Wednesday, October 19, 2011

City Girl In A Small Town

Hubster got a teaching job in Merlin, OR, which is just outside of Grants Pass. The decade long trek to getting him through school and into teaching is done and now we are reaping the rewards.

Grants Pass has tourism and timber as its two main employment industries. Tourism has taken a big hit in the past two years. Real estate values are down by 50% and unemployment has always been high here even in good economic times. Right now it's in the double digits. I have to confess I was really hesitant about how I'd feel living here. While on one hand I didn't want to move, I knew that coming here where he had a job was the best thing for us to do.

To give you a frame of reference on the general size of the town, I think this is what brings it home the most. When he was student teaching for Beaverton, the school district served over 30k students. That was for kids in Beaverton alone, none of the other suburbs. The population in Grants Pass is roughly 30k. I knew I was in for a big change going from a large urban area to a small town.

The closest yarn shop is over 30 miles away in Medford, which is a 40+ minute drive depending on traffic conditions and of course that's where the closest quilting shops are as well. In Beaverton, there was a local quilt shop literally a few blocks away and the nearest yarn shop was about 15 minutes away along with a JoAnn's store in between the two.

I was a bit unhappy wondering what I would do to meet people because I figured the easiest way for me to meet people and make new friends was to join the local knitting group, quite often referred to as a, "Stitch n' bitch." I figured there were enough knitters in the area that there had to be at least one. Nope, not in Grants Pass. Apparently there are knitters here, but they've not found a good location to have a regular Stitch n' Bitch.

Ok, well I'd just have to find some people through quilting groups. I found three shops that carry fabric, one of which is a dedicated quilt shop and the others are also vac n' sew sales. Upon arrival I found quilt shop has gone out of business. I haven't yet been able to determine if the third one is open or not. Oh dear.

So then I thought about the library! The public library is open five hours a day Tuesday through Saturday for a total of 25 hours a week. Gee, that's not much. Nor does it bode well for the size of their book collection. I knew I was spoiled in Beaverton as the libraries there are very large and they are open 64 hours a week.

Right now I think once we've completely unpacked at least the living room and kitchen, I might start offering knitting lessons with an ulterior motive. If I teach enough people to knit, I may be able to start my own Stitch n' Bitch! Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Then there's the other factor of moving someplace new. Acclimatizing the population to me, or vice versa. As in being seen often and long enough that people eventually stop staring and asking questions about my skin when I go out.

Whenever I move, it takes several months, as in 6 to 9 before I stop being stared at everywhere I go and before the questions about my skin stop being a regular occurrence. In fact, to prepare for the stares, I designed a tshirt, "Keep staring. Maybe I'll do a trick." It's a copy of a tee that Hunter Steinitz wore to an Ichthyosis convention many years ago. I wear it whenever I have to go anywhere other than the mailbox in our development.

Now here's the unexpected part. People here are friendly. They are FRIENDLY. And polite. The day before yesterday, I went to the auto parts shop to get a battery for a car remote. The customer in front of me tripped on the edge of the display basket sticking out from the counter at the bottom. I asked, "Are you alright?" He kept going so I assumed he was fine and didn't hear me. I paid for my purchase and went to my car.

I was surprised when he walked up to my car and tapped on the window. "Why was he doing this?" I wondered.

He said, "I'm sorry. I was rude to you."
"Excuse me?"
"I was rude to you in the store and I owe you an apology?"
My jaw moved up and down as I was replaying everything in my head. "I didn't think you were rude."
"Well, I was and I wanted to apologize."
Then he waved around his eyes and asked "Doesn't that hurt?" referring to my ectropian. Oh boy, here it comes, first person asking about my skin.
"It can, but it's just an effect of a larger issue."
"That's probably a long story, isn't it?"
"Yes, a very long detailed one."
"That's ok, I don't need to hear it, I know what it's like to have to explain it all the time 'cause I have a back injury." and after that we made small talk for a minute or two about how it was a beautiful day and he wished me a good day and we parted ways.

Never in all my almost 40 years of life has anyone, anyone ever asked politely about my skin and then reacted the way he did. He mostly wanted to apologize and make sure I didn't need help. He didn't ask any personal questions beyond what I just recounted. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I have never ever lived in an area where so many people are so friendly! Yes, I get stares though people seem to catch themselves fairly quickly if I'm wearing my shirt, and after being here for 17 days, no one asked me about my skin! One guy made a passing comment, "You look like you stayed out too long before you came in." as he was pushing a grocery cart past me in the meat department at Safeway but still, that's pretty mild for what I usually get when I'm in a new area. If I'm just passing through an area, I usually just wear sunglasses the whole time because most people don't notice my ichthyosis unless they can see my eyelids, or my skin is painfully dry and I can avoid the questions and get very few stares other than perhaps people wondering why that lady is wearing sunglasses while she's grocery shopping?

So I haven't made any friends face-to-face yet, and I am very lonely missing all my friends up north, but I think it's going to be ok here. These are good people and of all the places my husband could have ended up with his first teaching job, this is pretty nice.

Pictures will be posted once the pile of moving boxes has disappeared from the house.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Almost There And On To Somewhere Else

I'm finally quilting Beast. It's been a long haul but in retrospect, very worthwhile. I have gained so much skill with my quilting by challenging myself to create what I envisioned for this quilt. For a while I thought I'd have a really hard time letting it go to the person that commissioned it but I no longer feel that way. I know I can make others in this style if I so choose and they too could push my boundaries in a positive way.

I'm really pleased to be able to share this photo of it in the process of being quilted.
Quilting the Beast

My dear friend Grace of Grace's Cases helped me baste the quilt. Her assistance allowed me to get the basting done in a few hours in one day. I would have taken me days to do so by myself. Take a look at some of her work, she makes and sells some really fantastic knitting and crochet needle cases as well as project bags. The color scheme on this case really appeals to me

And in other big news, my husband got a job as a teacher in Jackson County in southern Oregon. We will be moving to either Grants Pass or Medford at the end of September. He starts work this Friday, 8/26/2011 but I'll be in Beaverton packing up our home. I'm going to miss my local friends terribly but right now the plan is for me to come visit quarterly for a few days so that I can continue to see some of the same doctors so I can very slowly transition to doctors down there if need be. I certainly have enough friends and family members I can stay with! We're hoping to find a three bedroom place so that we have a dedicated guest room.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Can Taste It

This quilt is so close to being done I can taste it. See this photo? That's the border blocks waiting to be sewn!
I haven't shown you the side blocks yet, have I? Well, here's one set.
 And just for giggles, a shawl I finished. It's made of one skein of acrylic. Yes, I know the yarn snobs reading this are now horrified, but there's something to be said for machine wash and dry when your dogs like to snuggle in your lap and burrow under your shawls.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Quilting Mojo Is Back

Check out the foliage spilling over the burgundy sashing.

This quilt was started in 2007. I started designing it in January and production began in in May. While my arthritis issues had started appearing, they didn't fully manifest until about 2008. My ability to be physically active tanked in 2008 and until very recently had been extremely poor. Ankylosing Spondylitis also causes exhaustion and I've dealt with that in spades.

In the summer of 2009 I started wondering if I would ever be able to finish Beast, which became its sometimes affectionate and sometimes not at all affectionate moniker. I have a stubborn streak a mile wide and decided I was going to ignore that thought and work on the quilt as I was able.

About a month ago, I changed my diet drastically. I don't know if that's what's given me  more energy or if I'm out of an arthritis flare but I'm not looking at this gift too closely right now for fear of driving it away.

I've been able to work on Beast for 45 minutes to two hours six days a week for the past three weeks. This is after only being able to manage 15-20 minute stints a few times a month with some several month breaks. It took a year each on the foliage around the house and then for the detail on the house itself. There are so many very small pieces that are incredibly intricate throughout the blocks shown. Thankfully all the border blocks will be much less difficult as they'll be what I now consider easy peasy patchwork. There was a time when I hated patchwork but now it's practically cake to me after making this.

Other quilters that make and sell quilts have seen the quilt in even earlier stages that the photos in this post show and have said this a $5,000 quilt. That's far less than what I'm charging the person that commissioned it.

Mike's a good, kind and generous man and he and his family have done something wonderful for the ichthyosis community that is worth celebrating. In my own way is to express my appreciation because I long ago stopped accepting quilt commissions even when I was still healthy enough to work full time. I prefer having the freedom to make what I want in whatever style I want without having to please anyone but myself.

There have been times that I have truly hated this quilt because I thought it beyond my physical ability to complete. It has been a constant reminder of the physical losses I have had to deal with. I am in love with it again and I am really excited at the thought of sending it to Mike.

It's still not done, but it is so much closer to being done that I am confident again that I can finish it and barring injury or another major flair, finishing it is so close it's practically tangible. That confidence has fed back into my interest in sewing as I realize that even though my arthritis can be extremely painful at times to the point that I can hardly move, when I do have good days, and I will continue to have them throughout my life, I can still quilt and sew.

I think if I hadn't had this commission quilt to work on, I never would have figured that out. I would have made a normal quilt, or at least one that was normal for me, and the pain would have made me finish it and then give up the entire hobby. It's a hobby that I love and having to push myself to make this quilt has given me a gift of realizing that I haven't lost the physical ability to do it. I won't consistently be able to make quilts, but I am not forever barred from making them.

I'm not sure that Mike knows that he's given something hugely important back to me but I will be sure to tell him.

The fish blocks will be placed so there's a fish above and below the house block.

The gray looking geometric shapes in the picture to the right is a template for what the border blocks on each side of the fish will look like