A Year with Mom

CK Teaching Mom to Use iPad – November 2012 – Portland, Oregon

**Trigger Warning: Lots and lots of Mom Stuff, Abusive behavior, references to childhood abuse and dealing with addiction issues**

It has been a year since we moved into our new home, 11 months since Mom moved in with us. It has been quite a year.

Honestly, I have found it hard to write about anything. This year has been facing the reality that I am unable to affect my Mom’s happiness, no matter how hard I try.

It has also taken away my last hopes that maybe my childhood wasn’t awful. That it only had moments of lousiness. That my Mom was pretty good the majority of the time.

Those last hopes are pretty much gone having seen how quickly CK has seen Mom’s manipulative tendencies. How swiftly she’s become horrified by and angry at Mom’s behavior. It is deeply painful to really acknowledge the truth of one of my therapists observing that she felt my entire childhood was devoid of any adult who had my best interests at heart.

All I’ve wanted for Mom is to see her content, happy even if just in small ways. I gave up on seeing Mom have a life that’s fulfilling a long time ago after realizing that I don’t think I could recognize what that means to Mom. I also recognized a long time ago that what I find fulfilling, my Mother finds either amusing or baffling, which also hurts.

We hoped that by bringing Mom to live with us we could help relieve some of things she was clearly overwhelmed by. Living alone she fell several times, kept getting sick, and was clearly not coping with anything. I was going out to Gresham all the time, sometimes in a panicked rush. We knew that with some oversight with medication and meals, and some company, that she would stabilize. I’d hoped that with stability we might have the space to enjoy some of our time together.

The first weekend after she moved in we had a low blood sugar incident because Mom had taken insulin and didn’t follow up with food. We were out running errands and not here to supervise. When we arrived home Mom was barely responsive, clammy, and incoherent.

By “incident” I mean a fire truck out front, 6 or 7 very large, male EMTs in our cramped living room that had just been filled with Mom’s stuff, and an ambulance ride. It was the second time in my life I’ve been asked to “ride shotgun” in an ambulance with someone I know being stabilized in the back. I gave directions to the hospital, the ER doc went over her list of medications in shock. After returning home from the hospital we also took over Mom’s medications, particularly things like Oxycodone and Ativan, which we caught her about to incorrectly dose herself.

It hit us really hard that the terrifying mix of Ambien, Ativan, Oxycode, and Fentanyl patches she was on left her in kind of a vague haze all the time. If you add to the the insulin, forgetting to eat, and not eating well we knew it was really no wonder she hadn’t fallen more. A combination of over-medicating herself and low blood sugars could have very easily been lethal.

Since this incident all her diabetes medications and insulin levels have been adjusted and we most often check into be sure she’s eaten after insulin. CK spent several months having weekly calls with a diabetes nurse specialist at Kaiser to track Mom’s blood glucose, get Mom off the Metformin, figure out what the new R and N insulin doses should be, and what the best scale for corrective R insulin needs to be. We make sure Mom checks her blood glucose 4 times a day, correcting the insulin dose 2-3 times each day.

Every other week for the past year and a half or so I set up her meds for the next two weeks. We’ve also realized that she still doesn’t do well getting them out of the containers, often leaving pills behind, and occasionally taking the pills incorrectly (wrong days, wrong time to take them, etc.). Since last autumn every morning we set out a day’s pills in small ceramic ramekins, each resting on a colored sticky note to indicate which time it is to be taken.

I now also dispense her Fentanyl patches, which she also hadn’t been taking correctly. I’ve got her to stop taking Ativan too and work with her in stressful situations to try and focus on her breath, reminding her that she’s alright. Besides which, her last physician had prescribed it only because of the traumatic way her late husband’s family dumped her at the independent living facility in January 2012. Mom isn’t having panic attacks anymore, so it doesn’t make sense for her to keep taking Ativan on a daily basis. At times she was taking one a few times a day in combination with Oxycodone 1-2 at a time, “as needed”. Yes, that is on top of 100mg Fentanyl patches and her taking Ambien at bedtime.

We’ve stopped the Ambien too, particularly since she already is taking an Oxycodone at bedtime too. When she was taking those Ambien and Oxycodone at bedtime she would become alarmingly out-of-it. No surprise.

Then there’s the kidney disease. After years of diabetes, and not really doing a good job managing it, with the related medications like Metformin has left Mom’s kidneys is sorry shape. The result is a constant struggle with anemia since her kidneys fail to adequately do their part of the job of red blood cell production. This means bi-weekly blood work to see how her blood levels are. When they’re falling, there is the scheduling for a type & cross-match followed by a transfusion, sometimes needed monthly. She had an access port installed several years ago, but to ensure that it always properly working in case a transfusion is needed we also have to have bi-weekly port flushes scheduled. Since we’ve engaged the help of the care management folks at least the work of taking Mom to a Kaiser facility weekly is offloaded from us, but still we’re always reviewing the lab results. We also weekly dispense a dose of Procrit which stimulates the kidneys into working and have regular calls with the nephrology pharmacy as the dosage needs to change to try and keep ahead of the anemia.

It hasn’t been easy getting Mom’s health to stabilize, but we’ve done it. There have been no more serious falls and no more low blood sugar incidents. On top of that the change to a vegan diet* and stabilization of her blood glucose levels has meant that her eyes** are actually improving, her near constant digestive distress has been resolved, and her triglycerides have lowered to the point they can actually be measured.***

*Mostly vegan, we encourage her to eat as she likes outside the home.

**Mom is legally blind due to complications of the diabetes. Her eyes have had a lot of swelling in them, necessitating treatments directly too them. Her eye doctor was actually quite pleasantly surprised at our last visit and felt that the diet change and blood sugar stabilization is clearly helping. He told Mom that she should keep doing what she’s been doing!

***Yes, Mom’s triglycerides have been so high they’ve been out of measurable range.

We’ve worked with a new physician on what her dose of Oxycodone is, but Mom often complains about wanting to go back to when she was self-dosing with these. The amount we can get from the pharmacy is very strictly controlled and we’re not allowed to pick them up early. On more than one occasion we’ve come up short of the date, which leaves me suspecting that she can actually get into them on the high shelf I’ve put them. In fact, I’ve moved them this week because I really think some of those prescriptions have been “short” because she’s got into them.

There’s been some good, but mostly it has just been a damn long couple of years we’re coming up on. That said, it has been a particularly lousy week.

Sunday, when CK and I were going to leave to go take care of the week’s grocery shopping Mom somewhat snidely remarked that she hoped we had fun without her.

Mom’s been resentful for a while that grocery shopping isn’t set aside as a fun outing for her to poke around the store. Getting the grocery shopping is largely a chore I like to get done with as efficiently as possible and I realized early on that shopping with her took at least twice as long. I also had to stop her from nearly running into people with the shopping cart she insists on using. Grocery shopping with Mom makes a tolerable chore an anxiety inducing activity.

On Monday I had to admit I was fighting a cold. Watching CK play Skyrim after dinner started making horribly dizzy so I went to lay down. While I was doing so I could overhear Mom, through her closed door, on the phone with a friend complaining about us, particularly about how “of course” we didn’t take her with us shopping along with other bitterness.

This is not the first time one of us has overheard Mom bitching about us on the phone. CK even confronted Mom once after overhearing her telling a friend that I was misusing her funds. What shocked CK most about this is my lack of surprise that Mom should get caught saying awful things about me to people behind my back. She’s done it many times in my life, at various ages.

On Tuesday Mom’s blood glucose at dinner was unexpectedly high, particularly since she’d had lunch earlier than usual that day. It was high enough that I’d asked her what she had for lunch and asked if she’d had a snack in the afternoon. A snack would have been fine, I just wanted the 220 blood glucose to make some sense. I had her retest, assuming she had something on her hands, but it was still at 200. I just shook my head over it and gave her a higher dose of the R insulin to take before dinner. We’ve suspected Mom’s been snacking in her room because she’s been overheard munching at times and we’ve also caught Dora licking up crumbs off the floor. We’ve asked her about it, but she always denies it. sometimes really defensively.

On Thursday morning CK realized that our recycling and compost cans didn’t make it down to the curb and rush out in the morning to do so. She discovered Mom had accidentally dumped the small trash can from her bedroom into the recycling. This has happened a couple of times. We’ve labeled the cans with big reflective letter stickers, we’ve suggested she not take it out when it is dim outside (which makes it even harder for her to see which can is which), and we’ve even noted that her trash is emptied every other week by the person who comes and cleans the house for us. Still, it is one of those things where she still wants to feel like she can do something herself, so sometimes we end up with trash in the compost and recycling, leaving whoever finds it the messy job of getting the trash out of the wrong bin and into the right one.

That’s not the bad part. Yes, it is frustrating and irritating, but if that’s the only irritation we dealt with it would be entirely manageable.

In the trash CK discovered several Twinkie wrappers and a receipt from buying some herbal weight loss pills while out shopping with friends when we visited Toronto for our anniversary. Take away that Twinkies aren’t vegan. Take away that she’s self medicating with weight loss pills that, combined with all the medications for her diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, not to mention her pacemaker, are really a dangerous combination. Not to mention just being a bad idea to take them with Mom’s combination of health challenges. Take all that away and we’re left with her sneaking things that are not good for her and lying about it.

CK confronted her while I finished getting dressed. I had to take several deep breaths to go out into the kitchen where I could hear Mom implying that her hiding things was our fault. That she is forced to lie and sneak because we so rigid, don’t let her have anything she wants, and “treat her like a child”. I confronted her about the high blood glucose on Tuesday evening, noting that Twinkies explained it now. I told her I wouldn’t have cared if she’d had a sugary treat, even if it isn’t the right kind of choice for herself. I had just wanted to understand because unexplained highs or lows in the blood sugar can be indicative of something going on that should be seen to by her doctor.

Since Thursday morning Mom’s barely spoken to us****. She is polite, but doesn’t really engage and retreats to her room. I haven’t given in to the old training that compels me to make it better for her, comfort her. CK is also not really talking to her at all after telling Mom she needed to really honestly talk to us. Right before Mom told CK that she’s not a psychologist and she can’t make Mom say anything.

Mom Watching the Sunset – March 2013 – Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

This past spring we had an assessment of Mom done by a company in town that provides care coordination and management for seniors and other vulnerable people. They advised that Mom shouldn’t be living with us, that the level of oversight and assistance she needs would require us bringing in a lot of extra help in the home. I’ve also been questioned pretty repeatedly by both of my therapists this past year about what I get out of having Mom live here, aside from the reassurance that direct oversight of her provides.

Mom’s not happy here. My therapists believe Mom really isn’t capable of happiness, that she connects with others only through misery. Lately I think the main things she gets out of being here is an increase in her monthly income, because she’s not spending as much for her “rent”, and access to a hot tub. I’ve felt for several years that while Mom says she loves me, she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t respect me, doesn’t understand me, and feels entitled to demand respect from me.

Mom has this idea that merely attaining a certain age entitles someone to be respected regardless of how they behave. Growing up I was repeatedly told that age demanded respect, regardless of truth or what was ethically right. Mom also raised me to respond to her unhappiness, to do anything to make her happy and to make things easier for her.

Add to a huge, lifelong list of behavior and mental health issues the fact that the clear toll of the past couple of traumatic years is a decline in cognitive ability. Add to that the reality that Mom can go from generally OK to totally decompensated very quickly. This progression is so rapid that it is not advisable for her to take public transportation, not even the ride share for seniors. She does take a shuttle to the senior center, but those drivers have more experience dealing with folks like Mom.

The assessment folks were right. CK and I are so overwhelmed with the effort to care for her that that effort combined with our respective, demanding jobs, means we often have little energy left to connect with one another. It has become increasingly clear that Mom does not, cannot appreciate the tremendous effort it takes to keep her health stable. In fact, I often am left feeling like she resents our efforts to keep her health stabilized because she doesn’t want to think about what she eats, she doesn’t want to keep a consistent schedule around eating, she wants to take all the pills that let her put this world she hates and the pain she fears behind a haze of fog.

The reality is that Mom will be unhappy, petty, and spiteful no matter where she lives. She will continue to decline mentally, further removing any hope that she can honestly engage with us about the hurtful ways she behaves. Not that she ever really has taken responsibility for her behavior.

On Tuesday afternoon we met with a woman who specializes in placing people in care facilities. She was recommended to us by the people who did the care assessment. Her belief, given Mom’s cognitive state and mental health issues, is that Mom needs a residential care facility. She is encouraging us, me particularly, to understand that it is OK to pursue this decision about Mom’s long term care, that it isn’t reasonable for us to sacrifice our life together just so Mom can be terrible to us, me particularly. No sacrifice on our part can actually bring Mom happiness in any way, but will only further harm us.

****As of 11pm we’ve had a huge blow up, but I suppose at least it isn’t festering just below the surface any longer.

Birthday Reflections – 44th Edition

Birthday Bouquet from my lovely in-laws – August 28, 2013 – Portland, Oregon

I turned 44 yesterday. Which makes today the first day of my 45th year.

It rather boggles the mind. Well, at least my mind.

It has been a really tough year, and then some. All the upheavals with Mom, buying a house with CK (wonderful, but wow was it stressful), moving Mom in with us. All that and continuing to work on events in the Portland tech community and try and keep on top what has becoming an increasingly demanding job. Honestly, I’m starting this new year off feeling depleted in many ways.

Work is hard. It isn’t that it was easy to begin with, but the demands have more than doubled and find I find myself having to give up or being taken off of things that would be both hard and rewarding because I need to expend ever more energy on a primary application upgrade project. Trust me, this isn’t like upgrading the OS. It is a project involving over 2300 users, mostly hostile. The vendor’s support has been appalling. I’ve found bugs, requirements gaps, and what can only be called seriously bad decisions for over a year solid. I’m worn out of having to fight my way though the next problem that shows up just as we’re supposed to “turn the corner” on the horribleness.

All that and this year it hit me that, aside from stressful periods of unemployment, I’ve been in “on call” mode since 1998. The stress of that alone is affecting my health. I also feel like what I’ve been doing at work, while building my reputation in one area, really distracts from the career change I had wanted to make 3 years ago. I’ve let my boss know this, and we’ve brainstormed some ideas, but the part I don’t feel confident about is the allocation of another headcount for our team so that I can move into a very strategic role instead of a hands-on, “tactical” role. Enterprise Reporting Architect is the title we’ve been kicking around.

Living with Mom is hard. Not a surprise, but yet still surprising in the ways it is hard. Gaining insight into the benefit of it, despite the fact that it has me living with someone who can be constantly triggering to me, is something I find myself being asked to revisit with my therapists. I still feel like there is benefit. I also feel I’m not fully ready to give up on the hope that maybe she can experience a little happiness and contentment in her life, and that I might get to enjoy seeing that.

This might explain the down-turn in posts. It has been kind of unrelenting.

There there is loss. In the past handful of years 5 people we’ve cared about have taken their lives. I still have a lot of sorrow at Jen’s death and a lingering, aching awkwardness over seeing folks from college at her memorial.  Some days it feels like I remain frozen at the edge of real grief. It is just so big, and when you combine it with the layers of grief for my Mom, my childhood, all of it… well, it feels overwhelming.

So that’s the hard. Starting this year I also bring so many positives.

Despite a continuing struggle with chronic pain, including lingering neck pain from the car accident in June 2012, I am in good health. At 44 I am in better health than a few generations of women in my family before me have enjoyed. While not as active as I wish, I still am able to go for hikes, swim, and do yoga (even if the neck injury has limited me).

I have a good job, despite the fact it is really exhausting me it affords me a lot of benefits and privileges. I recognize this year that my position and work needs to change in this coming year, even if it means the anxious prospect of moving on to a new company. It has afforded me a lot of growth and I’ve been able to make time to care for Mom, which many people aren’t lucky enough to find in a company.

Buying our new home last year was so enormously stressful that it made the first home-buying experience I had seem like a big party, one where I got a house at the end. The purchase was stressful. The move was stressful, in so many ways. We’re still unpacking. All that aside, I am so fortunate to be living in our beautiful house in the trees. Birds fill our yard. We have a pond. We share a huge space for CK’s office and my studio/office space. Really, it is just such a blessing that I’m so grateful for.

CK remains a thoughtful, loving partner in our life together. Yes, it is hard sometimes, but I’m so grateful to go through those hard times together with her. We’re planning an anniversary adventure, currently with very little actually planned aside from the necessary travel arrangements, some dinner reservations, and an art exhibit to see. We really need a restful holiday together with very few plans, I’m thankful we’re able to have adventures together.

All those blessings and my house is filled with flowers. I’m pretty tickled that I’ve reached a place where buying flowers isn’t an infrequent “indulgence”. Now my regular purchases of flowers to put in vases throughout the house is just part of our grocery budget. I love seeing the bursts of color all over the house, in some ways it makes me feel more at home and settled.

I look forward to more hikes, more art-making, more laughter, more soaks in our hot tub, a healthier & happier job change, moments of small joy with Mom, and all adventures of life, both large and small, with my wife.

August Stroll

CK is in Toronto this week for a team meeting. It feels like she barely returned from Hong Kong.

As the weather warmed in our new neighborhood CK finally found a Good Walk. Suitable for both dogs and humans wanting a good bit of exercise. We’ve been trying to walk together with the dogs as many evenings as possible. Trying to wedge some time in the Busyness to get some time together, a bonus because it is doing something for our good health together.

When she’s away I try to keep up the walks for the dogs and I. Tonight we even spied a dead bird along the way. I had to laugh at this find making me think of CK, but we’re definitely the type to be curious about such a thing. Were she here tonight we could have taken turns holding the dogs at bay while the other got a closer look. Having a supportive partner makes all the difference in life.

I wanted to share this walk for my Love, who I am hoping is well asleep. A poem for a late evening in mid-August is the result of that desire to share.

August Evening Walk

We walk to the park.
Really, the dogs
Walk me.
Pulling toward the
Steep hill
Covered in grass.

We arrive at the
Time when the
Last orange of
Sunset fades
To the pale
Blue-grey of
Twilight.
When the sparrows
Give over the
Hunt to the bats
And the frogs
Begin their songs.

We rise,
Cross,
Descend.

As we return it
is I who cajoles the
Dogs along toward home.
Pausing here and there
To watch them press
Warm bellies
Against cool grass.

Worth the Effort

Today CK left on a business trip to Hong Kong. She’ll be attending Wikimania. She’ll be gone a week, home for 6 days, and gone for another week. September may see another week-long trip as well, although we’re planning a week together in Toronto to celebrate our third anniversary and she’ll be all mine!

Work was busy, but free from any meetings so I just focused on catching up. I was out early for acupuncture. It felt like not much during and immediately after the session, but about an hour later I was hit with a wave of anxious energy. Mom was in a funk too, understandably since it is the year anniversary since her last husband died. Regardless, it left me feeling unable to cope with dinner. I suggested we go out to get a bite to eat and I could pick up fresh basil to make a pasta dish for us tomorrow.

Mom wasn’t too disappointed when I hurried her through the market to get only the basil and some sesame stick snacks she likes on her salads. I was briefly distracted long enough to grab some fresh figs, but I reminded her we wanted to get back home so I could take the dogs for their walk.

CK has been walking the dogs up to a nearby park. It is a good walk and we’re relieved to have found a walk we enjoy. It takes about 40 minutes at a good walk. We go down to the park, up and around it, and back home.

Dickinson Park at Sunset

I’d promised CK that I’d make the effort to walk the dogs. For their sake and mine. I also promised to try to cut back on working 12-14 hour days, especially when she isn’t here to frown at me and suggest that it is bed time. I’m trying. I only worked a couple of extra hours this evening.

Mom and I got home from dinner and the market. I put on light-colored clothing, walking shoes, put the dogs into their harnesses and we set out. I was in a rush-walk mode, certain make CK cough, because I didn’t want to be walking home after dark.

We got the park and I nearly turned back before the big climb up the hill. The park really is just a big, grassy hill with a small play structure at the top, and a fantastic view. The dogs were antsy to complete the walk they know so up the hill we went despite the falling dusk.

I’m glad we did. We got to the top and got to meet a neighbor from the area. She told us that if we’re coming to the park we’ll eventually meet most of the neighbors since everyone brings their dogs there. She laughed and laughed at Dora, she’d grown up with dachshunds and the site of Dora really made her smile.

It turned out her 16-year old dog came from the same amazing shelter where we’d adopted Dora from. She’d had her for 11 years and they’ve been coming to the same park for that long. Her dog has cancer she told me, so she’s trying to come to the park as often as possible since it is such a happy place for her dog.

I offered my sympathies, my wish that they all may be at ease during this difficult time. I wished her peace and offered my name. She told me hers in return; this might be the one time a human’s name sticks when I usually just manage to remember the dog’s name.

It made us late starting back. I could see CK’s worried face. It was worth it though. The talk with the new neighbor was just the reason we went any way, just the reason the dogs convinced me to climb the hill (I nearly always need convincing).

I also got the pleasure of getting to watch bats swooping and diving around the park. In the evening, when we often are there, we watch swallows doing it, but being late meant the bats were coming out. I love bats and laughed with delight several times as one would flutter past.

We walked back home so briskly the dogs gave me wondering looks. Dora’s sleeping on the sofa beside me. I’ve been working a little and listening to music.

Surprises!

Yesterday kind of sucked. CK left for the Bay Area for a few days. We’re doing this full-court press at work trying to tune up the application stack, complete with vendor-dispatched consultant. I’ve already put in 40+ hours by end of day Thursday.

I’m giving up teaching my yoga class. I’ve had to cancel so many times this year, most of those related to caring for Mom. Some due to the car accident last year. It hurts so much to give up the thing that brings light and joy at the end of a stressful week. Teaching centers me in a way like no other Practice.

So off I go into Thursday, thinking merely, “At least the week is nearly done.”

There were finally some successes with the work stuff. That and some ongoing respect for me as a profession from the consultant has gone a long way toward making this grueling effort bearable.

I stopped at the market to pick us up dinner, “Hot Woks”, and get fresh flowers. I’d been informed that this market, easy to get to on the way home from my office, gets fresh flowers every Thursday. Fresh flowers around the house is an indulgence that I so enjoy.

Today I picked out a few things to be wrapped together, having them hold the bundle while I got dinner. When I came back out one of the women who works there held out two more bundles of roses to me. They are a little browned on the outer petals, but otherwise still fresh. Being slightly faded, they were going to be tossed away. I laughed in delight and surprise, saying of course I’d love more flowers!

Only Slightly Faded Roses – June 6, 2013 – Portland, Oregon

Bemused at this lovely gift in my day I arrived home to discover another gift. The lovely man who maintains our landscaping built a fountain in the pond today!

Simple Stones and Water – June 6, 2013 – Portland, Oregon

A fountain! It is an amazing gift. He knew I’d wanted to do a water feature to help move the water, getting more air in, and also have the wonderful sound of it. The water sound would help mask the sound of the freeway in the distance.

Now we have one. He has a Kwan Yin he’s adding to adorn the top stone.

Iris Miracles

Native Irises – May 13, 2013 – Wilsonville, OR

 

Spring brings irises.
Each rising from the water.
Golden miracles.

Adventures in Altered Art

Back in January I finally decided to sign up for a workshop with Seth Apter at one of my favorite little, local art shops, Collage. Today was the day.

It has been hard this past several weeks. Igal’s death has been a dark pall over the bright flowers of spring. I was really quietly pleased that despite the grief, anxiety, PTSD triggers, illness, exhaustion and busyness of April, I still managed to put together 30 poems in 30 days.

In the cleaning, sorting, distributing, and dealing with Igal’s apartments, which his closest friends took on, some of his things were sent to, or set aside for people. I helped in the initial days, the apartment was easier to deal with than the meetings to plan his memorial. In the final days our friends decided some things should be brought to us.

Japanese ceramics, a collection that seems to have no theme beyond being pleasing to Igal at some time has been brought to CK and I. I look forward to serving festive dishes, particularly Japanese ones, on these beautiful dishes. At future Thanksgiving dinners it will give me a way of continuing to include Igal, despite his being gone from this life.

Igal’s Lovely Japanese Dishes

In January, when I’d decided to attend the workshop, I had so looked forward to discussing my ideas about it with Igal. He had encouraged me to explore using acrylic medium for my artwork. At one of our infrequent, but wonderful Art at Koehler Haus days, Igal sat with me and shared his acrylics to help me learn how to use them.

Another gift of our friends was a decision to bring Igal’s art supplies to us. Today I had Igal with me; I brought his paint box with me to class and used many of his acrylic paints and glaze in the start of my project today. I am so humbled that our friends thought these things should come to me.

Beginning the Workshop, with Igal’s paint box.

I was so nervous this morning before heading to the workshop. All the usual feelings of inadequacy, of “pretending” at art.  CK gave me a kiss before leaving, encouraging me.

Our instructor, Seth Apter, was great. He immediately assured us that we would most likely not finish! Such a relied to be assured that 54 small collage pieces was a tall order indeed!

We quickly got to work on applying black gesso to all 52 playing cards and a piece for the front, another for the back.

Gesso Down!

He reminded us right away to not forget to work on the cover and back pieces, on book board, pieces in addition to the 52 playing cards. The black and the beauty of metallic, gold acrylic inspired me to create a small Enso. I will admit that it felt really very good when Seth complimented it, showing it to the other workshop participants, and recognizing it as an Enso.

Cover with Enso

Next we were encourage to apply some layers, at least one, of acrylic paint. My colors were all fairly rich and dark, against the black gesso they mostly implied a suggestion of color, which was pretty lovely.

Layers of Acrylic Paint Over Gesso

Then we were to set aside one side for adding text. Eventually my book will have poems by Hafiz and Rumi appearing on these pages. To the other side we received instruction on how to mix the acrylic paint with glaze to make sheer, translucent layers of color over the black gesso.

Layers and Layers of Acrylic Glaze

Next  came time to apply collage layers. Here’s where I felt a little lost. I’d thought I’d seen the boxes of paper and emphera I’ve collected these past handful of years, but I only found the small box of the smallest scraps. Given that we’re altering playing cards, it was really just fine, but I still wish I’d found my awesome paper stash!

Next Step, Collage!

All too soon the workshop was over! I am only a quarter or a third of the way done! I really can’t wait to get my office fully together, my chair out the box, so I can create!

Just Barely Begun!

Today is all “wrapped up” and I’m already thinking about making a book of Mary Oliver poetry in this form. I’m also really intrigued by Seth’s inspiration for this workshop; making one card a week for an entire year. Seems like a great way to combine collage, altered art and haiku into a project.

Hafiz / Rumi Altered Playing Card Book – Day One

Fish Watching

Swirls of Pollen – April 29, 2013 – Portland, OR

 

Heron still, watching.
Hoping to glimpse hiding fish.
Pollen swirls, ripples.

Spring Colors

Rusty Heron – April 29, 2013 – Portland, OR

Spring comes in with
Small bursts of color.
Snowdrops give way
To crocus, which greet
The sweetness of the daphne.
Days grow longer,
Warmer and soon
The world is bursting
In colors from the camellias,
The blaze of azalea, and bright
Torches of rhododendron.
Not to be out done, the
Leaves put on new, bright
Green and ferns uncoil
From the moist earth.

Frog Return

Frog Swimming – April 26, 2013 – Wilsonville, OR

With a plop
I turn to see
A frog surface,
Then glide.

All around the
Shallows there
Are great numbers
Of tiny fish
And tadpoles,
Frogs-to-be,
Rushing from my
Great shadow.

Other poets have
Described it better,
Yet still, that “plop”
Of a the frog surfacing,
Inspired poets anew
Each spring.

**Here’s Bashō’s haiku about ponds and frogs, as translated by Alan Watts:

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
Plop!

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