Wednesday, December 31, 2008


While browsing through a rather chichi shop on Berkeley's Fourth Avenue, I spied this image and had to have it. It is a work by Rudi Hurzlmeier from Berlin on an inexpensive postcard. I am enchanted by it and by the mind that could imagine it.

Some time ago, I spent ages looking on the Internet for boots like those of the crow. I always think of the granny boots I bought in my Hippie days, actual nun's shoes. I put colorful beads on the lace tips of those shoes and wore them under bellbottoms on my long walks around San Francisco. The black tooled leather was supple and the heels not too high. They were the best. I wish I had shoes like that again. Lucky crow.

So for the coming year, I'm going to try to have more fun, be sillier and laugh a lot more. Cruising through the art section of Pendragon Books, I found a book dedicated solely to cheese dishes, many of them quite beautiful. But imagine someone dedicating a huge chunk (no pun intended) of their life to cheese dishes--researching, photographing and then printing a definitive book on them. Well, why not? It did tickle me and I laughed aloud.

I've enjoyed my week off work so much. The time has flown by. One book-on-tape I listened to while puttering around my house was "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. I'd hoped for a few historical details of the period, but it was trash--poorly written and even inaccurate at the end, with the villain being hanged for his part in Thomas Beckett's murder in the cathedral. Not true, according to my history pinup Simon Schama: the knights were banished, but not prosecuted. And full of anemic prose with the book way too long. It's a frame for Follett to hang architectural details upon. Plot twists unconvincing, etc. Not recommended.

BUT--another book on tape by Horatio Clare was a real gem: "Running for the Hills; Growing Up On My Mother's Sheep Farm in Wales". An idyllic and raw childhood with an eccentric mother and hundreds of sheep far from civilization. And all described in really beautiful prose, poetic prose.

One more day of freedom. I'll babysit Los Bebes tonight while their mom goes to a Peruvian family party (dancing, card games and eating all night long). The kids and I will snuggle overnight and greet the New Year tomorrow morning.

HAPPY 2009 to the family and friends who occasionally peek at this blog to see what Granny Sue is up to.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Like Elizabeth II, One expects life to grow easier as One ages.

Not true. In all honesty, 2008 was one of the worst years of my life emotionally. I am hoping things around me stablize and go more smoothly in 2009--a new President, a new worldview, a new vision. A new start.
One of the happiest of my days in 2008 was on Thanksgiving. I got up early, packed a lunch and drove alone to Stinson Beach via the rain forest on the north face of Mount Tamalpais.

Boy, did I catch a lot of crap from family members for "opting out" on THE big American Holiday. But I was in dire need of a day just for me: a slow drive playing my own music (French cafe songs and Bach) through the lush green of the mossy trees and rocks, the fog shreds drifting over the heavily wooded hills. At the end, like the treasure at the end of the rainbow, the sea with a fairly clean beach. I enjoyed that day immensely. Then it was back to a hectic schedule and trying to figure out a more balanced life for myself. in the coming year.

At Christmas, I gave in to family wishes and spent the day at my house with my grandkids making decorations for my last-minute tree and trying to keep peace with battling factions. It worked out fairly well. I bought the kids a camping tent so they could have their own "clubhouse" where no grownups are allowed. The tent takes up my whole dining room, and my grandkids' "babies" (all their stuffed toys and animals) are inside but it keeps them from being too bored on rainy days when we can't go out.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


To continue on my last post, I watched the VP debate and was relieved that Joe Biden kept his verbosity in check (for once). When I've seen him give interviews in the past, he can go on and on. Because Palin didn't screw up, everyone said she was a success. Compared to Biden's facts and figures, I'd call her performance lame and superficial, especially since she--like Bush--can't even pronounce "nuclear".

Here's the address to Jack Cafferty's comment on CouricGate:

And just to show that Matt Damon isn't just a pretty face, one more comment address I came across:

Damon refers to Palin's stand that Creationism should be taught in school along with Evolution. Does she also believe in The Rapture? And this person could be the leader of the Free World.

Palin's role now is to play attack-dog on Obama, while McCain tries to look nice and gentlemanly. Her current message leads her folks to believe that Obama has "palled around with terrorists". This refers to Obama's contact with a former Weatherman Bill Ayers, who went underground around 1970 (while Obama was in elementary school).

[By 1976 or 1977...federal charges against Ayers and his wife were dropped due to prosecutorial misconduct (source: Wikipedia).]

Obama served on a charity board with Ayers in Chicago during the mid-90s, and Ayers was present at an organizing meeting in 1995 to kick off Obama's first election campaign for the Illinois State Senate. At that time, Ayers had a doctorate in elementary education and had worked to win a grant for $49.2 million over five years for public school reform in Chicago.

But how many Sarah worshippers will bother to look this stuff up? Or even question her?

I'm hoping/praying that McCain and Palin will trip themselves up in the next month. Right now, Obama's in the lead in the polls, although I caught Karl Rove (the Devil Incarnate) on the Fox Channel today saying McCain has the best chance to win. If Rove is involved in McCain's campaign, you can expect some nasty stuff coming up (see Bush's Brain, a film about Rove and his dirty tactics---against McCain himself).



Saturday, September 27, 2008


Last Monday was our most recent Equinox. Instead of my usual biannual reflection and brainstorming, I've been pursuing a crash course in mental illnesses and how to deal with them. I'm also establishing boundaries and researching the "what if?" factor.

What if this person is arrested for unlawful behavior?

What if this person refuses to take medication that can help them (common with the mentally ill)?

What if they turn on me or suddenly disappear for weeks or months (another common pattern)?

What I find amazing is our ignorance as a culture on the subject of mental illness. Learning about it is enlightening. So many of us hide our experiences with mentally ill loved ones or refuse to speak or work publically to change the myths and stigma around the illness.

Such as saying "She's bipolar" instead of "She's got bipolar disease." A small but important linguistic definition.

In the meantime, I'm also in a group--for myself--where we are learning cognitive behavior therapies for our own anxiety and depression. We are basically reteaching ourselves to get out of old patterns and self-destructive or self-neglectful behaviors.

Add to that I had a small benign tumor the size of a small tomato removed from my right foot (7 stitches are still there), so at least I've had some time off the stressful job. What a blessing.

Funnily enough, the (Kaiser) doctors I've been in touch with all believe that our country should establish National Health Care. I love that. One doctor said McCain should have asked Hillary to be his VP partner. He also said with McCain's medical history, McCain is almost bound to have a recurrence of fatal cancer within the next 4 years. That leaves us with a moose hunter for President who will probably try her best to make abortion illegal along with a bunch of other medieval notions.

Looking at our national political situation, I keep thinking: "You couldn't make this up if you tried."

More soon I hope.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I'm always delighted when September comes around; I begin humming Brecht's "September Song". Summer isn't my favorite time. If I were across the Bay in SF with fog nearly every night, I'd be happy. Here in my sunny spot in Oakland, fog is a rarity. My little house faces west and during hot spells, my house warms up like an oven.

Today was my granddaughter's first day of kindergarten and I went with her mom and little brother to pick her up. She was quite poised with her Hello Kitty backpack and polka-dot shoes. Her teachers, Miss April and Miss Johnson were very sweet. My daughter-in-law, kids and I went out for burritos afterward.

I was surprised when logging into my blog to see that I've completed 100 posts. There are sometimes long spells in between them and I feel bad about that. But my life is full of demands of work and family.

Someone very close to me has developed what seems to be a mood disorder/mental illness and it is disconcerting, upsetting, gut-wrenching, but most of all exhausting. I've never been very good with boundaries and this has been a struggle for me. There's a lot of good info on the Net (and a lot of bad info) and I'm reading some books, researching it when I can. So scary and hard to understand because behaviors are not rational, sensible or predictable. Just "crazy". And not many of us can take much of that, even from a loved one.

On the bright side, we liberals have a good chance to kick the Republican bastards out and start cleaning up their god-awful mess. While watching Hillary's speech, I was delighted she mentioned Universal Health Care many times.

If this country provided Universal Health Care, I think our entire economy would radically change. I worked at shit jobs for years just to have insurance for my son and myself and I still work a job I'm not crazy about for the benefits. We could have an entrepeneurial revolution as well as a new Green Economy. So much potential.

My favorite example of revolutionary thinking is a project in Africa in a tiny village where people (meaning women) had to walk miles daily to fetch water. An engineer put in a playground-style merry-go-round that provides the energy to pump water from the distant source into the village so the women now have freedom from that chore. The kids of course love playing on the merry-go-round so there is energy to spare. Brilliant!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The original of this poster used the "F" word, so I substituted the "L" word instead. I posted it on my high school website as a bit of fun, but one ex-classmate complained, so I decided to move it to a more personal space.

I guess the New Yorker Obama cover cartoon spurred me on to post it originally--what a bad choice by the New Yorker editor. It will probably backfire on the conservatives.

Went to see "The Dark Knight" and had to wait in line, even with tickets. It was good, Heath Ledger was amazing, but the writing, especially at the end, was a bit confusing. Later rented "In Bruges" what was much more substantial and moving. Three great actors with a terrific script and lots of moral questions against a backdrop of centuries. Really an amazing film if you don't mind the British and Irish propensity to use the "F" word in between every other word. Ralph Fiennes just gets better and better.

Friday, July 04, 2008


After two months of working at my civil service job again, what I notice most is how stinky currency is. It is DIRTY, full of sweat, human cells and all kinds of yuck. As a coworker said to me about her future at this job: "I think I can sit in shit for a few more years." What we do for pensions....

I'd hoped to sleep in late this morning for the holiday, but my next-door neighbor began some sort of major excavation in his yard which sounded like a buzzsaw was working its way through my southwest wall. So up I got at 8 am. I've been melting old beeswax candles for a project and house smells good. Also working on some graphics for my soon-to-be up and running online business. It took a couple of months for the city to clear my studio address for a business address. So now I've got to get serious.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I've been indulging in a DVD-fest of a BBC show named "Torchwood", a spinoff from "Doctor Who". It's one of those shows/movies that is so bad it's good. It's been called the "Doctor Who for Adults" and "MI-5 On Speed". Low-budget, silly plots, sex everywhere with everyone--like a soap opera, but with aliens. And starring John Barrowman, a not-very-good actor, but just amazing to look at. He looks like a handsome Tom Cruise. I've always seen something feral in Cruise; Barrowman looks like a young gay Superman. Watching "Torchwood" is just another way to waste time. But there are some very funny moments in this series. Here I've rented the first season at $4 a pop and then found the episodes are on YouTube. I know it isn't legal. But it's so convenient. And it's probably not mentally healthy. But better than network shows.

I confess to being a lover of language. Watching my two-year old grandson learn to speak is just amazing to me. First he found his important nouns. Then a few verbs, then simple combinations. Now he's stringing them together artfully. His older sister has always been subtle. She is very circumspect about what she needs or wants, even with people she knows well, so her language development took a very different curve. She still has a slight speech impediment that is endearing: to say "rolling around on the grass", she says "wolling awound on the gwass". And still calls the TV remote the "merote". Despite these child speech patterns, she has always been like a very cute little old lady. She's prissy and meticulous with her dolls and clothing.

My grandson is direct and stubborn. If you don't understand him, he just keeps going until you (silly adult) get it. At two years old, he's bigger than his petite five-year old sister. His voice is very low and has a drone to it. I think he'll inherit his grandfather and father's "Big Voice", as we call it.

I work with a lot of African-American women. The language I hear daily varies from almost King's English to Hood and Luisiana patois. And the residents of Berkeley I deal with daily are from every background imaginable. Still, the tiring part of my job is the inner politics. Like walking on eggshells. I try to avoid the gossip but it is everywhere. I have, finally, learned to take gossip with a grain of salt. I should gobble up every bit of intersting language I hear and hoard it. My latest favorite is from Terry Pratchett's "Witches Abroad" in which he describes the understanding of human nature as "thinkology".

Monday, May 26, 2008


Fay Weldon's first novel was titled "The Fat Woman's Joke". It's about a woman whose husband insist they go on a diet together. Eventually, out of frustration, the wife leaves him and moves into a basement apartment where she cooks and eats and eats and eats. I think of my current state as The Fat Lady's Revenge. Upon whom? Myself? The world? Most of my family members have packed on weight as they got older (no excuse).

I am now (at age 58) heavier than I've ever been, including when I was pregnant. When I was in my teens in high school, I remember reaching 120 lbs and feeling horrified that I'd let myself go. That was before we had terms like anorexic or Women's Lib.

I am tired. After five sweet months off my job on Workers' Comp, I've been back at work for a month and am again working like a serf in Old Russia. When I get home all I want to do is eat and sleep. No excuse, I know. Years ago when I was running several miles a day, I could eat anything I wanted and stay a size 8. No more. Old joints rule out running. (No excuse.) I could set up my bicycle with a stationary bike stand but haven't gotten around to it. (No excuse.) And on and on.

Funnily enough, a lady I know was heavy and had stomach bypass surgery. She's lost over 100 lbs, I'm sure. To me, she doesn't look right. She is big boned and very pleased to be wearing a size 8 (at about 5 foot 8 inches). But to me, it still isn't healthy. Not that being overweight is healthy. But doing it that way, I don't know...

On a lighter note:
Last month, I stopped by Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley to get a little sewing gizmo. I also looked at the cotton knit fabrics which cost between $8.50 and $14/yard. I wanted something green and Springy for Mayday/Beltane. Decided against it.

Made the schlepp to SCRAP in San Francisco the next Saturday and bought two different colors of green cotton stretch material for about $1.50. The $1.50 included about 3 yards of a cream cotton knit fabric as well. All I need is the time to cut it out and stitch it up.

I nearly had last weekend off when my daughter-in-law planned a trip out of town for her and kids. But it cancelled at the last minute and I had the kids overnight on Saturday/Sunday. As my granddaughter put it "It's a tradition!" And I do love them sitting on each side of me while we read books together, leaning on me like I'm a strong oak tree. I love how they trust me and hug and kiss me in the pure way children do. We watched a movie about Echo the Elephant and her African family with me skipping the death and mating parts (ever see a bull elephant's erection? God Lord! I don't want to scar the kids for life.) But it wore me out.

Projects on my list:

-Dye some linen fabric and kids' tees with procion dyes in robin's egg blue and
other summer shades.

-Make some clear stamps from beeswax and polymer.

-Exercise for a change--before the days get short again.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Going through old photos, I came across this window display I liked in Paris years ago. I couldn't say why I love it, but it does contain a whimsical fabric "sculpture" made from a tailors sleeve ironing board as well as a Cocteau sketch on one of the book covers.

It's been a long time since I've travelled and now that I'm almost 60, I'd want to travel at least second class. Where would I go?

To be honest, Paris and London are way too big for me to enjoy, except the British Museum in London--worth the trip anyday. The south of France is much nicer, the people down to earth instead of snooty and cosmopolitan.

I'd love to see Patagonia, and the outer Hebrides (breath that clean air again, like honey). Travel around Ireland and Scotland more. Canada is more realistic, I suppose.

All dreams: no money for such luxuries right now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've spent days and weeks searching for a method of transferring my images to fabric.

Sounds simple, right?

The most frustrating experience was doing a silkscreen test print on paper which came out looking PERFECT! Then went to tee shirt fabric and the silkscreen came out too light. What's a woman to do?

Iron-on transfers are icky and too chemical. Stencils are good--I did a stencil of birds and stars on my granddaughter's teeshirt with nontoxic glow-in-the-dark pink paint which was fun. But not professional looking enough. I want stunning stuff.

Research, research, research. Found more info on solvent transfers (too toxic), acrylic medium (possible but probably stiff) and my new great hope, Bubble Jet Set. Tested it on muslin and it worked great with a little fading. Great with ancient stone rubbing images:

Tried linen, and tricky, too heavy, got stuck in printer. I will prevail.

Meanwhile, the weather is stunning, Los Bebes are growing like weeds and need Spring clothes. Read a clever mystery novel called Three Bags Full.


Saturday, March 22, 2008


(above: Pictish Cat stone carving circa 800 AD)

The last month has been a slog so no posting. But things are looking up!

For one thing, I found that my very favorite art supply store is still alive and well. For years while working in San Francisco's financial district, I'd spend lunch hours at ARCH art and drafting supply shop. It saved my sanity. Lately while struggling with fabric printing methods and looking through the yellow pages for San Francisco, I found my darling shop, now a warehouse, on Missouri Street.

So off I went and ARCH is better than ever! They even carry Gocco printers from Japan which were out of production for years until a movement, yes a movement, called "SAVE GOCCO" brought them back. So I was in crafter's heaven for a while.

Then in the process of trying just one more thing to get my designs on to fabric, I found a craft ink at Dharma Trading that works like a charm! So I'm creating printed teeshirts dyed to Easter colors for the kiddies in my life. Next step: testing a photopolymer to make my own stamps.

Friday, February 22, 2008


More rain. The hills are as green as they will ever get here in California, but I crave more color. So I colored some cotton shirts yesterday with procion dyes from Dharma Trading. Getting ready for Spring and St. Pat's Day.

My fun and games with silkscreening have taught me that I should contract with a firm that does silkscreening as a business. My bathtub is stained with photo emulsion and fabric dyes, and there just aren't enough good results to show for it. Trying to do everything yourself can really be a curse.

Read Frank Delaney's "Ireland" which went on forever, but was amusing enough. Now reading Terry Pratchett's "Wintersmith" which is a lot more fun. The Wee Free Men always lift my spirits.

Back to work in a few weeks and that means a huge life change. I'm working to avoid the depression that is already invading my mind and space.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Carpal release surgery was performed on my right wrist on Jan 17th--and the healing curve has been much different than that of the left wrist. The left surgery healed quickly and neatly, and feeling came back into my left fingertips immediately. This right wrist incision was icky and oozing for two weeks and is still very painful and puffy, but ice works wonders. I have no tingling and pain in the right fingertips any longer, but the feeling hasn't come back yet either. My doctor says to give it time.

In the meanwhile, I've been researching and testing and messing around with a screenprinting lightbox setup. With rain and clouds for the past weeks, I've had nearly no chance to sun-develop my expensive little StencilPro silkscreen units. I also decided I wanted control over the process so a sunprint doesn't get ruined by a cloud passing by and blocking the sun's UV light.

I spent $40 at OSH on a fluorescent light fixture and then had to try to figure out how to wire it. I finally spliced a cheap lamp plug onto the "hot" and neutral wires in the shop unit with its two 20w cool white rods. I use an extension cord to turn it on and have the unit lying in an Ikea storage box usually full of my grandson's wooden blocks. The covers slide over it and I use that to hold the image and StencilPro unit. I can later use it for real, grownup silkscreening when my wrists have healed and I have enough control to coat a screen evenly.

My first lightbox test was with the Dotted Horse image up above. More on this later (if it works and I don't flip all my circuit breakers).

For the last weeks, I've been driving around to and from physical therapy, paying bills, visiting used bookstores, and watching things on the street. While in Emeryville, I thought I saw a new fountain shooting water into the air near Harlan Avenue. Then I realized this wasn't a fountain. A car had hit a fire hydrant and the water was gushing straight up into the air 10-15 feet. Which was why when I'd flushed the toilet at Home Depot a few minutes before, there'd been no water pressure.

There are so many interesting things going on in the street, but when you work inside an office, you miss it all.

Hooray! The lightbox worked. Now I've got to complete the process and I'll write more about it when it's completed. Glad I did it, because it's pouring outside again today.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


My little house is my own again. My beloved visitor has found his own place and has been straight for awhile. Every morning I wake up knowing it wasn't just a nightmare, and say a quick prayer that all remains smooth for him, for me.

I'm back on my "sabbatical", icing/massaging my post-op left wrist each day and preparing to get the "release surgery" of my right carpal tunnel. What is this surgery? The large, tough tendon stretching over the base of the palm is severed, completely cut. That releases the nerve bundles and blood vessels that have been constricted. The tips of my right hand have been without feeling for years. It's like wearing gloves.

After the left surgery in November, I was thrilled to feel texture again with my left fingertips. The surgery on the right wrist will take longer to heal since the damage is much more advanced. Thank God for Workers' Comp. (But then, the work damaged my wrists in the first place.)

I'm looking through my graphics books collection for goodies to print onto babies' and children's organic cotton shirts. Graphics like this:


Years ago, when a friend adopted a baby, I sent her a fancy little girl's sleeper. She wrote back thanking me, saying now she wouldn't have to wrap the baby in newspapers. To me it was such a thrill to buy little girly clothes after raising a boy myself. All he wanted was blue, blue, blue.

Now that I have two grandbabies age almost-2 and almost-5, I am disheartened by the lack of natural fabrics and unique design in kids clothes. Living near the Temescal District of Oakland, I see lots of babies with Jimi Hendrix teeshirts and such like. I'd like to add my own twist to the younger generations in natural fiber clothing.

If I'd had a daughter, I'd probably have dressed her like this:


And she may have hated me for it. But especially for children, I think clothes should be comfy, warm and fun. Also adorable, as if kids aren't adorable enough.

I'm exploring stencils and silkscreening techniques. More to come. Time for bed.