Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Newborn Porcupines

Newborn Porcupines
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.
Adds a whole new dimension to 'labor pain'

Friday, September 09, 2005

Now We're on Five Lists

I did get the sewing room pretty well shoveled out; there are just a few finishing touches that I need to do before I present you with the before and after pictures.

We wonder when we'll finally meet our new family. This blog will document how long our wait from the first sign-up to arrival of a family in need will be. As any conscious American knows, all of the pain, frustration and delay of help to the displaced is a wake-up call to our disaster preparedness. It helps me better understand where I want to place my priorities when I retire.

Our Local Red Cross, the group that we first contacted, is organizing local mass housing, yet another way to "ghettoize" the poor families who are most affected by this tragedy. And their official spokesperson advised me that they have no current plans to place folks in private housing. That way, locals can keep their homes free of the riff-raff and just throw money at them...of course, she didn't say that, but that's how the plan reads to me.

So, we've signed up on the following additional lists: shareyourhome.org, Episcopal Relief and Development, katrinahousing.org, katrinahomes.org. I'm beginning to wonder if we should just hop in a van and drive down and swoop a family out of a shelter.

Monday, September 05, 2005

We're on the List

Figuring that we'd really like to make a difference in the relief effort down south, D and I contacted our local Red Cross Saturday night, offering our "guest suite" (a bedroom, a sewing room that can be compressed so that it's a kids' room, and a bathroom) upstairs to a displaced family. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email response first thing yesterday morning.

It was thought-provoking to answer the basic questions that the Red Cross asked about our home and our preferences; this as a first step in assigning a family to us. Besides the predictable stuff about number of people that we can accommodate, handicap accessibility, etc., there was one section that amused me. See the questions and my responses below:

Q: Do you have pets?
A: We have a cat who has a history of not sharing his turf with other animals. He's a Maine Coon Cat and if a family dislikes or is allergic to cats, we are definitely not the home to send them to.

Q: Can the people bring pets?
A: We regret that we can't welcome another animal.

I'm particularly sorry that we can't offer a family with pets a home, as I understand how a pet becomes a family member. My daughter asked me recently why we keep Peanut, our aggressive cat, when he has the obnoxious tendency to nip one's feet/ankles while one is on the phone. He does have his redeeming qualities, I replied, although sometimes it seems that the negatives outweigh the positives. It's certain that he's good for lots of entertainment, although he's such a wimp that when Johan visits, Pea spends more than his usual amount of time in the basement, out of range of 3-year-old hands.

We took him in more than 3 years ago when D surprised me by saying that he thought we should get a cat. I've always had a fascination for big cats and when I saw the ad in the clinic newsletter about a Maine Coon Cat needing a new home, we bit the bait. Peanut lived with his owner in a little 2-room apartment in Rantoul, which is where we went to pick him up. The guy, a blue collar type, was miserable about having to give him up. He explained that he was moving in with his girlfriend soon and that Peanut was an ungracious guest when they introduced him to her cat. We figured that it must be true love if the guy was giving up his cat for a woman.

He cried as he held Peanut and told him goodbye. He turned over all of Peanut's toys, special food dishes, litter house, travel box and bags of food, as though he was trying to erase all evidence of Pea in his life. We asked why such a big cat (he weighs about 11 1/2 pounds) was named such so incongruously, and he explained that Pea had been the runt in his litter the year before. When we took the last piece of Peanut Paraphernalia out to the car, the man's apartment looked deserted.

Pea spent the first 2-3 days in our basement. I almost thought that he'd died down there, but eventually he made sneak explorations upstairs. He had never been an outside cat, so it was heaven for him to have three floors to explore. Several days after we picked him up, the guy called and asked if he could come see Peanut in his new home. We were thrilled to hear from him and gave them private time out on the back porch. The man was crying again when he left and we've not heard from him since.I grew up with cats in the house: one of my most memorable moments as a teen involved a 6-week-old kitten. I was dressed for school, with the requisite (this was the early 60's) hose and skirt outfit, when I was headed toward the kitchen. The kitten pulled a sneak attack right up my leg, using my hose as the ideal tree substitute. I let fly with several choice invectives, shocking my mother, who apparently thought that I didn't know any swear words. Little did she know.

But back to the preparations. I'm going to celebrate Labor Day by shoveling out the sewing room, in preparation for our almost certain guests. I'll take before and after pictures, so you can appreciate the extent of my labors.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Quilt That Took 50+ Years to Complete

Quilt on Chair
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.
During the time that my family disassembled my Grandma H’s home, I found a treasure tucked away in the bottom drawer of her bedroom dresser. It was a muslin bag containing beginnings of pieced quilts; I remember two partially completed projects, but there may have been other scraps as well. I showed my mother the pieces and she immediately recognized one of the panels as being constructed of fabrics of dresses that she wore during childhood and adolescence. My Grandma was the queen of recycling, and was adept at turning even chicken feed sacks into dresses for her daughters during the Great Depression. My mother dutifully continued that tradition; it was a longstanding joke in our four-girl family that if one of us was outgrowing a skirt, Mother would put a ruffle on it to yield a few more months of wear.

I was particularly charmed by the brightly colored 2” squares that comprised that piece; it wasn’t large enough to make into a quilt yet, but it was at least 3’ x 5’, which gave me enough fabric to conjure up various projects. My sister Marilyn, who’s a quilter, was able to identify many of the patterns as being popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s. That following Christmas I made throw pillows for Mother, Aunt BL and Marilyn with 8”x10” panels of the fabric, framed by polished cotton outer panels. My aunt, who didn’t know about my treasure, became tearful as she examined the old familiar fabrics on her pillow.

The second quilt top was an almost completed 9-square slate blue and white piece. It was full bed size, but it appeared that there was missing final fabric edging. Most curiously, it was constructed of a combination of recycled slate blue pieces that were frequently cut on the bias and/or had seams at oblique angles. There apparently had been enough blue and white polka dotted fabric to use at the edges, as that wasn’t pieced as strangely. Although I liked the color scheme, I had no idea what I’d do with the piece, so I stuffed it away in my stash to use someday.

Someday came at 2 a.m. yesterday. Awake on and off until then, I decided that it was time to use the blue and white pieced quilt top. Marilyn had emailed me the day before about a quilter’s association in Houston, Texas, that had put out a call to all quilters. It was a plea to send sheets, blankets, but most of all, handmade quilts to pass out to the displaced in shelters there.

As have most of us, I’ve been racking my brain to think of what I could do to help in the disaster down south. On Wednesday afternoon, as things started sounding more and more desperate in New Orleans, I decided that I should investigate the possibility of going down there to offer my nurse practitioner skills. I ran the idea by my manager and she was coldly impressed by the idea: “Who would take your patients? There’s no one extra in the department to pick up the slack, etc, etc, etc.” She obligingly said she’d run it by her manager, but I knew what the answer would be. That night on the evening news, I learned that our clinic/hospital was sending down an emergency response team, complete with 2 ER docs, 7 ER nurses, ER techs and an administrator. With them was a trailer for their lodging, a trailer holding supplies and a 3rd trailer containing equipment to set up a 90 bed field hospital. When I heard that, I felt that I was off the hook, professionally, at least for awhile. The next morning, before my manager could give me her answer, I told her that I was rescinding my request. After all, the last thing I want to do right now is lose my job, with one year to go before I retire.

So anyway, in the pitch black of Saturday morning, I had the lights blazing in my sewing room. I had to patch together remnants of 3 partially used sheets of polyfill for the batting, but I had a perfectly good bed sheet that I’d salvaged from Aunt A’s linen closet for the lining and edging. The quilt went together fairly easily, especially since I wasn’t aiming for perfection; imperfection, in fact, was a forgone conclusion, as the 9-patch sections had some wildly miscalculated seams.

By 10:30 a.m., it was finished: a quilt for a single size bed, just the right size for someone’s cot in Texas. I packed it up, along with 6 rarely used sheets, 3 freshly washed blankets, and my son’s favorite Sesame Street quilt from childhood. Because of the 3-day weekend, the boxes won’t be delivered until Tuesday, but there wasn’t an alternative.

On the back of the quilt, I stenciled the following note:

Top Pieced by
Decatur, Illinois
Circa 1950

Quilt constructed by
her grandaughter
Champaign, Illinois
September, 2005