Hands or Head?



I’m always making that choice when I have a few minutes’ time.  Do I want to plug in the sewing machine and do a little more on the quilt in progress?  Or shall I dive back into my writing world?

Sometimes the writing is more appealing, or more pressing.  Sometimes the choice is based on my desire to finish a project and move on.

Choosing hands:


The quilt above is an example of the latter choice.  My husband and I worked together on the top of the quilt.  Then it sat around until made time to finish it.  It’s not my best work.  The inner panel depicts Boys’ Day in Japan.  I don’t know anyone with a baby boy right now, so the quilt is tucked away in my craft closet.


Some quilts that I’ve pieced, such as this one above, are too big for me to top quilt on my machine.  I sent this one to a friend’s friend, who has a massive, long arm machine like the one below.

long arm quilter

These machines can cost as much as $20,000.  They are computerized and, as far as I understand, use templates and laser technology to regulate stitching and accurately make a pattern.

Putting a quilt “sandwich” together at home can be a long and tricky task.  It’s important to line up the front and back correctly, with the batting in between, and enough extra fabric on the edges so everything can be cut back evenly.

Quilters use many different methods to put together a quilt sandwich.  Some spray the pieces with adhesive.  Some baste the parts together.  I use curved safety pins to hold everything steady.  The long arm machine has clamps to hold the sandwich.

Here’s the “sea glass” quilt I made stretched out on a long arm machine.


I’m almost finished stitching on the binding.  Most of my quilts are given away to friends, but I’m keeping this one for the guest bed, where I can enjoy the colors myself.

What I’m Reading

The Poet X

The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Harper Teen, 2018.

Caught between her parents’ traditional culture and values, and the present-day realities of a teen living in Harlem, Xiomara pours herself into her writing.  Mami tries to corral Xiomara inside religion.  Xiomara longs to perform her poems in an upcoming poetry slam.  Add in Xiomara’s involvement with a boy in school, and she faces an overwhelming situation.

With encouragement from her English teacher, support from friends, and her own inner strength, Xiomara finds her way to realizing her artistic dreams.

The Poet X won the 2019 Michael L. Prinz award.

It is a beautifully written story, all in verse, with language that sometimes takes flight.  Some phrases that caught me and touched my soul:

Just because your father’s present

doesn’t mean he isn’t absent.


She gives me that look again,

when someone who doesn’t know you is sizing you up

like you’re a broken clock and they’re trying to translate the ticks.


I hold on.  Link my fingers with his for just a moment.

And walk to the train feeling truly thankful

that this city has so many people to hide me.


I sit wondering how writing can bring

such strange strangers into the same room.


If I were nothing but dust

would anyone chase the wind

trying to piece me back together?


Read this book.  It is lyrical, deep, and prize-worthy.



light landscape sky sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.I

When I was young, Halloween always gave me the creeps.  Of course, you say.  It’s supposed to!

But no, I dreaded the day.  The only Halloween I remember was spent with my cousin Patty, her friend Judy, and my sister.  We decided (probably with some adult input) to be the three witches from Macbeth.  My sister helped us make our costumes.  Each of us had a yarn wig of a different color: yellow, red, and black. I don’t remember which color I had.  We trolled the neighborhood in Van Nuys, reciting, “Boil, boil, toil and trouble!  Give us candy on the double!”

That may have been my last Halloween appearance until I was married and living in Iowa.  My husband and I decided to throw a Halloween party.  I made our costumes.  He wore a giant papier mache chicken head.  I was a princess mouse.  For his costume, one friend stapled hundreds of fall leaves to a plastic rain cape.  That night, when he crouched on the ground, he was totally camouflaged, and terrified us when he jumped up.

photo of field full of pumpkins

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

The next Halloween night I recall was the height of beauty and magic.  My godchildren’s Waldorf school created an Enchanted Walk through the woods in Wallkill.  The children made their costumes (with help) and participated in mysterious scenes in clearings in the woods: a fairy on a swing, a dwarf pounding on an anvil, haunting music coming from afar.  It was lovely, and such a pleasant change from violence, blood, and danger.

woman posing like fairy

Photo by Tú Nguyễn on Pexels.com


For some reason, Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has always appealed to me much more than Halloween.  The costumes are often creepy, but the whole atmosphere and motivation is totally different.  Making food for deceased relatives, decorating the graveyard with marigolds and candles, and eating special foods is so much richer than collecting candy and TP-ing your neighbors’ trees.

photo of woman wearing traditional dress

Photo by Genaro Servín on Pexels.com

Halloween is coming around again.  Will my granddaughters love it more than I ever did?


meditator 2

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have this kind of serenity during meditation?  After forty-three years of practice, I’m not there yet.  However, the small moments of peace I do achieve, when the mind silences, keep me meditating regularly.

I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation in 1976.  Mantra meditation is what I still do, though the mantra changed when I met my guru in 1989.  There are many approaches to meditation.  Sometimes I attach the mantra to regulated breathing when I’m very unsettled.

For a lot of people, meditation can feel like this:

angry meditator

I’ve been there, too.  One thing I’ve learned, though, is to let the anger and the self-criticism go. The mind is a very busy monkey. Just come back to the mantra.

My most frequent personal distractions are fidgeting, planning, and writing my books in my head.  I get some great story ideas, but that’s not meditation.

A friend and long-time meditator told me that his guru said that meditation can be difficult in our present times, called the Kali Yuga in Hindu tradition.  The guru said to turn to chanting instead.  Chanting is another way to calm and focus the mind.  It can be less stressful than trying to meditate when one is agitated.  Chanting engages the whole body and all the senses, with ears, breath, voice, posture, vibration.

One of my favorite singers of kirtan (Hindu chants) is Krishna Das.  I like the warmth and ease of his voice.

There are lots of recording of chants available on YouTube.  Some other singers I enjoy are Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur Khalsa, and Ty Berhoe.


  1. noun: a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order


meditator 1

Every morning with few misses, for 43 years. No matter what, we settle into our respective chairs.  Do alternate breathing.  Lord’s prayer and gratitude to the Guru.  Awaken the reiki.  Reach inside to connect to the shakti.  Seek that surge up the spine, the sinking deep into the waveless lake. Sometimes it’s found.  Sometimes maya intervenes. More about this later.


Always the bath before bedtime.  Always reading aloud, side by side.  Then a song with a soft chorus and lots of verses.

My daughter fell asleep sucking her thumb and wrapping my hair around her finger.  Once she twisted our hair together.

Saturday morning cleaning the bathroom:

I’d call my Aunt Joan and talk while I cleaned the shower.  One gloved hand managed the sponge, the other bare hand held the cell phone.  A good time and activity for philosophical conversations. Now Aunt Joan is gone, but every time I clean the shower, I want to call her.

Reading before sleep:

It’s important to choose the right book out of the few I’m reading. The text can’t be violent or disturbing.  Maybe a little boring is good.  Too interesting, and it’s hard to put the book down.





Leonard Cohen, again

In high school, I listened to Judy Collins sing Suzanne.  My friend and I sang it in harmony, sitting in the stair well of the college library.  The acoustics were great–never mind that people were actually trying to study on the other side of the wall.

Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, Sisters of Mercy, Bird on a Wire–

I listened and I loved the words. I’m sure I didn’t delve deeply into meaning.

Not long ago, and many years later, someone posted Hallelujah on Facebook.  Sung by a sweet boy and his classmates at P.S. 22 in Manhattan.

For days, I could not get the song out of my head.

Cohen came back to me last week, in the lines from a poem I’ve remembered for forty years.  There is so much truth here, so spare and fine.

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won’t give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you’ve written,
so you give it to the wind,
but you don’t let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.