Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I just returned from spending the weekend with LeeAnne Wallace and her wonderful family. Many of you may have read Lee's post on the Yahoo group when she learned that she had cancer. She is an Art & Soul sister with a heart as big as a mountain.
Marian McBryde flew from Florida, I came from Oregon and we met at the San Jose airport before traveling on to visit LeeAnne. Well --- not really. I mean – we didn’t really meet at the airport. We were supposed to meet there -- at the Internet Café, by Starbucks. “After all”, I told Marian, “it’s a small airport….you can’t miss me.” I have flown into San Jose a zillion times. Small plane, no covered stairs on the jetway, tiny waiting areas. Piece of cake.
I come from a major metropolis -- sort of. Portland might not be MAJOR in some eyes, but we do have a professional basketball team. Our airport is nice -- and if I told someone to meet me at the Starbucks in the lobby, they would easily find their way. Doesn’t San Jose sound like a nice, small urban airport? You fly there to avoid the craziness at LA or San Francisco, right? So after waiting over an hour for Marian to appear, I began to worry that maybe the tropical storm had held up her flight. Of course, I managed to leave home without any phone numbers, but then, what’s to worry???? It’s a small airport.
I had dismissed the wheel chair dude so to attempt to walk from the café to an information area was a bit daunting. Fortunately, I must have looked pitiful and a business suit offered to help. He checked on Marians flight and graciously informed me that it had landed about 5 minutes earlier at Terminal A. Well – WHEW. She was just late – probably due to the weather. She would come walking by at any minute. 30 minutes later, I knew we had a problem. Can you guess???? Terminal A? I was in Terminal C. This little bitty airport has ‘parts’. You have to take a bus from terminal to terminal. Marian was waiting at the Starbucks in A. And waiting, and waiting – and beginning to worry. She didn’t have my cell number either --- are we good or what? But she did call LeeAnne, who called Marie who had my number.
By the time she got me on my cell, I was in a taxi on the way to our hotel -- where I could call home, regroup and find her. By the time we saw each other, we were laughing hysterically --- 2 small town women trying to find their way around the big city.
Lee insisted that we visit and meet her family that evening. Our main concern was to make certain that we did not interfere with any special family time and that we would not over tire her. She has completed her first round of chemo and the drugs are beginning to take their toll on her body.


The first person we saw as we drove up was a tall, gorgeous young woman wearing a “Fuck you, Cancer” t-shirt. It was Laurel, LeeAnne’s 16yr old daughter. She not only looks like her mother, she is just like her! Gracious, funny and sweet as can be.
LeeAnne has turned her garage into her studio -- and it is awesome! I took lots of notes for my own space. In San Jose, you can have the door open most year round, I guess. So here is this marvelous open air studio. Certainly not something that we can do in Oregon – and Marian said that it is too humid in Florida, so it was a special treat for both of us to play in this space.
LeeAnne’s husband, David, is quite the character. He kept us laughing with antidotes and played the piano while Marian and I attempted to sing. Her son Porter and his girlfriend Kitty, sat and visited with us – until more company appeared. We were honored to meet two of her dearest friends, Cindy and Helen.

Helen, Glenny, Lee, Laurel

Laurel, Helen, Marian, Glenny

Marian searching for paper in the incredible studio

With such an amazing support group surrounding her, I know that she will beat this. She told me that she wants to get “real sick – because that means the drugs are working”. I still marvel at her courage and fortitude. She has been receiving notes and gifts from Art and Soul sisters around the world. I think this is the most humbling thing of all for me -- knowing how special A&S has become and how many lives it has changed.
LeeAnne and David are planning to be with us in Portland in October. We are counting the days until we can be together again!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer at Duck Pond Cottage

My mom spent 20+ years living in Arizona. She loved it there until the summers became unbearable for her breathing. While there, she grew quite an amazing cactus garden and when she relocated, some of the plants came with her. They never really appealed to me --- ok in their natural setting, but nothing that I would care to have on my patio.

Last winter, she insisted that I take a cactus start. Apparently it didn’t need much care; just leave in a sheltered spot on the deck. So I did. It has flourished and almost doubled in size. Then, two weeks ago, I noticed that some kind of spikes were growing out of the sides of the plant. Since my mother is staying with me, I brought it into the house and she was pleased to tell me that it was getting ready to bloom.

The original plant was the size of these small babies growing at the base of the mother plant.

We watched the plant with amazement as the spikes seemed to grow before our very eyes. Our weather had cooled for few days, and so did the growth. Then our weather heated up and they popped open. The blossoms only last about 24 hrs -- such a miniscule time to enjoy such a splendid display.
I am enjoying my deck this summer– not the same as living in the middle of hundreds of acres, but close enough. The wildlife is beginning to accept us, and that thrills me. Our ducks, who now have names as we can tell them apart as they have matured – Jack & Jill, Hillary and Obama – are quite happy in the big pond. Wild ducks fly into to visit them and I still wonder if they will leave this winter to follow the flock south.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Grandma & Abigail

It’s one of those nights where sleep is illusive. I remember reading somewhere that instead of just tossing and turning, you should just get UP. So I did, I am and its 3:00am. I guess it gives me some time to reflect on many things – probably one reason that sleep did not come – as my mind is very active. In our day to day lives, we take so much for granted. All the old clichés come to mind, especially when sleep doesn’t.

My mother is suffering from the final stages of COPD – the new fancy diagnosis of tragic emphysema. A heavy smoker from the early age of 21 she scoffed the reports in the early 1960’s of smoking dangers. I remember one evening when she and her friends were having a gab fest and the house was blue with smoke. The topic of the latest smoking ‘scare tactics’ arose and they all jokingly reached for another cigarette laughing that it made them so nervous they had to have another fix immediately. After all, they were invincible. Pre-war brides; they were raised during the depression and experiencing affluence that their parents could never have imagined…..new homes with indoor plumbing, husbands with good jobs, 2.5 children, 2 cars and groceries on the table. Nothing could touch them. Cigarette companies preyed on these women and no lawsuit against the companies can begin to pay for their suffering.

Sadly, at age 85, my mother is facing the fate of her love affair with tobacco complicated with asthma and allergies. What makes it even worse is that the only part of her body that is failing --is the lungs. Her mind is sharp as a tack, and if she were able, she could work circles around me. It is so painful to watch her fight for each breath. Anyone who has had asthma can understand the lung spasms – but imagine dealing with it every minute. She has asked God to let her go many times, but in his wisdom, for whatever reason, she remains strong in every way but those poor lungs.

She had a fairly good day yesterday and was able to join us at the barn to watch Abigail take a lesson on her new horse. Memories that we will cherish.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Art Challenge

I accepted an art challenge from Tracie Huskamp and Jan Harris. The ‘rules’ are simple:

A group of mixed-media artists will enter into a year-long challenge to create one, nature-themed 8" by 8" canvas each month for the next twelve months. Each month a different member of the group will decide the theme for the upcoming month and the members will interpret the theme in whatever media they choose, as long as the finished art fits on an 8" by 8" canvas.

This was an absolute first for me – I haven’t been involved in anything relating to art– no swaps, no round robins, no fat books no nothing – but I could do this. I really KNEW I could do this. So, I graciously accepted the invitation. (my art has been limited to making books – something I love and enjoy)

Our first piece was due July 31 and the theme was “Bird”. Should be simple for me – I love birds; my blog is a bird; my first home is named after same bird; I do wild bird rehab. But what do I DO for art? With all of the latest discussion about copying etc, I was suddenly petrified. I have no style that is my own – I haven’t had time to DO art, yet alone become myself. Everything I know about art is related to one class or another -- Ann Baldwin, Claudine Hellmuth, Lesley Riley, Traci Bautista – each finished piece, albeit having my own flair, is easily identifiable by the instructor from whom I took the class. My challenge piece will not be sold or published, but it will be on display, both on the Internet and in a gallery. Yikes!! That did it…. I decided to quit the challenge, besides I didn’t have time to work on art after all.

But wait…. QUIT???? – I’m not a quitter. I made a commitment and I’d jolly well better buck up and figure it out….time was ticking. I headed to my studio and hauled out paints, palate some papers and began. It was an agonizing task, but after repeatedly tearing off pieces of paper and re-painting the background – I finished….and only 2 days late. Hopefully everyone will see a combination of all my instructors in my first piece and I will continue to grow as the challenge continues. There is a blog dedicated to our challenge: http://naturegathered.blogspot.com/