8/28/2016

Essential Personnel



A yellowed and water stained page was loose on the bottom of one of the boxes of journals in the basement. The page is written in July 1974. That's the summer I was taking summer-school classes for my Masters Program at American University.

This is the set-up for the incident I wrote about.

July 10 was an ordinary day - at a time when cell phones were not a given in every pocket.

Jim left at his usual 6:30 am on his daily commute to his office down-town where he had scheduled a full day of  patient appointments. I left home several hours after him for classes at American University.  Jimmy (18 ), who was working as a life guard left at 8 am to open a near-by pool. Karen, 16, also a life guard, was sleeping in on the 10th.  Robin, nearly 15, did not have to check in at the neighborhood office where she was a junior administrative assistant until noon that day. By 9 am the house was quiet.

July 10, 1974

For no reason - the page opens saying - My Aunt Mary Cobb suggested I record some of the humorous anecdotes which occur around here - 
"perhaps you can use them someday."

Monday returning from A.U. at 4:30 pm after a Modern Art Exam I was startled and a little unnerved to recognize Jim in his car waiting for the light to turn green at the corner of Reno Road and Nebraska Avenue - he was headed back toward his office. That was strange because I knew he had a full day scheduled. I honked the horn and waved - he waved back and smiled, He did not look upset in the few seconds I saw him as my green Volvo passed his blue Toyota Supra.

Driving the rest of the way up Connecticut Avenue I calmed myself with repeated reassurances that 
he looked calm. If anything DIRE had happened he wouldn't be going back to work.  But I knew that something had happened.

First thing I saw when I walked into the house was Karen sitting on the couch watching T.V. 
"Why was your daddy at home this morning?"
She barely looked up and said. "He had to call the plumber."

"What?"

Then she told me that she and Robin woke up about 11 am to smell gas in the house and they heard a
roaring sound in the basement! The water heater hose had come loose and water was rushing in filling the entire basement - 4" of water. 

"We called Dad on his "emergency line."  - - he rushed home. 
"We knew you were having a test - and we did not know where to call you anyway."

Jim told me later that he received the call just as a new patient finished telling him about her husband who was never home - " and I get called away to handle a problem at home. 
Really great timing."

I laughed when I read this today. It was an everyday I had forgotten  - and love remembering --especially as it spotlights a time before cell phones and reminds me how we worked out a solution to keep our family lines of communication open.

The year before when Karen had fallen at school and was in class they were unable to reach me or Jim.  Karen was not badly injured but when there is an accident schools want to talk with parents - then.

Clearly we had to work out something since I was not a stay-at-home Mom anymore and Jim closed his phone when he was with his patients.
So - Jim installed a new line for incoming calls only which sat on his desk. The rule was - only emergency calls

As Robin likes to say, "Dad had us covered. He was our essential personnel."

BTW - Jim was a Psychiatrist. His leaving the patient was a big decision. But he did not hesitate to head home - -
                                                      and the patient came back.



8/26/2016

A Surprise Connection

So glad to be with members of MDBPW and MDNow today to observe Women's Equality Day and to enjoy the company of women who have been on the front lines for women's issues for many years.
We speak the same language.








Loved seeing Ruby Aridi wearing a  
10 year old celebration ribbon that she brings out once a year. Tradition.

Very happy to meet Marion Freyer, a retired  Manager in the DC Government who was in charge of programs for women.
When she walked in I noticed that she was carrying 
The Spirit of Houston.   
I touched her on the shoulder.
"I see you are carrying a historic book there. 
I have one too."
  
We laughed and shared memories of the International Women's Year national meeting in Houston in 1977.
Telling our stories to each other brought it all back - memories flooding both of us.

We had lots in common.

Were both there.
It was a moment!


8/25/2016

Self-Portraits - 1979

Four self-portraits - from a 1979 Journal.
Its hard to look at yourself closely and render it to the paper. 
This is a freer blind contour drawing that, while not looking exactly like me, has more life and mood than the careful drawings which are striving for a likeness.

By this time I am warmed up and getting to a more animated version of myself.

I was 43 when I   
drew these sketches.

Probably this last one is the true frazzled me.


Fun! 
I am grateful to find these drawings. They remind me of a lot more about myself than photographs would.


8/23/2016

Treasures from the Basement.


I started journalling when I was in high school - never going anywhere without a pen and paper. I make notes of things I see and do and I whine and complain into my books. Often I tell people my notebook is my brain. I have only lost one - left it in a ladies room in a restaurant in Manhattan Beach, CA and still wonder what was in it.

Ten days ago my son lugged a part of my collection of journals upstairs from my studio - saying "Mom, this is a treasure! I want to read these. You have got to do this." I know one thing. They are private until I go through them - but I love that he wants to take a look.   

For now I am starting  re-meeting many versions of myself from 16 to 80 years old as the notes, lists and sketches in them give me back days of my life as I lived it.  

Why? 

I have meant to go through the boxes of diaries for ten years or more - - but didn't get to it.

Since my 80th birthday in July I have begun to edit my lists and ask myself, "do I really want to do that?" "Is it important to me?"

It's a yes for sifting and sorting my journals - - where I am finding stories right from the get-go. Stories I want my family to know and maybe some for telling too.

My daughter Robin has said for a long time, "Mom, you have been a Forrest Gump for the women's movement - both for women artists and for the Equal Rights Amendment.." Its true I have been.  And as you may remember from the movie Forrest Gump was often close to the action and met some very interesting people.  He and I do have a lot in common. 

I want to share some of the "foot-notes" to history I collected in these diaries ---- I don't know how I will do it. But I am going to love the months ahead while I  read through them.

  




8/14/2016

Some Days of my Life - Episode one.


August 14, 2016

This is another entry from one of the old diaries I unearthed yesterday.
Reading the entries - I meet myself again - in this instance in 1978 - 38 years ago.

At that time I was primarily a visual artist and still involved in the women's artist movement. The idea of finding myself as a storyteller had never entered my imagination.

So much has happened since then - and its very interesting, more than interesting actually - to come so close to those days again through my journals, little tablets and blank books I carried with me for weeks and wrote in every day so I recognize and remember them and reading my story in my own handwriting.

Its connecting with myself

I am so grateful for finding this mixed-up collection of little books which are telling me the story of some days of my life.

Especially as it tells me I ws headed toward telling personal stories sooner or later.


February 26, 1978

After Roots 2 and my absorption in that chronicle of a family for over 12 hours of television. Alex Hayley said at the end "interview your family - start with the oldest member."

That's what I have been starting in a sense, with the Granny Collages - looking to the past for material for my art. But so far I have been relying on my memory and more to the point calling back feelings not events.

I also realize that when I start to "make art" I really think of it - not in concepts but as "making things." I think first about something I want to do or to make.

That was one of my blocks in graduate school - not looking at a still-life set-up for relationships but starting in to make something.

Luciano Penay ( a favorite painting professor at American University) says, " thats the answer - what was the question." I arrive at the answer first by making something.

Is that wrong - or not a way to approval for my art-making? Who knows?

Mimi's (i.e Miriam Schapiro) response to my collages - that "they are strong, rich -
Ofcourse she's a supportive responder - so I don't know exactly how to read that - I want to accept it and feel it as praise but I am not sure. And also felt myself wanting, needing her approval - the mother-daughter trip. I want to stay away from that.

Judge my art myself. Evaluate what, where, and how.

Find something I want to make make and then figure out how to do it!






















                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1982  From a loose page - a small page blue with faint lines.

What does revealing diaristic work have to do with art p other than as a means for self-understanding - to help an artist get to a personal statement - - in art terms?

Formalistic terms are more important to me --
 structure
 color
 space
    and that's okay..

8/13/2016

A Bit of my History Turns Up


November 2, 1983

Today I stood at the back of the crowd pressing into the room listening to Gloria Steinem and I felt a pull to the past – the past when I was much more excited about the women’s movement.


She’s tall, very thin and lovely. Dressed in a black long sleeved sweater over long black wool gaucho pants , also wearing boots. An elegant silver Navaho belt is draped casually around her hips and a heavy silver Indian bracelet at her wrist reminded me of  a Wonder Woman bracelet. A large hammered silver ring accentuated her long slender fingers and her beautifully shaped nails. Along with her trademark straight hair and aviator glasses. Elegant, understated – she shows a careful image.

Fascinated, I watched the way she gestured with her hands. Gloria Steinem exudes style.

But more she looks at everyone in the guest line individually with a gaze  that makes you feel special.

I had not seen Gloria in about three years. As I watched her I thought she must be a bit like fine wine – she gets better with time.

I was moved by her talk about her book tour for her new book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions –how people tell her their stories. She says,  “ I feel like an heiress and I have to figure out how to share the stories back with everyone.”

She graciously acknowledged all the women in the audience , “You who do the work here and in Washington – how much we all owe you.”

It is so rare, in my experience that I heard anyone acknowledge those working in the fields.

I felt memories stirring – of the excitement in Houston for the national  IWY meeting – of having the feeling it could all be done – of having heroines like Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and so many others – that was all before I turned negative – when I still felt energy and enthusiasm for the Women’s Movement.

When I felt all the idealism – saw only possibilities not difficulties – was too naieve to realize the obstacles ahead for women trying to pass the ERA.

Where did that feeling go? What happened?

Jim said later when I told him about it the loss of feeling and the disappointments.

“Burn out.”
My idealism was kicked out of me – squashed by the failure of ERA – in 1982.

Women across the country poured every ounce of their energy into the campaign for 10 years  of trying to pass the Equal Rights Amendment were squashed by the failure to pass it.

All that and we came up empty.


August 15, 2016

Today, 33 years later, I found a small journal with this reflection on Gloria Steinem in it.  A rush of memories.

I wrote the essay when I got home from NYC where I attended the book signing for Steinem’s book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.  The large open lobby of the Equitable Life Assurance Building was packed – feminists standing in line for Gloria’s signature and chatting with old friends and other ERA Campaign veterans. It was a grand reunion as well as a celebration of the book.

My daughter Robin had a job in NYC at that time and she came with a friend.  Afterwards we went out to supper to the 21 Club – some fun is always a worthy use of time  - and money.

Now - there is a lot of hope in the air for the November 8 election outcome.  And, I am so hoping there will be large and small gatherings across the county to celebrate the first woman US President.





"Remember the days of Three Channels and Rabbit Ears"

Remember the days of " Three channels and rabbit ears"?
 

This morning in the Washington Post Kathleen Parker's essay " The Age Of Stream of Consciousness  - and Insanity"  jerked me back to the reality of what I have been doing to my brain by watching and reading so much "political stuff." For weeks, no months, I have been following the election coverage and watching the antics of "he who must not be named."


"Computers and the Internet may make us smarter in some ways, as neuroscience finds, but baby boomers who grew up with three channels and rabbit ears are the last generation to have been formed primarily by books requiring lengthy, focused attention, as well as the experiential learning that comes from engaging one’s imagination rather than navigating someone else’s often-bizarre, interactive digital fictions." Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Aug. 13, 2016.

I have always loved to read. The Carnegie Library in Charlotte was special, a wonderful place, for me from the time I was about nine years old. I started out in the Children's room and read and read and read until there was little left for me to select.
By the time I was eleven the Librarian had issued me an "adult" card and I was left to find wonderful books in the adult section - - unfortunately without guidance which left me to puruse and read books before the appropriate time. 

The love of reading has stayed with me for 70 years - until Jim's last illness and his death - - -  when my ability to concentrate and focus for long periods of time began to waver and then just vanished. I found myself rather like the children I told stories to in the schools. Their attention span for storytelling was no more than 30 minutes. You could time it - 31 minutes and they left the story and began to squirm in their seats or on their patch of space on the floor. Unless - the storyteller also danced, did magic tricks or brought their guitar for singing peppy songs with a chorus for the children to sing along. 

Some days during the months, even the years of raw grief I watched endless hours of television. Movies on Netflix took the place of books. I bought the Premium package from the Cable provider so that I had a wide, wide, wide selection of shows to choose from. I even watched movies on my iPad in bed at night - rather than reading as I always had before.

I love the internet and the instant access to information. 

Like whipped cream with a cherry on top along comes the current election - the primaries and now the final run for Office. Concentrating on the campaign with at first was fascinating and then became exhausting - - and the more distasteful "he" has become the more stressful it is to watch or listen to. So -- I have worked to wean myself from watching anything about "him" on television.

I do still check the newspapers for blogs or opinion pieces and ration how much I check cable news. CNN sometimes feels like sipping "cool-aid" its so brain numbing for me. There are days when I yearn for the fabled newscasters of yore who really dealt with news. Ah, me! 

My brain is quieter, more able to focus and it seems to be returning to a near-normal.

I am reading again - - - holding a book in my hands and letting my imagination wander on its own.

Yes, I do remember rabbit ears and three channels!!!


"Remember the days of Three Channels and Rabbit Ears"

Remember the days of " Three channels and rabbit ears"?
 

This morning in the Washington Post Kathleen Parker's essay " The Age Of Stream of Consciousness  - and insanity "  jerked me back to the reality of what I have been doing to my brain by watching and reading so much "political stuff." For weeks, no months, I have been following the election coverage and watching the antics of "he who must not be named."


"Computers and the Internet may make us smarter in some ways, as neuroscience finds, but baby boomers who grew up with three channels and rabbit ears are the last generation to have been formed primarily by books requiring lengthy, focused attention, as well as the experiential learning that comes from engaging one’s imagination rather than navigating someone else’s often-bizarre, interactive digital fictions." Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Aug. 13, 2016.

I have always loved to read. The Carnegie Library in Charlotte was special, a wonderful place, for me from the time I was about nine years old. I started out in the Children's room and read and read until there was little left for me to select.
By the time I was eleven the Librarian had issued me an "adult" card and I was left to find wonderful books in the adult section - - unfortunately without guidance which left me to purse and read books before their appropriate time. 

The love of reading has stayed with me for 70 years - until Jim's last illness and his death - - -  when my ability to concentrate and focus for long periods of time began to waver and then just vanished. I found myself rather like the children I told stories to in the schools. Their attention span for storytelling was not more than 30 minutes. You could time it - 31 minutes and they left the story and began to squirm in their seats or on their patch of space on the floor. Unless - the storyteller also danced, did magic tricks or brought their guitar for singing peppy songs with a chorus for the children to sing along. 

Some days during the months, even the years of raw grief I watched endless hours of television. Movies on Netflix took the place of books. I bought the Premium package from the Cable provider so that I had a wide, wide, wide selection of shows to choose from. I even watched movies on my iPad in bed at night - rather than reading as I always had before.

I love the internet and the instant access to information. 

Like whipped cream with a cherry on top along comes the current election - the primaries and now the final run for Office. Concentrating on the campaign with at first was fascinating and then became exhausting - - and the more distasteful "he" has become the more stressful it is to watch or listen to. So -- I have worked to wean myself from watching anything about "him" on television.

I do still check the newspapers for blogs or opinion pieces and ration how much I check cable news. CNN sometimes feels like sipping "cool-aid" its so brain numbing for me. There are days when I yearn for the fabled newscasters of yore who really dealt with news. Ah, me! 

My brain is quieter, more able to focus and it seems to be returning to a near-normal.

I am reading again - - - holding a book in my hands and letting my imagination wander on its own.

Yes, I do remember rabbit ears and three channels!!!


8/10/2016

Adam Booth, Storyteller - at SPEAK.



















Adam Booth, Storyteller

There was a  memorable evening of fine storytelling yesterday at SPEAK in Shepherdstown, WV. Adam Booth told his new show, Daniel the Great to a "sold out" crowd. He held them in the palm of his hand with a fine story and stellar delivery.

The story is well-crafted and laced gently with laughs and message but the added magic was Adam's delivery and connection with the audience. He draws you into the story and creates a spell with his voice that holds you.  At one time I looked around quickly and saw that all eyes looked straight ahead at Adam. Its a gift!! And, he's got it.

Adam is a musician and he called on that rich skill by singing ballads which complemented the story. For me the music was also in Adam's speaking of the story. He used highs and lows of his voice intonations, hards and softs of the words, and wrapping it all together with skillful pacing.  And a plus of facial expressions and gestures that subtly brought people and places to life.

It was a wonderful evening and everyone left feeling good and well satisfied.