Observation and Fatigue

My acrylic painting has just been stored and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I do much better. It’s scary starting with art again after plus thirty years. This week I’m trying to schedule an hour daily to focus on it, even if it means just showing up.

This morning I hid the painting after calling it finished, stored my paints, etc. in an easy-to-get-to place but off my computer desk and recognized that I might best learn to draw again in some sort of structured way. I got down my 1985 copy of Bert Dodson’s “Keys To Drawing”.

When I lived in Boulder County Colorado, I liked to go up to Nederland and spend the day. I liked the altitude and being by the big reservoir. Having spent the first 17 years of my life with the Mississippi River nearby, it felt unnatural to be so far from big water in Colorado.

Once when I was wandering back to town and near the shelter area I saw a small group of people drawing. It was a class and usually I’m very shy and reserved but not this time. After chatting with the art teacher a bit, she told me that she was self-taught and had learned from Dodson’s book. So I bought one and put it on my shelf where it sat and was moved to three different apartments in two states.

As scary as it is, I don’t learn when I don’t even try–hence the scheduled hour daily now. (Honestly I couldn’t think of another word besides hence).

I began looking through the book after clearing up the disappointing painting project and was drawn to a little section about observation and fatigue. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m interested in rejuvenating from burn-out and fatigue.

Drawing is more about observing the object being drawn than the medium on which it’s drawn. Dodson says fatigue is inevitable and often comes on before we realize it. One sign is a sudden awareness of time. Another sign is awareness of distractions. He says at these times it’s best to stop. Wow. I have never seen this information before and it easily translates into a tool for the rest of my life.

Now many times, I have to slog my way through something just like we all do. It is useful to be conscious of the increase in tiredness though so I can make the good choices that are available to me. With drawing, as I walk the fine line of overcoming my fears and also taking care of my health this is a micro-detail that will serve me well.

This sudden lack of focus and anxiety about time also happens when I’m reading or on the computer. He didn’t mention hunger, but sometimes I feel suddenly very hungry. Dodson recommends when drawing, to select areas of interest in the subject and concentrate on them first to bunch up both energies and time. The rest of the drawing can then be treated with simplicity. Kind of like being wise in prioritizing my activities.

Oh Really?

One of the most important things for me to remember as I navigate my life is not to compare myself with others.

I just read an an online piece about a survey that showed how Facebook made the grass seem greener in other people’s lives. All the photos of fabulous times friends are having and their numerous successes can make one feel like a loser. I know it does me and anything I might have to post on Facebook seems lame. So I don’t. It’s understandable that people would want to present themselves in the best light possible and most of us don’t really want to share our dark nights of the soul in our blogs. But it’s easy to forget that our glamorous, confident friends have doubts and awkward moments.

In this age of rampant self-promotion, how can we be sure what’s presented is true? I remember in the 80’s when I worked at a job with mostly men. In that workplace during that time, they were allowed to say almost anything no matter how uncomfortable it made me. I tuned them out but was aware that there was a lot of sexual bragging going on, which I didn’t believe to be true at all. Then in other circles I was in, people would share the glorious tales of their spiritual experiences, which made my subtle moments of divine connection seem pale in comparison.

Two of the stars of the mind/body and new age community have admitted to their burn out and exhaustion while they were accomplishing amazing things in the public eye. Joan Borysenko, a stress expert has written about her own burn-out in her latest book, Fried. It’s very informative about the stages and signs that are about so much more than just depression. Debbie Ford of “Shadow” fame has had to choose priorities after her serious bout with pneumonia and shares that she was exhausted most of the years she was out there as a leading voice. She’s now had to disconnect from many of the obligations and often accessible communications with everyone she was available to before.

I’ve learned the hard way that it calls for sense and awareness of reality when determining just what I can reasonably do and whether or not it’s worth the cost. Sure, I have goals but at age 56 I very much want to enjoy my remaining years, not hyperventilate myself to the same success it looks like other people are achieving. And when I tune in to someone, I want to pay attention to their authentic self, not an image they’re promoting. It’s so refreshing to have someone connect with me for just a moment or so—and they’re not selling some thing or some agenda.

Inspiration

I’ve been avoiding being online partly because the weather has been so lovely for this time of year and partly because the headlines are getting to be too much again. In addition to ongoing unrest in the world, the information about all the changes in technology makes it seem as though the world is spinning out of control again.

Anyone reading my posts might wonder if I ever think about anyone else. The answer to that is yes and actually for many years I thought of everyone else before I did myself. I’m actually a great listener and rather perceptive and attentive and repeatedly am made aware that I really experience the world way differently than everyone I know. Also that I don’t have the energy to have arguments and discussions about the differences.

This morning I woke up really early and feeling out of sorts while it was still dark, I logged on and read some of Christine Kane’s old blog posts from 2006, which I find inspiring and very helpful. Christine is a singer/songwriter who has overcome a major personal struggle and now does mentoring/life coaching and conducts retreats.

She has become too big of a super-powered superstar for me to learn much from lately. And that’s great for her and the people she’s mentoring. It’s her earlier accounts of what she’s learned that are more meaningful to me because it’s a little closer to my level and I can relate to many of her humorous stories and insights. Often when there’s someone I consider a teacher for me, their rate of growth is a lot faster than mine and I notice the time when they take off. It’s like they morph into a whole new person and become unrecognizable. That’s why I had quit subscribing to her blog because I’m just poking along as fast as I’m able and willing. But the 2006 posts were very inspiring on a day when I’m feeling really out of it as far as the world is concerned.

Friday

The sun shone today– it was dry and above freezing again. One of those days that lets me know I can get through the winter and that spring will be here again.

I got the important things done that keep my life running. I made ground turkey chili in the slow cooker. I noticed how easy it was to clean the skillet where I’d browned the meat, something I’d forgotten about ground turkey. Other meats are greasy and harder to clean up after. The transition from how I used to eat when I was working one or two jobs to the gluten-free, organic slow food way I eat now wasn’t easy but so worth it. Sometimes I tend to think of myself as having few skills but further developing my cooking skills seems like a good thing for me to do.

I also did a little sewing on my fabric art project and that was relaxing. It wasn’t frustrating even though some symptom are flaring up. I’m in tune with my body enough to believe it’s my liver that’s struggling a bit now and I have solutions to help that.

After years of not watching television, I like to watch show online now. So much so that I’ve considered using it as a bribe/reward for completing things I don’t feel like doing. Lately, completing things has been it’s own reward though. I just watched 30 Rock and Bones. Bones was especially gruesome–I won’t go into the details. It’s been a good week for me even with some challenges.

Not Another Book Right Now

I usually have six or seven books I’m reading and lately the philosophical/self-help ones have all mentioned the work of Martin Seligman. He’s a clinical psychologist with real-world experience in studying and tracking learned optimism among other things. Now, I must admit here that I’m biased against mainstream kinds of information and studies and this isn’t the sort of book I’d trust on its own. But of the three books I’m reading, I trust the authors and they make a compelling case for the ideas in the book.

It’s of interest to me now because the ongoing regaining of my health and how it’s impacted my life can be quite discouraging. Seligman writes of the three P’s—–permanent, pervasive and personal—-which is how people with learned helplessness view setbacks and obstacles. I’ve had the trials like Job in this life so have an interest/skepticism in the subject but no patience for fluffy new-age smarm. It’s amazing what a circus the new age literature has become, not relevant to what many people face in a way that can make sense to them.

Anyway, so this seems like a good book that I should read. Yet, I have piles of books to read and I want to achieve some of my goals, not keeping adding on to them. That’s one thing people with ADD do, add-on repeatedly (some people would call these distractions, but they are actually added to a list) and feel like they aren’t accomplishing anything. There’s also the budget factor. So, what to do? I guess I’ll wait and in the spring see if the library has it. Or just wait six months and see if the urgency to get yet another book wears off.

This came up while I was reading this morning and then by afternoon I felt like I was going to die. Seriously. Detoxing from environmental poisoning can feel awful and part of the process is feeling worse then better over and over. I know this and still resent it. The things I do to take care of my health and then see people eating junk food and bouncing along in high heels hurts. But that’s another post.

This one is about maybe refining my optimism, which apparently can be learned by reading this book, yet waiting awhile and using what I have. I’ve gotten some ideas from what was mentioned in the other books I’m reading. Yes, my life is a big project to me.

This blog is helping me a lot in ways I’ve mentioned before. I have optimism about it even though I log on and see lots of hits and then find they are mostly from spammers. I really wondered if I’d be able to post today but I’m feeling better already.

Craft Day

It worked out well to do bookkeeping and business on Monday in longer blocks of time so yesterday I planned to spend time with my art and a craft project I’ve been thinking about.

Working on the craft project made me happy and I forgot about all the problems I need to solve for awhile. Part of why it worked out was that my fingers were more dexterous than usual. I first noticed it when I put some post earrings in while waiting for the computer to get going. It usually requires patience and time but I inserted them easily for the first time in years. And without looking in a mirror.

Later when I threaded a needle several times to sew by hand, that went well also. Slow, but it wasn’t frustrating. I also had the stamina to handle the ironing board several times.

The painting didn’t go so well. It would make more sense to practice drawing for awhile but I want to paint too. I’ve been taking digital photos of the various stages and in hindsight, I see the best stage was three photos ago. Then they look progressively worse to me. The best thing to do, I guess, is set it aside and enjoy doing a painting of a person. Which is what I feel like doing.

The biscuits I made from a gluten-free mix taste good and I have the energy to bake like that, but it has aluminum phosphate in it and I’ll be looking for a healthier brand mix.

Today I intended to get a lot of housework done but the day is half gone and I’m not feeling well. I have a sore throat and less mobility than usual. I guess I could force myself but that hasn’t worked so well in the past. I know many people say you have to have structure, schedules and goals, but when I think back to my most productive times last year, it happened in bursts of spontaneity. Just like farmers and like occupations need the cooperation of the weather, if my body doesn’t want to go along with the plan and it can be reasonably postponed, it makes sense to do so. I have noticed that I do better as the day goes on and perhaps there will be some sort of compromise here.

It seems like when I get further along with my structural alignment exercises, it might relieve some nerve pressure to my hands and I could become more productive. I have hope.

Foggy

It’s foggy outside and my brain is a little foggy too. I’ll go with it. The weather has seemed different the last two winters to me–more like the Pacific Northwest and less like high desert Northwest.

As for my brain, I’ve had a sore throat the last few days. Something’s going on and I’m doing what I reasonably can.

Yesterday I did business and numbers kinds of things for most of the day. It seemed easier than chopping things up to do a little each day like some people recommend. Most of the time I didn’t really care but with numbers and financial facts I had to kind of pay attention. So I typed and printed farm information for my tax accountant, paid bills and did filing which hadn’t been done for six months. I also took some old records out for shredding later. The messiest was all my debit card receipts. I used to buy groceries with my credit card and sometimes it seemed like there was disapproval for that. It wasn’t like that when I lived in Colorado so much. Maybe it isn’t this place–it’s the change in the economy.

Winco, an employee-owned store where I shop, doesn’t accept credit cards to help keep prices down. I used to use cash there. Now I use my check card and am not so great with keeping track. But I’m getting better.

My bank, credit card company and communications provider spam me all over the place with offers and ways to get me to part with more money. It’s necessary that I have a bank, credit card and communications but the relationship to the companies seem more and more nagging and slimey.

Now that I’ve got the business aspect of my life somewhat caught up, I’m going to do something else today and see how that goes. The day is already half gone and I have about five hours of daylight left. I’ll go for it though.

Gluten-free Snacks I Like

hard to live without snacks

gluten-free snacks

If you’re gluten-intolerant you know it isn’t a stroll through the park managing grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation. If you aren’t and know someone who is, any annoyance and inconvenience you might feel because of their dietary needs pales in comparison to what they’ve gone through and are dealing with. Sometimes these things are cumulative and you never know when you might begin to have food issues.

Mostly I eat veggies. There are other food dilemmas I have besides the gluten thing that makes eating in restaurants very problematic so I’ve been avoiding them. When getting involved in projects at home, I don’t want to change gears and cook all the time so I rely on snacks. There are numerous excellent bloggers who write about gluten-free living and post recipes. The snack reviews here are about my preferences and not all of the products are totally healthy. There are not-so-good ingredients in some of them and it’s your responsibility to always check labels.

One of the most convenient for me is the Blue Diamond Nut-Thins because I can spread them with various things and they are found not only at the expensive food co-op but in regular stores. There are pecan, almond and other flavors and all of them taste good although the cheddar cheese nut and rice crackers are messy. Usually I’m snacking while doing something else.

The Mi-Del cookie brand has regular as well as gluten-free cookies. My favorite flavor is the ginger snaps. The chocolate chip are O.K. The Mr Krispies rice chips have lots of flavor–the co-op only carries a few of them and the sour cream is my favorite. These snacks are very expensive compared to the crappy non-food available otherwise and I don’t eat a lot of them. It’s just too painful to go through life eating only veggies and a little meat.

Another chip I tried recently and liked is Boulder Canyon’s Rice & Bean Snack Chips with adzuki beans. Adzuki beans are better for my blood type and they don’t have lectins in them. (The slow-cooker lentil recipe I love and have recently been making, needs to have adzuki beans as a substitute which I’ll experiment with soon.) I had the chipotle cheese flavor and only bought them because they were on sale. Otherwise I won’t be getting them for quite awhile because of the price.

The brownies I made from a mix yesterday, that I’ll make again are Gluten Free Pantry’s chocolate truffle brownie mix. They are from the Glutino company who also makes the frozen personal size pizza crusts that I can’t tolerate so far. I use the Kinnikinnick brands frozen crusts instead which cost about $3.00 more for a package of four personal size but also don’t make me gag.

Just looking in the freezer, I noticed the breaded cod by Starfish, which also makes gluten-free breaded halibut and haddock. The cod is less pricey so it’s what I buy and I like it.

Rice Chex cereal is an old standby and I use rice milk with it. After awhile you get used to it. Actually, I have trouble with lots of different grains and need to make sure I’m not overdoing rice because one can easily build an intolerance to foods that are used often in a diet.

The Hodgson Mill cookie mix in the photo above, I didn’t care for so much. It had that sandy texture and broke apart. I didn’t use the teaspoon of vanilla that it called for and I doubt that make a difference. The Sun Mills cookie mix I wrote about awhile back worked better for me.

There’s a biscuit mix in the cupboard I’ve never tried and will do so today or tomorrow because I have eggs right now. It’s from well-known national brand that I’m not recalling the name of.

When the farmers market gets going again, I’ll be eating more seasonally and less of these products. Variety and the uses of spices and herbs is making my restricted diet more tolerable.

Sunday

Sometimes I don’t know what day it is. It is quiet today and seems like a Sunday. It was sunny, dry and the wind wasn’t blowing too hard so I got out for awhile and walked around. Also, downtown, where I live, was deserted and that’s kind of nice.

I chose fabric from my stash to go with the photos I laminated yesterday. I love fabric. This is a project that will require having my ironing board out for awhile. No way am I going to keep putting it away and taking it out. It never gets used for ironing clothes and I’m aware that many people don’t have irons these days.

Last night I made gluten-free brownies from a mix and they taste good enough. I don’t remember ever making brownies before and they’re kind of messy to cut–they broke apart when I took some from the pan. The suggestion was to freeze them an hour before cutting, which I didn’t do. They are a little bit sandy textured, which I don’t like in gluten-free products, but they’re chocolate truffle brownies and I like the taste. Surprisingly, I only needed to eat one–I used to have a raging sweet tooth.

I’m making different plans for my physical alignment exercises because I’m having trouble with the ones I did this week. I find I need to switch them around because as the body shifts, it causes instability and it also hurts. I wouldn’t mind walking with a cane so much if I had three hands.

Other changes are being made in my goals for the week as an experiment. I wrote them down and will review them next weekend. On great weather days, I’ll go outdoors instead.

My difficulties went undiagnosed for years as they gradually became worse. Now those people who told me I was lazy, clumsy, stupid, slow and that I didn’t care are no longer around. But as I expand and stretch what I do, their voices still echo in my head. Especially when I drop things, which happens quite often. Just thinking about it makes me more twitchy. So a main focus today and for the week is to do things anyway and carefully choose the encouraging self-talk I want and dial down those old, critical voices that got those people the opposite of what they wanted from me.

Fabric/Mixed Media

Recently while going through things I found an old box of laminating sheets. They are slightly yellowed and close to 20 years old. When I got them years ago I obsessively laminated a lot of items for a little while and then moved on to something else.

A little over a year ago, I used some of it to laminate a cancelled stamp from 1904 and a note that was written at that time. The letter was mailed from St. Louis around the time of the World’s Fair to my grandmother before she was married. I have a small stack of letters to her and she seems to have been rather popular with the young gentleman, something I’d never heard about. She passed when I was six years old and I remember her as very reserved.

I sewed the laminated items onto a small quilted wall-hanging I made by hand. I enjoy doing that even though it’s very time-consuming and I am not at all a good quilter. I doubt if I’ll ever be and it isn’t really a goal of mine. Since it’s art, I don’t believe the hangings need to be sturdy–I just like the way they look.

The wall-hanging is pictured above. There’s a tiny mesh bag that jewelry or something came in and inside of it is a small plastic bag that has a curl of human hair. A young man had sent Grandma a lock of his blonde hair in 1904. The note paper had absorbed any oil and the writing was slightly smudged. The hair was understandably a little brittle. I typed up a little hello note back to the boy in a time-travel kind of way and attached it to the vintage looking fabric.

The letters are all written in pencil and the various handwritings are difficult to read. Grammar and punctuation are poor and the content is a mix of casual, mundane and formal. There are letters about social events, picnics and dances that people traveled to on horseback. Most other old letters I’ve seen in books and museums are from educated and sophisticated people and I was a little startled at the simplicity of these.

I haven’t read all of them–I have to be in a certain mood to read them, I guess because it’s family and they are gone now.

This afternoon I printed a copy of a painting I’d done and also a copy of a photo I’d taken on acid free paper, laminated them and got out my fabric stash. I’ve moved past the part where my lack of manual dexterity and quilting skills makes this a waste of time. I want to do it. I like making things out of found objects.

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