Welcome to Gratitude.

Dear friends,

If you’re new to this space, if you wandered over from Momastery today to poke around or say hello, it only seemed right for me to be the first to welcome you.

I’m absolutely delighted you are here.

I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years, under two mastheads. For all of that time and through hundreds of stories, no more than about a hundred folks ever showed up. I’ve got way more stories than I do people. I’m not complaining. It’s been a cozy place, a safe place, mostly filled with people who know me in real life and would listen to my stories even if I never wrote them down.

So since you don’t know me, and you aren’t likely to hear my latest story at your dinner party or when we bump into each other at the grocery store, I feel a little nervous. I feel like the new girl who just moved into your neighborhood and isn’t sure whether you think her wave is friendly or weird.

But, actually, this is my neighborhood, so I think the polite thing is to show you around.

Here’s the deal: Most of what I write about is completely unnecessary. Like you really need another cake recipe or photo of my children or details about the quilt I’m sewing. I get it. But I’m still grateful for the friends who show up regularly and tolerate my babbling or latest obsession.

But once in a blue moon, something pops into my head, and a story more urgent, more consequential, more discerning makes its way straight from my heart into this space as a kind of offering from one hopeful tramp to another.

And on those days, rare as they are, it’s pretty cool. Nothing in the world makes me happier than writing. And nothing about writing makes me more joyful than knowing my words resonated with you.

So if you’re in the mood to explore, here are a few of my favorite stories. From me to you.

Some Reflections on 50

Witness

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Minions Want You to Know the Truth

Beans Knocked Cornbread Outta Sight

Just This

My life of Entitlement

My Love Affair with Mayberry

One Little Teary Burst of Joy

With Gratitude {for Glennon},

Joan, who has one more story she wants to tell you about Glennon but is still figuring out the right words

 

A lifetime of love.

Dear friends,

This quilt story is a long one. But it’s so dear to my heart, I hope that you will grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and indulge me in the telling.

I’ve written before about my oldest and closest friends — the Js. Joan-Marie, Jami, Janet, Johnna and Julie all grew up together. Four of the Js have known each other since Kindergarten. I joined the tribe in 5th grade when my mother moved us from Tulsa to “Mayberry,” the loveliest hometown ever. Three of the Js still live in or near Mayberry (as I did until three years ago) and we remain fast friends to this day.

Today’s story begins with my friend, Janet. Here we are, circa 1976, preparing for an appearance in Mayberry’s Pioneer Days Parade.

jbandme

Janet and Boney Joanie enjoyed their stint as Minnie Mouse and Raggedy Andy so much, we parlayed the experience into a four-year stint as “Spuddy and Spry” in our high school’s clown troupe. We shared a love of acrobatics and performance and we spent untold hours in her yard and mine perfecting our tricks and tumbling routines. At one point, we both learned to juggle and Janet learned to ride a unicycle in pursuit of a more entertaining performance.

Janet was petite and remarkably strong and athletic. I have vivid memories of her standing on her head and pushing up into a handstand, which she could hold on balance as long as she desired. I was far too tall and skinny to have much athletic potential, but I could contort myself into all kinds of shapes and I was a fearless and loyal companion of the girl I idolized.

jbandme2

We were inseparable for years and I can’t count the number of sleepovers we shared. At her house, we listened to Barry Manilow until the wee hours then wedged ourselves into her twin-sized bed where we slept like interlocked Lego pieces. At my house, we begged my mother to make us SOS (a hamburger and white gravy concoction we loved) and watched television on the tiny black-and-white set in my bedroom.

Years later, Janet and I would also “share” pregnancies. Her first child, Sarah, was born on Dec. 8, 1992, and my CupKate was born exactly three months later on March 8, 1993. Janet and her husband were living in Texas at the time and both her mother, Carolyn, and I couldn’t wait to see baby Sarah. So Mr. Mom, Carolyn, and I loaded up in our 1967 Plymouth Belevedere and made the trip to Ft. Worth as soon as she was born.

I was six months pregnant, uncomfortable, emotional, and unsure what to expect. I’ll never forget baby Sarah’s non-stop wails and what seemed like incessant breast-feeding sessions. Janet and her mother seemed unperturbed by the noisy soul demanding all the attention in the household, but I was suffering from pregnancy exhaustion and I was more than a little unsure how well suited I would be for infant care.

Fortunately, I found my sea legs quickly, and by the time Janet Elaine and Sarah Elaine visited Kate Elaine and me three months later, all was well. (It’s no surprise we love the symmetry of a shared middle name.)

Like Janet and me, Sarah and Kate have been friends forever. This is one of my favorite photos of our girls at age two.

kateandsarah

While Kate was quiet and reserved, Sarah was a tempestuous swirl of energy and passion. In their youth, they were a feminine yin and yang not unlike Spuddy and Spry.

It doesn’t seem possible these adorable babies are turning 21. Or that these beautiful, sweet, and mature girls are ours.

KateSarahPromCollage

Sarah is like a second daughter to me or, more to the point, the kind of daughter you would select for yourself if there was choice involved in these kinds of things. She’s smart, thoughtful, passionate, loyal and, despite her boisterous beginnings, sweetly considerate, focused, and determined.

So when Janet texted me on Halloween to ask if she might commission a quilt for Sarah’s 21st birthday, I couldn’t say no. I was flustered I had so little time, and chagrined I didn’t think of it myself much earlier, but I sprang into action.

Turns out, Sarah is studying abroad in Malawi next month, so Janet suggested I create an “African themed” quilt. I had no idea what that meant but, together, Janet and I decided it meant bright (an array of Batik prints seemed perfect), simple (large panels of fabric with a bit of patchwork and sashing), and personalized (with Sarah’s name, trip dates, and an appliqued African dancer).

See what you think:

janetcollage

Janet texted me yesterday to share this photo.

sarah

I can’t see Sarah’s hands, but I’m going to take this as two thumbs up.

With gratitude {for a lifetime of love and a new generation to nurture it},

Joan, who’s already received another commission and can’t wait to get going

Day 29 and 30: Yeah, yeah, I’m behind.

Dear friends,

holiday

On day 29 and 30 of the month of Thanksgiving, I was so busy being happy I didn’t have time to post why I was happy.

So much for daily posting!

But rest assured my daily gratitude was in full force.

I don’t know why, exactly, but my joy-otometer has been red-lined. Something about having a house full of college girls and plenty of time to cook and nest. I did more dishes in six days than I’d care to do in a month, but I suppose if you’re gonna eat home-cooked food, you’re gonna have to hit the sink. It was a small price to pay for so many smiles and a Tweet from my daughter on day two of her break that said “You know you’re home when momma’s in the kitchen cooking away.”

To return the favor, Kate decorated the house for Christmas while I quilted. Talk about luxury! Parker hauled the boxes up from the basement and Kate unpacked and arranged. From my vantage point at the dining room table, I gave advice and sang Christmas carols while my Bernina merrily hummed along in unison.

I learned that Kate is much more a minimalist than I am — even in my new pared-down phase. Declaring my approach to Christmas trees “cluttered,” she created a lovely if spare tree in a perfect balance of red, white and gold trim. She also took an understated approach to to the mantle. At the last minute, I pulled out several of my favorites, including the old-fashioned wooden sign I like to hang in our kitchen, and we called it good. There’s just enough holly-jolly adornment to know it’s Christmas without being overwhelmed by either the decor or the eventual chore of putting it away.

Finally, in a furious burst of seasonal energy, I finished two quilts and mailed them to unsuspecting recipients. (Photos to come when the gifts are no longer surprises.) Standing in line at the Post Office I was insanely happy at the prospect of sending my latest creations out into the world. And in a perfectly symmetrical turn of events, I arrived home to find a package for me: eight new bundles of fabric from my favorite online retailer, ensuring the Unaquilter is restocked to spread all kinds of joy throughout her land.

With gratitude {for nearly everything that makes my heart full, crammed into a single, glorious week of November},

Joan, who turns 51 today and is too happy to care (unlike last year’s angst-filled milestone)

Day 28: The Turkey Trotters.

Dear friends,

turkeytrot2

On the 28th day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the family and friends who humored me by starting the day with a 5K.

It was a chilly 25 degrees and I must have asked each person in our group no fewer than five times if they were dressed warmly enough. Parker answered yes more than once then froze to death without gloves and a hat. (Told ya!)

Must be why he flew through the course. He placed 6th out of 67 runners with a very respectable 24:17.

I flew through dinner afterwards.

plate

And later, I’m going to fly through pumpkin cake and pecan pie.

A girl’s got to play to her strengths, don’t you think?

With gratitude {for one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever},

Joan, who didn’t come in last (or even next to last) among her group, which is no small feat given she was the oldest of the six Turkey Trotters

Day 27: Girls bearing gifts.

Dear friends,

gifts

Kate and her teammates made it home today, just in time for a fabulous dinner of lemon cream pasta, grilled shrimp, Greek salad, and lemon-blueberry cake. Mr. Mom and I tag-teamed in the kitchen and I think the girls were impressed that dinner was served a half hour after Kate mentioned she was hungry.

More impressive were the gifts Kate’s friends gave us. Lusy, a sophomore from Slovakia, gave me a book with select sentiments about gratitude. (How perfect is that?) And her roommate, Kris, a sophomore from Russia, gave us a bottle of vodka from her homeland.

Girls bearing gratitude and liquor . . . I don’t think it gets any better than that! I think I’ll toast them with a Thanksgiving Day cocktail.

With gratitude {for the sweet college girls who have made our last two Thanksgivings holidays that I’ll never forget},

Joan, who, in preparation for Thursday’s 5K, will run at least 10K around the kitchen island today

Day 4: The hour.

Dear friends,

On day four of this month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for THE EXTRA HOUR PROVIDED ME NOW THAT THE EVIL DEMON DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME is banished.

Can you tell I hate, HATE, HATE Daylight Savings Time?

I don’t understand why the US Government feels the need to jack with my biorhythms. Twice a year I’m discombobulated. Spring is the worst, of course, but even in the fall when we are given an extra hour, I’m still out of sorts for a while.

Despite my crankiness over this unnecessary adjustment, I put my extra hour to good use on Sunday. I made two terrific meals — Lazy Chilis Rellenos for breakfast and chicken pot pie and garden salad for dinner.

I also got off to a great start on a new quilt I’m making for a friend. I have 16 blocks to make in total and this is my first.

block2

At 20″ square, the block has 45 pieces and 36 seams. It’s no cake walk, but I’m enjoying the demands of the pattern, which you can find here. I have chosen 16 fabric combinations in blues, browns, reds, yellows, and greens, all of which are in modern prints, in contrast to the old-fashioned charm of the pattern.

This is the first of three quilts for friends I’m trying to finish by February, not to mention a table runner commissioned by a friend and regular reader.

Good thing Uncle Sam gave me an extra hour, huh?

With gratitude {for 60 minutes, which arrived just in the nick of time to tackle a project and to restore my sanity},

Joan, who has threatened many times to escape DST by moving to Arizona, but fears she can’t take the heat or the politics

So there might be a slight problem with my business plan.

Dear friends,

I spent some time Saturday working on the Magpie Quilts product line. Here’s a photo of an idea I had for quilted key rings:

keyrings

Each has coordinating fabric on the front and back with free-form, rustic stitching, and a one-word affirmation. (The bright green “love” ring is tongue-in-cheek given that the fabric features tennis balls.)

I spent about two hours working through construction problems. Now that I’ve figured out most of the issues, I estimate that I could produce them assembly-line style (rather than one at a time, as these were) and crank out 20 or so in about an hour.

There is 75 cents of materials in each and I’m thinking of selling them for $6.50. Too much? Imagine admiring a quilt, priced between $200 and $300 and thinking you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger, so you grab a $6.50 keyring on impulse.

Yes or no?

Whether you think my marketing approach is sound or not, the “slight” problem with my business strategy is that none of the keyrings I sewed on Saturday made it into my inventory closet. I mailed them all to friends. I couldn’t help myself. In the business, I think this is known as inventory “leakage.” If I were any kind of boss I would fire myself.

I think the point is that the revenue from Magpie Quilts is supposed to fund the Unaquilter’s postal habit. I might have to hire Mr. Mom as head of security.  Either that, or I need a product line that’s harder to pilfer.

So I’m off — to the factory dining room table right now to work on a framing idea. Frames are a pain to mail. Maybe they’ll stay put in the inventory closet.

With gratitude {for faith, joy and love — and the keyrings that proclaim them},

Joan, whose skeptical husband thinks $5.00 is the right price and encourages his favorite entrepreneur not to be greedy

Superstitioulicious.

Dear friends,

black cat

Source: Etsy

Friday the 13th might be a day of superstition for most but it was delicious for me.

First, I was walking across campus when a group of college boys whistled at me. It was bizarre to say the least. They were sitting under a tree talking in a language I didn’t understand. I walked right past them and as soon as they were behind me, I heard the unmistakable and conspicuous male signal that needs no translation. I can’t remember the last time it happened to me and, given my age, I would have figured it was meant for any other female within 100 yards except there weren’t any. I smiled bigger than I’ve smiled in a long time and kept on walking — with, possibly, slightly more pep in my step because I was clearly rocking my black skirt and super-cute pumps. Mr. Mom says the boys must have been leg men, claiming it takes one to know one. I don’t know and I don’t care because it sure made my day.

When I got home, I had a hand-written note in the mail from a friend who was recently Unaquilted. I’ve told you about Sweet Sarah before. She’s getting married soon and was the surprise recipient of the blue quilt featured in yesterday’s post. She’s marrying the little brother of one of my “J” friends and I couldn’t resist giving the lovebirds a quilt to cuddle under. I wrote that I hoped they’d make lots of memories with it, perhaps even spill a little wine on it in the interest of having fun as newlyweds.

In her thank you note to me, Sarah said:

Thank you so very much for our first (and favorite) wedding gift . . . We used it in our engagement pictures and it looks great. We loved your note about making memories with it and somehow it ended up with bird poo on it during our photo session. We both laughed because it got broken in right off the bat. Thank you to you and (Mr. Mom) for being a couple to look up to. You both are an inspiration to me.

Now, lordy be . . . if there’s anything more encouraging than a wolf whistle, it’s got to be a heartfelt message like Sarah’s.

Who needs a lucky day when Friday the 13th is this superstitioulicious?

With gratitude {for admirers of all ages and genders},

Joan, the long-legged Magpie

Labor of love.

Dear friends,

I had the most wonderful holiday weekend — four days to be exact — nestled in the comfort of family, food, and love’s labor.

Kate was home from college with no agenda other than relaxing and catching up on family time.

Mr. Mom was home and, with the mountain burden finally lifted from his psyche, happy and present. (As opposed to restless and distracted — not that I’m criticizing him, but holy cow it feels good to be on the brighter side of that ordeal).

Only Parker was absent — busy earning money in Missouri’s productive hay fields — but still popping in long enough to share a meal or two with a family hungry for each other’s company.

Since no one had an agenda, since everyone was content to just be (with long stretches of “being” in front of the television to keep up with the US Open), I was happy to putter. And my puttering consisted of light cooking and cleaning with some heavy-duty sewing.

You could have guessed, couldn’t you, that I would tackle another project during the long weekend? I started Friday morning and finished Sunday night and couldn’t be happier with the results.

johnnaquiltcu

This one is going in the mail today to a friend. That’s all I’m going to say, lest I ruin the surprise.  But few words don’t mean few photos, so here’s another view:

johnnaquiltfront

And another:

johnnaquiltback

If ever I worried I might someday become a crazy cat lady, I can now release that fear for I have become the crazy quilt lady. I’ve definitely descended deep into the rabbit hole, but it’s become a labor of love, a vast creative outlet that offers an irresistible opportunity to stitch up a tangible and lasting expression of my love and admiration and send it to an unsuspecting recipient.

It’s like the quilt lottery, only you don’t have to buy a ticket and I’m the real winner (with huge recurring payoffs in joy).

With gratitude {for long weekends with my favorite people and pastimes},

Joan, who thinks a quilt with an inspired back is a lot like a purse with a pretty lining . . . delightfully unnecessary but so worth it

Yay, yay, vacay.

Dear friends,

Joan, living it up on vacation, circa 1974

Joan, living it up on vacation, circa 1974

This morning, I began an 18-day stretch of uninterrupted vacation time. I haven’t had this much time off, EVER, and I know exactly what to do with myself.

In no particular order, I’m going to:

  • Bike ride (with Mr. Mom, including a picnic outing later today).
  • Watch fireworks (also tonight, at our annual Lion’s Club Carnival, for which the entire county turns out).
  • Take naps.
  • Quilt. (Got a trip to St. Louis planned for Saturday to stock up on fabric).
  • Take a quilting class. (July 16th! Can’t wait! And what a novel idea . . . learning by instruction rather than trial and error.)
  • Take a family vacation to rural Iowa, where we will commune with nearly 100 members of Mr. Mom’s extended family, and where the planned activities include a hay ride, pond swimming, barn dance, horseshoes, watermelon seed spitting contest, pig roast, agronomy lesson, family farm tour, corn shucking, scavenger hunt, and lots of eating and story telling.
  • Luxuriate in the company of those I love most.
  • Have lunch with a girlfriend or two.
  • Clean my closet (in a single nod to productivity).
  • Cook, cook, and cook some more ’cause nothing makes Mama happier than being in the kitchen.
  • Chill.
  • Watch Gunsmoke, because Mr. Mom and I love the old episodes on the Encore Westerns Channel and enjoy our nightly ritual of viewing them together with a cocktail. (Yes, we’re weird that way. But never underestimate the power of kooky shared rituals to keep a marriage happy.)
  • Maybe write a little if the muse visits me.
  • Breathe, love, and laugh in full measure, every day, because isn’t that the essence of gratitude?

With gratitude {for the great good fortune of paid vacation, the 20th Century’s greatest invention},

Joan, who loves her some summer, especially the Missouri variety where the temps are moderate

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