A Crafter's Life, Bags Bags Bags

That darn grief, the Etsy shop saga, and a little grace

Over the past couple of months on Instagram, I’ve been posting images of the project bags/drawstring bags I’ve been making in preparation for holiday season sales on my Textiles & Smiles (textilesandsmiles) Etsy shop.

Here are some of the cuties I’ve made:

And I had a lot more planned…

The bags are super cute in person and they have interfacing throughout the bag so they have a good heft and stand up on their own, I love them so much and I was excited to offer them on my shop (I sold out of the batch I made last year for the shop).

But, alas, that darn grief has taken ahold of me this holiday season/pending Winter again and as I approach the 4th anniversary of the passing of my life partner for 30+ years, Terry the Quilting Husband.

And I am not up to fulfilling orders this holiday season so I am putting my Etsy shop on hold for now.

This widow thing is a curious journey, you never know when you will suddenly be gutted with grief…

Thanks to everyone who has supported my Textiles & Smiles Etsy shop since I reopened it last November. Also thanks to those who were enthusiastic about the Project Bags (the photo below = a bedroom closet with some of the completed bags I was going to sell) I’ve been posting on IG that I was getting ready to offer on my Etsy shop this holiday season.

I was taking forever, and it did not make sense, to get the photos of the items and the listings up on Etsy. I finally figured out was was paralyzed with grief and could not bear fulfilling orders, etc. I had a recent sale on Etsy of the spools that John had made (see post Handmade Spools) and it was pretty excruciating to get that order completed.

Who knows why last year during the holiday season I could offer stuff on my shop and fulfill orders but this year I cannot. Grief is a mysterious weird thing.

I think of a wonderful card my friend Wendy sent me awhile back with with a reminder to “give yourself grace”:

I keep this card along with a matching candle I found while thrifting right before the card arrived (!) on my bookshelf to always remind me that sometimes I need to just take a breather…

So giving myself some grace, I’ve put my Etsy shop on hold for now and I am going to work on what is calling my heart – working with recycled materials and creating a new body of work of my art quilts.

And what will become of the existing project bags? I will put the completed ones away for now and then decide whether to just finish up the ones in progress or put them away also…

A Crafter's Life

Closer to Fine

I will eventually return to posts on my recent trip to Ireland (either by me or by the tierneycreates Beastie…smile) but I thought I would share a recent musing in this post.

When I travel by airplane I like to listen to music when the plane is taking off (it calms me) and I usually listen to Pandora which has on offline option (when no WiFi available or device in “Airplane Mode”) which plays downloaded stations.

Well on a recent flight as the plane was taking off, the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls came on…

At first I gasped as I’ve been trying to avoid for the past nearly 4 years all songs and performers that my late husband Terry and I listened together, especially if they were his beloved groups such as the Indigo Girls.

Terry passed suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2018 (I am approaching the the anniversary of his loss) and he LOVED singer-songwriter music. Our favorite bands (that we enjoyed together as we also had music that we enjoyed separately) included the Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Gov’t Mule, Ben Harper, Joan Osborne, David Gray, and other music similar to those artists. We’ve seen also those artists in concert (some many many times) but the group we’ve seen in concert the most times was the Indigo Girls.

The Indigo Girls were Terry’s favorite singer-songwriter group and he knew the words to most their most popular songs including “Closer to Fine”. We’d go to their concert and he’d sing along (quietly) to most of their songs. But the song he really loved, knew absolutely every word and would sing at the top of his lungs along with the other audience members was “Closer to Fine”.

Over the years I guess the Indigo Girls made “Closer to Fine” a “sing-a-long song” with full audience participation expected. And Terry would always sing along at their concerts (which we attended at least yearly). One of my favorite Indigo Concert memories is when they had a concert in one of Bend’s neighborhoods – NorthWest Crossing. I guess they story is they were visiting friends who lived in the area and decided to just have small concert at the neighborhood monthly festival! Not a lot of people knew about it and it was a small audience crammed into a little neighborhood space watching the Indigo Girls play with a smaller version of their band. Sort of one of those once in a lifetime experiences! So glad I got to experience that with Terry.

Before I go further, let me share a video of the album version of the song if you’ve never heard it before:

And here are the lyrics to Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls (courtesy of Google):

I’m trying to tell you something ’bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all, yeah

Well, darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
(The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine, yeah
Closer I am to fine, yeah

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
(The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine, yeah
Closer I am to fine, yeah

I stopped by the bar at 3 A.M.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain
Yeah, we go to the Bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
(The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine

Closer I am to fine, yeah

And if you are curious, here is what the concert sing-a-long version of the song is like:

I get chills (and tears) when I hear the audience sing acapella: “we stand up for the lookout” and then sing loudly with the Indigo Girls the last couple lines of the song together.

I can still hear Terry singing along with the audience the last three lines:

Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine, yeah

At first listening to this song again, I was overwhelmed with sadness and despair (over what was lost – a lifetime with my music/concert buddy and amazing life partner/best friend) but then I turned it around in my mind and realized that over the nearly past 4 years I’ve gotten myself:

CLOSER TO FINE

I’ll never be fully “fine” and I accept that. I will always be a widow who lost the love of their life (even if I am so blessed to have my wonderful partner John in my life, who is a widower and deeply understands my journey and the heartbreak I carry around) but I am at so much better a place than I was a couple years ago.

And better than I was last year.

I get a little more “closer to fine” as the years progress.

If any of you are on the same journey as me (dealing with a life changing loss) I hope you getting a little “closer to fine” everyday even if you gain only millimeter of distance each day.

Thank you Amy Ray and Emily Saliers for your amazing song and lyrics…

Indigo Girls, image credit The San Diego Union-Tribune

 


Postscript

I think one of the things people do not realize about widows and widowers, is that they did not just lose the person they (likely) loved most in this world. They also lost their entire life with that person – all the history they shared, things only they knew, the memories and experiences they shared, and most of all (in many cases) their deep bond and friendship. You lose the person you shared your deepest secrets, your partner in life. For many (like happened to. me), they also lose their identity and have to create a new one. 

As my grief counselor said: “You have to now go out and create new experiences and memories on your own” (and yes that is unbelievably difficult to do)

Thank goodness I had a wonderful grief support group and continue to know and interact with amazing people who are on my same journey and understand the depth of the loss. I am also thankful to those who do not understand the experience of the loss but are kind, patient and supportive with me on my journey.

If you know someone who is grieving such a loss, please be patient and kind to them – their loss is more than you can imagine.

A Crafter's Life

On Grief

When coming up for a title for this post, I was thinking of my SA-based long time blogging buddy (and very talented textile artist), Mariss of Fabrications, who titles her posts “On…”.

So this post is “On” grief.

As many of you know I am a widow and lost my partner of many years back in 2018. In the earlier days of my grief I read books such as Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (see post New Library Stack and Option B) and Resilience by Eric Greitens (see post Soup’s On), as I tried to navigate my new reality, but in general I have avoided books that primarily focus on grief and grieving.

That was until recently, now over 3 years since my loss, when I decided to read It’s OK That You’re Not Okay: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine.

image credit: Goodreads.com

I finished like book nearly 2 months ago and I am still thinking about it.

The book’s audience appears to be those with a new major loss in their life; and focuses on life shattering losses such as the death of a life partner or a child. It provides a different way of looking at grief and grieving from a therapist who lost her husband (she apologizes in the book to all her former clients who were grieving and how she counseled them before she experienced her own loss); as well as provides tools for grieving people to help their loved ones support them better during their grieving. It even has a whole chapter for those who are trying to support someone in their life who is grieving.

One of the greatest lessons or perhaps greatest insights I got from this book is: You cannot take away someone’s pain who is grieving, it is theirs that they must bear – all you can try to do is to ease their suffering (or at least not add to their suffering with things you do or say).

Here are a couple quotes from the book to share more of the author’s insights as a widow and a grief counselor/therapist:

The reality of grief is far different from what others see from the outside. There is pain in this world that you can’t be cheered out of. You don’t need solutions. You don’t need to move on from your grief. You need someone to see your grief, to acknowledge it. You need someone to hold your hands while you stand there in blinking horror, staring at the hole that was your life. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

When you try to take someone’s pain away from them, you don’t make it better. You just tell them it’s not OK to talk about their pain.

We need to talk about the hierarchy of grief. You hear it all the time—no grief is worse than any other. I don’t think that’s one bit true. There is a hierarchy of grief. Divorce is not the same as the death of a partner. Death of a grandparent is not the same as the death of a child. Losing your job is not the same as losing a limb.

The cult of positivity we have does everyone a disservice. It leads us to believe we’re more in charge of the world than we are, and holds us responsible for every pain and heartbreak we endure. It sets up a one-false-move world, in which we must be careful not to upset the gods, or karma, or our bodies with our thoughts and intentions.

Acknowledgment–being seen and heard and witnessed inside the truth about one’s own life–is the only real medicine of grief.

These quotes above are only the tip of the iceberg of all the wisdom and “truth-bombs” that the author drops in this book.

At the start of reading this book, I connected with many of the painful ways (causing more suffering) that some people in my life tried to support me during my early days of my loss. But as I got further into the book I thought about how they were doing the best they could with no personal experience in such a loss.

And I thought about the absolute disaster I was in the past in supporting people in my life who experienced such devastating loss, before I experienced such loss myself.

I thought in particular about a boss a used to have in the early 2000s who was an awesome leader, fun to work with and supportive. Then she suddenly lost her husband of 30+ years to a motorcycle accident. He was her best friend and they were inseparable. He was a long time motorcycle enthusiast and hit a random patch of gravel at high speed and was killed.

She was out of work for about a month and when she returned she was a completely different person. We (her staff) had pulled together money and sent flowers and a card, etc. and for some reason thought she would be okay when she returned after a month off, even if she was sad at times as expected.

Instead she was unable to focus at work, apparently heavily medicated (whether doctor prescribed or “recreational”) and pretty much non functional. This went on for months and finally she was convinced to step down from her position and let someone else take her job.

I am so sad that I was one of the staff members who was impatient with her, especially after a couple of months since her loss. It was like I expected her to “be over it”. I wish I could go back in time and hug her and apologize for how I just did not understand.

Fast forward to 2018 and my loss. I actually thought about her (after not thinking of her for years) about a month after my husband died. It was like “I get it!”

Although I did not use much medication (though in retrospect I would not have minded be numbed out of my mind for a while in the early days) to help me cope, I struggled focusing at my job or even caring about my job. I hid it and tried to be the same as I was but ultimately, when you lose the person who is your whole life, everything else seems so unimportant and meaningless.

Around the first anniversary of my husband’s passing, I had a colleague confront me about not getting an important project done on time, and all I could think is “but I am still alive a year after losing everything”. I tried to explain I was struggling with the 1 year anniversary but she did not get it, she was still annoyed.

I cannot fault her lack of empathy as I was guilty of such lack of empathy myself before experience such loss.

I feel redeemed though in my failures of supporting grieving people (I am skipping a couple other stories of how I was not the most helpful when people in my life loss their spouses before I experienced it myself) as I had an amazing experience connecting with a former neighbor who lost her husband last May. I feel so lucky to have been able to be there for her and listen to her journey, and share whatever she wanted to know about my journey as a widow.

It felt like I was paying it forward in honor of those who truly helped me in my journey, and continue to help me.

One of the most powerful concepts I gained from reading It’s OK That You’re Not Okay: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand is:

Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

I’ve come to accept that I will carry this grief with me the rest of my life. And that is okay. There is still much joy, happiness, and peace to still have in this life, even with grief by my side.


Feature image – Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash 

A Crafter's Life

Attempting to Embrace Christmas and Holiday Baking

If you are new to this blog, here is a little background – in December 2018 my husband died. In December 2017 my beloved mother in law died. In December 2017 my greatest dog love of all time, Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer died. My late husband’s birthday is in early December and our wedding anniversary is in late December.

So as you can imagine December is always a challenging month for me. Christmas was always my most favorite holiday (I enjoyed planning for Christmas starting in June or earlier); but my husband died 12 days before Christmas 2018. To add to the unfortunate event, I found him on the floor next to the Christmas tree.

I know this seems like a very morbid opening for a blog post but I just wanted to provide background/perspective for the rest of this post, not to scare you away from reading any further!

After making it through the 3rd anniversary of my late husband’s passing, I realized that I wanted to “take back Christmas” and I was tired of being unrelentingly sad during December. Christmas was my favorite holiday and I needed a way to enjoy it again and not associate it with one of the darkest times of my life.

So we got a Christmas tree and I decorated for the holidays more than I’ve done since my husband passed.

A got a little creative on how to make the TV more festive by adding holiday bunting…

My partner John and I decorated the tree with the collection of ornaments we kept from our previous lives and some new ones we’ve purchased together. Most of my ornaments are schnauzer themed…

Whole lot of schnauzers trimming the tree

John also hung Christmas lights on the front of the house and I placed a Christmas wreath on the front door for the first time together.

In addition to making the house holiday festive, I also did a bunch of holiday baking in anticipation of having John’s immediate family over for Christmas Eve (Originally we had planned to go to the East Coast of the US to spend Christmas with my family, but there is some virus raging…have you heard of it???).

I made Molasses Crinkle cookies, Crispy Chocolate Chip cookies, Lemon Squares, and a Pumpkin Roll.

Here is the messy kitchen during my baking fest:

Here are the cookies I made:

Here are the yummy lemon squares I made:

You’ll see one of the lemon squares above has a bite taken out of it. Well I had to make sure it was not poisonous!

I used my cookbooks for the cookies and lemon squares but for the Pumpkin Roll I used one of my blogging buddy’s (In Diane’s Kitchen) recipe which had awesome directions and worked out very well: Libby’s Pumpkin Roll

Here is the pumpkin roll in progress (this is the second time I’ve made it and I am getting better at the whole jelly roll process):

And the Pumpkin Roll ready to serve our holiday guests:

We also did the “Hot Chocolate Bombs” again this year (see post from last Christmas about these – December, Christmas and “Bombs”). This year for our “Hot Chocolate Bombs” we had awesome chocolate sprinkle like things to decorate them from my blogging buddy in the Netherlands, Emmely @Infectious Stitches (see post The Itty-Bitty Hat and Fun Surprises in the Mail).

Here is the whole Christmas Eve dessert spread which includes a bakery bought Lemon Meringue pie and store bought handmade marshmallows:

We did have an actual Christmas Eve meal before the dessert (smile). I set a festive table along with English style Christmas Crackers at each place setting. Of course I forgot to take a photo of the holiday table but use your imagination.

I’ll close this post with a picture of my partner John getting ready to make the gravy for the Prime Rib he made for Christmas Eve dinner, while wearing the paper crown he got from his Christmas Cracker:

A Crafter's Life

Remember Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)

Today would have been the 61st birthday of Terry the Quilting Husband (1960 – 2018), and I want to celebrate him on his birthday with this post.

In 2019 I began doing a remembrance post on this birthday but it was not until earlier this year, after a discussion with a friend who had lost her sibling, that I made the decision not to officially celebrate his life any longer on the date of his passing but instead on the date he came into this world.

His life was more than his sudden death at 58, he had 58 years of life, and over 30 of those with me before he left this earth and moved onto his next plane of existence.

I do not want you to be sorry for my loss, I just want you to celebrate with me this awesome man who I grew up with and became who I am as a person with during the 30+ years we were together.

Here is an excerpt from his obituary (writing his obituary was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life – how do you summarize the life of the person who was your integral to life for 30+ years?):

Terry was a quiet and gentle soul who always treated people with respect and great kindness; a very patient person; and a loyal friend. He was an awesome husband, best friend and life-partner to his wife and made marriage a rewarding union. He was brilliant on many topics such as Military History and Military Strategy, his favorite hobbies. Terry was also a quilter and his quilts were part of the “Man Made” exhibit at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. In addition to sharing a love of quilts, he also shared with his wife a passion for dogs, and adopted numerous rescue dogs throughout his life.

Terry was a “Quilting Husband” and a “Crafting Husband” here is a photo below of him helping me on a crafting project (making the covered rope for fabric baskets that I would eventual give to his sisters and keep one for myself after his passing – see post The Last Baskets)

To my blogging friends who’ve been with me for a while – thanks for all your support and encouragement over the past couple of years as I’ve navigated my new reality of widowhood and dealing with a level of grief I did not know existed prior (and it is a terrible hobby, I do not recommend it!).

Here are the links to some posts on Terry’s creativity during his years as “TTQH”, if you’d like to take a trip down memory lane:

Update: Terry the Quilting Husband

Terry the Quilting Husband – Update

Terry the Quilting Husband Update

Terry the Quilting Husband Hard at Work

He was an amazing life partner, best friend and partner in crafting/quilting. He always believed in me and encouraged me in everything I did (or tried to do). Now that I am gaining distance from the day that he passed, I can focus more on just how lucky I was to have him in my life for so long.

I like to think that he and Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer (who passed in 2017), his amazing Mom (who passed in 2017), my Father (who loved him), and all our other rescued Miniature Schnauzers (Fritz, Snickers and Kerie), his Father, as well as his Grandfather that he loved so much, are all hanging out in the afterlife together or that their souls have all been reincarnated and they meet again somehow in their next life.

I know that I will carry TTQH always in my heart and he lives on in my memories.


Postscript

I wanted to follow up on my “oversharing” post My Etsy Shop is Now Reopened – tierneycreates is now TextilesandSmiles from Saturday. A friend reached out via email after that post and shared an AMAZING story of how she had to reinvent herself and her life after a major life change. It was one of those emails that you hold on to the rest of your life and refer to as needed.

One of the profound things she shared/reminded me of is that when the titles that we assign ourselves (“wife”, “employee of _____”, “owner of ____”, etc.) change this does not alter the CORE of who we are. We are still that CORE and it does not change by the loss of any “title”. It helped remind me that I am more than those “titles” and although I may need to reinvent myself into new titles because of life losses or changes, I am not losing my CORE. Positive Words Inspiration: At your core is a Wh Positive Quotes Inspiration


Feature Photo is TTQH along with Sassy and Mike “field testing” a quilt Terry just completed –

A Crafter's Life

The Last Baskets

I mentioned in my previous post What’s On the Design Wall: Sasquatch Quilt Top Completed, that I needed to work on something “emotional”. I’ve completed my “emotional” project and here is a post about it.

My late husband Terry (aka “Terry the Quilting Husband) was a quilter and a crafter. He also helped me on numerous projects such as making binding for my quilts, cutting fabrics, making hexagon templates for my English Paper Piecing projects; and being an all around “sous chef” for my quilting/crafting endeavors.

One of the projects he worked on prior to his passing in December 2018 was covering clothesline with batik jelly roll strips (40 – 2.5″ x 42″ strips) to make Bali Boxes (actually “bowls” as I do not make the boxes) from the pattern by Aunties Two:

Here he is sewing the continuous strip (entire jelly roll sewn end to end) of batik strips on to the clothing line (see old posts “Throwing Pottery” on the Sewing Machine, Prepping to Make Fabric Bowls , and Prepping to Make Fabric Bowls, Continued for more on the process):

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As a result of his efforts I had a roll of batik covered clothing line rope, but we got busy on other projects and I put it away:

Over the past nearly 2.5 years since his passing, I’ve slowly worked on completing projects he began and did not finish; or projects he helped me with and we did not finish. An example of one of these projects was a quilt for his eldest brother Andy (he came from a family with 7 kids and I sent one of his completed quilts to most of his siblings when Terry passed, except I did not have a completed quilt for Andy) that I discussed in the post – The Last Quilt.

(Trying to write this post without breaking into tears, but I want to share this experience with you as perhaps there is someone out there that wants to find the strength to complete projects started by a loved one who passed…)

So continuing my journey to complete anything he started before he passed, I realized it was time to make something with the clothesline he covered in batik strips. I decided to make two baskets: one for his sisters Diane and Susan, and one for me.

Here are images from my recent creation of these baskets – I like to call the process “throwing pottery on the sewing machine”:

Here is the basket for Terry’s sisters fresh off the sewing machine and then an image of the binding for the top being put on:

Here is the completed basket and the view of the bottom of the basket:

You might wonder what is peeking out of the top of the completed basket. Well I decided that my era of making baskets was done for now and I put together a kit for Terry’s sisters to make their own baskets to include: 1) a batik jelly roll; 2) the pattern; and 3) several packages of clothesline rope:

Here is the second basket which I made for myself with the remaining batik strip covered clothesline. It came out bigger than I anticipated and I am using it to store batik scraps:

Last week I shipped the basket to Terry’s sisters in New York and they have received the package.

Along with the basket and basket making kit I included a printed photo of Terry working on covering the clothesline for the basket.


As I did in the quilt I sent to Terry’s brother Andy (The Last Quilt) I said that the gift was from Terry and me – from this life and the next

A Crafter's Life, From the Archives

Valentines (re-post)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I thought in honor of this day, and how far my life has come in a couple of years, I would re-post this Valentine’s Day post from February 14, 2019. This post was also featured, at the end of February 2019, on author Marie Bostwick’s blog: Coping With Grief by Helping Others.

I am in my 8th year of blogging and I have a large catalogue of archived posts and going forward I am going to occasionally share from the archives.


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


Feature Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

A Crafter Needs to Eat, A Crafter's Life, Bags Bags Bags, Books, Music, Podcasts

What I Did During My Blogging Vacation

I’ve been on hiatus from blogging for a couple weeks to temporarily remove any “artificial” obligations in my life in order to have some time to “reset”.

Now feeling “reset”, I thought I would jump back into blogging with a little essay “primary/elementary” school style like the infamous “What I Did on My Summer Vacation“.

By the way I was not hanging out with the fabulous looking women at the beach during my hiatus, like those in the feature photo of this post (photo by Vitae London on Unsplash), I just thought it was a fun beach photo to use in the middle of semi-freezing winter in Denver!

Okay so now it is time to imagine me standing in front of our 4th grade class presenting this essay below (and perhaps my parents helped me make a slide deck for my images/photos)…

READING

Listening to audiobooks and turning the pages of actual physical books, I’ve done a lot of reading during the past several weeks.

I’ve finished the book City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty, that I read for my virtual book club with my friend Michele (see post Virtual Book Clubs):

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image credit – Kirkus Review

Last Friday Michele and I had another card-making playdate like the one I shared in the post Card Making Playdate from last October and discussed City of Brass. In tomorrow’s post (why yes, I am going to now post frequently…hope you don’t grow tired of me) I will share what we made.

I recently finished the next book in our “Virtual Book Group” (but wait is it “virtual” if we are meeting in person, socially distancing of course, to discuss the book?) and it was quite the awesome page turnerThe Guest List by Lucy Foley:

The Guest List
image credit – Publishers Weekly

It’s been a long time since I’ve read (actually I listened to the audiobook) the kind of book I absolutely could not put down. If you’d like to read a synopsis of the book – here is the link to the one on Publishers Weekly (no worries, there are no spoilers) – The Guest List.

Currently I am listening to an excellent (so far) Science Fiction/space novel – To Sleep Under a Sea of Stars by Christoper Paolini. I love it so much I’ve already bought the hard copy of the book as my library loan of the audiobook is about to expire and there are a zillion other library patrons waiting in line to listen to it next.

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image credit – Paolini.net

It not just fiction books I’ve been inhaling, I’ve also read several new crafting books I picked up over the past couple of months.

I’ve been obsessed lately with making non-quilt items such as tote bags (see post Tote, Tote, Tote Bags) and pincushions (a future post); and love my new book by Ayumi Takahashi – Patchwork Please which features lots of fun things to make:

Patchwork Please!: Colorful Zakka Projects to Stitch and Give - Takahashi, Ayumi
image credit – amazon.com

I am sort of obsessed with “zakka” and Japanese author craft patterns. I love the aesthetics of their designs as well as the function. Here are many of the books in my home library collection of Japanese author craft patterns:

COOKING

For a while in the Denver metro area, our restaurants closed down again to inside dining during the pandemic. Finally they opened to 25% capacity and now I think they are starting to reopen to even 50% capacity (or perhaps I am hallucinating at this point as I have complete pandemic fatigue at this point).

While they were closed again, like in the early days of the pandemic, we tried to make fun meals at home and not get home cooking fatigue. Here are a couple photos of the delicious meals my partner John (a very good cook who used to actually cook professionally) and I made.

Delicious Irish Stew and Homemade Biscuits

Salmon Fried Rice

Nachos!

Pizza (with dough made from “scratch”)

Orzo Pasta Salad

Are you hungry yet?

One of my favorites that I could not locate easily locate a photo for was the handmade gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and scallops that John made one night. I thought I was at a high-end restaurant!

Yes, I will not lie, I had packed on a couple “pandemic pounds” from all this good eating, but we do not eat like this every night. We do try and have salads for dinner a couple nights a week.

WALKING

To combat the effects of all those delicious home cooked meals, I’ve been going on a lot of very long walks. It is always a great way to listening to my audiobooks. Most of the times I take Mike my Miniature Schnauzer with me but many times I just go walking alone (then I do not have to stop for the “frequent signing in on bushes” that Mike loves to do on his walk).

Here are a couple Black & White images I took on a wintry walk, in which someone had left a found glove on a branch for its owner to hopefully someday find. I got a kick out of the “composition” in the stark landscape created by the glove.

If you enjoy B&W images, I do have a series of posts where I feature B&W images – Life in B&W.

In case you are wondering – either the glove blew away or was reunited with its partner by the owner as the next day it was gone.

REFLECTING

During my break from blogging, I spent a lot of time reflecting and trying to figure out my life. As many of you know, I am in my second year of widowhood caused by the very sudden and very expected death of my life partner, Terry the Quilting Husband (see post Remembering Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)).

I’d been with Terry since I was in my early 20s and I am now on a journey to “reinvent” myself in my middle years of life as “Tierney minus Terry”, after what seems like a lifetime of “Tierney +Terry”.

In previous posts, I’ve discussed re-opening my tierneycreates Etsy shop and my original plan when I took a hiatus from blogging was to start blogging again in about a month when I was ready to re-open my Etsy shop.

Over the past several months, I’ve made a lot of items in preparation to re-open the shop but still could not move forward with re-opening the shop. I was struggling to figure out what the big block was for me.

Then while looking at some old photos on my Google Photos account which I rarely use, I found an old image of the joint tierneycreates business card Terry and I had together when he was helping me with my Etsy shop. He was listed as a “Maker” on my Etsy shop as he helped me with many of the items I produced by cutting out patterns and doing preliminary sewing, especially on items like Miniature Kimonos, which were very popular on my shop.

I realized that my tierneycreates Etsy shop is just too closely tied to memories of crafting with Terry and I am just not ready.

Part of my “widowhood journey” is trying to figure out what to do with what is basically a lifetime’s worth of memories with someone who is now gone.

After losing your spouse you are expected to go on with your life but what do you do with all those memories (and mementos) of a life previously lived? I think that is the $64,000 Question which I have yet to answer for myself (I’ve done a lot of reading on grief and the answers of other people’s journey but I still have to find my own answer).

But I have figured out that unless it is something critical, not push myself to do anything I am not ready to do, even if it seems like a good thing to do (like re-opening my Etsy shop).

(The above images are of Terry, Sassy, who passed in Dec 2017 a year before Terry, and I vacationing in Cannon Beach, Oregon; and of Terry modeling a quilt he helped me make)

CRAFTING

There’s been a whole lot of crafting over the past couple of weeks. I’ve found a lot of peace in making things. I feel very lucky to be a “Maker”.

Many of the items I’ve shared on my tierneycreates Instagram account but many I have not. I am going to save a discussion of what I’ve been working on for future blogs posts but I will share that I’ve been making more tote bags like I discussed in the post Tote, Tote, Tote Bags.

Here are some of my latest tote bags:

I look forward to diving into more about what I’ve been making in my future posts!

WAKE UP, THE ESSAY IS FINALLY OVER!

So that concludes my essay and I can safely assume the whole class is asleep now at their desks!

Oh wait, I see the teacher is also asleep at their desk! Maybe I won’t get a “A” on this presentation…

Photo by Matheus Farias on Unsplash

Postscript

Just a quick follow up to my post Redesigning my logo. I decided not to change my logo at this time and just figure it out at a later date.

tierneycreates

Pillow for a Kitty

The title of this post might confuse you and lead you to wonder: “Is Tierney now focusing on making pillows for cats and how does Mike the Miniature Schnauzer feel about this?!?!?”

What is post is actually about it how as a crafter we make a lot of crafts and give a lot as gifts; and sometimes we forget what happens to those gifts over the years. It is a sweet and special blessing to hear how a gift is still being used years later.

Such in the case of an unexpected “kitty pillow“.

I have a post from February 2015, 2015 Goals, in which I shared that I had made Little Love Note Pillows for my then open Etsy Shop (aptly named tierneycreates). Around the same time as selling these pillows on my tierneycreates shop, I gave some as gifts to family and friends. Here are some images of these pillow sets I sold and gifted:

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I sort of forgot about these pillows made 5 years ago, especially with all that has transpired in my life the past 5 years (and especially the past nearly 2 years…).

Well a couple days ago, I received a text and images from my brother-in-law Sean (my late husband Terry’s brother), sharing some photos of how his cat is enjoying the little pillows I sent him so many years ago. His kitty thought they were the perfect “cat sized pillows”!

He meant to tell me long time ago but kept forgetting.

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What a huge smile his text and photos put on my face! It was a nice pick me up as I’ve been feeling quite blue of late (see the Postscript section below).


Postscript

Today is December 1st and I think I’ve come to accept that December is a very rough month for me.

December used to be my favorite month with my late husband Terry’s birthday (Dec 2), Christmas (Dec 25) and my wedding anniversary (Dec 29).

Now December also holds the anniversary of Terry’s (known to this blog as “Terry the Quilting Husband”) sudden passing (12/13) who had been my partner since I was 20 years old.

December also holds the anniversaries of the passing of my beloved mother-in-law “Mimi” that I had in my life longer than my biological mother; and Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer the greatest canine love of my life. The passed within a week of each other in December 2017.

I was numb during Christmas 2018; I made it through Christmas 2019 but I am thinking that this year I probably won’t do a Christmas tree as it is makes me even sadder. Unfortunately, on 12/13/18, a couple days after decorating our tree together, I discovered the love of my life deceased next to the Christmas tree.

I will get through December; and appreciate all the love and support from friends and family and I am so thankful for my partner John and our dog Mike.

Also I am always trying to remember this wonderful quote I stumbled upon early in my grief journey:

Some days it seems like every moment of the day is a battle to keep the nests out of my hair at least during the month of December…

(okay Tierney you just won the “Most Depressing Blog Post” award…I promise future posts will not be as glum)

What's on the Design Wall

The Last Quilt

Sometimes the best way to deal with the depth your grief is to step outside yourself and do something for someone else. I first truly learned this in February 2019 when I faced my first Valentines Day without my Valentine and decided to make the members of my Spousal Loss Grief Support Group my Valentines (see post Valenties).

With the 1 year anniversary of Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)‘s sudden passing approaching I knew the only way to face it was to step outside myself again.

The Last Quilt

The last quilt that Terry created the blocks for was a homespun quilt in 2018. I wrote a post about the progress of that quilt in February 2018 – Spinning the Homespuns with TTQH.

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Terry never finished this quilt (but he had so much fun working on it) and I had the 25 blocks he made tucked away in my UFO (unfinished objects) stash.

My incredibly awesome, talented and generous friend Wendy Hill (@wendyquilter) offered after Terry passed to finish the quilt for me. I so appreciated her generous offer but at the time (early 2019) I could not even imagine pulling out those blocks and looking at them. Just waking up each morning and facing the day was so incredibly painful and I knew I needed to protect myself from complete psychological collapse which always seemed just around the corner.

For those of you who’ve had long time partners, after many years with a person (especially if you’ve been with them since you were young), your identity can get enmeshed and integrated with that person. So when you lose that person you lose part of your identity.

In my 8-week spousal loss grief support group, we frequently discussed the “secondary losses” that come with losing a spouse. After losing Terry just to be around other married people or hear other married people talk about their spouses was gut wrenching on a level I cannot even put into words.

Friends and family attempted to relate to my experience by sharing their stories of losses of their parents, etc. I too have loss my parents and as close you are to your parents, losing your life partner is a completely different experience.

Why? Because (unless you have a very strange relationship), you do not wake up each morning next to your parent, share your hopes and dreams, share day to day household and financial issues, have an intimate relationship, have a romantic relationship, etc.

Humorously (but not necessarily humorously at the time) some people even shared stories of losing a beloved pet to try and relate. I dearly loved all my dogs who have passed but I can tell you first hand that this does not compare to losing a spouse on any level.

I do not mean to diminish anyone’s personal grief experience or journey from losing someone beloved in their life, but experts have said the two greatest losses you can experience are loss of a child or loss of a life partner.

Here is some unsolicited advice to anyone who has not experienced one of these types tremendous losses but is trying to comfort a friend who is experiencing such as loss:

Consider not trying to connect their experience to your loss of a parent, pet, etc. Instead consider just supporting and listening to them with no agenda or judgement. Just be be there for them. If it feels right, you can also suggest they join a grief support group (when they are ready) so they connect with people who truly understand what they are going through. 

The best advice I was given came from the caring Sheriff Department Champlain in Central Oregon who arrived at my house with the police on the worse day of my life. He strongly suggested I get into a grief support group as soon as I was ready.

In addition to the amazing grief support group I attend for 8-weeks in Central Oregon, I have been lucky enough to have some incredible people in my life who have done exactly what I suggested above – they just supported me without judgement and accepted all the ups and downs of my journey as an unexpected widow.

Now grief can be thought of as a “spiral staircase” and after a year of discovering that I am stronger than I ever thought I was, I am at a good spot on that “staircase”, and I was ready to pull out those blocks from storage and make them into a quilt for someone special in Terry’s life.

For His Brother

Terry was the youngest of 7 children. When he passed I gave away many of his quilts to his siblings. A year or two before he passed we had also given several quilts to some of his nieces and I made a lovely quilt for his nephew who got married.

However I did not give a quilt made by Terry to his oldest brother Andy, who Terry adored. A couple years ago, while we were in Fort Worth, Texas for Andy’s son’s wedding, we stopped at quilt shop and I have an awesome photo of Terry and his big brother standing around a quilt shop while Andy’s wife and Terry’s sisters and I were shopping. I did a post about this quilt shop in June 2017 – Cabbage Rose Quilting & Fabrics, Ft. Worth TX.

I knew Andy loved quilts because many years ago I made him a quilt in my early days of quilting when I was his Secret Santa (with so many adults in the family, Terry’s family used to do an annual Secret Santa drawing and I always made a quilt for the person whose name I drew) and made him a quilt. I made the quilt in the early 2000s but any time I would talk to Andy he would mention how much he loved the quilt (and it was in my early days of quilting and nothing to “write home about”).

I just knew that Terry would approve of Andy being the recipient of his last quilt.

Making the Quilt

The first step to making the quilt was pulling out the 25 blocks and sitting on the floor and sobbing uncontrollably for an hour (not a pretty sight).

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Once that was over, it was time to get off my butt and “put my big girl panties on” and get to work on the quilt.

Terry created quilts with love but not necessarily with accuracy (smile) so I had to trim all 25 blocks to a uniform size.

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Originally the pattern made a king-sized quilt and had sashing around all the blocks. I decided to make a lap size quilt and just piece the blocks together.

2019-11-27_13-52-03_0942019-11-27_13-52-11_532Making a lap size quilt (each block was approximately 18″ x 18″), I did not need all the blocks for the front of the quilt, so I pieced the rest of the blocks for the back of the quilt.

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I decided to machine quilt it myself as there was no time to send off to a professional long-arm quilter before Christmas. So I had to spread it out on the floor and pin it all down for quilting.

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Surprisingly I finished quilting it faster than I expected and put on the binding around the edge of the quilt.

While sitting around the living room, with the quilt on my lap, hand sewing down the binding, Mike my miniature schnauzer kept snuggling with the quilt. When I got up to take a break from sewing down the binding, Mike would fully snuggle in the quilt.

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Mike loved Terry so much and he seemed to know that this was Terry’s last quilt. I know that pets grieve also and I know Mike himself has had a journey over the past year too. He was stuck with Terry’s body for 3 hours before I arrived home and discovered him, and I wondered for a while if Mike would ever recover from that terrible experience.

Mike is now thriving in his new life in the Denver Metro area.

Here is the label I created for the quilt, I put it was from Terry and me.

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I thought this was the right sentiment to write on the label:

Sending love from this life and the next.

The quilt arrived yesterday to Andy in Texas and I hope he finds comfort in that quilt, the last quilt Terry the Quilting Husband will ever make.


Postscript

I feel like I’ve shared enough of my grief story and journey and now, on the 1 year anniversary of Terry’s passing, I’ve decided my blog will no longer talk about my grief journey. I am just going to focus on what my life is moving forward in its new iteration, in its new identity.

I came across this wonderful quote that at first I thought sounded harsh (like you are just forgetting about the past) but then I totally connected with it:

Your future needs you. Your past does not.

I tried to figure out who to attribute the quote but came across too many sources when googling, but thank you to whomever said it.

So with this quote in mind, I am spending today with my partner John and later on today with his darling 10 year old granddaughter who totally loves Mike my dog.

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We are going to make dinner together, go see the movie Frozen 2, and then have a PJ Party (she is staying overnight) and decorate the Christmas tree. What better way to honor Terry than to go forth and be happy (and present) in my new life?

I am so thankful for the amazing past I had and now am going to be fully in the present and the future.

A Crafter's Life

Remembering Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)

Nearly a year has passed since my beautiful life radically changed when I suddenly loss my husband Terry who’d I been with since I was 20 years old.

On my blog he was known as “Terry the Quilting Husband” or “TTQH” as one of my blog readers named him.

He began quilting in 2014 and if you’d like to check out posts related to his adventures as quilter, they are in the series of posts  Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)

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Today is his birthday (December 2) and I wanted to honor and remember him with this post. I do not want to celebrate him on the day he passed (December 13, 2018), I want to celebrate him on the day that this world was lucky enough to have him join it!

As  we discussed in the 8-week Spousal Loss Grief Support group I attended in early 2019, when your life partner dies your immediate focus is on that person’s death and the tremendous loss in your life.

However that person had a whole entire life before their death, and in the support group we spent time focused on their life and what our lives with them meant to us.

TTQH was an incredible person and my best friend life partner. We had so much fun together and so many wonderful adventures. In the immediate wake of the loss, all I could see was the loss. Now, nearly a year later, I can step back and look at what an absolutely blessed and amazing life I was lucky enough to have for more than 1/2 my life with him.

And in 2014 he joined me in my quilting hobby and created 10+ quilts (and helped with many more) that brought a lot of joy to people. He gave the first quilt he made to his mother (who passed a year before him, December 2017). He even exhibited several quilts at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in the Man Made Exhibit and sold two quilts!

Speaking of adventures – how lucky I was to have a life partner who loved going to quilt shops with me (and selecting his own huge collection of dog themed or fishing themed fabrics) and shared what was important to me – quilting. He looked forward every year to the April Central Oregon Quilt Shop Hop (he won a sewing machine one year at shop hop!) and to see if he could outdo me in fabric purchasing!

Here he is wandering around a quilt shop on his own, with our dog Mike in tow:

2018-05-16_16-17-56_002.jpegSo today I celebrate him!

Happy Birthday TTQH and thank you for the amazing life I shared with you.

To close out this post, let me share a poem by Henry Scott-Holland that I stumbled upon that made me cry and smile simultaneously.

Death Is Nothing At All

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!