Off I go.

This will be my last post before heading off to surgery to fix my shoulder. The wait has been long but I have managed to remain calm for the most part, even though I have shown slivers of craziness on occasion. I take pride in the fact that I am self-aware most of the time and know when I am being unreasonable.

My biggest shortcoming while waiting for a stressful event to take place – especially one that I cannot control, is to try and control things immediately surrounding me. My husband unfortunately gets the best micromanager around – ME – and he doesn't even have to ask. The other day I found myself planning his entire day, deciding for him when he would walk the dogs and eat breakfast; being the good manager I am, I was gracious enough to carve out some time for him in the afternoon to take a little break before finishing the remaining tasks I had in store for him. Only when I found myself moving the dog leashes closer and closer to him did I realize what I was doing. I waited for him to look up from reading with a confused look on his face but he didn't; he only smiled very slightly and shook his head. I apologized and immediately recognized the fact that since I was unable to control anything revolving around my surgery the next best thing was to control everyone in my universe. Thank goodness he understands me; since that revelation I have been doing much better and spending a lot of time meditating. I even went to my first Reiki treatment a couple of days ago. A repeat buyer of my artwork has become a dear friend and she generously offered me a complementary session with her which I graciously accepted. I had no idea what to expect and refrained from reading very much about it beforehand because I didn't want my thoughts about it to influence what I might feel.

I was pleasantly surprised, feeling calm and at peace afterward. On my drive home I found myself with a significant amount of energy – something I have been lacking for the last couple of weeks due to the combination of stress and inability to sleep at night due to shoulder pain. Is no downside to this type of treatment and if you have never had a session before I recommend going in without any preconceived notion; you will likely reflect positively on the outcome.

… So, off I go. Thanks to each of you for your comments of well wishes and positive thoughts – I appreciate every single one. The next time you hear from me I hope to be back painting and successfully tending to my left arm which unfortunately, also has a tear. It is my hope that I will not have to repeat the surgery in another six months when my right shoulder heals. Remaining positive is the key.

Surrender and release.

 

 

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My surgery date has been set for January 26 – exactly 2 1/2 weeks from now. While I am doing a pretty decent job at being quite ‘Zen’ about it, the fact remains that I wish it would just get here so that I can begin healing.

How does one patiently await a surgery when she struggles with anxiety? How does she keep her spirits up and keep the negative thoughts out? For me, it helps to have little notes like this posted in various spots around the house:

Acceptance

 

I like being prepared. I find it helpful to know what to expect so I can better deal with problems as they arise instead of being surprised buy them. However, trying to do research on the Internet about labral tear and rotator cuff repair surgery has provided nothing but horror stories so grand that some people suggest that gnawing off one’s arm as a better alternative to surgery.  I continue to be amazed by peoples initial responses when finding out that I am heading in for an operation.  I’ve had several acquaintances use phrases like,

‘Wow – that’s an incredibly painful recovery.’

‘it’s so frustrating, you’ll feel like you will never get any better.’

‘A friend of mine had it and he said it was excruciating!’

Not the greatest of pep talks, are they?  I have had some people share their own personal stories, giving me straight up facts balanced with positive words and for that I am greatly appreciative. I have decided from this moment forth though, that I am going to rely on my physical therapist as my sole provider of information, and I’m fine with it.

In the meantime, I have my watercolor and acrylic paints to keep me company and my mind occupied. Paint has a way of calming my anxiety like salve to a sore.

My series for 2015 consists of spirit animals and right now I’m working on a grizzly bear.  I am also playing with time lapse video! Here is the beginning stage of my bear – about an hour and a half worth of work condensed into a 31 second clip:

 

Setting forth good intentions before shoulder surgery

You’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, family get-togethers, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of socializing in two short months, so I hope you are getting your selves a break and patting herself on the back for a job well done on this New Year’s day, 2015. I for one have had one of the busiest and most fun schedules of my adult life over the past six months and it is all due to having the best set of friends a girl could ever ask for, a husband who still gets me and makes me laugh after nearly 15 years together, and the ability to continue working on my art full-time. Yes, 2014 was a wonderful year.

This is not to say that I had no major setbacks in 2014 – Life is not perfect, after all; but when the Good outweighs the Bad and I continue to wake up feeling incredibly blessed and grateful for the life I have, then life is pretty fantastic indeed.

I have gained a little over 6 pounds in the last six months which I have been halfheartedly attempting to lose; it is now time to put that thought into a plan of action because I need to prepare myself for another major surgery. I spent the better part of 2014 trying to nurse a shoulder injury back to health. I received acupuncture, electromagnetic stimulation and other various therapies to no avail. My diagnosis recently came back as a sobering realization that I have a rotator cuff and labral tear in my shoulder. The cherry on top of this train wreck of an injury is an unidentifiable mass on my scapula that is pressing on underline nerves and muscle. At least I will be making the surgeons job worthwhile by getting my moneys worth, right? Three surgeries for the price of one! Never underestimate the rationale of a frugal woman :-)

If you happened to be following my blog as I was recovering from my abdominal hysterectomy back in 2012 then you will understand my bit of anxiety about having another surgery. I spent the first day and a half emotionally exhausted and in complete freak out mode. A few obsessive-compulsive thoughts started rearing their ugly heads in the middle of the night as I try to sleep. I always been very honest and open on this blog and considered sharing all of my rational as well as irrational thoughts with you but my I have decided that I am not going to do that. One of my personal power words for 2015 is this:

Manifestation.

My concerns over this surgery will not change what has already been decided. Therefore, I am making it my job to put forth all of the good that will come from it, and make every attempt to leave all negative thoughts in their place. I feel as though I am about to enter a very thick, lush forest of trees. There is a solid path ahead that will be long and challenging but there is no way around it; no shortcut. I either take that first step forward and begin the journey or I just stand there, stagnant and afraid. At this point fear is no longer an option for me; without the surgery the best case scenario will most certainly be a dislocated shoulder, rendering my painting arm useless. If that’s not enough of a motivator for me, nothing will be.

Because my time spent painting will be altered significantly, it is my hope that through the miracle of verbal dictation I will be blogging a bit more during my recovery, and I look forward to reconnecting with those of you who have hung on as faithful followers of this site.

It’s been a while since I have posted any new artwork here. I assure you my neglect of this site has not been in vain. My series for 2015 will be titled: Power Animals of the Planet. Here is a peek of my first few pieces–

 

 

I apologize for the lack of clarity as these were taken directly from my camera, sans any editing.

 

A Happy New Year to you all– one that is filled with health and happiness.

Until next time…

Vegan Lemon Raspberry Muffins

With the holidays in full swing, I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking lately. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just using the holidays as an excuse – I’d create my own holiday if it gave me a reason to bake! (National Eraser Day? Why, that’s a perfect occasion for some muffins, yes?)

I will admit though, my favorite go-to recipe during the months of November and December is still my no-fail low-fat, low sugar applesauce pumpkin bread recipe, which you can find here   However, I have recently discovered a new recipe that I love just as much (dare I say, more?):  Vegan Lemon Raspberry Muffins!

I first found out about this recipe through my friend Laurel.  Although I am not a Vegan, I do love me a tried and true recipe and Laurel said this was super delicious and easy.  She was right!  This recipe has also been easy to modify: I’ve substituted blueberries instead of raspberries and I’ve even omitted berries altogether and used bananas for a super moist banana muffins.  No matter what fruit I use, the muffins rise beautifully and have loads of flavor.

Why no photos, you ask?  Well…..um – see, they were so delicious that they ended up going fairly quickly and I forgot to photograph them.  True story.   SO…..if anyone decides to make these fairly soon and wants to donate a snapshot of their loveliness, please do and I’ll give you full credit for your handiwork :)

Vegan Lemon Raspberry Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of veggie oil -or- melted Earth Balance Spread
  • 1/3 cup of Agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup of maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup of almond or soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon extract
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 12 muffin tin.  While the oven is preheating mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the oil, Agave, maple syrup, milk, vanilla & lemon extracts and lemon zest.  Stir until there are no clumps remaining.  Gently fold in raspberries and pour the batter evenly into each muffin cup.  Bake on center rack for approximately 30 minutes or until the tops are a golden light brown.

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In other news, it’s been a while since I’ve shared my latest painting with you so I’ll leave you with this sweet face right here:

Baby Ella, completed in November, 2014

Baby Ella, completed in November, 2014

Me, a Comic Book Girl?

The time changed last night and I’m sitting here wondering how I will handle it these next two weeks.  Whenever we ‘fall-back’ I REALLY fall back – as in, hitting the ground hard and then just rolling over to take a nap.  It takes a couple of weeks for me to adjust, this business of getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Ugh!

Okay, Halloween is over so that’s enough ‘moaning’, right?

Speaking of Halloween, (and thank you Vickie for asking!)  YES, I did hold my Halloween party this year – which will officially become an annual event from this year forward thanks to the great turnout and response that my husband and I received.  It always feel so nice to know that people enjoy coming to my home. We put so much work into our Halloween parties; if I didn’t get this kind of feedback, it simply wouldn’t be worth the effort, otherwise.

One thing I can say about my guests:  they were all committed to making their costumes as brilliant as they could be – all hoping to win the Mumm-Award.  What’s that, you ask?  It’s the coveted First Place Prize that the winner must hold for the year and bring back NEXT Halloween so that he/she can defend their title.

Following are just a few photos taken during the evening, including the winner of this year’s Mumm-Award, but first:  my costume this year: An homage to Lichtenstein’s pop art comic book girl:

 

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I hesitated to commit myself to this costume due to the time it takes to add all of those dots, but I changed my mind when I started thinking like an artist and pulled out an art stencil which had tiny dots on them.  It took literally 10 minutes to complete the ‘newspaper dot’ effect with the stencil, some blush and a round face brush.

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The full effect of my costume – courtesy of my local Goodwill store and a sharpie marker :)

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The Werewolf and an Evil Rag doll (who looks less evil in this photo with her huge grin!)

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Dolly Parton in the center with a couple of hippies on either side.  The hippie shirts were hand-dyed!  Now that’s dedication!IMG_3053

The most clever costume, in my opinion:  A pair of boobs!

and, this year’s winner of the Mumm-Award:

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Flo- the Progressive Commercial Lady :)

Happy belated Halloween, everyone.

xo,

Ellen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This

When I used to take my golden retriever to our local nursing home I quickly noticed who the most popular residents were.  They were the people whom always had a smile on their face, were pleasant to talk to and who chatted about things other than their health or how horrible their room was.  These were not special people – they had aches and pains like everyone else; they sold their homes, gave many personal possessions away and moved into a less-than-desired place like everyone else but their attitudes set them apart.  Nurses enjoyed them, other residents admired them and people like me respected them.  It was their attitude that set them apart.  They seemed to take every situation – good or bad – and found some piece of good within it all.  I quickly realized that I wanted to have that kind of outlook when I was at that stage of my life.  I didn’t want to be the person who finds fault with every little thing, who complains about every person they run into; who holds onto a bitterness that spreads like a cancer.  I have lived with people like that for a good part of my life and it wasn’t who I wanted to be.

I stopped volunteering at the nursing home when my dog died but the lessons I learned there have stuck with me.  It’s not easy to keep a positive outlook when I have chronic pain.  I’ve recently come to the realization that I’ve suffered from some form of pain since the age of 16.  I don’t know what it’s like to wake up pain-free, and that can take its toll so I get it.  But honestly, it’s becoming easier to maintain a positive outlook the more I practice it.  Nothing has taught me that more than dealing with neck/shoulder pain for the last 6 months but every night before I go to bed I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given since this happened.  I can still use my left hand to paint and have gained a new skill that I never would have had reason to attempt otherwise.

My largest left-handed painting to date.

My largest left-handed painting to date.

So, an update.  I am still having issues and there are days when I can’t set foot in my studio – even to paint with my non-dominant hand, due to the pain that radiates from my neck down my arm.  But I am learning to redirect that energy towards other things that I CAN do.  Yoga is one of those beautiful things in life that waits for me to come back to it, just like an old, dear friend.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t currently hold plank. or Downward facing Dog – it’s just glad to see me taking care of my body the best I can, and even though my upper body may be regressing somewhat, my lower body is still strong and powerful.

Bound half lotus tip-toe poseThis week I nailed bound half lotus tip-toe pose and I am grateful; when my pain resolves itself I know that I’ll appreciate painting in a way that I never have before.  These are the mantras I play over in my head and it makes all the difference in the world.   Of course I still have down days – I’m human; but I won’t let them define me.

 

Color Run, Recipe and Recap

Yes, well – ahem…..I’m still here, just not – ‘here’. The truth is, my computer time has been extremely limited as it agitates certain muscles that I’m still trying to heal, but I simply HAD to check in and fill you in on what’s been happening in life since my last post.

Most recently, I participated in my first 5K on Saturday, yes I did!  The Color Run to be exact, and here are a couple of pics to prove it:

 

colorrun3Our place at the Starting Line

colorrun1Craig and I at the Finish Line

The race happened to be on the same day as our wedding anniversary.  What a great time, and the best part – participating with a great group of friends that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.  If you’ve never done a 5K before (and you aren’t worried about your time) I highly recommend this as a first race.

The rest of my summer has gone equally well, even though I’m still nursing my shoulder back to health.  I finally let go of my need to paint and focused on the things I actually ‘could’ do instead of thinking about what I couldn’t.  The last few months have been a huge learning experience for me; had this injury not have happened, I would have missed out on experiences and friendships that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Not always do we see lessons in hindsight, but when we do it makes us much more compassionate about those rough times, doesn’t it?

Right now I’m easing back into my painting and should be finishing up my first mixed media piece since June at some point tomorrow!  When I’m not painting, I’m enjoying my new group of friends and finding creative ways to use sweet potatoes in nearly everything I bake since they are in season right now – I have a sweet potato bread recipe that I’ll be sharing soon, but first: Sweet Potato Pudding which has only 5 ingredients.  Better yet, It’s vegan, has no added sugar and is absolutely amazing.  I have no photos to share (you can go onto Pinterest and find a slew of them) but the recipe follows:

Mix the following in a blender, food processor or Magic Bullet:

2 ripe bananas, 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of cooked and cooled sweet potato flesh.

Spoon into a bowl and enjoy.

Glacier National Park Road Trip

I am feeling somewhat recovered from my trip to Glacier National Park.  I was going to type up an intro to just how special this place is, but then I decided that there isn’t anything I can say that will compare with the beauty of the photos that follow, so I’ll let them speak for themselves:

 

Heading into Montana we came across several of these canola fields.  Not many people like the color chartreuse, but against this brilliant blue sky it was pure magic.

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Montana horses!

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Once inside the park, this is the kind of scenery that you’ll see from nearly every angle.

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Wildflowers were in bloom on several of the trails we hiked.

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A photo of Lynn and I (taken by my husband) during our hike at Beaver Pond Loop Trail.

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Moose!

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At the end of the trail to Avalanche Lake.

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Mountain Goats with their young.

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Kintla Lake

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We literally ran into this mama moose.  Her baby was nestled on the other side of her.

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Taking in the beauty of it all.

photo(12)Photo courtesy of Jennifer Nealy

 

If you ever get the chance to visit this unspoiled, breathtaking place, do.  I promise you will not regret it.  We drove over 1600 miles to get there and even though I’m still recovering from the 4 day journey back, I’d return again and again without the slightest hesitation.  It is worth every mile spent on gas, every moment in the car – for when you arrive you’ll think of nothing else about your life other than how grateful you are to be surrounded by such unspoiled beauty.

For more photos of our trip and the perspective of another blogger that we met while in Glacier, head over to read this post by Nealys on Wheels.

Road Trippin’

The breathtaking, untouched beauty of Glacier National Park was bestowed upon me and my husband for 7 full days in mid-July.  On his bucket list for well over a decade, we decided that this was our year to go.  My father, before he died, reminded me to refrain from making the same mistake he made.  A few months before he passed away he said, ‘Don’t be like me. If there is something you want to do, do it before it’s too late and you’re too sick or too old to enjoy it.  Work isn’t everything; memories are what you’ll be talking about when you’ve got nothing left.’

Okay, so it may be a bit sullen to put on a T-Shirt, but his words were meant to be sobering.  He’d worked his entire life, first to keep himself fed and clothed after he left home at a young age due to major conflicts between he and his father; then working two jobs in order to support a quickly growing family that consisted of a wife and 4 children whom were nearly all in diapers at the same time (they were to receive a 9 year break before I came along).

Still, Glacier National Park seemed as fantasy a vacation as Hawaii or Alaska (both of which happen to be on MY bucket list) but kudos to us for saving our pennies and keeping our eyes on the prize.  This was our year.

Since we were meeting up with Lynn and Clark from Tales from the Mutiny we decided that renting an RV would be the most convenient and comfortable way to get from Indiana to Montana.  I haven’t had much (if any) trouble with my back in months so I was pretty confident that I could make the 1,620 miles there – no doubt.  But doing it by car over three days? That sounded downright miserable.  So, an RV rental it was.  We were to become temporary nomads, driving as far as we wanted and setting up camp when we couldn’t go any further.

As you can imagine, the drive there was much more fun than the drive back.  This was for many reasons.  First, our little RV felt like a cozy little treehouse on wheels.  It was fun being able to stand up and stretch or open the refrigerator for a container of yogurt while my husband drove through Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota on Saturday.  What was most fun about the way there however, was laying eyes on this sweet face – Laura from The Gluten-Free Treadmill.

EllenLauraWhen Craig and I found out that we’d be driving right through Fargo, North Dakota I checked the map and realized that we would be less than 2 hours from where Laura lives.  She and I have a special bond that simply cannot be explained and I just love her to pieces.  After a few failed attempts we both basically drove toward each other until we became close enough to pull over at the nearest exit to us.  We visited for nearly an hour and talked about everything from art to life as a student in North Dakota to her BIG decision to run for sexual violence awareness next May from New York to San Francisco (which you can read about by clicking the link above or donate by clicking here).  Sadly it wasn’t enough time, but we had to part ways so Craig and I could continue on our journey westward.

We left Indiana Saturday morning and arrived in Glacier National Park on Monday around 6 PM. In my next post I’ll share some of the many, many photos I took while there but right now this gal is dog-tired, so stay tuned…..

 

And off we go

As of Saturday I will be away from my computer for a couple of weeks, sans a few photos posted to my FB art page and Instagram accounts (find me at either space at Ellen Brenneman Studio). I am taking a much needed vacation – my first road trip in nearly a decade, as a matter of fact. Me, my husband, my camera and my paintbrush are heading to Glacier National Park to see some of this:

 

And this:

 

I am looking forward to connecting with a part of the US that I’ve never seen and am MOST excited to be meeting up with Lynn from Learning Curves and her husband Clark while these two…

 

…..remain home where they will be pampered and loved on by my fantastic nephew SO MUCH that they will hopefully forgive us fairly quickly for not taking them along.

I expect to be back with a fully-functioning arm and enough inspiring photos to paint my way through Fall and Winter.

Pics when I return :) xo