Loving Goodness

 

Testa Family

Happy Holidays, all. May peace reside within each of us, this year, this day, this moment. Life is short. Let’s all enjoy every minute of it.

We have just returned from a holiday visit with family. We ate great food. Lasagna, salads, bread. Ham with all the sides. Nuts, a cheese ball. Shrimps. Hugs, family, TV and talk. We took a walk with my brother and Sister in Law. And received great gifts. A great cooking pan, a bracelet I have been wanting for a very long time. Some tank tops from Buy Me Brunch. And I am happy to say, my brother and Sister in Law will be visiting Brooklyn quite soon. Life is good.

I would like to Thank You for your support and encouragement this year! I have begun blogging again and am enjoying sharing my artistic progress with you. Thank you for coming here and checking in. I am thankful to be able to teach at Craft NAPA, and I plan to blog about my adventures. I hope you will stick with me and enjoy it with me. If you want specific pictures or info, comment please!

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This week, I walked to Public House 61 and had coffee while stitching. I spent a couple hours enjoying myself, one stitch at a time. These last few weeks have been oddly stressful. After pulling a muscle in my back, I had an oncology appointment and, of course, my Dr. ordered scans, the first in the last 5 years. I knew it was nothing to worry about, but it did also worry me, to think this might well be cancer related. I was diagnosed 5 years ago, January 11. I do have fear of recurrence, so stitch, which slows time down to a single movement, a small action, that piles up and reveals itself over time, is meditation. It is the perfect antidote to stress.

And! No evidence of Disease at this time. I have a herniated disk, which requires much walking. Deal!! I will take it. 

The coffee shop is one mile away, they open at 7:30 A.M. So, I Gather my Sew-plies!! purses and a project, and go sew for a cuppa. And then walk home again. Win! In the photo just above this video, you can see my project bag and preferred stitching notions, wax and needles. 

I am working my newest Gather your Sew-plies!! purse. It is a class sample. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

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love in a cup

I have so many things I would like to talk about. 

Peach, for instance. 

Peach will have been with us for one full year on January 4. Peach is a wonder and a joy. She has a great and varied personality. She controls her person with grace and focus. Peach had a life on the streets prior to wrapping her magical powers around our hearts, which means she was an established being prior to meeting us. It has been such a fun journey learning her quirks, needs and love.

This little eight pound heavy weight loves her lovins’ her way; light, feathery-light strokes. Sometimes under the chin. And when she is done receiving pets? Stop touching her. She won’t bite but she likes to threaten to bite (I love this!), it is a sensitivity thing. She can only take so much touching. I can relate! Peach has great boundaries, she knows how to tell me to stop without calling me a jerk! 🙂 Actually she is quite polite.

Sometimes Peach challenges me to chase her. I love this too. She likes to feel startled. Her tail goes bottle brush, she forms a Mohawk, and then she becomes sensitive and needs reassurance. 

See? Lots of personality.

Another thing about Peach? She shares well. She loves David in special ways. When he picks her up, he wraps his arms around her body. She gets a smug look and settles downward!!

I am so happy that we adopted Peach. 

 

Quick and Dirty!

I have been playing around with making video on my iPhone. David made the music on my phone in Garage Band. iMovie on the iPhone does not have the ability to place captions, it is different than the same program for the home computer. It is fun to know I can do this and I see lots of potential for it. 

Nothing is black and white

Earlier this week Angelina Jolie wrote her op-ed piece about her decision to have bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction due to a positive test for the BRCA1 gene. I admire Angelina for her bravery and honesty in being open about her choice. I am sorry she needed to make it, of course. But happy that she has offered her talent and power to the cause. If you want to inform yourself about gene mutation, Force is a good place to start. The facility where Angelina had her tests and operation has written a recap of her treatment, which can be helpful as well, I was surprised to see some of the protocol that Angelina received.

I wish that non-reconstruction was acknowledged as an option and I think it is high time that us ‘Flatties’ had an advocate, but I understand that Angelina is doing the best she possibly can and I am ever so grateful that she is as courageous as she is. Here is a decent discussion of the types of reconstruction spurred by Angelina’s decision.

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My work with Carol Soderlund continues, I am so glad to have initiated the work. Carol has been opening my mind and perspective on using dye. She has opened up a new approach to applying dye, and has been cleaning up some bad habits that I have accrued over the years. I took Color Mixing 1 from Carol through ProChem years ago. Carol has since begun calling this class The New Color Mixing for Dyers. What I am learning from Carol now uses the book we made together in Color Mixing 1 and expands upon it, and she call this class her Color Mixing for Dyers Part 2. So, I am learning to use the book from Color Mixing 1 to apply the colors I would like to see in my work, and all of the information has begun to ‘click’. Learning is hard work and for a week or so there, I was Ms. Grumpy Pants. Carol’s teaching skills and patience is commendable.

I don’t know why the blog went centered, sorry about the formatting.
Yesterday I took a walk, bought a breakfast sandwich and a cookie (for later in the day) and then went out for press pot coffee at my favorite local dive. I have not yet gone there for a beer and sandwich, so far this is a favorite morning coffee joint, but they have great beer and I would like to try it out. Problem is, my Man doesn’t like beer! So, I will look for a gal pal who needs a night out.
I really like this piece of street art. I will have to check it out again, I think she is carrying a music mixer. When I see this type street art, art applied with wheat paste, I always want to go back on a rainy day and peel it off and take it home. I find it interesting to have found two wheat pasted pieces of street art within such close proximity. I wonder if there is an insurgence of applied street art right now. I also wish I could find out who the artists are.
I would like to create a multicolor print of birds that is stylized, like this dress, photographed through the window of a local boutique, The store isn’t my kinda thing but they do have some great prints right now and I love me some prints. I struggle to get myself to loosen up to the level of this print. It seems my comfort level is realistic looking. But I will push myself past this and try my best to loosen up and get playful. This weekend I plan to make multicolor print patterns during every free moment.  This may be a challenge as it is a long weekend and David’s birthday weekend to boot! However it goes, we will have fun this weekend, it will start with a meet up at Moma in about 2 hours.
I continue to read and research ideas related to gender and found this interesting article called Who Owns Gender, which I think is quite interesting. If you have the time or interest in reading it, I would like to hear your thoughts.
Deborah Boschert brought this article to my attention and I love it.
I am going to respond and communicate through the comments in the blog. I enjoy this, so check back if you want! Now I am off to let the fun begin.

My week in review

In all available time, I have been printing, batching and steaming. I keep daydreaming new images, but have not yet had time to gather my thoughts.

I came across a how-to make your own citrus cleanser on the web and am trying it out. I soaked orange peel in vinegar for two weeks. I am trying it out, it seems to work just fine, the vinegar is a bit tiring to smell.

Peach continue to beguile us. This little being is a treasure.

Hon~E~Lixr, oh yeah! I purchased this at the farmers market at Union Square, from Tremblay Apiaries. This is the smoothest, yummiest honey I have ever eaten. I make herbal tea and eat this honey on the side!

Got my hair cut again. I love getting my hair cut.

I visited my Dad and Mom this week. We had a great time. I ate ice cream with my Pop, we all took a drive over to Domestic Possessions in Madison Connecticut where my Mom has some of The Captain’s Chest items. My Pop and I made pasta and we chewed down some tasty eggplant and mushroom marinara.

I went to the City of Hope luncheon, where Carmen Marc Valvo was being given an award and had a fashion show. Oh my, it was so much fun to see.

The Park Plaza hotel is very pretty.

Short and sweet!

Continued Story.

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 It seems Peach has done another awesome thing. She found David and I, specifically. 

Last week I had several conversations with the veterinarian who ‘spayed’ Peach. It turns out, the spay was incomplete and uterine tissue was left inside her body. This tissue is producing estrogen. Peach needs to go into heat again, so that a specialist might be able to find the tissue and remove it. There is no guarantee that Peach will make enough estrogen in order to go into heat, but as this is the best case scenario, we hope that she does. If she does not, we need to regularly screen Peach for mammary carcinoma, in other words, breast cancer. Sigh.

I know that there are no guarantees in life, we have, just this moment, to live as fully as we are able. I love this little being and honestly hope she goes into heat again, that the surgeon can find the tissue, that we are able to lower or obliterate her odds of getting breast cancer. I am happy that she found us, that I can advocate for her. I am happy to love her. I wish that breast cancer could take a lesser seat of prominence in my life, but I accept what life has given me and us.

The veterinary office that helped Peach through her Trap and Rescue ordeal is shrugging off monetary responsibility for this portion of Peach’s care, though the vet who did the work, has said that she will pay for Peach’s re-spay out of her own pocket. I am glad that the doctor has taken an ethical stand, I am considering how to let the veterinary office know of my dissatisfaction. Speaking out is a new path for me and is directly related to my cancer experience. I have less tolerance for bad behavior now, and I want the world to be a better place, so speaking out is called for. There are many gifts related to the cancer experience and I bet part of the reason Peach found her way into our hearts, apartment and life.

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As I make more and more multicolor stamps, I am finding new and interesting ways to build images. Previously, I would draw the image, cut it out of a single piece of fun foam, mount and print the image. Now I am doing more of a call and response, I might cut a simple drawing in two colors, then cut additional layers to darken or shade an area of the image. Next I will work on incorporating textures into the background.

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 Creative flow is interesting. I work away at an idea as if a hound on a mission. Then I run up against a learning curve, as I did while working on The 20. This is when I switch gears, trying to access the intuitive thoughts that might solve the original creative conundrum. This post has two cogs in that wheel.

As I try to workout the Procion MX dye wash out troubles, I began making multicolor stamp portraits (the image of David in the middle of this post, and also this self portrait). Now, needing a break from the portraits, I have decided to carve a set of alphabet stamps. It is at times like this when I need to complete a project or two so that I can get back to what is really bothering me! This week will be geared toward finishing up my side projects and solving my Procion MX whoas.

 

Stitching away the Blues

I am stitching away on this Breastplate. I guess this is called a running stitch, I just pick up a few threads and then continue to stitch, maintaining a similar length of stitch for each. It creates little dots on the back of the work, which is very pleasing to me. So far I have used 4 different colors of hand dyed threads, and I love that I figured out how to eliminate the white spots in the dyeing process. 

My mother and I have a road trip planned for the weekend, we will be going to a craft fair. I am happy about this on so many levels. I need to get out of the house for one. And generally, I have been depressed and down lately.  I need a jog from normality. So, I am packing my bags, bringing my stitch work and hightailing it.

Off to make coffee and pack my bags!

Hello Father.

Great things are accomplished only by the perfection of minor details. 

Will you please cook a special meal for me on a Friday night in the very near future? (Ask Mom the date).

Round Up!

I participate in a pool program, offered by my hospital to help survivors recover. I love this program, I go once a week, I connect with other survivors in a predominantly physical but also, at times, emotional level (which works best for me, I can’t go deeply into the emotional side or breast cancer or its treatment, I would rather enter into a more physical connection with other survivors) and we stretch, play and laugh together. Teri, our instructor is well versed in Range of Motion issues and the exercises that will help with them.

I made sure to ‘represent’ for us Flatties, and I squealed when they mentioned me specifically. 

I would never have thought that an aspect of the cancer experience would madke me feel so passionate. I firmly believe the ability to ‘Go Flat’ is an issue of women’s rights. This is an issue of body autonomy, women must have complete control over the only thing we can control, our bodies. As a result, Going Flat must become normalized. Women who forgo reconstruction should not wear breast forms for any other reason than having a preference to do so.

When the beautiful, deminuitive 75 year old fella pool program attendee, looked at me and pinched her ‘bubby’, which is what she calls her breast form, telling me she hated wearing it for the last — years (more than 2 decades). I fell in love with her, and fell in love with being a feminist, again. Her daughter keeps telling her to put the breast form away. But she does not feel able to leave the breast form behind! 

She called me brave. A teacher. She looked at me in awe.

And I am brave, many women cannot imagine leaving home without their breast forms. Others very much want to leave them behind, but feel pressure to wear them for their jobs, and for the people in their lives who expect them to look a certain way. As more women like meMargaret  W. Smith and Jodi Jaecks put their bodies and their choices out there, normalization of this bodily form, this aspect of women’s lives, will occur. Society will  re-member the full array of shapes that an individual woman’s body can take in a lifetime. But no woman should feel compelled to wear forms because our society is misogynist and ignorant and has set up an expectation of what the female form should look like. Especially in light of breast cancer.

Breast Pockets are being made around the world!! I have put out a challenge for folks to make 1000 breast pockets to raise awareness for the women who choose not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer and to pave awareness for those who would like to put their forms aside entirely. October 22 is the deadline, you can make pockets in whatever way you choose, paper, cloth, mixed media. You can use this pattern, if you feel the need. If I have not answered your email (they are piling up) on where to send them, please be a greasy wheel!  😎

The above pocket was made by my good friend Elliot (who will be turning 9 on October 31) and can be seen here with her sister Alex, snuffling

Alex (who is 5 years old) and Cricket (we will leave her age up for debate!) also made some pockets. I have heard from folks as far ranging as Hong Kong, Australia, Finland, Canada and here in the U.S.  I really hope to get 1000 pockets made in a very short period of time. Will you please help?

To update you on my knitting world, my Boardwalk is coming along just fine! I need to knit about 5″ of stockinette stitch before the neck detail will start. I love the Malabrigo yarn I am using. The color stacks up beautifully. I am hoping this pattern will become a favorite, one that I can knit again and again.

And one last thing.

My mother has begun a new venture, a store featuring ‘Coastal Inspired Items for You and Your Home’ (I love this summation) called The Captain’s Chest. I am so very proud of her for doing this and would love for you to click over and see what she has in stock, perhaps you’ll see something you cannot live without! My mother is passionate about coastal living, entertaining, food and family and she does a beautiful job combining all of these into this new endeavor. Please check it out.

Organization Bomb

Showing you my studio space is helping to to understand what needs organization and how I would like to achieve it. Embroidery and stitch have become really important to me. I had skeins of thread tucked in several different places, hand dyed skeins were in 3 ring binders, I had a box of floss organized by color tucked into another storage bin, and stuffed all around that, more skeins.

So I bought 4 organizer boxes and a couple extra bobbins and got to work. 

Or, erm, um. I put everyone to work! My mother got in the act, David even lent a hand, all together, we used 125 bobbins. Now, all of the thread is organized and grouped by color. I integrated each type of floss, cotton, silk and rayon, variegated and solid. I am preparing to dye gradations of colors and now I can see what colors I need. I filled 3 of the 4 boxes I bought for the purpose.

Phew. When I first opened the shipment and looked at my purchase of plastic, I was disappointed that I bought plastic in the first place. I was almost in a panic about it! I convinced myself that I wouldn’t like the look of the thread in the boxes, that there was probably another way to organize that I hadn’t thought of that would be better. But then the threads started looking like candies, grouped together with their fellows and I knew that my neat and orderly side had been appeased.

I honestly feel that keeping tidy helps me be a more prolific artist. Beside which, living in a tiny apartment really forces me to be neat and organized. I like knowing where every last thing is. I like being able to reach for a box of red embroidery thread, beads organized by color and size (at one point Deb Lacativa called this a bead prison! LOL. While I appreciate the sentiment, I do like bead prisons), I like being able to remove a drawer and bring it to my workbench and return it again. 

I often hear comments that folks have messy studio space. What is your space like? Does it work for you? Inspire you? Does it make your work easier?

Looking back.

Hey there. This blog post is a bit hard for me to post but one I feel passionate about and one I feel needs to go live. It is about cancer, recovery and ‘going flat’. Last year, on June 21, I had bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. And as you might imagine, my thoughts, feelings and memories are swirling around me this week and it is time to let them go.

My treatment protocol dictated that I have neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor and get cleaner margins), surgery and radiation. In some ways neoadjuvant therapy is a blessing because it gives you time to think through your options. And by options I mean, needing a mastectomy and deciding what type of reconstruction or lack thereof . Surgery is often the first thing women (and men-men get breast cancer too) have to go through after finding a lump- and at that point everything is happening so fast that it can be daunting to make a decision that is right for you. So I had some time to think and to decide what would work best for me.

I chose against reconstructing my body for so many reasons, the number of surgeries, failure rates, and the fact that there is no sensation and that reconstructed breasts are reported to ‘look good in clothing’.  Luckily I found photographs of another woman whose body I could relate to and who made it seem as though this would be a choice I could wrap my head around (they are beautiful photos). 

One year ago today, I still had my breasts. I miss them, I grieve the loss of my breasts. Do I regret my decision? No. Is it an adjustment? Yes. 

Why am I telling you all this? First and foremost, because I bet there is a woman out there who is making this same decision, and I want her to know she is not alone, this does not suck, we are a tribe. Beside which, this decision is just as valid as wanting to reconstruct, no matter the societal pressures related to femininity, breasts, appearance and gender. In facing this anniversary, this change to my body, I want to acknowledge the particulars and to release my body past.

Tomorrow my new body will be one year old. Welcome! I live in a world of firsts right now, first anniversary after surgery, the next treatment related anniversary will be one full year out from my last radiation (August 25) and boy are these welcome. It feels good to move away from active treatment, to put time between me and the immense pressure of active treatment. Thank goodness. Glad that’s over. 

I like being flat. I like owning my choice, my body. I am amazed at how resilient the human form is and I prefer to stay centered in this new place. This new landscape. This new me. So let’s celebrate!

Tomorrow I will choose the winners of my book, Dreaming from the Journal Page related to this post (I have been remiss in doing so and tomorrow seems a good day to give stuff away).

Phew. Thanks for reading this far.

And hey! I gave my mother her Jelly Roll quilt this weekend, looks great, huh? Very beachy.

The Wonders

This weekend my Mom came to town and we hung out and, come on! Neither of us brought our cameras! I can tell you we went to see Porgy and Bess, I have been humming the tunes all weekend- we loved it. We had a glass of wine at Morrell, went to Nintendo World (where I want to go with my Man). When I was first diagnosed we bought a Wii, thinking it would help keep me active, even when I was at my worst and needing to stay home. I must say, we were right and Oh! Is it fun, we both really love it. Mom has one too. Then we ate at Gaby. When I brought my Mom to Grand Central Terminal, we did this goofy thing. It was great.

You may have caught on that I will be teaching online workshops soon! I hope you are interested in working with me in this way! I know that I want to get your creative juices flowing to to get inspired by you! That is the great thing about teaching, it goes both ways. As I reorganize my virtual life, I am shutting down the Inspired to Quilt Facebook page and centralizing my social media efforts in my main facebook account, please friend me there! I am sure you understand the challenge of keeping up with social media, I for one would like to simplify and concentrate my efforts.

 I few weeks back I met up with Victoria Findlay Wolfe who has two blogs and a web site. Blog 1 <—-Click it, and Blog 2 <—-Click that! Victoria is a genuinely nice person. Artistically I like what she is doing and I feel inspired by her. Afterward she sent me a  few linens and hankies through the mail. This odd piece of lace was part of a sachet that I have since taken apart and plan to use in a dress I am making.

 I have begun to paint on pine board, and love it! The two photos in this post are the same painting, or the start of the same painting. It doesn’t look like it, does it? I will show an overall photo when the painting is a more established visual.

And look at this little king. So happy.

Mom is in Town!

Mom does NYC!My mom is here in town and we are doing a dinner and a show. I will bring my camera and document my day in NYC, stay tuned!