Saturday, September 17, 2016

Time to do some catching up!

     Still have problems with my sniffer, as in I can't really smell anything.  I made an appointment with an ENT, my primary Dr's suggestion. It really didn't do much and I got the impression that he didn't care a whole lot either by the end of it all.  He checked me out, said he couldn't see anything physically that me be causing the smelling problems.  Some inflammation but not a lot.  Stuck one of those cameras up both nostrils. While not very painful, it was pretty uncomfortable to say the least and I highly don't recommend it unless really necessary.Told me he hadn't heard of Sjogren's  but was interested in doing some research on the topic since he has never come across this before, which made me feel good. Like he was interested in my problems and really wanted to help. He was honest, and said he could prescribe some antibiotics in case there was something going on and some prednisone for the inflammation and see what happens.  But he said he didn't think surgery would be an option for he saw no reason for it. So beyond the prednisone until he did more research that was all he could do. So I went and got me prescriptions filled.
     Prednisone is absolutely amazing.  I loved it.  It made me feel like a human again for the first time in a long time.  No pain, so much energy, so focused.  I couldn't believe it.  I got caught up on everything in my pending files at work.  I told my husband if I had another week like this, I could actually get the house painted like I've been wanting to for the last few years.  But alas it was just a short burst and by the time we left for vacation the end of June I was down to my last dose. But it didn't take too long for everything to come bouncing back.  While on vacation the vasculitis in my legs flared up extremely bad.  I had sore shoulders and arms but for some reason my legs were fine, which I found odd since we did a ton of hiking.  My sense of smell never came back though.
     At my follow up the ENT asked how everything was, and admitted to me that he forgot about the research he was going to do so he had no answers for me.  I felt so let down.  At any rate he said since it was going on almost a year-if I reached the 12 month period and have not had any changes then most likely my nerves where damaged beyond repair and it would be permanent.  Any damage to nerves in the sinuses will regenerate eventually by 12 months.  And for me that was really only 3 months away.  So with that, he basically washed his hands of me.  He ordered another CT scan to see if the drugs had cleared up the inflammation.  He told me there was a smell test that could be done if I wanted to go somewhere in the city.  It was basically these tubes or something that you smell to see if you could identify the odors.  He doesn't have them b/c they are expensive to buy (Well you just got me for 2 visits that did nothing, I guess that's still not enough $).  All the test does though was verify that you can't smell, it won't help you get it back There's no procedure, medicine or anything out there that can be bring it back he said.  At this point though, I'd just be freaking happy with knowing what the hell caused the issue to begin with, but I guess I'm never going to know that.  None of the Dr's seem to give a crap about quality of life.  He said my CT scan showed some improvement of the inflammation, and if I had any more sinus trouble or infections to give his office a call.  Yeah right, I'll be sure to do that jackass.  If I have to see someone for a sinus infection I'll be sure to fork over a copay for a specialist who is so eager to help.
     The only good thing out of the visit to the ENT was the prednisone.  Made me feel pretty decent for a while and I told my rheumatologist about it at my last appointment in August.  He told me when I start having really bad flare ups to please send him a message or call the office.  Cuz honestly I wasn't telling him during the flare up, I would just unload on him all that had happened since my last appointment.  He told me if it got real bad that I could get another small dose of prednisone.  (I know the dangers of taking it too often, believe me.  I would only do it if I couldn't walk or get out of bed.) But for the first time since being diagnosed April 2015 my ESR numbers fell in a normal range!!  That HAD to be the effect of the prednisone.  That test measures the sedimentation rate, it's a way to measure the amount of inflammation in the body.  For the most part I have felt less tired, it's easier to wake up in the morning.  But I still have various pains in my shoulders and arms lately.  So I guess something is still going on even though my inflammation is down.  But you gotta take it as it comes.  Right now I'm just trying to make the most out of feeling good while I have it each day.                     

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My favorite art tool

My absolute favorite thing to use is an old debit/credit/gift card. Even the fake ones you get with the junk mail. It's so easy and quick to spread paint around with it! And they are cheap and in most households (like mine) they are plentiful. It's great if you want a thin smear of paint or a thick layer, and it doubles as a mark maker to give you texture! Some people like to use their palette knives for that, which is also a good tool but everyone has their preferences. I prefer to use my palette knife to push paste thru a stencil or to apply it really heavy on a canvas to build up more texture. I like how with a card I can lay down numerous thin layers of paint in my journal and it doesn't require a lot of paint. And it dries fairly quickly so I can keep adding. Here's an example of two completed pages in my journal.

The one on the right was made by swiping down numerous layers of Paper Artsy Fresco Finish paints in bright vivid colors. I then put down the matte black leaving the bright circles behind and journaled around some of the circles with a white gelly pen. I made this page while contemplating my chronic illness.
The page next to it just started out as a place to scrape excess paint off of the palette. It's a good way to get a page jump started and doesn't waste the excess paint that you didn't use! After it had several layers of multiple colors I started adding in other colors using the debit card and took a stencil from Mary Beth Shaw's collection and stenciled in bright red. I really love that stencil!
The page had a graffiti feel to it, which I also love! On a whim I decided to paint a quick portrait of my dog, Cammie, whom we adopted a year and a half ago. I found a photo and just started without any real sense/perspective going on. The results make her look like a Great Dane b/c I got her muzzle too long. She is actually a Pitbull/American Bulldog mix. But I don't care, I liked it anyways and that's what matters. It's my art journal where I make art for myself.
I love how you can still the layers of paint underneath the white, which is exactly what my intent was. Sorry for the shadows on the pictures! The lighting situation wasn't ideal and after trying a dozen different ways I had to give up! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My pride and joy!

So I have a friend at work, she's my best work friend, who has a shoe problem. She loves 'em, maybe a lil too much. She has a ton of them and decorates her office with a shoe theme. Customers even bring her little shoe decorations, like miniature shoes, shoe wine glasses, etc. So for Christmas (2013) I decided I would make her a shoe collage and it turned out to be my favorite piece of work I've done so far.I started out with a 12x12 canvas panel and sketched a peep toe on it.
I had a bunch of magazines I had collected for the purpose and started cutting pieces for the collage. I started gluing them on, using mostly black for the background and adding cutouts of shoes and cutouts of clothes for some interesting textures.
I also cut interesting phrases I found in the magazines that went with the theme. I wanted my shoe to be bright pink with a cream insole so then started the task of finding different shades of pink and cutting them out just right to blend and create shadows. This was hard but still immensely satisfying.
I couldn't tell you how many hours I labored over this shoe, but I loved every minute of it.
Here's a closer one of the shoe itself.
My friend absolutely loved it and it's on display in her office. She gets a lot of comments about it. I have to admit it makes me feel pretty good that she loved it so much and I can see it whenever I wish by going in her office! I haven't made another collage like that one yet, but I have several ideas in my head for more. One last pic!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's been too long...

I can't believe it has been so long since my last post! Jeesh! I'm still learning and coping with my autoimmune disease, Sjogrens. I also found out in December that I had tested positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. FUN! It explained a few crazy flares that I had in September and October with my hip. Crazy pain that developed pretty suddenly and got so bad I could barely walk, or stand. It was awful! My rheumatologist had taken a ton of blood work on my first visit in August. I mean a TON! I've had several vials done at a time before, it's not new to me, beleive me. I usually have some big tubes and some smaller tubes. When the nurse came in she had a fistful of tubes, then went and grabbed a couple of jumbo tubes. Apparently what I considered the big ones were actually medium I guess b/c I had no idea they got any bigger! My vein almost stopped giving blood; I had to squeeze my hand a few times to keep it going. Afterwards when I went home I had to take a nap. I was so dang tired,there was no way I would have stayed awake. Thank goodness my husband went with me and drove. A lot of the tests were the same ones my primary had ran, he just wanted to recheck certain numbers and the rheumatoid factor. BUT I wasn't told it came back positive! So imagine my surprise and shock when I was told 4 months later at my second visit that I also had RA. I've also lost my sense of smell and taste in between the two visits. Well, not lost completely, more like diminished. That started in September/October and continues to this day. I just noticed one day I hadn't been smelling things like before-the cookies burning in the oven, the coffee brewing in the pot, my husband's cologne. It was gone. Food started tasting bland as well. The weird thing was my nose wasn't stuffy. I was actually clearer than I had been in a long time! I always had a stuffy nose, and now the stuffiness is pretty much gone. I can breathe easier out of my nose than ever before, so why no smells? I asked the rheumy if it was the Sjogrens, and he said maybe. It could happen but to have my primary check it out before blaming it solely on the autoimmunity. So I see my primary at the beginning of February and he checks my nose out, asks if I have any sinus pressure, pain, toothache, head trauma etc. The answer is no. (I really really wanted to make a joke about macheting my brother in half when I was young, but I didn't. That's a movie reference btw-Walk Hard-The Dewey Cox Story I believe is the name of it.) So he looks up the symptom and finds that actually 33% of Sjogren's patients lose their sense of smell. That's a pretty good chunk! So he scheduled me for a CT scan just to be careful but neither of us think it's going to show anything. Well, shocker it did come back showing I had "significant sinus disease". WTF? It's basically sinusitis, according to all the googling I've done. But I have no pain, remember? No mucous, no drainage, no grossness that usually accompanies sinus infections! So he put me on a heavy duty round of antibiotics and when that's over I need to check in with him to see how I'm doing. It's almost time-and not much has changed. So I will prolly need to see an ENT specialist. YAY another copay! I swear! But I'm just gonna keep trying to keep my head up! Trying not be depressed, it's hard. I did go through some mild depression when I first realized food wasn't tasting good anymore. I like food! And another when I was told I have RA. The only thing I could think about for awhile was my hands twisting and turning into claws that you can't do anything with. I keep thinking about what my retirement is going to look like, will I be able to type or hold a paintbrush? Sometimes it's not a blessing to know the name of what ails you. I used to be able to push the pains off to the back of my mind easily by telling myself I must have hurt a muscle by moving wrong, or I layed on my limb wrong in my sleep, give it a few days it will go away. It always does. Now all I can think is this will never go away completely, it will be always be in the background lurking and it will only get worse with time. Some dreary stuff!! So that's how the last of 2015 and the beginning of my 2016 looked like. Sorry if I'm being too depressing man, I'm trying out here! But I just had to get it all out, it's been building inside of me! My next post won't be like this I promise! I have lots of pictures of some things I made that I've been wanting to post since 2014, lol.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

This is a repeat post...actually was first posted on July 24 2015, but accidently deleted it.  here it is again. 

The Sjogren's Diagnosis

Settle in this one is a doozy...

On April 28th, 2015 I had a name for the reasons behind the downward spiral I felt my life had become.

     I came about this diagnosis because I had some strange sensations in my right foot at the beginning of April.  I'm not very fond of going to the doctor for every little thing so I may see him once a year on average, usually for a raging sinus infection.  The thing going on with my foot however said I needed to go and not avoid it.  I kept getting this warm, wet sensation on the bottom of my foot up to and around my toes.  Like I stuck my toes in warm bath water.  It really freaked me out! So much that the first few times I took off my shoe and sock to see if it was indeed actually wet from sweat perhaps.  The feeling lasted for around 10 seconds then would disappear.  But then it would happen frequently like several times in an hour.  I thought it sounded like an issue with nerves so I made an appointment.  While I was there I figured I would point out to him this "rash" I had on my legs, from the knee down. 

     I had it off and on for about a year.  When it first appeared I thought it was a razor burn rash.  It was small little dots, sometimes in a streak like I had pressed the razor to hard against my leg.  I did everything I could think of, changed from shaving cream to soap, to a different brand of shaving cream for sensitive skin. Changed razor blades even  to a whole different style of razor.  Sometimes the rash was there just a little, but mostly there a whole lot, all the way down to my where my sock wraps around my ankle-which made it look like a heat rash to my husband.  It was so bad the majority of the summer I didn't wear shorts b/c I was embarrassed with the way my legs looked.  It continued throughout the winter but I didn't notice it as much, b/c I just don't shave as often or show off my legs, lol.  But I was just considering this may have nothing to do with shaving at all b/c sometimes I would find the dots on my feet, where I didn't hardly ever shave.  But it never hurt or itched, I figured it was just cosmetic and since it wasn't really bothering me why should I waste the money on a copay to see the doctor about something that was most likely caused by changing skin as I got older?  That's how I thought of it.   

     The doctor didn't know what to tell me.  His words where I wish I could tell you right here right now what is going on, but before I even tell you my suspicions we are going to do some blood work so I can narrow things down a bit.  No point in worrying you about something that might not even be.  (That's what I like about him, he doesn't want to send you off with thinking you may have outrageous diseases, even the scary C word, without doing his homework first.)  So I went down to the lab and got 6-7 big tubes of blood drawn, and the waiting game began.  I have an online account and could see test results as they were uploaded to my file.The next two weeks I was checking it constantly, googling constantly, on the edge of my seat as I tried to figure out what all those test were for.  So many liver/hepatitis tests and enzyme/protein tests for a range of things.  Some came back in a normal range, some were completely insane numbers. The test all pointed to some type of autoimmune disease.  The day before my appointment to see him I had figured out that I had Sjorgrens.  

     So I read all that I could in the few short hours I had and wrote down some questions for my appointment to go over the results.  I was FLOORED, absolutely floored.  I couldn't believe all these things that had gradually started happening and snowballed into my complete misery were all connected and all had a NAME! I had started to become severely depressed but my inability to get ANYTHING done.  I was so tired all the time and had been complaining to my husband about how I used to DO things.  I used to be able to work on art, get household chores done and still hang out with my family.  I thought I was just getting lazy, blamed watching too much TV, my poor diet, not enough exercise, getting older.  I blamed A LOT of my problems on getting older and allergies.  I used to get all the house cleaning and chores done that needed to be done on one day of the weekend and the next day me and my family would spend it doing things, like hiking, shopping, swimming, going to the movies, etc.  I slowed down and it started taking all weekend to get the chores done, then it started seeping into the week.  I couldn't ever be caught up enough to be satisfied.  Things were piling up. I stopped making art or posting on the blog b/c I felt like if laundry or dishes needed to be washed that had to be a priority.  I was depressed and thought my dreams were never going to come true. I was tired, and just generally felt bad everyday.  But it had become such a habit to have these periods of just not feeling well and low grade fevers that I had accepted it as a part of my life.  I had no idea what it felt like to feel well anymore because feeling bad was my normal.

     The doctor started me on Plaquenil and within 4 weeks on it I went though so many side effects it was insane.  But I was also starting to have days here and there where I felt great! I kept saying to myself, OMG this is what normal is supposed to feel like! I didn't realize how bad of a rut I had let myself fall into b/c I wasn't paying enough attention to my body.  My doctor pointed out that being in my mid-thirties isn't anywhere near being old enough to feel the way I did and at my age I shouldn't really attribute anything to "getting older" except maybe a slight slowing down of the metabolism.  The dryness issues I thought was a side effect of allergy medicine, which is true in a sense, but not the whole all over my body dryness that I was experiencing.  I'd say I prolly had symptoms of this for at least the last 8 years.  It helps explain why if I didn't have enough water that day I felt even worse than usual.  Also explains why sometimes my lymph nodes would swell up in my neck and how my salivary glands sometimes swelled up many years before.  The rash on my legs is vasculitis of the capillaries. If I would have paid attention though I prolly would have caught it much sooner.  Can't blame that on my doctor at all.

     So now here it almost 3 months after starting the medicine, and I feel pretty good.  The vasculitis is pretty much under control, but I have had a few "flares" is what they call 'em.  I feel really awful, and I wonder how I managed to keep pushing thru that on the daily like I had been.  I actually think I was pretty close to a breaking point.  I'm not a complainer, but I had begun to complain to my husband a few months before the diagnosis that something was WRONG with me.  When I have a flare my legs will break out a few days later usually.  My life is coming back to me.  I've been reorganizing things, trying to make life easier on myself. Listening to my body more and resting more.  I have an appointment with a rheumatologist in a few weeks,  Not sure what all that will entail, but I feel a lot happier now.  Slowly, I feel my life coming back to me. I don't think I will ever be what I once was, but it sure is a hell of a lot better than what I was 6 months ago!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Vow.....


     Still making progress and learning new things about myself and my body.  I have this thing called Raynaud's-it's when the tips of your fingers, or even a good portion of your hand, turn white and tingle or go numb when exposed to cold.  It can also happen when you are under extreme stress.  Up until recently I only had it happen when I was cold, especially during the winter.  Didn't matter how much I bundled up and that I usually wear 2 pairs of gloves, my right hand in particular would always be affected.  And this from only being outside for a few minutes!  Now it doesn't hurt, but it is a rather odd sensation, like your finger has gone to sleep and you lose feeling in it until it starts to wake back up and then it gets all tingly.  For the first time I had it happen due to stress, and I never want to go down that road again! It was so much worse! It was all over family issues.  I don't want to go into full details about it, and I don't think that would be right to my family.  But I will say that usually I'm guilted into things by my mother.  I was under so much emotional stress, crying my eyes out, and just generally feeling miserable about a particular situation that both my hands turned almost completely white and I was so very cold.  I was shaking, my stomach hurt and so did my head.  I was physically ill for two days.  And I vowed to myself that I would never let my family do that to me again.  Why should I feel guilty about not inviting someone, or not agreeing with something, just for the sake of my mother being happy?  Yes I can tolerate people and be civil without having to bend over backwards.  I can keep the peace.  But I will not allow her to guilt me into going beyond keeping the peace for her happiness.  If I don't like someone, why should I invite them anywhere?  Why can't seeing them at family functions and being civil be enough?  Our family is a little dysfunctional, as I'm sure lots of others are.  I'm just not going to let that dysfunction make me sick and stressed out any more!  I have to start taking care of myself.  

    Anyways...I wanted to share a little piece I did for a cousin who was getting married.  I made this for her wedding shower present.

It was a lot of fun, lots of layers and splatters. Around the Meant and the Be is sparkling paint which may not have picked up very well in the photo. I think the You & Me part is my favorite.  

Everyone at the shower loved it, especially the recipient.  And that is what truly makes me happy.  I love making things for others and seeing their happiness.  Art can bring such joy into peoples lives.  

Now if only I could find some extra time to start making somethings for myself, then that would make me happier still!  I'm always doing it for someone else, but when it comes to a piece that I want to do for my house, I find it hard to make the time.  A habit I'm trying to break...I have a canvas that I started ages ago and still haven't finished.  I made an art journal in a workshop taught my Mary Beth Shaw and Seth Apter.  I've been trying to make pages in there as a way to help break my habit. I only have one completed page and 3 others half finished.  And that was started in May!  Oh well, slow progress is still progress....       


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It was two years ago, I believe, a friend of mine got married. Her and her husband-to-be were together for several years before tying the knot. I made them a mixed media assemblage piece on a 12x12 canvas panel incorporating all kinds of cool bits and pieces that I had and used their wedding colors of purple and cream as the main colors for the piece. I always had a love for mixed media, I was doing it before I even knew the term. I came across Finnabair in my internet wanderings and was greatly inspired. If you've never seen her work, please check it out! It's amazing! So drawing on her pieces as inspiration and my own love I did up this canvas panel commemorating the marriage.
During the ceremony they had done this sand deal, where my friend and her children poured sand in a vessel and her husband and his child poured sand in the vessel to symbolize two families coming together uniting as one. I thought it was wonderful symbolism. I had an idea to incorporate some of the sand, but someone accidentally threw it out after the ceremony, so I used some sand gotten off a beach somewhere in Florida. It still works right?! I did up this little vial with the sand in it to remember that union. I drew those little hearts on tissue paper with a micron pen then colored them in with a copic. Cut them out very carefully and used gel medium to glue them on the vial. The angel wings were a copy right free image I found online and just scaled them to the size I thought best for the vial. I thought it turned out really great. The heart in the background of that is molding paste I tinted purple and smeared on with a palette knife to give lots of texture. Because this piece is about lots of texture! Lesson I learned here: When tinting molding paste, it will dry to be much darker than originally tinted.
See that pinkish arrow in the middle of the canvas pointing down to the heart at the bottom? That was also done with molding paste pushed through a stencil. Lesson 2 about molding paste: it also shrinks as it dries. But the size still works. There are so many areas of goodness on this canvas.
I think one of my favorite things, besides the vial is the heart with their initials in it. I collaged various bits of purple paper down before inserting their initials on to pop up dots to give them more dimension. Then I hand glued each little star on there from a bottle of confetti I had. The heart is a piece of twine glued down with gel medium and painted purple. Love this section!
The seek part is pretty neat too, along with the saying on the piece of vellum I adhered to the panel.
So many little things going on, yet it is still cohesive. It really makes you look and contemplate what all is in there.  At least I learned a few things a long the way and really enjoyed the process of making it!