I knew we’d have to quit when it got dark. I joked that I was glad it was the fall, if it were summer I’d be picking up old roofing shingles and throwing them in the dumpster till 9 pm.
I was 22 and newly married. My husband and I were fixing up the big Victorian house we lived in. It was split into four apartments and we moved from one to another renovating them, as well as working on the outside of the house. It was how we spent all our free time.
I joked a lot back then. It was the only way I knew how to be heard without getting angry, without getting into an argument. Something I did anything to avoid.
I wondered what it would be like to go to a barbeque on the weekend as my friends did. What it would be like not to feel the pressure of having to scrape paint off the molding in the dining room before going to my full-time job from 3-11 pm.
Back then, I didn’t know I could have told my husband that I didn’t want to work on the house all the time. I didn’t know that I could decide how I would spend my time. And as the years went by, and I finally spoke up for myself, it no longer mattered. The die had been cast.
My husband and I knew the script too well and we didn’t deviate from it.
21 years later after getting separated from my husband, I was standing in my studio at Old Bedlam Farm and felt a flutter of my heart, a swelling of excitement in my chest. It was as if I’d been emptied out, like there was space between my bones and my skin, waiting to be filled with possibility.
And I had the realization that now I would be the one deciding how I would spend my days.
I got to choose how I would make the money I needed to survive, where I would live, and how I would spend my free time. I got to decide when to get up in the morning, when to eat lunch, and when to stop working.
I felt, for the first time in my life, the responsibility for making my own decisions. Something I’d been terrified to do up till that point. Actually, I was still terrified but also exhilarated. And I found that taking responsibility for myself made me less afraid than I’d ever been, to make decisions both big and small.
I was finally free. Free to make the decisions and choices that would determine my life. Free to make good choices and bad. Free to screw up and try again. Free to take full responsibility for how I chose to live my life.
And now I make those decisions everyday.
Dedicating myself to my art and starting my business was my first good decision, as scary as it was at the time. Marrying Jon, who knows me and supports me was my second.
When I’m in my studio making a quilt or potholders, I get to choose which piece of fabric goes where. I’m not following someone else’s rules or looking to anyone else for legitimacy. I get to decide if my art is good or not.
If work needs to be done around the farm, if it’s something I can do and get satisfaction and enjoyment out of, I’ll do it myself. Otherwise, we hire someone else to do it. And if I stay up till 9 pm blogging or working on a fabric painting, it’s because I want to do it.
So on this day, when it’s been leaked that the Supreme Court is most likely going to overturn Roe v. Wade, it felt appropriate that I would be finishing up what I have been calling my Calendar Cat quilt.
A quilt that speaks to the expectations and restrictions put on women throughout time. But also, of women fighting back. That part is evident in the image of the mason jar that I drew to go alongside the hand-embroidered cats doing their “women’s work”.
The mason jar is not only used for canning but is part of a device called the Del-Em, which women can make themselves and use to perform safe early-term abortions.
For me, the mason jar has become a symbol of a woman being able to make the decisions in her life that are best for her without the interference of any other person or institution.
This is why I’ve changed the name of my quilt from Calendar Cat to I Decide. Because that’s what it’s really about. Those big decisions and those everyday decisions and women breaking free of the constructs of society to be able to live their own lives.