Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My husband said this was okay

Sorry to have taken a week to post something, but life got slightly interesting and distracted me for a few days. Most of what happened last week I can't tell you about, unfortunately, but I can tell you about my car, which is giving me fits. First the horn started blowing whenever I made a right turn, then it started blowing on its own, even when the car was off. Repair shop couldn't fix it, so I pulled the fuse for the horn, and figured I'd just live without it. Problem is, the airbag light is also on, so I really should take it to a dealer, but I don't have enough of that stuff I'm not supposed to talk about not having because it's offensive to people who have even less of it than I do. NOW the car stalls out sometimes when I make a right turn. Not every time, and I have managed to get it to start up again pretty quickly, but now I have to worry about getting stuck somewhere in 100-degree heat when I have the girls in the car. There is a good chance that I will have to just not drive the car until we can find a way to pay for what may be some major repairs, and if that happens it means two kids stuck at home with mom all day, every day. And THAT means less quilting, less writing, less time to work on making the money I need to pay for the car repairs.

Then there was Harper's day camp, which I should have known was too much of a bargain for the price, but it is run by the county, and Devon's daycare provider's kids have all worked for these camps all through high school and had great things to say about it. But from the time I registered, I have been unhappy with how little information I have received about what to do, what to expect, even where to go. Harper's camp was held at a local high school, and I had to walk all over the campus before finding the right entrance. I was given a couple pieces of paper with some vague info, but other wise there was no discussion of policies, procedures, or even a schedule of what my kid would be doing with her day. The second day we arrived to find that only one of the camp counselors was there, plus two other parents dropping off their kids. I knew my watch was a bit fast and that we were maybe 5 minutes early, but the counselor seemed fine with it and so did the other parents, so I kissed her goodbye. About 10 minutes later I get a call from the camp director, who is yelling at me because that counselor? With whom I left my child? WASN'T A COUNSELOR FOR THIS CAMP.  He was there to pick up a child to take to a special needs camp at another location. I do completely understand that I should not have been there so early, but her attitude was not that, hey, we make mistakes, and this turned out okay, but I'll do you a favor and make things more clear so that next time you know who it's okay to leave your kids with. Her attitude was more, ARE YOU STUPID? But, I held my tongue and assured her it would not happen again.

The next few days were uneventful, but it was clear to me that all her talk of IT'S FOR YOUR CHILD'S SAFETY was truly just talk. The place was chaotic, and though I had been told that IDs would be checked frequently at pickup time, they never were. One day, Harper was released to me by another child.

Then on Friday, I put $5 in a pocket in Harper's lunchbox because they would have a Sno-Cone truck there that day. I knew five bucks was probably way too much, but when I pay four dollars for a loaf of bread, I figure anything is possible. So as we are leaving that day, Harper tells me that her sno-cone only cost a dollar, but that one of the counselors still had the rest of her money. So I said let's go back and see about it and when I asked her to point out the counselor, it turned out to be the camp director. So I approached her and said, Hi! Harper tells me you still have her change from the sno-cones today! And she glares at me and starts in on how there was all this confusion and she didn't think I was going to be there yet and if I will just give her a minute she will find Harper's dollar. I said, Actually, Harper had five dollars this morning. And that woman rolled her eyes, and said, in pretty much the most contemptuous tone I've ever heard, "Oh she most certainly did not."

At that point, I knew I was about to let loose with some truly choice words for her, but we were around a lot of small children, and I didn't trust myself to keep the cursing light. So I figured I would deal with camp director later and Harper and I would get on the road to pick up her sister. As we were leaving, she hollered after me, "You're supposed to put it in a plastic bag anyway, you know."

This was what put the whole thing over the edge, because she said it in a way that implied I was just ignoring the rules and she was now having to deal with my inability to follow clearly stated guidelines. EXCEPT THERE WERE NONE. Nowhere does anything say, If your child brings money to camp, have it in a baggie. Because nowhere does anything say anything about what we are supposed to do.

The money thing was inconsequential, but the attitude of the director, the chaos of the camp, the lack of schedules and policies, made me ultimately decide to pull her from the camp altogether. So now she is home with me, asking how many Skittles she can have every five minutes. If I don't end up having to pull Devon from daycare for lack of transportation, then she and I will, I hope, work on making a quilt together. I may even get out the little Kenmore beginner sewing machine that I bought when I started sewing 2 years ago and let her start sewing herself. I haven't brought this up with her yet, though, and I'm assuming she's still interested, but for all I know she'd rather just dig for worms.

Last week I also worked on a humor piece that I ultimately submitted to Smithsonian magazine for their humor page. I wrote about Harper's desperate desire for a pet tarantula. I finished and submitted it and also finished my next column for Quilter's Home. AND, in between all that - usually when the kids had commandeered the computer - I went back to working on Labyrinth 2: Electric Boogaloo. This was where we left it some months ago:

From The Bitchy Stitcher

And here's what I've added to it:

I'm still not crazy about the pattern, but I have the fabric cut, so I may as well keep going.

So at least I've been somewhat productive up until now, because that may all come to a screeching halt for several weeks.

Thanks for listening to me rant. If I had the freedom to tell you everything, it would have been even longer and crazier. I am now going to eat some Skittles and watch High School Musical 3 with my short friend here:

I call her Snaggletooth Tutuhead. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quiltaroo? Blogstock? Burning Blogger?

Okay, y'all. LoveFest 2010 needs to pack up and get off the nice man's farmland now. I never said I was gonna change or quit, but just needed to work out some of my many, many insecurities. Thank god I have a place for that, right? And such great people to encourage me when I do.

I hate to do this, because I know it drives her nuts, but I can't not show you what I finished last night, so she's just gonna have to buck up and deal.


I truly miss the days when wearing a bathing suit felt so free and easy and that getting into a crouching position like that while wearing one wasn't potentially obscene. I'm seriously considering getting one of those "modest" swimsuits, which of course I will wear while drinking tequila straight from the bottle and giving everyone the finger, just so no one thinks I've gone Amish or something.

ANYWAY. I have actually been sewing, and I've gone back to working on my plane ticket benefactor's quilt. It needed sashing, not only to set off the blocks nicely and make the quilt bigger, but also because the blocks were nearly impossible to square off to the same size. Those damn Bali pops were just all over the place, and I hoped that I could make up some of the shortfalls and overages in the sashing. I think it may still need a border for the same reason, but I'm considering it finished enough to show you.

You can't tell in the picture, but the sashing isn't just white. I had purchased a sort of lavender and blue batik that seemed pale enough for what I wanted when I was in the shop, but when I got it home, I felt it was going to compete with the blocks too much. I kept looking for what I really wanted, which was something so pale that it would seem white against the blocks, but would actually have some color in it, preferably blue. Never found it. So I took the fabric I originally bought and bleached it. It came out perfect - the fabric is now almost white with soft streaks of pale, pale blue. Of course, it will probably now disintegrate in a stiff breeze, but I'm not going to worry about that while it's hanging up all pretty and finished and not sucking.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thanks...yet again

First of all, I want to thank everyone who leapt to my defense when an anonymous commenter decided to excoriate me for...well, for pretty much everything I do here. It was a very strange experience after almost two solid years of blogging, to finally receive the sort of nastiness that every blogger and internet writer knows is potentially coming their way at any moment. I immediately went on Facebook and posted, "I just got my first nasty comment. I'm a REAL blogger now!" And I was only being a little bit facetious with that remark. Because when a blog like this one is new, the readership is pretty small and self-selecting. But in the last few months, the number of visitors has almost tripled, maybe even more, and that means the chances of getting the Anonymous Commenter from Hell have risen right along with it. Most bloggers who have even a modicum of success will get this, and I have a feeling humor bloggers get it with a particular venom, since what we do is particularly easy for the less intelligent among us to misunderstand, and the willfully mean among us to exploit.

What made me sad about the whole thing - and I am utterly to blame for it, since I drew everyone's attention to it on FB - is that we all just gave Anonymous exactly what she wanted. I guarantee you that nothing anybody said made her think twice about what she had done or prevented her from doing it again, to me or someone else, in the future. Because people like Anonymous love to stir the pot, they love to be self-righteous, they live for being indignant and being "misunderstood" by everyone who "focussed on the perceived criticism and totally missed out on the positive intent." I have known many, many people like this. When I worked as an optician, these were the people I kept my radar out for, because they had the most potential to make life for me and my employees quite miserable. But I learned quickly that the best way to deal with them, though I wanted so badly to point out all the reasons they were wrong and then kick them out of the shop, was to never for one second let them see or think that they were getting to me. 

But that was eyewear, which I didn't actually give a damn about, and this is writing, which I care about deeply, and though I am continuing to do what I said we shouldn't, I have to be honest - she got to me. But not because I think anything she said is true (and, oh, the essays I composed in my head that day - taking each "point" she made and tearing it down, with so much evidence to back me up. I even fantasized about taking video of my husband while I asked him just what he does think of me talking about our financial situation online, and oh, that would have been SO GOOD), but because the situation highlighted for me what the difficulties are in putting words out there for the world to read, and for a moment - just a moment, but long enough to matter - I wondered whether I was capable of handling it.

See, when I started the blog, I was as anonymous as our friend. People knew my name was Megan, but that was about it. And anonymity gives you an incredible amount of freedom. For me, someone who had wanted to write all her life but never pursued it seriously for many reasons, anonymity gave me the ability to write without censoring myself. Knowing that there were people out there who could read what I wrote, but whom I would never know, allowed me to to write freely, in my own voice, for the first time. I wasn't trying to impress my parents anymore, or a potential employer or publisher. I only had to please myself, and if other people came along for the ride, great. And the fact that people did come along, and were encouraging, kept me going.

But there comes a point when enough people are reading and commenting, and sending emails telling me not only that they love the blog but that it has been important to them in some way, that it's much harder to maintain that distance, that feeling of freedom. No matter how much I tell myself that this is MY blog to do with as I damn well please, I can't help but feel a sense of obligation. I want to give you what you come here for, and when I fall short of that, it bothers me. 

And then the Quilter's Home articles started coming out, and when they began doing the contributor bio pages and my blog address was published, things changed even more. Not only was I getting more readers, both casual visitors as well as new followers, but people I know started to read this. My parents, aunts and uncles, in-laws. There's a guy I dated for like a week in college (hi, Tom!) who reads this, because I started the Facebook fan page and he noticed. I get emails from people saying, hey I think I know who you are - you used to work at ------, right? And you know my friend/neighbor/third cousin." So now the sphere of people who could misunderstand everything I say and/or disapprove of me for it had just blown up. And these people could make my real life miserable, not just my online one. It's daunting. And as much as I didn't want it to, it changed things; it limited the subjects I could comfortably write about in a public blog. There is much now that I do not tell you, that I probably would have a year ago. 

Lately, I have been immersed in writing other things. I just finished a humor piece that I hope to submit to Smithsonian magazine, and I have others for other publications in progress. I'm also working on a novel, one that I've had the story for in my head for over ten years. I still have my regular Quilter's Home gig, plus on occasion they give me a straight-up feature to write. Sometimes writing the blog is difficult, because so much of my energy is going into other projects. Those other projects do not come easily, and I spend a lot of my days with my head in my hands thinking, "I can't do this." 

So, I think what I am trying to say with all of this is that I am trying to find my way back to that mental place I had not so long ago, where I wrote only to please myself and not anyone else. It's not easy. It means sometimes writing things that some of you won't like. Some of you will feel obligated to let me know that. Some of you will be sure to let me know that you do like it. And in both cases, I have to try to not care so much. Perhaps you can see why that's a bit hard on the psyche sometimes.

But thanks for sticking around and for sticking up for me. It's hard to be bitchy with friends like you.

Oh, and before I forget: fuck. I couldn't let you go without going for a cheap laugh, now could I?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Speaking of crack...

...Moda just ruined my life some more by coming out with this eight ball:

Twenty-five bucks! I can't resist that, and I don't even have twenty-five bucks. Damn them.

I keep looking for inspiration in books and magazines, hoping that I can just use some of my stash, rather than buying yet more precuts. I've been hitting the local library more than usual lately, and discovered on my last visit that they seemed to have more quilting books in stock than usual, or at least different ones than I had seen before. But once I got home and sat down with my borrowed booty, I realized that, just like the last time I brought home a stack of quilting books from the library, I had nothing but a useless pile of ancient dreck. One book was all pretty with the promise of fat quarter quilts, but each quilt was just a collection of traditional blocks. One book touted some revolutionary method for sewing strips into tubes and then cutting them up in funky ways, but the instructions were totally incomprehensible (of course, I was trying to keep two small children from coming to blows over a  bottle of peel-off glitter nail polish at the time I was trying to read it, but still). Other books expected me to trace patterns onto plastic, and then outline them on fabric AND CUT THEM OUT WITH SCISSORS. This is 2010, people, and besides, rotary cutters have been around since the late seventies, effectively making them medieval technology. We should have laser-guided cutting gadgets by now, don't you think?

I am currently working on the sashing for my plane ticket benefactor's quilt, then it will need a border, and I'll be back to the problem of how to quilt it. I hate to mess up a perfectly lovely quilt by doing it myself, but then I really do need to try to do an entire quilt on my own, just so I know I can do it. But I suppose I shouldn't do that kind of experimenting on something meant to give away. "Here you go! Yes, it looks like an extremely large wadded up ball of fabric and tangled thread, but it's really a quilt. And I quilted it myself! See, if you can just pry this rat's nest away here a bit - ooh, look out for the needle shards! - you can see that I stippled it within an inch of its life! No mercy - that's my quilting motto!"

On second thought, maybe I should just sell my Wii Fit on eBay.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The kindness of strangers

I told you all a few days ago that I had another story to tell you about a kind reader, and now that the project she helped me with is finished, I can give you pictures and tell you the whole thing. Well, almost the whole thing, as there is a bit of the story yet to come...but I digress.

But first, let me get his bit o' business out of the way: IF I AM MAKING YOUR BABY A QUILT AND YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THE SURPRISE SPOILED, STOP READING NOW.

In fact, just to be on the safe side, here's a couple buffer pictures of my kids:

Okay, I think it's safe now.

Back when I completed this quilt top,

I lamented that I would probably have to quilt it myself, since I am unemployed and very, very broke. A reader commented on that post that if I had enough money for postage, she would be happy to quilt it for me. I responded, are you shittin' me? And she said nope, not only am I not shittin' ya, I'll throw in the batting and the backing. 

So as part of my personal campaign to let people be nice to me, I said okay.  I gave her carte blanche to do whatever she wanted, and to take as long as she wanted to finish. She told me to stop thanking her. I had difficulty with that. You'll see why.

She only had my quilt for a couple weeks before she finished it. She turned it into something extraordinary. I still get breathless looking at it.

She used fabric from the same line for the backing and gave me the leftovers, which I used to make the binding. 

And I made my very first label, which I appliqued fairly well, if I do say so myself.

I know she doesn't want me to thank her anymore, but I will say that if you are looking for an extremely talented longarmer for your quilts, please consider Lisa Marie. She blogs over at That Crazy Quilty Girl, she has pink hair (jealous!) and she has mad skills. If you want to inquire about her services, you can email her at lmms1981 at gmail dot com. Please tell her that I sent you. But don't tell her I said thank you; she might throw something at me.

Once again, because of this crazy piece of work I blather on semi-regularly, somebody stepped up and did something unbelievably kind and generous for me. So, when I give this quilt to little Iona, I hope that I will be able to adequately tell her mother how much love went into the making of it, and how much it means to me that her baby will be wrapped in a quilt that was not made by my hands alone. Because I have discovered that quilting, even in the age of the internet, is as much a group effort as it ever was, and our quilts connect us to each other as we share the process of making them together. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A quilt show virgin no more

Today I escaped from my loving family for a couple hours and headed out to Annapolis High School for the annual Annapolis Quilt Guild Quilt Show. It is important to remember that this is only my second year quilting, so it's not like I've been avoiding going to a quilt show, it's just that until this year, I probably couldn't have told you what a quilt show was. I'm not sure what I thought went on at one of these things, but I think I just assumed that I was too amateurish to be allowed in. Like they were gonna check my bona fides at the door. "Gladys, this one says her quarter-inch seam is 'fairly accurate,' but doesn't know how to do a y-seam. Should we let her in?" "HELL, NO!"

But naturally, the entire public is invited, so I gave them my eight bucks, plus five more for some raffle tickets, and met up with the lovely Kelley C., a longarm quilter from Kent Island on Maryland's eastern shore. She is also a member of the Annapolis guild and was its program director until very recently. She knew all the quilts on display - who made 'em, which workshop it had been made for - but she she didn't spill any good dirt, like this quilt was made by Gertrude Calabash, and she went nuts after her third husband left her for a dental hygenist and now she only makes quilts depicting Corn Nuts and hairless cats. I forget, sometimes, that I don't live in Tennessee anymore.

I wish I had gotten a shot of a particular one of Kelley's quilts, since it was absolutely gorgeous and so creatively quilted. But I kept forgetting that I had a camera with me. I did manage to get in a few other shots (and no, I don't know what the patterns are!)

That last one is the raffle quilt.

Kelley and I only had about an hour to wander around, so there was no after-show socializing. I was sorely tempted by some Cosmo Cricket fabric at one of the vendor stalls, but ultimately I resisted and ended up buying a damn jelly roll from Blank Fabrics instead. Why do I keep getting tempted by those damn things? Two or three yards of fabric would have made me just as happy and would be a hell of a lot more useful, but those goddamn precuts are like crack to me.

So, now I've been to a show, and the follow up question is, when will I join the guild? Or at least visit? I'm not sure yet. I have to find out when rush week is, and if they do that thing where they make you strip down to your underwear and then circle all the places on your body where they think you need to lose weight. I've heard they beat pledges too, but Kelley swore it was only the Tri-Delts up in Baltimore that do that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pie surprise

Leave it to the blog to smack some sense into me when I'm feeling all pitiful and sorry for myself. Since I lost my editing job, money has been kinda tight, especially at the beginning of the month when we pay rent. All our utilities are included in our rent, so we lay out one big, honkin' check on the first of every month, and then scrounge in the cabinets for meals and try not to drive any extra so as not to use up gas. It sucks, especially when something happens like a check I wrote 3 weeks ago suddenly clears and we're actually in negative numbers now. The weather this weekend was downright swampy, the kids were whiny, my husband was crabby. And my tummy hurt.

Then Sunday night, I was checking my email and I received this:
Hello Megan – I realize you don’t know me from a hole in the ground but I faithfully read your blogs and articles in Quilter’s Home.  I’ve even passed your blog address along to other people so they too could enjoy your humor.
Anyway – ( I hate saying anywho ) in one of your blog entries you posted a picture of some fabric with cherry pies on it and wondered what kind of quilt you could make with it for your brother.  Well, I looked through my stash (I have a huge stash) and found that same fabric with some red fabric and made you a quilt.  I’ve attached pictures and I really would like for you to have it.  You can send it to your brother, sister, or let one of your kids have it – I just want you to know that I made it for you. 
I’m not the greatest quilter – but I loved your cherry pie story about you and your brother and knew I had to make it.  I also make my quilts a bit different from most people as I live in Memphis, TN and just don’t need a very heavy quilt.  So I sew a patchwork top and then sew the top to a fleece backing.
So if you don’t mind accepting an average made quilt for you or one of your family members – I’d love to send it to you – but I do need your address.
Rest assured that I won’t sell it to any telemarketer (sp?) or post it any where for 1000’s to see or hop in my car and drive to where ever to stalk you.
-Tammy V. 

This is not the first time that someone I do not know has reached out and done something unbelievably kind for me. I even have another one to share with you, but the time isn't quite right for that one yet. Because I really do want the cherry-pie themed item I give to my brother to be made by my hands, I asked Tammy if it would be alright for me to keep this for myself. Because it will  have a special place here in my studio, where I can see it every day, and it will connect me not just to her but to all of you, who read what I have to write and are so dear to me, though I don't know any of you at all, really. And it will always make me think of my brother, and of how he surprised he was to become the object of so much overwhelming love and concern. Because it still surprises me how much of that same kind of love comes my way, too.

Thank you, Tammy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Applique Chronicles: Diary of a Dumbass

At the beginning of July we will drive to Louisville, KY to visit with my husband's family. Since Louisville is just 3 hours away from Nashville, I am taking the opportunity to escape the in-law onslaught for a few days and head south to see my brother. I was hoping to have something made for him by then, not a whole quilt, but at the very least a pillow, with a motif that would speak of our special bond and the history that ties us together. It was gonna say: FUCK CANCER - MAKE PIE and have a cherry pie applique on it. The only stumbling block: I don't know how to applique. BUT THAT HAS NEVER STOPPED ME BEFORE.

I had found instructions for making this:

and it seemed simple enough. Cut out the shapes. Iron 'em on. Stitch around the edges. Of course, I forgot about the palsy that grips my digits every time I try to cut out something with scissors. (GIRLS! RUN! MOMMY'S TRYING TO FOLLOW A STRAIGHT LINE WITH SHARP BLADES!) Add to that the Steam-a-Seam I decided to use as my fusible web of choice. According to what I gleaned from not reading the directions, you are supposed to trace the shape you want onto one side of paper backing. Which side? Does it matter? APPARENTLY IT DOES. Then, you peel off the other side, place the now exposed sticky side onto the fabric, and cut out along the lines you just drew. Oh, and here's a major point: you're supposed to stick it to the wrong side of the fabric. Really. Trust me on this. I should have had visual aids for that particular goof up, but they are now travelling through the sewers, hopefully on their way to plug up something in the Gulf.

But here's the thing, when you start cutting, the paper that has your oh-so-carefully traced shape on it starts to shift around. So, when you're done cutting, the shape has become something all smeared and distorted, and the webbing is somewhere else entirely, like in your armpit, so you're left trying to mash it all back together and re-cut it. So THEN you suddenly remember from NOT reading the directions, that you have to use a little heat to make it stick before you can actually start cutting. WELL, OF COURSE. ROWENTA TO THE RESCUE.

Only, no. The directions don't say that at all, because then you have just melted the fusible webbing to both the fabric and the paper. Oh, and did you know that irons have heat settings other than REALLY SUPER FUCKING HOT? Me either. I tell you, everyday is an adventure for people like me.

Despite needing stronger meds, I did eventually manage to cut out shapes resembling the ones in the picture. Now, it was time to carefully lay down each piece to recreate the picture. With a sure touch, everything would line up perfectly. Or not, as the scissor seizures took over again:

And of course, I can't choose fabrics well, so there's not the best contrast, and it just kinda looks like I've been scrubbing the toilets with it:

I didn't even bother trying to do any stitching. I have far too much respect for the godless Chinese peasants who made my sewing machine than to insult their labors by shoving this mess under the needle. But apparently I have absolutely no respect for the good old Americans who made my package of Steam-a-Seam. Or whoever made those fabrics. Or you.

NEXT EPISODE: Heat Resistant Mylar Is Neither Heat Resistant Nor...well, okay, it IS mylar, BUT IT STILL SUCKS.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mom to the rescue (warning: contains nudity)

We had a major disaster this evening just as we were getting the girls settled down into bed. Devon has a set of Disney princess dolls that she got for Christmas and she keeps them in the bed with her. As I was getting Harper tucked into her bed, there came a wail from Devon's bed that made us all jump. I ran over to find out what was going on.


When she was finally able to show me the broken mermaid, I saw that Ariels, um, bra had busted a seam.

"Oh, honey, it's okay. Mommy can fix it."


So after many reassurances that we would try to replace the doll (meaning I would fix it without her knowledge), she settled down. I took it with me to my sewing room, but before I could get started on it, I heard crying coming from their room. Assuming it was Devon, again overcome with grief for the little mermaid, I went back down. It was Harper.

I couldn't help myself.

"Aw, honey. Did you break your mermaid?"

(giggle) "NO! I was remembering this bad dream I had. And I was in this castle...and the Wizard of Oz... he...he..."

"He broke your mermaid?"

Now she's giggling hysterically. "No!"

All three girls were having giggle fits by this time. I'm so glad they appreciate my sense of humor.

And Mermaid? All better.