Karen Kuhl

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I ate too many grape leaves. I'm having an intense grape leaf craving lately. [Cover your ears, boys.] I'm ovulating and I have no idea if that's involved. [Ears uncovered.] Yeah, I know this is written word.

I'm writing this as I lie sideways on the bed in the period of time where I'm supposed to be sleeping but am nowhere near sleepy-ville yet. It's a place I visit a lot, sans all medicines and potions at the moment. Too much was too much for too long. The cat has passed out in a fuzzy black and white impossible-shaped pretzel. Good for him, my little Boo.

In a happy accident, I see all my lady friends this week. I managed to get booked pretty solid and I just noticed it's my Greatest Hits of gal pals. Pretty nice. Tonight was a little too cool for it, but I sat on the deck with my friends Kathi and Lana. Tomorrow is bracelet making and wine (mostly wine) with Natalie and Cassie, and so on and so forth. I don't get this much in a month sometimes. Whee!

I went to the Celtic Fest on Saturday and it was my first time. I don't know how I missed this all these years, but I'm thoroughly hooked. Men in kilts everywhere. Awwwww yeahhhhh. My guy wore one, too, as he is Scottish and his sister finally got him into one. He went formal-style for the parade, with dress shirt and suit jacket, and dayam does that look work for him. Too hot to maintain though, it was a blistering 80-something degrees with him in wool head to toe, so he switched to the lesser known traditional "What's Under The Kilt?" t-shirt. (Answers below).

Sunday was Arts Fest, and coincidentally a collegiate marching band competition across the way at the local high school stadium. That was incredibly awesome to stumble upon. More so even than the Arts Fest (I dare say). Unfortunately the heat was hammering me so hard I couldn't stay long. A little visiting afterwards and then to bed for the usual battle of the blankets, aka the alligator wrestling contest.

(These grape leaves have sticking power. Whew.)

Okay, rolling onto my back again. The cat grumbles every time I move. I feel like I'm married.

Where was I. Oh, would you like to know What Is Under The Kilt? At least according to USA Kilts?

  1. Bagpipes
  2. The Earth
  3. My Celtic Pride
  4. The Loch Ness Monster
  5. Socks and Boots
  6. MacNuggets
  7. Freedom!

There you go. Curiosity satisfied? No? I took a peek. I saw #4.

music: America - "Horse With No Name"

mood: tired but not sleepy

10/1 '19 4 Comments
I've had grape leaves as a container for other things "x,y, and z - wrapped in grape leaves" - but never the leaves by themselves. Is that a thing? Clueless folks want to know!

Glad you got some hang time in with the girls! I saw you posted on IG, but I couldn't like or comment because I was using my laptop at the time. *grumblebitchmoan* at IG's complete lack of anything like a support system.

Celtic Fest sounds awesome. My favorite response to "What's under the kilt?" was always "How warm are your hands?" One of the big sellers of Amerikilts / Utilikilts had a list up on their site back when I got mine for Burning Man. Of course, that was *mumble mumble* years ago.
When I say grape leaves, I mean the ones rolled around rice (with or without meat). I was confused at this the first I heard it, but that seems to be how it's said most places I've seen them.

Really sorry you're still fighting IG, especially because that's the only social media I like anymore, and I'd hate to see you locked out for the indefinite future. Speedy unblocking.

Celtic Fest is entirely awesome and I thought of you. You need to go with us next year. I like the utilikilts and there were just as many wearing those. If you have either, rock it! Be warned I will ask you what's under it because I am 13 years old. ;p
Karen Kuhl 10/1 '19edited
>"Speedy unblocking."

The fucked up (and frustrating) thing is that I'm not actually blocked (see my recent skeleton art post) but rather - I'm blocked ONLY when I'm trying to use a laptop. Both my phones work.

This means that I need to upload art from my iPad to Google Photos. Then download from Google Photos onto one of my phones and THEN I can upload it to IG.

What a pain in the REDACTED.

On the plus side, it's now officially Inktober, so I'm going to be posting a lot of ballpoint pen sketchwork which I can just directly photo / upload.
I meant on your laptop. I did read your post. :)
Karen Kuhl 10/3 '19

It's so hard to live a life through the constant filter of physical pain. It's so hard to explain it as well.

It's not even a bad day today, just having some nostalgic moments on a warm summer evening, and I know there was a time I lived and moved freely and without this thing tugging at me, in my back, my legs, and tonight, my arms and neck and head.

I once sat without any awareness of my body at all. I sat in the air and just *was*. I hear music or remember a moment and it surprises me how far from that I am.

Just putting the thought down on paper, not for any particular reason.

music: The Smashing Pumpkins - "Soma"

mood: nostalgic

7/26 '19 6 Comments
I've been thinking about physical pain a bunch, lately.

Recently, during a staycation with my spouse when all three of our kids were not home day and night for a couple of weeks, we chanced to have access to a pharmaceutical-grade drug that, while not categorized as any class of pain killer, nonetheless allows you experience a complete absence of physical pain for a few hours. Generally, that isn't the most remarkable aspect of this particular substance, though it makes perfect sense physiologically; it's rarely commented upon at all, except in cases where it's used therapeutically in end-of-life care.

By my reckoning, I'm about a decade older than you. I don't have high levels of chronic pain and fatigue as you do, but I do have an accumulation of aches and pains, both from general living of life and from specific traumas over the years. Although I do my best to fight entropy, I was finding myself increasingly sad and discouraged. Also—importantly—some pains were becoming more intense and more intractable, and the progression was frightening.

I wondered, after the effects of our staycation had worn off, if the pain and anxiety would be even greater after having such a complete break from it. In fact, the opposite has been true. And at the time, I also experienced a very strong connection to visceral memories of myself as a younger body.

So I'm spending a lot of time pondering that. Thinking about memory, about pain, how pain affects our brain function (which then affects our pain, which then affects our brains, which then...) and how that cycle affects our connection to memory. Thinking about how difficult-to-impossible it is to fully understand either the physical mechanisms for pain or the psychological ramifications. Or even, what is memory itself?
Anne Mollo 7/27 '19
I had once somehow managed to take a combination of cold medicines (for an actual cold) in a such a way that they hit at the right peak for each, without the negative side effects I usually get from them, and I had this perfect feeling of contentment and low-pain. It lasted about 4-6 hours, and I was mostly just amazed. I spent much of the time drinking in the shift in perspective, wondering at the beauty of the mundane things in my room, and how everything that had plagued me just fell away for a moment. I could see the answers to everything, and it was simple: the energy all around us is connected.

It doesn't feel the same anymore, but for a long time after I could touch upon that memory and still feel the revelation.

I believe it's the closest I've come to an ecstasy or acid trip (not sure?) and it has stuck with me. It helped me seperate myself out from what was happening to me, at times. Maybe someday I'll get to do it again, this time on purpose.

I appreciate you sharing your experience.
Karen Kuhl 7/28 '19edited
Message received.

Thank you for sharing this.

Robert Bryan 7/27 '19
Thanks, Robert.
Karen Kuhl 7/28 '19
your response to pain is badass

you're not in pain
pain is a filter between you and the world
pain is happening to you
it's not you

that's varsity-level existential practice
talkers don't know how much maintenance that boundary requires
you know
you do it

thank you
Robert Bryan 7/28 '19
You have an unusually accurate insight into this. I am humbled.
Karen Kuhl 7/30 '19edited

I sat and had tea with Roger's mother (and Roger) last night, and it was so reminiscent of sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother, I felt a little teary inside. There's a bit of an age difference, so I didn't want to offend her by comparing her, my boyfriend's mom, to my grandmother, even though there's about 15 years difference. Past 80, I think it's fair to stop reminding people they're past 80.

Anyway, it was a cool night, and she likes to make tea, and I ended up awake til 5am but damn if it didn't feel so much like coming home after a long time away. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I guess most times we stop by there's a bunch of folks there, or it's mid-day and her shows are on, but yesterday ended up with just the three of us, and we sat at the old worn out kitchen table* that reminds me of mine, inherited from my own grandparents not that long ago, and had tea.

We talked about Leh's, and she showed us old glasses and bits of advertising on swizzle sticks of places around Allentown, PA that are long gone. She can be a funny lighthearted lady. She can tell a good dirty joke. But she can also be stern. Her grown kids don't cross her. She still runs her house with the long arm of a parent with Presence. She nursed her bedridden husband for four long years before he passed. Her boys are Pretty Good People and very devoted, but also kind and helpful to everyone in general.

And she talked about how she cleaned her floors every day, and dusted all her furniture, with six people in the house every day and that lit me up pretty good. It was my first time really finding a connection with her. I helped her clean her vent grates and we talked about how hard it was to see the quality of our cleaning go downhill for health reasons. It's funny because we had gone so Rog could spend time with her, and I ended up kinda getting this huge nostalgia hug, with bonus bonding.

I think the first time I spent any amount of time with her, almost two years ago, I was a little intimidated. Here I was blowing in off the heels of helping her son's best friend through cancer, and who knows what she thought about what had been going on (and we certainly didn't fill her in), but it didn't seem to matter, and there we sat, this time four of us: me, Rog, his sister Linda, and her, and played some Gin Rummy. I was rusty as hell, but I ended up winning the first game and she the second and all in all it was a good few hours of just sitting and talking and laying down cards. I can't sit for long in a chair, and this was before the second back surgery (though it's not any better now), but it was an easy feeling, one I hadn't been aware I'd missed until I was aware, you know?**

Oh, and the house has bits and bobs in every nook. A row of Scottie dog statues next to a ceramic garlic braid, one that's in everyone's house from a trip to Italy years ago, along with the daughter's amazing paintings, and pictures of weddings and growing kids, stuff crammed in everywhere. It's a home that's been the same family home for an entire lifetime, and it's amazing to me. I've been going there for 2 years, and while I knew right away his family was a good kind, I hadn't seen past to the heart of it, and that is that they were the old-fashioned, close, traditional family unit that somehow stayed together to the end.

In my life our childhood home disappeared at 10, and my closest parent (my dad) moved out of the house we maturated in in our 20s. My mom sold her home and moved states away. There's no childhood home for me. And no one took up the mantle. Not for long. We're all scattered. Trying, but spread thin and getting thinner. Still a family, just... different. Not as close. No bits and bobs.

But there they are, doing The Thing. And it's nice.

Sit down. Have some tea.

*Anne Mollo I'm thinking of you. :)

**My writing skills feel so rusty. I'm also feeling Penna Dutch-y as I'm writing, and I know it's from talking with my nextdoor neighbor awhile today.

7/2 '19 6 Comments
You are a *lovely* writer! I really enjoyed reading this.
Rachael 7/2 '19
Why thank you dear! That was so nice of you to share. :)
Karen Kuhl 7/3 '19edited
"If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
Thank you for sharing that, and your writing is perfect just as it is.

Robert Bryan 7/2 '19
That is a mighty fine compliment coming from you, Robert. Thank you kindly!
Karen Kuhl 7/3 '19
The closest thing I had to a childhood home was the haunted old Victorian we lived in when I was little. My parent spent more years living in the lake house, but I was already 8 when we moved there, and it was all new construction and kind of 70s-ugly. So whenever I think of a childhood home, I think of the Victorian. Or rural Vermont in general, as that was a constant at least.

The funny thing is, even though I wasn't so attached to the lake house, and even though I was living out in the world (in NYC), when they sold that house and moved—it was like a gut punch. I felt so homeless and sad. (And then when my mom died and we finally sold her condo, I felt that way again!)

I've also put my own kids through all kinds of home changes over the years, my oldest daughter living on the east coast and then the west and in a string of rentals until we bought a house and then back to the east coast into this house... She's also the one who still, at 22, gets horribly homesick at times. My other two are much younger and don't remember our house on the west coast very much anymore (though when they were very little, they used to miss the climbing trees in the yard of that house), so this place feels most like home to them. And very belatedly of course I've realized how much it can help kids if you stay put. With my own nomadic upbringing, I actually find that I get a little restless when I've lived in a place for very long. Even this house, now—and it's a wonderful house!—I sometimes fantasize about leaving and going somewhere new.

Thank you for thinking of me. :) Your comment made me actually go back and re-read my own post. I hadn't in fact looked at it as I was reworking it for storytelling, and although I knew I'd had to strip it down to a bare bones presentation, I hadn't realized just how much I'd left out!! Haha. (Also I was surprised that I wrote it way back in February.) Then this morning in the car on the way to my exercise class (ah, VT, where you have to drive everywhere, even to get or stay healthy), I started thinking about how I could turn it into a SciFi short story. I'd start it off with something like, "Growing up on Ganymede..."
Anne Mollo 7/2 '19
I'm in a part of PA that requires driving everywhere as well. You're not alone!

I inadvertently ended up moving every three years from age 10 to 31, so I get the nomad thing, even if it started with my parents and then kept going with me. Where I am now is 12 years strong and the longest I've ever been everywhere. Up to two years ago I was grateful for the stability, but lately I've been feeling that urge to uproot and start over.

And I love this house, and I love the neighborhood (minus some new neighbors), but I get it. I totally get it.
Karen Kuhl 7/3 '19

I just ordered "Lost Connections" by Johann Hari. (Thank you, Leela, for the original referral). I get it Sunday. I'm looking forward to reading it. A real book. In my hands. Just because I miss it.


I did a thing on Thursday. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, bending over to do some work, for about 10 minutes. I was pretty studious and not really paying attention. When I got up I suddenly felt that my legs were pretty solidly asleep. The right one slightly worse. At first I thought it was hilarious, in that way you pop out of bed to discover your foot is asleep and almost fall over. But this didn't dissipate real well, and now more than 24 hours later, it's still tingling away.

3/23 '19 3 Comments
Well, yikes! Sounds like ya done pinched somethin'! (Thanks, Dr. Knapp.) Are both legs tingly? I know you said the right one was worse. Is it still like that? Eeeeeek!

Curious what Annie Mollo has to say about this. She's all smart n' knows bodies n' stuff.
I got nothin'. There are a million and one reasons for that tingling, and also not knowing anything about Karen's overall health/challenges...

Gentle supports for people who have neuropathy might generally include massage, warm epsom salt baths, and acupuncture.

And no matter what ails you, assessing your overall diet for adequate micro- and macro-nutrients is never a waste of time. Even tiny changes in your diet can have big positive effects—iodine is one example of that. Change your intake by mere micrograms and you can feel quite different. But if you're not a big bio sci nerd hobbyist like me, your best bet would be to find a registered dietician whose philosophy encompasses integrative and functional medicine. You could also see a nutritionist, but that title/profession isn't regulated in the same way (or sometimes at all) as a dietician. That said, one of the most brilliant practitioners who ever helped pull me out of a bad-health cesspool was a nutritionist. So YMMV.
Anne Mollo 3/24 '19
Hey girls, sorry for the hit and run post! I'm back. :) I do appreciate the feedback! Yes, it's still tingling and in both legs, but maaaybe slightly improving? I bend over and get a sudden recurrence, and I've seemed to locate a major tingly spot in the groin-ish area?

I'm being uncharacteristically blase about this, I know. I think my recent back surgeries are connected and I'm in a bit of a bad place with that as well, just not feeling the improvements I was hoping for, and then being told the screws could be touching nerves really made me question the point of all of this. (I know I'll eventually settle down but it just makes me uncontrollably emotional right now and my response is to put it in a box until I can breathe).

I didn't get into all this in the post because sometimes I don't want to keep talking about The Stuff I Keep Talking About, but in the end it's really a big part of what is going on with me, so... yeah.

I did the nutritionist route waayyy back in the early days, but definitely need to revisit it. It's possible new information will result after a 10 year period. It's also never bad to eat good, yo. I believe in food as medicine, you are what you eat, etc, but I am often a lousy pharmacist. Thank you for the gentle reminder. <3

Oh, and hot baths are definitely a win! As are good supportive friends. XOXO

Karen Kuhl 3/28 '19edited

I run a very short list (just google calendar invites, actually) for lawn care applications each summer. It's basically a rough guideline for putting down what chemicals and when, if that's your bag, baby. (That's totally my bag, baby.) If you're interested in this, send me your gcal email (via "karona" at youknowwhere) and I'll invite ya. The time to start it is in the next week or two.

I'm a bit of a lawn geek*, so this had started as a hobby and a few folks asked to be alerted. Maybe it's time to admit I have a grass addiction. I make no gaurantees if you are outside of the Southeastern PA area. Actually, I make no gaurantees inside that area, either, accept that I also do what I'm advising you to do, and a bad lawn makes me very crabby*.

Okay, cheers.

*I may have signed up for soil temperature alerts this year.

**Crabgrass joke.

3/20 '19 8 Comments
Can you send me an invite? I am fascinated.
Absolutely. I only have the first item up, there will be about a half dozen more from now til Octoberish.
Karen Kuhl 3/21 '19
That's not a bad idea at all. If I had a lawn to take care of, I would absolutely sign up.
Aw, thx. Just something that kinda came about organically (more lawn jokes!)
Karen Kuhl 3/21 '19
I have a very small patch of grass that desperately needs help. Can you send me the details?
I can send you the invite for the crabgrass prevention. It's really basic, just the name of the recommended lawn product and whether to put it down wet or dry. Maybe a blurb in the notes. I am not sure how many calendar "events" there will be this year, but last year there were about 8, spread out between April and October. I haven't set them all up yet, but if at any time you want to opt out, you can delete them. :)
Karen Kuhl 3/21 '19
If it weren’t for crabgrass, I wouldn’t have any grass at all. (Rimshot)
Yep that was us growing up. And dog poo. Good times. ;)
Karen Kuhl 3/21 '19

It feels oddly quiet since New Year's, and I am not complaining. I think we're all taking a collective sigh and switching off. I came off with a Christmas Cold so I'm doubly glad for the peace. It feels so odd though, coming off the holiday buzz. And this must happen every year but this year is the first "normalish" feeling year for me in a while so I guess I'm noticing it again. (I said off too many times. Semantic satiation. Also, cold medicine.)


1/7 '19 5 Comments
Yeah. It _was_ pretty quiet. I even got snowed out today. Weather was just supposed to be overcast, but by the time I got to York, the snow started coming down. So I turned around and came home.

Which actually worked out great because I got an order for my largest (volume of illustrations, not money) single paying illustration gig ever. I then proceeded to knock out 5 of the 39 required drawings.

All of which is probably more info than you were looking for, but it's 12:30am so _of course_ I'm wired...
Matt Lichtenwalner 1/8 '19edited
Wired and tired. My M.O. as well. Very glad to hear about the new biggest project, and the exceptional jump start you got on it. Way to hit the ground running! xoxo
Karen Kuhl 1/9 '19edited
Mass bed-in seems to be the only solution to the January doldrums.
Ray Conrad 1/8 '19
January has been a great bed-in so far. But then again, so was 2018. Highly recommended. :-)
Bed-in is not a term I run across often, but that is exactly the right one. I'm doing more of it, even after I'm well again.
Karen Kuhl 1/9 '19

Your kind responses to my short Dec 10 pain-post were recieved with gratitude even though I didn't respond. I sorta went into hidey-mode for a bit.

Wanted to update that I got a very nice Christmas gift of muuuch lighter pain for the four days surrounding Xmas, which was so random and wonderful that I'm going to go ahead and thank you all for the good mojo.

Have a goofy cat photo.

12/27 '18 16 Comments
Yay for lighter pain!
How did you convince the cat to wear that?
Karen Kuhl 12/30 '18
No convincing. He is actually an alien disguised as a cat who will let you dress him, walk him, pick him up, and let you touch his paws *and* his belly, all while purring. >'-'<
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '18
Obviously not a cat. Have you considered it's an alien doing a poor cat impersonation to gather information on humans?
Ray Conrad 12/29 '18
I often suspect that, but every now and then he does something so truly cat-derpy that I wonder at his amazing acting abilities. He rolled off the bed in his sleep last week, for instance.
Karen Kuhl 12/30 '18
What's really missing from the picture is the completely doofy striped pant legs it has. The cat's, not Roger's. (Well, also Roger's, but those were a gift from my mom so it's allowed.)
Karen Kuhl 12/30 '18
So glad you had a little relief.
Leela 12/27 '18
Aw, yes. You know the gift this is. Thank you, sunshine. <3
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '18
Glad to hear there was a time of lighter pain.
Robert Bryan 12/27 '18
Thank you, Robert. You are so kind.
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '18
That cat’s not goofy!

Well, okay, yeah. Maybe he is. :P
He's a total derp. Just check out today's Instagram.

(@karonagram if you're reading this and want to find me.)
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '18
Directions unclear. Put goofy cat in ugly sweater.
Ray Conrad 12/27 '18
Tail caught in ceiling fan?
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '18
You see, that sort of video, which I will discourage and remonstrate for being animal abuse, also makes me laugh.

I'm a bad person.
Ray Conrad 12/29 '18
No, really, you're just honest about your dark humor. ;)
Karen Kuhl 12/30 '18

A mammoth of an eerily silent great horned owl swooped down in front of us while driving down a small winding road towards my house the other night. It was a ghost of a creature floating in front of us for a few seconds, giant and mysterious, until it angled up effortlessly to the top of a nearby pine tree.

I could not tell you for the life of me what either of us had been nattering on about when we saw it, but it stopped our noise in its tracks. Even now, thinking about it, I can see its eye as it turned its head slightly, just to catch us by the corner, before it looked away again.  I can feel the dead quiet awe that came over me, bringing a veil of calm.

12/16 '18 4 Comments
Dude, that’s amazing.

WHYY had a news item recently about snowy owls showing up at the Jersey Shore this winter, which apparently happens in years where there’s a prey shortage in Canada. Maybe you’ll see more owls this year.
More owl sightings would be so lovely. Majestic bird. I can see why they are thought of as wise now.
Karen Kuhl 12/18 '18
That is awesome! I've never come across owls during my travels, but I _have_ had moments like this while on the road. There's really pretty much nothing like those silent moments. So cool!
Karen Kuhl 12/18 '18

The chronic pain is really getting to me today.

12/10 '18 5 Comments
I’m really sorry.
I don’t know if this will help, but it pairs well with lying back and closing your eyes.


Faaaack. I'm really sorry, beb. I hope this particular round passes soon.
Sorry hon. Hoping it fades quickly.
No bueno.
Anne Mollo 12/10 '18
Hope you're feeling better today.
Ray Conrad 12/11 '18

I've got a wasps's nest in my deck post, possibly under the vinyl as well. I've got guests coming in a week and a half, specifically to hang on my deck.

Terminix wants $199 to remove it and a hard push of endless requests for yearlong service (it was $299 originally, but if you pause for a beat, it suddenly drops to $199, which is still too rich for my sensibilities, damnit!) I've dealt with all my own bugs in the past, and also I like my money, so we are attempting to kill it ourselves. The first attempt will be a foaming spray from 20 feet away.

I can't possibly see anything going wrong with this.

We couldn't find it at Blue Box Store last night so Rog is going to get it from Orange Box Store today. In the meantime I put out a trap bag for wasps last night. I looked at this morning: nothing. Crap.

[EDITED, Friday, Aug 31]

I did it! Actually, Rog did it before I even woke up this morning. A $2.49 can of foaming spray from Dries (thank you small local business) did it in one shot. Damn Terminix for upping my stress level. I was just concerned about the distance this time, and my inability to really run. Yellowjackets are f*%ing vicious. Though I've killed small paper wasp nests several times already, for some reason this nest seemed so much more active and harder to spray and get away from safely!

8/30 '18 7 Comments
So glad you got this handled! I’d probably let spray again I’m a few days, just for good measure.
Leela 9/3 '18
Thank you! Yes, we've had to do a couple applications, but so glad it's handled. Unnecessary stress.
Karen Kuhl 9/4 '18
Burn it all down. It's the only way to be sure. (Oh wait, that's spiders.)
Karen Kuhl 8/31 '18
"The first attempt will be a foaming spray from 20 feet away."

I've done it countless times over the years. That first attempt will probably be all you'll need. It's no big, and it's sure as shit not $199 big!

(I know you already will, but I still have to say it: just be sure to clean up well since the Lil' Man likes to sit out there with you...)
Matt Lichtenwalner 8/31 '18edited
I did it! Actually, Rog did it! Update in post. And THANK YOU.
Karen Kuhl 8/31 '18