Meet Norma (the woman, not the baby).
Norma was just like any other little girl with hopes and dreams. Raised in Louisiana, she found her way through this world with a creative heart and resourceful spirit. But as much as she deserved to have joy, her youth was filled with nothing but pain. She was abused by her family in every way a person could be. She was demoralized, ridiculed, beaten and neglected.
When she was old enough, she escaped her tormentors by joining the army. This is where she met the man that she loved and found something that she never had before – freedom.
Well, she married that man, had five children and did the best she could to raise them. But because she never had a nurturing mother or family of her own she felt like she had to make up for lost time. She wanted to learn it all! She wanted to learn to sew, to cook, to cut her children’s hair. She wanted to learn to landscape the yard, and paint the house and speak a different language. She was notorious for her giant canvas bag she would bring with her to the library every week. And she would fill it all the way to the top every trip.
Unfortunately for Norma, this was before the internet revolution. Classes were expensive and books can be challenging to learn these kinds of skills from. She did her best to learn and usually ended up with what would be called a “Pinterest fail” in today’s terms. Without a mentor, mother figure or a community to guide her, she continued to try regardless of the pain she felt every time she failed.
Meet Jessica (the baby, not the woman).
Yep, that’s me. Fat, baby Jessica. Norma is my dear mother.
When I was younger I was too immature to understand how much she endured, and how much these experiences and opportunities to learn meant to her. I was the one crying that she trimmed our tree so much, I couldn’t climb it anymore. I was also the one crying that she cut my hair and complaining that she painted the house an atrocious shade of mustard yellow.
And while I was completely correct that my haircut make me look like the human embodiment of a Q-tip, I never realized until my adulthood how much that must have hurt her. Watching me sulk around in tears, knowing that her lack of skill was the thing that caused it. Knowing that no one liked the paint job that took her hours and hours to do. Seeing her kids sitting under the tree upset that they can’t reach the limbs because of her.
All of these learning moments were supposed to make her happy, but instead they just made her feel inadequate. Just like she had felt her whole life. I wish I could give you a happy ending, but I can’t. While she was far from their grasp, her abusers left her with something that would never leave, PTSD and mental disorders stemming from her traumatic childhood experiences. And in the end she took her own life because of it. I was eleven years old with four other siblings, all of us under the age of 13.
It is painful to talk about. Which is the reason it’s taken me so long to write this post. But she is the reason the DIBY Club exists. She is the reason I do what I do. How would her life have been different if she had someone to teach her? Someone a thousand miles away over the internet, that cared enough to walk her through something until she got it right. A community to answer all of her questions and make her feel like she could do anything with them in her corner.
I hate to think of it, because maybe she’d still be here. I guess I’ll never know.
But if there’s one woman out in the vast space of the internet that felt like my mother did, and walked away from this blog feeling like they could do something they didn’t think they could, then I have done my job. I will have paid my penance for griping and moaning when she was feeling so vulnerable.
So if you are a part of the DIBY Club, thank you. Thank you for giving me redemption. Thank you for empowering another woman, like Norma, by sharing your knowledge with her. Thank you for being willing to try something hard, to show yourself how much you can do. This isn’t a sewing blog, or a spa crafting blog, or a cooking blog or even a DIY blog. This is a community of empowerment and strength.
If this blog ends tomorrow, I will know I did what I was called to do. I was called to serve.
With love and gratitude,