Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Perfection is overrated.

I have been blogging for a few years now, but of late, I haven't been blogging much.

Instead, I have allowed frustrations to take over and make blogging feel like something I couldn't enjoy.  This weekend, I decided I was done with that, so forgive me if I get a little wordy.  I'll try to keep it brief. :)

First, I have a way of letting things get in the way.  You know, that big thing called perfection?  Yeah, it's my all-time frenemy, and we have this love-hate thing going on.  I remember this book I had as a child called Euphonia and the Flood, and the whole story was about one simple lesson:  if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well.  I didn't really put much thought into it as a kid, but after I entered the wonderful world of adulthood, that phrase has kind of been my yardstick, no matter how important or inconsequential the task at hand.

And that's a good thing.  We should always strive to be better in what we do.  There is a fine line, however, in trying to do something well, and trying to achieve perfection.  My husband constantly reminds me that I should not let perfect get in the way of good.  He's constantly reminding me because it is something that consistently prevents me from setting good goals and accomplishing good things.

Like my new website.

Yes, I've got a new website.  I've had it since, oh, I'm not sure, maybe the beginning of the year?  The technology of the thing has been kicking my butt, though.

That's where I've been falling down.  Instead of using the tools at my disposal until I can move over there (say, this blog right here!), I've been fretting over how I can't get this other tool up and running.  I have been stuck.

I hate being stuck.

This weekend, to get past this roadblock, I went out and about with the man and took some photos for a new blog post on this old website that works just fine thankyouverymuch.  I decided that while I don't like that the new website is not operational yet (no, it's not live, I have to get some more stuff in place before I can do that), I can grin and bear it.  Especially when I have so many things to celebrate.

So without further ado, let me share a couple of accomplishments from last week with you.

Gigantic Hedgehogs!  This is for a little boy who I will meet soon.  Pattern by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson!  I kind of hate that shadow on the right half of the quilt.  Must be more observant when I take photos next time!

I used various neutrals for the four backgrounds.  I'll be making another one of these very soon for a little girl I know!
I quilted this on the long arm - a FMQ meandering square for the backgrounds, and an elongated swirl/loop for the hedgehogs themselves.
A string quilt.  I used so many scraps, but I can't even tell when I look in the scrap bins! (I actually made at least four quilt tops, all from scraps.  So why oh why can't I see the difference??)  This quilt will be one for Happy Chemo if the dimensions are right.  If you haven't joined up and you are a quilter, consider becoming a part of the H2H quilt roundup over at Sarah's blog.  She's got a couple of US-based charities, and one from Canada for all our friends north of the border.
I used a swirl/hooked swirl to quilt this one.  Practicing on the long arm, using some patterns by Angela Walters.  I can highly recommend her quilting books.  They are very straight-forward and they read just the way she talks on her YouTube videos.  She just might be a hero of mine.
And here you can see a bit more of the quilting.  This is one of many quilt tops that I made before I had my long arm machine installed - I knew I wanted to spend quite a bit of time practicing before I started offering quilting services to others. :)  I still have a few tops left to quilt, but I also have a couple more finished quilts to show at another time.  It's been raining and icky here (boo!) and I don't want to take my quilts outside just yet.

 And that about sums it up.  I've made some other things since then, but I'll post about them later.  Who knows, maybe I'll get some quality time with my favorite IT guy this weekend and he'll help me work on my new website.  But for now, I'm not going to let that stop me from moving forward.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lots of Work, Little Time

Hi All!  I hope the world at large has been treating you well.

I have been busy.  Very, very busy ...

Right before Christmas, I had a long arm machine installed.  I'd been saving all year to buy one and finally found the right machine for me.  That may be a separate post at a future date.  For now, I want to focus on something near and dear to my heart.

Each year for the past three years, I have participated in an online charity event hosted by Sarah of Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  She organizes us quilters (which can be like herding cats!!) into a giving machine like a pro.  She lines up all the sponsors - because yes, there are gifts and giveaways - and works with the charities themselves to make it a worthwhile venture for all involved.  Sarah has done this for five years, I think, but if you want to know more, you can look here.

For me, personally, this is a big deal.  One of the repeat charities this year is Happy Chemo, which offers cancer patients support in a bunch of ways.  I have made no secret of my own personal journey down the cancer path, and I always look for opportunities to give back to the community that offered me so much support.

Quilters are wonderful, and they care.  They want to wrap everyone up in a special quilty hug, and I am fortunate to have three (!!!)  quilty hugs that I received from my quilting friends around the world.  I still get a little teary-eyed when I see each of those quilts.  The quilts themselves are a gift of home and hearth, but what the quilts represent ... friends, I can't tell you how much it means to someone facing the daunting task of sitting in a chemo chair.  Treatment is not a picnic, even for the most upbeat people.  It helps to know that you have a whole community of friends and supporters there, lifting you up.  That's what my quilts offered me, and that's why I am always happy to pay it forward.

Now I realize that everyone reading this may not be a quilter.  That's okay.  You could support Sarah's church's quilt ministry through a donation of money or quilting goods, or if that doesn't suit you, make a donation to your own favorite charity.

But if you are a quilter, and if you are looking for something to motivate you, head over to Sarah's blog and sign up.  Nothing is quite so fulfilling than sharing a quilt with someone who needs a reminder that we're here and we care.  And if you need a new pattern or a little inspiration, Sarah has made a few quilts over the past few weeks, all with sixteen patches.  It's amazing the different ways we can use one block to create several different quilts!

I am off to load  a quilt on the long arm ... one charity quilt just needs a binding, but the other is yet to be put together.  I'll probably sneak outside today for a bit of the sunshine that I see peeking in my window.  I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but Nashville has been wet or icy for the past few weeks and I'm itching to get a few plants in the ground.

I don't have time to look for photos today (sorry!), so I thought I'd share this video I made of my "younger" dog, Paulie.  Sometimes I have to entertain myself ... always a dangerous proposition, and especially since I found Yakit!


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Paying It Forward Keeps Me Sane

Today I'm in a bad mood.  I messed up and put the wrong address into my phone first thing this morning and ended up missing a vet's appointment for both my dogs, and then I had to go to the post office and stand in line.  A LONG line.  Because one woman was a moron and couldn't be bothered to actually read the questions that she was answering on her passport application, so the postal clerk had to go over every. single. question. with. her.  She was obviously well-educated and doing okay financially based on her pattern of speech, number of excuses she made for herself, and type of clothes she was wearing.  It made it very hard for me to feel any sympathy for her as she made an ass of herself repeatedly, as we all got to hear the questions that she'd answered wrong the first time around.

Now I'm trying to remind myself that the world at large isn't such a great place, and that while I was inconvenienced, I was standing in an air conditioned room to mail a funny card to my father-in-law for Father's Day (another thing that put me in a bad mood:  I had to be the one in line when it wasn't my card to send, but that's a different story).  Besides, I had a full belly from a great lunch at one of my favorite cafes, and I got to spend time with mah man (said in my best southern belle accent) in a peaceful garden located on Vandy's campus.  And did I mention that I'm cancer-free?  Yeah, I know.  I've got a lot to be grateful for.

Miranda has become my assistant.  I volunteered her. ;) For all of these pictures, we went to a park across from Vanderbilt's main campus, where there is this awesome sea dragon covered in tile mosaics.  I call this quilt Happy Skies.
Despite all that good fortune, I'm still kind of grumpy, so I'm going to talk about a topic that I hope will help boost my brain's production of endorphins and put a smile back on my face.  I should have written this post last week, but things were busy and I didn't get to it.

Happy Skies, close up.  These are blocks made for me via various quilt bees on flickr.
Many of you may know Sarah over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and how she organizes the Hands to Help charity event every year.  H2H continues to grow each year, with more participants and donations each time.  This year, Sarah chose three charities that were collecting quilts.

Close up of one of the Happy Skies blocks.  This color scheme is one of my favorites!
One of these, Happy Chemo!, is near and dear to my heart, so I made two quilts for them and mailed them off on Monday.  Although I was not a recipient of a quilt through this charity when I was going through chemo, I can definitely see the benefits.  I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to undergo chemo at Vanderbilt, where they have two different infusion facilities for patient convenience along with the luxury of private rooms so I could always bring someone with me to offer moral support.

This is my take on the Marcelle Medallion quilt.  I loved making this quilt, and will probably make another for myself - it was a little hard to let this one go.
Although I had a lot going for me, sadly that's not the case for everyone undergoing treatment.  Lots of places still have the communal chemo room, where patients have the "pleasure" of sharing the company of a bunch of strangers who are also getting infusions.  Not exactly ideal when the medicine you're taking makes you feel like leftover dog poo.

Marcelle Medallion center block.  Since I love paper-piecing, I altered the pattern so that I could PP this block and some of the borders.  Don't you love the Liberty prints used in that star? Yum!
And that's where Happy Chemo! comes in.  Amongst other things, the founder, Ginger Johnson, collects donated quilts and passes them out to folks who might need a little special love.  I hope that the two quilts I donated will make someone's day a little brighter.  It's amazing the amount of loving kindness that you can receive from strangers when you need it most.

The last two borders were a lot of fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed making the plus border, and who can resist pink flamingos??
I experienced it first hand.  I have my very own quilt from all my quilting flickr friends hanging right here beside my computer so I can see it constantly, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Marcelle Medallion, all rolled up and ready to go to a new home.  If you are dealing with cancer, and need a little love, don't hesitate to click on the link above for Happy Chemo!
So here's me, trying to share a little of that love in my own effort to pay it forward to some of my brothers and sisters undergoing cancer treatment.  Can you tell that I had fun taking photos?  :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is There Life on Mars? (David Bowie style)

I might be the world's worst blogger.

Or maybe not - maybe, just maybe, someone else out there is even more incapable of creating a routine and staying on top of it.

But I doubt it.  I wish I could say that blogging is the only area of my life that's like that, but it seems to be a systemic flaw.

Good thing I've got other attributes worthy of sharing. :)

See?  I told you have other attributes.  One is the ability to wear silly hats and laugh at myself.

Today was the last day of my part-time, seasonal job, and I have to say, it felt good to turn in my equipment.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy what I do most of the time.  Still, it's nice to have some breathing room to finish all that stuff on the never-ending to-do list.

The only problem?

I'm terrible at life when there is no structure to guide me through the days.  And nights.  You don't really want to know how off my sleep schedule gets with pretty alarming regularity.  Sometimes it's demoralizing.

That's not what I wanted to write about today, though.

Do you suppose this practice finger is for picking your nose?  Or scratching your bum?  We had quite a laugh at this when  we saw it!

Today, I wanted to focus on where I am health-wise.  It's been a few months since my last health post, and I've had a lot to happen since then.  My heart's in great shape, my skin is doing well, and I finally feel like I can get out and do pretty much whatever I want, including gardening.

My "foobs" are doing quite well.  Yep, my fake boobs out of stomach fat are holding up quite nicely, thank you very much.  Even have new fake nips.  I never thought I'd opt for such a thing, but all things considered, I'm glad I did.  They make the foobs look astonishingly real, if you can get past all the scars.
My older niece.  I took this photo when I went to visit my sister a while back.  I do love hats.

Speaking of the scars, though, brings me to the only thing that I feel like I'm still working on.  I have areas where my scars did a bit of over healing, and it's my job to rub rub rub those areas so that they learn to lie flat.  Or release.  Or whatever.  I measure my success in inches (as in, how many inches of the scar across my stomach do I still need to work on?), and I don't think this work-in-progress is going to be finished any time soon. Luckily, though, I saw the dermatologist last week (BRCA2 folks are more susceptible to skin cancer), and she told me that for a reasonable fee, they could do light pulsing and make the scars fade quite a bit - I think this also works for softening them up.  If anyone knows, drop me a line.  :)

Oh, and I have one area in my right foob where the fat has necrotized.  Nothing unusual, and not dangerous or painful (anymore) in any way, but I have to massage it to get it to soften up, too.

My younger niece.  She's a bit squeamish, but was pretty intrigued by all my scars ... until she saw the one around my belly button.  The plastic surgeon had to cut around it, and then pull it back up and stitch it back in place after he completed my DIEP flap reconstruction.  To her, that ring of stitches was more than she could bear.  

Before you get too excited and start humming I Touch Myself by the DiVinyls, though, you should probably consider that this is sort of high up on my chest.  Remember back in school how that one annoying kid could make farting noises by putting his hand in his armpit and working that arm up and down?  That's kind of what I look like when I'm working on getting that fat to soften back up.

Did I mention that this hard ball of fat is a direct result of the radiation I had in that area?  I try to remind myself that radiation may eventually save my life, and that I'll never even know it if it does its job.  But it's easy for me to have buyer's regret about opting for that particular treatment.  Not like I haven't mentioned this before, so I'll just leave it at that.

Basically, I'm mostly back to normal.  Still have a weak stomach.  Most of the tightness in my right arm/chest area is gone, but at least one tendon in that area is still pretty wound up.  Good thing I've got a glob of dead fat in that area to rub - rubbing helps that tendon, too.  I may never need to wear a bra again, except when doing stuff that can get the lymphedema going.  All things considered, I'm in a good place physically.

Mentally ... there are so many things I could say about my mental health.  I could opt for humor and say that my sanity is every bit as good as its ever been (which I happen to believe is true).  Or I could give you one of about fifty slices of truth.  I had cancer and I survived.  Not everyone gets to say those two things in the same sentence, and I am very aware of that.  Of course, I still fill conflicted about my vocational life and it stresses me out occasionally.  Despite that, I know I've got it pretty good.
My older niece, who is going to stay with us for the summer.  She came down for spring break and we visited one of the local parks here ... Centennial Park, which is the home of the Parthenon.  Not THE Parthenon, but a replica.  It's a fun way to spend the day.

On the other hand, I'll never be the same me that I was before my diagnosis.  I suppose there is both good and bad in that.  Most days, I focus on the good - in fact, most days, being positive is just a routine.  Every now and again, something happens to knock me back a bit, but those days are rare.

I'll stop here for today because I've got stuff to do.  Tomorrow I'm going to the AQS quilt show in Paducah with some friends (YAY!) and I'm meeting up with an old friend from school.  Or maybe I should say a young friend from way back - he and I are the same age, after all.

The Loveless Cafe is a tourist destination for visitors to Nashville.  Last week I had the chance to go - for the first time - because a friend was in from Pennsylvania.  The biscuits were just like the ones my Granny used to make!

Enjoy the rest of your week.  I know I plan to!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


I have resisted using this blog for my quilting adventures, other than mentioning one or two items that I felt blog-worthy ... but that is about to change.

I've got someone helping me with a new look (actually customized instead of one of the generic templates!) and I have a big announcement that I will be making soon.  For now, though, I will start heading in this new direction with a few photos of quilty goodness.  Enjoy!

Mini pin cushion for mamacjt.  Love that she asked for rainbow colors and something small!

Mugrug for my hubby.  He's a major Whovian, so I was glad to join up with the Dr. Who-a-long on flickr.
Mini quilt for my partner in the Doll Quilt Swap at flickr.  I've participated a few times, but this was one of my favorites! (Sorry for the blurry photo ... that's what happens when I try to Instagram something instead of taking a real photo.)

I started this mini quilt for swap, but it got no love from my partner.  Instead of sending it to her, I put it aside and finished it up later to give to a friend from my Gilda's Club quilting group.
This little mini was for the Little Quilt - Sew, Vote, Swap group on flickr.  I stepped outside my comfort zone and made something unusual for me after coming across an inspiration piece online.  If you see the similarities between this and a piece at an online quilt shop, PLEASE let me know so I can give credit to the original creator/creation.  I've searched fruitlessly and been unable to relocate it.

And last but not least, a couple of bee blocks for March.  I was about two weeks late getting these out.  That's what moving during the busy season at work will get you!  I love the pattern chosen by the queen bee, and her fabric colors were so darling!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where It's At (I Got Two Turntables and a Microphone)

I wrote this post last year when I found out one of my friends from high school had died.  I didn't have the heart to post it then, but today was her birthday.  Happy birthday, Gwen, we're still thinking of you.

Yesterday a friend died.  I hang out at a place for people who have been touched by cancer, so I know how inevitable death is.  Sometimes I even expect it.  It's hard to watch someone suffer a brain tumor - someone who was a way cool dad of two young children and a pretty wife.  But I know that's the price I pay for hanging out with folks like me.

But the death of this friend was unexpected.  And maybe that's why it felt like such a punch in the gut.

Her death sent me down that philosophical path that we all travel as we hit middle age and come face to face with our own mortality.  I've had my fair share of that little tete-a-tete over the past year and a half, but once you're past the initial stage where you actually have to consider that you might be the next one to kick the bucket, you sort of forget about it and go on with life.

I'm sad.  

There's really no other way to describe it, this feeling of knowing that I'll never see this high school friend's witty comments on Facebook again.  Or that we'll ever get to share that lunch that never happened.  We both had good intentions, but we got caught up in living.  She lost her job and her house, and had to move back home with her folks.  I found out I had cancer and turned all of my attention to surviving (with grace) each of the steps I had to take until I found my new normal.  The jury's still out on what that will be, but I know now that it will not include us laughing and sharing.

She and I weren't close friends in high school.  We only had a couple of classes together, and our lives were very different.  I wasn't jealous of her, but compared to my boring and uneventful existence, she seemed to be . . . in the thick of things, where stuff happened.  I was fascinated by the stories she told because they were dramatic, exciting - full of action.

We didn't stay in touch.  But then the internet happened, and Facebook gave us the chance to reconnect.  After the bubble of the high school social scene was burst, it seemed crazy how many things we had in common.  

We were both teachers, had gone to graduate school to get our MAEd.  She loved her pets and her students, and maybe I'm the same way.  We both felt like the social dynamics of high school, and all that THAT loaded statement implies, made us the adults that we became.

It seems like when mortality raises its ugly head and announces that we are all fragile beings that I just want to ask:  what was the point of her death at such a young age?

The reality is, there wasn't one.  Death is neither good nor bad, it just is.  As sure as you are living, you know you will die.  It happens to us all in the end.  But we see death as the enemy for what it takes from us, and sometimes, if we're lucky, we get to see what a friend's life can really mean to us before death happens.

I'm glad that this friend and I got to spend time together with late night chats in the middle of summer break.  I only wish we'd gotten to do it more often. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Over the past couple of years, I feel like my career has taken a real beating.  I admit there are days when I enjoy my time on my own to the fullest, but it's hard for my ego when I realize that I have basically become a babysitter to two dogs.  I'm not on sitting on the couch eating bonbons and watching soap operas all day long, but it feels like my sole purpose sometimes is to keep them from barking at every little noise they hear.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mutts.

But, I had a career in my old life (a successful one, I might add, with room for promotion), and I was somebody.  People depended on me, I made important decisions, I scheduled vacations.  And that was before I decided to go back to school to get my MA and be a high school teacher.  Don't even get me started on how important that was to me.

Right before moving to Nashville, I was finally doing what I'd hoped to do from the moment I went into teaching:  I was teaching college classes.  Granted, I was adjunct faculty and worked part time, but I really had the best of two worlds.  My students were still in high school and they were earning dual credit through their high school and through the university.  They were motivated to do good work (not necessarily the case with most high school      college students), they had good attendance, and they wanted to learn.  It was a beautiful thing.

I had planned to work on my PhD eventually - see, I'd gone back and gotten my second MA in history at the local university because quite frankly, that is what is expected of teachers if they want to continue to get raises.  I didn't exactly go back to school just to please the people who pull the strings in the education field, but it was supposed to be a side effect if I decided to stay in secondary education.


This is where life comes in.

My husband makes the bigger income in this household.  It hasn't always been this way, but I have no issues with this.  I am not one of those folks who gets worked up about who might be the more important person in our relationship based on money.  That's just not my style.

But it does determine where we live, because we made that decision a while back.

So what?

Well, that means that I only applied to one PhD program, one right here in Nashville.  I knew it wasn't a good fit for me and that it was pretty much a long shot from the get-go, and as I expected, I didn't get in.  Now, there is a PhD program here in Tennessee that would be a good fit, but I just don't think I have it in me to commute or live away from home.  I've had enough of commuting to last a lifetime, and I got over being separated from my husband for the 7 months he was here in Nashville and I was still in Kentucky.  So I haven't bothered to jump through all the hoops that are necessary to apply to that program, even though I think I would really really enjoy it.

As it turns out, me being off work/free of school obligations was probably the best thing for me since my part-time job became going to the doctor, sitting through chemo infusions, and recovering from surgery (it took me a long time to get to a good place physically after my mastectomy).

Unfortunately, it's not like I could cram everything into a few months and be done - treatment takes time, even when things are going your way.  I remember when I had my first meeting with my surgeon and my oncologist, they explained how my treatment plan should go.  They basically laid out that I had a year of working on my health, but that by the end I should be able to come back around to a more normal way of life.

That was mostly true.  Only they left out the part where I would have to wait a year before reconstruction and then I would need down time to recover from that.  Yesterday I was filling out an online application, and it hit me how much time I've really lost, as I filled in dates for when I completed this degree, left that job, and so on.  It was depressing.

Anyway, here I am now, thinking of what I'm going to do when school starts back.  I miss being in the classroom, and I've paid my fee to the devil (otherwise known as ETS) so that I am certified to teach here in Tennessee.

But I know how this field works.  There aren't going to be a lot of jobs available right now, and schools want to hire people they know.  I suspect that if I want to ever teach full time in this area, I'm going to be subbing for a year, at the very least.  Do you know how very little that pays and how much crap you have to put up with when doing this thankless job?

I do -- I did it for a couple of years before I got my first full-time teaching job.  So for now, I'm just unsure it's worth it.  The education industry (and yes, it is an industry, make no mistake about it) is not the best field for people who really care about teaching right now anyway.  It's ruled by small minded leaders who have one concern - getting reelected.  Not exactly a great formula for getting kids the education that can make their lives better.

I guess that leaves me right back where I started when I finished graduate school.  Do I bite the bullet and apply for a PhD program that would be a lot of work, a fair amount of money, and not a lot of great prospects for job employment?  Or do I sub for a year and hope I make friends with the right people in some local school administration?

Or do I do something radical and consider a serious career change?  There is a high demand for nurses in this area, and that's only going to get greater in the next few years.  I know that moving to a field like that would mean even more time in school, but it would probably be less $$ than a PhD program, and I would have much better career prospects.  Added to that, in future I might be able to teach nursing after a few years of experience.  I keep hearing all kinds of news stories about how there is an even bigger shortage of people to teach nursing classes than there is of nurses themselves.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  I'm very nervous about going back to teaching school with all the BS that I hear in the news about education right now.  I don't think we're going to figure out the problems in this country's education system anytime soon, and I got tired of feeling beat up by administrative decisions when I was in the classroom.  I'd love to hear from anyone who's been there, done that, or who has had an epiphany in the world of careers.