Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toothbrush Rugs: Grocery bags as an art form- my waiting room rug & Creativity is the best medicine

I started this rug in January as a rug to work on while in the waiting room at doctors' offices and while waiting for scans. Mind you, I always have a rug with me at such events, but often it is what ever rug I'm working on, and the rugs I had started before fibro were too complicated in their planning for what I was able to deal with.

 So this one is very simple- its to be an abstract flower. The center is all yellow, the rest alternating white and yellow. Such an easy scheme I could pull off even in deepest fibrofog / agony, and as you can see, I have. At 20" it would be close to done were I to stick to my 24 - 26 inch standard, but plastic bag rugs I often make larger. I'll keep working on it until I'm sick of it. Yeh, nothing deeper that that. Really, that's often the reason I decide to finish a rug off. These are a pleasant past time. When they stop pleasing me, I move on to another one.

This craft is inherently "green" as even the needle is recycled, but I especially love the "beautiful recycling" aspect of making rugs from grocery bags. We all go through so many, and even when we take them to the store to be recycled, lots of fossil fuels have to be expended to reuse them. Not so when made into a rug. The environmental impact is zero, since I do these during "down time."

So each colored section above = one half bag. I've never calculated how many it takes to make a rug, but you can imagine it takes a vast quantity.

Shopping bags are ideal, they have the right strength and surface. My mother has made them from bread bags and newspaper bags, but these stretch out more easily and have stickier surfaces so aren't as easy to work with.

I take a bag, fold it in half, and cut it. I don't cut slits, I use one handle of the bag for one end, and punch a hole with my needle for the other. So in this you see I remain true to my prime directive that these rugs are to be fun, relaxing, easy. Sure, you could cut up the bag other ways, but this takes the least time and effort so its what I do.

Handicrafts most certainly do count as "art therapy" as much as painting or photography. They are creative, a means of expression, something on which to focus other than suffering. I take a very "holistic" view of art therapy, not a narrowly defined one that it must somehow directly relate to expressing or processing your suffering. My view is... sometimes the best way to process suffering is to take a break from it. We who live this life are supersaturated in suffering. I hardly think its necessary that everything we do revolve around it... and indeed, there is immense benefit in finding what we are able to do in spite of, regardless of, the pain and limitations under which we live. (Yes, actually have had this argument... more than once, sadly.)

Indeed, I'm sometimes reticent to depict my art- be it photography or the rugs or videos- as art therapy because that makes them relate to fibro... when really, they are what frees me from fibro, frees me to be me. I can't chop wood or ride the bongo board or very often even drive because of fibro, but these are things which give me joy and are of my essence which I can still do. I

So why do I always post these as "the art of suffering?" Because I want to encourage other people who are disabled and pain ridden to find themselves through art and creativity because for all the wonders of modern medical science- doctors and pills cannot make you you, they can-at best- make it possible for you to be you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The birthday I wasn't supposed to have

Yesterday was my 43rd birthday, and in some ways, it was the best birthday I've ever had.
Not because we had a blowout party. We didn't, just a nice cook out where I grilled my favorite foods.
Nor because of the presents (just one from my wife, mother, mentor, and mother-in-law)
but because... I wasn't expected to have it at all.

Many times during the course of this shredding of the boundary between the sane and the insane, the probable and improbable, the earthly and hellish, the grim reaper's shadow fell upon me. Indeed, almost from the start, there was a palpable fear that my broken bone and brutal pain presaged the presence of something dire and terminal such as cancer or a brain tumor.

The fear grew and grew with each test the doctors ordered which seemed to confirm it.

It reached its horrible apex on what we call "the day of death." A scan showed something which we were told indicated stage 4 (the last, terminal, essentially untreatable) cancer.

I'd held off speaking of that horrible day in public because any words I could give it seemed so insufficient. I was lying there counting my remaining minutes, wondering how I could spend as much of them with Tess as possible while also earnestly desiring to shield her from the agonies to come as much as possible.

The next day came a reprieve... a new scan, a new interpretation.

Even after the death sentence was revoked, the fear that something almost as bad was present remained. I had still broken the strongest bone in the body for no apparent reason. I still had excruciating pain without apparent cause.

And of course, the tests continued. All told, I spent close to a day in various machines having every inch, every cell, of my body scanned and rescanned.

It wasn't until the Fibro diagnosis came just in time for our 15th anniversary that the grim reaper's specter finally left us.

That wasn't too long ago, and the time of fear and uncertainty had been- if anything- more agonizing than the pain.

So when I awoke yesterday, it was indeed the most joyous birthday of my life.

About the picture:
I used FotoSketcher (win & mac) to convert one of the photos a dear friend shot for this blog post. The mode used was watercolor. I adjusted the settings to produce a picture which simultaneously had fewer sharp details yet conveyed the over all setting in a very vivid way.

The other thing I was after was to dampen the color intensity.

The net effect I wanted was to convey to you how my mind's eye sees the time there. (I was on a morphine pump after all.)

You on Multiply can see the original below.

You rug folk - yes, I did work rugs, and even tried to teach people how to make them (yes, even on the "Day of Death" since I've always wanted to be remembered for three things: My steadfast love for my wife, parents, and friends, my visual arts, and my rugs.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If hell is a fraction as bad as Fibro, then I DRASTICALLY undersold it in my sermons!

To understand this dark humor, you need to know/remember that I was once a preacher.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Word Picture: Psalm 107 - Oh Give Thanks to the Lord for He Is Good

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I finally got these uploaded to using their uploader - its been a long time in coming, but wow, was it worth it! The upload was easy, drag and drop, and when it was done, they generated the html code for ALL EIGHTEEN images! This is media hosting made easy... I'm hooked!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Toothbrush rugs: Cleaning without washing, for large rugs or ones which can't be washed

While cotton poly fabrics, plastic, and hosiery rugs can usually be washed, dried gently, and left to hang, some rugs can't.
  • Rugs which are too large to wash
  • Rugs which are too old or loosely stitched to hold up to a washing machine
  • Rugs with leather or vinyl in them, as this beauty.
Since most people outside of certain select circles and antiquarian religious groups don't have a carpet beater, there's still a good way to clean these rugs.

A vacuum cleaner works well enough on rugs which aren't old or delicate, but it'd better have a pretty strong motor and good brush to get all the dirt and grit and hair out of the crevasses and creases of these handcrafted masterpieces.

An easier way is to put the rug into the dryer on low heat or air fluff setting for about 10 minutes.

You might have to vacuum out the dryer, but that is a lot easier than vacuuming the rug!

PS- I do have a new rug video to post!

A dear friend came up to help me out while my wife Tess was in the hospital recently. It needs a bit of post production work before I can post it, and I've not been able to look at a monitor long enough to finish that.

He also helped me figure out how I can shoot more effective videos by myself, so as you have thoughts about new videos you'd like to see or old ones you'd like to see with lighting better than that of a cheesy "Blair Witch Project" copycat video, let me know, and I'll get to them as time and my health allow.

I was just cleaning our anniversary rug to have it on my wife's return, I used the technique described above, and I decided to post it while the thoughts were in my mind.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Storm clouds swallowing up Indianapolis this morning

This was all hand held... under exposed 2 stops... stopped as it started raining.
Been trying to find places that take weather vids to upload it to... got the Weather Chnl's "weather out your window" one, but want to find others.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My first Fibro photo, and on coming out of the "medical closet" on this- the scariest thing I've ever done!

I wrote this for my fibro blogs:
  • - A "mirror" of the one below, created because I wanted a presence on blogger, as many other fibro sufferers blog there.
  • - my "personal journey" blog
  • - Displays the art I do as therapy, and encourages others to do likewise
With this and most such posts though, I will be cross posting here to multiply (and by extension to FaceBook.) is my "root" blog, and will remain so.

However as I've done with the Word Pictures and toothbrush rugs, I find it worth while to have blogs more narrowly focused so people with an interest in these matters can find worthwhile material without having to sift through the eclectic range of things which interest me.

First, the art

This image is the first one I created for the project.And here is the original
First off, I love taking pictures of things in shadow (not just myself) because its visually compelling and has nice symbolism to it.The concept of the shadow is a powerful one.In Jungian pyschology, the shadow is the part of our "self" (id, psychae, what ever) which is hidden, repressed, not integrated into the whole.Scripture talks of this world itself as a shadow, as in 1st Corinthians 13:12, the verse which lent its name to my "Word Pictures" project. A compelling image I did with this verse is here.The top image was created from the original by running it through one of PhotoFiltre's engraving filters.The result is exactly what I was after, for it conveys quite vividly how the pain and related aspects of fibro distort reality, darken and warp the suffer's experience of it.Yet you'll notice the gold bits. No matter how thick the fog or overwhelming the pain, there is yet good to be had and embraced. This is a good practice for anyone, but for someone living with a chronic disease/syndrome, its essential.My 2nd eldest brother would appreciate that black and gold are also the colors of his alma mater- Purdue. Don't think that was in my mind when I created it, but its a fun thought.So this image depicts what is for me the most oppressive and distressing aspect of fibromyalgia- "fibro fog."I can't say that working with photography clears the fog... rather it renders it irrelevant. For some reason, no matter how thick the fog, how heavy the pain, I am always able to tap into my dynamic creativity.I become lost in the project, and in this, I find my greatest relief.Besides showing how I cope with and transcend Fibromyalgia, it is my hope that these blogs have the following effects:
  • They encourage others to likewise tap into their core, embrace and express it
  • They give expression to the experience of chronic suffering more effectively than words are able to.

Now why it was scary

It was a difficult decision... coming out of the medical closet about this.The two reasons above are very compelling ones. It has always been my way that when life dumps a load of manure, I compost it and grow flowers from it. This has not changed with the onset of fibromyalgia, only the means available to me to do so.I'm not easily scared either...
  • When I did my chaplaincy residency, I was the resident for the Trauma and E.R., and relished the opportunity to be in situations most people would give anything to have nothing to do with.
  • When we lived in Chicago, I embraced the city
  • When the opportunity came to preach my father's funeral sermon, I was honored to take the task upon myself.
Things don't scare me, what scares me are more existential concepts- injustice, xenophobia, hatred, and the like.Yet... anyone who has been needy or suffering knows the pain which comes when people turn away from them in their time of need precisely because they are needy.As a Christian, when this happens I find myself thinking that in this I share something in common with Christ, of whom it was prophesiedIsaiah 53:3 (English Standard Version)He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.That doesn't make it fun or pleasant, nor something I wished for myself.I never woke up and said, "Why should my wife have all the fun! I want to have an incurable complex and ruthlessly painful condition too!"(You see, my wife is disabled with migraines, has been for half a decade.)A Psalm of lament describes this experience most vividly.Psalm 22: 6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. (ESV)When we lived in Chicago, I conducted an informal ministry to the street volk, of whom this is even more true. I saw people not even bother to step over them... they literally walked ON them.I was honored to receive permission from many to share a bit of their life and story online. A lot of it is pretty raw and graphic, this is one of the few fit for a family audience:
I'm sure anyone who's ever been in a time of need and found friends fleeing fast as their feet can carry them understands.Here is an artistic project I did with photos with this fellow, whom I miss and for whom I pray ever day.
But this is more than a collection of symptoms, a medical term, this is an opportunity...
  • to speak words of comfort to others who are suffering,
  • and to use the skills with words and the visual arts to give voice to our experiences.
I hope it does at least one of these for you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Coming �Soon? - Listig [4]2.0

I am so frustrated to not be able to keep up online... I can't even keep up with myself.

But some major things have happened, and I'm going to have to figure out how to talk about them, and I'm going to have to figure out how to resume reading your posts and interacting with you all.

I've never experienced anything like this... this "DDOS" attack which has become a way of life. There has to be a work around, a hack, a crack... and I'll find it.

I miss and love you all, I want to be back here, sharing in your live, your joys, your sorrows, your sometimes lame, sometimes twisted sense of humor...

Rug folk... The rugs have been a lifeline for me, a way to stay sane as I've waited for exams, diagnoses, tests...

I think the last shoe has dropped, that my life is no longer going to be an ongoing jack-in-the-box experience.

This is a good thing. I know I'm not terminal, I know what I'm dealing with. I am both blessed and stressed.

I don't want to roll out Listig 2.0 until I have the bugs worked out though... so till then...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Message to Sophia & vague health / life update

   Thanks so much for your kind comment! I am glad to have given you information and encouragement.

   I am intrigued by the type of meditation you mentioned, but when I clicked on your name, it would not let me leave you a private message.

If you leave a comment to this post, it will make me approve it before its published, so if you want to leave more info for me that way I can read it and NOT publish it if you'd like.

   The doctors do have a pretty good idea of why I've been in so much pain, but I'm still not sure how many details I want to be sharing in public.

   Suffice to say... in an astonishingly freaky turn of events I'd never believe were it not true of me... I have a syndrome as complex and intractible as my wife's.

   I keep working on the rugs in doctors offices, while waiting for scans, etc. I've gotten a plastic bag rug almost half done. It is two tone- yellow and white. I'm using a repeating sequence to make it look like an abstract painting of a daisy or sunflower.

Quite looking forewards to doing some new tutorial videos one of these days, but as long as my world keeps getting turned upside down every week or so...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Outflanking pain by embracing beauty - as demonstrated and illustrated by VIDEO Humming birds in the morning set to Beethoven's tempest

Both the content and the construction of this video are very telling of how I'm surviving even though the torment of my body- far from subsiding- has increased, and the medicines I have available to me do not effectively deaden the pain or spasms or address the other related issues.

I've always loved nature, and by soaking it in I find peace and experience God. I barely even watched TV when I was a child, I was always outdoors.

So its very fortunate that when my body went kaput, I was in a place where I could so easily access and behold nature- weather, plans, animals. Those three months I couldn't walk, I could still look outside and see birds on the feeder, the dogs playing in the snow, and scenes like the one in the picture above.

Its nice that I can move around now, but the dynamic is really no different. I am so fascinated by plants and animals and weather that I can get distracted by watching them or taking pictures and video of them... that time I spend focused on the beauty around me outside, or in honing and presenting it in a video, is about the closest I come to having relief from my promethean torments these days.

The other things which are powerful enough to draw me out of my own personal daily hell are
  • Touching, talking, being with Tess
  • Lending an ear to a friend or family member
  • Engaging and embracing the beauty of the natural world by working with it in the yard.
Indeed... one day in the hospital was especially dark... so dark we didn't think I'd be here assiduously NOT talking about it now. I got through that day by holding Tess, working on a rug, and lending an ear to a friend in need.

Before I went to the Seminary, I most communed with God by helping people in sorrow and by being in nature. Nothing has really changed there.

Perhaps that will help you understand why I'm not angry at God about this. God has provided me a safe, comfortable, beautiful place to live where I can always experience Him through His Creation.

God has given me Tess now for 15 years.

He's given me people who love me, and who need my love... people who help me and who need my help.

I don't expect God to be some sort of prayer-operated vending machine. He's under no obligation to relieve me of pain or restore my health. He has been true to His promises though, the way He always has been.

Its DEEPLY ironic, but in this time when my body and mind alike are greatly impaired, I am the most fully and richly me I've been in ages. It all comes down to embracing and being surrounded by
  • Beauty in nature
  • Love
  • Truth
And receiving them with gratitude. Sure, it takes a lot of creativity to get through each day, but its that very creativity which gets me through.

Creativity first takes me out of myself- which is a good thing, something I desperately need given the pain, torment, turmoil of my body and nervous system.

Then it fills me with peace and beauty... my words don't reach far enough to quite make this connection, but maybe if I say it this way:
- Creativity for me is a form of meditation / prayer ... creating art is not primarily a manual act but an existential experience.

That'll have to do. The video and my discussion of it is below. You'll see that this video quite well fits in to the sort of pattern I described earlier today... it wasn't at all technically challenging... the major "tasks" for me were cutting out the parts of the video where there were no hummingbirds (I shot these on a tripod for 10 minute spells the last couple of mornings) and finding the right music. Beethoven's Tempest is PERFECT for these frantic, frenetic creatures!

But taking time to do these things did me more good than taking any of the score of pills I've taken today... and such is usually the case. Even when I take the maximum amount of medicine I'm allowed, my perception of pain never drops below a 7 on the pain scale.

Of course without a high end camera of the sort they use for "time warp" its impossible to catch the action of these frenetic fellows, but I love the way the sunlight catches them in the morning, and they often perch on this feeder.

The music is public domain from, played by Paul Pitman

The segue image is an old public domain image from a Russian language encyclopedia

The music suits the subject perfectly, and when when my body itself is in a tempest, I need to embrace and loose myself in beauty.

For more on this piece of music see

For more on hummingbirds, see

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Diabetics be warned: More cute baby papillon dog videos

Ambrose in a basket at 4 weeks - almost walking

Ambrose at 3 weeks sort of walking on one of my mother's toothbrush rugs

Ambrose about 2 months wagging his tail and playing in and with a basket

Rushing water - Hoosier Zen - Video taken on our 15th anniversary outing

Today is our "liturgical" 15th anniversary- we were married during the church service on Pentecost Sunday.

Our other anniversary is June 4th.

This portrait of Tess is stitched together with Microsoft Image Composite Editor

My wife and I went here today for our 15th anniversary. We honeymooned near Lake Superior, so for our anniversary we wanted to be near water too.

I hope others can use this either as stock footage, or to loop to just go to a nice relaxing place, thus the lack of title slides.

Monday, May 10, 2010

This is how I outflank pain: Majestic clouds- panoramics, synths, and video

These are the panoramics created by Microsoft's Image Composite Editor.
I also shot video clips tripod mounted, so you can well imagine how stunning they are from these. I'm looking to see if there's an easy way I can make them available to other artists the way that I get creative commons licensed music from and

I also have at least one project I'm working on.

I didn't expect much when I uploaded these to PhotoSynth, but they came out among the best I've done.

It seems to be axiomatic that the more pain I'm in, the more photos and video I shoot. Several reasons...
  • Pain takes away my ability to think or process, but not to be creative
  • Without the ability to think, process, even stand up without passing out... there's not a lot else I CAN do
  • I often find my best recourse to be not heavy narcs but creative arts. While I'm engaged in them, I can loose my awareness of myself, and thus of the pain. Other than when I had a morphine drip in the hospital, when I'm doing creative things is the closest I have come to being out of pain for the last 6 months... .
Unfortunately, editing, mixing, posting, talking about what I've created... these draw on energies and clarity of mind I don't often have.

So my stunning videos will have to wait.

The project I've started with one of the cloud videos will too... the concept was easy to come up with- I noticed how the clip resembled the roaring water of a waterfall when viewed sideways- but execution...

As for outflanking pain...

Every expert of war from Sun Tzu onwards has taught that you never meet an enemy at his strongest point, you look for a weak spot, you go around the side (which is outflanking.)

This experience-which-is-so-far-beyond-"pain"-as-Mt-Everest-is-higher-than-a-hill laughs at medicine. The meds kill one pain, another arises.

Meeting the enemy head on with medicine is NOT working, and has NEVER worked.

Granted, I'm thankful for what relief I can get... together with Tess, my mother, my dear ones, the pups, the birds, and the Military Channel, I'm able to make it through each day, but only in loosing myself and going outside myself do I get any respite.

This can occur with Tess, when doing light landscaping, and when engaged in the visual arts.

I don't know if this flanking maneuver is something others in a similar state could do- I dearly hope no one else IS in a similar state!- but while "that-which-is-beyond-pain" wins every day, I still make the most of each one. What ever time I'm allowed when my body isn't shaking with spasms of pain, I'm embracing or creating beauty in one of these forms.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mother's Day gift/card pink tulip photos uploading - Special FX by "Image Analyzer"

The rest of the Word Pictures based on the mother/daughter pink tulips will have to wait, but as promised, the best pictures of that shoot are being uploaded to all the usual sites.

The special effects you'll see on some of them are from a freeware program I just became aware of, Image Analyzer.

I was drawn to it because it promised an automated way to make photos extracted from a video or taken with a camera phone have higher quality / resolution (as per my challenge before the latest eruption of demonic pain hit)

In toying with it, I discovered a filter called "increase local contrast." It produces very artistic effects I've not encountered with any other program. That filter alone will guarantee it a place in my toolbox.

So... is uploading the images to Multiply and Facebook as we type this. Its time for me to take more meds and go to bed, so the remaining Word Picture versions of these will have to wait.

Any of the Word Pictures I've done with the commandment would work well for a mother's day card if the lady is of a faith tradition where it is relevant. Add your own text to a space in the picture, add the picture to a card template, what ever.

There's countless ways to make a custom greeting card with an image... I'm sure multiply and vendors advertising on Facebook would be delighted to provide you with this service.

I hope some of you are able to make good use of these. I'm still on the darkside of the moon, so tschuss!

Make your own personalized mother's day card! Use my mother/daughter pink tulip word pictures!

I chose the mother/daughter pink tulips for this verse because the image so naturally brings to mind family, offspring, parents.

Any of the images from that series with the verse from the 10 commandments would make a great mother's day card.

Download the image, add your own text, or print the image and write something on the back.

Here's my latest version of it... I'll work on posting the others and the unedited pink mother/daughter tulips after the line of storms we're under all sorts of weather alerts for passes through.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Today's art / puppy therapy

You can read about the video on Youtube.

Had to make some feeble attempt to approximate some form of existence beyond/besides my Promethean condition.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BEST free software to batch extract stills from video: SuperC - also good for conversion, audio extraction, etc.

I've been trying to keep posting content others can use while I weather the drastic increase in intensity of my body's storm.

So I wanted to post the stills from the butterfly on lilac video.

While GOMplayer can do it, there were some aspects of its operation which made it less than idea. For a single image cap, its great, but for doing a series within a video, or the entire video, it falls down.

Irfanview has the capability in theory, but it doesn't seem to like Vista 64 professional, and to get it to extract images from an avi file, you need to go looking for codecs, installing package after package until you find one it likes... and even then it has a tendency to crash. Pity, Irfanview is one of the great success stories of the open source software movement. I have a friend whose employer could provide any image editing software on the market, and they use a customized version of irfanview.

I tried several other programs which promised this capability and didn't.

A particularly appealing program turned out to be "snoop-ware" Softwarepile Free Video Studio Decompiler.

Fortunately McAffee's siteadvisor toolbar caught the danger.

If you don't use this great free tool, its = to driving a car without airbags or seat belts.

Finally I tried Super (C). This article does a better job of explaining what it does than I can. Its a very powerful media manipulation program. It doesn't rely on external codecs, so it works seamlessly on any computer.

The interface is a bit hard to figure out, but its simple enough to use once you get used to its Control Panel / Windows Management Console like interface.

It was quick, it worked great, and doesn't much with the performance or operation of ANY other software, while ALL the other programs I tried did so.

Here's their homepage. I expect I'll be enthusing about other things I can do with it in the future.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Attention spam commentators... my blood work shows abnormally high testosterone levels, so I have no need of your enhancement products

I have changed the requirements for leaving a comment to include the word verification and the use of some sort of id.

I just don't have the resources to weed through a lot of people who have an untoward interest in my personal life... which is matched only by their ignorance of my preferences and prowess. ;>

I'd also like to be able to respond to people who stop by and leave well wishes etc., and since right now my brain is about as sharp as a butter knife, I need this to be as easy for me as possible.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tulip 3d! My first 3d photosynth!

Unfortunately, Microsoft uses DHTML / XML in their embed codes, and Multiply doesn't allow it.

So you'll have to click on this link.

But its worth it, and you don't have to be a member of anything to view it.
Ms ICE will generate panoramas you can use in Photosynth, but to get a 3d virtual world, you need to work directly with photosynth and take a whole cloud of overlapping photos.

This came from 18 different photos- you can view the individual ones which went into this in Photosynth so I'm not posting any here beyond this one sample.

I'm pleased... I think I should be able to "grok" this

Rug folk: What would you like to see me do 3d to help understand how to do rugs? Something about a start perhaps, or when to use a double stitch?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stunningly beautiful hillside at Fort Harrison St. Park - My first real ICE pan experiments


But what's REALLY cool is MS Photosynth, which lets you play with them 3d

Another- this is of the lovely foliage at the base of a large old tree with a "cave" in its base.

Have fun... this has HUGE potential!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"So how do you keep the toothbrushes all-together?" The history of the name of the craft and a fun anecdote

The "toothbrush" in toothbrush rugs!

From Toothbrush Rugs - Loving them, making them, discussing them
Below: The rug I started while in the hospital... imagine me lying there with an IV in one arm, trying to stitch the rug without stitching my IV into it...
From Toothbrush Rugs - Loving them, making them, discussing them

A dear multiply friend who will only be referred to as "Suzy" posted a question to one of my remastered rug videos:
  • so is there ever a time when you use a toothbrush? I wonder why they call it a toothbrush rug?

This is a fun question, and one which has caused no end of consternation and confusion over the years.

About 5 years ago when I first set out to bring this ancient folk craft into the 21st century with my blog and tutorials, I considered using a different name for the craft... one with less ambiguity.

My best idea was "Recycling rugs" but in the end, I decided to stick with the anachronistic name out of respect for the generations of master rug makers who have come before me and used "toothbrush rugs" or "toothbrush handle rugs" as their name for the craft.

As you can see in the photo above, the toothbrushes are used to STITCH the rugs, they are not a constituent of the rugs themselves.

It could be that in twenty or thirty years, we will have to give it a new name because the flat handled toothbrushes which work so well for conversion into needles are almost impossible to find, having been replaced by ergonomic batter powered ones... I expect a toothbrush with bluetooth or wifi out any time, probably from Apple.

Similar items can be easily turned into needles- the strongest and best are small detail/trim paint brushes. Plastic handled spatulas can work, but my experience is that these are often made of inferior grade plastic and break very easily.

One time I even made a needle out of one of those little discount cards that goes on your keyring. I was at the doctor with my wife, I had my bag of goodies along but somehow the needle had fallen out.

Now the fun story:

I've been "evangelizing" about this craft for decades. So it was that 17 odd years ago when I found myself among a lovely group of folks near Duluth MN that I gave classes. These ladies (all my students there were) were incredibly quick to learn, as most of them did knitting and quilt making.

One dear Frau however was not able to come to my classes as she was in the hospital. As it was part of my responsibilities to visit our folk who were so situated, I offered to give her a one on one tutorial at the hospital.

She happily accepted. Little did I know that this Grand Dame was the matriarch of a large family, all of whom had come to be with her in her convalescence.

I get to her room and find it packed to the gills with good solid blond haired ladies of all ages

  • Each of them had a fist full of toothbrushes

So the question which I was asked by one of the inquisitive ladies was "We've been trying to figure out how you get the toothbrushes to stay together in a rug for hours!"

So that's a bit of history and explanation, and one of my fondest memories from a time and a life which seems like several alternate universes removed from the one which I inhabit today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Toothbrush Rugs- Starting one using a half hitch stitch, video tutorial remixed

Doc's still have no idea what's going on, I don't have nearly enough meds, and the ones I have don't do much... so I've been trying to find ways to get engrossed in the creative arts... and that's working as well as anything.

The software I discovered this week is phenomenal, the likes of which I've been dreaming of for a decade.

This is part 1 of the video.

I'll mix part 2 and some more rug stuff tomorrow.

I am quite keen to suggestions / requests for new videos or videos to redo to assist people in learning and practicing this craft.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Christ broke free of Hell on Easter - I got sucked back into it (physically)

I can barely get my fingers to type, and I'm relying on my touch typing skills because everything I see is blurred... its as if either the throbbing of blood in my body or the oscillation of the electronics- though supposedly both at frequencies we're not able to perceive- is affecting my vision.

Wanted to drop a place holder post here, as I had been so very active before last weekend.

The crazy itchiness and spasms of my muscle fibers has grown and enveloped me. Its affecting more than just my right leg now. It itches so badly I feel like I'd like to peel back the skin and connective tissues and scratch the muscles themselves!

Along with that, the deep impenetrable fog.

We did have a perfectly lovely time with family on Easter. My cousin Dan- about the only relative on either side who's close in age to me- came over, as did my brother and his family. So Tess and I got good family and kinder time in.

They LOVED the slide I dug in to the side of the hill, and gave it a right royal workout... it never budged!

So... I'm outa here till this abates or we figure out what is going on.

Usual procedures and policies- if you're local or passing through, you're welcome, and if you have other means to contact me, feel free.

Friday, April 2, 2010

So what's wrong with me? Ah, isn't that the trillion dollar question. Many minds have exploded trying to figure me out!

OK, so I've been back among the living for about a week now. Its nice... basically what happened folks is that about 10 days into December, my pain level reached the point where it shut down the higher processing of my brain. I was either feeling every single bit of the pain without any abatement, or I was incredibly tripped out.And in the mean time, my life has pretty much been taken over by going for scans, going for bloodwork, repeating the scans, repeating the bloodwork... early on I made a quip that by the time this is all over I'd be seen by every specialist except an OB/GYN. Well, that's indeed how it's played out. Safer than ever on the OB/GYN front- the ONLY abnormality they have found is significantly elevated testosterone... so much so that they gave me the third degree about whether I'd been shooting up steroids and androgens!

So that's where things stand... one bone broken and reenforced with a titanium rebar, countless others close to needing the same.

I've had less pain and fog the last week to 10 days, but that's not to say it isn't there... when my muscle fibers aren't itching and spasming and trying to push against each other like two magnets... I'm able and inclined to push off my awareness of the pain in favor of more pleasant stimuli. I have the pain tolerance of a rhino on meth... I used to eat habanero peppers for the exquisite burrrrn.

So what now... where to now?

I will always maintain that pain in itself is NEVER a benefit or blessing. What ever good comes from work through it comes in spite of it.

I did not need this pain to learn about pain... I've been caring for a woman in pain for the last 12 years, and most of my professional experiences have been with people in physical, spiritual, or emotional pain.

Indeed, I was surprised how WELL I understood the emotional, physical, and spiritual dynamics of living in AGONY.

So nope, no benefit there... nothing to be learned I didn't already know.

What is NEW, and is quite overwhelming to face, is that while the pain may not have changed me, the over all medical condition has DRASTICALLY changed the laws of the universe under while I operate.

Before this, I was at my physical prime... I was getting more exercise than ever, but I was in good shape even in Chicago because of stairs and walking.

  • I could always trust that if I used good sense and good body mechanics, my body would go along with any plans I had for it.
  • I could always count on being able keep my focus on something other than pain when ever needed.
  • I could always count on my innate sense of balance, time, and space and my cat like reflexes to keep me physically safe.

NONE of that can be assumed now.

It is no exaggeration to say that I've had to relearn how to do most everything- as anybody who's had bone or joint problems- especially hip and leg- knows and has lived.

There's not a single aspect of my life which is not affected by the limitations which my osteoporosis ridden body and volcanic pain place on me!

So that's why I chose this new picture for my avvy. Its an arted up and negativized picture of Savi, our alpha female papillon.

How much will I get into the various events which have happened? Haven't a clue. Some of it makes for pretty riveting story telling, but having lived it, I'm not at all certain I want to take my newly reacquired lucidity and apply it to that task.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BOTANIST- is there a botanist in the house? I need to know what kind of chestnut tree this is

I took hundreds of photos of the buds of these chestnuts which grow wild as underbrush in the glen by the creeks (see most recent Ambrose romp video.)

I know its chestnut

I know it doesn't produce edible nuts

I know it grows wild as a weedy underbrush in Indiana.

But I don't know what kind it is, and as I'd like to do a slideshow from first bud to this point, it'd be really nice to know and be able to label/tag it appropriately.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The obligatory spring posting of "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" / Mayan Apocalypse Cord

Here's another BRILLIANT song from "Unicorn Frolic" artist Greg Landgraf

Mayan Apocalypse Cord

This is a great video of the old demento classic

Cadejo : Noun - Legendary Central American cow sized Goat - Dogs

I'd never heard of this beast until today, but I needed some figurative way to describe what a bizarre version of surreality I'm living, so searched for mythical bests, found this one.

From the wiki:

The cadejo (IPA pronunication /ka.�e.xo/) is a character from Belizean, Salvadoran, Nicaraguan,Costa Rican, Honduran, Guatemalan andsouthern Mexican folklore. There is a good, white cadejo and an evil, black cadejo. Both are spirits that appear at night to travellers: the white to protect them from harm during their journey, the black (sometimes an incarnation of the devil), to kill them. They usually appear in the form of a large (up to the size of a cow), shaggy dog with burning red eyes and a goat's hooves, although in some areas they have morebull-like characteristics. According to the stories, many have tried to kill the black cadejo but have failed and perished. Also it is said that if a cadejo is killed, it will smell terrible for several days, and then its body will disappear. Some Guatemalan folklore also tells of a cadejo that guards drunks against anyone who tries to rob or hurt them. When the cadejo is near, it is said to bring about a strong goat-like smell. Most people say never to turn your back to the creature because otherwise you will go crazy.

In popular etymology, the name cadejo is thought to have derived from the Spanish word "cadena", meaning "chain"; the cadejo is at times represented as dragging a chain behind him. There is a fairly large member of the weasel family, the tayra, which in common speech is called a cadejo and is cited as a possible source of the legend.

See wiki article for the rest
Image from:

I thought the idea of my "pain" and "condition" being a white and a black dog-goat was very apropos!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On suffering and art: A dispatch from the other side of the looking glass

Its a widely held belief that great suffering creates great art. I had a friend in high school who was brilliant and creative, had every advantage. But this friend wanted to be an artist, and thought that suffering was necessary for it. So this friend's life became the sort of soap opera that you'd see portrayed on a Lifetime movie, or featured in an episode of The Shift

I thought that was bunk then, and I even more so now that not only have I dedicated most of my adult life to helping those who are suffering, but have spent several months feeling like I had plasma burning paths through large parts of my body.

Here is what I have observed however: While I've lost a great deal of my cognitive abilities and faculties, my creativity has stayed with me, and often provides the only real relief from the onslaught.

I can't speak for any other creative person who is similarly suffering, but for my part, pain has not made me more creative, it has merely taken away my ability to do much else.

Every day I go for a nature walk with Tess (which is a wonderful thing, no small miracle, and the answer to years of prayers) and take pictures or video. The only extent to which pain impairs this is that since I'm often dizzy from it, I can't bend or lie down easily or safely, nor go scrambling around creek banks or rocky outcroppings to get just the right point of view for my photo.

I have taken GIGABYTES of photos and hours of video while this has been going on. The photo in this blog is just one of over a dozen I took this morning of chestnut buds along one of our creeks, and I've been documenting the bud's progress since they first appeared. The place is a very special one for me and Tess... its where a little creek joins a larger one. We spend a lot of time together there.

I rarely have the presence of mind to organize these pix & vid , much less post them... that's more analytical than creative... that has been significantly compromised.

For me, pain has been like an acid bath... its burned away anything not vital or essential. A group I don't necessarily endorse has collected a wide array of
sacred texts which speak to this.

For myself, this text from the first chapter of my namesake's first epistle often comes to mind:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (NASB)

I think of this passage so much because most of the ways I experience the pain is that of some sort of fire... be it plasma, lava, matter and antimatter combining, etc.

Among my close circle of dear hearts who have been such tireless supporters, constantly being the mirrors by which I am bathed in the light of God's love, we more often remark on these texts:

1Co 10: 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, andhe will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.(ESV)

2Co 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Forwhen I am weak, then I am strong.(ESV)

The wry remark made being
"Would that God did not esteem me so highly as to count me worthy and able to bear the blessings of such hardship"

One other remark which bears repeating is one I made the other day in a text message.

"When medicines fail, God does not... the house finch still come to feed outside our window."

You'd be astounded how long it took me to compose this post dear friends... but I've had so much on my heart I wanted to speak about, and since at the moment my dizziness is preventing me from doing much else...

I hope I can issue forth a few more dispatches from the other side of the looking glass, and even more, come around online and see and hear how you all are doing. I so wish my ability to type and read were not so severely attenuated!

Having given voice to what my pain is like yesterday, I tho't it important to give you another glimpse of life on the other side of the looking glass.

Time for tea, the cat's ready...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The few details we know, and why I'm still not much online - A diagnosis without etiology, etc.

Nothing is clear in my life these days... not my thoughts, not the cause of my conditions, nor the future course of it.
  • Four months
  • Hours spent in every known scanning device
  • Litres of blood and urine drawn and tested
Here is what we know: Diddly/squat.

OK, we know a little more than that. As my first x-rays at the walk-in clinic back in early November suggested, I do indeed have osteoporosis. VERY severe osteoporosis. So severe that the doctor wrote for the best and most expensive osteoP drug on the market- Forteo- and insurance approved it right away.

We know one other thing: My testosterone levels are significantly higher than normal... so much so that the doctor asked if I'd been shooting up 'roids and testosterone like an MLB home-run king.

Yeh... right... were I taking additional testosterone, I'd look like sasquatch, and sound like a foghorn.

We don't know what caused the osteoporosis.
Nor do we know why I am still in such inexplicable unbelievable pain on a daily basis.
My surgeon has determined that my gamma nail has set properly tho, so he's signed off on my care... we're looking under all stones to find a doctor who will either treat my pain or help find its cause.
So far that's been difficult, which is why you don't see much of me online, and won't until this is addressed.
The pain- more than the pain meds- leaves me in a fog/haze most of the time. I'm often disoriented in regards to space and time... I trip over things not there, run into things... and remember, before all this, my reflexes were so acute that I did all sorts of crazy things balancing on the bongo board.
Along with the pain is usually very severe muscle spasms. They are primarily in the areas of the body most affected by the osteoporosis but not exclusively.
The pain and spasms started before my femur fractured... so either they and the osteoporosis share a common cause, or they're just comorbid.
I just can't words for the pain... but perhaps this will suffice to convey how severe it is... I often find myself wondering if phantom pain could possibly be worse than what I'm experiencing on a daily basis... I wonder if I'd not have done better to have the leg amputated? Consider that... consider what a lover of the outdoors I am, how vigorous and vital I am, that the pain is such that amputation seems like the greener grass.
There are lots of good things happening in life... most especially that Tess and I have spent more time outside together in the last 5 weeks than in the previous 5 years... its an answer to many prayers.
Thanks for the comments and caring and praying... I so wish I were able to be online interacting with you, but interacting with this maelstrom which is working its way through my body takes all I've got... and then some...
The photo is one I took of my reflection in the creek which runs along one side of our property... seemed like a more apropos image than the wheel chair one. I did some FX to it... maybe I'll do a post about them someday...

Questions, comments?

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