Friday, August 21, 2015

Missing ... but thankful

Tonight I am missing my children. I just looked back at our beach pictures and wanted them all here again. Wanted them on the porch, candles lit, porch swing chain creaking as it swayed, cicadas thrumming in the background. Alas, they are spread far and wide. As I write, they are in rural New York state, Israel, Denver, Cary NC, New York City, Minneapolis, and Chapel Hill. I get to see the North Carolina boys, d-i-l, and grandbaby on Sunday. Hooray!

I marvel at these children. They are doing wonderful and amazing things and I stand back and watch and cherish the incredible gift I've been given in each one of them. As our family has grown through marriage and the births of grandchildren, I feel deeply thankful for each added person. One more to love. I pray for the grace to do it well.

Friday, August 14, 2015

On a bike

Riding a bike through the countryside is quite different from riding through it in a car. On a bike, you are part of the scene.  You take in the sites at a slower pace. You look longer and think about what you are seeing instead of whizzing by. There is no radio, no music, no podcast in the background. Just the sites and your thoughts. You also feel the air and smell the smells. Sun and shade along your way make a difference. You climb a long hill in the sun and then fly down the other side toward a bridge over the creek at the bottom of the hill. If the road along the creek valley is bathed in shade, you immediately feel the contrast of the cooler air against your skin and catch a whiff of the scent of water and damp earth. In a car, there is a screen and walls between you and the outside world. My dad mentioned this yesterday, referring to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I've never read, but in which the author, as my Daddy related, speaks of the difference between riding in a car and riding on a motorcycle. A bike puts you even more in the picture because, well, you can't pedal as fast as a motorcycle takes you.

I look at people outside their houses when I bike. People on their porches. People working in their gardens, mowing their lawns, walking out to their mailboxes. On Monday, we rode a long loop around a Jordon Lake up near Chapel Hill. Along a quiet country road near the lake, we saw a big boat sitting parallel to the road in the yard beside a house. There was a man, shaggy hair under his baseball cap, sitting on a chair in the boat looking out at the road. He was just sitting there. Perhaps he was resting after working on the boat. Perhaps he was dreaming of taking that boat out in the lake early in the morning and catching a big bass and bringing it home to clean and cook on the grill. Who knows?

I like long rides because they give me a chance to step completely away from the to-do list. My brain gets a rest from thinking about what needs to get done and just roams over the countryside. I write little poems in my head, make up stories, take it all in.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hello August, four days in

Enough catching up, don't you think? Oh, there's more, always more, but it's a new month so time to move on.

Here are a few things I am loving these days ...

Monday long rides with Coty
We've been taking longer bike rides, usually on Monday mornings, though we had two nice long rides on a little getaway a couple of weeks back - Tuesday and Wednesday rides, 42 and 22 miles. I am loving these long rides. In the countryside we ride through, the ripening corn is tall now. As we pass, the honey fragrance of the cornfield envelops us. Roosters crow and cows stand in a line under the cedar trees along a pasture fence line or wade up to their bellies in a muddy pond. We see red-tailed hawks on power-lines or atop tall snags. We catch the whiff of a skunk that has crossed the road in the early morning or see the remains of an unfortunate black snack, hit by a car as it warmed itself on hot pavement. The cotton plants are flowering now. Yesterday, we rode 33.4 miles. I was dragging at the end. The last few hills felt higher and longer than the last time I'd ridden them, my quads and knees weary, the bandana I tie around my head totally soaked. I checked the temperature on my bike computer as we pulled into the country church parking lot where we'd left the car and it said 95 degrees. No wonder I felt wrung out. Next week, we'll start earlier!

Garden tomatoes
It's that time of year. The German Johnsons I planted in the top terrace are ripening. There are not nearly enough of them, however, to satisfy the desire for vine ripened tomatoes, so I go to our little local farmer's market on Monday afternoons to replenish our supply. My sister, who has a larger tomato patch than me, has also shared some of her bounty. Really, there is nothing quite like a garden tomato, just picked and warm from the sun, sliced up and eaten with just a twist of freshly ground salt and pepper.

Recorded books by Ivan Doig
I listened This House of Sky, back in May. Masterfully narrated by Tom Stechschulte, Doig's memoir recounts his growing up years among sheepherders and ranchers in Montana. His widowed father grudgingly resorts to asking his mother-in-law to live with him and help raise his son. The lives of father, son, and grandmother become interwoven in unforeseen intimacy as they share the hardships of ranch life, growing up, and growing old. I've also listened to three of Doig's novels: Whistling Season, Work Song, and Sweet Thunder. Of his writing "creed", Doig wrote:
“If I have any creed that I wish you as readers, necessary accomplices in this flirtatious ceremony of writing and reading, will take with you from my pages, it’d be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life."
Doig died in April of this year. Here is the NY Times tribute to him.

Designing a quilt around some of my wax fabrics from Chad
Back in February, Coty went to Chad. He came home with three gorgeous pieces of wax fabric for me. I've been looking and looking at them and been loath to cut into them, but I finally took rotary cutter to two of them and began designing a sort of medallion quilt. I started with one of my favorite quilt patterns, Flying Geese. Then I drew from the free form cutting ideas in quilts of Nancy Crow and patterns in Cultural Fusion Quilts and starting cutting and sewing curved sections of fabric together. Finally, I did something inspired by a pile of quilt blocks I picked up at an estate sale a few months ago and did some improvisational cutting and piecing. I don't know how this quilt is going to end up, what it's going to look like, whether or not I'm going to like the finished product, but it's a learning process that I'm enjoying.

 Please excuse the fuzzy quality of this picture. It was taken in less than optimal light!

Almost daily Snapchats from New York City
Back in early July, Andrew moved to New York. I am missing him so much, but he's great to send me snapchats several times a week. Street scenes, skyline vistas, Central Park-scapes, office views. I love seeing what he's seeing and I can't wait to visit and see the sites with him.

What are you loving these days?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Catching up #7: One more quilt


 I finished the binding on Levi's cowboy quilt before they left so he could take it home with him. I wrote about it here while it was in process. I think he likes it!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Catching up #6: Another little quilt

This little quilt was made for Matthew and Kailie as a memento of their wedding rehearsal dinner and the wedding party celebration we had here in NC several months after the wedding. I finished it up right before we went to Matthew's graduation back in May ... in time for their first wedding anniversary!

I had some fabric left over from their wedding quilt so used it to make half square triangles with one side a piece of off white cotton. The squares were used to decorate the tables at the rehearsal dinner and all the guests were asked to sign a block, using a permanent fabric pen. Even the kids at the dinner signed blocks, as you can see. Those are some of my favorite blocks.

At their NC party last November for folks who hadn't been able to join us at the wedding, I used a piece of the same off white cotton and had people at that party sign it. This piece was used for the back (sorry, no photo of the back).

I hadn't planned it this way, but had just the right number of gray, orange and blue HST's to make a chevron design. I had the orange sari fabric with white zig-zag on it in my stash and that was the perfect fabric for the border. Some antique buttons, a bit of ric rac, and some embroidered flowers from the orange sari embellish the front of the quilt.

It was fun and easy to make and will, I hope, remind them of all the loving family and friends that celebrated with them on their special day!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Catching up #5: The beach

Do you know how hard it is to get six grown children who are scattered around the country - some married, some with children - all (minus one son-in-law) in the same place at the same time, all together, when there is not a family wedding happening? It is very hard, practically unheard of, requires months-in-advance planning. It's a minor miracle and a gracious gift.

I am thinking back on that sweet time with our family together and feeling incredibly thankful for our children who all made the sacrifices of time and money to get there. They are now scattered quite widely again. In fact, as of 1:00 yesterday afternoon, none of our children were here, none even in this same city. Ouch! Not a situation this mother particularly likes. A couple are still in-state, but only one son, one sweet d-i-l, and one grandbaby will be in NC come tomorrow afternoon. They should get some kind of prize, don't you think?!

The porch swing sat empty this morning. Only the cat joined me as I sat in the quiet with my coffee, Bible, and books. Ah, but let's not think about that right now. Here, with minimal further comment, are a few wonderful reminders of our all-together, completely wonderful beach week ...

 Aunt Kailie and Uncle Matthew and Clara, wave jumping 

Good morning, babies.

 Not only were all 14 of us there, but we had the privilege of times together with my parents and sister's family. Barbeque on Sunday night supplied by my mom. And see all those peaches in the middle of the island. Thank goodness, McCleod's is on the way to the beach. We stop there, coming and going, every beach trip.

 We even managed a family photo which isn't half bad. (Cue the comments from the 20 somethings about photo sharing online and the unnecessary imposition of posing while everyone gets a picture with their own camera or phone). Here we are ... great grandparents (my beautiful Mama and Daddy), grandparents (that's Coty and me!), Great Aunt Anne and Uncle Rusty, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. That's us, ya'll.

 Porch time. Beach version.

 The last time this particular group of people was all together (minus the children, of course) was at Lil's wedding. Erin was 13, Matthew was 3!

My children can cook!  And they did. 
Each one took a dinner, planned the menu, and cooked for the rest of us. 
We ate very well.

 Aunt Yogi supervises handstands.

Always a baby to hold and play with ... 

Some of us made a visit to one of my favorite places on earth, Brookgreen Gardens, 
which was only a couple of miles from our house.

Sandcastles ...

 Walks with uncles ...

Lots of Frizcup. These two are the champs. 

 Lots of cornhole on the beach

 Coty and all 5 sons went for a run together on the beach on Father's Day morning!

And now, we're all scattered ... the guys from left to right in New York City, Cary (NC - he's the one that gets the prize ; ), Minneapolis, Nashville, and Denver. And Erin, on her way back to rural New York state near the Vermont border. 

Looking forward, as always, to the next time we gather, whenever and wherever that may be!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Catching up #4: Before and After

A trampoline used to fill this space. For years, the boys and friends enjoyed it. As they grew into adulthood though, the trampoline sat empty. With some missing side springs, rips in the surrounding net, and decrepit padding, it was starting to be a hazard ... and an unsightly one at that. Several years ago, we said good-bye to it, leaving an empty space that filled with weeds and grew unattractive and unusable for anyone but the bravest Frizcup players.

This spring was the time to make this section of the garden into a grandkid and visiting-little-ones-friendly area again.

Before ...

After ...

Before ...

After ... 


Before: Overgrown redtips, brush and weeds, no place to sit or play, unusable, unattractive

After: Redtips cut waaaaaay back, area cleared of weeds and mulched, paths lined with stones, sandbox, firepit, Mud Pie Cafe, baby swing, hammock, chairs, Frizcup "court"

We love our made-over backyard. I love that we have maintained the natural feel of the woods. We've already had several fires in the fire pit this summer. The sandbox has been used by grandchildren and friends. The Mud Pie Cafe has served lots of customers delicacies like mulch mud casserole and sand tea. Babies have been swung. Frizcup has been played. It's a usable, fun and relatively low maintenance space now.  A backyard for grandkids. Win,win, win!