Gathering up all my brave.

Dear friends,

For the last few weeks, I’ve been acutely attuned to the distressing situation that has unfolded a mere 90 miles away from me in Ferguson, Missouri. I’ve followed social media intently, I’ve devoured information on news sites, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to me as a Missourian, as an American, as a mother, as a human who cares passionately about social justice and civil rights.

I’ll refrain from drawing conclusions at this moment about precisely what happened between the police officer and the young Michael Brown. There are ongoing investigations and I suspect we’ll be years down the road before we have anything close to “clarity” on how the particulars of the incident and the aftermath reflect on our system of policing and justice, not to mention our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But here’s what I know. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are distinctly different realities of life in America based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, wealth and geographic location. What one man calls justifiable force, another calls oppression and discrimination. What one man deems “justice,” another deems “just us.” Socio-economic factors create a unique “lens” for each of us and until we can view the world through multiple lenses, many of them foreign or possibly distasteful to us, we cannot begin to approach “truth.” To say otherwise is to ignore that evil and corruption thrive despite our best intentions, or to fall prey to the myopia that threatens to permanently disable our nation.

***

So it is through this dismaying, nay disorienting, perspective that I am saddened to tell you Mr. Mom and I recently received devastating news. We lost our lawsuit.

Our attorney sent us the judge’s verdict a couple of weeks ago with an email message that said “It will make you want to throw up.”

Not in the “gag me” way you might refer to when something is annoying. In the “fall to your knees and retch” way until you are hollow-eyed and certain the injury is mortal.

I haven’t filled in many of the blanks for you about the condemnation trial we attended in April. I honestly haven’t been able. I felt in my gut it didn’t go “our way” and I guess I wanted a few months of denial between what I thought was the reality of the trial and the resulting ruling from the judge. But reality gut-punched us recently and we still haven’t caught our breath.

Losing our case means our land remains inaccessible (except via a 10-mile hike through the adjoining national forest). It also means our family is responsible for the Unfriendly’s legal fees. If their testimony is to be believed, they have spent three times what we have. At one point in the trial, their attorney referred to one of our claims as “outrageous.” During a break shortly thereafter, our attorney whispered to me “The only thing I’ve heard in court today that’s outrageous are the fees their damn attorney is charging them!”

We will appeal the ruling. It is our opinion, and our attorneys’, that the judge ignored the instructions handed down from the Appellate Court. That she ruled in contradiction to case law. We won our last appeal when the prior judge contradicted case law, so who knows?

***

Late into the night when we first heard the news, when Mr. Mom and I lay in bed, silent, unable to fathom the future, financially or emotionally, I finally said this:

“Listen. I understand. I understand the inclination to become fatally cynical. To succumb to rage. To believe that everything you’ve thought to be true about life is a lie. I feel it right now with an intensity I cannot describe. I am angry and I am disillusioned and I want to hurt somebody equal to our pain.

But here’s the thing. Our loss represents land and money. Land and money. We are not angry or cynical because our child is dead through injustice. We are not suing because some big corporation poisoned our water and gave us cancer. We are losing land and money. In the meantime, we are managing to put our children through college and they are by all accounts thriving. We have a strong and loving marriage.

We are losing land and money. Let’s remember what we still have before we risk sinking with this ship.”

***

So, I’m thinking of Glennon Melton and her words of wisdom. I’m gathering up all my brave and trying to do the next right thing. It ain’t easy, believe me. I’m not nearly as kind and patient as I want to be. I have long stretches of despair and regret and bitterness. I’m clinging to a faith that love and hope prevail in the end, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’m limping on tender feet, hurt beyond words, unsure how one keeps from drowning in the tsunami of fear and trouble and worry that rises over us.

Still, I refuse to end with anything other than gratitude. Despite this very big thing that has gone grievously wrong for far too many years, so much has gone right. I know it. I see it. I feel it. And if I can gather up enough brave, maybe I can trust in it.

With gratitude {for, as always, the partner that makes this journey bearable},

Joan, who welcomes your good thoughts and kind words but asks that you not dwell on injustice. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that justice is in the eyes of the beholder and what feels like a travesty to us is heralded as right and proper by the Unfriendlys. Please don’t tell me how shocked you are or how unfair this seems. Life is ridiculously unfair to legions of souls every day, most of them far more afflicted than I. If you have anything to offer, offer us equanimity, in the belief we will rest in it, heal in it, and pass on more than our share to those around us.

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Day 2: The drive.

Dear friends,

On Day 2 of this month of Thanksgiving, I had the afternoon off. It was a brilliant autumn day. Sunny skies and mild temps and the prospect of the open road called to Mr. Mom and me like a songbird.

We drove down some of our state’s loveliest back roads, where corn fields and tiny towns dotted the landscape. The fall foliage was in full splendor and we couldn’t believe such a perfect convergence of time and opportunity had landed in our laps.

We ducked into an out-of-the-way roadhouse in a town with the proud name of Defiance, where we shared a cup of coffee with the Friday afternoon patrons enjoying their beer and cigarettes and lonely-hearts country songs.

We talked about buying this cottage, then that one, then another, and retiring right here (no there!).

And then, on our way home, we decided to pull over near the top of a ridge so I might snap a photo as a keepsake of our day. We knew there was a view to be had if only we could find the right spot. Mr. Mom, who’s half a foot taller than me, nosed around for few moments then declared he’d found just the place, but I couldn’t see a thing through the dense underbrush. He offered to pull back the branches of an overgrown shrub for me and, there, like Brigadoon, appeared the most magical view in all of Missouri I think:view

It was the perfect Benediction to a perfect autumn drive.

With gratitude {for unexpected gifts born of an everlasting companionship},

Joan, who’s posting this just in time to put on her running shoes and head for the race

Legit.

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.

cherrystripe

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.

The Patchwork Brigadoon.

Dear friends,

photo

I had the most enchanting day on Friday. I went on a rambling odyssey through Missouri and found myself startled, and captivated, and charmed. Oh, if only all my Friday afternoons could be as much fun as yesterday.

I left work just before noon in search of a distant merchant. You might guess I was looking for a sewing machine, and boy did I find one. Interestingly, the store was two hours away, deep into rural farm country. Driving miles outside our state’s capitol on a postcard-worthy stretch of land dotted with ponds, proud red barns, and rolling fields of freshly cut hay bordered by white rail fences, I stumbled upon my patchwork Brigadoon. There were a dozen cars in the gravel parking lot (in the Middle of Nowhere, mind you) and a handful of bonneted young women in ankle-length, calico dresses inside the metal building buzzing over customers just like me who had presumably driven miles to this magic destination, known by some as the Quilting Capitol of America.

Sarah, an exceedingly polite and cheerful young woman who looked no more than 18, sat me down to test drive several models. I fell in love immediately with the quiet hum of Swiss precision, also known as the Bernina 350 Special Edition. It had everything I wanted and stitched like a dream, but since I realize my average reader isn’t as excited by the technicalities of sewing machine features as I have come to be, I’ll skip that part.

Suffice to say, less than an hour later I was paying my bill and realizing there would be many future drives to this idyllic spot where I hoped the crafty Mennonites would teach me every quilting trick in the book.

As I was writing my check, I asked, “By the way, is there a good fabric shop in the capitol city?” Sweet Sarah looked stricken and said “Well, there’s a JoAnn’s.” I frowned and shook my head, but before I could say a word, another calico-clad girl said “If you want quality fabric, you’ve got to go to Stover!”

Turns out, Stover was several miles deeper into farm country, another enchanting destination where another metal warehouse held the contents of my dreams. The tin store in the farming community of 900 held 9000 bolts of fabric, ten bolts for every soul that calls Stover home. I spent another two hours there, wandering the stacks in search of cotton treasure and finding plenty.

The proprietor, who had an uncanny resemblance to Emmylou Harris, cut my fabric and patiently answered my questions and said “Don’t forget to visit the quilt show.”

“Quilt show?” I exclaimed? Could this day get any better?!

“Yes. It’s just down the road. And it’s free.”

So down the road I went to yet another metal building surrounded by hay fields and populated with cheerful and welcoming women, including one named Priscilla who made sure I bought raffle tickets (for the “opportunity quilt”), met the leaders of the local Quilting Guild, and cast a vote for my favorite entry.

My vote went to the maker of this beautiful gem.

rose

Her name is Rose. She hand-pieced this quilt. When she was 90. For her daughter.

I very nearly wept right there in front of Priscilla, who really wanted to hear more about my first quilt and make sure I met the other show organizer who just happened to be from my town.

I finally pulled myself away sometime after 6:00 pm, which meant it was 8:30 pm before I pulled into my driveway, weary but happy and inspired.

When I walked in . . . well, that’s when happy and inspired turned into Mondo-Beyondo. There was a surprise so lovely awaiting me it requires another post.

(Sorry to leave you hanging, but I’ve got an unopened sewing machine calling my name!)

With gratitude {for maybe the best Friday ever},

Joan, who told Parker she was as excited about her new sewing machine as he would be with a brand new pickup truck . . . to which he responded, “No way, because you’re not jumping up and down and crying!” . . . to which she responded “I already did, but I was in Patchwork Brigadoon and you couldn’t see me”