Oct 22 2011

Forgive me father..


Forgive me because I have not blogged in ….months.

Seems time folds when I’m busy or preoccupied.  Spring is always a flurry of activity getting ready for shows, the winding down the kiddos’ school year, and teaching obligations.  Last spring, I agreed to teach kids at a local art center and taught in an after school program at my daughters’ school, above and beyond my adult students and doing production work.

I haven’t really mentioned much about her before, but my eldest daughter, who will be 9 tomorrow, is developmentally delayed. While she can walk around, eats table food, and can belly laugh at her younger sister, she cannot talk or communicate in any typical manner, does not feed herself, and still wears diapers.  She more or less functions at the level of  a 1 yr old, in some respects, only she can walk around and hit things with the strength of a 9 year old.  Not terribly self-reliant, I’m afraid, and can’t really be left to entertain herself for any period, even when I need to work.  She goes for clinical therapy for speech/gross and fine motor skills once a week, and has been in a special ed class since the age of 3.   Its been pretty trying and I won’t say our life has been typical, by any means. When she is conscious, and home, I get little work done in the studio, as I am the principle caregiver and sometimes the only person who can snap her out of a fit or episode. Fun.

When school ended last year, and my girls were denied enrollment at the school’s summer program, I was resigned to the fact that my pottery production would have to slow down significantly in June and July. When August finally rolled around, I was relieved, but first, I had planned a trip to Canada to see my dad and situate (and hopefully ship down) some of the things I still had in storage there.

Before I left though, I learned that my dad, who is now 87, had, after struggling with his driver’s tests (in Ontario, you have to take a test to renew your license every year once you reach 80), decided to finally give up his license. He also sold his car  evenbefore my youngest daughter and I arrived

Its always shocking to see an aging parent after you haven’t seen them for a year.  My dad, who has been battling some health problems these last few years, was showing his age and slowing down quite visibly.  With the loss of his car, he wanted to sell his house and decided it was time to move into a retirement home.  (Talk about a lifestyle adjustment ..)  So the week we were there, that’s what we worked towards. Aside from packing/sorting/organizing, we listed his house and commenced showing it 2 days later, and we toured various retirement facilities about town, one of which he really liked, and the lease was signed so he could move in Sept 1. Great. My daughter and I fly out on the 10th or so, with a few days to spare before she had to go back to school.  I start gearing up mentally to work on pots…

I learned that after I left, he had had 2 falls (!). Days later, when his scheduled doctor’s appointment rolled around (he refused to go before that), the doctor, learning of of his falls, whisked him off to the hospital for xrays (thankfully no broken bones), a blood transfusion, and they admitted him for a few days to deal because of some other issues.  That was August.  Poor thing, he has been in and out of the hospital ever since.

We got word after three weeks of the house being listed that the it had sold and would be closing Sept 20.   I made plans to return to finish moving things to his room at the ‘home’, pack and ship my stuff south, take care of the rest of the house contents, etc., and do all the rest of the things in prep of the closing date.

I arrived on Sept 8, and my dad was back in the hospital. It was a difficult week to be sure, but thanks to a few very exceptional friends who came to my rescue, everything fell into place and somehow got done, and I was still able to spend some time with my dad in the hospital every day.  By some miracle, I handed the keys over to the lawyer on the 18th and was able to spend my final evening there with my dad. I had spent so much time and energy before I left for Canada the second time, making arrangements, and mentally preparing myself for the daunting task what needed to be accomplished that week, and then on actually getting it all done, that when I got back, the drive home from the airport in Pensacola seemed almost surreal.

So my dad and his situation, on top of everything else, has been, as one would expect, consuming, especially being so far away.  I’ve spent most of my studio time since I’ve been back working on orders and shows we have coming up in November.  I’m glad to say that there is talk now that my dad will be discharged back to the ‘home’ soon and will be receiving some extra care as he transitions back from the hospital.  Thank goodness there are resources and services available! Hoping we have a small reprieve until I fly back up, so I can get what I need to get done here and keep plodding forward, one day at a time.

Oct 26 2007

Working Smart: Potting with the help of Occupational Therapy

Making pots is very physically demanding. Tasks range from lifting heavy bags of ingredients & clay, bending and straining to load and unload kilns, and repetitive movements that can lead to overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Potters need to think ahead and work smart to make sure their bodies can hold up as long as their love for clay does.

Sometimes, though, illnesses and injuries happen no matter how careful one might be. Two of Canadian potter friends of mine haven’t been so lucky when it comes to their health. One has quite serious back problems and has had surgery, but problems persist. My other friend has had epilepsy for years but recently, she has been coping with some pretty serious unforeseen complications relating to her condition. Both friends sought the help of an occupational therapist (O.T.) in hopes that they might help them continue to pot.

In this sort of situation, the Occupational Therapist comes to the workplace, observes the working environment, the working habits, and the tasks that need completing, then makes an assessment and suggests a plan of action.

The occupational therapist recommended to my friend with the back problems, working at the wheel from the standing position. Due to another pre-existing condition, she was not going to be able to be on her feet for any extensive period of time, so the OT worked with her and together, they designed a special “stool”, built specifically to her physical proportions. It wasn’t meant to sit at per se, but it was contoured in such a way that she could take some of the weight off of her legs/feet while still throwing standing up. (Sorry, unfortunately I don’t have a picture.) The other recommendation was that she take on a partner or assistant who would do tasks such as loading the kilns and other such tasks. This worked out quite well for her.

My friend with epilepsy had suffered some major set-backs due to some related neurological conditions, resulting in problems with balance, vision, fine motor skills, hearing, and increased frequency of seizures. Tasks such as throwing, manipulating a brush, and pulling handles were becoming increasingly difficult and sometimes even invoked seizures. A couple of the suggestions that she successfully implemented for working at the wheel were wearing an eye patch while throwing, and throwing with the help of a mirror (no more leaning over). Put simplistically, since her seizures were invoked by certain visual stimuli and physical movements, changing her visual perspective (covering one eye and using the mirror) and way of working, has helped to retrain her brain (much like retraining the brain of a stroke victim) to use different neural pathways to complete specific tasks, including throwing, and work relatively seizure free. So far so good. She is back to throwing again and is doing her first show in as many years this weekend.

I really have to admire my two friends for having the gumption to find a way to keep making pots despite their debilitating conditions and for seeking help from an occupational therapist. I know how difficult it must have been for both of them, after so many years of potting, to have to adjust to new ways of working, but both have made the adjustment successfully and sing praises of their OTs.