April Is Almost Here…

March 30, 2016


Above: I'm not the only one attracted to the odor of the sizing in Arches watercolor paper. Des had to come over and check out the stack of cut watercolor boards Monday afternoon. He is very curious. I didn't have the heart to tell him they were for a project he's not involved in.


It’s that time of year again, no I don’t mean Tax Time, it’s almost International Fake Journal Month. (International Fake Journal Month begins April 1, no joke, and you can read all about it here. )

On March 7 I wrote about this year’s International Fake Journal Month theme: Shift in Place.

I even have suggestions in that post on how I hoped most people would approach the project this year—by waiting and deciding on how to start, right up until March 31.

Of course then the shit hit the fan here. My father-in-law ended up in the hospital after bladder cancer cauterization, and now he’s in transitional care. He’s getting his energy back slowly, but for the first time he really, really looks worn out, and yesterday during my visit he admitted it to me that he doesn’t quite believe that he will get back to his assisted living situation. We talked about the failing memory situation, which has progressed speedily in the past year, but which now he realizes is “all downhill.” (His words.)

We even had the talk today, the one where I hold his hand and tell him how important he has been in my life and how much I love him, even if I’m usually pretty bossy and flippant (huge laugh). And he told me how much it meant to him.

We could have it today because he is on the upward trend. Any weaker and he knows I know that he would see it as a sign that he wasn’t doing as well as he felt he was doing. Earlier and well, emotion is just kind of embarrassing for both of us.

But the funny thing about the elderly is that there is never any good time to have this talk. By the time you decide to have it, the person you want to talk to is already leaving the building. (Actions really do speak louder than words.)

C.R. won’t remember it tomorrow, even if he hasn’t already forgotten it.

But what he can’t escape is the growing understanding of how his brain is changing and how he can’t hold it together any longer. “I’ve already had mine,” he said to me, at one point.

I knew what he meant, but I made him say it, because I’m that bitchy, and because I wanted him to fight back. “Life,” he said.

And he did fight back, he perked right up. And I reminded him that none of us knew how long that downhill slope is.

More important he isn’t ready to leave yet because things in life still interest him.

He asked me how my classes were going. “Great,” I said.

“The students are doing well?” he asked.

“Yep, I boss them around and push them really hard, and they are doing some incredible work,” I continued.

“And they put up with that?” he asked, alluding to the bossing.

“Oddly, what you’ve been getting for free for 36 years they actually pay me for,” I replied. That generated the full laugh and the super twinkle in his eyes.

He was, however, disappointed when I said “all I’m doing right now is working.”

When I left I told him I would make a point to do something thrilling, “just so I can come back and tell you about it.” He had another good laugh.

While he may be on a five-minute loop most of the time now, one thing I know is that he appreciates the company. Humans, even ones like us who like solitude in which to work, are social. Sometimes sitting in a companionable silence is all that’s needed. Though it’s also sure nice if you bring in some of those good chocolate Easter eggs.

Something else he can’t escape, because I keep showing up, is knowing that he matters.

Going Forward

Now you thought this post was about IFJM? It is.

When I get stressed I get really creative. I dream up all sorts of projects to keep my mind occupied. When C.R. went into the hospital I started thinking about new projects I could work on. Something to keep me in the present moment.

This worked right up until Sunday night. I had scribbled over a couple journal pages and I realized I was coming up with all sorts of projects just to avoid the one project actually looming on the horizon—IFJM.

I have kept my year so busy, by design and happenstance, that I have literally not thought two moments about IFJM and what I might be doing.

Until Sunday night when I realized it was silly to not think about it a little because I had no time to bind a book and wasn’t sure what supplies I would need. If I didn't think about it I might find myself with no book/paper to use for a month on Friday. (Which is April 1, the day this all starts.)

So I pulled out a scrap of hot press watercolor paper and a scrap of cold press watercolor paper. I know that I could work in any medium on either of those papers and be challenged and happy for a month.

I did a sketch and paint test on each, about 30 minutes total. The Cold Press was the surprising winner. It spoke to me. It told me there were lots of discoveries to be made—it wouldn’t be easy, but it was time.

I went to my flat file and found some left over watercolor board that I had purchased for another project. I found that I had enough pieces to cut up into thirty two 10 x 16 inch boards—One for for each day of the month, and of course a title board and back board.

Monday I cut the board. (I still haven’t told Des that he’s not going to be involved.)

That’s it. I don’t know who my character is. All I know is that I’ll be painting and making a loose “sheet” journal this year.

The rest is just going to flow.

Participating in International Fake Journal Month

If you would like to participate in this event please go to the official blog and read about what it is and how to get started and participate. (It's all in the links at the top of the blog.)

If you are going to share your journal publicly, email me when you’ve completed 5 days of entries in your fake journal and send me a link to the dedicated blog, or section of your website, or whatever, where you are posting. I’ll list you with a link in the Participants 2016 list.

(If you have participated in a past year just send me an email with a note about the year you participated and a link and I'll put you on the list right away.)

If you want to participate and post in the Facebook group for this project look up International Fake Journal Month at this link and ask to join. (Please be patient as I'm not checking Facebook regularly right now in order to cut down on time distractions and to better deal with work and family matters.)

If you’re on the fence about joining in I suggest that you listen to the webinars Diane Gibbs did with me as her guest last year.

Go to this post to watch the first webinar and read all the notes I made afterwards with the links to things I mentioned in the talk.

Then, because we got a little sidetracked, Diane decided to do a second interview. Find that here.

Even if you don’t participate in IFJM I think you’ll get a lot of fun information for your visual journal.

Where Will Roz Post Her 2016 Fake Journal?

Right now I’m not sure where I’ll post this year’s fake journal. Some years I have posted it day by day on the official blog. Other years I’ve only posted a flip through at the end of the year. My main priority this year is to find the time to work in the fake journal while everything else is chaotic around me. (We still haven’t finished the taxes!)

We’ll see.

But one thing I can tell you:

"Life’s so short, why live only one?"

    • SusanLily
    • March 30, 2016

    This post made me feel a little weepy, with the recognition of similar moments in my own adventures in eldercare. My mom never wanted to live past the age of 80. She’ll be 91 in June. Given the fluctuating nature of her heart disease, we’ve had the talk more than once—sometimes for her, sometimes for me. I think equally as important as our loved ones knowing they matter to us is us knowing we matter to them, that we showed up and made a difference. You and C.R. are blessed to have each other.

    And then your post made me laugh out loud. I’m one of the students who pay you to boss me around. 🙂 I almost wanted to say that your talk with C.R. puts questions (from SRBS class) about bone folders and newly bound journals in perspective, but that didn’t feel quite right. It felt like I was about to dismiss my creative endeavors, when what I really want to do is embrace them, especially when life hits the fan.

    I wish I could embrace them more. I would love to participate in IFJM, but I know it would be a commitment I couldn’t keep. I learned that with Drawing Practice—I’ll need to take that class again at some point! But I do what I can. And sometimes I do even more than what I think I can, often because you have pushed me further. So thank you for being such an inspiration, by word and by example. I look forward to seeing where this year’s journal takes you!

    • Meg
    • March 30, 2016

    I’m very glad you had “the talk” with your father-in-law, Roz. I never did with my dad as he was alert until his last minute and he wasn’t supposed to go that suddenly. Now I’m thinking about my mother, who is still living alone doing OK but her memory is getting spotty. We don’t talk about these things in our family, so I did try to show my appreciation in indirect ways which she got, but it’s still less than satisfying. All the best to your family in these trying times, and all the best to your April.

    • Julana
    • March 30, 2016

    I hope someone cares for you, as you have cared for your elders, when the time comes.

  1. Reply

    SusanLily, I’m really fortunate that my mother-in-law has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my life and she has shown me in so many obvious ways that I matter to her. Just the other day we were chatting and she turned to me and told me she loved me, how special I was, how glad she was I was in the family, and then smiled brightly and said, “We always have fun together, I enjoy you.”

    While all of her compliments and assurances are lovely, unprompted, and not wholly deserved (I could never be as wonderful as she thinks I am), this last comment, and others she makes like it, mean the most to me because it’s based on that respect of each other which forms a basis of our relationship. And we do always have fun together, even when going to the doctor!

    Remember when things touch your heart that you can hold more than one thing in your heart and don’t dismiss the very real aspects of life connected to the creation of art. Your internal critic will tell you that you can’t be present in life and be geared towards your art, but it’s a lie. In stress, misfortune, tragedy, grief, just as in happiness, there can be so many joyful moments of connection with life. And art, creativity, binding can all be part of that. You are right to not dismiss your creative endeavors and instead embrace them when the shit hits the fan.

    I think the more you practice carrying more than one thing in your heart the more you will embrace both.

    I think that if you have a lot of stuff going on IFJM is not a good match. It’s wise to see that.

    I have found that knowing the limits of what current life situations hold for me allows me to expand up to and beyond those limits in a way that not having goals, or plans wouldn’t.

    Every time you do something more than you think you can I hope that you pause and really savor that. Look at it and see how you made that possible with your creativity and your desire, and realize you can have that all the time because it’s a choice!

    I wish you the best of luck with your mom. It’s difficult watching the downward slope. So keep drawing.

  2. Reply

    The smell is intoxicating. I cannot wait for tomorrow!!!!

  3. Reply

    Meg, one thing that eldercare has taught me is that we have to be satisfied with all the little things. There is no “Whole” coming along down the road. Forces of biology and time are constantly working against us.

    I think you will look back on the “indirect ways” you employed because of your family dynamic, and see them as a fabric of interaction that had great meaning and understanding. I hope you will savor that.

    Good luck with your mother! Enjoy the time you have with her.

  4. Reply

    I appreciate your sweet thought, but as a realist Julana I would have to say that there won’t be anyone—we have no children, our friends are mostly older or our age and I think I will see most of them go.

    I used to joke with a friend that I would adopt the ancient Roman custom of adopting an adult (who then could take care of “all this.”)—but of course I failed to remember to amass the vast sums needed to make that equation work out.

    The good news is I have learned to live in the present without those expectations. And also without the worries and deal making I see they sometimes generate in the relationships of others.

    One of my major life lessons has been to learn what love and caring are about, divested from sticky side bets and unhealthy agreements. There’s peace in that learning, if not “comfort.”

    It has been tremendous fun (even with the stress inherent in the situation) to learn this with the wonderful people my in-laws are.

    • SusanLily
    • March 31, 2016

    It’s interesting to hear you say that a smell is intoxicating. I’ve never worked with Arches watercolor boards. I think I’m going to have to seek some out, just to smell them! I’m also intrigues to see how you will work this them during IFJM.

  5. Reply

    SusanLily, if you aren’t a carnivore you probably won’t enjoy the smell. Their Arches Text Wove, now called Vellin, but I can’t get used to that new name, also has this smell. It comes from the sizing and is even more intense when you use wet media on either paper.

    There is of course the smells associated with the actual paper fibers, which is more subtle for some people.

    Paper is a lifelong passion of mine.

    I also am partial to certain papers and printer’s inks which together transport me back to the smell of books when I was a child, and the whole world of books opened up for me.

    If I were marooned on a desert island and then rescued, the first thing I would do after giving Dick a hug, would be to smell my books. Then I’d shower, put on clean cotton clothing, and have a huge meal!

    • SusanLily
    • March 31, 2016

    Being told that someone enjoys us and our company is a wonderful complement! I think it takes a courageous vulnerability to express to someone what they mean to us, especially in specific terms, not just vague generalities. Your mother-in-law sounds like just such a person.

    Thank you for the reminder that there is room to hold more than one thing in my heart at a time. That’s especially good to remember when stressors want to crowd out everything else.

    • SusanLily
    • March 31, 2016

    I am a carnivore, and I love the smell of books. I totally identify with your desert island scenario!

  6. Reply

    SusanLily, I really believe that when we are stressed it’s drawing that will get us through!

  7. Reply

    Then you’ll probably find it intoxicating too—approach with caution, I don’t want to put you in a position to blow your paper budget!

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