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Friday, July 24, 2015

Survivor Files: I've Been Inked!

"I did it!" I hear them say, then they post pictures from all angles of the tattoo they just got. Seems to be a more frequent thing these days, people getting tattoos. Well, like everything else I seem to experience in life, I am doing it a little differently than everyone else that I have known. Yes...as of today, I have a tattoo and no, I am not going to post a picture. The reason is, I don't want to be flagged as having pornographic or inappropriate content. Besides, it is swollen and "angry" right now as my tattoo artist told me and it will look much better when it is fully healed.

It isn't a pretty rose, a butterfly, a heart or any other picture that might come to mind as you recall your last visit to the public swimming pool. No, it is an areola. That's right, I now have two fake breasts (made from my excess stomach tissue) and a permanent tattooed right areola. TMI? Probably, but it is the last step in the process of my reconstruction. So basically, don't hold your breath for the posting of my "tat picture" because it just isn't going to happen.

It was a strange conversation the first time I called the number on the card to set up this appointment. I had never thought of getting a tattoo and wasn't sure what I was supposed to say..."hi, my name is Jody and I need you to tattoo me an areola?" No, that didn't seem like a natural intro but somehow, the appointment was made back in February for a tattoo in July. My body needed six months to heal because you can't tattoo on scar tissue for six months and my last surgery was in January.

Like the words...font could be a little less scrunched together
Today...that brings us to today. If you are curious about what they can do to help those of us who have had to make the hard decisions about what doctors can do to our bodies to rid them of cancer, there are many websites that explain every aspect of reconstruction. I am thankful to every person who has had a part in my "new normal".

So yes, I have a tattoo, but no, it isn't a fun one that I can really show off. The whole anticipation of the day has got me thinking though, what kind of tattoo would I get if I ever decided to get one that people could see?

Cool reminder - I want to always be ready!
I could use this reminder on my wrist
so I could see it every day!

Since I can't post a picture of my tattoo, I will post some pictures of some that I think would be kind of cool to be able to show off.
I don't know if I would ever get a tattoo that everyone could see, but if I did, it would have to be something simple and very meaningful. But, now having gone through the actual process of getting a tattoo and knowing what to expect, it isn't such a crazy idea to me. Maybe some of you who have a tattoo could tell me what you have or post a picture. That could get me thinking!

Love this...simple conversation starter
I will keep you posted if I ever decide to get something permanently inked into my skin. For now, this current tattoo is going to be healing for the next couple weeks with discomfort and itching to look forward to. But, I can't lie when I say that it will be a wonderful treat to step out of the shower and look a lot less like the Bride of Frankinstein. Did I tell you she inked my bright red scars so they would be less prominent. Well, she did and I am so thankful!

God has blessed some people with a very unique talent and the faith and obedience to pursue an avenue to do good in this world. There are a lot of things that breast cancer robs us of. I had no idea the kind of "grieving"' that came with this whole process but there is a lot more than I knew about. I praise God for those He puts in our path to validate our struggles, to soften the rough edges and to shine a little bit of light into a dark day. I am glad for this day and that it wasn't one of those dark ones! Thank you Marie at Artizo Ink! You are an amazing artist!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunshine From the 70's

I was searching online for anyone who may have posted a few old songs from the New World Singers to find one in particular I was remembering. I found it and a whole plethora of other songs from the LP's my mom and dad had growing up.

Maybe if there were more songs like this in the world today there wouldn't be as many people on antidepressants! Had to smile when I was listening to some old songs today...thought I would share. You can hear it too if you click on the link.

"Spread Some Sunshine - help a brother make it through!"

"And when you see a shadow pour your sunshine in!"

Just thought I would "spread some sunshine!" Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Puffy Project

I brought out my trusty number two this week to work on the next project I have been thinking about. It was time for the Bernina to go in for its annual check up and tuning and since it has been about a year and a half since the last one and I have just finished the last of the Mario quilts, it was time for her to have a little time at the spa to rest up!

I love my trusty number two. A sturdy Singer Touch and Sew works just as well today as she did when my parents bought and refurbished her for my high school graduation present. I really love this machine and it was a fun weekend sewing away in my cool basement in the heat of the summer!

I have piled up a bunch of projects in my head while I have been sewing away on my Mario quilts. One of the projects I have been wanting to tackle is a puff quilt. I have had a pile of fabric in my stash since David and I were newlyweds. My MIL used to sew high end window treatments and had many leftover awkwardly shaped pieces of nice fabric and she gave them to me once when she was cleaning out things at her house.

Many pieces were large enough for me to use for windows in various homes where we have lived over the years. Every room in our first apartment was decked out in the fabrics she handed down to me. The last home we lived in had many basement windows that were old and ugly. I was able to make curtains and cover them up which made our time down there much more enjoyable.

After all of these years, I still have a large pile of fabric, good quality fabric in fact, despite their odd shapes. Being the soccer mom that I am who usually has a kid or two tagging along to games, I get complaints when the blanket they are sitting on gets damp from the morning dew. I have been thinking while sewing 1.5 inch Mario squares that if I used the fabric from my MIL which is great quality and heavy duty, make a puff quilt and back it with water proof vinyl like material, it will keep the dew from soaking through to the top.

So...I went through my big stack of oddly shaped drapery fabric and sorted between the good prints and the lining fabric along with a few old sheets and cut 5" squares out of the good stuff and the 4" squares out of the linings and sheets.

I was pretty amazed at how the colors fit into two different camps (I actually shouldn't be surprised thinking about early nineties interior decorating color swatches). Pleating each side of the 5" squares I pinned them each to a 4" square. After sewing three sides I spent our family night NCIS marathon stuffing batting into each "puff" and pinning the fourth edge, readying it to sew shut.
The 4" square will not be seen in the end product so I am very excited about using up old fabric that I won't use for anything else. After my first batch which included a little bit of everything I had, I was able to set up a couple of color schemes. One is heavy on the forest green and mauve, the other is blue and peachy. I started focusing on the green and mauve and have pinned and stuffed many more of those. I will make that one first.

I have a forest green color vinyl table cloth that I am going to be using for the back. It will keep the dampness off of anyone sitting on the quilt on the grass and it will also hold up being thrown in the back of the van and pulled out for events that require sitting on the ground. I can't wait to see one put together. So far, I have spent all of $8.00 on the batting. I should be able to make one and a half quilts with that batting. The rest of the quilt will not cost anything. I love using something that would have otherwise be thrown away!

This next week we are doing a garage sale at our house so I won't have too much time to sew. Hopefully by the end of the week I will be back at work on it because I am looking forward to seeing how these old fabrics look when new life is breathed into them.

A Final Goodbye to Mario...For Now

Ryan's quilt done!
July 2015
IT IS FINISHED!!!! My two and a half years of Mario quilt sewing has come to a close. I can't say that I am a bit sad. I have so many things that I have been planning and other quilts that I want to dig into that I am ready to move on.
I never imagined when I started on Zachary's two and a half years ago that it would be that long before the three quilts would be done. I also didn't count on a breast cancer diagnosis and six surgeries either. There are definitely perks in being deep into a project you are passionate about when you are going through a life changing event outside the sewing room.

The boys aren't the only ones thankful for my work. I am thankful that there is something therapeutic about creating something special for someone else while you ponder your own mortality and struggle to heal and move on. I told Ryan that he has gotten the best one of the three because with all the time I've had, there is a perfecting with each new quilt.

Remembering back to the first attempt, I was following the directions on the Cut to Pieces website which I was so happy to find. In search of the perfect quilt for boys after the girls' quilts, they told me they wanted a Mario Brothers bedroom. I was excited to hear that because when working on projects it is awesome to have designs that are fun. Soon though, I was disappointed to find that there were only two fabrics that I could find with Mario on them. I could use sheets but they were still expensive and wouldn't hold up as well.

So I was excited to find Cut to Pieces and although the Quilt a Long was over a year old, I knew that I was going to do it - times three! The link with the original instructions is here. I hadn't used anything like the stablizer that she mentioned but it is always fun to learn something new.
MattJoAnn's with Zachary
March 2013

Zachary and I went to JoAnn's to pick out all the official colors for each character in March of 2013. Here he is after picking out the best "Mario" red, "Luigi" green along with the other important colors, light blue for the backgrounds most importantly.

I worked through Zachary's quilt first since he was the most excited about helping to pick colors and me getting started, I used the sticky wash-away stabilizer. I didn't like it. I did like the time I got to spend putting the puzzle together with Matthew. We followed the pattern of 1.5 inch squares and sewed them together when they were all laid out.

The step after the blocks were sewn was to wash out the stablizer before sewing together the blocks to make the quilt top. For Zachary, I used red fabric for sashing. I didn't like how the blocks laid when the stabilizer dissolved so when I started in on Matthew's I positioned the different colored squares around me and the patterns and pieced them together without the stabilizer. It was much quicker for me and I liked the end result better. I continued to work the same way with Ryan's quilt and his went the quickest with the least amount of trouble.

Each boy picked the characters they wanted on their quilts so everyone of them got their own personalized blanket for their beds. With the binding I sewed their names into the stitching all the way around. I have been asked from a couple of people whether or not I would make any more if someone paid me. At first I thought "no way", but I do have extra fabric so who knows maybe I would think about it!

Zachary's Finished Quilt
Matthew's Finished Quilt

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wrestling Camp

Here is my little wrestler. He wanted so much to go to wrestling camp this summer. He even went so far as to empty out his piggie bank looking for the money that it took to register. Bless his heart, with six dollars he needed a little help from mom and dad.

Four days of camp at the high school was pretty intense for an almost first grader. The first day he got partnered with a very "serious" wrestler and was not so excited to go back the second day. He told me "Mom, it really hurts!"

I talked to the coaches and told them he really loves to wrestle right now and is a little younger than the others. He needs to be encouraged, not constantly smushed face first into the mat. It isn't like him to beg to stay home on the second day.

Thankfully, they matched him up with a kid that was a little more on his same level of experience and he enjoyed the rest of the week.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Land of the Free

My kids know I always have a lot to say when July rolls around. This year is no different. Our country looks more like the "Un-United States of America" than the "United States of America" and that makes it harder to be excited about celebrating our nation's Independence Day. It seems like through the media and social media lately people are forming sides in almost every arena.

That is not what United means. It isn't even the definition of tolerance. I read a new article every day with a new group of people who have a beef about our founding fathers doing what they did at the time with what they had, maybe it wasn't their best, but it is what happened. At the beginning, there was a desire to unite thirteen colonies but they knew they weren't going to be able to free the slave population AND unite as a nation against Great Britain. So, some things were put aside at the beginning and goals were made to work toward "all men created equal".

Read the history...not the REtelling of history, but the words from the mouths of the men who were there. The story of slavery from the beginning of our country (and before) to the Emancipation Proclamation (and beyond) is fascinating! There are heroes and villains in both black and white skin. Mankind is not perfect but before we go and post something out of the emotions we feel toward the injustice we perceive, seek out the truth. Read of the champions against slavery. My favorite is John Quincy Adams who had a greater impact on this country after he was a president.

He spoke on the floor of our congress for years after his presidency (and eventually died there) championing the cause of freedom for those who were still held as slaves. Find biographers who are dedicated to writing the truth from the mouths of their subjects and be enlightened by the story of freedom and compromise.

Nothing is easy and I think in our world today we forget that there is a vast array of ease wherever you look. I have seen smart phones in soup kitchen lines, and Lexus' parked outside driven by those who want to give their time to the "less fortunate". We don't understand the world our founders lived in. At least those of us who haven't taken time to put ourselves back into the period and read about life from the ones who lived it.

The most enlightening thing I found out in the reading I have done in the last few years is that Abraham Lincoln was a junior senator when the aging John Quincy was speaking on behalf of the slaves. If you read John Quincy's words, you can't help but wonder how much of his influence Lincoln took with him. John Quincy was quite an orator like his father. I don't doubt that some of the words that Lincoln heard in the first years of his career echoed in the years to follow, in the decisions he made and the principles he developed in the quest to truly live in the "Land of the Free".

Then there was an article last week I read about the Native Americans. The article stirs up feelings of injustice toward the men and women who "owned" the land we came and took from them. I have read much of their history too. You should if you haven't. I have found myself close to tears as I read some of the books. I wish there had been a way to preserve their way of life in some form but when we really think about it, if we hadn't settled the land, some other country would have sent their people to do it. How many of us would have liked Mexico to extend up to Canada in the west? It may not have turned out like we wanted but we fail to think about how it could have been. There really is never a compromise where both parties are 100% satisfied.

I am sure after reading Andrew Jackson's biography that I would not call him a villain or an Indian hater. On the other hand, I am not going to make excuses for him. Each one of us has to answer to our Maker about the decisions we make and how we treat others. Again, he lived in a different time, and although it was the same country, we certainly could call it a different place all together when we look at the way people thought and lived. If you want to see a real villain to the Native Americans read about William Henry Harrison and the Indiana territory. There are always two sides to a story and sometimes there are many more! I don't think that you can find many "savages" among our Native American brothers and sisters today. But you could back in the day!

I am sure that I wouldn't be thinking of the rights of the Native American when a group of them show up at my log cabin that my husband and I built with our own hands. With the intention of stealing from us and scalping every last one of us including our children, I would defend my land. Many tribes did that...and not just to the white man, but to other warring tribes. They fought over territory among themselves. So I am not sure that we can say that pioneers were in the wrong to try their hand at settling there. It would be hard not to see them as savages if they showed up at your door with a tomahawk.

Unfortunately, you have to dig pretty deep to find those stories because the ones that are the most popular are the ones where white men drove them off of their land. There was a lot of double crossing and manipulating and many reasons to distrust but the truth of the matter is, after reading pretty thoroughly, I can say with educated certainty that there are heroes and villains on both sides of history.

With all that said, I still think we live in the greatest nation on this earth. I sang in the Voices of Hope concert this year and watched the Color Guard bring in the Stars and Stripes. I believe God made this nation great, not because of the injustice and mistreatment of many through the years, but in spite of it. He hates the division and the lack of love toward our fellow countrymen that is here today. It makes me sad too.

It has become such a "controversy" to talk about God but you can't take Him out of our beginnings. Men through history in other civilizations have taken Him out somewhere along the way only to usher in the end of their world as they knew it. God has protected this nation and our founders knew He would. They prayed for the things that they didn't agree with and worked together (from diametrically opposite sides) civilly which is something our national leaders today need to go back and review.

There was a sense that all men are created equal and had a right to be heard. Do we have a record of duels when they didn't agree? Yes, Do we have a record of the horrors of slavery when some didn't know how else to keep their economy going? Yes! Do we have a record of hatred spewed toward another because someone came to the end of their ability to listen to ideas other than his/her own? Yes! Do we have a history of civil war because states didn't feel like they were being listened to? Yes!

I watched three times last week the ceremony for the fallen soldier. If you haven't seen that done before, find an opportunity. It is a solemn ceremony and it is powerful. Those who have the courage to die for their country are to be honored. Included in that number, at least in my head are the slaves, the native Americans, all who have been lost to the war of misunderstanding and human-ness. I hope I don't' step on anyone's toes when I include in that number the pioneers who (as it was made famous in the "Oregon Trail" played by millions of middle schoolers during study hall in the library in my day) "died of dysentery" buried along the trail as our ancestors made their way across this land. We really could say today that we are all equal...if we choose to be. All sacrificed to make the nation we have today. We are all free here in the United States, now we just have to decide what to do with that freedom. Sitting on the computer all day posting our opinions isn't productive for anyone. Is there not a better use of time that could bring a meaningful conversation?

There is no "Daily Show" clip or MASH episode that can laugh that kind of sacrifice away and unfortunately as I sat and watched that ceremony, I realized how seldom my children are witness to meaningful experience in our nation. Does anyone else get the feeling that with our disposable world things have become petty? We have become a country that majors in the minors. Just spend a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter.

We have advanced to the point where the world can be struggling with the same kinds of things our country struggled with in our history and turn a blind eye to it because we have everything we need and then some. John Adams said "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy." I am afraid that we have come to the point where people are bored with mathematics and philosophy and just look for ways to waste time with meaningless pursuits.

I had a very good talk with my 12-year-old son this weekend about that very thing. I am a lover of this nation and of the God who blessed its beginnings. When I see the Stars and Stripes I see the God who "made and preserved us a nation" (Francis Scott Key). For me it goes hand in hand. If it doesn't for you, I have no problem hearing why you think otherwise. I only have my own experiences and my own perception and I won't apologize for a belief system that has come from years of living, research, and a very real faith.

John Adams also said "you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it." Are we making good use of it?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday From the Heart: Good-bye To Arlen

Another Central American little brother returned home last month to his country of Honduras. Arlen moved in with Mom and Dad a year and a half ago and became part of the family quickly. His soft and gentle voice and quiet demeanor endured him to us and to the children who were excited to have another Spanish speaking "uncle" around!

Arlen is a blessing to our family. He surely showed up all of the biological Bushlack children on Sunday nights with his servant ablilty to quietly slip into the kitchen and clean up every dish from the large family gathering. Smiling he would load the dishwasher as he listened to the activities and would sometimes smile or laugh along with the multiple conversations that would take place around him. He took his share of teasing and jabs from the siblings as he became another family member in our hearts.

Wanting to leave him with something meaningful from his visit here, I remembered this spring how during our Thanksgiving holiday the two of us sat in the living room in the midst of all of the activity talking about my current cross stitching project. Arlen loves to know the details about things and always asked about what I was doing.

After our large meal when we all retired to the living room I had picked up a cross stitch project that I had started and was doing work on it while everyone talked. We probably sat for thirty minutes talking about how I know what color and place to stitch the x's.  He looked at the pattern and followed a few stitches as I demonstrated. When the time came to decide what to send him home with, I knew it had to be something cross stitched.

Last spring our whole family was blessed to be witness to Arlen be baptized and proclaim his love for Jesus. With that in mind I thought a present to celebrate that part of his time here in the United States would be awesome. I searched online for the perfect pattern. I saw a great pattern with the names of Jesus beautifully displayed and thought he would like it. In different shades of blue I felt it was perfect.

Add caption
I got online to buy and download the pattern only to find out there is a version in Spanish! His own language! Can something be more than perfect? I was so excited to get started! I posted awhile back about stretching out some thread I was trying to use up. I took some filament that had a silver sheen to it and added it to the blue in the "Su Nombre Jesus" part in the middle. Read more about that adventure here: Making it Stretch.

I was more excited to finally give it to him when we gathered to celebrate our little brother's time here and send him off with all of our love. We love him and wish him God's best wherever his goes!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

TBT: My Baby Stacey

I have been looking through some adorable pictures of the triplets lately since they are coming up to their 13th birthday this year...the big GOLDEN birthday!

Today I share some adorable Stacey pictures just for fun!