Playful Packrat

My sister freaks out once. “Oh, my gosh. Our parents still have boxes from their last move a decade later. What will we do when they die?”

Me: “Get a storage unit and open a box a year at Christmas for the rest of our lives.”

Her: “That could work.”

I tell my sister that we could start a magazine in response to Real Simple. “We will title it Playful Packrat.” We come from an impressive line of Packr– I mean, Collectors. Collector is honorable and respected. Packrat is, well, unfashionable. Perhaps I should title it Circumspect Collector instead. I know someone who seems to be collecting heavy equipment, which is an interesting choice. One needs more property than I have for parking.

My house would make Marie Kondo shudder. The photograph is the basement: the stack is my mother’s larger artworks. I am moving stuff around now that I am home-on-oxygen instead of running around clinic like a crazy rabbit. And like this writer, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/maximalist-response-marie-kondo-minimalist-mandate, it ALL gives me joy. Well, ok, not the tiny ants. We are at war. My kitchen may be cluttered but by gosh it’s clean clutter because the tiny ants let me know immediately if I screw up.

Anyhow, my mother died in 2000, my sister in 2012, and my father in 2013. My parents left me their stuff and grandparent stuff, some of which I had never seen, and I still get dead people mail. The colleges and universities are the most persistent. They don’t care if someone is dead, they still mail out the Alumni Magazine. I get U of WI, Cornell, Princeton, U of Oregon, Medical College of VA, OHSU and Williston. Holy moly. U of TN and SUNY Binghamptom have lost track of us, thankfully. I wish I had kept my father’s notes on Beowulf and mailed them to Williston for their library. It would be a sort of just revenge. I still have boxes (my excuse is busy physician) so I will bet that I can find something to mail to each one of those places. Something that they want just as much as I want their Alumni Magazine. With a cover letter that says that my contribution is hidden in the documents. One dollar each.

I have too much stuff but I have now turned middle aged, that is, I am over sixty. So I now am on the downward side and decide, there needs to be outflow rather than inflow. I like my stuff but it’s time to start moving it. My mother was a prolific artist and all of the silent auctions in town will now be blessed by her art. And don’t worry, it is not awful! She has art in the Smithsonian, the National Museum of Women Artists, and a bunch of other places. See my April A to Z for details.

For my father it was books and musical instruments. I still have the guitars. I think there were twelve trumpets? A lute, a harp, a cello — the lute is in very bad shape and the others have gone to someone else and the school, respectively. Recorders, gone. I have flutes, my regular flute and then ones made out of clay, cherry, pvc pipe and bamboo, as well as a Native American flute. I am mostly playing the regular flute, Native American flute and guitar.

I am guilty of books, too. I DO want to read them all, but even if I did nothing but read for the next sixty years, I might not finish. The excuse that some are reference does not fly. Some are pure unsullied entertainment and by gosh, I am keeping those! I am not allowed to go to the book sale next week. I do have a library box but the books are not leaving at the rate they have been arriving in the last year. And it’s my fault.

Anyhow, I am enjoying my clutter. After all, we invented tables to put things on. Sometimes we do have to clear the table for the NEXT project, but no worries! There is always the floor!

Cheering up music:

what would YOU choose?

Here is a story of a choice about an abortion, a theraputic abortion, where a mother has to make a difficult choice. I have seen Family Medicine patients since 1991, so this will not identify a particular person. No HIPAA problem.

I see a new patient in clinic, a woman, who already has children. She has back pain. All is routine until she says, “Sometimes my leg goes numb from the knee down.” I stop. This is NOT normal. “Completely numb?” I say. “Not patchy?” “Yes.” “How often?” I ask. She shrugs. “Not very.” “If it happens again, call me and I want to see you right away.”

Why? This is unusual because most numbness follows dermatomes if it is from back pain. The dermatomes on the skin wrap from the back down the leg all the way to the toes. When someone describes numbness or the pain of shingles in that distribution, we know which nerve is affected. Numbness from the knee down can come from diabetes and other causes, but it is not on one side and it doesn’t come and go. So the unusual stands out for me.

“Anything else weird?”

“I had vision problems in my last pregnancy. They sent me to specialists, even a neuro opthamologist. He couldn’t find anything.”

“Ok.” I shrug. We move on.

She calls two days later. “Both legs are numb from the knee down.”

“Come in today,” I say.

Both legs ARE numb from the knee down. She also can’t lift her feet. The muscles from the knees down are weak. I get neurology on the phone. “MRI her from the top of her head to the base of her spine.” I call the hospital and set it up. That day.

She has seven brain lesions suspicious for multiple sclerosis. She did have an MRI in the previous pregnancy, which was negative. I do not remember how old the child was, 2-4 years or more when I saw mother.

I call her back in for results, we talk about specialists, and I call a neurologist in the nearest big city, three hours by car from where she lives. We start medications and my patient is scheduled.

She has multiple sclerosis. The flare improves. The visual symptoms were MS in the previous pregnancy, but it was not yet visible on brain MRI.

Then she gets pregnant again. Her symptoms immediately flare. She comes to me and I call the neurologist.

The symptoms are not a little worse. Much worse. “I suggest she terminate the pregnancy.”

My patient is horrified. Until the neurologist’s next words. “She needs to terminate if she wants to be able to walk for the children she has.”

My patient chooses an abortion, to terminate the pregnancy. Because she has a bad version of MS*, she remembers the symptoms in the last pregnancy, she is young, she is clearly progressing and she wants to take care of the children she already has.

What would YOU choose? For yourself, for your sister, for your wife. If you are male, do you have any right to make that choice? Now picture yourself pregnant with that choice. And thank you for reading this.

*Addendum: present evidence says that multiple sclerosis does NOT worsen with pregnancy. However, another illness, NMO (neuromyelitis optica) instead tends to become more active in pregnancy. It previously was lumped in with MS until the antibodies (anti-NMO) were identified and it was realized it’s a different subtype of demyelination disease, with its own treatment options. Medicine changes over time and the woman, the neurologist and I were working with the information available at that time.

R is for Resume

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

I find two copies of her resume. One is from 1991 and one from 1993. I will add the 1993 information, but it’s a LOT. My mother was prolific! She complained about getting ready for shows and I did not realize how very many she did! I am so proud of her. She died of ovarian cancer in 2000 and I do miss her still.

Helen Burling Ottaway

  Del Ray Atelier

105 E. Monroe Ave

Alexandria, VA 22301

SELECTED SOLO SHOWS

1991 Nov     Will have solo show at Bird-in-Hand Gallery, Washington, DC

1989 Sept     “Cascades: Watercolors of Washington State”, Bird-in-Hand Gallery, Washington, DC

1988 Nov     “Fantasy Etchings”, National Orthopedic Hospital, Arlington, VA

1987 Oct      “Spirits to Enforce, Art to Enchant”, Fantasy Art, River Road Uniterian Church, Bethesda, MD

1986 Mar     “Prints and Poems”, Poetry by Katy Ottaway, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC

1984 Nov     “Forests, Flower, and Fantasies”, Sola Gallery, Ithaca, NY

          Apr     “Birdland and other Lullabies”, Pastels, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1981 May    “Fantastical Bestiary”, Etchings and Drawings, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

          Mar     “The Way of the Brush”, Watercolors, Gallery One, Alexandria, VA

TWO PERSON SHOWS

1986 Nov     Two Person Show, “An Occasional Pair of Claws”, Fantasy Art with Omar Dasent, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1985 Apr     Two person Show, “Figures and Foliage”, Pastels, Capital Centre Gallery, Landover, MD

1982 Nov     Two Person Show, “The Four Seasons”, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

SELECTED GROUP SHOWS

1990 Feb     “Visions 1990” Westbeth Gallery, New York, NY

1989 Feb     “Year in—Year out”, Studio Gallery, Washington, DC

1988 Mar     “independent Visions III”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

          May     Juried Show, Sculpture, The Art League, Alexandria, VA, Juror: Bertold Schmutzart

1987 Dec     Juried Show: “The Best of 1987”, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC, Jurors: Dr.

                     Jacqueline Serwer, Sandra Wested, Robert Stewart

1987 Apr     “Independent Visions, Fifteen Women Artists”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

          Feb     “Portraits 1987”, The Art Barn, Washington, DC

1986 Oct     “Juried Show, “Printmakers VIII”, The New Art Center, Washington, DC

          Jan     “Independent Visions”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

1985 Dec    Invitational, “Highlights of the Year”, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC. Jurors:

                     Linda Hartigan and Monroe Fabian

          Nov    Invitational, “The Macadam Nueve-Splintergreen Conspiracy Show”, Gallerie Inti,

                     Washington, DC. Curated by Omar Dasent and Ann Stein

          Oct      Juried show, “Printmakers VII”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Jane Farmer

          Mar     Invitational, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Artists”, The Splintergreen

                      Conspiracy, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC. Curated by Omar Dasent

          Mar    “Shakespearean Images”, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

1984 Nov     Juried Show, “Printmakers VI”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Carol Pulin

           July     Juried Show, “Printmakers VI”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Jo Anna Olshonsky

           Oct      Four Person Show, “Just Four”, Galerie Triangle, Washington, DC

                        “The First Great American Camel Show”, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1983 Mar      Juried Show, “Printmakers V”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Barbara Fiedler

          Feb       Juried Show, “Artists – Art Historians: A Retrospective 1972-1982”, National Conference, The Women’s Caucus for Art,m Bryce Gallery, Moore College, Philadelphia, PA

1982 May      Juried Show, “Woman as Myth and Archetype”, WWAC, Wshington, DC. Juror: Mary Beth Edelson

          Feb       Invitational, “Art is where the Heart is”, Gallery 805, Fredricksberg, VA

          Feb       “The Printmakers of the WWAC, The Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA

          Jan        Juried Show, “The Eye of Eleanor Monroe”, WWAC, Washington, DC Juror: Eleanor Monroe

1981 Oct.      Juried Show, “Collage and Drawing”, WWAC, Washington, DC Juror: Jan Root  

Numerous juried shows, the Art League, Alexandria, VA

Numerous group shows, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

EDUCATION

1967 B.F.A Cornell University, Ithaca, NW

WORK EXPERIENCE

1992-currently   Teach Drawing and Watercolor, Capital Hill Arts Workshop, Washington, DC

                              Teach Art Class for Seniors, Recreation Department, Alexandria, VA

                              Teach etching workshops and watercolors at the Delray Atelier, Alexandria, VA

1987-1990           Graphic Artist, Al Porter Graphics, Washington, DC

1985 Fall               Co-Director of Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1982                       Director of Exhibitions, WWAC, Washington, DC

1982                       Director of Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1981                       Chair of Exhibitions Committee of Gallery West, Alexandia, VA

                                Taught watercolor classes at Washington Women’s Art Center, Washington, DC

                                Taught children’s art classes for the Arlington Recreation Department

1967-1970             Assistant Curator at the Ithaca College Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

P is for Paper over

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway. Today’s post is about my mother and my sister: another woman artist. Christine Robbins Ottaway.

I do not have much of her fine art. She was a landscape architect and historic preservation expert and worked for Caltrans. She also wrote, on her blog Butterfly Soup, and in other places.

The painting is an oil, by my mother Helen Ottaway, done when my sister was 14. This painting seems especially creepy to me, the oranges and blues. I love the painting but it is frightening as well. My sister could write terrifying stories. Here is my poem about one of her stories. The title of her story is “We don’t make good wives”.

Paper over

They are papering over your memory
They want the clean version
The inhuman perfect version
I remember the violent sea serpent
Related to Aunt Nessie: me, I think

He stole your skin, you say
But you lure him to, posing
On the shore naked
And let him take you home
And impregnate you

And then you have six daughters
What did he expect? you say
Cold blooded and beautiful
White skin and greenish hair
Who all can swim like fish
and all seven search
Until you find the skin
and then away

You say, he took my skin
Now I have taken his

Let them paper over your memory
Let them pretend you were sweet
I hold your words in my mind
And I love you wholly

__________________________________

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

J is for joy

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

I am nearly done traveling and I am running out of photographs of Helen Ottaway’s work! J could be for jonquil but there are none in this watercolor. But I think it is a joyous and messy bouquet, typical of my mother. She would complain about her garden, how it was riotous chaotic beauty rather than neat rows. But I loved her garden and her bouquets and her paintings, untamed and joyous!

This watercolor is from 1994, the year before my parents moved from Alexandria, Virginia to Chimacum, Washington. My grandmother’s house two doors down from my parent’s house was sold. Someone came to my parents’ house and said, “They are ripping out the garden!” The new owners tore out the beautiful and elaborate garden that my grandmother had paid her granddaughter in law to design and build. Many uncommon plants, torn out and in a pile on the sidewalk. The whole neighborhood of gardeners turned out to take the plants home and replant them. The garden was replaced with bushes and two rows of marigolds down the path. I suspect that that household was shunned by the neighborhood gardeners for years after that and I wondered if my grandmother would haunt them. I do not have marigolds in my garden! My mother shrugged and said, “Well, they own the property.” but she could barely stand to walk by it.

I think the bouquet is from my mother’s own garden, a mix of humble and more exotic flowers. I love the purple and it gives me joy.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

memorial

Today is my sister’s birthday, Christine Robbins Ottaway. She died of breast cancer in 2012 at age 49. She had gotten stage IIIB breast cancer at age 41. She went through mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation and was clear for two years. Then it recurred and she returned to treatment, rounds of chemotherapy, a gamma knife radiation, another gamma knife and whole brain radiation. She was very very strong and tough and fought the cancer right up until the end.

This photograph was taken at my father’s 70th birthday party, in 2008. My friend Maline took the photograph. She and other old friends gathered and we sang the family folk songs.

Here is a drawing that my mother Helen Burling Ottaway did in 1978 of Chris. My mother always had a sketchbook. This is one she sent to me, because I was an exchange student in Denmark that year. At Christmas I received the wonderful sketchbook with my mother’s comments. My sister was 14 when I went to Denmark and I was 17.

Chris Ottaway by Helen Ottaway, 1978

stranded mermaid, cilia and tubulin

I took this photograph last summer at North Beach. I thought she looks like a stranded mermaid, thrown up on shore. I couldn’t move her, she was twice my length. The rock attachment had come too, up from our sea beds.

Happy solstice. Today marks the one year day from when I realized that I was having my fourth round of pneumonia, with hypoxia, agitation, fast twitch muscle dysfuntion and felt sick as could be. I am way better but not well. That is, I still need oxygen to play flute, to sing, to do heavy exercise and to carry anything heavy. Which is WAY better then having to wear oxygen all the time. Today I find a connection between the lungs and the brain, in quanta magazine. This video talks about a new found connection between cilia and the brain. We were taught that cilia and flagella are for locomotion, powered by tubulin. However, this shows that cilia behave like neurons and there is a connection. Since my peculiar illness seems to involve cilia dysfunction in my muscles and lungs, so that I get pneumonia, and the brain, because I am wired when it hits, this is a fascinating connection. If neurons developed from cilia, the dual illness makes a lot more sense. Hooray for quantum mechanics! We use it in medicine every single day.

Happy solstice! Here comes the sun!

Avoid death by fentanyl

Some of the West Point Cadets overdosed on March 12, 2022 are still on ventilators. They took what they thought was cocaine. It was laced with fentanyl and they all nearly died.

Not only that, but two of the bystanders who did not use the drug, but did cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR, also succumbed. They stopped breathing because they got a heavy dose of fentanyl giving CPR.

Fentanyl is being laced into ANY illegal drug, and being 50 times stronger than morphine, it can kill you by making you stop breathing. Also, fake pills are made. Do not buy pills on the street. And I don’t care if it is your friend. Remember that when someone is really addicted, the addiction is running the show. They need the drug more than your friendship. People will lie, steal and sell drugs. Protect yourself:

Please read the website at

https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/

If you or a family member uses illegal drugs, please get naloxone to have at home. If the shot is given in time, very soon after the person stops breathing, it can save their life.

Here: https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/naloxone/index.html

If you give someone a dose of naloxone CALL AN AMBULANCE. Because it is short acting and the opioid may take back over. The person may need to be on naloxone iv! You must get them to an emergency room as fast as possible.

Our local Health Department was giving out naloxone shot kits in the last few years for free. Our local police carry naloxone. If you are on prescription opioids, you should be offered a prescription for naloxone and your family should be instructed on how to use it.

And teach your children well. I interviewed my patients for years on the age they started smoking. Most of my patients started at age nine. One woman said age seven. We have to start talking to children about drugs and risk and not smoking anything by third grade. That is the horrific reality.

And Bless the punk band The Offspring for reaching out to opioid overuse people and saying, “Get help. You can do it. Please do not die.”

The Opioid diaries live by the Offspring.

And they too are inimitable.

Playlist: Stages of Grief 3

Stages of Grief Playlist 3

All women all the time today. Grieving for their men or our culture. Fighting back.

Denial

Dolly Parton: The Grass is Blue

Bargaining

Ann Peebles: I can’t stand the rain

Anger

Lily Allen: Not Fair

Acting Out/Fighting Back

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Give Your Hands to Struggle

Revenge

Dolly Parton: Silver Dagger

Grief

Tricia Walker: The Heart of Dixie

Acceptance

Bessie Smith: You been a good old wagon