My birthday is this week and it has got me thinking—really thinking.
On March 15, 2010, when I began this blog with a post about my sewing machine, it was a bold move to make a beginning. It was a tiny speck of dust, a squeak, a throat-clearing, spoken into the immensity of the internet. I didn’t know where it would take me, but it was a start. At its conception, it was just like what blogger, Herriott Grace calls, “a savings account for things I like.” Pretty simple—just my favorite stuff from the web and the things I was sewing. I was a beginner at both sewing and blogging, and I was healing some stuff so I was following my bliss.
In the spring of 2011, I began my tiny company, SUCH Designs, and this blog became a vehicle for marketing and branding—telling a different story. Then, last August I attended the women’s blogging convention, BlogHer, in San Diego, and learned about the ledes, nutgraphs, and kickers used in journalistic writing, about the importance of a point of view, about brevity (something I am not particularly good at). And so the blog changed again.
But all the while, my blog was still a place to put my favorite stuff. Therefor, there are omissions in the story I have told here. Favorite means favorite. Favorite includes the things that inspire and interest me, but excludes the hard parts of my life: the pain, sadness, fear, and anxieties of a human life, of my life. My blog was anathema to that stuff—not a fantasy or a lie or a glossed-over version of my life, just a space with boundaries—a place to share certain things, but not everything.
I did not include the story of my son’s rare illness, the egg-sized tumor in his hipbone, diagnosed four and a half years ago when he was not quite two years old, the port they put in his chest for injecting his vinblastine, the year of chemotherapy and how it perfectly healed his beautiful body, but unraveled me emotionally. And yet made me stronger. While at the same time, it sent my husband running behind a smokescreen so nothing could get in. I didn’t tell the story of how my husband’s father had a port in his chest at the same exact time as our son—and how he was receiving chemo also but for something else, and how he succumbed so quickly to his fierce disease. I didn’t then share that the next year, our blue Weimaraner died in my husband’s arms, after his body gave out, how our 16-year business collapsed with the economy, and how my husband fell into the bottle—many, many bottles of craft beer and Rhône-style wine and single-malt Scotch—to “drown the sparrow in his chest.” I didn’t tell you that when he did that, he nearly drowned the songbird that lives in mine.
I would have never believed in love and marriage again if we weren’t blessed with the resources to get help. So he went to rehab at the Meadows in 2009 when our baby girl was just three months old. And he healed his traumas, new and old, in a flurry of Kleenex and letting go.
…and he came back. And we worked with an army of therapists to clean up the mess of sadness that had laid waste to both of us from walking through the pain of our lives. We healed and are still healing the sadness of that time, just a few short years ago. He is vibrant now—a loving and present father and husband. He has been sober ever since.
And I have learned things and changed. I know new things—mainly that I am not in control and am much happier not trying to be. Writer, Sue Monk Kidd wrote that women who have faced obstacles become a sheltering umbrella for others. I know exactly what she means. When one has walked through fire, one is much more able to unflinchingly hear with one’s whole heart the stories of the lives of others. One is a better friend and listener because there is a foundation for knowing things—the things that can’t be taught, but which inevitably come to us during the course of our lives and change us forever. Those things age us in an instant in visible and invisible ways. Frankly, there are many worse things than what we went through, and I know that.
I returned this past weekend to the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California, to sell my sewing patterns. I recognized at least 50 women who visited my booth last year. It was so nice to see them again and hear about their lives. Three times, women walked into my booth whom I had seen last year, and for those three women and only those three, I asked, “how has your year been?” And they all said, unblinkingly, looking into my eyes, “Hard. Very hard.” And I understood just what they meant, with no further explanation. And I didn’t feel uncomfortable because of their pain, I just felt sadness from that understanding. Each time, I said, “I am so sorry. I understand.” And each time a beautiful flower of conversation blossomed from that connection. And each time my heart grew. Each time the love in me poured out and surrounded us, and I did whatever I could to be right there, full of love, and listening.
That is all we can do really. Listen and love. And be honest, genuine, and authentic about our lives.
So I didn’t write much about all of this, but this story is the backbone of my blog, my life, my business, and the radiant joy and gratitude that fills my blessed life with my beautiful family.
Something about turning forty makes me feel that it can’t be hidden from this blog anymore and that I can reveal these truths to the few readers here who don’t already know this story. I thank you for your time and for reading.
In many ways, turning forty feels just right.
(After you have read all this, click here to read a funny/sad story from that hard time.)
thankyou for sharing this beautiful post. may you have the best birthday ever ! 🙂
Really enjoy your writing. I also loved your booth at the Long Beach Quilt Show-a complete breath of fresh air. I’m sorry life is hard, but it will get better. Just know that one of the patterns you sold will bring someone (me!) a little quilting joy!
Thank you for sharing this post and telling us about the difficult times you have had of late, not an easy thing to do at all!
I am also 40 this year! 😀
Hope you have a great birthday, enjoy!
xx 😀 xx
I love you!! Happy birthday and many, many happy more to follow.
Carrie, you are resilient and wise. I adore this post and the spirit in which it was written…Happy Birthday dear lady.
You have always been strong and special in every way even as a little girl. I am so sorry you have had the sadness and heartache you just shared, but it has made you who you are and your family is stronger for it. You are a model for us all. Forty sounds like its a milestone, one of many. I look forward to future writings, as you have a real talent for it, one of many. BRAVO!
My love to you,
I am sorry for your struggles but can see that you and your family are stronger for them. May you be blessed with many good things on your birthday and always. I consider your blog to be one of my good things to enjoy in mine. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and 40 isn’t so bad, I hit that one last year 😉
Thank you, friends, for your kind words and for reading!
I turned 50 yesterday and it is good to be on the other side of fresh sadness. You are right that you do come out stronger and much more “real” in my sympathy for others who are struggling. That probably isn’t worded right but is the best I can do. I am a new follower but can see already that you have a lot of creative talent- in your writing and your art. I did go back to your linked painter post and laughed hard. Thank you and Happy Birthday.
Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing your story. It is good to look back and see how far you have come and what you have overcome. Grief is a struggle and it is hard. Everyone handles it different and so glad you had resources to help. Many Blessings for you and your family.
40 – unauthorized!
In the immortal words of Clem Snide:
Don’t let hurricanes hold you back,
raging rivers or shark attacks,
and give it all away.
and give it all away!
Here’s to the journey!!! happy to you friend.
Happy birthday for Saturday. Thanks for sharing your life story. I’m glad that your family has come through the worst, strong & together.
Wow, I am so inspired by you. I was so excited to have met you at the show in Long Beach. Thank you for sharing your story and talent with your readers.
Thank you, Carrie, for the kindness and encouragement you showed me when I said my year had been hard. Thank you for sharing your story here. So many times in the past year I’ve told myself just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one hour at a time, just get through that hour and I did. I’m so glad that you and your husband and your family kept walking too. God bless you.
Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your story so much. I share many of the same struggles. I met you at Long Beach and was so inspired by your art! I admire your courage and determination to move forward and find joy! I am very excited to follow you and to what beautiful things you will be sharing with us in the future. In both words & art!
Thank you so much! Congratulations to your husband and his sobriety (I know it’s tough, I really know). Congratulations to you both for working through and continuing to work through what so many just give up on.
I <3 you!
Many thanks for this gorgeous piece of writing…so profound and so real. I truly enjoyed our conversation during my recent visit, and hope there are more of those to come. I will be turning 41 in two days, and I suspect that a very new phase of my life is ahead of me as I get in touch with my deeply…very deeply…buried inner craftsperson, so I am sure will be looking to your site often. 🙂 Thanks again Carrie and take good care!
Thank you for keeping it real.
Kim in DC
Wow, Carrie. That was beautiful. I felt your vibe when I met you at quilt market in KC. You are a deep body of water. I was thinking of a quote as I was reading your story “Empty vessels make a lot of noise” You are brim full.