Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

year end wisdom

Monday, December 31st, 2018

At the end of each year I make a list of goals and intentions, primarily for my artwork. This year I also made another list, in Notes on my phone. This bonus list contained all the things I NEED to do in the new year, or if not then, when? It was a list of mostly digital items I have paid for but not utilized. The Yoga in the Chair for Aging Bodies class, the Sketchbook Skool class, the Craftsy class on perspective, 73 books on the Kindle, daily stair climbing, getting back to the agility exercises on Wii Fit, stuff like that. I felt quite pleased with myself that I recalled all these items to complete my list and then emailed it to myself. When it arrived in my inbox the pleasure of that memory had subsided and instead the list arrived with feelings of guilt & dread! Until I was reminded by my most beloved sage of wisdom, that perhaps making the list was all that needed to happen with it!

Wow, now isn’t that a concept! As I age and immerse myself in the wisdom of elder women, more and more I see that worry is a waste of time and guilt a waste of energy. What might have seemed really important to me at one time, no longer is. What might have seemed like something I should learn is really not something that is going to enhance my life, if I have to force myself to do it. Why clutter my days with stuff I really don’t want to do?

People often tell me what a prolific artist I am. My answer has always been that I love what I do. Granted I have slowed down in the past few years. In 2018 I made 7 pieces of art. In 2017 I made 10. In 2009 I made 29; of which many were small pieces. That being the year I finished the Tall Girl Series, likely opened the door to extreme creativity by unleashing repressed memory.

oooh that color!

It figures that this clarity comes on the heels of slogging through a bed quilt! All of 2018 I’ve thought about how I really should sew a replacement queen quilt for our bed. Now that the current one is falling apart, I finally decided December would be the time to do this. I cut out most of the pieces for the blocks and then nothing happened.

Yesterday hubs said, don’t worry, there is no rush for this bed quilt. But there is, as these blocks are clogging¬†up my creativity, my design table, my design wall.¬†¬†I am determined this will be the last I¬†really¬†don’t want to do this thing EVER. Or perhaps I am just being optimistic. After all, doesn’t each new year carry a dose of optimism?

So add to my 2019 list of ¬†intentions, stop paying for stuff I really don’t want to do! It is just as easy to not want to do something for free. Instead redirect the funds and energy to support someone who is passionate about their own pursuits, like perhaps our first female president!

Happy New Year!

 

a thank you card…

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

along the Seine

Twenty years ago today my longtime employer died of brain cancer. For the previous 20 months I had been his primary caregiver, mostly I believe now because I had restored my battle-weary self worth working for him for 16 years. He was like the brother I never had and how could I abandon him in his time of need? Plus as the mother of a teen and wife of an independent thinker, I truly needed to feel important to someone. I also did not know what to do with my days without my addiction to work and serving others.

Many gifts came to me out of my sense of obligation to his care. Most were intangible. Slowly I shifted my focus to what really mattered. I noticed the little things in life, those which continue to capture my attention today as I walk. The lichen on the tree branches in the fog, the hundreds of varieties of roses that bloom many months of the year, not just in summer. The cracks in the sidewalk. None of the things that had  monopolized my days prior to his illness seemed to matter anymore. I always say cancer is the great prioritizer as one quickly learns what is important and what is not. Nothing to me was as important as accompanying my friend through his journey with cancer. It was my personal grieving process unfolding before my eyes.

I pretty much wore myself out taking care of him. People kept telling me to take care of myself, and I truly thought I was. I stopped going to the gym. I lost strength in my own aging body, put on 30 lbs, and grew my hair long. By the time he died, I was an exhausted, aging haggard woman. And how surprised I was to learn it would take me just as long as his illness, to recover from the experience.

I decided to take six months off to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Two months in, as I lay on the floor doing my morning stretches (where I often do my best thinking) it occurred to me that there was nothing I wanted badly enough to go back to work. In that moment I began on the path that has led me to where I am today. My father who had just retired himself, did not congratulate me on this spontaneous decision to retire at 50 but instead warned me that I better make sure I did not outlive my money.

As a seamstress since youth, and having spent my adult years as weaver, knitter, needle-pointer it only seemed natural to take classes in various forms of textile art and design. So I jumped in with both feet. One year I took eight classes at various retreats, which also sparked a love of travel. I never really considered being a professional artist. I was just dabbling and I just loved getting lost in my world of color and ‘play.’

I spent a few years distilling all I had learned until 2004 when I finally found my own voice and began the five year autobiographical project that became the Tall Girl Series. ¬†At that point my work began to evolve from ‘pretty’ abstract work to narrative.¬†The rest as they say is history.

Here I sit today paying homage. I have been ‘retired’ twenty years already! That is longer than I worked for the good doctor. I have felt many times in those 20 years immense gratitude to this man whose premature death enabled me to reinvent myself as an artist. Otherwise I would have likely sat in that front office chair, managing his practice, being his parking lot therapist, West Coast mother and surrogate sister, up until he retired which would probably have been when I was 60. For so many years I had longed to bail out of that job, but was enticed by the kid’s tuition paying salary and benefits.

The biggest benefit was unforeseen. The benefit of time. The benefit of finding and reinventing myself through right brain activity, not so much the left in which I had been programmed to function since childhood.

So I say today, of all days, thank you David. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to grow into the woman and artist I was destined to be. I am sorry that you had to die at 56 but I feel nothing but gratitude for the privilege of retirement at 50.

RIP.

 

artivist at work…

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Plastic Ocean 4, stitched sky WIP

I have taken a little heat lately for my creative zest! I was going to say over-exuberance but that is really a judgment call. I seriously do not mind feeling over-exuberant about my work at all. I relish the time when the muse is in the house and ready to get at it. For I know the fallow time will come.

The creative muse is much like the aging gene. It is important to honor it, show it respect, celebrate and thrive within it, because in all likelihood it will not last forever! And as another artist recently said, the more we create, the more prolific we become. I can think of a whole lot of worse things than being prolifically creative!

That said, I continue to design work about the plastic garbage in the ocean. I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with my own consumption of plastic, which in reality is probably a good thing. After all, half of making any change is the acknowledgement of the problem. Several people have commented that my talking about this has engaged them to think about their own consumption. Just like my morning walk photo collages on social media inspire others to notice their surroundings when they are out walking. I love that!

And I have also heard it said that I am starting a trend with this work. I find that rather humorous as I have never seen myself as a trendsetter! My kid is the trendsetter in this family.

Nearly 20 years ago when I began this phase of my life, otherwise known as retirement, my gut instinct was to make work that ‘said’ something. Someone then told me nobody wanted to see that! I let one person’s opinion lead me¬†into years of making ‘pretty’ art quilts. Until…I began the Tall Girl Series!

Plastic Ocean, WIP, 3-D

Now, nearly two decades later, I still feel this great calling for telling stories. Now, I don’t care if people don’t want to see it! That is their issue. Those who do, will, and might even think about how they too can enact change.

This works for me in so many ways because I can make my voice known without stressing my body, by marching down the street. I have after all become an artivist!

 

time flies…or not

Monday, July 30th, 2018

nurse sleeping on the job…

When last we left our heroine…A few days after my fabulous weekend jaunt to Alaska, I woke up with a bad foot. It was bad in the sense that it really hurt and I couldn’t bear weight. Other than that I knew nothing! I figured I had sprained it somehow, well actually thought I had twisted my heel. I blamed it on putting on knit shoes in a small space on a plane. About as good an excuse as any, really. So I rested, iced, tried to stay off it, figuring it was sprained. I did take a couple 1/2 mile walks which did not feel good at all.

Two weeks in, and not getting better, I contacted my orthopedic doctor, who was on vacation. When he returned he told me I needed to see a specialist, for which I needed a referral. So I contacted my primary and she ordered x-rays on her way out the door to her vacation. Note to self…schedule injuries for winter!

Long story short…6 weeks, three sets of X-rays, complete lab work-up, bone density test and two doctor visits later and I now have a healing stress fracture of my left heel. Theory is I did it in Alaska. Apparently walking 8 miles in 3 days in good shoes is not something the aging body actually wants to participate in. So I am still grounded from my morning walks, but doing cross training at the gym and minimal weight bearing, such as grocery shopping, cooking and maybe standing in the studio for 25 minutes at a time.

All of this down time allowed me to ponder the meaning of life, while 3 different people told me it was the Universe’s way of telling me to slow down. Actually it wasn’t. It was my foot’s way of saying don’t ever think of walking 8 miles in good shoes, in 3 days, ever again EVER!

first supper, post-tingrin

This concept of slowing down at 70 boggles the mind. I don’t have much time left! A friend told me that 20 years ago, so it is even more true today. My mind overflows with ideas for new work, which I figure keeps it stimulated. I fear if I slow down, I will grow fat, bored and boring.

So what I have done in the past six weeks is: finished curved piecing for two pieces on the plastic oceans, got my lower jaw braces off after 9 months (as in time flies) and indulged immediately in ribs and corn on the cob. And adopted a new mantra…

I have a young mind in an old body! It is astonishing how much better this makes me feel as I deal with another temporary setback. And it is true. I have a very active mind, for which I am both blessed & deeply grateful. Onward, one foot at a time.

ocean base

‘gun it granny…’

Monday, May 21st, 2018

After two weeks of delightful procrastination I finally got back to machine stitching my latest work today. Today I woke too weary to walk, after driving 235 miles in traffic yesterday. While walking may have been the best thing for me, I decided instead to pamper myself and stay home, do laundry (oh boy, now that’s pampering!) and stitch. Once I got started and the rhythm going, I changed colors 5 times and finished stitching the entire piece. Ah progress! It is actually just the foundation as now I will lay the design, the narrative, if you will, on top of the stitched base.

just how fast do you think you were going young lady?

Not long after I got into the swing of it a voice from the past visited….Chris Walberg and his gun it granny!¬†I was really zipping along or so I thought until I looked up at the speed meter and it read 50%. Well I think at 100% steam would have been rising from the machine!

When I was 15, I took drivers education as did all baby boomers. Because we were so populous there were 4 kids in every car in drivers ed. I was blessed to be relegated to a car with Chris Walberg. Undoubtedly it was because we both had last names that started with W-. Chris seemed to be my constant alphabetical companion in high school. So there I was driving some back road in Walnut Creek, and possibly a bit overly-cautious. I felt empowered, as if I was really now a grown-up, until Chris leaned over from the backseat, stuck his head between the instructor’s and mine, and snarled, gun it granny! Funny how that has stayed with me all these years. And it makes me wonder now, as I zip along at 70 in traffic on the freeway, if he is that guy slaloming between cars at 85?

So today, pedal to the metal at 50%… Chris Walberg, this one’s for you!

this baby stitches through 6 layers like a dream

completion…

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

my FRIEND Marion Coleman (image from Earth Stories exhibit)

A little over three years ago I began a project with my good friend and mentor Marion Coleman. We set a goal of each creating 25 large pieces before my 70th birthday, which was then three years in the future. We chose my 70th as hers was a year earlier so that gave us more time! We gave it a working title of Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. Our plan was to explore personal, cultural, historical and social issues that formed us into the women and friends we are today. What made this project unique and meaty is that I am Caucasian and was raised in an affluent white suburb and she is African American raised in the segregated South. We hardly had anything in common, one would think and yet as very young girls we were already separate but equal.

Just as I was rounding the corner on my 24th piece in the series Marion got a nasty diagnosis which has halted her work on the project, diverting her attention rightly so to her health.

As I tried to wrap my head around this news I decided to make my final piece as a homage to her, my friend, which is titled Defining Moments 25: Homage. Not only are we rocking it as aging tall girl-friends, but she was my mentor for the Tall Girl Series, has always been so generous with sharing art biz, is one of the kindest women I know, an incredible storyteller, and very accomplished artist, both in the public and private sectors.

MENTOR

I gathered images of her person, her CV, artist statement, some of the pieces she created for this series. I digitally printed all to cotton sateen and pieced together with African fabrics. Only when it came to the photography of this final piece did I realize I basically made a textile of copyrighted material! You see we each own the copyright to our own work. So if you don’t tell her, I won’t.

I now feel completion with the Defining Moments series. I am still planning to tell stories as that is what I most enjoy, and have a few ideas in the queue. Stay tuned.

and another bites the dust…

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

I had lunch today with yet another friend who is leaving the state. I felt honored that she contacted me to go to lunch just days before she moves. Last we dined in January she mentioned they would likely move north at the end of this year. In late January they drove up to just poke around. They found the perfect place, bought it, came home, listed theirs and in this crazy real estate market, it sold immediately. So start to finish sold and gone in two months time.

She is my fifth friend to move out of California in the past few years. There is one more leaving this fall, as far as I know. Most have gone for the same reasons, i.e. it is so expensive to retire here. I envision them all having a big old reunion up north! Rather than obsess about my sadness or their exciting new life, I am trying to focus on how blessed I am to know so many women who have truly touched my heart.

I also like to think that all this movement is making room for newness to happen in my own life. One thing that would be new is tears. Tears are now about 8 weeks overdue. I received some very sad and heartbreaking news the end of January which affects someone I adore. I have watched 3-4 tearjerkers to stir up something, but to no avail. I have suffered through aches and pain, and still no tears. It seems I am really holding on, for dear life, no matter what. This is the same woman who cried at the drop of a hat 20, 30, 40 years ago. It really is quite intriguing how much sorrow a person can take without breaking. All I can say is when it happens, better put on the hip waders.

opportune flu timing…

Monday, February 5th, 2018

elephant seal sanctuary, Piedras Blanca, CA

Today is day 10 of my stint with the flu. Yesterday I felt totally great yet did nothing because I had been warned of relapse. And alas, today, there it was, just the same. After 10.5 hrs of sleep I could barely get out of bed. Of course by now, hubs who got the shot (as opposed to me who refuses each year because “I never get the flu”) is also ill. So between the two of us and the dog it looks like the elephant seal sanctuary around here.

Just before the flu we took a 6 day road trip down the Central Coast for a Road Scholar program on migrations. It was an interesting program, full of intelligent people, many who came in escape of the midwest and east coast winter. We learned we are not birders, as if there was any doubt before. I could not even see the silver throated cockle tweeter let alone name it and where was the brown shingled outhouse when I needed it?

At the close of 2017 I was finishing up no 24 in my three year series Defining Moments. And I was worried for a couple months before that about what next?¬†There is nothing like a deadline to motivate a person like me. For three years I did not have to worry about what’s next? Sure it took me a bit to get started, but once I did, it was fairly smooth sailing.

I tried not to think about it, but alas it was there needling me, what’s next? what’s next? So I started to pay more attention to what it is going on around me, and in the world, what caught my attention and what didn’t, and really began to hone in on what I might introduce to my work.

Then I went on vacation, where I got some heartbreaking news from a friend, which affects my current project, then I got the flu. Then I lost interest in anything I would normally do to calm myself. I have lots of handwork I can do. I have knitting to rip out and restart. I have books I can read. I can do nothing, but fret and twist in the wind.

The truly ironic part of this whole scenario is I am not lacking for inspiration. I simply cannot contain my mind. I am bored out of my gourd lying here, unable to work. I want control of it. Isn’t that ridiculous, sick with the flu and still trying to choreograph the show? Did I learn nothing with the 27 month knee inflammation? Surrender, Dorothy!

When I was a young woman with bad menstrual cramps I envisioned the perfect comfort would be to sit in a vat of warm chocolate pudding. This may be the time to ferret that out! Or I could simply contemplate the dehydrated navel orange…ymmm!

a slice of dehydrated orange is 100 x sweeter than fresh!

 

 

on intentions…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Currents 25

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because to me they imply something needs fixing and one is bound to fail. Who needs that? I’ve spent the last 40 years shedding things that make me feel badly about myself. I need not conjure up new ones.

Instead I prefer intentions, or art goals. What would I like to accomplish in the approaching new year? And I write it down so at the end of the year I can see if I did it. For the most part, I do.

I don’t need to join a gym, or lose weight as I’ve been there, done that.¬†And I don’t want to do anything tangible every day for a year. I admire others who can do that, a collage a day, a stamp a day, a sketch a day, a stitched line, a novel page a day, whatever. To me, it is too much like homework or a job!

Besides I don’t think I really need more discipline. After all I am the one who set a goal of designing 25 large pieces in three years time and did it! So, yes I definitely need less structure and more fun!

I was thinking I might add a morning meditation as an intention, but that still feels a bit like a guilt trip. So maybe a mini intention, to work towards being mindful, say for 10-15 minutes each day. Of course this intention involves training others to either (a) join me or (b) not interrupt me to ask what I am doing, or if I am ok?! The answer to that takes me way out of mindfulness!

Perhaps the most manageable, the most reliable, the most possible intention of all is to do hand-work every night! As in what I did before the internet was born. To put down the iPad and the phone, and once again pick up needle/thread or needles/yarn and make something.

Ideally, it will serve several purposes; massage my creative gene, give me back that meditative time so challenging to maintain, and produce something. Way back in the last century before the internet, I knit almost every night. I have dozens of pairs of warm wooly socks that I still wear in winter, scarves for walking, a sweater or two and even a gorgeous wool coat. None of these would have happened if I had been solving a 300 pc puzzle online, or playing scrabble and mahjong against myself. And the bonus is I might go to sleep easier, not having to shut down my brain at night along with the devices.

So there you have it. My intentions for 2018 include staying grounded, retaining the muse and doing hand-work every night. I think I can handle that as they all tend to support each other. And if you see me prowling the internet some evening, don’t shame me. I feel bad enough about it already!

May 2018 be the year you figure out your best intentions, and follow through!

Happy New Year!

reflections on turning 70…

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

reflection of arch, st. louis, mo

As many know I offered a special inventory reduction sale of my work in honor of my turning 70. For what was supposed to be a 3-day event, I sold lots of early work to those who most loved it and wanted to live with it, or gift it to someone, who potentially will love it too!

It was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. It was really validating that so many friends, other artists and complete strangers love my work and wanted it in their lives. And it was refreshing to cull some inventory from three closets and one cabinet in my home.

Before doing this, I pondered whether I would be devaluing the price of my work by selling for $70 ea? For me, the answer was simple. This one-time sale was about freeing up studio energy, which in turn clears my headspace and my willingness to share. It was not about money, not about art career goals, not about strategy. And that is probably why it all felt so good. It felt good for my work to be coveted. It felt good that people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, to own it. It felt good to prep older work to ship, to sign in thread those which had not been done before, to bid farewell to much loved colors, textures and designs. It was all a lovely and most gratifying experience.

So the first thing I learned since turning 70 was, if you want to do a quickie sale of your artwork, don’t announce it until the actual first day of the sale. I thought it prudent to put out advance notice a week ahead. I did not want to be processing orders on my birthday! The hits were fast and furious. I sold ten pieces in the first hour, a week ahead of time. By the time the official sale days arrived, there were only four pieces left!

Another thing I learned is there will always be people who want all my work for $70 ea, for which I got to practice saying NO. My favorite expression actually is …NO is a complete sentence!

For my birthday we went to a fabulous resort and spa on the Monterey Peninsula. We ate great food, indulged in a bit more wine & chocolate than usual, enjoyed the “Carol Cocktail” custom made by the bartender in honor of my big day, saw old friends, had a facial, revisited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and ate and slept like royalty!

I don’t know that I learned this so much as I re-acknowledged that I am not a spa person! Mostly I don’t like strangers asking me about my body parts, which always seems to happen in a spa. Sure it is unprofessional, but it happens and often, and I don’t like being put on the defensive when I am supposed to be there to relax!

It was a lovely spot, with all the amenities and yet I struggled to get out of the warming pool.¬†It was challenging to toddle around in men’s sandals which were way too wide for my long feet, which are way too long for the women’s sandals!¬†Just let me go barefoot already!¬†Just a weird combination of first world problems that annoyed me. So I re-learned, that I never have to go to a spa again!

And finally I learned that it is true, that by the time one hits this age we have definite likes and dislikes. We like our creature comforts. We like to sit on furniture made for tall folk and not have our knees dangling on the floor. We like to walk in shoes that fit. And we like to know when it is free day for tri-county residents at the aquarium, and not go on that day! You could say I am getting cranky, but in reality I am just getting smarter, one day at a time.