Monday, June 01, 2020

A Different Sort of Post

A few days ago, a young person railed at me over the phone for at least an hour.  Ours was a fraught and uneven conversation, during which I was accused, because of my year of birth and the current world situation, of being part of the cause of all that is wrong everywhere.  I was accused of being selfish and told to "check my privilege".  I was told there was no way I could possibly understand how young adults today are trying to cope with economic inequities caused, in large part, by me and others my age.

I've been living with those painful words in my head for several days now, alternating between anger and tears, wondering if they're true -- both in general and in personal terms.

I've come to the conclusion that there is some truth in the accusation.

I am privileged.

I was born in Canada, a country which still for the most part tries to live up to its objectives of "peace, order and good government", enshrined in the text of the British North America Act (aka the Constitution Act) of 1867, at the country's formal confederation.

My parents were Caucasian, from a long line of Scots and English Caucasians -- farmers, green grocers, gardeners, wood-workers, artists and artisans -- and they'd been happily married for 11 years when I was born.

Well...sort of married.  My mother, age 36 at my birth, was widowed seven months earlier when my father, 47, died as a result of ongoing stress on his heart, exacerbated by his service in the second World War.

My mother remarried when I was almost five, bringing in to my life a step-father and two step-siblings.  One of them -- my brother, older by about 5 years -- had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of two.  My sister was younger than I by 14 months; we were all expected to get along.

At that tender age, I was asked if I wanted to be adopted by my step-father, so I would have the same last name as the rest of the family.  I declined.  I liked my last name just fine.  Remember -- I was five at the time.  It took me years to figure out how much this decision at that very young age, made with all the logic of a five-year-old, rankled my step-father.

My growing up was relatively happy, but our family was not the Brady Bunch and our home was not portrayed by either Father Knows Best or the Donna Reid Show.  My step-father, too, had served in the Canadian army in WWII, and had been shot and wounded in France, losing two fingers on his right hand.  He never spoke of his war service, but served faithfully on the board of the local Legion, and was active in services and parades every Remembrance Day.

As we got into our teens, the extent of what would now be considered PTSD in the life of my step-father became more obvious in the rancorous atmosphere that surfaced at home, with arguments between my parents that woke us up at night and later, in arguments with me as I discovered the world of politics and the events going on around us -- particularly south of the border, with the Viet Nam war and racial unrest.  I was berated for being scholarly and for wanting to discuss these sorts of issues.  In my step-father's mind, there was no issue.  If you were called up, you went, and that was that.  The Powers That Be had to have their reasons for being at war; you didn't argue with them.

I was able to go to university, thanks in large part to the Canadian Department of Veterans' Affairs -- and my father's death due to the trauma of war.  Otherwise, it would have been a stretch indeed.  My mother stayed at home to care for us -- and particularly our brother, as his muscular dystrophy progressed.  A bright  young man, I gave him my books to study while I was in high school, because he never got past Grade 7 in the school.  Those were the days before wheel-chair access and other things more helpful for children with special needs today.  He was tutored at home for Grade 8, but after that...

Growing up we did have the pleasure of summers at a cottage my parents built with the help of friends, on a bay in the St. Lawrence River.  We all went to camps -- my sister and I to a church-run camp and later Girl Guide camp in the Laurentians, and my brother to a special camp for handicapped children in the Eastern Townships.  While we were away, our parents got time to themselves and so usually travelled -- camping -- themselves, never visiting us at camp.  They also took us on road trips, tenting under canvas, around Niagara and around Gaspe and the Maritimes.  These were fun, interesting and challenging, as Dad's tendency to revert to army sergeant came out when we were setting up and taking down our campsite.  At the ages of 8, 9 and 10, my sister and I weren't very good at following orders...

Eventually I graduated university, married, and moved West.  I married a man who'd been diagnosed at age seven with Type 1 Diabetes.  In hope and optimism, we tried not to make that matter, but over time, it dominated our relationship, and impacted all of our family life, which included two children.

By the time our son was two, it was clear that my husband's illness was having an impact on his kidneys and his eyesight.  He left work and spent the rest of his life on a disability pension, provided not by his former employer (he had a pre-existing condition, after all), but by his contributions to the Canada Pension Plan that also had a provision for disability.  I became the main wage-earner in the family, and in 1989 we moved from a two-storey home to one that was -- except for the basement -- all on one level, so that in the future it might be easier for my husband to navigate.

All we ever wanted for our kids was that they would grow up knowing a loving family, a stable and happy household, a few privileges (there's that word again!) -- like opportunities for trips, music lessons, education, out-of-school activities (soccer, Beavers, Brownies, Guides, drama school and camps)...but eventually the disease filled our home.  Over time, even as we tried to 'keep it all together', it took his kidneys, damaged his heart, and lead to the loss of both of his legs.  During all of this time our kids were growing up.  There was some 'gallows humour' involved -- especially when there were shipments of medical supplies or times when it was explained to friends, "Don't mind Dad; he's on drugs" -- but truth be told, it was exhausting, challenging and painful.

My mother, widowed again, had come to live in our city, and my sister and I shared responsibility for ensuring she got to doctor's appointments, etc.  She wanted to go to church; ensuring that happened -- followed by lunch and a shopping trip -- meant a day out every three weeks or so.  At times both she and my husband were in hospital -- different hospitals, at different ends of the city.  My days became rounds of work, hospital visits, meals, and sometimes ensuring our son -- now the only child at home -- got to his part-time job, got home from it, or wherever he needed to be.

During the operation to remove the second of my husband's legs (below the knee), he had two cardiac arrests as the surgeons were closing the wound.  My son was working part-time, and was due to be picked up and taken to a sleep-over at the home of a friend.  I was blessed to get that friend's mom on the phone, and arrange for her to pick up my son and take him home, agreeing to explain as calmly as possible that "your mom had to go to the hospital to be with your dad".

The church community to which we belonged was helpful -- but only to a limited degree.  Though an Anglican parish, it had an 'evangelical' bent which, the (now retired) priest in charge explained to me once, was the bane of his existence. "Evangelicals have a hard time understanding grief".  Try as he might, he was unable to stop the "Why are you sad?  You should be happy!  You're a Christian!" perspective from eating away at our son.  The congregation's prayers focused on my husband's healing, ignoring the needs of the rest of us unless we specifically went up for prayer.  The youth leaders refused to address grief and loss with the teens in the congregation.  I felt helpless in the face of it all -- and angry -- but I couldn't abandon my soul to nothingness, so I kept going.

There were other medical crises over time...each of which I tried to manage without undue upset at home, but eventually this balancing act took its toll.  The cracks in the life we'd hoped for widened with time, but the dam didn't break until some years after my husband's death.  All of us -- me, my son and my daughter -- have been affected deeply, and the impact continues to colour our lives, each of us dealing with it in our own ways.


By birthdate (post-war), birthplace, race, up-bringing (solidly middle-class, because there actually was a middle class in those years), and opportunities for education and "getting ahead" -- yes, at least by the strict definition of the word.

But in my faith practice, 'privilege' comes with a requirement: service.

In the phone call that started this reflection, I was accused of being selfish, but given no facts, no litany of observations of my behaviour to support that accusation.   I do believe that as a whole, each and every one of us has a propensity for selfishness.  Left to our own devices, we focus on our needs and wants before those of others.

But in my privileged up-bringing, there was also laid a foundation and expectation of service and giving.  "Love your neighbour as you love yourself" was interpreted to mean "Love your neighbour before you love yourself".  Do good; don't talk about it.  Give; don't talk about it.

And I haven't.  I don't, and I won't.  I don't do what I do for others to be acknowledged or praised; I don't give financially to get my name on a plaque or a building.  I rarely share that I give to causes via Facebook, because though the popular view is that sharing your giving will encourage others to give by example, in my view, it's boasting, and that is just not on.

So yes, young friend, I agree; I am and have been privileged by my place in this world.  That I had no control over the origins of my privilege is beside the point.  I've tried to make of my life -- by the decisions I've made on my own and with my husband in our life together -- something that would be wholesome, helpful, supportive and loving for our children, others in our family and those around us.


Probably; I'm human, after all.  But as with the origins of my privilege, that's beside the point.  There are daily opportunities for me to think of myself before others, rather than the other way around.  It is an ongoing challenge to get outside myself.  My relationship with myself is the safest, least risky one I have, because I am very good at trying to avoid discomfort.  One regular place wherein I stumble and fall is during conversations; I agree I'm not a very good listener, with a bad habit of interrupting.  Something to continue to work on -- but not the only thing.

I also have to monitor my tendency to sarcasm and righteous anger.  These days it is very easy to be outraged 24/7 -- and thus to be accused of not caring, or of being selfish, if you are perceived as not being outraged enough about one or all of the issues out there that demand outrage.  But living in a constant state of rage, hopelessness and fear is exhausting and debilitating.  In the end, no good comes of it for the individual or for those who need help.

I try to be mindful that none of my blessings is to be taken for granted.  I try to "bloom where [I've been] planted" -- to give back to my family, friends and community in quiet, unassuming ways, and this will continue for as much of the future as I may have left on this planet.  In the end, whether or not I've "done good" will be taken up with my Maker.

Please Note: Comments made for this post will remain unpublished.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Order Out of Chaos

I continue to find peace in piecing -- and in knitting and embroidery -- when I'm not out in my yard, that is!

Since I last posted, I've done a great deal more shovelling of wood chips, edging of flower beds, and generally preparing my garden for planting.  I even managed to wrestle with my new lawn mower and mow the land (2 narrow lots) next to my home before it rained.

This baby is a Troybilt 159 cc, 21" 3-in-1 gas lawn mower with rear-wheel drive and push-button electric start!  Whoa! 

I've never owned a gas mower before, but there's no cord long enough for me to mow that piece of land with my electric had to put on my Big Girl Pants and move up in the lawn mower power world! 

It's heavier, and far more complex: battery, charging source, oil, gasoline, 3 types of mowing -- mulching, grass bag and side chute...

And as per usual, the photos illustrating the assembly and operation were written by someone who never had to follow his own instructions! LOL! 

But I managed...and that lot got mowed.

Then the rains -- and the wind -- came, and I was most happy to hunker down inside again...sort of.  I spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday stitching, but yesterday morning the rain lightened  up enough for me to get out early to the nursery for bedding plants, and to travel on up the road to Stettler for more topsoil to finish filling the raised bed.  Temps have been cool, so nothings actually planted yet...but starting tomorrow...

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, there's been peace to be found in the sewdio.

On the knitting front, work on my Tegna top continues, but the focus has been my May "Socks from Stash" project.  The first sock is finished and I'm making my way down the foot of the second.  Using 60 stitches, I just love how the colour play is working!

Yarn: Ancient Arts "Reinvent" in 'Calico Cat'
Pattern: "A Nice Ribbed Sock"
Designer: Glenna C.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned in passing that I'd resumed work on an embroidered sampler designed by Jeannette Douglas of Calgary.  Having let it languish as a UFO for 20 years, I've firmly committed to finishing it and sending it to my friends for their 25th 45th wedding anniversary in August.  It's a bell pull, so I've sealed the deal by ordering the hardware and hope it will arrive in good time!  Meanwhile, this is how it looked a day or two ago:

As of this writing, there's a row of text below those flowers that has been completed, and I'm moving down the "trunk" of the Tower.  (There are gaps where buttons and beads are to go, and there are outlines to complete, but I always leave those to the end.)  

It's a rhythmic, quiet process that I particularly enjoy with my early morning coffee and again after dinner in the evening.

And in the sewdio...I've finally sandwiched the "Strip to Shore" quilt top, so it's ready to go under the needle.  My main focus though has been the orderly piecing of not one but two Bonnie Hunter mysteries.

Stack of 25 main blocks
for "Frolic!"
One is "Frolic!" which she released as a mystery per usual -- in November 2019 (free pattern link no longer available; this one is now available as a digital pattern and right now Bonnie has a sale going on those!)   

I finished all 25 of the main blocks some time ago, and set them aside.  In typical Bonnie fashion, it's a large quilt, and this one is set 'on point'.  

Well, now.  In the past 10 days I've returned to that project, and made even more progress -- to whit: I've finished the four (4) corner blocks.  Where in other quilts these might be corner triangles of one solid fabric, these ones are pieced -- such that they look like 1/4 of one of the "regular" blocks!!

And  I've finished four (4) of the twelve (count 'em!) "half-blocks" that will function as the "setting triangles" as this top gets put together in rows -- again, on point!

Each one is like assembling a jagged-edged jig-saw puzzle, with some mirror imaging involved -- meaning, with my eyesight (astygmatism among other things), continuing struggles to get every piece going in the right direction!  Still, I've persisted...

(L) pieces of the 1/2-block waiting to be assembled
(R) a stack of four (4) finished 1/2 blocks

See what I mean?

And then there's her "Unity" Sew-in-Place Project.  In a recent interview with Lyric Montgomery Kinard*, Bonnie admitted that this project was originally intended as her 2020 Mystery...but now...with COVID-19...she produced it early -- double quick! -- and will have to come up with something new for the fall.  With staying-at-home (for the most part in most places) being the order of the day, I'm guessing that will happen...but I have no idea for certain.

Anyway...This pattern is now complete (as of Monday, May 18) with eight parts.  As I set it aside after Part 2, I'm now playing catch-up. 

Who am I kidding?!  It's not a race!  I've just decided to take it up again because working on these blocks is very soothing, repetitive and peaceful.  More Order Out of Chaos!

I showed you the centre medallion HERE...and the next steps HERE.  Part 3 continues the theme.  Let's just say that Miss Bonnie is rather "star-struck" or "star crazy" with this quilt.  And yes, if you select colours in line with hers, it will have a distinctly American flavour...but being Canadian, I've changed it up a tiny bit, eh?  

So... there's another border of star blocks in process -- 36 in all.  As of this writing, I have 4 left to do in that column down the left side, but the photo was taken yesterday...

And here are a couple of the star blocks close up:

Even though I am not the world's greatest piecer, I continue to be amazed at how well my blocks turn out...and how everything seems to line up in the end!

As I've worked, I've particularly enjoyed vid-casts from Lyric Montgomery Kinard (especially her *Covi-chats) and from Kate Jackson (The Last Homely House East of the Sea).   I listen to Stitchery Stories (Susan Weeks).  The literary chats and poetry of Malcolm Guite and the music of Carrie Newcomer and Steve Bell (Canadian) bring hope and sustenance.  Podcasts from Parker Palmer (with Carrie Newcomer) and Krista Tippett (On Being) and Mary Hynes (Tapestry -- Canadian) bring inspiration and food for thought.

And right now, having everything line up in orderly rows; keeping Zoom meetings and online seminars and FB discussions to a minimum; sitting for long periods in quiet; going for long walks (no ear buds); and/or working in the garden (more rows) and with my hands -- well, that's what's supporting me.  

I don't make phone calls (much) and I take my time answering e-mail correspondence.  I have to manage the "noise" or it overwhelms.  I am thankful I have loving family and friends...and am satisfied in knowing that you think of me often and maybe even hold me in your prayers.  I hope before too long we can see each other in person...but for now...All is well.  All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. (after Julian of Norwich)

I hope whatever you are doing to manage, wherever you are...that those practices are healthy, helpful and soul-sustaining.   I'm linking this up to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday (another great source of connection!) -- finding that she too has been 'creating order out of chaos' with reorganizing her studio.  I hope you all have a good week, Gentle Readers -- take care and stay safe!

Friday, May 08, 2020

Yard (Again!), Yarn (Again!) and New Art!

It's a blustery day in this neck of the woods, so I thought I'd share with you my progress in the few days since my last post.

I begin each day with this routine: journal pages (in the manner of Julia Cameron, but usually 2 instead of 3); coffee; knitting; news and breakfast, and more knitting.

I mentioned in that last post that I'd decided I had to do something about my shabby collection of old dish cloths.  It was 2009 since I'd replenished the lot -- and that's far too long! 😆

I'd set aside one that was on the needles and discovered last week -- thanks to my Ravelry records! -- that I'd started it in September 2016, with left-overs from a series of 'spa sets' I'd made for Christmas 2015.  The pattern is even older -- originating as one of a series of "mystery" patterns, two per month, created for a Knit-Along for a long-forgotten Yahoo/Ravelry group.  You can tell...if you look closely...just how old this first pattern is...

The second pattern is from the same era, but it's more generic.  That said, it turned out to be reversible, which made it rather fun to knit up:

Side 1

Side 2
(or vice versa!)

I've decided to knit up one more -- a plain cloth in a purple variegated cotton -- and call it "done" for now.

Next in my routine -- around 9 a.m. or so, if it's temperate enough and sunny (as in 8 C to 10 C; that is, about 50 F) I go outside and get to work.

I knew this cycling combo of rain-wind-sun-swirling-clouds was in the forecast, so I've spent most of each morning this week moving bark chips and leaves around!  The stack of bark chips left by Mike the Tree Guy is now reduced by a bit more than half, as I've spread it thickly around what I'm loosely calling "the copse" or "the haven":

Pussy willow, honeysuckle and lilacs surrounded by bark chips.

Having finished this Wednesday, yesterday I spent my time raking the leaf mulch off some of my flower beds and transporting it to the area around my very-trimmed willow.  While I was at it, I harvested some willow rods to dry out -- with the hopes of learning to make a simple basket or two -- and pulled out marauding grass and dandelions from the flower beds.  Everything is perking up -- and these ladies greeted me in the south bed:

Tulip surprise!

I'm thrilled to see them, as I've not planted new bulbs for several years.  I'd begun to despair of ever seeing more than one lone yellow one; this year, it would seem the conditions were right -- and I have half-dozen up, and several blossoms.  I smile just thinking about it!

On the quilting front, this week I finished assembling the "Strip to Shore" top, and located enough fabric for a pieced back.  It's about 48" x 60":

Once that fabric is washed, I'll sandwich and quilt it -- probably with free-hand straight lines.  😉  First off, however, I'm going to quilt "Elvira Wears a Red Hat" for my friend E., a Red Hatter.  I got it sandwiched and pinned this afternoon:

And yes...there's been some art making going on.  I had the idea for a while, based on the view out my front window, where an old ornamental cherry grows.  I've used this tree as inspiration for other pieces.  This year, it was laden with berries that have been enjoyed by the deer and the birds throughout the fall and winter.  On one bleak morning in late March, when it seemed the snow would never stop, and we'd fallen under the new protocols demanded by COVID-19, I spied a flash of red in the tree -- and found to my delight that there was a newly-returned robin there, looking for dinner.

It inspired me to create this little piece, which went off in today's mail for the 2020 SAQA Benefit Auction:

The Thing with Wings (C) 2020
Commercial cotton, machine quilting,
thread painting, hand beading

The title refers to Emily Dickinson's poem about hope:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet never in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Spring, the sunshine, the welcome rain, the gardening, my morning routines, the work of my hands...all of these have been nourishing "the thing with feathers that perches in [my] soul".  What's giving you hope these days?

I'm linking this to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- where this week, she seems to be feeding her soul by sprucing up her studio!

Here's to all those out there who are mothers or who have mothers and grandmothers and surrogate mothers whose love gives us hope.  Have a wonderful weekend!  😊

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Yard and Garden, Yarn and Fabric

Just over a month ago, I wrote that I was so glad to see the back end of March.  That month had been full of snow storms -- conveniently every Saturday, meaning getting to church the following day would have meant taking my life in my hands -- and then, COVID-19 made it's nasty presence known and church gatherings were cancelled altogether.   Just when we could have used the community more than ever.

Enter April...and the unexpected passing of a good friend, followed by a continual stream of COVID news, a horrific mass murder by a madman in Nova Scotia (Canada's largest) and more loss of life when one of our navy helicopters crashed into the sea near Greece while on a NATO mission.

Aaargh!!  Restoratives needed!!!  I've been finding it here...


Our priest -- a self-professed avoider of social media -- has taken on the challenge of recording mosiac services from each of his two parishes, helped by parishioners who are mainly over 60.  We've all had a bit of a crash course in recording and creating YouTube clips which he then turns into a wonderful mosaic and shares each week.  Each parish takes a turn; last week (April 26) it was ours and next week (Mother's Day) it will be our turn again.  (If you're really interested, you can see the links on our parish weblog.) 

The other surprise from our priest is his creation of a weekly "Happy Hour" for parishioners using Zoom -- every Wednesday afternoon around 4:30 p.m.  And yes, a bit of tipple is encouraged!  This began last week.  In addition, folks have been asked to share news in a weekly parish newsletter he sends out via e-mail to our parish list.  Then there are the parishioners who phone others who are elderly or might not be on the Internet, to ensure they're doing okay; still others who live in town (I'm out in the country) are making sure that seniors who can't get out get their groceries and pharmaceuticals.

It's all been a lovely way to practice what our faith calls us to do: to care for each other with love, patience and kindness.


Every day I try to get in some sewing.  The yard work has interrupted that because our weather's been unexpectedly mild, but my "Strip to Shore" quilt top -- from GE Designs -- is slowly coming together.  When I took this photo, I had 9 columns finished.  Now all 11 are done, and just need the last bid of joining together.  Now I'm trying to figure out if I have anything in my stash that will serve as a backing, or if I'll have to find an outside source:

As for the "Unity" project from Bonnie Hunter...well...I'm collecting the patterns and like how it's evolving, but I've not assembled any part of it past the first two "clues".  It may wait for the fall...or at least a couple of very rainy days!

And the sketch for my 2020 SAQA Benefit Auction piece remains on my cutting get on that!  It's got to be sent off in a week or two!!  Aaaack!!


There's always knitting.  😍

In an attempt to have some sort of routine, I begin every day with an hour (or two) of knitting as I check the weather, read my e-mails, catch up on Facebook and take in some of my favourite news commentators.

I finished my April Socks from Stash socks...

Pattern: "Hermione's Everyday Socks"
Designer: Erica Lueder
Yarn: Bouquet Sock & Sweater

And I'm making steady progress on the ones for May.  This month's challenge called for each participant to select 5 or 6 stash yarns and put them up in a poll on the Socks from Stash Ravelry group.  The yarn that won the most votes from the group members is the yarn that had to be used for the May project.  These ones will be given as a Christmas gift; getting them made early is a bonus! 😊

Yarn: Reinvent from Ancient Arts, Calgary, AB
Colour-way: "Calico Cat"
Pattern: "A Nice Ribbed Sock"
Designer: Glenna C.

As well...more progress is being made on the "Tegna" top -- the pullover I'm making using the pattern I won for participating in the March Socks from Stash challenge.  I've finished the lace hem, and am making my way steadily up the body.  In the photo, I'd done only about an inch above the lace, but I'm a good 3 1/2 inches up now.  There are 238 stitches to every round so though it's mindless knitting now, there's a lot of it!

Having discovered this week that my collection of dish cloths is getting very shoddy, I've picked up one I've had languishing on the needles for who knows how long, so that's added to the mix.  It's in a rather bland tan cotton, but I'll show it to you when I finish it and have a photo.

Further Afield...

(Or at least, out in the yard)...Some of you may remember that last October I purchased the vacant lots next door to my property.  At that time, they looked like this -- with a ginormous willow "bush" in the centre, and two other clumps of trees randomly placed -- on the left side and to the back.

I managed to get a bit of pruning done on one of the tree "clumps" before it snowed...but then it sat until last month, when it finally got warm enough for me to do more pruning.  Of course, that's when I discovered there was no way I was going to clear the mess on my own.  I have neither the equipment nor the strength.  So...I called Mike from "All Tree Care".   When he came out to give me an estimate, I decided to "go big or go home" so in addition to helping me prune the willow, I had him cut out a pesky Manitoba maple, had him remove two unhealthy branches from a Mountain Ash (Rowan) on the NE side of my house that were threatening to fall on my roof, and to remove entirely another Mountain Ash on the back end of my property that was getting more unhealthy by the year.

Willow trimmed!

In order to remove the stump of the unwanted maple (which I discovered was already rotting) I drilled it and each of the large cut branches surrounding it, and applied Epsom salts.  The whole thing is now covered with a piece of an old plastic tarp.  I'll check it every month or so; eventually I'll be able to dig out the rotted stump myself, and it won't have harmed the surrounging shrubs (those are lilacs you see at the back).

Maple extracted!

Here's all that's left of the Mountain Ash on the back alley...and yes, it's stump has been similarly treated as of this writing.

Meanwhile, my new lawn mower and my raised bed kit were ready for pick up at my LHS (Local Hardware Store) earlier this week.  It was an adventure fitting them into the trunk of my car, along with a new jerry can (this is a gas mower), two bags of topsoil and two of composted sheep manure!  The hardware fellows had to take the mower out of the box to do it, but it worked.  When I got home I blessed my neighbour across the street, because he came over and helped me heft it out of the trunk.

I've spent the last couple of days preparing a spot for the raised bed by removing sod from an area approximately 4 feet by 6 feet:

Assembling the bed was simple -- but not particularly easy for a small person alone.  Still, I managed to "git 'er dun" and (almost) filled.

Choosing to "make my own dirt", I layered a variety of things into it, starting with a layer of the sod on the bottom, followed by chopped branches, dead leaves (raked from the nearby raspberry bed where they'd been acting as mulch all winter), compost (I have a rolling composter), composted sheep and steer manure, and top soil.  I dampened each layer with water as I went.  Mike left me a beautiful pile of wood chips when he removed my trees, so I created a pathway around the bed.  First I took apart most of the box the kit came in and laid the cardboard down on the bare earth; then I applied a thick layer of wood chips.  Et voila!

I have a depth of about 6" that still needs to be filled in (more inexpensive top soil) before I can plant, but it's early days yet, so I have time to get that in place. 😊

The forecast for later today and most of tomorrow is rain -- which we definitely need! -- so I'm happy to take a break inside with my fabric and fibre...and some floss too.  Yes, in addtion to all of the above I've dipped back into an embroidery UFO -- the "Toronto Sampler" from Jeannette Douglas Designs.  Intended as a 25th anniversary gift for some friends who live in TO, I didn't get far along when life took over.  This year, they'll be celebrating 45 years together in late August; perhaps I'll manage to get it finished in time!

This is where I'll leave you this week, Gentle Readers...with hopes that this new month finds you healthy, safe, hopeful and happily creating...whether it be with friends, family, fabric, fibre, floss or field and stream!  I'm linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday, and wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

First...the Other Stuff

Another week has gone by...full of ups and downs.  Who knew that "sheltering in place" or "staying at home" or whatever you want to call it...could still be like riding a roller coaster?

I'm not 'there' yet in terms of sharing "just" the work of my hands.  Instead...I am sharing what it's like to grieve for the death of a long-time friend who died not due to but in the midst of COVID-19.

I managed to get to the visitation for my friend C. on April 18.  It was an odd experience because of the COVID-19 protocols in place.  The space was huge!  When I entered -- after over 2 hours on the road -- a lovely fellow (funeral home employee) greeted me and showed me the powder room.

 From there I went into an ante-room and met up with A., C's eldest (a year younger than my daughter).  Inching towards 40 ( both he and my daughter will just love that I mentioned that but hey -- his mom and I were/are approaching 68 so...??), he's as tall as I remembered, but with a bit more 'rounding' and less hair.  Still, A is a lovely young man -- very gentle, and interesting as well as interested -- and of the 3 of the children, the one who most resembles his dad.  We had a very good talk, and from there I went into the 'viewing room' -- another very large space with chairs placed strategically 2 metres (6 feet or so) apart.  No one was sitting in the chairs.  On the side of the room opposite the door was the casket of my friend, and nearby, a table with photos, most of which I remembered and had seen before.

When I entered, I caught W's eye; he'd been talking with a couple -- masked -- who'd come to pay their respects.  I waited.  They took their leave and I drew nearer -- but not too near.  We talked a bit, and we went toward the photo table, and then I took a look at my friend C...not who I remembered, at all, really...because who she is for me is far more real.  And then...W and I chatted some more. 

Another couple arrived -- and so did G, the 'kid in the middle' for C and W.  She is the same age as my son, and they graduated together...and were in music/choir combos together but not friends per seG is tall and slender, though, like my daughter, and wore for a bit of time a red vest I'd knitted for my daughter that was eventually passed on to her. 

G is to be married at the end of August.  It was to be earlier -- May, I think -- but COVID-19 has put paid to that plan.  Her mother -- yes -- had told me so in an e-mail just a week or so before she died.  G is a lovely young woman: a musician, piano teacher, life guard -- and is currently staying with her dad and teaching over Face Time -- sensing very strongly her mother's presence, which is good, but...she is nonetheless very tightly wound, and so I keep her in my prayers.

I moved out into the foyer to sign the guest book and pick up a small pamphlet of remembrance.  Returning to the viewing room, I prepared to take my leave.  I approached W., who bid good-bye to another couple who'd been talking to him, and came to me, arms outstretched.  I hugged him and held him close, whispering, "Oh, to HELL with convention!!"  Both of us needed the solace of that hug at that moment.  I have no regrets.

As I left again to leave, I encountered Gr., the youngest of the family, and his girlfriend.  Another musician and a sort of  'Renaissance' young man, I'm not quite sure what he is doing now.  His dark hair and full, dark beard meant that I didn't recognize him right off -- because the last time I saw him he was more blonde and clean-shaven.  We had another lovely chat...and I got from him the address of his grandmother, C's mother, so I can write her when God gives me the right words to say.

I know this isn't my usual post, but this is what has been most real for me this past week.  I beg your indulgence and your patience -- and if you are praying sorts, your prayers.

Thanks -- with love.

Friday, April 17, 2020

So...How *Are* You?

"Fair to middlin'," would be my answer to that question.

Truth be told, Gentle Readers, it's been a heckuva couple of weeks since I last posted.  Little did I know that the next day W., a long-time friend and husband of C., my best friend from high school, would call to tell me that C. had died suddenly the evening April 2 -- an apparent heart attack, completely unexpected.  I posted about this on FB so won't go into any more of it here, except to say that it sent me on a roller-coaster of grief -- some days up; some days down.  Tomorrow I have a "visitation appointment" at a funeral home in Calgary -- a 2 1/2-hour drive southeast...with strict distancing protocols in place, which make it really tough to offer comfort.  The only way to show support for W. and his family is to be there, and so I shall.

I'll do a grocery run on the drive home, and pray for strength from start to finish.

In all this, I continue to be thankful for the work of my hands.  Yes, I continue with piecing fabric into quilt tops, but I confess, my hankering for OPI (Other People's Instructions) has just about been satisfied!  I have an idea for a small art piece rolling around in my brain and soon it will be screaming to be outta there and into fabric.

Meanwhile, here's what's transpired in the sewdio...

The "Unity" Sew-in-Place project from Bonnie Hunter has progressed...

From this:

To this...

Then this...

Then this...

And at last, this...

It's now about 30" square, which is not really where I want to leave it but Part III is another border of tiny stars, and I'm just not up for that right now!  I've saved the pattern and will see what Part IV -- due out Monday -- has in store.

When I last wrote, Gudrun of GE Designs was about to introduce a "Strip-Along".  Her plan was a three-week series -- Intro (materials, cutting); Part 2 (construction); and later today -- Part 3 (finishing).

Like the "Elivra" Quarantine Quilt-Along pattern, this is as modern as Bonnie's is traditional.  I chose two fabrics: a wild batik and a solid turquoise, which is actually a poly-cotton given me a few years back by an elderly friend who was no longer sewing.

The pattern involves 60-degree angles, and I've none of the specialty rulers that Gudrun uses for this purpose.  I do  have a 60-degree triangle ruler, and 60-degree lines on my favourite 6" x 12" regular ruler, so I have managed to muddle along with those.  My objective is a throw-sized quilt, but we'll see.  I've made most of the blocks.  From the poster shown above, you can see that the pattern consists of half-hexagon motifs assembled in rows, with narrow sashing in between the halves.  BUT  for this quilt-along, Gudrun's updated the pattern to include an option to put narrow sashing all around the half-hexies, spacing them out.

Here's what a row would look like in my colour palette without the spacing:

And with the spacing

The project has a Facebook presence, so over in the group I took an informal poll, and the consensus was:  "Spaced Out, Please".  So...yesterday I began to assemble the blocks, and here's what the first few look like, with sashing all around:

I admit I am happy with the effect, but it's been a bit of torture getting there!  It may be seems that the light-weight turquoise polycotton is a bit more "flexible" when they are put together, and that's been showing up as I've tried to apply the sashing and assemble the half-hexies in rows.  But, in true Elizabeth Warren fashion, I am persisting!  It's slow-going...but at least I have that wee art quilt to turn to, and of course, my knitting...

As mentioned in the "Edit" to my last post, I frogged the "Canon" socks because I just couldn't focus on the shifting lace pattern.  Instead, I turned to a simpler pattern -- Hermione's Everyday Socks -- and as of  today, I've finished the first one and am making my way down the foot of the second.  Calming, indeed!

Pattern: Hermione's Everyday Socks
Designer: Erica Lueder
Yarn: Bouquet Sock & Sweater (discontinued)

Notice the small ball above the finished sock?  This yarn comes in 50 gram balls, and is more "sport weight" than fingering -- though the label says otherwise.  I started with 2 balls -- 128 metres (140 yards) each, which isn't usually enough for a pair of adult socks.

But the sock shown above is 7" from cuff to the start of the heel flap (so 9" to the sole) and a stretchy 8" foot -- which fits me perfectly.  And that small ball -- plus another full ball -- was left to start the second sock.  I am currently working on the gusset decreases of that second sock -- and I'm not finished the first ball of yarn! Talk about long-running!  I thought I was going to need another colour for heels and toes and no...I'll have yarn left over!

A small blessing, I know, but I'll take it, with thanks!

And because I still have a bit of  'Startitis' flowing through my veins, I've started a new sweater (even though the Darlena Shawl I mentioned in my March 29 post isn't quite finished (about 3" to go)...

You see, the Socks from Stash group has a door prize draw at the end of every month's challenge -- and I was one of the winners for March!  My gift was a pattern of my choosing (maximum cost: $8.00 USD) -- and so I selected one from my favourites: Tegna from Caitlin Hunter (aka 'Boyland Knitworks').  A few days ago, I dug out a huge skein (250 grams -- 800 metres) of yarn I bought eons ago from Fiddlesticks Knitting (now operating under another name).

It was such a large skein that I had to wind it into four cakes!

Yarn: "Country Silk"
50% silk, 30% wool, 20% nylon
Colour: "Berry"

Isn't the colour yummy?!  It's a hand-dye...and a hand-wash...and somewhat "sticky" because it's more like silk 'noile' than silk 'charmeuse', and has a very "cottony" hand to it.  Still...I'm on the tenth round of the lace hem (it's knit bottom-up and very wide to start) and I like the way it's turning out:

And so it goes.  The method and order and rhythm of piecing and knitting is keeping my mind free and clear of anxiety during these challenging times.  And the blessing of phone calls from friends and family, and e-mails, online concerts and creative communities...for which I am very grateful.

I'm linking this up to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and wishing you continued health, safety, creativity and hope as you go into this next week.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-- Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

More of This and That

I don't know about you, but I'm rather glad to see the back end of March this year!  In these parts it roared in like a lion, taking over Leap Day with a snowstorm -- and another the next week -- and COVID-19 cancellations the following week -- and then more snow.  As I write on this sunny-blue-sky April a.m., it's still in the minus-double-digits Celsius, and more snow is forecast for tomorrow!


To make it even crazier, yesterday my laptop played an April Fool's prank -- or would have, if it actually had a brain.  I dunno; after yesterday, I'm beginning to wonder.  Perhaps it does!  I got up early as usual, turned on the laptop while I heated my coffee, and went to sign in.  I couldn't.  No matter how I tried, it would take only 2 digits of my 4-digit PIN.  I restarted it at least three times -- to no avail.

My son is a techy, but it was far too early to phone him (6:40 a.m.)  Hmmmph!  So...I called Dell, the maker of my aging machine (bought in 2013).  This is my fourth or fifth Dell PC; I love the brand.  Anyway, as my warranty had long expired, I was instructed to purchase a "single event" plan so I could talk to a techy and see if it could be resolved online -- a software/driver issue with the keyboard, perhaps.

$135.00 CAD later, I had an appointment with a techy; he called right on time (9 a.m. my time) and we were on the phone for over an hour trying to sort it out.  Finally he let me go and continue to work on the machine remotely.

While he was doing that, I distracted myself with some sewing.  On Tuesday I'd started the first section of Bonnie Hunter's "Unity" Sew-in-Place Quilt-Along, which I mentioned in my last post

Here's my selected colour palette:

Hard to tell, but there's a chunk of off-white neutral
fabric on the far left!

The first section is the centre medallion,
seen here starting to take shape on my design wall.

While the techy worked away, I added some more units:

A 4-patch of 4-patches!
BKH loves to construct in sets of units!

I really like how it's shaping up.

The techy called me back (as promised) and said...sorry...try as he might, he couldn't seem to fix the problem; it looked like it was a hardware problem.  He would be refunding my $135.00 -- Dell's policy for this plan because it couldn't be resolved online.  We talked about options and, in true Canadian Anglican fashion (😉) I chose the via media -- the middle way:

  1. Purchase an external hard drive so I can back up my data in the event the aging PC should give out altogether;
  2. Limp along using the on-screen keyboard OR purchase a wireless keyboard;
  3. Prepare to replace the laptop as soon as I am able/ready/willing.
Staples had both the external drive and the keyboard...they should be delivered later today or tomorrow (free delivery too!)

What to do?  I needed groceries, and a break, and my LQS owner had my batting ready for pick-up at her off to Stettler I went.  Got the batting, got the groceries...and stopped in at a dollar store and a hardware store, where I found potting soil and packets of veggie and flower seeds.  We may still have drifted snow a foot deep around here but ##@@!!!** it, I'm going to plant some seeds!  (If the shed door isn't frozen and I can get my starter pots out!)

By the time I got home and unloaded everything, it was after 4 p.m. -- and my PC had been asleep for over 3 hours.

I woke it up and signed in with the on-screen keyboard.  Then I went to FB Messenger to type a note to my son, and by force of habit, forgot the on-screen board and began to type on the laptop's own keyboard.  

Here's the spooky, weird thing: it was working again! 😲

I have no idea why -- but I have a theory.  After I put it to sleep and went away for a long while (3 hours at least) likely turned off altogether, or was in a state something like that...and the "reboot" it had when I returned to use it might have been sufficient to trigger success based on whatever the techy had done with it.  That's the only explanation I can hold in my mind...assuming gremlins aren't living inside my laptop!

No, I didn't cancel my Staples order.  I figure it's a good idea to have my own external hard drive and a back up of my data -- up-dated periodically -- and the wireless keyboard may come in handy eventually.  Neither were terribly expensive, and with the refund of the repair fee, I'm not out as much money as all that.

I finished off the day with a wee dram, casting on and knitting 15 rows of the first of the pair of socks I've chosen for the April Challenge in Ravelry's  "Socks From Stash" group:

Yarn: Bouquet Sock & Sweater (discontinued)
Pattern: "Canon" from Caoua Coffee***

This morning I shared this cast-on photo with the group on Ravelry, and discovered I'd won a door-prize following the March Challenge!  Whoo-hoo!  I'm to receive a free pattern ($8 USD value) from one of the group's designers!  😊  This made my day -- and made up for the grief from yesterday. 

Tomorrow marks the beginning of GE Designs' "Strip-Along 2020"...and I'm in.  Clearly I have a need for the repetitive, soothing work of cutting and piecing fabric, and knitting simple lace.  My brain relaxes and my hands are happy.

As Melanie Falick writes in her new book, Making a Life: Making by Hand..., I have been looking at my hands...and discovering the life I am meant to live -- need  to live -- right now.

So...I leave you with wishes for a safe, healthy, creative, blessed day wherever you are, Gentle Readers.  I'm linking this to WIP Wednesday over at the Needle and Thread Network, and to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

***Editted:  "Canon" was frogged last night (April 2) when I found myself floundering to follow the lace pattern (lots of yarn overs and ktbl -- Knit Through Back Loop -- in quick succession).  Clearly my concentration isn't spot on these days.  I'm using the same yarn, but have switched to a simpler pattern I've made before that will fill the requirements of the Challenge:  Hermione's Everyday Socks, designed by Erica Lueder -- another free pattern on Ravelry.

Nina Marie is talking about the comfort of routines in a time like this.  I'm happy to oblige.  How about you?

Do take care, Gentle Readers.
Find a rhythm and routine in your daily round,
and may the work of your hands be blessed.