Texas/Louisiana Row by Row Quilt … 2015 version is done!


So today is the official start of the “Row by Row Experience” quilt season. I know … I’ve just lost a bunch of you! So let me explain. I believe the concept started with 20 shops in 2011. This year there are over 3,000 shops participating. I fell in love with the whole notion in 2014. Each year, participating quilt shops from all over the United States, and way beyond … think Canada and Europe … create a free row pattern … and fabrics for the row which you can purchase if you like. But you have to visit the actual shop … which … if you are road tripping this summer anyway … why not! Their website has maps for shop locations and photos of the rows so you can plan your route. I’m pretty picky about the shops I visit. They gotta have a row I wanna actually include in a quilt!

The theme this year is “On the Go” and interpretation by quilt shops is all their show. New this year is a “junior” division for youngsters. Not all shops are participating but this is so cool for youngsters interested in quilting! So eight rows sewed into a quilt makes for an official “Row by Row” quilt. There are also prizes involved if you stitch up 8 rows, quilt it and don’t forget to bind it. It has to be finished! Be the first to bring it into a quilt shop that participates in the project. I’m not so interested in that part. I just love the creativity of the project … and I’m slow!

The great thing about row by row quilts is friends and family that live far will sometimes acquire a row for you! I’ve already made my list of favorite rows and the Houston area has several I am considering to visit.

So let’s chat about this 2015 quilt. My adorable sister, Gretchen, who lives near Victoria, Texas picked up a row. My quilting friend, Michelle, picked up the two lovely rows in Louisiana. Then there was the ever awesome Sally. She and her husband did a row by row road trip and came back with the loveliest of rows. Of course, I put my order in beforehand and wouldn’t have found myself near Bandera, but for Sally!

So on to this just completed row by row for 2015. The theme for 2015 was “water.” Hence, umbrellas, fish, and seagulls, etc. I have a spot for it all picked out! I like to hang my quilts, so I made this one using 5 rows on the front and 3 on the back. Eight horizontal rows just makes for a very long quilt.

Sadly, since I have worked on this quilt for so long, I can’t locate all the photos I took while piecing the rows. Darn! I gotta remember to be more organized when I get around to the 2016 quilt.

So the great thing about this whole project is the skills you acquire while making each row. The row with the seagull and lighthouse from Louisiana was the most challenging. Small fabric pieces on the gull almost made me have to go to confession, but I LOVE how it turned out. Persistence paid off! Basically, each row is a mini-quilt with lots of lessons learned during the piecing. The easiest row was, by far, from Quilter’s Crossing in Tomball which, by the way, has a lovely quilt shop. The umbrellas were all pre-cut with the fusible on the back. Obviously, I did this row first!

Since my favorite long-arm lady moved away … come back soon Kim Norton … I had the lovely Taylor at Cupcake Quilts do an all-over design called “Sailboats.” She used Hobbs batting 80/20 and variegated thread called Signature 99151. I always use our local Personalize It Kingwood, store owner Tracey is awesome, to make my patch on the back.

If you are a quilter and considering participating in the Row by Row Experience … happy travels!

A cancer journey – changes in the air


It has been just over a month since my last update on Rick … so let’s get right to it. In April, Rick had lots of scans and the report was awesome. Everything is stable … cancer areas are still very small! It appears the immunotherapy which was stopped months before is still working. Can I get an amen?

Unfortunately, Rick’s lipase was back up … darn lipase. This little blip on the radar screen was probably due to the chemo pill and the immunotherapy battling in his system. So Dr. Campbell prescribed a month of steroids to tame the dragon! We also learned that Rick would now be on “Active Surveillance” for the foreseeable future. That means no chemo pill. Let’s just carefully watch the dude!

Our schedule at MDA would also change to blood work and doctor visit every three weeks with lots of scans every two months. We could live with that. It would kinda be like a vacation from what we have been doing! I’m not gonna lie … a month of steroids was not the vacation part. Just ask anyone that has been on steroids. Sleeping is difficult along with a few other unpleasant side effects.

Then in May, on our 45th wedding anniversary, we visited Dr. Campbell for Rick’s three-week follow-up. Lipase was down drastically and oh so close to normal. It was also Dr. Campbell’s birthday as noted by the party hat he wore. Wish I had got a picture!

After our visit to MDA, Rick and I celebrated with a nice lunch near downtown. We had lots of celebrate. We almost didn’t make it to 45 years.

And then there were four


The following “You Gotta Laugh” column … a tribute to my sister … appeared this week in The Tribune Newspaper. I have reposted below … and provided a link to their website! Note you can sign up for free with a username and password for their site.

Tribune website

Did I ever mention I am the oldest of five? My sister, Mary, is just 19 months younger. During our growing-up years, Mary and I had lots of adventures together and shared a room until we hit our teenage years. Today it seems a lifetime ago.

My favorite photograph of my sister is one that resides on a shelf in my sewing room. In the black and white pic, Mary is sitting confidently atop a furry-maned Shetland pony. I feel certain she was about three years old. The cutie pie has short blond hair and round face with a smile that says let’s get this party started!

My mom tells the story how one day a man with a pony and a camera walked around our neighborhood offering to photograph children. He even came prepared with a cowboy hat and chaps for the kids to don. The chaps had a lasso and the initials “RR” embroidered inside the lasso loop on the lower leg. I like to think the initials stood for Roy Rogers and not the dude with the camera.

Actually, Mary and I both had our photos made that day. The only difference is the way we held our cowboy hat with our right hand up in the air. Today Mary and I sit side-by-side frozen in time in a double frame.

Then there was the time Mary lost her two front baby teeth. Not a remarkable incident, except the permanent ones were taking forever to make their appearance. While most kids were singing “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Mary proudly sang, “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” with a lisp. When her front teeth finally did appear, there was a little gap. It was just enough to squirt water through.

When we got a little older, Mary and I would escape the house on Saturday for the local movie theatre leaving our little brothers and sister in the dust. Back in the Stone Age, a movie ticket cost 35 cents and bought two movies, cartoons and previews. For ticket money, we scoured the neighborhood ditches for glass soda pop bottles. At two cents deposit a pop, it didn’t take long to hit our goal. A quick trip to the drug store for candy and our mom didn’t see us for hours.

It didn’t matter what kid-friendly movies were playing. We watched them all. I do recall one that scared the bejeebers out of both of us. It was an Edgar Allen Poe inspired flick entitled “The Mask of the Red Death” starring Vincent Price. Imagine trying to crawl under the seats as the tension builds on the screen. We crouched on the sticky concrete floor waiting for the scary part to be over. It never happened. I think we lasted 30 minutes before running toward the exit and all the way home.

Fast forward a bunch of years. Mary and I married our respective sweethearts six months apart. We even lived a short distance away from each other for a time. I remember the day Rick and I got the call in the middle of the night to drive Mary to the hospital. She was in labor with her first child, Christy. Since her husband was a fireman stationed downtown, Rick and I were the designated backup drivers.

When we arrived to pick Mary up, I will never forget finding my sister calmly watering her plants, feeding the fish and straightening up the kitchen. She obviously was not in a hurry … but we were. After finally getting her loaded in the passenger seat of our little Toyota Corolla, Rick sped toward downtown where Greg would be waiting at the hospital’s front door. Each time my sister made a peep, Rick would start to sweat. We were not trained in labor and delivery. Then Mary let out a wail at a red light.

“Geez, it’s three in the morning. There is absolutely no traffic. Do you think it would be OK to just go through the red lights?” Rick stuttered.

Not even waiting for a response, he put the pedal to the metal and we arrived 20 minutes later at the hospital to a waiting Greg.

My sister, Mary, died the day after Easter of Ovarian cancer. The disease took her just seven months after diagnosis. She was 62 years young.

Quilter’s Patch – Block of the Month – April blocks are finished!


This month I asked my special needs daughter, Mimi, to model the finished Day Lilly block. Both April blocks for the Quilter’s Patch Block-of-the-Month are done! The Tulip and Day Lilly blocks were easier than last month. I didn’t have to take out my seam ripper one time this month.

However, I started to sweat looking ahead to May’s blocks. The Dahlia block has lots of hexagons … and I’ve never gone near a hexagon in my life! The Honey Suckle block doesn’t look any easier … full of 60 degree triangles and bias edges. Looks like I will have to step-up my game!

A cancer journey – Inlyta does not like Rick … and MDA’s Kidney Cancer Conference!


An update on Rick is in order. I know … it has been two months since you’ve heard a peep out of me. I’ve learned that some things just need time to evolve. In some respects, I miss the kidney cancer immunotherapy trial. It was predictable. We went in every two weeks for bloodwork, visit with oncology and nine times out of 10 … upstairs to the 8th floor for an infusion. Then every three months MRI and CT scans. Last year was hard work but there was a rhythm to it … it felt kinda like a slow waltz that sped up as Rick got better. Just imagine Rick and I in the middle of the dance floor with all these MDA people … everyone with their dance shoes on … swirling around us and smiling.

Back to reality! So Rick started taking Inlyta on Valentine’s day. The drug was approved in 2012. The purpose is to block blood vessel growth which feed cancer tumors. He started with 5 mg twice a day. The drug has lots of side effects and the poor guy had most of the ones listed on the MDA Patient Education handout. Rick lasted 24 days before having to come off the drug. Then a two-week medication break … which was heavenly … I got my husband back. He then started on 3 mg of Inlyta twice a day. The first week wasn’t bad. I kinda thought this was going to be our long-term cancer drug. Then the bottom fell out. On day 11, in early April, Rick was off the lower dosage Inlyta.

Dr. Campbell ordered scans last week on Holy Thursday. Yep … we have been living our Lent again this year! We see him this Friday for results and a path forward. If the scans look as good as last time, there is talk of a medication “holiday” which I think could be way longer than two weeks. This is what I pray for Rick … hourly.

The last time we saw Dr. Campbell he explained that Rick was kinda unusual in the way his treatment unfolded after being diagnosed last year. Normally, a patient comes to MDA in much better shape … not in a wheelchair. They often start with something like Inlyta, called a frontline drug, and then maybe graduate to surgery, an immunotherapy clinical trial, or other treatment. Rick was so bad over a year ago there wasn’t time for a frontline drug. He went straight to the clinical trial … with stunning results. Dr. Campbell believes, and so do we, the immunotherapy drugs are still working. One indication is lots and lots of itching. Go figure!

Did I mention I attended MDA’s Kidney Conference this past Saturday? I was so impressed with the MDA staff presenting! It is the 10th year MDA has put it on for patients, caregivers and the medical community. They always videotape it. When I get the link, I promise to share! My friend, Hildy, a kidney cancer survivor, told me about the conference and we went together. She has been going for a bunch of years. I love Hildy. She is brave, open and a lover of life! Hildy is one of the first people I leaned on at the beginning of our cancer journey.

In a peanut shell … here is what I learned about kidney cancer. Note that some of what I learned applies to all cancers! I learned knowledge is power. If you are a caregiver … become knowledgeable. I hold each kernel of knowledge to my chest and hug it deeply.

Did you know in the United States, 63,000 are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year? I learned kidney cancer does not respond to radiation or chemo and 75% of kidney cancer is clear cell. That is what Rick has. I learned lots of kidney cancer patients ask for PET scans. Don’t. They are not a reliable test for kidney cancer. I learned each patient is very individual as far as treatment. I learned that 10 years ago most people with stage 3 or 4 kidney cancer lived one year and there was little to offer patients with kidney cancer. Now there are 12 to 13 new treatments and more promising clinical trials are popping up. I learned about frontline drugs, immunotherapy clinical trials, and mTor inhibitors which slow down cancer cell growth. I sound like a cancer nerd don’t I? I learned in the next 10 years there will be more personalized treatments available. Right now about 25% of patients are responding to immunotherapy clinical trials and they don’t know why yet. My rock star husband is a success story! MDA wants to know how to help the 75% that are not. Also, the 25% of kidney cancers that are not clear cell need to get their far share of understanding and treatments. I learned that the results of several clinical trials will be published soon. There are many more clinical trials and emerging therapies on the horizon. I learned there are no predictive markers for kidney cancer. I learned that 2013 was a breakthrough year for kidney cancer immunotherapy. Did you know that immunotherapy can kill cancer cells? It is adaptable. It kills specifically cancer cells and it has memory. I think one of the most important things I learned … and this can be applied to all cancers … is DO NOT GET TIRED OF FOLLOW-UP! If your doctor says you need scans every three months, six months, or once a year, get them! Be vigilant!

Quilter’s Patch – Block of the Month – March finished!


I got my lovely daughter, Katie, and grandson, Ben, to pose with one of March’s finished blocks. Last month I tried to get grandson Jacob to hold one of February’s blocks but he wasn’t having any of it. He’s nearly three years old and a man of action. After chasing him around the backyard for a few minutes I gave up. Maybe he will stand still long enough for a photo in April when he officially turns three!

My two blocks for March on the Quilter’s Patch block-of-the-month quilt are all done! Loved the fabric color choices and pattern on the “sidewalk and log cabin roses” block. It’s a really cute block! It amazes me how a block with well over fifty pieces can, in the end, measure the required 12-1/2″ by 12-1/2″. What did we do before there were rotary cutters and precision rulers?

The “petunias” block came together rather quickly! Easy block. Love the pinks.

I’ve probably got a week before April’s fabrics and instructions hit the mailbox. Time to work on unfinished projects while I’m waiting!

Quilter’s Patch – Block of the Month – February


So yesterday, I finished blocks 2 and 3, the cat block and the nine-patch daisy, from Fat Quarter Shop’s block-of-the-month for February. Hope I can keep this up! I consider it a victory to not have fallen behind when life gets in the way … yet!

What I love about these types of quilts is the opportunity to review piecing skills and to learn new ones! So far so good.

Bring it on March quilt blocks 4 and 5!