March 26, 2010


Everyone has her threshold for pain.  I like to think I don't have one, that I can endure anything life puts me through.  Sometimes, I even trick myself into believing it.  I look back and see that I endured spinal surgery and five unmedicated labors & deliveries.  I endured countless emotional and psychological traumas over the years, and yet, I'm not dependent, invalid, or in jail.  Surviving strengthens a person, but it can also skew her perspective of her own mortality.  That's dangerous.  Kind of like the risks associated with a "no-pain disorder," only in the head.  Or, if you prefer an adage or admonishment, "Pride goeth before the fall."

All of this "I-can-endure-anything" is a bunch of malarkey.  Smoke and mirrors executed by an acute (and disproportionate) sense of responsibility and capability.  "I endure, because I have to, so I will."  Mind over matter.

Dad, I'm so, so sorry, but there are times when I just CAN'T suck it up.  When I get the wind knocked out of me, I can't breathe.  I've got to stop for a minute and recover.  I can't keep going.  I don't WANT to keep going.  I just want some relief.

Sparring.  Being pushed to the absolute limit of my endurance, for the match.
And childbirth.  Pushing myself to the end of myself, for the preservation of purity.

Ironic that it's easier for me to endure the body's greatest natural transformation, yet the challenges of the affected mind bring me to my knees, begging for mercy.

I can't endure.  I can't, I can't, I can't.

Does anyone know what it's like to be unable to sit in your own skeleton, in your own skin, and simply tolerate existing?  Can you imagine a world with no silence?  Can you imagine that little red devil sitting on your shoulder, yapping in your ear hour after hour about all the crappy things you've done, all the crappy things you're doing, and all the crappy things you will do in the future, no matter how hard you strive in the opposite direction?

It's worse than being chained to your fate.  Hypothetically speaking, Fate would be certain, unalterable, and real.  In this case, "Fate" is a concept that has absolutely no basis in reality at all.  As a matter of fact, it's a sick fantasy of a person's most grotesque failures come to pass, complete with the self-abuse, self-punishment, and self-loathing that goes along with it.


But I know the reason for all this nonsense is my body's realignment to support this little child inside, various systems are burdened and overburdened, and my poor brain can't hit her stride.  Perfectly good explanation.  I'm aware I'm for the majority irrational.  I'm acutely aware the voices are phantoms, and the real behaviors that result are inappropriate and extreme.  No one is bad.  No one is hopeless.  No one hates me or should hate me.

But knowing does not take the pain away.  Knowing does not make it a bit easier.  Knowing and experience and responsibility can not give me what I need to get through this.

March 21, 2010

Drawing disasters threaten to drive artist to quit.

So I've got a handful of portrait commissions.  It's been over a year since I did a portrait, and my supplies needed updating, so I took care of that; grabbed some smooth Bristol paper, a new kneading eraser, and another can of fixative.

I get home.  I'm inspired, motivated, optimistic.  I prepare my photo references and printouts.  I go to layer my work on the light box, and whaddyaknow -- the smooth Bristol paper is so thick, I can barely see through it to block the main shapes of my subject!  Obstacle #1.

I push through that and do the best I can.  It works out, so I merrily draw on, shading in the skin and shadows beginning on one side of the page and working my way to the other.  I work for three hours straight and get a full THIRD of the job done, and suddenly...SCCCCCRRRRAAAATCH!

A particle from who-knows-where leapt onto my page and under the chamois and hooked a big gouge in the middle of my subject's right cheek!  I knew what happened as soon as I felt the drag, and at that precise moment, too, I knew there was nothing I could do to correct it and my drawing was ruined.  Obstacle #2.

There are few things in the world so frustrating to an artist or writer than investing sheer effort, vision, time, creativity, and fine motor skills, just to have one small, sudden circumstance unravel it all in an instant!  I've had it happen to stories I've written, garments I've sewn, projects I've knitted, and on and on.  This wasn't the first drawing I've had to throw away and restart, but every time it happens, it feels like the very first time, and all the stomping and tears and expletives in the world are not enough to ease the agony.

So there's really nothing a person can do except take a deep breath and begin again.  So I began again.  I went through the whole process of layering my work on the light box, blocking the main shapes, and filling in the skin tone and shadows from one side to the other.  Slow, meticulous, precise work.

I finish toning the full face, and it's time to go back and blend.  I begin blending, and what should appear along the subject's right temple!  FINGERPRINTS!  Large, dark, unavoidably distracting fingerprints.  Obstacle #3.

I should know better.  The oils on the skin adhere to paper surfaces -- especially the smoother varieties -- and graphite and charcoal adhere to the oil.  If you blend pencil over oil, you get a very detailed, relief-like image of every fingerprint on the page.

I knew this.  I've always known this.  But why haven't I had this problem before???

Because this is the first time I've used the Bristol smooth paper, the first time I've chosen to blend with a chamois instead of my usual blending stubs, and the first time I recall doing portraiture while pregnant.  Maybe pregnancy affects my fingerprints in some strange way.

I did not cry.  I simply set my supplies aside and allowed Rocky to talk me down while I cleaned the kitchen with unprecedented fury.  He told me to walk away from it, go to bed, sleep in, and try again tomorrow.

It's a new day.  I'm going back to the craft store to get the paper I always use, and I'm going to try again.  I may even pick up a box of latex gloves just to be on the safe side.

And for the sake of my sanity, maybe I should estimate I'll have to start over twice today, and I should just prepare myself to handle it when it happens.

March 16, 2010

Punkin's Banana Bread

So 'ono!!! Even let it cool on the window sill.

Punkin's Banana Bread
Source: Waianae Baptist Church Cook Book
"My grandma had submitted this recipe to her church for the making of their cookbook and I've made this many of times and each time I make it I can't seem to get enough of it...It's my favorite...Good recipe and very easy to make..."

-- Punkin from Nanakuli (new homestead, series 7, Pikaiolena St.) now living in Lakewood, WA. Wen grad Pearl City High '95. Email: punkin96792[AT]aol[DOT]com.
Recipe, as published at
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 c. mashed bananas (about 3)
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. black walnuts

Cooking Instructions
Pre-heat oven first to 350. Grease loaf pan (you can use the spray kine). Mix ingredients in order given. Bake for 1 hour. When done let cool and cut into 1/2 inch thick. Serves 12.

March 5, 2010

Mean Mothers & I'm Not One of Them

I picked up Mean Mothers (Peg Streep) because I was interested in reading one author's definition and exposition on what she views is a "mean mother." Naturally, I'm curious as to whether or not I might in some way fit the bill.

I am a temperamental woman and have had my bouts with Depression and dysfunction.  I'm known at times to have a sharp tongue and to withdraw, to turn a cold shoulder or mother with a heavy hand.

But even considering all my flaws, I in no way think I'm categorically a "mean mother." The mothers Streep describes in her book are jealous, dismissive, competitive, undermining, discouraging, insulting, and in every other way emotionally absent, oppressive, and/or abusive.  On the whole, they derive their satisfaction from seeing their daughters in pain, or failing.

If anything, Mean Mothers reassures me I am NOT a mean mother, that I do possess an abundance of those critical elements that define a mother as healthy and effective: love, emotional affection, physical affection, encouragement, respect, willingness to communicate, acceptance.

What's jarring, though, is the accounts given by the daughters interviewed for the book.  It seems more often than not, the mean mothers in question were entirely unaware they were awful.  The daughters spent most of their lives (literally, as most of the interviewees were between 50 and 60 years of age) feeling unloved, and by the time they offered their perspectives on their horrible childhoods, the damage had been done and the mothers had passed on.  Their respective repulsive histories of their family lives were written, never to be edited or improved.

There is such a terrible permanence in family dysfunction.  Not only can the pain never be taken back, but it carries on down the following generations, often morphing into deeper and more complex dysfunctions.  It seems the family grows more and more fragmented and wounded and detached.

I realize this is not always the case.  With every generation, there is an opportunity for learning, healing, and redemption.  Is it too naive, too sentimental to depend heavily on these hopes?  Would holding out and pressing forward for growth in love and understanding be too much a rejection of the harsh truths of the individual parental psyche and the dysfunctional collective of the family?  MUST one plow through the violence of emotions in order to find the peace and edification?

It's a good thing I don't intend to utilize Mean Mothers as a guide to personal betterment, or a manual of "what not to do."  Rather, I'm taking note of just how bad mothers can actually be, giving thanks for the upbringing I had, and rededicating to the labor of love I've got in front of me.