Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lessons from George Bailey and Jean Valjean

Friends, Happy New Year 2014! I hope you don't mind that i am repeating last year's post about two classics, one in French literature and one on the American screen.
As every self-respecting moviegoer in America knows, Hollywood saves what they consider their best for last: their strongest Oscar nominees for release in December. In my humble opinion, compared to some of the movies coming out of Hollywood today, the movies we're watching in December anyway — just because it's Christmas — should be re-nominated for the award: "It's A Wonderful Life," "Joyeux Nöel," and "A Christmas Story." Thankfully, the release of "Les Miserables" on Christmas Day this year is possibly the best Christmas gift Tinsel Town has given us in decades. Hubby and I were in the throng at the movie theatre on opening day.

Although I missed the Broadway run of "Les Mis," I had to read the novel in French in college, and I still use the "candlestick chapter" with my own French students. It may not surprise you that the reading of it for academic credit had less of an impact on me (as I worried about my grade) than did the viewing of the movie last week.

It is fabulous, and well worth the price of a big screen ticket. Don't wait for it on DVD — go now!
No, I'm not going to critique the cinematography and direction by people who brought us "The King's Speech," "Miss Saigon," and "Phantom of the Opera." Still, I am very impressed that the director (or the editor) got us to page 100 of the novel in the first nine minutes of the movie. As magnificent as the photography and music are, it is the story that rules, and this story is for all generations and for all time.

It is a story of forgiveness.
Forgiveness extended to one who had never known it before, one who had known only degradation, punishment, and condemnation since that day 20 years ago when he was arrested for stealing bread to feed his sister. Forgiveness from a clergyman who called him "brother" and told him to be no longer "owned by evil but by good." ("It's your soul I've bought for you," says the bishop, "and I give it to God.") Given a second chance, Jean Valjean began to remember his former self: a man with a family, a man with loved ones, a man who went to the extreme to feed starving relatives. He began to think of himself as valuable in God's eyes, and to act like a man of character,
bravery, strength, and
compassion. He spends the rest of his life paying forward the second chance He was given.
Later, when confronted by the "letter of the law" in the person of Javert, the military officer who had overseen his incarceration, he has to acknowledge his past. But he is stronger now, and even in the face of legalistic Javert and the unbending "law," he can forgive. He can put his own life on the line for another, he can sacrifice for a daughter who is not his own, and he can even love. His transformation is complete, and no matter what he may have to endure physically, his soul is free, no longer owned by evil, but free to live for good and free to do what's right.

Forgiveness frees.

If "Les Miserables" was my "big shiny present under the tree," then my "stocking stuffer" is the film "It's a Wonderful Life," which every year manages to surprise and delight me. Do I have to summarize this Christmas Classic for anyone? Classic Frank Capra, classic Jimmy Stewart, classic "angel-earning-his-wings": heroism, selflessness, generosity, love, right-over-might, the power of friendship over the "power" of influence.
Even more compelling than all this is the "what if" glimpse at "what might have been" without that wonderful life.

After his uncle accidentally misplaces the bank deposit, George Bailey takes responsibility for it and goes asking for help from the very man who is determined to destroy him, Henry Potter. Potter not only refuses to help, but cruelly suggests that George would be more valuable dead than alive. At his lowest, when George is convinced things would be better if he had never been born, he receives the unique gift of seeing what life actually would have been without him. Convinced of his own worth, and no longer focused on himself, his business, and his success, George is able to receive gifts of friendship from those whose lives he's touched, with gratitude and humility.

Where am I going with this?

Straight onto 2013,
with a clean slate,
cleared off with the erasers of ...
forgiveness and gratitude.

In "Les Miserables," once Valjean was shown forgiveness, he was able to forgive others, even Javert. Living with forgiveness not only freed him from the need to retaliate, but also to live respectably and generously, without fearing the retaliation of others.
In "It's a Wonderful Life," once George Bailey recognized the gift that was his life in and of itself, he was able to honestly assess the value of what he had done over what he hadn't been able to do, of what he had over what he couldn't have. He was freed not only to be grateful for the gift of life, but to accept gifts of love from others, even those financially indebted to him. He didn't have to be the rescuer this time; he could be rescued by those whom he'd helped.

Now don't get me wrong. Forgiveness means neither that we excuse the offense nor that we forget it. It means we take the "forgiven" off our hook and put him/her on God's hook. He/she is not our responsibility, so there's no sense wasting our time judging. And gratitude does not mean that we are thankful for injustice or cruelty, but for our ability to learn from and grow beyond injustice and cruelty.

Sometimes the (most strenuous) lesson is learning patience to wait for the wrong to be righted and for justice to prevail. (Look at Job in the Bible for that lesson!) FORGIVENESS removes the burden and GRATITUDE moves us forward.

Maybe your holiday season has not been quite so introspective up till now, but why just happen into 2013 as you happened into 2012? Why go into another New Year with only weight-loss and money-saving resolutions? Why not make a resolution that will better you, inside and out, every day of the year? Not to mention that you'll probably shock and amaze most everyone you know.

Heaven knows, Jean Valjean and George Bailey certainly shocked people, and they ended up "the richest men in town" for it. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Heart behind the Art

The long-awaited Girls’ Weekend had arrived. 
Our alibi: scrapbooking. 
Our motivation: to get the photos of at least one more life event out of the shoe box into an album.
Our venue: a Cape Cod resort, off-season, on a marshy inlet
As we unloaded the cars, it became noteworthy that totes of scrapbooking supplies and grocery bags of snacks far outnumbered suitcases of clothes. 
Meal schedule: 
Breakfast: 7am to 10am
Dinner: check the crock pots
Coffee, tea, cocoa, snacks: 24/7
Dress code: 
Comfy Casual, so PJs  until one absolutely had to go out to Starbucks’. 
NONE, so some hardy souls stayed up until 1am. 
Household responsibilities: 
Distant, so some tired souls went to bed early to "rise and shine" just before the breakfast buffet closed. 
        (((AAAh, sleep, glorious sleep!)))
Serenaded by everyone from Neil Diamond to Rod Stewart to Country Western Christmas carolers, we each spread out on our assigned 8’ craft table and got to work. Besides the necessary cutting, taping, and journaling, there was the bonus  of remembering, recounting, and reliving the events preserved in the photos. More laughter than tears, but a nice balance. 

The weekend flew by and if awards were to be given, my roommate’s album of her daughter’s wedding would have gotten Prettiest Album for Color Palette and Page Lay-out. Mine would have gotten Album Most Likely to Resemble TVGuide.

From the scrapbooking venue, I drove up the coast to the oil painting venue. Mary and I were classmates in junior high and high school. She is now painting, teaching, and exhibiting in East Coast art galleries. Her plein air landscapes are in collections around the globe, and on display in such local establishments as the Maine Statehouse. She’s good at what she does, works hard to get better at it, and is excited to share her knowledge with students and audiences alike.

Yes, I had quite the artistic weekend, but here’s what moved me the most, both with my 35 fellow-scrapbookers, and with my friend of 50-some years: the generosity of the artists
Yes, I am clumping heritage-preserving scrapbookers together with a professional oil painter, because their common attribute has less to do with their finished products than with their hearts. Their common attribute of giving what they’ve learned or acquired over the years surpasses what they do, and last weekend, everyone had something unique to contribute. The scrappers, of course, shared stickers, cutting tools, and design ideas, but in the sharing of supplies, there was sharing of other gifts: compassion, joy, and nurture. One “grandma” made a pot of soup for our lunch. A “big sister” girlfriend brought clothes for a “little sister” girlfriend who was there, but the shoes weren’t her size so she gifted the hotel staffer who cleaned her room. Older moms counseled younger moms, and sometimes just listened and hugged. Our hostess asked me to bring one of my characters to the weekend, to recognize the ladies and salute all their contributions “that no one seems to notice”. Yes, there were tears, but unexpected sincere thanks and mutual encouragement can be emotionally disarming.

In Mary’s studio, I was surrounded by beautiful artwork, landscapes of the Maine coast where she paints almost daily. By “where she paints” I mean where she goes to paint... year-round... even in the winter... deliberately bundling up in wool sweaters, boots, fingerless gloves, and a wind-breaker, to set up her easel on the rocks across from Nubble Light or on the shore of a coastal marsh, to capture Nature at its wildest. As a plein air painter, she packs her supplies and her lunch to be able to endure all day until dark.

The walls of her studio are as inspiring as her discipline to hone her craft, but these were not Mary’s greatest gift to me. Her greatest gift was a lesson in art-marketing. Although it cannot be considered aesthetic, this complementary knowledge has allowed her to gracefully pass through the forbidden Neutral Zone of technology to the foreign territory of computers, social media, and the people who “speak them”, making them her friends. As she told the student at the easel next to hers on the beach, “There are no tricks, just techniques.” Mary keeps no secrets from her students, and she keeps no helpful hints from fellow-artists, no matter the medium. She encouraged me with her understanding of techniques to promote my art. 

What a weekend!

One of my favorite Bible personalities is Barnabbas. His name means “Son of Encouragement”. I wonder what his sister's name was, because I spent all of last weekend with a bevy of Daughters of Encouragement. I am thankful for their generous giving of knowledge and sharing of talent. My life is enriched by them and I am excited to receive from them. 

I can’t clearly figure how the adage “It’s better to give than to receive” fits in to all this, and I’m sure that makes me sound really selfish. Oh, well, Give, Receive, Bless, and Be Blessed! and be thankful! Life's easier that way!

Visit my scrapbooking consultant Nancy LaFlamme at www.ahniandzoe.com/nancylaflamme
and Plein Air painter Mary Byrom at http://www.marybyrom.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy November, Friends! 

So much has happened since we last chatted! 
  • the Red Sox won the World Series
  • Rachael had her baby
  • Veronique had her baby
  • Morgan had her baby
  • the Red Sox won the World Series!
  • Dan and Justine closed on their first house
  • oh, and the Red Sox won the World Series!
October was a good month for Bay Staters!

I recently had the honor to help at an event at The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. Honestly, I didn’t do much more than decorate, collect raffle tickets, and eat fudge, but the event itself was very exciting. 
WritePros and my friend Lauren Yarger hosted “A Conversation with Dan Lauria” to introduce his new children’s book and to announce the run of A Christmas Story, the Musical (Yes, the one with the Red Rider BBGun, the I-talian leg lamp, and "You'll shoot your eye out, Kid!") at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, CTwith which he is touring for two months. For those of you in my age group, you will remember Mr. Lauria as the father on The Wonder Years. For the cable TV crowd, he is Jack Sullivan on Sullivan & Son
Several of the younger cast members from the show were also in attendance, performing one of the musical numbers and doing a little tap-dancing for their adoring fans.

You can read the dry facts of Mr. Lauria’s theatre career on Wikipedia. But you had to be there to hear the backstage stories of his antics with such friends as Charles Durning, Jack Palance, Joe Montegna, and Jack Klugman. 

Neither does Wikipedia mention Mr. Lauria's  dedication and proactive advocacy for children and single moms. Dan Lauria is the consummate stage actor, but his heart is for encouraging the creativity of children, and here’s the point he made that really hit home with me: it’s at the after-school activities that kids get to be creative.  

During the normal school day, students are shushed and asked to regurgitate what they’ve been told, because Passing the Test, Meeting the Standards, and Making the Percentiles are now more important at the government level than Educating and Equipping for Life. Hence, MCAS, Common Core, and other government-imposed motivations for teachers to Teach to the Test. Education standards are further lowered when a student has only to push a few keys on his/her phone to find the instant answer to any question! 

Where is the funding for extra-curricular activities going? In some cases, just away, and in others, to such tragic priorities as metal-detectors and increased police presence. 

Mr. Lauria contends that it’s during the after-school activities that the kids learn to communicate and create. Teamwork is learned on the field, on the court, at choir practice, and at play rehearsal. Communication is learned when the team, the cast, or the choir works together for optimum results at their game, their concert, their play. Creativity blossoms when all those communicating components are freed up to encourage and support each other’s efforts, maybe dare to think outside the box and try things that aren’t even in the script, the score, or the playbook. 

So if the schools don't provide opportunities and outlets for creativity, who does? 
You equip your kids to think more than, better than, beyond, and above the school standards
What does Dan Lauria, star of stage and screen, do?
He tells stories, 
and has his godson tell him stories of his own. 

“OK, so when i see you later, I want you to tell me the story of the Boy Who Chased the Squirrel Up a Tree.”
“But I don’t know that story!”
“Well, if you haven’t figured it out by dinner, I’ll tell it to you.” 
And off to school his godson goes, thinking about how he ... might chase a squirrel ... up a tree... creating all the way. 

When I directed the drama team at the private school, we designed a dinner theatre program for a fund-raiser. Besides waiting on tables, the students MC'd the evening and shared their various talents. But they wanted to do more.  They decided to run ‘commercials’ between the acts. They “advertized” everything from Party Pants to Animal Belts to Smart Hats. 
At the next dinner theatre, they decided to clean the stage between acts. Out came Tim to sweep, vacuum, leaf-blow, and finally run a “Zamboni” (made out of a large appliance carton) across the stage. That was one hilariously clean stage! 

Kids can and will meet high expectations, because high expectations of the kids translate into high confidence in them, whether they are touring with a Broadway play, or singing in the chorus of the junior high play, whether they are running plays for the big game on Saturday, or running lines to under-study the lead in the school play tonight. They can do all that and more - if we just give them the opportunity, provide the safe venue, and support them with loving guidance.

At the end of the "Conversation", Mr. Lauria graciously autographed his books and posed for pictures with his decades of fans. The Blue Hair Club & Other Stories is Volume One of The Godfather Series... written by a godfather for his godson, with his godson and his godson’s mom. It’s a collection of short stories he and his godson told each other... after school. 

Yes, there will be many more where these came from... because the creativity is still flowing! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What l learned about time in the New Hampshire hills

Dear Friends, Happy Autumn! What a beautiful season of falling leaves, sentinel mums on the front stoop, and pumpkin-headed straw people. Geese fly overhead, honking "Good bye, see you next year!", and last spring's split wood is brought in near the fireplace.

I know I still owe you a report on "What I Did on My Summer Vacation", but today I'm excited to tell you about a more recent adventure. I had the joy of attending the first annual New England Christian Writers' Retreat at the Singing Hills Conference Center in Plainfield, NH. From Friday through Sunday, we learned to decode the publishing industry, laughed at the riskiness of title selection, and came to appreciate the simplicity of our own stories. We also ate... Yes, three breakout sessions a day, with snacks and 24/7 coffee, the kitchen taught delicious 3-dimensional lessons in hyperbole (or the culinary equivalent thereof).

Please check out the smiling faces and joyous testimonies of the weekend on FaceBook at the Christian Writers' Retreat, and plan to join us next year. Whether you've had a book rolling around in your brain for years, or just wrote your first haiku, whether you "see" plays as you walk the aisles at WalMart or notice poetry in a grocery list, whether you compose your annual Christmas letter throughout the year or send out the last hand-written note in February, you need to be there! It is a place of equipping and encouragement, and neither you nor your writing will ever be the same.
full moon in Southern New Hampshire

old typewriter

Sadly, the things you won't see or hear on the FB page are those words from the general sessions and breakouts that were meant specifically for you. One illustration that struck me and will motivate me through my personal challenges was given at the closing service Sunday morning. The speaker cited Joshua, Moses successor, who was the one to finally lead Israel into the Promised Land. He and his buddy Caleb and 10 other spies had scoped it out 40 years earlier. Joshua and Caleb had come back reporting: "Yeah, we're good to go. The LORD is giving it to us. Let's do this thing!" But the other 10 hesitated: "Uh, not so fast - were you looking at the same Promised Land we were looking at? Those people are huge. We can't fight them." So, fear postponed God's promise, and the nation wandered around for 40 more years!

The speaker simply asked, "Do you have 40 more years to wander around?" OUCH! I did the math. Granted, I have Mom's genes, Mom who at 92 still drives her car and weeds her garden, Mom whose own mom passed at 94 but who herself is showing no signs of slowing down - even though I'm so richly genetically endowed, no, I really don't have any more time to wait ... to consider... to think about going forward with this writing-thing.

Have you been putting something off in your life until "the right time"?
until "you're better at it"?
until your desk is clear?
until the kids are out of the house?
until your spouse listens?
Stop waiting, considering, planning to start - START!!!
I'm here to encourage you and to assure you that TODAY is your time to
___   (Fill in the Blank) __   .

I had lunch with one of my actresses from the community theatre yesterday. She just happened to mention that she has 3 chapters of her book written, which now sits in her bedroom, staring at her every time she walks in. But her hour-long commute to work, and her daughter's after-school activities, and her house renovations...
Let me cut to the chase:
GUESS who is going to be my roommate at the retreat next year... and between now and then,
GUESS who is going to get her book finished!

STOP wondering if! STOP wandering around in doubt! BE strong and courageous and GO for it!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Loving what you do ... and then some...

YIKES, Friends! It's been so long since I've sent you greetings and shared the goings-on in my dramatic, fabric-filled life. Well, now that the tables and chairs from the Second Annual Life by Design Women's Conference at Grace Fellowship in North Stonington, CT are back in storage, and the exhausted organizers can finally put their feet up after months of hard work, I trust they will hear my repeated thanks for pampering me with a yummy lunch, an ultra-willing assistant, and so much support and encouragement, I could write my own "1000 Things to Be Thankful For" book. The weather was beautiful, and the only thing that would have made the conference better would have been to move it outdoors.

As happened last year, there were "lines" in the monologue (written for the conference over the previous 6 months) that directly interfaced with points made by the other speakers. NO, we did not meet beforehand to discuss what each would talk about, but each workshop leader, the keynote speaker, and I in my 3-part sketch "coincidentally" reiterated, reworded, and reminded the attendees of the same lesson: that we are created for a purpose, and we don't need to presume to do this thing called LIFE on our own.

As I was last year, I was again convinced this weekend that I did not write the monolog, God did, and I just wrote it down.

BTW, let me ask you something: have you ever had something happen to you that just stopped you in your tracks, where you just had to look over your shoulder - literally or figuratively - to see Who was watching? Maybe not your actions, but your thoughts and intentions, hopes and dreams, struggles and confusions... Admittedly, I have been focussed over the last several months on rehearsing, tweaking, and memorizing my lines for this presentation. I knew it would speak to the audience on different levels, but I really wasn't thinking about that. I was mainly concerned with REMEMBERING what to say when and where to be with which props. IT WAS WORK! I love what I'm doing but it's still work, and part of the "job" is to make sure the audience does NOT know that it's work.

Well, my work day went well, and I was grateful not to have the 2-hour drive home to make. I pulled in to the driveway of my hostess/friend's house, and happily changed out of my last costume into comfy clothes for dinner. Over a delicious meal, we relived the day for her hubby, and as we summarized, he kindly asked me - now that I have no scripts to write or immediately present - So, Laurie, what do you like to do for fun?

HUH? ... well, I uh...

Finally I came up with bicycling and hiking. (OH, wait, cross-country skiing, too! I'd forgotten that.) But his question stopped me. As I said, I love what I do and I know that I know that I'm supposed to be doing both the acting and the sewing. Still, I find myself adding them as line items to my urgent To Do lists. Then another question arose in my heart: do I have any lists that are NOT urgent? Uh-oh! I think we have a problem here.

Talk to me, Friends! Do you have activities you do "for fun"? Not that I'm any sort of an expert (OBVIOUSLY!) but I think you should. Like the lumberjack who spends 10 minutes of every hour, sitting on a stump, JUST sharpening his ax, you (WE) will be more productive if we claim some NON-work time.

What a new and different concept, to some of us 21st century Type-As! But uh, NO, it's not that new. It's downright Biblical! Yeah, you remember, the SABBATH, the day of rest? (Ooooooh, the SABBATH... I knew that!) Please, claim your rest and your JFF (Just For Fun) time. It'll be good for you!

So, taking me at my word, my hostess took me (and her Shih Tzu) on an energizing walk around a 500+/--acre farm, followed by a picnic lunch and a tour of the colonial cemetery on the property. Nature, dining al fresco, and history. It doesn't get much better than that!
... and it was FUN!!!

OK, I can do this! So, see you on the bike path? Say when!

History in Fabric
Happy Valentine's Day Month, Friends! I had two precious "fabric moments" in January that I wanted to share with you.
I was given Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead by my dear friend, Anne. I generally don't treat myself to non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. It's written as a letter from an older dad, a third-generation church pastor, to his young son, the child of his late-in-life marriage to a younger woman. It's tender and tentative and hopeful and encouraging, and wisely realistic about bad things happening to good people and sad things happening to people who are really trying to turn their lives around, and forgiveness and friendship and good things occasionally happening to all of us so we don't stay stuck in thinking only about ourselves and our troubles.
The short episode that jumped off the page at me was a story told to him by his dad. After getting back from the army, his dad walked into his father's church where "the first thing he saw was a piece of needlework hanging on the wall above the communion table. It was very beautifully done" by the women in the church, some of whom had lost sons and husbands in the war. The narrator confesses he'd always wished he could have seen the tapestry, and takes two paragraphs to reflect on the women who produced it. "I don't know how those women managed to find the material for it, how much snipping and raveling of their few best clothes they'd have to have done to make such a thing as that. And I've always wondered what happened to it. Material things are so vulnerable to the humiliation of decay."
Dare I consider that what I do with you - the memory quilts, the quilted pillows, the individually-designed notecards, the window-pane mirrors - could ever be esteemed as such a treasure as this tapestry, comprised of the clothes off the backs of the very women who made it? There are so many precious memories preserved in the fabrics of your life: jeans, tees, bedspreads, doilies, sweaters, fur wraps. The honor shown to deliberately guard them is the value of an heirloom.
The other "fabric moment" happened as I was looking through some souvenirs of my recent trip to Washington, DC. I'd visited the National Museum of American History where the original Stars and Stripes is on display. The room housing the flag is dimly lit and ramped, so visitors enter the exhibit off the brightly lit lobby, climb the ramp lined with photos documenting the flag's history. At the top of the ramp, visitors turn left to look through the protective glass at our nation's most recognized symbol. No list of facts, no historical dissertation, no political stance can express the emotional impact of observing the original flag for the first time.
I purchased a packet of postcards of the photos, and wanted to share the below one with you. I hope the image posts clear enough for you to see the expressions on the faces of the women.

The blurb on the back of the postcard reads:
The 1914 Preservation Effort: In 1914, the Smithsonian hired Amelia Bold Fowler (1862-1923), a former teacher of embroidery, to preserve the Star-Spangled Banner. Fowler's team of ten needlewomen secured a linen support to the flag using a honeycomb pattern of 1.7 million stitches. They completed the job in eight weeks.
Ten anonymous women dedicating their time to embroider for their country. Can our twenty-first century minds even conceive of the value of such a selfless act? Not that the task was difficult, nor that they pay was meagre, if there was compensation at all, but that they gave of themselves receiving no recognition whatsoever. How much more would get accomplished in our day if NO ONE cared about getting the credit?

Focus in the New Year
Well, People, 31 days down, 334 to go. Are you on track, or already feeling "a teensy bit behind", as my Dad used to say? As I prepare to turn the first calendar page of 2013, I'm thinking "Where did that month go?" 
Sure, I was enjoyably busy enough in January: delivering Christmas presents to long-distance friends, and celebrating family birthdays as we daughters converged on Mom's house for her 92nd and my 2 sisters' January birthdays. AND of course for the Official Brassard Family Birthday Cake (milk chocolate cake with vanilla pudding between the layers, and chocolate cream cheese frosting. YUM!!!)...I had a dentist appointment, finished my digital scrapbook, and sent out the last of my Christmas cards... ((OK, that last one, I admit, should have been finished in December))... but the rest of the month seemed to slip by without all that much quantifiable productivity. 
My best-laid plans, most detailed organization, and sincerest intentions are too often detoured by minor - really minor - distractions. I know what I'd hoped/planned to do in January, but now I can't remember quite how I missed doing it all. ((Could it have anything to do with those glowing screens in my life: tv, computer, phone? Yeah, maybe.))
FOCUS, that's what I need, focus... like this gal. (For me, it was that 50% off sale last week at the Lindt store, but ... OOPS! I digress... yet again.)

Finished Quilts and VW Beetles
Well, Fabric Friends, since I didn't get back to you with holiday greetings in 2012, let me send along Merry Christmas and Happy New Year belatedly. I hope your holidays were safe and healthy and relaxing, gently nudging you into a productive and artistic 2013.
Since we last e-chatted, I've finished a pillow project, transforming a retired Air Force sergeant's camo shirts, tees, and sweats into throw pillows for his kids, sisters, very good pal, and loving wife. Now, even though Dad, Hubby, Bro, and Ol'Buddy Ol'Pal has gone on before them, each person whose life he most strongly impacted has a pillow for the sofa or favorite reading chair as a comforting reminder of his part in his/her life. Besides the honor of preserving his memory in this way, I really felt like I got to know Jim a little as I sewed on the badges and insignias. This is what memory quilts, heirloom pillows, commemorative throws - whatever you want to call them - are all about.
I had one more big sewing project for my nephews to complete before Christmas, and as I putzed with it, I could not for the life of me find my thimble! Don't get me wrong - my craft room will never be chosen by Good Housekeeping or Real Simple or Where Women Create for their centerfold, but still, how far could one thimble go??? (((Never mind, don't answer that!))) I put it out of my mind and used "the other one" until Jim's wife called to tell me how much his one sister liked her pillow. "And," she said, "she was wondering if the thimble was some sort of prize." So that's where it went - all the way to South Carolina! Thankfully, I didn't have to drive down for it, but I might like to do a craft show in warmer climes some day soon.
Also since we last e-chatted, I've brought my wares up to the Nashua, NH area for a craft fair and officially begun my 61st year on the planet. Yup, turned the BIG 6-0 on - wait for it! - 12/12/12!!! Girlfriends surprised me with a birthday party and Hubby surprised me with a RED VW Beetle! (see photo below) Just like my very first car, only diesel!!! Her name is Nell, shortened version of the French for ladybug: coccinelle. That, plus a nice pink champagne, it doesn't get much better than that!

So forgive me in advance if I don't write again before the snow melts. I have a feeling it's going to be 'one of those' springs. In my next post, I'd like to introduce you to the artist who produces the greeting cards, my friend Lee Fuller. Author, artist, crafter extraordinaire, and a huge fan of the Bourne Trilogy, she's a great lady to know. Enjoy your winter!
Early Snows and the Mittens to Handle Them
Greetings, Fabric Lovers! This note is long overdue, and I thank you for your patience.
Well, here in New England, we have had our first official snow of the season. Considerably earlier than normal, although - YES - last year's came in October. That one was quite the shocker, but this year's was just a gentle push to pull out our winter clothes EARLY.
Funny how crafty sewers - or at least this one - think as they run between the off-season garment bags and the bedroom closet. "If this doesn't fit, I use it in the "xyz" project!" Waste not, want not, although if no one else wants them, I'll take your "oldies but still goodies" off your hands for you!
A friend recently mentioned that she might need some help organizing her closets and storage areas. "Oh, I'd be happy to help you," I kindly, maybe a little too enthusiastically raised my hand. ((So far, she has no suspicions of any ulterior motive on my part, but if there just happens to be a colorful blouse that doesn't fit any more, I could offer to take it off her hands and give it purpose to live on.)) After all, what are friends for?
So as the cold weather blusters in to at least the northern US and Canada, let me introduce you to a friend who turns wool items - sweaters, socks, skirts, slacks, hats - into mittens and scarves. ((My wedding present to my nephew and his new bride was mittens and a scarf made out of his grandpa's - my dad's - sweater that his grandma - my mom - knit for him a looooooong time ago. I think they'll put them to good use up there in Nebraska.)) Karen Carpenter owns Baro Fashions and you can see her work at www.barofashions.com. Please visit her there, and tell her I sent you.

Well, if I don't get back here before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful Turkey Day! Whether you are serving at a soup kitchen, or receiving family at your place, or letting someone graciously serve you, recall and remind others of how much we have to be thankful for in this nation. We are truly blessed, and contrary to L'Oreal's chant, we're really not worth it. If we got what we deserved, we'd be hurting puppies! See you next month! laurie