Friday, January 28, 2011

Creeping Out of Our Comfort Zones

After spending most of the last week in bed, I'm very familiar with a "Comfort Zone."  It's nice and cozy and warm, and I don't have to push myself to do anything.  That's one of the few attractions of being "under the weather," people don't expect a whole lot out of you.  You do what you can, but if you want to get back into bed and go back to sleep, no one's going to hold it against you, and it will make you feel better.

The problem with comfort zones is that they're comfortable.  It's like your bed or your favorite chair; it's all broken in, the sharp edges are dulled, and it's a perfect fit.  It's so great there that once you get in, you don't want to get out.

So, what's wrong with that?  Why can't we just stay in our comfort zones?

Well, you can if you want to.  The problem is that most people are comfortable in their comfort zones only because they're afraid to go anywhere else.  "I'll just stay here," they say, "in my little corner.  The world can pass me by, opportunities can be lost, but that's OK, because if I stay here, I'm safe."

Ah, safety!  It's so seductive!  Haven't we all grown up with "it's for safety," the safety patrol, even the proverbial parental cry, "Be Safe!"?  So, safety feels great, but don't you remember when you were a kid and your mom wouldn't let you do something because it "might not be safe"?  I have a friend whose mother wouldn't get her a 10 speed bike because the wheels were narrow and if she rode it just so it might get caught in a sewer grate.  Yikes!  The odds of a kid doing that are slim to negligible.  And if it did happen, what would be the result?  A scraped elbow or knee? 

The point is that sometimes being "safe" isn't a good thing.  Think about it, if people only did things that were "safe" we'd still be eating cold raw meat and living in caves, (and that's not particularly safe, come to think of it!).

Pulling yourself out of that nice comfy zone is a hard thing to do, and the longer you sit there the harder it gets.  The thought of putting yourself "out there" is terrifying, and all you can think about is the bad things that could happen.

Don't I know it!  I can't tell you how many times I've had opportunities that I haven't taken because I was scared.  I still regret when I was too shy to be the lead kid in the kindergarten Halloween parade, or the time I passed on being Mary in the church Christmas pageant, or the time I was asked to help teach a bunch of guys to quilt because they wanted to make memorial quilts for their friends, (yes, that would be the famous AIDS quilt!). 

I wonder how my doing even one of those 3 things could have changed my life. There's no point in dwelling on the past, but do I want to risk losing what could be an interesting part of my future?  In my case, no!

So, today I stepped out of my comfort zone and began running my serialized fictional story, "A Piece of Work" on http://www.quiltlit.com/.  It was scary pushing that "publish post" button, but if I want to move forward I have to be willing to take the risk of making a fool out of myself.

I hope that you'll all think a bit about your comfort zones and make small efforts to break free.  No one expects anyone to go out and go crazy, but if you see an opportunity to widen your horizons, grab it.  Even the attempt is a victory.

I may not make the "end zone" with my foray into fiction, but heck, it was worth a shot.

Now, go "zone out!"

Susan

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wallflower



My husband bought me a Nook for Christmas.  For those of you who don't know, it's an e-reader, with the capacity to hold hundreds of digital books.

I love to read!  I'm always reading at least three or four books at a time, mainly because I read so fast that I alternate books to prolong my enjoyment.  The Nook is great because of all of the free books you can download through Barnes and Noble's but also through other websites.  These books aren't the latest titles, but mostly classics that the copyrights have expired on. 

That's great for me because I love old novels.  I just finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South," (talk about romance... and it was published in 1857!).  There's a BBC production of it available on Netflix on demand so I've got to find some time to watch it.

Currently I'm reading "Alice Adams" by Booth Tarkington.  It was published in 1922, and was famously made into a movie with a young Katherine Hepburn in 1935.

The reason I'm writing about this particular book is that the main character, Alice, is constantly trying to be someone she's not and in so doing makes things worse for herself.  The saddest thing is that she would be fine if she could just be herself, but she's so insecure that she puts on all of these affectations that just turn people off and make her a bit of a joke.  I'm not sure how this story ends, but as I'm reading it all I want to do is shake Alice and tell her to cut it out!  Just be yourself and you'll be fine!

Of course, we've all heard that advice.  The question is, who am I and how do I know I'll be fine being me?

That's a huge question and one psychologists have been making livings off of for years.  It's easy enough to say, "be yourself," but quite another to do it.

The fact is that by the time you're an adult you've had multiple unwanted opinions and expectations of who you are.  The impatient teacher who treated you like you were a moron, the boss who screamed at you for no real reason, the coach who put you down in front of the team, the siblings who mocked you, the parents who compared you to everyone else's kid....

So, by the time you're grown up you've received all kinds of information about who you are.  Some of it good, some not so good, but all of it absorbed by you and reflected in how you interact with others.

The problem so many of us have, (and I'm one of those people), is that we have a hard time separating who we are from what other people think we are and/or expect us to be.  One thing that many people never realize is that it isn't always in the best interest of others to encourage us.  Some people are stronger personalities that overwhelm less confident ones.  They tell us we're slow, or stupid, or unimportant, not necessarily because it's true, but because putting us down makes them feel better about themselves.

Yes, Virginia, there are people who build themselves up on the battered egos of others.  If the world were fair they'd be the ones sitting by themselves, feeling left out and sad.  Unfortunately, the world isn't fair and those of us who've been their victims are usually the ones who struggle.  It takes time and effort and a dose of reality to get yourself out of that victim mode.

The fact is that you are going to run into people who are smarter, prettier, and better quilters than you.  And, some of those people are going to let you know it. 

So what?  If you let other people define who you are you aren't being the real you.  Do you want to be the person they've made you out to be?  Or do you want to make what's left of your life, "your" life and not someone elses?

It's a difficult change to make, and as someone who's been working on this for years all I can tell you is that you have to get stubborn about it.  When things are said about you or you're made to feel a certain way, don't take it at face value.  Think about it.  Does this person have an ulterior motive?  Are you the only person they pick on?  Do they pick on stronger, more confident people?

If by putting you down this person makes themselves seem better, if they pick on other people, and if they never pick on stronger personalities, what you're dealing with here is a bully.  The problem is with them, not with you.  However, if you are allowing them to bully you, you need to work on building a backbone.  Sometimes it's easier to just get away from them and start associating with kinder people.  If you can't then you have to act like what they say doesn't bother you and just keep doing what you need to do.

So much of how we behave is habit.  If you're in the habit of being grumpy and sullen, it's hard to break out of that, and if you do, be prepared for people to be confused by it.  You will have people mock you for it, mainly because they're in the habit of dealing with surly you, not sweet you.  This may very well rock their world.  You have no idea how many people say, "At least I'm not as cranky as so-and so!" but when so-and-so isn't so cranky, then what do they do?

Start thinking about little habits you can change. They may seem small but they can really make a huge difference in your day.  One of my favorites is to make sure I'm smiling when I leave my bedroom in the morning.  It can be a fake smile, but at least I'm working on it!

Do any of you have any little habits you'd like to change?

Susan


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Letting Go of Baggage

Everyone has their "baggage."  It can be anything from memories of a bad childhood to a reluctance to let go of simple things we regret.

A few years ago I read a wonderful book called "Knitting: A Novel" by Anne Bartlett. 

                                                            
It's currently available at Amazon, or you can pick it up at your local library. 

Now, I know how to knit but I would not call myself a knitter by any means.  It's one of those things I like the idea of but I don't have the stamina to actually knit anything.  Accomplished knitters are amazing, and I really have to give them credit for creating such beauty with a couple of pointy sticks and some yarn.

The reason I'm bringing up this book isn't because of the knitting angle, it has to do with the way one of the main characters handles her mistakes.  I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot but it has to do with two widows, one a professor-type, Sandra,  and the other an eccentric but extremely talented knitter, Martha.

Sandra is impressed with Martha's talent and decides to mount an exhibition of her work.  So, she is constantly hassling Martha about getting things done.  The fact is that Sandra doesn't realize how fragile Martha is and how much her art means to her.  To her it's something to be displayed, but to Martha it's much deeper than that.

So, Sandra gets frustrated and Martha starts to fall apart under the pressure.

The most interesting thing about Martha is that she always carries these big heavy bags around with her.  The bags are mentioned but not really explained until it comes out that whenever Martha makes a knitting mistake, she puts it in one of the bags.  Her penance for making a mistake is to carry those heavy bags with her everywhere she goes. 

It's a literal representation of what many of us do, except in our case the baggage is in our heads or tucked away inside a closet somewhere.

This aspect of the novel has haunted me ever since.  Everyone talks about "baggage" but to see it so explicity shown as a bag you can open up and look at was enlightening to me.  After all, what was it but pieces of unfinished knitting, and yet it held such power over Martha.

When I think of how baggage affects me as a quilter I think back on those projects I bought fabric for but never made, or got halfway done with and set aside, never to finish.  We choose what to put in our "bags" and the thought of carrying around all that unused fabric and old patchwork does not appeal to me at all. 

A couple of years ago I purged my fabric stash in a huge way.  I got rid of several large boxes of odds and ends, unfinished quilt tops and blocks.  I gave them to a quilt guild a friend of my mother's belonged to and they went about using the fabric and blocks to make charity quilts and to sell at their bazaar.  I feel a lot less guilty about those unfinished projects now. 

That doesn't mean that there aren't times when I flash back to a project I wish I'd finished, or get on my own case about fabric that needs to be used.  The guilt never completely goes away.

However, carrying it around with me all the time seems like a huge waste of energy.  I think it's time to lay those bags down.

Let go and lighten up!

Susan

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quilt Anxiety

Have you ever experienced Quilt Anxiety?  Well, if you haven't then I'm very impressed!  For me it's an everyday occurrence.  I'm constantly questioning everything I do, and when I can shut up that annoying chatterbox, I still have an underlying tummy rumbling, (not related to that beefy bean burrito!).

Anxiety can take many forms.  Some people get sweaty and clammy, (OK, that can be a hot flash as well!), some get fluttery tummies, some start to chatter and chatter and chatter, and others just throw up.   In my case I tend to get the tummy thing.  It's the same feeling I get when I go to the grocery store nowadays when I see the prices.  Yikes!

You wouldn't think that we'd be anxious about something we do for enjoyment.  However, I've discovered that those things we count on as enjoyment can also cause the greatest anxiety.  Our expectations are higher and then when we don't have as good of a time as we thought we would, we feel let down.

That's why I think it's important to look at how you approach quilting.  Is it fun or a chore?  Do you do it because you want to, or because you feel you need to because of all the money you've spent on materials? 

I enjoy parts of the process but hate other parts.  So, I try to do the parts I don't like when I'm in the mood to be busy.  When I'm in the mood to have fun I tackle the fun parts.  This way I don't feel as let down.  I can't imagine being in a fun mood and having to press fabric in preparation for cutting, (I hate that!).  I also don't want to waste a busy mood when it wouldn't bother me to press fabric, in order to so something I want to save for a fun mood.

When I was working in an office I used to keep a folder full of mindless tasks.  When I had spare time and needed to at least "look" busy I'd tackle that folder.  It was usually things like filing, updating contacts, data entry, you know, boring stuff.  But boy did it make my boss happy to see me working away.

I have a similar system for quilting.  Right now I have a stack of fabric I need to press to cut into strips.  Whenever I have a little spare time I tackle pressing a few pieces.  It's not a lot but over time it adds up.  At my current pace it'll take me a couple of weeks to get it done, but I won't feel dragged down by it.

Try being honest with yourself about what things you love and hate about quilting.  If you're like me and you hate pressing, set up your ironing station so when you have ten minutes to kill before picking the kids up from school you can press a few things.  If you hate cutting, keep your pieces on the cutting table and take a few minutes now and then to get it done.  For some reason it's not so overwhelming when you do it in bits and pieces.

Now, get busy!

Susan

Monday, January 24, 2011

Putting It Out There

One of the things I love most about blogging is working on my writing skills.  I was fortunate to be taught by a master.  My high school writing teacher took a decent writer and turned her into someone who could write away on any subject without breaking a sweat.  Of course, it helped that I had some innate talent, but as I keep telling my son, writing is about being organized, and shaking things up.  You can't write well and start every sentence with "I," and, if your thoughts are disorganized no one will be able to follow what you're saying.

What's the point of writing something if no one understands it?

I've been struggling for years with my two competing passions; writing and quilting.  I love them both equally but it wasn't until I started my original blog http://www.thecrankyquilter.com/ that I combined the two.  It's been fun playing with words again.  And, when I turn out a post that really sings, it makes me feel great!

Of course, when you write as much as I do, you have those days when nothing sounds right.  Sometimes I'll sit down and knock off two or three posts without stopping.  Other days I sweat and strain over every sentence.  It can get very frustrating!

In one major way, quilting is like writing.  You have to exercise the muscle to be able to do the task well.  If I don't write for a while I have a hard time getting back into my rhythm, and it's the same with quilting.  Once I start tackling a blog post or a piecing project it comes back, but it can be a struggle, mostly to get started.

And, of course, there's another major way these two disciplines are alike, they both involve exposing yourself to praise and ridicule.  (Notice I put "praise" first....wishful thinking!)  

Remember when you had to ready your essay out loud in class?  It was bad enough that you had to stand up and read it out loud, but having to read your own words and thoughts....wow, that's a big "out there"!

So, I'm putting out another challenge to you.  Those of you who wish to can send me contributions for my new blog http://www.quiltlit.com/ to susan@quiltlit.com.  I know it can be scary to put it out there, but I'd love to see what you have to contribute.  I'm looking for book and magazine reviews, and for original fiction with a quilting theme.  The fiction can be in the form of short stories, or I can serialize a longer story on "Fiction Friday."  I can't pay you anything for your work, but I happen to know that I have some readers who might be interested in publishing your work, so it's worth a shot. 

So, send me what you have.  As editor I will have final say on what's published based on content, appropriateness, and writing style.  If I can't accept your contribution I will send it back to you with my comments.   It's usual for professional writers to go through this process so don't be intimidated.  I'm not here to bring anyone down, that's for sure!

I hope to hear from some of you, and in the meantime I will be putting myself "out there" by publishing my own reviews and fiction......so scary!

Write on!

Susan




Sunday, January 23, 2011

I don't know about you but sometimes I feel like I've lost whatever brains I had!

I think as we get older we have so much to remember that it's not surprising that somethings fall through the cracks.   I know it's true in my case.  I used to be one of those people that no one would play Trivial Pursuit with.  All kinds of unusual facts were easily recalled, even things I didn't even know I knew!

Not so anymore, I'm always looking for my glasses, my keys, my marbles....I know I left them somewhere....

You know it's bad when your son can finance his college education with the dollars you give him for finding your glasses!

You younger folks also have too much to remember.  It seems like life is so much more complicated than it used to be.  Just think of what you have to know to use a computer.  It's like a whole other world to those of us who grew up with manual typewriters and rotary dial phones.  My son still can't comprehend the 3 TV channels we had when I was a kid, or the fact that calculators cost $200 when I was in high school.

I know that forgetting things is a pain.  Especially when quilting.  I know that I've forgotten that I wanted to cut 2.5" strips instead of 2" ones....only remembering after they were all cut.  Duh!  Not to mention confusing row orders and trimming off too much on finished blocks.  I try to "idiot proof" everything in my life as much as possible, but even that doesn't always work.

It's frustrating when you make mistakes because you "forgot."  It happens to everyone but it isn't the end of the world.  Heck, sometimes the only laughs I have are at myself and the boneheaded things I do.  It's like one long Three Stooges cooking tutorial.  You never know what I'll get up to!
The only advice I have for you is that if you do something boneheaded or forget what you're supposed to do, just laugh it off.  Life's too short to beat yourself up too badly.  Besides, think of the great story you'll have to tell at the next guild meeting!

Try to remember to laugh it off!

Susan

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fighting It and Winning

What is "It'?  For me "it" is when I can't get excited about anything and everything I attempt doesn't work out.

I'm sure it happens to everyone at one time or another.  It's horrible for me because there's nothing worse for me than being bored, and when things don't work out, it's depressing.

Fortunately, I know that it's just a temporary state of mind and odds are that soon I'll be back to my semi-supercharged self.   Years ago I came up with some tricks to get me back to normal, here are a few of them:

1.  Wallow in "It":  Sometimes you need to just fully experience it to get tired of it and move on.  I love the saying "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."  Sometimes if you just go with the bored, sad state you'll get tired of it and pull yourself out.

2.  Do Mindless Tasks:  This is a great time to sort buttons, clean out a cabinet, or untangle that jumble of threads.  Doing "something" will sometimes jumpstart you.

3.  Go Shopping:  I'm not talking about going out and spending money.  In my case, I like to peruse the quilting fabric online stores and see what catches my eye.  It's a great way to get some creative mojo going.

4.  Forget About It!:  Sometimes you just have to get through it.  So what if you don't feel like quilting today.  It's not like it's the end of the world.  It might be a great time to take a walk or watch that movie you've been wanting to see.  We all need to recharge our batteries.

So,the next time you're feeling "it" remember it won't last forever!

Feel it and then recharge!

Susan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Testing Yourself

I was a bit of a freak as a student.  I actually liked tests!  I know, I am crazy, but for some reason I always found them enjoyable.  It's kind of the same thrill you get when you answer the questions on Jeopardy correctly.  Of course it helped that I was the kind of student who studied and was always well prepared.

As a quilter I also like to test myself, to see how far I can take things.  In the same way I studied for tests, I also make sure I'm prepared to tackle whatever quilting project I'm taking on. 

I think it's important to challenge yourself, but there's no quicker way to get discouraged then to tackle a project that's well beyond your current skill set.  A realistic assessment of where you are as a quilter is important information for you to have.  If you're just starting then it's obvious that you're a beginner and you should work on those kinds of projects until you have the basic skills down.  Then slowly add more challenges as you get involved in more complicated and difficult projects, making sure that you take your time to conquer each challenge as you move forward.

It's important to be prepared and confident as you continue to challenge yourself.  Take classes, read books, and ask questions of more experienced quilters.  And, above all, don't get discouraged if a quilt doesn't work out as planned, every quilter has unfinished quilts, it comes with the territory!

So, be prepared before you test yourself, and odds are you'll pass with flying colors!

Feel the fear, but do it anyway!

Susan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Making Mistakes

“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.”     - Mary Pickford


I'm like everyone else.  I hate mistakes!  I hate them when I make them, when my son makes them, when my husband makes them, heck, I hate them when anyone makes them!

Mistakes are a real pain and it's easy enough to get really upset with yourself when you make one.  Perfection is impossible to maintain, and frankly it's not very open to creativity.  So, if you want to be a creative quilter then you have to be able to deal with the dark side of creativity....mistakes!

While I was working on my Tufted Tweets quilt I made 3 different mistakes in the piecing and cutting;

1) I cut one of the sides of a block at the seamline not the cutting line. So, I had to recut all the pieces and remake the block.
2)  I stitched one piece to another with its' right side out.  Duh!
3) I used a long strip where I should have used a shorter one, and ended up having to cut another piece Double Duh!

These are the more major of the many minor boo boos I made, and that's just in putting together a 24" x 16" quilt top.  Can you imagine how many I would make on a full sized quilt?  Now you know why I don't make them anymore.  Frankly, just the thought of it gives me a massive headache!

My point is that I've been quilting since the early 70s and I made that many mistakes on a simple piecing project.  I'm very cautious and try very hard to make sure that I'm doing things correctly, but even I screw up, and on a fairly regular basis.

However, just because I made a mistake it doesn't mean that I failed.  It also doesn't mean that I'm an idiot.  It just means that whenever you do anything the risk is there that you won't do it perfectly.  Big Whoop!

All I can say is that if I quit quilting based on my mistakes I wouldn't have finished one piece.  I probably would have given up in 1975.

That's what I love about the quote from Mary Pickford shown above.  Failure isn't based on your mistakes, it's based on your inability to rise above them.  So what, you made a mistake, fix it and move on.  If you give up because something's too hard then you'll never conquer it, and in so doing prove to yourself that you really can do it after all.

I grew up in a house where there was a lot of music.  My brother played piano and would practice for hours, the same piece, over and over again.  In the beginning there were tons of mistakes, with lots of cringeing from the rest of the family.  But then, as he worked through the piece, he conquered the mistakes, one by one, and after hours and hours of practice he could play the piece perfectly, (until he made a mistake).

It's the same with quilting, we spend years practicing and honing our skills.  We figure out how to fix our mistakes and avoid them in the future.  We read books, attend classes, and talk to other quilters.  We amass tips and techniques, and all the while on a steady basis, we continue to make mistakes.  I would bet you that if you asked any highly regarded celebrity quilter, (who was honest), if they still made simple mistakes, they'd laugh and say, "everyday!" 

I love the old saying that if you aren't making mistakes then you aren't trying hard enough.  So, go out there and make some quilting mistakes today, fix them, move on, and make some more! 

Feel the fear, but don't pay any attention to it...it stinks!

Susan




 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Follow the Signs!


I have a road themed post over at http://www.thecrankyquilter.com/ so I decided to continue the theme here with some fun road signs. 

Now, who can resist the bright green "Go" sign?  It makes me want to get up and Go!


Ok, now that we're off and running it's probably a good idea to warn those around us.  Quilting can be dangerous; the pins, the needles, the scissors, the expletives, the rotary cutter blades.  Yes, I think people should be warned of the danger, not only to themselves physically, but also because they just might want to start quilting too!


Before we can really start moving forward we have to let go of the burdens of our past.  If you have W.I.P.s (works in progress), that you know you'll never finish, this is the time to let them go.  Donate them, toss them, have a bonfire in the backyard....it doesn't matter.  The point is to learn how to let go of our learning experiences without guilt.  It isn't necessary to complete every project, sometimes they're just there to teach us something.  So, toss without guilt and move on down the road.

This is a Work in Progress sign.  It looks like this person is shoveling something, perhaps scraps from a marathon rotary cutting session?  Gotta clean up the work space!


 Remember it's always forward, keep moving forward, don't give up!
Even when the road is rocky and there are lots of unexpected obstacles in your way.

Don't even think about making a U-turn.  You're on the road Baby, you're getting there!


Yield to no one!  Snarky comments?  Ignore them! Self doubts?  Kick them in the behind!



Now you've run the course, you've won the race, and you're ready to take your quilt on the road.  Remember not everyone comes out on top, but you can still win if you bet on  "Win, Place, or Show."

Feel the fear, but kick it to the back of the bus!

Susan



Monday, January 17, 2011

Shame and the Art of Finishing





OK, this is the first fruit of the fraidycatquilters.com blog, and wouldn't it be fitting that it would come from me!

I've had the featured fabric, "Tufted Tweets" by Laurie Wisbrun, since last June.  After writing a couple of posts about how much I loved these fabrics and was going to design a quilt with them, I did nothing.   It took Staci's perusal of  my blog http://www.thecrankyquilter.com/ and her discovery that there was no "Tufted Tweets" quilt that shamed me into fessing up and actually producing one.

What I discovered about this is that shame is a powerful thing.  It's unpopular now to feel shame, or be ashamed, or shame others.  However, it's always been a powerful tool because it hits you right in that very important part of yourself, your self esteem.  When you accept shame, you accept something in yourself that you're not happy about. 

Is this a bad thing?  I don't think so.  I don't know anyone who couldn't use a second look at why they feel a certain way about themselves.  Those of us who struggle with it need to look at it closely and without fear.  Yeah, I've made mistakes, and frankly, I haven't learned from all of them.  However, that doesn't mean I have no value, it just means that I'm a work in progess, just like everyone else!

Frankly, I think that people with too much self esteem are dishonest.  No one is that great, and being "great" is kind of like being cool.  You can't be "great" if you think you are, just like if you have to work at being "cool" you are by definition "uncool."

Have you ever been around someone who just "is"?  They don't have anything to prove, they don't worry about what others think of them, they are just themselves and are happy with that.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to feel that self confident?  To be happy to be me and to face whatever comes my way with the confidence that "I can handle it."

That was another of the coping mechanisms in the book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" I wrote about in my last post.  It has to do with knowing that whatever happens you'll find a way to handle it.  So many times our worries aren't what we should be concerned about.  I know in my own case that what gets me are the surprises.  I might be able to prepare for my worries, but the surprises are another thing all together.  It's finding the confidence that you can handle the worries and the surprises that take a lot of the fear out of your life.  If you feel you can "handle" what comes your way, then you have less reason to be afraid.

I hope all of you are muscling through your fears and working towards your goals.  As long as you keep moving forward, you'll get there.  That doesn't mean you can't stop and smell the roses, it means that you keep moving forward with the scent of roses in the air.

Feel the fear, and get with it!

Susan

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I absolutely love this book!  I read this in the late 80s and have reread it several times when I've needed a burst of fear fighting mojo.

If you've never read it before you can probably get it at the library, or at a used bookstore, or even order it online at http://www.amazon.com/Feel-Fear-Anyway-Susan-Jeffers/dp/0449902927.

Anyway, what I love about this book is that it really helps put your fears in perspective and gives some really good coping tools.  My favorite is to turn any outcome into a "win-win."  It's applicable to almost any situation if you take the time to apply it.

For instance, if I'm in a restaurant and I want to order fries but can't make up my mind whether to do it or not, here's how I'd make it into a win-win.

Win:  If I order the fries and they're delicious I get to enjoy them.
Win:  If they aren't delicious I don't eat them and avoid the calories.
Win:  If they aren't delicious I know not to order them again.

So, in this case it's a "win-win-win."  You can apply this to your quilting experiences as well.  For instance, you're afraid to enter a quilt contest.

Win:  If I enter I might win.
Win:  If I enter and I lose, I can be proud that I took the risk and entered.
Win:  If I enter and I lose, I can get some insights from the judge's comments.
Win:  If I enter and I lose, my quilt has been on display in a show, instead of being folded up in my studio.
Win:  If I enter and I lose, I can enjoy the praise of others, it's not only the winning quilts that get "oohs and ahhs" at shows.

Everytime you put yourself out there you take a risk.  However, you aren't going to get any encouragement or move forward unless you put it out there. 

I have quilted for over 30 years.  I had success my first time out at the County Fair when I was 19, taking first place in the quilt division.  The competition wasn't particularly keen because not that many people were making quilts then.  However, it was kind of a backhanded win because I won for my design idea, not for my execution. That "win" began another 25 years of working on technique and sewing skills.  If that judge hadn't been honest I might have thought I was the "bee's knees," instead I got a lesson in how to lose while still winning.  A valuable lesson at nineteen!

Twenty years later I was the mother of a baby boy who was a great napper.  This gave me free time for the first time in many years, and since he slept through the night as well, I was awake enough to enjoy it.

I'd seen an ad for entries for The Bead and Button show, and since I was obsessed with sewing beads and buttons on my quilts, it sounded like fun.  So, I decided to take the plunge again.  I sent off photos of my entry, (it was a juried show), thoroughly expecting it to be rejected.  When I got the acceptance letter I was ecstatic!  I sent the quilt off to the show and when I told my folks I'd finally gotten the courage to do something with my quilts they suggested that we go to Portland to see the show.  So, we flew up there and went to the convention center.  All this time I never expected to win anything, I was just excited about my work being on display. 

When we got into the show we went right to the area where the quilts were displayed.  I looked everywhere and couldn't find my piece, then all of a sudden I saw it.  It had a huge purple ribbon hanging off of it.  I had actually won "Best of Show."

I will never forget the excitement of that moment.  The thrill of winning, the fun of having my very supportive parents with me, and the realization that putting my toe in the water had just changed my life.

Since then I've entered multiple shows and won more ribbons and awards.  Everytime I enter I do not expect to win, and many times I don't win anything, but if I hadn't taken the risk of entering that first show 12 years ago, I would not have had all of the wonderful experiences I've been fortunate enough to have since.

I've had people say to me, it's easy for you to say, since you've been a winner.

Yes, I guess it is easier for me to say, now, but when I entered that first quilt I was as nervous and scared and freaked out as any of you could be.

Which is one of the reasons I'm writing this blog.  I know what it's like to struggle, to feel unwanted, to feel unappreciated, and invisible.  Even with the limited success I've had, I know that even that is fleeting.  What's important is to have the courage to do what you feel in your heart you have to do.  You owe yourself that much.

So, enter that show you've been thinking about.  Who knows, you might win.  And, if you don't, you're still a winner.

Feel the Fear, and do it already!

Susan

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Courage


I'm not funny.  What I am is brave.  - Lucille Ball

Wow!  I'm so excited to have heard from so many of you, and so soon.  You see, I was afraid that I'd start this blog and no one would be interested in it.  I figured the worst case scenario is that I could be like the penguin in the picture above, I could be brave, and then run like hell if I didn't get any response.

I'm glad I didn't listen to that nasty little chatterbox in my head, (it really needs to shut up!).  I don't know about you guys but I have positive me on one shoulder telling me, "You can do it!" and negative me on the other saying ,"Yeah, really."  Frankly I wish my negative side had more energy.  It's easier to fight against things you know are untrue, like, "you're stupid, you're incompetent, you have zero talent, you're skinny," then the lazy dismissal of, "Yeah, really."

It's disheartening to realize that I've been fighting a battle with "Yeah, really" for most of my life.  It would be more impressive if it was something more important, but the fact is that for most of us it's the little things that hold us back. 

A stupid comment from a stranger, a roll of the eyes of a friend, a parent's "I'll believe it when I see it."  It's these little niggling things that keep us from achieving our goals.  Sometimes I think I should take these little things and turn them around.  It's kind of like the Seinfeld episode when George decides he's going to do the opposite.  What would happen I wonder, if I didn't hear "Yeah, really" in a negative way?  What if I could teach myself to hear "Yeah, I'm Really going to do that and I'm going to do it now!"?  What power that would have. 

As far as the blog goes, I've been thinking about doing it for a very long time.  I'm so fed up with people being treated unkindly basically because they're good people.  Us quiet, shy, unassuming folks are the ones that get pounded on the most.  Bullies spot us a mile away and make us pay for their insecurities, but no more for me!  

I used to take stuff I wouldn't take now, you know, keep my head down and try to be invisible.  It wasn't until a few years ago when I was facing middle age that I decided that I was no longer going to be a victim, that I was no longer going to allow others to determine my worth.  Now I've got to deal with that bully inside me, somehow I think it will be a harder battle!

Some of you are still dealing with outer bullies, thinking that if you could just learn to deal with them you'd be happy.  But, I believe that the inner bully is the key.  Getting that jerk to shut up will give you more courage to deal with the other bullies in your life.  I say, let's fight them both and do it together! 

Feel the fear, but do it anyway!

Susan

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome!

 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”           -Marianne Williamson


Hello Everyone! 

This is my first post on fraidycatquilters.com.  Special thanks go to commentor sewjournal whose comment on my recent post on http://www.thecrankyquilter.com/ suggested that I start a Fraidy Cat Quilter Virtual Group.  (see http://www.thecrankyquilter.com/2011/01/fraidy-cat.html#comments for the original post)

I actually had to look up what a "virtual group" is!  I decided that I wanted to start off small and use a blog format with an open thread and see how that works.  It will also give me an opportunity to answer questions and publish inspirational quotes, articles, and links.  Hopefully together we can get each other motivated and encourage everyone to "not let the turkeys get you down." 

Quilting is one of those crafts where everyone's an expert, (or thinks they are!).  It involves a complex set of skills and steps and can seem overly complicated and difficult if it's approached in the wrong way.  Everyone approaches it with a different set of skills.  It's much easier to drop into scrapbooking, for instance, as the expectations are different.  As long as your pictures stick to the page, you're fine.  In quilting you need to be able to make a good fabric selection, pattern choice, cut accurately and on grain, sew straight even seams, press well, (and know how to press when), match points, maintain the proper 90 degree angles on blocks and the overall quilt, piece backings, baste layers, quilt by hand or machine, and apply binding while mitering corners.

Whew!  I don't know about you but I'm tired just explaining it!

Now imagine what happens when you're trying to learn all of these things?  Wouldn't it be overwhelming?  Besides the fact that many quilter's belong to guilds or groups and get "advice" from everyone they know who's even seen a quilt.  It can be disheartening and intimidating.  It doesn't need to be.

I'm hoping that Fraidy Cat Quilters will be a place people can come to ask questions, talk through problems, and address their own issues of "success" without rancor, with humor, and a touch of humility from us veterans.  Everyone needs encouragement and deserves to be treated with respect. 

I look forward to getting to know all of you and encourage you to post just to let me know you're there!  I used to think it was whiny when bloggers kept asking for comments but I've come to realize that it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.  I don't mind being "a voice crying in the wilderness" but it would be a lot easier with a little company.

Below is our first "open thread," let's get the ball rolling by coming up with some great topics to discuss in future threads.

If you'd rather contact me directly you can do so at susan@fraidycatquilters.com.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Feel the fear, but do it anyway!

Susan