Saturday, August 28, 2010

Piecing It Together

Life hands us many things, every minute of every day.  It can be a short line for morning coffee. A smile and a greeting from people in our lives. Some one cutting us off in traffic. A job promotion. Having to work overtime. Car breaking down. A beautiful sunny day at the beach with friends.  The purring of your kitty as you drift off to sleep. It's a lot of little pieces that get sewn together to make up our lives.  Pieces we plan for and they have the perfect place.  Pieces that come out the blue to surprise us, and sometimes we don't know what to do with them.  They all have to be worked in some how. As our lives progress, we have a quilt of all the pieces.  Some are more colorful than others.  Some pieces are darker.  Some pieces may look a bit thread worn or faded.  They all make up are life.  I like the parts of my life's quilt that are sewn together with the surprises I've been handed and mixed with the pieces I've carefully planned out.
With all this talk of piecing together a quilt, comes this week's project.  A sweet little baby quilt for the daughter of a good friend of mine.  The baby's pending arrival in their lives, is just one of those wonderful surprises that life has to offer be worked into our quilt, and it sometimes changes the pattern we were working on in the most amazing ways.  Babies human or other wise are a blessing with the many lessons and challenges they bring with them.  It is by wish for my friend's daughter, that she will relish the coming days and years, as she grows along with her new son.
This quilt has a history in the fabric.  The backing was made from a flannel piece I had from the 1970's.  One of the cottons has kittens printed on it (of course), was given to my by my Country Granny and she got it in the 40's.  I've had a large piece of this fabric and have made other baby quilts with it.  The other two fabrics are modern and represent the stars and the uniquiness of movement in their prints.
It also needs to be noted, I don't quilt.  This is pieced fabrics, tying the elements together.
All this piecing together, set me thinking and thus the quilt metaphor for this post.
13 years ago this month, I was encouraged and supported by the friend who is soon to be a Granny herself, to really look at my life and how I was really wasting (or mis-placing) my talents.  She encouraged me to start working on a different pattern on my quilt, and feel I've been creating a really vibrant quilt these past 13 years.
The gift of a quilt for her new grandbaby, seemed right.
How would you describe your life's quilt?  Are you happy with the current pattern you are piece together or is it time for a change. Perhaps a Crazy Quilt is in order?

Until next week...create to feel great!
46 complete!  6 to go!  Man oh Man! 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well Behaved Women Never Make History or Inspire Me

As a kid, I had the opportunity to spend time with two amazing women, one I called Grandma and the other I called Granny.  These women never met each other. One lived in the Northwest and the other lived in rural Ohio.  Both were women who really lived their lives, and by the time I met them, they were slowing down a bit, but still were enjoying the last of their summer wine, as they say.  Grandma taught me my love of cooking, she was a chef, but never got recognized in her time, as being a chef was a man's job.  Granny taught me to love baseball, fishing and how to knit.  Both tried to teach me how to make bread and home brewed beer.
They were born at the turn of the last century, in a time when women got married, raised kids and took care of the home.  Both of them did this, but both being restless creative women, they did more. They were Flappers, Business Owners, Granny raced horses, Grandma lived in Hollywood and tried her hand at breaking into the movies, their stories were endless.
Granny was a tole painter, and a really fine artist.  She was my Dad's aunt, but raised him as a kid, along with her own daughter. I never met my Dad's mom.  I thought it was Granny, and really that was okay.   I was a restless creative kid, and most times, very unhappy at home.  I was always threatening to run away.   The best my Mom could offer me was a trip across country to Granny's farm in Ohio.  I actually loved that farm. It wasn't big, it was enough for Granny to raise food for her to eat, chickens for eggs and some other animals.  There was a pond that had Blue Gils swimming in it.  I remember getting up very early in the morning to go fishing, and bringing them back for a breakfast fry.  There were Cincinnati Reds baseball games on the TV and radio everyday.  Occasionally we would drive to Cincinnati to see the Reds play.  For baseball historians, it was the era of the "Big Red Machine."  I got to see Pete Rose as his best.  The days were long and seem to never end, yet my time there was usually three week or less.  Granny knew how to live like a Queen on a very limited budget, because as she would say. "Life is never about things money can buy. It's about using that what God gives us each day."
Being with her was like being with a great spiritual master.  One who drank home brew, smoked two packs a day and cussed when The Reds lost, but still there was a spiritual master quality about her.
Back in the Northwest, we often lived with my Grandma or next door to her. I had the opportunity to cook next to her.  Grandma was sort like a combination of Gordon Ramsey and Edward G. Robinson with a dash of Paula Deen tossed in on her good days. She was rough and ready. An amazing story teller. She dyed her bobbed hair jet black (she claimed it was natural) and wore Chinese style silk PJs, even for cooking and gardening.  She taught me not to take shit from anybody and to stand up for who I am.
Both women had uniquely loud joy filled laughs. Sometimes I see each one of these amazing courageous women, reflected in my personality. I see them more and more in me as I age. I'm grateful for having spent time in the company of these unconventional women.
This was impossible to photograph
This brings me to today and this week's project.  I'm lucky to coach/mentor some amazing young adults.  Two of them are young men, who are on their way to creating amazing lives.  I'm glad they are in my life.  Oddly, enough they had expressed an interest in eating healthy, learning to cook good food and save money.  Mr.D. was in town this summer and we spend some time focusing on cooking lessons.  Mr. B. and I had some sessions around saving money, how to shop, how to eat healthy.  An idea came to me to compile a small is book with helpful hints and simple to cook meals.  Thus, Mrs. Remington's Easy Peasy Meals For Young Men was born.  I wrote it in the vein of the old Edwardian cookbooks.  Lots for talk, tons of advice, and my own touch of straight forwardness. I wanted the book small and found a cool photo book to bound the pages in.  The guys can clean the pages if they need to.  There might be a volume two and one for young women, as once I started writing, I realized I have so much to say on this subject.  So, many ways I feel I can assist them.  For now, it's time to have them start with volume one.
I think this project pays homage to Grandma and Granny.  It's my hope that Mr. D and Mr. B will find value in the book and it will help them build confidence in an area of their lives.  Lastly, I feel it is a legacy of sorts.  Using my creativity,knowledge and love to create the book was such an easy and positive experience.
Are there some people in your past that have contributed to who you are, given you the gift of who they are, that you would like to pass along to others?  How will you do it?  What will your legacy look like?

Until next week...create to feel great!
45 weeks complete!  7 to go!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Stuff That Stuff Is Made Of

I love boxes and bags. Really doesn't matter what sort of box or bag it is, of course the cuter or fancier or clever all the better.  I design handbags and have tons of bag patterns and ideas.  I also have patterns and ideas for making cute boxes. I'm not alone here.  I've met several women with the same interest.  Boxes and bags help me store stuff or carry stuff and if the box or bag is cute or clever, then I'm storing and stuffing in a cute and clever way.
Last week I was shopping at Grocery Outlet store.  In their cheese display, they had Cracker Barrel Brand Cheese for a great price.  I like the taste of this cheese, and the price was super good for two pounds.  The real deal was that the cheese came packaged in a wooden box with a slide lid.  My heart danced and jumped.  How cool is this I kept asking myself as I slid the lid back and forth.  I purchased two bricks of cheese, with their oh so cool boxes, and went home a happy girl.  I really didn't know what I'd do with these oh so cool boxes, I just knew they screamed "creative project!"
Later in the week, I was at Home Depot.  I passed a shelf with miss mixed paint. (I love that shelf.)  For a $1.00 there was a small can of this great color paint.  I thought of my boxes at home.  I knew this paint and those boxes were meant to be together.
As I was painting coat after coat of paint on these boxes, I kept thinking. "What in the world am I going to use these boxes for?"  I thought of all the bags and boxes I have in my life right now.  Many of them are stuffed to the brim with stuff.  (It's time for a major clearing at my house, but that's another time and challenge.)  Also, as I was painting I thought of my mother-in-law Betty and my brother-in-law Douglas. Betty was a crafter and decorator (she would have loved these boxes), I remember going to her house and she had lacquer boxes and jars around her house.  They were all empty.  Douglas was an avid collector, who loved antiques.  Before he past away, several years ago, he sent me a ceramic jar with an label on it that read. "Mysteries."  It was empty as well. I asked Douglas about this, he chuckled and said. "Don't you think it's as it should be?" Not wanting to appear stupid, I agreed with him, like I knew what was going on. The jar and a couple of boxes sit on my book case empty, and I've never felt the need to stuff them full of stuff.
I asked myself, why do I feel the need to stuff every open space in my life with stuff.  Either physical stuff, emotional stuff, activity stuff or just plain stuff?  At the time it seems right to stuff stuff with stuff.  And yet it eats up a lot of time, demands my attention, sometimes overwhelms me, and I get depressed or sad.  Learning to be content and happy with the empty space, be it an a box or bag, an un-cluttered room, a conversation, a day with no activities,or my mind, takes some focus and is a real trick for me.  I am starting to see the value in the empty space. When a space is empty, I get the opportunity for the space to fill its self naturally.  I'm allowing and attracting what is best for me and my life.  It's not forced. It is what is suppose to be there.  Makes life a lot more free, fun and easy.  That all said, it's also a challenge.  The stuffing of stuff into stuff gives me a sense I have control over stuff.  I've learned over the years that control is really an illusion. I can deal with stuff, but I can't control stuff.  Even the stuff I think I can control.  Vicious circle here. Real crazy making.  As I added the designs, I edited myself not to totally cover the boxes with designs.  It's an empty space, right?  So, fill it up.  I purposely stopped at the tops.  I'm still thinking. "I want to paint designs all over the sides and insides. More is so more!"  I'll stop for now.
I also know, my stuffing behavior is strongly ingrained.  It's a step at a time and realization at a time.  
Will my cheese boxes remain empty?  I can't say. Perhaps for the time being.  I will let them "speak" to me as to what they want to be used for.  Keeping in mind to not stuff them to the brim.  Maybe they will be someone's "mystery" box?
That's a whole lot of value for me from a cheese box that was on sale.
Are you a "stuffer"?  Do you feel the need to fill the empty spaces in your life?  How good are you at allowing the empty spaces to just be?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Until next week...create to feel great!
44 projects complete!  8 to go!  (Really? 8!)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Remembrance- Yes, Another Cat Story- But It's A Cosmic One

A year ago this week, I had to do one of the most difficult things I think I have ever done in my life.  I had to make the decision to help my dear kitty friend of 15 years, Jack D. Mackerel cross over the rainbow bridge.  Jack was an amazingly intelligent sassy, almost to the point of a smart ass, cat.  I raised him and bottle fed him as a baby of 4 weeks.  He was a big red boy of a cat, who loved to play games, tell people off, his sister Mickeygirl and Barrack Obama. He would go wild every time Mr. Obama was on T.V.  The evening of the election, he let out a huge loud yell as the winner was announced. (I told you he was smart).
Jack had been ill and in decline for years, prior to August 5, 2009.  I kept telling him, let me know when you need to go.  On the evening, before his last day, he did just that.  I refused to listen.  That night , I had a dream of my very first cat, Lewis, a "silver" really black and white tabby boy, who has past away 15 years prior to Jack.  It was a beautiful and colorful dream of Kitty Heaven.  It was Lewis, who made me listen.  It was Lewis who brought Jack to me in the first place, and now he was telling me it was time to listen up, and help Jack.
The summer Lewis was in his decline, and passing over, we talked about the next kitty I should get.  Lewis (another very smart cat) didn't want me to be alone.  I told him I wanted a big orange boy cat named Jack.
The day Lewis passed, I took him to the vet.  I was so upset, all I felt I could do is to turn him over and walked out of the office.  It was a mistake, a lack of courage, that I carried with me for years.  I later found out that Lewis' ashes were scattered in a tree farm in Canby, Oregon.  I went to work after Lewis was left at the vet, a co-worker told me her mama cat was going to have kittens.  I said. "Well, it has to be a big orange boy."
A couple of weeks later, my co-worker came to work and said her mama cat had had kittens, but that they thought she had had them out in one of tree farms across the street from their house. (my co-worker lived in Canby, Oregon).
A week later, she said the mama cat drug over one of the kittens to their garage, and that I could come over and see if I wanted the kitten.  My co-worker wasn't a fan of cats, the mama cat belonged to her kids.  I drove out to meet this kitten.  To my surprise, it was a large red orange kitten!  It was Jack.  He had the same markings as Lewis, only red/orange.  He was sassy and bright.  His mama, for whatever reason was unable to care for him, so it was up to me.  I was his mama. I provided care for him through it all.  The morning of August 5th, I woke up and knew I had to help him cross.  He was weak and skinny.  In a tearful emotional fit, I called around to see if I could have a vet come to the house.  I was determined to help him pass calmly and with me by his side.  I finally found a vet, who came to the house.  Jack had been sleeping behind a big chair all morning.  When the vet arrived, he walked out to greet her.  He then crawled in my lap, looked up at me, let out a little meow, and allowed the vet to  take care of him.  She said that he was close to being gone before she gave him the shots.  Mickeygirl watched from across the room in her sleep hammock.  Once Jack passed, we wrapped him in his Obama T-shirt and the vet took him over to Mickeygirl.  Mickeygirl put her paw on his head and said. "Burt." and then looked away.  After the vet left, I cried for what seemed like forever with Mickeygirl crawling up into my lap.  I was overcome with grief, and yet, it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever witnessed in my life.
A couple of days later, I had another dream of Kitty Heaven.  This time, Lewis and Jack were playing and running like five year olds.  A big gold and white cat joined them, it was Gus, a cat I knew, who live at the shelter, where I was a volunteer.  He was trying to keep up with Lewis and Jack.  They told him to go back and take care of Mama.  The dream ended.  I didn't know if I wanted another cat right away, but the day I went to the shelter, Gus jumped in my arms from a high cat tree and hugged me. I started to cry. Gus licked my face. I put in an application for him that day, and he's been with us for almost a year.  A healing force for all of us in the house.  He takes care of his mama.
Last week, while combing through the Goodwill, I found this cross stitch kit.  It was my two dearly beloved boy cats.  I added their birth dates and a remembrance of them was completed.  I feel it's a fitting tribute to them, as they were so cosmically connected. 
For me cross stitch is tedious and a little boring, but this time I viewed as healing and very zen.  As the picture took shape, I remembered my boys and what joy they both brought to my life.  Gus and Mickeygirl would come to me and sit with me. I celebrated the fact that I'm blessed with these great and loving cats in my life.  Upon completing the picture, I showed Mickeygirl.  She once again, put her paw on the picture and said. "Burt."  I kid you not here
It stories like these that are one of the reasons I love my cats so much.  All these "cosmic" connections and things that bring me wonder and awe, help me stay close to what I call The Source.  This closeness is what provides my ability to create the things I create in my life everyday.  It's there in good times to celebrate and in advise times to remind me that it will pass and will be replaced in my life with something to wonder at and celebrate.
As I remember my boys this week, all the joy they brought to my life, I'm also celebrating the girl and boy I have in my life and all the joy they continue to bring me everyday.   It's my version of Kitty Heaven on earth.

Until next week...create to feel great!
43 projects complete 9 to go!