I've read and watched many stories about people in the middle of a crisis feeling an overwhelming sense of calm. I can honestly say that I know now what that feeling is.
I have always been an emotionally outside person. You know, the kind that wears there heart on their sleeve. There's no sense in keeping things inside. As years have progressed I've had to learn painful lessons because of that process. While I still leave my heart open and exposed, I know now how to deal with the consequences. I still believe it's the best policy.
That being said, while I love talking about the latest fabric lines and tutorials and Amy Butler and QuiltCon and yadda yadda, I've been very distracted lately from my work. At first I was ashamed to say that I was being pulled away from my focus. Now, I feel it is essential for you to know the why behind the how.
My family has been fragmented my entire adult life. There was a falling out at my oldest sister's wedding in 2005. Things were said, choices were made, and the end result of that falling out was estrangement from my two sisters. I've felt for a very long time that my family was split into two teams- my two sisters versus myself and my parents.
To say that this falling out "tore my family apart" would be a gross understatement. To avoid this pain and resentment, I threw myself into my work, whatever it was at the time- jewelry sales, quilting, retail, etc. I spent more and more time at my Bonus Mom's quilt shop, quilting away.
Quilting was my therapy. Not only did it propel my focus towards color, print, contrast, and coordinates, but it pulled me closer and closer to my Bonus Mom. I believe everything in life happens for a reason. There were things that my parents couldn't give me that she could- structure, discipline, theory. She is my head; my logic comes completely from the Fryers.
But my heart comes from my birth family, the Hortons. I have faithfully called my birth mom (we'll refer to her by her first name, Barbara, and my Bonus Mom by her first name, Pat) almost every single day for the past seven years.
Barbara had been very ill in the beginning of 2012- a persistent cough that wouldn't go away, that later turned into pneumonia. She was losing weight rapidly. I was worried about her, but with the startup of remnants, I was so distracted by my work. And resentful of my parents for not coming out to see the shop. Here I finally have made a "real" career out of quilting, and they're not here to share it. I was selfish and angry with them.
Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my father. Barbara....Mom...
...as I write the words, tears just fall down my face.
My mom has stage four lung cancer.
I do not wish this type of pain, panic, anxiety and angst to any person on this earth.
I am sharing this very privileged information with you, and my in-store guests, because I may not always be at my best depending on the results of her treatment.
Although stage four has a very foreboding connotation, my parents are relatively optimistic and Barbara has chosen to participate in chemotherapy. My parents believe with strength that she will be able to be in remission and live a longer, more prosperous life.
I have my good days and my bad days. I have thrown myself head-first into my work. Quilting again is just as therapeutic as it is my livelihood, and I am so grateful for the distraction.
The big c-word, cancer. That word seemed to flip a switch in my head. In two weeks I have felt myself grow a different person. Things that used to matter, just don't anymore. What matters the most to me at this point is to honor my family, blood-related or not, and to expose more and more people to what I love the most- beautiful patchwork and colorful quilts.
It's crazy how cancer can change you. My heart has softened towards my sisters. One has picked things up right where they left off. The other...well, it's a process, right?
A thought keeps popping into my head every morning.
What will my epitaph read?
Barbara's fight for life has re-established my own mortality. I have always felt purposeful and driven; but this is now overdrive.
We have a saying, the Hortons. "Give to the world the best you can, and the best will come back to you." It started when my sister Samantha was born. My goal in this lifetime is to welcome others into my quilting studio, let them browse my giant stash (all 1000+ bolts of it), help them to make beautiful things, and help them to help others.
I've started a little charitable club called Friends of Annie. It's in honor of my good friend Linda Thune, whose daughter Annie tragically took her life in 2010. Linda also uses quilting as her therapy to help her thru her healing process.
Friends of Annie started as a closet in my shop that I encouraged others to fill with unwanted fabric. Now the closet is almost bulging at the seams when we close the doors. So far since I have started collecting fabric in April, Friends of Annie has made four quilts and has six more quilt tops ready to quilt. My goal by end of 2013 is to have 400 quilts made and donated. FOA plans to donate quilts to various charitable organizations, including CASA, Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, Faith Home Teen Ranch in California and Austin Children's Shelter.
If you would like to participate in Friends of Annie in-store, Wednesdays from 2-6 we dedicate our day to charity and goodwill. Come by, bring your machine, come with a sharp rotary cutter and be ready to party with some good ol' early 90s sunflower fabric. And some Kaffe Fassett. Not kidding on either one of those- it's crazy what people give away (the good, the bad, the ugly!).
If you would like to send my mom a cheerful note or a supportive statement, our store address is 10435 Burnet Road, Suite 106, Austin, Texas 78758. I will forward her anything that is sent my way.
Thanks for listening, and being a shoulder to cry on. It's times like these we need to stick together.
Standing strong, and stitching on.