Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Grief, Pain

Maybe I’m Headed Back To Normal

I thought it was just situational depression. Fearing that a nerve conduction study would show that I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life in pain is depressing. There’s a logical reason for the depression. I knew I was suicidal, and I told people about wanting to kill myself. I told Jim and a friend how I planned on killing myself. Hold the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, use hollow point ammunition, and squeeze the trigger. Fast and lethal. When I went for my nerve conduction study, I had to fill out pages and pages of information. I detailed, for an entire page, that I was suicidal, that I had a plan for killing myself, and that I had brought Jim with me in case I needed someone to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home. I formulated a plan for dealing with the police who I was sure would be called. I’d remain calm, I’d be sure not to do or say anything that could possible be construed as a threat to others thereby ensuring that if I didn’t want to go to a hospital, and I didn’t, the police would need a court order to take me to a hospital. Court orders take time. I was pretty sure I’d have about an hour in which to disappear if necessary.

I had a great plan.

No one talked to Jim about me. No one called the police. No one asked me about being suicidal. Probably because no one read the damn paperwork.

I have two bad days a year, April 1 and June 24. April 1 was my late sister’s birthday. June 24 is the anniversary of her death. April 1 is approaching and I’m depressed. My mother, a horrible narcissist, decreed that no one tell me my sister was sick or that she had died. I only knew because a friend saw the obit and called to ask how I was doing. Some years are better than others. I assumed this wasn’t one of the better years. There’s a logical reason for the depression. It would pass after April 1. I just had to wait a few days and the depression would be gone.

Since March 6, 2012, the day after finally being accurately diagnosed bipolar, I had been on both a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. After the Lexapro and lithium stopped working, I came off them one at a time. I went through withdrawal, then saw my doctor. She prescribed Wellbutrin and Lamictal. I was on the best set of psych meds I’d ever been on.

I started having problems right after the inauguration last year. I was sure the problems were situational. We have a president who brags about being a sex offender. I went into the second worst manic episode I’ve ever had. I tried increasing the Wellbutrin, but that gave me hallucinations. Or maybe there really was a tiny bug pushing a huge dust bunny along the bathroom wall. Backed off on the Wellbutrin and increased the Lamictal. That worked. Once the crisis had passed, I went back to my regular dosage. Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t solved. I started having hallucinations last August and made the decision to come off Wellbutrin. Hallucinations are a good reason to suspect you’re either on the wrong medication or on the wrong dose. I went through 12 weeks of withdrawal which was not only miserable for me, it was miserable for anyone who had the misfortune to be around me.

I thought that because I am retired and no longer working in a hostile, hateful, stressful, and downright miserable environment, perhaps I could get by with just a mood stabilizer. My doctor agreed with my decision. She knows I’ll be back if I’m wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized the depression wasn’t situational. It was permanent. It was a part of my mental illness. I cried because I was depressed. I cried because I felt like a failure for needing to go back on antidepressants. I grew up in a family where seeing a therapist was worse than walking naked into McDonalds at noon. A household run by drunks has one inviolate rule: Don’t tell. I was a failure. I would always be a failure.

In the midst of this, I realized I need to go back on antidepressants. I found my supply of Wellbutrin, cut a pill in half, and took it. Within two hours, I had a complete personality transformation.

I will continue to take a half pill a day and see how this works. I’ve been on a number of antidepressants, and needed to come off every one of them. I came off Effexor when I hung onto the living room wall to keep the universe from spinning out of control. I came off Paxil when I realized that I could not continue living as I was living. Take my Paxil dose, things are fine, then I was out of control and the dose had to be raised. Again and again. I came off Lexapro when my meds stopped working and I was bouncing off the ceiling. After coming off Lexapro, I looked in the mirror and wondered when I had gotten so grossly overweight. I looked around the house and wondered when it had gotten so cluttered. I looked and the clothes I had been wearing to work and wondered whatever possessed me to wear such outfits.

I didn’t gain weight on Wellbutrin. I lost weight although not enough to get down to a healthy weight. I wore normal clothes. I cleaned the bathroom although I’ve still got clutter I want to remove.

When I go back on medication, I go back down the rabbit hole. Again. I enter a cycle that can’t be broken or altered. I enter med adjustment which lasts about 6 months. Then I am in the eye of the hurricane and my life is under control. Then the meds stop working – all psych meds eventually stop working – and I enter med hell. I stay there until I am sure I cannot stay there any longer. Then I enter withdrawal which lasts a minimum of 6 weeks and up to 12 weeks. I long for the ease of heroine withdrawal where all that’s required is puking and pooping for three days. I am forced to repeat this cycle until I die.

To those who reached out to me after my last, depressing, suicidal blog post, thank you. You will never know and I cannot express how much you helped.

On an artistic note….I finished the nerve quilt. And I’m working on a design for the next nerve quilt. While this quilt is about frustration, the next quilt is about healing. I’m getting there. It’s just going to take longer than I want.

Nerve Quilt 1 3-19-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. checkout what other artists have been doing.

Want to see the art I have for sale? Check out my website: Deb Thuman Art here.

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Posted in Baking, Beads, Cognitive problems, Emotions, Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

The Coffee Cake Cupcakes Were Good

I’m doing better, but it was a horrible week. I had a nerve conduction study on Tuesday. I wasn’t afraid of what it would show; I was terrified of what it wouldn’t show. If the study showed tarsal tunnel, I’d be fine. That can be corrected surgically. If the study showed it wasn’t tarsal tunnel, I’d be stuck being in pain with not relief.

When the neuropathy flares, the pain routinely hits 7. The last time, it was bad enough that suicide looked like a good idea. I even planned out how I would do it. I’ve got a .22 calibre pistol. The advantage of a .22 is that it bounces around inside and cases more damage than a 9mm. I figured I’d use hollow point ammunition. Hollow point bullets are designed to flare upon impact and damage more tissue. If I held the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, I’d be sure to blow a nasty, as opposed to nice, hole in my heart. I figured I’d have only one shot at killing myself and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to survive this shot. Naturally I’d do this outside so Jim wouldn’t be stuck cleaning up a mess in the house. Then I came up with a better idea. I’d go back to the neurology clinic at University of New Mexico and tell whatever neurologist was handy that I was tired of being ignored, I was tired of neurologists refusing to find out why I’m in pain and I was tired of being handed yet another prescription for yet another useless drug. So, if you can’t be bothered listening, let me put this in words you won’t be able to ignore. Bang. Why should Jim have to clean up any of the mess? Maybe, just maybe, one of those genius neurologists would start to listen to patients. And if not, at least I wouldn’t be in pain any more. I would just have to remember to tell Jim not to accept my body. Let the state pay for the cremation.

That scared the shit out of me.

The closer it got to the nerve conduction study, the more anxiety I had, the more depression I had, and the more terrified I was that I was going to have to commit suicide. I had Jim come to the appointment with me in case I needed him to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home.

One of the ways I deal with anxiety is to cook or to make art. I found a recipe for sourdough coffee cake and made coffee cake cupcakes. I brought them to my neurobiology class on Tuesday morning. The class enjoyed them. Then I started working on a quilt. More about the quilt in a few paragraphs.

When I got to the doctor’s office Tuesday afternoon, I filled out a good dozen pages of history and information. I had to list my allergies on at least three pages. I had to answer how much I agreed or disagreed with a list of statements.

“I enjoy talking to attractive people.” I wrote: You’ve got to be kidding me.

I spent an entire page writing about being suicidal and having a working plan for killing myself. I warned Jim that someone would probably be talking to him about me being suicidal. I expected to be sequestered in a room and have a police officer come in and try to convince me to go to a hospital. There are three ways to get someone into a mental hospital. Voluntarily go; commitment by court order; or if the person has committed an offense for which the person could be arrested, the police could take the person to a mental hospital for a mental exam without order of the court.

Under no circumstances would I voluntarily go to a mental hospital. I’ve visited friends inside of locked wards. They all have a glassy expression, talked like they were underwater, and shuffled when they walked. No thanks. I don’t need more drugs.

A court order takes time and I knew I couldn’t be held in a room against my will. I could get up and walk out of the doctor’s office. I knew I had to be extremely careful not to do or say anything that could be construed as a threat against another person.

So what happened? Nothing. No one talked to Jim. No one asked me about being suicidal. I doubt anyone read a word I wrote.

I told the doctor, a pain management specialist, that I wanted to be able to see the monitor during testing. So he told me about his experience. Somewhere in there, I mentioned I have an undergrad degree in biology. Unfortunately, I was facing the wall when he asked, “Are you a neurophysiologist?” “No. I’m an attorney.” I would have loved to see his expression.

I did get to see the graphs for a number of the tests. Because of my neurobiology class, I had a pretty good idea what I was looking at and I could keep up with the medical terminology. The tests showed a lowered amplitude on the action potential. Translated: the electrical impulse in my nerve wasn’t as strong as expected. I have a slower velocity than expected. Translated: the impulse travels down my nerve axon slower than “normal.” The tests also showed there had been problems with the axons connecting to my leg muscles, but I had grown new axons to take the place of the defective axons. That’s nerve regeneration and it does happen.

My nerves are dead or dying and this isn’t going to get better. Fortunately, I was too depressed to be suicidal. Yes, there are levels of depression so deep that one would have to feel better to commit suicide.

The pain management specialist said he had no way to treat me. That’s okay. I would never let this guy treat me. I told him the only reliable pain killer was making art. He tried telling me that was a diversion. No, this isn’t like Lamaze. The pain stays gone after I stop making art. I don’t think he liked hearing that. It’s tough to make money prescribing art.

I did some thinking the next day.  I realized I don’t have dead nerves. I know this because I felt every one of those impulses. Then I did some research. Then on Thursday I had a chat with my neurobiology teacher. I had some of the amplitude problem figured out although I had the wrong ion. I had the velocity figured out, although the problem might not be as bad as I thought. I looked at the results of blood work done in December. I remembered what my primary care doctor told me.

The blood work showed a mild potassium deficiency and my triglyceride level is way higher than it should be. My chiropractor told me that peripheral neuropathy is a metabolic problem. The potassium deficiency at least contributes to the neuropathy. I had been monitoring my blood glucose levels and keeping a food diary. My primary care doctor told me that the glucose levels are indicating a problem. I’m not diabetic or even pre-diabetic. My doctor told me that if I continue to monitor my glucose levels and learn what foods to avoid, keep exercising and keep losing weight, the triglyceride level should go down to normal. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My nerves have already proven they will regenerate. I’m hoping that fixing the potassium deficiency will reverse the neuropathy.

Here’s the quilt I’ve been working on. I have finished putting the beads on the dendrites. I’m working on quilting it. I’m quilting by hand around the dendrites and the axon. I’ll be quilting the graph for a healthy action potential on the quilt. The axon has vesicles containing neurotransmitters and one vesicle releasing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are how nerves communicate with each other. Note that the neurotransmitters aren’t being accepted by any of the receptors (beads) on the dendrites.

IMG_5418IMG_5422

The working polite title is: Damn it, LISTEN to me.

The real title, which would keep this piece from ever being accepted into any quilt show on the planet, is: Get back here motherfucker, sit the fuck down and LISTEN TO ME.

I’m no longer suicidal. I’m working on getting healthier.

I got a new lens for the Canon. It’s a Tamron 18-400mm zoom telephoto. I’ve tested it out and I love this lens. It gives me way sharper shots than I was getting with a generic 75-300mm zoom telephoto. I even get sharp macro shots at 400mm. I went out to Soledad Canyon to do some shooting yesterday. My brain is still messed up from all the anxiety – anxiety that was worse than I had when I took a bar exam. I forgot my phone. I forgot I had used a custom white balance and neglected to switch back to automatic white balance. I’m shocked that the colors came out right. I forgot I had used exposure compensation and many of the shots are badly over exposed. At first, I thought there was a problem with autofocus. Nope. Autofocus is nearly silent.

Soledad Canyon 6 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 5 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 4 -16-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Take a look at what other artists have done this week.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Emotions, Jewelry, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography, PTSD

Art And Other Stuff

I got up early on Wednesday to shoot the eclipse. I had good and not so good results. I was able to shoot the eclipse until only a tiny slice of moon was left. I wanted to shoot the rest of the eclipse, but the moon fell behind clouds then set behind the mountains.

Eclipse 1A 1-31-18 Use this oneEclipse 2 1-31-18Eclipse 3 1-31-18Eclipse 6 1-31-18Eclipse 8 1-31-18

I’ve been making more jewelry. I had ordered a new supply of beads and I’ve been playing with designs. These are all in my store, Deb Thuman Art. I’ve got these and a number of other pieces sale priced for Valentine’s Day. Shipping is included in the price.

Purple peacock earrings

Glass peacock feather earrings.

Oblong green earrings

African opal and glass.

Heart earrings 1 2-2-18

Brass hearts.

Green peacock earrings

Glass peacock feather earrings.

Green glass earrings

Recycled green glass earrings.

I’ve been having severe pain in my feet this week. I had to miss my neurobiology class on Thursday because I can’t function on three hours sleep. I love that class, but I had been frustrated by all the emphasis on the brain. I’ve got pain in my feet, my brain is just dandy. Or is it? I’ve been reading Childhood Interrupted. In the book, the authors mention healing neural pathways in the brain. The theory is that once the brain is healed, then the other diseases will also heal. I know there’s a mind/body interaction. I know that PTSD causes physical changes in the brain – changes that can be healed and reversed. Perhaps the real reason I was drawn to take neurobiology has nothing to do with my feet but rather with healing old wounds. Gabapentin doesn’t cure peripheral neuropathy or even halt the progression of the nerve damage. What it does is more or less stop the pain. Sometimes. Other times, it just leaves me stoned and walking into walls.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Looking for a special gift for the special person in your life? Check out the Valentine’s Day Special in my store here.

Posted in Emotions, Fiber, Sexual Assault Is Wrong

Swimming Upstream

I got the messenger bag sort of done. I measured, then made the strap a bit too short. I allowed 1.5 inches to sew into a seam so I’ve got room to fix this. It’s usable with the strap as is, but not what I really want. I wanted to sew the straps into the seam that connects the bag to the lining, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. There’s a recessed zipper, and …. oh, shit. I just figured out how to sew the strap into the seam. Guess I need to make a few more of these bags.

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Front with zippered pocket on the flap.

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Back with zippered pocket.

As I guide, I followed this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8YHMqJi3a8 This woman has a number of videos on sewing, and I find them wonderfully helpful. I’ve been sewing for 53 years, but I didn’t know how to install a zipper properly until I watched her videos.

I wanted a bag that would accommodate my full-size iPad Pro and have room for my wallet, phone, keys, and other things I need to have. I put zippered pockets in the back of the bag, the flap, in both sides inside and put a welt pocket in the inside.

IMG_5255IMG_5253

The welt pocket continues down behind the zippered pocket.

What I couldn’t figure out is how to attach a water bottle holder. I’ll have to do some thinking about that one.

I started my writing class and neurobiology class last week. After one of the students in my writing class said she was going to law school in the fall, the teacher said she’d be doing a lot of fiction writing. Even if she writes contracts, she would be doing fiction writing. So when it came my turn to introduce myself, I told him I’m an attorney, I find his comments about legal writing offensive, and how would he like it if I told stupid English teacher jokes. I’ll get what I can from this class. Only one fiction writing workshop is offered each semester and the teachers take turns teaching it. I do like the idea of having a number of teachers so I can see an assortment of approaches.

My neurobiology teacher is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Although I find myself at a disadvantage because I haven’t taken a biology class since 1981, I’m still having my brain zip around ideas while the teacher is talking. I’m going to love this class. I’m wondering if this is going to rekindle my love of biology. One of my undergrad degrees is in biology and I considered going to grad school to become a biologist. One day, after seeing an image from an electron microscope and learning about thylocoids, I decided a thylocoid was way too big and clunky to understand. Then I realized I was calling something that could only be seen with an electron microscope big and clunky. One day, I walked out of my organic chemistry class trying hard to understand the bond between two atoms and decided that was too big and clunky to understand. When I realized what I had just termed big and clunky, I decided being a biologist would end with me in a locked ward. So I stuck with journalism until I went to law school.

On Thursday, Jim and I went up to Albuquerque to the neurology clinic at the University of New Mexico med school. I had been going to the clinic at the med school in El Paso. At the clinic in El Paso, I kept wondering if I were the only one in the room who had taken cell biology. Then I discovered I really was the only one in the room who took cell biology. At the clinic in Albuquerque, I got to talk to a neurologist who is a microbiologist. Yes! My work in college was mostly with plants, but my real passion is microbiology.

Today was the Women’s March in Las Cruces. I didn’t go. The women who organize it are too cheap to pay for security. They would have to agree to pay the overtime rate for off-duty police officers. I suspect only 3 or 4 officers would be needed. Instead, they have two women who are “trained in verbal de-escalation.” Right. Try talking sense to a skinhead or a bullet. Yes, 911 can be called and the police would arrive within five minutes. Sounds like a short time, right? Imagine a skinhead with an AR-15 or a baseball bat. Now give the skinhead five minutes to do damage. How many people can be hurt or killed in five minutes?

There’s another reason I didn’t go. I’m still raw inside. I’m still pissed we have a sociopath sex offender for president. I’m still pissed that we have to fight against sexual harassment. I’m still pissed that standing up against sexual assault in my writing class last semester resulted in me being told to shut up by both my teacher and the head of the English department. I’m still pissed that my teacher retaliated by giving me a lower than deserved grade. I didn’t think I could get through the rally and march without crying. And it would be too emotionally difficult to explain why I was crying.

I’m still going to speak out and I don’t give a crap what the cost will be. I’m still going to stand up for what I believe to be right. I’m still going to stand up for a woman’s right to go through life free from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

I’m just not about to risk death or injury to do it.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Thinking about a Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie – or yourself? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Emotions, Photography, Pottery, PTSD

Pottery & Pondering

On Sunday, I re-fired the pieces that didn’t fire well the first time and fired freshly glazed pieces. I’m almost satisfied with the plates.

Plate 8 9-9-17Plate 7 9-9-17Plate 6 9-9-17Plate 5 9-9-17Plate 4 9-9-17Plate 3 9-9-17Plate 2 9-9-17Plate 1 9-9-17

I like what happened with the glaze experiments on the rattling rocks.

Rattling Rocks 2 9-9-17Rattling Rocks 1 9-9-17

I gotta stop making boob soap dishes.

Soap dishes 2 9-9-17

Jim did a bit of glaze experimenting and I’ve no idea what he did.

Soap dishes 1 9-9-17Soap Dish 3 9-9-17

I decided to sew up a pair of shorts I had cut out a few weeks ago. When I went to attach the waist band, I realized I had neglected to cut a piece out. So I cut another piece. Still not enough waistband. I’ll give it another try later.

I’ve been working on an exercise that is supposed to allow for emotional and physical healing. I write about the crap that happened when I was a kid and the crap that happened when I was working for the Public Defender Department. This is triggering flashbacks and leaving me wanting to curl up into a ball and never again emerge. The theory behind this exercise is that I’ve buried the feelings, the feelings need to emerge, and then I can move on. I’m reading Childhood Disrupted –  I got the title wrong last week – and that’s from where the exercise comes. Sometimes, when I look back on all the years I’ve struggled with this crap, all the wasted time in my life infuriates me. What could I have become if I had decent parents?

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

You can find my web page, Deb Thuman Art, here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Grief, Judiasm, PTSD

Depression. It sucks.

Depression. It’s not fun. It hurts. It kills. It destroys. It renders a person unable to function. Other than that, it’s no big deal.

My youngest sister died June 24, 1997. She was 35, 10 years younger than me, and left behind a husband and a 3-year-old daughter. Melanoma killed her. I didn’t know any of that until a friend read the obit in the newspaper and called me to ask how I was doing. My mother had decreed that my surviving siblings not tell me that my sister was sick or that she died. Penalty for doings so was being cut out of the will. My revenge is that my mother spent the last years of her life in a nursing home so there was nothing left to inherit. They had sold their humanity for nothing. No, they haven’t apologized. They decided not to call me when my mother died. I only found out she died when I saw the obituary. I subscribe to Legacy.com and I get a list of all the people with the last name Thuman who have obituaries published each day. My siblings were surprised when I crashed the funeral. They haven’t apologized for that, either.

Now, I have two difficult days each year. April 1 which was my sister’s birthday and June 24. I thought I’d get past grieving by now. Guess I was wrong. Some years are better than others. This isn’t one of the better ones. The flashbacks started a couple weeks ago. I get them in clusters rather than one at a time. Long ago, I discovered that if I look at the flashback, acknowledge that what happened to me was terrible, the memory would sink back down into my brain and leave me alone. It’s a great technique and I urge anyone who has PTSD to give it a try. Except it’s not working for me this time.

Usually, I can bury myself in art when I’m depressed or upset and I find myself back at center. Not today. I’m working on ceramic lanterns and bowls. I stopped mid-lantern because I was too depressed to continue. I don’t like to have music playing when I work, and working with mud makes very little noise. Critters come right up to the patio. A bird nearly stepped on my foot until it realized that a human was sitting there. Rabbits come up to the patio and eat whatever is growing. A small bird perched on plant stand and drank water from the saucer under the pot with chives growing in it. Maybe 10 feet from where I was sitting. Normally, close encounters with critters is a wonderful, special thing. Providing the critter isn’t a rattlesnake and I’m not about to step on it. This morning, it was just something that happened.

Years ago, a friend suggested I do something to honor my sister’s life. I thought perhaps if I could put my feelings into a piece of art  I’d feel better. Except I can’t figure out how I want to do this. What do I make? A giant, stuffed malignant mole? Then what? Take it out in the desert and shoot it? A mangled foot to commemorate the day my mother watched my sister play with oven cleaner, then washed her off, put the oven cleaner soaked sneaker back on her foot and then yelled at her for the next 4 hours to stop crying? Finally, she took my sister to the hospital. Second and third degree burns from her waist down. The worst was her right foot. The scar covered nearly the entire top of her foot. No, there was never any plastic surgery to remove the scar. There was also never any report made to child protective services. We’re white and we had private insurance.

Maybe a quilt of a woman skiing. My sister skied. She tore wild down the mountain as if she were Franz Klamer attacking the downhill race in the olympics. Her friends asked her where she learned to hot dog like that. In those days, flying over moguls and other fancy stuff was called hot dogging. My sister replied that she didn’t know how to ski.

Maybe I can attach a maxi-pad to the quilt. When my sister had her first period, she looked under the bathroom sink, found feminine supplies (there were always feminine supplies under the bathroom sink), pinned the pad in her pants, and went on with life. She didn’t think she needed to tell anyone. That’s what convinced me I never needed to worry about my sister. I knew she would always figure out a way to handle any situation in which she found herself.

She graduated from high school, but she didn’t go to the ceremony. Our mother couldn’t be bothered so my sister’s passage from high school to adult woman went unnoticed and undocumented.

The grief never goes away. Some years, like this one, the grief is unbearable.

Tonight, kaddish is being read during services for my sister. Jim will go with me. Maybe I’ll be able to get through the prayer without crying. Next week, Jim and I are going to Albuquerque to buy clay and shop for some other art supplies. Maybe that will help me feel less depressed.

This wasn’t the best week to do this, but I bought a domain name and opened an on-line shop. Getting the shop up and running was frustrating, and I’m not handling frustration well this week. I do have an etsy shop, but it gets no traffic and I have to pay each time I list something. So I opened my own shop, Deb Thuman Art. You can get there from here. Stop by and let me know what you think. I’m still getting inventory loaded into the shop and at the moment, there are only photographs.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists have been doing this week.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Photography

Coping Without A Coping Saw

The water heater is fixed. I can now take a shower in the master bath, clean the master bath, soak in the whirlpool tub, and wash laundry in hot water. This is remarkably good. And remarkably appreciated. To celebrate, I am washing all the used towels in hot water.  My latest visit with my doctor convinced me that approach would be prudent.

I’ve been battling a mixed episode for the past week. A mixed episode has features of both manic and depressive. Meaning I feel like both knocking out walls in the house to do some major remodeling and jumping off a cliff – neither of which I will do. No, exercise does not help. If I get myself going on my elliptical machine, rather than calming down, I get more agitated.  The best I can do right now is grab my camera and take a walk.

Hearing that the vile, cheap, greedy bastards in the House of Representatives – and New Mexico’s representative Steve Pierce voted for this – I fell far below center. When Jim retires, I will be uninsurable. If I can get disaster insurance, at a cost of $2K or more a month, it won’t cover my thyroid condition or bipolar disorder. All coverage for mental illness is eliminated. Without insurance, I cannot afford the blood tests to monitor my thyroid levels. Without insurance, I cannot afford my thyroid medication – which is keeping me alive. Without insurance, I cannot afford my mood stabilizer. So. Will I die because my thyroid doesn’t work? Or will I die because I can’t escape the depressed end of the mood swing spectrum? May every one of the motherfuckers who voted for this bill and everyone in their families be barred from having health insurance and get a life-threatening illness. That would be justice. And so I am both depressed and enraged.

On to happier topics. Yesterday, I went out to photograph white yucca. On Wednesday, Jim got his eyes examined and while I waited in Walmart for him to be finished, I worked on my novel. The scene I was working on gave me the idea to photograph the yucca from below. So I did.

Yucca has a creamy white flower. The camera saw it as having yellow and green tints. I played around with tints and hues. I got some interesting results, but nothing that looked like a yucca flower.

Yucca 2 5-11-17Yucca 3 5-11-17

The sky is way too dark and the flowers have a green cast that doesn’t exist in real life.

I played around with tints, hues and other cool color stuff I could find.

Yucca 2 5-11-17 color alteredYucca 2 5-11-17 color altered grunge vintageYucca 9 5-11-18 Use this one played w:color replace sky color

After asking on the Digital Photography School Facebook page, I played around with my editing program, and found the adjustment for white balance. Then I learned how to use it.

Yucca 5 5-11-17 Use this oneYucca 7 5-11-17 Use this oneYucca 9 5-11-18 Use this one

I like this one above the best.

I played about with overlays and other goodies and got a few shots I like.

Yucca 8 5-11-17 grunge, edge, watercolor pencil HDR water color pencil

The agave is progressing towards seed production. If I had a microscope, I’d be tempted to cut a couple individual buds each day, cut longitudinal sections and watch the seed development. Agave 1 5-11-17Agave 2 5-11-17

There’s a place on the North Shore of Oahu where you can stand on the beach, peer through the trees and watch the surf. I tried recreating that idea but I’m not sure if I like the results.

Agave 3 5-11-17

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Check out what some other artists are doing. There’s some great inspiration in those blogs.

Posted in Emotions, Photography

Art: The Antidote to Misery

The Great Laundry Event has passed. I discovered I’m allergic to the laundry detergent I’ve been using. I bought some detergent that has very little added and then washed all the bedding, all the towels, and all my clothes. I stopped counting loads at 12.

We’re still using the guest bathroom because there’s still no hot water for the master bathroom. The part finally arrived and Jim will call the plumber on Monday to see when we can get the water heater fixed.

Because of recent events in Congress, events that will cause me to be uninsurable at which time I won’t be able to afford medication that keeps me alive, I’ve needed to find refuge in art.

I’ve been doing a bit of work on the novel which is now starting to sound like a novel. As opposed to sounding like me. Sigh. I’m not so sure sounding like a novel is wonderful although it will help to get my book published when I finally finish it. I do find it interesting that when I listen to network news commentary on officer involved shootings, the commentator clearly has done no research. This is disturbing.

I’ve been working on photography the past few days and I’ve decided to concentrate on the photos that most other people don’t take.

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Lots of people take photos of blooming yucca; the one above is a soap yucca – New Mexico’s state flower. Not that many take photos of the seed pods that develop after pollination and the dead stalk after the pods have spread their seeds.

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I played with the photos of the pods.

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The base of the yucca is interesting so I took a shot and played. The original shot is the last one in the series.

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There’s a huge agave in my back yard, so I took odd photographs and played with the results.

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Original photo of a deal leaf from the large agave.

And what happened when I started playing.

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Original photo of the base of the large agave.

And what happened when I started playing.

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The large agave.

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The played with agave.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Check out what other artists have been doing the past week.

Posted in Emotions, Garden, Photography

Terrified. Outraged. Shocked. Need Art.

I am shocked, sickened, and outraged by what my government has done the past week. The press secretary, who knows full well his every syllable will be recorded, reported and analyzed, denied the Holocaust, said gas wasn’t used against people – meaning as a Jew, I’m subhuman in his eyes, and he wasn’t fired. Stamp of approval from the Sex Offender in Chief who refused to acknowledge Holocaust Remembrance Day because only Jews are remembered. Every Holocaust Remembrance ceremony I’ve ever attended has included all groups who were targeted and murdered. I know the sex offender is evil. I haven’t decided if the fact he is an incompetent idiot is a good thing or a bad thing.

Under the shock and fury is terror. My most valuable possession is a piece of paper that says I am a Jew. If I need to leave the US in a hurry – and that fear is becoming stronger and more realistic every day, Israel has to take me in. Under the Law of Return, any Jew who asks is given “immediate” Israeli citizenship. Immediate being a term of art – it takes 3-6 months.

Yesterday, the US blew up Afghanistan except the Sex Offender in Chief isn’t taking credit/responsibility for dropping the ultimate non-nuke bomb and destroying everything for a mile in all directions. According to the press release, the government of Afghanistan knew in advance and was in agreement with this bombing. Except all of this was news to the Agfhani government. But the US extended deepest sympathy towards the families of the Syrians who where killed. Oops. Hey, mistakes happen.

Eventually, and probably sooner than we expect, the Sex Offender in Chief will piss off a foreign government to the point where someone will drop a bomb on us and make Pearl Harbor look like a day at the beach. But that’s okay. The defense contractors will make several billion dollars and that’s all that really matters.

When I was a kid, I had nightmares about a nuclear attack. Now, I have the same nightmares – only I have them when I’m awake. I have no better ways to deal with this terror now than I had when I was a kid.

And so I turn to art for comfort.

I’m still designing ugly beaded earrings, so no bead photos. Instead, we have botany. I have an undergrad degree in biology, and my concentration was botany and microbiology. And so I photograph what’s blooming.

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Jim and the agave.
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The view from the ground.
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It’s starting to send out branches and “blooms.”

I’ve discovered that slightly underexposing my shots of the agave allows me to bring out more details in post.

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Ocotillo close up of flower.

 

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Ocotillo – the top part of a huge bush in the back yard.

There’s a huge ocotillo in the back yard. This is roughly the top 1/3 of the plant.

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Red yucca.

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The prickly pear are getting ready to bloom, and I wanted to play with a shallow depth of field. I like the way the background blurs out on these shots.

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Mexican Bird of Paradise.

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The end of the iris for this year. I wanted to try some shots with unusual subject matter. Dead flowers are pretty unusual subject matter.

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Above is the one I like best, and below is a close second.

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And some playing around.

I’m linking with Nina Marie. There are lots of great artists and great art linked with her blog here.

Posted in Emotions, Judiasm, words

The Border Patrol Agent and the Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s Passover. Jews view this as deliverance from slavery. Christians tend to view Passover as a time when the Jews smeared lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes so the Angel of Death, who came to kill the first born of each family, would pass over the homes of the Jews. Yes, there was an Angel of Death and the first born of the Egyptians was killed. There’s more to Passover than that.

I prefer the Jewish view. Deliverance. The little guy wins. We were slaves in Egypt. Now, we are living mostly freely, but not always, in just about every country on the planet. What enslaves us now? Bigotry, along with a lot of other things but I’m going to be typing about bigotry. What’s that you say? Some of your best friends are: white, black, Muslim, Christian, whoever else is not just like you. That’s nice but bigotry is more insidious, more hidden. Bigotry creeps around inside of us and presents itself in ways that are acceptable to ourselves.

Twice, I’ve been forced to look beyond the surface where my prejudices lie and see the human.

The first time was in court when I represented a soldier and argued my guts out to keep the judge from imposing more than the minimum mandatory jail sentence. Back at my office, I realized what I had done. While I wanted to tell my client to get a real job and stop sucking up my tax money, I saw the young man under the uniform. I saw him as a person. I saw the pain I’m pretty sure he carried inside of him. I still think blowing up Iraq and Afghanistan are two of the stupidest, waste of money things the US has done. Now, I see beyond the uniform. I see broken women and men who come back from combat with horrible memories, feelings that didn’t get felt while trying to survive, nightmares, and inability to function. I see them feeling ashamed when they have nothing of which to be ashamed. I see that shame keeping them from getting the help they desperately need.

The second time was last night when I attended a seder held by my temple. I was seated next to a border patrol agent. I think the border patrol checkpoints are useless, a waste of money, and that the agents engage in racial profiling. All those things are true. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I’m rethinking my penchant for referring to border patrol agents as Nazi bastards. This one is tough. I’ve never hated anything as much as I hate border patrol agents. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I refuse to make eye contact when I’m in a checkpoint. I raise a finger as I drive off. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I’ve never been pulled over in a checkpoint because I’m Caucasian and clearly of Western European heritage.  Half the time, I’m not even asked my citizenship. Chicanos have told me about how they are routinely pulled over in checkpoints. Twice, I’ve gotten snarly border patrol agents to instantly back down by identifying myself as an attorney.

But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy.

I’m linking with Nina Marie. Check out what other artists have been doing here.

Posted in Emotions, Fiber, Jewelry, Photography, Pottery

My Brain Has Settled Down, But Not Yet Calmed Down

My brain has settled down, but not calmed down. I’m still in Manic Mode, but I have more control and I sleeping through the night. I’m functioning fairly well, but I’m still angry. Memories keep flooding back. The latest is from the early 1980’s. I was in the press box covering a hockey game. The man sitting next to me asked if I had any children. No. Then he offered to sleep with me to get me pregnant. I declined. Looking back, I wish I could have slapped the snot out of him. It’s the narcissistic, bully attitude that women have no bodily integrity, no worth, and need not be consulted on little things like sex.

I’m starting to put together a portfolio of photos of my art, and I’m making progress getting good shots. Someone on the Digital Photography School Facebook page suggested hanging earrings on a twig. My writing class is on Wednesdays, and when I parked my car, a nice twig was lying on the ground. Must be a sign from above. After much playing around, I got the following. As soon as I get additional shots, these will go into my etsy store. I’ll let you know when they are listed. I’ve also been playing around with different beads and different bead combinations.

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Meanwhile, I’m playing around with texture tools for when it’s warm enough to work with clay. Cold, wet, and windy isn’t conducive to great ceramics. At the moment, the temperature isn’t getting much above 60 degrees F. Couple this with wind gusts of up to 60 mph – 100 kph, and you get the worst of conditions for playing in the mud.

You have to look past the colors of the yarn. I grabbed leftover bits and experimented. These pieces will be pressed into clay for texture. I may use the impressed clay – which is a negative – to make stamps so I can stamp a positive version of the texture. I found my special crochet hook for making Tunisian crochet. The hook looks like a cross between a crochet hook and a knitting needle. Then I played around with stitches.

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Above are photos of the same piece but showing more of the texture. I like the basket weave flavor and I think making a positive stamp of this will make for some great pieces. I love shinos and glazes that do something. This texture will give lots of nooks and crannies in which glaze will pool.

I wanted to see what would happen if I used a yarn that had multiple thicknesses. Result is below.

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Here’s what happened when I used different combinations of yarns.

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Above is using one strand of worsted weight yarn.

Below is what happens when I used two strands of worsted weight yarn.

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And here’s what happens with I used one very light weight yarn and one worsted weight yarn.

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The texture changes with each yarn combination and I’m curious to see what the texture looks like when pressed into wet clay.

I’m linking with Nina Marie. Check out her blog here and see what others are working on.

Posted in Emotions, Jewelry, Photography

Anger & Earrings

I’m still angry. This week, something from 50 years ago came back and demanded to be thought about. When I was in junior high, I had to take an art class. Seating was assigned and I got stuck next to a boy who thought he was clever. He kept singing, “Hey baby won’t you take a chance. Spread your legs while I drop my pants.”

After several weeks of this, I found the courage to tell the teacher. She asked why I hadn’t said something before. Because someone else had asked to have his seat moved and she didn’t let him. I spent the rest of the classes sitting somewhere else. I was happy that she moved my seat. I’d have been better served if she had told me how unacceptable his behavior was and how wrong it was to treat women like pieces of meat.

Some of the boys thought it was wonderful fun to pull up a girl’s skirt. I expressed my displeasure – an inkling of who I would eventually become. The response from one boy, “You’re not the coolest.”

It would take another 10 years before the boy’s behavior had a name: sexual harassment. It would take 10 years beyond that before women could begin to really fight back. Now, 50 years later, I see how damaging that boy’s behavior was. I see that my worth then was embedded in a part of my anatomy I couldn’t see without a mirror. It didn’t matter if I was smart. It didn’t matter if I had any sort of talent. It didn’t matter what goals and dreams I had for myself. All that mattered was if I was pretty. If I let the boys tease me and pull up my skirt.

Now, I understand. I think. I have worth and value. My worth isn’t concentrated in my bra and my panties. My worth is intrinsic. This is my body. I decide who touches it and when. I decide what behavior I will tolerate and what I will not tolerate. Treat me with dignity and respect or get away from me. I wish I had known this 50 years ago. 

I’ve been working on my photography because I need to assemble a portfolio and I need the portfolio to be really good. A friend gave me a gray scale, and I’ve been using that as a backdrop for my jewelry. I posted the photos on the Digital Photography School Facebook page and asked for suggestions. The result? Think outside the fishing line. I had been stringing fishing line across the light box and dangling earrings from the fishing line.

Nice, but I’m still having problems getting the entire earring in focus. I posted my photos on the Digital Photography School Facebook page and asked for advice. One poster sent me to Pinterest to see how other earrings had been photographed.

I did a little playing.

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I put the earrings on a piece of granite. This will work for some earrings, but the stones get hidden with some of the earrings.

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I suspended a piece of plexiglas over the granite to see if that would help with the color contrast. Nope. Showed off all the scratches in the plexiglas, though.

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Next, I tried putting the earrings on a quilted piece. I like that the best, but it does show off uneven free motion quilting.

Eventually, I will get this figured out.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Check out what some other great artists have been doing.

Posted in Emotions, Photography, words

Once upon a mood so terrifying…..

I’m back to what passes for normal. I think. I’m calm. I can function and this functioning calm feels stable. That could change in an instant. I had a manic event that lasted for three weeks and became unbearable earlier this week. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t function. But I sure wrote a couple doozy stories for my writing class! This one is for an assignment where we had to write a story based on one of the fairy tales we read. I chose to write about Hans Christian Anderson’s The Toad.

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The Very Pissed Off Toad

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Yael who didn’t like closets. Or boxes. Or girdles. Or cleaning the bathroom. Or being told she was inferior.

“Either there’s no difference between men and women – except for plumbing – or I need a sex change operation” said Yael often.

Oh, my. The people of the church were appalled. And terrified.

“What if the girls thought like that?” cried the fragile men.

“Who will make my supper and wash my socks?” cried the lazy men.

“Isn’t it time we had another baby?” cried the misogynous men.

Yael had a husband, but no children.

“You should have a baby!” screamed the terrified women who like to call

themselves girls even past menopause.

“You should have a baby!” screamed the terrified men.

Instead, Yael went to college. She started a week after her 25th birthday and

a week after she got the braces removed from her now straight teeth. Yael studied hard.

“We hired a woman once. She didn’t work out so we don’t hire

women now,” said the asshole in Human Regulations.

Yael fought hard. She didn’t lose, but she didn’t exactly win.

“I didn’t mean anything by that! You’re overly sensitive,” said the

jerk employer who thought he could grab Yael whenever he wanted.

“I don’t know what your problem is,” said the jerk at the New York

State Human Rights Division when Yael tried to file a complaint after being fired by the jerk employer.

Yael still fought hard. She didn’t exactly win, but she didn’t lose,

either.

Yael went to law school. And to court. And to trial. And to the

Supreme Court where the chief judge said, “This is an historic morning! All the attorneys are women and two of the judges are women.”

Say that shit in New York and you’re permanently off the bench before

lunch, thought Yael while she tried to smile without sneering.

Yael continued to fight hard. She didn’t exactly win, but she didn’t

Lose, either.

One day, a peacock jerk came up to Yael and demanded she pay

attention to him. Yael told him to leave her alone. “Hey, you were coming on to me, bitch!”

Yael looked into the peacock jerk’s eyes to hold his attention. She

smiled. She reached into her left pocket, removed the stun gun, pressed it to the peacock jerk’s groin, and pressed the trigger. She did this until the screaming stopped.

Yael won.

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I like to think that bipolar disorder doesn’t define me, but I’m trying to believe the impossible. I can’t cope without proper medication. Even on the best meds I’ve ever had, I still had a three-week episode that effected every part of my life. On the worst day,  I got an email from the College of Arts & Sciences – part of New Mexico State University – asking for art submissions for a symposium on mental health and justice. I’ve been to these things and never once has there been a speaker who is actually mentally ill. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do before we remove the stigma attached to mental illness. If there’s never one who is mentally ill speaking, that says people are convinced that the 26% of the US population with a diagnosed mental illness are too stupid, too crazy, too irrational to be allowed to speak. Remember when women were considered too irrational, too emotional and not smart enough to speak in public? In case you missed it the first time around, now that the US has a Sex Offender in Chief, you can catch it now.

At the very depths of this manic event, I had to stop what I was doing and make art to submit for the symposium. I’ve no illusions about my work being chosen. I needed to say what I had to say.

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I subscribe to the Digital Photography School newsletter. This week, there was an article about photographing cats. Cats refuse to pose, insist on squirming and leaving as soon as they see a camera. Using the suggestions I read about, I got a fairly decent photo of Tinker.

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I had to play a bit with it.

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I’m linking with Nina Marie. You can see her blog and links to other terrific artists  here.

Posted in Emotions, Quilts

Beyond Rage

I am filled with fury, rage, anger, and I’m pissed off. I’ve had to tweak my psych meds because I am having stress pains. I’ve been pissed off since January 20. Often, when I’m this emotional, I don’t understand what’s going on inside of me. This might be a function of bipolar disorder, but it’s hard to tell. I’ve no idea how the “normal” brain works. I live with an interesting brain.

When I don’t understand what’s happening inside of me, I made art. It’s only through art that  I can identify the emotions and allow them to escape. I’m working on a quilt. It started with a fuzzy idea and grew. First came a phrase. “If you touch this without my permission, I will break your fucking arm. ”

I wanted to make an anatomically correct vaginal opening. Rather than squat over a tripod mounted camera and hope I got the focus right, I went on the internet and found photos. I wanted the vaginal opening to be three-dimensional. This took some fancy figuring and sewing. That’s a Swarovski crystal for the clitoris. I neglected to leave sufficient room for the urethra so it’s not represented.

First Draft:

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It’s a bad photo because I didn’t feel like hanging the quilt on the clothes line and just propped it on my cutting table. The blue/green lines are basting to hold the three layers together.

I needed another couple days to figure out what to do next. I had wanted to hand quilt words on the piece, but when I tried to lay the sentences out, I realized I couldn’t say what I wanted to say with stitches. I needed to write the words onto the quilt.

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I didn’t think free motion quilting would be a good idea for this quilt, so I am quilting the word “NO” in assorted sizes and in assorted places.

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Found my needle.

Will this quilt make the rage dissipate? I doubt it. The last time I went through this, I made a good half dozen sculptures. I’m beginning to understand what’s causing the rage, the depth of my rage, and to let the rage out in an acceptable manner.

I am linking with NinaMarie. If you have any interest in art, her blog is the best spot to visit. Lots of art and lots of artists. NinaMarie’s blog is here.