When I’m 85 . . .

. . . If I reach that magic number. I’ll be 60 this year, so 65 (cue the Beatles) is a bit too close at hand to be aspirational. My Mom passed at the age of 76, so I also realize that 85 is not guaranteed. But both my Dad, and my mother’s best friend from grade school, have both reached that grand age. And they are each inspirational examples to me of what I could be doing when I’m 85. They are both still creating and putting their creations out in the world. I want to be doing that too when I’m 85.

My Dad has just published his second book. Mind you, my Dad had a first career as a US Military officer. He had a second career as a Human Resources manager. He had a third career as a university professor teaching English literature and business communications. I guess he’s had a fourth occupation as a hay farmer over his last 30+ years in Montana. And he’s an author. Dad wrote his first book, “Ringed in Steel: Armored Cavalry, Vietnam 1967–68” while he was still on active duty and working full time. I remember him closing himself in his study and working on that book evenings and weekends. The first book was published in 1986, four years after he retired in 1982. Now, 36 years later, he’s got a second book out, one that took an equal amount of dedication and passion. He’s been working on this one for over 10 years — he started it before my mother passed. Now in a world of digital media, he’s editing online and writing promotional blog posts.

Roe (Halper) is an artist ( https://www.roehalperart.com ). I believe she has a degree in art education and, perhaps, taught in public schools for a few years. Then, as women did in that era, she stayed home with her children and created her art “on the side.” She’s been teaching art again now out of her home studio for many years and her art has evolved so much over the years. Originally, Roe’s work was very realistic. Powerful, focussed on the human form, on social justice, and on Jewish tradition.

Gradually, her art has simplified movement of the human form down to the most basic lines. The following image is an abstraction of a photograph of a dancer from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

Roe has an exhibit opening at the Westport Library in Connecticut this month, “Orange.” And the work is an explosion of energy and color and sweeping lines. The work is not representational, but it is as powerful and as full of emotions and energy as her work has always been.

It’s tempting to compare myself to them. To count how many careers I’ve had; how many books I’ve written; how many exhibitions have featured my work. I’m going to try not to do that to myself. What I want to focus on is how age has just been a number for these two. They’ve continued to be true to themselves, to embrace their passions, and to share their gifts with the world. They’ve been persistent. So even when it seemed like the world didn’t want to hear them — they continue to insist that we listen.

“What do you do when. . . ” Love and Resilience in the Era of Climate Change

I started this blog explaining that one way I had chosen to deal with difficult times was to start folding origami cranes. In fact, those cranes were originally made from the paper liners of sanitary pads . . . symbolic of a Mother’s fears, worries, and tears. Life continues, through unplanned pregnancies, hurricanes, Covid pandemics, oil price crashes and job insecurity. Sometimes we laugh. And sometimes folding a crane just isn’t enough.

What do you do when your adult child’s gender-fluid partner has top surgery to remove their breasts? We sent chicken soup.

What do you do when your autistic adult (step)son calls, not your husband, but you, to ask if he can come to live with you, because his mom is kicking him out? While you’ve got 6 people living in a 3 bed/2 bath rental house and are repairing your own home post Hurricane Harvey. You tell him “of course,” buy a sleeper sofa and crochet a soft blanket for him to let him know he is ‘home.’

What do you do when that same son hands you his sex toy because it’s broken, and asks for help fixing it? I got out the super glue.

What do you do when your son develops his first relationship with a girl, but thinks he might have STD’s from cleaning toilets at Walmart? Take him to his doctor for testing and education on STD transmittal.

What do you say when he then inadvertently texts you instead of the girlfriend asking “so, ultra thin or bearskin (condoms)?” Tell him, “I don’t have a preference, Love Mom.”

What do you do when your daughter’s fiancé walks away one week after going down on his knee in front of her family and his to propose . . . . and she won’t sleep in her own bed because it still smells of ‘him.’ You change her sheets for her.

What do you do when your daughter and her new baby daddy call up to say they’ve arranged to be on the Maury Povich show to talk about said baby daddy’s sexting incident — just to get an all expense paid baby-moon in New York? Well, that response was kind of unprintable . . .

What do you say when that same daughter, now with two kids, for whom you have just bought a gorgeous white wedding dress, calls to say the only job she can find is as a sales clerk at an adult lingerie and sex toy shop? Tell her “Call your Dad!”

Mom’s Day on Father’s Day

For an inexplicable reason, this year, my Mom was with me for Father’s Day. Maybe it was because it would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary that day as well. I felt her presence all day. First, I decided that I wanted to make her German Potato salad. I found the recipe tucked in my old recipe file box — the one with the lid coming off that survived Hurricane Harvey. I’d hand-written the recipe down on a scrap piece of paper while I talked to her on the phone, and it is complete with illegible shorthand like ‘pot’ for potatoes. The potato salad was great though, just like I remembered it!

Then my youngest daughter decided that, along with the flourless chocolate cake she was making, she would also make whip cream from scratch to top the cake. My Mom always made her own whip cream. It was a tradition at Thanksgiving — after the main meal, we made the whip cream for the pie while the table was cleared. Always using a hand beater. I explained to Devon that, at some point in the really distant past, my Mom had made the whip cream with an electric beater and she’d beat it too long and the whip cream turned to butter. So forever after that, when we made whip cream, it had to be with an old-fashioned hand beater.

But I don’t have a hand beater any more. So we had to use the stand mixer. And I’d made Devon nervous about turning her first attempt to make whip cream, into butter. So as the whip cream got stiffer and stiffer, Devon would call me over, open up the stand mixer and say, “is it ready?” And every time I peered into that bowl to check the whip cream, I felt my Mom’s hand on my shoulder, leaning in to look too. Then, with a gentle shake, we’d both step back and say, “not yet . . . keep going.” I think Mom and I checked the whip cream 4 times before we both nodded our heads, satisfied that what was in the bowl was stiff enough, but not too stiff.

Needless to say, the whip cream was delicious too, the perfect topping for the cakes. I’m not sure how Mom knew that I needed her that Father’s Day more than Dad did. But Mom’s know these things, don’t they?

What is the Difference Between Art and Craft?

As I follow my heart more deeply into this creative journey I’ve set out on, I’ve started to wonder about the difference between Art and Craft. I named this website ‘1000 Cranes Craft and Decor’ for a couple of reasons. One was simply the alliteration of the words Crane and Craft . . . it sounded good. But the other reason is that I have always thought of myself as a ‘crafter,’ not as an ‘artist.’ It’s self-effacing and something I think (without doing any research at all) that women have always done — minimized the things we create out of necessity or in our spare time — as craft with a small ‘c’ rather than as ‘Art’ with a big ‘A.’

But my husband, with his loving eyes, always tells me I’m an artist. When I went to the Haven Conference last year and tried to explain to someone, an experienced decor blogger, what I was doing with my cranes, she looked at me and said “oh, you’re an artist.”

So I’ve been wondering if I am an artist? What is that boundary between craft and art? It’s not necessarily level of skill or amount of time spent on a piece. The cut and fold book art of a menorah, pictured above, is something I’d call craft. It took patience. It took time. It took practice. But it’s from a pattern that someone else created. And in the end, my product looks just like the picture that came with the pattern when I downloaded it. Except that I painted the cover gold.

But my canvas of 1000 cranes, made out of sanitary pad paper? That might approach Art . . . I did get good at folding cranes because I folded 1000 of them. And it did take me a year to finish. But the end product is something that no one else would be able to easily replicate. It’s a thought, an idea, a story, that I can’t provide a pattern for.

I just finished reading the book, The Gown, by Jennifer Robison. The book is a description of the creation of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown in 1947 from the perspective of the embroidery artists who decorated the dress. One, in the end, is a craftsman and the other is an artist. Ann, the protagonist and the craftsman says, “What we do takes a lot of skill, and a lot of practice, but nearly anyone can figure it out with some training. This, though . . . this is different. This is the sort of thing people will line up to see, and when they do it will change the way they see the world, and when they go away they won’t forget it.”

Maybe that definition is too grand. Or perhaps I’m still too self-effacing. I don’t think that a canvas of 1000 cranes will change the way someone sees the world. But perhaps there is not a distinct boundary between craft and art. Maybe the boundary is actually a transition — ‘ombre’ as my husband and I like to tease each other; a gradual blend of one color to another and each color in between is no less special and beautiful.