"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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Golden Age

I am all but finished with the Lady and the River art quilt and have posted a ton of photos on Quilting Along the Ley Lines.  I've pinned on the binding, machine stitched it to the front and just need to hand stitch it down on the back.  I may want to to do some more tinkering with the tree trunk and also need to stitch on the belt a little but it is pretty much there, otherwise.  Here are a few photos:
Been a busy few weeks.  Husband was out of town for over a week (he's gone, again) and while he was gone, I was up to no good.  I'd wanted to take a drawing class over at the nearby community college, last spring, but was sick with poison ivy and the deadline came and went.  At the last minute for the fall semester, I decided to sign up for the class at the community college around the corner.  By that time, all the drawing classes were filled up but I signed up for a half day a week painting class, instead.  I figured someone would drop out of the drawing class the first week and, sure enough, they did, so I enrolled in that one, too.  So now, I don't have a job but I guess I am a student.  Husband took it with good grace. Have I mentioned that he thinks art is ridiculous?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor.  Life got in the way and, instead, I ended up finishing high school a year early because I was married and 7 months pregnant (my Catholic high school could take the pregnancy but being married was just too much).  Wanting to be a doctor came in handy because I had taken many hard classes and only had a few easy ones to take in order to graduate early.

Before we got married, my husband-to-be and I had a plan.  He was nearly 6 years older than me and had dropped out of college.  Our plan was that he would go back to college and finish up his degree (it would take 2 - 3 years).  After that, I would go back to college.  I figured by the time we were thirtiesh, we'd have caught up and overcome most of our foolishness in having kids so young. 

Anyone with a grey hair or two could have told me that the odds were against that working.  My husband worked hard for low wages but didn't really want to go back to college.  For years, I actually thought he was going to follow through but he made this excuse and that excuse.  Finally, my grandfather offered to subsidize his education and that brought the matter to a head - he just didn't want to do it. 

It was hard for me to understand because I had been positively yearning to go to college for years and was patiently waiting my turn.  The life we had planned wasn't going to happen.  We were broke, we could barely manage our responsibilities and at that point, it dawned on me that this wasn't a phase in our life.  It was a lifestyle that really didn't have an end in sight.  And I confess, I felt betrayed.  That was hard to work though.  It took me a long time to understand that it was less a deliberate betrayal than just a poor match.  He could no more be what I wanted than I could be what he wanted.  But I just kept trying to cram a square peg in a round hole. 

If I had been older, I would have seen that "our" plan was really just "my" plan and that my husband was giving it lip service to please me.  Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have been able to predict how this was going to play.  In fact, my grandmother had warned me of this very thing but I simply ignored her.  I was young, in love and still pretty much took people at their word.  Plus, I wanted to believe that we both had the same goals.

So there I sat with no education, no job skills, a difficult marriage and three babies.  I had some decisions to make and difficult choices. 

First Husband had mixed feelings about my going to college.  It took time and money away from the family, it reminded him that he had abandoned our plan, it was something that he didn't really have much interest in, and I think he was worried that it was indicative of a widening gulf between us.  On the other hand, he wanted to support my decision, which I appreciated.  So I enrolled at the Junior College - the same one where I just signed up for art classes. 

I will never forget how I felt when I drove into the parking lot for my first morning of classes.  I was worried I was too old to keep up or too out of practice (I was 23!).  My books were expensive and I felt guilty about spending the money.  I took out student loans.  But I was absolutely giddy with excitement. 

I went to school part-time, at first.  Nights, mainly, so the babies would be asleep while I was gone.  I LOVED college.  Just loved it.  The end of the fall semester was always tough because I would be taking finals at the same time I was preparing for Christmas. 

Three years later, I transferred to a four year university and finished up my undergraduate degree going full time.  Three years later, I went back to law school (another three years of school).  The family joked that I was a school junkie and they were certainly aware of how much I loved it.  All the same, I overcame my addition as evidenced by the fact that I haven't been back to college for 17 years. 

The parts of the college that existed when I first enrolled TWENTY-NINE YEARS ago look just about the same.  Colleges have much greater online capacities, these days, and I was a little shocked that with a tap of a finger, the young admissions clerk pulled up my transcript from the early eighties.  Wow. 

I thoroughly enjoyed standing in line to be re-admitted because it gave me the opportunity to people watch.  There were a number of young people standing in line, all looking terrified and most looking to be about 12 years old.  Several had parents there running interference for them.  Unlike the first time when I started classes, I KNEW I would be just about the oldest person in the class (I had actually expected the instructor to be younger but he probably has 15 years on me - maybe).   And I didn't care if I was the oldest or even if I was the one with the least talent.   What a joy to just not WORRY about all that stuff. 

Having been this route, before (many times) I patiently stood in line for my ID, my parking sticker, enrollment confirmation, to pay the bursar, blah, blah, blah.  No worries.  Compared to law school, the in-state school tuition at the community college was peanuts.  I had the money set aside for the classes so it wasn't like the old days where I sweat bullets when I wrote out checks for tuition and books, afraid they'd bounce.  I felt complete sympathy for my fellow young students who all looked like they'd eaten too many boiled eggs. 

They have a nice gym and an Olympic sized pool - none are used in the early morning because most of the youngins are still asleep.  I've gone to work out and it is primarily retired people. 

Am I in my Golden Years?  A friend of mine who is also a lawyer says I am living the dream.
 On the first day of class, I watched the instructor (clearly an old hippie) struggle to not express his frustration at what he knows is coming - students wandering in late, texting in class, not doing their assignments, etc.  I stayed pretty quiet - the last thing he needs is to have an old hide watching him try to herd the cats that are young art students.  The kids looked eager and excited to be there although several wandered in up to an hour late, chagrin on their faces while the instructor's jaw was twitching.  

The professor, during his lecture, made a number of cultural references to individuals who were at their height of popularity in the 70's and 80's.  The young female next to me (bless her heart) is a sympathetic soul.  She made sincere tsking noises and sweet sounds of sympathy and sadness as he told stories that off hand mentioned a certain movie star or rock star or politician who had done this or that and had since died. "Oooohh!," she moaned sympathetically, each time (these people all died thirty years ago).   She did this, repeatedly, and clearly had no idea who the professor was talking out.  I am not being snide.  I honestly was getting a kick out of it.  I probably do the same thing but unlike this sweet, sympathetic innocent, it is primarily because I can't hear worth a darn on one side and find myself doing a lot of nodding and smiling. 

Two days ago it was 103 degrees with a heat index of about 106.  It was OPPRESSIVE.  A cold front came through and it was in the fifties, this morning.  The girls are ecstatic and Evelyn is acting like a puppy.
And speaking of puppies, it is time to give them their late night snack and send them out on their last run.  I need to get to bed - I've got class in the morning.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lady is Taking Shape

I posted a ton of photos of the progress of coloring the lady on Quilting Along the Ley Lines.  Here are a few photos, but there are a ton more, over there.
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making Progress on my Lady and the River Art Quilt

Making headway on my Lady and the River art quilt.  I blogged about it on Quilting Along the Ley Lines if you're interested.
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Scares Me

Back east, I had a considerable number of people express amazement that I have no big fear of tornadoes, despite risking life and limb living in tornado alley.   While I appreciate the nod to my presumed courage, the truth is, the real thing that strikes fear in the heart of any true blue Oklahoman is this:
OMG, stickers. 

I hate them.  I fear them. When I moved back east, the thing I loved the most was the lack of stickers.  If you haven't lived with them, you have NO idea.  If I had to run barefoot in a field of stickers to escape a tornado, I would take my chances on the tornado. 

You have to dig them up by the roots to really get rid of them but I pick 'em, anyway. 

These are monstrous.

If they fall on the ground, they are still waiting to bite you.  Oh man, they hurt.  I also hope that the ones I pick won't reseed so quickly.  I picked these from the corner of the yard and out in the pasture.  When I carried them across the yard to put in the trash, I gingerly held on to them, cussing myself for risking one or two dropping in the yard.  I should have gone around and stayed on the driveway. 

This one says, "Evelyn Was Here:"
In addition to pulling up stickers, I took a few photos out in the pasture and of the sun rising.  A few things continue to grow:

The Crepe Myrtles love the heat.
While I was doing this, the girls got into some sort of commotion with something under the propane tank (it is a 1000 gallon tank - that's BIG).  It was a bug.   It appears to be a sort of yellow and black Longhorn Beetle and had a cool antenna.
I am afraid it came to a bad end. 
Apparently, it is pretty crunchy but I will spare you further photos, although I DO have them. 

Pearl is not ashamed.  She is a bug killer from way back. 
In the past few days, I vividly recall how summer can be in Oklahoma.  Oh baby, it's HOT!

I'm still loving it.

Husband has been in Alaska for the week (high of 63 degrees) and I've been mainly hunkered down in the house with the girls who get clingy when one of us is not here.  I miss him when he's gone.  We divide up the chores - I vacuum and dust, he does the dishes, feeds the girls and makes sure I wrap the bread up correctly because, allegedly, I never get the heel in right.  When he is gone, the chores double.  At least.

A couple of days ago, I ran down to the Tractor Supply to buy some Blue Buffalo canned dog food because we are running low.  It is pricey at $1.99 a can but cheaper than canned "Taste of the Wild," which I have on order at the nearby feed store.  We switched to better food in 2008 when Jezebel got sick and really noticed a difference in the dogs.

When I was checking out, the clerk, a nice young man, asked if it was good food.  I told him it was and that it had meat as its main ingredients, no corn.  I showed him the can.  People into dog nutrition, even barely, are fanatics.  He confided that some friends had told him his Miniature Pincher wasn't getting enough protein because she kept catching and eating bugs. 


Okay, so I asked him what he fed her and I just KNEW before he said it.... Here it comes... Old Roy.   Yeech.  I'm thinking the bugs would be healthier.  I am also wondering if he has friends who are just being tactful in suggesting his dog needs real food.  I hate Old Roy. 

Well, as I said, people even barely knowledgeable about nutrition are fanatics but I gripped my Blue Buffalo cans to keep from screaming.  I was proud of myself.  I wanted to tell him to just salt a little cardboard and save himself the money.   But I didn't.  "Well...," sez I, "this stuff is pretty expensive but I don't have kids at home so this is what I spend my money on." (HAH!  I didn't see the point in getting into my quilting)

"I have FIVE kids!" he shared.
Okay, then.  The man looked 25 years old. Working at Tractor Supply.  The man is not going to have a dime to spare and it wouldn't shock me to know his kids were eating bugs to supplement their diet, too. 

I assured him that Blue Buffalo was a good brand but suggested he check the house brand at Sam's because they sometimes carry a pretty decent food.  Although I buy it, even I think it is ridiculous to spent $1.99 a can.  I also suggested that maybe his dog eats bugs because she likes to hunt.  I've seen that, before.  See above.

I usually sit out on the patio with the girls in the evenings but skipped it for a few days, which disappointed Evelyn.  If she sees me pour a glass of wine after 5:00, she starts yodeling and runs to the back door, utter joy on her face.  If I don't come out, right away, she will bark at the door and when I open it, stand there and stare at me, willing me to join her outside.  What an enabler.  If I had a drinking problem, she'd shamelessly lead me down the path to ruin and degradation. At the same time, it thrills me to death that she wants to spend time with me and that it is so important to her.  I couldn't be more flattered if my secret crush asked me out to the prom.
So Thursday night, I took pity on her and sat outside with them.  Evelyn chased cars (there is an intersection she can see a quarter mile away across the pasture and when a car drives by, she races to the fence - it is sort of pathetic) and Pearl vacillated between hunting for bunnies and hurling herself at the back door towards the AC because, as I mentioned, it is HOT outside.  It so happened that the meteor shower was at its peak so I stayed out late to look for shooting stars.  The back yard faces the city so the glare interfered.  Eventually, I went to the front yard and lay down on the sidewalk and saw quite a few.  I wished for a healthy grandson and daughter-in-law; that my kids would move home (I can dream!); that they would be happy wherever they are; that Husband would be safe; and a few more wishes I'll just keep to myself.  I started to wish I would lose weight but that just didn't match the whimsical nature of the whole thing.  

I told Husband about it when I spoke to him, later.  He asked if I wished he was home to watch them with me.  Of course, I told him, and it was the truth.  But I confess, I didn't use one of my falling stars on that wish because I didn't see any point in just throwing one away since there was no way he was going to be transported from Alaska to Oklahoma before I gave up and went back inside.  I believe in magic, but come on. 

The heat and Husband's absence have given me an opportunity to work on some projects and I promised myself I would get some quilting done out in the barn.  Yesterday afternoon, I closed the front gate to let the girls have the run of the yard, gathered up two quilt tops, water and various other items that would fit into my big basket and we wandered over.  Earlier, I'd set the temperature in the barn at 71 to cool it down but knew that was going to be a chore with the 103 degree temperature.  I generally leave it set at 86 degrees when I'm not planning to be out there but even that high, the air compressor has been running quite a bit in the past few days. 

Walking across the yard, I noted the grass had turned a grey brown in many areas - just stifled from the heat.  There are large cracks.  

We haven't had a drop of rain since mid July.   Husband frets if he has to leave during the growing season because the grass gets away from you in a matter of a day or two.  He doesn't have much to worry about this trip.  The grass is brittle, dry, hard and hasn't grown much in a week. 

I worried the grass would cut the girls' feet as they scampered across the yard racing each other to the barn.  Even though it was still early, the insects were buzzing with a roar that rose and fell.  I recalled that for ten years, I walked barefoot across the yard in Virginia during the summer and not once, did I nearly cut my foot on a crackly, dry piece of Bermuda grass.  That is just wrong.   I mean, I don't want to step on a sticker but sharp grass is NORMAL in the summertime. 

The barn felt really cool when we entered but I knew that was mainly compared to the temperature outside.  We were out there for about four hours and while it was quite comfortable, it never got cooler than 77 degrees, even though the air conditioner worked the whole time.
They are such happy girls.
Before I could work on the quilt tops, I needed to open some bolts of battings and load the backing.  That took awhile.  I closed the blinds to keep out more heat and sat in my office (which is the coolest room) while I pinned fabric to the zippers.  I used plain white muslin since these are wall hangings and loaded them on the Gammill. 

I absolutely love the space in my longarm room.
The girls crashed out in there and had plenty of room to stretch out.  Evelyn snored and Pearl continued to chase bunnies in her dreams.  I was pretty crowded in my sewing room in Virginia so this is sheer heaven.  I plan to put a few things on the wall but haven't gotten to that, yet.

Don't look at the fabric on the shelves - I've been riffling through it looking for this and that and need to tidy it up. 

My longarm was working like a dream except the vertical channel locks weren't catching.  I read the manual and  stole tools from Husband's shop to work on it with no success.  I think there is an electrical/solenoid problem with a connection.   I'll call my dealer on Monday but need to find a local Gammill service person.

I marked the Lady and the River quilt before heading out to the barn.
I didn't mark in the tree branches because I wanted to think a little bit more about how I wanted them to look.  That was a mistake.  The art quilt is loaded on the longarm sideways and that makes it hard to see it straight.  Also, since it is partially rolled up, that further inhibits seeing the whole. It would be different if I was quilting a pattern all over it but the quilting in the art quilt is needs to reflect the whole scene and fit together. Next time, I will mark the whole thing before I get it on the machine.

I put both art quilts on the machine so I could load them at the same time.  Loading is a pain.
Quilting went smoothly until I ran a line I shouldn't have.  I now need to do some frog stitching on a small area to make sure I don't end up with a pleat.  I scared up my seam ripper from my barn kit but for some reason, it was broken.  I had no idea how that could have happened until I remembered it was my great grandmother's seam ripper - I imagine it was just elderly and fell apart (she died in 1987 and hadn't sewed in decades due to ill health).   I also didn't have any scissors in the barn except my big pair to cut batting.  Rather than leave the girls to freak out while I went back to the house, I just made do.  I clearly need to restock my barn kit to make sure I have everything I need on hand.

I promised myself a long time ago that if I was ever not working, I would NOT run errands on the weekend and fight the hordes.  As my grandmother always said, "Never say never."  Hancocks has a 50% sale on its notions and I am going to run over there to get some more marking pens, this morning.  I am also heading up to the local yarn shop because a woman is bringing in spun wool (fur?) from her alpacas. I want to see if she has any that will work on my quilt.  She'll also dye it to order for you.   Additionally, I want to see if they have some white yarn to use to line the cape on my quilt.  The last thing I need to be doing is setting foot in a yarn shop - I am afraid I will take up a new hobby and I definitely don't need one. 

Just now, I went out to open the gate and there is a really nice breeze cooling things off.  We are due to hit 106, today, and may set a heat record.  But in a couple of days, a front is supposed to cool things off to a high of 91 so I think we'll survive.

Stay cool.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Babies

August is a big month for birthdays in my family.  All three of my children were born in August, as were their father, aunt, uncle and the great grandparents who raised me.  When the kids were little, I used to rotate giving one a birthday cake, one a giant cookie and one a cake of a different flavor.  Even then, by the end of the month, we were all fairly weary of sweets.  Coupled with birthdays was the return to school.  With three children in school, college and law school, and my own college, being a public school teacher, followed by going to law school, August has always been an exciting (and expensive!) month. 

But times have changed and now the kids are grown and all live in New York City; their aunt, uncle and my grandparents have passed away; their father and I divorced a dozen years ago; and I no longer teach school.  So in the past few years, August has been, for me, stunningly quiet.  No need to buy school supplies or school clothes.  No preparing a classroom in anticipation of a fresh batch of new students.  Perhaps sending cards and gifts to the kids via Amazon.  Sometimes, no birthday cake, at all. 

But with all that, August still touches me, deeply.  It is one of those months that, on  the surface, feels constant and unchanging.  In Oklahoma, it is hot and dry.  The sunny days, past the spring turbulances, dawn bright and sunny, frequently without a cloud in the sky.  The insects buzz lazily, wildlife is in abundance in the morning hours and late in the evening.  The meteor showers come on schedule.  The grass stops growing like wildfire and you can have a few weekends where you don't need to mow.  The trees start to wilt, the air feels hot and you start to wonder if the fall will ever come, bringing relief from the heat and a change from the endless days of sunny skies. Today is typical - we haven't had a spot of rain in a month.  July had five days where we had measurable rain.  June only had three.  On the days it didn't rain, there were also no clouds beyond the ones that seem to merely serve as decoration or to catch the pink from the sunsets or sunrises.  August feels like time is standing still and it will stay August, forever.

Not so, of course.  For those who rise early, you can already detect that the days are rapidly shortening as we travel through the seasons.  Why, by the end of the next month, the nights will be longer than the days!  How is that possible?  A glance at the weather map shows that cold fronts (that rarely make it here in August and if they do, merely drop the high temperature to the low nineties) are already starting to dip down through Canada and kiss the northern states.  They will be here, soon enough.  We'll be hearing rumors of snow in northern elevations in our mountain states within weeks.  The leaves on the Cottonwoods are starting to brown up and drop.  If you stand in the shade, the dragonflies are frantically bussing about, looking for a last chance date before their season ends.  The last crop of wee bunnies are creeping out from the Cedars outside my sewing room window to graze on the yard and drive the girls wild.  Some of their older siblings that arrived in April are as big as their parents.  Likewise, the Mockingbird juveniles are taking on a more mature coloring although they don't quite look like adults, yet.  I still see hummingbirds dancing around the trumpet vines but not as many as last week.  On the surface, August is a lazy, drawn out, settled month.  Beneath the surface, however, nature is moving at a breakneck pace.   

This August has been an exciting time for me.  Last week, all my children and their spouses came to town to celebrate their father's wedding to a lovely woman and give him their blessing.  I have not met the bride but saw the wedding photos on Facebook and she is beautiful, with beautiful children.  My kids say the bride and groom are deeply in love and that her children all seem very sweet.  I am absolutely delighted for him.  In truth, I never expected him to stay single for so long - I fully expected that some smart woman would snatch him up within a couple of years and was astonished that I was the one who re-married, first.  May they have many, many years of happiness! 

My older daughter arrived a day early to have a "mom" day, which thrilled me to no end. 
We had manicures/pedicures; drank wine on the back patio until late at night; shopped for birthday gifts; went out to dinner; visited the family cemeteries and just generally did what moms and daughters do, given the opportunity.    I love her, so much, and am so proud of her. 

On Friday night, late, my son and his wife, and younger daughter and her husband arrived.  There is truth to the addage that your children will always be your babies.  Everytime I first lay eyes on my big strapping son after being apart, I am shocked that he no longer smells like a newborn.  In fact, I still am surprised at his five o'clock shadow and how he carries himself with the confidence and competence of a grown man.  He was always a steady son and age has only ripened his character.  My younger daughter hasn't changed so much.  She still has the same sweet smile, dancing eyes and gentle ways.  She is mainly just taller.

My sweet daughter-in-law was born in July and my darling son-in-law was born in June so we celebrated all the summer birthdays Friday night.  I was so happy to be able to actually give them gifts, in person!  There was much laughing and hugging and toasting of family.  Although it was not my birthday, I received the greatest gift of all.  Trust me. 

Check out the new picture, to the right.

Early the next morning they left to meet their father for breakfast before the wedding festivities officially started.  They returned to dress and pack but at that time, I had to hug my oldest girl, son and daughter-in-law goodbye as they were staying overnight downtown and leaving early the next morning to return to NYC.  I met my younger daughter and her husband on Sunday morning to have brunch with his family and dropped her off at the airport Sunday afternoon.  So now I am left with just the "girls" but happy memories and excitement about the future.
Since the kids left, I have been busy working on my Lady and the River art quilt.  I posted about it on my other blog a few days ago and have made some progress, since then.  Here are a few photos, in progress:

The original pattern:
Adding fabric:

Here, I am just auditioning fabric for the tree:
Here, most of the pieces are initially stitched and it is nearly ready for quilting:
I plan to add embellishments and some coloring, later.

Husband is out of town so I don't want to quilt for a long time out in the barn and leave the girls alone in the house.  They have been super clingy and if they could, I believe they would wrap their arms around my neck and not let go.  Yesterday, to keep myself occupied and to dream of my sweet family, I began a simple baby quilt.
It's a very light fabric that is intended to be blend together. The actual pattern is a checkerboard but it is hard to see because the colors are so soft. 
I'm working on some hearts for the border that are more distinct.
It is coming along, nicely.

While I am thinking about it, I want to show you the amazing gift I received from my friend, Amanda.
It is a cover for a sketch book and is exquisite.  She put a lot of symbolism into it - see the barn?
These flowers represent my children!
And she didn't forget to put in something white and fluffy to represent the girls!
She is a very gifted quilter and blew me away with this gift.  It is amazing.  I made one for her but it sucked in comparison.  I would make her another one that was better but it would be futile.  No matter how hard I tried, it would still suck in comparison.  I want to be able to create like this, someday.  I think part of my problem is that I am not a hand stitcher.  All those little details she pulls together leave me with my mouth hanging open, gaping like a large mouth bass.  I can handle my big 'ole longarm.  The difference is that I stitch like a moose and she stitches like a hummingbird. 

Okay, while multi-tasking with this post and an e-mail, it just came to my attention that SOMETHING IS IN MY CHIMNEY SQUEALING AND BUMPING AROUND!  The girls are staring at the fireplace, heads cocked.  I hope it is just a bird.  I am sorry to end this so abruptly but I think I need to go look at the roof...

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl