"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, January 31, 2011

A Quilter's Legacy

We are under a winter storm watch and expecting a significant blizzard starting, tonight.  They are predicting that it could rival our 2009 Christmas Eve blizzard but more than likely it won't be quite that bad.  During the 2009 Christmas Eve blizzard, Oklahoma City officially got 14 inches but we only got  7 - 8 inches at the house.  The city area forecast, this time, is 8 - 12 inches and it will be much, much colder.   The 2009 blizzard looked like this at our house:
Travel is expected to pretty much be shut down by about six o'clock in the morning but we aren't planning to go anywhere, anyway.  I've got a beef stew cooking in the crockpot and we have left overs from family who came by, yesterday.  Filet Mignon and grilled salmon - not too shabby.  Combine that with a roaring fire, good wine, better companions (including the girls), and being snowed in doesn't sound half bad. 

Here are Pearl and Evelyn looking out my sewing room window at a bunny that is mocking them because it knows they can't get out:

Don't look at the dirty window.   Been meaning to clean it.  Sometime next spring:
Happily, at this point they think it will be more snow event than an ice one so power outages are less likely.  All the same, we'll be hauling the generator over from the barn to have ready, just in case.  This storm is bringing in single digit temperatures with very high winds so the windchill is going to make it very miserable, outside.  Moreover, the low temperatures will last a few days which means the snow may stick around longer than we'd like (although we had a high of 75 on Friday, we are only expecting a high of 15 on Tuesday and 14 on Wednesday!).  No one likes this kind of storm due to the risk to life and limb but I am ecstatic that we'll be getting some significant moisture.  We really need to break the drought.  I want my new trees to be okay:
Hope Grandson schedules his arrival around my schedule - although I suspect his mama would just as soon he show up sooner rather than later.  He isn't officially due for another two weeks so odds are it will all work out splendidly.

I want you to take a look at the following photos of two quilt tops.

No. 1:
 No. 2:
No, I didn't make them but aren't they fantastic?  The quilter who did them had an incredible sense of color and a bold sense of design, I'd say.  The backs are just about perfect:
When I first looked at them, they were in a bin with large matching fabric remnants, perfectly pressed and not a dog hair on them.  You don't see that much around here: 
 So tidy and neat:
I love and admire the color choices and the bold border:
They were so beautifully done that I took a ton of photos:

 I'm just in love with this one:

So, you ask, if I didn't make them, who did?  No, it wasn't some thirty-something trendy quilter from NYC.  It wasn't a young Amish woman from Pennsylvania.  It wasn't a modern artist-gone-quilter or anything like that.  These were done by a quilter who passed away a couple of years ago.  The quilter's  mid-fifty year old SON gave several bins of fabric to my brother-in-law's wife to pass on to me and these quilt tops were included in the fabric bins.  MID FIFTIES YEAR OLD SON.   That means the quilter who made these had to be in HIS late seventies or eighties, at least.  Yes, it was an old man.  How fantastic is that?   

This man had clearly been quilting for a long time - you could see it in the workmanship, his choice in quality fabric, the sensible way he arranged his stash and the age of his thread:
But more than that, the competency he had in his stitches, his love of color (and excellent eye, I might add - I have more of his fabric arranged by group and his color sense is spot on), along with his bold, modern designs scream self confidence, experience and maturity as a quilt artist.  Not only that, but the dang quilt tops are perfectly squared.  The man even had made bindings already pressed and carefully folded in anticipation of use!

I'm dying here. 

Look at this little bit of his stash/orphan blocks:
He is just so...well... MODERN!  He isn't a bit afraid to mix and match stripes and dots and his choices just, well, they just WORK.  His quilts could be featured in a quilting magazine you'd pick right off the shelf, today.  He had some synthetics in his stash but set aside, as if he used them for something else.  He stuck to good quality 100% cotton in his quilting stash, the tops and a few orphan blocks I found.  He'd also set back some backing fabric (designed to contrast with solid colored tops), all carefully marked "six yards." The backings were perfect color matches/contrasts for the geometric, solid colored tops:
The man knows what he likes.
 You can tell - the man loved color and he loved to make it POP:
Let me interject that it really doesn't matter that the quilter was a man rather than a woman.  It is just that there are so fewer men and women quilters at his age and it is clear he'd been doing it for awhile. 

Wonder if his wife sewed?  Wonder if he was a tailor?  Wonder who taught him?  I have so many questions.

Sister-in-law wasn't sure the son even realized the quilt tops were included in the fabric bins and she asked me if I could quilt them, which I am honored to do.  She wants to give them back to the family, which seems appropriate.  As gorgeous as his work is, and as experienced as he clearly was, I suspect there are other quilts he has made that the family already has.  All the same, these are too wonderful of treasures to not stay with the family.  Once quilted, they are going to look stunning. 

If I don't screw 'em up, anyway.  I am about to go order some black thread for the longarm. 

But it is hard, I tell you.  I am tempted to make replicas for myself because I am completely in lust with these quilt tops. 

I would have loved to have met this man and learned at his feet.  And it doesn't matter than he was a man and not a woman - this person was a master quilter.  Presumably, his children didn't follow in his footsteps - otherwise, the fabric and tops wouldn't have escaped, even temporarily. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tree Planting Season

We're in a drought and need rain but it is still a good season to plant/transplant trees.  Yesterday, we had four Caddo Maples delivered.   The guys planted two on either side of the driveway, one in the backyard and one in the pasture by the barn.  It is a father/son business and I was tickled to see the young man, unrequested, take excess dirt from the backyard tree and fill in holes the dogs had dug.   He didn't just toss it in, either.  He carefully patted it down, jumped up and down on top, and placed Bermuda springs on top.  He did the same thing in bare spots under the existing trees in the front yard. 

Before the trees arrived, I was a little worried that the girls would eat them but husband just looked at me and said, "Honey, don't worry.  These are TREES - not seedlings."  Once I saw them, it sunk in.  The new trees have 2.75 inch trunks and are about 12 feet tall.

Caddo Maples are hardy, drought resistant hard maples that are native to Oklahoma and have lovely foliage in the fall. Caddo county, a county west of us, is where they originally morphed. Husband planted a few from seed that did very well at the house he lived in Oklahoma City, years ago, but last year we had too much going to to devote much time to tree planting. Also, it isn't like we are going to live forever so if we want to enjoy them, we figure we'd get a jump start on growth.

Here is a cite with photos of mature trees.

The girls came out to supervise from time to time but mainly took naps and watched out the window, oddly enough, by choice.
Two of the Caddos were planted on either side of the driveway.   This is the one on the north side looking to the SW:
The largest/heaviest was planted in the backyard.  I worry that it will eventually block my view of the barn but we wanted one in the yard and this is the best place: 
This is an alternative photo of the backyard Caddo looking SE towards the barn:
Here is the backyard tree with Pearl pitching a fit because I wanted her to sit beneath it to show the size.  You'd think I was killing her:
Such a pretty girl.  You can see the Caddo we planted in the pasture behind her if you squint - it is at the edge of the barn:
 Such a spoiled girl:
 Such a mad little girl when I insisted she stop and sit while I took a picture:
 Another view of the north driveway tree:
 The girls wandering down the driveway:
 The tree on the south side of the driveway looking to the SE:
 We put a tree in the pasture next to the barn.  As you drive down the driveway, you look right at it:
Tree in the backyard:
Alternate photo of the pasture Caddo out by the barn:
We bought these through a landscaping company that has access to a commercial tree growing company so were able to get healthy, robust, non picked over trees cultivated from seed.    Caddos are moderate growers and depending on who you believe, should end up being about 40 - 60 foot tall.  We won't live to see them reach their full height but with any luck, we should be able to enjoy them as mature trees for a few years.  

We were so pleased with how healthy they are that we are considering ordering a few more.  We already have two Post Oaks, a Bald Cypress, lots of Cedars, Bradford Pears (that surely won't live much longer), a couple of gnarly pines and some really, really, really ugly Elms.   REALLY ugly.

As much as I hate removing trees, a few days ago, we took out a disgusting Silver Maple and a sickly Redbud from the front yard.   One of the Caddos took the place of the Redbud.  

As I am writing this, it occurs to me I haven't seen the girls in awhile.  They're outside.  I should go check on them.

On the south side of the yard, in front of the barn, we have a number of Native Pecan babies that may or may not make it.  We ordered them from the forestry service, last year, and heeled them in until they were about a foot tall.  In the backyard, we also have a couple of baby Willow Oaks that we brought back from Virginia.  I love Willow Oaks but don't have high hopes that these will survive the Oklahoma droughts and hot summers.  Moreover, the one that looked the most promising ended up half eaten by Pearl last summer and we aren't sure it will recover or be worth saving.  When she showed up with a stick in her mouth in that great prairie of a backyard, my heart sunk.  Yup, it was the top half of my best beloved baby Willow Oak.  She looked so proud of herself that I just sighed.  Fortunately, she isn't bad about that sort of thing as a rule.   The landscapers said the baby Willow Oaks still looked pretty healthy (if now ill formed) so I'll be hauling water buckets all over the place for the next few weeks until the spring rains arrive.

I am not one who particularly likes the look of a yard that is filled with a wide variety of specimen trees.  I think it starts looking strange and unnatural so when we get more trees, I wouldn't be adverse to getting more Caddos if we can get more healthy ones.   Any trees we get we want to be native to Oklahoma to increase the likelihood of their survival and, well, just because. 

As dry as things get in Oklahoma, we actually have a drainage problem around the house and need to do some work to divert what rain we get around from the front and north side to the pasture.  So once we get that in place, we'll consider where to put the next tree.   Until that work is done, we don't want to risk planting a new tree right in the way. 

I have my bag packed in case I get a call that grandson is on the way.  Getting pretty excited about that and sure hope he decides to pick a time when NYC isn't covered up with a snowstorm.  They've had a string of tough winters.  As for us, it is sunny and mid sixties, today, and sunny and 70 degrees expected for tomorrow.  I love Oklahoma. 

Aw crap!  The girls just came in with dirty feet.  Ran out to check and they have half dug up the new Caddo in the backyard!!  The burlap around the ball is all exposed.  I stood there horrified and cussing while husband just laughed. 

That man is going to live longer than I do.  While I am dead in the grave from a stroke, he is going to be drinking beer, puffing on cigarettes (I am sure he will take back up the habit before I am in my grave - he's just been waiting for the opportunity) and enjoying our Caddos from the back porch.  Probably with a couple of dogs nearby to keep him company. 
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Standing Together Against Evil

In April 1995, I was barely 37 years old and living in Bethany, Oklahoma (a suburb of Oklahoma City)with my first husband.  My oldest child, age 19, was a college student in Texas and my two youngest children, ages 17 and 14, still lived at home.  We had two dogs, a huge yellow lab named Brew and a itty bitty, soft honey colored lab named Saxony.  Saxony could catch any frisbie ever thrown.   I worked for a state agency near the Health Sciences Center which is on the outskirts of downtown.  I had been a lawyer for less than two years and loved it. 

I am sure I arrived at work by 8:00 a.m., my regular time, and being a morning person, made the most of that first hour.  I specialized in employment law, regularly dealing with whistleblowing suits, discrimination claims and alleged wrongful terminations.  That morning, I was on the telephone spiritedly hashing out a resolution to a whistleblowing case with the attorney for the former employee.  Over my passionate objection, another attorney in the office with more seniority had agreed to settle the case.  Notwithstanding that I was adamently opposed to the settlement, I'd been left with the responsibility to hash out the details.  Such is legal practice. 
I had/have a love/hate relationship with the whole idea of whistleblowing.  My job at the agency was twofold - on the one hand, I counseled my agency on what the law required and did my level best to stamp out any hint of retaliation against people who reported wrongdoing.   I didn't do it grudgingly - I am genuinely disgusted by that sort of cowardly behavior. 

On the other hand, I defended the agency against charges of whistleblowing.  Over the years, I got to know many of the supervisors under emotionally trying conditions.  I liked and respected most of them.  I saw the real anquish they suffered when charged with something they considered to be ethically reprehensible.
In the course of time and over the years I've had the opportunity to look back and consider whether I ever took the "wrong" side in a whistleblowing case.  I have to say that in my case, although I loathe anyone who would bully someone who righteously reports wrongdoing (and I have done it, myself - more than once), I haven't lost a speck of sleep over defending my agency.  If it appeared whistleblowing had taken place, we generally dealt with it, quickly.   If not, we nearly always went to court. 

Most whistleblowing claims I dealt with arose from individuals with an ax to grind.  Typically, after being fired or disciplined, hurt feelings, rage, fear and resentment lead people to charging the agency with firing them/disciplining them out of retaliation for speaking out.  They frequently cannot admit to themselves that they might have given the agency cause, particularly when they have responsibilties at home.  Easier to blame the agency than to tell a wife that they did something that cost them their job.  And no one wants to lose face with their family or friends when they are disciplined by the boss.  Faced with sounding like a hero vs. someone who has failed, it is an easy call for some. 

Alternatively, there frequently were pre-existing personality conflicts between an employee and his/her supervisor that exploded in rage and a sense of victimhood once that superviser took steps to fire them.  Bringing charges against the agency allows them the opportunity to rage against the supervisor and attempt to embarass or get him/her into trouble at little cost to the former employee.  Whistleblowing cases are disturbingly personal and have been called "corporate divorces" for a reason.

But setting all that aside, on April 19, 1995, at 9:02 a.m., while I was on the phone doing my job, Timothy McVey, may he rot in hell, parked a renter yellow Ryder truck full of a fertilizer bomb in front of the Murray Federal Building, knowing it was full of innocent people and a daycare center.  McVey walked away, the truck exploded, and 168 souls lost their lives, including 19 precious children under the age of 6.
Here is a link to a number of photos taken at the time.   It was a glorious, sunny morning with a brilliant blue sky that gave way to a driving, icy rain that evening while rescuers frantically tried to find survivors.  Downtown was ankle deep in shattered glass.  Window washers on a nearby highrise were taken on a wild, awful ride when the blast hit them and knocked their scafalling.   I rushed to give blood - was second in line - and two hours later when I left the building, all I could see was a sea of ambulances.   Sitting in the street because there weren't survivors to rush to the hospital.   We didn't learn until later that Timothy McVey had been picked up by an vigilant policeman who noticed he was missing a car tag. 

Having been through the Oklahoma City bombing as well as the events of 911, I have had the opportunity to consider how each affected me.  I have to say the events of 911, sadly, made me fearful, weaker.  It some ways, it broke my spirit.  What really changed me at 911 was not the attacks by the terrorists.  It was being trapped in Washington DC in the aftermath with no one on control, surrounded by terrified people.  That damage deepened over the next year because I worked with people consumed with fear. Fear - and courage - is frequently contageous.
In contrast, the Oklahoma City bombing, didn't play out that way.  Instead of the mixed feelings and competing values, it made the city angry.  It made it stronger.  Part of that is because McVey had been captured and it was perceived the threat was gone.  More importantly, most Oklahomans are homegrown and they took personal offense at some b*stard coming into their town and, for political reasons, slaughtering innocents, including children.  It flat out pissed them off.  Sorry for the language but I couldn't feel stronger about this.  Even people who shared some of McVey's political leanings had no difficulting understanding that there are lines you don't cross.  And killing innocents - babies, even - is a bright, bright line.
If McVey had wanted to start a revolution, he should not have attacked a redneck place like Oklahoma City.  They recognized his actions, as soon as they understood what motivated them, as complete BS.  As evil.  No ambivalence, here.

Note:  Over the years, there have been a number of theories that McVey was part of a larger conspiracy and that others who were involved weren't captured.  I'll be honest - it wouldn't surprise me but it isn't something I've kept up with. 

It is with sadness that I read about all the commotion regarding the 911 Memorial at Ground Zero in NYC.  What a shame.  So many agendas, so many competing values, so many willing to harm others to get what they want.  Who was right?  Who was wrong?  Is terror ever justified?  Distrust depending on religion or ideology.  Accusations.  Competition.  On and on.  So dysfunctional.  So painful.  Some see the division as healthy.  I am not one of them.  Not after all this time. 

I re-visited the Oklahoma City Memorial, this morning.  It is a lovely, serene memorial.  I've been there before and have been meaning to return for the past year.  So different than what took place in NYC.  The sentiment in Oklahoma City was simple, shared and passionate.  They were outraged at that McVey son of a bitch.  They were disgusted that he tried to use politics to justify a slaughter.  They were insulted that McVey actually thought sane, moral people would adopt his warped belief that blowing up children was ever justified.  The idea that he thought people would rally around that monster was so outrageous that about all you could do was shake your head in wonder.  The vast majority shared faiths that condemn murder and since they spoke a similar religious language with a common religious heritage, they understood each other even if they didn't always agree.  They deeply mourned the loss of life and all of us wept over the children.  They celebrated the survivors and heroes who stepped up.  They vowed to not bend their neck to cowardly acts of terror.  And they vowed to make the City stronger.

Here are some photos of the Memorial.  This church, right next door, survived the blast:
Overlooking the Memorial you can see the reflecting pond that flows from one arch to another.  The eastern arch - closest to the rising morning sun - says 9:01.  The western arch, closest to the setting sun - says 9:03.  The bomb went off at 9:02, taking so many from this world:
Each person who lost their life has an empty chair with their name on it.  They are arranged in groups, depending upon what floor they died.
Immediately after the bombing, a makeshift memorial arose.  People left items on the fence erected around the bombed ruins and they continue doing that to this day.  The items are periodically stored and many are displayed at the Museum that is adjacent to the Memorial.

The Survivor Tree is a large Elm that survived the blast.  It was filled with metal and shards of glass.  It has been tenderly cared for since that day and serves as a symbol of the strong Oklahoma spirit. 

The Memorial is in the footprint of the Murray Building and they left much of the original wall that remained following the blast.
The Western Arch:
 Note that some chairs are smaller than others - the small chairs are for the children.:

 The eastern arch:
 The Survivor Tree:
 Looking southwest:

 Looking west:

It was good to reflect. 

 Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl