Tuesday, February 2, 2016

57, 3, 15

57 years.
3 months.
15 days.

That's how old my sister was when she died on December 30, 2015.

Char spent four and a half years in a tug of war with cancer. For a while there she seemed to be in total control. But that insidious disease came back and this time would not let up. Here's the kicker. She had uterine cancer, just like me. Only hers was Stage 4 when they found it. Mine barely qualified as Stage 1. Life is often unfair, but that seemed the cruelest irony of all. As I wept that she was dying, she wept because I was not.

It's taken me a long time to process this and to be willing to talk openly about it. Some of you reading this have been very open with your own struggles with health, grief, death, and dying. I've wanted to be, but I think I needed for the worst of it to be over first. Every time I tried to write about it, I'd sit paralyzed at the keyboard. I just wasn't ready I guess.

Char decided to suspend further treatment last August. It was making her worse, not better. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver, and kidneys. I think that's when I began to pull back from social media, especially after my own surgery in October. Since I couldn't bring myself to talk about it, it was better to be silent, although there were occasional exceptions. I was still reading, so the monthly TBR post cost me little. I would check in on Twitter at least once a day, maybe make a comment, but I stopped scrolling through to see what I might be missing. I was sewing a lot as well, although I barely actually finished anything. As your mind does when you're grieving, I kept skipping from project to project.

There's a lot I could tell you about her, but I'll limit myself to this: She and I shared a special bond over the last 15 years because we both loved to make quilts. We talked endlessly about them and our time together was frequently filled with sewing. She was an extremely accomplished sewist-- she made beautifully tailored clothes and home dec items. When I first started quilting, long before she did, she had this idea that quilting was only done by hand because that's the way I was doing it. One day I took her to a quilt show to show her differently and she was instantly hooked. Within just a few years of that she was teaching quilting and winning awards. For me quilting was a hobby, for her it was becoming a second profession. In 2007 she published a book about machine quilting. She was about to start another book when she received her cancer diagnosis.

In the months leading up to her death Char began to give away many of her possessions. She had an extensive fabric stash, several sewing machines, countless tools, patterns, etc. She had dozens of projects in various stages of completion. She made me take much of this home with me. She was adamant that I complete a couple of specific quilts and keep them. The rest she told me to finish or not, she didn't have it in her to care anymore.

In the years to come I hope to finish many of the things she started, besides working on my own projects. When I pull fabric from my stash some of it will have been hers. For the rest of my life my quilting will have a piece of her in it. I knew my sister was talented, but I'm also learning just how driven she was and how many ideas she had for the future. I found notes, sketches, and half-started projects in the boxes she gave me. Many of these were things she continued to work on even as she fought her cancer. We had dreamed of traveling together in our retirement, going to quilt shows or camping out west. I hope I still get to do those things, but it won't be the same.

I believe in Heaven and I believe she is there. She may be in a far better world than this one, but I sure wish she were still here. Thanks for reading.

Char & I at our nephew's wedding in September.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TBR Day. Deliver Me / Farrah Rochon. 2007

This book by Farrah Rochon has one of the best opening pages I've ever read. Seriously. You can go read it here at Amazon. It totally made me laugh. As did a few other parts of Deliver Me. I needed something that wasn't too serious and I lucked out.

Here's the blurb:

After being dumped by her boyfriend and passed over for yet another promotion, Monica Gardner moves to New Orleans, determined to make a name for herself as the new attending ER physician at Methodist Memorial Hospital. As for men--she's through with them. But when given the chance to chair the hospital's annual charity banquet, Monica must elicit the help of gorgeous Ob-gyn Elijah Holmes. 

Eli will do anything to thwart his matchmaking Mama's plan to reunite him with his high school girlfriend. So, when the sexy new ER doc asks for his help in planning this year's charity banquet, Eli devises the perfect scheme: He'll help put on the best banquet the hospital has ever seen, if Monica poses as his new girlfriend. But when Eli finds himself falling in love, he realizes convincing Monica of his true feelings may be his greatest delivery yet.

I found Deliver Me to be a solid, entertaining read that I really enjoyed. New Orleans is always a great backdrop for a story, and it was particularly interesting given that the book was set in the near aftermath of Katrina. Eli comes from a loving family and his interactions with his mother and brothers were fun. His matchmaking-mama reminded me of a few Regency matchmaking-mamas. I guess the theme is ageless and universal! Monica is a little uptight, coming from a family of over-achievers and determined to make a place for herself in her new job and city. I liked how she began to let go as she got to know Eli better.

The book has a secondary romance subplot. One of Eli's patients is in a troubled marriage. While I suppose you could argue that Amanda and Jeffrey's story could have been left out, I'm glad it wasn't. Their story was more serious because of Amanda's mental and physical health issues--but it also dealt with stuff we don't normally see in a romance novel.

Deliver Me is the first book in the Holmes Brothers trilogy. I look forward to reading the next two books.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Quilting Update

I haven't posted anything quilt-related in ages. Of course, I haven't published much of anything here since August, so I guess that's no surprise. This will be a quickie because I have to go and finish reading my TBR book.

So, back when I had my surgery, I had a nice 6-week staycation. I did a fair bit of sewing on a variety of projects which is another way of saying I finished almost nothing. Here's one thing I did finish in November, just before I went back to work.
The leaf blocks are small so the whole thing is about 9" x 14". The blocks were from a little kit I purchased. The pattern is by Designers Workshop. I took a class once from the owner, Eileen Sullivan, a long, long time ago. She taught me more about color than anyone else ever has--in just one six-hour lesson. I have several of her patterns. The kit included just the fabric for the leaves. I raided my stash for the rest of it.

At Thanksgiving my sister gave me a bunch of her Christmas fabric. I came home and made this little table runner from a pattern I found in an old issue of Love of Quilting magazine.

So those were my last two finishes of 2015. That's a total of 10 for the year, most of them small. I probably started just as many additional projects. 2016 should be the year of UFOs (UnFinished Objects).

One more picture--even though it's only a finished top, not a fully quilted quilt (yet). I spent a good portion of my recovery working on the butterfly blocks in the outer border. I showed this before when it was in its early stages in 2014. Anyhow, I got the last of those butterfly blocks sewn on in November and December and added the final gray outer border the other night. It took almost 2 years and it'll probably be that long again before I'm ready to quilt it. It's large, about 75" x 75".

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TBR Day. A Christmas Fling / Beth Barany. 2013

Like many of my fellow TBR bloggers, I have a large collection of holiday romances. I searched my Kindle for books with the word "Christmas" in the title and came up with at least a dozen titles. I remember this one by Beth Barany, an author I've not read before. I was intrigued by the cute premise of one of Santa's elves falling in love with a human. Plus it was only $0.99. I'm a sucker for those.

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her innocent Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?
Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?
I wish I could say that the book lived up to its promise. With both world-building and character-building to be done it wasn't very tightly written. There were some repetitive phrases that annoyed my inner editor. There were bits with Liam's mother that were rushed and not terribly believable. I'm not sure why she was even necessary to the story. Permeating the first half of the book is Dahlia's frustration with her inability to finish the toy she needs to make. Liam to the rescue! With a simple suggestion, and his Leatherman tool, Liam fixes it. Argh! Frankly, someone who wants to be a "master" toymaker should be able to figure out a couple of wires. It bugged me that Liam had to come to the rescue in that way. And finally, the ending was quite rushed. All of the problems are not problems at all. That's not good world-building.

I did like both Liam and Dahlia and I think Barany did a good job with their characterizations. Their relationship was believable to me. But that just wasn't enough to make up for the things that bugged me.

I think I'll go re-read some of my old Signet Regency Christmas anthologies to cleanse my palate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

TBR Day. Deadly Descent / Kaylea Cross. 2011

So in my previous post I reported that I'd be having a hysterectomy because I had an early form of uterine cancer. I'm now home recovering, doing very well, and grateful for a pathology report that said the cancer was contained and further treatment isn't necessary. Just regular screenings.

I didn't think I'd get a TBR post done because I wasn't paying close attention to the calendar and thought it'd be too soon after surgery. But I got it done! It's short, but it's done. Yay me.

It's paranormal/romantic suspense month in Ye Olde TBR Challenge and I chose this military suspense novel that's been languishing on my Kindle for way too long. This is Book 1 in Kaylea Cross's Bagram Special Ops series. The series involves American military personnel stationed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Deadly Descent is the story of Devon Crawford, an officer and Black Hawk pilot, who is fighting her attraction to Cam Munro an enlisted Pararescueman. Cam is off-limits because of anti-fraternization rules in the military. But just when Devon allows herself to explore a romantic relationship with Cam, despite the rules, they are both caught up in a dangerous mission that finds Devon and her crew shot down behind enemy lines with Cam nearby attempting a rescue before it's too late.

I really, really liked this book. I know very little about the military or conditions in a war zone, but the descriptions felt very authentic and real to me. The suspense element was extremely well done. I was totally caught up in the second half of the book when Devon is shot down. Cross did an excellent job of describing all of the things that made the rescue difficult and building the tension until they are all finally out of danger.

A number of characters are introduced in the beginning of the book--clearly characters who will show up in later books. But they weren't shoved in my face, and several of them were integral to this story. I am now very interested in reading the rest of the books in the series. So if you like a tense thriller, and have an interest in a military romance, I do recommend this book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A personal update

I've been, for the most part, a pretty deep lurker during my years on the Internet. Lately, I've taken lurking to new depths. Life has taken some difficult turns, one of which I want to share now.

Last spring I experienced some post-menopausal bleeding and saw my doctor in early June about it. I'd been taking hormone replacements and I'm overweight. Bleeding is not uncommon because of the way fat cells store estrogen. I stopped the hormones and the bleeding stopped. But my doctor never saw a fat woman who could go home and forget about it. She said we still need to check it out.

The pelvic ultrasound was negative. The biopsy (which didn't happen until August, for Reasons) was not. On August 17 I learned I have uterine cancer.

People, I have the best doctor. I took her flowers.

So Thursday I'm having a full hysterectomy. The cancer cells taken in the biopsy were "level 1," which is a good thing. Still, you never take anything for granted. They'll do a pathology report and I'll find out next week what comes next. Hopefully, just radiation and lots of checkups for the rest of my life.

I'm looking on the bright side. I'll be home through the playoffs and World Series. I can stay up and watch those games that don't end before midnight and not have to get up for work the next day. I can read, and read, and read. Although I doubt there'll be a TBR post this month.

I'm good. Really I am. Cancer is a damn scary word. But so far, every indication is I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm surrounded by lots of love. I'm good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TBR Day. Home by Morning / Alexis Harrington. 2011

It's historical month for the TBR Challenge and I want to know why we aren't talking about the novels of Alexis Harrington more often.

Several years ago I read her Harper's Bride, a book set during the Yukon Gold Rush. (The Yukon Gold Rush, people!) And when I finished that book I immediately bought Home by Morning. I can't believe I waited four years to read it.

Home by Morning is set during September and October of 1918 in Oregon, where horses are still more common than automobiles, the telephone only works during the day when the operator is on duty, and the small town of Powell Springs is more rural than not. Doctor Jessica Layton is passing through her home town on her way from New York to a new job in Seattle. Her sister Amy, Jessica's only remaining family, still lives there and Jessica wants to spend a few days with Amy before moving on. The same day that Jessica arrives, the great flu pandemic of 1918 also arrives in Powell Springs. Powell Springs is temporarily without a doctor of its own and Jessica soon finds herself taking care of many of the flu victims.

Meanwhile, Cole Braddock, the man she once loved, is working hard on his ranch while his brother is in France with the Army. Jessica and Cole had a bitter falling out and now Jessica discovers that Cole is on the verge of proposing to Amy. All Jessica wants to do is move on, but the epidemic keeps her in Powell Springs. As Jessica deals with the tragic effects of the flu and the unwanted attention of the town's minister, she also has to deal with those who don't want to trust a female doctor. Being around Cole resurrects old feelings, but she doesn't want to stand in the way of her sister who basks under Cole's attention. Eventually Cole and Jessica come to terms with what separated them, but they still need to find a way to move forward.

Harrington does a wonderful job of giving you a sense of what it must have been like during those awful fall days of 1918. We learn that Riley, Cole's brother, is suffering in the trenches of France while his wife is home, filled with worry. That Wikipedia article about the flu pandemic (link above) mentions that the American press minimized the extent of the flu to keep morale high. As a result, Jessica's ignorance about what she was facing rings very true. The minister who sets his sights on Jessica also heads up the local branch of the American Protective League. Reading that made me think that American citizens during WWI faced serious privacy issues. Threats to privacy are not new, just the methods are.

Clearly, a book set during a lethal epidemic and a gruesome war (well, all wars are gruesome, but the stories of the trenches in France are particularly awful) is not going to be lighthearted. Parts are rather heartbreaking. So be forewarned that this is heavier than many romances.

Finally, while I certainly liked this book, I wish the romance had been resolved a little better. I won't give away spoilers. I do believe in the HEA here, but it comes about abruptly and I felt it needed one more conversation between Cole and Jessica. Still, I highly recommend this book, especially if you want to read a historical that's non-European and non-19th century.

Harrington has written two more books about Powell Springs and there are some Montana-set books that I'm very interested in. The Bridal Vail looks interesting. I guess I'll be over here spending some money.