Tag Archives: friendship

Crazy Quilts and Sage Sayings by Sherrie Hansen

I grew up wrapping my baby doll in this soft, little quilt, made with scraps from dresses my mom and grandma sewed for my sister and I and themselves in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There’s a bit of the dress my mother made for her first class reunion and some of her curtains, too. My Great-Grandma, Mathilda Jensen Paulsen, from Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, stitched it together, along with a big quilt that matched. Later, when I was old enough to sew but still young enough to play with dolls – Barbie dolls instead of baby dolls by this time – my grandma and I made doll clothes out of more scraps from some of these same fabrics.

Quilt - baby doll

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love quilts and the memories and history woven into them – or when I didn’t embrace the concept that nothing should be wasted – not the extra fabric after a pattern was cut out, or the few inches of lace or rickrack left over from a project, or the odd button on the button card, or even an empty feed sack. Waste not, want not. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Quilt - twin bed

And thanks to my Grandma Victoria, who scraped out her bowls so clean that you couldn’t tell they had been used, I know that the batter that lingers in the pans of people who don’t scrape out their bowls is enough to make a whole extra muffin or two cookies – very probably the ones you will get to eat!

Quilt - fabrics

I grew up in a family of thrifty, hardworking, creative, and yes, stubborn Danes with a dash of Bohemian, German, English and Scottish thrown in for good value. And I mean that literally. The melting pot that was my family tree produced a bumper crop of large-boned, freckle-skinned, hardy folks who could do most anything they set their minds to – unless it was sports related. We weren’t athletically inclined, nor were we ones to waste time or energy on things that weren’t essential, necessary, or needed.

Quilt - off to bed

When later generations grew up wanting to dabble in the arts – make pretty quilts from calicos bought from quilting shops instead of scraps (because they were in colors that matched a room or enhanced a decorating scheme), eyebrows were raised, prayers were said, and people wondered what the world was coming to. I was a part of the younger generation – I loved certain colors, and it was very important to me that everything matched. One year, my Grandma Victoria made rag rugs for us for Christmas, I dug through the pile until I found one with no red.

Quilts - EJ

Bright red didn’t match the pastel pinks and roses I used in my house. To satisfy my artistic eye, even the threads the rugs were woven with had to be blue or green instead of red – or heaven forbid, orange. (Thankfully, someone had put an old pink bathrobe in the rag bag at some point, so I did get my color-coordinated rug.)

Quilt - houses

It was clear. The writing was on the wall. Never ever would I sew a quilt out of old dresses or wool suits (or whatever leftover fabrics happened to be in the mending pile) in a mish mash of helter-skelter colors. I was a colorful prima-dona, a quilting artiste.

Quilt - mine

Something else had changed over the generations. The hodgepodge, crazy quilts we slept under and covered our beds with and used to keep the dust off of the furniture were replaced by quilts that were so perfect and pretty that we didn’t want to ruin them by putting them on our beds or actually using them.

Quilt - hearts

We hung them on the walls, put them in our hope chests, and lovingly guarded them for posterity’s sake so we could pass them down to future generations. We took them off our beds and put them in our cedar chests.

Quilt - Mom

We collected old quilts at auction and estate sales and revered any family quilts that had survived said family. Sometimes people made numerous pillows or even teddy bears out of a grandma’s quilt so each grandchild could have a small piece of it. But we didn’t snuggle under them or swaddle our children in them, or cuddle in front of the fireplace wrapped up in them, or throw them on the ground and spread a picnic out on top of them.

Quilt - crazy

So, how does this pertain to my books, Night & Day and Daybreak? Jensen Marie Christiansen comes from a long line of quilters to whom a quilt meant nothing more than something to keep you warm on a cold winter night. Jensen is a designer and creator of art quilts. In Night & Day, Ed has a pilly old bedspread in drab tones.  Anders sleeps under a sailboat quilt in bright blues and yellows that his mother made for him.

Quilt - sunbonnet sue

Quilts become the catalyst for the conflict of a family, generations of hopes and dreams, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead – a solid, predictable, convenient future with Ed or a wild ‘trip around the world’ with Anders?

Quilt - pink and green

In Daybreak, everything has changed and Jensen is searching for order in a world that has become all too crazy. The freeform, artistic quilts she has always designed are suddenly too flighty and fancy free to meet her needs. As her hopes and dreams swirl out of control, she needs the precision of perfectly aligned corners and points that come together the way they’re supposed to. When her family starts to fall apart, and she needs the constancy of her heritage. She even starts a quilt in a red and white Danish design (well, a pretty cherry red, almost burgundy in hue.)

Quilt - CH

The imagery of quilts – a doll quilt that a young Mathilda wrapped her baby doll in, and then gave to Leif to wrap Maren’s newborn baby in, a quilt made by Jensen for the daughter she feared she would never have, a great-grandmother’s quilt that was Jensen’s most cherished possession – the tapestry of a family’s life, patched together in a way that unites the generations of my family for all times.

Quilt - Mathilde

My life – I skipped a generation in Night & Day, so in real life, Maren was my great-great grandmother, Mathilda was my great-grandma, and baby Victoria was my grandma – but it’s all there.

Quilt - Victoria

The scraps and memories, pieced together with bits and bobs from my imagination, all joined together in fiction form, misunderstandings and conflicting perceptions of the world – a completely different world than existed back then – smoothed out in a colorful pattern and stitched with love.

Quilt - Grandma Hansen

Jensen and her family are very close to my heart, and I hope once you read Night & Day and Daybreak, you’ll feel the same way. I chose the design and colors for the quilt on the front cover of Night & Day to coordinate with the color palate in one of my guest rooms – On the Banks of Plum Creek – at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn.

Quilt - bear

I wanted to use a Trip Around the World quilt – it would have matched the theme of Night & Day so perfectly, and if there’s anything I love more than coordinating colors, it’s perfectly synchronized symbolism – but my publisher liked this one, so that’s what we went with. If you come to stay at the Blue Belle one day, you can still snuggle up under this quilt and dream the night away.

Quilt - plum Creek

I saw and fell in love with the lovely quilt on the front cover of Daybreak online, which has a unique symbolism in and of itself. The colors were perfect, and the design, with sunrise and sea, spoke to me of oceans and time, and seemed perfectly suited for Jensen and Anders’ continuing story. I was able to weave the design into the story in ways that brought the whole tale to life. I hope you agree. (The cover art quilt for Daybreak is by Elena Stokes, and was photographed by the artist. You can visit her website to see more of her work at www.elenastokes.com and follow her at www.facebook.com/elena.stokes.art.)

Daybreak Elena Stokes - It Suddenly Dawned 300 ppi

I’m sure some folks wonder why I would put a quilt on the front of a fiction novel instead of a character or a sketch of Maren’s old house, Peter’s bonfire, or any one of the beautiful scenes from Minnesota or Denmark that unfold in the course of the book. But to me, the quilts say it all. Quilts were the inspiration for these stories. The plot revolves around them. The characters are defined by them and shine because of their existence. In both Night & Day and Daybreak, the quilts connect the generations across oceans and time through each precise stitch – a miraculous labor of love, and the gift of a special artistry known only to quilters.

Quilt - Danish flags  Quilt - DEnmark

Even after all these years, when it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark, somewhere, a night owl like me is quilting.

Quilt - Maren

Someone else is fast asleep under a quilt stitched by a mother or grandmother who loved them. Someone on the other side of the world is crawling out from under the covers, ready to face the dawn of a new day, and someone else is sitting cross-legged on a quilt, writing in her journal, and falling in love. Crazy quilts of life – God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces, leftovers and scraps. So do the hands of quilters.

Quilt - names

Now off to bed, sleepy heads.

(Sherrie is the owner of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She is a Wheaton College alumni, and attended University of Maryland, European Division, while living in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, an LCMC Congregation in rural Hudson, Iowa. In Sherrie’s spare time (?) she likes to dabble in the creative arts, play piano, paint, quilt, decorate vintage homes, and travel. Her new release, DAYBREAK, is the long awaited sequel to her very first book, NIGHT & DAY. Both books are full of quilting imagery and sage sayings.)

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Filed under history, musings, Sherrie Hansen

Loyalty

Have you noticed that a characteristic such as loyalty seems to have vanished in our modern day world? It is a tragic loss if it can not be revived. Companies no longer seem to care about their employees and employees change jobs for a few dollars more in a pay packet.
In my parents and grandparents day, people got a job with a company, worked their way up the ladder and for the most part retired from that company after many years of loyal service. This is an out of date notion. Workers, for the most part, are no longer loyal to one employer. In recent times, there are those who job hop, hoping that the new company will offer better pay and benefits. Or they may play one company off the other to negotiate the best deal. However, this is not so prevalent anymore with the job market what it is now.
Employers do not encourage loyalty in their workers like they did once upon a time.
A friend of mine gave a company fifteen years of service and loyalty. Then she was let go along with three others from this same company. There were no satisfactory explanations for their terminations; just good-bye with no severance, no references and few prospects in the job market today. There are not many openings for jobs on that same managerial level.
Another friend recounted to me that her company wants people to start sharing more of their responsibilities because the company wants to eliminate numerous jobs. They have not said what jobs, or which employees will be released, so the sword of Damocles hangs over them all. The company also has offered early retirement sweet deals that are available to the first fifty of the one hundred and fifty that are eligible. Even with retiring fifty people, they still will cut jobs.
Another horrifying item that surfaced about this company: someone distributed a book about ~ how to treat employees so poorly that they quit, leaving the company without having to pay the unemployment fees.
I wonder what is happening in our world.
Where is loyalty?
I remember a story my dad told me about a friend and client of his.
Mr. Lubin loved to bake, and he was good at it. His hobby blossomed into a small business as he took over the family kitchen. Soon the demands for his baked goods grew, and he moved his enterprise to the garage. Orders came in consistently allowing him to first rent, then later to purchase a building of his own to keep up with the growing demand.
In the process of his expansion from the kitchen to the garage he needed proper packaging for his goods. He called a number of companies and met with their salesmen. He had a specific package in mind. No supplier had it readily available. The salesmen told him that his demands could not be met. His order would be too small to make it worth their while. Except for one young man who needed to establish himself with his company. He said it would be worth a try. He would do what he could to fill the order. A week later the man returned with what they company could do for Mr. Lubin. The men shook on the order, and the salesman got the ball rolling to create the packaging Mr. Lubin wanted.
Mr. Lubin’s business grew and grew over the years allowing him to build his own building to make all his bakery products. As his fame and fortune grew, the salesmen from the companies that told him he was too small to bother with began to come back, they offered sweet deals, they undercut the price of that first salesman who had taken the risk with Mr. Lubin’s order.
Mr. Lubin would simply smile; shake his head and say; “No thanks.” He let them know that he was remaining loyal to the man who had been with him from the early days. That the salesman who had had taken the risk to create his packaging needs deserved his loyalty.
Another facet of his loyalty was his constant ability to keep his promises. Mr. Lubin did business on a handshake and his word. His word was his bond. He did not need contracts or signatures. He never reneged on an agreement, if he told you something was going to be done, it was.
Mr. Lubin was also a devoted family man. We all have at some time heard of his company, many of us have enjoyed his products. He named his company for his daughter, because after all; Nobody doesn’t love Sarah Lee.
In this world where loyalty, honesty and keeping a promise means nothing, I am reminded of Mr. Lubin and his principals. An honest, hardworking man who built a multi-billion dollar business from something he loved to do. Mr. Lubin was a man who remained loyal to those who were with him from the earliest days, believing in him, in his product and his abilities. Loyalty was rewarded ten-fold.
My father spoke of Mr. Lubin with admiration and respect. I hope his story will empower you to take a look at where your loyalties lie, and create a better world, because you become a better person. Loyalty is a dying virtue. We can revive it by being loyal. I’m in…are you?

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Goodbye

Several months ago, a dear friend called to say goodbye. Like in… forever. I was shocked when she told me why she was calling. I was something else, too. Grateful.

I knew she wasn’t well and hadn’t been for quite some time. Congestive heart failure was one of the ailments on her long list along with others I couldn’t begin to pronounce. She said she was calling because she wanted me know how much our friendship meant to her and she wanted to thank me before she became too ill. Wow.

My mother battled with terminal cancer for many years before she died. During that time, she and I had the opportunity to set up the closure we both needed, but when my father died, it was sudden. He had a heart attack and was gone before I got to him. I remember the feelings of shock, disbelief, awareness of unanswered questions and great loss, that stayed with me. There was no closure and that still haunts me. But parents are different, aren’t they?

A couple years ago one of my best friends succumbed to prostate cancer. He had been treated successfully for several years and then the disease was back with a vengeance. We e-mailed back and forth occasionally, but I didn’t realize how quickly his illness had progressed and before I knew it, he was in the hospital and his brother wasn’t allowing any visitors or phone calls. He died and I never got to say, goodbye.

Another best friend was an artist and we shared our great love of art in many forms. We didn’t call or write often, but when we did contact one another, we just picked up where we had left off from the previous conversation.

I was working on a project and decided to run some ideas by her so I picked up the phone and dialed her number. Her husband answered. When I asked to speak with her, he told me she’d had a rapid-growing brain tumor and had passed away three months before. I couldn’t believe it! We were best friends. How could I not know she was ill, much less that she had died?

Again I was sick with shock and grief. As I sat stunned with sorrow, I recalled the news of another friend who had committed suicide. Each death was different, but my feelings about them were the same; profound sadness and the realization of the permanency of my sense of loss. I felt disappointment, even anger that I didn’t have the chance to say, goodbye. I didn’t have closure. Loss was loss. Whether it related to parents or friends, it was the same heart-wrenching pain.

In my first paragraph, I spoke of a friend who called to say, goodbye. She’s still living and she and I call each other every other week or so to reiterate our feelings of friendship and camaraderie. As time goes by, I can sense in her voice the progression of her disease and sometimes she hasn’t the strength to talk for long, but I appreciate her even more and I’m  grateful for this opportunity. If  her time is up before mine, I will have closure. I’ll be sad, of course, but I will also have the comfort of knowing we made the most of our friendship in the time we had left. I think she feels the same way.

This whole experience has changed how I relate to other friends and to my relatives. Since my stroke last summer, I realize my existence here on Earth could be shortened or ended at any second, so I’ve decided to be like my friend and let people know now how dear they are to me, and do it often. I’ve also decided not to fret over people who disappoint me or who don’t value me. I’ve decided to be influenced by more positive things than negative ones and to truly be grateful for and rejoice in each day.

As a result, I’ve found dealing with thoughts of end-of-life has given me a renewed lease-on-life replete with love and gratitude.

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Filed under life, musings