Perseverance Revisited

A Sunny Wednesday Morning

The first part of my week is always the busiest. Part of it is because I teach 8 of my 14 weekly teaching hours by 10:00 on Tuesday morning. Then on Wednesdays, I gear up for another long one, four teaching hours with two office hours in between. Over the last few weeks, I’ve become accustomed to this routine, even if it is a little tiring. But on this Wednesday, I was beyond just putting one foot in front of the other. I was actually excited (on a Wednesday!)  because I had an appointment when I got out of class at 4:40.

Karen, a former student of mine, was going to be my interpreter so I could go check out Curves, the gym for women. My intention was to find out if it would work for me, given a couple of issues, and if so, then sign up so I can start working out three days a week. She made the appointment for 5:00, and I was psyched.

Sidewalks in Taiwan


(Photo credit: shrimpcrackerz)

Many of the sidewalks in Taiwan are actually tiled, different kinds of tiles. The ones you see in the picture to the right are common in downtown shopping areas in Taoyuan and other cities in Taiwan. Some tiles in less commercial areas can be larger. These “sidewalks” are quite nice looking, and they are very smooth to walk on, almost like a tiled floor. Except that there are places where things are not totally level. As a result, it’s common to find steps or a wedge to adjust to these differences. For example, when we leave our apartment, we walk up four steps to the “sidewalk,” which then goes to the corner and continues to one of the restaurants we like to go to. On the second leg of that trip, we step down two steps to get to the same level as the restaurant.

Of course, if you’re traveling in an area you’re not that familiar with, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the steps and inclines. You do get used to it after a while. It’s also important to use a little extra caution when it rains, because these tiles can become quite slippery–some more than others, depending on the type of tile used.

The Best Laid Plans

It had rained Tuesday night, but the weather on Wednesday morning was quite sunny and pleasant. A nice breeze. It was time to catch the taxi to go to work. We walked along the sidewalk from the entrance of our apartment to the street about half a block away. When I was just a few feet from the two steps down to the street where the taxi was waiting, I stepped into a puddle of water left over from the night’s rain, and pretty much hydroplaned and landed on my backside after first dropping to my knees. After I caught my breath, I tried to get up with some help.

An important fact for those who don’t know my history is that I injured my left knee back in 2004. After several years, it deteriorated to the point where I got the knee replaced in January of 2011. I even had the surgery done here in Taiwan. I’ve been so delighted with my replacement knee. But when I tried to stand up on Wednesday, the pain in the left knee was pretty bad. In fact, I wasn’t sure if my leg  would support me. Luckily, Dave had run back inside to get my cane. Just before he got back, I tried with Mac’s (the taxi driver) help to stand again, and I was successful. With the help of the cane, I was able to maneuver enough to get into the cab.

With ibuprofen and my husband’s help, I made it through my classes. (At our university, if you miss classes, you have to make them up, so I just wanted to finish them.) I did, and the students were quite cooperative. In the meantime, my colleague Jean was able to go online and make an appointment with my surgeon for the next day so that I could see whether or not I had done any damage to the artificial knee.

Off to the Doctor

Luckily, I was able to schedule an appointment with the doctor for late morning on Thursday. That allowed me to teach my Thursday morning class and head to Taipei for the appointment. Thankfully, the x-rays showed that I had done no permanent damage to my artificial knee. I also got an all clear to go back and try Curves as soon as the pain subsided enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable. Funny thing, the pain is much easier to tolerate knowing that I didn’t do any damage!

During the trip to Taipei and back, I was reminded how wonderful it had been to not need a cane, as I had before and immediately after my surgery 2 1/2 years ago. But Thursday’s news was wonderful. The x-rays showed that the knee was fine, and that once the pain subsides, I will be able to retire the cane again.


With the fall happening on the very day that I was planning to go to Curves, it would have been very easy to just give up on that project. After all, it requires a taxi ride downtown two nights a week (when my afternoon classes end). Then a 30 minute bus ride home. On Friday, it involves a bus trip both ways. But two weeks ago, I made an intention to check this out. Most other forms of exercise are currently not possible for me. Curves provides a different approach that I think will work.

Aside from enlisting Karen’s help with social support and interpreting, and working out a taxi and bus schedule around Curve’s hours, I had also worked in a reward for Friday’s (working a couple hours in a downtown coffee shop before coming home) and a productive use for my bus travel time (listening to MP3 files from Farther to Go!). Obviously, I had put a lot of thought and attention on this project; now it was time to persevere. So, I now have a tentative appointment for NEXT Wednesday at 5:00, and we’ll try this again.

Now, I’m off to persevere on other matters, like posting more on this blog.

570 days to 60.

Best Moment Award

Thank you to Shaun at for this award.

Seven Random things about myself: 

1. I have four adult children, two in Michigan, two in Florida. I love the moments I’ve had with them. While I saw everyone last summer, it’s been several years since we’ve all been together at the same time. Eight years, I believe. One of the reason why moments are so important.

2. Even though we have our rescue chihuahua, I am actually a cat person. There is something about spending time with an animal that is rewarding in a different way than spending time with people.

3. I took ballet lessons as a child. Then took a semester worth of ballet classes twice as an adult. Lately, I’ve come to realize that those are some of the moments I miss most, that sense of movement and expression that dance brings.

4. While growing up, my parents took our family camping throughout parts of Michigan and Canada. I liked the trails and paths through parks and forests. I sometimes took a notebook along with me, so I could sit in nature and write for a few minutes.

5. I didn’t start playing the piano until 5th grade, but I took to it like a fish to water. I sometimes miss it now that I’m in Taiwan and don’t really have the time to incorporate it, but I have many good memories of it, and I’ve shifted my area of creative expression to other areas, primarily my renewed intention to start quilting again.

6. I am learning a lot from the process of observing myself and changing the way I think about things. While I still have many thing to do, I’m feeling that I am directing the traffic and not letting the list overwhelm me. I thank my friend, Joycelyn, at Farther to Go! for helping me discover that intentions and perseverance are magical.

7. As a result of number six, I’m becoming much more aware of moments and making a point of treasuring them.

Now nominate five blogs: 






Thanks again, Shaun! And congratulations to the five above! I hope you can all accept!  :-).

The Little Quilt That Could

First 5 blocks

(Photo credit: Purple Panda Quilts)

Over the summer, I made it my intention to get back into quilting. I could start right with my daughter’s quilt,  a project for which I’ve been collecting fabric for several years. But I had decided that the best way to tackle that project was to practice the quilt-as-you-go process which allows you to put the batting and the quilting stitches in while you’re putting the block together. That way, the project is worked in sections, and then the pre-quilted sections are all joined together in the final step. So before I started my daughter’s quilt, I wanted to find a small project, an interesting block or two that I could practice the technique on and then move on to the larger project.

When I came to this conclusion, I was still in the US, with my return to Taiwan only a few weeks away. I took aadvantage of that time to look at patterns, browse a few quilting books, and visit a couple of quilt shops in anticipation of my return to quilting. I was looking for just the right small project for my practice work. I didn’t know what it would be, but I was sure I’d know it when I saw it.

August_09_CoffeeMug_largeWell, it showed up in a rather routine place. I have a subscription to a quilt of the block day email. Usually three or four times a month, something comes that I actually save to my design software. Other times, I barely give them a second glance. For example, if the block is some version of a flower, a boat, a lighthouse, or a basket, you can be pretty sure that I’ll just delete the email.) But on August 9th, a great block featuring a coffee cup was the Block of the Day. As many people know, coffee is one of the things I love almost as much as quilting. I was excited.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn an interesting turn of events, someone expressed an interest in the coffee cup project, and it has grown into a bigger project. The awesome part is that not only will I get some practice with this process, but one of my quilts will eventually hang on display in a coffee shop in Taiwan. I’ll tell you more about that another time, but today, I want to show you how this coffee mug block has turned into a plan for a quilt with 3 rows of 5 blocks. When it’s finished, it will look something like this.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe coffee mugs themselves will all be made of different fabrics. But the rest of the quilt will be made with the fabrics below. You should note that the light green squares in the picture above will be replaced by the lavender fabric (although it looks a little blue in the picture).





OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are interested in seeing the fabrics that are being planned for the eight coffee mugs that will be in this wall hanging, here they are!

Good news! We have a four-day weekend coming up, and I am going to use one of those days for quilting. I plan to do a lot of cutting and organizing, and with any luck, start piecing things together. I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready, and all the things on my to-do list will wait, while I have a day of quilting. I will post pictures as this project takes shape.


592 days to 60!

Time for Me

time flies

time flies (Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker)

Everyone is familiar with the feeling that time is just flying by, that there isn’t enough of it, that if we just had a little more of it, or if we could somehow manage it better, life would be less hectic. I mean, I hope it’s not just me. But for me, I must admit, I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to time.

If you know me very well at all, you know that I tend to be very busy most of the time. You would probably also know that no matter how much stuff I get done, I always have more waiting around every corner. In fact, if I wanted to never have a moment to/for myself, my to-do list would gladly oblige such insanity.

Ironically, this post about time for me has taken far too long to write, because other things keep getting in the way. Now, I know that I am my own worst enemy in this regard, and that I am the only one who can change it. Which is why I have made some really big steps toward that goal. I’ve made progress, even beyond the simple fact of recognizing it’s a problem. I know that I don’t want life to rush me by, leaving me wondering what was all of that rushing around about. I do have plans in place, and I have begun to follow through. But in the meantime, I still have to dig out of the current situation.

Bookshelf clutter

(Photo credit: HomeSchoolingHoarder)

It’s a lot like the clutter in my apartment. I know it has to go. I have already set up little appointments of time for myself to do the work of sorting things out and getting the non-essentials out. But the piles of clutter, and the endless to-do lists didn’t happen overnight. Therefore, the most important thing for me to remember as I work toward the life I envision for myself is to remember that finding my way clear is not going to happen overnight, or even in a week (or month) or two.

So when I thought about this post I almost called in “Making Time for Me.” Then I thought about crossing that out and replacing it as shown below:

Making Taking Time for Me!

What do you think? For example, can anyone really “make” time. No, it’s pre-made, or at least pre-allocated, and try as we might, we can’t somehow manufacture more of it. Of course, when people talk about making time, they’re really talking about managing it in a different way. Changing the way they use the available time they have. I may get up an hour early in order to have more time to read (or whatever else I choose to do), but I’m still not really making any “new” time. Taking time seems more proactive, and while I can’t take any time that doesn’t already exist, this concept does seem more about actively managing how I spend my time.

I used to think the answer was in discovering some new time management secret. I have gotten myself tangled up in trying lots of time management systems and tricks. I even have a few favorites when I need a little boost, but the real challenge of making my life better is to change my thinking about what I do and don’t say “yes” to. For my New Year’s “resolution” for this year, I incorporated a moratorium on taking on new projects and responsibilities. It worked well for several months, so maybe I need to dust if off and put it back in place.

The great thing about facing this process of digging out is that I realize that my thinking about things has changed a lot. So that even though I do have to dig out, I don’t feel as discouraged by the whole thing. Partly because I have decided to take time for me. In the past, I often put off quilting or pleasure reading or blogging if there was work to be done (and there was ALWAYS work to be done). As part of the process of reimagining my life, I make sure to put me first at least some of the time. Quilting and blogging are finding their way back onto my schedule. Today, you see evidence of the blogging. Soon, there will be quilting news.

594 days to 60.

Reimagining my Life

English: Creating a splash

Creating a splash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, I have been teaching at a university in Taiwan for the past four years. During each of the past three summers, I have traveled home to the U.S., and I always have mixed feelings about leaving family and friends to return to Taiwan. This past summer, that all changed.

One day in August, I woke up to the realization that I was actually excited about my return trip.Even though I knew I would face the same workload and stressors I had left behind in June, I felt more hopeful than I’d felt in years. Without a doubt, this was a powerful moment for me. I didn’t need to look far to find an explanation for this dramatic shift. During an extended visit with my friend Joycelyn, I had a chance to more fully explore the materials she was developing for her course, Farther to Go. In the process, I gained several insights that changed the way I looked at my life and at the world around me.

It’s hard to pinpoint the strongest idea or tool of the course. Certainly, being more aware of how the brain really works has been life altering for me, but that’s only the beginning. The tools that help focus that awareness into intentions have held real power. I feel like I can reinvent my life, bit by bit; and those bits are gaining momentum. I’ve already changed long-established habits, and the results are allowing me to move in the direction of what I really want to be doing.

For me, the most important aspect of my work with Farther to Go is that I finally am finding out what it actually is I want to be doing. Until recently, it was hard to imagine what a life of my own would look like. Now I can envision all kinds of possibilities, while trying things out to see if they really fit. I am becoming wide awake to the world around me and more alive than I’ve been in a long time.

Stay tuned as I share notes on the reinvention of my life.

An Idea Whose Time Has Not Yet Come. Or . . .

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Carra making a baby quilt (pinwheel).

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish I could say that the picture on the left is me at my sewing machine. But I can’t. Wikipedia doesn’t have images of me in its database. At least, I don’t think it does. Anyway, it’s not me. I don’t have a sweater that color. And I’ve spent so little time at the sewing machine lately that there is likely no photographic evidence of such an event..

What’s wrong with this picture? If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love quilting.Yet, in spite of my desire to quilt, something isn’t working. I’ve noticed lately that whenever I do have a few minutes of “discretionary” time, I am always torn between quilting and some deadline or task that is clamoring for my attention. When I do have a few minutes to relax, I pick up things that only take a few minutes. This happens even though I have a relatively dedicated sewing and cutting area.

I had also noticed a few potentially bad signs. For example, the last time I sat down to sew, I only completed a couple impatient seams. They didn’t line up quite right. That made me impatient. It had been a few weeks since I had sewn anything, so I couldn’t put my hands on the seam ripper. My somewhat minimalist approach to keeping a sewing area did little to stem the slow tide of teaching and research clutter that often became entwined with my quilting. I began to wonder how–in one year–I had gone from daily work on Mr. Logan’s quilt (see here) to the upcoming semester break with no real prospect for time at the sewing machine or cutting board.

Quilt Block #1

(Photo credit: emily.bluestar)

Maybe it has something to do with the constant visual reminder. For starters, it gives me the mistaken idea that I can quilt anytime. The problem with that situation is that all my other projects are also in my visual radar, but they have more priority. Quilting will lose every time. But more than that, it was a constant reminder that it was losing every time. After all, if I really wanted to quilt, I’d just do it, right? This kind of thinking becomes a little dangerous for me. I began to think the best solution was to pack up the quilting one more time. I could still look at books, play with fabric and patterns, and make plans for when I can make the time to quilt.

Then came the 30 day moratorium for January 2013. When I decided to try that out for the new year, I had already decided to pack up the quilting stuff. But that didn’t stop me from becoming overwhelmed by the other stuff that was still left for me to catch up on and bring closure to before I can pursue the things that interest me the most. For the time being, responsibilities and obligations have become the headliners.While I knew the moratorium was the right thing to do, and that mapping my way out of the avalanche of projects was imperative and worthwhile, I still had a nagging feeling about the quilting. I mean, I do know I can’t do everything, but I forgot one important thing!

Quilt notes

Quilt notes (Photo credit: duien)

Life is not black and white!  Most people who know me marvel at my ability to be flexible and to brainstorm lots of options about any given problem. So, why did I limit my choices to having everything out in the open or packing it all up? I finally remembered something from thirty years in my past. I used a responsibility-free weekend to set up my own personal quilting retreat. The boys were visiting their father for the weekend, and I took the weekend off from work. I can’t tell you what project I worked on that weekend. But I cleared the dining room table, and brought out the sewing machine and ironing board, the cutting mats and fabric, and I spent a weekend doing nothing but quilting. It wasn’t just the weekend itself that was great, it was the anticipation leading up to it and preparing for the time when it came.

I can’t tell you why I didn’t continue the tradition. Oh yeah, life probably got in the way again. And at the time, I wasn’t strong enough to identify what I wanted and schedule it in. But now is the time to resurrect that custom. After all, quilting in my life has never been a constant. It has always found its way into my life in specialized containers of time. So I am now planning Quilting Day 2013. It’s the perfect time for a quilting retreat. I have four weeks with no classes. I have worked out a schedule to map out the tasks that need to be done. But most importantly, once I set the retreat dates, there is minimal chance of interference with the plan. The moratorium is in effect. Instead of a couple hours a day that I had hoped for during the semester break, I will take a two-day mini-vacation and spend it playing with color, fabric, and pattern. And in the process, I’ll have a less cluttered work-environment overall.

What started out as a potentially negative decision has brought new options. If I hadn’t been willing to pack up my quilting, I would have continued to encounter the frustration of never getting to the machine. I wouldn’t have rediscovered the alternative of setting up compartments of time that are totally dedicated to quilting as a workable solution to the problem. While some may think this seems like a negative change, I am reminded that a weekend once or twice a year is considerably more time than I get throughout an entire year. I can capitalize on the moratorium, begin to manage the backlog, move my projects forward, and anticipate a creative getaway to energize myself. When the sewing stuff comes out, it will be a visual and tactile picnic. And maybe the start of a new tradition.