Calming Coddiwompling

Autumn photographs are a dime a dozen. But, to me, these are special. These are the very trees, the very leaves and the very fallen needles and berries that soothed my soul when I needed it most.

Thursday was an unusually warm November day with just enough wind to push the crisp leaves into and out of raked piles. I walked slowly for a couple of miles around my neighborhood, which I love, to take in my favorite season, to forget the news, to calm my emotions, to appreciate the simple.


Autumn in the Midwest has its own rich fragrance, as rich as its colors. Every breath I took was unconsciously deep and slow, therapeutic. Who would think organic death could smell so lovely.

An oak leaf, scooped up by the breeze, chased me down the sidewalk and beat me to the corner. I was in no hurry.


Part Lady, Part Cartoon


A magician with boxes and juggler of string. 

An athlete, faster than her own shadow. 

A snuggler, a chatterbox, my workroom buddy. 

Most important, in rescuing Jo from homelessness, she saved me from the frequent loneliness of a creative life. 

She’s her own feline — indifferent to catnip, corrugated cardboard and sisal —



and texts flattering selfies that show off her tiger stripes, black-lined eyes and creamy décolletage.


Making Lemonade


IMG_1553My creative experiment with pencil shavings went nowhere today. It will be discarded.

File May 17, 4 25 08 PMHowever, I’m quite taken with these images I saw in the sprinkling. All were taken with my iPhone 5, some using my Olloclip as well. For those unfamiliar: Olloclip sells a set of lenses for iPhones — wide-angle, macro and fish eye. I use the macro a lot. Here’s what my Olloclip lenses look like when not in use — all three of them screw together — next to a calcium pill for scale (it was handy).

I imagine Olloclip has lenses that fit newer iPhones and lenses that work with other phones too.



File May 17, 7 50 30 PM

It’s Not About the Sewing



It’s the making of things. More precisely: making things up, creating from scratch, having my very own idea and carrying it out. That’s what I love.

Sewing is one way to get there, and right now it’s also a way to avoid the tech challenges associated with my visual artwork.



Foraging through the drawer of my mother’s sewing supplies is inspirational, an archaeological expedition that always turns up something new. I mean something really old that’s new to me.



My mom could sew anything … and perfectly. One of her favorites was this dress she made for my wedding.

I did not inherit my mother’s patience for sewing. When I was young, she routinely rescued me from tangled webs of thread and fabric I was so good at making and finished projects I should have never started.

Simpler is better, when it comes to me and sewing.

I think Mom would have gotten a kick out of my tissue box sleeves (see photo up top). And she would have felt sorry for me with my technological issues. “Oh, honey,” she would say and wrap her arms around me.





How to make a tissue box sleeve

Add a needle, and here’s everything you’ll need. Buttons are optional, but encouraged. I have a collection, some from my mom’s mom! Grandma would have gotten a kick out of the sleeves, too. An expression they both used.



A Nest of Bowlies


A break from my organic, scratchy line drawings, this week I poured my creative time into modern kitchen art.

This piece is a combination of drawing, erasing and what I’m calling digital collage. Like my “Laundry Leftovers.”

Clearly I’ve overlapped photos (I think it’s clear; I’m not expecting anyone to believe they are not overlapped) and in case it needs saying, they are photos I took. Then I adjusted the effects of the layers on each other, while drawing and erasing where needed. As many as four layers overlap, so that’s been time-consuming. This may still be a work in progress, because I’m experimenting with additional light. You’ll know it’s done if it shows up in my recent work (see tab).

Note: Stocking my “Recent Work” is temporarily suspended while I muster the patience to get my computer and my printer to speak the same language. 


Waiting to be Inspired — In Memory of an Inspiration


Above, what I’ve been working on. Below, what I have to say.


The inspiration for my long overdue blog post finally arrived. At first I didn’t recognize it as such. It was delivered as news that MaryEllen Sullivan, a Chicago writer and one-time colleague of mine, had died. She was only 56.

MaryEllen was a freelance writer with an enviable portfolio and a frequent and fearless traveler of the world.

But it is her blog that best defined her. It’s been eons since I last saw her, but a mutual friend alerted me to it last year. On the Wings of a Hummingbird is a blog about joy, MaryEllen put it simply.

From her obituary by Barbara Mahany: She was a writer and traveler, a diviner of joy — joy unexpected, unlikely and against the odds. “In a time of chaos (now righted),” she wrote in March 2012, “on a day in which joy seemed eclipsed by uncertainty, I committed to writing about joy every day. I figured that if I can find joy when I’m in the mud, then maybe I have something to say about joy.”

Why do I share this with you? Because I believe all of us can be inspired by the words of MaryEllen Sullivan.

She thought big and deep and was a connoisseur of culture high and low, including poetry, literature, music, television and film. By the same measure, she appreciated what others would regard as the smallest, inconsequential things in life.

From MaryEllen’s series “Delights Great and Small:” Those of you who know me—either in person or only through the blog—know that I delight in both the large and small things in life … the everyday miracles that make life juicy, joyful and just plain fun. Dry martinis. Naps. Lazy afternoons. The angle of the sun at summer’s end. A good book. A new restaurant. An evening with old friends. These things cost little but offer a high return of joy.

When her life took a precipitous turn –- losing her partner of 18 years followed by her ovarian cancer diagnosis — she dug deeper and wrote about finding joy in the face of tragedy and grief. See, for example, “Bewigged, Bewitched and Beloved.” It’s a great story.

Over the last year I discovered a MaryEllen I never before knew. In the last two days, I realized that MaryEllen has meant more to me than I could have imagined.

Thinking about MaryEllen and her approach to life makes me want to create more, to read more, to get out more and to write better. She makes me want to live a richer and more satisfying life –- and to always be infinitely grateful for all joys, great and small.

If I could be like MaryEllen, I would not wait for inspiration. It would always be there.


Thank you to my dear friend Cindy for her help finding the right words for this post.