Friday, July 31, 2015

A very special quilt

My husband and I, my sister, both sons and a daughter-in-law, have all graduated from Austin College in Sherman, TX. It is a very special college and one I'm proud to have been associated with. Its mascot is the Kangaroo (Go 'Roos) and so when Roo graduate son married Roo graduate daughter-in-law and then had Roo-to-be? baby boy, I knew what the next quilt had to be.

For each of my grandchildren, I've made two quilts, one for the crib and one for the "big person" bed, twin in size. I love to hand appliqué so all of them are done that way. For this latest quilt, I took inspiration from a wall-hanging I'd seen at Austin College, of Roo involved in various activities. My Roo would need to be doing things associated with their lives and doing them on a twin quilt, so I had to invent the pattern.

I completed it last night, signed my name in embroidery, and will hand it over to its still-crib-bound owner next week. His parents have already seen it, so this isn't a spoiler alert. Hopefully, if Blogger and I can get along, the explanation for the quilt squares will be under each photo.

Detail of the quilt, showing: Roo with kite, Roo in Maine with lobster pot and light house, Roo goes to church, Roo fishes, Roo as gymnast, Roo in the rain, and Roo in a blue sports car in front of our house.

Roo quilt, top to bottom: Roo doing yoga, Roo at beach, Scout Roo, Roo opening bottle of Mumm champagne, Roo snow skiing, Roo at football game, Roo walking their black dog, Roo golfing, three rows as described above, Roo water skiing, Roo barbecuing, Roo in love writing initials on a tree.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The July Round Robin: Pets in Books

It's a rare person or family who either does not have or has never had a pet. Pets become part of our families and lives. Study after study has shown that pets are valuable to us as companions. Scads of money has been thrown at these findings only to ascertain what pet owners already know.

That said, I've used pets sparingly in my books. I hadn't realized how sparingly until Robin suggested this topic. As a lifelong cat owner, I've only put them in one of my books, the romantic suspense Once Upon a McLeod. In it, the two black and white cats, Tuxedo and Penguin, are both comfort to the heroine and harbinger of the bad acts perpetrated upon her. If something's up with the cats, bad doings are afoot!

I've used large dogs, golden retrievers (personally, our first "children" were Cocker Spaniels, alas a breed which wouldn't have worked in these books), in After the Thunder Rolls Away and T's Trial. In the former, a household of men, the outgoing, rambunctious retriever was just the right companion. In T's Trial, an older, more staid retriever guards the door of the convenience store and checks out all who enter. At night, they sleep with "their" boys.

Pets add humanity to a story just as they add it to our personal stories. My house is empty without a cat. From now on, when I pen a novel, I shall have to think about whether my book is empty without them also.

Interested in how other authors view pets in novels? Check out my fellow Round Robin-ers:

Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Judith Copek
Marci Baun
Diane Bator
Anne Stenhouse
Skye Taylor
Rhobin Courtright

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A hard letter to write

The harshest, most demanding thing a writer faces is a blank page, whether it be paper or computer screen. The advice to "just put something down" helps a bit for novel writing, but how about a letter to be read 17 years from now?

Our grandson Grayson will be one year old this weekend. His parents want to make a time capsule for him to be opened on his 18th birthday. They've requested letters, thoughts, from his grandparents and family. I extended the invitation one more generation to his great-grands and a great-aunt. Grayson will have a pack of reading to do.

I think it's a clever idea. I'm happy to try to impart some grandparental wisdom that, over the course of the next 17 years, he may have heard before. But it's one thing in theory and it's another in practice.

I stared at a blank sheet of paper. Pen in hand, I started with "To Grayson on his 18th birthday from his grandmother." That's as far as I got for a while.

All sorts of thoughts crowded in. In 2032, when Grayson is 18, I'll be 81. If I'm still alive--and I'm planning on it, let me assure you--will I even know him? Will he have had opportunities to know me? Will we share secrets, well kept from our "common enemy," his parents? Will his future truly be as bright as I want it to be? Will his troubles just circle around girls and cars and whatever social media has yet to be invented? Will he be college-ready? Will he strive to fulfill the potential to be all that we want him to be?

Does anybody?

I wrote the letter, signed it. Reread it a day later and sealed the envelope. I think the most important thing I wrote was that I loved him. And in the end, now or in 17 years, that's what counts the most.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Watching the cat watch me

Tuxedo, our surviving house cat, came to us 14 years ago straight from his birth house. He's never known the outdoors or an unkind hand. He was petted and loved on from the moment momma cat would let him be. So why is he so suspicious?

Basically, he watches my every move. Where am I now and what am I doing? Am I moving toward the kitchen? Hasn't it been an hour since he last had his Sheba? It doesn't matter that dry food, Iams Lively Senior, is always available. Why have I gone upstairs? Am I coming down soon? Is he going to have to go watch me up there as well?

Side note: It wouldn't hurt him to haul his twenty-plus pound carcass up the stairs a few times a day. That said, if he's up and I'm going down, but will be right back up, I tell him to stay. Half the time he follows me to the top of the stairs and cast a gimlet eye. I tell you, the cat has trust issues.

His favorite perch in the mornings is the end of the couch by the front door. From this position, he has a view of the downstairs and the opportunity to know when I'm up or down. He'll stay there until lunch time (his perception thereof) and if I've not made sufficient movement toward the Sheba can, he'll climb the stairs and fetch me. Plaintive crying doesn't get him anywhere, but he has a doesn't-hurt-to-ask attitude about this.

During lunch (mine), he begs his way onto the table to help me read the Wall Street Journal. He's not interested in people food. Just the news. If I leave him on the dining table (I know, I know, he shouldn't be there in the first place), he'll cry to be helped down when he wakes from his post-news nap. If I don't get him, he'll plop first into a chair and then thump onto the floor.

The afternoons find us as companions either up or down. If I'm writing, he's sleeping in the chair. If I'm reading, he's at my side. If I'm gone, he's upset.

Dinner is at five or sooner if I make an untoward movement to the kitchen. Afterwards, he fixes himself on the couch in the den and awaits me to join him for our TV watching. He'll cuddle to my side and only move if I insist on combing him.

But nighttime he relishes on his own. Rarely does he come upstairs until four or five in the morning, patiently waiting for the alarm to go off and then to cry until he is allowed to escort me downstairs to his food bowl and the day begins again.

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