January 25, 2011

Burnt Orange Moon

Posted in Family, Food, Friendships, Hobbies, Knitting, Weather, Women tagged , , at 7:57 am by Liliana

Burnt Orange Yarn

Burnt Orange Yarn

For me, this is the most grueling time of year.

It is cold, it is dark, and there are no holidays to look forward to.

This morning, thought, even though the sky was ashen and overcast, and icy snow was making the roads sleek and unpredictable, I felt fresh and energetic, ready to face the week.

I had a wonderful weekend.

I am frequently accused of being an introvert, with great need for solitude, but this weekend it was the company of family and friends that fed me the energy this cold winter had depleted from my body and soul.

Friday evening we had an old friend and his wife over for dinner. We ate beef brisket, roasted potatoes, salad; fruit pies, tea and coffee for dessert. And we talked. About children growing up and leaving, about parents getting old and dying, about life.

Saturday morning I spent at a cafe with my daughter and a young friend talking about young people’s plans, schemes, hopes. About starting one’s adventures in life.

Saturday evening, my friend Jelena had a ladies’ evening at her house. She made elegant cocktails and appetizers, carrot and asparagus soup, lasagna and light, creamy dessert. We watched a movie. We told stories and laughed.

Sunday morning my family gathered around our dining room table for brunch. We ate eggs, fresh bagels and cream cheese, smoked salmon, fruit. And drank lots of coffee.

We sat around for hours and Sasha and Nena talked. The rest of us mostly listened, but sometimes we all wanted to talk. Sometimes we needed a referee.

Then Jeff and I walked over to our neighborhood coffee shop, had hot chocolate and talked some more. It’s not always easy for the two of us to find a quiet, uninterrupted corner in our house. We gave each other turns. We listened.

In the afternoon, I went to my friend Ann’s house. We sat in her living room, full of her own pottery, art and yarn, and knitted while her husband Ray made a wonderful pasta dinner. Ann taught me a new cable pattern. It was not hard. I started knitting a scarf for my sister, beside myself with joy and accomplishment. The color of the yarn is deep burnt orange.

The weekend was icy cold. But throughout, the sky was iridescent Adriatic blue, and the sun was shining and making the snow sparkle.

And at night, the sky was clear and full of stars. The full, giant moon was the color of deep burnt orange.


January 6, 2011

My New Year’s Resolution

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Friendships, Good people, Health, Hobbies, Quilting, Women tagged , , , , , at 8:02 am by Liliana

The healing quilt

The healing quilt

I was never one for New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like to make a promise (to myself or to others) that I pretty much know that I won’t keep.

But this year, I have made a resolution. I want to finish a large, king size quilt that I started for my friend Nancy three years ago.

When Nancy’s husband Ken died, Nancy didn’t want to part with his clothes. I volunteered to make a quilt out of Ken’s shirts, ties and pants. To make the quilt representative of their life together, I took a few of Nancy’s colorful blouses and added them to the mix.

I made a simple design, something that would work for a disparate collection of colors, tones and materials. Then I bought creamy and burgundy floral fabrics to tie everything together. And when I started quilting, I chose different colors of thread – neutral beige, deep burgundy, emerald green and burnt orange.

This quilt has been an evolutionary enterprise. I started with a vague concept in mind, but the project has evolved into something with a life of its own.

I have done all the sewing and quilting by hand. From the beginning I felt, but didn’t understand clearly, that the idea was not to finish the quilt quickly, but to go through the process of  slow, meditative healing. I couldn’t rush this project.

Ken and I were suffering from cancer at the same time. He had incurable esophageal cancer, I was sick with breast cancer. The last time we saw each other was at our children’s piano recital. He was at the end of his treatments, I was in the middle of mine. We made a sad sight – both of us gray and weary, with no hair and our eyes hollow from nausea and fear.

We said nothing but looked at each other with compassion and understanding. We embraced and cried.

So, when I work on this quilt for Ken and Nancy, every stitch is a gift of tenderness and love. And gratitude that they have given me the opportunity to spend hours slowly pulling silky thread through fabrics that they have marked with their presence. They have given me a chance to mend and heal.

This winter I feel that the time has come to complete the quilt. It feels right. Every evening I work on it for hours.

When the longer days of spring arrive, I will be ready to hand it over to Nancy for safekeeping.

July 22, 2010

Old Photographs

Posted in Children, Family, Hobbies tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:45 am by Liliana

an old photograph

An old photograph

In the small town on Lake Michigan, where we have our cottage, there is a captivating antique store.

The store is located downtown, on two floors of a large old building. Different vendors equip their own spaces, so there is a wide selection of styles, periods, and tastes represented.

Almost every time we stay at the cottage, I visit the store. Most times I don’t buy anything. But I walk around and look at old things, things with history.

There is furniture – fragile side tables from the mid eighteenth century,  dented heavy oak library reading tables, ornately carved bookshelves.

Fine home-made lace and soft, embroidered tablecloths from the 1950’s.

Shabby chic linens and pillows.

Rows and rows of out-of-print books.

Etherial German and English bone china.

Glassware of all colors, shapes and sizes.

Paintings – original oil and watercolor landscapes by local artists, ink drawings and reproductions of flower etchings.

And then the photographs. Beautifully printed individual and family portraits of serious children, newlyweds in formal attire, multi-generational families in their Sunday best. I look at their faces, study their eyes and dazzled expressions, wonder about their lives. Where are they now? Why are their photos in an antique store?

I hope they had good, long and happy lives.

February 7, 2010


Posted in Breast Cancer, Health, Hobbies tagged , at 8:51 am by Liliana



I am not a very athletic or outdoorsy person, and going to the gym or working out on complicated exercise machines is, for me, pure torture. But I love being in the sunlight and fresh air. And I love to walk.

Walking gives me a sense of tranquility and peace. The pace I set for myself is just right for the tempo of my thoughts. Walking with my dog Silver was most pleasant of all, and I will miss our excursions greatly now that she is gone. Placing one foot in front of another gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Five years ago, during my chemo treatments for breast cancer, the most difficult part was my lack of energy to move around. I sat on the couch and looked outside at the world passing by. Once I started healing, I knew that walking would set me free. At first, I was so weak that I could hardly make it around our block. Sometimes my knees would give away and I would fall. But I would get up and try again. My neighbors commented on my walking, and cheered me on. Walking became synonymous with getting well. After my surgeries, I walked with the draining tubes in my pockets. My doctors laughed when I told them.

For Mother’s Day and other special occasions, my family knows how to make me happy. We’ll drive to one of the lovely metro parks in our area and go for a long hike. We’ll talk or just walk in meditative silence. In the shade of the trees by the river, we’ll sit and eat sandwiches and fruit, and drink hot coffee from a thermos. Then, rested and refreshed we’ll continue on.

January 30, 2010

Rosemary bush

Posted in Garden, Hobbies tagged , at 7:55 am by Liliana

My rosemary bush

My rosemary bush

Last spring, Jan emailed our group of friends to ask if anyone was interested in sharing a plot of land from our community garden. I volunteered right away. Another friend showed interest, but the rest of the group stayed sensibly quiet.

The community garden is near a little wooded area in our neighborhood, and I have taken walks there with Silver for years. Sometimes enviously, I had observed people working on their plots, growing beautiful tomatoes, corn, beans, cucumbers, and all kinds of herbs and berries. They also grew flowers, huge and colorful, almost tropical in their richness and intensity.

Our little piece of land was right next to the woods. It was a sunny, lovely spot, the soil rich, dark and soft. In May, I went over to our Farmer’s Market and bought a selection of seedlings – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, onions. I also bought herbs – several types of basil and parsley, lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme. I planted everything in neat little beds, and covered them with fresh, clean straw. My charges were ready to prosper.

Silver and I walked over every day, to water our plants and to evaluate progress. The rich soil, the sun and the water did their magic and my plants grew into lush bushes. Baby peppers, eggplants and squash appeared on their individual stems. I couldn’t have been more proud if I were a first time parent.

Then one evening Silver and I almost cried (or barked) in shock; stems were broken, peppers were bitten and discarded, roots were dug up. Our garden neighbors walked over and sympathized with our plight. Everyone had a story about a critter that had caused them a lot of grief. I listened but refused to give up. I convinced Jeff to buy some chicken wire and we built a strong fence, digging it deeply into the ground, so that the creature couldn’t crawl under. I put my garden together again and was sure that I had won the war.

I hadn’t won the battle or the war. I don’t know how the critter got into the garden every night, but it did. The fence made no difference, everything was nibbled on. And our garden was the only one it attacked. Everyone else had beautiful vegetables, lovely flowers, copious herbs. The only thing our little friend didn’t touch was a bush of rosemary. I didn’t see a single ripe vegetable or lush  herb that summer but in the fall, I proudly dug up that rosemary bush, planted it into a pot and brought it inside. It dried up, but no matter, the herb still smells wonderful. And I feel like a proud gardener every time I make roasted potatoes with rosemary!