Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

for my next number…

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Defining Moments catalog cover

Finally I have finished the dreaded replacement queen bed quilt and it’s off to be stitched.

So for my next creative endeavor, I am designing the catalog for Defining Moments, the joint project of Marion Coleman and I. Our first exhibit opens in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, so this is top of my to-do list.

I am using the same Blurb software with which I designed the Tall Girl Series book, but alas a decade has passed, software has been upgraded and I am ten years older! So far I have managed to find answers to all my questions and watched a couple You Tube videos to remind me how to do some PhotoShop tricks. All in all, it is fun but a huge time suck. Although I should take a break every hour, I am lucky if I do every 2-3 hours.

My biggest fear is if I fall too far down the left brain rabbit hole, will I find my way back to stitching, easy enough? I guess if that fear is realized I can always clean out the basement or start looking at fixtures for the bathroom remodel which is also on the list.

I don’t know what people are talking about that I should play more! Is this not play? Let’s put it this way. I am seldom bored.

Onward…

finished quilt top

finished quilt back…pesky blocks return

on ‘adulting’….

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

three rows (doubled) new bed quilt

As I forge on constructing a replacement quilt for our queen bed, I have been thinking about ‘adulting.’ I often wonder about words or expressions that suddenly take on meaning to¬†other generations. One of those is the word adulting, which I gather applies to any task one does that implies responsibility & discipline, which btw ‘spell check’ does not yet recognize, so how hip can it really be?!

I’ve lived entire life adulting! As a child I adulted my younger sisters to make sure they stayed out of trouble, danger, or fun. I adulted and got a meaningless job out of college because I knew not what I wanted, other than to not study! I adulted as a young married when I learned to budget and live within my means. I adulted as a mother and wife, as I worked two jobs, did endless chores and always placed creative opportunities for joy last on my to-do list.

With an early retirement, I tried adulting less. After all is that not what retirement is, a 2ndchildhood? A chance to play? When I first learned to dye and paint cloth, it was the first time ever I felt totally free of adulting. Hours would pass and all I felt was pure joy and play. Gratefully, that joy and zest has stayed with me for now 20 years of adulting-free creativity.

So along comes the bed quilt project. As our much-loved bed quilt has faded, ripped, and been repaired it became abundantly obvious to me, last year that I needed to replace it. I mulled over colorways and researched design. Initially I was jazzed by the modern quilts, i.e. minimalist. Just love them! Can I do it? How hard is it really for a gal who hates following directions? Doesn’t minimal mean easy?!¬†I asked those who have designed them. I saved many images of quilts I absolutely loved.

Alas time had come to stop thinking and start doing. When I wasn’t looking, my¬†adulting-self stepped in, put creativity in her corner and began to remake the same old design, but in a different color-way. It has been a battle of fits and starts since. Cranky much?

Last night it occurred to me that while I chose this new color palette I am not overjoyed with it! I love so much the garden colors of the old quilt I am replacing. This seems so loud (said me, never!)  In a moment of extreme madness or ingenuity, not sure which, it occurred to me that I could make the quilt reversible! I could make the back in blocks like the front, but in the green family instead of the purple family.

My mind began to tinker with design once more, as I was trying to drift off to sleep. Would I even consider making another 80 blocks for the back side, in garden greens? Will I ever finish this? 

This morning I had an epiphany! I could make the back as I had initially planned the front, to be minimalist. After all I have two remaining blocks from the original garden quilt. I could make just 7-8 more, sew them in a long stripe and then sew that to the backing fabric. Voila!

leftover garden green blocks

I may have at last hit upon the minimalist design I sought initially. It only took me 320 inner blocks, several bad movies, many sleepless nights, and lots of chocolate. If only my adulting had just stayed out of the equation in the first place, and let the muse play!

I am over adulting…the millennials can keep it.

 

 

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!