About Me

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I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and businesswoman with a passion for life. I try to keep my priorities in life straight - Faith, Family, Friends. I love to try new and challenging things, spend time with friends and family, sew, embroider and laugh. I run a custom apparel decorating business from my home. I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas letter 2014

My annual Christmas letter for this year:

     Yesterday was 12-13-14. Time to get moving and write the news for two reasons: Christmas is less than two weeks away; if I want to use that date again it will an eighty-nine year wait.
     Speaking of moving, this has been a year for that in the Rottinghaus family.  Adam and Alia moved to Scotland (Yes, the UK) in August. Alia was accepted into a master’s program at the University of Edinburgh. Meanwhile, Adam received a fellowship from University of North Carolina which allowed him to work on his dissertation with no teaching responsibilities.  In late August, Rick and Eric hooked a trailer to the pickup and moved the bulk of their possessions from Carrboro, NC to here. (We no longer have a spare bedroom in the basement.) Adam, a newly hired Advertising Professor for the University of Tampa, and Alia will move to Florida next August. I am excited and happy for them as their lives move in the direction of their goals. (I hope they’re okay with a house guest all winter.)
       Kathy’s apartment, five minutes from work, became a less than ideal place to live, due to the complex changing ownership.  In April, Rick, Dean and I helped her move her things into the spare bedroom of her friend’s town house. As I held the door open for the guys carrying the boxes, I sang “Movin on up, to the East side, to the deluxe apartment in the sky,” (remember the TV show, the Jeffersons in the 70’s & 80’s?) In other words, it was a great move for her. The home is beautiful; the neighborhood is inviting; and her housemate, Julianna, is a good friend. BUT, the bulk of her possessions weren’t needed so we moved it all to our basement. (I repeat – we no longer have a spare bedroom in the basement.)  Her job at the preschool/daycare continues to go well for her.
     Dean and Rick took a weekend road trip to Virginia in March. Meg’s mother gifted several pieces of Meg’s favorite furniture to her.  So father and sons (Adam came to help pack from NC) had a male bonding weekend as they moved it to home. The duo left Dean's on Friday night, covered 2,700 miles, and unloaded an overfilled pickup on Monday night.  In July Meg and Lauren, age seven, flew to Virginia to spend time with family and friends. It was a great experience for them; Lauren loved her first airplane ride.  She continues to move from being a little girl toward tween.
      Trela made a wonderful move in August by accepting a teaching position in their hometown. Her commute to work went from 20 minutes to two. She teaches ELP (Talented and Gifted) for grades K-12 and literacy for middle school. Yes, teaches her own kidlets.  Kile, eleven, has moved in to middle school and both are ELP students.  Kile has also moved from recreational to competitive soccer and Cavanaugh, eight, is trying to decide if she wants to be a veterinarian or work at Petco. Eric is currently remodeling one of his clinic to add physical therapy.  Later this month both clinics--will have chiropractic, massage therapy and physical therapy care. It’s an exciting move for them.  It’s delightful to watch his goals move into reality.
        Rick spent the year moving boxes and furniture for his children, as well as moving tractors, combines and farm equipment through the fields or on the roads. He won the election in the fall for township trustee by write in votes. (No, we didn’t campaign; it’s a “once you have the job you never get rid of it” position.) He serves on other boards as well. I have moved from “I’m gonna write a book” to “I wrote a ‘half-a-book’.” Polishing my book proposal will move me into phase two. I tried on my guest speaker shoes several times this year, adding it to my platform (resume for writers.) I hope to move from Christmas letters to a larger audience (oh wait, my family and friends list may be close to N.Y. Times best-selling numbers.) I tried to move into part time with Mona’s Originals, but December moved me back into Head Elf position. I continue to volunteer with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness); play my guitar with the church choir; along with taking Grammie duty at every opportunity.

For my loved ones, and especially those who grieve, I send hugs and love. I try to remember life doesn’t always move in the direction we envision, but I stay on the road to keep mine moving toward my final destination – a life with Christ – the reason we have this season of great joy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Refined by Fire, A Journey of Grace and Grief 
       by Mary Potter Kenyon

       I just finished reading Refined by Fire, A Journey of Grace and Grief.  I flew through the pages, barely stopping to eat, use the bathroom or even breathe.   I didn't want to stop to do the necessary things in life until I finished.
        But I almost felt guilty reading Refined by Fire.  Why guilty?  Mary’s private thoughts, pains, anger and glimpses of happiness were written in such a way I felt like I was spying on her. Was I an intruder in her home?  Was I the proverbial fly on the wall, seeing and hearing all the conversations, both those spoken aloud and those in her head?
        Mary’s book shared her path of grief after she lost her mother, her beloved husband and her grandson within a few short years.  She writes clearly about the process of joining the world of the living, slowly and painfully until she gets cut off at the knees for the second and then a third time.  I felt her heart shatter and the physical pain that comes from such a loss.
       Yes, this book has very sad things to say.  It is about death, grief and loss, but more importantly it is about hope.  I was allowed to follow along as Mary went through her stages of extreme sadness until she came to the conclusion she was strong enough to go on with life. She illustrated how she came to that place.  I felt myself rooting for her, as much as if I was at a high school football state championship game. 
       I enjoyed the quotes she included from books she read that helped her as she walked the path alone.  The sources were listed so I could go and read them for myself.  She also included her own journal entries as she waded through the muddy waters of her emotions.  Both gave me insight.
      I think this book would be helpful for anyone who grieves the loss of a loved one.  Most everyone experiences a loss during a lifetime: a parent, a spouse, a child, a grandchild or a close friend.  Mary's journey speaks to all paths of grief.

       I recommend picking up a copy, reading it for yourself, whether you are in the grieving process or not.  It is a story of one woman’s resiliency in dealing with the messiness of life.  Share it with a loved one who could use a hand up during a difficult time.  I know I plan to share this book as a gift to my friends and relatives when they experience a loss.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


A heavy sigh escaped from his mouth as Alfred settled on his left side once again and faced the room.   He glanced to his right as he shifted.  He blinked, rubbed his forehead, head jerked up and his eyes sprang open. “Did something just brush my back,” his heart and mind raced.  He sat up slightly and looked to the opposite side of the bed.  He peered through the darkness to the empty pillow and he shook his head.  “Oh, Al, you are imagining things,” he whispered and tried to relax.  The coolness of the pillow against his face reminded him he was alone.  He pulled the sheet to his chin.  He eyes closed as he remembered the few days earlier when his beloved Gracie had slipped into her life of unlimited sweets.  He could still see their children, Tony, Roger, Pat, Linda, Cindy and Vicky and the feel the sorrow as together they watched Gracie go home.  He rolled to his right side.  “There it is again,” and he commanded himself to lay still.  The pressure between his shoulder blades began to move.   Circular motions with a gentleness that reminded him of the many times Gracie’s gently rubbed his back.   “Was that a hand,” his mind questioned.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” Alfred Kremer silently scolded himself.  “You are only wishing it was real.”  But the feeling continued until he drifted off to sleep.
He slept fitfully for several hours before the warm rays of the morning sun danced on his face.  He rubbed his eyes and scratched the whiskers on his chin.  “Did last night really happen or was I dreaming,” as he struggled to look around the bedroom.  It looked exactly the same as it had the night before.  The double bed was along the north wall, a dresser, mirror, next the closet door and his trousers draped across a chair.  “It was a dream,” he muttered, disappointed as reality set in.  “I wish it was true,” as he made his way to the kitchen. “It felt so good to have my back rubbed.”  A tear slid down his cheek as he recalled the many nights Gracie had helped him relax.   Al stepped on the porch and snatched the morning paper.  The chair scratched the linoleum floor as he pulled it out and sat next to the kitchen table.   The paper rattled as he snapped it open.  His eyes scanned the headlines and followed the typed words in the columns.  He looked up.  “I have no idea what I just read.”  His mind wandered, desperate to relive the night and the feeling of having Gracie still with him.  
Al tried to stay busy, but the minutes dragged throughout the day.
 At last the hands on the clock gave him permission to retreat to the bedroom.  Al grunted slightly as he pushed himself up from his favorite chair in the front room.   He shuffled sadly through the house to the bedroom.   “I hope I can sleep tonight.”  He sandwiched himself between the sheets and darkness settled in.  A small stream from the street lamp was the sole beam of light.  Exhaustion set in and soon he was breathing softly with a steady rhythm.
A horn blare on the busy road beyond the lawn surrounding the house jarred Al out of his sleep.  Disgusted, he rolled over and tried to shut out the street noises. He had become accustomed to the continual sound of traffic.  “Why did you have to wake me – I was finally asleep,” he grumbled.  He wriggled in an effort to find the same position and as he did he glanced to the far corner of the bedroom.  A slight movement of white hovered near the angle of the room.  Startled, he sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes.  “What…” he questioned.  “What is that,” his heart thumped as he strained to adjust his eyes to the darkness.  Cloud-like wisps of white hovered in the once vacant corner.  The figure, about four feet tall, moved silently back and forth in the corner.  The thumping in his chest was the only sound.  “Are you trying to tell me something,” he said, as the figure gestured to him.  Al watched, his eyebrows raised.  He could not understand the hand motions and after some time the apparition faded away.
“Was that my Gracie,” he thought as he lay in bed, unable to slow his mind.   He counted the ceiling tiles of his bedroom.  Outside, the wind gently rocked the tree branches against the siding on the house.  The scratching sound diverted Al’s attention.  He glanced toward the window, hoping to glimpse the visitor again.  He realized he was the sole occupant and lay back with a heavy sigh.  He tugged the sheets around his chin.  Without a thought his hand slid to the pillow next to him.  As his fingers stroked the cool cotton, covering a tear slid down his face and trickled in his ear.  “What will I do without you, Gracie?”
Morning light peaked through the closed brocade drapes and Al rolled slowly to his side.  He sighed as he swung his feet out of bed and straightened upright.  His legs felt heavy, almost wooden and his arms rubbery as he pulled on the plaid flannel robe.  He shuffled to the corner of his room.  The emptiness of the corner matched his mood.  “Was I dreaming last night?  Was that real,” as he made his way to the kitchen.
He grabbed the coffee pot and filled it with cold water.  He measured the grounds carefully, replaced the lid and plugged it in.  As the smell of the fresh coffee began to fill the air, he walked to the cupboard and reached in for his favorite cup.  The routine felt good.  He had been making his own coffee each morning for the last five years.  He poured the hot, black liquid energy into his cup and sat in his favorite chair at the table.  He glanced up and seeing Gracie’s chair empty, buried his face in his hands.  Sobs of grief racked his body.  He remembered an earlier time when it was the two of them in the kitchen on the farm. 
Gracie stood beside his chair as she poured him a cup of coffee.  She set a plate of cookies in front of him.   “Al, I still tested positive,” Gracie said.  She had just returned home after her check up with the doctor following the birth of Cindy.  “I will always have to be careful what I eat.”
“I thought that diabetes was only supposed to last during the pregnancy,” he asked her.  Gracie smiled as she often did, but her eyes looked sad.  “I guess not this go ‘round,” she said softly.
Al shook his head with sadness as he remembered how quickly the illness dictated how Gracie felt each day.  Blood tests, insulin shots, forbidden foods became a daily routine in their household.  In spite of her illness she still loved to bake.  The cookie jar never ran empty while pies and cakes were ready for daily desserts.   It was a slow progression gradually overtaking her health.   Gracie handled it herself until her kidneys became compromised and she suffered the effects.  He shuddered as he recalled the first time he gave her the shot of insulin.  “I was so afraid I would hurt her,” he thought as he pictured himself with the syringe and small glass bottle of insulin.   He hands shook, but Gracie gentled talked him through it and soothed his raw nerves.     When he was finished, Gracie smiled at him with her eyes and her mouth turned up in that smile that he fell in love with years earlier. 
Al’s face softened.  Still lost in his memories he saw himself as a young man again.  His good friend, Marvin Key was sitting in his white Ford convertible.  Al could almost feel the warm summer air rushing toward him as they whizzed by the fields of corn. “Let’s go to White’s Cafe before I have to go to work.”   
“Sure, I owe you,” Al stated, “Thanks for doing my chores while I was gone.  Dad would have never milked my cow twice a day like you did.”
“No problem.  Remember when I came to help shell corn for your dad,” Marvin said.  “And how he took out his chew, stuck it on the clothesline pole on the way in for lunch, and then, and then,” Marvin laughed, “took it down and put it in his mouth again after lunch,” he could barely finish his sentence.
“Yeah,” Al snickered. “I think he did that just to get your reaction,” as he parked in front of the newspaper office.  “We can walk from here.”
The glass door swung in as the pair entered the cafĂ©.   Murmurs from the small clusters of regulars in the green booths along the walls met the two friends. Al spotted an empty spot and led the way.  Just before he slid between the cushioned seat and the chrome accented table he noticed the girls in the next booth.  He nodded to the pair as he sauntered to their table.  “Hi there,” he said.  The girls smiled warmly and he continued.  “I’m Alfred Kremer this is my friend, Marvin Key.  And who might you be?”
“I’m Gracie and this is Bonnie.” 
“Mind if we join you,” Al asked.
“Well, sit right down,” Gracie said. 
The chime of the mantel clock brought Al back to the kitchen and his loneliness was back immediately.
Al sighed, “Well, sit right down.  How many times did I hear that phrase from you, Gracie?   You were always so welcoming to everyone,” as he said as he rose from the chair.  “I’ll wash you later,” he said to the cup as he set it in the sink. The kitchen door swung shut behind him as he left the room.
Over the next few weeks this became his routine:  sleepless nights, endless days, and morning coffee alone.  He looked forward to the blackness of the night when he could feel Gracie’s presence beside him.  The shadowy white figure continued to appear.  The presence always seemed to be trying to tell him something.  “Go talk to Carol, call Frances, and get out into the world again.”  But Alfred felt paralyzed.
“A road trip, you need a road trip,” the pixie-like figure told him after several weeks of visitation in the same far corner of his bedroom.
The following morning, Al made plans.  “I’m going to travel, take a trip,” he explained to Roger and Tony during a visit.
“Where,” they both asked at the same time.
“I’m not sure. California, maybe, Arizona, I’ll let you know.  I just know I need to get away.  “I’ll be okay,” he said, noticing the look of concern on his sons’ faces.  “I’ll keep in touch, I’ll call, I promise.”
The next day Al tossed his suitcase in the trunk, slammed it shut and slid in behind the wheel.  He turned the key and the engine sputtered to life.  He backed the car out of the garage, on to Highway 150, and the trip began.  He wasn’t sure why or where he was going; he just knew this trip was necessary.  The miles on the odometer rolled over as he sped down the highway.   At last he turned into a drive, shifted the car into park and turned the key to off.  He looked up at the sign on the building.  “Monastery, here I come,” he muttered as he retrieved his brown leather bag, walked the cobblestone path and rang the bell.
 “It was good you called and made reservations,” the brown-robed friar spoke softly he led Al to his room.  As the door closed behind him Al studied the furnishing of the area he would use over the next few weeks.  A small metal cot with a thin mattress, a woolen blanket folded neatly at the foot was along the south wall.  A square window with a simple curtain looked to the garden.  A wooden chair and a tiny table were below.  The remaining wall had the hook for his clothes.  “It’s a simple room, but I won’t spend much time in here,” he thought to himself.  He knew his time would be spent in the quiet chapel with needed prayer and contemplation.  He spent several weeks at the monastery.  He felt a peace that had been eluding him since Gracie’s death.  When his time among the religious brothers ended, Al felt ready to continue his travels.  Slowly he made his way back to Independence, Iowa, visiting family in California and Arizona before returning.
He glanced at the highway sign along the road: Amarillo – 15 miles.  “I should be able to swing through there with no problem and keep on going.  I’m getting anxious to get home.”  He glanced to the eastern sky and noticed a dark, ominous cloud forming in the horizon.  “I guess I’d better keep an eye on the weather,” he reminded himself.  As he entered the city limits of Amarillo, the clouds  turned black and angry.  Spotting a small motel with a bar and grill attached, Al braked slightly and steered his sedan into the parking lot.
“Do you have a room for tonight,” Al asked the young clerk behind the desk.
“Yes, sir, we have a room with a double bed available.  Would you like that one,” the brown haired girl as she tucked a loose strand behind her ear. 
“She reminds me of my girls,” Al thought as he signed his name in the registry.  He took the key for his room and made his way to the second floor.  The suitcase felt heavy and he dropped it as he unlocked the door.  He lumbered in, dragging his luggage and collapsed on the floral bedspread.  He stared at the ceiling for a moment before his eyelids shut out the bareness of the room.
“Get up,” a voice startled Al.  He jerked, sat up and looked around the room.  “Get up.  What are you doing up here,” the voice came from the far corner of the room.  Night had fallen while Al napped and the room was dark.  He rubbed his eyes and stared in the direction of the voice.  He saw the familiar white, translucent body.  “Go downstairs.  Get something to eat,” the willowy figure continued to instruct him.  He hesitated.  “Go on, go down to the bar and order some food.  You can’t stay in here all night.”

Al obeyed, but was still bewildered as he entered the room on the lower level.  He noticed the bar with a rough wooden bar with several cowboys leaning upon it.  The door to the kitchen was just beyond.  The smell of beer and fries wafted to Al and his mouth watered.  He turned his left wrist over.  “No wonder I am feeling hungry.  It’s after eight o’clock.”  The murmur of conversation from a group seated in a booth in the far corner reached his ears and he glanced in that direction.  The smell of sawdust mingled with the earthy smell of horses. Scuffed dark planks created the dance floor just beyond the tables.  Several couples swayed to the music drifting from the jukebox, the boots scraped the floor and the blue jeans moved in synchronized movements.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The rest of the story...

     After last Sunday scripture readings at church, and the homily that followed, I felt the need to write a few things about the talk I gave, “Life is like a patchwork quilt.”
     When I accepted the invitation to speak to the group I didn't listen carefully.  Note to self: pay careful attention when requests are made.  Anyway, later I found out what I had gotten myself into – speaking at the annual banquet. People paid money to come!  It shook me to my core.  But I had already said yes, and I needed to move forward.  So I did the natural thing for me – I prayed.  I asked God to send me the thoughts he wanted me to think, the words he wanted me to speak and the courage to make it happen.
     As I worked in my shop during the weeks leading up to the date, I continued to talk to God.  As my hands were busy slipping hoops on my embroidery machines, folding embroidered garments and packing boxes, I kept the electronics off.  My mind and heart were left open and I prayed my way through each day.
     Ideas began to form on the lessons I have learned from life.  I sent out a message to the recipients of my quilt-making for the last twenty-five years and waited for their response.  Two days before the talk, I had my hands on some of the quilts, but I was gone the entire next day.  That left Monday morning to write the words I was going to say in eight hours.
     Soon baby quilts adorned every piece of furniture in my front room. Paper and pencil in hand, I repeated my prayers for thoughts, and words.  I turned slowly and studied each of them. The scraps of color, the pattern created and experiences of my life created cacophony of meditations.  My pencil scribbled to record the words pouring into my mind.  Five minutes later I took my notes, typed, edited and pondered, “Life is like a patchwork quilt.”  I finished it around 2:30, printed it out, cleaned the sweat off, dressed, and went to the hall to set up my talk.
     Even though I was so nervous I couldn't eat any of the delicious lasagna meal served that evening, I stood with confidence to talk about life lessons I had learned.  I felt assured; the talk was given to me as fast I as could write.  The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and soul that morning enlightening my thoughts.

    Thank you, Holy Spirit, for filling me with the words to deliver your message to the ladies gathered that evening.

After this original post, it came to me that I should have given a link for the readings that Sunday as well as the homily posted online.

Homily:  click on Homilies (middle column) and on the date May 25:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Two word sentences

Each month I try to attend a writer group.  We catch up on news, have creative writing assignments and practice drills.  I look forward to it each month and am sad to miss it.  And yes, for those who know me well, I tend to talk lots.  After all, I am an EXTROVERT.
Anyway.  Today's warm up exercise was to write  using only two sentence words.  It was a fun and interesting challenge, one that made us use every word wisely. We had a few minutes.  I hope you can visualize what I am doing.

Fabric chosen.
Machine oiled.
Iron heated. 
Scissors sharpened. 
Strips Cut.  
Blocks sewn.  
Squares pressed.  
Rows assembled.  
Layers pinned.  
Needle threaded.  
Stitches secured.  
Bed covered.  
Joy shared.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Life is like a patchwork quilt

Recently I was invited to speak at a the St. Athanasius Catholic Daughters of America annual banquet.  My subject was, Life is like a patchwork quilt.  This is my talk, along photographs of the quilts used during my talk.  Since it was about a 20 minute talk, more or less, I will do it in parts.

One of many baby quilts I have made using scraps from other projects.
Life is like a patchwork quilt.

Thank you for asking me to come and speak with you tonight on “Life is like a patchwork quilt.”  When Marsha asked me to come, I questioned, “Are you sure?  Aren’t you getting tired of seeing my face and hearing my voice.  This will be the fourth time I have spoken to your group,” but I hesitantly agreed.  When I told my husband Rick about it, he remarked, “Well, duh, don’t you get it? They want you to join the Catholic Daughters; they’ll keep asking you to speak until you join.”  Keep in mind this comes from the guy who also says, “If I die first, I want you to have me cremated.  Take my ashes and sprinkle them in JoAnn Fabrics. Then at least I know you will come and visit me.” 
But, in speaking with Father Willgenbush recently at your out of hibernation gathering, he commented, “That’s during Holy Week,” and I concluded, “you CDA ladies wanted one last big dose of penance to send you into Easter.”  
In preparing for visiting with you about quilts, I did a bit of research:
Does anyone know the origin of the word quilt?

The term "quilt" comes from the Latin word, culcita (CULCEETA) meaning a stuffed sack.  The word has come to have 2 meanings. It is used as noun, meaning the 3-layer stitched bed covering. It is also used as a verb, meaning the act of stitching through the 3 layers to hold them together. 
So basically a quilt is a cloth sandwich.  It has a top, which is usually the decorated part, a back, and with a filler in the middle. We generally think of 3 different types (1) the plain or whole cloth quilt, (2) applique quilts, and (3) pieced or patchwork quilts.  

My preference is to make patchwork quilts and tonight I will mostly talk about them.
 I also put a question on my face book page to my fellow quilting friends.  I asked them, “How long have you been quilting and why do you quilt?”  Some of the responses to my unofficial survey:
“I sew for gifts and to make memories for my kids and grandchildren…”
 I quilt because I love giving the best gift you can give to someone! Handmade awesomeness with love!
I made my first quilt in 1969 when I was a student here at St. Athanasius.  We were assigned a group project for American history class.  Three classmates and I decided to make a quilt, depicting a continuous craft in our country’s history.   Early quilts were just a way of using every precious scrap they had.  Blankets were patched, used as filler between worn clothing reused and pieced together for blankets.  They were intended to be used for warmth.  In later years the manufacturing of fabric and clothing freed women to have the time to sew artistic quilts.  From 1750-1870 thousands were pieced, many were very elaborate taking years to make.  Some have survived and are preserved.
My first quilt at age 14
Well, this quilt is NOT one of them.  If you look carefully at the workmanship, it is apparent this was a first for us.  But we did it, we learned, and most important, to us at the time, we got an A.
I didn’t attempt quilting again for many years.  But I never lost the interest in fabric, needles and thread.

 There are a couple of sayings about sewing; maybe some of you have heard them:
“My soul is fed with needle and thread.”
“When I learned to sew, I forgot how to clean.”
“Stitching forever, housework whenever.”
For those of you who know me, do you think these fit?  My favorite is, “geniuses are rarely tidy.”  I see some of you nodding on that one - you must have been in my house or shop, I’m sure what you are nodding about is NOT the word genius.  And I would agree with you on that.  You see, I don’t think I am an expert on quilting or even on stitching.  Look at my first quilt  - and my first project in High School Home Ec class received a dismal “C minus.”  But I have been blessed to have that “dog with a bone” tenacity and a love of learning and have spent most of my life seeking a better way to do things.  I include stitching and quilting in those passions.
I should tell you a bit about myself.  I am the daughter of Jerry and Rita Kies, and I grew up on a farm outside of Jesup with 8 brothers and two sisters.  My maternal grandmother, Tillie Kremer, a member of this organization in days gone by, was a professional seamstress and the ancestors on my dad’s side were accomplished seamstresses as well.  So I like to tell people I inherited the love of sewing.  I married my husband, Rick Rottinghaus, here at St. A., in 1975 and together we raised four children, Eric, Dean, Kathy and Adam.  A special gift each of them received at birth was a quilt made by my great Aunt Mary. 
Quilts by Aunt Mary Winkel
She loved to sew rags together with her treadle sewing machine and have them woven into rugs.  People gave her their cast off materials and worn out clothes.  When she happened upon pieces worthy of a quilt she set those aside and created those treasured blankets for all of her loved ones.  As I reflected on her gifts to my children, I thought about the love she illustrated for us all.  For not only did she pump that pedal with her arthritic legs to sew those quilts, she chose things others often discard to craft items that became her legacy.  Aunt Mary looked at people the same way she viewed rag rugs or quilts.  All are valued, including people living on the fringes of society.  Her house was home to piles of fabrics waiting to be stitched into a gift of love, along with many people down on their luck who needed a place to stay.  She used her large two story home as a boarding house for folks who needed a hand up as opposed to a hand out.  What a wonderful way to live a life and something to strive to attain. 
When Aunt Mary passed away in 1989, she left behind boxes of fabric and had given away too many baby blanket/quilts to count.  It was then I decided to learn to quilt.  I wanted to continue her tradition of welcoming each new life in our family with a quilt made just for them.  
I wish I had taken a picture of each quilt I made from the time I started until today, but I never thought about at the time. It’s probably for the best - I would have to stop and count, but let’s just say I could show you a slide show that would be so long your eyes would cross and you’d leave here having Holy Week penance checked off your list.
I do remember one of the first ones was hand quilted.  That didn’t last long, okay, I only did it once.  I switched to a machine technique, stitch in the ditch, which means to follow a seam, placing stitches in the center.  The stitches fall into the “ditch” and are hidden.   Now I use a method called stippling to secure the top, batting and bottom together.  I lower the feed dogs on my sewing machine, either Bernie or Sew-n-Sew, and working at a fairly rapid speed I move the fabric on the machine bed.  .  Oh, are you wondering who Bernie and Sew-n-Sew are?  Did I forget to tell you I name all my machines?  The two mentioned: Bernie, (Bernina), Sew-n-Sew (an industrial machine that stitches about 4 x the speed of Bernie b/c I’m always in a hurry).   I named all my machines because some days I only have them for conversation, AND they never sass me back.    Anyway, I move the fabric freely and lay down stitches that move across the quilt in a random, flowing movement, taking care they don’t overlap.   This is also referred to as free motion quilting.   This method suits me the best because it mirrors the way I try to live my life: moving freely from one project to the next, trying not to overlap them.  Long arm quilting is another method used, many hire this done.
Tufted quilt
Back to the history of quilts for a bit: Earlier I shared the definition and that the word quilt is used as both a noun and a verb, referring quilt to the art of stitching the three layers together.  A variation is a "tufted" quilt that is tied through in enough places to keep the filling from shifting and bunching. While a tufted quilt has no stitching holding the layers together, it does have the typical 3 layers seen in traditional quilts.   We have some samples on display of quilts made by a former member of CDA, Agnes Mangrich and her daughters.   Early quilts were used as bed covering for warmth, and to cover doors and windows to keep out the cold.   By the early 1900's
quilting was transforming from a necessary art into a creative one.
During the Depression, people simply did not have the money to buy blankets so once again women relied on their own skills and resources to keep their families warm.  "Use it up, wear it out, make it due, or do without” was common practice for life and many used feed sacks for fabric.
Made by my Great Grandma Wester using feed sacks
I have a sample of one, made my paternal Great Grandma Wester.   She used the Dresden plate pattern, popular at that time.  She appliqued the pieces of feed sack fabric on muslin and quilted it, all by hand.   As you may guess, I treasure this piece of my great grandmother and her legacy.  My Great Aunt Mary, who inspired me to sew quilts, was her daughter. 

50th Anniversary Quilt for my parents
This large quilt is one our family made and gave to my parents for their 50thwedding anniversary.  As you can see, each family member decorated their own square.  Once we accomplished this we pooled our scrap fabrics; each family added to the mix.  My sister, Audry, cut squares and constructed the top.  I would like to note that she took care so each piece is different.  If there are two alike it only happened because two of us gave her identical scraps.   May I ask a question and no, you don’t need to answer this, “How many of us have looked at another person and sighed, “I wish I had her/his talent?”

Romans, chapter 12, verse 6 tells us:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

50th Wedding Anniversary Quilt - no two squares are the same
So please direct your thoughts to the variety of fabrics used – no two are alike.  Could I take out one piece and have the same treasure?  It would be incomplete, just as I like to think about people.  Each one of us is unique and the gift given to us by our Creator is important.  Not one is more important than the other, and without one, humanity would be incomplete.  I challenge each of us to recognize our own gift, thank God for it and then use it to the best of our ability. 
For 1 Corinthians 12 states:
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
When the top was complete our family gathered together as on one from my mother to the young nieces.  We learned how to hand quilt together and built community as we stitched.  It was reminiscent of an old fashioned quilting bee and we created a wonderful memory together.  Isn’t that we do as a church community:  gather together, learn new lessons and create some awesome memories.  
Next I’d like to talk about some of quilts I have made as gifts over the years.

Kile's Quilt
Old McDonald Had a Farm
Cavanaugh's Quilt
These first four are the ones for my grandchildren.  When our first, Kile, was born I decided to sew a theme quilt, using the pattern, Grandma’s Attic Window, selecting farm fabric and the song ‘Old McDonald’ as applique and motifs.  For the first two grands, Eric’s children, Kile and Cavanaugh, I managed to accomplish that.  

Garrett's Quilt
But when our third grand, our son, Dean’s first born, came along someone purchased a matching nursery set for him.  I needed to switch gears. I researched the internet and found fabric to match the purchased items.  I used that as a basis for my design, still using the Grandma’s Attic Window pattern.  My daughter-in-law, Meg said it matched the nursery perfectly. J
Lauren's - Variation of Nine Patch
But when Grand #4 Lauren, Dean’s second came along, I needed to adapt.  You see, Dean’s first born, Garrett returned to our Creator unexpectedly at the age of 5 months and 27 days.  In an effort to lessen their pain, I used a completely different pattern, but some of the same fabrics.  To me this says: life changes.  What works in one situation will not necessarily work in every one that comes our way.  And so, I must be open to change and adapt.

Joel's Quilt
James's Quilt
The next quilts were gifts to great nieces and nephews.  As I construct quilts I try to use fabric left from other projects and match the colors to the flannel backing. .  I want to draw your attention to Joel’s first.  If you look carefully you will find three pieces of blue fabric that don’t quite match the rest.  I ran out and found something similar.  I point this out because I thought - Life is not perfect and that’s okay, I must just do the best I can with what I have been given.  Many quilters add an odd piece in every quilt to illustrate this.

Josie's Quilt
These two quilts belong to James and Josephine.  I used the same pattern for each but look how different they look.  I talked about talents a bit ago and I think this illustrates another point about them.  Many people share similar talents, but each individual brings a different dimension to our world by being themselves.  Just as different fabrics changed the look of these quilts, so can a fresh outlook change our perspective when different people work together using their unique gifts.

Always Kiss Frogs 2
Always Kiss Frogs 1
These next few, the two frog quilts belonging to Mia and Rachel, and no they aren’t identical – I never make two exactly the same.  

Zachary's Quilt
Zachary,James and Josephine’s were made using the same pattern.  They look so different because of my decision to sew the strips in a different order.  I also added an additional row on some and I’m sure you can see the size change.  I talk about this because it gave me another perspective on our world -  we sometimes define our path in life by the choices we make.  One small change can direct our journey on to a totally new fork in the road. 

No Pattern Quilt
Sammy's Quilt
Sammie’s monkey quilt was made using no pattern.  I knew his room was to be decorated in monkeys and I had some scraps that fit that theme.  So I did a technique called fussy cutting and cut my first pieces using only the monkey faces.  I then created the quilt using those 4 rectangles, cutting and fitting pieces as I went.  For me this reminds me once again - sometimes my world has no consistency.  I have to look at what I have been given that day and piece things together to work.  Romans 8:28 tells us “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

9 Patch and Rail Fence Pattern Combined
This blue/white baby quilt I brought along tonight is for my great niece Lilliana, or Lily as we call her.  I did several using two patterns.  Why?  My life was pretty hectic and I just didn’t have time to do a more complicated design.  Lately I have been hearing speakers or readings that tell us our world is too busy and we should: “ simplify our life.”  This quilt is an example of a very simple pattern.  This square is a 9 patch. It was first used in the early 19th century and, because it is easy to learn, was often the first quilting square mothers taught their young daughters.  Once it is mastered there are hundreds of variations of the 9 patch.  I chose this for simplicity and paired it with another simple pattern, the rail fence, constructed by stitching three identical strips together to form a block. By combining the two I was able to make it a bit more interesting.  This is one of my latest quilts, it was very quick to stitch together, and it does represent my life – I am working at living a simpler lifestyle.  I slowed down as a business woman and am trying to concentrate more on what is really important, my faith, my family and people around me.  I am exploring new horizons and discovering exciting things I enjoy.  In choosing simplicity, my pleasures in life have expanded.

When we look at some quilts we may think – I could never do that, it is too complicated.  Life situations can make us feel like that sometimes.  We’ve all experienced a problem that seemed bigger than we could handle.  I like to use this pinwheel quilt to illustrate that idea.  All these little triangles may look problematical. So does life sometimes. During a very difficult time in my life from late 2004 through 2006 our family struggled with three major things, mental illness, cancer and the loss of our grandson.  There were days I felt overwhelmed and didn’t think I could get through the day.  I had to quit looking ahead to see how our situation was going to end.  Instead I focused on one day at a time, or one hour, and some days it was one minute at a time. I couldn’t look at the big picture.  Instead, it worked better for me to break it into smaller sections and figure out a way to make things work.  

 So it is with this pattern. Let’s break it down into smaller bites:  I took two pieces of fabric, placing them right sides together, sort of like my situation and my attitude toward it.  I used this paper template, to me it represents my faith, and pinned the three together.  I stitched on the dotted lines – that represents the path for me that Jesus laid out for us as a way to live life.  After stitching, I cut on the solid lines using wonderful tools, a rotary cutter, rule and board (a quilter’s best friends.)  The cutting of the solid lines to me is like when I cut away the way things that I have held on to too tightly.  Some of those things are not important to my spiritual growth and I needed to slice them out of my life.   A press from a hot iron and my challenge has been reduced to a manageable procedure.  So must we, press toward the prize of eternal life. Finally, I stitched the squares together to form the pattern, just as I must use prayer as a tool to hold everything together.   

As I studied this pattern it also reminds me of times in my life.  Look with me at the dynamics of this pattern.  It is has only three fabrics, one light, the lavender, one dark, the navy/lavender print and white.
Ecc.  3:4 tells us,   4 A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.  This quilt illustrates to me this verse.  Everyone has difficulties in life, the hard times, the dark times, a time for tears: the navy print.   But we all have good times, too.  Times when life just rolls along smoothly and all is good, times of light:  a time for laughter: the lavender fabric.    Imagine if I had used only lavender prints or only navy prints?  It would not be as striking, would it?   We need the valleys and the mountaintop experiences for life to be harmonious.  If I had one without the other, neither would be as meaningful.  And the white fabric? – God.  Without a relationship with God my life would not stay together.  I have to stay connected with God at all times, just as the white fabric connects the squares and completes this quilt.  As my figurine states: God Mends Broken Hearts.

The last quilt I wish to talk about is one, given to Rick and I from my sister, Audry, as a gift for our 30th wedding anniversary.  Each square represents a part of our family and our life together.  But to me it represents much more.  In 1993, Audry was in a serious auto accident that left her with a permanent head injury.  She was no longer able to work at her teaching job, but her reaction to this is an inspiration to me.  After her long recovery, she had to choose a new path for herself.  She looked at what abilities she still had and concentrated on those, as opposed to the things she had lost.  This quilt was made by her, along with countless other quilts and sewing projects, since her accident.  She exemplifies to me the saying common in a quilter’s world: “When life hands you scraps, make a quilt.”

Backside of a quilt
As we leave here tonight I would like to leave these final thoughts:  Life REALLY IS like a patchwork quilt.  I shared with you many quilt tops.  Lastly I wish to show a quilt back.  It sure doesn’t look as pretty does it?  It’s jagged, ragged and messy.  When we see life here on earth, this is the side we see.  Often times it doesn’t make sense; we can’t see understand why this is happening.  We are only looking at our life, our quilt, from the underside.

One day, when we meet our creator, we will be able to look at the quilt from God’s view.  With this new angle I believe we will be able to it’s beauty.  Our life, our quilt will be finished.  It will be at that time the veil will be lifted.  We will understand the reasons our blocks were constructed in the manner they were, that without one of the pieces our quilt, our life, would have been incomplete.   Each quilt block will assure us:  We are each valued, we all are unique in our gifts and talents, sometimes we choose our own path by our choices; that we will have times of light and times of darkness; sometimes we fray around the edges, but with prayer we can bind it all together.  And may all of us rest in the knowledge that our quilt WILL be beautiful and irreplaceable in God’s kingdom. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Eat to live or live to eat?

When we were first married, almost thirty-nine years ago, I could eat anything I desired.  Or at least I thought I could.  And I did.  Sweets, whenever something looked good, any kind of meat or main dish, vegetables and fruits were among the favorite, but long story short - I loved to eat!  And I got by with it.  My metabolism allowed me to do that and most of my adult life I was kind of skinny. Or maybe it was because I was always chasing after four small children, running a household, helping run our farming operation, gardening, sewing, blah, blah, blah.  At any rate, ate I did.  I remember Rick once commented to me, "You live to eat and I eat to live."

Fast forward to today, "I eat to live."  Life has taught me that.  I have become a royal pain to feed.  In fact last weekend I was on a retreat and took most of my own food, just so the cooks wouldn't have to deal with me and my fussy body.  Why?

At the age of twenty-three I began having trouble with dizziness, extremely shakiness, trouble with a feeling of light headed a couple of hours after a meal.  I was a young mother with a toddler and a newborn.  During a routine check up for my children I mentioned it to the doctor, who became more concerned about me than my children.  A glucose tolerance test was ordered.  Long story short - I fasted and then drank a high glucose (sugary) drink.  I remember it tasted like Coca-Cola.  Each hour for five hours my blood was drawn to see what happened.  I don't remember what hour it happened, but while in the waiting room I could feel myself melting into the chair.  A nurse took me to an exam room and I passed out.  Seems, that was the wrong thing to do.  My blood sugar had dropped dangerously low (39) and I guess the doctor wasn't very happy with her.  Anyway, I received a diagnosis of Hypoglycemia (http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/tc/hypoglycemia-low-blood-sugar-topic-overview) and my days of eating sweets were over.  Guess my body doesn't like sugar.  I basically began eating as a diabetic eats, concentrating on frequent small meals as opposed to a few large meals/day, eating protein at each meal to help my body utilize the carbohydrates I consume.  For over thirty years this has worked with a few tweaks along the way.  I hope to avoid the diagnosis of diabetes that so many of my ancestors received.

As long as I can remember I have gotten head aches.  I didn't mention it to anyone for a long time.  I just thought everyone had them.  I remember in high school my head hurt so bad on an overnight with my friend that I kept turning my pillow over to find a cool side.  The coolness gave me some relief, but still I didn't tell her.  I kept my head on the pillow and at one point  fell asleep - while she was talking.  It was many years before I shared with her why, and I think she has finally forgiven me.   In my thirties I discovered the cause of my migraines - food triggered them.  Through a series of experiments I discovered what caused my head to feel like it was exploding.  Biggest offender:  chocolate; next in line: eggs, followed closely by chicken (where does a chicken come from?), turkey, basically anything with feathers; and final blow: red wine and alcohol.  I zeroed in on these five things by removing them completely from my diet for six weeks and then eating it.  I recorded my reaction.  Yup, a migraine soon followed.  I repeated this several times to be sure it wasn't a fluke.  It wasn't.  I began to read all food labels.  I was just ahead of the curve on that one.

Then at  forty-eight I  learned I had Macular Degeneration,http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/ an inherited eye disease that is one of leading causes of blindness in elderly.  My father was almost completely blind because of this when he died.  Being the geek that I am, I researched it and learned the best foods to eat to help with this.  I now have a daily intake of blueberries, spinach or kale or romaine lettuce.  A couple of years later I learned I have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the beginnings of Osteoporosis http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/default.htm?names-dropdown= ( all those years of being a skinny, white, female...)

As a result of learning what my body needs and why, my eating habits are dictated by a desire to be healthy and to feel well.  My typical breakfast is:  
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup rolled oats (not cooked)
3/4 cup blueberries**
1/4 cup strawberries**
1 tsp flax seed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
.5 ounces chopped walnuts (I toast mine and store in refrigerator)
**Thaw fruit if frozen or use fresh when available.

And coffee, I drink coffee mostly because I love it and it is an indulgence I hope I never have to give up.

As a result of research, all my soups meals include kale, I eat a salad most days, using Romaine lettuce or spinach or both, adding sprinkles of cheese and bacon bits and some type of protein.  After all life is short, eat bacon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chemo-Therapist How Cancer Saved a Marriage by Mary Potter Kenyon

Chemo-Therapist How Cancer Saved a Marriage
                   by Mary Potter Kenyon

 “While we had developed an extraordinary relationship, we had never been extraordinary people.  We were just two flawed humans who eventually discovered what it was to put the other first.”  Mary Potter Kenyon.

Most of us go through life thinking we are nothing special, we are not extraordinary people.   This book helps remind us all that we are all special in the eyes of those who love us.  Mary’s voice rings true throughout her entire journey.  This is an honest, touching journey of one woman’s revelation on what it means to truly love your spouse.  A must read for everyone who wants to improve their relationship with the person you have chosen to spend a lifetime.  It is sometimes painful to be with Mary and David as they discover the bond that allowed them to fall in love, but was forgotten with the daily grind and pressures of everyday life.  Mary invites us along on her passage as she allows us to enter her mindset, her thoughts, her actions, and her pain.  I felt like I was the proverbial “fly on the wall” as I witnessed the scenes unfold before me.  My heart ached as Mary took me to her secret places in her mind and soul.

Yes, this story is about cancer.  And if you are looking for a heartwarming story of a couple’s journey through oral cancer this book is for you.  This story helps the reader understand answers questions and gives a glimpse into what can be expected.  At times I blushed as I read intimate details of her thoughts and actions.  Mary tells it like it really happened, the good, the bad, the ugly and not, but not least, the joy.  I was changed by absorbing her words.

Each chapter begins with a quote that was obviously and carefully chosen to reflect the lesson learned during that time.  It left me something to ponder.

Once I picked up this book and entered into the life of Mary and David Kenyon, I had a hard time putting it down.  I recommend reading Chemo-Therapist and walking with a couple as they travel down a road that was chosen for them by life.  We all have those paths and how we react can either make us bitter or make us better.  The choice is ours and ours alone.  Mary chose to become better.

Thank you, Mary Potter Kenyon, for your honest look at this very personal time in your life. I feel honored to learn from your experiences.