60 years ago my mother became a mother. (Karin Kristina Orwald 1936 – 2008)

Decades are significant.

60 years ago my mother became a mother.


My older brother born Summer 1958


50 years ago we moved to Canada from Sweden.

Leaving Grums, Sweden, October 31, 1968

50 years ago, my mother started to write letters home to Sweden.



30 years ago, my mother’s second grandchild was born.

My son born January 1988

10 years ago, I had my ear to my mother’s chest and listened as her heart slowed down and then stop.  My brother held her face and guided her through.  Surrounded by family. Her final exhale liberated her soul and I felt right then she flew straight down to San Francisco to be with my daughter who flew home ta few days later.

10 years.

On this day, I am lucky enough to work from home and simply be in my space in peace and joy.  I did what I learned so well from mamma- I cleaned the bathroom, did the dishes, mopped the floors (making sure to go behind the furniture).

I ate food so iconically mamma- pannkaka and cookies and egg.

Drank coffee.  And bit into an apple.

The apple is significant.

Mamma’s full name is Karin Kristina Orwald (Thorsen).

The Emigrant Saga Series by Wilhelm Moberg has so many parallels to mamma’s journey.  And the main character, Kristina, is wrapped in the metaphor her beloved apple tree at home in Sweden and on her death bed holds a ripe apple from her tree in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.55.04 PM

The Apple Tree, by Roar Thorsen, 2010

I remember that final year, when I mopped mom’s floors and she lay on her bed and we laughed and shared stories and talked about Pinesol.

Karin Summer 2008

I love you, Mamma.

This post is dedicated to my cousin, Dan Orwald, who passed away suddenly last week.

My aunt Siv with my Cousin Annika, Dan in the middle and Mamma holding my older brother, Christmas 1958.

Mamma- a portrait.

“If You Forget Me”

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Pablo Neruda

Karin Thorsen  Sept. 17, 1936 – Nov. 8, 2008

It is hard to imagine that it is ten years since she passed.  I wanted to write a letter to my mother on her birthday.  The letter became a portrait, inspired from a photo my father took during their honeymoon.  I chose to surround Mamma with her favorites: daisies, lily of the valley and chantarelles.

The third letter home. November 18, 1968

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Previous posts:

Package of letters to Sweden

A letter home. November 1, 1968

Dream. Letters. Thought and Memory.

Writing exercise.

The Second Letter.

As these translations focus on the letters from my mother to her best friends in Sweden, I will not be including letters from my Dad (this project is for mom, Drawn Together  was for Dad).  I will however include some interesting bits and pieces from Dad’s letters that give insight into mom and home life.


Mom’s third letter, dated Monday November 18, 1968 

[Note: my nickname in my family is Nina]

Thank you for two very interesting letters the other day,  I both cried and laughed when I read them.  Cried when I read that Eivor is starting to bring in money, which led to, amongst other things, us heading out on the weekend in search of a larger apartment.  It is true that it is quite nice here, but a little awkward.  You enter the living room onto wall-to-wall carpeting and that is a pain, you understand, as you know our angels.

At least we found a townhouse with access to a swimming pool.  Super fancy, 4 large bedrooms, combined living room and dining room, gorgeous kitchen with a dishwasher.  Two washing machines and two dryers in the basement.  Beautiful colours on the inside and a whole new neighborhood.  

We have a view of the mountains even here.  One of the bedrooms is downstairs and three up with thick, luxurious wall-to-wall carpets, with hardwood in the living room (which I am so grateful for).  There is even a front hall when you enter.  It will be much nicer for hosting and having guests as there are two floors.  We are making our decision in the morning.  


Otherwise things are moving along well.  I miss you all.  (strangely)

Last Saturday we were invited to an English family.  He works at Sandwell.  They live close by in an absolutely adorable log cabin, with a wood stove made of rough granite.  It turns out they are real tough people.  Every year they do a road trip with boat and tent (they are in their 60’s) to Alaska and the Rocky Mountains.  On the last trip, they were out in the wilderness the whole holiday.  They didn’t see any humans, except maybe for natives and farmers.  It takes about 8 hours to drive to the Rocky Mountains from here to a place called Williams Lake.  It is supposed to be a great place.  


He showed us slides and you, Rolf, would have cried if you saw the trout they caught every day.  There are several small cottages built in the wilderness for any visitors– anyone can use them.  They would repeatedly run into moose and bears.  Anders will go crazy with anticipation before we get there.  But there is no point to going there until the Spring as it is really cold up there in the winter.  It is better head South in the winter.  In two days we can be in Florida.

It +10ºC here today.   Girls are still wearing ankle socks.  But not Nina.  She has to wear leotards.  But it rains a lot here during the winter.  Last Saturday, we took the kids up the gondola.  Maybe Roar already wrote about that.  He bought a book and mailed it to you (as temptation), but it was not sent by air mail so it will probably take awhile before it arrives.  I haven’t received photos from Åke yet– maybe these were also sent by boat.  

It is going really well for the kids at school.  Nina goes 9-1 and Anders goes to 3.  There is no bad day for grade 1.  I am surprised.  And they really go hard.  Nina has to write long essays.  She has such a great accent.  It helps when they have start so young.  Sometimes she is grumpy when she comes home for lunch, but after she has eaten, she is satisfied and happy again.  


I can’t believe this is true– girls are not allowed to wear pants at school.  Luckily, it does not get that cold here.  I think it is a bit more strict here, and they don’t have the same approach.  Vern’s two young girls are already reading fluently.  I can’t believe it is true.  Nina (and I) hope that she will be able to be in the same class as Ann-Christine in a few years.  That’s the story I use when Nina doesn’t want to go to school. 

This coming Friday, we are going to the boss for dinner.  Blah!  I am not allowed to wear my long pants according to Roar.  Otherwise he doesn’t dare to go.  The old bag called me the other day.  I thought it was Fru Koppel.  I have never heard anything more close.  She is Danish and has lived in Stockholm for six years (stewardess), so she speaks Swedish.  She is supposed to be really attractive (gross).  But she actually sounded rather fun.  Everyone is pretty much a bunch of old bags and bitches otherwise, I think.  

Yeah, I guess one will survive this as well.  There is so much to arrange, and one can’t catch up.  Just imagine how much we will have time to do this summer when we come.  We won’t need many clothes.  Just money for the trip.  The rest we can take care of.  By the way, what the hell did Eivor receive from Roar through the window?  Luckily it wasn’t at the door.  

On Saturday, we are going to Vern for dinner because the kids are going to the ice rink to skate.  Vern is the same.  He must be so clever.  He has built a large house with three storeys.  His kids are girls ages 15 and 14, boys ages 12 and 10, and twin girls ages 6 and a half.  Sheila is really nice but not exactly a party gal.  Everyone seems so damn well-behaved here.  Lucky for me, Roar spoke to the neighbor the other day and I asked if he was cool.  Roar then said, “not as cool as Rolf.”  (Which I agree with)  Roar was quiet for a bit and then said, “and the broad wasn’t as perky as Eivor Carlson either.”  And somehow that was followed by me saying, “and that I am very thankful for.”  It just came out of me.  I am going to ensure things are relaxed and calm for awhile so I don’t have to chase Roar, etc.  

But I miss other types of exchanges of course.  Who knows, maybe a moose hunting family will show up this summer.  NOTE!  But not without the kids.  If I have to pay for them, I will.  

I am writing myself to death.  My fingers hurt.  Roar is also writing letters.  

I must tell you, we had some problems the other day.  They aired Bonanza, Laredo and High Chaparall on three different channels at the same time the other day.  This drove Anders crazy.  One channel is just cartoons.  Batman and the sort.  The boss’s wife told me I should watch TV as much as possible to learn English, but I actually just write letters.  

Say hello to Gunhild, with best wishes on the baptism.  The same happened with Katarina, if you remember.  The ceremony lasted an hour and Stake had dementia but there was just six of us, so it worked out anyhow.  


Now I can’t write anymore.  I will write another day.  Please write back or I will die an old man.  I play Sven Ingvars every day and long for home.  But time passes quite quickly.  Pan and Pia [the dogs] are welcome to sneak around outside our house some night.  I will let you know when Rolf should give Moritz arsenic in a few years.  Or Max could have snuck it into the coffee.  I assume Rolf can buy it cheap.


PS.  Excuse the handwriting.  I have written to Dad, Helga, Ulla-Britt, Sivan as well.

EXCERPT: Dad’s letter dated November 17, 1968

… There is a hell of a difference between Gruvöns Sågverk where one was only an errand boy to Moritz.  If I only get over this initial uncertain time, it will be an astounding school in which one learns to become the boss.  Hope this will be of value when we return to Sweden in the future.  

Well, I will end it here– will write more later.  Please write again soon, it is so nice to hear from you both.  I am starting to get over that difficult day when we left you– but I will never forget it.  

Heartfelt greetings. – Roar

The second letter. November 5, 1968.

Why when I close my eyes and think about myself at a young age do I find myself immediately at the age of 6?  What makes me go back to that little girl?  That time?

These days I feel tears well up easily.  Not of sadness, but of fullness.  Today I walked home from the bus stop the long way via the heron nests.  I stopped, breathing in the scent of blossoms, looking up at the springtime activity as the birds were busy showing off for each other, building nests.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all– my heart full, knowing that I am ready.  That tonight I would finally commit to translating mom’s letters here in this sacred space of mine, my blog.

I don’t write this blog for anyone but myself.  It is a depository.  A way to journal.  I only write it for me.  Sharing it in the ether gives me perspective.  I get a chance to step back.  To process.  So this is the place for me to translate the letters.

Sweden before we left for Canada

It is November, 1968.

My mom is 32 , the same age my daughter is now, and she is writing letters home to her best friends in Sweden.  Newly arrived to Canada.  And I am 6.  And she is writing letters.  And I have those letters in a pile here.  I have had them since December 2013.  I have only read the first one.

Previous posts:

Package of letters to Sweden

A letter home. November 1, 1968

Dream. Letters. Thought and Memory.

Writing exercise.

From what I see, as I sift through them, is that they are positive reflections of a young mother sitting at the kitchen table, likely children in bed, or at school, scratching out a connection to her best friends back home.  So why have I left the package untouched in my bookshelf on top of my father’s drawings all this time?  Me- the person that voraciously sifts through historical documents?

What is it that makes me well up in tears as I make this commitment now to go through the letters?  What is it I am grieving?  Remembering?

That young woman at the kitchen table, writing to her best friends.  The words flowing out of her mind, onto paper, into envelope, into mailbox, over the ocean, into her friends’ hand, 45 years later back into envelope, back across the ocean, into my hands.

And so…

Mom’s first letter to her friends was written the day after we arrived in Canada (we arrived October 31, 1968).  Today’s letter was written a few days later.


Vancouver 5/11-68


I was so damn mad- the freezer has mould, so I have stood with my head in it all day scrubbing.  [We had that freezer until 2004].  I guess I didn’t wipe it dry properly and it has been developing mould for 5 weeks.  Now, at least, it is ship-shape.  We have now furnished and decorated the house and as usual every corner is full.  It actually turned out really well.  I am so mad at this wall-to-wall carpeting they have here.  They get dirty just by looking at them.  

If you only knew how gorgeous it is to lie on the bed and look out the bedroom window.  All the mountaintops were totally white this morning.  The restaurant [at the top of Grouse Mountain] is always all lit up.  The gondola is not far from here.  There is also  park not far from here with mysterious totems for the kids and a suspension bridge that swings too darn much.

There are quite lovely things all over the place here.  It is funny that in the house next door there is a two year old girl named Nickolina.  Fredrik’s head is spinning [our friends’ son in Sweden, also 2 at the time, is named Niklas].  Fredrik, by the way, is still saying “damn” whenever something happens.  He throws the toothbrush in the toilet every morning and looks at me and there comes the long drawn out “daaaaaaamn.”  I am not buying anymore toothbrushes until he stops that.  

The meat here is so cheap and juice of all sorts cost just a few cents per can.  Other than that, things are pretty much the same.  Please say hello to everyone at the grocery store, by the way.  I bet there is loss of revenue now that I am not shopping there for hundreds of dollars every month.  

How is Rolf doing without me?  Hope he doesn’t fall out too badly.  Roar is connecting a lamp today and is swearing as nothing fits and he is saying, “What a stupid country.”  You know how he gets when he is going to do something.  

Have any bills arrived?  Please let me know if funds are needed.  (Of course, I mean not regarding you!)  It is a long weekend here, so Roar has three days off.  I guess we will head home to [?] if you don’t invite us on Saturday?  How goes the pyramid scheme?

Do you know that we have 11 channels here to choose from every evening?  We are up to our necks with TV but I have to say there are some beautiful movies.  They run from 10 in the morning to 5-6 AM the next day.  

A response is requested within the next three years, otherwise it is too late.


PS.  Kiss the kids.  Would give a million dollars to look after them while you are at the gym.

photo 2
In Canada, early 1969

You are motherhood. You are the greatest mystery. Karin 17/09/36-08/11/08

Only do not forget, if I wake up crying it’s only because in my dream I’m a lost child hunting through the leaves of the night for your hands… – Pablo Neruda

8 years ago today, my little brother held my mother’s face and spoke sweetly, guiding my mother.  I laid my right ear on her chest and I heard her heart slow then stop. A last sigh.  Then she flew.  She became everything.


Oh how I love you, Mamma.  I see you more and more in my face, in my body.  I welcome each sag, each wrinkle, each change in my bones.  Your fingers are my fingers (on my right hand), your laugh is mine (and the parrot’s), your worn out recipe book has butter and flour stains and smells like your kitchen.   When I hold Henrik and Vivienne, I feel you holding them as well.  You whirl around the family and your spirit and love fills the room.

I still reach for the phone to call you.  I want to talk to you about cleaners and the latest soup recipe with you.  I want to have you lie on your bed with Asterix as I sort your closet and we laugh at sweaters we have held on to.  I want to hop in the car with you and Tobey or Tina or Milton and walk for hours in the forest hunting for mushrooms.

public domain

I want to pull out all my Molly research and discuss it with you, head to Molly’s grave and have a picnic.  I want to cook with you as the kids lounge in your bedroom watching cartoons.  I want to pull out the furniture and dust behind the couch and weed the garden as we gossip and laugh.  I want to spend full days in Fort Langley.

I no longer pursue your dreams on your behalf; I pursue mine as you truly always wanted me to do.

You feared to lose me, but you never did.

And as I become more and more myself, I become more and more your love.

Look at the legacy you created.

You are love.  You are beauty.  You are motherhood.  You are the greatest mystery.


I need to process you.  I want to write about you.

Karin Thorsen

September 17, 1936 – November 8, 2008




The maternal eyelids that buried will again open toward the heights…

Karin Thorsen

September 17, 1936 – November 8, 2008

Because you are
a seed,
chestnut tree, autumn, earth,
water, heights, silence
prepared the germ,
the floury density,
the maternal eyelids
that buried will again
open toward the heights
the simple majesty of foliage,
the dark damp plan
of new roots,
the ancient but new dimensions
of another chestnut tree in the earth.

From Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground



Grief hits me when I least suspect it, with a solitary evening walk…


All of a sudden, all I want to do is organize mom’s closet, as she lies on the bed and chats with me, the parrot cuddling her hand, Tobey on the floor below, with Grey Gardens on in the background.

Grief hits me when I least suspect it, with a solitary evening walk, letting the dog meander where he wants, with that first drop of rain.  It hits me sideways and bores into my bad ear, and worms its way down to right below the sternum, to that place between the heart and the gut.  Then moves up through the trachea, into the sinuses then makes the neuralgia flare.  My eyes feel swollen and the tears want to come.  But they don’t.  Not yet.

I saved my mom’s dishrag.  It rests on my mantle like some kind of sacred heirloom.  That dishrag she’d rub obsessively over the counter if she was upset, or cleaned the birdcage with, Oprah on in the background, or washed a stain off my shirt as we got ready for the film fest.

But why just tonight, why now?  What is it about this moment that makes loss so palpable?  So intermingled with nostalgia and gratitude?


Sunday morning visit with my mother.

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve been up awhile. Dog is walked. Pot of coffee almost gone. Parrot loud. Rest of the household asleep. Making pancakes.

On Sundays, with Corrie on in the background, I make pancakes and visit with my mom. She’s there with me and we can talk freely about all the wonderful trivial things mothers and daughters share.

I am feeling especially aware of her these days- not only as I anticipate her birthday on Wednesday (she would be 78). I am really allowing myself to converse with her freely about my life as her daughter. Not idealizing it. Not demonizing it. But celebrating it. Acknowledging the umbilical cord she never cut, acknowledging that when I took steps to cut it, she (coincidentally?) died shortly afterwards. I know at times that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. I know also that umbilical cord sustained me and enriched me and connected me to all the women before me and after me.

I know my mom was in pain. I know also that we were best of friends. I celebrate our gentle last year together. I am infused by her. I was scared of her. I adore her. I understand her.

And as the pancake fries, and as the house smells of coffee and melted butter and Sweden- I chat with mom. Lightly fully lovingly.

Though Mom loved the Spring and it’s colourful message of hope and renewal, my mom was autumn. She was born as the leaves turned and she died as the cold set in.











The darkness is not always there. But the mask slips at times. #journal

I’ve been trying to write a post for days.  And those that know me know that it’s unusual for me to have to pause in the process.  But I have become stuck.


There’s a pain in the chest that reminds me to pay attention, to try to figure it out.  My journal- usually filled with clutter and profusion- has stopped.  There are only some scrawled words…

June 10 11 12/ 2013 

Darkness behind the smile

Turning away

The abyss

The mess


I’ve wanted to write about the darkness behind my smiles.  The darkness is not always there.  But the mask slips at times.   I will be in situations at work or over dinner with family or friends and chirp and converse and dialogue and laugh, but as I say goodbye and I turn away, a darkness slips underneath me and I stand on the precipice and I crawl back to the car and my grey, threadbare worn-out clothes droop around me.  My ashen old face with its sunken eyes is unveiled.  I get back in the car and slump.

But I look over and see my dog looking at me with love in his eyes and I feel the simplicity of love heal me.  I can turn the key again and drive into my future- whatever lies ahead, however long or short it may be.

I suppose it’s fatigue.  It’s all the projects on the brink of success (“we just need to get there”); it’s the usuals.  But I know there has been something else to it.

Driving home today, my mind lingered on my mother.  At the red light, I grabbed my phone and searched YouTube for mom’s favorite song, Cohen’s Halleluja.

Ah- there we go.  The floodgates opened.  I played it about 8 times through before entering the garage and knew those words could be about her, could have been hers.  Could be mine to her.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

– Leonard Cohen

I could feel my mother’s angel wings envelop me and allow me to miss her.  For what daughter, so loved by mother [a mother I knew who lived with a broken and fragile soul but who loved me so completely] would not miss a mom like mine.  And it’s OK to miss her.  It’s OK.


Mourning is not forgetting . . . It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the dust.

~ Margery Allingham




A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.

Weighted and achy heart today on Mother’s Day.  Missing Mom is an expected constant in my life.  But I am so blessed to have been loved so completely by her.  The pain now is, therefore, beautiful.

Revisiting some favorite photographs.

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.  ~Tenneva Jordan



Because you are
a seed,
chestnut tree, autumn, earth,
water, heights, silence
prepared the germ,
the floury density,
the maternal eyelids
that buried will again
open toward the heights
the simple majesty of foliage,
the dark damp plan
of new roots,
the ancient but new dimensions
of another chestnut tree in the earth.

From Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground

Watercolor. Quote by Lynda Barry


The umbilical cord. Mother-daughter journal series. PART 3: Because you are only a seed


(Hello, me!







Before I dig deeper into my journey as a daughter, I am pausing to draw inspiration from poetry and reflect on the potential we are all born with.

I start with the sketch.


THEN FIND THE POEM.  I love how we can always find just the right one.

Because you are
a seed,
chestnut tree, autumn, earth,
water, heights, silence
prepared the germ,
the floury density,
the maternal eyelids
that buried will again
open toward the heights
the simple majesty of foliage,
the dark damp plan
of new roots,
the ancient but new dimensions
of another chestnut tree in the earth.

From Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground






The umbilical cord. Mother-daughter journal series. PART 2: IDENTIFY THE FIRST MILESTONE


(Hello, me!






Draw (or photocopy) a baby in the womb.  Write stream of consciousness in the nooks and crannies on the image focusing on the theme of the first indication in your life where attachment issues, blockages, patterns etc. may have begun.




My journal entry January 20, 2013 (stream of consciousness):

When I was born I lay between my mother’s legs in the same position she was in.  Legs spread ready to give birth.  I mirrored her and our connection begun in “wound” deepened  [interestingly I wrote wound when I meant to write “womb”].  I was her daughter.  She was the mother and all was as it should.

Age 1. Watercolor.

My brother was 4 years older and I’m not sure how he felt about my arrival but I am hoping he enjoyed it.


I was extremely colicky- born with my infamous stomachaches.  For three solid weeks I cried with no response to reassurances or backpats.  I wonder if this affected my bonds or not.  I know my mom loved being a mom and that, with the support of  best friends, she did perfectly.  She was surrounded by the love of her friends.  And she had her mother (and her mother’s siblings).  It was a typical 60’s childhood in Sweden.  Blissful and traditional.

My mother experienced intense sadness though when she lost her mom suddenly in 1964.  I was two.  Mom was only 28.  I can’t imagine.  This was a huge turning point for mom’s confidence.  Her needs for healing and connections were not filled by my Dad.  Certainly all her girlfriends were there for her.  This saved her life.

Lt. to rt.: My mom (Karin), Anneli, Ulla-Britt, Eivor

But I can’t imagine the internal pain Mom was experiencing.


The death of Stina (my grandmother) was the turnaround for mom.  Dad pulled away from her when she needed him.  He was not capable to support those needs.  Mom agreed to move to Canada shortly after my little brother was born.


She did not want to move.  But she did want to escape the pain.  The family became the rooted oasis she needed.




A woman’s heroic journey always begins in partnership with her mother, the woman from whom she takes the imprint of what it means to be a woman.  Her journey picks up speed when she leaves the comfort of the womb and goes through the process of birth.  From then on, she must travel through a series of developmental stages that can be likened to a series of wombs.

– Dr. Christiane Northrup, Mother-Daughter Wisdom


The umbilical cord. Mother-daughter journal series. PART 1: Accepting the task.


(Hello, me!




My mother was extremely private. She wore a mask of perfection and medicated away her anxieties, but she longed for disclosure and process and the joy of self-discovery.  I am not private.  So I will share the ride with you and perhaps this will encourage you to take your own journaling path through the blockages that repeatedly come up in your life.  And in this way, I take my mother along for the ride with us.

Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after her.

– Christiane Northrup, MD




Write for 20 minutes (stream of consciousness) around the theme.

Try not to censor or edit yourself or hesitate when moving the pen across the paper.

My journal entry January 18, 2013:


As I find myself in low places again, struggling with self-esteem issues and blaming myself when circumstances become complicated and unbearable, I know it is time to address the most complicated and intertwined relationship in my life, my relationship with my mother.


My mother was an integral part of researching Molly, and indeed the book is dedicated to her.   The book itself centres around the theme of “the mother,” so it is an appropriate (and necessary) time for me to address the theme in my own life.  Drawn Together was a father-daughter story and in it I only touch on my mother.


But I have longed to fully work on the aspects in my life that block me, drive me, make me spectacular, make me weak, fearful, small, make me the mother that I am.  Make me judge myself, make me follow my passions.  Address our commonalities and differences,  Work through the repeated patterns.  Break them, embrace them, celebrate them, make new ones.

Figurine by mom's best friend, Johanna Vermeer.
Figurine by mom’s best friend, Johanna Vermeer.

It is appropriate that I use this journal, which is also my Molly journal.  Only by addressing and healing my issues re: my mother can I authentically tell Molly’s story.



An ode to @Iamyokoo #portrait #inspiringartist

18" x 24" China marker on newsprint
18″ x 24″ China marker on newsprint


Running a one-woman knitwear enterprise from home, Yokoo is an artist, a perfectionist and a ”total control” worker. She enjoys being a part of the entire process: thinking, designing, sketching, picking up the material, creating, photographing, promoting, trading and sending. She still gets butterflies every time she packages up a new order.



Yokoo on ETSY

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Weekly artist series: Week 9 Part 2 SUE COE: A mother dying

Week 9 Part 2 Sue Coe

The Last 11 Days is a group of charcoal drawings Sue Coe created from July 20 to 31, 1995 depicting her mother as she lay dying with cancer. The drawings reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. [source]

I’m not a big fan of the word “resonate.”  The meaning is OK, but the word irritates me for many reasons.  But I have to use it when describing Sue Coe’s drawing of her dying mother.  These pieces resonate with me as I feel such connection to my own experience.

From the series ; Charcoal on paper; 11 x 13 in.; Gift of Patti Cadby Birch; © Galerie St. Etienne, New York


Unlike her other work, The Last 11 Days were created without the intention of being shown and reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. Sue Coe is inspiring in every form, supporting issues that plague the world and refusing to sit quietly in their wake. She continues to be a magnetic force in the complex world of contemporary women artists.

One day, I will revisit  and draw from the photos of my mother‘s declining body and the photo after she passed, but not yet.

What do you want to process eventually?

I know the process of drawing mom in her last weeks will be an important and necessary one for me personally.  I hold onto her purse, her wallet, her phone, her trinkets, her perfume, even her last umbrella.

Before I went to San Francisco, I visited mom’s memorial leaf and just cried and cried.  It’s not about needing to work on something unfinished.  I’m working.  It’s about not shying away from the processes of life.  I don’t want to shy away.

My daughter can feel the presence of “Mormor” in her daily life in San Francisco.  We often talk about how Mormor flew right down to Anna in San Francisco when she left her body.

Anna sees Mormor at the SFMOMA in the portrait by Matisse.  I love that Mom also had green eyes.

The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908
Henri Matisse

See also:

35 PART daily journal exercise

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series INTRO

Weekly artist series Week 1 parts 1-6 FRIDA KAHLO

Weekly artist series Week 2 parts 1-6 PICASSO

Weekly artist series Week 3 parts 1-5 LISA LARSON

Weekly artist series Week 4 parts 1-3 GEORGE GROSZ 

Weekly artist series Week 5 parts 1-4 FAITH RINGGOLD

Weekly artist series Week 6 Parts 1-3 BASQUIAT

Weekly artist series Week 7 Parts 1-4 deKOONING

Weekly artist series Week 8 Parts 1-3: OTTO DIX

Weekly artist series Week 9 Part 1: SUE COE Life in a Day

Mom's parrot, Asterix, lives with me now. I love when he does her belly laugh and answers the phone in her Swedish accent.

The Sketchbook Project page 2


Theme: And Then There Was None

Page 2 Transcript

Friday October 8, 2010

Westfield San Francisco Centre

Karin • Kristina • Mamma

It’s almost been 2 years since mom passed away.  I have never really written about those last moments.  For they were not “last.”  But all of a sudden– Mom’s powerful presence in our life changed.  I felt her breathe out.  Her heart slowed and stopped.  I was there with my head on her chest.  And we surrounded her with love and support and her spirit infused us.  It is actually impossible to grasp.  How does life continue after that?  And is it OK to actually feel free and perhaps free-er?  Heart

I miss just talking to Mom.  Just about the kids and laundry and food and life.  I miss the chatter and the camaraderie and the “I get it” and the simple stuff.  We could talk about kids.

I miss my own childhood.  The safety + fun or being the kid.

Collection for more pages:

See page 1 at The Sketchbook Project page 1

See page 2 at The Sketchbook Project page 2

See page 3 at The Sketchbook Project page 3

See page 4 at The Sketchbook Project page 4

See page 5 at The Sketchbook Project page 5

See page 6 at The Sketchbook Project page 6

See page 7 at The Sketchbook Project page 7

See page 8 at The Sketchbook Project page 8