A Life of Many Colors


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4

Working at my Longarm

Over the last year, there have been many changes in my life.  Last Christmas, I did not anticipate these changes.  Sometimes God nudges us, lifting us from our complacent routine.  Other times, he moves us, literally, to a new adventure.  After 37 years in the same home, my husband and I are beginning a new journey, in a new home, and in a new state.  I will write more about this in the coming months.

For now, I would like to share my presentation of the 2017 McLean’s Hospice Memorial Quilt.  Those who lost loved ones in 2017 in the McLean’s Care Facility were invited to create a design on a 6-inch fabric square in honor of that loved one.  These squares are assembled into a quilt.  This was my seventh and my final quilt for them.  Here is a transcript of my speech and the poem I wrote for the quilt unveiling ceremony:

“Lights of Hope Ceremony”

Speaking to family and friends of those remembered

Last year, I had many time constraints due to my daughter’s fall wedding. This year, I did not anticipate a time challenge, beyond the normal, until my husband and I decided to move to live near that daughter in North Carolina. This is my last memorial quilt for McLean’s.

Thankfully, once again, wonderful helpers rose to the occasion to help with the making of this year’s quilt. My first thanks go to Carol Blouin and Kathie Fallon who gave hours of their time to not only help assemble the quilt, but to help with the design and placement of your blocks. Most importantly, we enjoyed our time together, giving me some peace during this hectic time of transition. In addition, Kathie hand-stitched the binding – a very time-consuming undertaking, as you will soon see.

Next, I thank all of you who took the time to design a fabric square to honor your loved one. I know it is not always an easy task to first think of the best way to honor a person on the surface of a 6-inch piece of cotton, and then to tap into your creativity in order to make it. I thank you for taking the time and for trusting me with your treasured personal memorial.

As for the staff here at McLean’s, I cannot give enough thanks. Year after year I am amazed to see how everyone here works to care for the hospice patients and continue their work with the patients’ families and friends, caring for and honoring the tremendous grief which follows the loss. This annual ceremony and the quilt are just two of the many ways they continue the ministry of hospice. Thank you to Chris Novak for organizing all of the quilt blocks, the paperwork, the phone calls, sending lunch for the quiltmakers, and much more. I am immensely grateful to Chris for her support and attention to details. She is an incredible help to me and has become a treasured friend.

Thank you to Elizabeth Scheidel for her embroidery talents. If you look at all the quilts here, each year she stitches a poem to be worked into the quilt. Her beautifully stitched words inspire me and add so much feeling to the finished quilt. Thank you, too, to Jeri Pease for helping many of you by creating the photographed blocks. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers here for their unending kindness and compassion.Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Ted, for all of his support for this quilting ministry and for taking on so many household and other tasks I usually can’t get to during this time. Mostly, I am very grateful for his understanding of the passion I have for quilting and for my desire to use my skills to help others. These quilts would not happen if it were not for his love and support.

After the quilt blocks and fabric pieces are assembled, I spend many hours hovered over your memories as I do my tiny quilting stitches. Lots of thoughts come into my mind while I’m working. This year, my head seemed to be filled mostly with questions. I wondered how you all are doing as you cope with loss. I thought about my times of grief, and wondered how I managed to get through. I questioned why I purchased a quilt at Bed, Bath & Beyond for my guest room because I haven’t had time to make one. This year in particular as I face moving to a new home to begin again, I found myself asking why do I do this work?

If you look closely at each of quilts I have made, you will see I was always sure to incorporate a little Mountain Laurel and a Robin. These are to represent my daughters, Laura and Robin. When Laura was in elementary school and was learning about state emblems, she asked, “Mom, why did you name me after the state flower and Robin after the state bird?” I honestly hadn’t realized we did that, but once I knew, I was happy about it. Perhaps it was a subconscious thing because I loved living here in Connecticut. I include my daughters in the quilts because they have inspired me to do my best work. They were always looking on and therefore, I was motivated to be a good example.

You will also see butterflies in all of the quilts. These are to represent my daughter, Karen, who died in infancy. When my husband and I were grieving, most everyone was kind, caring and helpful. However, there were those few who said things like, “you’ll have another,” or “it’s better to lose her now rather than later.” I know those people were trying to be helpful in their own way, but to me it felt like they were saying her life wasn’t that important and my grief was insignificant.

A few years later, a young mother in our community was given a horrible diagnosis with a

Quilt Unveiled!

dire prognosis. I wasn’t close enough to her to know what to do, but I wanted to do something. I decided to make her a quilt. I took that quilt around the town to ask her friends and family to sign it. I had no idea what to expect, but the quilt took on a life of its own as it was passed from the school to the town hall to the churches and more. The back of the quilt was filled with messages of encouragement and love. Most signers also wrote how much this woman meant to them. It became a warm and comforting affirmation of this young woman’s life and it greatly consoled those her loved her.

This began my work – to create quilts that honor, celebrate, affirm and remember. Through my personal experiences with grieving together with what I have learned while creating these quilts, I have come to understand that every life has value and everyone’s loss needs to be comforted. I hope this quilt brings you some comfort as you continue to live your life without your loved one. Their life was very important and your sadness is a testament to all they were. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

Finally, I like writing poetry. Each year my random thoughts, your quilt squares, and the final design move me to write a poem.

“A Life of Many Colors”

I saw a tiny tree leaf bud
in April’s first few days.
It’s reddish shell was striking
amidst the early morning haze.

The infant leaf emerged
as spring’s sunlight climbed bright.
The delicate green signaled hope
to the barren Earth’s delight.

How wonderful is May,
lush trees and blooms abound?
Deep pinks, yellows and blues
a stage for the spring birds’ sound.

Gardens of the summer months
in June, July and August’s heat
grow purple, red and orange shades
splendid gifts for us to eat.

Like an orchestra’s climactic surge
Autumn’s leaves burst forth bold,
The magnificent October hues
rich amber, rust and gold.

I lost you in November
when the Earth was gray and bare.
The brilliance of fall was gone
leaving darkness and despair.

But your life was full of color
reminding me of things to do,
Like always look for rainbows
though the sky might just be blue.

Your rosy disposition
and your golden laughter unfurled
gave to me a life’s objective
to share color with the world.

Now I can face the winter
though arctic paths may block the way
I will hold fast to your life’s spectrum
dispensing color every single day.

November 13, 2018

McClean’s Hospice Care

Simsbury, Connecticut

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Lord, You Light Up My Life — Literally!

“There an angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush . . .” — Exodus 3:2

Nativity Advent Wreath

My husband and daughters seem to get a kick out of remembering otherwise fun events by the one thing (sometimes two) that went wrong.  Mostly tongue-in-cheek, instead of recalling all the enjoyable happenings of a vacation, a special dinner, or even the holidays, they choose to focus on the mishaps of the day.

For example, a trip to the beach is now referred to as “the time Mom forgot to put the car in park, causing it to roll into the woods with 5-year old Laura buckled in the back seat.”  The car was only going about five miles per hour and it was gently halted by a protruding tree stump, but it still brought on serious panic followed immediately by multiple thank-you prayers.

Our 1997 trip to Disney World is now known as “the four-day torrential rain getaway.”  The locals said they had rarely, if ever, seen so many days in a row of rain.  How lucky can we get?

Christmas 2015 was “the year of the flu,” followed by Christmas 2016, “the stomach virus holiday.”  I could go on, but I fear you would think our family life has been a string of bad luck vacations and get-togethers.  I do not believe this to be the case, but please don’t check with my husband and daughters, a.k.a. the glass is half empty characters in this story.

This past Christmas was going so well — no fevers, no bad meals, no arguing and not even a burnt toast — but then it happened.  Christmas 2017 will now be remembered as “The Year of the Fire!”

On the last night the six of us were together, we were playing a board game.  I had moved my ceramic nativity advent wreath from the dining table to a side table to make room for the game.  I then lit the candles.

We were talking, laughing and having a great time.  Suddenly, I looked up to see a burst of flames behind my daughter’s head!  One of the candles had burned down to the greenery I had placed in and around the nativity figurines.  The greenery was artificial, and apparently, highly flammable.

Fortunately, everyone jumped into action and there was no serious damage.  Though, “Joseph” now looks less like a doting, proud father, and more like “The Ghost of Christmas Future.”

Of course, any scary episode like this always gets me thinking.  I lay in bed that night listing the “what ifs” in my head.  What if we weren’t all sitting there?  What if we had gone  to bed and I forgot to extinguish the candles?  What if the wreath was closer to drapes?  What if Laura’s hair caught fire?  What if I hadn’t moved the wreath aside to make room for fun?

I lit the candles because it was our last night of celebrating all together.  Laura and Erik were heading home to Annapolis the next day.  Robin and John were going to their home in Raleigh a day later.  Ted and I would soon be back in our empty-nest routine.   Mentally, emotionally and physically, I was ready to burn down the candles and begin to pack away Christmas 2017.

A fire is difficult to ignore.  When he noticed the burning bush, Moses said, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight” (Exodus 3:3).  However, what was especially remarkable in his case was how the bush was not burned even though there were flames.  In my case, poor Joseph’s ceramic glaze was seared off leaving only black soot.

Still, the event begs an analogy.  I moved God out of the way to make room for fun and the start of a new year.  I see this episode not as “The Year of the Fire,” but rather as a “Christmas of Clarity.”  God was saying to me, “Hey I’m still here.  The season of Jesus’ birth is not over and don’t start the new year without me!”

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not faulting myself for moving the wreath from the center of the table to have fun with my family.  God is all for that, I’m sure.  My point is, in my never-ending quest to see God in all things, the fire got me thinking.  Whether it’s Advent, Lent, Easter, Christmas or Ordinary time, it’s crucial to keep God at the center of our lives.  Mostly, it’s important to pay attention to the light!

Robin and John’s Wedding
October 29, 2017
“The Day of Tropical Storm Phillippe” but still a great day!


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I Will Never Forget

“Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” — Psalm 23:6

20171114_184112I was honored once again to create the Hospice Memorial Quilt for McLean Home Care and Hospice in Simsbury, Connecticut.  The following is a transcript of my presentation at the annual “Lights of Hope Celebration” before the unveiling of the quilt, which honors those who died in 2016:

For the most part, creating a quilt is solitary undertaking. I mostly work alone, though with the radio or television blaring so I don’t feel alone. It’s in my head where the design idea is formulated. It’s my heart where the love of quilting motivates my hands to cut, press, and stitch. And it’s my back that aches from sitting or standing too long at my various sewing machines.

A quilt like this, however, cannot possibly be created by one person alone. The 2016 Hospice Memorial Quilt took many heads, hearts, hands and aching backs to create. I would like to take a moment to thank all of those body parts!

First I thank all of you who took the time to design a fabric square to honor your loved one. I know it is not always an easy task to first think of the best way to honor a person on the surface of a 6-inch piece of cotton, and then to tap into your creativity in order to make it. I thank you for taking the time and for trusting me with your treasured personal memorial.

20171114_190739Next, I thank the staff here at McLean’s. I am in awe of this place. Those who aren’t familiar with the job of hospice, might think the work is done after the patient has passed on. The McLean’s staff does not limit the definition of Hospice in that way. Their work continues with the patients’ families and friends, caring for and honoring the tremendous grief which follows the loss. This annual ceremony and the quilt are just two of the many ways they continue the ministry of hospice. Thank you to Chris Novak for organizing all of the quilt blocks, the paperwork, the phone calls and much more. I am immensely grateful to only have to do the sewing because I can leave all the administration details to Chris. She is an incredible help to me. Thank you to Elizabeth Scheidel for her embroidery talents. If you look at all the quilts here, each year she stitches a poem to be worked into the quilt. Her beautifully stitched words inspire me and add so much feeling to the finished quilt. Thank you to Jeri Pease for helping many of you by creating the photographed blocks. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers here for their unending kindness and compassion.

Because my husband and I had a momentous family event happening this year – ourOctober 29-2017 daughter was married two weeks ago – I needed extra help from friends. I am not sure I could have completed the quilt this year if it wasn’t for the help of good friends. Thank you to Carol Blouin, Kathy Kurtich, and Nancy Burch, who helped me to sew together the blocks. Thank you to Mary Watt, proprietor of the Quilted Ewe in New Hartord, who donated space in her teaching studio for us to work. Thank you to Maria Gerard who attached the binding – mostly a hand sewing job! In the bible, in the Book of Sirach (6:14-15), it says, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence.” I have been blessed to experience this over and over again with my wonderful friends. I am very grateful – Thank You!

Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Ted, for all of his support for this quilting ministry. I could not do this work without his willingness to pitch in on cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, etc. And, of course, he also pays the bills. Mostly, I am very grateful for his understanding of the passion I have for quilting and for my desire to use my skills to help others. In all honesty, these quilts would not happen if it were not for my husband’s love for me.

FlowersFor me, it’s apropos this ceremony is held in November. I lost my dad and my infant daughter in the month of November. I also lost a very close friend – we were practically inseparable when quilting was involved – whose birthday was in November. Each year when this month is rolling around, I tell myself it’s just another month and it shouldn’t bring on more sadness than any other month of the year. However, it happens. It could be just the feel of a gentle November breeze or seeing the way the last few maple leaves cling to swaying branches that trigger a memory. Sometimes it’s election day because one of my last memories of my father was him watching election results in 1970 on our new, and first, color TV. Whatever the triggers, it’s difficult to avoid the more intense memories of those we lost during the season of their death. Maybe you have experienced this at the times of the year of your loss?

I like to think of these memory triggers as a lasting gift from those we lost. It’s like a tapButterfly on the shoulder from my dad saying, “enjoy each day to the fullest,” a kiss on my cheek from my daughter saying, “I’m proud of you, Mom” or a gentle push from my friend saying, “keep on quilting!” Though their physical beings have left me, their enduring spirits continue to shake me from complacency. These are the kinds of things I ponder while working with your quilt blocks, and these particular thoughts inspired this year’s poem.

Though I tried to resist it, writing a poem for the quilt’s unveiling has become a tradition.  I thought the first few were a fluke, but now I guess it’s just meant to be. The verses just seem to come to me when I’m working on the quilt. Often, when I’m making the hospice memorial quilt, I have what seem like “memories,” but they are not mine. I get pictures in my mind of regular people in ordinary places, and yet I feel strongly their impact on those they love is neither regular nor ordinary. These visions and thoughts could easily be explained due to all the romance novels I’ve read or the countless classic movies I so enjoy, but I sometimes wonder if these “memories,” which I include in my memorial poems, could belong to some of you?

 I Will Never Forget

I hadn’t thought of you in a while.
It must have been half a day,
Since I saw your beautiful face
In my mind, where memories lay.

It startled me a bit
To realize it had been that long
Since something had reminded me
And brought your presence so very strong.

I see you at the local park
Where we would take our walks.
We enjoyed the nature all around us
Enhancing our wonderful talks.

I often see you in the kitchen
Creating your famous stew.
You’d make enough for an army
So the neighbors came to enjoy it, too.

Sometimes I see you at the garden’s gateGarden Gate
Inviting me to enter
To sniff the latest fragrant blooms,
The ones you planted before last winter.

So you see those few hours
When you weren’t present in my brain
Was clearly a rare event
For reasons I can’t explain.

Your gifts to me were numerous
And being with you was such a treat
That thoughts of you still lift me
And make my days complete.

One day I’ll see you at another gate,
But that time is not quite yet.
Until then I promise you –
All we had in life, I will never forget.

Dorothy J. Szypulski
Lights of Hope Celebration
November 14, 2017

2016 Hospice Memorial Quilt

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Majority rules . . . I suppose.

“And no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” — 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7

Come Holy Spirit!

It has been months since the final vote was in, and I’m still not over the shock.  It took me by surprise.  I did not see it coming.  It is difficult to accept how so many decided to cast their vote in such a way — a choice which devalues a certain segment of the population.

Of course, as I’m sure you realize, I am referring to the recent “Monopoly Token Madness” campaign, that allowed fans to vote on both classic tokens and new alternatives to help decide which ones will be included in the new version of the game.  To my complete shock, the classic thimble did not secure enough votes.  It has been dropped!

“The Thimble will not ‘pass go’ in the next generation of the Monopoly game,” Hasbro

My thimble collection.

said.  “The lucky Thimble has ‘lost its shine’ with today’s fans and will be retired from the game.”

Upon hearing the news, one blogger wrote, “It isn’t as relevant to modern America . . .”  Excuse me?  Not relevant?  Do you wear clothes, cover yourself in blankets, hang curtains or use potholders?  Do you really believe sewing is not relevant?

Ok, so maybe the thimble, per se, is not needed to make all those things, but it is certainly a handy tool if you ever need to mend them.  And, if you don’t happen to mend, you should be even more grateful to those who don a thimble to do the mending for you!

In the quilting world, thimbles must always be within an arm’s reach, readily available for stitching binding, buttons, beads and applique.  It’s an aggravating day when I am trying to embellish my latest creation and can’t find my favorite thimble.

A thimble made into a handy bookmark!

Perhaps it’s silly to make such a fuss about a tiny finger-tip covering in this 21st century era of massive technology, but the decision to outcast the thimble is not really about its usefulness.  It’s a statement about a time that no longer exists — a time when being able to sew a button or embroider a pillow really meant something.  For most of human history, having a skill or a trade was not only very relevant, but highly regarded.  It is a relatively new concept to hold someone’s intellect in higher esteem than a person’s ability to create.

These days, everything from socks to draperies can be purchased premade at reasonable prices, and if your item should rip or lose a fastening, just toss it out and log onto the internet to purchase another.  Very few of these items are crafted in the United States, making it difficult, if not impossible, for American artistisans to make a living by competing in the global marketing place.

As an avid quilt maker, I have often spent time pondering what life was like for the

My Aunt’s antique thimble and pattern tracing tool. The handkerchief was tatted by my grandmother.

common homemaker before electricity was in the home.  The clothing and other fabric needs she created were treasured by the entire family.  She spent countless hours, with a needle held in her right fingers and a thimble on one, or two, of her left fingers, stitching away to render the perfect kitchen curtains, a fashionable new dress, or a beautiful quilt.  How fortunate we are today to have machines to do most of the work.  How blessed to have light available twenty-four hours a day and not be limited by darkness when we want to create.

I am not really upset with Hasbro’s decision.  They, like all companies, must work to stay current with their consumers in order to ensure longevity.   After all, they are competing with video and virtual reality activities.  If Hasbro still hopes to offer an old-fashioned, kitchen table board game, they must provide playing pieces which are identifiable to millennials.  It certainly seems like more fun to “drive” a race car as you acquire property and hotels rather than dragging a silver-plated, handle-less bucket (assuming the player does not recognize a thimble) from Baltimore Avenue to Park Place.

A thimble is an absolute necessity when I’m doing bead work.

If the truth be told, casting out the Monopoly thimble stirred in me those mostly buried feelings of inadequacy.  Those thoughts which occasionally rise to the surface when I wonder if what I do really matters.   How could a symbol of creativity be voted out unless most people do not value it or those who use it?  Fortunately, I need only turn to the Bible to be reminded of the value of my unique abilities, which were given to me by God.  Today being Pentecost Sunday, we all are called to remember our special gifts . . .  “the manifestation of the Spirit,” as St. Paul so eloquently describes it.  We each have value and a responsibility to share our gifts as much as possible, and not be distracted by the choices of others.  They have their own roles to play.

Hearing about Hasbro’s decision also triggered memories.   My thoughts traveled back to my childhood when my siblings, cousins and friends often played Monopoly. We would spend hours and hours counting our money, strategizing our next move, cheering when we collected rent and spilling off the chair in agony after losing a hotel.   Rainy afternoons could not have been more fun.  Sometimes I won and sometimes I lost, but I always chose the thimble, because even back then, I loved to sew!

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Celebration of Life and Love

“Deep waters cannot quench love, no floods sweep it away.”  — Song of Songs 8:7


Speaking about the process and reading my poem.


Last week, McLean Home Care and Hospice (Simsbury, CT) hosted the Eighth Annual “Lights of Hope” Ceremony.  It was a wonderful celebration of honoring those who had passed on in 2015 while in the hospice care.  Family and friends of the departed were in attendance. The ceremony included beautiful music, healing words, and a reading of all the names being honored.  Near the end of the event, the Hospice Memorial Quilt was unveiled.

This was my fifth year creating the quilt.  Those who wish to participate are welcome to create a fabric square in remembrance of their loved one.  I assemble the squares, add my own touches and create a quilt.  Elizabeth Scheidel,  who is a member of the McLean staff, stitches a poem for the quilt.  Her words establish a theme and inspire the artwork and embellishments.

 As part of my presenting speech, I shared how, while working on these quilts, my own memories of loss are often triggered.  Sometimes those memories bring forth a poem.  When stitching up this quilt, I found myself recalling the last Christmas I spent with my friend, Rena.  We were playing Bingo and my husband was calling the numbers in a particularly silly way.  Rena and I started laughing and couldn’t seem to stop for hours.  While remembering that day, I started to laugh and then thought how happy Rena must be to know I was remembering her in this way.  This poem emerged from those thoughts –

Remember Me With Laughter

Remember me with laughterbutterfly-close-up-1
at times when sadness has taken hold.
Think of the time I made you grin
with that corny joke I told.

Remember me with a smile
when it’s my company you seek.
Think of watching our favorite comedy
when our laughs brought tears down our cheeks.

Remember me with heartfelt joy
when loneliness is heavy on your lap.
Think of how I slipped in the new fallen snow
and the snowman caught my cap!

butterfly-close-up-2Remember me with cheerfulness
when you recall all that death took.
Think of the times I’d crack you up
when I gave you my prankster “look.”

Laughter is not just good medicine.
It’s God’s treasured gift.
He’ll help conjure up a memory
in those moments when you need a lift.

Remember me with laughter
to help ease some of the pain.
Take time to enjoy the goodness of life
until we are laughing together again.

– Dorothy J. Szypulski
Lights of Hope Ceremony
McLean Home Care and Hospice
November 22, 2016


Wishing Well of Love


Stitching by Elizabeth Scheidel


Speaking with guests


Viewing up close


Viewing up close


Late submission became a pail!


Close up work


Close up work


More viewing by guests


Proud of my work!

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Is age just a number?

“The beginning of wisdom is:  get wisdom; at the cost of all you have, get understanding.” — Proverbs 4:7

P1070229I’m sixty years and one month today. I wanted to write about turning 60 a month ago, but just trying to wrap my mind around that particularly large number temporarily stifled my creativity.  Also, my family kept me so busy during those bewildering days, I did not really have time to write.  I thought about just letting the occasion pass — “I don’t need to comment or reflect on everything,” I told myself — but being silent is not my way.  Sixty years of friends and family will attest to this fact!

I really had it in my mind I would not actually turn 60.  It’s not that I believed I wouldn’t live to see it, but it was just something I could not envision.  I suppose it’s the descriptive words our society uses to categorize us that I find especially troublesome.  “Middle age” was difficult enough.  Now I’m a “senior.”  I guess I never pictured myself as a senior, but of course, no one does.

I chuckle now when I remember how down in the dumps I was when I turned 30.  I

Work of Art

This is a sampler I made years ago for my father-in-law.


remember thinking how I had already accomplished all the big goals in life.  I had my first job, gotten married, bought a house and had my first child.  What else was there to look forward to?  Such shallow thinking, but as my father-in-law used to say, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

When I turned 40, In many ways I believed it was time to start again.  My youngest was in school.  I thought it was time to have a career.  Time’s a-wasting!  It was when I really began to passionately write and create with an artistic flair.

I found the number “50” to be hard on the ears, too, but I remember feeling very grateful for my health.  My very dear friend, Rena, who was the same age, was not very healthy and she died  just months later.  Perhaps because of Rena or because I was looking at a new decade, I clearly recall thinking, it’s time to make my mark.  I felt my energy waning.


My daughters, Robin and Laura, at a “Sip and Paint” on my birthday in San Diego. I wish I had concentrated more on the “painting” rather than the “sipping” and then maybe my butterfly would have turned out better, but it was a fun night!

I’ve spent most of my career talking about and preserving memories.  I advise others all the time to take photos, make scrapbooks, document events and journal feelings.  We can never have this moment again so we must do all we can to remember it.  Since the number one recipient of my advice has been me (I sometimes do take my own advice), I’ve run out of storage space for it all.  The closets and attic cannot hold more photos.  There’s no more shelf space for framed pictures.  The drawers are tightly packed with scrapbooks, special cards and other memorabilia.  My memory quilts are piled high on quilt racks and furniture.

As my home is bursting at the seams trying to contain all the tangible keepsakes, so too, is my brain.  At 60 years old, it can no longer hold all the dates, names (oh especially the names!) and places that have taken up residence in the many nooks and crannies of my senior cerebrum.  It’s both a blessing and a curse to have the joy of knowing so many and to have experienced so much, but then the frustration of not to being able to recall it all the moment I need it.  Truthfully,  it’s 99 percent a blessing and only one percent a curse. I would never trade all those memories just due to a shortage of storage space.

Age is not just a number.  If it was, it would be easier to accept and explain.  Sixty is a


Robin, Laura and I went to Disneyland on July 25th. The park also is 60 this year. When we arrived, I thought they decorated the place for me! Yes, my ego is in check. 🙂

relatively small number as numbers go.  A 60-pound child is not very big and 60 inches is less than two yards.  In the year 60 AD, Christianity was really just getting started and we’ve come so far since then.  It’s been more than 60 minutes since I started writing this post and I’ve hardly been aware of the passing time.

Age is more of an attribute.  With wine, it’s an indication of its rich flavor, but with milk, it might mean it’s time to be poured down the sink.  An aged and cracked pavement needs to be replaced while an old, weathered home pleads for preservation.  For people, age is an accomplishment.  At 16, we are trusted with a driver’s license.   At 18, we can vote.  At 30, we are often still innocent of our impact on this earth, while at 60, we understand the broad spectrum of our value.  That is, we all have something to offer, but we shouldn’t let it go to our heads.

Whether we are 21, 60 or 105, each day is a choice.  We can wallow in self-pity or we can thank the Lord for the day ahead of us.  We can let arthritis and poor eyesight consume our energy or we can move forward to do all we can to help others.  We can hide our wrinkles with a frown or we can smile proudly, wearing them like a badge of honor.  On all accounts, I choose the latter.


August 6, 2016 — Pride does not begin to describe how I felt being with my daughters, Laura and Robin, and my handsome husband, Ted, at my 60th birthday celebration!



Posted in Being a Mom, Friendships, Growing Old, Inspiration, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Am I crazy? Is the Pope Catholic?

Mission Cross“Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” — 1 Peter 4:9-10

An inordinate number of unusual sewing requests somehow make their way to my studio.  I believe our Lord leads them to me.  Did you think I just made quilts?  Do you believe God has only simple plans for us?

A few years ago, back when I ran a small sewing business, my friend asked me to create a one-of-a-kind pillow for him.  On the pillow, he asked I somehow place a duck with his wing around a pig, both looking at a crab with a bad attitude.  This friend had his reasons, a cute story having to do with the humorous dynamics of his family. That’s all I’ll say about that.

After he relayed his request, I looked at him with a blank stare.  He reminded me of the slogan I had written at the top of my web site — “If you can dream it, I can quilt it.”  As this friend and I enjoy bantering back and forth, I quickly responded, “But I don’t do nightmares!”

Even though, in that moment, I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to create such an unusual pillow, I could not resist the challenge of accepting the job.  In part, I did not want to let my friend down, but the bigger part had to do with the excitement I feel about not knowing how to do something and loving the process of figuring it out.  Even as I was jokingly responding “no way,” the creative wires in my brain started to sputter and fire, igniting a plan of action.P0006403

Over the years even more challenging projects have come my way.  I guess after you have done a few unique projects, you begin to get a reputation for it.  I imagine when my name is brought up in a discussion regarding some unique stitching work, somewhere in the conversation it comes out, “Dottie is just crazy enough to do it!”  Though, I don’t think this was the case a couple of weeks ago when I was called upon to help with a sewing problem.

A lovely young woman, Maria, called me.  She had an urgent need of two Zucchettos (skull caps worn by Catholic clergy) to be used in a production soon to be filmed.  Very soon, in fact.  Maria’s call came on a Sunday afternoon and she needed the caps by Thursday evening that same week.  She explained she was in possession of a pattern, but it was all wrong because her friend had already tried, unsuccessfully, to make them.  Adding to the tension of the time constraints, I was going to be out of town Tuesday and Wednesday for family business.

Scanned 2016-04-12  (2)

Laura (gumball machine) and Robin (Bugs Bunny) – 1994

In my sewing career, I have turned children’s paintings, sequined evening dresses and needle-pointed canvases into quilts.  I’ve made signs for store windows, covers for mixers, and decorative cloaks for door stops.  As a mother, I traded sleep for sewing machine time on the last few nights of every October to fulfill my girls’ Halloween wishes to be a princess, a cat, a pea pod, an Indian, a baby duckling still in the shell, Bugs Bunny, and many, many more.  How hard could it be to whip up a couple of Pope beanies?  I said to Maria, “Sure,  come on over.”


I had enough common sense to get to work immediately.  Maria had also requested the Zucchettos be large enough to fit the actor playing Pope John the 23rd, a large man.  I started by making one out of scraps using the supposedly incorrect pattern.  My smug attitude caused me to think the other seamstress had not followed the pattern correctly.  I soon learned she did — the pattern was definitely wrong.  My first attempt came out looking very pointy, like a Chinaman’s conical cap.  After some math adjustments and redrawing the pattern pieces, my second attempt also came out pointy.  Back to the drawing board and my third practice seemed to be right, though needing a few adjustments, so I decided to make one for real using the proper materials.  At this point, it’s Monday afternoon and I’m running out of time.

The first “real” one was all wrong, too!  Using my husband as a model, I asked if he


Attempt No. 3 – “Oui!”

thought the cap looked like a French beret?  His response was, “Oui.”  I spent the rest of Monday searching for a better pattern.  If one exists on the internet, I couldn’t find it, except for the one I already had, which was wrong!  I even drove to the closest Joann’s Fabric store and searched through all the pattern books.  I was sure I had seen patterns for clergy before in the costume sections of the McCall’s and Simplicity’s pattern books.  I guess dressing up like the pope for Halloween isn’t in vogue.  I could find nothing even close.


Late Monday night I was lying in bed (still not packed for my Tuesday trip) questioning myself.  Why do I get myself into these things?  Why was I so arrogant to think this would be a simple project for me?  Why didn’t I just say I was too busy this week?  Why couldn’t God make this a little easier?  What does He expect of me?  I fell asleep somewhat resigned to the idea that I was going to call Maria in the morning and tell her I just can’t do this unless she finds a proper pattern for me, even though I knew if there was one out there, she would have already found it and probably would not have called me in the first place. I really did not want to let her down, but I didn’t know what else to do.

That night I had an amazing dream.  I dreamt Archbishop Mansell, former bishop of the Hartford archdiocese, came by for a visit.  I opened my front door and there he was wearing a baseball cap!  When I woke up, I knew what I  was going to do.  I searched through closets until I found a baseball cap that my husband wasn’t all that attached to.  I called Maria to get approval and then felt immense relief about my plan.



Upon returning from my trip Wednesday evening, I got to work.  I made the two Zucchettos using the cut-up baseball cap as my template.  A little tweaking was needed as a baseball cap covers more of the head than the pope’s skull cap does, but the curvature was perfect and it worked out beautifully.  Maria and the film’s producers were very happy and grateful.

If the real challenges in life are called “bumps in the road,” my Pope beanie challenge was barelyAll Things Journal a grain of sand on the pavement, but it was a wonderful reminder of what I can do if I just close my eyes and let God lead me to answers.  As a quilt maker, I seek out methods and techniques for getting my stitched pieces to lay flat.  Sometimes life throws you a “curve” so you have to forget everything you learned previously and start thinking in a new way.  I am also reminded of the importance of being humble.  No task is too big or too small as long as you always remember, your hands are God’s hands.

NOTE:  The production, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” an Arcadia Films production (www.arcadiafilms.com) will air on EWTN on September 21, 2016.


Baseball Cap template



One of the “conical” caps

Posted in Inspiration, Quilter's Dreams, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment