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Archive for the ‘aging’ 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!

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!

Ms. Marion returns to Texas…

Saturday, September 10th, 2022

Defining Moments 25: Homage

All thanks go to Hurricane Kay for bringing some cooler air to us in No. California. While she may wreak havoc along the way, as hurricanes are wont to do, this old woman remains deeply grateful that through her magic our temperature has dropped 35 degrees from two days ago. We have complained and moaned our way through a record-breaking six-day heatwave of temps generally reserved for Death Valley. We are north of San Francisco, just 20 miles from the ocean so it is not normal for us to have blistering heatwaves. And yet we did. Most summers we get a couple 3-day hot spells, then the fog rolls in and we all can breathe again.

This was anything but normal. We all know someone somewhere who has too much water, too little water, too much heat, too much fire. There simply are no more ‘lovely days at the shore’ anymore. This is serious business. Climate change is real and it’s happening all around us.

We rode it out thanks to frozen dishtowels for the neck & head, pounds of takeout chicken and salads made ahead of time, frozen gel packs for the feet, gallons of water consumed, wearing only linen, and two big fans that we turned on in the evening, during the Flex alerts, when the interior temp reached 90. I ate no ice cream throughout the heatwave but did eat a lot of watermelon. My joints were so much happier without the sugar! We have no AC, as we have never needed it with our “just a few hot days a year.” That is about to change; the climate is changing and so are we. We are older and the excessive heat is not only dangerous but pure & simple torment.

Today’s cooling off was actually perfect timing, as Monday I need to ship work to Texas. And for that I needed to heat up the iron. I just finished prepping the work (ironing, rolling & securing it to ship) and also tackled cutting down the shipping box, which was 15″ too long for the work. (shipping companies charge extra for that oversize length) I managed with my arthritic hands to cut and tape the box end together, to insert the prepped work and stuff the bulk of the carton with recycled bubble wrap. Now it is ready to ship, on time. While I had the iron on, I pressed the two linen outfits I wore throughout the heat wave, so they remain ready for gasp! the next one. We simply would not want to be wrinkled when in seclusion at home!!!

This work I am shipping is Defining Moments 25: Homage which is a tribute to my dear friend and series collaborator, the late Marion Coleman. We had decided in 2014 to do a series together, each making our own work, based on our experiences and perspectives growing up as black and white children in mid-century America. We titled it Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. We were to start with our childhoods and create autobiographical work up to our 70th birthdays.

We had become good friends and colleagues as adult women, when there was no commonality in our upbringing. She was raised in the Jim Crow era in west Texas and I was a child of white privilege in a suburb of San Francisco. It seemed we would have nothing in common and yet we shared many of the same traits and character. We decided to do 25 pieces each and worked in our own style. We met frequently for lunch or via Skype and talked about various aspects of the series, and about prospective venues where we would like to exhibit it. We talked at great length about piece #25 and decided we would make it a full collaboration, likely something 3-D, which we would construct together.

Life intervened and she was tragically taken by lung cancer in 2019, after completing 13 works in the series. At that time I was working on #23. I continued to work, determined to do 25 while simultaneously grieving the loss of another dear one to cancer. I kept coming back to #25 as a collaborative effort, which was no longer possible. And yet I felt it extremely important that there be a piece that tied this project all together. And that is how Homage came about. It includes text, photos and words all about Marion and what she meant to me. For me it was the ideal ending to our story.

The series enjoyed two wonderful exhibitions (Visions Art Museum in San Diego and LHUCA in Lubbock, TX) and was scheduled for a third which unfortunately was cancelled, when the pandemic struck. I continue to send proposals for this series, as I feel it is such an important and relevant body of work that needs to be seen.

Meanwhile, I was contacted earlier this year by the new curator of LHUCA (Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts) in Lubbock, TX about an invitational 25th anniversary exhibit he was working on. He was seeking work that had exhibited there in the past 25 years; and wanted to know if I would participate and if so, which work from the series would I suggest he include? I offered to send Homage… for many reasons.

Marion was a native of West Texas so in a sense it would be a homecoming for her. And because the work was about her yet made by me, it was as if both of us would be represented in the retrospective. I also wanted this predominantly white community in Texas to bear witness to my friend, the most generous artist I have ever known, a kind, gentle, fierce, courageous, smart and accomplished woman of color.

So Ms. Marion is returning to Texas for autumn! Hopefully it is cooler there.

 

 

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, 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.

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…

 

 

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.

time well spent…

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

dorothy’s dahlias

This week I was blessed to have a private visit with my 93 yo Aunt Dorothy, who is the light of my life. She, being an extrovert, often has a crowd around her, so for us to just enjoy private time together was so special to me, and seemingly her. She has always had my back, as I imagine she has many others. She is the most kind, giving and generous spirit I’ve ever known; although Marion was a close tie.

In conversation, I ran something by her that had really upset me, although it was by then, days past the incident and I was pretty much over it. I just wanted her wisdom on this. And she delivered!

Upon waking this morning I had an epiphany from that wisdom, that toppled my decades of resentment.  She knew so well this disturbing dynamic having been a witness, for all of my 7+ decades. Her comments were as if she handed me the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my life. All of a sudden, everything fell into place! Old hurts and conversations now all made sense.  Relationships that had tormented me for years all suddenly made sense. I could have been SO angry and yet I wasn’t. I finally felt free of the burden. First, I felt absolute liberation, then I got angry, then I wondered if my time here was nearly over, since I had finally figured this huge juggernaut out?!!!

And then I went into another Zoom meeting. The speaker, Paula Kovarik is an accomplished renowned artist who seemingly is my kindred spirit. I identified with so much of what she said, not only her artistic inspiration (Klee, Calder, Kandinsky etc) who are also mine; but her philosophy about life and art-making. Wow, just wow!

She spoke of bringing what is inside, out; which is exactly what I am doing in my work presently. And in releasing old painful wounds. I am in awe of her work and her art practice, and her discipline (treating art-making like a job!) but mostly what I gleaned from this look inside in her world, today, of all days, is the reminder.

The reminder from Paula and from my  aunt, of paying attention, being present; not only smelling the roses, but observing… the textures, the colors, the patterns, the shapes, all that forms our personal universe. Paying attention, so that when another life lesson presents itself, we notice, and don’t spend decades harboring the hurt. Some folks NEVER get that, whether they are not paying attention or thinking it unimportant. I am blessed with awareness. And most of all, learning from those lessons and moving forward…

And in others news…I just noticed I have not blogged about two pieces of work that were juried into the prestigious Intl Fiber Arts X at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, in beautiful downtown Sebastopol! The show is on now till September 12, open Thurs-Sun 10 am-4 pm; masks required. It is an incredibly diverse exhibit of fiber work, much of it sculptural.