PaperGirl Blog by Mary Fons







Welcome to The Internet.

posted in: Day In The Life, Work 20
Is that better?
Is that better?

To encounter one or two people in your life who don’t like your face, just get out of bed in the morning. To have a sizable number of those people, you’ll need to be on television.

Sipping my coffee this morning, feeling fantastic about wrapping the latest 2-week taping of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting, I accidentally found a gnarled thread on the Fons & Porter Facebook page. The venerable, incredible teacher and company founder, Liz Porter, visited the set to film two (excellent) episodes the other day and a picture was taken of us at work. I love working with Liz and felt quite chipper about it all until this morning.

“If they would just film with MaryAnn [sic] Fons instead of that nitwit daughter.. all would be good,” commented one Cora McDivitt Darrin, upon viewing the photo. Virginia Anne Lewis felt similarly, adding, “I wish mary [sic] would stop making faces and nodding and shaking her head.” Four people Liked that. And from the lady so irresistible she has not one but four last names, Pat Stubo Erickson Sullivan lamented, “I’m almost ready to stop watching….Mary drives me nuts. She talks WAY too much and her waving hands are so distracting. I’d rather have MaryAnn on alone with guests if we can’t have Liz back!” Various other folks digitally nodded their heads (not so vigorously they might’ve strained their necks, I hope) in agreement.

I took another sip of coffee. The cream was curdled.

Every well-intentioned mother in the world, including mine, would advise me to “just ignore it.” Just ignore it, the well-intentioned mothers say, shaking their collective heads, “some people are just negative.” This is the part that catches in my throat along with the hot tears in my eyes: Why do negative people get a pass for being wretched? I’m not negative. I’m all good. I’d never call a well-intentioned human a nitwit. Look:

nitwit |ˈnitˌwit|
noun informal
a silly or foolish person (often as a general term of abuse).

I’ll claim silly. I wear silly with pride. And perhaps in affairs of the heart, I am at my core, a fool. But you don’t know that, Cora darling, and since I don’t speak of my love life on Public Television, and since I know my job pretty well, I’d say that makes the word “fool” off limits. Besides, once the word “abuse” pops into the mix, you have wronged your fellow man. Ask around; it’s unanimous.

But hey, if you don’t want know strangers’ opinions of you, Mary Fons, stay inside your house. Strangers will still have opinions about you (you’ll be the crazy person who never comes out of your house) but you’ll never know what they’re saying, which is good if you’re a sensitive gal. But I did leave the house. I’m on a show that broadcasts to 93% of the PBS markets in America. I chose to approach this circumstance and I’ll lay in it. If I spent time whining about how a stranger in Montana (or hundreds of strangers in Texas) don’t adore me, I’d actually be the nitwit Cora believes me to be.

I can’t complain about negative comments happening. They’ll keep happening. But I can call people out for being simple and mean to me. Your name is as public as mine when you write on walls in binary code.

So: Does it feel weird to be talked about so intimately by someone you don’t know? It’s crazy, right, ladies?! Feels kinda crappy. Makes you sorta mad. But who should you get mad at? It’s hard to know! I know!! Such an impotent, helpless feeling. Just do what I do: try not to let this webpage ruin your day; instantly fail. Clench your jaw a few times, click over to Amazon and try to forget about it. Click back. Read your name again. Feel like a failure. Burn. Get paralyzed for about an hour. Literally, physically shake “it” off and set about your day. Eventually forget whatever nasty thing Person XYZ said about you, but not completely; no not completely, because they did say it and a bunch of people saw it. You mustn’t cry, though, even if you feel like you got punched in the face. If you cry, you’ll really feel dumb because people will say that if you don’t like it, don’t work.

As for all the strangers who said lovely things, I’d like to thank you individually for your your charm, your intelligence, your flawless skin, your timeless elegance, and those swan-like necks! Ms. Susan Parrish admitted to missing my mom and Liz but managed a sincere tally-ho: “[Liz and Marianne] made such a good team,” Parrish said, “But I like Mary as well; she is doing a great job. Keep up the good work.” The incomparable Leslie Fitzgerald went to bat for me, wading into the fetid comment stream to say, “For those of you who have been bashing Mary, what happened to the old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Sheesh!”

Ah, but Leslie. This is the Internet. Welcome to the Internet. Leave your face at the door.

p.s. Enjoy.


posted in: Day In The Life 2
You can bathe a baby in it, too.
You could bathe a baby in it, too.

The washing machine is broken here at my mom’s house. It just stopped working. Unfortunately, it stopped working when it had a full tub of water and it’s a front-loader. To get the serial number to order the part, Mom had to open the door. She jumped back and the water gushed out. I so wish a goldfish would’ve sailed out, too.

When I film the TV show I go through a lot of clothes. There’s a different outfit for every episode and I do a little side project show at the same time, in the same studio, so we’re talking about sixteen different ensembles, plus several Plan B choices in case certain items don’t work (e.g., too low-cut, too stripey, cigarette burns, etc.) Some laundry is required, therefore; having no washing machine is not ideal. Yesterday night I needed laundry done and I was going to have to do it myself.

Down to the basement I trudged, nearly falling and cracking my neck on the stairs, as usual. I pulled a string and the lights came on. There’s a big wash sink down there, so I set about hand washing my clothes. Here are the three greatest modern inventions of all time:

– washing machines

I couldn’t come up with two others that are better.

Though there was something vaguely meditative and prehistoric about sloshing my skivvies through the tub of warm water, I refused to get romantic about it. The last time I hand washed two loads of laundry was never, and the mere thought of doing so every day or even every other day was enough to begin to break my back. Oh, women! How we have toiled. And I had soap! For the majority of human history, we just had sticks and stones! Of course, we didn’t have cashmere, either, but I still don’t see how a stick can get mascara and cabernet out of a garment.

Ohhh… Right.

Word Nerd: Quaintrelle

posted in: Word Nerd 0
Lempicka's "The Blue Scarf," dahhhhling.
Lempicka’s “The Blue Scarf,” dahhhhling.

Just when language pleases me from the top of my capo to the tip of my tarsals, it goes and does it all over again. Ladies and germs, I present “quaintrelle,” a word I discovered yesterday when I wasn’t looking for it.

A woman who emphasizes a life of passion, expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, and cultivation of life’s pleasures.

I’m signed up for that one. The leisurely pastimes part is the only part that I can’t get 100% on board with. In my head, “leisurely pastimes” translates to “strolling” or “a spot of tea with Freddy and the Rumsfordshire sisters after a pleasant game of squash on the lawn.” I’m a long way from squash on the lawn.

The rest of it, though, has pretty much been my M.O. since ’95. They say relationships take work. It’s true; but we have a relationship with ourselves, as well. This relationship takes just as much work, maybe more. Today, I shall set a goal: I will take a pleasure in life and cultivate it one step further than usual. I will be a quaintrelle I can be proud of.



Word Nerd: “Loaded For Bear”

Bear! Agh! Bear!
Bear! Agh! Bear!

Oh, misconceptions. You crazy little guys! I can think of a few:

– when you fall in love, it will be forever
– “He’s got the whole world/in his pants”
– black licorice doesn’t taste good
– the expression “loaded for bear” comes to us from the nautical world

Let’s look at that last one. Last night, I was set straight by a comrade. We were in conversation at an almost handicappingly dim restaurant, nibbling on burrata and tomatoes so fresh they were still mooing.

“Well, there I was, and let me tell you, I was loaded for bear!” my dinnermate said. I stopped him in his tale to ask about the provenance of that expression. It was a nautical term, wasn’t it? I knew what it meant, that a person was ready for a fight, ready for a major event, equipped and prepared to do serious business. But I have operated my entire life (at least since I could read or whatever) that “loaded for bear” referred to the maximum level of cargo or freight a big ship could carry at one time. I was using “bear” as in “bearing weight.” To me, “loaded for bear” meant that a massive ship was packed to the hilt, loaded up “for bear,” perhaps a sailor’s way of saying, “the full weight.” Don’t know where I picked it up, don’t know who might’ve misled me or if I just made it up, but I’ve used the expression properly for a long time and never thought to question it.

“No, no,” said he. “No, it means you’ve loaded your gun for big game. Like a bear.”

I smacked his shoulder. “Get! Out! Really?? A bear?? It means an actual bear??”

“Yes,” he said, and smiled in that way that men smile when a girl in a dress swats them on the shoulder. Happy girl, silly hitting. Lovely hitting.

What a revelation. A bear. I like animals a lot — in the abstract — and when an idiom has been employing one right in front of my face without my knowledge, well, my day is made upon discovery of that.

Loaded for bear! For bear! Of all the things.

How The Mighty Amish Quilts Have Fallen

posted in: Art 3
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.

If you want to feel like you’ve accidentally taken expired cold medicine, I recommend the Discovery Channel’s Amish Mafia. 

When I’m home in Iowa, I watch a bit of television. I refuse to be a no-TV snob, but the truth is, I don’t have a television in Chicago and I haven’t owned a TV since I left home for college. I’ve just never wanted one very much, mostly because I am an enormous nerd who would rather read a book than do just about anything. And besides, commercials are tiny rapes.

Last night, I was clicking channels and found this Amish Mafia show. Have you heard of it? Seen it? Been as dumbfounded as I was by it? For the most part, a person can watch 30-seconds of any show on television and get the gist of it. “Oh, this is a cop drama,” you think, or “Oh, this is a sitcom where the guy is a lump and the smart wife loves the knucklehead anyway,” or, at the very least, “This is a reality show vs. a show with actors playing parts.” The producers of any show want you to do this. They want their shows to be instantly recognizable so you don’t have to think terribly hard and you can just be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that; and the best shows actually mess with the formulas and create great, dynamic television. Consider The Sopranos; violent and humane, dramatic but often hilarious, too. Good stuff.

I watched Amish Mafia for a full 30 minutes last night and I still had no idea what was happening to me. The show follows…Amish people. Mostly men. Who have…guns. These Amish men with guns…collect money from other Amish men? With guns? Everyone is very…angry. These angry Amish men with guns talk to the camera like it’s a reality show, but I’ll bet you two bonnets and a straw boater that THERE IS NO AMISH MAFIA so it simply could not be real. Amish people don’t allow girls to play with any doll that has a face! That’s considered a “graven image” and creates idolatry; how does an HD camera filming Amish in their kitchens avoid the whole “graven image” thing? Even for a Mennonite, this seems as plausible as a fish saying, “I prefer living out of the water.”

The whole show was so confusing and lame and slightly disturbing that I had to look it up. It’s not real. It’s scripted. They’re all actors. It’s fake, fake, fake, and the reality show “feel” is calculated, calculated, calculated. The actual Amish are horrified. The actual Mafia is probably horrified, come to think of it. But Amish Mafia just got picked up for a second season, so we’ll all be horrified together for at least another 6 months or so.

The thing that makes me mad is that I even believed for one second that it was real. I did! I thought, “Gee whiz, the Amish community has heavies that break kneecaps for community funding?? That’s nuts!” And then I realized I had been suckered. I don’t like being suckered by an inanimate object, which brings us full-circle as to why I don’t have a television.

The thing that steams me the most? There are quilts all over that show and I can’t decide if this is good or bad. Should I be happy a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt is shown five different times on a major cable television show? Or should I cringe because the guy sitting on it has a gold tooth and bad attitude?

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