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!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm Not As Timely As I Meant To Be

Ok, so I lied. I didn't get back to the blog as quickly as I meant to. I've heard people say, "Life got in the way." And that's a true statement. In my case, quilting got in the way, alongside a lot of other things.

But to the task at hand. I went to the breast cancer support group and found out it wasn't just for breast cancer survivors. There were two women there that are leukemia survivors. We all got to tell our story. We all went through different experiences. We all suffered pain and sickness and heartache and disappointment. But, Praise God, we all are survivors.

And I believe that's why we go through hard times, bad times, painful times - to Praise God. To bring Glory to God. To be thankful in all things. I Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Do you know how hard that is to do? It's easy to give thanks and be thankful when things are going great. But when you're told you have a disease that could take your life, it's mighty hard to say, "Thank you, Lord! That's just what I wanted!" When you're going through painful tests and surgeries it's mighty hard to say, "Thank you, Lord! That's just what I wanted." When you're lying in your chair, so sick from chemotherapy meds they put in your body to kill the cancer and you can't hold your head up or get up to get in the shower, it's mighty hard to say, "Thank you, Lord. That's just what I wanted." Be joyful? Not happening. Pray continually? Maybe, but not in a thankful attitude. More like, "Please, Lord, just let me live through this one more day. Please, Lord, just let me find something I can eat. Please, Lord, let me be able to get up from this chair and move around." And then the one question people say you're not supposed to ask, "Please, Lord. Why me?" Well, why not ask Him that?! He knows you're thinking it anyway. He knows all things about you. He knows what's in your heart. He knows what your future is. He knows the plans he has for you. He knows He plans to give you hope and a future. (You can find that promise in Jeremiah 29:11) So let's just get honest with God and talk to him like the Father he is to us.

We may not ever know the "why" of anything that happens to us on this earth. But we will know someday. Our job today is to Praise God, to bring him Glory, to thank Him, to tell others about Him.

Back to the support group - I will be attending again next month. I look forward to meeting some more new friends and sharing the bad times, and good times of cancer and hearing the stories of other survivors. And most of all, I look forward to having the opportunity to tell others what God has done for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Moving Down the Tunnel

The end of the tunnel is near. You know the one - the one that's dark and scarey and seems to go on forever. You know the one - it is rumored to have a light at the end of it. I think I can see that light!

Three more herceptin treatments. Two new bottles of the experimental pill, lapatinib. The Herceptin is given to me via lifeport. It is a targeted medicine that destroys the HER-2 protein that was in the cancer and causes it to be very aggressive. Lapatinib is being tested to determine if it helps prohibit the cancer from returning. At the end of this treatment there will be a 6% chance of the cancer returning. Anything under 10% is good. I am very optimistic I will not see another 5 months like I did in 2010. Already 2011 is looking good.

Today in the chemo lab, I met Amanda. Her mother and I went to high school together. Amanda is a beautiful young woman, mid 30's I think, two daughters, a husband, a newly earned Registered Nurse degree. Amanda has breast cancer. She earned her degree and passed her state boards all while facing the fact she has cancer. She's had the surgeries and lost her hair. She's sick and achey from the chemo. She's very courageous. She will be fine. I look forward to getting to know her better.

After my treatment today I had lunch at a chinese buffet and stopped into Hobby Lobby. I've always been an evesdropper. Sitting in a restaurant I enjoy overhearing the people at the tables around me. I don't do anything with what I hear or usually repeat it to anyone else. Besides, I don't know those people! Today as I was examining something hanging on the wall at Hobby Lobby, I heard a woman say, "I am on my way to the clinic to get the results of a biopsy that was done on my breast a few days ago." That's all I heard. She continued talking to an acquantance but I don't know what else she said. All I heard was "biopsy - results - today" I moved to her side and touched her hand. She looked at me, puzzled, and I said, "I'm sorry. I don't mean to interrupt but I couldn't help hearing that you are going to find out the results of your biopsy today. I just want to tell you that no matter how it turns out, I can tell from the shirt you are wearing, that you will be ok. You will be fine." She looked at me stunned and said, "I hope so. That's what I'm counting on." She should have said, 'that's WHO I'm counting on" For the life of me, I couldn't tell you right now what her shirt said. But it referred to God and something about her faith in him. I would give anything if I knew what her results were. I have thought about her and prayed for her several times today.Don't know her name. Don't know where she lives. Just know she was frightened.

Talked to Vicki today. She's Mike's niece, the daughter of one of his late sisters. One of the three sisters he had that died of ovarian cancer. Vicki is a breast cancer survivor. She calls to check on me periodically. She goes for her yearly check up next week. She voiced what we survivors all think of - will it come back? That's one of those questions that doesn't have an answer. I refuse to make myself sick worrying over such a question. The possibility exists that it could come back in any and all of us. But I will live each day as a survivor. I will try not to waste time. Time is so precious. We think we will be here forever. But God says in James 4:14, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Sounds like we're pretty expendable, doesn't it? I want to accomplish a lot of things before my "mist" vanishes. Not necessarily leaving "things" as a legacy because quilts are a nice way to do that and I want everyone I love to have one. Rather, I want to leave this world making a difference in someone else's life. Hopefully, the woman I spoke to at Hobby Lobby today will get some comfort from what I said. Hopefully, if her diagnosis is not what she wanted to hear, she'll find courage. If her diagnosis was exactly what she wanted to hear, maybe she will encourage another woman who is waiting on results of a medical test, too.

Monday night I am going to a breast cancer support group. It's the first time I've attended a group like this. I'm looking forward to hearing what other women have to say. This "club" I found myself a member of, is not what I would have chosen. But it's what I got. And I'll do my best to help someone else get through it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where Have I Been?

September? That was the last time I've blogged? That was a long time ago. All those months seem like a blur. Am I really back on my feet? Am I really able to eat again? Am I really only going to the chemo lab once every three weeks? Can you believe I actually miss my chemo nurses?

Let me backtrack. Mainly for my own benefit. Right after chemotherapy was finished I began radiation. That was a breeze compared to the chemo. Being at the hospital radiation lab every morning before 9 a.m. for six weeks was rather a drag but it wasn't painful and it didn't make me sick. And let me say, the medical personnel in radiation were wonderful, sweet, caring, concerned professionals. I appreciate every one of them. I finished up the treatments on November 1, the day after my birthday. I got home that day and received a phone call from an online fabric source where I order quilting fabric. I had won a $100 gift certificate! Could a day get any better? I had a wonderful birthday, finished radiation and got free quilting fabric! WOW!

Things were humming right along. My appetite and strength was coming back. So was my hair, slowly. Then almost two full weeks later, on November 12, 2010, I woke up at 4:30 a.m with a knife sharp stabbing pain in my stomach. By 8 a.m. Mike had me in the emergency room and I was being examined. This was a pain I'd never experienced before. I couldn't do anything but bend over double. Making a long story short, after the CAT scan, I was told my intestines had twisted. The surgeon wanted to operate as soon as possible. I was admitted and placed on the oncology floor, since I was a cancer patient, too, and to keep the chances down of my catching an infection of some/any sort. So on Saturday morning, the 13th I was taken to surgery where I had 18" of my colon removed. What??? Yep, and it had nothing to do with the cancer or treatments. I was unable to eat or swallow anything until the doctor was sure my colon was functioning properly again. On Wednesday, November 17, I was finally able to eat again. I had existed on ice chips and huge bags of IV "stuff". Oh, the pain meds weren't bad either. The first food I'd had in 6 days was artificial scrambled eggs and jello. Best tasting food I'd had in months!

Mike came to the hospital every day and spent the night with me every night but the first one. I recovered quite quickly, or I thought so, and was able to come home on Thursday morning. After having been up and about and beginning to get back on my feet from the chemo and radiation, I found myself once again glued to my recliner. About another four weeks of down time and I was pretty much good to go again. There were a lot of medicines I had to take, a lot of medicines I had to quit taking, and dressing wounds three times a day.

I shall pause for now and post another chapter in this journey later today or this week. Thank you, Lord, for your Love and Grace and Healing.