Thinky thoughts! #BlogJune 30

I’ve been talking with my friend Penny tonight and, as often happens, the art chat circled back to the roots of our addictive natures, which for both of us led to morbid obesity. We also talked about symbolism in our art.

Penny asked why the Patea freezing works and cool stores appear and reappear in my art, even when I’m seemingly concentrating on the Hokitika Gorge colours. It’s an interesting question.

When I was sitting on Alan’s lounge floor in Hokitika contemplating the series of abstract mixed media pieces I was working on I suddenly realised I’d been loosely drawing the shape of the cool stores.

I’m Patea born and bred and, at 56, have only lived away from here for a few years. I left at 18 and came back at 27. This is home. Growing up, the Freezing Works were central to our lives – Dad’s grocery business depended on them in some ways, friend’s parents worked there, friends expected to work there as generations before them had.

The freezing works dominated the landscape as we drove into town from the south – a symbol of home in the same way the maunga is. The freezing works is long gone, demolished after a fire. The cool stores remain, long-abandoned and heavily graffitied.

My addictive nature has its roots in pain essentially, according to Dr Gabor Máte in his book “In the realm of hungry ghosts; close encounters with addiction” and more recently the movie “The wisdom of trauma”. I’ve talked about some, but not all, of that pain before so let’s put that aside.

For me the freezing works and cool stores symbolise home – not just my town or the family home – but Mum, Dad and my sister. They stand for love and safety or, to put it into an addiction/pain context, those buildings represent anti-pain. No wonder my mind pulls fragments of them out all the time…

Gastroscopy time #BlogJune 28

Tomorrow I’m having a gastroscopy to check if the ulcer that caused my perforated bowel back in April has fully healed yet. The surgeon who repaired the leak will be doing the procedure, which I’m grateful for.

He’s patient and professional, and happy for me to listen to Pink on my phone while he works. The music helps me zone out, because having a camera shoved up your nose and down into your stomach without sedation isn’t much fun.

Last time I had it done, in 2017, there was a medical misadventure that ended with me on life support due to Aspiration Pneumonia. The photo below is the immediate aftermath. That blog post is here We’re all determined this time will be drama-free! I’m hoping the ulcer has completely healed, so fingers crossed.

2017 – in ICU recovering from aspiration pneumonia

A safe place #BlogJune 27

My art journals are somewhere to download the thoughts in my head without fear of judgement. The pages don’t have to make sense, be pretty or be “art”. They just have to feel right to me.

I use a very intuitive process in my journals, just as I do in my artworks. For me it’s as much about the doing, as the result … it’s more about process than anything else.

Tonight I’ve finished a small black Dylusions journal. I used lots of Dylusions Shimmer paint and Shimmer spray, shaped the page edges and cut peep holes, and generally had fun. I love the final result.

It’s going to be ok #BlogJune 26

Tony came home for about 5 hours today, and we had a visit from his good friends Doris and Dan, and his brother Roger. The photo is an older one, when we met up with Doris & Dan in Hamilton.

We sorted all his clothes and labelled them – I have a pile to wash and take to the Op Shop. We have his funeral clothes chosen and put aside. He’s picked what ornaments etc he wants, things with special memories, and we’ve put them in his room. His new duvet is on his bed, and I’ve got a cork board to go on the wall so he can put photos up. The room is looking like his now.

Having Tony home was good, but also a bit stressful. I guess it’ll get easier over time? It reinforced how fragile his current relative wellness is, and how easily it could be unsettled. Still, while he can come home it’s nice for us to spend time together at the weekends – we need to make the most of these pockets of time together.

Offering love and support #BlogJune 25

Today a group who use hate speech won the right, through the courts, to hold meetings in public venues run by local government in two NZ cities. I refuse to name them or give them any extra publicity. At a time when NZ is talking about hate speech, I am horrified at the message the court has sent. These TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) should not be allowed this platform for their hate speech and violence.

As a librarian with almost 30 years experience I know the power of libraries a safe place for everyone. As a librarian, I have many peers around the country who are ‘all manner of rainbow’ and I value them as fellow professionals and thoroughly lovely people. As an artist, it’s the same thing – rainbow friends whose skills and talent I admire.

Then there’s me; white, middle class, ordinary – with a very rainbow family including a transgender great-nibling. When TERFs speak their hate they are talking about my family. It’s personal and it makes me angry. Incandescent with rage really.

What I don’t understand is their seemingly endless obsessive fascination with what other people’s have in their undies. I mean seriously! I don’t go through my day wondering if the people around me have a chest and penis, breasts and vagina, or some other mix. Who cares? Unless you’re looking for sexual contact, how is it any of your business?

This has been a terribly hard week for the transgender community for lots of reasons, so I’m sending love and support.

It had to happen #BlogJune 24

I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat, feeling dreadful. I sent my boss a text and went back to sleep until 11am. Do I have a cold or COVID? No. As I said to Fiona, I think it was just that I’d been away and had to trust things were ok, came back and saw for myself that Tony is doing well, got a few things sorted and then – with the pressure off – my body said stop! The reality is I’ve been living on my nerves, and little unbroken sleep, for probably a year.

I’m immensely grateful I was away when he went into permanent care and, as much as it hurts my heart, I can see how much better he is with 24/7 professional care. The picture below is Tony with a Puzzli puzzle I got him; I thought it would keep him busy for days … he was finished it in 3 hours.

Shared memories #BlogJune 23

I don’t have a great memory and freely admit it. I sometimes worry that my memories of Mum and Dad are sketchy – especially of Dad, who died 30 years ago. Some memories are mine alone, some are shared with other people. Tony and I have a lot of shared memories of Mum because we lived with her as caregivers for 14 years. Other memories are ones I share with my sister Ailsa, or my best friend Sandra (of both sets of parents).

I’ve just come back from 10 days in Hokitika with my friend Alan. His Dad and mine were good mates so I spent a lot of time on their farm as a child then teen. When we were teens they spent a lot of time at our Waverley Beach bach. We have a lot of shared memories and many of those memories involve Dad.

It got me thinking about why I love this photo so much. The most obvious reason is it’s my beloved Dad. Summer was always a happy time in my life; Mum and I stayed at the beach – Dad came down every night after work and we went swimming together. Dad was teaching me to ride his motorbike, which I loved, even after I had a wee accident on it! Dad’s in his shorts and a hat, so the weather is good and he’s relaxed. Oh, and I loved that red blouse & my jeans so much!

One photo, but so many clues and memories. No wonder I treasure my photo albums and scrapbooks ❤

Inching to a new normal #BlogJune 22

My flight from Christchurch got into Palmerston North just before 8pm last night and I was home by 10pm. Alan and I had stopped for a pie for lunch at Arthur’s Pass on the way over from Hokitika, and then afternoon tea at the airport so I didn’t need to stop for dinner.

The house was warm (thanks Janet) but quiet and empty…my new normal. Goldie was delighted to see me and yelled at me for a bit before getting up on the bed beside me and dribbling a lot. I think, at 16, she’s got a bad tooth or two!

I popped in to see Tony quickly on my way to work – sometimes I won’t do normally – then spent almost 2 hours with him after work. We’ve ordered a shelf for his room to put bits and pieces on, and a new paint by numbers. At the rate he is painting them, we’ll going to end up papering his room with them 😉 We’ve ordered a duvet set to make his room look more like him – pale grey/blue satin isn’t really his thing.

I’ve come home and unpacked, done the washing & put it on the airframe in the lounge seeing I never go in there, cooked dinner, cleared the mail and then sat here thinking “ok, now what?”. Normally I’d be looking after Tony or, if he was particularly well, chatting with him. I don’t want to start the paper tonight and it feels too late to start some art.

Tony & I will settle into a new normal but who knows what it will look like. When we fell in love 30 years ago I didn’t imagine myself, at 56, visiting my husband in a rest home. We always said one day the 18 year age gap would bite, but somehow the reality is different.

He’s made friends with the resthome cat, and it pops in and out of his room regularly. He was tearful when I left tonight but, given it was my first day back after he went in 11 or so days ago, I think that was understandable. Overall, he’s looking much better than he did a few weeks back. With the anxiety of being home alone gone, he looks less frail, although he had another fall t the weekend. I’m sure some people are going to think he doesn’t need to be in a home but they are so, so wrong. Anyway, today was a small step towards a new normal. One step at a time…

Uncertainty #BlogJune 21

I’m someone who prefers certainty – I have a fairly routine life and like to plan ahead. I have none of that at the moment and it’s unsettling for me.

Today I’m heading home after 10 days away in Hokitika, relaxing on Alan’s farm and doing art with Penny. In that time Tony has become permanent in the rest home and seems to be settling well. That’s great news for him, for both is us really.

But it leaves me with a new reality to face largely on my own. There are people who I love and who support me; thanks Ailsa, Sandra, Yasmine, Alan and Penny. But day to day it’s going to be just me.

I haven’t lived alone for any length of time since I was 18 and I have physical constraints to cope with in terms of running the house, and major surgery coming up. It’s a big change financially too.

The biggest change is how Tony and I are going to navigate this new life. When do I visit? How often? Can he learn to use an iPad to chat with me? Will it be safe for him to come home for a few hours at the weekend?

So much change and uncertainty. Food, especially chocolate, has always been my go to when I’m stressed. I know I have to avoid that, which adds a layer of pressure. Life is changing, but love is certain.

Beauty in nature #BlogJune 20

I love seeing nature but don’t necessarily enjoy being in it – it depends on the circumstances. If I can take my time, and feel safe, I’m happy to go for a decent walk such as Hokitika Gorge.

I enjoy a nice garden and flowers, but I’m no good at growing things. I never have been, despite Dad being a good gardener. I’m staying with Alan in Hokitika at the moment and he grows orchids. I love seeing them bloom and finding out about the different types.