If You’re Not Having Fun…

Groucho Marx said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

For several years I’ve chosen a “word of the year,” intending to use the word to focus my attention, or at least frame my experiences. In 2018 I chose the word “FUN!” My hope was to add more whimsy, more play into my making.

Did I succeed? Sure, probably. Somewhat, at least! I made a bunch of quilts, some that inspired and delighted me, and others that felt less engaging. I’ve already showed you pix of three for which I enjoyed both process and outcome, and I’ll add in the table runner I finished early this month. Click any photo to open the gallery and see more detail.

In some ways these four are quite different from each other. The Old Schoolhouse uses muted colors and simple piecing. I added hand-embroidery to the center block, used orphan flying geese in the middle border, and custom-quilted it. It has an old-fashioned vibe that pleases me. Hands and Hearts went from concept to finished quilt in about three weeks. It is my first all-appliqué quilt and required the help of Jim and 18 other people to pull it off. The untitled quilt top shows a flower vase surrounded by both organic and geometric shapes. Its classic medallion quilt styling is made current by an explosion of color. And the Christmas table runner? Slightly reminiscent of the Old Schoolhouse, isn’t it? But it’s modified from a pattern (by Monique Jacobs,) in colors and size of my choosing. The pattern was well-written, giving me a fast and attractive project.

What they have in common was that each was made purely to please me. Okay, yeah. Hands and Hearts was a wedding gift for my son and his bride — I hope they like it, too. And the Amish Houses is a sample for an upcoming guild workshop. But what I did and how I did it was just for me.

Most of all, they were fun. FUN! Fun to see them develop. Fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Now, reader warning: the rest of my post is more like one of those deadly Christmas letters from someone who brags too much about how smart their toddler is — all the honors, all the awards!! But because I use this blog both to share things I hope will be interesting and/or useful to you, and as a journal of sorts for me, I’m going to indulge myself.

Aside from quilting, my year was fun, interesting, and rewarding. I had two bucket-list opportunities that satisfied me deep in my soul. One was the recent trip to Peru, and one was viewing the satellite launch in March from Cape Canaveral. From ancient land to futuristic technology, Jim and I experienced several thousand years of human advancement. Add to that the chance to visit Mt. St. Helen’s in southern Washington state, and we can include millions of years of geologic time.

Our son got married in July to a wonderful woman and we couldn’t be more pleased. They are expecting their first baby next year, adding to the love in our family. Being together with them and our daughters’ families for the celebration was a really special time.

Two more noteworthy family occasions were granddaughters’ graduations, one from high school on the east coast and one from middle school closer to us. We were fortunate to be able to be with both of them.

On the way back from the east coast, at the beginning of June, we made a stop that took us back almost four decades. One summer while Jim was in graduate school and I was an undergrad working for the university, we met in a residence hall cafeteria. Though the building was empty when we stopped on campus this year, a door was left unlocked by accident. We were able to go in and revisit the place we met. During a long-ago hot summer, while I visited with a friend over lunch, I asked my friend Dan, “Who is that guy?” Dan hollered down the table to Jim to introduce us. ❤

The same stop reconnected me to more friends from those days, and gave the chance to relive happy memories of my best friend in college. Val, I loved her so. She passed away a few years ago, long before her time.

I had other opportunities to revisit my past, including a high school reunion and a mini-reunion of some grade school mates. My high school class was large, around 450 people. I didn’t know many very well and hadn’t been to previous reunions. But there were a few people I wanted to see and figured this could be my last chance to do so. We never know how much time we’ll have, do we? It was gratifying to revisit my home town and some of the places I spent so much time, as well as see some special people again. As much as I didn’t want to go to earlier gatherings, I’m so very glad I went to this one.

My grade school class, in contrast, was quite small. We’ve been getting together as able for several years. In August five of us met at Mark’s house in northern Illinois. We cooked, we laughed, we celebrated and told stories. Being able to see these people, so much a part of who I became, always does me good.

On top of all that were some decisions I’ve made about quilting’s place in my life. Most of all, my priority is on quilting and writing for pleasure. My minimal interest in designing patterns, either for sale or for magazine publication, has dissipated completely. My intention to write my book about medallion quilting has gone, for specific reasons, and it’s very improbable that I’ll resurrect that project.

What I will do is keep quilting and writing for pleasure. For fun. If I do that, I have no need for any future “word of the year.” As long as I’m having fun, I’m doing it right.

Thank you as always for reading. I wish you many blessings in the new year. 

25 thoughts on “If You’re Not Having Fun…

  1. Nancy Hager

    Nice bucket list items. I get to ‘see’ Mt St Helens daily here in my neck of the world. I always enjoy going to the visitor center but never make it often enough. I will have to do that again next summer. For many years I would watch the volcano cam to watch the dome building but she has been pretty inactive lately. She sure is different than when I was growing up. I still have a bottle of ash I collected after the eruption.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      So interesting! I expect you have a lot of memories connected to the volcano in one way or another, woven into many parts of your life. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a wonderful new year!

  2. allisonreidnem

    ‘Fun’ is a great word to stick with! It sounds as though you’ve moved beyond the ‘got to’ goal setting stage to being really aware of what makes you tick.
    I have a stack of planners next to me and still feel the need to attach goals to the patchwork quilting side of my life… Hoping that the word ‘fun’ will pop into my head whenever I am in my sewing room 🙂 and remind me of this post.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It’s funny, Allison, how elusive it is, to figure out what aspects of making actually make it fun. Everything we do has parts that are rote, tedious, or annoying, and I’m pretty patient and tolerant of that, but what parts create the payoff, and how to get more of it? I really don’t know… something I’m thinking about. In the meantime, lists are amazing things! Just make sure, to the extent you can, that you’re not creating obligations for yourself that don’t give you enough payoff in trade for the pain. Thanks, and happy new year!

  3. Jo Vandermey

    Great post! I can’t remember what my word for 2018 was but my journey this year sure has been one of change and healing! Goals change. Enjoy your fun! Sounds last ke a good plan!

  4. jim fetig

    My interest in this blog has always extended beyond textile art. It’s the way you weave life and a little homespun philosophy into your stories. This is one of your best.

  5. snarkyquilter

    Bravo for a packed year. Now I expect a post on the best suitcases and the best ways to pack for trips. I hadn’t realized how much traveling you did this year. I note you didn’t mention some of your project experiments. Were they not fun? Frustrating? To me, your willingness to try other styles and methods this year was a positive achievement. And didn’t you get a new longarm? I can see where you wouldn’t see that as fun, but I hope it led to better results and more fun in quilting.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Best way to pack is very minimally. Make sure you take the stuff you must have. Going to a wedding? Make sure you have wedding clothes, hiking boots, and medicines. Almost everything else can be replaced if needed. We usually each have a carry-on suitcase and also have a small backpack, wherever we go. Three weeks in Scotland? Yep. Ten days in Peru? Yep. Wedding and other travel on the west coast? Yep.

      As to experiments, I did have fun and mostly not much frustration. Applique has a lot of different facets to it, different methods, different styles. Most of all it’s a different way to use space than I am used to, and it will take a while to figure that out. And the longarm has been great so far. Knock on wood!!

      Thanks, Joanna.

  6. Kerry

    Wonderful news and congratulations to the happy couple – another bundle of joy to quilt for soon! Super that the grandchildren’s graduations were able to be witnessed first hand. It does sound like it has been a great year for you and so much more lined up for the new one!
    I like fun! You can never have too much!
    My son and his partner came for Christmas – probably the best one in recent times with him – previous years have been a little strained but this time – fun fun fun! My daughter and her partner are due to arrive late tonight for the new year – always fun fun fun with her – she’s exhausting though! Maybe that’s where you can have too much! LOL!

  7. piecefulwendy

    Your posts are often thoughtful, and I enjoy reading them. I hope your decision to quilt and have fun has made you feel lighter and happier. Sometimes chasing after all the stuff that we could do takes the fun out of it all.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Agreed! I haven’t been chasing very hard, to tell the truth, but I am good at dreaming up ambitions and then realizing they’re not actually real important to me. 🙂 Thanks, Wendy.

  8. katechiconi

    I’m so glad you’ve found time for fun and personal enrichment this past year. I always enjoy your posts, and despite the fact that they’re a little further apart than before, I continue to look forward to them, so I’m glad that’s one aspect of your creative life you’re going to continue.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Kate. I miss writing fiction, so if I can figure out how to fit that in, too, that would be great. And that block-printing class I took 2 years ago? More of that… Always so much to do, isn’t there? 🙂 Anyone who’s bored isn’t trying very hard to find things to do.

  9. Jim R

    I like the way we experienced things that are widely different in time, yet connected for us. Those were special. I am certain we’ll find more connections in the coming year(s).

  10. TextileRanger

    I feel so blessed that I can just quilt and write for pleasure too, and pass on a little of what others have shared with me over the years.
    I like that you included the other areas of your life in this post as well — I think those glimpses “behind the scenes” give a grounding to the stories of your pieces, and they add to my appreciation of them.
    I am looking forward to seeing your work continue in the New Year!


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