Advice To Oneself.

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 0
Josephine Bonaparte Mixed Media Sculpture by George S. Stuart. Photo: Peter D'Aprix for the Historical Figure Foundation.
Josephine Bonaparte Mixed Media Sculpture by George S. Stuart. Photo: Peter D’Aprix for the Historical Figure Foundation.

At dinner last night with a number of F+W Mediennes et Mediassieurs, I spied one of my favorite people in the group and began to flap my hands and wave my arms at her. I looked like I was having some kind of episode, but I wanted to get Aly’s attention so that she would come sit by me. I was not having lunch at a junior high cafeteria, I realize, but I never get to see this girl for more than five minutes at a time and I wanted to visit with her. This was my chance.

Aly works with the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo (an arm of F+W) and I’m certain her title has the word “coordinator” or “manager” in it, but I think of Aly as a producer. Because producers make things go. Producers solve small problems before they become big problems. Producers are the people you never want to get sideways with because they will save your hienie. (Aly’s saved mine a few times.) Whether they are producing a film, a stage show, or a quilt extravaganza, no good production ever happened without someone like Aly involved. It’s also worth noting that she is a kind of protege of Marlene.

So I asked Aly, “How’s life?” and she had lots of interesting and intelligent things to share, of course. Aly is twenty-five. If you remember anything about being twenty-five, you will recall that it is not an easy age to be. Whether you’re settling down or just gearing up to not, the world is big and choices seem to have either Godzilla-level impact or be so inconsequential to the rest of humanity that you feel like a bat in an echo chamber full of bats. Drunk bats. Drunk bats in an echo chamber with Facebook. Drunk bats in an echo chamber with Facebook and the latest iPhone. It’s hard, is what I’m saying.

“Mary,” Aly said over cheesecake, “If you could give your twenty-five-year-old self advice, what would you tell her?”

This is why Aly is going to be just fine. That’s a great question. I thought it about it for a moment because I took the question very seriously, but I knew the answer right away.

“I would trust myself more,” I said. “I made a lot of decisions at twenty-five that were based on a fundamental belief that pretty much everyone but me knew what was good for me. I thought I had to listen to them. I thought I had to fix myself. But I’m not broken. I’m not a failed human who has to use life as one, long fixer-upper. My instincts are good. I’m smart. There’s no one on the planet just like me, so hang the blueprints. Be original.”

Aly nodded, and I think she was satisfied with that. But I forgot to tell her something really important, a sidenote to the sentiment above:

“The marvelous thing about accepting your own originality is that you get to avoid the pain of living other people’s perceptions of how you should be. This is beautiful. But you still have a lot of work cut out for you, because you have to defend yourself your entire life. You’ll have to defend your path, your way, your schtick, your ‘thing’ the whole time. People like blueprints. A lot. You don’t use one, you get freedom — but it ain’t free.”

Aly, the picture up top is a figurine of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s first wife. I put “quarter life” (as in “quarter-life crisis”) into WikiCommons and I got all these pictures of historical figurines by one George S. Stuart. You see, the artist makes “quarter life-size” sculptures. Get it? I thought this one was a good one for you. Josephine was a badass.


posted in: Quilting, Work 0
Quilt Market is like this hedge maze, except with more booths, more people, and people at the doors who won't let you bring in your coffee so you have to smuggle it in your purse. Not that I've ever done that. (Photo: Stan Shebs.)
Quilt Market is like this hedge maze, except with more booths, more people, and guards at the doors who won’t let you bring in your coffee so you have to smuggle it in your purse. Not that I’ve ever done that. (Photo: Stan Shebs.)

For the next four days, I’ll be deep in the labryinth of International Quilt Market, Extreme Fall Edition.

Quilt Market is a crucial event for folks with serious business to do within the quilt industry. It occurs every year at the end or tail end of October; you could set your desk calendar to it and most industry people do: Market is where the biggest deals are done, where shop owners plan their strategies, where new careers are unveiled, and many meetings are taken in which one is advised to take notes.

From the time we were old enough to register the lives of our parents, Quilt Market was important in my life and the lives of my two sisters. Mom went to Market every year, and how we knew it was important was because Mom usually bought something new to wear to it and she didn’t do much shopping back then (still doesn’t, but back then it was because the family financial situation was mighty precarious.) We were also well aware Market was held in Houston, and this was strange in our young minds because our paternal grandparents also lived in Houston and we only had poor memories of those grandparents. We were dimly aware that Mom and our estranged dad had met in Houston and gotten married there. So Houston was an emotionally charged place for us (or maybe just me) and every year, Mom went there for work. Maybe it sounds irrational that her annual trip would cause us anxiety, but kids’ emotions are complex, especially when there’s been a painful schism in a family.

And now I go. This is perhaps my sixth Market? Something like that. I love it. I love the energy, the concentration of hundreds upon hundreds of talented people in one place. I love the effort that everyone puts forth to make this Market the best Market ever. The color in the place is dazzling. And at the heart of it all? Quilts. Well, money is also at the heart of it. But the quilts come first and the money follows, so quilts win. Isn’t that something? A Nebraskan quilter who had a name but is now only remembered as “Anonymous,” stitching along on a Log Cabin quilt in 1880 had no idea that what she was doing would yield all of this.

She’d be amazed. She’d be excited. She’d probably want to upgrade her sewing machine. At Market, she could do that. She could do a lot more than she could in 1880, that’s for sure. “Anonymous in 1880”? This Market’s for you. I will dash around in heels with my notebook and make deals and further the love of quilting in this country in the name of your anonymity. Together, we’ll help pull the next one up.**

*“Pull The Next One Up” is a brilliant poem by my friend Marc Smith, founder of the poetry slam. Google the poem and prepare for goosebumps. I love you, Marc.