The Stitchin’ Zone


I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know how to do needlework.  I embroidered my first set of stamped pot holders before I started Kindergarten, and I haven’t stopped since.  Growing up, I also learned to do cross-stitch, latch hook, crochet and more.

Spending time at my aunts’ house, I learned to always have a craft project close at hand.  Each of the four aunts had her specialty, and when a butt hit a chair, a craft basket hit the hands.  That’s just the way it was.  Marian made afghans,  Ida did cross-stitch and crochet, Noni did candlewick, and Verna quilted.

Verna’s quilts were works of art.  She did everything by hand, from the piecing to the quilting itself, to the hand-stitched binding.  She made Tumbling Blocks, Log Cabins, Nine-Patches and more; she made cross-stitched and appliqued tops, and she gave away every finished project.  Wedding quilts, baby quilts, lap quilts, she made them all.

She died before I had a chance to learn from her, but her sister Noni taught me the basics during my first pregnancy so I could make my baby’s quilt.  Noni hated quilting, but she knew just enough to get me started, and then she told me, “Don’t forget any of this, because I don’t love you enough to teach you again.”

Years later, I made her a quilt that took more than two years to complete; I spent two years cross-stitching the top and six weeks quilting it together, and I told her, “Don’t lose it, because I don’t love you enough to make you another one.”

I’ve lost count of how many quilts I’ve made over the years.  Each of my children has one, as does every baby born into our extended family.  I’ve given them to friends and donated them to fundraisers and silent auctions, and I’m finally making one just for myself.  It’s a king-sized quilt with cross-stitched yellow roses.

I tell people that quilting is my Prozac.  When I pick up one of Verna’s handmade wooden hoops and take the needle in hand, I lose track of everything else around me.   It’s automatic, a process.  Load the needle, pull it through, repeat.   Over and over, my hands doing the job with hardly any conscious thought on my part.

When I’m quilting, my mind can play.  I plot novels, rehash conversations that didn’t go well.  I mentally redecorate my living room or plan out my grocery list, or I re-live moments of my life.

It’s a slow process.  An afternoon spent quilting may result in only a few inches of a quilted pattern, but those hours can give me peace that no amount of therapy or antidepressants could provide.  When I’m quilting, the world slows down enough for me to think –or not think, if that’s what I need that day.

When I’m quilting, I’m spending time with Verna and Noni and the others, or I’m reaching out to the babies who have slept on one of my quilts.  I’m enclosing myself inside my own healing bubble where I can retreat, where I can lose myself and find myself at the same time.

When I give away a quilt, I love the ooohs and ahhhs.  But no matter how many I give away, my quilts give me far more.

Jump Out or Garden, Craven Fool

Daily PromptTurn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.

Since I am home alone most of the day, I had to ask for input for the Daily Prompt from my friends on Facebook, and I realized just how eclectic, smart and delightfully twisted my friends are.  Not only did I get words like “craven”, I also got what is perhaps the greatest Facebook comment ever made.  Ever:

I asked my staff to help. I said give me an adjective to describe yourself.  From them I got “Jittery” (Obviously too much coffee) “Bloated” (Didn’t ask) and “Flatulent”. I have since decided to leave early for court . . .

Bless your heart.  I had no idea lawyers were so funny.

Back to business.  The word craven immediately made me think of Lord Archibald Craven in “The Secret Garden”. But since it’s used here as an adjective and not a great character in literature, I had to look it up.

It means “cowardly”.

Good word.

It really does describe Lord Craven.  He is a coward, trapped by his own fears in a cold and lonely world of his own creation.  He is so afraid of having a crippled son that his fear turns the boy into an invalid; he is so afraid of losing another loved one that he won’t allow himself to love anyone at all.   He is distant and terribly alone, all because of his fears.

If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s the story of Mary, a young orphaned girl who is forced to move from her luxurious home in India to her uncle’s lonely manor in England.  Like her uncle, Lord Craven, she is withdrawn and cold, starved for any kind of affection.  She “adopts” an old, abandoned garden and as the plants grow and blossom, so does Mary—and so does everyone around her.

It’s a story of growth and healing, of the strength of the human spirit if only it is properly tended.

Every year, when I planted my garden, I thought of Mary asking, “Please, sir, may I have a bit of Earth?” And I’d smile and tell myself that I read too much, and to shut up and water the damn plants.

Two years ago, I didn’t get my garden planted because of my car accident.  I was in the hospital when I should have been turning the soil, in a brace when I should have been weeding, feeling sorry for myself when I should have been harvesting.    I didn’t get it done last year, either;  the physical work was just too hard.  Too overwhelming.

Too scary.

I’ve been a craven fool, a coward, so afraid of pain that I’ve given up.  I stopped gardening, swimming, walking the KalHaven Trail, playing outside with my kids.  I let my fear of getting hurt again stop  my healing.  I’ve let my spirit die alongside my garden.

My little garden sits there, untended, overgrown, abandoned.  Just like Mary’s garden when she first discovered it.


The Big Guy says we don’t need  to plant the garden this year.  We can buy our tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans without all of the back-breaking work.  He knows I’m scared, and he knows the work will be hard, and he wants to keep me safe.

But he never read “The Secret Garden.”

He doesn’t understand that gardening isn’t about the harvest.  It’s about the growth.

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

Tell us about something you know you should do . . . but don’t.


Hoo boy.  I could write a novel about all of the things on that list.  Oh, wait.  Writing my novel is on the list too.

Now that my kids are all in school, my house should be spotless and my novel should be in the last stages of its final edit.  I should be able to prepare delicious meals for my family, complete with tasty desserts.  I should exercise, write letters to The Big Guy’s Great-Aunt, finish the baby quilt I am working on, read a good book.  I should reach out to old friends and family members that I haven’t seen in a while.  I should do volunteer work with all of this free time.

But . . . I don’t.

I can only blame just so much of it on chronic pain.  There are people out there in much worse shape than I am who manage to function.

It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to people who have never dealt with depression.  They ask me, “What do you do all day?” and I don’t know what to say.

“I sit here in this chair and think about all of the things I should be doing,” I should tell them.  “Most days, I cry a lot because I don’t know what to do or where to start.  I cry because I want to be a good wife and mother, a good person.  I want to do all of those things. . . but I don’t, and I don’t know why, and then I cry because I don’t want to be crying.”

I should explain to them that I spend my days making bargains with myself, trying to trick my will-power into getting back to work.  For every mindless half-hour of staring at the walls, I tell myself that I must do a chore.  Wash the dishes that never get completely done.  Fold the laundry that is wadded in the basket and should probably be re-washed.  Run the vacuum.  Go outside and go for a walk.  Write a chapter or a query letter or anything, for God’s sake.

Just get out of that chair and move.

And then it’s 3:00 and the kids will be home in a half-hour and I start to panic because nothing is done and I have to cook supper and make phone calls and scramble to cover up the evidence of my inactivity.  I have to dry the tears and get dressed and pretend that I remembered to shower.

I have to make up stories about my busy day to explain what they see as my being lazy.  I have to make excuses and try to act “normal” and then bow my head in shame in the face of the irritation and impatience and downright anger from the people who just don’t get it.

I should tell the world that I don’t want to live this way.  This isn’t my choice.

Depression is an illness, not a choice.    Who would choose to live like this?

I should be able to move on and stop dwelling on things.  Stop talking about and re-living the car accident that changed my life.  Stop grieving for the career that I lost—for everything that I lost –the night I broke my neck.  Stop feeling sorry for myself.  Stop missing Mom and Dad and Marian and Jennifer and Kristy and all of the people I loved who died too young, too soon.  Stop regretting  the way my life has turned out.

I should surround myself with positive people and read books that lift my soul.  I should pray harder and ask God for His help.

More than anything else, I should admit to myself and the world that I am suffering; I should accept that the time has come for me to ask for help.

I should step away from the computer and make a phone call.

Music Woman

Put together a musical playlist of songs that describe your life, including what you hope your future entails.

Not as easy as it sounds.  I sat down and compiled a list of over twenty songs that trigger memories of different “firsts” in my life:  first album I bought, first kiss, first slow dance, and so on.  But I wanted to narrow it down to songs that represent turning points in my life.  They may not have been my favorites at the time, but they are special for different reasons.

1970 Something” puts me in a nostalgic mood that takes me back to childhood.  He sings about toys and events I remember – everything from Stretch Armstrong to a Rubik’s Cube, from the death of Elvis Presley to the day the Challenger exploded. It’s a fun, easy summary of the first twenty years of my life.

How Can I Help You Say Good-Bye?” makes me think about the first major turning point in my life:  My mother’s death.   Mom passed away just a few weeks after I turned twenty-one.   She didn’t go easily; it was a long, drawn-out struggle with breast cancer that turned a smart and vibrant woman into something I wish I could forget.  With her gone, I had no choice but to be a grown-up.

When I said good-bye to Mom, I said good-bye to childhood.  From that moment forward, I had no safety net, no home base to return to when things went bad in my life.  That was the day I became an adult.

Then there’s “This Song Remembers When”.  I was twenty-six the first time I fell in love.  Not infatuation, not a crush, but love.  The first time I actually gave my love away without fear, without reservation.   He was a good man; we didn’t end with anger or bitterness.  We were both smart enough to accept that the relationship had simply run its course.

The song is about hearing music and being transported back to a time in life when love was fresh and new and exciting.  When I hear it, I can’t help but wonder where he is and if he ever thinks about me.  It’s not about wanting to go back to him or to that point in life.  To me it’s about music helping me remember someone fondly while still being content in the present.

This is a very nice segway to the next song on my list.

“That Was a River” is the perfect soundtrack to the story of meeting my husband.  We had both been in love before and had issues with trust.   But like the song says, that was a river, this is the ocean.  Basically, yes, I loved someone else before you, but that wasn’t as strong as what I’m feeling now.

Just Another Day in Paradise“ is about day-to-day happenings of married life rather than the roses and love songs of early romance.  It covers the seventeen years I’ve been with The Big Guy – date nights have become delivery pizza, hand-holding turned into laughing at the funny faces he makes sometimes; cozy nights in our big bed are often interrupted by children with nightmares.

Then came the June night when a maple tree landed on the van I was driving.  In the hours that I lay strapped to a backboard fighting off waves of panic, I hung on to sanity by mentally reciting the lyrics to the longest song I could think of: “The Day The Music Died”    From the moment I knew the kids were safely out of the vehicle, through the extrication and two ambulance rides, through CT scans and a claustrophobic meltdown in the MRI, that song ran in an endless loop through my mind.

I know the song is really about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.  But for me, it is now about the night another chapter of my life ended.  Every page after that is about life with a disability.  I have had to deal with depression, anxiety, self-pity and PTSD, and it’s just now, eighteen months later, that I am finally beginning to heal on the inside in ways I never can on the outside.

I guess the music didn’t really die for me; I just had to learn new songs.

Gloria Estefan wrote “Coming out of the Dark” after breaking her back in a bus crash.  For me, that song represents my hopes for the future.  I want to keep coming out of the very dark place that has held me prisoner for far too long.  I want to keep healing and growing stronger, inside and out.   I want to keep coming out of the dark.

And there it is:  the soundtrack of my life.  A bit darker, more maudlin than I expected it to be, but I like the fact that it’s ending on an upbeat note, full of hope.