I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I sort of feel that vowing to make a resolution means you are vowing to change something that maybe you need to change, and I’ve always been of the mindset that if I didn’t like the way I approached, did, thought, ate, etc I’d fix it, I don’t need a new year to act differently.
Well this was no ordinary year. And my life is anything but static. I’ve lost a lot this year, and yet, there is something promising about the future as I discover all the things that I didn’t know I was missing. My late husband wasn’t big on the kind of adventures I like, and truth be told, I don’t really know what kind of adventures I like. Sometimes doing them with an enthusiastic buddy is just the best, and my husband wasn’t the enthusiastic sort that would slog through museum mile in NYC or seek out that cultural experience. He would rather have been skiing or doing some risky sport thing.
I’m developing a different circle of friends now. They are just falling into my life in unexpected ways. Who knew there was a spinner just a block from my house, I walk by her condo whenever I walk the dog. She has been there for 15 years. I had no idea. She is interested in a lot of the things I like to do, or I’m discovering I like to do, and we have already had some pretty fun adventures together.
I was asked by a group of women in mid December to accompany them to the holiday boutique at Lambert Castle. I’ve lived in this area since the early 70’s when I attended Montclair State, and knew of Lambert Castle but had never been. Shame on me. We had a blast and I’m looking forward to going back to take a tour of the actual castle, not when it is hosting a holiday boutique. I’m really interested in the history.
Likewise, my new friend in the condo’s and I went to the Stickley Museum, which I’m completely embarrassed to say is 15 minutes from my house and an absolute marvel of a place. We took a tour, the Sunday before Christmas, it was unbelievable. I would go back in a heartbeat.
And the next day, I met up with my husband’s cousins from Texas, who were in Manhattan for the weekend. We went to see a Klimt exhibit at a Gallery called the Neue Galerie, which turned out to be four blocks north on 5th Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is actually the Ronald S. Lauder Museum for German and Austrian Art. I had no idea this museum was even here, it was breathtaking in its scope, and I can’t wait to go back. The German restaurant in the basement was excellent. The Klimt exhibit was pretty amazing as well. Suddenly there is a big world out there and it was right here all along but I never had the time nor took the time to look.
And the day after that I got in my car and drove two hours to Newtown, CT, home of Taunton Press, publisher of Threads Magazine where I was invited to their holiday party as a regular contributor. An old friend who had been widowed many years before me told me during a breakfast we had together, to always say yes to whatever you get invited to. It was a way of relearning the world without your spouse. She was so right. The Threads Party was a blast. The facility was beautiful, and the editors, whom I’ve had tons of correspondence with over the last couple of years, were just as gracious and fun in person as they are to work with professionally. I look forward to writing more for them.
About 10 years ago, my husband and I took the kids to see the holiday train show at the NY Botanical Gardens. It was incredible and I’ve always wanted to go back. My new condo friend has always wanted to go so in the next week we will be heading to the Bronx to check it out before it leaves on the 16th. I remember that every historic miniature building or site was built out of plant materials. My husband took something like 3000 photos 10 years ago. Most likely I will not take any. Because you can look it up on the internet.
And so I’m making a resolution this year, to find out all the things I was missing because I was busy raising kids, or traveling, or didn’t have someone to go with, or was too lazy to get on a bus, or drive to wherever. Life is short, as this year has shown us all. Seize the day and make it count.
And I even signed up for a five day watercolor class at Peters Valley this summer. I’m vowing to take a class out there in something, anything, each year, to keep me fluid and looking at life in different ways. I’m going to be a student again.
And even today, there are two fibery women I am good friends with, who live in different states in different parts of the country. But with a group facebook message, we talked on and off all day, sharing what’s on our looms, in our dyepots, and on the spinning wheels. It was like going to a virtual guild meeting.
So celebrate that you made it through a particularly tough year, and hold hands and cross the street together as we head into 2017, which by many estimates will be a complete leap of faith. Read more, weave more, take time to see the things that have always been right under your nose. Learn something new, cook something new. Make a new friend.
I actually got to go into my studio today and work. I got to sit at a loom and weave. This is really huge. This is amazing. Because my life has been reduced to the care and feeding of my house. Hourly things go wrong. Really wrong.
So the past couple of weeks have been nothing but a parade of contractors in and out of the house. There is deck guy, and tech guy, and plumber guy, and tree guy. There is landscape guy and garage door guy, chimney guy and lawn maintenance guy. Pond girl is missing in action and it is 17 degrees.
My son complained, “You know mom, they all have names”. Yeah, I know, but most of them are named Jim. I can’t keep them straight. I like my “guys” just fine. The good news is I’m slowly finding solid competent people for all those stupid things that go wrong, and I’m starting to think, and actually say, “I have people for that…” The bad news is that everytime something gets touched it is like opening a can of worms. Deck guy turned off the hose spigot, at the actual spigot, like he should have, instead of the diverter, like my husband always did, and it started leaking. Profusely. In search of a non existent main shut off for that line going outside, I discovered a leaking galvanized end cap on a copper pipe that went nowhere in the ceiling of the basement. It has been dripping rusty water for a long time. Might explain my water bill? Plumbing guy is amazing. Done and done. (And now I have an actual shut-off). Chimney guy notes that my 125 year old chimney doesn’t have a liner. Not code and not good. Chimney guy lines my chimney and notes that my hot water heater has a 3 inch vent pipe, not a 4 inch, which is code. Now it does.
Tech guy spends hours figuring out my wiring, Ethernet, wi-fi, cable feed, etc. We removed bags of surplus wires and cables. The main cable from the box to the switching hub in the basement disintegrated as he was trying to figure out why I had no internet. Really old cable… One of the originals. Wouldn’t support the 100 mbps I’m paying for. Now it works. I have jacks in the walls, instead of a vomit of cords coming from holes. I know where things are. And so does my tech guy. Done and done…
And on and on and on…
The biggest work was on the front entrance of my house, time was of the essence to try and get the foundation laid for a retaining wall for the original crumbling slab on my front porch. It is getting colder and concrete work can’t be done when it is 17 degrees. Yesterday the steps were installed, and the railings framed. He delivered the black aluminum balusters and will install them when it isn’t 17 degrees.
Then the garage door opener failed. It isn’t worth having a garage door opener repaired that dates back to the late 80’s. Garage door guy comes tomorrow to install new openers. Apparently you can work them from a phone app.
My town building inspector has been wonderful. It is great to have officials on board watching out for you, lowly homeowner. And of course they all know me there, my husband was on the planning board for 25 years. It takes a village, and my goal is one day to have this house a well oiled machine. Right now, I wake up early because some contractor/repair guy is arriving at 7:30am to repair something or other. And the days slip away and I accomplish little. Or so it seems…
Side bar… I play recorders with a couple of consorts, I’ve mentioned this before. This December, the Montclair Early Music Consort had their Winter Solstice concert in a gorgeous church build in the late 1800’s, but we had to wear Renaissance costumes. Which I really didn’t own. So I spent the last couple of weeks scrounging through my vast stash to create something that would celebrate my creativity and look the part. I pulled the petticoat from my wedding gown, and promptly tossed the rest. Really, it was poly charmeuse from the 70’s. Princess Di style. We are never going back there again…
I whipped up a blouse from some silk dupioni I got from a recent trip to Tennessee. I trimmed the neck with some really pretty bobbin lace I had on a bobbin lace pillow. I cut apart a gold skirt from Chico’s and overlayed a silk broomstick skirt I’ve had for about 10 years. And the vest was from a friend from a craft fair, didn’t fit, but I edited the front so I could breathe in it and added the lacing. The headpiece was a bit of creativity as well. Made a tube of bias cut from the end of a sari my husband brought back from India. I think I’m not getting anything accomplished and then I end up with this.
I still have to figure out how to keep the elastic in the skirt from separating from the vest… An engineering question which I’m still mulling over.
And there is the letter. Yeah, I write that Christmas letter every year. Have been for more than 25 years. Sort of a tradition. I wrote it, printed it, had my son stuff 146 envelopes while I hand addressed 146 envelopes because I could not figure out how to get labels from my Google Contacts. I tried for four hours and gave up. Every year I go through this and my husband always figured it out somehow, but could never document how he did it. He just kept clicking on stuff ’till it worked. Last year I did manage to take three pages of notes, but tech guy installed Office 2016, at my request, and of course, now my notes are useless. They don’t relate to the mail merge in Word 2016. Sigh… I have a pretty hand crafted pen I bought at the Morristown Craft Market in October and I sat and wrote out 146 names. It was kind of fun…
Just in case you weren’t one of those 146 names, and want to read the letter, click here. I swore this was my last letter. It was important I do one last one, in honor of my husband and because there are probably people who don’t know he died. My kids are pretty much grown, and I’m trying to simplify my life.
And of course the annual holiday towel tradition continues. I put a 12 yard run of dishtowels on the loom last month, and managed to weave off 13 towels, a baker’s dozen, while fielding contractors/repairmen/and all my “guys”. The stack is washed and cut apart, and waiting on pressing and hemming.
And there is the new dog. Stupid dog. Totally in love with this dog but can’t leave him unattended for a minute. He is the one on the right. Thank goodness for crates. He managed to do this…
It is now repaired. I still had a small ball of yarn, and I picked up and re-knit the left front, and re-connected the shoulder. I was NOT a happy camper.
And yesterday I attended the funeral of one of the most beloved people in my life, Carol D. Westfall, my professor, my teacher, my mentor, my friend. I met Carol in 1974, six months before I met my husband, she was my fiber professor at Montclair State College in the 70’s. We have had many wonderful adventures over the last 40 years. She taught me that it didn’t matter if you knew what you were doing. Just figure it out as you go along. It is not lost on me that two of the most important people in my life outside my blood relations were my husband and Carol and I met them within six months of each other and they died within six months of each other. This year can’t end soon enough. I can’t take anymore losses.
Seriously, I”m just testing a PHP upgrade. There is nothing of interest today, except I’m spending the entire day with my computer guy… You can’t even imagine…
Thanksgiving is a time of well, thanksgiving. At least that’s the purpose, a time to give thanks for everything you have, the people you love, and well, this year it has been just a bit harder to give thanks. In fact, my wonderful incredible sister, came to my house for this Thanksgiving, bearing gifts in the form of matching T-shirts.
However, turns out, this was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how I can even describe how all this feels, because last year, we knew it was most likely my husband’s last Thanksgiving, and he couldn’t eat without vomiting, and even though we all struggled valiantly to hold on to one more gathering as a family, it was pretty grim.
This year though, all of that is behind us. My wonderful incredible sister, the one bearing T-shirts, came with her family to be a support, a friend, a comrade in crime, a drinking partner, and to help do the impossible. This was a time of renewal, of new traditions. My children cooked dinner. We had steak on the grill, a fabulous sweet potato casserole from the Thanksgiving issue of Real Simple, and some frozen green beans from Trader Joe’s. It was lovely, delicious, simple and the women got to kick back and have a drink and enjoy the day.
My daughter set the table, it looked lovely.
My son left for Target, to open the store for the pre-black Friday mob, and the rest of us went to the garage for an Alice’s Restaurant redux…
There was a Thanksgiving many many years ago. About 52 years ago I believe. Arlo Guthrie is one of my all time heroes, I have heard him many times in concert, and I even had the privilege of hearing the 45th anniversary (I think) of Alice’s Restaurant at Carnegie Hall. I know every part of it, from the 8 x 10’s to the circles and arrows, to the pile of garbage, to the group W bench with the father stabbers and other sorts. It was a testament to dysfunctional government, a sign of the times, the Vietnam war draft, and a Thanksgiving where good friends helped out by cleaning out the church and got arrested just trying to find a place to dump the garbage. If you are one of the very few who don’t know this story, curl up, it is 18 minutes long, and listen to something as relevant today as it was 52 years ago. Thanks to a great friend on facebook, the actual newsclipping from the Berkshire Eagle surfaced!
Anyway, I digress…
My husband wasn’t the most organized person in the world. Though he claimed to know where everything was, none of us did. I hid a set of tools in my studio because I could never find a hammer, or screwdriver, or if I found the battery operated drills, I couldn’t find charged batteries. You couldn’t walk in the second bay of the garage, and I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of ever seeing the floor again, finding lost tools, or ever having the ability to park a car in there.
And so it began. By Thursday evening, we had much of the contents pulled out, and already had filled one car with a load for the dump. First thing Friday morning, off I went, only to find the dump closed.
So we piled all the debris into the driveway, in the rain, and the actual trash we loaded into 20 contractor bags and put it out to the curb where the wonderful sanitation workers picked up the garbage at 5:30am Saturday. When we woke up on Saturday, I cooked a great breakfast, alongside my son, he made the bacon and eggs, and I cut up fruit and made egg-nog French Toast. The best. Fortified, we headed back to the dump, and made six trips.
My brother in law, and my nephew each filled their own trucks and headed back to Maryland to donate the contents to a Boys and Girls club where my brother in law works.
Because my sister came and did the impossible, assisted by my children, her husband, and her son, I can now park in my garage, both cars…
And I can find tools. Lots of tools. I think I actually have more screwdrivers than Ace Hardware. Eventually my children will take many of the tools when they move out, but for now, if I need a screwdriver, I actually can find one.
On Sunday, my children and I welcomed a new member of the family, Ranger, a two year old male Norwegian Elk Hound. That’s him on the lower right, along with our princess Saphira, the 9 year old. He is an energetic teenager, looking to get into trouble, but he is really sweet and fills the void somewhat that happened when our other dog died two months ago of pancreatic cancer. This year has been full of losses, but this Thanksgiving was full of hope, of friendship, of renewal, of new traditions, and of course family. There was no political drama, there was only respect. There was light, and energy, and peace. I will be truly grateful of a great memory of my first Thanksgiving without my husband and our beloved dog.
Speaking of new traditions, my daughter went to Maryland the weekend before Thanksgiving to see my mom. Her health has been unsteady, and my daughter wanted to spend a little time with her, because well, this year has been full of losses and she is afraid my mom will become yet another one. My mom loved to make fruitcake. I know, I’m one of the rare people who actually like that bit of tradition, and my mom made a wicked 100 proof fruitcake. She is now too old to continue that tradition, so she turned the recipe, the directions and the soaking tin over to my daughter, who hates fruitcake, but loves that she can continue the tradition. So Brianna made a fruitcake Thanksgiving morning, and will marinate it in brandy over the next four weeks and then distribute it to everyone at Christmas.
And my own tradition, now a few years old, continues. I started weaving dishtowels as holiday gifts and the response was terrific. They are great for shower/wedding/birthday gifts as well. But first I had to clear my larger 8 shaft loom.
So this happened…
Can I say how much in love I am with this fabric, that came about from the need to just sit and make my brain figure something out in the deepest part of my grief last summer. I had four unrelated skeins of oddly dyed yarn, leftover from a dye day. I blogged about it here…
So now the fabric is off, and I get to do something cool with it, and then I warped up the loom with some pretty towels, using just what was hanging about in my stash. A two pound cone of a white textured cotton, and a two pound cone of a flax colored cotton. I had some tiny leftover cones of Cotlin left from towels I did a number of years ago, and I’m adding a colored stripe at each end of the towel. The design is from a book I found in my travels, 18 Towels on Four Warps by Carol Berry. I bought it from Halcyon Yarn a couple of months ago so I know it is current.
And so, I’m really thankful for traditions, old and new ones, and for family who once again, did the impossible. I’m thankful for my children, for the help and support they have been, and stepping up to the plate to make new traditions for all of us. I’m grateful for the chance to get to know our new dog, and for simple things like a garage you can park in, and tools that are accessible. And I’m really grateful that unlike that Thanksgiving long ago, that no one got arrested. I was able to wait until the dump reopened on Saturday…
I graduated from Montclair State College (now University) in 1977, with a degree in fine arts. That was a long time ago. It is where I learned to weave, to spin, to enjoy the range of fiber techniques I now take for granted. It is really where I learned to think, to see, to compose, to appreciate. In my senior year of college, I was privileged to have a year long internship at a well known rug store in the Northern NJ area, called Einstein Moomjy. I had a Cranbrook Loom set up in their showroom, and for minimum wage, I sat and demonstrated Wednesday evenings and all day Saturday. I completed 5 tapestries while I was working there. I knew then that I really had no interest in following a tapestry medium, because my real love was clothing, though I also acknowledged that I’d eventually have to earn a living and with no loom, and no real means of becoming a conceptual artist at 22 years old, I’d need to look beyond my immediate education.
Fortunately I was able to purchase a loom, with a bit of an inheritance from one of my grandmother’s, and there it sat while I began my life teaching crafts for the Craft Showcase in Paramus Park, a mall in Paramus, NJ.
My father, who was the credit manager of the now defunct Scott Paper Company, which had its corporate offices near the Philadelphia International Airport, had paid for my college education. He asked me when I graduated, if I would be willing to weave a tapestry for his office. How could I refuse? So I sketched out some ideas for one more tapestry, after a visit to his office, which was decorated in a very definite 70’s modern style, grey and orange theme. My father retired in the 1980’s from corporate life, and died of a heart attack at the young age of 72. Meanwhile, the tapestry found its way to my parents house at the Jersey shore, where it hung proudly until my mom sold that house, a number of years after his death and moved to Maryland with her new husband, a man she went to High School with, she had known since she was 13. It is a sweet story, but I digress…
The tapestry ended up in the back of my closet, forlorn and unloved, it certainly didn’t work in my house, yet it wasn’t something I could just donate to Goodwill.
Fast forward to January of 2016.
My husband was a huge Devils fan, he loved ice hockey, and had season tickets to the Devils for many years, seeing them win two Stanley Cups, and only gave up his season tickets when he became a global traveler and could no longer attend regular games. In December of last year, a notice came out to Montclair State alumni, about a networking opportunity to gather with fellow alumni and staff, at a Devils Game. There would be a small reception and buffet, followed by the game and then photos on the ice afterward. I could bring a guest. My husband who was really really sick from all of the treatment had had undergone for stage three esophageal cancer visibly brightened when I suggested the tickets, and by January he felt recovered enough from that round of treatment to go with me to this event. It was one of the great joys I still have thinking of him in the center of the ice, where I shot this photo. It played in a loop, along with many other important moments in his life, during the viewing and subsequent funeral when he died in June.
Again, I digress…
During the reception/buffet at the arena back in January, the gentleman behind me, a tall guy, probably a few years younger than I was, with an Australian accent, struck up a conversation with me, he noticed I was a fine arts major but his badge had flipped around and I couldn’t tell what major he was nor what year he graduated. Turns out his sister back in Australia was an artist and the subject came up of what an artist does with old work, especially once it no longer represents the current body of work. I completely identified with this dilemma, as we all know I make clothing, not tapestries, and I am definitely not a collectible in the art world. I don’t even sell my work any longer, actually haven’t for years, unless someone falls in love with an old piece, and it fits them, and then I let them make me an offer.
Continuing the theme of old work, I mentioned to this tall Australian, that in fact, I had a piece, an old tapestry which had been woven for a corporate office for my father in the 70’s. I didn’t have the heart to destroy it, but who would want a dated tapestry, that probably wasn’t my best work, I was only 23 at the time, and largely self taught in the tapestry process. There was a large portion of handspun, dyed a lovely gold with onion skins, but that wouldn’t make it any more appealing.
The Australian gentleman said as he flipped his badge around, that he was in fact the dean of the Feliciano Business School at Montclair State University, and they had just opened a brilliant new building on campus and it was sorely lacking artwork for the walls and if an alumni were to donate a work of art to the University, they would be obligated to hang it.
I nearly dropped my plate of food….
Of course I followed up immediately and as in academia, everything takes a long time to happen, but I’m thrilled to say that today, my son and I, accompanied by my dear fiber friend Diane Savona, also an alumni of Montclair, met the Dean and his staff at the Feliciano School of Business for a small reception and lunch to celebrate the installation of my tapestry in the Dean’s suite. They had a plaque and everything.
When I dropped the tapestry off in May, I walked into the building for the first time and I was shocked that the decor, the architecture, and color scheme, was a modern 1970’s. In fact the large fiber work at the top of the central spiral staircase from the lobby of the building, was an Alexander Calder fiber piece, (I didn’t know he worked in fiber) in similar colors from 1975. If I had designed a tapestry to hang in this space, I couldn’t have done a better job.
So thank you Dean Cant for giving my tapestry a permanent home. My dad is smiling.
Thank you to my son who accompanied me today, and spent an entertaining lunch conversing with the Dean about military weapons systems and the integration of technology and innovation.
And here is the permanent home for my father’s tapestry. I wish my husband could have been there with me today. Closure is a wonderful thing…