Choose your words wisely.

courthouse steps

I started today with the thought that I would post something for Wordless Wednesday. As the day wore on and I have seen the multitude of pictures of people arriving in Austin, Texas for QuiltCon, I thought about writing how I feel like the only person not going. Now, alas, here I sit writing about something entirely different.

So much of what we see and read on the Internet, or blogs in particular, is sanitized, I think. I don’t mean the people who “clean up” before they photograph something. I mean that it can be difficult to find blogs that write about hard things, honest things. Maybe because those things are hard to write about. Many blogs would have us believe that the world is all rainbows and unicorns, when we know those things are really rare. Besides, those close to me know I am not a huge fan of rainbows, at least of the quilted variety. Although I do love a good real rainbow.

I (mostly) completed the January prompt for my One Little Word FORWARD this weekend and I wrote three things down which sort of hit me in the face like a 2×4 tonight. It is these kinds of ah-ha moments that make me realize that despite my unsure-ness (is that even a word) with my word choice for this year, I am right where I need to be. Settling into it, and that feels really awesome.

So what did I commit to?

MORE: blogging—LESS: thoughts left in my head. (YOU ARE HERE)

MORE: saying what I need—LESS: saying yes so as to not disappoint.

And, as part of the answer to “What do I fear most in 2015?” I wrote—“I fear the fallout that comes with saying hard things.”

And so I sit here (writing—already making progress) contemplating the question, as I often do—Who reads what I write in this space? Does it matter what I write? Who reads any space? Why do we filter? What are we afraid of? Why do we live in a society where we tiptoe around each other, trying not to upset people? Or is that just me? It can’t be just me because I know others who do it too (the tiptoeing, not necessarily the contemplating).

I had a brief conversation with someone today and the reality of the words that were said stung (or rather, that were not even spoken but that I figured out).

They were upsetting. And totally true.

I got mad. And the only person I really have to be mad at is myself.

I am reminded, as I frequently am, that if you want to see a change you have to make a change.

Noted.

Fortunately, tomorrow, we all get a second chance.

My Tribe

Frankly, I don’t know when it happened, but slowly, over the course of several years I have found my tribe. My tribes. A Venn diagram of friendship. I have been thinking a lot about this recently, but even more so after receiving so many lovely and supportive comments on my recent post. But let me step back a little…

I have never (until recently) had many close girlfriends. I grew up in a weird neighborhood. The kind where the kids were of scattered age and from varied social/economic status. Our houses didn’t all look the same. We didn’t all click. In high school I had one “best” friend but even she and I grew apart after high school as our lives went separate paths in our college years (although I am happy to say she and I have rekindled our relationship). I was always a “cool girl” who had more guy friends, than girlfriends. A natural, but feminine, tomboy I guess. Frankly I just didn’t have time for the b.s. and drama of most female relationships. And frankly, guys were just more fun to hang out with. I had lots of “older brothers.”

But as I aged this bothered me. I would latch on to a close girlfriend in each of my college pursuits but as soon as that degree was over we would drift apart. I finally smartened up to my character flaw and began new relationships with women whom I thought had excellent friend potential with an honest disclosure, “I will be your friend for life so long as you accept that I won’t keep in contact.” ‘Til this day I am still friends with the first person I confessed that honest truth to. And we don’t stay in close contact, but we do periodically touch base and make time for a girl’s trip every few years or so. The most magical thing is that we just pick up where we left off. There is no judging, or resentment. Just staying up too late giggling and catching up, shopping for make-up neither of us needs, and spending too much time shopping at discount stores (#vivaROSSvegas). You know—girl stuff.

Fast-forward several years to when I found a new tribe, my first quilt tribe, of talented and caring women at a quilt retreat I ended up attending for several years in northern Michigan. The circumstances under which I attended my first retreat were either odd or serendipitous; you be the judge. We were all Beaver Island Quilt Retreat “newbies”—fifth weekers (and actually our small group grew over the course of a couple of years, but still, we don’t keep score). The connection was instantaneous; the relationships are gratifying. These are the women I reached out to last week to talk me off the “quilt ledge” so to speak. That is another story for another time. But these women offered me love and support, and solutions. They understood me and what I was going through, am going through. They sent kind words like “As the new day moves forward and life continues, I am still thinking of your heatbreak…Not forgotten.” [heart gushing]. My Ladies.

And when I moved to Utah, I found yet another tribe. This one took a little time, and has been refined even more in the last few years. The women whom I could call at any time of the day, for any reason, and they would come with open arms. The ones who will listen to my rants about this or that quilting issue du jour. My prosthelytizing about the tenets of liberated quiltmaking and breaking rules. My singer featherweight sisters. Some of whom, in a good year, will even pay to run through clouds of color or electric forests with me all in the name of fun.

And then there are those whom I have never met (although I have met a few) from the interwebs and social medias. Those whom I have developed a great love for their work, their writing, their unique points-of-view. Those people who offer words of support either directly through comments and “likes” or who don’t say a thing but who I know are there cheering me along the way because I am doing exactly the same for them, for you. For years I have heard people extolling the blessings of the internet and the “blogging community” but I felt like an outsider. Many of these relationships developed before “flickr was dead” and before I even “existed” in the digital sense of the word. I was skeptical because I reached out one time to a successful blogger thinking we had a connection, but I guess it was just one sided. A one-sided quilt-girl-crush and she broke my heart. But then I got better, and I rose above it, and I realized you were here, we were here, just waiting to find each other. And for that I am truly grateful.

stitchoutsidetheditch

frosty_windowThree years ago I started this blog. Three years. And in that time I have produced a measly number of posts.

At the time I was struggling. Struggling with who I was, or how I defined myself (a recovering quilt magazine editor). Struggling with quilting. I was paralyzed creatively from that experience. Maybe not paralyzed, but I had certainly lost my mojo during that “phase” of my life and I was trying slowly, desperately to get it back.

I was also struggling with how to define myself on a newly created blog. What “voice” I would use, etc. Truth be told, I don’t think I have done a very good job. This is entirely my own fault. Ironic really, but let me explain.

Why “Stitch Outside the Ditch?” Long story short, I attribute this concept to me being a middle child. Middle children fly below the radar. We do things differently. Walk a little bit on the wild side, but not enough to get in major trouble. In elementary school I was a talker (not much has changed). When I was in fifth grade (Mrs. Berry’s class, J.R. Brooker Elementary) I used to get my name written on the board (strike 1). Then a “check” mark (strike 2). Double check (strike 3). What does that even mean, really? “I’m not going to warn you again.” Actually, two checks meant a hand slap with rulers taped together. I suspect this is probably illegal now. And then I would stop; most of the time. One time, I got three checks—it was horrible. A LETTER HOME TO MY PARENTS, WHICH THEY HAD TO SIGN. I was worried sick. Fear of disappointing and whatnot.

Where was I?

As a middle child I:

  1. fly under the radar
  2. like to be a bit risky
  3. hate to disappoint and here’s the kicker
  4. am fiercely independent.

Swim against the stream. Most of the time.

In quilting, when you stitch-in-the-ditch, you are quilting in that “valley” created next to a seam that is pressed “away” from you. This is a very traditional, and I am going to say conservative, way to quilt. It is the way to quilt when you don’t want the quilting to be obvious, or command attention. It is a way of quilting that does not require thinking outside of the box. Ironically, it is also very hard to do well.

In my quilting I am a rule breaker (or maybe a rule bender—a ¼” seam is paramount). I am a liberated quiltmaker and am not modest about it. In my personal life I buck tradition. People who know me, know this about me. But here is the thing. I don’t feel like I have been completely honest with you, or me for that matter, on this blog. This makes the blog, which was non-existent three years ago suffer (as if that is even possible).

In the past I have only largely written about quilting—but there is so much more to me than quilting. So much more I want to share with you. So many things I don’t currently share because I don’t know how they fit into this format, this genre of blog/brand. Things I don’t share because I may offend (see #3 above) someone with my opinion (they are strong, and sometimes controversial, or may be hurtful to some—I am thinking mainly about some of the brouhaha that often surfaces in the quilting world). Things I don’t write because I may offend someone with my word choice. Truth be told I am a cusser and I edit my words to “politely” fit this space. No more.

Also, there are things I don’t write about because NO ONE CARES. But here’s the thing—I care. And I have thoughts about things, which sounds stupid to even type, but this is true. I need to write about them to get the words that are constantly on repeat out of my head so that new words/thoughts/designs/ideas can enter. I want to use this space to share some of my other creative pursuits. Running pursuits. Tidying pursuits. Photography pursuits. Plus, some of the content would likely be good. Just sayin’.

In an effort for me to be more honest and transparent I have decided to cuss when I need to cuss; to write when I feel the need to write; to share what I need to share. I learned over a year ago in a seminar on personal branding that I need to either repel or attract readers with my blog and that is what I am going to do. #slowlearner (I feel better already).

It seems there is constantly chatter on the internets about the “death” of blogs, or blogs as a dying medium because they were killed by Instagram, which killed Flickr or some murder pyramid scheme like that. I think blogs are what you make of them, writing or reading, and I read some really good blogs. The best blogs, in my opinion, are ones that have really good writing, but not necessarily about quilting because those things obstruct my own creative processes. One of my goals this year is to make my blog better, for you dear friend, but more importantly for me.

So, I am wondering–do you have a minute? There are some things I have been wanting to share…

Change your socks

It was a rule I had learned my first year working in the Forest Service—when exhausted and feeling sorry for yourself, at least change your socks.

–Norman Maclean, “Logging and Pimping and ‘Your Pal, Jim’”

I started a new job in March and to say it has been a challenge is a gross understatement. I have to keep reminding myself this 1) was something not needed, rather it was pursued–all in the name of growth, and 2) to keep at it.

I worked on Easter Sunday. Partly my own fault, but partly because the work load is heavy, I am still slow, still pursuing perfection (always with the perfection), and paralyzed by my own self in terms of how I will be judged. I came home feeling a bit whipped (although I met my deadline), as I do most days.

But yesterday–yesterday–I changed my socks. Perhaps best known for his story A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean wrote other, less memorable stories. Less memorable, I suspect, because they didn’t star Brad Pitt and a host of other talented actors. But the meaning and the lessons in those other stories are full of life lessons as well.

Yesterday I went to work and switched some furniture around (this small act changed my whole perspective), which lead to dealing with some papers (rule #1 of feng shui–eliminate clutter), and drinking more water, and leaving work on time. Which meant, I got home early enough to EXERCISE (p90xcardio thankyouverymuch). Eating a good dinner and getting to bed early enough to read.

And I started it over again today.

Moral of the story. Change your socks.