First-Ever PaperGirl Guest Post: A ‘Note From Mark’ (w/Sniffles From Mary)

posted in: Paean 16
Really, the perfect picture for Mark's post is this image of homemade buttermilk ice cream with espresso-chocolate chip cookies. Image: Wikipedia.
Really, the perfect picture for Mark’s post is this image of homemade buttermilk ice cream with espresso-chocolate chip cookies. Image: Wikipedia.


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things have been intense around here lately. Grad school is hard. If I stop for a half-an-hour, I’m behind. I love all of it, but I’m ridin’ the struggle bus. And whattaya know, but last night I woke myself up whimpering (!) because the scratchy throat I felt in the newspaper office yesterday had become agonizing. Even though it was barely 4 a.m., my body ached so bad and my sneezes were so hilariously powerful, I was not gonna fall back asleep. So I got up.

And in my email box, there was this wonderful, incredible piece of writing from one of my very first (and personal favorite) PaperGirl readers, Mark H. (You may remember Mark and Netta from my trip to Florida! And I’m sure I’ve mentioned how they send me fudge and pecans at Christmastime, swoon.) Mark had sent me an email a few days ago, his email subject line the same as it’s been for years: “Note from Mark.” He was checking in on me, you see: Mark’s been reading the ol’ PG long enough to be able to read between the lines and suspected I was kind of freaking out with all my activities and schoolwork. He had an idea for me, because Mark likes to help people.

“Maybe you could have your readers write a post or two,” Mark said, “about why they read your blog and why they keep coming back. I bet they’d like to do it and it would take something off your plate.”

What a friend, right? And the idea sounded neat, except 1) it would necessitate a bit of planning and organization on my part and I can hardly find time to floss; and 2) I was a little worried that if I asked people why they read or love this blog, it might be a little self-congratulatory or hoo-hoo-look-a-me. I told Mark he was amazing and kind, as usual, and that I’d keep thinking about a way to do it and indeed, I did think about it.

But before I had a solution, however — and suffering from my cold enough to really need a break — Mark wrote back and said, essentially: “Well, tough, kiddo. I’ve decided I might as well just give this a shot. You can post it if you want, but you certainly don’t have to. It was fun to write!”

Mark, you’re a true-blue friend. You made me cry with this. I appreciate you so much. Thanks, buddy. I’m so glad you’re here. Don’t leave. I won’t if you won’t, okay? And this is the first-ever guest post on PaperGirl. How cool is that?? 😀

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It was actually an errant internet search that brought me to this blog many years ago. My wife and I had to work in different parts of the country, and I was searching for love poems to tell her how much I missed her. When I entered the words “love poems” in the search box I accidentally searched the “video” tab, not the “all” tab. Mary’s video of her famous poem was near the top. So I clicked it. I didn’t know what slam poetry was, but I liked what she was doing. There was a little icon at the bottom that linked to her blog, so I clicked that one too. I wanted to know more about a person who could write poems like this.

The blog gave me great insight into the life of this stranger. I read along for a few months, never commenting, but decided to send a few encouraging words to her one night because she was particularly despondent about losing her hair. I don’t know if she knew how sick she was back then, but my medical background told me that she was in serious trouble. I don’t know if she knew this, or was just downplaying the situation, but I wasn’t sure if she would survive it. I wanted her to know how much I enjoyed her blog, so I sent her a short note about what it meant to me. I didn’t really expect her to reply, but she did. This began a years-long friendship between us, even though we have very little in common.

I use Mary’s blog as part of my unwinding process at night. It’s hard for me to shut off my mind at the end of my stressful days, so I follow an odd mix of bloggers to help me escape the mental replays of my day. When I started following her blog, she wasn’t a quilter. She was a freelance writer and performer. She wrote about her life and her thoughts, and it was fascinating to me. The blog took me to Michigan Avenue, or a cold slab in a hospital, or New York, or Washington, or WintersetIowa, or the Arizona desert, or on an early morning run along Lake Michigan.

While the blog is not meant to be educational, I’ve learned a great deal from it. I’ve been introduced to George Orwell’s six rules of writing (which I now use frequently), haiku poetry, various recipes, international philosophy, decorating tips on a budget, and even silly poems about fruit, which I’ve come to adore.

By far the most endearing quality of this blog comes from Mary’s vulnerability. Mary shares some deeply personal thoughts about her life, that some of my best friends would never share with me about their own. In some ways, I feel that I shouldn’t know this much about a stranger, but her easy writing style always draws me in. I’ve discovered that she’s actually an introvert, but that she does not shy away from relationships. In fact, I’d say she delights in them. Her ability to write about her emotions is at once humanly familiar and heart-wrenching, and for me, it’s the most authentic part of her site.  

I’m curious what other readers draw from PaperGirl. No doubt, many of you are quilters, but I am not. (I might have sewn a button back on my lab coat a few years ago, but that’s it.) I’ve slept under a quilt most of my adult life. When my girls went away college, it was a quilt that went on their dorm room beds. When Hurricane Irma roared through my state last week, I hunkered down under my grandmother’s quilt. I’ve used quilts most of my life, but really just see them as heavy blankets. Some make their way to museums, but for me, the beauty and fascination of them is in the backstory of those who make them. Mary’s blog is just that for me. How ’bout you? What brings you here?

How ’bout you? What brings you here?


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16 Responses

  1. Nicole Hannah
    | Reply

    Oh gah! Mary, a big mwah to you – hang in there. Mwah to Mark, for reading between the lines and stepping up to be a good friend to Mary on behalf of us all.

  2. Jenny
    | Reply

    Well I ADORE Mary And her style of writing! I could say ditto to so many of the things that you did. I also so enjoyed your writing mark! What a complete treat for Mary to get a note like this and how sweet that she has a friend like you!

  3. NotThatJen
    | Reply

    I recently started quilting to keep up with my Mom who also just began this same new quilting adventure. It was something.
    Something we could do with four hours of highway between us, using SKYPE and supplies we could each find on both ends of the phone. Something I could tackle when I couldn’t tackle the disease she was fighting. She was in the midst of a health crisis, and I was in the midst of trying to wrap my brain around my bullet-proof Mom being tackled by a faceless monster of a disease and having to fight through this hell. She couldn’t have visitors. I couldn’t be any help in person. So this was something we could both hang onto together, because we were NOT going to keep talking about what was going so wrong. Quilting became a life-preserver, of sorts.

    I Googled QUILTING VIDEO and found two biggies: Jenny Doan and Mary Fons. These two have been my two guideposts in my journey. I’m really just a basic sewist, not a natural at it, or long-time practitioner like so many who are quilting with such immense talent, but this was a tie that was going to bind me and Mom. It was something I could cheer her on over, use to take her mind off heavy stuff by chatting about gorgeous fabric and thread and technical how-to’s. So I was gonna get darn good at it fast, by hook or by crook. No time to waste. Chop chop!!

    I gobbled up info for both of us, and translated it down the phone in simple language with encouragement heavily peppering my not-very-adept descriptions. I watched all of Mary’s Quilty videos quickly, but it’s her blog that pulled me in and kept me when those ended. Along the way, Mary has given me much more than quilting instruction. Her writing is the voice in my head sometimes, a fun friend who cajoles and encourages while I sew tentatively on something new, or in answer to my own voice as I notice things in the world. Funny, quirky, odd things that sometimes go unnoticed by others. I feel a real appreciation for her live-life-to-the-fullest take on life, for her writing, for her willingness to be open about HER life for us all. The piece about what it’s like living in a condo felt like peeking in someone’s medicine cabinet. NOT THAT I DO THAT. I don’t!! But it felt like being allowed to see a little more clearly how someone else’s life looks behind the scenes. Cool. More of that! Big city living is fascinating. Maybe I should be a city girl!! Tell us more, please!

    I’ve gained basic quilting knowledge, then more advanced knowledge, and even some bragging rights over some now pretty awesome quilting cred, thanks to confidence earned through Mary Fons University. I marvel that all the education I gleaned for this life-enhancing (and wallet-emptying) new experience was just right there ^^ in the search bar. Like a magnet to a fridge, it stuck. Mom and I talk fabric alllllll the time (she’s addicted to buying fabric, and admitting it IS the first step, you know). I take actual quilting classes at a locally-owned quilt shop (and Mom does too), I’m going to a big deal weekend quilt show in Plattsburgh NY on Saturday with Mom now that she’s doing much better and can travel, and we’re talking about buying fancier dancier sewing machines. We extol the virtues of wide necks and automatic thread cutters with the authority of experts discussing expert things. I emptied my dining room and made it my sewing room. Mom hasn’t closed her ironing board in over a year, and wore out the cover. We’re hitting the big time, baby!!

    I feel like I can hear Mary’s voice when I read her pieces online, the voice of someone who gently coaches and encourages throughout the beginner-sewist Quilty episodes. I wish Mary all the success in the world at school (it sounds super hard), and look forward to more quilting advice if she comes back to that sort of thing. But for me, my first introduction to Mary was Quilting Mary. It really has shaped me as a beginning (but now very enthusiastic) (and more broke, haha) quilter. Thanks, Mary Fons. You’re awesome.

  4. Donna Glade-Tau
    | Reply

    Two of my sisters and I are quilters. Jeanne and I met Mary at a seminar in Shipshewana, IN, and Mary Lu met her in CA. Besides learning quilting tips from Mary and her mom, I feel like I am reading notes from a friend because she is so open about her life. I am always rooting for her to do well and feel well.

  5. Liz Flaherty
    | Reply

    What a good idea from your friend Mark–and how nice to have friends around every corner.

  6. Jody
    | Reply

    I’ve been a long time viewer of Fons and Porter. When Liz retired and Mary started taping shows with her Mom. I love Liz and miss her much on the show (Marianne now too) but Mary was a breath of fresh air! One day I was surfing the internet and found her blog Paper Girl and have been a devoted reader ever since. It now comes to my inbox 🙂 I’ve commented a few times but I just really love reading this blog. Hang in there Mary! You have many of us readers rooting for you, most likely more than you know.

  7. Jeanann
    | Reply

    What an insight into a unique friendship! I feel privileged to share in Mary’s life, however vicariously.

  8. Lindsey
    | Reply

    Mary, I found you a few years ago on a video from QuiltCon. I think the talk was about the variety of ages and interests in quilting. The presentation was astute, amusing, and articulate. I loved the presentation so much I found this blog. When you got a mailbox I sent you a linen sheet that had an interesting history.
    You are young and energetic and curious and introspective and I love it all. I wish you a long and healthy future.

  9. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, there isn’t enough space to tell you why I look forward to, excited to receive, and get myself cozy with my coffee before I find out what Mary is writing in Paper Girls. From the days of Fons and Porter with your Mom I have had the sweetest of emotions of how your Mom looks like my Mom and you remind me of my own wacky, funny and so working her tail of daughter. So, for me…you are a piece of family. Besides I love your writing style, love of words and how I feel you are a kindred spirit to the creative parts of the universe. You make my day…take THAT Clint Eastwood!

  10. Jeane Fuller
    | Reply

    I am a quilter and I have watched Mary on TV and I have been to her quilting classes. She is my daughter or sister or friend. She is genuinely happy and very talented and I love her ability to draw people in with her wit, happiness, sadness and lively stories. Mary is real and I appreciate her sharing herself on a daily basis. Stay strong and be good to yourself!
    Much love from your adopted auntie, Jeane

  11. Tammi
    | Reply

    This touched my heart. I opened my email on my lunch hour and discovered yet another blog post from this “Paper Girl”. How does anyone write so much? I can’t even find time to read that much! So I decided to unsubscribe. I wasn’t invested in it – had only stumbled on it a week or two ago when looking up something about quilting. Not sure why I even subscribed in the first place. Something must have caught my eye.

    But before I hit “unsubscribe” I decided to read the one last post, find out why there was a guest post. And now I’ve got tears in my eyes – I identified with so much of it. I ‘m too busy, but read blogs to relax sometimes. I also live apart from my spouse – rough economy forced me to take a job in another state, away from my family, and I find it a bit lonely during the week. OK I guess I’m identifying more with Mark, but his post made me want to know his friend better. She sounds amazing. So I read a few other entries, and now I’m hooked. It amazes me that Mary can be that open and vulnerable, especially with a mid-western upbringing! (Nebraska girl here.) I won’t even make a doctor’s appointment from my desk. I have always loved people that love life, and are never bored or boring. Priorities changed – NOT unsubscribing. I’ll find the time.

  12. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    I am in Jody’s boat – a quilting fan of the famous FONS & PORTER duo. Mary was the daughter, helping out. My mother brought me to sewing and I am forever her helper. So I feel a kinship with Mary. But Mary is so much more than just a quilter and I am very happy to know her through PaperGirl.

    Keep writing Mary, I’ll keep reading. – forever your fan, Pamela.

  13. Nancy
    | Reply

    Mark said it all so well! I met Mary at the Kankakee Quikters meeting a few years back! Her lecture was an inspiration even though her quilts never showed up! Love that smile and the high heals! I’ve follow her blog every morning, it’s part of my coffee ritual!! She is real, caring,loving and of course a fellow quilter! By the way if you haven’t read Quiltfolk yet you are really missing the best Quilt Magazine ever! Thanks Mary you make my Day brighter every morning

    • Mary
      | Reply


  14. Linnette
    | Reply

    Hang in there, Mary. This, too, will be a faded memory someday.

    I first was introduced to Mary through the Fons and Porter show. One day, I somehow ran across her blog and have been followintg her ever since.

  15. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    Thanks for Mark’s post. Somehow I missed it when it was posted a couple of weeks ago–I think that may be the day that I heard that the owner of the local Bernina store had died the previous Friday. I had not even heard that she was sick, & had seen her at the beginning of the summer, so the news kind of blew my mind.
    I purchased my Bernina from her store & also asked her about the breeder she used for her Sheltie a few years ago when we were in need of a new puppy. We ended up getting a puppy from the same breeder & our dog & hers & her daughter’s were all distantly related. It was a fun connection.
    She was always such a healthy, vibrant, active woman & a master tailor! Can’t believe she’s gone…

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