Thursday, December 30, 2010

ma and pa

Ma and Pa
I was sitting here in the library working on a few things when along came this incredible man in my life with a figurine he got for me. He said it was us.

Now I know there are plenty of people out there who get gifts from loved ones all the time. I have never been such a person except when I was little and my dad would shower me with things that made him think of me. My father has not been physically on this planet for over 30 years now, and for the first time in my life I feel the very best that my father ever gave me in every moment he shared with me has been wrapped up in the most perfect package in the man that I now live with.

Every day that I'm with this man I feel so much more love for him. I well up with it and it spills out all over him. To have him in the same house with me, to be in the same building he's in, to work with his fabrics, to read to his little boy, to be able to do the dishes after one of his fabulous meals... wow, did the gods look kindly on me!

I told him last night that I could feel phase two of my time with him eeking into our lives. Phase one was getting to know one another, and oh! have we enjoyed that phase. I'm sure that's an ongoing one, but now phase two has crept into my brain and now I can't stop thinking and churning and creating and... There's nothing (well almost) I like better than to create things with his fabrics, and this morning he relinquished even more of his designs into my stash. One of his friends gave me a few bags of batting and fabrics, and you would've thought I had inherited the world.

In my previous life with the husband, I owned a quilt shop, ran another quilt shop, did commissioned work, designed my own patterns, and taught classes, not to mention wrote a book about a fiber artist. I had a 1200 square foot studio with five machines, a monstrous cutting table, a room full of fabrics, another one just for notions, a section for reading my wall of books, and every kind of paint, bead, yarn, etc. you can possibly think of. Ooh, and let's not forget the plethora of stamps and inks and papers and... well you get the idea.

And now I've got a borrowed machine, a stash of tie-dyed fabrics and t-shirts, a bag of batting, and a pile of fabrics that Dan gave me that I haven't looked at yet. The inventory I have now -- the one machine on my table, and the pair of paper scissors I use to cut fabric instead of all my rulers, cutting mats, and large cutting table -- pushes me to use my imagination more. I don't have the drawers full of stabilizers and fusing materials that made applique easy. Instead I draw onto paper the images I desire, and then freehand cut the fabrics I want those images to be. I don't have the tools I used to, and I'm finding that my designs flow easier. I'm more drawn to them. I just like looking at them so much more than what I've made in the past. I'm recreating how I work, and it's changing who I am.

I need less, and I create more. What comes from my hands now represents me more. I push myself to reconfigure how I work without all the tools and fabrics and notions. I stretch my limits until they're gone, and then I do it again and again and again.

I do it in a room that's filled with love for me. Can you possibly comprehend the enormity of that? There are moments that I just stop and breathe it all in because this is what I've been waiting for all my life. This outpouring of love. I want to do more for him. I want to be more for him. I want to grow myself so much more because he deserves it, and so do I.

So, I take what I have in my corner of the front room -- the fabrics, the ideas, the three spools of thread, the discarded men's shirts, and the buttons I cut from them -- and I send my imagination out in the far reaches of Idea Land, and miracles occur.

One day very soon there will be a website hosting all these morsels of imaginative fun, and I'll be sure to post it on the blog. For now, you'll just have to settle for some pictures taken of me on Christmas morning making a potholder for new friends of mine. Enjoy!

coffee and water mingle with the tie-dyed flowers I made

the Dan style is to embellish both sides

all fabrics dyed by Dan
All you fabric artists out there understand when I say I get to wake up every morning with this man too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in Leo Land

homemade yeast rolls

oh sweet baby jesus!!!

one of the amazing chefs for Christmas dinner!
 So, my first Christmas in Leo Land, and it was more than I could have ever hoped it to be. First of all, the dinner was exceptional, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Thanks to Dan's oldest two sons we were able to sit down to an absolute feast. There are no words to express my gratitude to both of them. They are amazing young men, and as they prepare to embark on their own journeys to other states, I will miss them terribly. They are not only talented and smart, but also so much fun. It's been great waking up to the bulk of testosterone that I haven't been around since I was a kid. This time though the boys are incredibly helpful, patient, and just so kind. It says so much about their dad because I see the very best in him in them.

I grew up with three brothers of my own. It was mortifying most of the time since I was the punching bag of the older two. Now I get to enjoy the company of Dan's three oldest sons before they all move away. I've been single and living without men in the household since 9/11/06. When I decided to jump on the next train to NY, the thought of living with several men again did cross my mind. What would it be like? What would they be like? Would we get along? Honestly, these questions lasted for seconds because I was so determined to be with Dan that I wasn't going to allow anything to keep me from him any longer. What I didn't count on was how easily we would all fit into each other's lives. I'm not going to speak for them, but for me, it was truly a piece of cake.

And, Christmas with Dan and his sons was more than I could have possibly imagined. Here's a picture of stockings I made for Dan and four of his sons. Dan calls me his Amtrak girl and he is my last stop, so on his stocking I made the Syracuse train depot with the train stopped right there. On each of the boys' stockings Dan helped me with the images that would mean something for them, so Ben got a sailboat. I cut up one of Nick's old t-shirts to applique the images on his stocking. One of Dan's pillowcases was sacrificed for Zane's, and I drew my own design of Calvin and Hobbes for the youngest.

notice the homemade biscotti brought to me with chocolates on the side...
Playing Santa while drinking coffee and eating biscotti in our bedroom was one of the greatest pleasures I've had on a Christmas morning. It feels as if I've waited my whole life to be here now with Dan and to share his life of boys and boxes and art and snow and everything else.

I've been here now for three weeks, met some of Dan's friends, been to his college, cleaned a few dishes, unpacked a few boxes, and just thoroughly enjoyed my moments here with him and his sons. I've been to parties, met artists, and visited the local quilt shop. I've spent many hours in the library and reading to my favorite six-year old. And lately the bulk of my time has been spent setting up my own space in Dan's house -- our house. Thanks to the oldest son, we made quite a bit of progress yesterday.

Tonight is the last night the oldest son will be here before moving back to TX, so we're having a family night. I am blessed, privileged, and ever so grateful to be considered part of this family. Not only is Dan an exceptional man, but he's also the best dad I've ever seen, and his sons are true testaments to that. In a very short time I have grown to love all of them, and tonight I get to celebrate with the finest of men anywhere.

And, to the oldest Leo boy, thank you for making me so welcomed in your home, in your family, and in your life. There will not be a day that goes by that I won't be thinking about you. Enjoy your adventure called life!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

new home, new life

Since I last published a post in this blog, I've crossed several state lines, had dinner in Chicago with a brand new friend that left the train in Cleveland, and now I live with the man of my wildest, craziest, out-of -this-world dreams. I arrived a week ago, and I can honestly say that every single day I am more in love with him. I am happier than I've ever been, and I have finally reunited with the very best part of me.

jarring a shirt

putting yellow dye on all the white spots

My first morning in The House of Leo, as it is so lovingly called, began with a very hearty breakfast and two strong cups of coffee. He loaded me with caffeine and nutrition so I could get to work on finishing what he had started for me before I had arrived. The top picture shows what it looks like to "jar" a shirt. After tie-dyeing I soaked a t-shirt in amethyst dye. I'm not sure why I didn't take a picture of the finished product because that one really rocked. You'll just have to take my word for it. And the same thing with the second picture. It was a massive piece he tie-dyed with a huge mushroom in the middle, planets in the corners, and a two-legged peace sign. It is by far the most amazing peace sign I've ever seen even though it is missing a leg.

To give you an idea of what I've done with Dan's fabrics, here's a sampling.

This is made from t-shirts he tie-dyed in the 90s. The handle is cotton fabric he dyed, and I cut it into strips and braided it. The flower is made from the same cotton fabric with the center being a scrap from a t-shirt.

This purse is made from two sleeves off a t-shirt. The fringe is scraps from several of them as is the flower.

Here's a sampling of flowers made from his cotton dyed fabrics with centers cut from t-shirt scraps. They're going to grow up one day to be decorations on purses, clothing, etc., but for now they're sprinkled throughout the house.

Looking at this still takes my breath away. This is a detail photo of a skirt I made from his t-shirts. I have a hard time taking my eyes off the colors and designs in the fabrics. It's like falling in love with him over and over and over. And, what a lovely trip that is.

I love these skirts! They are amazing to look at and, oh my gawd, they twirl! When my daughter was little and I would make her dresses, the number one criteria was that they twirled. The twirling factor is still monumentally important. If they don't twirl, I'm not sure they're worth wearing. Just sayin'...

Our relationship started out (I think) with the fabric. Hm... the more I think about it, the more I think it started out with the eyes, then the smile, the voice, the laugh... well, I know for sure that the fabric factored in there somewhere.

Now I have a pile, a stash, a plethora of Dan Leo's tie-dyed fabrics to cut up. Just typing that statement made me weak in the knees. What I haven't done yet, and can't wait to do, is some thread-painting with his designs. The pieces he's made for me keep that little hamster running frantically in the wheel inside my head. For the first time in years, I want to enter shows again. I want to stretch again and again and again. There's so much to experiment with, so much to see what could be stunning and what's gonna really suck. (I found one experiment so far that fits that bill.) However, the ones that suck will just challenge me to see what I can do to "unsuck" them.

After typing that last paragraph, I decided to take a little break and walk around a bit. When I got back to my computer at the school where Dan works, this is what I found.

ah... nuff said

Sunday, December 5, 2010

going home

I haven't celebrated Christmas in many, many years. No Christmas tree. No Christmas dinner. Just didn't feel like it. Christmas has been just another day for most of this century. As a matter of fact, I was looking at the same kind of Christmas this year too as everyone in the compound where I live right now in Taos will be gone by Christmas. I thought I'd be here by myself -- again.

Not so anymore.

I'm moving to Oswego, New York. Heading that way on Monday. Right now my last load of laundry is being dried, and just one more suitcase to pack. I've given away even more of my stuff. I've spent my single life purging like crazy, and when I left McKinney, Texas I thought I'd purged enough of my things. Again, it's not what I thought.

All of my belongings now fit into two large suitcases and a duffel bag. I'm arriving in Oswego with no past. I've gotten rid of all journals and now most of my pictures. I've held onto a few pictures of my daughter, but all others are gone.

This move has been a no-brainer. It has come strictly from my heart. I am working with someone creating clothing from his dyed fabrics. The joy I feel from working with his masterpieces is indescribable. The passion I feel for working with him has led to something very personal. There is a connection between the two of us that has made this move across the country the easiest thing I've ever done. I am told several times a day about how cold it is there, the amounts of snow they have every winter, and how poverty-stricken the area is.

It doesn't matter. I'm moving to be with the man, not to be in the place. The love I feel for him is so deep and natural and real. It's the truest thing in my life. It's the one thing I'm more sure of than anything else. And, it's all that matters.

I'm 54 years old. I'm not a young teenager that's walking into a situation thinking it's all rosy and sweet. No, I'm looking at it as fun. This adventure is my fun time. My marriage was hard work, drudgery, and putting happiness at bay. This relationship has just been so much fun. If I could only impart the joy I feel brainstorming with him, looking at his picture of super heroes overseeing his cups of dyes, hearing about the nativity set where each figure is about one inch tall, and looking at the picture of the glass baby Jesus in front of the margarita mix bucket. He opens my world with his fascination of how macaroni could actually look like an angel. When I look at the picture he sent me, I can't help but smile and get excited about creating new Christmas memories.

This is my time to lighten up, to play, to live with boys again, create art, clothing, and accessories out of tie-dyed fabrics, to laugh incessantly, to dance to every kind of music, to plant a garden with seeds garnered from eaten vegetables, to help cook coconut battered fried chicken, to make up stories, and to love so openly that joy spills out. This is my new adventure. The train I'm taking leaves on Monday and arrives where my heart is leading me on Wednesday.

I am going home. Finally. And, home is not a place. In this case it's a man, and I get to play with him.