I am of an age advanced beyond my youthful dreams.  This age could have easily not been achieved; a battle with colon cancer in my mid forties made life a little questionable for a few years.

In 1967 when the Beatles questioned the “needing” and “feeding” by the rhetorical “you”, none of us could not imagine this question of age: we had no empathy with that piece of art.


But we hummed the jaunty song and went along to pile on the years.

When Paul McCartney turned 64 the irony of that song tugged at me.  How odd.  Years younger than Paul, that horizon was still lost on me.  What is that fallacious mathematical question which states if you cut a space in half between point A and point B and continue to cut the resulting space in half and in half, one will never arrive at point B? There you go.

I have been fading at this age, and it has been a total surprise.  It all started last October, but is ending today.  Don’t remember any past discussion about the body in this way, but hear me and do not favor one knee over another!  Always being accused of “thinking too much”, I have figured out why my meniscus snapped last October.  Short waisted, I had been sitting on that knee and propping myself up for 60 years.  It was the “go to” solution of not being tall enough.  Hate being not tall enough, for so many reasons! 1-lee

And there went my running basically until today.  From October until April.  And what else was lost because of not running?  Good heart rate, good blood pressure, good bone mass, good weight, good mental health.  Also, our roads were cluttered because I pick up aluminum cans.

Well, today with an ace bandage wrapped around the knee in question, I ate up three miles.  Would have gone the whole four if my aluminum find had not been so bulky.  The dark time is past!



This small city is my husband’s home town. Who would have known it would become so famous? Figuring what you must be seeing on television, let me tell you about his Ferguson, my Ferguson. Some of that information can be gained by contrast.

The next suburb north in St. Louis County is Florissant. This is where I grew up. Kids from Florissant and Ferguson merged together in 10th grade and attended the same high school, named McCluer High School. The school gained some fame in 1967 when a small airplane hit the old gym, just as modern dance students left it to change. The pilot was killed. The school was just beyond one of the major flight patterns for Lambert Airport. That would change. It was the middle of the boomer experience and kids were everywhere. Our school was the biggest high school in the state.

1-mccluer yearbook picture

Ferguson and Florissant represented two different ways to live, and I noticed it immediately when we were looking for houses, just having come back from a stretch in Japan. Ferguson had little streets and trees everywhere. The houses on each street were mostly unique; periodically a builder would create two or three houses on one street. Glenn’s house was one of those. In that area it was hilly and there were many parks. The neighborhoods were heterogeneous looking but there were better neighborhoods, and lesser neighborhoods. There is a distinct downtown area that most could walk to. I still remember one two story house my family looked at; I was so impressed because it had an intercom system between the front door and the kitchen. There were two like it on this little street in Ferguson.


Glenn’s house

Unbelievably, Florissant was the higher end choice for those days. Acres and acres of farmland were scraped raw for the advent of subdivision houses rising from the mud. With each house you got two trees for the boulevard areas. One developer, Mayer Rasher Mayer (I think) developed most of the city. There was a downtown area which was more a cluster of strip stores. Not leafy like Ferguson. There was a small old part of Florissant that was older than any of the surroundings. That part of Florissant was like Ferguson.


My house

Florissant in the summer was as hot as you could imagine with those two toddler trees and cement streets. The sounds of all the air-conditioners made it seem the houses would fairly take off! We rode bikes or walked to friend’s houses in all that heat, counting blocks and streets with names of horses. You would see the same “model” house over and over again. That interested me for some reason; I would never live in a place like that again, although I knew no different.

Florissant had a park and a public pool, tennis courts and an A and W root beer stand, but it was too far for us to walk there. Ferguson, on the other hand, had the magnificent January Wabash Park where there was a pool and a bandshell and the old red brick Ferguson High School, to be turned into the junior high for Ferguson when McCluer was built. It also had a little lake where people fished. In the winter, the little lake froze and we ice skated. Nothing like that in Florissant. At January Wabash lake we spent much time during the Brownie years learning about nature. I remember seeing my first coiled up frog eggs on the edge of the lake. I remember one winter in ninth grade in my cheerleading get-up, crowding around a fire for warmth and then scandalizing myself because I smelled like smoke after.

During the summer of the Watts riots–there were black suburbs near us, everyone stayed calm.

The father of my life-long friend was the superintendent of schools for the Ferguson-Florissant R-2 School District. He came here about three years ago, and we spoke of the integration of the school district. This happened just after we were off to college. Dr. Brown said to the board “Give me a year for this”, and the board did. The integration was accomplished without drama.

Last summer we went back for a fifty year celebration of the opening of McCluer High School. These two suburbs are majority black now, but in riding by the houses, all looked neat and clean. So did the park, the tennis courts where Glenn and I first met; sadly the A and W is not anymore.

My heart is broken with Ferguson being in the news like this. And Florissant has its own problems. Turns out all those space-age houses were built upon a cesspool of a creek called Coldwater. And we have ourselves a huge cancer cluster there.


On my recent trip to British Columbia, I drove the last 150 miles to Nelson.  The drive was perfect and easy.  Today my friend Joyce is making the same trip, and there is a live traffic camera at Metaline Falls, Washington, and the contrast could not be greater.


We both grew up in St. Louis, and have driven in this stuff; now we are both southerners.  I have lost my skills for sure.  Hope Joyce has not.

Below is the little customs house that occupies the border.

metaline border crossing

This view is from the Canadian side, entering the US.  There is a nice woman who smiles working this side most of the time, I gather from my Canadian friends.  Met her when entering the country the other day.  “Do you have anything that should be declared?  More than 10,000 in cash, guns, alcohol, cigarettes? ”

I wondered that anyone would buy alcohol in Canada and bring it down here.  Everything is so expensive there! Why would anybody do that?

Said no to her question, but then admitted that I did have something illegal.  My friend Madelyn packed me a goodie bag for the trip, and included oranges.  “Oranges you cannot take to the states, so eat them on the way.  If you don’t, offer them to the nice lady customs guard.  For the rest of the stuff you don’t eat, offer it to the homeless at the Spokane airport. ”  So Madelyn!

Got out and opened up the trunk.  “Look at all the gifts my friend packed for me!  See the oranges? How am I going to consolidate my purse and these three extra bags for the plane?  Please take these muffiins!”

Those in line must have wondered at my badness having to open up the trunk.  After we did, the customs lady said I was good to go.  “Aren’t you going to take the oranges??”  I desperately needed to lighten my load.  “Since they are illegal, I will.”

I described while in Nelson the interchange that the Canadian border official conducted with me when I entered the country.   Was told that he used the new “conversational” style of getting and judging information.

“What is your reason for coming to Nelson, ma’am?”  I told him that my oldest friend from 4th grade had been diagnosed with colon cancer, that I had had it in the 1990s and it was my job to be there when she started her chemotherapy.

“So you went to school together?  How did she get to Canada?”  Madelyn went to Smith College,  and when there met a Canadian soccer player attending Amherst, who after observing all the freshman newbies, chose her right there and then.  They married fairly soon after, and she immigrated to Canada after they graduated.


Guess there was enough detail to my story, and not any hesitation in getting it out, that it was believable.  Interesting job, judging people’s motives.

Yeah, I was going to Canada to buy wine at incredibly high prices!


Misscommoncents nominated me as a versatile blogger, for which I am very grateful.  This characteristic is antagonistic to being a clear and easy voice on the web. Trying not to be, there is this thing though.  Some idea rises to the top and it will not be discouraged.  Even when there are other seeds of ideas, the purging of the dominant one just must be heard.  Exorcism.


This is my experience in visual art as well.  Often, it wastes a lot of time.

For this award, the obligation is to tell seven things about myself.  Since my writing is all over the place, hence the award, past blog posts might do the trick.

1.  Love art history



2.  My digs are a composition, too.



3.  Love cats.



4.  South Carolina politics are simply absurd.


joe wilson

mark sanford

5.  I have the gene for colon cancer.



6.  Families have “stuff”.



7.  Love to garden.  All the time.



Many thanks for understanding my various interests, Miss Common Cents!


Life is so weird.  Grand pianos from the sky can be just missing your head, and most of us wouldn’t notice.  And then there is some universal equalizer in life that smooths down the bad parts if we can simply see it, coming to us at the same time.

With Kathryn, I would have thought the message would have been received with more clarity.  It took three car accidents within months, falling down the back steps on ice, all events happening on the left side of her body, to get her to notice that something else was going on there.  And it wasn’t pregnancy.

Although the cyst was as big as a baby, the surgery was certainly not the same.  Then there was the colon cancer part.  This is where the universe presents problems, and then solutions.  Kathryn’s friend, me, has sooooo done this colon cancer thing.  Here I can help.  Colon cancer was the pivotal event in our family (my parents and three girls), and then important in my life, but not the most.

She is going to lose some body parts, for sure.  Here is another place where the universe provides:  I stitched a womb in a new series of embroideries, and gave it to her two years ago.  If she wants one, she has it.  Kathryn is my same age, and those parts mean nothing to me, but they do to some.

frankly my dear

The cancer lingo is different now then when I had colon cancer.  The last woman who did my mammogram called those years of the mid-nineties the “dark ages” of cancer (for my dad, dying in the ’70s, it must have been the Paleolithic).   Looking up what docs now call “frank” cancer, meaning that they are sure cancer is present, I would say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”.  And keep thinking that while you do everything medical.  Brain shift in whatever age one finds oneself is required.  Feed yourself the correct narrative.

And find symbols.  Like the stitched womb, for a start.  Kathryn will find her own.

hammered aluminumCollecting hammered aluminum objects during my chemotherapy and long after, they shielded and comforted.  Also had two pairs of purple suede penny loafers during that time; wore them every day and wore them out too, but they stomped over cancer cells.


Do you know the first life affirming thing she did from the hospital bed?  She bought a sweet little house!  She has it down.


Ms Rosebud, our church friend was on Facebook just when I was finishing a post.  Since she was on the site when my link came up, she knew we were home.  We live a mile from each other, and she is so impressive with her social connections on the web.

Her daughter lives next door to her but the husband answered the phone.  “I am going to see LEE and the URN for the CATS” she reported to him so they would know where she was.  What?  It made no sense.  When she had to repeat the message to her daughter, two of the three main words were beyond understanding  (Lee always sounds like “me”.  “Who is me”?,  people would say on the other end of the phone).

She got her message across and rode over.  We walked around the acreage, slowly.  She is 82.  “I see your tree-pees, your blue bottles, and there are your new kittens (all talked about on the blog)!  I wish you had known that Ms Modele had kittens just a while ago!” “You are supposed to put that stuff on Facebook”, I said, having had found out the fact about the kittens from Ms Modele herself just days ago.

Ms Modele is my oldest and for a long time, only local girlfriend.  She is 96, and for a while last year she had us all scared, but she is great now.  Her friend Barbara drove her out here the other brilliant day.  We sat outside and talked.  We met 27 years ago when she took a class I offered at the arts center.  Daughter Brady was an infant then, stayed on a blanket in the middle of the room as we all made quilts.

When Garrett said he wanted to go to church, it was Modele’s church we chose.  Because of her.  Modele and Barbara came by after they had gone picking pears.  They gave us some.  There is a tree near here, somebody owns that land, but for sure I do not know who.  A long bamboo cane is left in the tree for all who come by to knock down some pears.  You put it back, and it is there for the next guy.  These pears taste like something you never found in a can.  They are huge and irregular, and do not last long.

But I digress.  We finally made it out to the urn in the barn, still on the workbench, ready to be shipped.  “It looks just like it did on Facebook”, Ms Rosebud said.  We talked about the woman who commissioned it, who is also from around here.  And then cancer.  We agreed:  everybody has a cancer chapter in their lives.  Up to you how you deal with it.  Making an urn for yourself is one tool.

We showed her the outdoor shower, on the bedroom side of the house towards where our preacher lives.  You can’t really see his house; we are protected.  So is he.  Ms. Rosebud said about our old farmhouse then, “We used to work in the field across from where this house used to be, where the pine trees are now.  Back when you moved the house to here, I could not imagine what in the world happened to this house”!  “How did you find out about the house?”, I said.  “Modele told me”, she said.  Modele had an uncle who lived in this house for a time, and Ms. Rosebud knew others.  I met one couple after the house was just moved.  They were in their nineties, and their daughter brought them here.  Good thing we only moved it three miles.  It belongs in this community, named Pine Hill.

1-rosebud's bottle tree

Ms Rosebud is interested in all the creative stuff we do around here.  I was thrilled when she told me that she found some blue beer bottles and started her own bottle tree.

If you want to read about the urn and the cats, click on the words below,  A TALE OF TWO KITTIES.


confederate housetramp art

My friend Sally commissioned me to make an urn for her late kitties.  They were dearly loved for their long lives.  Sally had them cremated, and the remains of her late cats are with her and the rest of her family.

Sally is a cancer survivor, as am I.  When she said that she meant it to be a final place for herself as well,  she wondered if the idea was too strange.  To me, it was incredibly healthy-thinking, and I pointed out (as if she did not know) that her personal use for the urn was a long way off.  I have found one way to keep the beast at bay is to engage in creative thinking and creative work.  Her therapist loved the idea too, so we started on this journey.

Tossing around the idea of a wonky house with a tin roof for the urn,   I saw in the South Carolina Relic Room at the State Museum in Columbia the structure on the left.

This is my cheap photo shot of the hand made thing.  First thinking it was “tramp art”, we got closer to see the unmistakable South Carolina raw materials:  shells from our beaches.  It memorializes many men.  Have no idea if it contains a useful inside, and what might be in there.  This gave me some ideas, and something to react to.  To the right above is a piece of tramp art, and you can see the similarities.


So this is Sally’s urn; photographed face on the structure is a little deceiving.

Found a little wooden box at the flea market for a quarter.  Perfect for a door opening, the cat portal, seen here above the steps at the entryway.  A little cat sentry protects.  In the cat portal are pictures of the two late kitties.  Tiny tea sets and salt shakers decorate the portal.  That’s one of Sally’s tattoos to the right of the golden salt shaker.


And there is a wonky rose window made of jewelry.


When the urn is turned, there is a better understanding of the structure.


Jewelry and personal items are included all over the surface of the house.  And pictures of the family.


I love the quiet side of the house.  It provides a nice relief to all the frenzy on the other sides.  Took four family pictures, cut them into equal fourths, and reconstructed them.  Isn’t that what family is about?


Below is the last side.  This house is a celebration of a family and of South Carolina, and it is going far away.


A rosary creeps its way along these last two sides, in contrast to a neon green weapon from Star Wars.  Had a tile that had the words “South Carolina” on it; smacked it with a hammer and used two remnants of the words.  No need for the whole thing.  The roof is made of chopsticks.


Under the roof is an amazing surprise.  Sally creates dioramas using dolls.  Bits of some of her best, which she made into postcards, line the inner surface.

This has been so much fun to work on, and is the first thing that Glenn and I have done together.  His expertise in the details with the creating of the house shape were invaluable.  Learned a lot.


It is difficult to gauge when to start counting for three awful things.  In this last month of August, we have had several events to choose from, unhappily.   Perhaps in thinking this way, we start to “group”, hoping that the three have past and we can now breathe again.

An acquaintance recently died of colon cancer.  It hit me hard.  One of our art community,  I did business with her once a year.  She was 45.  The guilt crept in; at that age I was fighting the same damn thing, and came out the other side.  She never had a chance; by the time her cancer was diagnosed, it had moved to the liver.  She must have not had a history of this in her family like we did.  Colon cancer moves so slow initially;  this problem had been with her for some time.

Days later, Glenn’s mom died.  While we were in St. Louis taking care, my Mouse disappeared, and was never seen again.  Going on seventeen years with her, my son wailed.  She was my sister!  We spoke today about his luck in not losing many family members in his lifetime.  But many had been lost, he just never knew them.  Into my forties, I had three living grandparents.  He only ever had one.  Never knew the others.

So I thought the loss of my Mouse was it, ending the chapter of three.

1-pics from garrett's camera, glenn and lee 331

She had been around so long, it was unbelievable that she was not here.  Expressive with her white mittens, subtle with a voice more like a scratch in sound than anything else, her presence was everywhere here.  All her places.  All our routines.  At four PM we met at the pool every day to wind down.  She slept with her head on my pillow and we breathed in and out each others exhale.  We held hands.  We were bound at the hip.

The hole in my heart was so huge.  Mouse wanted to be “only kitty” and expressed this idea many times.  We had two other males for short times, they died, one from urology problems and one was bit by a snake.  They were barely tolerated by her.  After Dice died, we promised her that she could live out her life as the only.

Almost three weeks after Mouse’s disappearance, I called our vet to find out the costs of the series of shots and neutering for kittens.  Wanted to compare the price with that of the adoption fee at the shelter.  Had no idea to get kitties this soon.

Someone had found three kittens and a nine month old mother in a zipped up bag at the solid waste site.  He brought them to our vet, and they took them to adopt out.  The receptionist said they had been checked, had a feline leukemia test, were well socialized, weaned and potty trained.  And six weeks old!  We went to see them with our broken hearts.  They had such amazing blue eyes.

frida and carlos                                                  Carlos                                                                          Frida

There was a lack of communication between the two vets in the office.  We were sent off with adorable kitties, Frida and Carlos, Carlos with a little leaky bowel trouble.  They said there was nothing to do until their twelve day booster shots appointment.  Not true.  Carlos died in my arms after being with us six days.

We arrived at the animal hospital with Frida and dead Carlos last Thursday.  They kept her, streamed liquids into her.   They apologized for mistakes.


Above is Frida about five days ago.  She is not near this fat now.  We are rotating holding her and pushing all kinds of foods and water.  If she survives we will be bound at the hip as well.


About the same in terms of work.  But different in terms of impact.


This piece was done in the late nineties, and it relates to my cancer years in that decade.  All of these figures are me, and they are adorned with surgical scars, of which I have many.  Much of the work from this time was an effort to discuss the problem, and jettison it from my reality.  Not healthy to hide it.

The picture plane is about eight inches by ten inches.  The figures are made by satin stitch mostly,  on a fabric plane pieced together by machine.  Most of the fabric has pattern on it so two systems of pattern must work together, that constructed by me with the fabrics, and the pattern of the symbols stitched onto the fabrics.

I cannot paint.  It is too direct.  My shapes have to be put together in bits.  Like in single stitches in the above case.  They cast a slight shadow, rise subtly above the fabric picture plane.  This phenomenon enriches the color and shapes.

1-monday 2

On the pool deck, shapes are made also of bits, and color moves along by darkening or lightening the bits (pieces of tile), or doing the same with grout.  Or both.  The language is always concerned with pattern, and along with the interlocking pattern of the tile, there is layered upon a secondary pattern of, in this case, square brown shapes which are actual tile to be used for a pool, or open curves made of glass.

As with the embroideries, I like to build in as much detail as possible without breaking up the composition and making it unreadable.  Above, within a big neutral shape, it lightens and darkens, contains screen printed tile of beige and white, creating a busier area, and white rectangles here and there and in a line add interest.

1-perfect shadows

Terra cotta grout has been used in the area of the shadows of the pots.  This picture was taken when the actual shadows and constructed shadows met.

1-grids appearing

I like for grids, or a kind of “organization” to coalesce in places among all the frenzy.

1-another organized area

Another area of organization among chaos.

1-dark grids

This darker shape has a pattern of bigger lighter square tiles, and dark orange actual pool tile appearing in organized squares.  The grout in this area will slowly darken.  White can kill color.


A friend lost two kitties this year.  Glenn and I are making a spirit house for them to live in now,  something that will also function as a piece of art.  By the time you read this,  she also will have two more kittens.  Classic cat-woman.


I watched her grow up as part of a family of three strong women.  Her mother was my framer and has been my friend for years.  Then the whole group went to the Northwest.  Way under 40, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been beating the piss out of it for two years.  And standing up to politicians who want to balance their budgets on the backs of the unlucky.  She does not go quietly.

1-one side

But she is not going anywhere (except back to work, brava!).   Not now.  What is remarkably healthy about this woman is that she is taking control where there can be little,  when in your cancer chapter.  This house will be for her as well, in the future.  To a  person who has been in dialog with cancer herself,  this is a fine idea.  Apply everything related to creativity and creation during your cancer interlude.  It can work wonders.  Creating anything is the exact opposite of being in decline.


She has been going through old pictures and little stuff for me to include on the surface of the house, and also inside it.  Wonky doors and windows will be defined by the people in the pictures.   Reminders of the beach of South Carolina will be imbedded in the walls.  I have found amazing little artifacts at flea markets to include, as if the universe was chucking them out to me.

1-for nikki

Stay tuned.