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.

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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.





Sewing With Mommy

14 01 2013

Just Like Mommy

Zeb has been asking to ‘sew with Mommy’. I debated buying him a wooden sewing machine, but kiddo is a tech whiz and would have seen through that bullshit right away. He understands that Mommy’s sewing machine turns on, so his should too. His should also beep when he pushes a button, or screech at him when he does something job – just like Mommy’s does.

So, I compromised:

I nerfed my old, reliable Brother CS6000i by removing the needle and gave him a pile of squares cut from my scraps. I showed him how to keep his fingers out of the way of the shank, how to feed fabric under the foot, and how to press the start/stop button. Zeb’s deliriously happy – now, he can sew when I sew.

If he’s still interested in a few years, I’ll sit down with him, some more of those scrappy squares, and guide him through piecing his first quilt top. I’ll probably end up up doing the quilting myself, and handle stitching the binding down.

I’m okay with that.

In fact, I look forward to it.

I look forward to introducing my son to a skill set that will allow him to expand his horizons, develop his creativity, challenge his math and geometry skills, as well as defying gender stereotypes. I want him to have a skill that he can carry through life, to be able to experience the singular joy that comes from creating something, from idea to finished item.

Zebediah deserves that.





Utility Quilts

15 08 2012

I spent yesterday evening with Zebediah, as is the norm most week nights. It was a little different than most evenings… This time, Zeb wanted to play in my quilts.

That’s right. IN the quilts.

Quilt Fort
The Cheating Farmer’s Wife quilts became a quilt train. Really, it was a quilt fort, but Zeb insisted that it was a train.

There’s something intensely satisfying about how my family responds to the quilts I make. Both hubby and kiddo prefer to sleep under them, and kiddo has decided that quilt forts (and vans and planes and trains) are the way to go.

Conquering Bridges

Of course, Zeb has no fear, and decided that the quilts were a bridge, and needed to be crossed. Picturing a repeat of the monkey bars incident, after which he was inconsolable, I put an end to that plan.

In the Quilt Fort

Of course, he got me under the quilt fort at some point, at which time I once again marveled at kiddo’s core strength and his sheer hyperactivity.

Clouded Stain Glass Look

While I was down there, though, I was caught by the way the sun was shining through the quilt layers and took a photo while I could.

Kiddo and I spent the better part of the evening hiding from the world in our little, quilted shelter. I’ll be so very happy if I can look at these quilts in the future and known that they were loved to pieces.