Category Archives: Personal

Motivation

I want to want to quilt! I really do. But quilting time competes with all other parts of life, and some times it doesn’t win. It isn’t just the matter of time, either. In fact, I have a lot of that. What I don’t have in spades is the type of energy that allows creative focus for longer stretches.

Since mid-April, I’ve made four quilt tops and their backs. When I’ve had inclination to “quilt,” the projects have been simple, not stretching my creative muscles very far. One is a Delectable Mountains (the second one I’ve made using the “modern” method,) one is a nursery rhymes quilt (the fourth and final one using panel fabric bought many years ago,) one is a disappearing 9-patch (I’ve made several of them,) and one is a small medallion quilt, which was pre-designed in EQ8. One of the projects has an intended owner; the others will probably be donations for my guild’s next quilt show silent auction.

Inspiration needs to join hands with motivation and energy, and at this point, those three are standing in different corners of the room, glaring at each other. I have a couple of pending projects that are inspiring, but they are “hard,” and have issues to sort out before moving forward. Motivation is not volunteering to help with that.

As far as that goes, simple projects can offer inspiration, too. Here are a couple of quick ideas I drew this morning in EQ8. You can click on either picture to open them full-sized.

The two designs are the same other than the alternate block. One uses a 3-strip rail fence block and the other uses a snowball. Pretty, huh? I like simple quilts. After I drew these I felt inspired and pretty charged up, ready to head downstairs to pull fabrics for one. Or heck, both use the same 9-patch, so I could do two! And then motivation walked away.

Motivation says, “What’s the point?” And right now, I don’t have an answer.

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Summer isn’t quite over, but around here school begins this week. Did you ever write a paper about your summer vacation? I’m not sure if teachers actually assign this essay, or if it’s merely an easy criticism of trite school work. 

Is it trite? Or is it a good way to get students back in the habit of writing? Does the poetic turn of phrase matter as much as simply putting memories into words? If I wait until I’m feeling poetic or literate, I might never write another blog post. Instead, I’ll start here with a few sentences about my year. Perhaps breaking the ice this way will make it easier to write the next one.


Shortly before my last blog post, Jim and I left to visit our son and daughter-in-law. They were about to welcome a new baby into their lives, and we were privileged to be with them when he was born. He is healthy and sturdy and doing well, and both parents are over the moon, in love with the little one.

And shortly before that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When we returned from our family visit, I began treatment, which will continue for a few more weeks.

As you might imagine, writing has not been a high priority for me. In the meantime, though, I have made a few quilt tops and backs. I’m not speedy, mostly because I’m also not very inspired or motivated. My stamina is improving post-chemo, but not to the point where I’m interested in spending more than an hour at a time working on anything. And that hour? Might be once or twice a week. Finishing anything is hard at that pace.

Jim and I are trying to enjoy the last of the long summer days. Both of us are getting out for walks more often. We had the thrill of seeing the Big Boy steam engine as it roared past us a few weeks ago. We traveled to see Son and his family last week. On returning Friday, we headed downtown for live music and dancing, and huge hugs with old friends and new ones. Just yesterday we attended a “corn feed” with the sweetest Iowa sweet corn. If you know Iowa sweet corn, you know that it’s the best on the planet. And today I’ll make stuffed poblano peppers, more of the bountiful produce that help make summer so special.


If you have any questions about my diagnosis or the treatment process, you are very welcome to ask, and I reserve the right not to answer. Please NO comments suggesting I’m doing something wrong (not praying or meditating right, not having the right attitude or emotions, not taking supplements I should, not having the right treatment plan… ) NO comments like that, please. They are not helpful.

 

 

Cliffhanger!

In the previous episode, I told you some about my process for making the Wind River Beauty quilt. There are a couple of important program notes since then. First, it is still in process!! Yes, the top is done, and has been for, golly, a few weeks. It’s been on my longarm frame and off of it and back on.

In the meantime, I made a baby quilt for my very-soon-to-be-born grandson. Until it’s revealed to the parents, I won’t be sharing it here. And the little guy needs to be revealed first!

The second program note is that I’m taking a bit of a hiatus. Now, you may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been around, either reading or writing. Some family/personal/non-quilting things have come up, taking my attention. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to this, but likely it will be a few weeks.

Thanks as always for reading. I look forward to visiting with you again.

I Love Lucy

Lisa was another band mom at the high school. Unlike me, she’d been through band-mom years before, and she taught me the ropes. We saw each other at concerts and volunteering with marching band. We roomed together on the band trip, taking 200 teenagers to Orlando. We co-chaired the sectional jazz band festival for two years. We called each other “Lucy” and “Ethel,” famous for getting each other in over our heads.

After our sons graduated high school, we didn’t spend as much time together, and we weren’t as close. But she is still very dear to me.

In 2011 I made a quilt for her using some “I Love Lucy” quilting fabric I found. She’s used it a lot over the last few years, and even more since the middle of 2017. In June that year she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.

She’s spent a lot of time in treatment and in recovery. She went back to work, and last Friday she was able to retire.

Monday she was admitted to the hospital. In late fall she was told the cancer had reappeared. Of course it was never fully gone. Treatment options are limited at this point, but they’ll investigate the possibilities.

This is the quilt I made for her. It suits her now better than ever. She is irrepressible, my Lucy/Lisa.

time, timing, chance, and preparation

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur

Jim and I have been talking about how a moment in time can change the course of one’s life. A single decision, even if it doesn’t seem momentous when made, can alter the path taken. But often that single decision is preceded by a long set of circumstances. Often that moment is not in isolation.

On May 18, 1980, an earthquake triggered the collapse of the north face of Mount St. Helens, in Washington state. Along with the avalanche, the volcano exploded with magma and poisonous gas. Fifty-seven people died; homes, bridges, and highways were destroyed. In a moment, life changed irretrievably. But that moment was hundreds of millions of years in the making. And though the general public did not receive enough warning to keep hikers off the mountain, residents began preparing to evacuate weeks ahead.

At Mount St. Helens recently. You can see the north slopes of the volcano behind us, still mostly bare of growth, 38 years after the blast.

A few weeks after the volcano erupted, Jim and I met in a university cafeteria. Far from inevitable, our meeting can be traced to a specific decision I made on a specific day two years before. Meeting Jim changed my life forever, as did the accumulation of choices I made leading to that day.

Similarly, when our son was in college, a chance encounter with the campus AFROTC commander led to his joining the Air Force, and ultimately to meeting his new bride. But neither of these “moments in time” were only a matter of chance. For our son, his decisions were bolstered by a lifelong interest in flying, as well as opportunities to investigate the options.

Long ago, a university student accused me of putting her on academic probation, based on the “D” she earned in my class. I reminded her that a single grade did not do that, and her grades were her responsibility. While the change in status may have happened at a moment in time, there was plenty of tectonic shift leading to that eruption!

Examples like these are easy, aren’t they? Some catalyst flips a switch, but the conditions for change were already in place. I’ll bet you can come up with some from your own life.

In our creative lives, some of us find our niche and continue to create similar work. Others can point to a change in circumstance, an event, or a decision, that leads to metamorphosis. Henri Matisse suffered from abdominal cancer late in his life, leading to the paper cutouts for which some of us know him best. The cancer was the catalyst, but the collage art he made was only possible because of his prior work. “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated,” Matisse said of his later work.

“The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4.” Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book “Jazz.” Art by Henri Matisse/Image by Centre Pompidou

In my quilting experience, there was a moment five years ago when I decided to focus on medallion quilts. I’d made medallions before then, but I’ve made scores of them since then. Each one teaches me something new. And now I’m shifting in a direction I’ve long wanted to take, towards quilts that tell a story. The shift intensified when my friend Janet asked me to make her a Green Man quilt, a project that includes story as well as extensive appliqué.

The quilts of Mary Lou Weidman, Roberta Horton, and Faith Ringgold — storytellers I’ve long admired — inspire me, but they will not define me. My quilts cannot be like theirs; they can only be mine. The expertise in medallion quilts is not for naught. It is part of me, of my preparation.

Two of my quilts you may have seen, which I consider story quilts, are below.

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I Found the Housework Fairy But She’s Not Coming Back. 35″ square. Finished June 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Garden Party. 62" x 68". Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning Fabrics. Finished March 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Garden Party. 62″ x 68″. Center panel by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning Fabrics. Finished March 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

I love both of these quilts, but I see them as antecedents, as preparation for what is to come. And what is to come, today I can’t fully imagine, anymore than I could imagine, 38 years ago, what my life would be like now.

Time, timing, chance, and preparation. Chance events, decisions, or circumstances can change our lives, our work, and our relationships. Everything we do helps prepare us for everything ahead.

What “moment in time” stories do you have? Has your artistic work changed because of a single event, class, or inspiration? Share in comments below.