Tag Archive for 'Nikki'

September 21st


Today would have been Nikki‘s 30th birthday. Earlier this morning I left a post on her facebook page sharing a little message. I want to share the story here but in more depth.

I originally met Nikki through my friend Tom. To know Tom is to know a very vibrant character. He’s saucy and always has the best stories to share. When he started dating Nikki we hadn’t seen him for a couple weeks and then he springs on us “come meet me for dinner. I want you to meet my new girlfriend.” We were all kind of surprised because he refused to ever call the previous girl he dated a “girlfriend”. We don’t see him for a few weeks and BAM, he was already in a committed relationship.

A big group of us went out to the Junction – a local family restaurant/hangout. Nikki was so quiet and just painfully shy. I don’t think she made eye contact with anyone and I have this memory of her almost hiding behind Tom, like he were a security blanket and we were a pack of rabid, starved wolves. To be honest, we kind of could be that way when it’s one person against a big group of people that all know each other and have countless inside stories and jokes. But to be honest, I can be just as shy and awkward, I just had the comfort of my close friends on my side. Much later, unbeknownst to me, Matt would inform her that we had already classified her as a “dud” after that first meeting. (smacks hand to forehead)

It was probably a few weeks after initially meeting her and we were at Otto’s, a local bar. Side note: Otto’s was the place that Tom and Nikki met for the first time, and it was on her 21st birthday. I was sitting next to Nikki on a bar stool. Conversation was still a struggle and I think she had already given up any hope of making friends with Tom’s friends. In fact, she was into talking to some random person next to her when I overheard her say when her birthday was. It was one day before my own. I’ve always had a thing for people who share (or are near) my birthday. It might seem silly to some, but I felt like it was some sort of a sign. Right then and there I got off my chair and told her I had to give her a hug and I knew from that moment on we would be friends.

Pumpkins 2003-2010

(Nikki put this collage together last fall. The thing I love about it is that the top two photos were probably taken by Matt or myself. The missing years were probably years we forgot to take pictures, but we always carved pumpkins together every year.)

And we did become great friends. It was true that we were very different, but in other ways she and I were so much alike and shared so much in common. I knew things about her and felt like no one knew me in the same way she did. We both loved dragging the guys out and having adventures as well as creating and keeping traditions. Having birthdays so close and celebrating together was just one of the many traditions. My birthday will always be tied to hers. I miss her like crazy and always wish she were still with us. From things like the songs that pop up on the radio every time I’m thinking about her, and the box turtle my family just brought home, to the address number of our  new home, I know she is still around.

mailart 365 118 – 124

While our friend Tom has been traveling, we have been watching his dog, Benny, off and on. Benny is a tiny white maltipoo that actually belonged to my friend Nikki, who passed away earlier this year. Actually, if you click on that link to her caringbridges page, the first picture that pops up is a picture of Benny wearing a coat that I made for him.
As long as I knew Nikki she wanted a dog. She was definitely one of those children that stray animals follow home, and she had a huge heart for all animals. I was just recalling on her facebook page about how we’d often drag the guys with us to different pet stores and ooh and aah at all the animals we wanted to take home with us. It wasn’t until just months before she passed that she finally got her dream pet. I think Tom and Nikki showed up one day at our door with this little tiny poof ball (pictured above with Nikki on our front porch). Benny wasn’t even 2 pounds yet and could hardly be taken seriously as a dog. He looked more hamster or even muppet. Even now, I think he weighs under 5 pounds and is still more muppet than canine.

Here’s a little video I recorded of him earlier today.
While Nikki was sick, especially while she was doing treatments, I liked to send her picture or video messages that I hoped would brighten her day. One of those last messages I sent her was a cell phone video I recorded of Benny when he was a tiny puppy and she responded that “he just made her so happy”. She loved him so much and so because of that he is important to me as well.

Today I took Benny outside and while he ran around I noticed the beauty of his fur. He’s a white dog, and while Tom bathed him right before his trip, he is now a pretty dingy dog. That’s okay because it makes for good texture. Maybe it’s just the fiber enthusiast in me, but I had to run in and get my camera. Right there in the lawn I started snapping shots of his hair until I realized that they would make a wonderful collection of mailart pieces. I adjusted the photos, then printed them out from my inkjet printer on cardstock. Since I used the inkjet I was able to create a watermark on each card in the lower righthand corner that had a heart and Nikki’s name. I then spray fixed each card so it would be safe to go through the mail.

7.15 card 118
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7.15 card 123

I’d like to share one last story about Nikki because I think it shows how compassionate she really was. While she and Tom were away for a period of time (maybe treatment, maybe honeymoon) one of their cats stopped eating. Apparently, stressed and lonely (although they were being fed regularly by a family member) Nikki’s cat Otis went into her closet and just stayed there and stopped eating. When they returned they found Otis completely emaciated and near death from starvation. Now, if there can be anything funny about this situation, you’d have to know Otis and he is the FATTEST cat ever. So, he was just completely hollowed out and was lifeless. This was quite a shock and they took him for medical attention right away. It wasn’t just a matter of feeding him again though, it was a dire situation where his organs might have even been failing and everyone around told Nikki it would probably be the most humane thing to just put him down. She wouldn’t have it. She ended up spending thousands of dollars, which included care and surgery and a feeding tube and for a looong time after she was having to syringe feed him through a tube that went directly into his stomach from his side. Side note-Otis was actually a kitten she rescued. He also had a litter mate named, you guessed it, Milo, but Milo didn’t survive kittenhood.

I came over to visit once shortly after everything that happened with Otis and she told me the whole story. All the while Otis was right between us, on the couch. I understood her love but even I questioned if it was the right thing to do because through it all his eyes seemed vacant and I wondered if he might have even had brain damage. He was completely unresponsive to us for the duration. During that conversation she told me something that I will never forget: She said that even when everyone was telling her to let him go, and even after they weighed the price with the probability of survival, and even if he didn’t make it, she said that she would never be able to forgive herself for not even trying. Money was tight, but down the road anytime she would need to buy something for herself she knew that she would think “I can spend money and buy these new shoes, but I couldn’t afford to save my cat.”And wouldn’t you know, slowly but surely over time Otis came back to health. Not only did she get him back to normal cat size, but he once again returned to fat cat size. He is the same affectionate and friendly cat today as he was before and it was all due to Nikki’s persistence.

Painting of Nikki

A long time ago my friend Nikki asked me to make a painting for her. It’s been so long so I can’t remember the details, but it was either for a painting of just her, or a painting of she and Tom (her husband). I was so honored, but as I thought about it more, I got really stressed. Whenever I make something upon request I get really anxious, stressed that I’m going to ruin it, and that the person will be dissatisfied with the final outcome. Finally, I told her thanks for thinking of me so highly, but I’m not really a portrait artist and I had to decline her offer.

Nikki was one of those people who was always so supportive of her friends and family in their creative areas. It really meant a lot to me that she thought that I’d be able to tackle something like that.

Once she passed away, one of the things that I kept thinking about was how I needed to do that painting now. I had to do something to honor her and I wanted to give it to her mom to let her know how much Nikki meant to me. I knew exactly what picture it would be based off of too.

Back in the day of our first camera phones, we were at Michael’s and Nikki picked up one of those small decorative twig-wreaths that people place around the base of candles or on table center pieces. It had white “berries” and she put it on her head like some fairy princess and proceeded to take a picture of herself. I asked her if she wanted me to snap it for her and she said she got it. You can see the composition of her shot cut the picture off in such an interesting way. I loved that picture. On a side note, she LOVED photography as well as film-making, and had a flickr here, but was often intimidated about sharing her pictures there. Years ago I asked her for a copy of that picture, and I think she only had a download of it from her old Textamerica moblog site, so it’s super tiny.

That’s all I had to go off of. Like I said before, I’m no representative portrait artist, but it came out decent. I cried near the end when I realized it would come out okay, and that I felt it actually looked like her and that it would be good enough to present to her mother. I changed the wreath to a kind-of-halo. Nikki loved sparkly things, so I gave all the white orbs a silvery shimmer.

This week I’m going to pack it up and send it to her mom. I hope she likes it.

Day 12 – Little Book Pages and Nikki

2.12 Little Book

I just discovered this quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marrianne Williamson

Immediately I was wrapped in it. It is EXACTLY how I feel about life. That is not to say that I don’t take my time for granted, or that I always fulfill my highest potential. But still, it’s a message that I’d love to live by for the most part. This concept was originally brought to me while seeing Maya Angelou speak. At the time, I was still dealing with the sadness brought on by multiple suicides in those near to me and her message just clicked and made so much sense to me. I wish I had a quote or recording of Angelou’s speech, but she shared the same point as above, “Who are you not to be?” Who are you not to be the best that you can be?

When things aren’t how you hoped, you haven’t done the things you want to do, aren’t at a place where you want to be, or you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand, you not only owe yourself to make it happen, you owe God and everyone around you. You are not alone and there are so many people that have invested in you and your success and you owe it to them to do the best you can. You may not be able to do it yourself, you may need help, and you may never succeed, but trying alone is overcoming stagnancy and defeat. And, by trying, you inspire those around you to be the best that they can be as well.

Finding this quote means a lot to me right now, especially because I would have loved to share it with a dear friend of mine. She was big into quotes and shared them often. She also had big desires to make the most of her time and to live BIG.

On Saturday my friend Nikki passed away from cancer. She was only 29 years old. My heart has been aching since I first discovered she had cancer over 3.5 years ago. But also, in those 3.5 years, (8ish total years that I’ve known her) we’ve made so many wonderful and rich memories together. She definitely didn’t allow the cancer to squelch her fire. She was a wonderful loyal friend, and she was an inspiration in so many ways.

My life is richer in so many ways because of her presence in it. But you don’t have to have personally known Nikki to have had her life make a difference in your own. If you can take away anything from her life, I hope you can remember that our time on this earth is limited and to make the most of today. When I was worrying for her and grieving for her lost potential, Nikki’s and my friend, Kim, shared with me that in her profession she sees people in their 80s and 90s who have regrets for not taking advantage of their time enough while they were here. So, please, lets all make more of an effort to do the amazing things we dream of while we can.

I also want to thank so many of you for following Nikki’s story, praying for her and supporting her, after I shared bits about her here on my blog. I want to share with you that she was so touched by your kindness, and told me so personally. I’m so thankful for my time with her and that I could share her story with you. I’m sure I will return to share more about her here soon.

Day 5 – Nikki’s Tattoo

My dear friend Nikki and her husband Tom have been at the front of thoughts and prayers this year. I’ve posted about her many times before, but if you are unfamiliar Nikki is a good friend of mine who has cancer. She is only 29 years old and most recently her last form of treatment has not worked.

Tonight I sat in my studio wracking my brain on what to create for my Thing-a-Day. I’d think of this idea or that idea and I just couldn’t get myself going on any of them. I put on my Mumford & Sons album, which is the band Nikki most recently introduced to me, and thought about her. It took me the entire length of the album before this idea sprang into my mind.

Long ago in her cancer treatment (She was diagnosed 3.5 years ago) she decided to get this tattoo on her wrist of a pink ribbon with wings. I know she has a picture of it online, so I grabbed the image, edited it on the computer, printed them out and made these buttons. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this idea long ago. I think I’ll keep one for myself and give the rest to Tom & Nikki, if they’d like them. I also thought it would be nice to give to her nurses to thank them for taking such great care.

If you could, please say a prayer for her and spread the word to others who might as well. Thank you.

Year of Popcorn

December is here already! I swear, the last three months have gone by in a blink of an eye. When it was time to turn the calendar to November, I kept catching myself thinking it was the beginning of October again. Well, you know what they say… time flies while having fun.

Last weekend was my 5th annual gingerbread house making contest. There were 18 people there (I think) and 14 houses built. Boy, were there some amazing structures this year! The winner was a crazy spiral tower. I’m not so brave when building my gingerbread houses. I really go for the standard “Hansel and Gretel” type cottage each year. Click on the picture above to view the houses individually. Special note, my 9 month old nephew “made” his very own entry, the one that my brother said looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man threw up on. There was a castle with draw bridge, made by Alyssa and Wes, that had my vote. And my brother made an Edward Scissorhands themed scene, complete with animal trimmed hedges (animal crackers covered in frosting and green sugar).

The weekend before last was the Celebrity Scoop Benefit for my friend Nikki, downtown Naperville. We had a great time, and I even got to meet long time online friend Katie. She is such a sweat-heart for coming out to the event and bringing her super adorable son. It wasn’t until after she left that it even occurred to me that I should have introduced her to my friends and the star of the evening, Nikki. Doh, sorry Katie. We ate lots of yummy goodies and bought plenty delicious gourmet popcorn to take home. I’m actually pretty excited to have found a nearby location with such great popcorn. Did I mention I’m going through a popcorn phase. 2010 will probably be remembered as the year of popcorn. We bought several LARGE bags, jalapeno, cheddar, and caramel. I’ve been mixing the caramel and cheddar, mmmmm. Matt ate his entire bag of jalapeno in 2 days. TWO DAYS. This bag was probably 8 inches wide, and knee high or taller! Oh, and it wasn’t until after I bought the cheddar and caramel to mix together later at home, that I found they also carry a caramel cheddar popcorn. It’s not just caramel and cheddar popcorns mixed together, it’s caramel popcorn that is covered in cheddar. drool. Had to buy a small bag of that and it was gone in a heartbeat. Here is the popcorn place if you’d like to check them out, did I mention that it’s also a Haagen Dazs as well?  It was amazingly kind of them to host the event and donate a portion of sales to Nikki’s mounting medical bills. And here is Nikki’s Caring Bridges page once again, where she posted about the event.

Happy Friday

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I am not going to lie. I LOVE having Fridays off. My hours were reduced 2 years ago, now. It was supposed to be a temporary thing (3 months) but the print industry is not doing well and it’s just remained permanent. The lost wages stink, but the emotional benefits have more than made up for it. Plus, because I feel like it’s borrowed time, I am always super productive. If only I could be as motivated the rest of the week.

This morning I made my Friday to-do list and I decided I would start the day out by making 3 page spreads in my little book. The first one above, I used only scraps of paper that were already on my work table.

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This week I read three fabulous interviews with different artists. I keep coming back to things that were said, and so I figured I’d bookmark them here. I guess the thing that really stuck with me throughout all of these articles is the idea that you can support yourself doing what you love. Your passions and creativity can fill out life completely, in all areas. Anyway, please read and enjoy!

Summer Pierre has been running a weekly “Artist in the Nursery” series where she interviews Artists who balance parenthood and their creative work. This week she interviewed the Beerhorsts, a family from Michigan who live a very unique lifestyle. I’ve been following their various family flickr accounts since seeing their “Wonder Wagon” last fall. It was fascinating reading Summer’s article, and getting more of a glimpse into their history as well as day to day lives.

The next two interviews were from Design Sponge. The first is with Savannah artist Cedric Smith. I love his advice for other artists to think of themselves as a business. Please take a moment to read the rest of what he says and see his beautiful work.

And the final interview is with Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers. I am so inspired when I hear about other artists who have many areas of interest, as opposed to only focusing on painting, or only focusing on music. He does it all. Please check out this fantastic interview.

Okay, now back to the rest of Friday’s To-Do list! If I don’t post again before the end of the weekend, I just wanted to shout out one more time about the Celebrity Scoop Benefit for my dear friend Nikki on Sunday 4-8 at the Haagan Dazs downtown Naperville, IL. Here is the facebook page made for the event. Even if you can’t go, I’d be grateful if you could still spread the word to anyone in the area. Here is her Caring Bridges page. Oh, and she is a lovely photographer too, check out her flickr page here. Thank you again!

Robyn’s PSA

I’ve mentioned my dear friend Nikki here before. She’s been fighting a rare form of cancer since 2007 and doing it with awesomosity. She’s such a strong, and beautiful person and I love her heaps. Along with all the treatments over these years, she’s been left with mounting medical bills. I’m so excited to share that another friend of ours, Kim, has arranged for a benefit to help raise some financial relief for Nikki.

nikki and I
Here is a picture of Nikki and I from this summer, at Millennium Park in Chicago.

If you live in the Chicagoland area, please visit the Haagen-Dazs/Popcorn Palace in Naperville, Sunday, November 21st between 4 and 8 p.m. Nikki will be helping scoop out ice cream and 15% of all the sales on ice cream, popcorn and coffee will go towards Nikki’s medical bills. This is a HUGE relief to her and I’d personally be grateful for your support. Even if you can’t attend, it would mean a lot to me if you could spread the word about this event to any and all that would listen.

Read more about Nikki, here, at her Caring Bridges page.

What have I been up to lately?

Recently we went into the city. While killing time at Millennium Park I started spinning and unbeknownst to me my friend Nikki took these pictures of me on rapidfire. I put them together to make another animated gif. This is 3 of 5 on my 2010 list (no. 2).

I haven’t been spending much time in my studio this month. I haven’t been creating at all, which is really weird because it is normally a part of my daily life. I don’t know if it’s because of the messy state of my studio, the overwhelming list of things on my to-do list, the exhaustive nature of summer heat in northern Illinois, how social plans always seem to be in hyper drive over the summer, OR a combination of all of the above.

At any rate, I hope you are having a great summer! Hope I’ll return sooner, rather than later, to share some creative something-or-other.

day 21 – Golden Circle

Today is the last day of August and this is the final piece in my personal challenge to create a new piece daily and list it to my etsy shop. I successfully completed the challenge and I have to say I am very proud of myself. Thank you everyone for following along with me, and for those who purchased pieces and support me in my creative and artistic endeavors. (((Big hug everyone!)))

The Golden Circle is another piece inspired by my Circle Series. I worked it in reverse from what I usually do, moving from the outside in. All those tiny golden circles were hand painted in watercolors by yours truly and there are touches of gold shimmer here and there.

Change of topic, but more important, could I ask a huge favor of you? You might recall me mentioning my friend Nikki on here in the past. She has been struggling with cancer for over two years and because of recent events she is in desperate need of your prayers and/or any positive thoughts you can send her way. She is one of my nearest and dearest friends. Some wonderful things about Nikki:

She LOVES movies and would probably love to see every single movie ever made.
She loves photography and takes excellent pictures.
She was just married this summer to one of my other near and dear friends Tom.
She also is the kind of individual who always puts others before herself.
She will save any stray animal that comes her way.
And her birthday is one day before mine, but several years younger.

My sister in law is also organizing a novena to St. Peregrine, the patron St. of cancer patients. Starting on Wednesday she asks people to please say this prayer for 9 days in a row. I would be grateful if you could spread the word. You can read more about Nikki’s journey here on her Caring Bridge’s page.

Thank you!