Author Archive: franmcveigh

#SOL20: Unfortunately/ Fortunately


It is past the middle of October. October weather is fickle. Sometimes the first snow has fallen before Halloween. More often than not, the first “measurable snowfall” occurs much later.

This warning yesterday was not unexpected. Last week the ten day forecast showed snow . . .

for Thursday . . .

NOT for Monday.

This tweet also showed up in my weather alerts but I dismissed it. Not my problem. Not my part of the state. (Little did I know that it would be a part of my “What on Earth Should I Write About” slice today.)

A snow squall. We had just discussed this in a Twitter group last week when there were snow squalls in Canada. Words, meanings, and application.

Snow squall in Iowa on October 19, 2020. Ironic?

Straight across Iowa. Straight across I-80. The line typically between ice and snow.

The same line that the derecho followed in August. Every other month weather occurrences. Two months and nine days apart. Freaky!


North of me,

Knock on wood,

Not my part of the state.

An hour away.

Sigh of relief and thankfulness.

Weather changes . . . How do they impact adults? How do they impact students, families and communities? How do our reactions contribute to our own physical and mental security? How are we REALLY coping with all the stresses in our lives?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Bull-Headed

It was suggested last night that I was a “tad-bit” bullheaded.

Growing up as one of seven children, I was in the middle. Sometimes silent. Sometimes bossy. Sometimes in “Git’er done” mode.

I’m sure that I come by some “bullheadedness” honestly as I believe it’s a prevailing theme in our family. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

As I actually moved into “real” quilting and not just piecing last night, I left the world of designing, sewing, pressing, sewing, ripping out, pressing and thought about the quilt design that would “showcase” the pattern and the fabric.

Because I had a specific idea in mind, I was ready to quilt all by myself.  The first row of stitching was a breeze. I could put my presser foot on the edge of the seam and “let’er rip.” Confident. Competent. Making progress.

But it was not meant to be.

I wanted to use the presser foot with a lengthy gauge but I could not remember how to make it stay on. And then I couldn’t just add the old presser foot back on. Without an instruction book, I searched you tube for videos. Zero luck.  Somehow I managed to add the presser foot back on but I was exhausted.

And yet, not ready to “give up.”

Plan B. Rig up a cardboard guide that would stretch from the previous seam to the needle. This cardboard/duct tape “spacer” worked for about a third of a row . . . BUT each stripe” was wider than the previous and my expectations were no longer being met. 

Rip out the stitching and begin again.  Revised plan.

Plan C. Eureka. Find the pen that was able to write and then be erased from fabric. But where was it? ARGH! I searched in boxes of fabric, a basket of odds and ends. But I could not find my pen with the ink that was “water soluble” and therefore ideal for my sewing project.

When I looked in the basket next to my machine, it quickly became apparent that I hadn’t looked EVERYWHERE, because the pen was there. Right under my nose the whole time.


I continued to work. It was nearing midnight.  I was determined to complete this gift item at this time. 

While a teacher, I was not fond of “chevron themed” classrooms with picture perfect bulletin boards and tidy work areas that seemed to promote cookie-cutter work products. So it was unusual to find myself sewing a chevron pattern and being quite specific in “the best sewing” ever. I marked out the points and then connected the lines between the low and high spots on the fabric as preparation for sewing.  

Time consuming.


Necessary prep work for the outcome I desired.

A specific envisionment.

Matching my plan with the real work.

And top stitching carefully 

Not perfection

But improving with practice!

Getting Close . . . to sewing on the line consistently!

And even closer!

Repetition . . .

 Over time . . .

Stubborn . . .

Persistent . . .

Determined . . .

Definitely a middle child . . .

Matching my perception 

Project nearly completed.

One more to be added to the stack of completed Christmas gifts. 

When are you persistent, tenacious or bullheaded?

Words Matter!

When do you stay with a task long after others have moved on? 

What decision points allow you to move on?

Do these traits exist in your personal AND professional lives? 

What traits might you strengthen? Which traits might you actively decrease? 

Which words will you choose?_____________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Memories

Recognize this?


Or these?

Tray 1 began with 1962-63. Ancient history perhaps for some of you. A gold mine for others.

Farm Progress Show


Farm Progress Show


Farm Progress Show


. . .


Family Events

Family Trips

Flower Gardens

And kids.

Multiple generations.

Sifting through lives.


Squinting to match the label with the slide.

Best technology of the 1960’s . . .

Slides . . .

Reviewing them in 2020.

Guessing contents from faint penciled labels.

Matching ink labels with guesstimate of pictures.

Surprise . . . some did not match.

Actually many did not match!

Giggling about babies of years gone by.

Anticipating . . .

Babies yet to come.


What lens do you use when sorting memories?  Current events?  Past events?                                          When do you decide to linger with a story?            What is the value of your memories?                      Which will you read from the pictures?                Which will you tell and retell?                                 Which will you write about?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Gifting

My purchase made, I was ready to exit the store. I sat on the bench at the front of the store and reflected on my purchases of yardage and fat quarters.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere. I studied the wall hanging with 35 different pumpkins. And then I spotted this piece.

After six months of sewing, this piece is my sister. Green is her favorite and is seen in the color of her house. But the fall colors ARE my sister’s frequent choices.

The next fabric that caught my eye was this panel of pumpkins. The pattern matched in basic colors and themes.

With a possible front and back for a project, I was ready to commit to a hand-crafted gift. I had an idea about a possible fabric already in my stash but I did need one more piece. A quick survey of the store turned up this interesting stripe.

This rich stripe was the ultimate coup d’grace. And like that I was back in the checkout lane for a second purchase.

Process:  A second look, a “re-read” of the initial fabric display.                                               A purpose.                                                                                                                       A targeted audience.                                                                                                     A generated idea.                                                                                                           Background knowledge.                                                                                               Clear intentions/expectations.                                                                                     Time.

Just a few of the precursors of a craft endeavor.  Similar to the writing process. Also existing in many creative processes.                 

And last night I gifted my sister with this completed quilted table runner. You may note that the gold was not in my purchase as it was an earlier find for other similar projects.

And the reversible back side looks like this.


The design and construction went fairly quickly as I have completed over a dozen table runners.

The gift was completed three days early. On her birthday this Thursday, my sister and her daughter will celebrate. I appreciate that I could complete the construction of this gift on Sunday and Monday. In advance. And in a timely manner.

What processes do you honor? 

When do you attempt idea generation? 

How do you continue to learn? 

How do you “name” your work?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Notorious RBG

Since Friday’s news, my reading and writing has been fueled by emotions: shock, rage, doubt, rants, and so much more . . .

So with zero idea of what to post for today’s slice, I sought inspiration in other slices and found that nugget in Reflections of the Teche. (Source: Margaret Simon’s post here)

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

the second woman

on the Supreme Court

a pioneering advocate for women’s rights

a cultural icon

… her image tattooed on arms; daughter dressed in R.B.G. costumes for Halloween; and “You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth”on bumper stickers and T-shirts.

“A model of female influence,


dignity and


as the embodiment of hope

for an empowered future.”

How will you honor the “Notorious RBG”?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Life Lesson

“No, no, no,” I muttered to myself. (There may have been an “Oh, sh#t” mixed in.) I ONLY had two sides left to sew.

“How does a steam iron become a volcano spewing brown crud covering the entire length of my 24 inch piece of fabric . . . FORMERLY WHITE!”

“What on earth caused that?”

“I only had three.”

“Had” . . . already speaking in the past tense.

Already thinking of options. “Is it fixable? Replace with ???”

I’m deep into gift planning and sewing. Christmas will soon be here. I know. It’s not even “mid-September.” (I am one of those.) Before today, three items were complete. Three more waiting for trim, arriving soon via mail. Twelve more begun. Ready to assemble as or when time allows. Probably about 30 of those will be assembled in the next three months. A list. Organized by names and then by colors. Adult gifts.

Today was sewing time. New project. New Christmas idea. Iteration of previous projects. It began slowly.

Envisioning . . . One piece of fabric, measured, measured, measured, and then cut carefully into thirds. Daring in a simplistic design. Eking three out cautiously because it’s such a gorgeous fabric. Now ruined by a recalcitrant iron that decided to spew dark brown lava the entire length.


Allowed to dry.

Scrubbed again.


Reduced, but still visible.

“Maybe this will be my gift to myself. Maybe this will be mine. Who else will know? But (insert whiny voice), it’s not the color I want for myself!”

Back side

Less visible? Or just wishful thinking?

Front unfinished view

The day after. How BIG of a problem is this in the light of the next day?

Life resembles my sewing. Mistakes happen. Often only the “designer” or “constructor” knows when the plan or pattern deviates. Creativity is stretched to handle the adversity.

When have you had to “fix” a problem? Did you “downplay” the issue? Did anyone else even notice?

How we respond . . . How we recover . . . says much about our own character. Learning to “fix” mistakes. Learning not to give up. Learning to “try, try again”. No, not by choice; but out of necessity. Life continues. Another lesson learned.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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Remember . . .

Reflection? Silence? A conversation? 19 years Honoring Memories The memorial and museum are amazing. Some of the highlights of my first visit are found here. Resources from the 15 year anniversary are included in this blog post. Remember September” by Karla Ruth is also a treat! And check out Sara Ahmad’s story here!

What do you remember?

What books or songs are a part of your reflection?

#SOL20: Weather

The forecast says:

Today’s high will be lower than the typical low for this date.

The forecast says:

Record broken that has stood for over 120 years.

The forecast says:

Rain imminent.

Whether the high is lower than the typical low, or the record is broken or the rain continues . . . the weather is what it is!

Hope is: a second blooming of this petunia, stretching up between cement blocks, searching for sunlight, a bright bloom surviving in spite of the odds, an unplanned, volunteer petunia.

Where will you find your hope?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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(Not thrilled with new WordPress editor.)

#SOL20: 5,844 days

I’ve been on a math kick for a few months.  I blame it on my work with quilting projects.  Mathing is important! Math plays a huge role in design, implementation, and binding a project.

It’s been 5,844 days

and I still miss him.

It’s also been 16 years if you are wondering about the significance of the number. So now for more than half of his life my son has not known his grandfather.  The man with whom he shares his dimples. Army man. Family man.

It’s been 5,844 days

and some memories are still tough

even after 5,844 days.

… Going to the funeral home with Mom and my brother to finalize arrangements. (Was there texting then? What were our dinosaur phones like?) I was praying that my younger sister would make it out of Hurricane Alley and get to Iowa for the funeral because she’s the “glue” among the siblings. Flights were cancelled. Her husband drove her and the baby four hours north in order to catch a flight home. Easy tasks included physically reading and proofing the funeral folder and making changes via a landline phone call because tech wasn’t quite a part of our lives yet.

… Taking his pacemaker from the funeral home to the county hospital . . . that action wasn’t so tough. But saying to the hospital receptionist, “This is the pacemaker that was in my dad. We were told that we needed to turn it in here.” That was tough.

… Being the lector at the funeral Mass. Looking out at the family was easy. A packed church over Labor Day weekend was a sign of respect for Dad. Reading through the tears that choked my words was tough.  I had choice in the verses and I deliberately chose short ones.

… My nephew, the band director, playing at the church and Taps at the cemetery. Finding his own group, rehearsing, and playing for the family. Tenacity. What a tough task we asked of him.

— My great nephew, days old, who kept us sane. “Pass the baby” is an escape from tasks one does not want to accept, a reminder of our own mortality, and an opportunity for a big family to celebrate. To celebrate the second great grandchild. The baby who screamed every time his diaper was changed. He was not happy with air on his bottom! The baby that the OB/Gyn said was going to be a girl. The baby that kept us sane!

5,844 days of missing him.

And yet,

5,846 days ago, my great nephew was born and two days later Dad was gone. The ultimate alpha and omega. So many changes since then. Many celebrations.  Some sorrows. Many days.

Many memories that run the gamut from one weekend in our lives.

What will be the memories that will linger in your mind from 2020?

How will you celebrate the happy times?

Where will you share your memories?

What will your writerly life reflect?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL20: Idea Generation

Where do ideas come from?

Today they began with the headlines:

13 middle school teachers in quarantine.

Phased-in hybrid model

Haze over Iowa is smoke from California wildfires.

Normal average temperature is 83 degrees. Current high 90s are well above the average.

Two cooling centers open because of the heat.

167 homes in Cedar Rapids still without electricity two weeks after the derecho.

What process?

Rehearsal. Monday night thinking of topics as the evening wears down.

Last night it was cheers of personal success as I considered the next seasonal six items completed and ready for quilting.  With a September first deadline in my head, I feel “ahead” of the game. Timelines matter in a process that involves design, execution (doing the work) cutting-sewing-trimming-ironing, redesign, assembling the layers, quilting, binding, and celebrating.

An idea not fully completed was discarded because

these images from last week linger in my mind . . .

As they stare directly at me

Daring me to move

Even a muscle

Will make that tail flip up

Exposing its whiteness

Then disappearing

Into the timber.

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A buck and a doe near the driveway


Paying attention to their surroundings

Observant. Responsive. Ever vigilant.

What will you pay attention to today?

What ideas or images will linger in your mind? 

How will you honor a variety of “processes”?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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