Thursday, June 8, 2017

Putting Life Back Together: Mom's Quilting Legacy Will Continue

This, and many posts to come, will be out of chronological order. Why? Because the family is working our way through another refiner's fire and I simply haven't had the heart to blog. What refiner's fire? The loss of my sweet mother to that horrid disease, cancer. While the feelings are still very tender, retelling the journey will be an important process, which I hope will be a form of therapy.

When Mom passed away, we had the task of packing up and clearing out the house to prepare it for sale. The contents of Mom's sewing room were some of the hardest things to pack up.  I knew it wasn't something I was emotionally prepared to deal with right away; so, several family members pitched in and helped me toss everything into boxes, tape them up, and move it all to our house. I figured once we got the funeral and my parents' house taken care of I would be ready to take on the challenge of sorting through her sewing things and finding a new home for everything.

The boxes, at least 10 LARGE packing boxes, were shoved under the long arm and along the walls of my sewing room. There was so much plunder in there that I felt like a hoarder; only a path to the ironing board was clear. It was a crazy mess.

This isn't even all of it! These pictures were taken after I had already sorted through all of her quilting books, magazines, and patterns.  Included in the books were manuals, CDs, and file folders with individual projects. It was an extensive library.  I knew I would never use the books that were for applique because it just isn't something I enjoy. (Mom was gifted at needle turned, hand applique!) My sister-in-law, Kathy, took some of the books. Another sister-in-law, Deb, does stained glass so she took several things to use as patterns.  Unfortunately, it was only a drop in the bucket. 

just a few of the books and magazines

After the books and patterns were sorted, I tackled the fabric boxes. I knew my little sewing room wouldn't hold even a fraction of the things in Mom's inventory. I had to be deliberate and methodical about the purging process. One of the fabric lines that Mom was passionate about was the 30's Reproduction fabrics. I knew those were keepers. She also was pretty smart when it came to keeping a stash of background and backing fabric on hand. Those things were easy to place in the keep pile. But, among her stash were COUNTLESS fabrics that were used as landscape pieces in her applique. Trees, stones, water, sky, leaves, plants, fur, scales... any fabric that could be cut into tiny pieces and used in a picture on a quilt filled several plastic tubs. I put all of that into one box and will donate it to the local quilt guild.  Other fabrics that could be used to make donation quilts for the cancer unit or pregnancy shelter were also placed in donation boxes.  Still, as I continued to "eat the elephant one bite at a time," I knew I needed more storage space. Luckily, my sweet husband consolidated all of his things in his office closet and the one where he stored his sports officiating gear. That freed up an entire closet!

The whole process of unpacking, sorting, repacking labeling boxes, and organizing took from June 2nd until June 7th. I worked from the time I got up, until well after midnight on some days. There were times when it was overwhelming and I would worry about the stupidest things. What if I died before I ever got it all sorted?? What would poor Ron do with all of this stuff?? What if I throw something out that should be kept?? What if I regret getting rid of that little tin or that cute basket Mom used to store things in?? Lots of worry and tears went into the task. 

But, as I worked through the things Mom left behind, I came to appreciate her talent more than ever. She was a simple and humble woman who shared her skills and knowledge with those she knew and loved. Her quilts are cherished gifts that will become family heirlooms and will serve as a link between her and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she left behind. It is a motivating force for me to continue her legacy and create those links with my own children and grandchildren.  Through the art of quilting, I will carry on her legacy. 

So, I finally have a "finished" product. My sewing room isn't trendy, color coordinated, cute, or state of the art. But it is filled with objects that connect me to Mom. I miss her more than words can say; but, each time I am in my sewing room, I feel her spirit with me. 

This is inside the closet that Ron gave up. Each tub or box is labeled with the project or type of fabric it contains.

As you walk into the sewing room, there is a white shelf on the left side. That's where I stored part of my original stash. I had to purge my own stash to make room for some of Mom's. 

The craft table was a gift from another quilting mentor and fellow teacher, Juanita Benoit. Luckily, it is a good sturdy table and folds up when I don't need the work space. The sewing machine and cabinet were Mom's. I packed up my Janome and am storing it just in case I never figure out how to use Mom's Viking. The white cabinet was built by Dad especially for Mom's sewing room. She painted the cute quilt blocks on the doors. It is yet another reminder of the many talents my parents had. 

Mom's sewing machine and Dad's cabinet
inside the white cabinet

When Ron and I looked at this house, one of the selling points was a room long enough for my long arm quilting machine. Mom and I split the price of the machine because she had accumulate so many unfinished tops! She has a lot of stitching miles on her.  Millie fits perfectly along one wall of the room. The boxes underneath are filled with a combination of my fabric stash and Mom's. Luckily, they slide easily on the carpet so I can work from both sides of the quilting machine.  

Millie and fabric storage

The closet straight ahead is the second place I stored my fabric stash. It has shelves built on one side and I had a plastic shelving unit left over from my classroom that added additional storage space.  

craft table, storage shelf

inside sewing room closet

Now that everything is sorted, packed, labeled, and organized, one challenge will be to NOT buy any more fabric... for a very long time!! And, the second challenge will be to use up what I have on hand.  As for what is going to the quilt guild... well, let's just say that the charity coordinator better have a big truck with her when she comes to pick it up!

donations for the guild

The boxes are emptied, but my heart is not. 
Love you, Mom.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fort Parker RV Trip Preview

During the Christmas Break, Ron and I had hoped to get a trip to Mother Neff scheduled. Unfortunately, the crazy Texas weather decided to take a turn for the worse and we backed out.  I told Ron that I really couldn't see going out to camp if it would be too cold to get out and hike. So, we decided to postpone, hoping for nicer weather.  In the meantime, the family had a discussion about where to camp next. We decided we need to expand our travel distance to get prepared for the next massive road trip in 2018. We figured maybe a trip about 2 hours from home would be good for January; and, then we will plan an even longer trip to either Palo Duro or Big Bend during Spring Break. I did some research and found a state park near Mexia, Texas, which is about 2 hours from home. It is called Fort Parker State Park. Ron and I decided to take a drive out there today and see what the facilities are like. I always feel better about going someplace if I can preview it.  It took us almost 2 hours to get there, driving between 60-70 mph. We figure that will be a little over 2 hours in the RV, which is what we wanted. We also found a route that doesn't hit I-35!! Thank goodness!! We will head east from Temple, then travel state highways up to the park. The highways are in good condition, have few hills, and wide shoulders to pull over. There are also a couple of historical markers along the way with adequate space to pull over if the dogs or kids need to get out for a bit.

When we got to the park, I took some pictures of the facilities to give everyone that's going an idea of what it's like. The state park is located near Fort Parker Historical site. Ron and I drove by there first. There is a minimal entry fee; $2 per adult, $1 per children over ten. We didn't get to go in because the gate to the visitor's center was closed. Of course, today is New Year's Monday so I wasn't surprised.
The fort has an interesting history connected to it so I hope to get inside when we go back later this month. Family, if you aren't familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker or Quanah Parker, read up before we go:

entrance to Fort Parker

one corner of the fort

exterior wall of the fort

open common area with faux shop/store fronts

another view of the exterior of the fort

Fort Parker State Park is about 3 miles from the historical site. It is located next to Lake Parker between Grossbeck and Mexia. The camp is small but offers primitive camping, RV sites with water and electric, a dump station, a day use area that includes picnic tables and a pavilion, several hiking and biking trails, a canoe trail, and a boat dock with a fish cleaning station.  There are also restrooms that are very clean and shower facilities. I got pictures of most things but NOT THE RV SITES!!! Ron and I were so busy looking at them and discussing which ones were the most level, had the best lake access/view, had the tables and fire pits on the side best for our RV awning, etc. I COMPLETELY spaced out on taking pictures of the sites. They are a positioned little close to one another, but we are hoping the camp won't be that busy mid January.
pavilion in the day use area

lake view from the day use area

visitor's center

picnic area for day use

another section of day use

playground part 1

playground part 2

a nature center

the boat dock

picture of the hiking trails description found on the back of the map

section of the map showing the RV sites and the screened shelters

another picture of the trails map
My next post about Fort Parker State Park will be after we've actually stayed there. Our reservations are made!! Fingers crossed that we like it as much as Mother Neff!

Christmas 2016

Shortly before our Christmas break began, I told my granddaughter, Maggie, that this was going to be the BEST Christmas EVER! She asked me why and I told her, "Because next Christmas, I'll be retired!" She went on to ask what that meant and I explained it to her. Her response, "But Mimi; isn't that like quitting?"  Not hardly!
Other than being excited because it would be my last Christmas as a full-time teacher, it had it's ups and downs.  We would be missing Rebecca, Edward, and Seth because they are living in Greece right now; and, we were going to have to celebrate the day after Christmas because of everyone's work schedules. Jamie, one of the twins, and Mom were all feeling under the weather, so we needed to keep things simple and meet early enough in the day for everyone to get home and enjoy a good night's sleep. We solved the issue of Becca's family being gone by taking advantage of Face time. Technology is amazing! So, after working through the slight glitches, my Christmas break was filled with family time, time with my Sugarbear, LOTS of time to read, and some quilting. A very nice break in deed.
We decided to get the grand girls pogo stick for Christmas. We ended up getting some that are actually too small for Maggie; but, I didn't expect her to actually master using it. We were all very surprised when she turned out to be the first one to figure out how to use it! Luckily, a friend of mine had one for children up to 120 lbs. that she gave me. That way, Mags has one to use when she wears the smaller one out!

In the past, we have had a Chinese gift exchange. However, this year we actually drew names in July or August.  Jamie suggested setting up and Elfster account where we could each create a wish list. That was such an amazing suggestion! I think we were all thrilled with our gifts from one another. The grands still exchanged with each other. I think their favorite gifts were the bags of coins from Uncle Scott!

 Ron drew my mother's name. After spending about a month whining about not knowing what to get her, I found an odd assortment of quilting gadgets on Amazon and ordered them for him. We got a cool tote at Walmart and put all of the gadgets in it. I think she like what she got.

 Ron never managed to get his Elfter wish list posted. He would say, "It won't let me!" I finally said, "You're right, Ron, That web site is out to get you and will let anyone but you post thing on it." He didn't really care for my sarcasm. He just kept saying, "Get me anything Ohio State." I told the kids they needed to look for an Ohio State Speedo to wear on our next cruise. But, G or Leslie found a camp chair for him, and a jersey for Boomer.

 I'm not much of a cook; but, I do enjoy baking from time to time. And, I really like pretty things. So, my Elfster list was comprised of Pioneer Woman kitchen ware. I hit the jackpot! Jamie had my name and got me the cutest butter dish and pie pan. She also happened to be with me when I was visiting a local shop owned by a friend from church. She saw me pick up a galvanized basket that I drool over every time I'm in Leah's shop. Sweet Jamie went back and bought it as well.
 Ryan was just like Ron. Failed to put together a list on Elfster, but kept saying he wanted a new Ohio State hat. Leslie had his name and got not only the hat, but a perfect tee shirt for the most sarcastic son a mother could every have.

 Scott had an odd assortment of strange things on his list. Luckily, his grandma drew his name. She had Leslie shop for her and she pretty much cleared out his list. He got a map of hiking trails in the Grand Canyon, a book of 1000 places to visit in the U.S. before you die, and some odd electronic gadgets.

 After drawing names, Jamie and Ryan were on the way home when he informed her that he had drawn her name. I think she was disappointed to know who had drawn her name; but, he did a good job. He bought her a heart pendant from James Avery. Now she has 4 intertwined hearts that represent their sweet little family. Not bad, Ryan!

 Scott drew Gerson's name. His list was actually put together by Leslie so anything he got was a total surprise. Scott found a cool team bench for him to take when he is coaching Sophie in soccer. He also got him some strange little speakers... not quite sure what they were for.

 I had drawn Leslie's name. Her list was made up of an assortment of gadgets, household items, and jewelry. I got her a strange cow creamer (I don't know why she wanted that; no one drinks coffee!) a cell phone charger that is battery operated, and a new Scentsy warmer that looks like a canning jar with snowflakes on it. I actually was tempted to just keep that because it was so pretty.

All in all, I think everyone was pleased with their gifts. I hope we continue this new tradition! After eating our traditional Mexican meal, playing some silly games, and just hanging out to chat, we closed out the Christmas holiday filled with joy and gratitude for the crazy people in our family.