First-Ever PaperGirl Guest Post: A ‘Note From Mark’ (w/Sniffles From Mary)

posted in: Paean 16
Really, the perfect picture for Mark's post is this image of homemade buttermilk ice cream with espresso-chocolate chip cookies. Image: Wikipedia.
Really, the perfect picture for Mark’s post is this image of homemade buttermilk ice cream with espresso-chocolate chip cookies. Image: Wikipedia.


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things have been intense around here lately. Grad school is hard. If I stop for a half-an-hour, I’m behind. I love all of it, but I’m ridin’ the struggle bus. And whattaya know, but last night I woke myself up whimpering (!) because the scratchy throat I felt in the newspaper office yesterday had become agonizing. Even though it was barely 4 a.m., my body ached so bad and my sneezes were so hilariously powerful, I was not gonna fall back asleep. So I got up.

And in my email box, there was this wonderful, incredible piece of writing from one of my very first (and personal favorite) PaperGirl readers, Mark H. (You may remember Mark and Netta from my trip to Florida! And I’m sure I’ve mentioned how they send me fudge and pecans at Christmastime, swoon.) Mark had sent me an email a few days ago, his email subject line the same as it’s been for years: “Note from Mark.” He was checking in on me, you see: Mark’s been reading the ol’ PG long enough to be able to read between the lines and suspected I was kind of freaking out with all my activities and schoolwork. He had an idea for me, because Mark likes to help people.

“Maybe you could have your readers write a post or two,” Mark said, “about why they read your blog and why they keep coming back. I bet they’d like to do it and it would take something off your plate.”

What a friend, right? And the idea sounded neat, except 1) it would necessitate a bit of planning and organization on my part and I can hardly find time to floss; and 2) I was a little worried that if I asked people why they read or love this blog, it might be a little self-congratulatory or hoo-hoo-look-a-me. I told Mark he was amazing and kind, as usual, and that I’d keep thinking about a way to do it and indeed, I did think about it.

But before I had a solution, however — and suffering from my cold enough to really need a break — Mark wrote back and said, essentially: “Well, tough, kiddo. I’ve decided I might as well just give this a shot. You can post it if you want, but you certainly don’t have to. It was fun to write!”

Mark, you’re a true-blue friend. You made me cry with this. I appreciate you so much. Thanks, buddy. I’m so glad you’re here. Don’t leave. I won’t if you won’t, okay? And this is the first-ever guest post on PaperGirl. How cool is that?? 😀

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It was actually an errant internet search that brought me to this blog many years ago. My wife and I had to work in different parts of the country, and I was searching for love poems to tell her how much I missed her. When I entered the words “love poems” in the search box I accidentally searched the “video” tab, not the “all” tab. Mary’s video of her famous poem was near the top. So I clicked it. I didn’t know what slam poetry was, but I liked what she was doing. There was a little icon at the bottom that linked to her blog, so I clicked that one too. I wanted to know more about a person who could write poems like this.

The blog gave me great insight into the life of this stranger. I read along for a few months, never commenting, but decided to send a few encouraging words to her one night because she was particularly despondent about losing her hair. I don’t know if she knew how sick she was back then, but my medical background told me that she was in serious trouble. I don’t know if she knew this, or was just downplaying the situation, but I wasn’t sure if she would survive it. I wanted her to know how much I enjoyed her blog, so I sent her a short note about what it meant to me. I didn’t really expect her to reply, but she did. This began a years-long friendship between us, even though we have very little in common.

I use Mary’s blog as part of my unwinding process at night. It’s hard for me to shut off my mind at the end of my stressful days, so I follow an odd mix of bloggers to help me escape the mental replays of my day. When I started following her blog, she wasn’t a quilter. She was a freelance writer and performer. She wrote about her life and her thoughts, and it was fascinating to me. The blog took me to Michigan Avenue, or a cold slab in a hospital, or New York, or Washington, or WintersetIowa, or the Arizona desert, or on an early morning run along Lake Michigan.

While the blog is not meant to be educational, I’ve learned a great deal from it. I’ve been introduced to George Orwell’s six rules of writing (which I now use frequently), haiku poetry, various recipes, international philosophy, decorating tips on a budget, and even silly poems about fruit, which I’ve come to adore.

By far the most endearing quality of this blog comes from Mary’s vulnerability. Mary shares some deeply personal thoughts about her life, that some of my best friends would never share with me about their own. In some ways, I feel that I shouldn’t know this much about a stranger, but her easy writing style always draws me in. I’ve discovered that she’s actually an introvert, but that she does not shy away from relationships. In fact, I’d say she delights in them. Her ability to write about her emotions is at once humanly familiar and heart-wrenching, and for me, it’s the most authentic part of her site.  

I’m curious what other readers draw from PaperGirl. No doubt, many of you are quilters, but I am not. (I might have sewn a button back on my lab coat a few years ago, but that’s it.) I’ve slept under a quilt most of my adult life. When my girls went away college, it was a quilt that went on their dorm room beds. When Hurricane Irma roared through my state last week, I hunkered down under my grandmother’s quilt. I’ve used quilts most of my life, but really just see them as heavy blankets. Some make their way to museums, but for me, the beauty and fascination of them is in the backstory of those who make them. Mary’s blog is just that for me. How ’bout you? What brings you here?

How ’bout you? What brings you here?


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