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Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 06:45 AM PST

The Stroke of Midnight, 12/31/99

by Melanie in IA

Stroke. Disoriented at church. Stroke. Lost on the way home. Stroke. "Will this happen to me again?"

As the world held its breath, watching whether global computer systems would crash due to the 4-digit year problem, my mother-in-law was transported from her small county hospital to a larger medical center. The computers were fine. She was not. She'd had a stroke, also known as a Cerebral Vascular Accident, or CVA.  

At age 87, she insisted she would go to New Year's Eve mass at the same church she'd attended all her life. My father-in-law wasn't feeling well enough to go, but well enough that she could leave him alone at home for a couple hours. Later we heard from others that she hadn't taken communion at church, which she certainly would have otherwise. It was a noticeable omission.

She headed for home afterward. She was a good driver, and I never felt unsafe when she was driving. But she got lost traveling the same route she'd driven for more than 20 years, since they'd moved into "town." Stopping in front of a shed on the dark country road, she tried to get in but it was locked. Confused, she set out into the cornfield in the cold night air. It was not frigid. There was no snow. We do not take this for granted in the Midwest, this time of year.

In a rural area, people notice the out-of-place, and someone noticed her car parked where no car should be parked. Dispatch to the county sheriff, license plate number reported, was overheard on scanner by one of her sons. A grandson was called by someone else. Forces were activated; she was found.

We were able to see her the next day as she spoke with a doctor, asking, "Will this happen to me again?" The doctor told her there was no way to predict it, but the fact she was lucid enough to ask the question was encouraging, and his prognosis for her recovery was optimistic.

Discharged to the nursing home back in her own county, she recovered substantially as the doctor predicted. There were a lot of problems, though, including physical and mental ones. She recognized family and friends, remembered events from long ago, though not recent ones. The brain attack had left her with aphasia, the inability to fully understand or express speech. Conversations with family members went on, but the aphasia always made us wonder if she understood more than she could convey. Her physical needs were too complex to care for her in her own little house, which she never lived in again.

The photo above shows her with her husband of almost 67 years at the time it was taken, in February 2000. She was well enough in the spring to enjoy the wedding shower for a beloved granddaughter, hosted in the family room at the home. But over the next five years, we lost her, pieces at a time. While at first she had good facial recognition, it wasn't long before she only could say my name if someone else said it first. That made me a little sad, but I was heartened that she always knew my son's name, always until the last time she called it, mistaking him for one of her own sons.

In May of 2005, her body gave in to its ongoing deterioration, and at age 93, she died. We miss her still, this remarkable woman who bore and reared nine healthy, fully functional children, who enjoyed without reservation all 21 of her grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, who accepted me into her family readily and lovingly. We miss her still.

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Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 04:27 PM PST

New Group: Hunger in America

by Melanie in IA

Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population, including more than 1 in 5 children. Hunger affects health, education, opportunity, and economic growth. Its causes are as varied as its impacts. Solving the problem is equally complex and requires a mix of government and private efforts.

This new group exists to raise awareness of the complexities of the issue, to consider solutions, and to advocate for change.

There have been a number of diaries recently about hunger, including

Cartoon Peril's To my secret subscription donor, I provide the Meaning of Life (and kudos to Oregon Food Bank)

Ojibwa's Hunger in America

scotnakagawa's We All Live on Food Stamps

Joel Berg's Mr. President, Keep Your Child Hunger Pledge

betson08's Okiciyap families are having a hot Thanksgiving dinner thanks to this community

and my own They Are Hungry Every Day

If you would like to join the group, please comment below or kosmail me. Thanks for your interest in this important topic.


I, for one, am not sorry to see this year come to a close. For me the year brought something I never experienced before, an anxiety disorder accompanied by panic attacks. One of the panic attacks was bad and two were much shorter and less severe. Regardless of severity, they are something I'd like never to do again.

Nothing literally "came apart" for me this year, but a lot of healing was needed. It came in fits and starts, and was marked by regression as well as improvement. At this point I feel like the anxiety is over, my happiness level is back to normal, and I am moving forward.

A big part of my "therapy" came in the form of quilting, a refuge for me. The level of required concentration focused my attention, pulling me away from the swirl of questions, self-doubt, and grief.

As I quilted, I attended to relationships with several other people, as I wrote about here. And while I did, my relationship with my husband was put on hold to some degree. The fabric was not frayed, the seams were not split, no rips have been found. But once I finished quilts that emotionally involved other people, it was time to turn my focus back where it belonged, on my husband and on me. And most importantly, on us together.

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Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 09:25 AM PST

DK Quilt Guild: Your First Quilt

by Melanie in IA

DK Quilt Guild: A place for quilters to gather, share ideas, projects, and to make the world a better place, one quilt at a time. Join us and share your thoughts, projects, questions, and tips. Quilters here are at many different levels of skill. Beginners and non-quilters are welcome, too.
This is an open thread diary due to a scheduling mix-up. Feel free to talk about your quilts, your holiday, your family, or whatever you wish. I am not available this evening, but you all know how to play nice.


I made my first quilt nine years ago. It was a pretty horrible experience. I was thoroughly ignorant. All I knew was that a quilt had three layers, and that the "top" layer typically had pieces of fabric sewn together. Well, I did that. I cut the fabric using scissors after drawing around a square of manilla from an old folder.

The center of this quilt, up to and including the first pink plaid border, was that first quilt. The whole quilt you see here was after I repaired and enlarged it about five years later.

But after making that first quilt, I had to make another, because another baby was due. It was a guilt quilt. And so were the next two.

By that time, I had learned a few things. I had a new sewing machine and a rotary cutter, mat, and rulers. These simple tools (and a seam ripper!) started me on my way to the quilting I do now.

Since then I've probably made 100 quilts, including finishing twelve this year. Two of those were bed quilts, two were "medium" sized, and eight were lap/nap quilts.

What was your first quilt? (Or are you still working on it??) Did you enjoy the experience? Did you do it on your own or take a class? Who was it for?

After doing quite well with scheduling for awhile, we now are jammed up. Would you like to write a future DK Quilt Guild diary?  Please join in!

The schedule:

12/30 -- OPEN
  1/06 -- madmommy

Please comment below to volunteer. It's fun, it's easy, and people here can help you if you've never done a diary before! Most important things are willingness to try, and willingness to be a welcoming host once the diary is published.


Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM PST

I Called the Streets Department

by Melanie in IA

We had a heckuva blizzard yesterday in east central Iowa. At our house the snow didn't accumulate a lot, perhaps about 4" of snow. But it was rather wet, and the wind blew ferociously all day, creating a hard crust, easily iced by traffic.

It's hard to clear streets after this type of snow, I realize. It's hard to make them safe again, pavement clean and dry, even with the bright sunshine of this new day. And of course, major traffic ways get cleared first.

Still this morning I was getting ready to leave the house and my street hadn't been cleared. We live on a cul de sac in a subdivision, we're nearly last on the list. I get that.

As I put on my shoes and coat, moved things to my car to leave, I heard the familiar sound of the snow plow. Finally.

And now I was blocked in, snow plow moving back and forth at the base of my driveway. Several minutes went by. I went back into the house to stay warm, as I couldn't go anywhere while the plow and driver were there.

I waited.

And when the plow was done, I looked out. The cul de sac, a circle dead-end with a small island in the middle, was clear. Not to the pavement, but cleared smoothly enough, with driveway ends accessible.

So before I left the house, I called the streets department. I told the woman who answered what a great job the burly young man with the big beard had done.

They might not hear much like that on days like this.

If you get good service, especially when it is difficult to provide, consider taking a moment to acknowledge the effort and the outcome. Say "thank you," or "good job."

They might not hear much like that on days like this.


Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:46 PM PST

They Are Hungry Every Day

by Melanie in IA

Want to serve the hungry this holiday season? Over the holidays, a lot of us have the urge to help those less fortunate. We sign up to serve a holiday meal at the soup kitchen, or we donate to a workplace drive to provide meal baskets with all the trimmings.

For some it stems from a desire to share their good fortune. Others wish to teach their children lessons in compassion and service, and see this as a good time to do so. These are admirable wishes and I commend everyone who helps in these ways.

But hunger is not a holiday phenomenon. Hunger is present all year. And hunger is not a photo-op. None of us wants to be like this guy

or this guy, both "volunteering" more for show than because of a generous heart.

How much of a problem is hunger in America? In 2011 low food security impacted almost one in six Americans. According to the US Department of Agriculture,

An estimated 85.1 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2011, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.9 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security—meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.  emphasis added
[The USDA uses the term "food insecurity" instead of "hunger" to improve the measurability and objectiveness of the measure. Regardless of term, too many people in the U.S. have trouble feeding themselves and/or someone in their household, due to lack of money or other resources.]

Have you ever volunteered for one of these groups?

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 01:16 PM PST

Be Kind. It Matters.

by Melanie in IA

I used the title as my sig line for quite a while. I can be as angry and mean-spirited as the next person, fortunately only in small bits and pieces. It's hard for me to stay angry at most people for very long, hard because I usually see a lot of reasons why they come to their viewpoint, even if I don't agree with them.

Here in Daily Kos we have an unusual storm of anger welled up amongst us and within us. We are angry at the shooter in Friday's tragedy and all those that have come before it. We are angry at those who enable circumstances, whatever that may mean, for such a thing to happen. We are angry at those who resist changes in circumstances, which we are sure would keep this from happening again.

And we are angry at each other.

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I just saw a comment from Bill that it will not appear tonight. Please look tomorrow at noon ET.

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.
Jim and I are traveling today so needed a low-maintenance bucket. You all know how to have a good time without us!

Today's entry features favorite photos of the year. Please add your own in comments, and if you can, tell us about the picture: where and when it was taken, any context that would help, and why it is a favorite for you. If it was from a diary you wrote, please include a link, also.

I'll start:
This photo is from my May Daily Bucket on Weavings. There is an unpaved path we've enjoyed a few times, not far from our house. There was a lot of magic on that path the day we took the photos there. I loved the twists of these trunks. The woods were full of woven branches and trunks, leading to the title of the Bucket.

From my Bucket diary on Queen Anne's Lace, this picture seems so familiar to most of us. I like it for the detail, the ability to see hundreds of tiny blossoms within the larger structure. We all are such a small part of something bigger, and the photo reminds me of that.

From my diary on pelicans, this photo was taken by Son's future mother-in-law a few days before we visited the same area. (They live a few blocks from us -- convenient!)


In general, in Daily Bucket diaries, which do you enjoy more?

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Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM PST

DK Quilt Guild: Binding

by Melanie in IA

DK Quilt Guild: A place for quilters to gather, share ideas, projects, and to make the world a better place, one quilt at a time. Join us and share your thoughts, projects, questions, and tips. Quilters here are at many different levels of skill. Beginners and non-quilters are welcome, too!
Two weeks ago I showed you how to start a quilt by making a block. Today's lesson is on something I long found mysterious: how to finish a quilt by making and applying binding. The binding is the finishing edge of the quilt. A beautiful quilt deserves a well-made binding.

There are many ways to edge your quilt, but I will focus on the double-fold, straight-grain binding that is used on most quilts with straight edges.

Cutting the Binding

The first task, after choosing your fabric, is to decide how much binding you need. To get all the way around, start with the (width + length) x 2. For example, if you have a lap quilt that is 45" x 60", you need (45 + 60) x 2 = 210". Now add 12" for the corners and the joint. That makes 210 + 12 = 222".

How much yardage do you need for that? It depends on how WIDE you want your binding. Most references will recommend cutting 2.5" strips selvage to selvage.

If I need 222", and I assume I have 40" selvage to selvage (width of fabric), I need 6 strips to make the binding strip. (222/40 = 5.55. I need to round up to 6.) This is 6 x 40" = 240". If I only cut 5 strips, I would only have 200", not enough. And really, it's better to have too much than not enough.

(If you're not cutting selvage to selvage, use the length of strips you'll actually have. So if my strips will be 53", I would use 222/53 = 4.19, and round up to cutting 5 strips. Due to yardage available to me, I've often cut my binding along the selvage instead of edge to edge. I've never had a problem because of that.)

If I cut my strips 2.5" wide, I need 6 x 2.5", or 15" of fabric. If I am buying new fabric for the binding, I would buy a half yard. Again, better to have a little too much. But even a king-sized quilt won't need more than a yard!

My personal preference is a narrow, tight binding, so I cut mine at 2.25". You get to decide your own binding width, which may depend on how you finish it.

As always, press the fabric before cutting. Unless the selvage puckers and distorts the fabric, there is NO need to cut it off, either before or after cutting strips. It will be cut off after you've sewn strips together.

Square up the fabric and fold edge to edge. Depending on the ruler you use, you may need to fold a second time. Cut into strips.

When I cut strips for this and many other things, I like to use my June Tailor Shape Cut Ruler. I am not big on gadgets, but this is one I've found tremendously useful in getting accurate cuts. Here is a video demonstrating the product. (I have no affiliation with the company!)


Do you have problems making and applying binding?

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Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:03 AM PST

The Daily Bucket -- Open Thread

by Melanie in IA

The Daily Bucket is a place where we can post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings in our neighborhoods. Birds, bugs, blossoms and more - each notation is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the natural patterns that are unwinding around us.
It's grey in east central Iowa today. Right now it's about 48 degrees. Over the next few days it's supposed to warm up. Jim plans to golf on Monday. Not bad for early December!

We went for a walk this morning. Jim asked where I wanted to go and I shrugged. We head out and cover one of about 5 different 2-mile loops almost every time. I said, "We are boring. We need to make more effort to do something different now and then."

So we did, not BIG different, but a little different. Today we headed out the back door to the new walking path the city put in over the summer. It heads west, while we usually go east. The first part of the path is through trees, some old and very large, that the city preserved when they cut through. Less than a half mile out, the landscape opened up.

In the open it was cool, damp, and a little breezy, slightly biting but not bad when you're moving. We turned south across a field. The university owns the property we crossed, and the radio tower we approached. The tower is enclosed in high barbed-wire fencing and nestled among a group of small buildings. Once we got that far, we stood below the tower, a metal cage rising into the sky. We contemplated climbing the ladder inside, whether it would be "easy" or difficult, something we both thought we couldn't know unless we tried.

From there we headed back to the street. A Cooper's Hawk rested in a tree until we got quite close. It was large enough that at first we weren't sure of its identity, but it took off in flight. This was no red-tail.

A few feet farther, my attention was caught by something to my right, higher in the sky. It was a bald eagle, the first I've seen this season. They frequent this area and winter over, with decent fishing at the dams along the Iowa and Cedar Rivers. Also the Coralville Lake and nearby reservoir attract them.

We continued walking, about the same distance as always until we got home.

Now we have many "regulars" at the feeders and moving up and down the trees. From where I sit, I can see both downy and hairy woodpeckers, cardinals, house finches, nuthatches and chickadees. Squirrels have been very active lately, as they are today.

What natural wonders are happening in your part of the world?


When you are out in nature, are you most attentive to

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