My New Backpack

Speaking of stuff, my kids were in complete shock this past spring when I bought a small purse from the local thrift store.  You see, I already had a purse, so why would I need another one?

I’m sure most women reading this would not need an explanation, but in case there is any confusion, my purse is a very colorful pattern, and it just didn’t go with several outfits.  Practical Me, for years, has always stuck with plain materials for my pocketbooks, but in recent years I have thrown caution to the wind and added some pizzazz.

Of course, I tend to wear solid shirts and pants, so a loud purse wasn’t a big deal.  Then, Impractical Me started adding pattern dresses and shirts into my repertoire.  I know, crazy.  Symptomatic of a mid-life crisis.

Plus, my regular purse was large, and sometimes I only wanted to carry a few things.  It seems silly to carry a big purse when inside is a wallet, some lip balm, keys and a cell phone.

Then my sister and I went down to St. Augustine and I lugged my camera everywhere.  My camera is not light.  It does fit in my purse, but when traveling I tend to carry around more than a wallet and lip balm, so it was pretty full.  I decided that what I really needed was a backpack.  We shopped.  I looked.  I concluded that backpacks for women come in two types: inexpensive but ugly or attractive but way more than I was willing to spend.

Keep in mind that the last purse I bought myself was found at a thrift store.

Then I found this backpack pattern online.  For free.  All it cost me was time.  Well, not exactly true.  I had to buy super-stiff interfacing and batting.  But I bought no fabric or thread for this project, and I had a coupon for the other supplies.  Sewing did take up the better part of the weekend, but I love the results.  It was my first real quilting project.  And it uses a recycled uniform.

The flag hides where I stitched velcro to hold the flap closed.  I may change that to a magnetic clasp at some point.  No rush.  The velcro came off a uniform pant pocket.

The straps are made from the collars of two uniform blouses.  They were the perfect length.

I was especially excited to use velcro closure pockets from the legs of the pants for the lining.  The big ones on the front and back are designed to hold knee pads (in the uniform – not my backpack).  One side pocket is the perfect size to hold sunglasses (in my backpack – and on the uniform).

I used the back panel of the pants to make the flap.  I included the back pocket which has a button closure.  It’s a typical back pants pocket so it’s a good size.  I think the top of the backpack is the perfect place to store keys and a cell phone.  This flap was probably the second most tedious job to do.  I had to pull the pocket aside to do the quilting, then make a slit in the backing to tuck the pocket under the quilting so the pocket wasn’t quilted shut.  Then I added some faux-quilting to the top part of the pocket.  The stitches aren’t perfectly aligned, but it wasn’t an easy job to do!  I’m satisfied, and I know that 85% of the world will never notice.  And the other 15% who do will know that it’s not perfect because I made it myself.

The last detail is this extra fabric, unaligned-to-anything stitch running in an arc on the side.  What is it doing there?  Well, that’s the way the pants are made.  That fabric is where the seat of the pants begins to curve around (this would have been the right back pocket).  My husband asked me if I was going to remove the fabric.  I could have, but then it wouldn’t have this quirky extra-fabric-unaligned-stitching-unique-to-my-bag-because-it’s-made-from-a- real-uniform look.

It’s art, I told him.  I also told him if I hadn’t wanted that stitch there I could have just used the ACU fabric I bought in a bolt that’s still lying around my house.

As I sewed this weekend, I vaguely paid attention to the hours it took me and I decided that if I were to make this for someone else I wouldn’t do it for less than $80.  It just took that much time.  I’d do it for me; I’d do simpler patterns for my kids (the most tedious job was the inch wide stripes that I had to sew and iron flat…if I did wider stripes, it would be easier and less work).  But I won’t be cranking these out for general sale.

But I like the results so well that I really think I’ll search the online patterns before I ever buy another purse again.

What do you think?

How much more stuff do we need?

I’m pondering this column on Stuff today as I think hard about Christmas shopping.  I’m also thinking hard about moving, since we should be doing that soon…very soon…although I don’t know where or exactly when.  I am tempted to do a partial do-it-yourself move where I would box everything and get somebody else to load it up, truck it, and unload it.  If you have to wrap and box everything, you think long and hard about how badly you want it.

But then I couldn’t blame the movers for the missing kid things.

Really, though, I don’t see having the time to do all that work, so I’ll have to purge beforehand as much as possible and then finish it at the other end.

In the meantime, my Christmas wish list is mostly to replace old or broken or not-quite-right things I already have, and the items on my gift list for others are being scrutinized for necessity or usefulness.

Except for books.  There is never a restriction on books…

Morning Cuppa

Husband: Peter!  Coffee!

Peter comes running.

Me: Did you just tell the 6 year old that the coffee is ready?

He stands there, silent, pondering pithy responses, and coming up short.

Peter grins.  And then he searches for the flavored creamer in the fridge, which is, alas, all gone.

Earlier this morning, Fritz requested that I buy some French vanilla flavored beans.  This is not normal.

For the record, we serve the java heavy on the latte

Occupy Savannah

The nation-wide 40 Days for Life Campaign, a prayerful vigil outside abortion clinics, is wrapping up this week.  The day my church was scheduled to support the vigil was weeks ago, and they had plenty of volunteers for that day.  I decided to go “some other day” later in the campaign, but week after week went by.  Things kept coming up.  I had other priorities.

Last week, the woman responsible for coordinating time slots called me, and I promised her a day and time – yesterday from 2 to 3 pm.  I figured if it was definitely on my calendar, I would not be “overcome by events.”

This is Savannah’s first year participating in the campaign, and they only tried for 7 am to 7 pm, instead of the 24 hour vigils encouraged elsewhere.  Despite more than 90 churches in the area and the reduced hours, the campaign could not get the 960 people needed (12 hours x 2 people per hour x 40 days), and many hours meant no prayerful presence at the clinic.  I, and I’m sure many others, were praying at all hours of the day and night as we went about our busy schedules.  But still, a physical presence means more. 

Sadly, I think we fight apathy more than anything.  I don’t think many people are really in favor of abortion.  I think the vast majority of people just don’t care about the issue – they don’t think it applies to them.  I don’t get that.  Ho, hum, thousands of babies dying every day in America…not my problem.  I’m too old to have babies.  I’m happily married.  I’m a man.

And we criticize China for ignoring one 2 year old who was hit by a car and left on the street.  Not my kid…not my problem.


So, yesterday, school is in session and I’m trying to get reluctant students to get some work done, and I’m trying to get the kitchen cleaned up before we go, and I’m refusing to get discouraged, and I’m letting go of the idea that I will be remotely successful in these endeavors.  My priority is getting to the abortion clinic by 2 pm, as promised.  Nothing else matters.

I get the kids fed lunch; I have them fill their water bottles and pack up some books; I tell them to saddle up.  I get myself a cup of water and head out to the car.  Everybody is loaded and buckled.  I put the key in the ignition and hear a click.


I try again, not because I expect a different response, but because I can not believe that I got that response in the first place.  Click click click.

“Stay put,” I tell the kids and head inside to call AAA.  But first I have to call the vigil coordinator to tell her I won’t be there.  As her phone rings, my disappointment, frustration and shock all reach a boiling point, so the message I left on her machine went something like this:

“Blubber blubber blubber…my car won’t start…blubber blubber blubber…can’t believe it…blubber blubber blubber…will try to get there as soon as possible..blubber blubber blubber…I know it’s silly to cry…blubber blubber blubber….”

Then I took a deep breath and made a very calm phone call to AAA.  Fifteen minutes later, the coordinator called me back.

“Are you ok?!?!?”  {sigh}  Yes.  I’ve cleaned up all the puddles.


AAA came.  My battery was so dead that it took 10 minutes of charging to get it to run by itself, and the nice guy followed me to the local car supply place to make sure I got there ok.  They have a device that checks your battery for you.  It also checks the starter and alternator to see if they are draining the battery.

Everything was fine.

 I just wasn’t supposed to be at that clinic at that hour.


Better late than never, my small band of protestors showed up and occupied the tiny patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street.  I tried to pray, but had to deal with a constant barrage of questions from “Why would someone want to kill their baby?” to “Why can’t we storm the building and make them stop?”

Mary is, apparently, a natural-born protestor.  “They kill babies here, Mom?” she asked.  When I said yes, she picked up a sign, held it over her head and waved it at anybody who might be passing by.  There was nobody passing by, but that did not matter.  It was so cute I had to take a picture.

She doesn’t know what the sign says, but that doesn’t really matter.  Billy, meanwhile, is contemplating the fall of Jericho and wondering if we march around the abortion clinic for 7 days and blow trumpets, if it won’t just fall down.  I suggested that since no Angel of the Lord had appeared to him, the chance of success of in that was slim.

We made it 45 minutes before Mary had to go to the bathroom.  She actually suggested that the little patch of grass was fine for her, but since I support laws against public urination, unlike other protest movements, I decided that our occupation of Savannah was over.

Halloween Festivities

“I know you’re really busy tomorrow…” he said.  It was a guess, of course.  A good, accurate guess, but a guess nonetheless.

“What do you need, honey?” I asked.  It was just Mass, and school, and the usual stuff on my calendar.

“Can you post pictures of the costumes?  Please?”

And so, I interrupt my “I’m too busy to blog” life, by special request, to post Halloween pictures.  I don’t know if the children will ever forgive me for ignoring their schoolwork for a bit. 

The kids had a piano recital last week, in costume.  Therefore, the weekend before was all consumed with sewing, cutting, gluing, painting, etc.  But some of the children did not perform, and some of the accessories were not required, therefore, this past weekend was also all consumed with more of the same.

I am very happy that Halloween is over.  Life can resume.

First of all, the disaster that was my house for over a week:

Working on hard tile does nothing good for your back.

flotsam and jetsam


crucial bike pump

work in progress

kitchen table, where are you?
Then there was Jenny.  When the lady at the fabric store saw my selection, she said, “Dorothy?”  I just sighed.  I did not have a pattern; I just winged it.  A pattern would have been better.  But patterns are expensive, and I was feeling cheap.
It was too bright to face me

Her hair was cute.

She used birthday money to buy her own Toto and ruby red shoes.


I wish my children were into themes, but we couldn’t get anybody to agree to be a Tin Man or Scarecrow or Lion.  I finally convinced Mary to be Glinda the Good Witch.

Glinda the Good Witch

Of course, everybody thought she was dressed as a princess.  Everybody except for one woman a few doors down who knew exactly who she was.  The Wizard of Oz is her favorite movie, she said.  This was another costume without a pattern.  I should have used a pattern, but I could not find my princess dress pattern.  I think I need to organize my supplies.

Katie wanted to be Black Cat Girl from 1960’s era Spiderman.  Her father killed Peter Parker’s uncle.  Google some images and, um, well, if you don’t have a filter, then don’t do that while children are present.  Here is one appropriate pic:

All other online pictures are rated R.  I used a black velour warm up suit found at Target and just added some white fluff.

I told her lipstick wasn’t necessary.

Black Cat Girl

While the girls’ costumes required mostly my labor, the boys’ were in their father’s line.  It’s too bad there is no money to be made in this business.  Bill has quite a talent.

Billy was a samurai warrior.

Nothing we could do about the blue eyes.

Peter wanted to be a Roman soldier.  He is on a Roman soldier kick.  Loves all things…as long as they are Roman soldiers.

He had so many people remark how cute he was.  Cute?  Does this kid look cute?  Fierce.  Determined.  Deadly.  Not cute.

Fritz was a Ranger from the Ranger’s Apprentice series.  We forgot to put on his oak leaf insignia.  I made the cape – very nice cape, if I do say so myself.  Bill (and Fritz) did all the accessories: bow, quiver and arrows, various knives and scabbards.

I used the same pattern and made a black cape for my nephew.  I had the good fortune of finding two flat queen size sheets in black at the thrift store for $3.  Thrift stores are a gold mine for fabric.

Action shots (my nephew is merely an armed thug):

My niece was a skeleton kitty.

Group shot of the girls:

Samurai vs. European-esque warrior:

Dorothy defends Toto against the marauding Goths:

East and West united against the barbarian:

We had a great time last night, although Mary got halfway through the neighborhood and declared she had enough candy and that it was time to go home.  She was asleep before 8 pm.