Happy Art-a-Days

It’s been more than a month since I posted about anything art related. Sorry. It’s been busy and I think I have a pretty good excuse.

As things have settled down, I have had to spend a lot more time at home. Getting out of the house takes a lot of planning. That means that I should have a lot of time for “arting”.

I have to admit, some evenings I have felt creative (or at least bored enough to try), but the flashes tend to be short lived. I have finally put the house back in order (for the first few weeks there were a lot of closed doors to conceal the evidence), and this weekend I was even able to set up corner of my office as a studio.

I’ve been thinking about goals for the coming year, which seems to be the only way I get things done. Among the first shows I would like to enter is the “Wild Women” show at River Gallery, but I think I have my piece(s) picked out for that

Next, I’d like to enter a piece in this year’s Salem Reads event. The book is “Good Morning, Midnight”. I was inspired by the first page of the book to create this non-objective piece.

“Page One”

Or maybe it’s this way?

“Page One”

Next, with a vague idea about trying to enter something in the American Academy of Equine Art Spring Online Showcase.

“Keenland Legs”

It’s okay for a study, but needs another attempt if it’s gonna be in a show.

Finally, I’ve been spending some time getting to know my “new” (year old) watercolor pens. I thought they might be portable enough to fill some of the short, quiet moments.

“Stride”

I might add some collage or other things to it. I have to admit the watercolor markers felt enjoyably like being a kid and playing with the art equipment, but I’m not sure I enjoy the effect enough to continue.

There is an official, art post. I wish everyone Happy Holidays!

Healthy Steps – Weeks 49 &50

I weighted in on Wednesday as was up 2.8 pounds. This is not shocking, but it does mean that I am yo-yoing a bit. Again, not shocking.

This week is Christmas, and I have a lot of time off (yeah!) but of course I’ll but spending it at home, which means more cooking. This is good.

Wednesday is a “dark” day at this weeks WW, so I’m saying right now that I’m just gonna accept it all and tell you I will catch up on this on January 2, which will be week 51.

Happy Holidays!

Deserving

The last few days have been tough. Mom fell on Sunday morning and call for me for an hour before I heard her (it was early morning and I was sleeping.) When I finally woke up, we called the firemen for a “non-emergency lift” and later that day I got baby monitors so I could hear what was going on downstairs.

This morning, Mom couldn’t sleep, so I was awakened… early. I was too nervous to turn off the monitor, because then I was scared I wouldn’t hear her if she needed me, so I ended up getting up early.

Perhaps that is the reason that today felt hard. Or perhaps it was that my right knee, which has been hurting since all the activity necessary when Mom was in the hospital, seemed to be getting worse. It was so bad today that I went to urgent care. And got a shot of corticosteroid in my knee for arthritis.

There is such an element of shame in going to the doctor’s office as a fat person. You know it’s all your fault. That you have acerbated every normal aging process by abusing your body. Like a drug addict, your high is sugar and you obviously can’t stop.

As I sat there in the waiting room, wheeled in by wheelchair because of the pain, I had a thought: “I don’t deserve help. I did this to myself.”

I would like to report that I immediately gave myself a pep talk about the silliness of that viewpoint. That I shook it off and resolved that I could work harder on loosing weight.

But I didn’t. I’m still struggling.

After the doctor, I didn’t go back to work. I went to the local wildlife refuge and looked at birds for the last hour of sunlight. There were some tagged dusky geese, which felt special.

I came home the long way and stopped at a restaurant for dinner before returning some library books. I came home to a very talkative caregiver and a phone call by a friend of Mom’s who hadn’t been able to get in touch and was worried about her.

I started a site on CaringBridge to help people be more connected to Mom. I worry that by posting stuff here (a site that is about me) that my feelings may get confused with what is going on with her. 71 views in 3 days. I think it was a good decision.

Tomorrow is WW weight in day. And then I am going to really try to post an art piece. I have several deadlines coming up. That’s gonna be… interesting.

Random Notes about Hospice

  1. Morphine is not living up to the hype.

As a “Generation X”er, I am sure that most of my colleagues remember sitting in health class and being told terrible things about drugs. How they were so addictive and terrible. Of course, heroin was the most terrible of all. One dose and you would become a depraved addict, roaming the streets in your dirty clothes, mugging passerby for spare change for your next fix. Of course, the teacher would always tack on, opiods are a very good pain killer when prescribed. But ONLY if your doctor okay’s it.

Somehow, from all this, I thought that morphine would be administered and BAM! No more pain.

Let me assure you, that is not the way it works.

2. My expectations of privacy have shifted… dramatically!

I’ve always had an iffy relationship with privacy. Again, as a “Generation X”er, I came of age in the time of Alanis Morissette:

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

“You Learn” by Alanis Morissette

If the shades weren’t all the way down when I needed to change my shirt, I always felt (to my mom’s dismay) that if someone wanted to see me in my bra for a half a second… well, no one was going to die.

Still, I have to admit to more consternation that I counted on when I came downstairs Wednesday morning to find the day’s caregiver here and me with no pants on (they were in the dryer, which was my next stop. I swear!)

3. The amount and variety of drugs is… amazing.

So, when Mom first went on hospice, they made a big deal about “reducing her pill load.” She ended up with 10 pills a day. Then 12. And then there are the “bad days” and there are just so many pills then.

4. The number and diversity of humans in this process is… astonishing.

My dog, Key, has always been a little weird around people. One of my concerns about Mom coming here was that I knew that more people would be coming into the house and I wasn’t sure how Key would take that.

After just under a month, Key has proven to be just as weird as ever, but now when people come in, after barking to announce that they are here, he just goes back to his spot on the couch (unless it’s one of the people who give him treats; those people, he pesters endlessly).

All this is to say that an average day is a caretaker, hospice person (there are a variety of those), and 1-2 visitors. Some days an additional caretaker. And some days, even more visitors.

I feel like my house has become Grand Central Station.

5. I am weirder than I thought I was (by a lot!)

I remember my mom and aunt talking one afternoon about how having their parents visiting was hard. “She takes my towel sets and refolds them into piles of the same size. But I want them as sets!” my aunt wailed.

I remember thinking that was weird.

I now am completely on my aunt’s side.

Because Mom has a variety of caregivers, and those caregivers make food, wash clothes, and do other light housekeeping, I can no longer find anything. My “measuring” drawer is filled with non-measuring items. My pot and pan drawer has tupperware in it.

I could go on… but you get the idea.

6. I say, “I love you” a lot

Mom will occasionally tell the story that her mother would never say, “I love you,” until Mom started using it as a sign off on their telephone calls. “I guess it’s just a generational thing,” she would conclude.

I think about that as I leave the house for work every morning and say, “I love you.”

“I love you” as I make sure Mom’s comfortable in bed before I head to my own room.

“I love you” as I leave to walk to the dog.

Because the last thing I want Mom to know is that I do love her.

Healthy Steps – Week 48

This week I weighed in at my normal at work meeting. It is so wonderful to type the word “normal” and to really feel like something close to that is approaching my life.

Excitingly, I was down 2 pounds. As my goal right now is just to stay on an even keel, that felt good.

WW has new “Success Story” journals. Of course, they are gearing up for the new year and all those new members that will be flooding in. But they are nice, and we had a good talk about setting goals.

First… what’s my why?

  • My knees hurt
  • My feet hurt
  • I want to go to Paris in 1-2 years
  • Mom’s health problems are freaking me out

Not a bad list to be going on with.

Then we progressed to what are my goals. As I said, I’m not really looking to go into full “weigh loss mode” right now. I have a lot of other things to focus on. On the other hand, I need to take care of myself. So my goals are:

  • Sunday – Prep food for the Week
  • Every day – Eat my preparred food
  • Every day – Limit myself to 2 Frappachinos

As for exercise, for this week, I’m going to try to take it a little easy and get my knees and feet to stop screaming at me.

Healthy Steps – Weeks 46 & 47

So, in all this drama, what am I doing about my goal of taking healthy steps.

Well, actually, I’d like to report some progress. It’s all non-scale victories.

I’m back to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As such, my blood sugar seems to have stabilized, which in turn makes me feel better.

I have been hitting activity levels out of the park; the down side of this is that my knees and feet are really hurting. On Tuesday evening I was able to go back and start swimming again, so that should help some.

And I went into a WW workshop today and I’m proud to report that I had no gain from the last time we could find records which was almost a month ago.

I’m a long way from being willing to restart this journey, but I also need to work on making sure I stay as healthy as possible. As such, here are my goals this week.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Take the dog for a walk every day (Hit 10,000, taking at least one break/lunch walk is a too big)
  • Tracking breakfast
  • 2 Frappuccino per day

 

Where’s a saber tooth tiger when you need one?

Today it has become clear to me that humans were not meant to live a long time. We were meant to be killed and eaten in our prime by a saber tooth tiger.

As Thomas Hobbes put it, “Life is nasty, brutish, and short.”

I wish!

Mom had a bad pain day today. I’m not 100% sure what happened, but it started off that she didn’t take her normal pain medicine “on time.” In the week I have been done this, I already know this is the start of a disaster.

About 11:00, Mom called and left this message (I was in a meeting and had forgotten my phone at my desk):

“Hi, Tara, it’s Mom. My side is hurting pretty bad and I don’t seem to be able to get it to stop. But I don’t remember what else I can take. Would you check with hospice and then let me know what I can take. Thanks. Bye.”

I came home and placed a call to hospice and ended up giving Mom morphine for the second time.

When I got home for the evening, she took some more and when that didn’t work, we called hospice again and did a second stronger dose.

As near as I can tell, the (lung) cancer in her liver is making her liver swell. That, in turn, aggravates nerves that were never intended to be aggravated. The result seems to be pretty excruciating.

While I know this is awful for Mom, the thing that’s hardest for me is that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I can do. There is no action I can take. I desperately want to do something, and there is NOTHING to be done. This is the epitome of mindfulness; I can only only be around to offer my presence.

Other than tracking down that saber tooth tiger…

The ‘Ove’ Glove Meltdown

Right now, if you take any 15 minute segment of my time at home, there is at least one instance of me trying desperately to remember, within about 6 feet, where the most likely place for any given item might be.

Dishes.

Papers.

Medicines.

Clothes.

Food.

The dog (probably near the food…)

I consider myself a pretty organized person. I’ve written occasionally about how my studio got chaotic, but if I needed an art supply, there was pretty much one room in the house it was likely to be. And most other rooms were similarly contained.  As proof of this, my mom called me today at work and asked, “Where do you keep your batteries?” My answer: “In the cookie jar on the counter next to the dog biscuits.” And I was right.

When Mom moved in, she got the studio, which was cleaned out to make room for her hospital bed, chair, TV, desk, and other various items; about half of the studio items went to live in the upstairs extra bedroom; the other half went into my office. I have vague intentions of doing some organizing on the part that lives in my office, but for right now a closed door is enough to keep me sane (or as sane as I am likely to get in the circumstances.) The rest of  the house (as long as certain doors are shut) is reasonably clean and clutter-free.

Here’s the problem. Mom is a “spreader”. My solution to mail is to put in a basket and then once a week go through and deal with it. Mom’s solution is to peruse each item, arrange the various items into piles, arrange the piles on some flat surface, and leave them. And leave them. And then by the end of the week it’s not just a few piles, it’s a whole army of piles. And they never really go away. They just sort of shuffle around. Some items may go, but some piles never seem to leave. In her house I have seen magazine articles live in certain piles for six months or more.

There have been many inner discussions over the last week about how this is my mom, the only one I have, and I should treasure this time with her, not fuss about organization. And usually, I am able to just grind my teeth, and wait until she goes to bed to put whatever item that has spread out back into its designated area.

But there is a part two of this “spreader” problem. Mom is a gadgeter. It’s not enough to have a can opener, she wants several for various sizes of cans. And today, a set of “Ove” Gloves came into the house.

I have no idea how they arrived. Mom can’t drive. My working theory is that a visiting friend brought them. But is the mere fact of their existence on my counter that sent me over the edge.

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Why aren’t the potholders and oven mitts enough? Why has someone spent $20 (technically, $20 twice) to bring this insane item into my home for a woman who cannot cook?

Who on earth is sticking their hand into something that is 540 degrees? And flames?

In a very adult manner, I packed up my gym bag, told my mom and the evening caregiver I was going to run some errands, and went to the gym for my swim class.

I will admit to some talking (yelling) to myself in the car. But after an hour of aqua Zumba, I am over it. I have bigger problems.

Like where did I leave that brochure for the psychiatric ward?

My way

When I was a “rebellious” teen, it used to absolutely infuriate me that whenever I would leave the house, my dad would tell me to put on my coat. It did matter if it was -20° or a balmy 65°. “You should put on a coat,” he would tell me as a was going out the door.

I would love to report that as an “adult” that I understand and appreciate the thought. But while the logical part of me knows he was just being a parent (who grew up in Montana, where it is a lot colder than Oregon) is pretty much drowned out by the volume of my rebellious inner teenager who says, “What business is it of his if I was cold? If I got cold often enough, I would have learned to put on a coat for myself.”

I would also like to report that even today, when I leave the house without a coat, I don’t get a little thrill. I’d like to… but I really can’t.

My adolescence was marked by a lot of these little battles. The alarm clock saga. The TV battle. All of it boils down to the me being a bratty little teen rebelling against the parents who really were older and wiser and concerned.

All of this is going through my mind last night as Mom and I sat in my living room bellowing, “I love you” at each other while a social worker tried to mediate our dispute.

As I have mentioned, Mom has stage 4 metastasized lung cancer. Fifteen years ago, when she went through breast cancer, she said she would never go through chemo again. So she came out of the hospital and was enrolled in hospice. The only way I could get her out of the hospital seemed to be to tell the doctors she would live with me where we had a full 24-care plan lined up. But our plan was always to get Mom back to the beach.

Unfortunately, that has proven easier to say than do. Mom’s friends have been working around the clock, giving me likely care sources. And while we have identified a few possibilities, there remains large gaps in care and even the areas where there is a solution, it’s a “blind” solution. We would be hiring individuals, not companies. No background checks, no bonds, no safety net. All cash out of pocket with no assurances.

When the social worker came over last night (the Federal government requires that all people enrolled in hospice get a social worker to make sure they are okay), one of our goals was to talk about how to get her hospice transferred down to Lincoln City. But I felt honor bound to say, again, that I was concerned about this plan: the gaps in care, the strangers, my inability to keep an eye out when things got worse.

While I believe Mom is hearing me when I tell her about my worries, her desire to go home is so strong that I don’t truly believe she is “hearing” me on that deeper plane. The plane where if I was an adult and not an emotional teenager I would have gone and put on the stupid coat to alleviate my dad’s concern. Where Mom would understand that this is a bad situation that none of us planned for.

In the end, the social worker pointed out some things that neither of us had thought about. He suggested Mom could go back to the beach for a “vacation” for a few weeks (or a month) to get her affairs in order. Because of the short duration, I would feel more comfortable with the limits of the arrangement. He also pointed out to Mom that whatever solution we reached, I would always have to live with it. Then he told her that if she went down to the beach and the situation did get back, adult protective services would have to be called. “That’s not a threat,” he said, “that’s just the way it is.”

I’m not sure which of those arguments swayed her, but Mom has agreed to stay with me, though we are going to the “vacation” plan. So, tomorrow we’ll load up in my car and head down to the beach to do some packing and other little things. In about a week, friends of my mom are coming over and I think they will go back to the beach where there might be a party and some more “goodbye” things. Then she’ll be staying here.

I’m just praying that I can be flexible enough to not cause Mom to go off the rebellious deep end.

Lots of people have been saying they will pray for us, or are sending us light, or are sending positive vibes.

Sort of seems what we really need is a full time mediator!

Peggy Judy Workshop

Prologue

The last few days I’ve been thinking about angels. Not really the ones with wings, but the people who call, write, move things, take care, find resources, respect wishes, give hugs, and leave comments. Sometimes it feels so amazing that there are so many in my life and Mom’s.

Thank you, every one of you. I must have said thank you a hundred times in the last week, and every single one has been completely heartfelt. While my Thanksgiving did not involve turkey, I have rarely felt so grateful.

For now, Mom is out of the hospital (!!!!!) and staying with me. We are making some tentative steps in the direction of trying to get her all the way back to her home in Lincoln City, but it’s a long journey in many ways. But it is what she wants, so that is what I will do.

In the meantime, I’m back to work and I need to finally get this blog about the workshop out. So, here goes.

Peggy Judy Workshop

I had originally signed for this workshop up on a bit of a lark. My art friend, Ruth Armitage, published that she would be teaching a workshop at the Tubac School of Fine Art, LLC. When she posted the flyer, I noticed a piece by oft-admired artist, Peggy Judy. After a little bit of research in the costs of a flight and an AirBNB, I decided to enroll.

As you now know, at the last minute, it looked like I would not be able to attend. But after shifting (shoving) a few things around, I was able to wing my way down to Southern Arizona with an extra day for a little birding.

Tubac School of Fine Art was smaller than I expected, but VERY well stocked and laid out with charming hosts. I’d recommend the facilities and I’ll keep an eye for other workshops to take there.

Day 1

The title of the workshop was, “See More. Paint Less & Strive for Better Composition.”

Before deciding to take the class, I had contacted Ms. Judy and asked if I could come as a watercolor painter. Peggy replied I could, so I packed up a few blocks of watercolor paper that would fit in my case, purchased the suggested colors (this may be another post sometime), loaded up some reference photos and paintbrushes. One item on the list perplexed me–acetate. I have recently been seeing oil paintings listed as being “on acetate”. I know artists sometimes use red acetate to judge tonal values. But I couldn’t imagine what it was for. Still, I decided to purchase some for my kit.

After a brief lecture to get the group familiar with her work and some of her concepts. Peggy told us to take out a reference piece (most people had come with 8.5″x11″ reference photos), put a piece of acetate over it, and paint on the acetate. In oil. For me, she set out a few basic oil colors, loaned me a brush, and told me to go to work.

Ah… okay. So, I had come with small reference photos, so I tore a page out of my trusty notebook and went to work.

The acetate forces the artist to become loose. Judy implored us not to dab, to vary our brushstrokes, and to leave interesting edges.  She kept talking about painting the planes of the shape and not to try to make a painting. My brain started to hurt.

Naturally, being me, I couldn’t just do one piece, I had to experiment with several.

This one was ripped from my painterly paws at a very early stage that Peggy decreed was done.

I decided to try again with the bison. She suggested outlining him in red and then painting him in, letting the red become “an interesting part of the painting.”

After Peggy deemed the various artists were loosened up enough, we were allowed to get out a canvas and paint. I hadn’t brought a canvas, so I decided to try on watercolor.

Hmm. It was pretty hard to get the loose effect, so Peggy encouraged me to just paint oil on paper.

I still wasn’t satisfied. I was trying to impart the essence of this big bull that had lumbered down to drink on the National Bison Range.

Oil does not dry quickly, so I put it aside to work on (yet another) painting.

Frankly, I was even less satisfied with this one. Thought I did like the red on his face…

Day 2

After a night of sleep, I decided that I needed to spend a little more time on the concept of painting the planes of an object. So, as a gift for my AirBNB host, I sketched out his house and painted this on acetate as a thank you gift.

Even doing a landscape, this concept of planes was really difficult.

I fiddled around some and decided to work on this.

I got to this stage…

… and Peggy suggested bring out the camera and using it to see in black and white to determine values.

Ah ha! Too light all over.

Better. Now for the finishing touch…

I stopped there. I see some issues with my base drawing and the overall composition, but I like the “light” part.

At this point, most people had shifted to painting horses heads. Clearly, group think had set in.

I know what I would do to fix this in watercolor, but not in oil. Peggy told me that the concept of washes was available in oil, too, but I would need the paint to dry more. Fair enough.

I was also pretty frustrated with the medium. Everyone else was sliding paint right on their canvases, and it felt like I was spending all my time just getting paint ON the paper. We decided to gesso some paper for the next day.

Then, I messed around with this one to save it from being “traditional” (Peggy’s description.)

Day 3

Once again I slept on it, and came in hopeful that my gessoed paper would improve the experience.

I also had pondered the situation and decided that for what I wanted to learn, I needed to pick simplier subject that I had already done some value work on.

So… I did these.

I focused on the concept of outlining the start in a color, then smooshing the paint into it to make an interesting edge.

And again.

And some more.

And the last of the day.

This was the day I felt like I “came into my own.” It was the day that made me seriously think about taking up oil painting. And it was the day that made me most grateful I had come. I felt like I learned two things that I can take back home with me and apply to my art.

I would recommend Peggy Judy as an instructor. I had a good time and learned a lot. She is an exceptionally warm instructor who take a lot of care with her students. For me the only flaw was that I felt most of the students were not as “serious” as I was and were just there to make a pretty painting. Fair enough, but a little disheartening.

One more thing to ponder. Peggy said something in the beginning of the class: “If you are slow painter, you need to speed up. If you are a fast painter, you need to slow down.” She said she was a fast painter and she was always fighting the slow down battle. I completely empathize. It’s the first time I’ve heard another painter admit that. However, I’m still not sure how to do it!

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