Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Life Well Lived

It is with great sadness that I tell you that Ben's father, Dr. John Mealey, died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday evening,  March 22rd,  of metastatic pancreatic cancer.   Ben and his brother John had arrived for a visit earlier in the week and were at Dr. John's home along with his wife, Nancy, when he died.  

Dr. John's cancer was diagnosed four years ago.   After surgery, it went into remission, giving Dr. John time to put his affairs in order, to enjoy the pleasures of daily life (including his new puppy, Chloe) and to visit with his three sons, Ben, Jeff, and John.  

This photo was taken at the end Dr. John's trip last August to Boulder where he visited with Ben and John, their wives, and his three grandchildren.  We are so thankful for memories of good times like these.  

Soon after this visit tests showed that the cancer had reappeared and had spread to his lungs.  He undertook another round of chemotherapy in Indianapolis, where he lived half the year.  Later in 2016, he declined further treatment.  He wanted to return to his part-time home in Florida and see his old colleagues and friends there.  In March 2017, he arrived in Florida and caught up with his friends.

Dr. John graduated from Brown University and then received a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in the mid-1950's.  He practiced neurosurgery in Indianapolis, where he was associated with the University of Indiana for over 40 years. He met his first wife, Suzanne, while in medical school and they had four children before they were divorced in 1966.  He found enduring happiness in his third marriage, to Nancy, to whom he has been married for more than 20 years. 

I always enjoyed talking with Dr. John.  He was was well-read and informed and had a lively curiosity about the world and other people.   He lived a long and full life and had what we considered nowadays to be a "good death."  He was spared much of the humiliation that often comes with illness in old age and died at his home with his loved ones nearby.  We will miss him very much.   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Around Here

 Around here...

My sister Jean is celebrating her birthday today.  I'm so lucky to have such a caring, accepting, and fun-loving sister!  Although she has known her share of sorrow and challenges, I think she is one of the happiest people I know.  

Here she is at her 60th birthday party, thrown for her by her very large extended family.

40 years ago Jean married David Rice, who was raising three teenagers on his own from his previous marriage.  Jean was only 24 and we all know how teenagers can stress a relationship, but she and Dave will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next month.  

I did finish Jean's "travel quilt" in time for her birthday but the poor girl isn't actually going to get it for another week or so since I have to take decent photos of it and show it around to a few of my quilt groups.  

On St. Patrick's Day Ben and I went to a local liquor store for supplies and found a celebration already underway, complete with free Reuben sandwiches.  That's an offer that Ben couldn't refuse.   

Since he had biked twenty miles that afternoon the sandwich didn't ruin his appetite for dinner, which was good since we had wonderful home-cured corn beef at Ray and Paula's. 

And, of course, Guinness. 

I tried my hand at making my own postcards to send to politicians.  My friend Becky told me how much fun she's been having designing her own cards so I decided to give it a try myself.  I don't think postcards are the most effective way of making your views known, but I did have a good time making and sending one about climate change to Scott Pruitt and President Trump.  

I joined in a sew-day to make blocks for comfort quilts that will be given to quilters and friends of quilters who are battling breast cancer.  Together we made 200 pink and white blocks, enough for ten quilts!  

I had a fun time visiting a quilt display which hung for only two hours in the Idea Forge Makerspace at CU on Sunday.  This interesting space has workshops and classes for CU students who want to "make something" as a respite from their school work.   Stephanie Ruyle, a quilter from Denver Metro Modern Quilt Guild offered a quilt making workshop and this exhibit displayed the creations that came out of that class.  

The students were there and I got a kick out of talking with them, especially this fellow.

He told me that Stephenie had limited them to using five or six colors and that their quilt could be made with no more than fourteen seams, which isn't very much.  She did this so the students wouldn't be overwhelmed with design choices.  It's a good solution to the problem of having too many choices, which often results in nothing getting done at all.  

I loved the statement Michael wrote about his quilt.  

Isn't that awesome?  I wish I could write statements that are as descriptive, personal, and fun as Michael's.  It's not an easy task!

Paul is enjoying being a sound tech for his school's upcoming spring musical.  This week is "hell week" with rehearsals after school every day running until 8:00 or 9:00.  It's both hard work and exciting.  Next week is spring break so everyone can catch up on their sleep before the show begins the week after.

Paul has learned all the lyrics to the play and likes to play the music for me so I'll be familiar with it when I see the show.  Watching Paul reminds me of my own high school productions and how much fun they were.  (I was in the chorus of Brigadoon and was the prop manager for Blythe Spirit, as well as being in several musical groups.  Music and drama got me through high school, which I otherwise really disliked.) 

Spikey is jealous of how often Fetcher's picture is on this blog.  I told him that the next time he did something cute, I'd include him.  So today he crawled halfway under the door to the deck and stopped.  

 He was half in and half out, which was odd...

...until I saw that Fetcher was sitting outside watching Spikey very carefully!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Good News and Bad

Around here the really good news is that the Sunshine Canyon fire is officially out.

Everyone is back home, "only" 74 acres acres were burned, and there was no loss of life or homes.   Air support, in the way of two Black Hawk and one Chinook helicopters from the Colorado National Guard which ferried water and fire retardant, was a big factor in controlling the fire.

photo by Rebecca Baack 

From what I can tell, the fire was on the opposite side of the road from where the Lion's Lair trail that Ben and I like so much starts.  It will be interesting to see how the terrain looks when we get up there again.  

The really bad news is Ben's father is now quickly failing from pancreatic cancer.  He was diagnosed and successfully received treatment four years ago, but in September tests showed the cancer had returned.  Yesterday we learned that he is receiving hospice care at his home in Florida.  

As I work around the house, walk with Ben, weed the rose bed, email my Senators about the health care bill, and otherwise live my life, my thoughts are with Dr. John and his wife, Nancy. 

Here's a "way back" photo showing the menfolk in Florida when we visited there in 2004.  I'm glad we have memories like these during this sad time.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fire up the Canyon

It's been a dry couple of months with only about half the precipitation that we usually get.  March is supposed to be the snowiest month here but so far we haven't seen any flakes.  With record heat --80 degrees yesterday -- and high winds, red flag warnings were posted this week and people began to talk about when the first fire would hit. 

Well, it happened very early this morning when someone spotted flames up on Sunshine Canyon.   It's now burned 100 plus acres and apparently isn't contained yet.

Sunshine canyon runs right into town, as you can see from this map.

The yellow marks the evacuation area which holds about 1,000 homes.  In theory all the people living in that area are out of there, hunkering down at the East Boulder Recreation Center which is now the evacuation center, or at friends or at the climbing gym or at a bar or someplace besides their homes.  
The purple is the pre-evacuation area.  All those people are getting their animals, medicines, and important papers packed up to leave if ordered.

Can you see the little black dot to the right of the bottom purple area?  That's where we live.

Our good friends Bob and Inger live about four blocks up College Avenue on the far left side of the bottom purple area and they are in pre-evac mode, "watching closely," as they tell us.

My Pilates teacher lives in the far left side of the top purple area.  I really feel for her because she has been working hard to get her house ready to sell in early April and the smoke isn't going to help.

So this fire is closer to us than last year's fire up in Nederland.  This morning we woke to the smell of smoke and the sound of low flying airplanes dropping slurry on the fires and then swinging around over the elementary school next to to our house.  I think the winds have shifted because right now the smoke smell has lessened.  The airplanes have been replaced with helicopters dragging big buckets of water to and from the fire.  We have a pretty good view of that action from our living room window.

Well, we'll see what the day brings.  Don't worry about us; a whole lot of Boulder homes and businesses would have to burn before the fire would make it this far.

Ben has been at the climbing gym downtown and just called.  He says the smoke is pretty pungent down there and that the fire is on the saddle near Lion's Lair, the trail that we like so much up Sunshine Canyon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Guest Blogger: Fetcher

The one who feeds me has been too busy quilting the past few days to write this blog, so I finally decided I'd better take over.

I like it when she's quilting because it means there's a nice comfy quilt in the studio to snooze on, though it does mean that she's too distracted to pay much attention to me!

Luckily, the one who turns on the faucets for me to drink from isn't so distracted right now. When he isn't gone somewhere he's very willing to let me lay on him and never nudges me off like she does.

I wonder what he does when he's gone?  I hear that he's "climbing" or "biking" but just what is that? Probably he's out hunting for all that food he brings home every day.

Oh, well, no worries.  There's always someplace to curl up and wait for him to come back and pet me.  

That dog Gus was over the other night.  I got tired of hanging around upstairs out of his way and decided to show him just whose house this is.  After all,  I have every right to sit in my own living room!  I gave him the evil eye and he kept his distance.  That's good, because there's a world of pain for him if he forgets who is boss around here.  

The guy who feeds Gus is so smitten with that dog that he rarely notices me.  But the other night I decided to win him over to my side and I succeeded!  I have to say, it didn't take long.

I was so happy to see my friend, Inger, again the other day.  She keeps talking about some cat named Polly who has six toes, which is certainly odd, but it's clear she loves only me.

I'm amused at how these food-givers fall so easily for my charms.  Little do they know the real me, the fearsome hunter who has single-handily depleted the neighborhood of mice and chipmunks.  

Well, what they don't know about my private life won't hurt them.  As they say, "What happens outside, stays outside!"

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lessons in Democracy

After reading the morning news I now need to take a deep breath and focus on something beautiful for a few moments. 

This orchid is soothing to look at.    

My neighbor gave it to me when she left for Florida in October and by January it looked dead.  The leaves looked dull and there were no buds, much less blooms.   It looked hopeless, but I kept following the instructions I'd been given to keep it on the windowsill and water it, and sure enough, the other day it surprised me by blooming. 

Those of us who aren't happy with the way things are going politically are instructed to regularly contact our Senators and Congressmen and tell them what we think.  (You probably know about the Indivisible Guide, written by former congressional staffers, which provides such instructions. ) Politicians are reporting huge numbers of calls and emails from folks like me.  Constituents are even showing up in representative's offices to communicate their resistance to the way things are going on the political scene.   

To join in this movement I first had to figure out who my representatives are.  After all, we've only lived here two years, and politics wasn't the first thing on my mind.  If you're in the same boat, you can go to this site to find out the names and contact info for your politicians. 

I thought that once I had the info I'd be ready to call or write my Senators and Congressman, but I realized that first I had to educate myself a bit so I could write something intelligent.  

By reading my Senators' web sites and Facebook pages, I found out that one of them seems to read my mind and votes just the way I like.  It would be silly to write him saying he should support a position when he'd already posted that he did.  With a little research I usually find that Senator Michael Bennett is doing a great job agreeing with me, so I occasionally contact him to say "Thank you and keep up the good work."  

But the other Senator persists in holding opinions that are opposite from mine.   When I research his stance on the issues I usually find that we're not in sync.  So I contact him quite often to tell him so.   I always email Senator Cory Gardner because I have a Maryland phone number and I don't want to encourage his belief that "paid protesters" from out of state are behind the flood of phone calls his offices are receiving.  

In response to my frequent emails I get form letter replies back.  But since they always mention the subject I've written about, I feel I've been counted, which is my goal.  

My Congressman is Jared Polis, who is a good guy who not only agrees with me but makes sure his constituents know what he's up to via Facebook.  

An interesting thing is that neither of my Senators include their voting record on their web pages, though Congressman Polis does.   He gets an A for that.  To  find out out how my Senators voted I have to go to a site like Vote Smart. 

Another interesting thing is that sometimes I start to write an email about an issue and then realize that I don't really know what I think about it.  As President Trump has found out, sometimes an issue is very confusing.  Well, at least he was willing to admit that about health care:  "Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject.  Nobody knew health care could be so complicated." 

Well, duh, this is so true about a lot of issues.  As I research some of them I see that I have a big learning curve ahead of me.  

Speaking of President Trump,  just for fun I've emailed him several times.  And when Kellyanne Conway said that "no one cared about [Trump's] taxes" I was moved to send a short but impassioned hand-written letter to her boss.   

I get nothing back from his offices, so I can only hope my opinion has tallied.  

I'm hoping that by following the instructions of the political experts and adding my voice to the huge number of people resisting the current state of things, some good results will bloom.  

After all, Spring does follow Winter, as nature is showing us now.  You can't help but feel hopeful when there are signs of spring all around. 

And I am learning a lot, which is always a good thing.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

On the Design Wall

Quilt guilds often issue challenges to their members, instructing them to create a quilt according to certain rules or guidelines.  Finished pieces are brought to a guild meeting where they are viewed by all the members, and it is usually great fun to see the wide variety of pieces that were created despite following the same guidelines.   Sometimes members vote for their favorite quilts, which turns the experience into a competition.    

Generally I ignore guild challenges since I'm busy working on projects of my own choosing and I don't like competitions.  But I was delighted to find last year that one of my guilds made their challenge such fun that I was sorry I hadn't participated.   When this year's challenge was announced I immediately resolved to join in the fun. 

The theme is "White plus One, which means the completed quilt should look like one color plus white.  It's okay to use more colors as long as they appear to be the same color when seen by the viewer.  The guild has no other rules and members approach their challenge with a spirit of humor and acceptance, all of which I like! 

 The past few days I've been working on a small wall hanging for the challenge which is due in April.  I chose brown as my color and decided to use the large collection of leftover scraps of brown fabrics to make strip-pieced blocks.  In some of them I inserted white diagonal strips.  

Once I got going the process was quite engrossing. 

After I made enough blocks, I played around with how to arrange them.  Design work like this is somewhat stressful for me since I can't stop messing with the blocks until I've landed on a design I like.   It's similar to trying to solve a puzzle and being fixated on it until you've figured it out.  It can interfere with daily life!

In this case I was aiming for the viewer's eye to follow the movement of the white inserts around the piece.  And I wanted to different browns to read as "brown" despite their different shades.

Here's one placement I had going for a while.

But I liked a horizontal placement better.  Lots of times it's helpful to get input from another person and I was lucky that my designer friend Lotus dropped by and helped me place a couple of the white inserts.   This morning I made some final changes and this is the result.

I'm very happy to get to this point!   Now I can let it sit for a while as I quilt my sister's "travel quilt," which I hope I'll finish for her birthday on March 22.  

And when I get back to this top I'll be interested to see if I still like it and if the various brown fabrics read as "brown"  once I've quilted them, especially when seen from across a room when it hangs on a wall.