Hello again! Thanks for stopping by. The blog is on a short hiatus, while I'm working on a new page to showcase artwork. I'll be back soon.
I need a studio. It is an ongoing frustration of mine. When I was doing art for competitions and galleries, my husband created a studio in our basement. We installed color corrected lighting so that it was brightly lit no matter what time of day I was working. It wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough.
When I began to care for my mother, it was soon apparent that we'd have to move her to our city, and with that move came a lot of things from her house that we put in the basement until the time we could make better decisions. Ten years later finds me with a basement full of things I need to attend to and no studio space. As I started to sift through Mom's belongings, we once again were coming into a season of care giving and we moved Mike's parents to Grand Rapids. Again, we moved boxes of things into the basement to be dealt with at a later date.
After a few false starts in looking for studio space outside the house, I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and tackle the basement. I sorted through photos and memorabilia, sent things to various cousins, and barely made a dent. For a time, I gave up.
Lately, though, there have been stirrings in me. I've started refinishing a cabinet that's taking up a lot of space and there is light at the end of that particular tunnel. So much so, that I started rushing the finish on the last side of the cabinet and ruined it. After mulling over how to fix it, I realized I had to strip it down and start over. Twenty years ago, I would have plunged into anger, frustration and despair. Now, I just pray and ask the Lord to teach me through this experience, which is a much better way to go.
I've spent the morning stripping and sanding and reapplying the base coat surface. I've just sprayed the first layer and it is beautiful. Better than it was before.
It struck me how often I have to go back to the beginning. I fight against it (after all, I've already done whatever it is I have to start over), but if I do start over, the results are better. Which reminds me of when I had finished my art degree and was considering graduate school, but also considered an apprenticeship. I approached a professional portrait artist with my portfolio and degree in my hand to convince him to take me on as an apprentice. As he finished going through my portfolio, he looked at me and said, “You are woefully inadequate in the fundamentals.” Woefully inadequate. Yep. That's what he said.
I could have been offended. I could have looked for a different teacher or continued on to graduate school. Instead, I chose to start over and became a much better artist for it.
When you read scriptures, you find that God often speaks in metaphors. How often, I wonder, do I recognize the metaphors He's speaking into my life?
My mother and father were two very immature people who should have never married, nor should they have had children. By the time I was four years old, I was living with my grandparents. In contrast to my parents, Grandma Kate was a rock of faith that anchored me in a turbulent childhood, and her prayers continue to affect me to this day. Her life was hard: a hard childhood, a hard marriage, death of a child, prodigal children, and even raising a grandchild until her very hard death. She was a woman of faith and prayer, but at the time I couldn't say that I saw much change in her circumstances from that faith and prayer. That may be because I was so self-absorbed, as children often are.
Her husband (my grandfather) did eventually come to faith, but to my way of thinking back then, it was too little too late. She was in poor health, their marriage had fifty years of abuses stacked up, and change comes slowly. His eternal destiny might have been changed, but it didn't seem to change the seventy plus years of misery which made her life.
Still, I can't shake her influence. I did not know her Savior until after she'd died, nor did her daughter - my mother. Grandma did not see much fruit from her prayer, yet often when I would come in from playing or from school I'd find her kneeling by her bed praying or sitting in the front room reading her bible. She stayed faithful in spite of years of not seeing any results. She had the faith of Abraham – to grasp God's promises and not let go, even though she didn't live to see the results. I think she's amazing.
When I was eleven, my grandparents sold their farm, and we moved into a very small ranch house in a suburb of Detroit to live with my mother. Up to that point, I had only seen my mother every other weekend when she would come from the city to the farm to visit. She always seemed so glamorous to me. She dressed nicely for work and would come to the farm on Friday nights straight from her job in bookkeeping for a major retailer. She was so beautiful.
But living with her was another matter.
By the time I was twelve, Grandma was in the hospital almost non-stop. She died when I was fourteen and my grandfather died a few months later. The man who'd been so unkind to her all their married days found he couldn't live without her, and while there was nothing wrong with him physically, he willed himself to die.
There I was, alone as a teenager with my mother. As one can imagine, it wasn't a smooth transition. My parents had separated when I was three and divorced when I was four. After that, my mother gave me to my grandparents. I had always thought it was because mom couldn't find child care, but the truth of the matter was that she really wasn't that interested in being a mother. We didn't really know each other, and, as we started off on this new part of our story, we found we didn't really like each other very much. That never changed.
Even so, Grandma's prayers followed us.
This week, my father-in-law was hospitalized. My husband called me half an hour before I was leaving for work to let me know he was going to the hospital this time. I say “this time” because a month ago his mom was hospitalized and I went to the hospital to be with them. In the subsequent days, I picked up Dad to take him to the hospital, to take care of any issues that arose, to be their advocate, and to eventually take Mom home. We've been down the road of caring for elderly parents before and know the importance of pacing yourself. We are a good team.
The physicians had no diagnosis. Dad had awakened, incoherent, that morning, unable to speak or respond to any questions Mom asked him. An ambulance was called, he was admitted to a local hospital, and the tests began. It wasn't his heart, it wasn't a stroke; these and more were ruled out. While we have no definitive answers, my husband and I suspect it was dehydration.
Since moving the folks to our city, we can see that Dad is in the early stages of some sort of dementia. The messages in his brain get confused and he forgets that he's thirsty and doesn't get enough to drink. It's not uncommon to ask if he'd like something to drink or have something to eat and he'll say, “No.” However, if you sit down moments later with a drink or snack, he'll ask if he could have something as well. We will now have to be intentional about just putting a glass of water or juice in front of him whenever we visit. If it appears before him, he'll drink it. It's that simple.
If only all issues of caregiving were so simple.
Dad was released the same day, and last night we all went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. He was fine and fully engaged. We had a lovely time together. Mike is going to take him to a baseball game this weekend to celebrate his birthday and Dad is looking forward to it. For now, things are normal. In the span of a week we've gone from hospitalization to birthdays and baseball games.
Life gives me whiplash.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.