January 31, 2013

Joanna Belle Harkness Cartledge, 1922 - 2013

Middle Bass, 2003: Mary Jo, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Tara, Shirley, and Mother.

Joanna Belle Harkness Cartledge of Middle Bass Island, Ohio, born May 26, 1922, died on Monday, January 28, 2013. She was the daughter of the late Charles and Lilian (Brown) Harkness of Vestaburg, PA, and Detroit, MI. She was proceeded in death by her husband of 69 years, Douglas Cartledge, and her older daughter, Amy May Thomas Reidling. 

As part of the war effort in the 1940s, Mrs.Cartledge built Pratt and Whitney engines. In 1941she graduated from the Del-Mar School of Cosmetology.  With her husband she owned several island businesses, including the Erie Island Mirror, Doug’s Ice Fishing, the fishing boat “Way Ahead,” and Island Pottery.  Her final business, Belle’s Dolls, received national and international recognition for a series of 43 U. S. President and First Lady dolls, which she sculpted in porcelain and costumed authentically.  She was a member of the International Association of Doll Artists. For five decades, she served as an election poll worker, and in the 1990s she was recognized by the State of Ohio for voting in every election for fifty years.

Mrs. Cartledge is survived by two sons and her surviving daughter, 8 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Memorial tributes may be made to your local chapter of the Salvation Army (which Mother honored because of the vital services she saw them offering to the destitute during the Depression) or to the Middle Bass Fire and EMS Department, 455 Fox Road, Middle Bass, Ohio, 43446.

January 6, 2013

2013 - A Year to Savor

A friend has picked out one word to focus on for each of the last few years.  This time, I decided to follow her example.  My word for the year?  Savor.

It's a good word for me.  To begin with, I've been carrying a fair amount of resentment because of  the dog attack in June, during which my life partner got between me and a pit bull that had lunged into our back yard. The pit bull went to live with Jesus a few moments later; and I took Michael to the doctor shortly thereafter. That Tuesday a return visit to the doctor ended with hospitalization, massive antibiotics, massive painkillers, and, on Wednesday, plastic surgery to clean out the infection, which by then was sending red streaks up and down his arms. Five days in the hospital and nine weeks out of work wiped out all of the year's vacation time, personal time, etc., which is no doubt the reason my resentment escalated in December. I'm accustomed to being surrounded by dozens of friends and family over the holidays, but I wasn't going to leave Michael alone; and Michael had no options for taking time from work.

That brings us again to savor, which, it seems, to me, is the antonym of resent. I'm willing to let the dead past bury its dead; and to let the pit bull rest in peace, having learned that, as vicious as pit  bulls are, cocker spaniels are notorious for attacking pretty little two-year-old girls. (Per a nurse we met, they always go for the face).Cocker spaniels, I'll admit, commit less damage, but the essential problem is owners who don't believe that any dog, including their own sweet precious dog, must be constantly overseen.

It was a summer of panic attacks for me and concern that somebody would retaliate by killing my dog. I also  spent hours in hospitals, where I constantly called Michael "Fred" -- the name of my late husband, who died in 2000. (PTSD has many guises.)

On a lighter note, in September I was five years out from giving up cigarettes and thought I could withstand the modest deprivation of a diet. I've lost 17 pounds, using a miracle method I developed ALL BY MYSELF but will now share with you. Here is is:
    no ice cream
    no eating between meals
    after putting your meal on your plate, scrape half of it onto another plate to eat the next day.
    in a restaurant, ask for a go-box when your meal is served, put half the meal in it, take it home with you, and don't eat it until the next day.

That's pretty much it. I also did join a wonderful site called Bitch Yourself Thin which has an emergency distraction button and people in charge with smart moves and bright ideas to keep you motivated. Love them a lot.

Not eating takes up a lot of time. Further, I've come to suspect that blogging, while useful, does not equal writing. I can blog with one eye shut and my brain sent out to the cleaners, which is the opposite of writing. All of this is to say I'm going to be out of pocket for a while, giving my time to understanding what it means to savor each day; and to notice what is to be savored in each day; and how much.  Wishing you the best for 2013.

October 12, 2012

Best Present Ever!

Last weekend, I was thinking about my older daughter's birthday, on 10/11/12.  Her daughter, Lizzie, is off for her first semester at college, and I was remembering how I seemed to rattle around the house when my daughter left.  Something was just . . .  missing.  I decided my girl needed December Angel more than I did.

Here's where the "best present ever!" part comes in. I've been organizing and packing and generally putting my hands on every single item in the house, and last weekend what should come upon but a photo of Lizzie as a toddler. I'd found her a red pocketbook (or "pockeybook" as she, and consequently the rest of us, called it) and she was holding it, with glee sparking from every pore.  I photocopied the photo and cut her loose from the background.  Then I grabbed a U. S. map that was handy on the shelf, trimmed out the South Carolina part, glued it to card stock, and glued ribbon around the outside edge.  Then I added Lizzie's photo.  Here are the card and the figurine together in the box waiting to be mailed.
And inside the card I wrote, "Someone to keep you company until your own December angel comes dancing home."
I'm not always this good at giving presents, but when I get it right, I get it really, really right.

October 9, 2012

Spring is here!

Today my contributor's copies of Spring: Women's Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings, edited by Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass, arrived.  My essay, "The Rescue Dog," is included; it's about how Laramie (whose photo I posted last week) came into our lives in a difficult season.

This book is one of a series of four being published this year by Tending Your Inner Garden, in celebration of their tenth year of offering programs on health, growth, and healing for women.  You can check out the website to learn about their on-site programs in Iowa, their potential on-line program, and the book series.

The books are available either in print or as downloads.

October 4, 2012

After the lovin', the dishes still need washed

The current conversation about whether women can have it all revolves around children and a high-powered career.  What nobody's acknowledging is that it isn't the children that beat you into the ground and leave you depleted. It's the dirt, grime, grease, hairballs, laundry, spills and maintenance.  It's the food -- shopping, hauling inside, putting away, preparing, serving, cleaning up after.  That's before we discuss the bills that somebody must pay attention to; and the decisions about various insurance questions that repeatedly emerge, not to mention the annoyance of getting prescriptions filled --

In other words, the kids go, but the drudgery stays all the the way to the grave.

It's possible for two people in a relationship to work out the issue of who is doing what.  For instance, Mormons tend to stick with firm gender demarcation lines between what a penis can do without shriveling and what chores (vacuuming and dusting come to mind) depend on a vagina.

The issues can also work out if both parties in the relationship are egalitarian.  As it happens, such was the case in my previous marriages.

The problem I've got now is that I'm the person I've always been but The Tall Dude, with whom I share space, was never house-broken, in any authentic pick-your-crap-up-off-the-floor sort of way.

I gotta tell you:  I find it incredibly annoying.  It's not that he isn't improving in these matters.  This very summer  The Tall Dude emptied the dishwasher ALL BY HIMSELF at least five times without being asked, coaxed, cajoled, or harangued into it.  (Okay, fine, he didn't wash the big pans or clean off the stove top, but I've given up even fantasizing about getting out from under those tasks.)

The upshot is that I've had it.  I give up.  I'm crying "Uncle!"  I decided a few months back that I'm dedicating this year to homemaking, which is a lot like my telling a surgeon "Go ahead and give me a lobotomy.  Probably by the time the year is up you'll have learned to reverse the procedure."

I've been a feminist since the day an employer told me I could get a salary increase as soon as I went to Sweden and had a sex change operation.  I hold two graduate degrees that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000, not counting time. Just to round things out, I'm on a drug that makes my joints ache all of the time.  Most critically, any interest I ever had in housekeeping whisked itself out the door with my children when they left home.

I've been driving myself nuts over the one-sidedness of the household drudgery. The first year or two I overlooked pretty much anything The Tall Dude did or didn't do, because he's really cute and has a precious smile.  A year or so later, though, I noticed that, while one of us rinsed her dishes and placed them in the dishwasher, the other one set his plate BESIDE the sink.  I don't know if he was expecting elves or a maid or spontaneous combustion to take care of the plate; but none of those things showed up.

I'm reverting to the practice of homemaking because I refuse to spend the rest of my life angry; and I also refuse to spend the rest of my life waiting on somebody capable of pitching in and doing his fair share.

Come year's end, if we've worked through the issues, the Tall Dude and I will begin the slooooooooow process of planning a wedding. (I believe in really, really long engagements.)  If we can't reach some level of parity, I will, on the other hand, throw his ass to the curb.

I'm not looking forward to it.  After all, when you've unloaded one dishwasher you've unloaded them all.  Or, as my late husband Fred, who was annoying in an entirely different way (he'd unload and reload the dishwasher BECAUSE I HADN'T DONE IT RIGHT," said when I gushed over my first sight of an oil rig on a trip across Texas, "Only the first one is actually interesting.  After that, they all look alike."

The purpose of this decade of my life, I'm convinced, is not to be an unpaid maid and personal secretary, and also cook. My exceptions are Laramie, the little dog who upchucks fur balls with all the elan of a Persian cat -- and her big brother Koko, our yellow Lab, who every few years gets sick before I can shove him out the front door. They can't open their own cans of dog food.  They can't take themselves for walks or drive themselves to the vet's office.

What does The Tall Dude make of all of this? Every time I mention that "throwing his ass to the curb" option, it throws him into a great good humor, and he wanders the house in a flurry of dropped socks and shirts and handkerchiefs chuckling to himself.

He's not a stupid man, which suggests he won't let the situation reach the stage where I'm lobbing his combat boots across the yard into his truck; but we'll see who breaks, and when, and then what.

October 2, 2012

The Monsters under Some Beds

Say hello to Laramie, the Chihuahua mix we got from the Kentucky Humane Society on the next-to-the-last-day of my high dose radiation for breast cancer.

We adopted her because when I woke up the day after my surgery my first thought was, "I need to get a Chihuahua."  And so it came to pass.

This morning that cheerful little dog coughed up a hairball the size of my fist on the leather couch, jumped down, ran into a corner, upchucked, and then took a nap to recover from the excitement.I cleaned up after her and then loaded the dishwasher. When I was done, I turned on the disposal. Fairly soon I noticed that the garbage was bubbling up on the other side of the double sink. Then I noticed that the bottom of the dishwasher held several inches of water and garbage.

Meanwhile, the big-ass Mitsubishi television in the living room blew a gasket today and now produces only static and crackling. I'm torn between wrestling the thing to the sidewalk for the trash men (it's huge and DOMINATES the living room) and waiting for my beau to get home from work to test the thingamajiggies (I nearly said tubes, but that's so last century).

Dog, sink, and television all  in one morning. Our "things fall apart" experience continues unabated.  It began on August 30 when, ten minutes before we were to go out of town, my Jeep, which we were to take with us, broke down. Since then, empty jars, the Crock Pot, the Jeep again (it actually has had three breakages, two of which were fixed, the third of which awaits a spare thousand dollars to fall from the sky), a small end table, a piece of my mother's china and more have all broken.

All of this is to say that I had an annoying morning, which may be the reason I had a minor fit when I listened to the noon news and heard yet another half dozen reports related to the upcoming Susan G. Komen walk/run.I hope to God it's this weekend because I've had all I can stand of the sacralization of breast cancer that accompanies the annual event.

The White House was lit up in pink, for God's sake.

I've been on edge about the topic since last week, when two different magazines came to hand in which the editors whinged on idiotically about breast cancer

In the first case, the editor said every woman is scared before a mammogram.  Oh, please. I've never been afraid of mammograms, not my first one in the late 1980s through my most recent one two days ago.  In truth, I feel a great deal of affection for mammograms, what with them saving my life and the lives of zillons of other women.  I even love the room where my mammograms are done. Drunk on painkillers and Valium, I was taken to that room the day of my surgery and found the sight of five people hunkered around a tiny screen discussing my own personal left breast hilarious. Whiffs of left-over good humor greet me each time I return.(Obviously, my not being dead contributes to my good feelings, but isn't that true of all of us?)

The second editor had the audacity to say that the thought of breast cancer frightens every woman.

Where was I when she became my spokesperson? Beyond that, why do people act as though breast cancer is the worst thing that could happen to a person?  It's nothing but a disease. Yes, some people die of it; and everybody hates when that happens; but how does that justify grown women acting as though a monster is hiding under their beds?

If you want to talk monster, I'll give you a monster.  It's name is multiple myeloma. In 1998, life expectancy after diagnosis was 28 months.  Geraldine Ferraro got lucky; she lived for years following diagnosis. My late husband, on the other hand, only lived for 22 months.  Multiple myeloma is an orphan disease, far less common than breast cancer, but one hundred percent of the cases are incurable and fatal. If you want to be scared, that's a far more logical disease to fear.

And some things are far worse than that.Not long after he was diagnosed, Fred told me that he kept asking himself "Why me?"  I'd pastored a church for the three years prior to his diagnosis and conducted more funerals than I'm going to count up. I'd spent quality time, in great quantities, considering the idea of death; and I'd reached one absolute conclusion.

"I don't mean this ugly," I told dear Fred, "but I'd rather you have cancer than five people I can think of right off hand."

Fred blinked, and then he uttered two healing words: "Me, too."

The five people?  Our grandchildren. If you need something to be afraid of, don't bother with breast cancer.  Rather, be afraid that a child - any child: yours, mine, a friend's, a neighbor's, a stranger's - will be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.

A mammogram is a diagnostic test, no more worthy of drama than that moment  when the dentist pulls your tongue forward during a cleaning to examine your mouth for cancer.  If you want to over-dramatize it, leave me out of the conversation. I've got a Chihuahua to clean up after and a no-monsters-allowed-beyond-this-point life to enjoy.

August 13, 2012

You may be a feminist if . . .

My friend Pat Jobe - preacher, poet, songwriter, and all around fine man - did a facebook post titled "100 Hundred Words on Oneness.  Now it's your turn."

I decided to participate.  Here's my 100 words.

Seeing the women win big
At  the Olympics and knowing
We did that.  We, the feminists working as one
For years in committees on phone trees on congressional visits on letters
At our home and at our meetings and
At our marches.
We, working, toward one goal: that our daughters
Our granddaughters, their granddaughters
Through every generation
Might stand on a stage, around her neck draped a ribbon
At the bottom of which dangles gold silver bronze and
Might hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Played for them.
If you love those strong be-medaled women holding nosegays
Thank one feminist tomorrow.

August 12, 2012

The Mystic Isle at Lonz Dock

From The Cartledge Archives: The Mystic Isle Put-in-Bay Auto Ferry landing at Lonz Dock, Middle Bass Island, Ohio, identified with my mother's handwriting on the bottom of the photo.

I learned from a class at the Kentucky Historical Society that in preserving photos, the first step is to remove them from any album in which they're stored. Then scan them at the highest resolution possible and file the scans on your computer, on disks, on thumb drives, and on whatever other devices are devised in the future.

The essential principle in historic preservation now is to have digital copies in as many forms as possible in as many different places as possible.

August 10, 2012

Middle Bass Island Grade School, Spring 1960

Ha!  Here we are, the total school population of Middle Bass Island Grade School, circa spring 1960.

From left:  Karen Kuemmel, Douglas Cartledge, Amy Cartledge, Mary Joanna Cartledge, and, in the foreground, Carolyn Riddle.

Karen and Douglas were in seventh grade; Amy was in sixth; I was in fifth. Carolyn has the grin of a child whose front teeth just came in, so she's either in first or second grade.  We were the core island scholars for several years. The only children younger than I were Carolyn and her siblings.

Regarding the building in the background, I rather think it's Walt and Izzy Swisher's home/store, although the style of the windows makes me wonder.  Perhaps it's Frank Roesch's house, which was also white with tall windows and buildings in the back.  Why were we there?  The answer is lost in memory, as is the answer to the question of how my mother, who was fastidious about the way her children dressed, let me out of the house with my petticoat showing. We aren't wearing the white gloves that were de rigeur for field trips.  However, you'll notice that bangs were a happening fashion statement that year.

August 8, 2012

Housekeeping Update

I've been fabulously busy doing incredibly interesting things, like mopping the kitchen floor and loading the dishwasher every day.  Brushing our yellow Lab once a day is keeping the dust bunny/hippopotamus situation under control; and figuring out supper every night -- my, that's just oceans of fun.

Housekeeping, it turns out, is exactly as repetitive as I expected it to be.  (I'd like to say "as I remember it being" but apparently I stopped caring so long ago that memories have faded away.)  Nothing stays done, which is to say that if you mop, vacuum, cook, and clean today, by five o'clock tomorrow no evidence will remain of that effort. Which is why you might as well not bother.

I, however, am choosing to bother, for 365 days, some of which I've already used up, thankyoujesus.  Yesterday's  event was cleaning off the huge desk in the living room. I worked five hours, mostly making file folders and then putting pieces of paper into them. The desk needs another five hours of attention.  Not happening--

August 1, 2012

Paperwork!: preserving family documents, step one

I began the morning paying bills and now, at 10:15 p. m., I have monstrous piles of family documents and artifacts bedecking the living room rug.

I'm beginning to get a handle on the huge project I've undertaken.  My father died at age 88; my mother is now 90 and has a good memory for important things. Thirty years ago, Mother told me that you must always label everything.  That scrumptious photo of the most darling munchkin in the world, meaning yours, is going to be augmented by hundreds more photos, plus scrumptious photos of siblings; plus perhaps scrumptious photos of cousins; and then you throw in grandchildren; and I don't know about your family  but in the right light with the right tilt of the chin I'm hard pressed to distinguish between Charlie and Devin, Carson and Jon; David and Douglas; Mikey and Jeff - pretty much any of the boys - and a photo of my father in his youth.

Family resemblance is a powerful and wonderful thing, but it won't be your friend when 30 years from now you try to identify who's who on a photo that holds no indication of the date when every single one of those darling boys has a smile on his face and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

So as I was saying, Mother labeled everything, except for the things she didn't, most of which were duplicate photos that are labeled, which is good, if you can ever get the originals and duplicates within ten feet of each other.

Meanwhile, Mother also did serious genealogical research, traveling with Cousin Carolyn to do research in libraries, phoning relative to find out who remembered what stories and to clarify relationships she was unsure of and also asking for copies of important photos, especially of her mother (who died young) and father, who each belonged to enormous farm families; so photos of their siblings were also good to get her hands on.

Mother created a marvelous set of notebooks into which specific family units were divided.  But then things got tricky. The notebooks collected the faintest whiff of mold over the last 2.5 years in a closed-up house.  Additionally, Mother apparently rearranged items in her spare time, with less than useful results.

I took a class on preserving family heritage last year, and this spring I qualified as a Kentucky Historical Society Certified Community Scholar, which means my head is full of information.  Some tips for your own preservation activities:

Item One. Remove every photo from every album. Mother had transferred most everything out of albums with magnetic pages, but a few remained. I took the albums apart and gave each magnetic page its own folder. Every few months I rustle the folder and see if the glue has dried enough for the photos to fall off.

Item Two. Keep the photos together in some sort of coherent chronological order.

Item Three. Photocopy and/or scan the papers Mother put together from her research. Then wipe off the glass of the copying machine, put the papers into archival quality folders, and store everything scanned and photocopied on a thumb drive and one or two more back-up methods.  (The more back-up methods the better, because everything is going to fail somewhere down the line, and you want backup upon backup for every potential failure.

Oh, wait.  There's another Item One, which is to separate newspaper articles from the rest of the artifacts.  Newsprint and ink are like friendly drunks, notorious for falling apart and taking everything else down with them because of their acid content.

On a side note, somebody at the preservation workshop last year had a newspaper printed in the 1700s, given to her by an elderly neighbor years earlier.  What should she do with it?  The answer:  find out whether the newspaper exists on microfilm, microfiche, or is any other way preserved.  If so, don't worry about. Newspapers, it seems, were a dime a dozen and -- here's a shocking idea -- their value was in the information they contained rather than in the paper on which the information was printed. Bummer, especially if you think you've been preserving something that might make you famous, or at least rich.

We don't have any of that stuff.  We are a plain people. We have lovely documentation, and lots of it, because my parents lived in the same house for sixty years and never threw a thing away. They weren't so much hoarders as cautious. If the water pump broke in the middle of the winter, you might just be able to get the one that worked poorly last year to work a little better this year -- at least, a little better than the one that isn't working.

On top of that genealogical notebooks and family photo notebooks, there are booklets from Tideswell, the town in Derbyshire, England, where my father grew up; and pamphlets published over the years by the ferry boats; and the odd wine bottle label; and a lovely letter my father received when he was naturalized, and an award presented to my mother for having voted fifty years straight. Then there are the various businesses my parents operated over the sixty years on the island; and information about other businesses; and Mr. Zippy on a postcard announcing that the zip code for Middle Bass was 43446.

I've found numerous photos of my mother that I don't remember ever seeing before; and a few new ones of my dad; and a darling photo of his sister, my aunt Mary, after whom I'm named, giggling the way only an eight-year-old girl can giggle.  I also found my parents' original wedding photo, which is a relief, because I haven't yet been able to locate Mother's wedding gown. I'm beginning to think a relative took it home for safe keeping, intending to deliver it to me once I weathered the uproar of my dad's death followed immediately by my breast cancer diagnosis. Meanwhile, I'm sorting and scanning and trying to get rid of the mild scent of mold now in my house.

July 20, 2012

Quench not

I love the photos I took this spring, but I love them even more when I've captioned them.

Rise. Shine. Breathe.

I'm in love with this technique.  Wait, maybe the word is obsessed.

July 19, 2012

I made this just for you.

My photo.
My text.
I used picmonkey for the first time.
I'm liking it.

July 16, 2012

50 Ways to Use Marshmallows

In a burst of caffeine this morning, I decided to devote the next year to being a -- oh, Lord, can I manage to spit the word out of my mouth? -- home maker.

That's one step short of housewife, for which I'm not qualified, what with not being a wife and all.  I do have a house, though, and a compadre who thinks eating three meals a day is reasonable and two dogs that shed unmercifully.

I've juggled the work/home bombs for decades, setting off numerous explosions along the way when I dropped one or the other.

Today, finally, I had enough. "Screw it," I thought.  "I give up.  Somebody hand me a freaking apron, quick."

I'm changing my ways, dedicating myself to the house first and the things that make life worth living -- art, fresh air, stepping stones, photography -- a gloomy second.  I'm going to recreate that magical mythical time -- roughly the 1950s -- during which white women with affluent husbands wore pearls and heels to vacuum, smiling vacuously all the while.

I'm not really prepared for vacuous, what with having a master's degree from Duke and another master's degree from Goucher, and also a brain; but I'm giving it a shot. Maybe I've been wrong my whole life.  Maybe this domestic crap is worth doing.  No time like the present to find out.

We live in a comfortable three-bedroom house in a slightly suspect neighborhood that's had a rash of car and garage break-ins recently.  It's an ideal location for turning the clock back to the 1950s, for taking the opportunity, now that my adult children have children who are nearly adults, to figure out the homemaking swamp,  complete with cleaning, cooking, finances, organizing, Saran wrap,and fake smiles.

I'm going to upend my world and aim for what society has wanted from its women all along:  tidy house, tidy pets, tidy life, tidy relationships, and a lovely meal at the dining room table every evening, often by candlelight, not to mention throwing money at every new fashion that comes down the pike in order to keep the economy strong.

I've been preparing for this task for years without even knowing it.  For instance, I have my very own copy of a pamphlet called "50 Ways to Use Marshmallows."  With that pamphlet in my hand, how can I go wrong?  I've already had one breakthrough, which I hint at with the photo at the top of this post.  Stay tuned to find out about my first extraordinary find.

July 13, 2012

The Coco Chanel/Old McDonald Quilt

 I was three-quarters finished with this peace/love/fashion quilt for a friend when she posted on facebook that her nearly 18-month-old daughter knows a kazillion animal sounds.  My compadre thought it really important that the animals representing the sounds show up on the quilt.
 Laramie, my Chihuahua, totally loved making this quilt. She's been indifferent to others but persisted in spreading out loooonng-ways across this one whenever I worked on it.

 Is that a happy cow or what?  I have the same design in pink but the blue just worked better . . .
 especially once I added the blue slithering snakes ("ssssssss").  The kitty, by the way, is orange for a reason:
because it's the same color as my friend's kitty.

We too the quilt/blankie over this evening, and it was so much fun thinking about how excited the toddler will be when she sees it (she was asleep when we got there), and how much fun she and her mom will have cuddling under it, with one of them thinking admiring the dresses and shoes while the other offers a background chorus of sssss, ribbit, meow, woof, moo, baa, roar, and more.  Ah, friendship; just another word for joy.

July 6, 2012

Stylin' and Profilin' with Old McDonald


Here are some of the fabrics for  the new picnic blanket (a. k. a. pieced quilt) I started this week for a friend.

I was zooming along with the construction when my compadre asked if I'd seen the friend's latest post on facebook. Turns out she'd told her daughter's adoring public about all of the animal sounds the toddler can make now.

My compadre contained himself until the next morning, and then he couldn't stand it any longer. He said, "You ought to put the animals on the quilt."

The what?  Yes, I'd heard correctly. He thought I should put all of the animals the little girl knows onto her mom's quilt.

"They'll look really good," he said.  He didn't need to add that my friend would be doubly delighted.

As an act of friendship, he was bang-on right.  From a design perspective, though, I had to rearrange my idea of what I was making.  See those pretty fabrics above?  The one with the black background shows up in a number of places on the quilt, as does another fabric with a black background.  The motifs for that one are fabulously outlandish boots and purses. It's a styling and profiling quilt balanced by a range of pinks and a few very small rectangles that reflect the presence of a little girl.

Adding animals?  How would that work?  More smoothly than you might think, considering the fabrics I added:
Believe it or not, I had all of these fabrics except the lion (green background, top center) and the snake (Slither slither on the right side, with the white background).

The majority of the piecing was complete, but I was able to substitute good-sized chunks of animal fabric here and there.  The rest of them I fused down slap in the middle of my carefully chosen and organized pinks and peace signs, alleviating the potential boredom that never existed because it was wonderful to begin with.

And now?  What is it now?  I'll post a photo when I get the thing completely finished so you can judge for yourself, but I've got to say that sometimes dumping your original concept when a new one comes along can be a brilliant move.  Already I love thinking about how much fun my friend will have with her daughter, the two of them discovering animals here and there and giggling as they baaa and moooo and ssssss and oo oo ah ah (that's a monkey sound) and ribbit and roar with their blankie wrapped around them.

July 3, 2012

The Third of July

If there are any currant bushes on Middle Bass Island, the berries ripened today.  At least, they always ripened on July 3 when I was growing up.  I can remember the date, because it's my late sister's birthday; and it was also the day of the township's firework display, which took place on Put-in-Bay (another  island, just south of us).

July 3 was like Christmas Eve in that it took forever for night to arrive. We didn't just have to wait until dark; we had to work until really dark, and then we had to wait for the lights on Perry's Monument to be turned off. Then we'd pile into whatever jalopy was operational that year and Daddy would drive to the Main Dock, and we'd Ooh and Ahhh, the way everybody does, everywhere.

Since then, I've seen fireworks on New Year's Eve in Times Square (2001); on the Fourth of July from the roof of an eight-story building looking over the Hudson River in New York City (2003); and over the Ohio River following Thunder over Louisville, the annual precursor to the Kentucky Derby (2004).

Each of those fireworks displays was the largest ever in the history of the country, according to the news reports, but none of them compared to the fireworks on the island.  I've alwaysattributed it to the island's isolation, but today I've been reading interviews conducted in the 1980s with writers who are women, and a substantial piece of the conversations had to do with the role of place, in the sense of who grew up where, and Place, in the sense of an ongoing and tiresome conversation about how anybody who wanted to be successful as a writer had to live in New York City.  (Surprise!  The people doing the interviews lived in . . . wait for it . . . New York City.)

But I digress.  My point is that I was reading about the role place carries in our lives, and then I put the book down and started working on a new quilt.  The rhythms -- ripping, pressing, testing, sewing fabric - made room for meandering thoughts.  So I was thinking about the fireworks going off beside Perry's Monument (it's official name is Perry's International Peace and Victory Monument and it was built to commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie and to honor and attest to the peaceful border that has existed between the United States and Canada ever since the Treaty of Ghent was signed).  (Way to go, United States and Canada.)  I was also thinking about currants, cake and ice cream, birthday presents for Amy, and how the fireworks exploded doubly, in the sky and in reflection on the lake, and what a big deal they were.

Then it struck me that just as significant as the fireworks was the fact that we were down at the dock after dark.

We only ever were at the dock after dark on July 3.  Hell, we were hardly ever there in the light, unless we were catching the boat with Mother to go shopping in Port Clinton or to visit her relatives and friends in Detroit.  What was that, all together?  Four or five times a year?

Otherwise, we weren't allowed near the dock.  In the summer, Lonz Winery was generally crowded with raucous folks (many of them from Cleveland*) drunk on sparkling wine (the kind that would be called Champagne if the grapes and the product were both from the Champagne area of France).  Not only were they drunk on fake Champagne, but they were drunk on WARM fake Champagne, which meant they were either hollering or singing or throwing up.  Not a place for children.

Not a place for children in the off-season, either.  What were we going to do there other than pick cherries from the Bing cherry tree that stood near the cliff in front of the Lonz mansion (which we did, with Mother's company) or fall in the lake (which we didn't, because we were never near the water, which is to say the dock)? My folks were all about being somewhere where you could do something productive.  We never went anywhere to look; we went places to learn.  Which isn't a bad form of parenting, whether on a Lake Erie island or in New York City.

*P. S.  It has been said that my children and I are loud. I claim it's a habit developed from a childhood living with a parent who was deaf as a result of flying noisy airplanes in the war without ear protection.  You had to SPEAK UP and you had to e-nun-ci-ate; and it seems I passed that lesson on to my children.  A few months back, I was telling my compadre some island stories and mentioned how loud people from Cleveland seemed when I was growing up.  "Are we that loud?" I asked.  "Oh, no," was the answer.  "Nobody's as loud as people from Cleveland."

I mean no disrespect, you understand.  If people from Cleveland are, indeed, louder than the rest of the world, it's no doubt attributable to all of the reasons I've just named for our family's speech pattern, with the added element of living in a city, where you have to talk over cars and trains and buses and utter bitter cold and, oh, yeah, all of those people.

Happy Third of July.

The Joy of Catastrophe

As I keep repeating in hopes the shock will wear off, my compadre was seriously injured on June 3.

In accordance with my continuing desire to make sure life is as complicated as possible, the first thing I did upon our return from his emergency treatment was to lose the plug-in cord for my cellular phone.

It wasn't the end of the world.  I do have a cord in the Jeep, so when I seriously need a charge I could head out back and sit still for ten or fifteen minutes -- always my favorite thing to do in times of crisis.

Losing stuff wouldn't be half as unnerving if, when catastrophes hit, I didn't devote serious time and thought to tidying.  When life is out of control, I need clear spaces and the confidence that when I reach for something, it will be there.

And so it was, except for that blasted plug-in cord.

Day before yesterday I decided to take photos of the St. Snidely picnic blanket, and you'll never guess what I discovered when I opened the camera case.  Yes, indeed; I'd tucked my phone cord into the camera case, thinking it was the camera-to-laptop cord.

Oh, joy.

The kind of joy that only comes in catastrophes, because under ordinary circumstances the want of a phone cord is a mild annoyance. When the going gets tough, though, the want of a phone cord can be the final straw - and the end of that want thus becomes a truly joyful moment.

July 2, 2012

The Saint Snidely Quilt

 I finished this quilt for my nephew a few days ago.  It's title is "The Saint Snidely Sidewinder and the Unrepentant Uke Boys."
Saint Snidely is the patron saint of ukuleles, vegetarians, mustaches, and the A-Team.

My nephew plays in a ukulele band, and their logo is the mustache on the lower left in the mustache portion of this photo.

Here's the long shot.  I favor just enough quilting to keep the batting where it belongs.  In the case of the cotton batting I used, that means stitching can be 10 inches apart, which is still a little closer than I like.  Even so - this is a picnic blankie and is sure to turn up in the parks and environs of Spartanburg, SC, when Snidely and the gang hit the stage.

June 30, 2012


It's a bird!

It's a plane!

Nope!  It's a sunflower that I painted last month, and on Monday it will head out to Hawaii to add a helpful heaping of joy to someone's life.  What a wonderful world.

June 27, 2012

The Art of the Tidza Parade


My cousin just provided the link so I could see the 2010 parade in Tideswell, the small town in Derbyshire, England, where my father was born.  He left to join the navy when he was 17 and returned only for the rare visit.  My mother kept up the communication with his family, and so I knew about Wakes Week and the annual dressing of the well, a holiday celebrated on June 24 each year, which is St. John the Baptist Day and my friend Mary Flowers' birthday.

I just learned here that the custom of well-dressing is peculiar to Derbyshire.  Here's a bit of information:  
"This ancient custom is only found in Derbyshire and is the art of decorating springs and wells with pictures made from natural materials. Four wells are dressed in the centre of Tideswell.  Wells have been dressed at Tideswell since 1946. Refreshments are available around the village.
"Well locations: Fountain Square – main Well; Church Yard – Three wells dressed by Scouts, Guides and Tideswell School."

One participant posits that the custom of well dressing is a "Christianised vestige of early ritual celebrating the healing miracle of clean water" -- and it's not hard to imagine the custom having developed while the area was still pagan.  Bless the water, which, as we in America are becoming more and more aware, is life.

I met Betty Friedan at Forum '85, a session held in  Nairobi, Kenya, concurrent with the United Nations End of the Decade for Women Conference in 1985.  I happened upon a tree with a note attached informing anyone who cared that Betty Friedan would be there every day at a given time for an hour or so, and everybody was welcome to join the conversation.  One of the days I attended, some Kenyan officials (male, in suits) came to ask Betty what women wanted.  She deferred to their countrywoman, whose name was Sarah.  Sarah stood and replied that what women want is schools, firewood, and water.

Clean water.  Potable water.  Water close by.  Water not contaminated by coal ash or pesticides.

Women still want clean water, which takes us back to the well dressings in Derbyshire. Here are a few photos:
The 2011 Tideswell well dressing

England faces the same crisis with small post offices that we are in the U. S.

The point of all of this is to say that I've always wanted to go to a Tideswell well dressing.  When I told my cousin Danny, he posted the youtube link for my viewing pleasure.  I am filled with questions after seeing it, mostly things like what the money being collected was to be used for and how exactly did one find one's way into such a parade.  Then I dwindled off into thinking that by rights we ought to take part in that parade ourownselves, if we could settle on a theme.  (Actually, a pseudo-theme looks to be sufficient.)  Which leaves only one more thing to be resolved:  whom do we know in Derbyshire who owns a tractor and what would it take for them to let us use it on parade day?

June 19, 2012

The Craft of Going the Whole Nine Yards

Why, I have always wondered, would you encourage anybody to go the whole nine yards?  What kind of achievement is that when the goal is, at least in football, if cheerleaders can be trusted, as I believe they can, "First in ten; do it again."

What, I've perenially wondered without ever remembering to look it up or ask, is the point of stopping one yard short of the goal?  What, precisely, is gained by that?  If you're going to fight for nine yards, why not give that extra little push and actually accomplish something?

Today, my decades-long confusion was cleared up.  I'm excited to report that I got the answer while watching a rather silly spy movie with my compadre.  It turns out that my error in understanding is that all along I thought we were talking about football.

I was wrong.

The nine yards doesn't refer to football but to a far more serious endeavor.  At least since World War II, ammo belts -- the kind soldiers carry for military operations because that's how much fits in an average ammo box-- have been nine yards long.

To go the whole nine yards, then, means to give it all you;'ve got; to pour until the jug is empty; to take extraordinary measures to preserve the lives and physical wholeness of your colleagues; to keep using what you've got 'til you use it up. Life and death, in other words.

Now I have a new question about "the whole nine yards"? I want to know why we toss it into conversations about meaningless activities?  Go the whole nine yards to meet a company goal?  Go the whole nine yards to finish an art project?  Go the whole nine yards in getting a proposal written?  Go the whole nine yards in training your dogs, detailing your car, fixing a gourmet meal for friends?

Yeah, no.

I'm not saying those activities are to unimportant in the ordinary scheme of things.  Rather, I'm saying that they have nothing to do with life and death; and that a phrase born out of war, out of the deaths and maiming of military personnel and civilians shouldn't be trivialized in common conversations. With an all-volunteer army, it's easy for Americans to pretend that, while war may still be hell, it's a newer, gentler hell -- the kind of hell you get when the feet on the ground in Afghanistan and other hot spots belong to poor people and to minorities (not mutually exclusive groups) rather than to the profile of soldiers during the days of the military draft, when anybody and everybody's brother or cousin or high school friend or colleague's child could be on the next boat or plane heading into a war zone.

We need to go the whole nine yards to support military families.

We need to go the whole nine yards to provide effective protective clothing and vehicles and equipment for the military on the battle fields.

We need to go the whole nine yards to provide the support -- physical, mental, emotional -- that our veterans and their families need when a military person returns from battle.  And, yes, by that I mean not only hospitals with no rats in the hallways but also qualified therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, medical personnel, chaplains, folk life experts, poets, projects, and seminars to allow as much healing as a given person needs and wants.

Those tasks are more important than a first down in a football game.  They mean the difference between life and death, between a life of paucity and a life of abundance.

Wounded Warrior Project 
Support Our Troops By Supporting Their Children
Joining Forces

If you know of other organizations making a difference in the lives of military personnel and families, please leave a note in the comments section.

June 18, 2012

The Art of Dailiness

 Paper Coterie has a sale going on for their new journals, which they're calling a Daily Documenting book.  Each book has two or three lines for each day, so that you can quickly jot down what was happening each day.  Great for people who don't want to journal but do want to keep track of what they've done in recent months.  The best part is that you can upload photos for the cover and to be sprinkled throughout.

I spent two hours making one for myself and then saved it.  I'll look at it again tomorrow and decide whether the photos I uploaded are the selection I actually want.  (Usually I start these things an hour before the final deadline; in this case, the sale continues for several more days.)

Nothing like a 40% off sale to make it worth my while to experiment with a new mode of uploading photos -- especially when I can fill my Daily Documenting Doohickey with iris after iris from photos I took this spring.

No products, services, payment, or financial gain of any other sort was provided for me to tell you about this deal.  It's simply a good excuse for posting an iris photo, or two, or three.

June 17, 2012

The Art of Not Finishing Too Soon

I've been quilting most of the day.  I intended to use purple thread throughout but got bored enough three hours ago to switch to turquoise.  I'm hand-stitching, which is my preferred method, except I'm pretty sure the next few sewn pieces I make are going to feature machine-stitching, period.

I like the presence that hand-stitching gives, but the weekend is over, and tomorrow we're back to my compadre's physical therapy calendar and phone calls to verify other doctor's appointments (we have the date and address for one this week but not a single notation about what time we're to be there) and I suppose I should see if I've left any bills unpaid, like, say, my phone bill - and then to pay them.

Less time to stitch, in other words -- and then there are the variables regarding whether I'll make it to Indianapolis for the EEWC conference this coming weekend, which includes a memorial service for Dr. Nancy A. Hardesty on Saturday night.

How can I decide if I'll be able to go when I can't reach a decision about binding this quilt? I want to use Christmas cookie fabric with a red background and gingerbreadcookie-colored cookies and white icing -- fabric that coordinates not at all with the rest of this piece.

I've thought a lot today about what is lost when someone dies.  In Nancy's case, the records of her books and other publications, of the organizations she founded and took part in, the students she taught and writers she encouraged (I'm one; my first book came to be because she called and told me I was ready to write a book) -- all of the official things she did are recorded and listed and will be known in perpetuity. What most people won't know, though, is that she loved picking blueberries and strawberries; that she made jams and jellies every year; that she was the best cookie decorator who ever hung out at my  kitchen table over the Christmas holidays, and that through his friendship with her my late husband learned how to love more broadly than he'd ever dreamed was possible.

So I'm going to keep on stitching, and this throw quilt and I either will or won't get to Indianapolis this year. In any case, the slow stitching has allowed me time to treasure the ordinary moments that illuminated three decades of friendship.  As a friend reminded me, care for the living takes precedence over honoring the dead, but sometimes the two are happening simultaneously.

The Art of Stitching

A friend told me seven years ago that some people think the act of stitching together pieces of fabric embodies the act of resolving brokenness, of healing the fractures and the fragments of the whole world..

In spite of the fragmented state into which I've been thrust by recent trauma, I've settled down enough to stitch.  The project is a pieced cotton blanket that I began 18 months or so for my dear friend Nancy A. Hardesty, Ph. D., who'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year or more earlier. By the time I finished the piecing (you can see photos at the blog post I did at the time) it was too late to give it to her.  She was de-accessioning her library and possessions. It was beyond her -- it's beyond any of us -- to receive additional items at such a time.

And yet there was Nancy's blanket, which included lots of purple, small vintage patches in honor of her work as a historian, and fabrics I'd used in quilts for my daughters and grandchildren. (Nancy knew and loved them as thoroughly as they knew and loved her.)  I suggested donating it to the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus for the silent auction at their biennial conference. The organization, of which Nancy was a co-founder, has been short of money throughout its existence, which may be why she agreed, even though her original wish was that it go to someone who was dealing with breast cancer.

I'm working on the final stitching, healing my own fractures and fragments and trying not to feel pressured by the rapidly approaching conference.  I'd planned to attend.  It may not be possible for me now, but Nancy's quilt will be there. I'm reconnecting as I stitch with shiny purple thread to Nancy's kindness and affection.

Only I could have made this blanket.  Only Nancy could have understood the significance of the florals, a dragon, cheerleaders and tiaras, fat embroidery stitches, and quilting stitches at six to ten inch intervals because I don't like tight quilting. There's a cross on the blanket, and also ghosts and goblins, because Nancy dearly loved Halloween.

Anyhow, here I am at the last minute, stitching into this blanket some of the devotion Nancy offered to me, my family, her students at Clemson College, her colleagues, and the many other people whose lives were touched by her grace. I believe in the community of saints, and so I trust that Nancy is in on the act of my healing, stitching me back together with her love, over which death has not the slightest power.

June 15, 2012

The Art of Living with a Chihuahua

Laramie riding bikes on Middle Bass Island
 I'll admit it's my fault.  My Chihuahua, Laramie, has been ruint* by the way I've pampered her for the last two years.  We adopted her when I was going through a rough spell, and she was very grateful, being a small dog who was discovered wandering down a very wide, noisy highway.

Laramie has different barks for different events, but this morning's was the best bark of all.  She'd been outside twice.  She'd been offered and had several drinks of water.  I'd hand-fed her her share of canned dog food.  (Okay, fine!  I know if I would stop hand-feeding her, she'd no longer be a dog that needs hand-fed, but that's a story for another day.)

The story for today is that she wouldn't settle.  She kept tracking me down and offering short barks.  She wanted something.  I offered dry dog food, and she ran into the living room.  I followed, sat down on the couch, and offered her a few morsels.  She looked toward the kitchen, sat down, looked expectantly at me, and waited.

A moment later, Koko, our yellow Labrador retriever, came into the room and accepted the three pieces of dog food on the palm of my hand. I picked up a few more and offered them to Laramie.

Yes, that's what she was waiting for:  Koko.

So that's what I've created: a prima dogga - but a prima dogga which knows how to share.

*ruint.  origin: deep South.  definition: you might as well forget trying to change her now