Friday, December 31, 2010


I have my quilting room all set up.  Finally, I have a cutting table and I can't tell you how much I am enjoying it.  No more aching back from cutting and piecing over my dining room table.  And, now my dining room stays neat.  My quilting room is small and cramped, but works perfectly.  I have a nice sewing table/desk with drawer space, my cutting table, the ironing board and tons of storage.

The Underground Railroad quilt is complete with shirting fabric for the backing.  It has been sent to Meandering Mary in Wisconsin to be professionally quilted.  (I do need to find a good quilter down here in Georgia). 

Shannon's doll quilt/wall hanging

 Two doll quilts are completed, one with pink binding and one with blue binding.  The pink was given to my great niece, Cadyn, for her birthday and the other was sent to great-niece, Shannon, for Christmas.  Shannon picked out all of the fabric as well as the pattern.  She did a great job.

Finished this Christmas quilt and took it to Magical Threads in Dahlonga, GA for quilting.  Remind me never to work with panels again!  Frustrating!   I have Dickens Village pieces and it will look great over my couch for the holidays.   

I realized that when I purchased the material for my great nephew, Aaron's,  Irish chain quilt last March that I got material for the double/queen size quilt.  I pulled out the fabric to start it and realized that it probably won't be as large as I would like.  So,  I went on a search for more of the fabric to make a king sized quilt.  I purchased all the fabric in Wisconsin at The Patched Works and Jen helped me find more of the light color.  I had just enough of the green and found where I can order more of the star fabric for the backing.  The top is now completed and I am very happy with how it looks.  Simple and elegant.  I can't wait to get the rest of the backing material and have it quilted!  I think Aaron will really like it.

Aunt Grace BOM block 1

Aunt Grace BOM block 3

Aunt Grace BOM block 2 (made 4)

You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can't take the Wisconsin quilt stores out of the girl.  I am participating in the Aunt Grace's Circle of Friends Block of the Month through Ye Olde Schoolhouse Quilt Store in Cedarburg.  I am really enjoying this BOM.  I love working with the reproduction 1930s fabrics - so bright and cheerful.  There is some applique working coming up, though.   I have more pictures of blocks 4 and the pinwheel blocks, but it is so darn difficult to work with pictures on the blog that I am too frustrated to add them.  Next time! 

I have visited Tiny Stitches and Little Quilts in Marietta, GA.  Both are great stores, but walking into Little Quilts so reminded me of Ye Olde Schoolhouse that I felt right at home.  Also, my blogging pal, Karen, works there part-time.  Karen has developed many great quilt patterns (I have made 2 of Karen's wall hanging and have a couple more in my "to do" drawer) and might be offering a class there in the near future.  Sign me up!

Monday, December 27, 2010


So, I moved to Georgia to get away from the snow.  I guess the joke is on me!  This was the first white Christmas in the greater Atlanta area in over 100 years.  Even I have to admit it is beautiful!  Enjoy the pictures.
About a mile from my house

Pond by very close to my house

Cool picture of Sam waiting in the car while I took pictures
Shrub by my front porch
Inch and a half in my backyard

This is what I see from my back fence

The slope - another view from the fence

Someone really enjoyed the snow!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


For those of you who did not receive my annual holiday card and letter via snail mail, here is the electronic copy.  The first batch mailed had typo after typo.  The second batch had only one.  Hopefully, most are corrected!  Have a great holiday season everyone!


December, 2010

Dear Family and Friends –

Well, what can I say about 2010? It has been the hardest year of my life. It has been a year where some positively wonderful things have happened. It has been the year I have deeply learned the value of family support and true friendships.

The City of Milwaukee offered a very good early retirement package and I decided to take advantage of the one year window it allowed. In late March I put my house on the market and it sold in 11 days! Over Easter I flew down to Georgia and with the help of my sister, brother-in-law and a great realtor, I found a perfect house in Canton, GA. The next couple of months were a complete whirlwind of packing, moving 99% of my stuff to my new home (closed on May 10), moving into a temporary location in Milwaukee since I still had a few months to work, saying goodbye to friends in Milwaukee, two road trips down to Georgia, finally retiring and driving down one last time. Whoosh! I arrived in my new home for good July 23.

I arrived here emotionally and physically burned out. Phil’s death in May (in the midst of the move) and having to put both my beloved dogs (Lucy Lou and then little Gracie) down within three weeks of each other nearly did me in completely. Saying good bye to friends and family in Milwaukee proved to be more difficult than I thought. Adjusting to retirement and a new life has it challenges. But, along with family and friends and my new dog Sam, I kept going. Taking Sam for walks every day helped me to move forward. In late September when the hot weather broke, I was able to get out and garden, which proved to be the best therapy. Slowly, I started feeling stronger emotionally.

I love my house. It is just perfect for me. I am very happy with my subdivision and the general Canton area. I love seeing the mountains when I walk or drive around. I am meeting new friends and slowly becoming involved in things around here. My neighbors have been very welcoming and friendly. I’m active in two book discussion groups as well as other groups through MeetUp, a social organization and Sam and I started “doggie school.” Sam has a great personality and our goal for him is to become a therapy dog. My quilting room is all set up and I started quilting again. I will be looking for a part time job after the holidays. Overall, retirement and moving down here was the best decision I have ever made.

My sister Sue and husband, Marlon stay busy, busy, busy. They took a trip to the Williamsburg area in September. Sue continues to do child care. Marlon has raised thousands of dollars for his church and a local charity by hosting his monthly Texas Hold ‘em games. Nephew Paul purchased his first home in Kennesaw, GA. It is a great house and he enjoyed working with his dad on fixing it up and making it a perfect home for him. Nephew John and his family stay busy. Coggan is in 2nd grade and John coached his tag football team this year. Cadyn loves to read and is a very advanced reader for being five.

My sister Linda is happy in Mesa, AZ. She was in Milwaukee in the summer when her son, Patrick and his wife, Pam welcomed their son, Zachary Lucas, into the world on July 30. Their daughter, Shannon just turned four and is, of course, a princess! Son Aaron graduated from high school in June. Zach makes me a great-aunt for the 5th time!

As this year comes to an end I have so many things to be grateful for. Please allow me to share some them with you:

• A career with the City of Milwaukee, ending with the Milwaukee Fire Department and my PENSION!

• Nephews Patrick & Aaron for helping me get my Milwaukee house ready for sale (you guys rock!), Paul for being supportive & helping around my new house and John for being willing to help when my Lucy Lou was failing.

• Sue and Marlon who are always, always there for me. They live their beliefs and are great people.

• Friends and family who stood by me this year, listened to me, cried with me, talked to me, held my hand, made me laugh, gave me hugs, kicked me in the butt a few times and then picked me back up, took my late night phone calls, offered me their stories and helped me through this year. Also, a great firefighter who subleased one of his furnished rental unit to me for 3 months, dogs and all! Thank all of you (not in any specific order, but here goes) – Shelley, Beth, Kate, David, Captain Dave, Judy, Terri, Nancy, Sally, Amy, Lori (and the other Church Ladies), Vicki, Peg, Robert and everyone else, including blogging and Facebook friends and great new friends here in Canton. What would I do without y’all? You light up my heart.

• Timing is everything. As bad as things were and as difficult has it has been, the timing for all that happened worked. And, as the year closes I am truly happy. What can I say?

• My new home. It is so perfect for me. I love the front porch where I can watch the world go by. I love my screened-in porch off the kitchen where I can sit and day dream. My yard is big enough for Sam and just the right size for me to garden in. It immediately felt like home.

• Sam. Still a pup at just over a year old, he is a goof ball, he makes me get up every day, makes me laugh, reminds me to play, “forces” me go for walks and is just a joy.

It will be nice to be “home” for the holidays. I enjoyed unpacking all of my holiday items and decorating for the season, something I haven’t done for several years. I am hoping that 2011 is calmer and less eventful! I also hope some of you can come for a visit. I have a room all ready and a comfy quilt or two for you to curl up in.

As much as I dislike winter, Winter Solstice is always my favorite of the seasonal calendar. It is a time of deep reflection. It is a time of wonder. Of candle light and dreams. A time of friends and family. It is a quiet time and a peaceful time. And, while it will be the first time in over 10 years I will not be physically present to celebrate the solstice with my Church Ladies, I will be with them in spirit when they meet. As, I am with all of you.

May the return of the light brighten your path this holiday season and throughout the New Year. Thank you all for being in my life, for your love and support. Have a blessed holiday season!

Julie Ann & Sam

Friday, November 19, 2010

Miss Becky

Sam was having a minor eye issue, so I took him to the vet yesterday.  He's just fine.  But, while waiting I heard the receptionist's talking to another client about Becky.
Becky reminds me of the dog I grew up with, a Springer named Sugar
Becky's owner is elderly and has cancer.  Just over a year ago both her and her then dog were both going through chemo.  Her dog didn't make it, but she went into remission.  So, apparently she went to the local shelter (same shelter I got my Sam) and adopted Becky. 

Becky needs to go on a diet,  but chasing around with Sam will help!

Things were going well for this lady and Becky until early this fall when the lady's cancer returned.  She started chemo again, but things do not look good for her.  She called our vet and expressed her concern for Becky.  My vet took her home, thinking he would keep Becky.  However, although Becky got along with everyone, she did not appreciate the cats and the cats did not appreciate Becky.  So, Becky has been living at the vet clinic the last 3-4 weeks while they tried to find a home for her.

I thought, "Poor Becky - being passed around through no fault of her own or her new owner."   I asked about Becky.  She is somewhere between 4 and 6 years old and a "hound" mix.  Loving and gentle they told me she was a very sweet girl.  They brought her out and she and Sam immediately hit it off.  And, being the sucker I am I agreed to "foster" Becky until we could find a new home for her. 
Sam and Miss Becky hit it off right away.

And, Miss Becky is a sweet girl.  The only two problems are that she is a complete pig when it comes to eating!  She would eat 24/7 and is a little pudgy.  And, she is terrible on a leash - always pulling.  So, Miss Becky and I started a diet today and tomorrow she will get some leash training.
New best friends

The bet is will I really ever give her up?  Hmmmmm . . . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Belated Halloween Pictures

My neighbor, Valerie, took some fun pictures of Sam and me on Halloween.  The darling little girl is her daughter, Evelyn, who made a charming octopus that day.  In honor of my church ladies, I wore my special witch's hat.  Sam, who always wants to be part of the action, was a bumble bee.  Enjoy!

Sam loved wearing his costume.  Probably because he knew how adorable he looked!

How cute is Evelyn?!
Sam sniffed every kid!

Sam & I sat here and waited for the kids to arrive.  We had a crowd and Sam was loved by everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010



Suzanne, Marlon and I looked up, at the front door and then at each other.  We were busy putting together a quilting cutting table for me and the THUD at the door startled all of us.  We could see through the door length blinds that no one was there.


Let's go back a few weeks.  Sam and I were walking when we came across a little terrier dog with a bad tremor.  It was running down the the road of the subdivision.  I called to it and he came to me.  He had a tag with his name and a phone number, along with his rabies tag.  His name was Flash.  Flash followed us home and I was able to get him secure in my fenced in back yard.  I called his owner, Rachel.  Rachel laughed when I told her I had Flash.  "Oh, just let him go.  He will find his way back to my mother's house about 3/4 of a mile away."  I was appalled.  "No," I told her, "you have to come get him.  I won't let him wander around."  She was very calm and agreed to come get him after they finished dinner and some errands.  I was upset.  Didn't she even care about Flash?  What kind of an owner was she?

It seems Rachel and her kids lived on my street for a couple of years.  She lost her job, rented out her house and moved in with her mother.  During the last year and a half, she fell in love, got married and she, her husband and her kids were moving back into her home.  So, Flash was very familiar with my neighborhood.

Now, I didn't know all of this.  All I knew was I had Flash.  It took over 2 hours for Rachel to arrive.  By this time Sam, Flash and I were waiting on the front porch.  My neighbor, Shane, arrived home.  "Hey," he said, "I see you've met Flash!"  He went on to tell me the story of how Flash was the neighborhood dog.  Most people knew him and looked out for him.  He was an independent little guy and loved nothing more than to visit people.  "You just wait, " Shane said, "some day you will hear a thud at your door and Flash will be calling.

Rachel finally arrived and explained that Flash was getting old.  He has tremors and a large cataract in one eye, but still was a happy, active little fellow.  Rachel also told me that Flash was up-to-date on all of his shots, neutered and very much loved by his family.  I could see he was loved by the way her kids held him.  So, at least he wasn't mistreated and/or abused.  I was still a little upset with her, though. 

A week or so later, Rachel and her family moved back into her home.  I was happy to see a that their house included a large, fenced in yard for Flash.  No more wanderings.

 I had told my Flash story to several other neighbors and all knew of him.  One lady told of a time he came to the door, walked in, ate her dog's food, jumped on a comfy chair, slept for over 3 hours, got up and left without a backward glance.  What a guy he was!

Fast foward.


I got up to look.  Sure enough, there was Flash outside the door.  I opened it and he came bounding in.  He greeted Suzanne and Marlon, tolerated Sam's playfulness and proceeded to eat some of Sam's food and drink a lot of water.  He also did a tour of the house, checking it out.   After a few minutes he went to the front door.  Off he went.

A week or so later I was working in the yard.  THUD.  Sam ran to the back gate.  There was Flash.  Apparently not getting an answer at the front door, he came to the back gate.  Again, he somewhat played with Sam, came in the house, ate, drank, checked out the house and off he went. 

Today it was a cold, miserable rainy day.  I went out to get the mail and, low and behold, guess who shows up?  Only today Flash was cold.  His tremors were worse, probably because he was shivering a little.  I dried him off with a big towel, turned on the fireplace and placed Sam's bed in front of it.  Yup.  Flash climbed on and took a little snooze.  I am sure he would have stayed longer if Sam hadn't woke him up wanting to play.  But, he was no longer shaking.  He ate a little, checked out the house and went to the front door.  I felt bad letting him out in the rain, but he trotted off in the direction of his home.  Hopefully, there was someone home to let him in.  But, if not I am sure someone else heard a THUD at their door and let him in for a while.

I do not believe in letting dogs wander around on their own.  But, I have to say Flash is street smart, knows the area and I have been told, even looks both ways when crossing a street.  He has been doing this all his life.  And, he knows he has a safe, warm place here - with plenty of food and water and a soft bed to snooze on for a little while.  From now on I will keep my ears open for the THUD. 

Flash has a pretty good life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This I Believe - Some Thoughts on My Spiritual Journey

I was raised Lutheran - Lutheran Church of America synod, now Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  This is considered the most liberal of the Lutheran synods.   My parents were active in our church, especially my father.  We went to church every Sunday.  I was active in Sunday School.  Dad sang in the choir and volunteered in other ways.  Mom and I (and my sisters) attended mother and daughter events.   I went to church camp for several years during the summers.  Church was important to our family.  Not all inclusive, but important.

I remember questioning my Sunday School teachers about the stories they told me.  Later, as I studied for confirmation, I questioned the pastor.  There were things about what the church taught me that just didn't add up in my head.  I just didn't "get it."  I could not  believe unconditionally things that just didn't make sense to me.  And, I formed my own ideas that didn't mesh with the teaching of the church.  So, after confirmation I pretty  much dropped out of church.  My parents, while probably disappointed, didn't push me to attend. 

Growing up and entering my late teens and 20s, I really tried to find that connections to God, to Jesus, to the church.  Nothing.  Nada.  I believed, but I didn't believe, either.  I found no comfort in prayer, I found no connection to God or Jesus.  So, I gave up.  Yet, I long for this connection, this comfort - what ever it was.  Again, I found what I did believe didn't mesh with what I had been taught at church.

In my 30s I found the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church.  Ah, ha!  Here I could find my own spiritual path and be accepted.  I was encouraged to think beyond Christianity, to search, to find my own way.  At this time the UU churches were offering a curriculum for women called, "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven."  It encouraged women to find the feminine in the divine.  Well, HELLO!  Finally I found something I could grasp, I could understand.  I could relate to God better by thinking of God as a woman.  I learned about ancient spiritual beliefs, when women where honored and respected.  I started a Women's Spirituality group in my church. Later, two of my dear friends that I had made at church became facilitators in the follow up to the "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" course entitled, "Rise Up and Call Her Name" and offered it at my church.  Hence, my wonderful "church ladies" groups really came to be. 

I was asked to serve on the UU Women and Religion Committee (W&R) for the Central Midwest District, which I did for four years.  I helped to plan UU women's conference and retreats.  It was a huge learning time for me.  A time of self discovery and major changes in my life.  I grew spirituality by leaps and  bounds, but not in the traditional way.  I began to see my higher power, my God, in nature.  I loved these conferences and retreat.  I met wonderful women and learned so much.

However, after serving on the W&R committee I felt burned out.  My church underwent conflicts due to the minister and many members, including my some of my friends, left to start a new UU church further west of the great Milwaukee area.  My other friends scattered to different UU churches.  While I considered myself  a UU and still do, I stopped attending the church.  I got antsy in church (and still do when I attend).  I wanted the services over quickly so I could get out and get going.  I found the conferences and retreats I helped plan and so loved attending, meaningless.  Same old thing.  I could no longer relate to what they had to offer.

Now what?  I still loved getting together with my church ladies and found our seasonal rituals very meaningful.  Yet, I was floating, spiritually.  Then slowly, very slowly I began to "get it."

And, what I "got" was the realization that for me, the divine was all around me.  It was in nature.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember posts where I talk about this.  How I found moments of pure grace while digging in my garden.  Watching the wind in the trees, a hawk soar, crocuses pushing out of the frozen ground in spring, brought me closer to God than any church or group ever could.  It was all right there - if I chose to look at it.

I don't believe in labels.  I am not a "witch."  I am not a Pagan (although this more defines my beliefs than anything else), I am not a Christian, but I do embrace the general teachings that the Lutheran church taught me.  I have a dear friend who had a calling/interest in Shamanism.  She paid a lot money to study it.  She loved it and it brought her peace, but some how I can't understand paying money to "learn" or study a spiritual path.  It has to come from within.  I believe, as do the Quakers, that God in not only all around us, but deep within us.  We just have to listen to our inner self and be aware of what is all around us.

I believe in God, in a hundred million guises.  I believe Jesus existed, walked this Earth and was a great teacher.  The son of God?  No.  I believe God gave us many, many teachers - some contemporary ones like Gandhi, Mother Theresa and others such as Mohammad, Buddha, Kwan Yin.  And, since I believe the divine is in all of us, we are each other's spiritual teachers.

In the past 6-7 months some pretty wonderful things have happened to me.  But, also, some very awful things, too.  I have been an emotional wreck and more depressed than I have ever been in my life.  Here in Georgia, after the hot weather broke, I started working on my garden (more on that in another post).  One day I had a complete melt down while planting shrubs.  I ranted and raved. I cussed.  I cried.  What did my boyfriend die?  My anger towards his actions came out and I vented.  Why did  my doggie girls, Gracie and Lucy Lou, have to die within three weeks of each other?  I dug, I cried, I planted, I cussed.  I watered and I screamed (good thing no neighbors were around).  I laid on the grass and sobbed.  After I was done and my triad over, I came in the house and looked at myself in the mirror.  My face was covered with dirt and tear streaked.  I had dirt in my hair, which was all  matted.  I looked so bad I had to laugh.  I took a shower, slept for a couple of hours and woke up knowing I had turned a corner. 

Since then I have slowly began moving forward.  The depression has lifted and my emotional well being has greatly improved.  And, I am happy to say that all of the plants I planted that day are thriving.  Me, too.  It took digging in the ground to dig out all the bad emotions in me.

I greatly respect those who find comfort in Jesus.  I greatly respect those who are active in their various churches, what ever church they belong to, who walk the walk and talk the talk.  I have no problem with the names people have to show their beliefs - I am a Christian, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Pagan.  I encourage everyone to find their paths.

I also know that at this time in my life "belonging" or "joining" a UU church isn't in the cards.  This may change in the future, but for now I am content to attend a UU church on occasion and maybe volunteer with some of the activities like I did last month when my sister's UU church had their annual rummage sale.

To thine own self be true. 

We all need to find our own paths.  We all need to respect each other on this journey.  This is/was my journey.  I will continue to explore and learn about my  beliefs.  Now, as I look at my window and watch a chickadee at the feeder I know I am on the right path.  I have found peace.

Monday, November 01, 2010

MeetUp and the Tennessee River Boat Cruise

Ever hear of MeetUp?  It is a free, on-line group of people who share the same interests and get together to pursue these interests and have fun.  When I moved down to Georgia from Wisconsin I thought logging on to MeetUp and going places/doing things would help me to make friends, and I was right.  I am active in two book discussion groups and am part of two other groups who like to hike and do a wide variety of other fun things.  While there are specific "singles" groups geared to meet members of the opposite sex, I am not interested in those groups.  Being new to the area, my goal is to meet friends and get out and do things, while exploring the area.

On October 24 I went on a 3 1/2 hour Tennessee River Boat Cruise in Chattanooga.  I drove up with four other very nice women and we had a great time. 

It was a picture perfect fall day
The fall colors were at their peak.

Even the clouds were beautiful

Great views the whole time

So pretty

When you log on to MeetUp you enter your zip code and what type of activities you enjoy.  Different groups will appear and you can review them and see if they would be a good fit for you.  I plan to do more with the 'adventures" group. There were 44 on us on this cruise.   Other activities they do are game nights, movies, hiking, kayaking, dancing, holiday parties, concerts, etc.  I enjoy the book discussion groups, too. 

If you are new to an area or just want to meet new people in the area you are in, I highly recommend MeetUp.  Several of my friends throughout the United States have joined and like it, too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Walk in the 'Hood on a Fall Morning

Most mornings I walk Sam up the hills to the far end of the subdivision, about 2.5 miles round trip.  I finally remembered to take my camera along.  Due to the clouds, the mountains can't be seen.  However, the clouds are beautiful in these pictures and you can click on the pictures for a better view.  The pictures are in random order, not our specific route.  Too hard to move pictures around when posting,  Anyway, come along and enjoy the walk with me.   

Looking down the last hill before we turn around to come home.  This would have the best mountain views, if not for the clouds. 

First hill we climb (view is looking down).  Don't be deceived, it is a huge hill!
Houses in the area are decorated for Halloween.  This is simple and my favorite

Scarecrow "love birds" at a house in the 'hood
You might have to double click on the picture to see this house all decked out for Halloween

After over a month of walking this hill, I am still out of breath at the top

Looking down to my street.  You can't see my house, but it would be on the left.
This house always is landscaped beautifully

First of two round-abouts we walk around.  Now if Americans would only learn how to drive around them!

Another pretty view

I love living here!

My street
Witch cat statue in front of my friend's house.  Too cute!