Sunday, July 28, 2013

So...I Didn't Forget

Real quick: I did not forget about CHA or my promise that I would do an ENTIRE week of posts on my favorite new products. I had every intention of doing those posts. And then I saw Pinterest and other blogs and how beautifully they summarized the new crafty lines and the show and wondered if my voice was needed. And that, my friends, is why comparison is the thief of joy (not sure who said that). So - my plan is to do a post at some point this week. I loved a ton of things - so I'm narrowing it down to eight. I know it seems like a random number - but it's my favorite number and I need to reign it in - so eight.

Right Now: I'm working on scrapbook layouts for my sister about my nephew. I'm using ideas and content from Ali Edwards's class, Hello Story (registration for this class is closed). I'm trying to recover from a string of social activities. As a strong introvert, my energy is completely depleted at this point. I refused to leave the house to get coffee today. I might do a little art journaling. I made a spray mist background yesterday. My only other plan is to rest, with a capital R. Tonks (my beastly kitty) will be resting along with me. Hope everyone is having a great Sunday! Until then...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Thoughts on Living with Chronic Illness

I know I'm shifting gears. This is a crafty blog after all - my identified niche so to speak. But - I think it also serves as a memory keeping tool. It's another way to tell my story. So I've decided to do some documentation here on the blog about my battle with weight and chronic illness and my current attempt to get from under the muck.

I have an auto-immune disease. There are a wide range of diseases and conditions in this category - my particular condition mounts a pretty sophisticated attack on primarily my joints and connective tissues - which doesn't sound horrible until someone tells you that your have an unstable C-spine (neck). Then that shit gets real. I've had it sixteen years and have seen a lot of changes in both my body and treatments. I was only nineteen when the symptoms started - two months shy of my twentieth birthday. Within four months - I had a diagnosis.

I'm not sure people understand what a gigantic blessing it is to have to wait such a short time to get some answers. I've seen posts and read stories about men and women struggling for years to find a name for their pain. They have somewhat similar stories as mine. Negative rheumatoid factor. Bi-lateral pain in multiple joints. High levels of inflammation in the body. Overall body weakness. Insomnia. I was one of the lucky ones. I had quality medical insurance from my parents after my eighteenth birthday. I had the ability to go home to see a local specialist in the area where my parents lived. I had an experienced doctor capable and willing to use x-rays to diagnose my condition. He didn't mess with the negative factor. The downside was that I had developed an arthritic pattern of destruction in my joints which could be detected on x-rays in four short months - still I'm pretty lucky.

My first treatment protocol included immune suppressing drugs called DMARDS, pain medications, and prednisone. At the time, I had no idea what taking these medications would do to my body or what they meant for long term functioning. I do now.

In the last sixteen years, I've experienced a lot in terms of my illness. I've had great days - almost pain free. However, these are pretty rare. My immune system was pretty good at destroying my joints in the early days causing degenerative arthritis in my feet and hands. My body began to both destroy and fuse my joints at the same time. I've had one surgery - on my right foot - and am in desperate need for another on the left foot. Unfortunately, I had a pretty rough time of it the first go around and am in no way ready to leap into another surgery experience. I've been through several advancements in treatments and now get regular infusions to suppress my immune system.

I've had days when I've shrieked with pain the moment my feet have hit the floor. I've had to hold on to walls to get down the hallway at my work place. I've had terrible side effects from medications which have required additional specialists and as you might have guessed - more pills. It takes approximately 31 pills to keep this body running each day, 42 on Sunday. I've gained over a 100 pounds in the first few years after my diagnosis, partly due to long term prednisone use and extremely poor eating habits. I've dealt with depression secondary to a medical condition. I've had to endure the blank stares of people I know and love as I explain RA and that it is not a direct result of my obesity. I've had to listen to people talk about how my RA will go away if I lose weight - like my immune system will magically heal itself (a story for another day). I've faced the never ending process of not knowing what each day will bring. However, I'm learning new and promising things all the time...

I started listening to a nutrition podcast recently which talked about the link between nutrition and autoimmune conditions. I've been doing some research and it turns out that most of your immune system (60-80%) can be found in your digestive track - specifically your small intestine or gut. There are some that believe the key to treatment, reduction, and elimination of symptoms lies in healing the gut. And this is where it gets a little confusing. I've heard a number of different recommendations on what nutritional approach is best, including:

Gluten Free Diet
Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Soy Free Diet
Gluten Free, Casein Free, Soy Free, and Corn Free Diet
Paleo Diet
Paleo Diet (auto-immune protocol)

In addition, there are different protocols and in some cases it includes eliminating a variety of kinds of food. When I contacted my doctor regarding trying a Paleo diet, he had never heard of it. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of scientific, empirical research out there on nutritional treatments for many autoimmune conditions. However he did have some patients that had experienced success with a gluten-free diet. I bought this book and have started to read it. I also have books on gluten-free eating. I started a board on Pinterest devoted to Paleo and have bookmarked several blogs. I've actually thought about going gluten free for approximately two years - but I just can't imagine doing it. I don't cook. I love cupcakes and Bread Co. How am I supposed to live my life without gluten - that IS the question. Don't even think about getting me started on casein free, soy free, and corn free. It's information overload. It seems unlikely at best...if it weren't for this one thing.

Do I love cupcakes more than mobility?
Do I value food more than my family or myself?
Do I want to get better? What exactly do I have to lose from giving it a try?
What if doing this meant I could do the thing I thought I couldn't? What if it changed everything?

So I'm bound and determined to at least try out this new way of eating. It's going to require A LOT of changes. I'm not sure anyone believes I can do it. I'm not sure I believe I can do it. I'm currently in the contemplation stage of change. I could try to delude myself into thinking I'm in the preparation stage; however, I'm currently reading and researching as I drink a Venti Soy White Chocolate Mocha with no whip cream. Can you see the irony? I have quite a long way to go. To be completely honest - I have no idea how I'm going to start.

I just know that I need to do something else. I can't continue to let the pills and pounds pile up. I want to be able to walk with my nephews and niece. I want to be able to run after them. I want something better...and maybe, just maybe, that is worth more than a cupcake. I sure hope so. It's time to be a more active participant in my treatment plan. I plan on doing periodic blog posts as I begin to travel down this new path. My first goal is to provide relief to my digestive track. I'm not thinking about the extra weight at this point. I think it's a good start. Actually, I hope it's a good start.

Please note: I will be doing a series on my struggles with auto-immune disease. These entries are reflective of my experience only. I am not a medical professional. Any content should not be treated as a recommendation or endorsement.

Crafty Update: I haven't forgotten about CHA week. I'm just trying to wrap my head around how to categorize all of the fabulous products. I'm also trying to wrap my head around the fact that they won't all be coming to my house - no matter how much I might want them too. I wish there was a scrapbook fairy - wouldn't that be fantastic? Anyhoo - hope everyone's having a great Tuesday. Until then...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Confessions

Please draw your attention to the post below. Please look closely at the picture. Notice the distress markers located right next to the 2 liter of Sprite Zero and then guess what I found in the refrigerator eight hours after clearing the table. Yes, my distress markers. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how this might have happened. I'm not sure how I didn't notice the big bottle of soda on the table when I walked by multiple times. I don't know how I didn't notice the difference in weight when I was walked the markers into the kitchen. I just know that I was in complete shock when I found my distress markers on the top shelf of my fridge. And then I was pissed, why? Not because my full set of 24 distress markers were in the fridge, but because my soda was warm. So I shook it off with a whatcha gonna do attitude and drank some warm soda. Hoy vey. Life is weird sometimes. Gotta love it. Hope everyone is having a great Sunday! Until then...

BTW: I'll keep you posted on whether the distress markers are effected by their time in the cooler. I did check to make sure one of the markers still worked. Lord, help me.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Craft Desk (otherwise known as the dining room table)

I wanted to do a quick post to show what my crafty space looked like after my fiasco yesterday.  I'm considering calling it my triumphant fiasco - as in I conquered it.  I should totally play Conquest (one of the main USC songs) when trying new crafty techniques - it could totally change my frame of mind.  I digress.  So here's a quick picture...

Please note: there are some organization issues with the table.  The box on the upper left is filled with miscellaneous crap that needs to be organized, boxed, and put in the closet.  The big bottle of Sprite Zero belongs in the refrigerator and the mail and newspapers need to be recycled.  Oh, and the comb needs to put away - but everything else was part of the frenzy of crafting.  I would say 2/3 of the table.  I just wanted to share to give an idea of what this space looks like when I go into battle.  I hope it makes someone feel a little better.  Hope everyone is having a lovely Saturday.  Next week, I will be sharing my favorite CHA finds (so far).  It'll be a week of product lusty goodness.  I'm so excited. Until then...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Fiasco - The Late Version

Today is my good friend's 50th birthday.  Being a self-proclaimed recluse, only big occasions seem to get me out of my house these days.  You would think that with all of that time on my hands I would have had a card prepared before 6:30 pm the night of her birthday dinner...and you would be

Picture in a complete relaxed state watching videos mulling over what new technique I'm going to try on my friend's birthday card.  Picture me choosing this very cool technique from the uber-talented Britta Swiderski.  Picture me reminding myself that things could get dicey BUT IT WILL BE OKAY.  Then picture me sitting down at my craft table to do said technique and basically just losing my shit.  Why?  Because there's a learning curve and no matter how much I prepare myself mentally, I'm never going to be okay with a piece of paper that looks like this...

This is my very unfortunate first attempt.  I decided to give gelatos a try instead of distress ink to change it up a bit.  Rule #1: It is not the best idea to "change it up a bit" when learning something new.  I was frustrated but I pushed on going back to the original instructions.  I ended up with this...

In my opinion, there are a few things that went wrong here.  My color choices were not strong enough.  I really wanted colors similar to the ones used in my first try but I don't have those colors in distress inks.  My friend loves pink and I'm a teal girl - so I was a little stuck (part of the reason I reached for the gelatos first).  I choose to use a yellow spray mist - which really cancelled out the pink and reds I had added from my distress ink stash (spun sugar and worn lipstick).  I'm still not sure what color spray ink to use on a pink project.  My spray mists are uber-saturated and bright.  I thought about throwing in the towel at this point.  But I moved on...

The paper was originally slated to be part of the background of the card.  I had already chosen to use the SHE was a daughter stamp from Unity Stamp Co.  I decided to shift gears and make it the pattern on the dress.  I wasn't so happy with this choice but I REALLY wanted to try and make it work.  Pretty soon I realized there wasn't enough contrast.

So I got out my trusty gelatos and tried to deepen the contrast and even add a little pink and red to the mix.  I wasn't successful in bringing out the pinks and reds - but there was a little more contrast between layers of the dress.  I was somewhat satisfied.  I then moved on to putting the pieces of the card together.  By this time - I had maybe 15 minutes to get everything done so I had to work fast.

And there it is...  the finished card.  Surprisingly, I am really happy with it.  There isn't a strong resemblance to it's original state.  However, I was able to make it work which is really all that matters.  If I had to do it over again - I would stamp the image and color the dress with gelatos.  Unfortunately that wouldn't have been nearly as fun as sweating it out to the finish line (in this case). There were a number of other different errors - the card was too big and I ended up sticking it down and letting it flow over the edges.  I also made a mistake while writing and ended up having to cover the inner part of the card...

Notice the extra portion of the card in brown on the opposite page.  I could not find any envelopes.  I had to put the card in one of those small brown paper bags you get when you buy something small from your LSS.  I stapled it and stamped a birthday balloon on the front.  Done and done.

Anyhoo,  before I head out for the night, I want to leave you with a few things I learned today.

  • Being a beginner sometimes means following directions...EXACTLY.  
  • It's okay to accept your beginner status when trying new things even if you've been doing some other version of that hobby/craft/activity for years.
  • Sometimes you have to accept the mistakes and move on.  Cutting the front of the card down would have been a much bigger mistake than having a 1/4 inch overflow on two sides.  Weigh your options.
  • When things go wrong - reinvent.  I could have totally walked away from my orange background - but I pressed on and I think it worked in my favor.  
  • As's okay to mess up.  It's okay to lose it sometimes.  It's okay to just say screw it and throw your experiment in the trash or to push on and see where it goes.  Both options have value.  Only you can decide what choice is right.  In this case, I had no time and I'm really glad.  

So there it is...two fiascos, lots of steps, and one finished card.  I'm totally ready to try the technique again - staying closer to my own chosen color palette and see where it leads.  I will post the results here.  I hope everyone is having a great Friday evening or Saturday (wherever you are in the world).  Until then...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disappearing Acts

It pretty much goes without saying that if I'm missing from this blog - I'm experiencing some kind of creative block. Thankfully I pulled out some pictures and really thought about some of the stories I've wanted to tell. I've been trying to create cohesion in my albums and there was a big hole in my nephew's story.

On the day Kai was born, I had the forethought to take a picture. I wanted to document my feelings about the birth of my nephew with a picture of the two of us. Since he lives on the eastern side of the country and I'm smack in the middle of the heartland, it wasn't possible to get a picture together. Luckily someone had flipped the switch on to my brain that morning. I took a picture in the car on my way to work. And then he was born and my heart expanded. I'm not sure why I've waited almost 11 months to scrap this story. I'm just glad I've finally did.

One of the things that I love about the Lucky Charm line is the use of the "You are My Sunshine" lyrics. It is perfect for expressing how I feel about Mr. Kai. I would like to say this layout was easy - but it would be an absolute mother-effing lie. I was constantly trying to make things fit into the rule of thirds, mixing colors, getting the story on the page, etc. I wanted to pull out my effing hair. And then it finally just clicked. Some people refer to that as serendipity...others call it luck...and I call it grace. Grace to be able to tell the story. Grace to be able to quiet the overly critical voices in my head long enough to do something creative. Grace to be blessed with such a beautiful little baby in my life - despite the distance. Just grace...

And I leave you with that and a quick update. Since my fiasco and futile attempts to make cards (which never happened), crafting has pretty much come to a complete stop in these parts. Thankfully I got my ass in my chair yesterday and took another spin today. The success is posted above. Today was nothing short of a cluster@#$!. Plenty of fodder for a fiasco post. I'm going to do my best to be around here more for the second part of the month. I hope you're all doing well. Until then...
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