I really love the Internets™
You know, it shouldn't surprise me, especially considering the staggering generosity you all showed me upon Charlie's birth, but it does: I am surprised, excited, and moved by your outpouring of support for Rebekah, her sister, and soon-to-be-born Emily Lynne. What kindness. What beautiful kindness.
I would like to help. Even months after the fact, I get teary and wobble-jawed thinking of how much it meant to me when you all reached out after Charlie's birth. I wish I could return such a magnificent favor to each and every one of you. Instead, I'll pass along those good feelings — the humbling knowledge that even virtual strangers can care, and care deeply — in the form of a quilt.
I've started work on a quilt to be given away in a random drawing, with the proceeds to be donated to Emily Lynne. It won't be gigantic and it won't be elaborate, but for a measly $5.00 — one shot of wheatgrass juice, or 7.5 IUs of Gonal-F, or three-tenths of a First Response home pregnancy test, or a small flask of vodka bearing a poor likeness of Stalin's chiseled profile — you can have the chance to win it.
I am uneasily aware that there are those who feel left out when the blogging world turns to embrace any one person in particular. We all deserve each other's love and support, after all, the celebration when things go well, the sadness and sympathy when they don't. Why should any of us be singled out?
I don't have a good answer for that. I can only tell you why Rebekah's sister's story speaks to me. My circumstances were different, but I also knew the panic of an early birth and the disappointment and regret of not having a proper nest for Charlie. Your astonishing generosity relieved me of that, allowing me to concentrate on bringing him home, settling in, and starting to heal.
When I learn of a way I can help another family through it like you helped me, I hope I'll always do so.
Update: Egad, that happened fast! $500 raised, just like that! You, friends, are amazing.
I didn't realize DropCash wouldn't allow people to contribute after the goal had been reached, so I'm setting up a new campaign in case others would still like to enter.
I was similarly speechless back in January when I returned home with my son Charlie, who was born prematurely while my husband and I were visiting family at Thanksgiving. Because we were away from home, Charlie was born in an unfamiliar hospital; because he was so early and so ill, we couldn't move him until he was ready to come home for good. He was hospitalized for six weeks, while Paul and I set up housekeeping as best we could in a hotel a few minutes away.
The anxiety and shock of it all left me with no time or energy to consider furnishing a nursery or purchase even the barest necessities for his care. In a magnificent gesture of generosity, my friends inside the computer (including Rebekah) took care of it all: when we drove into the garage, this is what we found.
It was by far the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. It was comforting to have everything we needed close at hand, but even more comforting to see tangible proof that the world is full of good-hearted people who are eager to help each other in times of personal crisis.
There's simply no way I can adequately thank everyone, but since then I've been trying very hard to reach out to others when I can, on the theory that spreading those feelings of goodwill eventually benefits us all. When I heard your story from Rebekah, I was moved — your circumstance is different from mine, but since I know what it's like to feel you can't properly prepare for the homecoming of a much loved baby, I wanted to do something. To my delight and gratitude, so did everyone else.
We all wish you the very best of luck with Emily Lynne's upcoming birth, and in getting on your feet again once you're home with your beautiful daughter. Many congratulations to you.
I mentioned in an earlier post that there will be other prizes in our giveaway. I'm so pleased to announce that Lynne, a reader in Australia who happens to be an amazing quilter, is contributing another quilt. I am absolutely stunned by her generosity, almost as impressed as I am by her talent. Lynne, a thousand thanks.
I've been hard at work on the quilt. I've finished piecing the main part of the top, with only the borders to add before quilting. You can get the tiniest of sneak previews with this view into my sewing room wastebasket; you can see a small and blurry shot; or you can go ahead and check out the whole thing.
It's always hard for me to give away quilts I've made. I fall in love with every single one as I make it. This one's no exception, but I'm thrilled that it will go to such a good home, for such a good cause.
A brief update on the quilt for Emily Lynne...
I am happy to report that the piecing and quilting are finished at last. It took longer than I expected it to, but then everything these days does. I apologize in case anyone was, you know, waiting by the phone. I'm pleased that I took my time with it, though, because it's work I'm proud of instead of something I rushed through.
The only remaining step is to attach the binding. I stitch the binding down by hand, the only part of a quilt I don't do by machine, because I think it's a much nicer finish. Unfortunately, it's much slower than doing it by machine. I estimate — ha, uh, yeah — that it will take me about a week of evenings to do it.
When I have the entire quilt finished, I'll post photos and then the results of the drawing. Look for an announcement, or at the very least another update, around...let's say October 25.
And the winners are...
At long last and with great excitement (and, it must be said, relief at having finished) I announce the winners of the quilt giveaway!
First the numbers. 120 of you kindly contributed. With one chance per $5 increment, there were 202 chances, for a total of $1010 raised.
My friends inside the computer, you are amazing.
Now the prizes. Besides my quilt, we have Lynne's magnificent contribution, a quilt she made specfically for this giveaway. We also have three ferociously aromatic gift boxes from Lush, made possible by generous contributions from Allie G., Shari, and Janna and chosen meticulously by me because I love that stuff. My most heartfelt thanks to you all.
Finally, the winners, selected in a super-scientific random drawing. I initially planned to put all the names in a sharps container and grapple at the strips of paper through the needle port, but there were simply too many. Instead, to assure proper randomizing, I threw the strips in the dryer (QuickTime, 600KB) on air fluff, included a carefully selected mixing sock, and pulled them out once they'd been sufficiently whirled.
Now the names!
The winner of a Lush Bunty box is...Caitlin L.!
The winner of a Lush Serenity box is...Margaret P.!
The winner of a Lush Happy box is...Carrie P.!
(Lush also makes a Relax box, as in, "Why don't you just...?" but, hmmm, how to say? I questioned the appropriateness of such a suggestion. As for what the hell a Bunty is, I'm sure I don't know, but it smells very nice.)
The winner of Lynne's teddy bear quilt is...Zoe S.! It's killing me that I won't see this quilt in person myself, but, Zoe, I hope you'll send pictures.
And the winner of my quilt is...Kimberly S.!
Winners, please check your e-mail; I'll need your shipping addresses.
Now some rambling about my quilt.
That's me in the pinafore. No, really.
The quilt I planned to make started out to be a plain old log cabin, about 48" x 48". I imagined 16 10" blocks, with warm colors on one side and cool on the other, with hot pink as the center of each block, and borders to be determined later.
And then things got out of hand.
I made the blocks as planned, and began playing with them to see what arrangement looked best. At that point there was hot pink only in the centers of each block, and the blocks looked flat and uninteresting. So I changed direction, turning to Eleanor Burns' Quilt in a Day: Star Log Cabin pattern.
I didn't adhere religiously to her pattern because she specifies a wider strip while I prefer a narrower one, and I didn't use her construction methods at all because they result, in my opinion, in a less precise block. So I'll say I simply adapted her design.
In doing so, I'd suddenly bought myself a lot more work, but once I'd added the sashing and stars to the blocks I was a lot happier. But as I worked with the blocks, I didn't feel my preferred diagonal arrangement — traditionally called Fields and Furrows — looked right with an even number of rows. So I made another row.
And put on some borders. And basted it. And agonized for days about how to quilt it.
I finally settled on simple wavy lines quilted in varying colors on the diagonal through the blocks, with a hot pink spiral in the center of each block and star. The printed strip in the border is quilted with a zigzag to follow the pattern of the fabric, and the outer border has meander quilting in the same dark blue as the fabric.
Quilt in a day? Sure, Eleanor, if you live on Mercury.
The quilt, alas, is far from perfect. I tried very hard to make it so, just as I do with all my quilts, but inevitably there were
mistakes judicious design decisions that give the quilt that kind of catawumpus coveted handmade look. Here is an example: somewhere along the line, after it had been quilted, one of the blocks incurred a tiny tear. There was no way to repair it without making it obvious in some way, so I sighed, took up my needle, and affixed a little patch, forestalling future damage, I hope.
Here is a full view of the quilt, and a closer look at selected blocks. On the back I attached a label so that sometime next century, textile historians can ask each other, "Um, who the hell made this?"
It was me, and I loved every moment.
Here we go again
A year ago today, Charlie took a ride. Paul and I drove him home from the hospital, one of us driving, the other sitting in the back staring very hard, unblinking, at the baby in the car seat, aiming "please survive" rays directly at his downy head.
After five long hours, during which time I pumped twice in the back seat, we were home. It was an emotional homecoming — not only were we home at last with a baby, our baby, but our friends inside the computer had given him a welcome that brought me to tears. In fact, it still does.
That online shower, the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me, was masterminded by Boulder. Boulder, like so many of us, is trying, in her words, "to have a damn baby."
I want to help.
Once again, I'm making a quilt. This is a quilt I began while I was still pregnant with Charlie. I haven't touched it since, but it's long past time I finished. It represents hours and hours and hours of work and thought, as each patch has been individually chosen for color and value. The finished quilt will have over 1,000 pieces in it. It is, I tell people, the quilt of my soul, and you can see a quick preview. I'll be raffling it off here once it's complete, with proceeds to go to Boulder's surrogate fund.
If you'd like a chance to win, you can sign up here. Chances will go for $5 each.
I am lucky, unutterably lucky, that Charlie came home, that he's grown and thrived, that he's gone from a sleepy five-pound blob to a happy giant who likes to play in the snow. I want that for all of us. I want it for Boulder.
A quick update for those of you who bought a chance at Boulder's raffle quilt: the top is finished, a mere two weeks behind my original projection. I'm a bit behind, I know, but I hope you will appreciate my dedication when I confess that I gave up my place on the U.S. Olympic biathlon team and my top 24 spot on American Idol so that I could stay hunched over my sewing machine working on it.
Think of me as the infertile blogging world's Michelle Kwan. Or, if you prefer, Bode Miller. Or even this guy, because, you know, I'm a smiley sort.
I count 1,112 individual pieces. At last count — and at this point please imagine me diving into a swimming pool full of coins, but without the associated compression fractures and resulting quadriplegia, if you'd be so kind — we've raised $3,890.
The next step is to layer the top with batting and backing. Then it gets basted. Then it gets quilted. Then it gets squared, bound, and labeled. Then it gets clutched in my trembling arms, gathered to my heaving bosom, and wept fondly over as I package it for shipping. (As a gesture of goodwill and gratitude, I will keep my snot to myself.) I estimate that it will be finished in about two weeks, and will announce the date of the drawing right around then.
Thank you all so very, very much. More updates to come.
I know. I kind of can't believe it, either.
The beneficiary of this raffle is Boulder, who is, on the surface, no different from any of us. She wants a baby, just like plenty of my friends inside the computer who haven't gotten lucky yet. She's planning an IVF cycle and has had to get creative about financing it, much as most of us have to do when cycling — especially repeatedly — is so expensive. And she's had more than her fair share of disappointment and loss, but then so have a lot of us.
(Oh, we do have fun, my friends inside the computer.)
But Boulder is special to me. When Charlie was born so early, under such alarming circumstances, Boulder was the mastermind of the online baby shower many of you took part in, which I regard as the most astonishing act of kindness I've ever experienced. For someone who's gone through so much, still with no baby to show for the years of pain, to plan a baby shower for a woman she's never met...
See, I get kind of teary every time.
When I learned Boulder was planning to do an IVF cycle with a gestational surrogate, I wanted to help. I want her to have that damn baby. I made a quilt.
And you! You wanted to help, too. 1,558 chances were sold, raising a total of $7,385.23 (after PayPal took its bloody cut).
I do not know what to say. And if you regularly read my site, you know that it is highly uncharacteristic for me to be at a loss for words. But " " doesn't make much of a post, so next I'll talk a bit about the prizes.
There's the quilt, of course, and we'll get to that. Because there was such an enthusiastic response, I felt some additional prizes were in order. This time around, we have bath products from Lush — made from fresh ingredients, with no animal testing, and smelling really, really nice — and gift certificates for fabulousstationery.com, whose ad frequently runs on this site.
There are also scarves, just in time for winter!
The scarves, like the quilt, are pieced from 100% cotton prints in a spectrum gradient. They're backed with a very soft, plush polyester for warmth. Their bright colors are guaranteed to prevent you from getting lost in a snowbank or eaten by a larger predator; not unlike the protective coloration of a poison dart frog, these scarves will dissuade any of your natural enemies from tasting you. "Looks good," they will think, inasmuch as the more bloodthirsty larger mammals think, "but poison!"
Also suitable for draping casually over a piece of furniture, as if to say, "Bozo lives here"; restraining an angry cat who is being administered medication orally; or, in case of grievous bodily injury, fashioning a tourniquet that will soothe the patient into a peaceful psychedelic fugue state.
I started the quilt back when I was still pregnant with Charlie. I originally intended it as a gift for Tertia, to thank her for her friendship at a time when I was scared and fragile. I wanted it to be ready before our babies were born. But Charlie's early birth — or as we like to call it around here, The Incident — pushed the project aside for several months.
By the time I was able to get back to it, working on it only for half an hour here and there, Tertia was home with her babies, and I knew it would be a long time before I managed to finish it. Fast forward to January of this year, when I learned of Boulder's plans, and hatched my own scheme.
Screw Tertia, I thought. She doesn't need a quilt. She has babies.
(Okay, it was a little less harsh than that.)
Tertia, of course, asshole though she is, agreed that Boulder needed the quilt more than she did. So I went back to work on it in earnest, spending long blocks of time at naptime, in the evenings, and on daycare mornings planning, cutting, sewing, and pressing.
It is by far the most elaborate quilt I've ever pieced. Each patch is individually chosen and cut for scale, color, and value. Many of the quilt's 1,000-plus pieces are fussy-cut, meaning that I looked carefully at a piece of fabric and cut out only the piece of the print that would work where I needed it to. I did not use many of the time-saving cutting and piecing techniques that can make quilts go together quickly; this quilt was slow.
The main unit of the quilt is a block called memory. I've been fascinated by this block for a few years now. By simply changing the values of the patches, you can create any number of interesting secondary designs. For this quilt, I chose to emphasize the lattice-like effect created by the prominent X in each block.
I also like the name of the block. In this quilt, it means something. It's memories of my pregnancy and the friendship that helped me through it. It's memories of other quilts I've made or contributed to, and the friends they've been given to — the fabrics in it are also in quilts for Jo, for Mollie, for Miss W., for Blue, for Menita, and the quilt for Emily Lynne; and it contains prints I've sent to friends who are adopting for their "100 good wishes" quilts. It's memories of the amazement I felt when we drove into our garage with Charlie in the back seat for the first time, to be gobsmacked by everything you'd sent.
Oh, blah, blah, blah, you know. This quilt only means everything to me.
It's quilted with a double cable running diagonally through each block in colors that match. The backing fabric is white, and the bobbin thread is in a variegated rainbow colorway, so the quilting shows well on the back. It's bordered in several different black-on-black prints, and bound in a striped fabric that gives the illusion of a spectrum progression.
They're all hard to give up, my quilts. This one especially so. There is an awful lot of love in that there quilt.
Now for the winners. I've sent e-mail to each of you. If you see your first name here but haven't received e-mail from me, it's probably because someone else with the same name won instead. I am sorry. Please take it up with your mother, who should have named you Tierrainney.
Our prizewinners are...
Winners of a $45 gift certificate for fabulousstationery.com:Lorraine and Stephanie!
Winner of a Lush "Anything But Ordinary" gift box: Cynthia!
Winner of a Lush "Happy" gift box: Cory!
Winner of a Lush "Flower Garden" gift box: Elizabeth!
Winners of a clown scarf and a $45 gift certificate for fabulousstationery.com: Amy and Brandee! (Brandee, please contact me; the e-mail address I have for you is bouncing.)
Winner of a clown scarf and a Lush "My Fair Lady" gift box: Jennifer!
Winner of a clown scarf and a Lush "Purple Haze" gift box: Melissa!
And, winner of the quilt, Tertia!
An entirely different Elizabeth!
Congratulations to each of the winners. My sincere and flabbergasted thanks to every one of you who entered. I never expected such staggering generosity. I am moved and inexpressibly grateful.
And ready to move on to the next big project, folding up every goddamn one of the eight million pieces of fabric I used in this quilt, which currently teeter in dangerous ceiling-high piles that threaten to engulf me in a linty avalanche every time I enter my sewing room.
If you don't hear from me soon, send help.
How to make an Ethiopian quilt
Another friend, another quilt.
Beth tells her own story far more vividly than I could. Unfortunately, its beginning is familiar to many of us. It's the end that's so exciting.
Though my husband and I hadn't used birth control since our second anniversary, it wasn't until our 11th year of marriage that we began to suspect that all those tales of getting pregnant after one wild ride in the backseat of a car might not be entirely true. The usual hellish battery of fertility testing pegged us as members of the elite club known as "Cause of Infertility: Unknown." I underwent cycle after cycle of drugs injected in various public places — restaurant restrooms, mall parking lots, coat closets at a class reunion, etc. — and the wild emotions that went along: weeklong bouts of hysterical crying, murderous rage toward dust balls on the floor, and hours of staring blankly into the mirror wondering why I was apparently the only infertile woman in the universe.
Finally, after several cycles of overreacting to the drugs, blowing up like a balloon — seriously, I looked very much like a giant frightened blowfish — and selling nearly everything we owned to pay for the privilege, we reached the summit of Everest and got pregnant. We were overjoyed. Our families thanked God for our blessing. We planned for a nursery and baby clothes and toys. My mom crocheted a wonderfully soft and lovely blanket and bought us a box of books and planners on pregnancy and babies. At Christmastime during the required ultrasound, when we expected to see a tiny body replacing the little blinking heartbeat we’d seen in the last ultrasound, our technician began to cry. Our baby had disappeared. At 10 weeks, she'd just thrown in the towel and gone back from whence she came without so much as a how-do-you-do.
Since the whole thing didn't seem real, we didn’t consider a D&C and it wasn’t strongly suggested. I now know what it feels like to give birth: I did it on the bathroom floor the day after New Year's at 3 in the morning alone. The pain, both physical and emotional, that wracked me that night lives in me even now, and it's far too easy to let it drift to the surface. So instead I'll tell you how my hell turned into a sparkling joyous Heaven.
About 8 months after that torturous night, my husband and I went to an informational meeting at a local adoption agency. They had just begun a program in Ethiopia and it immediately called to us. I feel as if someone was shouting to us that our baby had been born somewhere else. We started the process, decided we’d be open to a "waiting child" (one with mild challenges or treatable defects), and began the wait. The day after New Year's in 2005, we received a picture of a waiting child in Ethiopia, a sad-looking little girl of 3 years. We knew immediately she was ours.
We borrowed and scraped, sold everything again, and flew to Ethiopia in April of that year. We drove up to the children’s home and got out. Right away a tiny body hurled itself across the yard screaming, "Mommy and Daddy!" I can't even think of that moment when our daughter leaped into our arms without crying. She is our gift and our truest blessing. She brings light and joy to the darkest corners. She is special. She is ours and we are hers forever. I never dreamed that such contentment and love and sheer dancing-in-the-sunshine joy was possible, but I am drunk with it every day.
We've also adopted her birth family as a branch of our own and sponsored her little sister (about 19 months old now) to ensure her health and well-being hoping that we could always know where she was for our daughter. Her family loves our daughter with all their hearts.
In March of this year we received a letter from our daughter's beloved grandmother asking us to take her other granddaughter, our daughter's sister. Life expectancy in Ethiopia is tragically only 59 years, and as she has been seriously ill and cannot afford to feed even herself despite the funds we send, she knows that she is nearing the end of her life. She explained that she knew from the stacks of photos we sent that her older granddaughter is happy and loved, and she wanted that for her baby granddaughter as well. How could we refuse?
After weeks of soul-searching and consideration of just how far into debt we could go and still see the light of day, we decided to just go for it. Yet again, we’ve sold everything we can and worked double time to afford it, and I hope to travel next month (October) to bring our little daughter home to her sister. We're in love with our baby already.
The chance for Beth's first daughter to be raised with her sister, a privilege lost to so many adopted children, is just too precious to waste. I want to help.
The quilt I'm making is well underway. The blocks for the top are more than halfway complete. My photographic ineptitude has rendered them duller looking than they actually are, but you should get the general idea:
I have been trying to maintain a pace of making one block a day, but I've found that to be a little ambitious since each block takes approximately 3 hours. So let's say four blocks a week...carry the six, divide by nine, stick a needle in my belly, read Curious George and the Godforsaken Bunnies yet again...
Oh, hell, I don't know when it will be finished. But I am working on it steadily, and will continue to do so, and will post regular updates as warranted.
If you'd like to enter to win it, and to help two Ethiopian sisters reunite, you can enter here. Chances will go for $5 each. This is my last giveaway, so I thank you that much more sincerely for being a part of this.
Update: After reaching the first campaign's goal of $3,000 early Wednesday afternoon, I've opened a new campaign. Your generosity is magnificent!
Puppies, rainbows, chipmunks, and Julia
Charlie is at my mother's, Paul is at home, and I am sitting in a hotel lobby loaded for bear. My overnight bag carries vodka, ibuprofen, tampons, and a large box of Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Block Cushions, and I am waiting for Julia to arrive. She just called and claimed to be lost in a cornfield somewhere. (She said she was planning to echolocate, driving toward the sound of my voice,
but I don't know how well that will work since her connection dropped before I could get out a single "Marco." If
you are located anywhere in the Midwest and happen to hear a ghostly "Polo" carried on the gentle soughing of the
wind, it's Julia. For God's sake stop her and give her a map.)
This will be quick, because as soon as our rooms are ready I plan to go upstairs and short-sheet her bed.
- For Halloween, Charlie was dressed as a dalmatian. As soon as he went outside in his costume, he began to disport himself exactly as a puppy would: gamboling heedlessly; rolling in the clover; yipping with glee; and running down squirrels, snapping their necks with a single spasm of his strong young jaw, and violently shaking them from side to side within his grinning muzzle until they flopped as lifelessly as any understuffed rag doll.
- This morning my period arrived unexpectedly. This year has been strange. For the first time in my long and distinguished menstrual career, my cycles have been irregular, skewed towards the short end. This month's, for example, was a measly 23 days. Now, I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm reasonably sure it has something to do with daylight savings time. Man, I hate that fucking fall back.
- We are going to try one last cycle locally with my eggs as soon as it is convenient. At this point it feels like I'm running on pure nerve, with no credible reason to expect success. It is hard to accept that even with sufficient resources, technology, and masochistic determination at our disposal, it probably still won't work for us. I do not look forward to finding that it's harder to accept that it didn't, past tense, period.
- The quilt for Freweyne continues apace, if "apace" means "slowly but with steadiness, seriousness of purpose, and only a few sliced-off fingertips." Beth now has a travel date for her trip to pick up Freweyne, November 25, and the top will certainly be finished by then, although the quilting and binding will take additional time. Here's where it currently stands:
You can still enter to win the quilt. My most heartfelt thanks to all of you who've contributed.
It's now several hours later. Julia arrived, shook the hayseeds out of her hair, put down her valise, and immediately goaded me into drinking a great deal more than a lady strictly should. As a consequence, I am most ridiculously intoxicated and must stop writing before I e-mail each and every one of you in the middle of the night to tell you how much I love you. (I really love you, man.) And that I am grateful for your kind words of encouragement and your personal stories in response to my last few posts. And that Charlie didn't actually kill any squirrels. Please: they were only chipmunks. Old chipmunks, mangy ones, terminally ill, who'd taken loving leave of their families and explicitly asked to be relieved of the wretched earthly burden of a functioning spinal column.
And now to bed, after a quick stop to place Julia's hand in a basin of warm water as she sleeps. Oh, we do have fun.