Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Sum of Who We Are....

I remember vividly at my Mom's funeral, the pastor talking about her "legacy".  It was a word I'd never applied to anyone that I loved before.  I remember when he said it, I looked around and I saw my family...her family....her sons, their wives, their children... her great grandchildren....and my own children.  Legacy.  More Mom's legacy.  And that word became much more beautiful to me.

A few years later, I sat with my Dad during the last eighteen days of his life.  I held his hand as he took his last breath.  I remember so many people paying their respects and each one had a different story as to who he was in their life.  "He was my Little League Coach"..."He and I were on a bowling team"..."He was my Fishing buddy"...."We went hunting together"..."He and I worked together"...."He helped me on my farm"...."We played Slo Pitch Softball on the same team"...and most recently and likely his largest claim to fame "He was The Hot Dog Guy".  Every Summer he helped run a hot dog stand in the parking lot of the convenience store where my Mom was manager.  Everybody knew...and loved my Dad.  I remember thinking then how he was so many things to so many people in his life.  The sum...of who he was...was so much more than just my Dad.

 I had that knowledge...and yet...never thought to apply it to those still in my life.

Like my husband.  I'm asking myself over these past two weeks....why couldn't I or didn't I see that in him before this.  Why did it take his passing...and people coming to pay their respects and tell me how he had affected their life in a positive way for me to see....and realize...the sum of who we are is just so much more than what's right in front of you today.  He was many many people.

Don was an incredibly hard worker and took his responsibilities very seriously...sometimes annoyingly so.  Me, a fly by the seat of my pants personality, would throw him a lot of curve balls at times that brought on that "deer in the headlights" look that I came to recognize as his fear of not being responsible.  Sometimes that trait....was hard to deal with...and we would clash.  It was deep rooted.  He...was deep rooted.  And I know he we all do...with feeling like we are "enough" some days.  He liked order....and schedules that didn't change once they were set....and there were times when he stood his ground and was unwilling to compromise his position.  It wasn't always fact some days were really hard.  But, it wasn't the total sum...of who he was.

He was a Physical Therapist who loved helping people.  Even though he was incredibly frustrated with the current state of our medical system...he was "old school" in that regard.  He believed that the care of the patient and what was best for the patient should always be the first and foremost consideration of their treatment.  Not what type of insurance they had...or had not.  And certainly not what some rule maker at Medicare decided was an appropriate amount of "minutes" for treatment. He firmly believed that in most cases, it wasn't just about treating an injury, or rebuilding strength in a muscle...but that listening to a patient...hearing them...was also a part of their treatment.  There were days he would come home and say " My schedule really sucked today.  But, this patient, who had no movement before, stood up on their own today...that was awesome. "  And so I knew he would go back the next day and do it all over again. 1) Because he was responsible 2) He loved seeing people get better because of his guidance.  Sometimes we would see people on the street or in a store who had been his patient and they would stop him and show him how well they could move...their shoulder...their knee.  Always struck me as funny.

In his role as Physical Therapy, he was a mentor.  To his co students who did rotations in his office.  He liked to challenge them.  He took pride in sharing what he knew.

He was a photographer.  He studied photography nearly every day.  He read books...he watched YouTube videos...constantly wanting to improve his skills.  He was a member of the Professional Photographers of Iowa and went to their annual Spring & Winter conferences.  Always looking for ways to improve his skill.  He truly felt like he just didn't have the "artistic eye" and strived to find that piece to add to his technical skill.

He used that skill to give back and would routinely set up a "Senior Photo" day at local nursing homes.  Combining his photography skill and his PT background, he knew just how to position each resident and it never mattered to him that their cognitive or physical abilities were compromised.  He photographed them with dignity and respect.  He gave them each their own 5x7 print.  Many times we would receive letters or phone calls from family members saying it was the last photo they had of their loved ones.

He loved his Photo Club.  He was a founding member and Board President.  Another role he took very seriously.  He would spend hours preparing lessons to share his knowledge of photography...or Photoshop...or Lightroom.  He taught...he was a mentor there as well.  I lost count at how many people shook my hand or hugged me at the visitation who were a part of that group and said how much he had helped them grow their skills.  He often spoke to me in a language of Fstops and apertures that I truly didn't understand, even though I wanted to...I just couldn't comprehend.  Sometimes I would be taking a photo and he would ask "what are the numbers when you look through the viewfinder"...and I would eyeroll and say "No clue"....and then he would eyeroll.

This photo of Don's won best pic in his photo clubs contest in July.
Taken high on a mountain in Killarney National Park in Ireland last June.

Over the years there were a multitude of hobbies...that came and went...all with the same sense of responsibility...the thought that if he was going to do it...he would do it right...he would give it his all to be the best at it that he could be.

He loved his family.  He struggled at times to "make sense" of  them/me and their/my decisions but in the end supported us all however he could.  He was proud of every one of our kids...and loved being a Grandpa. the end....Don was a donor.  He was unable to donate vital organs because of the nature of his own death, a dissecting aortic aneurysm.  He was, however, able to donate his eyes.  And even though he insisted his eyes had no "artistic" abilities....the gift of sight is a beautiful thing to think about.  He was able to donate bone and connective tissue.  The beautiful letter we received from the Iowa Donor Network says that this will benefit individuals with various orthopedic and neurosurgical conditions.  The very kind of patients he spent his career working with....  The letter states it could also help children with severe bone fractures and bone cancer.  He would love that.

Soapbox:  If you're not currently listed as a donor on your driver's license...please consider doing so.

The title of my post today...The Sum of Who We a reminder to myself and to you that the person sitting across from us...the person we see when we look in the so much more than what's in that one moment...that small glance.  Maybe the person who passed you on the wrong side of the road this morning on your way to work, that you swore at and decided was a total jerk...just got that phone call...the one that says "you need to get here".  Maybe the waitress you don't want to tip because she has just a bit too much attitude or isn't paying you enough attention...can't stop thinking about how she's going to pay her rent.. or feed her children.  Take a step back...try to see beyond what/who is before you. The bigger picture.....

The sum of who we just so much more.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 everything.

If you're thinking the last thing you would want to do on the day of your husbands funeral is have a photo would be absolutely correct. honor him, the husband...their Dad...their Grandpa...we did just that.
We realized it was the first time all six kids were together in about three years...and we were still missing and thinking of a few family members (grandies Ava & Cason...and husband, Ben)
This is our family. 
This is how I made it through these past days.  Together as a family...we made tough decisions.  I am in absolute awe of the strength and courage and support these six adults were able to provide to me as well as each other as we walked through these unchartered waters.  We all hurt...we cried together...we laughed together as we shared stories. a Family....We said Good-bye.
A few weeks ago in July, some of you may remember I hosted a Gramma Camp with 5 year old granddaughter, Taelyn.  (many of you asked if you could sign up) 
One night, as Taelyn was falling asleep...just out of the blue she asked me
"Gramma, why does Grandpa wear such colorful shirts?"
It made me laugh and I thought then how funny it was for a five year old to take notice of something like that.  A couple of weeks later, Josh & Laura came to visit with Ava & Cason.  Cason, age 4, was sitting on Don's lap one evening and out of the blue said "Grandpa, why are you wearing such a bright colored shirt?"
How funny...that in their young eyes...his bright colored shirts had made such an impression. 
(on a side note...Don hated shopping for clothes and I bought his shirts...but he did love it when I brought home great colors)
In light of those comments....Brandi found bright colored balloons that the older grands were able to decorate for Grandpa, and they sent those skyward before the service.  This too, we were able to capture. Thank you, Missy Huling for taking these photos for us...Don would be proud...he would likely tell me what he may have done differently and spoke in that foreign language of  Fstops and apertures that I struggled to understand...but proud nonetheless.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has reached out via phone, email, text, sent cards and contributed to his memorial fund.  Many also stopped by with food and supplies to get us through those first days.  We thank you so much for that love and support.
Thank you also to my Quilt community.  The outpouring of love I have felt from all of you has been incredibly overwhelming. 
Don loved to teach...whether it was photography or physical therapy and we are in the planning stages of creating memorials that allow him to continue to share his knowledge for the things he loved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Words... words.

But I wanted to share the slide show that was put together by the kids...I know it's long...and yet in some ways it doesn't quite seem long enough.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Milwaukee Irish Fest - Quilts of Valor Presentation

After spending the weekend sharing our Irish quilt exhibits from National Quilting Week of Ireland at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, we found a special way to say thank you for allowing us to be a part of this amazing Irish celebration.

I approached Brian Witt, the Director of the  Cultural Exhibit area about the possibility of presenting a few Quilts of Valor to veterans who are also volunteers at Irish Fest and he was quick to say yes!  We surprised three gentlemen with red, white and blue quilts at the end of the festival.  One of the quilts was made from star blocks that were collected by Carol Cricenti from quilters across the country.  The other two quilt tops were made by Carol and all three quilts were machine quilted by me. The Quilts of Valor program was started back in 2003 and had awarded over 100,000 quilts to our very deserving veterans since that time.

I'll be the first to admit that I was quite na├»ve about the sacrifices our soldiers make until 2004 when my own  18 year old son, Josh,  joined the Air Force, and the word "deployment" became a regular part of our vocabulary.  Finding a way to give back and support our military has become something very important to me. Carol, a long time supporter of our military, has "adopted" hundreds of soldiers over the years in the Soldier's Angel program (including Josh) and is now a quilter (thanks to my influence) and leads a Facebook group of over 400 quilters in creating quilts for veterans.

We were able to present Ed, a 90 year old WWII veteran, and Mike, a Viet Nam War veteran with their own Quilts of Valor on Sunday night as a part of the Scattering,  the finale event of Irish Fest.  On Monday before leaving Milwaukee, we also presented Bruce, another veteran of the Viet Nam War, with his own Quilt of Valor as well. 

What an amazing opportunity ...honor...and privilege to say Thank You to these three gentlemen!


Monday, August 10, 2015

My Soldier's Angel

May to October of 2009, during my son Josh's second deployment to Iraq, we signed him up for the Soldier's Angel program.  He was "adopted" by a gal, Carol, who worked for the organization and who had adopted many soldiers.   She was diligent in her role and sent lots of letters and packages to deployed soldiers, including  Josh, who was deployed as a K9 specialist at the time and she even sent goodies for his dog.

Josh and Carol also chatted often via Facebook as well and one day he told her "I have someone you just have to meet. I think you and my Mom would be great friends."

He "introduced" her and I on Facebook and one amazing friendship began. Carol and I chatted often as well. As a mom of a deployed soldier, the fact that she was sending my soldier "love" during his deployments  touched my heart in a way that is difficult to describe.

Carol and I havesince  traveled to Ireland together on three occasions. She's been to Iowa to visit me and I've been to New Hampshire to visit her. I've even gotten her hooked on quilting and its no surprise now that she's making Quilts of Valor to present to veterans.

Funny thing is...she and Josh have never actually met...until today. I had the pleasure of surprising him with Carol's arrival.   This Momma's heart is so happy to for us to have this time to share together.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

New Martingale Release - A Bit of Applique

I've just downloaded a copy of A Bit of Applique by Amy Struckmeyer, a new Martingale publishing release, and I have to say I'm really enjoying this book.  Applique is not my first fact...I've been know to avoid it.  I'm on this kick of forcing myself to try new things.  Amy's book has several small projects that don't seem too intimidating so I chose the Retro Flower Tote  to make and it's turning out really adorable.  The instructions are easy to follow with plenty of pictorial shots to help along the way.
A Bit of Applique by Amy Struckmeyer

Amy's Retro Flower Tote
I dug through my scrap bin and found a few leftover layer cake pieces from one of Vanessa Christenson's Moda lines (Simply Colors by V&Co) which worked perfectly for the flower petals.  I found a bright golden yellow for the center and now I'm just getting to  the point of creating the lining.   The "hard part" (for me..applique) turned out to not be so hard at all and went quite quickly.  I'm thinking I might just have to make another Retro Tote Bag!  There are also instructions for turning flower into a pillow.  Really cute.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ireland - A Healing Place for Me

This week I am preparing to leave for Ireland, and to be honest, my giddiness level is currently over the moon!  I make lists and lose lists...have started packing and am taking so many prizes and giveaways I'm not sure I've got room for clothing....

Nikki Foley (The Sewing Shed) and I are launching the first ever National Quilt Week of Ireland, June 1-7, and I could not be more thrilled to be able to be there and share this week with her.  This is something we planned almost two years ago so watching it come to fruition has been amazing. Our goal was to find a way to celebrate quilting and quilters in Ireland that is happening all around the country.  As we were planning we were joined by our friend and quilter, Paula Rafferty, who has jumped right in to help us promote and plan events.  We've got lots of exciting things planned for our trip...some quilt related as well as some time to just enjoy Ireland and all it has to stay tuned for a few more blog posts.

If you know me it all, you know that it was just a few years ago that I took my first trip to Ireland and fell madly...head over heels in love.  There is something so incredibly magical and spiritual about the Emerald Isle and I love that I get to share that with all of you. 

I have written previously about a project that I was involved with a couple of years back...a Block Exchange that included a few quilters from Ireland, Canada and the U.S.  It was my first ever block swap (and actually the only one to date).  This past November I was invited to Chicago to share the story of my quilt with the wonderful Mary Fons, in a This Is My Quilt episode.  Mary and her sister, Rebecca (who got hitched this weekend...Happy Wedding Rebecca!) were amazing hosts, making me feel so comfortable and welcome from the moment I arrived.  You couldn't ask for two sweeter girls...but then...if you've met their Momma, Marianne Fons, then you know they come by it quite naturally.  I also got to meet my FB friend, Heather Kinion (aka: @fire4hairlady on IG) who helps with filming.  If you've watched Mary's "Quilty" shows then you'll be familiar with her!

This quilt has so much deep meaning for me.  Not only does it tell the story of the connection I have with Ireland, but as I say in the video, it's the first quilt of my own that  I completed on my Innova shortly after starting my own business.  To me, it represents an amazing part of my quilting journey, a reminder that stepping out of our "comfort zone" and taking chances can be a very good thing!  It's that movement from "Can I?" "I think I can!" "I know I can!" "I did!! "

Click the link below to watch the video "This Is My Quilt".