Archive for the ‘health’ Category

on getting out of my own way…

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

TG Series clothI have spent most of this day fighting the voice that tells me I must go downstairs (to the cold basement) and create two new thermofax screens to print cloth for #11. This sense of urgency is based on two things; that #10 is nearly¬†completely stitched and with 15 more to go, time is a wastin’. Even with all the self awareness work I have done I still seem to occasionally believe that old family mantra that procrastination = laziness. Unbelievable!

Way back last year though I began to see procrastination = process & fermentation so why should I feel the least bit poorly that I am not interested in making those screens right this minute, or worse yet applying them immediately to cloth? After all it is just January 5 and I have 361 more days thanks to Leap Year to make those 15 pieces, or at least ten of them.

So utilizing the best excuse possible of a¬†cold basement on a rainy winter’s day I chose to stay upstairs and stitch more of #10. I put on some Bach and stitched for quite some time. I accomplished a lot not the least of which was I got out of my head. It¬†occurred to me that the real reason I had not wanted to go make the screens and use them was I was not yet content with¬†my choice of fabrics for this piece. I had pinned some¬†choices to the design wall, based entirely on the available length of the fabrics. Today it came¬†to me that I could use instead other fabric I had not even considered; fabric that makes total and complete sense. For the theme of #11 is what I hope will be the last time I tell in cloth the story of my shortening surgeries.

The new cloth for #11 is already printed with imagery. It is a piece from the very beginning of my work on the TallGirl Series. It is printed with tall girl tales for¬†which I had changed the font so the stories were illegible. It was designed a decade ago when I’d just begun to find my voice, but still was fearful of the repercussion¬†of doing so. How totally¬†appropriate and relevant to use cloth from the project conception¬†to put closure on it today.

Thanks be to Johann for the clarity! We must visit more often.


life stories…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
Medical Research from the TallGirl Series: A Body of Work

Medical Research from the TallGirl Series: A Body of Work

It has been nearly a month since I posted. I used to be so good at this! Well I do have my list of excuses‚Ķ As a wizen woman once told me, what good are excuses if we don’t use them?¬†

I continue to work on and enjoy the process of the collaborative series. I am now stitching #9 while simultaneously drafting the design for #10.

Number eleven will likely be the surgery piece of which I am still uncertain. A therapist long ago told me I might never get over the drastic changes made to my body. This subject has literally defined my life so it absolutely needs a place in this series; yet what to say that I have not already said?

Appropriately enough I have, for the past year had major inflammation & debilitation issues with one of my knees which was replaced four years ago. All tests have proven the prosthesis is stable but there is definitely something amiss. Some say more surgery, others say no more surgery!

This reminds me once again just how unique my medical history is and how I continue to be a medical oddity. And yet I push through, a day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. I do admit though to being envious of those who move with ease in the world without so much as a thought. Sometimes I just watch people walk, in complete awe of how effortless it seems. Yet everything is relative, as I feel cheated by those who can walk, run and sprint; there are those who have felt cheated to have been cut down in their prime.

Last week another such wonderful person, a strong and courageous friend of over six decades, died. Chris and I met in utero as our parents were university neighbors and life-long friends. Although we lived in different states, our families gathered together almost yearly. Chris and I really connected in our adolescence and stayed in touch throughout high school, college, marriages, divorce, kids, careers, retirements and cancer. Whenever I feel the least bit of sorrow for my broken body I am also aware of just how blessed I am to be otherwise healthy. I am a little slower but still putting out the art and increasingly grateful for the opportunity to do so.

unexpected nirvana…

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
the view from our room

the view from our room

I just returned from a fabulous five-day art retreat on the shores of Lake Tahoe. What could have been a disastrous turn of events actually turned into nirvana for me. The classroom I was assigned to was midway up on billy goat mountain. I traversed it slowly with cane and friend in tow four times on the first day and that night my knee cried “uncle!”

In the night I decided that the best plan was to have my sewing supply bag and workshop machine brought down from on high to our large room. There I set up shop & laid out designs on the spare bed. Sewing primarily by hand, I worked propped up on the bed with pillows and ice, with lovely Lake Tahoe out the window and Pandora cranking out the tunes on my iPad. It literally was divine! What I actually needed on this retreat, without realizing it until then, was long periods of solitude, to rest my brain and body.

The teacher Lorie McGown, texted me during the days and asked permission to come to studio solitude to check out my work progress. That too was great as I got to know her, had private instruction and got her good feedback on my work. A kindred spirit indeed!

My intention for the retreat was to get going¬†on¬†another piece in the 25 pc collaborative series I have been working on this year. ¬†This piece is about my handcraft heritage and I planned to incorporate hand-crocheted doilies, hand-knitting, my great grandmother’s hand-crocheted head scarf, my father’s christening gown, etc.

What I hadn’t been able to figure out was how to make it pop as¬†the french vanilla beige was boring to me. Lorie encouraged me to layer and incorporate pieces of my own work into it and from there it just took off.

father's christening gown on handwoven cloth

father’s christening gown on handwoven cloth

For example, this piece¬†still in progress of my father’s christening gown is sewn to my handwoven silk scarf and my great aunt’s handwoven shawl. Another piece incorporated a lovely quilted belt my mother had made for herself in the ’90’s. She was a world-class hand piecer and quilter.

layers of doilies and Mom's hand-pieced quilting

layers of doilies and Mom’s hand-pieced quilting

Now I am back and rediscovering the challenges of not being able to hand-stitch 8 hours a day!

hot off the press…

Thursday, March 21st, 2013



Although I have known for some time this week I received confirmation that my Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work will have a special exhibit at the 2013 Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, CA. October 17-20. This will be the second time my exhibit has been featured in one of the Mancuso shows, the first being in 2011 in Denver. It received much press and praise there so I expect that will continue.

Whenever the ‘tallgirl’ as I have come to refer to the project emerges it brings a sense of time warp with it. ¬†Since I finished the project and moved on, and have dealt with much of the debilitation by having both knees replaced and had the dreaded two MRIs my ‘tallgirl’ experience has greatly expanded. Had I not done the work I would not have been emotionally and spiritually equipped to handle the challenges that followed. And yet every time I am brought back into that time my heart heals just a wee bit more. ¬†So the exposure is a good thing.

Also I am published again!  This week I received the beautiful new Fabric Surface Design book by Cheryl Rezendes.  My work is featured on page 305 as one of a series of artist profiles: those who use paint, wax, resist, image transfer, prints etc to create color on cloth.  I started to read it last night and I am already so inspired!  The beautiful illustrations and detailed technique explanations make me  anxious to get back to making beautiful cloth again. It is always an honor to have my work featured in the books of others.

Right now I am torn between starting my big Earth Stories project, doing an altered book as homage to my parents or doing another landscape piece. So many choices!


the faster i go the behinder i get…

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

I hate the lapses between blog posts but in reality  who wants to read about my grief process.  I continue to put one foot in front of the other and once every so often put same foot down too soon or too late and stumble.  Then it takes me about a week to regain my confidence of moving in the world. With an ongoing focus of getting stronger in my mobility following two

privitt-babytotal knee replacements in the past year and a half, the loss of my aged father and my husband’s health issues my muse has hit the road. ¬†I have been able though¬†to do creative bits and pieces here and there but the big work just stares back from the wall. The smaller tasks do not necessarily fill my creative well but get things done.

Most recently I made a baby quilt for my cousin and his wife who are expecting a bambino next month.  I always take these on with great fervor and then quickly remember how much I hate sewing a straight line! For me it is practically impossible even with the positioning foot on the machine. About halfway through I give up control on whether the recipient will like it or not. It is my process after all not theirs. When my daughter was born we received 3 hand-made baby quilts and we still treasure each one three decades later! One by grandmother, another by great-grandmother and the third made by a friend. All treasure.

I also bought a new computer which I sorely needed and have been challenging myself nearly daily to figure out where my images are. Some are on an external drive, some on the new operating system. Some I can’t read the title line so I have to open them up to see. After spending countless hours trying to ferret out an image for someone I decided it was easier to take the work downstairs and just reshoot it. Over 3200 images I have at this point…a nightmare!

The new computer also brought me a real-time full-view of my website and I hated the dark edges of the header artwork, so some tweaks were made to that. Meanwhile I cleaned up some of the images (those I could find!) and so now it is looking spiffy once again.

In between I am painting four new pairs of ‘chucks,’ ¬†delivering work to a gallery exhibit in Oakland, preparing work and signage for my solo exhibit the month of April in Sausalito, and taking a mixed media class from a mentor. ¬†I am close to thinking about the start of 3 pieces for Earth Stories which are due this fall. ¬†I pretty much have it designed in my head. I just need to physically do the work.

And hubby and I have been watching episodes of Doc Martin as a little British humor cures all!

Funny, in proofing this before publishing I realize that even in my lowest moments I am a freaking machine! Still..I am so ready to move on to my next chapter and whatever the muse brings…


life happens while making other plans…

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

jellies-bk Creative interruptions have been happening at lightening pace.¬† While I am drawn to writing as an emotional release publishing it to the web has not been a priority so I’ve been blog-tardy.

The Universe has such an incredible sense of humor and keeps piling on the challenges. I continue to try and right the ship which is¬† not so much about control but rather trying to eek out¬† creative time to maintain¬† sanity.¬† For it is the FUN part¬† that¬† sustains me through the rough waters.¬† And although I have several pieces to make for exhibits it is feeling a whole lot like ‘surrender Dorothy.’¬† Perhaps once again the message is to schedule time for art. Write it on the calendar and make that my priority.

Years ago I was primary caregiver for a man dying of brain cancer. I was also 16 years younger!¬† I wore many hats simultaneously and all of them well¬† despite letting¬† go of two priorities¬† in my own life…eating well and exercise.¬† I gained 15 pounds and could hardly lift my body weight. He died and I had to rebuild my own health.

This round there is no brain cancer but rather a¬† spouse with a myriad of health issues that require my constant attention.¬† I see how I need to be more flexible in my interactions with him…after 42 years of marriage. And it frustrates me no end! Surrender Dorothy!¬† Yet my priorities to eat well and work out everyday remain intact because I need to be as physically strong as I can to carry me through this next chapter. I am indeed older and wiser.

I have always believed that if one pays attention their intuitive mind will tell them what they need to know.¬† For decades I have ignored the nudge¬† to interview elders about their life stories. Everyone has a story, everyone has had¬† hardship. Everyone has ‘something.’¬†¬† When I was in my 40’s I thought it would be good to volunteer at an assisted living facility so I could interview old people. I never did.

Then my own father lived in such a facility for the last two years of his life and it was far less appealing. Most of the residents were out to lunch. There was no pull for me to do this work there;¬† more likely it was just ‘too close.’

Now it feels more important than ever that I heed this calling. If for no other reason than to see that others have had equally as challenging lives as this one has been. If I can just see clear to do it now…


lessons learned on vacation…

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

In July as I was headed into surgery for my 2nd knee replacement I booked a trip to Phoenix for New Years. My theory was the trip would serve as a goal and it did. Up until three weeks before departure I was still pondering if I was strong encactus-shadowough yet to travel. Finally I decided there would always be a FIRST trip so why not now? So we went, I did fine physically and learned I was much stronger and had better stamina than I had thought. First lesson.

We took a Road Scholar program which we have done many times before. After 40+ years of marriage we have talked about just about everything and several things many times over. Road Scholar gives us the chance to explore an area, meet interesting people and talk about something other than the economy, the kid, and the dog!

Primarily I chose this program because the activity level was rated EASY. It turned out not to be EASY at all as it required a lot of walking but I did learn that EASY actually means ‘must have a pulse.’¬† There were many in our huge group who barely qualified and of those nearly every one was a complainer.¬† Never in my life have I heard so much whining!¬† A small group of us younger seniors stuck together for stimulation and survival.¬† Lessons learned: avoid the EASY programs. Also maintaining optimism as we grow is crucial to aging well.

Despite the whining there were wonderful parts to the program. A visit to the desert botanical gardens included two incredible art exhibits amongst the plants.

The Four Seasons bbotanical-facey Philip Haas featured 15′ tall sculptures of fruit, vegetables and plant foliage. Awesome!

Also the innovative sculptures of Carolina Escobar wrapped around and through cactus and other plants  throughout the gardbotanical-scultpureens.




The Phoenix Symphony on NY Eve was such an incredible treat. I was so inspired that I bought tickets for our regional symphony next week. I have been thinking about going to the symphony for a really long time.  I have no idea what stopped me before because the right time is now!

We also sat through two lectures on the anatomy and function of the violin and the trumpet. It was everything I could do to stay awake and having sacrificed the Rose Parade to learn about trumpeting made it all the more painful. Lessflw-homeon learned: I don’t really care how that horn was made just blow it already!

This program like the one last spring in Texas we learned about storytelling. We all have a story. We should all be telling it!  Unforgettable!

We toured the Phoenix Art Museum and the beautiful Heard Museum and again I learned I am a visual learner. I just want to see it with my eyes. I don’t care much to read about it.

Two more great experiences were to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West…aka his home in Scottsdale.¬† It was a textural and pattern junkie’s delight and I shot many images there. And the fabulous interior of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel with its collection of Navajo rugs…stunning!

While I was very tempted to buy two gorgeousblue-poinsettia art pieces¬† in Scottsdale I bought nothing but a FLW inspired fridge magnet!¬† Between cleaning out my father’s things,¬† having the urge to purge my own and starting a new life chapter I just did not want anything bad enough to bring it home. Lesson learned: I have enough. Possibly the best lesson of all: to experience life without having to possess it.

Got blue poinsettia?

It was good to have a change of scenery and great now to be home and in the studio once again.

singing cloth…

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Long ago a very wise woman and fellow artist suggested keeping a work in progress any time there would be a studio interruption due to travel, illness, or whatever.  I have done that ever since and it is brilliant as I can just pick up where I left off.

So I am making progress, day by day, an hour at a time on my latest work. Seldom do I sketch a design.  Yet on this piece I did a free-hand sketch inspired by some Googled images. Then I colored in with pencils, enlarged the design, and traced it onto acetate. I slapped that on the overhead projector and drew the design on freezer paper.  That was all in July before I had my 2nd knee replaced. It has been staring at me from the design wall ever since.

Last fall when I had my first knee replaced I did the same thing. For that piece I screen-printed imagery on a woven cotton tablecloth with metallic threads. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to design for an exhibit. The cloth and the design hung on the wall for at least 3 months until I was able to stand for short periods of time and design. What happened in that 3 months time is I changed my mind.  In the end the design of Keeping Up Appearances #5 was nothing like my original idea and plan!  And yet I loved how it turned out.

So it has happened again. My original sketch and pattern lie beneath the piece actually being constructed. I am not ready to show it publicly just yet but clearly it has a mind of its own. And I honor that. After all who am I to tell fabric what it wants to be?!

I really do like the idea of letting the cloth speak. After all that is what happens in my wet studio of surface design. I keep working the fabric until it sings.

tallgirl unchained…

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

It’s been suggested to me a couple times that I may want to continue on with my Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work. The series was a healing project in which I found my voice and released a very old harrowing tale from my body and the imprisonment of my mind.¬† It took me four years to complete the work and even when I was finished I was unsure if I was actually done!¬† As I continue to live in the body that was surgically reworked I continue to come across other adaptations I¬† might need to address as the story evolves.

The most recent of these is the two knee replacements of the past 14 months.¬† Although it didn’t seem like it at the time I skated through the rehabilitation process of my right knee in October 2011. Fast forward nine months and the left was replaced.¬† I was overjoyed as I thought these final two surgeries would change my life forever;¬† probably not unlike my parents’ hope for the original shortening surgeries.

The nearly five months since the second knee replacement has been perhaps the most challenging time since the original mid-century tall girl surgeries.  I just assumed I would be stronger and have increased mobility with no  limitation. Instead I traded one set of issues for another due to life-long weakness.

Recognizing that PT was going to take me only so far despite ongoing weakness I recently began working with a personal trainer. She is fantastic, patient and encouraging. Her background is in dance¬† and she is teaching me how to function in my body. I don’t recall that I ever have learned function. I learned only coping mechanisms. I learned to walk any way I could so to get out of the house at age 18 when stuck in a wheelchair. I learned how to fall down and get up the easiest way. Easy is not always functional.¬† So now I am learning these new ways to function with symmetry in this body. Talk about old dogs learning new tricks!

Twenty years ago when my knees began to break down the concession I made with myself was that my body is broken and I would do whatever I could to maintain mobility given the limitations.  It felt like a gift to honor myself so.  Now I am reprogramming my brain to envision a fully functioning and properly aligned body.

That which initially felt like a gift is now instead a¬† HUGE burden, a heavy pack I have been carrying for most of the past¬† two decades when the debilitation began. As a result of ‘completion’ of the¬† tallgirl series¬† I have accepted the choices made, the surgeries conceived and carried out, the long rehabilitation, the concessions of¬† ‘good enough’ and the acceptance of my physical and mobility limitations. Now I believe the time has come to let go of all of that. It is a new chapter.

The day after my first knee replacement when I was on morphine I had a dream of a jail cell being unlocked and the door left ajar. It was not lost on me even in a stupor how significant that image was.  Today I really get it. What once comforted me in my disability now is stifling.

I do believe there is a new chapter for the Tall Girl Series… on acquiring a new sense of self within this body.¬† It may always be (surgically) broken but no longer has to cripple my mind.


back in the saddle…

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Last week I began to work with a personal trainer to build muscles and strength that I have neither had nor used in almost five decades. Immediately I felt empowered by what I actually can do and that I¬† ‘exceeded expectations for your age.’

This was especially gratifying to hear as I rapidly approach the birthday classified as “elderly!” Aging is not challenging enough but then statisticians have to label you. I think of ‘elderly’ as twenty years older than I am, thank you so much! ¬†¬† It was good to hear that my simultaneous talking¬† while walking on the treadmill was beyond what they expect for a woman my age.¬† Within a day or two that empowerment still resting in my cells activated my creativity.

As I have been processing all the stressful personal events of this year my creative well has just felt barren.¬†¬† A month ago I tried¬† ‘therapy sewing’ as my friend Rayna Gillman calls it. At the time it didn’t feel too therapeutic but rather a tad tortuous. Clearly I wasn’t ready then.

Yet after feeling empowered by my body and trainer I began to think more about getting back to work. I knew I could stand and sit and stand and sit and stand and sit over and over again. So I went in and began to work on a piece that has been staring at me for nearly 5 months.¬† The colors are¬† glorious blues and greens…no sorry for your loss browns and blacks! I was able to work two hours before my knees said uncle. Ah progress.

So I have been back twice since. I occasionally find a little pull to check my email or Facebook while there which is really just the addictive part of spending the past five months online.

And I had a good chuckle this afternoon when my body was saying let’s stop for now…after all I had an hour with the trainer AND the chiropractor today so my bod is a tad tired. But I pressed on (no pun intended) until I made a stupid mistake.¬† I had just pieced in a patch between strips and then took it to the table to cut the new curve and basically cut what I had just seamed!

All the same it feels great to be back in the saddle…