Thursday, May 27, 2010

Granny's Flower Garden

Ok, so this block is officially called "Grandmothers Flower Garden" but My grandmother was called Granny, so I am taking creative license and calling the block I chose for her after her. As easy a choice as "Trip Around The World" was for me to choose For Gertrude, "Granny's Flower Garden" was even easier for me to choose for My Mom's mom Martha Bridget Rhody Bartley. Anybody who knew my Granny knew she could coax life out of the most barren places and restore vitality to almost any green thing. Her back yard was like a paradise when we were little, filled with roses and buttercups , hens and chicks and a lawn you could walk through barefoot. (anybody who has grown up in the southwest with goat heads and sand burrs knows what a feat that is!) There was also the giant pecan tree who's nuts gave Papa his pass to listen to baseball on the radio. We would sit on the back steps with Granny's own little golden hammer and use it to crack open the pecans that we had gathered from around the yard, and the concrete Donkey pulling his cart full of flowers that we loved to sit on until we got to be a little too big. Granny had such a green thumb that even now that she has been gone for over a decade there are still house plants that she nurtured and grew and cuttings from those plants being passed around Clovis like so much Amish Friendship bread. I am not surprised that she has left a horticultural legacy that still thrives today. I know when I go back I plan on getting my share of cuttings so I will have my own living reminder of my Granny and her flower garden.

This one is for PaPa

My Mom's dad was Clarence Russell Bartley, we called him PaPa. I could have chosen lots of things to represent him. Maybe I could have found a pattern that called to mind his time as a Chuck Wagon cook on a Texas cattle ranch, or the fact that he came to Texas from Alton
Missouri in a covered wagon as a baby. Maybe I could have somehow told in fabric the story of how he always gave Jamie and me a quarter apiece to go across the street to the "Toot~N~Tot'em" to buy a bag of candy whenever we visited and how we would agonize over how to spend our twenty-five cents. We always knew that a trip to Amarillo to see Granny and PaPa had the potential of ending up at Thompson park where he would push us on the swings or spin us on the Merry-go-Round. If it was a really lucky trip we would find ourselves at Wonderland Park where PaPa would help us find bits of litter to "feed" to the over sized vacuum made to look like a hungry pig in a giant mushroom house who was so ravenous that he would quite literally suck the garbage right out of your hand! Any of those things would call PaPa to my mind, so I was spoiled for choice when it came time to pick a block for PaPa.

What I did choose is a block called Carpenters Square because PaPa was also a carpenter. When we moved to Cannon AFB as small children we heard how PaPa had worked as a carpenter to help build the base. It was something we were very proud of, and always made sure our friends and neighbors knew. Whereever we went on Cannon we always wondered, had our PaPa built this place too? Maybe... it was possible. So even though PaPa did lots of things, its as a carpenter that I will remember him in this quilt. I think remembering him as a carpenter is a good choice maybe because we kept his big heavy hammer after he was gone. We had more than one hammer in the house, but whenever somebody asked for "The Hammer" we all knew they meant PaPa's hammer. Its still there, more than thirty years later and its still the hammer we all think of whenever we think of hammers at all.

Gertrude's trip around the world

My Dad's mother Gertrude Riley Furney did not travel much. She lived and died in southern Missouri, so why would I choose a pattern called "Trip Around The World" to represent her? In my closet I have an old quilt pieced in the uncommon pattern of "Many Trips Around the World" I have always believed it was made by my grandmother Gertrude, but there was nothing to base this assumption on other than my desire for it to be so. And I did desire it. I wanted something to connect me to my Dad's mother, and this quilt was it, I felt it was true, even if I did not know it was true. Finally last summer while visiting my Uncle Dale he offered to show me a quilt that his mother had made. The minute he walked in the room holding that "Many Trips" quilt done just like our quilt but in different colors, I knew Gertrude had made our quilt. I knew she made those quilts for her boys to have long after she was gone. I was sorry for a while that we had been so rough with our quilt, not really appreciating what we had. We camped under that quilt, we picnicked on top of it. Sweat out fevers swaddled in it, I have even eaten Thanksgiving dinner in the Netherlands from a table draped in it and had it carefully shipped back from Hawaii labeled on the manifest as TuTu's Blanket. ( Hawaiians really appreciate a good old quilt!) But you know, in retrospect, I am glad we used the quilt. I am glad that the memories of my life are as intertwined with that quilt as they would have been with Gertrude if she had lived to know me. And you know what else? I think Gertrude would agree. I think she would be pleased to know that she accomplished her mission, that through her quilts, she was known and remembered and loved, and I think she would laugh to know her "Many Trips Around the World" has in fact been around the world!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grandpa Sol

When I first started planning the quilt I made a list of all the people and ideas I wanted represented and I started with my grandparents. This tractor is for my Grandpa Sol Furney. I remember visiting him once in Oklahoma when I was very little and have always fondly remembered the ride he gave us on his tractor. I only later came to find out what a remarkable man he was. While talking with his son Bob last summer he told me how his dad could do things with a caterpillar tractor "that would make you suck spit" He told me how Sol could maneuver it in such a way that it would in effect pop a wheelie so that he could load it onto a flatbed trailer without using a ramp. My other uncle Dale told me how his dad led the way in paving a road on a steep hill in southern Missouri. It was Sol who figured out the way to get the trucks loaded heavy with gravel, up the steep hill without flipping reverse! Bob told me that the advice he got from his dad was to never push himself or his machine past about 90% of what he and it could do, always leave that 10% wiggle room so as not to get in over his head. That passes through my mind every time I mash the "Sport" button on my mini and swing without decelerating into the cloverleaf turn that takes me off of Clemson road and onto Two Notch just because me and my mini can. I keep my foot hovering over the break pedal just in case I feel myself creeping past that 90% mark. I think Grandpa Sol knew what he was talking about. I wish I could have known him better, I think I would have liked him a lot.

PS, I tweaked the back wheel on the tractor block so its less wonky now.

The first order of business...

Now that I have my quilt blocks chosen and am ready to begin, the first order of business is choosing the fabrics. This in my opinion is THE major make or break moment in any quilt. Sure there are countless other ways it can all go horribly wrong, but this is the moment of primary quilt failure. If you get this wrong, no amount precision needlework can save the quilt from mediocrity. Get it right and you will have a winner no matter how dismal your technical skills. I am talking about choosing your colors and fabrics. And I speak from painful experience.

Because of this, I have made it my business over the last several years to get better at my fabric and color choices. This I decided was to be my strong suit and so it seems to be. My grasp of color is getting better and better, so even in spite of my ordinary quilting stitch, I feel confident that there are many stunning quilts in my future based on my improved ability to choose a pallet of fabrics as a foundation from which to build my quilt.

The fabrics above are the pallet for my quilt. They are a more soothing version of the cheerful and bright colors I like to have around me when I am in a creative mood, so they seemed to be the perfect choice for this, my very personal and very creative family tree quilt. I am missing a few fabrics yet. I will scour my fabric stash or my favorite quilt store to find them, a pale ochre and dark dull blue...and then we will be cleared for take -off!

My next big thing

This was a Christmas present from Steve last year. Its a quilt book that walks you through the process of creating a sampler quilt wherein the blocks chosen represent something meaningful from your life. I liked the concept very much and was glad that it made it off my wish list and under the tree. Unfortunately I had other outstanding projects that I needed to get to before I dared start another. Finally the time has come to begin work on my own diary quilt.

At first I thought telling my story through this quilt would involve blocks that spoke about my life and interests but I soon found out the things that are the most meaningful to me are not the day to day components that make up my life in particular but the big elements that make up my life in general. That is to say, my family tree. I have been doing a lot of fruitful family research in recent years and have learned a great deal of my family history. I have pieced together a puzzle that I thought I would never solve and I love the picture it shows. My family is diverse and interesting, tragic and triumphant and has a long long history in America, all the way to the very beginning. But its not the early ancestors I focus on in this quilt, they do get a nod, and I will write about them later, but the bulk of the story in this quilt belongs to my grandparents, my parents, my sister, my husband, my son, and me. I hope it will prove to be a much loved and long lived family legacy, and if ever there should come another one like myself in my family line, I hope this quilt will help them piece together their own family puzzle.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The somewhat daily beast

A while back I heard mention of a news blog by Tina Brown titled "The Daily Beast" I wondered at the name, thinking it was such an odd and funny name for a news blog . Now I have a theory...Fast Forward a month or two to the time I started thinking of having a blog of my own. I was full of ideas and eager to start. I would post something daily and it would be a great way to showcase whatever creative endeavor I was in the throes of at a given time. A safe bet I reckoned because I am always in the throes of something! But the daily posts began to dwindle to two or three a week, and then even fewer, now if I can manage a new post twice a week its been a good run. (sad when you consider how new my blog is) The problem is with the pictures really. I have not wanted to fool with uploading pictures. Now that Steve has his new camera he uploads the new shots to his computer and that introduces a whole new layer of technology I have to wade through to get the pictures I want for my blog, and thus far, I have been unwilling to do it. So the eagerness to post new posts has started to fade and I remembered the news blog, and thought I bet she calls it the Daily Beast because it lurks there in background with its threatening presence until she fulfills her daily duty to it; updates and posts etc...Of course she is Tina Brown and I know she has minions to do her bidding, still the beast lurks no matter who you are!
But there is new hope for fending off my somewhat daily beast. It comes in the form of the next quilt I am undertaking. Its blocks will be the inspiration for my posts for the foreseeable future, but fear not gentle reader, it will not be as much about quilts as you might think. I will interject the odd unrelated post as the whim occurs, and hopefully there will be plenty of good pictures. I have commandeered the old camera and it will be mine to do with as I will. Its not a bad camera either the picture of Mungo up there was taken with it at the Columbia Zoo not two months ago!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You say its your Birthday!

Happy Birthday Omar! Who is Omar some of you may be wondering, is he another one of my mysterious boyfriends like Killa or Raoul? Not hardly. Omar is my Mom. Back when she first became a grandmother we had a discussion about what she ought to be called. Granny was taken by her Mom, and we never could get on board with Meemaw, Mamaw and the like...I don't know. Something about Meemaw and it's variants just rubbed us the wrong way. Grandma was taken by Grandma Wachter So since we were living in the Netherlands when the blessed even took place we looked to our Dutch/ English dictionary for some inspiration. That's were we found Oma, Dutch for Grandma. It was perfect, Mom was now an Oma. Zach happily called her that for years until he said it in a classroom in Nebraska and was laughed at for making up his own words. They never would believe him that it was a real word, but then this is the same school that employed a teacher(one of Zach's favorites) who told him there was no such thing as a duty free shop in an airport...Those folks in Nebraska need to get out a little more, dontcha think?
Anyway, how did Oma turn into Omar? I have two words for you..."spell check" " ahh, I see..." I hear you all saying. Yes, whenever we would type in the word Oma and run the spell check Omar would pop up as a better option for Oma. SO naturally I found it hysterically funny to accept the proffered "improvement" and would allow the program to change all my Omas to Omars. It stuck and now Oma has been Omar for years in our correspondence. Mom even said she heard Zach call out " goodnight Omar " a few days ago, so now its not just in the written word that she is called Omar, but in practice as well. Now that we all are running around calling her Omar, she may wish she had stuck with Meemaw!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Long memories

A long memory is apparently a Furney family trait. I was visiting with my Uncle Bob in Ohio last summer when he told me he could remember far back into his early childhood to getting his diaper changed on his mother's lap, and because she was a generously proportioned woman, fearing that he would roll off for lack of space. So its not surprising to me that I too have a long memory and generous proportions. The memory thing is real a mixed blessing. The generous proportions not so much. True, being blessed with a long memory has allowed me to to hold on to some of the best times of my life with remarkable clarity. Steve is often amazed when I can recount specific details of an event that happened decades ago. It's nice to have a memory so vivid that the memories themselves seem almost tangible. The down side is that it makes it near impossible to forgive and forget. Oh, I've got the forgiveness part down pretty much, its the forgetting that I have trouble with. Once slighted, that same memory that lets me remember the color of my grandmothers living room walls from a time when I was too young to speak, also brings back the most unfortunate things in painfully sharp focus. Since I am hardwired to remember in hi def crystal clarity I need to come up with a more workable plan than forgive and forget. Perhaps a better strategy for me is "Forgive and Avoid" I will let you know how it works out. As for the generous proportions...When the famine comes and I am among the few survivors, I will use my long memory to pay homage all my skinny friends who did not make it through.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The curse continues

OK, Now its starting to get weird,but you really cannot appreciate the full twilight zoniness of this whole episode until I fill you in on the rest of what has happened since Steve failed to ask permission for the second photo of Robert the Doll. On our return from Florida the first time, you know the one without the back seat to our van...we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch and a server dropped a glass near our table and my ankle was cut by a flying shard of glass. We half hoped this would entitle us to free desert or a discount perhaps, but no, it only garnered us a complimentary band aid. Then on to the house where I discovered the rather expensive shirt I bought in Key West as a souvenir was a size too big. I thought " no worries" I'll slap some darts in there and it will fit like a glove, and it would have too, except I snipped a hole in it as I was trimming the its destined to be in quilt one day. All of that is unfortunate but is it the product of a curse? I don't know. What I do know is that on the second return trip Steve was suddenly and mysteriously taken ill. He went to bed more or less healthy and woke up too sick to drive. So I drove us the 10 hours home and he sat with a barf bucket in his lap and a look of pure misery on his face. For those inclined to believe in such things, what I have told is more than enough to convince them that we are paying the price for that unauthorized photo, but for those who are more skeptical, I have only this to add. This morning when I pulled up my blog to add this post I noticed that one picture was missing from my blog. All the other pictures were there, but the picture Steve took of Robert the Doll was missing and in its place was nothing more than that annoying red X that sometimes shows up where a picture is supposed to be. I added the picture back, lets see if it stays this time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's all Robert's fault

I am not one to believe in curses, I think if there is any real power in a curse its the power of suggestion and nothing more. Having said that, I would like to suggest that we have been victims of the curse of Robert the doll. In Key West there is a doll on display in a museum that had at one time belonged to a resident. It's believed that the doll bears a curse that now effects all who photograph the doll without first asking permission. As skeptical of these things as I am, I look like a true believer when compared to my husband who is the most skeptical person I know. poo-pooing the curse, Steve was loath to ask the doll permission before snapping its picture. Still, he played along and did ask the first time he took a picture, but I was listening when he spoke to the doll a second time. He did not ask permission for the picture above, he only informed Robert that he was taking it. Woe be unto him to fails to ask permission....The next day Steve loaded our van full of our suitcases for our 10 hour drive from Miami to Columbia. He might have noticed that there was ample room for our things back there, more room than usual. We had taken the back bench seat out of the van to make room for all the suitcases, and beach gear when we were heading to Key West. He completely forgot to put it back in the van for our trip home and we did not notice it missing until we pulled into our garage in Columbia. So in about an hour we are climbing back in the van and returning to Miami to collect the rest of it. Is it a curse, or just an ever more common senior moment? I have to ask is there really a difference?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mr. Humphries steps out

Apparently the "Jack 72 Hamster Resort" is not spacious enough for our Mr. Humphries. This flies in the astonished face of the Pet store worker who said and I quote "Hey everybody, she is buying this huge cage for a HAMSTER!" I was even applauded for my generosity and concern for the happiness and well being my little charge as I left the store with my supersized hamster cage, I am not exaggerating. Steve was there, he will attest to my veracity.
So imagine my surprise when Steve asked me if I had forgot something the night before....Now let me let this sink in for a minute. When Steve discovered Mr. Humphries at the bottom of a red plastic bin in the bottom of the downstairs coat closet the next morning his thought process was such that he assumed I shut up Mr. Humphries in the tub in the closet by mistake and had completely forgot to put her back in her cage after our nightly play session....Did that sink in? He thought I absent mindedly locked my pet hamster in a closet, rather than her cage....He did not even consider that Mr. Humphries had made an escape from said cage. It's moments like that when I call him "Son of Myrtle" because his Mother Myrtle's brain often seemed to work in a similar fashion. But I digress... I did put Mr. Humphries back in her cage with a fresh piece of strawberry and my best wishes for a good night and then I headed off to bed. Sometime in the night she managed to pop open one of the three doors to her Jack 72 Hamster resort and she lit out. She must have managed to descend the thirteen stairs to the kitchen, ran all the way across the linoleum to the living room, where she skirted the perimeter until happening on the closet door which clears the carpet on the bottom by a good inch and half. She shimmied under the door and must have climbed an umbrella to reach the top of the red plastic bin before she dropped in to see what she could see and that was it...She was trapped. She spent who knows how many hours in the bin until Steve heard her the next day and wondered what on Earth I was thinking locking her in the closest all night long...This is my life...shared with an ungrateful hamster and a man who's' first thought at finding the hamster in the closet is that I put it there....You just can't make this stuff up.