Posts filed under ‘Mom’

Best Fortune Cookie EVER!

Best fortune ever!Is this not the best fortune for a quilter to find in her cookie? It’s  been stuck on my bulletin board for probably a decade; I even photocopied it once or twice in case it ever got lost.  

OK, so it says “rags.” “Scraps” would have been much better, but it has the word QUILT on it!

Perhaps my dinner partners will recall where I was and who they were, because it’s been so long ago and there have been so many wonderful meals with students over the years that I can’t remember. The food was great, the company even better, and the memento of the evening was the quilty fortune. 

Mom really enjoyed the party.When my mother turned 70 I made her a photo-transfer quilt. If you have a copy of Creating Scrapbook Quilts, you’ll see it on the cover. They story of how I pulled off the surprise quilt and the surprise birthday party is on page 41. The best picture of her being surprised is this one. (She had a pretty good time at the party.)

I bring this up because I had her surprise party at a Chinese restaurant and mail-ordered special fortune cookies for the event. (Yes, you can do that!) I think there were four different messages in the custom cookies, but I can only remember two: “You’re going to kiss an old lady.” and “There’s a little piece of rice stuck on your upper lip.”

What's your fortune?You can also make your own digital fortune cookie image here. Just type in what you want it to say.

And your fortune would be…..what?

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August 23, 2010 at 2:57 am 10 comments

The Fragrance of Memory

When I was little my mother wore deep red lipstick and Chanel Number 5.

It was fun to watch Mom put on makeup  because it meant she and Dad were going out, or people were coming in. It was exciting either way.

She’d stand in front of the mirror and begin by stroking the lipstick three times right in the middle of her upper lip. Lipstick to the right, then to the left, a quick schmear on the bottom lip, and then she’d move both lips together a few times to even out the coverage.

She’d blot with a piece of toilet paper and that was the extent of her “toilette.” There might have been some eyebrow pencil going on but I mostly remember the lipstick. I can see her now in my mind’s eye. What a good memory.

My family didn’t air kiss. You got kissed on the lips or on the cheek. And if you got lipsticked somebody was always there to rub it off, taking two or three layers of skin with it.

Mom only wore perfume when she dressed up. And it was always Chanel Number 5. She’d spray it on one wrist and then rub both wrists together. She smelled so good.

When I find myself by a perfume counter I always test the sample. The aroma carries me back to Mom. I hear her high heels on the wooden floor and the jangling of her bracelets. Funny how we have a mind’s “nose” and a mind’s “ear” too.

This past Christmas when I was mall-walking and Macy’s opened early for holiday shoppers I think I made a pest of myself at the perfume counter. I hoped  the Chanel Number 5 would go on sale; it never did. They probably had to break out a new sample bottle.

Recently, I finally got up the energy to clean out more of Mom’s things. She’s been gone over a year now, but I haven’t been in any hurry to tackle the stuff left behind when she moved out of my house and into Assisted Living in 2006.  To  my great surprise I found three bottles of Chanel Number 5! She hadn’t worn perfume for a really long time. I think she was saving it.

So, for the last few months I’ve been wearing exorbitantly expensive  perfume around the house. I’m not saving it. I squirt it on one wrist and then rub both of my wrists together just like Mom did, even if I’m wearing jeans and sneakers. And throughout the day I sniff my wrists and bring back Mom to my mind’s eye. She’s young and healthy, and she remembers my name, and I tell her how much I miss her. And that I will always love her.

Thanks for the perfume, Mom.

February 25, 2010 at 3:48 am 84 comments

Thank you, Tiffany!

You have proven...The words embroidered on the top and bottom inner borders of the quilt I just finished say:

“You have proven that the actions of a single person can make a profound difference in the lives of others. Thank you!”

I pieced the quilt and embroidered those words during the 27 days that my mother was in hospice last year.

This quilt is a gift for the young woman who took such very good care of my mother at the Alzheimer’s facility where she lived for the last three years of her life.

Tiffany cared for my mother amidst very trying circumstances, with kindness, compassion and devotion. It was Tiffany who “brought her back to life” on more than one occasion, getting Mom to eat, and to move again after falls that would have surely ended her life hed Tiffany not have been there.

Tiffany stayed at Mom’s bedside after Jennie and I were summoned from Houston, so she wouldn’t be alone until we got there. She did this on her own time after her shift had ended, off the clock, as a friend.

Tiffany's QuiltThe names of  18 of the residents who lived with Mom are inked on the wrong side of 2″ x 6″ purple fabric in the middle of Tiffany’s Quilt. They are sashed and bordered with fabric that my mother hand dyed. I used the pillowcase from her bed as the backing. The embroidery floss was my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s.

I quilted funky feathers in the outside border, hanging hearts in the sashing, and various meandering stitches among the names.

Thank you!I gave Tiffany the quilt top after Mom died and, in typical quilter fashion, told her I had to have it back to finish it. Embarrassingly, that was more than a year ago!

It is finally finished and I get to give Tiffany her quilt today!

Between the piecing and the quilting, Tiffany now works  part-time for me at Mallery Press, is a volunteer for the AAQI, and a caregiver for a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. In her spare time she goes to college, races cars , and works at Ba Doy Ow! I am honored to have her as a friend.

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February 8, 2010 at 2:09 am 39 comments

I Was On The Radio

Erika Funke WVIA radioI had the honor and priviledge of being interviewed by ArtScene host and producer Erika Funke at NPR affiliate WVIA in Pittston, Pennsylvania this past June. 

I was teaching for several guilds in the area. Erika was willing to stay late at the station, and the quilters toting me around were willing to make a detour so that I could talk about taking care of Mom and the Alzheiemer’s Art Quilt Initiative.

I’ve been interviewed a couple of times over the phone where I can pace and perspire in the comfort of my own home, but actually being in a radio studio, an NPR studio, was so exciting, and thrilling! It was also just a little terrifying. 

In addition to worrying what Erika would ask, what I would say, and who would hear it, I also worried about uncontrolled coughing, sneezing, hiccupping and other embarrassing bodily noises that might be released in my nervous state.

Talking on the radio with Erika Funke.As soon as we began talking, Erika put me at ease.  I knew she was genuinely interested and she was going to help me through this.

Yes, the microphone has to be right in front of your nose. We peered around our respective obstacles as we chatted.

Erika is part mime, part actress, and part mind reader. Without speaking (with just facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures) she let me know if I was on track, or if I needed to expand on a thought, offer clarification, or leave it and move on. 

Talking with Erika Funke, WVIA in PennsylvaniaAfter I returned home I sent Erika digital files I had made of Mom and I singing together. You’ll hear those at the end of the interview.  

Please listen to the podcast of our interview, made available by WVIA on their website. Here is the direct link:

There is information at the end of the interview about the Susquehanna Valley Chorale. They have just hosted “Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece” and will be performing “Alzheimer’s Stories” for the very first time on October 9 in Bucknell University’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts in Lewisburg, PA.

Composer Robert S. Cohen and librettist Herschel Garfein created a stunning 30-minute, three movement choral work with chamber orchestra accompaniment from the comments about Alzheimer’s posted gathered on the Chorale’s web site. If you are anywhere near Lewisburg, don’t miss it.

This interview was first broadcast on October 1, 2009.

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October 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm 10 comments

OK, I Changed My Mind. Again.

I’m allowed.

In speaking with the quilt in question, the one made from Mom’s shirts, we decided that my original anal plan was the one go with. It felt more comfortable.  It involved less “quilty thinking” and more “Mommy thinking,” which was the whole reason to make the quilt.

I was stressing too hard about my assymetry. It happens. I retreated to my comfort zone.

There is another quilt brewing that will be a little wackier, but this one just needed to begin and be done. The angst of planning it (or letting go, as the case may be) was overshadowing its primary purpose, so Mom and I went back to Plan A.

How anal is that?

Mom's Shirts Quilt Fairly. I cut up 12 different shirts a different color. From each shirt I cut six of each of the three size.” (I planned on a few leftovers.)  The fabrics were distributed evenly throughout the quilt top. I studied and squinted, and found no duplicate blocks. (If you spot one, please keep it to yourself.)

I created a series of three nesting templates so that I could center each of the  four squares precisely. The grain of each patch in the block runs in the same direction. Every time I fused I smelled the detergent the Alzheimer’s facility used and I smelled Mom. I probably should have just skipped the quilt and ironed her shirts.

Originally I was going to hand blanket stitch everything in place by hand. I gave that up after the first block. Majorly annoying, a real pain in the fingers. Cotton and spandex knit does not give itself up to the needle easily. Neither does the fusible interfacing that backs each background square, nor does the fusible web 1/2″ under the raw edge.  (Yes, each of the 54  6″ background blocks,  all 72 blocks (and their corresponding  fusible web) were fussy cut. And you wonder why this is taking so long?) 

The next plan was to blanket stitch around the outside edges through backing and batting, “blanky-quilting” it down.  The thought of wrestling the concentric squares (attached to the quilt) around and around made my wrists ache, so I opted to do that part block by block, pivoting at each corner. Thank you, Sulky; I love the 30 wt black cotton—all 500 yards of it. And yes, I did fish the tails to the back, tied two square knots to secure them, and hid the tails in the stitching… 216 times. Repetition frees the soul.


I joined the blocks with a sashing strips (regular quilting weight cotton) so the thick seams of Mom’s pants (the black) would never have to be folded back onto itself. It’s a heavy quilt, but it will be flat. I hand-basted each seam allowance in place with water soluble thread so that it would stay where I put it. Who knows when I’ll get to quilting it.

For right now, I’m putting it away so I can move on to other things. I’ve saved all the extra fabric. I’ll let the quilting design percolate a little before I decide exactly what to do.  Too many decisions right now.  I’m going to iron some more of her shirts and see what I feel like.

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April 17, 2009 at 7:01 am 27 comments

More Better

I have two quilts planned for Mom’s clothes.  Since she or I made most of her pants, and when she was well she wore pretty wild stuff, I decided Goodwill would never find a long-legged match for them. Besides, they were beyond “gently used.”  There will be a quilt from her pants later, maybe with a wild sock border. Still pondering.

Mom’s shirts were another story. They were fairly new and I felt a little guilty about chopping them up. Nonetheless, they have been “filleted” (cut apart at the seams, another Mom-ism) and as I work around the stains, I’m feeling better about it.

I knew from the start I wanted a series of  squares within squares set on black with a hand-sewn blanket stitch in black perle cotton around all the raw edges. Not that my Bernina wouldn’t do a fantastic job, this quilt just needed to be needled by hand, slowly, over time, to let the sad out and the happy back in.

So, the last couple of days I’ve been fusing Pellon’s 906F, a very lightweight fusible interfacing, to the wrong sides of Mom’s cotton/spandex shirts and the two pair of LLBean extra long black stretch slacks. I got to cutting the patches out and arranged the first four last night.

Mom's quilt begun

There was something very satisfying about the colors. Each block would be a different combination. It would be bright, and cheery, and… boring.

Mom wasn’t like that. She was wild and exciting. Although she could, she never colored within the lines.  That had already been done before. And she never lined things up! I’m the anal one. I’m Monk. I actually took a ruler and measured all four sides on each square in an attempt to get the patches perfectly centered, one on top of the other! And yes, it DOES bother me that the blocks aren’t lined up in the photo. I can’t imagine how long I would have fretted before fusing. Nope. This wasn’t her.

More better This may not be her either, but as she would have said, it’s “more better.”

I can still see too much me in there, but it’s a start. Maybe with practice I can push a patch or two beyond the boundary of the patch beneath it. That will be my new challenge.

I was thinking of drawing a line 1/8″ from the edge so that all the stitches would be even. Maybe I should purposely make some really long instead. I need to embrace my inner asymmetry. With each design choice, I will channel Mom. What would she have done? Wish me luck!

January 28, 2009 at 7:18 am 23 comments

Wigging Out

Madison T. Dog here again. Mom’s laughing too hard to type. She was cleaning out Beebe’s closet upstairs and found her clown wig. My Nannie used to be a clown.

Baby Beebe


She went to Clown College when she was in her mid-70’s so she could entertain the old people. She talked in a funny voice, painted faces, and once got stopped by the cops on the way to a performance. (She was dressed in her clown outfit at the time.)

All the reminiscing. It was such fun. And then Mom leaned over with the wig and before I knew what was happening I was blond and curly!

Wigging out. I’m hoping I get an extra scoop of kibble for this.

Could I please remind readers that I am a BOY dog. Is there a union representative I should be talking with?

Whatever you do, do NOT under any circumstances tell the squirrels in the back yard. I would never be able to live it down. I’m just grateful they have dial-up and won’t wait until all the pictures load.

Madison, like President Madison, not Dolly.

January 26, 2009 at 7:27 am 30 comments

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Ami Simms

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