Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Teddy Bears For Mike

Mike's Teddy Bears photo MikeBearsGif50percent_zps387dca82.gif

This is the story of some very special custom handmade teddy bears that I made for my friend, Lori. When Lori's brother passed away suddenly last year she asked if I could make some of my custom teddy bears out of his old t-shirts as memorial gifts to all of his siblings, nieces and nephews. I told her I would be honored. 

It took me about six months to make fourteen teddy bears. It's a big family. Fortunately, I had a few months to get them all done.

Lori lives in Alberta, Canada and I live in Maryland, so we had to do all this long distance. Lori picked out the first t-shirt I would use and mailed it to me. It had a big beautiful dragon on it and I saw lots of possibilites for the bears. We met via Skype so I could show her how my pattern pieces could be placed so that different parts of the design ended up on different parts of the bears. A few hours later I had a pile of tiny t-shirt scraps and nine stacks of teddy-bears-to-be and I got busy sewing.

I took photos of each teddy bear in progress and shared them on Instagram and Twitter so my friends could keep track of the story of this family of bears as I went along. 

Hint: If you're planning to do a lot of hand sewing, take care of your hands. Keep your favorite lotion nearby. And I highly recommend leather thimbles.

When I was close to finishing the first nine bears Lori sent me another shirt for the remaining five bears, a white shirt with an argyle pattern and an interesting texture. Again, I had fun choosing which parts of the design would end up on what parts of the bears. 

All fourteen teddy bears were completed and delivered in time for Lori to distribute them at the Brown Family Reunion last month. She lined them all up on a bed and brought everyone in to see them and choose the one they wanted to keep. Lori says, "Losing Mike was devastating to our family, and missing him is part of every day. Having a small piece of him to hold onto, with these beautiful bears, is a comfort.... The bears are another way to heal our broken hearts." 

You can go to my Flickr gallery of Mike's Teddy Bears and see a photo journal of this project with views of the teddy bears in progress and all four sides of each finished bear. 

and let me know if you have a special project you'd like me to make for you.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I Need More Practice

My sister and I have a challenge going to write something, every day, for ten minutes. Here's mine from yesterday....

Since I have only ten minutes left in the day, I guess I’ll do my daily ten minutes of writing now.

Last night was the wrong night to have a bad case of insomnia as I had to roll out of bed and get to the church on time this morning to set up audio and video for the closing program of Vacation Bible School. It was also the wrong week for my bad back to flare up but fortunately, I took my daughter with me to help with any heavy lifting and/or fetch me my ice pack, whichever came first. During a break in the action we enjoyed visiting with a young man who had grown up with my daughter in our church and is now a student at Baylor and member of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir. That prompted me to tell him a few of my dad’s favorite stories of his student days at Baylor and impress on him the need to take that little drive from Waco to Belton to meet my father who would be delighted to meet one of the the current generation of Baylor ministerial students and share more memories with him.

The VBS program went off without a hitch. The ibuprofen kicked in about halfway through the morning and exercise seemed to help loosen up my stiff back.

I made it to 5pm before I fizzled, gave up the fight, and took a little nap before supper. That reminded me of the way my mother used to take naps. She’d come in from work and say, “I’m going to just lie down for ten minutes before I start cooking supper.” I used to wonder how much good ten minutes could really do. After all, it usually took me at least a half hour just to fall asleep. But she would fall asleep, sometimes not even disturbed by the phone ringing next to her bed. Then exactly ten minutes later she would emerge, fresh as a daisy, and dive into dinner preparations.

My mother… the original power napper.

Before I got to my power nap today I had edited video of the VBS program so it could be uploaded to youtube later… added a few rows of knots to my current macrame project… did a little computer research during lunch… and scanned an estimate of car repairs to be submitted to the state in hopes they might still decide to help with the costs incurred when one of their highway reflectors took a flying leap into the grill of my husband’s car and traveled through the air conditioner, transmission and oil pan, taking out a tire and popping open the trunk as it exited out the back.

My power nap took an hour. 

That’s almost as much sleep as I got last night. 

I think I need more practice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Much Do You Know?

I was once asked, “Do you know a lot about computers?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I know what I know, but I’ve just picked up my knowledge little by little as I was faced with particular situations. I never took a course in Computer Science or Information Technology. When I was in school those subjects were part of the Math Department which I avoided like the plague because, really, Math and I don’t get along very well.

So the best answer to that question is, “I know enough to know that there’s a lot I don’t know.”

Each time I’m faced with a new computer mystery I search online for an answer but a part of me is always wondering if there’s one thing I left out. Just one little thing about that component or software glitch that I didn’t realize might come into play so I didn’t bother combing online forums to see if anybody else had been tripped up by that, too, when they tried to fix this one little thing that’s gone wrong with my computer.

That kind of thinking can lead to a Technology-Paranoia-induced paralysis which results in multiple Windows computers in varying stages of assembly filling up the floor of my living room while I use the one Mac in the room to continue with my usual work as a writer/photographer/artist or whatever I’m calling myself this week.

These techno-DIY projects have taught me some lessons about life and God....

1. I know enough to know that there’s a lot I don’t know.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist home and most of my life has been spent around people who were very sure of their beliefs and their particular interpretation of Scripture. The more time I’ve spent around people whose beliefs differed from mine, the more I could see God relating to people in different ways. I could not deny the Fruits of the Spirit I saw in their lives but I knew they’d never walked down the aisle of a Baptist church or been baptized by immersion as I was. I know it’s possible to share my interpretation of Scripture with them and listen to theirs without either of us feeling threatened or judged. How about that? I don’t know why God relates to each of us the way he does. That’s just one of the things I don’t know yet.

2. You get what you pay for… or … You get out of it what you put into it.

The more time I spend reading about computers, taking them apart and putting them back together, talking to other people who know about computers, the more confident I am in my knowledge of them. The more time I spend focusing on the spiritual side of life, listening for a word from God, looking for Him in others, the more aware I am of my place in the universe and of God’s love for me.

I used to work with a young man in the seminary Print Shop and now and then forgetful professors would come to him with a big rush job, begging him to run copies immediately. He’d look at them with a slow smile and say, “How much is it worth to you?”

So, how much is it worth to you to really know what you want to know?

3. Stick with what works best for you.

My husband and I bought the original Macintosh when it came out in 1984 and used it for years until an upgrade was needed and it was clear that we would not be able to afford Apple’s pricey machines, even if they were worth every penny. We’ve been PC users, exclusively, until my daughter gave me her old iMac. I’ve only been using this  iMac for a few months but I have to admit, I do love it. I’m sure I’ll always keep a PC around for things I have to do with PC-only apps but I’m hoping to stay with Macs from now on.

The lesson I take from this is that it’s important to know what works for you and go with that, whether it’s what you expected or not. 

When I was growing up I expected that I would remain Southern Baptist all my life but things changed. The denomination took a definite turn to the right just as my personal beliefs were becoming more clear to me and I could easily see that we were no longer a good match for each other. Some of my old Southern Baptist friends may be praying for my salvation now when they read certain posts on my Facebook page but I don’t mind. I know what makes sense for me and I’m sticking with that, regardless of what others may do or think or even what my own opinions may have been in the past.

It’s amazing what you can learn from technology, isn’t it?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

For Maya

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts and write something about Maya Angelou but I’m stuck on the first sentence.

“Maya Angelou died last week —“
No, that’s not right. 
Her spirit will never die. 
“Maya Angelou is no longer with us —“ 
No, that’s not right, either. 
She is still with us in every word she ever wrote, spoke, or sang. 
So instead of writing…
I’ve been listening.

I’ve listened to news reports and talk show hosts,
to celebrities and people on the street,
all talking about what she taught them about life and love. 
Just the way she spoke taught us something
about the power of words, 
about the value of thoughtfully considering what it is that we really want to say, 
and about the joy of letting words spring from a hopeful heart without hesitation.

The many roads she traveled taught us 
that what we have been is
not necessarily
what we always will be...
that life brings changes...
that we can do better when we know better...
and that forgiveness brings freedom.

We learned from her because
she was always learning. 
She shared what she learned the way a toddler comes running
with eyes shining bright
shouting with joy,
“Look what I found!”
The lesson… the joy… cannot be contained. 
It is given to us to be shared.
And share it, she did. 

It’s the “Fearlessly” part that often stops us in our tracks.
To share what you’ve been learning you must first admit that there’s something you didn’t know.
It calls attention to parts of ourselves that we don’t like to look at…
That we hope the rest of the world doesn’t see.

Maya Angelou wasn’t afraid to take us with her on her journey of learning,
To show us all the paths she had taken...
The lessons she had learned...
The things she had released in order to take hold of something better.

She showed us the hope in her heart,
The good in us that we did not see in ourselves,
The heights we could reach when we felt mired in the depths.

I pray that, like her, we will see…

In our weaknesses 
opportunities for growth, 
In our discouragement 
a spark of hope,
And in each other,
our best selves instead of our worst.

She said,
“I’ve had a lot of rainbows in my clouds. 
I’ve had a lot of clouds. 
But I’ve had a lot of rainbows in my clouds.”

Which will you remember best…

The rainbow or the clouds?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


This afternoon my daughter and I watched a couple of hours of Makers: Women Who Make America. I'd seen it before and she had seen parts of it but this is the first time we'd sat down to watch it together that way. It gave me the opportunity to share some personal memories that put some things in perspective for her.

I recalled where I was as particular dates were mentioned. 1972, when Title IX was passed, I was in the eighth grade and my older sister was graduating from high school. I got married in 1980, the year Oprah dared to ask for a paycheck equal to her male co-worker. A record breaking number of women were elected to Congress in 1992, the year my daughter was born.

Yesterday was a day of memories for me, too, as I watched Vice President Joe Biden on The View. He talked about the Affordable Care Act and how it will give women more choices because they won't have to be dependent on their jobs for health insurance anymore. When he said that I was suddenly back in 1984, driving my daughter to daycare, holding it together until I'd dropped her off and then crying the rest of my one hour drive to my job that provided our family's health insurance. Or on the phone with a neighbor, begging her to look after my baby whose fever was too high to leave her at the day care center, knowing that my paycheck would be docked if stayed home with her myself and we couldn't afford that. I cried on the way to work on days like that, too, knowing that I had no choice. I was the primary breadwinner while my husband was in seminary and we both hoped our situation would be different once he graduated and got a full time job.

Today I watched a clip of Elisabeth Hasselbeck and company on Fox News discussing the Vice President's comments, saying women don't go to work just for the health insurance and it's insulting to say that they do. I'd go back and pull a quote out of that one for you but, frankly, I don't have the stomach to watch it again.

And I can't tell you what I think of them or their opinions because my mama taught me not to use language like that.

But it strikes me that comments like those shared by Hasselbeck and Crystal Wright show their ignorance of the lives of those whose experience differs from their own. Could it be that when they say that “people” don't do such and such they're actually saying “real people”, “right people”, “good people”, you know... “people like us”. Because those other people just don't matter. Not as much as “our kind of people” matter.

And this, to me, is the difference between conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives, by definition, are trying to do the least they can. Conserve your resources, your time, your energy. Don't spend anymore than you have to of any of it. Look after your own needs and let everybody else take care of themselves.

Liberals want to do the most they can for as many as they can. Find the money somewhere because there are people who need it. Change the laws so everyone knows their rights are protected because they've endured enough and we shouldn't make them wait any longer. Your success makes life better for me, too, because we're all in this together.

I guess that makes me a Liberal.

My 8th grade school picture