Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back to Life

Gosh, remember SoulIISoul?

Well, I've finished copy editing the last textbook chapter and wrote a quick preface for instructors, which is the only remaining element for our developmental editor to review. Done, done, done!!

Then, I spent a long, long, long four day weekend working and reworking my dissertation results chapter until I finally received an email from my committee chair with four magic words: "Chapter Four is fine." Then, quickly revised the last chapter to fit with all the new stats in four. And, with a very quickly beating heart and a full-on belief that I would be hit by a truck or struck by lightning or taken up by aliens at the very moment I crossed the threshold of the graduate school, I dropped off my dissertation for editorial review. Now, all that's left is the defense in late March, and I'm done, done, done!!

Somehow in there I also threw an unbirthday party for my daughter and 12 other screaming 5 year old girls, complete with a tower of Little Mermaid wave-frosted cupcakes and a sand castle bundt cake filled with strawberries.

So, after this crest of anxiety-inducing deadline crunchwork, I finally get to quilt again. Yee-haw! I'm even thinking up new projects (like a pirate quilt, aargh).

Oh, and the picture that's below is a response to questions I've had about how I'm applique-ing the BOAF quilt: machine blanket/button-hole stitch. I'm using a color called "milk chocolate" on all because I decided that switching for every color would make me loonier than I already am. You should be able to see the stitching especially on the pink and red trumpet flowers.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How I Didn't Get to My Quilt Retreat

Well, I got out of my statewide meeting almost an hour early, so I was psyched. Rather than change out of my suit and three-inch high pointy-toed pumps, I decided to head straight for the retreat, to get even more sewing done. I was zipping down the road on my two plus hour drive from the capitol to my retreat city along an Interstate that runs through a very rural part of the state. I was listening to Bill Buford's Heat on tape--which should have been more interesting than it was. I was about half way through a state forest when I heard a sound from the dash of my car. When I looked down, I saw a flashing red "STOP!!" with a little oil can symbol and a note about oil pressure.

Here's where I will interject something about the forests in my half of our state. Think back to grade school, when you did Venn diagrams. Now, take a piece of paper and draw four circles. Label these four circles "recently released felons," "folks cooking meth," "white supremacists," and "survivalists," and have them intersect in various ways. Then, overlay this with a clear sheet labeled, "folks possessing automatic weapons." You would have a fairly accurate population map of our Northern forests. I'm sure there are regular ol' campers in there, too, but they seem to get shot and/or disappeared with surprising regularity by one of the folks in the other four circles. So, when the light went on, I thought, "Um, yeah, I'll keep driving till I hit an exit."

When I got to the exit, which was entirely populated by one run-down gas-n-sip, I first called my husband to scream about how much I hated my car (a VW 1.8T Passat, a model with remarkably common and documented oil sludge problems), then called AAA. AAA said they'd be out in about an hour. So, I sat in my car; charged my phone; watched birds (very helpful for my BOAF project); became fairly certain a guy in a flannel shirt lived in the brush behind the gas-n-sip; refused to get out of my car to talk to an odd guy drinking Red Bull (who seemed to be trying out very lame, proto-serial killer excuses to get me to engage with him--example, could I walk to the end of the gas-n-sip to show him which way was West on the Interstate--yeah, nice try); listened to a young guy lie to his boss on his cell phone about where he was; and, in general, felt more and more depressed about the likelihood I would not be going to my retreat.

A little over an hour later, the tow guy came. I've taken to calling him Detroit Rock City (DRC), which was blaring at full steam out of his truck when he pulled up. We both first had a conversation with an older man whose car had also broken down and who seemed to be attempting to jack my tow truck. Not happening. Then, while working his chaw, DRC hoisted my car on the flat bed and gallantly opened the door for me to climb the four feet up into his truck, which I gamely did--even in three inch heels.

He then turned to me and, still working his dip and his cup, said, "So, you want to go to Bob Smith's?" "Is that a service station?" I asked. He half nodded. I then just threw it all out there for him: I'm from a city in a different part of the state, I'm going from meeting to meeting, I have no idea where I am, I just need the red oil light to go away, and I have no idea who can do that for me. "Well, I don't know if that's Bob Smith's place," he said. "Is is kinda close?" I asked. When the answer was yes, I said, "Well, let's give it a go." So, he then hauls off down the county road going fast enough that--in a flat bed tow truck with a Passat wagon in the back--we are passing people . . . frequently. We chat about the ashes flying around us--somebody's burning something somewhere, we observe. And, I wonder how quickly one dies when in a tow truck crash. Then, boom, he pulls off to the opposite side of the road at Bob Smith's . . . which doesn't look promising.

We both get out of the truck--me a bit more slowly, since I am wearing heels and getting out on the side of oncoming traffic. By the time I get in to talk to Bob Smith, it's clear this is a non-starter. Bob says to DRC, "I haven't worked on a car in over 5 years. Why do they send people here?" Bob is watching Fox News with three other guys, all leaning back in a way that is so typical of small town life in my state. Except the story is about Anna Nicole Smith's death, which makes it all even odder than it already is. "I got another idea," says DRC. So, I follow him back to the tow truck.

"I'll take you to Another Auto Shop (AAS). It's just up in town. I take my cars there. Only place I'll go," says DRC. "Sounds great to me!" I say with enthusiasm. "Where is 'town'?" "Just a few miles up the road. They don't rip you off. Plus AAS has its own part shop." "Fantastic!" I say with overdetermined glee. I buckle up, and we're off. DRC and I share laughs about others' driving abilities. Apparently, "half the people get their driver's licenses from Sears Roebuck and the other half from a box of Cracker Jacks," an observation with which I agree--while secretly deciding that if this whole thing suddenly goes bad, I will be forced to seek common ground with DRC by admitting I was once a member of the KISS Army. But, it doesn't go bad at all. We pull into town, head to AAS, and DRC introduces me to his friend and mechanic: Tommy.

At that point, Tommy is standing around with a couple friends--or fellow workers, it's hard to tell--poking at a car engine with, I kid you not, a knife. So, standing in a dirt-sandy lot filled with a surprising number of trucks and cars that will likely never see the open road again, and being snowed on by ashes from some fire somewhere, I tell Tommy my story. He pops the hood and makes a snide remark about my car's plastic dipstick. He's a bit shorter than I am, but I manage to look him in the eye and say, basically, "Look, I know this car is a trendy piece of junk. I completely share your disdain for my vehicle and the hipper-than-thou parent lifestyle that it represents. But, I bought it, and I'm driving it, and I just want to get home. Can you help me do this? Please." All is now right with the world. Tommy and I bond over our mutual distaste for VW products; he shares that he had to replace the motor in a Beetle last week and it was the worst day of his life. So, he adds a little oil to my sludge-mobile, describes how the oil filter works, tells me what to do if the light goes on again, gives me directions for the quickest way to get to my home city, invites me into his inner circle to laugh at some guy whose PT Cruiser needs a fuel pump (apparently there are cars held in even lower esteem), and charges me . . . $2! I give him $3, which makes him happy, and head off to find something to eat, as it's now about 4:00 pm, and I haven't eaten since the meeting's continental breakfast.

I pull into a Wendy's, call to vent at my husband, head in, sit in the bathroom stall, look at my filthy pumps and my dirty, grease-stained legs, and just start bawling. Two minutes later, I feel much better, wash my face, and commiserate with the counter girl whose co-workers are having a screaming drag out in back. I take my disgusting cheesy-bacon-mushroom burger and caffeine-rich diet coke to my car. Promptly drop a plop of cheese goo on my dress, sigh, and head off for home. Tommy's way out is perfect, and even driving slightly slower per his instructions, I'm back in my town within 75 minutes.

I then chat with my mechanic who notes that my husband informed him that I don't like my car. "No," I say, "I hate it, actually. But, whatever." I then pop the hatch and sit in the back of the wagon--next to my sewing machine--in the quiet close of the day waiting for my husband and kids to arrive. I call my sister, who's at the retreat, and we swap stories of hated automobiles. She notes that it was probably lucky that I was wearing a suit and heels since it likely made them all feel sorry for me. Looking at my completely dusty and scuffed pumps and my cheese-stained suit, I agree. Then my family pulls up, and I head home.

That's how I never got to the quilt retreat. But, I still got to sew, and watch Star Wars movies with my kids, and snuggle with my husband while watching some TIVO, and sleep in my own bed. And, I got to learn that some people are still nice and helpful. So, it wasn't terrible after all.

And, the Grammys are on tonight. I'll bet DRC is watching!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Four for the Road

Here's the last BOAF block I'll layer before I leave for a statewide meeting followed by my quilt retreat. I'm hoping to get all four stitched down while I'm away. Then, I can meet all the online group deadlines that will pop-up while I'm finishing and defending my dissertation and finalizing all the substitutions for denied permissions for my textbook. It will beyond-wonderful to have both of those off my plate . . . forever!!!

If you have the BOAF book or patterns, you'll notice that I skipped the legs on these birds, and if you read the last post, you'll know that I did the same on the last block. I've decided that they add an unnecessary aspect of reality to the block that just creeps me out--stumpy bird legs. I like my birds free-floating :) I've been using up a bunch of my Baltimore applique-type fabrics in this project; all the gradients and washes. They're adding a nice sense of light and shadow. Below, you'll see all four blocks together, along with my dog's errant paw. She just loves fabric!

My next block background is a homespun plaid that will bring in the light/dark alternation of the zig-zag but in a very different fabric type. I've really enjoyed digging through my stash for this quilt and am so glad I didn't do a block of the month. It's been a nice stretch for the other side of my brain that's been languishing lately in favor of SPSS. I'm also trying to figure out how to explain all the blue I'm pulling. I'm not a blue person (in mood or color palette), but from the first block, I've been attracted to it for this project as a kicky accent. Intriguing.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Another Block

This is the third Birds of a Feather block. I changed mine a bit from the pattern--subtracting a couple leaves and adding a center circle to the vines. My bird's tail also crosses over one of the vines, and I took away the bird's legs, because I found them a little creepy. This may sound a bit weird, but I think the bird looks kind of noble :) It's funny how easy it is to anthropomorphize almost anything, including a purple piece of fabric. I guess that's our constant push to make meaning and tell stories. I had a discussion with a couple friends this week who name their cars. One was recently in a crash, and his son had become so attached to the car (which was totaled) that he wept when they couldn't get it back and wanted to go say goodbye to it. My friend is avoiding naming their new car just so they can avoid the issue in the future. I've never named a car--though I have cursed mine once or twice and pleaded with it a few times.

Here's what all three blocks look like together so far:

Obviously, they aren't really arranged this way in the quilt, but I like the way the colors are coming together. If I have time, I'll also pull together block four before I leave for a quilt retreat next weekend. Then I can blanket stitch them when I'm not in class. Okay, now on to clean the kitchen!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Busy Bee

Ack, I feel badly that I haven't posted in a while. Yesterday, we did the big reveal of the first Birds of a Feather blocks in the Primitive Folk Applique Yahoo Group. I couldn't help but notice how much busier my block was than the others. Some were bright, some were subdued, some were dark--all were lovely. Last night, while the kids were in the tub, I pulled through my stash to set aside fabrics for the next two blocks, and then, after getting them tucked in bed, I went back to the fabrics I pulled and realized that they fit perfectly with the busy-ness of my first two blocks. So, I began to think about how our quilts reflect our lives.

My life is busy. That's not a complaint, just an observation. Here's what I've done this week . . .

Presented at a local day long meeting full of state legislators and staff and then met with a US Senator later that same day for a meet and greet. (He has super staffers who actually remember you from meeting to meeting!), then . . .

Attended a funeral for an extraordinary retired faculty member, then . . .

Wrote a state grant concept paper, then . . .

Revised my data set just one more time, ran and double-ran my research correlations and regressions, then . . .

Met with my dissertation chair about finishing my dissertation. My advisor again changed my dependent variable (to a different DV which, thank goodness, I had already calculated just in case), knocked out three of my independent variables, made me identify two new IVs . . . but still blessed my regressions and results. (Yay!!) And offered to co-author a chapter with me in a new book. And offered me adjunct teaching post-PhD. (All big yays!!), then . . .

Worked on copyediting my textbook and stressed out because our instructor's manual author backed out, then . . .

Attended another funeral for a staff member (this one from my immediate office), then . . .

Called to get permission to fax in my graduation application since I got caught by two calls on my way out of the office and wouldn't get to DoubleSportChamp U before the registrar closed, then . . .

Finalized the agenda, rooms, speakers, food, technology, etc. for a statewide meeting (because the outgoing chair was distracted by his own move and let things slip a bit, sigh), then . . .

And, of course, I also did my day-to-day meeting-to-meeting job--which was surprisingly full of mop-up activities this week; played with my liddle kiddles and finally just gave up the ghost and let them sleep in the same bed if they were very, very good; filled out unbirthday party invites for my daughter while making rice pudding (ah, comfort food); made sure my son had his drawn on pirate moustache and beard as needed; researched 529 plans with my husband and made summer vacation plans; found out we might have a slab leak; stressed about not exercising after my co-worker died of a heart attack on Monday and got my booty back on the treadmill (to work off the comfort food); blah, blah, blah.

So, I'm thinking this is why my quilts tend to be busy. One day, maybe my life will grow subdued, but I doubt it :) (As Jay-Z says, "You wuz who you wuz when you got here.") I'm drawn to busy-ness, to the rush of plaid against floral next to dots by the stripes. I like it when some things aren't distinct enough, when the lines aren't clear enough, because that's a depiction of my life: a blurry rush where meaning comes from the mixed up blend not the separate ingredients. We are what we sew and we sew what we are, I guess.