Posted in Baking, Fiber, Photography, Quilts, Sciatica

Dangerous Time

I think I might be seeing a glimmer of light hinting the end of the tunnel is closer than I thought. A couple weeks ago, I tried to sew a quilted tote bag and made about every mistake that could be made. I forgot how to thread my machine. I forgot how to attach the free-motion quilting foot. I finally remembered I had to lower the feed dogs, and then couldn’t remember where the button that raises and lowers the feed dogs is located. 

One of my quilting friends commented that sewing is like riding a bicycle and my sewing skills will return. With that in mind, I decided to make something simple. I checked JoAnn’s on line to see what size pillow forms they carried. I chose to make a pillow cover to cover a 24” x 24” pillow. I love the fence rail quilt pattern. It’s simple, has no tricky seams, and I like the way it looks. I pulled two pieces of fabric out of my stash, and they worked perfectly together. Usually, I have to spend a few hours trying to figure out what fabrics I want to use. I’ve sewn the blocks together. I need to cut batting and backing, quilt it, attach two pieces of fabric to form backing, and it will be done. Then I have to buy a pillow form. 

The colors aren’t accurate. The green is more intense in real life.

I also like the churn dash pattern and I’m thinking I’ll use that for a pillow cover when I finish this one. 

My chiropractor explained that something I can do today isn’t necessarily something I can do tomorrow. I took the last week off from school. When I went to classes the Monday before, I had pain towards the end of the day. On Wednesday, the pain was worse. On Thursday, I came to my senses and decided I needed to heal for another week. Thank God the grades in my classes don’t matter. I’m not going towards another degree; I’m taking classes that interest me. In part it’s for the joy of learning, in part it’s to keep my brain working. Jim works at the university and I can take up to 6 credits a semester for free. Free fits into my budget and being retired, I have the entire week free to fill with school. I’ll go to classes on Monday and see how I feel. It’s tough to find the spot between doing nothing and doing too much. I know if I do nothing, I won’t heal. 

If I have to use a walker for another month or so, I need a more practical walker. I now have a 4-wheel drive Rollator with a seat and a basket. It’s going to be easier for me to get around school with four wheels rather than two. The wheels are bigger than the ones on the first walker. That should help me avoid many of the death traps plaguing sidewalks and parking lots. 

I’m now at the critically dangerous stage of healing. I’m tired of using a walker. I want to be independent. I want to be able to do the things I could do a couple months ago. And so I push myself and relapse. I’ll be back at school next week, and I’m planning on going to the gym. I’ll push my walker through the gym and I’ll only work on upper body. If I’m feeling particularly brave (or being particularly stupid), I’ll lower the weights and work on my legs. 

I bought a bunny cake pan. The pan makes 6 little bunny cakes. Three poses, and two bunnies for each pose. But I can’t stand long enough to bake. So Jim made the little cakes using King Arthur Flour vanilla pound cake recipe. If you’re making little cakes, they will bake in less time than a big cake. This makes sense, but my psych meds are still messing with my cognitive ability. And so the bunnies were a tad over done on the edges. But they tasted good and they are cute. 

The bunnies…

And the pan…

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com. Stop by and see what other artists are creating.

If you’re looking for one of a kind art, please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.debthumanart.com.

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Sciatica

A Dangerous Time

I have entered The Dangerous Time in my recovery from an angry sciatic nerve. I feel good. The pain is nearly non-existent. I think I can do things. Like walk through the grocery store. That walk is what started the relapse. I had some pain on Monday as I pushed my walker from one class to the next. I had more pain on Wednesday as I pushed my walker from one class to the next. I won’t be doing any more pushing for a while because I’m taking another week off from school. I don’t like doing that, but I really, really, really don’t like the idea of having to push this walker around for a few more months. This was week 5. According to the articles I’ve seen, sciatica is supposed to clear up in 6 weeks. That’s not going to happen . Yes, I have had this conversation with my sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve isn’t paying attention to me. 

I broke down and ordered a new walker. Buying a walker is not the best time to be economy minded. My current walker has 6” wheels on the front legs and end caps on the back legs. It’s not designed for use on pavement. What I ordered has four 7.5” wheels, hand brakes, a seat and a nifty basket under the seat. I’m thinking that the larger wheels will help avoid the death traps on the sidewalks and pavement. The smaller wheels on my current walker would get stuck in the sidewalk joins and in low spots on irregular pavement. The campus is rife with death traps. The seat will allow me to move baking ingredients from the pantry to the counter. I doubt I’ll ever sit on the seat, but I wanted a seat so I could put stuff on it rather than try to push a walker while holding something in my hand. I suspect I’ll need to use the walker for at least another month.

I discovered a leftover from the cognitive deficits that were part of the withdrawal from Cymbalta. I tried sewing, and couldn’t remember basic things. Like how to thread my machine. How to attach the free motion quilting foot. I forgot I needed to lower the feed dogs when I quilted. I forgot where the button is to lower the feed dogs. As a result, I made a quilted tote bag filled with technical errors. I always cut the batting and backing larger than what will be the top side of the quilt. Not this time. I cut the batting too short and too narrow. I had to diddle around joining additional pieces of batting to what I had cut out. The backing was also too narrow. I had to sew a strip onto the backing. I wanted to do a pillowcase type quilt. Sew all three layers together leaving a hole on one end, pull the inside of the bag out through the hole, and sew the hole closed. Ta da! No binding needed. I sewed the seam too narrow in spots and the backing didn’t get caught in the stitching. I did a row of top stitching around the quilt to fix that problem. Except it didn’t fix it. Deciding I wasn’t about to go crazy making this quilted tote bag, I left the gaps. I folded the quilt in half, sewed up the sides and proclaimed it finished. No, there will not be photos. I really don’t want something this filled with errors on the internet. Yes, I will use the tote bag. It’s a tote bag – not an art piece.

I get to find out in the coming week if my sewing brain has returned. When we were on vacation last August, I bought patterns for quilted purses and a quilted wallet. Last week, I bought a pattern for a quilted messenger bag. I was having a minor manic episode and that’s about the extent of my shopping spree. That and the bunny cake pan which makes six little bunny cakes. It is beyond cute. Manic episodes are supposed to be when those with bipolar disorder spend vast sums of money. I’m always careful when I’m manic and my spending sprees are limited to about $100.00. The other part of my manic episodes is culinary. I bake. I cook. I make home made pasta. The bunny cake pan hasn’t arrived yet and I’m looking forward to making little pound cake bunnies when the pan arrives. Yes, there will be bunny cake photos.

I decided to make the quilted wallet first and the messenger bag after that. The wallet has a long strap on it so it can be used as a mini purse. This is a great idea. When I’m at school, I put my wallet, credit card case, and assorted purse stuff in the backpack. If I want to go someplace after school, I need to move purse stuff from the backpack to my purse. I’m thinking that a wallet with a strap could double for a purse when I want to go somewhere after class.

I’ve had a lack of ambition lately, and I think maybe making art will pop me out of the blahs. It’s worth a try.

I’m finally able to stand long enough to block and photograph scarves. Being confined to the couch is conducive to knitting. I’m now playing with cotton yarn that I hand dyed. First, I knit some of the yarn. Then I dye the yarn. Then I unravel the yarn and get a mottled effect. I think there’s more life in yarn that isn’t a solid dye.

Hand dyed cotton scarf.
Playing with cables
Working on designing lace patterns.
Closeup of lace pattern

I’m linking with Nina Marie ,http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

If you are looking for one of a kind art pieces, please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art,www.debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, Garden, Photography

Getting Better

I’m now able to walk short distances without the walker although I’m still leery of trying any significant walking. I’ll be taking the walker with me when I go to school next week. I discovered I’m doing way more walking on campus than I thought.

I bought a yoga video that’s supposed to have poses that are good for your back. I suppose they are. I overdid it, and strained something. No lower back pain today, but the leg feels weaker. Sigh. I’ll be glad when this is over.

I finally got to do some baking yesterday. There were seriously over ripe bananas on the counter and the pastry chef textbook says the secret to great banana baking is to use very over ripe bananas. The muffins came out really good. The recipe is here:http://www.firsthomelovelife.com/recipe/maple-banana-muffinsif you want to give the muffins a try. We loved them. 

The iris is blooming! Here in the desert, iris blooms last only a few days. These photos are straight out of the camera. Today is the first time I’ve been able to do photography since the sciatica started.

This closeup is me playing around. I wanted to see if I could get a good shot of the innards of the flower. It’s sort of successful.

I’m linking with Nina Mariehttp://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Looking for one of a kind gifts? Please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art www.debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

Rolling On

I have sciatic pain. Apparently two major depressive episodes in three weeks is not healthy. The second episode was scary because I caught myself thinking being dead wouldn’t be so bad. I called my doctor and now have my psych meds tweaked. Meanwhile, I woke up in severe pain last week Monday. I couldn’t walk more than a few steps. I had to push a chair around because I didn’t have a walker. 

Now, I have a few life adjustments. I use a walker and will likely need it for at least 4 more weeks. I have to consider how far I can walk. I tested out my walking ability in the grocery store this morning. I want to go back to school on Monday and I needed to know if I could walk from the shuttle stop to my class. I’m pretty sure I can get that far. I was afraid I’d get halfway to where I need to go, my leg would give out, and I’d be stuck. I’ve missed two weeks of school and I don’t think I can catch up. I know the grades don’t matter; I’m not working towards another degree. I’ve seen too many retired people taking classes and all they are doing is taking up a place in the class. I don’t want to be like that. I want to get as much as I can from my classes.

One of the main roads on campus is torn up. As in removed right down to the soil. I have to cross that road to get from one class to the other. I’m not looking forward to pushing a walker through an uneven, messy, wet, muddy road. I’m not looking forward to trying to get in and out of buildings that don’t have door openers. The university is asking the state for a few million dollars and one of the projects to be funded is $40,000 for a patio outside the football coach’s office. I’ve been taking classes since 2000 (I’m the poster child for the over educated) and in that time, I’ve seen only one student in a wheelchair and only one student using a walker.

If you ever need a walker, get one with a seat. I didn’t, and I’m regretting it. If I have to stand for any length of time, it sure would be helpful to have a seat on which to place my knee. My walker came last Friday. My cupholder came a few days later. That cupholder allows me to go to Starbucks by myself. Such a little thing but means so much to me. I’m used to being independent. Now, I have to wait for someone to open the door for me so I can get in and out of buildings.

We now have a collection of night lights. I got up in the middle of the night Friday night because my foot hurt and I wanted to get my TENs unit. I’m not sure how this happened. I lost my balance, went flying to the floor, banged my head on the wall, and scraped up my hand and arm. Then the lamp fell down on top of me. Jim had to rescue me. I have positional vertigo and I do what I call ear exercises. The exercises help to reset the fluid in my ears. I did my exercises after my deep tissue massage and I feel steadier. I’m not old enough to be this old.

Eating dinner at Chili’s was….interesting. The fellow who was about to seat us asked if we wanted to sit in the bar. I asked him if he saw me using a walker. He did. “Do you really think I can climb up on those stools?” If I gotta be disabled, I’ll make darned sure to educate people on how not to be stupid.

I so wanted to make something for Pi Day, March 14. But I couldn’t stand long enough to bake anything. I wanted to make decorated cookies for Hibernian Heritage Day. I’m that rare combination of Scott-Irish and Polish Jew. I can’t bring myself to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I can celebrate Hibernian Heritage Day. I still can’t stand long enough to make cut out cookies and decorate them. No, Jim doesn’t want to bake per my instructions. He likes his own version of baking. We have a running discussion on whose oatmeal cookies are better. Jim adds chili powder. I use dried cherries rather than raisins. Adding chocolate chips is also good.

I finished another scarf. I can’t stand long enough to block it or photograph it. On this one, I played around a bit. I had worked out the lace pattern for the blue scarf, and the lace pattern on this scarf is based on the blue scarf. I kicked it up a notch.

My doctor tweaked my meds. I go from 3 mood stabilizers a day to 6. I’m supposed to add another pill each week. I go from 1 antidepressant to 2. The change left me with brain fog. Yesterday was the first day I could think clearly since I increased the doses. I’m thinking waiting two weeks rather than one week between increases will make it easier to adjust. I feel….safer now. I’m not worried about sinking into a dangerous depression or becoming suicidal. I feel….solid. Like I’m not going to fall below center.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Looking for some cool, one of a kind art? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.debthumanart.com.

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Fiber, Pain, PTSD, Sciatica

Some days, I just don’t feel like slaying dragons.

I can’t tell if I’m depressed or just royally pissed off. The muscles around my hips got tight enough to effect the sciatic nerve. I can’t get around without using a walker. I can’t take my vitamins because they are in a cupboard and I can’t reach them. I can get a glass out of the cupboard, but I can’t carry the glass to the sink to fill it with water. I can’t bring a drink from the kitchen to any part of the house because I need both hands to use the walker. My cupholder for the walker will arrive in a few days. 

I didn’t go to school last week because I was waiting for my walker to be delivered. I won’t be going to school this week because about 98% of the buildings are inaccessible. I only know of one restroom that’s accessible. There’s an office set up to “help” accommodate students who have disabilities. Yeah, right. The office is only to protect the university in the event of a lawsuit. Even if the office actually gave a shit about students, they couldn’t help me. I’d need someone with me all day to open doors for me. The someone would have to be a woman so I could use the restroom. The restroom by my first class has two doors. One door gets you into a sitting room. The second door gets you into where the toilets are. There isn’t a handicap stall so I would be forced to use the toilet with the stall door open.

I’ve been working on a bag to tie onto the walker so I could carry stuff. I used three placemats piled onto my cutting mat so I could iron the seams. I am not sure I can put the bag together. I need to cut out a backing, cut out batting, and sew the whole works together. But…the batting is not in the sewing room. It’s in the guest room. I bought 10 yards a few years ago so I’d always have batting when I needed it. I can’t lug the batting to the sewing room because I need two hands on the walker. I can only walk a few steps without the walker. Cutting out an 18” x 36” piece of fabric requires standing up. I can only stand on my own for a minute or two before the pain in my leg becomes unbearable.

I need to photograph a scarf I knitted so I can put the scarf in my on-line store. But I can’t get the white board out of the closet and get it over to the sliding glass door and I can’t stand up while I focus the camera. This is the best I can do…and it’s not very good.

So much of my life right now is restricted. I see the world in terms of what I can’t do. I can’t make the bed. I can’t change the sheets. I can’t do laundry. I can’t put away my clothes after Jim washes them. I can’t stand while brushing my teeth or blowing my hair dry. I can’t bake because I can’t get the mixer or the ingredients out of the pantry.

My appointment with my doctor arrived before my walker was delivered. I got as far as the reception area where I could check in and doubled over from the pain. I think I may have traumatized the poor woman who asked if I was all right. No, I’m not all right. She offered to get me a wheelchair. Did you know that driving a wheelchair is a whole lot harder than it looks? I found that out real fast.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I found videos on Youtube for exercises to help with the pain of sciatica. The exercises work. I had a deep tissue massage yesterday and that helped. I have rice bags that I made. I put them in the microwave, then wrap the hot bags in a dishtowel. I put the bags under my right hip and right calf. That helps. I thought when we had the house built that a ledge in the shower was luxury. I thought it would only be used when I shave my legs. Now, I sit on that luxurious ledge in order to take a shower. Jim put a chair in the bathroom so I could brush my teeth and dry my hair.

Still, even with all the help, I can’t do so many things. I can’t fix myself a cup of tea and bring it into my office because I need both hands on my walker. I can’t fix myself a bagel and bring it into my office because I need both hands on my walker. I can’t cook because I can’t get ingredients out of the pantry. I can’t open a can of soup and nuke it. I can get up to nuking it if I can reach the proper size container, but I can’t carry my soup to the table.

This misery came about after two major depressive episodes within three weeks. The pain started last Sunday and got worse over the next few days. My doctor tweaked my meds with the hope that the new doses will keep the depressive episodes away.

I never let bipolar disorder or PTSD stop me from doing what I want to do. I almost never run from my PTSD triggers. The two exceptions are a series on Amazon Prime that deals with treatment of veterans who have PTSD. I could see a problem starting as we watched the show. Fortunately, the show sucked and we switched the channel before I had an attack. The other time I ran was watching the news. I couldn’t bear to hear a teenager express her admiration of her parents because they got her help when she was suicidal. I had to mute the TV.

I’ve never run from bipolar disorder.

Mental illness never kept me down. My sciatic nerve is keeping me from doing nearly all the things I want to do. 

That’s why I don’t feel like slaying dragons today.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for one of a kind art? Please stop by my store Deb Thuman Art http://www.debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Psych meds, Suicide

Here’s Why I Have No Ambition

I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t feel like making art. I don’t feel like studying although I enjoy my two botany classes. I don’t feel like reading. I just looked at a recipe for banana cake with maple cream cheese frosting. Certainly a combination of flavors that will be wonderful. I don’t feel like making the cake although I could probably be convinced to make the frosting and eat it with a spoon. 

This was bothering me until I thought about the cause for the lack of ambition. In the last year, I’ve been through:

  • Deciding to commit suicide and coming back from the edge
  • Going on Cymbalta which I did reluctantly
  • Four infections in five months
  • Severe nerve pain
  • Having to report sexual harassment to the campus police
  • Having the joy sucked out of life and realizing the problem was Cymbalta
  • Coming off Cymbalta and going through horrendous withdrawal 
  • Having cognitive deficits from the withdrawal and not being able to find the street where I live
  • Having so many withdrawal problems that I was sure I was going to be hospitalized so I drafted an advance psychiatric directive and packed a bag before I went to my appointment with my doctor
  • Having breakthrough bleeding and doing the research to find the causes, treatments and incidence of uterine cancer
  • Having to wait a month for a biopsy and another week for the results
  • Having severe anxiety resulting in many cookies and scarves
  • The dishwasher broke just after Thanksgiving
  • Someone I knew committed suicide

No sane person would have any ambition after all that.

I look back, and wonder how I managed when I was working for the Public Defender Department. I think part of survival was to do what I really shouldn’t do – ignore what’s going on inside of me and keep myself busy so I don’t feel much. Now, I don’t have an extreme stress and adrenaline job. Now, I have time to take care of myself and no excuse not to take care of myself.

In Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar, she compares depression to being under a bell jar. From time to time, the bell jar lifts, but she knows it will always come back down. I had a mental health crisis this week. I sort of saw it coming on Wednesday night when I found myself thinking about suicide. The suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is 20 times the rate for people who aren’t bipolar.

I am 20 times as likely to commit suicide as you. That’s terrifying.

Thursday morning, the anxiety and depression increased. I cried a lot. I needed an extra ½ pill of Wellbutrin. I needed to take all three klonopin. I’ve been on the same dose for klonopin for the last 12 years. Sometimes I don’t need klonopin. Sometimes, I need one or two. Thursday, I needed three to stop the flutters in my chest.

Today, I feel the bell jar coming back down. On Monday, I’ll call my doctor and talk to her about increasing my meds. I don’t like living like this. Suicide terrifies me and I want to live.

Bipolar disorder: the ability to feel like crap 80% of the time.

I’m still knitting to keep the anxiety down. Here’s my latest scarf and it’s in my store: Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

I’ve Got The Browns

One of the tings I can do to make the bipolar crap go away is to immerse myself with art. Before, art was visual. This time, art is verbal. I’m working on the novel and just did a massive editing. I had Jim print out what I had written, and I went through the pages by hand. I’ll put all the changes into the computer when I finish editing. I’m playing around with an idea for something that I’ve never seen done before. Don’t know how well it’s going to work, but it’s an interesting exercise.

I’m also baking to keep the depression from getting any worse. I’m making croissants. Because of the time between turns and the amount of time the dough has to be in the refrigerator before I can turn it into croissants, I make the dough on Saturday and cut out, shape, and bake the croissants on Sunday morning. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Looking for a great gift? A treat for yourself? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Fiber, Grief, Suicide

Feeling Better, still…upset? Sad? Angry?

I’m still woking my way to understanding and sanity. I’ve written more conversations that I’ll never say out loud and that no one will ever read. Maybe. Someday. Right now, the feelings are still too raw. 

I’m closer to center, and I feel…solid. Like being centered is going to stay. Bipolar disorder is a lifetime full of mood surprises. I’ve no idea how long this solid feeling center will last. I do know that it won’t last. Sooner or late, I’ll have another mood surprise.

I did a google search to find a way to make sense of suicide and came across this site:https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900

It’s from the Mayo Clinic and I trust this website to have decent information. There’s a whole lot of inaccurate junk on the internet. So much of what is described in the article is an accurate description of what I felt and continue to feel. I’m troubled by the knowledge that I was brought back from the edge of suicide by a thin thread. Depending on your theology, this was either pure luck or divine intervention. Jim and I went hiking and I suddenly felt good. When we got home, the good feeling left and I realized I was depressed. I went on antidepressants immediately. I had no idea I was depressed. Yeah, right, Deb. How the heck can you be suicidal and not know you’re depressed. It’s easy. And that terrifies me. At the time I was aware that I was having a manic episode. I wasn’t aware I was having a mixed episode where both intense mania and intense depression coexist. Why am I allowed to continue life and John wasn’t? I want the world to make sense, and the world doesn’t make sense. The world has never made sense and will never make sense. I read murder mysteries and watch TV police dramas even though I know the shows are inaccurate. The world makes sense in murder mysteries and on television. Innocent people don’t go to prison in novels. Innocent people go to prison in courtrooms every day.

My world doesn’t make sense and I can’t figure out how to make the world make sense. And so I knit. And bake. This week, I made puff pastry. Um…..I’m not wild about puff pastry. I suppose it has its uses, but I don’t care for it.

I’ve made another scarf and bought yarn for four more scarves. So far, I’ve made 11 scarves and sold 5 of them. This one is listed in my store Deb Thuman Artwww.debthumanart.com

I’m linking with Nina Marie. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Grief, Suicide

Writing my way back to center

My psych meds keep me alive. Literally. After a depression so severe that I decided killing myself was a rational decision, had worked out how when and where, and by divine intervention realized I had to go back on antidepressants, I decided I’d never again discontinue Wellbutrin. I had good reasons for going off Wellbutrin. I was having hallucinations. I had left a toxic work environment three years prior. Maybe I could get by with just my mood stabilizer.

And then someone I knew killed himself. I’m still reeling. I’m not crying as much, but I haven’t recovered. I still have questions about why I’m alive and he isn’t. I still have no appetite. Fortunately, I’m seriously overweight so not having an appetite isn’t a health issue and won’t be for several more months.

Earlier this week, I tried writing out my feelings. It’s a written piece that I can’t share now and doubt I’ll ever share. It’s too personal. Too raw. It almost helped. Or rather it helped for a few days.

The depressive episode arrived this past Monday. I saw my psychologist on Tuesday. It didn’t help. The depression lifted – I though – on Wednesday. It came roaring back yesterday. The usual depression cures didn’t work. Jim and I went to a kitchen store in El Paso. Kitchen stores, even if I don’t buy anything, reliably lift the depression. Not this time.

I’m working on more scarves. Knitting the scarves helped me through the intense anxiety while waiting for doctors appointments, biopsy appointment, results showing I don’t have cancer. It’s not working this time.

I tried baking my way out of this depression. I found a recipe for chocolate cutout cookies and tried piping royal icing. I need to listen to myself. I thought that icing was too stiff. I was right but by then, the icing was in the pastry bag and there was no going back. And I was out of powdered sugar so I couldn’t start over.

I love botany. That’s what I concentrated on in college. Botany and microbiology. The smaller things get, the more fascinating things are. I am taking two botany classes this semester: structure and function of plants and plant physiology. Same text book for both classes. One set of studying for two classes. What could be better? Except I’m depressed and don’t care about the classes.

I have the blood spatter on the background fabric for a quilt about the murders in the synagog in Pittsburgh last fall. I can’t bring myself to work on the quilt.

So I sit here. Depressed. Knowing I need to read the textbook for my classes next week. Knowing I need to at least read over my notes for a test on Monday. Not wanting to do anything. Knowing I have to wait out this depressive episode. Knowing there’s no shortcut. No cure. No relief. Just tears.

At least I did laundry and will have clean underwear next week.

I’m linking with Nina Marie. Stop by and see what other artists are making http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Looking for one of a kind jewelry? Scarves? Seam ripper? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art https://www.debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, Photography

Round Bread With Seeds & Croissants

I’m from western New York and now live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I miss good baked goods. If I want a really good bagel, I have to make it myself. If I want really good rye bread, I have to make it myself. If I want really good sourdough, I have to make it myself. If I want to keep the anxiety level down to manageable, I bake.

This weekend’s baking included sourdough bread with King Arthur Flour Harvest Blend seeds. Jim had asked me to make “the round bread with seeds” because he bought a life-time supply of tuna fish on sale. I’m allergic to seafood, so he has to not only eat all the tuna fish, but also make the tuna fish spread. I can’t tolerate the smell. He’s partial to tuna fish sandwiches.

Finding a good croissant in New Mexico isn’t easy. So I made croissants this weekend. I learned how to make the multi layers of dough and butter. I sort of learned how to cut the dough to shape into croissants. I rolled the triangles of dough up and gave them a bit of a bend. I took them out of the oven, and discovered the richest croissant I’ve ever had. I’ll put that in context. I’ve eaten croissants in Quebec City. I’ve eaten croissants from Wegmans where the store recipe won over other croissants in Paris. I’ve eaten croissants in a French pastry shop in Miami – French enough that I could order my food in French. None of them, although tasty, were as rich as the croissants I made. I used the recipe in my pastry chef book. This is the first recipe I’ve tried from this book and if all the baked goods are this rich, I’ll have to have at least two weeks between pastry explorations.

For my next batch of croissants, I’ll have them proof longer. I let them proof for an hour, which is the time I use for all my breads. Alas, I neglected to factor in time for the croissants to come up to room temperature. Croissant dough has to spend quality time in the refrigerator between each turn and before shaping. I had some butter leakage which indicates I didn’t let the croissants proof long enough. I had thought I didn’t roll the dough thin enough, but the videos on youtube show croissant dough about as thick as mine. I’ll also lower the oven temp a touch and I’ll bake them for a bit shorter time. The bottoms were a bit over done. And maybe I can even learn to take better food photographs by the time I make the next batch although it’s difficult to concentrate on photography while smelling right from the oven croissants.

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Looking for something unique? Check out my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Posted in Baking, Emotions, Fiber

Of Many Things…..

School started this past Wednesday. There’s a whole lot more in a single plant cell now than there was when I was in college. Thank the scanning electron microscope. I’m taking two botany courses, and all this new to me stuff in the cell is making these two classes reminiscent of my cell biology class in college. I very badly wanted to go to college, but wasn’t allowed to. College makes you stupid. That’s what my mother and her husband insisted. I started college shortly after my 25thbirthday. With no high school math and no high school science, I struggled. A lot. Now, I’m struggling. A lot. Fortunately, the grade doesn’t matter. I’m still studying, though.

Baking helps with my anxiety. Fortunately, college kids will eat anything so I have an audience for extra baked goods. I’ve been wanting to learn piping. The Food Network shows make piping look so easy. It’s not. I gave it a try this morning. I’ve discovered if I want to fill in the outline with royal icing, I need to dilute the royal icing so it will flow better. I discovered the clip I used to keep the top of the pastry bag closed didn’t do such a good job and I ended up with frosting bulging out the top of the bag. I discovered some tips are only for buttercream frosting. They don’t work well with royal icing – the shaping doesn’t hold up and everything looks like it came out of a round tip. I’ll keep trying and eventually will get better. I love the look of fancy frosted cookies and some day, my cookies will look like the photographs. I used a rum sugar cookie recipe and I put some lime juice powder in the icing to cut the sweetness of the icing. I think next time, I’ll use more lime juice powder. You can order lime juice powder here.

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My pastry chef book finally arrived on Friday. You can see the book here. I had ordered it on December 16. I love the book, but I dislike the vendor. I have my mail sent to a post office box. The vendor ships via UPS which wasn’t indicated when I ordered the book. There was no tracking number provided so I had no idea the book wasn’t shipped until I sent an email complaining that I never got the book. Per the vendor, they tried three times to get my physical address. Nope. Not even once. Ellenbooks was the vendor. Don’t buy anything from them. I didn’t bother to look at their ratings before I ordered the book. I’m not the only frustrated customer. In fact, less than 50% of the customers had anything good to say about them.

The book has recipes given in weight rather than volume. Fortunately, I already had a food scale. The recipes tend to be for huge portions but the author suggest the recipes can be cut in half or in quarters and they will still work. Jim looked though the book and picked out pies for me to make. On the baking agenda is sweet potato pie. I have my eye on pear upside down cake. I went online to find a recipe for a small batch of royal icing. The recipe in the book makes 6 cups of icing. I couldn’t bake enough cookies to use up 6 cups of icing if I baked all week.

Reading through the book, I discovered how all the contestants on Holiday Baking Championship are able to make all that good stuff without a recipe. Turns out there are basic recipes for pastry that can be tweaked and adapted a zillion ways.

I’m still working my way through the yarn I bought to keep the anxiety level sort of down. I’m nearly finished with one scarf and I have one ball of yarn to go. Oddly, while I had so much stress waiting for a biopsy then waiting for results, I made few mistakes in my knitting. This scarf has caused me to rip out rows at least twice each knitting session and usually 3-4 times.

We’re binge watching NYPD Blue. The law is a tad loose – in NY, once the right to counsel has been invoked, it cannot be waived except in the physical presence of an attorney. The script ignores that. One thing that may not be well known is that the antics and forced confessions on the show really were being done in the mid-90s when the show was first aired. Since then, the police have been steadily recording more and more encounters and confessions. This has led to better policing and fewer confessions tossed out by the judge.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

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

Posted in Baking, Emotions, Fiber, Judiasm, Quilts

Scared, Terrified, Anxious

Who’s on first?

Where am I?

What day is it?

The day before Thanksgiving, I began to have breakthrough bleeding. I went through menopause 16 years ago, so this is serious. This is scary.

I did research. I learned about epithelial glands. I learned about tissue types: simple typical, complex simple, simple atypical, and complex atypical. I learned the incidence of cancer if the tissue is simple atypical is 3% and the incidence of cancer if the tissue is complex atypical is 29%. I learned there’s a 30%-40% chance of pelvic organ prolapse following hysterectomy. I learned about the four major types of uterine cancer. Three are easy to treat; the fourth is aggressive. I learned what the stages of cancer are. This is terrifying.

I asked a friend who had uterine cancer who her surgeon was and why she chose that surgeon. I learned there are gynecologists, oncologists, and gynecologic oncologists. If you have uterine cancer, you want a gynecologic oncologist – someone who specializes in cancer of female reproductive organs.

I had an ultrasound and learned my uterine lining is 5.7 mm thick – .7 mm thicker than it should be.

I had a biopsy on December 20. I won’t have the results until December 26. After I get the results, I will do more research.

I haven’t been sleeping well. Last night, I was watching television when I looked at the clock. It was nearly 1:00 AM and I wasn’t sleepy. I needed anti-anxiety medication to go to sleep. That’s been happening a lot since the day before Thanksgiving.

I’ve found ways to sort of keep the anxiety level down. I’ve gotten on my elliptical machine and rather than pedal for 20 minutes, I’ve been routinely pedaling for at least 40 minutes. I’ve been binge watching baking television shows. I’ve been baking. I’m about to learn how to do piping. I’ve ordered a pastry chef text book so I can learn the correct way to bake.

I’ve been knitting.

I’m still anxious. I’m still scared. I’m still not going to be calm again until I read the pathology report. Reality I can deal with. Not knowing is unbearable.

I found some nice yarn at Joann’s. It’s made by Lion and is called “Shawl In A Cake.” I gotta knit yarn with a cool name like that. So I’m working on scarves. Two are done, one is in progress, and one has yet to be started.

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The scarves are approximately 10” wide and approximately 60” long. Cotton and acrylic blend, and an open stitch is remarkably warm. Air is a great insulator – think of plastic sheeting over windows in the winter – and the open stitches trap air. Eventually, I’ll get the scarves into my web store, Deb Thuman Art. If you are interested in buying either scarf and prefer not to wait for me to list them, they are $30 each which includes postage. Email me at debthuman@zianet.comand I’ll send you instructions for paying through paypal.

I’m also working on a quilt in memory of the congregants murdered at the Tree of Life Synagog in October. I finally got around to putting the blood spatter on the background fabric. I’m happy with the spatter pattern, but I’m not enamored with the shade of red. It’s tough to come up with a true blood red. And so I will have cherry blood spatter.

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Jim used push pins to attach the fabric to a piece of cardboard and we took the fabric outside. Blood spatter is messy.  I took a paint brush, some fabric paint, and made blood spatter. I need to set the dye by ironing the fabric. The Hebrew word for life will be superimposed on the blood spatter. People have been trying to obliterate us since the time of Abraham. We are still here.

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

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please stop by my store, 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.

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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 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 Baking, bipolar disorder, Clay, Photography, Pottery

Pretzels & Pinch Pots

Rolling out dough for a big, soft pretzel is a cross between rolling out a coil and pulling a handle. I’ve got a sourdough recipe for English muffins. I can’t fit more than 8 English muffins on a pan, so I’m making 8 English muffins and 8 big, soft pretzels. I had ordered some pretzel salt from King Arthur Flour Bakers Store and I’ve been wanting to give it a test bake. Rather than cook the English muffins on a griddle, I’m baking them in the oven. I have English muffin rings (King Arthur Flour Bakers Store). I put parchment paper on one cookie sheet, grease the rings, put a glob of dough in each ring, cover with parchment paper, and put another cookie sheet on top of the raw English muffins. As the muffins rise and later bake, the muffins are confined to their rings and end up the size and shape of commercial English muffins.  I put parchment paper on top of that cookie sheet, and made dough ropes to form into pretzels. There are pretzel makers who can flip the dough into a pretzel. I’m not one of them. English muffins and pretzels are rising at the moment.

I’ve been working on little pinch pots to be used as glaze experiments. I put the bottom glaze on the inside and part of the outside of the pinch pot. Then I put the top glaze only inside the pinch pot. No runaway glaze disasters if the two glazes are only on the inside. I was aiming at a Wednesday glaze firing, but that’s not going to happen. I have no energy today and I’ve got a half dozen mugs, a plate, a rattle, and two large planters to glaze before I can fire.

I’ve had an energy problem the last few days. In some ways, it feels like before I was diagnosed with hypothyroid. In other ways, it’s just weird. Normal manic events have a culinary nature. I have an incredible urge to cook and I’m buying things for making whole grain baked goods. Normal manic events come with too much energy. I have to be careful not to get too wound up or I won’t be able to wind down. This time, I hardly have enough energy to walk across the room. I think this is a mixed episode. Whoopee.

In an effort to become healthier, I’ve been pushing exercise on myself. Last night, I was about to get on the elliptical machine when I looked out the sliding glass door.

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So I took time to do some photography. I’ve been trying to get the sky and the ground to look in a digital image how it looks to my eyes. I’m still working on that.

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Yes, I did get on the elliptical machine after taking 54 photos.

Thursday, I stopped into JoAnn’s. I have my writing class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I have no intention of paying for a parking pass for one class. I park in the strip mall parking lot nearby. JoAnn’s is in that strip mall. I was armed with sales fliers and coupons. My original intent was to fondle the JoAnn’s version of a fabric called Minky. I need a longer kimono (the one I have is knee length). I thought Minky would be a good choice. I never found the Minky. What I found was this.

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The bolt on the shelf didn’t have the 5 yards I needed. Fortunately, there were two full bolts up on a high shelf. I told the clerk to give me 6 yards. Then there was one yard left on the bolt and I got it for half price. The fabric, a cotton knit, was on sale and I had a 25% off coupon. It will be a kimono and a jacket when it grows up.

Then I found a fake fur that I think will be a nice purse. I bought a yard and it, too was on sale.

That’s about all I have energy for right now. Can’t wait for this episode to be over. I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Looking for a gift? My online store, Deb Thuman Art, is here.