Power Outage

There was a big storm blowing through tonight. Wind, some rain, 20 degree temperature drop in 3 hours – the works. I was worried all the way home from our field hockey banquet that our power would be out. I was right. 
We all stomped around being pissy and lighting candles. I called the Hub (who is currently in Florida) for instructions on how to start the generator and called in to report the outage. And then, the power came back on. Just like that. 
The next time I complain about it always being hard, someone needs to slap me upside the head and remind me of this moment. It was easy and I’m now toasty warm and the lights are on.

Shoulder Pain

I love to swim and had to stop several years ago because of right shoulder pain that turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. I had to have surgery (which was the most painful thing ever) and it scared me off swimming.

This spring a co-worker and I signed up for the gym on campus and convinced each other it was time to move. I decided since my right shoulder hasn’t given me any problems since surgery, it could handle some swimming – so I took the plunge and LOVED it. We went 2-3 times per week and were having a great time. A couple of weeks ago my left shoulder stated hurting. I eased off the swimming, but the pain didn’t go away – time for a doctor’s visit. (I suspected it was another torn rotator cuff and was trying to fool myself into thinking it would heal on its own.)

The doctor told me to stop swimming completely and she gave me a requisition for an Xray and a prescription for PT. The office called today and told me it was “degenerative joint disease”. A quick Google search tells me that’s doctor-speak for osteoarthritis. This is a condition where the cartilage that prevents bones from rubbing together wears out. It seems I’ve won the lottery – most people don’t get osteoarthritis until after age 50 (and I’m not there yet).

The shoulder is really an amazing joint in that the humeral head doesn’t actually have something to fit into like your femoral head does. The whole thing is held together with muscles, tendons, and ligaments – that’s how you have such phenomenal range of motion. From where my pain is located, I’m assuming I have acromial-clavicular osteoarthritis – so my collar bone and the tip of my shoulder blade are rubbing against each other and causing the pain.

What’s the treatment? Physical therapy (scheduled already) and probably some sort of occupational therapy to learn how to move better without the pain. I won’t even get any good pain killers! The best treatment is NSAIDs or plain old Ibuprofen. I guess it was just a matter of time; my mother has arthritis all over. It just kind of sucks in that I’ve found some exercise that I love and I’m prevented from doing it.

ATC #02

Lisa and I played for several hours with our inaugural ATCs. (Of course, I also had to check out her studio and while she mostly loves making art at her dining room table, she also has a way cool nook in her well-lit basement.)

This was my second attempt. I choose another ATC that I had put gesso on thickly and swirled with the paint brush.

Layer 2: I used 4 different watercolor crayons to lay on color, mixing some (orange and red in the lower right) and leaving others alone (yellow in the upper left). There’s a green border around the outside of the card.

The beautiful thing about watercolor crayons is – when you add water, they bleed and blend and swirl together in the most amazing way. If you use just a little water, you get great control. More water and they tend to run together in really beautiful ways.

Layer 3: I had some green gems with silver borders. So I put those on the card and began to draw around them with the acrylic paint. The edges were too harsh – the marker tips didn’t lend themselves to blending at all. So I colored over those with a lighter green watercolor pencil. I didn’t wet that part because it softened up the acrylic paint and I was afraid water would wash off the fuzziness.

This one is definitely not finished yet. I’m not sure where it’s going to go, but it’s looking for something to go into one of the corners without the gems. I’ll show it again when it’s finished.

ATC #01

I went to my friend’s house and she was so interested in the artists’ trading cards, that’s all we worked on. Here is my first:

Please excuse the slight fuzziness of the photo. Our digital camera is on its last legs and the screen was all wonky when I went to take the picture. I think I need to add something for scale as well, but there it is.

I’m not exactly sure it’s finished, but it’s finished for now.

Instructions:
1. Layer 1: cover ATC with gesso and create some sort of texture (I think I just put on a lot of the gesso and swirled it with the paint brush)

2. Layer 2: cover the gesso with acrylic paint in marker form. (I used several different colors in random shapes and sizes. I wanted something that would just be background – then I covered that background with a green acrylic.)

3. Layer 3: tear small rectangular pieces from green cardstock, create a tree trunk with brown, create a sun with orange. I used cardstock that had a white core because I wanted the white to show through and I tore the paper so that it did. I poured out a big splotch of white glue and kind of dredged the paper through the glue before adding it to the ATC.

When it was all dry, I took some sand paper to the whole thing. It distressed the tree trunk beautifully and scraped off some of the acrylic as well. I do like the way it turned out, but there may still be something I need to add after I live with it a while.

Daily Creativity

I’ve been thinking a lot about doing something daily to just be creative – to play, really. I have tons of supplies from my scrapbooking days and have been looking at Artist Trading Cards. This is a form of art that’s about the size of a baseball card, but is personally created. The scale is tiny (2.5 x 3.5), so doing one every day is completely within my scope. The problem for me is … getting started. I have the cards, I have tons of materials, I just can’t sit down and DO it.

On Friday, I took my girls out for dinner and just as we were sitting down, a co-worker hailed me from another table. I saw him and immediately started looking for his wife, who’s a collage artist. We’ve been trying to get together for months now for her to give me a tutorial on collage. She said, “Geez, we need to schedule some time. Next weekend is bad and the weekend after that is bad too!”

I said, “Then it’s Thanksgiving!”

She looked at her husband and then at me and said, “What about Sunday?”

He nodded his head and I said, “I’ll be in town for brunch at another friend’s house – Sunday afternoon will work!”

So, I’m busy gathering my supplies and creating an artist box to take with me so she can show me her techniques. I have something like 40 blank cards in my hands right now and I ordered a couple dozen more. You can get them at local craft places, but I’ve also ordered some from Dick Blick. I think it’s reasonable to do one every day and see where it all goes.

I’ve put some Gesso on 10 cards and I’m hoping they’ll be dry before I leave tomorrow. I’ll take those as well as some that haven’t been treated with anything. In my artist box is paper, some Mod Podge, and some other odds and ends that may be useful. I can’t wait to get started!

Campus Visit

Tomorrow I take my youngest for her first campus visit. It’s a small, liberal arts college here in the midwest. She doesn’t want anything too big and eventually (thinks she) wants to do physical therapy. It seems like a good place to get a well-rounded education that will set her up right for graduate school. The other couple bonuses are, it has a field hockey team and it’s only about 1.5 hours away. I just want to get a feel for the campus – see how the kids interact with each other, how much a part of the surrounding community it is, how big it is, are the buildings old and covered with ivy or brand new and all glass, etc.

When it came time for my son to look – he wasn’t interested. He wanted Big 10 and as soon as he got accepted to MSU, he was done applying (he was fortunate enough to be invited to apply early, so got the acceptance early). I wasn’t convinced such a big place was good for him. Turns out, I was half right. He stumbled and fell during his first 3 semesters, but realized what he had done and took some summer classes to make up for it. He seems to have turned it around and is making huge efforts to get back on track.

My daughter never had it as easy as my son. She struggled early to get the hang of reading and it took her so long that she struggled with everything else as well. The bonus here is that she got some terrific help and created some lifelong study habits that she’ll take with her when she goes to college. I don’t worry that she can do it (I know she can). I worry that I can’t do without her.

I find these last couple of high school years bittersweet. She’s a fabulous kid and has been since we brought her home from the hospital. She’s ready to go now and while she hasn’t hit the “terrible teens”, I’m sure we’ll have some trying times ahead. She’s my Sassy girl and even when we’re on each other’s last nerve, at the end of the day, she’s the only one I want.

Migraine

I’ve always had headaches. Seriously, ever since I can remember I’ve had them. In high school, the doctors thought it was because I needed glasses. So I got glasses. Still got headaches. The older I got, the more severe they got until I had the classic migraine – flashing lights, nausea, photophobia – the whole nine yards. These necessitated trips to the emergency department and 3 different (massive) shots. They’d give me anti-nausea meds, anti-dilation meds, and pain meds. On those trips, all I wanted was to be back in my own bed with a waste paper basket next to me.

Between my 2 kids, they changed to visual disturbances. The first one made me think I was having a stroke. These start as a pinpoint in the center of my eye (usually only 1). The pinpoint gets bigger and bigger until it moves out of my vision altogether. The thing sort of looks like a backwards, vibrating C, shot through with metallic colors (green, blue, red, and silver). There’s usually no pain, but it feels like someone closed all the windows in my head and started smoking cigars in there. Disorienting, but I can function.

About 3 years ago, the classic migraines came back. I went to the doctor and asked for some of those new triptan drugs. And they work – with a couple of caveats:
  •  You have to KNOW you’re having a migraine and get the meds on board within a few minutes or the vessels dilate and there’s no stopping them. Then you just take giant pain meds and hope for the best (which for me is a pretty intense headache that lasts for about 3 days).
  • If you’re NOT having a migraine, you get a giant rebound headache from the meds. So you end up taking milder pain meds and it goes away after a couple of hours (or a day at the most).

Here’s what I know about my migraines:

  • They’re cyclical, so they’re tied to my hormone levels. Since I no longer have the equipment that tells me my hormones levels are fluctuating, I forget about them. Which sometimes leaves me without my meds nearby.
  • Sometimes, food tastes funny. Not bad, just “off” somehow. A couple of months ago, nothing tasted right about 2 days before the headache started. I knew it was coming, so I was ready for it, but it doesn’t always happen this way.
  • About 1 in every 6 headaches is going to throw me right on my ass. I am literally in bed with an eye mask and a clear path to the bathroom because all I’ll be doing for 3 days is sleeping and vomiting.
  • Wine can sometimes trigger them if I drink without also drinking a glass of water for each glass of wine. 
  • They mostly occur on the left side of my head, but will occasionally swing to the right.

Is it time for me to have another talk with my doctor about these? I don’t know. I can usually cope. During the epic ones, I swear I’m going to talk to her. Then it passes and I’m fine again for a while. The thing is, there isn’t really a hard and fast pattern – no way of knowing the classic ones from the visual ones until they hit. 

I also have to say, those of you who don’t get them don’t understand. I work with people who say they’ve never had a headache (lucky). Then there are those people who think you’re shirking when you’ve moving slow because there’s a vise crushing your head. They can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist.

I’m on day 3 of the cycle today. Didn’t have the meds on Monday, so I suffered. When I get home, I’m going to lie down in a dark room, keep flipping my pillow over to the cool side, and be happy that I escaped with a mild one this time.

Wovember

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…. My sister used to go to a needlepoint store that was half needlepoint and half knitting. It was right around the corner from where she worked. One Christmas, she drew my name in the family exchange and gave me a small needlepoint canvas with all the thread needed to complete it. It was fun, helped pass the time so when I finished, I asked her to take me into the store for another one. While I was looking around for a canvas, I was enchanted by the yarn – but I didn’t know how to knit.

Over a couple months’ time, I kept going in to look at the yarn. They had a child’s Peter Rabbit sweater. It was mostly white with a giant, intarsia Peter Rabbit in the middle of the front. I loved that sweater. They wouldn’t let me buy it, “Sorry, that’s a shop sweater and we can’t sell it. It comes in kit form though.”

I said, “I don’t knit.”

They said, “Honey! We’ll teach you.” And then signed me up for Saturday morning classes.

I figured that I’d knit one sweater, hate it, and be done. What happened was I got sucked into the world of fiber and let me tell you, I fell hard. Within a couple of months, I was searching for a spinning teacher because I wanted to make my own. Then I started taking any class or workshop I could get myself to (knitting, spinning, weaving). Dyeing came next and voila, 20+ years later, I’m still doing it. I just finished a sweater over the weekend, I have an Etsy shop that sells the fiber and yarns I dye, I’m making plans to travel to a wool show in Maryland next year, and my best friends all share the same passion I do for all things wool.

What’s Wovember? It’s a way of life. How often do you wear wool and not even think about where it came from? Time to praise sheep and all things wooly. Don’t tell me wool makes you itch – you’re just not wearing the right kind. It’s getting cold and trust me, it’s going to be a long, long winter. Go dig out those sweaters, mittens, and blankets. Better yet, dig out that old knitting project that you gave up years ago because “it was just too hard” and have a go again. Find a yarn shop or ask a friend to help you (I LOVE to teach people). There’s nothing better than pulling on a hand-knit pair of socks or wrapping up in a luxurious scarf. Keep yourself warm this long winter and praise the sheep!

Best Weekend Ever!

I have a posse. They are women I’ve know for a while (from 2 to 16 years) and we all share a passion for knitting and/or spinning. Last year, we were bummed out because we couldn’t afford to go to the Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) even though it was practically in our back yard. We decided we could have our own retreat, and we did. We call it BLAR (Black Lake Autumn Retreat) even though BLAR II was in April this year.

BLAR was last weekend. We left on Thursday morning and all met up at … Black Lake. Here’s the count, by the numbers:

9 women (and one baby)
4 days
2 lbs of M&Ms
7 six packs of beer (2 different versions of Guinness!)
7 lbs of bacon (we ate bacon at every meal on Friday and Saturday)
20 movies (including Bridesmaids, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Kinky Boots, and The Secret of Road Inish)
several pounds of fiber spun
1 sweater seamed up
countless minutes of breathless laughter

Mmmmmmmmm!

I LOVE these women. We never fail to have a good time together and every time I approach BLAR weekend, I worry that I won’t have as much fun as last time. Every time I come home, I think, “THAT was the best one ever.” Re-entry has been hard. It’s only Tuesday and I’m already thinking about sleeping in on Saturday. But, I’m looking forward to April 2012 for the next Best! Weekend! Ever!