Monday, October 31, 2016

Caramel Apple

2013 (but never posted)

The New Dog Revealed

bink & Maura drove to Iowa on Saturday to pick up their new dog from the Wire-Hair Fox Terrier Rescue Midwest--a great organization of amazingly dedicated volunteers who take in dogs--often pretty banged up dogs.
(WFR on Facebook)

The new dog--as yet unnamed--is in great shape, however, just orphaned young when his owner died. He's about three. 

His coat was badly matted close to the skin, so he was shaved to remove all the clumps. (Wire-haired fox terriers don't shed, so you have to cut or otherwise attend to their hair.) Once the mats were off, his ears stood straight up.
He doesn't even look like the same dog! He also got neutered, so he's wearing the donut to keep him away from the stitches.

I babysat him last night and he was a lot of fun--both acrobatic and snuggly. I like him.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Paisley For You, Too

As much as I didn't like yesterday's paisley, I do like today's. 
The idea behind it is butternut squash, and I'm thrilled at how well the squash blossoms turned out.

It's raining this afternoon so I took the bus downtown to the library and left the paisley by the computer catalog in the Science section, near the aisle with the gardening books.


It'd just started to rain when I left the house, so I walked a bit out of my way to check on the paisley I'd tucked into the lamp post yesterday, in case it needed rescuing, but it wasn't there (or on the ground), so I guess somebody took it, as intended.
This makes me really happy.

Paisley "For You"

If you pluck this paisley that I left on the street yesterday, you'll see its hidden tab says, "FOR YOU".

Art Sparker's  #leftart inspired me. She said she likes finding spots to leave them where they create temporary collages-in-place.
I hadn't much liked this paisley after I painted it, but as I walked down the street looking for a place to leave it, I realized its green matches the old metal light poles, which I'd never noticed.  
So, yeah.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Doctor and Todd Margaret

Things are bad, and they don't get better.

There's a comfort in humor from this perspective, don't you think?
"Ah, I thought as much, I may as well relax and laugh." 

I appreciate things like the "It Gets Better" series of heartfelt video exhortations to LGBTQ youth to hang in there, life improves.
But in truth, sometimes it doesn't, and we need fortification for that too.
What better than Russian humor?

I just discovered the black comedy series, A Young Doctor's Notebook, (link to NYT review; 2012–2013, six episodes). I'd never heard of it though it stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe (Don Draper and Harry Potter). Maybe not surprisingly. It's based on autobiographical sketches from the 1920s by Russian Mikhail Bulgakov (author of The Master and Margarita).

And is it ever stereotypically Russian: an idealistic young doctor goes to his first post, in Siberia, and everything is gloomy and terrible. [Warning: they show it all, too---I kept having to look away... even as I laughed out loud.]
I haven't finished all the episodes, but I gather it doesn't get better. (Bulgakov's life didn't.)
So I wasn't too surprised to see it's made by the same crew who put together the also hilarious-and-terrible Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (2010, also 6 episodes; NYT review).
(Jon Hamm had a tiny role in that too--who is this guy? He's good. But one episode of Mad Men was enough for me.)

I recommend both, if you're in the mood for such "buck-up, it gets worse" cheer.

It makes me want to rewatch Mel Gibson's The Twelve Chairs, (1970, from the Russian 1928 novel by Ilf and Petrov) for a much lighter but related gloomy Russian view:
"Hope for the best, expect the worst."

Starring Dom DeLuise, Mel Brooks, Ron Moody v and a very young & beautiful Frank Langella.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paisley Flexes Its Muscles

My father is starting cardio rehab, and I asked if he'd like me to watercolor a paisley body part for his recovery. 
He requested a bicep.

Those red circles and stripes represent skeletal muscle (cross-section and outside views); 
the ochre-and-lavender spiral is the humerus bone; 
the dashes around the edge are striated muscle where it attaches to tendon; other bits are far-abstracted neurons-n-stuff.  

I look up image sources, but I don't plan the pattern out beforehand.
Halfway through, I noticed it started looking like something by Scottish artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928). 

He was from Glasgow, and while the "paisley" pattern originates in the east (Persia, India...), in the west it's named after the textile-producing town of Paisley, near Glasgow, where "from roughly 1800 to 1850, using Jacquard looms, the women of Paisley adapted the traditional design primarily by weaving woollen shawls" 
Here's one of the original Paisley designs on paper, based on the Kashmir cypress cone, from here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Not resentful!

As I was falling asleep last night, I realized with happy amazement that I didn't feel resentful––my usual go-to emotion––because while I didn't do it particularly well or gracefully (fighting with my SIL), I did speak up instead of slinking away.
Stifling myself is the breeding ground of resentment. 

I'm thrilled and kind of surprised: it felt like I'd never get off the hook of resentment, but it's not like I haven't been trying to navigate around it for quite a while now. 
Sometimes work actually works.

I've been speaking up (often clumsily) all year.
While I cringe at some of my expressions, overall it seems to be working as a strategy a lot better than my old fester-in-silence, disappear in the dead-of-night way. 
I'm sorry for the times my clumsy attempts to speak honestly have morphed into me yelling or otherwise hurting people's feelings (and mine!). 
But my old way hurt people too, plus it was not honest. 

More work is needed.

I like the saying, Show up; pay attention; speak the truth; be open to the outcome.*

I want to get better at speaking up sooner, before things go too far and become a big f--ing deal. 
I want to get better at sidestepping the horns of anger (the other person's or mine). 
I want to not come on like a tornado--often I do that because I'm afraid, so I want to be less afraid.

I want to speak passionately, with clarity. As the underbrush of choking fear, resentment, etc. is cleared away, hopefully that clears room for the passionate rose bush to flourish.

Here's an tricksy one: 
I want to stop trying to "help" people so much. This is complicated because help (no quote marks) is a good thing. 
I mean "help" when it's an ego thing, not freely given.  
In my case, "helping" my mother was my early-childhhood training. While it was based in love, the feeling of "helping" became an ego-reward--like giving a dog a treat for coming in the house--which I have continued to desire even when it's not fitting. (Marz used to say I "helped too hard.")

I think the hardest lesson for me to learn is that no matter how much I want to engage, some people don't want to, for whatever reasons (and perfectly good ones, too), and I should just stop pushing. 

For instance, the conflict with my SIL yesterday the conflict arose because I was trying to talk to her--that's like poking a bear, which I knew
"Not engaging" is not the same as stifling myself.
Sometimes a wise silence is the brave choice and the best strategy.
*This popular saying seems to be an abbreviation of the four-fold way, from a 1995 essay by Angeles Arrien.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Home Groundlessness Advantage: Scorpio

Every so often--like, just lately--I feel as if life picks me up by the scruff of the neck and shakes me like a dog, saying, 
"Drop it! Drop it! Drop it!"

"It" being some version of attachment, in the Buddhist sense. Alternatively, it could be saying, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake UP! to what you're doing."

Death is a big shaker, and this morning my SIL, a woman I've never seen eye-to-eye with, was telling me how I should deal with my father's brush with death.
(He's OK now, but his heart attack last week was more serious than I'd realized. He told my sister afterward, "I'm an old man," and it seems that happened all of a sudden, at almost eighty-six.)

I told SIL I didn't want her advice (it never, ever fits me, yet she never, ever tires of offering it to me). 
I swear I said it politely, but soon we were actually yelling at each other. So weird.
Even in the middle of it I thought it was ludicrous--we must have looked like dogs barking in each other's faces. 
And I'd spent an hour listening to Pema Chodron yesterday. That's probably why I could see the humor in this altercation, at least, even though I didn't manage to avoid it.

I went for a long bike ride to calm down afterward and thought, Everything is topsy-turvy, yet it's all good and important: what's happening? 

Then it occurred to me we've just entered Scorpio (Oct. 24), and that feels so fitting to me.

Astrology is metaphoric, but the season of Scorpio is literally a time of death and transformation here: 
I was biking past blown milkweed, fallen leaves---everything is letting go for winter.
I love Scorpio, I love this season: a time of deepening dark, on the borderlands of Death––(November is the Month of the Dead in the Catholic Church)––a time that suggests I set my attachments down before they're stripped away.

The thing with SIL is, I know very well that I shouldn't engage with her--I should always walk away. We've never in thirty+ years arrived at a mutual understanding. 
Oooh, but my ego hates to walk away when this person pushes my buttons; I want to jump (in the ring). 
And I am helpfully reminded today that that never goes well. 

I say it's helpful because in the coming months or years, my father's changing health and eventual death will bring me into the orbit of my family, an orbit that is full of flying debris.
It would really behoove me to drop my attachment to being right (or even understood) and to relax my grip and concentrate instead on evasive maneuvers. 

Scorpio's not my home sign (that'd be Pisces), but it's a fellow water sign. Familiar and wonderful, but not necessarily easy.
It's a fun house: Friendships transform into... who knows what? (Marz and I, for instance, are taking a friendship sabbatical.)
People pop out and yell at you!
Fathers turn into old men!

I appreciate––even love––that it's stripped to the bone, but no, it's not easy.

Death has sapphire eyes and teeth of pearl.
"In 1578 skeletons of early Christian martyrs were discovered in tombs under a street in Rome. The skeletons were distributed around churches in Europe, dressed and decorated with jewels as a reminder of the riches that awaited them after death.
 Art historian Paul Koudonaris set off on a journey to discover these ‘Catacomb Saints’, which he documented in a book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs (2013)."
More photos here

Monday, October 24, 2016

Choose Something Different

Pema Chodron, "The Freedom to Choose Something Different" (37 min.)

I love Pema Chodron, and I hadn't listened to her in a long while
when today my sister mentioned finding her helpful after our father's heart attack-- that being an example of the experience Chodron calls "groundlessness"–when your sense of (the illusion of) certainty drops out from under you.

This evening was a good time for me to watch this video because for different reasons I've been experiencing that sea-woozy feeling of groundlessness too

In this talk, Pema Chodrom talks about politics, which I don't think she usually does, and it's very helpful to look at how the macro level mirrors the intimate personal one (and sadly, it's all very topical right now).
She uses September 11, 2001, as an example of how the experience of losing certainty offers an opportunity to do something different: to stay with the uncomfortable but positive openness that results.  
And she talks about how strong the impulse is NOT to sit with that opportunity but to do the usual thing:
to clamp down on even more firmly on certainty because it feels like security, "homeland security," she says wryly. And actually that makes everything worse.

I definitely feel the impulse to respond to groundlessness by nailing down an answer, fixing an interpretation of what's happening, like pinning a butterfly to a board.
But really, I don't know and can't know right now.

I do know from past experience that it's more helpful to choose to live with and to tolerate not-knowing than to rush to judgement and declare the case closed.

Back to Work

Taking a week off was good. Now back I go...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Along the Mississippi River

bink & I spent the day along the Mississippi, downtown by the river locks and the old flour mills

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Alice in Wonderland, Homemade

Looking for pre-Internet examples of fan-works, (before copyright [it's complicated {1}], what we'd consider "fan works" were something of a norm), I found the first film of Alice in Wonderland, 1903, at the endlessly intriguing vault of the British Film Institute (BFI) youTube channel.

People are always making new versions of Alice, including a book by our own ArtSparker:
Dreaming Alice (links to viewer where you click on photos to turn pages). 

These are just the film's highlights--you can watch all 9 surviving minutes of the original 12 min. film, restored.

Directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow in 1903 at the Hepworth studio, 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his novel and eight years after the birth of cinema. [2]
"…The Cheshire cat is played by a family pet [@ 1:25], and the film features the family dog, Blair."
--from BFI Screenonline

Star Trek TOS used Alice too, in "Shore Leave" (1966).
Alice asks Dr. McCoy if he's seen a large white rabbit and he points in the direction he saw it go.
  {1} "Q: Are the [Alice] books and the pictures still copyright protected?

"A: No. When the Alice books were published, they were copyright protected until 42 years after the first publication or 7 years after the author’s death, whichever was the longer. Later, the 1911 Act replaced the 1842 Copyright Act which extended the period to 50 years after the author’s death.
This means that the copyright on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” subsisted until 1907 and that of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there until 1948.
As Tenniel died in 1914, his illustrations came into the public domain in 1964. This includes the colored illustrations for the Nursery Alice.

Notably the British Copyright act did not protect the stories and illustrations from being reproduced abroad. Many foreign publishers, for example in America, were therefore able to publish the story and Tenniel’s illustrations without permission from Carroll, while they were still copyright protected in the UK.

"Disney’s cartoon movie still remains in copyright. If you wish to use movie stills, video, audio, or anything else from the movie, you’ll need to ask permission from Disney Consumer Products."

[2] Birth of Cinema: the Lumière Brothers "Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory" (1895) [links to youTube].

More on the films of the Lumière Brothers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

So, what shall we have for breakfast?

What to have for breakfast: that is the question.

I often ate the bright green pistachio (so called) muffins at the coffee shop this summer. At the end of the summer, I had gained 10 lbs and the shop posted the calorie count of all their foods (something that will be required by law in 2017). 
Those muffins had 690 calories each. 
I'd have done as well to eat Snickers bars. Three of them! (250 cal. each)

So, not those then.

I started exercising again about six weeks ago, and as of today, I've lost 4 lbs., which is encouraging, especially considering I didn't exercise all that hard or change anything else (except to stop eating muffins). 
But since my father had a heart attack last week, I figure I should make an effort to change my diet too.

Breakfast is tricky.
I like to go out and work on my laptop, and the coffee shop's "healthy" choices are half a cup of dry oats in a cardboard tub ($3), or a 2-pack of hard-boiled eggs with a shelf life of 21 days (peeled, yet) ($1.99).

I need a strategy.
I decided to make my mother's rice pudding, to take along in the morning. 
This baked rice pudding is like egg custard thick with rice–– you can almost pick up a piece, not like the creamy stove-top kind.

Baked Rice Pudding

1 cup uncooked rice
3 cups milk
½  teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup currants
4 eggs, beaten

Boil rice in milk and salt until done, about 45 min.
Add everything else but eggs---slowly stir in the beaten eggs last. Pour into a buttered baking dish.

Bake at 325º for 30 minutes. Stir and sprinkle nutmeg on top.
Bake another 30 min.
My adjustments: 
I use brown rice, cut the sugar in half (1/4 cup = slightly sweet), skip the butter, swap out vanilla for fresh grated ginger.

I was going to take a photo of my rice pudding, but it's not a photogenic food, so here's an illustration by E. H. Shepard for A.A. Milne's poem Rice Pudding instead. (When I was a kid, the flying shoe fascinated me.)

Mary Jane is refusing to eat her rice pudding. 
"What is the matter with Mary Jane?" the poem asks repeatedly.
She won't be consoled, and the poet never discovers (or never reveals) why she is behaving this way. 

Still reading Solomons' Far from the Tree, I fear the onset of some neurological disorder... But probably she's just tired of "rice pudding again."

Father and Son: Autism Video

I want to clarify that the essay I mentioned yesterday, "Welcome to Beirut", by a mother of a son with severe autism, is about her reaction to the initial diagnosis, not her take on the entire experience. 

For a view further down the road, let me add this 2 min. 50 sec. video--can't embed it, but it's worth hopping over here:
"Bill Davis and Son, Chris: Autism" 

"The father of a severely autistic high-schooler talks about the joys and pains of raising his son.

"Chris was born with a long list of disorders. His diagnosis, “one of the worst ever,” included  swollen intestines, neurological damage, mental retardation, self-injury, and severe autism.

His father, Bill, relates, “Chris did not communicate. He did not sit down. He didn’t put on clothes. He wouldn’t go outside. He ate the walls. He ate the table. He ate the rug… It was a 24-hour-a-day job.
It changed my life completely. Put me in another direction. I was able to love unconditionally.
I never thought of him as this poor, broken human being that we need to cure. He’s not sick.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


“It is not suffering that is precious, but the concentric pearlescence with which we contain it.”
--Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity [review]

left: cross-section of a drilled natural pearl; right: cross-section of a pearl-oyster shell, Natl' Academy of Science

Far from the Tree is turning out to be well worth biking in the rain for, so far. I'm on page 256, in the Autism section, having read Deaf; Dwarfs; and Down Syndrome. The book is 960 pages. (260 of those are notes. I love notes.)

I'd also checked-out a book on child development by Alison Gopnik, The Philosophical Baby, which I skimmed. It's OK but seems to be shaped by a Marketing team, complete with a Gerber baby cover.
Not so Solomon's book.

Solomon focuses on people--parents and children--doing their best, trying their hardest in the gamut of challenging circumstances.
He quotes from the well-known "Welcome to Holland" piece written by the mother of a boy with Down syndrome:
You plan for a trip to Italy, but when you get off the plane, you're in Holland. It's a shock that calls for an adjustment, but it's good in its own way.

The mother of a child with profound autism wrote her own version, "Welcome to Beirut." (Today it would be Aleppo.)
"One day someone comes up from behind you and throws a black bag over your head. They start kicking you in the stomach and trying to tear your heart out. … This is the day you get the diagnosis." 

I've given myself an official vacation from working on my book this week. I've certainly stopped working for days at a time during the past 7 months, but I always felt guilty, that I should be writing, so it was hardly a vacation. 
I actually think I need to step back, not just because I'm dealing with other stuff but for the sake of the book. I'd been close up for so long, it got like standing too close to a dot painting: I lost sight of the overall pattern.

So for a week, I am taking a page from Calvin:

[You can find links to both essays, Holland and Beirut, on Caffeinated Autism Mom]

Also see video (2 min 50 sec): "The father of a severely autistic high-schooler opened up about the joy’s and pains of raising his son"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thinking Like a Baby Potato

tl;dr: Yesterday I biked 12 miles rt to check out an interesting library book from a branch I'd never been to.

Exercise + Adventure + Thinking + Luck = Happier 
The Allure of a Really Good Question

Wandering around online, reading about mid-life drift, I came across Alison Gopnik [her site], a child-development psychologist whose midlife depression was alleviated when she found a really good, broad question to investigate. 
When her life fell apart at fifty, she tried Prozac (hated it), yoga (bad at it), and meditation, which she liked because it was interesting:
"In fact, researching meditation seemed to help as much as actually doing it. Where did it come from? Why did it work?"
Studying Buddhism is beside the point, supposedly: it's a practice, not a theory. But for some people, thinking may be a spiritual practice--Karen Armstrong writes about that being the case for her, in The Spiral Staircase, which I just reread.
"Armstrong says [in an interview] her spiritual practice is now study, which she likens to the practices of Benedictine monks. When I'm sitting at my desk, I will get moments of awe and wonder and transcendence'…" 
Q: What verb do you think best captures your relationship with God? 
Armstrong: Seek. I seek and will seek forever without possibility of finding the clinching moment. 
Anyway, as Gopnik looked into it, Buddhism reminded her of one of her favorite philosophers, "the neurotic Presbyterian teenager,"18th century Scot David Hume.

She explains:
"Here’s Hume’s really great idea:
Ultimately, the metaphysical foundations don’t matter.
Experience is enough all by itself.
What do you lose when you give up God or “reality” or even “I”?
The moon is still just as bright; you can still predict that a falling glass will break, and you can still act to catch it; you can still feel compassion for the suffering of others. Science and work and morality remain intact. Go back to your backgammon game after your skeptical crisis, Hume wrote, and it will be exactly the same game."

Here's the question that got her up and running again:
Could Hume have been influenced by Buddhism, little known in Europe at that time? 
I'm not, in fact, particularly interested her question. 
What excited me was the reminder that throwing your net wide into life and getting curious about what you haul in is what I love too, and when I feel impeded from doing it [a complicated thing], I can fall into a slump.
Or, wonderful reminder, the other way around---if I'm feeling low, it helps pull me up.
Gopnik wrote, "Instead of going to therapy, I haunted the theology sections of used-book stores and spent the solitary evenings reading." 

And she found that yes, Hume could have learned about Buddhism through the nearby Jesuit college. In the 1700s, Gopnik writes, "Those creaky wooden ships carried ideas across the boundaries of continents, languages, and religions just as the Internet does now (although they were a lot slower and perhaps even more perilous)."
(Though it wasn't necessary that Hume knew about Buddhism–– Descartes & Enlightenment Co. coupled with his own teenage existential crisis being sufficient inspiration for his breakthrough.)

The rest of the story is here: "How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis: David Hume, the Buddha, and a search for the Eastern roots of the Western Enlightenment", (Atlantic, 2015).

The Espresso of the Mind

This process of casting + curiosity seems to be what babies do intensively, according to Gopnik's amusing TED talk "What Do Babies Think?"

"Babies and young children are like the research and development division of the human species. …When children do experiments we call it 'getting into everything' or else 'playing.'
…So what's it like to be a baby? It's like being in love in Paris for the first time after you've had three double-espressos. "

The Internet helps adults think like babies again, eh? It's easy to feel overwhelmed, disoriented, and delighted, like babies must often feel.
Gopnik has written several books about babies & childhood for laypeople. In her latest The Gardener and the Carpenter she talks about how children thrive more if you let them ramble like plants than if you structure them like lumber.

The Unexpected Potato
That's great advice,  so far as it goes, to pay attention to your kids and to love them; 
but what does it mean to "love them"?
Easy to answer, maybe, when kids end up producing the flowers or fruit the parents expect. 
But what if they don't? 
How do you love your kid who kills the cat? Or who simply asks different questions than you do?

I haven't read her book, but the Guardian's review of it recommended pairing it with Andrew Solomon's
Far from the Tree (2012), about families in which the children are very different from their parents in various ways; they're deaf, prodigies, criminals, dwarves, transgender, etc.
Solomon himself is gay, dyslexic, and lives with depression, which is where he starts his investigation---with his own experience of being a child very different from his parents.

This sounded great, so I looked it up and the closest library where it was checked-in yesterday was a branch I'd never been to, 6 miles away. 
It takes a couple days to get a request filled, so I decided to bike there. I took a busy street with a bike lane, and I realized I was much more interested in my surroundings than I am on off-street bike paths. 

I stopped at a Goodwill and bought a pair of jeans, and on the way back I ate lunch at a Best Steak House I never knew existed. I was so happy to find it.  

You know those old chains? 
When I was a kid it was my favorite restaurant because you could see your food cooking on the grill, you got to dress your own salad, and––I don't even like potatoes, but––you got YOUR OWN WHOLE BAKED POTATO! 

It's all exactly the same, still---greasy yet fluffy Texas toast, and a refrigerator case of woven wood bowls filled with iceberg lettuce. 
I was so happy serving myself Bak-O bits and French dressing,
I didn't even mind when it started pouring rain; I was only about 3 miles from home, and it was fairly warm out (70º).

I took a hot bath and spend the solitary evening happily reading on the couch.
via tumblr
What About Breakfast

Solomon also wrote the Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (2001) and I just read the transcript of his TED talk on depression–– "Depression, the Secret We Share" [transcript or viewing options].
It's good, and I recognized lots of it––not for me (I just ("just") get sad & blue, not clinically depressed––this bit, for instance [boldface mine]:

"People who are depressed will also say, 'No matter what we do, we're all just going to die in the end.' Or they'll say, 'There can be no true communion between two human beings. Each of us is trapped in his own body.'  

To which you have to say, 'That's true, but I think we should focus right now on what to have for breakfast.'"

I remember saying exactly that sort of thing to my mother:

"Think about the table, the teapot in front of you, maybe that'll replace the Holocaust for a little while."
But it's like pulling a boat through mud, when you have to focus like that on every miniature action to keep the mudslide away.

And Solomon says that too:
"Depression is so exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it, it really does make the depression worse."

He talks about what works too, which varies hugely:
"My favorite of the letters that I got was the one that came from a woman who wrote and said that she had tried therapy, medication, she had tried pretty much everything, and she had found a solution and hoped I would tell the world, and that was making little things from yarn."
This makes me laugh. Sewing clothes for bears! Investigating David Hume! Biking on busy city streets! 

Whatever helps. 


Dad Update

Thanks to those who asked. ---My dad is back home, very much better after his heart attack, and well looked after. He starts cardio rehab this week.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Fictive Frames"

Bob's has a new tire-framed mirror that I love in their bathroom, (they're a motorcyclists' coffee shop), so I took my laptop in to take a photo. 
I keep meaning but failing to carry my camera with me everywhere, but in this case, the the laptop photo is better, even if fuzzy---it reminds me of mirror play and "fictive frames" in Northern Renaissance paintings.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Red Bear, Blue Jeans

Red Bear has been humming to herself, 
"When I wake up in the morning light, 
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right..."*
patiently waiting for me to make her a pair of blue jeans for fall, which I finally did.

Here she is this October afternoon, wearing her poppy crown from Marz, and a knitted cap my auntie made me.
(I haven't made her a top (yet), but she doesn't care. Naturally bears do not get cold--clothes are purely optional for them.)

I seem to sew new bear clothes when I'm a bit shook up:
this weekend my father is in the hospital for observation after having a heart attack. 
They say he's doing very well, but a strange thing happened:
my sister showed him a photo of my new haircut yesterday, and he called and left a message saying he "really liked it."
This is weird.
In contrast, last month, I sent him a mug with a cute squirrel on it, and he replied with an e-mail saying only that he was "dubious of its provenance."

??? (It was made in China, but what's not?)
That's more his usual style. 

I know he loves me, he just doesn't usually give praise. If he wants to start, I'm all for it. 

Also, he's all signed up for a cardiac exercise program to start this coming week. He, at almost-86 years old, has gone to the gym 3x/week for twenty years, but now he will get monitored until he's quite steady again. So that's good.

I've gotta say, it made me glad I've started exercising again and is a good nudge to start to think about eating better again too. I went to the farmers market with bink today and bought from an old Czech guy a bottle of homemade sauerkraut that seems like it would protect you from anything, including bears. 

Meanwhile, my auntie is learning to spin wool at the knitting shop and has even bought a wheel. 
She said, "What's a 91-year-old doing buying a spinning wheel? 
I'm living as if I'll live forever!"

Why not? Why stop if you don't have to?


* David Dundas, "Jeans On", 1976

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Look: Sheared

Last month at a coffee shop, I met a young man with a fabulous hair cut: short sides, with a flop on top. Turned out he was a hair sytlist at a "salon", so I, who usually pay $14 for a 10-minute hair cut, made an appointment for yesterday. 

I'd pictured Sue Perkins, but the mirror shows Alan Bennett:

The nice young man gave me a tip for my fandom research: drag queen cos-players, like Dax ExclamationPoint [her Instagram] here.

Ohman, the work (and money) involved in looking amazing...

Anyway, here--my haircut isn't bad at all, really--it's just going to require some work (like gel, to get it to lie right).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn Paisley (Milkweed)

I biked past a patch of split-open milkweed pods yesterday and thought, … paisleys.

I paint these in gouache, making them up as I go along.
This one isn't exactly a paisley, but it goes in my paisley file.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Remember how Wall-E is solar powered and has to recharge in the sunlight when his battery runs low?

Still feeling a bit low myself,
I decided to invite myself on a little bike ride this pretty, sunny fall afternoon--
--just a few miles west on the bike path to Lilac Park,
a roadside mini-park established in 1939 along the new WPA-built Highway 100. 

There's an old beehive-shaped fireplace there. 

Also, really impressive burs:

It was cheering to have a tiny adventure. More are called for.


People in the northern hemisphere sleep more in October than any other month according to some report I read while researching for my auntie who was wondering if she's sleeping more lately because of the season or because she's ninety-one.

I've been sleeping more too: 
besides the dwindling light, I've been a little sad lately because of some sad things. For both reasons, I changed coffee shops back to Bob's, which has big, sunny windows (and an old gas pump):


But aside from getting a little more sun, I don't need to pump myself up if I'm feeling sad; it's better to lie low for a while. 
And I find it comforting to read about other people who live with sadness or even with depression--so yesterday I was reading and watching some of those stories online.

I had to turn a lot of them off though: 
the ones that are full of expert advice to get out and exercise, eat more Omega 3s, etc. just make me feel like a loser.

Psychologist Sami Moukaddem in his TEDx talk on living with depression & suicidal thoughts says the same thing: well-meaning lifestyle advice can make him feel lonelier and worse:
"And the last thing I need is another sense of defeat."

"You find your way back to the shore…"

I'm not depressed, just sad because of circumstances, but Moukaddem's story applies to sadness too--his suicidal depression was caused by circumstances, including being a child in Lebanon during the civil war [via his bio])--and he went on to work with people who've survived extreme trauma.

From the transcript "Sami Moukaddem on Living with Depression and Suicidal Feelings":
"Not all depression is the same...  I see [my depression] as more of a physical illness, and an ailment of the soul and the psyche. In my situation, I was clear that there was trauma in my childhood. So I decided I was going to approach it through psychology work and not take drugs. 
"The best analogy I can come up for depression is that you are in the sea and the current pulls you. When the current pulls you, the common wisdom is that you don’t fight it, because if you fight it you get exhausted and you drown. The wisdom is to surrender to it. Wait for the current to spit you out and then you find your way back to the shore. 
And that is what thirty years of depression means to me. Thirty years of finding my way back to the shore."
Also--look--he has a stuffed animal! 

"It's OK not to be OK"

My sadness is not much related to how Kevin Hines felt when his brain disease (bipolar disorder) drove him to jump off  the Golden Gate bridge (he was one of the less than 1% who survive the jump), but I really liked him and what he has to say too: 

When I'm up for it, I do appreciate the sort of 10-steps lifestyle advice he writes about here, especially since it comes from the inside:
"After My Suicide Attempt, I Made This Plan to Stay Alive and Well"

Kevin is also part of a good article, "Jumpers" from the New Yorker. (Thanks for reminding me, Michael.)

"We love you, my heart…"

And then, from the other side, there's this story about sixty-one year old Julio De Leon, who was cycling across the George Washington Bridge when he saw a young man who'd climbed over the railing.

“I got off my bike,” Mr. De Leon said, spreading his arms, as if he were going to embrace the air. “I showed my hands like that. I started to move to him a little bit.

"I said: ‘Don’t do it. We love you, my heart,’ something like that.

“In one second, only in a second, I just moved and grabbed like this” — his right arm curled like a shepherd’s crook — “and I keep him with me,” Mr. De Leon said.

--"On a Bridge, a Quick-Thinking Cyclist Saves a Life on the Ledge," New York Times, August 4, 2016. 
For more info or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Starchy & Hutch Fanart

I ended up deleting my Livejournal Starsky & Hutch  blog--the show's sexism was just too unbearable--but I'd had a lot of fun with the fandom and didn't want to wipe all of that. So here's a remnant of some of my Starsky & Hutch fanart--(all  photomanipulations I did on Pages). 
Actually––huh––looking at it now, in the past year and a half, I wrote a lot of posts about S&H on this blog!