Ushering in “No Sweets November” and, ok, just one more tiny little poem.

Between projects is a difficult place to be. I only have the hope of the future projects – but not one yet underway. It makes me feel a little artistically heart fluttery nervous. Why is that?

So to solve this problem, I get to thinking, what is is that I treasure the most? So, I thought that first a bit of personal inventory might help:

During the month of October,

I placed my husband in long term memory care after he wandered out dangerously for the last time in the middle of the night climbing out of his window and walking a mile! And I’m strangely torn without him here, unused to not taking care of him all the time. It is expensive. I have faith that God will provide the needed resources to keep him there.

Also I finished the first quarter homeschooling my daughter 11th grade. She does lessons by video and I oversee and ask her to teach me what she has learned. It works well that way since relating something just learned helps greatly with interest and retention. Hey and it’s good for me too as I think I’ve forgotten all that. Actually I think at her age I was doing nothing but concentrating on some boyfriend. I paint and write while she does school. As I blog away here she’s doing violin class and I will add… a lot less squeaky than when she first began at the beginning of the school year.

I wrote a poem each day for the past 31 days. That was exhilarating. Really. I did not know that doing it would be like running a race each time. Yay for getting across the poetry finish line.

But back to answer my original question what should I do now that poetry month is over

1. I am in planning – brainstorming – looking at photo references – for a brand new oil painting project to show in my art club’s copying the master’s challenge but first I’m finishing the painting below. I’m not very happy with it right now which is lending a little to my art troubles but I wrote a poem about it so I am including it.

2. I’m sugar free (but just as sweet) and will blog about my upcoming 7 mos of eating no sweets.  And yes I can eat fruit

3  Art projects with memory care. I am excited they asked me would I bring in some projects to do with the folks at my husband’s memory care facility. I am considering bringing some tempura paints and brushes and some cheap Walmart canvases. So I will be sharing about my Art memory care experiences.

4  Poetry Monday’s:  I am thinking I ought to write poetry on a schedule of one day per week so I can keep poetry challenged.

Below is my current painting propped for picture in the window. Interesting how the lavender sky outside is all matchy matchy with my painting.

Faith

Oh! A lavender sky

Where below the cattle gather,

Heads low, munching,

Not at all watching

Any kind of weather.

~Julie Robinson

Sweet Report: Day 1 of 210 (is that 7 months?) I haven’t actually started this day yet! But, I am full of optimism, I’ve gathered all the faith I got like the cattle under the lavender sky, and unless the sky rains snicker bars, I’m ok. Check back each day for my Sweet Report. Think I can do it?

Summing up this post, goodbye October and ushering in important thing: FAITH! I went back up into the post and italicized every place I talked about it. That is the treasure I seek for November. Faith

Close up on a painting I’m working on to show details. When my iPhone wasn’t working, I noticed there was detail needed in this painting I’ve been working on for the past two days.

IPhone Addiction… how to know?

This all happened to me yesterday so I diagnose myself: addicted

I got to thinking … maybe it isn’t the iPhone, per se, ,,,but the

I n f o r m a t i o n.

IPHONE ADDICTION?

Here is a list of my own life events and my own reactions to a day without my iphone.

This wonderful technology I haven’t had that long in the scheme of my life… It was born in 2001. YouTube 2006, WordPress 2003, Siri 2011. I use it to find the word of the day, the verse of the day, and look up words … I love etymology! Breaking news, traveling the Google Earth to find that place they are talking about on the news, writing my blog, and poetry, and reading, keeping up my blog readers, checking arrival of Amazon prime orders, YouTube for learning about anything and everything, and using Siri for text, reminders, putting things on my calendar. The iPhone has reached in and gripped my entire life. And when I didn’t have it, I felt at a loss. I think I might feel that the iPhone is my friend. Granted, it wasn’t just the iphone, but my internet and cellular were also out at my house. So, a triple whammy!

I was locked out of my phone first thing in the morning. Because, of course, what is the first thing I do every morning? I simply didn’t enter the passcode correctly that I had just set up less than a day ago so got locked out.

1. I was frantic about it beyond normal and couldn’t eat because I was trying to solve the problem.

2. Spent all day watching YouTube videos to figure out how to reset my phone and trying all of the things they said to do. None of those “hard reset” hacks worked.

3. Spent hours and energy into iTunes (which by the way could be more helpful).

4. Bought a brand new phone instead of waiting to go to the apple store where I was told they could restore my phone.

5. When I got home with my new phone there was an internet outage in my area until the next morning so I ate a cupcake and went to bed with my book, The Distant Mirror, The Calamitous 14th Century, a difficult read that I usually read with Wikipedia at the ready. No Wikipedia. So, I couldn’t really even read my book.

6. Upset that I couldn’t answer comments on my blog.

7. Couldn’t set up my new iPhone because I couldn’t go on the internet or the cellular service. And, just like a person whose power goes out who keeps trying to flick on the light switch, that’s what I kept on doing with my phone. It was on… I could see the apps, but I couldn’t actually get in. I kept going to the weather app and the news app… For some reason, I wasn’t able to use the cellular data for internet either. It was tough for an information junkie.

8. Woke the next morning and my heart skipped a beat when I saw the internet on so I could set up my new phone.

I was refreshed because I got a good night’s sleep … with no YouTube to distract me and I thought about trying to fight the iPhone addiction. So, I looked up, on the iPhone, “how to fight iPhone addiction”. Of course.

Visiting a Colorful Muddy Road, Acrylic on Canvas

My husband was cranky so when I mentioned his going to the adult day care he told me in a tone that I knew was going to be a “brick wall” conversation… that I needed to be the one to go.

Sometimes I run through phrases in my head that fortunately I don’t speak. All those years of my mom’s teaching me (and my big teenager mouth) to let those thoughts rattle around awhile before deciding to let them shoot out the chute… pays off time and again.

So I told him he’d maybe feel better if he lay down awhile. The sound of my voice was so soothing I surprised myself. Thanks mom! I know it was hard work raising me.

So today we stayed home and I made chicken flautas. Everyone’s favorite. Here’s the recipe. I don’t do exact amounts but I will try to here. I’ve been cooking these up for perhaps 20 years and the amounts don’t have to be exact. Trick is to use leftover chicken and soften the tortillas before you stuff them or they will crack.

I’ve had these in a restaurant… but always deep fried. Never like mine… so GOOD!

Julie’s Chicken Flautas

1 cup of cooked chicken, shredded or diced up small

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 can green chilis

1 tsp cumin

8 flour tortillas, warmed

Roll up cooked chicken, grated cheese, green chilies and cumin in each flour tortilla. Seal each one good and tight with a wooden toothpick. They resemble little flutes – where they get their name flautas, Spanish for flute. Brown then them in a little oil in a skillet. Serve over shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes and top with sour cream and salsa. They are a pretty presentation. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top to make them appear so extra tasty. Don’t forget to remove the wooden toothpick before serving.

So, I decided as I was serving the delicious meal that sometimes it is better to stay home and invite people over. I invited my parents, who I was intending to meet out for lunch, and asked them to bring cupcakes from our favorite cupcake shop: The Sweeter Side of Rails. We like the tuxedo and the peanut butter cup. That made it all the more sweet.

And after they left, I painted over the above painting which I had painted last year when I was doing clouds differently than I am doing now. And what did I do, of course you know if you’ve been reading my blog….

…but add a very wet reflecty muddy road that is in itself a weird kind of respite for me..

If Clouds Could Talk, Acrylic on Canvas … with poem at the end of this post.

We went for the Psych evaluation.

First off, the psychologist had at least 4″ high purple shag wall to wall carpeting in her office. I haven’t ever seen anything like it and I’m a child of the 70’s.

And her office was in an old building that didn’t have a “trust factor” for me.

As in the above painting of mine, clouds talk, and apparently, psychologists performing a psych eval do too. After the evaluation the psychologist gave her opinion that my husband probably wouldn’t get the disability because she didn’t think dementia is caused by PTSD and that he didn’t have any PTSD symptoms.

But the paperwork from the VA had said the psychologist evaluator only does the evaluation and won’t give an answer. I thought it a bit strange she’d give an opinion.

In my own reading on the matter I’ve learned that it does happen that a person can have a very stressful event happen such as my husband did in Vietnam that can cause dementia later in life.

Well, I am not worried about any of it. And I remind myself that I’m just carrying through on the application for disability that the VFW near us had helped my husband apply for a few years ago after he was no longer able to work, but had not as yet been diagnosed with dementia.

A little tiny bit of history on him case you were wondering…

He was a practicing attorney until 2012 when he wasn’t able any longer to concentrate or to properly function in his job.

Then in 2014 after he had been going to visit with the veterans at our local VFW, they helped him apply.

Then in 2015 he finally got a diagnosis of dementia.

Then… a few weeks ago (9/2018) I was looking for something in the file cabinet and I came across the PTSD disability application which he had filed. So I took it up to the VFW and they refiled it with the information they had said they were lacking. In about a week the psych eval had been ordered by the VA.

I don’t know how any of it will go. But that purple shag carpeting was very very strange. Just about as strange as clouds communicating.

If Clouds Could Talk

If clouds could talk

in puffed up words

Or heavy purple phrases

Misty morning melodies

To tornado laden crazies

They’d loftily quote

Or drastically deluge

If clouds could talk.

~Julie Robinson

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Colorful Puddles After a Rainstorm, Acrylic on Canvas

Besides the sweet smell in Texas when “It’s fixin’ to rain”, one of my favorite things is puddles after a good rainstorm with reflections of a now bright sky. I love to put those last touches of bright red in the fresh puddle that make the road rise up.

I express this feel of a scene often in my paintings because it says “Look up, the torrent is over and it’s a brand new brightness.”

Being a caregiver has been a bit like that rainstorm.  But, it has been helpful for me to find acceptance in who I am now. I don’t have a husband who is there for me to love and care for me.  Instead I’m left with a man who sometimes packs up because it’s time for him to go home.

But “The position has been filled”… as was succinctly stated to the dog standing outside the door in Mary Poppins.

…Filled by the One who makes a storm, knows fully about the puddles, the colorful brightness, and how to fill my artist’s heart with joy.

Pumpkins I painted over my old Peaches Sign

Eating with Dementia

We made homemade tortillas and smoked up the kitchen in the process (the pan I think was too hot?) requiring that we open all the windows though there was not a breath of air in this Texas Hill Country post lots of rain evening.

To complete the eventful dinner time , my husband, who has dementia, built his own taco but he did it completely upside down. He put all of the ingredients in layers on his plate starting with the sour cream, the cheese, and the chunks of chicken and then topped it with a tortilla.

I just watched (more like an artist, less like a caregiver) to see what would happen next as he turned his plate upside down and it all fell off to the table, disgustingly. I could’ve helped him but he seemed determined.

He scraped it all off with the tortilla and ate it. I figured it was just a matter of a quick wipe up when he was done. I’ve seen worse being a mom of three.

But the chicken tacos with the fresh tortillas were just delicious.

And then we ate ice cream. And who could argue with that?

I’ve been working on this a little each day… added another tree and widened the river.

Playing Clue With Dementia. Yes We Can!

First of all, I’m considering making my own worksheets for the game of Clue. We ran out about six months ago and each time we play we write out all of the categories before we start playing. Yes, we have played it a lot over the years. And, he used to be the one to win. I’ve always been pretty bad at it. Now, my game is Scrabble!

But our daughter likes to play Clue. And, she still doesn’t mind inviting him to join us, though we figured out a way to play with just 2 players.

So, I have created – on my new IPAD Pro – a new Clue worksheet.

I first perused Etsy to see if anyone has made any. None. So, maybe I am the first?

I am going to print them and get them laminated so they can be reusable with Expo marker.

Dementia Clue Works!

We play dementia Clue which means we let him do whatever he wants. We let him have some of the cards and don’t make a big deal out of it if he says the card out loud. If you are familiar with the game, a player quietly shows their card to the person whose turn it is. It makes the game shorter which is good for playing with him. He gets joy from choosing to be for instance in the kitchen or the bedroom. We tell him he is the winner. Some of his playing and antics are funny but the last time we played I noticed I lost a bit of my game playing funny bone.

Going With The Flow

A “Navy Brat”, I spent my childhood at the beach. I think it’s why I’m magnetically drawn to paint it now.

I race through cleaning up the breakfast mess and make sure my husband has plenty of coffee and “reading” material because I’ve got an ocean scene calling my artist’s imagination. Have I mentioned I’ve painted stacks of paintings, many of them ocean scenes. Not all good. Some ok. All still in a learning stage for me.

As I paint, my husband and I usually chat about what he’s looking at in the paper. He thinks he knows the people in the pictures, he’s been in business with them, his mind is delusionally entertwined with them. Mostly I say “Oh, is that right,” and “Wow I didn’t know that”, faking a tone to allow him to continue there. I know he just likes the talking and the time.

I put a live ocean scene on YouTube loud enough so I can feel like I’m there and so I can study the light hitting all the places light hits, glowing, refracting, being deflected and diffused, causing shadows.

Sometimes when I paint, I wax a little poetic… I didn’t want to title this one because it would mess up the tip of the wave… so it is

An

Ode

to the

Ocean:

a melody

and a dance.

Waves prance,

in lacy edge dress,

seagulls squawk soprano,

starkly accompanying the sea.

And there am I, a party to the scene,

only in my mind through the power of TV.

~ Julie Robinson

As all of this “excitement” is raging, my husband gets up to return to his second love, Turner Classic Movies. First he looks at my painting and says, as always, “Another ocean”. I try not to be deflated by the flat dementia tone that I know he has entirely no control over.

And he leaves me at my painting to go watch Turner Classic Movies.

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Caregiver Painting Poetry

Sometimes I write stories or poetry to go with my paintings. I’m absolutely taken in by the subject matter and get absorbed in my paintings. The picture I took of this one in my Pathways series is a little dark… but I decided to leave it that way because I thought it a mysterious path.

The writing/painting combo keeps away the dangerous caregiver stress.  (See my previous post.)

Above the painting… below the poem.

The Dusty Road

The dusty road,

After a squall,

Whispers, “Come and walk awhile”,

Needing nothing,

It wants your all.

You listen to

The dusty road

And consider its promise,

Breathing in its sweet grasses,

Seems like heaven’s abode.

Bunnies race

And deer eyes gleam.

The dusty road

‘Tis steep it seems;

And the road becomes your dreams.

The river racing

And Crickets chirp,

And you plod on and on and on and on

The dusty road

It’s mighty work.

At last, a rock’s your friend,

Long nuff you’ve strode.

The singers, the music, the song,

And to sleep you’ve gone on

The dusty road.

~ Julie Robinson

Dusty Path, Acrylic on Paper 9×16

Pathway Painting

In the scene I am currently painting… the rain clouds just left and the side of the road has become a temporary stream. Originally I painted this with grass in the foreground, then I just had to make water appear there which is what happens right now in all of my landscape pathways. I think it is a reminder that though I might be traveling on a seemingly unendingly difficult path, refreshment is provided.

My method is to paint and put aside the painting… I’ve done that for the past several years… it may not be a good method, because that way I have stacks of paintings – mostly finished, some signed, but they are going nowhere.

It’s okay, though, I catch myself a little break. I like this pathway painting, the subject matter was out of my morning thoughts. And, I am happy to put it in the pile of all of the others.

Psalm 16:11