An update, and thanks

You are a wonderful bunch—did you know that?

You have given me such support and I have been buoyed by it. Your comments and messages have moved me beyond my ability to express.

I’m back to give you an update, and am happy to say that the update is generally very positive!

After the stroke, Don was in the hospital and then an acute rehab unit for a total of six weeks.

He has been home for a month now, and is continuing rehab with outpatient therapies.

He is doing far better than I dared to hope when this all started. His physical strength is very good and he is mobile and takes care of his personal needs entirely. He has gotten back into the kitchen and done some cooking and we go out to eat regularly.

He has some deficits he continues to work on. He’s not driving yet and he has some issues with aphasia. He gets momentarily frustrated but is, overall, in a good place—I think he really understands how much worse off things could be, and is grateful.

I’m really, really grateful, for so many things.

My family has been terrific, as has his daughter. Even my mother, who suffers from dementia, has worked hard to be supportive and caring—once a mom, always a mom.

My sister has been an angel.

I never had any appreciation for all the therapists of the world—the physical therapists, the speech/language therapists, the occupational therapists. I have come to be fascinated with the knowledge they have and the work they do. And with their spirits and motivational skills!

We have friends, local and far-flung, who have kept in touch and offered endless, loving support.

And I count you among those friends. You have not let the fact that we’ve never actually met stop you from caring, feeling my stress and confusion, and offering calming, kind words.

It has meant so much to me!

I don’t know, yet, whether or when I’ll come back to blogging. I spend a ton of time now running the roads—driving Don to lots of appointments and spending time with my mother.

I’ve come to realize just how much time I devoted to blogging, to do it the way I wanted to. I have been using that time, lately, to weave. And the weaving has been awfully satisfying and important to me.

I’d like to be able to say that I am committing to being back here for real, that I’ll be posting and reading and commenting as I used to, but I don’t think that’s likely, at least for now.

I do want you to know, though, that my blog people—you and you and you—have meant so much to me through all this. I’m doing fine now, in part because of you.

Thank you so much.

Friends, Indeed: Kit, Liz, Jan

IMG_2963Have you ever been in a place where kindness means a whole lot to you, more so than usual? Feeling a little overwhelmed, a little harried, but then shored up by someone else and their kindness to you?

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of kindness lately. For starters, while I was off selling candy at holiday boutiques this past week, my husband cleaned the entire house, from top to bottom! How’s that for nice?!

I can, and have, thanked him in person but I want to thank three other kind people more publicly.

First I need to mention my totally cool sister, Kit, who was my right-hand gal, yet again, while I sold candy at the boutiques. She helped last year and I will not EVER accept an invitation to one of these boutiques if she is unavailable or unwilling to help. My sister is mellow, even-tempered, and methodical about helping so I can just flap around and talk to customers! It doesn’t come as any surprise that I depend on her for this sort of help—she has been by my side, often literally but always figuratively, my entire life.

I knew I could count on my sister’s kindness this past week but I was blind-sided by kindness from two other people, too—the antidote to feeling stressed and exhausted is nice people!

Let’s take the kindness of a blog friend, Liz, who writes the blog, “food for fun.” Not only did Liz, a professional foodie, give me some great business and buy lots of candy from me, she wrote a really, REALLY nice blog post about the candy and shared some of her stash with others in the food industry. It is so reassuring to hear this kind of feedback from someone who is truly knowledgeable about food and the fact that she gave me the kind feedback so publicly . . . well, it doesn’t get any better than that!

I saw Liz’s blog post at the end of a long and intense day of selling at one of the holiday boutiques. Those events are fun but exhausting for a hard-core introvert like me. However, when I saw what Liz had written I felt new again and ready to go back the next day, for the second boutique, with a spring in my step!

I know you’d enjoy Liz’s blog as much as I do. It does what you’d expect a food blog to do—provide recipes and talk about food trends—but Liz writes with an honesty and humor that I find lacking in so many food blogs. Other food bloggers can make me feel like a schmo in the kitchen but Liz keeps it real and really fun. Plus she writes frequently about bourbon . . . and that means a lot to me!

Liz had me flying pretty high but then I had another long day of selling and a five-hour drive home. Another low-energy period, begging to be buoyed by kindness! I got home to an envelope from Jan, the author of “The Snail of Happiness.”

Jan is interested in sustainability—with a Ph.D. in ecology, I guess that’s not surprising. She recently finished an advanced program in permaculture and, as part of that process, made a masterpiece blanket that included her own crochet work, as well as crocheted and knitted blocks from blog friends around the world. When I whined to Jan that her mailbox must be a lot more fun than mine, she took it upon herself to change that! This is her modus operandi it seems . . . .

When I returned home from my downstate selling extravaganza yesterday, I had an envelope from Wales waiting for me. Jan had crocheted me a cotton ray of sunshine, some ever-blooming roses, and a big and beautiful cloth that she says is a dishcloth but that I can’t imagine ever using on dishes! I am pondering some ideas about how to use it, even as I write.

Jan’s blog is another I’m confident you’ll love—in fact, I know many of you do follow it and are contributors to her masterpiece! If you haven’t checked The Snail of Happiness out yet, do so—Jan loves that which is handmade and she brings an intelligent, down-to-earth voice to her blog.

All of this is an excellent reminder, at this time of year when we’re urged to buy big to show people we love them, that it is often the small, unexpected gestures that really matter and will brighten a day, lighten a load. I’ve been reminded of this important lesson by Kit and Liz and Jan, by being on the receiving end of their kindness.

And I resolve to do more on the giving end as well.

Loving Hands of Friends: Grandma Van’s Quilt

IMG_2079In an era where young women show their affection for friends by posting blurry photos of them on Facebook, the traditional practice of making a friendship quilt seems incredibly “old school.” But I’m an old-school kind of gal and I love being the current caretaker of a Depression-era friendship quilt, a lasting and lovely example of the power wrought by “loving hands at home.”

This is Grandma Van’s quilt.

grandma van quiltOrvada Hartman Van Landingham was my husband’s grandmother. She made wonderful quilts but she didn’t make this one. It was made for her by the women of her Texas community, as she and her husband prepared to move to California during the Great Depression.

Imagine how hard that must’ve been for a young woman, to leave everyone and everything she knew and move into the unknown. And she wasn’t moving because she had a great new job waiting, or because she’d always wanted to live in California. She was moving to escape, like so many others, the Dust-Bowl-ruined Great Plains, and just hoping she and her husband could make a better life in the mythical West.

Friendship quilts have been popular since the mid-1800s in the United States and probably evolved out of the pastime of the communal quilting bee. Some of the quilts are more properly called signature quilts, because they were made to raise money for a church or charity; people would pay to have their signature on the quilt and sometimes made their block or sometimes just signed it. These quilts could then be raffled, to raise even more money.

Grandma Van’s quilt is pretty typical of friendship quilts of the Depression Era. I know it was finished about 1931, since one of the blocks has that date embroidered on it. Each woman would’ve made a block and written or embroidered her name on it. Then all the blocks were sewn together and quilted by the members of the group.

According to very good website, Hart Cottage Quilts, typical fabrics in the late 1920s and early ’30 were heavy on new “sherbet pastels.” Because manufacturers had limited dyes to work with, the different shades of any given color coordinated well, meaning that, for Depression-era quilters, it would’ve been hard to make a “wrong” fabric choice!

Grandma Van’s quilt must have been cherished—it came to her grandson and me in wonderful condition. The names embroidered on the quilt fascinate me. My New England ancestors were Ruths and Kathleens and Lydias. Orvada’s friends were Effie, Ona, Novis, and Melia—such exotic names! And the older women who participated maintained their dignity and social status by signing themselves as “Mrs.” And “Granny.”

So, Grandma Van and her husband Guy took their quilt and their other meager belongings and left Texas. We don’t know how their journey went, whether it was fairly uneventful or pure Tom Joad. They ended up in Tuolumne City, California, where Guy found work in a lumber mill and he and Orvada raised three children.

I can just imagine Orvada bringing this quilt out at times she felt lonely or frightened in her new world. Maybe she wrapped it around her shoulders and thought of her old friends and, in so doing, found comfort.

To call a quilt like this a metaphoric hug may be a timeworn cliché but, hey, the quilt itself is time worn . . . and that just adds to its beauty. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

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