Thursday, October 13, 2016

In Memoriam

Stella Kaskey (1997-2016)
I lost my long-time feline companion, Stella, on Tuesday afternoon. She has been by my side since I was 24-years-old and she was just 3-months.  My first husband and I found her at the SPCA after she had spent her earliest days on what I like to call "the mean streets of Kensington" in Philadelphia.

She was a fighter from the beginning, making sure I did not change my mind about adopting her.  I told this story on Facebook already: I had spent some time playing with her, and decided that she was the kitten we would take home with us.  But when they put her back in the cage so we could fill out the paperwork for her, I had a moment's hesitation when I saw an adorable little tuxedo cat two cages up.  He was all black with a little white marking right where a bow tie would be.  I mean, adorable!!  But Stella was watching me the whole time, and she clawed her way up the front of the cage and looked at me with these meaning-filled eyes, and I could hear her just as surely as if she spoke out loud: "Don't you dare change your mind, lady! I am coming home with YOU!"

It was tough to find a name for Stella.  The "finalists" were Zelda and Stella--Zelda for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, and Stella for--no, not A Streetcar Named Desire!--Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella.  (My college English professors would be proud!)  I think it was a year until I felt like the name Stella was the proper fit.  Now, of course, I couldn't imagine any other name.

I had just accepted a job to teach at Haverford High School when we first brought Stella home, but summer vacation wasn't yet over, so I spent the first day with her just sitting on my lap to get to know me.  We literally sat on the sofa for hours, she just getting a feel for me and looking around at the apartment, her new home.  We really bonded that day, and it was a bond that lasted us for the nineteen years that followed.  I told her, "You have to live until I'm at least 40 years old.  That's a requirement!" And she met her obligation, and then some.  She lived an extra three years beyond.

You can see that we had a tendency to order each other around!
Stella has lived with me in four different apartments and two houses.  She's been on road trips and in airplanes many times in her younger days.  She has been by my side through a separation and divorce, a remarriage, and some highly questionable boyfriends in between.  She has comforted me through countless sad days and sicknesses. She was there for me during the absolute anguish of two miscarriages and the amazing joy of two births.  She was always a notoriously crabby cat, but she fully accepted and loved my husband, and let my daughters mess with her in ways that no one else on earth was allowed to.

Last night, to try to make me feel better, my husband said, "She was a sweetie." I looked at him and laughed, saying, "Did you even KNOW Stella?"  I've been calling her a crabby old lady for years; she would have given Grumpy Cat a run for his money.  I can't tell you how many times I've said to people who come into our home, "Um, you might not want to pat her; she's not all that friendly," while thinking what an understatement that was.  An unwelcome pat brought growls and a severe paw padding, and she even spit at the veterinarian once.  How embarrassing!

But I loved her spirit.  Somehow I needed her to love and accept me, even when everyone else in the world seemed to annoy her.  And then when my husband Michael came along, and I saw how much she accepted him, I knew he was The One.  We both agree that she was instrumental in making (allowing?) our marriage to happen!
Every morning and throughout the day, I find myself looking over at "her spot" on the sofa.  She didn't move around too much in these final months, so I still expect to find her there.

There's a little Stella-shaped hole in my heart.

Rest in peace, little girl.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Adventures in Etegami

These three postcards were created during the Main Line Art Center etegami workshop.
 After learning about the Japanese art form known as etegami, I have created some samples of my own, which will be sent out into the world by our postal system shortly.

Recall that etegami is a form of mail art, so it is not considered "complete" until it has made its way to a recipient.
A mix of cards created during the workshop and back at home
I had initially resisted the idea of writing the words in ink with a brush, since the English alphabet doesn't lend itself to those writing tools in the way the Japanese language does.  Once I got started though, I enjoyed the challenge of forming the letters with the brush.
These might be considered more traditional because their subjects come from the natural world.
You can see that I emulate the style of my teacher, Nancy Bea Miller, with thicker, bolder lines, whereas some etegami artists draw with a much thinner, more wavery line.
Man-made objects can also be a popular subject matter for etegami, and here you can see the sources of my pictures.
I have a lot to learn, and a lot of practice to do, but etegami is really quite relaxing, and it takes very little time to create a small piece of art to send to a mail art friend!
"Put a shell on it" is something of an inside joke with my mother.  This card is a natural to send to her!
Ironic that I misspelled Brene Brown's name on a sentiment about imperfection? I think so!
My always-messy art-making space is now covered in etegami-making art supplies.

Monday, October 3, 2016


 A Zentangle page for October in my 5"x8" sketchbook, completed with a dual-tipped Zig Writer pen in black ink.  Begun while waiting for my girls in the school pick-up line, completed while watching a movie with them on a Saturday afternoon.