Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Thanks and Learning to Help in Different Ways

I had an incredible visit with my son over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I get so mushy during this holiday because I have so much that I'm thankful for!  I could have filled the little tree I made with all of the tags I printed out; I literally had to stop myself so I could save room for others.

These are just a few of the photos I snapped before everyone got a chance to write gratitudes of their own.  My mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in late January and continues to be one of my greatest heroes in this thing called Life.  I plan to write about her inspiration often in this blog; she always views life with such reverence and joy and positivity!

The decorations were a hit and my family really seemed to love them- especially the tree.  My sister wanted to keep the tree at her house for a while and doesn't even want to take down the rest of the decorations I made.   This makes me so happy because what would have taken most people a day, at most, to create, took me four days and all the energy I had.  By the time the actual holiday came around, my pain had soared. 

My son lives 250 miles away from me (if you want to know more about why, visit my first post; I explain the situation as best I can)  and each time I get to see him, his dad and I meet halfway which ends up in a four hour car ride for all involved.  For some reason, car rides really send me into a flare up of pain.   Mostly my back, my hips, and my knees are the joints affected and they just burn.  So a car ride on Wednesday and then another on Sunday with the crazy holidays in between has this girl layin' low today!

However, it is so worth it any time I get to spend time with my son.  And he's at a point where he understands if I need to rest for an hour here or there in between activities.  That's not to say he doesn't get frustrated from time to time- anyone would.  But we got a lot accomplished this trip and I really savor every minute we are together. 

We made jewelry, played card games, set up and decorated the tree, went to a craft show, hung out with family, went for a walk, worked on a holiday craft, we even laid in bed and both worked on our knitting projects on Saturday night while watching SNL!  And in between, we had some great conversations; it never ceases to amaze me how bright and intuitive this kid is.  I love him more than I could ever put into words- if you're a mama, you know what I mean.

Even though I put a lot into the decorations, I still felt some guilt about not being able to help out more.  My mom usually cooks, but since she is sick, us girls wanted to take over so that she could relax this year.  My mom helped with the turkey and some other things, but we kept having to tell her to sit down and take a load off (this woman likes to keep busy!).  My two sisters took care of about everything else, and by the time dinner was over, I had to lay down (just sitting is hard for me and sometimes feels like a task).  With the help of my mom's husband and my son, my sisters cleaned everything up as well.  I wanted so badly to get up and just help but my body just wouldn't let me.

Does anyone else ever get to that brick wall point?  It feels like no matter how hard your brain tells you to get up and move, your body just doesn't obey!  It's awful and I felt so horrible for not being able to help out more.  Sure the decorations were great, but they definitely weren't all that.  Besides, I like being helpful- I want to help people, especially after all of the help my family gives me.  It's been interesting finding different ways of helping and offering help.  I've had to get creative to really feel like I'm doing my part.

What are some ways you all feel like you are able to help, not only your family, but your community as well?  Do you get frustrated?  And how do you deal with that frustration?

I hope everyone was able to have a great holiday and enjoy family and friends!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

These Little Hand of Mine

Actually, I have quite big hands, for a girl, I guess.  But my mom does too- we call them "man hands", though we are every bit ladies;  ladies who love to make things and make art.  My hands have been super busy for the past few days and my arthritic fingers have been too tired by bedtime to come write anything on my blog!

I took some pictures of what I've been working on- a sort of "centerpiece" for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Whether it will actually go in the middle of the table remains to be seen; my older sister (who is hosting) is a fabulous decorator.  I just hope that everyone takes the time to write out a little something or some things that they are thankful for.

I've been busy making this Thanksgiving tree.  You see, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and time of year because I get to focus on all of the blessings I have in my life.  I try to keep a positive mindset most of the year anyway, but I love being able to express my thanks to all of the important people in my life during this holiday.

Yesterday, I foraged around my neighborhood (I'm sure I looked fantastic with my cane and re-usable grocery bag!) for some good branches with lots of "hangers", some pinecones, and some leaves. 

I've been finding and printing out different tags from different websites (if you're curious, you can visit the crafty blog I host with my younger sis; I used this post to connect our followers with some great free printables)

Though my little sis thinks I may be a hoarder due to all of the containers I keep (think pringles cans, spaghetti sauce jars, yogurt cups), I managed to make a lovely, re-usable vase out of an old lemonade (I wash them first, I promise!) jug.  I cut off the top and used twine, hot glue, and mod podge and am quite impressed with myself.  It was an easy project, but just the fact that I can rub it in her face that I DO actually use my empty containers makes me smile!

I had to look through my art cabinet to find something to thread through these tags- I was going to use twine, but ended up finding some really great decorative strings/thin ribbons from an old scrapbook stash I had!  I love it when you plan for one thing, have your mind set on it, and then are totally glad it didn't work out because something better came along.  I really think the different ribbons add a little something extra.

And that brings me to my long, drawn out point.  I've been trying for three years to figure out why on earth, after fighting for a decade for a better life for my son and I and accomplishing so much, would the universe plague me with such a painful physical illness.  I've racked my brains; I've meditated; I've cried; I've yelled; I've gone through several of the stages of grief over and over and around and back.  I've had more pity parties for myself than should be allowed for a hundred lifetimes. 

But I think I'm on the verge of acceptance.  Yes, I've written about it here before but I think I am much closer now.  Grief is a tricky bitch and she likes to mess with you for a while.  I wouldn't be so naive as to think acceptance is the be all, end all, but it feels good at least for now.  Maybe I'm just all hopped up on Thanksgiving endorphins, but I sure am thankful for a lot this year.  So... Thank You, Universe.  For I will learn what you need me to learn.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Limitations vs. the Unlimited

I recently made a promise to myself- actually it was a bit more of a manifesto in my sketchbook- to do something creative every day.  For me, that can mean knitting, sketching, painting, visual meditations, writing, taking photos, something crafty or anything else I may come up with.  The opportunities for creativity in one's life really is limitless.  And I've been thinking a lot lately on limitations vs. the unlimited.  My goal when I started this blog was to literally figure out how to live a creative life while enduring an illness that includes chronic pain.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my posts have had more of a "venting" feel to them.  I recently came across a blog, Fibro Girl Kate's Blog, that makes me want to be a more responsible person in terms of illness and what an individual can still accomplish.  After all, I really do believe in the power of the positive (more on this in future posts)!  So today, in the spirit of creativity, I took out my little point and shoot camera and just took photos of some things around my home.  Here are just a few of them:

 (*disclaimer: I did not clean up/dust/vacuum before taking pics; if you are a neat freak, look away now)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Girl Can Dream...

Dreaming of being pain-free, cuddling up here for the winter, and creating art in bed.  What's your dream?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


watercolor sketch 11/10/10

Man!  I just read this post from Lisa and it really got me nostalgic for my son.  I am so happy that I got to spend 4 days with him over his Fall Break; I really needed that.  It's hardest this time of year around the holidays for a couple of reasons.  One, for me, the holidays are all about family and even though I get to see him just about every holiday, it reminds me more and more that it's just holidays (and part of the summer).  And two, this is the time of year that I moved away.

As always, I know this is logically necessary, but that just doesn't make me feel better.  I've always been prone to feeling more with my heart and thinking less with my rational mind; that's what makes me who I am.  But it also makes it really hard for this Virgo to "stay strong" when tough things are going on around me.  And I'm right in the middle of this one and have been for three years.

But since Thanksgiving is the next holiday for me, I'd like to focus on some of the things that I am thankful for in this particular situation.  I am thankful for Quentin's step mom; her love and generosity are a large reason that this whole situation is working out.  I am thankful that Quentin's dad and I have found peace in our relationship so that we can co-parent, if even from afar.  I am thankful for my sisters; they keep me sane through laughter and tears.  I am thankful for my momma; she is the epitome of strength and vitality even while battling a terminal illness.  I am thankful for Bob, for loving my mom with every fiber of his being.  I am thankful for my dad; even though we may not see eye to eye on a lot of things, he has always had my best interest in mind and only wants to see me happy.

I am thankful for so much more, but it just doesn't get much better than family.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Total Hip Replacement

I had a total hip replacement about 3 1/2 weeks ago and am still recovering.  I think about this blog often, but for some reason, always feel this intense fear about sharing my innermost feelings.  But that's what this blog is for- I am an artist, and I feel broken down, and I need somewhere to vent!  I'm tired of feeling broken down.  Though I had my hip replaced due to advanced osteoarthritis, the doctors still can't figure out why my hips are so bad at the age of 33.  Also, there is no explanation yet for the pain in the other joints.

This infuriates me.  I also think that my family is pinning a lot of hope that this hip surgery will fix the other problems.  I suppose that I was hoping that too, but I know my body.  I know that all my other joints are now worse for wear since the surgery, perhaps due to overcompensation in order to heal my right leg. 

I also feel all sorts of pressure to produce on my other blog that I have with my little sister and that if I choose to write, it should be on that one.  She makes things- like handbags, totes, cosmetic bags, wallets- all sorts of really cute things.  We both "re-learned" how to use a sewing machine back in April from my mom and sewed all night that first night.  Well, Hannah really took to it and started creating some pretty amazing things.  We even got into a local boutique and opened an Etsy shop.  But I ended up paying for that night of sewing with having to stay in bed for a week due to the pain.

I haven't seen my sister so happy in a long time, so I really want to support her.  She was having trouble with the "business" end of it, so I thought I'd help her out by starting a blog, networking, running the Etsy shop, etc.  Some years back, we were thinking about doing some sort of creative collaboration with her photography and my paintings, but there was some 250 miles between us then.  A few years later, I started having severe joint pain and needed to move back to St. Louis.

While I love FlyChicks, it's not my heart and soul.  Painting and drawing and creating is what my soul yearns to do- and my body severely restricts it at this point.  It's been three long years that I've been resigned to mostly my bed and my fingers can only last so long holding a paintbrush or typing on a keyboard.  I'm so tired of watching life pass me by.  These are supposed to be my good years.  And I can't even be with my son.

Sure, I visit him and he comes here to visit, but it is not the same as being there, every day, for him.  I have such guilt over my situation even though I know there is no alternative right now.  But I keep coming back to the fact that this was supposed to be temporary.  I've got boxes I haven't even unpacked just stacked up in a corner of my apartment.  Boxes of old teaching supplies, Quent's papers, books, things that I want to see and use again at some point.  But I still feel as though I'm in limbo.

I keep coming back to this blog, though, because I really do want to have a creative outlet that is all my own.  Hannah gets to create over at FlyChicks and she can share her passions with the world through her creations.  I just want/need to do the same.  And I want to be able to document and share my journey with other like-minded souls like Lisa and Connie, whom I've come to really adore and admire.  And I think this is the place to do it.

Sure, crafty things are fun and quick and I enjoy doing them, but creating art from the soul is what I feel destined to do.  Now... if only I can find a way to make my body stop hurting long enough.