Monday, August 1, 2016

An incredible gift....




Just last week at 2:45am, I received the call from the nursing home that I'd known was coming. I had left there at 8 p.m. the night before and I knew...I knew it was coming.  My father in law had passed.  The nurse on duty was kind and soft spoken...she explained that my mother in law was able to be at his side as he took his last breath.  Still on the phone with her, attempting to gather myself and my things to head over to the nursing home, the conversation switched to the hard questions.
"Is it okay with you if we call for the funeral home to come and retrieve the body?"  When I responded with a quiet yes, she said "Well, some families do choose to come and view the body first"....and the words "please don't make me do this again" that were in my head, apparently had escaped my lips.  I realized then I'd said them out loud.  I quickly explained that it had only been eleven months since going through this with my own husband and quite frankly, I'm still not over that shock and trauma.  She told me I could wait to come as she thought my mother in law was okay for now...but then something clicked in my brain.  My mother in law....had just said good bye to her husband of almost 69 years.  This was no longer about me.

I drove to the nursing home and sat with my mother in law until the funeral director arrived.  When he got there, he sat with us for over an hour, just talking about Loyal...who he was...what he did for a living...asking my mother in law how they met and other questions about their life together.  At the end of that conversation, he explained what was to happen next...he would bringing in his own wheeled cot and would transfer Loyal to that before taking him away.  He held my mother in law's hand and promised her he would take good care of her husband.  As they wheeled in the cot, I noticed there was a black bag on top and all I could think of was keeping my mother in law distracted so that she could not see that.  As we sat there talking quietly while they worked, I glanced up and what I saw then... literally took my breath away.  No longer a cot with a black bag, but instead, my father in law...a WWII veteran...would be leaving draped in a flag.  This is where I became a sobbing mess...overcome with tears at such a beautiful and respectful moment.  What an incredible gift I received that morning...that this...this will be my last memory of him.



Had I chosen to be selfish and waited to go....I would've had no idea that this...this is protocol. I would've missed it. I made them stop before going out the door so that I could snap this photo to share with my family.

Later that day, sharing this photo with son Aaron, he commented how even not actually seeing it person...but imagining how that must've looked.....down that silent corridor....out the front door in the still of the quiet morning...to the waiting car.  What a beautiful sight that must've been as well.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 30, 1989....27 Years Ago

Another first today...... 

Twenty seven years...seems like a long time when you say it outloud...until you get there and you realize that in reality it went by in the blink of an eye.  Twenty seven years of joys and sorrows...highs and lows....for better and for worse.  Guess there's a reason that line is in the vows....  

We were never ones to make a big deal over anniversaries...maybe dinner...maybe a card.  
(confession:  I had a run of a couple of  years where I recycled the same card and he never noticed.  In my defense...it was a great card)



I wish I could say I feel like I was in less of a time warp than I was 10 months ago....but I can't.
In exactly 50 days, it will have been one year since he left and it still feels like it just happened. 

In June, I spent three weeks in Ireland...walking the now familiar places...hiking up mountains as well the along the sea...and the one thing that I kept noticing were the flowers that were blooming in the most unusual of places.  In the middle of jagged and sharp rocks and cliffs that loomed over the sea were flowers blooming.  Dangling off what appeared to be the edge of the earth...they still bloomed.








In the middle of a pile of rocks...this foxglove reached for the sun and sky...despite it's surroundings.



All along the stone fences....the flowers worked their way through the hard surfaces and still managed to bloom.

It's the message I carried home with me....even in the midst of circumstances that seem so incredibly hard and impenetrable around us...despite the surroundings that appear jagged and sharp...we can bloom.  We must....

Not needing any pity today...not looking for sympathy....just sharing my message.   

Go Bloom.... 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

#heartsforpenny

#heartsforpenny.... a hashtag that I saw for the first time just minutes after hanging up from a phone call with the state medical examiner, the day after Don had died.  "Your husband died from a dissected aortic aneurysm" he had said, "It was his heart."  I hung up the phone and heard it ping.  I looked down and saw that I had been tagged in a post on Instagram...with the hashtag #heartsforpenny.  A closer look revealed that my quilt community...having no idea of the phone conversation I had just had with the medical examiner....were on a mission to collect heart blocks to create a quilt for me...to comfort me in my loss. My heart had just been shattered...and here they were planning to send me their own hearts of love.

Tonight I got to open two boxes....each with a quilt inside... I don't even know how to put into words how magnificent they each are.   I haven't actually counted how many blocks there are in total...I'm still searching each quilt over and over again and I feel like I see something new every time.  Each block is so unique...but each contains a heart.  My heart overflows tonight with love from my quilt friends.  My eyes overflow with tears....I am so thankful for every single one of you who made a block for me.

I'll share a few pics here of getting to see the quilts....at some point I will photograph each block....but for now...I'm going to wrap myself up in some amazing love.
























The Quilts



This week will be eight months.  Sometimes I really hate that I apply a number to it...and yet I can't seem to not do that. Every day brings its challenges...but I'm doing my best to keep going. 

A special thank you to Teri Lucas, Michelle Banton, Jamie Mueller & Mandy Leins for taking time to piece, quilt & bind.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The gift of life....

On a previous blog post, I know that I had shared that my husband had chosen to be a donor.  It was something that we had openly discussed on occasion, so I knew his wishes as well as it being marked on his driver's license.  Even so, within moments of receiving the worst news imaginable, it's something that surviving family members still have to be asked...and it doesn't stop there.  Saying yes, means that at that moment that all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position in the corner...you have to stay strong and answer a multitude of questions regarding your loved one.  Your mind...is still not your own in those moments...your heart is breaking with every answer...and yet you know you have to do this.

I can't say enough wonderful things about the Iowa Donor Network and their system for handling this process. Their communication with me did not stop that day.  I've received several phone calls...just checking in to see how I'm doing or if I have any questions.   There is also regular communication by mail...offering grief resources for any of the family members.  In September we received a letter stating that two people with serious eye issues had been given the gift of sight after receiving cornea transplants from Don's donation gift.   

On Thursday I received another letter from the Iowa Donor Network. As I opened it, I saw a brochure and at first thought it was likely marketing materials.  Upon reading the enclosed letter, I realized that we had just received our first communication from a donor recipient.  That letter...tucked inside its own sealed envelope...with instructions to open it at a time that's best for you.  I was instantly in tears. Not the quiet ones...full on raging sobs hit me within seconds. 

Our letter, was from a 71 year old gentleman, who had suffered a very bad broken leg and ankle that had been complicated by infection.  "Because of your family's donation, I have a chance to save my foot and leg and to walk again", he wrote.

I'm not sure how to describe what it's like to have a heart that feels so broken and yet rejoices at the same time.  This is exactly the type of patient that Don spent his entire life dedicated to treating as a Physical Therapist.   There is a great joy in knowing that his work in helping others is continuing because of his donation.




If you'd like more information on becoming an organ donor, I encourage you to click here to be redirected to one of the national Organ Donor sites.  

To honor Don's dedication to working with others as a Physical Therapist, our family has also started a scholarship  in his name at North Iowa Area Community College, specific to the Physical Therapy Assistant Program.  We are so very thankful for recent donations from Iowa Specialty Hospitals in Clarion and Belmond, Iowa where Don was employed.  Anyone wishing to donate is encouraged to contact Andrea Mujica at mujica@niacc.edu.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

Terrific T-Shirt Quilts

So thrilled to have received copies of this new publication for Martingale called Terrific T-Shirt Quilts.


I was pretty excited to spot the book at the Bear Patch Quilting in White Bear Lake, Mn.


Even more thrilled that my design "Got Spirit" appears beginning on page 21!  I used t-shirts from Iowa State University and created a design that formed the letter "I".   That design gave me some great negative space on both sides to do some fun quilting.  I traced out the letters "I S U" and added a bit of wool batting underneath before quilting to allow them to stand out amidst the quilting.



I also added some design inspiration using other letters that might represent your school too!  There's great information for you in prepping those t-shirts if you'd like to make a quilt of your own!
Here's a sneak peek at a few other t-shirt quilts you'll find in the book.

Checkmate by Jackie White

Winning Combination by Jamie Mueller

Road Trip by Melissa Kelly


Once again, I'm giving away a copy of this book and I'll be choosing a winner from comments left here on the blog.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Honoring a WWII Veteran

At Christmastime, my favorite second grade class in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, created the quilt blocks shown here for me to use in a quilt that would honor someone in the military.




We started this project of making our "Thank You for Your Service" quilts a couple of years ago and so far we've gifted our quilts to deployed soldiers.The first year to a soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan and last year to a married couple deployed in Iraq.




This year we decided that our recipient would be a local White Bear Lake resident and  WWII veteran, Bob Clemens. With a little help from Bob's wife, Mary Nell,  Bob thought he was just coming to the  school to speak to the second graders about his time in the military as a pilot. He had no idea we were about to surprise him with our special quilt.
Bob Clemens

The students could not have been more excited about Bob's visit!  Sitting on the floor of the commons were several of the second grade classes all ready to hear Bob tell them about his experiences flying planes during the war.  We also learned that Bob was an only child, and because of that, he had the option of not going to war. (I'd never heard that before)  Instead he chose to serve his country and enlisted in the Air Force in 1942.  He became a pilot and flew 50  missions in 1944 in about a three month time period.

The kids got to ask questions when he was done speaking...I think my favorite question was "Was it scary flying airplanes since they had just been invented?"

And then of course...the best part....we got to surprise Bob and tell him about our very special quilt project and present it to him.

Receiving his quilt

Such an honor to be able to say "Thank you for your service".





We also knew that on Friday, March 11th,  Bob will be celebrating his 92nd birthday.  Not only did we all sing him Happy Birthday, he was also presented with 92 Birthday cards made by elementary students as well as a book of letters of thanks, written by John's second graders.

It was truly a beautiful and emotional event that I feel honored to have a part in ...

Thank you for your service, Bob....from the bottom of our hearts.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Finding my inner artist...with Melissa Marie Collins

Today I had the absolute pleasure of spending the day at Delve MIY in Cedar Rapids with my quilting friend and artist, Melissa Marie Collins.



Melissa and I had a connection long before we ever actually met in person.  It was her fabric "The Healing Tree" that I had used in one of my quilts that was so meaningful to me.   We met at Quilt Market shortly after and I sought her out so that I could share my healing story with her...and she shared her story of creating the healing tree....  An opportunity for me to thank her for her creation...and validation for her that what she created and sent out into the world served the exact person she had hope it would.  It was truly a beautiful and emotional exchange  that neither of us has ever forgotten.


Melissa  invited me to come down and spend a day with her in the studio at Delve MIY to learn some of the  painting techniques that she uses to create her designs.  

Delve MIY, owned by Stephanie Brandenburg, is in the restored Cherry building in the New Bohemia District in downtown Cedar Rapids in an area of the city that was hit hard by the floods in June 2008.  The building houses several artistic businesses including photography, ceramics and a yarn and floral shop. The hallways are filled with art from local artists.






  One step inside Delve MIY and it's a true explosion of art and color.  The fabrics are gorgeous and inspirational and mingled with an eclectic blend of antiques.  It's absolute eye candy in every direction you look. 









To learn more about Delve MIY , Frond Studios and their designs click here. You'll find a link to their website there as well.

Today...I did some drawing...some coloring...and some painting...tapping into my inner artist. It truly felt like I was on a scavenger hunt, finding clues and messages along the way in support of my journey to find Joy again.



Just to make sure we didn't take ourselves too serious...
we ended our art session with a bit of a Mardi Gras themed bubble fest....and lots of laughs.



Before leaving Cedar Rapids we took a quick walk through the NewBo City Market which houses multiple vendors offering homegrown items and a multitude of ethnic foods fixed fresh right before your eyes.




and then a quick walk through Brewhemia a local cafe and bar who's walls were boasting art from none other than Delve MIY.  It was there that Melissa ran into a lifelong family friend, sitting in his favorite spot at the bar reading a book.  Melissa casually asked about the book and picked it up and opened it to this page....another message for us today.




We grabbed some dinner before I left Cedar Rapids and I swear to you we ate the best sweet potato fries in the world.  In the world, people!!  These can be found at Bata's Restaurant.  If you love sweet potato fries...you must go...and please take me with you.

As we were seated in the restaurant, and talking about how meaningful the day was for both of us...I looked up and this was my view from the table.....a beautiful message to carry home with me...
and one I wish for all of you as well.