Archive for the ‘getting old’ Category

The Bare Minimumn.

March 23, 2019

I have been a maid. I wasn’t very good at it. I was too slow.

I was thinking of all my minimum wage jobs after reading a review of the memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. I haven’t read the book. I wanted to, but the review irritated me and now I’m not so sure I do.

Minimum wage jobs I’ve had:


Cashier at a clothing store

House painter – interiors.

Nude model (pardon me; now called life studies model).

Picture framer.

Book store clerk.

Library clerk.

The worst, hardest of those was nude model. I don’t like being naked in front of a room full of young strangers. I was really good at it, having spent 5 years at an art college. I knew how to to hold 15 second, 60 second, five minute poses. The killer were poses that lasted not just a day but weeks. It’s impossible to find any position that doesn’t hurt after a little while. So you hold it and are in pain. Sometimes you lose feeling in a limb. Still, you hold that pose.

The floors were always filthy and the rooms often cold. Sometimes a teacher would find me a space heater so I would have a circle of heat focused on one spot of my leg which would leave a round area that looked like I had an odd sunburn.

I was paid $7.00 an hour to start and each year we got a .25 cent raise. No work to be had on holidays, or school breaks. So we would scramble to find private jobs for teachers who held their own drawing circles, or art clubs.

But that isn’t the point.

I made minimum wage at the indie bookstore. I loved that job. But could I survive on it? No. The store was open 364 days a year, from 8 to midnight. The owner made damn sure that no one ever exceeded what would constitute part time. The only full time employees were the accountants. We had to find our own substitutes when we took vacations.

I loved the job even though the owner never read, and probably didn’t own a book.

I loved it even though he and the chosen few would watch us through a big glass window from their high perch.

Being an artist with a husband who had a full time job with benefits meant I had some choice. The theory is that I would work for low pay but still have time to be an artist and a decent parent. Neither of which was actually true, but never mind.

Eventually I found myself as a clerk in a library. A job that had a lovely ring to it. To this day, any time I tell people I work in a library most everyone responds “ohhhh, my dream job”. I began that job in 2005. It was my dream too. I worked for around $7.00 and hour. Same as at the book store, the frame shop, the nude modeling. The going rate for part time work in RI had not budged. I worked part time until October of 2016 when I applied for, and got a full time position or, as my husband and I joke, a “cushy union job”.

But before it was cushy I joined a growing group of part timers in my city of Cranston and growled at the city council to increase minimum wage. At last they did. To $8.00 an hour. Now it is $10.50.

When I was a maid I was paid by the job. I earned more than minimum wage in spite of my slowness. I had a certain amount of autonomy.

That isn’t the point.

The point is that minimum wage is minimum wage. Doesn’t matter how pretty the surroundings. You are hired help. You can be fired without cause. And, should anything happen to keep you from getting to your job such as a sick child, sick husband, broken car, traffic and in my case, a broken shoulder, you will not get one dime until you return, if you are allowed to return.

I was allowed to return. I had eleven years under my belt. But no income while I was out.

The point is, that whether you are a maid or work in a library or stand around naked for people to draw you, the value you hold to them is the same. You are worth the absolute minimum wage.

The point is, that is a shitty way to treat people.

The point is, I don’t think I need to read a book about it. I could write my own.


Now I remember why the interview with Stephanie Land irritated me so much.

She has made some money from this book (which is good. I revere all who write and make to the point of publication and earnings from their words). But she said that should she ever hire someone to clean her home she would leave thoughtful gifts.

How about instead, as my parents did, contributing to their social security? Paid time off? A decent wage? Those are thoughtful. A tchotchke is something more to clean.


Snowy Night in New York City. 

January 19, 2017

During a visit to see my mother in Brooklyn, I went out to see art work, which many of you know is a difficult decision.

Snow began to fall in the afternoon.

I went to see the Drawings of James Siena first. There was construction in the tunnels. I had to take a train, and a bus and walk a lot. I was icy cold when I arrived.

I did love the exhibit. I was sad there wasn’t a catalogue.

James Siena

I went to see Michelle Grabner’s cast Afghan blankets. That was a great show too.

Cast Afghan by Michelle Grabner.

I could not warm up.

I wanted a glass of wine, and a small hot food thing. All around were coffee shops,  but I did not want coffee.

My last stop was meant to be the Met Breuer to see the Kerry James Marshall work.

I walked a lot. I took a subway. I took a bus cross town.

I was freezing, and very hungry.

There were bars. The prices for little hot food treats were crazy high. I couldn’t justify it but then I could.

I walked past the Café Carlyle. I wished I could afford it.

I went to the bar downstairs in the Whitney. It looked cozy.

I went to the man seating people and asked for a seat at the bar. He said it would take a little while. It was busy, bustling.

I walked away and began to cry. Of course, when I cry these days it is about more than being cold, hungry.

Suddenly, the Man Who Seats people was at my side. He put an arm around my back. He asked me if I was okay. He took me to the bar and got me a seat. He seemed to have assigned every person at the restaurant to make sure I got water, wine, a small food thing. I looked at the prices. I could afford an endive salad, and a glass of wine. I am embarrassed to say what I paid for this. A lot. The wait staff glanced at me now and then to see that I was not crying anymore. That I was okay. It was genuine. Then they brought me a dessert. It was icy cold but I ate a little because they were so nice to give it to me.
When I finished and had to meet a friend upstairs I thanked the Seating Man, whose name is Robert Banat. He works at Flora, in the Whitney. He is a very very kind man.

Robert Banat

Kerry James Marshall’s paintings were a tour de force.

Kerry James Marshall

I was tired and sad when I got back to Brooklyn, but I was also so grateful.

Life is complicated these days.

Coda: Robert Banat gave me a business card. He photographs famous artists in their studios. I sent him an e mail, thanking him again. I sent him a few images of my work, because he seemed to care about who I was. I did not hear back. I wish I would have.

Unfortunate Timing.

February 1, 2016

broken There was a television show I liked very much called Once and Again. It was a quiet show, basically a family drama. In one of the last episodes of the series, a character named Karen, who has had a rough time of it, gets very depressed. Unable to help herself alone, she eventually seeks the help of a therapist. It’s a slow process, climbing back into life, but she does it. One day, near the end of a therapy session, she laughs about something inconsequential, and she knows she will be okay. She knows she will be happy. But before she has a chance to announce her return from the dark side to her family and friends; before she has time to enjoy the lightness of being she has worked to achieve, she is hit by a car.

This was on my mind last night as I struggled to feel comfortable enough to sleep with my recently broken shoulder.

I’d spent the last 4 months trying to regain my sense of joie de vivre. I had been so sad, so crushed by an unexpected event and for a while there, even though I knew I would be okay, it seemed to be taking much longer than it should have. I was scared of never feeling really joyful again.

Then, like an unexpected delivery of flowers, there it was. I felt a surge of inner strength, a desire to move forward and a belief that I could not only heal, but be BETTER. Feeling this was was joyful in and of itself. I’d come home during an 8 hour shift to walk Alice, check e mail, and head back to work. It was dark, but not the dark of December. It was cold, but not icy cold. I was happy to walk my dog and I was enjoying the pop tunes playing in my ear thanks to my trusty old i pod. I was aware that I felt happy the way you are aware of health after a long illness. Alice and I were just a few houses from our own red door. There was some residual snow and ice from Rhode Island’s one real snowfall, but for the most part the remaining patches were almost pathetc. They certainly were no match for this new me, drunk on happiness. I had boots on, with treads. My left hand held Alice’s leash and my right hand was in my coat pocket, wrapped around the I pod. I stepped on one of those small spots of ice. I lost my balance and fell forward. I knew I was broken.

This is the first time in my life I have ever broken a bone. It is the humerus, a common break according to Google. During that four month period when I was so sad, I kept hoping for some small something bad to happen to me. Nothing too serious, or too long term. But something that would allow me to have time to cry, to be weak without being seen as weak. I wanted a little t.l.c., a little extra kindness. I craved a chance to just step out of my life for a few days. It’s ironic then that on this day when I was glad for my strength and resolve, I was taken out by a 6 inch circle of ice.

There is no moral to the story. It was an accident. My plans for moving forward are put on hold. I did not break my arm because I was under stress. I broke it because I fell on cement. I know I’ll be able to resume my plans when my bone heals. I was happy and that happiness is not going away. In spite of the pain I have now, and the weeks of recovery ahead of me, I know that happiness is inside of me. It just has to wait a bit longer to reveal itself. I can wait.


Moral Compass

October 7, 2015

Inspector Foyle

Inspector Foyle



I have been knocked off course.

I need an ally like my father, or D.C.S. Christopher Foyle, to help me find my way.

My dad was the only person I have known who could actually change a person’s mind about something they thought they believed without ever raising his voice.

When I was in first or second grade at St. Hilda’s & St. Hughes Sister Mary Margaret was angry at me. I was terrified. She can’t have been more than 4″5″ but she was a nun, and nuns are fierce. I was afraid to go back to class. My father said he would come with me to school and clear up any misunderstanding. That prospect terrified me even more than the tiny but furious Sister Margaret. My dad was insistent. He was at least 5’10” and he had on a suit and tie. He looked impressive, strong, tall. He held my little hand and we walked into my classroom together. I sat at my desk. He strode up to Sister Margaret’s desk and leaned down to her. I don’t know what he said because it was a quiet exchange, but I had no more trouble from Sister Margaret. And I felt the way every child lucky enough to have a parent who believes them feels. I felt stronger.

My dad died in 2007 and I have found myself thinking of him, needing him in a way I had not when he was sick. His illness was long and by the time of his death I was not stunned. I was exhausted. Our whole family was tired, depleted by the medical community, by mismanaged care, by faulty diagnosis. I felt grown up, fully adult. I was a wife, a mother.

I have been thinking about my set of adults because certainly I should know some heavyweights by now. But somehow when you are supposed to be the wise grown up you feel small. When something happens to knock you for a loop you want to turn to someone with wisdom, gravitas, inner strength, and age.

Thus my love of Christopher Foyle. Nearly every night since I have been engaged in this dilemma I sit with my husband to watch 90 minutes of Foyle’s War. Last night he sent a priest off to be hanged. Of course, the bad guy was not really a priest. He was a German spy. But Foyle was not intimidated by the irritation of the clergy who tried to shoo him away, nor by the idiot superior who had to beg Foyle to come out of retirement to fix his blunders. He was quiet, wise, kind, strong, clear, and ethical. I want to reach inside my t.v. set and pull him out into my world, just until this is sorted out. I know he would immediately see wrong from right.

Alas my dad is not alive. Mr. Foyle is really Michael Kitchen and he is not available to help me.

But I know right from wrong.

I, along with my husband and my very excellent friends will have to be the adults. I have to be my own compass. My dad gave me the tools I need. I just have to find true north, and follow the arrow. It will be okay. And when my son finds himself faced with his own Sister Mary Margaret, or something more formidable, I’ll be his adult.


Every Day

June 20, 2015



a customary or regular course of procedure.

commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity:

the routine of an office.

regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
My daily routine:
Wake at 9.
Walk Alice.
Make coffee.
Work. Drink wine. Work.
Go to bed.
     I am drawn to books and movies about people who have routines and who sometimes become the notable person they are because of them. Some find the idea of doing the same thing each and every day depressing and limiting. But I see a romance in it.
I like quiet stories of transformation by people who are extremely disciplined and evolve into a zen master of their lives.
     An example is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murikami. He was already a brilliant success. But I loved reading his account of going from a jazz club owner with a terrible smoking habit and a soft belly to a writer who runs nearly every day in every sort of weather. In his short, beautiful memoir he writes about starting by just jogging a few steps each day, and how difficult it was to do even that. He would put his sneakers by his bed each night, so that he would not have a moment to think about doing something else.
I loved reading about Edith Wharton, who wrote each day from 6:00 a.m. until noon, leaving the rest of her days free to live life.    I love reading about the long difficult days of nuns and monks and ballet dancers.
     I remember a novel about a college bound boy in India. He realizes one morning that he has nearly destroyed his chance of going to college by avoiding all the work he should have been doing during the past three years. One morning, so anxious he can barely breathe, he creates a chart mapping out on a neat grid every paper he must write, every book he must read, every test he has to pass, and how many hours he must study in order to set things right. His family is poor so he has to figure out how to do all of this in addition to his chores and family obligations.    He does it. I read that book when I was in my 20’s. It had an ugly blue cover with poorly designed black type and I can’t remember the title. But I’ve never forgotten reading about that boy and feeling like no matter how far off course I’d gotten in my own life I could find my way back if I created a careful plan and worked at it each day.
     My favorite part of  Orange is the New Black (the book, not the television show) is when Piper utilizes the old, neglected race track at the prison,  and during her sad time paying for her crime she runs round and round and round thinking about everything from her own misdeeds to the injustice of prisons in America.
sleeping Alice.
     Sometimes I think that if I could just wake at 5:00 a.m. and leave sleeping Alice next to sleeping Andy on our bed, make my coffee and head to my studio to work for a few hours, I might become the success I think I should be by now. I imagine looking out my studio window at the dark or the light, depending on the time of year, and sitting down to work. I imagine this discipline would carry over into other parts of my life. Like Mr. Murikami and Piper I would also become fit by running each day a little more and a little more.
     The closest I have ever come to putting this plan into action was when I created my Ulysses Gloves. I set about copying all of Ulysses onto Rubber gloves. I worked on it all the time, bringing the Gloves and the book with me when I had to be away from my studio. I wrote on the Gloves at my son’s voice and dance lessons, in airports, at my mother’s home in Brooklyn until I finished. I had an exhibit, and by all measures the finished work is a success. But it did not transform me.  What is it that I want? Do I need to see my name in Art in America? Do I need to have a big award under my belt? None of the people I so admire did the things they did for glory or fame.
     My drawings are often made by repeating a line again and again until a large portion of a page is covered. Even my Boston dealer, who has known me for more than a decade seems surprised at the commitment I have to spending so much time on so detailed and dense, so tedious an artwork. But making these small drawings brings me close to that feeling I seek.  I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Sometimes doubt enters my mind and I slow down, or stop. I wonder if the drawing is worth the time after all. It’s a terrible feeling. Most often, when that happens I step away and go back to work later. But every now and then a drawing is a failure, and in spite of days of line making there is nothing left to do but throw the work into my trash bin.
IMG_0852     In addition to my drawings I am currently working on a stitching project that is an homage to my mother, as my Ulysses Glove project was an homage to my dad. I feel completely unsure of this project and it will take years to complete. I worry all the time that the project does not merit the time I’ll put into it. But does that matter? Is my dedication that is the point? I don’t know.
     I’ll keep blogging however inconsistently for my dozen or so followers (and for myself). I’ll keep working on my drawings and my crazy Mona project. Other than that, and walking Alice every day, I’m not sure what to put into my daily routine so that I can morph into the artist I think I should be by now, if it isn’t too late.

I Had A Toothache.

November 11, 2014

All women think there is one pair of jeans in the world that is the perfect pair. The pair that will make you look slim, cool, stylish and will transform every ratty top into a smashing fabulous accessory. This is why there could be a series called Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, about magic jeans.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. But I foolishly believe in the magic jeans. I thought I found them just over a week ago at T.J.Maxx. Not only magic, but discounted. I bought them. They look like this:

Joe jeansI wore them. I thought they looked great.

Then I got a toothache and at the same time was expecting company  from out of town, so tried to push toothache pain into recess of my brain. I was stoic. Company arrived on Friday. Toothache was there,  but bearable. Saturday I went out with company and husband to fine dining establishment I have wanted to go to for a very long time. Tooth hurt and pain was getting to be a nuisance. (Where do the jeans come in? you might wonder. Be patient.)

At beginning of meal, I ordered wine. I was afraid of fancy cocktails because I wanted booze I knew would act quickly to lower pain and elevate cheerfulness. Husband and company ordered cocktail called Infinite Fall. It was pretty. I tasted it, and knew it was the drink of my dreams. I ordered one.

The meal was the best I ever had and Infinite Fall was the best drink I ever had. I ate soft starchy yummy food. I was cheerful. I thought I was fine for the night. But, toothache came back with mighty roar. I scrounged around for old pills and tra la! Found codeine + acetaminophen. Took two. And a sleeping pill. Slept.

Sunday I had a very important event. Company, husband and I were going to see the 8 minute art movie of me, along with 11 other 8 minute movies of other artists at the impressive R.I.S.D. Museum. Before breakfast decided I’d better take two more codeine + acetaminophen to head off imminent pain. Wanted to look fab. Was going to wear magic jeans and random top and look cool & artsy. SBut something was wrong. Fast forward through being unable to keep head off floor, unable to eat breakfast or even crawl properly. Made valiant effort to climb upstairs, dampen unruly hair in shower. Put on magic jeans. Husband & company left me in semi coma on bed, wearing jeans and sweatshirt, to go to Museum. There was sleep. There was unpleasant sick. There was sleep.

Felt kind of normal Sunday, except for pain. Got proper medication from best ever dentist.

Company went home Monday. I went to work. Still had pain. Week proceeded in blur of pain and work and sleep. Finally, by Wednesday, there was light at end of pain tunnel.

By Friday I was ready to look chic again. Had art event. Looked for magic jeans. Could not find them anywhere. Looked the next day. Could not find them. Had I given them to Savers when I was in coma? Thrown them in trash? I looked again and again in closet. Found all other inferior non magic jeans. Was bereft and sad. Would have to wear non magic jeans.

The next day, I carefully, slowly, methodically looked at all hanging jeans, and lo & behold, saw the magic jeans. I put them on. I realized they are a little too big in areas, a little too stretchy. Not magic.

But my toothache is gone.



Are You Mad At Me?

October 13, 2014

IMG_0002I almost always have a list in my head of people I think are mad at me. It is a sign of my self centered-ness, of my insecurity, and of my knowledge that at least once a day I say or write something that makes someone mad at me.

But this list is of real friends. People I love and respect and who I know love, or at least like, and respect me. If I have gotten in touch with one of these people via phone or e mail or facebook and I don’t hear back in a timely fashion (that day, that hour, that minute), I  worry. When my son was young I would look at him and say “I think Lulu (fake name to protect the innocent) is mad at me”. I did this from the time he could have any sort of back and forth conversation with me, which was four. He would look up at me and say “mom, why would Lulu be mad at you?” in a reasonable, calm, reassuring voice. I would give him a list of why I thought Lulu might be mad and after a while he would convince me that I was being an idiot and I should just call Lulu again, or send a new e mail or even forget it. Eventually I would hear from Lulu and I would tell my wise son, because of course he was right and she was NOT mad at me. She was just busy with real life.

I am one thousand times better than I used to be and now I only think friends are mad at me once or twice a week. My son is in college so I can’t bother him about the list of angry friends in my head and for whatever reason I don’t find it soothing to tell my husband. When I tell him, in a somber and almost teary fashion, who I think is mad at me, he barely glances up from the newspaper or book he is reading or sports game he is watching. Instead I tell our dog Alice. She is  somewhat reassuring because she is never mad at me.

This  sounds funny, as do most neurotic tendencies when they are the neurotic tendencies of other people. But when it is your own self telling you that your friends are mad at you, it is sort of painful. Now that I am addicted to facebook and I have friends I have never met but still consider quite real, I have MORE people I can think are mad at me.

Sometimes they really are.

There is no real solution to this. I just want to put it out there because although I know I can be harsh and tactless and blunt I HATE to hurt anyone’s feelings. I love my friends, real and virtual and if I do not hear from you after I have written to you or called just know that I am sitting in my kitchen or studio with coffee or if it is evening wine and I am telling Alice that someone, maybe you, are mad at me. And though she will look at me with love she can’t tell me that they are not mad because as crazy as I am I know she can’t talk. So, write back or call back or send me a message back or something, even if it is to tell me you are mad as hell at me.


Approximately 186 miles x 2 x 8

July 26, 2014

I am in Brooklyn, again. This is around the 8th time I have come to Brooklyn since April.
This time, my oldest brother Paul is also here (a rarity). There are three of us. My two brothers, Mark and Paul, and me. Mom loves Paul best. It is a fact of our family, and we all know it. It’s fine. So what if when I arrive she completely forgets that I was ever coming, yet when he arrived she waited up until midnight, to let him in? And now, they are out for a nice stroll. I don’t mind, that when I ask if she would like to walk she screams “leave me alone and stop criticizing me!!!!”.

I walked the dog.

At home,I started the Stitching Mom project, barely:


This will be much more of a challenge than the Ulysses Gloves were. That little bit of stitchery took around four hours. I can’t even say why.

I had to take a break from my Ruled Un Ruled series.
Once I start a piece I become obsessed with it. It is all I want to do, and everything else goes out the window.

And that’s fine.



It's a beautiful summer day.
Mom is with her golden boy, and it takes some of the pressure off of me. They are still strolling. The dog and I are back.
And that's really fine.

It was the worst of times, relatively speaking.

October 9, 2013

It was the worst of times, relatively speaking..

Catching Up On Many Things

May 21, 2013

Oklahoma…of course this is #1 on my mind.

So so sad. And yet, questions do spring to mind. When to tactfully remind the senators, Tom Coburn and his colleague James Inhofe , that while we all share their grief, they did not share ours after Storm Sandy? They were both quite steadfast about voting against FEMA relief. And…considering that this is the third (at least) catastrophic tornado incident in the same place since 1999, is it wise to rebuild an entire city there again?

The summer of Jess

Very soon, at the end of May or beginning of June, I am going to Philadelphia to watch the installation of my Ulysses Glove Project take place at the esteemed Rosenbach Museum & Library. It will be my second trip there. The third will be to attend my talk, a party, a gala, and Bloomsday. A weekend of Museum events where I will be part of the hooplah. It is a dream come true. I only wish my dad could be here to see it. He would have been my guest of honor. I don’t think my mom has much, if any interest in it at all. I bought a fancy dress at the store Zuzu’s Petals, on Thayer Street. My friend Bernadette, who is from Paris, helped me choose it. She saved me from making the terrible mistake of buying a pink dress with black kitties on it. This one is all sophistication. Nicole Miller, mostly black. I wish I could get my hair done and also get my eye brows threaded.


I am working on a series of small drawings, all abstract, while I think about my next BIG project. I want to write a novel. I want to make another epic art work. But right now I am making mostly 6″ x 6″ drawings and enjoying making them. Here is one. Blue Circle-Red Circle

Also, I will have a glove piece shown at the R.I.S.D. Museum. Not talking much about it. It has been shrouded in secrecy, but it will happen. Opening, July 18, 2013. Here is a sneak preview.

The-Election-Gloves-(flag)Very exciting.


You’ll have to read my mom blog.

Blanche, the Cat

Blanche is our cat. She is about 12 years old. She is not a good cat. She is very pretty (I think) but she willfully poops and pees in areas near but not in her litter box. I have done everything that every book ever written has recommended. I have given her extra boxes, moved box around to be more convenient for her (not like she has anything else to do mind you), cleaned it and generally been very sweet to her. Sometimes she does her business just where it should be and then wham! She won’t. All the books say that cats do not do things out of revenge. They are wrong. I don’t know why she feels the need for revenge, but these are revenge poops. Here is what Blanche looks like.


My Son

He is almost finished with his junior year of high school. He is a teenager. I worry about him, but really, he is pretty great.

My Husband

I love him too. He is a newspaper man. We all know that’s a business that has big issues. He will be with me for all the hooplah at the Rosenbach and he came up with Summer Of Jess.