Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Learning to Read

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
~ Frederick Douglass

Did you know that 1 our of 4 high school graduates lack basic skills in reading and math? That's 25% of our society. But that number doesn't take into account the massive amount of people who dropped out before reaching graduation. Their skill levels are even lower.

I learned these startling facts yesterday when I attended my first training session to become a literacy tutor through our county library system.

Most illiterate adults have learned over the years how to mask their inability. They've gotten pretty good at covering up the fact that they have a low literacy level. So imagine for a moment what it must be like, to be an adult who can't read...

* You can't read a ballot, so you never vote.

* You can't write out a check, so you always deal in cash.

* Your child gets sick and you can't read the package labels to know what will make them feel better.

I also learned yesterday that most of the adults who seek literacy tutoring read at a fourth grade level. That's because our way of teaching children changes in the fourth grade. Prior to that, children are learning to read. In fourth grade, they start reading to learn: reading becomes the basis for learning history, science, math, etc. That's when some children begin to fall behind, and start learning ways to disguise the fact that they can't read.

I'm an avid reader: books, magazines, newspapers, blogs -- you name it. So it's hard for me to imagine how isolating life would feel if I couldn't read. I hope I can help change this for a few adults I'll be tutoring, once I'm fully trained. They won't turn me loose until sometime in July, which is a good thing because right now, I have no idea how to teach someone to read! I asked about that yesterday: I have no teaching experience - can I be an effective tutor? The facilitator said all that's required is compassion.

When an adult has the courage to step forward and say, "Help me: I don't know how to read," I feel nothing but compassion. How about you?

Until next time...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fabric Flowers

Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern;
it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that -
one stitch at a time taken patiently…
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

The last class of my beginning quilting series takes place this Thursday, and I’m glad it’s almost over. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible. But 15 weeks is a big chunk of time. It will be nice to have my Thursday nights free again.

I’m also anxious to move on to other quilt projects. In fact, I’ve started something new, a part of which is pictured above. This block design is called, I believe, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, but it’s made of little individual hexagons, so I think of it as a hexagon block. We did this block in the sampler quilt for class, and I fell in love with the technique. I dreaded doing it at first, thinking it would be tedious and boring, with all those tiny little stitches done by hand. But I love it. Sewing by hand is a great thing to do while I’m watching TV with hubby at night. I’ve also found it to be a lifesaver during those long Fridays when I’m serving as a federal grand juror. I can’t fall asleep and sew at the same time!

I’m using fabrics from my stash for this project. Last year, I bought a bunch of fat quarters of various Mary Englebreit fabrics off of Ebay. I had no idea what I’d do with them, but I had to have them! I’m finally putting them to good use. Each “flower” will be different, but they’re all made with her darling fabrics (if you click on either photo, you can see more details in her patterns.) Here’s another sample of one I have yet to start sewing together:

You can see the cheery little Engelbreit cherries in these hexagons. So cute!

Now, what should these “Mary” little flowers grow up to be? I truly can’t imagine doing an entire quilt made of nothing but these little 1-inch hexagons. I don’t think I’ve got that kind of patience! But maybe a table runner, or a wall hanging? Any suggestions?

Until next time…

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Walk on the Wild Side

An animal's eyes have the power
to speak a great language.
~ Martin Buber

Look who came to visit my yard today! It's Peter Cottontale, or perhaps his cousin. Whoever he is, he's darn cute, isn't he (or she)? It's a good thing all my flowers and veggies are in pots, though. I wouldn't think he was so cute if he ate my plants.

I'm a little crazy about seeing animals in the wild. I've posted before about my passion for birds, but it goes beyond that. I love seeing creatures in their natural habitat (or in my yard - whichever happens first!) We live on the edge of some undeveloped areas and will occasionally see a coyote wandering the streets at dusk. We hear them howling almost every night. Our cats are indoor cats, and our dog Jenna is bigger than any of them, so I don’t worry. It's kinda cool to know they're out there.

My ex used to tease that I have a Snow White complex -- that I'd love nothing more than to sit in the forest and sing, gathering all the wild animals to me. I hate to admit it, but I think he was right! Can you imagine all of them snuggling up to you, with their cute little faces, not frightened or defensive, but drawn by your singing and your gentle nature?

Ok, I'll stop that train of thought before you all think I'm totally crazy (or is it too late?)

I mentioned in my last post that I'd touched a whale. To be more specific, I've touched the inside of a whale's mouth, actually stroked her baleen. It didn’t happen in an aquarium: it was in San Ignacio Bay, in the Pacific Ocean. The photo above isn’t me (obviously) but this is what the experience was like. I was escorting a group of museum members from Utah on an educational whale-watching trip to Baja, California. We were in boats that were a third the size of the gray whales that inhabited the bay. But the amazing thing is that the whales came to us, seeking our stroking and petting. They were/are incredibly gentle, playfully pushing the boats and as curious about us as we were of them. It truly was a life-altering experience.

I wasn’t singing, but it was likely as close to my Snow White fantasy as I’ll ever come!

All our plans are in place for our trip to Alaska this September, and we've chosen the various activities based on our odds of seeing wildlife. Puffins are number one on my list: I've never seen one, in captivity or in the wild. I'd love to see a bear or two, as well. I've seen bears in Yellowstone and even a few along the roadside in the forests of Wisconsin. But in the wilds of Alaska - that would be an experience! I don’t think we're going far enough north to see caribou, so I'll settle for deer and perhaps elk. Throw in a moose or two or three, some bald eagles, a few wild salmon, and I'll be a happy camper.

Go ahead and make me jealous: what wild animals have you seen (zoos don’t count)? And while you’re at it, tell me this:

Were you singing? :-)

Until next time…

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

California Dreaming

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down. ~Lily Tomlin

Ah, vacations! Hubby and I just returned from a four-day get-away up the coast of California, where the weather was gorgeous and the days were relaxing.

That's me in the photo above, posing in front of one of my favorite little shops, Heart of the Home, in Arroyo Grande. Susan Branch is a wonderful illustrator who has branched out into books and fabric and all kinds of darling things that I just adore. You may not know her name but I bet you'd recognize her work (check her out here.) Her shop is about three hours from my home, so I don't often get there. But we had to make a stop on our way up the coast: I shopped; hubby strolled up and down Main Street!

We had planned on taking the 101 Freeway all the way up to Salinas, which would have taken us about two hours from Arroyo Grande. But we made a last minute change of plans at San Luis Obispo and decided to take Highway 1. This actually doubled our driving time to our hotel to four hours. But I'm so glad we did it! Look at this example of the scenery along the coast:

Isn't it stunning? The water and sky were incredibly blue the day we traveled. And that portion of the California coast is like no other: we were driving through redwood forests at Big Sur. It almost felt unreal.

We spent the next day in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which has to be one of the most charming places I've ever visited. I was there 30 years ago, and it really hasn't changed much in all that time. We walked up and down its quaint streets (my calves were so sore from hiking the hills!) stopping in various shops, widow shopping in many more. Then we visited the Mission at Carmel:

Hubby and I have a goal to one day see all 21 of the California missions: so far, we've seen eight. Carmel's is by far one of the prettiest.

After the Mission, we took the famous 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, on the Monterey Peninsula. It was like being in another world! Again, we were in a forest, growing along the ocean's edge. It was late afternoon and the fog came rolling in through the trees. It was very ethereal and so lovely. Here's a shot of the iconic Lone Cypress:

Yesterday was spent indoors rather than out. We spent two hours going through the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (where I had planned on buying a copy of East of Eden -- and they were out! Can you imagine?) Then we headed to Cannery Row in Monterey and spent over two hours going through the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What a great place! We saw otters and penguins and beautiful jellyfish. It's an outstanding facility, and 50,000 of our closest friends agreed (yes, it was very crowded!)

After all this education and enlightment, we needed an adult beverage. So we stopped at A Taste of Monterey, where we relaxed with a nice glass of local wine in front of a floor-to-ceiling window over looking Monterey Bay. That was lovely enough as it was. But all of a sudden, at the mouth of the bay, we saw this:

The photo is grainy, but I think you can tell that it's a whale. A small humpback was breaching there in the bay, right before our eyes! It jumped out of the water, turned somersaults, slapped the surface with its tale flukes - s/he was having a great time for about twenty minutes, and gave us quite a show. It was one of those magical moments you know you'll likely never experience again (although did you know that I've actually touched the inside of a whale's mouth? Not one on display: a live creature, out in the ocean -- one who was three times bigger than the tiny boat I was in. But that's a subject for another post one day!)

It was wonderful to be away, and it felt good today to come home. This trip was quick, but very special in many ways. I'm going to try hard to hang on to the relaxed, peaceful feelings I experienced and recall them when life stresses get to me.

Yes, I know: easier said than done!

Until next time...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five - Walking

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good
for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult
than all the medicine and psychology in the world.
~Paul Dudley White

Lookie what I got! Yep, I bought my new walking shoes, and aren’t they a thing of beauty? It's purely coincidence that green is my favorite color.

They're made by Mizuno, a brand I'd not heard of before. I told the helpful man at the store that they put me in Brooks last time I bought good shoes, but that I wanted a little more cushion. After watching me walk and listening to my foot issues (I have a neuroma in both feet and wear orthotic inserts) he brought out these for me to try - and it was love at first toe-wiggle! The whole thing was a very positive experience, which I was glad for. Last time I bought good shoes, I was walking an hour a day, up hills and down. This time, not so much - and it shows. But the salesman treated me with respect and acted as if I am a competitive runner. It was a pleasant change from how us overweight folks can sometimes be treated.

So, in honor of my new shoes, and to bolster my motivation for actually using them, I present today's Friday Five:

Pattie's Top Five Reasons for Walking!

1. Increased energy. Man, I feel like such a slug these days! I want to regain the energy I had when I was more active: to be able to do anything I want and know that I'll have the stamina to see it through.

2. It's good for my emotional state. There's nothing better for lifting depression and helping me see the bright side of life. If I could bottle and sell the emotional benefits of walking, I'd be a rich woman!

3. Being outside. I love quilting. In fact, as you may have guessed, I've become rather passionate about it. But one sits inside when one quilts, and I've allowed myself to do more and more of that this past year. I want the feel of sun on my body! Besides, it's fun to check out the yards in the neighborhood!

4. Increased flexibility. All that sitting has not done good things for my muscles. It's hard for me to bend and reach and do the simplest things these days. I believe in the mantra of "use it or lose it." It's time to put my belief into action.

5. And finally, weight loss. When I led Weight Watchers meetings, I always used to tell my members that weight loss should be at the bottom of the list of reasons we exercise. And it's true. It's usually what motivates most of us to be more active. But there are SO many good reasons to be active. Weight loss is just an added benefit.

So there you have it: my reasons for buying new shoes and implementing a walking program. I feel a bit overwhelmed about it all because I know I'm starting from scratch - and that's a hard thing to do, physically and emotionally. But it's time. Change is in the wind.

How about you? Why do you like to walk/run?

Hubby and I are going away for a four-day weekend starting tomorrow, up the coast to Carmel and Monterey. I can hardly wait! We'll do plenty of walking, I know. It won't be quite the power-walking I enjoy doing, but every little bit counts!

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In everyone’s life, at some time,
our inner fire goes out.
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with
another human being. ~ Albert Schweitzer

I posted yesterday about meeting some of my emotional needs by hanging out with like-minded people. Well, it happened today. I attended my first-ever quilt guild meeting.

No, it didn't look quite like the old-fashioned picture above (does anyone still quilt like that, I wonder?) It was a group of about 150 women of all ages, sizes and colors. I felt right at home!

I also went with the intention of meeting my blogging buddy Mary. We had exchanged emails, figuring out how we'd find each other, where we'd wait, etc. Turns out, we pulled up together at the same moment, and met in the parking lot. She's a very warm and open woman with the prettiest smile! I'm glad we've met in person and look forward to getting to know her.

Talk about a small world: the membership person for the guild is a former member of mine, back when I was a Weight Watcher leader. It was great to see her again! I think I'm getting a bit more comfortable when this happens: my first instinct was not to run and hide, so she couldn't see the weight I've regained. Nope, I went right up to her, held out my hand and re-introduced myself. I'm so glad I did. We chatted for a while and she told me how much she used to love coming to my meetings - how sweet was that?

So I think I've found a fun way to get a few of my emotional needs met. And you want to know what's interesting? As I drove away from the meeting, I found myself thinking that it's time to get new walking shoes. I got a gift certificate to a fitness shoe store for Christmas, and haven't used it yet. But today, it feels like it might be time.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? When we take care of ourselves emotionally, it puts us in a good place to want to take care of ourselves physically. I like when that happens!

Until next time…

Monday, May 12, 2008

Emotional Needs

Your intellect may be confused,
but your emotions will never lie to you. ~ Roger Ebert

Hello - remember me? I used to blog at least a couple of times a week. My goodness, life has felt very out of control since I last wrote anything. I didn't have time to post my Friday Five (which was going to be about mothers.) I feel like I've barely had time to catch my breath. I realized late yesterday afternoon that I need to take control again and slow things down. I don't like feeling this frenzied!

But when I have had a moment to think, I've been doing some important internal work that I'd like to share. Some of you will remember that I was waiting to hear about a job I very much wanted, as the volunteer coordinator at our library. Well, I didn't get it. I was ok at first, but as the days went on, I grew increasing sad about it. And I began to wonder why. I've certainly been turned down for jobs in the past: why was this one getting to me? Hence, the soul-searching.

I realized that I was looking forward to working again for the following reasons:

1. To be part of something bigger than my little world of homemaking, quilting, gardening, etc.

2. To work for a "cause." With a few brief exceptions, I've always worked in the non-profit sector, and the more purpose-driven the organization, the better I liked it.

3. More social interaction with like-minded people.

I've spent time over this past week, thinking of ways I can get these same needs met without going back to work full time. I've committed to some activities that I believe will help:

1. I've agreed to serve as chair of the Education Foundation Committee for our local branch of the American Association of University Women. I've been a member for a couple of years now, taking part in the various personal interest groups like the Daytime Literature group and the Good Health group (which I lead.) But this responsibility will get me more involved with the mission of AAUW, which is advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. There's a good cause if ever there was one! (Find out more at their website: AAUW.)

2. I start training at the end of this month to become a literacy tutor for adults. I've always had tremendous respect and admiration for those adults who can stand up and say that they don't know how to read, and want to learn. I look forward to introducing motivated individuals to the world of reading street signs, newspapers, books, etc. Again, what a great cause!

3. I'm joining one of our local quilt guilds tomorrow. It will be great to meet other woman (and men) who are as passionate about this hobby as I am. The group I'm joining offers opportunities to participate in charity quilting, as well. We'll see: it might be fun just to ooh and ahh over the work the more experienced quilters produce.

And you want to hear what a small world it is? There's a wonderful quilting blog I love to read called Needled Mom. Turns out Mary lives right here in my county, just miles from my house! We're hoping to meet in person tomorrow at the guild meeting.

So, there's my plan for meeting my current emotional needs. I'm hoping that by getting that part of my life in order, I can pay more attention to my physical needs, as well. But that's a subject for a different day!

[As an aside... you may have noticed that I've posted a new photo of myself. The previous photo was taken a few years ago, when I was at my Weight Watcher thinnest. I hated using it here, since I gained the weight back, but I didn't have a more current photo -- until yesterday. That's me as I am today: overweight but loving life and laughing as often as possible!]

How about you? What are you doing to make sure your emotional needs are being met?

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Quilting Frenzy

Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you
cook is eaten so quickly. When you sew,
you have something that will last to
show for your efforts. ~ Elizabeth Travis Johnson

I have been a quilting fool these last 36 hours! But I'm happy to say that I have only one block to tackle today and then I'll be ready for class tomorrow night.

We're making a sampler quilt, which means that each of the 20 blocks are a different traditional quilt pattern. They all use the same eight fabrics, however. This week, we'll pick out the sashing -- the fabric strips that will go in between all the blocks, which will unify the whole project.

The block above took almost all day yesterday to do. It's a take-off of the traditional Drunkard's Path pattern. Can I just tell you that all those curves were HUGE challenge for this fairly new quilter? I thought I'd never finish! But I'm pleased with how it turned out.

This block is called Flower Garden, and is all hand-stitched. Each little hexagon is stitched individually, then they're all hand-sewn together then appliquéd onto the background fabric. I don't care for appliqué (simply because I'm not very good at it yet) but I loved creating this block.

This pattern is called 54-40 or Fight. I'm very pleased with the outcome, although the upper left corner looks a little wonky. Not sure what I did there, but I guess that's why I'm a beginning quilter, eh?

The name of that block comes from a territory dispute between the US and Britain over the boundary of Canada and the Oregon Territory. For me, this is an added bonus of quilting: I'm a history buff, and there are such rich stories behind these traditional blocks. For instance, the Drunkard's Path pattern was a symbol of support for the temperance movement of the early 20th century. I enjoy learning about that piece of quilting.

Hopefully at some point in the next few months, I'll be able to post a photo of the completed quilt. Stay tuned!

Until next time...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Healthy You Check-In

Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am way behind on my quilt blocks, which are all due for this Thursday night's class. So I'm posting Monday night for my Healthy You Check-in.

In short, the week was terrible as far as eating and exercise went.

But it was wonderful as far as nurturing my heart and spirit is concerned.

My dear friend Scott visited hubby and I this weekend. It was a short trip, so we tried to pack in as much as possible. We ate dinner by the ocean Saturday night, then played a board game here at home. Hubby had a commitment Sunday morning, so Scott and I went to breakfast then the three of us attended a Pink Martini concert that afternoon, as part of the Ventura Music Festival (if you don't know their music, treat yourself and download a tune or two.) We had drinks afterward by the ocean, then dinner at a fabulous Italian bistro where a friend is the head chef. This morning Scott and I again had breakfast while hubby was flying to Chicago on business. We shopped for books and music (our favorite past-time!) then I took him to the airport. It was an enjoyable weekend filled with good food, great drinks and fun activities.

But the best part was having time to visit face-to-face with an old friend. Scott and I have been through hell and high water together and have always been there to support one another in life's adventures. He makes me laugh and helps my heart feel light.

I can’t help thinking that on this journey of good health, laughter and a joyful spirit are just as important as diet and exercise -- maybe even more so. Having a dear friend close by is good medicine! So I do see this past week as a success on an emotional level.

But Scott and I both know the value of getting in exercise every day. So we've committed to one another that we'll be more active: not for the sake of the scale, but for our hearts and minds. He'll be walking in Utah and I'll be walking in California, but we'll stay connected through it all.

After all, it's that heart-felt connection that old friends do best.

Until next time...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Five - Romantic Comedies

There is a place you can touch a woman
that will drive her crazy. Her heart.
- from the movie Milk Money

First, as always, thanks to everyone who left a comment on last week’s Friday Five about flowers. I think it was a perfect timing to think about blossoms, given that many folks are still dealing with cold weather. It’s a good thing we have beautiful photos and a strong imagination, so we know that spring will eventually arrive!

This week’s list was really tough, not because I don’t enjoy the topic but because I perhaps enjoy it too much. It was nearly impossible to narrow my list to only five! I started by noting about fifteen sigh-inducing movies, then took out those that were romantic but not comedies (like Titanic, or Gone with the Wind.) Then I asked myself which ones I could watch over and over again. And that’s how I came up with this week’s list, which is alphabetical and not necessarily in order of preference. If you haven’t seen one that’s noted, treat yourself and rent it.

So, coming soon to a DVD player near you...

Pattie’s Top Five Romantic Comedies

1. The American President. I love a good 'opposites-attract' theme. And it was fun thinking how our country would react if a sitting president actually - gasp! - starting dating!

2. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This one made me wish I were Greek, with a strong family tradition and lots of crazy family members. John Corbett wouldn't be so bad, either!

3. Shakespeare in Love. Ahhh... Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts. The romance in this is certainly splendid, but I also love the clever screenplay which shows us how old Bill supposedly came up with his famous lines.

4. Sleepless in Seattle (pictured above.) Who can resist the pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? Throw in that darling little boy and the An Affair to Remember theme, and I'm a goner!

5. Love Actually. This movie makes my top five list because it shows the wonders of all kinds of love, not just romantic love. The cast is fabulous, the music's fun, and it takes place at Christmas time. I'm in heaven!

So that's it for this week's Friday Five. How about you? What’s your favorite romantic comedy?

Until next time…