Archive for the ‘Mentors’ Category

Errol’s Stole: The Art You Make for your Moms

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

errols stoll

I’ve said I don’t do commissions often. Even less often do I make something for someone. I’ve done that since I was five and it’s lost a lot of it’s pleasure for me. That strained look. The “Oh you shouldn’t have,” comment.

Some people deeply appreciate your work and for some people it’s just an object. Sometimes they just don’t understand.

This doesn’t look like my work, because in a very real way it isn’t. I crafted it. But the person who wanted it gave me their specifications, their design ideas. In a way, I lent them my hands.

Father Errol is a priest I’ve known for over ten years. He’s been an endless source of support and good sense for all of that time. He’s a lovely extra mom. He’s at a point where there are some lovely life changes coming for him. So this stole is to celebrate that.

For those of you who know liturgical art, the symbols and colors chosen for a stole have deep meaning, sometimes in history sometimes just to the priest himself. It is, in a way, an extension of who he is and what his ministry is.

I don’t mind lending my hands to someone who’s held mine. It’s a whole other kind of gift. I’ve had a number of fabulous other mother’s. Errol is one of the best. As they say, make something that makes someone happy.

The Other Parents: Mourning My Other Dad

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

It must have been over twenty years ago now that I met my Bosnian Family. I was living at the edge of Rodgers Park near Devon Street. A family moved in and proceeded to bring their whole coffee table onto the back porch.

It was moderately odd but completely harmless. I came to understand later that coffee and hospitality were both sacred to them.



Of course it was the youngest boy who made the first move. Amir was a ball of activity and saw me go out to play with my guitar. But I met them one by one, story by story. Within a year  I had children running in and out of my door for homework and odd crisises, and I would check on the Grandparents at night when the middle adults were off at work. I would sit at Hanifa’s table and she and her husband Mustafa would teach me Bosnian.

My Bosnian never got very good. But I learned so much from these people. I learned tenacity and faithfulness, and the fear and strength involved in living in a new culture. I learned how proud I was as an American to welcome in another group of people, who had, like my own, left their country with death at their heels. I who have had so little family in my life, learned what it was like to be part of a sprawling family, because they took me in completely. I learned what it was to be betrayed and come back faithful, to be harmed and come back strong.

This picture was Alma’s wedding. Mustifa is the handsome older man in a gray suit.

I called Hanifa and Mustifa, Mati and and Tata, Bosnian for mom and dad. And so they were. Today Mustafa joined Hanifa who died several years ago.  I suspect they’re sitting in a kitchen somewhere with two tiny cups of wildly strong cups of coffee, joined by the love of  family they raised in grace, fear, pain, love  and strength.


Redefining Mothers: Past and Present

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

ellen and zekeI remember the time I was in an airport and a man walked up to me and said, ” Happy Mother’s Day.”  I almost told him I wasn’t a mother. But  he was a total right. If it’s mother’s day, you best enjoy it.

Mothering is not exactly biology. It’s loving. It’s caring. It’s nudging into place. It’s standing in odd places to protect the people we care about. As the family has fallen apart, we have found other ways of being family. It’s just too hard to be alone. But the language hasn’t caught up yet. So in the way we had to redefine friends, lovers and spice, we came up with significant, we need to redefine the word mother .  We don’t have the verbiage yet for other mom’s.

But God bless them all. My mother was screamingly funny, fiercely attached and deadly when she went on the rampage. She taught me to read poetry and quote it, social rules that were mostly socially unacceptable everywhere but in her head, how to do lectures and how to sell ice to Eskimos  If you wanted warm and fuzzy, it wasn’t on the menu.

Enter my neighbor, Mary Annis who taught me to be late, messy, and honor my art. And who spilled love and crafts every where.

I’ve  mothered (or maybe smothered) batches of children who have come through my doors. And batches of dogs and cats, all of whom needed a meal and a lap  in a regular way.

Now my 13 year old neighbor has started mothering me. ” Did you lift your luggage”? 

“No. I just tilted it” You know that didn’t work.

Perhaps one of the jobs of mothering is to give the people and creatures you love, something to push back against. To define you as you have your small rebellions, so that they don’t get so large as to put you in jeopardy. To remind you where safety is and that someone cares.

I hope you had dozens of mothers. I hope you have dozens of children that are yours to love. I hope they love you back. I hope we all learn how intertwined we are, in spite of a language that cannot define it.


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