Friday, August 30, 2013

Quilting, Or How to Overcome a Crushing Sense of Inadequacy

In the summer, I usually do some kind of home improvement. This summer it was supposed to be my kitchen floors, but that didn’t happen. Grr. 

But now it’s almost autumn, and in the fall I usually try and another kind of project—something creative and useful.  So I decided to make a quilt, one I could use in my office when I write. I wanted to use a tattered wool blanket that I love as batting. (It’s tattered because I ripped it in my sleep. Don’t ask how. I don’t know. But sometimes when I’m asleep I grab hold of the bedding and tear it.) Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about making the quilt. I’ve made quilts before. Although it was years ago, when my twenty-year olds were babies. But quilting is quilting. Right?

An idea formed in my head and I Googled. Big mistake. Quilting has gone from a by-gone era curiosity to an art form. Quilts range from gorgeous colors and stitches with movement and gravitas to playful, even humorous whimsies.

File:Hawaiian Applique Quilt 2.jpg
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia

File:Quilt, 'Log Cabin' Pattern, 'Pineapple' variation LACMA M.86.134.18.jpg

For a moment, I had the crushing sense of inadequacy. I don’t have the time or the ability to even attempt these creations. But then, I reminded myself that I don’t have to. A quilt, at its base, is a functional piece. It’s warmth and love in fabric and stitches. And I can do that. So stay tuned. I’ll post updates. First on my list, coupons. Nothing is happens until I can take some great coupons to the fabric store.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Five Benefits of an Office

Last week was swamped. My daughter Ariel moved out. And after we settled her in her apartment, I turned her bedroom into my office. Yeah, I know, I probably should have waited a week or two so it didn't seem like I was eager for her to move out.

The truth is that I’m really excited that she’s moving to the next phase of her life…and hey, I’ve never had an office before. The most I’ve ever had is a writing nook, a section of kitchen counter and a chair. Don’t get me wrong, it was great. It taught me to focus. You can really get a lot done when you learn to tune out the “Mom, we have nothing to eat.”

But having an office is awesome. Here are the top five benefits.

1. No distractions. The microwave isn’t running. I can’t see a pile of dishes that need to be washed. And did I mention that no one is complaining that we have nothing to eat.

2. A couch of my very own. What can I say? I lounge when I write, and I don’t have to nudge hairy teenage legs off my space.

3. Room for papers. There’s nothing as frustrating as editing when you can’t leave your stuff out for fear of getting food spilled on it. Or worse, having your pages knocked on the floor and only when you pick them up do you realize that none of the 250 pages have been numbered.

4. A bathroom. Ariel’s bedroom has an attached bathroom, which she zealously guarded from the boys. Now I see why. I love my boys, but now I don’t have to bang on the door and say, “Hurry up—we have to leave in five minutes and I haven’t done my hair or put on makeup.”

5. Security. No bored child decides to hack my computer password and insert random phrases in my novels. No longer will I snort coffee through my nose when I’m editing and read, “Mark put on a skirt and did the conga” or “Mark was so hungry he ate dirt, twigs, and pond scum—hey, mom, could you buy some good snack food?” On the other hand, I won’t find “I love you, Mom!” insert into my texts either. Hmm. Maybe I should have waited on the office.

Here's a photo.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ugly Pigs

Today I’m packing. Not for myself. My daughter is moving. She’s starting a PhD program at Emory University in math. Yes, math. (For those of you who are math people, she hopes to do her work in either complex analysis or graph theory. For non-math people, it’s theoretical math.) For those of you who know me—yes, I’m quite sure I must’ve brought the wrong baby home from the hospital.

In any case, it’s a lot of work packing up twenty-one years of your life. Mostly lots of papers and memories for her to sort. And some for me too. As she packs, she leaves things on my dresser that she thinks I might like to keep. A fan from a wedding that we attended long ago. A blouse that I haven’t been able to find for years (we sometimes wear each other’s clothes and shoes). And an address book. But she's not leaving it for me for the addresses. She's leaving it for me because of the pictures--photos of pigs. Ariel loves pigs, especially ugly pigs. And I promised her years ago that when she moved away, I’d cut the pigs out of the address book and make them into cards to send to her. (Even though I think the pigs are hideous--like something out of a nightmare.)

She made sure I knew which pig card she wanted first. It’s the homeliest, mottled pig—even its mother would think it was ugly. But I’ll be cutting it out and making it into a card. And she’ll know how much I miss her.

Okay, if I squint and use my imagination, this pig could almost be cute. 

Is this not the ugliest pig you have ever seen? Soon it will be card number one.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Best of Vacation

 1. Food

Besides roast beef and pork loin, we had Afghani goat curry one night and Palestinian food another night. Yum!

2. The Beach
Onslow Beach, North Carolina

However, I did discover that 80 minute sunscreen did not last for the four hours I was in the water. So I’m grateful for aloe and zinc oxide. And, FYI, The Marine Corps has the nicest beaches in the country.

3. Highway 40. It is a gorgeous drive, which winds through the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains. No traffic, beautifully green, and meets the Interstate 75 in Knoxville so we can have dinner with our son on the way home. (Luke is now a grad student at UTK.)

File:Blue Ridge Mountains-27527-1.jpg
This photo is from Wikimedia because I couldn't find my camera (grumble) as we were driving through.

4. Rest

I’m just hoping that our dog Jezebel doesn’t read my blog—she’ll be so jealous. Cal never lets Jez nap on his chest.

5.  Friends
Photo: Helen doing Connie Keller's hair. Future stylist?
Photo courtesy of Rebekah Duke.

What can I say—I love two year olds. And Helen did a great job of doing my hair.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Comedy of Errors

Here are pictures from The Comedy of Errors. If you ever have a chance to see the play, do it. It is absolutely hilarious.

Matt and I in the green room.

Two sets of twins --only Shakespeare can make you suspend disbelief about two sets of identical twins
being separated at birth.

Antipholus and Adriana

Matt hamming it up.

The bearer of bad news.

Monday, August 5, 2013


We are going on vacation soon, which means I needed to find homes for all our creatures. The dog is easy. She goes to a farm/kennel owned by a former policeman who thinks that Labs are the greatest animal alive. Lots of police departments use Labs as canine officers, so he treats Jezebel as his side kick. Jez actually gets giddy when she sees the farm. Hmm. She could at least pretend to miss us.

So one creature down, four to go. The guinea pigs were easy. (I thought they’d hard.) I did point out to the family taking the gps that they’re dumb. As in poop in their igloo/house dumb.

Three down. For the hamster, I asked a family with young children. The mom was nervous. Her kids really like animals, and she was afraid that it might be too much for the hamster. I reassured her. “If the hamster dies, it’s not your fault. He’s lived way past his normal life expectancy.” He’s the Methuselah of hamsters.

Of course, that left Ralph our self-mutilating parakeet. I hate to ask anyone to watch him because, well, he’s gross to look at with his naked breast. (We still haven’t been able to break him of the habit. I wonder if it’s some kind of dementia thing because he’s long past his life expectancy too.) In any case, my mom is willing to babysit Ralph. Which proves the self-sacrificing nature of motherhood—when my mother was a girl she went to San Juan Capistrano with her family to watch the swallows. And then, one tried to nest in her hair. And they couldn’t get it out.  Yep, it was a real-life version of The Birds. Except with swallows.

File:Barn Swallow Juvenile (4352445726).jpg
This swallow looks innocent but beneath that serene face beats the heart of a frightener of children.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Princess and Her Pillow

 Last night, I turned out the lights and crawled into bed. And discovered that one of my pillows was missing. I turned to my husband Calvin, a notorious pillow thief who sleeps with as many pillows as he can get his hands on. “Hey, you have one of my pillows.” He mumbled, “Sorry,” and tossed me a pillow. But it wasn’t my pillow.

The problem was that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep using his pillow. It is a loathsome marshmallow-like puffball. But I felt bad about asking for my pillow because I always had the nice pillows and he had the icky ones. But I really wouldn’t be able to sleep without the perfect pillow that molded to my head whose feathers could be arranged for exact support. So I said, “Uh, could I have my pillow. This one is yours.” And then I discovered that my husband likes his pillows and thinks that my pillow is a heinous lump like mashed potatoes.

So I’m going to stop feeling guilty about having the good pillows.

These look way too poofy.