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Things We Now Know, Things We Still Don’t Know

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014

We now know that . . .





Dublin has doors that are to die for.



Guinness and a Jameison-and-7
make for a fine way to close out the day.


Dublin is home to faces in trees


and faces on the sidewalk.


Flowers being sold in stalls
in the middle of the street
is a fabulous thing to happen upon.



Jeanne’s arms need to be longer,
to snap better selfies.


There are (other) people who will
paint themselves from head to toe
and pretend to be somebody else
in public.


We now know what The Liffy looks like


what a snug is.
(It’s a small, closed-off room in a pub
reserved specially for the ladies.)
(Is, too. My new best friend Deidre
told me so. I’ll introduce you to her later.)





that Liberty of London fabrics exist.
It feels and drapes like silk,
but it’s 100% cotton.




(Jeanne and her new best friend, Deidre)


We still DON’T know . . .


what these marks stamped in the Dublin sidewalk mean


or how to solve this sidewalk mystery


or what this mark on the fence means


or what this Dublin nest is home to


Why this spring-with-a-handle looking thing is embedded in the sidewalk


or the name of this tiny little church.

or (and i have no photo of this one)
what we did to make us lucky enough to attract
the attention of Don, the Irish fella
who invited himself to sit with us
then engaged us in the most interesting conversation
of the philosophical variety.
He gave me his address as he took his leave to go to work,
asking if I’d send him the book I’m currently working on.



Oh, one more thing we DO know:

This, this right here is what we had today: Gaiety.


Signing off with something we haven’t seen for eons:


(Hint: It’s a television test pattern.)


To read from the beginning of Another Great Adventure 2014, click right this way


To go to forward, click right this way

Wheels Up!

Monday, 25 Aug 2014.


It’s striking how much the sunrise looks like the sunset from this high up. I’d show you a picture to prove my point, except I can’t get my damn camera out of my new pink bag that’s under the seat in front of me in time to snap the sunset because the woman has her seat reclined to the maximum quarter inch allowed. We paid Delta $69 each for 3/4 inch more leg room . . . but we didn’t get it on account of an equipment change. How do I know? I asked the flight attendant. But not until we were in landing mode, knowing that I would spend the entire 8 hours worth of flight time fuming and feeling even more claustrophobic. “Will the extra fare we paid automatically be refunded to our credit card?” I asked.

“No. You’ll have to call a Delta agent at the one-eight-hundred number when we land,” she says.

This is ridiculous, and though it’s true to my experience with Delta, I remain hopeful that it’s untrue. I spent money texting my sister (a Delta gate agent) asking her to check and make sure we’re refunded. It ought to happen automatically, we both agree. Cross your fingers that she remembers to look into it and take care of it if needbe. For Delta’s sake, I hope to see a refund on our credit card statement without me having to spend an additional thirteen hours waiting online to request something we paid for but did not receive.

I am a firm believer in having those who work in the healthcare field being patients at least once a year, and I now suggest that the CEO of Delta who assured us of Delta’s commitment to service and satisfaction in the little video we were all forced to watch sit in the sucks-to-be-you seats at least twice a year. Without anybody knowing who he is, I mean.

The way the air conditioner blows behind me (no amount of readjustment changes it to blow anywhere near my hot self) and the way my light button turns on not my light but the light of my seat mate makes me suspect that Delta once ripped out all the seats in this plane and squished them together upon re-assembly, giving them a full 15 or so rows of tickets they could sell.

Yes, I am cranky. Not sleeping for 3 nights does that to a girl. I doubt even the sleeping pill would’ve induced sleep sitting straight up in a sardine can.

In honor of going to Ireland, I re-read John O’Donohue’s book Beauty. On page 18 I read about stale ways of seeing that block possibility, so I’m determined to find something, well, beautiful. Right here, right now that has to be The Engineer. Bless his heart, his brain is so brilliant, so simple, so exasperating at times. He sits there with his earbuds in, watching some movie on the tiny little screen in front of him and, when asked if he’d like something to drink, he shouts his answer quite loudly to be heard over the voices only he can hear. Yes, laughter is my beautiful, now and always.

To pass the time, I watch 6 episodes of Game of Thrones – episodes skip me seasons ahead of where we are watching at home, but it doesn’t pose much of a problem, really. Costumes that bring on drooling. Flags and banners that make me want to create one specially for us. Men and women who apparently don’t have enough to do tending to their own proverbial backyard, so they go out into the world and try to create a bigger backyard for themselves through conquest. I don’t think I missed all that much.

One of the documentaries is called Mondays in Racine, and it profiles two sisters who open their salon on Mondays to women who are going through the woes of cancer. “We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose. When we say from our heart to someone, ‘You are beautiful,’ it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur, and grace of their spirit.” (John O’Donohue, Beauty, page 15) This . . . this is what these sisters do. This . . . this right here is why I spill a few tears at the sight of the sisters holding the hands of women getting their heads shaved. At the sight of the sisters crying with them at the shock and loss and reality of it all. Yes. Beauty.


I work up a sweat, but I do finally manage to wrench the camera from my bag – just in time to see sunrise over Ireland.


And ribbons for our landing.

Ah, beauty.


Next installment in Another Great Adventure 2014:
Things We Now Know and Things We Still Don’t Know

Studio Cruisin': Tom Smith


Back in The Day, we cruised around The Dairy Queen when our parents gave us the keys to the family car and sent us to the grocery store for milk. We’d drive through the DQ parking lot, going real slow to give us ample opportunity to see who was there and who they were with and what they were doing. Today I have my own car, and I don’t need any milk, but I’m cruising through the proverbial DQ anyway and lookie who’s here: my friend Tom Smith . . .

Tom’s mother was a formidable force in the county’s single elementary school when we were growing up. I was, quite frankly, relived as all get-out when I found out she would not be my first grade teacher. But she raised an impressive bunch of children, let me tell you what. I went to school with Tom’s brother, Allen, and in high school, one of his brothers – can’t remember whether it was Jim or John, though I still have much of the promotional materials – convinced me to run for secretary of the state Beta Club then set about supporting my campaign in every way imaginable. Somewhere along the way, Tom and I got to be friends – first as lovers of wordsmithing. I own one of the few copies of Tom’s memoir, and though he currently has no interest in publishing it, I remain hopeful that something or someone will come along and change his mind because the world needs Tom’s wisdom, his perspective, and his stories. Over the years, our common interest sphere has expanded to include poetry, making, philosophy, and good conversation. We don’t agree on everything – in fact, we disagree on some very important things – but our relationship is one of those rare ones large enough to hold differences. Tom is one of the most open minded and open hearted men I am honored to know. He is a champion of women in general, and especially of this woman, asking me challenging questions with no preconceived right answer in mind upon the asking; feeding me bits of poetry that we then talk about; directing me to books he knows will stretch and intrigue me; reassuring me on occasion; and just as importantly, calling bullshit (in his own way, of course) when needed. He is incredibly supportive, but he suffers no foolishness from me. Like The Engineer, Tom often believes in me until I can catch up and believe in myself.

The Engineer and I dropped by Tom’s house last weekend to leave a box of goodies at his studio door. Turns out Tom had time, so we were treated to a tour and a visit, which I’m now taking you on . . .


Morning glories greeted us.
(My mom and dad used to call me Morning Glory,
so I have a special fondness reserved for these beauties).


And while some folks
put big ole’ concrete lions in front of their special place,
reportedly to keep evil at bay,
Tom relies on a distant cousin of the lion as guardian


. . . along with my personal favorite:
a bottle tree thrown in for added protection.


Tom lives on the old home place
as we call family properties in this neck of the woods,
and his door is always open
to relatives in need of shelter.
Tom takes his role as the family elder
quite seriously,
making sure young minds and hearts are well fed
and constantly stimulated.
I often feel like an adopted member of the family
as I benefit from the same treatment
as well as reports of what marvelousness this one or that one is cooking up.


(Not muses, exactly,
the buzzards come around
regularly just to
tease and torment Tom.)


Here we see The Engineer and The Artist
(though a different artist than usual)
pondering air conditioning options
while I run around snapping photos.



His studio is filled to the brim with an assortment of goodies and oddities



mostly things he finds at yard sales



some things dropped off by friends.


Deconstruction and repurposing are important parts of his process.
as we see in this piece he created especially for me last year.
It’s hard to see in this photo,
but the word “SKEE” (one of my favorite words of all time)
is nestled inside a component of an old printer.


Where some see discard as the only solution for dirty wheels on a child’s toy,
Tom sees something else.


He works on a pool table

(though it took some delightful investigating to figure that out)
that doubles as storage space.


He hints that my large hand stitched works
take too long
(a thought I stumble over often)
and with soft, gentle persistence,
he encourages me to try something different.
He even shortens my learning curve,
letting me benefit from his experience
by telling me what adhesive to use,
and later, after the visit,
he sounds like a kid on Christmas morning
when he tells me about the stain glass effect
that came from mixing the paints I left
with the adhesive he uses.


Tom’s studio is a fun place


where things get snatched out of their usual context,


spun around and around,


and stood on their head.
With one arm tied behind their back
for good measure.



Things become verbs, for example,


and bottle caps become tiny little pie tins . . . er, um, containers.




Tom creates his mosaic-a-ramas on wooden planks
and calls them panels.


His ultimate plan is
to stage a one-man show
in the adorable, squatty round building behind his studio,
filling the walls with his panels.


Anything’s possible in Tom’s place,


and nothing – absolutely nothing –
is too absurd to consider.


It is a happy place
a joyful place
a space filled to the brim
with possibilities
and impossibilities (of the Alice in Wonderland before breakfast variety).
You can’t be in there and not relax into a smile.
You just can’t.


And you can’t leave there not already looking forward to your next trip back.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.”

Category: cloth  Tags: , ,

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.



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


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?


Is my voice one of back-up,
second string,
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?



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


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.


On Creative Authority


I am gobsmacked with these drawings.


with Nancy’s use of color.


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


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.)


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



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.)




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.


quilts, for example,


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
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.



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


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


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


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


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?


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.