Posted in bipolar disorder, Clay, Judiasm, Photography

A Different Kind of Stress

Christmas looks a bit different when you’re Jewish. I don’t face Holiday Hell each December. Used to be, I’d drop into a deep depression starting the third week in November and lasting until New Year’s Day. Jim and I used to escape by planning to be a few states away from the family over Christmas. I knew there was a problem when I found myself eating a leftover sandwich in a hotel room, watching Christmas Story, and thinking it was a pretty good Christmas day.

That was before. Now, no family misery – fighting, screaming, crying and that was just what happened before desert. It got worse as the day ground on. There were Christmas cookies before, but I have no idea where they came from. They were home baked, but I’ve no idea when or how. I’ve never understood Christmas cookies. I asked a woman who thought cleaning the bathroom was exciting about Christmas cookies. She told me she started baking in October and froze cookies. Why would anyone do that?

Now, after finding out my family were Polish Jews cleverly disguised as German Lutherans and reverting to Judaism, (the rabbi called it conversion), I have no Holiday Hell in December. I do have a different type of stress. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I had one of my best days at the local Farmers & Craft Market. I had made little ceramic trays and the customers nearly cleaned me out. So I worked like crazy to have a new batch of little ceramic trays for this past Saturday. I had my best sales day ever and the customers nearly cleaned me out. I don’t have time to make another batch of little trays.

Large tray 1102Large tray 1099Large tray 1100Large tray 1101

Big little trays.

Small tray 1122Small tray 1124Small tray 1125Small tray 1127

Little little trays.

Tray 1110Tray 1109Tray 1107Tray 1103Tray 1096Tray 1094Tray 1093Tray 1091

Medium little trays.

Needing to fill the table, and reading about rice pillows on the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists Facebook page, I decided to make rice pillows. I have some black rice that I discovered I didn’t care for so I’ll use that for rice pillows. Jim said the rice pillows would make nice gifts – and he wants to send the gifts out early this week. I dug through my stash and found fabric that I could cut out 12.5” squares. I folded the squares in half, sewed around two raw edges using a 3/8” seam allowance, folded right side out, folded over the top, not yet sewn edge so I’d have a nice edge. I drew a line down the middle of the pillow so I’d have two channels running the length of the pillow. I used an empty spool from a cone of thread for a funnel and filled the first pillow 2/3 full in each channel. Then, I sewed the neatly folded under edge closed. And I was out of black rice. I’ve got about 15 more squares to sew into rice pillows and another two already sewn and need to be filled. I’ll have to stop at Sam’s Club tomorrow to buy some cheap rice. I’ll sew bags in the morning, go to the gym, pick up the mail at the post office, then stop at Sam’s Club. I’ll come home, fill the rice pillows, and try to remember to make something for dinner. These rice pillows had better sell well when we set up on this coming Saturday.

I’m having bipolar misery. I let myself get working way too fast today. When that happens, I wind up and can’t wind down. Worse, I try to do more than one thing at a time and don’t do anything very well. Yes, I know, you don’t multi task well, either. Take your experience, multiply it by a factor of at least 10, and you have how I feel when I’m wound up and well medicated. Multiply your experience by a factor of 25, and you will have how I felt wound up and unmedicated. Mental illness isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

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

Looking for a gift? Check out my website, Deb Thuman Art here.

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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 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.