Friday, April 4, 2014

Go! See! Dogwood Regional Fine Art Exhibition!

 Dogwood Regional Fine Art Exhibition
April 4-26
Dogwood Regional Fine Art Exhibition. Opening Friday, April 4, 2014. Runs until the 26th. Knoxville, TN. Go if you get a chance.

Includes this:
The Idle Isthmus, 2013,
Stoneware/porcelain, cone 6 oxidation, underglaze, acrylic, wax
3"w x 3"h x 4.25"d

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thought and action

Bowl sketching yesterday.
     The first day of Spring arrived and a burst of energy appeared. It's been a long, cold winter. Not just in temperature but in my mind. Things have been stuck. Or ruminating. And now that the sun's most direct rays have passed the equator, their energy is coming my way to help me get unstuck. At least that's the way I wish to see it. Not that I haven't had real stressors lately to contribute to my back-and-forth depressive state for the last 6-9 months but warm makes molecules move faster so I feel like a pebble got kicked out from under the boulders and things are becoming unstuck.
A jar, trimmed and some pinch pot forms that I am revisiting. In process.
     There was a post on my Facebook feed today from a fellow artist, a challenge of sorts to get off the digital train for a while and create something, a painting, a sketch a thought, and come back at noon today, to forget the Art Business and get on with making some art. Much of the discussion among the artist FB friends I interact with, at some point, comes around to dissecting, analyzing and being disgusted with the current state of Art Money and super-high auction prices, how it distorts the gallery business, how that affects those of us artists that aren't in that sector of the Art Business. So the challenge... take a break and come back tomorrow.
     Most of the art Facebook people I interact with are painters. I function mostly in clay both functional pottery and sculptural art which travels in different space-time that drawing and painting so greenware is the new sketch. Enjoy the subtle tones of grays, from pinks to greens to yellows to blues to neutral nothingness. Enjoy the duality of function and practicality, simple form, non-function and convoluted textures. I swing like a pendulum and do both to massage the halves of my brain. One supports the other, and back again. One provides the nest egg for the thoughts of the other to emerge.
More larges pod forms.
The Things My Mother Made Me Think Were Dirty.
     I put down two sculptures last year and wrapped them in a semi-started state for later carving. They sat, and sat. The longer they sat, the more discouraged I became. I opened and touched them again for the first time last week. I buried myself in the scratching and the smoothing, the cutting and carving, the manipulating and waviness of motion, frozen. This winter, I have just begun to intensely confront internal femininity and identity. I revisit the foundations of my being. The core. The seed. How I have become who I am. How I decide what to keep, what to discard, what I wish to form out of my internal ingredients and what I wish to cut loose from my baggage. This is only the beginning.
Group of pottery for production. Bud vases, condiment baskets. All with the ever present spiral, circles and touch points. And the equine imagery because I do live in Kentucky and horse are kewl.
     The pottery takes on a different route. It examines stillness and practicality. It pays the bills but it also has room to experiment and explore if I give it respect. I'm looking for a balance of personal aesthetic, meaning upon making and connection with the user.
Some mold shapes. Trying out some techniques for closed and open forms.
    To be clear, I didn't whip up all of these since yesterday but this has happened within the last week or so. The zen-like beneficial thing about working in clay, particularly the pottery aspect, is the demand on time. Even if you have a rush of ideas and inspiration, the physical properties of clay, drying time, firing time, firing process, glazing if needed and so on, stretch out that enthusiasm. You have a choice. You can either succumb to your frenetic energy, become frustrated at the time it takes to create and execute those thoughts and give up or you can breathe, pause, contemplate and use the stretched process to teach yourself to be in the moment, give up a certain amount of control, trust your intuition, learn from your mistakes, contemplate other solutions. Staying with pottery means picking the second choice. I think it's why I find the duality of art/sculpture which even though I work mostly in clay, I do venture into small water color sketches, paintings, drawings and so on (I'll publish those at some point), and then the energy shift to pottery to be helpful. For me, the mind-space I give to either is mutually beneficial.
Slab construction bottle with engobe pattern stamping in raw clay at the moment.
    So, there is a rampant discussion and examination of the money frenzy of the Art Business, the auction houses, the ridiculous prices paid for some work from those who are essentially emerging artists. Here's a thought. Fuck them. This has nothing to do with artists. This is all about a small percentage of people who have become so corrupt with their greed that they need another way to measure their dick size so they throw around piles of cash but need something to justify their public ability to purchase things. So they pick art. Or what they think is art. Because someone else said so and told them they must have it, the mega-gallery, Christie's or Sotheby's, their insecure ego. The art is really irrelevant. It's also houses and antique cars, private planes, etc. And what does that do to the regular artist that is not already dead and worth millions, that is not already an old, white guy in the beginning part of the 20th century, that is not the current darling of the money-pile measuring crowd?
It frees us. 

     Ignore them completely. Go for the jugular. Go for your gut. As a wise person once said, "Release your inner vision." While that small group of people is running around with tax-shelter measuring cups and metric rulers, we are free to make work. What governs their tastes is a whim and unknowable so let go and let loose. We are already creating the next movement but maybe, just maybe, we're right in the middle of it and we can't see the forest for the trees. The change, the shift is happening now. We are it. On Facebook, on blogs, on Tumblr, Pinterest and a shitload of any other social media you can come up with. Find the new audience. Fuck the tippy-top, they'll topple with the weight of their own money and ego. Excite the forgotten appreciators of art. Unlock the gravitational pull of Things That Move You on to the masses that think it's not meant for them. Quit trying to win approval from a tiny group. There are hungry minds out there. Touch them. The Art Biz people, the money, investors, they've already missed the boat. Embrace the energy of being the ultimate outsider. Get back to work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I'm afraid to write. Paralyzed. It's been a long time since I've posted anything. My winter has been, well, awful. Depressing. Troublesome, rage-filled, confusing, scattered. Cold. Problematic. As a result, my work, my pottery and my fine art has been spotty and progressed in fits and starts. So no snappy updates. I was talking to a wonderful friend today and she mentioned that her winter has also been depressing. I felt not so alone.

The season of cold drags on. My mood drags on with it. There have been so many factors influencing my energy this season, from about Thanksgiving onward, too numerous to count. From the little everyday aggravations to the bigger things like the plumbing problems from frozen pipes and the Medicaid bullshit that is still ongoing. 

But lately, like fine warm days that pop up in between the snow storms, I've been getting the urge to "do" something. Make something. Write something. And then I don't. But then I do. I can't wait for Spring.

My seasonal depression has paralyzed me. So here it is - messy post that means little, says little, does little. I'll add an image that is disconnected. And begin again.

I've fallen but I can get up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Word About Nursing Homes and Medicaid

This is a cautionary tale. If you have elderly parents that you must assist in getting Medicaid as part of entering a nursing home for their care, follow along with my recent experience. It may help you out in the long run.

I recently had to high-tail it back to New York to help my mother with the Medicaid application for Dad's admittance into the nursing home we chose after his fall in August. Dad does not have full-blown Alzheimer's but he does suffer from some early-onset dementia. Meaning he's a bit loopy. And by loopy, I mean the conversation loops around and around and around. The subjects go in circles. He's also got COPD which is somewhere between having chronic asthma and having emphysema, roughly speaking. So he gets weaker, gets disoriented, he falls, breaks a hip. Falls again, this time, he heads into a nursing home because let's face it, Mom is 85 herself and cannot keep up with her own care, as lucid as she is, much less staying on top of his care, too. Add on top of that, 67 years of marriage and that also means that Dad doesn't listen to her anyway when she does try and help him. Or he's downright nasty in how he treats her. When he falls, she cannot pick him up. His 120lbs still outweigh her 95lbs. 

So he goes from the hospital to the nursing home. Let's call it Babbling Brook Manor. It's conveniently located a few minutes way from where Mom and her closest friends live so they can take her to see my dad frequently. Nice staff attending to Dad, nice atmosphere...until we get to the money part.

Medicaid is Federal program administered on the state level. Each state has it's own perimeters and guidelines to accommodate cost of living and other criteria. Finding out simple info about a Medicaid application is not an easy thing, even in the age of The Google [tm] because each state offers up its own page about how to do it. There is no one address to send items to, no one person to speak to with questions. What New York State has is a list of facilitators, people trained to assist you in filling out your Medicaid application. Most nursing homes have a person who functions as a facilitator on staff and is usually the liaison between you, the applicant, and Medicaid. Their job, supposedly, is to let you know what information and proof Medicaid requires, and assist you with actually filling out the form. The problem is one of consistency. Lack of consistency creates opportunities for fraud, corruption and unscrupulous practices. Not all people on staff at a nursing home who help with the Medicaid application may have gone through what is referred to as a deputization process, meaning they have been officially briefed on the particulars, the rules, the ins-and-outs of the medicaid application. Technically, the facilitator doesn't review your application but instead, they help you gather the items needed and then they pass the whole she-bang on to the people at Social Services actually reviewing the application. In this case, the people reviewing the application work in the Nursing Home Unit of the Department of Social Services in Westchester County in the State of New York.

This maze of bureaucracy is intimidating and confusing on a good day. When it is exacerbated by unfortunate and emotionally-trying circumstances such as admitting an elderly parent or spouse into a nursing home after a medical emergency, it can be downright bewildering and overwhelming. Particularly if you are elderly yourself. Vultures prey on people in these situations and my mother almost got taken in by some in this instance.

The scam goes like this: An elderly person is moved from a hospital (after a fall, for instance) to a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation. People past the age of 65 usually are on Medicare at this point and Medicare takes care of short-term rehabilitation costs. The rehab is to assist a person to regain strength and mobility so they can return home. If, after this rehab period, a person is assessed to not be able to return home due to health, strength, mobility and other issues related to their ability to take care of themselves, they can be recommended for long-term care. At this point, Medicaid can assist with the cost of nursing home care, if one cannot afford nursing home care privately. You cannot apply for long-term nursing home care unless you are already in a facility. It's a bit of a Catch-22 and stupid beyond belief in my book but that's how we do it in this here US of A at the moment. What happens frequently, the person from the business office at the nursing home contacts the applicant or family member responsible for care, &c, as soon as the person is admitted into the nursing home to start the process of gathering the items needed for the application. The application should be submitted as soon as possible because once accepted, Medicaid pays for treatment three months prior to the filing of the application, so the sooner, the better. 

Technically, the facilitator should simply give you a list of proof items needed for the application that you need to gather and they pass that, along with the actual application, filled-out and signed by the applicant onto DSS. Items include proof of birth, marriage, identity, citizenship, home ownership, assets, insurance and life insurance and most importantly, bank account information going back for 5 years prior to the date of admittance. The reason they do this is to make sure people aren't claiming to be needing financial assistance for nursing home care and asking taxpayers to foot their bill when a person can very well afford care for themselves. Sometimes unscrupulous, greedy people with plenty of money try to give away all their money and assets to family and friends and then claim they are poor and in need of Medicaid assistance as a purposeful way to avoid paying for their own care and get the taxpayer to do it for them. Now, there are two sides to every situation and many ways to protect assets that allow people to hang onto their money so that they may leave a legacy or inheritance to their family, friends, pet projects what have you. These are usually in the form of trusts. I could go on but peruse a search engine and you'll find oodles of information about this. Point is, check out this information from time to time and stay on top of your finances. Quite bluntly, poor people will qualify because they have no assets and the very wealthy will always be able to take care of themselves. It's the people in between that will find it worthwhile to look into this.

Medicaid is not totally heartless. They allow you to keep some of your money and assets depending on your situation. If you are single, you must spend your money on your care until you deplete your account to a balance of - in the case of NY State - $14,4000 and a monthly income of $1,500. If you have a community spouse, the amount is much higher because the assumptions is that the spouse not in a nursing home needs money to live on and plan for their elder care. 

A nursing home makes more money if someone must pay privately as opposed to being reimbursed by the state Medicaid fund. If the cost of long-term care per month is billed at $9,000 per resident, it's more profitable to have private-pay residents than Medicaid-eligible residents, which may only reimburse the nursing home at a lower rate, say closer to $6-7,000 a month. 

And so this is what happened to my mother and father. The facilitator at the nursing home never actually went through the deputization process. She was there for a short period of time. In fact, she was pregnant when I went back and due in several weeks so she would be gone, maybe by now, and her replacement was already being trained. Not by the DSS Nursing Home Unit, mind you, simply by the operators of the nursing home. So, she, and the operators who employed her can claim a certain degree of plausible deniability for any mistakes, mishaps and delays. And delay they did. About three weeks prior to the cut-off date for reimbursement, the woman at the nursing home, let's call her Janey, met with my mother in her office in the facility and explained that many items of proof - that we had already hand delivered to her 8 weeks earlier - were still needed. Gosh! Where did they go? She proceeded to try to scare my mother into believing that my father's application was in danger of being turned down. She then suggested that my mother hire a private service, a senior planning service, a service that handles money and estates and specializes in Medicaid applications,  to help fill out and expedite Dad's application. She got my mother on a speakerphone conference call with this group. The woman from this group explained that for only $5,000, yes, that's right, $5,000, they would submit the application for my father and "cut through the red tape" and "smooth out the process" to guarantee that Dad's application would be accepted. Mom said she would think about it. She called my sister and myself and next thing I know, I'm headed back to New York to find out what the holy hell is going on. Janey even had a conversation with me the Monday prior to my drive to New York. She kept insisting that Dad's application had many "red flags" and she claimed he would be "turned down" and then "he'd be considered private-pay and then the lawyers would come after you." At which point I asked her if she was threatening me. Oh heavens, no, she insisted. I kept asking her what these people that she claimed to have worked with many times before, just what could they specifically do that we hadn't already been doing? What red tape exactly? Either Medicaid was going to evaluate and accept Dad's financials or they wouldn't and they would tell him how much he would have to pay and how much they would cover. Mom and Dad don't own their apartment. They own nothing but a car and Dad's been senile enough to bang that up so it's now thousands of dollars off it's value. The money they have in the bank was well below the Medicaid guideline. What was the problem? "Red flags! Red Flags!" But you're not an official from Medicaid, I insisted. Let them make the call because, frankly, it's out of our hands. "But I'm missing documentation!" But we gave that to you weeks ago, and besides, we're on a deadline. Medicaid recommends submitting the application even if you don't have all the paper proof so you file within the three-month reimbursement period. Why are you sitting on this application? "Senior Planning Services! Senior Planning Services!" Fine, send me their contact info.

Do you know these people actually called little ol' me while I was still on my way home from doing errands not 15 minutes later?? And, get this, an attorney for Babbling Brook Manor also called me and left a voice mail wanting to speak with me about Dad's Medicaid application and eligibility! Unsolicited! Not only that, after emailing the Senior Planning Services people with a list of questions, they were kind enough to ignore replying to me in writing in lieu of a phone call/voice mail, because they "really like to have a conversation first." After I insisted in writing that they get back to me via email, they finally did. And provided no references and yes, it's costs $5,000 because they fill out the application "CORRECTLY and in the manner Medicaid prefers." All for $5,000. We turned their services down and informed Babbling Brook we would not be using their "Senior Planning Service" buddies.

I also received an additional email from the attorney for the nursing home reiterating that he tried to "reach out" to me via phone and would like me to contact him about Dad's application. How about that? Twice! Unsolicited contact from an attorney — twice! Without a lawsuit pending or anything! And I didn't even have to pay him anything. When have you ever known that to happen? I ask you.

My sister and I sat down at my kitchen table with 5 years of bank accounts and, after consulting with a close friend who recently had to admit her father in to a nursing home, split the statements up and began flagging transactions over a designated amount. This is the big pain-in-the-ass of a Medicaid Nursing Home application, explaining five years of transactions. But we did. We downloaded the entire actual NYS Medicaid Application [Access NY Health Care]. We scratch filled-out the application. And it wasn't worth $5,000 of anyone's money.

I made Mom get wi-fi for the apartment. I drove to NY. We purchased an iPad and a color Printer. I spoke with the wonderfully helpful people at the DSS Nursing Home Division in Yonkers who advised me that we actually didn't need to have the nursing home do the application for us. That Babbling Brook Manor was notorious for errors and delays. That in no way on earth, should my mother and father pay anyone $5,000 to fill out an application. We recreated the entire application and made new copies of all the proof that was needed. That included original documents that the nursing home business office had in their possession and insisted they did not, such as the Social Security annual awards letters for both my parents. That meant we had to take a trip to the Westchester Social Security office and spend about an hour in the culturally diverse waiting room, waiting to request duplicates (a shout-out to Ms. Bellini, a wonderfully helpful US Government worker who could not have been more on top of things and more helpful to us). We had Dad sign forms for the IRS, his WWII records, you name it. We made triplicates of everything. We bought three plastic folding files and labeled everything within an inch of its life, a copy for mom, a copy for me and the copy we were turing in. While I was working during the week in New York of gathering all this information, the business office at the nursing home was still trying to insist that items were missing. I didn't even bother telling poor Janey that we were by-passing her "help." Mom and I went in to visit Dad one afternoon and had him sign. As we were leaving, Janey actually ran out the door after us, 8-months pregnant, trying to get us to sign her form that she wanted to submit. I called back, "It's okay. We've got it taken care of. I'll email you." Thanks for nothing.

Mom and I hand-delivered the application to Ms. Jackson of DSS, who signed off on receiving it, in Yonkers on Friday morning, November 22. Unreal.

Don't get scammed. It sticks in my craw that there are people who get taken in by this kind of tactic. You know Babbling Brook has done this before and you know they'll try it with the next applicant. This whole set-up was done with enough plausible deniability that you can't prove intent to de-fraud but the whole procedure smells to high heaven. Janey routinely blamed my mother for making mistakes and not providing her with correct documentation (essentially calling my mother incompetent and a liar), even though Janey was in no capacity to determine whether the paperwork provided was correct because she was not the Medicaid authority. People like this depend on the applicant's (or the people assisting them such as my mother and myself) ignorance of the rules and regulations, emotional distress to muddle clear-thinking and prompt poor decision-making, and intimidation by authority figures such as lawyers, administrators, supervisors, government workers and the like. Don't be taken in. Ask questions. Be skeptical. Insist on things in writing. Make triplicates. Use copies only. Be pro-active about your situation. And never, ever pay anyone, least of all a "Senior Planning Service" $5,000 to fill-out an application. Shame on them. All of them.

(Additional kudos go out to the bank people who were enormously helpful in assisting us in tracking down all the transaction information. We couldn't have done it without them.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wait

I'm waiting. Waiting to work. Waiting because there is something "other" that I MUST do, that MUST be done before I can attend to what I do. I must listen in on a phone call with my mother, the bank and the nursing home about the Medicaid application. I live 700 miles away from my parents but I must stop what I am doing and assist this ridiculously complicated and stupid bureaucracy. I put off my work again. I love my parents and do wish to help but I am also conflicted about the use of my time. The baggage of others' needs coming before I can attend to mine. My need is to feed my art, to make my work, to indulge my creativity in all forms, from the frenzy to the reflective to the blank moments of incubation. Who makes sure I have this time? Who blocks out those moments for me and respects those fluctuations? Nobody but me.

I learned growing up that thinking for myself, doing for myself was selfish if it didn't serve others. Thank you, Catholic upbringing. I have spent decades awash in that perception of myself, awash in guilt at any action or thought that involved me then rejecting that point of view then deconstructing the whole mechanism and now, trying to come to terms with the conflicting emotions, messages and lessons learned from living for five decades. Yes, it can be tremendously fulfilling to serve others. It can bring great joy and happiness to those served and the server. But not at the expense of the fundamental needs of the individual. Meaning, if you set out to do something for others and you experience not joy and happiness or even a kind neutrality but instead a resentment and nagging feeling that you could be doing something else, then somewhere, you have a need that you are not addressing. It could be something as simple as not getting enough sleep or something as complicated as not understanding some deep-seated fears and anxiety.

Strangely, I had thought I had put much of this childhood baggage to rest but now, as my parents age and need assistance, I feel the tightening of the long, long tether connected from the wrist of a small girl within to the heaps of mental obligations and guilt that were my conclusions about myself when I processed the world around me years ago.

Simply, if I'm playing at my work and using my imagination, if I'm doing the non-linear dance of creativity, if I'm not taking care of someone else's well-being, emotional or otherwise, I am not doing something worthwhile and therefore, that creative activity, mental or physical, must be stopped or postponed, dropped down on the list of priorities.

How was this devaluing of my creative self accomplished? Was a I ridiculed and criticized? Well, not directly. What took place, I feel, I think, I believe, was that subtle rejection of all things creative. I do not come from an art appreciative background. My museum experience came from school and friends, not my family, not my parents. My obsession with drawing started with my love of horses and I drew them constantly. It was not discouraged but neither was it encouraged. Things I was proud of were received with a bland, "That's nice. Can't you draw something else?" Breaking away from traditional representational art as I matured in my teens and was exposed to modern art, abstract expressionism, mediums beyond graphite pencils, dimensions beyond flat canvas, pushed me further into a void at home. I had no one to talk to about the things I experienced so I kept my thoughts to myself, completely insecure about how I felt about the contemporary art I was fascinated by. That lack of confidence about my own perceptions is only now beginning to fall away like a papery snake's skin. But even as I feel more at home about my perceptions about art, creativity and craft, I still have trouble connecting my value as a participant. Particularly at times of crisis when I perceive that others may need me or desire my attention. I place their needs above my own. Awful. Must stop. Has started to stop. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Recent items
     My quest is learning patience. I think. I had plans for 2013 and that was my first mistake. Somewhere mid-summer, all hell broke loose and I'm heading back to New York for the third time this year to visit the folks and see how things are going. As a result, the usual PotteryPalooza held at the Irvinton House Museum is postponed until 2014. I'll be doing a sale with my buddies, Bruce and Kelley Hoefer of Turning Wheel Pottery in Berea, KY as a guest artist once again. Check back for details as Kelly and Bruce are getting the announcement info together.
     More items like the one below are up on Etsy until then. I am enjoying the new aesthetic of intersecting geometry and touch points. It's more intensive in the surface treatment and glazing as I stamp, carve and underglaze once before bisque firing and underglaze once after bisque firing with a clear liner glaze over top of everything. I'm still tweaking the glaze recipe but I may be on to something there, too. Everything takes small tiny steps. I'm just impatient for things to be resolved. I blame my hormones.
On Etsy, Stoneware Vase with Circles of Pinks
     Speaking of situations resolving, that's the one I wish for the most. Let's get out of the "peri" phase and get right to full-blown menopause. I have a friend who swears when you're about done with your period, you come to a time when you wish you could get it again. Um, no. Maybe for her, never for me. Ready when you are, Mother Nature!
     We have a new puppy. It is all kinds of cuteness. Sometimes I want to squeeze it so much because it's so cute that I'm afraid poop will come out the back. I think Maxx would have approved. Still miss my big bear. We'll see how large this boy gets. His paws have become frighteningly large in the last week and a half. Housebreaking continues. Most of the time he gets it but sometimes I can't get him outside early enough. He's only 9 weeks old. Soon enough he will be an outside dog and it won't matter anyway.
     And there is where things sit. Fall has arrived finally but the leaves have not turned very colorful this year, more like brown and dead and on the ground. We had a long spell of dryness in September and it was so hot even just last week. I think we hit 87°F one day. That's just all kinds of wrong in late September/early October. The great thing this year is that our apple trees have yielded the largest, juiciest, sweetest apples that I can remember in my 14 years that I've been on Sand Hill. Yummy!
    Back to another load for the kiln. I am working on plans this year and beginning next year to draw up designs and plans for a soda kiln that I want to build on our property. Lots of things on the list to check off but you have to start somewhere. For now, the electric kilns will help me put out some pots for the holidays. Cheers, y'all!
Still miss this old, smelly beast.