Friday, March 7, 2014


Yesterday my daughter needed photos for a resume of a dress she made her junior year in high school. I drove to her dad's to pick up Marie, an ancient dress form, and dug the dress out of a closet upstairs in our guest room. As I clothed Marie in ten pounds of beautiful printed cotton fabric, I was reminded of the hours Rebecca spent hand sewing each perfect seam. How many seventeen-year-olds decide they want to create an eighteenth century gown and craft it entirely by hand?

This all began many years ago with Rebecca's desire to visit her French pen-pal. She worked during her sophomore year serving meals at a retirement home to earn funds for a trip to Paris. While she was there she and her pal Gloria saw the movie "Marie Antoinette" and toured Versailles. Smitten by eighteenth century costume, Rebecca returned home passionate about making a dress of her own. She pitched the idea to her independent study advisor then spent a semester researching, cutting, fitting, and hand sewing fourteen yards of fabric into this confection.

The photos taken for the resume aren't nearly as much fun as this one of the teenage dressmaker wearing the dress. Note the toes of pink Converse tennis shoes peeking out.

Rebecca's project started a love affair with fabric and the art of sewing. In May, she will graduate with a degree in costume design from Santa Fe University of Art & Design. She has learned design, rendering, pattern making, draping, and lots of new sewing tricks of the trade. I know she could teach me a thing or two.

Tonight a dress Rebecca labored on for weeks will premiere in the play "Dangerous Liaisons." 

Hard to say where our passions will lead us if we listen, learn, and labor. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quilt #2 - Halfway

I know, I know, it's been nine months since wedding quilt number two was mounted on the frame. It should be done by now, right? Well let's see, what have I been up to?  I sewed a wedding dress, helped my daughter with summer projects, raised corn, beans, carrots, potatoes, berries, and pumpkins, wrote a couple hundred pages of my memoir, and . . . I'm sure a lot more projects I've forgotten.

Two days ago I reached the halfway point. Fifteen rows of 24 blocks quilted. Fifteen rows of 24 blocks to go. Yay!!

To help myself grasp the scope of the accomplishment, I made a few calculations. The quilt is comprised of 720 squares each 3 inches by 3 inches. Halfway means 360 squares or 2520 inches of hand stitching. At an average of 6 stitches per inch the total number so far is more than 15,000.  No wonder it took so long.

One technique that speeded up my work for the last few weeks is ironing the thread after I wax it. Sounds pretty anal, but a friend suggested it so I thought why not try. I'm a total convert. The ironing sets wax into the thread making it stiffer and not as likely to tangle. Up until I started this technique, many hours were spent upside down under the quilt frame untangling knots (of course they all happen in the most awkward spot). Now, knock on wood, tangles are few.

My current goal is to finish the second half in ten weeks. To do that I must quilt 36 squares a week. What do you think? Will I make it?

Friday, February 21, 2014

What's In A Name?

Our expectant-parent children called last night with good news about the in-vitro health of their soon to be offspring. They also told us the sex of the child (not sure if I am authorized to divulge this information so I won't). The conversation started us talking about baby names.

What's in a name? Quite a lot. A name is an identity, a message to the world that I am unique even if I share my name with thousands of Marys or Jennifers or Johns. Choosing a name should not be taken lightly.

My mother hated her name. Her father thought naming her Melba for a popular 1920s opera star would keep her from inheriting his scratchy off-key singing voice. To avoid the hated first name Mother used Bethine, her middle name, which she also disliked just not quite as much. It pleased her when it was shortened to Beth.

I was named for my mother's beloved first husband's older sister (he was killed in WWII). The two name combination kept me from being an ordinary "Mary." Adding Louise made a shy and awkward child feel special. Every school year my mother wrote a note to the teacher about the need to use my whole name, "She won't know to answer if you call her Mary."

Gary's first name came from the silver screen. He was aptly named for the stoic Gary Cooper.

My son was born before it was common to know the sex of a baby in advance. During the pregnancy we made up a silly name to use until he made his apprearance. Our Aaron could have been a Sarah.

Gary's son was supposed to be a girl. His wife was so certain that she only picked one name, Maegan. When a boy popped out the parents were stuck. "Let's name him after you." his wife decided. Thus we have a Gary I and a Gary II. "Junior" was never an option.

I was happy to know my daughter's sex a few months into the pregnancy. I displayed a list of possible girl names on the refrigerator. Aaron decided she would be Daisy Mae. I was in favor of my husband's German Jewish grandmother's name Rika. "Too unusual." My husband said. We settled on Rebecca, the more common version of the grandmother's name. A one of a kind young woman, sometimes Rebecca wishes we opted for the unusual.

What's in your name?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Two nights ago from my front row seat on the sofa, I watched garbage cans and debris clank down the street in 45 mph gusts of wind. I made two trips to the curb after midnight to prop up garbage and recycling containers. I wasn't sleeping anyway, too busy sneezing and blowing my nose to sleep. Gary was generous with his cold.

You may think, is the "blown away" of this blog about that wind storm? No. Maybe the nose blowing then? Another no. The "BLOWN AWAY" of this blog is about a synchronicity too crazy for words.

The phone rang last night around dinner time, but I didn't get to it before the call went to voice mail. When I checked the message, the voice of a long time friend I've been out of touch with surprised me. A letter now and then or a Christmas card are the remains of a once close friendship. "Hi ML," the message said, "I have a proposal or at least a question. Give me a call when you have time."

Hmm, I wonder what this is about?

After dinner I dialed the number. "Oh, ML it's you. Nice to hear your voice," as though it was weeks not years since we talked last. "I remembered a conversation we had about art making." she went on to say. "Unlike some artist I know who just make art and don't fuss about it, we are slowed down by perfectionism. I thought maybe we could encourage each other. I clean my studio more than I make art."

It was as though she knew I spent the afternoon cleaning my studio. An interesting coincidence, but not on the level of "blown away."

Then it happened. She said, "Today I remembered a poem that speaks to me. Do you know it? When I Met My Muse." I couldn't believe my ears. I opened the book of William Stafford poems right there next to me to the bookmarked poem When I Met My Muse. "Did I hear you right?" I asked. "Did you read my blog?"

"No, don't you remember, I'm not computer literate. Why do you ask?"

"Because I wrote about that poem on my blog yesterday. I have the book of Stafford poems right here."

My friend's voice on the other end of the phone didn't miss a beat. "You know it then. Aren't the last lines beautiful?"
. . . . . "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Can Be Fully Me

I've struggled for years to understand patterns in my life.  I aways thought the "pattern" had to do with what is wrong with me. Now I realize it is about who I am. I no longer need to beat myself up for being me.

This past week has been one of the most revelatory of my life. I can be me without guilt or a need to be something else. Maybe I'm I not like the main stream. Maybe I'm not what others expect. That no longer matters. I am fully me. Take me or leave me.

I can say to the world - I celebrate you being fully you. Just don't ask me to give up my heart to make you more comfortable.

This is a divine breakthrough. Here is a poem by William Stafford that expresses my new understanding of myself:
When I Met My Muse
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off - they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.
Be all you can be. BE FULLY YOU.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Synchronicity - the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related (Wikipedia).

I've been writing in my journal the past week about life patterns. You know what I mean, the repeated behaviors that always produce the same maddening outcome. Recently when I discovered myself inside a repeated pattern, I beat myself for failing to notice . . . then a friend suggested I journal about the experience with compassion.

This morning after writing a few pages, I picked up a book of poetry received as a Christmas gift. It opened to the poem Casting and Gathering. I felt the words of the poet seep in. They inspired me to cast away blame and gather in forgiveness. What a beautiful synchronicity.    

Casting and Gathering

Years and years ago, these sounds took sides:

On the left bank, a green silk tapered cast
Went whispering through the air, saying hush
And lush, entirely free, no matter whether
It swished above the hayfield or the river.

On the right bank, like a speeded-up corncrake,
A sharp ratcheting went on and on
Cutting across the stillness as another
Fisherman gathered line-lengths off his reel.

I am still standing there, awake and dreamy,
I have grown older and can see them both
Moving their arms and rods, working away,
Each one absorbed, proofed by the sounds he's making.

One sound is saying, 'You are not worth tuppence,
But neither is anybody. Watch it! Be severe,'
The other says, 'Go with it! Give and swerve.
You are everything you feel beside the river.'

I love hushed air. I trust contrariness,
Years and years go past and I do not move
For I see that when one man casts, the other gathers
And then vice versa, without changing sides.

From Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Good Thing

Consider this story:
A woman I saw at a meeting last night has been absent for a while because she is her dying husband's sole caregiver. I overheard someone ask her, "How's your husband doing?" She answered with, "Well he seems to have pain that moves from place to place and today he has been vomiting." I said, "It must be difficult for you." She replied, "Yes, but at the end of each day we find one good thing that happened and we focus on it. Today it will be that a special person came to stay with him so I can attend this meeting."
One good thing. How often do we focus on one good thing? We are often so caught up in what is wrong that we forget about what is right.

I'm just as guilty as anyone. I've been trying to find my way through the swirl of change taking place in a community I care about. I talk to members of the community and get caught up in my own and other's negative take on things. I focus on what's wrong instead of what's right.

This morning I walked with the idea of one good thing in relation to members a music and art group I have been leading that is experiencing difficulties. What bubbled up is that I love all of them not for their amazing creative gifts, I love them for the little things that make them human - boyish enthusiasm about a beautiful piece of music; light in an eye ignited by a creative idea; quiet presence as a reminder to be open to God's presence; the warm glow of a radiant smile; an ability to make a loving connection with people; a disarming sense of humor.

Thoughts about "one good thing" mixed this morning with messages I've been hearing for the last ten days: let go of a desire to fix everything; step back and take care of self, be present in life, make space for the next right thing. Today I'll add - embrace one good thing every day.