Monday, March 24, 2008


My aunt recently sent me this picture. It was taken in January, 1962 and I am the two-month-old baby. This was taken at my christening and my mother, Barbara Allen Coffee Mansee (and later, Merrell) is the lovely woman standing on the left. To the right is my grandmother, Jane Allen Shindler Coffee Crow, whom we called Mama Jane. Her mother, my great-grandmother, is holding me. Her name was Louise Ellen Osborne Shindler, Mama Louise to me. And seated on the right is my great-great-grandmother, Emily Allen Osborne, who was called Dam. Look at all those pearls!

I am very fortunate to have known and visited frequently with Mama Louise when I was a child and I enjoyed Mama Jane's presence in my life until she passed away several years ago. Dam died when I was still a toddler, so I have no memories of her. My mother was in and out of my life several times due to the roller coaster of mental illness and sadly, she died a few years ago at the early age of 62.

Dam's family lived in Georgia for many years but she somehow ended up in Hempstead, Texas. That's where my earliest memories of my mother's family are based. Mama Louise married a gentleman who emigrated from Austria, a brilliantly creative and charming man named John Thomas Shindler (most likely Schindler before arriving on U.S. soil). I spent two weeks every summer of my growing-up years in and around Hempstead, exploring Mama Louise and Pop's huge old house and dogging my male cousins and their friends, who had zero interest in including a girl in their adventures. So I was frequently the victim of their experiments and pranks (when they weren't hiding from me) and was once even tricked into the underground storm shelter where I spent a terrifying few minutes alone in the cool, dank darkness.

I cherish memories of the laundry room at Mama Louise's, which was a full-sized room where all the laundry was washed, dried on a complex indoor clothes line which could be raised and lowered (designed by Pop), then ironed. The room contained a second refrigerator where clothes dampened with water from an old bottle with a red sprinkler top were rolled up and stored until ironed. The fridge also held a highly-coveted store of pale green "pony" bottles of Coke which were always slightly frozen and gave blessed relief from the scorching Texas heat...when I was allowed to have one. Those bottles probably only held about 6 oz. and were doled out only when I'd been particularly different from today when kids are virtually raised on soft drinks and the customary size is ginormous. The only thing that could compare with one of Mama Louise's frosty Cokes was Blue Bell ice cream, which came from nearby Brenham or the locally-grown watermelons, torpedo-shaped, unbelievably sweet and juicy...nothing like the bland, fat melons available today. Amazingly, at the peak of the season, Hempstead melons sometimes sold 6 or 8 for a dollar back then! I sometimes wonder if I could find a melon that matched my childhood memory if I travelled to Hempstead one summer.

I think of these things every time I root around for special items to set around the house when I feel the need for some variety. I have so many old and pretty things that were passed down through the generations and I treasure them more for their ability to trigger such pleasant memories than for their aesthetic appeal. I think of stories I've been told of how Mama Louise scandalized the town by becoming one of the first women to get a driver's license. The town fathers cautioned Pop that he needed to speak to Louise about her reckless speed, said to be approaching 20 MPH. And I wish I could have been around when Pop's cotton gin still occupied the property behind their house. It was a large vacant lot when I was a child and prime hunting ground for wildflowers. Brandywine cups were elusive but my absolute favorites. (photo credit: Maria Bajema)
And back in those days "horny toads" were still plentiful, so toad hunting was another regular pasttime. (Actual name--Texas Horned Lizard.) Even though I never lived there, Hempstead somehow marked me with the strongest sense of place of any I've known. Not sure how that works but I'm glad to feel a connection to someplace in spite of all our moving around.

Creating my own spring

Being in mid-remodel, the house is perpetually covered in dust so wiping everything down is an every second or third day job. While I was at it this morning, I decided to rotate out some knick knacks and create a new vignette on my beloved old pine hutch. Because we had another 3 inches of snow Friday and are expecting a few more tomorrow, it's still a long way from spring-like here in SE Michigan but I assembled a bunch of pretty things I can feast my eyes on when I can no longer bear the sight of snow.

Since I'm such a dunce at photography and therefore ended up with an enormous band of shadow across the top of the picture, I piddled around with effects in Paint Shop until I got it to look a bit better. This one is called Brush Stroke. (Click to fully appreciate the effect.) More of the fab roses from DD front and center.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection Day!

Since DH has a presentation he must give at work Monday morning, he couldn't get home in time for Easter so it was just DD and me. She surprised me at the grocery store with this
bouquet of luscious bright pink roses so we set the table around their glory, using my great-grandmother's china and silver. To keep it from becoming too sweet or fussy I added some rustic Mexican glasses and a contemporary ceramic piece cast in a mold made from real leaves. Such a juicy green color! And, to keep the numbers odd, added my grandmother's old hand painted sugar bowl, probably by one of two spinster great-aunts called Duckie and Seal. (Most likely it was 'Cille but, to my young ears, they were then and always will be water creatures. I adored visits to their old house and wish I'd gotten to know them better.)

Hope you enjoyed a blessed Easter and were reminded of the promises of new life in Him who is risen and the annual wonder that is spring.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm ba-ack!

Sorry to be AWOL for so long. This semester got really tough the past few weeks and Darcy the Wonderdog got seriously ill a couple days after Cece died. She had a horrible reaction to a sulfa antibiotic and it began to kill her liver and almost killed her. Thank heavens she's almost fully recovered now but, after a week in doggie intensive care, it'll be a long time before our wallet recovers.

I took my last final exam of the semester on Saturday morning and am *still* waiting for grades. Academic standing at the end of winter semester determines my graduation status in June so I'm really anxious to find out where I am. DD acheived a milestone of her own last week so we celebrated her success and the end of my semester with a trip to the mall (yuck!) and nice dinner out. After some dog-nursing and a few household things, I immediately tackled some overdue projects.

Job one was to total up the funds raised February 15-March 15, which came to $361. Checks are going out to our two beneficiaries this morning. I want to thank everyone who has made a purchase or donation and to let you know that both women have been surprised, touched, and extremely appreciative of our help. And I have some great news to friend who was injured was granted an expedited disability determination and was approved, so limited but regular funds should start to arrive within a month or two! This was a major answer to prayer so thanks to all you prayer warriors, too. The February check was also a Godsend to her because her car had gone out of commission the week before and she had no idea when or how she'd be able to finance repairs. The total cost was within $2 of last month's check so she's once again got transportation.

Then I started on some projects that need doing. Here's the fabric postcard I made for the Cyber Fyber exhibit.
This thing was a real bear to photograph and this is the best one I could get. I call this piece "World's Ugliest Necktie" since that's where the base fabric came from. A few years ago when DH got a promotion to management and was being transferred to the corporate headquarters, his coworkers presented him with an assortment of ties to wear in his new position. (The branch office was beyond casual so this was a very tongue-in-cheek gesture.) To say these ties were awful is an understatement. Most of them went in the bin a while back but this one was so ugly and yet oddly interesting. So yesterday it was disassembled and ironed flat, then examined for promising sections.

The uppermost rectangle is a piece of a clear plastic report cover, fused to a piece of dyed Tyvek. Then I cut it down and stitched on tiny beads, then attached it to the copper mesh panel using gold thread. It's uneven surface and metallic colors made the thing nearly impossible to photograph.

If you aren't aware of the Cyber Fyber project, go here:

I am trading for postcard #117, which I already received. It's fab and I'm excited to be a part of this project. Hopefully we'll be able to attend the show this fall. Nothing like seeing your own work hanging in a gallery exhibit to seriously make your day!

Now off to finish some more overdue projects, most involving home repairs and painting. But I promise to post pics of anything fun I find time for between semesters:-)