Things I never thought I would need to know.
Learning things on the fly is hard and you never feel like you are getting it right. Taking care of your husband when you’ve been handed a diagnosis of aggressive cancer is akin to someone pushing you off the edge of a cliff and you have a parachute on, but you’ve never used one before. You’ve been given brief instruction, but you were in shock and not really absorbing information. I am a mother; I’ve cared for my children, but I never understood what caring for my husband would be like as he grew closer to death. I think I expected Joe to be “Joe” forever. I didn’t realize as the Cancer became more aggressive, I would see glimpses of him, but they were fleeting. His body and mind were fighting hard. If you have to travel this journey, know that your feelings might get hurt, but it’s comes from a raw place of fear and has nothing to do with you or how you are caring for your loved one. Joe would say things that might have sounded cold or heartless to me and the kids. Things he would have never said. He was the most caring and kind partner, so hearing words like this took me off guard and disheartened me, and I thought that he didn’t appreciate me. He really did, but when you are tired and bouncing from emotionally drained to emotionally heightened, you process your feelings differently.
We immediately started treatment at the cancer center. Radiation at first and chemo a few weeks later. What I didn’t realize is that everything that was indelicate or private, becomes in your face. Our children went to every single appointment, we experienced this journey as one, all four of us as one.. I should have insisted at this point that he start taking MiraLAX daily. I didn’t know he was having problems going to the bathroom, because he physically got up and went to the bathroom, but nothing was happening. If your loved one becomes constipated, taking MiraLAX everyday might help or a mixture called a brown cow, I learned this from one of Joe’s wonderful nurses. It’s 2 Tablespoons of Milk Of Magnesia stirred into 8 oz of warmed prune juice. If its warm it tastes better. Just know that your loved one may be too embarrassed to tell you if they are unable to use the restroom. You will learn all about Senna and Magnesium Citrate. Some Mexican restaurants have water-based popsicles. I found them made with prunes and this was soothing for Joe.
The cancer center was an everyday routine. Our entire life rhythms were changing, and everyone felt a disturbance, but none of us could put or finger on what it was. Joe felt guilty that he had cancer and was ruining our lives. Willow loved the new batch of people she was able to shine her sparkle with at the Cancer Center, Bryer was just quiet and introspective. I didn’t feel anything at all, I was in shock. I thought a lot about my Mom. She had just died suddenly of a stroke. And I know she would have stepped right in and helped me. She would have soothed my mind and my heart. But for whatever reason, she was gone, and I was here. I was all he had and to me that was not enough, at all. I missed my mom so much.
Joe lost a lot of weight very fast. You should find adjustable belts at Meijer or Walmart. Target never had them. As your loved one loses weight don’t forget to buy them smaller underwear. Buy extra socks. Joe was unable to get up the stairs to the bedroom and stayed pretty much in his chair all the time. The leather of his chair rubbed the skin off of his elbows. I took his old socks and cut the toe part off and made elbow pads for him. Joe wore his own, normal clothing as they were part of his identity, be eventually he had to size down to stretch waist pants. Your loved one might be very cold, even though it is warm in the room. I had a heating pad for him when he was feeling cold.
With each treatment, Joe was welcoming the destruction of his strong body, just for more time with us. As the treatment increased, so did the side effects. He had thrush so badly in his mouth and I was at the pharmacy every day for something. There was a nationwide shortage of nystatin for the thrush and I felt so helpless. He became so weak from the treatment that he had to be hospitalized. At the hospital they figured out that he had a-fib, he needed oxygen and he had MERSA. I got him back home, but I had to learn how to give him IV meds every few hours. I am not a nurse; I was not gifted with the skill of being able to deal with fluids…. But here I was spiking bags, cleaning lines, and administering meds via a port in his chest. It was a struggle.
The cancer had eroded his rib, it was spreading. He was becoming so confused and I felt so helpless. I was trying to balance keeping the kids quiet, taking care of Joe, my art, doing the housework, the yard work, and making it seem like we were all fine. I asked a few friends for advice or for help, but for the most part, Joe didn’t want anyone in the house. If you have a friend who is a caregiver and they reach out, please just go help. It’s hard to ask for help.
As Joe’s Cancer spread, the doctors never said two months or two weeks, time was not quantified. Things happened so fast. We were fighting this and suddenly, I was frantically pushing our furniture in front for our doors so Joe could not get out. He was sure that people were trying to hurt us, and he had to get out to protect us. He got out one time and fell in the front yard. He was muddy and had lost his glasses when I found him. Joe would take things apart, the remote, the air conditioner, he started to cut things up with scissors. He cut his oxygen tubing, he went into my studio and just started cutting everything. I was so scared. The cancer had traveled to his brain.
Joe’s doctor recommended hospice. Our affairs were not in order. Our life was unravelling. After hospice talked to us they wanted to know where he wanted to “go” afterward. They meant what funeral home and Joe just wanted to go sit in his hostas. He asked if they would give him a shot and he would fall asleep? They explained how it would work and he looked and me and said, “you have to do this. I need for you to do this.” I needed my mom and my hands were sweating. The hospice nurse was so kind, and we talked about a lot of things I really liked her. But she was unable, per policy, to be my friend afterward.
He passed a few days later, and the funeral men came to get him. It was dark outside, but the lights were on in the house and they propped the front door open. They took him and I was left with the front room full of moths and night flying things.
There are no heroes, in life. We never think we are doing the right things. He picked me to walk him home and I did the best I could.
It was gifted to me by my friend Kim and because it came with a hand written note and recommendation, it went to the top of my reading. Maybe two years ago, my friend Melissa Belanger recommended The Night Circus. I was unfamiliar with it and was pretty much reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett exclusively, you know, catching up... I read it and loved it. The voice that it was told in was different. It was told in a way that I could almost hear the author telling me a story. I liked that. I love stories. I read Night Circus many times, absorbing the magic where I could. And then the wait for Ms. Morgenstern's next story.
The Starless Sea started out with the same voice, and it was like hearing from an old friend. Ms. Morgenstern weaves a story of myth and time and honey and keys and books and now that I've read the last of the pages I'm now able to connect some stars together. It's one of those books that after you finish, you want to sit down for coffee with the author and ask serious questions. You have to digest her words and think on them awhile. But part of the entire book, and underlaying thread is choice and what you choose and what matters to the story... It's up to you how you see things. The stories unfold, envelope and stick to you like honey. You may drown in the thick dreamy story, or honey, but it's your choice what happens next. The main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, seems to be questing for meaning. There are symbols throughout the story and Zachary is the heart AND the key.
It took me awhile to read it. 512 pages takes longer these days, but each page was wonderful. Ms. Morgenstern's writing is like a dream and it's nice to be lost in her Starless Sea. The son of a fortune teller is making his own story, his own fortune. When she wrote, "But this is not where their story ends. Their story is only just beginning. And no story ever truly ends and long as it is told." I wept.
I've read so many reviews of this book and many miss the point. If you could soak a story in romance and dreamy bits you would have The Starless Sea.
I am in the midst of transition. All of my Prim Pumpkin social media and web presence is transitioning to My Dearest Witch. You will see my same artwork, just a change of name! Thank you for following along.
Joe was deep in the woods when I called him that day. I explained that life was changing for us artistically and the epically magical show we were part of was retiring. The questions swirled through my head, which was darting from subject to subject quite messily. He sent ideas to me from the woods and I received them in our little home in the city. String laying over the top of one another and circling back. We had stared weaving right then, although we didn't know it yet. It was a the beginning part of a new story, or the continuation of a story that had been told before... we didn't know which yet.
We would do it. We would create from our chests and send out into the world a space where the show could continue. A place where simultaneously, artists would spin their stories and others would pick up the strands and continue a weaving of people and ideas and love. This is what Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween is. A weaving of pure magic.
You've caught me at an odd time. But odd is just as good as another time. I look forward to telling you so many stories. I am happy that you have found me, even if it's now. Now is quite different than then you see, my dear husband has left me... left us. He had cancer for a short time. But I want you to know he was the biggest fan of my work. He encouraged me and supported my dreams in such a way that made me know that this path of doll making is mine to walk. This path of grief is also mine.
Today I offer you the simple tale of the Dublin Bunny. I could tell you his tale and make it sound lovely and sweet, but every tale of a horned hare must contain an element of things that are not so sweet and lovely.
A horned hare? Why, yes! You may be more comfortable with the word Jackalope. Either way, he is a bunny who lives in the bramble at the edge of the wood. He has no family to speak of. His ears are tall and allow him to hear your dreams as you sleep. They float through the air and become caught in his giant ears!
Dublin was a dream himself had by an artist in her studio one late late night. She dreamed of a battle bunny to protect her wee children as she sent them out into the world. Something soft, yet fierce. In the morning, in the light of her studio, sat a Jackalope. She called him Dublin and gave him a kiss atop of his brown fluffed head.
He sits at the edge of the bramble and waits for the wee ones to go, and he follows. Not everyone can see him all of the time. On one particular occasion, the wee ones went to the play park. New place, new children, all new…. As Dublin rounded the corner to the park he saw a boy knock one of the wee ones down. Without a second of haste, he hopped to the boy and gored him in the leg with his tiny horns.
When a mother sets a wish adrift for her children… something happens. Something soft, yet fierce.
At my last show, I was lucky enough to meet a few collectors of my work. Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween is such a busy show that I rarely get more than a few minutes to visit. I consider myself extra lucky because I was able to meet Lindy and her granddaughter Sophia. They were 28th and 29th in line. As they rushed to the Prim Pumpkin booth, Lindy treated Sophia to a lovely little blue pumpkin. You see, it was Sophia's first Bewitching Peddlers show and she was so excited to find a piece..... but she really had her heart set on a PINK pumpkin!
I stopped doing commission work a few years ago, mainly because my vision for a piece sometime does not match up with my clients vision, and I stress out greatly at the prospect of disappointing someone who has trusted me to create something special for them. But, when Lindy contacted me after the show telling me what a delightful time they had and how Sophia was set to turn 13 on January 13th, I was happy to oblige when she asked for a special work for her birthday.
This special project has been under wraps for weeks and now that her magical 13 has come and gone, I can share.
The Cats out of the bag....
The children and I began haunting our special spots for treasures. I had an idea of adding 13 tiny gifts to the couture of this piece, which I named Lucky. The children harvested lots of tiny goods along the way as well. This was a wonderful top secret project and they were keen to be involved.
Lindy sent me heirloom fabric to work with for the couture. It was a vintage pillowcase that Sophia's Great Grandmother had embroidered! I stitched pockets across the front, giving her a little Peddlers nod. We wrapped each gift and tucked it safely away for Sophia to discover.
Lucky the pink pumpkin came to life just for Sophia. She has a little 13 on her cheek and some wily pumpkin in the patch put 13 little hash marks on the back of her head!
This is the lovely Sophia with Lucky, on her 13th birthday!
Sophia is pictured here with her little brother, Jack who is 10 years old. Jack told his grandmother and Sophia that 13 is your most special birthday!
It's wonderful to me that Sophia's grandmother set out to make this birthday completely magical for her. It's something that women in my family would have done. Bigger than the gift, is the bonding that Lindy and Sophia shared. They travelled together to get to my show from out of state, sharing love and laughs and a sense of wonder at what they were about to see. Inspiring wonder is what the magic is all about for he.
Sometimes as artists we forget the "wonder." From time to time it slips away from the front line of what fuels us. I am grateful to Sophia and Lindy for reminding me of magic of wonder.
Happy Lucky 13 sweet Sophia!
On the darkest of days, when I feel inadequate, unloved and unworthy, I remember whose daughter I am and I straighten my crown.-
From the early breaking dawn of my artistic existence there has always been a constant and that has been the deep quest for community. To me, community in a doll making context means a circle of people who realize that there is enough success to go around. They lift up others and see the gems in me even when I can’t see them myself. As a young creator I failed home economics. I remember being in fourth grade and having my art teacher tell me, “great job, Picasso” when I muddied my watercolors on construction paper. Ten years ago when I began doll making those fledgling heart wounds of being not good enough surfaced ever so boldly. It is in these times of radical self-doubt that without even realizing it even the slowest movements in the forward direction is giving us the permission to take one more step. By putting one foot in front of the other we are building our creative chops and more importantly, we are learning the art of seeking.
As my work evolved, I became more aware of my surroundings. I heard whispers of a show in Michigan akin to a fine art show for Halloween artists, it was called Ghoultide Gathering. I went to the show and I was completely enveloped by the energy that each artist brought. This was the first time I saw doll makers making a living at their art. Scott Smith was producing the show. He had hand selected the best in each genre, making a wonderfully curated show and something much more, he was creating a community. Scott is a very humble artist and I am not sure he would take credit for fostering so many careers through this show but from the outside looking in, that’s exactly what was happening. After several years Ghoultide Gathering had become an artistic incubator of sorts. If you are asked to be part of the show it’s much like Scott Smith giving you a nod of approval. Which, I might add, negates the home economics teacher, the art teachers, and all other critics. When I asked Scott what he thought about the importance of finding a group of like-minded people to lift up your work he said, “Through creating an art show such as Ghoultide Gathering, we feel we've also created somewhat of a community. A gathering place for inspiration and appreciation. The effects can be felt by the artists and patrons alike. All are inspired by the amount of creativity on display and regardless if we can take home the art or not, everyone leaves with a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the commitment and efforts involved with being an artist.”
Years had passed and I had begun making many connections via social media through my work. My Prim Pumpkin’s had a following all of their own that reached out of my little home studio in Battle Creek, MI. I had put in the work and learned my craft on a day to day basis and while doing that work, one day I opened my email to receive an invitation to Ghoultide Gathering. You can’t even believe the joy I felt. I called my longtime friend and dollmaker, Joyce Stahl and we has a little phone celebration! The little tribes that we form as we gather our joy are integral for our art to evolve. I can tell you with all honesty that with the vote of confidence that came with being welcomed into this group, I could feel a physical raising of the bar in the work I was producing. This community made me feel part of something that gave me goosebumps! “Scott creates such a magical environment for us and a philosophy of inclusion I don’t think we could ask for a better mentor or friend to the artists. He makes me feel protected and appreciated and I feel the same for my artists’ friends. There is a great truth to the fact that we are only as
successful as our fellow artists are, and I always try to remember and take to heart that fact.” Said Laurie Hardin from Monkey Cat’s studio who is a 9-year veteran of the Ghoultide tribe. In talking with Laurie, we share so much of the same feelings about wanting to reach out to other artists for help but not wanting to be a bother. The feeling of welcome that I have experienced with this community far over reaches the initial awkwardness. If you work by yourself in a home studio like I do, part of the creative unfurling is talking to others from your community and stretching your wings a bit. The moments of clarity I’ve had while chatting with another artistic beings is astounding! Laurie said this about her growth in the Ghoultide community “My phone relationships grew, as well as exchanging emails with artists I was less familiar with. I also realized the importance in responding and encouraging others stepping into our arena just as I had been embraced years earlier. What was once a group of relationships I would classify as acquaintances has grown and deepened each year. I feel very comfortable calling a group of artists I chat with routinely about issues involving paint, canvases, armatures, suppliers, asking for critiques of new work or sometimes just to talk to another living human being besides my spouse.”
I’ll bet Scott Smith never realized so many years ago how important this community would be to us. He has created a circle of artists who elevate each other, a circle of enchantment that is pure Halloween magic, and a community that has changed my life.
2019 marks ten years of creating Prim Pumpkins! To celebrate this occasion, I thought I'd share how I make my clay for my characters. Now, I think I found the original recipe online somewhere way back then. I really didn't like the consistency of the over the counter clays as they were way too wet. So, I started learning about paper mache and paper mache clay. Like me, you will more than likely, begin with this recipe of ingredients and total tweak it as you learn and grow. When you begin, you should find a mixer to mix up your ingredients separate from your kitchen mixer. Also a zip lock bag or something air tight for keeping it.
To begin you will take your roll of toilet paper and get it wet. You probably wont be using the same kind you buy for household use. You will want dollar store quality paper. After getting the paper wet, you gently squeeze the water back out. Then rip the paper apart and toss it in a bowl. Then add all of the other components to the bowl and mix! If it's too wet I add cornstarch and if it's too dry I add more joint compound. Do this in teaspoon increments.
This is air dry paper mache clay, so you have to be patient with it and work in layers. Let each layer dry 100% before adding more clay or it will mold.
I wish you magical bursts of creativity as you begin!
Introducing... Prim Pumpkin Hedgehogs.
Everyone knows, as the weather snaps the Tombs family seek hibernation. A long slumber, waking only when the weather is agreeable once more. It would be so cozy to just pull up the eiderdown around their hedgehoggie cheeks and nestle in. But this year when the snap happened, Mrs. Tombs and her family were in my studio, helping me prepare for a show. They missed their engraved invitation to hibernation and have decided to sprinkle their magic throughout the land…. Do you need a bit of hedgehog magic? The bristly kind, that lets you know it’s there?
Please meet Nickelton, he’s a sweet chap with a top hat and a pink tummy. He collects nickels, it’s his favorite bit of money, so if you find yourself missing one or two, look behind his ears.
Mrs. Tombs is a kitchen witch. She grows wild lavender right outside her back door and loves the fragrance it brings. She’s quite the little forager. She weaves a luscious web of enchantment where ever she goes. Mrs. Tombs loves to sit down in her favorite chair with some buttered toast and jam and dream up new spells.