Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thar She Blows

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I,
But when I can't get out of bed
I know the wind is passing by.

I've always been some who loves weather.  Good or bad, I find weather fascinating, and of course the more unusual the weather, the better.  (Living in the temperate Pacific Northwest means we don't get much in the way of dramatic weather, but the mechanics of local weather are still really interesting.)  I'm a religious reader of the newspaper weather page and regularly monitor the position of the barometer.  In some other life, I must have been a meteorologist!  My mental health even had a weather component: before I got treatment, my hypomanic episodes were always in the spring, and even now I find myself so much happier and productive on sunny days.  Still, that hasn't dampened my enthusiasm even for, well, dampness.  The only weather prior to the onset of the daily migraines that I was never keen on is bright but overcast days.  I'd much prefer rain over glare!

Things have changed now.  Much of it has to do with the extreme light sensitivity I have to contend with because of the headaches, but there's one big new problem: wind.

Well, it isn't wind so much as what wind represents: changes in barometric pressure.  I don't have much of a problem with ordinary rainy day levels of low pressure, but the transition from high pressure to low, especially if it's rapid, can be miserable.  (I don't have nearly as much of a probably when the pressure change goes the other way.)  Change in barometric pressure is the one migraine trigger over which I have absolutely no control.  I am, therefore, at the mercy of the wind.  We had an unusually windy early spring that made life quite miserable for me.  Even if the migraines aren't terrible, I tend to be much more worn out and prone to low moods when it's windy.  I clearly recall one early afternoon where I was feeling fine after a particularly satisfying full night's sleep when suddenly I became incredibly sleepy.  I couldn't keep my eyes open!  It seemed utterly illogical, but I had to surrender and get back into bed.  Not long after I lay down, the wind started to blow and a migraine came rising out of a skull like a cobra.  THEN it all made sense!  I've had similar instances when my mood has suddenly dropped or I've abruptly lost all of my drive and next thing I know, the wind has picked up and the headaches along with it.

I'm thinking of this today because the wind came up in the night and virtually pinned me to my bed.  After a mighty struggle, I was able to get up to feed Mr. Gorgeous and let him out, but rather than being able to get my day going at least a little bit, which is usually possible even if I've had difficultly waking, I've been lying on the couch ever since, feeling like someone turned up the gravity or my bones turned to lead overnight.  I took one of my acute migraine pills when I got up, knowing the correlation between headaches and wind, so while I'm not in nearly as much pain as I so often am when the wind blows, I'm feeling pretty wiped.  It's died down just a trifle here the mid-afternoon and hopefully I'll be starting to perk up a bit and won't have to cancel on family friends who are going to take me out to dinner tonight!  However, I definitely won't be taking Mr. Gorgeous to one of the many lakeside parks to rustle up some more admirers or photographing Mouse in the strawberry patch or any of the other things I had on my agenda.  As I said, the weather is the one migraine trigger over which I have absolutely no control, so it's frustrating that it can completely upend my days and I am helpless before it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paid Vacation

Since this blog is not just about art and illness, but also dogs, it would terribly remiss on my part not to mention Mr. Gorgeous.  That's not his real name, but it is a nickname he deserves!  He's a large and handsome collie that I dog-sit from time to time and going over to his place always feels a bit like a vacation for me.

Mr. Gorgeous on his dock.
His place is only five miles from my house, making it a doable commute even when I'm not feeling much like driving, but while there's nothing at all wrong with my home, Mr. Gorgeous lives on a magnificent piece of lakefront property.  The house itself is lovely, not too large, but with some very nice attention to detail.  When I go stay with my collie buddy, it's like going on vacation and staying at a resort, albeit one where you do your own cooking.  Mr. Gorgeous thinks I'm the cat's meow, probably because I make a fuss over him and play with him, and while he's not exactly the brightest bulb, he's so ridiculously good looking that I get a big kick out of just being around him.  I enjoy taking him for walks, especially at nearby lakefront parks where there are lots of people, because he turns heads.  He's much larger than your average collie, perhaps because he was adopted out of a puppy mill bust where I think they were probably breeding the dogs for maximum size and looks and not so much for brains.  He loves being admired and he's gentle as can be, so I happily introduce him to any and all strangers who express interest, including tiny toddlers.

He likes to hang out with me while I take pictures on his property.
I'm always glad to go back home, of course, after a gig is done, because I do get worn out by having to walk him and the demands of looking after myself and the extra driving that usually entails, but since I can't travel at this time, it's so nice to have a beautiful place right near me, complete with a dog, where I can take a break from my regular life.  I tend to take a lot of photos, but the driven idea machine that is my mind is actually capable of turning off while I'm there.  Perhaps even it is able to recognize that I have more important things to do, such as admiring the view side-by-side with Mr. Gorgeous.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Early A.M. Idea Torrents and How I Love/Hate Them

The other night I was awakened at 3:30 by a sudden influx of good ideas.  This was after I'd spent the better part of a day cataloging ABC items and making a master list of what was still needed.  Apparently, having four hours of sleep was the just the right amount of time for my brain to process the day's project because from then until 7:30 my brain was busy coming up with a new ABC items it hadn't thought of before or remembering items I had previously noted down but had neglected to transfer to my cleaned-up lists.  I mean, my brain went, "Hey!  You forgot to list 'macaroni' as one of the 'm' food items!" and when I pulled out my notebook, lo and behold, it was absolutely right.  It was right on with every other error and didn't produce a single duplicate among the new ideas.  I was writing the ideas down as they came--at the rate of a new idea every ten seconds or so--in hopes that if I got them down on paper, I wouldn't feel like I had to try to remember them and therefore I would be able to relax and go to sleep.  Alas, that only seemed to make room for more new ideas.  I tried all of my going-to-sleep tricks, from bowls of cereal to adding tighter and tighter pajama layers (why this helps is a topic for another post) to trying to occupy my mind with more innocuous lullabies, but nothing worked.  I might have given up on the notion of falling asleep altogether and simply taken dictation for four hours, but if I don't get a lot of sleep, there's hell to pay from the migraine standpoint during the day.  I should have known it was futile.  After all, this has happened many times before.

A few weeks ago, the 3:30 to 7:30 stretch produced a lengthy list of macro photos I wanted to take.  The time before that, it was FIFTY great ideas for treasuries to make on Etsy.  (See My Treasuries)  Several of the final poems for my children's book on colors were handed down during the wee hours.  If I have a great idea, it almost always shows up in the middle of night.  Of course, if I'm not consciously or subconsciously ruminating on some creative topic, my brain is happy to spend those hours just rhyming (it loves nothing better than rhyming in the middle of the night, much to my dismay!) or coming up with detailed lists on non-useful topics.  As annoying as it is to be kept awake by good ideas, it's even more annoying not to be able to sleep because your brain is insisting, despite all of your "turning the mind" exercises, on thinking of all the supplies you'd want to have on hand to survive a zombie apocalypse or something equally academic.

I'm hardly the first person to be awake thinking in the night, but one of the things that bugs me about it just a little bit--in addition to not getting my necessary sleep--is that I recognize the hypomanic elements of this bombardment of ideas.  Hypomania, for those not well-versed in the characteristics of bipolar II, is essentially mania-lite.  Instead of the out-of-control, impulsive, and sometimes dangerous behavior that categorizes a full-bore manic episode, hypomania usually manifests as a period of more productive and more social behavior.  I was extremely typical in that my hypomanic phases were times of tremendous creative productivity.  I was more relaxed, more extroverted, and happier when hypomanic, too, but never to a degree that anyone would ever have suspected mania, a factor which makes bipolar II much harder to diagnose.  Hypomania, unlike mania, is generally very enjoyable, sometimes to the point that people with bipolar II will decline treatment.  (Since I spent roughly 75% of the year in the crushing grip of truly awful bipolar II depression, I, for one, was grateful for treatment!)  I've found, as my psychiatrist promised, that having my bipolar II treated means I am more productive more of the time, so I don't feel like I've lost anything, and it disturbs me to sense these hypomanic overtones in the my unbidden and unstoppable early morning brainstorming sessions.  On the occasions when my bipolar II has definitely gotten off-kilter, usually due to interference from a medication for some other malady, I've noticed that I do become a compulsive listmaker and obsessive rhymer.  I find it quite uncomfortable to literally be unable to stop a behavior, mental though it may be, and there's generally a keyed up, voracious, hyperalert sensation that goes with it that is so unlike my ordinary self that I find it unpleasant to be hypomanic, even if it does produce some great results.  My Etsy Store was the product of an unusual, as yet unexplained, six week hypomanic period last fall, and while I realize it would have taken months to launch it otherwise and am grateful I was able to get the work done (my migraines are now intertwined with my moods, so I experienced fewer migraines during this period as well), I'd really prefer to stay balanced all the time.  (It should be noted that this productive phase was followed by six weeks of now-uncharacteristic depression and far worse migraines, a most definitely nasty trade-off.)

So as deliciously seductive as productive hypomania may seem, I know that there can be no hypomania without eventually tipping over the other side and plunging into darkness.  It appears that full control over my mind is out of reach; perhaps, in fact, these periodic overflowings in the wee hours are actually a necessary purge of extra thinking.  Beneficial or no, the bottom line is that these long nights of brilliant ideas serve as a reminder that it is not a floor anchored to a foundation on which I stand, but a raft.  The seas may seem calm for now, but I would be foolhardy to take my secure footing for granted and must always remain vigilant in case of unexpected waves.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Easy as ABC

I'm in the final stages of assembling props for my alphabet book.  Last night I prepared to enter a bunch more items into my props filing system (a cardboard box containing big plastic bags, one for each letter).  The pre-filing system involved a lot of piles all over my

My alphabet props filing system
study floor.  Just when I had pretty much the entire floor covered, I ran out of steam and left things where they were for the night.  It ultimately took me several hours to categorize all of the items and stow them appropriately.  I was also making clear, legible, organized lists of what things I still had to find as I went along.  I am about to type up a master copy of all the items on the list that I need to purchase and then it will be time to go treasure hunting at the toy stores!  At this point, the letters B,C, and S are pretty much ready to go.  I hope to start taking the photographs maybe even by the end of next week after I get done with a dog-sitting gig.  It's always exciting to make some progress on a long-planned project!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Tribute to Abbey

I've published this elsewhere, but it can't be repeated often enough.

On a sunny Saturday in October six and a half years ago, my family stood in the Seattle Animal Shelter looking at the dogs available for adoption.  The decision to get a dog was an impulsive one, but since it was the first thing I'd shown any interest since being brought home after an extended psychiatric hospitalization in July, my wonderful parents were prepared to adopt.  We'd already been to the Human Society shelter without any luck, but after carefully scrutinizing the occupants of the kennels, my mother said, "What about the brown dog?"

The "brown" dog

The brown dog was the only dog in the entire shelter who was not barking.  She was sitting very quietly and patiently, as if, unlike the other dogs, she was content to wait.  Her name, according to the information on the door to her run, was Keta and they speculated that she was a pit bull-labrador mix.  (A doggie DNA test revealed her to be a pit bull/border collie/German short-haired pointer mix.)  She came up to the door of her kennel and allowed me to stroke the white blaze on her muzzle through the wire.  Up close, it was clear that she was not simply brown but a beautiful amber-and-dark-chocolate brindle.  She stood about knee-high, the perfect size for the kind of dog that we wanted.  I knew right then that if her fur was soft, she was the one.

Her fur was like satin and velvet combined into one, thick and plush and silky.

My brindle beauty

We didn't adopt her that day.  We thought we'd better think it over.  What thinking we did do was to give her a new name.  By the time we got home, we had rechristened her Abbey and considered her ours.

The shelter was closed for the next two days, but we were so determined to have her that my mother and I got to the shelter half an hour before it opened in order to be first in line and adopt her before anyone else could beat us to it!  She was still available and we eagerly signed the papers.  Her known history was brief: she was picked up as a stray with no collar, no tags, no microchip.  She was a young adult, likely somewhere between a year and a half and two years old, and unspayed.  She'd been at the shelter for about two weeks.  The staff said they were so glad she was being adopted, that she was a real sweetheart.  They also sat us down for the requisite counseling for new pit bull owners.  We said we didn't care, we wanted her, we'd do whatever it took.  And then she was ours.

Belly rub, please!

Well, she was ours on paper.  She had to be spayed and microchipped.  The procedure was to take place the next morning, so we went and stocked up on all the necessary supplies.  Our previous dog had died about four years ago, and while we still had the food bowls, there were many other enjoyable purchases to make, including a crate, since I was determined to crate-train her.

The next afternoon we picked her up.  She was still woozy from the procedure and had some difficulty getting into the car, but we got her home, where she stumbled into the family room and collapsed by the couch.  I lay down on the floor next to her and petted her nonstop for the next THREE HOURS.  At that time I was only just barely functional, primarily capable of sitting, sleeping, and crying.  This wonderful, sweet, soft dog was amazing.  And that wonderful, sweet, soft dog was able to clearly see what a mess I was and made it her mission to protect me.

Snuggle Pup

She had her issues.  It turned out she had a sensitive tummy, for one, and until we got her on an expensive single-carbohydrate/single-protein dog food, there was rather a lot of throwing up and a truly terrible attack of diarrhea that required the services of professional cleaners.  Also, she was very wary of men and it was months before she trusted my father.  The way she tip-toed out of the room as discreetly as possible when my parents had any kind of serious discussion, her fear of the broom, and the way she would flinch sometimes when she saw an upraised hand suggested that she had escaped a rather unhappy home.  And she barked nonstop (and though she does not bark much at home, she has a very deep, loud, scary bark) through many weeks of obedience classes.

 In other respects, however, she proved to be sweet, tractable, mellow, and quite ready to adhere to any guidelines we proposed.  This was the dog whose single greatest success in obedience class was her immediate understanding of the command "leave it!"  It took her about a minute to be crate-trained and she immediately got the message when I explained that she was not to linger around the table while we were eating.  We laid down the ground rules that she should be seated or lying down on her rug when in the car and next thing we knew, she had one foreleg up on the armrest and had settled in for the ride.  She also had a decidedly playful streak, but if it wasn't a good time for a game or we were done playing, she seemed to accept our "no" with a shrug and flop down on the rug, perfectly content.  And rather surprisingly, considering how she was glued to my side at all times, she showed no separation anxiety when I had to leave her behind.  She proved to be a dog of uncommon patience and acceptance.  The calm resignation that attracted our attention in the shelter was a true representation of her character.

Abbey settles in for a car ride.

I’m hardly the first person to fall in love with a dog.  The reason I’m writing an extended essay on the subject of my dog is the fact that while most dogs represent all kinds things to their owners, Abbey has been life-saver for me.  In my darkest days, during those first few years she lived with us and my bipolar II depression was not yet under control and I would occasionally be ambushed by terrifying urges to hurt or kill myself, it was the thought of Abbey that kept me from enacting any of those scenarios.  Her naked, urgent need to be at my side at all times made me feel essential in a way that all of the supportive, loving people around me could not.  It also gave me courage to get well, knowing that if at some future date I was on my own and was overcome by the desire to commit suicide, I would feel an obligation to first make sure Abbey was taken care of, and by asking for help for Abbey, I knew I would be able to ask for help for myself.

This photo sums up the essence of Abbey's personality: sweet, mellow, and sun-loving!

Then, right around the time when I was emotionally able to do so, I learned that Abbey was not glued to my side because she needed me, but because she was worried that I wasn’t able to take care of myself.  It was quite true at the time we adopted her, but I was getting stronger and I saw how unfair it was to ask a naturally submissive dog to try to take on such a stressful leadership role.  With the incentive to do right by the dog who had already done so much for me, it was easy for me to start standing up straighter, to speak and move more assertively.  That, and making sure I went through doors first, was all Abbey needed to know for her to gladly capitulate.  She went from needing to be by my side at every second, moving when I moved, to being content in the same room, then happy to be on the same floor of the house, and now is happy to be wherever she is most comfortable, be it on the upstairs study couch or down by the front windows in the afternoon sun.  Oftentimes where she wants to be is by me, but she no longer has to feel stressed out about it.  And I found that by being more assertive with my loving dog, I was able to move more confidently through the world.  I had been paralyzed for years by social anxiety and suddenly, after taking over the reins from Abbey, I found myself feeling confident out in public, assuming I looked great, like I knew what I was doing, welcoming whatever attention might come my way.  I cannot underscore how fundamental a change this was for me.  I was receiving great therapy, too, but without needing to stand tall in order to give my dog some peace of mind, it would not have happened nearly so easily or so completely.

Another thing: Abbey yodels when she’s happy.  A yodel is more or less a joyful howl, a funny “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-WOO!” that means she is so happy to see you that she has to point her little muzzle to the sky and sing it.  It is the single most joyful, gratifying noise in the world and I have been yodeled for.  I owe my life to a complex array of medications that I must take every day for the rest of my life, but those yodels are great medicine, too.  That irrepressible expression of joy is a most delectable tonic.

Hoop-jumpin' Abbey!

Check out Abbey in action in this video! 

Abbey’s continued to be a great companion for me, both in sickness and in health.  We’ve had many glorious walks when I have been well enough to walk, and many lovely hours cuddling in bed when I haven’t.  She seems content to do whatever I want to do.  The joy she experiences from the simplest things--being fed her dinner, leaping in the air for a ball, having everyone at home in the kitchen, getting to ride along in the car, going for a swim, even getting a single plain Cheerio for a treat--has helped me gain access to that kind of pleasure.  We both got very lucky in that I love nothing more than to pet a dog (especially one with such wonderful fur!) and she wants nothing more in the whole wide world than to be petted!

Abbey is always ready to make herself comfy on my bed!

I’ve also enjoyed taking over the leadership position in our relationship and working with her on her issues.  When we got her, for example, she so hated having her paws touched that we had to have her sedated by the vet in order to clip her nails.  I am tremendously proud of the fact that I can now clip her nails without any other aid than my own calm-assertive energy.  I’m also very proud of the fact that she does better in the vet waiting room (she has no problem with the vet himself), where she gets extremely stressed and anxious, every time.  When I took her in just a few weeks ago she was so relaxed that I managed to convince her to practice the command “roll over” in the middle of the waiting room floor!  It is my main regret at this time that I haven’t been able to give her what she wants more than anything: to play with another dog.  This might seem like a simple task given the number of dogs that can be found playing in the park by our house on any given day, but she seems to be horribly lacking in proper social skills.  My guess is that she was removed from her litter too soon.  The only way she can learn better social skills is to be with other dogs, but the intensity with which she tries to engage other dogs clearly appalls them.  I was in the process of reducing that intensity through extensive exercise and exposure to dogs and had successfully found several larger mellow dog-friendly male dogs among my acquaintance whose owners had agreed to allow my dog socialize with theirs, but then I developed the chronic migraine condition that has severely curtailed my ability to engage in any kind of exercise.  For now, the dog socialization program, as well as other active pursuits, like agility, are on hold.

Abbey making dog-socialization progress with the help of Cedar the Collie!

The lovely thing about Abbey is that she’s such a good girl whether she gets to go on walks or play with dogs or not.  She’s as game for napping through the afternoon as she is for going for a swim.  It makes her happy that we’re going upstairs together or that I’m singing a song to her or that the sun is shining.  I love her sensitivity, her expressive face, her velvety soft ears, the way that sometimes she will gently nibble the very tip of my nose, the way that her brindle is darker on one side than the other, the way she tucks her nose under her paw when she’s sleeping hard, her love of a jolly game, the intensity with which she acts out her dreams, her willingness to be photographed, the way she sneezes when she’s excited.  I love her too-long back and her too-small head.  I especially love her tail.  It’s an ideal dog tail, long and strong and perfect for drumming out her happiness on cabinet doors.  I love all her different wags, from the great big wags that ripple throughout the body to the tiniest little tippy-tail wag that she’ll give me if I stick my head in to say hi and she’s curled up in a tight little ball.

Super-sleepy Abbey tucks her nose under her paw

So, six and a half years later, with my bipolar disorder successfully managed, this is my salute to Abbey and all the seventeen other nicknames she happily responds to, to “the brown dog” that has brought me so much joy.  I hope she will continue to be by my side, ready to do whatever I’m going to do, for many more.

Me and my Abbey-O playing together in the snow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Design in Small Doses

I was a month into a graphic design program when the migraines struck (and stuck) in October of 2009, so I have four weeks worth of experience in Photoshop and Illustrator.  That's not much, but I learned just enough in each program to make them useful for my own purposes.  It'd be nice to learn more, but working in either program is extremely stressful on the brain and I'm best not doing any more than I have to.  I've found that I particularly like Illustrator, even though Photoshop is more useful for the bulk of the work I do.  Somehow the program clicks more on a intuitive level for me.  I enjoy Illustrator enough that sometimes I can't help myself and I have to do a little project despite the cost in terms of migraines.  This is something I put together for my father.

I originally was making it for his birthday (back in February), but that was too ambitious of a timetable for someone who needs to limit their screen time, so I finished it up for Father's Day instead.  The "Dad" paper doll was quite realistic, so for his privacy I have not included that image.  These are the outfits--reflecting down to the smallest details my father's real work, yard work, and leisure getups--I made to go with the doll.  I think they look pretty good!  It'd be fun to do more of this kind of thing, but with the way these design programs get my migraines revved up, it's out of the question.  Sigh...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here's to Summer

I'm taking it easy today, but not so easy that I couldn't snap this seasonally appropriate picture.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting Better All the Time

Yesterday I turned thirty.  Some people find it hard to believe that I can remain positive most of time, given that at thirty I find myself living with my parents, unable to work or perform the tasks necessary for living independently, often in pain, and very limited in my ability to interact with the world.  But honestly, compared to what my life was like when I was twenty, thirty is an enormous improvement!

First and foremost, when I was twenty, I was just barely coping with massive, suffocating, undiagnosed bipolar II depression, which was accompanied by paralyzing social anxiety and a general anxiety level so savage that it was akin to being eaten alive.  In college, people thought I was quiet and responsible.  That was the outward manifestation of my constant, grueling effort to keep things together.  Fortunately, when I was twenty-two I finally reached the point where I couldn't cope any longer.  It may sound strange to anyone who hasn't had to live with extreme levels of depression and anxiety, but undergoing a total breakdown was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It meant I got diagnosed and I got treatment.  I came to understand that my years of unhappiness and anxiety stemmed not from a deeply flawed personality, but from a natural, biological brain chemistry imbalance.  The medication took some years to work out, but it has absolutely changed my life for the better and I am so grateful that I am no longer at the mercy of my brain chemistry.  With that and extremely effective therapy, I am capable of a baseline level of happiness that I had no idea even existed prior to treatment.  I consider myself so lucky to have been diagnosed and to have found successful treatment at what is really a very young age.  Even though I have occasional mood symptoms (usually caused by some change in my migraine medication) and chronic daily headaches, that's nothing compared to the daily emotional agony that was my life at twenty!

And because I am no longer bound by the heavy chains of my anxiety, I have accomplished things that at twenty would have been unthinkable.  I am a small business owner, for example.  My business may be composed of a camera, my computer, and a file cabinet, and while it may not generate any revenue at all some months, it's official.  I have a business license, a resale license, I pay taxes, I have a business bank account, a business credit card, and I have a business plan.  My business?  Selling my art!  I would never have imagined when I was twenty, even though I was studying art at the time, that I might someday be selling it!  I was so shy and insecure that I couldn't stand to have all but a very few select people even see my work.  I was trapped in a constant battle between my need to create and my need to conceal what I created.  And while I was compelled to write just as I was compelled to create, I couldn't really fathom doing something so public as getting published.  I couldn't think of anything more humiliating that having my name connected to a piece of writing.  Adopting a nom de plume seemed to be the only solution and my preferred one was "Souris," the French word for mouse.  I would be so surprised, at the age of twenty, to hear that by the age of thirty I had submitted a manuscript to a publisher under my own name!  I would have been surprised, too, to hear that it was a children's book, since serious "literary" fiction was more my thing.  But I have followed life where it has taken me and since I find myself currently unable to think clearly enough to do the sort of fiction writing I'd done in the past, a children's book it is, and with another one hopefully soon to follow.  My twenty-year-old self could have never conceived such a reality!

I think, too, that at thirty I look every bit as good as I did at twenty, if not better.  Sure, my hair has turned from black to gray, but that was expected, and I look good with gray hair.  The best thing is that now that I'm not so anxious, I carry myself with confidence and pride.  I can take pleasure in how I look and I enjoy, at last, being looked at.  I always had a sense of style, but was trapped between my innate desire to dress well and my overwhelming wish to be invisible.  Now I go out and enjoy knocking them dead!  (Well, not so much anymore.  One of things I miss being able to do the most is to wear awesome clothes.  I just don't have energy to dress up, much less go anywhere.)  It should be noted that I'm also no longer painfully thin.  For years and years I struggled to gain or even maintain weight with little success.  Sometimes I was able to put on enough flesh to be called "slender," but most of the time I was just plain skinny.  I look so much better now that I've been able to keep some pounds on.  Between a healthy weight and an even healthier dose of confidence, I'd say that thirty is looking much hotter than twenty and having a lot more fun with it, too!

My sister took this portrait of me for my 29th birthday.

And while it would be nice to have a place of my own, I've accepted that at this time, it just isn't possible.  I focus instead on being grateful for the support I have.  My parents are financially able to take care of me.  They were able to afford the multiple therapy sessions per week not covered by my insurance back when I was first getting my mental health sorted out.  All that intensive dialectical behavior therapy made a huge difference in my ability to cope with my depression and anxiety and the skills I learned then have made it possible for me to see the positives now, even though I've lost my ability to be independent.  They've also been able to pay for my health insurance and for all my medication, without which life would be impossible.  I have been so incredibly lucky to have their financial support!  But their emotional support has been just as rich.  My parents (and my sister, too) love me and accept me for exactly who I am, are medically literate and so have a good understanding my health problems, respect me and deal with me as an adult, like me as a person, and yet have also figured out how to provide care when I need it.  We get along so well, perfectly and compassionately understand each other's weaknesses, value each other's strengths, and enjoy one another's company. It's no punishment at all to be living with my parents.

Also, I have the dog I need.  I will have many other wonderful dogs in my lifetime, but I've been so fortunate to have Abbey right now.  She's mellow enough that she doesn't chafe at the slow pace of my life, has a jubilant playful streak, loves to be petted and has wonderfully soft fur, yodels when she's happy, is always ready to interact with her expressive face and responsive tail, likes nothing better than to cuddle with me if I need to be in bed during the day, loves me with an incredible intensity, and has taught me so much about the simplicity of joy.  Without her, I would not be nearly so able to find contentment in my daily life.

Abbey and I are all smiles after a trip to the lake last summer.

In a funny way, I'm glad that I had never made firm plans about where I'd be at any particular age.  I had no specific goals for thirty.  My intention had been to follow my passions and to see where they took me, and while there have been many unforeseen obstacles, I have followed my passions, and now I have an expanding business of selling my photography, I'm working on children's books, and I have a million other creative projects in mind that I believe will eventually see the light--all with my name on them.  How cool is that?  It's way more than I had dreamed would be possible back when I was twenty!

So while I may not be able to get out much and I can only do little bits of work at a time and sometimes there will be days or weeks when my mind hardly seems to work at all and of course there's the whole problem of pain and of there being no particular hope of the migraines abating and no further treatment options, I'm so happy to be here.  Thirty looks better, feels better, and has so much more potential than twenty could have ever imagined.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

These Things Happen

The pharmacy refilled a prescription with a generic made by a different manufacturer than the one I usually take and I had a bad reaction to it.  The pharmacy has been awesome and re-refilled my prescription with the brand I usually get and put a note in my file to always use that manufacturer's drug, but the problematic version is still in my system and until its half-life expires (hopefully within the next ten hours!), I've got a lot of muscle stiffness and joint pain.  Taking a muscle relaxant has helped the aching, but it's also made me pretty fuzzy.  So much for any of the plans I had today!  I'm not alone in getting bad side effects from a generic and am just glad that my pharmacy immediately tried to make things right.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Meet Mouse

This is Mouse.

Born in the Philippines and intended for life as a bookmark, Mouse was instead purchased as a souvenir and given to my seven year-old self, launching his career as a plaything, totem, model, and muse. He is infamous for spending the night on the roof of a neighboring house after I swung him a bit too vigorously by the tail when I was a kid and is famous--at least relatively speaking--for lending his image to my photography. What began as an idle afternoon's entertainment back in 2007 has grown into a collection of more than 5,700 photographs, an online store, and a future in children's books. I use him to draw the viewer's attention to the amazing details that make up the ordinary world all around us. It always surprises people when they meet him in person for the first time to see exactly how tiny he is! Lately, I've been focusing a bit more on non-Mouse macro photography, but fear not, he is not being neglected in the least! I hope to start taking photographs with him for an alphabet book within the next week or two; his colors book is currently in search of a publisher. He'll also no doubt be making his way into more food photos over the summer while the light is bright and the produce is perfect.

Jolly Ranchers & MouseGumdrops & MouseJellybeans II & MouseRose Petals & MouseBubble in the Grass & MouseBubble Blower & Mouse
Blue Sky & MouseCheckers & MouseLupine & MouseGolden Chain Tree Blooms & MouseCalla Lily & MouseDaisy & Mouse
Painted Pansies & MouseDaisies & MouseWild Rose & MouseAsparagus & MouseCherry Tomatoes & MouseLicorice All-Sorts & Mouse
Challah & MouseBlue Cheese & MouseSplit Strawberry & MouseCaramels & MouseDots & MousePaw & Mouse

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Photographer's Assistant

I had an overly busy day today that has left me quite exhausted, but I did take a few more candy photos in the afternoon sun.  The dog kept me company, as usual.

Here she is being respectful of my subjects by keeping a 
safe distance while admiring my truly high-tech set-up.

Eyes half-closed with blissful sunshine-and-girl induced satisfaction...

Oops, we're in the shadow here, but I thought it was cute anyway.

And Abbey goes in for the kiss!

When you're feeling worn out and have a big migraine looming, there's nothing like having a devoted pal close at hand who wants nothing more than to hang out in your company!  Dogs are the best.  They should be required!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sweet Stuff

It smells like Jolly Ranchers in the dining room.  No wonder, since I've been a photographing-candy kick!

The stash

I'm not actually all that keen on eating this kind of candy (I have a tremendous sweet tooth, but I'm more of an ice cream and baked goods kind of gal), though I have sampled everything but the licorice, which I can't stand, to make sure that things are, um, fresh and all.  I developed in interest in the visual appearance of candy after spying this amazing photo by another Etsy seller: Grapefruit and Watermelon Candy Fruit Slices - 8x10 Fine Art Photograph  I was so inspired that I made a treasury (I Want Candy--missing several listings now, but still bright and fun!) of other colorful candy images and while six months have passed between now and then, candy has remained in the back of my mind as a subject.  With the summer photography season upon us (the rainbow colors of candy deserve to be lit by the brightest possible sunshine), I made a couple visits to the drugstore and have embarked on the pleasurable task of turning sweets into art.  I've taken photographs of all items both with and without Mouse.  Here are some of the results so far: 

So I'm having a grand time, only limited by the pitiful lack of sunshine we've had in these parts as of late.  My camera battery ran out in the middle of yesterday's Jolly Rancher session and by the time it recharged, the sun was gone and it looks from the weather report like it will be a couple more days before I can resume.  Perhaps it's just as well, since my brain is vigorously protesting this spate of visual activity and I have a hard time resisting the siren song of photographic opportunity.  Thankfully, I have some caramels to keep me company while I wait for favorable conditions of all kinds to come back my way!