Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Community

a peek at Road to California 2014

When I started blogging at the end of 2011, all of my connection with the quilting community was online. It really wasn't until I attended last year's Road to California Quilt Show that I got to see some of these people in person, and it was a powerful thing. Whether these people were into traditional quilting, modern quilting, or something in between, it didn't really matter. All of us found joy in using a needle and thread to make beautiful things, and this gave us something in common.

Cindy, me, Deborah -- love these ladies...

I returned to Road to CA last month, and the feeling was back only stronger. This time I got to meet up with some blogging friends in person, enjoying a precious half hour with Cindy and Deborah to chat face to face. It was also wonderful to meet the incredible ladies behind Fabricworm and Birch Fabrics in person after communicating with them by email for months -- in fact I had so much fun talking, that I didn't take time for a decent photo. I left that day with sore feet and a light heart, feeling so happy to be a part of this community of quilters.

Mary, Gayle, Michelle & Pat -- just a few members of the group

Then this past Sunday I was looking over Keri's e-newsletter from The Quilt Loft fabric shop in Upland, and I was thrilled to see that Friends of the Modern Quilt Guild was starting an Inland Empire chapter and holding their first meeting at her shop on Monday night. What a joy it was to spend some time with other ladies who love to sew! We have come with different life backgrounds and sewing experiences, but in essentials, we were all the same: a desire to grow in our craft and a willingness to share with and encourage each other. I have great hopes for this group and am so grateful to Michelle for getting it started. If any of you live nearby, please come! We'll be meeting up on the second Monday of every month at 6pm. The website is still under construction, but you can find it here.

no makeup, no jewelry, no stylist, and not much sleep...just me as I type this blog post

The events of the past month have made me think a lot about community. We all say that we want to be part of one, but the reality of this can be so different from what we imagine. To have a community, you have to have people, and people are not always what we want them to be. That seems so obvious, but it can be a hard reality to deal with at times. Many bloggers have written about the importance of getting beyond the "perfect" image of our blogs and sewing room photos, but I think we also struggle with getting beyond the glossy image we have of each other as people. As much as we know that our friends aren't perfect, we kind of want them to be sometimes. In fact, we sort of want to be that way ourselves. Once we get past those first impressions and start seeing the flaws, the annoying habits, the issues where we disagree (sometimes strongly), it's so easy to drift away from each other and into those cliques that we all despise. What started out as a great adventure in sisterhood once again ends up being little more than another version of the high school lunch room.

I don't have any grand solutions to the problem, but I've decided to adopt two new rules of thumb when dealing with people in my community (sewing or otherwise) this year:

1. Let people be who they are. I always think of that scene from Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version, of course) when Lizzie is angry with her friend Charlotte for marrying the ridiculous Mr. Collins just to secure a home for herself, insisting that she and her sister Jane would never do such a thing. "But, Lizzie," Jane insists, "not everyone is the same!" How often I have had to remind myself this. Give people space to be themselves, even if it's not exactly what you would prefer them to be. It's okay to disagree on some things. It's okay to like different things. We can be ourselves and still be friends.

2. Give people grace when they need it. There are days when I'm grouchy or depressed or feeling like a flop in one area of my life or another. In those moments I need someone who cares enough to put up with me and love me anyway. The members of our community need that same grace. Everyone says something they regret from time to time. All of us want to feel like we belong -- even when we sometimes secretly don't feel like we really do. In those moments, we need to be ready to give each other the grace that says, "We care about you. You matter to us."  And yes, this means not only having a heart that's willing to embrace our friends on their bad days. It means having the courage to be kind to the difficult person in our community (you know who I mean -- yes, that person) who, truth be told, may need your kindness more than anyone else in the room, even if they don't seem to deserve or appreciate it. While there are definitely a few people out there who enjoy being a pain, most people are doing the best they can...just like you.

It's not going to create utopia overnight, but I really believe that practicing (not just preaching) these two standards will go a long way toward bringing a little more love into our sewing communities -- both online and in person. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How do we make our communities stronger? How do we make them a place where people truly feel like they belong?

21 comments:

  1. Was so nice to meet you last night too. I think we'll have a good time with our new Friends of MQG group. Your blog is so nice! Gayle

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  2. I know how much I appreciate comments, they are definitely one way to 'hug' someone!

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  3. Lovely post and good food for thought. Exciting about the new guild!!

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  4. Such a sweet post. I've been on the fence about attending our local MQG, as I don't know anyone, and being the introvert that I am, I tend to shy away from these opportunities. However, after reading your post, I feel prompted to go out of my comfort some and attend. Having a face to face relationship would be rewarding, but the first step is always the torturous for me. Thanks for sharing your insight and heart.

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    1. Karen, I know exactly how you feel -- I've struggled with similar issues. It's always nerve wracking to open up to others, but I think in some ways it's especially hard when we're sharing so much of ourselves through our creations. The first step really is the hardest as you say, yet I agree -- it's worth a try. I hope that you'll find some wonderful encouragement in your local guild. Let me know how it goes!

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  5. Such heart-felt sentiments. We all want to feel like we belong.

    The Blogging community is a strong network of wonderful (and wonderfully flawed) people who would otherwise never experience each other. But I also think there is value in meeting face-to-face. I enjoyed talking with you at the Friends of the MQG meeting last night. I'm hoping to build a "community" that meets in person to share ideas and smiles and hugs. Michele

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  6. It was so lovely to meet you and the other ladies at last night's meeting. I was a little hesitant to come because I wasn't sure I could fit in as a "modern" quilter. I like all kinds of quilts, and my projects reflect that. I now feel more confident that hanging out with modern quilters will be enriching rather than limiting.

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  7. Great posts! Not only good for quilting, but a general "rule" to live by!
    Esther
    esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo com
    ipatchandquilt dot wordpress dot com

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  8. You will be a welcome addition to this group - skill and philosophy in one lovely lady - a precious package indeed. I'm wishing only good things for you all. xxxx

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  9. That is so fun that you got to meet Cindy and Deborah!! And that is great about the guild forming in your area.

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  10. Amen! Love your reflections here Heidi. My hubby and I have been talking a lot about this lately. It's so important!

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  11. First, let me say I agree with everything you've said here and putting it into practice does take thought and consideration but is worth it. Anything worth doing is never always easy. We all have things we face and fight daily but like you said it's so nice having the feeling of community even when we're being holy terrors. By the way, you have the face to go Without makeup, live it up! Have a good one!
    tdkcarpenoctem@hotmail.com

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  12. I love your post! I love the community aspect of blogging. It's so wonderful to see people pop up over and over in the comments on my posts. It feels like I'm making new friends who share my passion for sewing, which is something I don't have in the community where I live. Kindness and grace are absolutely essential, of course, but sometimes easier said than done. Thanks for the reminder.

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  13. Lovely thoughtful post! I preach and practice grace on a daily basis. I always remind myself that I have NO idea what someone else is dealing with, so when I encounter someone who seems sour I have a choice: make it worse by being the same in my reaction or be as kind as I can. I almost always choose the latter. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

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  14. This is a great post and so true...just accepting people as who they are and loving them anyway is always so much easier than trying to fit them into someone we think they should be.

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  15. Amen, sister. I'm always a little hesitant to be real, but then I figure if I can't be real in my blogging space, there isn't anywhere else I can! I'm okay with real, even grouchy or opinionated. I have some strong opinions on things, and while I don't share them all on my blog (really, who wants to hear my opinion on everything under the sun!), I do think we need to respect someone's right to say what they feel.

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  17. I love this post and wholeheartedly agree. I think a key to achieving what you envision is to not be competitive. Life is not a contest and neither is sewing! Stop comparing yourself to others and just follow your bliss. My previous sewing circle did start to feel like a scene out of the high school lunch room and I hope to break free of that pattern and I know it starts with me and my attitude.

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