As a kid, all through my school years, I was awful at math. I mean absolutely terrible. I just barely scraped by just above failing in those classes. Which is funny considering I turned out to be a quilter and a businesswoman - both of which use math pretty heavily.
I used to dread my math classes; I’d literally cry during exams. I failed out my college statistics class that I needed for my degree, and I can’t for the life of me remember how I got around that - I think I’ve blocked that out of my memory. I still have anxiety dreams about being in that class.
I was never good at numbers. I was bad at arithmetic, at measuring, at counting money.. And I was bad at saving money. It wasn’t until I was prepping to move across the country the first time that I learned how to save every penny. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to start saving for a down payment on a house that I really learned how to pay down my debts. Money and numbers became more of a game than my enemy.
Being a businesswoman now with two of my own incomes coming in, I have six bank accounts. I balance my funds between them depending on when taxes are due and what kind of money is coming in or going out. Its how I save for house projects, emergencies, business stuff, fun stuff, etc. I never in a million years thought I’d be able to manage money in so many different ways all at once; and there are some days that I’m borderline obsessed with it. I’m constantly making sure everything is in its right place and above a certain threshold. I don’t like to focus on it too much, but its really important to me that its all under control so there aren’t too many surprises. I lived for way too many years (probably two full decades) drowning in debt and never having what I needed or doing things the right way. I have significantly less math/money anxiety than I did even five years ago, and I fully wholeheartedly attribute this to running my business. Its given me skills and confidence in ways I didn’t even realize.
Quilt math and I still aren’t great friends.. but we’re getting better. I’ve always planned my quilts on a whim. Fractions? Naw. No thanks. I try to get by with as little as possible. Lol. I’ve learned to pick my battles.
When I was in college, I got a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. It took me six years to get a four year degree (don’t ask..), and back then any degree really looked good on paper. It seems like these days it doesn’t get you nearly as far in just getting a job. But I’m glad I had the college experience even though I really struggled through most of it. Sociology was not my first choice, but it was the smart choice. I enjoyed it. But I really wanted to study anthropology and forensics. I graduated college in 2004, and I still wish I’d gone to school for what I really loved. I think about it often. I often wonder how my life would be different, what other opportunities would have been open to me. But instead of regretting my path, I instead am really thankful for friends I met along the way - I still keep in touch with one of my Sociology professors. And I indulge in my guilty pleasure of rewatching all of the seasons of all of the CSI series on tv all the time lol. I still collect books on forensics when I come across them on our thrifting adventures. In all honesty, I wasn’t as good at science etc as I probably would have needed to be, but maybe in another life…
I recently decorated my sewing space in as many colors as I could. I really wanted to turn it into the kind of space I would have loved as a teenager. Bright. Bold. Creative. I’ve filled it with toys and trinkets and stuffed animals. Nurturing that little girl feels really important sometimes. Who says toys are just for kids? At what point and why do we lose that whimsy? I figured my sewing space was the best place in the house to really be myself. After all, its where I let my most vulnerable self out to play, to tell her stories. Shouldn’t it be a comfortable and fun space..
I’ve been working on a couple of new quilt projects that feel a little bit like starting over. I think it has something to do with all of the inner work I’ve been doing around my younger selves. But I’ve been really drawn to really bright and neon colors lately. This is a pretty stark contrast to the desert tones I worked with for so many years. Right now its all about the brighter the better. Maybe those are the healed parts of me that want to shine. Maybe its all of the happy colors I couldn’t relate to for so long.
I had vivid memories recently of being in my 20’s and walking around downtown Portland - I didn’t have a car and often took public transit or walked everywhere - alone. Rain or shine. I always had my headphones on listening to some sort of loud and angry music (okay, I still do this). But I had a lot of angst for someone who had it relatively easy growing up. I know that so often I felt like I didn’t really know what or who I wanted to be because it always felt like that person had been planned out for me already. It was uncomfortable to try to break out of any molds.
I dealt by dyeing my hair the weirdest colors possible (straight thru my 30’s), and dating horrible men. Seriously, so many horrible men. Men who had no idea how to take care of themselves let alone anyone else. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get to know myself the way I could have - because I was too busy fighting my way through every hit left and right (figuratively and literally). It was a pattern I put myself into over and over again. I didn’t feel strong because no one ever gave me the space to be so, and I didn’t know I could do it by myself. It got worse once I moved out West. Until I hit bottom, and then worked my way up and out.
I tried so often to create safe spaces for myself in the places I was living. Whether I was renting a room or an apartment or wherever I was - sometimes just sitting in my car was my only quiet spot. But it wasn’t until we bought our house that I felt like I could really exhale. Almost two years later we’ve moved a lot of stuff around and changed up the rooms and repainted etc and I feel like we’re finally getting it right. I think it will always be a work in progress.
Thats what I love the most about dyeing fabrics and turning them into quilts - it takes the unknown and uncontrollable, and turns it into something structured and useful. I think thats what I searched for for almost 20 years, and made however many hundreds of quilted things in the process.
Now that I feel structured, safe, loved, healthy, healing.. I wondered how my quilt work would change. I have ideas. I have plans. They include using more of my dyed fabrics with these new colors I’m more attracted to.. Its less about my surroundings and literal translations of places and moments, and more about the feeling in my gut. More about being able to give myself the space to play and open all the windows.
I never really meant to become a businesswoman. Honestly, there are some days that I wish I wasn’t. The amount of responsibility that comes with it is large and time consuming. Its all-consuming really. But its part of me whether I like it or not… I started selling quilts in the early 2000’s - I think the first one I sold (not given away to a friend or family) was part of an auction at a tattoo parlor. Its been over twenty years and I never looked back. There have been a lot of shifts and changes. There were times I couldn’t afford fabric supplies and leaned on my community for help. There have been times I survived solely on funds made from my business and other times when there was absolutely no income coming in. Its been a ride for sure.
Looking ahead, I’ve decided I don’t have enough time for all of the things. I’m back to full time at my dayjob (we have some large expenses coming up that we need to save the extra cash for), and I’ve had to make the decision to scale back on dyeing wearables. Its okay. After about six months of hemming and hawing over the decision I finally woke up and just put my foot down. I’ll be focusing on dyeing and selling my fabrics, and making and selling my quilt goodies. These things are where my heart is and has always been.
Running my own business has made me a better planner, and a better problem solver. I do have days when I want to hide in bed and ignore anything happening around me, but for the most part I’ve really learned to see things in a rational and explainable way. I’ve figured out how to make things work. If you knew me six or eight years ago, ten+ years ago, this was definitely not the case. Any little thing sent me spiraling. I have to give grace to that version of me… She just didn’t have the tools she needed back then.
We recently moved our bedroom over into the big old studio room, and did a little redecorating.. Pink of course, because my younger self would have LOVED that. I’ve been gathering vinyl and CD copies of some of my old favorite albums from the 90’s and early 00’s. I keep a stash of books to be read for the rare occassions that I have time. A lot of the quilts and Jonathan’s crocheted blankets live in there. Its basically turned into a little sanctuary and it has such a comfortable vibe. We have a disco ball hanging in the window and on weekend mornings I like to lay in bed and watch the light dance off of it.. and those are the mornings I lay there quietly in gratitude. For the house.. For my partner.. For my family.. Our gardens.. My business.. Magic.
You know that saying “you once wished for what you have now”… Its completely applicable and I have a lot of trouble articulating it.
I spent a lot of my time in my 20s and 30s drinking. I lived and worked next door to a bar for many years. I’d go out with friends constantly to go see live bands and cause trouble and unfortunately I drank to cope quite a bit.. I dated guys who drank a lot. It was always a problem, and I hid it for a long time. When I moved out West, I drank alone a lot. I drank for sorrow and for courage and for boredom.
I haven’t drank in about five years now, and I don’t miss it. I don’t miss who it turned me into, who I thought it made me, who I surrounded myself with in the process, what it twisted and what it covered up. It was an excuse in the last few years that I did it, and it never went well. It made literally everything worse, but I couldn’t see that until it was too late. I give that version of myself grace - sometimes she felt like there were no other options but to numb and hide.
These days instead of drinking and numbing and hiding.. I work. I create. I make myself spend an entire afternoon relaxing in bed watching tv with my love and my cat. I read a book. I cook a meal. I weed the garden. I search out things that make me happy instead. There are more of those things than I thought.. As soon as I cut out toxic relationships and friendships and focused more on myself and my happiness and found a partner that loves me, I realized how much in my life sparkled.
I was never diagnosed or medicated as a depressed person, but I’ve been a depressed person since my early 20s. Drinking didn’t help. Toxic relationships didn’t help. Self-sabotage didn’t help. Constantly moving around didn’t help.
These days I am a creature of habit. I am also a creature of to-do lists. I like the structure and the structure keeps me from slipping into any old bad habits. I walk the fine line often though between structure and rigidity. I’m learning how to ease up on my need for everything in its exact right place - my partner can attest to my need for utmost organization and cleanliness all of the time. I catch myself going into an episode and often step back and recognize it. My anxiety manifests in strange ways sometimes.. but I know my triggers and my habits now. These days we can move all the furniture around in a room out of pure fun, vs the days I did it in a completely manic episode.
I also find myself creating and quilting out a place of joy instead of therapy. All things connected… Every quilt I made between 2014 and 2020 held a story of hardship. They were difficult heavy things. And maybe so to only myself, but I knew what I was putting into them, sending it all out to the world secretly and quietly to be accepted however possible.
I’ve been working, very slowly, on a quilt for our bed. All of the bright colors and fabrics and prints that I love. A lot of them are prints etc that I wouldn’t necessarily use in my sellable work - which I think helps keep it personal just for us. A whimsical quilt to sleep under every night. I’m so lucky to have a partner that thinks this is cool and pretty much lets me do whatever I want. I could paint a room hot pink and he’d be like “awesome!”. What did I ever do in life to deserve him?! I know a lot of times I forget to show him my appreciation for his just accepting who I am and who I have become and changed into even since we have been together.. But I hope (and know) that he can see when I’m trying my hardest, and when its really hard for me. I still have my moments and things to work on. A work in progress of my own, just like every house or fabric project on my to-do lists.
Sometimes it feels like the strangest part is that there are so many people in my life lately - either in my online community or in real life - who don’t know where I’ve been. What I’ve been through. What kinds of abuse or grief or troubles I saw… And not knowing those parts of my story, I feel like they don’t know the real me. But I’m learning and seeing so clearly right now that who I really am does not necessarily include those past events. That version of me that put herself through the ringer and went to hell and back is not the version of myself that is writing this blog post. She isn’t the version that woke up this morning and dyed a batch of fabric in the basement of her own house. She isn’t the version that can see the future or kisses her cat on the head every time he walks by her.
I left a lot of myself in the desert. I left a lot of moments and memories there. And I’ve made so many more here. Not to replace them, or carry in their place. Who I was, the things I carried - all of those things have their place. But they don’t live on the tip of my tongue any more. The hurt and healing that I struggled with for many years lived in my quilting and writing and these days I have other stories to decode and tell. They’re stories about resilience and change and starting over as many times as it takes.
I guess all of this is to say: I feel good. Better than I have ever, I think. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with that feeling.. But I’m learning how to enjoy it and live in it. I love hanging out with my boyfriend while he watches videos about plants on youtube. I love listening to CDs I loved years ago as loudly as possible. I love choosing fabrics to pair together for quilts it will take me years to make. I love that everything feels hopeful, and when it doesn’t I make a plan to get it there.
There are a lot of things I wish I’d done differently in my life thus far… But I’ve finally gotten to a point where I can look at those things with love. I haven’t forgiven or forgotten all of the things and people who thought they deserved it - I’m still a firm believer in: if you wanted to be written about better, you should have acted better. But I don’t hold hate or anger or fear in my body anymore. At 43 years old I finally know what it feels like to not be full of those things, and I don’t know exactly how I got here, but I sure am glad to be and I never want to leave this place… XO