Finding my Tribe

Back in the fall of 2017, when I reread the book It, I realized (yet again) how my worldview is shaped by the books I read. I read It when it first came out, in 1986, and one of the things I discovered in rereading the book is how deeply rooted in friendship the story is. It gave me the idea that when you need a group of friends, the universe will provide one for you. I found myself thinking about this idea quite a bit after I finished the book, and I realized that this is a trope in many books.

It made me look back over my life and consider my friendships, and how they have come to be. As a little girl, I was painfully shy; add in the fact that my family didn’t really fit in to the approved social group where we lived, and yeah: I was kind of a lonely kid. Back in 1986, when I was 14 and reading It, I had two groups of friends, my gymnastics friends and my school friends. I counted on my gymnastics friends for some things, and my school friends for others, but I was unquestioning in my belief in their support for me. Over the next years, I learned to question. I learned that friends can betray you in a myriad of painful ways and that there are actually very few people you can trust implicitly.

But I also learned that those few are immensely valuable in your life.

As a young mom, I had a group of friends who were also young moms. We played Bunco together, took our kids to the park, gave each other nursing advice and newborn gifts and caffeine on exhausted days. I loved that group of friends, but I always kept myself a little bit shielded. Then, in 2000, my world was totally rocked when my husband was laid off from his job. Everything changed in the next 18 months, and one by one, almost every friend in my little group fell away. We couldn’t relate or connect anymore; they were worried about stuff like when their hairdresser could fit them in next and how they could buy another Dooney & Burke without their husbands getting annoyed, and there I was, worrying about whether or not we’d lose our house.

The few people who stuck by me during that time are still my friends, but I learned it again. Maybe in books people have life-long friends who never betray them, maybe in novels the Universe or God or Whomever makes sure you have support during difficult times…but in my real life, it wasn’t happening.

I have individual friends but I’ve never had a tribe.

I’ve also never read a novel that told my story: how introverted people who are guarded because of previous experiences create friendships. Maybe that’s a story no one wants to read, and that’s OK because sometimes my life feels pretty pathetic. Like, if I died tomorrow, who’d come to my funeral?

Cue the pity-party music.

When my mom died, though (and, really: will I ever get to a space when I can write something that doesn’t refer to my mom’s death?), I had another realization about friendship within the context of my life. I do have a tribe. Some of them came to her funeral. Some of them came and took her fabric. Some of them brought me meals. Some of them sent me flowers or cards; some of them just hugged me, or silently squeezed my hand.

And all of them work at the library.

Librarians have a sort of strange reputation as dry, dusty, boring people who dress in cardigans and sensible shoes and care about uptight things like grammar and properly organized books on shelves and straight, tight buns without a strand of hair out of place. And, yes, OK, we do care about those things. (Although I actually prefer a loose, messy bun.)  But really, we are a vibrant and eclectic group of people. We love national parks and traveling and hiking. We bike, we run, we waterski. Not every librarian I know shares every one of my hobbies, but every one of my hobbies is shared by at least one librarian I know. (Except for scrapbooking… I’m still on my own in that craziness!) Many librarian friends quilt, others bake, others love flowers and gardening. A couple are runners too. Another librarian friend is my favorite person to send hiking photos to when I’m out on a trail, because she can’t hike right now (knee problems) but she loves seeing me do it. So I sort of take her with me.

This week at work, we had our regular staff meeting in a bigger room than normal, because there was going to be some kind of training and other people would be coming. I went to the meeting, sat chatting with my coworkers until it started, and the one of the librarians said “We’re not actually here for extra training, but to celebrate Amy!” and I looked around the room thinking “Oh, cool, I love Amy Monroe, she’s awesome!” and then I thought “wait, Amy Monroe isn’t here” and then I realized, “oh, wow, they mean me!”

Our library does this thing called the “You Rock” award. It’s a trophy sort of thing with a big rock engraved with the words “You Rock” and then as it is given to different librarians, their names are added. I’ve gone to many meetings where other librarians were given this award, but I’ve never really considered it as something I would be given. Because look at all the names on that trophy, names of smart, creative, wise, visionary librarians. I’m just me doing my little part-time work.

I was totally, completely surprised!

You rock award

A few people at the meeting said some really kind things about me. And as I looked around and saw their faces, and thought about the other librarians who have left but whose work and friendship have influenced me in many ways, it really, really hit me.

Yes, we librarians are generally an introverted bunch. Maybe we’re a little bit boring. We like to talk about things like literary theory and the evolution of television drama. We can quote weird things no one else has ever heard of.

But we are also kind, passionate, intelligent people who are deeply committed to living life. Books help us do that. And other librarians do, too.

The universe really did bring me my tribe.

The Therapeutic Power of Cutting Fabrics, Plus a Cutting Guide

In the next few months, several friends and family members are having new babies. Boy babies! As I thought about what I might want to make for them, and sifted through my stash of fabrics, I had a realization. Because I’ve been accumulating so many different pink fabrics for my black and pink quilt (which I really, really am going to finish this year!), I have a TON of pink scraps. I could make quilts for five or six baby girls, but I have far fewer boy-ish scraps.

This is also partly because I’ve changed my position on scraps lately. I usually would toss anything smaller than about 2”. I KNOW! The scrappy quilters among you are horrified. Honestly, I’m sad to think about all of those good scraps I tossed. But now I know better! Now if it’s 1” or larger, I straighten it up and keep it. (I generally sew with a 3/8" seam instead of a 1/4"; I'm just more accurate that way, but it means anything smaller than 1" would just be too small for me to deal with.) I’m accumulating scraps for two different projects; I want to make a bookcase quilt sort of like this one, and then I have several ideas for another scrappy quilt that I’ll have to choose from once I have enough. (The book quilt scraps are bigger than the other ones, and many of them are fussy cut).

I decided that while I LOVE making scrappy rag quilts for babies, I also want to try something new. So for the past little while, I’ve been accumulating boy-esque fabrics. This process started with THIS quilt, which I made for my friend’s daughter’s baby. I gathered enough fabrics that none of the squares are repeats (which means…49 fabrics! Yikes! But not all of those were new, some were scraps I had that I cut to fit), and I love the colors I was able to put together in that one.


For two of my upcoming new arrivals, I was inspired by Amy Smart to make scrappy log cabins. I’ve made ONE log cabin quilt, a Christmas one, but it is just one really big log cabin. For these quilts I wanted scrappy and pieced, but with a more consistent blue color scheme. So, I might’ve done a bit more shopping. I might’ve gone to literally every fabric store near me. (I might be really, really lucky that there are three independent fabric stores and two Joanns within ten-ish miles of my house.) I gathered low- and medium-valued patterns and a lot of different navy patterns. I decided that a few flowers are OK, because why can’t boys love flowers? But there are also moons, bumble bees, hiking boots, construction trucks, raindrops, baby prints, dinosaurs, various aquatic creatures, words, and geometrics. I tried to keep everything in a blue colorway, but there are a few aquas. Also, I love a mixture of flannel and cotton, with a few pieces of minky, in a scrappy baby quilt. (In case anyone ever tells you differently, let me set you straight: You absolutely can mix flannel and cotton!) All of those different textures add to the scrappy look and the tactile pleasure.

One of my favorite parts of making quilts is cutting the fabrics. It’s a repetitive process, but since the fabrics are different it’s also got some variety. And, honestly: the past little while as my sisters and I have been cleaning out my mom’s house has been emotionally draining. And so I’ve just been cutting fabric. Making scraps where I didn’t have scraps. Cutting squares for future babies whose parents might not even know each other yet. The swish of the blade through cotton and through flannel, the view slowly changing from winter to spring out my window, the squares and strips piling up. I thought about babies, my own and the ones on their way. I thought about the moms of these new babies, who I’ve known all their lives. I thought about my own mom. About making things, and grief, and memories, and how things change. And how they don’t.

Let’s be honest: I have more than enough blue scraps to make a couple of scrappy log cabin baby quilts.

But this calming process of cutting has eased my heart a little.

This is why I make quilts. Partly because I think babies need beautiful or cute things, things that are soft, things that are their own. But it’s also partly for myself. Everyone must arrive at this phase of life I am in, where there will be no more babies of my own, to make beautiful or cute things for. Making them for other people’s babies brings me happiness. It is a process by which I can also process my experiences.

But enough mushy stuff. Here is a practical guide for how you, too, can cut fabric to prepare for upcoming babies.

  1. Buy a variety of ¼ yard fabrics (9”). I like to buy quarter yards instead of fat quarters because you can cut longer strips.
  2. Prep the fabrics: Wash and iron if that’s your thing. I almost never pre-wash my fabrics, but I do iron if they are especially wrinkly. Carefully fold in half, selvedge to selvedge.
  3. Gather your cutting supplies: a mat, a rotary cutter, and at least one 24” ruler. I used a 6x24 and an 8.5x24 for this project, but you can do it with one. It just takes more shifting of the ruler.
  4. Cut as illustrated here:


  • Straighten the right edge.
  • Straighten the left edge.
  • Cut the selvedge edges off, making a folded rectangle that’s square on three sides.
  • Cut one 8.5” square (which is actually two because you’re cutting through two layers of fabric) from the top, cutting the fold away.
  • Cut a 6” strip from the piece that’s left. This will be 6” by about 12.5-13.5, depending on how wide the fabric is.
  • From the smaller piece, cut strips. I wanted my strips to be random sizes, so they vary between 1.5”-3”, depending on how big the pattern is.
  • Cut the strip that is 6” wide into two 6” squares. (So now you have four 6” squares.)

How wide/tall your strips end up will depend on how closely the fabric store cut your quarter yards. Many of mine were wider than 10”, so I could also get some usable strips from the other side of the 8.5” squares.

Another thing to consider is the direction of the pattern. If you want the direction in your quilt to be like a frame, then you have to cut strips that are lengthwise and some that are crosswise to the grain. In that case, you might only end up with two 6” squares. Also some patterns you might want to fussy cut, so again, you’ll get fewer squares or strips.

From one quarter-yard cut of fabric, I end up with 2 8.5” squares, 4 6” squares, and 4-6 strips of various widths. After all of this cutting is done, I have a bunch of squares for making boy baby rag quilts, and all the strips I’ll need for those log cabins.

I’m excited to finally start on the next step, which is actually making the log cabins!

Thoughts on Blogging and Writing

It’s hard to believe, but here is a truth: I’ve been blogging for more than 13 years. When I started, Kaleb was just a baby, Haley was only ten, Jake & Nathan were cute little boys happily thriving in elementary school. My dad had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but he could still talk to us. All of the other grandparents were still alive. We knew one day fairly soon, Kendell would have to have his hip-replacement surgery, but we had no idea all of the health issues he’d be facing. I’d recently left teaching and was so happy being a stay-at-home mom again, hanging with my baby and the Bigs, writing articles for Simple Scrapbooking magazine.

Back then, in 2005, so many people had blogs. So there was sort of a blogging community. Lots of commenting, lots of memes, lots of interaction. I never was a blogger with a ton of followers, but I had enough that I loved that part of my life, too. I thought more followers would come with time, because (I thought) I was writing about real and personal things, and because I always have tried to write posts that were well-written, with a point to be made.

Really, though, I was just writing about my life. Random pieces of stuff I experienced. And, it turns out, people are mostly only interested in the random pieces of stuff that well-known people experience.

So many of the friends I made through blogging no longer blog. I see them on Instagram or Facebook, but the interaction is different. Yet, here I am. Still blogging. (Just like I’m still scrapbooking even though literally NONE of the friends I started scrapbooking with, the ones who introduced me to it, still scrapbook.) (Also like I still use WordPerfect.) (And I never gave up Dr. Martens, even when they weren’t cool.) (And I still listen to some of the same music I listened to when I was sixteen.)

Because for me, while I did want to be one of those people who became well-known for her blog, deep down this blogging thing hasn’t ever been about followers. Or, at least, that wasn’t the main point.

For me, blogging was about writing. It was about writing the random pieces of knowledge I gained from my experiences and then sharing them with the world-at-large, even if the only person who ever read my posts was my sister. (I’m not sure my mom even read my blog!) It was about the fact that I have always processed my experiences by writing about them, and a blog made that act feel less solitary.

I’ve slowed way down on my amount of blogging, but I’ve never really stopped thinking like a blogger. Last weekend, for example, I went hiking; deterred by mud, we took a different route and ended up at the path of an enormous avalanche. Not only did I enjoy scrambling (very carefully) up the edge of the avalanche and then walking out across it, but I was also thinking about how I would describe it. (As if an enormous wave were turned into snow and then frozen.)

But let’s be honest here: blogging is a lazy approach to writing. Not because it doesn’t take time or concentration—at least, since I try to write interesting posts, time and concentration are definitely involved. But I write a blog post and I click on the “publish” button, and that’s the end of it. Hoping someone might stumble upon it. And, sure, some people do achieve writerly success that way.

But usually, it takes much more work. Submitting, for example. Writing query letters, searching for calls, polishing my pieces and sending them out again after they’re rejected.

While I still think like a writer, and while I still sometimes write, I am not doing the work. And I’ve gotten out of the habit of actually writing my ideas.

So here I am, trying again. I’m whispering this…I’m not going to write about it on my Facebook or my Instagram, where I have a few more followers. But I’m putting it out into the universe: I’m joining in with the 100-day project with this goal: to blog every day for 100 days.  Not all of my posts will be long, but all of them will be longer than something I could write on Instagram (so...more than 300 words).

And yes…I know my history of success with trying to do anything for any number of days in a row. It’s dismal. I never, in fact, have actually achieved it. And maybe I won’t with this one, too.

But I want to. Not for blog followers (although of course, I wouldn’t be sad if I had more!). But to get myself back in the habit of writing again.

Because here’s another truth: this month, I’m turning 47. So much of my life is behind me, and fewer people need me, and maybe it’s becoming my time to be something I’ve always wanted to be.