Most of the time I would agree that to focus on the ability of people who have a disability is a good thing. Yet, there are times when the disability really has to be acknowledged for the hideous and limiting thing that it is.
Losing more function can be frightening, depressing, soul-destroying, frustrating, not to mention bloody impractical! At the end of several weeks which included all of those things, there ARE some things to be thankful for.
1) I have an amazing partner who despite losing the last remnants of his ‘walking’ and ‘standing’, only managed to lose his sense of humour for a day here and there. Without that wit and comic relief, I’m not sure where we would be right now.
2) We are fortunate to have supportive family, friends and workmates.
3) There are some bloody awesome Norweigans out there who made the molift hoist equipment.
4) It doesn’t matter how stressed you become, the cats still give you cuddles. Sometimes two at a time.
Somebody stole February; abducted her in the middle of the night and stashed her in a cupboard somewhere. It must be so. In the blog-sphere, February has been swallowed up; surely it must be foul play.
Since February vanished, mum has once again been called an ‘enigma’, a ‘diagnostic conundrum’ and just plain ‘odd’ by her neurologist.
Since February receded from view, Andrew has managed – after much angst – to secure himself the purpose built disabled unit next door. This means no more text messages advising me that I have to be there at a certain time to retrieve dinner from the oven – it will now be at the right height.
Since February was snatched, Christmas presents were framed and hung (see left) and birthdays went by without cake!
Since February was eaten by a great white, I have been to Melbourne and back, with only an addition of Springsteen’s Thunder Road to add to my iTunes library to show for it.
Since February disappeared, I have lost half an employee to university and half a partner as well.
But worst of all, since February flew by, we had to say goodbye to Pippy. She had a cancer that the vet found he couldn’t remove. That was how February ended. I was in the Melbourne convention centre near the end of a seminar. My phone vibrated and I opened it to find the words I was hoping wouldn’t be there. ‘I’m sorry, she’s gone.’ I so wanted to be with my mum and dad but I was 1000km away. I still had to do a presentation, before getting on a plane home. The next day I was able to be at “the mothership”. Pippy ruled that house. Pippy loafed in every square inch of it when she wasn’t cuddling up to my parents. Pippy adored my parents and they her.
I’ve included a few pics of her below doing what she did best, my favourite being the last one in the greenhouse ‘hammock’ that she made for herself and my dad didn’t dismantle because she loved to sleep there.
‘I need a giraffe’, I text. The reply comes swiftly. ‘Can’t you just use a spotted deer and stretch it’s neck?’ I consider Andrew’s suggestion briefly. No. I get that it’s only a paper spotted deer but stretching its neck still sounds unethical. I decide to wait until I can photocopy and enlarge myself a giraffe from my well used Dover books.
Thankfully work has a new photocopy where the ‘mirror image’ option is not so hard to find. I used it infrequently on the old machine, so each time I would start my hunt again through the excessive number of incomprehensible icon splattered menus to find it. This is part of my work/life balance. I enlarge my giraffes at work rather than taking myself off to officeworks and standing in queues. Luckily for work I don’t enlarge that many giraffes. I fear lumping a 6 metre, 800kg+ african animal on the photocopy is probably not great for the machine.
The creation of this – unfinished – piece, is also part of my work / life balance. Someone asked me if I had a new year’s resolution and I said no. Upon reflection I realise it is probably to have a little more ‘painting’ time. I have even tried to take my art to Andrew’s place and do some there. I’m not sure if this will be a successful strategy as I tend to be a very messy artist, unlike Andrew who seems to paint in a contained fashion. Personally I don’t understand this. Perhaps it is because he only uses paint and drawing materials (charcoal, pencil etc). He doesn’t tear up papers, transfer images (which results in paper splinters all over the art surface) or work at quite the same ‘everything in my way is collateral’ pace. Then again, only a bad workman blames his tools. I make a mess when I cook; when I work; when I do anything actually. I am just a messy person. I seem to become so absorbed in what I’m doing that I develop a tunnel vision. It’s not until later when I turn my head that I see the trail of destruction I’ve left. Sometimes the ‘turning of my head’ can take days, or weeks.
As for the meaning of this art piece? I have no idea. Its had quite an evolution. This must be the third incarnation of this piece. Instinct said, ‘I want a giraffe.’ Discovering that all giraffes from my stash had already been used, I tried to consider other animals but none would do. A giraffe was my first thought, a giraffe was what it had to be. I know this piece isn’t finished. I’m just waiting on instinct to tell me the next move.
In 2014, I’m returning to painting small. A3 or smaller to be precise. This latest piece has evolved over the past week or so. I have no idea what the device is in the hand in the top right corner… I thought perhaps it was a starter’s pistol but Andrew tells me it is not. Anyone know?
I enjoy coming home after work to a cat cuddle following by a spot of painting. It’s a way to unwind and let my brain potter along in another zone for a while. If only painting resulted in weight loss… then it would be the perfect pastime.
Somedays I feel for the humble pear. Here it was, hanging on a tree as nature intended, when someone decided to associate its curvaceous frame with ‘things going all awry’. I’m not sure what the pear did to deserve this treatment by the English language. You don’t hear of something going Apple-shaped, turnip-shaped, banana shaped or rambutan-shaped, do you? Now if ever a fruit were worthy of slander I think the rambutan is it.
While I’m contemplating the English language’s abuse of food… what’s with the cheese which slid off the cracker? Andrew said this to me the other day and I turned around and said ‘you made that up!’
‘No I didn’t’, he protested. So what did I do to settle this difference of opinion? I turned to Dr Google. We don’t need a marriage counsellor (well we’d have to be married for a start… but you get my drift). Whenever we have a difference of opinion, such as what year was Martin Luther King killed, we turn to google to find out who is right.
He was. It’s usually me. How very disappointing.
OK, I am ashamed to admit that I have paper bearing glitter in my collage stash.
I know not from whence they came.
I suspect they were part of a mixed pack – they have been in my folders so long that I have quite forgotten.
These are scrapbooking papers. I am not a scrapbooker and have no interest in it. If people look down on mixed media art as not being particularly artistic, then scrapbooking is even further down the chain. Personally I remain delighted that scrapbooking became popular in the last decade because it gave me another source from which to collect papers. That said, the lesson I have learnt is buy a ‘pack’ expecting that it will be about 2/3rds useful, 1/3 toss out. Hmm… ‘toss out’… not usually in my vocabulary when it comes to collage material. So it seems that I have kept these papers (left in each picture) and well… what a surprise… I’ve never used them.
I can’t imagine why I haven’t had call to use a prancing horse with glitter, but there you go.
So in an effort to justify these papers taking up room in my collage collection, I decided to transform them. The best part about an ugly paper is the gusto with which one can throw oneself at changing it as it can surely get no worse.
My main challenge was getting rid of the glitter as it is upraised. In the end I used a variety of media to extinguish it, including:
- gesso over the top which ‘filled in’ the non-embossed areas and gave a new flattened surface
- light molding paste (by Golden). This has to be one of my favourite gel / pastes to use as it is so lightweight that the paper tolerates it and it’s marshmallow finish just sucks in the colours of the glazes you put over the top.
- opaque paints - with this you can still see the upraised pieces but at least the glitter is gone (see below)
The photographs don’t do justice the richness of colour in the reformed papers.
While I doubt that I could ever have found an artful application for purple paper with green glittered dots, the rich wine colour is something I most certainly will use. It has been completed using a number of glazes as well as some handwritten additions in my favourite crayons (Caran d’ache neocolor I’s) which shine through the subsequent layers. The greenish-glitter has now turned to an orange-gold courtesy of the quin crimson & quin nickel azo gold layers. It now has depth and intensity.
Last but not least is quite possibly the ugliest of all the papers I set about transforming this week.
The purple mermaid with green glitter. Oh, it’s just too stylish.
I had a lot of difficult photographing the piece after painting as it kept reflecting light – in particular in the bottom corner where there is some Clear Tar Gel giving it a gloss. A close up of the middle is featured below.
Of all the papers this one got the most gesso. It is also the one that looks most like a ‘piece’ rather than paper that I’m just going to put back into my stash to rip up another day. I suppose in all of this the question is, why bother transforming ugly paper… why not just start with clean paper? I think the close up below answers that well. While it looks nothing like the original, it got to where it is based on the original. The upraised elements are still present (without the sparkle), and the colour choices are in part informed by the purple as I needed something dark and high staining like the quin crimson to cover over the purple and some gesso where I wanted to knock it out altogether. Besides, there is no need to ‘cover up’ clean paper. Eliminating glittered tackiness from my stash is a good excuse to just spread paint around with abandon! I’ve got another 4 days before I go back to work and another 4 pieces of ugly paper. Fun!
It’s one of a kind. My second quilt. My first and final fibonacci quilt – I’ll never make another: I became just too preoccupied with ensuring that I was making things using things which were a number in the fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,21,34,55 and so on).
The flowers have 55 petals or 21 (part flower). The 55 petals, use 13 colours, each used only 1, 2, 3, or 5 times. The background is 13 columns, of 8 rectangles each and using only 5 fabrics.
As I said, I became a wee bit obsessed.
The ‘finish’ was a departure from the traditional method because instead of a binding, I opted to face the quilt. I’ve faced many dresses but had not quite appreciated how much fabric bulk there was to be in each corner with this method. Still, it was well worth it. It finished the quilt without changing the aesthetic of the quilt. I didn’t want it to be bordered / framed, I wanted it as it was and the facing gave me that effect.
Yet I am delighted with the result. It is a bespoke piece for my parents. Hopefully they will finally ditch some of the hideous lap blankets adorning the couch and use this one instead.
I have no doubt that mum’s cats will come to love it as much as Saffron and Licorice did during it’s making. Yesterday when I was trying to finish hand-sewing the edge, Pickle even decided to take it for a test sleep when I wasn’t looking. He matches the gold in the flowers, I think…
I wrote the blog piece below 2 years ago and not much has changed. I’m still climbing on chairs to reclaim items out of reach. The latest of which was a milk jug. A square milk jug. Now, square may be aesthetically pleasing but trust me, it’s not a particularly functional milk jug! If he’s going to ask me to climb on things it could at least be for a fully operating piece of equipment… no?
Andrew and I recently celebrated our 2 year anniversary. It got me thinking about dating disability style. If someone said to me, I’m thinking about going out with a guy in a wheelchair, what advice would I give them? This is my somewhat tongue in cheek list with a few serious thoughts thrown in.
Don’t be afraid of heights
You know those things in the ceiling which emit light? Well, it may usually be men who fix them but if you’re dating a guy in a wheelchair, let me tell you now that you will be climbing on that ladder with light bulb in hand. You will also be putting and retrieving things from the tops of cupboards; hanging pictures; removing curtain rods; repairing blinds. Get used to being the ‘tallest’ person in your relationship and develop a love of ladders and chairs – you will need it.
While not height-related, another ‘man job’ you may have to do is putting air in the car tyres. I know, my mother would be horrified. She always says, ‘I don’t do garbage and I don’t do tyres – they’re you’re father’s jobs’. What I’ve learnt is that tyres are really not that tedious; the hardest part is finding a service station with a working air guage.
Check your figures
Before you get very excited and launch yourself at your man with a hug, check the weight bearing load of his wheelchair. Sadly some of them aren’t designed for you to sit in his lap, so perfecting the lean over hug is a must.
If you don’t know why he’s in a wheelchair, ask him. A person with spinal injury will have different needs to someone with muscular dystrophy (Andrew has something very similar to muscular dystrophy). If you’re afraid to ask, or he’s hesitant to discuss, personally, I’d run for the hills. Someone who is able to freely talk about their disability and its impact on their life has probably reached a greater level of acceptance than one for whom it is a touchy subject.
Rediscover the romance of simple things
Sometimes when it is not possible to do whatever you want, whatever you do becomes just that bit more special. I still remember the day that Andrew picked me up from work and casually said – do you want takeaway? We drove to a Thai place, picked up some food and then he said, why don’t we go eat it by the water? We found a place to park which had a nice view of the bay. It wasn’t until he pulled out plates and cutlery that it twigged he’d planned a ‘car picnic’ at dusk all along.
I know I just said that you get to enjoy the simple things as some others are off limits but this point is about questioning the impossible. There are many outdoor physical activities which are certainly possible, especially if your partner has upper body strength. (I missed out on the nice torso muscles :-( ). Sometimes you may find it’s you being challenged and not him.
A while ago I bought Andrew a surprise gift of a Harley Davidson ride (as pillion). Upon giving him the gift he said he wasn’t sure whether his lateral muscles were strong enough to hold on. I rang the company back. They suggested swapping it for a trike ride. Great. Now I had to go with him! I’m not sure who was more nervous that day – him or me!
Grow a wicked sense of humour
If you don’t already have a slightly odd sense of humour, dating disability style will sure help to develop one. I worked for 10 years with people who are blind or have low vision and now with children who are deaf or hearing impaired. One things I’ve found is that most people with a disability have a remarkable sense of humour. I do recall one guy I worked with who, if placed in a humour competition with a termite nest, the nest would win hands down… but he was an exception.
Here’s two examples of Andrew’s dark sense of humour.
While shopping one day, Andrew was staring at all the motorbikes. He loved riding motorbikes pre-muscular dystrophy (hence my aforementioned gift). He turned to me and said:
I love to roll past these guys and say to them: ‘I used to ride one of those’. The look on their face is priceless.
If you think that’s a little dark, well, the second example is worse. He once told me that he was bored at home and chatting on a disability forum. He posted a message on the forum saying that The Gap (a cliff face in Sydney known as a suicide hot spot) was discriminating against those in wheelchairs as there was no ramp.
Thankfully someone else in the forum had an equally wicked sense of humour and wrote back:
I have found a suitable ‘dispatch’ point for you in the Blue Mountains. Should you wish to kill yourself, you’ll have to drive 2 hours west.
My last tip would seem fairly obvious in any relationship however I’m including it anyway. Lack of walking doesn’t equate to lack of fun. In the two years I’ve had with Andrew, 90% of the time, I’ve had a ball! Who could ask for more than that?
If you have to work on a weekend then this is the way to do it – with cat cuddles!
At first Licorice she was happy to sit next to me. Then she wanted to sit on me. ‘Surely you have a spare box somewhere?’ Andrew says in response to my text pic.
Actually I do!
And would you believe… she fits… sort of… but…
Oh dear. Box stolen. Flaw in plan. I don’t have two spare cardboard boxes.
Never mind mum! We will help you paint instead!