Michelle Obama 

Jan. 17: Michelle Obama. This is one of my favorite photos of Mrs. Obama. She has been a constant source of inspiration to me over the past eight years. I am thankful for her impact on me, as well as on all the little brown girls across the country and around the world. Happy birthday, FLOTUS! (White House photo taken by Amanda Lucidon) 

Clean Drinking Water

Jan. 13: Clean drinking water. I’ve been fighting some serious congestion for weeks now.  Everyone says, “Drink lots and lots of water!”. As I sit here staring at this glass of water that I know I need to drink, but don’t feel like drinking, I’m thinking about the millions of people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. I am truly thankful to be able to go to the refrigerator and get a glass of water.

The Light

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At some point in the past year or so, I shared the above quotation on my Facebook page.  At the time I posted it, I completely believed it to be true.  You see, I had this gratitude thing down pat.  If I just focused on all the things in my life I have to be thankful for, it didn’t leave space or energy to be bothered by the negative.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When depression hits it is relentless.  It doesn’t care about the rose-colored glasses you have on.  It completely ignores the shift in mindset that you worked so hard to create.  It couldn’t care less about the cute lists you made of all the things you are thankful for.  It comes in like a monster from a dark sci-fi novel and with one fell swoop, knocks you to the bottom of a deep, dark, rocky cavern.  It laughs at you as you attempt to climb towards the light, only to be smacked down again.  You learn that it’s just easier to exist in the darkness and so that’s what you do.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you go about your daily life like nothing is wrong.  Somehow you manage to get out of bed every morning and fool everyone into believing that you are okay.  Life goes on around you but you are stuck in a repetitive rut and no matter how hard you try, you can’t climb out of that dark cavern.  Sadly, no one around you can tell that there is something wrong.

If you aren’t so lucky, you become paralyzed down in that cavern.  Life goes on around you and no one can figure out why you are standing still.  Maybe the whispers are true; you’re just lazy or scared or weak.  Maybe you’ve just given up.  It certainly feels that way, so maybe it’s true.

Clinical depression is completely different from the feeling of depression you had when you were 16 and the love of your life cheats on you.  Clinical depression is an illness that can’t be cured simply by focusing on positive things.  If anything in the post sounds familiar to you, if you or someone you know is in the bottom of that deep, dark, rocky cavern, it’s time to get help.  It’s time to find the light.

This was written in response to today’s blog prompt, “Hopeful”.

 

Power

We got about two and a half feet of snow this weekend.  The news told everyone to expect power outages.  I have never lost power at my home during a storm, but this storm sounded like a monster, so I got worried.  I was prepared.  Batteries, candles, matches, food that could be prepared without electricity, but I was still nervous.

The storm came through with a vengeance.

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But through it all, I never lost power.

My New Shop

I’ve been so excited over the past week because I started a shop!  I’ve been so excited and preoccupied with it that I forgot to write a post about it.  So here goes.

I started an online shop with t-shirts and accessories that will remind you to be thankful.  Here are two of my favorite t-shirts.

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Right now, all of the designs are just text, but I’m hoping to add some designs with artwork in the near future.  From now through Thanksgiving, $3 from each purchase will benefit the Feeding America virtual food drive that I’m doing, so please check out the shop and do a little early holiday shopping!

Happy Feet

This morning, after very little sleep, I woke up with the closing scene from the movie “Happy Feet” in my head.  I’ll never be able to dance like Savion Glover.  For that matter, I won’t ever be a dancing penguin.  Lol.  But in the solitude of my home, Matilda is the only one that will ever see me groove so hard that you can’t tell me that I’m not matching Savion/Mumble step for step.

Enjoy this clip, do your happy dance today, and don’t forget to be thankful!

Escape part I: Gee’s Bend

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The ferry was closed. I had been wanting to take this trip to this quilt Mecca for a very long time, and as I sped toward the last leg of my journey, with only minutes to spare, I learned that the ferry had experienced mechanical trouble and had been shut down for the past two weeks. My life has been filled with these messages of “No, ma’am, you must take the long way around” for years. This was just another reminder that there are no short cuts in life, at least not for me.

This trip had already been changed a few times. I was supposed to take the trip with my mother last year (or was it two years ago) during the first week in July. It was extremely hot that week and I had to cancel the trip because I wasn’t feeling well. Earlier this year, I announced to my best friend, Sophia, that I was going to take a solo road trip. I was so excited. She, in her infinite wisdom, found a way to dissuade me from taking a trip that would surely send me in to a flare, and rerouted the journey via the air. We were all set to make the trip on Saturday when we got a call on Wednesday telling us that the building wouldn’t be open on Saturday because there was a funeral that the community would be attending. We moved the trip up to Friday, only to find that the ferry was shut down.

Had it not been for Sophia, I probably would have turned around in frustration and travelled back to the hotel, 90 plus miles away. She said very calmly and confidently, “Let’s just ask that man how we can drive there.” Drive there? It never occurred to me that I could drive there. I had been planning this trip for months and everything I read described the best way to get there was by ferry. The best way is never the only way.

After taking a few pictures, we drove in a 45 minute loop to reach our destination for the day, an area known in Alabama as Gee’s Bend. The women of this community are world renowned for their quilts. Their style is quite distinct and was born out of necessity. For more on their story, check out this great Smithsonian Magazine article here.

I had daydreamed about what it would be like to meet these women and hear their stories. In my mind, it was going to be a life changing experience that would inspire me to reach new artistic heights in my own quilting, a soul-stirring time that would make me see my life through a different lens, and it would all have the soundtrack of old Negro spirituals. The only thing I had remotely correct was the music.

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When we arrived at the quilt collective, I was a bit worried that this was not going to be the experience I had in mind. I expected to walk into a building that was full of activity and energy; women sitting around a huge quilting loop, working on a quilt together. Instead, when we walked in, there were only two women there, one was sitting at a sewing machine working on a quilt, the other sitting by a window, using the natural light to hand quilt. There was gospel music playing in the background, but neither woman was singing.

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China Pettway, Mary Ann’s cousin.

The woman at the machine turned out to be Mary Ann Pettway. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times in the past couple of weeks. She welcomed us in and invited us to look around and ask any questions we might have. I was instantly struck by a wonderful brown quilt hanging on the front wall. It was exactly the kind of quilt I had hoped to find here. Had it been a different color, I would’ve snatched it from the wall, paid for it, and would’ve been perfectly happy to get in the car and go back to Montgomery.

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I pulled myself away from the quilt and I perused the framed black and white photographs that the lined the long wall of this shotgun styled building. Someone had done a magnificent job capturing the characters of this small, tight-knit community. As I moved from picture to picture, Ms. Pettway informed me, “Most all those people on the wall is dead.” There were a lot of pictures on the wall.

Suddenly, I heard Sophia calmly exclaim, “Uhhh, Kisha…!” I left the pictures and followed her voice into the next room. There were quilts everywhere. Several sets of utility shelving units lined the walls and were overstuffed with quilts. Tables in the middle of the floor were covered with quilts. I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure where to start, but I was determined to find a quilt that spoke to my soul and wouldn’t offend my budget.

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After about 20 minutes of searching, I felt hugely disappointed. There was nothing in those stacks and stacks of quilts that looked like the quilts I have admired over the years. Nothing was making me break into my happy dance. Nothing was making my soul sing.IMG_0464.JPG

I decided to widen my search and looked at quilts I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford because of their size. There were a couple of beauties in that group, but nothing that I absolutely had to have. I was starting to give up hope when I unfolded a two toned blue beauty.

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It was made from old post office work shirts and it had the kind of style and workmanship that I had hoped to find. My heart fluttered and my soul started to search for the proper key to sing its song in when I looked for the price tag. There was no price tag, but I found Ms. Pettway’s signature on the back. When she came in to check on us, Sophia asked her how much the quilt was. Even though I knew it would be out of my price range, I was willing to figure out a way to make it work. “Me-me-me-me-me-me-me”, sang my soul as it warmed up to sing its song of joy. “That quilt is $15,000, but it’s marked down to $10,000. That red and white quilt on top of it is $20,000 because I’m not ready to sell that one yet.” “Waha-waha-waha-waha” went the soundtrack in my mind as I was completely disqualified from taking that quilt home. “But I’m willing to negotiate, she said. As I folded up the quilt, Sophia sprang into action. Within seconds, she had negotiated the price down to something much more reasonable, but still so outside of my budget that I couldn’t figure out how I was going to be able to make it work and still have food to eat when I returned home.

I was starting to make myself sick with stress, so I had to just let it go, but I couldn’t leave empty-handed. I had come with the distinct purpose of buying my very own Gee’s Bend quilt, but there were only two quilts in the building that spoke to me. One I couldn’t afford and another that I liked the style of, but not the color.

I sat in silence and disappointment as Sophia continued going through the stacks of quilts. She had been through them all at least once already, but was going back through to be sure she hadn’t missed anything. I thought to myself that it had been a long and interesting trip so far, and I began to recall the events of the day. That’s when it dawned on me.

I would have to take the long way around.

“Ms. Pettway, I’m gonna have to leave this one here, but I wanna know if you will make me a quilt similar to the brown one hanging on the wall in the other room? I can put a deposit down on it today.”

“Naw, naw, naw, don’t give me no money today, ’cause I don’t know when I’ll be able to finish the quilt. But yes, I can make one for you, but I’ll tell you right now, it won’t be the same as the one on the wall.”

“That’s fine!”, I said, and just like that, by listening to the lesson of the journey, I had secured my very own, Mary Ann Pettway, custom-made, Gee’s Bend quilt.

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Me, Mary Ann Pettway, and the Post Office Work Shirt Quilt