On Nurses-Part 3

The following words were shared at Chris’ Memorial on June 2, 2024 by her daughter Laura. Chris had intended to write a third part to this blog series, to report about her experience spending a week in the hospital. Instead, I have taken the liberty of reflecting on a little more on that final week:

I want to share a few words about my mom’s last decade of life, when the nurse became the patient.

At age 59, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C cancer. After mastectomy, chemo and hair loss, we saw October 9th approaching on the calendar. Mom would be turning 60.

Although we never called it this, the surprise party we pulled off on a beach in Michigan felt a bit like a “living funeral”: we wanted to make sure we said the loving words now and throughout whatever time we had left with her.

After that time, she started to talk with us about an idea that stung at first: that she was not planning to undergo rigorous cancer treatment again, if the cancer returned. She also added thoughts about an ideal age to die being 75. Having worked as a nurse for many years, she saw the struggle to “hang on” at the end of years and did not think she, who trusted Jesus for eternity, should resist death at all costs.

Being barely 30 myself, it took some time to understand and accept this. Eventually I was struck by the bravery and confidence in her outlook.

When the cancer returned 4 years ago, my mom agreed to a treatment that gave her no side effects, and we have been so grateful for these extra years with her, in which she biked, babysat, blogged, traveled and continued being a friend to so many.

In the last few weeks, she talked about plans for the coming year: quilts she wanted to make, people she wanted to spend time with and restoration she wanted to see. I think now of the poem “ do not go gentle into that good night” in which a son begs his father to keep on fighting to stay alive, saying “rage rage against the the dying of the light”.

My mom really didn’t like the battle terminology many use with cancer treatments. But I can distinctly here her voice projecting on May 17th when she called to tell me she decided she was going to “fight like hell” to stick around.

With her body failing, I saw a dichotomy unfold: my mother wanted to stay with us, but found peace in going. Love and delight held her here, but through surrender and peace, she entrusted the outcome.

I admire that in her.

Perhaps my mom had read psalm 90:10 which says…

Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

And maybe she decided to split the difference of 70 and 80 in her idea of leaving us at 75? Who knows? As it was, she was 70 when she passed away.

On the day we brought my mom to the hospital, she diagnosed herself with something minor and rolled her eyes at the inconvenience of an ER trip. She complained of back pain and asked us to find a special massage bar that would ease her pain. But after a day or so, she settled into receiving almost daily, life-saving blood transfusions. And my mom’s focus shifted from her discomfort to the people who visited her room in nurse’s attire. She asked every tech or nurse their name and handed out massage bars, that they might enjoy a bit of the balm she had enjoyed in this life. She listened to their stories and marveled that she was still leaning new medical tidbits every day.

I recently learned that there’s a “Nurse Honor Guard” who can come to funerals of nurses to pay tribute for their life of service. My mother declined the idea, but instead she bestowed these personal honors to those who are always pouring out the balm.

These words came to me after reflecting on Psalm 90 and my mother’s early departure:

“It was not her strength that gave up, but she poured it out faster than most.”

My mother knew pain and wrestle in this life. We don’t pretend this was a “picture perfect” end for her time on earth. But she pressed in for the most essential peace one needs.

Therefore, I’m adding her to my own personal record of Hebrews 11 heroes, because I see that God is the faithful One who is still answering her prayers:

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him…These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:6, 39, 40)


During the Memorial service, our pastor shared these words my mom said in her final days of life: I want everyone who comes to the funeral to know that I had faith. But not the kind of faith that looks like I grabbed a hold of God so hard and never let go. But the kind of faith that looked like God holding me and He never let me go.

Note: June 2nd was a beautiful time of song and reflection, remembering who Chris was to so many. If you were not able to join us, we would love for you to watch the recording here.

On Nurses–Part 2

It is, however, Nurses’ Week, and I want to pay tribute to the many fantastic people who have influenced my life, to their abilities and character, and maybe even a nod to my life as a nurse. I would probably broaden that to health professionals, though admittedly we are a mixed bunch, not completely all we hoped we could be. In general, though, I think Nurses are pretty amazing.

My earliest nurse role models were Alice Anne Pearce and Cherie Lauber, an early mentor and my youth pastor’s wife. Both were working as nurses, helping pay the family bills. They both had two kids, and I babysat for them. Both have gone on to earn advanced degrees – Alice Anne in administration, and Cherie in teaching.

LIke many girls my age, I read and re-read the Candy Stripers series, and Clara Barton biographies, but what I really wanted to do was to be a teacher. I initially thought of Christian Education degree at Taylor, but my father wanted me to have a better paying career preparation and teaching was glutted at the time. I thought I was quite liberated, but surprisingly teaching and nursing appeared to be my only two options! (Cherie and Alice Anne encouraged me to go to West Suburban School Nursing in Oak Park. I was the first person to put “Ms. C.J. Marshall, Student Nurse” on my name tag and went off with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, having done the fun of two years of college already. I was more interested in dating, anyways and Emmaus and Moody Bible offered some fine distractions.

Ultimately West Sub was a good choice, a small band of practically trained nurses that have stuck together for nearly 50 years, caring, sharing and praying together. It took me five years to finish a three- year diploma at the total cost of about $18K. My dad thought he got a great deal in the end and I became a nurse with adequate skills to enjoy a lifetime of being a nurse. So happy Nurses’ Week to me.

[Editor’s Note: at this point, Chris entered the hospital and became too weak to finish typing. The rest of this post is a dictation summary by her daughter, Laura.]

My next special Nurse friend developed when I suite-mated with Mari Leuthold during my junior and senior years at West Sub. Our friendship was mostly long distance after nursing school (Mari went to Quito, Ecuador with HCJB, working in a rural clinic in the Shell area.) In nursing school, we weren’t boy crazy but interested in the dating scene. I got married before Mari and she sent me a tellagram, “Congratulations. Even you flake at times.”

When she returned from Quito, John and I were married and on our way to Alaska. I was her only bridesmaid. They headed out to Africa a few days after the wedding. Our letters crossed in the mail conveying news of our firstborns. Later when we were all back in the lower 48 states, Mari got more education (BSN and MSN) because she loved teaching nursing. In 2013, when I called to tell her the news of my first cancer, she reported that she was scheduled for a biopsy. Her breast cancer varied from mine, but we went bald together.

Mari also shares a love for quilting with me. After I started working at a quilt shop, she was intrigued by the idea, but has not (yet) found one. Mari and I share a sense of humor and also similar woes in life. We realized later in life that we were both only daughters in our family, so we felt that we had experienced the gift of sisterhood in each other.

In our class of 43 nurses in a very unique nursing experience (if you know what a Diploma nurse is, you might understand). It was a very diverse group…. For some reason we have managed to stay together as friends (thru reunions, prayer support, traveling quilt for an ailing member) all these years. In 2017 while home shopping, I messaged another classmate, Cheryl Fornelli, that we were looking at a house in her neighborhood (although I didn’t know precisely where she lived) and she sent back a photo showing how our two homes were only two blocks away! In the 8 years since we moved here, we have built a fun friendship of sharing about our families, relating over nursing topics and a love for genealogy.

Cheryl has also lived an adventure-filled life alongside her husband. As an evangelist, her husband John speaks Spanish, can talk to anyone and can strike up a conversation with any one. Cheryl’s adventures continued, as she worked for a time as a flight attendant. We also overlapped early on through Woodside Bible Chapel and Moody connections.

Cheryl and I have now had a shared experience of serious cancer diagnoses. She has been a soothing friend, often checking in. Our shared nursing backgrounds further enabled us to support each other through the ups and downs of cancer.

Although I haven’t been able to coax any of my daughters into the nursing profession, I find it interesting that “nursing” is used both in the medical/health as in for a mother who nurtures little ones. I want to say Happy Nurses Week to all these nurturing women in my life.

Part 3 coming soon (which, we now know definitively, will be written fully by my daughter) about my run in with many nurses this past week…

On Nurses

A nurse, John is not. But he did one important thing this week by looking at the big picture and convincing me to call the doctor a day early. And some other nice small things as well.

I was very dehydrated following the chemo, not eating, barely drinking. Not even reading! Completely smashed as my kids would say.

They had me come into the cancer center, did labs and gave me IV fluids. I went back today for more plus a ‘”piggyback” of prednisone. I can go back for more Saturday and/or Sunday but then we might go over the line of overfilling my tank,

My belly is bloated with ascites (though still no evidence of liver cancer) but soft and painless so even small amounts of food or liquid make me feel full. On Wednesday, they will drain it.

If we do another round of chemo (2 weeks) we’ll be more proactive about IV fluids to avoid a recurrence.

Coming Home-Part 2 (What it actually looked like.)

I arrived at home March 11th, dreading some of the things that knew I’d be facing; having NO idea how different it would actually be.

Winter decided to hang around for LONG time this year.

Cancer treatment started with a CT of the abdomen and pelvis to check on the rising Liver Function numbers (LFTs). No obvious tumors but the LFTs continued to rise, I didn’t recover from jet lag, three shots of the new estrogen-blocker (the double barrel injection) and I was frequently poked, watching the LFTs rise and rise. My doctor decided a Stat MRI was needed next.

She ordered it on Tuesday but we couldn’t get an appointment until Thursday. That was not acceptable so she asked me to go the ER for a hospitable and get admitted as a way of way to expedite the process. I did, settled in, and eventually the MRI was going to happen at 2:30 a.m.

Except that 30 years ago I had tiny prosthetic bones placed in my middle ears replace the stapes bones as treatment for otosclerosis. Although I had successfully undergone an MRI of the breasts in 2013, this hospital was not going to let me have this over–policy over everything. All this time i was not eating because 4 hours NPO was required. My oncologist ordered a mid-level ultrasound, knowing it was unlikely to give us more info. We knew there were no liver tumors and patent veins. I had the ultrasound at 7:30 and spent the rest of the day nodding off and being visited by doctors and hospital staff, some who were sympathetic and others who didn’t think I belonged there. Generally, doctors who treat patients with chronic disease have a different perspective. They told me to go home. I insisted on staying to see my oncologist at the end of her clinic hours and then went home.

The next day I called Rush where I’d had my first cancer treatments and the MRI of 2013. Staff there was extremely helpful, finally telling me that their policy allowed it as long it was done on a less powerful machine, my doctor could order it and I would be good to go. I also checked with the nearby affiliate Rush-Copely and they too said it could be done. I wrote my doctor and she said “what a good idea.” Another frustrating day or three passed getting the order to Rush so it was finally scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. now 8 days after the “stat” MRI was ordered.

MEANWHILE there were quite a few family crises crises occurring related to Johnny and John and I.

MRI was done (another not really cool experience) but finished. By the end of the day my oncologist called to tell me it didn’t show even the kind of “dusting cancer cells” in my liver but some in the peritoneum and ascites. She wanted me to start a chemo on Friday morning, a bit to the surprise of my family who all remembered me saying I wouldn’t do chemo again. My only stipulation was that I also be able to attend a special event at Quilters Quest late that afternoon. No problem.

Laura and John accompanied me to the cancer center to meet again with the doctor, learn about the chemo, and have my first round, all done slowly and carefully to have things go well with slower infusions, pre-medication, post-medication, etc. We were there from 8-1:30, Laura was there from 8:00 ’til 12:15. (Lots of nice time for catching up on their lives too.)

The Birkeys have moved into a long term rental about a mile from The Pillars. Insurance will pay for it and also for rented furniture, linens, kitchen supplies etc. They will also receive payouts for replacement of the house and contents of the house. They are settling into the home and happy to be there. Everyone is so grateful to the family who provided their spacious home in Naperville for 3 months, but this is home for now.

We barely had enough time to go home and change and go to a Book Tour signing at QQ for Jeninifer Chiaverini’s first ever Quilt Shop event. She is a quilter and novelist, but up til now all book signings have been in bookshops or libraries. It was a last minute decision for QQ, put together in 3 weeks, and very well done. We had over 200 people for the event.

Speaking of work, they have graciously taken me off the schedule, taking the pressure off me to work, but allowing me to work part days whenever I feel well enough. I’ll focus on some online training for now. I also wrote to the team so everybody knew what was going on. They are very supportive even though short staffed.

Last, but not least, I’m really in a chemo fog. This blog piece took mr over five hours to compose and still may still be disjointed.

Coming Home

After a month in paradise, coming home was not terribly appealing. For one thing, leaving summer to return to a few more weeks of winter was expected but not pleasant. It has helped that the sun has been shining a lot so I am still absorbing Vitamin D and whatever else there is about direct sunlight that feeds my soul. Now I am looking forward to when I can go outdoors to enjoy the sun instead of being drawn to sunny indoor spaces.

Returning to the weight of mental and emotional stresses at home was also unappealing. Several of us are feeling depressed, anxious, and more than a bit overwhelmed while we navigate normal life but also the added stress of a post-fire life. (More about that below.)

I also knew I was coming home to face new cancer concerns. Weight loss, fatigue, and a dry cough made me suspicious. I talked to both my PCP and oncologist before I left and we agreed to do additional testing after I got home. Last week I had a CT scan and a bone scan. The CT scan showed no new cancers and the bone scan suggested some spread in the bones. Since previous scans were PET scans and not bone scans, it’s a little like comparing apples and oranges. The apparent changes could turn out to be arthritis or old age (“degenerative disease.”) We won’t know until a follow up bone scan can be compared to this one.

We did decide to go ahead and make a change in my medications. I have been very lucky to have this first regimen last for four years, with very few side effects. We’ve been watching the numbers for a few months wondering when it would be time to make a change. Cancers seem to find a way to work around treatment so what we are doing is changing my estrogen blocker to one that uses a different pathway, but still accomplishes the same goal. Unfortunately, the delivery is by injection rather than a pill and we don’t know yet if it will work or if it comes with side effects. Today I got three shots–one in the belly (subQ Xgeva) and two simultaneous IM injections of a thick fluid (think old penicillin shots) of Faslodex. I am also going to follow up with some genetic testing that will help fine tune treatment in the future.

Lastly, the Birkeys are now almost two months out from the fire. They are doing well, but are somewhat overwhelmed with all the processes of going forward. They have been living in a spacious house (but not their own), getting back into school routines, and following up on all kinds of insurance issues. Coming up with an inventory of the contents of the house has required long phone meetings and prep sessions as they try to account for most of their worldly goods, as well, I assume, more than a bit of grieving throughout as they remember.

At the end of February, after shoring up the parlor floor, a meeting took place to determine the cause of the fire. The good news is that the chimney was NOT the cause of the fire, as evidenced by a perfectly intact flue liner that was removed. It was determined that the fire began outside the house, most likely in the corner of the screened in porch. It was likely electrical, possibly from wiring that had been exposed to the outdoor elements and possibly small animals. The porch caught fire and burned pretty quickly as well as the port-cochere, both burned completely to the ground. It burned inside the parlor and up the outside wall, reaching the roof and then burning out of control, as old wood houses are wont to do.

This frees them to go ahead with the demolition, but before doing that the want to make decisions about whether (and/or) what to rebuild, having an architect guide them through the demolition and rebuilding process. At this point, they just aren’t ready to make those decisions, which I think is wise. They are still processing their new reality. They’re current plan is to find a home to rent for at least the next year and settle into that. They can stay where they are as late as May 1, but would like to find something sooner so the settling process can begin.

I also returned to work at the quilt shop on the busiest sale day of the year, National Quilting Day. I’m still a bit jet lagged so the work days are exhausting.

I’m happy to be back with my American grandkids but I miss the Kiwi ones.

Coming home.

A Long Flight

The transition from New Zealand to Chicago feels more tedious than ever. Crammed in my window seat, tossing and turning, snoozing and waking, checking the flight map again and again. I enjoyed a movie, had one of the best airline meals ever, read, and finally prepped myself for sleep. I was confined to one seat (I had two on the one way over and slept so well) and pulled out my homemade pillow case, which I discovered en route keeps the airline pillow from slipping away iso easily. I was ready.

And I did sleep, maybe off and on for four hours, changing position whenever a body part ached. After awhile I turned on my Kindle and read, dozing off frequently, waking again, reading again etc. The windows are dark in spite of the fact that it is around noon current time and I can see the sun high in the sky. (They are also warm, approaching hot, which I never noticed before.) I checked the Flight map and saw that we were approaching Mexico, but an “hour” later, we were still approaching Mexico.

The lights in the cabin are still dark so I don’t want to bother anyone else, limited to my devices and the screen in front of me. Even that seems intrusive.

I didn’t even want to take this trip. I had such a lovely time in New Zealand that going home was not on my wish list. I think we were all ready for me to leave, but I would have preferred a Granny Pod in their back yard or a small house within walking distance. I woke up most mornings to one. two or three of these cuties in my bed.

Saying goodbye to little Whit—knowing that the earliest I will see him is seven months or more and I will never get to hold him as a newborn—was hard. Theo “blocked” the door of my room with two hoola hoops and announced that I wasn’t allowed to leave. Later he decided he would “tum” (come) with me. The girls are used to the routine of grandparents coming and going and maybe glad that I wouldn’t be competing with them to hold Whit. He will be well loved.

I will also miss the quality time I had with Anne on this trip. Between James’ work schedule and weekly trips to the chiropractor (plus a bit of shopping in town and ALWAYS lunch at a cafe) we had more time than usual just to talk one on one. My love language (quality time) was amply supplied.

Weekly surf lessons provided three beach trips. Swimming lessons added town trips. Dates with the kids were three more chances to enjoy One Road ice cream, plus one last stop before boarding my ride to the airport.

Tirau is a small town lined with cafes, small shops, and crazy corrugated metal signs and structures. The Community Church, just a block from the manse where they live, has grown considerably since I first visited, bursting with youth, but well-mixed with lovely older people as well. I enjoyed getting to know some of them better.

The lights are coming up in the cabin. People are stirring. The Flight Map shows us approaching Texas and tells me I’m less than three hours from Chicago. I’m not ready to go home, but I am anxious for this trip to end.

Maybe that’s the point.


The past month has been bittersweet. Starting with the fire at The Pillars and the outpouring of love and concern from their community; transitioning to the other side of the world (and summer!); and the safe arrival of our 8th grandchild….bittersweet is the best word to describe all the feelings.

Whitford Levi Bruce was born on February 16th, two days before his due date, following three sleepless nights of contractions that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. (I slept; Annie and James did not.) On the afternoon of the 16th, things heated up and Anne delivered in a relatively short time, before the epidural reached its full effect. I prayed that she would have the baby before midnight and wanted to modify my request when the news came through that baby had arrived.

(Gramma’s first cuddle.)

(Charlee with the almost-finished quilt she made for her baby brother.)

Whitford is NOT a family name, just one they liked. His two names suggest clever or wise (witty) and harmony or unity so their hope for him is a mixture of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) so that he would know God better. He is likely to be called “Whit.” He is also a carbon copy of his older brother, at least at this baby stage. Their birth weights were 1 oz off, just around 6 lbs.

(This baby is well loved by his siblings: Charlee, Simee and Theo. He is also laying on his second baby quilt, a “winter quilt” with minky on the back from Gramma.)

James, Anne and Whit spent two days at a birthing center resting up and came home yesterday. The kids want to hold the baby whenever they can, especially almost-8 year old Charlee. She is allowed to stand up with the baby. Speaking of Charlee, she asked to make the baby’s quilt and with a little help, made a safari quilt. We dropped it off for longarming on our way to see the baby for the first time and James and Anne picked it up two days later on their way home.

We have a houseful with three grandparents, three siblings, and mom, dad and baby Whit. Grandad is our driver and Granny is the cook! Pretty good deal for me. I am able to catch moments with Annie and with the baby, sweet times of baby holding and talk.

Back at home, the Birkeys are settling in to their “new” life. They were able to move into a beautiful home owned by snowbirds who aren’t returning to Illinois until April 1. They have been gifted with so many clothes, gifts, meals and other expressions of love and care. They have had a lot of meetings and phone conversations with insurance adjustors, city people, Nicor etc. Recently they have had to do hours-long virtual inventories of the contents of their home. The kitchen one took 3 hours. The salvage people basically called it a total loss and didn’t go into the house for the most part. Laura (and friends/family) has gone in numerous times salvaging important keepsakes, and other treasures that made it through the fire. It’s been such a blessing each time something special was found: quilts, musical instruments, hard drives, pictures, baby books etc.

It has also been good to connect with some of the former families who have lived in the home. Their sadness over the loss of the Pillars has been very much tempered by their gratitude that Laura and Taylor loved the home and came through the fire safely. They have shared stories from their time at the Pillars. I have been trying to pull together a concise history of the families, the stories and the changes made to the house and property over its 121 year history. At this point, Laura and Taylor are thinking they might rebuild on the land but not try to reproduce the Pillars. In the meantime they are likely to rent a house, expecting the whole process to take two years, a bit more than Boden’s “five minutes” that he estimated it would take to fix it. (When Laura brought home his Christmas present ukelele–just a little sooty from the fire–his face lit up with joy. He told Laura she was a “nice mommy.” Sweet moment.)

Burned Up

Taylor and Laura’s beautiful home burned “up” on Wednesday. I’m saying “up” because that is what we watched–flames reaching up and spreading across the roof. The house is just a shell, but it didn’t burn “down” except for the port cochere and the screened in porch, which are completely gone. And the roof. The shell looks boxy without the peak of the roof.

John answered his phone around 10:15 Wednesday morning and immediately said “No. No!” It was Laura calling to say that the house was on fire–could he go quickly to see what was going on. She had taken the kids to a friend’s house for a morning homeschool that they started doing cooperatively on Wednesday mornings. (There were negotiations whether they would meet at the Loerop’s or Birkey’s. Fortunately, they decided to meet at the Loerop’s.) Taylor was at work and Laura left with the kids around 8:30. Before she left, she turned down the woodburning stove. Sometime after that the wall behind the chimney–brick covered with old wood on the exterior of the house and into the screened in porch–presumably* caught fire. It would have burned for a while before Charlie (in the carriage house on the other side) or the neighbors (across the street or across two empty lots and wooded land) noticed. 911 calls were made and both Laura and Taylor were contacted. When the fire department arrived they had to spend time making sure no one was at home. When John arrived he was able to confirm that they were away. They also had problems getting water the fire. Apparently the oldest hydrant in Oswego is the one across from their house and it was either frozen or broken. It took more time to bring in extra fire trucks and hoses from hydrants a block or two away.

And so, the fire raged, incinerating the porch and port cochere, then through the living room, dining room, Laura and Taylor’s bedroom and the “dressing room” where all the family clothes were kept. It reached the roof, broke through and then swept across the whole thing.

Laura and Taylor arrived, met by different neighbors who walked with them as they first surveyed the damage–and watched the fire continue to progress. One of the neighbors is a fireman who was able to assess and inform Taylor as they walked to the house. The fire chief was there to inform and assist as well. Later, Quinn (the fireman) and his wife opened up their house, two short blocks away for everyone to gather, to talk, to eat, etc. He and his wife even gave Laura and Taylor a key to his house and said, “Come in any time.” Another neighbor/friend left work and came home to be with Laura and later friends from church gathered as well. Taylor’s dad even drove down from Madison, Wisconsin and his mom dropped work and came too. Later in the day, after the fire was out, the homeschool families brought the kids over–with their friends–to see the aftermath. The larger neighborhood also came and watched as a favorite Oswego home burned up, expressing their concern and sadness at the loss of a beautiful landmark, though grateful that no one was hurt.

The carriage house did not sustain any damage at all, but it is heated by gas that comes through the main house so the gas was turned off and cannot be restored until a whole new gas line (from the street) is installed, which won’t be happening any time soon. They will have to drain the pipes and the tenants will have to move. One of them just moved in and was still sorting through her stuff. The other has lived there for 8+ years.

Two sweet stories from that day/night: During the day several people handed either Laura and Taylor some money, which they shoved into their pockets. On their way home they stopped at Target to buy some very basic things like underwear, toothbrushes, etc. The bill came to $189.07 and they pulled $190 out of their pockets. God had provided just what they needed.

When Grams brought 3 year old Boden over to my house, I asked him what had happened. He told me that his house burned. I asked what was going to happen and confidently announced that they were going to fix it! I asked him how long it would take to fix it. He thought for a minute and answered, “Five minutes.” (Ten year old Oaks guessed five months.)

Here are some pictures from after the fire. Please continue to pray for all of us, though especially Laura and Taylor and the kids as we process this emotionally and attend to so many details of life moving forward. Taylor and Laura have met with the fire department, the insurance people etc. Today they are meeting the salvage company.

They have been able to go in the house and find a few treasures that survived and a lot of wet paperwork, etc. A wood desk in their bedroom was charred but some of its contents were salvagable. Guitar cases that melted still held guitars that survived. Laura found the stack of quilts from over the years in a closet (she just put them there a few weeks ago) that were damp and sootty, but whole. (Two quilts were on the beds–we can see one of them, though it is pinned to the bed by a piece of wood that came down–and covered with ashes, so we don’t know yet if it survived. It was a special quilt I made for Kellen’s 13th birthday in November. I told him I can make another (but I hope I don’t have to as its construction was tedious. Some of my co-workers at Quilters Quest have already offered to help me if it comes to that.)

At least two pillars (probably more are still standing!)

(If you look closely in the picture below, you can see some of Kellen’s quilt on the bed.)

A smile on Laura’s face!

*Cause of the fire not yet confirmed.

Questing…in my Attic

More “Quilters Quest” adventures:

A few weeks into my new job a customer brought in newly acquired Featherweight sewing machine for servicing. She was very excited. A light bulb went on in my head reminding me that I had one of those in my attic.

I went searching and found the very smelly case with the machine inside but no plug or foot pedal. I left the case outside in the sunshine for a few days and brought the machine into work one day when a class on maintenance was meeting. The teacher had kinds of supplies so I bought what I needed, including a new soft case to replace the smelly one. It needed more adjustments so I left it with the tech department for servicing.

The story behind all this is that many years ago Johnny was helping his friends empty out a warehouse where several of them had been living. No one wanted the old machine in a box, so he brought it home. It smelled so bad that I wouldn’t let it in the house. For some reason, it made the move with us to Aurora and found a place in our attic.

Our sewing machine tech was not very pleased with it. It required “every adjustment known to man.” She calls it my Dumpster machine.

After joining some Facebook groups for Featherweight owners and meeting the ladies in our classes, I’ve learned that a large cult of Featherweight owners is alive and well. Some own two or three or more machines. (My friend Mari does all her piecing on her FW and I just learned today that my aunt in Florida owns one as well.)

The machine is tiny, 9.5 inches in length with a fold up extension that adds another 5 inches. It weights just over 11 pounds. It looks like a toy. Today they are valued by quilters for the very straight stitch and for their portability, as well as something of a collector’s item. They are also fairly simple machines that can be maintained by the owner, which would be a selling point, then and now.

Mine has a “birthday” of February 10, 1952, just about the time I was conceived. My aunt’s machine has a birthday of October 14, 1953, a few days after my birthday. They are worth anywhere from $300 to $700 or more.

It has a straighter stitch than my more expensive machine and is small enough to cart around. I have always dragged my machine to cottages and outdoors because I enjoy sewing in open spaces. In the past, I’ve dragged machines to a variety of places–the cottage in Canada, camp, Balgownie and Stormy Lake, as well as my backyard. This little machine is perfect for traveling or transferring to the back deck.

After all that, I remembered that I also had the iron part of an old treadle machine–also up in the attic. I had John get it down and started cleaning it. It’s old and marked, but has the gold lettering of SINGER in the middle and gold on the side medallions. I’m planning to get a solid top for it and storing the Featherweight on it. Pretty cool.

I just finished my first quilt on Featherweight, a “garden” quilt with one of my first Quilters Quest purchases. Most of it was sewn outdoors on my deck. The Featherweight is perfect for taking outside. I will store it on the treadle iron right inside my back door and carry it outdoors whenever I’m in the mood. Just right for summer!

The QQ Bin

Working at a quilt shop (Quiltersquest.com) has been fun, exhausting, and challenging. Ten weeks in, I’m comfortable but not totally confident. My stamina is still not up to par–seven hours on my feet is challenging, so many nights I go home and crawl into bed way before bedtime. It helps that I have a day to recover before going back at it again.

Shopping in a quilt store is a little different than working in one. In the past, I could go in, browse, and usually leave with just what I needed. Cutting fabric (in particular) and shelving it, as well as watching new lines come in at least weekly is a bit more challenging to my stash-habit.

Initially I said I would look at my current stash before going to work to remind me that I didn’t need more fabric. Then one day, a customer bought a really cute sheep fabric with perfectly matched coordinating fabrics. I bought a yard of each! (I do get a discount.)

Then “Wild Blossoms” came out of the box and a few days later I realized the background fabric was an amazing ombre pattern of beautiful flowers. I bought 1-1/2 yards for a square backing before the bolt ran out and a charm pack of the rest of the line. Not long after I could see that the “hatch” bolt was running low, so I bought a yard of that too.

I made book pillows for the kids, mostly using my stash but bought interfacing and zippers, and then 5 half-yards to supplement my stash to fit the kids’ interests.

And then, the chickens… I watched those for a few weeks before choosing four of the fabrics to make skirts and purses for the little girls.

And so on.

Last week I bought a 13 x 13″ acrylic bin for my stash wall just for my QQ fabric. I wanted to see all the fun purchases, keeping them front and center so that I could both enjoy them and also be reminded to use them. As I filled the bin, I also decided that my “rule” would be that I couldn’t buy any more than fit into the bin–I would need to use it before buying more once it was filled. (It was a little more than half-filled at that point so it seemed like a reasonable rule.

I bought 1.5 yards of this batik ombre and started looking at colors to make a “Captiva” summer quilt. Instead, I decided I should make the Wild Blossoms quilt while I still had access to some of the prints. The batiks I plan to use for Captiva aren’t going to run out and I really need to use what I’ve already purchased.

So it’s (kind of) working 🙂