It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How to finish a project

This morning, as I do on many mornings, I glanced into my still dark sewing room as I headed down the hall to leave for work.  In the darkness I could see the ironing board and sewing machines, plus all the clutter.  It seemed to call me to "come, come spend the day in here".  I imagined doing a few chores and then heading in there for a day, and maybe an evening too, of sewing.  One can always dream, right?
I have many projects stacked up, all in various states of progress.  I've realized that the key to accomplishment is in focusing on one project at a time.  And, not starting anything else until I finish at least a few of the WIPs (works in progress).  How did I come to this realization?
Last year at the Quilt Festival I took a class from Libby Lehman.  She is a wonderful teacher, as well as an internationally known quilter.  In the class she told us that she works on one project at a time so the creative voices can speak to her.  Her website,, states this in more detail: 
I work on one quilt at a time, from start to finish (“finish” means the slides are taken and in the notebook). This discipline helps me to focus in on each quilt as a distinct entity. It also cuts down on the clutter, both literally and figuratively. Part of my creative process involves an ongoing dialogue with my quilts; too many voices trying to talk at once would be distracting. It usually takes from a few days to a month to complete a quilt.

This is the project we did with Libby; this was the example she made to show us.  Her stitching and interpretation of the iris was stunning!  I got about half way through with mine so it is in the WIP stack!

Excellent advice.  Another influence in my realization came from a comment that a co-worker made to me 35 years ago.  I was young, working in my first job.  My supervisor was older, she already had school age children.  We both liked to do crewel embroidery and I was complaining that I had a project that I just could not seem to get going on.  I really wanted to make the pictures but I was having a hard time spending much time on them and seemed to loose interest after I stitched for a while.  She gave me advice I've never forgotten:  "Just try working on the project 30 minutes a day.  You'll be surprised after a week or two with how much you've accomplished."  I tried this and it was true!  I soon had made enough progress that I felt satisfied with the project and motivated to finish it.
I also read a statement on a quilter's blog that she tries to sew at least 10 minutes a day.  Ten minutes is a little short for me.  For one thing, I have to dust off the cat hair from the machine and work space and de-clutter the work surface and that takes up the ten minutes!  But the thought is still there:
  Focus on one project, start to finish
Work a few minutes a day on the project
Let the inner, creative voices speak to you while you work
Enjoy your work time and be thankful

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just a picture

A peaceful scene that restores the soul
After yesterday's lengthy post I decided that just a picture would do for today.  This was made in the Japanese garden at the Botanical Garden. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Did They Do It? Part Two

A while back I started a post about my grandparents and their lives, How Did They Do It? Part One .  After rambling for a while I realized that I needed to turn the post into at least two parts.  I also realized that I needed to organize my thoughts before continuing.  It has been bugging me that I haven't finished the series.  The problem is that all these thoughts keep swirling around in the salad spinner and I can't seem to get them together!  Part of the problem is that although in my mind I can see the lives that they lived, I can't really imagine what their lives were like. 

Both sets of grandparents were born in the early years of 1900, if my memory is correct in 1904 and 1907. My grandparents grew up on farms.  My maternal grandparents married in 1925; the paternal grandparents in 1927.  So I decided those years would be the first part of their lives.  In the following years my parents would be born and my grandparents would be busy raising them, so I decided that would be the second part of their lives. The 1950's brought high school and college graduations, followed by marriages and children moving far away to raise their children.  Part three is the stage of my grandparents lives that I remember as a child and a teenager.  

After breaking down their lives into these three stages I realized it was easier to understand what life was really like by just looking at each stage individually. (I have to laugh because at this point I'm wondering if one of my grandchildren will break down my life into stages!) So, thinking about the years 1904 to 1927 is hard.  I've seen pictures of my maternal grandmother's family home where she was born and grew up.  I remember one time when we were visiting the cemetery close to where the home was that my grandmother showed us the spot where it stood.  It was a big house, there were 10 children living there, as I remember it was two stories and made of wood.  There were no screens to keep out the bugs, ugh!  I've been in the house where my father lived as a little boy.  It was also made of wood, too, and I think there was a fireplace.  The room where the kitchen was had been torn down but I remember hearing him talk about the women cooking on a wood burning stove.  

Neither family had electricity nor running water, but that was the way of life at that time.  Winters were cold and summers were hot.  They didn't know what a luxury it would be to flip a switch and have light or turn on a faucet and have water, hot water, too, come running out.  If you don't know about something how can you miss it?  Automobiles were just coming on the scene as my grandparents were marrying.  I remember my grandmother talk about taking the horse and wagon to go to the Delta to visit her family.  I also remember her laughing that when the first automobile that could go 35 miles per hour was built that everyone thought that anyone riding in such would be killed!

Life in those days was about survival.  Raising crops for food and income.  Raising animals for food and to pull equipment.  Cutting fire wood for warmth and cooking.  Sewing clothes and making quilts for warmth.  There were social times, too though.  For my father's family there was Camp Meeting in the first week of August.  Churches had dinner on the grounds followed by a "Sunday Singing" that attracted visitors.  Trips to town were a special occasion, too. 

Health care was very different then, too.  Illness and injury took many lives.  Doctors were well trained but drugs and successful treatment techniques had not begun to develop (thank World War II for that). Doctors made house calls, traveling on horseback or in a buggy over the dirt roads.  My great-grandmother died in a February snowstorm as her 10th child was being born, the doctor was unable to get through the snow to the house.  If you walk through a cemetery often you will see many tombstones that have almost identical death dates:  influenza took it's toll during those years.

Did the people of that time think their lives were hard?  I have to think not; they didn't know any other way of life.  As I stated above, they didn't know about the luxuries and modern conveniences that make our lives easy.  Often we hear people talk about the good old days and how simple life was "back then".  I honestly don't think people's lives were really simple during these years. No matter what time period you live in, life is just the way it is at that time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


We've had rain this weekend.  During the night Thursday and early Friday morning the first rain fell, 2 1/2 lovely inches.  Although it fell during the night and I missed the simple pleasure of watching it come down I was very grateful and somewhat surprised at how much we had.  It started raining again this morning; by the time I left for church the gauge had a quarter of an inch and by the time it stopped late this afternoon there was 4 inches in the gauge!  

I went out yesterday morning  to check plants and I was amazed at how in 24 hours they all looked so fresh and green.  The Swedish Ivy that had looked very pale had not only greened up but looked as if it had already put out new growth.  Same thing with the geraniums that had looked like they were just about done.  The rain had done what no amount of watering with the garden hose could do.
As I thought about this remarkable occurrence I remembered that last weekend Jaydon and I had gone to the Botanical Garden to see an exhibit of dinosaurs in the gardens.  One of the dinosaur's descriptions told that it had lived in the area that we know as west Texas and further explained that west Texas at the time of that dinosaur was covered with lush vegetation and rivers and lakes.  I had a hard time imagining west Texas looking much like present day east Texas! 
Last Sunday my Sunday School class finished a DVD series filmed in the middle east.  The final lesson spoke of the importance of wells and water in Jesus' time.  There were several arial shots of where the dessert and irrigated lands came together.  The contrast was sharp.  What a difference water makes to a dry land!
Water.  We take it for granted, but we have to have it to live, don't we? Humans, animals, plants and trees.  It is necessary for the sustainment of life.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the rain that waters your creation.  Thank you for the gift of water to drink.  Thank you for the gift of your Living Water.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is it really time for these?

It seems early to see pumpkins in the store.  I saw a news item that farmers were harvesting early this year because of the drought so that may have caused these to pop up a little early.  And no, I was not the only one making pictures in the store!  It was quite a display, perfect to kick off the fall season!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Well House

Several posts back I wrote about my grandparents and wondered how did they survive.  I realized, very quickly, that I needed to break the idea down into several posts. I was writing and writing and writing because I had so many thoughts.  I plan to continue those posts along with just writing about some of the things I remember.  This one of those posts!

Remember the post about iced tea and my comment about the well water?  Writing about the well water reminded me of the little well house that sat about 100 yards (I think) from my maternal grandparents house.  As I shared previously they bought the property in the early 1940's and expanded the small house that was at the front of the acreage.  

I don't know if the well was already there and if my grandfather built the well house.  By my childhood it was covered in the same white, probably asbestos or some other unsafe by today's standards, shingle type siding that covered the house. There was a door, but I don't remember it being locked.  There were several small windows and a dirt floor.  A single light bulb in the center of the room provided light. It always smelled like onions because that was where my grandmother stored the small onions that she harvested from her garden. In the summer time there were usually wasps or yellow jackets that had snuck in and built a nest so my grandmother kept a can of spray in there, too.  Not much else was in there except the well itself.

I don't remember going in there very much.  It was off limits without an adult presence.  There were no questions asked and it never crossed my mind to try to slip in there.  It was off limits, period (just like the loaded guns kept in the gun safe!).  I do remember the first time I went in there.  I think a switch or something had tripped so my grandfather had to go out there to take care of whatever was wrong.  It was dark and although there was a light in the well house I remember him carrying a lantern, too.  That may have been for the short walk out there but it may also have been for extra light in the well house.  What I remember more than anything else was how disappointed I was in seeing the well.  I had expected something like the old-fashioned wishing wells with a bucket and a rope hoist that I had seen in story books.  I fully expected to look down into a beautiful , shimmering pool of water and make an extravagant wish!  However, the well was just a big, white, round porcelain thing sitting in the well house! I remember saying, "that's the well?" and wondering how that thing possible got the water up out of the well!

Future visits also brought disappointment.  The well house was hot, stuffy, and as mentioned before smelled like onions.  Today if you drive by the property the well house is gone.  The county laid water lines and mandated that everyone use their very bad tasting water that was very expensive.  The hydrant in the yard area behind the house door remained hooked up to the well and that was where the tea water came from in later years.  My father swore it was the best water in the world, except for the times when some of that beautiful red Mississippi dirt slipped into the well!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You get mixed up

One of the assignments in my Organizational Communications class was to watch the movie Twelve Angry Men and write a critique. Thankfully the instructor gave us the option of watching the movie in class or on our own.  Obviously, since it was 9 p.m. the class choose to go home and watch the movie later.

The movie turned out to be very interesting,  We watched the 1957, black and white version. It is a very absorbing movie and I easily wrote the assigned critique.  Twelve men jurors are in a jury room trying to decide if a young man accused of murder is guilty or not.  Sounds rather blah, but this is a classic study in verbal and non-verbal communication not to mention prejudice.  I also thought the non-human elements were intriguing.  I could probably write a dissertation, the movie is just that full of thoughts.

But I had to share something here that one of the characters says to another when he was aggravated with him.

 "you're like everybody else, you think too much, you get mixed up"
I've written here before that I sometimes think my mind is like a salad spinner with all these thoughts and ideas spinning around. I have to sometimes push the stop button and dump out the contents of the spinner.  So this quote, while slightly funny in the movie, spoke to me.  I think way too much, not that that is a bad thing.  But it reminded me that when the ideas get to spinning around they get mixed up.  So it is good to stop the spinner, empty the contents and un-mix them.