Timeline, Part 2.

Sweet n' lowdown.

Sweet n’ lowdown.

As the well-wishes and words of kindness came in last night/today regarding yesterday’s post, I felt subdued and grateful. I also became concerned that the sharing of my UC story thus far was potentially taking up too much air time in people’s heads, thoughts, prayers, etc. I shared the first half of the timeline with a desire to inform, possibly assist, and maybe even entertain (seriously, you can’t write this stuff.) But when the compassion came at me from all sides I suddenly felt guilty that I had directed all of this energy at myself when really, we’ve all got botched j-pouch surgeries. We’ve all got a health crisis.

We are all temporarily abled. That’s not just a politically correct catchphrase: it is one of the truest things I know. Our bodies are systems; systems fail. We are organic matter; organic matter gets infected, infested, and eventually rots away. There’s nothing to be done about it and to preface it all by saying, “Sorry to be morbid, but the funny thing about bodies is…” is to keep the yardstick in place that distances us from the reality of our rather absurd situation. It is my fondest wish that every person reading this is full of vim and vigor from their first day to their last, but it’s more likely that most of us will deal with significant health issues somewhere along the trek. Sooner, later, or now.

So hang my tale: we all need compassion. By virtue of being human, we all need loving kindness. It’s hard down here. And that’s when we’re healthy and well! Beyond that, many of us have diseases and afflictions that do not call for surgery and never will. There are those among us who are quite sick indeed but look perfectly fine. Those people need emails of encouragement, too. They need blog comments. And so it was that I felt I had gotten too much of the universe’s healing energy yesterday and today. I will send some along to the next fellow with your regards; maybe it will come back to you, as you also need it. Sooner, later, now.

With that, let’s dive down into the second half of what happened so far in my life, vis a vis being sick. When I returned to Chicago in ’09, things took a turn from awful to downright horrid.

Summer ’09 - My then-husband leaves for a year to train for the Army Reserves. A decision we made together proves disastrous. He was away, my entire world/existence was changing daily. A gulf formed that would never again be brooked.

August ’09 - I am declared well enough for the “takedown” surgery at Northwestern. The ileostomy (stoma) I had is poked back inside my belly and reconnected to the internal j-pouch. In theory, I should be able to continue my life now, albeit with a “new normal.”

September ’09 - My health rapidly deteriorates following the takedown. Turns out the leak has not healed. Waste is leaking into my abdomen from the pouch. I am hospitalized — can’t remember how many times —  over the next few months. (Silver lining: I begin to make quilts for sanity preservation.)

October ’09 – “Bio-glue” is squirted into my j-pouch in attempts to “plug up” the leak. Bio-glue is what they use to glue heart muscles back together after surgery, apparently? While the glue does its thing, I am told “No food allowed.” A PICC line (my third; a mega-IV that is inserted via ultrasound into your arm and travels through a major artery to dump medicine/food directly into your vena cava) is placed and I am put on total parenteral nutrition (a.k.a., TPN, a.k.a., “feeding tube”.) Twice a day, I hook up a gallon bag of white fluid into a port in my arm and sit still while it is pumped in. I have several IR drains, as well. I am a ghost among men.

November ’09 - TPN and bio glue deemed a failure. Pouch needs more time to heal after all. I will be re-diverted. (Translation: I will get another stoma.) Surgery at Northwestern. This time, I get an epidural. A psychiatrist visits me in the hospital post-surgery and recommends I go on an antidepressant. I take her up on that.

December ’09-’11 - Life continues apace. My marriage falls apart. I continue to work as a freelancer, building Quilty and doing work in the theater in Chicago to take my mind off my health issues and my broken relationship. Bag leaks in bed, painful rashes, etc., are par for the course with the second stoma as with the first but it’s a known quantity, at least. I begin to practice yoga with obsessive drive: I make deals with the universe that if I get healthy enough before the second takedown a year from now, I will make it.

June ’11 – Second takedown. Northwestern. Epidural. Things go well.

Fall ’12 - After a shaky but decent year, things begin to crack. I have a fissure. I also have a fistula. (I leave those things to you to look up. Do not image search.) Various methods are deployed to deal with these issues. I work harder than I should, afraid at any moment of hospitalization. There are several, usually related to the fistula or flora issues in my ruined guts. I make a series of self-destructive choices. I am wildly productive.

Fall ’13 - The fissure has come home to roost. I am crippled with pain. An ambulance comes to my condo to get me on the worst of the nights; they break my front door. I get into a pattern where I know when the fissure is about to do its worst; I frequently take the bus up Michigan Ave. to the ER. Hospitalizations. Pain medicine. Lying to everyone about how bad it is. Describing the pain to someone, I say it’s “like having a gunshot wound that you sh-t battery acid out of approximately twenty times a day.” (I stand by this description.)

Then, up to now – Good days, bad days. I got a pain doctor who recommended an internal pain pump. This is a morphine drip, essentially, placed into my abdomen, which I then pump when I feel the agony coming on. I decline, not yet ready for another apparatus. Probiotics. Lost days. Days packed so full, no one will notice the ones when I’m useless.

Remember, this is the timeline of the health crisis. One only needs to look back at PaperGirl, or the issues of Quilty magazine or the shows, or the other shows, to see that life has been much more than just this list of woe and setbacks. Joy and wonder, and gifts abound in my life! Success and learning and all kinds of wonderful life has been lived since 2008. And there have been all sorts of failures and good, old-fashioned crappy (!) days that had nothing to do with any of the body stuff, too — that’s the real kicker. Good, bad, or otherwise, though, this timeline is a specter. My experience and condition don’t define me, except that both kind of do.

I am going to make cookies for Yuri now. Good grief! [Correction: Cookys! I meant cookys!!]

Timeline, Part 1.

This slice of birthday cake is the image for this post IN DEFIANCE OF PAIN!

This slice of birthday cake is the image for this post IN DEFIANCE OF PAIN! (Ironic note: I can’t actually eat birthday cake. Frosting, maybe.)

For folks who might be new to PaperGirl and/or my intestinal odyssey, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a brief timeline of events. I write it down less out of a desire to, you know, write it down, than to inform those who without it might draw incorrect conclusions about the trajectory of my illness or fail to see the pretty extreme case it represents. Most people do not experience the trouble I had with all this. If you thought what has happened to/with/at me is what happens to anyone with UC, you would be (blessedly) wrong, even though there’s no good way to have this intestine-chewing chronic condition.

It’s remarkable to me how many people, upon learning that I have experience (!) with ulcerative colitis, will say, “Oh, dear. My [family member, kid, self] has had Crohn’s since 2006; I know just what you’re going through.” Too many people say this. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Oof, that came off wrong, I think. I meant that "too many people have these diseases," not that too many people offer their empathy! Heavens!]

Warning: I’m not going to mince words, surgeries, or diagnoses. Again, in the interest of providing information for those who are perhaps facing a diagnosis, or for those who care to know more about a worst-case scenario, I’ll give you the straight dope on what’s happened to me up to the present day. It’s like I’m donating my body to science without having to die! Yet!

August 2008 - Over the course of several months, the weird symptoms I had experienced on and off for years grow grim: I am passing quantities of blood and what seem to be chunks of tissue. The month or so before I go to Mayo Clinic, I am using the toilet 30 times a day.

September 27th, 2008 – My wedding day. No symptoms. Blissfully happy.

October 20th – Mayo Clinic. Drive through the night. Doc takes one look at me and sends me to ER. I am put on heavy steroids and NPO (“nothing by mouth,” not even water, for fear one sip will burst my colon) for seven straight days; this does exactly nothing to my colon, which is “in shreds,” as one doctor put it. I am diagnosed with advanced ulcerative colitis.

October 15th-ish –  Surgeons tell me I have two options but really only one option, since the steroids are not working: J-pouch surgery. This is where they remove your entire large intestine and fashion a new plumbing system for you out of your small intestine, called a “j-pouch.” While this new plumbing heals inside your body cavity, you pass waste through a temporary ileostomy, or stoma. A piece of my small intestine will come out of my tummy and I’ll wear a bag, in other words. I “choose” the surgery. I ask when it will be. “Tomorrow,” says the surgeon, and I sign on the dotted line. It snows in Minnesota that night.

October 20th - Surgery. I wake up screaming. Insufficient anesthesia.

October 20th-November 20-something – Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. I have abscesses, infections. There is a leak in the new plumbing. This is not typical. An NG tube is placed. A PICC line is placed. Many IR drains are placed. My insides are “bathed in pus,” as a later doctor would say. TPN (feeding tube.) Thirty-pound weight loss. Horror show, fun-house-sized syringes extract fluid and pus from my abdomen. Stoma separation occurs, which means my tummy pulls away from my stoma and there’s an infected moat around the thing. My then-husband and mother are living at the hospital, basically. I am on a Dilaudid pain pump and live in a world of stoned dread interspersed by visits from residents with bad news. Mom asks lead surgeon if I’ll die. “I don’t think so,” surgeon replies.

November ’08 - Home to Iowa. Full-time care needed. Mom flushes drains daily. Husband gives Heparin shots. Everyone is depressed.

November ’08 - February? March ’09? – Skeletal. Sick. Why am I not getting better? Trips to Rochester, MN through ice and snow. I remember very little, then or now, of this time.

Spring ’09 – Return to Chicago. Ditch Mayo for Northwestern. Infectious Disease team finally cures the bacteria swimming in my gut. I begin to eat again. Stoma healed.

…and I actually have to pause here because this is when the really bad stuff happens and I’m a little exhausted from recounting this much, frankly.

Second half of timeline tomorrow, if you dare. Get some cake, maybe!

“What’s Up, Doc?”

You're fine.

You’re fine.

Moving to a new city means finding a new salon, a new grocery store, a new bank branch. For me, it also means finding new doctors. On my shopping list: GI, OB-GYN, primary care, anesthesiologist, and possibly a colorectal surgeon, but I was crossing my fingers that last one could wait. Looks like not.

It’s not that I want to have all these doctors. I’d like to have zero doctors (no offense to any physicians out there) but that’s not realistic for me. My case file is the size of an oak tree stump: I need people with stethoscopes in my life. And so I did some hunting and found a primary care doc I like and he has so far made good referrals to me.

On Wednesday, I saw my new GI. It was my second visit. He was wearing a bow-tie this time. If he had been wearing a bow-tie on my first visit as well, I might not like him as much as I do. But he is a man who clearly varies his bold neck-tie choices; this causes me to put more confidence into him as a physician. Sure, it’s solid reasoning.

Dr. L. is concerned about me. I’ve got some issues that aren’t going away since my last surgery in 2011. Sometimes they hang out off in the distance, sometimes they creep into the frame and cause real trouble, sometimes they come in and kill everything.

“Have you ever considered…” Dr. L. paused, and set down his pen. What he was about to say required full eye-contact.

“Have you ever considered going back to the ostomy?” he asked. He paused. “Choosing a permanent ostomy, I mean?”

I didn’t say anything. “Choosing” is not a word that has come into play much in the years since I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Not in doctor’s offices.

“The troubles you have, they would go away with a permanent ostomy,” Dr. L. said. “It’s a big decision, I realize that. But…” I was staring at my feet. My feet were dirty because I live in New York City now and New York City is filthy and I was wearing sandals. My feet looked cute and filthy. I thought about how my sister and her fiance Jack went to Tokyo for New Year’s and Rebecca told me all about how in Tokyo, there are no garbage cans. Everyone packs their trash in little bags and throws everything away at home. Toyko compared to New York!

“I’m not sure I’m ready for…” I trailed off. “I don’t know.” My voice was a croak. The ostomy. Permanent. I thought I was done.

My throat felt tight and hot. Though my body is often weak and I live an inconvenient, painful, and senseless physical existence (as it relates to my guts) 80% of the time, the one thing I have going for me is that there is not, presently, a bag affixed to my abdomen that catches excrement that oozes out of a pulled-out piece of my intestine. I did have one of those bags and one of those pulled-out pieces of intestine for about three years, in total. Not great.

But what I deal with now is also not so great.

“Do you think,” asked Dr. L., “That your partner would be okay with something like that? Do you think he would be…understanding?”

My heart clenched. An inward moan. Yuri.

“I don’t know. I’m not quite ready for that, Doc,” I said. No crying, no crying. “He’d be wonderful, sure, but… I’m just not. He’s younger, you know, and I just, ah…” Tears were forming and I needed to stop the conversation immediately. “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay,” said Dr. L. with a kind smile. “I’d like you to see a colorectal surgeon about a treatment we can do for you in the meantime.” He then explained the treatment, and I was glad he did because it’s so awful, it got my mind off the ostomy. I could instead be horrified by what the surgeon will do to me (for me?) in a few week’s time. Much easier to focus on that and my filthy feet.

“Thanks, Doc,” I said, and got the surgeon’s name and number. “I like your bow-tie, by the way.”

“Thank you,” the doctor said, and went out the door. I hopped off the exam table, removed my paper gown, and got dressed to go back out into the city.

“The Picture of Health”

"The picture of health."

“The picture of health.”

It’s not often one does a google image search and comes up totally empty-handed, but if you’re searching for something truly obscure, it’s possible that there will be a “No results found for [blank]” message. To give you an example of how rare an occurance this is, I tried to think of something that for sure could not turn up any image results whatsoever. I typed in “Beckett peanut butter sandwich.”

Tons of results. Thousands.

It came as a great surprise, therefore, when I entered in (in quotes) the common phrase, “the picture of health” to find an image for this blog post and got the “No results found for ‘the picture of health’” message. Really? That surprised me. Though there were images for the picture of health without quotes, they were not what I expected, really. I suppose I thought I’d get beaming cherubic children, or expensive stock photographs of doctor/patient interactions, etc.

The best of the lot was the above picture from the Department of Health Sciences and Technology in Zurich. It’s unclear what’s going on, here, but there’s at least one object visible there in the office that one is not allowed to touch; judging from the intricacy of the robot-lobster the older fellow is strapped into, I suspect there are a few more.

I wanted to find a picture of the picture of health to be ironic. I’m not exactly the picture of health but I’m better than I was on Monday. This whole week was a bit of a wash, I’m afraid. When I was actively feeling very poorly, I was flat on my back. That was a couple days. Then there was a Doctor Day, when I got some disturbing news that I’ll share tomorrow (too tired, psychically and physically, at the moment, to go there), and then there were a couple days of Getting Back on My Feet. Today, I was hale and hearty enough to finish a quilt top and eat some chorizo scrambled eggs, so I’d say ground has been gained.

Thank you to all the well-wishers – you shall be justly rewarded. I’m not sure how or when or if I’ll have a lick to do with it, but surely something positive must come when we send funny texts and things to those who need a laff.

Why I Love Jennifer Paganelli.

Paganelli, with George. Promotional photograph.

Paganelli, with George. I sat on that bench!

I have made a new pal this year. Her name is Jennifer.

Jennifer is a rawther famous fabric designer, and I might’ve met her at Quilt Market, or maybe at an industry cocktail party (not that I go to those all the time but it’s possible.) We didn’t meet that way, though. I first met Jennifer Paganelli outside a train station in Connecticut.

One day last spring, a mutual friend and I were invited to her home for the day, because that’s how Jennifer Paganelli is: if you’ve passed a basic-level “this person is not a psychopath” test, she is more than willing to make a seat for you at her (fabulous) dinner table. And so it was that my friend and I took the train from New York out to Connecticut and Jennifer met us at the station in her car. I remember she had this great navy blue, boat-necked sweater on. (Why do we remember these things and not other things? I don’t remember how she had done her hair. And isn’t it funny how we often stress about our hair when it’s the sweater everyone remembers.)

When I first started making quilts, I was as dazzled as anyone else by the amount of gorgeous fabric in the world. It was 2008, and I had a stash to build. My local quilt shop, Quiltology, was run by my friend Colette, and Colette had excellent taste. She stocked Kaffe Fassett, Joel Dewberry, Kona Cottons in as many shades as she could fit, and bolts of other fabrics by great designers who, for this quilter, absolutely provided the inspiration needed to get started on making quilts that didn’t look like my mom’s. If you’ve heard me lecture, you know that a) I love my mom, b) I love my mom’s quilts, and c) I don’t want to make my mom’s quilts. The fabric I found at Quiltology and online was the beginning for me in finding my own path in the art, and, eventually, in the business.

Jennifer Paganelli prints – there were many on offer at Quiltology — are in all my first quilts. Her fabrics are in a lot of my later quilts, too. Heck, I think there’s one in my latest latest quilt, the one in my machine right now. These are fabrics full of color, whimsy, good-humor, and generally full of life. Basically, the woman’s fabrics are like the woman herself. And her extremely large dog, George. He is also full of whimsy.

At the house, we spent time in her archives, looking at just some of the amazing vintage textiles she collects. It was upstairs in a studio room where I spied of the original fabric that I had used years ago in my first quilts. If you’ve ever tried to squelch a fangirl moment, you know how I felt. Jennifer and our friend were checking out something on the other side of the room and then I squawked. It went something like this:

ME: Oh, wow! Sorry. I know this fabric. I had this in a couple quilts and actually, you know, the laminate version… I put that down as the liner in my silverware drawer for several years. That’s like… That’s like my life, that fabric.

JENNIFER PAGANELLI: (looking over, smiling.) How cool is that?! That’s great!

ME: It’s so cool you designed this. That is…cool. Wow.

I’m saying I was real smooth, is what I’m saying.

Throughout the day, Jennifer absolutely showered my friend and I with gifts (I have a Sis Boom skirt and an apron combo I wear when I’m baking that Yuri likes quite a bit) and then her husband made an absolutely delicious dinner for everyone. There was tender, juicy meat involved, fresh vegetables, and also ricotta cheesecake, which, coming out of the oven the way it did in that big beautiful farmhouse in Connecticut, it may have been illegal. Some old vice law on the Connecticut books was surely violated when that pillowy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet ricotta masterpiece was placed on the marble countertop. Oy.

Way more important than all these (oft-literally) material things to a new friendship, though, is the other stuff. Jennifer has become a true friend because she is a good listener and because she has great compassion for humans. She is also really funny and her life, from what I have surmised, has all the trappings of a well-lived-so-far life: joy mixed with suffering mixed with change mixed with survival mixed with joy.

And so this is my blog post about my friend Jennifer Paganelli. Thanks, Jen, for helping me out. I woke up today wanting to do something out-of-the-blue nice, just because. I woke up wanting to do something you would do.

Girl Down.

Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

I am unwell.

Tomorrow, the doctor. Until then, enjoy the above picture from the National Archives of one Miss Elizabeth L. Gardner, WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilot) pilot of Rockford, IL, as she “takes a look around before sending her plane streaking down the runway at the air base” at Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas. Photo taken sometime around 1943. Isn’t she something?

And for those who want more, more, more, how about this quote from Rebecca West, which I had tacked up on my bulletin board in Chicago for the better part of two years after ripping it out of my planner from the year that came before that. I think there was one period of time I heeded West’s inferred point (that a life lived pleasurably, even hedonistically, is a solid choice) but I don’t recall people around me liking it very much.

“I take it as a prime cause of the present confusion of society that it is too sickly and too doubtful to use pleasure frankly as a test of value.”

And you, darling. How are you feeling?

How To Watch Yourself On Camera: 5 Easy Steps

Screenshot, Quilty. Season Three, maybe? My head is 10lbs more pointy in this picture than it is in real life. Also, I have 10lbs better posture in real life.

Screenshot, Quilty. Season Three, maybe? My head is 10lbs more pointy in this picture than it is in real life. Also, I have 10lbs better posture in real life.

Sometimes, I think I must be out of my mind to do what I do for work these days. I’m on camera a lot and I find it painful to be on camera. Why? Because:

- Whatever you’re wearing, however you style your hair, that version of you is out of date by the time the show airs and forever afterward. You’re like the new car that’s just been driven off the lot — and no one likes a depreciating car.

- I’m not sure the camera adds the proverbial 10lbs or not, but there is most certainly a widening that takes place; an unfortunate spread of oneself onscreen. Is it the worst thing to look a bit more zaftig than you are in person? No. Does it feel unfair when you’ve been working hard to keep fit precisely because you know you’ll be on camera in the near future? Yeah, it does. [Note to self: First time using 'zaftig' in blog, possibly first time using it anywhere. Mark in planner.]

- You think you sound one way, but you don’t. You sound that way.

- Editing can delete a multitude of sins, but you can’t edit down to nothing. Thus, the horsey laugh, the bad habit of interrupting, the weird thing you said weirdly — it’s all on tape. Forever.

If you find yourself having to be on camera anytime soon, don’t despair. I have come up with five ways to help you cope with the trauma. Here now:

Mary’s Top 5 Survival Tips For Watching Yourself On Camera

1. Enjoy several alcoholic beverages before you begin. Everyone looks better after a couple drinks, right? This applies to you watching you. If you can get to the point where you start hitting on yourself through the screen, you’re in a great place.

2. Have a friend watch with you. This needs to be a friend who loves you so much she/he can withstand two of you for the duration of the video. Put them in your will if they agree to this.

3. Worried about your hair or clothing choice? Those potential blunders fade quickly when you realize you were younger then than you are now. Instantly wistful and desirous of that outfit, now, aren’t you? Mm-hmmm.

4. Oh, come on. You must’ve said something humorous or intelligent. Find that instance and play it multiple times. Then let the video continue while you go to the bathroom or get more snacks/vodka.

5. Go watch a bunch of Beyonce videos. Isn’t Beyonce amazing? There you go, much better.

You Think I’m Kidding: Starting A Band With The Russian.

James Taylor and Carly Simon "at their Vineyard home." Photo, Peter Simon.

James Taylor and Carly Simon “at their Vineyard home.” Photo: Peter Simon.

Yuri plays the piano brilliantly.

I sing…passably.

We’re probably going to start a band.

Living in New York City, it’s required by law that you have a gig one night a week. It can be anything. Smack fish on your head to Metal Machine Music outside La Mama; present a tinikling showcase in Tompkins Square Park; host a series of one-woman one-act plays on the subway — sky’s the limit. And fear not: if what you do is poorly attended, all the better, as this means you must really want it. 

I’m kidding about starting a band or a duo act with Yuri — kinda. I’ve made up songs all my life but, never being formally trained to play an instrument, all songs I’ve “composed” either stayed in my head or died immediately on the mental/vocal vine. My love of writing poems is a result of my love of writing little songs — or the other way around. I like words, so I like to play with them in all kinds of ways. When words have different tones (a.k.a. become songs) well, that’s terrific.

The other night, Yuri and I went to go see a singer at Joe’s Pub. She was wonderful. Floanne was her name; she is French. We went because Yuri was having trouble getting a bike out of the Citibike docking station the day before the show, when a pretty lady approached him and helped him out because that is what happens in New York City constantly, as I have discovered.** The pretty lady was Floanne. She gave him a flyer after helping him with the bike. “Eets a good show for a date,” Floanne said with a wink. Yuri brought the flyer home and said, “Baby, I’ma take you out tomorrow night!” And sure enough, he did. Boy, did we have fun. And there was a big screen onstage for live tweeting during Floanne’s show and I tweeted that we were there because of the bike assistance incident. Floanne is now following me on Twitter.

Where was I?

Oh, right: Yuri and my plot to become the next Carly Simon/James Taylor musical power couple.

The first song on the album is going to be my song about Shipshewana. When I was there last month for the big quilt festival, I drove in from Chicago. As I got deeper and deeper into Amish country, I got more and more inspired. The fields were verdant! The sky was blue. And I had been told by someone that the county is a dry one, which means you can’t buy or sell alcohol. Like, maybe at all? I’ll have to check on that one. It didn’t bother me much: I didn’t have plans to do any drinkin’, but I started singing this song about Shipshewana, a kind of ode, but real Judy Garland-y, and it went like this:

“The cows are lowing/the traffic is slowing,
The buggies are all on the shoulder!
There’s lemonade to be had/and that ain’t so bad
But it’s Saturday night/alright, alright,
And whatchoo gonna do?

[CHORUS]
So.. Whatcha’wanna do/Shipshewana, you
Whatcha’wanna do, tonight?
Can’t drink
Can’t smoke
Caaaaaaaan’t even dance
So whatcha’wanna do…tonight.”

It’s a real sweet-sounding song, so please don’t read those lyrics and think I’m dogging on Shipshewana. I love it there. It’s just a song about not doing all the things that most of the rest of the state of Indiana is probably doing on a Saturday night. It’s really fun to say the word “Shipshewana” and it’s even more fun to sing it and rhyme it with “whatcha’wanna.”

Now if only we had enough money to buy Yuri a baby grand and a whole other apartment to put it in.

**It’s not that pretty French singers constantly come to your aid in New York — it’s people in general who do. You’ll have to go to Paris for more pretty singers per block…maybe.

Mmmpink.

The first book in the American Girl Doll series for Civil War-era girl, Addy. That would be double-pink she's rocking.

The first book in the American Girl Doll series for Civil War-era girl, Addy. That would be double-pink she’s rocking.

The webinar series I have begun is proving to be as educational and groovy as I thought it might be. The next installment is next week, Wednesday, July 24th. The time of the show changed from the afternoon slot we had last time to accommodate those who wanted an evening time slot this time. At 8pm EST tomorrow night, it’s showtime. (Is that prime time?? I think it is! Very exciting.) As always, you don’t have to watch the thing live; you can download it whenever you please and watch it whenever you please.

Next week in the Color Me Quilter webinar series, I will examine pink in American quilts and help you use pink in your own quilts. We’ll talk about cool toned pinks (“bubblegum” pinks popular in the early 20th century) vs. warmer toned ones (“double pink,” a.k.a. “cinnamon pink” all the rage during the Civil War) and we’ll look at the pink stars of the quilt shows — think Rose of Sharon quilts, charm quilts, and countless baby quilts, of course. Goo-goo, ga-ga.

As for me, well, I adore pink. Slavishly devoted. If stopped on the street and asked what my favorite color is, I would have to say red, “in small doses.” But doesn’t that mean pink is, by default, second in command? And if I prefer red, meted out, might I accept pink in waves? Why, yes. Yes, I would. Do. Give it to me.

The calmness of pink. Its wink. The quiet power of pink and its allies — for you don’t put garish bright yellow with pink, or a crazy Kelly green, not if you’re wise. Pink needs gentleness around it; all goofiness must go. So pink attracts like minds. And I like pink’s mind.

Join me for Color Me Quilter. Wednesday next week. Let’s spend time together and geek out about our quilts. Let’s get inspired by the color cool enough to not even want to be red.

You Should Know: William Soutar

Scone Palace, Scotland. (Guess what's for breakfast?? Wakka-wakka!)

Scone Palace, Scotland. (Guess what’s for breakfast?? Wakka-wakka!)

Though I’ve had to take a wee break, I am still working toward my Master’s degree. My advisors have informed me that Columbia is the place to continue the MLA I began at the University of Chicago; if I can get in, stay put for long enough to do the work and not get sick for any length of time, why, I might just be able to get that ol’ girl done. I have a ways to go but I also will probably not die anytime soon. I’m saying there’s time.

I’m not wasting precious reading hours while I get my ducks lined up, though; there’s thesis research to be done and I’m doing it. I know what I want my thesis to be about after taking several workshops about putting together a thesis: I want write about diarists. Being one, and being a fan of them and (by and large) the diaries they write, I suspect I’ll be endlessly fascinated. As I think more and more about tackling a thesis in my life and as I read more and more, the actual intent and focus of the thesis will be revealed and who knows? Maybe I’ll actually discover or contribute something to a body of study that is pretty robust already. For now, I’m just reading diaries and biographies of diarists and books about the diary’s role in Western literature and that’s my school right now.

And in my para-research (doesn’t that sound fancy) I have discovered a wonderful poet that I hadn’t known about before: William Soutar. English majors may groan and shake their heads that this person was unknown to me, but cut me some slack: I studied theater in undergrad. Can you quote a line from Major Barbara? Ah-ha! Didn’t think so. (Note to self: Look up pithy line from Major Barbara.)

William Soutar was a Scottish poet and writer who had a rather tragic life. Born in 1898, he contracted a virus when he was in his twenties and this went untreated. By the time he was thirty-two, he was bedridden, quite ill, and essentially paralyzed. He spent fourteen years in bed and died when he was just forty-five.

But he was an incredible poet and writer and refused to let his ill-health take his brain or his passion as his body lay so feeble. He read and read and wrote and wrote and had all kinds of things published. It was said that his bedroom was one of the centers of the 20th Century Scottish Literary Renaissance, due to all his work and all the heavyweight writers that came to hang out with him.

He wrote wonderful poems for children (“the bairnrhymes”) but is maybe best known over here in America for his Diaries of a Dying Man. The diaries he kept for so many years are all in a book that you can buy (because the world is amazing) and just this very morning I wept reading a certain entry. It is such beautiful writing. Soutar was human and he has his moments of despair and frustration and angst, but by and large, he’s just crazy lion-hearted and awesome and so freaking smart that you ache for his situation while you marvel at his talent. Yes, I am slightly in love with William Soutar (no, Yuri does not feel terribly threatened.)

Here, to whet your appetite, two passages from Diaries of a Dying Man, by William Soutar. The first one is the one that made me cry a little this morning over my tea. The second is a favorite so far.

“I wonder if fit mortals realise that infirmity makes the most ordinary actions wonderful. A person, like myself, set aside from the thoroughfare of life can often look on life’s manifestation with a detachment denied the protagonist in the market-place. Common acts become isolated from particular times and places and grow, by recollection, into moments of beauty loved in themselves without desire or regret. Thus everyday phrases can bring to such a watcher a rounded image of loveliness mysteriously coloured by the consciousness that he himself can no longer enact them; phrases such as ‘he lifted a stone’, ‘he stood by the sea’, ‘he walked into the wood’.”

“For some weeks past I have found myself, from time to time, putting out an imaginary hand as if to touch the earth in a comprehensive gesture of love — but I do not deceive myself by these vague stirrings of affection : it is so easy to love a ‘thing’ : one must learn to love people first.”