This week Cheryl, Linda and I did 74 postcards. Postcarding is our Quilting. I realized that I have never really shown the process of ‘doing postcards’ so people might think lots of things from me just writing ‘heya’ on a postcard to me over some Gutenburg style press.
We all get into the study and do the ‘matching’, which is the longest part of the process and takes 4-12 hours. That is where we go through, I usually go through the hundreds of postcards looking for the right one. And if there is a family of six, that means not just six individual postcards picked for each person, but that no stamps or stickers the same can be put on two family members postcard (because who wants to get a postcard EXACTLY like your brother/sister – makes you feel ‘not special’ – and that is the exact opposite of what we try to do). After the matching we do the stamping. That means we clear the two hospital tables, and fill them with stamps and ink, and then bring the stool next to my power chair. The stool is because since I can’t feel my hands, I need a steady flat surface to watch my hands or arms push on. Sometimes, I use my foreheard, or my chin to try and make sure the image comes out clearly. That is because if I have too many ‘white spots’ on the left, it means my left/weak side isn’t pushing with the arm, I am too exhausted, so I used what I have. Or we ask Linda to step on it.
Some people are very pristine with stamps and ink. Since we are doing a stack each and working sometimes though the night, we are not pristine, as you can see here. Also you can see, the unmounted stamps are down on a hospital tray, on acrylic and we call out what we want.
First, as we had 7 or 8 new stamps that week (we have invested in getting new stamps, now our problem is in getting more ink!), we had to try them out with the various types of ink and paper, so on gloss, is the distressed ink too much, does plum make it ‘pop’ or should that be purple? We do five to ten of each stamp to get an idea and then get going on the postcards. For a family, one person does the whole family at the same time, to make sure there are unique stamps on each postcard.
That evening, there were issues as I had low blood pressure and wasn’t responding to heart or other medicine and with heart erratics kept passing out. That just happens. Every weekend is different
People wonder, “How can you get that many postcards done?” and the answer is sort of like, “How do you run a marathon?” I don’t, I run one step and then I run another and another. Yeah, I feel crap, but so does Cheryl sometimes, it is just get on with getting on, whether that is blowing blood out of your nose or just waking up and trying to do another stamp until you start feeling better.
The dialogue is like this
Beth: “What does the Rabbit go best in?”
Cheryl: “Denim Blue”
Beth, “No, it’s a slick card, feel that.”
Cheryl: “Just the royal blue then.”
Linda: “Can you pass me the black and that flower from last time, the one I do green.”
Beth, “Wha? The flower you do green? What does that mean? That makes no sense.”
Cheryl: “Here it is,” (passes a stamp of a flower over), “it was under the dancing skeleton.”
Beth turns on Cheryl, “Flower in green and you KNOW what that means?”
Beth “Oh, did you say dancing skeleton? I am doing a goth card, I can use that!”
Cheryl: “Is she pressing that big Lion still”
Linda: “No, I think she’s passed out.”
“Tilt her back”
Linda pushed my head back. After 30 second, “Come on Beth, breathe, you gotta breathe,” 20 more seconds, “come on Beth, breathe.”
I’ve woken up but I can’t get my lungs to expand, my throat is expanding, as I try to open my mouth and gulp air in but I am too tired.
Linda pulls me upright and lifts my torso free, and I gasp air and breath for a minute.
Beth, “So was I doing the windsurfer who lives in Oklahoma?”
Linda: “Why don’t we call it a night?”
Beth: “Why, I only have three…er….six….a couple to go.”
Linda: “And…..they will still be here tomorrow.”
Beth whines, “Nooooooo!”
Linda: “I think you not breathing is a bad sign.”
Beth: “But I’m breathing NOW!?”
That’s pretty much a typical night except a lot more, ‘Look at this’ when we do a good stamp and trying out difference colours and ‘how did you get that?” and then trying to make the same image. Music plays softly in the background and the postcards go up flat atop the books to dry. And we have a stack of 25 each and if one person is taking more time (LINDA) then we take a couple each from her. Some do better with one stamp than other. It is not a bad way to pass an evening (except for Linda who is saying, "Why do 'I' have to step on all of them?" And we go, "Because you are the only one who can feel her feet!" Or the time she stamped a lion and got a giant white spot in the face....and managed to match it perfectly and not even we could tell where she had laid it down a second time - on a 5 inch by 5 inch stamp!
The next morning, after 3 to 6 hours of sleep, I am in the study with stickers and the black ink government pens which won’t run. And the table has the stickers on it, so I can put stickers on the postcards, some weeks are sticker heavy and we sticker each card first and some I do it all afterward, and then I write them all. I am covered with this fleecy blanket of Kit the Kat, skelanimals, that Linda found for me – you know, because Love never Decays. Then, every so often Linda or Cheryl, who are packaging the Amazon sales, come in to the study where I am writing and stickering and collect the postcards for photos or for putting the names down for how many where sent and who they were sent to. And they are put into bags (one for Canadian Stamps, one for US stamps) and then all are posted on Sunday.
That’s the stamping process, it starts Friday and can take the whole weekend, but I try not to do that, though it does seem to take up part of Saturday evening every week. We have to talk to try and remember what stamps we did for the person before, what postcards we sent, what they liked, if they emailed and what they said. Some stamps we can only do by size, if the postcard is large enough or if there is time. For example this stamp, takes about five minutes more to do. It is really cool but it takes a while.
And after all this banter and back and forth and talking and passing around stamps and debating and saying, “Well this looks good so far…….are you going to risk another stamp?” We end up with this, the finished postcard, ready for writing (and stickers).
So that is the postcard project process, at least the ink to the paper process. Before I go, I would really like to recommend the manga book Bunny Drop. Much like Transparent is a good series to talk about chronic invisible illness’ and the discrimination and caregiver issues around that, Bunny Drop is a good manga which speaks and shows in art caregiving. Because the basic aspect is that no one really knows what they are getting into with caregiving, you just end up making do as best as you can, getting help where you can and as you can. It also gives a viewpoint of someone who is less able to communicate, who has perhaps diminished capacity, or sundowners or dementia. Linda, Cheryl and I among many others recommend it. If you have care or caregive, I really recommend it, particularly those who balance caregiving with a career. It is the sudden onset of caregiving needs which makes this book particularly relevant to having an illness, having a sudden need to caregive, finding out there are all these systems but a) how does anyone know about all of it and get it all organized, and b) who has time while holding down a full time job?
The manga brings up the worry and frustration of trying to think of everything and failing, as we do, being human and all. Even though the people we take care of, from children to seniors are often the most vulnerable. And I learned recently how vulnerable and weak I have become. It is good for me too see both sides, and realize how hard care giving really is. Being ill doesn’t have respite, and I can’t say, “That’s it, I’m crap at this illness, I quit.” But care giving is the gift which only love really gives, as it isn’t easy, and pushes you as a person. I’m glad to see that shown, but also the vulnerability of the one being cared, and the cost to them. As we say, “Elizabeth pays. If Beacon workers forget, if Doctors screw up, if Linda forgets, in the end, Elizabeth pays.” That is the nature of a high care need illness.
Almost time to start preparing for more postcards!
1 day ago