Thursday, December 29, 2016


Christmas kind of passed me by this year.

There are several reasons behind that feeling. The biggest of course is that my grandmother died on December 23rd. She's been in hospice a while so it wasn't a shock. She was 89 and dying of end stage liver disease.

There are smaller things too. Money is tight. I am bracing for the fact that I'm probably looking for work starting in January and it's hard on my heart because I've gotten comfortable where I am at the little private school that can't pay me. It's understood that I'm looking and why I'm looking. I will leave on good terms. But I don't want to.

And there's this sense that my life is passing me by. Maybe it's a midlife problem. My kids are getting older and I feel like I'm failing them.

My aunt had to put her husband into hospice.

One of my cousins was nearly killed in a hit and run accident.

It's a lot.

But there were some very good moments from this Christmas:

I'm moving the kids' rooms. Brooklyn wanted to move to the guest room on the second floor, which was newly redone for our exchange student so it was clean and freshly painted. London is taking her old room, and we are rearranging the rest of the attic so that Niles has the same size space as London, and there will be a little sitting area with at TV and the game systems in between them. I'll post pictures when they're all done. But things are coming along. Both girls' rooms feel nicely grown up. They will suit them until they move out. Niles' room is still in process, and that is tomorrow's full day job.

I made that quilt.

I made some very pretty little stained glass.

I sat with a friend for hours talking and laughing.

I'm going to coffee with another friend in the morning.

My sister Bevin gave me a vintage mink stole. She told this story: "I was at this antique mall and there was this booth and I saw the stole in the back on a hanger, but when I see something like that, that I know I want, I can't just walk right up to it. I kind of have to approach it from the side, not looking directly at it. Like a cat, kind of sidling up to it, pretending to be interested in other things. But once I touched it, the man in charge of that booth said, 'I see you're interested in the mink, I can make you a deal,' and I knew I was taking it home."

My partner teacher gave me a coffee cup (we are coffee buddies) that reads, "I'd love to stay and chat...but I'm lying."

A friend took some words from this blog and turned them into a beautiful gift. I cherish it and her.

I got Brooklyn the drivers rule book and she's been highlighting away at it.She also went to a party with school friends. My little introvert is growing up.

London is having a friend over tomorrow night. We've decided not to move schools after all. I think we can make things work. Bloom where you're planted.

Niles went over to a (girl)friend's house all afternoon today. Her grandmother told me, "Your son is a polite young man." And her husband said, "He can come over anytime."

It's a small little Christmas here. And I've been crying for days and not sleeping well and things aren't great.

But in the end, I'm walking out of 2016 with enough. Happy kids, a few wonderful friends, a (mostly) clean house, some hopeful plans.

I'm holding tight to those. They're enough. They're enough. They're enough.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Quilt Post #2

It was a frugal Christmas this year. I have definitely been a Martha this year instead of a Mary--and trust me, I'm usually a Mary--but I am worried about many things. There's no alleviating this worry, either, and trust me, I've tried. But one of the things I worked hard to do this year was make Christmas happen on a tight budget without my kids noticing.

Part of the plan was working through my stash, and remembering how to do things and doing them as well as I could for others. I made table runners out of scrap fabrics for teacher gifts. I worked some copper foil stained glass for a couple other folks on my list. I trimmed down the list, I focused on my kids, but the people I could make something for, I did.

I had these blocks I'd found at an antique mall. They were in two ziploc bags in my cedar chest. I'd picked them up years ago with the hopes of putting them together and quilting it. This year was my chance. I got them out and examined them. Almost all cotton, shirt fabrics, mostly from the 50s and 60s. About 180 blocks, each with a solid on one edge.

They're called Rail Fence blocks. It's a simple beginner's pattern. I'm not sure why this set caught my eye, frankly, except that they were squared up and well sewn. And I don't like seeing blocks and quilt tops unfinished, languishing in flea markets and antique shops.

I started laying them out and realized that the anonymous woman who made them had a plan. They were probably days from being a quilt top when she--what? Set it aside? Got a job and ran out of time? Died?

The fabric had to be collected over a decade, unless she was a professional seamstress and her seams aren't that precise. All the blouses and little girls' skirts and dresses, the scraps in cardboard boxes waiting to be quilt blocks. Then one day sitting down and cutting out the rectangles and assembling them with an amazing eye for color and tone. For such a simple block design, this woman produced a work of art.

I was texting a friend while I laid it out and pinned it for quilting. It was a gift for my sister, who appreciates vintage fabric and loves quilts and afghans. I was telling Maggie about this anonymous woman who left these pieces behind. How satisfying it felt to put them together for her now, make them into something beautiful, which was obviously her intention, and give the finished product to someone who would love it.

These weren't broken--they were unfinished. So it's a different impulse than to take unwanted or broken things and make them good again. This is more a desire to bring something to what it always should have been if it hadn't been waylaid.

If it hadn't languished in a dusty antique shop.

If he'd had better teachers.

If she'd just let go of the grudge.

If we had enough love.

Bring something to the light. To fruition.

It's not too late to be what you might have been.


Quilt Post #1

When I was 17 years old, I had a boyfriend I liked very much, named Troy. We had been dating for about 9 months when I headed off to college 900 miles away. I took what could fit in the roof carrier we put on top of the family minivan that drove me away from Texas forever. Well, sort of forever. I would be coming back, but not to stay.

I didn't know that in August, though, and one of the items I squeezed into that roof carrier was my graduation present from my grandmother, an antique sewing machine, an off-brand Singer with gold filigree and a single running stitch, forward and backward. Its motor would overheat if I used it for too long at a stretch and it always smelled a little bit like burning, but we got along just fine.

I brought fabric with me, too. A red cotton with tiny white stars, thinking of the nights when Troy and I would sit on the back of my car down at the Brazoria County Airport and stare up at them. A green floral print. A white that had a bit of a sheen to it. What I knew about fabric back then could fit in a thimble. But I got what I liked and brought it with me to college.

I remember sitting in my dorm room at my built-in desk making these blocks. They were called "Homeward Bound" and that was my hope. I was homesick often that first semester away. I spent many weekends at my aunt's house. And I made these blocks. Red, white, green, thinking of Christmas, the long break I would spend back in Texas with my family and friends.

That's not the way it worked.

I did go home, and I gave Troy this quilt. I had a nice time but it was wrong. It was different. In 4 1/2 months everything seemed to have changed. This is not a rare experience, but I was surprised that it happened to me. I went back to college discombobulated and spent the spring semester wrestling with what to do.

I broke up with him. Obviously. Again, not a rare experience, but I was surprised it had happened to me.

I went home at Christmas that year, and there in a cardboard box in my room was this quilt. He'd given it back to me. We never spoke again. I took the quilt to St. Louis with me, and treated it badly. It faded in the sun on the porch of my first apartment. Our old dog Dara liked it a lot. It slowly but surely fell apart, especially along the seams of the white sateen.

I should have thrown it away. It was an amateur effort, compared to quilts I made later. It was ratty and tacky.

But it reminded me of something that wasn't there anymore. My first really serious relationship, and this was the only remnant.

So last Advent, I spread it out on the guest bed and thought it over. I patched it in places with the same color scheme. Patches left over from quilts I'd made for neighbors and friends and children. I backed it in a red toile and put it into circulation again.

My middle daughter fell in love with it. She used it on her bed, she dragged it around the house and curled up on the couch with it. And here, a year later, it is a rag again. Shabby and torn, every single original white square with threadbare rips and holes.

"I think I'm going to throw that away," I announce one evening as I stuff it back in the blanket drawer in the living room. But we both know I won't.

I will patch it up again, covering the bits of old with bits of new. Take something broken and try to make it whole again.

That might just be my grandmother coming out in me--I still have that old overheating sewing machine--but I think it's something more. I think it's something the Benedictines understand about God and I try to emulate. Fall and get back up. Keep trying.

Practice on more quilts and get better at it.

Learn from failed relationships and do better next time.

Learn more about fabric and don't use cotton sateen in quilts you're going to take on picnics.

Learn more about yourself and don't try to be what you aren't.
Do your best, and when you know better, do that.

Patch it up and let someone love it. Patch yourself up and let someone love you.

We are all homeward bound. By the time we get there, may our souls be like this quilt, made new over and over as we let God work in us and through us. I'm not the person I was at 17 when I made this. I'm patched and redesigned and worked over. Not necessarily beautiful in the end, but interesting and full of stories and texture.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ten Good Things

I need a list of ten good things today. It's been a long week in a series of long weeks. I know there are people out there who keep "gratitude journals" in which they write three good things that happened that day--I'm afraid some days I wouldn't have anything real to say and then I'd be even more depressed about things. Or that I would write the same three things every day: my three kids, for instance. And then it wouldn't seem special and instead just taking for granted.

Lately I haven't been blogging, I know. I am worried about many things. Lately my life has felt a little bit like a list of shit I have to get done. Now, this happens sometimes, but usually in anticipation for something large like a trip or the beginning of a new job. These days it just feels like an endless list.

So I need to make some nice little lists. So here are 10 things that are good.

1. We got a new doctor for London--a dermatologist--and he had answers for us.

2. I talked to London's principal about some things that are going on and I cried in her office and I could tell that she really liked me.

3. The third grade teacher at their school said that she'd spent part of thanksgiving with a junior in high school who is dating her niece and my name came up at dinner because he'd gone to the school where I taught. "She is the BEST TEACHER I EVER HAD."

Best part? I knew immediately who the young man must be. And I was right. Oh baby.

4. My own principal nominated me for a math and science teacher award. I won't get it--but she nominated *me. I think she sees me.

5. I really, really, really like my partner teacher.

6. I got out my stained glass stuff and I remember what to do and how to do it and I am happy with it.

7. Niles made his first reconciliation and didn't faint in the confessional like he was afraid he would.

8. My sisters took me to coffee a couple weeks ago and we talked real talk.

9. I have a couple of friends who see me. Who listen to me and share with me and see me and hold my heart gently. And I'm holding onto them tight because the world is tossing my little ship on huge angry waves these days.

10. One time many years ago I held a handmade brown stuffed rabbit made from a couple of old spare socks with an embroidered face that my mother was making for a friend's baby. She gave it to me instead. I named it Skessarow and it is one of the things I still have. And it makes me happy.