Thursday, December 31, 2020

We survived 2020!

Wowza. It has been a long time since I have posted. Here it is, the last day of the strangest day of our lifetime, and I couldn't miss the chance to make an update. 

What did 2020 look like for the de Jong family?

Like most people, our year started with optimism. We were settling into the Lake House. D was loving his new school. Mom was recovering from her double knee replacement surgery and was looking forward to travelling.


Mom's travel plans now involved trips up and down the stairs. Back and forth along our street. And occasionally, a trip to ALDI. 

The first weekend in March, we cleaned out Niels' cloffice (closet office). Since he drove D to school every day, he didn't have a work at home day, so it had been a low priority project. It was great timing because he has been working from home since March 13 with no plans to return to the corporate office in the foreseeable future.

After leaving the Dream House and moving into the Lake House so D would be closer to his new school, it's ironic that he has also been doing school remotely since March 13. He will be home for his entire 6th grade year. We are beyond thankful that he is thriving with his arrangement. With his ADHD, the freedom to fidget and belt out songs from Hamilton while on mute has been a blessing all around. Google Classroom makes it easy for him to see the status of his work and he has been able to keep up. Over the summer, he work on 6th grade math on Khan Academy and did so well that he was put in 7th grade math this year will a plan to start algebra in the fall. 

As for me, COVID hasn't changed my day to day life very much. I like to stay home anyway. The only difference is that I'm not alone. I'm never alone!! :-) I had high hopes to do a lot of quilting this year, but spending time with my family was more important. I see this year as a gift. The whole world was forced to slow down the way I was forced to slow down after my brain injury. It has been interesting, and often disheartening, to see how some have responded to this gift of time. When else in our lifetime will we be able to save lives by staying home? I realize that I speak from a position of privilege. Our home is secure and our income hasn't changed. So many do not have ability. We are happy to stay home to make the world safer for those who must be out.

The big challenge for me this year has been my vision. In September of 2019, I hit my head--again--on the door to our dryer. I thought I was fine after a few days, but my vision was more wonky than usual. I had a harder time keeping things in focus and vertigo has been a real challenge. I wasn't able to see my computer screen clearly, or subtitles on the TV so my world got pretty small. I could only keep in focus things that were an arm length or less away. I have an extra large iPad that I used almost exclusively. Of course, trying to see made my brain tired. So I slept, a lot. I usually slept until about 10 and went to bed after dinner. I went to the doctor...a lot. We tried different prescriptions, which is a challenge because my vision changes from day to day and varies depending on how tired my brain is. Finally, in late October, we got it right. When I am rested and my brain isn't stressed, I see better than I have in over a decade. (In fact, it was ten years ago today that I sustained my last bad TBI, the one that messed up my vision and metabolism). I still struggle with brain fog when it comes to writing, which is why I am woefully behind on my blogs. 

For the last few weeks, I have been learning to see beyond my arms. It sounds odd, I'm sure, but it's overwhelming at times. There is so much more to see, particularly when in the car or looking out my window. Sometimes it triggers vertigo. I'm still pretty tired. I am able to stay awake longer, but need to lay down. I have played a lot of Fishdom. 

I'll make a separate post with my goals for next year. I'm not sure that I made a list of goals for 2020, but here is a little recap of what I was able to do. 

* I (only) made nine quilts this year. Hopefully as get used to using my laptop again, I will share posts on each of them.

* I'm still working on learning to use my longarm. I don't know what my mental block is, but I have a bunch of panels and it will be my #1 goal for 2021.

* My studio is slowly getting organized. It will continue to be a process because I was gifted several totes of scraps that I am slowly working through sorting.

* The highlight of my quilting year was seeing one of my quilts displayed at my show for the first time. The fact that it was my TBI quilt was even more special.

I'm wrapping up this post as I wrap up this year. Here's to a happier, healthier 2021!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Quilt #138 :: Happy Scrappy Colors

So, 2020 has certainly turned into a year none of us will forget!

Like everyone else, I have been holed up for the last three months. I have gone through the "organize and purge stage", where I got Niels' home office decluttered and organized a day before he started working from home. I also did a lot of purging of things from our storage room and got rid of things that we realized we didn't need after our move a year ago.

Next, I went through the "parenting in a pandemic," where we all adjusted to online learning and helping D adjust to a new routine for the rest of 5th grade. What a year for him: new house, new school, ADHD diagnosis, starting middle school, first time with homework and grades, 10 different classes on a rotating schedule...and then a pandemic! I'm so proud of how he pushed through the challenges and finished the year with all As!

Then, I went through "the slug" stage. I slept in. I went to bed early. I stared at my craft room but didn't feel motivation to do much other that slog through making masks for my family and a few neighbors. I played a lot of my favorite app, Fishdom.

And now it's summer. Our vacation plans are cancelled. D's summer camps are cancelled. We aren't able to host our soccer coaches because they are staying put in the UK this year. We are adjusting to the new normal and feel very lucky that Niels' job is secure and we have a beautiful new-to-us home to enjoy. But I'm still feeling blah.

One lesson I learned from my brain injury is that the best way to get over feeling down is to look for a way to help someone else. Quilting has been such a godsend for me in this regard, because not only is the creative aspect of quilting good for creating new neuro pathways, the emotional reward of being a giver again is incredibly healing.

Several weeks ago, while walking our dog, we noticed that one of new neighbors was expecting a little one. During our socially-distant chat, we learned that her little boy would be arriving at the end of May. We joked that with everything shut down, the only thing we had to do was to look forward to her baby being born. And what do quilters do when a baby is one the way? We make a quilt!

Before COVID closed the fabric shops, I had made a goal this year to not buy anything new fabric unless it was specific to a project I was currently working on, or backing to finish a quilt top I had completed. I also want to make more scrappy quilt to reduce the overflow of my scrap bins.

I love word quilts, so I had the idea of using my little 1.5" squares to make a rainbow quilt.

It was a fun project because it wasn't too difficult and I had fun remembering other quilts I made with the scraps.

Unfortunately, this project made little impact on the amount of scraps I still have. I think I could make a dozen of these quilts before it would make a difference!

Yellow proved to be a challenge because the lighter shades didn't have enough contrast to the white blocks, particularly the off-white pieces. I would step back from my design wall to decide which squares I needed to replace until the word "yellow" was clearly visible.

Spring came into full bloom as I was working. I love being able to look our at our little lake while I work. My mom is gardening for the first time in nearly 30 years, and making peace with leaving her beloved Arizona.

There is something very satisfying about making something beautiful and unique with tiny pieces. As I trimmed some of my scraps, I saved 1" strips for the Omigosh quilt I'm still planning to make. 

A funny thing happened while I was making this quilt. I learned that someone changed the rainbow! I grew up with the mnemonic Roy G. Biv (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). But most rainbows I found when Googling images look like this:

Instead of Green, Blue, Indigo, most rainbows show Green, Teal, Blue. So along the way, I guess I forgot what color Indigo was! One thing is for sure, it isn't Teal or even Turquoise.

My scraps are color-sorted by the "new" rainbow colors, with even Teal and Turquoise separated. But my Purple scraps include both Indigo (bluish-purple) and Violet (pinkish-purple). So I had a little extra sorting to do to find scrappy shades that could be differentiated in the quilt.

I didn't put a lot of thought into the design other than the color texts, but in my mind, it would turn out in a baby quilt square. Instead it was long and skinny once I stitched up all the colors and aligned them to the right.

I started adding more white blocks to the right and left to even it out.

I thought briefly about adding a border, but decided it was already getting a little big for a baby quilt. 

It's a little hard to see, but I quilted it with a half rainbow design. 

For the label, I had to do a little extra digging to find a ROYGIV rainbow.

When I finished the quilt, I walked it over to its new home. Mama didn't answer the door so I left it on the handle. Seeing someone open a quilt they didn't expect is my favorite thing, but I know better than waking a newborn! 

I always hold my breath a bit when I send a quilt off until I know that it has safely arrived in its new home. Happily, my neighbor stopped me outside a day later to tell me how shocked and happy she was with the new quilt--the first she has ever received. 

To see more pictures of this quilt in progress, check out #HappyScrappyColors on Instagram. To see what I'm currently working on, please follow me at deJongDreamHouse. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Quilt #137 :: Year 15 (TBI Temperature Quilt)

Hi friends! I had grand plans to write a big long blog post today to reveal my first finish of the year, and a very personal one at that. I am very happy to announce that my epic 2019 quilt chronicling my 15th year as a brain injury survivor is finished!

I actually finished it on the 11th, just in time to submit it to a local quilt show. Woo hoo! Bucket list itemed crossed off! Because I only had 10 days to finish the quilt after making the last block on January 1--including hand sewing the binding and sleeve...and learning how to hand bind and make the sleeve...and starting it the day before the quilt was due...I didn't have time or brain power to take a good picture of the finished quilt. 

However, in a few weeks, I will get to see my quilt hung in a real live quilt show and you can bet I will be taking lots of pictures hung up while it's on display. 

I have much more to say, but my brain is still not playing well with my words after all the December craziness, so it will have to wait. In the meantime, I wanted to share my quilt today because it is my brain-aversary today! My brain injury is sweet sixteen!

This is what I shared on Facebook today:

My brain injury is 16 years old today! Sometimes I miss my pre-TBI life. I’d like to be able to drive whenever and wherever I want. I’d like to be able to trust my brain to keep up when I’m in public or in situations that trigger my symptoms. I’d like to be able to make plans without caveats. I wish I was able to have written more books. I wish I could make more memories. I wish I could avoid my crashes and headaches and vertigo and blurry vision and fatigue. But, mostly I am grateful. I have a husband who loves and advocates for me. I have a son who challenges and inspires me. I have friends who accept my flakiness and welcome my spontaneous invitations. My mom lives with us and shares her silly pup with us. We have a beautiful home with a long table and comfortable guest room. I have discovered quilting, which gives me an outlet for creativity and generosity. I am happy and content.

So, please come back again to hear more about this quilt, see pictures of the show, and discover what I learned about (still) living with a brain injury. 

**Updated 6/2/2020**

My goodness! What a year it's been! My brain completely pooped out for about 6 weeks after I finished this quilt. I just couldn't shake the cobwebs and spent most of 6 weeks in bed. I finally started feeling better at the end of February and the COVID hit. Fortunately, our family has stayed well, but my sew-jo has been lacking as adjusted to having everyone home all day, supervising D's on learning, and so much cleaning.

But I'm back and hoping that our summer at home will be just the stability I need to get back into the quilting swing of things.

My TBI quilt was accepted into the quilt show and it was quite a thrill to see it among so many quilt.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Is anyone else looking around for the flying cars we were promised on the Jetsons? As fun as that would be, I'm glad we at least have robot vacuum cleaners!

We enjoyed a quiet day at the de Jong Lake House: watching TV, playing games, working on a puzzle, sewing, and writing my end of year posts. 

In case you missed it, last year I made 16 quilts.  It's a bit less than previous years, but considering we had a big move and renovation in 2019, I'm pretty happy with that. Here's to more finishes in 2020!

Speaking of goals, I created an updated post of the goals I set last January. I always set way too many goals, but I did hit quite a few, and in a few minutes, I will complete the last block of my TBI Temperature Quilt.  I'm looking forward to it being my first finish of 2020.

As far as monthly goals, I'll update this post shortly with a list of my 2019 One Monthly Goals (hosted by Elm Street Quilts). I missed a few last year, but with 3 weeks in Europe visiting family, , working on an epic, every day quilt, and yes, the move, I'm okay with that. 

Today, we will enjoy another lazy day together as a family. Niels loves binge-watching international shows, so I suspect I will spend some time next to him setting my goals for 2020. 

What are you goals for 2020?

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