Last week I was overwhelmed. I still am a bit. Preparing for a major con is really having a whole other job. The kinda job you need to do full time. More than once, I had to just have the ugly cry and get it out.
The older I get, the more I realize I don’t have time for petty drama, or doing or having things that don’t bring me joy. And then again, sometimes you don’t get to choose to make those changes.
On Easter, my older sister passed away after an almost thirty year battle with Multiple Sclerosis, the same disease that killed my mother twelve years ago this fall.
Since last autumn, my sister had steadily declined with seizures that eroded her bodily functions. MS and multiple addictions had taken their toll. She was in hospice care for roughly six to nine months with all of the drama of dealing with finding her better care, treatment, and what ever it took to make her more comfortable. Much of the more peaceful rest came as a result of my younger brother’s compassion and previous medical experience.
She had manic episodes that were so jarring, I had to bite my lip from crying. Often, I couldn’t stop. We took turns feeding her. There were days she was definitely winning battles, but overall, we knew she was losing the war.
During this time, I visited when I could, in between shows, the holidays, and a business trip to New Orleans. Every visit, I lost a little more of her, like tearing off a band aid hair by hair, ever so painfully slow.
On the good side, my family rallied together for support. I am blessed to have so many siblings. I have no idea how only children can handle this kind of tragedy.
On my sister’s 50th birthday, she’d been almost too heavy for her mobility scooter. By Easter last year, I had to bring her new clothes as she was on a diet.
That day was golden for me. She was completely lucid. We talked about our life as kids. We didn’t always have the best relationship; sister sibling rivalry can be brutal. But I’d forgiven her long ago. She talked about getting well enough to leave assisted living, get a job, and to have more time with her daughter.
So it was ironic when, about a week before this Easter, she started to truly slip away. She stopped eating and talking. Within a couple days, we knew she was dying, it was just a matter of when. She had wasted away, but her skin was oddly soft and radiant. Her fingers had curled tightly around her sheets. We placed a rosary in her grip. One of her care nurses said she had the strongest heart despite all her other organs shutting down. The longest they’d ever seen someone last on just oxygen was eleven days. My sister made it past much of eight.
On Easter, the majority of my family skipped dinner and went to hospice. Over a period of seven hours, I watched her skin pale, the light in her eyes go, while I and my family reminisced and grieved. At 10:30pm, she finally let go.
We had the luxury of time for memorial as we choose cremation, but for two weeks, I was a zombie. I had a book signing and two photo shoots scheduled, one the Monday night after Easter. How I churned out some incredible work during this time is beyond me. Maybe because I let myself have my pain and not give a rats ass what anyone else thought.
From the photoshoot I styled/designed the day after she passed:
Photo credit Kim Ackerman/Vogue Portrait Studio
The above shoot, a few days after my sister’s death, right after a book signing. Photo credit Lori Peterson.
And including this portrait I drew (shown from start to finish) of my sister for her memorial:
Spring and early summer were filled with the usual ups and downs of the art business, including a stalker that made me more inclined to credit, copyright, and trademark my work. I finished “A Long Reign” in three weeks for the Amazon UK Storytellers Competition. But I didn’t do well at the usual Lafayette Square House Tour.
My bunny Bobalou had been increasingly tired. Always incredibly sweet, but he’d been taking long naps with hilarious periods of dreaming. The night before he passed, I’d stopped at the pet store and decided to get him the “good stuff” as intuition told me I didn’t have much time with him left. He demolished it and almost fell asleep with his head on the dish.
Like most elderly house rabbits, he succumbed to pneumonia. Within moments of a wheezing fit, I had an appointment at the emergency pet clinic. Within the hour, with complete agreement from the vet, Bobalou was led gently over the Rainbow Bridge.
I had him for 10 of his 12 remarkably healthy years. However, with so much change coming, including more travel, I’ve opted to not get a new pet for now and his things will help homeless bunnies at the Missouri House Rabbit Society.
The end of July was just a shit show. A friend’s marriage is in trouble. Another friend was raped by someone she knew. I got dumped after a short summer romance, and the day after that, my car broke down. And it was freakishly hot for a few days. But I survived, lol.
Summer is almost over. Today as I hit crunch time for Big River, I’ve come to roof for a break, to reflect, and have on last cry. It’s amazingly nice weather for late August.
What I’ve learned from being an artist is that I never want to stop feeling. You often hear that some artists turn out their best work when high or drunk. I try not to judge those that imbibe, each to their own, but I don’t. Those chemical filters turn off my senses. I can’t create what I don’t feel. And after what’s happened this year, I really have the feels.
In my works, especially the novels, I don’t take death or treatment of characters lightly. “A Long Reign” is brutal. More so than “Strax and the Widow” and “Revenge and Machinery”. Almost on par with “the Vampire’s Little Black Book Series”, if not even more jarring. I don’t add sex or violence for shock value. Controversial things happen because just like life, things happen. And most times, they happen for a reason, though we may never know exactly why. I can deal with that as long I learn from experience. This year, I’ve learned a lot, and learned to let go.
I said it to a friend today, you can’t move forward until you leave something behind. Forward I go with the fullest of hearts.
So now, back into the intense throes of prep for Big River Steampunk Festival-details on the event in my links below.
As always, thank you for reading,
*Big River Steampunk Festival, Hannibal, MO, Labor Day Weekend. Event link is here:
TBA with more details:
*9/15, Rock, Shop and Glow Festival, 5-8pm, Webster University.
*9/23, Strange Folk Festival pulled out of Lafayette Square. A one night event at 1900 Park will be replacing it.
*11/11, Live Draw at the AKC Museum of the Dog
*12/2017 Lafayette Square Holiday Parlor Tour
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