Category Archives: crafts

Loose (but not) ends

This is the end of November’s NaBloPoMo. First I want to thank Seiji Pulmano, a graphic and web designer, son of a good friend, and my son’s high school classmate (go Garfield). Seiji held my hand and helped me set up this site and learn the rudimentary parts of navigating it and then was available for questions along the way. Thank you Seiji!

I say if you are looking for a web or design consultant, Seiji is your man.  He can be reached at hello@spulmano.com. Thanks too, Rae and Bruce, Seiji’s  parents, who gave me the gift of his support.

Thank you all who have come and read these pages, for sticking with me as I muse about things that are important to me.  The blog will continue but not like November’s daily post. As I said when I opened the doors here, I welcome questions and topics you would like to discuss.

We talk about the moments in our lives throughout our days— in stories that are written, spoken, and sung in prose, poetry and song.  There are several wonderful events in December worth publicizing for those in the area or wanting a trip to the area.

The Moth (Moth Radio Hour, True Stories Told LIve) is coming to Seattle in just a few days, Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at the Neptune Theater, 1303 NE 45th, Seattle, Wa.  You can buy tickets here.

On December 15, Sunday, come hear some great jazz/gospel Christmas music by one of Seattle’s best gospel groups, Shades of Praise and Jubilation Choirs.  The Map of St. Therese (3416 E Marion, Seattle, Washington) shows it really is on 34th Avenue. (They let me sing with them.)image002

Then two nights later, on December 17th, The Blind Boys of Alabama are performing at Benaroya Symphony Hall. Tickets are still available. See them here too.

http://ronepraiseindy.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/blindboys071.jpg

from http://ronepraiseindy.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/blindboys071.jpg

Remember to send those letters to the senators and representatives conferencing regarding the farm bill, live on a food stamp budget, and buy the Hedgebrook cookbook and you will have a great gift that supports women’s voices “authoring change.”

Image from: www.whidbeylifemagazine.org

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Carrying stories

A few years ago I was given a mini sabbatical. I applied for it because I had collected about 30 stories written by other physicians in workshops a colleague and I offer. At the end of each session, I invited participants to give me what they had written with the expectation that maybe I would put them together with my stories into a manuscript for publication.  Fewer than a third gave me their stories and I had them transcribed and then started to work with the authors to edit and expand them. By the time I was granted the sabbatical, I was ready to explore the meaning within all of the writing, mine and that of the contributors.  I wanted to organize a coherent work. In my view, sabbaticals should also provide breathing room for rest  and for space where new creativity can surface.

The workshop we offer opens with a discussion of relationship centered care and some tools (mindfulness, narrative, self-awareness) and has a writing reflection where participants write about how they have been affected and changed as people (in their personal lives, not their doctor lives) within a relationship with a patient.  The sessions then have sharing of the writings with a focus on reflective listening. We offer these to resident physicians, medical students, and seasoned clinicians locally and nationally.

I knew the project had worth.  Physicians who have taken the workshop tell me their lives are fuller after going home and finding opportunities to spend some time sharing what they have learned from patients with those same individuals.  My patients have always been excited about the project and ask me weekly where they can buy the book. I shared the concept and writings with many people, most of whom were not physicians, in two writing workshops, Write on the Sound two years before my sabbatical and the Healing Art of Writing as the kickoff to it. That was 2010.

The summer of 2010 freedom was cut short by some family needs, but I was able to identify the main themes and see a form to the work. During the next year and a half I continued to pull it together, writing new material, editing, working with contributors, and putting out feelers for an agent, all of this in those little cracks in the weeks and months that were already overloaded with family and work.  A few vacation weeks found me with my laptop in a local coffee shop writing and editing.

By the winter of 2012 I had a rough draft of the entire manuscript and knowing I would be heading to Hedgebrook that fall, I was able to take a deep breath.  Three weeks would be mine to bring this project closer to completion.  I wrote about Hedgebrook in an earlier post; what it added to the quality of the work is immeasurable. I finished editing over the next months with a goal to find a home for it through the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and their annual conference.  My hopes grew when a story from the manuscript, “The Caregiver,” was a finalist in the short non-fiction category.  The conference has Pitch Sessions, where writers get 4 minutes per pitch with up to 6-9 agents and editors (from publishing houses). I was excited to share this work with as many as I could.

Picture the scene:  a big ballroom type space in the hotel.  Along the back wall there are between 25 and 30 agents and editors sitting in one row facing the doors, one long table in front of them.  Each has a chair across the table, facing the editor or agent.  At the gong, about 150 people enter the room and form lines in front of the person they desire to pitch.  A bell rings.  All of the firsts in line go and sit in a chair and pitch their work.  At four minutes, the bell rings and the next person in each line goes to the chair.  If you just pitched someone, you can go to the end of a different line.  At the ninety minute mark, the session is over.

At the end, I had seven people asking for the manuscript and the book proposal, a many paged document that speaks to the work, its audience, its competing works, the publicity and marketing plans and more. Hopeful for a home, I got those materials to them within a few weeks of the end of the conference. I am still waiting to hear from all but one.

Everyone has told me how much harder it is to find a home for a book in this market than for a paper.  They are right.  I have many publications in journals that are research and narrative.  This has been a trial in patience.  Finding time to move this project along is challenging. Keeping in touch with the contributors and hoping they do not lose hope adds another layer. When does patience become inertia?

What surprises me the most is the sense of responsibility I feel.  I am a person entrusted with a very large parcel of human truth that should be shared. Is that a ridiculous and hubris filled notion? I opened each pitch with, “When was the last time your physician shared with you what you mean to him or her?”  The universal answer was “Never.”  Knowing we matter in any relationship, that there is always reciprocity, is important for all to hear.  We recalibrate healing relationships when we teach patients that they are giving and not just receiving and when we teach those who care for patients to remember that they are also beneficiaries.

This is what I carry with this manuscript.

Feeling like a peddler of some elixir, I need engagement by someone  with the capacity to distribute it. I worry that I am somehow not selling it well enough and I fear that no one with that capacity will really understand.  It is hard for me to hold.  Lately, I have a lot of shoulder pain.  I believe it is where the weight sits squarely, the dynamic tension between the need to be patient and defining the alternatives.

On Keep On Keepin’ On

While swimming this morning, I was thinking about these recent weeks.  They mark the anniversaries I mentioned earlier in the week and my father died this week 17 years ago.  My brother-in-law died last month and a friend (the dad, grandpa, father-in-law, and husband to close friends) died this month. Swimming is a good place to be with myself, quiet and undistracted. From reflecting on the lives of those on my mind, I moved to questions about how we live.  How is it that we keep on keeping on? that we get up and keep going? I alluded to it in yesterday’s post.  It is more central on my mind today.

Two strangers suffered a similar loss.  https://i2.wp.com/www.griefland.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/GrieflandBigSur1.jpgArmen’s son Alex and a few years later Nancy’s daughter Rachel died.  A mutual friend introduced them and Armen became a guide and mentor with Nancy after Rachel’s death. As they wrote and exchanged thoughts and feelings, each was drawn deeper into this land we call grief.  They became close friends and  their writings became a book I recommend you buy: Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship. 

Nancy and I had corresponded in a web-based support group over the few years before Rachel’s death. In 2009, I showed her a picture of a doll I made in a workshop based on the work of Marita Dingus.

my dragonfly

I did not have knowledge of some cultures’ beliefs about dragonflies when I put one on my doll, but I liked it even more when I learned the symbolism. Nancy asked me to make a doll for Armen as a thank you for her presence in Nancy’s life.  She mentioned she would like one too.  They each sent me a few items that were meaningful artifacts in their families. Nancy wanted each to have a dragonfly.

When the dolls were complete, I explained them to both women:

Armen, I have never met you.  Your friend Nancy describes you as passionate, a gypsy at heart, deep, powerful.  She asked me to make you a dragonfly doll and yours is my second in a series of three.  Thank you for shepherding and sharing this journey with Nancy.  Having held the artifacts you gave to Nancy, there are ways I feel I know you.  When I look at the photo of earlier days, I see the connection among the four of you. Your traveling cross and your passport express other components of your spirit.

I imagined a wild gypsy for you at first and the picture that I had df5in my mind was actually the doll that I made.  When I look at your veiled dancer now however, she looks more subtle and gentle. She is the gypsy, the carrier or holder of your story, as much as another could represent it.  She is clothed in layers that can swirl or hide.  She is complex.  If she is a carefree gypsy, she is also a tender soul who can hold much in her softness for those whom she loves.  Your dragonfly is made from Swarovski crystals.  Crystals should refract light to show a rainbow: many colors, many symbols in many cultures.  dragonfly1Your doll would embrace the variety, which for me mean life and hope and beauty.  When you look at the inside of the cape, it becomes obvious that the story is yours.  The cape is held down, weighted, grounded by the two beads that are bone, raising your friend’s question of where do the bones go?

The lizard on your shoulder is for Alex, who loved lizards. The mother and two children: Danielle and her two and of course, you and your two, all linked to each other.  The ring is for your many years with your husband. The weights at the edge of the cape are also for your connection to writing, to Setrakian and Sorayan.  The key, from Rachel, is what keys are, both the means to open and move through, and also the reminder that we do not have to do these walks alone.  You are the living demonstration of this in your friendship with Nancy.

The heart is within the key; no key functions outside of our hearts. There are two word notations, “peace” and “&”.  You live in words; may they bring you peace. The “&” is an inclusive word.  Your cross is of course for your travels, and for my wish that many jeweled adventures lay ahead.  For this walk, you need boots; Nancy felt shoes were a key symbol for you both.  That they are boots is my touch: they do work, they touch dirt, they kick when necessary.  There is a bit of imaginary cowgirl in me.  We also share the material in your doll’s veil; my doll has the same fabric as a cape.  Both yours and Nancy’s dolls have the same fabric in their capes, reversed.

Nancy, your doll is the Lady in Red.  df2This was your stretch, and for us, always remembering to stretch will help keep us sane.  That we have never met is really rather amazing when I think about our connection.  Making these dolls was a treat for me. Because of your request, I could know you better.  Your dragonfly is like an amulet, a shield, beaded with the colors of earth and fire, the counterpoints for this insect that lives between air and water.  It is fastened with the button from your youth, because those years are the template from which you have grown.  It emerges from your paisley fabric, linking you further to your past.  It is fringed to represent a talis for whatever form your spirituality takes.

df7As with Armen’s doll, the inside of the cape is where your family tree lives, showing that the doll is the keeper of your story.  I picked a quote from Saroyan’s book Where the Bones Go, because really, this project came to be in large part because of Rachel bringing you to Armen.

Your dragonfly doll is regal and proud and unbound.  She strikes me as a protector who can stand tall, feel everything, living in her domain, not constrained by tradition or dictum. df4 Jessica’s cameo is on your skirt.  Do you and Jessica know that cameos are seen as a vow of love, sometimes given to travelers? Josh’s Aztec cross can be another talisman, protecting you from evil.  Rachel’s Mama Bear icon became part of Rachel’s key, because how she saw you and your heart will be part of your discovery as you use your key.  The beads then encircle you and thread connects the three siblings to your heart.  The heart on your doll is one from a pair of earrings; the other one is on my doll,  as our hearts are linked.  And of course, there are two keys; you have one and Armen has one.  Your word is grace.  You also live in words and your journey is rich with grace. The “&” is inclusive; do you remember in seminar hearing how “but” negates and “and” expands?  You told me shoes were very important.  The boots are my touch.  Boots do work, they walk through shit, and they kick when necessary.