My mother is a fiend for naughty, sugary cereals. Truth be told, Cap’n Crunch is my own vice. Maaaaybe once a year I can have some. But as my mother is also a very silly, goofy person, I decided to combine cereal + book to make the Oops! Cereal Box Book, made from an actual box of Oops! cereal – as in, oops, it’s all berries. Yum! My favorite part of this book is the binding. Oh, and eating the Oops.
This book is available for commission – each one completely unique. I can make these from cake or cookie or muffin or cereal boxes or any other sort of box! If you’ve got somebody with a thing for something in a box, give me a holler! It’s a fun gift.
This book, 579 – The House Thief – is a tribute to my mother, and to all of us as we age. To the things we lose and the things we can lose if someone isn’t helping along the way. It is a one of a kind, original work.
For my mother, last year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, placed in a facility, then later removed when family members tried to rob her blind, then cancer, then – believe it or not – UNdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We learned her former home had been full of black mold, which contributed mightily to her symptoms of memory loss and terrible asthma and eventually caused her to lose that home entirely. Mold stole her home, and it almost cost her her life.
But last year in the midst of all this, in a terrible depression, she said to me, “I am 84 and I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.” This inspired this book, which had direct quotes from her on each page. Pages are wooden and handpainted with milk paint, then bound in a Secret Belgian Binding with black wool.
The book cover is adorned with a miniature glass doorknob, and the entire book lives inside the house. The roof of the house comes completely off. The house is also painted with milk paint and ink and the interior of the house is black, to signify the mold that took away her life.
My favorite part of this book are the quotes, which provide an interesting view of life at 84, and the clacking sound the pages of the book make when the book is open or pages turned. 579 was her street address.
We work hard. We give well. We love deeply. But do we remember to appreciate our own open heart and generous spirit? Take a moment to love and notice what you did, thought, felt, said, or gave last year that is a testament to the excellence of your spirit. Take a few minutes to appreciate the person you have become. Here are a 10 ways to show yourself you care, and to mark the achievement of becoming the person you have become.
Ten Ways to Show Yourself You Care
1. Flowers. Buy yourself some!
2. Take yourself out on a date. But before you do, dress nicely, buy yourself flowers (see number 1), and consciously note why you are doing this: because you are wonderful.
3. Write down private thank you notes to you from you, and stick them in pockets – coats, pants, shirts. Offer little thoughts like, Thank you so much. I love how loving you are. I love your generous nature. You have made me laugh. You took such good care of the family this year. Thank you!
4. Send yourself a gift. Log on to Amazon or other gifting sites and send yourself a token of your appreciation. Get it wrapped!
5. Mail yourself a lovely card, signed by hand. We all love getting things in the mail, especially hand-written notes. Who does that for you anymore? You do.
6. Foster a relationship with your future self by hiding money you’ll find later. My favorite gift for myself was a $50 bill I hid in a book I knew I would get to, but not for awhile. A year later, when I finally got around to reading it, I had completely forgotten about it when the money fell out onto my lap. It was an amazing feeling of gratitude for my former self and a connection across time, from that moment to the one in which I first placed the money. It made me cry.
7. Make a backward-in-time chart to note the things about this moment that are because of something wonderful you once did or decided. For instance, earlier this year I looked around my family and realized my daughter, and her family now, all came from that moment in high school in which I took a dare and talked to her future dad. I appreciate the young woman I was!
8. Share with a friend the 5 best things about you, and ask them to do the same about themselves. Then, make a toast to the hard work you’ve both put into being a great person, and how well you’ve succeeded.
9. Lipstick and mirrors. Write a note in lipstick on your bathroom mirror about how charming, lovely, or hilarious you are. Love the love notes. They are fun to wake up to.
10. Be kind in thought and deed. You know you are kind to others, so do unto yourself as you would do unto others – practice kindness toward your own mind and soul. Guard your thoughts, and remember what your mother taught you: if you can’t say something nice to yourself, don’t say anything at all.
I’ve just published my new photo essay, “Colorado: Journey to Her Alzheimer’s,” on Steller.co. It’s a personal story but judging by how very many people have someone they love with this disease, I hope this might be a comfort. We are most definitely not alone in this thing.
It was morning, and I had taken my father in law to the beach, one last time. I took the solid, cedar box to the balcony overlooking the sea. He had died nearly two years before, but our family was unable to return to Seattle for a memorial.
I took my father-in-law with me as I moved and traveled. He was always quiet, as usual. I teased him that perhaps he’d see some pretty girls on the beach, if only his view weren’t obscured by the box.
He enjoyed the sunrise more than me.
Never much of a morning person, so getting up early to show him the sunrise one last time was, I hoped, not lost on him, although he never really said anything about it. I felt the sunset would surely be even better, even if only one of us was actually awake.
Even big clouds didn’t elicit a response.
I was sure the evening sky would at least spark some conversation… but perhaps he was full from the dinner I had.
At last, the thunder!
At last the excitement arrived. A giant thunder cloud, poring down its feelings onto the ocean before us! The air was blanket heavy with moisture. I clapped when the thunder came, but alas, he did not.
By morning, steaming coffee in hand, I waved goodbye as he waited on the deck, and wandered out onto the rough shore, huge trees adorning it in grassy, wooden necklaces.
I felt a little guilt for leaving him for so long, and that, well, he couldn’t see what I was seeing anymore… or could he?
The brave roots of this enormous tree were so thrilled with their new view! Sky! Clouds! Each other! Roots cannot normally see each other, I am told.
Some trees snuck a rock or two in between themselves, just for kicks. I told him this when I returned some time later. He has not made any new coffee for me.
The glorious blue sky sang even louder than the surf, and my friend, you’ve never seen happier roots than I did that day.
Even the sideways wind got in on it, gurgling with the little tide, tiptoeing across the wood – here, on the beach, and back there, in the box, where my father-in-law waited, quiet, as usual.
My favorite: being with the little ones I like to call, “The Waiters.” Not like people who bring spaghetti to the table – no. I mean, the things that seem to make a living waiting. Yes. The rocks.
But before I could dwell too long on the various hums and sighs of the still-waiting stones and pebbles, the sun arrived – or rather, we here arrived to it.
Boulders are rocks, too, yes, but they don’t seem to wait. They are too busy ducking the waves. At least, that was what I told my father-in-law later.
And this is how we said goodbye, me from the shore, and he from inside the box.
Our family, like so many, seems fraught with mystery and intrigue. On a sunny afternoon last week, I decided to capture as best I could the feeling of being a member of my sometimes strange and secretive family. I shot this series of self-portraits using mixed light – natural daylight and two speedlites (flash units), one on camera, and one behind the door without a modifier (softbox, umbrella, etc.) Here is the first of the series.