Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect

Five quilts in process. Can you find them all? (See the rack in back!)
I have written before about how I cannot stick to one project at a time. Perhaps some of you are like me? It is the same with quilting projects as well!  At the time that I embarked on my New Year's resolution of finishing my seven unfinished quilts, I really wanted to start new ones!! In starting more, seven looked like less! Yes, I am certifiably crazy!!

While looking at materials on Sewitsforsale@yahoo.com and quilts on pinterest and ebay I schemed and purchased new fun materials to play with and even found myself  bidding on a few small quilts tops. I have since sat down and figured out how many years I will have to live to complete them all, and it is enough to make a me suicidal!!  Oddly, I think many quilters are like me? If overwhelmed, take on more, not less!
Hand-quilting practice on this small New York beauty bought on ebay!

I carefully calculated how many hours it would take to finish each quilt and devised my Three Ring Circus Plan but before long I was as behind as ever, or so it seemed. Some days my body just doesn't cooperate!! Being, like Pooh Bear and a person of little brain, who doesn't change plans, but instead pushes harder, I am working to focus on my projects and shifting from one to another as I carry-on!

It has all begun to make some sort of strange sense. I first started quilting when I was in my twenties and jumping back into quilting now has been no small venture.  My skills are rusty at best and at worst I knew I needed new techniques to do the sorts of quilts that I see at shows.

While I was my mother's quilt consultant until she died nine years ago and she considered me a bit of a quilt expert and critic, the truth was that my early learned skills are in much need of practice.  What looks easy is not and I have worked hard the past few months practicing the following skills: machine stitching uniform patchwork; making delicate hand-applique stitches using cotton fabrics that necessitate first turning the edges under with precision and glue, unlike wool applique; and brushing up on my hand-quilting skills. I have yet to do much machine quilting except on some throw pillows, but that will soon start as I machine quilt my 9 Patch/9 Patch quilt strips and I will then join them together using a "quilt-as-you-go" technique, making them easier to work on, incrementally.
Practicing making more precise 9-patch quilt blocks using a paper guide.
9 Patch blocks ready to be sewn with plain blocks for 9 Patch/9 Patch blocks.
9 Patch/9 Patch blocks to sew  to make strips for Quilt-As-You Go Quilting.
9 Patch strips to make 9 patch/9 Patch blocks with pink instead  of muslin.
Practicing freezer paper applique technique.

Practicing turning edges under and gluing for precise applique work.

Wall hanging ready for quilting.  Made with Daiwabo Japanese Fabrics.
Purchased quilt top, ready for practice quilting--see on rack in first picture.
Washable sanitary pads make for much cutting and machine sewing  practice.
My multi-project approach is actually serving me well to practice all these skills.  Pictures show my projects in progress and the caption, what skills I am working to master. Warning: watching quilts in progress is a bit like watching grass grow! It is slow and tedious work, especially as I hop from project to project, but alas progress is being made, especially considering that my work is combined with life, but that is subject matter for another blog!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Let Freedom Ring!

Spring is here at last and it is time for Spring Fling in the nearby town of Fair Haven, Vermont.  This means a Memorial Day Parade and celebration.  It is a time for their town-wide garage sale, and other spring time special events, including the used book sale at the library. My daughter is there with her boyfriend and his boys who are proudly parading with their Boy Scout Troop. It is an event that means community in every sense of the word.

Years ago I remember being leader of a young women's organization, and the theme  I chose to represent my time as leader was "Let Freedom Ring".  That was over fifty years ago now.  How time flies and yet some things don't change, like love of my country.  I learned so much at that time about the history of our nation and about all the patriots that laid down their lives for the sake of our present freedoms. My sense of appreciation and love of my country has grown more every year as I continue to learn more about the heroes that have fought and died for our nation.

I have just finished reading about prisoner of war camps during the Civil War, after re-discovering that my great grandfather fought in this war and was imprisoned seven times, and was even imprisoned in Andersonville, one of the most notorious prisoner of war camps. Unlike the prisoner of war camps of today, there were no fine facilities or humane treatment. It was one of the darkest days in our history, when prisoners were kept in overcrowded stockades with no housing, or sanitation. Thousands died of malnutrition and disease. Most prisoners were inadequately clothed to protect them from the cold or sun and the atrocities ranked among the worst in the history of mankind! How easy it is to forget that this is what is behind Memorial Day celebrations, now an extended weekend and reprieve from work.

May we all take time to say a prayer for our nation and may we be willing to lay down our lives to protect the freedoms that were so hard earned by the many patriots who paid for them most dearly! Our freedoms are more than a privilege, they are our sacred responsibility to maintain.  They are not free, but came at a great cost! May God bless those who paid the price for our treasured American life and may freedom ring forever!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Month of May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May is officially Lyme Disease Awareness month. Most of you know that this is a disease close to my heart, as I have it and so do both of my girls, having acquired it from me in utero. It is a very real part of my life, more so than I would like.

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend of mine.  We were talking  about our upcoming 50th high school reunion.  I told her that I would feel funny going, as I have few memories from high school. She replied that that is true for all of us and yet she can remember names and details and to this day she still gets upset regarding some of the events that happened fifty years ago. I laughed and told her that perhaps that is the good part about having memory issues, I carry few grudges or upsets as I can't remember them!

Perhaps not remembering is a gift? It is one that I am not making up or exaggerating!  When I had a stroke a few years ago now, it was noted on CT scans that I have many brain lesions, and in my rehab that followed, my therapists' instruction taught me little that was new.  My brain issues, I realized are part of Chronic Lyme Disease and are long standing.

The conversation with my friend was not as amicable as either of us would have liked and I apparently upset her as much as she upset me. I have since examined why our interchange went south. I would like to think that it was due to a full moon, but it was more than that. Though we have "made peace" and are working to not let our differences come between us, I needed to understand what she was trying to say and my reaction to it.

I process slowly and giving more thought to our conflict,  I appreciated that those of us with Lyme or other invisible diseases face difficulties in our day to day interactions with the world at large more than we care to admit.  Just this last week a friend of mine who also suffers with multiple disabilities called to talk to me about what happened to her at a dog show.  She had traveled by herself to take her dog to an international show states away, despite some very real issues with fatigue as well as double vision. She and her dog did well at the show, but she found herself the subject of criticism by someone she knew there, who didn't understand the limits of her health issues.

Similarly, my friend verbalized criticisms of me, though with good intentions of helping me .  She told me that it hurts her when I put myself down. She doesn't realize that in the years since we have actually seen each other, I have developed a rather dark, self-deprecating sense of humor. It is a defense mechanism that I have perfected, joking about myself and beating others to poking fun at my idiosyncrasies that are often the subject of much ridicule! Laughing about the failings of my body and mind is my way of coping. Illness and disability leave little pride and humor helps.

My friend was also concerned that I am allowing Lyme Disease to victimize me and told me that I am more than my disease! It is a point well-taken, though there is a secret society of those with similar diseases to mine. We start clumping together to support each other, and my disease is truly part of my new identity, right, wrong, good or bad.

My friend also expressed that I am allowing my illness to rob me of my fun side, that she knew years ago. Her comment stung, though I quickly defended myself with what she claims was quite a filibuster . I told her that I am proud to be who I am and continue to "fight like a trooper" despite a disease that has taken so much from me for 49 years of my 67 years. I have indeed been victimized by Lyme Disease! It has prematurely sucked up much of my life, and likely some of my fun side with it!

My friend wanted me to understand that most everyone has illness and disease that they must cope with.  It is true that I am not the only one, and her comment is well-heeded. She is right that many work with pain and discomfort, besides which, my issues seem to never end, and are tedious at best for my loved ones that struggle to be patient with my complaints. Well-fought acute illnesses are a different matter than chronic debilitating ones that wear out even the most tenacious of supporters.

My friend continued to try to explain to me that others have cancer and arthritis and diabetes that causes them to suffer too and yet they carry on and don't complain.  She doesn't understand that with Chronic Lyme and other invisible inflammatory/autoimmune illnesses we are often misunderstood by those closest to us and are commonly misdiagnosed by our doctors who label us as having psychiatric illnesses or as being hypochondriacs, denying us the dignity of even having a legitimate physical illness with a diagnosis that is recognized and treated in the medical world.

Interestingly, insurance companies aren't like the rest of the public. They don't deny what we can't either.  Their actuary tables show our illnesses as cause for some of the severest of disabilities and even if we cope well, our insurance rates are increased as the depression and suicide rates that accompany living with the frustration of no relief, can be as devastating as our illness, especially when we are denied proper medical care and insurance coverage!

My friend said it hurts her when I talk about things that I cannot do, for it makes her feel that I am "giving up" and it is painful for her to see what I was and what I am becoming. I reminded her that my phone call was for the purpose of sharing my excitement about making a quilt for her and a wall-hanging for another mutual friend, but she then tells me that she is weary of my "spirit of overcoming", as it focuses again on my illness.

She complimented me that I am accomplished beyond what others do, even when they are well. She does not see that my accomplishments are my ways to compensate for what I cannot do and to stay useful and relevant. Gaining disability status indeed felt like I was giving up, though I didn't stop working until I was sixty-two.  It was a two year fight to get it and when it was awarded, it felt much like winning Queen for a Day where hardship gets the prize of a wheel chair or a handicap ramp--needed but not wanted! I wanted to work instead to help support our family. My physical limitations forced me to retire early and my husband to work a second job to meet our financial needs. Sadly, my extreme efforts to work with my disease were not recognized and/or accommodated in the work place. Ironically, I needed to be healthy to work in the health profession!

People with serious illness, like me, become less than what we were, and we content ourselves with diminished roles. We often do so gratefully, happy that we can still function at all, despite the oppression of a disease that doesn't seem to ever go away.

My friend told me that she doesn't mean to hurt my feelings, but I felt wounded by her comments. She said that she has medical problems too, but then added that they can't compete with mine. I have no wish to compete with anyone and especially not in the category of being ill!

My filibuster wasn't about whining, but rather,voicing my anger at what is not understood. Lyme Disease and other invisible illness are largely unsupported and un-researched though they are ruining the lives of so many!! I fight with my voice and my pen for the equal rights and dignity that are given to others who have "politically correct" diseases.  I am more than sympathetic to anyone who suffers, but it seems that many like myself are negatively judged when we aren't pridefully silent!

I am responding, not just to my friend but to the world. Her words wouldn't hurt so much if there wasn't truth in what she says.  I am NOT what I used to be and I grieve that! I wish I could go to my high school reunion, but travel exacerbates my illness and it is all I can do to cope with my health issues when I live within the boundaries of my home. Losses? Everyone experiences loss in their lives, but those with Chronic Lyme or other chronic debilitating diseases find their lives interrupted when they are in their prime and many of us dedicate our lives to fighting our illness as well as calling attention to the diseases that cause them as a way of advertising for the research that is needed to eliminate them .

I am not a poster woman for Chronic Lyme Disease! I don't pose for pictures.  In fact, I often want to wear a bag over my head. Rashes, thin hair, and dark circles under my eyes make me look sick even on my best of days, and I whine too much!  My personal story is not so sweet...but it is a real one...and an honest one!  I don't suffer in silence and I bless those that are voicing loud and clear their struggles with this and other diseases dismissed by the medical world!  It is NOT OK to quietly accept our diseases any more than it was OK to accept polio!

I am but one of thousands of people whose life has been turned upside down by an illness whose cure is as elusive as chasing rainbows. In all losses there are gains and my personality and humor have moved to different domains. My friend is right, it isn't fun to see someone you love suffer, but my family and I have gained much compassion for others who are suffering like me/us! I told my friend that what doesn't speak to her in my writings speaks to many others who struggle as I do. Supporting and caring about each other, we gain wholeness, at least spiritually.

My filibuster ended with telling my friend that I love her and don't mean to offend her and the same goes for my readers. I am a total person and will continue to write about issues dear to me, including Chronic Lyme Disease. I love my friend and will continue to, whether or not we agree on this subject, and the same goes for my followers that may not wish to read about this aspect of my life.

I write about Chronic Lyme Disease as it is a way of standing up for myself and all of those that suffer as I do with this and/or other invisible, debilitating illnesses not currently recognized by the medical community. This is Lyme Disease Awareness month and I pray that people everywhere will recognize and support the research needed to guarantee appropriate medical treatment and insurance benefits to those who suffer from Chronic Lyme or any other such invisible catastrophic diseases!

*Please support  ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) as it supports research and doctor education to create what we who have this disease refer to as Lyme-Literate doctors (LLMDs). Both are desperately needed in our fight against this illness!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Right in my Living Room, on TV!!

I had best not reveal which of these authors is my cousin's husband.
I was watching a history program the other night about the infamous prison camp during the Vietnam War, commonly referred to as the Hanoi Hilton.  Suddenly up popped my cousin's husband, speaking about how secrets are communicated by spies. Spies were even set up in this infamous prison! He worked for the CIA and there he was right there, in my living room, on TV!!!

And yes, one of these authors was my high school classmate.
I also recently learned that one of my classmates from high school is now a "big wig" in intelligence and advises the White House, though I had to laugh at an interview of him on C-Span, when he added that he hasn't had the job long enough to be blamed for what isn't going right, and added that even when he is there long enough, the White House acts freely to accept or dismiss his advice.

Eavesdropping and remembering is only a talent in my dreams!
I admire such important work and especially anyone that can keep a secret.  Many years ago I read a great story about a young woman during the American Revolution, Celia Garth, that practiced breathing so silently as to not be noticed as she listened intently for secrets that might be of use to the early American patriots. I proudly learned to breathe shallowly, and tried to become an eavesdropper, only learning later how much healthier it is to breathe deeply.

Listening for details much less remembering them was sadly never a talent of mine, and thinking rationally is not either.  I can connect all the dots, and arrive at a picture not seen by anyone else! I can't even report on what I have learned without jumbling up all the facts and to this day, I still can't begin to keep a secret about even the most frivolous of subjects! My emotions can be played like a fiddle and I am so predictable that I can be manipulated or even baited to act on cue! I am that naive and gullible! The only time I will be a spy is in my own imagination and fortunately, on that count, I am not lacking! Even my family keeps secrets from me, knowing that if you want the world to know something, you have only to whisper it in my ear!

One of my friends, when hearing of my envy of my classmate, tried to assure me that I have likely helped as many people in my nursing career, but that is not the point!  I wanted to be a spy, and add to that, my life long desire of wanting to be intelligent in a street-smart sort of way. Intelligence goes beyond facts, into territory that is beyond where I live. Ironically it is a fact and likely not by accident that I live right off Blissville Road, in my Little House where lofty dreams and imaginations still reign, though I seem to lack even the most normal amount of common sense. Fortunately, my father was in Intelligence in the Navy in World War II and was smart enough to push me into a career like nursing instead!

Betsy Ross likely sewed many secrets, unlike my stitches, with no secrets!
I am as I am, and there is likely no education for someone that has so well-escaped acquiring such sort of street intelligence in 67+ years, despite an undergraduate and graduate degree. I am the Gracie Allen of this generation, with such simple and concrete thinking that my youngest daughter once envied me living in my own world. She thought I was a "naturally stoned" person, like I was high on something. It didn't even occur to me until writing this, to ask how she could relate such thinking to being stoned? I told her that it is likely due to breathing shallowly, and my brain being anoxic (lacking oxygen)! I even love conspiracy theories, but I learned well from my favorite aunt that being paranoid doesn't mean someone is NOT out to get you!

I will continue to read, sew and watch TV programs and marvel at the genius of spies, and how they save the world!  I will live in awe of what I am not, and meanwhile continue to work to accept myself and my own repertoire of talents and continue to admire those that are so different than me.... and "Yes, Hannah, I know how difficult your job must be, explaining to me what I am too naive to understand when we watch programs with any sort of intrigue!" Thank goodness for my husband and children who greatly assist me as I try navigate the world of today! For some, like me, it is perhaps best to stay grounded, and focus on making quilts and pincushions while I wait to become a grandmother and continue to ponder about what God is up to!

* The illustrations are not my own, but are a result of googling images of female spies (in particular ones of the Revolutionary War), and from Amazon's listings of books by those I know whose careers are in intelligence, but likely haven't a clue as to who I am. Perhaps I have a bit of sleuth in me after all, knowing of others who know nothing of me?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome

There it was in black and white...there IS a Grumpy Old Man Syndrome!
Well, this morning I looked it up on the computer and there it was in black and white.  Men don't typically age gracefully as they lose their testosterone, they instead "take to yelling at kids to stay off their lawn", or "hang out in their garages sulking"!

There really is a Grumpy Old Man Syndrome and I was experiencing it first-hand!! It wasn't by standing on "my husband's lawn" that I discovered it, but rather when I dared to thin out the shoes and boots on OUR/ HIS? boot rack in the mud room, taking pride in cleaning up the house a bit, as only last week, he complained that I had taken to becoming a totally slovenly housewife who was fixated on sewing and quilting? Who, me? I actually felt fortunate that he hadn't noticed this trend years ago!

I was going to treat his feedback with what would appear to be a sincere desire to please him! Inviting a friend over at the end of the week, I could see my husband's point! The house was a disaster!! But enough about my issues, this blog is to be about what is a very real "grumpy old man syndrome".

I had complained to my sister-in-law years ago that her brother seemed to be having some negative moods and she told me all the men in my husband's family seemed to get grumpy as they aged?  I couldn't help but wonder why she had waited to tell me this until AFTER I married him?

Reading several articles, I took notes only to discover that to date I have responded in exactly the wrong way. They all said that whatever you do, DON'T ever confront the man in your life with the truth that he is becoming "a grumpy old man" and never suggest that he take his blood sugar or send him off to the doctor to find out what is wrong with him!? Being a good triage nurse in my day, but a person of little brain regarding husband psychology, I had already made some serious mistakes and thought I would caution my readers not to do the same!
I found this on line in images for Grumpy Old Men. Gift it at your own risk!

Most articles recommended being quiet and patient, treating him with extra kindness as likely his testosterone levels are declining and his body is only a fragment of what it once was and likely he is struggling to accept and adjust to these new realities? Ah-hemmm....like such changes haven't been affecting my body from the minute I got pregnant with our first child!!!  Perhaps science should find a way for our husbands to carry at least one child as a warm-up exercise to having bodies that aren't what they used to be?! I am also realizing perhaps I am not seen as the tender-hearted and sympathetic woman I used to be!
Perhaps seen as less than the kind and sympathetic person I used to be?

My new Three Ring Circus Modus Operandi must now add yet more rings, and I will have to dust off my psychiatric nursing skills to jump through hoops of fire when my husband, the ring master of my circus comes through the door grumpy and "barking". Simply altering my UFO project completion deadlines may not be the only change required by my new plan. I may have to hide my euphoria about what I plan to accomplish to curtail the ripple effect that such  plans have on my husband, though I admit, it will be like sweeping an elephant under the rug before he comes home, as my messes from my over-exhuberant quilting schedule are evident everywhere! Perhaps if I take to being  a little more whiny and complaining, he might be driven back into his man-cave to hibernate and be less grizzly?

Grumpy Old Men is Not a genetic disorder!  More than one exist!
I am certainly open for suggestions as to how others deal with their "grumpy old man", now that I know that this phenomena is not just genetically mine alone to deal with? I have already started a fishing trip fund to send him on a private vacation and will gladly accept contributions and recommendations for back woods fishing lodges? I am not giving up my new modus operandi! I will finish my unfinished quilts if it kills me and it/he just might?!

In all fairness to my dear husband, I must say that I am likely not the easiest to live with...and he is generous beyond belief to helping me stay supplied with materials, as I am certain that he believes that there is also a Gumpy Old Woman Syndrome that might overtake me if I should run out of things to sew!!
I, on the other hand, am entitled to get grumpy!

"Best keep me well supplied with quilt materials  to keep me cheery!"
* All images are credited to images found when googling Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women, protecting our own images so we can carry on and live in our own little town without being permanently branded as "grumpy"!