It’s Not Exactly an Encore, but It Kinda’ Helps to Think of It That Way . . . Kinda’.

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I ran out of drawings before I ran out of fabric.
I considered just stopping, letting that be that.
I considered cutting off the blank bottom and going with a flat tire look.
I considered stitching some of the drawings a second time – maybe as a mirror image – but none of those ideas felt right, so I waited.

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Then one day I considered taking out the stitcherings nearest the border of the fabric, giving the cloth an extra wider border that just might be visually pleasing and might also come in quite handy when hanging it for viewing.

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Tis an idea that that felt right – quite right – even though it meant spending 23 hours (yes, I counted) removing the stitcherings then re-stitching some 53 of the drawings a second time.

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It may not be fun, but it is the right thing to do. Isn’t that usually the way?

~~~~~~~

I came across this bit by Mary Oliver, and it seems to fit Nancy quite nicely: “Someone I knew once gave me a box of darkness. It took me a while to realize that this was a gift, too.”

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the three PR’s

Photo 1

the attorney’s father was a probate judge who never did his own will. with six children and no will, there’s trouble. hurt feelings. old hurts and memories and grudges rise quickly to the surface. they are not speaking, the children, and everybody including us, wonders why a man who dealt with wills for a living wouldn’t take the time to draw up his own. the shoemaker’s children go barefooted, and the probate judge’s children feud.

Photo 4

not a fun way to spend a morning – even with the story and the walk the engineer and i treated ourselves to afterwards (the source of these photos) – but a necessary expenditure of time.

here’s the thing: drawing up a will, creating a living will and powers of attorney (healthcare and property) doesn’t bring on your death. it simply means you are smart enough to know that you will die one day and that you love enough to face that irrefutable fact and show love in a way you never thought about before.

do you love yourself enough to draw up a living will so that your very existence doesn’t fall into the hands of a medical staff who don’t even make eye contact?

do you love your heirs enough to draw up a will so that all you’ve worked for and created doesn’t get divvied up and disposed of by the government?

do you love your support people, be they family or friends, enough to draw up powers-of-attorney so that they can tend to things for you without resistance and interference from strangers?

Photo 3

we have a God Forbid book, i tell the attorney to stop him as he launches into Creating A Will 101. i tell him about how i see this as love – living love, leaving love. i tell him about how as a personal historian and an end-of-life doula i know that people just flat out refuse to put themselves in touch with their own mortality. even the smartest among us, i’m talking about.

i tell him about the God Forbid (as in God Forbid you ever need this information) book i created eons ago for the children telling them everything they need to know – bank accounts, memberships, software, who to call lists, medical info, location of keys and important papers, and well, you get the idea. i tell the attorney how we keep it updated and have annual meetings with our children every thanksgiving (as in we’re so thankful we’re here to tell you about it again this year). he is suitably impressed and we are able to skip ahead to the changes we want made. it’s not that we have much, it’s just that i want our children to have time to grieve. yes, really.

it’s not just the heirs who have all sorts of bric-a-brac float to the surface when dealing with wills. i find myself thinking about who’s been most attentive, who makes an effort to stay in touch, who’s responsible. do i want to use a will to reward? do i want to take the easy and nice way out and just divide everything equally (which feels an awful lot like socialism to me)? some things are obvious and require no angst decision making. the child who always baked the cakes gets the bowl and spoon my grandmother used to make cakes with. the child who laid in the floor laughing as we read bedtime stories gets the books. i’m not saying it’s the right or wrong approach, i just think it’s good to be clear and clean about these things, about the motivation, even if only on the inside. or, if you want to be like me, right out in the open on your blog for the whole galaxy to see. when preparing these important documents, it’s important to bring the right amount of emotion and good sense, to be sure that decisions aren’t made solely on emotions or logic.

a note, though: probably not a good idea to give the child in prison power of attorney, and that’s not a character assault, it’s a matter of needing to have someone who can show up in a jiffy. just saying.

Photo 2

years ago, i began to ask the children what, in particular, they wanted when we die. even though it might be tinged with anticipation, i’m hopeful that the items will be imbued with even more meaning, memory, sentimental value knowing that they will own it one day and i’m now using it regularly.

i make a list and write letters of explanation, just in case.

this year i’ll ask if either of my chiclets want my journals or any of my hymns of cloth. it’s a question i dread asking because i don’t want them to feel obligated to say “yes” even though i deeply and desperately hope to year a quick and hearty “yes”. if you want to know the truth, i want them to argue and fight over the journals and cloths. at least a wee little bit.

will they want pieces from In Our Own Language 1? or 2? or 3? will the Rinse Cycle series prick their interest with tales of pivotal epiphanies in a woman’s life?

Photo 1 1

will they want pieces from the My Kitchen Table series in which i create cloths for each person who’s nourished my life in some way? like this plate for my maternal grandmother. biscuits from scratch, cake contests, quilts, piano, flowers growing everywhere, feather bed, the irregular whir of the treadle sewing machine, gardens, canning, clothes hung on the line to dry, hand lotion that smelled of rose water. she never drove a car, but she had her very own riding lawn mower, and let me tell you what: she enjoyed using it, always wearing her straw hat, both hands kept on the wheel at all times. i don’t ever remember seeing her wearing pants. she taught me music and sunshine and planning for the future.

preparing for the future.
preserving the past.
not a bad way to spend the present.

Scratch

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This weekend,
I suffered a flare-up of the ever-familiar
doubt,
fueled and fanned by the never far away question
“Do I even have a voice to call my own?”

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Having spent my life as a teacher,
a mother,
a wife,
a daughter -
having written plenty of personal histories
been a freelance graphic designer helping folks look good in print
edited books penned by other women
now stitching Nancy’s drawings,
I can’t help but wonder:
do I lose my voice by giving other women their voice?

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Is my voice one of back-up,
second string,
bridesmaid?
Is that as good as it gets for me?

My maternal grandmother made biscuits from scratch three times a day.
Folks devoured them enthusiastically (even when cold)
and praised her name with reverence and awe.

Do I have anything original and worthwhile to say from scratch?

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Having finished In Our Own Language 3 (shown in photos above),
I begin stitching In Our Own Language 4.
95 drawings made in November 2012
in which Nancy wrote her name
then covered it up,
camouflaged it,
hid it.

The “Re” Nobody Tells You About

Out1

I married a man
who developed a strong, solid good
reputation in his career field
for being a man
of integrity,
a man who keeps his word,
a man who is patient
a man who understands that
everybody at the table needs to make money.

I married a man
who, despite building an impressive career,
never missed a soccer game
or a stage performance
or a parents’ night.

I married a man
who enjoys cooking
(and not just on the grill)
and grocery shopping
(except during The Season)
and tending a garden
(when the crows leave him enough to tend).

I married a man
who literally swept me into his arms
and carried me out of the church
because the car that hit me six weeks before
broke my knee.
A man continues to
sweep me off my feet
in ways large
and small.

In in the past 41 years,
I’ve married this man many times over,
only once
when we stood in front of a group of people,
repeating the words of a preacher I never particularly liked.
Every other time
the vows have been quiet, private vows
of laughter
of hand-holding
of listening
of sharing a look
of sharing the look
of being quiet
of staying.
Because in 41 years of togetherness,
you learn that
marriage is a series of re-marriages.

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On Creative Authority

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I am gobsmacked with these drawings.

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with Nancy’s use of color.

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It’s obvious that she’s making choices.
She’s also filling the page, and that’s significant.

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I just had no idea how on earth I’ll stitch these drawings, so I turned a few into fabric then stitched over it by hand. There’s still a learning curve ahead of me to avoid the pixillation of the images, but I’m rather liking this choice, this direction I’m taking with In Our Own Language 10. Yes, I’ve skipped from In Our Own Language 3 to In Our Own Language 10 cause when ideas and inspiration comes to visit, I invite them in for tea. (Sweet tea, of course, in a big ole’ Mason jar that sweats in the summertime heat of The South. But you knew that.)

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The vessel I stitched is a shape Nancy uses a lot.
Sometimes with pencil strokes,

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sometimes with space.

I want to do more with that shape, with that vessel.

 

I reorganized The Dissenter’s Chapel (a.k.a. my studio) this weekend. Had to take down the quotes scribbled on slips of paper that decorated my Wall of Fortitude to make room for something else. This is one of my all-time favorites:

“Creative authority is when you believe in yourself. You don’t hedge it, you don’t say ‘but it’s not true for everybody’ – you say ‘This is the way it is’, and not everybody sees it.” Ellie Epp, the faculty advisor I worked with my third semester of graduate school, wrote me that.

a weekend well spent

dolly parton sings “it’s just a little bitty puissant country place, nothin’ much to see.” the words she uses to describe what is reported to be the best little whorehouse in texas are the same words i use to describe The Dissenter’s Chapel (a.k.a. my studio).

(but i don’t sing it.)

(you’re welcome.)

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Before1

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i spent the weekend (re)organizing my studio for the umpteenth time
after andy (my fabulous husband)
built me some cubbies that my fabric now calls home.
in a studio this small,
when you move one thing,
you move everything.
and everything must serve multiple uses.

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quilts, for example,

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become a pedestal for the mannequin that wears not one but two party frocks.
(there’s another one underneath this periwinkle beauty.)

having so much in plain sight
makes for a constant battle between
inspiration
and visual clutter.
on my list of things to think about
is how to attach a shade to the
new cubbies.
maybe i can even find a way for it
to double as a designing wall.

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even with all the reorganizing,
i still took walks
to get my steps in, you know

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and i finished
stitching all the drawings (271, but who’s counting)
for In Our Own Language 3.

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tomorrow i start fiddling around
with this fabric and this hand dyed thread
to figure out the border.

in the home stretch . . . well actually, sliding into third base is more like it

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as i stitch, i wonder what nancy’s thinking as she draws.
what she’s trying to say.

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i marvel at how most of her drawings are one stroke.
she puts the pen to the paper
and doesn’t pick it up till she’s finished
with that particular drawing.
the “x” tells me which side is the top.

i have 37 of the 271 drawings left to stitch
on In Our Own Language 3.
if i stitch 4 drawings a day, i’ll be starting on the border before the end of the month.
join me in a squeal of excited anticipation?

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miss luna moth came to visit my studio last week.
thank goodness she stayed on the other side of the glass
cause you know: moths and cloths don’t exactly go together like a horse and carriage.
but then i guess that depends on whether you’re asking me or the moth.

///

susan lenz, one of the most prolific artists i know,
tagged me in her blog post today. go here
to read more about her process and what she’s currently up to
(she really does turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.)
and stop back by next monday when i’ll answer the questions
about process and productivity.

getting organized and taking stock

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where other girls wore pretty necklaces and lanyards they braided at summer camp, i wore the cutest little brownie camera you ever saw. you know, the kind you had to lick the base of the flash bulbs to ensure they’d go off when you snapped a picture. i guess i’ve always been the family historian, and once upon a decade, i earned my living as a personal historian, recording stories about a person, then sifting through their photos and documents, eventually pulling everything together into a book.

at the suggestion of several people i met at that workshop a few weeks ago, i’ve started writing a book about nancy. one day last week i took stock of her drawings. turns out i have 11 sets (remember, a set = the drawings i bring home from a visit with her), and the numbers look like this:

set 1 – 6/2012 – 167 drawings
set 2 – 8/2012 – 454 drawings
set 3 – 10/2012 – 271 drawings
set 4 – 11/2012 – 94 drawings (we were with her only one day that time)
set 5 – 3/2013 – 162 drawings
set 6 – 3/13/2013 to 7/13/2013 – 366 drawings (these are drawings she made at her day program
set 7 – 7/2013 – 35 drawings
set 8 – 7/2013 to 11/2013 – 279 drawings
set 9 – 11/2013 – 102 drawings
set 10 – 12/2013 to 6/2014 – 889 drawings (yes, really)
set 11 – 6/2014 – 257 drawings

i ordered binders and page protectors to store them in instead of the rubber band method currently in use. next week, i’ll get them in the binders, and i’ll scan the sets i haven’t yet scanned. i’m kinda’ excited to be able to look at the drawings while slipping through a book. every time i look at them through a different lens, i see different things.

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meanwhile, i continue working on In Our Own Language 3. last week i figured i could have it completed by the end of july. now that’s funny and proof that i live in a fantasy world.

Happy Fourth of July

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It was a night of firsts for me:

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First time I sat so close to the fireworks that I needed to take cover a couple of times.

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First time I got a crick in my neck from watching the fireworks.

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First time I’ve worn a sweatsuit on the Fourth of July . . . and still been chilly.

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Today I declare my independence from
writer’s block;
from worrying my pretty little head about other people’s opinion of me;
and from sharing any part of my life with people who behave more like ticks than humans.

And you – who or what do you declare your independence from?
You don’t have to make your answer public, just do it
cause it’s time.

the mantle museum in my studio

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“When we are sad, it can be comforting to cling to old, familiar things that don’t change.”
a line from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Sometimes it’s just comforting, even without the sadness.