The Many Walks of Type 1 Diabetes

For those who have a child living with Type 1 Diabetes, there are many walks in life that others will never take. For our family, the first of these walks occurred when our youngest daughter, Maddie, was 7 years old. We walked her into Brenner’s Emergency Room, after having been told by our pediatrician that folks were waiting for her there, to take care of her.  After 3 days of learning how to administer novolog and lantus shots, how to test blood sugars and count carbs, among a myriad of other frightening and sobering things to watch out for, we walked her out of Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and drove home to begin our new life.

From there, we began the daily short walks to the spot in our kitchen where all diabetes supplies were housed…test kit, carb-counting book, insulin pens, alcohol swabs, tissues, and a chart for recording all the data. We have walked with her to and from the car when visiting her diabetes educator and doctor appointments every six weeks. We have walked in and out of her elementary, middle, and high school when emergency supplies were needed. We have walked in and out of pharmacies for the necessary medical supplies. We, as her parents, have walked her to soccer games, gymnastics, marching band…always wondering if she will need the extra juice boxes we have brought with us, or if some other diabetes related issue will arise.

Our nightly walks are the ones that have perhaps logged the most miles…a midnight and 3 am blood sugar testing requires walking back and forth from our room to hers. Depending on the number, once we test her while she sleeps, it may require a walk downstairs to get more juice or other supplies to tend to the errant numbers.

We begrudge none of these walks! Indeed, we would walk to the end of the earth and back for her if it meant helping in some way to alleviate the affects of Type 1 Diabetes on her body over the long haul. We are so very grateful for all the medical advances and technology that make her life less complicated than those who have dealt with Type 1 in past years. But there is a long way to go before a Cure is hers. And to that end, we walk another kind of Walk…the JDRF One Walk each year.

Maddie loves the JDRF Walks every fall! We are always amazed at the amount of support from friends, family and folks around the globe who have donated to JDRF in her honor. And then to walk with friends and family on that day along with so many others, truly makes us feel like we are not alone! When Maddie entered high school last year, it was not possible to walk in any other of the fall JDRF Walks, and we tried again this past fall, but  marching band and a high school youth retreat, have prevented our participation each year. She decided a few weeks ago that she wanted to walk in the spring, taking part in the JDRF One Walk in High Point instead of in Winston-Salem, NC. Randy and I were glad for her to have another opportunity to walk with friends and family, raising funds for a Cure for T1D.

But a few days ago, she discovered that her involvement in Show Choir was going to prevent her from Walking on April 28th. She was very disappointed, as this event was rescheduled due to a snow day earlier. She needs to be there, as she is part of a team who has been practicing since the beginning of the school year. Randy and I will walk in her honor and would be honored for your presence with us, and for your financial donation to JDRF on Maddie’s behalf.

The wonderful bit of all this is that the reason Maddie can be so involved in school activities, is because of all the advancements that JDRF has funded over the years for those living with Type One Diabetes. Without her insulin pump, Continuous Glucose Monitor, blood sugar testing kits, etc, participating in marching band and show choir would be extremely difficult. We will gladly send her on to Raleigh for the Show Choir Competition, while walking with JDRF this Saturday in High Point, NC. Won’t you consider donating to this terrific organization as they continue to do research, looking for a Cure as well as other advancements to make living with Type One a bit more manageable.

DONATE TO JDRF

If you’d like to donate, click the link to directly donate to JDRF in Maddie’s honor. Thank you so much in advance for all your support, both financially and in friendship. Maddie thanks you! Randy and I thank you! Your donations and presence with us, make walking this path of Type One Diabetes so much more endurable, enjoyable, and may one day lead us to the Cure we need for Maddie and so many others living with this disease. 

With gratitude,

Jennifer

P.S. The first drawing in this post was made just a couple of days ago, as our silly yet oh-so-studious straight A student sat “studying” her book. I thought this was such a cute way of trying to absorb the information by osmosis, that I had to snap a photo and make a drawing of our 16 year old, sweet as ever, girl. <3 The other drawings have been made over the years of Walking with our daughter.

A Week of Blind Sight

“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.” ~ Paul Klee

Seven days. One week. The length of a nice vacation or a hike on the Appalachian Trail. Each and every day of creating marks on 10″ x 10″ Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, felt like a blind endeavor. I am not trained in abstraction nor have I an art degree. Each morning as I woke early and eager to begin these pages, I felt I had absolutely no idea what I was doing nor where I was headed. I may have had some vague notion of how I wanted to begin, what marks to put down first. But then it was my intent to respond intuitively to the marks, brushwork, colors and lines previously set down on the paper. In nearly every case i hit a point where I felt all was lost, I had run into a brick wall. But years of experience quickly move me in another direction, to keep going, to hang with it until…I start to see something.

“Look at life with the eyes of a child.” ~ Henri Matisse 

This is not my first foray into abstraction. Many years ago I painted lots and lots of acrylic on canvas abstracts, or non-objective works, full of color and movement. Several of them adorn our walls. Some have been purchased, others sit in closets or sketchbooks. I don’t quite know what made me stop making them, except for the never ending childlike curiosity I have about all kinds of art and creative endeavors. It is likely that some other interest, like knitting or free-form crochet took hold. But I never stopped making little abstracts in my sketchbook. They are some of my favorite pages. Even my stitchworks of late look much like a painted and drawn abstract painting. I’ve only substituted fabrics and thread for the colors and lines.

Taking up the challenge that Tara Leaver presented to use small bits of time to create a painting a day (or really any other creative work) seemed the perfect way to stay with these beloved marks and see where they might lead. Though I have enjoyed every single day of this challenge, I feel I am nowhere near done with this, and so I’m glad I have 90 more days of the #100DayProject to keep making marks. And I will certainly be making more 10″ x 10″ works, as I have today, even after the Challenge is over. Somehow, through the blind mark making, I am beginning to see.

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ~ Claude Monet

What I’m seeing is not really anything of magnitude. As much as I wish I could see a specific medium or approach to be “my thing”, what I see is a love for and true enjoyment of many ways to make marks on a page. Just when I think I love gray passages of color from acrylic being worked into the watercolor, then I’ll realize how I adore pure watercolor, oozling & wazzling on the page with just a few lines of carbon pencil or oil pastel. And just when I think “Oh yeah Jen, you love the bold bright color”, then I’m longing for quieter tones and lots of white paper. What I’m seeing is that I love it all. All of this resides in me and loves coming out to play on a page, a canvas, a knitted sweater, or a collaged and stitched fragment of fabric. It is a love for life and living that longs to come out in some tangible way. The voices in my head, all discussing and pretending to understand why I do this, are just rubbish. It is not necessary to understand. It is simply necessary to love. Thank you Monet.

And thank you Tara! For presenting a pilgrimage, inviting us to walk it, creating  art in small increments of time, in a series (if the above is really a series?), and to listen as we walk. Thank you for your ongoing encouragement to keep drawing and painting, to push through the blindness until we see through the art to what really brings us joy. I’ll be carrying this week with me for quite a while, and even continuing to make non-objective works of art both in and outside of my sketchbook!

Enjoy the slideshow of this week’s journey into seeing. It includes Day 8. 🙂

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” ~ Auguste Rodin

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Morning Chatter

I step out the door into a lively conversation already underway.

The woodpecker is holding forth, rapping his message,

the morning dove coos, the cardinal trills

and a congregation adds their own embellished agreements

or rebellious agitation.

Even the geese, returning from a winter’s sojourn, join in the boisterous banter.

I stand in awe for a moment just to take in this morning cacophony.

I walk up the hill, down the lane, past the cows and on by the alpacas and horses. Leaning into Emmaus Road my pace quickens and so does the chatter. Are they cheering me on? Providing company for the path? Or indifferent to my presence, absorbed in their own worlds?

I spot a lone bird atop a bale of hay lifting her throat to the throng.

On the return, crossing Hastily, down Silver Dapple once again and back towards home,

it is quieter now.

Only a few remain in the concert hall of my thoughts,

chirping their ideas, tweeting their rebuttal.

They are settling in for the day ahead yet nothing has been settled upon,

except that we all must begin.

Closing the door, I take up my pen to record the findings,

drawcument the sights,

chronicle the listenings,

make sense of the chaos,

find a tune in the midst of it all.

-jpe

 

Whoa and Wow

2018. Wow.

Am I just now realizing the magnitude of this? Nearly two and a half months into it, this number, a big one, it tells where I am, how far along I’ve come since 1965. This year, this 2018, I will be 53 and will celebrate 30 years married and will see my children turn 24, 21, and 16. Lord willing. Wow.

That’s all I can say…wow.

Couldn’t I just spend my days marveling at where I am? Could I not just take a moment, a year, a rest-of-a-life to say whoa.  Stop right here. Let’s pause and gather it all in and look deeply into one another’s faces?

For it shall not stay like this. I feel it already, the pull of years to come. Like Marty in the Future photograph, beginning to fade. Or like the moment’s before Scotty beams us up, pixels waving farewell. Can we not stop the world and get off for a moment to hold one another’s faces cupped in our hands and look, really look and say I love you and always shall?

Please do not forget.

Today, let me do just that with my pen and brush. Let me caress these faces I love, the landscape of Backyard, the hay bales of Silver Dapple. Let me hold them even if for a fleeting line to say I love you and always shall.

To say, if only to myself, please…please do not forget.

This act of loving is feeble and flimsy at best. Pieces of paper in a bound book. But it is how I know to say whoa and wow to 2018. It is my way of cupping my hands around the faces I love, the place that I live, the life that I have. There are miles to go before I sleep, as Frost would say, and there are miles of lines to log in my book through 2018 and beyond.

In this way, drawing and painting my life, I will not forget. And perhaps, when I fade from the photograph and my pixels wave their final farewell, these books will remain,

saying I love you…

and always shall.

-jpe

Dawdle

“Oh I can waste a minute or two or hundreds…

that’s not a problem for me,” she says with ease.

Not a confession.

Just a statement of truth.

I envy her this. For I cannot dawdle.

Nope.

Not for long anyway.

I sit to stare out this window

to dream and gaze and wonder…

and immediately lines are dancing in my head,

words are forming into lines

pearls on a string

making hay with all

the wonder, the dream, the gaze.

***

It is all a poem, a painting.

Every leaf trembles with meaning.

Every tree and bush offers revel and rhyme.

Every brook sings sweetly of a tune from another land.

I hear it everywhere.

Under my chair, in laughter, in tears.

It perches on the feeder and roams in the woods.

It calls my name always to come play,

to paint and draw and make much.

This is why I have such a hard time wasting any minutes.

For even while staring out a window

I’m seeing and hearing …

and trying to decipher what I’m to do with all this beauty.

-jpe

*********

I have been making a concerted effort to just sit and stare out a window. Or to sit outside, which is definitely my preference, regardless of the yo-yo weather we are having here in NC. My intention each day is to be aware of where I am, look up, take in the surroundings of what my daily life brings. I’m drawing and sketching more of this in an effort to sink deeply into these moments. Or at least for the time period it takes to draw what I see out the window, or whilst sitting in our living room, or my studio. I’m also coming home from daily walks and sketching something I’ve seen. This is often from memory, but sometimes from a photo. That first drawing was made from a photo I took while walking at Reynolda Gardens last week. Nearly every step was so full of drawable-ness I could scarcely breathe let alone snap a pic with my phone.

All the world alive with loveliness. It is sometimes too much for me. I have to reign it in somehow and just be content with only one drawing, or just a sketch or two. I wish, oh golly how I wish, I could take in all that I see and hear and transpose it into my sketchbook. The doing of these drawings is less about having something to show, and more about grafting into my being all that I see, all that I hear. To somehow tattoo onto my heart and mind these lovely things so that in bleaker times I can remember them. So that when beauty is scarce, my heart is trained to look for, find and record the flowers that are blooming next to the carnage of a dying bush.

Dawdling does not come as easy for me as it does for my dear oldest daughter whose words open the poem. I am drawing inspiration from her and making an effort to dawdle more, to “waste” a few minutes or more (if indeed it is a waste!) by just looking, resting my eyes on what is around me, and holding my hands at bay for a little while before they burst into lines and splattered paint. I know it is not a waste. Not at all. It is the crucial ingredient for an artful life.

I hope you can dawdle a bit today too!

******

For more on dawdling, drawing, seeing our lives, and living with artful eye…

check out…

A practice of drawing your life in a sketchbook.

And…

Too Much

If you peeled your eyes away

to give them a break

to rest from so much seeing

to see what might be discovered in reality…

If you pulled your nose back from the glass and stone

from the screen and window

to inhale something new, or just stop breathing the fumes…

If you covered your ears

and stopped listening to tripe, to lies, to bait…

What would you hear?

What would you smell?

What would you see?

Sometimes I feel it – too much seeing.

Sometimes my breathing is labored from so much pressing my nose where it need not be.

Sometimes my ears are tired from so much hearing of what I do not need.

I step back. I close my eyes.

I shut the computer and the phone.

I listen to silence.

Perhaps to song.

And I breathe.

And I create.

And I relax.

********

More and more I’m finding I need periods of respite from online activity. Be it a few hours or even days, this unplugging allows me to rest, to really hear and see what’s going on in my life, to listen to what my pen wants to draw or write. It feels a bit like Spring. Something underneath the surface beginning to stir and waken, yet still waiting to come forth. I’m seeing it on my walks these days…tiny bright green spots coming up from the ground and peeking out the ends of limbs. It’s still very early days here in the South where winter could come roaring back just when the tender blooms think it’s ok to wave at us.

I need to step back, listen to the silence of so much growth. I need to keep watch over the tender shoots…breathing, creating, and relaxing into the change of seasons.

Sketchbook Chat #5: Ordinary Drawings from an Ordinary Life

It is my desire to resume my Sketchbook Chats, so I’m picking up where I left off and offering you the fifth one!

I was out in my backyard drawing the rhododendron bush that is showing off right by our deck. I had planned to video more outside there, but alas, a neighbor began to mow his lawn, so I came indoors to show more sketches, drawings, paintings, all from my sketchbooks over the last several weeks.

I hope you are continuing to draw and sketch your life, finding beauty along the way!

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

The Traffic Can Wait

I sit in a car. A lot.

It is not my favorite thing to do. At all.

On good days I can lay hold of the fact that all this driving around is actually due to great blessing in my life –

*an active, healthy,  involved-in-everything teenager.

*lots of classes in neighboring towns guiding women along their fiber journeys.

*errands to procure necessary provisions for a family.

But most of the time, in-between the grumbling, huffing and occasional involuntary expletive, I’m hunkered down, eyes-to-road, thinking where-to-next?

Unless I stop.

I have drawn before (as in the above drawing), these little aberrations of sight and wonder when I happen to turn my head left, out the driver’s side window and look. I don’t do it on purpose usually. It is often with a sigh and a desire to get off this flippin’ traffic-filled road and get on with the real stuff of life, that I turn my head.

I’m not expecting this. At all. But somehow in the fog of my negative thoughts, as I’m stopped in that never-ending automotive line, I can see…

A lovely meandering line of tracks, leading from underneath the bridge I’m on, up into rolling hills where light is carving out distinct shapes on a winter-hued landscape. How I would love to hop out of the car and go. To get on that train and follow those tracks to other towns, states, see the world a bit.

I’m enchanted by the view beside me, right where I am, even as my reverie is broken both by the formidable cement railing barring my jump onto the train, but also by the honking behind me as the traffic has grown impatient with my imagined train trip.

I get back into gear and lurch froward, smiling at the gift of being forced to stop in the midst of what I loathe, and being offered a view, a spot of beauty along my daily highway.

I need to stop and look more often as I drive.

The traffic will just have to wait.

P.S. I do not sit there in traffic drawing. Although perhaps I should! 🙂  I snap a picture with my phone to draw from later, thus a second gift of insight for the day.

The Verge of Chaos

I sat there in front of a photograph on the wall.

Straddling a cushioned cube at a local hangout spot, I was drawn to draw him. Ruffly shirt, dark eye peering out of stark value shifts. My own eyes tracing the shapes, the connections between shapes, the value shifts, squinting in order to see better.

What shall I use? Emptying my zippered pen/marker/pencil pouch, I didn’t realize I was talking out loud. One of my fellow drawers offered – “Use charcoal! It begs for charcoal!” Yes, I know…but I don’t wanna use charcoal…I feel rebellious.

Now if you met me, your first thought would NOT be – Wow…here’s one rebellious chic! Middle-aged, ordinary mom, dressed in homegrown clothes…quite predictable I’m sure. But today I did not want to choose the predictable. I adore charcoal. It is effortless and magical and allows you to lay in values and adjust transitions on a dime. What I wanted today was ink and water and pen and watercolor. I wanted to see if I could tame something whose primary property is FLOW (charcoal does not flow on its own), and to attempt to wrangle it into something that looked like a portrait. Yes… fountain pen, water brush, watercolor paint.

There was only a moment’s hesitation before setting my fountain pen to paper. Just enough time to choose where to start my line…on the page as well as the face…right here, I think. Then it was off to the races. Well, the tortoise race of following the contours of invisible lines were values meet. Not drawing a nose, just the shapes, where I see them. No pencil first, just gut and years of experience guiding me.

When all was said and done, or at least when I declared that the sketchbook paper couldn’t take anymore paint, that the flow I had been wrangling and taming was on that lovely verge of flowing right off the page, when I sat back and felt that it could stop in this most interesting place…I knew…

…I knew that it was not correct.

I will not go into all the ways this drawing (painting, sketch, whatever you want to call it) does not “match” the photograph, does not exhibit “correct” values or transitions, does not have perfectly measured shapes. What I will say, is that it delights me. This sketch, based purely on itself and not on any standard or pre-existing image, is exactly what I had set out for –

Unpredictable, full of flow and splash and texture, all within certain quasi-delineated bounds that give the overall impression of a face. Yes. This.

This is why I love to draw. As I peer into another’s face, a landscape, a jumble mess on my desk, I get a glimpse of my own self, of my world, of life. I could care less whether anyone else likes it, or think it’s “good” or not. In fact, I want to care less and less what I myself deem it to be.

What I want is to keep on peering into things, drawing them in unpredictable ways, trying new approaches, and so somehow to live the whole of my life in that chaotic flow, trying to wrangle it within invisible bounds so that beauty can emerge. I want to care less about whether the values are correct, the shapes perfectly measured. I definitely do not want my life to match someone else’s.

I must follow where I am led…riding on pools of watercolor as it flows, blooms, and splatters in unpredictable ways. Following  an invisible line that only my Maker draws out for me. This way of living delights me. Scares me. But fascinates me and keeps me coming back to the pages of my sketchbook.

Roadside Word Picking

pickingwords

New Year’s Eve…I love Eve’s. They feel like that timeless space of hovering right before warp speed takes over. The eve of something begs for preparation, anticipation, reflection… a mindfulness about the next day and all that it will usher in. Christmas Eve feels like that, and so does New Year’s Eve.

The living room Christmas tree, my studio French tree, and all other decorations are down, packed away carefully and the house feels spacious and clear, ready for a New Year. I’m ready too! And excited for what 2017 might have in store. I know, full well, there will be challenges and perhaps even downright difficulties, sad and painful events. But I also know that making will be a huge part of the year ahead, just as it has been this past year and for so many  years of my life. It is what carries me, strengthens me, gives me joy. Creativity is the lens through which I see my life for the beauty that it is. Making things, be it drawings or paintings, knitted or crocheted items and now spinning wool and weaving wall-hangings, sustains me through thick and thin, in plenty and in want. As I make with my hands, it’s as if I’m holding a lifeline, grounding my feet to what is true, good and beautiful. Creativity allows me to take flights of fancy as it tethers and roots me to home and hearth. Living Artfully allows me to see beauty, as well as create it, in everyday, humble circumstances. I need this Artful way of living and I’m thrilled to continue in the New Year!

weavingspring

This week between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve been spending some time pondering. Pondering and writing go hand-in-hand for me and I’ve logged numerous pages as I’ve tried to make sense of and sort through what felt like a jumble of clutter in my creative life. 2016 seemed to end with way too many irons in the fire, an explosion of too  many directions and not enough time or energy to really do any of them well. As I’ve left a pen’s worth of ink on the page, a sorting has occurred. As I’ve pondered the year ahead, a couple of words stand out to me:

SLOW and SIMPLIFY

Both verbs, they go together well, one nourishing the other. In simplifying my life, it is apt to slow me down a bit. As I slow my pace, things will need to simplify naturally. Much of this is challenging me to indeed clear out a few things. But mostly it’s a call to live present in each moment as if it is the only moment, and breathe into it, slowing and simplifying my expectation of accomplishment. This past year I began working on this in my day to day life. I did not master it (I wonder if that’s even possible) and therefore will continue the work of slowing and simplifying, even if it is just one small thing at a time.

spinningwool

The shakedown of all this pondering has left me with a simpler way of seeing all that I do as a creative person. My work as a knit and crochet teacher, the video podcasts, blogging in numerous places, as well as  pattern writing, will all continue but on a lessened scale. My hope is that this will allow me to spend less time on a computer and more time with a sketchbook or fiber in my hands. I’m increasingly drawn to spinning and weaving, which hold in themselves this call to slow down and simplify. It amazes me how I’m drawn to certain kinds of craft which hold an inherent way of living with them. In this, in spending time making, I am more in touch with the beauty around me and I learn how to live my everyday life with grace and wonder.

abstractplay

I do have new ideas I’d like to see unfold in the New Year. But my gut tells me it isn’t now. Later. Perhaps even in the next year. For now, SLOW and SIMPLE is the way forward, relishing life, making with my hands, reminding myself and others that it isn’t about how MUCH you make, but HOW you make it…slow, gentle, and savored.

yummyweaves

All of this talk of SLOW and SIMPLIFY may seem so pie-in-the-sky! Even I myself, have a little scoffer sitting on my shoulder as I type: “Ha! This is gonna last you maybe the next hour, Jen, but wait ’til warp speed hits!” But to this I say that it’s not necessarily about being less busy. Life is full and seems to grow busier with each year. But this is more about a state of mind, a way of being in the midst of the busy-ness. Certainly I will need to pull back on what I say yes to. But I am committed to experiencing all of life with the same attention and slowness I give to drawing, or spinning, the same focus that’s needed for weaving and knitting. To grow in this capacity will be lovely. Yet even in the slowing and simplifying is a need to go slowly with it, simplifying the steps.

pickingwords2017

It all boils down to this: I plan on pulling off the daily path to sit each day and ponder. To draw the landscape around me. To knit the beauty into my heart. To weave wonder and grace into my life and offer it to others. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me here. Let’s savor together the work of our hands and the joy it brings us! Let’s encourage each other to go SLOW, to SIMPLIFY our distracted lives, and to live Artfully each day.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer