"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fridays, freetime, GALs and longarms

I don’t have court tomorrow which means I can work at home. I have a few letters to write and quite a few phone calls I need to make. However, if all goes well, I might be able to take off early and work on some piecing. Fridays tend to be very busy or very light but you never know until the day which way it is going to go.

I primarily do guardian ad litem (GAL) work and do not accept private clients. As GAL for children, I am not bound by my client’s wishes so I don’t have the ethical dilemmas I would if I were defense counsel. GAL’s are supposed to advocate in the best interests of the child – We don’t choose a position based upon who is signing our paycheck. For example, if a young lady who is the object of a custody dispute wants to live with her mother because her mother allows the child’s boyfriends to sleep over, I am free to tell the judge what I think and make recommendations that I think are appropriate. Most of the time the right thing to do is pretty obvious. However, there are enough judgment calls involved that it keeps you humble. Sometimes I feel like I am playing god and, unfortunately, I bear little resemblance to the Almighty. Fortunately, the judges that I practice before are, to a person, excellent. The longer I work in this field the more admiration, respect and trust I have in their wisdom. They see it all and consistently “get” it. Sure, mistakes are sometimes made but overall, not too often. And that is why we have appeals.

I am in the beginning stages of researching to get a longarm quilting machine. They are horribly expensive, even used. In a few weeks my husband and I are planning to travel to the regional quilt show to test drive a few. I am mechanically disinclined but he isn’t and I appreciate that he is willing to take off work to take some for a spin. He thinks quilt shows are where post menopausal women hang out and that attending such a show is a fine birth control method. In my younger years I was quicker with a comeback but these days, the man regularly leaves me speechless. I mean, really, what can you say in response to that? I have all but decided to NOT get an HQ16 but the final decision is not made. Thinking (just thinking) of a APQS Lenni or a Gammil Premier Plus.

More as my research progresses. Anyone with insight into choosing a longarm is encouraged to post your thoughts.

photos - taken off the internet. The Lenni is from Country Lane Quilting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blustery Day

A front is coming through and it is supposed to have gusts to 50 MPH (up from 24 MPH). The trees out back are swaying and I can just see their silhouettes against the eastern sky. I love it when the days start to lengthen, again.

Today's "To Do" list:

1. Disposition hearing (it is like sentencing for a juvenile) for a young lady who attacked her mother. Her father is in prison in another state.

Done. The child is at the group home and seems to have a good attitude about it. She and mom are talking, again!

2. Arraignment on a Destruction of Property charge against a young man who threw a tantrum at the local youth shelter where he was staying because he attacked his mother. His father passed away last year.

Done. He and Mom are talking again and things are looking MUCH better!

3. Foster care hearing for a child who has been in foster care for two years. His mother has been doing a pretty good job with him but it has come to light that she is doping him to keep him under control. He attacked her a few months ago and she is still a bit nervous about that. His father can't come near him due to a restraining order. Not sure what we need to do about this one ...

Done. Mom continues to work hard to do the right thing and it turns out she wasn’t doping him – they’d just changed his meds. New services are being ordered and I’m guardedly optimistic about the situation.

4. Visit a client at the youth shelter. He has additional charges pending because he threatened to bomb the facility and attacked staff. He also has an inappropriate crush on a staff member. He also informed staff he "knows where you live." He is at the shelter because he attacked his mother. He is eleven. His father thinks there is nothing wrong with him.

Done. Child is now in detention instead of the shelter so I visited him there. He is mad at the staff member that he used to have a crush on but thinks I have beautiful eyes … Did I mention he is eleven?

5. Set a hearing for an uncontested divorce that I am doing pro bono.

Sort of done. They need some documents, first.

6. Swing by the LQS to see what is new.

Had to skip. Went to the Group home, instead, and two of my old girls are back. Sorry they are back but thrilled to see them again.

7. Clean the downstairs bathroom.

8. Finish the cowboy boot block. Yesterday I drafted it on EQ5. I just love that program. Then I pieced the different parts.

The last picture shows it to the point where it needs the background. I need to read up on piecing curves since I don't know what I am doing. I put a book about curves in my bag and hope I'll be able to bone up on it while waiting on cases.

9. Select the pattern and fabric for the next block in the Think Romance block swap.

10. Gather tax stuff.

11. Get an affidavit executed for a business matter.

Looks like an easy day!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Cowboy Boot Experiment Update and Juvenile Delinquents

I killed many trees trying to get a pp'ing pattern for the cowboy boot (see previous post). Just about the time I was missing handling the juvenile arraignments I had forgotten, it dawned on me that I could import a picture to EQ5 and trace a pattern, which I ended up doing. I'd not done that before so there was a learning curve.

About an hour after I figured out the EQ5 program, I strolled into court and met some frantic clerks who had been looking for me. Playing it cool (but inwardly horrified) and relying on sheer luck that I didn't deserve, I managed to handle the juvenile arraignments without slowing down the docket. Feeling pretty sheepish about all that.

I am on the court appointed list in a nearby county and from time to time, I cover the juvenile arraignments. These are procedural hearings in which a juvenile is charged with something that could range from spitting on the sidewalk to murder. Happily, murder is uncommon (so are charges for spitting on the sidewalk). Typically, they have been detained the previous day for something like stealing a "friend's" Ipod or breaking into the cranky neighbor's car or something equally stupid. All we really do at the arraignment is make sure they know what they are being charged with; make sure they get a lawyer; and set a trial date. If they are being detained, you see if you can make arrangements for them to wait for their trial at home.

I think the most important thing we do at juvenile arraignments is make sure a child does not plead guilty to a serious charge without having the opportunity to explore their legal options with an attorney in greater length. Some aggravated parents who don't (yet) appreciate the potential oppressiveness of juvenile justice system think a nice conviction will teach Junior a lesson. They come in with a full head of tough love steam. While I think strict parents walk on water, (as opposed to the ones who think Junior is just misunderstood and has self esteem issues), part of what you do is to make sure the parents understand that there are ways to scare the socks off Junior short of the electric chair. Obviously, this is a bit of an art.

Another important thing we do is explain to the kids what is happening and let them know that they haven't been forgotten. That first night in detention is a pretty long one. I absolutely love working with kids at this stage. For many it is the first time it begins to dawn on them that their parents may actually know what they are talking about and that the folks have been telling them "no" because they love them. It is like a conversation with Eve right after she bites into the apple - you witness the beginning of wisdom. If it is clear they were guilty as sin (they confess or there is a video tape) I have a spiel where I give a long sigh and tell them that I am just so sorry that they ran afoul of the juvenile justice system because it is a hard road.... We'll do what we CAN... Sigh... Well, keep your chin up! (when you aren't responsible for defending them at trial, it is easier to keep your perspective on the overall situation). I think the best thing you can do for the child at this stage is to encourage them to realize that the road they are one is one THEY chose. The obvious lesson is that they also have the choice to change directions but it is too soon to press that point. A Juvenile Arraignment attorney is just a little Johnnie Apple Seed. :)

Some of the kids at that point inform you that they are NOT going to stay in detention. It is amazing how many children honestly have no idea that what they want and what they get are frequently two different things. "Well, you don't get to decide that, unfortunately, " I tell them. I generally add, "Oh, and don't forget to stand when you speak to the judge and say Yes sir and No Ma'm." For some, this is their first outside lesson in the value of manners and respect for authority. If they haven't learned it at home by the time they get into the courts, it may be too late. It is always my hope that they just need a reminder.

Then there are the frequent flyers. You look at the file and see that they have had 6 or 7 (or more) previous charges in this court, alone. You can't help but feel bad about it. You don't see a child facing "real life" for the first time or one whose terrifying first night in detention might actually end up being a constructive learning experience. Their demeanor is level, low key, they know the drill. You can feel their disdain for you as a mere "public defender" if they think you are too glib - their disdain for you as a sucker if they think you are too nice or care too much. Their parents are worn down and hopeless (usually only one appears, if that) and they no longer think there is any possibility that this could actually end up being a positive experience. They are worried about losing their job because they have to keep taking off work for school discipline matters or court appearances. They are on a first name basis with the probation officers. They have favorite and not so favorite judges. They are caught in the grinder that is the juvenile justice system.

It is just so sad to see a family tragedy play out. You frequently see parents who know they failed (or think they failed). Their heartache is on display and the whole world is looking on so there is no place to hide. So many of them have ended up in this place by taking the easy road, giving in when they should have stood firm, making poor decisions as a result of fatigue or immaturity or their own demons, choosing to be a friend instead of a parent. They are the least able to survive when their child goes wrong but there they are.

The good news is that most families survive the experience. The kids DO grow a brain, eventually, and they DO ultimately come to appreciate that the world does not owe them much of anything and are happier for it. The juvenile justice system rarely destroys families that are, essentially, healthy. But like I tell the kids - it is a tough road. And it can happen.

photo - not one of my clients - I got this off the internet and have no idea who it is. I doubt they are really a psychopath

The Great Cowboy Boot Experiment

My husband collects vintage cowboy boots and we have pairs scattered throughout the house masquerading as decor. 50 years ago, people had smaller feet. I am not a big woman by today's standards but compared to a few decades ago, I am much more like an evil step sister than Cinderella.

I mentioned that I was going to try to paperpiece a cowboy boot wall hanging. I have never done this and thought I'd chronicle my attempts. I started out with a picture of a boot. I took a lot of pictures but the reason I picked this one was because it is a shortie (a style) which I like, and because I wanted to see some of the front of the heel. I also like the way the toe shows wear.

From that, I tried to eliminate as many lines as possible and still keep the main ones. I fiddled some more with it and outlined the edges.

Thereafter, I traced straight lines on my first draft pattern using my light box (I have a small battery powered light under my extension table) and made additional enlargements.

The next step is going to be to try to break it down to sections to create a workable pattern. I've never done this so it may not work. But in the short time I have before I have to get ready for work, I thought I'd post my progress. If you click on the pictures they get larger and you can see more detail. As if you'd want to. Do not look at the dust on the boot. That has been in my living room.

Perhaps I can return to this later if things don't get too busy. I'm visiting clients in jail, today, and this would be a nice thing to be able to come home to.

Tip of the day - avoid jail at all costs. The only happy people are the ones who are walking out (and some of them ain't so happy, either).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blocks and Dr. Phil and Stolen Bestsellers

I had a very hectic morning and nothing came easily. I ended up back at home around noon and after eating a Whopper Jr. from the value menu with my husband (who works at home on Monday) I went back to work (at home). While I was gone, husband had seen Evelyn slinking like a weasel down the stairs, clearly up to no good. Upon investigation, he discovered she had absconded with a large hardback bestseller from the bedside table and was heading for the backyard with it. No damage done.

I didn't much come up for air until 3:00 at which point I watched Dr. Phil (the show was about teenagers wearing baggy pants) and worked on a block for the Think Romance swap I'm part of. I may post a picture in a day or two but want to give the block a chance to arrive at her owner's house so she can see it first.

I am contemplating creating a cowboy boot paper pieced cowboy boot wall hanging. I took pictures of some of my husband's vintage cowboy boots and am attempting to convert that to a foundation pattern. I'll post a picture if that starts going anywhere.

All in all, a fairly balanced, if boring, day.

photo - Evelyn as a pup - she is a sneak from way back

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pets in the Sewing Room

We have two fifty pound samoyeds who, like most of their breed, are sociable and like to cuddle. Jezebel will eat whatever is in front of her nose. She guzzles down anything from lettuce to chunks of hair (their hair is spinnable). Evelyn likes to move things but is not particularly destructive.
I'm working on a quilting project and yesterday I carefully cut out some fabric pieces and set them in a small plastic container so they'll be available when I get a few minutes. I stumbled downstairs this morning for a badly needed cup of coffee and discovered the container, sans lid, with the fabric pieces still nestled inside, intact and ready to go. Evelyn had managed to get it from off my sewing work station, across the room, down the hall, down the stairs, through the downstairs part of the house and set it by the fireplace. And she needed to go outside to pee at the same time. What a talent!

photo - Evelyn

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Valentine Table Topper

I took a break from swaps and winter stuff to make a cheery table topper. The center square was made from scraps so I could feel like I was shopping my stash.

photo - Valentine Table Topper

What I get out of quilting

A lot of people take up quilting for emotional reasons. They like the idea of doing something traditional because it ties them to the past, their families, or their idea of what that means. Some take up quilting as a bridge to the future or as a way to stay in contact with life as it moves beyond them, i.e., they want to make soft, welcoming gifts for babies and newly married couples. Or puppies. Or house warming presents. Or they want ways to make their own home feel warm and cozy. Or they just want to show off. But the point is that a lot of people take up quilting for reasons that have little to do with the actual process.

Quilters who have been quilting for awhile still want those things but I’d say that for most of us, the impetus shifts to the sensual and tactile. We fall in love with the colors and how they clash and combine. We love the feel of the fabric. We become almost addicted to the way a design suddenly pops out of the fabric. We notice little things like the color of variegated thread. We get lost in patterns and swirls of colors. We notice colors that we completely overlooked, before. Visual artists know all this stuff just as musicians “hear” music the rest of us overlook. However, many pre-quilters are living in a barren, sterile world except for when we eat chocolate. We begin wanting to touch strangers’ scarves and ties to get a better look at the pattern. When we compliment ladies on the pretty fabric in their blouses, they smile, which just encourages such behavior. When we are piecing and quilting, something happens in our brain at the point when what we see in our head and spirit abruptly comes into being in three dimensions. Granted, the result is not always a good thing but seeing it take place is a thrill.

For some of us, striving for perfection becomes an obsession. We study, we practice, we compulsively frog sew (rippit… rippit for the uninitiated). We learn new skills, plateau for awhile, then suddenly lurch into a different technique and become obsessed, again. We used to love florals, now all we want are batiks. We create quilting blogs. We try applique, but only if we have been drinking heavily. We look back at earlier projects with horror and and a certain kind of satisfaction that we have come so far. When we see a perfect, first project from a rank beginner we experience a demoralizing sense of inadequacy similar to what we frequently felt in junior high (those were the days, weren't they?).

Some of us can be unkind to folks who aren’t as dedicated to perfection as we are. Candidly, NONE of us like mean spirited people who tsk tsk others to their face, no matter if we "get" where they are coming from. We keep our thoughts to ourselves for the most part and hope no one equates us with the quilt police. But after we get more snooty, we still inwardly cringe from time to time at decidedly odd, discordent color combinations and non squared blocks and seams that probably would be more at home in a crazy quilt. Still, mainly we are hard on ourselves – and love every moment of it because this is an endeavor that does improve with practice and dedication. And we can see it happening. And truth be told, we aren't that hard on ourselves - we are secretly and not-so-secretly delighted at our personal progress.

A lot of people go into quilting with the notion that it is an inexpensive hobby. We start out with grandma’s old singer and plan to use old clothes we can cut up to make “blankets.” The hobby could stay inexpensive and compared to a lot of things (harness racing comes to mind), it is. Many of us, however, after being bitten by the bug begin compulsively buying fabric (of the LQS variety); upgrade our sewing machines; get a backup for when our baby is in the shop; and buy as many rulers, templates and magazines as we can sneak into the house ("No, Honey, these aren't new - I've had these a long time..." [A long time translates to being in the car trunk for two days under the emergency kit]). We frighten our children and non quilting parents with the size of our stashes. We hope they think we paid $2.00 a yard for most of it (Their reactions are similar to what could be expected if we joined a religious cult). We buy quilting books, including novels that are only indirectly associated with quilting (perhaps the cover pictures a quilt block or the title includes the word “quilt”). We plan our vacations around shop hops. We dream of a long arm quilting machine and justify our purchases with the notion that “after we retire” we will be able to entertain ourselves inexpensively with the proceeds of our buying orgy if we live another 200 years. It is a fine justification for spending. It also has led to the popular quilter’s resolution that THIS YEAR, I will only shop from my stash. And lose 50 pounds.

For most of my life I sorely neglected feeding my creative side because I perceived that as frivolous. I was working as hard as I could just to stay upright. I viewed taking time to do MORE as stealing time and money from my family. To a certain extent, I still believe that, just not as strongly. However, I no longer think of quilting or other crafts as frivolous (even such things as painting doorknobs or crocheting plastic dish scrubbers). I am at a different place and have much more time than I did when the kids were growing up. All the same, I am just sorry it took me this long to figure out the need for balance.

I am still working on it.

photo - Jezebel

Friday, January 25, 2008

Keeping focused on a Friday morning

I am working at home, this morning, which amounts to making calls to clients, their parents, schools, probation officers and other attorneys. I am also trying to catch up on the week's paperwork (filing, billing, paying bills, tax stuff, list making, planning, hearing preparation). If things stay slow so that I can catch up, I might be able to work on a quilt block in time to go out in today's mail. It is nearly done.

I am part of a fat eighth block swap with 19 other ladies on the HGTV Quilting and Needlework message board. The gist of the swap is that we mail each other a F8th of our choice (9 X 22). We receive 19 F8ths back. For each one, we create a 12.5 X 12.5 quilt block (unfinished size) with a pattern and complimentary fabrics of our choice to send back. The theme of this swap is "Think Romance" which essentially is girlie, romantic stuff.
I sent out a pink and black floral and have posted all the blocks I have received back, so far.
I've received some pretty asian prints, some pinks, some shabby chics, heart themes and even a black and white which could denote some sort of interacial joining, I suppose, if you were stretching on the romance theme. Alternatively, you could interpret it as sort of a Mars/Venus opposites attract idea if you were so inclined. I really liked working on that one and the blocks I have seen posted on the HGTV using that fabric have been terrific.

I like to do paperpiecing because it is so precise. The down side is that it takes up a lot of fabric and also takes a lot of time. And you have to pick out the paper when it is done. And since you use smaller stitches, it is a pain to frog stitch. I think it is worth it, though.

Just got off the phone with a distressed client's guardian so the block will have to wait ...