Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Though I’ve done quite a bit of crazy quilting, piecing blocks for embellishment, it is still hard for me to do by machine.  I know how much faster it would be if I used the sewing machine. So I decided to try piecing the bag for Beau on the machine. I was following directions for what was supposedly the easiest method. First, I designed a pattern. There’s a Kate Greenaway little girl on the central patch.


Well, I spent most of the afternoon yesterday trying to match the patches on the foundation fabric. It just wasn’t working. In the end, I gave up and went to my preferred method of hand basting the patches. After basting them, I stitched the seams with invisible stitching. Here’s the result.


This morning, I looked at my work and realized that I had made a mistake. I pieced the blue patch on the right over the light tan (#3) patch below the central patch. So today I unstitched three patches and corrected my mistake. Now it looks like this.


I’ve started stitching the little girl with split stitch using a single strand of DMC floss.

And I’m trying to get myself back into the habit of blogging. So even though I don’t have much to show, I’m writing anyhow.

From month to month I can’t see any improvement in my health, but looking back six months, when I was in Shepherd Pratt Hospital, I’m very much better now.




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Retreat results

The past year has been hard for me. Last year, after helping to care for my dying son, I came back to Charlestown in July in time to help care for two old friends as they died in the care center. Increasingly sick, I crashed in December and went into seclusion. I also began therapy. In April I finally got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, from which I have suffered since 2009–undiagnosed by any of the several health care providers I consulted here and in Washington state. In May I had two scary manic episodes with a fall that could have killed me. Although I was seeing a psychiatrist, I decided to commit myself to Shepherd Pratt Psychiatric Hospital, where I spent 16 days.

There they got me on the right  medication and my symptoms ended. No longer manic and no longer sick, I felt listless and unmotivated. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like stitching. I didn’t want to go back to visiting in the care center. I didn’t want to practice the piano. I made myself swim and walk miles every day. I made myself kayak from my son’s home on Middle River, spending the night there so I could be out on the water at daybreak. Knowing mentally that I was doing something enjoyable, I was unable to feel joyful. That was pretty much my state of being when Gloria asked my in the locker room how I was doing.

So I went on the retreat with her. (See below.)

The first retreat exercise for individual work was to answer the question, “What would you like to be?” Well, that’s what I didn’t know, haven’t been able to know, for months. Conscientiously, I tried to answer and what I wrote was a list of roles, for example, hospice volunteer. I wrote with no conviction, no real desire for the roles I listed. Back home, I reviewed all the exercises I’d done over the weekend and realized that I had not answered what I wanted to be. I had answered with what I could do. So I set myself to think about how I wanted to be. Eventually words began popping into my mind–energetic, enthusiastic, extraverting, excited, exuberant, exhilarated. All feelings that have been missing from my life, and they all began with E. This was what I wanted to be and needed to be in order to ENJOY my life, another E word. And more came to me over time–elated, ecstatic, and so on. Now I am working with those words as I meditate and go about my day. I’m seeking to generate those feelings in myself.

Meanwhile, I have been taking action on the list of ideas I made for things to do. Already I’ve been to the care centers twice for visits with residents whom I knew. I have volunteered to be part of an organized visitation next week. I’m hoping to identify residents who really need a regular visitor. Yesterday I began training as a hospice volunteer. I have contacted Compassion and Choices to learn how I can become an end-of-life consultant. I continue to read about end-of-life issues, about death and dying, thinking about the possibility of getting such a conversation going here at Charlestown. I’ll see whether these activities awaken the E words in my inner self. I’m hoping the joy of stitching will return. I want to blog regularly again.

Since leaving the hospital on 20 mg Zyprexa per day, I’ve reduced the dosage to 2.5. Getting off that mania-suppressant drug may allow me to feel excited and enthusiastic again. Medication is obviously an important part of my recovery and my sense of being, but the retreat has also contributed. I don’t think I AM bipolar; I think I have had a nervous breakdown with symptoms of bipolar disorder. And people do recover from nervous breakdowns.

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Silence and work

I wrote this post in August 2012, before Ernie died. I don’t know why I didn’t post it. Today I decided to try writing a post and I discovered three drafts from last year and one from a few months ago. Much has happened, much that I could NOT write about. I will try to fill in the gap, but the bottom line is that the last line of this post is true of me today.


Recently, it dawned on me that I am now living as I was living with ME/CFS from 1993 until 2009–in seclusion, practicing meditation, and learning to make needleart.

From Spring 2009 until January 2012, recovered from disability, I had ADHD and felt manic much of the time. I couldn’t stop going and doing. Then, in January, I crashed. It was not a relapse into disability; but it was utter fatigue and increasingly distressing symptoms. I prescribed for myself a retreat in silence and solitude, a time-limited period. Gradually, I have completely regained strength and stamina and most of the troubling symptoms are gone. Including the manic ADHD, thank goodness!. All that excess energy disappeared in January and left me calm instead of frantic.

But I have no desire to come out of my silence and solitude in the barn in the woods except as necessary. There’s nothing to prevent me from being as active in the world as I ever was. I just don’t want to be. I am different, and the world is different, as compared with 20 years ago.

So interesting. Forced into seclusion by a chronic disabling condition, I learned to love living that way. These past three years of frenetic activity and tremendous life changes and stress have been harder for me than living with disability. Most of my time was spent with other people–taking care of Ernie, visiting residents at the care center, helping elderly neighbors, and having to interact with people in the Charlestown community. Though I was thankful I was no longer “sick”, I missed my quiet life.

Now I’m back to living that way, with no one else around most of the time–days when I see no one, have no conversation. I do spend time with family. I do whatever I have to do for self-maintenance. Otherwise, I have no desire to go anywhere or do anything. Except, to my surprise, last Sunday when I awoke, unthinkingly I decided to drive to the nearest beach, three miles away. I was there by 7:00 a.m.. (This was while I was living on Vashon.)

No one else around. Three quiet boats passed, and a single kayaker.

This was the first time I’d done this, and for the first time I wanted to be out on the water in a kayak, as I was last summer.

Since January, as I did when I was forced into seclusion in 1993, I’ve been reading about solitude and silence and people who choose to be alone, trying to understand this desire and trying to find other people like me. Currently, I’m re-reading The Perennial Philosophy, from which I quote:

“It was not from want of will that I have refrained from writing to you, for truly do I wish you all good; but because it seemed to me that enough has been said already to effect all that is needful, and that what is wanting (if indeed anything be wanting) is not writing or speaking–whereof ordinarily there is more than enough–but silence and work. For whereas speaking distracts, silence and work collect the thoughts and strengthen the  spirit.”  St. John of the Cross

Among other activities I have not wanted to pursue these past months is blogging and emailing ( “writing and speaking”). I’ve lost touch with many online friends. But I have been able to return to concentrated work. As St. John wrote, silence and work have been for me “all that is needful.”

Maybe that is changing?

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Happy new year, everyone!

Nan and I caroused last evening.

I took the picture with the timer on my camera–before we started drinking the wine.

There’s also work going on here. This is my improvised work station.

There are four lamps I’ve moved there and still there’s not enough light for stitching. But my portable design board is up with a completed block on it. There’s work-in-progress on the Table Mate.

Back with more soon.

I am very thankful to be here.

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Before I get into the WIP, here’s a work completed.

Card case

I made this business card case for my daughter-in-law Carol, using the logo on her card for the design,


Carol is a licensed massage therapist and she creates organic body care products. I use her lavender mist at bedtime, spraying it just above my head and inhaling the lavender fragrance as it descends (for sweet dreams).

After resizing the hummingbird on my computer, I transferred the design to ultrasuede using tissue paper. Except for the brown stem, it is all single-strand cotton floss chain-stitched.

Carol came for tea today and I gave it to her, so I can finally show you.

Back to WIP. Full recovery is still work in progress. As you know, I went to a Chinese herbalist last week and I was given an herbal formulation for sleep. It worsened my insomnia and made me feel sick when I woke up. After four days, I called the clinician and told her about my experience. She spoke with the doctor. When she came back to the phone, she told me to discontinue the herbal formulation (which I had already told her I was doing) and to return to the full dosage of my sleep medications. She said I should talk to my medical doctor about getting off them (which I have already done).

Then she said that my response to the herbs showed that I don’t have the ordinary or usual insomnia. Something else is going on. Well, Western doctors have been telling me that for 30 years. Now an Eastern medical practitioner tells me this. Maybe she can figure out what’s going on, but I’m not going back to Bastyr to give her the chance. I don’t want to risk taking something that makes me feel worse, and I don’t want to spend $50/week plus gas for treatment that may or may not work.

I’m going to continue with my regimen of self-care. I’m feeling much better than I was a few weeks ago.

Evidence of progress– I’m back to stitching.

In July I pieced two 8” square blocks and assembled threads to add to my traveling kit. I was unable to work on those projects until last month, when I finished my needlebook. Here’s one of the blocks, with seam treatments finished, I think. It took me two weeks, able to work only minutes at a time, just to do these seams. But toward the end, I got absorbed and worked more than an hour a couple of days.

Seam treatments 2

Here’s a closer look.

Closer look

Now I’m seeking inspiration for motifs to add to the blocks.

It feels good to be working again, and to be having ideas for things to make. I am a work in progress.

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Fortunately or unfortunately, I require orderliness. I need a place for everything and everything in its place. Without organization in my space and without structure and routine in my daily life, I neither feel well nor function well. Since arriving on Vashon two months ago, I have been obsessed with working to achieve both. I’ve made significant progress.

Last week the seven bookcases I ordered were delivered. They arrived in boxes weighing 50 lbs each. Despite the illustration on the boxes showing that they should be handled by two people, my gracious and strong landlord carried them all up the stairs to my apartment, leaving them on the deck. I moved them into the apartment. Here’s the last box standing on the deck.

Immediately I set to work assembling them, even though the instructions showed that two people were required. Here’s the best shot I could  get of myself at work.

The bookcases were delivered Monday morning. By Friday night I had all seven of them assembled–by myself. On Saturday I spent most of the day placing and loading them. Here’s the result.

Son Geoff and I had hung the art the  previous week. There will be further re-arranging, no doubt; but having my books and art where I want them makes a huge difference. Here’s how my space looks now.

That big TV screen is obtrusive. I’m working with the owners’ furniture, you may remember and that’s pretty much where the TV has to be at present.

Here’s my office space.

I’m going to live with this arrangement until I know how I want to live. Will I be having guests? Do I want to be able to seat people around a table? Will I return to doing needlework design and execution? Will I need a design board? a work table? more storage for materials? In other words, will I want a work space? Will I want space for socializing? What about my clothes, which are hanging in the closet on the deck? At present, I have some hanging in the bathroom! Will I want to create closet space inside the apartment? What about lighting?

Wait and see.

Meanwhile, back to the point of this post about organization. Since I’ve gotten this far with making a home for myself in the barn, I have finished the needlebook project. You may remember that I made myself a traveling kit for my first visit to Vashon last July. Until a week or so ago, I had not been able to work on it. ADHD and too much to deal with. But you may also remember that I do not have UFOs. I always intended to finish this project. Now it’s done, and here’s what it looks like; the front first, then the inside, and the back.

Embroidery and crewel needles, and beading needles on the left.

Tapestry needles.

Even my scissors and needle threader.

And the back.

I’m pleased. It’s a simple design, simple color scheme, all worked in #5 cotton pearl. Mainly, I’m pleased that I was able to finish it.

Maybe now I can get back to making things. But first, my next project is going to be properly mounting my grandmother’s crewel work.

I’m not fully recovered yet, but the signs are good: I’ve read several books! I’ve written a book review! And I’ve stitched!

That’s why it’s important for me to be organized–so I can be productive. As you see, I’m blogging!

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