A puppy story.

Dear friends,

I’m one of those folks who love the holidays. Part of it is my inner child, who never grew too old for Christmas morning surprises. And part of it is that the year-end represents a season of diverse celebrations for our family. From late October, when we celebrate our wedding anniversary and Parker’s birthday, to Thanksgiving, when we celebrate Mr. Mom’s birthday the week before Turkey Day and mine the week after, to Christmas and then New Year’s Eve, the winter holiday season is my favorite (albeit busiest) time of year.

This year, though, we encountered a series of significant misfortunes that had me wondering if the Grinch might steal my family’s entire season of celebration.

First, there were illnesses that left Mr. Mom and I wondering if we were just getting old or suffering from something more serious. Then a series of financial troubles hit Parker, and us, several times. (Why does it always feel like financial setbacks mirror celebrity deaths by coming in threes?) Then, Kate, ended up in the ER and urgent care on two separate occasions and my maternal worrying shifted into overdrive because the only thing worse than a sick child is a sick child 300 miles away. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we had cried a collective “Uncle” and hoped for a holiday reprieve.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. On the day before Thanksgiving, less than 12 hours after Kate and her two dogs arrived home, her youngest went missing. “Tank” is a five-month old mini-dachshund and the newest love of Kate’s life. While Kate was lunching with a friend, Mr. Mom was supervising a potty break for four dogs (Kate’s two along with our two brand-new puppies) and Kate’s doggies disappeared.

The grand dame, Kate’s 10-year-old Chihuahua, “SweetPea,” was easy to find. But Tank proved impossible to quickly locate. Within an hour, we realized he was really lost and we kicked into high gear, walking the woods near our home, talking to neighbors, and posting a Facebook alert.

Not long after dark, we received a phone call from a stranger who said he was hunting nearby and spotted Tank. We moved quickly to the exact location the hunter described but struck out despite thoroughly combing the area. Several hours later, Kate couldn’t bring herself to go to bed without Tank, so she and her boyfriend decided to drive the neighborhood. Believe it or not, they spotted Tank running down the middle of a busy county road. She jumped out of the car and took chase, but Tank was clearly frightened (and speedy!) and he disappeared into the woods before she could catch him. The entire family grabbed flashlights and joined Kate in the woods for an energized but ultimately futile search that ended at midnight when we were exhausted and chilled from a cold rain.

You can imagine how the next few days went. Alternately heartsick and hopeful (a man two miles away reported seeing Tank on Thanksgiving afternoon!), we spent our days and nights knocking on doors, walking various wooded areas near us, driving the roads, monitoring social media, and trying our best not to dissolve into a heap of despair (although a trip to urgent care when Kate came down with strep throat almost pushed me over the edge).

The Thanksgiving meal? We ate it, uninspired and not particularly grateful. Black Friday shopping? We called it off in favor of additional search and rescue missions. Holiday family photos? Perfunctory at best. (We had so looked forward to a group photo with both our old and new canines, but with Tank gone, nobody felt like smiling.) Decorating the Christmas tree? We did it in the hope it would boost our spirits, but despite a valiant effort, we went to bed Saturday night with heavy hearts and fading hope.

As Mr. Mom and I talked in bed that night about our shared sorrow, he told me a story about “the year (he) ruined Easter.” When he was eight, his family made a shopping trip to buy groceries for the holiday meal, including four dozen eggs to color. (Four siblings, four dozen eggs.) As he carried a sack of groceries into the house, he stumbled on the porch and fell on the bag of eggs, crushing all but eight. His frugal and long-suffering mother was determined to make do, so each child got two eggs to color. He chuckled as he recounted hiding and finding the same eight eggs – over and over – among four kids that Easter. As he recalled how angry all his siblings were about his clumsiness, I burst out laughing and felt instantly better. It was a precious moment of humor and normalcy in an otherwise miserable holiday weekend.

Believe it or not, things went downhill from there. Kate left Sunday afternoon to return to college and it was as sad a departure as I’ve ever seen. Within a couple of hours, she called to report she had hit debris on the Interstate and blown a tire. We talked her through that and three hours later, she called again, this time hysterical. A young girl had pulled out in front of her and Kate broadsided the car.

Honestly, that’s when I was tempted to shake my fist at the universe and scream “Really?” but Kate was uninjured so I held it together for everyone’s sake. We spent two hours on and off the phone as she filed a police report and determined her car was drivable the last 50 miles. At midnight, as we were waiting for Kate’s final text that she had made it safely back to college, Mr. Mom heard an odd sound coming from the porch. He opened the door to find a very frightened Tank on our stoop – emaciated, shivering, and crying like a baby.

We all cried like a . . . like a homesick puppy that night – Mr. Mom and I at home, and Kate via FaceTime. Our reunion was as tearfully jubilant as it was unexpected, a Christmas miracle to our grateful hearts.

I know you might be thinking . . . a puppy story? Yes, it’s sappy. Yes, it’s clichéd. But it’s also true that sometimes the only thing you need to remedy a ton of trouble is a four-pound wonder.

With gratitude {and all good wishes for your own miracle story this Christmas},

Joan, who has filled her empty nest with two new Chihuahua puppies and promises to tell you all about them soon.

tankandsp

Tank and Sweetpea after being reunited

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Great-great-great.

Dear friends,

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out my linen closet and stopped to linger over two precious quilts my paternal grandmother made for me. Gram was an accomplished seamstress and crocheter and I was the happy recipient of much of her work — doll clothes, special occasion dresses and costumes, afghans and quilts, and more.

I’m the only one of Marie’s three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, eight great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild who has taken up sewing and quilting. It made me sad to think that the generations beyond Marie’s grandchildren wouldn’t have tangible evidence of Gram’s prolific talent. So, on the spur of the moment — which is how I make so many decisions — I decided that Gram’s first great-great-great-grandchild ought to have something handmade and that I would offer it to her in honor of the original Marie. I think it would tickle Gram to know I’ve picked up quilting and that her third great-grandchild’s first grandchild is a beneficiary. (Catch that? Third great-grandchild’s first grandchild? Yeah, talking about six generations gets a little tricky!)

The grandmother in this instance (my first cousin once removed) shares Gram’s name, just like me. Barbara Marie is nearly a decade my junior but I started my family late so our children are the same age. Here’s a photo of my CupKate at her first birthday party with Barbara’s first child, Jane, and another cousin, also named Kate. (My Kate is in the front; her cousin Kate is behind her; and Jane is in the back.)

Jane&Katecrop

And, a generation later, here’s a photo of Jane’s precious daughter, Evie Jane.

eviejane

Evie just turned three. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet but — based on the many photos her grandmother and mother have shared — she seems to be full of spunk. But she’s also a girly girl, enamored of all things pink, especially pink hair bows. I decided her quilt ought to be full of sugar and spice and everything nice so I settled on a mixture of homey and fun fabrics in a pink and blue palette. See what you think:

evie quilt cu

My quilting tastes run more to the modern, whereas Gram’s were very traditional. So I tried to meld the two for Evie Jane’s quilt. The front features a more traditional composition of my design. (The block is called “square in a square” and is constructed using a technique known as foundation paper piecing with the blocks set on point.) The back – with its pieced design incorporating a remnant of the fabric’s selvedge and raw-edge appliqued initials – is a nod to modern quilters. Here’s a view of both sides in full:

evie quilt Collage

I often photograph my quilts while they are under construction and post the pictures on my Instagram and Twitter feeds. When Barbara saw the photo of a close-up of this quilt, she commented “Reminds me of Gram.” She didn’t know, of course, that the Unaquilter was about to ship the quilt to her granddaughter, so when I saw Barbara’s comment on my Instagram feed, my heart instantly soared and I trusted I had made the right choices for my tribute quilt.

There’s nothing quite as personal as the gift of a handmade quilt, both for the quilter and the recipient I suspect. When I look at my Gram’s quilts, I think of all the things I loved most about her. I think about how she always managed to buy me the things my mother couldn’t afford even though she was a widow living on my grandfather’s railroad pension. I think of how she used to let me do crazy things, such as fill a bowl with Pringles, pour Ranch dressing over it, and eat the concoction with a spoon like cereal. I think of her fried chicken — breaded and fried in a cast iron skillet first, then finished in the oven until it was as tender and soft as the mashed potatoes and skillet gravy she served with it. I think of her endless patience for the antics of me and my cousins who loved to spend time at Gram’s house so we could douse ourselves in her White Linen perfume and dress up in her jewelry and white leather evening gloves. I think of the $100 check she mailed me each and every month I was in college and the way she beamed on the day I graduated. I think of the hard candy she always kept tucked away in her “pocket book” and that she would pull out and hand to me if I started coughing in church. I think of the way my name sounded coming off her lips, Joan-Marie, both when she was proud as punch of me and when I  needed correction. I think of how so much of who I am and what I hold dear is a direct reflection of the woman whose third and final grandchild came to her late in life when she had the time and freedom to dote.

I know Evie will feel the same way about her Ba-Ba, and even though she didn’t know Gram and doesn’t yet know me, I hope when she snuggles under the Magpie’s quilt she will think of the woman whose name her grandmother and I share and who lives on through the stories of those of us who loved her.

With gratitude {for Marie},

Joan, who let out a big sigh of relief when she finished this quilt because, let’s face it, she’s been a little lazy lately

The double bonus.

Dear friends,

Remember that lovely surprise I told you about yesterday? I can’t wait to show it to you!

After spending my entire Friday wandering hither and yon and returning late in the evening, I found this waiting for me in the kitchen:

surprise

There’s almost nothing that makes my heart go pitter-patter like tableware, especially that of the Jadite variety.

I opened the card to find a note from Kate saying that she and Parker and Mr. Mom stumbled across this bowl and thought I’d like it. “Just trying to repay you,” Kate wrote, “for all the nice surprises you randomly bring home for us.”

Mothers do nice things for their children because it’s in their DNA. To delight my family delights me, so it’s a win-win. That they are thoughtful enough to want to return the favor is a double bonus that makes me melt.

And isn’t my new bowl a perfect place to gather my stitched pears?

newbowl

Between the thrill of a new sewing machine and a thoughtful affirmation that my three favorite people adore me, I’m wallowing in bliss this weekend. And if I have to wallow, I can’t think of a better place.

With gratitude {for my three sweethearts, emphasis on the sweet},

Joan, who’d love to hear about a random act of kindness that made you swoon