April 14, 2010: Run for Your Life

My daughter Mary is home in Winterset to tape some TV episodes with me. When she came flying down the escalator late last night at the Des Moines airport, we ran joyfully to each other's arms, thrilled that we'll be working together for a couple of weeks.

Earlier in the day, I tidied the three upstairs rooms that were once my daughters' bedrooms, wondering which one Mary would choose for her stay. Some sixteen months ago, after surgery at Mayo Clinic followed by many complications, Mary was in Winterset with Mark and me for much of the winter as she tried and tried to recuperate.

I smoothed quilts and fluffed pillows, remembering how my ill child occupied each bedroom for several weeks. We kept hoping if she changed rooms, she might feel better. As it turned out, until an ongoing infection was addressed by new doctors in Chicago, nothing I could do would really help. Even after that, more surgeries, setbacks, and compromises were ahead.

Today the spring morning dawned under blue skies. I was drinking coffee in the kitchen when I heard Mary come downstairs. She was dressed in running shoes, shorts, and T-shirt. With no Bikram yoga studio locally, her plan is to run the streets of her old hometown each day.

When asked how she slept, Mary replied, "Great, Mom, and I woke up smiling—it's so wonderful to be home!" And off she went.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will wake up smiling.


Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments3 Comments | References4 References

February 22, 2010: The Shape of Our Hearts

When my longtime friend Valerie Fons learned we’d acquired a vacation cottage on Washington Island, Wisconsin, she whooped with joy. She and her family are full time Island residents, and our new home meant we would now see each other all through the year instead of just briefly each summer.

“Once you’ve heard the ice break on the ferry crossing in winter, you’ll never forget it,” she exclaimed. “Winter is more spectacular than summer, I promise.”

The usual 30-minute trip across Death’s Door on one of the Washington Island Ferry Line’s car ferries takes a bit longer after the shores of Lake Michigan have iced up. The Arni J. Richter with its reinforced hull makes only two round trips most days in January, and you must reserve a space for your car in advance.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Mark and I made our first deep winter trip to our cottage by the big lake. Our crossing on the afternoon boat the day we arrived was ice free.

As it happened, though, we provided transport to the mainland for Valerie a few days later, delivering her to the Green Bay hospital where she is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

We drove onto the morning boat under an immaculate blue sky. Wrapped in robes and blankets, with her hospital gear at her side, Valerie was snugly stowed in our warm back seat. Once underway, though, we heard the hull of the Arni J. Richter begin breaking ice, and my dear, determined friend invited me outside. “Since I was a little girl,” she said, “I've always crossed on deck.”

We made our way to the boat’s leading end, she supported by her hospital walker with its tennis-ball pads and me beside her holding the blankets and trying to shield her body from the wind.

We leaned together against the steel railing, arms around one another in the frigid air, as the big boat forged through the ice toward the mainland like an unstoppable locomotive. Huge white floes of ice glittering in the bright morning sunshine dotted the surface of the lake.

“Look,” I shouted over the deafening crunch, “ice giant lily pads!” And indeed we gazed out on hundreds of rimmed circles being constantly pushed aside and destroyed by our hull.

Then we saw simultaneously not only round lily pad floes but here and there among them elongated heart-shaped ice pads, broken and reshaped from circles into hearts just as the stones on Schoolhouse Beach, another Washington Island treasure, are moiled and turned by the water into the world’s most perfect skipping rocks. If you look carefully, as I have, you find rare heart-shaped ones among the round.

“They’re hearts! They’re hearts,” we called in unison. “Look at that one! Look at that one! Ooh look at that one,” we shouted again and again as our vessel plowed toward the shore.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will see a sight you will never forget.

Photo by Paula Hedeen

Posted on Monday, February 22, 2010 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

January 27, 2010: A Flight of Inspiration

Late last fall, I happened to see a photo of a gorgeous antique quilt scheduled for publication in a future Love of Quilting magazine issue. An unknown American maker appliquéd ten large eagles diagonally, wingtip to wingtip, in the center of her quilt, then bordered it with smaller eagles. Made around 1875, the quilt is in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

I had already been thinking about making a quilt for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a project begun in 2003 to provide quilts for wounded American soldiers. I had met Catherine Roberts, the foundation's originator, at International Quilt Festival in Houston earlier in the fall.

The design for my quilt landed in my head as gradefully as a magnificent bird swooping into its nest. In just a few days, I created a medallion with single eagle at its center, surrounded by sections of blue and white stripes and an outer border of simple, elegant stars.

Synchronistically, as I stitched in my sewing room, contentedly sipping coffee and tuned to National Public Radio, a program about bald eagle-watching in Iowa arrived on the air. I learned that the American Eagle was nearly extinct in the 1960s, with fewer than 4,000 alive in the continental US. Now, 2500–4000 bald eagles winter along the Mississippi between Minneapolis and St. Louis. Eagles' nests have been reported in all 50 Iowa counties.

My Quilt of Valor is complete now, and I look forward to a day when I may be able to hand it personally to a soldier at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. I hope it will comfort a valiant American warrior whose wings have been clipped in service to country.

After receiving a quilt, one soldier wrote:

While on my last deployment I was wounded during a combat operation. I had to endure a long and difficult hospital recovery process that is hard to explain. After returning to Ft. Riley, I was placed in the Warrior Transition Battalion to continue treatment. I was going through a difficult time until one day when I was asked to go see the Chaplain. He presented me the quilt you made and I had to fight back tears. I had no idea people really cared so much. Please keep up your hard work. You are bringing a warm and much needed Welcome Home to so many people that need it.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will participate in National Service.

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments1 Comment | References4 References

December 24, 2009: A Touch of Scrooge

Every Christmas season, shopping mall music, radio carol-athons, TV programming, and retail advertising urge Americans to be joyful, to remember wonderful Christmases past, and to make this one the best ever.

Meanwhile, many are out of work, facing home foreclosure, worried about children, jilted by their lovers, or simply depressed.

Optimist that I am, a recent round of one particular carol I heard earlier this week prompted me to pen a rewrite, and here it is, sung to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"

It’s The Most Difficult Time of the Year

It’s the most difficult time of the year,

With the relatives coming

And all of that drumming

To “Be of good cheer,

It’s the most difficult time of the year.


It’s the crap-crappiest season of all.

With those holiday letters from all of your betters

And trips to the mall,

It’s the crap-crappiest season of all.


There’ll be parties to go to

You want to say NO to

And shoveling out of the snow.

There’ll be ugly discovery

Of folks in recovery

And those who should go.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will jingle only part of the way.


Posted on Thursday, December 24, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments1 Comment | References5 References

December 20, 2009: Everyone Skate!

During the relaxation portion of Friday's yoga session, my fellow yoginis and I stretched out on our mats, snug and horizontal under our blankets. After a few moments of deep breathing, our teacher asked us to listen to a piece of music and imagine we were skating on a moonlit country pond.

The musical selection was a lilting piano piece with small orchestra accompaniment, perfect for imaginative gliding and twirling. As we visualized the scene, Tia suggested smooth, white ice, and stars sparkling overhead in the night sky.

My husband Mark and I leave soon for Christmas at my daughter Hannah's apartment in New York City, so my own personal skating site was not an Iowa farm pond but the rink at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. Only 150 skaters at a time are allowed to spin beneath the glittering 80-foot-tall Christmas tree. Tourists and New Yorkers glide around the lovely, tiny plaza, providing unique seasonal entertainment for diners watching through the windows of the Sea Grill and Rock Center Cafe.


My daughter Mary is in Washington DC this month, performing at Woolly Mammoth Theater, exploring our nation's capital, and recording her impressions in her daily blog PaperGirl. Earlier Friday morning, I'd read Mary's latest post, "Ice Princess-eez," about skating with her cast mates the previous afternoon at an outdoor rink at the Smithsonian sculpture garden.

The day after Christmas, Mark and I, Hannah, Mary, Mary's husband Steve, and my daughter Rebecca, are all taking a train to DC to spend a few days in a city most of us don't know well. We'll visit museums, shop, and go to Mary's show. Maybe we'll skate!

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will hope to travel safely.



Posted on Sunday, December 20, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments2 Comments | References6 References