My family knows me so well. For my birthday this year I received three books. Actually, for as long as I can remember, there has not been a gift-giving occasion (birthdays or Christmas) where I have not received at least one book. It's become a tradition, and I now insist on the giver inscribing my book with "To Laura from ____" and the date.
(This is also a good way of making sure that I don't get rid of the book in the midst of "weeding" my shelves to create more space. Not that this event is all that likely, anyway. After all, book storage is more necessary than having a bed, isn't it?)
One of those three was an autobiography I'd been eyeing for awhile now: Seams Unlikely: The Inspiring True Life Story of Nancy Zieman, written by Zieman with Marjorie L. Russell. I'm not a major biography reader, but I've seen the show Sewing with Nancy on our public television station for all my life...even before I wanted to watch it. When I was a child I thought it was boring, and it annoyed me that I had to share the TV with my mom on Saturdays, cutting into my valuable Looney Tune marathon. Now that I've adopted quilting as my hobby, Sewing with Nancy has become my "Saturday Morning Cartoons."
As writing goes, Seams Unlikely is not the most polished bit of work. With characteristic humility, Zieman herself admits she's a teacher, sewist, home economist...but not a writer. Most of her publications are in the How-To genre, which requires little narrative Style. But, while my literary taste often wished the prose had been a bit more polished in this autobiography, it does for the most part carry Zieman's "voice," and though I think it could have been structured a bit more chronologically, the stories she tells are interesting.
Most people who have seen the show think that Nancy had a stroke. This is because one side of her face was paralyzed by Bell's palsy when she was eighteen months old. What I didn't realize until reading this book was that she has dealt with many more health issues, specifically with her knees, causing her to undergo several surgeries, losing her ability to kneel down, having blood clots and all sorts of nasty, even life-threatening complications. With all this hardship, it would have been impressive enough for her to get through it and live a normal life as a working woman, wife and mother. What is all the more astounding is that she overcame these obstacles, including her shyness, to become a teacher of sewing, then start her own television show and business around it.
Being a cynic, I usually steer clear of anything with "inspiring" in the title. But I have to admit that this time around I did find Nancy's life inspiring. On a personal level, I have always struggled to make headway in life--normal milestones like earning my driver's license came late for me, every time I registered for classes at college there were complications (particularly with tuition), and in applying for jobs after graduation there were frustrating road blocks. Add to that my own oppressive introversion and shyness, and it's the sort of thing that, if I were the superstitious sort, would make me believe I was jinxed with bad luck.
So, as I read about Nancy as she time and again applies for college, only to be delayed with yet another surgery (at one point with both legs in full casts), it really resonated with the "late bloomer" in me. Here is someone that could have been completely crushed by her setbacks and "road blocks" but she didn't give up. That's not to say that the problems just magically disappeared over time, or that new problems haven't come along since. That's life. However, it's a life that is not without its triumphs or hope for the future.