"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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pearl Will Be Fine

Sure enough, Pearl has a UTI. Ultrasound showed nothing serious, no temperature, but the specimen clearly told the tale. Two weeks of antibiotics should do the trick. She seems good as new and has been having a good day.

She stole her sister's breakfast even though we were trying to keep it light since she was going to the doctor. That is what we get for glancing in the other direction for about two seconds. Pearl is like a shop vac.

After not getting much sleep, last night (about 3 hours), I downed cup after cup of coffee to jack me up to get me out the door to my trial. Big-time mistake. It dawned on me just when the court called us in that I should have stopped by the lady's room. Four hours later, I did an incredible closing argument considering I was in such agony that I could barely see.

I may be stealing Pearl's antibiotics. Surely, you can't drink that much coffee and skip the restroom for that long without doing some significant damage. Can you bruise your bladder from the inside?

Feathers and UTI's

So here is my first attempt at Victorian Feathers on a real project - in progress.

It looks like there are extra lines on it that are a bit tangled but that is where I drew guidelines that evaporate within 24 hours.

It is a rough attempt but I think I'll get better with practice. I think it was kind of gutsy to risk ruining my Mariners Compass! The gold should hide a lot of sins. I want to learn to do this before tackling my kids' wedding quilts.

This is just a little wallhanging.

This is a picture from the back:

Pearl may have a UTI was was pretty sick/uncomfortable last night. We were up until nearly 2:00 with her and Husband is going to take her to the vet, first thing. I have a trial so can't go. I sure am bleary eyed.

I'll blog an update after the vet sees her. She seems to be feeling tons better, this morning. Poor thing was really hurting, last night.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Victorian Feathers

Finally, finally got back into my sewing room. Other than an afternoon or so, I haven't been up there since Pearl came home, February 7th. It is such a good stress reliever and I can feel the lack. Still, Pearl is ALSO a wonderful stress reliever so it is not as bad as it could be.

A couple of days ago, I threw on some cheap $2.00 fabric from the closeout bin at Wal-Mart so I could practice quilting Victorian Feathers. My goal was simply to play around and not try to do more than practice moving it around. This was NOT an attempt to make anything look good.

Work has been crazy so I never found any time until today.

When we were at the class, last week, we didn't use a Gammill so I was dealing with a learning curve just to figure out how to work the controls. It's frustrating to have to learn something with people waiting to use the machine, as you can imagine. Also, the first day of class we shared machines so I was pretty distracted and trying to avoid elbows, other people's body space and vibrations. My work was pretty unimpressive other than being dramatically horrid.

In addition, Karen insisted we use the manual mode instead of the stitch regulated. For those not in the know, the stitch regulated mode keeps the stitches even no matter how fast or slow you are going. Set it on "ten" and you get ten stitches per inch regardless of whether you are going slow as Christmas or swinging it around like a baton. I paid extra for that. When you slow down, the needle slows down - move fast and the needle goes up and down faster. It makes you feel like you have more control. Well, you DO have more control. Other than a couple of times when I accidently hit the wrong button, I haven't even used manual mode.

In contrast, when you are on manual, the thing is going to town - whirrrlllllllllll!!!! You just need to keep up because the needle is going at a constant speed and if you aren't moving the machine head, you are going to end up with a big old knot. Very, very scary! Because I was used to using stitch regulated, I tended to slow down and even stop while on manual with the resulting bird's nest and the aggravation of having to cut and re-thread. Karen insisted that using the manual mode made for better motion when making Victorian Feathers.

So this morning, I turned on my beloved Gammill, popped in a preloaded bobbin I wanted to get rid of, wiggled my fingers, stretched my toes, shook my caboose, and set it on manual mode.

Oh Joy!

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways - or reasons.

First - it is my machine. I love her. She loves me back. I know her. She wants to please me. She wants to do the right thing. Forget the learning curve. I could always get better but I know her sound, her rhythm, her height, her controls (with a Gammill, you push a button. ONE button), her lighting.

Second, the manual mode was WONDERFUL! I flew, danced, soared. It was like being a superhero. Karen was right. You can do things on manual mode that you wouldn't dream of doing on regulated. Your brain works differently. Once you get into the manual mindset, you are drawing - not thinking. You don't dawdle because you can't, which throws you back into using a part of your brain that is instinctive. You aren't second guessing yourself - you are going with it. You are one with the machine.

Now, my feathers really, really suck. I know that.

But I was working on getting the muscle memory and made a lot of progress.

Really suck.

If I tried to do this for a living and did this to someone's treasure, I'd get sued. Or my house torched.

I'd be as hated at the AIG execs who got bonuses.

I know I need to work on the consistency of the feathers' width.

Learning to finesse feathers on curves so that they all fit is something that will have to come with practice. I am really, really pitiful at that.

I didn't even bother to tie off threads but I would if this was actually a quilt and not a practice piece.

Instead, I doubled back shamelessly because the point was to keep going and start getting the motion into my head. So much fun. Very therapeutic.

It has been a good weekend, so far. I woke up early and we took Pearl out. Husband made pizza for breakfast (we are so crazy) and this afternoon, we were all sleepy.

Especially Evelyn.

I read my latest Patricia Briggs novel (think shapeshifters, werewolves, urban paranormal) then dozed off. We let Pearl stay out of her crate for the first time during a day nap and she was so proud. After about an hour, she jumped on the bed and woke me up with lots of puppy kisses - not a single nip. Blissful. Right now, the girls are racing through the house exchanging toys and having an absolute ball. I am happy that Evelyn seems to enjoy Pearl even more now that Pearl is getting bigger.

Pearl has learned to jump on the couch.

Evelyn's undercoat is starting to come loose and I need to comb it out. The blow is on the way.

She needs a bath.

We are getting very excited about a road trip back home, in June. My father-in-law stays at our Oklahoma City house from time to time and he and his wife removed all the wallpaper that was sort of, well, ghastly. We have a painter hired to repair and paint. Father-in-law's wife also found some nice porcelain tile for the kitchen, breakfast room and utility room that we are going to install. Husband and I will look around for new counter tops to match, perhaps when we get out there in June. Can't wait to get back home.

Here's a picture of Pearl's tummy.

I can't get enough of it.

I thought Evelyn was the perfect puppy but Pearl may have her beat.

It is so much fun to see her going through different developmental stages. Her latest thing is to play outside but need to come in every few minutes to reassure herself that we are here. She checks us out, then heads right back out. Just like a kid.

Hope you are having a nice weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

God Bless America

I never did get a chance to practice my longarming, last weekend. We did taxes, instead. Blah! And today, it was back to work with multiple fires to put out. I've been so stressed about a slew of my kids, recently, that husband is urging me to retire from GAL work. Perhaps it is the downturn in the economy - dunno - but I've been getting a lot of kids in situations that leave me feeling helpless. With less money for services, I am frustrated that so many of them aren't getting the help they need. Moreover, with the hoops we have to jump through for funding (which I understand), a lot of the kids are languishing in detention or out of court placements for weeks (months) waiting to be accepted into residential programs.

In addition, due to some political maneuvering in my area, the group homes we relied upon to do a bang up job with high risk kids were shut down and all the county work is being sent to an organization that, in my opinion, just isn't up to the job. Kids that we used to get into the group home in a matter of days are now routinely being sent off for several weeks/months to be "diagnosed" or "evaluated" and then recommendations are made as to where to send them, next. It is better than having them sit in detention for weeks waiting for a placement but certainly less beneficial than what we had, before.

I just don't feel like I am doing much good. I can still help in custody/visitation cases because that amounts, many times, to being able to work with the parents and if that doesn't help, being strong enough to stand up in court and face them down. But my kids-in-need-of-services and delinquency kids are suffering.

I scheduled a home visit, today, with a young mother who is an illegal from El Salvador. The house is in a very bad part of town and she doesn't speak English. She works as a maid. Turns out, neither of her children, ages 4 and 5 speak English, either - and both were born in this country. The father is also from El Salvador but in the country, legally, I believe. He can speak English.

The Mother has a "typical" history of many young women in her situation and it isn't attractive. I confess, I dreaded going to the home and made the appointment well in advance. If there is a remote possibility that I will walk in on gang members, a drug deal or a home where there are drugs sitting out, I could be in danger. So even though the parents generally have enough sense to clean up the place when they know I am coming, I don't make surprise visits. It may be that I could "catch" them if they didn't know I was coming but the downside is not worth it. And you can usually tell when a home has been spiffed up, anyway.

I knew that the boyfriend was going to be there (he is also a latino and helps to interpret). The house was actually in a basement and I felt a bit claustrophobic going down the stairs. Into the dark. I didn't know what I would be walking into. I always call husband before these types of visits to let him know exactly where I am but, really, that is just a speeded up way to identify the body or know where to start searching. You think about stuff like that.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was a walk out basement and there was a lot of light coming in. Three little boys and the daughter were there, all clean and nicely dressed, playing with educational toys. In the first glance around, I noticed three lap top computers set up and being used. The kids had shelves of books and bins with art supplies and age appropriate toys.

During the meeting, the mother fetched paperwork I asked for from two satchels that were tabbed and organized. She had the closet door open and I could see where the clothes were hung up neatly with dry cleaner bags over the nicer clothes. Her sister lives with her and was cleaning up the kitchen after their lunch. She knew what she was doing.

The children were polite and friendly, and clearly enjoyed each other's company. There was no running and screaming and they played nicely. The boy who was about to go to kindergarten had his own bin with coloring books and the boyfriend had been teaching him his colors. I was touched to see that he had created worksheets for the boy and had him carefully print out his name and the names of his family members about 15 times per page. He also had him writing out his alphabet and other simple words. They explained that they knew the boy's language was going to be a problem so they were trying to prepare him as best they could so he wouldn't be so far behind when he started school. A couple of the words they had him writing were misspelled (by the boyfriend!) but it was an earnest attempt and I appreciated the effort.

"You can do anything in America if you work hard and do your best!" the boyfriend told me. The mother nodded, serenely. Where they are from, the government corruption, he explained, makes it impossible to get ahead. People work so hard that they don't have time for education.

"Not like in America."

I am very troubled by illegal immigration but that doesn't mean that I don't recognize a wonderful attitude when I see it.

I left after about an hour feeling a lot better about the situation. It always makes me more comfortable when I see adults stressing the importance of education. The cynic in me worries at the time the boyfriend is spending with the children but I am giving him the benefit of my jaded doubts that he just wants to do right by the kids. I have the same kind of doubts whenever I see adult males going out of their way to spend time with kids, particularly kids that aren't their own. I wonder if I will ever revert to thinking that is just so sweet?

So after afternoon court, I went home and played with the girls. Evelyn has been my shadow since I got back from my classes and I got a picture of her snoozing next to my chair as close as she could get.

She missed me.

I looked on the samoyed message board and someone had posted a picture of a handsome pup who is 5 - 6 weeks older than Pearl and weighs 12 more pounds. He looks like a Samoyed! Pearl looks like a mutant. She is at the awkward age. Her teeth are coming in and she weights 23 pounds.

Her ruff looks dirty and stiff because Evelyn had been chewing her up while they played.

She really has the monkey face going. But there never was a better puppy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mother Pus Bucket

That's a horrible phrase, is it not? It is just one of the things I learned in the longarm quilting classes I was able to take from Karen McTavish, this week. She says it is one of her favorite phrases because it sounds like she's cussing and she's not. Karen was a fun combination of tough and traditional/offbeat artist and her parents' daughter. She's got lots of hair.

She's also got high cheekbones but when I asked her if she was Native American (hey, I'm from Oklahoma) she informed me she was Jewish.

I guess "McTavish" as a last name should have tipped me off.

Coming from Oklahoma, "jewish" as a "look" isn't even on my radar.

At any rate, I'm delighted that I was able to take a few days off to attend the "Wild Women of Quilting" tour in which Karen and Sue Patton are wandering around the country teaching longarm classes. I learned so much and now I get to see if I can apply it. I took Karen's McTavishing class, the Victorian Feathers class (loved, loved, LOVED it!) and her class on heirloom quilting that addresses trapunto. Someday, someday. (for the benefit of my kids - trapunto is a technique when you stuff the quilt so it poofs out and takes your breath away - don't hold your breath that you'll get one for Christmas). I didn't get to take her wholecloth class because I had a custody trial waiting for me on Friday. I would have loved to see her work on one.

I didn't take any classes from Ms. Patton but I understand from a friend that she is an absolutely fabulous teacher. I walked in at the tail end of one of her classes and the energy level was amazing. I'd love to take a class from her in the future. Her daughter, Jessica, was on the road with them to help out. Isn't she a cutie?

I checked with her mum before posting the picture and she said as long as it was decent I could. So there it is.

Karen is an amazing artist. I just wish you could see her go to work. It's incredible.

She likes to work barefooted:

When she saw me taking a picture of her bare feet, she slipped on her thongs. Which to tell the truth, don't seem that much more substantial, to me.

But I suppose that is just good parenting coming out d'ya think?

As long as we are discussing feet and footwear - here's a picture of Sue Patton's shoes:

Here is some of Karen's work - she whipped this out and made it look as easy as inhaling chocolate.

Karen made the classes fun - I really liked her. But I worried about her driving all over the country. It is the mom in me. That has got to be exhausting. She'd just driven in from Oklahoma and is heading out to Michigan when the class week is done.

Karen has some pretty impressive tats:

That's TATS!

Karen's website tells more about her.

Here is a link to the gallery on her site. Have I mentioned that she does amazing work?

I broke down and asked her to autograph my McTavish books. I have most of them. She's the first person for whom I ever ditched my dignity and asked for an autograph, which tells you how much I admire her. Well, and she was there with a pen and I had the books, I suppose that was part of it. The books are worth every cent and they have DVDs. Go check them out.

I'm back home, today, and the custody trial that made me have to come home early was cancelled. The letter that I sent to both counsel telling them that I was going to recommend to the court that the parents get counseling, anger management and parenting classes must have worked its magic. They now hate me more than they hate each other, if that is possible. Perhaps it is the beginning of a reconciliation! So even though I had a bunch of fires to put out this morning, this afternoon has slowed down. I should be up quilting but I am blogging, instead.

Pearl made it clear that she was glad her mom was home:

I was so glad to see her. I got lots and lots and lots of kisses.

And nondemonstrative Evelyn wouldn't eat while I was gone and had an upset tummy. I believe it was from stress. Poor thing has had a lot of losses this year and was NOT happy when she saw my suitcase. She's more relaxed, today, and back on her feed:

Gotta love natural light when you have a camera in your hand. That flourescent stuff stinks.

I'm off to clean up the sewing room and throw some fabric on the longarm for a go at some Victorian Feathers. I also want to order some stencils, thread and a new laptop. This one has started to cough up blood and I want the new one here in time to recite the eulogy.

Happy Spring!