A Crafter Needs to Eat, Audiobooks and Podcasts

Soup’s On

Homemade chicken noodle soup, with homemade stock – this was my big accomplishment for the later part of this week.

I love cook and bake but my cooking and baking (until recently, see previous post Valentines) have been on hold since my husband suddenly died in December 2018.

For the past couple of months I’ve been living on what I could forage at Whole Foods (well at least it was a recently healthy diet). Many very kind and thoughtful friends and coworkers gave me Whole Foods gift cards after my husband died.

At first I would just get food at the Whole Foods hot food bar and sit in the supermarket dining area and eat so I would not have to dine alone every night. Luckily that got old after a while (plus the hot bar food is charged per pound and is rather “spendy” unless you only get really light food…) and I started buying groceries to take home.

But I was only buying groceries for quick prepare meals and it seemed like I lived on avocado toast, boiled eggs, Miso soup, and hummus with carrots for a couple weeks.

My diet was fairly vegetarian and the thought of meat turned my stomach, but earlier this week I was really craving some hard core protein. So armed with the remaining funds on the last of my Whole Food gift cards, I bought a whole cooked rotisserie chicken.

After a couple days of chicken, chicken, chicken, I was trying to decide what to do with the rest of the bird. I convinced myself to not only make homemade chicken noodle soup but to make my own from scratch chicken stock with the carcass, something I’ve never done before.

I found this wonderful recipe online: Easy Chicken Noodle Soup from Leftover Roasted Chicken on the chowhound.com cooking website.

Here is the stock simmering with the cut up and browned rotisserie chicken carcass:

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Here is the strained stock:

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The soup made with my homemade stock simmering (and the house smells so good):

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And finally a yummy bowl of my very own homemade chicken noodle soup!

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I’ve made homemade chicken noodle soup before but with store bought chicken stock or chicken bouillon base. Soup with my own homemade chicken stock tasted very different – It is pretty darn delicious!

One of the best things I learned from the Chowhound recipe is that you have to cook the noodles separately – do not try to cook them in the soup. You boil them per package instructions in their own pot and then add the cooked noodles to the soup. If you try to cook the noodles with the soup you will get what I’ve experienced in the past – a pasty mess of noodles!

Of course this recipe made a lot of soup so now my life is chicken soup, chicken soup, chicken soup – but it seems to be satisfying my soul (smile).


Postscript

I’m currently listening to an amazing audiobook – Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens. 

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image credit: amazon.com

I did not think I would be at the point now where I would be interested in reading any “Self-Improvement” books but this one caught my eye when I was browsing my local library’s audiobook loan offerings online.

Goodreads has a wonderful synopsis of the book:

You cannot bounce back from hardship. You can only move through it. There is a path through pain to wisdom, through suffering to strength, and through fear to courage if we have the virtue of resilience.

In 2012, Eric Greitens unexpectedly heard from a former SEAL comrade, a brother-in-arms he hadn’t seen in a decade. Zach Walker had been one of the toughest of the tough. But ever since he returned home from war to his young family in a small logging town, he d been struggling. Without a sense of purpose, plagued by PTSD, and masking his pain with heavy drinking, he needed help. Zach and Eric started writing and talking nearly every day, as Eric set down his thoughts on what it takes to build resilience in our lives.

Eric’s letters drawing on both his own experience and wisdom from ancient and modern thinkers are now gathered and edited into this timeless guidebook. Resilience explains how we can build purpose, confront pain, practice compassion, develop a vocation, find a mentor, create happiness, and much more. Eric s lessons are deep yet practical, and his advice leads to clear solutions.

We all face pain, difficulty, and doubt. But we also have the tools to take control of our lives. Resilience is an inspiring meditation for the warrior in each of us.

It is a pretty powerful book even if it took listening to a chapter or two to get me engaged. Although the book is based on letters from one Navy Seal to another Navy Seal suffering from PTSD who also recently lost his brother to an auto accident, the messages in this book are quite universal.

I’ll close this post with a quote from this powerful book:

Smiling and breathing. These are simple things. Exercising and serving. These are simple things. Being grateful and gracious. These are simple things. Acting with humility. Acting with courage. These are simple things. Some people try to make this business of living too complicated

Eric Greitens, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life

 

A Crafter's Life

Valentines

A little less than a week ago I began having quite a bit of anxiety over how I was going to face my first Valentine’s Day without my Valentine. In December 2018 my husband Terry suddenly passed away. I’ve been with Terry more than 1/2 my life and we’ve never been apart on Valentine’s Day.

I was anticipating a painful day on February 14th, completely stricken my grief, perhaps not even able to get out of bed.

In the middle of my anticipatory grieving anxiety, I suddenly realized that doing something for others might be the solution to dealing with Valentine’s Day.

For the past 5 weeks I’ve been in a difficult but awesome Spousal Loss Grief Support Group that meets weekly. It suddenly hit me that all the widows and widowers in the grief support group with me were facing the same dilemma of their first Valentine’s Day without their Valentines.

So why don’t I invite them all the be my Valentines?

And that is just what I did.

For My Valentines

For the men in my grief support group:

Terry’s favorite cookies were the Molasses Crinkle Cookies that I loved to make. I’ve done little cooking and no baking since he passed so it was a pretty big thing to open my cookbook and actually bake something.

I made a huge batch of these cookies and it felt good to bake again, so good that I actually experienced a sweet moment of joy as I assembled the ingredients.

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I put the cookies in a basket and included little sandwich bags for them to take as many as they wanted home.

For the women in my grief support group:

I gave them each little wallets. If you are new to my blog here is a post about the little wallets I made a zillion of since I first became obsessed with them – “Little Wallet Madness” . If you are not new to my blog then you know all about little wallets and some of you own some of my little wallets you won in my blog anniversary drawings!

For the group facilitator:

I gave her a set of my little heart pillows, as she has been helping us heal our hearts.

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I then made “Oregon Healing Hearts” valentines using my circle punch and heart punch from my card marking supplies with Oregon/outdoor themed colored papers:

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People had the option of an “Oregon Healing Heart” with a dog in the middle of the heart (as I consider dogs healing) or a plain heart:

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Here is the whole set up I surprised them with earlier this week at our weekly Spousal Loss Grief Support Group:

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I think it went over pretty well. The facilitator let me present them at the start of our support group meeting.

The men were willing to share their cookies and both the men and women got to take home some cookies if they wanted. There was laughter, smiles and hugs despite the difficult topics we discussed at that support group session.

Feeling at Peace

Today is Valentine’s Day and I feel at peace. I think it is because I stepped outside of myself and my grief and thought of others for a moment.

Day and night wallowing in my grief was not working for me, even if everyone expected and supported it. I had to try something else. That’s where my grief group came in, my unexpected valentines.

Grieving is hard work, maybe the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s definitely a hobby I don’t recommend for anybody.  But, if you’re suddenly find yourself a member of the club that no one ever wants to join, find a grief group. Part of what I have learned from this experience is, don’t try to go it alone.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Crafter's Life

“The Guest House” Revisited

Grieving the loss of my husband whom I’ve been with more than 1/2 my life is a daily life-consuming experience.

It was like he was the “tether” that held me to this world, to this life.

Now friends and family attempt to try to reach up and grab “my string” to re-tether me as much as they can, but ultimately I have to learn to “tether” myself.

Recently I finished a powerful book that my grief counselor loaned me – Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss by Sameet M. Kumar PhD.

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Image credit: Amazon.com

After reading this book I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite poems by Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī – a 13th century Persian poet and scholar) – The Guest House. 

I’ve shared it in previous posts but thought I would re-post it.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Postscript

I attend a weekly Spousal Loss Grief Support Group. Prior to today’s weekly meeting I’ve not shared with the other group members my plans to move to Colorado (see my previous post Colorado Bound (Part II)).

However, before the start of today’s meeting, another group member randomly gave me this little pocket card below and I’ve taken as another reaffirmation that I am headed in the right direction with my move to Colorado:

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Feature Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

A Crafter's Life, Adventures in Paper Piecing

Back to Making Things and Lovely Surprises in the Mail

Hello My Blogging Community, thanks for all your support during the most challenging time in my life.

I wanted to share that I have finally returned to “making” after quite the hiatus after the loss of my husband.

But first, let me share the two wonderful surprises I got in the mail today.

Surprise #1

My blogging buddy in Dublin Ireland, Helen @crawcraftsbeasties.com sent me a hand painted card featuring a Beastie comforting another Beastie:

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To learn more about the amazing Beasties that Helen makes, check out her website – crawcraftsbeasties.com.

Surprise #2

My blogging buddy in the Netherlands, Emmely @infectiousstitches gave me an amazing stitched card:

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It was like a large fabric postcard with a wonderful handwritten note on back.

I so appreciate all the support from my blogging community including so many people who have never met me in person and only know me from my blog. I wish we could all get together for some tea and pastries at a nice cafe.

No Longer Dreading the Mail

I feel I turned a corner as I am no longer dreading sympathy/condolence cards in the mail. So many thoughtful people have sent their condolences over the loss of my husband but each card was like a gut wrenching stab reminding me of my profound loss. I dreaded getting the mail and making myself open the cards and their words of sympathy blurring before my tearing eyes. Perhaps in retrospect I should have put them aside and read them later. I felt compelled and obligated to open each card.

On Tuesday I began an 8 week Spousal Loss Grief Support Group. The first meeting was incredibly difficult especially at first but by the end of the meeting as we all started to share and connect it got so much better. The Grief Counselor facilitating the meeting is amazing. This support group is through our local hospice and is a free community service.

There is an educational component to each meeting and I learned a lot about grief and why I have struggled with some severe irritability. I am so happy to have a safe place to talk about complex feelings with others who have also experienced the profound loss of a life partner.

I now get the whole “support group” concept where people going through similar experiences can support each other and relate to each other struggles, especially with the help of an amazing group facilitator.

Back to Making

I knew I needed to return to sewing and the tactile experience of working with fabric as part of my healing. I was either struggling with low energy or lack of interest, but I kept trying to dive back in.

First I tried to return to the Tula in a Box quilt I was working on before Terry died (and Terry helped me lay out the blocks) – see post .Tula in a Box. I managed to get the quilt back up on the large design wall in the hallway (I had half of it sewn together) as I had removed it from the design wall after he died as it was upsetting me:

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But I have not done any work on it.

Then I tried to work on taking out the stitching of a quilt I made into a tablecloth. I decided to turn it into a quilt. I did get the stitching out but got stalled on getting it ironed out so I could sent it out for long-arm quilting:

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Finally I thought I would try some hand work – something I could sit in front of the TV (I’ve been watching endless Netflix in the evening) and work on – English Paper Piecing (EPP):

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That worked. I’ve been working on making EPP hexies in the evening. Occasionally making the hexies feels bittersweet at Terry punched out the paper piecing templates for me. But I like to think that we are making them together.

A Crafter's Life

Stories from the Road, Part III

Hello to my blogging community.

I am continuing my series of posts about my new journey as a widow after losing my partner for more than half my life, Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH).

My first two posts in this series Stories from the Road, Part I, and Stories from the Road, Part II were literally about a journey – a road trip with my sister across 4 states to see family on the East Coast and to celebrate TTQH’s life. This post is focused on my figurative journey navigating the grieving process and moving forward with my new life after the loss of the love of my life.

Before I dive into that, I wanted to say thank you to those of you who left thoughtful comments on my previous posts with your condolences and support. I’ve read all of them. I also appreciate those who have reached out via e-mail and/or also sent cards.

I miss regularly blogging and interacting with my regular blogging community (to include reading and commenting on your blog posts, etc.) but the profound grief that comes with such a loss consumes mental and physical energy on a level I cannot put into words.

I will likely at moments ramble in this post, but hopefully I will stay fairly coherent (smile).

The Widow’s Walk

I’ve loss both my parents but I’ve never experienced grief on this level. I do take one day at a time and each day does get a little better and the walk to get through each day seems a little less long and painful.

I’ve been focusing on planning for my next journey in life, which I discuss in a moment, and this has made me hopeful.

I would say my current state of mind is “sad but hopeful“.

I’ve decided to sell my house and move out of Central Oregon this Spring. I am not ready to share yet on my blog where I have decided to move, but will in the future.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been cleaning and clearing out many items from TTQH’s life and my life. I think all the thrift shops and shelters in town are tired of my endless carloads of donations.

In addition to local charity thrift shops, I am pleased with the groups I’ve been able to help out by donating TTQH’s stuff. For example I was able to donate all of his historical gaming miniatures/figures to the Hobby University of the Historical Miniature Gaming Society.  I was able to donate some cool stuff to a local Veterans Association. I know TTQH would have approved.

In preparation to sell the house and to move to a smaller space temporarily, I’ve been significantly downsizing my possessions. I’ve dabbled with Minimalism in the past (see my series of posts tagged with the category My Minimalism Journey) but I still had a lot of stuff.

It seems like now I am able to be “brutal” with downsizing my stuff and now able to let go more easily. When you experience such a significant loss, things just do not seem as important/precious as they did before.

For example, here is a growing pile of recycled fabric acquired over the years, that is headed to the local thrift shop:

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Mike the Miniature Schnauzer and I will be on a road trip this Spring to our new home. I will of course bring my tierneycreates Beastie (see series of posts in the category Beastie Adventures) on the road with us and she might be guest blogging to share stories of our journey from Central Oregon to our new location in the U.S. (staying in the States).

I do plan to return to quilting and blogging about lighter topics. I plan to finish the Tula Pink All Star quilt I last wrote about in the post Tula in a Box; and to continue the story on Secret Quilt Revealed, Part I.


Feature Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

A Crafter's Life

Stories from the Road, Part II

This post is a continuation of my post Stories from the Road, Part I, about my recent road trip across 4 states in the Eastern Coast of the United States as well as the new journey/road I am on as a widow after the recent loss of Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH) my partner of many years.

Thanks for all your comments on my previous post and here is a continuation of the story.

Stories from the Road Continued

If you remember from the previous post, my awesome sister drove me across 4 states on the Eastern Coast of the U.S. to visit family. In Upstate NY, we hung out with Terry’s family including his two sisters who are quilters.

It was heart-warming seeing the quilts that Terry and I have made his sisters and mother (who passed last year) over the years. Here is an example of one on the back of a recliner in the their living room:

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Sunday 12/16, one of Terry’s older brother (TTQH was the youngest of 7 children) and his wife had a wonderful get together at their home to celebrate Terry’s life. It was an evening filled with much memories and laughter. It was a bittersweet family reunion and I kept thinking how much Terry would have enjoyed it but my sister kept reminding me he was there in spirit.

Always Time for a Quilt Shop Visit

On Monday 12/17/18 my sister and I went with Terry’s sisters, who are quilters, to lunch and then to their favorite quilt shop – the Joyful Quilter in Glenville, NY.

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Image credit: joyful quilter.com

My sister, who is not a quilter, was a good sport and hung out in the quilt shop, sitting in front of one of the gorgeous high-end Baby Lock sewing machines on display and working on her graduate school coursework.

The Inspirational Airbnb

My sister loves Airbnb and found us a delightful place to stay in Troy, NY while we were in Upstate NY. It was near downtown Troy which is actually quite charming and each morning we went to this wonderful little coffee shop for breakfast (and I had avocado toast for the first time which is actually quite delightful!).

All about the 2 bedroom Airbnb apartment we rented were inspirational quotes and signs. Here are a few examples:

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It was a perfect place to stay, very comforting, cozy and charming. It was fun to be sharing an apartment with my sister for a couple of days and just hanging out in the evening chatting about life over tea.

And speaking of tea, the apartment also had a little humor we discovered as we looked through the cupboards for our tea cups:

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Exploring Tarrytown

On the way back to Baltimore (I was flying back home out of BWI Airport), my sister and I stopped for the day in Tarrytown, NY.

Tarrytown is a charming town on the Hudson River and was ranked by Forbes as Among To 10 Prettiest Towns in America.

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We had a fun wander around Tarrytown and when I needed to go to the bathroom a local shopkeeper recommended I walk over to the library.

The library! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know how I feel about libraries – I love them! My sister was enjoying chatting with a shopkeeper and she encouraged me to take my time and wander about the local library.

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Tarrytown NY is a historic area and the library was filled with historical art and sculptures. It had an amazing main room where patrons were sitting and reading. If you look closely in the photo below you will see one of the library patrons so comfortable he is napping!

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I wanted to go hang out with a book (and maybe sneak in a little nap) at this delightful library!

My family and TTQH’s family would love me to move back to the East Coast to be closer to them and if it was not so expensive, Tarrytown might be an option. Once I get further down the road in my new journey as a widow and dealing with my grief, I will evaluate where I want to live my new life.

The Flight Home

The flight home was sad at first as I left the comfort of time with my families (my biological and my adopted Hogan family) and knew what waited for me back home was the reality of my loss and my new life as a grieving widow.

However about half way into the flight I gazed out my window seat and really looked at the beautiful landscapes of the earth below and somehow felt hopeful and peaceful and that I could make it through this.

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Postscript

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a Merry Christmas (or Happy Christmas as some countries say) with family and friends. I have a dear old friend staying with me right now for 5 days and she, I and Mike the Miniature Schnauzer spent a wonderful Christmas evening at a mutual friend’s house. We had a wonderful board game playing night with her children and Mike got to be worn around in his backpack by my friend’s 12 year old daughter.

Mike loves to be in his backpack, here is a photo from my May 2018 post, The Road to Retreat (Via Cannon Beach)  , with Mike riding around on TTQH’s back, happy as can be!

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Feature Photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

A Crafter's Life

Stories from the Road, Part I

I’ve titled this post “Stories from the Road” because it is about my recent road trip across 4 states in the Eastern Coast of the United States as well as the new journey/road I am on as a widow after the recent loss of Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH) my partner of many years.

First I want to thank everyone who left thoughtful comments on my previous post when I shared I would be taking a break from blogging. Please know I read and appreciate all the comments, I am not up to responding to them. I really appreciate my blogging community and I was feeling the love, thank you.  Originally I planned to take an extended break from blogging (or perhaps stop blogging complete) but I really enjoy writing and the amazement that people actually read my musings!

No matter how terrible my grief is, I continually work on remembering two things: 1) how lucky I was to be married to my best friend for over half my life; and 2) that TTQH would want me to go forward in life and be happy.

Every day I also work on smiling through my tears such as in this recent photo taken from my brother-in-law’s kitchen in Upstate NY during the get together we had honoring Terry:

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I am blessed to have a large supportive network of family, friends, and colleagues. My sister has been exceptionally supportive and I will talk more about that in the next section. My friends Marla Jo, Jason, Laurie, Michele, Judy, Kelly, Diane, Kathy, Dana and Lisa have also been exceptionally supportive.

Marla Jo and Jason were there on the worst day of my life, finding Terry after an aneurysm took his life. They took my dog Mike the Miniature Schnauzer and kept him for a week.

My friend Laurie was there on the second worse day of my life – going to the funeral home to make arrangements. I’ve mentioned outings with Laurie and her dog Luna in previous blog posts and on the second worse day of my life, Laurie took me to visit a horse property with horses she works with to give me a little equestrian therapy (see post Horsing Around).

My friends Michele, Judy, Kelly, and Lisa have continually checked on me as well as many other friends and coworkers who have reached out.

Terry’s family has been awesome and very supportive, especially his two amazing sisters, to include helping me with his end of life expenses. Friends have also reached out with financial support to help with travel and end of life expenses and I greatly appreciate that support. I learned how to set up a PayPal Me account so people could send money if they chose to support me in that way.

I received two creative ways of support that made me smile – a Whole Foods gift certificate from my boss (I love Whole Foods but it is usually too expensive to shop there regularly); and a huge gift card to my favorite restaurant in Central Oregon from some colleagues. I’ve already used them both as I have not been up to cooking.

Stories from the Road

My sister insisted that I immediately come to the East Coast of the U.S. to be with family when she learned of Terry’s passing. I was initially concerned about the huge cost of last minutes cross country flights; and that it was basically deep Winter in Upstate NY.

My wonderful brother bought me a roundtrip plane ticket to Baltimore after my sister found the best flight option. My incredible sister, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, picked me up from Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and drove me across four states.

We stopped in Delaware to see my brother, his wife and their son (my adorable 6 year old nephew) and then headed to Tarrytown, NY to stay the night before going on to Upstate NY in the morning. My brother also covered our hotel reservation at a very nice Courtyard by Marriott using his frequent stay points (he travels a lot for business).

I am not sure how many miles my sister drove but I am pretty sure it was at least 800 – 900 miles roundtrip including her trip back home to Richmond. We crossed the following states: Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Part of our trip we had semi-scary inclement weather but my sister was an amazing driver. She insisted on doing all the driving.

We drove to the home of Terry’s sisters, Sue and Diane. You might remember their names from my blog posts about their visits this summer to attend the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (see post Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show 2018, Part II: Visiting Crafters).

They are both quilters and while we visited I got to see and play with their new long-arm quilting machine:

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That is a practice panel on the machine as they want to do a lot of practice before they work on an actual important quilt.

Speaking of important quilts, they have a beautiful quilt in progress on their design wall as a belated wedding gift for a family member:

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The live in the original family home and I got a kick out of seeing Terry’s old room turned into their quilt studio (still a work in progress):

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He would most definitely approve!

Terry’s sisters have rescued a couple Shih Tzu dogs from a puppy mill and have a golden doodle, Tucker. My sister and I were treated one evening to a “floor show” put on by one of the Shih Tzus and Tucker as they played tug-a-war while he dragged her across the floor as she held fast on the edge of her dog bed:

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All I could think during the show was how much Terry would have enjoyed this as he was a huge dog person (he actually liked dogs more than people).

More to Come

I will end this post here and continue the story in the next post. My energy is low as would be expected with profound grief. Please know I appreciate and read your comments but I may not be up to responding.

I am keeping the words of this old Chinese proverb in my mind:

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. – Old Chinese proverb


Feature Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash