Checking In

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Yet here we are. Charles Dickens was/is spot on. Political discussion aside/avoided, how are you? How are we? I was thinking about my own response to these dramatic days of current events/history-in-the-making. When I’m being told that my country is experiencing unprecedented tumult and unrest, I look to the past to gain perspective. It helps me keep calm and carry on.

I marvel that, along with rolling bandages and knitting socks, Civil War era women could stitch beautiful heirloom quilts while their country was being torn in two. I imagine they poured all that worry and nervous energy into their work, all the while praying for their loved ones in battles far away.

I’m kind of copying the “Dear Jane” (Jane Stickles) with my Bible Sampler Quilt project.

In the corner patch she signs her quilt, “In War Time. 1863. Pieces 5602. Jane A. Stickle.”

So so much in those few few words. In that year of 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He also delivered the Gettysburg Address, where that horrible battle took place in that very same year. Throughout those terrible months, Jane stitched and stitched and prayed and prayed. She kept calm and carried on.

Well, I don’t have anything else to say, I just thought I’d check in since it’s been awhile since my last post. A lot has happened since then. I’m not sharing a block from the Bible Sampler quilt project today, but here’s a peek at my progress:

Playing with border triangles.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time keeping up with Bonnie Hunter’s Grassy Creek Mystery:

Today was the reveal, and I tried out my alternate colors by assembling a block:

You take your chances when it’s a mystery, and I think this will work just fine.

Turning A Corner

Here we are, down to the final days of 2020 left on the calendar. And here I am, posting my final UFO finish for the OMG Challenge:

The goal was to finish this “Blossom Time” top.

I’ll give it a scalloped edge to keep those sweet corners.

The goal involved attaching borders with a weird corner turn. I was designing as I went along, so there were no instructions to follow. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, and I’m still not sure how it was done. I do know that it took me an entire day to get the first corner right. The other three were a little easier, but not by much. This photo doesn’t help, the shadows show all the bias-y lumps and bumps. I plan to give it a good pressing while I FaceTime chat with friends on Wednesday. Then I trust the rest will quilt out. It was just a fun project for me, I’m not too concerned about it.

But I am concerned about this:

I was done with the Blossom Time top mid-December. So I spent the rest of the month playing with the Bible Sampler quilt border pieces. I think I may be in trouble here, I’ve gone and created another weird corner angle join for myself. I won’t be posting progress on the OMG page, so stay tuned on my blog for news on that front.

Here’s to turning the corner on 2020. It was weird, it was historic, what can I say? Any other year I’d throw out a “Where did the time go?” question, but not this year. Time was what I had plenty of, and I have the never-ending shutdowns to thank for helping me complete all twelve monthly projects. And I WON a prize again this last month, a gift certificate to the Fat Quarter Shop. So it’s a good time for me to take a bow, say thank you to Elm Street quilts, and exit stage left. All the best to the rest in 2021!

74. ‘Tis the Season

Beggar’s Block

This post has nothing to do with the next block in the quilt.

I was just remembering an elementary school incident. Do you do that? Rehash old embarrassing memories? There’s probably a reason why, but I don’t want to know that reason. It probably has to do with thinking too much of oneself, which would also be embarrassing. Anyways, I was remembering how thrilling it was to order Scholastic books. The teacher would pass out the newsprint catalog at the beginning of the month. I’d pore over the titles, and make my choices. Taping the coins to the part you cut off and return, I’d get my order in before the deadline, then wait, wait, wait, for my books. Anticipation brings a thrill of its own.

The embarrassing part of this blog entry happened in sixth grade. After a lot of deliberation in my own mind, I decided to go ahead and order “The Secrets of Loveliness” along with Helen Keller’s “The Story of my Life”. “The Secrets of Loveliness” promised tips and tricks to bring out the best of my natural features, and the beauty within, tweenager-style. I was keenly interested. But I had three brothers, and the teasing potential was what I considered at length before placing my order. I was risk-adverse and usually made my choices from a self-preservation mode.

But in the end, it wasn’t my snickering brothers who caused the embarrassment, oh no. It was my teacher.

Mr. Bannon was the first male teacher I had. He had played baseball in college, and it continued to be his passion. He even managed to get a TV brought into our classroom during the World Series, which was quite novel. So we all watched the Detroit Tigers triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals, which interested me not at all.

Mr. Bannon found a useful purpose for his exceptional throwing skills. I think he had been a pitcher. I was born in the bulge year of the baby boom, so my class sizes were always large. There were 38 of us, desks lined up in tight rows, with Mr. Bannon’s desk in the rear corner. He’d give us an assignment, then sit back, feet up on his desk, with a stack of black felt erasers at the ready. If anyone whispered, or fooled around in any way, he’d pitch one and bop them hard on the back of the head with it. He never missed. The student, red-faced, was required to stand, retrieve, and return the eraser to the stack on the teacher’s desk.

So now you know what Mr. Bannon was like.

Back to the Scholastic book order. It finally arrived, and Mr. Bannon took it upon himself to list the names of all the titles ordered as he called up each student one by one to receive their books.

So in front of the entire class, boys and all, I was called up to receive my “Secrets of Loveliness” book. I remember hoping desperately that “The Story of My Life” would somehow cause a distraction from the other title. But the snickers from the boys, with Mr. Bannon adding his own, told me otherwise.

Okay, memory lane stroll session is over. My initial thought for the subject of this post was about having that “thrilling” sensation. Christmastime always brought a thrill of some sort every year: Childhood anticipation of new toys, adult thrill of creating new traditions, and anticipation of surprising our own children with their new toys.

It’s lacking at my house these days, and I’m wondering why. I just realized that today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Maybe that explains something. But we’re going to look at the Bethlehem Star tonight, first time in nearly 800 years, shouldn’t that cause a bit of frisson? Maybe not the same as the thrill of paperback book orders finally arriving, I’ll let you know.

73. Blessed Assurance

The next block in the Bible Sampler quilt:

Solomon’s Star quilt block

I’m sobered by the behavior I’m seeing out in “the world”. People are doing some really crazy things these days. YouTube provides streams of videos showing frantic, desperate people acting out in absurd ways. I figure they’re at their wit’s end, what with it being 2020 and all.

I forget that not everyone is walking around in the peace that surpasses understanding, secure in the knowledge that Jesus has done it all for us. Believers know and have confidence in the fact that, in the end, everything is going to be okay. I shouldn’t take this for granted, but it’s been a systemic part of me since my infant baptism. (Couldn’t help inserting the “word of the year” there, apologies). And it helps me understand a possible motive behind the adult meltdowns we see happening on airplanes, in grocery stores, and so on. People have been stripped of their usual safety nets, and they’ve got nothing to catch their falls into fear and worry. That’s a really hard way to live, in unbelief. Going through life without any help or resources beyond ourselves would be unimaginable. If this is all there is, then the pressure’s on to make it count, get it right, make a difference, leave a legacy, live, laugh, love. Sounds exhausting.

The passage goes like this:

John 10:22-30: “…So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

“Never” is a really long time. That’s security with a capital S. As long as I remember that this world is not my home, I’m just passing through, then everything’s going to be okay.

72. Seeing 20/20

Here’s the next block in the Bible Sampler quilt.

Blind Man’s Fancy quilt block

This passage in Mark chapter eight tells of Jesus healing the blind man in Bethsaida. Actually, He took the man by the hand and walked him outside of town to perform this miracle in private. Jesus spit right into the man’s eyes, and laid His hands right on the man’s face, twice, to perfect his vision.

That’s a lot of touch, up close and personal. Maybe I’m noticing this because we are living through a pandemic-driven time of social distancing and germaphobia. But the previous accounts of Jesus healing the sick and dying didn’t involve so much personal contact. There’s a touch of the hand, or just a word. And Jesus wasn’t anywhere near when He healed the centurion’s servant.

This is reminding me that Jesus isn’t limited by ritual or form. He can heal, or cast out, or revive back to life, any old way He wants to. I think He is more interested in our faith outcome than in the physical outcome. For some, He chooses a hands on approach. Others need to be given a task, like the leper showing himself to the priest. And some don’t need any touch at all. The centurion had faith enough that Jesus chose to heal his servant remotely.

Each miraculous event was unique according to the situation. And Jesus would give them stern orders to keep it to themselves. He told this blind man to go directly home, and bypass the village. Jesus tried so hard to keep things quiet, but of course word quickly spread and needy, desperate crowds grew larger and larger. I think Jesus saw this as a sidebar to His primary purpose of teaching and revealing how He would eternally heal us once and for all in due time. I’m sure He also felt the urgency to prepare the apostles for their future ministries. Time was always of the essence. But His compassion got the better of Him, and there are over 40 accounts of miraculous healings in the gospels.

I don’t remember a time when I could see 20/20 without glasses. I got my first pair in second grade for nearsightedness, and I remember the doctor saying they were long overdue. My frames were blue, and cat eye style. The lenses were thick and made my eyes look little. I hated them, and remember with clarity that my self image tectonically shifted from positive to negative the moment I put them on.

But I also remember the surprise. For the first time, I could see the individual leaves on the trees. That was what I kept telling my mom as I marveled at the view outside my window on the car ride home.

Today, if I take off my glasses, people would look just like trees walking around. My prescription has numbers that put me in the “legally blind” category without correction. I think it’s awesome that Jesus took extra care and time to correct the blind man’s vision all the way to 20/20.

I know that we are all figuratively nearsighted. We try to work out how to be the church on Earth until we get to go to our eternal home. We mean well, but we mess up, we get things wrong, and we keep trying.

I Corinthians 13:12 says: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have been fully known.”

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Happy December, time to pick another UFO project for the One Monthly Goal Challenge over at Elm Street Quilts.

I confess, I was going to bow out this month. After all, there’s the holidays, pandemic or no, to observe. And I’m doing Bonnie Hunter’s Grassy Creek Mystery, which is no small thing. But a word, this one word, has clinched it for me: Challenge.

This word taps into a weakness of character I possess, which is to respond viscerally to challenges. If someone throws one down, I’m going to pick it up and take it across the finish line. It doesn’t matter if there’s a prize, recognition, or special whatever at the end, it’s the challenge that affronts me and causes me to want to overcome.

(Note to self: Research fitness challenges online. Maybe this character flaw will help me get motivated in the personal health department.)

Now might be a good time to tell you that I was indeed a prizewinner for the month of October. I’m enjoying a six month’s subscription to Make Modern Magazine. Thank you, Elm Street Quilts!

I don’t think I even intended to participate every single month for this entire year, but now that I’ve reached the final lap, stopping now would feel like quitting.

In January I had plenty of old UFOs that needed this outside motivation to push them along to the finish line. It was with relish that I chose each month’s project, excited by the prospect that they’d be up and out of the dark, into the light. (Except for last month’s finish. It went right back into a dark wardrobe.) Eleven months and eleven finishes later, I find myself at a loss as to what to pick next. I’m down to just one quilt top, my Farmer’s Wife Sampler. I need to keep that one waiting longer, because there’s no way I want to rush it through to its end. To my pleasant surprise, I’ve found it to be true that quilting skills actually improve with lots of practice. But mine are not where I want them to be for this one.

The other projects I’ve got going are the Bible Sampler quilt, a stack of neutral Courthouse Steps, cut sets of Castle Wall blocks, Lori Holt Farmhouse Vintage blocks, and the plaid economy blocks. But I consider them all WIPs rather than UFOs. I want to keep all those going, like plates spinning, because I like the juggler method.

So I guess I’ll choose the project that is my newest, Blossom Time, because I can’t seem to stop working on it. I watched Bonnie Hunter make it on her blog, and the seed was planted in September:

Go to, choose “blog”, then type in “Blossom Time” in the search box in the upper left corner. Viewer beware: it is irresistible, do so at your own risk.
Or go straight to the source of the pattern:

I started piecing these tulip blocks. No plan, no goal, just having fun with a cheerful jelly roll and some muslin.

Pretty soon I used up the flower fabric, so I moved on from block play to layout play:

Because I didn’t plan ahead, I experienced opportunity costs along the way regarding layout choices. But that’s the fun of it, figuring it out as you go along. What could possibly go wrong? I could no longer spare the bed for layout, so I improvised a design wall which covered the closet. I believe this is why I continued on with diligence, I kept needing things that were in that closet.

While finishing up Frolic for November’s challenge, I settled on this design. I design visually, not mathematically. With a sashing in between, the borders should fit just fine, right?

Wrong. I want to turn the corners like this, but I’m an inch too short on the border pieces.

No worries, I’ll figure it out. So the goal is to finish this top. I’m thinking about doing the final border like Bonnie’s, or not. We shall see. But now that I have my closet back, I think I’ll give myself a break from Blossom Time and pick up clue one of Grassy Creek. I’ve completely switched out the colors on this mystery.

What could possibly go wrong? I figure if I’m in for a penny, I might as well be in for a pound.

71. Comfort and Joy

Happy December! Next up, Bible Sampler quilt block number 71:

Glory Block

Here’s an old Lutheran joke for you today: You’ve heard of God’s chosen people? Well, we’re God’s frozen people.

When I read this passage, I think Lutherans are following the words of Jesus:

“(6) When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (7) And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Yep, that describes our style of worship. Being called “frozen” might not be such a bad thing after all.

These instructions are followed by the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us a model, a framework, a guide for communication with God Himself. It hits all the points: adoration, submission, confession, forgiveness, and thanksgiving. We memorized and recited it word for word every night as young children. One of my comforts and joys of parenting was teaching my own babies this prayer as soon as they were able.

I attended an international Bible school for a year abroad, and we would all end our Sunday services with the Lord’s Prayer, each student speaking in their own mother tongue. It was wondrous to hear. Believers from all over the word lifting their prayers as one voice.

I wish I could recall the details, but I remember reading a POW’s story about his captivity in Vietnam. The men were separated visually, but they could hear each other. Up and down the cells, they recited the Lord’s Prayer together. Some sang hymns and recited the Apostle’s creed. The author said that over time, the complete Lutheran order of worship came back to him in bits and pieces. He shared it with his fellow prisoners and they collectively had lots of resources to comfort and sustain them.

The centuries old prayers, creeds, and liturgies of our faithful forefathers are still vital today.

A or B?

Which photo do you like better, A or B?

A. One more seam to go . . .
B. “Frolic”, Bonnie Hunter’s 2019 mystery quilt completed.

I would conclude that “A” people love the “process”, and “B” people love the “product”.

Speaking for myself, I prefer “A”. Being in the middle of something leaves the possibility that surprises could still happen. There’s movement in that photo, and anticipation. It’s not over until it’s over.

Down to the last row. . .

But for the purposes of this post, I choose “B”: my November finish for the One Monthly Goal Challenge over on Elm Street quilts:

I got my “Frolic” quilted, bound, and threads pulled, truly DONE. I was motivated because Bonnie Hunter’s 2020 mystery season starts this Friday. I made my deadline with time to spare.

I think “B” actually makes me a little sad, because it’s been promptly followed by “C”:

… relegated to the top of a stack in the old wardrobe.

Because I live in a mild climate zone with non quilters, my quilts are, shall we say, under-appreciated and under-used. So I squirrel them away here and there. We don’t need people poking around, saying that we might consider that one could have too many quilts, and shouldn’t one slow down a bit, now do we?

70. Lesson Learned

Next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt project:

Carpenter’s Square block

Instead of the Bible passage, I want to write about what everyone’s talking about lately: Socialism. It’s a word to be feared, it’s unAmerican. But it’s taking hold, and I could go on about this alarming fact. I will share a memory instead.

I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. My best friend, Carrie*, lived behind me and we’d walk through our back yards and knock on kitchen doors to ask moms if we could come out and play.

Mothers used this leverage to get a chore or two done before allowing us to go, so there was some waiting involved. But then there’d be hours of freedom, making clubhouses and holding club meetings. We both had a younger sister, which completed the membership.

One Saturday, Carrie came outside with a plan. Summer was coming, so it was time to buy swimsuits. She had asked her mother if she could get a bikini, and was flatly refused her request. This made Carrie want a two piece with even more longing. Her plan was to raise the money by selling lemonade and buying the bikini herself. She proposed that we do this all together, and the three of us agreed with enthusiasm.

My naive childhood mind filled in the blank: We will be splitting the proceeds evenly so everyone will come out with a new bikini. I didn’t really want a bikini; the thought hadn’t occurred to me that it was an important thing to want until Carrie brought it up. Any ways, my mother would probably buy me one if one was requested. But in the spirit of the corps, I threw myself into the day. We assembled koolaid pitchers and Dixie cups and ice from both our kitchens, and worked under a hot sun all day long.

The front of Carrie’s house faced a busy street, so business was good. As I worked, I tried to imagine the bikini I’d be getting, tried to build enthusiasm. Or maybe I’d spend my money on something else. At the end of the day, I seem to remember that we made around fourteen dollars, which Carrie quickly took and pocketed, thanking us for helping her get her bikini.

I was in shock. I can’t remember my reaction. Knowing my childhood self like I do, I’m pretty sure I was stunned into silence. I think I just let her walk back into her house with all the cash. I do remember that she didn’t get a bikini. Eight year olds don’t realize that they still need their mothers to drive them to the store to complete the transaction, so she probably couldn’t overcome that obstacle.

But the lesson I learned was long remembered. It was more valuable than the lost funds which may or may not have been rebalanced if I had complained to my mother, who may or may not have made a phone call to her mother.

It was my first experience with socialism.

I had experienced sacrificial giving before then. Mom had us five kids purge our clothes and toys on a regular basis. Living in a very small house with grandma too, I can understand why space was at a premium. She was a member of the Junior Women’s League, and they were always holding events for the less fortunate. One year before Christmas she had my sister and I give away our matching favorite dolls which were nearly new. It was a hard thing to do, but it was good for our hearts to be squeezed a bit so that our generosity meant something to us.

(Maybe that’s why I wasn’t a “doll person”. I learned that I couldn’t grow attached. But I digress.)

Back to socialism.

It is a good thing to be giving of your time, talent, and treasures. But there’s a crucial difference. This generosity comes from your own volition, and you have the power of choice in your giving. God loves a cheerful giver.

Socialism takes that power of choice away from you. And to add insult to injury, it may choose to give to entities that oppose your own moral code. The money you worked so hard for may be spent to further agendas that are antithetical to your biblical values.

And it saps the esprit des corps right out of you.

When you’ve felt that deflation, that betrayal, that shame for your shortsightness, you learn. You learn that, whenever possible, the power to keep control of your time, talent, and treasure is important to your mental well being. The attitude of gratitude and all that.

Lesson learned: Be generous, be kind, but be smart. You don’t owe anyone anything, but you can give from a place of altruism and good will. That feels so much better than a place of guilt and shame.

Bonus lesson: Let it go. But should one’s reaction be “stunned into silence?“

The refrain from “The Gambler” popped into my head. “But it’s alright now, I learned my lesson well. Seems you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

*I changed the name to protect the “innocent”. She moved away shortly after that, so we are no longer best friends. We wrote a few letters, then lost touch. And remember, choosing best friends had a lot to do with ease of access. Friendships tended to be created with regard to walking distance between houses.

One Monthly Goal

It’s time to decide on the next unfinished project to participate in the One Monthly Goal over at Elm Street quilts. I’ve chosen this one:

Frolic, Bonnie Hunter’s 2019 mystery quilt

Since I went easy on myself with last month’s goal, I’m going to beef up the challenge for November. My goal is to quilt and bind my Frolic top by Black Friday. That’s when Bonnie releases the first clue for this year’s mystery. This seems like such a natural deadline, doesn’t it? Frolic is 84 inches square, so it’s a challenging challenge for me.

This will be my fourth mystery.

My first was 2017 On Ringo Lake. I made a mistake early on, and chose to not rip apart 200+ seams, so mine looks very different. I wasn’t ready to tackle her borders, either.

It was given to my daughter, along with one for her pup.

2018 was Good Fortune.

I participate in the mysteries for three reasons. First, it gives me much-needed practice in giving over control to somebody else. Next, it pushes me way out of my comfort zone because the colors aren’t what I would choose. Last, it uses up lots of scraps. I also use up ugly fabrics that somehow transform themselves when they’re cut into small pieces. (This is a Bonnie saying: if the fabric is still ugly, you haven’t cut it small enough. Honestly, it works!) There’s another reason, too. The element of surprise, and excitement shared in the huge online group is fun. It helps the holidays feel festive, especially for those of us who don’t have young children around to add those elements to the season.

The new Bonnie Hunter Mystery, Grassy Creek, uses the reds, oranges, and golds of autumn. For the first time, I think I’m going to take control of the color choices. Bonnie chose the palette from the view outside her home, since 2020 has been the year of staying home. I’d like to change it up and choose the colors near mine; colors of waves and water and sand.

Photo from free image gallery.

With a touch of coral

Don’t look at the dust on my shelf.

And maybe even a hint of sea glass. Can I pull this off?