My life is FILLED with “Collage”. I love surrounding myself with collections in categories.
The are each a Collage I made for someone else (top to bottom). A jewelry box filled with the jewelry pieces from a dear friend’s Mom, Memory Boxes for my Grandsons containing tiny symbols and souvenirs from their adventures, and photo cards.
My dear friend who gave me her mother’s jewelry pieces and old jewelry box above inspired me to facilitate a Collaging for Grief Workshop. My participants would collect the small things they couldn’t part with after a death. We would gather together to put all the trinkets in collage shadow boxes, all the while telling each other the stories behind the pieces. It was a wonderful way to let go of the large piles of things we can be left with when a loved one dies, but still end up with a lovely memorial piece of art in their honor.
I have posted before the embarrassing proof that most of the walls in my home are giant Collages
This is a series I called “Toy Baskets”. Trinkets from my own childhood. If you are of a similar age you might recognize Monopoly, Pick up Stix, Tiddly Winks, etc.
More Wall Collages from my home and Office
I could never stand to throw away the beautiful cards my clients have given me over 40 years in private practice, so I would always turn them into collages and display them. They so enjoyed spotting a piece of a card I had saved from them.
And many of my clients have been artists so I have many beautiful handmade pieces.
This one below is my favorite. It was when my practice was HUGE. I had 8 groups of 10 people each (5 therapy, 1 couples’ group, a Graduate Group, and a training group). The artist who did this mixed media sort of collage told me it represented the path of my heart through my professional life, with many, many connections shooting off into the world, like stars. I was so moved by this. The piece always remains a focal point of my current Wall Collage display. Hand done painting, stitching, gluing, etc. (I especially love this piece since my current practice is only 3 clients.) It’s so sweet to remember that I used to have a larger impact on my world…..
She told me this central line was my heart path….connected to and spreading out to the world, each star and sequin representing a life I had touched. It’s taken me years to accept (not my focus at the time) that I really did get to love a lot of people!!
Author note: Sorry for bad photos and for lack of editing. I wanted to get this in before the new challenge happens today!
OK, here’s a story for you about Bridge, not a bridge or the bridge, although there are significant bridges like that in my life. I have even posted about some of those.
No, this is a story about the card game, Bridge. But be warned! There are threetragedies in this story and only twohappy endings.
For many years, I held onto a beautiful treasure that belonged first to my grandmother and was passed down to my mother. It was a lovely novelty set of China, used only for Bridge Tournaments! A set of 4 plates, one shaped to represent each suit in a deck of cards, and a tea cup to nestle on to each plate. The plate below is a “Spade”. The beautiful shades of silvery blue with goldish orange accents always grabbed my attention.
There was also a clever stacking teapot, creamer and sugar container.
A stunning collection really, and I carried it around with me for more than 30 years, only occasionally unearthing it from it’s elaborate safety packaging, just to look at it.
Tragedy number ONE: In my 30’s while moving, a well-meaning helper placed the very special treasure box containing my mother’s Bridge china set, as well as a pile of antique handpainted, glass Christmas Tree ornaments, on the trunk of my car. My friend was sure I would see it there before driving off to the new house.
TOPPLE, CRASH, SMASH, CRUNCH, and all that was left was a huge box that when lifted, made that nauseating, tell-tale sound of broken glass. (Silent, major profanity here remembering the event. I did NOT keep those swear words to myself at the time though.)
I was as crushed as all those shattered heirlooms!
The happy ending for that tragedy is two-fold. One plate (the “Spade” in the photo above) and two teacups were unscathed! AND, a few years later, I met this woman, a talented potter, who took all the broken pieces of the Bridge Tea set (of COURSE, I had not thrown them away!!) and “mosaiced” them onto small clay flower pots, so I could put lovely, growing things in them.
(As I write this, I am remembering one of my favorite novels called Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. A great read partly about broken china and wonderful concept!)
Tragedy numberTWO: I have been complaining on my blog that I lost my camera. I even let this loss prevent me from blogging for several weeks!! (I mean, what is a post without visual aids, right?)
I did try last Wednesday to use my phone to photograph the above plate for this Bridge Post. Lousy shots so I was grieving for my old friend even more.
I loved my camera. Just a very small, simple point and shoot Canon, but with the best telephoto and macro capabilities of its generation. I had become intimate with this camera, familiar with all its quirks and loving it anyway. And it knew all the most moving moments of my life, first hand. So the loss has hurt. No idea where it went to, but we have recently moved from the top half of the house to the bottom to make room for my son and grandsons, so I kept thinking I had just packed it somewhere and that it would turn up…but it didn’t! It was nowhere! Another heartbreak.
The happy ending? Just yesterday, while facilitating my new Women’s Art and Support Group, I was presenting the day’s activity: “crafting art out of things you already have around your home”.
I LOVE photography. I have since I was in the 4th grade, snapping away with my little Brownie camera. I didn’t get to be any good at it until these more modern digital options came around. But that’s only because I can afford to take a million pictures now, knowing that somewhere among the plethora of lousy shots, might be a surprise.
Anyway, one of my favorite hobbys for gift making and the occasion Craft Fair is to use my favorite photos for handmade greeting cards.
Three examples of cards I’ve made.
Well, I opened the box I keep the finished cards in and Voila! There was my camera!! It had been hiding right there where it belonged!! I cried and had to excuse myself from group to go tell James I found it because I knew he’d been plotting to buy me a new one.
I LOVED this happy ending!
Tragedy number THREE: My Mom died when I was young so her keepsakes still mean a lot to me. Those China pieces are precious, not just because they are beautiful, but also because they are a reminder to me of the amazing woman my mother was.
The first half of my life with her, my Mom was all involved in motherhood, house-wifing, PTA, her new church, and her favorite, playing Bridge at her Women’s Club in La Jolla. Apparently Mom was a secret Champion. Taught by her church upbringing that she should never brag, we didn’t even know the trips she was taking up the West Coast were because she kept winning huge competitions in Tournament Bridge! (She did finally tell us shyly about beating Raquel Welch’s Mom at Bridge at her local Women’s Club though.)
She would bring home souvenirs for her daughters from her mysterious trips. The hotel rooms were loaded with soaps, lotions, sewing kits, etc) and from the tournaments, lots of Cracker Jax-type charms. Tiny metal and plastic animals, cars, crowns, keys and little people. I never understood the charms and figured maybe they won them or used them to bet with or something?? Anyway, she seemed happy and lots of folks were drawn to her!
The last half of my time with my her was painful. To my sisters and me, as her children, we suffered from her depression and alcoholism, but it must have been unimaginable for her. Her last few years alive, she just really did not want to be here…period.
When I was a youngish teen, she tried for that big “Final Check Out” twice, only to be rescued from her pill-induced coma’s. The third time, she wasn’t taking any chances and used a much more reliable method, a gun. She finally succeeded. Gone from her pain.
No happy ending there…bridge burned! Period.
But I do have to say that her life, the way she knew who she was, and the courageous way she tried again and again to find a way to be herself in a world that repeatedly stomped on her, have been a non-stop inspiration to me. She left the church her family was adamantly committed to. She joined the navy in the 1940’s, almost unheard of for women. She tried being the domestic handmaid she was programmed to be in her family. And finally, she struck out on her own, still determined and still searching, until her own chemistry got the better of her and she finally succumbed to the only answer she could find. To me her life shines brightly, full of examples and lessons to learn.
As Don Henley says in his wonderful song, “My Thanksgiving”,
“Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.”
I just can’t write about my mother(s) today. I will sometime. I know I need to.
And since I didn’t get a single card or call or flower and I even had to make my own coffee, I’m feeling pretty forlorn.
So I will write about myself.
I have been a mother since I was 5 years old. I knew how to change diapers and handle baby food and bottle basics before I started school. I mothered my little sisters (and I must have done a lousy job because they resent the hell out of me.)
Don’t get me wrong. I love mothering. I live for it. My favorite movie as a child was not some Disney Princess thing. Nope, for me it was “Cheaper by the Dozen”.
All I ever wanted was a huge family, a bunch of kids to mother!
I even mothered my mother, trying so hard to convince her life was worth living…but I failed…well, that’s how it felt to my broken teenage heart when she finally chose the permanent “check-out”.
I mothered, in the following order, myself, my sisters, my mother, my babysitting kids, my pets, my friends, my foster sisters, my boyfriends, my fellow students, my co-workers, my husbands, my neighbors, my BUGS, broken birds, and my hundreds of my clients…this last is a whole separate story of amazing “motherhood”.
I mothered myself when my own mother escaped her pain by shooting herself. How oxymoronic is that?
And I had to make the excruciating decision to NOT mother the child I was carrying at the time my mother died, leaving my sisters in my real charge this time.
Blissfully, I finally got to mother my son Michael, the light of my life, and eventually, a pile of step-children. And now, though I am their grandmother, I even get to mother my grandsons a little bit.
It’s still my favorite thing to do.
So here is my choice for Song Lyric Sunday, today, Mother’s Day, 2017. It’s the song I used to play for my most injured and damaged clients, in the hope that somehow, a little mother’s love really can heal. I know it has healed me.
And I know my “daughter” Pamela has received exactly this from her Mother.
And just so I don’t end on a pitiful note,
I’m off to Mother my CATS!!! They won’t know what hit them!
I know we all think that our cat (or dog) is the most amazing, most talented, and cutest one in the history of its species. What good pet parent doesn’t?
But my Lucy? She might seriously be up there in the top 5, well, OK maybe the top 100 of all time.
I’ll spare you all the “cute” stories about her childhood. “Cute”, when it comes to kittens is only slightly relative. Hard to find one who doesn’t elicit an “awe” from even the most hardened resisters.
Lucy was born into cuteness. Our whole world was cute the day we found her in our woodpile with her 3 tiny siblings. (You can read more about it here:)
Though I am primarily a dog person, I’ve also had cats my whole life…usually more than one. They have been mostly outdoor cats until the recent influx the of brazen coyotes into my neighborhood. No fault of the coyotes. The builders have run them out of their habitat. But now, any felines I parent are strictly house cats. It only takes one time seeing your favorite cat being carried off in the mouth of a coyote to make you rethink your responsibility to the animals you domesticate.
Lucy will be three years old this summer. I have many good stories about her (again, what good parent doesn’t?) For example, sitting here at my desk each morning, I can see the squirrels arrive on the deck right outside my window to steal the food I have put out for my Crows. If I say “Lucy, your friends are here!” she will come bounding out from anywhere in the house, even if she is sound asleep, and jump on the window sill to cat-chirp at the thieving rodents.
Here’s another quick tale. If I so much as TOUCH the bag of cat treats, she appears like lightening. Oh, the other cats come also but not nearly as fast. And Phineas and Zorro do not perch on their hind legs at my feet like a begging Meerkat!! Lucy will stand in that position any time I say “UP” and then gently grab the offered treat from between my fingers. If I toss it, she’ll even catch it mid-air, just like a Frisbee dog, right between her two paws, like she is clapping!
And then there is her fascination with containers of any kind. I know, I know. Most cats love boxes and various bags. But Lucy prefers the emptied plastic wraps from Costco.
All of that is cute, right? But there are two things she does lately that really have my attention. (A reminder here that I have often posted the disclaimer that I am the QUEEN of anthropomorphizing)
1) James is clearly Lucy’s favorite human. She imprinted on him the very first day we found them in that woodpile.
James has had to travel a lot lately and when he is gone, Lucy misses him…no, seriously. She mopes. She repeatedly sniffs where he has been sitting. And she refuses to sleep on the bed with me. When James is here, she sleeps under the covers, ON his legs, ALL NIGHT!
OK, so maybe that doesn’t prove anything but listen to this. If the phone rings when James is out of town, she is instantly on alert. And if it is James calling me, (we talk on the speaker) she is on my lap instantly, purring like crazy. She rubs her cheeks on the phone, and will not stop until I hang up. Sometimes, our whole conversation is about how she is head-butting the phone or, if I happen to be semi-reclined, how she has settled high up on my chest, under my chin for maximum closeness to the receiver. She does not do this with ANY OTHER caller. James will talk to her and I swear, her purring increases in volume.
And 2) Here’s the Lucy story that really gets to me.
Since she was very little, she has liked watching TV. Not so rare for a cat but it’s WHAT she watches that caught my attention. It started with this…
And then she branched out but the only other shows she watched were Cat shows
Recently, with Lucy asleep on the bed, I started a National Geographic show on Netflix. I left the room for something before the show got rolling. (Have I mentioned that Lucy is the sweetest, most gentle cat I’ve ever had? Not once has she ever clawed or bitten or even so much as played too roughly. And she is very quiet!) As I headed back to where I left her asleep, I heard the most unusual sound, a faint whimper at first and then a low whining that turned into what could only be described as a slightly muted keening. She was up on the dresser with the TV, gently pawing the screen, and keening. I’m not kidding.
The show was about the study that certain animals do, in fact, grieve.
She whimpered and mewled for the whole show and when it was over, came over and, like she sleeps on James all the time, and, as if in empathy fatigue, collapsed onto my chest and fell asleep..
Oh Helen, I didn’t realize it but I have been waiting for the perfect Sunday to share one of my all-time favorite singers.
Maybe you have heard of her. Eva Cassidy.
Many of her songs have the “sun” in them, and it was hard to pick one, so here are three of my favorites.
She was the sun!
I’ve included her story at the bottom. If you can get through her beautiful songs, and her story without tears of both joy, and the other kind…well, as my cryptic friend Don says “then I just don’t know about you.”
I did not include lyrics or credit for the song writing because these are all three classics.
It will take some time to get through all of this but I believe it will be worth it. Enjoy her gift to us all.