Thursday, 29 December 2011

Blackberry PlayBook cases

Here is a selection of some of the Quilted BlackBerry PlayBook cases that I made for Christmas this year. I have been sewing away over the last month but I have forgotten to take pictures of most of these projects. These were all gifts that have gone to their special people, one case that is not included here was made using my specially saved stash of "Oriental" fabrics. 




How these were made:
  • Outer fabric 19" x 10", choose fun or funky fabrics!!
  • Inner (lining) fabric 19" x 10", to complement or contrast the outer layer
  • Batting 18" x 9"
  • Hook & Loop Tape (2) 1" squares or the size that best matches the flap edge
  • Glue stick (washable) 
  1. Layer the inner and outer pieces, right sides out so that you can orient the top and folded over flap sections. Look at the print for creative finishing inspiration such as an angled flap, stepped out flap, rounded flap). 
  2. Lay your PlayBook in the center,  fold up the bottom matching the end (fold under the seam allowance) to the top of the PlayBook. Fold down the top so that the end meets  the bottom (or following the print to create an interesting flap).
  3. Glue the hook sections to the outside of the pocket (outer fabric) and the loop to the inside of the top flap (inner lining).
  4. Stitch these down securely.
  5. Now lay these 2 pieces, right sides together and stitch around the edges (1/4" seam allowance), leaving 3" unstitched so that the piece can be turned right side out. Press the stitching lines to set the seam in place.
  6. Before the piece is turned, lay the batting piece to match,  Use the gluestick to  baste the batting to hold it in place. Trim the corners of the seam allowance so that they will point out squarely. 
  7. Turn right side out, press the edges neatly, use a point-turner tool to push all corners out. Press again to the piece is well blocked to a square.
  8. Quilt the fabric as desired.
  9. Fold up the bottom edge to create the pocket (using your PlayBook as a guide), and mark the fold line and top edge.
  10. Fold the right side to the inside and stitch the pocket section very close to the edge, restitch a second line parallel to the first line of stitching, back stitching to secure the edge. Press the seam in place.
  11. Turn the pocket right side out, slide your PlayBook into the pocket to verify that the hook and loop tape is set correctly and that it fits nicely.
  12. Top stitch the flap and around the top edge of the pocket.
  13. Press the pocket (again), this will help your case look very neat and professional.
  14. Turn the pocket inside out again and fold the corner edges so that you can sew a diagonal line 1/2" from the edge; this creates a crisp. square base for the PlayBook to slide into.
  15. Turn right side out again and press a final time, taking care not to melt the hook and loop tape, setting the seams squarely and neatly.
Once I had the pattern figured out I could complete each in an hour (while watching TV). I love my chocolate box print with the chocolates inside.

Some of the other gifts that I made this Christmas included a table runner and some wine bottle carriers. It was so much fun to be able to use up some of the novelty prints that I have been collecting. They are usually so cute but often do not look that great if they are used in a quilt.


Monday, 21 November 2011

More knitting projects: frilly knitted scarves

I saw the fun and very soft "Frill Seeker" and this "how to video" or this one for crochet. This yarn is essentially the same as Bernat "Twist & Twirl" and its video.  I made one for myself, and knitted it closed into a loop so that it would not slip off my neck (or the coat hook at work) and get lost. It is loose enough to be looped twice around my neck to keep it warm.

I have a couple others made for some cuties that I know. These will be gifts so watch and wait.
The trick to using this yarn is to work along the outside edge, placing the needle tip about 1/4" in from the edge, and about an inch apart; ignoring the rest of the "fishnet-like" yarn. When all is done, a bit of fluffing, shaking and ruffling makes it all look pretty.

There are lots of great colour combo's too.

The scarf can be knitted up in 2 evenings of TV watching, or one evening if you are not being very distracted.  It is a fast and fun knitting project, and pretty easy once you get used to working along the edge.

P.S.The shawl is being saved as my vacation project so watch this space  for more photos soon.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lady of the Lake Knitted Shawl, part 3 (and some good customer service stories)

I had previously wrote about my Shawl project, update 2 a few weeks ago. I was happily knitting away until I hit a snag, literally. At the point of dividing the shawl I decided to switch to the second ball of yarn. It was not a good surprise to see that ball #2 was much finer than ball #1. It was like comparing sports weight to fingering yarn. I had little faith that my knitting project will work out, but I tried. I knitted up about 8" and I was not happy at all. There is no way that this was going to work out.

Yes, I purchased 2 balls of the same yarn, even if they were not the same colour-way that should have worked in the same project. Here I was, nearly $70 into a project that was not going to be beautiful.

After a few days I decided to contact the shop, The Loop in Halifax. I used their webform, twice. I had not heard anything so a few weeks later I called the shop to let them know how disappointed I am.

They actually had read my email, tried to reach me to follow up but there was an error in my email address in one of the contact forms. They were ready to fix it!! Yay for me. Mimi was confident that the issue was a defective ball of yarn since they only sell one weight. They were quite happy to send me a replacement ball, and I to send them a sample of the defective yarn weight ball.

Here we are, Nov 8 and the new ball is here, I am ready to start into it, but I have this much of the shawl completed:


That was good customer service story #1; I have 2 more good experiences to share. It is probably because the whole financial world is stretched so thin that it really matters that companies provide real value for the money that is spent on their goods. I appreciate that the store is standing up and meeting the expectations I have for the money that was spent there.  We have only so much money and when it is spent we deserve true value for it.

Good customer service story #2 (maybe, the jury is still out on this one): my TomTom 630 go GPS. I bought it last year with my bonus. I spent time choosing this model, after purchasing and returning a Magellen and a Garmin. I thought that I made a good choice. After 14 months it went crazy, the screens kept switching rapidly, I was unable to see any routing information. I could not enter any info either because it was locked into "P".  The TomTom only wanted to go the closest Police station, Puerto Rico or Pittsburgh. This was not really useful at all and a big waste of nearly $200.

I contacted TomTom Support, followed the online tips, joined the forum, followed the tips. called the customer support line, followed all the tips. No matter what we tried the GPS was insane. I was not a happy camper. I could see that there was a large group of owners of these units (630 and 730) that were all having the same issues. There was speculations that is was overheating, too much pressure from the screws, dirt under the bezel, software issues etc. Hundreds of owners with exactly the same problem should tell the company that their device is defective, whether it is just past warranty time or not.

So, finally the customer service technician relented, provided the coveted RMA# and agreed to send a replacement. Happily I posted to the forum that I was getting a new device. Quickly there were posts that I would have the same problem with the new device --- and yes. The new device that I received in the beginning of October was stuck on the "P" and still  only wanted to go the closest Police station, Puerto Rico or Pittsburgh. So eventually, another call to TomTom customer service, and another RMA#. Mercedes promised that they would send a device that worked. I hope so. Really, TomTom should be sending me a different model, one that really works. This model is a "lemon". We'll see.

Good customer service story #3: The saga of the diamond bracelet. In 2010 DH wanted to buy me a beautiful bracelet for my birthday. We looked at all the jewellery stores in all the malls in town, every weekend for a month. Finally I found a beautiful twisty, feminine, beautiful and reasonably priced diamond bracelet. It was so pretty. At the time, the sales agent also sold us a "lifetime warranty". I wondered why in the world I would need such a thing but.....

It was a very good thing to have purchased, the warranty that is. After a few weeks of wearing the bracelet I noticed that a stone had fallen out, no worries, there is a lifetime warranty, the stone was replaced. Six weeks later I pick it up from the store. I wear it for a while and... a stone falls out. I take it back again and the stone will be replaced. Another 6 weeks in the shop. I pick it up; I wear it for a few weeks and... another stone falls out. Back again it goes for a repair. Now it has spent more time in the repair shop than on my wrist.

The store replaces it with another from the counter. .... I am wearing it and ... yes, another stone falls out again. I take it into another location, hoping that a different jewelry repair person works on it. I pick it up after a couple of months. By this time I am whining a bit to the sales agent who tells me that I am lucky that we bought the "lifetime warranty" as they will keep repairing it. THIS IS NOT THE POINT. If I have a beautiful bracelet that someone bought as a gift to make me happy, I should be able to wear it, not have it spend most of its time in repair.

I put the bracelet on at the store and drove home. Guess what, by the time I arrived home another stone has fallen out. REALLY. This must be a design flaw. All I have done is drive home and that should not have caused any stones to fall out. Sadly, I place it in my jewelry box and just look at it for a few months, wishing that I could wear it.

People's Jewelers sends out marketing emails, just like many other businesses. One day when I was being particularly sad about not wanting to wear this "lemon"of a bracelet, I responded to their sales flash with an email noting that I wished our last purchase made us happy. A few emails back and forth, and a few weeks later, I receive a call from Shayna at the People's store where this was originally purchased. She offered to exchange my bracelet, in view of the many times it had been returned, repaired and then disappointing me. I met with her at the store. I saw a very similar style bracelet, nearly the same design but slightly altered.  Shayna was so helpful, positive and sincere.

We both hoped that the design change really fixed the problem because it is such a pretty bracelet. She sent me off with the bracelet that hopefully would make me happy, no fussing, no "red tape", just a smile and good wishes.

I am very impressed, THANK YOU People's Jewelers .  We will be back, the next time though should be for another pretty piece of bling, I think that you mean it when you want to make your customer happy.




Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hope and a funky log cabin quilt

A sewing day was worth a vacation day, or is it that a vacation day is worth a sewing day. Hope, BC is a wonderful starting place;  whether you are starting a new life or a new quilt.
I started with these fabrics:


Quite a few of these wonderfully happy fabrics were purchased at a quilt shop in Hope, BC. One of the strips is actually a print from Roisin's whimsical line of textiles - paper air-planes. My stash is built on mini collections of fabrics purchased on special occasions or while travelling. I knew that there would be a great project ahead for them, and tucked them safely in a zip-lock baggie.

Roll forward a few years and DD#2 is telling me a romantic story about her friends. He is a car fanatic and these cars need some TLC to keep running. She is a very, very  patient sweetie - lucky him. Good thing that he realized this. So, after purchasing a car in Vancouver, and planning to drive it home to Ontario, he put a plan in place.

As they drove through Hope, BC he pulled over, the engine was not behaving as it should. He sent her to the trunk to get a wrench, or a screw driver, or whatever; but there was a plan afoot. He proposed to her,. He thought that becoming engaged in Hope would be a wonderful way to start their lives together. Awwwww.

So, when DD#2 shared this romantic story with me, I knew that the stashed fabric from Hope should end up becoming a quilt for their first baby. Now the baby is on her way, and the quilt needed to be made.

The quilt is made of 4 log cabins blocks, with 3" strips. I then cut these in half vertically and horizontally. I played around with the possible variations and decided to put them together like this:





I managed to design, cut, sew, assemble and quilt this over 2 days (forsaking all other activity except sleep) so that I could give it to the happy "Mama to be so that the special new baby has a loving and fun place to play, live, sleep and grow..

I love this happy quilt, and I am happy that these saved stash fabrics made it into a quilt that is based on Hope.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Shawl, update Oct. 04, 2011

Here are the first 6" of the shawl and I am loving the colour gradation.
It is knitting up quite easily as it is mainly in garter stich with some increases and decreases.
There are some quilting projects on deck as well. I need to make a baby quilt in the next few weeks, and finish the "purple and red" top.
 After that..., well we will make a "to do" list later.

Other life details: back to work, reading, appreciating the Autumn colours, planning the family Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Knitting a new shawl, soft, drapey and beautifully purple

I love shawls, scarves and wraps

 "Lady of the Forest", a design by Ilga Leja , is my new project plan. I like to have a knitting project on the go. I also cannot resist beautiful yarns such as the Kauni variegated 100%wool from Denmark - in shades of purple.

I had to purchase 1 skein EG and 1 skein EYC - they are similar colour gradations but in the opposite proportions. I was visiting my daughter in Halifax and I made a stop at The Loop, a local fibre craft shop.

I fell in love with the sample in the shop. It was so beautiful, soft and drapey. You will have to visit the designer's site ( "Lady of the Forest", a design by Ilga Leja ) to see photos of the finished shawl. If you are on Ravelry you can look it up there .

I am a very slow knitter though as my knitting is done whilst being a passenger on a long car ride, watching a movie or stopping for tea at a friend's place.

Since I have 2 different dye lots and gradations, of the same base colour, I will have to play  with the yarn a bit. The pattern is designed to feature gradations so I will start with the primarily light colour and then switch to the dark (about 70% through) and then use the rest of the lighter colourway for the bands and collar.

It should be good... I hope... we'll see.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sewing again! Table toppers and a Portable Work Space that anyone can make

I was able to complete some UFO's (big yay!!!), a reversible table topper for myself, a reversible table runner that I am donating to a charity raffle, a small wall hanging for a friend and a workspace project that I have been working through in my mind for the last 2 years.
When I go to quilting workshops or work at a friend's place I usually bring my "Quilters Cut n Press". I find it a bit small for most purposes but it is really frustrating to have to keep flipping it over to cut or press. So I do not love this tool. It did however start me thinking that I could make something much better if I thought it through carefully enough. 
My "Portable Work Space ©2011 Linda Grover" is now a reality and I do love this. I knew that it needed to be easily portable yet large enough to be useful. I have to be able to move from one step to another easily and then be able to "close up shop" quickly when it is time to leave.




I am happy to share the instructions and process with you. Even better, it only cost me about $20 to make. Compare that to the $90 cost of the commercially made cut and press boards that are so frustrating to use.

Here are the instructions (because I like to share what I love):

Materials
Fabric: use 100% cotton  
  • Fabric A: 1 Yd. cotton for outer shell
  • Fabric B: ¼ Yd. cotton for pockets and tab (to complement or contrast outer shell fabric)
  • 1/2 Yd. muslin for pressing pad as well as stabilizing the hinge section
  • 4 Yds. 1 ¼” wide webbing for handles
  • 16” x 18” felt (good quality)
Batting: use 100% cotton
  • 2 pieces 14” x 20” for lining outer shell
  • 6 pieces 13” x 19” for pressing pad
  • Optional: 1 piece (13” x19”) insulated batting for top layer of pressing pad
Other pieces:
  • 12” x 18” Rotary Cutting Mat
  • 3/4” x 1 ¼” hook and loop tape
  • (2 pieces) 13 ¼” x 19 ¼”  1/8" or ¼” thick “masonite-type” hard board (Home Depot cut it to size for no charge)
  • 1 piece of 1/8" or ¼” thick “masonite-type” hard board cut to same size as cutting mat
-or-
  • 12” x 18” “Timtex” or other fusible rigid, thick interfacing to be used as base for pressing pad (cardboard is not suitable as it will not stand up to steam)
  • Glue gun/glue sticks or other water resistant adhesive for attaching the fabrics to the hardboard
  • Water and heat resistant contractor spreadable, low odour adhesive for porous & non-porous materials
Cutting:
  • Fabric A - 2 pieces 19” x 25” (exterior), 1 piece 5” x 39” (hinge)
  • Fabric B - 2 pieces 17” x 20”, 2 pieces 9” x 12” (pockets), 4” x 6” (tab)
  • Muslin - 27” x 23” (pressing pad), 5” x 19” (hinge lining), 2 pieces 9” x 12” (pockets lining)
  • Webbing - 2 pieces 60”
 Sewing:
Pockets:
Sew matching pocket pieces along sides and top (leaving bottom open), right sides together; turn and press flat. *Be sure to poke the top corners out.

To attach pockets and handles, lay the large rectangles of Fabric A, right side up. Use a tracing pencil to mark vertical placement lines for pockets at 6” from each side 6 1/2” apart. Check to be sure that this is adequate for storing a 6” ruler.  Set long pocket in place bringing the raw edge down towards the bottom of Fabric A. It does not have to meet at the lower edge but needs to have enough  for wrapping over the edge and under the inside panel. Use the hardboard as template to check for centering and fold over width.  Lay the handle webbing over the side edge of the pocket, working from the lower raw edge; stop and mark at 3” from the top. The bottom raw edges will be caught and wrapped under the inside panel. Sew along both sides of the webbing, catching the pocket sides and securing the top of the webbing in place by stitching and an “X” before you return down the other side. *It is easy to use a glue stick to hold these pieces in place for sewing. 

Use the first rectangle to mark placement of handles to match on the second rectangle. The larger pocket should be placed between the webbing, just slightly under each side. Create a center pleat with the excess fabric width to allow for a fuller pocket. *Be sure that both pocket and handle widths match each other for placement and handle space.



Tab: fold small rectangle of fabric in half lengthwise and sew along long edge. Press seam open and roll to center of piece.  Mark a curve along one side, stitch, turn tab right side out and press. The seam will now be centered along the back.  Set the hook tape close to the curved edge and stitch in place. *Use a thread colour that blends into the fabric as the stitching will be visible on the outside of the tab. It can be hidden with a button or other embellishment.

Lay the 2 outside pieces side by side. Find the vertical center of the side edge of one piece and mark for placement of the loop tape. Place the loop tape at 1 ½” from the handle and stitch in place.  This will become the pressing board side. On the loop tape side of the fabric, mark a line vertically on the fabric approximately ½” inside of the fabric edge that will be folded over the hardboard.  This is the placement line for the felt. Sew in place with 2 lines of straight stitching. * The felt will extend outside of the pressing pad but the sewn edge will be folded under and glued in place under the pressing pad. Mark the matching spot on the other outside piece for future placement of the tab with the hook tape.  Make some placement marks for centering the hardboard on the other piece of fabric.

Hinge:
Fold the long piece of Fabric A horizontally across the width (5”), stitch across the short side, press the seam open and roll so that the seam is in the center of the loop rather than the end. Lay the matching piece of muslin in the center. Turn the piece inside out so that the muslin is now sandwiched.  Sew up both sides to secure the 3 layers of the hinge.

Pressing Pad:
Layer the batting pieces on the masonite board or rigid interfacing, fusible side down and smooth in place. Add enough layers so that the pad is at least ½” thick. If you have insulating batting, use this as the top layer. Place this stack (batting side down) on the muslin piece and bring the edges, tightly and smoothly around in the same manner as the outer shell pieces.  Press the edges in place on the fusible side to secure. If using Masonite, then glue the folded over muslin to the back.


Assembly:
Lay (19” x 25”) fabric A, right side down. Center 1 (14” x 20”) piece on the fabric. Lay 1 piece of the hardboard in center of this stack. Using glue, bring top and bottom opposite ends of fabric around to the top of the hardboard and glue in place, repeat for opposites sides. Pull corners tight and neaten the folds.  Do this for both hardboards, checking the handle placement matches.   *Working from opposite sides creates a neater edge. Be sure that the batting wraps evenly over the edges as you bring the fabric around so that there are no sharp edges.  This is the same technique as making upholstered boards or fabric covered book covers. Check that all pieces are smooth on the front, that the handle placement matches and the pieces are placed evenly parallel approximately 1” apart.
With both boards parallel, place the loop tape and felt piece on the outer side.  Lay the fabric hinge across the gap and securely glue in place.  Place the tab piece out on the other piece of covered hard board and glue. When these close together, the piece of felt will fold to the inside and the tab with hook tape will meet the loop tape to hold the workspace closed.   *Any glue gun bumps can be flattened out by using a hot dry iron with a protective pressing cloth before the final assembly.

 
 With all pieces lying open, spread the adhesive over the right side board, spreading to the edge. Carefully center the rotary cutting mat in place.  Spread adhesive on the left side board and center the pressing pad.  Use clamps to hold these securely in place until the adhesive is firmly set. 

Tip: you can use any size cutting mat. To adjust the board sizes: 1 piece of board (or Timtex) cut to match the size of your cutting mat, this will be the base for the ironing pad; 2 pieces of board cut 1/2 larger than your cutting mat - these will be the outside layer and base for the ironing pad and cutting mat.

I am going to use some of the same fabric to make a matching storage bag for my portable iron.
These instructions were written after I made my prototype. If something does not make sense, please send me a message or leave a question in the comments.
Enjoy your new work space!

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Melanoma Journey (part 4- the good bye)

In our area  there is a health care support network for patients who are out of the hospital. Community Care Access Centre ( CCAC ) provides whatever is needed from nursing care to family support. The nurses advised us on what to expect as Charlie came to the end of his life and helped us to be prepared for this to happen at home (as was his choice). The time came that the nurse told us to call anyone else that may need to see him, as we had only hours left.

In an interval between wiping his face and bringing him sips of water, Charlie closed his eyes and relaxed.  The peace that came to his body was amazing for us to see. After all these months of bravado and pain, seeing him so relaxed was such a catharsis. Family was close by. I opened the window fully wide to see the greens of the trees, grass and fields; the breeze was so refreshing.  Peaceful, healing and calm.

We sat with him and had a drink to toast his life,  his victory over his challenges.


We chose to have a celebration of Charlie's life at home.  I found a beautiful wooden cremation box online (this was the strangest online purchase I have ever made). It was perfect since he loved animals and the moon. Chairs were set in place in our yard, flowers bought, friends brought food.
Friends and family sat in our open yard, next to a corn field and shared stories about Charlie's life, we sang "Imagine" by John Lennon, little white butterflies floated freely around us. We honoured the lessons that his life provided - to live life without letting any of its challenges slow you down. He did not stop living life as these challenges came his way but rather looked for how he could still  make life happen in spite of them.

Thank you Charlie. You were always there for me, as I for you - brother and sister.


Part 1 - The Journey
Part  2 - The Man
Part 3 - The Gift

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Melanoma Journey (part 3, the gift)

Canada Day 2011, Rogers Centre Stadium, Rick Hansen & Charles Griese
A chance meeting with Rick Hansen was a gift for us all.

NOTE: If illness details will distress you, bypass the blue paragraphs.



The speed of the main tumour's growth was amazing. We could see the changes almost daily. The mass on the right side of his chest stretched from sternum across to his back and down his side.
It was nearly as large as a football by the end. This was only apparent as a bruise in February, as thick as the palm of your hand in March, the size of a grapefruit in April, a cantelope in May. By June there were countless tumours visible under the skin all over his body, a tumour the size of an orange in his stomache.
In April, a tumour the size of a lime was removed from his brain. This helped to restore the paralysis in his right arm caused by its rupture. The tumour on his side was unable to be excised since too many nerves and blood vessels were already throughout.
Charlie had to hold out his arm at a 90 degree angle and the pressure of the tumour on the nerves caused him to lose most of his motor control. The stomache tumour prevented him from eating very much at all, or keeping down what he did manage to eat. He was very weak, and struggling but resisted pain killers until the last few weeks. He did not want to be "foggy-headed" so he preferred to manage the pain and be alert.

Charlie waited eagerly for our visits. He was always ready to be up and apologizing for being so weak and tired. The doctors had told us months earlier that there was no way to turn things around; there were only weeks to months left.
We wanted to enjoy a family day at a Blue Jays/Phillies game on Canada Day. Sisters, nieces and nephews traveled up from NJ to see their beloved Phillies. Local family supported the Blue Jays. Charlie, well we are Yankees fans anyway, we were there for the fun of it. Fifteen of us planned to attend the Canada Day game in Toronto.

By this time we were traveling with a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) certificate, a special "end of life symptom relief" kit and enough doses of morphine to help ease the pain. We borrowed a wheel chair from a friend since Charlie could not walk very far. Mom, Charlie and I traveled to Toronto by VIA RAIL so that he might be a bit more comfortable than in a car. The rest of the family met us at the game.
All medical professionals involved in his care agreed that we should do this if we could. We all know that he could collapse at any moment, and that would be his last. He was clear that he wanted no further medical intervention, no more laying in a hospital bed waiting. He had enough of medical care throughout his 51 years and just wanted to die peacefully, in his own bed. Charlie wanted to be living every last of these minutes left. I was determined to make sure that he could.

Arriving at Rogers Stadium, we manouver our way to the "will call" ticket windows and then on to an handicapped accessible entrance. We missed the first one but I saw another ahead.
As we roll up to the door so does another wheelchair. The familiar smile of Rick Hansen lights up with a thumbs up to Charlie. Charlie has a broad smile of recognition, thumbs up to Rick. They chat for a few minutes. Rick had enough time for a few words, a hand shake and a quick photo. This made Charlie's day. Rick was actually there to throw out the first pitch.
He managed to watch most of the game, spending only a few innings inside. He asked if we got a picture and was so pleased that we did. We made it home that night. He was so weak, exhausted and could barely speak by now.
We brought him a framed photo of the Rick Hansen encounter amd Charlie was so pleased. We hung it at eye level for his bed. Charlie told me that he wanted to write Rick a letter. Rick Hansen had been a major source of inspiration in Charlie's life - and we always wondered where he found the strength to overlook his challenges.
Charlie dictated the letter, signed it and I mailed it to Rick. I also tweeted a thank you for taking the time to talk to a man who really only had days left to live. To his great credit, Rick Hansen and the Rick Hansen foundation acknowledged the tweet and the letter, Rick thanked us and also sent us his personal condolences when Charlie did pass away.

Rick Hansen
Rick Hansen Foundation
300-3820 Cessna Drive
Richmond, BC, V7B 0A2

Dear Rick:
Before I saw you I did not have a focus, and you came along and shifted my thoughts. I did not have a clue about things like “basketball wheelchairs” and cross-country tours.
In March 1994 I had a hip replacement. In April 1995 I had a kidney transplant. I started to spend my first time in a wheel chair. When I saw you on your tour I focused on the things that you said. You made me think about the positive – like the Olympics.
It April 2011 I woke up and my arm was paralyzed. They thought it was a stroke. I was told that I had a cancerous tumour. It weakened my body. I followed what you did, seeing you on TV shows (like Danger Bay) as you told your story.
Now you have me thinking, after I saw you at the Rogers Centre Stadium on Canada Day. I can see how much you can do in a short time and how far you can go.
It was nice, shaking your hand. Thank you.
Sincerely,

Charles Griese

This day brought a few very special gifts:
  • A great Canada Day family reunion
  • Charlie met his hero
  • Priceless memories with Charlie
  • Donations in Charlie's memory are asked to be directed to the Rick Hansen Foundation

to be continued:
Part 1 - The Journey
Part 2 - The Man

Part 4 - The Goodbye



Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Melanoma Journey (part 2 - the man)


Charlie loved New York Yankees baseball, a bottle of Coca Cola, long walks and daily visits to Tim Hortons. His journey through life had never been easy; and in spite of these challenges he kept on smiling, joking, walking, and looking forward to seeing his dreams come true. 

He loved words. He chose every greeting card so very carefully and when you read it you would know that its sentiments were truly and deeply held. He also spent many hours working on writing his own stories about finding one’s place in society.

He loved nature; he followed the rhythms of night sky, understood the patterns of the weather that was coming, and all animals.

Above all, Charlie dearly loved his family, especially the children. For this, and much more, he will always be sincerely loved, very much missed and never forgotten.

per·se·ver·ance –noun
1.       Charles Frederick Griese
2.       steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

 1962 (Christmas),  NYC

1962, Coney Island, NY

1966 (Easter),  Queens, NY

1995, Ontario
to be continued:
Part 1 - The Journey
Part 3 - The Gift
Part 4 - The Goodbye

The Melanoma Journey

A few months ago I posted about the diagnosis that my brother received. This was the start of a short and rough journey for us. I have learned that Melanoma is not a cancer with a lot of hope, at least once it has metathesized.

For Charlie it was already too late. He did however live bravely.

We helped Charlie live these last months, and so he lived until he died - July 11, 2011. I want to share his story so that someone, somewhere else is helped by him.

Charlie spent 3 months in the daily care of Stratford General Hospital. He was there before his diagnosis and then spent the last 2 months at home.

In the real world, he lived with our mom, (a mutually beneficial situation). The family comprised  Mom, myself and my family, two more sisters and their families (living in the US), and a brother along with a collection of Aunts, Uncles, and cousins all over the place.

Life threw Charlie more than his fair share of challenges and he faced them all with an amazing attitude. He did not complain about his circumstances very often but always looked at how he could keep on doing what he wanted to do in spite of them. He was always working at getting his life on track.

Charlie had both knees spontaneously fracture in the early 90's due to calcium loss from kidney disease. Then the kidney disease -glomerulonephritis - led to dialysis and eventually a renal transplant in 1996. He fractured his hip. The hip replacement failed and he had it repaired in 2003.

With all this he walked many  miles every day, with routine stops for his Timmies .

to be continued:
Part 2 - The Man
Part 3 - The Gift
Part 4 - The Goodbye

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A whole lot of living, and some dying

It has been a while since I have posted to Barda. I will be back with stories, both happy and sad, very soon.
Thanks for waiting patiently.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

It is Saturday and I can do what I want to, maybe

Sometimes life is too tightly scheduled.  Last weekend was my first weekend freely at home in a month. Most weekends, since the middle of February, have been booked with one event or another.  My life these days is very far removed from the time when Saturday and Sunday seemed to be a long free time to look for activities to fill it.  When was the last time I could answer "nothing planned" if someone asked what I was going to do this weekend? [Wow, that last sentence would be a challenge to translate as a homework assignment - 5 verbs; was, could answer, asked, was going to do; 6 if you include "planned"]

Anyway, last weekend I booked the manicure-pedicure at Tetherwood (my favourite spa for having a relaxing experience) that the Honey gave me for my birthday (January).  It was great - 3 hours of sitting, relaxing, reading, having my sore feet pampered and my fingers looking pretty. This weekend we are going to have dinner and see SuperTramp at the JLC as my birthday gift to the Honey (May).

Otherwise the day is free for me to choose to fill as I see fit.  This is where the dilemma begins:
  • There is a big list of things that I have not even started to do,  but should have had done months ago.
  • There are many things I wish that I have done - just because I wanted to do them but did not have the time to.
  • There are alot of things that I can do because they are there to be done if I choose to.
  • There are also the things that should be done now because now is the time that they should be done - but should they be really done before the other things that should have been done before I arrived at this time for these things?
  • There are things that I would like to be doing right now and not thinking about other things that may be needed to or should have been done.
  • There is also doing absolutely nothing just for the sake of doing nothing.
  • There are things that I need to do regardless of whether I want to or not.
  • There are some things that I want to do that are new ideas which are burning brightly in my mind and distracting me from all the other stuff that is listed above.
So what will I do?  (besides procrasternetting and posting this).  I am guessing that I will have a shower and get dressed first, then visit my brother, bring the Chinchilla back home (he was there because I have been away too often to look after him here),  pick up some groceries, do some housework,  read, do some household accounting, do some laundry, call a friend, daydream about some possibilities, worry about some things, pray about some other things, wish for some things to come true, fill out  some new paperwork, go to the post office, play with the dogs, check email, organize a few stacks of papers, work on some overdue paperwork, write a  thank you note, and wish that I had some more time to get back at my quilting  life - but not necessarily all in that order.

Can I get this done before 5 o'clock?

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    How is Charlie doing at Stratford General Hospital?

    The neurosurgery to remove the brain tumour has healed very well. This is one of the bright spots. Even the scar looks pretty good, a lot like the stitching on a baseball. This can be  a good thing for a Yankees fan.

    The other melanoma  tumour however is not making anyone happy. It is growing daily. It is huge. It is ugly. ...and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Charlie is bravely trucking along, having  radiation treatments in hope that it will slow things down. All this same  he is suffering daily nausea, has been since March 29.  That tumour is preventing him from using his right arm and is causing so much pain. Charlie though is managing this all with T3's.  He will not take anything that will make his head feel woozy or sleepy.

    The doctors, the nurses, the transport staff at Stratford General Hospital have been taking such great care of Charlie. They are keeping him comfortable and are being very caring and gentle while they do things like change his IV, give the heparin shot, help him clean up after the nausea overwhelms him, tuck his pillow carefully under his immobile but very painful arm, take him to London for treatment and even help him change his clothes for bed time. We appreciate their compassion.

    Charlie wanders the hospital halls daily, he is used to walking for miles each day. He just wants it all to go away, and we wish it would. Unfortunately, this really means that there is nothing about  that cancer that  really will go away. We just want to make him comfortable and let him know that he is well-loved.  We break him out when we can, just to go home and be with his own stuff, and to buy his own Timmies (small with cream) and a donut.

    So if you are at SGH, and see him wandering the hall, say hi. You will recognize him easily since he has to hold that right arm at a 90 degree angle, has that huge tumour on his right side under that arm and  has very short hair on one side of his head.

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    An unexplained bruise, a stroke, melanoma and brain surgery...

    I mentioned my brother in a recent blog post. He was concerned about a large bruise on his side that appeared without any seemingly related cause. He had it checked at the local  hospital emergency department (Feb 9) , x-rays were taken, blood work was taken and nothing untoward was found, the assumption was that he must have hurt himself slipping on the ice. They advised him to keep an eye on it, it should fade, and if it turned red, to come back.
    After a couple of weeks (Feb 28), the bruise was spreading, swelling a bit and his arm was numb, hot and in pain. Back to the  hospital emergency department he went. Nothing was apparent so they sent him for an ultrasound scan on March 1 (Tuesday). This led to a CT  scan, which led to him being admitted to the hospital immediately.
    The doctor felt that there was a large blood clot that needed to be removed asap. So this was done the very next day. He also took a biopsy and sent it to the lab. On Thursday Charlie was discharged, feeling great, with orders for a home care nurse to tend his surgical site.
    The very next morning, as I sat at the counter having my tea I turned on my Blackberry to see texts from my brother that he had lost the feeling in his right arm, it was paralyzed. I really thought that he must be kidding so I call him to check. It was not a  joke. He had woken up with no feeling in his arm. I take him back to the hospital,  now with a stroke. The hospital was great, they put him in right away, checked him over, did a CT scan, and found that he had hemorrhaged in his brain.
    The doctor was so helpful, caring and assuring. Charlie was sent for an MRI the next day - which identified a tumour. This was the cause of the paralysis - the bleed had put pressure on the brain and it was located exactly in the area of his motor skills, on the left side. This matched the paralysis in his right arm. The pathology results of the biopsy from his side are in now and it was confirmed as melanoma.
    Melanoma...I do a Google search and it scares me. I stop looking. I won't look any more.
     March 18th, now we head off to the cancer clinic, where we hear that the tumour in the brain is likely a melanoma as well. She recommends that both tumours be removed within the next 2 or 3 weeks.
    Charlie has been trying to work with the paralyzed arm but not much is happening there. He has been in the hospital since March 1. He is not very happy though being stuck in the hospital. Charlie is used to taking long walks every day. The hospital staff really show that they care about Charlie as a whole person, so they send him home on a weekend pass, this lifts his spirits immensely, and also helps him to see  that he will need a bit of help.
    What are the options: Chemotherapy is not an option as Charlie has had a kidney transplant and is on immune suppressants. Radiation....may be an option but apparently not very effective on this type of tumour. Removal is the best option. So off to the neurosurgeon we go, March 29. 
    This is scary and so much is changing so fast.  Charlie has been in the hospital for over a month now. The mysterious bruise had became concerning less than a month before this.  So now, not even 2 months later I am sitting in the waiting room while Charlie is having neurosurgery to remove the tumour in his brain. We need to minimize the risk of him becoming paralyzed along the whole of his right side. April 6, 5 hours of surgery by an amazing, smart doctor and the tumour in his head is all gone. I asked all of my friends, both "the everyday in my real world  life" friends and all the sweet people here in internet land for prayers and positive energy. We could feel the love.
    It is unbelievable to me that less than 2 hours after his brain was opened up that he can answer questions. The next day he can stand up, and even walk a bit with the nurse's help.
    We don't know what will happen next. It is terrifying to try to even guess. What will happen to the other tumour which is growing so quickly? From nothing visible to an obviously large mass in less than 8 weeks. We will handle this one day, one step at a time.
    I truly appreciate all the caring attention that Charlie is receiving. The nurses, the doctors, the transport teams, the technicians, everyone has been so wonderful to him. This is a rough road but there are so many warm guiding lights.

    Usually I write about stuff, or quilting, this post is about living.

    P.S. 16 years ago today Charlie received a new kidney.

    (The Melanoma Journey, 4 parts to the rest of the story)

    Tuesday, 29 March 2011

    Brushes With Grace

    Grace has created amazing images that portray innocent magical life in the colours around her. I have met her and she is a truly beautiful person with sense of great inner depth.

    Thursday, 24 March 2011

    Hibernation in Spring 2011, Coffee Tree and my brother

    I have been away, busy, not playing, not much fun.

    More winter.The groundhog was plainly wrong. Environment Canada says that it will be snowy through April and even into May this year. I keep waiting for the blush of green and all I see is white, and gray and brown - and I love the snow. This winter started with a  snow storm on December 5th, and  there has been  snow on the ground ever since.
    Charlie, his timmy's and his netbook from Carley
    I suppose I would be happier with the never ending winter if I were spending the time quilting or cuddling but it is being spent working and doing hospital runs. Who knew that melanoma could cause a stroke. Not me, and not my brother who is making life work with one arm. It is a good thing that he is left handed.
    He amazed me by managing to hang his shirt on a hanger with one hand, and pretty quickly too. He is very versatile. He said he became good at doing things with one hand when the stent (sp?) was put in his right arm.
    The coffee tree is still sprouting buds. The Sweetie asked me if I had pollinated the flowers, .. uhh , no. So I am not sure know what will happen next. There are no busy bees or annoying insects or happy birds visiting flower to flower in my living room.I hope the "breezes"of the central heating system are enough do that job. There is something happening though.
    Will these become coffee  beans?
     

    Sunday, 13 March 2011

    coffee bean march 10

    The flowers are fading now. I hope that they all develop beans.
    I am trying to get to DC to see my nieces compete in a cheer competition. South Jersey Storm!!! My baggage was not unloaded in time for me to catch a connecting flight that was leaving 1 hour and 15 minutes later than my first flight's scheduled  arrival time. My bag had not even been unloaded by the time that 8 AM flight closed its doors.
    So I had to sit at the airport for another 3 hours to catch the next flight. If all goes well I get to see the girls cheer.....
    And to put my life into world perspective, I feel inconvenienced but millions of people are trying to pull their lives back together after Japan's heartbreaking series of disasters. So - no whining from me. ....and prayers for all those in need.