Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ira Glass on Doing and Getting Better

I LOVE Ira Glass.(If you are not from the US, he is a public radio broadcaster who hosts a wonderful weekly radio show called "This American Life."  It's a bit of everything, short radio stories on a particular theme each week.  You can find a free podcast of TAL on Itunes and you can livestream episodes at the TAL site.  Go search for the "Fiasco!" episode and prepare to laugh until you cry.)

Anyway.  Ira Glass gave some talks about broadcasting, but among them is his discussion of how to keep doing what you do to push forward through the "I'm not as good as I want to be" phase.  It's very inspirational and speaks to any creative pursuit.

I do love Ira Glass.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweetie

Today is Caroline's 14th birthday.  And just yesterday, I came across a box of photos from when she was around 2 years old.  Here she is, on the left in the checked jacket, with her good friend Abby (who is from the same city and orphanage in China as Caroline).  Aren't they adorable?

It's amazing to realize they are teenagers now.  Here they are now (well, last summer when we visited these lovely friends in Maine), enjoying strawberry sundaes.

Celebrations for today include cake-baking (with decorations by Caroline, the more garish the better), present opening, and a chinese food dinner out with her dear friend Lani and family.  Oh, and cake EATING.  I almost left out a key part.

And happy birthday to Annie Smith (of Quilting Stash podcast fame) and my friend Pam M.  Lots of wonderful people were born today!

Letter to the Blog Police

Like my friend Terry, I had a pretty strong reaction to a recent blog post by quilt artist Dena Crain in which she sets out what she believes quilters should and should not do in their blogs.  I disagree with Dena on many of her specific points, but as the subject stayed on my mind, I was more and more bothered by the overall message that anyone, quilters included, are blogging "improperly."  So, I replied to Dena in a comment to her blog, and here's my comment:


I find your take on quilters' blogs interesting, but I disagree strongly with the overall message in your post that there are "right" and "wrong" ways for quilters to blog.  One of the many wonderful things about blogging is that a blog can be whatever the blogger wants to it to be.  You have many excellent suggestions for a quilter who wants to use her blog solely as a marketing tool, but I find it unfortunate that you have not directed your comments to that limited segment of bloggers, and indeed that you are so critical of bloggers whose aims may be very different from yours. 

Many quilters do not blog for the sole purpose of marketing and selling work.  I'm the founder and manager of the Artful Quilters Blog Ring which links over 400 blogs written by quilters who focus on art and contemporary quilting.  Some bloggers use their blogs primarily as marketing tools, but most blog more broadly, about their art, their lives, their opinions.  The blogs express who they are as people, not just as quilters.   It's clearly a matter of personal taste -- and it seems that yours and mine are quite different in this regard -- but what I love most about reading quilters' blogs is that they introduce me to people who share my passion.  They inspire me when they share their processes, their frustrations, their mistakes.  I marvel at the variety of lifestyles we quilters  lead.  I'm reminded of a blog entry from an Australian quilt artist who wrote an entry bemoaning how kangaroos traveled past her house each day, disrupting her garden.  That, to me, illustrated what I love about the broad-ranging topics of many quilters' blogs -- that woman and I share the same art form, but in other ways her life is as different from mine as I can imagine.  Many, many friendships are formed through the blogging experience, and largely because we share so much of our whole lives in our blogs -- and yes, that includes who is coming for lunch, what we're cooking, how we felt while we cleaned the house, what our political views are, etc.  If that's what's important to someone, the blog is hers for her to express that.

To me, there are significant differences between a blog and a website.  I see the  website is the promotional tool for specific focus on the art and the artist's thoughts about it, her teaching, her art-related travel schedule, her biography, the techniques she wishes to share, and of course the vehicle for selling.  I (and, I think, most blog readers) view blogs as something quite different and decidedly more personal.   As I read your post, it seems to me that you want quilters' blogs to be what I consider a website disguised as a blog.  And, if that is how you want to use the medium, that's great.  Go to it!  And your giving advice to those bloggers who want to use a blog in the same way may prove enormously helpful to them.  But please, don't tell us that if we're not doing it your way, we are making mistakes and blogging improperly.

I don't want to read blogs that are as one dimensional as the sort you describe.  For the blogger whose only goal is to market herself, maybe following your rules will get her exactly the results she wants, and that's a good thing.  But to suggest that other quilters who blog are doing something "wrong" or "dumb" or "making mistakes" attaches a negative perspective on a communication device whose strength is that it allows individuality and creativity.  For many of us artists and quilters, having a space to share the whole of our creative lives is a delight and has brought us opportunities and connections more valuable than selling a quilt.  In my view, it's not for anyone else to tell us that we're doing it wrong.  Why should those of us who enjoy sharing our lives, and not just the quilting parts, be relegated to the one-sentence/140 character world of Twitter and Facebook?

Like art itself, blogging provides a realm for unlimited creativity and personal expression.  How you choose to use your blog, and how you choose the blogs you follow, is up to you.  If you don't like blogs that discuss personal lives, then don't read them. It's that simple.  It's not anyone's place, it seems to me, to impose "rules" on how quilters should be blogging.  The quilt world has its share of "quilt police"; we don't need "Blog Police," too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A little paint, a little stitching...

I've made some good progress on the fuchsias.  You might remember I was bugged by a dramatic line in the lower right corner, between the quilt block part and the solid background.  Yesterday, I got out my acrylic paints and painted in some shapes.  I'm much happier with it now, even though I did manage to get a green blob of paint on the shoulder of my shirt when I put the paintbrush in my mouth briefly (so as NOT to get the paint on the quilt, of course), then turned my head and, as a result, jammed the paint end of the brush into my shoulder.  Sigh.  I am not a tidy artist.

Last evening, my Juki and I applied quilting, leaving the lattice strips unquilted.  I'm liking the result and will decide whether the quilting is done after I've had a chance to look at it more carefully.

I can't even say how delighted I am to have moved this piece to this stage.  I have had it on my mind for so long-- years, in fact -- wondering where to go from the bare fuschia blossoms I'd gotten done to that point.  So it feels like all that mulling and waiting was worthwhile, because I never would have gone in this direction if I'd pushed myself to finish it back then. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hearts for Mom

Who is this coy little lady, you ask?  It's my mom, at about age 5.  She has no memory of this dress, of this moment, or why in the world she was dressed this way.  But it's charming, yes?

I've spent the past week with my mom and dad, a visit precipitated by a sudden trip to the hospital for my mom.  She'd been feeling odd all day, headachey and clammy and sort of weak, with mild indigestion.  Good thing my dad called the paramedics, because it turned out she was on her way to a heart attack (which she had in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.)  Luckily for all of us, the paramedics dealt with things immediately and her heart sustained no damage.  She's had her arteries rotor-rootered, they're unclogged and happy, and she's doing great.  Phew.  Make that a very, very big PHEW.

As we approach Valentine's day (hearts everywhere, haven't you noticed?) it seems a good time to remember that women don't necessarily have the same heart attack warning symptoms as men do.  Many women feel no chest pain at all, even during a heart attack.  According to the National Institute of Health,

Women's major symptoms prior to their heart attack include:

  • Unusual fatigue - 70%

  • Sleep disturbance - 48%

  • Shortness of breath - 42%

  • Indigestion - 39%

  • Anxiety - 35% Major symptoms during the heart attack include:

  • Shortness of breath - 58%

  • Weakness - 55%

  • Unusual fatigue - 43%

  • Cold sweat - 39%

  • Dizziness - 39%

  • So, be careful out there!  And don't hesitate to call 911 if you feel these things.  It could save your life.

    If you have your parents around, remember to give them a hug!  And if you're a parent yourself, take good care of your heart.  YOU are the gift you give your kids.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    After a long, long incubation period...

    Some years ago (3, maybe?  4?), I took a 3-day class from Jane Sassaman, and the fuchsias above are what resulted.  I liked it a lot as far as it went, but I didn't know where to go with it from there.  At the time, I think, I planned to crop it way down, so that those upper leaves would be cut off and maybe even part of the fuchsia on the right.  So, I stalled.  I liked it enough that I didn't want to finish it just to finish it, and it seemed like a good idea to let the ideas percolate.

    Over those years, I'd take it out of the closet and hang it on my design wall and contemplate it, with the goal of finally getting it done.  At one of those times, I remembered that I'd chosen fuchsias to begin with because they remind me of my grandmother.  She had hanging baskets of them on her patio, and as a kid I was fascinated by their little balloon-like buds and how they look like tiny graceful dancers.  And somewhere along the way, I thought about incorporating some sense of lattice to the background, because I remember looking up at the fuchsias against the lattice patio cover.

    Well, after all that time, something hit me a few weeks ago and I've been working away on this.  Finally!  How satisfying to get this piece back out and to make progress on it!  I was looking at quilt blocks, and found an old traditional block called "Grandmother's Choice."  How appropriate, eh?  I tried to piece them in a way that creates a lattice pattern, and I've attached the fuchsias and leaves to that frame.

    I'm still not satisfied with the lower right corner -- where the dark teal background creates a sharp vertical line against the blocks... I've tried drawing in a bit of the block to fill in, but it doesn't overcome the heavy line.  I may end up fusing/appliqueing some parts of blocks to have them sort of fade into the background.  We'll see.
    But I'm liking where this is going so far. (BTW, it's hanging kind of wonkily on my wall but it is actually straight.  Or it will be.)

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    All Too Applicable


    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    never even heard of,

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    Billy Collins

    Saturday, January 09, 2010

    Finding Myself

    About 16 years ago, I looked like this.  Yep, I had an actual waistline and wore size 8 clothes.  Nowadays, my waistline and my clothing size are, shall we say, a bit bigger.  And while I'm not ever likely to be getting into size 8's again (is it just me, or is a size 8 now WAY smaller than a size 8 used to be?), I do think I might be able to whittle down a few sizes and get myself healthier in the process.

    So, that's what I've been up to... not exactly a New Year's Resolution -- more like a "I don't want this year to be like LAST YEAR" resolution!  It hit me, sometime between Christmas and New Year's, that I've spent far too much time avoiding the basic issue of taking care of myself, and I need to make a change.  I suppose it's one of those curses of motherhood -- I've had a year of focusing pretty intensely on Caroline's well-being, while totally ignoring my own.  So, I'm dedicating this entire month to create some good habits.  I've booked some sessions with a personal trainer at the gym, and am now feeling muscles I didn't remember I had.  I now know how to use a bunch of new weight machines, I've tangled with the pilates reformer, and I'm loving how well I can read my Kindle while walking on the treadmill.  I'm on a food regime for the month that allows me to eat what I need to eat without counting or cooking for a while.  It all arrives in a box and I whip my meal out of the freezer per a specified menu.  It doesn't get much easier than that.  (Roger's wonderful contribution to my effort is that he has agreed to be in charge of his and Caroline's dinners for the month so I can pretty much just deal with my own food.... and that's a HUGE and helpful gift.)

    We've introduced a Wii Fit into the family room, which has generated much amusement and some decent muscle work.  Have YOU ever tried popping bubbles with your hips and rear?!  Or balancing on an ice floe like a penguin while you slide back and forth to catch fish?

    I know I won't be able to afford all of this fancy food and personal training forever.  But as a jump-start to get the scale moving and help me feel better, it's been terrific so far.  

    I've even been energized to get to work on a quilting project that has been languishing in my closet because I'd stalled when I didn't know where to go next with it.  The solution hit me and I've been working on it when time permits -- satisfying and fun.

    All in all, things are off to a great start.  And you know, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to going to the gym later this afternoon.