Scone Me: A Return To London

posted in: Day In The Life, London, Tips, Travel 30
Devonshire tea. Image: Wikipedia.


Here we are, and here we go:

We’re back in London.

This time, we’re here with UK government-issued I.D. cards and and this time, it’s serious enough that we’ve rented our very own flat. (That our extended-stay Airbnb days are behind us is one of the many reasons Eric has been in a good mood since we arrived.) How long we’ll stay depends on the pandemic, the documentary, Eric’s work, and whether or not London will have us, I suppose. So far, the city seems cool with it, and the rest of the stuff I mentioned has to be taken day by day, and that would be true no matter where we live.

We’ve been here almost a month, but I’ve been timid about sharing the news. The timing of all this is odd, even shocking. If I heard someone was moving to another country during a global pandemic, I’d have an opinion. They’re moving now?? Couldn’t they just wait until the pandemic’s over??

But there were several reasons why we couldn’t wait, and besides, no one knows when the pandemic will be over or what “over” even looks like. If not now, safely, when? I assure you that Eric and I have been model pandemic-ans from the start: tests, masks, distancing, sacrificing holiday get-togethers, tuning in to various science-y podcasts when want to get good and scared (because the paranoid shall inherit the earth.) I also turned up the dial on my baseline introversion, which honestly — speaking as a true introvert — has been kind of awesome. Making two trips to England in less than a year’s time has been A Very Big Deal to us both psychologically and physically, and we’ve been as concerned about everyone else’s safety as we’ve been about our own. Nobody wants to make any of this worse, so we did all the stuff.

The stuff was no small feat, because you really cannot get into the UK right now without showing some serious paperwork. At O’Hare, we couldn’t even approach the ticket counter before showing the nice lady our documents. We each had to have proof of a negative COVID test (specifically the PCR kind, I think) within the past 48 hours and it had to be signed by a doctor; we each had to fill out a form on the UK government website (I brought a paper copy just in case); there was another form about having tests ordered for when we actually arrived in England; they needed proof of where we were staying; and then we had paperwork regarding the work visa stuff and obviously current passports and all that. We dutifully quarantined for 10 days and answered the phone when NHS called to check in on us — and they did, several times.

By the way, none of this felt invasive. None of it felt spooky or infringe-y. It was a relief. The very idea that we would be responsible for spreading the virus is unbearable. I was glad the authorities made it virtually impossible to do so.

But why did we engage that process? Why have we come here again? There are so many different ways to answer that question and because it feels really good to write again, let’s try on a few different styles. I now present to you a modest buffet of answers to the question: “Why have you moved, however temporarily, to London, Mary Fons?”

Cryptic: “Life unfolds in mysterious ways.”

Shakespearean: “Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale / Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man [so … do something exciting, like go to London during a pandemic.]” — King John (1598). Act III, scene 4, line 108.

Snippy: “None of your business.”

Busy: “Could we go over it tomorrow? I’m sorry, I’ve just got so much — yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Thank you. I mean, I want to — exactly. Yeah, exactly. Right?? Yeah. Okay. Okay, bye. You too. Bye.”

Fatalist: “Chicago, London. Doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die. You wanna die in London, be my guest.”

Romantic: “London, oh bewitching mistress! How our tender hearts longed to return to her verdant* bosom!”

Simple: The company Eric is with has offices here, we love it here, and we’re both in our early 40s.

If not now, safely, when?

There have been plenty more changes since I last checked in with all of you, the second-biggest being that I’ve made a significant work change that will grant me a good deal more breathing room in which to write (!), read, and scheme. The specifics of the change aren’t public, yet, but they will be soon.

It’s so, so good to see you! Scone me!!


*This does actually make sense because London is technically a forest. That is a fact — I’ll tell you more about it soon.

Laundry Symbols: You’re Welcome

posted in: Tips 1
Tape it up in your laundry room and promptly forget you did that. Photo: Reddit
Tape it up in your laundry room and promptly forget you did that. Photo: Internet. Please contact me if this is your image.

I attended a lecture this evening where a couple universal fabric care symbols were shown on a slide. Everyone laughed because though a number of them live on many of the garments in our lives, no one knows what those laundry instruction icons mean.

The ones that should be self-explanatory aren’t. The “Hand Wash” icon looks like it could mean “Hand Burning”, as though the tub of liquid you’re washing your clothes in might be hydrochloric acid. And gym clothes need that, sometimes. The tubs with temperatures on them look like they might be pretty straightforward, but those temperatures are in Celsius. They don’t always say that.

Other icons are unknowable without help. The dots in the washbasins: apples? Bleach is a triangle, okay — but why? As for the last row up there, I just get angry. It’s hula hoops and sticks! What is this, Norman Rockwell’s sketchbook?? The whole thing looks like the language of a people who use a pictorial system to communicate with each other in writing.

You do have to respect that people for their language, though. There are no dirty words!

I kill me!


A House, A Home.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Tips 1
Note 1970s cross-stitch in frame sitting on windowsill, which reads: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” This piece has traveled with me many years.
Note 1970s cross-stitch in frame sitting on windowsill, which reads: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” This piece has traveled with me many years.

A major decision was made last week. 

By the way, I’m good on big decisions. I don’t mean that I’m good at them. I mean I’ve had enough of them for awhile, as in, “No, please, Nonna — I’m good on kugel,” or “Wow, okay, I think I’m good on socks.” Small decisions I can handle, e.g., grapefruit or pears, to shower or not to shower, etc. Unfortunately, the universe keeps pitching big ones to me and what can I do but catch?

The major decision was to not go to Chicago to retrieve my furniture. I will rent my apartment furnished. 

Whenever I thought about moving these items halfway across the country, my stomach hurt. I envisioned the getting of the large moving truck. I pictured the getting of the objects. I saw the freight elevator. I saw the drive from Chicago to D.C. And I saw the other freight elevator waiting for me on the other side and I saw the cost and I saw the problem of fitting things that live in a 1500 sq. ft. condo into an 800 sq. ft. apartment. It’s more precise to say that my stomach would hurt first and then my guts would churn and then my head would throb and then my left eye would begin to twitch. 

But I clung to the “need” to do this. Why? Because of my attachment to these things of mine. I ain’t no Buddhist, but I seem to recall that, according to them, suffering is due to attachment. Attachment to expectations, attachment to people, attachment to one’s coffee table even if it is really, really fabulous — nesting glass and just… I can’t talk about it. 

The moment I allowed myself to let go of my furniture, my objects (for another year, anyway) my spirits soared. No semi-trailer. No freight elevators. No worries about how it all would fit here — it all will not, no way, no how. I would surely end up selling my beautiful table, which is not what I want at all. 

This was all excellent, except that the bed, the table, and the sofa I was planning on having in a couple weeks were suddenly not on their way. I’ve been living like a monk, you realize. I have a decent mattress/quilt/blanket pile that is remarkably comfortable for sleeping, but I have been sitting on a little mat with a throw pillow to have my breakfast. I have no chair, no couch. No bed frame. And so, once the decision to leave material things behind, I had to set about getting new ones. What do the Buddhists say about that, hm?

Yesterday, I got the most incredible, amazing deal on a bed from Overstock. And today, I went thrifting. Look at what I found! Wow, was there ever a lot of junk at that place. But I found, for around $200 total: a cool iron floor lamp (needs shade), a green easy chair in fantastic shape, a lucite stool (!), an actual vintage trash can for the bathroom, four darling, mismatched china plates (pink! gold! floral!) and a fruit bowl. I’m on my way.

When I went to put a can of tomatoes in my beans, however, I was stymied, as I realized I do not yet have a can opener. 

Reverse The Narrative.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Tips 0
I can see my house from here! Photo: Wikipedia, 2006.
I can see my house from here! Photo: Wikipedia, 2006.

When I’m facing a challenge that seems impossible, or when I’m standing at a path in the woods that is diverging before my eyes, there’s a tool in my toolbelt I find handy. It doesn’t solve the problem for me, but it helps…with the drywall? Hm. Okay, the tool metaphor does not extend terribly well. I’ll just tell you what I mean. It’s not a complex concept — maybe it’s something people do it all the time — but if it’s new to you, perhaps it will help you with a challenge, also:

I pretend it’s the future and I’m telling someone what happened in the situation I’m currently facing. For example:

“Well, what can I say? It was a tough time in my life. I was heartsick. I left New York. I was in Washington in a kind of limbo, trying to decide if I’d stay or leave. But I trusted myself, I made what I believed was the braver choice and now look at me! I’ve never been happier.”

See what I mean? It sort of calms me down. Because it illustrates what we know will happen: we’ll talk later — casually, even off-handedly — about something that seems impossible to us now. Let’s try another one, perhaps more relevant to you than the above example:

“I never thought I’d buy an entire island. Who does that? But then I thought, ‘I am a billionaire. Why not enjoy it?’ So I shopped around and it was so extremely difficult to choose between the two I fell in love with and the legal stuff was an absolute nightmare — the French Polynesians are a real pain in the neck, trust me — but you know what? It was worth it. All the pain. All the flying back and forth. I almost gave up a dozen times. But I stuck with it. And now look at me! I’ve never been happier.”

You see what I mean.

In the next few days, I will announce the decision I’ve made regarding staying in DC or going back to Chicago. Curious? Me, too. It’s time to start telling the story.

Quilt Now: A Day In the Life of Mary Fons (Feature)

posted in: Day In The Life 0
A screenshot of the article because I have not the skills to post the piece as a PDF.
A screenshot of the article because I have not the skills to post the piece as a PDF.

As editor of Quilty, I schedule, select, and edit a great number of features about the quilters of today. But this summer, friend and colleague Katy Jones, editor of the UK magazine Quilt Now, featured me. I was flattered and wrote a “Day In the Life” piece for her. Here is the text from that piece. It’s great until the part where I talk about how great it is to be in love. I forgot I wrote that part.

Anyhow, thank you, Katy! And everyone, if you can get your hands on a copy of an issue of Quilt Now, do it. It’s a great magazine and I’m honored to have been able to write for it.

A Day In The Life of Mary Fons
by Mary Fons

“Whether I’m traveling or at home, I wake early. Usually very early. Pre-dawn. When I was a kid, it was so hard get out of bed. I remember thinking how weird it was — weird and enviable — the way adults like my mom just naturally got up in the morning with minimal fuss. Of course, I would learn that plenty of adults would like to sleep in, but for most of us, getting up in the morning does get easier as we get older. This is likely due to the fear of responding in an at least somewhat timely manner to the crushing pressure of daily living.

If I’m home, I rise and immediately made a large pot of tea. If I’m on the road, I rise and immediately make hotel room coffee. Either way, there is lots of milk and sugar involved. I can do exactly nothing until I’ve got hot tea or coffee in my hand in the morning, and that’s that. The morning tea or coffee time is for me to write in my journal or read. Sometimes, when I’ve got a big event coming up or I’m under deadline, I’ll use that tea time to work. But I prefer to have my tea or coffee for an hour with just personal pursuits that involve both reading and writing.

Then it’s time to produce. I edit Quilty magazine, and plan and host the Quilty show online. I speak and teach across the land, host a webinar each month, I’m working on a new book, and I do numerous other projects at any given time, so there is always slightly too much to do. I do not, at press time, have an assistant. That would be amazing.** So I’m on my own to write copy, tweak copy, book travel, send bios and teaching plans, stitch, and otherwise coordinate All The Things. I also blog (nearly) every day and I see my blog, PaperGirl, as an integral part of the Mary Fons “thing,” so that is most certainly a priority, even though it makes me zero income.

I’m a freelancer, a contractor. It’s kind of an odd set-up, since I do the vast majority of my work for one company (F+W) but I’ve been a freelancer since ‘05 and I’m stayin’ alive. I like the freedom that comes with it, even though there are frequently invoicing headaches, checks to track down, and of course I have no employee benefits and have to do my own taxes. Still, for a creative person such as myself, I can see no other way to live. I can work at 6am or 6pm, on the road or at home, and there are no clocks to punch. (I would probably actually punch a clock if I had to “check in” for work at this point.)

There is a downside to working this way: I work almost constantly. It’s not the working I mind, but there are times when I wish a janitor would like, shut the lights off in the office and tell me to go home. There is no janitor. I do have a partner now, which is very good; he can tell me to stop working or not take on another project. When I was just a single gal, living for the city, there was no reason to not take another road gig. No one needed me at home to make dinner or, you know, just be home because that feels good. I’m not suggesting my existence was bleak — I rather enjoy being a career gal — but it’s been wonderful to have someone sort of put their hand on my shoulder and tell me to chill out for two seconds and sleep in once in awhile.

I do have my fun. I’m a Bikram yogini, so I go sweat it out in the hot yoga room. I just moved to Manhattan from Chicago, so now I have NYC as a playground and I do intend to start playing asap. I like to dance. I love to read and write. And I really, really love to design and make big scrap quilts. So that’s fun for me. And I mentioned the partner thing: I am wildly in love with someone who fascinates and delights me and teaches me all kinds of new and wonderful things. That’s my fun, too, just being with Yuri.

I think a lot about how short life is and how I, Mary Fons, have to do something extraordinary with my time here. I don’t have a choice. I don’t know when I go to bed. When I’m tired, I lay down. I suppose it’s usually around midnight. And I dream, dream, dream. And then I do it all again.”