This Comes With A Warning – Staying Up on the Down Side


You are welcome to just skip this one and wait for something better, something pretty, something fun. This may not be your cup of tea.

I am holed up in the office downstairs. This Leunig cartoon showed up on my facebook page this morning. It came on the heels of long distance kindness. Saturday a note came from two old neighbors that were part of our kids childhood. Tears flowed down my face as I read such nice words that they think of me often and hope I am hanging in there. They read my blog just to catch up on Lee and I.

Sunday morning we are at the diner for breakfast. Lee is not in a particularly pleasant mood….which is rare nowadays. He says that he doesn’t want to be there. Without warning again tears drip down as I think, “Is this one more thing I am losing?”

The day before I was talking with my daughter and told her that I honestly think I have lost myself. Now I was thinking that those years of Sunday breakfasts were coming to a close….those silly napkin wrapper things that were something to smile about might be over. I used my napkin to wipe tears away when Lee said I looked sad. He told me his omelette was good to make me feel better. And I told him that I would not count on us always having to go to breakfast on Sunday mornings, that I would ask him first if he wanted to go. We left it there.

And this morning an email from a friend in St. Louis catching me up on her husbands illness as she cares for him. She has in home care assisting, she has relatives that check in daily along with her friends, and her art group has set up a meals delivery service to help her out.

We picked the wrong place to live. I only have the paid for friends of home care. Someone stays with Lee for four hours three times a week so I can come downstairs and do something on my own. Work in the studio on something that I have no idea what to do with afterwards, write on my blog about times when it all seems too much.

I know there are people out there who are in similar situations and they read my words that sometimes help, but not today. Today is a letting-it-out day.

Today is not the time for a once a week call to tell me all the fun things you are doing and the great places you are going. Not today.

It took a couple of months for an out of town friend who regularly visits the folk school to let me know that she could not interest anyone she knew here to come by and check on us…check on me. The only surprise there was she remembered to tell me after two months of, “I am going to get someone to come over.”

I will not take Lee away from the only place he knows. Our doctors are here. We both need that security right now. But I will leave eventually with few regrets….and find a new home closer to those who send the type of kindness that brings tears to my eyes.

On a lighter note for those of you looking after someone with dementia. This morning Lee was thrashing around in the bathroom. He couldn’t get his pants open. On inspection, he had put on two pairs of shorts…one frontwards and one backwards. I told him to pull the whole bunch of clothes down and just sit. I told him,”I’ve been doing it for years and it works just as well.” We both laughed at that.

And lately he knows his arms are supposed to go in the sleeves of his shirt but he has been going up the sleeves from the wrist end and comes to find me with no idea what comes next. When we get the shirt worked off and I remind him to climb up through the bottom he says, “Boy am I stupid.” And I tell him that with two arms things are just twice as hard to figure out….and he is satisfied with that and we move on.

Now he is upstairs with his care giver. The care this one gives is to just sit with him and talk or watch TV. The other one has him doing exercises for his range of motion and memory. He laughs more with the one who makes him move.

I am going to go over to the studio and pick up the papers and cloth that I dyed with Eucalyptus. I am going to bury my nose in them and think of my long distance friends in Australia who are getting ready to head to the Grampians and take workshops, and have flat whites, and try not to buy too much cloth and paper and thread……and….

And I am going to pull myself together. Suck it up.

And as soon as five o’clock comes and the caregiver leaves, I am having a good full bodied single malt and pouring Lee a Southern Comfort….and we will go on the porch and remember better times…..and smile.

Til later.




Lin – Making Her Faith Visible

I met Lin in a workshop I was teaching in 2008 titled, Book, Basket, Box: Placement for Memory. She was building a place for the recollections of a deeply religious upbringing. Both parents were gone and Lin wanted to build objects and images to hold the power of how they shaped her faith and religious beliefs. As Lin put it, “God was always at our table.”

I never went to church as a weekly practice, but I did know some Bible stories from early days at Sunday school. Lin knew all of those and more.

In her house the Old Testament was kept handy and referred to often. She loved the security of pious, good parents and told us many funny and loving stories of her childhood. Lin was an excellent story teller and when she would put her words on paper in cards to Lee and I after staying for a few days, we would read them over and over and laugh.

We got on well in that first workshop and Lin would return for other ones. But the best of times were when she came to my studio for private time, often with another student she met in that earlier class. They stayed in the apartment and had all their meals with Lee and me. He did most of the cooking because I stayed in the studio or took off with them to find just the right piece for Lin’s work in country flea markets.

Her goal was to continue with work based on Old Testament stories. She did not talk about having an exhibition of the work. Lin thought that the sculptures would be misinterpreted as a negative on being raised in a highly religious home. And she knew that in the South the work could be seen as blasphemous. I wanted her to push for exhibition outside of the South but she had little interest in doing that. Over the many years of her doing the work here in my studio I took pictures as best I could, just to have a record of the work. And when she left for home all the pieces were carefully packed into boxes…..mostly not to unpacked again.

I keep this picture of Lin working in my studio as a reminder of her dedication to her art about the faith she was raised with, up until her death a few years ago.

Her primary medium for showing the stories of her childhood were old composition dolls. When she arrived on Sunday her car was loaded with these dolls, piles of rusty things, old foundry molds, skeletal remains, hides, old bibles, tools, paints…..there was no surface not filled with the things she might need to make her sculptures.

The fearful stories of a vengeful God in the old testament were somehow softened by the use of dolls a little girl would have played with. Because of the age and sorry shape of some of the dolls she either brought with her or we would find at antique shops, they were sometimes creepy to say the least.  And really fit the part they were portraying in Lin’s story telling.

I took pictures of all of the pieces. She only worked on them here and I would move all my own work out of the way to make room for the complexities of assembling parts.

Eve in The Garden of Eden

And a view of the back with rib bone.

Every single doll needed to have these muslin torsos where each evening when Lin went back to the apartment after dinner, she would write the entire story from her bibles.

Samson before the writing. We looked hard to find a doll that could pass as a male figure in the stories.

And the words added.

Jonah and the Whale was a tour d’force. Made from an antique doll buggy with foundry mold and horns for the tail emerging from the water.

This is the first one she did in the studio and remains my favorite because of the sweetness of the face on the child being warned of what will happen to their body if they don’t obey.

I also loved that Lin found a doll that had a white child’s face but the rubber arms and leg turned a dark brown. This one really fit the story perfectly.

And Moses.

The story here is written on the large cast paper shell below Moses and the turtle shell. Those “bullrush” leaves were unused golf club handle wraps. (She could find the best stuff).

Somewhere there was a story about God and a Wounded Man.

And the start of Lott’s Wife. It took some maneuvering to get her to look back at the attached salt pillar. I don’t think this one was ever finished…but a great start.

And another story of what God would take away if…..

The story of Passover really came to life when Lin found the exact same doll she had as a child to play the part and we talked an old man who owned a leather shop out of his prized goat mask. The bed for this child is an old rusty tool box we found at our favorite shop where the owner would look at what we piled up and toss a price out there….we always agreed to whatever he wanted for his junk.

And another favorite because Lee was always handy to make some parts…in this case the coffin for the one left behind…”two women were working in the field, one was chosen and the other left behind.”

I like how the chosen one got lifted to Heaven so fast she lost her shoe and sock.

And Lin wanted to use some of her dolls to address the child’s nightly prayer…”If I should die before I wake….”

We got her soul to rise by making a transparency to attach to the arch. The little dark girl in the last bed is glancing over in disbelief. The beds are all assembled foundry molds and rusty rings for headboards. I really liked the little girl still saying her prayers.

This one on baptizing children at home was also a very good one.

A curved fishing lure that fit the curve of the wire fishing bucket, the boat buoy with a small bible opened to the page for instruction, her Sunday best dress and head tilted back….

When Lin and I were at the favorite junk shop she looked into a bucket of rusty nails and saw The Sacred Heart. She gladly paid what he wanted for the rusty strings wrapped around a nail.

Several of Lin’s pieces were about the futility of war.

An old ammo pouch, bible pages tucked into bullets and two left feet.

The sadness of war. Lin went on to do many more like this.

She sometimes used her own family in pieces like this Specimen Family.

I miss having her things strewn around all my available space. I miss her.

I miss being in the company of artists who work this hard for no other reason than they have something to say…and it never really mattered who was listening.

After Lin passed away I wrote her husband to not feel bad if he just took all those dozens of boxes to the dump. It was okay. Lin’s joy was in the connections each piece brought her to the memory of loving parents with a solid faith.

I also told him to not even think about loading them all up and bringing them to me.

What I showed here is a fraction of the pieces she made. The photos are as good as I could get them at the time.

Til later.

This Is A Good News Blog

Halloween is coming. Today is our fifty-second anniversary. I finished my six-way book. This fun card came yesterday from the one member of the Art Group that stays in touch. Love it. Our doctor came for dinner last night and had some suggestions.

So I left off talking about the pages for the six way book. Then it went together under the supervision of Gian Frontini. Here are the stages.

The two larger books facing opposite directions and I added running stitches to the spines of each to give more texture to match the fore edges.

The top view.

Four smaller books glued to the stabilizing boards on each back of larger books.

Gian shaping the spine edges of the four cover pieces.

And sanding them.

While I picked out cover material and made six clasps and cords.

Gian recessed vellum loops for clasps into the covers.


Nice fit.

Bit of fiddling to get the right length of cord to close the book…put in press and done!



Here is Gian’s leather book that works the same way.

Gian is much more the traditionalist than I am. He would never hammer the edges of the covers to make the book look and feel more comfortable in the hand. I like doing that. Makes me want to pick a book up and hold it.

So now what to do with my book.  The thought came after an old friend called me after she read my novella, Kind Gestures. At first she thought it was a group of short essays on seven different women and had just read the first part. Then she copied the whole thing off and read the story. She told me to keep writing because she loved it. It reminded her of a favorite book of hers titled, The Road to St. Ives, now out of print. BUT she was so kind to call back a bit later to tell me she found one on Amazon used books and it is on the way to me. Isn’t that kind?  I decided that since I have been wanting to return to Oliver, NC where the fictional account takes place and revisit some of those women, I will use this six way book to write about some of them. Just phrases to get me back to writing, to getting into their heads. And more importantly getting me out of my own head! And I really like that each of them has their own personal diary that latches their thinking in secret places.

So that is how I will use my book. Will I ever make another? Doubtful. Tedious work and especially since it was originally designed for six separate prayers that I would be hard put to come up with, I am satisfied with this one off.

And speaking of writing, the haiku has continued. A friend in Australia told us about haiga, the Japanese practice of writing haiku and doing small related illustrations.  Which is what the six of us are doing with our Drawing A Day and Haiku.

Here is the latest of mine.

How can you claim that

“They are light as a feather,”

when some are grounded?


They march across time

and distance only to be

trapped in my journal.

We believe we see

ourselves in most everything

that crosses our path.

The stones are dressed up

waiting to be told where to

push their weight around.

The pens and pencils

wait in the company of

a blank paper pad.

Three restless chickens

wandered off to the sea shore.

They came back impressed.

Cooking starts with a

mirepoix of onions, carrots

and some celery.


And yesterday….


A book that opens

six ways can inspire me for

several stories.


Now I am off to bake more of those Second Best Malted Cookies I Ever Ate and do another drawing….maybe the cookies.

Tomorrow someone from the doctor’s office will call about being a rent-a-friend. Just a couple times a week for a couple of hours would be so helpful right now for both of us.

More later. But thanks Gwen for the encouragement on writing more, and Dick for keeping us smiling.


More of the Drawing a Day and Other Things

My sunflowers are drooping while I am trying not to.

I love getting flowers from the sale table at the grocery store. I can just stick them into some water, put them on the table and hope that someone stops by. This week we did have a friend come for a good visit over dinner. We miss that. It was the one thing that made a perfect ending to our Art Group meetings….dinner and conversation around the table. I would pick out funny, arty cocktail napkins, plan a mostly delicious meal, set the table with real cloth napkins that have been used by so many over as many years, and make the centerpiece for the table. We’d talk about politics, art, movies, books, trips…..whatever. And often when other friends were in town, they, too, would come for these Art Group dinners.

Other than one member of Art Group that stays in contact through facebook, I have not heard a word from the others. When something is over, it is really over. So when someone comes for dinner with Lee and I, it is so good to have a few minutes in the studio to talk about what we as artists and makers are doing now.

This week I spent several  days preparing pages for a book that will open six different ways.

I am using Thai kozo paper for four of the smaller signatures and mulberry for the two larger signatures. Because both are so absorbent I had to gesso all sides.  So two text blocks of sixteen folios each and four text blocks of eighteen folios each coated on all sides used up quite a bit of gesso. But now I can write, draw and/or paint on the pages without bleed. My friend from Canada who is an expert on Medieval bindings will come to the studio this week to show me how to put it all together.

I am contemplating on what to use for cover material…more later when I have it finished.

In the meantime I am really enjoying the drawing a day with Haiku. Here is the catch up on that.

The stones just sit there.

Taken away from their homes

they  have gone silent.


Potters will always

sell their pieces that look back.

I know this because…..

I’m not a dancer.

But with these shoes on my feet

I can change my mind.


My pins and needles

wait for cloth, thread and my thoughts

to come together.

Ask if there are more

and the clerk will bring out all

the close relatives.

So now I have another page done on the flip side of the “relatives” and will post when I get further into the book.

I need to get back to the Hands of Responsibility sketchbook. Lee is losing a bit more of his capabilities since I last drew in it. He can not tell which way to turn the handle on the faucet to get hot water and I find him waiting and waiting for the water to heat up. This morning I fed the deer and birds for him as he gets confused as to where the cans of feed are in the garage.

On Friday we went to the salon where I get my hair done and he either gets a pedicure or full body massage. It was his massage day and he seems so relaxed and smiling when I go back to pick him up. The masseuse is wonderful with him because she says he reminds her of her grandfather. I am so lucky to have her do this for him.

My friend from far away suggested I ask around about getting someone to take him out for a bit…..she called it “rent a friend”. I may check on that this week. I keep saying that, but if I am the only one who can help him get words out, how is that going to work?

Our dear friend, Andy, who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago was the only one to think of doing this. He would come by to take Lee out to lunch after a hardware stop. He would take a good stab at what Lee would like to eat knowing that Lee can not read menus, and Lee would later try to tell me all about his time out. The other thing Andy did for us was go to Costco and get whatever we needed. He would let us know when he was coming to town and ask that we email him a list. But now we have used the last of those wonderful immense packages of toilet paper that come from there, the last Starbucks coffee beans, the last case of tomato sauce, the last lamb chops, the last four packs of butter sticks, the last, the last. We miss him and are getting over the sadness and onto smiling at memories.

His partner reads my poetry book and does find comfort there. Makes me glad I took the time to put that book together. I would also like some time to go back to the imaginary town of Oliver, North Carolina that is central to the novella I wrote that is on my website under its title, Kind Gestures. I feel I left some of those women with so much more to tell me….maybe later when more free time comes easily.

We will be just fine.

Til later…