Christmas in Thirty Minutes

Writing, cooking and sewing are connected for me. So when I was writing about Laurie MacBride desperate for time to create, in Christmas in Thirty Minutes, I thought of a Santa and a little, funny Santa’s helper. The pattern for the little one, who is my cheered-up, chill version of the Swiss really cute hand-made Santa and Schmutzli, patternSchmutzli, is included in the book.

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The pattern for the bigger Santa will be available on the website in a few days. Until then, here’s a picture of them both.

Why not write a comment for a chance to win a blog give away?  You’ll win a signed copy of Christmas in Thirty Minutes. Click here to find the give-away description and to leave a comment.

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Visitor from Vermont

At Cottonseed Glory the other day, I had a wonderful surprise.  I was chatting with a customer when another customer picked up a copy of Solomon’s Puzzle and cried, “You’re the author of Solomon’s Puzzle?!” It turns out that Char bought the book from Doverstreet Books at a Vermont quilt show. She read it, stayed up all night, did no work until she finished… and best of all to me, she loved it!

I wonder what the chances are that she’d travel to Annapolis, visit Cottonseed Glory and find me there? Char and her daughter, Christy, were on a journey together. Christy runs marathons and they stop to visit quilt shops, too.  Their trip sounded wonderful.

I’m not sure how to express how grateful I am for each reader who takes the time to encourage me about my book. Writing is necessary for me, a part of me, but it is solitary; readers’ comments help to fuel my dedication and I love meeting new friends.

Thanks, Char, and all who have stopped by or written to me.

Char and me with "our" book

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Letter to My Brother

You asked what it was like when you were little and Daddy was still alive. Here’s whatvintage picture couple going to prom I’ve pieced together from what I remember and others have told me. I hope it helps you gather a sense of those happy years.

Mom discovered she was pregnant with you when we were still living on East Crescent Avenue. She had taken me to the doctor’s for something and I overheard her discussion with Dr. Botta. They probably figured I wasn’t paying attention. The doctor said something about the fact that when women get older they may ovulate at a different time than normal. Giggling as if she were a teenager, Mom’s reply was, “That explains it.” The “it” was the suspicion of you.

Though we were still living on East Crescent Avenue, Mom and Daddy planned to move to a bigger, brand new house on Beatrice Street. Of course, none of us girls wanted to move. We loved our home and were secretly overjoyed that our house had not sold. In fact, I remember moments in the old stone church when I would pray that we would never, ever move. I remember regular sessions, I think after weekly catechism class, where I whispered my urgent prayers and breathed back in whiffs of the holy water, the cool scent of the stone floor, the warm, melting smell of the candles and hoped. For months the house did not sell.

One evening after dinner we were called to the living room and Mom and Daddy announced that they were expecting a baby. From the first moments, they were overjoyed and excited. Gloria burst into tears and revealed that she had been praying for a little brother. At that moment, I knew that bigger plans than mine were unfolding and that we would indeed move to the bigger house where that would accommodate you and the riches you were about to bring to our family. Together, the five of us anticipated your arrival with increasing joy.

Mom was happy in her pregnancy and during it we moved and got settled on Beatrice Street. We three girls decided to rotate rooms so that each of us could have her own room for a year, then switch. So I was rooming with Gloria across the hall from Stefy and the ready nursery. One night in October I was awakened from a sound sleep. It was dark in the shadowy way that it is when there is some light coming from the hall and from outside the window. Daddy stood beside Gloria’s bed and she was propped up on one elbow. “It’s a boy,” he murmured, his voice astonished and full of awe. “We had a boy.” Gloria started screaming and crying for joy. I was happy too, and went back to sleep, having no idea how your terrific little brown-eyed presence would change my own dreams, for as you know, once I met you, I wanted most of all to have my own little brown-eyed boy.

Though Daddy never made us girls feel as if we were unwanted because of our gender, we knew he was especially delighted to be blessed with you – a son. And, why not? You were his namesake, a special and unexpected gift. He spent time rocking and feeding you, read to you and walked around with you. Not that you were fussy, because you weren’t. You were wide-eyed and delighted with the world and were an interesting and lovable child that both your parents and your three adoring sisters loved.

During the time at Beatrice Street, you were christened, learned to walk and began to talk. Stefy gave you rudimentary piano lessons, we fed you wonderful food, delighted in every new thing you did and saw and said; you were the brightest spot in everyone’s day. I remember that Daddy was protective of you around older, visiting children. He suspected that you were intelligent and liked to read to you. He was always concerned with people telling the truth, behaving decently and honorably and with courtesy. He tried to instill these qualities in you through his example and through dinner table discussions and talks in the evening of what was right and wrong, good and logical. Though you were too young to understand these, Daddy was trying to set the standard for how he wished you to behave and we were to all see to it that this happened. I particularly remember the care he took to give me a list of logical and scientific evidence that proved the existence of God and the truth of the Scripture. In the arrogance of my thirteenth year, I told him that I didn’t need proof. His response was that he thought it was important to use your mind as well as your heart in matters of faith and that he had needed some proof. I understood then that his faith was somewhat hard won. He had struggled with his father’s alcoholism, with his own individual way of thinking about things and had come to profound conclusions. This is your heritage, too, Dave, one he purposed to pass on to you.

One summer in Allendale before you were born, we went to a party at the Job’s house. I think they lived near the fire house but you know how I am with directions. I think it was an after-the-fireworks 4th of July party, but it may have been the Allendale’s Centennial party. Anyway, it seemed as if the entire town was there and the kids played outside until well past midnight. I remember finally going home and being in bed; sometime toward dawn I heard a horrible thud. I must have gone into Mom and Daddy’s room and there he was flat on his back on the floor – eyes closed, arms slack beside him. The next day we were called into the living room. Daddy explained that he had too much to drink the night before at the party and had passed out on the bedroom floor. He was not emotional or crying; his demeanor was serious and determined. He said, “I was wrong to drink that much and I want to apologize to you girls. It will never happen again.” Later, I understood that his grief over his own childhood where he had to carry his drunken father home to bed was the force that inspired him to change the world with his own little family. Before that incident he was never drunk and after the apology he kept his promise, making this memory one of my most cherished. His apology and his honesty about his own fault took me from terror and confusion to acceptance of him as a human being I could trust and emulate.

Daddy was a friendly, loyal and intelligent man. His IQ was reported to be over 140. He was, however, a terrible student. He was restless in school and liked to have fun. Though in life he had a wide variety of interests, in school he could not bear to study things that did not interest him. Therefore he would approach a class with the attitude that he’d devour every bit of knowledge about the aspects of the subject that interested him and to hell with the rest—even if it was to be on the exam. For this type of student, school is confining and so it is no wonder that he chose to go into the Army after high school and delay college.

All of his life, Daddy had armfuls of friends. He loved parties, community gatherings and talking to people. He was a respected volunteer, a hearty participator and welcome member of every community in which we lived. How often I have wished to have his friendly face at one of my gatherings! And now as I write this, I can picture his happy, interested face – there was an eagerness to be with people that was calm and steady and ready to enjoy. I think that you (and Stefy) have inherited this genuine ability to make people feel comfortable, the great love and thoughtfulness to keep connections with people alive and the kind of fun personality that makes any event enjoyable. Grandpa was different because he was charming—like a rainbow. Daddy wasn’t charming; he was dependable as the sun.

As you grew into a toddler, you became even more fun. I remember that Daddy did a lot of things with you, showing you things, taking you with him when he worked on projects in the house. You had a special, joyful relationship with him where you learned constantly and had fun doing it. You identified with him and I can still picture you walking with him, Daddy leaning over slightly to hold the hand you held up for his. After he died, I kept a picture in my mind of one of your favorite activities. When Daddy was sitting on the sofa, you liked to climb on his lap and play with him. One of your favorite things to do was to stand on his legs while he kept you steady. You would grab his ears in both your hands, put your forehead against his, press your nose onto his nose while your eyes stared into his. Then you would growl or yelp or scream. I think you were trying to scare him but it was all so funny everyone laughed.

But now that I think about it, I know that you were testing him. He stayed steady despite your fiercest antics. That’s essentially who he was and one of the most tragic things about his death is that it was so unlike him to be ephemeral. It was against his nature to be short-lived. But I also know that you were memorizing him. He was your example, your best buddy and you wanted to align yourself with him, to be his mirror. In your unknowing but earnest way, you meant to grasp the standard he had set for you in his own life, in his cherished hopes and in all he loved and believed. And somehow I think it worked. Were he with us in the body today, he would still be delighted with you.

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MacBeth, Resurrection and the Seeds of Faith, Part 1

This week a woman died while giving birth, and her child was taken—himself gray and lifeless— by caesarian section. But in moments, the baby was revived and then the mother abruptly came back to life. This news story compelled me. I watched the TV interviews and read all I could find on it. The situation reminded me of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and seems a fitting idea for the start of a new year.

old used copy of MacBeth

May critics and students consider Shakespeare’s Macbeth “just too dark.” This is probably due to the movies made of the play, because the play is really about the redemption of life. The story introduces Macbeth as a warrior so fierce he battled a traitor to Scotland

…with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valor’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which nev’r shook hands, nor bade farewell to him
Till he unseamed him from thenave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements…(1.2.18-24)

This means that Macbeth cut his way through the battle so fiercely that his sword steamed with his enemy’s blood (smoked with bloody execution) and then in one motion opened him (unseamed him) and chopped of his head. Mighty, ruthless, peerless was Macbeth.

After the battle maybe he was tired. He was vulnerable, because when he meets three witches on the heath, he succumbs to the trap they set to arouse and inflame his ambition. When his King honors him, Macbeth, who “should against his (King’s) murderer shut the door,/Not bear the knife”(1.7.25-26)himself, repays the king by murdering him in his trusting sleep while he visits Macbeth’s castle.

Things go downhill from there. During the night after the king is murdered, things go strange in Scotland. Dark and “unruly” where “lamenting heard” and “strange screams of death,” it was said that “the earth/Was feverous and did shake” and that horses were biting each other. Anyone who has met a horse knows this is weird. As time goes on, darkness remains even during daylight,an odd occurrence described as”By the clock, ‘tis day/ And yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp”(the sun)2.4.6-7) All this to show that what was normal and natural in Scotland is no more.

Things go further downhill from there. Macbeth is crowned king, but now his ambition devours his humanity: he wants to be king forever. He murders his best friend whose descendents were prophesied to be future kings; he seeks more help from the witches and though he is told that no one born of woman can harm Macbeth, he cannot rest. Everyone’s born of woman, right?

The witches also whisper to “Beware Macduff” another mighty Scots warrior, and though Macbeth reasons that Macduff must have been born of a woman he fears him enough that he murders his wife and children.

This is why people think it is a dark play, a king, a best friend and innocents murdered. I agree. Macbeth is as bad as they come; his will consumes him. He’s too strong to be so weak inside.

In the end of the play, Macduff defeats Macbeth. He is able to do so because he was not born of a woman. In the battle where they face one another, Macbeth knows his army is defeated, but he stays to fight believing no one can kill him. Macduff tells Macbeth that he was “from his mother’s womb/Untimely ripped”(5.8.15-16)

Some scholars say that Macduff was born by a caesarean section. This cannot be the whole story. Many of us have thus been born by c-section and our mothers are still women. No, Macduff’s situation was like that of the mother and child in this week’s news. His mother must have died and he was cut out to save him.

We know that Shakespeare considered those past life to be genderless. This is shown in the famous grave scene in Hamlet when the prince asks the gravedigger about the person to be buried. Through witty dialogue (5.1.130-135) the gravedigger establishes the idea that the dead body is now neither man nor woman.

winter window sheaf of wheat

Thematically also, Macduff had to be born from death. Like the seed that “remains alone unless it falls to the earth and dies” so is the miracle of new life. It is Macduff who brings life back to Scotland. He stops the tyrant; he restores sunlight and order to the land and sees that the good King is crowned. The miracle of Macduff’s birth, having defeated death, coming from death with the power we all long for—the power to stop oppression, to stop death–qualified him in a symbolic way to end the tyranny of death and establish life.

In this way, Shakespeare’s Macbeth creates a stunning and satisfying picture of redemption. It is something we all wonder about and long for.

My fifteenth birthday came just two months after my father’s death. When opening gifts, my mother handed me a small, rectangular package. As I tore the paper off, she said, “This is from your father.” For just an instant, I thought maybe the awful reality was not true—

For just one moment I thought him alive again.

That moment, the feeling of wonder and hope of what it would have been like to get him back again has never left me. I understand how Lazarus’ sisters must have felt to see him emerge from the tomb, how the young father this week must have felt when his wife and son were given back to him.

On the first day of this new year, I wish you new life. May the Lord turn your mourning into joy; may he restore and heal and redeem all you lost or messed up last year. He’s good at that.

Read more… Seeds part 2

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Book Lovers Block of the Month Pattern!

Hi Book Lovers Club!

Jan holds up the kitty cat quilt she just finished!The morning and evening sessions of the Book Lovers Block of the Month Club at Cottonseed Glory in Annapolis made some beautiful things this month.

The class is learning to draft, then sew blocks.

Look at the originality!

Jan accomplished the impossible! She cleaned out her sewing room and finished a quilt!

Marybeth, in this picture, hiding behind her artRising Sun block, is making the original Solomon’s Puzzle Quilt. Here’s her Rising Sun block:

Laura won a “cupcake basket” at a recent quilt show. She made this from some of her winnings.cupcake quilt

Each of us is in awe of Lora’s color choices and workmanship.goose in the pond?

Kelly took one of her daughter’s drawings and created this lovely quilt block from it.house block quilt

Karen finished her Solomon’s Puzzle quilt. As soon as she sends me a picture, I’ll post it.  I’d love to post a picture of Michelle’s quilt, too.

Mary finished her Solomon’s Puzzle quilt from last year. I love the French Country colors. Solomon's Puzzle quilt based on the novel by Loris Nebbia but in yellow and blue

She also finished this year’s quilt early… 5 months early.

Mary with her Christmas heritage quilt

Dorothy finished her Solomon’s Puzzle quilt last year and entered it in our local guild’s show.  I don’t have a picture of the finished quilt but I do have this photo of Dorothy’s painted plan.  Plan for Solomon's Puzzle quilt

Kitty is hiding behind her wonderful block of an old fashioned school house. A prolific quilter and paper-piecing expert, Kitty has our admiration.  This is one of many blocks she finished this month, each perfect and beautiful.

a wonderful retired teacher hiding behind her school house block

Here’s the Syllabus Book Lovers Block of the Month April-Dec for those of you who asked for it… remember it is subject to change!

Here’s the PDF of the paper pieced version of  the Morning Star 3 pattern that you all loved so much in class on Monday.  As soon as yours is sewn, send me a picture so I can post it! morning star quilt block

Kim finished a warm, classy baby quilt in a bee motif. Send me a picture, Kim, so I can post it.

We missed all of you who were away or busy and those who were part of the class last year.  Send me pictures of your finished Solomon’s Puzzle Quilts and I’ll post them.

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