Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mom

     Today is my mother's birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 83 years old. There are a lot of things I don't know about my mother. She died the day I turned 24. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first child, Jennifer. Over the years I have wished many times, especially when my kids were growing, that she was still alive so that I could ask her questions and get her advice. It would have been nice to share that bond of motherhood with her. But I guess that wasn't meant to be. So, as I said, there is a lot of things I don't know about my mom but as I think back on my childhood, I can remember some things:
     She was born Mariellen Chandler in Dayton, Ohio.
     My grandfather was a traveling salesman (don't know what he sold) and for a lot of my mother's childhood, she was raised mostly by my grandmother.
     Her name was supposed to be Marie Ellen but the nurses ran it together, and her first and middle name became one.
     She was the 4th born of 5 children, and the youngest girl of three.
     Mom wore bright red lipstick, always the same brand and color, and now after all these years, I don't recall the brand or color but I know it was a true, bright red.
     She was a brunette, with naturally wavy hair that she always wore short, and used to put curls in her hair with bobby pins wound around little fingerfuls of hair. For a time, probably when I was in junior high, she wore her hair styled like Lucille Ball (but not dyed.) I liked that hairstyle on her the best, but I guess it was hard to keep up because she didn't wear it like that very long.
     She used Jergen's Original scent, hand lotion. It has a scent of cherry almond. I, just by chance, came upon the scent one day shortly after David was born (1982.) I had not remembered or thought about it for years, but when I happened upon it, I had such a flood of memories attached, I bought a bottle and have used it ever since. I remember sitting on my mom's bed watching her get ready for church. She would take some lotion and begin to rub it in, look at me, exclaim she had too much and offer to share it with me, taking my hands in hers and then showing me how to rub it in.
     Her favorite perfume was Channel #5. She didn't wear it very often so a bottle would last years, but I remember her always having a bottle on her dresser.
     Every birthday she would ask for a German Chocolate Cake. When we moved back to California in 1969, she discovered See's Candy. My dad always hand picked her a box of soft caramels and pastel bon-bons.
     She never cooked from a recipe. She made the best Spanish Rice, a wonderful Chow Mein, and a tasty meatloaf, which was my dad's favorite. She had a "Red Betty" Crocker cookbook but I don't ever remember seeing her using it except for baking.
     She was a good military wife. From 1961, when we left CA for GA, until 1969, when my dad retired, we moved 6 times. With each move she would patiently take care of our school records, find new vets, new stores, new dentists, new friends. Looking back I realize how much work and stress it was, but she made it look easy and adapted with grace.
     My mother was a strong woman in an age of homey housewives. She told my sister and I we could be whatever we wanted to be when we grew up. She took care of all the finances in the family and if there was a decision to be made, she usually had the final vote. I don't know what made her so strong. My grandmother was also a strong woman; maybe that's where she got her determination. I found out years after she died that she wanted to be a Pharmacist but even though her older two sisters had gone on to earn degrees in nursing, my grandfather told my mother she didn't have the brains for college and that her best bet was to find a husband to take care of. I know, and anybody that ever met my mom knew, that she was probably smarter than the average person one would meet. She would have excelled in college. But maybe that was not to be her path.
     I know my mother loved my father. The sun rose and set on him and even though she loved her family, he was the most important person in her life until the day she died. I must add here that the feeling was mutual. Even though my dad remarried shortly after my mother died, it was only because he was hoping to find that kind of love again. He didn't. I don't think a love like that comes along more than once in any one's life time.
     Overall, the things I don't know about my mother are probably not that important. I don't know her favorite food. I don't know what her favorite color was. I don't know much about her childhood. Was she mischievous? Was she a good student? Did she have a best friend? Could she read music? Did she know how to ice skate?
     I suppose most of that stuff doesn't matter. I learned by watching her what a good marriage was. I learned that kids need to be held accountable and given guidelines to feel secure. I learned that you don't have to physically punish children. If you raise them right, and instill the correct morals; teach them right from wrong from the very beginning, a lot of love in the beginning works better than a lot of discipline after the fact.
     I miss her, even after 33 years. I wish she was here to see how my children grew up. With what I learned by her example I managed to raise them to be good people on the earth. They work and contribute and take care of those they love, and those that need love and friendship. She would have liked my children and would be proud of the legacy she helped create.
     Happy Birthday, Mom! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lists

     Hi. My name is Jody and I am a list maker.
     There. I said it. It's true. I AM a list maker.
     Currently I am awash with lists. It seems this obsession gets worse in the holiday season. So much to do; so little time! I have a Christmas card list, a Christmas list for presents, a mailing list (whew! I got those all in the mail this morning at 9:00. Personal challenge met. I was the first one in line!)
     I have four lists for grocery shopping. One for Costco, one for New Frontiers (where I get all my gluten free stuff and a lot of my organic salad makings, one for Trader Joes (self explanatory, doesn't everybody love Trader Joes?) and one for the regular grocery store.
     I have a list of blog topics I want to write about and a list of ideas for plot points for my novel. Periodically I have a list of questions for my acupuncturist, although at present she has answered all my pressing questions.           
      Before school let out this last Friday, I had a list for each week since the beginning of November. Since we are on a semester block schedule at school, there is a ton of stuff to do as our first part of our year winds down. This November and December I had to finish off the units I was doing, return text books (which you have to schedule before a certain cut off date but you have to make sure you will be done with them before that date. This usually works out but you never know when the stray fire alarm will throw off the entire plan.) I went down to the wire this year. In my sophomore class I finished reading the last 6 pages of a novel the day we had to turn it in. I had an observation scheduled by administration, which entailed 3 days of preparation and 2 meetings. I had a parent conference, 2 students that needed extra care and handling, 7 students that were not handing in papers (10 actually failed that class for lack of handing in assignments), a Christmas potluck I was in charge of for the board members of my quilting guild, a general guild membership potluck and party I was not (thank goodness) in charge of. Weekly grade-level meetings, 3 days in the computer lab instructing the kids on the proper structure of Power Points. Then 2 full days of the PowerPoint presentations, which I stupidly scheduled for the last week of school. I say this was stupid because it takes an entire  additional day to review and grade them. And then I had to grade all the common notebooks for completion of vocabulary and literary terms, and for my sophomores I had to grade a study guide for the Joy Luck Club novel complete with 214 questions, 4 sheets of vocabulary words and a 3 page quote analysis packet that I had due Wednesday before the end of school. This was all on a list to make sure I got it all done.
     And among all this I had shopping to do so that I could get the presents wrapped and in the mail by today, Christmas cards to address and get in the mail today, get the tree up and decorated, string the lights outside, take numerous trips to the hardware store to buy extension cords, mortar and sand for the handyman building a walkway in the backyard, drive to Templeton to purchase picket fence panels and wood for the project David built so he and Josc could give it to me for Christmas, finish a baby blanket for my best friend's second grandchild, finish a Christmas stocking (also for said baby), go through and decide what I was going to donate to the guild's stash sale we're having in January, make a trip to the Goodwill to drop off stuff I was carrying around since David and Josc were here at Thanksgiving and went through boxes they had been storing here, go to the store for an elderly neighbor, cook dinner 3 times a week for same neighbor... I could go on. I could make a list. A long list.
     What I especially like about lists is the feeling I get when I get to cross something off. A small feeling of personal satisfaction. And when I finish the list and everything is crossed off I take an immeasurable amount of joy in the act of throwing that list away.
     It has occurred to me that I probably should have a list of my quilting UFO's that I want to work on in the coming new year. But first I need to make a list of last minute things I have to do before Christmas, a list of food I want for Christmas dinner and a list of things I need to be sure and print out to update my President's binder (for the guild) before the next year.
     I don't know if there is help for me. And, if there was, do I really want help? Do I really need help? I realize that I have been making list since I was a child. I find comfort in the concrete, hard copy of a hand written list and I don't think I really want to change.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful

     Here it is: 4 days before Thanksgiving and I haven't really spent much time being thankful. My kids started being thankful at the beginning of the month, on their blogs and Facebook pages. I don't think they have all kept up with it but I know they have tried.  I should make up for my lack of posting about how thankful I am. I posted a blog about being grateful earlier in the year but, truly, is that really enough? Don't get me wrong; I am thankful every day. I just haven't written about it and probably without putting that out into the universe in writing, it's just not worthy. So I suppose I could catch up or...wait a minute...do the whole month today! So here goes...Let's see if I can make this happen, although not writing it every day kind of takes away from the whole thinking about it everyday, which I suppose is the point of this exercise. But it couldn't hurt to see if I can come up with 30 things I am thankful for...
     I am thankful for:
     1.   My husband: Doug. It goes without saying that I would not enjoy the life I have now without him.
     2.   My children: Jennifer and David. Who could have imagined they would make such a wonderful addition to my life?
     3.   My children's spouses: Joscelyn and Paul. Without them my children would not be happy. And isn't that all a mother wants?
     4.   My house. A little small, a little bit of a money pit. But charming with age and 10 blocks from the ocean.
     5.   My health. It has been a struggle the past two years, but I think I am winning.
     6.   My bestest friend: Nancy. Through the years...going on 35 now...how could I not be thankful?
     7.   My car. I love the stereo system. On long drives, it makes the difference.
     8.   My education. Just so fortuitous to have been able to go back to school.
     9.   My job. I am so lucky to be a teacher.
     10. My circle of friends. they make me feel cared for.
     11. My quilt guild. It gave me an outlet to be social at a time when I needed it, and now has turned into an important part of my life.
     12. My sewing room. Where I get to create at will.
     13. The ability to read. Because there are so many books out there. Such good ideas to share and ponder.
     14. The ability to write. To be able to express myself and tell stories.
     15. My cat: Jerome, who is the most loving animal I have ever owned.
     16. My computer that allows me to write.
     17. T.V. I know...but I grew up watching television. It is the great relaxer.
     18. The wisdom I got from my mother. I wish I had known her longer.
     19. The lifestyle I got from my father. Without his dedication to his country, I would not have had all the experiences that shaped me.
     20. Good shoes.
     21. Excellent and easily accessible fabric stores.
     22. The ability to quilt.
     23. My acupuncturist.
     24. My phone. Seems silly, but it really does make my life easier.
     25. Having my family visit on holidays.
     26. Christmas. How could one not be thankful for Christmas?
     27. Mechanical pencils. Never need sharpening.
     28. Star Trek. Come on...you know you're thankful for that!
     29. Natural history professor. Without him (even though I can not remember his name) I would never be able to know when I hear  a hummingbird.
     30.  Cameras. And phones with cameras that capture all the beautiful and wondrous of life's moments.
     I could probably go on. There are so many things to be thankful for but this will do for one day.
For all the people who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, I am hoping this list will inspire you to think about being thankful for your own reasons. And if you are in America, Happy Thanksgiving!    

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stripes

     Tigers have stripes. Zebras have stripes. Flags have stripes. These are all signs pointing to the affirmation that God wants us to have stripes, too.
     Well. Maybe that is stretching the point a little. All I really know is that I need stripes in my life. No, I am not planning on getting tattoos of stripes on my body but I do love my stripes. On clothes, that is. But let me make my selection clear: not true animal stripes. Although those are lovely to look at on the animal, in my opinion, humans shouldn't wear animal stripes or any other animal prints.
     If you were to look in my closet, I have striped tops in just about every color. My eyes are drawn to them in catalogs and if I try on a garment in the store and something is just not right, my first thought always is,"Wouldn't this look cute if it was striped?" A year or so ago I purchased a grey and white colored striped "French Terry" top from LL Bean. I liked it so much I immediately bought a blue and white stripe and a red and white striped one. I have a sapphire blue and white striped hoodie, and an orange and creme, wide-striped tee shirt. I have a pullover that is dark grey with tiny black stripes and a tee shirt that has equal width black and grey stripes. You get the picture.
     For most of my adult life I have loved and bought striped pieces of clothing. I must admit; there have been some mistakes (like the primary colored vertical striped jumpsuit I bought in the 80's that was sooo cute. What was I thinking?) I have always bucked the age-old wisdom that horizontal stripes make you look fatter. Solid colors, preferably black, makes people look thinner. Posh. I have never been rail thin anyway, and I soon came to realize that one should wear what makes one feel good (within reason, that is). Wearing black all the time would just depress me. I know people who wear nothing but brown, taupe and grey. Blah. Blah. At least if you're going to wear a solid color, let it be a color with depth or brightness.
     When my daughter got old enough to choose her clothes (which she did from a fairly young age) she decided that I shouldn't wear stripes. They made me look heavier (how nice of her not to use the word fat? I brought her up right!) Just not the right choice. Patterns and prints were fine, just not stripes. Of course, being older and wiser, I ignored her. She would shake her head as if to say, "I try. she won't listen. What are you gonna do?" "But Jen," I would say, "I like stripes, and I am heavier. No amount of black or un-striped clothing is going to change that."
     This little battle went on for years.
     A couple of months ago, she and her husband came over one Saturday for dinner. I noticed. I didn't say anything. Finally, with a big grin on her face she asked me, "Aren't you going to say anything about my new top? I thought sure you'd give me all kinds of grief about it!"
     I just smiled. "It's cute on you."
     It was striped.
   
    

Facebook

     Here's the deal. Facebook is a time hog.
     I put off getting involved with Facebook as long as I could. My goodness. I felt way behind the times. I had this nagging feeling that I had to catch up; that I was lagging; that I was missing out on the world.
     Well. It turns out that I am not missing out on much. Since I have been on Facebook I have seen a couple of cute cartoons, had a few pictures sent from an artist friend that were amazing, a friend sent me an interesting article on a WWI quilt, someone had posted a link to a good recipe (although unless I can convert it to be gluten free and dairy free, and oh yes: sugar free, it may not turn out to be such a great link anyway). There is a lot going on in the world, being posted on Facebook, that I have discovered I am not really interested in. Especially the political stuff.
     I am adult. I know I should be interested in politics. But most of the time I limit my interest to local issues. I vote. I vote on issues that will directly affect me and my family and my community. Other than voting for our representatives (who continually disappoint me) and the President (which, at this point, is a joke thanks to the Electoral College) who doesn't really hold any power over anyone or anything, I find I am left cold by Washington politics. On a whole I find the entire system to be broken with too many people (from both parties) spending too much money, taking too many perks and buy offs and acting like spoiled, demanding children, who think it is permissable to be immoral and that they are above the law.
     OK. Now that I got that little rant out of my system, back to Facebook...
     I decided to join in the fun early last month. I had been told by a mentor author friend of mine that I was going to have to get involved in social media if I want to be successful in the self-publishing world. I put it off as long as I could. It was one of those thoughts in the back of my mind that repeatedly said, "Do you realize how many people in the world use Facebook? Do you know how big of an audience you could have for your writing? Do you think about the potential for books sales that are out there on Facebook? What? Don't you want to be successful?"
     The answer to all of those questions is, "Of course I do!" so I finally succumbed to the pressure and the possibilities and joined in. But I have discovered that it takes an enormous amount of time and energy to be "active" on Facebook. The pressure is killing me. I need to read. I need to sew. I need to blog, because after all this is the heart of what I like to do.
     So I will continue on Facebook, but my heart isn't really in it. You can bet I won't be enlarging my circle of friends any time soon. I have more than enough "friends" to keep up with now (especially those that post their every movement and thought every day, all day...you know the kind...) I just can't handle the pressure.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkins

     This story was originally written in 1995 when my son, David was 13 and my daughter, Jennifer was 15. Ahhh...good times! Happy Halloween! :)   
Pumpkins 
     “If you can’t carry it, you can’t have it.” 
     This is a phrase that comes to me every year in the autumn.  My son, now thirteen, seems to think he is strong enough to carry the world.  But, let’s have a reality check. This is not the philosophical world we are speaking of here.  It’s much more serious. It’s pumpkins! 
     Ever since my daughter visited her first pumpkin patch with her kindergarten class, the phrase “If you can’t carry it, you can’t have it” has been the measure by which we pick our pumpkins.  Even though I was along that year for that all-important rite of childhood passage, many of the mothers were not. The kindergarten teachers were very wise. This system saved the teachers from lugging huge pumpkins around for their small charges. 
     Little did I know that because of that first trip, pumpkin picking would become an annual event.  We have visited many different patches over the years, changing locations as one, and then another, went out of business.  I guess small family patches just don’t make the money to justify replanting year after year.
     I still miss visiting one patch in particular. It was planted by an older gentleman and grew in a field down a back road on the way to the lake. He grew pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn.  He sold what he could, because he really enjoyed the kids of all ages visiting his farm, and fed what he didn’t sell to his cows the rest of the year.  He judged a pumpkin’s price more by the smile it brought to a child’s face than the actual size.  One year we went to buy his pumpkins but noticed the big, round, orange sign wasn’t hung out by the road. When I pulled into the familiar roadway, his daughter met our car and informed us that no pumpkins had been planted that year.  Her father had grown ill and hadn’t been well enough to tend the fields.  She said her father was worried that the children he had sold pumpkins to for so long would be disappointed.   I was sad but I understood.  We thought it unfair that our tradition had been disturbed. I’m sure he thought it was unfair, too.
     This is the second year visiting our current patch.  It has a much more commercial atmosphere, but we still get to pick our own pumpkins right off the vines out in fields reached by jumping up on one of the several long, flat, hay covered trailers pulled by field tractor. Over the years we have learned the art of pumpkin picking.  One must carry a sharp knife to cut the vines and it helps to have good strong gloves because the pumpkin stems have tiny thorns. 
     We always buy at least five pumpkins.  One medium sized pumpkin goes on the mantle in the living room with pretty dried leaves and a horn of plenty filled with gourds and corn stalks and fall colored flowers. Another large specimen is to display on the porch, welcoming guests and family to the house. Two are chosen by the kids, with their own specifications, to carve and the last one I usually carry to my place of work to decorate my desk.  The debate over pumpkins, as I say, is serious.  The trip takes a minimum of three hours.  There is just so much to be considered. The right size and shape of each pumpkin, the right color and length of the still-attached, weathered vine and for the ones to be carved; there has to be a perfect “face” side. We choose and turn and lift and scrutinize and debate the pros and cons of many pumpkins before we settle on the ones to take home.
     Some people just go for the hayride and for other things sold at the fruit stand, bakery and ice cream parlor that are all part of the patch enterprise.  We are continually amazed with people who lack the ability to choose a perfect pumpkin.  Too many soft, bruised and deformed pumpkins are chosen, bought and carried home. Some are lazily and quickly picked from piles of pumpkins on the side of the road that lead to the main entrance. And at least once a year we see a small child struggling under the weight of his or her enormous choice; dropping it, and then crying. 
     My children, considering themselves pumpkin picking experts, just look at each other and shake their heads and repeat the time-tested piece of wisdom: “If you can’t carry it, you can’t have it.”



Monday, October 28, 2013

Ahhhh, Autumn

     I woke up this morning at 2:30 to a stillness. We sleep with the fan in our room going and most of our windows cracked open for the fresh air. It was warm. Odd. So I got up to use the bathroom and water the cat (he likes to drink from the tub faucet) before coming back to bed. I never look outside or turn a light on in fear that I might just wake up too much. So, I'm lying in bed, trying to get comfortable when all of a sudden, the room cools down, the curtains lift with a breeze. And then I hear it; the tentative little patter of misty raindrops. The proverbial "calm before the storm" had woken me up, and before I could really think on this, the raindrops came, faster and stronger. My first thought was "Oh, this is so nice; I'm glad I am awake to hear it!" My second thought was, "Dang! Why couldn't this be Saturday?" It would be so nice to be able to leisurely lay in bed on a Saturday morning and listen to the rain!
     We have had the first rain in a very long time. The temperature is going to be 62* today and I have my mantle decorated for Halloween and my pumpkins bought. You guessed it1 It's finally autumn! My favorite time of the year.
     Having been born a California girl one would think that I really don't notice, or am not affected by, the seasons. But when I was in 5th and 6th and 7th grades, we lived just south of Boston, Massachusetts on a Naval Air Station. We had finished a two year stint in Georgia, just northwest of Atlanta, and other than the summers being more humid than Southern California, the weather did not impress me much. The bugs were a different story...but that's for another blog.
     We moved to Massachusetts in the summer. Kind of muggy but not anything unusual. Then school started. Then fall came. Our first home in Massachusetts was the middle apartment in a three story building. There was one apartment just like ours on the top floor and one on the bottom floor. It looked like a huge 3 story Victorian house. In the dining room, on the side of the house, and in the living room, on the front of the house, there were floor-to-ceiling bay windows with window seats. Since the dining room was closest to the kitchen, and usually warmer than the rest of the house, I claimed that window seat as my own. There I watched the neighbor's yard and garden shift from summer to fall and later to winter.
     But it was the change from summer to fall that caught my attention the most. It seemed as if, overnight, the world had totally changed. The neighbor's rose bushes were pruned down to the bare stems, a bush of Chinese Lanterns turned bright orange, the large tree (I have no idea what type it was) that draped over their side yard and escaped their yard to cover our driveway had mutated from green bunches of nondescript foliage to branches of gold and orange and rusty colored leaves. I'm telling you: it all made an impression.
     The show lasted several weeks, changing daily, until it rained shortly before Thanksgiving. Then the leaves were just so many brown spots on the sidewalks and when they dried out, you could see people up and down the street raking them into large piles by the curb to burn, (oh, the days before environmental awareness!) giving off that slightly musty smell that wafted through the neighborhood.
     Even though we spent only three years in Massachusetts, those change of seasons have stayed with me. Since we are back in California, and have been here since 1967, (yeah, do the math...I'm that old) I have had to develop a keen sense to determine the change of seasons. Pumpkins everywhere is a sure sign. The temperatures dropping, so I have to dig out my winter coat (let me just say here that my California winter coat is about 1/2 the warmth needed on the East Coast) is another sure sign. Rain plays a big part in making the season what it should be and I have targeted the trees around in the neighborhoods that change colors. They are not as plentiful, but that only makes them shine in our otherwise ordinary landscape. And I am entranced every year anew.
    

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Writing...

     As I was searching Google for some pictures to use on the front of a journal packet I am creating for my students, I came upon this quote today:

"When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”
—Margaret Laurence
    
It is a funny thing to think that my life's work has been filled with only odd jobs. For various reasons (O.K. I like to eat and have a car) I have not been able to make writing my sole profession.
     And yet, I think I have all the makings of a writer. I dream about writing, not just in a metaphorical way, but actually dream about writing. It wakes me up with story lines and ideas, conversations and colors; the way people look and the spaces they inhabit, bits and pieces of information. And I allow my brain to absorb all of this and save it away, in a safe place, for the next time I can find the time to sit down and put pencil to paper, or in reality, fingers to keyboard. Then I hope I can remember it all; the nuances, the right person saying the right thing, the brilliant idea I had for one pure sentence.
     One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott. In her book Bird by Bird she writes about writing: "You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind -- a scene, a locale, a character, whatever -- and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.” 
     I have had those moments but only in college when I had to write essays on topics I didn't particularly want to write about. I wanted to be writing on my thoughts and ideas. I didn't want to waste time on the academic process. But that was where I was at the time. I had to accomplish that in a timely manner, now, and then I would have time to write, really write. I don't have those moments now when I sit down to write. The words and sentences flow on the paper, usually so quickly that I have to really slow down or it would look like a toddler playing on a keyboard.
     And I have written over the years, but not as much or as often as I would like. Life gets in my way.
     Now, especially since I have started this blog, I am writing on a more regular basis. I want to write. there is an intrinsic need inside of me to write. When I don't blog for awhile I get an anxious feeling inside, kind of like the butterflies people get when they are going into an unknown situation. I think about writing. I try to scrape out time to write. And like an addict, once I write I feel o.k. for a time. But not very long. Sometimes only a day. Many times I want to write again in an hour. But the responsibilities of life won't allow me.
     I cave to the responsible me. Sometimes I justify it but many times I think I am a coward. I think that if I was serious about writing, I would scrape out time and make writing a priority. that if I really wanted to be a writer, I would make it happen. I would figure out what is really stopping me and fix it. I would trade in my "odd job" of writing and make it my only work.
   

Friday, September 13, 2013

Controlled

     I have realized, at this point in my life, that I have very little control over my life. No, I am not speaking about the whole question of "fate", although I do believe in fate. I am talking about everyday events that control many of my hours. I wake up to an alarm clock set for 5:30 a.m. And if that is not bad enough, our cat, Jerome, is already in anticipation of the alarm and starts softly meowing in my face before the dreaded buzzer goes off. I think he hears our neighbor, who leaves for work around 5:30, getting out of his house and into his car. Smart cat. Then, Jerome leads the way and sits on the side of the tub as I use the bathroom, waiting for water from the tub faucet, because it's morning-drinking-water-out-of the faucet-time. Then, we parade to the kitchen where he waits on the rug in front of the sink for his daily portion of 1/2 can of wet food. He leave me to my own devices as I make coffee and cook breakfast but reappears as I sit to watch the news and eat my breakfast, waiting for me to finish so he can have, what has come to be known as, "belly time." After he is satisfied with the amount of attention I lavish on him, because you know, a cat laying in your lap on his back with his belly exposed is just too cute to resist, he jumps off and goes to his napping place for the day. This could be on our bed, in the bedroom chair, on a box in my sewing room, on my cutting table, or any other place he deems nap-worthy. Then I am tasked with checking my phone for important, can't put it off, have to answer, email. Then I must check the games. I am playing several games with friends and family members; can't ignore them. This is too much responsibility! My mornings used to be so quiet.
     My mornings are controlled by the cat and technology, and less importantly, my need for coffee and food. But food and coffee could be ignored or forgotten or postponed, if entirely necessary; the cat, especially, cannot.
     My husband and I were having a discussion a couple of weeks ago; we were talking about which one of us would "go" first. I know that is kind of a morbid thing to discuss, but as one gets older, these things must be talked about. A man on T.V. had stated that he didn't want to die before his wife because he didn't want to live without her. Doug repeated the same sediment to me and I thought, being a mushy moment, that I would say it back to him. How sweet. He looked at me and said, "Really? I think you want to go first so you don't have to figure out all the technology I handle in the house!" I had to laugh. He's not too far off in that assumption.
     My day at school is controlled by the bells. Bells ring at the end of the block, at the 7 minute warning for the passing period ending and at the final 3 minute - you-better-hoof-it-to-class-warning. The bells! The bells! Isn't that phrase from some movie? At least our bells are pleasant to hear. We have bells that sound like the call of the congregation to church, symbolic of the school's mascot: Santa Maria Saints. When we adopted these, they tried out several sounds and we decided that these were the best of what was offered.
     I get home from school at 3:30 most days. Jerome is waiting in the living room for me. It's "Greenie time!" He seems to be saying, "Where have you been? It's getting late and I haven't had my Greenies! How do you expect me to take a decent afternoon nap on an empty stomach?" This even though I have pointed out to him numerous times, that his food bowl, in the kitchen, is never empty. He doesn't care. Greenie time is Greenie time. Oh, for those of you who are not familiar with Greenies: it is a brand name of a kitty treat. So, we have Greenie time and most days, he promptly falls asleep on my lap. What do I do? I take a nap too. After an hour or so, I decide that as long as I am stranded in my chair I might as well check my email. This act determines how I spend my evening; whether it be on my computer in the bedroom or lazily sharing time with Doug as we watch out favorite T.V. shows.
     Not that I am begrudging of technology (well, I am a little, because there is also email and grading and attendance that occupies my time in the classroom) but I have not always lived with technology. When I was the age of the students I teach, fax machines were only being used in big businesses, carbon paper was still a staple and people weren't connected to a smart phone 24/7. If people called you and you weren't available, for whatever reason, they called back.
     I am afraid we have come too far into the world of technology to go back now. And I must admit, some of it has made my life more enjoyable (like being able to watch past seasons of Downton Abby on Hulu when I need a fix. Is the next season EVER going to start?) but so much of the time I find it tends to control me and my time. I suppose I could make a rule about email and games on my phone; no playing certain times of the day, but would I be shirking my responsibility to the others I play with? Maybe. But I would like to be less "controlled" and I think that might help. The cat, on the other hand, is a whole different matter...

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Look Back

     A couple of days ago Doug and I were talking about a trip we made on Route 66 in 2008. He decided to see if it was still available on Google. I blogged almost every night of that trip and even though it is not as polished as this current blog, I had a good time going back and reading about our adventures. For any of you who would like to take a look here's the link:
 https://sites.google.com/site/cheroot98/
     It is such a busy week, again, this week. So much to do. Last week was the first week of school and we get a lot of preliminary work done for the semester and this week the work really begins. We have to fly through the weeks as I've mentioned before.
     Had a very busy weekend. Went to a yard sale, a good friend was having, on Saturday morning. Then the overdue trip to Costco. You would think with the large amounts of any given things one buys every time they go to Costco, it would take forever to run out of stuff. Not true.Then on Saturday afternoon and evening I baked. I found a bread recipe that I wanted to try and finally gathered all the ingredients I needed. And I also tried a cake recipe. Jennifer's birthday is on the 29th and I wanted to make her a cake we could all enjoy which means it had to Gluten free and dairy free. I made a chocolate one but it wasn't quite right. Not horrible tasting just more the consistency of a brownie, not light and fluffy. Will try another this week. The bread turned out very nicely so that recipe gets a gold star! Sunday I spent with my neighbor; taking her around to buy plants for her front yard. I'm tired this morning but it felt good to get so much done. I had planned on sewing a little also, but my machine is doing some strange, hair-ball thing with the thread. I suppose I will have to take it to the shop in Morro Bay to get it looked at. I could have used my other machine, but that I carry in my car for sewing days with friends, and I was too lazy to go and get it. Hope I have time as the week goes on to blog. If not I will return soon; I promise! Enjoy the trip on Route 66!
    

Thursday, August 15, 2013

So far, so good

     Today was the third day of the school year. So far, I think I have some very nice kids. There is always a honeymoon period; where the kids are nice and quiet and do what you ask them to do only because they haven't gotten bored yet, or because what you are asking them to do isn't very difficult. We'll see what happens when the real work begins, which should be sometime next week. Can't tarry too long, this semester passes by so quickly and we have a very full curriculum calendar. The spring semester drags a little, because of testing, but this one flies!
     I have two blocks of juniors this semester and one block of sophomores. Juniors study American Literature, my favorite, and sophomores study World Literature. World Lit. is o.k. too and I am excited because we got a new book in the textbook novels: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is part of the new "Common Core" Standards that have come along. I had the opportunity to read it this last spring and I think the kids are really going to like it. I thought the writing was very good and the fact that the narrator is Death, is a sure bet with teenagers. I hope it goes well and they like it as much as I did. I struggled with the German in the book but I solved that problem by getting the audio CD's.
     My classes are full, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of switching around. Usually the first two weeks I have kids dropping my class for another and other kids being added to my class. I do quite a bit of prep work for the semester in the first week so it puts the new students behind right off the bat. But that doesn't seem to be happening this year. I am glad. It makes for much smoother transitions for me and my students when we are all together from the very start.
     I decided not to carpool this year. I like the freedom of not being on someone else's schedule. I know. It's cost effective to carpool but I have done it three years out of the seven so I figure I am ahead of the game, so to speak. Not carpooling gives me more time in the morning, the freedom to run late, although I am rarely late, and the freedom to stop on my way home to run an errand or shop. It also gives me the freedom to stay after school for just a little while in case a student needs some help. I haven't been able to do that, and the only other time available is at lunch which the kids hate to give up (me too!) so I think, overall, it was a good decision.
     So, this is all for today. I need to head home and put my feet up for a while, feed Jerome his Greenies and plan for tomorrow, which is Friday; a very good day, indeed!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Almost Over

   I have already had most of the dreams I have every year before the beginning of the school year. I usually have three different ones that kind of loop around every so often, on no particular schedule. They mainly pertain to someone changing or moving my classrooms into different places, configurations, changing the room number. The one I had the other night had a new twist to it. I came into my classroom, which now looked like a basement room with support pillars spaced around it, and found all the walls bare and the desks stacked up to the ceiling on the far wall. It was 5 minutes before the morning bell and there was nothing to be seen: walls blank, my desk and bookcases bare; like some kind of school locust swarm had come through and eaten their fill. When the bell rang, the kids came in and I had them un-pile the desks and put them into rows. I didn't have enough. Students kept coming in and asking me where they were supposed to sit and what my name was. I decided to have everybody sit on the floor, including me. And then the bell rang, and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, that 95 minutes went fast! And I didn't get to do my seating chart or play my first-day, M&M game!"
    Today is Thursday. Tomorrow is Friday and so ends the summer for me. Actually it ends today because I have to go in and work for a day, according to our contract, sometime between the beginning of August and the day school starts which is this coming Monday. I picked to do that duty tomorrow; Friday. Nothing like waiting till the last minute!
     Where did the summer go? I always ask this right before school starts. This summer has actually been filled with a ton of stuff. I got a lot of things done. I'm not sure I got all the things that were on my list of "things to do" done, but I did do some of them and also some things that were not on the list.
     I finished one quilt and am half way done with another smaller wall hanging and a purse. I read four books. I tried to perfect a cracker in a gluten free existence. "Tried" being the operative word here: I gave it three shots, with three different recipes and none of them worked. I think it is one of those things like pie crust; either one can make one or not. Me: not. I was able to perfect a protein bar recipe, good to go for lunches and I found and made some great gluten free, dairy free, sugar free cookies. I got two chapters of my book written and have enough material to write a third. Making slow progress, but progress. I got to spend some good times with my daughter and husband; but more Jennifer because she is a teacher, too.
     We went on a two lovely trips. The first started with a trip to San Francisco to visit David and Josc, where we went to the Walt Disney Museum. I finally got to see the wonderful Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sister, OR. We also went to a lavender festival. We went to Albany, OR to see the Carousel the whole town is creating and this week we went to Santa Cruz and played on the Boardwalk. While we were up near SC we took the train ride from the boardwalk to Felton and then back down the mountain (a three hour, round trip journey through beautiful redwoods.) We had a great time! I spent two days with my sister, Lea, shopping and talking. I pruned my roses and did some other up-keep in the yards. I planted some flowers and some new succulents I got. I slept in and took naps. I went, once each, to the dentist and podiatrist and endocrinologist and visited my acupuncturist 4 times. Formatted my common notebook for my classes, and got lanyards put on all the thumb drives the kids use for moving and temporary storage of their essays. I was able to contract a security guard for the Auction my guild is having in September, and created the tickets; got the venue insurance.
     Having gotten all that done, I think I am ready to go back to school. Having the summer off (and three weeks at Christmas, and a week in the spring) is really a blessing. Teachers work hard during the school year and we don't get paid for all the time we spend grading essays at night, researching lesson plans, prepping for projects and emailing counselors, administration and each other for school related business. Often it is an all-consuming job. I am sure that is the reason for the dreams before the first day. No one disturbs my room during the summer. Even the years when they have used my room for summer school, the teacher left it in perfect condition. They sometime do move the desks to clean the carpet, but I must admit, they do a pretty god job of putting things back where they found them.
     I, as a teacher, am not alone in having these dreams. Other teachers I know, including my sister, have them. And they are usually the same ones every year. So I guess I am not any stranger than anyone else in my profession. I'll be glad when they stop (and they will) so I can worry about other things in my dreams...like a new project for Romeo & Juliet, or better yet, something new to reveal about Catcher in the Rye!   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jerry

     Many years ago, before I had children, I was fortunate to go to work at a place called Dairy's Madonna Gardens that just happened to be right around the corner from my house. So nice! Being able to walk to work. I was hired as the manager of the flower shop in this nursery, although it wasn't a very big place and even part time hours were spent many times just babysitting the landscape and being the body in that part of the nursery when the boss lady wasn't around. Big title for a small job, but it was a nice place to work.
     The nursery was owned by a couple named May and Frank Dairy (both deceased now, how sad). It was positioned on the main street of town and had been there as long as anyone could remember, although I'm not sure May and Frank owned it the entire time. As one walked in the main gate of the property there was a nice large pond with a little waterfall and a statue of The Madonna; I am assuming that was where that part of the name came from. I imagine it came with the nursery and was significant to the previous owners because neither May nor Frank were very religious. But it made a nice setting (Frank used that area to display the beautiful hanging baskets) and I suppose the wisdom of keeping the familiar name for business purposes played itself out in return local business.
     It was while working at this nursery that I met Jerry. Jerry was the manager of the nursery end of the business and worked full time being much busier than I ever was. He was pleasant and helpful and made it his business to get to know the plants and the particulars about them and the weed killers and foods and seeds that we sold. The customers liked him a lot and asked for him by name when he was out in the greenhouse watering or transplanting and not there to greet them as they walked in. We (or should I say he) didn't have much time to sit around and chat but as I got to know him I learned some things about him. He was a Youth Pastor at a local small church (I never asked, but I imagine many of those hours were volunteer as he was not supported financially by the church) and had gone to school to become a Pastor. He and his wife, Nancy, had been married the same year my husband and I got married: 1975.
     In the fall of 1979, while Doug was out of town, Jerry and Nancy asked me over for dinner one night. Nancy and I went on to be best friends (yes, she's the one I speak of every so often). Nancy was pregnant with her son, Jordan, who was born that December.
     That same year I became pregnant with Jennifer and left Dairy's to work at a flower shop in downtown San Luis Obispo. But early in 1980 Nancy and Jerry moved to live in a house on the nursery property and they were now just a block away. Our two oldest children grew up together and it wasn't long before I had David and then Nancy had Helen. We had great times together, but that's for another blog :)
     After a couple of years, Jerry accepted a job as Head Pastor for the Assembly of God Church in Taft, CA which was only an hour and 45 minutes away, but it seemed like my best friends were moving to the other side of the world. I would go visit periodically but it just wasn't the same as having them in the next block.
     Thirty three years have gone by now since Jerry and I met. He has left the pastorate and now works for Youth for Christ in Bakersfield. And in those 33 years Jerry has become more a part of our family than he knows. He has always been there when we needed him: visiting sick family members and performing the wedding ceremonies for both David and Joscelyn and Jennifer and Paul. He greets me with a hug and tells me how much he loves me and has continued to be a man people ask for by name and want to talk to. I have always been so glad that he became a part of my family.
     Last year, as I was at a quilting retreat I attend in Buellton, CA every January, I met a man, also there at the retreat, from Bakersfield. He was involved in a youth quilting program I knew my friend Nancy was sometimes involved with. I asked him if he knew or had ever met Jerry. He said to me, "Oh, yes! I know Jerry. What a gracious man!" I thought to myself "Exactly!" That's a perfect way to describe Jerry ~ gracious.
     Happy Belated Birthday, my friend!    
       

Friday, July 19, 2013

And...we're home!

     Well, that's the sad thing about vacations. They always come to an end. But this one was a really nice one. We had good weather: not too hot, not too cold. We did a lot of things that were very interesting which we had not done before. We went to the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco. Went to see Old Town Sacramento (didn't even know they had an Old Town but it does figure) and spent two nights on a restored river boat. We drove through Weed, California (may not seem important but to my freshmen lit classes, it figures in the book Of Mice and Men and the students are amazed that there is actually a town called "Weed". I took pictures) to Sisters, Oregon for the biggest outdoor quilt show in the world (see previous post.) We went antiquing in Redmond, OR. There was a Lavender Festival the same weekend and we went out to visit a family-owned lavender farm (also see previous post). We visited Albany, OR. to see a workshop where the townspeople of Albany are creating a carousel (previous post). We drove though hundreds of miles of absolutely beautiful scenery: trees and mountains and rivers and lakes (Oregon is very green.) We had breakfast made for us every morning and fresh linen on our bed every night. We listened to 2 1/2 books on Doug's iPod. So all in all, a nice time was had for the 10 days we were gone.
     One of the nicest things about taking car trips is the opportunity to see the places in the United States that most people just fly over to get to their destinations. In our travels, over the years, we have come upon some very interesting and unusual sights. Quilts painted on barns, memorials to famous people and not so famous people. Small towns that are holding their own in the economic crisis by banding together and making it work. We have met so many interesting people.
     This year was a little different though. We did not take a trip last year due to my recovering from cancer surgery. And in the last 6 months I have discovered I have some food allergies. Food allergies make traveling more challenging. It's a lot more work. I take my own salad dressing and coffee creamer (almond milk), make my own protein bars, take peanut butter; all which necessitates taking a car refrigerator and making sure all the hotel rooms have fridges. We stay in a chain of hotels that have a hot breakfast and allows you to take fruit with you for the day ahead. Bananas and peanut butter are a life saver! You also have to ask a lot more questions. "Do you scramble your eggs with milk?" "Is the sauce a clear sauce or more of a gravy?" "Can I order a hamburger without the bun?" "Can I substitute fruit for another item?" "What kind of fruit is in your fruit dish?" "Are those shrimp grilled or sautéed in a sauce?" "Do you have a non-dairy creamer?" "Are your mashed potatoes made with milk?" "Is the salad premixed or can I have it without the cheese, or tomatoes or...???" "Can I order the ribs dry or are they pre-sauced?" I was amazed that, for the most part, people are very accommodating and only one wait-person rolled his eyes at me :) But I did get what I ordered so at least he took me seriously. And when there wasn't much on the menu to order at least I could order a hamburger and take the bun off myself, no sauce please, or most restaurants serve steaks and that is usually a good bet for me as they are usually just grilled, even though they are not always the least expensive item on the menu. And the places that serve breakfast all day, they are the easiest for me, and they are not hard to find. I was glad to see that many of the places we went had restaurants and bakeries that were vegan and usually had gluten free items as well.
     So, now it is back to the business of getting the stuff on my summer list done before school starts. I am getting a lot of things done for the guild's auction in September. I downloaded all the songs I wanted for my iPod and now just have to organize them. I'm spending two days with my sister next week. Got my two books read (yeas, I am counting the ones from Audible!) I have mastered a gluten free cake recipe and tried some quick breads that were good also. I tried to make crackers four times with three different recipes. No luck there. Got a baby quilt done and am working on another quilt I hope to get done by the time school begins. I got my syllabi (or syllabuses; both are correct) done and will do my common notebook formatting tonight. I haven't sat down and worked on my book. Too many thing running through my brain to concentrate but I have done what I call "mind-mapping" of one of the characters. So I can count that as some progress. I don't remember the rest of my list; I will have to go back to that post and read it.
     As far as summer goes, I will count this as a fulfilling one, and it's not even over yet!
     Summer on, my friends!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Something Wonderful

     We walked into our hotel today and there it stood. This is what we came to Albany, OR. to see. Actually, it was one of the many items we came to see.
This is one of the 63 animals that will eventually be on the Historic Carousel in Albany, Oregon. So you say, "Well, isn't that nice?" And as it turns out, it is really nice. Briefly, here's the story...
     It was 2002 in Albany, Oregon. The logging industry along with the economy in general, and especially in small towns, was heading in a negative direction. In an effort to revitalize their downtown and bring tourism to their town, the town of Albany decided to get behind the building of this carousel. So they began to plan. The community at large and the businesses of Albany were asked to suggest animal for the carousel, adopt the animals and sponsor their animals. Then the hardest work began. Artists met with sponsors, came up with designs and details. The animals were to be hand carved (in the old fashioned, time honored ways of making carousel animals) hand painted and finished in a gloss automotive-grade sealant (like a shellac, only stronger.)

This is one of the many carvers that was working today. He is currently carving a rooster that will look like the artist's conception on the wall behind him. This is his third animal since he started carving as a volunteer ten years ago. He has already finished two horses. Like his work, all of the carving and painting is done on a volunteer basis. This project currently boasts 200 active volunteers with additional volunteers coming from all over the United States to spend some time working on the animals. To date the volunteers have logged over 145,000 hours. Anyone over the age of 14 years old can contribute hours painting, carving, running the gift shop or being a docent for the guided tours, although you don't have to book a tour. Anyone is welcome to visit the workshop anytime they are open.

   We spent about two hours looking at the animals, making contributions in the gift shop [ read shopping :)] and talking to the artists that were working. There were probably 12-14 animals in different stages of being carved. Another half dozen in the process of being painted (although no painters were working today...volunteers, you know) and about 10 animals that were done and waiting the completion of the project to get their poles. Not only have people sponsored the animals they have also sponsored the retooling of the over-one-hundred-year-old, donated, mechanical motor that will run the carousel, the chariots (seats) and the rounding boards (the decorative facades that make the canopy of the carousel.


This was a particularly lovely example of the finished product. It was adopted by a man and wife (the wife raises alpacas and llamas) who gave it to each other for a Valentine's gift. All the animals have stories behind them. The family that adopted the rooster, pictured above, has their name engraved on the ankle band and the feathers on the rooster's tail will have all their grand children's names on them. There is a beautiful lion that has a saddle of a patchwork globe with the words for "peace" written along the saddle blanket in all the languages of the world, including braille.
     The volunteers that are creating this project hope they can finish the 52 of the 63 planned animals needed for the carousel's opening ride by 2016. They already have plans for a huge building on the workshop site, that will include artist space for conservation and restoration of the carousel in the future, a food court, business offices and carousel museum and gift shop.
     This was well worth the 2 1/2 hour drive to get from Redmond to Albany. If you want to know more about the carousel, the work and/or want to make a donation please visit their website at : www.albanycarousel.com  The work these townspeople are doing is an awesome example of cooperation, dedication and community spirit!

BTW... the pictures from the quilt show and the rest of the ones from the carousel workshop are now on Picasa. https://picasaweb.google.com/105939759629642655476/Sisters2013?authuser=0&feat=directlink
Enjoy!    

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Another Day in Oregon

     Well, we survived the day at the quilt show yesterday so we were wondering what we were going to do today. There was a brochure on the front desk of the hotel where we're staying all about the annual Lavender Festival this weekend. Most of the farms are in the western part of the state but one participating farm was listed about 45 minutes away in Madras, OR. So, after sleeping in and having breakfast and reading the Sunday paper, off we went to Madras to see what we could see.
     We got to the lavender farm and were amazed.... 4 acres of lavender; all in bloom. Colors from white to pink to a gentle lavender color to a dark purple. It was lovely! The farm is owned by a family (father and mother, about our age, son and his wife and little kids) and they not only make soaps and lavender wreaths but they also distill the lavender to get the oil and a lavender water. They had samples of everything and even food they had cooked, from cookies to breads to a tasty BBQ'd chicken, all with lavender. They were really passionate about growing their crop and seeing what they could do with it. The young wife was so excited because she was looking into getting her own bees so she could add lavender honey to their list of products. We bought some items and found some varieties we wanted to look into planting at home.
We spent over two hours there just walking around and talking to the owners. They had the place very nicely done; advertising the fact that they do weddings and other events. There were many people there who had brought their lunch and were eating at the little picnic area the farm owners had situated right by the rows of lavender with a view of the snow capped mountains in the background. The picture on the left is of a variety called Super Blue, which is used mostly for the distillation of the oil and water and used to dry for sachets; an all around sturdy and prolific grower. The picture below is of a white variety called Edelweiss. It is also used to distill into oils and water and has a totally different scent to it. They had over 50 varieties on the farm (there are well over 100 varieties of lavender) and every single one of them has a different scent when crushed. All of their lavender is organically grown so they have to spend a lot of time weeding and all the lavender is hand cut! We had such a nice time at the farm. It almost made us wish we could have gone to see some of the other farms that were participating in the festival. There are 22 individual farms that belong to the Oregon Lavender Association and almost all of them were participating in the weekend festival.
      In addition to looking into lavender honey production, the family is also growing Alpacas to sell their wool. This was a really cool couple of hours and we were happy to see this small family thrive and succeed doing what they love to do!

     After we finished at the Lavender Farm we drove over to one of the Oregon State Park called Smith Rock. This park is made up of volcanic rocks and mountains known internationally as one of the best rock climbing areas in the world. Now, I'm not a rock climber or even a hiker (or even a stair climber) but this place was astonishingly beautiful in its ruggedness. It is also known as the location where they filmed the movie Rooster Cogburn with John Wayne. There were dozens of people hiking and biking and just walking around. I can't imagine climbing something like the rocky crag in this picture.
The scenery was awesome and it was another instance where we have run across something wonderful, as we travel, that is totally unexpected, but that gives us another glimpse into the glory of the United States! I know that sounds kind of hokey but it really is true. There is so much to see and learn about in every state! It will keep us traveling!  
 
     Tomorrow we leave Redmond and begin the journey home. We read about a little town of Albany, OR in the Sunday paper. It's 2 1/2 hours west of here. The town used to be a big logging center, but when the logging industry began to falter the townspeople came up with a plan to bring income and tourism back to the town. I'll let you wonder what it is and I'll write about it tomorrow. :)   

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

$1500!
     So tired! But it is a good tired. We just got back from the largest outdoor quilt show in the world. Yes, that's what they call it: the largest outdoor quilt show in the world. Now I know...you're thinking...right. A little town in south east Oregon has the largest outdoor quilt show in the WORLD. Well, the operative word here is "outdoor". This little town in Oregon hangs 1300-1500 quilts in one morning BEFORE 9:00 a.m. and thousands of people come from all over the globe to look at these quilts, shop in the town, eat the food and take pictures of the quilts until 4:00 p.m. when the quilts are all taken down and returned to their owners, except for the ones that have been purchased; as far as I could tell, about 3/4 of the quilts hanging were for sale. The quilters set the price. So some of the quilts are a great deal and some are overpriced. But most of them were under priced from what I could tell. Take for instance, a spectacular hand appliqued, hand quilted queen size quilt for $1500. I couldn't afford to buy it but it was well worth the $1500 if not more.



Picture doesn't do it justice
I took pictures of the crowd but they were too small to enlarge very well. But here are some of the prettier quilts we saw. I took over 300 pictures, so I won't put them all here.
    
I would have a difficult time choosing which one of all of these I liked the best. Many of the quilts came from quilters who submitted them from many foreign countries. The dead line for submission is always June 1st. So the volunteers of this show categorize all these thousands of quilts and decide where they should be hung all over town. Yes, you read that right...there are no paid employees that do this show. From the people who put out the parking signs, to the people who hang the quilts, to the people who stroll the streets asking if anyone has any questions, to the people who organize the smaller groups of fund raisers who sell water and sodas in the crowds, to the people who take down the quilts, to the people who label and sell each quilt...all volunteers. In a publication handed out to all show attendees, the city of Sisters, OR spends approximately $121,000 to get this show running every year, but most of that goes for city beautification, and I must say the city is beautiful, I am assuming all year round. One can only imagine how much revenue this quilt show brings into the city each year. All the hotels, motels filled, all the restaurant meals, the retreats set up at the junior high, the week of classes from world-renown teachers, people shopping at the antique stores, the fabric stores, the candy shops; it goes on and on and on and on!
     Well, I guess you can tell, the show was great. And I was majorly (not really a word, I don't think) impressed. Although I must say that with all these quilts and only 7 hours to see them all...well, it was a bit overwhelming. I know there were ones I did not see. There is no possible way to make sure you saw each and every one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how they were hung except for one section with one guild's mystery class that were all hung together; about 15 of them. That was cool. They all looked the same but oh, so different! There were signs posted that said if you wanted to find a particular quilt that the Head Organizing Committee at a certain location could help you. But I don't know if that would really be necessary for most people.
     All in all, I was amazed. I have been involved in putting on several quilt shows and let me tell you, these people have got this down to a science! And I was amazed at the whole atmosphere of the town: everybody was SO nice; townspeople and guests alike. All 300 pictures I took were, for the most part, taken after people making sure they were out of my way.
I have always wanted to come to Sisters for this wonderful show and I am so glad I got the opportunity to do so. I am also thankful that Doug suggested we come and that he was there the whole day, shopping, holding the quilts in the breeze, helping me take pictures and listening to the endless talk of fabric, colors and how amazing it all was. I don't know if I will ever get back to Sisters to attend this show again. I bought a T-shirt, a Christmas ornament and some postcards and a shopping bag to remember it all with. We had lots of fun and even though this was the main focus of our trip we still have things we want to do before we turn home. I will try to upload all the pictures into a Picasa account so that anyone can find them, in case you want to look at them all. All the quilts were amazing and remember...the pictures are nice but they really don't so them justice!
     Tomorrow we are planning on sleeping in a little and then driving to Madras, OR to visit a Lavender Farm that is part of the yearly Oregon Lavender Festival. We are leaving Redmond on Monday morning but we haven't decided where we will head. We're having a great time...wish you were here! :)





Friday, July 12, 2013

P.S.

     Just a little add on here for today's post. Tomorrow, July 13th will mark the 41st anniversary of the day Doug and I met. Happy Anniversary honey, I love you !    

Vacation Con't...

     Today is Friday. We got into Redmond, OR yesterday around noonish. We had driven from Klamath Falls in the morning, stopping at a very nice (and huge) quilt store in La Pine, OR. Yes, bought some really nice Christmas fabric I couldn't resist and found a couple of gifts for the kids. We checked into our room in Redmond and decided we would scope out the town of Sisters so we would have our bearings the day of the quilt show; which is Saturday. It is a beautiful little town. We found the singular quilt store where I was able to purchase some postcards of the quilt show and a lovely lavender sachet pincushion for my small but growing collection. The store was jammed with women and men, mostly women. The fabric selection was great but the ladies at the counter were kind of snobbish. Two of them were ok but one was a bit short with me when I asked if they would be giving a discount the day of the show. She said, "Why would we?" Gee, I don't know...a discount brings even more people into the store and when they get a good deal, even a small discount, they buy more. DUH. Anyway we got some good information about a shuttle to the show and a back way into town to the shuttle stop, which is at the high school. And we got a hint on a good local place to eat dinner. By the time we walked around a little and visited some of the other stores, ate dinner and got back to Redmond (1/2 hour drive from Sisters) it was after 8:30. We were tired. We watched a little TV and then went to bed.

     This morning we got up and lazily got ready for the day. Redmond is THE antique center of Central Oregon (who knew?) I found some great maps in one store. I love maps. In another store I found a great cast-iron, standing bird feeder at a ridiculous low price and Doug found me a small treasure. It's an old pincushion in the shape of a globe with a place for a thimble and a tape measure! Too cute! Had to come home with me!
 
     After the thrill of finding this lovely little item we decided it was time for some lunch. We were directed to a small hamburger stand a couple of blocks away called Dawg House II. It had a big sign on the door stating that it was owned and operated by a veteran. The hamburgers were some of the best we have ever eaten. I had mine with grilled onions and mushrooms and Doug had his with an Ortega chili, both sans bun :) Yummy!
 
 
     After lunch we took in a movie: Pacific Rim. It was good. A modern tech Godzilla type movie. And now we are finishing up our day by doing laundry (a necessity when traveling for more than a week and you don't want to lug multiple suitcases!)
     All in all we have had a great time so far. Oregon is beautiful...water everywhere including a river swiftly running behind the hotel where we are staying. It is lovely to be able to watch the rushing water as we eat breakfast in the morning.
     Tomorrow is the quilt show. We will be up early to get to Sisters by 8:00 or so. I would really like to see how they accomplish hanging 1300 +/- quilts in one morning all over town. We were talking to one shop owner yesterday and she said it was a miracle to watch them take it down last year when it decided to thunderstorm and rain towards the end of the day. She said they got all the quilts down and wrapped in two hours, and none of them were damaged! Amazing!
     If I am not too tired to blog tomorrow night I will catch you up on Sunday. We're not leaving Redmond for home until Monday.  
 

  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vacation

     We're on vacation! Yay! I remember the first time I blogged on vacation. It was the summer of 2008 and we took a drive from Santa Monica, CA to Chicago, IL on Route 66. It was something new to me but I learned a lot about blogging and I had a lot of fun. You can probably still find that blog somewhere on Google but I have moved on to this blog and though I don't usually journal daily activities exclusively, I decided that since the people I know and love read this blog, it would be just as easy to use it for our trip.
     We are currently in Klamath Falls, OR for the night. We went to San Francisco over the past weekend, and were planning on heading north from there, but Doug had to return home for an interview on Monday morning. So Monday afternoon we struck out again to spend two days in Sacramento, CA. Capital city of California. But other than view the Capital building from about a mile away we pretty much stuck to an area call Old Town Sacramento; 7-8 square blocks of original buildings down by the railroad tracks and the Sacramento River. It is a part of town that was raised 10 feet at one time to keep the river from flooding the businesses and streets. This created an underground of old doorways to closed businesses that they left and now use for tours. Kinda cool.
     We stayed the two nights on a refurbished River Boat that was originally used to get people from Sacramento to San Francisco. After being used in WWII as a hospital ship it was sunk during a storm in the San Francisco Bay. In the 1980's someone salvaged it and restored it back to its original glory (at a cost of 9 million dollars) and now the Delta King is permanently docked in Old Town and used as a hotel and restaurant. It was a good experience. The doorways are small and narrow, the floors are slanted, there are no ice machines and the Wi-Fi doesn't work all the time. But the air conditioner worked, and you couldn't feel the movement of the boat and the food was good. So, overall, a neat place to stay!

 
     Two days in Old Town and we visited a restored school house from the turn of the century. I went in and sat at the teacher's desk. It was so small as far as space went, not size wise. I talked to the docents who were in costume, and retired teachers, and enjoyed them very much. I would not have been able to be a teacher back then as teachers were always single women. It's funny that some of the same rules they have posted I STILL use in my classroom, like: one student at a time to the privy (bathroom)!
 
 
     We went through Weed, CA today. I knew it was an actual city, as I have researched it. (From the book Of Mice and Men that I teach to freshmen) but it was cool to be able to get the city sign as we went through. Now I can post it on my bulletin board for them to see. :)
 
 
     Tomorrow we are on our way to Redmond, OR which is about 1/2 an hour from Sisters, OR where the quilt show is Saturday. I don't know what we're doing between now and then but I'll keep you posted.
     Gotta love summer!
     


  


 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections on Bakersfield

     I first became aware of Bakersfield, CA when I was a sophomore in high school. My dad got a job for the Kern County Department of Airports and his new office was in Bakersfield. I don't remember much about the first couple of weeks I was in Bakersfield, except that it was hot and I spent much of my time around the pool in our apartment complex. I had been there about 6 weeks when I met Doug (my husband of 38 years.)
     Doug and I were married 3 years later and we set up housekeeping in Bakersfield for 2 years. We then moved to the Central Coast, where we currently live. We returned to Bakersfield many times in the following years to visit his parents and mine, until his dad died and his mom moved to Visalia, CA and shortly thereafter my dad moved to the Central Coast also. So, we no longer have family, per se, in Bakersfield, but my best friend lives there now so, I continue to make the 2 1/2 hour trek to see her. You know it's a good friendship when you will go into 110* heat to see a friend!
     Anyway...I was on such a visiting trip earlier this week. There are a couple of really strange things I noticed about Bakersfield. And yes, it was hot!
     As the city of Bakersfield has grown it has been necessary for new roads and major highways to be built. It used to take me 15 minutes by freeway to get from Oildale (which is in the very northern section of Bakersfield) to the Valley Plaza on Ming Avenue (which was almost the south end of town) to go to work. Now I don't think you could accomplish that task in under 30 minutes (too much traffic) and there are scores of neighborhoods build west and south of those areas now.
     In the expansion of the city the highway department has laid out the roads tying them into existing older roads but trying to accommodate the larger population. So, what they have come up with are major roadways that go from 2 lanes, to 3 lanes, back to 1 lane, returning to 2 lanes with a turn lane, and intersections that when you cross them you have to turn almost a 45* angle to stay in the lane you started in. It is all very confusing. They also have wide roads with large V-shaped areas with one lane on one side and another lane veering off to another side. Man, if you don't watch where you are going, you could really end up in a mess!
     Another thing I noticed this week while Nancy and I were driving around (yes, we actually go out in the heat...you just can't sit at home all day, every day. Thank goodness most of the stores and business are nicely cooled, so if you can survive the hot car and the trip outdoors between stores you're o.k.) is that a lot of people, I'm talking A LOT of people, have fountains in their front yards and businesses have fountains and waterfalls in front of their offices. Well, you think, that's nice. Running, splashing water at least gives the impression of coolness, even in 110* heat. But here's the funny thing: none of the fountains and waterfalls are working. No splashing water. No sun through the water droplets forming rainbows, no relaxing streams of cool water flowing over dark, wet rocks. Nope. None.
     Is there a water shortage? Fountains and waterfalls recirculate their water. You do get some evaporation but I would think that would be a small price to pay for the enjoyment they would bring in the hot weather. Is the electricity to run them too much to add to an already over-burdened power bill in the summer? I know my dad's electric bill was well over $300 every month, every summer, and he didn't have a fountain or waterfall.
     So it begs the question...why do people in Bakersfield HAVE these fountains? If there's not enough water and they cost too much to run, what's the point of putting them in? It is a nice concept to have all these oases of cool water running water, but if the water really never flows it becomes more of an oddity. So, all you people in Bakersfield, or other hot towns and cities: turn on your fountains. Let them splash and shimmer! Give the eye a cool place to rest in the summer heat because fountains and waterfall features that are not running look, in my opinion, just a little sad.