The Century Quilt, Revised

IMG_0345I’ve revised the timeline for finishing the Hundred Year Quilt, despite the looks I’ve received from two different sales clerks at two local quilt stores.

Are you sure? Most people start with a small, simple quilt.

I learned to swim as a preschooler by jumping into the deep end of a rather large pool and pretending I was a fish. Things haven’t change much since then.

I am also pretty certain the quilt will be finished by the time the Republicans finally choose a presidential candidate.

I must have a bit of my mom in me.  Mom was a rebel and housewifely chores were at the bottom of her list, unless she could iron in front of a televised Giants baseball game.  I don’t iron unless there’s absolutely no other option.

When the soon-to-be ex and I were first married, he wanted everything starched and ironed.  He did such an excellent job of demonstrating his preferred technique that I watched for 30 seconds, conceded defeat, and left the iron in his care for the rest of our marriage.

A few years past newlywed, Mom asked if I wanted her two small upholstered Ethan Allen rocking chairs for our bedroom.  I was in the throes of updating our bedroom on the typically tight early-marriage-with-children budget and said I’d take them.

The only problem was that the chairs were covered in an ancient dark green material and I was redoing the room in a French Blue and White color scheme.

No problem.  We’ll recover them.  It’ll just take a day or two.  

Mom was ever the optimist and another strong swimmer, although she did feign distress at age 15 in the high school pool in order to meet my dad who dove into the water and carried her all the way to the other end of the pool.

Alas, the swimming gene did not translate into the sewing gene for either of us.  Blithely ignorant, I chose a beautiful French Blue and White plaid fabric.

With the soon-to-be ex on a business trip and the two kids on loan to friends, Mom and I began. We had no clue what we were doing.  There was no pattern to follow. We had little more than one pair of scissors, a measuring tape, pins, a staple gun and an entry level Kenmore sewing machine.

A plaid pattern.  White piping. A buttoned cushioned back. Pleated skirt. We were so far over our heads it was insane.

But, by the end of Day One, Chair One was complete.  It looked pretty damn good. We had even re-plumped the chair with the new white stuffing.

Day Two, Chair Two.  We were very, very proud and very, very tired.

Day Three and the family returned home.

Did you enjoyed your time alone? Get some rest?

Look at the chairs!

They were unimpressed.

Their loss. While no one who knows us ever quite believed that Mom and I actually did the reupholstering, those rockers lasted a couple more decades before going on to another young family.

But, I digress.  This posting is about the Century Quilt. The acres of starched and ironed fabric have now been cut into what seems like mountains of squares and rectangles. 

I did jump ahead and finished one block, just to see…

I also jump to the end of most books, just to see…

Some habits die hard.

I do have a new-found respect for our Foremothers’ quilting.  I think I’d rather have been out plowing fields or harvesting crops than hand stitching quilts.  oh wait, they did that, too…

However, in this century, I am on my own mission.  It suddenly dawned on me that, given the current front runners from which the Republicans will ultimately select their presidential candidate, I am going to need my Century Quilt to hide under.

 

 

 

The Hundred Year Quilt

 fabric1My good friend Gail visited me last week. We typically begin each conversation by laughing and making sure that we are indeed still friends.

We met while serving on our county’s Behavioral Health Board and quickly realized we had a long list of similar interests, including a love of art and creativity, the outdoors and community service.

Then, one day, I made the mistake of sneaking out of the meeting for a few moments and came back to find I had been elected chair.  Stuck, I shepherded the Board through a challenging two year transition period of sitting on far too many committees with the tasks of integrating Mental Health with Alcohol and Drugs, finding a new Department Director and changing our bylaws.  I had hoped that I would leave the Board with a predictable schedule in Gail’s capable hands when I moved out of the area.

No such luck. Gail has had her hands full.  We both know I got out at just at the right time, with one crisis after another landing at her feet.  She’s doing a great job and I am very, very grateful it’s not me. I’m also very glad we’re still friends, despite me setting her up as the next chair. 

Last week when she visited, we wandered over to our favorite local Quilt Shop, looking at the fabrics and ideas, knowing full well that my expertise is limited to a Quilting for Dummies’ rag quilts and Gail’s not even sure where she stored her sewing machine.  But, it’s fun to imagine what we could do, if only we knew what we were doing.

When we returned home that evening, I showed Gail a pattern I had downloaded three years ago for a Mixed Brick Quilt.  It is large enough for a queen size bed, very attractive and supposedly for all levels of expertise, including beginner.

uh huh.

As I said, I’ve had the pattern for three years and can only get through the first two paragraphs before zoning.

Gail read it, also zoning, but kept reassuring me that she had full confidence that I could successfully make the quilt. And, if I could, she could…

I think I gave Gail the same pep talk as I packed up my stuff, handed her the chairperson’s gavel and bolted out the door.

So, last Friday, I spent two hours back at our favorite quilt shop, purchasing twelve different materials that I think will go together.  Hope may be the operative word. Then, I brought them home, with directions to first wash the fabric with something called a color catcher and then iron with a light starch.

I had to iron? Iron? Starch? Before starting? Are they kidding?

All of which meant I had to find the iron and ironing board.  I knew I had gotten them when I married almost 50 years ago but have avoided using either one.

In no time at all — ok, I was watching the Warriors do a number on the Pacers so the ironing wasn’t all that tedious — the yardage was properly washed, dried, starched and ironed.  It dawned on me as I stood at the ironing board, more engaged in cheering on Curry than starching and ironing, that somehow I had missed out on all the domestic stuff I could have learned as a child.

Of course, I had two brothers, a father and a mother who had five brothers and was herself a bit of a tomboy. It’s no wonder that I never learned to cook, iron or sew.

But I could catch, throw and hit a baseball, and catch and throw a football — and not like a girl.

I remember back to my teaching days, when a football bounced its way across the quad and I scooped it up.  The boys shouted out, asking if I could hold it for them. Fat chance.  I threw it — a perfect spiral — across the quad, over the heads of the mob of students and right into their midst.  I gained a few brownie points that day.

Today, however, I am looking a paragraph 2 of the quilt directions — something about cutting out 386 bricks and blocks before proceeding to paragraphs 3 and stitching them all together and then cutting them again.

Holy Mackerel, this is going to take a hundred years or more to complete.

The next conversation with Gail should be very interesting.

 

January’s Memories

IMG_0328Januaries are difficult; the gloomy days and early nightfalls seem to linger far too long, especially with Christmas lights having long since been taken down and packed away.

Januaries are long. I’ve notice it especially since moving, given that I’ve moved farther north, not fully aware of the longer nights until smack in the midst of them.

Januaries lend themselves to still more reflection.

My blogs on dating have gathered a bit of an audience, surprisingly among young women who are struggling with the drama of dating, including one young writer who wrote a piece delightfully entitled You may be Hot, but so is Hell.

Touché.

Many of these young women are now sharing about refocusing their energy on developing female friendships. And that leads me back to Januaries and reflections.

Words fail in sharing just how important female friends are and the role they will play in your life; your female friends are the ones who will know your history, fears, hopes, successes, failures, and spirit — possibly even better than a future partner. 

In many ways, female friends will become your chosen family, your sisters.  Select them with care, nurture the friendships and, with luck, those relationships will last a lifetime, sharing in celebrations, heartaches, laughter and adventures.

Four years ago today, our circle unexpectedly lost Mimi.  She had just celebrated her 64th birthday two weeks earlier and was far too young and vibrant to have died.

Mimi had been our sister for over thirty years. The ten of us grew from being colleagues in teaching into fast friends and then realized we really had been sisters all the while.

Mimi could see through any situation, cutting right to the chase with an expressive face followed by a wry smile and her infectious laugh. And you just had to love her.

We knew Mimi as a bubbly whirlwind of activity from decorating homes to organizing parties and theatre outings, from teaching creative lessons to being an advocate for students and teachers, from entertaining family and friends to traveling around the world and hosting sister city events with Russia.

Mimi showed up to work one Halloween dressed as Wonder Woman and a tradition was born: the next two years, she convinced our English Department to dress as nuns and the following Halloween, Mimi talked most of the school’s 100 plus staff members into buying bright red and white striped polo shirts that we knew we’d never wear again.  But we all had tremendous fun playing our roles in Where’s Waldo? much to the delight and surprise of 2,000 unsuspecting high school students.

Mimi loved to share stories, especially about her two sons and, later, about her cherished granddaughter. Mimi would speak of her love for her husband, and because he was her rock, she could fly.  And fly she did.

We all loved Mimi and sorely miss her and the grace, vitality and merriment she so generously shared.

For those young women seeking friendships, I hope that you are as fortunate as our sisters have been in creating lifelong bonds.  Your friends will be far more important in your life than you could ever imagine…

 

 

 

 

 

Boring

boringMy Sister Jane came up to visit over the holidays and, of course, the late night topic of conversation turned to dating.  Or not dating, as the case may be.

I shared that, having been blogging now for a whole few months, I’ve had the occasion to read a plethora of blogs about dating experiences by women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

ACK!!!  We all report pretty much identical stories.  Age doesn’t seem to matter. And, that’s a pretty dismal statement.

I had also read an interview with Kristie Allie, who was back once again in the dating scene and made a plea to the more mature man:

Don’t be so freaking boring! Don’t have the life already sucked out of you.

We must have dated some of the same men.

What I found even more interesting were some of the comments by men who had read the interview. Many lacked photos of themselves, but had posted pictures of sport cars, dead fish and guns.

Yawn.

There was the man who wrote that, in his forties, he had taken up fishing, golfing, four-wheeling and how dare she describe him as boring.  Ah, hint:  those are hobbies.  Good for any man (or woman) has hobbies, quilting, gardening and painting included, but if that’s all you can talk about it on a date, boring just about fits either gender.

And then there were the men who wanted to take another nap before leaving a comment.

There were also the men who understood Alley’s comments. 

Boring is not a function of what you do but who you are. Do you strive to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and try new things? Are you always learning? Do you reach out and try to offer things of value to the people you care about? Then you will not only not be boring but you will also be the best self you can be, and get the most out of life.

Whoo Hoo!!  I’d sure like to meet that wise man, even if he is a forty-something college professor who lives 3000 miles away.

 I do wonder if the current economic situation hasn’t added to the life sucked out of you observation, at least for some of us of retirement age. I can’t tell you how many professional men I’ve met who didn’t plan and are now faced with working for the rest of their lives because they have to, not because they want to.

If that doesn’t drain life out of someone, I’m not sure what does.

Sadly, I also think these men may be the harbinger of things to come, as increasing numbers of retirees will need to rely on 401Ks, given defined benefit programs are fast becoming the safety net of the past. If Frontline predictions hold true that 401Ks are both a gamble and train wreck waiting to happen — all while underwriting increased company profits — then we can pretty much forget about boring dates.

We’ll be far too busy surviving to be concerned about the folly of coffee dates.

 

 

 

 

The Karma Goddess

Karma. The Big K. KarmaI knew it was going to happen one day.  Eventually, Karma gets everyone.

My Karma showed up with a phone call one afternoon from our school district superintendent. It was a couple of weeks after Columbine.

It was completely unexpected when the superintendent called late on a Thursday afternoon.

You already know a lot of cops and you know how to work with different systems.  Say goodbye to your students tomorrow. New assignment on Monday. I want you to figure out what to do before a Columbine happens here.

uh huh.  

Monday morning I reported to my new boss, a tall, lanky, curly grey hair administrator with cowboy boots.  He was also ADD and Bi-Polar (and very open about it, so no confidentiality is being violated) which, in comparison, made me look like a quiet English teacher armed with little more than a red pen.

I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve him, but the SWAT teams always wanted to know if I was getting hazardous duty pay for working with him.

No hazardous duty pay in education, but I learned more from him than I ever could have imagined, so that was not my Karma gotcha.  It came a bit later, after we had one of the first Columbine simulations with over 600 police, teachers, administrators and students.

We didn’t even know what we didn’t know.

 I was handed the task of developing procedures and a training for staff at twelve high schools.  Topic: what to do in an active shooter situation and integrate it with the new First Responder Training for Police.

The first challenge was getting everyone in the same book and more or less on the same page.

As one of my law enforcement colleagues complained, Collaboration used to mean we got to do it our way.  

And now it’s an unnatural act between two non-consenting adults.  Let’s make this work.

Quick comebacks are the mainstay of high school teachers.

I had almost forgotten about Karma, and then it got me.

I had spent a career being the bane of staff presenters. I knew every game possible to avoid being at these meetings.  Or, if completely trapped, I could feign interest while being a thousand miles away, usually at some beach.  Or playing a game with another bored colleague. Anything to avoid listening to another presentation.

And now, I was the presenter.

All of which proves there is a Karma Goddess with a very wicked sense of humor.

I wrote; I re-wrote; I revised. I practiced until I had the timing down cold and could end the training within a minute of its allotted time.  There was humor interspersed to keep the anxiety level down, even though I had always been a poor to middling joke teller.  I had the poor young police officer co-presenting with me practicing until he thought I was truly mad.

I still remember the first Code Red Training, in front of a hundred or so colleagues. I had never presented to adult audiences; teenagers, yes; colleagues, oh no.

Within a minute or so, both the officer and I realized this was not going to a typical school presentation.  The teachers, classified personnel and even administrators were starving for the information and, at the same time, terrified to hear it.  You could have heard a pin drop in the room, except for the nervous laughter at our initial attempts at humor.  It was the most attentive audience I had ever witnessed.

We had expected that it would take over a year to get the one hour training and follow up drill into the twelve high schools in our district as it’s virtually impossible to schedule a staff training once the yearly calendar was set.  This time, the entire district was trained and had conducted drills in under six weeks.

That led to training 300 more schools citywide…and, heading down a new career path, I realized that sometimes Karma can also be a new best friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Hopes

powerballDid anyone else also succumb to the siren call of the Powerball Lottery?  1.5 billion for a mere $2?  Buy your tickets here and here or over there.

I bought my ticket, and having never played before, bought the Quick Pick so as not to hold up the line of dreamers behind me.  I paid my money, pocketed the ticket and headed out the door where an unexpected few hours of pure fantasy awaited me.

The ads for Powerball are not far off. I mentally spent the petty cash:  college and post graduate studies for the grandkids — check; pay off bills and kids’ homes — check. Maybe buy a home for me….or not. I rather like my gypsy life.

And then, having oh-so-many bazillion dollars remaining and arriving in predictable payments over the next 30 years, which will no doubt be long after I die, it’d be setting up a foundation to give back and perhaps try to do a bit of good.

In my mind’s eye, the kids and grandkids had to continue in careers that speak to their passions.  No free rides here; we all have gifts to give this world and sitting around waiting for a handout doesn’t help anyone reach their potential or make this world a better place.

Then, reality hit and the fantasy turned a bit more grim as to what might potentially be supported:  education, climate warming, homelessness, gun safety (reasonable changes that protect the entire Bill of Rights and not just the 2nd Amendment), women’s access to basic health care…

How about countering a few of the blame ‘n shame fear mongers running for office? How about taking on the governor of Michigan who first displaced democracy by replacing the Flint’s elected officials with his appointed emergency manager before cutting off clean water to over 100,000 citizens and, despite warnings, exposed everyone to months of toxic levels of lead poisoning and legionnaires disease?  Or maybe the governor of Kansas who, after decimating public education, decided women and children did not need access to low cost health care and proceeded to de-fund Planned Parenthood and eliminate funding for low-income children’s health coverage?

Maybe the Powerball winnings could even work towards restoring those social contracts that many current retirees grew up with: wages that allowed us to buy homes, take vacations, spend time with our children; benefit packages that kept families healthy; and pensions so we could retire. 

I’m old enough to have watched our nation morph from one that offered opportunity, if one had access to some education and worked hard enough, to one where only the very top corporate officers and hedge fund managers benefit at the expense of everyone else, 401K’s included.

Evidently, avarice and power are mighty strong motivators.

ah, but now we have the Powerball, perhaps the only viable path to wealth for a very few chosen ones, even though some call it the Stupidity Tax because it’s just another way for the government to collect taxes at the expense of those of us who purchased tickets and lack the means to hide a windfall in some obscure Caribbean island.

Besides, with odds of one in 292.2 million, my chance of winning the grand prize was probably slightly better than finding the right man with whom to spend the rest of my life. Sigh.

On the other hand, if I can avoid reality, spending two bucks for a few hours of pure fantasy is well worth the price of admission. I may even play again, some day down the road.

Besides, in Wednesday’s drawing, I won!!  Whoo Hoo!!!

Five whole dollars. All things considered, it was a pretty darn good return on my investment.

I’ll try hard not to spend it all in one place.

 

Buzzword Bingo

This past Monday morningBingo, an email from the American Association of University Women showed up in my inbox, inviting me to play State of the Union Bingo with the rest of the nation’s AAUW members.

The objective, other than to have some fun and possibly win a few prizes, was to see if Obama’s speech would help women and girls in the upcoming year.

I immediately flashed back to my years in teaching and so many staff meetings with no objective other than to cover items that could have been better communicated in a short memo.

There were those of us who carried in stacks of essays to correct during the mandatory Monday afternoon Staff Meetings — typically the English Department, but that did not help any of us stay awake during the terminally long meetings. It usually seemed that the presenters just wanted to take the longest amount of time to share the smallest amount of information.

Most of us concluded that many of the presenters just enjoyed hearing themselves speak.

Then, someone (ok, it was Sister Peggy) brought in a nifty little game for the faculty:  Buzzword Bingo.

The squares were filled with the latest buzzwords — a relatively easy task in education as the profession tends to thrive on Flavor-of-the-Day Buzzwords.  Cards were generated and printed and we quietly distributed the Buzzword Bingo handouts among our hundred or so colleagues.

We had great fun.  The game kept us all awake and at least looking like we were paying attention.  The best record ever was somewhat under four minutes and that was for covering an entire card.  I’m not sure that record actually counted because it was during a presentation by an administrator with a reputation for speaking solely in buzzwords without actually knowing what any of them meant.

The game became very popular and made Monday Staff Meetings almost tolerable. The administrators had no idea what we were doing, other than assuming that they were charming the faculty with their endless droning and that we were all dutifully taking notes.

Then, second semester arrived and with it, a new crop of young and enthusiastic student teachers. As required, they all trooped into their first Monday Staff Meeting. One sweet young teacher, having been handed a Buzzword Bingo card without any of the cautionary ground rules, started playing the game in earnest.

When she had covered the requisite squares, the young teacher jumped up out of her chair, waving the Buzzword Bingo card high in the air and shouting BINGO!! at the top of her lungs.

Alas, it happened smack in the middle of the principal’s presentation.

And with that, like so many other good ideas in education, Buzzword Bingo came to an abrupt and untimely demise.