Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Memoriam

Lynn Meerkreebs Simpson

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know I went to England in January when Lynn's husband Paul died. What I did not tell you is what happened to Lynn between my visit and her passing today. I hate to share bad or sad news, but some stories are just worth telling, if only to remind us about love and life.

Lynn was born and raised here in Washington, DC. We met when we were 14. "Fellow yellow gorillas" was the phrase we coined for ourselves in 1966 as junior volunteers in yellow striped pinafores at Suburban Hospital. She met her soul mate, Paul, a handsome British lad, one summer when they were both counselors at a summer camp up north. If you know Lynn, then you know how their romance survived the years and the distance until they were wed here in DC. And then he whisked her across the ocean to live a life in his hometown of Manchester, England.

Lynn, a Special Ed teacher, and Paul, a teacher rising to headmaster level, had a storybook romance of a life. They truly were each other's better half. Their love and family expanded when they adopted 2 beautiful children, Stephanie and Christopher. They loved to travel, taking several trips back home to the US and vacations in Spain, cruises and jaunts to sunny places to get away from the dampness and grey of England, particularly in recent years, to help with Lynn's asthma.

So after Paul died, knowing it was what Paul would have wanted, Lynn decided to take the vacation they had planned as an escape from cold, wet mid-February. It was bought and paid for after all. I was invited to accompany her but had to pass up 2 weeks in Fuerteventura, (one of the Canary Island's off the coast of Africa), because of my new granddaughter. Luckily, another friend from high school, Amy, was able to take the time to go with Lynn.

Lynn's asthma had been acting up and she had been under a lot of stress, natural for someone whose husband has died. What she did not know was that she had viral pneumonia. Two days after her arrival in Fuerteventura, Amy could not awaken her. When Amy called me from Lynn's cell phone on February 11th to tell me the news, I thought it was Lynn returning my call to tell her that my granddaughter Riley had been born. For the next several weeks she lay in ICU in a hospital in Fuerteventura, in an induced coma, on life support, so her body could fight the infection that threatened her life.

When she was well enough to be moved, she was air ambulance transported back to England for another several weeks in the local hospital. Lynn had just come home about 3 weeks ago. Her tracheostomy was healing, but she was still having a lot of trouble breathing and called me Saturday to tell me all was fine, but that she had to have her trach attended too since she was still wheezing. "All was fine." Lynn was ALWAYS optimistic. I have never heard a complaining or pessimistic word out of her mouth. Never. If she was in trouble, I doubt anyone would have known. But I also doubt she knew what was to come. I think her heart just gave out today, figuratively and literally. It's not that she didn't have the will to live, her children were her life. But I know there was a huge hole in her heart that Paul used to occupy.

I hope she was not aware, that it was instantaneous, that she was looking forward to the day that lay ahead, making plans with her children, dreaming of the likely marriage between her daughter Stephanie and her boyfriend Matt - someone both Lynn and Paul approved of highly. Making sure Chris was taking care of himself, eating enough and cutting back on the cigarettes. Or was she looking after Cora, her petite, sweet dog? I wish I could talk to her one last time. Visit again under better circumstances. Even while she was preparing for her husband's funeral she made sure to make my visit pleasant and memorable. I went there for her, to help and support her, but she wanted to show me a good time, and so off to Bronte country we went the day before I left. That was Lynn. Always thinking of everyone else, wanting their happiness, and recording those moments in photographs. I'm so thankful I snapped this one in the pub our last night together. I'll miss you Lynn.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Day for the Senses

tumbling beauty, lilacYesterday was a day for indulging the senses. I saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted beauty just as Goethe reminds us to: A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

My sister and I went to hear poet, David Whyte at the National Cathedral. I first discovered David's poetry many years ago through his Clear Mind Wild Heart cassette tapes. Now they come in mp3 downloads - so obviously I've been a follower for a long time. His poetry and his powerful presentations have always resonated deeply with me. "The language of poetry takes us outside of our small selves and calls us to look at ourselves and the world with open eyes,” teaches David Whyte.

a quiet corner I had the problem last night of deciding whether to write down the nuggets of wisdom he was sharing or just listen. If I was trying to remember what he just said long enough to get it written down, then I lost everything that came immediately after that. But some words just begged to be inscribed. The theme of the talk was the secret voice of everyday life, but as always, David just talks, letting his words and thoughts create wisdom as he goes.

He admitted to us last night that many times he too is struck but what he has said. That sometimes he doesn't know what he is revealing until he has said it and he has to pause to gather the full impact of the insight and wisdom. He allows himself to be vunerable even standing in front of hundreds. He says it is our job to share ourselves with the world by being vulnerable. At the end of the lecture, one man asked how is one to be vulnerable? David said it it is different for a man and a woman. A man must be vulnerable buy being invisible, but a woman makes herself vulnerable by being seen in the world.

my sister, KatieThat makes so much sense to me, especially as an artist and a writer. To pour my heart into image and word and then to expose them, and in turn myself, to the world. "To live at the center of the conversation you were meant for."

The grounds of the cathedral were magnificent in their spring bloom. I had been there before with my daughter's class in November 2006, so had missed the wall of trailing lilac on the Cathedral College building, the charming Greenhouse shop and the joy of strolling the grounds in the warmth of spring. Who can resist the chance to smell the fragrant lilac, which only blooms for 2 short weeks in springtime. Is all beauty so fleeting? Is it beautiful because it is impermanent?

The evening ended with dinner at Sala Thai in Bethesda, a quiet favorite, with live music on the weekends. The taste of our curry, the sound of the jazz...our "worldly cares did not obliterate our sense of the beautiful." We uttered the usual, "We have to do this more often," and then went back to our respective homes and lives.

seeing clearlyThe evening will serve as a catalyst for the change we are seeking in our lives. Our mini midlife crises. Yet something less than a crisis, a quandry perhaps? David said we must "get used to living in that beautiful confusion between what you think is you and what you think is not you." It's hard to see clearly through the confusion, especially when you are in the midst of it in your day to day routines. I'm going to buy the mp3 of Clear Mind Clear Body for my ipod. It helps to have the constant reminder and the voice of wisdom at hand. And in those quiet moment when Riley is feeding and nodding off to slumber, I will immerse myself David's new book of poetry, several of which he recited last night. Oh, and did I mention he has a charming British accent? Do you want to hear for yourself? Here is a link to his Library of Congress Poet & the Poem webcast.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It's so hard to have to keep my mouth shut about some things, but today I can share. Cate Prato, editor at Cloth paper Scissors has a new book coming out soon and I have a piece in it. Doesn't it look yummy! Quilting Arts will be taking pre-orders for it soon (10% discount to QA & CPS subscribers.) And you can pre-order and read more about Mixed-Media Self-Portraits: Inspiration & Techniques on Amazon.

I have 3 other big things to announce and share but my hands have been so full with Riley I cannot get all the finishing details pulled together. Fortunately I have a little mini-vacation from babysitting the rest of this week so I will try to get everything ready and posted for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ebay Auctions

Come one, come all, to this amazing auction of 58, yes 58 cabinet card photos. Amazing likenesses of women, men, children from days gone by. And that's not all folks, the second auction is All Dolled Up - doll parts, doll related, angels, etc. Seeing is believing. Click on over to here for the photos and here for the dolls.

Hurry - it's all over next Sunday, April 27th.
(Darn, this guy is so cute, now I wish I'd kept this one...)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Looking Back/Moving Forward

This is where I was a year ago, on our wedding anniversary trip to Baltimore. With all that has happened this past year, it seems more than a year, almost like a lifetime ago. This year it will just be dinner and a movie (we haven't been to a movie in 5-10 years). We will sit and hold hands just like we did 38+ years ago when we went on dates to the movies. Ironically enough, the first movie we saw together was Love Story (Love means never having to say you're sorry.) In fact, I can tell you every movie we saw, the day and location of every date, what I wore on every date, the length of every phone call, his mood, the sweet things he said to me, beginning from day one and for over a year. I recorded everything in my diary, first a little white leather one and later spiral notebooks. There were scrapbooks too with movie stubs, gum wrappers, the usual. Little did I know I was recording the beginning, the story, of a lifelong relationship.

A few of you have asked about Lutradur. I mentioned earlier that I filmed 2 online classes for the Quilting Arts Festival. One of them is on Lutradur and will cover all the techniques you see in my sample book for Pellon. They are still working out the logistics, but if you go sign up at their website, you'll be among the first to know the details.

My art production has been down this week. As Riley awakens to this world, she demands more time and stimulation from her babysitting grandma. She's happiest in anyone's arms and gets super excited when she gets her full body massage and alphabet lesson. We carry on wonderful conversations. Sure I went through all this with with my own 6, but oh I'm so much wiser and patient now and can really enjoy just being with her. OK, well most of the time. I still get frustrated like any new mom when she won't share me with my art. I get it all laid out, do some planning & design and then just when I'm ready to commit she wants me again. And all I'm doing is trying to prepare some journal pages, to glue a few scraps of paper down.

Last week I was able to finish up a wee journal from the scraps of papers I used creating a journal for Wendy Cooper. A little more than a year ago, Wendy opened her New Zealand home and heart to nina and I. She so wanted a journal just like the one I made myself for my trip. Finally, a year later, I am happy to say that her very own is now on its way. I would like to be there to see her face or perhaps to see her face when she reads this. Wendy has waiting long and patiently. Surprise Wendy!

So now I have these two journals to fill - one large, with unbound pages (12 x 15"), one small bound tome (4 x 6"). Do glimpses, fragments of an idea go in the wee one? Big ideas in the other? So far the wee one has become a texture journal. A few scraps of fabric and some magazine photos of dressmaker details. I don't want to impose any rules or restrictions, but then again, I want it to have a theme. We'll see. It's been a long time since I had the time and inclination to record my life on paper. I was just reading another blogger who was discussing her preference for using a word processor for her real writing, vs a journal for note taking. That sounds like the way I work. I always feel I have to cubbyhole things into one container or another, but I don't, do I? This is my life and I am the creator. My left and right brains are in a continual struggle for dominance. Order vs. randomity, planning vs. serendipity. Why is it when I know how (Just Do It!) I still struggle with the process? I do know one thing. I will glue tonite's ticket stubs into one of them. And the receipt from our dinner. I'll record what I wore and the sweet things he said. I'll write what it's like to be married to your best friend for 37 years. I'll make my left brain happy by listing and numbering all the wonderful things our marriage has created.

dogwood in bloomPS I will have 2 more Ebay auctions up by the weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Art & Reality TV

Wow, yesterday's You Tube video just disappeared so I deleted that post. Lucky those of us that got to see it before it vanished. So here's some more eye candy to replace it. Pellon asked me to make them some Lutradur samples to take with them when they make sales calls to places like Michael's and Joann because the buyers don't understand what it is. So here is the sample book I made for them. I used pretty basic techniques as they requested, "nothing too arty, the buyers are not necessarily artists or crafters." Still it takes me a while to figure out what to do and then to execute it. Nothing is ever really a "quickie." Nor should it be. As they say on those talent reality shows, each time you are on stage it must be the performance of your life. There's no slacking off. If you give, you give 100, no - 110% every time you perform. And creating art is a performance. Now I agree that not everything I do looks like I gave 110%, but I did. Each time I did the best that I could under the circumstances in the time allotted. We can't all be or make winners every time.

With this new day job babysitting Riley, I have been watching more TV. When you have a babe in one arm and a bottle in the other, there's not much else you can do during those 20 minute feedings. (Although I'm still trying to find a way to do something that doesn't require hands - any suggestions?) So yesterday I plopped down and turned the TV on. Someone had left it on BRAVO, so I ended up watching Step It Up & Dance. American Idol, Project Runway for dancers. OK, now listen. I really do like these reality talent shows and I'll tell you why. They are all artists trying to make a dream come true. I can relate to that. The situations are manipulated, the camera is always running and sponsors and networks control more than we know, but ultimately, in the end, these are real people who earned their spots with hard work and talent, artists working hard, busting their a*#, to follow their dream. Would you measure up were you given that chance of a lifetime?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Are My Hands Full!

If you missed seeing the rest of this, it's because youhaven't signed up for the Cloth Paper Scissors newsletter. To see what it is and how to make it, check out Issue #76. Yes, I've been busy. There is always something to do here in LaLas Land. 'Tis a magic land indeed. There is no shortage of inspiration here, only time. Just when I think I have a moment, wham something or someone calls my name. But I remind myself I am a professional. I've multitasked myself to there and back, so I can juggle a baby and some art at the same time. But can I juggle three babies at the same time?

That was the question yesterday when I had all 5 granddaughters here, 4 for the day and one unexpected visitor. My daughter-in-laws birthday was about a week ago and my gift to her was something every mother dreams of...a day home alone. So down came 3 more granddaughters in addition to my regular babysitting gig with Riley. And then my daughter dropped in with Julia as well.

We tried to get a first ever all three babies photo with grandma but it was too laughable with floppy babies and Kathryn's crazy smile.

I have to run. I have my first weight-loss challange meeting in an hour. I'm excited to finally get a grip on my eating habits and loose some weight! I've got more goodies to show you tomorrow.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Making Meaning

Thank you all for your kind words, insightful comments and gentle admonishments to stay the same, be myself (who else could I be anyway?), and share my thoughts with you. I think all of us here in blog land need to know someone is listening. As I have said before, I would blog no-matter-what, it has become my journal. In fact, I think I read somewhere that you can have your blog entries made into a book. That might make a nice gift to myself someday, for there is nothing like holding your thoughts in your hands, the tactile pleasure of page turning, the marking of the text with stars, underlines and exclamation points (those aha insights I mentioned in the last post), marks that say, I was here, I read this and it has meaning for me. Have you ever gotten a used book with such marks in it, or perhaps borrowed one from a sister or a friend? It's doubly meaningful to not only read the book for your own insights, but to learn more about the other person by discovering what rings true for them.

I'm obsessed with making and finding meaning. This morning, as I added yet another quote to my 95 page file of quotes, I couldn't help but get lost in the words again - universal answers and insights delivered so sweetly and succinctly in a line or two. And I'll leave you with that quote, a line of poetry from Mary Oliver, while I go make meaning in my studio.

How could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?
Mary Oliver