Midweek Mélange…

Good morning.  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are.  Here in the northeast, we had snow (again!) on Monday and Tuesday, but my weather app is teasing me with the promise of sunshine and temperatures near 50 today!  Welcome to this week’s Midweek Mélange, my opportunity to let my stream of consciousness brain take over and write about what has caught my attention lately.  

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue…. Oh my, has it ever.  I didn’t own a lot of albums while growing up, but Carole King’s Tapestry pretty much played on repeat throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school.  I didn’t care – probably didn’t even know – that it won the Grammy award for Album of the Year, I was simply drawn to the music.  The photo on the cover made me feel as if she was looking directly into my soul and we had a connection.  We celebrated young lust together (I Feel the Earth Move) and she kept me company on many a lonely Saturday night (You’ve Got a Friend.)  Back in February of 1971 (FIFTY YEARS AGO!) when Carole King’s Tapestry album was released, I could have had no idea how all the threads of my experiences were going to weave together to create my life, but this album is definitely one of those threads. Half a century later, it is still one of my favorite albums and one I would want if I were stranded on a desert isle.  Song lyrics can be powerful and emotive, and this album played a huge part in helping me navigate the awkwardness of my teenage years.  Did you have a particular album or song that spoke to you during your crazy, horomonal youth?  Do you still listen to it today?

Last week I received an email from Vogue.com with the article, These Are the 71 Best Documentaries of All Time.  I perused the list and decided to start with Bill Cunningham New York.  Mr. Cunningham was a unique American fashion photographer for the New York Times.  It is a delightful documentary!  

Mr. Cunningham was born into an Irish Catholic family and grew up in Boston.  He has been quoted as stating his interest in fashion began in church, “I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.”  He attended Harvard University on a scholarship, dropping out after two months.  Drafted during the Korean War, he found himself stationed in France, giving him his first exposure to French fashion.  Back in the States after the war, he became a milliner, making hats under the name “William J”, working out of a tiny studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, where he continued to live for decades.  His hats were fabulous, but I think he truly found his calling when he was given a $39 Olympus camera.  He wrote for Women’s Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune, and eventually had two weekly columns in The New York Times:  On the Street featuring people on the streets of Manhattan and Evening Hours, chockful of photographs of high society events.

I was aware of Mr. Cunningham as the bicycle riding street fashion photographer in New York City, but Bill Cunningham New York provided me with an intimate peak into his captivating life, as well as giving me a much-needed dose of my favorite city.   

I caught up on some projects this past Sunday morning and did not sit down with a cup of coffee and Mr. Smith to watch Sunday Today with Willie Geist until it was almost over.  Luckily, I caught his Sunday Spotlight on The Women of Gee’s Bend.  What amazing women and what extraordinary quilts!   Gee’s Bend, Alabama is a tiny town, population barely 300.  This small, remote black community has been creating quilt masterpieces since the early twentieth century.  Their works are bold and improvisational, often in geometrics that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks and remnants into art.  Turns out, I had a close encounter with these quilters a couple of years ago.  The print in the skirt of Michelle Obama’s portrait dress that hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. was a beautiful reference to these talented women.  At the end of the episode, Mr. Smith turned to me and said, “Women of consequence!”

I hope something inspiring or comforting caught your eye this month.  I would love to hear what is keeping you entertained during this unusual time.                

C’est la vie.

She took a deep breath…

Even in the midst of many changes and unknowns She took a deep breath gathered her courage and dared to make today good.

Rachel Marie Martin

Every morning when I wake up, I spend a few moments easing into the day.  First, I try to figure out what day of the week it is.  My older and wiser sister tells me to let it go and not worry about what day it is, just be glad I woke up!

I eventually force myself out of the warm cocoon of my bed.  Mr. Smith, having heard my stirrings, prepares my morning cappuccino.  I drifted towards the fragrance, grabbed my coffee and settled into my perch near the window.  After scanning the outside world to be sure it still sits solidly below me, I start scrolling through my phone, checking for emails, text messages, or new Facebook or Instagram posts, hopefully featuring my grandchildren.  During my Thursday morning routine, I discovered the quote above by Rachel Marie Martin on my Facebook feed, via a Facebook friend.  Amy’s personal comment was:  Trying to make today a good day.  Thanks Amy, challenge accepted.

All during the Pandemic, I have rejected the thought of a “silver lining.”  People are dying, people are isolated, out of a job and struggling to get by.  How on earth could anyone find a silver lining?  A phone conversation with my first born one evening made me reconsider my pessimistic stance.  I decided to look up the definition and make sure I was interpreting the expression correctly.  According to vocabulary.com, “The common expression ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ means that even the worst events or situations have some positive aspects.”  Like many others, my son and his family have worked to find their silver lining in a less harried lifestyle and more time together.  Not every moment is perfect, but they are doing a great job of surviving the restrictive environment with creativity and some ingenuity.

So, I want to gather my courage and try to make today better, but for a self-proclaimed planner, the Pandemic has been a huge challenge.  Without something to look forward to, I have felt stagnant and stuck in a rut.  No get togethers to plan, parties, or themed sleepovers. Mostly I miss my family. Because there is still so much uncertainty, Mr. Smith and I are leery of planning a Camp Grandma for the summer of 2021.  We aren’t comfortable asking all our children and grandchildren to travel until we are more confident that all is safe.

 But I do need a project, something to plan.  I thought about what I treasure most about Camp Grandma and one of the things at the top of my list is the cousins having time together.  They live hundreds of miles apart and have few opportunities to be together.  So, as often happens, my musings led me to a new undertaking.  I am going to initiate a round robin style letter between the cousins and me.  I will start by asking some prompting and fun questions but give them plenty of room to share what’s new with them, draw a picture or tell a joke.  My goal is to keep their connection (and the letter) going and remind them that when it is safe, we will again roast marshmallows together and talk about the time Camp Grandma was cancelled.  

Over the horizon, ever so faintly, I see a glimmer of hope.  There are slightly warmer temperatures in the forecast.  More and more people are receiving the magical life-saving vaccine.  My grandsons will be returning to their classrooms soon.  My granddaughters will have playdates with their friends. Thank you, Amy, for providing some much need inspiration to be creative and create my own silver lining.  Or at least my own grandma keepsake of a Pandemic round robin letter with my grandchildren.

C’est la vie.

Confessions of a (somewhat) remiss grandmother…

Have you ever started off your morning with a list of things you want to accomplish that day and ended up wandering in a totally different direction?  Has one thing led to another and before you know it, you are sitting on the bedroom floor sorting through piles of stored memorabilia that have been (im)patiently waiting for you?

This past Wednesday morning the first item on my list was finding and printing out a copy of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb to include in my granddaughter Olivia’s scrap-ish book.  I am not a scrapbooker by any stretch of the imagination, but ten years ago I started saving mementos for Olivia and putting them in a book to give her someday down the road.  I have the invitation to her baby shower, the label from the bottle of bubbly that Mr. Smith and I shared on the day she was born, and other bits and pieces I have gathered through the years.  

I found Ms. Gorman’s poem and was printing it out when a prickling of conscience hit me.  I was way behind on Olivia’s book.  Instead of continuing on with my “to-do” list, I pulled out her album and a large stack of pictures, thank you notes, drawings, and other grandchild keepsakes and started sorting.  I spent a delightful afternoon.  I basked in the memories and started speculating about new adventures we might share as soon as we get rid of this lousy Pandemic.

I donned my grandma crown in a big way from Day One.  I was working away in my office at the law firm in the fall of 2009 when my son Emmet called.  He and his wife Emily were expecting their first baby and I thought he was calling to report on a prenatal visit. He asked me, “Remember how excited you were to find out you were going to be a grandma?  Well, get ready to be twice as excited!”  Twins!  I spent the next hour floating around the firm, spreading the word to anyone who would listen that we were going to have not one, but two grandbabies!  I didn’t start scrapbooks for Eli and Henry, but I did buy a couple of boxes for their keepsakes.

The last time Henry and Eli were able to visit, we had a grand time sorting through their boxes. They loved seeing birthday party invitations from birthdays they can’t quite remember. My favorite souvenir is from the first Camp Grandma in 2012.  They were 2 years old.  One afternoon while we were hanging out on the beach, Henry came running up to me excitedly saying, “I found Goodnight Moon, I found Goodnight Moon!”  While playing in the sand, he had dug up a broken milk jug cap, but in his eyes, he had found the moon!

I have logged the most grandma hours with Sam, Eli and Henry’s little brother.  I was the grandmere au pair for the trio of brothers for 16 months a few years back.  Eli and Henry spent their mornings at preschool and Sam and I were the best of buddies.  We played at the park, we nibbled many a croissant, and spent hours creating fanciful creatures with playdough. 

I have been writing a letter to Sam each year on his birthday.  I tuck in a little cash, seal it up and put it away for later.  I’m thinking maybe his 18th birthday.  While he is no longer my little sidekick, I treasure the time we had together and want him to know how special he is to me.

Emily, Elizabeth and Eleanor each have their own envelope filled with the same sort of memorabilia, but I haven’t decided how I’m going to organize them.  Each of my grandchildren is unique and I want to choose the right format.  I’m thinking Elizabeth may have to have some sort of recording.  When we were Facetiming recently, she had a book that Mr. Smith and I had “recorded” for her.  She was fascinated that our “noise” was in there.  With the speed in which technology changes, I will need to do some research to discover if there is a way I can make a recording for her so she can always hear our noise.

So, I confess.  I let myself fall behind on my grandmother duties and I’m not sure why.  I want to leave my grandchildren with the memories of moments we shared and hope that my keepsakes will be treasured by them.  Are you keeping a scrapbook, journal or something else for your grandchildren?  Do you write them letters or save news articles or quotes for them?  I would love to hear what you are up to.

C’est la vie.

Midweek Mélange…

Good morning and welcome to the premier posting of Midweek Mélange.  According to Vocabulary.com, ‘A mélange is any combination of anything, but the word always heightens the glamour quotient…’. Glamour is certainly something I’m longing for these days.  Well, that and travel.  At least I am now scheduled for the coveted vaccine, allowing a glimmer of hope over the horizon.

Historically January was my least favorite month. That was until 2011. That was the year my first fabulous, amazing granddaughter was born. Happy birthday, my beautiful Olivia!

This year January, however, hasn’t felt all that different from every other month, but I am still pleased to see its end approaching.  I always feel like I’m just treading water, waiting for Spring.  While anticipating the thrill of seeing bulbs start to pop up through the earth, I’ll make do with my cheery tulips from the market.

If you are feeling the need to get away, I suggest Escape to the Chateau, a British documentary series that follows the story of Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree as they renovate and redecorate a 45-room, 19thcentury chateau in France.  The scenery is evocative and the renovations are inspiring and entertaining. While they are working on a much grander scale, it brings back many memories of our work transforming the old Victorian we purchased in Indiana over thirty years ago.  Mr. Smith sanded, stripped, painted and papered every square inch of the house, turning it into an inviting, cozy home.  The creative, charismatic Angel provided one of my favorite quotes from Escape to the Chateau.  While sweeping up a room full of dead flies she said, “Behind every romantic story is the reality.”  Having lived through our own renovation, I can relate.

If the Pandemic has left you feeling uninspired, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to Nora Ephron’s 1996 Commencement Address to Wellesley College. Having graduated from there in 1962, she returned on a rainy, chilly day in 1996 to address the graduating class. Despite the audience being huddled under umbrellas, to say she was well received is an understatement. I listened to it again recently and was amazed at how well it has held up over the passage of decades.

 Aware of my girl crush on Ms. Ephron, Mr. Smith recently passed along an article he read in New York Magazine, Mike Nichols’s Heartburn.  Mike Nichols’s 1986 movie Heartburn was based on Ephron’s book by the same name chronicling her marriage to Carl Bernstein that ended in a messy divorce.  We watched the movie this past weekend.  One of the joys of getting old is while the movie felt familiar, we weren’t convinced we had seen it before.  I particularly enjoyed the restaurant scene where they go around the table and everyone describes themselves in five words.  Ephron talks about this game in her commencement speech and how those five words change over time. 

Other activities that have helped me through these winter/COVID months are reading and embroidery.  I am working on more pillowcases and a little Valentine treat for someone.  There is something extremely satisfying in seeing your stitches come to life as a design on your fabric.  It can be as seductive as reading.  Just like telling myself I’ll just read one more chapter, I find myself thinking oh, just a few more stitches.  

Along with travel, I still miss shopping but don’t have much need for new clothes.  Or so I thought.  Despite the onslaught of emails with amazing post-Christmas sales at many of my favorite clothing stores, I have managed to keep my buying to a minimum, but a recent inspection of my lingerie drawer indicated it might be time to dust off my credit card.  I have been purchasing my knickers from Hanky Panky for several years.  Every July they send me a 20 percent off coupon for my birthday and I weed out what is past its prime and refresh my inventory.  Noticing some rather sad looking panties in my drawer, I realized I didn’t receive a coupon this past July! I was past due for an update.  While online looking for undie inspiration, I Googled “How long should underwear last?”  I was surprised that many gynecologists recommend replacing your unmentionables every 6-9 months.  Armed with that information, I spent some time on Soma’s website, filling up my cart.  When I saw the total, I hesitated and decided to sleep on it.  And what should arrive in my email the next morning but a 25 percent off offer!  I am happy to report all is once again well in lingerie land.

Do you also find it interesting how your perspective on something can change?  The birth of my first granddaughter gave me a new appreciation for January.  A vase of tulips on my dining table reminds me that Spring is coming.  Not being able to travel and shop reminds me how much I take pleasure in those activities and how I need to appreciate them more in the future.  Those things will happen again and, in the meantime, I have tulips and new knickers as promise of better days ahead.  It’s all in your perspective…

C’est la vie.  

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” O. S. Marden

Ever since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2021 presidential election, the inauguration ceremony had been on my mind.  Even before the January 6 attack on the Capital, it seemed clear that our tomorrows would be very different from our yesterdays.  The ongoing Pandemic would dictate no parade down beautiful Pennsylvania Avenue, no large noisy crowds, and no elegant festive balls.  Would the scaled back events without the usual fanfare make the occasion seem diminished?  Can an inauguration taking place against the backdrop of seven-foot-tall fences and over 20,000-armed National Guard troops feel majestic and stately?

With these questions swirling in my head, I anxiously looked forward to watching the 2021 ceremony more than any in my lifetime.  Add to that the fact that a woman was being sworn in as Vice President, and my anticipation was bubbling over.  While I had blocked out much of my day for watching, my sister is a much earlier riser than I am and was in on the action before the sun was ever up.  She shared her early morning thoughts of Inauguration Day 2021.

It was 4:00am, January 20, 2021.  Robed and fuzzy slippered, hunkered down in my overstuffed chair, mug of hot coffee clutched close to my chest, I began to watch.  Still dark in D.C., yet shadowy folks already bustling about getting ready for history.  Slowly the sun arose behind the dome bathing it in gold.  An unfamiliar feeling somewhere beneath my ribs startled me. I was puzzled as it quietly expanded bumping against my crusty old heart….it seemed to be joy, it seemed to be hope.   I sensed this day was going to be extraordinary.  An hour later former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was being interviewed. Apparently, she sensed that same emotional bubble and called it “…new hope…” As she spoke the phrase went straight to my heart. Today is new hope.

All my fretting was for naught. From the moment the four hundred lights were turned on surrounding the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool on the eve of the January 20, I knew all would be well.  Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks all added to the proceedings.  Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman took our collective breath away. There appeared to be a relaxed sense of fellowship among the politicians on stage – both Democrat and Republican.  The sense of fellowship was as welcome as all the magnificent fashion on display!  The beautiful, vibrant colors made me rethink my predominately gray wardrobe. It was one of the classiest swearing in ceremonies I have ever seen.  Along with Senator Amy Klobuchar, I hope, “This is the day when our democracy picks itself up…”   

No disrespect to President Biden, but the big moment for me was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Kamala Harris as Vice President.  Making it even more special was knowing that my granddaughters hundreds of miles away were watching.  The Biden Inauguration Team made a free coloring book for kids to help celebrate the occasion.  

Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth sprawled on their living room floor coloring the pages, pausing when their mom directed them to the action on the screen.   When firefighter Andrea Hall led the Pledge of Allegiance, they stood and recited it along with their nation.  When Lady Gaga slayed us with her mixed meter version of the Star-Spangled Banner, three little voices sang along with her.  Children accept/take for granted things that they grow up with.  By the time my granddaughters are voting, hopefully we will no longer feel the need to specify “woman” vice president.

I understand that simply changing administrations is not going to solve our nation’s many problems.  COVID-19, the economy, climate change, immigration and equality aren’t issues that are going to be resolved overnight.  But Joe Biden didn’t become president overnight, it was a long and winding road.  With hope and expectation of something tomorrow, we must look for the light.

C’est la vie.

Women of Consequence

It seems fitting that the first posting of Women of Consequence should coincide with the inauguration of the first woman Vice President of the United States.  It only took us 232 years!  Love her or not, when Kamala Harris raises her right hand and takes the oath of office, she will cement her place in history as a woman of consequence.  Change is coming, but at a snail’s pace.

Consequence: importance, significance, greatness, magnitude, value, substance.

We are surrounded by women of consequence.  After discovering many of the definitions of “woman” in the Oxford English Dictionary were demeaning, Maria Beatrice Giovanadi started a petition that resulted in Oxford University Press changing its definition and expanding it to include more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner.  Dr. Kizzmedia Corbett, a research fellow at the National Institute of Health, at the age of 34, led the team that discovered the Moderna vaccine.   Every day women play a key role in the health care response to the COVID-19 crisis.  While they are under-represented among physicians, they make up the vast majority of nurses. 

Not all women of consequence will make a published list of extraordinary people, but that does not lessen their importance to someone they impacted along the way.  My sister-in-law Jane was encouraged to attend college by her brother’s girlfriend.  My sister Suzi was bolstered by her Latin teacher, Mrs. Heeter.  I will always remember her telling me, “Mrs. Heeter believed in me.”   The idea that someone believes in you has the power to carry you through many of life’s challenges.

Growing up in small-town Indiana in the 1960s, I lived a sheltered life.  Men were in charge.  Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were must-see TV.  But oh so slowly over the horizon, rose the feminist movement.  A copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was being passed around among my friends. Gloria Steinem was campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment and girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school.      

Fortunately, some women of consequence have begun to get recognition.  Movies like Hidden Figures revealed the role of African American female mathematicians and their work on Project Mercury, bringing focus to the critical contributions of black women like Kathryn Johnson to space science. But as a rule, women were grossly under-represented in the history books I studied in high school.  Men’s contributions were well-documented while any recognition of women’s accomplishments was brief.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt was mostly depicted as a caregiver of her husband, rather than focusing on her life as an outstanding political figure, diplomat and activist.   But as we know, most history is written by men.    

I take pleasure in the fact that the times they are a-changin’.  My granddaughters’ and grandsons’ textbooks are not the ones I had in 1970. They will grow up seeing a woman in the White House and I will share with them what I learn while writing these posts. Once a month for the remainder of 2021, I will feature a Woman of Consequence.  Consequence with a capital C.  Women who stepped up and stepped forward without concern for themselves but with real concern for others. Some you may be familiar with, others still in the shadows.   But I hope to do my part to help bring them into the light.  All deserve our gratitude and admiration.           

C’est la vie.

Say anything…

There is a long list of attributes I admire in people. Being well spoken is up there in my top ten.  I marvel at speakers who can express their thoughts and ideas clearly and in a way people understand exactly what they are trying to say.  I aspire to be one of them.  But how do we become more articulate in everyday speech?  

A while back I received an email with a short blog post – Speak With Purpose, Not Impulse.  Busy with other things, I put it aside for later reading.  When I did sit down with it the other day, I discovered it was an invitation to sign up for a 7-day course to improve my communication skills.  Now that Mr. Smith and I are sliding into retirement, I am trying to be more conscious of what I spend money on so I decided that before ponying up my credit card number, I would check out what was available for free on You Tube and via podcasts.  It turns out there is a lot!

After reading and listening to much advice on becoming more articulate, I found there were a few pointers that come up over and over:

  1.  Read!   I thought I was a devoted reader, but I will happily commit to reading more!
  2. Listen to yourself.  That’s a scary one, hearing recordings of your own voice.  It brings back memories of being filmed during speech class in high school.  When the instructor played the tape of my speech for the class, much of the filming was of my leg jittering.  No, I wasn’t nervous at all.
  3. Expand your vocabulary.  I am all in on this one.  I love words and am always happy to meet a new one, but mainly I want to stop being lazy, defaulting to the same words over and over (very, enjoy, etc.), and use words that are more descriptive, that more accurately express my thoughts and emotions.  My fabulous editor suggested investing in a better thesaurus.  I was pleased as punch to spring for a copy of The Synonym Finder from Rodale Books, Inc.
  4. Pause.  Strategic pauses are usually much better than filler words.  Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment.  

I aspire to be one of those people who find the right words in everyday conversation, who are consistently articulate and prepared for a chat.   I still remember from over thirty years ago a friend of mine deftly handling a situation, not hurting anyone’s feelings, but not committing to anything she didn’t want to do.  My family had been living in a subdivision outside of Atlanta and we were preparing to move to Indiana.  While together with a group, my friend mentioned she was planning a goodbye luncheon for me.  Another woman spoke up and said, “You should have a potluck.”  Now I knew my friend Ann had no intention of having a potluck, but she simply very kindly replied, “I’ll think about that.”  There was no potluck and no one’s feeling were hurt.

Words can help and words can hurt. I have had the excruciating experience of instantly realizing I have said the wrong thing.  Fortunately, I have also had the rewarding experience of knowing I said the right thing at the right moment.  While I know that happens when I take my time, gather myself, and respond thoughtfully and don’t simply react, there are still times I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head.  Usually not a good idea. 

I am someone who struggles to articulate my thoughts, particularly under pressure.  There are times when I know someone is waiting for my response, but my mind is momentarily paralyzed.  In the past, this has caused me to feel inadequate.  Interestingly, while researching how to be more articulate, I came across an article explaining that what I often experience is normal for introverts.  Wow! I knew I am an introvert and apparently, I’m normal!

I am a work in progress.  I have not given up.  I will not brush eloquence aside as something I cannot achieve.  I am armed with many tools, including my new hefty thesaurus!  It may take me a little time to assimilate new techniques into everyday natural responses, but I am going to try.

What traits do you admire in other people? Do you have a quality or talent you would like to master?  How would you go about mastering something new?  Feel free to leave me a comment about what you admire or what you aspire to.  I’m listening, say anything…

C’est la vie.

We have a winner!

midweek musings…

No, we don’t yet know the winner of the 2020 presidential election.  The votes are still being counted.  What we do know is that voter turnout was unprecedented and I believe that makes democracy the winner.  It was likely helped by the highly contentious political climate, as well as the clear attempts at voter suppression.  Americans rose up and said, “Oh, no you don’t.  I will vote in spite of your shenanigans.”  

Many voters voted early or by mail.  Luzerne County’s early in-person voting took place at the county’s Penn Place building in Wilkes Barre.  The wait was often nearly two hours.  While I was doing errands in the past couple weeks, I drove by Penn Place several times and felt verklempt looking at the lines of citizens waiting to exercise their constitutional right to vote and have their voices heard.

In a bit of local excitement, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt broadcast from Wilkes Barre as part of his “Across America” tour, highlighting battleground states across the country last Wednesday.  I knew he was going to be in town because my always au courant sister texted me that morning.  She had seen a teaser on The Today Show with a bridge in the background.  Our apartment overlooks the Market Street Bridge which spans the Susquehanna River between Wilkes Barre and Kingston, Pennsylvania. Our first clue…

That afternoon Mr. Smith and I set out on our daily walk as soon as he was home from work so we could be back to watch NBC Nightly News.  Walking along the elevated levee path through Nesbitt Park we spotted NBC News trucks, crews setting up lighting and putting down plywood to cover the squishy river front.  We may not be Holmes and Watson, but it didn’t take us any time to realize Mr. Holt would be broadcasting directly across the river from our apartment with the Market Street Bridge and Wilkes Barre skyline behind him. Without even trying, we had stumbled upon the broadcast location. While we were standing there looking down at the action, we were approached by a man coming from the other direction.  He wanted to know if anyone had “given us any trouble” about walking on the path.  He had come to play disc golf but was told he could not.  I explained that was probably because of Lester Holt.  “Who’s that?”  Oh, Lester, we’re sorry.  We explained who he is to our new friend and told him we were pretty sure he could play disc golf tomorrow.

Continuing on our walk, I was silently chastising myself for not having my phone with me so I could snap a couple pictures.  When we got to a turn in our route, Mr. Smith said he wanted to continue on and finish the walk, but suggested I cut through King’s College campus and head home to get my phone and go grab some photos. I swear sometimes he can read my mind. 

This picture below was taken moments before a very polite security guard approached me and asked if I needed any help.  I responded no, no, I was just heading out.  No arrests were made.

Mr. Smith got his full walk in. I was able to get a couple of pictures and we were home and settled in in time to watch the news.  Thanks, Lester. 

Yesterday I was a poll worker.  It was a very long day. I arrived at 6:00 a.m. and left at 8:45 p.m. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. So many new first time voters, some elderly voters who had been voting for nearly 70 years and everything in-between! If you have an opportunity to be a poll worker, I strongly recommend it!

For many of us, 2020 is the most stressful election cycle we have lived through. I hope we can now take a breath and no matter which team we are on, acknowledge the momentous problems our country faces. Hopefully we can emerge less divided and more compassionate. Then we would all be winners.

C’est la vie.

Don’t quit your daydreams…

We all have hopes and dreams.  Some of us express hopes of one day writing a book, running a marathon, or opening our own business.  And some of us do it. Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie, a mother and daughter team, pieced together their talents and ambitions and followed their dream. In November 2019, they launched their own quilt shop, Bee Quilting & Such, in Munster, Indiana.  Ah, the pre-Pandemic innocence of it all.

Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie.

Martha started making little doll blankets when she was eight years old and has been sewing ever since, even teaching home economics before she and her husband, Jim, started their family.  Meghann was a little later to the game, not pursuing sewing in earnest until she had her own family.  They both became interested in quilting about a decade ago.  Frustrated with the lack of availability of good quilt shop near them, Martha suggested that they open their own and Meghann quickly got on board.  

Martha retired from Purdue Calumet where she was the Wellness Coordinator and ran the wellness program for students and staff. Meghann has her own law firm focusing on wills and trusts. Since retiring, Martha has been assisting Meghann with her law practice.   With the decision made that they wanted to open a quilt shop, they began squirreling away their profits from the law practice and started planning and researching opening their own business.  They eventually found a location that would work well for both them and their shop.  They painted, ordered inventory and fixtures and were finally ready to open on November 5, 2019! 

A store for modern sewists, they offer fabrics, notions, classes and clubs for all skill levels.  You can visit their website here.  They have a long arm quilting machine and can help you get that quilt top out of your closet and turn it into your family heirloom.  But a visit to their delightful shop reveals their most valuable product is their enthusiasm for their venture.  Both Martha and Meghann love coming to work each day.  They love teaching the classes, helping customers choose fabric or figure out a pattern.  Each day is different, filled with creativity and energy.

Then came March 21, 2020, when Indiana issued a Stay at Home order due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Who plans for a Pandemic???  They closed for two weeks.  Never ones to sit idle, they spent that time making samples for the shop and getting their e-commerce site up and running.  They also needed to perfect their machine cleaning and repair service process because once the Pandemic hit, it exploded.  People were pulling machines out of storage they hadn’t used in years, many wanting to make masks and some using their time at home to tackle their UFOs (Unfinished Objects!)  Luckily Martha’s husband, Jim, formally retired and became a Janome-certified repair person.  Machines were coming out of the woodwork as people were rediscovering their creative juices.  After a couple of weeks, they reopened at limited capacity, mask required.  They offer curbside pickup and online ordering to be shipped. 

Two women living their dream and surviving the Pandemic. The new business has turned friends into customers and customers into friends.  One day Martha was out for a walk in a park near her home when she was approached (socially distanced, of course)  by a customer who had purchased a pair of scissors at the shop that she loved and wanted Martha to bring another pair on her next walk so that the happy customer could give them to her sister for her birthday.  That is quite the customer service!  Both Martha and Meghann are particularly touched by the customers who shared that their very first Pandemic outing was to Bee Quilting & Such.  

But I think what they will most remember from this time is the generosity and kindness of their customers. When an old high school classmate of Meghann’s experienced a devastating house fire and lost everything, Meghann wanted to provide quilts for the parents and children.  They put out a call to action to their customers to donate blocks.  The response was over whelming and they received more blocks than they needed.  After completing the quilts for Meghann’s friend’s family, the extra blocks were donated to a local chapter of Sew It Forward, a group of people around the world that gift quilts to families after they have lost their homes and belongings to a fire.  

Martha is my granddaughters Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother and Meghann is their aunt.  It truly warms my heart that my granddaughters are being raised in the bosom of this creative, resourceful, useful family business.  Back in the storeroom there is a deep cart that my granddaughters love to push around and “shop” for goodies.  They know where the “treat” bucket is hidden and carefully select a piece of candy each visit.  The other day young Emily was spotted dancing with a wire mannequin.   And they are always happy to “help” their Pops with his repair work.

Back when they were dreaming about opening their own quilt shop, I doubt the thought of a Pandemic ever entered their minds.  Like so many entrepreneurs, they have had to learn survival skills and the ability to adjust to challenges and obstacles.  The pioneering example of women who have sewn throughout history may be their guiding spirit.  Resiliency and creativity win the day.  Congratulations to the owners of the shop for preserving and daring to dream.

C’est la vie.

midweek musings…

Mr. Smith and I have been savoring our daily walks in the crisp, sometimes downright chilly, fall air.  We remark on the beautiful foliage like the old folks we are. 

Photo credit to Mr. Smith!

 With the frightening surge in COVID numbers, we’ve also been talking about how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas sans family.  We reminisce about holidays past, including Halloweens.  I understand Halloween during a Pandemic will be different for most and some traditions may need to be modified, but in the interest of protecting ourselves and others, I’m pretty sure we can still have some fun.   Visit a pumpkin patch, carve a jack-o-lantern, or watch a spooky movie, 

Our neighbor down the hall is observing Halloween and we don’t even have to wait for Halloween for a treat.  Her door sports a festive holiday wreath and she has a cauldron of candy set out for passersby.  I consider it a personal triumph each time I pass without sticking my hand in for a tasty treat.

Our granddaughters are decorating pumpkins.  Spread out on the kitchen floor under the supervision of their mom and dad, they got creative.

And our “fifties girls” were able to go visit their great-grandfather for the first time since the pandemic hit.

Halloween may look different this year, but there are still fall pleasures.  Shorter days mean more candles lit in our home in the early evening.  Cooler temps mean more soups in the crock pot.  And falling leaves mean fun for my grandchildren.

Happy fall from my beautiful granddaughter Elizabeth and me!

C’est la vie.