Dear friends,

I came home today to the best stack of mail, ever!

First, there was a sweet and thoughtful handwritten letter from my CupKate . . . the kind that makes a mother’s heart melt and that somebody will no doubt find after I die amongst my most treasured keepsakes.

Then, there was a typed form letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue. Magpie Quilts is legit! I have a tax ID number and am finally authorized to do bidness in the Show Me State.

<Picture me here doing a spot-on Steve Martin/Navin Johnson impression after the phone book arrives in The Jerk. “I”m somebody now! Things are going to start happening to me now!”>

As I have a habit of reading the mail over dinner, I very nearly did the happy dance over my plate of Mr. Mom’s homemade spaghetti. For a day of the week that normally produces little to cheer over, this Monday kicked boo-tay.

So here’s the deal: I finished a new quilt last week. And because it doesn’t make sense to mail my quilts one at a time to my cousin in Oklahoma, I’m going to post it for sale here. If none of my 47 faithful and 13 random readers are interested, I’ll ship it off to my bidness partner after I finish two or three more and the shipping cost is worth it. (Yes, I’m going to keep saying bidness through this entire post. I’m sorry. Chalk it up to Government-Stamp-of-Approval giddiness.)

By the way, I’m still thinking about opening an Etsy Shop for Magpie Quilts, as a friend suggested I might develop a Missouri following who will be disappointed that my creations are only available in Oklahoma. (I realize she was probably just being nice, but I’m willing to run with it.) Anyway, it’s going to be a while before I can make that happen for a variety of reasons mostly related to not enough time in the day.

So here it is folks . . . Listen hard and you can hear the drum roll reverberating in my head.

Sunday in the Park (Strawberry Jam, #2 in a series) — $125.


A picnic basket. A shady spot under an oak tree. And a soft and colorful quilt on which to stretch out and spend a lazy afternoon with your sweetheart. These are the elements of a relaxing Sunday in the park, and Magpie Quilts’ latest design creates the perfect landing spot for your next outdoor excursion.

Strawberry Jam is the second in a series of Sunday in the Park quilts. It is made from 100% cotton fabric and features cheery and modern prints, with a touch of old-fashioned gingham. The front is an expanse of whole cloth featuring pink “berries,” punctuated by a column of multi-colored geometric and floral patterns.  The back features four large panels of pink gingham with window-frame sashing made from the primary print. The quilt is entirely hand-made — pieced, quilted and bound by a single artisan in her Missouri studio — and measures 58″ X 60″, making it suitable for covering your lap as well as your picnic spot.

All Magpie Quilts are safe for the washing machine if laundered in cold water with a gentle detergent and dried on a low-to-medium setting. The batting is an 80/20 cotton-polyester blend, which gives the quilt an exceptional drape and a light weight. The quilt was made in a smoke-free environment and has been pre-washed to give it the vintage appearance of well-loved linens.

If you’re interested in Strawberry Jam or have questions about Magpie Quilts, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or email me at magpiequiltsbyjoan@gmail.com.

With gratitude {for a creative passion that is definitely lighting my fire},

Joan, who wishes to say one more time that Magpie Quilts is the brainchild of a woman who grew up in a heartland town she calls Mayberry, where catching fireflies on summer nights, sleeping under quilts hand-stitched by the local quilting bee, and sharing the bounty of a backyard vegetable patch never went out of vogue. Her quilt designs combine both vintage-inspired and contemporary fabrics in unfussy patterns that evoke a simpler time, a slower pace, and a love for the creature comforts of home.

My love affair with Mayberry.

Dear friends,

If you know anything about me at all, you know I am an incurable small-town inhabitant.

I’ve lived in big cities – Los Angeles and Boston among them – and I delight in treks to New York and Chicago and Atlanta, but my heart has always been in Mayberry.

And, for me, Mayberry is more than a metaphor, more than easy shorthand for the kind of sweet, safe place we all long to believe in.  Mayberry is my home, or at least what I still profess my hometown to be and what I know small towns and communities all across America still are. Mayberry is real. Mayberry is true. At a time when it’s tempting to succumb to cynicism and divisiveness and a rampant strain of civic cholera that drains us of any sense of collective destiny, Mayberry has the power to darn the raveled edges of our humanity.

For some, Mayberry is nothing more than a fictional town from a television show so long gone as to be culturally irrelevant. With this week’s passing of Andy Griffith, many have paused to reflect on the man and his career, as well as his iconic character that epitomized the notion of Mayberry and came along just when American television viewers were eager to welcome a common-sense hero into their living rooms every week.

I grew up watching Andy and Barney and Aunt Bea, both in the show’s original run and in syndication.  But I also grew up in my own Mayberry where folks like Goober and Helen and Floyd were literally around the corner and made my childhood seem as idyllic as Opie’s. It wasn’t, of course, idyllic. My family and my community fared no better or worse than most in our state, but I somehow clung to the notion that a tight-knit group of folks could keep the ship afloat no matter the size of the swells ahead.

I read in the New York Times this week that “Eventually, the tumult and accelerated pace of the decade pushed The Andy Griffith Show aside, but not the notion that the moral center of the country lives somewhere in a small town.” The assertion made me cringe, though I’ve certainly promulgated the idea (chiefly through the writing of my former blog that was little more than a three-year love letter to my hometown).

Maybe I flinched because “moral center” has become such a politicized notion these days that I immediately thought of “Joe the Plumber” and the kind of fabricated, exploited, wholly manipulated dialogue that passes for civic debate in American modern life.  “Hogwash!” I thought to myself as I read the Times. Our moral center resides anywhere and everywhere two or more souls work together for a common good. I’ve seen it in my own Mayberry, I’ve observed it on the street I live on now, and I witnessed it on a corner last week in New York City. Just as my notion of God transcends a single doctrinal definition, my notion of collective conscience isn’t limited to a certain kind and size of town in a specific kind of place. The story of Mayberry is a particularly American script, but its narrative and characters and morals can be found anywhere we want it to be, anytime – like Andy — we allow kindness to trump cruelty, respect to outman contempt, gratitude to best greed.

Those inclinations are what Andy embodied, and they flourished in my hometown, which is why I love it so.  But the Mayberry I believe in will always be a reflection of the capacity of the resident’s hearts, not the size of the town.

With gratitude {for the blessings of having resided in more than one Mayberry in my lifetime},

Joan, who’ll always be Joan-Marie to the folks in her favorite Mayberry

I can breathe in a small town.

Dear friends,

Our downtown at night.

A year ago I left the sweet small town of some 4,000 souls I call home. The town where I grew up. The town where my grandparents made their home all their lives and where my father grew up. The town I left when I was 19, then returned to 25 years later in search of “small town life” after a long stint in an unremarkable, wholly unsatisfying, small-city-turned-metro-suburb saturated with convenience stores, strip centers, and chain restaurants.

My hometown, both when I grew up there and when I moved my family back, was imperfect in so many ways. Yet I idolized it, romanticized its brick streets and charming old homes, held it up on a pedestal of native allegiance that never tarnished with time.

And when I left my hometown, I said I was excited about my family’s prospects in our new place (a small community by most standards but still five times the size of my hometown). But if asked, I also would have said our new place could never match the town-ness of my hometown — the “Mayberry” of my youth that became my standard for neighborliness.

I think I was wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, I left my office in the middle of the workday to run a quick errand. (That kind of thing is possible, I might mention, in a small town where the post office, bank and dry cleaner — among other things — are all a few blocks away.) As I pulled away from a stop sign near our bank, a woman darted in front of me and I had to brake quickly. We were both startled, but in the process we recognized each other.

“Hi Joan!” the woman said as she waved wildly. Deb is married to a colleague of mine and lives a few blocks from me in a house on my running route. I don’t know what it was, exactly, about that particular moment that made me feel at home, but it surely did. It wasn’t the first time since we moved here that I’ve run into people I know on the street. It happens often, actually. But something about Deb’s wave in our small downtown on a quiet spring afternoon made me feel the town-ness of our home for the first time and made me want to drop the words “our new place” from my vocabulary.

A few days later, I came home from work to eat lunch (another luxury of a small town) and Mr. Mom was nowhere to be found even though his truck was in the garage. “Where are you?” I texted him. “Checking on Dan” he replied.

Dan is an elderly man who lives across the street. We take him an occasional plate of supper and he gives us okra from his garden. Not long ago, he came over in the middle of the day and asked Mr. Mom for a ride to the emergency room. Turns out, he has pneumonia. Dan’s daughter takes good care of him, but she lives a couple of towns away, so Mr. Mom checks on him frequently. Yesterday, Mr. Mom repaired his riding lawn mower and Dan allowed him to mow our large yard with it in return (saving Parker a few hours with our push mower).  Town-ness, I thought.

Also this week, Mr. Mom discovered water in our basement. At the root of the leak was a faulty valve, so he set out to fix the problem Thursday night after dinner so he could turn our water back on in time for bedtime showers. In the mean time, a neighbor couple stopped by. (I told you about them in this post.) The man, Tim, ended up spending a couple of hours helping Mr. Mom solve the problem, including making two trips to his garage for spare plumbing fixtures. More town-ness.

I realized town-ness has nothing to do with the town and everything to do with the people. There are good and neighborly people everywhere if you allow yourself to connect with them. A year ago, I knew we were moving to a “great community,” but I didn’t know how well we would connect, how comfortable we’d feel, whether or not homesickness would mark my entire life here.

When we moved, a friend in Tulsa told me “Give it two years. It’ll take that long to make friends and fit in.” I remember being aghast at the time, nestled as I was in the midst of people I had known and loved my entire life. But now, I know two years sounds about right.  Still, at the one-year mark, I’ve concluded we’re fitting in nicely. We have friends. And neighbors. And a social life. And I’m not sure we could ask for anything more.

With gratitude {for neighbors — in the best sense of the word — in a place filled with town-ness},

Joan, who thinks it’s a very good sign that she spent Saturday afternoon shopping for two graduation gifts and a baby gift, and has three parties to attend in the next three weeks with no-longer-new friends

Got nothing against a big town,
Still hayseed enough to say look who’s in the big town,
But my bed is in a small town,
And that’s good enough for me.

— John Mellencamp