Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Books and Movies June 2018

I have gotten out of the habit of reviewing the books I read, which annoyed me the other day when I wanted to check back on one I had read but not recorded. So time to get back into that habit. I don't go to the movies much, but have been twice recently, and one was to a movie that was made from a /book I had read, so figured I'd talk about both.

I first heard about the book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when I heard it was to be made into a movie. I promptly got the book from the library and thoroughly enjoyed it. I sometimes find straight history a bit hard to take on it's own, so have always enjoyed historical novels that show the history but ease the trauma with fictional characters. Although the story is partly a love story, there was a lot of development of a number of the characters. In addition, the story is also of the occupation of Guernsey by the Germans, and the way different people reacted to that occupation. I won't say it was an epic book, but I did enjoy it.

The book was the first book of Mary Ann Shaffer, who died before it was published. After falling ill, she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to finish it for her.

The movie was beautiful, and worth it just for that beauty. However, it was a shadow of the book, and concentrated on the love story to the detriment of the other characters and story.

The other movie we went to was a documentary, a filmed conversation between four actresses. Tea With the Dames is not an exciting movie but I loved it. Dames Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith sit and reminisce about their lives on stage and screen, and life in general. Obviously it's all very different from my boring little life, and yet I felt so comfortable with the expression of their personalities it was as if I was there, and could pop in an occasional comment of my own any minute. Not really any need for the big screen experience though - sitting at home watching it on the smaller screen, with a cup of tea at hand would have been more comfortable, and possibly more appropriate.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman is a book I borrowed from the library based on a quote I saw somewhere: "Some things we just have to accept, so we can save our strength for other problems." It doesn't seem that insightful now, but it hit home the day I read it, and so I decided to read the whole book. It is an intriguing look at family relationships. The characters vary from the attractive to the less so, but all are treated with respectful insight so that the reader reaches an understanding and empathy for everyone. I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Lost for Words

most people have played the game
asking, what would be worse -
to go blind or deaf?
my answers have varied
over the decades
and sometimes
i also think about smell
and touch and taste

but now i know
the worst loss for me
is not one of the
six senses
but something
i didn't realise
was even a thing -
that has no name

there are times
since the clot
wedged in my brain
killing off cells
when i cannot
comprehend words
spoken clearly
but incomprehensibly

there are times
when i feel the feels
but cannot say the words
nor even think the words
that describe the feels
when i feel my brain
 up like
newspaper under kindling

and my right leg kicks out
and my right arm suddenly
shoots out sideways
knocking my cup over
and i know i have to leave
but it's so hard to stand
but still easier done
than said.....

I was 'lucky' that my stroke was not a severe one, but I had a bad day on Saturday when I went to a friend's 70th birthday lunch at a cafe. Most people do not see anything very different about me these days, and some days I even feel completely 'normal' (as in, the way I did pre-stroke.) But on Saturday at the cafe, there were so many people talking, and kitchen noise, and piped music with a constant base thunk thunk thunk and the autistic kid opposite me was coping by stimming - god I wish I could get comfort from stimming - which involved kicking my chair leg fast and rhythmically but not the same rhythm as the music and suddenly I stopped being able to make sense of the words someone was saying and I couldn't find any words to tell them and my brain lost control of my hand and it shot sideways and knocked something over - fortunately not something that made a mess - and I had to flee - if my stumbling outside can be described as 'fleeing'! 

And this morning I am sitting here filled with anxiety as I wait to see if I will make it through until 5.15pm without having another stroke, to see if I can make it to 6 months. And feeling anxiety rising in my gut, and my old familiar (50 years) depression pressing in and just needing to say all this to someone, somewhere who won't just say, pull yourself together, get dressed and go feed the ducks and chooks and dog and get on with what life you have left..... 

So thank you if you read this far - all I really needed was to have the words and say them and know that someone really heard me.

Friday, June 8, 2018

ICAD 2018 - Week 1

Each week has a theme and prompts, but there is no pressure to follow these - they are offered as an option. The theme for week one was 'Inspired by typography, symbols, fonts, words, graffitti, found text, definitions, poetry, lists. The prompts I will show by the photos even when I have not followed the prompt. I am not doing well this week (SAD, thinking about the stroke and it's lingering effects, and a cold) and my efforts have been pretty halfhearted. Plus the first week prompts were all based around fairgrounds, mainly rides, of which I am far from fond! But I'm trying to keep going, even if it's something very simple and boring. Art every day for 61 days. No matter how simple, it will, hopefully establish a good habit.

The other thing I'm trying to do is to not feel so ashamed of the things I try that I rip them up and throw them away before anyone catches a glimpse of the mess. I'm trying to be proud of trying. It was never going to be easy for me with my history, and I am finding it even harder with the black dog snapping at my ankles. That said, the following are my first week's efforts.

1/61 rollercoaster

2/61 Not fireworks (instead, an attempt at drawing a gum leaf)

3/61 Not tilt-a-whirl (instead, my word of the year)

4/61 not a ferris wheel (instead, a word I have been thinking about - see my previous blog if you are interested)

5/61 queue or line. I've never liked or been good at queuing, and have been known to queue  for the wrong thing....

6/61 Not a carousel aka merry-go-round, but inspired by the concept of round / circles

7/61 haunted house. I was tired and unwell and the black dog was biting.

Tomorrow I WILL feel better.....

Monday, June 4, 2018


I've been thinking about birthdays and my wish to do something special for my birthday this year. I had birthday parties when I was a child, but only until I was 13. Then, no more parties until my 60th. I had another for my 21x3. But by the time I reached 65 I had developed Type 2 diabetes and the thought of a birthday party without party food or alcohol just didn't rock my boat.

Now I'm coming up to 67. Not a significant birthday. But actually it is significant to me. If I make it that far, it will mean I have survived 67 years on earth. I have survived depression, including 6 periods of suicidal depression. I have survived and controlled (so far) diabetes. I have survived a stroke. That's pretty significant, I reckon.

Why do we place significance on 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 65.....? I'm feeling that if I make it to 67 that will be pretty significant to me. Actually, next Monday feels pretty significant to me - 6 months since S-day. And to be honest, that death scare has me realising that every year, every day, every damn moment is significant!
And because my mind is a messy and slippery place, it has slid across the room to another culturally restrictive significant phrase.

my significant other
supposedly my husband
and yes,
he is significantly
but does that mean
the other others
are insignificant?

my four sons?
their partners?
my grandchildren?
my sister?
my friends?
my dentist?
my doctor?
my cat and dog?
even my enemies?

i cannot bring myself
to use words like
'less significant'
about those others

if you are in my life
you are
a significant other

Thursday, May 31, 2018

ICAD 2018 - Warm-Ups

I have always been torn between wanting to 'do art' and the deep fear of 'doing it wrong' or 'not good enough' or using the wrong materials, or using materials wrongly. My early life conditioned me to feel the need to do things right in the hope of approval, but I never managed to quell my co-existing need for self-expression. So in my quests for artistic expression, and for fearlessness (my WOTY, Word of the Year, a thing that's a bit like a new year's resolution, but less definitive) I have signed up for a funny little art prompt challenge called ICAD.

You can find the details at Daisy Yellow Art, but the main idea is:

This is not an art competition.
It's a creative challenge.
Can you create something on
an index card every day
for 61 days? I bet you can.

We are working on a cheap office material - index cards - and it is to be regarded as play, as expression, not serious art. My aim is to use this challenge to loosen up a bit, to move towards fearlessness in art and craft.

Already I am feeling my urge for self-expression competing with my desire to follow instructions Each week has a materials based theme, and 7 prompts around a topic. As the prompts for the first week are things that I actually dislike (fairground things), I know I'm not going to follow the prompts every time. The materials themes, probably, but the prompts may or may not be used.

Leading up to the start date - tomorrow, June 1st - we have been given warm up exercises.  My desire for perfection has been forcibly challenged so far by an unexpected spanner in the works - my reading glasses have been sent off to have the lenses replaced with my updated prescription! So I'm working, if not exactly blind, certainly with slightly blurred vision and accompanying headaches and sore eyes. Still, I have been working on them. As the challenge goes on, I will try to post what I've been doing about once a week. But to start, here are my warm-ups.

1. Mix a colour or snap a colour. Name that colour.

2. Do a puzzle.

3. Write a Top 10 list of - anything.

4. Test 17 pens / writing devices.

5. Create a rainbow with words, collage, paint, ink etc.

6. Doodle or draw your name.

7. Post one of your favourite ICADs from a previous year. Obviously I couldn't do that as it is my first year, but the following was a pre-warm-up warm-up that I did when I first read about the ICAD challenge.

8. Sing out loud to a (...fill in the blank...) tune. Document the the song name on an index card.

9. Set up a small creative space. Well, it started out as a small space at one end of the table but grew.

10. Draw a map of anything.  Hmmm - not really a map - but it is to remind me that the walk from my house is not very far from my craft room!

11. Create a collage with 3 colours and 3 words.

12. Make a title card.

It's fun. It's easy. It's uncomplicated. I'm trying not to judge these 15 - 20 minute dabblings. I'm trying to just enjoy playing with different materials.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Things I Learned on Holiday and since

In a desperate attempt to pretend that all is well in my life, and that I had more or less recovered from the stroke I had in December, I took myself off to Fibre Arts NZ in Whanganui for a week, and from there, for a road trip to Dunedin and back. I learned a lot of hard truths.

  • I still have a lot of recovery to go.
  • I will probably never recover fully, because, you know, dead brain cells are, you know, dead.
  • I can drive for 4.5 hours if I'm fresh, but 2 hours can be too much if I'm not.
  • I need to practise things consistently if I am to be able to do them again: when trying to hand-sew, my fingers did not have sufficient strength to hold the needle tight enough to pull it through more than 3 layers of fabric until the third day - before that I had to use pliers for every such stitch.
  • I still need a break from anything every half hour: driving, stitching, reading, talking.
  • I can multi-task again, but only when I am not stressed, tired, or doing something new. For example, today after being stressed and extremely anxious about something, I struggled to understand Mac's words while we had lunch at a cafe with noise around.
  • Trying to relate to more than 2 or 3 people at once has become almost impossible.
  • The fine motor skills of my right hand rapidly deteriorate after about half an hour of use.
  • I still stutter and lose words when I am stressed or tired.
  • I am a very long way from achieving the state aimed for in my choice of 'fearlessness' for my WOTY (word of the year): in fact, fear is constant and lives very close to the surface. I am constantly aware of how that stroke came out of the blue, when I was feeling the best I had for years. Aware that it could happen again any time. Or something else. Fear not of death, but of incapacitation, mental or physical. Fear of something happening to me, or to those I love. I don't dwell on it, and use mindfulness to ease the anxiety, but awareness of the reality of the possibilities is ever present, even in my sleep, popping up in dreams in weird ways.
On the other hand, I also learned a lot of good truths. 
  • I have recovered a lot.
  • I can drive to the other end of New Zealand and back - as long as I take it a bit slower than I used to.
  • I get more tired, more quickly than pre-stroke, but I no longer get that fall-down-can't-do-anything fatigue that I got for the first 4 months post stroke.
  • When I practice, I get better.
  • My brain has discovered / developed new pathways to my right leg, so it no longer randomly flicks sideways (which it did for the first month), nor even feels like it will (which it did for the next 3.5 months). Which makes driving much more comfortable and less stressful. This resumption of normal sensation happened the day before I got home. 
  • Whales and dolphins are still the most awesome fucking creatures in the world.
  • Gaia (the planet earth) is amazingly, excitingly, uncaringly wonderful and powerful.
  • People matter more than anything else to me.
  • Art is art even when it isn't great art or saleable art - it doesn't matter, just do it!
  • Most people are kind.
  • Most people respond well to being treated kindly.
  • Practice makes better, which is much better than perfect as it leaves room for more growth.
  • I can do a whole heap of totally fucking awesome shit if I want to and I persevere.
  • I want to.
  • I will persevere. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Grey Day

It's a grey day
an almost winter day
wind and rain
but insufficient
for awe or excitement
 It's a grey day
there's some colour
in sodden autumn flowers
candlestick and sweet bird but
It's a grey day
thoughts of deaths
lie sodden in my heart

It's a grey day
the cat is unimpressed

Still it's a grey day.......