Window Washing Warrior

Sun shining                                                                                                                      Get outside

Armed and ready 
with Norwex cloths

Environmentally friendly 
Chemical free 
Ordinary water 
and a simple cloth

First, blue 
Scrubbing in circles

Next, pink 
Squeaky clean 
Streak free shine

A new perspective
Glistening and glowing 
Must be Spring

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

Word Journey

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 31

Today is the thirty-first and final day of the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. I set out on a quest to create space and time for enhancing my writing life, and I discovered so much more through this challenge. Thank you, The Two Writing Teachers, for this forum to explore my writing.

Tomorrow will be the first day of April – the month to celebrate poetry. It will also be the day to begin a new 30 day yoga exploration. Inspiration for today’s poem appeared while lining up seven months of printed calendars used for my daily yoga practice. There they were, seven words stacked like the spines of books, waiting to be turned into a poem.

Word Journey

Seven months
Seven words 

Finding my TRUE self 
GRATEFUL 
for the breath

JOY for being
 At HOME

Time 
for contemplation
continuation

I will KISS
the opportunity
To CREATE a new beginning

Learning to
NURTURE myself
and others

35 Percent Happier

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 30

Bella the Airedale Terrier

Yesterday, I mentioned the podcast, Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, that I’ve become a big fan of. I appreciate the information about sleep, relationships, meditation, motivation, and stress from the many contributing experts. I mostly listen to the podcast while walking my dog, Bella, and as a result of my listening, I’m learning how to be more mindful and make small changes in habits leading me toward a happier life – ten percent happier, I hope.

One recommendation I frequently hear about is the idea of a gratitude journal, along with practicing meditation. The research mentioned in Harvard Health Publishing identifies how giving thanks can have multiple benefits, such as reduced stress, improved sleep, a boost in mental health, increased physical health, and improved relationships. Studies consistently show that people who keep a gratitude journal are 25 percent happier than those who don’t. Therefore, if I continue to build my meditative practice and combine it with a gratitude journal, I should be 35 percent happier.

Consequently, I started a gratitude journal last week. Here are some tips from Greater Good Magazine should you decide to start one for yourself. Each day I list three things I’m grateful for, and today when I settled in to write, I heard it –  a low-pitched, snoring type of sound; rhythmic and even. It prompted me to write the name Bella.

I am grateful for our black and tan Airedale Terrier, Bella.  She came to us with a tiny, purple bell ringing from her collar and we fell in love. We’ve loved her ever since. Bella makes our family 35 percent happier. A senior dog now, she will turn eleven in June, and probably one reason she snores. I’m not fond of snoring in general and don’t tolerate it very well when I’m in bed trying to fall asleep, but Bella’s snoring is comforting. It tells me she’s tuckered out from our walks. I’m grateful for her required walks these days more than ever. They’re a reason to get out every day, drink in some sunshine and fresh air, and find calm amidst the chaos.


Bella and Me

What I Am

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 29

Butternut Squash Kale Chicken Noodle Soup

What I’m reading at the current time are stories and poems from the 13th Annual Slice of Life Daily Writing Challenge hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. I’m amazed and inspired by this writing community, and I’m a little sad the end of the month-long challenge is near, with only two more posts after this. I believe it has helped create a habit of reacquainting myself with a writing life. Other writers have activated ideas for me to experiment with in my writing, have unknowingly served as mentors, and have offered feedback, essential to a vulnerable writer, I now have a place for my writing life to prosper.

What I’m watching is the just-released third season of Ozark on Netflix. I was hooked back when I first ventured into the Netflix universe. For some reason, I’m captivated by the twists and turns, trying to figure out how the whole situation will ever end on a positive. Each episode leaves me anticipating the next. I can’t stop watching.

What I’m listening to is my husband strumming away at his guitar in another room. A self-taught plucker, he developed his skills over many years as a middle school counselor as a way of destressing after work hours. Our family always knew if Dad got home and started jamming, he needed time for himself. The current days of sheltering at home during COVID-19 have presented a new challenge for us all mentally, so the music plays on.

During these days of social isolation, our house has been alive with music from favorite professional musicians via Instagram Live, YouTube, and FaceBook live. Out of necessity, musicians are learning to deliver their music in unique ways and it’s great therapy for all.

The podcast I’m currently listening to, and have become a huge fan of, is Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. I’m learning better ways of controlling the fear of the unknown racing around in my head and keeping me from sound sleep. The app of the same name is helping me advance my ability to “meditate to become a happier, healthier” me. Click here for free resources for coping with the Coronavirus.

What I’m doing to stay busy is sew. Yesterday, I completed the quilt top of a very special quilt I wrote about earlier in the challenge. You might be interested in reading My Mother’s Legacy. I moved on to cut 72 two-and-a-half inch squares from the pastel fabric remnants for a spring table runner. I wanted a smaller project that can be completed in a few days after a quilt that’s been a work in progress for over 17 years.

What I’m cooking and perfect for this rainy day is Chicken Noodle Soup. It’s also the ideal comfort food for these unusual times. When I shopped in advance of the Safer at Home order, there weren’t any whole chickens to be found. Yesterday, my husband graciously offered to restock some fresh produce items, and I snuck chicken onto the list, hoping for a different outcome on this trip. He grabbed the only remaining chicken and apologized for its appearance when he got home. He paid $10.98 for a pathetic, puny, little chicken.

When I prepare a kettle of Chicken Noodle Soup, it’s a day-long event. It’s not your typical CNS. I like to add diced butternut squash and kale for more color, more nutrients, and more flavor. I wonder if I should call it something else besides CNS because of those extra ingredients. The family loves the heartier version, and I’ve never gone back to a traditional recipe. It’s simmering on the stove and the house smells safe and comfortable like there’s not a worry in our world. At dinnertime, we’ll remember to thank that scrawny little chicken for providing a bit of comfort today.

Decisions, Decisions

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 28

Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers 13th Annual Slice of Life Daily Writing Challenge, I’ve been writing for 28 days straight. Today the weather has me thinking about the absence of color and how color affects our mood and our memory.

A favorite part of being a teacher was the first day of school when everyone opened their fresh, new box of crayons. The sensory explosion of inhaling the waxy scent, eyeing the straight rows of colors like Hot Magenta and Robin Egg Blue with their perfect points, and the feel of the smooth paper wrapping is the ultimate back-to-school experience. Opening a box of 64 crayons with the built-in sharpener always presents a feeling of possibilities. My passion for colors expanded to Sharpies and Flair pens, and eventually nail polish. There’s something about the power of color and how a simple stroke of it can brighten your day.


Gray day
Gray mood

I need some color 
and a new disposition
Time to paint my nails

Not a delicate blush pink tone like Privacy Please
Avoid barely noticeable pale pink Muchi, Muchi too
Creamy tea rose lacquer, Eternal Optimist, 
doesn't feel right either on such a dingy day

Go bold 
Get bright
Steer clear of dull

A bright, pink strawberry Guilty Pleasure isn't taboo
Maybe violet infused red tone, Big Spender, fits the bill  
Enuf-is-Enuf, it's time to pick a shade 

Go crazy
Get loud
Keep away from dingy

Don't rush with pretty purple Do You Lilac It 
winter just left
Eva So Bright's summery coral hue seems month away
No need to get High Strung
Yukon Do It, 
Just stay away from Black Onyx 
and Petal Pushers cool slate cast today
It's aleady a dull, drab day



A Letter to My Succulent

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 27

Echeveri a haagai Tolimanensis
I cannot pronounce your actual plant name, so I call you E.T.

Dear E.T.,

This morning during my quiet meditation time, my eyes settled on you, my drishti. It was then that I realized I owe you an apology.

Last summer, I brought you home from the garden center and lovingly tended to your every need. I purchased special a potting mix designed especially for succulents just like you. I splurged on a special bottle of plant food formulated to deliver the nutrients you needed to grow strong and healthy. You did. I watched the weather forecast each day and placed you under the eave because I didn’t want your leaves to rot from too much water. I made certain you sunbathed often, as you like to do. We were happy together out there on the patio. Visitors commented on your thick succulent leaves displayed in a rosette form. You were an amazing sight to behold.

Autumn arrived and in the commotion of preparing for the upcoming season, I hastily carried you down to the basement, since I know you’re not fond of the cold even though our basement is chilly too. Once, I aimed our little space heater in your direction while wrapping Christmas gifts on top of the chest freezer. Otherwise, there you sat alone in the corner. I told myself I was being thoughtful, choosing the corner near the window that lets in the morning light. It was inconsiderate. I watched your thick, fleshy leaves dry up and fall one by one at your base. If I’m truly being honest, I didn’t give you a second thought as I watched you wither down to one lonely stem attempting to stand upright, pushing your face toward the light. There you remained, appearing scrawnier with each trip to the basement. You no longer resembled the succulent from summer. You endured my indifference and I marveled at your strength and fortitude to survive under such harsh conditions and confinement.

With spring approaching and gardens plans developing, I brought you upstairs to our brightest room facing the morning sun. Your remaining blossom on top provided hope. Still, I continued to ignore you as I had for months, until today. Thank you for not giving up on us.

I don’t know if it was the light spilling through the window highlighting the bluish-green of your leaves, or the tiny offshoot emerging at your base, a sign of hope sprouting upward. You caught my eye, once again. I allowed myself to get caught up in your outer appearance, lured by other distractions, leading us further away from each other. I realize now, how selflessly you waited for me to gain control and focus, first with my eyes and then my attention. Only time will tell if you’ll forgive me and thrive once again.

Yours truly,

Me

A Mother’s Legacy

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 26

A quilting community is similar to a writing community. Fellow quilters support each another, offering suggestions and techniques. They demonstrate and teach. They provide feedback and encouragement. Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers 13th Annual Slice of Life Daily Writing Challenge, I am creating stories from words, phrases, and images. Thanks to my quilting community, I am learning to create masterpieces out of fabric.

Mom taught my sister and me how to sew clothes as young girls. My first, almost-independently-sewn, outfit was a two-piece short set, which I later modeled at the church Mother-Daughter banquet in second grade. It was the beginning of my sewing life. From there, I moved onto sewing Barbie clothes. As a teen, the idea of handmade garments lost its appeal when friends were purchasing the lastest trends from stores, and my interest in sewing disappeared.

I recall our family’s passage from sewing garments into the world of quilting began in 1981 when my mom asked family members to draw pictures on blank fabric squares, which would later be sewn onto my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary quilt. It was the first of many quilts created by my mom. The second was another combined effort since I was living at home, fresh out of college and beginning my life as a teacher. It was to be my someday wedding quilt, Grandmother’s Fan.

I didn’t contribute my fair share of the labor with that particular quilt, being a first-year teacher. I was consumed with creating bulletin boards, hand-cutting letters before die-cut machines, and smearing oil pastels on poster board before Carson Dellosa sets emerged. I eventually obtained many of those sets with same determination a quilter stashes fat quarters.

Grandmother’s Fan was fastened to a massive wooden frame taking up our entire study. It stayed there for well over a year while mom lovingly hand-stitched each block. I attempted one block, which fell short in comparison to my mom’s perfectly even stitches and lost interest. The quilt was finished by the time of our wedding and remains our most treasured gift of all.

Through the years, Mom designed and crafted quilts for each of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and family friends. Each family member received a baby quilt, a graduation quilt, and a wedding quilt, all hand quilted. In between, numerous table runners and wall hangings were created as well. Her sewing life switched from sewing clothes to quilts. She joined a local quilters guild and continued to sharpen her skills.

While my teaching career continued, my sister caught the quilting bug. I watched the relationship between Mom and her deepen as they consulted one another on projects. I became a color and design contributor on the side. Someday, I told myself.

My inspired sister was able to produce quilt after quilt much faster than my mom, preferring to machine quilt instead of hand quilting. The recipient of one of her bright, bold, cheerful batik fabric quilts, appropriately named Friendship Braid, the gift is my go-to quilt of comfort. Though we live many miles apart, quilting continues to keep us connected as we send photos of our design walls inviting each other’s input. Excursions to quilt shops are the norm when we’re all together. Our hobby keeps us woven together like a braid, my mom, sister and me.

In 2003, Mom began working on a quilt made entirely from hexagons. The fabrics were given to her by a member of her quilter’s guild who was unable able to complete it. She taught my mom the technique for creating paper templates, tracing, and hand piecing each flower in the pattern, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, a design dating back to Colonial times. The quilt contains 3,324 equilateral hexagons, called sixes. I came upon this entry from my mom’s quilting journal she’s maintained throughout her years of quilting.


October 2003

“Began making hexagons from reproduction fabrics. Fascinated by technique after watching Carol at our quilt show in September. A good project to take along and work on while traveling, watching tv, et. All hand sewing. A long range project.”


The hexagons traveled with my mom, or could be found alongside her favorite chair near the tv for many seasons, however, the quilt was put away for many years while Mom cared for my dad following his heart surgery and declining health. The hexagons resurfaced again in 2013 when Mom needed another project after completing a granddaughter’s wedding quilt. In the meantime, her Macular Degeneration was progressing, and it became her renewed mission to get the hexagons sewn together to finish the top. I was informed it would be my job to complete the quilting portion because I had begun quilting myself after discovering how to use a longarm machine thanks to a friend I worked with. We had decided to relieve the stress of work by devoting time to quilting. We both had a desire to learn how to longarm and registered for a day-long class. We’ve been scheduling time to rent the machines ever since and I’ve completed five quilts because of our commitment to staying creative. With each quilt, my skills are improving.

Mom managed to complete the flower portion of the quilt top and passed it along to me last year to add the borders. Upon inspection, I see the history. An heirloom documenting a skill my 84 year old mother has passed along to me and my sister. I see tight, straight, even stitches, 20 per inch, along the edges of the inner flowers progressing to loose, crooked, uneven stitches, 12-15 per inch, marking the timeline of Mom’s aching back and failing eyesight. The vintage fabrics remind me of my grandmothers’ and great aunts’ aprons gathered around a turquoise, vintage, chrome kitchen table.

I’m looking forward to the day this summer when my mom and I can rent time at a favorite quilt shop to finish Grandmother’s Flower Garden together on the longarm machine, this time with her bent over learning from me. Seventeen years in the making, we will complete it side by side and she will be able to see the layers of love woven in between.

I knew my someday would arrive. My mom, Master Quilter, provided a soft, warm layer of love needed to pass along her legacy of quilting to my sister and me. We’ve each adapted the craft to meet our needs. My sister is passionate about batiks and machine quilting, while I’m drawn to reproduction fabrics and the longarm. Learning to layer fabrics and add lines of stitching in a decorative design of art is the thread between the two generations.

Backyard Birds

Slice of Life 2020 – Day

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today’s inspiration came from Margaret Simon, author of the book, Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2018) recommended by The  Two Writing Teachers 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge (Day 23). The format of the poem, Peep Eye, offers a challenge for playing with words in a creative way.

Backyard Birds

bird - welcoming
backyard - resounding
patio - perching

Woodpecker - foraging

Doves - lamenting

Goldfinches - returning

Robins - building

Chickadees - investigating

Cardinal - trilling

Hawk - preying

patio - appreciating
backyard - bustling
bird - watching

Small Town Business

Slice of Life 2020 – Day 23

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

I was born in a small town

And I live in a small town

John Cougar Mellencamp

Today the Governor’s ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses starting tomorrow, and urging people to stay at home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

I grew up the youngest child in a small-town family. I remember our Main Street was lined with vibrant businesses, including the one my parents owned. On the east end was the Dairy Bar, where I fell in love with Blue Moon ice cream. On the opposite end, there was a historic hotel overlooking Lake Michigan and our beautiful city park. In between, were all the small businesses owned and operated by other local families, much like my own. There was a department store with wooden, creaky floors and an elevator. The street hustled and bustled with a few clothing stores, a drug store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, a shoe store, J.C. Penney, a hardware store, jeweler, pizzeria, two movie theaters, and a couple of banks.

Today, I live in a different small town with thriving downtown businesses. My favorite bakery, coffee shop, and pizza place are located downtown, and I shop locally whenever possible. Our Main Street is lined with beautiful brick storefronts and canvas awnings. Every time I walk up the sidewalk or drive down the street, I’m reminded of my childhood days.

My job after school as a kid was to run down to our store and crank up the heavy, green, canvas awning by hand. I cherished that job! I felt proud and important shouldering the responsibility of helping my dad close up shop at the end of a long day. When I was finally old enough, my dad let me help wrap packages for customers during the Christmas rush. I still love to wrap gifts because of that job. My first real paycheck worth $14 was handed to me by my dad.

There’s a gift shop in my current downtown that pays special attention to the way they wrap purchases. I get a lump in my throat when I watch them perform a simple act of gratitude for shopping at their store. Each purchase is carefully wrapped in tissue and then fastened with a sticker. After that, it’s placed into a simple burlap bag and tied up with twine. Twine. There was a store from my childhood where my mom hauled us whenever it was time for new bluejeans. I didn’t get the new ones being the youngest, but I still loved going along to watch as the clerk wrapped the folded jeans in brown paper and then pulled twine from the ceiling to tie up the package. It seemed like magic.

I’ve been thinking about all the small business owners a lot lately, especially after today’s announcement by the Governor. Our family business didn’t survive the recession of the early ‘80s. Will today’s small business owners survive COVID-19?

Wondering and Wandering

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow..." -- Henry David Thoreau, August 19, 1851

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