Monday, December 31, 2012

Monthly Organizing Challenge

I was happy to find this blog and the helpful tips and beautiful pictures from someone who loves to organize. Since this year is already dubbed the year to get organized (preparing, maybe, to put our home on the market in 2014?), I need to stay on track.

Setting monthly goals works for me So I have decided to join this organization challenge

How about you?

Thoughts at the End of 2012:Sorrow Like Rain

Who in blogland can let New Year's Eve pass by without a post?  Not I.

I'll cut to the proverbial chase: I accomplished several things I wanted to, failed at more, and had to really look for bright spots in the year. I came up with five. There must be more, but here are the five I found in my memory near the top.


1. Sarah's graduation from college.
2. Ben's wedding.
3. A niece's newborn son.
4. Stephen's engagement.
5.  My sister is expecting again.


Too many to list. 2012 was a really hard year for me.  As I wrote in my journal this morning, it felt like there was a grey umbrella always hanging over my head under darker grey skies. Yes, of course there were sunny days and happy times, but in recalling the year, I had to look for them, and they were few and far between. 

To name a few lowlights, though:

1. Paul had a terrible respiratory infection that lasted months.
2. He also fainted and fell face-first on the kitchen floor. I wondered if he was dead,but he "came to" and I should have called 911 but he wanted his teeth fixed immediately.  ( That was a scary, scary feeling followed by guilt.  Fear and guilt are two things that I don't handle well myself.
3. I left the church where'd we'd been for 17 years. It was a decision I made after two years of "dying on the vine."  Six months later my husband left the church, but for those six months we were going separately to churches.  That was tough. It put additional strain on our marriage. Leaving a church means not really having a pastor for life's big changes and hard news.  And boy were there ever some hard things to deal with.
4,  My brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer.
5. My sister and niece each lost a baby through miscarriage.
6 .  Fearing and preparing for major loss due to Hurricane Sandy.
7. Grieving and feeling helpless at the news of how bad Sandy was (and is) for hundreds of thousands  in NJ and NY.  It hit me like a kind of survivor's guilt. Why was our area spared?
8.  The massacre in Newtown, CT. Seeing what Satan can do in one man, leading him to kill 20 little children, six teachers, and then his mother and himself .   To have a daughter who herself is a teacher with 20+ first-graders....I know she would use her body as a human shield in the same situation... and I have a boy of my own in elementary school....I couldn't contain my sorrow.  
9. A good friend's brother was killed in a car accident  and a few weeks later her mother-in-law died.
10. Three days before Christmas, a family in our school had a house fire and lost everything. Thankfully, only the mother was home at the time and she escaped. However,  the father is terribly sick and needs a liver transplant.

Sorrow like rain is why the whole year hung like an umbrella over my head. Feeling like a  sheep without a shepherd (humanly speaking), being a church orphan  without a forever family on earth to bond with since then...has compounded the sorrow. Every time I reached for the phone I ended up hanging up. "Who can I call about this?"  If there's one thing I've learned, it is this: The LORD is my Shepherd!  I have everything I need, even in the midst of a very sad year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Here Comes the Bride, 26 Years Ago Today

Dah, DAH, dah dah...dah DAH, dah DAAAAAH..........  Here I am on my Daddy's arm, walking down the aisle.  Get a load of those poofy sleeves.  (You know you're in the 80's when....)

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary.   Paul was 25 and I was 21, both of us students at Towson University (then known as Towson State University --and always shall be, in my mind).   He was majoring in Business Administration and I in English, but we didn't meet at college.

We met  in a tiny, run-down church in Baltimore's inner city, doing the work of  what you might call "local missionaries."  It was July 1985. For several months prior to my "arrival," if you will,  he and some friends had been going door-to-door inviting kids to come to their Bible club for stories, games, singing, and snacks.  At the time, I had  recently transferred from a college in western Pennsylvania, moved into an apartment with a good friend on 33rd Street in Baltimore, and had begun to search for a church.  I knew there had to be more to life than school and work, school and work, school and work. I longed to minister either to children or the elderly.

Through a chain of events, I met a guy who was leading this kids' Bible club, and he introduced me to Paul. From the first time I saw  Paul strumming his guitar in that rickety old, musty, floor- creaking Baptist church on Conkling Street, I was smitten.  There was something different about him. 

We hung out with church friends in groups, mostly, not really "dating," per se.  He was so quiet it was hard for him to express his feelings. I didn't really know where he stood until that guy who introduced us  told me that Paul had "eyes" for me.   That was probably late August/early September.

In October,  his brother died suddenly on the job, of a ruptured aorta. He was 33.  Paul called me right away. I sat down on my avocado-colored carpet in my apartment. Shocked. Didn't know what to say. But for some dumb reason, as I hung up, I said "I love you!" and before he knew it, he blurted out, "I love you, too! Bye!"  (He has no recollection of that, but I do.)  People at the funeral whispered, "Is that Paul's wife? Girlfriend? Who is she?" 

It's an odd thing to meet most of your future husband's family at a funeral, but I soon learned there would be many oddities to adjust to as a member of the Z clan.

In this photo on the far left is my uncle Doug. He designed my bouquet. Next to him in the front is Gary, still a very good friend and brother in Christ. Behind him is Paul's brother Gerard in those Elvis shades, and then David, his younger brother who is always one joke or smart comment away from disrupting an entire photo shoot, or funeral.  The little ringbearer, Paul's nephew,  now has a three-year-old of his own. Wow. The tall dude in the back row was a college friend of Paul's (they had declared themselves "Bachelors till the Rapture," but both succumbed to the fate of love and marriage).  In front of Tall Bachelor is Paul's brother Tony, who looks like he was just goosed. Next to him, no it isn't a cut-out of Tom Cruise, it's my sister Andrea's then-boyfriend who offered to usher for us.

Word to the wise: don't ask anyone's boyfriend to be in your wedding even if they are remarkably handsome.

Andrea said she had a migraine that day. Can you tell? Me neither.  She looks like one of Charlie's Angels.

So back to my love story and how we met and all that...

Soon after his brother's funeral, some time in very late October, I believe, we had our first official date. It was at the Bel Loc Diner.  Penny-pincher that he was, Paul ordered iced tea, and I had hot tea. (To his credit, it was at 10:30 pm when I got off work as a waitress across the street from the Bel Loc,  and I was more interested in his company than in food. Besides, I was not about to order food unless he did, and he didn't.)

(My older sister in green, sister and SIL in red, on the right.
On the left, friends Kim and Theresa.

The flowergirl? My baby sister Jill.

Sweet, isn't she?

They said at the altar she kept sliding her arms all the way through
her muff and waving at people on both sides of her at the same time.
That's Jill for ya. Everybody's friend.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah....

Three months after our first date, in late January of '86, Paul asked my dad for my hand in marriage, and of course Daddy consulted Mama, and together they agreed, but on one condition--that we wait until I was within 9 months of college graduation.  They knew I wanted to be a mother and also knew I wanted to have my degree first.

Besides, said Daddy, "you two need time to iron out wrinkles in your relationship."  Wrinkles? What was he talking about?  But we honored their wishes and waited until December.


Mama said the wedding had to be after Christmas.
Paul wanted the tax deduction, so it had to be by the 31st.
I had always wanted to get married on a Sunday.
So the 28th it was.

Nine days after final exams.

Oh, right. We weren't thinking.
"Young and dumb" ? Why, yes, we were, as a matter of fact. Young, dumb, and about to burn with passion.

Sadly, just 20 days before our wedding, Paul's mother died suddenly, the same way her son had.   Hence the pictures where only his dad is standing with us.  (Sorry about the odd angle; I took pictures of our wedding pictures from our album.)

Dad managed a smile after the wedding.

He could hardly stop the tears beforehand. In this aerial view, you can see him  on the front row, blowing his nose. Poor man. He lost his son and his wife in less than 14 months.

But he was gaining yet another daughter.

We parents who have attended our own son's wedding understand that wonderful feeling.  I just had no idea how quickly I'd go from being bride to mother-of-the-groom.

But I digress.

Frequent digressions are symptoms hallmarks
 of middle age.

At the close of our reception, it started to snow. How romantic. 
We walked out to the car to find the message "JUST MET" on
the back window. (The groomsmen had discovered, after the "M," that they
were short on masking tape.)

After the parking-lot kiss and before we drove away, Paul removed all the tape,
all the cans and streamers, every shred of "mess" from his beloved '84
Chevy Chevette. I should have known right there I'd have some
adjustments to make.  Mr. Neatnik married Miss Let's Party!

Guess that was one of the wrinkles Daddy was talking about.

Oh, well.  

Let's keep kissing, shall we, while the snowflakes fall on our cheeks-- and on
the photographer's camera lens?

Happy anniversary, honey. I love you!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Peeps Made Me Happy on Christmas Eve

We had  a MOST pleasant Christmas Eve.
Snow began to fall around 2 pm, and actually
stuck to the ground. Sometime before it got too dark,
I corraled the kids onto the front porch for a
We had fun --or at least I did-- with this
cold, brr-chill, photo shoot.
I used my not-so-great little camera
because I didn't think my Nikon was charged.
I should've checked.
Anyway, I
 just starting turning the dial of setting and
clicking away like a goon.
To get the youngest to smile I had to
make a heeHEEEEE! squeal,
totally embarrassing him.
Disarming someone with a cackle
like the Wicked Witch of the West
works like a charm.

                                              Life goes by in  a blur, doesn't it?

       Someone decided it was more important
to wear Christmas green than to wear long sleeves. It's the first time I've seriously
questioned her judgment, and we really razzed her about that.
Someone is using the gum in his mouth to help him maintain
the tough guy look he hopes I'll settle for.

HeeHEEEE! One more shrill squeal and
Mom gets Gum Boy to really smile.
A genuine smile from the 10 year old.
None of the shots with my husband and me turned out well.
 Here's hoping you had a merry Christmas and are looking forward to a Good New Year.
From Zoanna, Paul, & Family 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stockings of Burlap, Gabardine, and Ravens Material

Having my sewing machine repaired right before Christmas put me in making mood, for sure. I was just going to make two stockings--one for Steve and one for his fiancee' so they'll have keepsake decorations for their first Christmas as newlyweds. 

But I got a little carried away.

Ambrey loves the look of burlap and lace together, so of course I went aPinteresting for inspiration.  I also went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond for a Christmas gift, and  naturally had to visit the clearance section while there. 

Then, what to my wandering eyes should appear?
An embroidered, tan valance for five bucks, my dear!

 It was perfect for the trim I had in mind.  Last stop: JoAnn's, for burlap, cream liner fabric, and  pearl buttons (which she LOVES).

I made the burlap stocking using this helpful and funny tutorial    I had to do quite a bit of hand-stitching to keep the embroidered piece in place, and had to trim out some excess within the paisley to keep things matched up at the seam without bulk.

I also used the other part of the valance (gauzy fabric) to make the background for her monogram.  Handstitching that onto the cuff was a bit time-consuming, but worth it.  She was so tickled with the result.

For Steve, I made one of grey gabardine  and "white collar" as a nod to the corporate world he entered this year.  The cream fabric is the same as the one in her stocking.

I kept his simple and straightforward.  The only thing I asked him his opinion about was whether he wanted the background square for the S to be turned on point. He said yes, on point. "It looks kinda cool like that."  And did it need three buttons or just two? He liked two.

Now I was on a roll.  I zipped along on the ole Kenmore and made a stocking for my oldest son who is now married. He is a die-hard Ravens fan.  I had the Ravens material in my stash, and simply bought the solid purple and black to line it.  I also bought iron-on letters for his name.  My husband made fun of me for getting all excited about my "pretty little stitch" on the trim.  He kept saying (in an old lady/ high pitched voice), "What a pretty little stitch!"    

Last year I bought a fuzzy pink stocking for Ben's fiancee' (now wife). I embellished it this year
to make it uniquely hers,  but one of the letters in her name didn't stay put,
and I couldn't get to the store for a replacement in time.
The next post on stockings will feature hers plus the one I am making for my daughter, Lord willing.
There ya have it. Christmas stockings, some of Zo Z's Cozies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Too Sad

I went to bed sobbing, a deep hemorrhagic sob.
  I woke up with the feeling that  I was holding back a river.
Cries buried so far down it takes a bulldozer to excavate them from my stony heart.
The heart i have hardened to shield it from more pain.
And yet,once the tears start,nothing stops them
till  I am drained.
But what is my sorrow compared to that of others?
Have   I a right or reason to  grieve this much?
So what if my sorrow isn't from losing someone close to me?
I feel deeply the pain of others. Those   I see  weekly. Those I have never met.
I  sense great losses in my life which are not caused by death,
but by erosion and evil.
A nomad,
I feel lost and alone,
Not wanting to burden friends with my loads,
But craving human intimacy.
Strength is fleeting.
Joy is like cotton candy...
sweet while it lasts, but soon gone in an airy puff of sugar.
Dread hovers over me like a thick, grey fog.
Sadness wraps me up in a blanket, swaddling me with loneliness.
My bones ache.
Where is my solace,
Where is my balm?
Oh, Father, send Jesus again.
Hurry! We need Him.
I need Him.
We need out of this sick and sinful world.
I need out.
I am sick and sinful,
Wayward and weary.
Too sad to express these thoughts with words alone, .
I groan.
I ache.
I sob.
Lord Jesus,
Will  I see your face
And know that I Am

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sew, I Made the Decision

Last week I was pondering my options about  my suddenly-faulty sewing machine. The problem was that I coudln't get it to pick up the bobbin thread, and there was a slight knocking sound. At that time,  I thought I had three options (repair and keep, buy a refurb, or buy a new machine). But really  I had five options, as it turns out:

Option 1 (which I hadn't considered, but hubby threw out there): do nothing. 

Option 2:   have my machine repaired (an 18 year old Kenmore 385)  for $85.  For $20 the repairman had diagnosed that there was a small part broken off in the bobbin compartment, and the timing needed an adjustment, and the whole thing needed a good oiling and cleaning. He noted the slight knocking noise and said it wasn't worth pursuing (too minor). If I were to have him fix it, he'd apply the $20 to the bill.  This repairman/dealer is very reputable in the county.

Option 3:  Buy a refurbished  New Home by Janome, 15 years old which, after trading in my machine for $50, would cost $99.  But that machine was harder to read than my own, not much quieter, and looked boring to me.  It had the good name, though,  which says a lot.

Option 4: Buy a new Necchi, which was in my price range.  Cool features and warranty.  But it was pretty basic and on the loud side.

Option 5:  Buy a  new Janome MyStyle 100, a bit above my price point (not much), and I probably would adore it.    The cool factor was all over it. Very quiet, ultra smooth, brand new and easy to understand, drop-in bobbin, 25 year warranty from the manufacturer, and 1 year warranty from the dealer.

What to do? What to do?  Well, I wasn't going to make a decision on the spot, that's for "darn" sure.

I brought my old  machine home after the diagnosis.  The next thing I did was read my manual cover-to-cover to see just what all I might have been missing all these years with regard to features. Lo and behold, I could do everything short of fancy embroidery on a regular basis.   An overlock stitch could be used to make a nice hem; I don't need a serger or professional tailor on my pants and jeans!

My husband listened to my options and paid attention when I showed him the pictures online of my favorites. He asked me which was my preference. Was he really entertaining the thought of buying me a new one for Christmas? I said my preference was the new Janome for $229 (my cost after trade-in).

He also reminded me that there's a lot of life left on the motor of my Kenmore.  He's right.

Research, on top of personal experience,  showed me how well my Kenmore mechanical machine is made.  This is the first repair in 18 years? Not too shabby! To paraphrase one source, "Sewing machines made in the 60's, 70's, and 80's , and earlier, were not made to last for years or even to last for decades. They were made to last for generations."

Many of today's machines have fancy shmantzy technology, but they are renowned for breaking. A motherboard going kaput on an electronic sewing machine  might make this mother jump overboard!

As for justifying the "cool" factor, could I?.  It's  cool to have drop-off, snap-on feet , drop-in bobbin, a quieter, smoother run, and a 25 year warranty on a new Janome, but  I had to advise myself as if I were advising someone else. My husband is so good about that. "What would tell someone else who wanted the advice you want?"  he always asked when I am having a hard time making a decision.  I would ask someone, "Which one would you be content with? Which decision would be easiest on your conscience?"

In the end, what did I decide?

The option to do nothing was not an option for the creator in me. When I get a yen to sew, it's very rewarding and often economical.

The option to get an older Janome had too many unknowns.

The Necchi was simply too noisy.  I can put up with visible clutter a lot longer than I can stand audible clutter.  Especially repetitive noise.

The new Janome wowed me, but I had gone into the shop saying, "I will not be seduced. I will be wise."   Looking at all those shiny, new, do-everything-you-can-imagine-and-then-some machines would call for brakes on my greed. ( However, if I saw one that would silence my dogs and the neighbors' dogs  on command, I would make haste to slap serious Benjamins down on the table.  I saw no such thing.)

The option to keep my old friend Kenny Moore (Kenmore?)  was the one I chose.  I put him back in the shop on Thursday for the repair and tune-up,  and he is already finished. I can pick him up Monday. For a treat, I will buy him a couple new feet so I can do zipper and buttonholes when the "notion" strikes.

I am content to keep the machine I have.   We've stayed up many a night together.  We know each other pretty well. We've gotten on each other's nerves and  kept each other in stitches.  (Well, that's Kenny's job.)   We've made shorts for the kids, curtains for the kitchen, quilts for charity, gifts for family and friends. We've communicated and miscommunicated. We've said we ought to get together more often.   We've agreed that our friendship is worth 85 bucks.  And so we will be reunited next week and ready to start in on the next project I've been mulling over for a month, and which I hope to complete before Christmas Eve.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Tour of Homes 2012, Finally!

This is a day late because, after being busy all day yesterday, I finally sat down to blog at 9 pm and my computer almost crashed. It was unusable until today.  
Good morning.  
Welcome to our home. 

I chose a decorating theme this year of "traditional with a twist of funky baubles." The all-traditional stayed outdoors.

This  wreath was made by a great friend of mine years ago. I flanked the door with fake mini-trees and an old sled with fresh greens.  

To your left is happy Frosty and his unnamed penguin sidekick .
They love their perch atop the cinnamon-scented pinecones.
Frosty is battery-operated and motion-sensitive. I seriously thought
about leaving him in the "on" position,  but, honestly, if an unsuspecting UPS man
was "detected,"  the sudden outburst of "FROSTY THE SNOWMAN"
might make him drop a fragile package. Or wet his pants. Or both.
And for the casual visitor to be "greeted" in like manner
might scare the Christmas right out of them.
So I disabled Frosty.  Yet he still smiles. A lesson for us all, I suppose.
 We hang stockings on the banister, since we don't have a fireplace.
I'm still working on three stockings and will hang them
on a door in the kitchen. 
On the  dining room table sits our nativity scene.  I thought about
putting it on the linens dresser in the kitchen.
But that dresser isn't stable.
And don't you know, the nativity scene is nothing if it isn't  "stable."
Here's where I introduced some funky baubles.  These were ornaments that
my daughter bought on ridiculously-low clearance the year she worked at
Michael's.  She created a Dr. Seuss tree back then.
I was in the mood for some Seusss fla-vuh this year.
My friend Barb's brother--in-law carved this candy dish  many moons ago. It's one of my favorite
decorations. The angels watch over baby Jesus and guard the chocolate as well.
Our Funky Baubles tree.
I made the topper in two minutes. I simply took a
5-inch round green foam block , covered it with jewel-toned wrapping
paper, stuck five of those funky baubles into the foam,
and "voila!"
Unfortunately, because the tree is right beside the back door where the dogs
go in and out, the low-hanging ornaments don't survive the tail-wagging
of a happy Golden or a nearly blind German Shorthaired Pointer.
Hence the sparseness in the bottom third of the tree.
Above the entertainment center, some buffalo snow, glittery birds, and funky leaves.
What's with the blurry pictures?  Granted, I'm using my cheap camera,
but is my eyesight that poor? Anyway, take my word for it, there are nesting
birds of unusual color and texture up there!
Quite serendipitously I found a set of mugs to go with the 12 Days of Christmas
napkins and drinkware that I bought last year.  This set was at Tuesday Morning.
Besides loving the design on the outside, I love mugs that feature a picture inside the lip as well.
And the bonus is the size of  these mugs. They are large, so I can use my large cup setting on the Keurig.
I found a darling Christmas carousel this year at a consignment shop.
She plays quite a variety of tunes with the click of a button.

                                                         I arranged them on a lazy Susan and hid the  ugly wires
                                                      with fake greens and cranberries. 
As I fiddle with the carousel, I am happy. I recall carnival days
of my childhood and how, of all the carousel animals to choose from,
I always chose a horse.  My imagination nowadays goes to thinking
of future grandchildren....ah, someday.
 I hope to take them to ride a carousel
and, at Christmas, watch them delight in this tabletop decoration with us.
More funky baubles in a basket in the bathroom.
The air freshener from Pier 1 was a hostess gift at Thanksgiving
from my DIL's mom .It smells so good and was still full,
so I wrapped it in wrapping paper and labeled it clearly so that
people who leave funky smells will get the hint!
Oh! Oh!  Gotta show you this. My precious daughter
surprised me with these gorgeous flowers in
the midst of all my busyness and nostalgic
moments.  I just wanted to cry. She speaks my love language(s).

A pink poinsettia graces the linens dresser in the kitchen.
And now that it has taken you all day to read my long post of a short tour,
I bid you a Merry Christmas and goodnight.