Posted in bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Depression, Fiber, Psych meds, Sciatica, Shibori

I’m dyeing. No need to send flowers although orange roses would be nice. Or maybe white carnations.

I needed new oversized tee shirts to sleep in. It’s cheaper for me to buy from Dharma Trading than to make a tee shirt. That leaves me to experiment with color and dyeing technique. I wanted to shoot these experiments outside, but we are having WIND. Spring in the desert features wind gusts of 50 mph. One day, the wind got faster than 100 mph. Indoor shooting has restrictions because I put the experiment on a piece of white board and shoot while standing up. These are hardly great art.

For my Shibori experiments, I tied one tee shirt in knots, used bulldog clips on another tee shirt, and clothespins on a knitted piece. Shibori is traditionally dyed indigo blue.  Not my Shibori. I’m a color junkie and need to be surrounded by lots and lots of different colors. Fortunately, color is legal and doesn’t affect my ability to drive. 

Clothes pins
Bulldog clips
Fabric tied in knots

For hand dyed yarn, I knit a blank from 100% cotton yarn, dye the piece, unravel the piece, then knit something. I’m curious to see what happens when I knit a piece from the Shibori experiment. 

I made the mistake of rinsing out the orange piece with the purple piece. It’s going to be interesting to see how this knits up because this isn’t the only purple spot on this piece. 

I have mixed feelings about the oversized tee shirts. Manipulations were only on the bottom of the red tee shirt. I like that idea and I’m thinking about how to expand on it. The purple tee shirt was a surprise. I didn’t realize the dye was going to separate and dye the tied parts a light red. I like the effect, but I’m not sure I want to have clothing that resembles tie dye. 

There are six more clothing blanks to dye – 1 tee shirt, 2 caftans, 2 blouses. I’ve been thinking about how I want to fold the fabric and what I want to use as a resist. Clothespins are nice, but once the clothespins are dyed, they shouldn’t be used to hang laundry. I’m afraid if I used dyed clothespins to hang wet clothes the dye would bleed into the clothing. 

Once I finish dyeing the rest of the blanks, I’ll work on dyeing yardage and I’m thinking of folding the fabric on the diagonal. A Shibori scrub top could be interesting. So could a pair of boxers for Jim made from the leftover fabric. The blanks and the yardage are from Dharma Trading. The quality is good, but the blanks and fabric aren’t pre-shrunk. This time, I’m going to be hanging the tee shirts on the line each time I wash them. Maybe that will keep the shrinkage to a minimum. 

I’m not in a chatty mood today and I’m not sure why. I may be just a bit below center – a bit depressed. Earlier, I was doing some online research for the novel and found some sad pieces. Thus, the depression. This isn’t a serious depression and I’ve no suicidal thoughts. 

After the last major depressive event wherein I found myself thinking that being dead wouldn’t be so bad, I talked to my doctor about tweaking my meds. She doubled the dosage for both Lamictal and Wellbutrin. That solved the depression problem, but left me stoned out of my mind. I’d be driving and wonder where I was. I went back down on both prescriptions and felt weird feelings in my head. It took a couple days to figure out I was going into withdrawal. I went back up to my previous dosages for both meds. That eliminated the withdrawal symptoms but left me snarling at Jim and the cats. I doubled the dose for Wellbutrin putting me back on the dosage my doctor recommended. I’m not snarling, but my brain isn’t working all that well. Words get lost in my head and I haven’t figured out where they hide. One time, I couldn’t remember “body wash.” I described the word I wanted by saying it’s a liquid and you use it to wash yourself. Today, Jim was driving us home, and I was bewildered. I couldn’t figure out where we were or how we got there. I may have to cut the Wellbutrin back to one and a half pills a day rather than two pills. 

I’ve been going to the gym a couple times a week and doing yoga on the non-gym days. It’s helping and I feel like soon I won’t have to worry about a relapse. Which is dangerous because this is the time when I push myself too far and cause a relapse. It’s hard to know what I shouldn’t be doing until I do it and start to hurt. 

I’ll be back up to center tomorrow. Or maybe after I start working on my new gym shorts later today. I’m using a cotton/lycra blend with 4-way stretch and I’ve got the fabric cut out. Just need to start sewing the pieces together. The gym shorts are necessary because the management of the gym I go to hired a man to clean the locker rooms. He’s the world’s slowest man and he’s always cleaning the locker room when I get to the gym. My solution was to wear gym clothes to the gym, work out, and go back home to shower. It’s a good solution, but I need pockets to hold my keys while I work out and to carry my iPod to and from the gym. I have two pairs of shorts that are both stretchy and have pockets. I’d like to not have to do laundry each time I go to the gym so I’m making gym shorts. 

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

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

Posted in Cognitive problems, Fiber, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

Getting My Brain Back

I’m still working on remembering how to sew. So far, I’ve gotten two pillow covers quilted, and it has been quite an experience. I couldn’t remember how to fix some common free motion quilting mistakes so I spent time on YouTube looking for advice on how to do free motion quilting. I had forgotten about tension and how to correct the tension based on what kind of problem I was having. I needed to lower the tension more than one number. Plus, I needed to work on keeping a steady needle speed and quilt movement speed. Some parts of the two pillow covers I’ve quilted are better than other parts. 

For the first pillow cover, I fused the top to the batting. That was a mistake. The Wunder Under life span has been exceeded and the fusing material doesn’t fuse all that well. The top had and still has, puckers. A friend on the Quiltart Facebook page suggested making my own fusible spray from water, flour, and alcohol. I haven’t made this concoction yet, but I like the idea of using simple ingredients and formulating an adhesive that not only doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals, but can be completely washed out after quilting. Instructions to make this adhesive are here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVRrFGFXXfc.

For the second pillow cover, I pinned the layers using long, straight pins. That was an improvement. I haven’t started the third pillow cover. 

I don’t recall using more than one color thread for any quilted piece before. Not finding one color thread that worked, I used a different color on each part of each piece. That was feasible for the churn dash and fence rail designs. That’s not an option on the variant of log cabin cover. Never having been much good at free motion quilting, I will use the log cabin variant to work out at least one new to me design. 

These pillow covers were never meant to be great art or even mediocre art. They are meant to help me recapture my sewing skills. I won’t try sewing a garment until my sewing skills are recovered.

PhotoScape X is a free photo editing app for Mac, and it has just been upgraded. To celebrate, I took what I thought was a boring photo to play with and see what new things the app will do. Once I started playing, that boring photo got interesting. The original photo is a shot of a lace knitting pattern chart. 

One of the members of the Digital Photography School Facebook page wrote about learning to see the entire surrounding area to find the best location for a given shot. I looked up photos of the pyramid at the Lourve and got to see the same photo done about a hundred times. No one, or at least no one who posted a photo, bothered to think about how to shoot the pyramid differently. The main pyramid has an opening at the bottom that can be walked through. I think it would be interesting to take a shot of the inside of the pyramid while flat on the ground and shooting upwards. The Lourve is a huge building loaded with architectural accoutrements. Taking a shot showing the entire building or one “leg” of the building loses all of the accoutrements. I’d like to take shots of individual accoutrements. No one who posted did. Or maybe I was looking in the wrong place. 

Neuropathy flare ups, like the one I’m having now, suck. I get to sleep for 2-3 hours before being awakened by pain. Yesterday, the pain only got down to ignorable after having the TENS unit connected for eight hours. I got maybe three hours sleep. I took a gabapentin. Didn’t help. I took CBD oil. Didn’t help. I tried virtual reality. Didn’t help. 

Tonight, pain woke me after two and a half hours sleep. I’m trying art this time and hoping writing this will make the pain disappear. Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times that made me wonder about the correlation between free radicals and nerve damage. I found an article from 2003 online describing such a correlation. Why didn’t any of the eight neurologists I saw mention this correlation? Seven of the neurologists worked in medical schools where research is financed by drug companies. The focus is on handing out prescriptions for useless drugs. The other neurologist had every drug company freebie available adorning the walls of his office. His solution was to try to get me to take Lyrica. If you watch the commercials closely, you will discover that even the manufacturer admits Lyrica doesn’t work. 

Nerves regenerate. The regeneration is slow, but it does happen. So why are neurologists so focused on handing out prescriptions and ignoring the questions I asked? Could it be because funding for research is the child of drug companies so treatment is focused on handing out drugs? So often when I saw a neurologist I found myself wondering if I were the only person in the room who had taken cell biology in college. One day, I realized I really was the only one in the room who had taken cell biology in college. Sometimes, modern medicine is scary.

I haven’t finished reading the article on research of the correlation between free radicals and nerve damage. Once I finish the article, I’ll start looking more at foods and supplements that remove many of the free radicals. Three of the foods I’ve found so far are three of my favorite foods: chocolate, strawberries and beets. 

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

Looking for one of a kind jewelry or fiber art? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here: www.debthumanart.com.

Posted in Baking, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Photography, Quilts, Sciatica

Baking, Quilting, and Hard Decisions

Someday, I’ll be able to bake again. I’m still having sciatic nerve problems. I start feeling really good, then I push myself and set myself back. The baking I like to do, cakes, cookies, croissants, requires standing at the counter for longer than I can stand right now. Between now and someday, Jim is doing the baking. Today he made two different kinds of pound cakes. The bunnies and shamrocks are lemon flavored, and the one done in a standard bundt pan is orange and raspberry flavored. Jim makes really good pound cake and his flavor experiments are right tasty. And he likes to bake so I might never get my kitchen back. Too bad neither of us likes to cook meals. 

I’ve been working on quilted pillow tops using traditional quilt patterns. I’m still having some cognitive problems and I’m hoping that by using tradition, simple patterns I can get all my sewing skills back. At least now I can remember how to thread the machine and how to lower the feed dogs. 

I chose to use a log cabin variant. This was supposed to be a bento box pattern, but I made the first square wrong. Design is what happens when you put the square together wrong. And when you run out of fabric. 

I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out and I’m ecstatic that nearly all the seams lined up right. I did something a bit different with this photo. I calibrated the camera using a medium gray card for my custom white balance. The colors in this one are pretty accurate. 

Because the last time I tried a quilted project and had problems with cutting the batting out too small, I decided I’d lay out the quilt blocks on the batting, put painter’s tape around each block, and I’ll cut between the tapes. This should give me a extra 1”  around each block. A few years back, JoAnn’s had a sale on batting sold by the yard. It was half price so I bought 10 yards. It’s a bugger to roll out and get the batting to lie flat. I have been doing this on the floor. I had to lock Tinker in the office so he wouldn’t “help” me. I let him out when I took the photo. 

We’ve got ceramic tile through most of the house, and I was crawling around on my hands and knees. I didn’t feel anything indicating I was causing myself a problem while I was crawling around. The problem became apparent when I stood up. Lower back pain and I had to use my walker most of the time. I have a yoga video with a special section for poses while my back heals. I did the poses and felt better immediately. 

I made a hard decision to forgo the last two weeks of classes and final exams. I tried twice to come back to class. I’d be in class on Monday, find myself in pain, and take the rest of the week off. This happened two weeks in a row. I’ve missed so many weeks that I can’t catch up in time to take the final exams. I sent both of my teachers emails explaining what I was doing and why. I hate missing classes, but at least I’m not working towards another degree. 

I managed to get both classes I wanted for the fall semester – immunology and cell biology. There was an article in today’s paper about a professor at New Mexico State University getting a $1.48 million grant to pursue work on figuring out why some women with breast cancer are not helped by Tamoxin and why Tamoxin will work for others for a limited time and then become ineffective. The article explained that there’s a hormone that triggers the synthesis of a g-coupled protein that binds with estrogen. I actually understood that. As many problems as I had when I took neurobiology, I managed to stick enough in my head so I could have these  Ah Ha! moments. I’d love to work on another degree in biology. I’d love to be a research assistant. But…I don’t want to teach and I don’t want student loans. I’d apply for a position as a research assistant, but I think those jobs should go to students who are working towards a degree. 

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

If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind gifts, please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art at 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, 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 bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Psych meds

Withdrawal Sucks

I had read about how getting off Cymbalta is hell. I thought people were overstating it. Turns out, they were right. Getting off Cymbalta is hell. I’ve now gone through 8 weeks of withdrawal, and I’m not done. I had a couple weeks where the cognitive deficits were bad enough that they mimicked dementia. Dementia feels terrifying. Although I walk from the parking lot to my class, three days I turned down the wrong street and had to scramble to figure out where I was. One night, I had a hard time finding the street on which I live. And I’ve lived on this street for 17 years. Last Sunday, my brain started to feel better. I had five good days before I had a withdrawal relapse. This time, I had vertigo followed by “flu-like symptoms.” Today, I feel good again although I have to slow down, sit and think, before I can remember something I did – like where did I put my water bottle.

I’ve been sewing.

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I used the Slouchy Tee Shirt Blouse patter from Hotpatterns. You can find the pattern here.

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The pattern calls for a rib knit cuff, but I don’t care for rib knit cuffs. The ribbing always wears out and looks nasty. The point of sewing your own clothes is so that you can have what you want. I folded the sleeve in half and added a button hole. Then I sewed on a button, and the opening at end of the sleeve is now comfortably small. You may have noticed the buttons are different. My blouse, my buttons. A friend sent me about 20 pounds of buttons, and I couldn’t find two of either of these so I decided to use the two I could find.

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I wanted to make holiday earrings but didn’t want to make earrings that screamed CHRISTMAS!!!! Angels can be worn all year long. These two pair, along with other cool stuff is in my store.

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

If you’re looking for angel earrings (or other cool stuff), 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.

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 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, bipolar disorder, Clay, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Jewelry

Why is life so complicated?

I’m still having withdrawal from the antidepressant. While I know this is part of withdrawal, it doesn’t feel like any previous withdrawal I’ve endured. Physically, I’m pretty much okay. I get tired a lot, but I don’t feel as if I were jumping out of my skin any more. I am finding my brain is working better. But my brain feels….squishy??? Things aren’t quite right. I have moments of utter stupidity. I was bouncing off the ceiling the last court appearance. Ceiling bouncing doesn’t usually happen in court. I couldn’t concentrate in my writing class on Tuesday.

About a week ago, I had to read a story for my writing class. The story was about a sexual assault, but the story was written as if the breast grabbing was just boys’ behavior. I had a visceral reaction and said so in class. Subtly is not part of my skill set. I told the writer than what he described was a sex crime, a felony and requires registering as a sex offender. I then plopped my sexual assault quilt down in front of him, pointed to where it said “For the woman who said no and got fired,” and told him that was me. Oddly no one else in the class was disturbed by the story. That is disturbing. I haven’t decided how I feel about my teacher refusing to look at the quilt. It’s the quilt with the more or less life size and more or less anatomically correct 3-d vulva in the middle and the words: If you touch this without my permission, I will break your fucking arm. Sometimes, I wonder about this class.

Next, I had a court appearance where I was in the same courtroom with the jerk who has been stalking me. That had more of an impact on me than I expected. I had a deputy walk my client and I out to my car after the hearing. The jerk was waiting for us in the parking lot and didn’t leave until he was sure the deputy wasn’t going back into the courthouse. That’s both scary and infuriating. The next batch of stories contained a story written from the point of view of a pedophile. This was accompanied by #Me Too and an episode of Law & Order SVU about rape, hazing and bullying. Plus I watched an old episode of Roseanne and was deeply offended. The episode was about Dan’s mother having to go into a mental hospital and about mental illness. The writers made mental illness sound so horrible. I wouldn’t recommend being bipolar, but it’s hardly the end of the world. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a disease to be treated just like any physical disease.   And I wonder why I’m exhausted.

I had to take one day this week when I worked on art just for me. Not art for sale. Not my novel. Not writing for a class. Not healing writing. Just art for me. I had reached an interim weight loss goal while I was on the Broken Tooth Diet, and my reward was to buy me Swarovski crystal.

Reward set 10-20-17Reward set 2 10-20-17Reward set 3 10-20-17

I’ve worn the earrings from each set, but I haven’t had a chance to wear the necklaces.

I fired the kiln. Twice because I misread the cones and didn’t get the kiln hot enough the first time.  I’ve been working on some chili ornaments. IMG_4134IMG_4130IMG_4126

I used a copper wash on these to make the texture stand out. The chili on the left is Amaco Jade Celadon over copper wash. The other two are clear glossy over copper wash. I’ve go to make more pieces with copper wash in the texture. I like the effect.

IMG_4123

I can’t remember where I read this, most likely on Facebook, but a fellow clay artist wrote about putting a piece of plastic wrap over a slab of clay before using a cookie cutter to cut out ornaments. I like how the edges are rounded over. I had a piece of eyelet fabric and I rolled it on a slab of clay to make texture.

Scrub Top 10-18-17Detail Scrub Top 10-18-17

While I was making art for me, I decided to use fabric I bought a couple months back. Yes, those are alligators and ducks in the fancy stitching. I couldn’t find my ribbing for the cuffs, so I grabbed some spandex that coordinated and used that. What a PITA to sew onto the bottom of the sleeve! But I got the scrub top finished. I wanted something funky and arty to wear when I set up at the local Farmers & Craft Market.

Ring 10-20-17

I bought some memory wire for making rings. And I bought the BIG bag of it. It’s hard to get the ends bent around. I ended up making a ring that is too wide for me to wear. My hands look funny when I try to wear large rings. I’ll take it with me to the Farmers Market and see if it gathers any attention.

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

Looking for a gift? Stop by my web store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

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Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Clay, Cognitive problems, Photography

Pain Sucks

I saw the neurologist on Thursday and demanded to know what caused the neuropathy, the extent of the damage and how this can be reversed. I’m having a nerve conduction series next month. I was in pain from 3:00 AM on Saturday until Tuesday afternoon. Then I had a reprieve until about 2:00 AM today. The pain was bad enough that if I could have been sure I wouldn’t have gotten caught, I’d have bought something on the street. You might think that after 23 years as a criminal defense attorney I’d know where to buy street drugs. Nope. I haven’t a clue. Probably just as well….I couldn’t stand to hear the cop laugh when I got arrested. Plus a felony conviction gets me disbarred from all my law licenses. 

The problem with neuropathy is that there’s nothing causing the pain. The pain doesn’t even exist. What feels like horrible pain is damaged nerves sending a scrambled signal to the brain.

It takes an hour and a half for the gabapentin to take effect, so I went outside and did some night photography. We’re at about 4000′ elevation here and when we have a full moon like last night, it’s BRIGHT. Everything had sharp shadows. So I played around with ISO and exposure length.

Adjustment 2 10-7-17Stars 1 10-7-17Stars 3 10-7-17

I got maybe four hours sleep last night; I’m exhausted, and I can’t fall sleep.

Every time I think I’m done with withdrawal, I find out I’m wrong. I stopped taking Wellbutrin completely last week Friday. I was bouncing off the ceiling during my class on Thursday. It was embarrassing. I thought I was okay, provided I didn’t have to be around people, until yesterday. I experienced severe anxiety. I tried art. I spent a couple hours in the mud making another large planter. I listened to my relaxation music. That helped, but not enough. I finally broke down and took a klonopin. For some reason, I feel like a failure when I need to take meds. Silly, I know. I still feel like a failure. I’m making progress, the feelings of failure used to be a whole lot worse.

Meanwhile, I’m having difficulty spelling. I know how the words are spelled, I type 72 words per minute, but I can’t get the words typed correctly. I’ve no idea how to solve this problem. I think I’m just going to wait until the withdrawal is finished and my brain learns how to work without Wellbutrin.

I’ve been experimenting with earrings.

Yellow:green leaf earrings 10-7-17Rootbeer earrings 10-7-17Purple & crystal earringsMulti purple earrings 10-7-17Irridescent purple earrings 10-7-17Greens earrings 10-7-17Clear & crystal earrings 10-7-17Black earrings 10-7-17

This is the necklace I made to go with my amethyst earrings.

Amethyst necklace 10-7-17

These are necklaces I’ll be selling. I was going to set up at the Farmers Market this morning, but that’s not something I can do on four hours sleep. Next week, God willing! 

Green leaf necklace 10-7-17Green fan necklace 10-7-17Green circlie necklace 10-7-17

Monday, I get the prep work done for the crown to fix the tooth that broke in half lengthwise. I’ll be glad to be able to eat food that isn’t either liquid or really soft. I’m so looking forward to eating crunchy food again.

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

Looking for a gift for someone special or for yourself (you’re pretty special, too)? My web store is here.

Posted in Clay, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Photography, Pottery

Someday, I’ll be able to fire the kiln again

 

We’ve been getting some rain each day for about the last week. Nice for anything growing, but bad for pottery. The kiln house has to have ventilation which means it’s not waterproof. Rain on a hot kiln is bad. It could cause the kiln to explode. So I’ve got a load to be glaze fired and can’t fire it for a while. In this load are two experimental bird baths and an experimental planter. I’m also testing out a glaze Jim “made.” He took leftovers of commercial glazes and mixed them together. I’ve no idea what I will get.

I’ve been working on still lifes and I have to think differently to photograph them. Still lifes don’t move, aren’t subject to wind, and aren’t as easy as they look. I started with a white background but didn’t like what I got.

Thread 7-9-17 adjSewing tools 7-9-17Sewing feet 7-9-17 adjButtons 1 7-9-17

Then I tried a black background. Nice, but the light was all wrong.

Thread 1 7-11-17

Then I tried no artificial light. Much better.

Rows 3 7-12-17

I played with Sharpies, with thread, and with bobbins.

Sharpie 1 7-11-17Sharpie 1 7-12-17

I tried telling a story with the shots. What do you see these shots saying?

Bullies 1 7-12-17Bullies 4 7-12-17Bullies 2 7-12-17Bullies 3 7-12-17

Jim put a quail block and watering contraption near the sliding glass door so the cats could watch critters feeding.

These were taken through the door. Not the best approach, but it was all I had.

Dining Alone 7-13-17Breakfast with friends 7-13-17Critters 3 7-12-17Critters 1 cropped 7-12-17

This morning, I tried taking the yoga mat to the patio, setting the camera up on the mini tripod, and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. No diners.

I’m reading Eric Clapton’s autobiography. Because Eric battled alcoholism, drug addiction and had a toddler son die after falling out a window, I figured the book would be interesting. He’s a great blues guitarist, but he’s not much of a writer. The book badly needs an editor.

The cognitive problems are less, but still evident. Several weeks ago while making a pair of earrings using Swarovski crystals, I dropped a crystal snail. I searched. Jim searched. No snail. Earlier this week, I was searching for a sewing pattern and found the crystal. It was stuck between boxes of patterns. I put the crystal on the cutting table thinking that I should put it with my beads. I really should have, because I lost it again. I found it on the floor yesterday when I was ironing 4 yards of fabric I had washed. All fabric goes through the washer and dryer before I do anything with it. If it’s going to shrink, I want the shrinking done before I cut into the fabric.

Jim picked out a pattern for pajama bottoms and boxers. He needed pajama bottoms, so I dug into the stash and made a pair.

Jim's PJs 7-14-17Fly Detail

I had some tension issues. It may be time to take the machine in for a deep cleaning and tune up.

The crotch depth was too deep, but they are pajama bottoms so he’s willing to wear them. I adjusted the crotch depth for the boxers. Crotch adjustments are tricky because a tiny adjustment makes a huge difference. I guessed right, and the boxers have the right crotch depth. I used leftover fabric for the boxers. The original yardage I used to make a blouse.

Jim's boxers 7-14-17Fly detail 7-14-17

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

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

Posted in bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Photography, Pottery

I’m pretty sure it’s Friday

It appears to be Friday. I’m concerned about the cognitive difficulties I’ve been having lately. I have difficulty at times finding the word I want – something that started when I first went on psych meds. I have to really concentrate if I’m going to a destination via a different route. My short term memory is failing. I went online and looked up the early signs of dementia. The signs sound just like bipolar disorder and side effects of psych meds. I’d have to come off my meds to determine how much is psych med side effects, how much is a normal part of the aging process, and what, if anything, I should worry about.

I’m not going off my meds. I’m on the best set I’ve ever been on – lamictal and wellbutrin. Going off either would cause withdrawal. Never mind the “discontinuation syndrome” horseshit. It’s withdrawal. I say so. The Mayo clinic says so. Harvard Medical School says so. When I’m laying on the floor trying to figure out how to make the wall stop undulating, then have to drag myself to the toilet so I can throw up, it’s not a syndrome. It’s withdrawal and it lasts anywhere from 1-3 months. Sometimes, withdrawal comes with hallucinations. I learned to roll with the hallucinations. That removes the scariness. Doesn’t everyone wake up in the middle of the night and see a strange, underwear clad, translucent man standing in the middle of the bedroom? When I realized I could see through him, I stopped being scared.

Sometimes, withdrawal comes with nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, withdrawal comes with dizziness and walking into walls. Coming off meds doesn’t mean I can automatically go back on them. People who come off lamictal sometimes can’t ever take it again. The withdrawal is too miserable and the risks too great to come off my meds.

I’m taking gabapentin for peripheral neuropathy. It helps. A lot. I’m not going to stop taking it even though it makes me walk into walls. I take it at night so I can function during the day.

I’ve been doing a bit of sewing – no small feat when my brain isn’t working well. I made Jim a shirt – it just needs to have buttons. I thought and thought and was as careful as I could be. Then I sewed the collar on upside down. I always put the side with the interfacing on the bottom and the other side on the top. Not this time. Then I decided to do a row of topstitching and used a fancy thread. I sewed the topstitching on the bottom of the collar.

Jim's shirt 7-7-17

I found enough leftover fabric to make myself a blouse. It’s a simple blouse, front, back, sleeves, and bias binding on the neck. The pattern instructions didn’t have instructions for the bias binding for the view I made. That wouldn’t have been a problem, but there’s a button at the back of the neck. I had to figure out for myself how to make the ends neat and allow for a loop for a button. Let’s just say it’s not couture sewing.

Deb's Blouse 7-7-17

Perhaps a part of the cognitive problems come from having a holiday during the week. Being retired, days aren’t all that specific for me. Jim is still working. If he’s not here, it’s a weekday. If he’s here, it’s a weekend. He took last Thursday and Friday as vacation days, worked on Monday, and was off on Tuesday for July 4th. I’ve been struggling to remember what day it is. I’m told that’s common for people who are retired. We now work on a different schedule. We can do the things we want to do any day of the week. We no longer have to wait for a weekend.

Earlier today, which I’m pretty sure is Friday, I did some glazing. I did a bisque fire last weekend. That’s when I learned there’s a problem with the thermocouples for my pyrometer. For some reason, it took me 6 hours to figure out a temp of 125 degrees at the top of the kiln when the bottom was at 1800 degrees was an indication of a problem. Jim tightened the wires and it may be fixed. I hope.

I was shooting the sunset the other day and noticed something in the cholla (choy-ah). It was a bird’s nest. No, I didn’t hold the camera wrong. It’s a vertical rather than horizontal nest.

Bird nest 7-5-17

We have a not quite full moon, so I did a bit of playing.

Moon 7-5-17

Need to buy a gift for yourself or someone else? My online store, Deb Thuman Art, is here.

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