Traffic merged to one lane before me, polite Iowa drivers taking their turns to cross the overpass, single file. As we crossed, I noted the license plate of the car in front of me.

I solve puzzles, sometimes hard ones, but this one was easy. “Use your gift.”

It got me thinking about gifts generally, and how we use them. Everyone knows anecdotes about a mother, aunt, or grandma who would receive presents — table linens, bath towels, cologne — and put them away. The gift was “too nice” to use. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Did you get china as a wedding present? Do you use it?

Why do we keep our best gifts hidden away? There could be a lot of different reasons. Fear might be the big one. Fear that we don’t deserve such a gift, fear that someone might think we’re showing off, fear that we don’t know how to use it or display it, or that it doesn’t fit in with our other “stuff,” fear that we might ruin it…

Since the word has a lot of different connotations, it’s probably worth a moment to define “gift.” A gift is something given (received), not earned or in exchange for something else, regardless of source. So it might be a tangible item given to celebrate a special occasion. Or it may be genetically-endowed traits, or beneficial circumstances over which we have no control. You can come up with your own examples.

It’s easy to think of gifts like mathematical prowess, or musical genius. When comparing to that, a person might think they have no gifts. But being “gifted” with capabilities or talents has a broad range of possibilities. This item by Duke University explains.

When parents think of their children as gifted, they usually think of high IQ scores, high SATs, high ACTs, high grades, and the like. But research shows that there is much more to giftedness than the academic ability and achievement that U.S. society values. Conventional tests emphasize memory and analytic skill.

At least two other kinds of skill, however, are important to success in life: creativity and practical know-how.

In other words, there are people gifted with creative abilities, and there are people who are gifted with the ability to get things done. Obviously these groups overlap. And of course there are other kinds of talent, as well, including physical and emotional ones. And for purposes of education, the definition of “gifted” focuses on those with an unusual degree of the talent or ability. But we all have areas of strength that are natural to us, not developed by force of will.

Use your gift.

What gifts do you have? Start with tangible ones, the ones you’ve never used. I’ll go first… I have — STILL have — a set of Shiva paintsticks I’ve never used. And a few other textile items, things I asked for and haven’t touched. And why haven’t I used them? At the beginning it was because of intimidation, fear. At this point, it’s more because I haven’t gotten around to it. And you?

What about intangible gifts? And broaden that to include hard-fought talents and skills. We aren’t all naturally diplomatic, but that is a skill that can be developed. Most of us weren’t born able to do free-motion quilting, visualizing the positive and negative spaces and coordinating to never get trapped by our own stitches. But again, that’s a skill that can be developed. It is a gift that the skill can be developed…

So what are you good at? Do you use those gifts fully? Do you share them with others? If not, why not?

And what other gifts have you received? Do you acknowledge them completely by enjoying them, or do you push them or hide them away?

There are so many blessings in my life, so many aspects I take for granted because they just are. One thing I try to never take for granted is the unconditional love of my husband Jim. This may well be my biggest gift ever. And I easily add to the list my children and grandchildren and bigger family. And yes, I could go on…

Also, I have the gift of opportunity. My life allows and my husband encourages immersion in my craft of quilting, as well as that of writing.

And I have gifts of capability. I quilt, I design, I teach, I write. I learn all of these things by doing. I do because I must, as I must breathe. And I do, both to conquer the fear, and because the fear abates as I try more things.

Today is the first anniversary of Catbird Quilt Studio. I came to this blog through a long crazy route I wouldn’t recommend for anyone! Getting to that point a year ago, and since then, I’ve had the support of my husband and a small group of very special friends, holding my hand through the craziness. Their friendship is indeed a gift.

This blog and Our View From Iowa both give me a vehicle to express my thoughts with you. I thank you for reading them, for offering that gift to me.

In addition, every day I am inspired, taught, and amused by other bloggers. Their writing and sharing is a gift, as well.

Use your gift.

I pledge to continue exploring my gifts, trying to be the better me, trying to overcome the fears that somehow I’m not good enough. I pledge to be mindful of the blessings in life, and to express gratitude when I can. And I pledge to try those Shiva paintsticks.

What about you? Do you use your gifts fully? Will you eat your meals off the good china, at least now and then?

Will you focus on today rather than fear for tomorrow? I’ll finish with this quote from Bil Keane, creator of the long-running comic strip The Family Circus. He said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.


21 thoughts on “UZURGFT

  1. handstitch

    Insightful and thought-provoking. For over half of my life, I’ve never thought I possessed any gift at all. Unlike many of my friends and folks I know in the community, I had/have to work hard on everything I do.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You have learned more that way than those for whom it all comes easily. Likely you “produce” more than they do, too. So there are gifts in that, also. Thanks for reading.

  2. Elizabeth E.

    Lovely writing! I am not as quick as you–it took me a lot longer to figure out the license plate riddle. Thanks for letting me know you wrote about this. Now I’m going to go over and read the other post.

  3. laura bruno lilly

    Just discovered your site…I’m a rusty quilter who’s picking up the needle again…(I’ve used that phrase many times in the past few weeks!HA!)
    Thanks for the timely blog post and happy blogiversary.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Congratulations on finding your way back to quilting! Depending on how long you’ve been gone, things may have changed a lot, or not at all. 🙂

      There are a lot of great quilt blogs around, plenty of different kinds to suit every taste or need. I’d be glad to see you stop by here any time.

  4. shoreacres

    Congratulations on your first year of blogging. Time certainly does fly, doesn’t it?

    I grew up with, and lived with, a mother who spent most of her life not using her “good” things. I understood some of the reasons, but also grieved that she denied herself those pleasures. Once she moved to Texas, and I became responsible for her care, one of the things I tried to do was loosen her up just a little, spending money on little trips, using the good china, and so on. When it comes to “things”, after all, a gift isn’t fully a gift until it’s received, and that means more than taking off the wrapping paper.

    On the other hand, Mom was extraordinarily talented when it came to needlework. She did beautiful needlepoint, and taught classes for years. Everyone who took her classes said she was a wonderful teacher. She had a real gift for teaching her craft — as do you.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It can be very hard to receive. I know someone going through a very hard time, who needs a lot of help but will almost never ask. Indeed she feels tremendous guilt for being needy at all, so even when people offer, she “wouldn’t want to ask that” of them… I have tried to say that accepting help is a gift for those offering, and even asking for help can be a gift to someone else.

      I’m glad you were able to help your mother accept some of her gifts more fully. And thank you, as always, for your kind comments and support.

  5. The Novice Gardener

    Happy Blogiversary, Melanie! Your insightful posts and/or comments always make me think. I’m so glad I stopped by this morning. You taught me a valuable lesson. Start using your gifts, tangible or intangible, now before it’s too late! Thank you! ❤

  6. Thread crazy

    I do love to do puzzles also…kept looking at “UZURGFT” and then it hit me! Lol…Oh well, some of us are slower than others!! Saving gifts to use later; I’ve tried real had not to set things back as when my Mom passed, I found several gifts shed received and never used – I’m sure she meant to, but just never did. I do catch myself from time to time not wanting to use a particular fabric as then it’ll all be gone! Go figure!!! I never was blessed with the “artsy” gift; can’t draw a thing but a stick person. When it comes to sewing now, if I see something, I can usually recreate it without a pattern…that’s some trait in me I guess as when I played piano and clarinet in my early childhood, I’d play a song by music note first time, then after that I’d play it all by ear! Again…go figure! Enjoyed the post today.

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      You can draw stick people?!? That’s something Jim can do but not me. 🙂

      And the musical gift… never had a chance to find out. You are fortunate you had/have that.

      Yes, use the special fabrics now, as what you make with them will be special. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Nann

    Melanie, congratulations on the anniversary!

    And thank you for this thoughtful post.
    I have taken several personality assessments over the years, including “Dependable Strengths” and Innermetrix “Advance Insights Profile,” as well as Myers-Briggs. I wish such tests had been conducted when I was in high school and college. At age 40 + the tests confirm my choices; at age 20 they could have guided those choices. The Innermetrix puts me “very high aesthetic”: “You place great importance in finding a good work-life balance, creating more than destroying and artistic self-expression. You look for harmony, form, balance, and an eco-friendly environment. You have a very strong drive to express creativity in artistic or inventive ways.”
    Now to channel my gifts to getting on with my day…..

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Those of us who are lucky find our way and are able to “channel my gifts.” I think many aren’t able to get by some obstacles, including expectations from others and themselves. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Jim in IA

    Hard to believe it has been a year. Time flew. Congratulations!

    You possess many gifts and talents. Our school district recognized several different categories for kids. I enjoy being close and watching you exercise them. May your second year be one of growth and fun.


  9. KerryCan

    Great post–very thought-provoking and interesting! I think many of us could use your questions as a prompt for our own posts (I may just do that!) In terms of creating things, I think my gift is for perseverance, attention to details, and craftsmanship, I think. I’ve never thought I was particularly good at the “artistic vision” aspect or at being creative in the sense of new and exciting designs but my work is solid and well-crafted.

    And my blogiversary is in just 4 days! We’re almost twins!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Happy blogiversary! 🙂

      I couldn’t write everything I thought about — there was just too much, and a lot of it more personal than needed to include here. But just seeing the license plate has spurred some thinking for me, about where my strengths lie and how I can use them more completely.

      I’ll look forward to your follow-up post. 🙂


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