email

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

art making in the time of Parkinson’s…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2022

seeing red, both in life and in headlines

I continue to be both amazed and amused that I am able to make art while living through one of the most difficult time periods of my adult life. As I bear witness to my husband’s steep decline into Parkinson’s; as he loses more and more of his independence and thus becomes more dependent on me; as my workload increases; as I assume responsibility for the myriad of tasks he has always done for me, our home, our family and community; as each day of my life is filled with more and more time consuming tasks; I make art. In fact this week I have two pieces running concurrently. Both are mostly red, which is a great metaphor for my current mood.

As a ‘recovering’ workaholic, I know I am up for the task. Actually I don’t think about it much, I just do. And do and do and do. My multitasking abilities are still on point, halfway into my seventh decade, which I find very reassuring, as dementia runs in my family. I mostly sleep well, without any medicinal help, but often wake up at 5 or 6 for the day, which is very strange for me; having never been much of a morning person. And yet I am very aware how important it is that I be present in my body, as it is when we are so distracted that accidents happen. And breathe…

Yesterday was a milestone day in that I took away his car fob. I have been concerned for a while that his neurologist said it was still ok for him to drive when he can barely stand up, hardly walk, and falls constantly. I kept saying we needed him to stop driving before an accident and not after. And yet he still drove; often too slowly and too close to parked cars, but he was ok he assured me. I was just overly cautious. It was ok, until it wasn’t.

His PT caregiver informed me he had run a red light, then stopped dead in the middle of the intersection and nearly hit two people. I immediately scheduled an assessment of his driving, and in the meantime took his car key. So far he has shown no interest in driving my new car, but just in case I hid that spare key as well. It wasn’t an hour later he noticed and complained that the caregiver and I were just paranoid. I know it was the right decision and particularly the right time, before an accident happened.

As I mostly maintain my composure at home, I am releasing tears all over town. In the car on the way to buy groceries, I cry; in a Zoom meeting I weep, in the shower I sob. People worry about me, do I have support, while simultaneously not offering any. Actually the best support I have is available 24/7 and that is the Parkinson’s Caregivers Support Group on Facebook. There I go to learn, show empathy, concern and compassion, vent and weep. What a God-send.

And still I make art…for which I am immensely grateful.

Be well,

musings about the muse…

Friday, May 20th, 2022

detail, of Science Meets Math

The other night when I was awake more than asleep I gave considerable thought to shutting down my blog. My reasons were three-fold: I can’t seem to post on a regular basis anymore, do I really want to share so much of myself online and is it even read it anymore? We all have so much to digest digitally…too much really.

And then today I read a blog post by an artist who diligently posts every Sunday and has hundreds, if not thousands of readers including me now. I re-thought this idea of cutting the cord. The other thing I’ve thought about a lot is sharing personal health issues, on FB, which I honestly try to never do. I avoid it generally primarily because I often don’t want suggestions, but rather to articulate my personal struggle. And yet, from my most recent post came comments that by my being so truthful about my personal struggle, I help others. Who knew? So here goes.

After flying cross the country six weeks ago, I developed a nasty “cold,” later determined to be caused by abundant tree pollens, and motion sickness. I have NEVER gotten motion sickness, other than walking off a cruise ship after a week or more at sea; which always subsided within 24 hours. But no, this bugger is still present in various degrees of debilitation.

On that trip, my caregiving respite, I also moved into anticipatory grief over my husband’s descent further into Parkinson’s. He was diagnosed nearly 11 years ago, and is now in stage 4. It may be as heartbreaking for me to witness, as it is for him to experience.

Something has happened, or better stated not happened with my art because of both the grief and the vertigo. And that is silence. The muse is barely alive. I still do have ideas for new work, mostly inspired by grief and loss; but no motivation to design anything. I spend days doing nothing, which for me, is a foreign and not so happy place; but I am leaning into it. Possibly the best thing to come from this has been tears. For the first time in years I am crying again, and on a semi-regular basis. Before this I was angry, for several years, which sadly, is also a stage of grief.

This image is a detail of a large piece I finished just before my trip and left it blocking on the wall. It is still there, 7 weeks later. I think it is blocked now! I could take it down, but hey, it is color on the wall, so it remains for now.

After weeks and weeks of an unsettled brain, and delving into every holistic modality that has helped me in the past: i.e. chiropractic, Epley maneuver, acupuncture, homeopathy; but with no resolution, I finally went to the doctor this week. Turns out this is all part of the migraine syndrome which I have been dealing with since last fall; which in addition to diet and environment causes, is exacerbated by stress.  The vertigo is a neurological component; so she referred me to neurology.

She also gave me a handout of really great information from UCSF about headaches, migraine and vertigo. In that were recommendations for two books, both written by neurologists. I have dug into “Heal Your Headache, the 1-2-3 Program” by David Buchholz, M.D.;  and learning what I can do to remedy or partially remedy this situation. Of course it involves giving up even more foods, other than those I already have; dairy, wheat, sugar, carbonation, alcohol, red wine, fermented foods, aged foods, and my beloved chocolate. Citrus, avocado, and my other beloved smoked salmon may be next. That old adage may be so true in this case…nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. 

My morning walks have taken a hit, but on the days I am not as dizzy as others, I still do them. They seem to help, at least to lift my spirits. Otherwise, I trudge on, one day at a time, courageously making more changes to regain my health, and in particular my mental health, with art-making taking a back seat for now. It is hard not to get discouraged and yet I know, I have fought other dragons before. I will get through this. And remembering a past life lesson…Grieving is creative work…it’s just done on the inside.

the weary life of a studio artist…

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

Endless, 5″ x 120″, photo credit by Joe MacDonald, Digital Grange

I’ve been actively limiting my screen time for two reasons, both related to over-use & my body complaining. After a three day migraine caused by a “small” volunteer project for a non-profit organization; a database update that required three documents to be open simultaneously and transferring data from those three to another file online while ignoring the screaming body, as we workaholics are prone to do; followed by eye problems which are ongoing and now nerves in my back and legs screaming from sitting too much. Aging is a privilege for sure, but definitely not one for sissies!

Before all this drama, I finished two pieces about plastic waste. Two years I became aware of all the plastic floating in the ocean, washing up on worldwide beaches. Apparently I had been living under a rock until that time; too bad, so sad, you know the drill.

Upon awareness, I immediately began to take note of my own plastic consumption. I was horrified as I began to notice all the little bits of plastic in my life, everywhere. I stopped buying bottled water in plastic right away and then added more measures such as bringing mesh bags for produce, refusing plastic bags entirely, no straws or anything I did not absolutely need for living.

At that time, I was also finishing a year’s course of braces to restraighten my lower teeth. So I had all these little plastic boxes of plastic toothpicks, and those containing wax for the metal ends of the braces, and plastic toothbrushes, and hotel room keys I had collected for years and expired credit cards, (thinking someday I would do something with them), plastic food netting, berry baskets, straws and so on and so forth. I decided to hand-stitch these to a cloth-covered substrate and thus I created Endless.The piece is 5” high by 120” long which when coiled sits in a 24” circle and was photographed by the fabulous Joe MacDonald of Digital Grange..

Also I designed Recycling (Plastic) is a Myth. Inspired by Plastic Free July and the myth that if we all just recycle a bit more, we could solve the plastic problem. The key to solving the plastic problem is to stop making the plastic. But as fossil fuel companies have stepped back from gas-powered engines, they gotta do something with that fuel. Enter the “cracker” factories, which produce plastic. As we speak over 300 new factories are either permitted or under construction in the US. I digress.

We have been indoctrinated since the advent of recycling that if we toss all plastic into the blue can it will be recycled. Wrong! Actually less than 8% of plastic is recycled. 12% is incinerated, emitting cancer-causing toxins into the air; primarily in lower income communities. Over 80% of plastic goes into the landfill or is sold to brokers and shipped overseas. So the solution to plastic is to stop making it, to stop buying it, to refuse it and to use other reusables such as aluminum, wood, glass, etc. This piece is aptly titled Recycling (Plastic) is a Myth.

Right now I am sewing scraps in colorways, mainly because the scrap drawer was too full. I hope, in short order to being able to start new work.

on the mind-body connection…

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

now this would make a pretty quilt!

I have been a firm believer in the mind-body connection for over 40 years. I only go to the doctor when I have exhausted all other options, which is infrequent. And yet, occasionally, I forget…

I have been actively self-educating on black history for a while now. I am not a great reader, which is the main reason I dropped out of college, as a junior. My reading comprehension is largely MIA. I am a visual learner, so I have taken a visual approach to learning these stories which I either missed in school, were not taught in school or certainly were not discussed in the white privilege world in which I grew up and continue to live.

In the past month we have watched Harriet, Selma, and Just Mercy for starters; with many more in the queue. I also watched a PBS special on Toni Morrison, and have read three anti-racist books so far. I was seriously enlightened by Debby Irving’s Waking up White. She grew up like I did in a middle-class white neighborhood in the ‘burbs. In reading her story it felt as if she wrote it from my childhood home. I had NO idea that the advantages in my life were at the cost of the disadvantages to black people. It wasn’t that I didn’t care; I just did not think about it. White privilege in action!

Suddenly it all made sense, that in order for people to succeed, others must fail. My entire childhood was built on success, my father’s success and the anticipated success of my sisters and I. Because I chose to leave college, my anticipated success was squelched, never to be resurrected, in his eyes.

For me art-making has led to my own version of success. I don’t really care if I am considered successful by others. I know who I am. I find my success in producing art that says something, which is also my personal form of protest. My aged body does not take lightly to protesting in the streets, surrounded by hundreds of others. I protested the Vietnam war as a newlywed. That was our time, and now my protest comes in the form of visual art.

As I have been self-educating, I forgot one really important detail for this sensitive spirit. I forgot that unreleased emotions fester. All of the black history movies I have seen so far have felt like an emotional gut punch; and actually were. I have been heartbroken, devastated and sorrowful for how black people have been and continue to be treated throughout US history. I have felt that sorrow and I held onto it. It will release eventually in artwork, but for now while I am learning and researching, it is taking a physical toll on me.

I only put this together in the night, when I do my best thinking! I have had acute belly pain for a week now. The belly is my go-to spot for stress reactions. Because I have done over 40 years of acupuncture and holistic medicine, I know that I hold anger & stress in my belly. How did I not put this together before? Funny, I asked a practitioner that once…why did this not occur to me before? Her response always was, yes, but you remembered now!

So I am back to the basics, eating belly-friendly food (rice and bananas), having acupuncture and listening to calming music, practicing meditations, doing yoga stretches, etc, while I continue my research.

This morning hubs suggested I no longer do this work that “upsets” me so, saying I should return to making pretty quilts. I told him I NEED to do this work. This is my purpose at this stage in my life. I am finally using my voice and I have something to say! This is my personal protest.

I just need to be more aware of my own reactions, my own emotions about these tragically sad stories and history. I need not internalize my reaction, but instead save that emotion for my art.

I’ve always been a sensitive soul with a sensitive physiology to match. I’ve learned this is what makes me a good creative. I consider it a huge blessing to feel; and to make art from those feelings. So I am re-framing, one more time and moving forward.

I have memorized this owner’s manual. Occasionally I simply forget where I left it…

grief and paying it forward…

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

peeling back the layers…

Before we went to Ireland and very nearly after we returned I was hammered by deep grief. This is definitely one of those subjects people do not want to think about, let alone talk about; which becomes part of the problem. I remembered the ‘stages’ of grief from my hospice training twenty years ago, and yet I could not peg myself into the exact stage I was in.

So I did what any logical person would do, I googled it. I found It’s Ok That You Are Not OK by Megan Devine on Amazon which I quickly loaded to my Kindle. I read for days and quite quickly figured out the reason this grief was so different from past griefs. This one was deep, deeper than any before it.

Two things lifted me out of it. I know it is early, and it may return but so far, so good. The two things were: realizing this grief was so deep was because in the past three years I have experienced 19 losses. NINETEEN. Nine friends have moved out of state, two friends died, one simply walked away, our old dog died, my lil sis lost in dementia, four elders died, and my dearly beloved has descended further into Parkinson’s. Yep, that’s a few…

The other thing that worked was writing. As you know if you read this often, I love to write. It is often how I figure things out, as in self-therapy. So I pulled up a chair and began to write about these 19 losses, and how sorrowful I feel about my husband’s illness, whereas before I have only felt anger…another stage of grief. The only reason I write this down, in my blog, is to bring grief out of the closet.

A piece of my immobilizing grief was how will this affect my art practice? Will I ever make art again? Am I done? Is this it? Who am I if not an art-maker? 

I don’t believe I am done. I have a lot more I want to say. I am doing a lot of hand-stitching which is really meditative and when I sit in my studio, surrounded by cloth and colors, I know my work here is not finished. It’s funny, this muse. It can take you down as fast as it can lift you up. I trust, and do honestly believe there is more to come.

Interestingly enough, the muse, and Marion have already led me in a new direction. I have decided to mentor a good friend on her creative path. I have thought of it before, and always stopped as I know I cannot change other people’s behavior, although I have vast experience in trying to…i.e., 48 years of marriage! And yet this time it became abundantly clear that Marion had a hand in this.

Marion was not only an extraordinary friend; she was the most generous artist I have ever met. Even as her days were numbered, she was encouraging me to apply for a public art project or submit work for an art purchase. So often she pushed me out of my comfort zone, to consider my long-term & end goals for my art, and to do stuff that just plain scared me. Would I ever have applied for a grant were it not for Marion? No. Did I get a grant? Yes! 

So I have decided to pay it forward, with gratitude. I don’t need to change anyone’s behavior but rather share the generosity that was bestowed on me; to push her out of her comfort zone and encourage her to do the stuff that scares.

This person knew Marion solely through my work and respected her so very much. She called recently to wish me a happy opening to our upcoming exhibit in San Diego, which she perceived might be difficult for me, so soon after Marion’s death. She is a big fan of both Marion’s work and of my work. It just seems as though Marion is orchestrating this, from the great beyond.

I anticipate my friend’s creativity will grow, as will my own.

time flies…or not

Monday, July 30th, 2018

nurse sleeping on the job…

When last we left our heroine…A few days after my fabulous weekend jaunt to Alaska, I woke up with a bad foot. It was bad in the sense that it really hurt and I couldn’t bear weight. Other than that I knew nothing! I figured I had sprained it somehow, well actually thought I had twisted my heel. I blamed it on putting on knit shoes in a small space on a plane. About as good an excuse as any, really. So I rested, iced, tried to stay off it, figuring it was sprained. I did take a couple 1/2 mile walks which did not feel good at all.

Two weeks in, and not getting better, I contacted my orthopedic doctor, who was on vacation. When he returned he told me I needed to see a specialist, for which I needed a referral. So I contacted my primary and she ordered x-rays on her way out the door to her vacation. Note to self…schedule injuries for winter!

Long story short…6 weeks, three sets of X-rays, complete lab work-up, bone density test and two doctor visits later and I now have a healing stress fracture of my left heel. Theory is I did it in Alaska. Apparently walking 8 miles in 3 days in good shoes is not something the aging body actually wants to participate in. So I am still grounded from my morning walks, but doing cross training at the gym and minimal weight bearing, such as grocery shopping, cooking and maybe standing in the studio for 25 minutes at a time.

All of this down time allowed me to ponder the meaning of life, while 3 different people told me it was the Universe’s way of telling me to slow down. Actually it wasn’t. It was my foot’s way of saying don’t ever think of walking 8 miles in good shoes, in 3 days, ever again EVER!

first supper, post-tingrin

This concept of slowing down at 70 boggles the mind. I don’t have much time left! A friend told me that 20 years ago, so it is even more true today. My mind overflows with ideas for new work, which I figure keeps it stimulated. I fear if I slow down, I will grow fat, bored and boring.

So what I have done in the past six weeks is: finished curved piecing for two pieces on the plastic oceans, got my lower jaw braces off after 9 months (as in time flies) and indulged immediately in ribs and corn on the cob. And adopted a new mantra…

I have a young mind in an old body! It is astonishing how much better this makes me feel as I deal with another temporary setback. And it is true. I have a very active mind, for which I am both blessed & deeply grateful. Onward, one foot at a time.

ocean base

back at it…

Friday, March 9th, 2018

2018 has been hectic thus far… took a short trip, got bad news about a friend’s health, got the flu and battled that for two weeks, followed by nearly three weeks of digestive issues. Now hoping that I am on the mend, I am pondering my next creative steps.

I decided to do a no. 25 in the Defining Moments series and have that started on the design wall. This one will be a homage to my good friend, project partner and mentor Marion Coleman. We met 15 years ago and shortly thereafter she became my mentor on the Tall Girl Series. It is she who suggested we do the Defining Moments series and provided me with the inspiration and incentive to start. She is the most generous artist I know and meeting her was definitely a defining moment in my life.

I also have been giving a lot of thought to my next body of work, and started the research and development on that. In addition I have various forms of hand-work that beg my attention.

There is the knitting I have ripped out four times, likely as a means of seeing just how strong this yarn is or how much abuse it can really take.

There is the hand-stitching of the water in France, on which I initially used too large a needle and am also now considering changing yarn weight and color entirely. Oh there’s that masterpiece thinking again!

And there is the hemp yarn I bought on vacation to knit two things, a washcloth and a shopping bag. I knit a small cotton washcloth years ago and love it for the shower! You notice the skeins are still intact.

And then of course this fabulous Noro yarn I also bought on vacation, to create a very cool ladder scarf, which I discovered after I got home was crocheted and not knit. My hands don’t hurt enough from knitting that I am going to take up crochet?

I am not sure what all this says about me personally. The inner critic says I can’t settle down and do one thing at a time or that I am dissatisfied or bored. Hubs would say I have to multi-task and save nano-seconds!

The wise me thinks it is all good. All these things are stirring the creative juices. Plus it is not a competition as to how much I can do at once. And yes I am easily bored!

In other news I decided to make a weekend sprint to Anchorage this summer, to see my friend Amy Meissner’s Inheritance Project exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. This is big for two reasons. I have not been away solo for nearly a year & that I seldom go the 30 miles to the Bay Area to see art! Yet I have been so inspired by Amy’s extraordinary use of these vintage textiles to make art. After sharing time and space with her in OH last year, making this north to Alaska jaunt was a no-brainer. I look forward to this quick getaway and reuniting with her and some of the other Quiet Women from Quilt National 17.

opportune flu timing…

Monday, February 5th, 2018

elephant seal sanctuary, Piedras Blanca, CA

Today is day 10 of my stint with the flu. Yesterday I felt totally great yet did nothing because I had been warned of relapse. And alas, today, there it was, just the same. After 10.5 hrs of sleep I could barely get out of bed. Of course by now, hubs who got the shot (as opposed to me who refuses each year because “I never get the flu”) is also ill. So between the two of us and the dog it looks like the elephant seal sanctuary around here.

Just before the flu we took a 6 day road trip down the Central Coast for a Road Scholar program on migrations. It was an interesting program, full of intelligent people, many who came in escape of the midwest and east coast winter. We learned we are not birders, as if there was any doubt before. I could not even see the silver throated cockle tweeter let alone name it and where was the brown shingled outhouse when I needed it?

At the close of 2017 I was finishing up no 24 in my three year series Defining Moments. And I was worried for a couple months before that about what next? There is nothing like a deadline to motivate a person like me. For three years I did not have to worry about what’s next? Sure it took me a bit to get started, but once I did, it was fairly smooth sailing.

I tried not to think about it, but alas it was there needling me, what’s next? what’s next? So I started to pay more attention to what it is going on around me, and in the world, what caught my attention and what didn’t, and really began to hone in on what I might introduce to my work.

Then I went on vacation, where I got some heartbreaking news from a friend, which affects my current project, then I got the flu. Then I lost interest in anything I would normally do to calm myself. I have lots of handwork I can do. I have knitting to rip out and restart. I have books I can read. I can do nothing, but fret and twist in the wind.

The truly ironic part of this whole scenario is I am not lacking for inspiration. I simply cannot contain my mind. I am bored out of my gourd lying here, unable to work. I want control of it. Isn’t that ridiculous, sick with the flu and still trying to choreograph the show? Did I learn nothing with the 27 month knee inflammation? Surrender, Dorothy!

When I was a young woman with bad menstrual cramps I envisioned the perfect comfort would be to sit in a vat of warm chocolate pudding. This may be the time to ferret that out! Or I could simply contemplate the dehydrated navel orange…ymmm!

a slice of dehydrated orange is 100 x sweeter than fresh!

 

 

70 for 70…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

The Naked Truth, detail

After a year of musing about being almost 70, this week it actually happens!

To celebrate I’ve priced several pieces of my work for just $70 apiece for December 11, 12, 13.

Go have a gander at the 70 for 70 page on my website so and see if there is something that speaks to you. If so, shoot me an email, either through my website contact form or by private message. Tell me the title(s) you want with your name, address and phone number and I will invoice you via Paypal. If you don’t have a Paypal account tell me that as well and I will call you for your credit card info.

The small print on the sale is this:  sale applies only to the work on the 70 for 70 page. I will charge $5.95 sales tax on each piece sold, but will waive the (US) shipping . On December 14, 2017 all prices revert to their original (from $200-$2700) . All sales are final. 

I have designed well over 200 quilts since the turn of the century (I love that expression!). I have been blessed to sell a lot of work to both private patrons and corporate clients. I have given some as gifts, including baby quilts. I have donated work to charitable fundraisers.

There is little that brings me more joy than seeing my work go live with someone who absolutely loves it! That and the idea that ‘she who dies with the most quilts does not win’ are the motivation for this sale. It gives me a chance to whittle down inventory of work that I no longer show, while allowing those who love it to afford it. It is my birthday gift to you!

As far as turning 70, I feel so incredibly blessed to be doing so! You will never hear me whine about getting old, as it is a privilege not granted to all. I have felt heartache through the loss of dear friends and kin; so many who never saw 70, or even 60 for that matter. Mom died at 67, David at 56, Rose at 59, Chris at 67, with Ahlzeimer’s claiming both my dear Aunt Judy and my little ‘sis Debbie in their early 60’s. I owe it to all of these folks to live life to the fullest and appreciate each new day!

So bring it on…the best is yet to be.

inspiration in unexpected places…

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

doodle

Yesterday five women came to my studio to see what I do. This idea started over the course of a year when a long time friend from the local quilt guild said she wanted to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in my studio. Then another local friend of 40+ years mentioned that she too wanted to see my work and how I do it. Then a third wanted to see my work, and in turn invited two of her friends. It took the longest thread in the history of email to find a date that worked for all five people, as we of the retired tribe do love our travel!

I had some reservations as I am not big on being observed while working; just ask my husband! Nor do I much like doing Open Studios, which I have done once. I just want to make my work and essentially be left alone while doing so! Why else did my daughter hand-stitch a SCRAM sign for my studio door, years ago?!

The challenge for me was to figure out what parts of my process would be interesting to others, and how much time to allocate before my body would be unwilling to stand any longer. Finally I decided to demo the Thermofax screen-making process, the screen-printing process, stitching on the new love of my life, the Juki mid-arm, talk about digital fabric printing and lastly show some work that incorporated all of the above. I pulled about 8 or 9 pieces from my various series, and talked about each piece. I envisioned the visit lasting about two hours, with no refreshments, only art process.

It was delightful! There were lots of questions and photo taking and more questions.Two hours breezed by and my only physical complaint was minor voice strain. And the most unexpected thing happened. After they left I realized that I was so completely psyched about my own work! What greater inspiration to keep going?

Meanwhile…no. 22 in the Defining Moments series is finished, but not yet photographed. The second layer of paint was laid on the background of no. 23 during yesterday’s studio visit. The text for the overlay design is printed so this week I will get to batting & backing and get this puppy stitched, so that I can then design the piece. No. 24 has been rattling around in my head for weeks, and going through many configurations. After yesterday’s studio visit, it became abundantly clear exactly what I need to do, so this morning I trashed rendition #2 which was essentially creating way too much work for myself, and am now enthused about rendition #3!

I am now six weeks shy of the self-imposed deadline of 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, but not the least bit worried. Rather I am excited about this huge endeavor I took on and have achieved. Stay tuned…