Sunday, September 28, 2014

Creative Practice Wk 5 - Test-Driving Musical Instrument

The process took me almost all morning to finally be able to play one song. I bought this Vietnamese instrument over 15 years ago because it’s beautiful to look at. This was hard, but rewarding because I bought this Vietnamese instrument years ago but never really tried to take real lessons. Unless I live in Vietnam, it's hard finding an instructor in Palo Alto, CA. I had to do a lot of research online to find music sheets and how to match the notes to the string instruments.

I remember trying to learn a song at least 9 years. Finding a free tuning app on my phone, I tuned my instrument by using a pair of pliers (I’m supposed use the same tool you use for a harp, but I don’t own one). After using the wrong tuner, I found the correct tuning app by looking at the attached layout to figure out how to tune the instrument correctly. 

I found a music sheet online and took a few hours to figure out how to play the song. My mind couldn’t remember the notes, but once my fingers started picking the correct notes, my ears helped my brain to remember how to play the full song. I noticed that when my brain tried to memorize how to play the song, I would mess up, but when I allowed the flow of my fingers and ears to play, I did just fine after the 20th recording.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Health Issues Wk5 - Labor of Love

A few of my friends recently had babies. I’ve never been pregnant so I don’t know what it is like to have labor pain. I’ve only seen mothers screaming at their husbands threatening to kill the husbands for putting them through the agony of childbirth.  That is about the closest I have gotten to being in a room with a screaming pregnant lady wishing for the baby to come out already.

Though I am 45 years old, I still have high hopes that I will be pregnant and have my own children one day. Knowing that the pain is part of the package, I asked my newly-mothers if they had anything to help with the pain. 4 out of 5 told me they had an epidural injection to help with the pain. They told me you’ll forget it once it’s over, but during will be the worst kind of pain a woman could imagine. The one friend who didn’t use any medication said that it hurt, but she endured it.
Unsatisfied with their answers, I did some research on what could be done naturally, and relating to the arts that could help alleviate the labor pain.  Kara Maria Ananda started a Healing Arts of Birth workshop in Mount Shasta, California. Ananda trains therapists to help expectant mothers give healthy births. “Natural healing arts can offer effective pain relief and support for labor and birth without any of the negative side effects that narcotic and pharmaceutical pain relief can cause. Birthworkers, birth partners, and pregnant women can all benefit from learning techniques and practices from energy healing, massage, craniosacral therapy, rebozo, dance, yoga, sound healing, and holistic nutrition for improving labor experience and outcomes.” (Ananda, 2012)

Sound Healing was something new. It turns out that this type of healing is based on the belief that sound changes your consciousness. If this were so, can music help relief pain during labor? If so, what type of music would one listen to? If a person likes Trance, would she listen to “Starry Eyes Surprise,” by  Paul Oakenfold during labor or will she need to listen to classical music –even if it is the last genre on her list of must haves?
A recent article by Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation published a study on how effective music is during labor. Serap Simavli and team recruited 156 primiparous women who planned for vaginal delivery. About half were randomly chosen for the music therapy group and the other half were placed in a control group. This study was place in Turkey. There were five types of music: “classical music, Turkish art music, Turkish fold music, Turkish classical music, popular music.” (Simavli, 2014)

The study found that, “Music therapy was an effective method for reducing and relieving labor pain and anxiety, improving maternal-fetal-neonatal parameters and reducing postpartum analgesic requirement compared with the control group. It can be clinically recommended as an alternative, safe, easy, noninvasive and nonpharmacological method to relieve pain and improve maternal-fetal well-being.” (Simavli, 2014)
What I found interesting was that “during active labor, women with more rapid chest breathing need more rapid music with a faster tempo. We used different tempi and volumes according to the progress of labor.” (Simavli, 2014)  Maybe you can listen to Trance while giving birth.

Ananda (2012) Birthemissary.  [Blog]  Retrieve from:

Simavli S, Gums I, Kaygusuz I, Yildirim M, Usluogullari B, Kafali H. (2014, Sept. 16) 'Effect of Music on Labor Pain Relieve, Anxiety Level and Postpartum Analgesic Requirement: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial' Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation.    DOI: 10.1159/000365085

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Creative Practice Wk 4 - Self Portrait Collage

I started with collecting lots of photos from a magazine. I didn’t choose by beauty, only by the size. After gathering all the photos, I found myself drawn to a cat. I am definitely not a cat person, but I like their eyes and silhouette. I was also drawn to the one eye with the tear running down it. To put them all together, I found a smile with fangs and used that. This self-portrait collage represents the feline in me. There are times when life brings us tears, but it is still ‘Oh, so Beautiful’.  I wish I were more of a risk taker and add more to the collage, but I like it the way it is and was afraid of ruining it.


Health Issue Wk 4 - Eating Disorder

With mass media brainwashing us to believe that beauty (for women) equates to being 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighs 116 lbs. with an hourglass figure of 36”-24”-36”.  I do not know whether this is even possible, but most school girls and women feel the pressure to be physically perfect in order to be beautiful. 

“By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.” (Smolak, 2011).
Individuals with eating disorders developed this illness at some point during a traumatic experience(s) which they were teased and/or humiliated for being overweight. Trauma like this can cause the individual to binge eating, purging behavior, or using of drugs to numb the pain or trying to take control over their lives – no matter how false the sense of control may be.
13 million Americans have an eating disorder – and it is not only women – 1 million is men.  Social Media promotes fear of becoming fat among children in the age of 10. (See Figure 1, CNN)

(Figure 1, CNN)

Eating disorder is no laughing matter. It has the highest morality rate out of all the mental illness. Treatment costs in the US ranges from $500-$2000 per day in a clinical setting. (DMH)  This amount seems unbelievably high. I started to wonder if there are non-clinical or private centers that offer help at a discount. I found an article on eating disorder and art-making in Canada where they offer help in free non-clinical, community-based support centers.

The article points out that there are two major challenges to recovery for individuals with eating disorders.  One is that cost of the treatment and the second is the patient’s feeling of ambivalence that associates with eating disorders. The study used phenomenological methods while they interviewed 6 women for this study. In this discussion-based and art-based group study, the findings resulted in 4 themes:
1.       Sense of Control over Process
2.       Sense of Safety
3.       Development of Self-awareness
4.       Improvement in Sense of Emotional Well-being
“All of the participants have mentioned in their moods as a result of attending the art-based groups….Other research suggests that engaging in creative thoughts can increase  blood flow to the brain,…studies also find that serotonin, a brain chemical that helps to alleviate feelings of depression, is increased during creative activities.” (Ki, 2011)
The article did not share the exact art projects used because they wanted to give the participants the freedom from the “pressure of having to develop new ideas and at the same time helped them engage with personal issues to whatever extent they chose.” (Ki, 2011)
I wonder if coloring a predesigned mandala or creating their own pattern before a meal would help the patient from binge eating.  From the Patricia Ki’s article, it is obvious that art-making is beneficial to the participants, but I wonder if what specific project would be the most beneficial to help treat the illness. Eating disorder can take up to 15 years to recover. If I were to work with an anorexic, what art project would actually empower them to overcome the situation and the lie of beauty?  I don’t believe art-making would be the only key to recovery, but it would play an important role.
About 10 years ago, Dove launched a campaign to create a paradigm shift for self-image and beauty. Using the arts, Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign produced a video to help spread awareness in homes to safe another person from self-hatred. It shows how impossible it truly is to have it all without manipulations of Photoshop or surgery.

Smolak, L. (2011). Body image development in childhood. In T. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.),
Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Ki, P. (2011). Exploring the experiences of participants in short-term art-based support groups for adults living with eating disorders. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal 24:1-12

(2014) South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Retrieve from

Monday, September 15, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 15

Collage, Oil Relief Ink on BFK Rives paper

Sunday, September 14, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 14

used envelope and vintage Army envelope

Saturday, September 13, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 13

NFS - I made this for my nephew.

Health Issue Week 3 - DMDD

We have all heard of bipolar disorder. It seems that most children in the recent years have been diagnosed with this. If a child acts out, has a tantrum, he/she could be characterized as bipolar.

An article in the September 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry brought up a new psychiatric nosology to address the need for improved classification and treatment of children displaying temper tantrums or outbursts. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a new diagnostic for children (age 5-18) with chronic irritability. It was first proposed in October 2013, but it didn’t have sufficient empirical support. Partly because it was studied by a single group who focused only on adolescents temporarily hospitalized. Either way, the study was introduced to prevent erroneous diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
“It is likely that [bipolar disorder] diagnostic approach has contributed to the dramatic rise in the rate of pediatric visits for bipolar disorder in the United States, from an estimated 25 per 100,000 in 1994-95 to 1,003 per 100,000 in 2002-2003” (Moreno C, 2007)
Am J Psychiatry shared a case study of an 8-year-old boy name Dillon who has DMDD. It shares how Dillon’s tantrums would cause impairment at home, in school, at family gatherings, in church and various places, causing the parents to avoid including Dillon on errands and events to avoid the embarrassment.
Since this diagnostic approach to chronic irritability in youth is so new, no controlled trials were conducted in DMDD. Treatment decisions are currently made based on other diagnostics related to psychopathology.
From reading the case study on Dillon, I wonder how art can help him. He punched holes through walls, gave his mother bruises, and appeared agitated, restless and often requested to be left alone. He “expressed the negative thought that no one liked him, that he did not have any friends, and that his parents did not love him.” 
Since I have never worked or seen a child who has outbursts, I really do not have any idea what type of art session I would offer. Most of the time, when my nieces or nephews demonstrate bad manners, I would raise my voice a little and tell them that they are behaving badly and nobody likes a little brat. I let them sit by themselves for a few minutes, then grab some papers and oil pastels. I would ask them who their favorite character was and would draw it on the paper for them to color. This usually helps them to behave better and everyone is happy again.
This may work for spoiled brats, but I am not sure if it will work for children diagnosed with DMDD. 
Would love any input from you.

Roy AK, Lopes V, Klein RG. (2014, Sept. 1)  Am J Psychiatry 171:918-24. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder: a new diagnostic approach to chronic irritability in youth.
Moreno C, Laje G, Blanco C, Jiang H, Schmidt AB, Olfson M (2007) Arch Gen Psychiatry 64:1032-1039

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Creative Practice - Line Walking On The Wild Side

This creative practice was to take Sharpie and draw a line on a blank piece of paper without taking you marker off the page.  This can be hard, because you really have to let the line guide you! There were many times I wanted to pick up the marker, but kept with the rule.  The first photo is my result with the lines. The video clips talks about what I did (and I wanted to learn how to do videos). The last photo is of the final project. This practice would be good for people who are controlling and wants everything to be perfect or well thought out.  I can see it working with patients who need to keep their hands busy. I personally did not like it because I'm a control freak, but I do appreciate the pretty pattern and colors.

30/30 Challenge - Day 11

Take a Walk on the Wild Side 

303/30 Challenge - Day 10

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Health Issue (wk 2) - Suicide

After the news about Robin Williams’ suicide on August 11, 2014; within two weeks from the devastating news, a friend talked about her son’s friend committing suicide at school. Another friend chimed in to share that a colleague committed suicide as well. Suicide is a huge mental health issue that we do not discuss very often until someone famous and successful brings the issue to light.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2011, 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Physicians have a higher percent of suicide:
“There is a growing body of evidence that shows physicians are at significantly higher risk of suicide than non-physicians. A widely cited meta-analysis by Dr Eva Schernhammer and Dr Graham Colditz published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2004 found that male physicians have a 41% higher risk of suicide compared to the general population and female physicians have a shocking 130% higher risk, though some other studies have found the gender difference to be smaller or even nonexistent.” (Schernhammer, M.D., Dr.P.H.)
Recently, Rebecca Bernert, PhD at Stanford School of Medical announced that poor sleep can increase suicide risk. This study was published Aug. 13 in JAMA Psychiatry. This is understandable considering the demands placed on the physicians. 
After doing some research, I discovered a program started in 2008 by Earl Bakken at the North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea. Most hospitals use emergency codes to alert the hospital staff of urgent situations. For example, if there were a fire, we would hear “Code Red” over the intercom; or “Code Blue” for a person who lost consciousness or requires urgent restoration. Earl Bakken envisioned a hospital with integrative medicine consisting of 20% drugs and 80% spirituality. Hence, Code Lavender was born. It is a code that hospital staff can call if they felt overloaded by stress or if something traumatic happened that they felt overwhelmed/burnout.
Cleveland Clinic is one other hospital that has been using Code Lavender among the nurses and doctors. (Cameron, 2009)  They “focus on being supportive and also on using touch therapies… spiritual support and counseling, snacks…”   I approached the Director of Chaplaincy at my hospital offering to help start Code Lavender at my work. Though Cleveland Clinic offers more touch and spiritual support, I feel that we should offer art therapy, guided imagery and music therapy. These three art forms will help the staff take their minds off their worries for a short period. Many studies show that creating art helps lower blood pressure and heart rate. It calms the mind down allowing people to see their situation in a different perspective. It allows people to put their worries out to the universe. I personally have collected surveys from patients after an art session and most have said that “the art sessions allowed them to remember what it’s like to have fun again”, “I slept better than I have for a long while”, “for a moment there, I forgot I was sick”. 
Not only do I believe that Code Lavender will help alleviate stress and anxiety for the nurses, doctors, and caregivers. Code Lavender will help employees feel supported by the hospital and by their colleagues. The Cleveland Clinic survey of Code Lavender patients, in 2008, found that “93% of patients surveyed said that the Code Lavender services they received were helpful, and 90% said that they would recommend these services to others.” 
There is no guarantee that we will rid suicide completely, but with Code Lavender, there is hope for the nurses, doctors and caregivers. They give of themselves constantly and are running on empty. By providing a system where they can say, ‘Hey!  I need help. I need my cup to be refilled’, we can help prevent another suicide and help bring back the humanity in healthcare.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report.
Schernhammer , M.D., Dr.P.H.; Graham A. Colditz, M.D., D.P.H. Am J Psychiatry. 2004; 161(12):2295-2302. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2295   
Cameron, M. (2009) Cleveland Clinic: Notable Nursing: Healing Services ‘Code Lavender’
Code Lavender™  ExperiaHealth,

Friday, September 5, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 5

15 x 15 - DANG

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 4

15 x 15, Be The Bird

Creative Practice Week 2 - Six Word Memoir

Autobiography:  Give Love That Makes People Beautiful
Present Moment:  Sipping Rooibos Tea. I am happy.
Vision:  A world overflowing with joyful tears.
Spirituality:  All of You. More than enough.

Using only six words to describe your life’s motto wasn’t easy, but I did notice that I lost track of time thinking about using the right words. I have been stressed about all the things I have to accomplish on my To-Do List that people around me could feel that negative energy. After the first task, I saw that my shoulders were no longer up close to my ears and I sat up straight.
Word is powerful! I can see myself using this Six Word Memoir with the patients in the hospital. It’s a great opening to get them to start thinking about what to paint or create. They might be able to forget their worries for a while or maybe take it deeper and focus on their purpose in life. Purpose makes you fight to survive for the people you love.
I took a photo of my list to show the process of my thoughts. My six word autobiography is my life’s mission. I did not want it written in plan font, so I tried to write it in what calligraphers call, Black Letter. It’s not perfect; but then again, neither am I.

30/30 Challenge - Day 3

15X15  Three - Linh B Dang

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

30/30 Challenge - Day 2

15x15 - Be The Love (Ghost) - Artist: Linh B Dang

30/30 Challenge - Day 1

I haven’t been blogging for a long time. Cool fact I just learned the other day, Blog is for Web Log and then it got shorten to Blog. I recently took on a painting challenge for the month of September where anyone can join the challenge. It begins on September 1, 2014. It is a no rules challenge.  You can do whatever you want. The point is to get you creating everyday.

Artist, Leslie Saeta, is hosting this challenge. She had this challenge last year. To join, click on this website:"30 Paintings In 30 Days".  

There are approximately 650 people from around the world signed up for this challenge.  I am excited to take this challenge because I usually can’t find time to do art everyday, so I am determined to accomplish this. Please visit daily and leave comments if you like my work. It will encourage me to keep producing.

Thanks for visiting!

15x15 - Be The Love - Artist: Linh B Dang