I Can’t Be Me, But I Can Be Her

posted in: Day In The Life | 17
Well, they’re not my style. But what a woman! Shoes, c. 1720, England. From LACAMA, via Wikipedia.


I do this thing.

When I’m struggling to get something done, or when I have to make a tough phone call, or when I need to do/be/sound better than feel, I just pretend I’m someone else.

Now, I don’t go by a different name or anything. I don’t misrepresent who I am. That would be super weird. This is an internal thing I do, an inner monologue type situation. When faced with something I feel powerless to do — and you better believe sometimes that’s just like, getting out of the house and being a person in the world — I say to myself, often out loud:

“Well, I can’t do this. So I’m just going to pretend I’m a woman who can.”

Sometimes I pretend I’m a Katherine Hepburn type or a Madonna type. It’s not that I’m doing an impression or that I would trust Madonna’s judgement in all things. It’s that I need to channel a woman who seems like she would not be afraid of X, Y, or Z.

Shoes help me here, too.

If I am feeling weak, feeling sunk, it helps me every time if I put on a pair of smart shoes. I’ll brush the dirt off my shoulders (metaphorical dirt, usually, but you never know), buckle myself into a snappy shoe, and bing. Something changes. Suddenly, my feet are stronger, more … accounted for, strangely? Yes, I become more accounted for, somehow, on the Earth. And this makes me better able to pretend to be someone else who can do all the things I can’t.

It’s then that I can walk out the door. And wonder of wonders, the woman I’m pretending to be?

She does okay.

Survey About Quilting / Feminism for My Grad School Paper

posted in: Day In The Life | 10

Crazy Quilt, by Tamar Horton Harris North, 1877. Image: Newark Museum, via Wikipedia.


Hi, gang.

I posted about this on my Facebook page this morning and I already have close to 1,000 responses. If you haven’t already, I would deeply appreciate you sparing under 20 seconds (unless you answer the optional third question) to take this 100 percent anonymous survey about quilting and feminism.

This is anonymous. I don’t require you to enter your name, email address, or anything of the kind in order to contribute your answer/thoughts. I’m writing a paper for grad school that is interested in this question — I’m not out to draw conclusions right now. It’s just a study. In case you haven’t clicked over already, the questions on the survey are:

  1. Do you consider yourself a quilter? (Y/N/Maybe)
  2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? (Y/N/Maybe)
  3. Is there anything you’d like to say?

And that third question is optional.

Hey, man: I need to graduate. And before I graduate, I need to write a final paper. Before my final paper, I need to write my midterm essay. This data is going to go a long way toward allll those things. So share the survey link with your friends and family and guild members — even your cat, if she quilts! I don’t discriminate between people and cats! I’m a catiminist!

Seriously, thanks to all who take the time.

L’il Miss Study Hall

Beware Of Almonds, GI Sisters and Brothers (Part II)

posted in: Confessions, Sicky, Story | 32
I love, love, love macarons. And almond paste. But this is my nightmare. Image: Wikipedia.


My post from a few days ago was a real cliffhanger — and then I kept you cliff-hanging. I’m sorry about that. There are a lot of spinning plates right now and sometimes I have to set a plate on the shelf for a second and rest my … what, fingertips? My plate-spinning stick? How does plate-spinning really work? Any actual plate-spinners out there, leave your remarks in the comments.

Also, this post has been incredibly hard to write for reasons that will soon be obvious. I’ve been dragging my feet.

Where was I, before time was up? Oh, right: Raw almonds for breakfast. If you haven’t read Part I, do that and then brace yourself for some extremely unpleasant (and personal) anatomic details.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a kind of shop vac: It sucks up the fluid from what you eat and drink so that the body can make solid waste. Then it holds onto … all that for a period of time and then, you know, you get rid of it. My shop vac was removed 10 years ago because it was, in the words of the surgeon who really messed up my surgery, “completely gone on the left side.”

What this means is that I don’t produce solid waste and never will again. I can eat things that are better for my condition and things that are way worse for it, but to go through a list of good vs. bad foods is a pointless exercise in many respects; what works only sometimes works and what doesn’t work for awhile suddenly isn’t so bad. But almonds are bad, full-stop. Which brings us to the second dignity-sucking feature of this tale and honestly, part of the reason I delayed in getting back to it. Let’s talk about fissures.

A fissure is a tiny, usually thread-thin crack between one thing and another. A fissure is relatively (very) narrow and not jagged; it’s not a rip or a tear, exactly. You can see fissures in rocks. Hairline fractures in bones would be a good visual. Fissures can happen in body tissue, too, and when they happen, it is bad. I had a fissure at the tail (!) end of my digestive tract and that is as much as I’ll tell you in terms of anatomy because we all know what I’m talking about.

My fissure arrived in late 2013 and was diagnosed as “acute” and “chronic”. Because I no longer have my shop vac, remember, I go to the bathroom a lot during the day and through night. Way more than most people, even with my J-pouch surgeries. If you have a fissure where I had one, the last, last, last thing on the planet you want to do is go to the bathroom. And at that time, because I didn’t know I was allergic (or had a reaction to) almonds, I was typically going 8-9 times a day and as many times through the night.

The pain of my condition bent my mind. It eviscerated my will, my fortitude, my spiritual condition. I squalled like a newborn. I babbled incoherently to no one as I pep-talked myself into going back to the guillotine, aka bathroom, over and over. The cramps were terrible. I had to go. And when I went, only an acidic trickle would come and I clawed my thighs until they were scraped and raw, too. It was a dark, dark time. And I told very few people about it. I didn’t tell you much about it, did I? Why?

It was so embarrassing. And the doctors said the fissure would likely settle down, though it will probably always be there, I understand?) A surgery that can be done as a last resort, but it’s not always successful; besides, the thought of more surgery in my GI tract — anywhere, anywhere in my GI tract — sent me into further paroxysms of despair, so I did not allow myself to see surgery as an option. Also, I am tough, Midwestern, stoic. Also, I tend to isolate. I’m a writer, by nature an introvert. And you bet I was depressed, for obvious reasons. And when you’re depressed, you just … You know. Nothing.

Look, the whole reason I’m telling this story is because I don’t recall anyone ever asking me what I was eating. And I think that would’ve been good. Raw almonds can cause diarrhea. And when you’re going to the bathroom as much as I was, the fibrous skins are really, really hard on a bottom. Why didn’t anyone help me put this together?

Before anyone gets arch please remember what I have written many times over the 12+ years of this blog: My doctors, surgeons, and nurses saved my life on several occasions and, if I can find new ones, medical professionals will help me live a long time. I’m not hating on doctors. I’m just bewildered, as usual, by the chaos of it all.

Good grief, let’s wrap this up, shall we? I rarely give advice, but here’s some I feel good about:

If you know someone with a J-pouch; IBD; Crohn’s; Ulcerative Colitis; diverticulitis, or any serious affliction related to the intestines, ask us about their diet. But — and this is so important — don’t tell us what to eat or suggest we do this or that. It’s so hard to be told, even by well-meaning people, that you’re doing eating wrong. (For example: The German and the Russian both pushed yogurt on me constantly and made me feel like a failure because I didn’t consume quarts of it daily.)

Telling a person, “You should eat this” or “[X] is a magic food for the gut” is different from just asking what’s in our diet. Asking us what we eat from day to day gives us an opportunity to think about it. Maybe there is something we could do differently. I mean, it’s crazy: If I have even a touch of almond milk or eat something like I did the other day that has raw almonds in it, it’s awful. But I didn’t know for a long time.

There you have it, my suffering GI Janes and Joes. Here’s the question:

“Shh … Shh. It’s gonna be okay. Deep breath. Why don’t you tell me what you’re eating, honey. Let’s start there.”

The Backpage

posted in: Confessions | 6
“Promotional postcard of Jean, the Vitagraph Dog”, c. 1911. Courtesy Wikipedia.


This beautiful pup is standing in for Mary at the moment. She isn’t able to post at the moment, but she’ll be back.

Yes, she’ll be back. Like the cat … who came back the very next day. Like Jack, who learned how to “get back” in the popular song. Like an Indiana Jones-type person who, ahead of his ragtag bunch of misfit archaeologists, discovers quicksand and turns to the team with his arm outstretched to say, “Get back! Get … back.”

That’s like Mary right now. She’s every cat, every Jack, every scruffy/hot archeoloigst/college professor faced with quicksand. She’ll be back. And when she comes back, she’ll finish her story about almonds and all the other stories she has to tell. There are so many, you see. The time is the problem.

Yo, clock: Get back.

Beware Of Almonds, GI Sisters and Brothers (Part I)

posted in: Sicky | 29
Welcome to hell. Image: Wikipedia.


Something just happened and it is bad.

I accidentally ate a food that has almonds in it and now I wait for suffering. That’s not me being dramatic. In about two hours, it’s curtains for me.

First will come the twinges of pressure, followed soon by the first cramp. Then the gurgle. Then the clutch. The clench. And then it’ll begin: I’ll be in and out of the bathroom many times. How many times? Many. It’s likely I’ll cry at some point because when you’re in and out of the bathroom as many times as I’m about to go, there are breakdowns. First come the soft tissue breakdowns, if you catch my drift? Then, because of that, emotional breakdowns are likely. I’m in for pain tonight.

Rather than suffer in silence, I decided this was a terrific opportunity (woo!) to tell you about my problem with almonds so that you can benefit from it or relay it to anyone you know who suffers from GI distress of any kind; most specifically, someone like me, who possesses a J-Pouch. Warn them that for a dear friend of yours (that’s me) almonds are a hellscape of torture and agony and, if they are like me, these nuts should be avoided at all costs.

[If you aren’t sure if someone you know has a J-Pouch, you may not know them well enough to ask; if you’re kind and the two of you grow closer, however, they will eventually tell you about it. If you have a J-Pouch, you definitely know. And for all those who don’t have their very own J-Pouch and don’t know anyone with one, please keep reading, as this post is for you, too. Life is long and you may very well use this information later.]

Now, then.

I’ve heard that folks with Diverticulitis can’t eat popcorn or things with seeds, e.g., strawberries, “everything” bagels, etc. The trouble is that super-small stuff can get caught along the way and I understand that when this happens it can be blindingly painful, often requiring a hospital visit.

But for me, popcorn is great. I have it (with a nice pinot noir) for dinner more often than I’d care to admit. Some of my other other brothers and sisters in the intestinal failure business can’t eat gluten — ever. I’m halfway in this camp and when I pass up gluten at a restaurant, I like to laugh and say, “Yeah, but I was gluten-free before it was cool.” In my case, too much gluten causes inflammation and for a girl whose large intestine immolated itself, keeping inflammation to a minimum is the way to go. But unlike people with an intense gluten allergy, I can have spaghetti sometimes and no one dies.

Ah, but almonds.

Let me take you back to 2013. You’d think the worst chapter of my health odyssey was Ground Zero, ten years ago, at Mayo Clinic, when they removed most of my guts and screwed up the surgery. You’re half-right but half-wrong, too, because five years later, every IR drain, every PICC line, every setback and ostomy separation at Ground Zero went head-to-head with the chronic fissure that showed up and utterly ruined me for at least a year. The fissure ruined me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, endlessly, always, constantly, during that time. The fissure became the axis around which my entire life revolved. The fissure became a piece of my consciousness. The fissure was my slave-driver, and I use that term with an understanding of its revolting definition.

And in all the hospitalizations (I lost count); the sick days; the awful ways I tried to cope with the problem (you’ll have to wait for my tell-all memoir for that) — in all that time, no doctor, nurse, or well-meaning pal ever, ever asked me: “What are you eating?”

If they had asked me, I would’ve said, weakly, traumatized: “I don’t know .. Not much of anything because I’m so scared to pass it … In the evening, I’m probably drinking too much Chardonnay because, ha, ha, it isn’t solid … Um, for breakfast … Oh, I eat almonds and Nutella in the morning, usually.”

That’s right. My breakfast for many months — because it made me happy, it was easy to prepare, went great with my Earl Gray tea, and was gluten-free, which was supposed to be a good choice for me — was a handful of almonds in a pretty teacup with a dollop of Nutella on the top. Who wouldn’t want to eat that, right? And I wasn’t supposed to eat toast, after all. Gluten bad. So Nutella and almonds are what I ate. Day after day.

And day after day — ah.

Sorry. It’s time to go. I’ll pick this back up tomorrow, and I won’t make you wait. But I can’t wait. Because it’s starting.



A Red Wall?!

posted in: Art, Tips | 29
There wasn’t a picture of a red wall, but this red door is roughly the right shade. Photo: Wikipedia.


I said the other day how I need a “new view” and as usual, many of you responded with interesting things to say.

Some of you told me (in the kindest way) to simmer down for the moment and focus on what’s in front of me; others told of their own “gypsy” nature and encouraged me to never stop wanting to view the new.

As usual, you must all know I see every comment, I do read them, and I definitely love them — even when they’re not in agreement with something I’ve written in a post. PaperGirl readers are a truly classy and intelligent bunch and you’re so generous, good grief. So it pains me to mostly not ever comment back but there’s no way. There’s just no way. It’s a big enough job that I could employ a social media person to help me, but that’s been true for years and there’s never been any social media person around here. Not replying to comments is impossible and lame; having someone else replying to you all feels costly and lamer. So here we are.

Wait! This post is supposed to be about a red wall!

My red wall.

I’m going to have a wall painted and the wall is going to be red. Can you stand it?? One red wall. Red is my signature color, of course; my “Heart Plus” logo features my favorite shade, viz. a bright crimson. I actually heard someone say when trying to describe a shade of red, “it’s like, you know, Mary Fons Red” and this pleased me a great deal.

I have painted walls bold colors in my day, but it’s been awhile. I’ve gone for airy and light these past few years and I will always need light and air or wall colors that communicate such things. But it’s time to warm up the joint a little. It’s time to see a new view! And since can’t pick up and move next week/month, it’s time to do something drastic. My west-facing wall (which is quite long) will be Mary Fons Red within the next week or two. And guess what?

I’m not painting that wall. 

Oh, it’s tempting. It’s allllways tempting to paint a given wall or room myself. Because painters are expensive. Because I can actually do it, after all, and what’s a little paint can/foam roller elbow grease? The trouble is that my elbows are killing me. I have no grease to spare. No, I’m going to find a reputable painting outfit and hire out the work. My red has been chosen. My decision is made. Bring on the guys with the ladders and the cute overalls.

Any advice on hiring painters or prepping for their visit? And how much is this gonna cost, anyway? I promise to take pictures and post them either on Instagram or on the FB page.


Popularity Contest

posted in: Paean | 10
Artwork for East Texas State Normal College’s 1922 yearbook. Image: Wikipedia.


Most of the time, for most readers, this blog is a pair of slippers. Comfortable. Nice to slip on. Occasionally amusing, if you’re the bunny slipper sort. I figure if you’re the bunny slipper sort, you are still amused by your slippers after all these years. I want to be that for you. I want that relationship. Let me be your bunny slipper.

As such, most of the time our relationship doesn’t experience high-highs or low-lows. But every once in awhile, the ol’ PG is more stiletto, less slipper. More Doc Marten, less flip-flop. Some posts blow up a little.

Yes, over the years, certain posts on the ol’ PG have gone bananas in terms of reader response. The way to track this kind of thing is to be a wizard about website analytics and stats, but plebian moi just goes by Facebook likes and shares and what is, in this plebe’s estimation, the clearest measure of engagement: comments on the blog itself.

Here are a few of the most-engaged-with posts in recent memory. I’d go into the actual data and reach back further, but I’m serious when I say I don’t know how to do that.** The number in parenthesis is the number of comments the post got.

  1. The first time I directly discussed politics. (144)
  2. When I announced my editorial directorship of Quiltfolk. (107)
  3. Yesterday’s post. (89 and counting … )
  4. The time the nurse lady asked me about my colon after I told her I literally do not have one. (86)
  5. My first love letter to Quiltfolk. (55)
  6. The post the day after the London Bridge bombing. Note: comments swelled largely due to a misunderstanding. (45)
  7. A confession of knee pain, though this is tied with “I Want The Coat.” (46)
  8. The one about dryer lint, which makes me love you more than ever. (44)

If you haven’t read some of those posts, it’s safe to say your fellow readers recommend them. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so much conversation, right?

The engagement-level examination has all come up because of the fabulous, thoughtful conversation that took place — and is still taking place — over yesterday’s post about breastfeeding in public. I keep this blog for many reasons; discourse like what I’ve seen in the comments section from yesterday is one of those reasons.

Hey, Marianne Fons?

Since you faithfully read my blog every time I post; since you are my biggest fan while still giving me full autonomy and freedom to find my own path in this life; since you personally commented on yesterday’s post, I’d like to take this moment to say thank you. I know you’re reading this.

Thank you for giving me life. My life is not easy, but I’m grateful to have the chance to try it on for size. Thanks for birthing me on August 6th. It was probably hot in Iowa! Yuck! Thanks for breastfeeding me, even if it was annoying/awkward when in public. I’d like to officially apologize if I was ever a nuisance in that regard. Thanks for weaning me off the breast and onto whatever it is I drank after that. Didn’t I do a soy formula for awhile?? Thanks for smashing my peas when I was ready for solid food. Thanks for dealing with everything that came after the peas.

To all the readers of this blog who think and engage with their fellow humans in a thoughtful, curious way: thank you. To all the mothers in the world, public nursing or not: Thank you, too.


** A website overhaul is coming soon, people, so I may actually know how to do that soon!

Could We Talk About Nursing?

posted in: Confessions | 118
Migrant Mother, 1936. Photo: Dorothea Lange via Wikipedia.


Being publicly introspective is one thing.

I’m obviously comfortable — or comfortable enough — to puzzle over my personal emotions and experiences here on the ol’ PG. This blog has existed well over a decade, after all; it must not be too painful or I wouldn’t do it. But it’s important to point out that most of the time when I write a post with question marks all over it (literally and/or figuratively) it’s that I’m confused or conflicted or just curious about something within myself, within my lived experience. I’m the interviewer and the interviewed; I’m my own judge, jury, executioner, mortician, etc. Being confused about myself or wondering about my own life is a closed circuit. Do you follow me? If not, it’s my fault, not yours. This is hard to explain.

Now, having a blog gets weirder when I’m puzzling over something that is outside of my experience, especially when that something is more controversial, say, than a broken clock. In fact, when I’m puzzling over something serious, something I have no experience with and legitimate confusion about, my general rule is to not blog about it until I have some damn sense.

But I legitimately don’t know what to think about public breastfeeding and I want to ask you about it so that I can begin to maybe work through my confusion. And it’s scary, because I take great pride in the quality of the comments on PaperGirl (and my Facebook page) and whenever something even slightly spiny comes up on the ol’ PG, I shut my eyes real tight and pray you all do the right thing and don’t “talk ugly” to each other, like Gramma Graham would say.

You have never once talked ugly. But still: Read the rest of this post, take a mo’, and then comment if you wish to comment. And I hope you do! Because I’m serious about need perspective from various peeps, especially those who have breastfed their babies on planes.

Here’s the deal:

Today on the plane back from Portland, I looked to my right and wow! I did a double-take: A woman across the aisle was nursing her infant and Mama’s breast was out. Her (lovely! natural! blessed-be!) most generous cantaloupesized right breast was present and accounted for, actively being used for what is, absolutely, an amazing, beautiful, exquisite reason. The breast was out so to feed a human being she birthed from her literal body. Miraculous! Understandable!

And yet!

Wow, that was a very naked breast in a very public place in 21st century America. And I was like, “Okay. I cannot make sense of this data at this time.” This is a foreign sensation for me, as I like to think I have a fairly strong philosophical foundation that informs how I feel about most things. This one had me stymied, friends. It really did. Some of the back-n-forth in my mind went like this:

ME: It’s indecent, showing that much naked flesh, and it’s a sex organ, right?

MYSELF: Yes, and it’s a life-giving breast! You are brainwashed by a germaphobe-run society! It’s beautiful! You’re weird, not her!

ME: Having the whole thing out in front of God and Southwest Airlines Flight 55 seems a little dramatic, though. Come on. Like, she is trying to be seen right now.

MYSELF: She’s a nursing mother! What is your deal?? Covering up what nature has so brilliantly put in place is wrong and a function of the patriarchy!

ME: Yeah, okay, sure, but good grief, Woman! Cover your boob! A little!

MYSELF: It is early.

ME: No, it’s not “early.” It’s 5:05 a.m.

MYSELF: (Pause.) But it’s beautiful!

ME: I’m going to wrap my scarf around my head and go to sleep, now.

Okay. That’s it. That is literally all I can write for you without going into some deep, armchair-psychology self-analysis about what surely are repressed feelings about not having kids or a partner at this point in my life. I’m not interested in all that. I just need some input.

Very open breastfeeding in public. Discuss, my loves.

Hello, Portland

posted in: Work | 14
Portland trolley on 11th Ave., passing Powell’s Books. Photo: Steve Morgan via Wikipedia.


I’m in Portland.

I’m not here for a vacation, not to visit a friend. I’m not here for a wedding or a funeral. I’m not here to attend Spring Quilt Market, though I will be here in May for that very event.** It would be lovely if I were in Oregon to visit a beau, but no, that’s not the reason I’m here. And of course, it would be normal if I were here for a guild or shop gig; after all, a good deal of the work I have done for the better part of eight years has been teaching/lecturing work. But I’m not here for that.

I’m in Portland for Quiltfolk, which has fast become part of my heart. I’ve been here since Thursday because we’re in press for Issue 06: Arizona, which means I’ve been putting in loong days to get the magazine as perfect as possible before we send it to the printer and go onto all the other business before us. Quiltfolk is why I’m here. And now that I’ve told you the reason, can I tell you something else? Something besides how much I love making magazines? (I love making magazines.)

Okay: I like Portland.

Now, if you’re a longtime reader of the ol’ PG, if you followed me to New York and Washington and back to Chicago, you may be alarmed. If there were stage directions for you right now, this is what those stage directions would look like:

BLOG READER reads Mary’s “I like Portland” line, yelps as if in pain, throws laptop/phone against the wall. Then:  

BLOG READER: “Mary!! No!! You love Chicago! Chicago!! Don’t leave your home! Don’t move to Portland! What, are you kray?? Snap out of it! Go to sleep!”

I love that you know the whole story. Look, I need you to remember the whole story. You’re my alibi. This whole blog is a public record so that when I’m old and gray I can remember everything that happened, with corroboration. I also want you to know I love that you see what I know: Chicago is the place where I belong.

The way I see it, there’s the place where we are born, and there are places where we live. But there are only a few places — maybe even only one place? in the end? — where we truly belong. In my case, I was born in Iowa, and that’s always going to be special. I have lived in lots of wonderful places, viz. Iowa City, Manhattan, Washington, D.C. and I loved all kinds of things about those places and found parts of myself in all of them. But I belong in Chicago. Specifically, downtown Chicago. The Loop. My soul is home in the Chicago Loop. When I get on a plane to Midway or O’Hare, I smile this dumb smile, simply because I get to see the place again.

All that said, I’m going to be coming to Portland a lot more in the future, and I see these hills and bridges. I see the clouds give way to sun that gives way to clouds. I catch my reflection in the window of a Rite Aid drug store as I go for a coffee and I skip across the trolley rails and I think, “I could have a little place here, a pied a terre, for work … ” And the fantasy makes me feel alive.

Which is all I’ve ever wanted, whatever the place.


**At that point, barring disaster, I will have have my master’s degree. But I’m not counting chickens. Or 

Bring Back Bonnets

posted in: Family | 20
Silk and straw capote bonnet. Spain, c. 1840. Photo: Wikipedia.


Like most women — not all, but most — I am in a constant battle with my hair.

I could soften that and say with a thoughtful look, “I am in a constant conversation with my hair”, but that hip-sounding statement — aside from sounding pretentious — is simply not true. A conversation is defined as “a talk […] in which news and ideas are exchanged.” Believe me: No new ideas have been exchanged between me and my wimpy hair since the 2nd grade when Mom let me perm my bangs. Now that was a conversation! But that was a long time ago.

These days, my relationship with my hair is absolutely a war: It’s my wimpy hair vs. me. The war is my wimpy hair trying to be its wimpy self and me, doing my best to eliminate the wimp release the tousled, volumized woman within me just dying to get out.

The good news is that lately, I’ve been winning. I’ve got a round brush and I know how to use it. I have a great curling iron. I like my shampoo. And it’s exciting, because lately, four or five days out of the seven-day week, I have at a Decent Hair Day. Sometimes, it’s an actual Good Hair Day, and last week, I had a Great Hair Day … until I went outside.

Oooh, was I mad!

My hair, which looked so boss when I rode the elevator down to the lobby, was toast within five minutes of being out in the city’s early spring weather. Wind, mist, more wind: My hair didn’t stand a chance. And as I walked to class, trying to turn my head with the wind (as opposed to against it) in order to keep at least a few carefully-combed strands in place, I thought of my grandmother, Gramma Graham, and her plastic bonnets. In an instant, I finally understood what I always saw as so old-lady-ish, so old-fashioned. No, no, I thought, as I tried to hold down the awesome “swoop” thing I had achieved with the back of my hair, she was right. Gramma Graham was so right.

I thought, “I need a plastic bonnet. Any bonnet. Bonnets make sense.”

And they do. They protect your face from the sun; they protect your hair from the elements. They can look rather beguiling if you want them to. Bonnets are cross-cultural, too, as many cultures feature bonnet-like headwear. The bonnet, man. The bonnet! Let’s bring it back. I like my hair right now. I’d like to see it live longer than 20 minutes.

I think about my Gramma Graham and I miss her. She was a good woman to the core. Ethical, loving. She loved my mother and she loved me and my sisters. And she had great hair, too; not wimpy at all. Gramma actually went prematurely gray at age 30, and no one has ever looked more beautiful, I think, than my gray-haired, thirtysomething grandmother did in the 1950s.

The bonnets she wore are long gone. But practicality is easy enough to find, and reasons for connecting with your family are everywhere, if you’re looking.

‘Where Can I Hear Your Lectures, Mary Fons?’

posted in: Story, Work | 12
No, it’s not Impressionism. It IS art, however, and we look great! “Two Ladies in the Cafe” by Kirchner, c. 1928. Image via Wikipedia.


We’re sitting at a legendary cafe in Paris in the coolest arrondissement. I don’t know which one that is, but in this fantasy, you and I hang out there all the time. We’re so cool as Americans in Paris, we like don’t even remember the name of the street we’re on. In a good way.

It’s springtime. Arborial perfection is blooming all around us, hedges are full and lush again — it’s just ecstasy in flowers, in France, everywhere you look. The whole world is an impressionist painting. What I’m trying to say is that in this fantasy, the world is pretty and we are cool. Also, we are drinking the best cafes au lait of our lives.

Also we’re both fabulously wealthy and neither of us have health insurance problems or student loans (or whatever it is you’re stressing about right now.) On top of all that, you, my dear, have never looked better. And I tell you so.

“You’ve never looked better,” I tell you. You demure, but you know it’s true. Our extremely hot waiter is shamelessly hitting on me and he presently brings us our millefeuille. Our other waiter, who is the (equally hot) brother of the first waiter, brings us a more sparkling water.

“Will zere be anyzing else, mademoiselles?” they both say together, which is weird, but also charming.

“Non, non,” we say, and flit them away. Silly boys. We are women with things to talk about

“Mary,” you say, and you lean in. “Everyone’s all aquiver about these lectures you gave at QuiltCon.

“Oh?” I say, and stir a sugar lump into my cafe au lait, making sure my pinkie is very straight. “Is that the word on the chapeau?” 

You look confused.

“Mary, a chapeau is a hat. Do you mean promenade, perhaps? The word on the promenade?” 

I nod vigorously, nearly knocking off my chapeau. 

“Indeed, that is the word out there, that you are quite the lecturer, Miss Fons. Of course, I’ve known it all along. You’ve been giving great lectures for years!”

“You are my best friend,” I say, and we cry and hug. I love you so much. What would I do without you?

“But Mary,” you say, as the hot waiter’s hot brother slips you his mobile number when he drops the check. “Mary, where can I see these lectures? I wasn’t at QuiltCon and you’ve decided to not take any more road gigs now that you’re Editorial Director of Quiltfolk and working on other Very Big Projects That Cannot Be Announced At This Time. Whatever shall I and the rest of your adoring public do?” 

I pat your hand and point to the hot waiter’s hot brother’s phone number which is burning a hole in the tablecloth, that’s how hot he is; I tell you how the young man is clearly in love with you and this perks you right up.

Then I say, “My darling bosom buddy — and all my adoring fans. You’ll just have to wait a little while. I promise you I’ll be lecturing again soon. But not yet. And I can’t put a taped version of my lectures on the internet because it’s just not the same! I love lecturing almost more than anything, so you have to trust me that I’ll either be back on the road in some kind of incarnation or —”

“Or??” you say, and I can tell your heart’s beating fast. “Or what?!”

I sit back in my pretty chair in my pretty dress and smile a benevolently conspiratorial smile. “Or I’ll find a way to give you all my energy, information, passion, and humor in another form of media. You’ll see.”

“You beast,” you say, and throw your head back and laugh a throaty laugh. (In this fantasy, the two of us are always throwing our heads back and laughing throaty laughs.) “I do hear you’re quite funny,” you continue, and you reach for your sexy lipstick. A pause, and then:

“Mary, all I wanted to know was about your lectures and where I might be able to see or hear them. Why did you set us up as young, single women in Paris with all the flowers and the hot waiters and the crying?”

“Why on Earth not?” I say, and raise a forkful of millefeuille to my lips.


The Flight Family (And QuiltCon ’18)

posted in: Family, Quilting, Work | 11
A Scandinavian airline scene from 1968. That stewardess is literally serving prosciutto off the bone while her counterpart bones a fish. This is a real picture from real life. Photo: Wikipedia.


I’m back from Los Angeles, back from QuiltCon 2018. What an incredible show, what an incredible quilt culture we have in America. Just think of all the people and art and history and innovation and fun that comes together at a show like that. Incredible. Thank you to all who had anything to do with QuiltCon this year, from the people who made quilts in the show to those who just enjoyed the scenery from social media. We need everyone.

Things I did at QuiltCon included but were not limited to:

  • delivered a lecture on the AIDS Quilt (one of my best ever, I am satisfied to admit)
  • gave a tour of the AIDS Quilt panels I curated for the show
  • was interviewed by Angela Walters for Craftsy (thanks, Walters!!)
  • gave a lecture on the modern quilt and the future of it (*this also went well and I’ll return to the topic of the lecture in a future post)
  • interviewed people for Quiltfolk
  • meet’ed and greet’ed quilters at the BabyLock booth
  • saw amazing friends, fans, colleagues
  • drooled on quilts (not really, but close, okay maybe a little actual drool, oops, saarrry)

Things I did not do:

  • blog
  • take many pictures

The funny thing about a big show is that you think you’re going to have time away from the computer and therefore be free, somehow, to “take it all in” and then — if you’re me — write about it as soon as you get back to your hotel room. But that’s never how it works out for this one.

Conferences like Quilt Market and QuiltCon are so totally packed with activity, so totally frenetic with action — to the point of being almost manic — that when it’s time to shut my hotel door at the end of the long day, doing much of anything is highly unlikely, especially since my “anything” frequently involves thinking thoughts, crafting them into halfway-well-written sentences, then posting them for public consumption. Historically, I’m just not able to do anything that complicated at the end of a “show day.”

For example, one night I got into my room, ate some cheese popcorn and fell asleep with the lights on with a faint cheese powder ring around my mouth. The next night, after two celebratory margs with the Quiltfolk photographer (I’m telling you, I crushed my lectures; I deserved to tie one on), I got into my room, washed my face, and proclaimed, literally out loud, “Who needs pajamas?” and fell asleep in my shirt.

Thank goodness QuiltCon is done until next year because a) I don’t need to be eating cheese popcorn alone; and b) everyone needs pajamas. Besides, if I neglect my blog, think how many wonderful, interesting, hard, tricky, beautiful, strange, funny, frightening, and surprising stories and anecdotes and observations will never reach you? I have to reach you with these things; otherwise, where will they go?

For example: On the way to Los Angeles, the Southwest flight attendant got on the PA and said:

“Welcome to Southwest Airlines, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Rick, your head flight attendant this afternoon. Joining me today is my daughter, Bethany, in the back of the aircraft, and my son-in-law, John, is here at the front with me today!”

Isn’t that wonderful? The flight family! A family of flight attendants had all been able to arrange their schedules to be on the same flight. I thought that was really nice. I had a nice feeling about that.

And I needed to tell you.

Ooooh … Quiltfolk Issue 06 : Arizona

posted in: Art, Poetry, Quiltfolk, Quilting, Work | 10


Are you ready for this?

On or about April 1, the sixth issue of Quiltfolk is coming soon, everyone. The bad news is that you still have to wait a little bit; the good news is that she’s the best-yet issue of Quiltfolk and I’m honored to be a part of the team. It’s cool if you watch this teaser video like nine times while you wait for your copy of Issue 06 : Arizona. Friends, you will not believe what we found when we went to the desert to investigate quilts. Wow, wow, wow.

Hold onto your cowboy hats.


p.s. How about those red glasses on the blonde chick with the notebook?? I’m into it. 

A Google Doodle Update: 1000+ Votes, Zieman in Lead

posted in: The Quilt Scout, Work | 5
Women quilting in Arizona, 1965. Photo: Wikipedia.


We’re really making tracks on this whole “nominate a quilter for a Google Doodle” thing. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out yesterday’s post.) We’ll hit 1,000 votes before long, and that’s a good showing in such a short time.

However … to really get Google’s attention, I’d like to see us at least double the number of voters. What does that mean for you? One of two things:

IF YOU HAVEN’T VOTED — Click here to be taken to the form, then vote!

IF YOU HAVE VOTED — Click here for the Quilt Scout post, then copy the URL to share it with your pals on social media/email/carrier pigeon. Then your friends will go vote and we’ll get our community represented by the people who decide what history is important. *You could just send your friends straight to the form, but going to the original post first seems sensible. But do what you want; I just want us to get those numbers up!

Right now, Nancy Zieman is in the lead, followed by Cuesta. Then … Well, there are a number of write-ins gaining ground and one person nominated me and my mom, which was very nice. I’ll keep updating on Facebook and when the time comes to do the official nomination, you’ll obviously be the first to know which quilter — sorry, which first of many quilters — will get Google’s attention.

This is fun.

Let’s Get Google to ‘Doodle’ Quilters! (xo, Quilt Scout)

posted in: Quilting, The Quilt Scout, Work | 17
Hey, Google! Yo! Over here! Image: Wikipedia.


Ladies and a few gentlemen.

I know it’s early in the year, but I’m going to say it: If you read one Quilt Scout column in 2018, read the one I’m linking down below.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been noodling on how to go about petitioning Google to make a “Google Doodle” about a famous, important, special quilter. I’ve figured out the way, and the time is now — and I need you. We need you. There’s never been a Google Doodle about a quilter, ever. Ever! What’s up with that?

Questions you have may include: “What’s up with that?” and “What’s a Google Doodle?” and “Wait, what do I have to do?” and “Mary Fons what is even happening please explain.

That last one is not a question but there’s no time! This is all very easy: Head over to the Quilt Scout, read all about it, then vote. Let’s make sure the internet (read: world) never forgets how important quilters are and how much we contribute to society, art, and human beans everywhere. A Google Doodle is a legit way to do that, so let’s circle the wagons, people. Filling out the form will be your good deed for the day — well, unless you’ve done other good deeds today. Considering the people who make up my readership, it is highly likely you’ve amassed a number of good deeds already. That’s okay.


Mary “da Quilt Scout” Fons

The Benefit of a Theater Degree

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips | 4
The play’s the thing! Image: Wikipedia.


There are plenty of fun and exciting things going on in the great city of Chicago this weekend. I won’t see any of it, though, which sounds sad but it’s okay.

My weekend will be spent polishing my QuiltCon 2018 lecture slides and rehearsing everything 90,000 times before the big show next week. I assure you: There’s nothing else I want to be doing this weekend. I care deeply about this work: Besides, debut lectures at QuiltCon don’t come along every day. In fact, they only come along once a year, which makes them sort of like Christmas or my birthday, except that I don’t get presents and I spend months and months researching and writing and then dozens of hours making great slides for my slideshow and then I get in front of a huge crowd of people and talk to them and hope I don’t screw up and ruin my reputation and never get asked back to any show, ever. In this way, making and debuting two new lectures is not like Christmas or my birthday. At all.

As I was thinking through everything I need to get right, every detail I must lock down, I realized that there is one thing I am not at all concerned about: I am not concerned with freaking out up there once I’m onstage. Certainly, part of the reason I won’t lose my nerves or have a full-on panic attack is because I have nearly two decades of professional experience doing things onstage. But it’s also because in college, I actually studied how to be in front of people.

Yes, my master’s in writing gets all the attention these days, but I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa (’01) — and that degree is in Theater Arts. During those four, heady years taking Meisner I & II, rehearsing the next show, communicating with directors, and writing short pieces of my own, I learned a lot more than my lines.

I learned how to work closely with people. Like, really closely. Making a play — which typically goes from the table read to opening night in matter of weeks — is an incredibly intense, focused experience. Many of you know this from your own theater-making experience. You do hard work in small spaces, either with a tiny ensemble or a huge one, both of which come with their own challenges. You put in long hours. You must be professional, on time, courteous. There are long periods of tedium punctuated with periods of intense activity; your problem-solving skills are harnessed in all kinds of unexpected ways, I assure you.

And you have to memorize a script. (Some monologues are about as long as this post, for example.) You have to memorize your blocking. Then, once the play opens, you have to hope people come to see what you’ve made! Sometimes they don’t come and this is devastating, so you have to grow into a person who can accept that. Of course, sometimes the people do come and then you’ve really got to bring the juice. Can you? Will you? You’ll find out when the curtain goes up, honey. Break a leg.


So this is just a shout-out to all my theater people out there. Graduation is coming (!) and there are plenty of parents and grandparents out there who have a theater major in the family who is about to get their degree. Y’all might be worried about the kid, right? What she’ll do with a degree in theater for Lord’s sake??

I promise you: She’ll use it.

She’ll use it when she meets a new person and gives them a “Hello!” and a confident handshake. She’ll use it when she’s giving a presentation at work. She’s going to use her theater degree when she’s faced with a problem with her spouse and recalls what she learned about body language and tone of voice and maybe she can respond more thoughtfully to what she was trained to observe in this person she loves so much. She’ll use it when she reads a wonderful quote in a magazine that she wants to remember it forever. She’ll use her memorization skills and then she’ll have it forever.

She’ll probably use it (however subconsciously) when she throws parties, too. I’m serious. Go to the theater people’s parties. We have the party bone, take it from me.



How Do You Hire a Handyman? (Also, Valentine’s Day)

posted in: Day In The Life, Rant | 29
A handyman on break, c. 1975, Georgia. Image: Wikipedia, via the US National Archives and Records Administration.


My friend Nick did a good job with Valentine’s Day yesterday. He paid me awfully nice compliments in a card (I am evidently brilliant, gorgeous, funny, and sexy!) and he brought a heart-shaped pizza for us to have for dinner. That’s right, a heart-shaped pizza. That pizza is going to get its own post, but not tonight.

Tonight, I need to ask you all how a woman goes about hiring a handyman, because I need one, bad, and I don’t have the first clue about to get one.

“Hang on, Mary,” you say. You purse your lips and put a hand on your hip. “We’re glad to hear you’re eating heart-shaped pizzas and getting cards, but we’d be really glad if this Nick person was handy.”

I dissolve into giggles.

“Not that kind of handy! Mary! Now, seriously: What do you need fixed? Can’t Nick help you?”

I pull myself together and I thank you for your concern. One of the I like spending time with Nick is because he is extremely helpful. He’s fixed my internet, my phone, my icemaker, my computer. He always tidies the kitchen when he’s over and sometimes I go into the bathroom and something looks strange and I realize the sink is totally free of toothpaste bits and this is because Nick enjoys rinsing things. It’s wonderful.

But though he tried his dead-level best, Nick can’t fix my dishwasher, and I need that dishwasher fixed. Now.

So I need a handyman, or a fix-it guy — or girl, or marmoset for heaven’s sake. I literally do not care, as long as they/it knows about water pressure and, like, “parts.” Because a girl working full time and going to grad school full time cannot have a broken dishwasher. Cannot, cannot, cannot. The hopeless, helpless, panicked feeling I got when I opened the dishwasher for the fifth time and saw the dishes were not clean but in fact now dirtier with hardened, shellacked food and soap on them? That was a bad feeling. I can’t. I need my dishwasher to wash the dishes I put inside of it. It’s not so much to ask, right? Please?

Beyond that, I need some heavy pictures hung. I need a new faucet installed in my bathroom. I need a new medicine cabinet stuck on the wall. I need a chain on the light in the pantry. I need the vent cover thing in my closet to stop falling of the blinkin’ wall or I’m going to start throwing my body against it until it goes in its home.

Tell me how to hire someone trustworthy to help me do these things. Please?

Now, of course I know there are services online, but it’s the wild west out there. I live in a big city. It’s a shot in the dark, trying to find someone who won’t take advantage of my household fix-it ignorance. Believe me, I’ve been here before: I hired a handyman a year ago to do a few things and it was an awful experience. He did a poor job. It was so expensive. Afterward, the dumb, big corporate company kept calling me and texting me with advertisements and things. Ugh.

Angie’s List might have worked years ago but Angie sold that business awhile back and now it’s just big, corporate, plastic companies who buy space on the thing. I asked Dion, one of the maintenance guys in my building, if he knew anyone who did this kind of work; he didn’t. (And yes, my building has maintenance staff, but they do building stuff, common area stuff, water shut-offs and the like. They don’t hang pictures and they don’t do fridges, washers, dryers, etc.)

What I’m hoping is that one of you dear people has a brother in Evanston who is the best handyman in three states and you can give me his number. Or you have been using the same handyman for 20 years and why, he/she lives right down the street from me! This is what I’m hoping, because I don’t know what else to do.

Thanks, everyone. I need you. Perhaps more importantly: The dishes need you.

To Make a Meal, or: ‘I Used To Buy Groceries’

posted in: Food | 13
I used to buy such things. Photo: Wikipedia.


There was a time. A time when I bought groceries. A time when I made tasty dishes. A time when, at some point during the day, I thought, “Hm … What would be good for dinner tonight?”

There was a time. A time when I bought groceries. A time when I made tasty dishes. A time when I would be seeing someone special and the rhythm of the day was such that we would often have food together, and there was some point in the day when I made a meal (sometimes with the gentleman’s help, sometimes not), and maybe it was breakfast, or it was lunch, or it was dinner, but we ate it together and we said, “Hm! What a delicious homemade meal.”

There was a time. A time when I bought groceries. A time when I had time to buy groceries and make tasty dishes. I remember this time! And I wasn’t just doing beans n’ rice, either (though at this point, home-cooked beans and rice sounds as good as flaming rack of lamb.*) No, there was a time when I thought through ingredients, purchased them in person, took them home, and used them to make ambitious food. I made lobster bisque for crying out loud! I creped! I made a tagine. I made a fine kettle of fish. Grilled cheese!: Lord, I even made bread at one point. The bread was not my best work, but at least I loved him. Ha, ha. I mean, I at least I tried it.

These days? Groceries and homemade food? L-O-L, as the kids say.

No, I don’t make food anymore because I don’t go to the grocery store anymore. There’s no time to do that and I’m always in the Loop for work and appointments and school. Instead of eating home-cooked food, I just go to Pret-a-Manger.

Do you have Pret where you are? Pret’s like Panera, only French-ish. Also, the people who work at Pret-a-Manger are way surlier than they are at Panera. At least that’s true in my neighborhood. But what can I do? Pret has grab-n-go salads and soups and coffee and I’m a busy woman. I grab. And I go. Grab, go. Grabgo.

I’m happy to be a grabgo, I really am. It’s a wonderful thing to have a new job and it’s a marvelous thing to be very close to a master’s degree. My new job is sweet and my master’s is so close I can taste it, but a woman cannot live on fulfilling work and paper alone. A woman must have a meal.

The other night, Sophie and Luke came over for dinner. Nick joined us, and this was a gift; I did not expect him when I was making plans and making the menu, but it worked out, to my delight. Anyway, for the first time in months — months! — I made a real meal. The occasion called for it: My friends closed on their home. They bought a house! A real, live house. Of course, I had to make food for them, so I made food for them and I also made a gingerbread house for them. I decorated it and everything. They bought a house! What else can a friend do in such a situation?!

Sophie is a vegan, by the way, so the whole meal, including the gingerbread house, was vegan. It almost killed me.

But it was delicious. And I realized that a) I miss real food; and b) I could maybe be vegan, that’s how good everything was. Oh, and c) Did you know Skittles are vegan??

*Hang on: Did lamb meat literally on fire at your table ever sound good?

‘I Love a White Shoe’

posted in: Family, Fashion | 5
White shoe, c. 1950. Image: Wikipedia.


Some months ago, my sister told us a story about a very special sweater.

It’s one of my favorite posts of all time (perhaps because it’s in my sister’s voice) and it had a life outside the ol’ PG, actually; I shaped the text into proper monologue form, tweaked/polished it, and then shared it in a writing seminar last semester. Just like you, my cohort was charmed by my younger sister’s fashion concerns.

Well, there’s more where that came from.

The other day, sifting through WikiCommons (the site where I get all the strange-but-free images you see on PaperGirl), I found the above picture of a white shoe. I think it’s a terrific picture on its own, but it’s really terrific because it made me think instantly of my sister Rebecca, because Rebecca loves a white shoe. In fact, that’s how she said it to me one day:

“I love a white shoe.”

Now, that’s a thing we say. We say, “I love a white shoe.”

What you have to know is that my sister didn’t say this in a dreamy, effusive kind of way. She didn’t see a pair of white shoes and go, “Oh! I looooove a white shoe!!!”

It was more matter-of-fact. Rebecca spied a pair of white shoes — I’ll get to what kind in a minute — and said it like it was a foregone conclusion, like it was a truth held to be self-evident. “I love a white shoe.” And then she probably pursed her lips, shrugged, and respectfully put the shoes back on the rack. Because that particular white shoe? At that particular time? Hm. Maybe not.

But it wasn’t just the tone, the inflection of her “white shoe” comment that made it so meme-y for us. There was intriguing syntax going on, as well. My sister didn’t say, “I love white shoes.” She said, “I love a white shoe.” There was something awfully aristocratic about it. Very landed gentry. She said “I love a white shoe” as though we all have so many pairs of the same kind of shoe (e.g., Red Shoes, Paisley Shoes, Pom-Pon Shoes, etc.), that when considering an outfit, it makes perfect sense to say, “I think a white shoe. Don’t you? I do love a white shoe.”

What’s crazy is that for my sister, saying this does make sense. Not because she’s a wealthy landowner in 19th century Britain who lives off the rental properties she owns (see: landed gentry), but because she has this incredible style and the most extraordinary luck finding cool white shoes. Rebecca’s white shoe is a cool white shoe, the kind of shoe I do not even notice when I’m looking for “shoe.” Rebecca doesn’t wear white pumps (eek), or bright-white sneakers. No, my sister finds cool shoes in her shopping excursions and these shoes are frequently white. The shoe is often canvas/leather and has a touch of hardware on it, but never much; maybe a clasp. Maybe a small clasp. The shoes she finds are minimalist, you might say, designed by Opening Ceremony, or Jason Wu, or some obscure Italian footwear designer no one has ever heard of. She gets everything on sale, too, and usually on clearance because not everyone can pull of a white shoe, so they languish on the rack.

Rebecca wears a white shoe with dark clothes. I can’t figure out how she manages to make it so chic, but she does. Dark sweater, dark pants, neutral jacket … white shoe.

“Rebecca,” I ask her. “How do you do it? What’s your secret?”

My sister just makes the “What can I say?” gesture. She puts on her Ray-Bans. She takes a sip of her beverage and her beverage is something sparkly. “I love a white shoe,” she says.

And she wiggles her feet.

Two New Lectures! QuiltCon! Pasadena! 2018!

posted in: Day In The Life, Work | 10
QuiltCon? I know her. Image courtesy Modern Quilt Guild.


It snowed today in Chicago. I like snow. I like winter. But there isn’t anything wrong with going to California sometimes, you know, just to make sure your sandals are still in good shape.

Lucky for me and any other chilly quilters — modern or otherwise — out there, QuiltCon 2018 is coming! And this year, the most exciting happening of the quilt calendar year will be underway in sunny Pasadena.

Yes, at this exact moment, two weeks from now, the quilts will have been unveiled. All the awards will have been given out, which means we’ll all know who got Best In Show and isn’t that so exciting? Two weeks from now, vendors will be vending; neat classes will have gone down; “sewlebrities” will be soaking their autograph hands; after lots of emails and Instagram posts, internet friends will be hanging out IRL; and many, many, many, many, many, many, many pictures will have been uploaded to many, many, many, many, many, many social media pages.

And I’m excited. Though I don’t make modern quilts, I love them and I love the people who make them. I’m also deeply glad to have emerged as a kind of go-to quilt history geek for the modern set. Put me in, baby. I’m happy as a clam (?) giving historical lectures at QuiltCon; the full houses that greet me seem to indicate folks like what I’m puttin’ down.

The only downside is that I have to top myself every year. For example, two years ago, I debuted “The Great American Quilt Revival: The Reason We’re All Here Right Now.” It went well — too well?? — so last year, I brought the pain with “Standing On the Shoulders of Giants: A Brief History of the American Quilt.” That one was really good. (Well, it was! Ask anyone who’s seen my lectures: I have serious powerpoint game.) And the lectures I debut at QuiltCon go into my repetoire and have a life after the MQG show, but it’s neat to present them for the first time out there with the mod squad.

But I have to tell you … This year in Pasadena, I don’t have a new lecture … I’ve got TWO!

Talk about topping what you did last year. QuiltCon 2019 is happening in Nashville next year; maybe I’ll pull out my guitar.* Anyway, both lectures are in pretty good shape, but this weekend is going to have me hunkering down, smoothing out, and rehearsing. For real, these two lectures (see descriptions below) are literally my best work yet, so that’s one of 9,000 reasons to do QuiltCon 2018.

See you in Cali!

The AIDS Quilt: Comfort, Compassion, and Change
When the first panels of “the AIDS quilt” were sewn together in San Francisco in 1987, the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic had only just begun. At the peak of the crisis in 1995, 319,849 people — mostly young, vibrant men — were dead from complications from AIDS while 200,000 more had were testing positive for the virus. As the death toll grew, so did the quilt. The story of the AIDS Memorial Quilt is the story of a modern plague and exists as evidence of enduring hope for victims and survivors, friends and family. Learn about the beauty of the quilt and an essential, tragic period in our history in this must-see lecture by Mary Fons. Warning: This lecture contains graphic content.

*Note: I curated an exhibit of panels from the NAMES Project quilt which will be on display during the show this year.

The Modern Quilt: Roots & Frontiers
The modern quilt was born in the first decade of the 21st century — but it didn’t hatch out of an egg. Modern quilts have aesthetic roots in various 20th century art movements, draw from many cultural “moments,” and owe plenty to quilts and quilters that came before. Seeing those roots helps us as quilters look ahead — and the future of the modern quilt is nothing short of thrilling. Popular QuiltCon lecturer Mary Fons brings you the history of the modern quilt (so far) and predicts what’s to come as the moderns forge ahead in what she believes is the second wave of the Great American Quilt Revival.

*Note to self: Buy guitar. Learn how to play guitar, write music, sing while playing guitar. 

An Open Letter to Chicago’s Millennium Park Plaza Building: Please Fix Your Clock

posted in: Day In The Life | 10
This is sort of hilarious: This is the view FROM the clock. Not of the clock. But it was on Wikipedia! Photo: Wikipedia.


Dear Chicago’s Millennium Park Plaza Building:

I am an enthusiastic supporter of all of the large buildings on Michigan Avenue. As such, I hope this message will be received in the spirit in which it was written: with friendliness. And some urgency.

Millennium Park Plaza Building, I’m writing to ask if you might consider fixing your clock. It is such a large clock, Millennium Park Plaza Building, and it’s been broken for such a long time. In fact, I don’t know when it’s ever been correct, and I’ve been clicking my kitten heels up and down your stretch of Michigan Avenue for some years. Just curious, Millennium Park Plaza Building: Do you recall when your clock was keeping the correct time? Was it perhaps in the 1990s?

There are many idioms that having to do with time. “Time flies when you’re having fun.” “Third time’s the charm.” “Better late than never.” There’s one I like very much that goes, “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” You’re familiar with the phrase?

The other day, Millennium Park Plaza Building, I was crossing Michigan Avenue, right there at Randolph where your grand, handsome clock is so enticingly placed, towering, as it does, over the citizens of this great city. I looked up at you and — mercy! Your time was right! I was so pleased, Millennium Park Plaza Building, I can’t even tell you. The deep satisfaction of seeing your chiseled face at long last showing the correct time; seeing you do what you were born to do … It was a remarkable moment. I cannot be the only pedestrian who looked up at you, thought, “Ah! It’s 11:14 a.m.! Right on the money!” and felt a warm sense of rightness with the world, even for a flicker of a flick.

It was 11:14 a.m., Millennium Park Plaza Building — but you and I both know you had nothing to do with it. Because even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Millennium Park Plaza Building, and you only happened to be right about the 11:14 a.m. thing. You were wrong at the right time.

Millennium Park Plaza Building, you’ve been through a lot. You’ll be 40 in a few years and it’s not been an easy life; you’ve seen a lot of changes, had a few identity crises. Maybe your broken clock is symptomatic of how you feel on the inside. I get it, buddy. Sometimes my clock doesn’t work, either.

But if you can’t manage to get yourself off the couch and fix your clock for you, dear, may I suggest fixing it for someone else? Or someones else? You see, a lot of times, if you’re really down, the best thing you can do is to do something for others, to get the focus off yourself and onto someone else. Seek to love, not to be loved. Does that make sense?

Well, you’ve got the whole city to love, Millennium Park Plaza Building! When that clock of yours is finally working again, innumerable people at innumerable intervals will look at you, love you, check you twice, and yes, curse you and say bad words when they don’t like what you have to show them — but it’s not your fault Paul is late for work (again) or that Jacinda just missed her train to Bloomington! You’ll be helping people, that’s my point. And I know you can do it.

If you can’t fix your clock, Millennium Park Plaza Building, will you consider taking it down for heaven’s sake? At a certain point, a big, broken clock on a busy street really gets to a girl. She starts feeling a little lost. She becomes dangerously preoccupied with time, as a construct.

She starts talking to buildings.

Mary Fons

The Quilt Scout is IN: ‘Binding Threads’ at Quilt House

Ahh … Quilt House. A museum just for quilts in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo: International Quilt Study Center & Museum.


Hey, gang!

I have a great time talking to myself, let’s be honest. But from time to time, I’ve found there’s nothing better than interviewing someone more interesting than me. Shocker, right? Yeah, well, it turns out I have a lot of interviewing to do. Like, a lot. Basically, I will never stop having people to interview.

I’d better get started.

Therefore, please enjoy this Quilt Scout interview with the delightful Marin Hanson over at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) about a very cool exhibit happening in Lincoln right now. If Marin wasn’t so friendly and warm, she would be intimidating because Marin is wicked smart about quilts and, I’m sure, 90,000 other things. I enjoyed learning from Marin, who curated the show, and I think you’ll enjoy learning from her, too.

After you’re done, flick open your calendar, whether it’s on your phone or your desk or your wall, and figure out when in 2018 you’ll make the trip to visit the IQSCM. Some of you have been and need to go back; some of you have yet to see this iconic, exquisite quilt museum and in a way, I’m kind of jealous of the latter group. After all, you still have before you that incredible moment when you drive up to Quilt House and realize that the whole, huge, gorgeous place, honors quilts and only quilts. Well, this is the year to get there and have that moment — and if you go before May 13, you’ll see the Ken Burns quilt exhibit, too!

Speaking of interviews: Kenny, I’ve got you in my sights.

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