding my breath the entire time? A clear plastic panel was on his shopping list, and their supply’s was nil. When we went to the checkout, we discovered why: a panel of hard, clear plastic separated every cashier from the paying customers. Every aisle was marked off with big, colorful X’s on the floor and a sign asking next-in-line customers to wait here to maintain social distancing. The people behind us paid no heed.

Man and woman planting flowerpots

The weather was absolutely beautiful today, so once back home, Mother and The Engineer busied themselves outside planting colorful annuals in the deck pots while Alison and I worked on our computers indoors. If I told you Mother’s age, you’d be quite impressed at all she did today. But then if I told you her age, she’d kill me and spend the rest of her life wearing ill-fitted orange jumpsuits in prison, (a sentence she’d willingly endure for punishing me for the ultimate transgression. Our motto is Age is just a number, and mine’s unlisted.) I imagine we’ll all  sleep well from a day of good work (and no naps) with visions of Bo’s Biscuits dancing in our heads, though I’m not sure we’ll venture out again any time soon. I don’t like being fearful, but I don’t know how to quell it.

From the Mailbox

Thank you to Julie for sending a long list of quotes in response to my request on Day 14. She includes a quote at the end of every blog post, and she was kind enough to compile last year’s quotes and send them to me. I dare say Mother will enjoy these much more than the oracle cards.

I really enjoy hearing about how you’re getting on during this surreal time. My friend Becky writes of baking cookies and how she and her husband (who is now working from home) enjoy this slower lifestyle, including date night on the newly pressure-washed deck – now festooned with brightly colored plants – twice a week. She’s turned this into a delightful time of delightfully leisurely togetherness.

The Four-Legged Population Sheltering-in-Place With Us

An orange tabby kitten sleeps in the sunshine

Meet Flerkin

Black and white cat sleeping

And Jeeves

Did I mention that we have 8 – yes, e-i-g-h-t – cats staying with us, too? Why oh why does it sound so adorable when Tracy Coan posts of her feline’s antics? Ours are cute as buttons . . . When they’re asleep.

Day 15, The Determined Daffodil

Green plants growing in a pot

I am cranky.
I need space (physical and mental).
And order.

In this morning’s First Light of Day journal, I ask what I want my life to be because that seems a good starting point. The question “What do I want?” echoes when it hits the page.

I need a reset button, something to take my mind off the current situation and set me back on the path of cheerfulness and optimism. The only thing for it is to plead with Mother Nature to wrap her arms around me and whisper sweet parables to my heart and something positive to think about to my brain.

The sun has come to call today, so I go outside for a walk and there, in the flowerpot now filled with dead stems that were once colorful blooms celebrating daughter Alison’s graduation from college in our home-held ceremony, I spy a daffodil stretching and rubbing her eyes.

How did that happen?

In July this pot was filled with ham and egg lantana, not daffodils. Daffodils are spring flowers; lantana thrives in the summer. Daffodils enjoy the cool shade; lantanas are happiest in the hot, full sun.  I accept it as one of Mother Nature’s conundrums, something for me to ponder.

Green leaves, plants, and brown leaves underneath a green flower pot

Now I may be delighted with the notion that everything happens for a reason all in its perfect time, I may giggle gleefully with magic, but  The Engineer wants to know how and why things happen. Before I can stop him, he shoves the pot aside with his foot, and  lo and behold the pot is sitting in the middle of a small daffodil patch. This daffodil – the only one blooming – who found her path blocked, found a way to keep growing anyway. By golly she was meant to stretch, reach, grow. She was meant to live, and live she would. She was, after all, put on earth to bloom, and she let nothing – not even a heavy pot of wet soil and dead (or dormant) lantana stems stop her.

Daffodil in vase beside waterfall

The Determined Daffodil, now at home in a vase that belonged to my grandmother, the one I’m writing the book about.

She is not a victim, this daffodil. She doesn’t whine or wring her hands because her life is difficult and not at all the way she’d like it to be.  This is one Determined Daffodil, and she chooses lightness and smiles and positivity.

Now I REALLY have something to ponder.

« Older posts Newer posts »