What Runner Am I?

First of all, I’m not a runner at all.  I think I’d like to be, but right now I’m the lady on an elliptical machine trying to get full range of motion and strength back in her ankle.  It’s not impressive.  Furthermore, I have spent a ridiculous number of hours and dollars over the years watching and funding soccer for my children.  I know soccer, not running.  But this past year brought a new opportunity to me, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  My daughter is running cross country and track, and I’m learning more about the sport.  I love watching my kids compete; watching Anna run makes me cry.  I leave every meet asking myself, What runner am I?

A Quaker proverb says, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee and we’ll ascend together.”  Occasionally I witness moments in life where this is true, but not usually in athletics.  Until now.

One week my daughter ran a race without her coaches there.  Hungry to improve, she asked me to stand at certain points on the course to report her time and push her to run faster.  I did my best, and on every lap I noticed a girl from another school who stayed with her but never passed her.  Anna pushed herself to a 4th place finish in her race and a new PR.  I was so happy for her!

After the race she told me about the opponent who had run just behind her the entire race.  There were a couple of times on the course when she felt tired and started to slow down a little.  Instead of just passing Anna, this girl said to her, “Oh no you don’t!  You’re faster than that.  You can do this!”  She wouldn’t let Anna fall behind but instead pushed her to keep her pace.  Anna laughed as she described feeling tired and out of breath, but trying to encourage the other runner in return.

As Anna shared this story with me, admiration rose in my heart for an anonymous girl who had not just run well, but encouraged the runners around her do the same.  She helped push both of them to a faster finish.  I stood on the track and listened to other runners describe similar experiences, times when opponents pushed each other to keep going.

It reminded me of another race I watched.  At the back of the group on the second lap there were two girls from the same school.  One wore a knee brace and was struggling, but her teammate held her hand to keep her going.  They ran the race together.

So I ask myself as I watch these races, what runner am I?  In the race of life do I run for myself alone, maneuvering around those who struggle to get ahead?  Do I focus on my own exhaustion and goals so much that I fail to notice the runner who falls back?  With the world in turmoil right now, we’re all running the same race, perhaps more than usual.  Who will we encourage?  What can we do to make sure we all finish?  How will we strengthen those whose hearts and courage may be failing them?

Whether in a race, in quilting, in hard times or on hard days, I want to be the runner who encourages others to keep going.  I want to be the runner who says, “You can do this!  Let’s push and finish together.”  So if you’re not sure what to think or do right now, remember that you’ve always made it through up till now.  We’re durable, and society is too.  Together, we’ve got this, because God’s got this, and he’s got us.  He’s counting on us to help each other.

Last Mandolin Block Finished!

I may deserve the title “slowest sewist” where my English Paper Piecing (EPP) projects are concerned.  My Ice Cream Soda blocks still languish, untouched in over a year.  The La Passacaglia quilt I want to make is still just a kit of tiny papers.  But after two years of a stitch here and a stitch there, I finished my last mandolin block!

I forgot that I started with an extra set of papers, so I’ve got 21 blocks instead of the needed 20 to make a quilt top.  That’s fine with me, because there were one or two that I wondered about while stitching them, so I can leave the worst one out.  I shared the first 13 of them about a year ago.  The remaining 8 I stitched in the tiny cracks in life’s transitions, and sharing them also fell through the cracks.

Still, with the last mandolin block done, I can now start on the filler blocks.  I could/should have been making them along the way, but I just never prepped the pieces for them.  That’s my biggest holdup with EPP:  the prepping!  I put it off and then do it in huge batches so I can sew for a long time without doing it again.

I promised myself I can start on a La Passacaglia quilt after I’ve proven to myself that I will actually finish an entire EPP quilt.  Additionally, I started following @alewivesfabrics on Instagram a while ago.  They post amazing Lucy Boston blocks every week.  I might have purchased some papers to make a few of those blocks as well.  That makes four EPP projects in my sewing room, but I resisted a couple others that also appealed to me.  I guess it’s time to cut and glue my filler blocks so I can get started.  I’m at the point that I’m not sure I’ll love my mandolin quilt.  I hope I end up happy with it!

I Took a Risk and Here’s What I Learned

Making something is both an exhilarating creative endeavor and an exercise in failure.  I’ve experienced both, and I’m sure you have, too.  Creativity is also an incredibly healthy outlet.  It’s healing and in my head I understand it is the process, the experience that matters most.  But in real life?  In real life I sometimes catch myself acting like it’s about perfection.  Last month I pulled out a quilt top that I never quilted because my skills didn’t seem equal to the beauty of the design.  I basted it.  And then I took a risk and here’s what I learned:

I learned that my best effort is just fine.

I did my own free motion quilting on this 88″ square quilt.  It’s big and heavy and the blocks are very large.  I made a lot of mistakes, especially on the straight lines.  Although I did my best to follow the lines in the stripes, it’s wobbly.  But I figured out a thread path for all the orange peel quilting in the hourglass borders and the block centers.  I did it!  And in doing it, I got better.  While I slowly improved and stitched my way around the quilt, I also finished a beautiful quilt.

As I quilted this, I found myself thinking about all the times I told myself I’d ruin it if I tried to quilt it myself.  I realize now that the only thing holding me back was my self-talk.  Of course I made mistakes!  But it still looks great!  And its usefulness is unchanged by its flaws.

It made me wonder about other areas in life where I’m telling myself I’m not good enough.  Honestly, quilting is very low-stakes.  There’s a lot more at risk in other areas of life.  Why hold back with fabric?  Where else am I choosing to play small because I think I’m not enough?  Why bow to fear?  What if I found a way to dismiss those words “I shouldn’t because I’m not good enough” every time they enter my thoughts?

One thing is for sure, I’m going after this false idea in my creative work.  And I’m going to take it to everyday life with more determination.  The things we tell ourselves matter.  If you’re holding back somewhere for fear you’re not good enough, get started.  We all have to experience the gap between beginning and mastery.  But your best effort is just fine.  It’s the only way to improve.  I took a risk and I learned.  You will, too.  And remember: beauty has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfection.



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