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where have i been, part deux…

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

tulip garden at the Biltmore

Earlier this month I was blessed with a 7 day respite in No. Carolina. As we rounded the bend of what was 2021, and three years of not traveling, I recognized that I was fast approaching lala land if I did not get out of town, or at the very least get a caregivers respite. In December I asked our adult daughter if she were willing to come stay with her father, and “baby-sit” him (his words) while I took a week to clean out the cobwebs? She agreed, so I changed our joint reservation to single supplement and begin to plan how to best use my time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I was in Asheville for just about 40 hours which were crammed full of weather extremes, galleries, good food, tour of the Biltmore and art-filled economy stimulation. An old friend from college  drove 8 hours round trip, which continues to amaze, to meet me for lunch. Additionally,  she introduced me to Ann Harwell, an art quilter I knew only from social media, who had a solo exhibit at the Momentum Gallery. What a joy to meet her, and see her work in person. A very gifted artist!

ceiling art, ATL airport

My friend dropped me off, further in the mountains at Montreat where I attended a 5 day Road Scholar program on the Scots-Irish Migration to Appalachia. The curriculum was less enchanting than the music and the company. I met a variety of strong, wise, aging women, primarily from the eastern half of the country. Had I gone with my hubs, I doubt I would have been privy to such deep and meaningful conversation.

Many had been or were currently caregivers so lots of conversation took place regarding that. You know how you think you are taking exemplary care of yourself, until someone points out that you are not?! That kind of conversation. I slept well, ate too much, battled endless tree pollen, eventually adapted to the 2700′ altitude and walked 20 miles in just 7 days.

I came back refreshed with a new perspective, which took several days to appear. I decided it was time to hire a PT caregiver, for which there has been great resistance from hubs. I finally realized that he will never agree to this, and that the caregiver is for my respite, not his. I also have experienced a deeper level of grief, as his decade of Parkinson’s takes new ugly twists and devastating turns. I remain grateful for the time away, for new perspective, and for feeling all “the feels.” And I am pondering when I can go again?!

Since I got back, I have been mostly doing more downsizing. Initially I set aside one day a month to do this, but the past two weeks, I have done a couple months worth. For example, right now I am uploading a big stack of old fav CDs to my computer, then to Bluetooth which will transfer the tunes to my car. I have gone through, culled and scanned photos from over 7 albums, sorted through DVDs and CDs. I’m hoping this inspires other people here at the old homestead to consider going through their own stuff! There is small progress, in that he stated he needs new fluorescent tubes put up in his shop, so he can “clean it out.”

I remain hopeful.

 

Lake Susan, Montreat, NC

three down, three to go…

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

Dorothy, 94

For most of my adult life I have felt that older women hold the wisdom this world so sorely needs. As young as 30 I longed to visit “old folks homes” and ask them about their stories.  Life intervened, I never had time being a working Mom and wife, to pursue the idea. Fast forward 35 years and with my father and sister both living in assisted care, I realized that many elder women’s minds are gone; memories and wisdom stolen from them. And again I shelved the idea.

When Marion died and I had finished our shared Defining Moments series, the elder women’s wisdom idea resurfaced. First, I asked younger women what wisdom they would want to know from elder women? Their responses were predominantly about menopause. How long does it last? When will the hot flashes stop, etc. I found it humorous because once ‘the change’ is past, who gives it a thought anymore?!

I developed a series of questions and asked women over 80 if they would participate? Most I asked did so. A couple did not. One was an immigrant who still feared for her safety and privacy, years later. I honored and respected her wishes. Most of the “interviews” took place by email. They sent me pages and pages of luscious details about their lives and lots of photos to scan.

Frances, 98

The first piece was about Frances who I spoke to in person. I had never met her before, but she was a former neighbor and long-time friend of the sister of an acquaintance. (lost yet?!) She was 97 at the time. I just learned this week that she died earlier this month at 101, and in her own home; something we all hope to achieve. Frances was a Navy nurse who worked at the Marin shipyards during WWII. She met her husband who was a ship welder, when he came into the clinic with a slag wound. They courted, married and bought their home on a quiet street in Mill Valley, where she continued to live the rest of her life. She spoke with great emotion about her experience with gender pay inequality, as if it were yesterday…that a janitor on the base property made more than she did as an educated nurse.

It took me a good year to design the second piece, on Vivian, 95, the mother of a woman in art group. She too had an interesting life, one of privilege and education, a doctor’s wife (and daughter), mother and accomplished artist. It wasn’t that it took an actual year to design; but that I was driven and motivated to make other work about relevant issues of our time; aka artivism!

I soon figured out that it was the interview process that really stimulated my muse, not the actual quilt making. And it did not help my motivation going forward, when Vivian commented how much she disliked the work, after I sent her images of it completed. Although I had explained my design process when I requested to interview her, she was unhappy that her story was not completely legible.

As my favorite person in the world, my dear Aunt Dorothy was approaching her 94th birthday, I decided I needed to get the piece made about her life; and potentially by her birthday which was earlier this month. She was 92 when I interviewed her. I really don’t know what sparked the design of this work, other than my great love for the woman and human being that she is.

Making this third piece about her life in particular, was the perfect salve after Vivian. First she gave me a big stack of photos to scan, and then a juicy & lengthy interview. She was the 2nd of 5 children born to a teacher and farmer in Iowa. Her childhood was filled with song, chores, and church. They lost the farm in the dust bowl and migrated to California. The family was poor and yet the richness that surrounded them in song and scripture sustained her. She married at 18, saying it was the best decision any 18 yr old ever made and their union lasted 72 years. They adopted two babies, both of whom are now seniors themselves. Her education was determined and lengthy earning her post grad degrees in psychology and education. Her husband’s occupation of pastor and counselor took them to many states and then to Europe where they served in major cities and in Lebanon during the civil war. In each place they lived, she found her place to thrive & contribute as special needs teacher, friend and confidante. They returned to California and continued their life of service to others.

teen Dorothy at the beach. when I pointed out the young man watching her, she named him right away!

If I were to sum up my Aunt Dorothy in a sentence …She is the most kind, selfless, generous, optimistic person I have ever met in my entire life. She makes everyone feel special, whether they are or not! She always has time to listen and wisdom to impart. For as long as I can remember, at maybe 4-5 years old, I have been aware that she ‘saw’ me. I never felt seen as a child; and by that I mean seen for who I was, not for my “flaws”. And yet, even as a very young girl, I was aware that she saw me. This piece became my love letter to her, that yes, I see her, in return. And that is why it was such a joy to create.

Initially when I started this series, I thought it might become my life’s work, as there are so many living elder women, as potential subjects. Many people told me about women in their 80’s, 90’s, 100’s who I could talk to. Immobilized by grief, I never followed up. The loss of yet another good friend to cancer (Marion grew the list to four) somehow inspired this series initially, but then it lost its luster for me, after the ‘interview’ process.

I suspect my lifelong yearning to speak to older women was satiated by simply doing that. I have three more quilts to go. All three women were in their early 80’s when I interviewed them. Time will tell when they are completed.

Meanwhile I am ordering paint for another activism piece! I just can’t help myself.

so how is your sleep?

Friday, September 11th, 2020

new WIP

A couple weeks ago I wrote a comment on FB about having attended a Zoom class on End of Life Options. My comment ended with the paperwork alone would kill you! I came clean in my comments about my husband’s descent into Parkinson’s, a disease he has battled for 9 years now. Because this disease does not actually cause death, we are exploring his options for when he decides he has had enough. In opening up about this, I received incredible support from hundreds of people. I was a bit embarrassed because I feel it is his story to tell, until someone reminded me it is also my story, as his caregiver and spouse.

My ‘coming out’ with the story led me to seeking support for myself as his caregiver. I had been down this road before, as caregiver, and yet how quickly I had forgotten about self-care and self-compassion. In one of my encounters in ‘building my team’ I was asked about my sleep. How is your sleep? I say, it’s fine, as it generally is…that is until it isn’t. Some of my best work has been designed in the night. As example…

Way before the pandemic, maybe 9 months ago, maybe a year ago I had some cloth printed at Spoonflower with words related to taxation. I took it into the wet studio and printed the same words on the whole cloth. I heat set it, brought it into my upstairs studio, folded and placed on the bed of the overhead projector,  where it has resided since. After finishing my second BLM piece, I felt like I needed a break before embarking on no 3. The long ago but not forgotten aforementioned piece of cloth came to mind. I pinned it up on my design wall, and nothing happened! I masked off certain sections to give me some perspective, nothing happened. I envisioned trees, but still nothing happened.

Two nights ago I was awake for several hours in the night. I forgot what started the conversation, but somewhere in the depths of those thoughts came divine inspiration. Money growing on trees! This morning I went in and in 20 minutes designed this piece that has languished for well over a year. Tomorrow I will begin the stitching! When someone asks how long this one took me, I can definitely say, a year!

I am humbled, grateful and surprised, how with all the despair in the world right now, that I am able to make art. Just yesterday I felt overwhelmed by the 6 months we have lived in isolation, while others go to the beach, to Vegas, to dinner with friends and on and on and on….because they are weary of isolation. I’m weary too. I miss travel too. I miss seeing friends too. It’s not just about you!  Our beautiful West Coast is on fire again, we can’t breathe the air, we can’t meet inside, we can’t go outside, the horrendous vitriol being slung from both sides, and yet somewhere within there is this bright light that seems to need to be making art.

It is a wonder, to me, as well.

on a lasting marriage…

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

…just married (1971)

Forty nine years ago today I married a man I met on a blind date just the year before. My first thought this morning was I would do it again, in a heartbeat, because in those 49 years, I have learned so much. I learned so much about him, about myself, about tenacity, about strength, about courage, about wisdom, about endurance, about stubbornness, about love, about character and about commitment.

While I tend to think of myself as level-headed, easy-going, flexible; I truly am complex. I am an artist after all! I really don’t think being married to me has been a picnic. Yet the stoic Swede has been steady Eddy for all of these 49 years. And how blessed have I been to have his calming force in my life.

Everything about our lives together has been yin and yang. He grew up as an only child in San Francisco, the son of an immigrant carpenter, whose parents argued constantly and loudly. He left home as soon as he could, joined the Army, went to Germany during Vietnam era, came back and joined the Daly City Fire Department, where he worked for 33 years.

I was raised in an affluent suburb of San Francisco, the eldest of three daughters, of a corporate executive. My parents never argued in front of the children, but often slung sarcastic biting comments at each other. They were not pleased when I became engaged to this stranger from another world, this blue collar person. Sadly, for them, they never took the time to know him, to comprehend his character, his kind & generous heart; instead directing their attention to the husbands of my sisters, both Mr. Flash and Dash. Neither of those marriages lasted.

So coming from such diverse backgrounds, and having such opposite personalities, it has been an interesting ride. We both had to learn good communication styles; his calmer, mine more direct.  I’ve had a lifetime of grandiose ideas. He has always been the voice of reason, the ballast to my sails. Had I not met him I would probably be living in my car! We have accomplished more than anyone on my side thought possible. We bought a home, raised a child, were good worker bees, traveled the world, retired early & securely. Yea… a real disappointment!

stitched photo of walk down aisle

I, of the grandiose ideas have been plotting course for the potential of our 50th anniversary. Yet this year I have been dealt another dose of reality as my rock is crumbling. His body wracked with Parkinson’s is failing him. I don’t know if he will be able to travel a year from now. He often reminds me that we have seen more of the world than most people. We have seen 46 of the 50 states, and 14 countries for me, 12 for him. (I went solo to Japan and Hong Kong in 2002). Recently I’ve thought we might just do something low-key to commemorate 50, unlike the big parties my grandparents had to celebrate theirs, when we were just newlyweds. We are going to practice for 50 by celebrating our 49th with a takeout dinner, in lockdown due to the coronavirus!

The images are of Defining Moments 16: Marriage. I dismantled my wedding dress, which my mother had made. It was exquisitely and intricately sewn of heavy cotton pique, lined with heavy flannel. I could have gotten married in January in the Yukon in that dress, it was that sturdy! In honor of my maternal heritage we had a Russian theme, thus the headscarves.

Some thought it sacrilege that I would take apart my wedding dress! GASP!  I made a screen from the vows in our wedding book, screen-printed those to the cloth and then layered it with my headscarf, the hand-crocheted headscarf of my Russian great-grandmother, and a bridesmaid’s dress. Yes, they did wear red/white/blue paisley dresses with go-go boots. It was the 70’s after all.

Defining Moments 16: Marriage

Yes, marrying the stoic Swede was definitely one of my better defining moments.

 

 

 

 

on ‘adulting’….

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

three rows (doubled) new bed quilt

As I forge on constructing a replacement quilt for our queen bed, I have been thinking about ‘adulting.’ I often wonder about words or expressions that suddenly take on meaning to other generations. One of those is the word adulting, which I gather applies to any task one does that implies responsibility & discipline, which btw ‘spell check’ does not yet recognize, so how hip can it really be?!

I’ve lived entire life adulting! As a child I adulted my younger sisters to make sure they stayed out of trouble, danger, or fun. I adulted and got a meaningless job out of college because I knew not what I wanted, other than to not study! I adulted as a young married when I learned to budget and live within my means. I adulted as a mother and wife, as I worked two jobs, did endless chores and always placed creative opportunities for joy last on my to-do list.

With an early retirement, I tried adulting less. After all is that not what retirement is, a 2ndchildhood? A chance to play? When I first learned to dye and paint cloth, it was the first time ever I felt totally free of adulting. Hours would pass and all I felt was pure joy and play. Gratefully, that joy and zest has stayed with me for now 20 years of adulting-free creativity.

So along comes the bed quilt project. As our much-loved bed quilt has faded, ripped, and been repaired it became abundantly obvious to me, last year that I needed to replace it. I mulled over colorways and researched design. Initially I was jazzed by the modern quilts, i.e. minimalist. Just love them! Can I do it? How hard is it really for a gal who hates following directions? Doesn’t minimal mean easy?! I asked those who have designed them. I saved many images of quilts I absolutely loved.

Alas time had come to stop thinking and start doing. When I wasn’t looking, my adulting-self stepped in, put creativity in her corner and began to remake the same old design, but in a different color-way. It has been a battle of fits and starts since. Cranky much?

Last night it occurred to me that while I chose this new color palette I am not overjoyed with it! I love so much the garden colors of the old quilt I am replacing. This seems so loud (said me, never!)  In a moment of extreme madness or ingenuity, not sure which, it occurred to me that I could make the quilt reversible! I could make the back in blocks like the front, but in the green family instead of the purple family.

My mind began to tinker with design once more, as I was trying to drift off to sleep. Would I even consider making another 80 blocks for the back side, in garden greens? Will I ever finish this? 

This morning I had an epiphany! I could make the back as I had initially planned the front, to be minimalist. After all I have two remaining blocks from the original garden quilt. I could make just 7-8 more, sew them in a long stripe and then sew that to the backing fabric. Voila!

leftover garden green blocks

I may have at last hit upon the minimalist design I sought initially. It only took me 320 inner blocks, several bad movies, many sleepless nights, and lots of chocolate. If only my adulting had just stayed out of the equation in the first place, and let the muse play!

I am over adulting…the millennials can keep it.

 

 

coming ’round the corner…

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Defining Moments 23: The Aging Optimist

Today I photographed no. 23 in the Defining Moments series and put it up on my website. This piece, The Aging Optimist was another that sat in my head for weeks, figuring out how to design it. I had yet another roll of strips made of scraps from which I had started the series and I wanted to carry forth that same idea, although in the early work it referenced the Christian cross. On this piece I wanted it to represent the growing vine, the road traveled or any other metaphor for aging. I discovered though that the strip, already congested with many seams was not going to curve around and make a tight corner. So I cut it into sections, which almost resembles vertebrae and constructed my winding path from there.

strips that started the series

Now I am starting the text for no. 24. Again, all but done in my head, only to be done in real time and stitched. No. 25 is a true collaboration so no deadline stress! It will happen when it does. So there I am three plus years and 24 quilts later. A grand sense of accomplishment, indeed!

Throughout this project I have acquired both new skills and new equipment. The challenge remains to continue to create work that says something, tells a story, sparks conversation, gets people to think and put it out into the world. I do have my work cut out for me (haha)!

Meanwhile I have come up with a truly inspirational way to celebrate my 70th. Other than the spa day and dinner out, this is a way for me to spread the love and give back just a little bit. Stay tuned for the deets …

 

on deadlines…

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

scraps

Today while looking through birthday cards for all my favorite winter babies, I came across one with the grim reaper on it. Somehow it did not strike me as excessively funny. Yet as one who is rapidly approaching a new decade, a BIG birthday (as if they are not all big) I didn’t find it particularly amusing. The punchline however was something about life having a deadline.

Which got me to thinking about the word deadline having the word dead as part of it. We never say I have a lifeline on Thursday unless of course we are anticipating some sort of help, escape or spa appointment. No we say I have a deadline on Thursday.

For me, the past 3.5 years of my art-making has been driven by a deadline. This self-imposed deadline is to finish the Defining Moments series by my 70th birthday. The idea of this partnership was each of us was to design and sew 25 big quilts before my December 2017 birthday. I am now designing #23 and where my partner in this project is, remains a mystery!

At least semi-annually my husband has said that I had put a big whambo (he has his own dialect) on myself in setting this deadline. I just brushed it off, half thinking he was right while the other half was driven to make it.

Because I keep great documentation of my work, I am able to share this exciting bit of trivia with you. For this series, in 2014 I made 4 pieces, 2015 was 5 pieces, 2016 was 6 pieces and year to date I have made 7.5 ! So clearly I function best with a deadline, grim reaper or not!

I did get a hitch in my deadline driven rhythm this week though when my wondrous dream machine had major tension problems. Hubs and I spent the better part of two days recording non-existent numbers & running the gamut from no tension to high tension on both top and bobbin. All this achieved was sheer frustration, an enormous waste of thread and several lovely samplers such as this. Finally I threw up the white flag, contacted the dealer, got his input and voila today finished stitching the background of no.23. I am back in business!

Granted I am not going to make the deadline, but I am so close that I am very pleased! This leaves me wondering what my next deadline will be?

stress inducer 101

reflections on completion…

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

reflections on the Seine

As I round the corner on the final lap of Defining Moments, a three year series, I seem to be experiencing a wealth of emotion!  I am so pleased with myself that I’ve nearly met this self-imposed goal of 25 large pieces in 3 years time. Realistically I know I will not meet it precisely, and likely run into January, yet I am not worried. It is not a competition! I have four pieces left to do and two require enormous prep.

Right now I am stitching the background of no. 22. The design is drafted and one of these evenings I will throw it on the overhead projector and trace it, making the template. I figure the background stitching and the template making will likely happen in the same 24 hours.

No. 23 is in my head, partially designed, partially not. No. 24 is also in my head and yes it is getting crowded in there. No. 24, while rather simplistic in design will require hours and hours of PhotoShop work. I started last week to make a sample and oy! My head hurt after a few hours, so I have decided I need to eat this elephant in bites. Ideally if I can spend two hours a day in PhotoShop designing this piece, it should be ready to print and stitch by the end of October! Then I will have two more months to make the last two pieces.

And yet…also jammed in there with all the ideas, between the how to manifest these ideas and the sense of extreme accomplishment is the what now? or the actual what then? Try as I might to stay in this moment, I am beginning to obsess about the work I hope I will make once this series is done! These thoughts actually started about 6-7 months ago, and I brushed them aside. I will think about that when I get there. Well, now the light in the tunnel is getting closer and I am beginning to fret. What if I have a long dry spell? What if? What if?

So for now, I just plod along, a third in procrastination mode, another third in get her done mode and the final third in what if? mode. I never realized until recently how much a plan and a goal inspires my creativity.

Was there ever a better time to live in the moment?

 

peeling the onion, in reverse…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Defining Moments 12: Motherhood, background under the needle

I have often heard it said that getting to know someone is like peeling an onion. My new style of working is more like peeling the onion, in reverse. It is a layering process.

Ever since I succumbed to the siren call of the mid-arm my whole style of designing has changed. Now, because I can, I stitch each piece in layers. First I piece the background and then quilt that. No more skies that start and stop at the edge of a building. Now the sky goes all the way across as a sky does. No more fused parts loosening up and dog-earring while stitching an entire piece. Now the machine appliqué parts are fused and then stitched, in their own time. It is so much easier and truly remarkable how much more professional the work looks doing it this way.

stitching text

I am currently wrapping up Defining Moments 19: Motherhood which has been a bear to create. It was a bear because I could not figure out what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it.  I was reminded by my favorite aunt that motherhood for me was a challenge, and like all people, places or things that have challenged me in this life; they also have challenged me in the series. I was at a total loss for a design. I knew I needed to include Motherhood as a defining moment but oy, how? Finally I just sat down and started writing, free thinking if you will, just writing without editing. And what come out was remarkable.

free-writing, also screen the background

I wrote about how I never considered whether I wanted kids or not, because that is not what women in my generation did. We got married and had kids. It was the norm, it was expected. It’s what you did. Some might question how I could even admit that and yet I am here to tell you that my daughter, now grown, made her own decision not to have children, in her 20’s. When she told me, I thought what great courage and integrity it took to make that decision and do something about it. Perhaps her decision gave me permission to admit publicly I was uncertain if I should reproduce or not.

Another thing that came through the writing was my battle with postpartum depression. I struggled through it for many months and had never really spoken much of it, certainly not at that time. Those two issues alone make for a very strong piece about motherhood.

collage of daughter’s childhood images

Then I decided to then add something that personified the blessing that came to me through motherhood. So I made a collage on silk organza of some of the most wonderful photos of my daughter growing up. This adds the paradox of my motherhood experience; from all that worry and stress came this beautiful baby who grew into a woman of such integrity and conviction. She continues to be one of my greatest teachers, as I peel back the layers.

Happy Mothers Day!

NOLA

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

American southwest, likely Utah

shibori where snow meets desert

Last week we jetted down to New Orleans for a five-day Road Scholar program on the culture, music, food, mystique and more food. It was great fun and other than six freaky tornadoes hitting the state mid-week the weather was sublime.

I was my usual aerial photography fool coming and going with the best results on the trip South. The way the snow dusted the desert dazzled me with all these shibori like shapes.Then there was Lake Powell and the swamps surrounding NOLA.

lake powell, UT

aerial surface design, snow meets desert

swamp thang…see any gators?

Once we landed and acclimated we began a week long indulgence in music, sugar, butter, booze, cheese, fried and pure unadultered goodness! I had never really tasted Creole or Cajun food much, and thought it would be terribly hot and spicy, but truly Mexican is much hotter. I LOVED shrimp and grits, gumbo and shrimp etouffe. I skipped all booze and desserts until the last night, in an effort to outfox knee inflammation, which was successful. I also wore my new pure-torture right knee brace that allowed me to walk over two miles a day!

chocolate flourless cake at Muriel’s

On the last night I indulged in a cosmo and the chocolate flourless cake! It was SO worth it, although I had planned to have just one bite, which proved impossible!  Oh wait… I also had a killer sorbet in a fancy spun sugar bowl at Commander’s Palace. But that was it. I passed up booze, cheesecake, bread pudding, bananas foster, pralines and pecan pie for 5 days. So really I was quite disciplined! (insert pat on the back!)

sorbet in spun sugar bowl

shrimp & grits, Commandeers Palace

Other than the food and the music we also visited

cast iron gate

…the Museum of Southern Art, Louisiana State Museum and WWII Museum, which I boycotted. I have had it with war museums but really enjoyed the art of self-taught artists and the Katrina and Mardi Gras exhibits. We also had a thorough tour of the city, including the cemeteries, parks and sculpture garden. We even learned the interesting story of how the dead are buried, and moved in New Orleans.

tombs at St. Mary’s Cemetery

I loved these sculptures the most and mostly did not write down the artists’ names. We learned the difference between Creole and Cajun, cast iron and forged iron gates, and how resilient these people are who live not only with devastating hurricanes but a random tornado too. And we were blown away by the Southern hospitality. Never ever have we met such friendly & gracious people.

Overflow by Juame Plensa

Overflow, detail

sculpture by Korean artist in Sculpture Garden…incredible!

detail, korean sculpture

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a good and fun trip!