Wednesday, October 13, 2021

 Obituary for Jeanne Paul Gustafson

Jeanne (Paul) Gustafson, beloved matriarch of her large family, died peacefully on October 12 at the age of 99 at her home in Helena, MT surrounded by family. She was born in Edgeley, ND to Donald and Florence (Petrie) Paul on August 29, 1922, the oldest of five children. 

Jeanne attended college at NDSU for two years, then left school to marry Arthur Gustafson.  During their 60+ years of marriage, they raised seven children together while living in Grand Forks, ND. Jeanne devoted many years to her family. Besides being a loving wife and attentive mother, Jeanne was a talented seamstress, expert bridge player, and excellent cook. 

When her youngest child started school, Jeanne returned to college at UND. She earned a degree in elementary education, then went on to earn her master’s degree. She was on the dean’s list every semester and graduated with honors. Jeanne taught for 15 years before retiring, first at St. Michael’s Catholic school in Grand Forks and then at St. Joseph Catholic School in Mandan. Primarily a first grade teacher, Jeanne could proudly say that every child she taught learned how to read.

Jeanne and Arthur lived in Escondido, CA for many years after retirement before they relocated to Helena, MT. In retirement, Jeanne began quilting. Over the next 30 years, she designed and hand-quilted more than a hundred stunning quilts that are cherished by her family, including more than four dozen crib quilts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Jeanne was preceded in death by her parents; her four siblings; her husband; her son, John and his wife, Jean; and her grandson, Stephen. She is survived by six children, Paul (Ann), Mark (Judi), Lane Devereux (Michael), James (LuAnne), Janet Weisgram (David), and Robert (Lynn). Jeanne has 19 surviving grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.

A funeral mass for Jeanne will be held at Our Lady of the Valley on October 20 at 11:00 A.M. Interment will take place in Mandan, ND at a later date.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Saying Goodbye to My Mother

 I just said goodbye to my Mother, who is 1800 miles away, unresponsive and no longer eating or drinking. The hospice staff said that unresponsive people can still hear and understand, so my sister-in-law held the phone to her ear while I said my last words to her. Mother is 99 and this turn of events isn't unexpected, but I am still hurting. I saw her in May and she was in good shape. Michael and I had a lovely time with her. I have no unresolved issues with my Mother, no conflicts or remnants of past problems to cloud our relationship. For that I am thankful.

She started her decline over the summer, getting fuzzier about events and information, eating less and less. She held up her end of a telephone conversation fine as recently as two weeks ago, although she would sometimes respond to a question with "Now that's hard to know." She lost interest in food last winter. She has weighed about 145 pounds for a long time (a nice weight for her), but when we saw her in May she was down to 125 pounds, and now she only weighs 80. She will probably be gone in the next 24 hours. 

I made plane and hotel reservations to visit her in Helena in mid-November. I'll be cancelling them, of course, but I can't bring myself to do it until Mother is actually dead. My brother who is in charge of the details of her passing asked me to write her obituary a few months ago. I did, but it was hard. After she passes, I'll post her obit. She was a remarkable women and I'd like everyone to know it.

Mother wanted to live to be 100 and I wish she had. She came damn close. If there is a Heaven, she'll be in it soon, hopefully with my Dad by her side. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Here's a first: I'm blogging in the Veterinary ER at 12:40 am. Smudge, our 11-year old tuxedo cat, is sick. I feel extra bad because he had been sneezing last night and this morning but I didn't pay attention. Then I didn't hear him all day, so I thought he was better. Well, at bedtime tonight, I found him curled up in a hot, miserable heap by my pillow. His mouth was hanging open, his tongue was sticking out, and he was very hot. Obviously a sick boy.

Thankfully, they built a Veterinary ER near us. I hope we aren't here all night because we have an early appointment tomorrow.

This is the first time I've blogged using my cell phone. It's the first time I've blogged in a long time. Maybe using my cell is the trick that's going to get me blogging again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Creativity Explosion

I feel like I am in the middle of a creativity explosion these days. Quilting is big part of my creative output and I have become more and more interested in making art quilts. Bed quilts and lap quilts are large and take more time than I want to give sometimes. If I am not driven by a deadline - like a birthday or Christmas - I get lazy about working on projects that I have started. Moonglow is a good example. It is a beautiful quilt that I made in a block of the month class; it was paper pieced and I couldn’t have done that on my own without the class. But it is huge and I am hand-quilting it; I feel overwhelmed by it and haven’t done a lot of work on it. I told Alix she could have it, but I don’t have a deadline to give it to her, so no pressure. Plus, I kind of don’t want to give it away, at least not yet.

I have made several small projects in the last year that I like very much. A thread-painted small quilt with a rural scene on it that I lavishly hand-quilted while Michael had chemotherapy is one. Another is a miniature quilt I made for a Guild challenge and just finished. Simple, but lovely colors. I have a quilt in process for baby Gabriel and a UFO quilt of Felix’s footprints during her first year of life. Admittedly, there are a few more UFOs in my sewing stuff, mostly from classes. I want to get them finished, but I don’t know when that will happen.

This year I added another creative outlet: ceramics. Michael and I have wanted to do ceramics for several years but never got around to it until 2017. Last March we took a four-week class at The Potter’s Wheel and both made several pretty bowls. I even made a pitcher to add to my collection! This fall, we decided to enrol at Lone Star College for a semester-long ceramics class. It is very intense, lots of class time plus needed studio time after classes. The teacher, Kelley Eggert, is great and has really taught us a lot in a short time. I have made things I would never have expected to make. When they are all finished, at the end of the semester, I’ll take pictures of them and post the pix here for review.

I retain my interest in photography, although I’m not too active right now. I did put a photograph in a show at the JCC this summer and sold it. Last year year I sold an art quilt out of a WiVLA exhibition. Selling things is nice. We have a slush fund/windfall account and extra money like that, refunds, Christmas money, etc go into it. We paid our tuition for the ceramics class out of the slush fund.

I plan to take the ceramics 2 course in the spring. I really like ceramics and I am better at it than I knew I would be. It adds to my repertoire of creative outlets. I like it.

(And lest I forget, I found a new writers group and I am getting back into my book. I am developing some ambitions about finishing it this winter. We’ll see.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Insomnia Night Three

Another night and I am wide awake at 2:06 a.m. For the last three nights, I haven't been able to go to sleep and I've ended up awake until dawn. Yesterday, I finally fell asleep around 6:00 a.m. Or should I say, TODAY I finally fell asleep around 6:00 a.m. This is such a problem for me. I am not getting enough sleep and I am sleeping too much in the daytime, throwing off my schedule. Going to yoga at 9:00 a.m. was too much for me today and I skipped it. How am I going to feel tomorrow morning (this morning?) when I have to be at water aerobics at 9 a.m.? 

Today is going to be really tough if I don't fall asleep soon. I have the water aerobics, then a program on colon cancer at Glazier I want to go to at 11, and an appointment with Dr. M. at 2 p.m. I am going to be whipped after all that. Hell, I'm going to be whipped duriiong all that.

Most evenings, I start falling asleep in the living room when we are watching tv and/or I am fiddling with my iPad. I try to stay awake, but it is hard and sometimes I miss hallf the program. That doesn't translate into going to bed and going to sleep though. Before I can go to bed, there are chores to be done. Feed the cats and clean that up, finish the dishwasher and run it, brush and floss my teeth, take medication, give the cats their nighttime treat. By the time I have done all that, I am wide awake AND it is late. Like 12 or 1 a.m. late. And I get into bed and I can't sleep.

I am getting phobic about it. I start worrying that I won't falll asleep and that keeps me awake. Or I start falling asleep and I become self-aware of the progress, which wakes me up. I try tricks, counting, breathing, pretending I am in my chair falling asleep watching tv. It doesn't seem to help. I have some sleeping pills aand I always think I'll take one of them and get a good night's sleep and get back on track, but it is always too late to take the pills by the time I realize that I can't sleep.

I can see what I need to do. Get everythiing finished early in the evening so that when I get tired, I can go to bed and fall asleep. Get on a better schedule, stop staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning on a regular basis. While we were traveling on the West Coast, we got up every morning and got on the road around 8:30 or 9. We traveled and did things all day and went to bed 11-ish. We didn't nap. I didn't have insomnia. We had purposeful days.

I feel that I am adrift. I have lots of things to do but little motivation to do them. I doesn't seem to matter whether I accomplish anything or not. There are rarely any deadlines in my life. But, of course, it does matter. The house is in terrible disarray, still disheveled from the flood last February. FEBRUARY. What is it that makes me not care enough to put my house back together? I don't know. And in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, that is part of what I am thinking about. Everything I am not doing and everything I need to do and should be doing. 

When morning comes, that is all forgotten. I am adrift again. You know, at 65 I really should have this shit worked out. For all the years after I left the workforce in 1992, my family's schedule defined my life and provided the structure that I lost when I retired from work. The kids are all gone now and since Michael retired, he doesn't have a schedule either. Self-discipline seems to have eluded me. External requirements still get me moving most of the time. But I hate living this way. I hate seeing myself as a failure on this very personal level. I need to change up my life. I wonder how I'm going to do that?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

My AROHO Reading

In August 2013, I attended at women writers' retreat at Ghost Ranch sponsored by the A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO). During my week there, a videographer named Rebecca Scheckmann taped me reading the opening of my memoir-in-progress, "The Requirements of Love." Today, Rebecca posted the video on YouTube, making it public for the first time. 

Thank you, Rebecca!!

You can see the video at

Let me know what you think!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cheryl Marshall Remembered

I wrote the following Remembrance for Cheryl and read it at her 
Memorial Service on Saturday, September 13, 2014.

Cheryl Marshall was one of my dearest friends. We knew each other for twenty years, we enjoyed Crones together for probably fifteen of them, and we spent uncounted hours in Starbucks. Twice every school year from second grade to twelfth, Cheryl accompanied me to my younger daughter’s ARD meetings, even when they were in Waco! Every December, Cheryl, Dan, Michael, and I went out to dinner for our wedding anniversaries, which were a day apart. Cheryl and I made road trips together, one all the way to Bellingham, Washington to see Bertie Edwards, who many of you know, and one to Dallas to see Eddie Izzard perform.

I guess you could say I knew Cheryl pretty well. And I know that if Cheryl were here, she’d have you all laughing by now. She was seriously funny. She’d probably undertake a pun or two - tell us we’re getting morgue than we bargained for and that we have to do more to urn our keep. If you tried to tell her there was mortal life than puns, she’d just laugh. It was her joy to post a pun on her Facebook page every morning for a friend she especially wanted to cheer up.

And what friends she had. Cheryl was Houston Gran to a couple hundred people all over the globe, on every continent except Antarctica. When I say she was their Gran, it was not just a word. These people loved her, they poured out their hearts to her, they sent her letters and gifts, called her on the phone, came to Houston to have lunch with her. For her 80th birthday, they sent testimonials about all that Houston Gran had done for their spirits and their hearts. Cheryl loved her Internet family deeply and truly.

Cheryl considered herself Eddie’s Gran, too. Besides the trip to Dallas, Cheryl made a trip to NYC to see him in a play. She owned every DVD of his ever made and then some, but let's not say bootleg. Cheryl and I had tickets to see Eddie on June 30, but she went to the hospital instead of the performance. She was heartbroken to miss him, she loved him so.

She loved children, too, devoted her life to them, as you’ve heard. Special education was not just her vocation, it was her calling. She continued standing up for children after her retirement, attending ARDs as a substitute parent for children in foster care. And there are more families here than just mine whose children Cheryl advocated for tirelessly, refusing to accept a penny for her skill and time.

Before Cheryl was Houston Gran, she was grandmother to the children of her friends and acquaintances, offering a comforting lap, a listening ear, a willingness to engage in childhood games and stories. And who could forget the bag of lollipops she carried? Cheryl never condescended to children and perhaps that is why they loved her so much. In local circles, she was mostly known as Lala, a name she cherished. There was a special place in her heart for her one and only Mazie.

Was Cheryl perfect? No. None of us is perfect. Cheryl was simply so full of love and laughter, compassion and comfort, wit and wisdom, that her imperfections didn’t amount to a hill of beans. I am proud to have been her friend, and I know you are, too.