Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is it Dark in Here or is that Just Art?

The first backyard martyr, the accidentally murdered St Squirrel

I am bemused today. The gallery that handles my work returned 3 pieces to me yesterday. I am not upset, I understand why completely. The 3 pieces were from the series “Backyard Martyrs” and they are deeply satirical and very dark, but not at first glance. I love Matter Gallery, Jo is super supportive of her artists and in a funny way, I think I just made my first real statement with my art.

The gun that threw viewers for a loop in Saint Squirrel

The series takes a look at the animals we love to hate–with a vengeance–when they come in our yards and destroy OUR gardens, OUR yards and OUR space. It was originally sparked when I accidentally killed a squirrel last year. Honest, I shot at it with a pellet gun to scare it, not commit homicidal mayhem on the squirrels that were absolutely destroying my bird feeders. Sara Jessica Parker’s character on Sex in the City summed it up, “You can’t make friends with a squirrel.Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits”. They may be cute but they are rodents and they are not fun to have around when they are destroying flower beds and bird feeders. Yes. Its what they are programmed to do but I would prefer they did it somewhere else, along with 90% of the gardening and bird feeding population.

Yes. Rats with cuter outfits

Mea Culpa people. I started out to make an altar to honor the squirrel as he was martyred in the line of duty, but this devolved into something darker when I started really thinking about it. Backyard Martyrs.

The raccoon I love to hate

Among the martyrs: I have a raccoon visitor I loathe because it destroys our pond just for fun. We had koi once upon a time. They were eaten, but the stupid animal still thinks we’ll be repopulating the buffet real soon. I have contemplated killing it because raccoons are gnarly and truly evil but its so cute with those little hands. Have you seen their teeth? They are vermin infested burglars who are saved by their human-like hand-paws.

Imagined mayhem for the raccoon

Crows. I love crows thanks in part to my old friend Carl Cook who passed away a few years back. Carl loved crows and convinced me to slow down and take a look at them too. I do however hate them in the spring, when the whole damn family is talking to each other at the top of their lungs at 7:00 a.m. Crow babies have horrible voices. They sound like old ladies who swallowed a kazoo and a bullhorn at the same time.

The crow, another backyard martyr

Among the cast of characters are the deer who ate the neighbors raspberries and roses–in the middle of town. Go figure. There is a mole that I have been trying to murder for years. I am waiting for my house to topple into his tunnel system which is more extensive than the French Metro by now. Cats. I love cats, I just don’t love my neighbor’s cats. They are proud that their cats are bird killers–in my yard. They also poop in my flower beds indiscriminately. I don’t love them. I would like to spray paint them purple and send them home.

I love the wings on this piece

So, Backyard Martyrs is a series that takes a look at the American obsession with anthromorphizing critters we also loathe. Yin Yang. How many cute raccoons, moles, mice, cats and birds has Disney given us? We persist in saying ahhhh….cute.

The bottom of Saint Crow is hammered spoons with crow words

I myself am guilty of being a rabbit devotee although they can be yard and crop destroyers bigtime. This from the girl who shot jackrabbits in her teenage years. I should have known I would kill that squirrel because I have always been an excellent shot. What was I thinking?

Top of the raccon martyr with Froggy

I digress. It seems that people who saw these pieces were drawn to them by their bright Mexican colors and feel; and of course, the cute animals wearing crowns in the paintings mounted on tin panels. When viewers got closer feeling all warm and fuzzy, Good Heavens! A gun, squirrel poison, arrows! Folks were shocked and appalled at the potential for mayhem I laid right out there as part of the work. But I’ll bet most of them have actually tried to do harm to their own backyard martyrs. Its not all Bambi out there although for some reason we want to think it is.

Each piece has the latin name of the martyr. Crow has a bit more in English.How very Catholic of me.

The true weirdness. Here it is. Viewers were shocked and surprised at the mayhem portrayed, not even portrayed, just the potential for critter harm is depicted for the animals we love and hate. Yin Yang still going on. But, a metric F*** ton of people and the kids of these people play violent, bloody, do-as-much-harm-as-you- can video games. So why are these paintings/collage/sculptures so disturbing? Our culture provides instant access to violence and mayhem on television, in the movies, even in music. Yet the suggestion of shooting a charming squirrel who is actually, really truly doing harm is over the top? I would love to know what people think.

Or was it the poison bottle that says “Why Not?” on the squirrel piece

This culture of ours is truly odd. I make dark art that is also fabulously bright and funny at the same and it is too disturbing for people. Dance floors in clubs are crowded with people doing moves that 25 years ago would have had them arrested, seriously. There is no subject too taboo to talk about on the boob tube. Women in clothing that leaves nothing, nothing, to the imagination are all over the media. Violent porn is a mouse click away. At the same time there are at least three men running for public office in the USA who believe that there are degrees of rape and one of them had a daddy who told him some “girls are easy”. Check my favorite blog for details on this particular info. http://www.margaretandhelen.com

Every Saint wears a crown as Saints should–and a halo.

So in conclusion, Americans are daft. We are the most open minded close minded, blind people on the planet. I’m satisfied. I finally made art that is too much to take for people who don’t think about more than the surface. I’d like to think that the people who were appalled are the same ones who buy art by the yard to hang over the couch.

I’m wondering how to explain these pieces to my grandchildren as they are in residence above my couch and I’m truly enjoying the work. That should be a fascinating discussion…

And by the way, this work is for sale at $200.00 per backyard martyr. $175.00 each for all three. Such a deal!

 

Queen Day is Coming to a Head Near You

 

Princess Kate’s tiara–you can buy this replica for under thirty bucks and feel like Prince Charles’ daughter-in-law

Just, because everyone needs to wear a tiara upon occaision and because its just one of those days I propose Queen Day. I know there are several takers out there who will embrace the concept with open arms and empty heads. Okay, empty as needing a tiara on top. All the women I know are of course, brilliant. We have evolved beyond being princesses and will leave that for royalty and Barbie.  We will be QUEENS!

Princess Margaret’s wedding tiara, sold later for a million bucks!

Everyone taking part will wear their tiara and take a photograph of themselves en tiara delicto, sort of like en flagrante delicto but with clothes on and a tiara on top. Wearing of the tiara for the entire day is to be encouraged as is feeling good about oneself. Cultivate an “I am the queen” attitude and be kind to your subjects if possible. The photograph should be taken in the grocery store, gas station, car wash, school, work, or other place where other humans abide. NO hiding your crowns in the shadows ladies.

I have been known to slap on one of my two tiaras for doing loathed chores around the house. It helps. In light of the imminent celebration of Queen Day, I started looking around for tiaras on the internet and the history of tiaras. Eye opening. This is from Wikipedia:

“Traditionally, the word “tiara” refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of some ancient peoples in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, notably the Hittites. The Assyrians used to include a pair of bull horns as a decoration and symbol of authority and a circle of short feathers surrounding the tiara’s top. The Persiantiara was more similar to a truncated cone, without the horns and feathers but more jewels, and a conic-shaped tip at its top.”

tiara tiara boom de ay! English royals

Maybe we could scrape up a Texas Tiara with horns? Personally I find it hilarious that the pope’s hat is called a tiara. Crowns for royalty that are basically half a crown and worn only in the front wound up being called tiaras too and the Russian ones are crazy! (Do you think the half a crown concept was invented by po’ folk royals who couldn’t afford an entired jeweled doo dad for their noggins?)

Russian tiara, too fierce for words, Countess Alexandra Feodorovna

The American Princesses Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wore them best IMHO

Grace Kelly’s wedding tiara from Van Cleef and Arpels jewelers. Very Nice.

 

I propose to mark the occaison of Queen Day with a mascot, a mentor, a fearless leader, a guiding light, one to whom fealty may be given, etc. etc. Looking for a Queen with a September or October birthday I ran across Queen Matilda of England, also known as Empress Maude. Like many of us modern day ladies she had to fight like a crazy girl to attain the position that was due her. Those English royals really did know how to throw a war…

Our Mascot Matilda of the English

She didn’t get to be Empress and Queen for very long after she finally managed to fight to the finish and become the Queen, but she is a marvelous colorful and strong woman–besides Queen Matilda just makes me laugh to say it. I am naming my next cat Queen Matilda in her honor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Matilda This is the Wikipedia short history of a long fight for you to read if you are so inclined. Her birthday was September 10th, close but we missed it. What the heck let’s just name it the Merry Month of Maude! The kids are back in school, life is settling back to normal, the weather is gentle. Its time to celebrate us. So get yourself a tiara girls and get ready!

I hereby propose September 28th be named Queen Day in celebration of the Merry Month of Maude. This gives everyone a few weeks to obtain a tiara should one not already own a few. There are copious places on line which have tiaras for sale at a plethora of price points. This is a picture of the one I am coveting at 30 bucks.

I love this. Want. I already own two so I don’t exactly need this one but….

And then for those who need everything largesized I give you the ulitmate in trashy tiaras….

wow, this thing probably gets six channels and sheds enough light to read by. Its called the large Mideastern Crown.

I love tiaras and have acquired two which I adore, but I would be happy to have more, just not that crazy crown thing, thank you very much. Here are my own sparkly head blingy things. One was acquired in celebration of a family wedding. I bribed all my helpers with tiaras. You know who are and you’d better haul those things out and dust them off! The other is my true treasure, my beloved niece Heather, aka Hed, sent me her wedding tiara as a gift. It makes me happy to wear it, the Hedpiece.

The Hedpiece, my favorite tiara

The first tiara I ever owned

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark your calendars, shine up your tiaras and get your cameras ready! Post your tiara pix to Facebook or email them to me so I can share them.  Matilda Tiara Queen Day is September 28th, unless someone has a reason we should change it?

TBI: End of October, Crabby Day

Out of Order–October 2006.

I’m so damned tired. I’m trying to finish tiling the new shower, no bath in four days except a spit bath. I have T. home now and although he’s marginally better if I turn my back he’s doing something–like dismantling the cd player to turn it off. Wandering outside to pee on my pet clematis. Why couldn’t he just whiz on the grass like a regular guy?

I find myself angry with him when he does things like a stubborn five year old. He: “Go inside I want to lock this door.” Me:”No, I need this back door unlocked so I can get to my studio.” I step through inside door and he locks it with the little button thingie although I showed him it is a double key deadbolt lock. I unlocked it as soon as he moved away and then went and got the key and really locked it. It’s hard to not get aggravated. He just takes so much attention and he demands that we turn the t.v. off and lights off etc. as soon as it gets dark. It’s hard to explain to him that we live here too and he doesn’t get to make all the rules.  Really, television is fine at 8 p.m.

He is being really rude to Torin on the verge of nastiness. Its like with the brain governor off the real Terry is showing through, well not the real Terry but a facet of him that is usually under better control. I don’t like this guy much and I fear by the time he heals I will be so finished with him I’ll want him gone. Then he turns sweet and lost and I see the man I know. I think I’m just beyond exhausted at this point.

The shower has turned into the biggest thing I ever tried to do. It’s like I never get time to quite finish it off with watching T. out of one eye at all times.  I’m hoping we qualify for some home health care under our insurance. Kicker is it has to be an LPN or RN. The folks are coming on Thursday to assess him. I have to have time to work and it is not happening for me now. My boss is wonderful but I’m starting to worry–and Terry doesn’t respond well to some people like S. and H. He just turns into a total ass around them and although H. will happily help we can’t really use her because he can’t stand her.

I’m selfishly happy to have him home though, because now people like his vampiric ex wife  and ex-friends can’t show up to dine on our grief and pain. It really annoyed me that these people who were completely nasty, evil and rude to Terry when he and She split up suddenly are just dying to seem like they give a shit. Give me a break–and his parents just driving up and dropping in on him was hard. They didn’t bother to call me and check on his schedule first. This has been not good, he gets really upset and overwhelmed so no more just dropping in to confuse and upset him. I think Terry was better today because he was not being overstimulated with a bazillion people. He actually remembered for a few minutes that he lived in Olympia and that he crashed his back. He knows something is missing and he is in a lot of pain. Positive signs but hard for me to deal with. My humor is in short supply today.

I’d like to drink or smoke or maybe both. Running down the street screaming might be nice too, but I need to keep my act together. This poor old journal will be hearing me vent and the emails sent to update folks will have the nice parts. Split personality? Bring it on.

 

November TBI 2006: I Can’t do This Anymore

Note from six years later, September 2012. This entry is hard to read for me. The pain still feels so real. I have to remind anyone who reads this, things change, things get better, nothing is static.

Nov. 6th, 2006 | 12:04 am

I think I have reached too far into this unending nightmare. I’m at that magic point where the friends who rushed to man the gates when they heard the terrible news have now evaporated. They have given their all and now they are gone back to their tidy–tidier than mine–lives and I am left so alone and so unable to cope anymore.

Today I was cleaning the garage and rearranging stuff to make room for more stuff. I ran up the garage door and fired up my bike just to hear it run. I sat there on that bike in my pajamas, barefooted and looking out at the pouring rain and it was all I could do to get back off the bike and turn it off.

I want to escape; I want his horrible nightmare to end. I have begun to hate/loathe and despise Terry and his incessant energy sucking drain on me. He cannot be left alone for five seconds. He will be drinking soap or falling down or pulling the clock out of the wall or putting on all the clothes in MY drawers in layers on him which is hilarious but so sad.

He cannot comprehend wait. Today he wanted to go for a walk, I promised him as soon as I got the car unloaded I would put my clothes on and we could go. He has no sense of time or decorum and he came outside in his pajamas with his sweatshirt over his rain coat and wanted to go NOW. He could see I was struggling to unload the car. I asked him to give me just a few minutes and we’d go. I even told him walk to the end of the driveway and COME BACK if you need to move. I looked up and he was gone. I jumped in the car and caught up with him two blocks away, not understanding at all why I was so upset and angry.

He has been impossible today, needy, whining, not able to comprehend anything. I could go into chapter and endless verse but it never changes. I don’t CARE if he is brain damaged. At this point so am I, and there is NO ONE in the fucking universe who can help. I don’t like him, don’t want to be near him or around him and yet I am forced to be kind, gentle, and nurturing nonstop. He goes to bed and gets up every three minutes. Sits up, walks out of the room, you name it.

Today he went into my studio and tried to go into the loft. I blew, I’m ashamed of myself but I absolutely blew sky high. I told him for the 357th time that he had to wait for one of us to help him because he has fallen three times in two days and we want him to have his freedom but he needs to understand he has no sense of balance and no real comprehension of what he is doing. I told him to get out of my studio that it was the last place I had that was my own and that I wanted it that way for my own sanity. I cannot even have a shower alone; I have to shower with him because I can’t leave him for that long. I eat meals by wolfing down leftovers hanging over the sink and listening with one ear. I’m gaining weight because of the way I eat and I hate it..

Corey came to help, bless his heart, but he brought Alex and Terry cannot tolerate barely stimulation of one person let alone a small child. Shayne brings Heather, Penny brings Bob. I need help but I need ONE person and no one understands that and I feel so bad about trying to explain to kind people who want to help. I’m ready to lie down in the rain and just give up.

I’m sure I’ll soldier on tomorrow with all the therapists and the mental health nurses and the doctor appointments and the insurance forms and Terry needing the care of a two year old. I hate my life. I absolutely hate my life. I hate that my husband was so personally irresponsible that he got on a bike at night in the middle of deer country and rode at 70 mph into a deer. I don’t think my marriage is going to survive all this. It’s only four years old and its cracking under the strain. I hate being responsible and not being able to lay down this burden for a single day.

I feel guilty and angry and I hate that I feel guilty about being angry.

TBI:Lost in November

Terry Chapter 6 and 7 Beginning of November

Or Chapter 30 and 40–who knows at this point…. At any rate, I believe I left off at a point where I was just about to explode at the lack of aid and assistance available to brain injured people and their families. These are not regular mental cases. These are physical insults to the brain which leave a wide track of devastation through the brain and the family of the brain. For some peculiar reason the medical community and the mental health community in Washington are unable to figure out how to help brain injured folks beyond in home visits of therapists. The only other alternative seems to be a warehouse–nursing home, Alzheimer’s unit etc. All facilities designed for people that are not expected to recover or be supported in getting better or returning to something approaching normal.

I think the problem lies in the political process that funds care for  TBI people. If you can’t see the injury and buy a band aid or get an operation are you really injured? It doesn’t help both the caregiver and medical communities to deal with such untracked and unchartable territory as the brain either. Remember that old ad, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste?”  Yes, it’s a waste but very few people know how to rescue one.

The shower is almost but not quite finished. We finally had a bath thanks to friends, Gary and his wife Judy, who invited us over to take a shower at their house and treated us like visiting royalty instead of the showerless grubbies we really were. I thought we would never be able to pry Torin out of the tub. Our shower tiling was finally DONE last night at 3:30 a.m. and the shower project from hell is now waiting for the wonderful guys from the city of Lacey to come over and help me hook up the parts that water comes out of. I may get a shower tonight after two weeks and two borrowed showers. I am sick of cat baths in the sink and so are Terry and Torin.

The shower really did turn out nicely but I will never tile anything that big again in my life and do it artistically with mosaic set into it. What was I thinking???? Obviously I wasn’t…but it’s done and if water will come out of it and my shower curtain rod gets put back up I will sit in there until the water heater runs out of hot water. I will probably have to fight off my dear friend Sherry though–she has been staying with me to care for Terry and in the thick of the grouting goo for three days. It’s been frustrating for us both because with Terry watching you have to do what you can when you can. Of course it didn’t help when I didn’t buy enough grout and when I got more I got the wrong color, meaning planning another trip to the store with Terry in tow.

And about our week after the last missive I sent to all–let me just say things got much worse before they got better. This part of the story appears to have a happy middle of the end of the end of the middle. We are by no means at the end of the story. Tuesday (I think?) we had an appointment with Dr P., Terry’s regular general practitioner I wanted his shoulder looked at and his medication looked at and adjusted because he is still not sleeping well from 2-4 a.m., which is about the time I finally make it to bed so I am really tired because I’m back up rubbing his back, his feet, following him around etc.

This bizarre late night wandering and restlessness is not uncommon in brain trauma but it does lead to things like unwatched people drinking the liquid hand soap in the night. After the Tuesday night wandering episode Terry was spitting and cussing and saying the water in the bathroom was terrible, it tasted awful and I assumed he was having another one of those issues with reality not being quite there for him. He came back to bed and was still making the kind of noises anyone would make after ingesting 1/4 cup of soap. We finally got up and I got him a nice fresh glass of water and figured out the soap sipping incident. I helped him rinse his mouth out again and we finally settled down. He did not require a laxative the following day.

I digress, back to Dr. P; we arrived in his office for our appointment in the afternoon and sat around in the waiting room with me falling asleep sitting up until they put us in a room. This room had no windows and it was the size of a large closet. We were left there–for one hour and 15 minutes. I sat on the first of a series of hard plastic chairs that began to appear in my life.  TBI patients are restless anyway and Terry was crawling up the walls after 15 minutes, his back and shoulder were hurting and no doctor in sight. Finally, about the time I was ready to leave and leaking smoke from my ears he blew into the room. Seems he had heard the story from Terry’s and his mutual good friend Rod.  I just filled in some details, explained we needed help to find somewhere that could help Terry and give him a quieter environment. I said we were looking at adult care facilities and he said Terry should be in his facility. He is the medical director at a rehab center here in town. I told him we had applied there and after two days of dithering we were turned down and I was very disappointed. He said, “No problem,” and dashed out to make a phone call, came back and told me Terry will be admitted tomorrow. He was really impressed at Terry’s remarkable progress in just five weeks and actually said in two months they’d get him back to where he was before.  I remarked on how refreshing that was to hear and how grateful we were for his help. I asked if we needed to look at his meds or his shoulder and the doctor told me not to bother, he’d do a complete evaluation the next day. I was walking on air when I left.   Sherry was waiting for us in the car   and I told her what had transpired. She is a retired social worker and she’s been doing legwork to help us find a place for Terry. We were both relieved and happy as we headed home.

The call never came. Around 2 p.m. the next day I called the facility and was handed around until I got passed to a guy named Dan who told me he and Dr P. had decided Terry was not appropriate for their facility. I was devastated and MAD. These people had not had the courtesy to even tell me he was not going to be admitted. I did not get any medical care for Terry and I’ll bet they think they are going to charge me for this mess—I think what this doctor said and did was unforgiveable. Not malpractice perhaps, but arrogant cruelty certainly. Back to square one with poor old Terry. And no looking at his shoulder or his medication either—I called the doctor’s office and was left on hold for ten minutes before I gave up.

We spent the entire next day calling and talking and hunting for a facility or home that would be good for him for a month or two of quiet rest away from the bustle and stress of a family. Terry cannot handle noise or stress or too many people or any kind of over-stimulation. We have a dog, a teenager and two cats. Time keeps moving forward for all of us and I don’t know how to stop the world and make our situation work for Terry.  I am trying to buy time. I am told again and again that it is time that is needed, time for him to recover, rest and recuperate. I still think he desperately needs his therapy too, and I want to find someplace that is not a warehouse for the wounded.

No one is prepared for brain trauma walkers who might just stroll away. One place in Centralia would take him and it sounded good so we visited it that evening. It was a cousin to the HP Lovecraft Motel –only this had to be the Barbara Cartland Nursing Home. For those not in the know, Barbara Cartland was an ancient lady who wrote romance novels that introduced the genre to America.  This place was really clean, smelled great and just about killed my fashionista son on impact. The walls were painted a mélange of colors including mustard yellow, and an indescribable green that is close to the color of copper ore–turquoise but not really, just overpowering next to the yellow. The dining area and television lounge area were pureed flamingo pink and the halls were a paler shade of the same. Every surface had heartwarming Victorian trinkets on it, flowers, feathers, more silk flowers and sappy statuary, really bad art and wallpaper borders completed the picture.

I know the little old ladies wheeling around hunched over in their chairs probably loved it and it made them feel very comfortable, but it felt like I had been locked in my grandma’s bedroom in 1976 and never let out. I was reading their calendar posted in the hall while we waited for the owner to give us a “tour” and I thought it was probably the wrong place when I saw the calendar set aside time everyday for “group reminiscing”.  Can you picture Terry in the midst of 17 frail little old ladies and a sprinkling of even older gentlemen talking about the old days? They also have kickball as an activity….quoi? I figured it had to be a sturdy game of wheelchair football and was trying to imagine picking the teams.

Terry is a wanderer at night and I didn’t think the tiny toothless female aide (not aged—toothless more like descendant from a Virginia mountain woman) could handle him when he strolled into Mavis Fenster’s room at 2:00 a.m. trying to find the bathroom and peed in her clothes hamper. He is getting better but still has issues with relocating himself in space and time and he’s usually pretty bare when he sleeps. The whole situation was a heart attack waiting to happen so we excused ourselves and went home.

Terry had gone with us because we wanted to gauge his reaction to the place. He made us talk in the car about being out of our “safe zone” before we went in to examine the place. Although that made no sense, in translation it meant he was not happy to be there.

We got home and started to go into the house when Terry kissed me good bye and asked me to give him the keys to the car because he had to go home. I tried to explain he was home but he was adamant about going home. We stood on the deck and talked and he said he “Lived in Tacoma with his ex wife” and to stop playing around. Of course he thought ten minutes later he lived in Seattle with some firefighters and the address was two blocks over, but he couldn’t remember the street name. While he was distracted Sherry and Torin scooted around and padlocked the front and back gates, which we had had the foresight to prepare for just such an event. He was mighty upset that he couldn’t get out of the yard and walk home to Lake Louise. He tried to leave by both gates. He started to climb over the front gate with a cast on his arm and that’s when I called the police. I finally coaxed him back inside because he said he was cold. I asked him whose clothes were in the closet and he said his but he had just brought them over. He lay on the bed and refused to speak to me because I was holding him hostage. That’s about when Officer Cook showed up. What a great guy. He talked to Terry and they discussed mutual acquaintances in the fire department and Terry said he would go with Officer Cook to the hospital so he could sleep. They left in the officer’s car; I burst into tears and had half a beer.

Of course that’s when the phone rang and it was Officer Cook. I was being called to the hospital. I suppose as a sort of translator? Again the curtained cubicle, Terry left abandoned for the most part. The ER doc was short, (literally) sharp and to the point and he was gone from our cubicle within a few minutes. They did a CT scan and Terry’s head appeared to be medically normal. After he escaped in his little gown and scooted down the hall with his buttocks twinkling, a nurse caught him and brought him back. He was dosed with Percocet and Attavan and left pacing the cubicle and in a sweat rocking and moaning. Personally? I think he was in the middle of a huge panic attack. Percocet is not what a TBI needs and he was very distressed for more than two hours.

At 12:30 a.m. a nurse came and escorted us down the hall to the psych ward. That was fun. I spent the night in the psych unit. I always wondered what that was like and now I know. They put Terry and me in a room with two overhead lights and a window-like portal in the wall. The furniture was a wooden box with places for restraints on the side. That was the bed and the mattress was about as thick and comfortable as a sweat sock. Terry referred to the one thin blanket as a tablecloth. I left him for a few minutes to do the intake paperwork and I had some vague hopes that mental health workers might be able to us find a place for him as I had been trying to get capable help for nine days with no luck.

After filling out a batch of paperwork, I was escorted back to the unit, noticing no doorknob on the inside, and given a hard plastic pink chair to sleep in. Terry was both miserable and wound up. He couldn’t sleep it was too bright. I gave him my sunglasses no one had taken away my purse. Then he couldn’t sleep because his back hurt and he had a headache. I discovered that a really strong peppermint Chap Stick makes great emergency back liniment for a rubdown. Afterwards you can wave your hands under the person’s nose for their headache, dispensing peppermint fumes (MacGyver eat your heart out).

We settled back until 3:30 a.m. when the psych worker came to get me and tell me I could leave. The weird thing about the whole experience is how depressingly ordinary it was. I have a kink in my back roughly the size of Cleveland from the plastic chairs and tiling all hours of the last few nights. Terry was sound asleep when I left him in the loony bin.

I got home at 4 a.m. and up at 6 a.m. to get Torin to his morning club meeting at school. I drove home and picked up the phone. Penny, Terry’s sister had given me the name and number of one of her college faculty who specializes in helping TBIs and he was willing to talk to me. I called him and he set up a meeting–in Grapeview–90 minutes later. I rousted Sherry out, gave her a cup of coffee and we headed to Grapeview to meet Dr. Joseph Moisan.

He is now my official hero. He is a private case manager with credentials and a pedigree which is also the size of Cleveland, the suburbs and the surrounding county. His son was a TBI when he was only two and a half years old. Dr. Moisan says his son taught him everything he knows–and now he puts that to good use helping others. We were in his office for almost 8 hours and his wife Judy made us mercy tuna fish sandwiches in the middle of all of it. He cut through more paperwork and crap in that one day than I have been able to do in all the days since the accident.

We are now on the event horizon for a social security disability hearing next week. We got the approval for a neuropsychological consultation which is necessary to let the doctors know where in Terry’s brain the injury took place, possibly how severe it was and how he is recovering and can recover. Again–the brain is a marvelous thing and we are all dancing in the dark here. Well, the neuropsych guy is dancing in a candle lit room but it’s still not 100% clear when you are dealing with a brain. Dr. Moisan knows all the facilities in the country and he has found the best one closest to us in Bakersfield, CA. This place holds promise for bringing Terry back and I am holding on to the belief that Dr M. can help make this happen for us. I watched him go through insurance companies’ hurdles like an Olympian athlete. It was a $1000 to retain the doctor’s services but worth it at twice the price because he knows his stuff and their stuff and how to make them all do the other stuff.

Sherry is going home to Oklahoma next week; I think we wore her out. My brother is flying in Friday night to be my new overnight helper for two more weeks and I think if we are not seeing daylight yet we may at least be seeing the nightlight enough to read the clock.

I’m off to fetch Terry home from his vacation in the psych unit, more later.

TBI Six Years Later, Sharing the Story

On September 12th, we will mark the sixth anniversary of my husband Terry’s life changing accident and our fall down the rabbit hole that is traumatic brain injury. Somewhere in the past year, I got so busy just living life I didn’t finish transposing all of my journals about our journey through that time. Its time, I need to close that circle.

http://coreysnow.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/like-tears-in-rain/    Now my oldest son Corey is dealing with TBI, the result of his wife having had a stroke a few years back. It has finally been diagnosed after years of frustration, but it came with its own overwhelming set of problems. It reminded me  again of how hard and harrowing that journey back is for caregivers. I need to pick up my “pen” and write what I know, what I learned. If I can light a candle for one single person to see their way a little further down that dark tunnel, its worth it.

Here is the next chronological entry from my journal six years ago. The earlier posts will be found listed in the Category tab to the right under down the Rabbit Hole, or above under Living with TBI.

More Horrible life of the TBI

Oct. 22nd, 2006 | 12:09 am

This is a long, long rant. Feel free not to read it–but I have been in my house for seven days now with one short visit out to the grocery store and another one out to pay bills while someone else kept an eye on Terry and I need to talk!

I am devastated by what the future looks like for brain injured people and their families. There is no help for them in Washington to speak of. We have been home a week tomorrow and it has been a hard week–I am going to continue sending these updates out occasionally because no one on the planet–at least the part of the planet called Washington, has a clue as to how to help anyone with a brain injury and the more people know the more we can begin to demand a change to the situation.

The insurance companies don’t appear too useful once the acute care phase is over. Doctors are the same way. In no way is Terry ready to be at home except perhaps physically. If he had only had physical injuries it would have been fine but with the mental injuries he needs 24 hour care. Not necessarily an RN with pills and needles–but guess what? For the most part insurance only covers “intermittent” in home care delivered by an RN not the necessary 24/7 minding.

I am so angry I can hardly speak most of the time. The hurdles I have jumped this week and the hoops still ahead make me want to just sit down and cry. I have been unable to return to work and unable to do anything but make sure Terry doesn’t hurt himself. He has a severe disconnect between reality and Terry. Yesterday he found his earplugs and sat down to put them on–his feet. That was funny…. today he got dressed by putting his tee shirt on his legs and yesterday he decided to shave with his electric razor. We caught him just before he dipped it in the water. He almost knows what he used to know and as a consequence is seriously dangerous in his application of what he thinks he is doing to what he is really facing.

So why do I need this constant care for him which I am not getting? Terry does not respond particularly well to me, his son Shayne or Shayne’s wife, Heather. We are not peers and he sees no reason to follow our wishes, orders or demands. I can ask but he doesn’t necessarily comply–even if I’m trying to get him to see he is about to urinate all over his chair.

He has no sense of time, no sense of direction and cannot find doorways well. He doesn’t know what things are or what they are for quite often. I am sitting here on the couch and just heard the bed rustle and creak–automatic stomach ache—is he getting up? Will he be able to find the bathroom this time? What will he do? In the middle of the night more often than not he is unable to recognize the bathroom and has urinated on the toilet, under the sink, on the rug outside the closet and in the yard when he cannot be stopped from going outside in the dark and rain completely naked. Luckily our yard is fenced but Thursday he claimed he was putting his shoes on and insisted on going out the front gate barefooted and walking on sharp gravel to the neighbor’s recycle bin on the street which he proceeded to open and peer in—looking for his shoes. I finally convinced him to come back into the house and succeeded in helping him with his shoes.

In the night when he gets up he is like a man possessed and Terry is not in there, he is a sundowner. Its someone else who is sarcastic and angry, refuses to speak to me and more than once has offered to move me if I  don’t move. This happened last night when he got up and decided to go outside at 1:30 a.m. I had to follow him out of bed when he said it was time to get up. I told him it was the middle of the night but he did not believe me and said I was a trouble maker. He grabbed a blanket and succeeded in pulling it over his head–instead of wrapping it around himself. He had no shirt or shoes at this time but at least had on pajama bottoms. He headed for the door and I stood in front of it and told him he was not going out. He told me to move or he’d move me–I said no and blocked the door with my body. He told me again to move and tried to grab me and move me. I wasn’t budging and he gave up and turned around and went out the back door before I could catch him. He wandered down the sidewalk and back into the house where he sat on the couch and tried to sleep. I asked him if he knew where he was and he said it didn’t matter because I would just lie about it anyway. It was 1981 and he was at Ft Lewis according to him. It is the strangest feeling in the world, so surreal to be facing things like this in the middle of the night. I always check to make sure the knives are put away and my cell phone is in sight in case I need it. So far no real tragedy has occurred except to my nerves. These incidents shake me badly and I am losing ground with my feeling that I can control the situation.

Today he was sleepy and sweet and very nice and almost like Terry, but he still isn’t Terry and never will be the same. With luck he will become someone who can come back into the world and be a new and different version of himself, but that takes time and rehab and healing. No one knows how much time it might take, no one can even guess. It’s very odd to be talking to him and just watch the lights go out in those blue eyes. You can see him lose his focus and then he either falls asleep right there or starts talking garbled nonsense that sounds fairly normal–today he was playing baseball all day according to what he told Don Bowman. You cannot distract him or tell him what is really going on. He is unable to take it in– but then he’ll come out of nowhere with a bit of something that stuck in his synapses. We went for a slow walk today because the sun was out and it was so beautiful. I asked if he wanted to go to the garage and see his motorcycle. He said, “No, it’s just a busted up Fatboy.” This is the first time he has realized he has a Harley. He still cannot comprehend the accident and all the retellings in the world have not really sunk in at all. He literally does not understand why he hurts so much and what happened. He retains new information about 5 minutes to 1 hour depending on some set of circumstances I don’t understand.

I’m desperate to find help. I have to go to work because Terry cannot and all I can do is watch him all day long. I get nothing accomplished and my shower is still not done. I have to find ten minute increments when a friend is there to keep an eye on Terry. I have been without a shower for two weeks now and I’m getting fairly tired of cat baths in the sink. I’m on the last wall and hoping I can steal enough bits when Terry is asleep to finish it so I can grout it.

The problem with finding the help we need through Terry’s three insurance companies is the way the statute is written which is not for custodial care. I need someone to help keep Terry safe and to exercise his mind as much as possible. I can’t do it all. And I need more than just day help too. What am I supposed to do with a 14 year old who needs me too? According to the home health care nurse who irritated me beyond belief–an inept man who managed to screw up two or three veins in Terry’s arm–Terry is not allowed to leave the house and still qualify for this in home care. This in effect makes us all prisoners as I certainly cannot leave him home alone–even if it were allowed. I have been out of my house one time this week when a friend came over long enough for me to go get groceries and another time to pay bills. Torin was stuck and needed a ride and I couldn’t even get him because Terry cannot be trusted to ride in a car yet. (As in tired of the ride and jumping out). I had to ask a friend to rescue Torin for me. This is what insurance companies and the medical community don’t get. They are destroying a family. If I cannot work we lose everything we have and with Terry not able to work I have no choice as I have to make up our losses by myself–I don’t think I can make two peoples’ salaries all day and watch an unpredictable brain damaged wanderer all night.

He has a cast on his right hand which he constantly tries to pick and peel off. He claims hourly he doesn’t understand why he has a cast. This afternoon it was because the dog bit him, an hour before that he said he hurt it falling off his bicycle. He doesn’t connect with reality very well. He just came out of the bedroom in his underwear, he has had his medications and should be asleep–instead he is demanding the radio be turned off–nothing is on but the dryer. He is trying to turn lights out although I tell him I am still awake working. He finally gives up on the light when he burns his fingers on the bulb. Then he goes outside and down the steps–I run after him and stop him from going through the gate. He tells me he has to get the garbage out. I tell him its Saturday night and the garbage is out back. He pulls on the gate and leans into my face and says let go. I wonder if this is the time he is going to hit me? I refuse to let go of the gate and look at his eyes, half opened and completely unfocused. I tell him again to look where he is and suddenly he gives up goes back into the house and climbs into bed shivering. I follow to tuck him in and say I love you, but I wonder as I leave the room how long can this go on?

I am hoping we can find an adult home for him for a few months where the rehab staff can go to work with him and Torin and I can go see him too. The hope is as his brain heals he will be more able to understand what is going on, but for now the system has let us all down and I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand up to my eyes. I have made calls, and calls and calls and tried to figure out this labyrinth. Friday, I think I may have made some headway but that’s what I thought Wednesday and Thursday too. The LEOFF1 Disability board has to be supplied with letters from the doctor, treatment plans and costs so they can decide if saving our lives is feasible. They say they are very concerned about us but I am feeling they are far more concerned about saving their money.
Please understand I love him very much, but I want to help him get better. I want Terry back and my watching him decay is not getting it done. The therapists all finally showed up Friday and perhaps they can help. One in particular seems to grasp what is happening and I am hoping on Monday she can furnish more information so I can get it to the disability and then pray more, again, still….

Great Green Tomatoes!

At the end of each summer, those of us who attempt every year to grow vegies in the Pacific Northwest are usually left with an abundance of green tomatoes. Our lettuces grow longer than anyone in the country before they give up from heat, our green beans are to die for and our kale is amazing, but our tomatoes are always a bet hedger.  Anually my thrifty gardener’s soul seems to be left with green tomatoes.

Although you aren’t likely to find them for sale a the market, there is no shortage of green tomatoes or green tomato recipes.

Luckily, I have my grandmother’s green tomato relish recipe to fall back on. About the time we have either eaten or given away the last jar, its time to make a new batch. My Grandma Groves was from Indiana, a farmer’s wife, and man could she cook! Of course everything she cooked was fattening as hell–chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, pies from scratch, you name it. Besides the butterscotch pies she made for me especially, I loved her relishes best.

My grandparents on a visit to California. Granma loved feeding the birds at San Juan Capistrano and Grandad always had a cigar in his hand.

I was about 8 the first time I stood on a chair  to reach the counter and helped her make watermelon pickles. They were so beautiful, pink, white and green, who knew watermelon could become a pickle?  I still like the Green Tomato Relish best, she called it Piccallili and watched us pack it on top of everything but jello. Granma’s recipe calls for 5 cups of sugar, but I have cut it to 3 and it still works nicely.

Granny’s Green Tomato Piccalli

24 large green tomatoes-or the equivalent in smaller tomatoes

3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded

3 green bell peppers, halved and seeded

if you like heat, throw in a jalapeno or two, (just be careful when handling the seeds to not get them near your mouth or eyes)

12 yellow onions

2 tablespoons celery seed

3 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoon salt

3-5 cups of sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

Your  food processor makes this job easy–in batches, coarsely grind tomatoes, all the peppers and the  onions. You don’t want soup, you want small chunks, think about how you like your relish to look.

Line a colander with cheesecloth, place in sink or in a large bowl, and pour in tomato mixture to drain for 1 hour.  ( If you don’t have cheesecloth, an everyday clean tea towel works just fine.)

In a big (non aluminum) stockpot, combine the drained mixture, celery seed, mustard seed, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

FOLLOW THE CANNING DIRECTIONS THAT CAME WITH YOUR JARS! Sterilize enough lids for your batch of relish. This recipe makes 12 one-pint jars, or 6 one-quart jars. Put relish into your freshly washed and clean jars, use a spatula to make sure there are no spaces or air pocket in your jars. Fill jars all the way to top. Wipe the edge of each jar with a clean wet to make sure there is nothing that will be sitting on the rim. Put on the lids and the rings.

In the old days, everyone sterilized their jars, but the school of thought generally followed now is that a 30 minute boil will kill what’s on the glass and in the relish.  Personally, I wash my jars thoroughly and rinse them out and air dry them and then fill the clean jars without sterilizing first.

If you have a canning kettle, you can use that rather handily. If you don’t, place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring it to a boil and carefully lower jars into pot using tongs. Leave a 2 inch space between jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary to make sure the tops of the jars are covered by 2 inches of water.

Bring water to a full boil, then cover and process (this means boil) for 30 minutes.  Make sure the water stays over the top of the jars by two inches.

When your 30-35 minutes is up, get your tongs and carefully remove the jars from the hot pot. Put them on a wood or cloth covered surface several inches apart to cool. Once cool, press top of each lid with finger, ensuring that seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Generally you’ll hear the lids make a funny popping sound as the vacuum seal kicks in when they cool.

Relish will keep nicely for a year in a cool location and makes a great gift. Try it with Triscuits topped with cream cheese and a dollop of relish, yummy.

http://www.tomatocasual.com/category/tips/  And here is a killer web location for all things tomato too!

 

 

What I did on my summer vacation.

Bonneville Dam, on the mighty Columbia, that's Terry and a turbine screw. Firefly is in the background.

okay, who handles fish?
fish hatchery architecture

fish hatcher architecture

The annual voyage of the good vehicle whose name is Firefly is underway. I love traveling in a Mini Cooper Convertible. It goes fast, it handles well and you wouldn’t believe how much I can shove into this car along with two people. Its a scientific wonder, I have packed everything to spend two weeks camping–comfortably–in the Mini. My exposure to camping with the hubs and his buds on our motorcycles opened my eyes to what misery in a sleeping bag means. I choose to go the other way, Miniature does not mean miserable.

This year the dogs are home with our house sitter, who is also excavating a chunk of my yard for a new terrace. We are out in the world for two weeks which includes my conference speaking engagement in Salt Lake City at an educational conference and then on to Colorado for a few days with my son and his fabulous family. As always I am carrying a giant camera and a few lenses and I am sure I will take way too many photos before its all over.

A rainbow trout, aka looks like dinner in a pond at the Bonneville park, its a beautiful place to stop, wander and stretch your legs on the way down the dry valley.

I have decided this year to replicate those wonderful vacation photos from the 60s that are supersaturated and seem completely random in what they caught, but I love them. So this is Installment One of what I did on my summer vacation.

Three modes of transport, water, train and car. One shot, cool, no?

From the car, windmills and a barge way up the river.

 

Summr Sunshine, the name of a rose and my state of mind.

 

How perfect is the tag on this rose? I had to go play the song on my Ipod immediately.

 

You start seeing mills and silos as the land gets flatter and more farm friendly. this one is near Pendleton,OR.

 

I love windmills.very weird and wonderful from a moving car.

 

peekaboo windmills

 

farm country. I am crazy about the hard metal juxtaposition with the organic landscape.

More shiny metal things

like these a lot

falling down farm

Installment number one done.

The Bird is the Word, Is Life Safer in Cages?

The  Bird is the Word. The genesis of this piece was a delicate glass bird with a broken head. Instead of throwing it out, the thrift store gave it to me when I asked for it. I carried it home and sat it on my work bench where I stared at it and thought about glass birds for a few days. It needed to be covered, the first layer of meaning over our glass skeletons.

I started pulling pieces out of my stash of emphemera, old early 20th century broken-spined McGuffy Readers and a book of tunes from the same era. All dreadful old parlor piano music that  seems to feature people who have died, drowned, been lost, pined away,  or are otherwise Croaked, but still haunting the living through these lugubrious tunes.

The Readers are a fascinating glimpse into a morally upright past in which God is on every page of school textbooks. Children are directed down the path of righteousness with tales that feature bad dogs, bad things and some of the most overblown hyperbole ever. I do so love the Victorians, even their poetry is decorated with the equivalent of literary doilies. All of this literary excess got me thinking about the American Political Process we are in the throes of dealing with at the moment. We are suffering from our own literary doilies in Congress and we seem to be heading backwards in time at a high rate of speed, undoing advances in social justice and women’s rights in which many women seem to be complicit. I find this deeply disturbing because we burned bras and draft cards for a reason back in the day….

I chose snippets about birds and flight and morals. My favorites include, “Winged Worshippers” and “Joy Seldom Weaves a Chain.” The entire bird is collaged in Bird Words and on her crown she wears antique rhinestones and 3 feathers I found in a ghost town in Northern California.  I confess, I thought of the the 1% when I constructed her ‘diamond’ necklace from chandelier pieces.

This bird is mounted on an upside down antique martini glass that has her heart trapped inside. Inside the heart is a tiny copy of a photograph of my great great grandmother in a feather hat, and the words “She loved diamonds most.” The heart is permanently mounted on the cage bottom and sealed under the glass which is also circled with antique rhinestones. No one will ever know what is really in her heart.

The floor of the cage is a cut out artists canvas board that has been collaged top and bottomwith appropriate sheet music–for this bird to sing. “Diamonds” are scattered on the cage floor. There are four triangular mirrors marking the points of the compass and on them is a stamped word. The four points together say, “What Will She Do.”

I love the old cage I found. It has been wire brushed and sealed with clear sealer to protect it in its current state of tasteful decay.  The cage can be unclipped from the base and the bird can stand alone too.  I designed it to hang or stand on a table for display. I worked to make sure it looks simple but the assembly was incredibly complex and layered and a lot of intellectual fun too. The bird has hands instead of wings which too me was the obvious choice.

A lot of what I build has hands, a head or legs, so I have quite a macabre stash of ‘body parts’ in my studio. These are models of old Italian Santos hands I found in a little shop in Seattle and they fit perfectly with my intention.  This bird, we might like to call her Ann, actually, holds a chain in both hands with a key and a lock. She can open her own prison if she wants to do so, but will she?

Her Master’s key.

Her Master’s lock. I love that it says “Slaymaker.”

An antique cut glass saltshaker has a heart mounted on it instead of its top and inside it saysthree times, ‘Her Story Repeats Itself.’ This hangs from the cage top like a bird feeder might,  adds a pop of color and repeats the heart motif.

Over the cage top is a woman’s hand holding on to the cage. The cuff is hand-crocheted lace that has been stitched over a copper band and there is a blingy ‘cuff link’ on the wrist. I love, love, love this old ring. It was given to me in a stash of broken jewelry and it was obviously much worn and loved as it is scratched thoroughly. It was missing a few little stones which I remounted and I think it is perfect on this odd hand. 

I love the saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” I kind of wish that hand would slap a few faces and say, WAKE UP! This hand is mounted with a copper ‘bolt’ that allows a chain mounting to hang the cage while keeping the hand stable. 

For me the thing that finishes the piece and says it all succinctly is the Yevgeny Yevtushenko quote on the wrist back. “He who is born in a cage, yearns for a cage.”.

The finished piece, not weatherproof, but photographed in my garden.

Another view of the finished piece.The Bird is the Word.