Sunday, April 16, 2017

Postcards with Faces

About 10 days ago I went to Auckland, among other things to see a much-reviewed art exhibition. More on this later. I've been thinking a lot, soliciting friends' opinion/critiques, (OR venting/ranting/looking for agreement/endorsement?) but doing a few other things, too. I've been trying to untangle the threads so they can turn into readable blog posts, and categorize/compartmentalize to suit my tree-rather-than-the-forest thinking. So, please bear in mind the next few posts are interdependent, less lineal/chronological than usual?? Put another way, if I had the patience and skill to post a mind-map with interactive links, (I'm not even sure about these vocabulary,) I would. 

So first: postcards with faces. During the month of April, a local office supply store is paying postage for postcards to anywhere in the world. Their main goal is to encourage kids to write/draw by hand. The deal sounded too good so I checked with staff, and they confirmed any postcard to anywhere in the world by anyone of any age was allowed, as long as they were dropped into the red box in one of their stores during April.

That night I spread the good news on FB, and a few frieneds wanted mine. (Including my next door neighbor D whose wife B is a real professional artist; they're reappear later in the post.) Armed with their addresses, plus a few more of unsoliciting friends and family, I packed a few purchased cards and a pack of blanks and flew to Auckland, where I intended to forced myself off news. I started working soon after arrival, moving furniture and spreading supplies but facing Al Jazeera and staying updated on 45 and Syria; at least that was one day Koreas/Japan/China was off his mind. 
I started applying somewhere between three to five layers of watercolor wash on each postcard, focusing on the colors and their interactions, but also not looking at the intended recipient. The egg shapes, (and various curvy lines/shapes,) are what my hands draw naturally, and become faces easily; in some instances where I could not see a person, I forced egg shapes over the background; in others the unintended shapes looked like bodies, but where I could not draw the outlines well enough to show the human shapes I saw, (or so I thought,) more wash went on. I think in this last respect I'm all too pedantic and applies also to when I'm drawing outlines in pen; I don't need to draw the outlines exactly on the boarder of the shapes/colors, but must leave room for the recipients.

Above, on the first morning, I looked at the cards individually and enhanced/dull the effects of the previous layers of wash. Among the hardest was not washing the brushes in my coffee. 
Third night, I applied water-soluble varnish from the art supply shop 5 min walk from my accom; my cheap/hard brush, with which I love to dry brush, took off/moved watercolor pigments, but after I got the dilution of the varnish right-ish, it not only worked well, but dried rather quickly. As you can see in the bottom left PC, ignoring the shapes/colors works fine, but I want to continue the line/shape/color juxtaposition awhile.
Some days "work" started before 5AM in my room, I was so keen! Outlining faces took place mostly in the Auckland Art Gallery activities room on Day 3, in between hiding everything whenever staff/visitors walk in, trying to ignore the world and enjoy mine. 
Because of the egg shapes, and because I saw more covered women in Auckland, I drew a few with headscarves: top left woman with the... what did I say... the illusive ultimate scarf?... went to a weaver; top center went to a Chinese Muslim friend in Malaysia. In top right, I said something smarty pants like, "sometimes in museums and galleries, my head becomes transparent," because part of the wash looked like a landscape, and because it was a lovely sentiment during the few days I "lived" in that gallery. Bottom left, I love it when I don't repeat what I did earlier, like another scarved woman, but a somewhat "Cubic" face/s pop up instead; bottom right is the slightly more representational face I had in mind at the start of the project, but by the time I got to her it was a real surprise. Bottom center, to D; a eye through a hole in a fence in the top half, a Rolling Stones-like tongue in the bottom. I  held on to this because it was too weird/rude and not to my but in the end I wrote something like, "I covet your executive veg," and sent it. Oh, goodness the text could be misinterpreted, too, I just now realized. I can only hope D and B think it's a big funny because they have lived in the art world directly/vicariously. Yikes. (They live uphill from us and get way more sun, so their produce are no comparison to ours, even in years I do a bit more outside in summer.) I repeat, I didn't check the recipients until I finished the visuals and moved on to the text!   
I got so much satisfaction out of the postcards I started another lot last night but had already forgotten my lesson as a pedant and superimposed egg-shapes on all of them, though I remembered the color interactions. Some will get a few more layers of wash, though leaving them in shallow try of liquid is another option. 
I've kept up with the faces-kind-of-every-day project; I don't draw every day, but try to keep up with the numbers, i.e. it's OK to draw seven on the weekend, and this is really working. Yesterday was Day 105 and I have 171 faces so far. I've had a long Modigliani phase but have gone back to Matisse; these two chaps drew/painted amazing neck/shoulder angles far more expressive than just the constituents of a face. Detecting same-y-ness in my drawings and mindset, and bearing in mind the aforementioned desire for looseness, I've done some blind contours which have yielded such joyful discombobulation which reflect what I think I pick up from Matisse's portraits and my attitude towards this project, and life. I must blind contours with my left hand tonight.

Colors in the wash overlap because 1) I'm still experimenting with mixing yellow greens, ochres and now watery purples with everything, and 2) I wash, then "monoprint" onto other paper including the postcards, or the other way around. I need to learn when to quit so they don't all turn the same light brown!

If you'd like a(nother) postcard, please let me know. They will be posted sometime before the end of the month. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

D-365

As of today I have 365 days, actually 364, until I hit 60. 60th is called "Kanreki (還暦)" or circling the calendar, in Japan, because the 12 animals and the ten elements (?????) of the Chinese astrology, (adopted and adapted by a bunch of countries in Asia,) return to where they were when one was born. Except I think Chinese astrology reboots on Chinese New Year's Day.

And then, I wrote once before that in the old days the age of a Japanese person started at 1 when they are/were born and the country aged by a year on January 1 in unison; oldies used to ask us kids how old we were "counting" in the 1960's and 70's, while when asked by strangers and/or on official forms we had to specify how many years we've "fulfilled", which is what you probably think of as "age" in many places. "J'ai 60 ans," starts to feel more familiar, n'est-ce pas? Except, if you think about it, this doesn't make sense, either, and the real Kanreki should be on the Chinese New Year's Day of the year you "count" 61, no? Well at least it used to be January 1 or thereabouts on the year you "count" 61, Internet says.

Chinese New Year is still printed on store-bought calendars and fancy executive diaries and if you import Japanese, (and probably many other Asian,) calendars on Microsoft Outlook into your own, it'll be there. In New Zealand they started to pop up because especially in the larger cities, Chinese folks put up a fun display of how they celebrate, fireworks, food, lion dance and all.

Anyway, even though meanings and calculations got messed up/lost over the centuries, in Japan, 60th is a big deal, and perhaps until the 1970's or so it meant one started the last stages of life, being surrounded by grandkids and retiring into a quiet life. But nowadays of course 60 is like the old 30/40/50 depending on how fit one is in body and mind. In my case, most probably older rather than younger but I'll let you know next year.
I was naughtily and blissfully unaware when my parents turned 60, (we always had wee family celebrations for everybody but I, the eldest, had no idea about the traditions surrounding the occasion, working at IBM for upwards of 65 hours a week in a new IT job,) but for Dad his alum got together and dressed him in a red vest and a cap. Red, according to the Internet, is the talisman/good luck color used for the new born and putting a red vest signifies rebirth. Strangely, the talisman red, an intense cinnabar red, was used for the same reason for women's undermost garment, shaped like a straight wrap skirt under the kimono, which was, according to Wiki, worn until the mid 1950's before being gradually replaced by "drawers" first, shaped and fit like boxers, then to undies/panties/knickers as we know them, to coincide with the spread of Western style clothes. To this day, the word "drawers" point to the older style and I remember my paternal grandmother preferring them to undies/panties/knickers. Further, Wiki says some women still prefer them so a small number are still being produced today! Well, wasn't that informative? (No, we're not bothering with the men's, but even there the talisman red comes up!) The internet also tells me of course the big celebration was for menfolk only in the old days, and save for some regions, nowadays women celebrate, too, or not, depending on her wishes.

Funny thing, though, is I remember n9th birthdays more vividly than n0th, probably because I get myself into a not-so meaningful but a weird, purely numerical countdown mode. Then again as regards 60, I've been counting down for a few years since my fav cousin's husband, (himself one year senior,) started "threatening" said cousin and me a while ago. Men!!

Anyway, what I wanted to say was, I'm am not even going to try to use up all my yarns, except the cashmeres and skinny cottons, in the next 364 days. No way can I do it, and unlike early last year I don't even want to rush and make things that don't appeal to me. So there you have it.

I'm off to the library, picking up (figuratively) where I left off the monster Alan Pearson book, then I'm having coffee with Esther. Ciao!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Trying to... What??

Take care of residual issues.

One biggie is the health non-issues. Our diet continues; our weight stopped decreasing after having lost 9/5kgs respectively, and neither of us are exercising much so this is predictable in my case but Ben's blood sugar level is slightly higher, though still within normal range. Not bad but we could do oh, so much better.

Speaking of normal-in-quotations, I finished seven-and-a-half months of head meds and till can't tell if my head is back in shape. As I keep saying, this has been the mildest episode, but if what I have is still a head problem, it's now gone on nearly a year. And some days I'm so tired I can't even finish washing dishes but have to lie down on the floor and sleep for half an hour. Or more. Mid-March I had two consecutive weeks where many days I could stay upright only seven to eight hours within a 24-hour period. Crazy, eh. So Doc Karl ordered me fasting blood tests to eliminate biological problems; also because this diet, which didn't feel so, could still have been a shock to my system.

We also discussed my news addiction, where news move from bad to unimaginable in a tweet, and the fate of my country of origin is in the hands of two loony kids in grownup jobs and grown up guns, Kim and 45. Abe hanging his tongue out and following 45 doesn't help. When the immigration issue first came out in the US, I considered the possibility we, too, might have to sell up and move back with short notices. There is no immediate danger, but anti-immigrant and especially anti-Asian sentiments which is never far from the surface is coming to the fore again as we prepare for a September election, and I learned in 2000 that though we may laugh at what's happening in the US, the same "fashion" arrives Downunder breathtakingly quickly; now even more so. My mindset has changed, though, and my focus now is more on cleaning up the house and getting rid of clutter in case family members need to evacuate their/our further-nuked country. Overreaction, perhaps, but I'd rather we all be prepared, because I've become so bad at quick action.

My hip problem almost went away and hurt only when I sat incorrectly for any length, and I knew when I was sitting incorrectly. Then I developed an awkward not-quite-pain on the back of my other leg after I've walked a lot, so now I have to review my insole situations. I have high arches and my heels get tired after walking a lot so I have a collection of yummy gel insoles. Maybe back to Tetsu the Japanese acupuncture magician down the road.

Anyway, too much head activity, not enough body activity. To offset this, I've been trying to go into town a little more but not waste $. After a fasting blood test, having had taken seven, seven, vials, for which I thought I should charge Doc Karl and funky Phlebotomist Jude said she could make black pudding with that much, I couldn't even walk to the cafe I intended to go for the first time but crossed the street and had breakfast at an old trusty place. I was feeling so faint usually I have just the eggs, but I had to have an almond croissant as well and it was excruciatingly delicious. (Prego, Nelson.)
Then there is the money worries. I filed my last ever tax return because it costs a lot to file, and even with my huge deficits and returns, both Ben and I come out at a big loss. Besides, I'm so near 60 I thought I could retire from the business part of weaving as long as it's legal. And it is; I'm not stopping weaving, (well, permanently,) nor selling, but I'd have to sell five to seven times as many to to have to file returns. There are a few things happening: nephew spending a year in Canada, cousin who lived next door is going to be a grandma, and mom wants me to visit this year, not next Feb; without a cogent plan, I've resumed collecting a few books again; I'd like to continue art therapy if poss; I want to travel at least around NZ some, or Australia, (bang for buck, Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane worth more for art;) and 60 makes me worry about our retirement more immediately. I feel an online sale coming up after Easter. Although I've been thinking of another since the end of the last one.

Goodness me, this was the preamble. Now we're getting to the guts of the matter.

There is what I label "weaving", which encompasses everything I do/think/research/study which I hope will help me weave more interesting, worthwhile pieces and/or to enjoy the process. Others may call this life. As I said I have been trying to go into town a bit more often, and sometimes I draw, while sitting on benches, cafes, libraries; I don't want people to look at my work, but I'm fine with strangers knowing I'm drawing. Sometimes I just walk around, sometimes I browse through shops, but thankfully I have enough stuff at home I don't cover art supplies and yarns/fabrics/buttons I see.

I miss Andrea at the Suter so very much, and she's got a busier job now so I can't bother her at her workplace, but I have new peeps to pester and ponder about "making" occasionally; Esther and Julie at the Suter, and Stella and Thomas at Volume, and Jean (ex-weaver, ex-tertiary visual art department staff,) and Jay (ex-Red Gallery) when our timing work out, in aromatic environments. And of course Pat when I can catch her. I probably need less human interaction than, say, Mom, but nevertheless time spend with these folks are precious and appreciated.

I feel uncharacteristically unexcited about photography, but get more pleasure out of the slower drawing and collage work. I'm surprised how much I enjoy making tiny simple dolls. I've had my needlepoint out again, and it's April and daylight savings ended today so theoretically it's going to be cooler and not as bright outside from now on. I haven't stopped making, (e.g. Letter Journals and other mixed media,) but I haven't woven since September 29, and though I want to get back to weaving, I don't want the delicate commission baby blankets to be the reentry pieces. So I've been thinking of putting a warp on the Klick or the Rigid Heddle, but haven't so far.

I try to read/gaze at book on paper, but when at home, even tough I can slip into another world immediately, the laptop/Wifi/telly are never far away and before I know it I'm chasing news again. So last week, I went to a library! And it was so quiet, I was immediately in that art-thinking place. It was invigorating and frustrating at once, as I discovered a new-to-me painter, Alan Pearson, whose big exhibition in Wellington just closed, grrrrr..... Expressionist portraits, exactly the genre I'm interested in now. English/Kiwi/Aussie. Although I foolishly chose the biggest of three books to begin with, with tiny gray, not black, text on shiny white paper, (he designed it, the current Mrs wrote it,) and I kept searching for the sweet spot on my multifocals, shifting my posture/position and that of the book, brick, tome, I lasted 55 pages of the almost 400, taking breaks, propping the book on a higher shelf, walking away to see if I can spot the first Mrs who is said to be in the couple's joint abstract portrait, etc. At the same time I kept coming up with themes/questions to consider and flipped my notebook to fresh pages to try and catch them all. Good times.

Looking at the notebook, I thought about three biggish themes: 1) New Zealand/New Zealander-ness of art/colors/makers, individual and collective; 2) living with/without one's internal critic; and 3) the long-standing one, how to make "pictures" within the grid without going into tapestry or jacquard, where is my sweet spot in this; and a few other brief musings. 1) has a long way to go before I can even tell you my interim thought, and 3) I don't know what to do at the moment, but I have a thread on 2), one I touched on yesterday: my inner critic, that pesky, horrible, bossy loud cat.

* Am I able to, if I so choose, completely lock it out of the house? (MEOW!!!)
* Without it, I can concentrate on my making, my taste, rather than what sells or what the gallery wants or what I think I should make.
* Does it makes my motivations/intentions purer. (But does this necessarily make a better "product", meow.) Will purer concentration/pleasure/satisfaction produce good pieces beyond the quality of my experience? (Cottage "industry"/work vs art therapy style; where is the sweet spot?)
* Without the critic, will my process be longer? More concentrated? More meaningful? For each project? And how does it correlated/reflect to my longevity as a weaver and the end product?
* I need peace and quiet to think more than ever as I get older and have less energy. Along with the critic, I've been shedding ambition/competitiveness as well which should leave just me.
* This should allow some time to consider techniques, (MEOW,) training, knowledge, all things classic/proper which self-taught makers lack. Which makes them/me a fraud.
* Are there ways to reconcile, (though not hide,) lack of technical prowess with unrealized vision?
* Won't I need objectivity to assess my creative/aesthetic ambition/gumption and the end product? (Scratch, scratch.) Without a critic, where will I end up? Or am I old enough to know and not need a critic? (Screech, crash, bang!!) Or do I no longer care? (Silence!) And can I live that way happily? (Meow.)

Eventually I reach the technique conundrum, (although not as much as before, because I don't have the energy to fight with myself, and with the last cashmere, I did reach the fish-or-cut-bait stage and took a break, but would like to keep fishing.) Is it because I'm Japanese; did 10 years in a convent school; just like tidiness? Or because it's an easy element to spot/criticize?

I spoke with Stella, to ask about a book recommendation for a stuck maker, and she said one of the things she does is to revisit her "workbooks". And goodness, I used to keep one of those, albeit an excel file of all things; but not for ages, except for special projects; backs of envelopes have sufficed. And I know that it's the technical disappointment, in weaving, drawing and making a beautiful "artist's sketchbook" that stopped me. So there seems to be a few areas in which I need to get over myself and decide what to do with the cat to continue as a happy weaver.

Meow.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Divided Self

So far, I summarized my Round I experience with Art Therapy, and the first two sessions of Round II. We finished Round II on Wednesday so here is the theme set by Jade, and the rest of what I did:

Week 1: Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language. We drew scribbles with our eyes closed and found shapes and patterns.

Week 2: Journey and heroes journey - we thought about stages of our journey and our challenges and allies.

Week 3: Myself as a tree - we used painting and explored our roots, leaves, growth and surroundings as a Tree; A1, (actually two A2 taped together,) acrylic paint.
Week 4: Connection with nature - our mandalas helped us appreciate beauty in ordinary objects, ephemeral art. (My first ephemeral anything, and the pebbles were collected by my Philosophy Professor and the Fab Mrs; they decided they couldn't carry them all so these were what didn't make the cut.)

Week 5: Fairy tales and story - we looked at the format of typical fairy tales, using metaphors to tell stories, and used writing and the accordion book to help explore a part of our story. A5, collage.

First we had a short meditation; then, "finish this sentence" exercise, and lastly we made a wee book. The starts of the sentences are in italics. Some members drew, some wrote texts but I did something news to me; I collaged texts, and then added images. So some pertinent words are no longer visible. The book is an accordion, so my life is told continuously, and every single piece symbolizes something. (Since the original text was a quick, stream-of-consciousness writing, I edited in a few places to make it make sense.)

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be great, to be the best at everything in the world. In this far off land she asked her Dad how she could become the best and they drew up a plan. She lived in a... humble house, but she had everything she needed, so it didn't feel humble. She was known across the land for being a smart ass? a slow child? a fat child? an obnoxious child? (I had a problem with this one.) She went on a journey to find... wisdom, a way to become the best, and the man who would rescue her, and help her become the best. Along the way she met a lot of truly wise people, and this taught her she wasn't wise at all, but she didn't know how to be wiser. She also met the man. She was surprised to find how much more enjoyable life was when she wasn't trying to be the best. And the man liked her any way. She found she could live happily without striving to be the best. The thing she was no longer scared of was being ordinary, not being wise, or wise enough. She returned with her pockets full of small wisdom, pretty things she made on the way, and the man who rescued her.


























Session 6: Bonus session; Dottie Doll, because Jade loves them, but also to celebrate the company of the last few weeks. We're swapping them in the group so my Winged, Tailed One is going to Australia.
A smiley, guardian angel??
But it can't be that straight-forward; she has a tail, too!

So what did I learn in two rounds?

1) Making things in art therapy is done in a totally different mindset from my normal kind of making; it is the process that is important, and the resultant "thing" has more meaning to me, be they wonky, incomplete/unfinished, or bad/ugly. The process was more spontaneous, though not always/completely. Being foretold of topics, e.g. the tree, felt a little strange as we weren't told much in Round I, but the tree came out looking more "finished" than others. (I didn't plan out the tree painting, but I considered all the elements that had to go in ahead of time.) I hesitate making things I hope to sell in this way, but the energy/surprise in the process vs. remain the safe inveterate planner vs. the responsibility of making things to sell interest me. There has to be a workable though nonrigid balance.

2) I learned to almost completely ignore my creativity/critic, but still loved to hear others' comments. With weaving I have a hard time with comments, especially when complimentary, because I want to know why they think it's nice/pretty/good. In art therapy, we heard the same short "lecture" before making, so the shared background helped in commenting/receiving comments.

About my creativity. You know how much I like cats? (I don't.) My creativity is like a cat; it ignores me completely for long stretches, won't even come home, and when least convenient, it reappears and won't stop rubbing against my leg, begs for food, or sit on whatever I'm working on; I often feel I'm better off without it. It's the first time I was able to conceptualize/verbalize it and our tenuous relationship.

3) In every "self portrait", I saw dualities; I've always struggled with these inconsistencies in my character, but as I age, I've started to be able to see both sides of the argument, become able to change if I'm shown to be in the wrong, or resigned to lacking the energy/gumption to do as I thought best, so managed as best I could.

And though this is not new, it's grown stronger; when I first learned to weave, restrictions grid posed were also the reliable known, the box within which I felt comfortable. Now that I do things with paper, albeit forever naively/outsider-y, the restrictions began to feel indeed restrictive. Which makes me feel unbelievably unfaithful, almost a heretic, and yet it's still cloth weaving, not tapestry, I'm interested in. It's tantamount to telling Ben to change after 27 years because I've changed!! So how do I reconcile the technical challenges and the emotional turmoil? (The weaving, Ben, not you!)

I've been keen to return to weaving for a while but felt I have a few unresolved issues, and they're all related, so this thinking thread will continue.

By the way, not art therapy, but have a look at Tess's somewhat-similar workshop experience here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Experience with Art Therapy

Today's lesson: it's nice to be (60 years-396 days) old and still have new experiences. When I got up this morning, my first thought was, "I've got to clean out the lint trap in the washing machine," (a first! and I did, but never mind,) and my second thought was, "I need to make a self-portrait!" Ha!

I was going to post about the second round of Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing Workshops after all five sessions finished but I can't wait.

Saturday, I was tired. Sunday I felt better and did a bit of housework. I missed the first session of this round traipsing around Abel Tasman, so Jade gave me a make-up session on Monday, but I was tired of being tired, again, and disgruntled because after loosing some weight, I thought I was supposed to be energized, more consistent, not this off/on thing. and productive. But I was ready and keen for the session.

The theme was "Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language"; I have a tenuous relationship with my creativity and was astounded to hear myself likened it to a cat! As you know, to say I don't like cats is to put it mildly; it's a snobbish, unrequited love, always on her terms; I know she's been around when I see the food disappear or evidence left in the litter box. Or it comes home whenever she likes to brush against my leg and meow annoyingly. So unlike a dog's happy, straight-forward love. Slightly disturbed but unphased, I did a blind drawing, not looking even when changing colors, "feeling the motions, textures, (and something else,)" and not drawing with intent.
A2 with water-soluble crayons. I like the movement of my arms when I draw curves and circles, it feels natural; but because I'd been thinking about weaving since Saturday, I intentionally added a plain weave look, (actually basket weave, but it's A2 and I wanted it visible.) Ooops. Afterwards I was to look for, (and my memory gets vague,) shapes, symbols, or anything that mean something to me, and I found none. But I felt rattled; it's too frantic, and somehow that threatened my equilibrium, as if I would loose my hard-earned calm over one drawing after all these years. After the session I was agitated and did some backgrounds in my sketchbook which turned out alarmingly vivid.
This is the self-portrait I did today. A2, water-soluble crayons, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and medium that gives body to the paint. This is me this week, feeling a bit bipolar with a small b. Yellow green appears to be my happy color these days; the hair contains gesso so the color and texture are flat. The darkest blue contains gloss varnish so one eye looks wet, and the right half of the lip contains the medium so the red paint is thick. I can't remember if I used brushes, but I used fingers, palms, wet paper towels and plastic spoons to manipulate the crayon and spread the paint.

My notes say: "Art Therapy was supposed to calm me, wasn't it? This is the opposite. I'm surprised with what came out of me; have I been suppressing all this, what? At least I'm doing something; better than just feeling exhausted."

The two parts are not totally separate, so I have a bit of chaos in the calm half, and vice versa. But I managed to include some calm in the chaotic half on the edges, because at least I know when I feel frantic.

After our second group session today, I asked Jade what to make of all "this"; I told her I didn't know what I wanted to ask/know, or how I wanted her to help me. She said, (if memory serves, and I paraphrase,) in art therapy, we look for meanings/symbols, in shapes, colors, our behavior/reaction (?), which matter to the maker. We also talked about planning and intention in art vs. this almost self-generating art, especially in comparison to weaving. And that I can still stun myself. Although I would still like the chill/calm as my default mood, you know.
Today's theme was "Honoring Our Journey - Heroe's/Heroine's Journey" and we painted however we saw our journey/s.  A2, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and body-giving medium.

  • My happy colors are yellow-green with gesso; the paint is flat because when I'm happiest, most content, I feel calm and sometimes don't even talk. All my efforts are to get me to this Shangri-La. It has some bright yellow highlights, depicting heightened-happy. I'm not sure what the darker green means but I was aware there are subdued or even hard-won-happys. 
  • Red is the more passionate path to happy and it's glossy. 
  • The dark colors coming up from the bottom are hardships, but because my hardships are not really "real" hardships by any measure, it's not black but Payne's Gray. Bottom right corner is pretty solid, but the paint is thinner; some other parts are more built up but there are plenty of white gaps because I recognize the lightness (?) of my hardships. 
  • The patchy, built-up sandy parts are me working towards calmness. The same color, but flat, containing gesso, at top left is the calm I've learned/earned in the past 15 years. 
  • White is the calm I hope I've always had. It's mixed with navy blue below, which is my regular effort; not too hard, not too easy. White and navy overlap and are mixed in places because there has always been an optimistic me who believed things will turn out right in the end. There is a small area of Payne's Gray next to the navy blue, but a little bit of "hardship" doesn't stop me. 
I see my destination addiction in this. I'm always going forward, seldom looking back, so "now" is in front of the picture, where I am, and Shangri-La is where I want to reach/arrive. No matter where I am in life, this seems to be my constant view of life. Just like the top piece from nine years ago!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hanging with Mrs & Dr Cady

So they finally came; their trip has been in the making since 2007 (?), but like many of us, they spent a decade caring for parents but finally my Philosophy Professor from college and the fab Mrs visited Nelson this week. I thought I last saw him in late '81 but he reminded me I visited him in '85 when I was last in Minnesota; I met the fab Mrs only once in Sept/Oct '77 at their house with a bunch of other Intro to Phil kids, but the fabulousness of the Mrs was, instantly we felt we knew her at least as well as the Professor. We had dinner on Monday in Mapua; a wee tour of town on Tuesday; much walking on Abel Tasman in the scorching sun and searing heat on Wednesday, (yes, it was outdoors;) and another tour of the region culminating in a wee picnic, us eating while standing in the cool wind, on Rabbit Island on Friday. Not many students have a chance to give a fraction of the gift back to their teachers, and we enjoyed their company way more, but here we are.
Abel Tasman National Park; I had a hard time keeping up with their pace.
A named beach on the walking track, (don't remember which,) sitting on a driftwood, having a snack. Oh, dear, where is the evidence of my recent weight loss? "The road IS long... With many a winding turn..."
I wore clothes, under the blue shirt, which my niece, then six, told me I shouldn't be caught dead seen in public, so I'm hiding. But of course Ben caught me; it was too hot to wear anything else. Yikes. Don't tell Mom I posted this.
We call this my hobo/basement weaver look.
On Friday I was mindful of the incident of the bad T-shirt so I wore a respectable Japanese one, but it being on the short side I couldn't raise my hands. Which I sometimes forgot. But they were taken by the loveliness of Rabbit Island so I'm going to go with, "They didn't notice." The fab Mrs asked if I were still trying to impress the Professor, and though that wasn't the case, I felt strangely stunted, immature, and as clueless and intellectually inadequate to handle growing up as when I was not quite 24. And as always.
I must get some pics with Ben in them off of their camera.

I don't know what I expected; I wanted them to have a lovely time, (there's in the country for a wee while,) and I wanted to be a good host. I'm so used to Japanese visitors who like complete itinerary setup and be accompanied everywhere and I still haven't learned when/how to pull back.

We had a few slaps on our faces as to how little we know Nelson now; after living here a decade and the petrol prices shot up in '06 I became reluctant to have the ritual weekend drive so we discontinued inspecting the region. Not only are there new roads or/or new names, new tourist attractions, (many being multiples of the same kind,) but also the old familiars have changed ownership, and sadly a few disappeared or changed the nature of their operation. The saddest is when they grow to big and loose the small town touches. We took more than a few detours wasting precious fossil fuel, but it's also rekindled our interest and Ben's set on reinvestigating Nelson and maybe reinvigorating Nelson Daily Photo. At least we can tell you about a few eateries we "discovered", including where you can get cherry- or kiwi-flavored ice cream/frozen yogurt; usually they only have various berries and bananas. That we know of.

I didn't speculate on how my relationship with the Professor might change; will we be nostalgic about my student days; would I reboot my life from the time I was not quite 24; or will we just carry on? We had communicated often enough after I graduated I knew a little about their kids, the all-important grandkids and the cabin. We may have learned more about them, their private lives, (how well do we know our professors' lives outside classroom unless you knew them beforehand or hung around afterwards, right?) but also in a strange way, even though we spoke little about my weaving, (the fab Mrs and I flew from one subject to another to another too quickly to stay on one,) I had a kind of a reboot and now I very eager to get back to weaving, and continue, (and of course improve) my mixed media. The Professor has this radiant smile that makes anyone think they can try again, harder and better.

I'm still struggling with how much to stay informed vs weaning myself off of politics, (we have a general election in late September, too,) and I talked about it a lot. Politics make me pessimistic and negative. I was also made keenly aware, again, of how small my life has become, how hard I've worked to make it so to concentrate on my making, but annoyingly self-absorbed I am! I don't apologize for living deep inside my head; it also helps to keep quiet the voices, but at the same time I wonder if I should aim for a different balance about now, so I can be a happier 60-year-old in 401 days. Seeing/talking to/mingling with Ruby&Ken, Lloyd, Stella&Thomas, Jay, Andrea, Pat, Esther&Jake, JB&Ali and their friends, and D&B in 44 short days make me wonder.

Ben's smaller body coped well; in five days he had three slices of pizza, some bread and a cookie once, beer and crackers twice, and ice cream three times, but his numbers stayed steady and weight the same! The blood sugar started a gradual incline only this weekend, because he hasn't been on his machine much since the start of his cold the week before. No we know his body can handle a bit of carbo as long as we control the intake and he continues the same exercise regime.

Life is good. There is a chance we'll reconnect with the Professor and the fab Mrs once more before they sail back to the North Island; Ben asked yesterday when he should plan to take another day off work. :-D

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Daily Drama and Art Therapy

Oh, the Drama 
(Scroll down for the less dramatic Art Therapy part.)
Just when I thought we were getting the hang of our new diet and I started thinking of either weaving or weeding, Ben came down with a bad cold, which would have had him down and out for seven full days had he not been working from home every day, in spite of our Medieval, (or what I ccall' "Mid-Evil",) Internet connection, while I contemplated what else he could slather on the sides of his raw nose. Usually I put it down to him working in a school with some colleagues with school-age children, (a.k.a. incubators of germs with less protection than hospitals,) I also contemplated bodies reacting to change in diet and his rather sudden increase of supplement-intake, some by Doc Karl's prescription, the rest by his recommendation. Ahyhoo, Ben need a letter from Karl stating he's been legitimately sick, and got two additional supplements for a wee while. However, as of this afternoon he's lost 8kg, so he doesn't have to go on 5:2 or any other special diet but just keep eating the kind of things we've been eating, in probably the current portion. Lucky duck!

We had a wonderful dinner at neighbor B&D's last night, with JB & Ali as well. We've liked B&D ever since they moved in next door... what... eight years ago? ten years ago? and felt tempted to have them over, but you know, there is that mess at ours, and my role as the "recluse", so we hadn't; I took up every chance to chat with them over the fence, though, and a few plants/fruits have crossed our fences over the years. We are semi-seriously discussing dog-sharing.

My philosophy prof Dr C, (who insists my calling him by any other name but Dr,) and Mrs C will land on South Island tomorrow, for which I should be cleaning the house instead of blogging, just in case, but here we are. The last he saw me I was not quite 24; apparently I was that young once.

Art Therapy
And now for the part that was supposed to be more dramatic but turned out, at least for me, ever-so calming. I don't know what I expected, (OK, a flash/bang revelation and an instant/painless transformation,) but I had been curious about Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing workshops after seeing photos from her Sydney versions. She held her first on-line version so I jumped on the opportunity, joining two lovely Aussies.

Most sessions we discussed our preceding week; additional thought we might have had about what we made; basic themes/elements for the week; then made "art" based on those themes/elements; reflected/observed/opined on them; and finished with maybe a little meditation/relaxing exercise.

When I was looking at the Sydney workshop photos, I kept thinking, "Oh, I would design them better and make them prettier," but I learned the different modes of "making" quickly. At least in my case, after learning/thinking about the themes, the making part was an act of expressing/symbolizing those ideas/concepts/feelings, not working towards a preconceived visual piece. I think this is super easy for weavers to distinguish. And from my experience in the figure drawing, I was able to dive right into the making, with no other thought than just getting started. If I were a little less cynical, I'd say it was almost hypnotic.

I could talk about my end piece at length, and some of it was what I thought as I painted/glued/smeared a color or stitched on a bead, but I couldn't tell whether/where/if Weaver Meg entered in "Megsplaining" as I do with weaving.

One thing that surprised me was, because I'm usually slow and am seldom finished in the allotted time, I expected to want to pretty up the pieces after each session. But all of these end pieces were of a specific time, in the company of these specific women, and of a specific mindset, and after class, except to draw/glue/stitch on whatever pieces I already had in hand/mind, I didn't feel compelled to improve them cosmetically. They were complete. I'm sure the experience would have been just as special, Jade is skilled as an art therapist/coach and has a wonderfully soothing voice, but I also owe a lot to the other participants in creating a low-keyed, inspirational environment.

I often associate reds/pinks with good/hot/too emotional, orange/yellow/gold with wonderful/brilliant highlights, blue with cool/calm/well-thought-out, and black with not good/tunnel/end, but I was surprised how often green crept in, and this I give credit to my green threads and paints for enabling me to use them as mixing colors. (I don't usually like greens and browns, but find lime green and olive green especially versatile.) Without even further ado, some pics.
Week 1. Me, Here, Now, a mandala. Water soluble crayons, A2.
Week 2. Public Face/Private Face, a mask. Home made newspaper papier mâché, acrylic paint, about 25cm in diameter. It was suggested we buy papier mâché masks, but I wanted something rounder with a flatter nose so I attempted to make one. (Actually two.) The glue didn't dry completely so I couldn't put on a small nose and after class it started disintegrating, but I'm happy with these symbolic (?) incidents. This is my private face, on which I spent much longer, paying attention to details.
My public face, which, working at home and not socializing much, didn't require much detail nor thought; I really don't think about it any more.
Week 3. Self Care and the Nervous System - Four dimensions of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Water soluble crayons, A2.
Week 4. Cycles and Three Stages of Women - Maiden, Mother, Crone. Collage, A2. I've been thinking about "Goddesses" for some time and been looking at a lot of Goddess- and White-Witch-related artworks, reflecting on these feminine labels for some months. Not straight-forward for a kid who dismissed friends in play group at age 3, telling them Santas were just parents. There was never any unexplainables in my life until we visited Culloden Battlefield on our honeymoon, (couldn't see much in the fog,) when I suddenly became more open to ghosts first; then I even began to covet some mystery since I saw Gormenghast, read Harry Potter and Discworld, and delved further into Nick Bantock's art. The Brits do them well, don't they? There are Japanese myths/folklore, too, but I find them darker/scarier so I am more drawn to the more delightful of the European non-humans coexisting with us muggles. But I digress. I liked that Jade's Crones are not dried-up, discarded, invisible middle-aged women, but wiser, almost secretive and still full of juice. I'm going to read a little bit about them.
Week 5. Celebration and Gratitude. Fabric, threads, wool yarn, beads, about 26cm tall. I've wanted to make dolls most of my life and collected books on doll-making but The Perfectionist always interfered. so this is the first one I've ever made. I named her Mo, after my somewhat-White-Witch friend Maureen. Mo's superpower is flying; she can fly at low altitude, at a reasonable speed, for a short period, which is all she needs. I want to make more, perhaps periodically.

Round II of Jade's workshop starts this week.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hectic but Calm

Last Tuesday Ben had the long awaited blood test. Tuesday evening, I had the honor/horror of outlining the contents of my previous post to a... a... a mathematician. JB, Ali, their friends and friends' friend, (a weaver!), Ben and I went out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. This eatery has been there forever but for some reason we'd never tried it and, boy, were we glad we did. Slightly costlier than our usual haunts, but they do cheaper lunches, and plenty choices without carbohydrate, or we can just decline rice. Oh, the fresh veg and flavorful herbs!

Friday at the end of the day Ben had his fateful appointment with Doc Karl. I had hoped we'd get another month's reprieve/parole for the diabetes medication but wasn't so confident about cholesterol meds. It turned out, Ben's hemoglobin A1c/HbA1c/glycohemoglobin value, (average blood glucose for the three months up to testing,) was 48. In December this number was 65; one is put on medication in New Zealand above 55, deemed diabetic above 46, prediabetic above 40. And of course Karl wants it below 40 when Ben is tested again in May. But considering the ease we've had in the change of diet, increase in Ben's exercising/walking, his weight loss, (OK, could be more, but still 6kg with no pain, first 4kg within days,) our shrinking portion sizes without even trying, we think it's doablet. (Even I lost some weight, although my weight always fluctuates, so the loss is between 2 and 4.5kg, but I am approaching the lightest I've been in 22 years. That includes the couple of years when I went to the gym three and four times a week and was measured all over every month.)

I've been reading more about the Fast/"intermittent" fasting/5:2 diet; on two days a week of our choosing we eat quarter of the calories of other five days, not fast completely, and on those five days we will eat what we've come to call Doc Karl's version of the Blood Sugar diet foods, (no carb and much fewer fruits than in the book,) which I think is based more on the ketogenic diet, but if it gets too complicated I'll loose my cool so I'm sticking mostly to Dr Mosley's rules with Karl's proviso. Ben prefer this to eight interminable weeks of 800 calories per day, and I agree.

Ben's cholesterol also went down, so no brain-boiling meds, but Karl would still like to see the good HDL go up, so we're helping matters along with a bit of Omega 3 supplement for a while. But that's all we need to do for the next three months. Ben just might eliminate all symptoms of diabetes. I can't tell the difference between being cured of diabetes, a term I hesitate to use, vs. not having any symptoms, and he'll have to be mindful for the rest of his life because of his family medical background, but hey, if we can eat relatively normally and stay healthy with no threats of blindness, bypass surgeries or amputations, we're all in.

Even Doc Karl seemed a little different; be it because the numbers are good, because Ben's a bloke, or because I finally got on board Intermittent Fasting he recommended me 30 months ago when we first met, I thought he was chummier. I did look into it,I swear, after getting over the word, "fasting", but I could have had to eat only a subset of what we used to eat because there was no way Ben would give up carbohydrate, (rice, Japanese noodles, and hash browns!) if he weren't on parole, and frankly thinking of possibly cooking different things for myself was onerous.

In case you hadn't noticed, I've calmed down because Ben has stopped resisting/negotiating; his numbers were way better than we both expected; no meds; we've both gotten used to the foods we can eat and started experimenting anew; we taste more flavors in foods we thought we knew well; and for myself, because we eat/cook in smaller amounts I'm more careful and I have a higher hit, errr, success rate in making yummy dishes, and after Friday I can concentrate on my weight loss, which is monumental compared to Ben's. He's already made the upper threshold of where he wants to be; me, I'll get back to you around Christmas for an interim report. I've even had some head space to do some mixed media last week. Truth to tell, when Ben went back to work in January, I had hoped to get back on the loom, but the new diet was harder to get my head around, (and of course once we got our heads around, it's another, "What was all that fuss about?",) but I can finally see myself weaving again soon.
I swear, these guys have become OK. I had my first since my student days last weekend, but they're not as soul-crushing as I remembered. Previously we only bought half bunches of celery and had a hard time using them all up before they turned soft and brown, but this full bunch is going to disappear in two days.
Esther and Jake came bearing gift on yesterday; plums from their tree! It's called elephant heart plums, and they chose relatively unripe ones for us so they don't all go bad at once.
Today I took the ripest one-third and did my variation of the slow-roasted pasta sauce today. So intense and flavorful, I'll probably do some more so we can enjoy the fruits for a long time this coming fall/winter.
The previously "normal" amount of food we bought, even veg, is too much so we're buying a lot less but more varieties at once. Except tomatoes; we both grab fresh whole tomatoes when we're hungry for fruits. We feel OK to spend some money on fancy vinegars, infused oils, and organics. I have a problem with coconut products because of deforestation, but Ben caught on to the many benefits for diabetics so we got this. In this particular case, however, I wanted him to get the white-lidded non-organic version, but, well, it was his choice. Doesn't the pink lid alarm you, though? To me it looks like super-instant drain-cleaner or rodent-poison container. Oh, dear.

Also on Friday I ran into Jay from the old Red Gallery at Volume and we had coffee and parted promising to do it again very soon. I regained one of my important mentors. I also had lunch with Suter/Plum Esther and Tapestry Weaver Pat to introduce them to each other. I was late because I went back to Volume after coffee to buy one book, and by then the two looked like they'd known each other a long time. I'm quite sure Jean is long back from Christmas in Australia, so I must get together with her, too. Today I got a call from Andrea who is working in two art places in town; when I left my job at the Polytechnic, it took me six months to get back out again so I was going to give her until April, but she has been out and about and I'm sure we'll see each other soon. This weekend, JB, Ali, and we are invited to our neighbors'; he's a writer and she's a painter.

We are having the coolest and comparatively moist "hottest summer ever" and, though summer doesn't end until March, I'm am feeling more upbeat. Life is looking up, we have nice friends, and how can I not mention, food is delicious.

EDIT: If you or your loved ones have Type II Diabetes, especially if the patient is under 50 or was diagnosed within the last eight years, it may be worth looking into and discussing with your doctor either/both of these diets. (Blood Sugar does target diabetics and prediabetics; 5:2, the older diet, I think initially targeted weight loss, although I know less about the latter.) I don't know Atkins; these diets are low/no carb, but not high fat, just some fats allowed.  (I have read about cases where these diets worked on Type I, but that's a whole new ball game I'm unwilling to touch with a ten-foot barge pole, :-D)

Diabetes New Zealand still advocates eating a variety of wholegrains as was the case 14 years and a week ago when Ben was diagnosed. At first we followed every one of their points obediently, ate pasta and good grains, and Ben ate "small amounts, often," so he was never too hungry. And what Doc Karl, Ben, and I agreed was we wasted 14 years on misinformation. And I am so glad Ben changed doctors.

Now, this is the tricky bit and I'm retelling what we learned from Doc Karl; "fasting" in this context allows one's stored fat to burn, therefore reducing/eliminating the fats inside your organs (and elsewhere); for diabetes, pancreas and liver being most crucial in allowing pancreas to control insulin properly. Then it's the cholesterol inside veins that lead to heart diseases, blindness, and even limp amputation. This goes against what we heard about breakfast being the most important and/or don't skip lunch because you'll be hungrier, or Ben having to graze, but all we can say is with these diets we didn't get hungry after the firsts couple of days. We eat breakfast and supper, and Ben munches on nuts and a fruit or a tomato around lunch time and/or late afternoon, while I might eat a little leftovers, celery, or skip altogether. We decided to put our trust in Karal and Mosley for now. It's this fasting bit that we urge you to discuss with your doctor as depending on where the patient is with diabetes, medication or insulin, and/or other conditions, this could be a very bad idea in your case.

Carbohydrate is sugar. Grain is sugar-plus. Fruits, with their wonderful fibers, vitamins, cute faces and sensational colors, flavors, and smells, do contain a lot of sugar. Sugar, unless used by the body, turns into fats and accumulate. This is why exercise, or just walking, is important, Meg. (Also fats increase the chance of age-related head problems; I don't know if they can be grouped as dementia any more but you know what I mean; that's the one that scares me the most.) My reading taught me this several years ago and I had the nerve to tell off more than one health professional. When I baked bread, I mixed half a dozen types of grains, but the bulky stuff was mostly seeds and nuts. And finally, my bread-baking days are over. About ten days ago I ceremoniously poured my sourdough down the drain. If I see a totally grain-free and edible bread, I'll just beg some off of Andrea; otherwise, keeping sourdough as a pet was too tempting.

I would usually not recommend any diet; I hate diets; I don't believe in most; and have laughed them off most of my adult life. I thought they were for patient, determined, admirable people, not me. I have had weight/obesity problem since childhood, but the last 10-15 years I just couldn't be bothered and had resigned to die fat. What I can tell you is, in our limited experience of the last three months, we were not hungry and our portions decreased without trying, but Ben's numbers improved and lost some weight.

To clarify, we have had hankerings: I've wanted to have sponge cake and/or chocolate fish, but I never touched the choc I look at every day in the pantry. Ben wanted rice badly, and we cooked rice once, three kind of brown/black/red variety, about half the regular amount, washed the sticky bits afterwards, and ate half of that over three days and stuck the other half in the freezer. It's still there. We cooked the last of our new potato babies and mashed, and again, we ate that over three to four occasions. We make kumura (sweet potato) mash, using one potato each time, and eat it over three to four meals. We even ate sticky Japanese rice cake for breakfast on Friday, but cut it up so we had two small pieces with seaweed rather than feel sad about having only one.

There is another option. Doc Karl is also keen on the new (??) ketogenic diet coming out of the US. There is still not enough info except online here, and supplements, etc., have not arrived but he thinks the science looks good; I don't know how this is related to Mosley's 5:2, either, but they are related. The name to google in this case is Dr/Prof (??) Longo. I'd be interested to know what you find out ifi you do, but for now, we're sticking to Mosley as we've already started and we don't need anything special, just regular food.

Sorry this got a bit long, but I do want to communicate good news, especially if it's easy. :-D

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bean Counting

How many g of cooked Borlotti has the same calories as 5oz dry green lentils?

When Doc Karl suggested looking into Blood Sugar Diet and 5:2 Intermittent Fasting, we jumped on Blood Sugar Diet not just because we already had the book, but what food-lover wants to contemplate fasting, right? We thought the companion recipe book would help me plan, so we ordered: a book written by UK authors, based on a UK study from a UK outlet, and I so looked forward to it. Except, when it arrived, it was the US Edition. I didn't check where it was published. 

I'm fine with "sometimes" cookbooks in imperial and I have tons of American cookbooks. But this I intended to consult every day, with many substitution; I was so irritated I even sent a (guilty) email of complaint, and they said if I paid the postage to return, they'll refund. I was tempted, but the postage might have cost more than the book, and more importantly, I was eager to jump into the recipes, not to mention it was my error. So after a few days of tireless, impassioned moaning, I got over myself and started reading. Last week I was going to cook one meal a day from the book to get us closer to the 800 calories/day program. 

I studied the dinners and picked a chicken recipes, (Ben's fav), one for which we had all the ingredients, except mushrooms. (Fine, eggplants with a bit of dried Shiitake will do.) Tuesday afternoon, I started to gather the ingredients and couldn't find lentils. W always have plenty of dry beans and it just so happens I cooked Borlotti on Monday. Because we eat small amounts of beans with almost every meal now, I don't flavor it when I cook and add spices/herbs/condiment if necessary.  

I'm not bad at math, and I like ratios, but boy, this one got me flustered, and I tried at three different times, walking away and doing something else in between, but I couldn't fire it out. That websites don't agree on the calories, (as much as double!) didn't bother me as much as my inability to find the numbers.  

So I ordered the UK edition. And cooked lasagna with eggplants in place of pasta. And it was excruciatingly tasty. 

This is where I wanted to end the post. On discovering the same man also wrote books about 5:2 fasting, (and the possibility of combining the two diets,) I order the intro book and the recipe book from the same source. Except I didn't; I ticked not the recipe book but the Diet book and the Diet&Exercise book, and guess what, American editions, again. We started looking into "fasting" because we are allowed 500 (for women)/600 (for men) calories on the two days/week we "fast"; rest of the time we're allowed whatever our size/lifestyle allows. I'm fine for now reading the theories and how-to's but I might have to get the recipe book/s in metric.
I doodled over my notes on Friday. Even the camera picked up icky colors.

Happy celery sticks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I'm SO Sick of Thinking about Food. And News.

Not to be confused with being sick of food, but still, it's something I never thought I'd say publicly, but I so am.

The thought of this diet, doing it properly, agitates me. All I needed to do in the last seven days was to pick four to six recipes, make a shopping list, and for us try the 800-or-thereabouts-calories/day for the weekend, but I've felt this underlying fury/indignation/rage towards studying the recipes. It's been like the weeks (and months) before I do my tax returns; I know once I get down to it I'll need a day, two max, and will wonder what all the fuss was about, but for now I'm in the throes of fussing.

I feel like we're cooking all the time, (we do cook more preparing small side dishes to add texture and color to our meals,) washing dishes, (cooking utensils and lots of small containers for above,) and are spending far too much time in the kitchen, (we've often cooked together, but now also checking FB, etc., together. Ben likes it there.)

There's no doubt we're eating better; we are following the "what" part of the diet strictly: protein and lots of veg in every meal, virtually no carbs, and a lot fewer fruits. It's also lead rather naturally to decrease in portions, but still nowhere near 800 calories/day. The recipes state per serving calorie, so I only need to add two or three numbers per day. So short of someone cooking for us from the books, it cannot be made easier.

Ben does try to negotiate the details, because the books do allow for them; their default scheme is 800 calories/day for 8 weeks, but if we want to go slower, say, 1000 calories, stay on course for perhaps 10-12 weeks. Some of their own recipes even include small amounts of carbo! Their after/non-diet recommended calorie is roughly 1600 depending on one's size, lifestyle, etc. But here lies our conundrum. We went to a Japanese website, we did, and calculated the recommended daily calorie intake based on our respective heights; Ben needs a little over 1300 and I, 1100. So compromises don't do us much good, merely, it's just less naughtier than before. I periodically declare to Ben in exasperation he is on parole now, but I do project a whole lot of my own laziness on him.

Anyway, I can't wait to get on track and look back and tell how how silly I have been "back then".
Supper a week ago Friday, one of my "I so don't want to cook" nights. Having healthy side dishes help.

* * * * *

There is no doubt a lot of my anger is in proportion to the news I consume. Early last week I watched vids of the inauguration/CIA speeches, the first press conference, and few online commentary, just trying to stay informed. Then I worked on mixed media and had Al Jazeera, the only 24-hour news channel on my telly, but I like their depth, completely absent from NZ news, in the background. By midweek, I was engrossed, unable to think of much else. Towards the end of the week, I tried to recall how I weaned myself off of news in 2001/02, when there were far less/fewer resources available to me; I can't remember except it happened suddenly one day, after my morbid fascination with W's parlance and penchant for cos-play turned into dread and the world crumbling seemed not as dire as getting away from him. And back then, we honestly believed it wouldn't happen here, unaware NZ's right was already shopping around for campaign/policy consultants in DC.

So American politics matter to me. I hear some folks in the US don't understand why did folks around the world march last weekend. As St Meryl said, bad/daring attitudes/statements from "leaders" normalize/spread. Head Dickheads of places like NZ and Japan deliver gift-wrapped unpopular changes in hopes of some tiny future favors, even a photo op, or at least lack of recrimination. Ideas and policies are just as easily exported as music and fashion, if they benefit those with the power to act on them.

With this many rapid changes, I don't think I can turn away just yet; my desire to stay awake is stronger than my own piece of mind for now. Though easing up is an option.

But life is not all bad; this post is getting too long so I'll post in another what else I've been doing.
Portrait-every-day turned a bit introspective (??) and  German Expressionist this week. LOL.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016/17 Part IV

So, what of 2016/17? Well, 2016 was so blah I don't remember long stretches after Mom's exhibition.  (That was pretty special.) I did weave some in the first half, I did a lot of paper stuff in the second, I didn't garden much.

For 2017, the top priority is Ben's diabetes, our diet and health; if my weight comes down as well, great. (I've been thinking what I call "premature" aging, especially the multitudinous forgetting, is connected to my weight.) If not, I'll have to have a separate plan. (Exercising more helps. Just saying.)

I want to get back into the garden and try to make it nice for once. We're now progressing towards the end of summer, (March/April?) and I'm so looking forward to the cool season even though the task is monumental, again, and come spring it'll get too hot and sunny and hay-fevery and I'll have to give up for a weedy summer, again, but cool season gardening is now on mental calendar. Besides, the hellebore seeds I bought from the Northern hemisphere took a year and a half to germinate but have been ready to go into into the ground. So I'd love a early, cool, and long autumn/winter, and a late, rainy spring, please. If I can clean the house thoroughly and declutter, in small doses, it'll be so good for my mental health but I need Ben's help and... it's a long shot coordinating when we get motivated. (Ruby is threatening to come see me again; she, who was trained as a landscape architect. Her first question when we met was how my garden is doing, which told me, crikey, she reads my blog!!)

I can't go to Japan this Feb because friends are visiting Nelson, among them my philosophy professor from college, whom I last saw, we established, in Dec '81/Jan '82. I love Feb in Japan because it's so cold and sometime it snows and outdoor places aren't crowded. For Japan. This year, if I can manage, I might go in November because it's cool enough, some years, and big art exhibitions happen around then. It'd be nice if Ben and I could travel somewhere together, even just to Wellington, but the November earthquake has put paid to that for now. Either trip will invigorate my making mojo.

Yes, the making. I'm not stopping the mixed media and Letter Journals. These are fun, reasonably challenging but not soul-crushingly, which is why I find them accessible. And collaboration is good. Here are some recent pics:
A rather bright background on my Letter Journal for potentially three others to add on. I tend to cover the entire spread to make a color field for backgrounds, (usually with fewer hues and less saturated pieces,) but leaving gaps or just pasting a few shapes would work, too.
A finished spread; Tess worked on it up to twice, me, up to three times. I discovered one key to working in layers is not to cover completely the previous; I sometimes collage big or too much to obscure them; worse yet, apply colors over the entire spread tidily, leaving no gaps. It's good to unite the hue/value variation, but especially with a dark wash, it obscures/obliterates interest. I'm kicking myself for having ruined one of the nicest spreads that way, after two layers of successful wash.

I am the worst person to commit to something-everyday projects; I consider it a major achievement if I last a week, and some years I don't even remember I forgot. This year, I thought it would be nice if I drew a lot of face/portrait, and I've been trying to do one a night. If I forget, do two the next day, or do seven on the weekend, just because I like looking at them later. Although I forgot on Jan 2, yeah, I have done 21 so far.

By copying, I don't mean "copying" like aspiring artists do carefully, but just having an image in front of me. My efforts include crude line drawings, some colored, some in with outrageous colors, but most often with my non-dominant hand or blind contours. Many don't take five minutes.
I first copied portraits by van Gogh, of course, but also Gauguin's earlier French, Matisse, Modigliani, and Chagall's circus acrobats. Then I really got into German Expressionist woodcuts for a while, (I know I'll go back to them,) but because I want to eventually draw in my own "style", I've done a few of Congressman John Lewis and I intend to do several more until I can get the shape of his head/face right and, oh, his eyes. It doesn't bother me that I don't do it well, but it'd be nice to see some kind of an improvement, or better yet, an ease with which I take on drawing.
I am learning to see better in fits and starts. My greatest discovery is what a superb draftsman Matisse was/is. I sensed it when I tried to copy a couple of his simplest drawings in Brisbane, but I didn't have the vocabulary to express it. He express so much with the slightest twist of a line, and he's been the hardest to copy to get to the essence of the portraits. All very steep learning cliffs.

And weaving. I hope to get back to it, but I'm not pushing it. Meeting Ruby has been a big incentive, but all in good time. As I always say, I would like to surprise myself, to make something that doesn't look like things I've woven before. Bright and multi-colors are still popular at the Suter; I still like monochrome and analogous. Still, it's a undeservedly cushy life. And with that said, my 2017 can start properly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016/17 Part III - Diabetes in the 14th Year - Long

Ben was diagnosed with diabetes on February 5, 2003. Diabetes is a progressive illness, and I always understood it to mean, "It will get worse." Around the time he's turned 50 it started to mean: what he did and how he ate back in 2003 are, 14 years later, not good enough to keep the numbers down. Plus we have been plenty complacent; my bad I trusted what he said, too; I was tired of nagging after the 10th anniversary.

Long story shorter, his numbers were so that his doc, (my old,) wanted to put Ben on diabetes and cholesterol meds. Ben's the kind of guy who prefers to suffer rather than take pain meds for a splitting headache. (His dentist told Ben he has an unusually high tolerance for pain, and we're fixing problems over two years which already presented problems in 2003 for which we had to run into a dental practice in Elgin, Scotland.) It's hard to get information from this doc, even when we ask gazillion question, so Ben negotiated and got only on cholesterol meds and an reprieve of three months to get tested again, and reassess the diabetes med. (Not to mention the head nurse who gave him the annual diabetes check knew little about diabetes but treated us like idiots.) This was on the first day of his month-long holiday.

New Zealand's diabetes policies changed in the last decade; when he was diagnosed frequent checking of blood-sugar levels by the patient was encouraged, but now they prefer to put folks on medication early, relying on HbA1c, (average blood sugar of three months leading to a test,) which is checked only annually. But as the patient and wife of a patient, that's too chancy so we've been buying test strips ourselves, (may not be so common in NZ,) and also not exactly following the officially recommended diet, but cutting way back on carbohydrate and filling up on veg. Coincidentally Ben won a Fitbit from the Diabetes organization not long ago, and the data/record appearing/kept on his laptop intrigues so much he started exercising. Quite a lot.

The doc had to change his cholesterol meds three times but the side effects were bad, (one night he told me his brain was boiling!) he took himself off. He exercised day and night and we checked blood sugar several times a day. We read more about diabetes, talked about food, cooked healthily and ate well. But in retrospect I think he was a little depressed, caught unawares, (while I thought, he could have been on meds a few years ago,) he thought a lot and didn't do much else.

On the very last day of holiday, he switched to my doc and we made an extra long appointment. Karl prefers to, if possible, solve problems with foods/nutrients and he wanted us to research one of two diets, ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, both of which burn accumulated fat and lighten the load on the kidney and pancreas, among other organs. The latter is what he recommended me two years ago when I switched to Karl, but I I couldn't do it while cooking for Ben as well. He also gave Ben another cholesterol med, (to which Ben reacted badly, so he took himself off.) But the sane news is, Ben's on a one month parole, to be tested early Feb and we'll go from there.

The last two weeks we've been reading even more, while following the kitogenic Blood Sugar Diet loosely, because I already had the book. (I got it a while ago meaning to go ask Karl if this would work for me, because this I could do with Ben after I convinced him he needed it.) It allows protein and veg except potatoes, some full fat cheese, milk, and yogurt, but very little fruits and no carbohydrate. And we love it because the science makes so much sense to us, and because protein is allowed, Ben got over his initial resistance. And it's not a hard diet to follow; eat less energy so stored fat is used.

Ben's lost 4kg, his body is better-toned, he is motivated, and his numbers have been consistently better than anything in the last, at least, four to six years. Me? I may have lost 500g. Or not. It's like when I reacted to chicken and had nothing but water for seven days and gained 500g, or when we went gluten-free and Ben quickly lost a few kilos while I did not. My gym staff said I was an enigma, but I fill up faster, eat less, and don't get cravings.) I'm looking forward to his Feb numbers.

Karl's very knowledgeable and it's hard to take in everything he says, but I did take notes and got the important bits. It annoys me Ben remembered bits just listening, but it's great he is taking this seriously. Additionally, we got one supplement each, Ben's got new shoes and those sporty sandals, and both of us, Swiss ball cushions. And we're recording everything that goes into our mouths in... prepare to laugh... matching notebooks!
At Saturday lunch at the Suter with JB and Ali, Ben shot his food with his phone, and it dawned on me I could do the same with mine rather than try to memorize and write at home.

No gardening, no big clean up of any room, no long drives, no movies in the cinema, one lunch in town in a whole month of holiday. We didn't even ring JB and Ali in spite of my warning before the holiday started. All life is good; it's good to reassess periodically. And if you're curious, eggs are good again, and salt may not be as bad as previously thought. And caffeine isn't great.