Friday, January 29, 2021

Finish it Friday ~ Two Quilt Tops

Over the past year, thanks to the pandemic, I’ve dealt with a lot of deferred maintenance, big (like repainting the exterior trim on our house) and small (like repairing my favorite bracelet). It felt good to get these nagging tasks off my list, so I decided to make my word, and theme, for 2021 “finish,” and I wrote a list of 21 things that I’ve either started and left hanging or have been meaning to get around to doing—from writing projects to reading lists to crafts. Enter these two throw quilts, both of which started with my mom and have been sitting in my to-do pile a very long time.

The first is this retro number that my mom must have started in the very early 80s, and passed on to me, partially assembled at least 20 years ago. I finished putting it together way back then—mostly. I was short a couple of rectangles and had assembled on block backwards. It was the work of less than an hour to take apart the bad block, cut a few rectangles, and finish it already.

Many of the fabrics in the quilt I recognize from dresses my mom made me when I was little.

Others predate me, but are seriously groovy.

The alternating blocks of rectangles and triangles makes a neat diagonal pattern overall. I recall my mOm telling me got the pattern idea from a quilt in a movie—something tragic like Coal Miner’s Daughter or The Dollmaker.

The second quilt project also came from my mom—she cut out a zillion “wavy charms” during a destashing episode a number of years ago and sent them to various quilters in the family. Two things stymied me on this one—there weren’t enough pieces for a whole quilt, and I wasn’t sure how to sew together the wavy edges of the charms. I solved the first problem by letting a lot of years and my own stash build up, and the second by just diving in with sewing.

A little stretching here and a pin or two there, and it worked out fine. This quilt was a walk down memory lane, too, with fabrics that go back at least to my first communion dress (tiny strawberries on a white background). In putting these very disparate prints together, I mainly focused on alternating light and dark, warm and cool, floral and geometric, older and newer, since there was otherwise no rhyme or reason to them. And though you’d never choose any of these fabrics to “go” together, I like the overall effect. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A New Hope

My suffragette Christmas tree ornament had an inauguration party in the dollhouse
on Wednesday. When asked what she thought of the first woman being elected
Vice President 100 years after women gained the franchise, she said,
"What took so long?" and also, "
Vice President?"

The insurrection at the US Capitol two weeks ago shook me, hard. I had bad dreams. I felt sick all over. I could not stop scrolling the news, searching for stories of consequences for the rioters. When I went grocery shopping two days later, I felt suspicious of every person in the store. Of each I wondered if they were likely to be driven to mayhem and murder when things didn't go their way, when driven to the edge of insanity by lies and misinformation. 

In short, I felt traumatized. Maybe it was because the day before the insurrection I'd had my own run-in with people loitering around the Statehouse, looking to start trouble (I won't call them protestors; I've participated in many protests, and no one has ever screamed in the face of a passerby--or anyone else). But I believe that anyone of conscience in this country, anyone who's gotten teary-eyed while humming along to "My Country 'Tis of Thee," anyone who, despite knowing that the reality falls far short of the ideal, believes deeply in the promise of liberty and equality, must have felt the same visceral horror and shock at the desecration that took place in the heart of our democracy.

As the days passed, the inauguration neared, arrests started to roll in, and quiet began to settle over the land, the full-body revulsion I felt began to be replaced by a different feeling--hope. Not the grand, lofty hope we all felt at the start of Obama's presidency, the hope of a changed world, of the arc of justice bending more sharply, but rather a more mundane, bureaucratic hope. The hope of competent people setting out to govern not out of spite but for the good of all. Hope that children will be taken out of cages and returned to their families, hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be addressed in a coordinated and centralized fashion, hope that people will receive some economic relief, hope that climate change will be approached as the existential threat that it is.

I know people who are already agitating that this administration won't be the paragon of perfect progressiveness they believe this country needs, but for now I'll settle for the righting of the ship of state. I'll settle for articulate speeches about possibilities. I'll settle for a moment of silence to acknowledge the 400,000 people who died of COVID-19 over the last year and who had been dismissed by the previous administration. I'll settle for immediate administrative actions to erase some of their more egregious policies.

I will also celebrate the FIRST WOMAN Vice President, the first African-American Vice President, the first Asian-American Vice President. As Kamala Harris took the oath of office and my eyes filled with tears, I realized that we didn't get a chance to celebrate this monumental achievement after the election amid all of the noise and rancor about election results generated by the merchants of lies and disinformation. But now we can breathe deeply again--for the first time in four years--and we can embrace and enjoy this moment for what it is--huge, earth-shattering, beautiful, and long overdue.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Book Stack ~ December 2020

A monthly list of books read. Previous months here: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober, November.

December was a bit of a slow reading month, like November, and not for any *good* reason, like my hands being busy making a lot of holiday gifts, because this year I made nothing. Rather it was a combination of returning to work and watching way too much television. But I've made some changes that I hope will make it easier to incorporate reading into my life more regularly in 2021.

First, the nonfiction:

I finally finished reading The Norton Book of Nature Writing, College Edition, edited by Robert Finch and John Elder, which took me at least all year (I wish I'd noted when I began reading). It doesn't look that thick, but it has onion-skin pages and clocks in at 1,135 pages before the permissions section. Most traditional nature writing anthologies include a whole bunch of white dudes plus Rachel Carson. With this one, you can tell that the editors went to some pains to include more women and some more diverse voices, and these appear more toward the back of the book, among the more recent selections. But still, there's a whole lotta old white dudes represented. Nevertheless, it's an excellent survey of the genre, and it introduced me to several authors whose books I have acquired and read or plan to read soon.

As a companion, I read A Natural History of Nature Writing by Frank Stewart, which is a book that shows how American nature writing evolved since the time of Thoreau, and how Thoreau influenced some of the more influential writers of the 20th century (Aldo Leopold, Ed Abbey, Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben; in other words, a bunch of white dudes plus Rachel Carson). Unfortunately, I spread the reading of it out to coincide with reading the excerpts by the relevant authors in Norton, which means I didn't really take in the author's thesis as well as I might if I'd read it straight through. It's one I might revisit later, as I continue to hone my understanding of and approach to nature writing.

For fiction:

I listen to the #AmWriting podcast pretty religiously, so I heard a lot about the development, delay, and eventual release of The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell'Antonia, so of course I had to read it. It's the entertaining story of a decades'-old family feud, conflict between a pair of modern-day sisters, and a reality TV show. Oh, yeah, and fried chicken. If you're looking for something fun and lively to read to escape from the insane moment we find ourselves in right now, check this one out.

Finally, I read The Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd, which is a collection of the essays/short stories (they seem to blur across the line) on which the movie was based. We were late comers to the movie, which my sister sent us a half-dozen Christmases ago or so, but it's since become one of our favorites. I think it gets more amusing every time I watch it, and the grinchy teenagers even seem to enjoy it still. I thought I'd never read it before, but now I see I read it in 2018, which is really strange, because none of it seemed familiar to me, except the parts that show up in the movie. If my book memory starts to go, I'm going to be really upset. In any case, it was a fun, fast read, and Shepherd's humor style is super engaging and fresh, even though the essays were originally published decades ago (and the events took place in the 30s).

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