Friends of Annie: A Story of Survival

Remnants started as a vision that I had when I was an awkward teenager that desperately needed something that made me feel like I belonged.

I was an outcast in grade school. I was the same height and weight I am now, 5 foot 4 and 125 pounds, in 4th grade. I had oversized glasses that would have probably been considered ironically cool nowadays, but back then it looked like the 80s never ended and that wasn't very cool in 1996. Since I was extremely large for my age, I couldn't wear cute frilly clothes; often I resorted to oversized hoodies and my dad's flannel shirts. 

L-R, a considerably smaller playmate and myself in 2nd grade, and my 4th grade photo. 

I turned to books for an escape and became an avid reader. I read anything I could get my hands on. I had the reading level of a college student at 10 years old, so the Babysitter Club books I was reading were soon replaced by Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein. Poetry gave me power. I was reading about subject matter that at 10 years old really should have meant nothing to me- how was I supposed to understand the struggle that Maya Angelou endured? But yet I could relate to these stories of survival and overcoming. 

Nothing really changed as I grew older; I was still awkward and weird and I still loved to read. I tried to dumb myself down so that other kids would relate to me. Maybe they'd stop copying my homework and just want to hang out with me. I remember being sick from school and a neighborhood girl got my homework for me, and I remember thinking maybe this means she likes me and we are friends. But in reality I'm sure our teacher or maybe my mom asked her to and she did it out of obligation. 

I grew up with a false sense of insecurity. I thought because I was overweight, ridden with acne, and too smart to really relate to other kids, that I was a reject; a loser. I thought to myself in sixth grade when all the other kids were developing crushes I'll never have a boyfriend because I'm too ugly to love.  I got a plastic best friends necklace and remember having nobody else to give the other half to. I gave the other half to my mom. 

Fast forward to 2008. I was 22 and, to quote one of my favorite rappers, "a textbook case of a kid going nowhere fast." I had just gotten fired from my sales job at a high-end jewelry store in the greater Sacramento area. I defeatedly moved back home and regained my job with Pat at the quilt store. In hindsight I feel terrible, because some days I could barely get out of bed and I'm sure my job performance was less than stellar. I was suffering from clinical depression. In August of the same year my best friend Mark was murdered. I spent the better half of 2008 on the couch by myself in my parents ranch house, popping pills, drinking, and pretty much waiting to die. I saw nothing redeeming about myself. 

I hid this addiction and the depression as best as I could, but people aren't stupid and I'm sure that everyone knew but wasn't saying anything. I had made the decision to move to Austin anyway, so I was waiting to move and start my life over, but I lacked any tools to make it happen. I knew I had to stop the behaviors that I was continuing to act upon, but I felt powerless. I remember a particularly rough day from my past that made me decide that I was finally going to stop living like a victim. 
I knew that my life had been spared, for whatever reason, and I'm not really sure if I was as grateful then as I am today.  I started quilting again after that day, and other art forms. I held art parties at my house because I didn't want to be alone anymore. I made the most beautiful quilts I have ever made during that harsh winter. Quilting became my therapy- my Singer 301 was the best therapist and listener ever. I overcame the demons that had been living rent-free in my brain and I kicked them all out. 

My story isn't unlike many other's stories. In fact, that's all it really is today- a story. An Aesop fable about how you really can't overcome anything until you accept yourself and your fate. I moved to Austin determined to prove every (excuse my language) mother****er wrong who had ever doubted me, who had spat upon me as a child, belittled me, or made me feel less than what I am, which is God's child. This is a TERRIBLE way to live and I had a ridiculous chip on my shoulder. The only person that I really had to prove these things to was me! I needed to stop making excuses about how I was treated as a child and let things go. And I did. I started doing things I really enjoyed, like modeling. I became a professional model in 2008 and quit in 2012 to pursue Remnants. 

Photo credit: Michelle Lanh Photography

Fast forward again to last year. 

When I started Remnants, I met a woman named Linda Thune. She was a new quilter at the time, and started frequenting my store more and more. She joined the Austin Modern Quilt Guild which met at the time in the living room at Remnants. She is a voracious quilter and attacks any project that comes her way with fierce tenacity. 

Linda and I took to each other pretty immediately. She is loving, friendly, animated and compassionate. She has become a brighter and brighter light in my life.  She told me about her precious daughters- five of them! Marette, Asha, Annie, Tiera, and the littlest, Halla. She told me many stories in particular about her daughter Annie. 

Annie was the unfortunate victim of a virus as a toddler that cost her her ability to hear. She sought solace in animals because she could communicate with them better. Linda and her family tried everything to socially integrate Annie- cochlear implants, learning AMESLAN (American Sign Language) and countless programs. She even worked at the vet's office. Her vet joked that he gave Annie the job because people were always complaining about the sounds of the dogs barking-certainly Annie would be fine with that. 

Andreanna Irene Thune

Annie, like me, suffered from depression that overpowered her life. It seemed like the more rejected she felt, the more isolated she became. Tragically, on April 5, 2010, Annie could not overcome these demons and she took her own life. 

When I met Linda, it was 2 years after Annie had died. She told me some time after she started shopping with me about Annie and the tremendous pain and loss she was feeling. Linda chose quilting as a therapeutic alternative as well. She told me of countless nites she had spent crying over her sewing machine, each stitch a release of passion and pain. 

Even though I never had an opportunity to meet Annie, I deeply feel that we are connected. She inspires me daily to keep going, to never give up, and to have hope for the future. I talk to her daily, and often thank her for letting me share her wonderful mom. 

I started a charitable group as an extension of my store called Friends of Annie. The entire 2012 was spent soliciting donation fabric, notions, machines and other items so that we could make quilts and donate them. My goal is to turn Friends of Annie into a tax-deductible charity that holds programs for young girls dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. 

I ask of you just one simple thing. If this story moved you in any way, help us make Friends of Annie bigger than it is- just a closet in my store full of fabric. We constantly need help gathering supplies as well as piecing quilt tops. We are about to embark on a huge goal- we'd like to donate at least 100 quilts to various organizations this year. Last year we donated 25 quilt kits to young girls in Mexico learning to sew with just one machine between the 25 of them. We donated quilts to 4 local charity raffles. We presently have 15 finished quilts waiting for homes and we are always looking to add to that pile!

We are able to take any scraps that are charm square size or bigger that are quilting cottons, scrap battings that are baby-quilt-size, any threads, pins, rotary blades, and any other notions that we can possibly use. 

And lastly, thank you so much for reading this and for allowing me to be open about these difficult life moments. I believe in complete transparency. My past is just a story to me now; it doesn't define the beauty that I am pouring into the world today. I hope that if you are struggling, you can clearly understand that you will persevere and you are not alone! The world needs your unique eyes and voice.

Annie, I know it's strange to love someone I've never met, but I deeply love you, and I know you are a part of me. 

Love to you all