Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Mother’s day was yesterday

March 23, 2017

Mother at 90.

At this point, I’m simply marking the day (it was yesterday) and will come back to thoughts later. But I’m including a quote from my youngest sister, a post from facebook, that I feel expresses many universal feelings about her.

After a long, good 92 years, Sue Oliver passed away early this morning.  She made it possible for me to be raised in Japan where I learned pretty quickly to think critically.   She gave me the love of gardening, cooking and of having a stable home.  She also taught me to take care of me and to never sell myself short. She enjoyed beauty. In her last days, she continued to be interested in the world around her. Newspapers and the news were vital!  I will miss her in ways I have yet to know. I am comforted knowing she is done with a worn out body and
surrounded by friends and family who have gone before. I feel blessed.        – – –  Jean Oliver – Holder

I am also grateful to the man who held her hand as she took her last breaths. I am comforted by the fact that she was not alone.


keeping it simple

December 30, 2015

In the midst of visiting and “working” with my mother this month, there was time for walks and talks with family in the balmy Tampa temps, Christmas lights and nourishing, delicious eats. Needless to say, it provided the same comfort as a warm hearth: cheering, nurturing and enjoyable.

a light show we encountered on one night's stroll...

a light show we encountered on one night’s stroll…

On returning home, it was good to move into my own home preparations, which were fairly simple. I always make cinnamon twist rolls – a reference to my mother’s Christmas baking.

Sweet Trolls2

She often made cinnamon rolls with icing, sometimes on a Sunday. But, it seems consistently, for Christmas morning, she baked them. I recall her starting the dough the day before, setting a large bowl of dough on the oil heater (covered, used it to warm the house back then), and the aroma of rising dough filling the house. To be able to pass this memory on to my family with my own baking is beyond satisfying.

It has been like spring all week – I wonder how long some flowers will last? I can bring the Passion vine indoors before the cold sets in finally. Today, however, we’re experiencing thunderstorms and the blossoms are wilted and soaked.


This Daphne may be blooming early, but over the last few years it has been encased in ice – I’ve missed its exquisite fragrance. Not so this year.

Good-bye Year of the Sheep!

Good-bye Year of the Sheep!

There’s been little time for ‘that’ work or making in spite of the temps and it’s hard not to be doing it. There’s been an abundance of rain and more to come. That adds to the challenge. We’re moving toward cooler temps in the New Year. And the new is around the bend. I wonder what it holds?


December 29, 2015

先生・せんせい/sensei – the word means teacher, but the deeper meaning is “one who comes before”. Wiki says “a person born before another”. [先] sen defines as “previous” and [生] sei as “life”.  It’s a term mostly given to professionals, the ones we learn from and that opens up a wide world. Our parents could be included.

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with my mother, where she is in life and aspects of her care. Fortunately, I can share these concerns with my siblings. Also fortunate, is the fact, that, so far, with much discussion, we’ve been able to agree on these things. In this process, over the years and particularly the last few months, there has been much research, discussion, relying on the skills and experience of family in the healthcare profession – much learning. I’m the student in these matters.

It has taken much listening – especially to my mother who wants to advocate for herself and to maintain her independence. Listening to her wants and needs, respecting them, as well as helping her to advocate for her health and safety has sometimes been a delicate balancing act. At this point in time, some decisions have had to be made for her and that’s where it has become delicate – sensitive.

So, December, in many respects, has been a month of reflection. It’s been much more actually, as my siblings and I ponder and address further stages of mother’s aging and needed care. While it’s life and universal, each person is unique and she is our mother.

My sister's and my first homes school room - my parents' bedroom - mom's the "sensei".

My sister’s and my first homes school room – my parents’ bedroom – mom’s the “sensei”.

In early childhood, she was my teacher – she taught me to read, write and sew among many other necessary life skills. Now, she’s teaching me about aging, at least some aspects of it.

stepping away….

March 7, 2014

TPA1As I mentioned before…Florida beckoned…visited with family.

TPA5We took walks, some in one of the historic districts – impressive houses and also the trees.

1734BWe mixed it up a bit and checked out the Gasparilla Arts Festival.

photo-56We didn’t stroll the beach, but did have some “sashimi” – pretty tasty.  We did actually have sushi earlier in the week.

perfecthost1And this little guy was a perfect host.

Back home now, wintery sleet outdoors, so I think I’ll reflect on those Florida rays for a bit.

trying again

November 30, 2013

11291 The mindset is holiday…break…changing the focus for the weekend at least.  I am very much enjoying the slowdown, change in direction and having family around for a bit.  Although, it may not look like it from the images.  It may look more like routine.

But, my son brought curtains I’d dyed previously for his apartment and for some reason, some of the color and pattern washed out.  I am puzzled about that, but there are so many variables, that it’s hard to say exactly why that happened.  In any case, it was back to the vat.

Fortunately, in spite of the temperatures, the sun was out to make it feel much warmer than the mid-40s (F), not exactly indigo weather. I wonder how much those temps really play a part? It’s one of those things I think about and yet, if I can get away with it, I’ll dye with it almost year round.

Since I didn’t have specific plans, I was happy to “play” a bit with pattern.  I really had something else in mind, but before I knew it, one of the folded pieces was in the vat without my paying any real attention to the approach.  I’m happy with the results and hope in washing there won’t be any color loss.

Many thanks to my son for giving me this chance to play over the holiday.

stepping out…

October 29, 2013


I considered squeezing in a few words at the week’s end last week, but time did not permit.  That’s one way of putting it.  It was fortunate that the first week of our (Janine’s & mine) workshop came the eve of a major family event in Tampa – the enjoyment of class fed right into the rest of the week.

  Results of this first week were pretty fabulous I thought and an understatement.  The  participants worked only with itajime (board clamping), folding, clamping and dipping.  Each piece was amazing and something new.  Students/participants, though,  are also in the same category – so perhaps not so surprising, but still…and so inspiring!


Then those weekend events… which took me back to Tampa, one of our family homes – grandmother’s (grandfather’s & great-grandmother’s) and so, was one of our “bases” when we came back to the “states” –  and many other connections.  This time it was another fabulous family wedding – another niece (I have quite a few) – a new nephew.

All of my siblings and many of their children attended, so it was a memorable and significant event.  Mother shared family pictures I hadn’t seen before, my brother shared his nature photos (I’m inspired by them), we told stories that probably resolved a few “mysteries” and so much more.  I’m glossing over it, but needless to say, I’m glad I was there.

Family Picks

June 28, 2013


Great to see this article in the N&O first thing this morning.  A wee note:  it should be pointed out that the correct spelling for one of the future Saturday classes is Japanese “dyeing” as opposed to “dying.” Although I suppose we could be “dying to dye” which is how I feel about it.  It’s a common misspelling (unfortunately), but I often have fun with it.

Otherwise, I was very happy to see the post and look forward to the event.  At this point, with the current humidity and the anticipated August heat, I think of it as “cooling” with the blues. At any rate, it’s about indigo dyeing and shibori (pattern making through textile resist – some say “tie-dye” – it’s much more than that!).

Kiseki/”I Wish”

December 30, 2012


Roger Ebert, in his comment about “I Wish” on Rotten Tomatoes, says, it’s “built around performances by two real-life brothers who are as unaffected, spirited and lovable as I can imagine, and one of the pleasures of “I Wish” is simply spending time with them.”  Andrew L. Urban adds, “and in the way Kore-eda [writer/director] immerses us in provincial Japanese life is exceptional.”I think they’re holding back.  There’s so much more to this film than meets the eye.

I had the pleasure of watching it last night and will undoubtedly return to it many times.  It’s one of those films – so many levels – not to mention one of the main settings is Kagoshima.  Did I give something away here?

Under the kitchen table

May 8, 2012

Under the kitchen table

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

OK, I’m not, but she is…off and on. She follows me around quite a bit. Today, she went to the polls with me and later we look a long walk.

Obviously, some things have changed – a new gal in the family. She’s a delightful distraction.

So, I’m finding it difficult to stay on task – in a good way. Things have slowed a bit, just due to the fact that someone needs attention. We’re getting outdoors more and that’s good for both of us.

my mom

February 22, 2012

Mom in her early 20s

My mother celebrates another birthday today.  I don’t know if she would appreciate my mentioning her age, so I won’t.  It is very fitting though, to celebrate her in her excellent health and longevity.

In an artist talk given at the Japan Center earlier this year, I spoke about women who shaped me in my working with textiles.  It’s possible that she also had a hand in it – probably more than I know, as she was, in her home making, the one selecting the colors and fabrics in every aspect of our lives.  She sewed most of my and my sisters clothing, as well as her own.  She also made curtains, bedspreads; couch covers and other items for our homes in Kagoshima, Kyoto and Tokyo.  She was the interior decorator and seamstress doing her best to influence me also in that direction (although I wasn’t having much of it at the time!).

She did succeed in teaching me to sew on her little black Singer sewing machine in the dining room of our Kagoshima house on Kami Arata.  She felt it was necessary to learn these skills not only for practicality, but also for the fact that whatever my sisters and I made would be unique. I remember certain dresses, skirts and jumpers that she made.  I also remember spending what felt like hours in fabric shops “helping” select the ‘right’ fabric for certain projects.

Her interest, though, was western, as opposed to the culture in which we were immersed.  Japan was also westernized at this point, so patterns and cloth fitting that perspective were accessible in shops and department stores. Another aspect was that she often reminded me that I was western and would one day be “returning” to that culture and had to learn it and “dress it” so that I would ultimately “fit in.”  I believe in these things, she succeeded.

Today, in her good health and long living, she still appreciates a good piece of cloth, a well-designed dress or coat and its quality.  She doesn’t sew the way she did in her younger days, but she still enjoys it.

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