Hello dear friends! It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US and I’ve been thinking about this wild year of 2020 and what I’ve learned from it. I was laughing with a friend the other day about how ‘young and innocent’ we were back in February. 😂 Yikes! We’ll never be the same after this year, right?

Gratitude Signature style quilt by Amy Smart - Diary of a Quilter

My Gratitude Quilt from a few years ago


This year has been a time of collective and individual grieving like I’ve never experienced before. Not only are we experiencing the collective challenges of global upheaval because of this virus and political rancor, but I feel like so many people I know are also going through the personal and private trials of their lives.

As I sat in a doctor’s office this summer, feeling totally swamped and overwhelmed by a variety of circumstances in my life, I was both surprised and felt my load suddenly lightened by one simple suggestion: “do you keep a gratitude journal?” That small offering has changed my outlook immensely. It hasn’t changed my challenges but it has given me the ability to carry them better. I was grateful for that reminder again here.

“Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, grief, or pain? No. But it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purposes and joy of life.” (Russell M. Nelson)

So I’ve been consciously thinking about things I am grateful for, what I’ve learned from this 2020 experience. Perspective has changed me for sure. I’m definitely a different person.


First, I hope that I never take “normal” for granted again! I miss my extended family, I miss hanging out with my parents/siblings/in-laws and getting to spend time with them. I’m glad we could spend time safely visiting outside during warm months and I’m grateful for Zoom/FaceTime/MarcoPolo that has helped us stay connected. Same goes with friends. I’m hopeful for a silver lining with a vaccine on the horizon so that we can resume that human interaction time again soon!

I’m Grateful for Sewing!

I’m grateful for a hobby that I love. Quilting has got me through the ups and downs of life for years. From life at home with toddlers and craving something that just “stayed done”, processing grief, getting the warm fuzzies and satisfaction from sewing for a good cause, and just a healthy, creative endeavor and outlet for my mental health.

I shared this quote back in March. Little did I know how true it would be! It has been a true stabilizer in times of distress. (You find a free printable version of this quote here.)

Last week I was listening to Brene Brown talk about the restorative power of ‘play’ – time spent without purpose, doing things where you lose track of time, and things that make you feel liberated and uninhibited. Especially in this era where we’re out of adrenaline and our surge capacity is depleted, play can be incredibly grounding, restorative and a source of energy.

Hearing that was really good for me. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty taking time to just do something for myself – I felt selfish, especially when there are so many struggling people or needs right now. But hearing a researcher confirm that the best way we can be useful to our families and communities and protect our own mental well-being is to make time in our lives for guilt-free “play”.

I’m especially grateful for a hobby that works well when you’re stuck at home for months/weeks on end! (Ironically, that should sounds like a quilter’s dream!) My heart goes out to those whose hobbies are more socially inclined. I’m sure it’s been rough.

As lucky as I am to find fulfillment in sewing, as my ‘surge capacity‘ felt depleted, there were definitely times I felt in a funk too. My creativity and desire to sew has definitely ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I haven’t had the creative energy to sew – and I’ve learned that’s okay too. I’m glad it’s come back for now. And I think I’ll be okay if/when it ever ebbs again.

For years, I’ve loved these lyrics by Dolly Parton from her song, Smokey Mountain Memories:

You know I’ve been thinkin’ a whole lot lately
About what’s been and what awaits me
It takes all I’ve got to give what life demands
You go insane if you give in to it
Life’s a mill and I’ve been through it
I’m just thankful I’m creative with my hands

Working with our hands is such a gift – whatever the work is!

Amy Smart - hands sewing

I’m grateful for hands that can work!

After my finger injury a year ago, I learned how much I really appreciate my left hand! It was hard to do simple things like take a shower or wash the dishes or simply get dressed! It was a good reminder not to take these hands of mine for granted. 

AND I’m grateful for the miracle of the human body’s capability to heal itself. After cutting off a good chunk of the end of my finger (nail included), I wondered whether my hand would ever look/feel normal again. But my finger and nail regrew! It’s a little flat on one side and the finger tip is still a mixture of tingly/numb, but it’s fully functional and looks normal for all intents and purposes. It’s amazing.

I can feel my hands getting older and a little more decrepit. Watching both my grandmother and my mother’s hands age and become affected by arthritis over the years, I’m trying to enjoy and be more grateful for what these hands are capable of right now.

We’ve had some similar experiences as our son has been diagnosed with Dysautonomia this year. Don’t take good health for granted. 💗

Finally, I just want to say that I’m thankful for all of YOU.

14ish years ago I was a stay-at-home mom with 4 little kids and not a lot of real life friends. There weren’t a lot of women my age in my neighborhood and I felt pretty isolated. I used to literally pray to find friends. Quilting was my sanity saver back then too, but I didn’t really have any friends who were quilters. And I never talked about my hobby with anyone because I thought most people would think it was lame.

Around that time I was SO lucky to get a job at a local quilt shop where I worked on Saturday afternoon for years and met SO many fun, wonderful people who shared this fun hobby/therapy. Then in 2008 I discovered the online quilting world where people were sharing their stories/quilts on places like blogs and Flickr. I felt like I discovered a bunch of new best friends. As I started to share some of my own stories/quilts I loved connecting with other kindred spirits and inspiring makers around the world. It’s seriously amazing and miraculous to me how those connections have become such a big part of my life. 15 years ago I never could have imagined it.

Thank you for all of the kind words, encouragement, and support you show me. I am SO thankful for all of you fellow-quilt-nerd-friends! 

And thank you for your patience with me when I put in the wrong links, make a mistake in my tutorials, don’t respond to emails as quickly or efficiently as I’d like, etc. This year I’ve felt extra scatter-brained and unhelpful. (I chalk that up to that surge-capacity thing again as well as becoming a home-school mom, and NEVER BEING ALONE in my house for the past 11 months. My brain misses quiet time! It’s learning to adapt, but still I miss the ability to think straight some days. Not that I was always great at it before.)

Last of all, I’m grateful for hope and perspective. This year has taught be a lot about both and finding those from within. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m grateful for all of the people on this journey with me.

Sending love and best wishes in your own journeys this year. I’m pulling for you. xo 💗

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  • Reply
    November 25, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    This post gave me a lift today. Thanks! I love the quotes from Grace Coolidge and Dolly Parton. I’m thankful for many things this year – a safe home, family and neighbors who keep in touch by phone and email, my kitty, fabric and yarn, and the internet. My late husband had Parkinson’s Disease, so I have seen what dysautonomia can do. Sending good wishes to your son.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:49 am

      I’m so glad it gave you a lift, Dot. Thank you so much for your kind words and wishes. xo

  • Reply
    Christine Sherman
    November 25, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for an inspiring post of hope and gratitude. All the best to you and your family!

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:49 am

      Thank you, Christine!

  • Reply
    Diana Glasspool
    November 25, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    I so relate to this article, loved President Nelsons talk and inspiration. Thank you for staying positive, I do not comment often on blogs, but felt I should show my gratitude for your blog. Greatings from the UK.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Thank you so much, Diana. xo

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 3:51 am

    Thank you Amy. Your blog warms my heart. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Aww, thank you Jean. xo

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 5:23 am

    I’m grateful to you for your fabrics – have loved all of them!

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Thank you, Deb!

  • Reply
    JoAnne Hawks
    November 26, 2020 at 6:06 am

    Beautiful and thoughtful post. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Jan Parker
    November 26, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Happy thanksgiving Amy. I am so glad that your finger survived your traumatic accident. It must have bled like crazy!! I’ve had several hand surgeries so I know well that tingly/numb feeling.

    We are so lucky to have quilting in our lives. I have a few people who say (at times) that they are bored. That word is not in my vocabulary. I never want for something to do. Whether it is taking care of a house on my own, reading, quilting. There’s always something to do. What about those kits waiting for me upstairs? Yikes. Anyway, enjoy your day with your family. They will be gone soon enough.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Hah – I remember someone asking me when my youngest when to school full time if I was worried about being bored. I’m so grateful that is never a worry for me/us! xo

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Ditto, Amy

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    I am grateful for you, Amy. This is such a sweet post and really showcases the beauty of friendships with other quilters. I have the opposite problem – I live alone, but I do have a dog so I do have company during a social isolation year. I also have the internet and online friends.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:46 am

      This has been a year of extremes! So glad you have your pup. And so grateful for the ability to connect with people online! But we’ll all be so glad when we can be with friends and loved ones again.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    You give a lot to us, Amy. And, we’re all very grateful.

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:45 am

      Thank you, Adrienne. xo

  • Reply
    November 26, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Amen to all of this! After my left hand was severely crushed in a car accident, it was in a cast for almost six months. I couldn’t believe how much I missed washing dishes! LOL Now I never wring out a washcloth or close a Ziplock bag without giving thanks. And I am SO very thankful that I can do all my crafty things. I finished up a donation quilt just today; since we are socially distancing, and my husband is working, dinner is a turkey breast (for the leftovers!) and Stove Top. 🙂

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Six months! Yes, those things give us so much perspective!

    • Reply
      November 27, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Six months! Yes, those things give us so much perspective!

  • Reply
    Rosemary B
    November 28, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    I always enjoy reading your blog. We are a lot alike.
    “even when everything is crazy” we have so so so much to be really happy about.
    This has been a rough year, but not my roughest.
    Sewing has been my rescue ring, my life saver. So many others have literally been home imprisoned. I have had to manage my house (the big family house) with hubbs. – the girls are gone, married and close by with the babies. Lots of facetime
    I have been taking good care of my 97 y.o daddy, and that has not changed. Just more stress.
    I do love coming home and sewing.
    I am a little jealous of what others have accomplished, the house cleaning, massive declutters, the amazing organizing, etc etc.
    Thank you so much for sharing your positive outlook

  • Reply
    Helen L
    November 29, 2020 at 1:13 am

    what a thoughtful post: yes it has been such a different year! I’m sorry for all the hard things you have had to go through: it has been a challenging time for all of us, but I’ve felt that it has been extra hard on you mom’s with kids still in school. Hopefully God will reward you mom’s who have weathered the toughest part of the pandemic with extra blessings!! And, my daughter was diagnosed with an autonomic disorder too, a few years ago. If you ever need extra help with your son’s illness, let me know and I’ll give you the name of the Doctor who helped her. Bless you!! Hugs, H

  • Reply
    Lindsay Schilling
    December 2, 2020 at 7:06 am

    My motto this year: Quilt on, and sew on! I am grateful for so (sew) many things; I don’t even know where to begin. My home has always been my sanctuary, and I’m good at being alone. But, 2020 has been challenging! My husband has had 2 near death experiences in one year; I’ve been a nurse, a cook, the washer woman, housekeeper, gardener, driver, shopper, bill payer, etc. I am grateful he survived, and I’m grateful I didn’t break down from ALL of the responsibilities. I am disabled which has made everything that much harder. Yet, I am grateful. I’ve got quite a few quilt tops that need quilting; I’m grateful. I’ve been widowed before, but NOT this time. I’m grateful! I have a wonderful family & a best friend next door. I’m grateful! I’ve got a sweet little dog that is my shadow. I’m grateful. Our Lord has protected my husband, myself & all loved ones. I am so (sew) grateful. Love to all, Lindsay, Sacramento. P.S. prayers to your son.

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