Work in Progress – both artwork and my health

Painting in progress

Playing with paints. It’s not all that easy!

I have taken very few (maybe 3?) art classes in my life. So I’ve never really learned to paint. I could always draw, and I started drawing cartoons very early on in life. I remember filling a lot of grade-school notebooks with doodles of sad, fat, droopy ponies. I don’t know why ponies, exactly, except that for a time, I was really, REALLY obsessed with horses. Also with Crazy Horse, who was not a horse, but who had the word “horse” in his name, so I read every book about him that I could get my hands on.

Anyhoo, I don’t have a formal art education, so I’ve been teaching myself over the years, learning whatever I can from books, online tutorials, and these days, YouTube videos. The above painting-in-progress is inspired by a video tutorial done by makoccino. She did the tutorial for watercolors, which is what I started with, but my paints and paper are so cheap that the paint kept flaking off and taking some paper with it. So I switched to acrylics pretty quickly to keep going. I think the cat eyes look terrible, but I’m not unhappy with the leaves. We’ll see how it looks when I’m done.

Speaking of things that I am working on, my health is also a work-in-progress. In addition to hardware and software problems, another reason I stopped doing webcomic (and pretty much everything else) for a while was because I’ve been ill. It’s not an illness we’ve been able to name beyond “arthritis,” “insomnia,” “constant fatigue,” and “all-over aches and pains.” I’ve been dealing with all the above problems for a while now, and they hit really hard about a year and a half ago, right after I spent a month with my parents after my dad had his heart attack (coincidence? Hmmmmm…).

These symptoms turned my days into never-ending battles to get something, anything, done. I would wake up at 6AM, completely exhausted. I’d struggle through breakfast and getting the girls to school (I drive them to and from school every day). Then I’d come home, do my damnedest to stay awake, and fail miserably, ending up asleep on the couch for three to four hours. That left me with just enough time to take care of Gibbie and get him out for a walk, then drive straight back to school to get Pixie, who got out at 3PM, come home and try to do some housework, and then head out again to pick up Princess, who was staying after school until 5PM or later for drama. Between the driving back and forth to schools, taking care of the dog, and being unconscious most of the day, I only had time left for the basics: laundry; cleaning the kitchen; Girl Scouts; and anything else the kids needed. I had no time or energy left for anything else.

Just so you know, I have been tested multiple times for Lyme’s Disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and even Sjogren’s Disease. All the tests keep coming back negative. I talked with my doctor about Fibromyalgia, but the symptoms don’t really fit. I don’t know about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome yet. We’re still looking at that, along with ideas of what else I could be dealing with.

So, after struggling to survive Princess’ first year of high school, I decided I needed to figure out for myself what I could do to get back my health. It’s been a process of trial and error, but I’ve seen some progress. I started by making changes in what I eat. I avoid processed food as much as I can now, and eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I can stomach. I’ve been teaching myself to cook (another skill I never had any formal training in) and I’ve been expanding the types of vegetables I will eat and how I prefer them to be cooked (roasted cauliflower? Yes. Steamed cauliflower? You go to hell!).

I’ve also been working on my sleep. I try to get into the bedroom by 8PM so I can take an hour to unwind, do some yoga, take a hot bath, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’ve weaned myself off Zzzyquil and most nights, if I get in bed by 9PM, I will probably get 7-8 hours of sleep. Some nights, though, insomnia will rear up its ugly head no matter what I do. So I’ve got an appointment with a sleep specialist to see what can be done about that.

And of course, I’ve been working on exercise. I spent a lot of time this summer looking at what activities I could do if I wasn’t feeling well. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and Amazon Prime for low intensity workouts like indoor walking, chair yoga, etc. I’ve made lists of what I can fall back on when I’m too exhausted for an hour in the pool or an hour walk with Gibbie. On the flip side, I’ve also made a list of what I can do when I do feel well, and have been careful not to push myself to exhaustion so that I end up feeling sick again.

I think all this has been working. I have been feeling better. I haven’t had any massive flair-ups of joint pain for a while now, but it’s still summer, so we’ll have to see what happens when winter hits. The insomnia has been a problem this week, but I’ve been working with it, switching to low intensity activity so I still keep moving and get something things done. Like that painting above. Even though I didn’t sleep well last night, I was still able to pull myself together in time today to spend an hour of that, and get this blog post done as well.

And, just like the painting, I got to say, I’m not unhappy about it. In fact, I think I’m pretty danged pleased.

Messy Monday – Painted Skulls and a Broken Nose

I had an epic fail on Friday.

Pixie and I were jogging on a local trail, anways behind Princess’ cross country team. The trail in question is steep, with lots of big tree roots crossing it, along with the occasional heavy wooden beam to shore up the steeper parts. Pixie was jogging with the coach’s dog, while I jogged along behind her with Gibbie. I was doing pretty good, jogging faster than I have in a while. I was feeling pretty good.

Then I caught my foot on a tree root and slammed face first into the ground.

The good news is that I did not plant my face into a wooden beam. I hit that with my ribs, instead. The bad news is that I hit the ground HARD, and I knew that as soon as I hit, I had broken my nose.

Apparently, my crash landing was so tremendous it scared the young lady running ahead of me. After checking to see if I was okay (I was laughing as I sat up, despite my smashed nose), she ran off to get Pixie and the team coach. I told the coach I was fine and sent her off to keep track of the girls still running. Pixie stayed with me. According to her, I walked over to a nearby bench, sat down, then tumbled over ass-over-tea-kettle as Inpassed out. I don’t remember doing that, but I do remember having a very brief, pleasant dream that ended with me waking up staring at the grass and Pixie asking me if I was okay.

“Uh, yeah. I’m fine. But why is the world sideways?”

I was able to pull myself together after a few more minutes, and Pixie and I walked a mile back to our car. My nose bled the entire way. As soon as the cross country team came in, I grabbed Princess and we drove home. It took me an hour to clean up. I was covered from head to toe in dirt and dead leaves, along with blood, bruises and scrapes. But I was still laughing, so I was okay.

Later that day, Princess and Pixie asked why I had laughed through all this. I was a real mess. In addition to breaking my nose, I also tore up both knees and one elbow and I broke the big toe on my right foot. Why would I laugh when I did all that? Good question. I’m not really sure of the answer, but I hope it’s because I chose to laugh instead of cry. Yes, it all hurt like hell, but I think crying or even just complaining would have made it much worse. Laughing as soon as I got up seemed to make it feel better. And I think I chose to laugh because I knew that, but I knocked myself so silly, I can’t be sure I actually made that choice.

In any event, I have a couple of photos of the skulls I’ve been painting. I’ve gotten farther along, adding dots of white paint to make patterns. Over the white, I’m adding a bit of metallic paint, and then I plan to add some jewel-tone paints on top of that. What do you think?

Blue skull

I tried making the dots with a paint brush, but found a stylus works better.

Pink skull

This one is my favorite so far!

Yellow skull

This one’s a bit messy, but I’ve gotten farther along with it.

 

And there you have it! This week’s mess. Yay!

February Cats – Day 12 & 13, Catbug vs. the Stomach Flu

 

Big Spot

I’m too tired to fight with this anymore.

 
I am soooooooooooooooooooooo wiped out. I spent last night on the bathroom floor, a victim of a very virulent stomach flu. I wretched so hard, I think I pulled some muscles in my back.

I’ve spent most of the day asleep. I can finally eat again, but I’m taking it slowly. I spent a little time on the big spot for Catbug’s back. It’s not perfect, but since it looks more like an egg than an eggplant, I’m going with it.

Going to rest some more now. I’m restless but exhausted. Hopefully I can do more tomorrow.

February Cats – Day 9, 10, & 11, I haz a cold

 

Spot in Progress

No, it’s not a cape for a super hero cat.

 
I have a cold. Pixie has a cold. Hubster suspects he has a cold. Princess needs an outfit for her NJHS induction tomorrow. So none of us is exactly happy right now.

I’ve been doing more work on the main spot on Catbug’s back. I think I may have figured a couple things out, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ll try to post again tomorrow, but it’s going to be a loooong weekend. Oy.

February Cats – Day 04, More Than One Way to Crack an Egg

Catbug in progress!

Marmalade models Catbug’s shell in-progress

 
If at first you don’t succeed, find another way to do it. I did a search online this afternoon and found a pattern for Easter Egg coasters that gave me a big enough egg shape for at least 3 of Catbug’s spots. I should be able to scale the pattern up without much trouble to make the larger spots as well. So thank you to the Whiskers and Wool blog for the egg pattern! It’s just what I needed!

In other news, I took another sick dy today. That’s my third in two weeks, and each one has been for the same reason – joint and muscle pain plus fatigue. I hurt badly last night, especially along my triceps, back, and thighs, and my joints weren’t giving me any happiness either. I (sort of) know what caused it – the water aerobics class I took yesterday morning. I’m still getting back into the routine of hitting the pool a couple times a week, and the change in exercise leads to muscle soreness. However, it shouldn’t lead to crippling muscle soreness like I had last night and twice last week. But it did, and there lies the problem. I need to exercise to maintain my weight and keep the normal arthritis at bay, but a little over-exertion can leave me in agony for the next 24 hours or so. This seems to only happen in the cooler months (I can’t recall it ever happening during the summer), which leads me to believe the problem is either related to weather or to stress, since the months of January, February, and March are the most stressful time of the year for me. I don’t know though, and in spite of multiple tets, I have no diagnosis for whatever it is that ails me.

However, I do at least have the liberty of taking a sick day when I need to, and that does seem so help. We’ll see how I do tomorrow, and maybe, if we’re really lucky, I’ll have another spot or two finished for Catbug!

Creature Comforts – Day 29, Kitten Cuddles

 

Kitten Cuddles!

She is my constant couch companion.

 
I took another sick day today. I did feel better today, but deliberately kept my activity level low key. Even so, I had to get some volunteer work done today, both for Girl Scouts and the school. That kept me off the couch most of the day, but while I was on the couch, a certain fuzzy orange someone kept me company.

I’m not sure when Marmalade decided the couch and its occupying laps were her domain, but anytime anyone sits on the couch, she’s there, right in the lap. I can type on top of her, draw webcomics on top of her, and crochet entire blankets on top of her. She will not move. She is one with the lap and the couch, and she’s probably happiest that way.

ACW Episode 270 – My Sick Valentine

Webcomic!

Click on the image to view it full-size!

I have spent FOREVER working on this one simple comic. And yet it isn’t so simple. I decided to try a different pen for inking this one, a brush style pen with a rougher edge. It seemed appropriate for an image of Hubster and I feeling a bit “rough around the edges.” And once I had the image inked and colored, I decided that a bit of rough shading would look nice too, as well as some touches of texture, etc., etc., etc. The hard part was figuring out how to make a brush style balloon pen for the text box in the back. I must have spent two hours today playing with settings and searching on the internet for information on how to make a custom brush tip and assign it to the balloon tool.

But, it’s all done now, and I’m very happy with the end result. I think it very accurately depicts how Hubster and I felt on Valentine’s Day this year, which is to say absolutely AWFUL.

Move It Mama Monday! I ain’t been moving all that much…

So, the week after I started up the “Move It Mama Monday” posts again, I didn’t get much moving done.

What happened is this. Two weeks ago, I spent every waking moment and then some working on a special event for Girl Scouts (you’ll hear more about that in a later post). Pulling off this event meant a lot of late nights, one all-nighter, and not a lot of sleep in between. And that meant I had to spend all of last week recovering.

I had expected that after a week of very little sleep, I would have slept like the dead all the next week. Instead, I had a couple of nasty bouts of insomnia. The first bout happened right after I finished up the event for Girl Scouts. I was exhausted. And I mean ready to fall over dead tired. However, when I went to bad that night, I couldn’t sleep.

I tried everything – Zzzquil, a big fat book (I’ve been reading “The History of Middle Earth” for the last two years), moving from the bed to the couch, yoga, meditation, warm milk… Nothing worked. When the Hubster got up at 6:30AM, I made the bed and just stayed up, hoping I could keep going until bedtime and THEN finally fall asleep.

The plan worked. I could only manage to do light work, but I did get some stuff done, and at 9PM I was out like a light. I slept through until noon the next day.

And then I had another bout of insomnia, just like the last one.

Combined with a cold.

So I went through another 36 hours of sleeplessness, trying to battle a sore throat with lots of chicken soup and green tea with honey. I did get to sleep the next night, and have slept every night since, but I gotta say, being sick plus having two bouts of insomnia has completely screwed up my schedule. I managed to go for a walk every day but one (which means I’m starting over on the Walk to Mordor yet again), and I did some light yoga most days. But that was about it.

I’m hoping to turn things around this week. I feel a bit better, and I’ve been able to get some sleep. One of the problems that exacerbated my insomnia involved Hubster stealing the covers every time he rolled over in bed. So I went out and bought us a pair of sleeping bags and zipped them together. With both of us zipped in at night, the covers don’t go anywhere when he rolls over. I think I’m a genius for figuring this one out in my sleep deprived state.

The goal for this week is to keep up with the daily walk and the daily yoga. I’m going to see if I can get to the pool once this week, and to karate class. Beyond that, it’s Thanksgiving week. I’m not sure how much more I can do. I do wear a pedometer and the Jawbone UP band, so I can use that to prompt me to keep moving. We’ll see how that works!

Speaking of devices, I’m curious what devices folks wear. I’m considering upgrading the UP band, but don’t know if I want to go with the next version of the UP or get something different. The UP is nice, but I’d love to have something that includes a watch function with it. I can’t really wear a watch and the UP band at the same time. It’s just too bulky to wear both on my left wrist, and I can’t stand to wear a watch on my right. Any suggestions?

Let me know and have a great Monday!

ACW Episode 237 – What’s wrong with me?

Cynical Woman!

Click on the pic to see the full-sized version!

I have been suffering from unexplained joint pain since September. And I know from previous medical issue that I should not expect a diagnosis any time soon. These things take time… a LOT of time.

But I do expect that when I’m having an allergic reaction to the medication the doctor prescribed, that maybe someone notice that rather than blame my allergic reaction on my hair dye. Especially when the allergic reaction in question started in the groin area, and no, I don’t dye my pubic hair.

Fortunately, I figured out why I was all red and splotchy even if the doctor didn’t. And I feel much better now. Even the joint pain seems to be doing better. I have no idea why my joints feel better, just like I had no idea why they were hurting so badly to begin with. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.