Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Way Cindy Did

Once upon a time there was a girl named Cindy. She was my double first cousin. Our dads were brothers. Our moms were sisters. Hence, double first cousins. There may be a more technical term as in “once removed”, etc. I know not of such things. I just know what we called each other.

She was younger than me by three months. And I loved her very much. I admired her very much. I loved everything about her. Very much. Mom said when I was very young, I would say, “I wish I had long legs the way Cindy did.”

I remember coming home from school one afternoon and going to Cindy’s house. She picked up a wash cloth that was draped on the side of the lavatory, wet it, and began washing her face. My aunt came in and asked why she was using that cloth and told her she had just used it to scrub the sink. I will never forget the look on Cindy’s face. I wished I could make a funny face - the way Cindy did.

If there were a gathering of the aunts and uncles, and there were plenty of them, Cindy would always greet each of them with a hug that didn’t hold anything back. I was always a little reserved in my affection but admired her for her outgoing personality. I tried hugging those sweet relatives a little more freely – the way Cindy did.

We played together, went to school together, worked together at a little restaurant that served burgers and was the hang out for the local teens. We didn’t always work the same nights but it was a barrel of monkeys when we did. I tried to be a friendly, hard working, smiling waitress – the way Cindy did.

I wanted to have perfect teeth – the way Cindy did. I wanted to have the long straight hair that was so in style in the 60’s – the way Cindy did. I wanted to be able to drive a straight shift – the way Cindy did.

Yes, we grew older and as most always the case, grew apart. Not apart in a sense we never spoke or saw each other, but in the way life has of putting distance between cousins because of new family dynamics. We both married the same year we graduated from high school. Our first children were born 5 weeks apart. I had two sons. She had two daughters. I had four grandsons and one granddaughter. She had four granddaughters. We always lived within 20 miles of each other.

While we were still in our 20’s, Cindy was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. She beat it, fighting for all she was worth. I hoped I would never have something like that happen to me – the way Cindy did.

Later in life, when things were moving along and we would see each other maybe once a year at a family reunion – Cindy began developing some health problems. I’m not sure of all the different things that began happening to her, but suffice it to say, they were not common things that could be easily diagnosed. I began to see a toughness, a determination, an “I’m gritting my teeth and digging in my heels – you’re not gonna beat me” attitude. I knew she wasn’t going to give in or give up. I prayed if it ever turned out to be me in the same situation that I could have that attitude – the way Cindy did.

I watched her bury her Daddy and cried with her. That was one thing I did not want to have to do – the way Cindy did. But a few short years later, she watched me bury my Daddy and cried with me.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I fought with all my might – the way Cindy did. Family reunion rolled around while I was in the midst of chemotherapy. The family was surprised when I was able to attend but nobody was happier to see me than Cindy. She didn’t even speak – just broke into tears and we hugged for a long, long time. I don’t think we wandered over 50 feet from each other that day. Nobody could make you feel loved – the way Cindy did.

Cindy’s illnesses kept getting worse and more complicated. She kept fighting and pushing on – nobody showed more Crouse stubbornness – the way Cindy did. But she got tired. She got weary. She got home sick. She just knew it was time. She set her “house” in order, kissed her husband good night, and closed her eyes one last time. She said good bye to all of us and hello to Jesus. I just know no one greeted Him (and our Daddies) – the way Cindy did.

I pray when my time comes, I have that “knowing” – the way Cindy did. I pray I can face it unafraid – the way Cindy did. I pray I can just close my eyes on this side of Heaven and open them on the other side – the way Cindy did.

Of all the loved ones I’ll meet again on the other side – no one will greet me – like Cindy will.





Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Week Or Two Late - Or Maybe Just Tardy.

Can New Year resolutions be two weeks late? Or is it ever too late to make a resolution? No, I don't think so. Let's see what I've come up with this year.

1. Write in the blog at least once a week. But more would be alright, too.
2. Concentrate on a speaking ministry, especially for the next two weeks, as I need to get a One Sheet perfected.
3. Commit to cleaning out/up one location a week in my house. Such as a drawer, a closet, a collection of "stuff" ("stuff" not to include the quilting fabric.) (Actually, I've cleaned out two things this week! Yay me!)

There are more things in a very personal way I have committed to but I'm not prepared to share all those with you today. Suffice it to say, if I can keep all these personal resolutions on top of the others I've listed, I should be a very well rounded person come December, 2012!

We'll see.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Those Dreams Weren't So Faded After All

Wow, time flies when you're having fun. I meant to talk about what happened to the quilt much sooner than this. As the old saying goes, "Better late than never." However, that didn't hold true when I was teenager and coming in after curfew.

My friend who took the quilt to the cleaners called after just a few days with good news/bad news; his team of experts was able to work wonders with the quilt in most of the squares/not all of the fade was possible to be removed. I want to thank them for their hard work and success as well as their willingness to face a challenge! They will be sufficiently rewarded in a few days.

I decided to remove the red squares altogether and replace with black squares. I had enough fabric to be able to replace the unfixable white squares, too.  Attached you can see the finished result. I was very pleased with the way it turned out and a very satisfied South Side High School band member took the quilt home with him. Next year will be another effort and it will be without red and hopefully, without so much drama!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Faded Dreams

 The Quilt. Planning - weeks of it. Selecting just the right fabrics - weeks for that, too. Studying in my mind about what it will look like - more weeks. It was going to be beautiful, specialized, customized, and just right. And it was! It turned out just like I had envisioned. The last step - throw it in the washing machine so the clipped seams would "rag." Raise the lid on the washing machine and pull it out - - - OH NO!!! The red had faded to the white!! Big ugly uneven splotches of pink all over the white squares. It was ruined. Tears rolled down my face. Sobs came from my chest. I had worked so hard. My mind had been consumed for weeks on this quilt. It was destined for a silent auction to raise money for my grandson's high school band program. Everyone would think it was just gorgeous and would bid on it and raise lots of money! Uncharacteristically, for me, I had finished it a week early! (The picture on the left are a couple of the squares I embroidered on my machine to go into the quilt. Taken before the invasion of the red dye.)

I couldn't even think about what to do to fix it. I didn't think I had time to make another. Should I tear it apart and try to salvage the usable squares? I didn't know. I put the problem on my Facebook page and got over 40 comments. One comment was from a friend who works at a dry cleaners. He told me not to do anything to it and bring it to him. It is now in his hands and I'll know in a couple of days if it can be cleaned up.

Ok, so this is a quilt. It's a bunch of cotton fabric I bought in large pieces, cut into smaller pieces, and sewed back together to make it a different large piece. Sounds counter productive, doesn't it? But that's what quilters do. Sometimes we are able to sell the quilts for large sums of money. Sometimes we just give them away. Sometimes we hang onto them and refuse to let them go. But when you get right down to the bottom line - it's just a bunch of fabric. Fabric that probably costs too much. It's just a "thing." And this "thing" had taken over my mind, time, and emotions.

Why am I stressing over a "thing" that has a little monetary value, when there are children in the hospital that would love to have a special quilt to call their own? Why am I stressing over a "thing" when there are children in my own town that might not have enough supper to eat tonight before they go to bed? Why am I stressing over a "thing" when some children don't know where their parents are due to effects of drugs or alcohol? And why am I stressing over a "thing" when some parents aren't able to provide a nice Christmas for their children because they don't have a job, a job that was lost due to the economic times we are in?

Last year at this time, I was recovering from all the effects of cancer treatments. I have a warm house, plenty of food, a job, my health (again), a loving family who are all also healthy, and several quilts to bring me pleasure. So - if the ruined quilt can be repaired, that's good. If it can't - that's ok. I shall stop crying and whining and complaining and concentrate more on helping someone this Christmas that is less fortunate than I.

I keep thinking of that parable Jesus told about the man who had so much "stuff" he was going to tear down all his barns and storage bins and build bigger ones. As he was planning on socking all that wealth away to live a long easy life, God stepped in. "You fool! You come here to me! Now we'll see who gets all your "stuff"!" (My translation.) To read the actual parable go to Luke 12:13-21.

Many times we can feel we are being generous. But are we ever generous enough? Are we too consumed with accumulating "stuff" and stressing over it if it doesn't measure up to our human standards? I think I need to ponder some more scripture.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Little Catching Up

Wow! It has certainly been a while, yet again, since I have written in my blog. July 7 was the last post. Are you kidding me? So much has happened since I wrote that. And all of the happenings have been good. (Grammatically - should that title read "A Little Up Catching"?)

I met Juanita. She, Brenda, Donne, Sharon, and I planned and staged a quilt show in two months time. It was a booming success and we have already begun planning the show for next year. Stay tuned!

I entered three of my quilts in a show in a nearby town and won two ribbons, a blue and a red. Winners were determined by Viewers Choice vote. This meant so much to me because one of the quilts I had begun when Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 5 1/2 years go. When he died, I put it away and didn't continue working on it again until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On days when I felt like working on it, I did and completed it about the time I finished all my treatments and began feeling like a normal person again. I consider this quilt a Victory Quilt.

Mike and I took a short vacation to Pigeon Forge, TN. It's the first time I'd been out of town, overnight, since before I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a much needed break for both of us and we had a wonderful time! The classic car show was in town and on Friday and Saturday traffic was horrific so we checked out early Saturday and went to Knoxville, got a room there so we could watch the Tennessee Vols play football  - on tv! - and visited the Museum of Appalachia before game time. That is a wonderful experience. 

I had the opportunity to travel to Lake Keowi, South Carolina and attend the Christian Communicators Conference. Friend and sister breast cancer survivor, Gail, traveled with me. This conference was designed to "Educate, Validate, and Launch" women into a speaking and writing ministry. This conference of 24 women was not held in an auditorium or hotel conference style setting. It was in a 6,000 square foot home consisting of 9 bedrooms and 7 baths overlooking a beautiful lake. We had a gourmet cook supplying all our meals and snacks and two of the most dynamic women I've ever met teaching us all we needed to know to help us get started in our speaking ministry. I learned so much and met new friends that will encourage me, pray for me, and hold me accountable. And I will do the same for them. In the very near future I will be announcing more about my ministry.

And now it's the holiday season. Last year at this time I was recovering from all the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and an emergency surgery on my colon! I had no hair and not much energy. But, Thank You Lord, I am back to an almost normal state this year.  At the conference, we were encouraged to write and to blog as this opened up ideas and opportunities to speak. So I will try again to post more on this blog. And I thank you for reading it.

One of the bible verses we focused on at the Conference was Psalms 45:1 "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." That verse needs a lot of pondering.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Changing Passions

Do you believe passions come and go? Can there be different degrees of passions? Can one have more than one passion at a time? Is a passion really just having a one track mind? Therefore, does having more than one passion make one well rounded? What is your passion? What is MY passion, or passions?

At age 14 my passion, outside of normal "passions" at that age - namely boys, clothes, hair styles - was writing. I wrote poetry (see above sentence referencing "boys"). I started a book about two sisters driving to visit grandparents in another state in the older sister's new Mustang convertible. The characters and places in this book mirrored my life and family. Uh, except for the Mustang. I'm still waiting to realize that one. This passion continued through high school but was cooled down when I got married. My passion then became music. Country music. My uncle was a DJ for a country radio station that began sponsoring major country music stars to appear in the local coliseum. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the opening act for one of those shows.  I ended up with a little country band composed of normal working guys from around town and we played at local community centers and fairs. That was fun for a while. Life happened and son #1 came along. He was more important than music.

I suppose my next passion was crochet. Hours and hours of work, skeins and skeins of yarn, afghans by the dozens flew out of my crochet hook. Then it was counted cross stitch. Hours and hours of work, skeins and skeins of embroidery floss, dozens of projects flew out of my needle.

Then it was back to writing. I wanted to write a book. A real grown up book. I began attending writers conferences and workshops. I heard the same instructions over and over on how to write, organize, submit stories, pitch articles and book ideas. I began writing for a local paper that was published monthly. I wrote for them for seven years.

Then I began quilting. Rather, I began sewing quilts. Most people think of quilting as needle and thread, an old quilt frame hanging from the ceiling, old women sitting around the frame gossiping and sewing. That still happens in lots of places. Well I don't know about the gossiping part but absolutely I know about the quilting part. My quilting consists of a  rotary cutter, cutting mat, ruler, sewing machine, and lots of fun. I think that is my passion now. If I didn't have to eat, sleep, and work I could really get a lot of sewing/quilting done!

My writing has fallen by the wayside. No longer as passionate about writing as I once was, even this blog is lacking in frequency of entries. I'm trying to do better. Yeah, yeah, you've heard that one before. Mother once said, "I wish you would write a book instead of quilting. You can quilt when you get old." I told her, "I am old!" After asking her why she was so anxious for me to write a book, she said, "I want to go with you on a book signing tour!" Then I told her even if I wrote a book and finished it in a month, it might take years before a publisher agreed to publish it, then another year for it to actually hit my doorstep, then I'd have to hire an agent to promote me and set up signings. I told her, "Mom, you'd be dead and gone before that ever happened!"

She just laughed and said, "If you enjoy quilting then have at it." And I'm almost sure I heard her say as she walked away, "You're not old enough to be quilting."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Important Announcement!!

On May 11, just a couple of weeks ago, I was officially declared cancer free! My oncologist was very excited as he delivered the news to me. It was a bell ringing event, as I walked through the chemo lab to have the needle removed from my life port. The nurses, no - MY nurses, cheered with me, hugged me, and applauded as I rang that bell for the last time!! (I had rung a bell twice before - once in that same chemo lab when I finished my chemo and once in the radation department when I was done with radiation.) I don't think you can ring a bell too many times when it comes to cancer. Every milestone that says, "been there, done that" deserves to be announced by the loud, long, obnoxious, annoying, ringing of a big bell. And now - no more treatments. No more experimental pills. No more days of not being able to get up out of my chair.

My energy levels are returning. My emotional state is better than it's ever been. I still have days when I feel kinda bad and kinda down. I have told friends I am about 85% back to normal. But normal is on a different scale now. Normal is notched up to a new look on life. It sure feels good to wake up in the mornings knowing I don't have cancer. I always knew and acknowledged that each day is a gift from God. Now I embrace that knowledge with a new fervor and determination to make the most of every day. Embracing each day means I am more aware of my surroundings; of people I know and love; of people I know and try to love; of nature and food and possessions and finances. The list is endless. I have projects to finish and new ones to begin. I have foods to try and recipes to experiment with. I have trips to take and travels to plan. I feel like a new person. Some of the old me is still here. But there's a lot of a new me. Some may notice. Some may not. It matters not who does or doesn't. I'm back. And I'm back in a big way.

Thank you, Lord, for all of your promises. Isaiah 41:13 "For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you." He does, and He will. Blessed Assurance!