A Letter To My Teenage Self

Dear Sweetie –

I know you’re busy being an active teenage girl, but I have some words of wisdom for you.  I have gained this wisdom through many years of experience and lots of trial and error.  I hope to relieve some of your anxiety and give you hope for the future.

Most importantly, know that the difficult times in life are survivable.  It may not seem that way now, but only because you have had such a short life and maybe so few hard times. Each success in hurtling a storm will make you more equipped to face the next one.  By the time you reach my age, you will be a master and a teacher, and others will look to you for counsel in the stressful times.

Don’t take yourself or anything else for that matter, too seriously.  Learn to see the humor in everyday life and you will always have a smile on your face. You will find that humor will get you through a lot of difficult situations.

Always tell the truth.  No matter what, tell the truth.  It shapes your character for the rest of your life.  Make your word and your signature your most solemn promise.

Meet all sorts of people and value diverse relationships.  Learn to make and maintain friendships.  Some of the people in your life now will remain close to you for the rest of your life.  Make good memories.

Try all sorts of interests.  Join after-school activities. Take up a musical instrument.  Try out for a team.  All these things help you discover your strengths and weaknesses – all good knowledge.  And they make you a more well-rounded person.

Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol – just don’t!!!  They bring you nothing but heartache and will steal your life.  They will take everything from you and I do mean everything – your money, your job, your family, your home, your friends, your name, your trust, your health and finally your very life.

Finally, have fun!   These are some of the best years of your life – enjoy them. Go to school with a positive attitude.  Attend school functions.  Spend time with friends and family. Explore hobbies and sports.  Keep a journal.  Look for ways to share with others.  Be goofy.

Have faith in yourself.  You will do well and will be successful.

Remember, I will always be here to help you.

Your grown-up self

Childhood Christmases

When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.

It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.

The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.

Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.

I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.

But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.

Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.

We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.

No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.

Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.

We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.

Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.

I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.

Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree

Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!

I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.

My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.

For The Love Of Selvedges

So what the heck is a selvedge anyway?  Well, for those who really don’t know, it’s the edge of either side of a woven fabric, so finished as to prevent raveling.  That’s according to Merriam-Webster, that is.

To me, it’s the fun narrow border of a fabric that usually has written words and color dots, and more recently, colorful designs.  Selvedges have become so charming, I am absolutely enamored with them.

Sometimes selvedges will have more than just the name of the company and/or the name of the fabric.  Nowadays they will have words of wisdom, like these.

How can you go wrong, when your fabric tells you how the world should be!

And the selvedges with those cute characters!  I mean, who doesn’t love colorful, charming, little animals or objects just marching across the edge?  Usually the objects pertain to the pattern of the fabric and sometimes . . . who knows where the idea came from?

But I save all selvedges – the smooth edged and the ruffly edged.  I cut the selvedge plus at least one inch of fabric.  That way, when I overlap the selvedges to make fabric, I will get some of the color.

Which is why I save the selvedges – to make more fabric out of the strips.  Sounds insane, I know, but it is so great-looking.  I have covered my sewing room chair with that fabric. Here’s a photo:

Also made a tote.

Basically, once you make a piece of fabric from the strips, you can do anything with that fabric.  Use it like any other fabric and sew into any shape you want.  The possibilities are endless.

I’m not sure why selvedges speak to me the way they do but I sure am hooked.  I confess that once I bought some fabric only because the selvedge was so outstanding.  My love of selvedges is so well known, that many people now save them for me.

It’s kind of like being a drug addict and having dealers who give me the drug for free.  I mean, really?  I once even talked a lady at my Quilt Guild Meeting, who had won a bag of selvedges as a door prize, into giving me the whole bag.  I think I need an intervention.

So next time you see a piece of fabric, look at the selvedges.  Careful!  You might become addicted, just like me!

Oh, I see some now!  Gotta go!

A Cat Named Starsky

It all started when I looked out into the backyard one day and saw a white rabbit hopping around.  He looked very domesticated and very lost.  So, of course, we adopted him and named him “Hutch.”  We thought that was very clever.

Within a month, I was coming home from work in the rain and saw a small cat in the street.  I stopped to see how I could help and when I opened my car door, a wet black cat jumped into my lap.

And that’s how we adopted a completely black cat who subsequently was named “Starsky” after the TV series “Starsky and Hutch.”  Now we thought we were practically brilliant at naming pets.

When I took Starsky to the vet to be checked out, the tech asked me all the necessary questions including the cat’s name.  I said I was a little embarrassed to tell her the cat’s name and she said that was okay – she had heard them all.

So I told her his name was Starsky, and how he got his name.  She said that was not bad. She actually thought I was going to say his name was “Sammy Davis Jr.”  Now that would be a great name for an all black cat!

We eventually gave Hutch to a friend who owned a farm, but Starsky lived with us for many happy years.  He grew up to be the best cat ever.

He was calm, gentle, playful and great with our two children.  They could easily dress him in clothes and he would never make a fuss.  Or put a hat on him and he would just stare at me with a “come help me” look on his face.

We even have a picture of him with red checkers all over him and the poor cat is just frozen in position.  He was the best!

He would let me carry him anywhere and would sleep on my lap.  He also slept at the foot of our bed at night.  He was quiet and didn’t snore a bit.  But he could also be playful. Have you ever seen a cat play fetch?  Well, our Starsky would!

If anyone would throw a bottle cap or fire a rubber band down the hallway, that silly feline would run as fast as he could, snatch the object and trot back with it in his mouth. Casually he would drop it at the thrower’s feet and wait for the next toss.

This would go on for as long as the thrower had energy or until Starsky got distracted by something fun . . . or maybe food.

Which brings me to poor Starsky’s weight problem.  He loved to eat and he was no athlete, so eventually he ballooned to a whopping twenty-five pounds.  Vet said, “Put him on a diet!”.

That’s when the begging began.  Our wonderful gentleman of a cat became a real pest for food.  At every meal there would be a little black paw running along the edge of the table, just in case any crumb happened to be there.  Steady as clockwork.

And our Starsky was a pacifist every day of his life.  He wasn’t a good fighter either.  I know, because after every disagreement with another cat, he had an injury on his backside.  Never anywhere else.  Always the tush – from him running away, I suppose.

Our Starsky set the standard for all the other cats we ever owned. He was the most mild-mannered, cutest, gentlest, funniest, best cat ever.

He left a huge hole when he was gone.  Hard to believe for such a small animal.  We still talk about him in all our “remember when” stories.

Everyone should have a pet like Starsky to enjoy and then remember forever.

My BFF

Paula has been my best friend since we were in sixth grade.  We are now seventy-two years old, so that’s . . . sixty years!  Hard to believe but true.

We lived close to each other and would often “meet in the middle,” which was halfway between our houses.  Sleepovers were common in those days, as they are today.

We clicked right away and did most everything together.  I remember when we taught ourselves sign language and would sit silently in the back seat of her family car, happily signing back and forth.

There was a time in high school when we made clothes alike, so we could dress like twins. I think we both secretly wished we were real sisters all those years.  Point of fact: we look nothing alike.  How we thought we would pass for twins is beyond me.

For several summers during high school, we went on vacation together with her family. Those are some of the greatest memories I have.  Especially the night we stayed outdoors on cots so we could see the deer come up to the cabin.  We planned to stay awake all night in shifts.  Well, the next thing I remember is us waking up in the morning and seeing the deer tracks where they had come up to investigate us while we slept.

Or the time we planned to row across the lake in a very small boat. That lasted about half an hour and it seemed we were getting nowhere.  So we turned around and came back. Best laid plans!

We shared most everything in those days – ideas, activities, goals, worries, laughs and dreams.  Where one went, the other was not far behind.

College found us going in separate directions – different career paths, different jobs, different friends.

After college, we stayed in touch by phone and letters.  We were in different states by then. We both got married and had two children each.   We visited each other a couple times during those years.

Then one day Paula called – she was getting divorced. How could we help?  “Come get me,” she said.  We helped her move and she stayed with us for nine months.

It was just like before.  We laughed.   We cried. We shared everything.  Paula and Gramps became gardening buddies.  Gramps would enter the house after work and announce, “Hi Honeys, I’m home!”

Paula has since moved out, remarried and bought a new home.  But we remain close.   She is my best friend forever.

We share a love of quilting and belong to the same Quilt Guild. We keep in touch with phone calls, lunches, birthday and holiday dinners and sleepovers.

The best part of our relationship is the shared history.   We don’t have to say a word. Sometimes a look will get us laughing and only we know why.  Everytime we get back together after a time apart, we just pick right up where we left off.  No awkwardness.  No reintroduction necessary.  We really know each other.

The two of us have been to many of our high school reunions over the years.  They have all been fun but the best part has been sharing them with Paula.  Remembering those years together has been most special.

In fact, Paula and I are going on a cruise this year for our high school fifty-fifth reunion.  We will be roommates for ten days to Alaska.  Can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with. (Except Gramps. But he didn’t go to my high school)

We are going to have so much fun.  Share such a wonderful trip.  And make more memories together.

Sisters

I have no natural-born sisters.  But sisters at heart – I have dozens!

A sister to me is a girlfriend whom I love, who loves me back, no matter what.  If I hurt her or if she hurts me, we forgive each other and carry on.

A sister revels in your successes and cries with you when you are sad.  She wants the best for you and will defend you to the death.

A sister believes the best of you and supports you in your efforts.  No one enjoys your good times more than she does or laughs louder at your jokes.  She also points out your mistakes and loves you through them.

A sister is a soulmate in many ways.  She shares your secrets and confidences.  She knows your likes and dislikes and can often predict what you will order at a restaurant.

I have such sisters in my Quilting Bee.  We have known each other for years and yet never get tired of each others’ company.  We often comment how we all feel the need to get together more often than we do because we miss each other when we are apart.

We give each other good advice and not just about quilting.  About everything really – cooking, entertaining, grandparenting, decorating, car repair, computing, marriage, etc.  I learn something every time we are together.

Our group is very eclectic and economically diverse, but you would never know it.  You’d think we were all from the same family by the amount of love in the room.

In all the years I have been a part of this group, I have never heard a harsh word against anyone.  There are no cliques or little gangs amongst us.  And I believe the only curse word I ever heard was said by me in a frustrating sewing moment.  (I know!  I’m still sorry!)

This group is so special to me.  I knew I had to be a part of them the moment I first met them.  It’s a good thing they turned out to be quilters and not miners, because I would be deep in the mines right now.

These dear sisters share everything – no holding back.  They will give anything that is needed – ideas, knowledge, tools, patterns, fabric, support, hugs.  They will sit beside you, go with you, stand behind you, hold your hand and pat your back.  I have seen them make meals, finish others’ quilts, clean a house, drive a friend, pick up a family member and babysit a dog.

And talk about huggers!  These gals are the best huggers in the world!  I can always count on getting my quota of hugs on Bee day.  I always feel so warm and loved.

My quilting sisters set the bar high for kindness and goodness.  They make me a better person by just being around them.  How could I not be a better me when surrounded by my mentors of such high caliber?  I hope to be just like each one of them when I grow up.

These sisters of mine are top-notch quilters, too.  How lucky am I to have the best teachers to guide me?  They challenge me gently to constantly improve my skills and to never accept less than my best from myself.

I dearly love my sisters and know they dearly love me.  I count the days until we are together again.  We will greet each other with hugs and smiles.  We will laugh, talk, share stories, show our quilting projects, eat and continue on with more of the same.  It never gets old.

We can’t get enough of each other.  My sisters and me.

A Good Book

Reese Witherspoon has written a wonderful book “Whiskey In A Teacup” about life and recipes from the South – Nashville to be exact.

But it’s not just a cookbook. Although the recipes are truly fantastic. I mean, who can pass up great tips to making Southern favorites like sweet tea, lemonade, pecan pie and fried chicken.

And all the other wonderful tried and true recipes from her family and friends. You can’t beat those special meals handed down from generations ago. They are each a small treasure to be guarded, enjoyed and passed on to the next generation.

Added to the recipes are the touching stories of her childhood years  in Nashville and the impact of her mother and grandmother They are priceless!

After such good training from such strong women, Reese can and does give us all appropriate advice on how to be beautiful and proper on the outside, and fierce and warrior-like on the inside. Hence the name of the book, “Whiskey In A Teacup”.

She shows how Southern friendship and community breeds women with good manners, hospitality and a sense of decor who will fight for the rights of others, see that everyone is fed and will never lose an argument.

Included is a list of Southern Expressions and a Southern Pronunciation Key so we can all understand each other. Although since I’m from Texas, I didn’t have any problem “talking’ Southern”. My favorite, of course, is “Well Bless Your Heart!” which, as Reese points out, has many meanings. The tone of the voice will tell you which version is meant.

A good portion of the book is devoted to how Southern women deal with entertaining especially during all the holidays. Of course, a Southern woman will tend to overdo everything, so Reese’s best advice is to try to simply as best you can. Good luck with that!

I really loved reading this book .It is charming. It is sweet. It is comforting. It is like a big hug from a friend. In fact, some people I know will be getting this book as a birthday or Christmas gift.

Shh – don’t tell them!