Saturday, October 19, 2013


Loving what you do ... and then some...

YIKES, Friends! It's been so long since I've sent you greetings and shared the goings-on in my dramatic, fabric-filled life. Well, now that the tables and chairs from the Second Annual Life by Design Women's Conference at Grace Fellowship in North Stonington, CT are back in storage, and the exhausted organizers can finally put their feet up after months of hard work, I trust they will hear my repeated thanks for pampering me with a yummy lunch, an ultra-willing assistant, and so much support and encouragement, I could write my own "1000 Things to Be Thankful For" book. The weather was beautiful, and the only thing that would have made the conference better would have been to move it outdoors.

As happened last year, there were "lines" in the monologue (written for the conference over the previous 6 months) that directly interfaced with points made by the other speakers. NO, we did not meet beforehand to discuss what each would talk about, but each workshop leader, the keynote speaker, and I in my 3-part sketch "coincidentally" reiterated, reworded, and reminded the attendees of the same lesson: that we are created for a purpose, and we don't need to presume to do this thing called LIFE on our own.

As I was last year, I was again convinced this weekend that I did not write the monolog, God did, and I just wrote it down.

BTW, let me ask you something: have you ever had something happen to you that just stopped you in your tracks, where you just had to look over your shoulder - literally or figuratively - to see Who was watching? Maybe not your actions, but your thoughts and intentions, hopes and dreams, struggles and confusions... Admittedly, I have been focussed over the last several months on rehearsing, tweaking, and memorizing my lines for this presentation. I knew it would speak to the audience on different levels, but I really wasn't thinking about that. I was mainly concerned with REMEMBERING what to say when and where to be with which props. IT WAS WORK! I love what I'm doing but it's still work, and part of the "job" is to make sure the audience does NOT know that it's work.

Well, my work day went well, and I was grateful not to have the 2-hour drive home to make. I pulled in to the driveway of my hostess/friend's house, and happily changed out of my last costume into comfy clothes for dinner. Over a delicious meal, we relived the day for her hubby, and as we summarized, he kindly asked me - now that I have no scripts to write or immediately present - So, Laurie, what do you like to do for fun?

HUH? ... well, I uh...

Finally I came up with bicycling and hiking. (OH, wait, cross-country skiing, too! I'd forgotten that.) But his question stopped me. As I said, I love what I do and I know that I know that I'm supposed to be doing both the acting and the sewing. Still, I find myself adding them as line items to my urgent To Do lists. Then another question arose in my heart: do I have any lists that are NOT urgent? Uh-oh! I think we have a problem here.

Talk to me, Friends! Do you have activities you do "for fun"? Not that I'm any sort of an expert (OBVIOUSLY!) but I think you should. Like the lumberjack who spends 10 minutes of every hour, sitting on a stump, JUST sharpening his ax, you (WE) will be more productive if we claim some NON-work time.

What a new and different concept, to some of us 21st century Type-As! But uh, NO, it's not that new. It's downright Biblical! Yeah, you remember, the SABBATH, the day of rest? (Ooooooh, the SABBATH... I knew that!) Please, claim your rest and your JFF (Just For Fun) time. It'll be good for you!

So, taking me at my word, my hostess took me (and her Shih Tzu) on an energizing walk around a 500+/--acre farm, followed by a picnic lunch and a tour of the colonial cemetery on the property. Nature, dining al fresco, and history. It doesn't get much better than that!
... and it was FUN!!!

OK, I can do this! So, see you on the bike path? Say when!

History in Fabric
Happy Valentine's Day Month, Friends! I had two precious "fabric moments" in January that I wanted to share with you.
I was given Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead by my dear friend, Anne. I generally don't treat myself to non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. It's written as a letter from an older dad, a third-generation church pastor, to his young son, the child of his late-in-life marriage to a younger woman. It's tender and tentative and hopeful and encouraging, and wisely realistic about bad things happening to good people and sad things happening to people who are really trying to turn their lives around, and forgiveness and friendship and good things occasionally happening to all of us so we don't stay stuck in thinking only about ourselves and our troubles.
The short episode that jumped off the page at me was a story told to him by his dad. After getting back from the army, his dad walked into his father's church where "the first thing he saw was a piece of needlework hanging on the wall above the communion table. It was very beautifully done" by the women in the church, some of whom had lost sons and husbands in the war. The narrator confesses he'd always wished he could have seen the tapestry, and takes two paragraphs to reflect on the women who produced it. "I don't know how those women managed to find the material for it, how much snipping and raveling of their few best clothes they'd have to have done to make such a thing as that. And I've always wondered what happened to it. Material things are so vulnerable to the humiliation of decay."
Dare I consider that what I do with you - the memory quilts, the quilted pillows, the individually-designed notecards, the window-pane mirrors - could ever be esteemed as such a treasure as this tapestry, comprised of the clothes off the backs of the very women who made it? There are so many precious memories preserved in the fabrics of your life: jeans, tees, bedspreads, doilies, sweaters, fur wraps. The honor shown to deliberately guard them is the value of an heirloom.
The other "fabric moment" happened as I was looking through some souvenirs of my recent trip to Washington, DC. I'd visited the National Museum of American History where the original Stars and Stripes is on display. The room housing the flag is dimly lit and ramped, so visitors enter the exhibit off the brightly lit lobby, climb the ramp lined with photos documenting the flag's history. At the top of the ramp, visitors turn left to look through the protective glass at our nation's most recognized symbol. No list of facts, no historical dissertation, no political stance can express the emotional impact of observing the original flag for the first time.
I purchased a packet of postcards of the photos, and wanted to share the below one with you. I hope the image posts clear enough for you to see the expressions on the faces of the women.

The blurb on the back of the postcard reads:
The 1914 Preservation Effort: In 1914, the Smithsonian hired Amelia Bold Fowler (1862-1923), a former teacher of embroidery, to preserve the Star-Spangled Banner. Fowler's team of ten needlewomen secured a linen support to the flag using a honeycomb pattern of 1.7 million stitches. They completed the job in eight weeks.
Ten anonymous women dedicating their time to embroider for their country. Can our twenty-first century minds even conceive of the value of such a selfless act? Not that the task was difficult, nor that they pay was meagre, if there was compensation at all, but that they gave of themselves receiving no recognition whatsoever. How much more would get accomplished in our day if NO ONE cared about getting the credit?

Focus in the New Year
Well, People, 31 days down, 334 to go. Are you on track, or already feeling "a teensy bit behind", as my Dad used to say? As I prepare to turn the first calendar page of 2013, I'm thinking "Where did that month go?" 
Sure, I was enjoyably busy enough in January: delivering Christmas presents to long-distance friends, and celebrating family birthdays as we daughters converged on Mom's house for her 92nd and my 2 sisters' January birthdays. AND of course for the Official Brassard Family Birthday Cake (milk chocolate cake with vanilla pudding between the layers, and chocolate cream cheese frosting. YUM!!!)...I had a dentist appointment, finished my digital scrapbook, and sent out the last of my Christmas cards... ((OK, that last one, I admit, should have been finished in December))... but the rest of the month seemed to slip by without all that much quantifiable productivity. 
My best-laid plans, most detailed organization, and sincerest intentions are too often detoured by minor - really minor - distractions. I know what I'd hoped/planned to do in January, but now I can't remember quite how I missed doing it all. ((Could it have anything to do with those glowing screens in my life: tv, computer, phone? Yeah, maybe.))
FOCUS, that's what I need, focus... like this gal. (For me, it was that 50% off sale last week at the Lindt store, but ... OOPS! I digress... yet again.)

Finished Quilts and VW Beetles
Well, Fabric Friends, since I didn't get back to you with holiday greetings in 2012, let me send along Merry Christmas and Happy New Year belatedly. I hope your holidays were safe and healthy and relaxing, gently nudging you into a productive and artistic 2013.
Since we last e-chatted, I've finished a pillow project, transforming a retired Air Force sergeant's camo shirts, tees, and sweats into throw pillows for his kids, sisters, very good pal, and loving wife. Now, even though Dad, Hubby, Bro, and Ol'Buddy Ol'Pal has gone on before them, each person whose life he most strongly impacted has a pillow for the sofa or favorite reading chair as a comforting reminder of his part in his/her life. Besides the honor of preserving his memory in this way, I really felt like I got to know Jim a little as I sewed on the badges and insignias. This is what memory quilts, heirloom pillows, commemorative throws - whatever you want to call them - are all about.
I had one more big sewing project for my nephews to complete before Christmas, and as I putzed with it, I could not for the life of me find my thimble! Don't get me wrong - my craft room will never be chosen by Good Housekeeping or Real Simple or Where Women Create for their centerfold, but still, how far could one thimble go??? (((Never mind, don't answer that!))) I put it out of my mind and used "the other one" until Jim's wife called to tell me how much his one sister liked her pillow. "And," she said, "she was wondering if the thimble was some sort of prize." So that's where it went - all the way to South Carolina! Thankfully, I didn't have to drive down for it, but I might like to do a craft show in warmer climes some day soon.
Also since we last e-chatted, I've brought my wares up to the Nashua, NH area for a craft fair and officially begun my 61st year on the planet. Yup, turned the BIG 6-0 on - wait for it! - 12/12/12!!! Girlfriends surprised me with a birthday party and Hubby surprised me with a RED VW Beetle! (see photo below) Just like my very first car, only diesel!!! Her name is Nell, shortened version of the French for ladybug: coccinelle. That, plus a nice pink champagne, it doesn't get much better than that!

So forgive me in advance if I don't write again before the snow melts. I have a feeling it's going to be 'one of those' springs. In my next post, I'd like to introduce you to the artist who produces the greeting cards, my friend Lee Fuller. Author, artist, crafter extraordinaire, and a huge fan of the Bourne Trilogy, she's a great lady to know. Enjoy your winter!
Early Snows and the Mittens to Handle Them
Greetings, Fabric Lovers! This note is long overdue, and I thank you for your patience.
Well, here in New England, we have had our first official snow of the season. Considerably earlier than normal, although - YES - last year's came in October. That one was quite the shocker, but this year's was just a gentle push to pull out our winter clothes EARLY.
Funny how crafty sewers - or at least this one - think as they run between the off-season garment bags and the bedroom closet. "If this doesn't fit, I use it in the "xyz" project!" Waste not, want not, although if no one else wants them, I'll take your "oldies but still goodies" off your hands for you!
A friend recently mentioned that she might need some help organizing her closets and storage areas. "Oh, I'd be happy to help you," I kindly, maybe a little too enthusiastically raised my hand. ((So far, she has no suspicions of any ulterior motive on my part, but if there just happens to be a colorful blouse that doesn't fit any more, I could offer to take it off her hands and give it purpose to live on.)) After all, what are friends for?
So as the cold weather blusters in to at least the northern US and Canada, let me introduce you to a friend who turns wool items - sweaters, socks, skirts, slacks, hats - into mittens and scarves. ((My wedding present to my nephew and his new bride was mittens and a scarf made out of his grandpa's - my dad's - sweater that his grandma - my mom - knit for him a looooooong time ago. I think they'll put them to good use up there in Nebraska.)) Karen Carpenter owns Baro Fashions and you can see her work at Please visit her there, and tell her I sent you.

Well, if I don't get back here before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful Turkey Day! Whether you are serving at a soup kitchen, or receiving family at your place, or letting someone graciously serve you, recall and remind others of how much we have to be thankful for in this nation. We are truly blessed, and contrary to L'Oreal's chant, we're really not worth it. If we got what we deserved, we'd be hurting puppies! See you next month! laurie

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