I actually published a book!

Finally I have compiled a number of “Other People’s Children” into a book that will move you and inspire you. I wrote and edited more chapters to meet the deadline as well. Nothing like impending open heart surgery and a good 40% off coupon to get things onto the front burner, eh?

Seriously:

This little book is an invitation to YOU to step into a new comfort zone with your sisters and brothers in this world. We are all frightened children trying to find the silk edge of the blanket at times. Let us be kind.

The plan is, that this is just the first of several little volumes. This book contains 16 original paintings by me, plus one ‘artistic photograph’, so it is a large undertaking. The book is 8″x10″ in full color so you can appreciate the art along with the stories.

Buy a hard copy. You will want to hold this in your hands. Then you will want to give more copies as gifts.

Playing in the Intersection

This post is cross-filed in three categories, because my painting has now crossed the line. Perhaps I should say, I am not coloring inside the lines? It has gone beyond a matter of the technical, “If You Can Read, You Can Cook …” concept, yet encompasses that. My primary care physician has now prescribed my painting as art therapy as part of my heart healing and stroke prevention plan, so it is part of “My Healthcare Journey”. Most importantly to me, and why any of this is happening is that my subjects fall into the third category: “Other People’s Children”.

“Other People’s Children” is a totally different approach to pro-life. It looks at adults whom the world has thrown away and sees the absolute beauty and value the world missed. The term “pro-life” has been hijacked by the anti-abotion mob, who are anything but. I celebrate my friends, true loved ones, whom the so-called “pro-life” crowd cast aside as ‘takers’ because of their disabilities, gender, color or economic standing. I am painting their portraits to go along with their stories. Some are from my weak memory. I have very few photos.

rosalie I tried to capture the essence of Rosalie, a woman I met in the Women’s Detention Facility in 1985. We became lifelong friends. She was irrepressible. She attached herself to me immediately. We were both about 30, just a month apart in age, worlds apart in backgrounds. She died of leukemia on the street in 2008, when we were about 53. This is just a poor cartoon representing her. It really looks nothing like her aside from the freckles, frizzy red hair and big smile,  but does capture some of the emotional impact of her coming toward me for the first time in the House of Corrections.

I miss her.

alexThe next portrait is of Alex Bejleri or “Alex the Albanian”, my dear friend. We have known him since I started to serve on the street in 1988. We helped him learn English so he could get his citizenship. He walked over 5 miles in the snow to visit me in the hospital when I was ill. He calls me when I can’t make it to the street. He no longer needs our service, but he loves my soup. He prays for me and for my family daily. He still believes what they told him on Radio Free Europe, even though he has spent most of the last 28 years in Philadelphia, living on the street. I guess, if you go to jail for something, then escape, give up your homeland, your family ties, move half a world away; it’s hard to come to terms with the reality that it was based on an illusion. You see. He was a ‘political prisoner’ in Albania for listening to American propaganda radio broadcasts. I had to find him a shortwave radio so he could try to tune them in here. I kept trying to explain that America lied to him and they were not allowed to do that here. It was too much for him. Of course, now, they have changed the law. The CIA is now allowed to lie to us “legally” by broadcasting propaganda within the US. I guess Alex should try firing up the shortwave again.

My life is so much richer for knowing him.

These are just two of the hundreds of ‘throwaway’ people whom I have known throughout my life and grown to appreciate, enjoy, and sometimes love. These are the people whom the cold-hearted, falsely self-labeled ‘pro-life’ Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and his ilk call “takers”. If one doesn’t like people, all kinds of people, one isn’t pro-life. People are not interchangeable widgets. Each one of us is a unique, living, breathing, unrepeatable expression of the love, exuberance, joy and persistence of life! Each one of us longs to be and ought to be respected and celebrated. I am attempting, with these feeble cartoons and little articles to do that for some of my lovely brothers and sisters whom most of society would rather not see.

The doctor prescribed it, because she took my blood pressure after I told her about these paintings and it was 20 points lower than before. This is good for my heart. I hope they are good for yours, too.

Subway Tiles / Steampunking My Bathroom 2

I have watched a lot of those home improvement, DIY and various home makeover shows over the last 10 or 12 years. Already, some of the things they were promoting in the beginning, people are starting to turn up their noses at and feel look dated. I remember watching shows  where they painted beautiful, natural maple cabinets to “update” a kitchen. I cringed. What could be more timeless than natural wood? Then they started putting in glass tile backsplashes in almost every kitchen. The same tiles started showing up in the bathrooms, as well. Then the buzzword became “subway tiles”. This puzzled me. They were tiny compared to the tiles I’ve seen in the subways I have ridden. The only thing that made them “subway” was that they were shaped and arranged in staggered fashion, like bricks.

I am steampunking my bathroom and I wanted to paint the walls in a faux finish mimicking original subway tiles. When I began to research, the first site that came up had someone lamenting the ubiquity of subway tiles in home decor right now, and how that is going to date every home that uses them. Oh the irony of being trendy! A few sites down was a company that has just started reproducing old style subway tiles in the last couple of years. They give the history and have them available in a variety of sizes and colors. They confirmed my hunch. The tile size I was seeing on the far side of the tracks in Philadelphia was 6″x12″. That is what I wanted to go with. I also wanted to intersperse with a couple of rows of 3″x12″ tiles to accommodate two color bands. I can’t afford tiles. Time I have. Painting is like Zen. I painted our living room, hallway, steps, etc., all with a 2-1/2″ brush.

I thought I could use a white paint Sharpie to draw the lines on the walls, using a straight edge. That didn’t work on the high gloss paint. So I found my tiny paint brush and my bright white paint. Trouble is, I can’t paint a straight line to save my soul. I never could and it has gotten worse now that I have a slight tremor. Well, the colors I had chosen are on the cartoonish side of reality, so my painting will just add to the whimsy.

DSC02908Let me say something about the colors. The first time I painted this bathroom, I took my rubber ducky to the paint store. We computer matched the yellow for the walls and the beek for the trim and the tub. My wife came home from Ladies’ Night Out and hollered at me, “Can I not leave you home alone anymore?”

At least I had not painted anything Rubber Ducky Lipstick Pink! For real, the lips on the rubber ducky are pink! Anyway, I painted over the orange and took the towels back to the paint store to match the blue for the trim and tub color. Bethann was pleased. Well, at least, she tolerated it. This is the second generation: Rubber Ducky Steampunk, if you will. The egg cream paint color is chosen based on a rubber ducky fabric. The custom blue paint was optically matched from the same curtain fabric. It is an interesting, light, robin’s egg blue. It has the subtlest touch of green to it. It changes its look between sunlight and artificial light.

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Self Portrait in the mirror of the new medicine cabinet
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The first thing I did was GFCI upgrade to the electrical before I began using power tools in the bathroom.

The light fixtures I made from 3/4″ galvanized pipe with a black pipe transitions to a 1″. I used lampsocket plug-in adapters. I wired them with lamp cord, then inserted them in the pipes with black tool insulating coat, normally used for cushioning tool handles. The shower curtain rod is made from 3/4″ and 1/2″ galvanized pipe. It allows more room in the shower than the aluminum, off-the-rack one, plus is more sturdy and won’t fall down mid-shower.

I’m not done yet. I have custom tiles to paint and the soap holders to install; not to mention what I may do to the sink and toilet.DSC02878DSC02872

Left end of shower curtain rod
Left end of shower curtain rod

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If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to

I went for my intake interview at  a different psychiatrist and psychotherapist office on Thursday. It ruined me for the rest of the day and Friday. We’ll see how today goes. The last time I had such an interview was two years ago. That morning I was feeling pretty good and I just didn’t want to ruin it, so I didn’t get into everything. The interviewer was in a hurry and didn’t probe either. As a result, my diagnosis wasn’t correct. She diagnosed me with severe depressive disorder but missed the CPTSD. This time, I determined to be completely open, no matter what it did to my day, and my interviewer was in no hurry and really probed. It got me thinking about all those I have lost to suicide and murder, and the times my life has been threatened and all the bullying I have endured; the friends I have lost. I will attempt to go through the list.

My best friend and playmate when I was three to five died in a plane crash in Peru on Christmas Eve, during my junior year in high school. My best friend in 5th and 6th grade committed suicide in 8th grade. My best friend in 8th grade committed suicide in 10th grade. My best friend in 9th through 12th grade, who was also my sister committed suicide when I was 47. Of the 100 kids in my elementary school 6th grade class, 4 were dead by suicide by Christmas of our 2nd year in college. One beautiful friend had murdered his sister and parents in the bargain. Another two were dead of fast acting cancers. By the time I was 30, 15 in my class were dead of suicide or overdose, and several more friends from junior and senior high school and from my sister’s class.

Then she asked if I ever had suicidal thoughts or thought about committing suicide myself. I know it’s a form question, but I had to laugh at it. Are you kidding me? With this background and having been held at gunpoint by a high ex-con, and threatened to be killed by a Mennonite pastor, and experiencing the probable murder committed by a bishop of his wife, the multiple attacks, slanders, jealousies from clergy because I was serving the poor; the attacks from the press, police, mayors, with more lies and slanders because I was serving the poor, being terrorized by a conman because we refused to be conned. Experienced 6 strokes and 40 TIAs from migraines after allergic reaction to antibiotic for infection I picked up on the street gave me kidney failure.

YES! I think about suicide. YES! I have suicidal thoughts. Do I have a plan? No. I have been hurt so many times by so many who have committed suicide, I do not plan to do it. Although I do not blame any who have done it. I understand and empathize fully. Each night when I go to sleep, I would not be disappointed if I did not wake up. Most mornings lately, I am disappointed that I did.

She asked me what my goals for therapy were. This was hard. It has been so long since I felt anything close to normal, I had a really hard time coming up with any. I think I told her, “I would like to not cry all of the time. I would like not to sleep so much.” She said to make them reasonable, attainable goals. I paused and said, “I would like for people not to be afraid of me.”

She then asked me a question that no one in my life has ever asked me. She said, “Were you always slow at school?” We had already gone over my educational level, which is confusing. I crammed three years of college into two, went to two graduate schools without a bachelor’s, and dropped out of both of them without receiving a master’s. I taught a master’s program, however, and received an honorary doctorate. I have been ordained five times in six denominations (none of which I asked for, one I wasn’t present at). Most people assume I have a master’s. Many assume I have a doctorate. I guess my demeanor, with my slow speech, and my occasional stall while trying to find the right word due to the stroke damage, and my brokenness due to PTSD made me appear to be mentally challenged.

Photo on 2015-09-19 at 17.17I laughed at the thought. Maybe I have finally gained the tools I sought in ninth grade when I found that all my knowledge and fast thinking were so useless, because I could not use them to help tutor the kid that was in the detention area with me for not getting his algebra homework, while I was there for outsmarting my enriched English teacher.

#PTSD

After my first Tweet using the hashtag #PTSD, a PTSD & CPTSD support site followed me on Twitter and so I followed it. (The quote comes from a tweet from that site.) I have learned that there are many more out there who are experiencing the same kind of pain as I am as a result of the same kind of abuse by narcissists and sociopaths as well as other violent and traumatic situations. I have known for over a year that something had snapped; that I was somehow different or damaged. It wasn’t until I was at the Orthodox Peace Fellowship Conference, last Fall that I could put a name to it. There were a number of military people there, and a major focus of the conference was addressing PTSD. An Orthodox Christian psychiatrist, who is also a four star general, gave a definition of PTSD by listing the symptoms. I had an “O shit” moment. He had listed several possible markers, saying that one didn’t have to have all of them, but a preponderance of them would indicate that one had PTSD. Well, I had all but one.

I have never been in the military, so it came as a surprise to me. However, I have had my life threatened on several occasions. I have been bullied and lied to and manipulated by narcissistic, if not sociopathic, clergy on many occasions. This is a pattern repeated over and over by those suffering Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another note, though is that the 4-star general is trying to get the label changed so that it is not called a disorder. This is in line with all of the scientific literature in the field, as well. What happened with me and with all the others and with all of the soldiers who were programmed to kill is not a disorder, but a natural response and survival mechanism, without which we would not survive with our psyches intact in the battlefields we face. In the case of the soldier, it is combat. and he needs to be reconditioned and deprogrammed for his new environment. In cases like mine, I cannot go near sociopaths or narcissists until  or unless I am ready to boldly not accept their authority or judgment, whatsoever. This is a sticky wicket when there is ecclesiastical authority involved. But I have been told by an arch-priest who is also a therapist to stand up to bullies.

nonebusiness

This is where the graphic and caption come in. In the summer of 2012, when I was in the hospital with strokes caused by complex migraines, I had very strange auras with migraines. One time, I had what I call “Picasso vision”. This does not fully capture it, but almost. Every face I saw was terribly disfigured. It was so convincing that I believed it was real. It was happening in my brain, not my eyes.  One’s default setting is to trust one’s brain. One nurse’s aide’s face was so horrible, I thought, ‘How can she live with that?’ I know. I’m a terrible person. Then I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My own face was equally grotesque. I thought, this disease has sure taken its toll! The only one who looked normal was my beautiful wife. I saw her through the eyes of love. Now, much of the way we perceive ourselves is taken from our read of how others perceive us. This works out OK if one has an unwounded psyche and is not exposed to narcissists or sociopaths. If one is, an extra wall of defense needs to go up and some reminding needs to be done, hence the caption: “What other people think of me, is none of my business.” The reverse of that, of course, is, “You can keep your opinion to yourself!” It’s to develop a bit of a thicker shell for those whose trust and loyalty has been betrayed.

For the mean time, there are places I may not go and people I do not want to see. I will never respect or trust those people after the level of lies and abuse they have heaped upon me. I do hope to be able to be in the same room without being in danger of a migraine causing stroke as I am now.