Monday, October 1, 2012

We Snail Ladies Love Our Troops

Hi again, it's me, the Snail Trail blogger
From 2007 to 2010, this Snail blogger and her husband sent letters and goody boxes to about 3,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those adopted military personnel became good friends and to this day, they stay in touch. I met a lot of really great men and women during that time in my life just through writing back and forth. I even got a hug from them when some came to call after they returned home. Those strangers became valued friends, even though we didn't know them personally.

Until now.

She so liked the motto from WWII
that she bought the shirt.
The story goes like this: There was a young Filipina nurse who was the same age as our oldest granddaughter and upon a good recommendation, I hired her to care for my Parkinson's ridden husband. Nurse Maryann was with us for three years and we loved her as a granddaughter. She had waited such a long time for a Visa to immigrate to the country she'd heard so much about from her grandparents who had endured the Japanese occupation during WWII. She'd listened to their stories all her life--about how the Americans helped the Philippine people and how MacArthur really did come back to just as he'd promised he would--to free the people from the Japanese invaders.

Maryann helped me sew cool ties for the
troops who had to fight in the desert
heat. We filled them with plastic beads
that could be frozen and the soldiers wore them
around their necks, lowering body heat by 10%.
So it was that she came to  this country with great love in her heart for us and our land. During the time she worked here, she helped sew things for the troops, pack care packages, and along with my hubby, shop for the things we needed to fill out the boxes. She showed me how to pack a box so it screamed for mercy because she'd stuffed so much inside it.

Then one day she turned in her resignation. I was heart-broken. My husband and I both felt like part of our family was leaving. She wanted to join the Army, she told us. When I questioned as to why this sudden development, she informed me she'd been thinking about it for a long time. "I see how you and Mr. Keith love the military and I see how you support them with all you have. I love this land and I want to be part of the people who protect it."

How do you argue with logic like that?

First day she got her camo's, she came
to show us and then borrowed Jim's
dog for a photo op.
I remained in touch with her as she went through all the training the Army had in store for her. From the beginning, she'd told me her top priority was to be deployed to the Middle East. As a nurse, she knew they could use her there and nobody was jumping for joy more than Maryann when her orders for Kuwait came through. Half of the team would go somewhere else, but Maryann was in charge of a platoon now and they were all headed for what the troops came to call, "The Big Sandbox."

When she was issued her medical beret,
she stopped by to show it off.
When I told our Snail Trail ladies about Nurse Maryann in Kuwait, we all agreed to adopt the platoon she headed up. We sent our first big box a week ago, stuffed till it screamed because I remembered how Maryann had taught me to pack.  Snail Patty helped me pack but all of us had pitched in to provide the contents.

Maryann and I packed so many
boxes over those three years
that no way on earth would I
ever forget how to do it.
I remembered how to fill out a Custom's Form and write the address just like the military wants it.  Once it was triple wrapped in tape, Patty took it to the Post Office--only because the lady who worked there didn't trust that I knew how to fill out the custom's form, so told Patty to bring her the box for her perusal. It was perfect. Wrapped right. Custom's right. Postage right. I guess she was surprised I knew the routine. This bunch of Snail Ladies ain't no dummies. We've been around a long while and learned a few things over the years. Bet that mail clerk won't be so uppity next time.

Every one of we ladies are working overtime getting ready for Christmas. Knitting and crochet needles are flying, sewing machines are going double time, bead jewelry is in the works and our one lone embroidery lady is dreaming of floss ninjas attacking her while she slumbers. Even so, each and every lady in the group has the soldiers on top of their list and when something catches the eye, it goes into the cart and eventually makes its way to either Patty or me so we can stuff it in the next box.

My husband was a Korean War
Vet. The whole 3 years he was
aboard ship, he never got one
piece of mail. Thus his desire to
make sure today's military knew
someone actually cared about them.


If you'd like to write Christmas cards to
our troops, knit or crochet hats and scarves,
add products to the care packages, please
let us know by writing to grandmakeith@ I'll send a supply list and 
military approved hat and scarf patterns.
Thanks and God bless.

Patty and Sandy
I was reading just last week that our troops were asking if the American people had forgotten them. May it never be. The best thing we Snails can figure is to make sure they know they're loved and remembered. After all, a little ramen noodles and chewing gum and beef jerky and tuna pouches go a long way toward making a platoon smile. The season of giving is right around the corner. But sharing what we have with others doesn't need a season. Does it?

My husband and Maryann were quite the duo. Because I'm
partly disabled, she took him to doctor and dentist
appointment, for walks, and cooked us Filipino food--
which we devoured.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Help--We're Surrounded By Ruffles

Remember me? I'm the blogging snail.
You never know what will show up at your door or how it will impact your life. Such was the day when my neighbor, Patty, walked across the street for some reason I no longer remember. What I do remember is that she was dressed in shades of pink and around her neck was the most beautiful scarf I'd ever seen. It swirled and swished and looked almost ethereal. I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

Isn't that a smashing scarf?
Knowing Patty was a knitter as well as a quilter, I inquired if she had made the three-toned scarf herself. She informed me she'd purchased it at a craft show and had paid $25 for it. I gave the lacy scarf a good looking over and for as long as I've knitted--40 plus years--I couldn't figure out how a simple ball of yarn had been transformed into a great fashion accessory.

A few days later, Patty called and asked if she could drop by for a minute. It was early evening and I'd just curled up in my hubby's favorite chair and settled in to watch a good movie. When Patty arrived, she was holding the ugliest ball of yarn I'd ever seen. "Can you show me how to knit a ruffled scarf?" she asked. I replied that I'd give it a try, but first I'd have to figure it out myself. I looked at the directions on the back of the label but they made little sense. After all, this is not your "regular" yarn but something that's all wadded up into a mish-mash that has to be straightened out before the first stitch can be taken. Not only that, the straightened yarn was about an inch wide and consisted mostly of something that looked like fish net.

Try as I might, I simply couldn't figure out the clue to knitting with the unwieldy fabric. I tossed the whole thing aside and decided not to think about it till tomorrow. But wait. Hadn't I seen an Internet address on the bottom of the yarn label? You bet I had. And watching their video of how to knit with this odd yarn was most informative. Wanting more instructions, I went to YouTube and watched about a half dozen more demos on knitting with fish net yarn.

This is the photo I'll use on my election
posters. I think I look good in a hat.
I had it. Since I'd pretty much lost the thread of the movie I'd been watching, I settled in with needles and yarn and by the time I was ready to head off to bed, I'd knitted about 6 inches of scarf. I felt like a victor. Like I'd solved one of the world's toughest problems. Like maybe I should run for mayor. Or maybe even Congress.

The following day I showed Patty how to knit with that yarn and she showed Laverne and now every Snail Trail meeting is filled with ruffled scarves in every rainbow color. I think it's safe to say that our small group is drowning in them because every Tuesday night, the "scarf" knitters show up with their entire entourage of ruffles. Not just the current work in progress, but everything created during the week. And maybe even the week before. I blame it on the "show and tell" time we have together before taking up our current project.

Laverne's ruffled collection takes
up half of my couch. Love the colors.
Seems that Laverne always has the most show and tell. She is a prolific knitter now that she's conquered the ruffle yarn, which is advertised as quick and easy. Don't let the label fool you. It isn't quick or easy until you figure out how to handle the product. Laverne has mastered or should I say invented, the best way I've seen to get that yarn knitted into a scarf in a single day. Her first one took three days. Then she put her mind to work and figured out how to knit smarter. She showed the rest of us what she'd come up with and every knitter in the group was impressed.

My cat was fascinated watching the yarn
move from the roller.
Seems that years ago, Laverne's hubby had made her a wooden contraption where-in she could have her bead collection at the ready for when she designed and created her bead jewelry. As she tells it, she eyeballed that and thought it would make a good place to hold her ruffle yarn, so she took an empty paper towel roller, cut it to size, and went to work figuring out how to make it work for her.

Tape the beginning of the yarn to the
paper towel cardboard.
First thing she did is to unroll a bit of the yarn and stick the end down with scotch tape. She opened the yarn as she went and by the time she was around once, she stuck big pins on each side of the yarn to keep it stretched. As she rolled the yarn, she moved the pins, so every layer was held in place. She rolled half of the yarn on one end of the cardboard and the other half beside it so the tube would roll evenly.

When she was ready to knit, she positioned the non-working needle between her legs, thereby leaving both hands free to get the yarn to where it was supposed to be. While most directions say to knit with the needle in the first opening, it is far easier to knit by using the first LARGE opening in the fish net. It also makes a sturdier base for the scarf.

Hmm, which one looks best on me?
While Laverne was at my home so I could take pictures of how she had figured out a way to easily work with the new ruffled yarns, a couple of my friends dropped by. With all those scarves spread out on the couch, the dazzling colors and shapes drew them to having to have a closer look. One friend just had to try on nearly every scarf. The other friend wanted to know exactly how to make them and asked where to buy the yarn. Oddly enough, neither friend informed me as to why they'd stopped by. I guess their heads were too full of color and their imaginations thinking which bunch of ruffles would look best on them.

So it's finished and sitting in a
drawer waiting for Christmas
to roll around.
I had asked Laverne to sell me the one in progress as I knew a family member who would just love it. She generally makes things for the Christmas craft fairs she participates in, but she allowed me to purchase the one I asked for. Of course I could have knitted one myself, but I'm in the middle of my own Christmas knitting and quilting, so I figured it would be quicker to purchase one already finished. Am I smart or what?

Coming Up Soon:

Our group is blessed to have a Snail Trail member whose quilt entry won the Viewer's Choice award at the San Diego Quilt Show in 2010. Her quilts are exquisite. Next blog, I'll show you her work and tell you everything she knows about applique, since that's what she majors in.

Till next time....

Laverne's favorite ruffled yarn is readily
available at Joann's for less than $5 a
ball. There are dozens of ruffled yarns
in the stores now, with prices going up
to $17 a ball. A bit of advice here:
start with the less expensive yarn to see
if you like working with it. Then spread
out if it suits you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meet The Snails

Photo of the blogger--which would be me.
We seldom get anywhere on time. Most of us use a walker or a cane. Everyone has gray hair. We are pretty much slower than snails but we get where we're going. It just takes us more time than those of the younger generation, like those still in their 60's.

We laugh alot. We never put pressure on one another to get a project finished. We help one another lay out quilts or learn a new craft. We meet once a week right after supper or thereabout. Mostly thereabout. We have hundreds of years experience between us. Our youngest member is 72; our oldest is 94. Oddly enough, it is the 94 year-old who gets around the best and can walk without an aid. If she wasn't so likable, we would probably all despise her.

None of us read this book and
boy, are we kicking ourselves now!
Some of us crochet. Others knit. A few of us quilt. One of us makes beautiful bead jewelry. Some of us do assorted crafting--one week knitting, another quilting, one crochets beautiful things which she showers on her friends. We're all happy to be her friend.

We came together because of prayer. I know that sounds strange. Let me tell you the story.

I've been widowed from the best friend I ever had and these past 2 1/2 years have been the saddest, hardest, most miserable journey I've ever had to face. One day I asked the Lord if I'd ever be happy again. If I'd ever have joy return to me. I told the Lord I wished to smile and laugh and act silly again.  A few days later, during my prayer time, I felt something actually change within me. I knew God had answered my prayer. I just didn't realize to what extent.

I'll get into that more in later posts.

The lady across the street from me, Patty, has more friends than I can count. Even if I use all my fingers and my toes. She walked across the street one day to see how I was doing. I relayed my experience with the Lord and then asked if she knew anyone who might like to get together at my home one evening a week so we could form a quilt group.

About a month passed. I never asked her again but continued to pray about it. Then came the day when she informed me that she had three ladies who wanted to get together, but not all were quilters. However we all crafted in one way or another. I was thrilled. I didn't care what media they liked best. I just wanted people around me again. I wanted to have some fun.

We might not be the most fashionable ladies in town,
but we are so old we don't care.
The next week four ladies arrived at my door. The next week, another joined us. Then a couple more. Some come regularly; others periodically. Most are widows; a few still have their husbands--the lucky ducks. There seemed to be no age difference among us. Since we're all old, we think alike and act alike and understand when one of us mentions the pain in her hip or back or anywhere else seniors become tend to fall apart, little by little. We all nod our heads and keep on crafting. For the most part, I'd say we are also a group of nodders.

Friends together, and always ready to welcome new ones
into our snail trail group, no matter what their age.
We all wear glasses. I bet you already figured that out. Our hands still work pretty good. So do our brains. We love to teach one another new tricks. The beader wanted to learn to knit so I gave her lessons for a couple of weeks. I've taught a lot of people to knit, but nobody picked it up faster than Laverne, our retired accountant. To my amazement, she has become a knitting maniac. She knits faster than anyone I know, even me, and it is incredible how she took to it so fast. She claims it was because I was a good teacher; but I know it's because she had the talent for it all along and all I did was help unwrap it.

On these blog posts, we'll show you our crafting, tell you how to do it in case you want to know, and link you to craft material sites that we've come to trust. Because we aren't an especially mobile group of snails, some of us buy everything online. A few grab up a cane or walker and head out to the actual stores and fight the other shoppers for that last ball of fishnet yarn or sparkly beads or the last fat quarter on the discount table.

Each week we'll feature one of our crafters and explain everything we know about how you can  make the same thing. We'll use text and pictures. We hope you'll you'll join our group so that we can share back and forth, thus increasing everyone's knowledge. Our comment section is there for you to ask questions or share knowledge. We'd love to hear from you. You don't even have to have gray hair.

Next week: Ruffle yarn scarves

All the rage right now; pricey to buy
but very inexpensive to knit yourself.