Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Friendship Quilt

I spent my last weekend in Michigan at our annual quilting retreat (or "Rereat!" as we call it) at Debra's house in Grand Rapids.  The date had been set before I knew when I was leaving for Minnesota, and I'm so glad that it worked out for me to be able to go this year.  We've been meeting at Debra's once a year for a couple decades - first at her parents lake cottage, then when she lived in Cadillac (where x-country skiing was a big part of the retreat weekend), and most recently in Grand Rapids.

This was a special weekend for me in so many ways - to be surrounded by friends, to have a chance to sit and talk and sew, to eat good food, and - SURPRISE - they gave me this beautiful quilt!

I was touched and thrilled and honored to be given such a lovely gift. Lori suggested the pattern, and then Cindy organized collecting the blocks and piecing the top, which was quilted by Kari and bound by Louise. Beth, Jan and Linda contributed pieces for the backing.  Each quilter made a block for the center using bird fabric in Lori's block pattern, and the outer border is comprised of blocks made by each quilter in a bird theme.  For example, Jan did the "Hens and Chicks" block pattern, using hen fabric - perfect!  The border also includes signature blocks from each quilter, with a special message to me.  I loved reading each one!

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Only connect"

This Sunday I said goodbye to two groups of people who have been special in my life in Michigan - my church and my dog park friends.

When I went to church on Sunday, I was touched and thrilled to find out that the women who work in the Hope Closet project had asked for the Pentecost quilt to be hung in the Sanctuary.  This is a quilt that I worked on with women from the church in celebration of the church's 50-year anniversary. It meant a lot to me to see it hanging on Sunday, since they usually only hang it on Pentecost Sunday.

During the service, Rev. Fred Graham asked me to come to the front of the church, and he read the following: "The Scriptures are filled with stories of people who have been called to move to new places: Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph, Paul and Barnabas, Priscilla and Aquilla. Filled with uncertainty about what lay ahead, these people of God could not have found their moves easy. Yet they were also filled with excitement, trusting that God was calling them and guiding them to a new place. And now you, our beloved friend, are preparing to leave us and go to a new place, a new home, and a new church. As a part of this body of Christ over the past years, you have given of yourself in ways that we have appreciated and will miss. We ask God's blessing upon you as we lift our hearts in prayer."  After the service, many church friends came up to me to say goodbye and wish me well, many of whom I have known since I joined Eastminster 30 years ago.

After church, some of my dog park friends - Jeff, Julie and Jen - took me out to lunch at Woody's. We have known each other for many years of walking our dogs at area dog parks - at MSU Ag Expo where we first met, and then at Rose Lake and Soldans Park at Hawk Island.  During the years we've known each other, we've mourned the passing of our old dogs - Kita, Snickers, Coda - and enjoyed getting to know our new dogs - Sadie, Sam, Dora and Sola.  Sam and Sadie are getting greyer now (but then, so are Jeff, Julie, Jen and I...), marking the passing years of our long friendship.

With both groups - my church and the dog park - I arrived at both many years knowing no one and not anticipating the friendships that would arise from both.  Soon I got to know people at my church through shared activities - serving and cooking for Advent House, Deacons, bell choir, and other fellowship and mission activities. At the dog park, our dogs "self-selected" their friends, and we humans followed their lead and started walking together.  The best days were at Ag Expo when Sadie, Sam and Coda ran uphill and down - our Three Musketeers - while the rest of plodded behind with the slower dogs.  Looking back, I'm overwhelmed by the serendipity of getting to know these church and dog people who became my friends and have been important in my life.

During the past several weeks - and especially this Sunday - I have though often of E. M. Forster's final sentence of Howard's End, "Only connect." No matter what else I do in my life, it is my connections with other people that make everything worthwhile.  I feel lucky for my "connections" in Michigan, and I'm looking forward to new "connections" in Minnesota.  "Only connect."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goodbyes and "last times"

It seems like every time I turn around, I am saying goodbye or experiencing another "last time" before leaving for Minnesota.

On Friday, I went to my last MCLS Board meeting.  After 17 years, it will seem strange not attending their board meetings anymore.  They gave me a goodbye card and a generous gift certificate to a quilt store in Minneapolis, and of course, I did get verklempt (which is going to be happening a lot in the next couple weeks, I'm afraid).

Saturday was my last bell choir practice and today in church was my last time to play bells in the worship service with the bell choir.  We played a variation on The Church's One Foundation - happily without mistakes - so it was nice to go out on a high note!

The choir gave me a goodbye "Smile - Enjoy the Little Things" plaque for my quilt studio, and our director Edisher said some kind words during the service.  Being part of the bell choir for the past four years (first under Sulin and now under Edisher) has been one of the happiest times of my life in Michigan, and I am going to miss the camaraderie and the joy of making music together during our Tuesday practice sessions.  It is sad to realize that this was the last time of playing bells with them.  And after 30 years at Eastminster, it will be harder next Sunday to go to church for the last time and say many more goodbyes.

But even though the goodbyes are teary and there is sadness in knowing that I'm doing things for the last time, there is also a bright side in knowing that I am able to say goodbye and to appreciate these "last times."  How many times have we not had a chance to say final goodbyes to friends and family?  And how many times have we not realized that we were experiencing something for the "last time" and later wished we had savored it more fully?  I feel blessed and lucky to have so many Michigan friends and good memories and that I have the chance to appreciate the goodbyes and "last times" this month.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Roller coaster highs and lows

Have I mentioned that my little apartment in Tish's house is in the middle of a deer park?  Okay, not a real deer park, but there are herds of deer roaming nonchalantly through the neighborhood.  The photo below was taken from Tish's yard tonight.  I let out Sadie (loose) tonight with Jasper (tied out, barking wildly), and yet these deer were completely unphased.  Then I tied Dora out, and the deer ran away at top speed.  Perhaps I should explain.

Two weeks ago - my first night alone at Tish's house, I let Sadie and Dora out loose in the backyard, not realizing that the deer were there.  Dora took off after the deer and disappeared into the dark neighborhood and didn't return.  I wandered through the neighborhood for more than 1/2 hour calling for her (and, yes, crying) until I finally found her several blocks away. 

Losing my dog in a strange neighborhood in the dark when I was alone was pretty much the lowest point on the wild roller coaster ride that has been my life for the past few months.  Other low point included finding out that the gas (and heat) had been turned off in my new house; having the buyer of my Lansing house withdraw his offer at the eleventh hour (after I had already arranged to move out); and having the underwriters threaten not to allow my closing the day before I was supposed to fly out for the closing.  These were not the most fun times.

On the other hand, I've had some pretty high points on this roller coaster.  I did find Dora after she ran away.  And, even though the buyer pulled out, I was able to use his inspection results to repair the problems with my house.  And my closing did happen on time, thanks to a very dedicated mortgage loan officer at my credit union.  And my sister did find out that my gas had been turned off before anything froze and called to get it turned back on.  Not to mention the high points of interviewing for and getting a wonderful new job in Minnesota, just a few miles from family.  In the balance of things, the positives outweigh the lows, and I know I should be grateful.  But it would be great to get off this roller coaster and sail along at an even keel for a few uneventful days ...

Monday, February 6, 2012

The year ahead - thoughts on moving, downsizing, and simplifying

A few years ago, my cousin Kate moved to San Francisco for a year and wrote a blog of her life while she was there. And a couple years ago (has it been that long?), my friend Jan took a bike trip across the U.S. and wrote a blog about her trip.  In both cases, I loved following their travels and experiences through reading their blogs.  Now that I'm embarking on a whole new chapter of my life - new job, new house, new city/state - I thought it might be fun to record my first year in a blog.



One challenge for me in this big life change to a new job and new city is that I'm older. I'll be 56 in a few short weeks - too young to retire and too old to move my own furniture (thank you, Two Men & a Truck).  Moving my furniture to the new house in Bloomington last week reminded me of my many moves over the years from dorm to apartments to houses.  For most of those moves, I could fit my entire life (well, except for the orange chair) into my car.  Now the orange chair has been left by the side of the curb for the garbage men, and my belongings (even after much culling) filled up much of a moving van.  Amazing how much fabric and how many books one person can acquire in twenty-plus years, even after downsizing.  Even though I did keep a lot, it was wonderfully freeing to divest myself of so many items - furniture, clothing, books, fabric, knicknacks, junk.


In the interim period while my belongings are in Minnesota and while I'm still working in Michigan, I'm living in a one-bedroom apartment with my dogs in Tish's basement apartment (I am a lucky duck).  I only have a few belongings with me - clothes, toiletries, dog dishes, paperwork, computer - and I'm finding that I am really enjoying living a streamlined, simplified life.  Snuggling into bed at night in my little apartment reminds me of the various apartments I lived in after college - Versailles Plaza in Hyattsville, student housing at Duke, my tiny one-room apartment at University Place in East Lansing one summer, and even my odd, leaky apartment at Hidden(f***ing)Tree A (f***ing) Rental Community (my apologies for the offensive language but you would understand if you had lived there). 

Five years ago when my friend Phyllis moved from her 3-bedroom house in Lansing to an RV in California, I couldn't understand how she could exist happily in such tiny quarters without her sewing machine and access to her fabric. But now, it all makes sense to me. Last night I hand-pieced a quilt block, and I truly enjoyed the slower pace of sewing by hand. [Thanks for paving the way for me, Phyllis - I feel like I'm following in your footsteps starting a brand-new adventure later in life!]

My next challenge, of course, will be to keep my life simplified after I move...