Day Tripping + The Good Life Project

NYC, 1932. View from the Empire State Building Observatory. Photo: Wikipedia
NYC, 1932. View from the Empire State Building Observatory. Photo: Wikipedia

A few months ago, an alarmingly attractive and discerning young lady named Lindsay contacted me and asked me if I would like to fly to New York City and be a guest on something called The Good Life Podcast. I immediately said yes and then asked her what that was.

The Good Life Project is comprised of a number of ambitious (and successful) initiatives created by Jonathan Fields, a writer and entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to living a good one. It appears that Jonathan has discovered that living a good life means helping other people live a good one, too. So, Fields has spent his life traveling around the world, launching big projects aimed at inspiring, connecting, pushing, enlightening, and generally helping people figure out how to feel and do better in a world that seems to punish us in all sorts of new and exciting ways on a regular basis.

Lindsay — who I’ve not yet had the pleasure to meet but who is clearly a winsome and nimble and possessing of good genes — is a PaperGirl reader and that’s how all this came about. Actually, she also used to watch me in the Neo ensemble here in Chicago; she said her dad saw my one-woman show and still talks about it. If Lindsay had asked me just to come over and hang out with her and her dad, I would’ve done that, too. Going to NYC tomorrow is pretty fancy, though, so that’s nice.

Some businesspeople in this world do in-and-out trips all the time: they fly into Atlanta from Cleveland for a lunch meeting then fly back in time for dinner. I’ve done a same-day trip maybe once before in my life; tomorrow will make it two. It worked out this way because there is an appointment on Thursday here at home that I can’t move, but the truth is that I am not interested in staying longer in New York City.

It’s too much, still. Because Yuri, who was a big part of my life and always will be. Because it saw most of my 34th year of life. And the air when I left, the rain that day — I’ll never forget it and that’s too bad.

There are 350k subscribers to The Good Life Project podcast, so I admit I’m a little nervous about doing the show. That’s 700k ears. Jonathan wants to ask me about quilting and writing and writing about quilting and if I get to have some tea in the studio with me, it should all be just fine. I’ll be sure to let you know when my episode is posted. I’ll also let you know how it felt to feel the pavement in shoes that haven’t walked on it, yet.

See you in the morning, Manhattan.

Compassion Station: All Aboard

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 2
It's windy in DC, too. Illustration: Geoffery Biggs via Wikipedia.
It’s windy in DC, too. Book illustration: Geoffery Biggs. Wikipedia.

I flew across the entire continental United States yesterday. Portland to Washington, D.C. is no joke: six whole hours in the air, plus layover. I could get from D.C. to Paris in about the same amount of time. I’m not complaining: Portland was great. But, you know. Paris.

Halfway through the first flight, I went to visit the commode in the back of the plane. I had to wait for it to be available and found myself inserted into a conversation between an airline attendant and a man in his late thirties. I picked up that the man was a retired police officer. He had brown hair, a sweet disposition, and was remarkably heavy. I didn’t think much of any of this until the man shared with the attendant that he had been shot four times during a drug bust.

“One of the bullets went straight through my chest, yeah,” the man said. He said it like it was no big deal, like plenty of us get shot in the chest.

“Oh no!” The flight attendant’s hand covered her mouth. I wasn’t exactly part of the conversation, but I gasped, too.

“Yeah. Crazy. I’ve gained eighty pounds since then. That was maybe two years ago, and they’ve got me on all these steroids. It’s really bizarre, you know. I used to be really fit.” He said it matter-of-fact, but there was some shame, I think, in his voice, like he was apologizing.

There are so many things we think we know and we know basically zero things. Maybe I would’ve seen that man and thought, “Wow, he’s really heavy. Maybe he should take the stairs and not the escalator,” or some other judgey, useless thing. I wouldn’t know that he was shot in the chest at work and to keep his heart working or whatever so he can be alive for his son or whatever, he’s on steroids. Steroids cause weight gain in most people who have to take it.

Whenever possible, I try to find a Family or Assisted Care bathroom in public places. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a private bathroom when you are a person missing several organs in the lower half of her body. Trust me. But if you were to see me go in, would you purse your lips? Would you think I’m going in to like, do my hair or just have more space? Would you give me a dirty look if I caught your eye as I went in because here I am a young woman in high heels, clipping along just fine down the airport terminal? I don’t look disabled. I don’t have a baby. But you don’t know my life. You don’t know so many things.

The guy who cuts you off in traffic shouldn’t. But maybe he’s got one last dinner with his kid before the kid goes to live with his mom in Mexico for the rest of the summer. (I know someone in such a situation.) We don’t know what people are up against. The only thing we do know is that life never, ever looks like we thought it would. Even when it’s good, it still doesn’t look like the pictures we paint in our heads.

Rejected For QuiltCon.

posted in: Quilting 1
Nolandia Top
“Welcome To Nolandia,” by Mary Fons, quilted (eventually) by Angela Huffman, 2014.

I submitted a quilt to QuiltCon and didn’t get in. I meant to write about this a long time ago but it’s good that I didn’t, not that I would’ve ranted about it — ew — but now that I’m at the show, my feelings went from bummed to 100% okay-ness with the decision the jury made.

“Welcome To Nolandia” is the oddest quilt I’ve ever made and one of the quilts I’m most proud of. The quilt depicts a town, and the story is told from top to bottom. The sky/gods are above, then come the houses of the people. (You can’t see them in the picture, but all the houses have little fussy-cut pieces in the windows: pink pigs flying, frogs fishing, faces, flowerpots.) The sidewalks and streets come next, then the vegetation and trees. Below that, the dirt — that’s the improv-pieced purple and black. There is buried treasure down there, represented by gold and yellow pieces; there are old bicycles and metallic fabric, too, striations of sediment. Then comes deep bedrock, limestone. This picture doesn’t show the last row I put on, which was the water far below; I pieced flying geese in light and dark blue.

[Note Yuri’s feet. This picture was taken in our East Village apartment this summer.]

Now that I’m at the show, I realize how inappropriate this quilt is for QuiltCon. It’s not modern at all. It’s bizarre, it’s got a few elements of the modern style, but it would stick out like a funky, misshapen thumb at this show. The jury knew what they were doing, of course, and if I were on that jury, I wouldn’t have accepted my quilt, either.

As a writer, I get a lot of rejections. A writer has to submit to magazines, has to try and get an agent, has to “put herself out there.” Any writer that has succeeded in any measurable way will tell you they have a stack of rejection emails and letters. The good-natured ones refer to them with a certain sense of pride.

I understand the QuiltCon organizers got something like 2,000 submissions. There are like, 100 quilts in the show. (I should verify that, but it can’t be many more.) The quilts are stunning, inspiring, and each quilter brought their A game, big time. The quilts are perfect specimens of this aesthetic and hats off to each one of them. I mean, dang, y’all.

At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, I say unto thee: if your quilt didn’t get into the show, shake it off. Rejection usually means you tried something hard. Good for you. Most of the time, there is a good reason your work was rejected: your article wasn’t right for the magazine, your pottery style was already represented by three artisans at the art festival, your quilt wasn’t appropriate for the show. You didn’t get the job because the hiring person thought you’d be miserable if you were hired or you don’t know Excel well enough or something.

Enjoy the quilts here, quilters. If you’re not actually in Austin, enjoy the tsunami of social media reports all over the quilter web. And if you aren’t in the show — like 1,900 of your comrades — let yourself feel lucky. You can sit back and enjoy while all the quilters who did get in bite all their fingernails off hoping they’ll get a ribbon or prize money.

And remember why you make quilts anyway. I don’t have to tell you why. You know.