Posted in Fiber

Took a little break from writing.

It has been a while. We went on a tiny vacation the week before Memorial Day and both of us got food poisoning. We either got some bad lettuce or someone didn’t wash her/his hands after using the restroom. It took a week for me to feel human again.

My 15-year-old Kenmore Elite sewing machine crapped out in the middle of a blouse. After looking online and Jim telling me to buy local, I bought a Pfaff Quilt Expressions 4.2. I love the fancy stitches. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing so I can learn the machine.Blouse 1 7-15-18Blouse 2 7-15-18Scrubs 1 7-15-18Scrubs 1 detail 7-15-18Scrubs 2 7-15-18Scrubs 2 detail 7-15-18Scrubs 3 7-15-18Scrubs 3 detail 7-15-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

If you’re looking for some cool art or a one of a kind gift, please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

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Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Fiber

There Are No Victims Here

I am not a victim.

I am not a survivor.

I am a fighter.

I think that’s my super power. It’s not a bad super power to have. It’s pretty good, actually. This thought train, complete with dining car, observation car, and caboose, left the mental station shortly after reading an email inviting me to a play reading at New Mexico State University that was written by students about reporting sexual assault on campus. I won’t be there. I’m pretty sure I’d want to throw something large and heavy if I were to attend. I’m disgusted enough about how NMSU handled my complaint about sexual harassment. The university’s position is that forcing students to read stories that glorify date rape, gang rape (that wasn’t really rape because the victim enjoyed it) and pedophilia isn’t sexual harassment, it’s protected speech under the First Amendment. Mind you, this decision was made by someone who is NOT an attorney. Getting legal advice from someone who is not an attorney is like having your mechanic do a root canal on one of your teeth.

I’ve been worried about how I didn’t realize how depressed I was until about a month after I had formulated a plan for killing myself, decided when and where to do it, and reminded myself to tell Jim not to accept the body so the state would get stuck with the cremation bill. What if next time, and I’ve no illusions about there not being a next time, I don’t stop myself in time? This is the fourth time in my life, and the third time in 10 years, that I’ve been suicidal. Each time is more serious. So I went back into therapy. Jim will be going to some sessions with me. He needs to understand what’s going on in my head when I get depressed – especially if I don’t realize I’m depressed. You’d think I’d know if I were depressed, but I don’t. The slide down into the black hole is so subtle and slow that I’m usually pretty far down before I realize I’m depressed.

I’ve had little bouts of depression. During one bout, I decided to do therapeutic shopping. I bought pre-cut strips of fabric to make a rag rug. Turns out I need a whole lot of strips of fabric – way more than I bought. Jim offered to cut strips out of any leftovers I happen to have hanging about. I’ll be looking for some solid color fabrics so I can have him cut strips. I’ll use what I’ve made so far as the middle of the rug.

IMG_0738

I looked out the back window the other day and discovered that the huge agave in the back yard is about to bloom. The plant will die after it blooms. Too bad because it’s huge and lovely.

I’m doing okay. Most of the time – probably 90% of the time – I’m not depressed. I’ve got end of the semester burnout, but that’s not uncommon after a difficult semester. My last neurobiology class, and last class of the semester is on Thursday. I am looking forward to not having deadlines for a couple months.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

If you’re looking for a cool art, please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder

Things I’d Like To Tell My Neurobiology Class

You can learn a whole lot more about how a brain functions if you pay attention to those of us who are mentally ill.

We’re not listened to.

I’ve had a psychiatrist tell me the drug that was causing me all sorts of problems was a “very good drug.” I was thrilled when he got his license pulled for overprescribing meds. I’ve had another psychiatrist who, after I told her the med I was on was working really well, increase the dose. I’ve had friends tell me I’m on the wrong medication when it was clear to me that my meds were working well.

I can’t always tell when I’m in crisis.

You’d think having a mixed episode – simultaneously manic and depressive – would cause me to think something was wrong. It didn’t. I don’t follow the stereotypical manic behavior of spending well more than I can afford during a manic event. I get manic, I cook. I brought to class King Cake cupcakes on Mardi Gras. I brought in sourdough crumb coffee cake cupcakes when I was having major anxiety. I showed the class my first nerve quilt and when I explained the real name was: Get back her motherfucker, sit your ass in that chair, shut the fuck up and listen to me, I could hear the manic in my voice. I’m pretty sure my classmates did as well. They saw the manic. They didn’t see the depressive part. The part where I had formulated a really good, effective plan to kill myself and had decided when and where to do it. I didn’t want to shoot myself in the house because I didn’t want my husband to have to clean up the mess. I even wanted to tell my husband to refuse to accept the body so he wouldn’t have to pay for a funeral.

The class didn’t see that it took me a couple weeks to realize this wasn’t an ordinary depression and that I needed to go back on an antidepressant. They didn’t see that I went through a complete personality transformation about 20 minutes after I took the first pill.

I had to do a short presentation for my neurobiology class. I explained, prior to starting my presentation, that I had my meds tweaked and today’s med adjustment deficits were: balance and coordination problems, memory, and emotional control so don’t be alarmed if I start crying in the middle of the presentation.

My brain works differently from yours.

My moods have little to do with what’s going on in my life. I can feel calm, but then open my mouth to say something, and cranky crap comes out. My brain has a mind of its own. It does stuff without asking first. Like when I have a brain dropout. I’ll be saying something, and the next word I want is no where to be found. My brain goes dark. Literally. I have to put the word together little bit by little bit. Each tiny concept that I grab makes finding the next tiny concept easier. When I was on Lexapro, words would hide in my brain about an inch behind my right eye. I’d have to physically move the word to the left side of my brain to be able to say the word. Psych meds cause brain fog. I’m pretty sure I lose 20 IQ points every time I go on a psych med. I miss my fog free brain. There’s weird stuff I can’t explain. Sometimes people appear taller or shorter than the last time I saw them. I once watched a person’s eyes change from light blue to deep blue and back again. It was fascinating.

Sometimes, my brain makes no sense.

I’ve never had a brain dropout in court. This amazes me. Court happens at the speed of sound, there’s no script, and the person sitting next to me is facing prison time. I’m able to think fast. I’m able to formulate responses fast. I never struggle for words. I’d love to know why this is.

I don’t like the idea of having a brain disease.

Long ago, I learned from my clients that I cannot ever have anything remotely like a normal life if I do not accept my diagnosis. I’m bipolar. Not accepting the diagnosis won’t make me not bipolar. It will make me out of control bipolar. Still, I don’t like the idea of a brain disease. That sounds so permanent. I know I’ll never be able to function without psych meds. I just don’t want to be reminded of that.

I wouldn’t want to not be bipolar.

Some people who are bipolar wouldn’t give up being bipolar because they like their manic episodes. I hate manic episodes. If I have to be not at center, I want to be depressed. Depressed feels natural to me. It feels comfortable. I withdraw inside myself and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The reason I wouldn’t want to be not bipolar is more complex. I was better able to help my clients because I truly do understand mental illness and psych meds. I’m able to do good work with my bipolar disorder – work like educating people so they aren’t afraid of mental illness. Work like being out of the closet and letting people know it’s not so scary here in the middle of the room. I’d lose all that ability if I weren’t bipolar.

Don’t feel sorry for me and above all, don’t tell me I’m courageous.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar. I’ve no idea what it’s like not to be bipolar. Bipolar to me feels normal. I have the same two choices everyone else has: keep going forward or jump off a cliff. Suicide scares the snot out of me. By choosing to keep going forward, I’m choosing the less terrifying option. Courage has nothing to do with it.

Does anyone have any questions?

Nerve Quilt 1 3-19-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for one of a kind jewelry? Please stop by my shop, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

Photos, Meds, And Secrets

More med adjustment. Wellbutrin is now replaced by Cymbalta. The point of Cymbalta is to relieve the neuropathy pain. It’s an antidepressant which, for some odd reason, helps with nerve pain. Sort of. It sort of helps me. I’m still having to take gabapentin and still having to sleep with a TENS unit attached to me. Cymbalta is acting like Prozac. I can only take it every other day and I have no appetite. The no appetite part is difficult because I have to take antibiotics for another week and I have to take them with food.

I make no secret about being bipolar, and I’m finding people who have mental illnesses are willing to ask me about medication. While I don’t mind the questions, I do mind that these people are firmly in the closet. I never have and never will out anyone. Still, the stigma of mental illness isn’t going to go away until we all come out of the closet. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26% of the population in the US has a diagnosed mental illness. This doesn’t count the number of people who haven’t been diagnosed. The next time you are in a room with 4 or more people, do the math. I’m in a class with 20 other students. Per the math, at least 4 other students have a mental illness. We are everywhere. Even if you aren’t aware of our mental illnesses, we are everywhere.

Jim and I did some hiking during spring break and went to Bosque del Apache on the “spring holiday.” Spring holiday is the politically correct version of Good Friday. Oddly, the spring holiday falls on Good Friday every year. Funny how that happens.

I bought a new lens for the Canon. Tamron 18-400mm. I wanted an all-in-one lens because changing lenses in the field when one is in a desert is not a good thing to do. Sand, dirt, dust, and crud aren’t good things to have inside your camera. I also didn’t want to schlep lenses every time I go hiking. The more I use this lens, the more I like this lens. Jim kept borrowing my camera so I have no idea who took what shots. Here’s the best of the lot.

Jim and I did some hiking at Aguirre Springs and White Sands during spring break and went to Bosque del Apache on the “spring holiday.” Spring holiday is the politically correct version of Good Friday. Oddly, the spring holiday falls on Good Friday every year. Funny how that happens.

Aguirre Springs.

Aguire Springs 14

East side of the Organ Mountains. Aguirre Springs 7

Bunny Ears of the Organ Mountains.

White Sands National MonumentWhite Sands 1

Where the white gypsum sand meets the desert. The white part in the middle is a dry lake. White Sands 3

It’s amazing how much grows on the white sand which is really powdered gypsum.

White Sands 7

Once vegetation takes root, the dune becomes solid.

Bosque del Apache.

Bosque del Apache 1 3-31-18Bosque del Apache 3Bosque del Apache 4 3-31-18 Cropped

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.   Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please visit my online store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Fiber, Peripheral neuropathy, Quilts

Closer To Bipolar Normal

Settling back to the kind of normal that’s possible with bipolar disorder. Yesterday, I had a manic episode. It was a small one. I couldn’t calm down. Doing things to try to get rid of the nervous energy, like vacuuming the living room and sucking up the cobweb in the corner, only made me more anxious. I tried art. Didn’t work. I took my anti-anxiety med. Kind of worked.

In desperation, I decided that I would continue working on the next nerve quilt. This one is about regeneration. I decided I was done screwing around trying to find the PERFECT DESIGN, and decided the design I had worked out said what I needed it to say. I decided I was done trying to find the PERFECT COLOR COMBINATION and decided the fabrics I picked out worked well and said what I needed them to say. I cut and pinned. I wanted to start sewing down pieces, but my sewing room doesn’t have good light and I wasn’t sure I was seeing the thread colors correctly. Today, I’ll look at the threads I’ve picked out and make a decision. Then, I’ll start raw edge applique and start some embroidery with Razzle Dazzle.

Nerve regeneration 2 3-23-18

Nerves regenerate. If an axon is damaged or dies, the nerve cell can grow a new axon. Or grow new dendrites. It’s called plasticity. The last nerve conduction study showed that the nerve cells in my lower legs had grown new axons. I got all kinds of plasticity going on inside of me and my nerves are regenerating. The neurologists who smile at me and hand me prescriptions for more useless drugs are, as I suspected, full of shit.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a great, one of a kind gift? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Grief, Pain

Maybe I’m Headed Back To Normal

I thought it was just situational depression. Fearing that a nerve conduction study would show that I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life in pain is depressing. There’s a logical reason for the depression. I knew I was suicidal, and I told people about wanting to kill myself. I told Jim and a friend how I planned on killing myself. Hold the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, use hollow point ammunition, and squeeze the trigger. Fast and lethal. When I went for my nerve conduction study, I had to fill out pages and pages of information. I detailed, for an entire page, that I was suicidal, that I had a plan for killing myself, and that I had brought Jim with me in case I needed someone to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home. I formulated a plan for dealing with the police who I was sure would be called. I’d remain calm, I’d be sure not to do or say anything that could possible be construed as a threat to others thereby ensuring that if I didn’t want to go to a hospital, and I didn’t, the police would need a court order to take me to a hospital. Court orders take time. I was pretty sure I’d have about an hour in which to disappear if necessary.

I had a great plan.

No one talked to Jim about me. No one called the police. No one asked me about being suicidal. Probably because no one read the damn paperwork.

I have two bad days a year, April 1 and June 24. April 1 was my late sister’s birthday. June 24 is the anniversary of her death. April 1 is approaching and I’m depressed. My mother, a horrible narcissist, decreed that no one tell me my sister was sick or that she had died. I only knew because a friend saw the obit and called to ask how I was doing. Some years are better than others. I assumed this wasn’t one of the better years. There’s a logical reason for the depression. It would pass after April 1. I just had to wait a few days and the depression would be gone.

Since March 6, 2012, the day after finally being accurately diagnosed bipolar, I had been on both a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. After the Lexapro and lithium stopped working, I came off them one at a time. I went through withdrawal, then saw my doctor. She prescribed Wellbutrin and Lamictal. I was on the best set of psych meds I’d ever been on.

I started having problems right after the inauguration last year. I was sure the problems were situational. We have a president who brags about being a sex offender. I went into the second worst manic episode I’ve ever had. I tried increasing the Wellbutrin, but that gave me hallucinations. Or maybe there really was a tiny bug pushing a huge dust bunny along the bathroom wall. Backed off on the Wellbutrin and increased the Lamictal. That worked. Once the crisis had passed, I went back to my regular dosage. Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t solved. I started having hallucinations last August and made the decision to come off Wellbutrin. Hallucinations are a good reason to suspect you’re either on the wrong medication or on the wrong dose. I went through 12 weeks of withdrawal which was not only miserable for me, it was miserable for anyone who had the misfortune to be around me.

I thought that because I am retired and no longer working in a hostile, hateful, stressful, and downright miserable environment, perhaps I could get by with just a mood stabilizer. My doctor agreed with my decision. She knows I’ll be back if I’m wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized the depression wasn’t situational. It was permanent. It was a part of my mental illness. I cried because I was depressed. I cried because I felt like a failure for needing to go back on antidepressants. I grew up in a family where seeing a therapist was worse than walking naked into McDonalds at noon. A household run by drunks has one inviolate rule: Don’t tell. I was a failure. I would always be a failure.

In the midst of this, I realized I need to go back on antidepressants. I found my supply of Wellbutrin, cut a pill in half, and took it. Within two hours, I had a complete personality transformation.

I will continue to take a half pill a day and see how this works. I’ve been on a number of antidepressants, and needed to come off every one of them. I came off Effexor when I hung onto the living room wall to keep the universe from spinning out of control. I came off Paxil when I realized that I could not continue living as I was living. Take my Paxil dose, things are fine, then I was out of control and the dose had to be raised. Again and again. I came off Lexapro when my meds stopped working and I was bouncing off the ceiling. After coming off Lexapro, I looked in the mirror and wondered when I had gotten so grossly overweight. I looked around the house and wondered when it had gotten so cluttered. I looked and the clothes I had been wearing to work and wondered whatever possessed me to wear such outfits.

I didn’t gain weight on Wellbutrin. I lost weight although not enough to get down to a healthy weight. I wore normal clothes. I cleaned the bathroom although I’ve still got clutter I want to remove.

When I go back on medication, I go back down the rabbit hole. Again. I enter a cycle that can’t be broken or altered. I enter med adjustment which lasts about 6 months. Then I am in the eye of the hurricane and my life is under control. Then the meds stop working – all psych meds eventually stop working – and I enter med hell. I stay there until I am sure I cannot stay there any longer. Then I enter withdrawal which lasts a minimum of 6 weeks and up to 12 weeks. I long for the ease of heroine withdrawal where all that’s required is puking and pooping for three days. I am forced to repeat this cycle until I die.

To those who reached out to me after my last, depressing, suicidal blog post, thank you. You will never know and I cannot express how much you helped.

On an artistic note….I finished the nerve quilt. And I’m working on a design for the next nerve quilt. While this quilt is about frustration, the next quilt is about healing. I’m getting there. It’s just going to take longer than I want.

Nerve Quilt 1 3-19-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. checkout what other artists have been doing.

Want to see the art I have for sale? Check out my website: Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Baking, Beads, Cognitive problems, Emotions, Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

The Coffee Cake Cupcakes Were Good

I’m doing better, but it was a horrible week. I had a nerve conduction study on Tuesday. I wasn’t afraid of what it would show; I was terrified of what it wouldn’t show. If the study showed tarsal tunnel, I’d be fine. That can be corrected surgically. If the study showed it wasn’t tarsal tunnel, I’d be stuck being in pain with not relief.

When the neuropathy flares, the pain routinely hits 7. The last time, it was bad enough that suicide looked like a good idea. I even planned out how I would do it. I’ve got a .22 calibre pistol. The advantage of a .22 is that it bounces around inside and cases more damage than a 9mm. I figured I’d use hollow point ammunition. Hollow point bullets are designed to flare upon impact and damage more tissue. If I held the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, I’d be sure to blow a nasty, as opposed to nice, hole in my heart. I figured I’d have only one shot at killing myself and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to survive this shot. Naturally I’d do this outside so Jim wouldn’t be stuck cleaning up a mess in the house. Then I came up with a better idea. I’d go back to the neurology clinic at University of New Mexico and tell whatever neurologist was handy that I was tired of being ignored, I was tired of neurologists refusing to find out why I’m in pain and I was tired of being handed yet another prescription for yet another useless drug. So, if you can’t be bothered listening, let me put this in words you won’t be able to ignore. Bang. Why should Jim have to clean up any of the mess? Maybe, just maybe, one of those genius neurologists would start to listen to patients. And if not, at least I wouldn’t be in pain any more. I would just have to remember to tell Jim not to accept my body. Let the state pay for the cremation.

That scared the shit out of me.

The closer it got to the nerve conduction study, the more anxiety I had, the more depression I had, and the more terrified I was that I was going to have to commit suicide. I had Jim come to the appointment with me in case I needed him to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home.

One of the ways I deal with anxiety is to cook or to make art. I found a recipe for sourdough coffee cake and made coffee cake cupcakes. I brought them to my neurobiology class on Tuesday morning. The class enjoyed them. Then I started working on a quilt. More about the quilt in a few paragraphs.

When I got to the doctor’s office Tuesday afternoon, I filled out a good dozen pages of history and information. I had to list my allergies on at least three pages. I had to answer how much I agreed or disagreed with a list of statements.

“I enjoy talking to attractive people.” I wrote: You’ve got to be kidding me.

I spent an entire page writing about being suicidal and having a working plan for killing myself. I warned Jim that someone would probably be talking to him about me being suicidal. I expected to be sequestered in a room and have a police officer come in and try to convince me to go to a hospital. There are three ways to get someone into a mental hospital. Voluntarily go; commitment by court order; or if the person has committed an offense for which the person could be arrested, the police could take the person to a mental hospital for a mental exam without order of the court.

Under no circumstances would I voluntarily go to a mental hospital. I’ve visited friends inside of locked wards. They all have a glassy expression, talked like they were underwater, and shuffled when they walked. No thanks. I don’t need more drugs.

A court order takes time and I knew I couldn’t be held in a room against my will. I could get up and walk out of the doctor’s office. I knew I had to be extremely careful not to do or say anything that could be construed as a threat against another person.

So what happened? Nothing. No one talked to Jim. No one asked me about being suicidal. I doubt anyone read a word I wrote.

I told the doctor, a pain management specialist, that I wanted to be able to see the monitor during testing. So he told me about his experience. Somewhere in there, I mentioned I have an undergrad degree in biology. Unfortunately, I was facing the wall when he asked, “Are you a neurophysiologist?” “No. I’m an attorney.” I would have loved to see his expression.

I did get to see the graphs for a number of the tests. Because of my neurobiology class, I had a pretty good idea what I was looking at and I could keep up with the medical terminology. The tests showed a lowered amplitude on the action potential. Translated: the electrical impulse in my nerve wasn’t as strong as expected. I have a slower velocity than expected. Translated: the impulse travels down my nerve axon slower than “normal.” The tests also showed there had been problems with the axons connecting to my leg muscles, but I had grown new axons to take the place of the defective axons. That’s nerve regeneration and it does happen.

My nerves are dead or dying and this isn’t going to get better. Fortunately, I was too depressed to be suicidal. Yes, there are levels of depression so deep that one would have to feel better to commit suicide.

The pain management specialist said he had no way to treat me. That’s okay. I would never let this guy treat me. I told him the only reliable pain killer was making art. He tried telling me that was a diversion. No, this isn’t like Lamaze. The pain stays gone after I stop making art. I don’t think he liked hearing that. It’s tough to make money prescribing art.

I did some thinking the next day.  I realized I don’t have dead nerves. I know this because I felt every one of those impulses. Then I did some research. Then on Thursday I had a chat with my neurobiology teacher. I had some of the amplitude problem figured out although I had the wrong ion. I had the velocity figured out, although the problem might not be as bad as I thought. I looked at the results of blood work done in December. I remembered what my primary care doctor told me.

The blood work showed a mild potassium deficiency and my triglyceride level is way higher than it should be. My chiropractor told me that peripheral neuropathy is a metabolic problem. The potassium deficiency at least contributes to the neuropathy. I had been monitoring my blood glucose levels and keeping a food diary. My primary care doctor told me that the glucose levels are indicating a problem. I’m not diabetic or even pre-diabetic. My doctor told me that if I continue to monitor my glucose levels and learn what foods to avoid, keep exercising and keep losing weight, the triglyceride level should go down to normal. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My nerves have already proven they will regenerate. I’m hoping that fixing the potassium deficiency will reverse the neuropathy.

Here’s the quilt I’ve been working on. I have finished putting the beads on the dendrites. I’m working on quilting it. I’m quilting by hand around the dendrites and the axon. I’ll be quilting the graph for a healthy action potential on the quilt. The axon has vesicles containing neurotransmitters and one vesicle releasing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are how nerves communicate with each other. Note that the neurotransmitters aren’t being accepted by any of the receptors (beads) on the dendrites.

IMG_5418IMG_5422

The working polite title is: Damn it, LISTEN to me.

The real title, which would keep this piece from ever being accepted into any quilt show on the planet, is: Get back here motherfucker, sit the fuck down and LISTEN TO ME.

I’m no longer suicidal. I’m working on getting healthier.

I got a new lens for the Canon. It’s a Tamron 18-400mm zoom telephoto. I’ve tested it out and I love this lens. It gives me way sharper shots than I was getting with a generic 75-300mm zoom telephoto. I even get sharp macro shots at 400mm. I went out to Soledad Canyon to do some shooting yesterday. My brain is still messed up from all the anxiety – anxiety that was worse than I had when I took a bar exam. I forgot my phone. I forgot I had used a custom white balance and neglected to switch back to automatic white balance. I’m shocked that the colors came out right. I forgot I had used exposure compensation and many of the shots are badly over exposed. At first, I thought there was a problem with autofocus. Nope. Autofocus is nearly silent.

Soledad Canyon 6 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 5 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 4 -16-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Take a look at what other artists have done this week.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Beads, Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Quilts

Listen To Me

I love my neurobiology class. I signed up for the class because I wanted to understand the peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I still don’t understand what’s happening in my feet, but I’m learning a ton of intriguing stuff.

I learned that the writers of the series Homeland screwed up when they wrote about the effects of sarin gas. I knew they screwed up because if the story line were accurate, the antidote for sarin would have guaranteed the person died. It’s good to know stuff like this. I did some research and asked my teacher if I had figured out the mistake right. For the most part, I had. I missed when I assumed a particular medical reaction, but I was right with the rest of it.

I learned that when a vesicle binds with a receptor, the cell membrane expands. In order to keep the cell the original size, a piece of membrane has to be removed. The process is remarkably like sewing a dart. That caused my brain to start working on quilt designs. I wasn’t happy with what I was sketching, so I started playing with lines and color. Much more satisfying, but not something I could turn into a quilt unless I wanted to spend several months hand sewing curved pieces. Which I don’t want to do.

Meanwhile, my primary care doctor noticed that no one had looked for tarsal tunnel syndrome. That’s the ankle version of carpal tunnel syndrome. I subsequently discovered that was one of the first things the eight neurologists I had seen should have checked. I’m furious. I’ve been in pain for five years. I’ve told all eight of these neurologists that I wanted whatever was wrong with my feet fixed. Find the cause, treat the cause, and the nerves regenerate. They smiled at me and handed me a prescription for useless drugs. I have another nerve conduction study scheduled for next Tuesday. If the problem is tarsal tunnel – and the nerve conduction study will answer that question – then the problem can be easily fixed surgically.

Anger and fascination merged. I want a quilt that says how furious I am, how frustrated I am, and how downright pissed off I am. I want a quilt that speaks with words a neurologist can understand. The working title is: Damn it, LISTEN to me.

Nerve Quilt use this one 3-9-18

It’s a dendrite with receptors and an axon with an axon terminal. Briefly, the axon terminal (green piece) contains the neurotransmitters in vesicles and the vesicles bind to a receptor on the dendrite (blue piece). When the neurotransmitters are released there’s a chemical communication between the nerve cells. Axons and dendrites are contained on the same neuron. I’m only showing part of two neurons here. I’m the axon and the dendrite is the eight neurologists too arrogant to listen to me. I’m pretty satisfied with the design but I want to do a little tweaking with the axon. I think it would be better if it curved more. Yes, there will be beads. Beads for receptors and beads for neurotransmitters. I need to work out what colors I want to use for the background, dendrite and axon. I haven’t decided if I want the dendrite to be darker than the axon. I know I want the axon to be bright and colorful. I’ve got a batik for the axon in mind that I think will work. Perhaps a darker, more muted batik for the dendrites. Then I have to figure out the background color. I’m trying not to rely on off-white or black. Something that would be surprising and unexpected would be nice.

Do these beads make my dendrite look fat?

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by her blog and see what other artists have been working on.

If you’re looking for a gift or for something special for yourself, please stop by my on-line store, Deb Thuman Art here..

Posted in bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems

What goes on behind my eyes?

I understand laetrile. Remember laetrile? The peach pit pseudo drug that was supposed to cure breast cancer and instead killed women? I understand why women took laetrile. I have my own laetrile. Meditation. And I’m clutching it as tightly as I can. I want it to work.

I had to choose and read a research paper for my neurobiology class and I chose a paper on the effects meditation has on the brain. Briefly, just as you can exercise and grow muscle mass, you can meditate and grow brain mass. The researchers selected two groups; one comprised of regular meditators and one comprised of those who don’t meditate. Because there are many ways to meditate, the researchers chose to limit the meditation practice to Brain Wave Vibration meditation .

The researchers took MRI images of the participant’s brains and discovered specific areas of the brain where the meditators had more brain mass than the same areas in the brains of the non-meditators.

So what? Glad you asked. Several years back, I read a paper about physical changes in the brains of people suffering from PTSD. There were deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain. More recently, I read about deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain of those who have bipolar disorder. This explained – or seemed to explain – why I have trouble concentrating and why I have scattered thoughts.

Does each form of meditation grow brain mass? Does each form target specific areas of the brain? If so, can a specific form of meditation replace the brain matter my bipolar/PTSD brain is missing? If so, will that cure me? Did the bipolar disorder cause parts of my brain to atrophy? Or did the brain deficits cause the bipolar disorder?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but I’m not waiting for more research. I have taken up meditation although I’ve taken a scattered approach to the form of meditation. I have an app on the iPad that gives me choices of a whole lot of different types of meditation and different topics of meditation. Calm anxiety. Visualize health in your body. Healing grief – a meditation that triggered a wave of PTSD flashbacks. I want my brain back. I want to be able to concentrate without thoughts flying around like billiard balls after a successful break. I want this NOW. Except meditation doesn’t work that way. The brain mass grows gradually and I won’t be able to chart the growth the way I can chart weight loss.

Psych meds treat symptoms of mental illness, but they don’t cure mental illness. Pysch meds are expensive in several ways. Without insurance, my generic mood stabilizer would be more than $128 a month. My mood stabilizer keeps me from screaming, but it gives me brain fog. My scattered thoughts scatter farther and my concentration decreases. At least I’m not screaming.

I want a cure so I hang on to my laetrile known as meditation for dear brain health.

Today is International Women’s Day. When I entered college the first time, I was 25 years old and women had to have higher SAT scores and higher grades than men needed to be admitted to college. When I graduated in 1981, I had earned two degrees, one in journalism and one in biology. At that time, there were two women professors in the biology department of Buffalo State College and one allowed students to address her as Mrs. Wilson rather than Dr. Wilson. One of my physics classes had a higher than usual number of women. There were five of us. One was planning on being an engineer. I was in the biology program. I don’t know about the other three.  There were no women professors in the chemistry department. One chemistry teacher told me I was incapable of learning. Another refused to answer questions asked by female students. Until the day I forced him to answer my question. He told me he had been teaching for 26 years and he never met anyone as insolent as me. I told him I’d been learning for 26 years and I’d never met a teacher who refused to answer women’s questions. I could feel the other students’ fear and shock.

I started law school on my 38th birthday in 1990. Mine was the first law school class that was 50% women.

I’m now in a neurobiology class that’s roughly half women and is taught by a woman. One day, I kept track and discovered that the male students asked or answered questions approximately twice as often as women. Real changes in the sciences, like growing brain mass, take an inordinate amount of time.

To every woman in a STEM program or working in a STEM field, I offer this advice: Never let the male motherfuckers stop you.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

Posted in Beads, Fiber, Jewelry, Pain, Photography, Quilts

It’s Not Called Art Therapy For Nothing

I’m getting my energy back s-l-o-w-l-y. The infection is now gone and I don’t miss it. I’m still furious that tarsal tunnel, the ankle version of carpal tunnel, wasn’t ruled out 5 years ago. That should have been one of the first things any of the 8 neurologists looked for. But it’s so much more profitable to pat me on the head, smile when I say I want to know what’s causing the pain, and hand me another prescription for another drug that doesn’t work well. I have a nerve conduction study done on March 13. This time, I want to ask if there’s a way I can be positioned so I can see the computer monitor. I’ve now got a pretty good idea what those graphs mean and I want to see what’s going on inside of me.

I had been sleeping on the sofa because that was the only way I could keep the TENs unit attached to me while I sleep. I toss and turn which pulls the leads out of the dermatodes. There’s no room to toss and turn on the sofa so the leads stayed attached. Either I keep the TENs unit attached all night or I’m up in severe pain after a couple hours. I discovered that if I wear fleece socks, the leads don’t come unattached. This means I can sleep in my bed again. And I can use my CPAP machine which I can’t use in the living room. The outlets aren’t in the right places.

Armed with coupons and knowing fleece was on sale, I went to JoAnn’s in search of fleece that stretched in at least one direction. Some fleece will stretch, some won’t. I picked out five fleece fabrics and bought a yard of each. I’m using a Green Pepper pattern. The big thing is to make sure I’ve got the pattern pieces oriented so the stretch is in the proper direction. I finally found my ribbing so I used that for the cuffs.

Socks 4 3-4-18Socks 3-4-18Socks 2 3-4-17Socks 1 3-4-18Better black socks 3-4-18

The other day in my neurobiology class, the teacher was explaining how when the vesicle in the axon terminal binds to the receptor on the dendrite, the cell membrane gets larger. This requires a bit of the cell membrane to be removed from the side of the terminal. Ah ha! It’s like sewing a dart! And that’s when the designs started flowing.

Nerve quilt 1 3-4-18Nerve quilt 2 3-4-18Nerve qilt 3 3-4-18

Then, I took a little walk through my brain.

A walk through my brain 3-4-18

I’ve also been working on jewelry.

Necklace 2 3-4-18Necklace 1 3-4-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Please stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a gift? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography, Sexual Assault Is Wrong

I Need A Nap

I’m exhausted and stuck in a circle. I had pain in my feet so I couldn’t sleep. That lowered my resistance and I developed an infection. Then I couldn’t sleep because I had pain in my feet. Then I did some research on the nerve conduction series I had done and discovered the paperwork I had only said: the observed results are equal to or less than the expected results. I was so angry that I had difficulty breathing. Then I read the two stories assigned for my writing class. One was about date rape. The second about gang rape. Then I had an allergy attack and needed to take a decongestant which prevented me from sleeping for 40 hours. Then I went to my doctor, got put on antibiotics and discovered I’m not pre diabetic – not even close. She gave me a referral for an orthopedic surgeon because the pain in my feet may be from the ankle version of carpal tunnel syndrome. Then I decided I was too upset about the stories that tried to portray rape as simply “guy behavior” and it’s not necessary to get upset about it.  Then I decided I couldn’t stomach going to class. Then I discovered that the ankle tunnel syndrome should have been the first thing that was checked for when I started seeing doctors about the pain in my feet. If I just spent the last five years in hell because someone forgot to check the obvious, I’m going to be beyond furious. Then I filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment against my writing teacher.

And now, I’m exhausted. I will be unprepared for my neurobiology class on Tuesday. I don’t have the energy to read the text book. I tried yesterday, but nothing I read stuck in my head.

I dyed sports bras yesterday. Jim helped. I tried to figure out how much dye to put In each bucket and miscalculated. I used twice as much dye as I needed. The colors are BRIGHT. The sports bras are now in my store, Deb Thuman Art,  here.

Ivory BraWatermelon Bra 2-25-18Peach bra 2-25-18Parakeet bra 2-25-18Orchid bra 2-25-18Blue Bra 2-25-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Stop by and check out what other artists have been doing.

Posted in Baking, Jewelry, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy

Coming Up Radishes

My feet hurt. I’m sleeping in two-hour blocks because that’s about how long it takes for the pain to be bad enough that I can’t sleep. To be able to get any sleep, I need to use my TENS unit. I was sleeping on the sofa. I toss and turn in my sleep and if I sleep in bed, the tossing and turning pulls the leads out from the dermatodes. I can’t toss and turn on the sofa. I also can’t sleep well on the sofa because I can’t use my CPAP. Yes, getting older sometimes sucks. Then I discovered that my fleece socks will hold the lead ends still enough that I can sleep in bed. This is good although it has taken me two days to recover from the exhaustion I’ve been feeling.

My neurobiology class is on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and I’ve been having a manic episode. Medicated manic episodes feature me cooking. Must….make…..King…..Cake……. So I decided to make King Cake for the class on Mardi Gras. Not wanting to bother with paper plates, knives and such, I decided to make King Cake cupcakes. I had never made a King Cake before, so this was an experiment. King Cake is a sweet, yeast dough and has a filling. The recipe from King Arthur Flour  here calls for a cream cheese filling.

I could have followed the recipe exactly, but what fun would that be? I added minced lime peel and lime powder to the dough and used coconut flour rather than all purpose flour in the filling. Yes, I made a cocktail King Cake.

I made the dough in the bread machine. When the dough was done, I cut the dough into halves and cut each half into 24 pieces. I put a piece on the bottom of each cupcake paper. Then I made filling and put a lump of filling on each cupcake bottom. There was way more filling than needed for 24 cupcakes, so I had to make another batch of dough for a King Cake loaf. Then I put a top on each cupcake and made another batch of dough.

The cupcakes, which weren’t supposed to double in bulk, rose to great heights. Putting bottoms and tops around filling isn’t a great idea. I had filling spilling out of cupcakes. I baked them anyway. Except the oven was too small for all four cupcake containers and I had to use the convection part of the microwave oven to bake two of the containers.

Meanwhile, the second batch of dough was finished. I put a bottom layer of dough in the bread pan, spread filling on the dough, and smooshed down the top layer of dough. This batch also rose to great heights.

Once all the cakes were done and cooled, I made frosting. I used plain frosting for the cupcakes. I don’t like adding alcohol when I’m giving away baked goods. One never knows who might be adversely effected and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the cupcakes.

King Cake Cupcakes

For the loaf, I used rum in place of milk in the frosting. Just in case you ever need to know this, adding a shot of rum to two cups of confectioner’s sugar is overkill.

King Cake Loaf

Then I had to pack the cupcakes into an oversized, cake carrier.

I spent Monday night in pain and got maybe four hours’ sleep. I had Jim drive me to class. I was stoned on gabapentin, which wasn’t doing much for the pain, and needed to use my hiking stick to be able to walk from the car to my class. People are real nice to you when you are wearing sunglasses, using a hiking stick, wearing a backpack and carrying an oversized cake carrier.

Although they were weird looking, the Mardi Gras King Cake cupcakes were enjoyed.

I’ve discovered the only thing that reliably kills the pain is art. So I’m making lots of beaded jewelry. Yes, there will be photos eventually. I’m wondering, though. I’m considering trying Cymbalta to combat the pain. But…..it’s addictive, I just got my brain back after coming off Wellbutrin and I’m not looking forward to brain fog, and if Cymbalta doesn’t work, or stops working, it will take me a minimum of 6 weeks of withdrawal to get off the stuff.

Meanwhile, I’ve started the garden. The radishes, in the ceramic planter, came up first. I’ve not got a few tomato plants up, some peppers peeking through the soil, and a few sensitivity plants up.

Radishes

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please stop by my store Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Emotions, Jewelry, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography, PTSD

Art And Other Stuff

I got up early on Wednesday to shoot the eclipse. I had good and not so good results. I was able to shoot the eclipse until only a tiny slice of moon was left. I wanted to shoot the rest of the eclipse, but the moon fell behind clouds then set behind the mountains.

Eclipse 1A 1-31-18 Use this oneEclipse 2 1-31-18Eclipse 3 1-31-18Eclipse 6 1-31-18Eclipse 8 1-31-18

I’ve been making more jewelry. I had ordered a new supply of beads and I’ve been playing with designs. These are all in my store, Deb Thuman Art. I’ve got these and a number of other pieces sale priced for Valentine’s Day. Shipping is included in the price.

Purple peacock earrings

Glass peacock feather earrings.

Oblong green earrings

African opal and glass.

Heart earrings 1 2-2-18

Brass hearts.

Green peacock earrings

Glass peacock feather earrings.

Green glass earrings

Recycled green glass earrings.

I’ve been having severe pain in my feet this week. I had to miss my neurobiology class on Thursday because I can’t function on three hours sleep. I love that class, but I had been frustrated by all the emphasis on the brain. I’ve got pain in my feet, my brain is just dandy. Or is it? I’ve been reading Childhood Interrupted. In the book, the authors mention healing neural pathways in the brain. The theory is that once the brain is healed, then the other diseases will also heal. I know there’s a mind/body interaction. I know that PTSD causes physical changes in the brain – changes that can be healed and reversed. Perhaps the real reason I was drawn to take neurobiology has nothing to do with my feet but rather with healing old wounds. Gabapentin doesn’t cure peripheral neuropathy or even halt the progression of the nerve damage. What it does is more or less stop the pain. Sometimes. Other times, it just leaves me stoned and walking into walls.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Looking for a special gift for the special person in your life? Check out the Valentine’s Day Special in my store here.

Posted in Emotions, Fiber, Sexual Assault Is Wrong

Swimming Upstream

I got the messenger bag sort of done. I measured, then made the strap a bit too short. I allowed 1.5 inches to sew into a seam so I’ve got room to fix this. It’s usable with the strap as is, but not what I really want. I wanted to sew the straps into the seam that connects the bag to the lining, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. There’s a recessed zipper, and …. oh, shit. I just figured out how to sew the strap into the seam. Guess I need to make a few more of these bags.

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Front with zippered pocket on the flap.

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Back with zippered pocket.

As I guide, I followed this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8YHMqJi3a8 This woman has a number of videos on sewing, and I find them wonderfully helpful. I’ve been sewing for 53 years, but I didn’t know how to install a zipper properly until I watched her videos.

I wanted a bag that would accommodate my full-size iPad Pro and have room for my wallet, phone, keys, and other things I need to have. I put zippered pockets in the back of the bag, the flap, in both sides inside and put a welt pocket in the inside.

IMG_5255IMG_5253

The welt pocket continues down behind the zippered pocket.

What I couldn’t figure out is how to attach a water bottle holder. I’ll have to do some thinking about that one.

I started my writing class and neurobiology class last week. After one of the students in my writing class said she was going to law school in the fall, the teacher said she’d be doing a lot of fiction writing. Even if she writes contracts, she would be doing fiction writing. So when it came my turn to introduce myself, I told him I’m an attorney, I find his comments about legal writing offensive, and how would he like it if I told stupid English teacher jokes. I’ll get what I can from this class. Only one fiction writing workshop is offered each semester and the teachers take turns teaching it. I do like the idea of having a number of teachers so I can see an assortment of approaches.

My neurobiology teacher is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Although I find myself at a disadvantage because I haven’t taken a biology class since 1981, I’m still having my brain zip around ideas while the teacher is talking. I’m going to love this class. I’m wondering if this is going to rekindle my love of biology. One of my undergrad degrees is in biology and I considered going to grad school to become a biologist. One day, after seeing an image from an electron microscope and learning about thylocoids, I decided a thylocoid was way too big and clunky to understand. Then I realized I was calling something that could only be seen with an electron microscope big and clunky. One day, I walked out of my organic chemistry class trying hard to understand the bond between two atoms and decided that was too big and clunky to understand. When I realized what I had just termed big and clunky, I decided being a biologist would end with me in a locked ward. So I stuck with journalism until I went to law school.

On Thursday, Jim and I went up to Albuquerque to the neurology clinic at the University of New Mexico med school. I had been going to the clinic at the med school in El Paso. At the clinic in El Paso, I kept wondering if I were the only one in the room who had taken cell biology. Then I discovered I really was the only one in the room who took cell biology. At the clinic in Albuquerque, I got to talk to a neurologist who is a microbiologist. Yes! My work in college was mostly with plants, but my real passion is microbiology.

Today was the Women’s March in Las Cruces. I didn’t go. The women who organize it are too cheap to pay for security. They would have to agree to pay the overtime rate for off-duty police officers. I suspect only 3 or 4 officers would be needed. Instead, they have two women who are “trained in verbal de-escalation.” Right. Try talking sense to a skinhead or a bullet. Yes, 911 can be called and the police would arrive within five minutes. Sounds like a short time, right? Imagine a skinhead with an AR-15 or a baseball bat. Now give the skinhead five minutes to do damage. How many people can be hurt or killed in five minutes?

There’s another reason I didn’t go. I’m still raw inside. I’m still pissed we have a sociopath sex offender for president. I’m still pissed that we have to fight against sexual harassment. I’m still pissed that standing up against sexual assault in my writing class last semester resulted in me being told to shut up by both my teacher and the head of the English department. I’m still pissed that my teacher retaliated by giving me a lower than deserved grade. I didn’t think I could get through the rally and march without crying. And it would be too emotionally difficult to explain why I was crying.

I’m still going to speak out and I don’t give a crap what the cost will be. I’m still going to stand up for what I believe to be right. I’m still going to stand up for a woman’s right to go through life free from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

I’m just not about to risk death or injury to do it.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.  Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Thinking about a Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie – or yourself? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Beads, Fiber, Pain, Photography

Making Some Changes and a Messenger Bag

We took a little vacation this past week. The original plan was to go up to Albuquerque, spend a day at Bosque del Apache wildlife preserve, a day in Albuquerque and a day in Santa Fe.

We drove up on Monday, and stopped at Bosque del Apache so I could do some bird and critter photography. Mostly bird. I learned a few things. It’s tough to get a decent bird in flight photo. A telephoto lens doesn’t do what I thought. I still had little birds in a big pond. I had to crop like crazy to get a half-decent shot. My telephoto doesn’t have image stabilization which makes it just about impossible to use without a tripod. And it’s just about impossible to use a tripod to photograph birds. Even on the ground, birds move fast.

Cranes 1 1-8-18Seriously cropped crane 1-18-18

Sandhill cranes.

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I couldn’t resist an artsy shot. The water was dead still and the sun was in the perfect position to catch this reflection.

Duck 1 1-8-18Swimming ducks 2 1-8-18

No idea what kind of ducks these are.

I did see a bald eagle – the first I’ve ever seen in the wild. I took a shot that I knew would be crappy. I wasn’t about to leave with out a shot – even if I would be the only one who knew it was of an eagle.

Bald Eagle 1-8-18

Note the details on the eagle’s feathers. That’s okay – I can’t see it either.

Canada geese look different in the southwest. I’m used to the northeast version with much darker coloring.

Canada Geese 1-8-18

 

Cropped flight 1-8-18

My only decent cranes in flight shot – and it’s not that great.

I’m now researching zoom telephoto lenses. I want something with decent glass and image stabilization. At the moment, I’m looking at Tamron lenses. I’ve heard good things about those lenses.

We skipped Santa Fe. Driving in the old part of the city is a challenge. The streets are narrow and lots of one-way streets. Parking is expensive. The newer part of Santa Fe looks pretty much like Albuquerque.

I did get to go to a gem store and replenish my semi-precious gem supply. I saw a magnificent string of yellow opals full of fire and sparkle. Unfortunately, the string cost $1800 which is well outside my budget.

I had forgotten to pack the gabapentin, which sometimes helps with the neuropathy pain. All I had with me was the TENS unit and CBD oil – something that also sometimes helps. By Wednesday morning, I was in enough pain that we decided to head for home. A winter storm was blowing in and I can’t see spending money to sit in a hotel room and watch it snow. Few people in New Mexico know how to drive in snow. Being on the road with inexperienced winter drivers is to be avoided whenever possible. We got home ahead of the storm.

My A1C test shows I’m in the pre-diabetes range. I need to make some serious changes in my eating and exercising habits. I bought a glucose monitor kit and I’m now keeping a log of glucose results and food. I want to see which foods will cause glucose spikes and which won’t.

I made vegetarian chicken soup today. As I cut up the carrots, I thought about how I need to eat more vegetables. As I cut up the celery, I thought about how I need to eat more vegetables. As I added peas, I thought about how I need to eat more vegetables. As I added the corn, I thought about how I need to eat more vegetables. As I added the can of chopped tomatoes, I thought about how I need to eat more vegetables. At that point, there was no room left in the 4-quart slow cooker for the chicken, which went back into the freezer. Jim and I will be eating this soup all week.

I’m working on a messenger bag. I thought I had designed it to hold my iPad Pro. I’ve got the 12.9″ version. Now that I’m putting the bag together, I think I might have made a miscalculation and it will be a touch too small. Nothing to do but keep on going and finish it. I’m putting a zippered pocket on the flap, a zippered pocket on the back, an welt pocket on the inside, and two zippered pockets on the inside.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

If you’re looking for a gift, or want to give yourself something nice, please stop by my web store, Deb Thuman Art here. Thanks.