Deaf Dog!

Last Class

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on August 20, 2012

Last class was on the 18th. I had a really tough time of it. Learning to draw is a juggling act. Watch the negative space. Check your angles. Don’t go so dark. Work big.  Draw mass, not lines. Oh and hey, loosen up.

But I got a good one. (After seven hours)

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on August 14, 2012

Taking a day off today. Still feeling a little fragile. Doctor recommends a little more time in the sun and a little more exercise. So I’m going to Riis Beach to chill out this morning. Later, Blade is playing as an outdoor movie in Red Hook, so I’ll be visiting my friend Ethan.

I’m bringing my sketchbook to the beach, so maybe I’ll get something done while I relax. But I’m also reading this awesome book, The Great Mortality by John Kelly. It’s a big fun book about the black death. It’s really good.

I did get a listing up yesterday in my Etsy shop

Daylily Journal

Oops!

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on August 12, 2012

Class was yesterday. Had a rough time. I always pick one drawing and force myself to post it on my wall. This was the best of a bad lot. I’m still slow at getting proportions down, so five minutes wasn’t enough time for me to finish it. The forearm looks like a noodle.

I did manage to finish a notebook and post it. Sadly, I had to list it as an “Oops!” Just as I was finishing it, Chicken barked. She never barks! My had jerked and I flubbed it. Kicking myself.

Sad Noise. But I did made the outline of a new daylily journal, it’s just a rough sketch. Tomorrow the real work begins

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Back to the desk

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on August 8, 2012

It’s been a very hard year.

The last post ended with some excitement about drawings I planned to make. Shortly after it was posted, a medication change left me with terrible hand tremors that made it impossible for me to make art for about eight months. Certainly people have had worse infirmities and managed. Learned to work around it. Accept the shake. I couldn’t bear it. I would just sit at my desk, watching my hands tremble while my throat closed up. Eventually I stopped sitting at the desk. 

I haven’t been very clear here. In January of 2011, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. They’ve spent all the time since, trying to get the meds right. I gained forty pounds. Maybe a third of my hair fell out. Every day I woke with my head under water, everything slow, faraway, unconnected. My hands. After a year and a half of passionate refusal to go to the hospital, I demanded to be admitted so they could drastically change my medications in a safe setting. All the books say that you shouldn’t stigmatize the hospital, that most people with a mood disorder end up having a stay eventually. I can’t speak for everybody, but I had a really nice time. Made some friends. Learned to play scrabble. Talked about my feelings.

A week in, my tremors stopped. Until I was still, I had no idea of the constant anxiety my shakes caused me. I took the opportunity to try to relearn how to draw. The skill lay dormant for so long, I was very rusty and extremely embarrassed of what little I was able to do. It’s been a month and I’m still very nervous about showing the things I’ve done. I am forcing myself to display my work.

desk

As part of my personal therapy, I’m taking a figure drawing class at The Art Student’s League. It’s been frustrating and humbling but I feel like I’m improving.

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Today is an especially good day. Not only did I draw something- I made, photographed, and posted something for my Etsy Shop. Ripple drawings are one of my favorite things to make. I love the devotional repetition of small marks that make a complex pattern. This style was completely closed off to me while I had the shakes.

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Up and down and all around

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on March 24, 2011

Intense, spontaneous desire to cut my hair very short. This is never a sign of mental health.

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I can just go ahead and stop thinking of myself as being single.  I’ve stopped wearing makeup or nice clothes. I don’t flirt. I just try to be good and not end up in the hospital. I keep talking to people who are off their meds and making myself all jealous.

My talk therapist broke up with me. Well, not broke up. She just wants to spend some time apart- until my medications stabilize. First I cried a little. Then I thought it was hilarious and told everyone. Now I want to hack off my hair.

In the little green book of fairy tales I grew up with, there’s a picture of some jerk dragging some girls around by their hair and I’m thinking of the imagery I was thinking of in the garden but incorporating a girl whose head is bent far back and hair all entwined with glories, like it will snap her neck. Comas in climbers.

Need to draw a picture of Batman (the cat) to send to my little niece. Need to draw anything really.

7:30 PM Plan of action-

Order food (so as not to further dirty dishes)

Tackle insane person’s backlog of dishes while waiting. Listen to special sing-a-long playlist to ensure compliance

Eat while watching charming, but very predictable movie.

Wash up and take pills. Prep tomorrow’s croissant for overnight proofing (I love you Trader Joe’s)

Sit at drawing desk until Ativan alarm goes off. Hopefully this will make me draw.

Get ready to sleep.

I guess this is hypomania

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on March 6, 2011

Depression is my garden three seasons fallow. Morning glory and insidious ivy choking down everything green and good.

It’s hard to start. It’s so far gone, I just want to chuck it and start over. And my guilt over poor Abue’s little grave is so immense that I can’t even look at first.

Everything I built is ruined. It’s not even that bad getting well, though I will complain incessantly. What kills me is having to fix all of my disasters.

I’m glad that I have therapy on Tuesday. I find myself rehearsing my appointments ahead. I think I will say, “I don’t know your stance on allegory, but I went to the garden.”

I picked the smallest, easiest bed and knelt in the rain. Immediately, I was happier. It’s easier than I remembered. You just choose one square foot and that’s all you worry about until there’s nothing left to worry about. Then you move on.

With every weed I pulled, the whole looked better and new hopeful little buds became apparent. The garden wants to live. I only have to help it a little. This is not to say that there weren’t some disasters. The peonies may have been smashed beyond repair.  The clematis wasn’t tended and looks terrible. The buddleia is covered with aphid scars, yet it buds at the base. I missed the azalea this year. I’m a little sad about that.

The forsythia and the red-flowering quince are budding. That’s something to look forward to. I had forgotten about them completely.  When I finished the small bed, I felt powerful so I moved directly to the horrible, stumpy weed tree that is my Ragnarok. I busted out the bypass pruners and started nipping off green twigs and unraveling the glories. From there it seemed best to take on the grave.

Once the weeds and vines were removed, hyacinth and jonquil could be seen poking gingerly up from the cedar. It was an overwhelming relief to see that they took. I’ve been lucky. I snipped the hips off the little pink rosebushes and examined the canes. I emptied Abuelita’s little monkey water dish and placed it where I hoped it wouldn’t be in the way.

The glories will be horrible this summer. It’s lucky that their cotyledons are so distinctive.  Even so, I’ll be fighting them for years.

I went to the back yard and scooped eight gallons of compost from the worm bin. I saw no worms. A lethal combination of hard winter and my complete inattention. I do feel bad about this. I resolve to buy worms this week. My meds doctor always asks about my spending. It occurs to me that this is a strange expense to justify.

The backyard is largely untouched by me. I use it primarily to store soil amendments. Weeding makes me wistful. I long for things I didn’t include in my plans for the front yard.  Lilac, bluebells, ice flower, lily of the valley, bleeding heart.

I’m freezing and soaked. I stop at The Bruckner for lunch and fellowship then toddle off to the studio to make forty shirts of Skwid and the microscope.

At 6pm, I feel that old jangly mania. Instead of feeling proud of what I accomplished today, I can only feel this zooming urge to do even more. I want to do a million things, all of them tonight. Design a label for my shirts. research screens, learn to make websites, make gnocchi, do all my laundry, draw … insanity. I talk to my Dad about it. Before I would just enjoy the elation and stay up all night swept up in a project. Now it scares me when I feel this way.

Because it is a truly nasty night, I resolved to order in pizza, shower and watch a movie. Evening pills, feed the cats, bedtime. These are reasonable ways to spend your evening.

On Saturday, I saw The Fountain show with Mr. Brady and (better by far) Duke Riley’s show in Chelsea. I admit leaving Riley’s show with quite an art crush. I want to go back again and visit. Apart from being damned clever, his work ethic is incredible. I love his drawings and have been percolating with ideas ever since.

Today I want to do a series of sneakily autobiographical paintings of my mood disorder. The morning glories that strangle everything, the poppies, my dreams of the hammock snapping, and the little dog ghost that lives in the roses. A single black star. Hourglasses, broken bottles and so many pills. I hope I still want to do this tomorrow.

Keep Punching, Joe!

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on December 3, 2009

Alright, here’s the good news. I got one of those Yudu Screen Printing setups on a lark. Actually it was less of a lark than three days of agonizing indecision followed by a dramatic impulse purchase in the wee hours before dawn. The fact that $100 of it was paid for with reward points helps with my buyer’s remorse.

So I drew up a little picture from the old days of my sketchbook and scanned it so I could print it onto (very expensive) transparency sheets. I spent quite a lot of time fiddling with settings and cursing. In defeat, I searched the make-and-model FAQ on the printer’s website and found this super-helpful information:

Q:
Can I print on ink jet transparencies?
A:
No.

LOL. Just “No.” No hemming and hawing there. No polite show of regret or self-conscious recommendations that I try one of their other products. I was further amused by the “Was this helpful?” rating directly below it, because naturally the answer is yes but I did find the answer rather more terse than I generally like. After grappling with the damn thing for an embarrassing duration of time, it is only human nature to require a small amount of ego fluffing when told that it was a complete waste of time.

Oh well.  Today I went off to Kinko’s to make the copy to a transparency and skirted by the art shop to buy some screen printing ink for paper so the great experiment begins tonight, with results likely posted tomorrow.

A few days ago, I made a little moss terrarium. I’ve seen them all over the web and since I have all of the supplies lying around anyway, I just had to try my hand. I actually couldn’t scare up enough moss to cover the surface completely, but I think I can be patient.

I also made a bunch of cute little Sculpey houses and mushrooms to decorate terrariums, but I haven’t cooked them yet so I don’t want to jinx myself by posting pictures.

After that last sad post, I really hoped to follow with increasingly optimistic and happy posts but I am once again beset by tragedy.

On Saturday evening, I booked a vet appointment for my 8 year old kitty Mish because I noticed that she was chewing funny. This is a pretty common sign that she’s going to need some dental work.  Generally you make a vet appointment, they give you an estimate and you schedule the dental appointment for sometime that week.

Monday morning, she had a swollen spot over her right incisor and she was a little lethargic. “Damn it,” I thought, “She has an abscess and now she’s going to need the dental today.” When we got there, the swelling was worse and she was winking her eye on that side. it all seemed to happen so fast. The vet gave me an estimate for the emergency dental work and I burst into tears. An abscess like that is life-threatening and you really just don’t have another option. So I ran to the bank in the rain and gave them my entire rent as a deposit. The money hurt, but I knew that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.

They said they would keep her overnight and I would have about 12 hours to beg and borrow an additional$600. I sent a mass text to my coworkers to try get some more shifts and headed back to the Bronx.  When I got home, there was a message from the vet. Mish didn’t have an abscess, she had a huge tumor that went as far back into her throat as the vet could see. A huge, inoperable tumor that was beginning to affect her eye. It didn’t seem possible. How could it flare up so fast? She was fine the day before. Eating dry food funny, but wet food normally enough. She’s not old, she has always been very healthy.

The vet says it happens. She says that if I want to know exactly what type of cancer it is, they can go ahead with x-rays and tests, or she can refer me to an oncologist to discuss chemotherapy. She stresses that any course of action would be palliative. I feel insane with shock. You can tell just by looking at it that there is no chance of fixing this? Are any of her days going to be better than today? I say, “I hate to bring up the E-word but it sounds like…” I falter and she says, “I’m glad you said that” and tells me how it’s a very reasonable option. I can tell that this is what she hoped I would say. She says I don’t have to euthanize her today and I could take her home for a few days and just try to keep her comfortable. Some people like to have a little time to say goodbye.

She is already uncomfortable. How could I take her home and watch what little comfort she does have erode away? I know I will go crazy if I have to live knowing that it may only be hours before I have to say uncle and put her down. She hates the trip to the vet, it’s stressful for her. I say I will call her back in one hour.

Back when I worked as a vet tech, I remember hearing someone say that there is no “right time” to euthanize- there is only too soon and too late. You have to choose “too soon” don’t you? Isn’t that what being humane is all about? Isn’t that what we owe our animals? Can you, in good conscience, ask a creature who can’t understand why it is in pain to take astronomical risks? Could I live with the risk of her in agony for hours while I am at work or while I sleep?

I am trying to feel gratitude. The proximity of their deaths is unbearable. But here at least, is something I could not possibly have prevented or foreseen. When I saw her for that last time on that table, I couldn’t imagine asking her to soldier on. I naturally metabolize grief into guilt and self-loathing. For Mish’s passing, I can’t find a single thing for which I am to blame. I am trying to see that as a gift.

When Abuelita died, I took her body to the garden. I dug through five feet of bricks and clay in the freezing sleet to lay her in the ground. For poor Mish- God help me- I could not dig again. It is December and I have no strength left to sustain me.

The dog was my best friend, undoubtedly. Mish was nonetheless very well loved. The tendency of cats to be slightly ambient, loving house spirits does not lend itself to the limelight. She was just a stray who walked into our apartment unbidden and made it into a home. I had wanted to name her Siddha, after Siddhartha. I was voted down by those old roommates and she was named Mishu after a famous french drag queen. Despite our communal living arrangement, she was always my cat without a doubt. She chose me from the very start.

She was a world class snugglebaby, an excellent typist and lapcozy. She loved parties and had to meet everyone who came into the house. I have a tendency to speak aloud when home alone and she had a charming habit of  replying at the end of my every sentence. Far from being aloof, she was a chummy little cat who happily answered to her name and would gallop to the door when you came home.

With her passing I feel like an important support has been kicked out from under me. After eight straight year of having animals, my home is conspicuously empty.

The Awkward First Post

Posted in Uncategorized by Heather on November 19, 2009



Spider journal

Originally uploaded by lopsidefundip

Today was a day for planning and prepping for tomorrow. I did manage to finish my little Spider journal and tomorrow morning I’ll take pictures and upload them into the shop. I also have to take pictures of all the stock I still have.

My unintended sabbatical is the result of a conspiracy of events that prevented me from maintaining my online shop- my ancient laptop finally burst into flames, my dog got sick, I moved, my mom had a hip replaced and required care and temporary financial support.

Finally and most tragically, my beloved deaf dog Abuelita, died on Oct 14. My grief is immense. She was the great love of my life and I’m coping poorly. I am trying to be kind to myself, I am trying to move forward. I’ve been procrastinating reopening the shop in part because I don’t want to write her epitaph or rewrite my shop announcement.

People really loved her. She went everywhere with me and so I am still (even a month later) occasionally ambushed by some one who hasn’t heard about her passing and it still rattles me. Frequently I am asked, “Are you getting another dog?” and despite knowing that they mean well, I have to choke down a lot of anger.

I know that my anger is just a natural inflammatory reaction that protects a part of me that is broken and fragile. I am trying to forgive myself and others.

I remind myself that I have also received incredible moments of grace, sometimes from unexpected sources. Complete strangers have offered up such sensitive, deeply personal solidarity that I am flooded with a breath-taking gratitude. I cling to that.

When people met Abuelita and learned that she was geriatric, they would sometimes ask what I would do when she died. I always said that I would probably volunteer at a shelter for a while. I’ve never gone out looking for a pet, they always find me.

I was thinking about volunteering the other day. I was at the pet store and very proud of my emotional fortitude during the whole visit. But then as I waited in line at the checkout, the person behind me had a little red Pomeranian that walked around my feet and I just burst into tears through the transaction and the whole subway ride home. I’m capable of laughing at the ridiculousness of that, but still pretty powerless to prevent it.

When I get an invitation to go out after work, I automatically think, “Do I have time to get the dog?” I have to force myself to turn out the kitchen light when I leave the house. When I feed the cat I have to pull back a hand that instinctively reaches for the place where the dog’s food was kept. I look for her when I wake and in absent-minded moments as I move through the rooms of my house.

I find myself noting the empty spaces that she used to fill, and the series of first and finals. The first time I have eaten chicken soup in five years that I did not feed her the carrots. Washing the last of her dog shirts and placing it in her drawer of little coats- once useful, now an archive. The first time I sleep through the night. The last time I speak to her groomer. I have just now finished the last tissue from the box I bought on the day she died.

I’m not ready to volunteer. I have nothing yet to give. I am still struggling to take care of myself. To cobble together some kind of structure inside which, the splintered little parts of myself might be sheltered from outside forces.

It’s a shame to start this blog off will such whiny, long-winded complaints, (I think the standard tone is shiny, slightly-delusional optimism) but if I waited to start until I felt happy and normal, I would probably have to wait a very long time.

So here we go.