Forty-five minutes before I needed to leave for a work meeting a three hour drive away, my 14 year old daughter asks, “So, can we make the bird for the cage?” What?!? Frantically, I dictate directions to find the pattern and make an extra copy. The pattern had no directions. Just shapes, lines and dots. First, we spent a little time picking out fabric. Bold floral fabrics from Kaffee to represent the Caged Bird overcoming her trauma and darker prints from Art Gallery Fabrics to symbolize the weight if her trauma and the scars on her life.


Did I mention this is for an Honors English freshmen summer reading project? One of three she had to do this year.

I explained how to cut out the fabric and how to begin sewing it together. It occurred to me half way through the directions that not only did this pattern require curved piecing but it also had a sever Y-seam. She didn’t miss a beat, so off I went to finish getting ready.

As I did my hair, she was in the sewing room working away. I kept waiting for her to come in and say, “I can’t do this.” I mean curve piecing! Y-seams!

How many times, as adults, have we looked at a pattern we adored and thought, “I can’t do that”? If we are honest, probably more than once. I don’t mean the times we looked at queen size quilts of one inch hexies and thought, “There is NO way, I am making that sucker.” That isn’t the same. That sort of project is more about patience and time. I hear quilters say over and over, “I am not trying that. That looks too hard.” I guess for a long time now, hearing those sorts of statements from quilters has been a bit unsettling.

My friends will tell you, I go at everything I do, full speed ahead. It isn’t necessarily a gift. It IS ADHD. I get hyper focused and if I want to learn or do something, I will do whatever it takes. It makes some of the people who love me crazy.  But, loosing 100 pounds, going from couch to running a Full (26.2 mile) Marathon and learning pottery were all accomplished from my “challenge accepted” mantra and my ADHD drive.

I have watched my daughter decide something was important to learn and then do whatever it takes to learn it. I have also experienced her say, something isn’t worth learning. Which is cool with me. She is a kid. But this was the first time I recognized her blind forward movement. See, she didn’t know curve piecing was suppose to be a challenge. She didn’t know to fear Y-seams, because NO one has ever told her she should fear them. She wanted to make the bird, so she did what she needed to learn how.

As I reappeared in the sewing room, dressed and ready for work ,the head of the bird was sewn. I showed her how to sew one side and she did the other. Truth-her side was better than mine. Which I am not ashamed to point out!


As I was pulling out of the garage, she was stuffing the bird and only needed to sew up the tail.  I wished her well, and told her to clean up after herself.

Eight hours later, I came home to this!


Outside the cage, she added words that represented Maya Angelou’s worry or fear. Pregnancy. Trauma. Baby. Worry. On the inside of the cage, on a music note, she included words that provided some level of joy. Family. Love. Baby. (She explained that it was necessary to have “Baby” in both places because of the ending of the book.


The bird sat, caged, but beautiful. And done! Without me. Without fear. Without doubt. Without quitting. My heart was beaming. Partly because of her work ethic, but mostly because I was in awe that somehow, she had not realized she couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t JUST that she believed in herself that allowed her to accomplish this task. It was more that she didn’t know she shouldn’t believe in herself.

After a book like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this is a stark contrast to much of the world. We are feed so many messages. So many negatives. Negatives drive response. Keep us in line. Make us by things, or avoid things.

But, positives cause response to…response to gifts and dreams and goals and love and joy. 

I spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how to make sure she isn’t exposed to the world’s negative messages of fear and “you can’t.” The world would say that trying to protect her from those messages is a loosing battle, but after this experience, I decided I will forever sing, “you can” to her. So on those days when she doesn’t believe in herself, she can trust that I believe in her!

Who believed in you? What will you make because of it?

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