Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Art Discoveries

I love finding new artists and shops online. Here are a few of my current favorites:

The Black Apple
 Rabbit Portraits Print Set
Bear Dance Print 14x11

Studio Mela

(This one is on it's way to me now!)

SO VERY HAPPY  (pick your color)       



Monkey Sock Monkey

Sock Monkey Kit

Bon Rompus Sock Crocodile

BOGO SALE - sympathetic threads 5 x 7 fine art photograph

BOGO SALE - the desire to create 8 x 8 fine art photograph

BOGO SALE - sunshine 8 x 8 fine art photograph

Don't forget to enter my giveaway: Arthur the Owl could be yours!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ornament giveaway! Arthur the Owl

This is Arthur. He's wise fellow who would like a spot on your Christmas tree.

I made him to give to one lucky winner.

Here's how to enter: leave a comment on this post with a recommendation for me. What is the best present you've ever given or received  at a white elephant gift exchange? My department at work is having a party this week, and the gag gift I was planning on buying sold out. Help needed!

I'll draw one name at random (double entry if you include a web address where I can find your gift suggestion). I don't even have to like your idea best...so if it's something crazy like a live mouse, edible underwear, or a dead snake wrapped in tin foil* don't hold back. I want to hear your ideas.

*All actual examples witnessed by me.

My work party is mid-week so I'll select a winner shortly thereafter and give you a full report about what idea I use.

Good luck!

Interpretation, please

This morning when the cat woke me up, I was in the middle of a really weird dream.

I had volunteered to help my former church update their interior decoration. They were painting all the doors and door frames red. However, there was a spaghetti feed going on at the same time ('cause what church doesn't combine manual labor and fund-raising?). The supply room that contained all the paint also had all the pots full of spaghetti sauce. I started painting with sauce, and didn't realize it until I saw that the texture of my "paint" had mushrooms and peppers in it.

I laughed and told multiple people about my mistake (who just happened to be there, too): a current co-worker, my husband's cousin, family friends I haven't seen in a decade or more, plus a few people I didn't recognize. The detail of the room we were in, the conversations and rehearsed jokes, the church service that started while we were painting, were all so BELIEVABLE!

Anyone have any ideas? Was I dreaming about Passover? Time to paint my house? What did that cast of characters have in common in order to all show up in my psyche at the same time? Fascinating. I'm hungry for pasta.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ingredients for a perfect morning: Thanksgiving 2010

Coffee and PJs

Snow on Thanksgiving

Snuggling kitties

Pandora Radio - Alexi Murdoch station (*swoon*)

Fireplace going strong

Coffee table craft projects

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What the heck?

I spent the afternoon in the emergency room today. Not exactly how I expected my day to go.

Around 10:30 this morning, I realized I was having a harder and harder time reading my computer screen at work. The very center of my vision was all wonky, and I had to concentrate extra hard to see each word I was reading. I couldn't write a complete sentence. I couldn't concentrate long enough to understand one voice mail. It freaked me out. I sensed a migraine was on the way. It felt like the strange headaches I had in 2006.

Four years ago, I had several migraines with "auras" (like pinwheels were spinning in my peripheral vision)and I went to the ER two separate times. Half my body would go numb (pins and needles all on one side: arm, leg, face, tongue). It was bizarre. It happened at random times: once while camping with my sister, once while driving to check out a house I was considering renting, once in the grocery store. Each time, it was followed by a massive headache that brought me to tears. I even spent a night in the hospital as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me.

That summer was the last time my mom helped me with medical care. She was still driving then, and brought me to my doctors office when I was complaining of a headache. When my primary Doctor said I should go to the hospital, she drove me to the emergency room. By the time we got there, I could barely stand and I couldn't speak. It was the most frustrating experience I've ever had. I wondered if I was having a stroke or if I had a brain tumor. Mom found a wheel chair and pushed me to the admittance desk. The nurse started asking identifying questions. Mom hadn't been diagnosed with Alzheimer's yet, but her memory was sketchy at best. Under the stress of the situation, she couldn't remember my date of birth. I couldn't spit the words out to answer when I was born. I felt totally dependent and totally trapped.

Eventually, Mom and I made it into a room. My head throbbed. I tried to ask the nurse to turn the florescent lights off, but the words wouldn't come out. The nurse handed me a tablet of paper and a pen so I could write whatever it was I was trying to express but the only thing I could write was the number two. I tried several times to spell "Turn out the light" but I didn't get any further than "2." My hand would just involuntarily make a little loop, and that was all.

Doctors took a CT scan, MRI, blood work, and even a spinal tap. Nothing unusual showed up on the tests. They gave me pain killers to help me sleep that night. The next morning, I felt fine. The nurse who had helped me the night before asked what I had been trying to say since it had obviously been really important to me. When I said I just wanted the lights off, the nurse said, "You should have pointed!" Good call. I was too shook up for that simple solution to even occur to me.

I've had migraines since that fateful year, but nothing nearly that scary. So today, when I started feeling similar symptoms, I panicked. I told my husband what was happening. He suggested I call the insurance company's nurse hot line and ask if I should just go home for the day or go to the hospital. I got a hold of an RN by phone, and explained my symptoms (with lots of stumbling over my words and feeling like a bumbling idiot). She asked, "Have you noticed any change in your alertness?" Without hesitating, I said yes,  I felt disoriented and couldn't concentrate. She said, "Call 911."

That scared me even more. Husband and I left work and he dropped me off at the emergency room. He asked repeatedly if I was OK by myself and I assured him I was. I didn't want us both to miss work, especially if I spent a bunch of time in a waiting room.

Sure enough, I was there three hours before I saw a doctor. The headache I was expecting never came, and I felt a little sheepish sitting in a hospital bed, feeling fine. There was another woman in the same room, and from the other side of the room-dividing curtain, I heard her moaning in pain and complaining of a headache herself. Thankfully, a doctor came and gave my roommate pain killers. When the nurse came in to ask me how I was feeling, I was self conscious admitting that on a scale of 1 to 10, my pain level was only a 1.  I kept the lights out in the room (just to be on the safe side) and I napped.

The doctor who saw me was glad to hear that I wasn't experiencing the same kind of pain I did several years ago. She said what I felt this morning was most likely a "visual migraine." She said it could be triggered by stress or dehydration. She said to take it easy for a few days, drink lots of fluids, and get regular sleep (but not over-sleep. Sleeping too long can also trigger a migraine. Dang it). She didn't think any brain scans were necessary since I wasn't in any pain and passed a visual acuity test just fine. She said if the symptoms come back and last longer than 30 minutes (and can't be easily treated with ibuprofen) I should go back to the ER.

So, crisis averted for now. Thankfully, I was able to schedule an appointment with my counselor for next week. First item on the agenda: deal with stress more effectively.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time for a happy post

Things that made me smile this weekend:

1. SNOW! Despite treacherous, ice-covered roads this morning and a few close calls in our slick driveway, it's beautiful around here. My pillow-covered couch seemed even more cozy with the wind blowing outside and fireplace blazing inside. No complaints from the kitties.

Web cam shot from this morning makes me think of the awesome sets in the new Sherlock Holmes movie...except for the donuts spun in that center parking lot.

Text from my brother, after standing in my parents driveway Friday night.
2. Mom-in-law came over Saturday and cooked dinner for me and Hubbins, his sister and brother-in-law. We had so much fun visiting, reading aloud, crafting, and eating.

3. Christmas gift projects. I'm making felt ornaments by the handful! Stay tuned for a giveaway and Etsy shop update.

Fa la la la Felt: 45 Handmade Holiday Decorations

4. Luau-themed Holiday party for work. My Hawaiian outfit included coat, scarf, boots, gloves, and then the lei. Good times.

5. Coffee with Egg Nog. Yum

6. New episodes of Modern Family (downloaded to the laptop and watched all snuggled up on the couch). We just discovered this show, and LOVE it. I hurt myself I laughed so hard.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A low point

I'm downtown in my favorite coffee shop this morning, before work. Christmas songs are playing. It's snowing out in the county and everybody's talking about how cold it got in the last 48 hours. This first winter weather feels like a holiday because it's on everyone's minds. We're all bundled up, rosy cheeked, in coats and scarves. My heart feels less heavy now that I have a peppermint latte in my hands, with candy sprinkles on whipped cream.

Yesterday during an afternoon break at work, I read a blog post from a man who has Alzheimer's. I found his page earlier this year, and his latest post caught my eye. Immediately, I had a lump in my throat. While writing a quick comment in response, tears started falling. How incredible that he has the language to describe what he is experiencing! It was a little porthole into my Mom's experience, and a wave of guilt and sadness and horror submerged me. I left my desk and hid in the restroom. Locked inside the stall, I wept.

Grief is so spontaneous and exhausting. I know I can't read that stuff and not expect it to affect me (I wont be revisiting that blog during work hours, that's for sure). I wish I could compartmentalize myself better and address those big emotional issues on my own time, but I don't think life works like that. I'm thankful for co-workers who understand and were gracious about giving me time (at least to let the red eyes and puffy face fade).

I'm tired of feeling so much.
I'm tired of the ways grief affects my relationships.
I'm tired of second-guessing my own needs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I am the way I am: an Introduction and Second Wind

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and have found myself in the midst of some heavy-duty emotional processing. What started out as simply reading a thought-provoking book became a soul-searching journey.

It started last month when my friend Cami’s newly published book was released. A triumph for an athlete (seven marathons completed, one on each continent) and for an author (her first book!!!).

Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents

I’ve been anticipating this book for a few years now, since she told me she had found an agent (!) and was working with an editor (!). The book is about running as emotional recovery and making life what you want it to be. I knew a few details about her races since we scheduled our get-togethers last year around her international travel and the many hours she spent writing. I knew we had both been involved in conservative Christian groups as teenagers, and that running had provided her time and space to address many of the ways it had affected her. I was eager to see how she tied it all together. But I didn’t expect the book to affect me quite like it did. Reading about her healing and growth unearthed a lot of emotions and memories I had buried and discounted as unimportant.

During my elementary school years, my family belonged to an ultra-traditional, skirt-wearing, home-schooling, whole-wheat-bread-baking Christian community. It was centered around a specific home school curriculum, and was not affiliated with any church denomination. We belonged to a sub-culture within a sub-culture. The church I grew up in (where Dad was a pastor) only had a few other families who were part of the same conservative home schooling group. And not all of them thought our church was conservative enough. I remember the first Sunday morning the worship service included a drummer, who happened to be a young man my Dad had recently befriended and started mentoring. As soon as the first song began with the addition of a beat, I watched a home school friend and her family stand and walk out, obviously displeased. Rock and roll was not to be trifled with, let alone incorporated into worship.

Not only was I a pastor’s kid (which was already a funky combination of being praised by adults but always feeling awkward among peers), I was the only girl in a long denim skirt playing dodge ball in the church gymnasium. My Sunday School teachers emphasized the need for us to be “in the world, but not of the world” outside the safety net of church. To the other kids my age, this applied to secular school settings. To me, this meant…what? Set a godly example in my student body of five? At home, I memorized scripture about letting my light shine and being salt of the earth. I took this to mean it was holy to be different; spiritual brownie points for being weird. But my world was primarily my family and my church. Sunday school was one of the few places I interacted with “worldly” public school students. My family's brief forays into any secular settings didn’t require much from me as an evangelist (until I started attending community college. But that’s another story for another day).

I didn’t fit in with the ultra-conservative kids in our home school group, either. I took cues from other families and saw all the ways we didn’t quite measure up. We did not dress in matching navy blazers. My brothers didn’t even tuck in their T shirts. While I did wear skirts, my outfits were mis-matched Value Village finds. I remember the mom of one of my home schooled friends asking me if I liked neon clothing (I was wearing a bright pink cotton knit skirt at the time and a thrifted T-shirt). It felt like a test. Based on the lack of fluorescent colors in my friend’s home, and the abundance of calico prints and blouses buttoned to the neck, I guessed the right answer. I made a mental note to never wear such an abomination as neon (and gave away the pink plastic bracelet I’d received from a well-meaning aunt). My family didn’t read the King James Version of the Bible, and instead, opted for the progressive NIV. We walked a fine line between the two worlds of our church, which tried to be contemporary and relevant, and that of the conservative home schoolers, who made Fiddler on the Roof look cutting-edge. I felt like a misfit in both groups.

Family vacation, early '90s
That hat I'm wearing came from an Amish mail order catalogue. No joke.
When I read Cami’s book, it struck a chord. She compared her church’s emphasis on rules to the discoveries she’s made as an adult and a marathon runner. It made me wonder how (and if) I’ve come to terms with the influence of such a restrictive Christian community. Ironically, the home school curriculum we used grew out of a program designed for at-risk youth. No wonder it was conservative. I’m grateful to my parents for doing what they believed was best for my family: I appreciate them protecting us the best way they knew how. And for leaving that group when they did.

Last week, I started searching online for articles about the program we had been a part of. I wanted to find criticism and hear stories of families who did what we did: hung in there as long as possible and left when it became absolutely necessary. What I found has certainly shed some light on the subject. I found a network of blogs by mothers who used to believe that birth control was sinful and that being female meant being submissive no matter what (beliefs considered noble in our circle). The women I found online used to relate to Elizabeth Elliot but after leaving their oppressive groups, sounded more like Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love). It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I was super interested to read their stories. Finding these women’s writing was a little like opening a time capsule. I recognized names of authors my parents used to read, philosophies about parenting and living simply, and a whole lot of healing from spiritual abuse. It opened a floodgate of questions for me.

Age 12
It also intensified the loss I feel since Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I miss her, as she used to be. I could really use a good heart to heart this week. There are a lot of things I’d like to ask her. We left that conservative group when I was 13, in the throes of an already uncomfortable adolescence. What was that change like for her? Was she as relieved as I was to stop wearing skirts? Did she miss the structure? Words like “liberated” and “feminist” still sound taboo in my ears, but I’m reinterpreting them the older I get. In fact, there are a lot of lessons I’m re-learning. I wish I could include Mom's perspective in the process.

One blogger I just discovered who I am particularly drawn to is a woman named Elizabeth. She left an abusive fundamentalist church in her twenties. I can’t imagine what that paradigm shift must have been like. Yet she describes it so acutely. The emotions she experiences and second-guessing she does even now is so familiar to me. Unlike some of the more rant-y blogs I found, her faith has stayed intact, and she is raising a large family of her own. She has a great sense of humor which wins me over in an instant. This post about being a pastor's kid is classic. I emailed her to announce that I am her newest fan. I’ve spent the better part of my weekend reading her blog. I find it so encouraging.

Friday, November 12, 2010

You know it's going to be a long day when...

  1. You wake up with a cat sneezing in your face.
  2. You feel sinus pressure like a hot nail in your cheek bone. And you've already taken pain meds.
  3. You find yourself Googling the question "Is Excedrin Migraine addicting?"
  4. You overhear someone at work say, "If I wasn't a Christian, I'd string him up!"
  5. You receive multiple emails from friends saying your Yahoo account has been hacked and realize several hundred people got "male enhancement" ads in your name.