Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dave, continued

Dave has an excellent post, a list from a book, on 40 things needed the most after someone gets a brain injury.  I posted the ones most important/ relevant to me. Keep in mind that, like John Byler says, brain injuries are like fingerprints- they're all different.

1) I am not stupid, I am wounded. Please respect me.

2) Come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly

4) Be as patient with me the 20th time you teach me something, as you were the first.

10) Honour the healing power of sleep

12) Stimulate my brain when I have any energy to learn something new, but know that a small amount may wear me out quickly.

16) Trust that I am trying – Just not with your skill level or on your schedule

17) Ask me multiple choice questions. Avoid Yes/No questions

18) Ask me questions with specific answers. Allow me time to hunt for an answer.

19) Do not assess my cognitive ability by how fast I can think.

24) Break all actions down into smaller steps of actions.

25) Look for what obstacles prevent me from succeeding on a task

27) Remember that I have to be proficient at one level of function before I can move on the next level.

28) Celebrate all of my little successes. They inspire me.

29) Please don’t finish my sentences of me or fill in words I can’t find. I need to work my brain.

31) I may want you to think I understand more than I really do

32) Focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot do.

33) Introduce me to my old life. Don’t assume that because I cannot play like I used to play that I won’t continue to enjoy music or an instrument, etc.

34) Remember that in the absence of some functions, I have gained other abilities

37) Love me for who I am today. Don’t hold me to being the person I was before. I have a different brain now.

38) Be protective of me but do not stand in the way of my progress.

40) Remember that my medications probably make me feel tired, as well as mask m ability to know what it feels like to be me.

Taken from My Stroke Of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meet Dave

He has become an Ironman athlete since his brain injury. This is really huge considering how much one has to remember to get through training AND the triathlon.   For example, Dave writes:

"How does someone who doesn’t remember what lap they are on, get in any kind of a quality workout. When we are talking about the 3.8kl distance needed for the Ironman. How does the athlete remember the laps? The drills.
With the Garmin I can put specific workouts in, I can do heart rate, speed drills, cadence drills, time drills, etc. When I am in the water however it is just me. 
After many different ideas we found some water proof paper. I right down my specific drills. I.e. free style, kick's with the board, and other drills. I could mark down when I finished a lap, and keep track, so I would not over or under train."

And on the appropriately titled post "Having a TBI really sucks sometimes",  Dave goes on about just getting his gear together to go train (a simple run):

"I don’t like the fact that I get over stimulated so easy. I can’t cope with multiple things going on at once on a good day. Let alone when there multiple “big” things all happening at once.when I over stimulated my brain is like an old record that keeps skipping. Inside my head I am constantly spinning on the same spot. An example would be. Where I am going? I am going for run after my bike. I need shoes for my run. I go to the closet and I forget why I am there. So I ask myself “where am I going? I am going for a run” I need to get shoes. I go and get shoes only to forget why I am at the closet. This spinning has becoming increased, and on top of the spinning I flood.

Flooding is where I am over stimulated. I am running to many programs at once in my head. I am thinking about money, I am thinking that my landlord has not returned my damage deposit. I am thinking about my wife, I am thinking about my bike and my run. I am thinking I don’t have any money. I get so anxious over not having enough food. That has been the latest freak out. In my head I keep thinking I don’t have enough of the foods I need to train at this level. I keep going to the fridge and making sure it is there. Then I forget and go back and check. Then I realize I am looking for my shoes.

Then a phone call will come that the previous owner did not pay the electrical bill, that New Westminster electrical is coming after the new owners for it. I paid my electrical bill, why do I have to pay his? This was covered by the notary. Where are my shoes?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


My portfolio was featured on Arthood! I think you can click the pic to make it bigger.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Army Wives- Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's post on Army Wives' depiction of a Traumatic Brain Injury.
Episode 13

Joan is working on her memory by using flash cards. She says she feels like she's back in elementary school. Roland tells her she has to "walk before she can run"

Later on, Joan is going stir crazy and has a need to exercise.  She says that for other injuries she could work it out, but regarding her brain "she can't just get on a treadmill and push past the pain". She says' that "I've been stuck in this house all afternoon, I'm going out"
 Her husband objects "Exercise can interfere with your healing".  This is very hard to stomach if you've led an active life.

 Joan heads out to jog. And this is where the story was too familiar for me.... she got lost. I can't tell you the panic I had when I first got lost. I was in tears. I never got lost, what was going on?  She ends up calling the Sergeant (who recently regained his ability to drive) to help her out. He picks her up.  Joan-"sorry to bother you, you're the only person I know who understands. I got lost a mile from my own house... I expect more from myself".   note- I got lost in an airport. I was getting a juice two gates away, and had no idea where I was. Talk about re-assessing.

A lot of the her story is focused on taking it easy to recover from her injury. In the military, the commonly accepted form of rehabilitation is to push through it, and if you aren't pushing hard enough, you aren't going to get better... which leads me to another storyline that's telling in it's juxtaposition. There is a daughter of an officer who went through knee surgery. She is sad because she's not getting better, and that doesn't bode well for her ice hockey.  Her father takes her out, tells her to push through it, and has her run up and down stairs. A lot. His quote "She's not gonna improve if she doesn't push herself".  She does end up getting better.

And now back to Joan
On why she doesn't want to go to a military gathering-
 she's on convalescent leave, and feels like she is failing/ being weak. When her troops look at her, there aren't any outward signs of her injury, leaving the viewer to question what's wrong with her (invisible disability, common problem).  She notes that when there were stitches on her face, it was easy to see and understand (sometimes, I wish I still had my black eye and stitches for this very reason).
Honestly, I would not have gone to the event simply because there would be too many things going on, too many people talking- conversations are sometimes hard to follow.  And if there's an inkling that I will be stressed out in any way, it's best to avoid the situation and meltdown that most often follows. This event would be like running a marathon on a sprained ankle. Stresses the brain too much.

There will be more to the story, and I am interested in watching how it pans out.  I guess I'm happy that someone is taking a thoughtful look at brain injury.
There is a page with a bit of information about brain injury on the Army Wives site.

photo by izqrdo on flickr.   
photo by jillyspoon on flickr

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Army Wives- Part 1

My dear sweet friend Kat called me to tell me about a show she's been watching, Army Wives. Kat told me that the people who put together the show decided to tackle Traumatic Brain Injury, and by what I've told her about my injury, she's been impressed by the depiction in the show. So, I hunted high and low for the episodes.

I found a few, Episode 12 and 13 of the fourth season. Sadly, I missed episode 10 and 11, in which the character, Joan, figures out what is going on. If anybody has a link for either of these two, I would surely like to see them, as they show the beginning of dealing with the problem.  I think the hardest part about brain injury is figuring out what is going on, and dealing with everyday life at the same time (you look normal, why are you being so weird/lazy/bitchy?).

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I don't want to be stinky poo poo girl, I want to be happy flower child.
-Drew Barrymore

Friday, July 23, 2010

CARF Butterfly

H.M.Craig, "What Lies Within Us", acrylic and oil on hardwood panel

Good news!  The above painting has been selected to be in CARF International's corporate collection! CARF International is a nonprofit organization that works on accreditation for rehabilitation facilities  (like the one I went to).  They had an art call for people who have been or are going through rehab.* There were about 1,000 submissions.    I consider myself lucky to have been picked.

Even better news, some new friends of mine, Luca and Sebouh, also had pieces selected! They have also had brain injuries and are very passionate about creating art. We have come to know each other because we all volunteer at Spaulding Rehab hospital's Peace Art Gallery committee.  Joan Horgan, the head of the committee, made sure our achievement was celebrated and brought in a wonderful chocolate ganache cake with all of our names on it. We met David Storto, who offered his congratulations.  We were also given a toast by another great lady....... who's name I totally forget (memory problems), but I can tell you that she had a beautiful green necklace (me and shiny things, go figure).  There were pictures taken, and Sebouh declared us to be the "Dream Team".

*art therapy is a big-time healer of minds and lifter of spirits!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Erik Johnson

An update about  Erik Johnson from Bravo's art reality series "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist".  See the last post here. Last week, he said a bit more about his brain injury.

"I've done so much dark stuff.... I'm gonna make a soft painting for my girlfriend. She's seen me fall on my face time after time after time.

Especially after the motorcycle accident. 
I've had physical therapy, 5 surgeries, neuropsych testings, and re-training my brain how to think and talk, and learn how to walk.

That's when I started doing art again.

I turned broken and she stayed with me. That's why I'm gonna make a piece dedicated to her. "

Bless our caregivers. They help us be who we want to be. They support us in adversity. They see the battle that is being fought, and while we are on the front line.... they are very much integral to us winning our fights big and small.

Also, it should be noted that Miles (also on the reality show) is dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.   He does great things, but in the midst of working, he gets insanely overwhelmed and has to retreat to a quiet place to calm down or take a nap.  He gets a lot of flak for this from some of the other artists.  I don't think they see that this is a survival and coping issue, much to the contrary, it seems as if they are interpreting his behavior as a dramatic artsy guy thing/ cocky/ lazy (you know.. the automatic assumptions projected onto those with an invisible disability). If he can't get in a place where he feels calm, I suppose he will have an out and out meltdown (which could end up in a number of ways).

I had a hope that Erik and Miles would be able to identify with the inner struggle that each other is dealing with. It appears that it is not so, for reasons I will not go into here. I think that's something that this injury has brought to me... a new way of seeing, of being empathetic.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is When I Dance Around Like a Little Girl

 HMCraig, Opportunities, 30x40", acrylic on canvas

One of my paintings, "Opportunities", was selected to be in a TBI art show in Seattle.  I know, this is fantastic, right??  Wait, it gets better....   One of the local news stations, King 5, did a segment on the show.  Opportunities was shown a few times, one shot up close!!!   :)

Here's a link to King 5's segment about "Recreating Me", a show by TBI artists in Seattle, Washington.

I wish I could have been there, but it's sooo good to see and hear that the event was spectacular.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Creativity in America

When someone is describing another as creative, what do you suppose they mean? Would it be that they're painting frescoes on their living room ceiling and know how to decorate wine glasses? Would it mean that they had an unusual idea to solve a problem (Bob over there rigged his lawnmower to the Roomba). Can they make up a song or a story?

It's all of the above. Creativity isn't just relegated to the arts. Creativity is a way of problem solving. A way of figuring out  how we're going to turn grass into gas, how we're going to re-structure business, how we're going to deal with education in economically diverse areas. Creativity is good for all of us.

The problem is, our culture has been sorely under-valuing creativity. According to this Newsweek article, it's starting to show.

"Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

-Georgia O'Keefe

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dior Fall Collection- Flowers!

If only I could get my hands on some of these wonderful creations! Or pieces like them... I would glide around my neighborhood in a pansy dress. I would lounge around on my porch resplendent in tulips!!  Heaven!   My only problem is that they don't seem like the type of dresses I should paint in.

More beauty here.

Photos by Monica Feudi.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Turbulent Indigo

Turbulent Indigo by Joni Mitchell (will open in new window) 
Bah. I wrote this post a while ago, and didn't know that the link would not be available. You can hear (a snippet) and buy the song at iTunes. 

So, here are the lyrics to "Turbulent Indigo" by Joni Mitchell... about Van Gogh.

You wanna make Van Goghs
Raise 'em up like sheep
Make 'em out of Eskimos
And women if you please
Make 'em nice and normal
Make 'em nice and neat
You see him with his shotgun there?
Bloodied in the wheat?
Oh what do you know about
Living in Turbulent Indigo?

Brash fields, crude crows
In a scary sky ...
In a golden frame
Roped off
Tourists guided by ...
Tourists talking about the madhouse
Talking about the ear
The madman hangs in fancy homes
They wouldn't let him near!
He'd piss in their fireplace!
He'd drag them through Turbulent Indigo

"I'm a burning hearth," he said
"People see the smoke
But no one comes to warm themselves
Sloughing off a coat
And all my little landscapes
All my yellow afternoons
Stack up around this vacancy
Like dirty cups and spoons
No mercy Sweet Jesus!
No mercy from Turbulent Indigo."

For My G.... (surgery day)

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

Man o Man your my best friend I scream it to the nothingness
that we got everything we need

Home, Let me come Home
Home is Whenever I'm with you
Home, yes I am Home
Home is wherever I'm with you
Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you
Laugh until we think we'll die, barefoot on a summer night
never could be sweeter than with you"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Visible and the Invisible

G and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Louisiana to visit family, and celebrate a 90th birthday (!!!). All in all, the trip was wonderful. And tiring. But good.

A little background for the rest of the post..   G has been on crutches for about a month due to a 'funny' knee (surgery scheduled tomorrow). I have a brain injury- he can't walk.  We jokingly call our home "The House of the Broken".  It's been said that put together-we make one good person, with G being the brains and me being the brawn (or was it beauty?!).

Neither one of us really expects special treatment.

So, we were standing in line at the check-in counter of the airport, patiently waiting our turn. G had his crutches, so I was in charge of the bags. I carried things, and he figured out where we should go (there are soooo many signs in the airport, it makes me confused).       While we were in line, a lady directing the flow of traffic re-routed us to the head of a special disabled lane.  She took one look at his crutches and made a decision. But, nothing appears to be wrong with me... so there is no special treatment.

When we were heading to the gate, G was offered a ride in an airport cart. G politely declined.
I asked him to reconsider if the little cart was ever offered again, and explained that I might be better off not having all the energy sucked out of me because we had to walk 3,675 miles across the airport. It would have saved both of us some trouble, truthfully.

 Sometimes, I am afraid to ask for help... because I look 'normal'. At first glance, I don't have a "real" disability, and the general public seems to wish death on those that are deemed "faking".  If I am already fatigued or confused, I don't want to add to the stress by trying to convince someone that, yes, I actually am disabled (I have been in this situation before and it's awful). This is especially precarious considering that I have a loss of verbal filter, and can easily picture myself cussing out/throwing things at the individual that is questioning my condition (resulting in me getting kicked out of the premises, and possibly landing in jail).  Fun for everybody!

So, here we are.. a day before G's surgery. He is the visible, I am the invisible.   Thank goodness for people who understand both.

disabled parking permits photo by Chris John Beckett on Flickr.
logan airport by dmhergert on flickr.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Color Picking

Have you ever been struck by a color combination that you stumbled upon in your travels (plates, glass, buildings)?  Or, maybe, you saw a dress online with the most juicy purples, magentas and oranges...and used that for inspiration. Maybe you were at a garden in fog, with lilies.  The point is, there is color everywhere,  and is very easy to find inspiration if you're paying attention.

Sometimes, it's hard to decide what colors to use for a project, other times opportunities just leap out at you. An easy way to check out a lot of color schemes quickly is by using some of the links below. I have found great inspiration without leaving the studio  (most times, it is recommended to get out).

Colour Lovers


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt, Western Kansas

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Duane Keiser- Candied Apple

Duane Keiser is known as the father of the painting a day movement, where artists... guess what? work on a painting a day.  This is a way of honing observational skills, a kind of practice. 

I have watched the above video countless times, and am always amazed at that moment when the paint turns into an apple.   

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Robert Amesbury

Robert Amesbury, "Heliotropes",  44x37", goauche on paper

I don't think I have ever seen the natural world or still lifes depicted in this way... part pop art, part fairy tale. As you all know, I am abnormally attracted to juicy color, and Robert sure did crank up the juice. 

"He jam-packs most of his works not only with forms and metaphors, but with color and sheen: They almost jump off the wall to boogie with your eyes."