pegkerr: (Default)
Week 20: Twelfth
Once again, we gather around the table to celebrate the end of Christmas.

Week 20 Twelfth

Yes, yes, this card should be named 'Twelfth Night' But I am limiting my card titles to one word. Not quite satisfactory, but I couldn't find a one word that would substitute (unlike finding "Hogmanay" as a substitution for "New Year's Eve.")
Again, this card was an experiment with different media. The table cloth and napkins are tissue paper, the forks are cut from aluminum foil. And the plates are from the foil wrapped around the Hershey's Kisses we had inside the miniature stockings.
We did indeed manage to gather around the table this year, although it was a Twelfth Night dinner this time rather than breakfast. That's just the way the schedules worked out.

Week 21: Severus
He was the bravest man I ever knew.

Week 21 Severus

This was the week that Alan Rickman died, and I made this card in honor of him and in honor of one of my favorite of his performances. Once I started thinking about Severus, I started making connections between his situation and mine (and not all of them are flattering, to say the least). This gets into personal stuff, so Elinor Dashwood will leave it there for now.
It was the last day of the previous week, January 9, that was Severus Snape's birthday. Rowling deliberately chose that day because it was the feast for the Roman God Janus, the two-headed god who guarded doorways, looking both into the past and into the future. An extremely appropriate choice for the ambiguous Severus Snape's birthday, and an appropriate thing for me to ponder, as I think about my career--where it has been as well as where it is going.

Week 22: iPod
I lost my iPod in the snow and felt helpless without it.

Week 22 iPod

At least by process of elimination, that's where I figured it wound up. I never got it back. I held out a week, gritting my teeth, and then I bought a replacement. Screw the fact that I am unemployed. I need one to organize my life.

Annoyingly, I found out when I upgraded to the next model, that I can't synch it on my iMac. The software on my desktop Apple is too old. Planned obsolescence is pretty damned annoying.

Week 23: Three
There are three things I do to help myself.

Week 23 Three

This was a tough week. Again, Elinor Dashwood will not provide many details. The three stones represent three stepping stones, the sort to keep you above the water you would drown in otherwise (I tried and tried to find an image of three stepping stones, but for a variety of reasons, what I found just didn't work. So I used an image of stacked stones). The stones represent three things I do throughout the week for self-care. The stones are carried by a manatee, and if you haven't found the site Calming Manatee, really, what are you waiting for?

I know what the next card is (Card 24) and I worked on it today, but I had tremendous trouble with figuring out the right fixative to use. I had an image with words superimposed over it. I printed the words on waxed paper, but every fixative I used just smeared or blurred the words. I have an idea for how to fix the problem, but it involves a trip to the store. So I started working on the next card (Card 25), and finished it, too. I worked on the cards OUT OF ORDER! I felt SO GUILTY! And I will not scan and show this past week's card until I finish the card for the week before.

This means we are almost halfway through the year! (It also means it's been half a year since I've had a job--groan). [ profile] minnehaha K. impishly suggested that we could swap decks and I would do the rest of hers and she would do the rest of mine. I firmly vetoed this idea. But then she made the clever suggestion that we would each do the jokers of the other person's deck, one at Week 26 and one at the end. Which I think is a really cool idea.
pegkerr: (Default)
Week 17: Biopsy
After the second of two biopsies, Rob hovers at the brink of awakening.

Week 17 Biopsy

I took a picture of Rob right right before he awoke from the anesthesia, after a double bone marrow biopsy. Something about his posture, the angle of his face, the lighting (and the suffering of which he never complains)...something made me think of religious iconography. (Which would certainly bemuse Rob, as he is an agnostic.) A saint in a religious trance or something. Religious ecstacy.

That impression and that word, 'ecstacy' triggered a memory of an image I'd had stashed in my soulcollaging cache of images, "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa," a central sculptural group in white marble set in an elevated aedicule in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome (google it to see). I flipped that image and scaled Rob's down to fit in with it. Note the angel holds an arrow, indicative of the sharp point just used to do the biopsy. It pleases me that the arrow is pointed at the site of the cancer.

Week 18: Yule
Light a candle, sing a song.

Week 18 Yule

There is a Peter Mayer song about the winter solstice called "The Longest Night." Here are the lyrics )

I've always loved that song, especially given that I'm vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder. This card is trying to juxtapose the thoughts of this song with Christmas (the wreath) and Solstice (the diamond candle), which fell during the same week. "Yule" is a concept that would encompass both of them.

Although I like the concept, the card just didn't turn out to have as much impact as I'd hoped. Just not vivid enough or something.

Week 19: Hogmanay
The year comes to an end.

Week 19 Hogmanay

THIS card, on the other hand, turned out SPLENDIDLY. I had a great deal of difficulty, however, managing a decent scan of the card, because it is difficult for scans to capture the way it glitters. It's much more scintillatingly impressive when you hold it in your hand than I can convey here. "Hogmanay" is an old Scottish word referring to New Year's Eve (and I resorted to it because I'm limiting the titles of these cards to one word, and "Newyear' just didn't look right to me). The monks are a reference to the poem I wrote and posted earlier about our trip to Mayo Clinic the day before New Year's Eve, and the silver light and the glittering spindrift was made from nail polish. The very same nail polish, as a matter of fact, that I used in my New Year's Eve manicure. I think they captured the sense of the 'icy spindrift' (and the cones of silver light) extremely well!

And the Chinese fortune was from the fortune cookie I opened on New Year's Eve. My family has been gathering together and eating Chinese every single New Year's Eve for years. Perhaps this fortune was a wry commentary on the job hunting process.
pegkerr: (Default)
I have been waiting to post these until we told the girls the latest medical results.

Week 15: Pain
Everything hurts.

Week 15 Pain

Since Rob's heart was damaged by chemo, I have been doing all the shoveling. At the first snowfall, doing the job, I hurt my back. Badly. Ice and painkillers and pillows and baths and ow and tears. It really, really hurt. At the same time, I have been fighting off depression (in the Victorian language of flowers, marigolds are associated by some with grief or despair). It has been very difficult to deal with physical pain, combined with the anxiety of job hunting, combined with the bad cancer news. This card is tied, symbolically, with the marigolds, to a card in my Soulcollage deck, The Woman Who Listens to Ravens.

Week 16: PET
Rob undergoes testing at Mayo Clinic.

Week 16 PET

I cut the words and the picture of a patient undergoing a PET scan from the various educational brochures we've received from Mayo (really, they will give you a brochure about anything under the sun). The blobby shapes draped over the words are photographs of some glassblown art hanging from the ceiling in the large atrium at Mayo Clinic (printed out on tracing paper, which is the first time I've used that technique). Here is a picture of the installation, in situ. Very pretty, if you look at it one way.

But every time I look at those shapes, I think they look like cellular structures. Even like tumors.

I suspect that impression is intentional.
pegkerr: (Default)
An interesting article, a review of a book about literary fame here.

The always wise Jim Hines ([ profile] jimhines) has a pithy list outlining the nature of depression, here. Much of it looks extremely familiar.

I have been busting a gut laughing at the Twitter hashtag TedCruzCampaignSlogans. Especially now that on the first full day of his campaign, CNN has pinned him into admitting that he, the tireless hater of Obamacare ('We must repeal it!') is going on Obamacare himself now that his wife has left her employer, Goldman Sachs to join him on the campaign trail, and so his family has no healthcare coverage. The delicious, delicious irony.
pegkerr: (Default)

The Holy Tree - Council Suit
I Am the One who grows beautiful and strong, deeply rooted in the human heart. My branches shine with flowers, fruit and birds. Do not look in the bitter glass which shows only a barren reflection.


The Barren Tree - Council Suit
I Am the One who is barren and twisted, my branches full of calling ravens. I can fill your gaze entirely, yet I may be only a mere reflection from the Bitter Glass of the true Holy Tree within the heart.
pegkerr: (Deal with it and keep walking)
Fiona and I went to see Next to Normal tonight. This song was the one that made me bawl. In it, the husband, Dan, is trying to convince the wife to sign a form giving consent to undergo a scary medical procedure. She is at the hospital and he has been living at home.

I am in exactly this position. We signed the papers a couple of weeks ago. Now I sit at home alone, waiting and hoping while Rob is in the hospital.

I listened to the soundtrack after I dropped off Fiona and drove home. A single light was shining on the porch when I reached it, just as this song was playing.


May. 13th, 2014 10:26 pm
pegkerr: (Oh well spotted)
There is a bunny living in or very near our yard. I see it almost every day, either in the morning when I leave or at night when I come home, just hanging out, freezing in the hopes it won't be observed.

For years, 'bunny' has been the favored endearment in our family. Now, in this time of stress and grief, it feels oddly like a sign. Of hope, or a guardian spirit, or a patronus or something. It doesn't make any sense to think so, but it still lifts my heart a little, every time I see it.
pegkerr: (candle)
The Midlife Journey
The Midlife Journey - Council Card
I am the One who responds to the Call or inner restlessness or new freedom by sailing away from the familiar and secure, in hopes of new energy and purpose. I can only leave with the support of those who love me.

This is related to a whole mess of cards:

The Call

The Hidden Passage (I really like the fact that it even looks like the same woman.)

The First and Seventh Chakra cards (the Tortoise and the Swan), as well as the swan patronus cards. (Well, okay, those are turtles in this new card whereas the chakra card is a Tortoise, but, um, close enough). The idea is that first chakra, The Tortoise (security needs) up to the Seventh Chakra, the Swan (connection with between myself and the rest of the universe) bless this journey.

I see links to Trustworthiness, too, with the linkage of hands (which is meant to show that this journey is very much supported. I am not intending to cut myself off from the people I love by taking this journey. Instead, it is (perhaps wishful thinking) very much supported by them.

Even the Silence card is related (which also has the bird)

Of course, what the woman wants to escape from is this and this.

I like this card very much, aesthetically, and it is getting at the heart of what I've been struggling with the past two weeks. I want to leave my job, my career. But how? How can I reconcile that with my security needs? How can I care for my family?

Another title for it, I suppose, is Midlife Crisis.

Upon a little extra reading, in which I was trying to remember which tarot card this reminded me of, I was tempted to stick six swords through the composition. It does resemble the Six of Swords card, in that it resembles that boat, beginning a journey. The Six of Swords card is sometimes called the Slough of Despond card....except the boat pushing away from shore suggests hopefulness, a movement toward something new.

Making the card was a better way to spend the afternoon than diving into the abyss that threatened to swallow me. I got out of bed, managed to choke down a little bit of food, and made something artistic rather than brooding.
pegkerr: (Telperion and Laurelin)
Fiona, my math major, linked to this on Tumblr. I have been thinking about trees this week.

So I decided to share it with you.

Fractal Tree

In a funk

Jan. 27th, 2014 08:40 pm
pegkerr: (candle)
I've really been in a funk, which is one of the reasons why I've been quiet here.

Rob is done with chemo (yes, I know I need to write something on the CaringBridge account) but he is still mighty tired, and I haven't noticed much in the way of improvement yet. He is starting physical therapy to regain his strength. They told him at his first appointment that it may take months to recover from the fatigue.

Fiona has successfully transferred, to the University of Minnesota, and is taking classes there now. She is living at home, and commuting in with me in the mornings, which is nice. It just takes me about an extra five minutes or so to drop her off. I know she'd rather not live at home, but she has no job (she lost hers, since it was an Augsburg work-study job), and she didn't have time to arrange housing on top of arranging for the transfer. So she's at home for now.

Delia is still mulling college options. She was five for five on acceptances--and then got turned down today by the place she wanted to go to the most, the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. It was also the most reasonably priced, which is going to be a significant factor. The letter said it was because she didn't have credits which we KNOW she had. We are going to try to reverse their decision but, yeah, we don't know if there'll be much hope.

As for me, well, I'm still studying French every day. The last couple of days I've been feeling really lousy, emotionally, but I don't particularly need to go into details. Just a lot of things seem awfully hard right now.

The terrible weather really doesn't help.
pegkerr: (candle)
I have not been posting much because as you know, hey, cancer. But more than that, a cascade of Bad Events over the past few months (i.e., Rob's cancer), including a few more I haven't even talked about here have made things to start to feel pretty rough after almost a year of feeling quite good.

The Wave - Committee Suit
The Wave - Committee/Council Suit (Bridge card)
I am the One who can see it, in the distance but coming toward me, like a gigantic wave rising over the landscape, a doom I cannot escape. I want to flee, but I know that it's hopeless to even try. I just stand, paralyzed, knowing exactly what will happen as I watch it tower above me, crystal drops scattering like poison, and I wait for it to smash into me, sweeping me away to drown in cold nothingness.


For me, this card is about the vulnerability of fearing a recurrence of mental illness (specifically, depression in my case). I suppose it could be about anything you see coming toward you that you fear but cannot stop. Actually, now that I think about it, it would be applicable to cancer treatment, too, after you've received a diagnosis and before you start treatment.

It's also a reference to something I found in Tolkien's letters which he eventually worked into his fiction: he had a troubling recurring nightmare for years about a wave coming toward him across a landscape:
At the climactic moment of the Lord of the Rings, Faramir says to Éowyn that he is reminded of a "great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it." The couple are as yet unaware of the passing of Sauron, but the symbolism is apt. Tolkien puts into Faramir's words a recurring dream that had troubled him since childhood: a "dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming up out of a quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green inlands".

Tolkien felt that this 'Atlantis haunting' was symptomatic of a tale of universal mythic applicability, a theme "so fundamental to 'mythical history'--whether it has any kind of basis in real history…that some version of it would have to come in [to his legendarium]". Tolkien's version of the Atlantis legend was the tale of the downfall of Númenor, explicitly identified with Atlantis in many of the versions of the story that Tolkien wrote. The first was in the sketch for the novel The Lost Road, drafted around 1936 but soon abandoned.
Original reference here.
pegkerr: (A light in dark places LOTR)
I've just picked up the new album by one of my favorite musicians, Sora. I loved her last album, Heartwood, and her new album, Scorpion Moon is also beautiful. She has a gorgeous voice, and she loves to sing about subjects that deeply interest me. She writes a lot of songs about fairy tales. The new album has songs about Scheherazade, a mermaid, heroes, Rapunzel, and ghosts.

I particularly recommend one perfectly exquisite song, called Hold. Here's her blog video from her website about it, in which she talks about writing it as a response to a question about loving a person suffering from depression:
Approximately 8% of adults will experience clinical depression in their lifetime, a debilitating and isolating reality. Those statistics tell me that everyone has known someone with clinical depression, someone reading this right now has been mired in the depths of that dark spiral. Once I was asked "do you understand?" when confronted with the terrible reality of another's misery. I wasn't sure how to answer, not wanting to discount or take away from the pain I was being presented with. This song was my answer.

Lyrics )
pegkerr: (candle)
Fiona saw Next to Normal at the Mixed Blood Theater and called me on her cell phone as soon as she walked out of the theater to demand that YOU MUST GO SEE THIS IMMEDIATELY OMG. I went to see it the next day. I have since bought the soundtrack and am listening to it now. Mixed Blood did a fabulous job with it.

For those of you not familiar with this musical (I wasn't), Next to Normal is an account of a family struggling with mental illness. The mother is bipolar, and the father, who really loves her, is at his wit's end. The play also includes the son, the daughter, and the daughter's boyfriend, and carefully shows how the turmoil caused by mental illness reverberates throughout the entire family system, into the next generation.

The music was also stunning. Here is a performance between the mother (Alice Ripley), the father (J. Robert Spencer), and the son (Aaron Tveit) of the Broadway cast, who also recorded the soundtrack. (The performance begins at the 1:10 minute mark).

You Don't Know/I Am the One )

Another song performed by Alice Ripley gets at the issue of medication noncompliance, how some people go off their medications because they miss the highs of the manic phase.

I Miss the Mountains )

Anyway, if you are interested in the topic of severe mental illness and its effect on family dynamics, I really recommend the soundtrack.
pegkerr: (Default)
I just bought Peter Mayer's newest album and am already obsessed with two or three songs on the album. But this one particularly stands out.

I have someone who I particularly love who struggles with depression. When she's having a tough time, she talks about feeling 'broken,' and hence, worthless.

The Japanese idea of kintsugi might be particularly helpful, the idea that the pot that is broken and mended is even more valuable, and the cracks are part of the beauty.

It's also an especially lovely song.

(Here's another link to a different performance of the song by Peter, and he talks about the concept a bit in the song introduction.)

I am...

Apr. 20th, 2012 09:04 am
pegkerr: (Default)
extraordinarily happy today.

No particular reason. But it feels very nice.

I just love living without depression.
pegkerr: (candle)
I follow the blog Letters of Note which posts every day a letter from someone in history, some famous and some not. I'm catching up a bit; a few days ago an extraordinarily beautiful letter by Henry James was the one chosen. About this letter, the editor of the site writes:
In July of 1883, the novelist Henry James received an emotional letter from Grace Norton — a good friend and fellow writer who, following a death in the family, had recently become depressed and was desperate for direction. James's beautiful response can be seen below. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest letters of advice I've ever had the fortune to read.
(Source: Henry James: Selected Letters)
131 Mount Vernon St.,

July 28th

My dear Grace,

Before the sufferings of others I am always utterly powerless, and the letter you gave me reveals such depths of suffering that I hardly know what to say to you. This indeed is not my last word—but it must be my first. Read the rest of the letter here.
The editor's right. This is an extraordinarily beautiful and wise response to suicidal despair.

Thanks, Henry James.
pegkerr: (Default)
As I've mentioned before, I've really detected a lifting of my years-long chronic depression. I talked with my psychiatrist at my last med check about this, last October. Could I decrease my medication? He suggested that since I'm prone to seasonal affective disorder, I wait until the light starts increasing.

This seemed reasonable to me. Despite a lot of stress that Elinor Dashwood is not talking about publicly, my mood continued to be, well, not exactly burbly/cheerful. But neutral. Even good.

Wow. Is this what most people feel like all the time?

Now I've started to decrease the antidepressant. Interestingly, once Rob noticed I wasn't putting as many pills in my daily pill box, I started getting tremendous pushback. He did not approve. At all. "Why do you want to lower your medication? You tried to lower it once before and it didn't go well. You were told you'd probably be on it for the rest of your life. This is a big mistake." etc, etc.

Never mind that I consulted my doctor and I'm following his advice. Never mind that I'm not experiencing any ill effects so far from the lower dose.

After one too many carping comments about it, I finally hit back.

"I am following my doctor's advice. I have made my decision and I want you to respect that. But more than that, I have the right to imagine my life as good and to live it without depression."

That shut him up. We'll see if that will end the subject.

I certainly hope so.
pegkerr: (Default)
Delia is thinking in terms of colleges now. She knows that she wants to apply to schools where she can study an arts emphasis, and that means starting to build an artist's portfolio. I had a scathingly brilliant idea: I told her I would commission an art piece for her to display in my office cubicle. I wanted something that would display her skills as an artist and something that would make me happy when I look at it.

So I decided to commission a picture of The Holy Tree, the concept that has been so important to me from Yeat's poem The Two Trees. She started talking about initial concept with me last night, and had a cool idea for three little mini pen and ink drawings to the side and then the main piece would be larger. I'm excited to see what she comes up with. I will pay her when it is completed, so it is a real artist commision. And she'll have something to add to her portfolio!

This is one of the ideas I suggested as an influence: Tolkien's conception of the Two Trees of Creation:

Telperion and Laurelin, the Trees of Valinor
Telperion and Laurelin, the Trees of Valinor

My holy tree will have both flowers and fruit, and I told her I particularly like the trumpet-shaped flowers on the golden tree here.
pegkerr: (Light in dark places soulcollage)
Check out Emotional Bag Check. Here's an article about it in Wired magazine:
Life sucks, right? But music makes it better. That’s the worldview behind Emotional Bag Check — a site that lets you suggest songs to cheer people up.

It’s simple. Go to Emotional Bag Check, and choose whether you want to offload a problem or help out with someone else’s.

If you want to get something off your chest, all you need to do is type what the problem is, provide an e-mail address, and someone will read it and return a song they think is relevant along with (optionally) a message of support.

If everything’s going pretty well for you, and you just want to help other people out, then you’ll be confronted with someone’s problem and asked to pick a song that’ll make them feel better. Here, a sense of duty suddenly kicks in — you’ve got a direct line to someone’s heart, and you don’t want to waste it. You’ll find yourself taking a substantial amount of time to choose a song that’s just right for the situation, as if this person were a close friend.
The developer, Robyn, answers FAQ questions here. Also on Twitter at @emobagcheck.


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