Bragging Rights - Rebecca


We love bragging about you. That's why we've started an interview series where we feature some of our biggest fans. We want everyone to get a peek at the amazing work they're doing and be inspired, because they're seriously some of the coolest people we've ever met.

Today we're bragging about Rebecca (@rebcartwright).

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live with my family in the NW Chicago suburbs. My husband and I have been together for more than half my life. This is both strange to think about and wonderful. We have two boys who are 15 and 12 years old; I love this stage as they are growing into the adults they will become in the not-too-distant future.

While I’m originally from the Midwest, my husband and I lived in DC and Maryland for many years (with a 4 year detour to San Diego where the weather was too perfect for my taste).  We moved to the Midwest 7 years ago to be closer to my mom. I have a rare, progressive muscle disease called dermatomyositis and it made sense to be closer to family as my challenges increase. When I was diagnosed almost 10 years ago I ran 5Ks; now I walk with 1 or 2 crutches. Coping with my disease is a major part of my life and it requires lots of problem solving and mental stamina.

I can’t work anymore, so I’ve channeled my energies into the creative arts. I do a lot of hand work (appliqué, English paper piecing, and embroidery) while I rest at home and use my sewing machine on good days.  I’m pretty new to the embroidery party, though I have come to love it – the project doesn’t grow larger than the piece of fabric I start with and it never tires my large muscles like quilting can.  Hand work has the double benefit of being calming and lets me feel productive when I have to spend a whole day resting on the couch. It’s a good accompaniment to watching hours of British detective shows.

Other than quilting and embroidery, I have spent a lot of time supporting my kids as they play competitive Pokémon (yes, that’s really a thing).  I also became a Pokémon tournament organizer and judge. Unfortunately I had to give that up last year because of my disease’s progression. Quilting and embroidery have been wonderful replacements that fill my time and bring me joy as I challenge myself, learn, and meet other makers. 

What is your hidden talent?

This was the hardest question! I don’t mind tooting my own horn, so what would qualify as hidden? I decided my hidden talent is something that’s a subtle thread running through a lot of what I’ve done over the years. I am good at creating a vibe. Whether it was conducting a conflict resolution simulation when I was a political science professor, hosting a science-themed birthday party, running a Pokémon league with 50+ kids every week, or organizing tournaments, I’ve been able to use words, interactions, processes, routines, and even colors to create a culture of all the things I value most and invite people to join me in a mini-world that is positive, supportive, respectful, fun, and encourages everyone to be their best self. It might be a tiny corner of the universe, but it is a good one and it’s mine (plus, we probably have homemade baked goods). 

What is the coolest (or weirdest) thing you've ever done?

Weirdest thing was accidentally rubbing up against Al Gore when trying to squeeze through a doorway at the White House when I was in college.  The coolest thing I’ve ever done is become a Pokémon professor. Pokémon came out when I was in graduate school, so my first exposure to the phenomenon came from my older son.  We started out pretty casual, but quickly dove in. I decided to become a Pokémon professor so I could run official events.  Becoming a professor required passing a test about tournament operations, complicated card rulings, and how professors must conduct themselves. I studied like crazy and even though I was a beginner player and we hadn’t even been to a tournament yet, I passed on my first try. Heck – I don’t even like to play games! But I love my kids and they love games, so I did it. From those small beginnings I went on to run tournaments, grow a successful Pokémon league, learn the ins and outs of both the trading card and video games, judge at Regional Championships, mentor new professors, earn the respect of competitive players, support my kids as they competed at the World Championships, and make extraordinary friendships. I never expected that I would do any of that in my 40s, and I will be forever grateful for these experiences.

The song that's currently in your head?

“Sticker, Star and Tape” by Sam Isaac. (I am exceedingly proud that I didn’t add to his song title the Oxford comma that I believe it desperately needs.)

The book you share with all your friends?

The Henrietta and Inspector Howard series by Michelle Cox! The books are an excellent blend of historical mystery (set in 1930s Chicago) and romance. Even better, I’m friends with the author; it’s been a delight to read drafts and give my input. I love peeking behind the scenes on pretty much everything, so it’s been delightful to listen to her talk about her experiences with the book publishing industry and the writing process.

What superlative would you give yourself? (ex. Most Likely to Become a Cat Lady)

Most likely to:

  • Gasp out loud in surprise…or delight…or for any emotion, really. And then gasp in reaction to the initial gasp.
  • Think that creating a good mantra is the first step to solving any problem.
  • Turn any casual interest into a Career / Life’s Calling / Obsession.
  • Spend more time researching possible solutions to a problem than most people would take to actually solve the problem.
  • Respond to a short question with a long answer.

What embroidery project are you most proud of?

I started to teach myself embroidery in early 2018, so my list of embroidery projects is fairly short.  The impetus for me to learn was joining a quilt along that incorporated embroidery into some of the quilt blocks.  I am most proud of my first embroidered block in that project for a few reasons. First, I’ve always struggled with perfectionism and so learning new skills is challenging for me. Second, I chose to embroider the word “badass” to remind myself that living a good life with dermatomyositis makes me pretty tough even though my years as a mom and a Pokémon volunteer had pretty much eradicated swear words from my vocabulary. Not a big deal for most people, but a revolutionary act for me. And third, I shared it on Instagram even though I knew it wasn’t perfect (gasp!). I’ve been delighted to encounter so much kindness on Instagram in the quilting and embroidery communities.

Inspired by Rebecca's interview? You can follow her on Instagram @rebcartwright.

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