Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be True. Be Strong. Be Focused. (Find Your Lula Recap Part II)

     What are your core values? Do you know? Take a minute to think about it. Can you pick three words out of all the words in your language that sum up who you are? It's not easy is it? Especially if you haven't ever thought about it.  I hadn't.

     On day two of Lula we were introduced to Lyn Christian. Lyn was also at Sewing Summit with Amanda Herring last year. She stayed mostly in the back, videotaping Amanda's talk. Amanda introduced her as her "life coach." I have to be honest. I thought the term life coach was a little weird. Maybe it's my no nonsense Midwestern upbringing. Maybe it was simply my own prejudices, but I didn't really understand why a life would need coaching. I am pretty much a "just muddle through" kind of gal. Having somebody to coach one through one's day seemed, well, self-indulgent.

     When I woke up the morning of day two. I reminded myself of something I'd jotted down in my smash book in the midst of my near panic attack (thank you, Richard Nixon) the night before:

    I knew there could be no room for my pre-conceived notions this day. I needed to stay open to everything that was given to me and assess later whether or not it was something I could use. To do anything else would mean that I was wasting everybody's time especially my own.
    The first thing we did that morning was some alignment exercises with Lyn's partner, Susan McLaughlin. She showed us some really fantastic things that we can do on a daily basis to keep our bodies aligned. Proper alignment can help reduce inflammation in our joints and also reduces fatigue so we can work better, longer. I was stunned by the immediate results just a few short exercises produced. She also had us do a breathing exercise which felt like what I've imagined meditation to be like. I really liked how calm and focused this made me feel. I mean, really? Any chance to lie down on the floor and listen to my breathing, I'm in!

     Now that we were all aligned and focused, we began working with Lyn. I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to describe Lyn in a way that will do her justice, and I didn't take a single picture of her because from the moment she started talking, I was completely honed in on her message. This is no New Age, Kumbaya singing, false guru (did I mention I might have some pre-conceived notions?). This is a serious, accomplished business woman who has helped some really big hitters in the business world as well as the art world accomplish their goals in both their personal and their business lives. Chops, people. Lyn has chops. She is one of those rare people, you meet who are so comfortable in their own skin they exude a quiet confidence that makes you want to raise your game; to just be better. She also has a personal style that is so cool and so her very own and so uncontrived that, well, let's just say Ellen Degeneres is jealous. 
Captain Bad Ass, Lyn Christian

     We began by going through stacks of cards with words on them finally narrowing them down to three words that were our top three values. Mine are Love, Gratitude, and Equilibrium.  Whenever we are faced with decisions that need to be made in our personal or our business life, we need to see if what we are being asked to do aligns with these core values. This exercise really helped me to recognize some very basic things that are so easy to lose sight of. I realized later that I had de-cluttered my inner workspace, just as I do in my sewing room before I start a new project, and I felt just as refreshed and ready to work after this inner de-cluttering as I do then. 

Love: Nothing is possible without it.
Gratitude: An elixir, without which life is poisoned.
Equilibrium: Necessary for good function.

Our next session Lyn brought us through some very specific, solid things we can do to make our lives function better.  I have printed out my Today/Not Today and my "This Week/ Not This Week" sheets and have filled them in with sticky notes containing all the things I must accomplish if not today, then soon. This includes everything from the mundane (laundry) to the fun stuff (work on Illustrator) She talked to us about personal integrity; if you tell yourself you're going to do something, you need to do it. This is something I have always struggled with. I'm pretty good at doing things I tell other people I will do, but I am always happy to give myself a pass on the things I tell myself I'm going to do. Lyn calls that "shoulding on yourself." Hehehe get? "shoulding?" Get it?

     I think the biggest realization I had after two days of listening to Lyn is that being a "just muddle through" kind of gal wasn't really working for me. I was wasting too much time, giving myself too many free passes, and making excuses for why I wasn't where I wanted to be creatively. Integrity is really important to me, and I was letting myself down in that area, big time.

     So, I highly recommend taking a minute to contemplate what your core values are and ask yourself if you are living by them. It does a body good! And if you want to know more about the incredible Lyn Christian and her coaching company, Soul Salt (coolest name ever, don't you think?), you can find her 
HERE and HERE and HERE! It's all great information and it's all free.

     And one last word on Find Your Lula 2013, and then this will morph back into a quilting blog. I hope that I have painted an adequate picture of just how special this retreat was. People use the phrase "life changing" all the time and it annoys the heck out of me...........(wait for it).............BUT. But Lula really has changed the game for me. Amanda told us she would help us find our wings and she did. She really, truly did. There are going to be more Lula retreats in the future and I hope if you're reading this you will consider attending one. Amanda is a natural connector, and she has a magical way of connecting with people and then connecting them with others, strengthening everyone in the process. I am honored to call her my friend.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just Hammer the Nail

     I have to go back an entire year in order to begin this post properly. Some of you may remember that I attended Sewing Summit in 2012. It was awesome and wonderful and loads of fun. The best part for me was sitting in on the sessions where designers discussed their creative journeys. My favorite of these talks by a mile was Amanda Herring's. She is the brains and the braun behind The Quilted Fish and one of Riley Blake's top (more like tippy top) designers. She is also one of the warmest, kindest, most generous spirits I have ever encountered. She's blushing right now, but it's true and everybody knows it.
Amanda at her most Amanda-y (photo and street cred to @dougsterdesign)
     Amanda talked a lot about her design process that day and her use and love of the Adobe design program, Illustrator. We were all asking tons of questions and she mentioned that maybe, at some point in the future, she would host an Illustrator workshop. I remember thinking at the time that it would be cool to learn that program, but really, if this girl is talking, I want to be there, no matter what the subject.  And just like that, I became a "Fishie."
     Flash forward a few months. I'm sitting on the couch with Mr. Wonderful catching up on my blog reading when I see that Amanda has announced the Find Your Lula retreat with this video.
   You watched it, right? You guys, you have to watch this video!
So, I knew I was in. I showed the video to Mr. Wonderful, gave him my best puppy dog eyes, mentioned that my big fat 50th birthday was right around Lula time, and got the green light to sign up! Hey, they don't call him Mr. Wonderful for nothing, you know.

Ok, flash forward again eight long months and off to Lula (Park City, Utah) I go. So excited. Not a care in the world. As a matter of fact, I was so excited to get there that I took a flight that got me into Salt Lake around 10:00am. We weren't even going to head up to Park City until 5:00pm. I figured I'd just hang out at the airport, or maybe take a cab into Salt Lake and go exploring. But the night before I left, one of the other Lula-ites, Amy of Ameroonie Designs texted me and said, "Let's hang out!" Now, Amy and I had never met. We knew each other a little bit from the Lula Facebook group, but that was it. So, at first, my shy, introverted self launched the standard flare warning of awkward roads ahead, alerting me to available detours. But I've been to the Awkward Rodeo plenty of times (I mean, I'm 50, right?), so I ignored the flare and headed off with Amy for an epic shop hop, picking up Gwen (GwennyPenny) along the way. We had a blast! PS. I heart you, Pine Needles and Material Girls. I heart you so hard!
I heart you too, Amy! Even more than I heart fabric shopping!

So, one by one we all gathered in Salt Lake, 12 of us in all, plus a few of Amanda's helpers (more about them in a minute), and were escorted by Amanda's wonderful husband, Scott up to the most beautiful house in Park City. No exaggeration. This place was beyond bananas! I had my own bedroom AND my own bathroom. It was heaven! And this was on my door:
I knew right away this was not any run in the mill retreat.
    We all settled in and sat down to dinner, which was cooked by Amanda and her amazing team. All the food was planned and cooked by Amanda and her team, and while it couldn't have been easy to make 12 women with varying tastes and dietary requirements happy, they sure made it look easy! Everything was beautiful, plentiful and so very delicious!
     After dinner Amanda had us go around the circle and tell a little bit about ourselves. This is where things headed South for me, and fast. One by one each woman talked about all of their accomplishments. These weren't people like me, just looking to learn a new skill and have some fun. They were established, serious business women. They were fabric designers with multiple lines under their belts. They were magazine editors. They were everything. I. Am. Not. I was terrified, and by the time it was my turn to tell who I was, I was nearly in tears. I mumbled something incoherent about wanting to design my own fabric so I could make a quilt with my fabric, that I designed, pieced and quilted all myself. Which is true, but seemed so entirely lame at that moment that I just wanted to crawl under a rock. And of course, You Know Who was there, sitting on my shoulder having a marvelous laugh at my expense.
Richard Nixon. My arch nemesis.
     Yup. That Dick was back, smugly perched atop my shoulder, whispering insidious nothings in my ear, reminding me of who he knew me to be; inept, afraid, blocked, lacking, a fraud. "Who do you think you are?" he said. "You don't belong here,"he said. "You have taken the space of somebody who truly deserves to be here." (You might remember him from this post) but this time Marlo Thomas was no where in sight.  I was able to shake Nixon off that night. I told myself I was exhausted, which I was, and to start fresh in the morning, so I said goodnight and put my sorry self to bed.

     The next day, I woke up completely refreshed and, after my breakfast of perfectly poached eggs, made just for me,

I was ready to rule my first Illustrator class. Boo Ya!

     Our Illustrator classes were led by Amanda's friend and Graphic Designer Extraordinaire, Douglas Allen. In my little brain I call him Doug Funny. Not because he wears his Tidy Whities on the outside, and goes by the name "Quail Man"(although who knows what he does in the privacy of his own home?), but because he is just really, really funny.

Can I just tell you? Dude has chops! He's about 17 years old #prettysure, Ok, #lolololol he's a grown man #fatherof2 #onebunintheoven but he is way young for the resume he's built up. Chops for days, this guy. #chopsfordaze . So, the hashtags are a Lula joke, and nobody but us will get it, and I know it is egregiously rude of me for injecting an inside joke into this post, but I had to, just this once. #meaculpa #itwonthappenagain.

     So Doug gets started, and so far so good. I am getting it, and I'm getting pumped and I'm doing that happy dance in my chair that I used to do when I was doing my algebra homework and I made my equations balance. I was almost gleeful.  But then, he said something that I didn't quite get, and while I was trying to figure it out, the class moved on and I realized I was a couple steps behind. Then Nixon showed up. This time he just laughed and laughed and laughed, and I couldn't hear what Doug was saying anymore, and I didn't want to ask too many questions because I was going to hold up everybody else who were totally keeping up and doing the happy dance in their chairs. And then I cried. I don't think anybody saw me, but I was a snifflin' for sure. Nixon is such a Dick!

     Luckily, we broke for lunch and I had a moment to catch my breath. After lunch, Kristen McMullin Pack arrived for our photography class.
Photo Assignment from Kristen's Class
She talked a little bit about her creative journey and told a story about a time when she was at a crossroads in her life, living in a dreary basement apartment that she was trying to fix up and make into a space where she could be happy. She stood in front of a wall, hammer and nail in hand and was paralyzed by her fears. Was she doing the right thing? Could she be successful and follow her dream. What if? Then she told herself to "just hammer the nail."

     Just. Hammer. The. Nail. That phrase became my rally cry. It became the rally cry for the whole group. You see, I didn't allow myself to hear the night before when everybody was giving their bios  that we all have fears of inadequacy. I didn't let myself hear that they often feel the same way that I do, even though they've accomplished so much more. When we get right down to it, we are all just women trying to make our way in the world one step at a time, and sometimes we get scared, and sometimes we are awesome and don't even know it. But, if we don't try, if we don't just hammer the darn nail and see what happens, well, that's sort of criminal, isn't it? I think that ticks God right off when that happens. I really do.

     So, do you know what I did? I flicked my Dick. That's right. I flicked that Dick right off my shoulder. Now, I can't say he won't ever be back, but he's gone for now, and I continue to work on Illustrator on my own, and I'm getting better. I have even done that happy dance once or twice. You can flick your Dick, too. Just hammer the nail, baby, just hammer the nail.

     Tomorrow I am going to post about Lula one more time. There was somebody else there that I haven't mentioned yet. She gets her very own post.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Free To Be, You And Me?

Chances are, if you are a child of the seventies, you remember this.

Free To Be...You and Me was a project by Marlos Thomas and the Ms. Foundation. It was released as an LP (that's a record album for you young ones out there) and then as an After School Special.  It was packed with songs and stories by a laundry list of all the top stars of the day. Seriously, you can't believe the names on this album; Alan Alda, Cicely Tyson, Carol Channing, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, just to name a few.

The purpose of the album was to promote equality and tolerance between the sexes and to break down some of the established gender stereotypes of the time. Basically, girls can rule the world, and boys can play with dolls. It's all good!

I went to an all girls school that had some pretty progressive teachers. The album and its message was fed to me like mother's milk. I think it made my parents a little nervous, but they were troopers and played along. (Until the day I came home from school with my nose in my copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves and told my mother it was one of my Biology textbooks. Poor Mom, she still hasn't recovered.)

I come from people who like order in their lives. I hesitate to call them controlling, because that word has insidious connotations that don't apply here. But, let's just say that order, and balance is important to their sense of ease. Very, very important. I always felt that I was different, though. I was all about live and let live, following one's bliss. Free To Be, You and Me.
Until this happened.

quilted ... now to find some binding :) #scrappytripalong
Trudi- Quiltingprolifically

The Scrappy Trip Along blew up my Instagram and Twitter feed. The pictures pretty much blew up my brain as well. Resistance, as they say, was futile.. I have done my my share of Quilt Alongs. I really love them. They are such a fantastic way for the quilting community to come together for some laughs and support. This one, though, just seemed to sprout up organically into the universe. 
Brenda, from Just A Bit Frayed is leading the charge, and the Queen of Scrappy, Katy from I'm A Ginger Monkey is on board as well. You can find the tutorial here .

So, as I was saying, pictures of these wondrous scrappilicious quilts kept popping into my feed. Like this one:

close up
By QuiltIt
I mean, they just went on and on! It took me about two minutes to decide to join the revelry. I have always been drawn to scrappy quilts, I just love them. But for some reason (which is now totally obvious to me) I have always put scrappy in my "someday" category, never at the top of my "must do" list. So, I jumped right in with both feet and made this:

 And then I made another one exactly like it.

 I was so proud. I loved my fabric choices, my points matched up to perfection. I was on a roll.
But then a tiny, slightly raspy, little voice whispered in my ear. I looked over and there on my shoulder,was Marlo herself.

 She said, "Oh, Mary! That is lovely! Look at those perfectly matching blocks. They are like twins looking in a mirror. So cute with the polka dots and matching solids. But, Mary, and I mean to give you no pressure at all, but, didn't you say you wanted to make a "scrappy" quilt?"
Before I could answer, Richard Nixon appeared on my left shoulder. True story.

He didn't whisper. He shouted, "Scrappy? SCRAPPY! Knock it off there, Marlo. She isn't the scrappy kind. She's a good, solid citizen. Quit filling her head with these dangerous notions of scrappy. Don't you know where it could lead???"

I'm sure you can guess where it went from here. Yeah, Marlo and Tricky Dick climbed up my hair to the top of my head where Marlo showed just how scrappy she can be by putting Dick in a sleeper headlock until he went *poof*.  Then she stomped her foot (which kind of hurt) and said, "Make the quilt YOU want, Mary!" Then she went *poof* too.

Well, I wanted to make a scrappy quilt. I really really did. But while Marlo had won the battle, she had not, apparently won the war, because Dick wouldn't leave me alone. I stood in front of my fabric stash paralyzed. I really, truly did not know where to begin, and Dick was hissing at me, "You don't understand how colors work together. It will all turn to mud, MUD I say! You have to be artistic to make scrappy work, and you, sister, are no artist. That's a good thing! Artists are dangerous, subversive types. You are not now, nor have you ever been scrappy. You, you are a good girl. You model good, orderly behavior for your children, so they will become good, orderly citizens too."

What will Mary do? Who will win this battle for the scrap bin?
Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Toile and Gingham. Gingham and Toile

California Girl 
My two most favorite combinations of all time, and I have yet to make anything with it. It's tragic, really. So, armed with a lovely gift certificate I got for Christmas, I went to the Fat Quarter Shop and started poking around. Just look at all the beautiful possibilities!

Gypsy GIrl

Hill Farm

Hope Cove

Incense and Peppermints

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A TIme
This isn't even close to everything, but it is a tasty sampling, no?  Then I started thinking. Out loud. On Twitter. If I were to design a Toile, what would be on it? Well, milkmaids for sure. I always think of milkmaids when I think of toile. And peacocks. I'd like a random chipmunk here and there, and without a doubt there must be terriers.
Then I started thinking my toile scene must have a sense of humor. The terriers would have to be under foot (because that's what they do best), forcing the maids to spill their milk, the peacocks looking on in haughty distain, not knowing that the chipmunks are imitating them behind their backs.
As you can see, I was lost in happy toile reverie.
Man alive, I think I could design some killer toile if only I could draw, darn it!

Do you share my love of all things toile? What would yours look like if you designed one?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ding Ding Ding We Have a Winner!!

Congratulations to Rebeckah Austin! She won the two Mini Charm Packs.
If you make a wine bag from them, please send me a picture!
I'll be back later in the week. I'm working on a new bag design and, if it works like I think it should, I'll be so excited to show it to you!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Do You Smell What I'm Cooking!? (Giveaway!!)

I've got something in the oven over at Moda Bakeshop!

     Today is a wonderful "full circle" moment for me. When I first started sewing a couple years ago, I learned so much from the Bakeshop Bakers. I couldn't believe that such great information was right at my fingertips AND it was free! I think one of my first projects was Chris Warnick's (AKA Frecklemama) 's Personalized Placemats. I think I have made those placemats in at least 3 different versions including a set of fifteen that I gave to my Mother-in-law for Christmas last year.

     I feel like I owe a lot to the Bakeshop, so it is a real honor for me to now be an official Bakeshop Chef. (EEK!)  I hope that you will make your way over there to see my tutorial for a patchwork wine bottle bag. It is a quick project using those adorable Mini Charm Packs and results in (I think) a super cute hostess or host gift for a holiday party.
      So, since I'm celebrating being on the Bakeshop, I think I should give you a reason to celebrate as well. I mean it's only fair, right?  I'd love to get you started on making your own patchwork wine bags, so I'm going to give away not one, but two Mini Charm Packs!
     Old Glory Gatherings by Primitive Gatherings for Moda and Cinnamon Spice by Blackbird Designs for Moda. All you have to do is leave a comment here. Now, you can say anything you want in the comment, but if you've been following me for any amount of time, you know I love a good limerick. If you write me a limerick I'll give you two entries! I'll also give you another entry if you let me know that you follow me here or on Facebook (


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Heart Sewers! (And People Who Sew)

     Something wonderful happened yesterday. Well, at first something rotten happened, but, as is so often the case, the wonderful couldn't have happened with out the rotten.  I'll begin with the rotten.
This happened. 

     Allow me to explain. I was up early this morning, because early is my most favorite time of all. Everything is quiet, dogs are happily snoozing and I am at my very most creative and productive. I was having a lovely time constructing this iPad sleeve and everything was moving along swimmingly. I always like to check to make sure that an iPad will actually fit in the sleeves that I make, so I slipped mine in to see.
No problemo. It fit just fine.  All I had left to do was sew the tab onto the end of the zip. So, I snipped off the excess and began to fit the tab on when, "oops" my iPad was still in there. Do you see where this is headed? Yeah. Without thinking, I went to open up the sleeve and I pulled that sucker right off the end of the zipper.
     I didn't swear. No, really. I wanted to. I thought all the bad words, but I didn't utter a one. Had I, I would have unleashed a tirade of epic proportion. I would have Woken The Dogs. Even I know not to wake the Nutjob Terriers.
   What I did do was take a picture of my disaster and send out a plaintive cry for help on Instagram.
Within moments people were offering condolences and suggestions for what I could do, or who might help. The one name that came up several times was, Erin, better known to me as @Yorkiemischief (I'll bet she knows a thing or two about Nutjob Terriers!), who blogs at Dog Under My Desk.
     Here is where the wonderful comes in to play. Erin heard the buzz on Twitter and Instagram that there was a sewist in distress.  She threw on her Super Woman cape (I'm pretty sure she has a phone booth in her studio for quick changes) and came to the rescue!

     She also said these soothing words, "I am sure you are not alone." Well, I'm not so sure about that, but it was lovely to hear!
     Erin was kind enough to let me embed the video she made showing how to fix a zipper (in case I'm not alone), so be sure to check out her blog and give her a "follow" if you haven't already!
    And one more thing. This quilting sewing community never ceases to amaze me with its love and support. It really truly warms my heart to know that we can put the word out and in a moments notice we will have so many people ready and willing to help. God Bless you ALL!!