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Archive for the ‘time management’ Category

on overdoing…

Thursday, November 24th, 2022
neutral perle cottons

neutral perle cottons

I recently sent out my “quarterly” art newsletter about my work. I say quarterly in quotes because quarterly is the goal. The actuality is more like meh, I don’t feel like doing that today and maybe semi-annually is better! It could be said I do it because people ask me all the time about what I am working on, or where they can see my work? So that is why I do it.  

Mostly readers comment that I do so much, or that I have so much energy! Apparently that is true. I have always been an over-doer, raised in a family of over-doers (also known as workaholics!) by two over-doers whose ancestors were also over-doers. Something about idle hands being the devil’s workshop! In reality my “abundance” of energy is actually self-preservation.

Overdoing kept me from losing my mind, when as a teenager I knit a sweater while in the hospital for 6 weeks. Knitting and needlepoint kept me from losing my mind as a newlywed in a frigid apartment, where the landlord was too stingy to give us heat, so we learned to bundle up in woolies; and still today thrive in a cooler home than most. And today handwork keeps my mind occupied and brings me peace of mind as I carry on the daily life of a caregiver.

I have been to this rodeo before. Over 20 years ago I was primary caregiver for 22 months for a friend with brain cancer. That journey started out innocently enough, in that it was my employer so it was in my vested interest, I thought, to do everything I could to hold his business & life together during his illness. Soon I was making & taking him to all his medical appointments, making his dinner, taking him fishing & on vacation, injecting his blood thinners, practicing seizure recovery, etc. I lost myself in ‘making’ for him.

It was life-changing for me in that I became more aware of what was truly important in life. It was not overdoing at a desk job making someone else wealthy, while I did even not make a livable wage. Only after that experience when I gained 30 lbs, stopped exercising, let my hair grow long and haggard, did I learn that I would never again do that for another person, no matter my relationship to him/her/they.

Fast forward 20 years and I am again in the trenches. I am fortunate that my husband’s debilitation from 10 years of Parkinson’s did not advance until just this last year. Only this past summer did he stop driving. My daily focus on maintaining my autonomy is equal to, not lesser than, maintaining his comfort and safety. I have not put someone’s needs before my own, this time. My needs are equally as important as his. And yet I am fully present with him during this very sad and heart-breaking part of his life; and of our lives together.

So people always say to me…you have so much energy! I suppose I do, for which I feel blessed. When I first came to ‘quiltin’ I heard the expression UFO’s which stood for unfinished objects. I didn’t have any UFO’s and never would, I thought. Oh but wait, do they mean all forms of hand-work?! Well that is a different story!

As an over-doer, I currently have four hand-work projects in progress. Four UFOs. I don’t consider them UFOs as I do plan to eventually finish them! I actually have a fifth (potential UFO) fermenting in my cranium. How can I possibly start another, I wonder? Well, very easily...squirrel!

meditation scarf

meditation scarf, tobacco linen with neutrals

I have two meditation scarves in process. One is a bias cut gray linen of flowers, inspired by my morning walks, which I started on a Road Scholar trip to NC in April.

meditation bias cut scarf

meditation bias cut scarf

The other I started in San Diego in September, mostly because I did not want to be crinkling a plastic sheet with flower patterns during a conference meeting. This one is a long rectangle of tobacco brown linen stitched with random triangles in neutral colors. This all started when I discovered a full box of neutral perle cottons in the studio! It appears I will run out of linen before I do the perle cotton, though.

Also underway is a half knit hand-dyed merino with Noro wool, bias scarf. Last year I went to my now quite small yarn stash to darn a much loved & worn pair of wool socks. Aha, there is this gorgeous hank of hand-dyed merino, I thought! I need to knit it up…and now; although it had been in the stash for a good 20 years!!!

I should have used bigger needles! I could rip it out and start over, but alas, that would be another UFO….or maybe not! And it may be beautiful when finished, and it will be finished, BUT will undoubtedly be itchy on the neck. It may well just find its way to Goodwill. Undoubtedly someone in need will not care if it itches.

wool bias scarf

merino & Noro bias knit scarf

And then there is a morning walk collage, digitally printed to cotton, which I have been hand-stitching. I had done two of these before and installed them in our bedroom, and they are fabulous! But this one? Oy…What was I thinking printing a creek-bed plant onto cotton? I stopped somewhere in the middle of stitching these countless leaves and now it rests leisurely in its own sack, on top of the overhead projector.

stitched morning walk

stitched creek bed, on morning walk

So while all this is waiting, the most recent Wisdom Gatherers quilt is blocking on the design wall. This is the one I last blogged about. It is of twin sisters for which I decided instead of doing two large quilts with the same identical images, that doing one with each filling half was the best option. The fun thing is I had already pieced the backgrounds when I made this decision, so I used the other half of each one, joined together on the back! So it is nearly a reversible work!

twin wisdom

wisdom quilt of twins Ellen & Carol, 84

And because all this is not enough, I am pondering my next artwork! Of course I have files of ideas and more that keep me awake at night…

All this is to say I am an over-doer and proud of it! It is a title I wear proudly. For if I was not to overdo I probably would curl up in a ball and wither away….or maybe knit something of it!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Change is coming. It’s in the air. Can you feel it? I can for sure, but not in the way you might imagine!

I have been fighting with these two pieces for quite some time. They are about fraternal twins for the Wisdom Gatherers series. Why are these two works troubling me so? One thing I learned early on in this series, is I far more enjoyed interviewing the women over 80, than I did telling their stories; which is why I stopped at six women interviewed!  So that is one factor.

Then there was the woman who hated the work I designed about her life and had absolutely no qualms whatsoever, telling me so, which further dampened my sails. I did, however, easily complete the most recent piece about my beloved aunt, which was easy to do as I treasure her so. It was my tribute piece to her. So after my last works, two strong political pieces, I decided to “cleanse my palette” with another ‘wisdom gatherer’ piece, or two actually; after which I would have only one more to do!

compilation of disasters

I resisted getting started; and resisted and resisted. Finally, just before our road trip I pieced the backgrounds & had the text for the screens prepared so I could get right on it when we got back!
Every day my intention was to go downstairs to print, but I didn’t.  I seemed to always find something else to do or not to do, anything but go downstairs & screen print that cloth. Finally still dragging my feet I MADE myself go downstairs and start. In quick order I managed to mess up 5 screens…something I have never done in over 20 years of thermo-fax printing!  And this with the mesh no longer available, I ruined five pieces of mesh screen material!
Then I waited another day to screen-print, just to chase the bad mojo away yet proceeded to leave paint blotches all over the fabric! WTH? How long have I been screen-printing? I KNEW this was a message about ignoring my own inner voice; and yet I pressed on!  We artists call those things that we will likely cover up “design elements.”  Yet how many design elements can there be in one piece?! Maybe an entire work comprised of design elements? Hey I may be on to something!!! I digress.
Again, it occurred to me that I am pushing myself do something that does not inspire me; and thus the troubles.  Later I heat-set the paint, brought the pieces back upstairs, pinned to the design wall, from which they stare at me each time I walk into the studio! I keep thinking I should do something with them but nothing happens. How many photographs do I have to cover the blotches? Can I make these smaller? Do all the Wisdom Gatherers pieces have to be the same size? The wheels turn, or rather grind but with no resolution.
And then this morning, out of the blue, while reading a magazine unrelated to art & eating my oatmeal it came to me, that I set the rules, I can change the rules. I can change this up! Why does it have to be two pieces? Weren’t they in utero together? Why can it not be one piece?! And that excites me!!! That old cut and paste really rings my bell. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
So I photographed the two individually and sent the images to the printer. Next I will cut and paste the paper images and see where I want to go with this. Now I am excited!
I guess that either says more about my determination or stubbornness than I care to admit. Or maybe it is just one thing I can try to control in this time of endless lack of control. Living with a person with a debilitating illness and all that entails is nothing I can control. It is as if I just want one thing to go smoothly. I simply don’t need to be making art that is a struggle. And yet I seem to want to figure it out! It seems I am gathering my own wisdom on this one.

what i learned on my late summer vacation…

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

my samples from “Line Matters” stitching class with Paula Kovarik

Last week I drove 1281 miles to San Diego (from No. California) and back for a 3 day art conference. Hubs rode along as extra set of eyes, as he no longer drives. It might seem silly to some to drive 4 days to stay 3, but I counted on all 7 days being an adventure! And indeed, it was.

For months beforehand, I spent many a night, between 3-4 am obsessing about driving through the LA Basin, notorious for the worst traffic in the US! I messaged old friends and new, who all live in that area, asking for their wisdom on the best times to drive it; or even the best routes. I asked a local friend who takes their RV to SD annually to rest and refresh, which way they go? Most of the responses were about timing; try to avoid commutes! So I took all that advice and filtered it down to go between 10 am-1 pm!

Although we hit heavy traffic late Wednesday morning where 101 meets 405 near the Getty, I soon discovered the HOV lane which jetted us through the area with no problem. On the return, we again chose the 405 at 10 am on a Sunday but bowed out in Santa Monica to drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Oxnard. It was brilliant! I felt so proud of myself for tackling this huge fear. Granted I had a little help from Chinese herbs, but I did it! What I really learned from that experience was that old adage of doing what scares you. Granted it had been 40 years since we drove through LA, and it might be 40 years before I repeat, if I am still driving at 114! But I faced down something that scared me no end and just did it. And really it was not so hard!

Another thing I learned was in a wonderful stitching class with Paula Kovarik. As witness to young women having incredible imaginations for designing stitching shapes, my brain seemed to lean on my old familiar shapes, the curving line or the pointed peaks. My inability to come up with any new shapes reminded me that I need to put down the nightly mah-jong and block puzzles on the iPad and sketch instead. I need to stretch my drawing muscles! I remember thinking a nightly sketch was a great idea nearly 20 years ago when I shared a room at Asilomar with my good friend Martha Grant from TX. Every evening she pulled out a (paper) notebook full of drawn circles, the size of CDs. Every night she filled in a circle with lines and shapes, just a random sketch. So now I have learned this lesson at least twice in 20 years, maybe I can actually do it!

I took Paula’s class because 1) I am mad for her work and 2) I wanted to stretch my stitching portfolio. As much as I free-motion stitch, and that is essentially all I do to “quilt” my work, I tend to do the same design all the time, the curving line, or the flame shape. Maybe one could say it is my trademark?! In free-motion stitching, I stitch forward and backwards all the time. Yet when I tried new shapes I struggled to stitch backwards. My brain just could not compute. I was reminded of another old adage about keeping one’s mind young and active by learning a new skill…square dancing, a foreign language, a musical instrument, etc.  So I learned I need to practice by drawing, sketching and stitching new shapes; learning a new skill is good for the aging brain.

Initially I had planned to drive it alone but later came to my senses, and asked my mostly home-bound husband if he would like to accompany me. I knew having him along would limit some of my activities, as his stage 4 Parkinsons restricts most of a normal lifestyle. He can barely walk, cannot taste, smell, or digest most foods, has trouble enunciating and swallowing, frequently choking in restaurants. I knew going in that having him along while comforting to me would also place limitations on my personal participation while there.  His challenges weighed heavily on me on this trip, but I persevered, often putting his needs before my own. Most everything we did together took 4x as long, but I kept my cool ever patient, caring and compassionate the whole time. What I learned from this was two-fold: how much strength I have to push a 167# man seated on a walker (because he refuses to use a wheelchair) and to come home and immediately cancel a short December trip I had planned for us to take together!

I had reserved a historic hotel in Silicon Valley to go celebrate my 75th birthday. What I learned on my late summer vacation was I do not want to work that hard on my big day!!! It is I who should be pampered, not anyone else. So I cancelled that reservation and instead am planning a spa day locally, just for me!

I also re-learned that time spent with those of like minds, is always good; but especially in this most challenging time of caregiving, was for me salve on my wounds. It filled my well to spend 3 days with like-minded souls; even without any one-on-one time. I have fought hard to maintain my autonomy throughout this Parkinson’s journey. I  have heard of far too many people, women mostly, who lose themselves in caregiving.  And when the ‘journey’ is over, they are lost, don’t know who they are or where they left off. I fight valiantly every day to maintain my sanity by making art, going to exhibits, visiting museums, seeing friends, having tea with my elder beloved aunt, etc. All of this is to maintain my autonomy.

And finally I learned I need to keep doing this.  After my week’s respite in April, I decided I should take a respite at least twice a year. Then I recanted deciding I would not leave hubs behind by taking solo “vacations” as his health declines. Our daughter is willing to come anytime to stay with him, so I learned to reframe this. I will still take sorely needed respite rather than take a “vacation” I would instead go where the folks of like minds are…take an art class, or a Road Scholar program. Go forth and learn something!

Between my nightly sketching and my caregiving, I am now looking at where I can go next!

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.

where have i been?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

new work on climate change

Where have I been? Good question…After battling eyestrain and migraine much of the fall quarter, I made some lifestyle changes, which thankfully cleared that problem. With new tinted grey Rx glasses for the computer. I cut back on my screen time, and when I was on the computer taking breaks every hour or so. I also upped the dry eye drops. I started a neurological cocktail of CoQ-12, magnesium oxide and Vit B2, which calmed everything down. However, the most significant change was to completely give up wine, aged cheese, fermented foods and chocolate; the latter being the killer. What is life without chocolate? And what is sweet and fabulous without chocolate in it?

Slowly but surely, the auras stopped and the headaches disappeared. So until I have to learn that lesson again, I feel so much better. I say until I have to relearn it because isn’t that how life goes with us humans? We know what we should not do, but we make allowances and do it anyway? Example: I am lactose intolerant, but they make Lactaid for that. So take a Lactaid and eat that gruyere. No more, until next time, which I hope there will not be.

Additionally I volunteered for a four month project called Cool Block. https://www.coolpetaluma.org I am a Cool Block leader, guiding my neighbors with small changes we all can make towards lowering our carbon footprint. It is requiring far more hours than I anticipated, but I am learning something in the meantime, so all is not lost.

hand-stitched meditation scarf (on linen)

Also I have been hand-stitching a piece of soft linen for a meditation scarf. It is random stitching, and interesting to me where the needle takes me. My stitches are a tad tight as the cloth takes a shape of its own, but I love it the same. I am about ¾ finished and fretting because I am taking a trip soon and wish to take stitching with me. So should I finish this one now, or then, or start a new one, later? (rhetorical question) I am leaning towards starting a new one.

Meanwhile, I painted some cloth that I had commercially printed, about climate change. I am in the design process now, and really loving how it is coming out. I continue to feel immense gratitude for my own good health, and yet sorrow for so many contemporary issues, not the least of which is Ukraine.  Be well.

 

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.

is this actually December 32?

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

Wisdom Gatherers 3…under the needle

Well, aren’t I the tardy one? I try to blog monthly but seemingly missed December entirely. I know artists who blog daily, although I doubt anyone’s life is THAT interesting? Weekly is also a challenge I don’t need; monthly seems doable. And yet here it is January 1 and I missed out on December. Unless you go by the theory that December has 32 days…

It is not that I was that busy, nor indulged in holiday mania. No, it seemed to be more of swimming in medical appointments, mostly his, but a few for me. After three months of nearly daily headaches, some sinus issues and a bout of continual migraines, I finally cried ‘uncle’ and decided to look into it. I am, as my former employer, a doctor, used to say, “the world’s least compliant patient!”

A true believer in figuring stuff out on my own, making changes where I can & having acupuncture, I have found most anything can be cured by holistic means and if not, then I will go to the doctor. So I finally did, and thankfully a CT scan found nothing seriously wrong that could not be changed with yet more dietary changes, and limiting my screen time. So I am officially off chocolate, wine, aged cheese and limiting my green tea caffeine to one cup a day. I won’t miss the wine so much as I seldom drink it any more. But the chocolate is pure torture, as I used to enjoy one square of dark chocolate every day. And the aged cheese is more of a discipline matter as I am lactose intolerant and should not have it anyway. Isn’t that what lactaid is for?!! The green tea is more of a paying attention moment, as I drink tea all day long, often reusing a tea bag. Now I just need to be more aware and switch to decaffeinated earlier than 3 pm. So new year, new attitude and feeling better each day! Now if I can just steer clear of Omicron which seems to be rampaging through our city I will be in fine shape.

I did not do much sewing or designing in December although I did finally print some cloth for the next piece in the elder women wisdom series; which I am now stitching. I stitch the entire background before applying the photo and wisdom embellishments. This particular wise woman is my dear and treasured aunt, who will celebrate 94 in a couple weeks. I interviewed  her two years ago so it seemed important to me to simply get on with it!

Not one to make resolutions, I make a list of goals at the end of each year. Mostly they are art goals, but some are life goals. This recent spate of bad head days led me to consider once more how much stuff I could be leaving my daughter to go through; a task I wish on no one, after cleaning out two households myself. So one of my 2022 goals is to redistribute more of my stuff.

I have actually been good about downsizing for years, whereas hubs is not. Three domino sets anyone? We don’t even play dominoes! But there is always room for improvement, in the downsizing world. I decided to designate one day a week, or better, one day a month for downsizing. Otherwise the left brain kicks in, it becomes an obsession, no art is made, for weeks on end. So I am aiming for a monthly declutter.

That said I better get stitching…Happy New Year! May this be the year we kick Covid to the curb. Be well…

 

 

scraps as a metaphor…

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

piles of scraps sorted by color way

When I first became a quilter in 1999, after 25 years as a weaver, I joked that I chose the former as I discovered I could buy cloth already woven. What I really discovered was how taking a whole cloth and cutting it into pieces and then sewing it back together is really such a great metaphor for life.

A life well lived is chock full of bits, pieces, whole cloth and scraps tied together to create reality. So it only seems fitting as I was tooling along making lots of narrative art, never at a loss for ideas, that I would take a detour! As soon as I began the detour I fretted about losing my place with the muse; as apparently the muse can only be inspired by one direction? Instead I found a month or more of scraps, pieces, diversions, and other distractions.

It all started with a full to overflowing scrap drawer. Now I do not save every scrap, and in fact anything under 3″ I generally discard. But this particular drawer was chock full of leftover bits of batiks, screen-printed, hand-dyed treasure with some commercial cottons, silks, linen, thrown in as well. First I sorted the stacks by color ways and then I set out with some Netflix, to sew strips of scraps. Usually I do this when I am stuck and need to just start something. But I was not stuck, Instead I was motivated by the anti-clutter gene, and this project took me most of three weeks. This is the result.

scrap strips

How will I use these, one asks? Often I have used them as starting points in my work. In the early Defining Moments series I used scrap strips to delineate sections of the story, to represent my predecessors’ Christianity faith or more recently I have used them in the Wisdom Gatherers project pieces. Maybe they will just get rolled up and put into the stash cubbies, sorted by color ways. They will be used, no doubt.

Defining Moments: The Harried Years, Maternal Grandparents, Paternal Grandparents, on exhibit at Visions Art Museum, 2019

I had a LOT of brown scraps, so I grabbed a strip of those and made this 40″ x 40″ quilt for the Welcome Blanket project, which is welcoming migrant women to the US with a handcrafted blanket. They are supposed to be easy to care for and this quilt of all scraps may not be exacty that, but as Mom used to say, it is the thought that counts! So I am about to press that and ship it off; but first I need to write my own migrant tale, of which I have three. I come from a long line of migrants on both sides, and married the son of a migrant. They are us, all of us.

welcome blanket, of scraps

I also finished up this hemp linen bag. I bought the yarn in 2018 at a shop in Cambria while there on a road trip. They had a mesh shopping bag in the store as inspiration and I totally fell for it! I also bought the .pdf of the pattern. Well the pattern and I parted ways early into the project. How hard can this be? I pondered. It was not hard, I just did not work on it continuously, until recently. This knit-by the-seat-of-your-pants project worked plus I finished with just over a yard of leftover yarn!

hand-knit hemp net bag

Also in the past month I got a new hybrid car, for which I have been actually reading the manual and learning to use all the electronic bells and whistles. I am loving it so much, and was extremely overdue to replace my much loved but breaking down 17 year old SUV. I upgraded the wifi so hubs can watch his sports without interference from other networks, reprogrammed the solar communications because of new network, duked it out with the HMO endlessly for a tech error on their website, which continues, and learned first hand that customer service no longer exists ANYWHERE. Nearly everyday I have put out some conflagration or another. It seems people like me can never run out of problems to be solved. Perhaps instead of allocating studio time, I should allocate problem solving time and then make art the rest of the day.

Yet all this distraction is getting me fired up about new work again. Unfortunately there is just so much wrong in the world that I may never run out of inspiration. I just need to stay focused (squirrel), and remember it is my art that keeps me sane. It is not hours spent on hold with customer service or technical support that makes my heart sing.

Quite the contrary.

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.