Thursday, March 26, 2015

The blue bells will soon be blooming!

I think Spring is my favorite season of the year.  As soon as the willow tree begins to change to chartreuse, that wonderful yellow green, I know the daffodils are not far behind.  For some reason, I do not have crocuses in my gardens, so daffodils are the first flower to bloom.  This morning my little petite daffodils are blooming profusely.  The larger daffodils are in bud and the tulip leaves have popped up;the pansies I planted last fall are coming back. 

I am waiting patiently for the blue bells (grape hyacinth) to show signs of flowers to come.  I am very much aware that these little bulbs can take over a garden.  So far I have kept mine clumped in the space I have for them.  This fall I need to divide the clumps and find more places for them to grow freely.

I have a history with blue bells.  My favorite springtime flower is the daffodil in all of its forms.  But my first memory of a springtime flower was of the flowers we called blue bells.  

I grew up in the country about a mile outside of East Petersburg, PA in the middle of Lancaster County.  My childhood home was, and is still surrounded by farmland.  Fields were plowed every spring and crops rotated every year.  Mr. Rohr owns the land to the east, and for many years used mules to pull his plow or wagons in the fall. 

The Hottenstein family farms the land to the north and the Landis's farm is to the west and south.  It was the Hottenstein field to the north that I remember in the Spring.  Blue bells covered the field just across the road beyond the asparagus patch.  This specific Spring I may have been 2 or 3...pretty little.  I shared a bedroom with my older sister, Joanna.  And both of us still took naps.  

This day, we had asked and I imagine pleaded and  begged our mother to take us to pick blue bells.  The picking of the blue bells became the reward for taking a nap.  And so after lunch, off we went to bed.  I remember nap time as a lot of talking and giggling between Joanna and me, resulting in my mother calling from the foot of the stairway reminding us to "settle down or else".  At age 2 or 3  I did not understand what was so important about naps.  But they were a regular part of those early years. And I do remember what "or else" meant.  I am sure we tried to be good nappers that day.  The reward was worth being quiet for a while. 

 Finally up after our naps, we eagerly scrambled down the stairs, and  gathered sweaters and bandannas to head out and walk the gravel road we called the "Stoney Road " down the hill to the field of blue bells.  We headed out the back door around to the front of the house, and to our utter shock, Mr. Hottenstein had plowed the field while we were napping.  The Blue Bells were  gone!  The field where they had been was now a freshly turned expanse of brown dirt.
about the time of this story maybe 1949
I don't remember how we reacted.  I just remember the blue bells were gone.  That memory, however, has stayed with me.  I pay attention to when flowers bloom, and how much time I have to enjoy them.  And if I want to pick flowers, I do.  Its is like taking time to smell the roses. It also means that as I plan my gardens around my house, I plant bulbs and seeds for flowers that are specifically grown for cutting.  It is more than gardens for me to enjoy outside.  In the spring there are daffodils and tulips, blue bells and lily-of- the-valley. When summer arrives there are stalks of lilies, cosmos, zinnias, roses, daisies and bee balm so that I can cut bouquets for the house.  And when Emma comes to visit, the question is usually "may I pick flowers, Nana?"  And you may have guessed, the answer is always "yes!".
My mother Anna Mary Neff keeping an ever watchful eye

I see grape hyacinths every spring, and every spring I remember the flowers plowed under while I took the
mandatory nap!  And every spring, I gather a bouquet of the little blue bells from my garden for my kitchen table, and forgive my sweet, sweet mother one more time.

I wish your spring filled with sunshine, flowers
  .....and peace.             Rachel
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

...all is right with the world

I am torn.  I really like good news and good stories.  However, sometimes that attitude lulls me into feeling like if I just maintain a bright and cheerful attitude, all will be right with the world.  Right now, that feels like a PollyAnna kind of attitude.  Being right with the world has a broader scope than just being happy and positive and upbeat.  

My case and point.  In December we were able to give 21 quilts to children at the Mission here in Staunton.  One part of me is taken aback that there are 21 children in our community who are homeless and sheltered, with at least one parent, at our local Christmas!  I start to wonder how and why, then I stop.  It is not about the who or why or why can't they.  It is about humans beings in need.  So I was grateful that when I set all of my judgements aside, I could simply gather up all of the small quilts we had in the shop....and sent them off to be shared with children who needed them.  

Then came another e-mail after Christmas.  Several women at the mission were waiting the arrival of new babies.  I must admit the "how can that happen, don't they know any better"  judgement clicked in.  I am not proud of that thought.  And I jerked my self righteous person back to being present, and realizing it is not about how or why.  It is about human need.  

Today, one of my dearest friends,  Nadene Brunk sent an e-mail from Haiti this week.  She founded Midwives for Haiti, a growing non-profit organization that teaches Haitian women...and men to be skilled birth attendants: prenatal, birthing and post natal care.  They serve rural communities via mobile clinics and they also work with Hospital Ste. Terese.  Inventory of the medicines on hand would show that they are out of and low on essential medicines needed for prenatal care and delivery. 

In both these instances I was brought to the thought that  I take so much for granted.  Even with the health care issues in our country....there is always medicine for treatment of my illness or pain.  And if one treatment does not work, there is another one to try.  My granddaughter was delivered by a midwife in a well lighted, well equipped hospital.  She came home with her mother to a warm home and her own crib.  I have no concept of a situation that would leave her parents homeless and waiting for her birth in a shelter.  I cannot imagine living in a country where drugs for their care are scarce.  

At the very least, I have an inventory and personal stash of fabric that can be turned into small quilts for new babies.  I am touched by the pretty quilts that have been shared for the babies due at the Mission.  They are beautiful.  They are the kind of quilts that I would give to a new baby in my family.  No one said, "It's only for the Mission, it doesn't  matter what they look like".  They brought quilts in soft baby colors and bright colors.  A gift from their loving quilting heart.  

Judgement set aside.  All things in this world are not equal or fair.  Some of our human brothers and sisters suffer, and I feel like there is nothing I can do to make a difference.  When I feel on the edge of helplessness, I make a quilt.  And for the Midwives for Haiti, I send a donation, remembering that when I am hurting and arrive at my doctor's office, I want and expect appropriate medicines.  My gifts, small as they seem to me are added into the gifts of others to make a difference.  They will brighten one new mother's day as she wraps her baby in a new quilt. A midwife in rural Haiti will have enough medicine to treat a mother with needed medicine or supplies like gloves and sutures and catheters. 

So when I say "all us right with the world" I am challenged to do (even) one small thing to help it to be that way.  If you have a small quilt to share (no bigger than 50 x 60 inches, or smaller for a new born) bring it to the shop and we will pass it on.  If you want to help stock Hospital Ste. Therese with needed medicines for maternity and obstetrics, check: Midwives for Haiti.  I am learning in every experience of giving that the old adage: "every little bit helps" is absolutely true.                                                                  ~~ Rachel
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent 2014

If you are on facebook and follow my postings, you know that the season of Advent is important to me.  I light one more candle every Sunday.  I also pay attention to the Spiritual preparation that is part of this season.  Worship, meditation, seasonal reading.

I learned about Advent many years ago as the Church of the Brethren moved toward finding meaning in some of the traditions outside of the Anabaptist faith.  Two of those were Lent and Advent. I think Lent is a little easier to wrap my mind around as a faith practice than is Advent.  

Advent gets all mixed up in buying, more buying and lack and plenty.   Do we have all the gifts purchased and wrapped?  Is the house decorated; are there enough lights on the tree?  Will the neighbors appreciate my tastefully decorated house?  Are meals planned and events scheduled?  How much can I do and not become completely worn out??  These are issues for me this year.  I no longer have the knee pain that slowed me almost to a full stop Lat year.  I depended on Kay to help me work around my knee pain.  This year, gifts are purchased, some even wrapped.  The tree is up and fully decorated.  Evergreens are scattered throughout the house. I have the Christmas Dinner Menu planned.  My little family will be gathering Christmas Eve Day.  And I am going to be ready.

I  have heard much this year and years past, about putting Christ back into Christmas, and remembering the reason for the season.  The latter is a little more honest the the former.  As I think about it, putting Christ back into Christmas would take us back to a very simple and glitz-free celebration.  All of our tinsel and glitter and over the top gift giving has been added in to what Christmas is....a Mass celebrated for the birth of the Christ Child.  Gift giving began when a bishop in Turkey gave money so that a father did not have to sell his three daughters into slavery in order to survive. If he sold them, they would be slaves, but they would not starve. Legend has it that the bishop threw gold coins into the house and they landed in stockings that were drying by the fire.  I've also read he put the gold coins in stockings drying on the bushes.  Take your pick.  It was a man of God, rescuing a very poor family from desperation.  So putting Christ back into Christmas means I would have to really know the poorest of the poor in order to know what their needs would be so that I could help them live a better life. 

I am not ready to dump the traditions that have grown up around this time of the year. I enjoy my live Christmas tree and the gifts I am able to give to my children.  I enjoy dinners with friends and programs put on by my favorite  little ones. I enjoy opening a gift chosen just for me and wrapped beautifully.  There are more greens scattered about my house because I feel better and can do more. 

But when I hear someone say "let's put Christ back in Christmas", I am pretty sure that putting Christ back in most of our holiday preparations would make him very uncomfortable.  Putting Christ back in Christmas would mean we would not be shopping frantically and Black Friday would a thing of the past.

This year, remember the reason for this season, and take it more seriously.  Here at Rachel's we have a stack of quilts for homeless children and abused children being removed from their homes.  It is a beautiful stack.  This morning our contact at the police department called.  They need 3, one of those for an infant.  We cry.  I am glad to have them to give out.  My heart breaks when we have to. 

The call this morning was a reminder again that the Christ Child was born to poor parents and arrived in Bethlehem too late to find a comfortable place to stay.  In his lifetime, Jesus' ministry focused on the poor and the sick and the mentally ill.  Some how we have have moved pretty far away from the early Christmas traditions.  So this year, I am paying more attention to simplicity and quiet and gentle celebrations. I will remind myself about the reason we celebrate in the first place.  I am not sure where that will take me.  But I will be open to the reason for this holy season. 

I shared this hand made creche on my FaceBook page the second week of Advent.  I bought this piece in a market in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007.  I could not haggle over the price of  a nativity.  So I gave the young girl what she asked.  She cried as she wrapped it for travel.  I cried as she handed it to me, wiping her tears.  For one instant  I put did put Christ back in Christmas.  One instant.  I want to do more.  

I wish for each of you a gentle Holy time of celebration this season.  Friends and family close. Gifts we love. And remembering the reason..........

                                                      Peace,   ~~~Rachel

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I love to write.....

Sometime in 2003, I came across a book entitled The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  It is a workbook: exercises to do and list of questions to work through.  It made me think about the creative process. And it helped me to write with a different sense purpose.  One of the assignments at the beginning of the book was to write three pages of whatever was running around in my mind.  Write in long hand, just whatever was there.  Then throw the pages away.  I would write, but I liked the process and what I was writing and decided not to throw my pages away.  

finishing # 57  ready for # 58

Instead, I buy an inexpensive composition book.  I like college ruled pages.  I cover each one with a favorite fabric from my stash, (1/3 Yard) or one I buy on a trip, or one someone has given me.  Sometimes the fabric is seasonal.  Sometimes it is just pretty fabric.   I use Heat and Bond..the original heavy cover the composition book.  And then I set to writing.  As I fill one journal, I look for the next fabric.  I have numbered my journals; yesterday I wrote in the last pages of journal #57.   This morning I began #58.
Essentials for my morning writing.
My morning pages have become part of my daily ritual.  The alarm rings, the coffee grinder begins to buzz and the coffee brews...set on a timer.  I get up, brush my teeth and wash my face. No TV, no news, no radio.  I pour my coffee in a favorite tall china mug.  (They call them "beakers" in England.) I settle in to my favorite chair, usually with a quilt on my lap.  I read the daily entry from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and then I write.

These  journals have opened me to deeper creativity.  They help me work through anger, grief, separation, sadness as well as reminding me of the joy, grace, peace, and gratitude for the goodness in my life. When I began this writing, I was simply hoping it would open my creative block.  What I discovered was that it opened me to more than just my creative ideas.  It has moved me to be more present, open and receptive to the world in which I live.  It has deepened my faith, and taught me about quiet meditation, and sometimes, simply silence.  I am present more,  listen more, see more, and find simple joy is every day.  And sometimes a journal almost speaks to me out loud.  The journal I was writing in when my marriage fell apart-- literally came apart at the seam, and the cover fell off.  I held it all together with a rubber band and some gross grain ribbon until I had written on every page and could move on to the next one.  

It was never in my plan to continue the journal writing this long.  I had never been one to keep up with diaries and journals.  Somewhere along the way, it has become a habit.  I write almost every morning.  If Emma sleeps over, there is no early morning quiet time.  When I go to worship Sunday mornings, I leave the house earlier than on weekdays...and I have not gotten into the habit of getting up earlier so that I can write.  Sunday my writing happens in the afternoon.  But my favorite time is to write first thing in the morning. 

All of my journals are covered in a different fabric.  It is a wonderful stack.  I used to think that they might make good reading for my family when I am gone.  Now I look at the stack and think they probably won't have the time.  But if they want to know how I was feeling on a certain day, they can go back to a date, as I sometimes do now, to read about where I have been, what I was thinking, and often how I was feeling.  And they will know what has been important to me as the years have gone by. 

I love my morning ritual.  I think it helps my day begin well, and continue even better.  My favorite Parker Pen, blue ink, medium point, to paper.  My cat Zoey by my side.  Good coffee, a quilt on my lap and the quiet that begins the very best of my days.           ~~~Rachel

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Back to the page...

Dear Reader: 
Where have I been??.   I have heard recently from several of you, customers and friends that you have missed the "Reflections" I write on these pages. And some of you "remember when" they came in the mail in our newsletter.  When I looked back, I found I had not posted anything on my blog since 2013.  I have to admit I need to move out of thinking "poor me, I have nothing much to write that is worth reading" into knowing that I love to write and many of you like to read what I have to say.  I love the tapestry that is the story and the weaving of words to tell it; and many of you have enjoyed reading what I write.

So here I go again.  I hope to be more regular with my postings.  Blog space can be very creative and yet for me a little intimidating. The possibilities are endless. I hope to be able to use this space to share what we create here at the shop and what is happening in my/our lives.

I don't plan on changing the style of my "Reflections".  They are just that, a reflection of what is happening in my life, and how I feel and think about it.  It is a sharing of what is running through my world and through my head.  

I read and re-read my entries before I post them.  I apologize  ahead of time when I miss something that should have been corrected.  I have spell check, of course, but sometimes that doesn't help. My goal is for it all to make some kind of sense.

My posts are Snippets and Snibbles.  "Snippets" are bits of thoughts or a scrap of writing. "Snibbles" are the little pieces of stuff that end up on the floor---like the little corners we trim off when we've made half-square triangle blocks or thread, paper...or even crumbs.  (My spell check does NOT recognize "snibbles" and would like me to change it to "nibble, dibble or kibble".  I have added it to this computer's dictionary.) It is a word I grew up with, because whatever I was doing, I left snibbles, and more often a real mess.   My  father called me "Messy Bessy" if that tells you anything. And, no, I did not take it as a compliment.   So I share with you bits and pieces of my life.  My posts are about more than just quilting.  My life is a love of fabric and color and quilting, yes.  Life also is the love of family , friends, faith, cooking, gardening, painting, and whatever I set my mind to doing that fascinates me.  Now that I have two new knees, I look forward to walks in the woods or a tromp in the snow, or simply in my little neighborhood.  I feel very much alive and present in this world and I hope you will read that reflected here.               

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