10/8/2013

Bangkok Ice Age by Mike Behnken

Bangkok Ice Age by Mike Behnken

Hey everyone! Nothing exciting to report today. I haven’t been getting much sleep lately so my brain’s not too on point. Hopefully today I’ll get some more drawing done than I have been. I’m making some progress with this one, slow but sure. I’ve been trying out some new techniques, one of which is using some old unloved paintbrushes for the blending, in combination with the shading stumps and q-tips. It seems to work really well!

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I hope you’re all having a good day. The sun is finally shining here, it looks beautiful on top of the golden leaves. It makes me wish I knew how to paint!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzniLUP37bg

Change, hand in hand.

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So, I have a doctor appointment set for the 10th to discuss upping my pain medication and how bad the back pain is; both night and day. I’m a bit nervous, I’ve never liked discussing narcotics with doctors. It shouldn’t bother me but the stigma of drug addiction and chronic pain and how often it’s assumed that if you take narcotics you’re a drug addict, have always made me feel more ashamed of not only what medications I need to take for the pain, but the chronic pain itself. That’s one of the reasons I’m being open about this on here, I think it needs to be talked about in order to be better understood.

I think I deserve a certain amount of trust from my doctors by now when it comes to my pain medication and whether or not they can rely on me not to take it for the reasons it’s prescribed. I’ve been on the same low dose of codeine (T3s) for 7 years now and I’ve never once “lost a prescription” or taken them for anything other than pain. And I’m not naive enough to think that addiction could never happen to me, but I am educated and conscious of the facts involved and I take every precaution I can to keep that from happening. And when you’re doomed to a life of chronic pain that’s all you can do really.

They do say that those who really, truly suffer from chronic pain are less likely to abuse there pain medication than others. And, I can understand that; the best explanation I can give for my reasoning being that when you’re in a lot of pain the only think you can even begin to think of wanting from your medication is for the pain to lessen. You aren’t thinking of or craving a “high” because being in less pain is the best possible feeling you can imagine at that particular moment. So you take your medication for the reason your supposed to because that’s all you really want; just some pain relief. 

I’m still really bummed at the prospect of upping my medication at all. But, the pain is getting worse and I’ve still got a long way to go in life with this body. I want to have some quality of life while I can, you know? I need to let this particular part of my worries go and learn to accept and move on from it. I do feel really lucky that I live in a place with access to pain medication in the first place because not everyone does. 

Anyways, babbling aside, what I really wanted to say today was thank you all for your constant kindness and support. All of you mean so much to me! Knowing I can log on here and read so many loving, compassionate, understanding comments is such an incredible comfort. You’re all angels. xx

Allergic to Life: a guest post by Kathryn

Hi everyone! For this post I’m thrilled to announce that Kathryn Chastain Treat who blogs over at Allergic to Life will be guest posting as part of her Book blog Tour!

Kathryn and I have been mutually following one another’s blogs for some time now and I’m super excited for her to share a bit of her story with you all.

Before the beginning of the guest post, here’s an introduction to her book:

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Imagine that the very food you eat and the beautiful carpet on your floors start to make you feel violently ill. Your contact lenses cause your eyes to burn and water uncontrollably. Trace amounts of mold on other people’s clothing cause you to become unable to hold a thought or get it from your brain to your mouth during an everyday conversation.

The life you once knew is gone and you have become a prisoner of unexplainable and severe allergies and sensitivities. In this new life you can no longer shop or visit friends in their homes because there are too many chemicals and fragrances there. You become plagued by one mystery infection after another and no doctor or specialist seems to be able to give you any explanation of what’s causing your terrifying symptoms. Depression sets in and becomes your constant companion as you try to cope with the stress of being sick and of struggling to live within your new-found limitations.

 “Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage and Hope” is the story of one woman’s journey through a battle to reclaim her life and overcome depression caused by an exposure to toxic mold in her workplace.

Enter Kathryn:

I would like to thank Katie for hosting my book, “Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope”, on her blog as part of it’s first ever book blog tour.

Allergic to Life is my story of a journey through a battle to reclaim my life and overcome depression caused by a workplace exposure to mold. I suffered infection after infection as we tried desperately to find the cause and treatment. Writing in my journal during the many nights when I was alone and couldn’t sleep, helped me.

It’s 3:41 in the morning and I can’t stop crying. I am hurting so much. It makes my chest hurt to cry but I can’t help it. I am trying to be strong but it is sooo hard. My heart is breaking! I am missing out on everything. I am feeling so angry and alone. I want Rick here to hold me. I am never going to be normal again. I want to disappear and forget the treatments. I would run away and disappear! I want to live, but not like this! I want the world to hear our stories. Not just mine. God grant me the strength to carry on!!

During those long and lonely nights I poured my heart out into my journal. I couldn’t burden my family and friends with all that I was going through when we were miles apart from each other. When I couldn’t sleep I wrote until the tears stopped flowing and I could finally fall asleep. During one of those late nights with my journal propped in my lap, I began writing about the loss of my identity. I am including an excerpt from the poem.

WHO AM I?

Who Am I?
Stripped of all the things
that were once me
No more contacts—I now
have the weight of my glasses on
a face that always hurts

Who Am I?
My hair is streaked with gray
where glorious color once was
My cheeks are pale where
once the glow of a soft
blush warmed them

Who Am I?
The mother I once was who could do things
for her daughters can now barely do
for herself
The wife and helpmate can
hardly help herself

Who Am I?
I am the one who hides behind the mask—
not revealing my from or smile
The one people look at with pity and
misunderstanding

Who Am I?
I am still be but in a
different wrapper
The one who will come out of this cocoon—
spread her wings and fly
The one who will look different on the outside
but not on the inside

I am thankful that depression and anger are no longer my constant and daily companions. My life is still a struggle but I am learning to be okay with who I am and to find happiness within the boundaries of my new-found life.

In celebration of my life and the completion of Allergic to Life, I am offering a giveaway of three autographed books through rafflecopter at the end of the blog tour.

Allergic to life is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon (prices vary). Autographed copies (US & Canada Only) will be available on my website.

You can follow me on my blog, on my Facebook page, on twitter, and LinkedIn.

About the Author
Author Photo2Kathryn was a vibrant and active 44-year-old stay-at-home mother of two when she decided to venture back into the workplace. Though she had been out of the workforce for 18 years, Kathryn had always been very active in community events – PTA, school board and the local 4-H club – and was always the first to volunteer to help out friends or family.
Little did she realize that this opportunity for professional growth and financial independence would force her through a never ending series of battles with the medical and legal community, make her a prisoner in her own home, and mire her in severe depression. After workplace exposure to mold caused severe immune system dysfunction, Kathryn’s world turned upside down and nothing would ever be the same. She was forced to give up her most treasured possessions and was no longer able to be the active person she always had been. Relationships were tested and many did not survive. Defeat always seemed close at hand as illness thrust her into a battle not only for independence, but for her life.
Kathryn’s story of self-doubt, loss of identity, and the pain of skepticism – from the medical and legal profession – is a heart-wrenching journey of endurance, hope and hard-won triumph. Her experience with mold exposure gives her a unique perspective on the physical as and emotional effects of mold exposure. Read her story and learn how she was able to overcome these many obstacles to become an advocate for her own health.

A thousand thoughts, a hundred questions.

The glass is half empty today and I’m about to vent, so readers beware.

I woke up today with such a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. The pain in my back, piercing and ever constant, was a quick reminder of the body I’d be spending the day in. Yes, it’s one of those days, when the reality of your situation hits you like a ton of bricks and it’s hard to even draw breath. The popping and grinding in my hip quickly reminded me not to move so carelessly, lest I not be able to move at all.

I would’ve crawled right back under the covers and told this day to leave me alone if it weren’t for the unavoidable; I was hurting too much to stay there anymore. When these days come I do my best to pass the time without letting my mind wander too far into the future. That’s where the paralyzing fear of my reality lurks. The most terrifying question of all when it comes to my body and the condition it’s in now: is this the best it’s ever going to be? And the answer is yes, because my disorder is degenerative. My body’s falling apart, not coming together. And this, most unbearable and painful of days, is one of the better, more tolerable ones I’m ever going to have.

How do I swallow that? I can’t, so I set it aside while my mind reads through the overwhelming amount of scenarios in my head; How am I going to live with this pain? Do I take more ibuprofen? What about the damage it’s doing to my stomach? After all I’m only 20, I need it to last me a long time yet. Do I take some more Tylenol? But what about my kidneys…they already deal with so much medication as it is. I already took my pain medication for today, it helped a bit but it’s nearly worn off now and the day is hardly 1/4 through. Do I take it again to make it through the day and then suffer another day for not having enough? I don’t even want to be on pain medication everyday but even when I am I’m barely coping. What happens when my tolerance is too high? What happens with the rebound headaches and other repercussions of pain medication? What happens when I can’t even remember what it feels like to think like myself, because pain and medication have dulled my mind for so long?

These are just some of the questions that play on repeat in my head all day. Every decision I make, every second of pain or sickness. The biggest one being; what’s going to happen to me? But, that’s beyond my control so I try to stay in the now. And right now I’m in too much pain, in too many different places. And so, as much as it breaks my heart and makes me sad, I think it’s time to talk to my doctor about upping my pain medication.

I’m going to talk to the neurologist about a treatment for my spine but that appointment is six long months away. Even then I don’t know if he’s going to know what to do with such a rare problem and complex disorder or if he’s going to put me on another long waiting list for a different specialist.

I never thought that I’d long for the days when my ribs and headaches were the height of my pain problems. Back then I never would’ve believed – not for a second – that was as good as it was ever going to be. It makes me realize the importance of hope and how endless the journey can seem when it’s taken away by words like “incurable” and “degenerative”.

Wilted by Hanna Pritchett

Thanks for tolerating the venting, as always.
Hugs xx

The world spins madly on.

Hey everyone, happy Tuesday! Today’s been another slow day, I can’t seem to wake up enough to be good for much. I’m hoping to spend the rest of today doing some drawing. My fingers have been giving me trouble so I’ve been trying not to strain them too much (says the girl as she types). Anyways, below is a picture of what I’m working on right now. I’m really excited about this one!

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I’m too lazy to get my camera out so I just took that picture on my cell phone for now. I’ll take a better quality one when it’s all done. :)

I want to apologize for the changes to the blog, I’m still working on the appearance of things and trying to find the right fit. So, it might change yet again before I’m finally satisfied but bear with me!

08/08/13

I’ve been out of commission (blog-wise) for the past week or so; mom and I were up staying at my grandparent’s house while they were out of town.  Which gave me the perfect opportunity to indulge in picture taking – my grandparent’s built their house on some really beautiful property.

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What did I get myself into?

Well, I finally got my procrastinating bum in gear and dealt with an enormous amount of things that needed to be done when I seen my doctor. And, as I was dreading, I walked away with an insane amount of tests and appointments.

To start with I need an ultrasound on my kidneys, and also another one specifically on my gallbladder to check on my polyps. I need to go see a urologist out of town for bladder retention problems and find out whether or not there could be something causing it other than my spine. I also need to go back to Vancouver – yet again – to see the orthopedist that we had to cancel on earlier this year when my rib subluxated (we didn’t think I’d be able to handle the appointment because I could hardly move). While we’re in Vancouver we’ll also be seeing a neurologist about diagnosing (or ruling out) several different brain related complications that can arise in tissue disorders like cervical cranial instability and chiari-malformation.

We also need to talk to the neurologist about getting an upright MRI of my spine to check for dural ectasia and tethered cord (my gp isn’t allowed to refer patients for MRI scans). There are only two upright MRIs in Canada, one is in a private clinic in Kamloops that we can’t afford and the other one is in Vancouver but used only for research purposes. We’re hoping that since my disorder is rare that maybe if we talk to the right people I could qualify as research. While we’re in Vancouver we’re going to go see my ophthalmologist to check on my eyes.

My doctor and I talked a bit about my hip problem and how in her opinion since we already know that it’s subluxating and that’s the cause of the pain that she’d rather not order an x-ray on it. I’ve already had and will need so many imaging tests that she figures it’s best not to expose me to more radiation when it can be avoided. Since there’s nothing we can do for my hip right now but treat the pain I agree with her. I’m already leaps and bounds over the recommended doses of radiation so that does seem like a reasonable decision.

I think – and hope – that I remembered all of it. My stress levels always go up when I know I’m going to be seeing so many new doctors and getting poked at so much. That’s part of what sends me into my spells of avoiding my doctor altogether; denial’s much easier that way lol. I am grateful though, that I’m being looked after medically now more than in the past. It’s nice to have a doctor that willingly recognizes the ridiculous amount of avenues that need to be checked over with a disorder like mine.

On another good note, my doctor’s agreed to work and talk with the ILC Foundation when it comes to my care, as well as pass the contacts for the EDS aware doctors they’ve provided us with to the necessary specialists that I see. Thanks a million Sandy!!

Where is the love?

I agree that society’s standards of beauty are harmful and damaging and entirely generic. I agree that women with curves should be able to feel beautiful – because they are – and confident. But I do not agree with making women of a different body type feel bad about themselves in order to make that argument. That’s exactly the kind of judgement and intolerance we’re supposed to be advocating to squash in the first place. I keep seeing images splashed around the internet like the one above, and it really disappoints me. Why do we need to make each other feel inadequate in order to make ourselves feel better? When did it become okay to start shaming girls of small or underweight builds?

Some would argue that you can’t naturally be that thin (if you believe that you clearly know nothing about the “classic” MFS build), and that those girls deserve the shaming because they’re anorexic and/or should “eat something”. And those comments that I see everywhere getting behind that kind of attitude are so wrong that I can’t even really wrap my mind around them. You do not develop a legitimate eating disorder by choice or without cause and you sure as hell aren’t going to be cured of it by a bunch of a**holes on the internet and the television blabbing about how you’re too skinny and it’s unattractive and you should eat a burger. I’ve never had an eating disorder, so I don’t have personal experience with it and I don’t know how it feels. But, my point is whether you’re shaming an underweight girl who’s naturally that way or it’s someone who does have an ED, it’s wrong, immoral and absolutely not the message we should be trying to send. This isn’t part of the solution, it’s the definition of the problem. 

I believe these things all come from the same place to start with; being constantly bombarded day in and day out with unrealistic ideals of beauty, everywhere we look. We’re constantly having products pushed at us from every angle telling us how we could and should be more beautiful. We’re being shown women who’ve been photo-shopped and airbrushed, shot in the perfect light after having their makeup and hair tweaked to “perfection” and we believe that because we don’t look like that we aren’t good enough. But those girls don’t exist. They don’t. Those images have been manufactured and manipulated in order to make you feel like you’re not good enough so you’ll spend your money trying to change that. Eating disorders are on the rise for a reason and I have no doubt that all of the above heavily plays into that.  

Ranting aside; come on girls (boys too!), we have to stop spreading this kind of message everywhere. We’re taking steps in the wrong direction by doing this. We need to learn to build ourselves – and others – up without tearing everyone else down in order to do it. Maybe you prefer thin girls, maybe you prefer curvy girls, and that’s fine (beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all)! We should just be able to like what we like and appreciate how we look without hurting everyone else. If you see a picture of someone who doesn’t match you or your preference, then don’t comment! Simple as that is it not? We so often knowingly choose to say something that will hurt someone else. Why? As cliche as it sounds, instead of making ourselves feel better by shifting this negativity onto someone else in an equally as destructive way, we should really just learn to celebrate ourselves and each other.

Truth

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The truth is that I never shook my shadow
Every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle

Calling out “faker”, only get me rattled
Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle.

– Truth by Alexander

“Blackfish” and why “Killer Whales” are not meant for captivity.

I know that this is a step away from my usual blog topic, but it’s about an issue that’s important to me, so I decided to write about it anyways.

Seaworld seems to be trying really hard to discredit Blackfish, (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) but for me, even if the documentary was made to falsely portray Seaworld in a harsher light (which I do not believe it does—there is no need to exaggerate what is already blatantly obvious), it still boils down to the fact that no matter your argument to the contrary: these amazing, intelligent, family-oriented creatures do not belong in captivity—performing tricks in pools not even a fraction of the size that they should be—for our amusement. It’s deplorable and shameful, and we should be able to evolve past it without kicking and screaming every step of the way.

I’ve even seen some people make the argument that an orca’s life expectancy increases in captivity (which is actually false), but even if it were true, what does that matter, when their quality of life is so poor? That’s like saying if you were held isolated in captivity, without a whole lot of room to move,—taken from everything you naturally need and want—yet measures were taken to keep you alive longer than the average person, that it would all be okay and you’d be better off. To me that’s a fate far worse than death. Plus, I should mention that in captivity an orca’s life expectancy has been shown to be, on average, less than half of what it would be in the wild, so that argument is invalid anyway.

Orcas are meant to travel huge distances (160 kilometers/100 miles each day) through an open ocean, with their families; hunting, playing, foraging, and socializing. They spend up to 90% of their time underwater. They aren’t mean to be kept in a shallow, concrete aquarium and forced to perform tricks. That should be all the truth that we need to decide not to support their enslavement. And it certainly isn’t just Seaworld, though, one could argue that they’re the most notorious.

The Miami Seaquarium have the orca Lolita all alone in a tank (since 1980) that’s been said to be so small it’s considered illegal (though the actual size is still disputed, it is the smallest whale tank in North America), still, nothing’s been done about it. She’s been there for over 40 years, after being taken from her family when she was only 4. She still remembers her family, and her family (including her mother) to this day is said to remember her. There are currently efforts being made to reunite Lolita with her family and free her from her concrete prison (under the Endangered Species Act). It’s a feasible option despite her long years in captivity. At best she could be fully reintegrated with them, but even if not she could live the rest of her life in retirement from isolation and forced performances, in an open sea-pen. I deeply hope this happens one day, and sooner rather than later. After all that’s been done to her at the hands of us humans I feel like it’s the very least that we could do for her.



I will never buy a ticket to any of these establishments. I hope, that after reading this neither will you. And, it’s not that I believe those that do or have are bad people. I think that more often than not it’s a lack of awareness and misinformation, not malice or ill intent. That’s why it’s so important to spread the word, and why I’m so grateful for the documentary Blackfish.

[1] Jeff Ventre, former senior trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando checks off the signs that captive orcas endure pain and hardship.

1. orca tooth decay and breakage (on steel gates)
2. retinal UV-damage from looking up at the sun (unclear impact)
3. forced social reorganization (wild orcas live in culturally distinct groups that stay together for life) leading to aggression and social strife in captivity
4. increased mortality and morbidity (decreased lifespan)
5. death of 4 humans from captive orcas
6. crippling of John Sillick (crushed), SW San Diego
7. death of Kanduke (1990) from possible mosquito (vector) transmitted viral encephalopathy (only possible from long hours of surface floating)
8. overuse of Tagamet (cimetidine) to decrease ulcers (from stress associated with captivity)
9. overuse of antibiotics leading to opportunistic (fungal) infections
10. collapsed dorsal fins from long hours of surface resting (boredom)
11. degrading and regular manual stimulation of Tilikum to extract sperm
12. the relative social isolation of Tilikum leading to pathological behaviors, including the most recent event
13. exploitation of trainers, who are injured, killed, and grossly underpaid
14. Confinement: Most of the Shamu Stadium pools are not as deep as Tilikum is long

Orcinus orca has suffered much to fulfill the whims of human entertainment. Learning how self-aware and intelligent they are is precisely why their confinement needs to end. Let’s evolve.

Source [1] http://www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/captivity.html

Tilikum (referenced above and the subject of Blackfish) is a long-captive orca (since ’83), mainly known by the public for his involvement in the deaths of three people in three separate incidents dating back to 1991. Tilikum was “trained” at SeaLand of the Pacific with the method of withholding food until he would comply with the unnatural requests to perform tricks. He was held in deplorable conditions with two female orcas who would regularly chase and harass him – being captive he could not escape as orcas in the open ocean do in such situations, forcing him to endure it (similar incidents have lead to the deaths of several orcas by their tank mates). This is how and where Tilikum spent his first 8 years of captivity.

I find it so sad that we’ve done this to such amazing, intelligent, sensitive creatures, and all for the sake of entertainment (of which we already have more than enough, that does not involve enslaving other animals). Circuses are no better. It all makes me sad and ashamed to be a human.

I really hope everyone watches Blackfish. It will open your eyes to something we all need to see.