Friday, December 15, 2017


(from our weekend, 12.08.17-12.10.17)
Earlier in the week, a friend mentioned the possibility of snow over the weekend. There was none of the usual hype when there is a possibility of atypical weather events for us. I'd read it was going to snow around midnight (one hour), and again around two a.m. (for about two hours). That was a precise prediction. I doubted we'd see snow. 

My husband's alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. (long story). I woke up and told him I was going to the bathroom and then I was going to check to see if it was snowing. It was! I delighted! 
This is the scene that greeted me that morning. And there was more! It snowed. It stuck. We were enveloped in the silence and the brilliance. 
I took the photos below were taken after daylight arrived. I'd forgotten how satisfying it was to walk in crunchy snow. It was hard, leaving my footprints on the pristine ground. I had a little talk with myself, telling myself that the snow was a temporary experience. I admonished myself to enjoy it right now, in the present moment, accepting that it would all melt away. Like life itself. What, you don't have talks like that with yourself?


The snow arrived in the early morning of December 8. We were there in the woods to remember my son's death six years ago. The last texts and photos I received from him were about the snow and sharing the snowman he'd built. I still have them on my phone. He was in Pennsylvania at the time. I asked if he'd sent the photos to his sisters. This was the day before he died. I never got an answer. And now, here, six years later, we had snow on the anniversary of his death. 

It felt to me like a gift. I was grateful.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Grief Rituals

Grief often brings surprising little rituals. Rituals that help us cope with the changes in the lay of the ground we walk after a loved one has died. Every December, I go to the student art show and buy at least one piece of pottery to honor my son's memory. I started doing it in 2012 but it wasn't until 2014 that I realized I'd created a ritual of doing this. I can be dense at times!

This year there was a new color among the pieces--the color red. It stuck out more to me since they had several pieces of that color displayed together. And when I saw the red pieces all gathered together, I knew what my color choice would be. All I had to do was figure out which piece I was going to buy. The choice comes down to price and personal aesthetics. There was a lovely red platter that appealed to me, but the price was too steep for me.

After much debating with myself, I ended up with this red bowl. You can just barely see the lighter color at the top edge. It's basically half red and half that lighter color.
Some years, I go later in the day and there isn't much left to choose from. I went early this year and they had plenty of mugs for sale. That big red platter (shallow bowl?) in the upper right corner of the photo was the one calling my name. But because of my budgetary constraints, I resisted its siren call.
Here is a sepia tone version of the photo.

Friday will be the sixth year. It doesn't seem possible. Now there are more smiles and laughter at the memories, and fewer tears. I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Here in FunkyTown...

I've been in a bit of a funk for a while now. Can't decide what the problem is. I keep showing up here sporadically to bemoan the fact that I am in a funk.

I'm still sewing a bit, finishing old projects and trying to decide what I'm going to do about getting the quilt tops quilted. One does not make deals with God but I've jokingly told my parents I hope to live long enough to be able to use up all my fabric. And that I'm hedging my bets for a long life by buying more fabric here and there! I've found some bargains at a couple of local estate sales. I'm not really buying up too much fabric. Mostly I'm only buying what can be considered too good of a deal to pass up. I do not want a big pile of fabric to have to figure out where to put and how to use.

Mostly I'm sewing at our little place in the country, on the weekends. Here at home I'm trying to get back into a pattern of writing in my journal and doing artsy type projects. I'd like to begin to meditate again. Sometimes I'm lazy and undisciplined, and I allow myself to be distracted by time suckers like Facebook.

The funks, they come and they go. I guess that's the good news. The feeling is not permanent and will eventually pass.

This is not an old project. It's new. My aunt gave me the fabric that was already cut in strips. The pattern is a rail fence pattern. When I got it all put together, she found the border fabric and the black in her stash and gave them to me. I can't remember if I have a backing fabric ready for this one or not. I hope to quilt this one myself on my regular sewing machine.

I'm kind of already thinking about next year. 2017 feels like it has flown by and I can't remember half of what has happened in the past year. I keep having really good ideas about how I want to do a better job of living in 2018. One thing for sure, I'd like to live more mindfully. And not to wile away so many of my hours poking around the internet. In the meantime, I'd like to ground myself in what remains of 2017 and to savor the days I have now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


It may just be a baseless superstition but another thing that seems to happen when you don't show up on your blog for a while is that you get spammy comments. I had one and deleted it. Hopefully that will be the end of that.

Today's post will be a two-fer and then I might be done for a while with posting older projects that I've finished.

First up is one that is called "Endless Wells" (or maybe "Hidden Wells," I never can remember). Many years ago, our Kroger's had fabric and other WalMart type things that were not typical of grocery stores. When they decided to quit carrying fabric, they had a huge clearance sale. I can remember my mother and I went more than once to gather the bargains. I still have fabric from those excursions!

This one was a pain in the "uh-huh" because of the bias cuts. I had to sew four strips together, then cut squares out of the strips, then cut the squares into four pieces (cutting diagonally, which caused the fabric to stretch) and then put them back together again. I'm afraid my piecing skills are definitely not exemplary in this quilt. But it is done, and I'm happy! You can't see it very well, but the backing fabric is a rust and blue fabric with paisleys.

This quilt was also made with Kroger sale fabric. I started it sometime in the middle seventies. It was a quilt I was making for my husband. About three fourths of it is hand quilted. I got impatient and wanted the project to be completed so I practiced my free motion quilting on the remaining squares. Again, this is not an exemplary representative of my quilting skills! But it is done, and I am happy!

This is another one of those areas where some of my treatment for some of my cancer extracts an ongoing price from me. Because of chemo induced neuropathy and stiffness in my finger joints caused by the medicine that is supposed to be an extra protection against the breast cancer coming back, I don't think I could ever really do the kind of fine motor movement needed to hand quilt. Acceptance is good. Gratitude is also good. It's really a small price to pay for survival. So, cut my losses and move on (one of the few areas in my life where I can actually do that!).

I've still got a few tops to go that were the result of block swaps done when we were living in Houston and I was a member of a quilting guild. I think I counted eight or nine more tops that are ready and waiting to be quilted. I need to get batting and backing fabric for most of them. And maybe money to pay someone to long arm quilt them if my own free motion quilting skills do not improve. But they will improve. I need to practice.

And I need to not be afraid of messing them up. Or of them not being perfect. I need to not let my fear paralyze me. That's true in quilting and in life, right?

Monday, November 06, 2017

Back Again

When I don't show up regularly for my blog, I forget what I've told and shown. I know I haven't told that I went to the Houston Quilt Show this past weekend. I'd been wanting to go, maybe almost since the first time they ever did the show. But then I went through a phase where I wasn't quilting/sewing and I lost interest in going, even though it was on my unofficial bucket list I keep inside my head.

I wanted mostly to go this year to try out different kinds of quilting machines because maybe one day owning a quilting machine is another item on my unofficial bucket list I keep inside my head. I got to try out several different kinds and brands. I was able to determine a couple of choices I did not want. I wasn't ready to buy but maybe eventually I will get one. I remain ever hopeful. And I can hope for years!

I thought, as we left the quilt show on Saturday afternoon that I'd seen it once and that was enough. Sunday morning, I thought how I'd like to go back next year. We shall see what I do.

Today at work I saw a student who reminded me a lot of my son. He had the same build my son had and the angularity of his face was similar. That brought on a deep yearning for my son. Yearning is a difficult and terrible feeling. I do miss him.

I found these blocks in my cedar chest. I could not remember sewing them together, much less buying the fabric. All that white, and the delicate look of the quilt is not my typical style. And yellow and pink combined? That's not me either. I do love paisleys so there is that. Maybe that what's drew me to this fabric choice.
My son was still alive when I started this quilt. I still had a disease free colon. I hadn't yet tasted cancer. Maybe this quilt was me back in the day, before these things, but I'm no longer anywhere near being this delicate in my present life. Frankly, sometimes I think of this as "soft me" and I think of my current self as my "not so soft me." Maybe I'll add a touch of gray to the borders of this quilt, maybe as a private symbol for me, to remind myself that I've been through some things and I've come out from those things a stronger person. There is still work to be done on this quilt, just as there is still work to be done on me, or growth to be had.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Finishing Projects

I haven't been around much lately. I've been trying to figure out why I started blogging in the first place, and whether or not I want to continue. Just blogging for the sake of blogging isn't so much "The Thing" anymore. Most of my bloggy friends don't blog regularly anymore.

I think I want to continue to blog, and to use this as one way for me to say, "I was here," and this are the things I see from my perspective. It doesn't have to be great writing, it's mostly for me. Maybe I'm leaving a trail for older me to know younger me.

So, I've been sewing quilt tops and trying to learn to do free motion quilting on my regular sewing machine. Right now I have several tops done but I need to get batting and backing fabric to finish them.

Here's one of the first ones I tried to do free motion quilting on. There's a pretty big learning curve and I think it's going to take a lot of practice but I think maybe I can learn to do it well enough to satisfy myself. These are blocks I had left over from a block exchange I did over 20 years ago! If you could look closely enough you would see the spots where I just totally missed the mark with my quilting. But there are also hopeful spots that look fairly good.

I was able to use fabric I already had for the borders and backing on this one. The backing is left over from projects I did in my first child's nursery.

I have more to show but I'll spread them out a bit. I'm planning to go to the Houston Quilt Show this weekend. to look at sit down quilting machines. I'm not ready to buy but they will have a lot of representatives from different brands there and I can try them out and hone in on what I want.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Arty Projects Soothe Worried Minds

Sometimes arty projects soothe worried minds. 

I've been working on a few arty things over this long weekend. The second pic is more like the original watercolor and lettering looked. I added the blur in one of the apps on my phone. I'm not the greatest with lettering. Today I penciled in the letters and went over them with a black marker pen, then went back and erased the pencil marks.

Again, the second pic looks more like the original page I worked on. But I liked the way the black and white looked when I tried it in my phone app. I notice I still have a slant on my lines. I'm clearly not all about perfection!

When I was looking at the pic in the photo editor, I noticed I had not crossed the "t" in "wait" so it looked like "the world can wail." I corrected the error.  

Harvey is gone but he left an unprecedented amount of damage in his wake. There are so many who are hurting right now. I know of four families whose houses have flooded completely. My nephew and his wife are one of those families. They were rescued out by boat last week and they still have not gotten back in to see their house and start working on rebuilding. The water is still too high. We were holding out hope that the water would not get in their house. Our hopes were severely dashed when my nephew saw drone footage of his neighborhood. The water was up to the eaves on all the houses in that area. They had just paid the first note on their house. The check was probably literally in the mail. It's heartbreaking and the damage is so much and so widespread. They didn't buy flood insurance because their home is not in the 500 year floodplain. The neighbors told them the neighborhood had not flooded in the 35 years they'd lived there.

My daughter has been working with a group rescuing dogs that have been displaced by the storm. That too is hard and heartbreaking work.  I worry about her being burned out. Tomorrow she will go back to her full time job but the rescuing and collecting of much needed items will continue for a long time.

It's not a great photo, but this is the one that sucked the air right out of our lungs. They hadn't even been in the house long enough for me to go visit them, so I can't tell you which roof is theirs. Doesn't much matter, really. They are all obviously flooded to the max.

We can go back to our jobs. We have water to drink and flush our toilets. We can cook a meal, or go out to eat. We can sleep in our own beds. The people in Southeast Texas have such a hard road ahead of them. And so many are in the same boat, with water damaged homes and businesses. But by the grace of God they will all make it through. Prayers would be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sewing Machines and Hurricanes, An Odd Couple For Sure

I'm just reporting in (maybe mostly for myself). It is my suspicion that if you don't blog for a while it somehow attracts spam commenters. That suspicion may or may not be logical!

I've kept up with the progress made on my house and even made a little more progress.

I've been sewing again on the weekends and now have 6 or 7 quilt tops that need to be quilted. I'll have some of them done and will try to quilt some of the smaller ones on my machine. My machine was out for a bit because my foot control sort of exploded on me (not a real explosion, it just popped apart and couldn't be put back together because some of the plastic parts had broken). After a period of angst and indecision over what to do, I ordered a foot control. It came in, I excitedly plugged it up. And my machine started "sewing" 90 miles an hour! I wasn't even pressing on the foot control! I discovered there were two different foot controls for this model. I returned the wrong one and ordered the correct one. It seems to be working perfectly well now. I'm happy. And grateful.

I've also been trying to figure out how I could get an old Singer (high school graduation gift from my parents) running again. I brought it to a shop but they said it was the gears that were out and it would cost more than the machine is worth to fix it. I thought that was the end of the line for that machine. Except I googled for information on how to fix the gears. I watched a YouTube video and thought it didn't look that hard. That false certainty led me to try taking my machine apart to see if I thought I could fix it on my own. There were parts I needed to come off that were not coming off. The machine has been setting up for quite a few years. The wheel turned and the needle part went up and down. I almost thought maybe the lady at the shop was wrong. But I can't make it pick up the bobbin thread. I imagine that's where the gear is broken. I also managed to put a needle into the tip of my pointer finger. It didn't go all the way through. That's the first time in all the years I've been sewing that I sewed my finger!

With that failed experience in my head, I remembered another small shop that sells vacuum cleaners and sewing machine. I knew they had a guy there who worked on vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. I called them up and the man on the other end of the line was so enthusiastic about what a great job he could do on fixing my machine and how it most certainly was worth fixing. I'm going to bring it to him when I can. But the skeptic in me wonders if he will really be able to fix it!

People don't fix things anymore. They just throw them out and get new ones, expecting that they will have to buy another replacement in a few years. That's why this machine is worth fixing. It was made to last (in spite of its little plastic gears breaking).

I've been off for three days because of Hurricane Harvey. We had a lot of rain and some uncertainty about the damage he would do here. Our ground was so saturated from all the rain. They were worried about trees falling over in the high winds. All in all, our part of the state dodged a bullet this time around (but I hear there is another storm forming in the Gulf).

However, Harvey did unprecedented damage in the state of Texas. This was one erratic storm. Seeing all the damage and all the displaced people is heartbreaking. We've been driving I-10 back and forth to Houston for many years. I've never seen it as flooded as it was this time around.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Not Sure What Bit Me

For a long time now, I've sorely neglected my house keeping tasks. There are some legitimate reasons for this, and some not so legitimate reasons. But during the month of June several things transpired and I cleaned house (or I began to work on cleaning house). I don't fully understand what happened.

I'd started doing Morning Pages (a la Julia Cameron) again and the condition of the house was one of the themes that kept coming up. Also, a while back, one of my grad student friends asked me when I cleaned house. I had to admit to myself (and to her) that I didn't, which made me feel decidedly not adult.

A couple of weeks ago, we had Tropical Storm Cindy come through. She was supposed to be very bad. We got two days off due to the wind and the rain that was coming through. Cindy was not as bad here as was predicted. But I was home alone (hubby was not given the day off due to weather) and what else was I going to do do? Being home alone on a rainy day provides a prime cleaning opportunity.

So I worked in my den and in my foyer. I threw stuff away. I put stuff away. I dusted. I vacuumed. I rearranged the furniture. I rearranged the pictures on the wall. I decorated. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I even cared about decorating. I was so very pleased with myself. I looked forward to my next weekend off so I could continue to get things done that had not been done in far too long. It made me happy. It made me wonder what the heck had gotten into me. I even cut my long weekend short to be home and clean some more.

Things are still far from perfect. There is still much to be done. But I've made a start and I hope to keep on moving forward.

Also, another odd thing. Today I pulled out a quilt I'd been working on. I was disappointed with the way it looked because I'd gotten somehow mixed up with my pattern. I sewed the two patchwork pieces back together and added a border at the top and at the bottom. I'm planning on adding another border around all four sides. It didn't turn out exactly like I'd hoped but it's a pretty good "save" if I do say so myself.

Perfection is overrated. Good enough is good enough. And practice makes progress. That's the biggest thing I need to remember, whether I am cleaning house or sewing a quilt top: don't get overwhelmed by what is left to do. Savor the progress you have made. And keep moving forward.

I'll show you a picture of my quilt top but I'm not yet ready to share house photos. Just believe me when I say it was bad and now it is better.

I"m not a big John Maxwell fan, but I've had this quote in my art room for several months now. It resonated with me when I saw it. I've not been too good at staying consistent with many small disciplines. I'll have to do better if I want not to lose ground and to keep moving forward.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


I was in a room somewhere, staring out at the Houston skyline, trying to think neutral thoughts for my last EKG done with the relaxation study people.

According to my husband, she plopped down in the chair next to his and asked, "Are you a patient here?" He was in the process of answering the woman when I came walking up. We introduced ourselves, the woman and I, she'd already introduced herself to my husband, and started telling our respective cancer stories. She'd had breast cancer around six years ago and now it was back, in her lungs and in her blood.  Her right arm was completely bandaged due to complications with lymphedema. Her left arm was swollen almost to bursting, it seemed to me. She mentioned the word "metastisized. I don't consider that a good or hopeful word (though I could be wrong, having cancer three times doesn't actually make me an expert).

(Let me insert this right here: If you're smart, when someone says they have breast cancer and it was estrogen positive, as yours is, and it came back after the sixth year, you will remind yourself that her story is not your story. Same thing with colon cancer stories. Don't even bother to compare. Every single cancer story has its own differences, along with similarities. But just don't think that just because this or that happened to her or to him, it will also happen to you. Back to the original story now...)

We talked about a lot of things in a short time. She'd been a nurse. We talked about sleeping and how she couldn't get situated at night due to a couple of broken ribs on the left and not being able to sleep on the right because of the lymphedema. She told us about a place that might do laser surgery on carpal tunnel syndrome.

She lives in the area we lived in when we were living in Houston, very close to NASA and on the water. What a small world it is.

We got around to the subject of art when she asked me about the relaxation study and we talked about the things that helped us to relax. She flat out said it, "I'm an artist"! We talked about how art soothes and calms us. She excitedly told me about how they'd converted her garage into a studio for her. She was most thrilled about having a sink! But she also got a full bathroom, with a shower. I told her a garage studio was my secret dream.

I'd already talked too long. I had to get to my next appointment. She was so engaging. I could have talked longer. I could have walked down to the coffee shop with her and visited all afternoon. We would have had so much to talk about, I just know it.

How I regret that I did not have the courage to just ask her if she would like to exchange emails so maybe we could keep in touch. 

Her name was Bess. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chance Encounters of the Sacred Kind

I've started back to doing Morning Pages again. If you don't know about Morning Pages, it's a practice from Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. Basically, you get up and write three handwritten pages every. single. morning. You just write whatever is in your head, going in a stream of consciousness style (which isn't hard for me to do). You keep your hand moving and if you can't think of what to write, you write "I can't think of what to write." It's supposed to clear your head of all the piddling things that run through it (and make room for creativity to flourish). Or something like that. Anyway, that's become part of my morning routine.

I've been thinking I'd also like to develop a meaningful evening routine, something I'd do, creatively speaking, that would be non-negotiable. I'd thought maybe I'd write a little short story about something that happened that day, or something I've noticed, in a journal. As it so happens, I have a story for tonight...

Maggie was out somewhere and ran into Brian, the guy who owned the skating rink that my kids and their friends all frequented when they were younger. They made their small talk and he asked her how Tyler was doing. She had to tell him that he had died 5 years ago. It was awkward and sad. They talked a bit about the memories. Brian went on to tell her how he always called her brother Bobcat. We all knew this, but we never really knew why he got that nickname. Today Brian told her. It was because of the way he pounced on the puck when he played roller hockey.

Quoted below is a piece of a poem by Rumi. The smell of Tyler has long been gone from his shirts. Sometimes, if I try real hard, I can remember how he smelled. Oddly enough, I was thinking sometime today of how I'd like to be able to hug him again, really just to sit and talk with him a bit. Things like the encounter Maggie had today can be sad. We are made aware again of our loss, an awareness that never really leaves us. Time doesn't heal that grief. But you can learn, through time, how to walk the changed landscape of your world. And these chance encounters where we have to deliver the news to someone who does not know can also bring joy. We have our family stories of Tyler, we talked about him on Mother's Day. My mom said, and I agree, that Tyler had an "old soul." Today we learned a new story about our Tyler. That makes me happy. It made Maggie happy. Other people's stories about the ones we grieve are a sweet gift. Today I can see Tyler pouncing on that puck.

Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his son and can see again?

But don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you. . . .

Today was our 42nd wedding anniversary. Burying a child is hard on a marriage. We've managed to walk together through our grief. I'm grateful for our continuing survival. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Reading

I read Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. For some odd reason, I didn't think I'd like it. I loved it. This is one of the quotes from the book that seemed important to me (even though, now, it seems rather obscure).

She talked some about doing our art while also doing our day job. It seems to be a recurring message for me right now that I have enough time to do whatever art I need to do in addition to enough time to work a 40 hour week. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about being home and working on creative projects all day.  She says we shouldn't expect our creativity to support us, that we should instead promise to support our creativity, that we can "make art on the side of" our "bread-and-butter job."

Meanwhile, in my day job, I've been busy cleaning my desk area and beyond. I had a couple of drawers that had not been cleaned or emptied since I've been working in this position (8 or 9 years). It felt good to be clearing clutter out and purging decades old paperwork that is no longer needed. I can only hope to be able to bring that industriousness home to my house. Time will tell!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Reports

I recently told a friend I don't cry over books. We were talking about the ending to the Harry Potter series of books. I'd been slow to jump on that bandwagon. I was surprised that I enjoyed those stories as much as I did. Now I want to see the movies. Sometime.

I inadvertently landed on two books about death in a short time frame. The first one, which I have already mentioned, was The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, by Frank Ostaseki. He was cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project and he writes of his experiences of being with the dying. I borrowed this book from the library for my Kindle. I like it so much that I've since ordered a hardback copy of the book.

Two of his stories in the book brought tears to my eyes (I do not really consider that crying!). One was about a couple whose young son had died in their home. They wanted to stay for a bit with the body, and the author wrote the most touching recollection of the couple washing the son's body. One of the hard things when my own son died out of state was the waiting for his body to be brought to us. I know he was gone from his body, but I kept thinking about how he was traveling all alone with no one to be with him. And I wondered about how his body was handled by the various people who came into contact with it on his journey home.

The other story was about a female doctor who had grown disenchanted with her work, with the part of it that involved her telling people she did not know (in the ER) that their loved one had died. I can't remember the story well but the gist of it was that the author advised her to find a way to approach the task with intentional awareness. Her father and grandfather had been doctors. She brought her grandfather's doctor bag and her father's stethoscope to her work. When she went to inform someone of a death, she gathered up those two things to carry with her. She needed the reminder of her ancestors to help her make her way. She paused at the doorway, holding the things, taking a deep breath, and walked in to tell the family of the death. She no longer took the task for granted. She was no longer hardened to the task. She was aware and present. I don't know why that story made me tear up, but it did. It was probably something about the possessions of the ancestors she intentionally gathered to help her. I often feel very keenly the presence of my own ancestors. We talk about them and we tell their stories. In this way, they are still with us.

Now I am reminded of Dumbledore telling Harry Potter, "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?" I loved that quote.

The second book on death was When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. This one is about a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer just as he is finishing his final year of his training. He was in a relatively unique position of being doctor and seriously ill patient. His writing about his diagnosis and his thoughts on his death hit close to home for me (and caused tears to flow). . .

"I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn't really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live."

I don't consider myself as having a terminal illness (no more than I consider any of the rest of us having a terminal illness, but there is that quote about life being fatal). But the possibility of that does occasionally loom quite heavily over me. As he said in the book, "Even when the cancer was in retreat, it cast long shadows." So I have this shadow, and in this way, my own diagnosis is a gift, having awakened me to my own mortality and my own desire to live as well as I can (which honestly, quite often, I do not feel like I am doing). I also have the gift of a relatively good prognosis. I do not want to waste it.

I'll also say here at the end, that it's hard work, distilling your life and days down to the values that are most important to you. It's hard to kick the Shoulds to the curb. It's hard to accept (and forgive) your failure to meet up to your own idealized standards.  I keep trying. I keep failing. I keep getting up. And dammitall, I know I'll keep on trying.

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow." Mary Anne Radmacher.

(Look at me, giving myself a pep talk!)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Have You Seen the Sacred Ordinary?

I've been doing a little reading lately, gobbling stories up like Peanut M&Ms. I've been using the Overdrive app on my Kindle to check books out from the library. I didn't realize I was so hungry to read again. And there's just something that thrills me about borrowing good books from the library without even having to leave my house!

After finishing "The Five Invitations (What Death Can Teach You About Living Fully)", I moved on to "Big Magic", by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn't even sure I wanted to read it, but I did, and I loved it. It was very affirming. She helped me (begin to) resolve a few issues about my art/creativity, mostly by reiterating the fact that most artists have day jobs, and they still manage to create (and so can I).

I like this quote from the book, "Perhaps creativity's greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us from the dreadful burden of being who we are. Best of all, at the end of your creative endeavors, you have a souvenir--something you made, to remind you forever of your brief transformative encounter with inspiration."

It also relieves me of the stress of worrying about things I can't control and cannot change. My mind is absorbed when I am working on creative tasks. 

I've been working on a few things this weekend, I got back around to my Kelly Rae Roberts class. I feel somewhat transformed and I have souvenirs!

I can't remember if I've already posted this one. It's a souvenir of a weed growing in our yard. The flower grows on a long stem and the bloom is probably no more than an inch wide. They are small but impressive when there are lots of them clustered together.

This is my not quite finished "sacred ordinary" angel. I toned down her blush after I took her picture! I haven't come up with her words yet. Or maybe I'm waiting on her to tell me something. "It has to be short and pithy, little girl," that's what I'm telling her. One of the other of us will come through. I just know it.

Friday, April 07, 2017

And Now It's April, Just Like That!

I drove over to Galveston to meet up with SpookyRach and then went on to spend the night with my sister. It had been to long since I'd had a short little adventure. Of course Rach and I made our way to a cemetery so we could take a few pictures. The next day my sister and I went to visit my favorite cemetery angel of all time. She (the angel!) was much smaller than I remembered (my sister is smaller, too, but that's a whole 'nother story!).

Here are photos from the Galveston cemetery.

This was a bas-relief piece which was fairly wide but there were buildings in the background so I got in close. I like her a lot too.

And here are the (phone) photos of my favorite angel of all.

I don't know what it is about this angel that I love. Not far away there were many small graves in an area called "The Baby Garden." That name makes me want to laugh out loud and wail with grief all at the same time. There was another woman there, kneeling in the grass as though in prayer. The tears did well up when I looked over and saw her. The last time I'd seen this statue, my son was still alive. My sister and I talked about young people we knew who had lived short lives and tried to make sense of it all, though we both know you can't make sense of it all. So many things we just can't know and must do our best to accept.

I haven't been doing much more in the way of art. I have been reading a lot. And thinking about writing. My thoughts don't seem to stay collected long enough to write anything. I'm in a bit of a funk, to tell you the truth. So it was good for me to get out a bit and see a different view for a while. I'm grateful I got to go.

Oh! Here's a "death poem" I read in one of the books I've been reading (written by Kozan Ichikyo, who died in 1360)! I don't know why I like it so much, but I do.

"Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled."

The book I read the poem in is called The Five Invitations (Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living), by Frank Ostaseski. It's a book that is filled with little pearls of wisdom. It's well worth checking out.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I've had a few instances lately where I've wondered to myself (and may have found myself discussing the situation with others) how people can see themselves as being a certain way when clearly they are not that way. How do we get deluded ideas of who we are or what we are in our heads? How can we be so clueless about our blind spots (well they wouldn't be blind spots if we were aware of them)?

I decided a while back that I was going to work hard on not asking why he/she can't see the distortion in how they see themselves. I know I have a few big distortions of my own. But I'm not confused about the look of my reality.

I know what it looks like and I am often taken aback by the vision. I have this view of myself that does not reflect this reality. And I don't know how to explain the disparity. There is this inner core in me that remains serene (most of the time), in spite of the messes that often surround me.

One of my tennis friends once said something to me about how people see me, and don't expect me to play as well as I do. I never quite figured out what it was about my appearance that might make people think I couldn't play (my age?), but that's beside the point of my remarks.

Here's the thing, on paper, if you had a black and white list, I'd look a lot like a failure. I cannot not feel that. The fortunate thing is, I have friends who see me in a different light. They are not checking off a list of achievements and accomplishments (which is what I do, and how I see myself as having failed). They are seeing that inner core, the part of me that is not apparent to anyone who doesn't do anymore than skim the surface and move on. They are the ones who remind me: when I judge myself as a failure, I am looking at a list that is not mine to complete. Today, I am grateful for those friends.

I forgot, remembering the Johari window concept helps bring acceptance.We all have these parts to our selves. And our windows are not always the perfectly square window we see in this diagram! Some are more self aware than others. Some are more open than others. Some are both closed down and unaware. I think remembering the Johari window will help me to be a bit more patient myself and others.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Hello, March!

Here we are, already pushing into the third month of the year, and the Lenten season. As usual, I'm surprised that the time has passed so quickly. And I think about how to better manage my time so it won't feel like it's slipping through my fingers.

Doing arty things is, for me, a way of stopping time. I get into my zone (flow, It's a very good feeling. And it doesn't matter whether I judge the art I'm doing as good or bad, the relaxed feeling is still there (the fact is, I am not judging the art at all, that's how I know I'm in a flow state, I am totally immersed in the pure joy of the process). It isn't always that way. There are times when I'm doing things and I'm so frustrated that I can't make the drawing look like what I'm trying to draw. That's when making art is painful! 

My sister gave me a set of pastel pencils and I had to try them out. I'm pleased with how my apple turned out (though some think it looks more peachy than apple-y, which is just peachy with me!). I did it in my journal so you can see the shadow of my writing on the page underneath.
I sketched out this woman using my Stabilo All pencil. It's a pencil that can write on almost anything and it's water soluble so you can use the brush to soften the lines and make shading. I bought a couple of water brushes ( several years ago and I haven't used them much. Since I have this pencil, and have been playing more with my watercolors, I'm finding that I really love this brush.

If I am nothing else, I am solid proof that you do not have to be particularly skilled at making art to gain benefits from your attempts at making art! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Root, Hog, or Die

I forgot to say that since plants are pushed on by "coded cells," (they're gonna do what they're gonna do) and I'm ready for spring to be here (while still grateful for all the things already blooming), I threw some wild flower seeds out in a bare part of our woods, hoping one or two or four will push through and bloom. Otherwise, my bad self says, "Let 'em root, hog, or die." I know, that doesn't exactly sound like a loving or hopeful sendoff but it's the best I had at the time. I'll let ya know how they do.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ah, February

I've had my checkup at MD Anderson and all was well. I don't go back until June. I've had another birthday, celebrated by having a mammogram on the left side after doing the right side the day before. The doctor was annoyed that they didn't do both at the same time. I'd asked, but they told me I only needed the one done. Next time, I'll know, and insist that they do both or check with the doctor if need be. If I haven't learned anything else from "The Cancer(s)", I'm learning to speak up for myself.

I've been reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek again, and thinking of my blogging friend Jim. He encouraged me to read it. I've started and stopped the book a couple of times but I'm hanging with it this time around. My sadness is that I won't be able to discuss what I've read with Jim. He was right, now that I've finally settled down and stuck with my reading, I am enjoying the book. Annie Dillard is a fantastic writer. The book is awe inspiring and disconcerting all at the same time.

I've still been struggling a bit with feeling down. I'm doing what I can to take care of myself. One of the ways I do that is by getting out with my camera, which I did this weekend. I do think part of my being down is a normal (for me) seasonal thing. I'm ready for the next season to begin. And Spring feels like such a hopeful season. At our place in the country, the azaleas are blooming, and the wild jasmine, and the little daffodils that came from my grandmother's house. Green leaves are shooting out on bare limbs. Hope is everywhere.

So I took a few photos...

 These are the daffodils (I think that's what they are, you should know I am not great with details!) that came from my grandmother's house, that came from someone else's house.
 This photo was taken in the evening, during what is known as the "golden hour." I looked out and the light was so gorgeous, I had to try and capture the scene. I was actually almost too late.
These are the wild jasmines growing up in the trees. They have a pretty scent but the blooms were to high for me to smell.

Here is something I read in the Pilgrim at Tinker Creek book:

"The way plants persevere in the bitterest of circumstances is utterly heartening. I can barely keep from unconsciously ascribing a will to these plants, a do-or-die courage, and I have to remind myself that coded cells and mute water pressure have no idea how grandly they are flying in the teeth of it all."

See what she did there? You're all warmhearted and fuzzy about the plants persevering and you see your own self persevering and it's wonderful in your head. And then she hits you with the facts of coded cells and mute water pressure! And I can't help wondering how much my own coding is interfering with my current state of feeling glum, and how does that affect my attempts to get through this vague darkness?

More to come...

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Not Gonna Lie To You

My dad tells the story of a guy in his past who was often guilty of stretching the truth. The guy was telling a story one day that began with these ways, "I'm not gonna lie to ya now..." and before he could continue on, someone interrupted to say something like, "Gosh, son, don't make any exceptions, you lie to everybody else..."

So, I'll tell ya, I'm not gonna lie to you. Some of the things that have been happening after the election have disturbed and worried me. I've never been one to speak out about things. It's outside my comfort zone to do so. But there are things going on now in this country that just aren't right. I've been observing and reading the things my more outspoken friends have been posting on Facebook. I've been thinking about what it is I can do, or need to do. I don't yet totally know. I've been reminded that the best way for me to respond to any of it is in my own way.

They say art is healing. In some ways, I suppose it is. At the very least, for me, it's good self care. And I think a lot of us need plenty of self care in these days. I'm just not sure how that helps our country, which I feel is in great peril. These are tough times we are living in.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thresholds (and Horizons)

I go back to MD Anderson every 3-4 months for checkups. During the between times, I really don't think much at all about my history of cancer. But each time, as the time for the appointments gets closer, I do start to think and fret, just a little bit, over what they might find. I wonder whether or not the cancer has come back. I'm a realist, the return is always a possibility. I don't want to have a fatalistic attitude about the possibility, but I also never want to breeze in to my checkups with the mindset that this is a problem that has been completely and totally obliterated.

Sometimes I get aggravated about having to go back so often, about having to take so many days off work to go get checked out. It's just part of the process. And the times between appointments will eventually get longer, if I keep having clear scans. But right now, the 3-4 months seem to pass so quickly and I feel like I'm going again when I just returned from being checked! I'd like to put it all out of my mind and my sight and just move on with my life. Like it was before the cancer. Every time I go back, I am reminded of the vulnerable state of my health.

I've been thinking about thresholds this month. This past week, while I was in Houston, showing up for various tests and appointments, I realized, that's all this is--another threshold that I happen to be standing on. There is no need for me to fret or worry or resent having to stand here on this particular threshold. Every single time I stand on this or any other threshold, there is a horizon beckoning. I might not know what's waiting out there in the distance but it's always something and all I have to do is keep walking my path toward the beckoning horizon. 

We all have thresholds where we stand and look toward the horizon. I'm not the only one who has unpleasant and uncomfortable thresholds to cross (and cross again). I've decided I'm going to release the view of myself as vulnerable to my health. I am vulnerable to my health, to my own mortality, but so is everyone else so why should I whine about the vulnerability always being "in my face"? Lord knows I'm not near as vulnerable as some. I am more aware than some. But there is no need for me to whine and complain about it. The dang checkups are a part of my new normal now. I'll live with them and accept them as best I can. I decided early on that things like this can surely shape me, but they will not define me.

(All was clear this time around. I still have to go back in February for the breast cancer checkup, and return again in a few months for the colon checkup. I don't go back for a liver check until next January!)

"One never reaches a horizon...To move toward a horizon is simply to have a new horizon." James P. Carse

"Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold. W. Eugene Smith

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Project Thoughtful Thursday, Week 17

After two weeks off, I'm getting back on track. I never really intended to post these things online. They are playing cards and so many times the writing has been hard to read in the photo.

"The world is a miracle and you forget time and time again your whole life. But if you remember more than you forget, you'll be fine." Brian Andreas

And would you look a' there, as big as Dallas, I've written "you're" when I intended to write "your." I hope that does not distract us from thinking about how often we do forget that the world is a miracle. I know many of us are having to work very hard at remembering more than we forget. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Thinking On The Page

I've often wondered, in the past year, if blogging is still relevant. I've asked myself if it matters whether I blog or I don't blog. Facebook, with its near instant response and continually changing flow of news has usurped my blogging habit. I've never really been happy about that. But I also haven't done anything to stop it from happening.

One of the lessons in the Spirit Wings class (Kelly Rae Roberts) I'm doing is on building community. It's also one of the chapters in her book, Taking Flight, written in 2008. When I started blogging in 2004, the poetry community I'd been involved in had broken down and I sorely missed my online community and had no outlet for writing, or for bantering back and forth about writing. I was also in school, learning about photography and art, which meant my blog soon took on a focus beyond the written word. Visuals were added. Now I feel like I need to include at least one picture with every post!

(Plus, one of my male teachers at school, where I was an older, non-tradtional student, probably only a couple of years younger than the teacher, joked that I was "technologically challenged." I remember working on getting this thing up and running, and I had fleeting thoughts of "I'll show you!" Ha! I'm stubborn
tenacious! The trait has served me well throughout my life.)

Relevant or not, I've made some great friends through writing on this blog. I've met many of them. I have a virtual creative community, a tribe, a sense of belonging. I'm very grateful for that. I do still long for an in person face to face creative community but have not yet found that.

My writing, my art, my life, so much has changed in the last 12 or so years that I have been writing here. I count that as all good. To me, it indicates growth. And I want to grow until my dying day.

I won't give this up. The habit, however inconsistent it is, is still relevant to me. The friends, the community, the tribe I've gained from being out here is all lagniappe. I'm grateful for each person who reads and/or comments on this blog. I'm grateful for the connections made.

I am still operating under the radar, so to speak. Most of my day to day friends know nothing about this blog. When I think about going public on Facebook, I get all tight and nervous. But I think bringing the blog out in the open might be a growing point for me. Doing so does not feel as scary as it has felt.

So, to answer my own question, yes, blogging is still relevant to me. It is a creative outlet. It is a source of friendship, community, and support. It is a repository for pieces of me.

If you aren't interested in reading my long self-indulgent ramblings, here, have some art. I have more ramblings on the mere word "art,' but I'll save those for another day! I checked out a book to read for free on my Kindle because I like this artist's work and wanted to learn more about it. I think I'll probably eventually buy the book, The Art of Expressive Collage: Techniques for Creating with Paper and Glue, by Crystal Neubauer. That's one of the things I want to do this year, stop just admiring other people's stuff and do more of my own stuff!


 These are experiments of learning. I can see where I can improve. But I have all these old letters and pictures and I've always been reluctant to use them, for fear of wasting them. Fooey on that! I'm going to be courageous in wasting...using my somewhat vast store of ephemera. This piece is on an 8X10(ish) sheet of watercolor paper.

This one is on a 4X6 piece of watercolor paper. I have blank cards and I will probably glue it to one of those.

Happy New Year. May we all do the best we can at sharing our particular light into the coming year.