Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
Thread Count, Powerlifts, Quilting, Karaoke, Lemon Cookies, and Graphomania

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Conways, Winding Ways, and Saints in the Snow: A Reflection on Family

…. being a celebration of a lovely lady, my Aunt Nene, on the anniversary of her birth.

When I was a wee lass, writing letters (versus emails or texts) was still A Thing, and I loved to get letters but was not really an international peer pen-pal sort of girl.  Instead, I wrote letters to my mom's sister, Aunt Nene, and  every one started in the same imaginative way:
"Dear Aunt Nene:
How are you?  I am fine."
…after which I would blather on about whatever scintillating news an 8-year old might have, likely tales of sibling woe or an epic retelling of the appropriation of a paint-by-numbers kit (mostly unused!) from the neighbor's garage sale or some such.  

Nene, being a charitable sort and also spectacular with children, would obligingly reply:
"Dear Astrid:
How are you?  I am also fine."
Sometimes these would be handwritten notes in Nene's characteristic loopy, not quite cursive printing; and sometimes they would be manufactured on an old-school typewriter with many an exclamation point and lined- or X'd-out erratum, from a machine dating definitely back to pre-correction-tape days.  I think this may have been around the time Nene was writing for her local newspaper and so that was probably the tool of her trade, but whatever the source, I adored those letters, and the lady who sent them, and I still do.

Nene turned 80 last year - and a couple years before that she could be found showing a little leg before jumping off of her younger brother's boat into the Mighty Mississippi with her nieces' children:

Two too-canny Conways can can-can.  Can you?  Lookit those pointed toes!  Ha chachachacha!

Here is a woman who is always ready to

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Life: A Quilting Lesson

…being a dispatch from The Unsolicited Advice Lady for a nephew on a new adventure.

I first met my nephew JB when he was about 9, I think - my brother El Jefe brought his new lady friend (now wife, Cairo) and her sons to dinner to meet the fam, which I'm sure was about as horrifying a thing as could be imagined, for a lad of 9….especially given it was MY family, boisterous as we are, and especially for a young dude as reserved and adult as JB was at that age.  He sat quietly observing the chaos that is the Reflux family en masse; leaned against his mom, with preternaturally wise old eyes in his little boy face, and made the best of it.  That dinner has now lasted about 15 years, lucky kid.

In the ensuing years, despite sporadic, holidays-and-birthdays level contact, I was delighted to witness JB growing into

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Stars Fell On Alabama: A Georgia Peach Welcomes The New Guy

….being a wee baby quilt for my college bestie, and the resulting sweet reminiscences.

I had a good long gab with my old pal Mocha last night, who was one of the very first people I met on campus as a Freshman.  I was NOT super-excited to be going to college, because I had sniffily decided I had Bigger Plans, and she had come all the way from Georgia to the midwest for the express purpose, it seemed to me, of making my life bearable until I could graduate the fuck out of there and go explore the world.  We lived on the same dorm floor, and I first saw her at some idiot icebreaker event as we were all moving in, where I was scowling at all the sorority girls I was going to have to live with; she had just leaned over her lap forgetting there was pizza on it and was laughing at herself merrily for the subsequent pizza-shaped marinara imprint on her shirt.  Naturally, I thought to myself: "We are soul mates." And so it came to pass.

Dorm life is basically a psychological experiment in the stresses of group living, but it certainly has its high points. I suppose everyone who ever lived in a dorm has stories that make them feel like their experience was unique, but it hardly matters if they are or not, no? As long as there are late night "study" sessions during which vast quantities of mac and cheese are consumed, earnest counseling over tragic break-ups or scholastic insecurities, catty passive-aggressive fighting with the Others on the floor, the incessant playing of the same song or singing of the same single lyric over and over and over until the death threats start (in Mo's case, this was "SUZANNE THE PLANS THEY MADE PUT AN END TO YOU", in my case it was whatever Trip Shakespeare song was on heavy rotation that week), the endless plotting and scheming of the truly dedicated groupie, drunken wheelchair races down the hall, roommate drama, the group-watching of noxious trash television and associated groans and rude commentary, and, oh! the hysterical laughing fits - the wheezing, gulping, crying, shaking, ab-paining, helpless laughing fits, about absurd and embarrassing situations we constantly found ourselves in or about an unfortunate smell that may or may not have emanated from me (I admit nothing) or about nothing at all - as long as there were all of these things, then I think you can consider your entire college career a success. And by this measure, our Freshman year may have been the pinnacle of human achievement, in particular when it came to hysterical laughing.  Mo and I were gut-busting laughers extraordinaire. Seriously. It was like a super power. We should probably hold clinics.

Just a couple of beautiful, demure ladies with a lot of time on our hands. Yes that is zit cream on my face.
Armed with the friendship of the funniest, prettiest, and most interesting girl in all of Weston Hall, I was much better able to navigate on a campus of merely 35,000 undergraduates in order to seek out and find the larger but still select community of like-minded souls who became our scene. And so she may be hanging with her buddies from her athletics programs and I might be sampling an environmental action group, but no matter what social circles we roamed to or what new music venue there was to check out or what new boy I was pining after, there was always Mo -  in the front row waiting for the show to start; charming the bouncers with her Southern drawl and her big blue eyes; trying to warm up her cold Atlanta bones during midwestern winters by running her hands under hot water until they were chapped, while I sat on the bathroom floor bitching about….something; deciding for no apparent reason to take Italian; confusedly wondering if the restaurant we were going to would still be open if there was an inch of snow on the ground (spoilers: Illinois, yes; Atlanta, no); later, in Grad school, obtaining an enormous Malemute of truly Brobdingnagian proportions, the excellent Marley Dog; and in general hanging out on the Quad and at our local music venue and at Disco Night and on the porches of crappy college houses, and talking and laughing for hours and hours as we whiled away the afternoons of our youth.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why I Am Not a Designer: Or, Everything I Know About Mid-Century Modern I Learned From Tex Avery

….being a portrait of an era, and also the revelation of some personal aesthetic inadequacies.

Well shit, y'all, it's been awhile.  In addition to summer, when my crafty activity level goes way down (because HOT) I got this new job, see, and sometimes I travel - which is GREAT, and I really love it. But it's hell on one's quilting schedule, which is why it has been 2 months since my last post.  Honestly, though, this next one falls into the realm of "argh, I don't know how this style goes and WHAT EVEN IS THIS COLOR SCHEME" and as it turns out, that is ALSO hell on one's quilting schedule.

The style in question here is Mid-Century Modern, or at least the fakey fakerson version of modern-er MCM that now populates the homes of hep cats everywhere with streamlined reproduction injection-molded white leather Eames chairs from Design Within Reach;

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bear Paws and Northern Lights: My Time in The Last Frontier

…a memory of going North to the Future, in my past.

It is one of the great smug delights of my adult years that I sometimes have an opportunity to start a sentence with, "I worked in Alaska for 6 summers as a firefighter."  That is, like, the record-scratch conversation-killah to end all record-scratch conversation killahs in the dowdy midwest and people, let me tell you, I take full advantage.  I leave that job on my resume even though it was pretty much like being paid to go hiking, AND has literally nothing to do with my current job search, because it is just one of those things that make you distinctive in a pile of resumes.
Summa Cum Laude from MIT, eh?  Oh yeah?  Well top this, bitches!

But as distinctive as I ever could be, I could never hope to compare to actual Alaskans, who are a rare, rare breed of folk; I have many stories of the delightful iconoclasts and crusty pipeline pioneers and fire folk I met and/or worked with up there (not a one of whom would give Palin the time of day, I am quite sure), all of whom ensured that I would feel bittersweet pangs of nostalgia every time I watched "Northern Exposure."  And among some of the most distinct of this breed are Debra and Dave, who adopted me, in a manner of speaking, in the third year I was up there.

The heroes of this tale, snapped on a road trip to the Yukon.

In retrospect, Debra had probably decided that it was simply dangerously foolish for

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Something Old, Something New: The Wedding of S and B

….being a direct theft of a quilt design I quite liked, plus some cushy orange flannel for spice.

An ol' college chum, Brian, just married his lady friend Sarah in a truly characteristic, quirky, and delightful ceremony this past January.  As usual, I keenly noted this date many months ago, like back in the fall, planning to finish this here quilt in time for the wedding, and as usual I missed that date by nearly two months.  I blame that on half-square triangle fatigue that set in about half-way through this sucker, but I'm still pretty pleased with the final product, which was delivered yesterday:

Before binding and washing, so the crinkle is not yet established.

In addition to the wedding, which is surely reason enough to make anyone a quilt, Bri also falls on my list for Quilts of Gratitude, since when I was in my unemployable/hospitalized/homeless low point these few years back now, he offered me his mostly abandoned apartment to stay in….for three months.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What Knot to Do: An Exercise in Vexing Vexillology

…being a study in symbolism, secession, and pre-washing your fabrics.

My brother, El Jefe "the Benevolent" Reflux, has a plan for a future Family Compound out in the sticks, wherein we might all grow old peacefully quilting, tinkering with cars, racing golf carts pell mell through the underbrush, raising bees, holding extemporaneous chamber music concerts in a sunken garden, riding draft horses, singing harmonies, swimming in the barn pool, owning goats (well, maybe not goats) and inventing and marketing gadgets to support our absurdly lush lifestyle.

He refers to this promised land of goat milk and locavore honey as "Mikeuador."

He is quite serious about it, and if there's one thing I know about my brother, it's the fact that when he gets an idea in his head about something, even if its overarching grandeur is something too abstruse for the hoi polloi to conjure or conceive, then by gum that thing will happen if he has to will it into existence by sheer number of times it is brought up in conversation.  And sure enough, he appears to be on the verge of pulling the trigger on Mikeuador.  Good on you, bro!  Your planet-sized dreams far outstrip those of mere mortals, but we are so, so glad to be pulled along in your orbit.  I will always be your willing subject, as I have been since that one rainy childhood day we spent in amicable partnership, with you drawing the logos of all the Major League Baseball teams and me coloring them in.

And every dictator knows that a good principality needs a good flag to rally his minions, and that is what I made him.  He is the last of my natural siblings to get something handmade from me, and his was trickiest.  But at long last, Behold!  the symbol of your upcoming subjugation:

This project was not without its trials and tribulations.