Monday, December 31, 2007

Part I of a Long Story with a Sad Ending

I still don't know why she died, but I do know how she died. One of my father's ex-POW friends asked what she died of and I had to say, "I don't really know." It wasn't until she checked into the ER for the 3rd time in as many months, on December 14th, that we really knew how sick she was. It all unfolded like a series of misfortunate events, a victim of specialized medicine. Everyone treated a part and no one treated the whole. It was just during this last year that my sister and I took over taking them to the doctors. My father's vision had been failing for a while and he called upon me (I lived a block away) more and more often to drive them places, until finally he gave up altogether (thank god).

My sister and I had watched them decline for some time. in 2005 we started the discussion with them about moving to an independent living facility. But giving up your home, your independence is hard. We thought it would offer them community, safety, 3 squares a day and easier, wheelchair friendly living. We also naively assumed that they were on top of their own medical care - asking the right questions, understanding the answers, making the right decisions. Not until this year, when I sat in the examining room with my mother, listening to her describe her ailments to her doctors did I realize that she wasn't giving the right answers, emphasizing the right information. Imagine my shock when I took her for her every-6-weeks shot and walked through the door labeled Oncology Hematology Associates, a place she had been referred to years ago for her anemia. Surely if she had cancer someone would have said something. She had been going for 4 years, so no way she could have cancer without me knowing. When I asked the DR "What exactly is her diagnosis?" he said, "She doesn't make enough blood cells." Was that the elementary school answer or was I invading doctor-patient confidentiality? But I digress...

So here it is March and they are preparing to move. They need a physical before they can move in and her seldom seen GP does a cursory exam, gives her passing grades and they move in. They moved from MD to VA, and we wanted them to use the doctors associated with their facility, the ones who held office hours at that location. So she sees a new DR, but only for a cursory physical and then later for a specific ailment - back pain. He prescribes a lidocaine patch - didn't even do a urine culture. Back pain persists to excruciating, he sends her to the hospital. My sister takes her that afternoon, which drags on long into the night until they have a bed and can admit her. The ER discovers a urinary tract infection, among other things. This is back in October. After a week of tests, they finally order the MRI that shows several small spinal vertebrae fractures. We knew that's what it was because she had the same problem and surgery a year or two ago, different hospital, different DR, but they had to find out the slow, insurance-friendly way. Call in the neurosurgeon, he repairs them. After surgery she has an irregular heartbeat so she spends a few days in the CCU until that is stabilized and she goes home pain free.

She wasn't deemed healthy enough to return to her independent living apartment and had to go to the skilled nursing portion of their facility. She HATED it. You would too - pretty much a semi-private hospital room. And they asked her to exercise. Well they kept at her and she got sassy enough that her attitude was, "I'll show them! They want 10 reps, I'll do 12! And as fast as I can." Six week she spent there, endearing herself to the staff and the therapists. Six weeks of the best exercise (and new anti-depressant) and she was a new woman. We were SO, SO very proud of her. She walked that walker up and down the hallways, walked herself right out of there and back to her apartment the day before Thanksgiving.

Sitting on Daddy's LapIf you are a regular reader of the blog, you know how wonderful Thanksgiving was. The Monday after, I took her to her eye DR appointment and then to her favorite place ~ Nordstrom. She said she needed some new eye shadow. I watched as the make-up sales woman gave her a mini-makeover. Wheeled her around until she found just the right t-shirts, not too long, high neckline, with a soft and loose fit. She bought 4! Even Dad got in on it, buying the new shoes that she had been begging (nagging) him to get for so long. It was perfect, except for that niggling pain in her back. By Thursday she decided that she needed to see a DR. She called, he said go to the emergency room. They knew the drill by now and decided to wait until morning. There's nothing worse than spending all night in the ER - why not start fresh in the morning? Looking back, I'm amazed she could endure the pain that long, but it was her decision.

I go in to the emergency room and while waiting for a wheelchair to bring her in, tell them her name and that her records should be on file, she was just in for the same thing. The ER clerk says, "Kidney failure? That's what it says here." I say, noooo, back pain. Barbed question marks start popping out of my head....what's going on???? Oh, and did I say her attending physician had to turn over her care to a new doctor because he had a medical problem of his own - prostate cancer? ...to be continued~

Farewell 2007

I cannot end the year on a sad note. Know that sadness does not hang over our house as we end the year celebrating my mother's life. We had a most lovely service for my mother on Saturday. I spent 2 days compiling the music, framing photos and designing and printing the program, while my husband worked on the eulogy. We wanted a very personal service that reflected my mother and the family she created. On Wednesday she will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery - buried among heroes, soldiers and their spouses, right there near Bobby and John F. Kennedy - 2 men she adored. One of our family memories was seeing Bobby, a few of his children and Caroline Kennedy at the local movie theater after JFK died. Two families doing family things.

The funeral director was quite impressed that we had done so much, down to the CDs of music. He obviously didn't know June Jackson's daughters! I think she was my first teacher of the saying, "God is in the details." There was no way I was going to let tradition and grief dictate how my mother was remembered. She taught us style, so style it was.

From reading your comments and all the personal emails, I know that so many of you have been through the very same thing - losing your mother, or someone equally loved. I know death happens every day, every where and not always with warning and never when you are ready. I also now know that not everyone talks about it. A whole series of events is summed up in the phrase "My mother died." We relate the birth of a baby in minute detail, often accompanied by photographs or film, from the first twinge of a contraction to the first cry and breath of air, the pink rosebud mouth and ten tiny fingers and toes. Yet we keep secret or speak in hushed tones about the final days, the mounting sadness, the last breath and goodbye.

My sister and I searched the internet for answers, signs, guidance and advice on how to walk these final steps with her, how to understand what was happening. There was some help out there and Capital Hospice proved to be most comforting and informative. Yet just as each individual is different, so is their death. Babies may pick their time to arrive, but once they set the wheels in motion, for most, it's pretty standard. Not so for the dying.

As I have said before, this blog has become my journal. I write it for me. If you choose to read it, so be it. It is in my nature to share what I know. It's how I make sense of things and if you are like me, then you too want to know. We're all going to face it someday, so perhaps some word I say, some thoughts I share will be of help to you. I am going to tell you about the pain and beauty of dying, the things we did for her and the things we did for us. The hard part and the beautiful. It is a joyeous story, yet there will be tears along the way. Too much to tell in one sitting. I'll be back.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

June Elisabeth Jackson
9/9/25 ~ 12/25/07

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do Not Go Gentle

For those of you that have sent prayers and kind loving words, and yes, well for those of you who have not written but carry us in your thoughts, every kind thought, every whispered prayer helps. I want to let you know that my mother has been in hospice care since Monday. We try to keep her comfortable but that also means she can no longer speak to us. Everyone had the opportunity to say goodbye earlier in the week before she needed constant sedation. My sister and I alternate spending the night. She is never alone. It is sad. It is beautiful. It is emotionlly trying and yet a magnificant learning and loving experience for my children, myself, my sister and Dad.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Canon


My mother is not doing well.
My Christmas wish is for you to send prayers and positive energy her way.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Remembering Pollyanna

The snow that fell on Wednesday will be gone by the end of the day with the light rain that is falling and the high 40s temperatures. As I look outside the window, I can see both white and green patches. The yin and yang of a winter that will soon be upon us. I only really love snow when I have nowhere to go, when I can watch as each infinitesimally small flake joins with others to create and inch, a foot, a blizzard. But Wednesday, I had somewhere to go. My Mom was having back surgery on her recently fractured vertebrae - her third such surgery. The good thing about this hospitalization is that we do now know what is causing the fractures and the recurrent infections. The hematologists decided against a bone marrow biopsy. Her primary care DR wanted it, but in the end it was determined that a definitive answer would not change her course of care. Final diagnosis: Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) with bone marrow failure. It's cancer or it's pre-cancer, depending on who you talk to. MDS disorders have been defined by their predilection to evolve into acute myeloid leukemias (AML), yet not all cases terminate in leukemia. It's something she has had and that has been treated and monitored for 4 years. Obviously it has progressed so they are increasing her injection from every 6 weeks to every two and adding more calcium to prevent the fractures. Symptoms of the disease are kidney failure, infection, bleeding, bruising, anemia, the fractures, fatigue and weakness.

The good news is that, as of yesterday, she is now back in the skilled nursing center undergoing rehab while she gets her strength back and will be back with Dad in independant living in a week or so. It was only 5 days after she was discharged from the skilled nursing center (remember Thanksgiving) that she fractured her back and pain forced her back into the hospital. We are looking forward to a pain-free, energetic family Christmas, a joyous ending to a very full year.

I subscribe to a wonderful daily newsletter, 365 Days of Coaching. Last Sunday, the message was to list our 100 best moments of the year. "Taking time to acknowledge our accomplishments for the year is a great way to appreciate all the hard work we have put into making the year what it was. We just don't take enough time to recognize our accomplishments and give ourselves credit for what we do. By acknowledging what we have accomplished, we give ourselves the time to be grateful for our successes. An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful way to end the year and begin the new." I can easily rattle off 20 or 30 right now. But the big lessons and discoveries begin when you reach down deep for #45, then 76 and finally, 100. It's the perfect summary for the year and just the right entry for my juicy new journal. What about a best moments journal for 2008, an on-going record? I bet I could top 100 easily if I keep track of them as they happen.

It is easy to dwell on the difficult times, to share in another's sorrow or misfortune. We are caring and compassionate beings. It is all too easy to disregard, dismiss or trivialize moments of happiness. Many of us tend to think of happiness as something big, like winning the lottery, the birth of a child, getting an A on a test, a promotion, or acceptance into a juried show. That's more a feeling of exhilaration. As I have aged, (and fortunately, with that comes wisdom), I have discovered that happiness is (or can be) a daily state of living. Happiness comes from making the best of each day, each situation. It's an attitude, an approach to life. It's the greatest gift my father ever gave me - to look for the positive in every situation, to be grateful for the good that still exists in the midst of trouble or turmoil.

Remember Pollyanna? I saw that movie at a very impressionable age. But what a good and lasting impression it was. My life is the Glad Game. I've noticed it's my first reaction to all sorts of bad news or setbacks. The Glad Game, an attitude of gratitude. Call it what you want, but remaining positive and optimistic steers you through any situation, no matter how dark the night, how rough and choppy the waters get.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. ~ Denis Waitley

This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead. ~ Elizabeth Berg

Monday, December 03, 2007

Some Days Are Like That

something I'm working on for my next bookThe wind has certainly stirred things up around here today. Before 11am I had dodged both a fallen wire strung across the road, and a big overstuffed bag of leaves - big, like Santa's sack big - rolling around the Beltway after falling off a truck. Dodged that and the car that swerved to miss it too. Then I get to the hospital where my Mom has returned and had to accost the DR as he tried to dodge me. Is it too much to ask what they are planning for my mother? Two days ago they said she may have multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Naturally we are concerned. He said he has asked a hematologist to order a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, "but sometimes it's bad and you really don't want to know." Well YES, I do! And the fractures in her vertebrae, when will someone do some surgery on that.....that's why she came to the hospital in excruciating pain last Friday. Apparently, thanks to Google, not the doctors, we have learned that the fractures are caused by the disease. I now feel like doctors are the new politicians, they answer questions without saying anything for fear of ???whatever. Can you tell I'm frustrated?

And then to top it off, I thought I lost my debit/credit card and $40. Except that someone used the card this afternoon (I have online banking and was monitoring it while I looked for it.) So I reported that. And the wind still blows. Sorry to be such a downer, I just need to vent. In between all the drama and ill wind, I am working to complete the artwork for my next book. It's still hush, hush but I think you'll like it. There's a sneak preview above. The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. ~ Aesop

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Going Gray?


This book, Going Gray, keeps popping into my universe. I have been eyeing it for a while, even saw the author, Anne Kreamer, on one of the morning talk shows. I still was not tempted to read/buy it because, well, I've been there/done that. The author's going gray refers to her allowing the gray to show, to stop dyeing her hair. I never did dye mine. But today I read a review of the book on Terry Grant's blog. These are the words that Terry quoted from Anne that struck me: "if you can stop worrying about what others might think of your hair color, and of feeling obliged to wear camouflage, then you free yourself up to think about other things—that by abandoning the small stuff you may make room for the big." To me it's all about authenticity.

Now I admit, my hair is not gray, but white. I went white at 42 - young, I think. But let me tell you - I have people, women, teenagers and men, teenage boys even - strangers all, tell me how beautiful my hair is. At an age where most men no longer take notice of me, or any woman of a certain age, it's nice to have a stranger in the elevator, on the street, in a restaurant, tell me I have beautiful hair.

I know of a couple of women who have decided to go gray because of me. And I think they look better for it. Gray softens our look as we age. It goes with the softening of our skin, the softening of our moods, and need I mention, the softening of our shape. It's about accepting who we are, where we are in this journey of life.

Silly me used to think I was the only one of my friends who had gone gray. DUH, the minute they saw gray, out came the dye. I had no idea, really. Dyeing hair is like a foreign culture to me, not to mention the cost and the time involved. I can't sit still long enough to get a manicure. And if/when I do, it's ruined the very same day once I get back into the studio. My hands are my tools for heavens sake. But back to hair. I have another funny story. One day, a few years ago, I went to pick up my youngest at teammate's house. I guess Kelly was about 10. The girl answered the door and yelled back into the house, "Kelly your, uh, mom, uh, (now fallen to a whisper) your grandma....uh...uh.. SOMEONE'S HERE FOR YOU."

So what's the point of this entry? That's for you to decide. I know many of my readers probably have a gray hair or 2 on their head. And I figure most of you also have dye on your hair. You look beautiful, each and every one of you. I'm not lobbying to get you all to go gray, but I just wanted you to know you'll still be beautiful if you do. My mama always said that beauty comes from the inside. I know you know that too. Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Gray hairs seem to my fancy like the soft light of the moon, silvering over the evening of life. Jean Paul Richter

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Serendipity

glorious November moonThis is the reward I get for being a good mother tonight. Kelly asked me to run her over to her friend's house to pick up something. I was tired but I said "yes". I opened the front door to this glorious moon and felt a rush of energy and beauty surround me. I was going to make a quick trip of it and drive, but I went back inside and to get my tripod, not yet put away after the Thansgiving family portrait. We set out walking up the hill, searching for the best place to take the picture. It just so happened it was also on the way to Hannah's.

An evening stroll under the moonlight with your daughter....priceless.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Giving of Thanks

This photo is for you, Lynn, across the ocean in England, a friend for 41 years. 41 years? Can that really be true? But weren't we both just 14 last year - Fellow yellow gorillas in our Suburban Hospital candy-striper yellow pinafores?

Lynn asked me to take a photo of everyone this Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if I would have done the whole tripod/timer/portrait thing if she had not asked. Surely if there ever was a Thanksgiving for us to remember, it was this one. Marriage, birth, impending birth,honor rolls, and internships, Chris's recovery, and my mother's health and new-found strength. Look how she shines in that photo!

It has been our tradition at the Thanksgiving table to go around and say what we are each thankful for. There's a lot of repetition, because in a family, most of us are thankful for the same things. But what makes it so special is that you never know what will come out of whose mouth. There are the short and sweet answers, and the expected, yet heartfelt responses And then there are the ones that bring tears to everyone's eyes. My Dad couldn't even get a word out before he got all choked up. He'd manage 5 words and then have to compose himself again. Which put us all in tears. He said, tearfully, that this family is more than he ever imagined he would have, a statement that is even more significant when you know that he was an only child, orphaned at 14. He is so proud of how we have all turned out, our accomplishments, our love, the people we fall in love with and add to our family, the little ones that come as a result. That didn't happen by chance, Dad, we have just followed your example.

Then we wind around the table to Chris. Chris usually doesn't say much, a man of few words. But when he does.... He's the guy that wanted to go last at the soccer team banquet 5 years ago. Each senior player takes the podium to say a few words. Chris knew everyone would say something funny and brief. He chose to go last so he could give the meaningful speech, the one that made this mother's heart swell and tears break out in hers and all the other mother's eyes, and yes, even a few players. Well, he did the same last night. He didn't go last, but he went deep. It's moments like this that I am thankful for. I need nothing more than to see my family together, to create a day like this that brings us all together both physically and emotionally.

And I must share this. It's no big deal, but I was just so proud of myself. I was so excited that I figured out a way that all 18 of us could be at one table. Actually it was 3 tables all pushed together and covered with, of all things, a drop cloth. It was the only thing I could think of that would cover a 8x8' table that I cold get on Wednesday afternoon AND that wouldn't cost a fortune. It was $20! unbleached cotton canvas - looked like linen. If I was truly Martha Stewart I would have rushed home and hand-painted, stenciled or appliqued something on it, but Martha wouldn't do that anyway. She just gets the ideas. The helpers (OK, paid staff) do all the work.

I hope that all of you had a day that brought warmth to your soul. There are many ways to make a day special, whether you are with just yourself, your family, friends or community. And we needn't reserve anything just for the official day of thanks. Joy can be created everyday simply by realizing that any part of our lives, no matter how small, is something to be thankful for.
Happiness is the experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. ~ Denis Waitley
What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? ~William Stafford

Friday, November 16, 2007

And the Winner Is...

Babsarella! aka Barbara.

My daughter Sam drew the lucky winners name. If I had to choose I would have picked you all. This has truly been (or is, as it's still Nov. 16) the best birthday. My biggest smile was from Sequana's comment which said, "Just wait till you hit 60...still better yet!" Isn't it grand having so much to look forward to?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Lucky 3s Day

3 beautiesCan I call this a red letter day? All these good things happened to me in 3s today. Three's a number, not a letter, but who has ever heard of a red number day. Mind you, these aren't fantastic things, but there were enough of them to make it a very special day, just the kind where everything goes right and you find unexpected joys in little things.

1. While shopping at one of the super Joann fabric stores, I discovered that they had both of my books on the shelves (a rarity) and then also on the newsstand there was the current issue of Cloth Paper Scissors with my art on the cover. - 3 places, 3 publications.

2. At lunch today, my daughter-in-law gave me 3 of the most beautiful photos of her 3 daughters, my beautiful granddaughters.

3. At Hancock Fabrics (OK, yes, now you know, I had my own little fabric shopping spree today. It is my birthday week after all), anyway, on the remnant table there was a discontinued sample book of decorator fabrics. One woman thought each piece was $1.99 and I just HAD to have this one of them (OK 2), so I took it to the cutting table. The woman there told me the whole book was $3. There are over 20 big, 15 x 15" pieces of nice fabric there. $3. That's when I realized that it was a 3 day, but I wanted to call it a red letter day.

Cherry blossoms in the fallIt's been good news like that all week. Yesterday we were told that they would discharge my Mom from the nursing unit and she can move back upstairs to their independent living apartment. She can now come to my home for Thanksgiving. Medicare rules didn't allow her any outings and she's been a prisoner for over 6 weeks.

I love you, BuddyOn Monday, my husband took me for our annual birthday outing. His birthday was yesterday. It's a day for both of us, but he plans it around what I like to do, sweetie that he is. It was a surprise up until we got there. He took me to the national Gallery of Art in DC. It was also Veterans Day, so we parked and walked along the Tidal Basin, home to the famous Cherry Blossom trees and on through the WWI and WWII memorials on our way to the gallery. Not the best weather, but the company was great and the atmosphere charged with positive energy from all the people honoring the Veterans.

Jackson Family plotThe Gallery was hosting a show he thought I would like, The Art of the Snapshot. He was spot on about that. It made me really appreciate my own collection of snapshots and the stories that they tell. Bonus exhibits were the Baroque Woodcuts and Robert Rauschenberg. I enjoyed showing Buddy the transfers he did on some of his pieces. There was even a lovely all fabric piece with printed and transfered images! No photos allowed, darn it. But again, it was a nice feeling to be able to relate my work to his. The nice surprise of the day was to find dear Jane Wynn's book, Altered Curiosities in the museum bookshop. What an honor. I was so excited (and proud of us mixed media artists) to see it there!

eternally beautifulBut that wasn't all! We left about 2:30 to head on up to Oak Hill Cemetary. My grandmother and several of my fathers's ancestors are buried there (the others are in Arlington Cemetary). There's room for me too, since my Mom & Dad will go to Arlington as well. And who wouldn't want to be there for eternity. It's beautiful. Here's a bit from their website:
a lot to be thankful forIn the center of Georgetown, lying along Rock Creek, a neighbor of Dumbarton Oaks and of Evermay, is a 19th Century garden park cemetery rivaled only by Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery in graciousness and a sense of community.
There's amazing history there, my own included. It has been quite a week and it's only 1/2 over. Thursday & Friday will be spent in the studio (my dream days) and on Saturday I take off on a day trip with my sister. We have not done that in quite a while. We can talk about all the things we have to be thankful for this year - a rough and tumble one with its ups & downs, but one that has fallen softly into place and left us standing on our own tired feet. A red letter year for sure.

Check back on Friday to see who the lucky Fragment winner is. I have deeply appreciated all of your comments and birthday wishes. Maybe you have all had a part in making not just today, but all the days this week, red letter days. Thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Birthday Present Anyone?

My birthday is on Friday and I am celebrating by giving you a present! Come to my virtual party this week and leave a comment. On Friday, I will draw a name from the group and the winner will be gifted with this lovely Fragment. That's my grandmother in the photo, Lulu Vivian. The quote reads: If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you; I came to live out loud. ~ Emile Zola

Bibbie, (she would never let us use the G word and I could not say Vivian and boy, she hated Lulu), certainly lived out loud. A flapper in the 20s, she had red hair and oh! she loved to dance. She was one of 13 kids but only ended up having one daughter, my mom, who gave birth to me on November 16, 1952. I think the only thing we had in common is that I, too, love to dance. As Grandmas go, she wasn't the cuddly, loving type, full of stories, sweets and smooches.

But enough about her. It's all about me, the birthday girl, this week! It's the official kick-off of my year of discoveries in the studio, grandma goodtimes, health & exercise, resting & reading, setting new goals and making plans for my next 10 years. When I was approaching 40 I once told a friend how forward I was looking to becoming 40. I saw it as a time of coming into my own, knowing who I was and want I wanted out of life (finally). To me 40 wasn't old, it was a time of finally having arrived. Her response was, "Wait until you turn 50. It only gets better." I felt that she had just revealed a part of the secret knowledge that only "mature" women are privy too. Well let me tell you, ladies. She was right. It does keep getting better. And I'm livin it all OUT LOUD.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Veteran's Day & My Dad


I owe you a nice long post about my time in Houston and how my first week off from teaching & traveling has been (wonderful & creative), but I just had to make this quick post to tell you all about my Dad. He is a WWII Vet. He was also a German POW for 18 months. AOL selected him to be the face & voice of their WWII segment for Veterans Day. Watch the video HERE. He's the 2nd interview ~ WWII.

I couldn't be more proud!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Falling/Flowing

It is finally fall here. After weeks of 80-90 degree days, the rain and cool temps have descended. Red, russet and golden leaves carpet my walk. Sweaters have come out of the closet and the cool, damp air is breathed deep into my lungs. I have always loved the fall. I associate it with of one of my favorite memories throughout grade school....the day they handed out the textbooks at school. No matter how much I ended up dreading those boring textbooks and the assignments they produced when the school year was in full throttle, on that first day, first week even, they were magical tomes full of knowledge and mystery. Their heft, their smell, whether new, old or used, I viewed them as keys to the mystery. Within their pages were things that grown-ups knew. The knowledge was being handed out piecemeal, year after year, page by page, to my eager little mind.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED learning - still do. My all time favorite was the Think and Do workbook series. I wanted to rush home and complete the whole book that first day, yet being a good Catholic student, I followed the rules and only did one assignment at a time. Imagine - think and then do. How simple, how true. We do it every day. At least we should - think before doing, that it.

I felt the same way when I stepped into the Bethesda library - a building full of books that I expected I would eventually read, yes, each and every one of them. To my young eyes it looked doable. The library opened in November 1952, the month and year I was born. As I grew, it grew. Soon they began to fill the study tables with books, then they moved the Children's book section to a smaller area (we were small people), then they announced they were building a new library. Then the new library was remodeled to enclosed more space for more books. In other words, the number of books increased exponentially. As I grew, I understood that I would never get to them all. Ha! I can barely get to any of them right now. Another reason I am taking time off.

So back to fall. Last weekend I flew home from St. Louis on a route that took me over the mountains of West Virginia. I don't know why, but it was the first time I had seen the fall leaves from this vantage point. A gorgeous carpet of russet and gold hues woven together in a tapestry. The further north I got, the greener it became. I followed the Potomac River as it wound its way, ribbon-like through the mountains and down to our Nation's Capitol. Crossing the river yesterday on my way home from visiting my parents in Virginia, I realized just how close I live to the river. Just shy of 3 miles. The very same river my ancestors sailed and traded on back in the 1600s. Back in the day, I stepped into this river at Colonial Beach, even swam in its waters. Now, sadly, it is too polluted to swim in.

You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you. ~ Heraclitus. Do I want to step into the same river? I do want those fall feelings again. I want to be that wide-eyed girl again, with dreams of reading all the books, gaining all the knowledge. I do so enjoy thinking. But the other half of the equation is to DO. Now that I have grown, I realize that it is no good to only think, one must do. Learning, living life comes from the doing. And I have learned that there is as much knowledge to acquire by doing is there is by thinking. More perhaps.

Of course I still plan to curl up by the fire with a good book. One cannot always be doing. Life must balance out. I think the key is to always be eager and open to the ebbs and flows of life, the winding of the river. To be that eager child desiring to one day know it all. To be as a child, to be a beginner. One can always be a beginner. If the angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner. ~ Rilke

I'll see you when I get back from the Quilt Fesitval.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Saintly Weekend

DARN. I just realized that I never took a pix of the Foundry Art Centre. I was enamored of the place. It was such a delightful weekend, weather-wise, facility-wise, and most of all, people-wise. The Show-Me state showed me a really good time, beginning with the wonderful Laura Helling, who has directed this art center into a very integral and moving force in the St. Charles community in the 4 years it has been open.

My first delight was seeing Quilt National in the cloth - it was my first stop after meeting Laura and Joyce (the founder) and stashing my supplies in the classroom. Besides the Dairy Barn in Ohio, this is the only location that hosts the entire show. I have seen parts of it before at various locations so I was fortunate to see it all this time. And it looks like I'll have the same opportunity to see the next one again in 2009 as I'll be back to teach again!


Each day, after teaching, I left the art center to walk "home" along historic Main Street. This small town is quite a tourist attraction as it is steeped in history. Lewis & Clark started their westward expedition here. It is the oldest town along the Missouri River, and also the first capitol of Missouri. Main Street has been restored and has many shops, restaurants and delights, like a horse-drawn carriage, a glass conservatory dedicated to weddings and the unique little shop, Rock Paper Scissors. It was my destination after Saturday's class and Corey was still open long enough for me to do some damage to my wallet. I don't get out much, so everything in the shop was new to me. I gathered papers and goodies to work on overdue journals for my granddaughters, as well as irrestible artist papers to add to my paper stash.

All in all, it was an idyllic weekend. I felt instantly at home. New students became old friends before the first class was over. While I was minutes from St. Louis, highways, malls and traffic, spending time in this secluded little pocket along the Missouri River was the perfect refreshment for the soul that I needed. It gave me the chance to slow down and catch my breath.


I try to step into each body of water that my teaching takes me to, but the Missouri flows swiftly and its banks are muddy. I was content to watch it flow from my safe perch, enjoying the warm afternoon sun after my Sunday class ended. I'll miss the people and the place, but not for long! I'll be returning there in March to take a class with Laurie Doctor, an artist whose work I have admired for years. Months ago, when I first saw that she was teaching at the Foundry, I felt I needed to be in that class. Now that I have been there and heard what Laura has to say about Laurie, and felt the sense of renewal and friendship provided by St. Charles and the wonderful fellow artists I met this weekend, I know I have to be there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ramblings

sam at the pumpkin patchI always feel like a bad blogger because I do not post any art that I: a) have made, b) am working on, or c) am planning. This is a very good point in my art career. One could say that I have "made it". Everything I do is for publication in books (mine or others), or magazines, TV taping, or new classes - in other words, I am in demand. Because of that demand, I have been travelling and teaching, writing books and writing articles for more years than I can remember. My dream came true. Italy, Australia/New Zealand, TV, cover girl. What more can a girl want? This girl wants time. Time alone. Time in the studio. Time to dig down deep again to the place that birthed those Fragments, oh so long ago.

wishes @thirteenWhen I started on this path, my life was filled with children, a newborn even. Now, some of them are having their own children. Look at dear Sam there in the pumpkin patch with my next tiny granddaughter, Riley Ann Crawford, inside of her. There's Kelly on her 13th birthday, a newborn no more. This daughter, the one I time my art-life by. Was she sent to show me the way? Should I say How time flies...when you're having fun? Trite but true. When I scheduled this next year off, I never knew that I would be spending it with 2 more granddaughters. When did my children grow up? I was there, yet I was too busy to absorb it all. And that's what I want again ~ to really feel in the moment. To have the time to record thoughts and feelings, to create art that springs from my soul and not a deadline.

Don't get me wrong. I love EVERYTHING that has entered my life since I began my journey as an artist. Deep, deep friendships, friends that are such a part of my soul, that I am not complete without them. Friendships I thought I would never experience. The magic of being there when someone in a class or a private session has that aha moment, or when confidence in her self, her creativity, slips into her life - to be present for that, words cannot explain. To know that my work is valued by others, that it resonates with their soul or brings a smile to their face. I have no greater feeling than when I can impart some of the wisdom I have gathered in this life. Two dear friends call me Buddha. Do you know how that thrills me? I have been a seeker all this life, long before I "went public." Seeking the meaning of life, the way to happiness, the "what are we here for" question. It's enough to share myself with my family. it's a blessing and an honor to share it with others.

Friday I leave for St. Louis to teach at the Foundry Art Centre. Second to last trip of the year. I'm really looking forward to seeing a new place. It's the Show Me state as well, and that is what I'll do, show and share. I feel so honored to be the teacher selected to teach there while Quilt national is on exhibit right outside the classroom doors. Quilt National....nows there's another dream that has been on the back burner. Perhaps it's time I bring it to a simmer.

This is not the post I thought I would write when I began, but it's what came out, so it must be right. Success means fulfilling your own dreams, singing your own song, dancing your own dance, creating from your heart and enjoying the journey, trusting that whatever happens, it will be OK. Creating your own adventure! ~ Elana Lindquist

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cover Girl

My life has been so crazy busy lately, I forgot to share some really exciting news. I'm a cover girl!!! on the next issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, due on newsstands November 1st, just in time for my November birthday. The cover artwork was done for my article on rust. Remember rust? This is a long time dream come true, dating back to when I was editor of my high school year book, dreaming of working for a magazine but alas, did not live in NYC. How narrow my dreams were back then, before I understood that any dream can come true if you follow your heart. I got sidetracked along the way, but here I am checking that one off the list. I really must make a new list. The only one that hasn't come true is a new kitchen....and really, what good is that. My Thanksgiving dinners are just as perfect, my food just as tasty, my life just as full as it could be. Heck, if I can make art in my bedroom, I can cook in a 9'x11' kitchen with only 10' of counter space.

Ah, Portland/Art & Soul

sweetie-pie Karen, spreading the loveI wasn't very good about pulling out my camera at Art & Soul. I had it with me when Claudine, Karen, and Sas went out to dinner. I remember thinking I should ask the Sweet Basil waitress to take our photo, but promptly forgot. It must have been the Asian Pumpkin Curry. That restaurant is to die for. If you're local to or visiting Portland you must go. Do it for me please. yum. Anyway, back to Art & Soul. It went by so fast. I was lucky enough to room with Karen and Claudine, which allowed us to catch up on life, art and dreams of the future. We all yearn for more time in the studio which we will definitely do in 2008. I believe it is true, that if you are giving of yourself by teaching, that there is little left to give to your own art. It's not just a time factor, but one of balance. Of course, what you teach is stuff you know well, things you have been doing for years, work that you are known for. When that is your focus, it is hard to turn the tables and reach deep down inside to find what is new inside you. Hard to hear the small, still voice that beacons you to new discoveries, new meaning. It is the unknown and you must have the time to walk gingerly into the unknown. You cannot treat it like a fast food restaurant - "Two quarter pounders of inspiration to go please. And can you supersize that?" New self discoveries require preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and a long period of dormancy and germination before there is even the hint of new growth breaking ground, much less the blooming of a flower.

Time at an event like Art & Soul feels to me like watering or fertilizing a flower that already exists. Nourishment, care. Tending. What I, and everyone else who was lucky enough to attend must now do is go home, into their studio and plant the seeds we gathered at Art & Soul. Plan and prepare for the garden to guarantee its bloom next spring, summer and beyond.

I'm all about sign and symbols. I take their appearance seriously when they enter my life. I came home to this lovely piece by Mavis Leahy, who has been following my art for a long time - before blogging even. Mavis read about my son and mother and the things my family has been going through lately. This piece she made for me "she flies with her own wings" flew into my soul right when I needed it. (Thank you, Mavis) My mom came home from the hospital the day I left for Portland and is now in the rehab unit of their continuing care facility, eager to go back upstairs to her home. We're not sure if that will happen and my sister, dad and I have a conference with the social worker today. When I saw my mom yesterday, she noticed my new nina necklace right off the bat. She's always had an eye for jewelry, clothing and shoes, my mom. Do you see the connection between these two works of art? Both were handmade with love and attention to detail. Both contain those tiny porcelain dolls. I used to be a dollmaker, crafting little people, inventing personas and lives.

Last night I happened upon a house for sale, 30 miles north of here, in the country, overlooking Sugarloaf mountain. It's 200 years old, renovated, yellow stucco. The serendipity of finding this house (when we are not even looking) was enhanced by 2 other signs. It's down the street from a dear friend who I see very little of and, get this, the outbuilding, the one advertised as a possible studio, was a midwifery/birthing house in the 19th century. If that's not a sign, I do not know what is. Me with 6 children. Art = birth. Yet, and here is the sad part, we're not ready to move. Kelly is only in 8th grade and to separate her from the only home and neighborhood she has ever known would devastate her. Yes, I know she would overcome it, but Buddy is not yet ready to do that to her, or to move. It would also add another 40 minutes to my drive over to see my parents. So most likely, it is not meant to be a part of my life at this point. So I must look for the other reason why this entered my life, the other sign and symbols that it holds for me.

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment. ~ Mark Twain

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bouncing from Coast to Coast

a welcoming glowBy the time I arrived at the lovely B&B in Berkeley last Friday night, the sun had just about set. The cottage was located behind the main house, so I asked the shuttle driver to wait until I found my way. This welcoming light was all I needed (well that and the key), to know that I was "home". Being a quasi flower child of the 60s, I was excited to be staying in Berkeley. I had not realized that the East Bay Heritage Quilters were actually located in Berkeley - that some of their founding members were women that had inspired me when I started quilting in the 70s. I felt I had stepped back in time, both of the town and my own quilting history.



beautiful, historic campusI love college campuses, so when Roberta Horton said she would drive me through the campus, I was thrilled. A campus is like a bookstore - full of possibility and knowledge. And this one was full of history as well. I went to the campus bookstore and got the requisite college t-shirt for my son (who has recovered 100%, amen) and strolled through the gate to the plaza where so many protests took place. Back in the car, we drove past the Greek Theater where throngs of hippies from 16 to 66 were flocking, lining up for some event. In clothing I had not seen since the 60s, they came from every direction. I shouted out, "Who's here?" The reply was "Phil Lesh." And that meant nothing to me nor Roberta, nor a few others I asked that weekend. I had to Google him. When I was telling this to my son Chris last night, he knew instantly who Phil Lesh was....a founding member and base guitarist of the GRATEFUL DEAD. Deadheads! Darn. I would have loved to be there.

BerkeleyRoberta's tour took me to the top of the Berkeley hills where I could have a panoramic, yet foggy view of the Bay. Standing up there near the fault line, breathing in the scent of the eucalyptus trees, I wondered what it was like to live in a house hanging on the edge of a cliff in earthquake territory - and paying over a million dollars to do so! Give me my wooded east coast gently rolling hills any day.

a view into my retro cottage kitchenSo back to the cottage...it was so charming. A blend of retro 30s and contemporary comfort, just 2 blocks for the "Gourmet Ghetto" on Shattuck, home to Chez Panisse, born in 1971, birthplace of the fresh, organic, California food movement. I was lucky enough to be treated to dinner there by Lorri Scott, fellow artist, teacher and friend. It was a welcome pleasure on a beautiful Saturday night after a day of teaching wonderful and talented students. My sightseeing day with Roberta was on Sunday and I taught again on Monday - another class full of talent and charm. The trip was capped off with a lecture to the guild (including some familiar faces) on Monday evening, back on top of the Berkeley Hills overlooking the sunset on the Bay. Could it get any better?

As I am writing this, my mother is still in post-op after successful surgery today to fuse fractured back vertebrae. As I said to her, I am sorry for all the cracks I stepped on which have now resulted in her broken back. It has been a long day at the hospital. Surgery was originally scheduled for 1:30 pm. Dad called at 9 to say they moved it to 10 and then they showed up for her at 1:30. After spending 2 hours with her in pre-op, they finally took her to the OR at 3:30. Now my sister & dad stand by awaiting her awakening. I have come home to tend my own little flock and try to do some organization and preparation for my next cross-country trip to Art & Soul in Portland, OR. Mom should go home on Monday and I board a plane on Wednesday. Huff, puff, huff, puff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One Solution: Buy New Shoes

On Monday I was emailing my contact at Golden Paints. She asked how things were going. I said, "They could be better." Her response was, "Maybe buy some new shoes." Funny thing is, I had done just that. Bought a pair on Friday from my always there, "need a fix" shop Zappos.com, and they were here by Monday. I was actually shopping for these but fell in love with the ones you see here, gracing my feet. OK I must confess, I bought the other ones too.....

Anyway, not only love at first sight, but comfort as well. And that metallic silver leather - to die for. The Naot's run larger than your usual US size, so for my 7.5 foot, I bought a 38 or US 7. The Royal Elastics run a size smaller, so I got the 8s. I have a LOT of standing up to do over the next month and while my still comfy El Naturalistas are still going strong, a girl can never have too many comfortable shoes, now can she?

My mother, who liked to call herself the Imelda Marcos of Maryland would approve of this. She is still in the hospital but improving daily and may be able to go home tomorrow or Friday. Home will be to the skilled nursing portion of their retirement home, but still, it's better than the hospital. Thank all of you for inquiring about her health or sending prayers. It's not as scary as my Labor Day weekend hospital adventure, but stressful nonetheless.

I'm off to Berkeley, CA on Friday for a wonderful weekend with the East Bay Heritage Quilters. When I return I hope to have some exciting news to share as well.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Looking Up

red sky at night, sailors delightIt had been a very scattered day, finding out early in the morning that my mother had been taken to the hospital. My sister was there with my Dad and nothing was too seriously wrong, so I stayed home and tried to work and stay ahead of my deadlines and teaching preparations. I would be there tomorrow. Tomorrow was soon enough.

I worked all day and got things basking in the glowdone but never really felt a sense of accomplishment - my mind was across the river with my mother. Back and forth, inside
and out, up and down stairs, hither and yon (really, I was yon). On one of my final up & down trips of the evening, passing the front door, I saw a rosy glow of light that drew me outside once again. My little spot of heaven was bathed in this warm glow...something that I know occurs with many sunsets, but is rare here inside these city walls. I had to capture it to serve as a reminder for me to keep looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, even when times are tough and stress runs high. As a reminder that everything is fleeting, not only the beauty of a sunset, I love how the porch lamp casts a magical shadow on the brickbut the worry that accompanies having a loved one in the hospital, the pre-trip preoccupations and crisp, cool fall evening such as this one that was presented to me as a gift from the Universe.

The pink sky disappeared all too fast and I cast my eyes downward only to find a new light, the welcoming glow from my own front porch and a golden (almost rosy) glow drawing me back inside. I felt more centered, calmer and secure, rewarded actually, by the blessing of the sunset - something I may have missed altogether if I had not looked up. Looking up. It's a phrase my dear friend and I use often. Better to look up. Train yourself to look up. Be always looking up. Look up to keep from feeling down. Life has loveliness to sell, all beautiful and splendid things, blue waves whitened on a cliff, soaring fire that sways and sings, and children's faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup. ~ Sara Teasdale

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TV Land

I just finished watching Claudine on Martha Stewart and after my own experience yesterday, I have a whole new appreciation for what goes into the making of a TV show. And Claudine did it LIVE!

I was luckier, my 3 segments for Quilting Arts TV were taped. That means we could stop & start and correct anything that we flubbed. Not that we did that - well, OK, yes we did. But it was unrehearsed and unscripted, so all in all, we did very well. Francis getting ready in the green roomIt's pretty hard to get your point across in 90, or 180 seconds - which is all we had. By we, I mean me and the other guests that taped yesterday - Francis Holliday Alford and Judy Perez. Check out their blogs to get their version of the story.

The show will be on PBS stations by the end of December. It is supposed to be in the same time slot or replace America Sews, so check to see if and what time you get that show. I have discovered that for my area, it is only available on PBS digital channels. Looks like I'll be upgrading my cable service to digital cable. Not just to watch myself, mind you, but because with the talent lined up to be on this show, it's gonna be fantastic. Judy on the green room monitorIt really is the pages of Quilting Arts come to life. And I predict it won't just be of interest to quilters. All of you mixed media people out there will find loads of interesting techniques that you can apply to other things.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn't all that nervous. My biggest mistake was looking up towards the camera - like I would be looking up at my class when doing a demo. The rule on how-to shows is that the guest only looks at the host, mainly because the guest never knows which of the 3 cameras to look into and can look like a fool if they are talking to the center when the camera on the left is filming.

But by far the best part of the show was watching and realizing how far Pokey has come in the years I have known her. She calls me her "other mother" and I can't help but swell with pride to see my 5th daughter excel in everything she has set her heart and mind to. It's been a whirlwind year for her and I'm happy I get to catch the breeze.

My son continues to do well, the evenings are getting cooler, the days shorter. Beginning next Friday, I'll be travelling and teaching 24 out of the next 45 days - my own little whirlwind of sorts.