This is my favorite time of the year. I love to see the leaves take on hues of gold, orange and red. I love the cooler days and cooler nights. I love pumpkin muffins, the crunch of a Honeycrisp apple and the aroma of spiced cider. I love the way a cup of hot tea warms up my fingers, and how it feels to wrap up in one of my grandmother’s quilts.

I love to watch the fire dance in the fireplace, see the combines crunch their way through cornfields and get lost in the fog as it settles over creeks, rivers and lakes. Even the squirrels with their cheeks full of nuts bring a smile to my face.

If I could just keep my mind focused on the beauty that surrounds us this season, life would be so much easier.

We are nearing the seven-month mark since COVID-19 turned our world upside down. While life hasn’t completely righted itself — some days I wonder if it ever will — normalcy is slowly creeping back into my life.

A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful Saturday in September, I took a road trip to one of my favorite needlework shops in northeast Iowa. My last trip there was March 14, just days before stay-at-home orders were implemented.

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For a day, I felt a pre-COVID freedom that couldn’t be doused by a required face mask. I’m pretty sure the shop owner knew I was smiling my way through the patterns, fabrics and threads, despite the colorful face covering. My eyes were probably twinkling over all of the project possibilities!

She’s seen the look hundreds of times on the faces of stitchers who, like me, have enough supplies at home to last not only through a COVID quarantine, but a lifetime or two, and yet still find the need for “just a few more things.”

Weekend stitching parties of one have taken the place of cancelled fairs, festivals, flea markets and craft shows, and while I’ve completed several projects, my eyes have made it clear I need some other distractions back in my life. Too much stitching leads to blurred vision, headache-inducing eye strain and finger and hand cramps — and weekend stitching sprees lead to all-around painful Mondays at the computer screen.

Despite the aches and pains, stitching my way through 2020 and its continual stream of bad news, sad news and negativity has kept me upright when the alternative was giving up.

I am forever grateful to 4-H volunteers for teaching me to stitch, so a shout-out to that wonderful youth program in the midst of this National 4-H Week.

Also, for the industry that has given me a job and an income to feed my needlework addiction, it’s a happy National Newspaper Week!