Rebirth – Birds of a Feather
By Beverly Hicks Burch
There is a lot I can say about the last seven and half years of my life. It has been disappointing, tumultuous, devastating, hurtful (physically, emotionally and mentally), trying and at time despairing. Temper that with gaining new knowledge, finding new love, trying to scour up courage I didn’t always know I had or realize I could garner, gaining self confidence in areas I didn’t know I had and self esteem in old and new places.
In that time, I re-entered the workplace after being out of the workforce for over 20 years. This was brought on by the end of a 27 year marriage when the ex (Gomez as some of you may know him) split for a married co-worker. (The antics he, she and his sister pulled would and may fill a book someday.) It was very clear the ex was missing that infamous “sensitivity chip” like another more famous (and better looking) ex when he called my poor sick aunt long distance and crowed, “She’ll be dead in five years without me to take care of her”. Humm…was that a murderous statement of intent? Leave her and kill her…
The job I found was a great job in some ways…great pay for a “displaced homemaker” as we use to be called. It was in a comfortable environment. No “slinging hash in a greasy spoon” as my Daddy use to worry about happening to his girls if they didn’t have a good education AND should some slimy low-life walk out on one of them. (His foreboding vision usually had us with a child on each hip.)
Daddy ca. 1975
My health was precarious at best when I started the job. That was from being a two time non-smoking lung cancer survivor and dealing daily with a multitude of disabling and chronic autoimmune disorders and conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, Arthiritis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a list too long to bore you with. (The ex knew this, too when he left, but said he didn’t care if I ever had any f**king, g**d**n insurance. Call him Prince Charming…)
My job was stressful with very strict time metrics and I dealt with people usually in some stage of crisis mode…even more stressful on me. Stress is a terrible trigger for most of my health disorders, so take those factors and compound them with the daily stress of life, a less than understanding company policy and management (even though companies say they hire the disable…it’s smoke and mirrors) and driving about 80 miles a day and what do you get? Well, it certainly wasn’t r-e-l-i-e-f!
Nope, after a year my health had become so bad that I couldn’t sit at my station without placing ice packs on many places of my body and I was subjected to many rounds of steroids. I was reaching critical, especially when I went almost a week without any sleep because I hurt so badly. (Sleep disorders are a common “go along” with my aliments.) The decision was made…my doctor decided to remove me from work…and that meant going through the agonizing process of applying for disability. (Nothing like kicking a gal when she’s down…and believe me, these disability insurance companies are pros at that!!)
I have moved five times and am on the cusp of relocating once again. (Yes, I’ll share more of that some other time.) One of those five times I moved was out of my own house because I could no longer afford to live there. To keep the house, I had to rent it out. The other times were for more justifiable and even pleasant reasons. Once was to remarry (Tall & Handsome, hello!) and the other times were for my husband’s employment.
During this time, one of the hardest things to deal with was the feeling of loosing parts of me. With the divorce, the new job, poor health, and moving, a lot of who I am was disappearing. I was many things to many people before, among then a genealogist and a quilter. Sometimes when you’re fighting for survival, parts of a person can get lost in the fray.
Quilting had become hard for me. I had taught Gomez to quilt and we became a husband and wife quilting team in our community. When I did try to catch a few minutes to sit down and quilt…I couldn’t. Too many memories rushed in…and then anger or grief would rise up and paralyze my fingers…my thoughts. It’s very hard to be creative in this type of environment and assault.
Then, I met my current husband (the aforementioned Tall & Handsome). As we courted long distance he discovered I quilted and was a genealogist. He encouraged me to start again. I did slowly on both fronts.
As a matter of fact, one project was waiting in the wings to be finished. I had been in the process of working on a series of sampler quilts called Maverick. I picked up my rediscovered accomplishment-in-waiting and slowly began to work on it…in spurts. It took me a while to realized I was accomplishing something…I would work on it then put it away for weeks and months at a time. That quilt became a catalyst of rediscovery and hope. It would just need to be jump started again…
Maverick I: To New Mexico – in progress
After we married, he made sure I had a dedicated place for quilting…a quilting room. Having that began to stir up the old creative juices and inspiration. Then something happened. I found that quilt again and began working on it and I finished it. I decided to name it in T & H’s honor and I dedicated to him. He was as proud as a father of a newborn infant. I caught him folding it up one day so he could tote it to work and show it off. Unfortunately, they do not make cigars to pass around for just birthed quilts.
The Kiss – My Favorite Wedding Picture
Then, Tall and Handsome’s (T & H) work carried us to a different state (move #4 for me). The company gave us two days to find a place before the move. Long story short, the place we settled on was way too small. (My dad says I have a lot of “plunder” ^-^.) The end result was that for almost three and half years we lived in a virtual warehouse. Boxes stacked up everywhere and no place to unpack and place things. Our lives were literally packed and on hold for three and half years. So, for that span of time, my quilting languished as it sat in unpacked boxes. Out of sight, but not out of mind…
We moved again about a year ago. Unpacking was rough. It took a lot of time because Tall & Handsome (hubby) worked such long hours and we have no family or life long friends in the area to call upon. I knew it was overwhelming to us, what would it do to new acquaintances? My health had continued to steadily decline. As a result, I was unable to do and was not supposed to do a lot of unpacking alone.
Like the tortoise in that infamous race, we plugged along, slowly but surely…and methodically. Sometimes it felt like we were in quicksand…sinking and no rescue or respite in sight.
But, one place was coming together making me anxious and excited at the same time. That was my quilt room. Every small effort contributed to the overall effort and a space for creativity began to immerge. The gears of my mind began to churn with possibility. Each piece of fabric found brought back memories and visions of new pieces to be created. Every discovery…some things I hadn’t seen for over three years…was a “Eureka” moment.
Then, July arrived…and brought that elephant on my roof. A mid-summer storm brought destruction to the neighbor hood and plopped a huge pine tree on our roof. And, guess where it landed? Yep, squarely over the quilt room!
The Elephant on the Roof
I was alone when it happened. T & H was in route home from a business trip in California. By the time he arrived that evening it wasn’t hard to determine we had water damage. The clue? Well, I guess it was that big ol’ tomahawk shaped water stain on the ceiling.
Being the smart gal that I am…and precautious to boot…we began moving crucial items from the room. Tops on the lists were my machines! Within a couple of days, most of the items in the room had been relocated and crammed into the guest bedroom and any other place that had available empty space.
Throughout the summer we struggled through repairs. First the roof, then the insides…the quilt room to be exact. The bonus was a better than ever room. Cost of a new quilt room: Elephant on you Roof. New carpet, new updated paint and tacky border former owner left, removed: Priceless!
And, wouldn’t you know it…just as I was ready to settle in and get busy, fate intervened once again…with a truly ironic twist. We found out T & H would be relocating again with his job…less than a year after moving into the house. The mixed blessing is we have a garage full of boxes we had yet gotten to and unpacked. They will stay that way until we move on to our next humble abode…my Momma raised a smart girl. In other words, do I have S-T-U-P-I-D stamped across my forehead?! (One down side is the fact a lot of my quilting paraphernalia, including quilt tops waiting to be quilted are still packed in some of those boxes in exile in the garage.)
My Little Momma
The “itch” wouldn’t be satisfied until I made something or completed something. Since most of the unquilted tops were still pack I decided to create something fresh and new. But, what? Fortunately many of my quilt books were unpacked and I began the thumb through them.
And then I saw it…the project I wanted to start. A perfect project for the rebirth of my creative juices, desire and shaky attempt to begin again. I found it was kind of like falling off of a bike. I was wobbly at first, but the longer I stayed with it, the skills began to come back. Granted my skills are much evolved from when I first started quilting, but I still feel like they are rusty. Maybe so, but this will be a great project to re-enter my beloved art.
I chose a small project…a wall hanging. That will make it more manageable and portable, and hopefully I’ll be able to see results sooner. The project is made of four 6.5 x 6.5 in blocks. Each block is hand appliquéd and the assembled with a different fabric (sashing). What my style or method or MO of choice if you will? Well, I hand appliqué, machine piece and hand quilt.
Birds & the Border Fabric
I picked a pattern from one of Mimi Dietrich’s books on appliqué. Since I enjoy watching our feather friends I decided on appliqué birds. There’s not a great amount of detail…these are more primitive and some blocks will be embellished. Aptly named – Rebirth: Birds of a Feather.
So, as I forge ahead and make progress, I’ll try to post updates and continue to learn life lessons with my feathery friends. Cross your fingers…
© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.