Just Catching Up on Lee

He is outside re-stacking his rocks. The squirrels knock them down to get to the seed that gets scattered underneath. Sometimes I put it there on purpose just to give him something to do later in the day.

When he is not outside he watches.

The caregiver asked if I had a memory book for Lee so she could strike up conversations based on the pictures. I had been saving photos for a while to do just that and had the time yesterday to make the book.

This should help both of them.

And today I finished the fifth Responsibility hand.

He can’t make toast, puts his pill in the water instead of his mouth, gets his gloves confused, cuts with the back side of the knife, squirts toothpaste all over, sometimes can’t figure out the seat belt,can’t remember where the mailbox is, has problems with the velcro straps on his shoes, uses his electric shaver to trim over his ears, piles an enormous amount of pasta on his fork and needs help putting salve on his itches.

I have the next hand outlined and ready to go.

But we get through it all. My paid for friends come three times a week to keep him company and give me a break which is greatly appreciated. Still navigating the long term care insurance policy to receive reimbursement of the layout for this help. It is a good thing we can do this now and afford to wait for the process to finish up.

One thing that really is such a surprise is the occasional card or kind word via email or facebook. Yesterday this came from Minnesota with words of support for doing this blog. And inside this little pack of wildflower seeds! How thoughtful, how very nice….thank you.

And this morning, Saturday, the once a week hair wash, I looked in the mirror to see if I was looking any more adrift than usual. I am doing fine in this time of staying home. I got enough groceries the other day to take us through the month and beyond. I even bought some ferns for the porch and a bit of basil to go with the lettuce.

So I took a picture to post here of what I see in the unforgiving mirror each morning.

We are fine.

Tomorrow or the day after I will post the drawings and paintings. This one was for those asking about Lee. Thank you for thinking of us.

Keeping Social Distances

This morning I took all the ripe bananas that had been sliced and frozen and put the first batch in parcels back in the freezer. I need these for the morning smoothies I have almost daily. I am trying to keep with my routines as much as possible in the times of the virus.

While in the freezer I noticed some things that had been there for quite awhile. Things like green beans, peas, etc. Then I looked into the pantry and refrigerator. More things. Extra cartons of beef stock….why do I even have that? Only one chicken stock that I use regularly. Found some canned beans, a very old can of beef consomme, diced tomatoes and a jar of stewed tomatoes our daughter gave us at Christmas time. So I took a mirepoix of celery, carrots and onions and added some peas and chopped up the green beans. Tossed in some diced tomatoes, can of tomato sauce, cannellini beans and let it simmer with the consomme and beef stock. The peas floated to the top like the styrofoam they tasted like and the beans still looked like they were frozen. Those beans were the tipping point. I cooked them all a bit longer and then took the blender tool to them. You could still taste the bits of strings left by the beans that almost clogged the whizzer part of the tool….but I persevered until every last one of those peas and beans became part of the sludgy mix.

Far and away the ugliest soup I ever made. Any herb and seasoning mix in the cupboard was added to “pick up” the flavor. Originally I was going to add rice to it, but changed my mind when I saw elbow macaroni in the pantry. Why that was there I do not know. I thought I had a more refined taste when it comes to pastas. AND the elbow macaroni was made from semolina flour. Who eats that?! But I cooked the elbows separately in boiling water and just before they got too mushy, I added them to the soup. Then because it all looked a bit weird, I put in a pint of the stewed tomatoes. At least now there was something floating around….well sort of floating.

It was to be our lunch. In better times I might have considered tossing it out right before I put the stewed tomatoes in. But more salt, pepper, a little chili powder, more soup herbs and I thought, “Why not eat it?” I served up a bowl for Lee and he asked for more. I ate my own bowl of it and after the eighth spoonful it wasn’t bad. So now I have three large containers of it in the refrigerator waiting for me to find more room in the freezer. We can do this.

In the past several days I have made my way through trimming some of the one hundred and fifty sheets of the bush book from the printers. Each page needs to be cut precisely on four sides. I need to pay careful attention when I do it so it is only done when Lee is with his caretaker.

I am also keeping up on the drawings a day with haiku. It appears that we have acquired an unbelievable amount of wine stoppers.

This stopper looks more

like a carnival game that

catches small marbles.


This pointy stopper

must be Russian cause it hurts

when pushed back on” Reds”.


This heavy stopper

is looking like a weapon

to threaten bottles.


Found another one.

No one could ever use all these

stoppers at one time.


And I did get back to the wildflower paintings in the six way book.

Some of these have the look of old wallpaper found in farmhouse bedrooms. They’re a bit nostalgic in feel and I can therefore lower my expectations for having them look good. I remember in undergraduate school my adviser and head of the art department getting very frustrated with anything that smacked of “nostalgia”. I also got that in graduate school. Nostalgia came with warning signs. Now it just makes me breathe more slowly, which is a good thing at seventy-five. And you know what else they remind me of, speaking of graduate school?

My very good friend who I met there is an excellent egg tempera painter. and for her thesis exhibition she studied abandoned farmhouses in her area of Canada. She would go into them at different times of the day to see how the light played on the surfaces and think hard about the women who made these places a home.

One of the things she did was prepare a whole slew of gessoed boards about the size of electrical switch plates and then carefully egg tempera painted each one with an intimate close-up pattern of the old wallpapers in the houses. So on a massive wall during the exhibition was this long row of spaced out tiny paintings that the viewer had to get close to.  And then you could see them sigh and smile as each one had the capacity to invoke a long lost memory. Isn’t that lovely?

She and I got through those tough two years of having to defend our work with the help of alcohol. Her choice was single malt and mine was bourbon. We would retreat to either her room or mine after a particularly brutal critique, pour a drink and marvel at the fact that those who were so many years younger than us knew so much….and were so willing to share it with us who were old enough to be their mothers. Those were such good years for learning and laughing. I will admit that the laughing came long after the learning part and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned how to be honest with myself about what matters enough to spend so much time and energy on…..what it meant to make what matters visible. I am forever grateful for that.

It makes me smile now, and I will have a scotch later for Jo…maybe give her a call this weekend to see what she is working on. She is a bit behind Lee in the dementia. It runs in the women of her family. But she remembers me and we can still laugh at our shared memories.

Til later.


Holding Dementia in My Hands

This is a bit of a departure from what I usually post. And it is a bit of a lesson that I need so much more practice with linoleum carving….or I could just give it up for now.

So to start with the block. I carved two blocks of equal size.

One was to be a muted grey background for the dramatic flower image in black. So they went on the wall to dry.

I sort of hated them at first but gave myself twenty-four hours to make sure. Then I cut all the white borders away.

Piled up like this they begin to look better. So cut them up again and folded them into folios.

Now the idea began to form on how to turn the long book into a story of growing dementia.

The pages needed some kind of text. So I went to the computer and wrote out words about how dementia is….sort of a word association.

The pages were printed on both sides, cut and folded to match the lino print pages.

At first I thought I would coptic bind them then changed that to a continuous concertina spine piece…first white that was messy to black that felt more like the words.

I have to say that it was the fragmenting of the lino prints into pieces with those grey matter blotches in the background that made me think of the dementia my husband has. The black broken patterns are how there are positive blocks of thought and then just meandering from one idea to another.

I needed the focus not to be on the words or on the illustrated pages. The book began to take over as a sculpture, not meant to have its pages read one at a time. The sculpture also needed to show how dementia is a deterioration of that grey matter….a loss of the words.

So here it is finished. It does not invite touch. And a good thing about working on this, is that I stayed detached in some way. There were no tears on this work….just a determination to make a form that captured our experience with Lee’s disease.

And here it is. As many punched out hole pieces as I could collect were put into a specimen bottle to represent the need to hold onto what we have lost.

Most words can only be seen up close and by parting the pages. I like that it is like trying to carry on a conversation…one of us has to look for the words and the other has to help him find them.

Now I have only done two pieces of artwork about Lee’s dementia. This one above and the stitched shawl when he was first diagnosed. Stitching on it gave me comfort and caught several tears.

Rescuing the linen pieces that had been colored with the soils around where we share a home  Trying to hold them all together with patches and stitching.

I only had the opportunity to see one other artist work with this subject and she was in my last class taught a the folk school a little over a year ago. It is this book that she did in class about the difficulty of communications between her and her husband. I love how it captured the essence of those difficulties.

I will say that the shawl is the piece I will hold again and again. I will likely put stitches over stitches just to have it in my hands. The black and white more detached view of dementia does not need to be touched. I don’t need to hold it. But I did need to step back and take an honest look at how things are and how they are going to be.

Next week I will work on the Bush Books….lots of cutting and pasting and folding. Then making covers for them all.

Til later.

Little Ventures Out

When I am in the office trying to catch up on blogs and correspondence I can sometimes see Lee outside the window. The other day he had one of his caregivers helping him get those rocks just so. Today’s caregiver found me lots of bananas, some onions, carrots that actually look like carrots, celery and some hot dog buns…..all of it for just $13.15!

This morning we went out to pick up the book pages for ten Bush Books. He finally finished and I wanted to make sure he got the money for it.

And now in the studio where I checked the numbers.

He really did a good job and now I have something to work on when I get to the studio.

I saw this on facebook this morning and thought it was a good idea. One capful of bleach to a quart jar of water. Keep a cloth in there to wipe things down when they come into the house.

I wiped down the plastic wrap on the package of bush book pages but did not know what to do after they were opened. Couldn’t wait to start checking on the count so touched the pages. This is a whole new behavior pattern for us with the virus going around. I did remember to wipe down the packages of lettuce that I got while we were out. No one was in the garden section and I had my food grade plastic gloves on and with lettuce freshly delivered, I bought twelve plants. Finally we will have lettuce in the house….lots of it. Lee stays in the car and as soon as I filled my gas tank with the gloves still on, we came home where I did the package wiping and tossed out the gloves. I had bought them many years ago thinking I could use them for printmaking. No, they are too loose and slide around too much but are perfect for going out and having to touch door knobs, etc.

Here are the latest drawings a day.

A small Christmas bag

filled with lots of hanging tapes

to stick things on walls.


A long charging cord

that can send my photographs

from phone to lap top.


Lee turned this stopper

for wine bottles needing this

funny little man.


And now this stopper

that Lee turned while still being

in creative mode.


Later this weekend I will do another post about something I am working on in the studio. It is about how we as artists change our approach to a subject when it becomes something we can learn to be objective about. How things can go from clinging emotional response to suddenly finding ourselves distanced enough to say, “Here is another new way to say the same thing.” More or less.

Til then.