Monthly Archives: June 2016

Machines and Fabric and Threads, Oh My!

Book 14 100 dpiFirst of all, Book 14 – Reflecting Love’s Charms is now available. You can go straight to Amazon to purchase it by clicking on the book’s cover.

I’m pretty excited about having this finished. During the weeks leading up to publication, my mind is set firmly on the task and it’s difficult for me to do much creative writing. Once it gets out into the world, my mind releases it and all of a sudden, story lines start flowing again.

No worries, though. Book 15 (no title yet, are you kidding me?) is already underway and will be published September 25th.

Last year, I re-discovered my passion for sewing. When I was pretty young, I learned to sew on an old treadle machine that my mother found. She figured I couldn’t get it moving fast enough to really hurt myself. Mom hadn’t learned how to sew until she was married. Dad’s sisters taught her and she took to it like she took to every other creative thing she did – mastery in no time at all. When we were children, our Christmases were incredible because of the things she sewed for us. I had the coolest fake-fur maxi coat that I wore for years. Carol remembers an amazing white floppy dog that Mom made. There were so many great things that came from her sewing machine. And the frogs? Oh, Mom made a bunch of those.

But alas, for me, life took over and things got in the way. Literally. My sewing machine (actually, Mom’s sewing machine) kept getting pushed further and further back, until I just quit looking at it. But oh my goodness, how I loved to sew.

One day last year, an incredible deal showed up on Amazon and I grabbed it. A new sewing machine came into my life and it was all over. Love had bloomed. Fabric is everywhere I look nowadays. I’m so happy, it’s just silly.

Another thing that I always wanted was … an embroidery machine. Last year it was a ridiculous idea. Since it had been at least fifteen years since I’d last done much sewing, I needed to find my confidence again. But I started researching the machines anyway. You know, just in case something ever showed up.

Last week, something interesting showed up. How many of you got funds from Amazon for that Apple class-action lawsuit? The amount I got was a big deal (we shouldn’t discuss my reading habits). I didn’t want to fritter it away on things that I’d buy anyway and considered just what I might desperately want. I remembered. And I grabbed it.

I was so glad to have all the pieces together and figure out how to hoop my fabric and get it on there. Whew!

I was so glad to have all the pieces together and figure out how to hoop my fabric and get it on there. Whew!

Believe it or not, that crazy machine showed up yesterday, right while I was in the middle of desperately working to get the email newsletter put together, a vignette written and the book formatted and published. Are you kidding me? What’s a girl to do?

I didn’t leave it in the box, but brought all of the bits and pieces inside and placed them around me, to taunt me and push me into working as hard as possible to finish that book. Then I put the machine together and stared at it. What in the world had I done? I know nothing about embroidery, except that I want to be able to do this.

Because of course the first thing I have to do is my name! Haha.

Because of course the first thing I have to do is my name! Haha.

Today has been an adventure. The first thing I learned is that I don’t even know what I don’t know! I’ve watched videos on YouTube (some of these people crack me up). I’ve read blogs and yes, I’m the chick who reads her manuals.

Other than what came in the box with the machine, I have very few tools to actually do any embroidery. Stabilizer? Well, there’s some interfacing in that drawer. It will at least allow me to do something. So I tried it out on a piece of fabric that will be beat to heck by the time I’m finished with it.

The second thing I had to do was the kitty cat! Can't wait for the right stabilizer to deal with that puckering.

The second thing I had to do was the kitty cat! Can’t wait for the right stabilizer to deal with that puckering.

I got so overwhelmed this afternoon, I finally had to take a nap so my brain would shut down (okay, the nap was imperative since I was up so early chatting with readers who were looking for the book – I’m a night person!).

It’s good to learn new skills, and this is going to be a blast. I have lots of ideas and plans – only a few which will probably come together. Pretty soon there will be just as much thread in the house as there is fabric – I’m sure of that.

So many things to create! No reason to stop now!

Lessons from a Lanyard

Lanyard07130083cOne of my favorite times of the day (I have many, this is just one of them) is found in the moments between waking up and crawling out of bed. I often extend that time because my mind is working out a problem or a thought. When I was working in the real world, I had a tendency to wake up about a half hour before my alarm went off, then spend time thinking through all of the things I had going on, making sure I was ready for anything. I still do that, because once my feet hit the floor, my mind starts running on overdrive.

This morning I thought about Vacation Bible School (VBS). Friends are posting pictures of what’s happening in their churches and it just makes me smile.

But Bible School was really just the launching pad for my thoughts.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have pre-published glorious extravaganzas. I tell you what, those have been a real gift to churches, both small and large. They made VBS accessible in a time when churches considered setting the week aside because it was so much work. And VBS was a lot of work. Okay, they’re still a lot of work – I’ve been involved in too many to not realize that truth.

Anyway, in our little churches, VBS planning started early. Dad gathered people who were interested in making it come alive and when they got the literature from Cokesbury, they started the process. Mom usually ended up chairing the whole thing and loved turning it into a grand time for the kids. But she was always exhausted about halfway through VBS week. The children loved it all.

I’m getting too far from my thoughts.

VBS only went up to fifth grade, so Dad did something different with the sixth graders. Each morning of VBS, he packed that group into a van or two and headed for one of the various state, county or city parks – a different location every day. In between fishing, hiking, other outdoor games, and crafts, kids learned more about their relationship with God.

I could not WAIT to be a sixth-grader. I’d listened to Dad plan that week for years, heard older kids talk about it and when it was my turn, I could hardly stand it, I was so excited.

The first day was one I knew would be the best. Nametags with gimp lanyards. Dad had a huge inventory of wooden discs that he used for the name tags. A church friend had found two inch diameter branches and sawed off thin discs. Dad also had five or six spools of colored gimp, a plastic lacing cord. We each got our wooden disc and, using markers, made personal name tags. Then, Dad taught the kids how to tie different patterns with gimp to create a lanyard. I was beside myself with anticipation. THIS was what I’d been waiting for all of those years.

That day, I was just finishing the decoration of my wooden disc when Dad pulled me aside and told me that I wouldn’t be making the lanyard after all. He hadn’t realized how depleted his stock of gimp was and there wasn’t enough for everyone. If one person didn’t do the project, there was enough for everyone else. He didn’t ask if I was okay with it, he just told me I wasn’t doing it. I can still feel the heat of my disappointment and anger. It wasn’t fair. Just because I was his daughter, it shouldn’t mean I was left out. In fact, I should be the first person to get the best, right?

When I protested, he gave me a look. I knew that look and sat back down at the picnic table. Everyone else gathered their colors and started working to create their lanyards while I got two limp strands of gimp to tie a necklace. I can’t imagine that I was very pleasant that day, I felt my week had been destroyed. Dad never said much more to me and Mom pretty much just told me to get over myself when I complained to her later on.

That event stayed with me for a long time (apparently until now, even). I worked through Dad’s choice and my reaction over and over again. It took a while before I finally asked myself: Who else would I have chosen to miss out on the project? The answer was obvious. Nobody but me.

Lessons that really mean something are difficult to learn, but that day I learned quite a few, even though I protested with as much emotion as I could muster (and at that age, I could muster a lot of emotion).

I learned about selflessness. There is no thing (read no … thing) that is as important as another person. Not a gimp lanyard, nothing.

I learned about sacrifice. I certainly didn’t like it, sacrifice is never easy.

I learned about self-control. In many areas of my life, self-control is still lacking, but when it comes to expressing negative emotions around others, I was expected to rise above the moment and maintain dignity and self-respect.

I learned humility. I just wasn’t that special. Oh, I was very special to my family – that’s not what I mean. But in the bigger scheme of things, I was no more important than the other children in the group. Dad wasn’t there to make my day perfect, he was there to make everyone’s day perfect and if mine had to be a little less so, he was okay with that. He was raising children who would know that every person was significant.

Counselors

Dad is sitting on the ground in front, his lanyard name tag around his neck.

And … I began learning that day how to take the long view of life. You see, three years later, I was at another summer camp with Dad. This was a much bigger group and we created the same type of name tags. It wasn’t lost on me that he had more than enough supplies for everyone there and took the time to make sure I had the colors I wanted for the lanyard that day. It was just as special as you might imagine. I wish I could pull it out and show you a picture; it’s packed in a box somewhere.

The thing was, those lessons weren’t only taught to me in one singular moment. They were reinforced over and over by my parents. Selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, humility, taking the long view. Those weren’t the only lessons they taught us, but they were certainly important.

~~~

JUNE 17 – WINE & TRIVIA NIGHT (6-11 pm) on the Bellingwood Facebook page. Come join us!

JUNE 25 – BOOK 14 (Reflecting Love’s Charms) will be published! It’s nearly here.

Bellingwood Vignette – Book 14, #3

Poor Earl insisted that he be allowed on the table with TB and Grey. That required a little assistance.

Poor Earl insisted that he be allowed on the table with TB and Grey. That required a little assistance.

I spend a lot of time in Bellingwood and though I generally write from Polly’s perspective, there is an entire community that lives on, even when she isn’t paying attention. Sometimes, they rise up and let me know that there is something going on, so I take a minute to step into their lives and write a short vignette.

A new vignette is published in each of the newsletters (which come out on the 25th of every month), but as I get ready for the publication of a new book, more of these seem to come up.

Book 14, Reflecting Love’s Charms, will be here before you know it (June 25) and Book 15 is already in process. But while you wait, here’s a quick look at Marnie Evans and her family. Marnie works at the veterinarian’s office with Mark Ogden and Dr. Seth Jackson. It seems that even when she’s home, animals find their way to her.

Never Say Never

“Do you hear something?” Marnie Evans asked her husband, Dave.

He was already up and heading for the kitchen. “Sounds like somebody at the back door,” he replied.

She shook her head. Barrett and Ella knew better than to have people over after nine o’clock.

“Marn?” Dave called out. “You wanna come out here?”

She put her tablet down on the table and groaned as she stood up. It had been a long day at the office. Trouble always seemed to come in waves and today was a day filled with trouble. She’d even had to call Doc Ogden back in because they’d been so busy. Dr. Jackson had been stuck in emergency surgery most of the morning with Mrs. Denoro’s young dog. Poor thing. He’d gotten into the trash and busily ate everything in sight while the woman had been at work. She’d come home to find a dog that got sicker throughout the night. This morning, Mrs. Denoro and Dooley had shown up as Marnie opened the front door. The day had gone downhill after that.

“What’s up?”

“Someone needs to see you,” he said, looking down.

She followed his eyes. “Devon Rittenhouse, what are you doing out at this hour? You should be home and in bed.”

The little boy lived two houses away, but his mother never paid attention to where he was. Marnie had sent him scurrying home many a night, making sure to watch until he waved at her from his front door.

“Mom said I can’t keep it.” He held out a small orange kitten. “She said I had to bring it to you.”

Marnie glanced up at her husband who gave her a mock scowl.

“Where did you find it?” Marnie asked. “Were there other kittens?”

“No, just this one.” His lower lip puffed out. “Well, we all took one home.”

“Who is we all and when did this happen?” Marnie reached out to take the kitten from him and began running her fingers over the little body, checking for anything that might be a problem.

“After school. And it was just me, Gabe, Luke and Hunter. There were four kittens and four of us.”

The kitten looked old enough to have been weaned from its mother, but Marnie still worried. “Where did you find them?”

He looked up, bright-eyed and excited to tell her the story. “Somebody left them in a box at school. You know, under that big tree on the corner? We just knew it was for us.”

Dave reached over and put his hand on Marnie’s shoulder, fully aware that her anger would be rising. There was nothing she hated more than abandoned animals. Either neuter your pets or be responsible for their litters.

“Did you see who left the kittens there?”

“Oh no,” he said. “They’d been there for a while. We saw the box when we went out for recess, but couldn’t go look at it until after school. Somebody had to take them home, didn’t they?”

“Yes they did, and I’m glad it was you. That was a really good thing to do. Have you fed him anything?” She turned the poor kitten upside down to make sure she had gotten his gender correct.

“He ate some milk. That’s all we had. I named him Chester.”

“That’s a great name.”

“Will you keep him?” Devon asked. “If I can’t have him, somebody nice should.”

“Somebody nice will keep him, even if it isn’t me,” Marnie said. “Now you go on home and tell your mother that he’s safe. Do I need to go outside and watch you walk home?”

“No, I’ll go. I promise.”

“Devon?” Marnie said.

“Yeah?”

“When you see your friends tomorrow, tell them that they need to bring their kittens in to see the doc. And if their mothers say they can’t keep them either, tell them to bring them in anyway. We want these babies to have good homes, okay?”

“Okay. But their moms aren’t as mean as mine,” Devon said.

“Just make sure to tell them what I said,” Marnie replied and stood at the back door as he opened their back gate and headed home. She watched until he crossed into his own yard and then stepped back inside.

“Marnie,” Dave said. He only needed to say her name. She knew what he meant.

“Don’t you think it’s time? Slim died two months ago. This place is lonely without a cat.”

“We have two dogs. We don’t need a cat.”

As if they knew someone was talking about them, Rocky and Groot came racing into the kitchen. Barrett had chosen their names after watching the movie. Both dogs had come into the vet’s office one day; a bonded pair. Groot was a Great Dane mix and Rocky, a Papillon. They couldn’t have been more different. When their owner died, the son brought the two dogs in to have them put to sleep. He wasn’t taking them and didn’t want to spend time trying to find a home for them. It had seemed quite obvious to him that the only option was euthanasia. Fortunately, Doctor Jackson had been in the office and Doc Ogden had been out on a call. Marnie was certain that Mark would have done something unspeakable to the man. But Seth Jackson had asked the man to surrender the animals to him without putting them to sleep. As long as they were someone else’s responsibility, that was fine. He’d signed the papers.

The dogs had lived at the office for a few days until Marnie couldn’t stand it. It had been a couple of years since they’d had a dog in the house. Slim was enough. As the kids got older, they’d gotten busy and hadn’t pushed for another pet. One night after work, Marnie dragged Dave down to the office and introduced him to the dogs. He’d fallen in love with Groot right away. It wasn’t really fair. Dave didn’t have a chance. He’d always expressed an interest in having a Great Dane. The two dogs had gone home that night with them and settled right in.

Barrett had been beside himself with joy and immediately gave the two dogs their new names. Ella tried to act as if she didn’t care; she’d been quite attached to Brando, but it didn’t take long for her to fall in love. Rocky usually slept on her bed, while Groot couldn’t be persuaded to sleep anywhere but beside the man who chose to bring him home. Dave had finally built a bed for Groot to put beside his side of their bed. Otherwise, that big ole thing insisted on sleeping between Dave and Marnie. Groot just couldn’t be too far away from his favorite person. Barrett came in a pretty close second for the big dog, but hadn’t yet convinced him to leave Dave’s side at night.

“I’m going to check the gate that kid came through,” Dave said. “Tonight is not a night to chase after lost dogs.”

Marnie opened the pantry door. She hadn’t yet thrown away any of Slim’s cat food. In fact, she probably still had some kitten food in here. There should still be a nearly full box of litter and she’d cleaned up Slim’s litter box and put it on a shelf in the garage. There was no way she’d be without a cat for very long.

“Here you go, Chester,” she said, taking out a box of canned kitten food.

“What’s all the noise down here, Mom?” Barrett asked, coming into the kitchen. He pulled up short when he saw what she was holding. “Did we get a new cat? What did Dad say?”

She chuckled. “Dad’s outside with the dogs. He hasn’t said much yet.” Marnie popped the top off the can of kitten food and gestured with her head toward the cupboards. “Get me a fork and a plate, would you? And put some water in one of those little white bowls.”

Instead, Barrett walked back through the door he’d come in and yelled up the stairs. “Ella, we have a cat. Get down here.”

Marnie shook her head. “Food and water first. And you know better than to yell.”

Thundering feet on the stairway announced Ella’s arrival.

“We have a cat? Where’d it come from? Does it have a name? Can we keep it? Let me hold it.” Ella had started talking before she even got into the room. That was standard Ella. She was Marnie’s live wire.

“Barrett,” Marnie spoke a little more sharply. “Please with the fork and plate.”

“Can I hold it?” Ella asked again.

Barrett opened the drawer and took out a fork, then reached up and pulled down a plate. A complete opposite of his sister, the boy moved slowly and deliberately, something that nearly drove Marnie to distraction some days.

She shoved the cat into Ella’s arm and crossed the room, taking the plate and fork from him. “Slow as molasses in January,” she muttered, then said aloud. “A bowl of water, please.”

The kitten had been mewing all this time as it smelled the cat food. Marnie emptied the can onto the plate and mashed it up, then slid it across the table to where Ella had sat down. “Feed him up here,” she said. “The dogs will be back in any second.”

“Can we keep him?” Ella asked.

Marnie made a quick decision. “Yes. We’re keeping him.”

“I heard that,” Dave said, coming in the back door. “But I draw the line at moving out into the country so we can open an animal rescue, got it?”

Marnie grinned, then reached up to kiss his cheek. “You really shouldn’t lay down ultimatums. You know what kind of trouble that always causes.”

He laughed. “Oh yeah. We weren’t going to live in a small town and we were going to stop having children after Ella. And when Brando died we weren’t going to have any more dogs.”

Barrett looked up at his parents in shock. “You didn’t want to have me?”

“I wasn’t thinking straight,” Dave said, ruffling his son’s hair. “I wouldn’t have missed out on you for anything.”

Groot pawed at the back door and woofed a plea to be let in. “And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss having those two around either.” He leaned forward and rubbed his thumb down the kitten’s back. “It looks like Chester is part of our family now.”

“Yay,” Ella said, jumping up. She sat back down quietly when the kitten startled. “Sorry, little baby.”

Marnie sat down across from her daughter as Dave opened the back door, letting the dogs in.

Groot was always interested in what might be happening at the kitchen table, so rushed over and set his chin beside the cat’s dish, trying desperately to be inconspicuous.

“Groot, down,” Dave said. The dog picked his head up and looked at Dave, then back at the cat, while Rocky yapped and danced around Groot’s feet. “It’s going to be a long night,” Dave said to Marnie.

Today had defined chaos and it looked like it wasn’t finished with her yet. Tomorrow would be better. Marnie reached out and Ella gave the kitten back to her. A satisfied tummy brought out quiet purring as Marnie snuggled the kitten to her chest. She hadn’t realized exactly how much she had missed having a cat in the house. A little chaos tonight would be worth it.