Archives for category: Creative Things

Sometime in her 20s, my mother developed a serious anxiety disorder. In the late 40s and early 50s, this was often called a nervous breakdown. Although the acute anxiety subsided, an underlying level of anxiety remained. One of advice that my mother received was to combat her anxiety through  coloring.  I remember my mother coloring especially when she was dying of cancer faster and faster and not always between the lines.

More than 25 years ago, the we had a hard time finding good coloring books for my mother. Now they’re everywhere and you can even download them from the Internet.  I think she would have loved the ones I have now.

Like my mother I’ve had breast cancer. I’m lucky in that I have no evidence of recurrence, but still, I experience anxiety. I’ve always been anxious, with or without cancer, although it’s generally well managed. Arts and crafts are essential to manage my anxiety and so I have a collection of coloring books. And I have very fancy crayons, water soluble wax putting Crayola to shame with their intensity. I have other pencils and watercolors besides. Spoiled for choice.

The coloring books I like best have big areas between the lines. I find that small intricate designs annoy me and I have a difficult time staying between the lines.   I guess that it doesn’t matter so much if I choose not to stay between the lines.  I like the watercolor option best  when I am able to color large sweeps of the area at once and sometimes  I hold a crayon or a pencil so tight that my hand cramps (my inability to hold a pencil “normally” is another issue. And  I get tired of coloring in a picture because it is so intricate. So I have lots of unfinished pages.

I’m trying to find ways to make coloring a more meditative process.  I wonder that I’m making too much effort to  color.  I don’t have to finish each and every picture, use realistic colors or even stay between the lines.  Color as much as I want and then let it go.  I’m under no obligation to follow the rules of coloring per se, whatever those rules are. And yet, I feel myself trying to follow these rules subconsciously. I’ve been too judgmental of my efforts. And I could say, maybe it’s not a meditative process for me…..on the other hand, it helps me understand my own barriers.

Interesting, isn’t it? Sort of defies being in the moment, and yet, helps me understand what it takes to be in the moment.



I admit it, I’m in a rut. I have tons of things to do, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to get things done. And the truth is, part of it is that I’ve become accustomed to doing the minimum. Some of it is rampant disorganization. I can’t really blame it all on breast cancer. Well, i’m trying to not point a finger at anything, just move forward.

I’m not unhappy, depressed, or anxious. A little bored perhaps, unmotivated and overwhelmed by what I could be doing. Too many projects, too easy to check facebook, play angry birds or solitaire. After a while, I forget my good intentions.

I am very disorganized. Before i had menopause and chemobrain, I had this. I am dyslexic and I have ADD. My working memory is a little wonky. If i don’t create strong associative pathways for the stuff I want to do in my head, I get distracted and do other stuff. I know everyone does this, but for people like me, it’s extreme. And the cognitive impacts of menopause, estrogen depletion, chemobrain just exacerbate it all. On one hand, i need the stimulation and associations resulting from reminders, lists, planning. But, too much information and stimulation results in anxiety, confusion, inaction.

Mostly I’m writing this to motivate myself. I’m really very happy with myself, my life. I just know i could be doing more, and it makes me a little sad and frustrated when I don’t get things done. It’s also pushing 30 degrees C (high 80’s at least), and i’m hot and lethargic.

But once again, the idea is to take the mountain of tasks and create small tasks with a high likelihood of success. To that end, i make lists. But sometimes i forget where i put the list, forget I made the list, get distracted. It’s not really evidence of cognitive decline – it’s how I’ve always been. There is an element of practice in any efficiency. Another strategy that seems to work is to do as much as i can for 15 or 20 minutes, and then revisit. A Bayesian approach to organization.

The worst thing to do, however, is judgement. Someday I’ll write about why being judgmental is detrimental – in my view, anyway. And yet, it’s very easy to point those fingers and turn them in on myself.

So, writing this helps, it’s some action. I’ve mapped out some simple tasks i can do close to my fan. We’ll see how it goes……

If you’ve been following my blog, you might know that i decided to write and post at least one haiku per day, for the rest of the year. They won’t all be clever – indeed i am sure that some will be banal and repetitive. Lots are going to be weather related or perhaps about my search for entertaining topics. I guess I will go back and add tags for the topics – at the end of this I’ll have a crapload of haiku(s). And some will quite simply be, crap.

But anyway. Haiku are interesting to me, a highly disorganized person who doesn’t like too much structure. The predictable structure of haiku gives me a framework and within that framework, i have an enormous amount of flexibility to create. It’s very freeing. So i know the boundaries and when i think up a haiku – whoosh! Write and post. I like it.

I’m even considering moving on to lists of things to do, or the evil to-do list. Now that is scary.

Lily the Pup. A dog of unknown lineage. Ordinary. But special to us. She smiles a lot when she sees us. Here she appears to be laughing, but she’s yawning. This is what I get to see every day – her sweet face, funny purple tongue, I feel a lick or a nudge from her nose, and get an expectant look and a wagging tail. She’s independent, but still follows me all over the house. When my husband and I are in separate rooms, she positions herself somewhere in between. She loves her treats. She loves her toys. She loves us too, in her own doggy way.

She sheds. A lot. She’s scratched floors, ruined seat belts and head rests. But it doesn’t matter.

I miss her terribly when I’m away from her. It’s funny, isn’t it? A pet can make a huge difference – even an ordinary dog adopted from a shelter during a half off sale.

I’m a little late. That’s fairly ordinary for me. Marie at challenged us to post a picture of something ordinary each day, and reflect upon it. More at

I just returned from vacation and missed the first three days. Our trip back home was not ordinary, it was beautiful, filled with amazing landscapes as we drove from the Pyrenees in Spain through France and home to Switzerland. But this morning, I took Lily for a walk. An ordinary walk. We live in a large apartment complex, set against a hill…a maze of concrete terraces. At the back of the complex, the top of the hill is another hill where some ordinary cows graze. I don’t have a photograph, so I’ll just write instead on the amazing and beautiful ordinary cows.

Gray-brown ordinary cows. They have floppy ears with a fringe of lighter, yellowish brown hair inside – it makes their ears stand out. And their ears flap back and forth, batting away flies. Sometimes their ears move together, but often not. It’s comical and sweet. And their faces are beautiful, with their large dark eyes, and dark noses. But here’s the surprise – there is a ring of white around their nose and mouth. It softens their faces, I think, and enhances their beauty – maybe providing contrast to their eyes and noses.

I love to watch these cows…they are beautiful. Mostly they are placid, chewing away, or staring off into space, often all pointing in the same direction. Someone told me that the proportion of cows laying down in a field is predictive of the probability of rain. I don’t know if that’s true – I’ve never put it to a test. This morning, the cows were quiet, but sometimes, they are testy…pushing each other. And one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen – cows running across the field in full gallop, their spindly legs hurling their rectangular bodies across the field. Efficiently, and faster than you might imagine. And every once in a while, one cow will point a snout to the sky and moo, a deep, soulful sound.

In Switzerland, where I live, cows often graze on rocky, hilly, steep fields. I admire their ability to balance and graze on steep slopes and at high altitudes. One of the things that I love about living here is the diversity …dense housing, small towns and cities surrounded by farms, forests, mountains.

Various pictures of our dog, Lily the Pup. Most taken in our old apartment in Belp. She spends a lot of time sleeping and generally looking beautiful. Wears a wig well, too. Likes to eat, but have no pics of that.

My various plants from Belp, mostly in 2010, almost all arranged and planted by my sister Eileen. Beautiful, aren’t they?

We had the most amazing view in Belp. Here are some views between 2007 and 2011 when we lived there. Lots of beauty in the sky.

Two years of my head

Two years of my head, April 2010 to April 2012. Cancer dx was December 2010, a couple of days after the second picture top left. Most pics are from 2011, except for the bottom row – those are all 2012.

Had a creative fit over the weekend and made some necklaces. Some of the pics are blurry – taking pics of shiny things with the iPhone is less than optimal, but oh well.. you get the idea.

Most of the necklaces feature this funky pendant bead – it’s called a rondelle, I think, otherwise known as the Swarovski 6200. The ones I’m using are small – 6mm in diameter, although they go up to 12mm. The beads stack together in cool ways, and they can also be strung in a circle like a star – don’t have any of those at the moment. Anyway, a nice way to expend some creative energy.

When my sister was here last month, she did a lot of work on our container garden. It’s really lovely, and has been blooming over the past month. So… here are some pictures. Mouse over the pictures to see the titles. Pretty nice, isn’t it? Thanks Eileen! <3.

I live in a small town, south of Bern. Maybe 10,000 people. Most of the people do not speak English, so you have to learn to get along. All in all it’s a good experience. My German is awful. Forget about Swiss German, totally, but i do my best, I smile a lot, wave my hands and I try to be polite. Please and thank you are still useful concepts, as is smiling.

I try to shop in my town when I can – we have a great butcher, an Italian specialty store, a grocery, and some of my doctors are here as well. But last week, I learned of a yarn store in the area. I’ve been driving right past it for nearly 4 years. So today I went there, and the owner has great stuff. All sorts of funky cool yarns. And since I can’t seem to have enough hats, I was nosing about. So I was explaining in my crap German that I don’t know how to knit and the woman told me that she will teach me to knit for a nominal fee (and I mean nominal), plus the cost of whatever I purchase to work with. It’s so cool because I can’t knit.

I have a book to teach me knitting, but I can’t follow it. There’s probably some funky spatial dyslexic thing going on here, but I just don’t get it. I’m going to go back tomorrow and make arrangements, and buy some stuff to crochet another hat, but this is totally exciting. When you’re really tired and lying in bed and not much else is happening, something like crochet or knitting (I imagine) is really helpful. Simple patterns that can be memorized and executed – like a scarf or a hat are best for those occasions. There’s just something about the transfer of all that energy to my fingers that helps me a lot. I think it’s also a way to focus and relax because you are channeling that energy. Well, and I still need hats. Perhaps I can graduate to sweaters someday. I also have a ton of lampglass fruit beads that are too bulky to wear as jewelery, but that might really like to be part of a knitted or crocheted object.

Also had some phyiso-therapy for my knee today. Did a lot of balance exercises. Right before my diagnosis, M and I bought a Wii, but I’ve just not used it. Now i think it will be really useful for balance and stretching. Although today I’m still a bit tired. Took Lily out and walking up the hill really was some exertion. It is a steep hill – this is Switzerland, after all.

It ought to be easier to add photos to a freakin blog. But oh well, I see I have much to learn.

The occasional sunset

Anyway, taking a break from chemotherapy reactions and the resulting prednisone head, I thought i would add a few pictures of stuff. First up, to the right is a view of the sunset from our bedroom – probably from last month. Sometimes the sky is just spectacular.  The mountains are the Western Alps, near the Kanton of Fribourg – the region is called the Gantrisch. Some really spectacular views, will figure out more once I get posting photos down.
Here is a photo of the infamous Lily the Pup, adopted from a shelter in the North Carolina. Lily is 6 and she’s been with us for 5 years.  She’s a good companion, just a little complicated – lots of anxiety. But she’s a sweet girl and we don’t quite know what we’d do without her. She makes a big difference in our lives.  When I’m not feeling well, she sits on the bed with me and looks out of the window, sometimes she curls up against us as we sleep.  Now if we could just get her to ride in the car without trying to tear it apart. But oh well…

My companion, LilythePup

Here is a photo of the infamous Lily the Pup, adopted from a shelter in the North Carolina. Lily is 6 and she’s been with us for 5 years. She’s a good companion, just a little complicated – lots of anxiety. But she’s a sweet girl and we don’t quite know what we’d do without her. She makes a big difference in our lives. When I’m not feeling well, she sits on the bed with me and looks out of the window, sometimes she curls up against us as we sleep. Now if we could just get her to ride in the car without trying to tear it apart. But oh well…
Just below is a photo of hats and scarves that I’ve crocheted.  The wools are very cool, lots of funky colors, so it’s easy to hide mistakes. And I actually wear the hats since I am rather bald (if you see from the previous posts).    Hats are generally more useful than the scarves since it’s getting warmer.  

Hats and scarves that I have made