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Updated: Aug 18

Sunday Evening:

I browse through old pictures. My little girl, adorned in her tutus, is all grown up now, and getting married next summer. I am feeling a bit nostalgic. She is due over to my house at 11:00 am tomorrow, to begin the search for her wedding dress. How has the time passed so quickly?


Erica Leigh and her friend, Greg, "getting married."


Monday morning:

Standing in front of my dresser, I linger indecisively wondering what should I wear. The everyday leggings and comfy shirt I have worn the past year and a half during the pandemic just will not do. Opening my closet door, I slide each long forgotten dress and skirt slowly and thoughtfully to the left. One by one, they audition for a scene that I had imagined for thirty-two years since Erica Leigh was born.


The bride and I.

I hold several options up to my chest, analyzing them in detail in the mirror and scrunching up my nose to many, finally settling on a blue sleeveless dress. Yes, cool, comfortable. And if I am very lucky, the busy blue design along with the Spanx might just disguise the"covid-15"that I have gained. Laying the dress on the bed, I slide the closet doors shut and open my jewelry box.

My mother-in-law June and I on her last birthday.


On special occasions like this, my heart is feeling heavy, yearning for all the ladies in my life that I have loved and some I have lost; my sisters, my mother, my grandmothers and mother-in-law. My way of holding them close, bringing them along for the ride is to wear something of theirs. It somehow helps me feel like they are a part of it.


Immediately I know what I want to do.


My old wooden jewelry box safely cradles a variety of metal, beads and pearls lovingly passed down. Lifting the lid, I scan the velvet compartments - occasionally picking up a trinket, considering it, then dropping it back in the box. The sparkle of ocean blue catches my eye. I slide my mother-in-law June's ring slowly onto my finger. "Hi Junie," I say outloud to her sweet soul.


June's blue ring.


Next, a gleam of gold. The textured oval earrings inherited only months ago when my mom passed, will add just the right sparkle. Tilting my head to each side I place the gold posts in each ear and secure them with a rubber backing. I imagine my beautiful mother in front of her mirror with these same earrings many years ago, and I smile.


Hanging on the wall, I spy a long gold necklace with turquoise beads. I had mailed them to her in 2015 with a sweater dress as a surprise, simply because being a caregiver had taken its toll on her and clothes and jewelry always made her smile. Putting it around my neck and laying it close to my heart feels right. I love you, Mom...thanks.


L-R: My sister Diane, Me, my Mom and my sister Sandy on my mother's 70th birthday trip.


After putting on my makeup I reach toward the bathroom cabinet shelf where I keep items belonging to my ladies: a mostly empty jar of "Here's My Heart" perfumed cream that belonged to June; the bottle holding the last bits of my mother's perfume,"Jontue,"; the bar of "Sweetheart" soap whose smell brings back memories of my grandmother. I dab and spray a little on each arm and breathe in their presence.


My memory shelf.


I am now the matriarch of my family, though I still feel like the innocent little bride from forty years ago picking out my own dress. Crazy at it seems, in the middle a pandemic, world upheaval and global warming... Today I will take my ladies with me, and know we will all shed a few tears watching Erica emerge from the curtain, adorned in lace and satin. A little bit of hope, joy and connection as she thinks about saying yes.


Nancy and I waiting to see the next dress.


Post Script:

Sharing this moment with my best friend Nancy, helped to fill a bit of the hole left by the absence of my beloved ladies. For Nancy has shared the journey with me for over 32 years, watching Erica Leigh grow into the amazing young woman that she is. With the smallest of glances, Nancy tells me with out words that she knows how I am feeling. While we waited, we reminisced, laughed and welled up. The hour we spent together was lovely and it is a wonderful start to saying,"Yes!"


Mom, June, Gram, Nana, Sandy and Diane-

I am so very grateful that I got to share this moment with you, my dear sweet ladies.

We'll be together again next summer when the 'I do's' fill the air.

I'll love you forever,

Cathy


My precious Erica Leigh.







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Shhhh! Don't tell anyone. Really...


OK, here goes.

I am a closet fabric hoarder.


I'll admit it. Browsing through Joanne Fabrics almost always leads to purchasing a yard or two, just because - with no idea of how I will use it. Once I see a pattern or feel the soft weave of the fabric, I fall in love. It's over. It has to be mine.


A few months ago, I finally decided, at the very least, to organize my yardage by color. This way I could see what I already had and maybe, just maybe... not buy another yard of blue fabric. This worked fine, till I discovered 'fat quarters.'


Ok, seriously.... Can you blame me for collecting these?


The best way to explain fat quarters is going to a dim sum restaurant and seeing all the little plates tempting your eyes and stomach and reaching for just one more. And heaven forbid if they are on sale!


So, over the past year and a half, I have been a "lean mean quilting machine," making 8 quilts and giving them away for various occasions. I definitely have the pandemic to thank for my new hobby. Covid forced many creatives like myself, to find new ways to make art at home. For me? I decided to build off my basic sewing knowledge and teach myself to quilt. I watched 'how to' videos and scoured Pinterest. What did we ever do with out them? I picked up all sorts of short cuts (like using a rotary cutter and mat instead of scissors for those straight cuts and chain stitching) that have made all the difference. I also learned to weave into my quilts, vintage hankies, napkins and tablecloths, clothing from grandparents long since gone, old denim jeans and so much more.


L-R: A quilt made of my grandmothers hankies and lace,

one for my new grandson with bits of his great grandparent's shirt and robe, and two colorful ones for each of my granddaughters.


The process of cutting out the right sizes and shapes of fabric, often leads to "crumbs"- small insignificant pieces which normally would be thrown out. As I grabbed a fistful of the scraps near my sewing machine and reached for the wastebasket, something about the glorious colors made me stop. (Insert angels singing "Alleluia!")


"I think I'll just hang onto them," I mumbled and put them in a box. Reassuring myself that they would eventually find a purpose in a collage or art project with my granddaughter.


The other day, I needed to take a day off from all things writing and publishing and refill my creative well. I scanned my art supply shelves and saw the box,"Quilting Scraps" and gently took it down. I poured the contents out onto my kitchen table and began sorting them by color.


Soon I had a expansive rainbow of inspiration.

Each piece reminding me of a past gift made for someone I love.


I recalled seeing a video somewhere on making a quilt from your scraps and quickly searched and found it. "I can do this!" I told myself, and set the sewing machine up. Find two flat edges and sew them together, it said. Bit by precious bit, the "crumbs" were sewing together into a brand new piece of fabric.


As the machine hummed for hours, I thought to myself that crumb quilting is much like writing a story. You get the crumb of an idea... maybe a few crumbs. Often they need to sit on the shelf awhile till you one day find inspiration form their frayed pieces. Then bit by bit, the writer lays down these crumbs sewing them together into words, which turn into sentences, which turn into a paragraph, which turns into a story.


I have many stories that have been basted together and they, like this new piece of fabric I created, now need some space to sit, to marinate a bit. But in time, like this newly created piece of fabric, I will take it off the shelf and cut it up, discarding the 'little darlings' that don't belong, add a few fresh crumbs here and there, and turn it into something extraordinary.


















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I think I have found

the new form of writing I have been waiting for.

- Free Verse Poetry-


Unlike Haiku or Tanka or many other forms of poetry, where you have a formula to follow with a syllable and line count, Free Verse is more like speaking, with a focus on bringing out the senses and emotion.



Rajani LaRocca is an author and poet who is a master at this form. Her latest middle grade verse novel RED,WHITE AND WHOLE is amazing. When I attended her webinar on writing verse poetry and she shared excerpts, I was in awe. The form and her heartfelt words touched me so.


Check it out here: https://www.rajanilarocca.com/novels/red-white-and-whole/


Today I would like to share with you one of my first free verse poems. It is about a coffee mug I found as I was going through my mother's house; one of the precious items I carefully wrapped and flew home with. Writing poetry has been helping me in the grieving process. Thank you, Rajani for opening my eyes to this form.


I welcome your feedback!



The Associative Principle

By Cathy Stenquist


I thirst.


Mindlessly reaching for a cup,

I curl my finger around a random handle,

and notice the shiny black and white image.

I don’t’ remember this being mine.


The cardinal’s song

trills on the breeze

that whispers in my window.

The clock stops.


A slight downward mumble

escapes me

in a shallow hush.

“Oh…Yes…

that’s right.

It’s your mug.

The one that you loved so.”

Padre Pio looks back at me.

With a kind, sympathetic glance.


But something’s wrong.

It’s not filled with Dunkin Donut’s coffee

or your hazelnut creamer

Nor in your Alabama kitchen

cupped between your cold hands

trying to get warm.


But rather,

empty

like me,

here in my kitchen

cupped in my aching hands.

Trying to comprehend

this cold

ceramic reminder

that

your gone.

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A little bit of this & that