Monday, April 18, 2016

The stats

This week a year ago, encouraged by my Ever Encouraging Husband, I joined Strava. I would not have noticed this fact had it not been pointed out to me by EEH, aka Coty. He loves Strava - all those stats, segments, elevation profiles, energy outpout numbers, effort comparisons and achievements. He uses the heatmaps to find good routes when we ride in new places. He knows how fast he needs to ride to get a PR on a segment and how fast the KOM (King of the Mountain) rode the segment. He is King of the Mountain on a number of segments.

For the record, we even share King and Queen of the Mountain on a segment that is called by the poetic name, "O Pioneers!" Sounds like we braved the elements, crossed the prairies in our covered wagon, ascended the distant, snow-covered peaks and conquered a kingdom. Really, all we did was ride a little bit faster on a not very hilly stretch of Pioneer Mill Road, than the seven other people who have ever ridden on that particular 2.6 mile stretch of road. No one was there to crown us when we reached the end of the segment, no fanfare, no cheering throng. Shoot, we didn't even know we'd become royalty til we got home and uploaded our rides and checked our stats. But king and queen we are, that is until someone else coming down Morrison from Flowe Store decides to turn left instead of right. One of these days, I expect someone who is hankering for ascendancy to the throne will make that turn and we'll be summarily dethroned.

Anyway, what I also wanted to say about Strava is that it is one of the ways Coty continues his longstanding, unfailing encouragement of my exercise endeavors. Instead of "liking" a post as you do on facebook, Strava which is not just a workout log, but also social media for athletes, allows you to give "kudos." You click on the little thumbs up icon on your friend's entry and there it is, kudos! Yay for you! Way to go! No matter what I do, ride 30 miles or stroll 2, he gives me kudos on Strava. I once told him it wasn't necessary - seemed kind of silly if we had just finished a ride together and he could just tell me in person. Which he always does. But on every single Strava entry I've posted, he has, without fail, given me kudos. And I don't think it's silly anymore. It is sweet. And encouraging. And constant. Like he is.

So, here's what he showed me tonight - the Trophy Case page of my profile which I'd never noticed before that tallied what I've done in the last year ...

Bike rides - 1,207.9 miles
Runs and walks - 226.3 miles
Swims - 29.25 miles

It will be interesting, a year from now, to see what those numbers are. It is always my intention to do more, be more consistent, ride farther, run faster, swim longer. That'd be nice, but even if I don't, I know the kudos will keep coming from the man who has faithfully encouraged me as loooong as I've known him!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Apron pockets and creativity

In our Make Welcome sewing class this morning, we were taking a second go at sewing a simple apron pattern. We sewed these aprons last week and it went well, but it was a learning experience. Slow going. Lots of questions. This second time gave them more practice with the pattern and greater confidence in their sewing. What also happened is that their creativity flowed, their own ideas came out, and they designed and executed their own plans.

It's a simple apron, but the opportunity to design pockets the way they wanted seemed to be real victories for a couple of the women. One of them kept smiling and saying how happy she was today. Another worked quietly, diligently, with little instruction, figuring things out and expressing when it was time to wind up class, both pleasure with her project and disappointment that she wasn't quite able to complete it today. She'll finish her ruffle edged, rounded pocket first thing next class.

Another student, a dear Eritrean woman with the most beautiful hands, struggled a bit to finish up her first apron from last week. Her hems weren't terribly straight, her edges not quite lined up. She doesn't like to pin and doesn't seem too concerned with detail, but when she finished, her delight was palpable. "For me?! I keep??!!" she asked, glee apparent in her treble, chirping words.

I get to be the teacher. I get to bring (so much donated) fabric each week, to decide together with our other teachers what projects we will tackle, what skills we will focus on. I get to watch light bulbs of inspiration and creativity shine brightly as women gain confidence and skills and dare to try something different, to experiment with their own ideas and bring them to completion. Today it was apron pockets. Where will their creativity shine next?!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This old blog ...

... is kind of tired and in sore need of rejuvenation ... or retirement. Perhaps it's time to bid adieu to this whole blogging thing. It was fun while it lasted. I met some amazing people via the blog and established some sweet friendships, but they say nobody reads these things anymore. Is that true? I still read blogs.

There is so much going on around here these days but it's very different from the days when five, then four, then three, then two, then one boy(s) lived here. There was a lot to talk about back then. A lot to keep my family up on, and the bloggity blog was a good way to do it.  But my girl, who went off to college long before this blog got its start, and my five boys who were most often the subjects of this blog, have all flown the coop. They're adults now so talking about them is crossing a line I don't want to cross. Their stories are theirs to tell, except of course, when they come home. Even then, I am less inclined to write about our time together because well, I just want to live the moments with them and with my grandchildren. Those moments are fewer and farther between than I would like because we are so far flung, so the times when we are together are very sweet for me.

Still, it's hard to retire this space.

What about a post a week? A bit of catching up. Just about what's going on around here. Bike rides and refugee friends, and teaching and sewing and the (neglected) garden, and grandchildren.

I expect that only a very few people bother to read this blog any more so if you're one of the faithful few, thanks. I'll give it a go for a few weeks and see what happens. I know some of you were waiting for an April Fool's post and I left you in the lurch. Sorry for that. Those April Fools posts are inspirational lightning strikes. An idea pops into my head and the writing just flows. It didn't happen this year but hey, the month's not over yet. Be on your guard. I may yet fool you.

Anyway, if you are still hanging around and would do me the kindness of checking in with a comment, I'd appreciate it. I'm just curious to know who's still here.


Since I last wrote ...

Coty turned 60. Yikes! Sounds so old and I don't think either of us feel that old. On his birthday, he rode 60 miles on his bike with Thomas and some cycling buddies. He's a strong, fit, 60 years young. Still finding it a little hard to believe that we have reached this age. Well, I haven't yet, but it won't be long ...

We took a little trip down east - Coty's birthday present from me. Three nights at a lovely little cottage in New Bern and four days of cycling. I chose a place that was flat, since I am not in nearly the cycling shape that Coty is. We rode 102 miles in four days and I loved it. Rural, flat, eastern North Carolina. Wisteria and Carolina Jessamine blooming along the roadsides, draping the trees. Pine forests. Tidal creeks. Acres and acres and acres of farmland. Very few cars. We rode through Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina. We rode across the Trent River and took a ferry across the Neuse River. When we weren't riding, we were reading, relaxing, walking around New Bern, eating good food, thoroughly enjoying being together ... and away.

I have this idea that we will cycle all around North Carolina in the next couple of years. The deck attendant on the ferry told us how we could take the ferry to Ocracoke for free if we just have bikes, and cycle the island. Sounds fun to me. It's on the list. Next cycling destination, though, will likely be a little closer - the area around Pinehurst/Southern Pines. We've heard there are pretty rides there. Not as flat as down east, but not as hilly as around here.

We rode 30 miles on Saturday with the Ride for Refugees, a fundraiser for Project 658, where we are now holding our Make Welcome sewing classes. We hemmed and hawed a bit on Thursday and Friday when we saw the weather forecast - cold and windy - but I kept thinking that I wanted to it anyway. It would be good to do a hard thing. Turned out warmer than anticipated on Saturday morning, but 2/3rds of the way into the ride, the wind was gusting up to 35 miles an hour. A couple of times, riding uphill, into the wind, I felt like I was standing still. Put your head down and pedal on. It is good to do something like that. To challenge yourself, to feel taxed and tired. It is minuscule ... nothing, in comparison to the hard things that our refugee friends have endured. I kept thinking about that as we pedaled. How relatively easy my life is, how incredibly blessed and rich and full ... I am humbled ... and grateful.

It is late now. Time to go to bed. Thanks for reading. More soon. I promise.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Yesterday I received two beautiful gifts. Well, actually they were in barter for services rendered - I taught a biology lab class to my dear friend's daughter a couple of years ago and I'm being paid over time in exquisite handmade items from Carla, my friend and incredibly talented artist, designer, and craftswoman.

The first gift was a midori style journal. The leather was dyed by Carla, and all the inner pages chosen and assembled with love and personal attention to things I like. The elastic band closure has the word "brave" stamped on it because I explained to Carla my need to be brave in the sewing studio - to step out and try things, to cut into fabric, to explore color combinations and new patterns, to sew without fear. I need that word in other areas of my life, too, as I often worry far too much about what others might think of my choices, instead of trusting God, wise counsel, and my gut.

You can see photos of my gorgeous journal here.

The other gift I received was a leather cuff bracelet with a pewter charm onto which Carla stamped the words YES AND. When I requested those words, she wanted to know why and here are the inspirations for this motto ...

 1) I have been following the work of modern quilter, Sherri Lynn Wood, for awhile. I love her recent book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilt. Because her work also focuses on sewing and social practice, I contacted her with questions about sewing and its possible benefit in trauma healing for our refugee friends. She graciously replied and encouraged me with suggestions of others to contact and books to read. Thank you, Sherri. The reason she is an inspiration for my YES AND bracelet is from comments she made on this podcast regarding the ways we influence our work and other areas of our lives by saying, "Yes, but ..." instead of "Yes, and ..."

"Yes, but ..." second guesses and gets us stuck.

"Yes, and ..." affirms and moves us forward.

"Yes, but ..." focuses on the negative, what we don't like, why we can't make it better.

"Yes, and ..." accepts the mistake and sees positive ways we can address or redress it.

"Yes, but ..." stifles creativity.

"Yes, and ..." fosters it.

So, wearing a YES AND bracelet while working on a quilt or designing a crossbody bag for Journey Home or even cooking dinner - really while engaging in any endeavor - sets the tone, the atmosphere for positive, beautiful, brave, creative work.

2) Long ago, I heard this Story Corps podcast. Actually, it was June 15, 2006, the NPR Story Corp webpage tells me. I remember exactly where I was driving (Morehead Road, past the Rocky River, going up the hill toward Highway 29). I also remember that I pulled off the road near one of the Speedway campgrounds because I got choked up and needed a few minutes to dry my eyes before I could drive on. What hit me then and has stuck with me since is the what Caywood says between 1:44 and 2:05 in this interview. A thousand yeses.

3) Finally, and undergirding it all, is my understanding of the overflowing, free grace of God, in Christ Jesus. Salvation is a gift in which God says, "Yes, and ..." over and over and over again in my life. In the midst of problems, mistakes, failures, wrongdoing, apathy, dryness, hurt, rejection, disappointment, fear and every other way in which my life goes awry, either by own doing or the consequences of others' actions, God gives "exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or imagine." When I am in the doldrums, I need the YES AND reminder that my beautiful, made with love, cuff gives me.

Thanks, sweet Carla. You didn't know how much was contained in those two little words when I asked for them, did you?!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Back to the pool

Goodness, it's been far too long. According to Strava, the last time I swam was waaaay back at the end of October. Yikes! It was back to the pool today and as I swam lap after lap, I could tell it had been a while but I also remembered why I love going there.

I watch the large clock/timer on the wall at the far end of the pool deck and wait until it is at 57 seconds. Then I start the chrono on my watch and slip into the pool, push off the wall and start to stroke fast. The water feels cold and it takes me about two and a half laps to warm up. The next 20 or 30 seem effortless, back and forth, back and forth, reach and roll, pull, elbow out, reach and roll, pull. I know my stroke needs work. I am slower now since I haven't been in the pool for awhile, but I will hit a plateau after a couple of weeks and not be able to go any faster. I think it's my stroke dynamics, or lack thereof.

Ah, well. I am not a racer. I am a plodder in the pool, but I'm ok with that. The point is to be there, to enjoy the swim and enjoy how good I feel when I'm done. The best kind of tired.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy birthday, Levi

Two years ago today, we welcomed this little man into the world. That sweet, contemplative little one has grown into a sweet, funny, tender, loving two year old. Just a week or so ago, he started saying, "Gramma." I think he could say it before then but it got to be a little joke between us on skype.

"What's my name?"

"That's not my name! What's my name?"
"Papa!" ... and on it would go with a tilt of his head and a teasing smile.

But now, he says, "Gramma!"

Today, I said "Happy birthday, Levi. I love you."
He replied, "Happy birthday to you, Gramma. I wuv u too."

Knock me over with a feather.

Saying hello for the first time two years ago 
saying good-bye back at the end of my visit back in November

Happy birthday, little man!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A rare, dear friend

This blog, I've decided, is like one of those rare, dear, old friends with whom time between conversations doesn't matter. A week, a month, a year ... it makes no difference at all. You just pick right up where you left off, no recriminations, no guilt, no apologies. You both know that life is full and that the silence is not indicative of anything. It only shows that time has passed, more quickly by the year. It really doesn't matter how long it's been, when the call comes and that beloved name pops up on your caller ID, you answer with eagerness and delight.

With such friends, I always -  we always - endeavor to reach out more often and we laugh at ourselves each time we say those words to each other, knowing that it will not likely be so. Ah well, we love each other and each connection is a precious gift, perhaps made more so by the infrequency. Friends like that are rare and very much to be cherished. I have several and my life is so much richer for them.

You may not feel quite that way about this old blog. But maybe it's just a wee bit like that.

Hello, then. Let's just pick right up where we left off, shall we?


The holidays came and went. They were wonderful. Five of my boys, three daughters-in-law, and one grandbaby were here for varying amounts of time. We squeezed in and I loved every minute of it. Everyone helped to cook and clean. Baby David had lots of time with adoring aunts and uncles. We played games and because it was so very warm, we sat on the porch. One night, we sat outside around the fire. I didn't take very many pictures. I just wanted to live in the time together without a camera between me and all the sweetness of having my family here. We missed our NY crew, but goodness, where would I have put them. A tent, perhaps?

I didn't make resolutions really. Just told myself that once the holidays were over, it would be back to regular routines and life giving habits.

Time at my desk first thing each morning with my Bible and prayer notebook.

Cleaner, lighter, less sugary eating. I'm usually quite ready for that by the time the new year rolls around.

Regular walks/runs/rides/swims and a bit more stretching. I've already been to the eye doctor and had a physical this month and I don't take my rather low maintenance good health for granted. It is a gift and I am very grateful.

I do have some sewing and work goals in the months ahead. Exciting developments with Make Welcome and eagerness to learn more, sew more. More on all that to come ...

I also have reading goals for the year. I'm upping my goodreads challenge again, this year to 70 books. Some of those 70 books will be a part of my "Read Around the World, from A to Z" adventure. I expect this will take me several years, as I try to read a book about or by an author from every country. I'm not going in any particular order, but the alphabet is a good guide. I've started with Afghanistan and finished two books already. My library stack is growing.


My children left over the space of a few days after Christmas, thankfully not all at once. Joel was here til after New Year's so that was good. A slow-ish transition for me from the fullness to the quiet. I love them both. I love pulling the table apart and putting in all the leaves, setting the old church bench for two to sit on at the end of the table, and three French presses in constant use. And I love the small table and clear counters and uninterrupted hours. I miss my children - and grandchildren - and do wish they weren't spread nearly so far and wide. On the other hand, seeing a picture like this one makes my heart happy. Uncle Andrew explored subway grates and chased pigeons and did a bit more in New York City this past weekend with Erin, Luke, and the kids. I would have loved to be with them, but I didn't have to be there to feel intensely happy about that time they had together.

 Happy New Year, friends. I'll be back soon.