Periodically when Bill and I are discussing someone we admire one of us says, “She’s a do-er.” or He’s a do-er.” It is high praise to us as it describes someone who makes things happen. Do-ers don’t wait for a paycheck or permission or someone else to blaze the trail for them. They live their lives the way they want often inspiring others to take on new challenges and think about life as a series of possibilities not to be overlooked. We try to surround ourselves with do-ers because they remind us to take chances and make things happen.
[all photos by Kathreen Ricketson]
Kathreen Ricketson and her partner Rob Shugg were what we called “Super Do-ers.” These are the people who think big and live as though there’s no tomorrow. They embrace big plans and lead big lives. Kathreen and I met online when she asked to review one of our books about 8 years ago. She had started Whipup.net in the early days of blogs. At the time there were about 20 contributors on the site and I quickly became one of them lured by her leadership and do-er spirit. Kathreen loved all thing handmade and Whipup covered all aspects of making from quilting to cooking to eco-crafting. At some point, grateful for the opportunities that she had given us and others, I coordinated a massive group quilt asking contributors from all over the world to send me fabric that I could make into a surprise quilt for Kathreen. Although we feared that the quilt was lost on its way to Australia, it eventually was delivered and she emailed me with delight.
I was honored when Kathreen asked me to write a blurb for the back of her first book and she and I kept in regular contact over the years. We cheered each other on and looked forward to the day we could meet and have a nice dinner with our families. Kathreen and Rob collaborated to publish the Action Pack digital magazine with their kids, which I raved about in a post here several years ago.
In January, Kathreen and Rob began a year-long trek around Australia with their son Orlando 10 and their daughter Otilija 13. Kathreen was working on a book about the experience and home-schooling the children at campsites along the way. On May 6 she emailed me a long series of interview questions for a series of articles she was writing. Although there was another week before the deadline I thought about her last night as I was turning off the light to go to bed. I felt a sense of urgency that I get back to her and not let her down. She was the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep.
So it was a huge shock to wake up to Facebook messages from Australian friends letting me know that she had drowned while her children were on the beach and that Rob’s body had disappeared into the sea. Tears streamed down my face as I read the Australian news links and saw pictures of her vibrant face — which she referred to as her “moon face”– attached to this tragic story of parents drowning at a picturesque beach in a remote area of Australia in front of their children. It just wasn’t possible. How could this have happened?! It’s been hard to think of anything else all day. Friends of theirs in Australia are working to develop a site where those of us who wish can donate money for the care and education of their children via Whipup.net.
I’ve been thinking of how else I can honor Kathreen. I think the way she would want to be honored is for all of us to try new things and challenge ourselves. She’d want us to plan fun activities with our kids and live big, adventurous lives. She’d want us to cherish our friends and make beautiful things from even the most humble materials. On Wednesday afternoon shortly before she left for that tragic swim, she posted the picture at the top of this post — a bag she crocheted out of plastic grocery bags while sitting around the campfire. And that’s what I loved so much about Kathreen. She scoured the internet to find the best tutorial of how to turn plastic shopping bags into something both useful and beautiful and she shared it with all of us. I miss you already Kathreen.
For those of you wanting to donate to Kathreen and Rob’s children’s care and education, a trust has been established. Here’s the link.