Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Notes on Grief

There are certain things I will never write about on my blog. For example, I'd never write about my students, never say negative things about my clients, and never complain or talk bad about my family or friends. I'm not saying I'll never talk about politics, but it's pretty unlikely. This is primary a blog about quilting, and I want this space to be about that.

A blog is also a public space, and my real name is attached to this one. I wouldn't want careless words that I would say to friends to get around and hurt people, or have potential employers read my blog one day and say "no thanks" because of what I've written.

I also think a lot about the tone of the blog. I want it to be upbeat and interesting to read, but, in many ways, it also serves as a diary, or journal of sorts. I occasionally like to read back through the whole thing and see the little things about my life I've forgotten. I cringe at some of the stuff I've written, but it's a nice record of what I was thinking and feeling at the time, even if I don't love what I wrote now.

It is sometimes the darker things that I struggle with knowing how to talk or write about. It's different than the sort of black and white world of "what is appropriate to blog about" and "what is inappropriate to blog about". Now, I've never, ever read a heartfelt blog post from someone and felt that it was inappropriate. Writings that come from a place of sadness and pain are very real, and sometimes also very raw. It is sometimes difficult for me to judge what I should or shouldn't write about in terms of personal grief.

I mention this, because this morning my grandmother on my mother's side passed away. I've been thinking a lot about what to say about it. I want to record this experience in some way, and I've run through a lot of scenarios of what to say, and have struggled with finding a balance of emotionalism, and eliminating needless back story. In strange way, it's helped to run through what I want to tell people about this experience, and to think about how I would parse it for an audience.

My grandmother was always well dressed, and was sharp as a tack.

My grandmother was 97 years old. This is, in so many ways, not at all unexpected. She had congestive heart failure, and my aunts and cousins tell me that she wasn't in any pain when she passed. She was unresponsive after the heart attack, and they took her back to the nursing home so she could pass in her own bed, which she did.

She and I weren't particularly close. She lived in Iowa for most of my life, and I saw her maybe once a year.  She outlived two of her five children, and is survived by eight grandchildren, and countless great-grandchildren. She wasn't the kind of grandmother that made you milk and cookies and asked you about your love life. She wasn't known for being a particularly kind woman.

This doesn't mean she didn't care. Through prudent financial planning, and some incredibly lucky stock picks, she (and my grandfather who passed away when I was very young) set up all her grandchildren with the financial means to pay for a college education. She used to go on a world cruise every year, and every Christmas would send us exotic gifts like worry dolls from Chile, paint sets from Hong Kong, and wind-up knock off watches from Singapore. She saw the whole world, including the North and South Poles. She was a breast cancer survivor. She liked liver and onions, and terrible reality TV, right to the end.

My cousins in Iowa let us know on Sunday that she had the heart attack, and my aunt called me this morning to let me know that Grandma had finally passed. I'm surprised at how sad I am, considering her age, and our general lack of contact. Please don't misunderstand, I loved my grandmother, but I thought those things would make it easier somehow.

I should know by know that death is never easy, no matter how prepared you are for it. I feel like a lot of this grief I'm feeling now is mixed in with the underlying sadness I feel for my own mother's death, even though it was almost seven years ago now. It's complicated. I'm, as my friend Jennifer would say, having a lot of feelings.

I was going to try and keep this post a little more upbeat, but I guess it didn't quite turn out that way.

When I was a kid and my grandmother would come to visit, we would always buy Cracklin' OatBran and prunes for her to have for breakfast. We'd never get those things other times, so they are very linked to my grandmother in my mind. She also loved ice cream, but never ate it because she was lactose intolerant. So last night I went to Fred Meyer and got those things for her.

 As you can see, Fritz was very interested in these things when I was taking the picture. I had this idea that maybe he was responding to my grief, that he was one of those pets that understood when their owner was upset and responded accordingly.

It turns out that what he was responding to was the roast chicken I had bought for dinner.

I felt a little silly once I figured that out. Fritz is the kind of cat that can miss what he's jumping for even when it's two feet away, and will purr when I cut all his nails. I love him, be he's not the brightest cat. He wasn't thinking so much about me, but rather some chicken.

I fed Fritz chicken for the rest of the night, and curled up to watch RuPaul's Drag Race.

I hope wherever grandma is, she's watching it too. I think she might have liked it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dinner Party Weekend

If you didn't already know, I grew up on a vineyard. (Just to clarify, a vineyard is different than a winery. Wineries make wine, vineyards grow grapes. Many wineries have vineyards attached, but the terms aren't interchangeable. Our vineyard was grapes only.)

Not a bad view eh?
 My parents were friends with all sorts of wine folk, and they would have dinner parties almost every month. Sometimes that meant me and my brother had a babysitter, but sometimes the whole group would come to our house.

My mom and dad would get me a movie and stick me in their bedroom. I used to sneak out into the hallway and watch as my parents and their friends drank bottles of wine, and ate tons of food. There was always abundant laughter.

I always assumed that when I "Grew Up", that I would have dinner parties like that. In fact, when I moved into where I am living now, I bought a big table assuming that now that I was "Grown Up", that I would start having dinner parties just like my parents did.

That didn't really happen. I use that big table mainly for sewing, and I'm thankful that I have that space, even though it's not what I originally intended to do with it.

I mention all of this because it was my friend Chris's birthday this weekend, and we all went to his house for a New Orlean's style potluck. The food was amazing, there were baked beans, fried fish, cornbread, gumbo, mac and cheese and many more good things.

I realized that although I may not be having the dinner parties of my parent's day, I was having the same sort of social experience, just in a different form, which made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

I don't remember my parents using paper plates, but I do remember them washing a lot of dishes!

Leslie made an awesome multi-color cake. 

This is the second picture of Leslie and cake I've had this year.
All and all, it was a fun birthday party.

No birthday is complete without beer and Light Bright.

 It was Chris's 21st birthday, so here he is celebrating the very first taste of alcohol he's ever had in his life. At least, that's what I'm going to assume.

I'd be more excited about the fruit garnish than the drink, but that's just me.
This weekend I also got my Project Modern quilt basted, and have been having mixed feelings about it ever since. I've gotten to a point in the project where I can't really look at it objectively anymore. I was lucky that my friend Jennifer came over to help me baste it, and she offered that critical eye on the placement of the arrows that I really needed.

I'm not sure what the rules are on help with the quilt, but I'm assuming a little help with the basting is okay. It's nice to have that extra pair of hands when laying out and taping down the quilt.

Jennifer and I put in the safety pins, and then I came back and closed them with the Kwik Klip, which honestly made everything so much easier on my hands. It was a good purchase.

I basted the quilt in the meeting room at my building, and got this "in process" shot of Jennifer. I was teasing her that I would just claim it was me in the photo so no one would know that she helped me baste it, but she wasn't to pleased with that. Then we tried to come up with reasons that she would be in that pose that wasn't basting, and she suggested that I say that she was overcome with the beauty of the quilt that she sat quietly weeping beside it.

And honestly, I wasn't there, so I can't prove that isn't what happened.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Well, well, well. Look at you!
Yesterday, I set up my new computer and am now officially working from home. I'm so excited. I think this will be one of those things that really changes my day to day life. It's been a little bumpy setting up the computer, and some of the changes I've had to make are very nerdy, like deleting screen fonts so I can run my own, but it makes me feel somewhat professional. Which I need, because I'm wearing my pajamas right now.

I've always wanted to be the kind of blogger that posted regularly with funny and engaging content, and now that I'm at home more, I'm hoping to work on the "regularly" part. Someday I'll get to the "funny and engaging" part. We'll see how it goes. Work is ramping up with the most intense project of the year, so I'll be tied up for a little while.

I've been gaining momentum on my Project Modern quilt, and last weekend's all day sewing event sponsored by the guild really helped. I've said it before, but I really love that I can go the guild and know that somebody there will know something about what I'm doing, and can offer advice or commiseration.

I also like that this photo was taken during a 20 minute conversation about where to eat the best sandwiches in Portland.

I've been working with someone who is doing a class project about the guild, and she very kindly gave me a gift certificate to Fabric Depot for my help.

I used it to buy notions that I always want, but never end up buying. Usually when I'm at Fabric Depot or Joann's, I'm buying fabric or thread, or something else that I need, and by the time I get to the notions I never quite want to spend the money on them. I'm pretty happy to get these things with Bonus Monies, rather than real monies.

Shangela from RuPaul's Drag race approves my choices.
I ended up with a ruler rack, a bobbin saver (goodbye plastic bag!) and a Kwik Klip. I'm hoping the Kwik Klip will make it easier to pin baste. Basting methods can be a topic of debate, but I think it really comes down to personal preference. I'm pretty over spray basting. I don't have the space for it, and I always mess it up. I'm hoping that this new tool will make pin basting a little easier on my fingers!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flat Tire

On Friday, I was driving to Cherri's studio for a sewing night, and drove over a pothole. Seconds later, I heard a whooshing sound, and the car started to drive a little funny. I had a sinking feeling that I had gotten a flat tire.

I was right.
This isn't the first flat tire I've ever gotten. The first time I didn't even realize what was happening until multiple cars on the freeway were honking and waving at me. That time a nice older couple pulled over and helped me change the tire.

This time I was on my own. I called my dad (1-800-DAD-HELP) to see if I could change the tire myself, even though I'd never done it before. He shot me down and told me to call for roadside assistance.

(Incidentally, my dad came up with a competing hotline to my 1-800-DAD-HELP, comprised of father-type figures that could help you out, called 1-800-ASK-A-DAD. This is why you should never let anyone know your business ideas.)

I waited in my car for Les Schwab, and graded papers for my class.

Les Schwab came and brought me some new giant tires so I could just drive over anything, and not worry about a flat ever again.

Just kidding! The guy just put on my spare, and didn't even say anything about my filthy car.

While we were working on payment, I looked across the street and saw that there was a tire store. I could have just pulled in there, and had the whole thing taken care of. OH WELL! That's how it goes sometimes. It would have been a better story if I had pulled in there. Then all of my flat tires could have been immediately taken care of by the kindness of the universe. In any case, the tire was fixed and I made it to sewing night.

So close!
Later on in the weekend, I went to a party for my friend Leslie, whom I met at camp when we were but fresh faced fifteen year-olds. She has a very cool twitter, called Preschool Gems. She's been tweeting all the interesting things that the kids at her daycare say, and the whole thing has been very successful. So successful in fact, that she got a book deal!

I'm so happy for her. On Saturday she had a party to celebrate, and a good time was had by all.

When you get a book deal, you have to cut cake for everyone.
Chris is working the camera. He is great at "smizing"
It's was nice to spend the evening with some of my favorite people, and eat pizza. Can't lose!

One of these people is aware of the camera.
When I was thinking about writing this post, it occurred to me that I should include some quilting stuff. I've been working on a quilt for the Project Modern monochromatic challenge, so I don't want to show it until that's over. Which will be soon! I'm not even sure if I'll finish it in time, but I've been enjoying the process.

I did get some fabric the other day though. Exciting fabric even, not just solids!

My Project Modern quilt is under that towel. Not to hide it, but rather to protect it from Fritz.
I've been sitting on a Cool Cottons gift card, and I finally used it. All of these Kaffe Fasset shot cottons were sitting in the fat quarter basket like they where waiting for me. It's a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm excited to work with them. I've already got a quilt in mind.

When I went to get the camera to take a picture of them, this happened.

What charming morning faces!