Showing posts from January, 2009

Three Years

... It has been three years since Robb broke his back. Time has moved very strangely in that time. The earliest days and weeks after the accident stretch out in ways that do not correspond to their actual length. In some ways, it seems like the accident was just a few months ago. And on other ways, all that seems like a lifetime ago. We are glad to have come as far as we have. Re-learning how to stand and how to walk. Starting to cycle. And then cycling over three thousand miles. Redefining what "normal" means in our lives. And we want to thank all of our friends, who have been with us along this strange journey.

well, THAT was strange

... After Robb broke his back, he spent five weeks in a brain-and-spine rehabilitation hospital. There were many times when I had to wait around, outside of his room, pacing around, watering the plants, and re-re-re-reading the posters discussing the symptoms of stroke. So, when the right half my face went suddenly all pins-and-needlesy today, I did not mess around. I drove back to my studio as carefully as I could, and immediately called the advice nurse service provided by my health plan. I was pretty sure that they would tell me that I was over-reacting, but I wasn't willing to take any chances. Other than the weird tingling of my face, and the bone-weary-exhaustion from this week of work, I felt as healthy as ever. As much as I was willing to discount the whole thing, the nurse I spoke to did not take my symptoms lightly. In fact, she told me how she had ignored these very same kinds of symptoms herself, had "just gone to bed" and woke up the next morning having

More Wallpaper

... The scenery for our current show has been installed onstage. This show features twin turn-tables, to move the set around, and load-in was extremely difficult. Since the carpenters spent so much time putting together this challenging scenery, my painters and I did not get as much time to do our onstage work as I might have wished for. Oh well. We'll catch up, somehow. We always do. (That's my current intern, Mike. I love him. Anyone who can turn the tedious job of removing used masking tape into Performance Art wins a special place in my heart.)


... We've not been writing a lot about Robb's condition, lately. There's only so many ways of saying, "Robb is still suffering from paralysis. We remain hopeful for improvements, because he is working his ass off, doing therapeutic exercises that may teach his damaged nerves to resume communications with each other." Besides, that's hardly the extent of our interests. Linguine by way of example, is very interested in chomping on fake mice.

Ironic? Or Just Plain Silly?

... Robb and I both love the English language. We love its complexity and flexibility. We spend a lot of time laughing at word play, much to the dismay of our friends. And we really, really love bizarre uses of the language. Remember " hydroentangled ?" Robb brought home a new hair gel today, because I had been so disconcerted by the the hospital-smell of his last brand. As he was carrying it through the apartment, he just started to giggle. Rhetorically, Robb asked, "Isn't that a word meaning slovenly and smelly?"

Lost Generation?

.... "This video was created for the AARP U@50 video contest and placed second."

Home Alchemy

... silver A hundred and fifty years, ago, nobody would have thought twice about making one's own clothes or beer. But in our post-industrial world, it sort of seems like magic. I think there's something really empowering about gaining the skills to make things yourself. Saturday was a dreary day, so we stayed home and made things. Robb brewed beer, and I worked on a knitting project. Brewing is a great enterprise for Robb, because it is very mentally challenging, and because there are lots of opportunities for lying down. Even so, he's totally worn-out and in a lot of discomfort, a day later. and gold Probably, because I am a self-described thing-maker, I really love going to living history museums. When Robb and I go together, Robb plays a little game called "How long is it going to take before the museum interpreter drops their fake-historic character and starts talking shop with Lisa." I think my all-time record was set with at Colonial Williamsburg, wi

embarrassing the secret service

... There's so much to love about this photo. Her care in keeping her white dress off of the freight elevator floor (the fact that the President of the United States travels in a freight elevator, for goodness sake), his jacket around her shoulders. But I really, really, really love how all the Secret Service agents are politely averting their eyes as the President canoodles with his brilliant wife.

On Little Cat Feet

... We have been cat-sitting for our upstairs neighbors. One of their cats is a very aloof lady, and the other is a rambunctious young man. This cat, Billy, has some kind of neurological damage, not unlike Robb's. He is healthy and spry, and curious about everything, but he doesn't have much control over his hind feet. Billy seems utterly unaware of the fact that he has any kind of "disability." He's a normal cat, who just happens to drag his feet around when he walks. Robb and I live in an apartment building that was built in the 1920's. The walls are stout -- still standing despite all those earthquakes -- but sound passes very easily between the floors and the ceilings. Our previous neighbor used to apologize constantly for all of his chronic asthmatic coughing. I never could convince him that we weren't such manner-less churls as to blame him being noisy as he struggled to breathe. We occasionally hear our neighbors playing their piano, which is

Who's Who?

... Were you struggling to identify the dignitaries at the Presidential inauguration ceremony? Well, here are two nifty interactive tools to help you figure out everyone's name and title. From the New York Times From the Wall Street Journal If you've run across any other interesting documentation from the inauguration, please share it by leaving a comment.

But Seriously...

... The inauguration of President Barack Obama was a beautiful and moving event. The image of a brilliant young African-American man, advancing toward the Presidential podium, flanked by two powerful women (Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein) still makes my heart swell with joy, and my eyes swim with tears. I'm old enough to know that there was a time in American history that the very idea of such an event would have been met with scorn and derision. Obama's inaugural address was about as good as it gets. Eloquent, mature, responsible, conciliatory. I am sure I will not agree with every action of our new administration, but I wish them well. (And how can I not be delighted by what Nancy Pelosi said would be the four objectives of the current government -- "Science, science, science and science" ?) I grew up inside the Washington Beltway. And I can tell you that I haven't seen a photograph yet that expresses how huge this crowd wa


... We understand that the dress worn by the First Lady at the inauguration traditionally goes into the collection of the Smithsonian. If there is a second term, her dress goes to her husband's Presidential Library. Just think, all you need is a library card and you can check out the dress and wear it for two weeks. We can't wait.

Lessons Learned

... I'm still digesting everything I was taught at the eight-hour wildlife emergency response class. Here are a few of the stories I heard. Years and years ago, some person in Berkeley California caught a "seagull" that they decided to keep it as a pet (this is both illegal and ill-advised). They cut off all of its feathers to keep it from flying away. When this animal (which turned out not to be a gull, but a Laysan Albatross , a truly magnificent seabird with a gigantic wingspan) proved to be a poor house-pet, they let it "free". (Click on the underlined word "albatross" and you'll come to a very interesting story in National Geographic about these long-lived birds.) This bird was found wandering the streets of Berkeley, and eventually made it to the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Albatrosses flight feathers grow back slowly and in stages, and soaring birds like albatross (who spend almost all of their life aloft) do not do well in


... Does everyone remember the advertisements for Monster Truck rallies? Can everyone imitate the vocal style used in these ads? Yes? Well, today was SUNDAY ... SUNDAY ... SUNDAY!!!!! And I spent the entire day at a police station, with a bunch of animal control officers, a park ranger, and the woman who made the film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill . We weren't in trouble with the law. Nope, we were all learning more about emergency response protocols for injured or oiled wildlife. It was.... A MONSTER DUCK RALLY!

Trashed, Part Three

... photo by Chien-min Chung Robb and I do not define ourselves by the stuff we buy. Our sense of self worth comes from our achievements, not the things we bought at the store. Truthfully, we could give a damn about status items. And we really have no place in our lives for throw-away trinkets. We buy the highest quality products we can afford, and hope they last a really long time. The twenty-somethings I work with routinely describe my mobile phone as "Old School," and when they do that I just smile. Our computers were bought used. My trusty bike, which I ride all the time is eleven years old. Our cars were both what car-dealers call pre-owned. (My demented love for this phrase cannot be described.) They're nice cars, and we take good care of them. Robb and I were out cycling and I pointed out a parked car, which was (just about) the model car Robb owned when we first met. He got all wistful, because that was the last car he owned that he was capable of repai

Trashed, Part Two

... Recycling is one of those seemingly simple things, that becomes complex once you start to think about it. Sure, an aluminum can can be made into another aluminum can, but how does it actually happen? How does the can get sorted from all the other waste in the recycling bin, and find its way to a can-rebirth facility? Recycling is also one of those things that it is pretty easy to dismiss or be cynical about. I remember hearing how, back in the 1990's, the citizens of New York City were fined for not sorting recyclables out of their trash. That seems fairly admirable, except that it later turned out (in a big scandal) that the so-called recyclables were just being dumped in the landfill. (I can't find a citation for this right now, but I'll keep looking.) New Yorkers were not surprised by this duplicity and corruption. After all, the Mafia had controlled waste removal since the 1950's . My intern and I had been talking about how recycling programs vary in diffe

Trashed, Part One

... The state of my garden soil, when I first got it. As blog readers have probably figured, Robb and I both care about the environment. If you pay attention, even a little bit, it is hard not to. Every time we drove to his parents' home, we passed the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island . Until it closed, this was the world's largest garbage dump, absorbing six hundred and fifty tons of garbage every single day. We try to buy products with as little packaging as possible (I drink -- gasp -- tap water, instead of buying bottled water, which is often -- duh -- tap water in petroleum-based water bottles .) Like a total crazy woman, I drag my kitchen scraps in to work, where I compost them in my tiny urban garden. I have my co-workers collecting composting, too. We try to do our little part. Part-way through the trash-removal process. The garden, itself, is a project in reclamation. When my landlord gave me access to the space, it was filled with trash, wheelbarrows, wate

Sniff, Sniff...

... Smells to my mind, are the sense most capable of evoking memories. You know what I mean. You walk into a room, and a smell triggers a flood of emotions connected with your grandmother. Strangely, people lose the ability to smell the odors they live with all the time. The person with seven cats barely notices the littler box, because their brain gets tired of the constant nagging input from the olfactory nerves, and actually stops "listening to" (or smelling) those messages. This neurological phenomenon can be dangerous to people who work around hazardous chemicals, because they actually lose the ability to smell the toxins. I've not been sleeping well, lately. I'm under a lot of pressure. And both Robb and the cat snore like crazy. The cat wraps herself around my head like a furry hat, and then snores and snores. Also, Robb wears a hair pomade that totally freaks me out. It smells like the hospital, and each time I get a whiff of that scent, it brings me b

Counting the Birds

... How many kinds of birds can you name? Think about it for a moment. What are the common birds near where you live? How much do you know about them? Where do they live, eat and sleep. Do they spend the entire year in your area, or do they migrate? If you were to sit down and make a list of all the kinds of birds you saw today, how many would you count? If you were to really, really pay attention, how many birds might you identify? What would the number be if you counted every single species of bird you saw in your home country in one calendar year? If you devoted every spare moment to chasing after birds? In 2008, some bird enthusiasts in Alameda and also in Contra Costa County decided to answer that question. They banded together for what Serious Birders call a Big Year*. They made it their goal to see as many species of birds as possible. Last night, I attended the celebration of that those two bird-spotting events. I'm not much of a score-keeper. When I worked with Sh


Maybe this is not the morning to say again how grateful I am to be making my recovery in a temperate climate. But it really would have a very different outcome if I had icy sidewalks and cold winds to contend with. A lot of my therapy and exercise takes place in the outdoors and I've learned that if I settle in, try to get comfortable, and do less activity it just makes things worse. This morning, as she was leaving for work, Lisa mentioned she had opened our kitchen window. I immediately wondered about the yeast I was culturing in there (beer stuff–– more on that later). Would it get too cold? Cold. I will point out it is now 56ºF and expected to reach 72º today. I started reading the news and noticed a piece about the cold front in the northern Midwest. I wondered what this morning looks like for our friend Ellen in St. Paul. I looked it up. Here's what I saw: I couldn't breathe. For a full minute I stared and gasped. I'm not sure I've ever–– even growing up

At the Drop of a Hat

... I've been knitting a large project, but ran out of yarn. I've been so busy at work, working such long hours, that I hadn't been able to get to the yarn store until this weekend. But that's okay, because I've been trying to actually use all those yarns (and other art materials) that have been cluttering up my life. Instead of going shopping every time I get a new idea, I'm trying to look at what I already own with fresh eyes. With that in mind, I recently made two fun little hats. The first is for my niece. Adults can be so conservative about the colors of their clothes, but kids are much more free. While I was in France, I was actually considering trying to cram myself into some of the cute clothes we saw for older kids. (I'm slim, right?) This hat is really clever. It is formed from three panels that all top out with a triangular shape. For those interested, the pattern is available for free, here . I followed a few suggestions for modification, he


... In my universe, the word "bikers" applies to people who ride motorcycles. Robb and I -- being human powered -- are cyclists. Last night I dreamt that I bought a purple Italian motorcycle (made by a company known only in my dreams). To buy it, I had to fill out a postcard, which had an order form for every single part on the bike. Each part (left foot pedal, et cetera) was billed separately, which was considered useful if the bike was crashed and a single part needed to be replaced. The bike was delivered to the home where my mother lived when my parents divorced. It was strange to revisit that home in my dreams, because it was surely the most unhappy place I've ever lived. This morning I read about a group of bikers who are quite close to my heart. They operate an animal rescue organization , and just removed 180 kittens from a foreclosed home, two towns over from Robb's hometown. How can you not love the contrast of these two faces? They actually have simil


... I wonder if we're ever going to be finished with this wallpaper-printing and -hanging project? My feet and legs are amazingly sore today. Part of Friday was spent hanging wallpaper while standing on ladders, and I have a strange habit of clenching my toes when I'm standing on ladders. I really think that this is my body, trying to "hang on" to the rungs of the ladders. My body seems to forget that it is wearing shoes!

Drowning in a Sea of Wallpaper

... That's me, aligning a stencil frame, as I print more wallpaper for an upcoming show. I've been working twelve hours work days. My legs and feet are exhausted, particularly because we take off our shoes when we walk on our projects. We work on the floor, a lot of the time, and walk on our art. But we don't want to mar the surface of the painted paper. Working without any arch support is murder on my feet! (You can see my socked feet through the plastic of the stencil.) Can you see how dark it was outside when I took this photo? I just hope we actually created enough of this particular pattern! Former intern Sheri and current intern Mike hang the wallpaper. I think they probably wanted to kill me today. I had shown them how to hang wallpaper a couple of months ago, and we had talked through every step of the process. But then I had to leave the studio, and go to a meeting, and I asked them to start pasting and hanging the wallpaper without me. Somehow, the paper an


.. Have you ever seen a dog sleeping, with its legs twitching furiously? I always described those dogs as chasing dream rabbits. Since Robb's accident and paralysis, he often has episodes of "rabbit chasing." I'll wake up, because his legs are twitching so hard. Robb usually sleeps through all this. For years, Robb insisted that he didn't dream. I eventually convinced him that he just didn't remember his dreams. Everyone has to dream, right? Last week, Robb told me about a strange dream he had had. In his dream he was leaping and bounding around, which he said was odd because he doesn't tend to dream about things he can't do. (I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time flying, swimming without having to breathe, and having obsessive "inventory" dreams.) In his dream, he thought "oh man, I'm going to be sore from all this bounding around." When he told me about this, he thought the dream sprung from the fact that he had adjusted t


... It seems to me that every year, I'm drowning in work right around Christmas time. I work myself to death, so that I can take a few days off. I spend the vacation totally exhausted and overwhelmed and usually either Robb or I get sick. Holiday cards don't get sent out. I feel like a slacker, when in fact, I'm working like a maniac. I've been working twelve-hour days, lately. At the moment, my studio is in the midst of a wallpaper-creating frenzy. We are doing a new show by the playwright Sarah Ruhl, which is set in a very over-decorated Victorian home. My intern Mike and I have been creating stencils for ages, and on Friday, I printed this batch of wallpaper. Each of the panels measure eight feet by six feet. I'm about three-quarters of the way through the printing process in this photo. I actually love this stage of the printing. You can see the pattern starting to emerge. And the lack of pattern creates a fascinating pattern as well.

Orthnitology Kitteh ...

... from

A New Year

... Best wishes to all of our blog readers for a very happy 2009! Robb and I spent New Year's Eve at home. I'm fighting a cold, and neither of us were up for a big party. Instead, we watched a couple of movies, and enjoyed some locally distilled Absinthe. I've been re-reading blog posts from 2008, and that (combined, no doubt, with my cold) has made me a bit somber. However, I'm not going to inflict those thoughts on anyone (other than myself) today.