Tag Archives: father

Painted Feathers

Pair of Painted Feathers

This is something I made for some friends and family members, or, I should say, something I embellished.

As I’ve mentioned before, after my dad died I started finding feathers everywhere. I found them pretty often and started to collect and save them.  Now I have them in jars and vases around the apartment and mixed in with pens and brushes on my craft desk.

When I saw a picture on Pinterest of painted feathers, I thought it would be a good way to use some of them. I clicked on the link and found this post by Julia at the Free People blog. I was inspired to try painting feathers and adding a little loop to each one so it can be hung up.

First I picked out a nice selection of feathers and gave them a bath in warm, sudsy water.  After a good rinse, I let them dry on paper towels.

drying feathers

They look a bit ruffled, but once they were dry, I could smooth the barbs back in place with my fingers. I used a combination of watercolors, and Caran d’Arch Neocolor water soluble artists crayons and after the paint dried, I added more details with white gel pen, black, silver and sparkly-clear markers.

feather detail

Most of my feathers were black, so I needed saturated colors to show up.   I used waxed linen thread with a few beads to make a loop on each painted feather.

feather with loop

Four Feathers

It was really a pleasure working on each small feather, adding some color and pattern and then finishing it with the waxed linen thread hanging loop.  I’m very pleased with how they turned out and also glad to be sharing these small items that seemed to turn up for no reason, when I wasn’t even looking for them.

Many Feathers

Favorite Feather

I’m not finding feathers nearly as often as I did for awhile, but I still do occasionally.  By the way, I’m just noticing that this shows as 1 hour later on WordPress than it is on my computer. This really is my last post of 2014!

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Crafts

Darkness & Light

Day of the Dead altar 2014

Rem and I set up our Dia de los Muertos altar last weekend.  Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a not an event from the culture either of us grew up in but we borrow or share it with our neighbors here in San Rafael and San Francisco.

Each year the altar is a little different. It seems like each year we have new names to add to our garland of hearts.

Heart Garland

This year we included sweet Ruby and I found a photo of a much younger Rem and a young Ruby to display.

Ruby Girl with Rem

In addition to our altar, we attended the San Francisco celebration for the first time.  This included a Festival of the Altars in Garfield Park and a Procession with traditional Aztec dancers, artists, activists and community members.  I like the description on the Dia de los Muertos SF site about the event:

Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In Mexico, neighbors gather in local cemeteries to share food, music, and fun with their extended community, both living and departed. The celebration acknowledges that we still have a relationship with our ancestors and loved ones that have passed away.

In San Francisco, Day of the Dead has been celebrated in the Mission district since the early 70s with art, music, performances and a walking procession, which help us contemplate our existence and mortality — a moment to remember deceased friends and family, and our connections beyond our immediate concerns.

Altar in SF

So – a holiday that remembers and honors our loved ones that have passed away, and uses both food and art in the celebration. This is Pan de Muerto, or “bread of the dead,” a sweet bread yeast bread, from our altar last year.

Pan de Morto 2013

At Craft Gym in late October we made Papel Picado or perforated paper, used as decoration for different occasions but for Dia de los Muertos, it usually depicts humorous and whimsical skulls and skeletons.

Homemade Papel Picado

Rem and I have some beautiful papel picado that we bought on a visit to Tijuana with much more detailed and elaborate designs.

commercial papel

Artisans using traditional methods use chisels to cut through about 50 sheets of tissue paper at a time but machine made versions are also available.  I cut mine with scissors and did one sheet at a time.

In our celebration of Dia de los Muertos, I notice the contrasts: skulls that are made of sugar, bright, festive colors instead of the more familiar dark ones used around death and grieving in our culture.

Candles glow on our 2013 altar.

Candle Lit Altar 2013

This past weekend I paid a visit to my dad’s grave. It was late in the afternoon and from the path below his grave, I could see the piece of abalone shell set into his gravestone, catching the rays of the setting sun.

I hiked up the hillside  and cleared away stems and dried up flowers from the site, arranged some fruits and vegetables of the season, then scattered the dried flower petals around. I still feel deep sadness and miss my dad terribly, but I also honor his memory in many ways, including lighting candles on an altar for Dia de los Muertos.

After shedding a few tears, sharing some current events and singing some songs, I took a final look at his grave.  The colors of the abalone shell, glowing in the last, diffused sunlight were beautiful and reminded me that even as our days become shorter and we’re entering the darkest part of the year, there is still light and beauty to be found.

Thank you for your visit. Thank you, Rem, for sharing your photos.

Altar 2014




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Filed under Crafts, Life

Thinking About My Dad

Daddy Red Turtleneck

Saturday, May 24 will be two years from the day my dad died.  I’ve  been thinking about him.  The other day I saw something that made me smile and I immediately thought of telling  him about it.  A vendor at the Farmer’s Market was munching contentedly; a carrot in one hand, a bottle of hot sauce in the other. I imagined telling my dad the story and knew he’d think it was funny but in less time then it takes to read this sentence, I remembered he was gone.  With an ache in my chest, I knew I couldn’t tell him about it.

I haven’t been going to his grave as often as I did the first year after he died.  It’s been a few months at least, and it’s been on my mind to get down there.

This weekend I had the opportunity.  Rem and I were house-sitting for my mom and on Sunday morning, he needed an early-morning ride to the ferry.  He was heading into San Francisco to take photos at the annual Bay to Breakers footrace.  After dropping him off at 5:40 a.m., Molly and I went down to Fernwood.

The sky was just growing light.  A thin, grey comforter of fog was draped along the upper slopes of Mt. Tam.  Molly was delighted to be out of the car and went up the path ahead of me.

The hillside is covered with rattlesnake grass, wildflowers and eucalyptus trees.  Oh, and some poison oak too.

Hillside Fernwod

It is only as I got closer that the stone marker was visible.

Papa's Tree

Papa's Stone

Roses for Papa

I laid some flowers and cried some tears.  I told him that Caitlin was graduating at Chico and that was where Mom was.  I talked about how sick Beau has been but that we’re so relieved he’s improving.  I sang two songs and watched some hawks circling up high above the trees.

As I walked carefully back across the hillside to the path, I searched for feathers but didn’t see any.

Molly was full of energy and I had plenty of time to wander around the cemetery, something I kept thinking about doing and never taking the time in my many visits down there.  Molly romped ahead, sniffing around and happy as could be.  I was thinking about my dad and how much I miss him.  I thought about how many lives were represented by the stones around me.

One message caught my eye and made me smile.

It all comes out in the wash and a little chocolate never hurts

Comes Out in the Wash

I think I would have liked this woman!

The positive attitude that came up with those words lifted my spirits and made me try to re-frame my sadness. I focused on all the wonderful years I lived with my dad in my life instead of the last three; the year of struggling with cancer and the two years since he died.

It made me think that although these gravestones represented loss and grief they also represented peoples lives.  Many stones have a name and two dates and little else, yet whole lives are lived in the space between those two dates.

As I followed a trail, I found a section of older graves and stones that were cracked and broken.  Some gravestones only show one date or a very short span of days.  Others list the age of the deceased and many lived short lives.  The oldest year I noted was 1907.


On their website, Fernwood states the cemetery has existed since the late 1800’s.  Again, instead of thinking of all of those people dying, I walked around and thought of all those people living.

I saw this fragment of stone that just showed a single date.  I don’t know if Valentine’s Day was remembered as the birthday of a loved one, or the date someone lost a loved one.

February 14

Walking around, exploring the cemetery, was very peaceful.  I looked through the trees at the view of Richardson Bay.

View from Fernwood hillside

Looking down the hill I see the pyramid skylight on the Fernwood Funeral Home, reminding me of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Pyramid Skylight

Some things I had glimpsed while driving past and now I had I time for a closer look.

Like the Buddha statue in a tree.

Buddha in a Tree

A rustic gate open to a path curving around the hillside.

rustic gate

A beautifully carved wooden Buddha sits atop a rough base created from a tree stump. In spite of missing a finger, he was very serene.


Little talismans have been left in his hands: a bit of shell, a rhinestone rabbit  with a wreath of rhinestone flowers, and a sweet little green clay cat. with a pink neck scarf.

Rabbit & Cat

Dia de los Muertos figures dangle on a cord around his neck, holding a dried orchid in place.

Face of Buddha

Day of the Dead figures

Molly and I have had a nice hike and I was in much better emotional shape than when we’d arrived.

Time has softened the blow of losing my dad.  The grief and sadness aren’t gone but they aren’t here all the time either.

Our family will be gathering to celebrate my brother Beau’s birthday on Sunday.  I imagine there will be lots of good food and laughter. We’ll probably share stories about Papa, and catch up with each others lives.  If we think of something that he would have found funny, I believe it will honor his memory if we share it and enjoy a good laugh.

Dad 50th Anniversary

Here is a link to the post I wrote last year at this time.  That post includes links to other posts written about my dad.

Thank you for your visit.







Filed under Life

Dia de los Muertos

Rem and I have made a custom of observing Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  This Mexican holiday celebrates and honors deceased family members and friends.  Altars are arranged with photos of loved ones, favorite foods and beverages, memorabilia and items to represent things they enjoyed such as sports or cultural activities.  Candles, skulls, marigolds, and pastries shaped to represent bones are all part of traditional decorations.

Home Altar Sunshine

We set up an altar on the top of a dresser in the living room, hang up a ribbon of paper hearts, each one naming a loved one who has died.  We hang a banner of colorful papel picado (perforated paper) and arrange photos with candles, flowers and fresh produce.  A plate of pan de meurto (bread of the dead) sweet pastries is joined by some packaged chocolate candy and other items that remind of us of our loved ones or items that they enjoyed.

Papel Picado

I included a picture of my dad and my sister Sarah after a bike ride they completed years ago along with a program from an art exhibit in which he and I both had entries.  A few small feathers and one large one were part of the decorations because they’ve become a positive symbol linked to my father.


We attend a celebration at a nearby community center.  This year was the 25th anniversary of the event.  We have gone quite a few times over the years and have seen this event change and grow.  Although the roots of Dia de los Muertos are in Mexico, this is a multicultural community celebration.

One large room was lined with beautiful altars while another was full of tables for kids to create different art projects, including tissue paper flowers.  I was a little sad not to have a kid with me and an excuse to sit down and get my hands on the crafting supplies.

Tissue Paper Flower Table

Here are more pictures from the event:

Skeleton Couple poster


Happy Skellies

Purple Table

Butterfly Skull

Paper Mache Skeleton

Mary's Altar

My Bunny Died


We met up our friends Rico and Tom before the procession.  Tom is wearing a sweet miniature altar he made for his sister, Tracy, with sprigs of fresh herbs including rosemary for remembrance.

Rico & Tom

The procession went through the neighborhood, led by the Mizcoalt Aztec dancers, a large group of male and female dancers of all ages, wearing intricate costumes with elaborate feathered headdresses.  The dancers wore leg bands with ayoyote seeds that created a percussive rattle.  Drummers kept a steady beat as the performers danced the whole distance.  Residents came out to their balconies to watch.

Aztec Dancers

Back inside at the community center, a little girl was captivated by the sight of one of the Aztec dancers.

Aztec Dancer Indoors

More groups performed various dances including this dancer, Pamela Palacios, 13 years old, from Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl.

Green Dress Dancer

Panels of a mural, painted to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Dia de los Muertos San Rafael, were dedicated.

Sunshine Panel

Jaguar Dancer w/ Little Girl

Sugar Skull Seller

The celebration was still going strong when we left, with music and dancing.  The final performance we saw was a mariachi band,  Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano.  It is a Bay Area band that is usually all female but had a few guys filling in.


The following afternoon, I visited my father’s grave and arranged some of the vegetables, fruits and flowers from our altar.  It is still hard and I miss him but I celebrate and honor his life and memory and recognize death as part of the cycle and circle of life.

Marigold's for Papa

Thank you, Rem, for sharing your photos and thank you all for your visit.


Filed under Crafts, Life

Day 16: Feather


Day 16: Feather.

It is Father’s Day, the second Father’s Day since my dad died.  A year ago I went to the cemetery where we’d buried my father’s ashes.  We’d had the memorial service just a short time before Father’s Day and there wasn’t a marker on his grave.  It is a Green Cemetery (or that section is, anyway) and so it isn’t a manicured lawn, but a natural hillside of eucalyptus trees and dried grass.

That Father’s Day was my first visit to the site alone.  Well, not alone, as I has my parent’s dog, Molly, with me.

Molly at Fernwood

Like today, it was windy, though today was much warmer.  There were flowers from the memorial service that day.  Today I brought flowers and found others that my sister had left.  I was so touched when I saw that she’d left her graduation tassel.

Last year, after I’d had a visit, sang a little and cried some, I was walking back across the hill to the path and I found a beautiful feather with wide brown and white stripes.  I hadn’t seen it on the walk to the grave and exclaimed when I saw it.  I picked it up and took it back to tuck into the flowers on my dad’s grave.

Walking back once more toward the path, I looked down and found a second feather!  This one was a deep, rich blue, probably from a blue jay.  It was beautiful.  Once again, I picked up the feather, turned around and took it back and put it with the flowers and the other feather.  Finding these two different feathers felt like some kind of positive sign to me and I left with my heart somewhat lifted.

Black & White Feather

After that, I kept seeing feathers.  Maybe they’ve been around me all along and I wasn’t paying attention, but for awhile it seemed like I would see a feather every few days!  At first I noticed them and thought it was kind of coincidental, but when I mentioned it to a friend, she suggested I collect them.  I started to pick them up.

I opened my car door and looked out as I put my foot out and there was a feather.  Walking across the parking lot at work, I would find a feather directly in my path.  I picked up feathers while hiking with Kathleen, I found them in the patio of my apartment and at the Farmer’s Market.


I didn’t really feel like they were a message from my dad, though maybe they are. They just felt like a positive thing.  At first I wasn’t really looking for them and they just seem to appear in my path but after awhile I was paying more attention and keeping an eye out.  In fact, on our recent getaway weekend, I found several feathers on the beach.  It made me think of my father.

When I would visit Fernwood,   I kept an eye out for feathers.  Especially like either one of those special feathers I found a year ago – the wide stripes of brown and white, and the deep blue.  I haven’t ever found another feather there until today.  Today I found a wide scattering of black feathers.  Eventually, while gathering this offering of feathers, I came across part of their former owner.

I thanked the bird for its feathers and said I was sorry it had died.  I hope that it gave some nourishment to a creature or creatures up (or down) the food chain.  But I was pleased to find this swath of feathers on the hillside on and around my dad’s grave.

I have not found a blue feather or a feather with wide brown and white stripes.  Yet.

white bird, blue eyes

I created this spread at the Collage Cafe with Virginia Simpson Magruder of Kentucky Girl Designs.  I was able to use many of her supplies as well as her guidance.  I told her about finding feathers and showed her some of my bird images.  She brought out some rubber stamp fonts and I picked out a great background stamp and the page happened layer by layer.

After I took these pictures earlier today, I added one thing: the words “father’s day” over the date.  So it doesn’t show in the larger pictures of the page.

father's day

The intense, blue-eyed bird just worked with this spread.  I don’t know what kind it is and it doesn’t remind me of my dad, although he DID have blue eyes.  But birds and feathers are on my radar these days and so, that is what I crafted for today.

feather/Father's Day

For Day 16 last year I Handcarved a Rubber Stamp.

For Day 16 the year before that I crafted a Shrinky Dink Key Ring.  Check it out!

Thanks for making it with me so far in the 30 Days of Creativity project.  I’m glad you’re here.


Filed under 30DOC, Crafts

You Can’t Choose

Friday, 5/24/13,  marked one year from the day my father died.  For about a week or so leading up to that date I felt crabby and out of sorts.  My energy was low and I seemed to drag through each day.  I slept through the alarm and didn’t make it to the gym.

I finally figured out the connection between the upcoming date and my feelings.  Treating myself with love and kindness seemed like a better response than feeling guilty about eating poorly or skipping a workout.  Once I’d acknowledged my feelings I was still sad but it wasn’t wrapped up in shame.  A vigorous evening hike with my sister Sarah and two other friends helped me feel more myself again (pictures at the end of the post).

My dad didn’t have a choice about the way his life ended, other than taking his own life, which I know some people choose to do, but wasn’t ever on the table.  What I’m thinking about is that we are all going to die but we don’t get to pick what is going to be the cause.  We don’t get to choose when it will happen either.

Yesterday morning, as I do almost every Saturday morning, I was taking a hike with my sister.  She brings her dog, Ruby and I pick up my  mom’s dog, Molly.  Kathleen’s little sister, Ariel, joined us.

We were heading for a familiar loop around Phoenix Lake in Ross.  It is a popular spot with lots of hikers, runners and bicyclists.  We walked up the dirt fire road from the parking lot to the lake and had just started around the lake when we came to two men, their bikes on the ground.  One was talking on his cellphone, the other kneeling.

My first impression was that something was wrong with one of the bikes.  But as we walked closer we saw it was much more serious.  A woman was on her back, apparently she’d been walking her dog and had just collapsed.  The man on the phone was speaking to a 911 operator and asked us to go back to find someone to open the gate from the parking lot for an ambulance. Neither of the cyclists or anyone in our group knew CPR.

There was a dog with a leash running around the tense scene and we quickly learned it was the woman’s.  We took the dog with us and went back to where we’d seen park personnel who radioed to someone down at the gate.  Meanwhile other people had come upon the same scene.  Two runners sped past us, seeking a nurse or doctor from the walkers and runners they passed.

A nurse was found and he, along with his young daughter, the runners and the park staffer raced back to the scene in her SUV.  We could already hear sirens and in a very short time emergency vehicles roared past us with lights flashing, raising plumes of dust.

Our peaceful morning walk was interrupted by this sad scene.  Many concerned people reached out to try and help in some way.  We walked back around to the cluster of trucks and paramedics, runners, hikers and cyclists.  We mentioned to a paramedic that the dog had tags with phone numbers in case the woman had no ID, which later proved to be the case.

The nurse was doing chest compressions and later I saw a paramedic take over that effort.  It was quite some time before the woman was loaded into the back of the paramedic truck. Her dog was with a ranger.  The crowds of people on either side of the group of trucks and SUV’s drifted apart as hikes and rides were taken up again.

I tried to find a story with more information this morning in the local paper online. I don’t know what happened to that woman after she left the park.  But I know she was out on a beautiful morning, walking her young dog in a lovely, scenic spot.  I can only guess at her age – perhaps my age (53), certainly not elderly.

She could have been driving her car when what ever caused her to collapse on the trail happened.  She could have been at a desk at work or in her kitchen fixing breakfast.  She didn’t have a choice.

After our hike I went to see my mom and told her about our experience.  We both had emergency numbers in our cellphones but realized we could add a note with our own name and contact which we both did.  A CPR class may be in my future.

My brother came by with his girlfriend for birthday cake (mom baked more of the delicious oatmeal cake).  Mom and I were having lunch (cake followed) and the four of us talked about life and death and how we just don’t get to choose about the death part.

In the afternoon I visited my dad’s grave and talked to him a bit. I sang a few songs and cried some tears. Here are links to previous posts on my dad and his cancer:

Sometimes Life Just Piles Up

On Caring

Be Loving

Keeping Busy

Goodbye, Papa

Just Less Orderly

Papa’s Stone

We do get many choices in our lives and I’m trying to make good ones.  Being outdoors in the beautiful area we live in, spending time with friends and family members, singing with my choir members at bedsides of people on the threshold, and making time and space in my life for my creative endeavors. I believe these choices are ways that celebrate the life and the opportunities I have.

Here are photos from the hike I took earlier in the week with my sister Sarah. We started by Andy’s Local Market on San Pedro Road then hiked uphill, taking in the gorgeous views.

Richmond San Rafael Bridge with Oakland and Bay Bridge in the background.

Richmond San Rafael Bridge

Loch Lomond Marina and the parking lot where we started at Andy’s Market.

Andy's Market & Loch Lomond Marina

Mount Tamalpais.

Mt. Tam

It’s quite a hike up to these swings, but the views are beautiful.


McNear Brickyard on the front of the peninsula, the quarry is on the back to the left.


The hikers heading back downhill.


Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Life


Graduation Podium

A big congratulations to my sister, Kathleen, on her graduation on Saturday, from Dominican University of California.  She has earned a BA from their School of Business and Leadership and graduated with honors, earning both Cum Laude status and a Departmental honor.  I’m so proud of her accomplishment!

I made a card a card for Kathleen using an Itty Bitty Banner (like these) and a drawing of a graduation cap, tossed in the air.  I used to have a rubber stamp with a similar design but  I couldn’t find it (I probably gave it away when I did my Big Craft Clean Up).


I should have started the Itty Bitty Banner earlier because I used Diamond Glaze dimensional adhesive to give it a  hard, glossy coating.  It doesn’t show in the photo, but it has a thick, shiny finish.  I tried to hurry it along with a heat tool but that made it start to bubble up.  Oops.  I finally put it in the freezer when it was almost set but still a little tacky and that did the trick.

The graduation was held in a huge tent at Forest Meadows Field.  Ariel,  Kathleen’s little sister (Kathleen has been an active Big Sister volunteer for many years), came early to save seats. My mom, sister Sarah, and I got there almost an hour before the ceremony started.

This is Ariel with my sister and mom reading their commencement programs.

Hi, Ariel!

It was a little chilly in the tent but I’m really glad we didn’t have to sit out in the sun for three and a half hours!

Here is the tent with Mt. Tam in the background.

Tent & Tam

Since we had plenty of time, I took a walk around.

This is the Class of 2013 Shield: Wisdom in Community.

Class Shield

Lots of diplomas for the 500 or so graduates.


Empty chairs ready for the graduating students.

Chairs for Grads

They would be processing from across the campus, led by a bagpiper and entering the tent down this aisle lined with banners.


People were saving seats for friends and relatives.

Reserved Seats

Many had made signs or brought balloons or flowers for their graduate.

Grad Picture Doggie Balloon "13" or is it "31"?

At last we heard the bagpipe.  We couldn’t see much but excitement was mounting!

We could see the flag and see a few caps through the crowd.

Entry of the Grads

After the bagpiper entered  and completed his piece, we finally heard the familiar notes of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”… and I lost it. I looked over and saw my mom had lost it too.  We were thinking about my dad and wishing he were there with us.

Sarah and Ariel had gone out to watch the graduates process in and Sarah came back teary-eyed.  There is something about music that just goes right to your core.

After the typical speeches, awards and long list of names as each student received her diploma, the ceremony finally came to an end and we were able to congratulate the new graduate

Kathleen & Ariel

Sisters & Mom

Kathleen was wearing a beautiful silver and turquoise bracelet borrowed from my mom as a way to honor my dad.  My parents grew up in New Mexico and Papa almost always wore a piece of turquoise jewelry.

All of my siblings and I, without any planning or discussion, wore silver and turquoise jewelry to my dad’s memorial service.  I was pleased that Kathleen thought of this way to have Papa at her ceremony.

Turquoise Bracelet

We enjoyed the reception with cold lemonade, brownies, strawberries and other treats.


Congrats to everyone who is graduating and to their families and friends who offered support and encouragement while they worked towards this goal.

Eena the Graduate

Coming soon: The GRADUATION PARTY!

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Crafts, Life