November 2006

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The Ami Simms Newsletter
November 2006
Copyright by Ami Simms

Greetings from the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX! Tonight is Opening Night for the Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt sale and while you're reading this we are putting the finishing touches on booth #5710 and #5712 in preparation to make a gob of money for Alzheimer's research.

We brought 360 quilts priced from $15 all the way up to $325, plus CDs of the traveling exhibit which is sitting in storage in Chicago waiting to hang the day after I get back from Houston. Come see me in Schaumburg, IL November 9-12 at the Greater Chicago Quilt Festival. I'll be doing a lecture on the AAQI on Saturday. White glove volunteers are still needed, so when you get there find me and I'll put you on the schedule.

There are 29 post card sized quilts on the web site right now in our first CLOSED BID auction. Think about all the people you'd like to give presents to this holiday season.

The 600th Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt has just been registered! You've got until July 2009 to make one, but please don't wait that long. Shops and guilds are adopting Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts as their community service project. If people near you aren't involved yet, why not suggest they join in the fun?

Good News:
Don't forget that Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts earn their makers a chance at a Bernina aurora 440 sewing machine.

Bad News:
Your Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt must be registered and arrive here before the December deadline. For details see:

Great News:
Bernina has donated two more Aurora 440 sewing machines for me to give away as prizes in 2007! More details soon.

Sally T. wrote to sell me she just listened to Jennifer Chiaverini 's newest book, Circle of Quilters, on tape. You will, I'm sure, remember my fascination with page 251 where my name appears in print several times. Sally now is unsure it is really is ME mentioned on those pages because the reader of the book on tape calls me AMY Simms. Say it ain't so!

If we've never met in person, let me pronounce my name for you: AH-me. As in SALAMI. Ami-Salami. Not hard at all. Now, who do we email to whine about this?

All I can say is I'm glad I didn't hear the gaff myself. I've listened to one book on tape, a mystery, and that was while driving. I glanced down at the speedometer during a particularly exciting passage and noticed I was doing 90. I slowed down, took the tape out and still don't know how the "book" ended. Had I been listening to the reader of Circle of Quilters mispronounce my name I would have surely driven up a lamppost!

Madison here. I’m a Canine American, a Golden Retriever to be exact. Mom is busy upstairs getting the quilts ready for Houston. By time you read this, she’ll already be in Houston and I won’t, but that’s another story. I’m helping out with the newsletter.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but my Daddy is very health conscious. He’s on a perpetual low-salt, low fat, only-good-stuff diet. He never cheats. Ever. And his cholesterol still isn’t any good. Mommy says he has bad jeans. (They look OK to me, but I don’t know what his pants have to do with anything.) Mommy tries to be good, but set a Twinkie in front of her, and well, she’s all over it. Even I have better self-control. Her cholesterol is so good she can eat anything she wants. Daddy says this isn’t fair.

A good friend of mine, Kevin, gave Daddy a pedometer. Kevin is a Human American. He is a nurse. Daddy put it on his belt and measured how many steps he took each day. For not running as much as I do, he did pretty well. He took more than 7,000 steps in one day, and he only started counting when he got to school. Daddy says that he looked it up on the Internet and 10,000 steps every day means you won’t turn into a couch potato.

Mommy hinted that she would like a pedometer too, so Kevin gave her one. Mommy is not really interested in counting steps. She just wanted to beat Daddy. So last Wednesday we went for our usual walk at the Mall and Mommy wore the pedometer. Now that I am a semi-retired service dog we have to walk outside the mall, not inside with the people. Mommy and I find this annoying, but we are obedient. Debbie from the Office walks with us because Mom makes her mostly. She is obedient too.

Well, Mommy took 10 steps and checked the pedometer. It registered three. She shook it and we tried again. This time it said four. Mommy said something I will not repeat and she shook it harder. Mommy decided it must be made for a man who can make it jiggle properly when he walks. Mommy said she must walk too petite-ly for it to register. She is as big as a tree but likes to think she is petite. I wanted breakfast, so I did not disagree. Debbie is Mommy’s friend, so she didn’t either.

Mommy found out that if you hold the pedometer in your hand, it works better than on your belt, so we walked that way around the mall. When Mommy got tired of holding it she let Debbie hold it for a while. We went about 2,500 steps in 30 minutes. Mommy was sure it still wasn’t working properly because that didn’t seem nearly enough. Daddy doesn’t walk anywhere; he just stays in his classroom all day long.

When we got home, she put the pedometer in her pants pocket where it seemed to work OK. I noticed she took very small steps and thumped her feet a lot. She also slapped her thigh every couple of minutes to get it to click. Things were going well. By lunch she thought for sure she’d beat 10,000 steps by time Daddy came home.

After lunch she checked it again and saw that it had somehow reset itself to Zero. I heard more words I don’t know how to spell and then I got to wear the pedometer. For the rest of the afternoon we played fetch. By time Daddy came home the little numbers showed 16,012 steps! He was very impressed, but Mommy couldn’t keep a straight face and told him she turned her pedometer into a PETometer.

There is another entry!

My Mom was a huge gardener. She loved plants and could make anything grow. Orchids were her specialty. She would rescue them from local nurseries when they were on their deathbed, about to be mulched, and nurse them back to health. The deader, the better. She even took trips to exotic places to hunt orchids in the wild, with special permits, and learned how to knock them out of trees with a long pole. She visited orchid shows like I go to quilt shows.

Although I caught the sewing bug from her, I never got the plant genes. Just not my thing. I had a spider plant for a while, but it died from neglect. We only have silk flower arrangements now, because I can’t kill them. I’m OK with that; I have other interests.

When Mom moved in with us, we built on a room just for her plants and crafts. As her Alzheimer’s progressed over the years, the plants began to die off. She drowned them, or starved them, demanded that they not be brought in when the seasons changed, or baked them in the sun. She didn't seem to notice their numbers dwindle. They really weren’t one of my priorities; my hands were full with other things.

When Mom moved into the Alzheimer’s facility about nine months ago there was no room for the plants that had survived her confused care. There was a heater/air conditioner under the one window, and even I know that plants don’t like sitting on top of those. Plus the window looked out onto a parking lot so the shade would have to go up and down with the sun. That was beyond Mom’s capabilities and the staff, I hoped, had better things to do than worry about decapitating the plants.

It was the middle of winter when she moved and the plants were inside. I truly don't know how they survived. I remember watering them once or twice when I went up to Mom's room. They seemed then beyond hope, looking very crispy on the tables by the windows in her bedroom. I wondered why I was just prolonging the inevitable. We knew Mom was never coming home again.

In the spring, Steve moved the surviving plants outside and we let nature takes its course. I never really thought about Mom's plants again. When the first snow fell last week we realized that they were outside, but after so long, I was ready to let nature finish them off. After all, there weren’t that many left and I still didn’t want to take care of plants. Besides, it was almost time for bed and they had been out in the snow all day. Surely they were already well on their way to becoming plantsicles.

Steve reminded me that the Jade Tree was among our charges that I had condemned to death by freezing. Guilt overtook me and I went outside to rescue it. Wrestling the green octopus in from outside was no easy job. It was so big I could hardly cradle the pot with both arms. I left a trail of wet, thick, green leaves as I carried the snow-covered tree inside. Safe inside, tears streaming down my face, I picked up the fallen leaves and took stock at what I had saved.

I have memories of the mammoth Jade Tree from Mom's house on Rougecrest where she lived for nearly 17 years after Dad died. Previously, a large jade sat in a clay pot Mom made on a table in the corner of the dining room in the house on Northfield from the time I was in 4th grade until I graduated from college. Before that, I have vague memories of a jade plant on a wooden bench in front of the picture window in the living room in the house on Marlow Street. We moved there when I was two. That rescued tree, if it is the same one as in my memories, has been around for a very long time!

Just how long might be a world record or just another short-circuited half-memory of a shrunken brain unable to fully connect all the dots. It's hard to tell which. About a year ago, before Mom’s remembrances of the past became totally unreliable, she told me she had received the jade plant as a gift from my father when she was in the hospital recovering from my birth! I don't know that I believed her then, nor do I know for sure if I believe her now, but knowing my mother's green thumb and the fact that she rarely threw anything out, it might just be true.

When Mom moved in with us, the Jade Tree was so top heavy its limbs extended beyond the point where it could keep its own balance. She had to prop it up against the wall or it toppled out of the dirt. Now, the main trunk, as large around as my arm, goes nowhere, a casualty of Mom’s demented pruning. The lower branches reach out in all direction, as if to steady itself. It's not in the best of shape, and I don't particularly like plants, but how can I let something my mother nurtured for more than 50 years die?

So, I am now the reluctant caretaker of the ancient Jade Tree, reluctant until I realized the Jade, besides its advanced years, holds other memories too. If anyone admired that tree, and most who saw it did, Mom insisted they took home a leaf. "Just stick it in the dirt," she'd say. And they would, albeit unbelieving. And the next time they visited they'd report that it did grow… like magic. Over the years every relative, every friend, every neighbor, the mail carrier, and the phone repairperson all have received a cutting from this ancient tree. It probably has more progeny than most rabbits!

And THAT legacy is the one that touches my heart the most. Mom was always giving something. If it wasn't a plant, it was her time, her talent, or her enthusiasm. She befriended everybody, taught whatever she knew to anyone who wanted to learn it, and made strangers into friends. She held nothing back. No pretenses, no fanfare, no need for acknowledgement, and no strings attached. She just gave. My new charge will be a reminder of her spirit and her generosity, and the notion that it's not how long you live, it's what you do with your life that is important. Anybody want a piece of jade?

Amy has written another wonderful letter this month.

Lucy Fazely is working on her next book and needs your help. Her next project is a Quilter’s Cookbook combining the two loves of all quilters, fabric and food.

In the book she would like to outline many quilt related activities to help quilters and guilds find new and interesting ways for quilters to come together to learn and have fun.

If you want to help Lucy, and get your guild noticed at the same time, you can go to and click on the link in the pale yellow box in the center of the page.

An email box will appear and you can type in the activity you would like to submit. Such as: “We play a game called Fat Quarter Frenzy. Each participant brings a fat quarter to guild and puts the fat quarter in a bag. While standing in a circle, participants take turns picking out a fat quarter. They have the choice to keep the fat quarter they’ve selected or trade with someone else who has already drawn a fat quarter. The game ends when…”

Be sure to give your name, your guild’s name, and the city/state. Lucy is interested in other activities such as Round Robins, Fabric Swaps, etc. Don’t feel limited to just guild sponsored activities. Are there special things you do at class, retreat, for visiting teachers, new members, quilt shows or award ceremonies? Each suggestion will receive a reply. You will be notified if your idea will be used or if someone else has already submitted the idea.

There is no payment for this; she is doing this as a service to all quilters to give them a forum to share ideas. While at Lucy’s site you can view photos of the wonderful recipes in her latest release, “A Working Parent’s Cookbook: Easy Meals Your Kids Will Eat”. A FREE short story by Lucy is also available to download. “Miss Winn’s Garden” is a heartwarming story about a foster mother. Miss Winn tends to humanity's forgotten seedlings. They are the disposable ones, tossed aside and left to wither away. Miss Winn patiently teaches her charges to care for something other than themselves, a plant as pathetic as their own lives. As with all gardens, not every germinated seed grows to maturity. Visit:

From Houston, I'm off to Chicago, then on to Oklahoma City for a Bernina retreat. So, unless your name is Emily and you want a copy of Invisible Applique (pre-signed to the wrong person; I goofed) you'll have to wait until November 20th for me to autograph your books.

No point in mentioning that unless I tell you about our November special. I'm taking $1 off my funniest book, How NOT To Make A Prize-Winning Quilt, plus I'm throwing in the special prize mentioned on page 45. (Ordinarily you'd find out about the prize after you read the whole book but then you'd have to send me an SASE. With the price of postage, I thought I'd just give you your present now.)

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. Even if you bought it once, you probably loaned it to somebody who never returned it. Here's the perfect time to replace it. Maybe you have a friend in need of some cheering up. She probably had a copy too but it fell behind the bookcase and you wouldn't want her to go to the trouble (and risk) of getting it out from under. Maybe you're a new quilter and have NO idea what I'm talking about…Procrastinate no longer. Get the book. I'll autograph it as soon as I get back home.

Strictly Sunshine is the name of this month's free pattern when you order anything from (Perhaps a book or something…) Strictly Sunshine was designed by Susan Fuquay, editor of the American Quilt Retailer and can be yours, for FREE! (When you order something.)

Please do. Forward the ENTIRE thing to all your friends and even some of your enemies. Everybody enjoys a laugh or two. Please do NOT forward just part of it. Somehow my name gets dropped off when these things float through cyberspace and since I’m writing them for free, I should at least get credit for writing them. If you write a guild newsletter (real paper or online) and would like to “reprint” a particular part of the newsletter you must ask first. Here’s how.

Be good to each other and have a great quilting day! (Or several!)
Ami Simms