Pictures That Talk

mood: here | drinking: drinks

dieter

I’ve written about my friend Dieter before (here). In February of 2008, he suffered a massive stroke that left him struggling to regain his speech and the full use of his right arm and hand.

As an artist who had, his whole life, expressed himself through words and music, Dieter suddenly found himself locked inside his own head, unable to communicate his thoughts, fears, feelings. He had to learn how to say his wife’s name, his son’s names.

Since 2008, Dieter’s journey has been long and difficult. It is likely he will never fully regain the use of his right hand, or ever be able to speak or sing again the way he used to.

But he has found new ways to communicate. Ever the artist, Dieter has turned to photography to express not only his own story (the picture above is a self-portrait), but the stories of others who don’t have voices. (See a sampling of Dieter’s photos here and details of his “Pictures that Talk” tour here.)

This week, Dieter emailed me a link to a video he’s created, and I want to share it here with you. He’s found the beauty inside the heartache, and it’s breath-taking to watch…

The Stroke of Silence

-Lo, who is always amazed at the human heart’s capacity for hope.

Etsy Ecstasy

mood: thinking|drinking: good

Etsy is a truly magical place. If you haven’t been yet, you should go to there.

And if you wonder why, well… take a gander at just a few of my favorite things. It’s a lovely way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.

http://www.etsy.com/etsy_mini.jsnew EtsyNameSpace.Mini(5312482, ‘favorites’,’gallery’,5,2).renderIframe();

You could even do it on a Thursday, if you like.

-Lo, self-proclaimed etsy aficionado

In the Valley of the Shadow

zander_fam
Mood: Pensive
Drinking: Diet Coke

The people in this picture have been very close to my heart and mind lately.

Many of you who read this blog know the Zander family. For those of you who do not, a short backstory…

I met Dieter and Val in Chicago nearly 12 years ago. They swiftly became people I looked up to, not only as mentors, but as friends. Over the years we’ve shared many meals, memories, milestones, and even a marriage… Dieter performed the wedding ceremony for Boy and I.

We all ended up in California and have maintained a steady friendship even as our lives diverged down different paths.

Dieter, who is a minister and musician, has chosen to live his life within the church, as has Val, while Boy and I have moved further and further away from the church.

But never have I felt any sense of judgment or pressure from Dieter and Val. Nothing but the utmost love. We’ve shared many long and intense conversations over cups of tea about God, about spirituality, about the pros and cons of the American church, about the hopes and dreams that Boy and I have for ourselves, for our future.

We’ve watched the Zander’s three sons grow from tousled children to tall young men, and we’ve been so proud, as if we had something to do with the miracle of maturity.

So it’s no small thing to say that the Zanders, all five of them, mean a great deal to us.

When we heard the news that Dieter had suffered a catastrophic stroke on February 4th of this year, we felt as if some bedrock in our lives had suddenly shifted violently out of place.

After weeks in a medically-induced coma, Dieter woke up to a new kind of life, one in which his speech has been radically altered, in that he cannot find the right words to communicate, so his thoughts are virtually locked inside his brain, and his right arm is partially paralyzed, as well.

Boy and I have been lucky enough to get to spend time with the Zanders since Dieter’s stroke, a privilege that many of our friends back in Illinois who also love the Zanders would love to have.

We’ve seen Dieter take on this new challenge with amazing courage and faith. We’ve watched the Zander boys step up into manhood and take on heavy new responsibilities. And we’ve seen Val bear her unexpected new burden with such astonishing grace.

I visited the Zander’s church this past Sunday to hear Val speak to the congregation about what her family has been dealing with these past few months.

I had to mangle quite a few kleenexes just to get through her story, and I felt such deep respect and awe at her honesty in the face of great pain, and her unwavering commitment to her family. I am so grateful to have this woman in my life, and I continue to learn so much from her example.

All of that to say this… the Zanders are the kind of people who make this damaged world a better place, just by living in it. They are now enduring the greatest trial of their lives. And I want to help.

Their church has recently started “The Zander Initiative”, a fundraising campaign that will run through the month of May to help support the family as Dieter works so hard to regain the abilities his stroke has taken from him.

Whether you know the Zanders or not, you can help to, if you feel so moved. Please visit this website for more information about what you can do.

And even if you don’t give, please hold these dear ones in your prayers. And if you don’t pray, hold them in your hearts.

-Lo, with all the love in the world.

Text Impossible

zurichbirds
Mood: Amazed
Drinking: Power-C

Text Impossible

To be so close and stay
so silent, though all sorts of words
come tumbling out of your ears,
your eyes, your unmentionable orifices,
the out-always-possible-aware
frustration.

Eloquence used to hang so easy
on you. All your consonants
and vowels would line up
with spines perpendicular,
baring eager Vaseline grins like
so many beauty contestants. But
where are all those bleached queens now
add talk this…?

You open your mouth and
words scatter like birds
after buckshot leaving behind
such a small selection
of wing-draggers and stragglers
that you hesitantly send out
all roads way.

I know I know I know
this conjugation is not
what you intended. But
the better linguist remains
dumbstruck, lost somewhere
in an alien hemisphere,
our the wondering.

What will you say when
you come back to us if
you come back to us
full of new words?
You’ve never climbed so high
in all of your living, still shouldering
the implicit expectations of so many eyes
believing someday you will. You will
expand your creations horizons.

*****

Uh. Did you just see what happened here?

31 poems in 30 days, that’s what happened.

As soon as I decided to write a poem a day for April to celebrate National Poetry Month, I knew I was off my nut. But I did it anyway, and not only did I not miss one single day, but on one occasion (April 24th), I got extra crazy and wrote two poems in one day… and posted them both!

Today’s poem is extra-special, not only because it is the last poem of the month, but because it was inspired by a dear friend of mine who suffered a catastrophic stroke a couple of months ago, and is still suffering from aphasia, meaning his language is very limited. He knows what he wants to say, but the words just won’t come out right.

I received an email from him earlier this week titled “Text Impossible!”, and it is directly responsible for today’s poem, which also incorporates several of the phrases he’s written or spoken recently in attempts to communicate. Even though he’s not yet saying what he wants to say, the words he is saying are strangely beautiful.

I thought it quite fitting to close a month of extremely prolific communication with a poem about being unable to communicate the way you want to.

So thank you to DZ for his beautiful bravery, and thanks to all of you who have been reading along these past 30 days. I’ve written so many things I never expected to write, and it’s all been really very wonderful.

Thanks for being here!

-Lo, who’s going to get real quiet now.

Upside Down

zandersMood: Heavy
Drinking: Not

This week brought some heavy news, and for days now I have been weighed down with the kind of sadness that leeches color from the sky.

A very dear friend of mine, Dieter Zander (pictured here at my book release party last May with me and his wife Val) suffered a large stroke earlier this week and is still in the hospital, his prognosis uncertain.

Dieter and Val have been a special part of my life since I met them in Chicago back in 1996. Safe to say I would not be the artist — or the person — I am today if I had not met them.

Dieter saw something in me the first time he met me, and he didn’t just say “I believe in you” — he gave me a stage, a place in the real world to use my voice — and in doing so, he changed my life. And Val, with her grace and steady strength, befriended me and in our lengthy heart-to-heart conversations, gave me a safe place to dream as she imagined with me the woman I could become.

Over the years, I’ve shared many meals with the Zanders and their three sons. They moved to San Francisco two years before Boy and I did, and were here to help us settle in and make a home. Dieter officiated at our wedding, and Val helped me choose the poems for my first book.

The Zanders have been to me mentors and friends, big brother and sister, inspiration and sounding board. I have just taken for granted the fact that they are and always will be part of my life.

So I have been shocked, I have been shaken to the soul by the news this week of Dieter’s stroke, and I feel ultimately helpless in my ability to make any of this better or less difficult for the family I love so much.

Many of you who read this blog know the Zanders, or at least have heard of them. I know you’ll want more information and updates about Dieter’s condition as the days go by, so please bookmark this website: http://zanderupdate.wordpress.com/

Whether you believe in prayer or good karma or healing thoughts, please take a moment today to send one skyward for my friend Dieter, his wife Val and their sons Kyle, Conrad, and Christopher.

I pray that his voice does not stay silent for very long…

-Lo, who has a hundred things she should have said.