Thursday, November 15, 2007

You Turkey!

For a bit of Thanksgiving fun, create a caption for this photo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Page Fright!

My friend Julie, editor of Designers’ Quarters quilt magazine, asked me to write a column about my experience as a quilter with Multiple Sclerosis. I feel more comfortable working “behind the scenes” as a pattern proofreader, but decided it was a good way to increase awareness of what seems to be an increasingly common disease.

The thought of having my words appear in print started giving me page fright. So, I decided to look at the assignment as a blog post, to be read by only a handful of my most faithful blogging buddies. That got the words flowing all right. Only now, I’m actually going to impose upon you to read the essay. Thanks!

Pins and Needles

Ask any quilter what “pins and needles” mean to her and she’ll reply that they’re indispensable sewing tools. Ask me the same question and I’ll be more likely to describe a peculiar “pins and needles” sensation in my hands and feet. It’s just one of many symptoms such as numbness, weakness, dizziness and fatigue associated with Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system.

When I was diagnosed ten years ago, I became one of at least 300,000 Americans afflicted with MS, more than half of whom are women. Many of us are also quilters, understandably concerned about this unpredictable disease impacting our needle skills. In my case, I’ve lost much of the strength and dexterity needed to quilt, but I’ve never lost my passion to create.

I’ve learned to quilt in new ways, adapting sewing tools and techniques to my changing physical needs. A new sewing machine with loads of stitches has replaced the sewing I’d previously done by hand. My physical therapist introduced me to ergonomic sewing tools and was even able to modify my rotary cutter to make it easier to use. The latest fabrics are conveniently delivered to my door with one catalog or Internet order. But it’s my friends who really keep me quilting, with their willingness to do those things I can no longer do alone. All it takes is a phone call and they’re here to help cut fabric, press blocks, stitch bindings or finish some long neglected project that I just can’t manage myself. These gracious women inspire, encourage and motivate me to keep stitching.

I used to worry that I’d have to give up quilting because of Multiple Sclerosis. Instead, I’ve found that my strong passion to create actually helps me cope with the challenges of MS. Quilting gives me a positive outlook, a sense of purpose and pride, and a connection with other creative women. And that “pins and needles” sensation? I still get it from time to time, only now it’s in anticipation of my next quilt project!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Making Conversation

At one time, I was a high school English teacher, blessed with the task of expanding the minds of curious 14 year olds. My class was reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, when a student came up to me and said, “In the chapter you had us read for homework, Pip and Miss Havesham were having sex.” “What?” I answered, shocked. “Yeah, it said they had intercourse!”

If the situation wasn't so awkward, it would have been the answer to any teacher‘s prayer; a teachable moment with students waiting in rapt attention for me to expound on the richness of the English language. On the one hand, it was an opportunity to talk about multiple meanings of words or how language changes over time. On the other hand, how could I explain the multiple meanings of that particular word to a class of snickering teenagers?

Maybe if I broke the word into its Latin roots, they’d lose interest and we could get on with the lesson I’d originally planned for the day. “Inter means between and course means to run; it's from the Latin intercursus which means running between.” More snickering. “Okay, how about the word discourse? It means a speech or discussion. So, if course means to talk, intercourse means an exchange between people; a conversation.

I should have stopped there but something made me pose this pivotal question: “So, what’s a four letter word ending in k that means intercourse?” I expected the class to erupt into laughter and mayhem. But they very earnestly responded in unison, “F%#K“ as if the answer was obvious. “No,” I replied. The word is TALK.” At least that’s one definition they’d never forget!

The story makes a good segue for today’s quilt which is made from conversation prints. These novelty fabrics, popular in the 1870-1900’s, are printed with images of everyday things such as cats or dogs. The tiny motifs are meant to elicit comments and conversation about the fabric. Most of the designs in this quilt are from Judy Rothermel for Marcus Brothers. I think my favorite image is the pool playing grasshopper. How weird is that?