Finding a New Normal

21 07 2014

Last Monday evening, I got the news that I’d been waiting for: Dad was being discharged from the hospital on that Tuesday.

He’s home with me now, and we’re starting the process of learning to live around each other again. Dad and I have always gotten along well – we have about the same tolerance level for stupidity, drama, etc… It’s clear where I get it from. I am very much my father’s daughter.

Still, Dad spent some time apologizing and trying to make sure of his welcome. He feels badly at having to intrude and change our routines.

Quite frankly, I don’t find the idea of making these changes at all unpleasant. I’m just thrilled that he’s alive and that I can fuss over him. I’m happy to provide a safe and clean environment in which he can recuperate and get healthy again.

It’s actually really nice to have him around – I missed having his daily influence. He’s starting to feel spry again, and has been walking without aid of his walker. He’s even feeling confident enough to drive a bit.

Zebediah is beyond fascinated by the idea of having ‘Grandpa Tom’ around. He’s doing very well in listening to Dad, and Dad is (surprisingly) able to understand Zeb-speak easily. This was a concern for me, as Zeb has been in speech therapy for as long as he’s been in school, and there are certain words and sounds he still mangles. He also has a tendency to speak in gesture, thinking that we’ll understand Zeb-sign-language. We’re still working on teaching him to use his words with Grandpa.

In other news, Sandi (of Piecemeal Quilts) and I made a pact to go walking every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend was our first full weekend, and we walked 2.9 miles on Saturday, and then another 2.6 miles on Saturday (if I recall correctly). I feel really good today, if sore. I was trying to be mindful of my posture while walking, to engage my core. Boy, I can feel it today, as can my knees and thighs!

Yesterday, almost immediately after my walk, Dad and I took a trip to Milwaukee with my mother-in-law and son. He needed paperwork from the house, and was concerned about his lawn – the city will issue a fine if the grass gets too long. My mother-in-law wanted to visit with relatives, so she took Zeb with her, so that he wouldn’t be underfoot while I took care of the lawn.

So, while Dad hunted in the house, I mowed the lawn and attacked the edging with a weed whacker. It’s been a long time since I mowed a lawn, and it was hard! On the up side, I got more physical activity in.

I actually lost 2.2 pounds between my Saturday morning weigh-in and this morning’s weigh-in! It helps that I’m preparing meals with Dad in mind – he’s on a cardiac healthy diet, which means lots of veggies and high quality protein. We’re also eliminating a lot of the carbs from our diets, just by choice. And lots of veggies isn’t a joke around here – I’ve spent $70 on vegetables alone over the last week. And, we’re having fun with them, experimenting with stuff I haven’t had a chance to use before, like kohlrabi and patty-pan squash.

So, we’re finding our way to a new normal, one in which I have lots of reasons to eat very well and healthfully, and one in which I can stay active.





WIP Wednesday – Sewing for Sanity

9 07 2014

It’s shortly after 1:00 AM – I was awakened by a call from my father’s night nurse in the ICU. It is suspected that he is experiencing a bleed unrelated to his surgery yesterday – since being admitted, his blood pressure has been low, and not responding to medication. Tonight, they are doing an emergency CT scan of his abdomen to try to determine where the bleed is occurring.

I have suspected an ulcer – hopefully after tonight, we’ll have an answer.

In the meantime, to distract myself and hopefully quiet my mind enough that I can return to sleep, I will share what I’ve been working on this week. As mentioned in my earlier post of what feels like today yet, but is actually Tuesday… I’ve been sewing myself into a sense of peace, to keep myself from fretting myself into a state over the events of the last couple of weeks, since I had to have my father taken to an emergency room in Milwaukee.

Winged Square - Top in Progress

I completed the twelve pink and green blocks necessary for the Winged Square quilt top. My piles of HSTs are dwindling, slowly. Next up, pink and aqua blocks for the next ring. I haven’t been able to bring myself to start these. Yesterday, there proved to be too much repetition and stringent adherence to pattern for my tired, tired brain.

Completed Top - From an Unquiet Mind I

The need for a change in fabric scenery resulted in pulling out the scraps of solids leftover from my Farmer’s Wife Sampler setting. I made a huge error back when I was cutting the pieces for the setting, and couldn’t bring myself to throw away the too-small pieces.

This proved fortuitous – I was able to open the plastic shoe box of scraps and just start sewing. Over the course of an evening, I had most of a crib-sized quilt top done. Today, I added 5″ (finished) borders. I’ve settled on the fabric that I would like to use for the backing. I just need to determine how to quilt this. I’m still thinking of zigzags – I want the quilting to reflect the often jagged nature of my thoughts over the last few weeks.

Likely, this will be one of the few quilts I seek to sell or otherwise move out of my home. I am not sure that I want to retain these particular quilted memories.

Tomorrow, I will either baste and start quilting this particular top, or I will start another, using the same pool of scraps. I have plenty left, and plenty of reason to seek escapism in stitches. I suspect that the next quilt top to come out of these will be far less structured.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.





From an Unquiet Mind

8 07 2014

Real life has been rough lately.

Super rough.

I’m not sure I have words for it all…

My father’s been in the hospital since Thursday, 26 June.

I had to have him taken there by ambulance, after going to his home in Milwaukee with the intention of moving him to live in my home. He’d finally gotten to a breaking point in living with my brother, and asked for help. Due to his condition when I got to Milwaukee, my help turned out to be getting him health care that he desperately needed. The plan is still to move him in with me, once he’s recovered enough to go into a home living situation.

In the meantime, I’ve been dealing with a lot of grief, guilt, anger, resentment, depression… Mixed in with odd moments of resolve and pulling it together so that I can keep going.

Part of keeping going has been sewing. My mind quiets at the hum of my sewing machine, soothed by the focus on the movement of thread, fabric and needle. I’ve expended a lot of energy and focus on the Winged Square quilt top, but last night the rigidity of the pattern and the strict repetition proved to be more than I could handle.

I pulled out a box of solid scraps, leftover from a (large) cutting mistake when I was doing the setting for my Farmer’s Wife Sampler. The scraps were already cut into triangles, squares and strips, so I just took what I had, and started sewing. Eventually, a sort of pattern emerged and I ended up with five strips, which I then tested against a Kona grey fabric:

From an Unquiet Mind - Testing Strips

They ultimately would not remain in this configuration. I trimmed these multi-colored strips to 4.5″ wide (unfinished) and then spaced them with that grey fabric, cut into 3.5″ (unfinished) strips:

From an Unquiet Mind - Awaiting Borders

It’s not large, a generous crib size at this point. I plan to add 5″ (finished) borders to the piece, and I’m thinking large zig-zags will form the quilting.

I feel a little calmer in having brought some order to the chaos around me, but sense that there will be another quilt top in this same vein shortly. I don’t expect that my calm will last.

Soon, I have to call the hospital and check on Dad – he went into surgery yesterday, after twelve days in the hospital, to have a suspect mass removed. In removing the mass, my father will lose 40% of one lung. The expectation is that the mass will be cancerous, but testing has shown that no cancer has spread into the rest of my father’s body.

It might seem odd, but I see this as a positive. My father is a veteran, who served twenty-one years in the Air Force. He served during an era in which cigarettes were distributed with one’s rations (a practice in the US military which did not end until 1975). Since his retirement, my father has been under the care of military doctors.

It’s a tremendous disservice to the men and women who have served our country, but my experience with the healthcare provided to our veterans seems to prove out that diagnosis and treatment are not actually priorities. Considering the scandals rocking the VA in recent months, my observations seem to hold out at a national level. Nicotine dependency within the military remains high, a result both of the tobacco industry’s influence and reach as well as of the need for coping mechanisms in high-stress positions across the military (combat, peacetime and support roles all included). Due to this, I’m disappointed that screening for cancer within the VA and DoD provided health care isn’t a higher focus. My cynical side declares that diagnosis of cancer leads to expensive treatments, thus the lack of actively seeking it out within such a highly suspect population of patients.

I am immeasurably grateful to the staff of the hospital in which my father is currently sequestered. Not surprisingly, it’s not a VA hospital. It’s a private hospital, with religious roots. Their care for him has been remarkable, and my father’s progress in returning to the man I remember, astounding.

Still, his recovery (while a gift) hasn’t been enough to relieve the negativity eating at me lately. I need to find a few moments each day to center myself, and try to purge the dark that chews at me. I anticipate seeking out a mental health professional when Dad is living with me, and we’ve all found a new normal as a larger family unit.

In the meantime, I seek solace in stitches, creating wholeness where I can.





The Sum of Its Parts…

28 06 2014

Almost 1600 HSTs pieced and ironed later (though trimming is now taking place on an as needed basis), I’ve started piecing Winged Square Blocks. Despite the number of sub-units and the need to be careful of how I press my seams, these go pretty quickly. I’m estimating about twenty minutes per block.

Winged Square 01

Winged Square II

Winged Square 06

Winged Square 05

Winged Square 04

Winged Square 03

Six blocks in, and I’m feeling very good about how this is turning out so far. Too keep myself on track, I’m working from the center out, and taking breaks to flirt with the different color combinations.

WS Top in Progress 01

This morning, I said down and put the center together. I’m eager to keep building on this, and to get started on the scrap zigzag.





Holy HSTs, Batman!

14 06 2014

HST Attack 01

Today was Stitch ‘N’ Bitch. Unfortunately I didn’t do much sewing at all. My rotary cutter and cutting mat were my friends today. And no, what you see above is not today’s work. It would be awesome if that was today’s work, but no, I’m not that skilled and awesome.

What you see above are the 600 HSTs I chain pieced, cut, ironed and trimmed over the last week.

Today, I spent Stitch ‘N’ Bitch doing this:

Box of Work

That’s approximately 800 HSTs that now need to be ironed and then trimmed to 2.5″, for a 2″ finished subunit. I say approximately, because I’m still debating trying to find six more aqua fabrics or just making up the rest of the needed HSTs from the aquas I already have on hand. It’s much easier to use what I have, and I know I’ve got the extra strips cut.

I think I’m going to spend the rest of today on these remain HSTs. I might even get ambitious and cut and piece the rest of the HSTs  and 2.5″ squares for the scrap zigzag quilt top. Tomorrow can be spent piecing then.

Should be a lot more fun than trimming ;)





WIP Wednesday – Planned Scrappy Fun

11 06 2014

I have a lot of WIPs to get back to, but rather than finish any of them, I decided to start not just one new project, but TWO.

Yup, logic.

Winged Square II

I’ve been slightly obsessed with making this particular top since making a couple of blocks for a swap last year (see this and this). Staring at the fabrics I have in my stash, I decided it was time. I have plenty of each of these four colors. So, I ordered a bunch of Kona white, and I’m in the process of trimming way too many HSTs. I’ve got the total number of HSTs worked out somewhere. Suffice to say, it’s over 1500 HSTs.

Funny thing, I’d planned to cut enough strips to get 24 HSTs of each fabric I’m using… I ended up cutting enough for 48 of everything, though I need a few more aqua prints to keep it to 24 of each fabric. Rather than just throw the other strips into my scrap bins, I decided I ought to do something with them.

Then I saw this posted to Flickr:

Scrappy 2

My brain latched onto the image in the lower right hand corner and I drew up the following:

Scrap Zigzag

It’s pretty simple, but the idea is to use up a bunch of the neutral and low volume fabrics that I’ve collected and have no destination for. It’s time to use them up and get them out of stash!

So I’ve cut a lot of 3″ X width of fabric strips (for both designs), and some 2.5″ squares (for the zigzag design). I have pieced about half of the HSTs I need for the winged square design, though now I’m trimming them. Yay. Actually, I don’t really mind trimming. It’s something fairly mindless that can go quickly as long as I’m doing something like watching a show or listening to an audio book (damn you, Audible, for addicting me!)

You’ll notice that I tend to design my quilts in solids, or in tone on one. This is because I love to work in a planned scrappy format, and I’m just looking to get an idea of how to arrange the fabrics. I’ll let the fabrics in my stash tell the color story on their own, and I’m too damned lazy to scan my fabrics in, edit them to an EQ7 friendly format, and then import them. On top of that, I tend to buy tone on tone fabrics, or blenders, anyway. I’d much rather have a lot of staples to choose from, then a bunch of focus fabrics that I wouldn’t know what to do with.

Anyway, to give you an idea of what I’m working with:

Strips 01

Strips 02

As I said, I need more aquas… between six and eight. I could just double up on the number of strips. We’ll see if I end up going that route. I’m the type who will always lean toward more variety. I still need to photograph my yellow and pinks. Maybe this evening, assuming I get all of my green and aqua HSTs trimmed.

Linking to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.





Re-committing

31 05 2014

Time for some honesty:

I lost my workout motivation after seeing the dietitian. This was compounded by telling myself that I was a slob for not keeping up with it. I further compounded by not paying much attention to what I was eating.

Today, I decided I was done feeling sorry for myself, and that it was time to climb back on that wagon, and hang on for dear life. It was time to try something new, since I don’t get to the gym as often as I should.

That something new was something I’d seen advertised on Hulu.com, since I subscribe to that service: DailyBurn

It seemed promising, since I could do everything from home, so I signed up for the free 30 day trial. Deciding to start out easy on myself, I started with the beginner program and just dove in. I finished my first half hour work out not even ten minutes ago…

OMG. It was AWESOME.

I didn’t feel rushed, or sloppy, or less than confident. The initial workout was exactly the right pace, and I was sweating and feeling the exertion by the end of it. It was a good feeling. A really good feeling.

The only thing that hurt? My feet, because I’m never on them anymore, and I really had to use them to balance throughout the half hour.

I feel like this is something I could actually do before getting ready for work, and I’m already browsing the other guided programs. I’d like to do at least one hour per day with this – start and end the day with some physical activity.

I feel really good right now, having worked off some tension and sweat out some stress, and that’s something I’ve missed. I really actually want to get up and do more.

I’m looking forward to starting my day tomorrow.








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