Columns

Quilts and the ties that bind

 

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Newly retired, Dad waited by the front door to take my mom grocery shopping.

“Tom, you can’t wear that,” Mom exclaimed.

“Why? Don’t I match?” he asked.

A fair question, since Dad was notoriously color-challenged.

But that wasn’t the problem. He’d donned a sport coat and a snazzy red tie with multicolored stripes.

“Sweetheart, you’re retired. You don’t have to wear a tie every day anymore, especially not to the grocery store,” Mom explained.

Disappointed, he removed the tie, but kept the jacket.

Dad loved his neckties.

He grew up picking cotton in Arkansas. As he labored in the sweltering heat, he dreamed of a different life – one that involved a desk job and wearing suits and ties.

His career in the United States Air Force, followed by a career with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, allowed him to achieve his dreams.

When he died in 1995, he’d amassed an amazing collection of neckties. My husband kept a couple, and most of them were donated to a local thrift shop. But I couldn’t part with all of them. I set aside a few dozen and gave them to some dear friends who incorporated them in a beautiful quilt. That quilt hung in my Mom’s bedroom until two years ago when she moved to a retirement facility.

Now, it’s draped over our living room sofa where I can see it every day and think about how blessed I was to have a dad like mine.

It’s also a daily reminder of the friends who took the time to create such a sweet remembrance.

I love quilts, like my dad loved ties. The beauty, artistry and stories behind the patterns fascinate me. Sadly, when it comes to sewing, I’m all thumbs and totally lacking in skill or patience.

Thankfully, I have friends who work magic with fabric, needle and thread.

The necktie quilt isn’t my only memory-filled patchwork. Eleven years ago, our oldest son was struggling through adolescence. His actions and attitudes grieved me. I worried. I fretted. I prayed.

A friend made a lap quilt for me to curl up in when I felt overwhelmed. Because I’d often referred to our firstborn as our “golden child,” she incorporated big golden hearts throughout the design. The border features the worlds of one of my favorite hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

That quilt kept me mindful of my son’s true nature. Every time I wrapped myself in it, I felt cocooned in the comfort of my friend’s love and prayers, evident in each tiny stitch.

My husband has his own special quilt. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both hips a few years ago rocked him. A strong, active man, he struggled with the reality of a degenerative disease at a relatively young age.

Bonnie, my sister-in-law, knows that pain all too well. So, she went into her sewing room and crafted a cat-covered quilt for Derek. Using masculine colors for the backing and border, the counterpane delighted both of us – especially when we spotted the cat curled up in a basket that looks just like our Thor.

And recently, a new quilt arrived in the mail, made by an extremely talented, prolific quilter.

Its vibrant colors brighten our bedroom, adding homespun cheer, and the accompanying note warmed my heart.

“Thank you, dear friend, for all your glorious words which help so many,” she wrote.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on beautifully pieced quilts, but the quilts in my home are priceless. Each one is threaded with memories, and has been stitched with prayer and bound with love.

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Columns

Shopping small has big impact

By 10:15 Saturday morning, the line at the counter at Auntie’s Bookstore was several people deep. Shoppers juggled stacks of books while reaching for their wallets. A toddler clutched a board book, unwilling to part with her find even for the minute it took to ring it up. Teens milled around in small herds, jostling each other in the aisles, while parents pondered coloring books and consulted Christmas lists.

As a reader and an author, nothing makes me happier than spending time with book lovers. These are my people – my tribe, and in their company surrounded by bookshelves, I am happiest.

While I love to browse at Auntie’s, I wasn’t there to shop, but to take a shift as an honorary bookseller during Small Business Saturday. The day is also a designated Indies First event. Indies First, a collaboration between authors, publishers, retailers and readers, celebrates independent bookstores and local communities. Speaking of local, this national movement was launched by author Sherman Alexie, who was born and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

I have a vested interest in the success of bookstores, and as the wife of a small-business owner, I’m passionate about seeing locally owned companies succeed. I’ve helped out at my husband’s store on occasion, but I have to admit I’m better at selling books than cutting tools. I may not know a drill bit from a tap or a reamer, but I do know mysteries from memoirs.

In addition to interacting with customers, I got to hang out with some pretty cool local authors. When I arrived Jess Walter was already there, and he’d brought donuts a la “Citizen Vince.” Walter fans will remember the protagonist in that novel was in the witness protection program and worked at a Spokane donut shop.

Walter dispensed donuts, recommended books and offered writing advice to an aspiring writer.

“Writing is more like a religion than a career,” he said.

And writers around the world whispered, Amen.

Author Bruce Holbert joined us, and when I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed, “The Mountains and the Fathers: Growing Up in the Big Dry,” by Joe Wilkins, he said, “Oh yeah, I know Joe.”

Turns out he also knows Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire books; the books on which my husband’s favorite television show is based.

I admit to having a geeked-out, fan girl moment or two, but then Shawn Vestal showed up.

I’m sure Shawn knows some awesome authors too, but we mainly discussed surviving a post-election/post-apocalypse Thanksgiving meal – which could be the basis for a hair-raising short story. Stay tuned.

When a customer asked if there was a coffee shop nearby, it was fun to be able to point them to Madeleine’s and Atticus, both nearby, while there wasn’t a corporate coffee shop in sight.

After my stint at bookselling ended, I headed out for my own shopping spree. I stopped to take a photo of the Clocktower against the background of Saturday’s blue skies, when a scraping sound jarred my ears.

I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and watched in amazement as an elderly woman pulled out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk! Pedestrians hollered and jumped out of the way as she slowly proceeded down the sidewalk along Spokane Falls Boulevard.

Sometimes shopping is scary, but I made it safely to Boo Radley’s where I purchased some Spokane-themed items to send to my son in Columbus, Ohio. When the clerk rang up my purchases she said, “By the way, I really enjoyed your nonfiction panel at Get Lit this year.”

Shopping small put a smile on my face. It makes business owners happy, too.

John Waite, owner of Auntie’s Bookstore and Merlyn’s Comics and Games, said of Saturday’s event, “We were up from last year at both Auntie’s and Merlyn’s.”

While it’s great to have a day dedicated to supporting local businesses that help create jobs and boost the economy, shopping at small businesses can have a far greater impact if we patronize them more than once a year.

“I can’t stress enough what it means to our local economy and local jobs,” said Waite.

That sounds like a big reason to shop small all year long.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

War Bonds

War Bonds helped kids go to camp

You never know where your book will end up.

Today I got a note from a reader who purchased a copy of War Bonds to donate to her church auction.

“Spokane Valley United Methodist Church raised enough money to send 35 children to camp, including some from Hearth Homes and Family Promise who were homeless,” she wrote. “Your book was part of making that happen.”

That’s something that would delight each of the 36 couples in War Bonds as much as it delights me.

Books can make a difference in the most unexpectedly wonderful ways!

Young War Bonds reader

War Bonds

Let’s play catch up with Cindy!

On Saturday, June 20 I’ll be doing a reading at the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar St, Sandpoint, ID. Books will be available for purchase.
Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors.
Hope to see you there!

PS: War Bonds makes a great Father’s Day gift 🙂

Hval flyer

War Bonds

War Bonds in Walla Walla

Tomorrow I’ll be signing copies of War Bonds at the Book & Game Company in Walla Walla, Washington.

Famed for it’s wineries, downtown Walla Walla has a great shopping district. And if you haven’t bought your mom, wife or grandmother a Mother’s Day gift yet, come in and see me and get a signed copy of War Bonds 🙂

There’s more information in this write up from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.

War Bonds

There’s a reason War Bonds is dedicated to him

There’s a reason War Bonds is dedicated to my husband of 28 years.

Today he gave me quite possibly the most epic, amazing and thoughtful Valentine’s gift, ever.
Derek asked our friend Dave Galeotti to craft this beautiful Bethlehem Olive Wood pen. Then he had it engraved with “War Bonds” and the release date.

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The band reads “faith, hope, love.”
He had the box engraved, matching the font and photo from the book cover.

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Breathtaking.

I am truly blessed.

Columns

A baby changes everything

In the midst of unearthing Christmas decorations, I surveyed the downstairs family room. Actually, “wreck” room is a more apt description. Green and red bins burgeoning with tinsel and ornaments perched precariously on tabletops. Blue bins overflowing with winter garb towered with ominous instability in opposite corners. And stacks of paper on the floor revealed last year’s resolution to stay current with filing has been a dismal failure.

Overwhelmed, I looked for a place to sit. And then I saw it – my rocking chair. Banished to the basement when my youngest grew too big to cuddle comfortably with me in its confines.rocking-chair-cushions[1]

I removed the mountain of snow pants and ski gloves that had buried it and sat down and began to rock. As I swayed, I remembered the first time I saw this chair, on a Christmas morning 20 years ago.

Our first baby was due Dec. 31. We’d prepared a blue and yellow nursery to welcome our little one. A bassinet covered with lacy white netting waited in one corner. Under the window, a changing table stocked with diapers and soft blankets stood ready. But one thing was missing – a rocking chair.

Money had been tight as we prepared to live on one income, and we’d cut back on our Christmas spending. After exchanging gifts, my husband said, “Oh, I almost forgot! I left a present downstairs.”

Bewildered, I followed him to the basement, and there it sat – an oak rocking chair. Derek had purchased it unfinished. Each night after work, he’d lovingly labored on it, smoothing rough edges and coating it with a warm brown lacquer. Somehow, he’d sneaked it into the house without my knowledge.

I threw my arms around him and sobbed. “Better try it out,” he said. So I sat down and began to rock. It was perfect. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the day.

Late that Christmas night, I awoke with that vague discomfort all expectant mothers feel as their time draws near. I heaved my hugely pregnant form out of bed and waddled to the nursery. The rocking chair beckoned, bathed in the glow of the moonlight.

As I sat down and began to rock, the baby responded, squirming, stretching, his small feet doing a tap dance on my ribcage. I whispered words of welcome and wonder to him and prayed for his safe arrival.

I knew life would be different after this child’s birth, but all those Christmases ago I couldn’t have imagined the many ways I’d never be the same.

A baby changes everything.

Through the nursery window on that Christmas night, I watched snowflakes drift lazily down, illuminated by the yellow glow of the streetlight. And I thought of another mother 2,000 years ago, who swayed on a donkey’s back as she traveled to Bethlehem.

Her discomfort must have been magnified by the harshness of her journey. Surely, just like me, she must have contemplated her child’s birth. She must have whispered to him and wondered about him, while her back ached with every passing mile. And like all mothers, she couldn’t have imagined how different her life would be the moment she held him in her arms.

A baby changes everything – sometimes even the world.

Merry Christmas.