brains! muscle memory

Finally back to the mosaics studio.  I spent many hours looking at my mosaics books, seeing what would happen, if there would be a spark of something creative.  Nuthin’.   Finally decided to partake of the custom of copying a mosaic.  Copying someone’s work seems like this:  copy = bad = go to jail.  Joyfully (and thankfully!) copying mosaics is an honored teaching method.

Then it took painfully tiring brain-pulsing hours over many days to decide on the materials and to figure out which online supplier I wanted to use.  Yikes.  Forced my eyes to focus and my brain to understand; it didn’t just happen automatically.  That was tough, but colorful!  >:-D  And now I have a boatload of tesserae for many projects.

Won’t bore with the play-by-play, but I did actually start gluing tesserae into a design.  My first project here back from the dead-ish I chose from the Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin book called Mosaic Workshop, which is also the name of their studio in London.   I have been drawn to their work since I got interested in outdoor mosaics.

The challenge with mosaics appeared:  I sat at my accustomed place.  Picked up one and then another tool that I knew to use for the particular material I was using.  I had absolutely no memory of which of the tools to use when or where.  None.  I actually rotated each tool in my hand to peer more closely, seeking a brain-ping.  I looked at them as if I’d only hefted them at a store before a purchase.  My hands didn’t know what to do besides grip!

Imagine picking up a pencil, an ordinary wooden pencil.  You have paper in front of you–you know the pencil is for writing.  There comes the beginning of movement, then stopping because you don’t know what kinds of marks the pencil makes.  You don’t know why you should use the pencil for writing.

I held the tools, but hit a wall–nothing came next for my head or hands. I did not have the visual memory or kinesthetic memory I had before things went south in February.   Just stopped for a few moments and stared, appalled.

Breathe.  Jump in again.  I could hold the tools.  I knew they were correct for the material.  I couldn’t see them fully–how to describe?   In the before-time, the seeing was the complex experience of  the visual and kinesthetic memories of using the tools and no hesitation, just doing .  Had to experiment until things became familiar, nipping and cutting and creating a lot of waste.

After about a half-hour of nipping tile, with shards flying the way they do, I noticed those sharp shards landing on my bare legs (I was wearing shorts) and mused at how easy it is for shards to slice and dice the unwary.  Oh!   I had not put on my heavy duck-cloth workshop apron, had not even thought of it.  (I put it on.)  And, I was wearing shorts instead of long pants.

Really am re-wiring.  JeezusFreezeUsSaveUsFromTheFlood.

Maybe I’ll be like Jill Bolte Taylor following her brain episode and will soon find out I can now sing!  >:-D

A few pics…


legions that haunt

Finally.  I have dreamt of the legions in my head that have been haunting me since the hospitalization.  Even now, more than 12 hours after waking, I can see the pictures of that which dwells within still.  I have seen their faces.

The germ, the crux, the bit to pay attention to is all me:  wanting to make cookies.   But every time I found an empty kitchen surface upon which to work, a fast-moving someone in the boisterous crowd would come along and stack all kinds of unrecognizable stuff on it, making the work surface at first uneven and then precariously unstable.

In my dream I decided to stop trying.  Folded up my toys and let the legions howl around me, in their ways, knowing that seeking a spot wasn’t working and that I would have to wait for cleared space.

cooperative sleeping surface

Cats know!   Me:  the cooperative sleeping surface!

I figured out the library large-print books mean that I can read with one eye open!  And dim light when Big Mister is going to sleep!

the root of it all

In an hour, I will have a root canal, a repeat from 2009 of kill-that tooth-dead-and-rip-out-its-life-giving-roots.  I will also be drugged to the gills, thank you very much.  Have to take the meds in 1/2 hour, so I’ve got to write fast before I become lu-lu again.

A couple of months ago I went to have my teeth cleaned in anticipation of leaving any minute now for Italy.  I wanted to be shiny!  That tooth had been bothering me a little since 2009, but I figured I was clenching my jaw at night.  X-rays that day showed differently, that there was something going on under the tooth, in the jaw, and it showed in mottled black, which was unlovely.

My dentist told me that if there were an infection, which would only happen if bacteria remained after the root canal, the professional thinking was mixed, that the infection could stay localized.  That it probably didn’t cause the sinus infections and ear problems I’d been experiencing for a couple of years.  Just co-ink-ee-dink that the problematic ear was on the same side as that lower-jaw molar.

When I returned to the endodontist six weeks ago, at the office of which I’d had the original root canal, he said No way that the infection in my jaw would cause other problems, that it would stay localized.  Even in my half-witted state, it sounded ridiculous that an infection would stay localized.

Back in January I developed a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away.  In early February I went to my physician’s assistant to get antibiotics for same so I’d be healthy for my long-awaited extended solo trip to Italy.   At the time, the PA gave me a sinus-infection lecture I’ve never heard from a medic, the crux of which is that untreated, a simple sinus infection really isn’t that simple.  The sinuses are very close to the brain and medics are concerned with infections that close to the brain.  Gimmee the drugs, man.

A week later, I was in the hospital with systemic infection that was threatening my life.

Afterwards, nobody seemed willing to put these things together.  Were they afraid of blame and doorsteps?  Or is it the juxtaposition of the noisy shininess of modern medicine with the huge unknowns of our body’s processes?  Ever feel like a pincushion or guinea pig?  It’s because the docs don’t know what the hell is going on, but have enough training to try to find out.

Dang, ran out of time and have had to take the meds.  Hope I don’t sound like the half-wit I fear I have become.  The good news is that I’ve improved since the hospitalization and am no longer a complete idiot!  >:-D

Ooo-ooo!  The sedative I’m taking is called Halcion.  Hmmm… sounds just like “halcyon,” which means Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful!  Gotta love big pharma!  The drug causes problems with short-term memory, so the theory goes that I won’t remember what went on.

I love that theory and the reassurance it offers, but I’m pretty sure that memory is created on cellular levels, too, so I’ll prolly hafta go through some weird-ass PTSD episode to get this out of my system, too.  But I choose to be drugged enough to not care.  I just hope I don’t try to speak French after the two-hour  procedure like I did to the original endodontist, who was French.  !!  I sure as hell remember that!


neuronal challenge: too much information

Bean/Nadbugs at catself asked me to post snippets of the brain challenges I’ve had since my bout with septic shock (definition here) in February.  She’s right that just trying to think of something to relate is a challenge.  So, snippets it shall be.

On a recent Saturday I got to play with Big Mister.  We drove the 15-in-town-miles to the VA Community Living Center (Mom is a World War II veteran!) where Mom now lives so we could visit a bit.   Did some erranding first.  Lots of Saturday shopping traffic and backed-up traffic lights.  Not easy for me even in the before-time.

We visited with Mom for a short time, Big inside with her and me outside her window–my immune system is not up for a concentration of germs.  This was only the second time I had seen Mom since early February.  Since I still have an active infection and am leery of antibiotics, I am at risk for another bout of deadly sepsis.  If I take the antibiotics, I will likely be attacked by C. diff again.  Either one could kill me; how to choose, how to choose?!

This is one strange ride, I’m telling you!

Then heading home through that same Saturday traffic.  Within about 5 minutes, the anxiety began, but I kept it from Big.  Anxiety has been part of package since I got home.  Finally, I asked him to stop the car so I could move to the back seat (much less head-on activity from that vantage!).

Too late.  Too much information had hit me.  It seemed as if my eyes were darting in my head, trying to see each stimulus, each car, the sounds of engines and car radios, the colors of the traffic lights, and do something with it.

But no, my eyes weren’t doing that.  There was that pinging in my brain–like 20 railroad engines driving on their own tracks, but each as loud as the other so my brain had no choice but to attend to all.

I wonder if that’s like taking a ride on one of those round-and-round vomit comets that earth-bound astronauts-in-training use to test their mettle, only it’s inside my head.  Nobody else can see what is happening to me.

The anxiety overtook me:  I wanted to cry or scream bloody murder, but couldn’t.   A controlled descent, fortunately, to overwhelmed.  Breathing.  Holding on to me, desperate to be in the quiet of home, breathing.  Finally, home and mellowed out.

I still look like me, but these things are very much a part of my daily life, and show up at any time.

Dear Hospital Discharge Doc,

I appreciate that your knowledge of, and ability to treat successfully, both sepsis and C. diff helped to keep me on this side of the living.  Truly, I do.  Without your abilities and those of the emergency department medics, I’d be deader than dead.

You asked me if I’d like to go home or stay another day.   Of course I wanted to go home!

The discharge papers included:

  • the diagnoses:  sepsis and C. diff.
  • extensive printed info about C. diff from two different sources:  it’ll kill you blah-di-blah; recurrences; future proclivity.
  • notation to follow up with my own doctor within one week.

Here’s what I didn’t get:

  • Information about what the septic shock did to me, a systemic malfunction that progressed far enough for my kidneys to shut down.
  • Hints about the recovery from sepsis, that there was even a recovery to be endured.

The acupuncturist I saw about 6 weeks following discharge told me that after his own bout with sepsis, it took him a full year to feel strong again.  A full year!?   At the time, I was sure it couldn’t take that long for me.  Um, because I’m special?  I sure didn’t want that to be true for me.  I had other plans.   That appointment was 8 weeks ago.

When I expressed my frustration to the acupuncturist that you hadn’t given me a single hint about More

Can you believe that… or not?

JustI has a little something for all of us again! Go see! And DO!

JustUs Society

My Rockin’ the Purple friend has me thinking again. Lahgitana  has a way with words and expresses a depth of thinking that challenges me, even as she writes of her self-described fog of recovery from a life changing event which occurred this past February. To catch up, read about it here: 112.8 – recollections and here: Recuperation: bubble theory.

In response to her thought provoking posts, I’ve found two videos (from TED) that I hope will challenge her (and you, dear reader) to think about how you think!

Two questions, I would like to pose, before you view the videos:

  1.  Can we believe what we see?
  2.  Can we believe (or have faith) in that which we can’t see?

I’ve included the partial bios preceding each of the speakers, including links to their homepages.

Michael Shermer debunks myths, superstitions and urban legends, and explains why we believe them…

View original post 262 more words

recuperation: bubble theory

Today I am here. Today I am limited. Today, I am not the same as I was on February 12, 2012, the day before my brain and body exploded with heat and pain, and my body’s processes dropped toward zero.

For the last month-plus, I have observed myself coming out of the fog of death-defying illness. The first two months are only a fuzzy blur where I went through the motions of taking care of myself, taking meds on a regimented schedule, staying at home, using every bit of energy to just be, so there were no observations and very little awareness beyond my skin.

When I first came home from the hospital, with its tubes and hard-hitting, life-saving drugs, I did attempt to fall into my daily routine, subconsciously allowing muscle memory to guide me.

In the before-time, part of my morning habit was turning on the CD player and sitting in the living room, drinking coffee, checking email and reading the funnies online, plus checking the (awful) news, both domestic and foreign sources.

In the time after, it became thus:

There was no planning, just doing: arise after dreamless sleep, go to the CD player to have music for my morning as was habit for years, but quickly turn it off. Then, shower, and dress, boil water for herbal tea, fix the same bland breakfast, and read in the bedroom for hours.

The music of my mornings before my descent toward zero was usually Baroque chorale music, or one of my favorite happy guys, Henry Purcell.  In those new mornings, as soon as I turned the music on, I had to turn it off because it immediately used up all my brain cells.  The music evoked a constant sonar pinging against every More

choices, fallback positions, and faith

Recently, I’ve been faced smack-on with having to pursue one option or another.  Time to reflect on that idea, the idea of choice.

What to choose and how to make the decision?

My choices have been an either/or, but not both.  What would I choose and how to make the decision?

I found the answer to “how” by remembering a theory of successful negotiation–always always always have a bottom line, a position beyond which you do not progress.   Stand there quietly in that confident knowing.

The “what” came immediately because of the how, but this does not assume that it was easy.  So, “how” comes first.

The how is:  we have to know what we want, the shape of a path, even if we don’t fully know the path.  Choosing causes the path to veer and wind toward a goal, perhaps, or just allows a peaceful stance, one of acceptance of choices made.


A fallback position, the choice I could make if other options don’t seem to be working or presenting themselves, sounds like a good idea.   In theory.  In reality, adding an option that we don’t really want just adds tension and does not allow for acceptance.   So, no, I don’t want a fallback position because I don’t want to give up on paving my path with the choices I am interested in.

Having a fallback position presents too many options and causes paralysis.  Have to choose, to narrow down, to whittle away the swirling fog of confusion and plant my feet firmly somewhere.  Anywhere.  To do as my landscape design instructor kept hammering into us:  “Get in the boat.  Stay in the boat.”  (By which he meant, choose a theme/intent and stick with it.) More

the REST of the drawings!

It ain’t easy being me.

I posted a collection of geometric mosaic drawings on my room wall and here.  Occasionally, afterwards, I would see a pattern in a book that seemed familiar:  hadn’t I drawn that?  is it on the wall?  No?  OK, I guess I didn’t draw it.

Here are the drawings I had secreted away (from myself!) that began it all!  I did do all the patterns in Robert Field’s book.  I’m still unclear how my brain could parse these designs then reproduce them while I could hardly think one thought completely through.  There’s probably research out there, but I guess I don’t care.  It just was.

a happy realization

You know how sometimes we get locked into feeling as if we don’t have enough choices?  I figured out that we can go:


other left


other right

Lots of choices there!

what I did on my brain-vacation

Here is the evidence of the work I did on the Roman mosaic geometric patterns.  It finally occurred to me to post them where I could see them.  Now, hanging out in this blue room, here is the joy of mosaics for me.

One of my goals as a mosaic artist is to design floor mosaics.

Many of these patterns come from mosaic floors in Fishbourne Palace in Britain.  That’s on my list to see some day.   Maybe I’ll start my postponed Italy trip by landing in the UK and seeing what I can see!

(click on any pic to get a slideshow started.)

sunday sorrow

Watching lives being dismantled, to be re-assembled in new forms, tears my knowing to shreds.  Mom is in the rehab place and BJ, her roommate of 30+ years prepares to leave their home since Mom will not be returning.

To see that house disheveled with evidence of packing and lightening the load rips out the roots I had established there, unknowingly.

The story of this house begins in the 1930s at the purchase of these unimproved, timbered 10 acres by Mom’s family.  It continues to 1981, when Mom and BJ left Arizona to move to these 10 acres and make a home there.   I was a part of that even though I had finished college and was contemplating staying in Tucson for grad school.   Somehow, the power of time had the three of us moving north, although I would be continuing to Alaska.

We drove in caravan:  Mom’s VW camper van, BJ’s truck pulling a small mobile home, and a large rented truck.  I wasn’t particularly present for the trip or maybe I was inexperienced enough in road trips that I didn’t know how stressful the trip was.   Lots of vignettes from that time, especially the getting separated in one strange town.  No cell phones at that time.  The winds that would punish each vehicle and strain each driver’s ability to stay on the road.

The arrival to see a vegetation-blocked entry to the property.  The clearing of space.  The hauling water.  A couple of weeks after arriving with them, I flew to Alaska and found home unexpectedly as I left the plane door and hesitated on the jet stairs.  Looking at those snow-capped mountains and the ocean.  Feeling the 40-degree October weather and wondering how I was going to survive the cold.  But also knowing in my bones that I was home.

Visiting Mom and BJ frequently and seeing, and helping with, the homesteading of those 10 acres.  Hauling stumps out of the ground, chaining them to the truck bumper, and then riding the damn things to the dumping ground.  Going home to Alaska and feeling bemused that my mother was homesteading and I wasn’t — and here I was in Alaska, where it’s expected!

Mom designed the house, by hand, on graph paper.  She considered the sun and shade and the correct angling of the house, and where the gardens should be.  Within 5 years of arriving on that overgrown land, the house was built.  There I visited until this February. I know that house almost as well as any dwelling of mine.  I knew where the cling wrap was and how to find the spare light bulbs.

After I got laid off in February 2010, I was able to visit Mom much more frequently since I wasn’t spent from giving my energies to an employer.  The year of school got in the way a fair bit:  I commuted on awful freeways and was always beaten up and tired.  Once I recovered from that, I got to see Mom almost once a week, for which I am grateful.

Mom will move this week to a new place that is an hour, plus two hideous freeways, north of me.  She will be within a few minutes of my sister and her family so at least she can have visitors.  I need to stay away from germy places until I have an immune system again.

On Sunday, yesterday, Big drove me to Mom’s house so I could say goodbye to BJ.  She and I have shared plenty over many years, including one Arizona mountain camping trip where my 65-lb dog got bitten by a rattlesnake and we had to carry him out of the remote area where we’d been hiking.   My neck still hurts.  Maybe that’s where all the neck problems started, with a semi-conscious dog draped around my neck.  My memory tells me it took us 5 days to get out of there, but that is nonsense; it only felt like 5 days.  Pretty sure it was only one long day.

The house has lost its life:  boxes in the great room ready to be loaded into BJ’s truck for the trek back to Arizona, where she will get a motor home so she can tootle around, birding and otherwise being her naturalist self.  Seeing those hollow places in the bookshelves.

Mom’s things where they were sitting when she was hauled to the hospital by ambulance.  For the last time.  We all had hoped so much that she could live out her life in her home, but it was not to be.

Deciding that since the house was going to be people-less later this week, I should take the valuables.  Oh dear.  Wrapping up Mom’s silver, the silver she and Dad had bought eons ago….  Wrapping a small reclining naked lady sculpture, remembering it back 40 or more years.   Packing the computer was easier, no emotions imbued in those electronics.

Looking around at the house, really trying to see beyond the gloss of familiarity in order to choose the valuables to safe-keep.  I left the china and good glass.

Finally sobbing my heart out at the dismantled lives, at the between time, before the lives are rebuilt into new shapes.  Sobbing for myself, for the loss of a place that has had my roots for 30 years.   I did not have roots until Alaska and I severed those in 1998, the phantom feelings of that amputation rising and pushing to the fore, the memories of dismantling my life well-lived, with adventures and with love.

Now, four bags of Mom’s belongings here in my house that will be re-united with her other belongings when it’s time.  Mom has already made an inventory of the house and her belongings, and has indicated which kid gets what.  That must be killing my sister, the one who hated it when Mom and I would joke about wanting this or that after the other’s death.  We’d phrase it as:  “Put my sticker on that!”  One time, Mom said she wanted her sticker on my Isuzu Trooper!   And now my sister is in charge of all of this.

I remain a bystander, a never-expected circumstance.  I have had to say no to helping with Mom’s huge transition in order to concentrate on one thing only–regaining my health so that I might have a future.  I have chosen and it is not easy.

This morning, Monday, started difficultly:  as I was responding to Calpurrnia’s order for morning tuna, I stepped on something soft.  Figured it was a worn out catnip mousie.  But from the vantage of my height, it looked wrong.  I picked it up, soft and light; it was a hummingbird.  Just a few days ago I was looking out my recuperation room window and saw a pair of hummingbirds darting around the few new yellow trumpet blossoms on the forsythia.  Another pair of lives dismantled and it is stabbing me with the pain of lost possibility and loneliness.




set faze on stun **

The scene

8:30 pm on a Tuesday at home.  The house is quiet; Big is sleeping since he gets up at 4.

The Players

87 y.o Ma recovering from pneumonia

55 y.o. Kid recovering from sepsis

The phone rings.

55:  [Reeling into the other room to get the phone, but the vertigo is making me hit the walls.  Croaky voice] Hello?

87:  Laurie, I’m desperate.

55:  [oh no, there’s nothing I can do to help in my state!]  What’s up, Ma?

87:  Please put minutes on my phone.  The lady loaned me some so I could call you.

55:  [???!!  I don’t even ask.]  OK.  I’ll do that and call you back.  It should take only a few minutes.

55 spends 1/2 hour battling with the “easy” top-up on the computer, interjecting the same muffled, teeth-clenched Anglo-Saxonism as needed.

Big calls in to ask if it’s working and 55 whines that it’s not, panicking internally because I can’t understand all the words on the screen, and hoping he’ll do it for me even tho’ he really needs to be asleep.  Ah!  I hear him get up and come to the room–I apologize for the noise, and he closes the door!

9:00 p.m.  The phone rings.

55:  [tense voice, but trying to hide it]  Hello?!

87:  I thought I’d better check…

55:  [how is she calling me since she has no minutes on her phone, which I can plainly see on-screen?!!!]  Yes, I’m having trouble, so give me a few more minutes.

55 is starting to get a headache.  Called customer good-luck-finding-service and got it straightened away.

55 phones 87 and hellos are exchanged.

55:  Ma, you’re all set.  The phone people said you have to turn off your phone, wait a few seconds, then turn it back on.  Like rebooting your computer.  [Having vision of kicking any phone across the room.]

87:  Red phone.

55:  I’m sorry?

87:  Red phone.

55:  Red phone?  [The Armageddon Red Phone on the President’s desk?!  What?!]

87:  Yes, red phone.

55:  I don’t understand, Mom.  [Brain is pulsing with need to understand and desire to run away.]   Um, Ma what phone are you using right now?  [oh crap, of course she’s using the cell phone because I just called it.  This is hurting my head.]

87:  Little one.

55:  Oh, the cell phone!

87:  Yes!

55:  [Begin to repeat instructions from phone people and am interrupted.]

87:  I close the phone….

55:  No, you have to turn it off…  Oh!  The red phone on the phone!  To turn it off!

87:  Yes!!!

55:  [Trying hard to stay focused on instructions.]  Oh!  Hahaahahahhahhahaahha.  The red phone!  I couldn’t figure out why you were talking about the red phone on the President’s desk!   Hahhahahaaha!  [Completely unable to concentrate.]  Hahahahhaahahaha!

87:  Yes!  Hahahahahahahahah!

55:  Hahahahahahahahahahah!

87:  Hahahhahaaahaha!  Let me catch my breath!  [Pneumonia, remember?]

55:  Hahahhahahahhaa.  OK, all set now?  Haahhahahahhaha.  [Just can’t help it.  I have lost the ability to concentrate on a task.]

87:  Yes, all set.   Hahahhahaha!  Sleep well.

55:  Thank hahahhaaha you.  Haahhaha you hahahahahh too!

Moving the handset toward the cradle, still laughing and can hear Mom laughing still.  Oh how grand to laugh like that with her.  It has been months!

Definitely had a headache, but got through it.   Turns out I was right to conclude that I can barely manage my own life.  Took me 45 minutes to settle down after that.  Agggggghhh!


**  PS.  In case you’re from outta town, the title is a play on an oft-repeated line from the 1960s TV series, Star Trek.

reverse Mojovation doesn’t work so well

Here I am wanting to hang out on the couch in my recuperation room.  There is a tiny, 9-lb calico kitty reclining in my spot.  I figure reverse Mojovation could work.   I have been intoning to Calpurrnia, very quietly:  “You are hungry.  You need a snack.  You are verrrrry hungry because it has been three hours since you’ve eaten.  You need a snack.”

She hasn’t moved from the spot except to reach out a paw and pat me while she purrs.

I may spend too much time alone.

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