Author Archives: Ellen

PTSD, Coping and Painting

I’ve recently been reminded of the phrase, ‘You’ll know when things are about to get better – it’s when you feel like you’ve reached your breaking point.’  Not terribly comforting I admit, but it’s usually true.  At least I hope so for the sake of me and those around me.

As my last few posts – as well as my overall ‘lack’ of posting proves,  the past several weeks have been difficult for me.  While trying to help a family member get over a very difficult period in their life I’ve experienced a harsh lesson on the cruelty of others while memories of my divorce back in 2001 have been intruding my thoughts.  Last week my mind betrayed me again with thoughts I have tried laying to rest for nearly three years.

My husband and I were talking with our neighbors across the street about an accident that had just happened down the street from us.  As we were watching the firetrucks and police cars block the road from traffic my neighbor asked if I knew the neighbors directly to the right of us.  I replied that because of our 6 month hibernation from the brutal winter, we hadn’t had much of a chance to make small talk.  She said, ‘Well, their dog keeps getting loose and runs all over the neighborhood. I keep telling them that they need to fix their fence before someone gets hurt.’

Not more than 30 seconds after she finished that sentence, our next door neighbors opened their front door to step outside.  The dog squeezed between their legs and started running toward the street.  Within seconds we witnessed the dog as he was struck by a passing vehicle.  I remember hearing a long, wailing sound, thinking it was the dog; it wasn’t.  That scream was coming from me.

The vehicle stopped and the driver stepped out, the look of disbelief on his face.   My husband and the neighbors across the street rushed to come to the aid of the dog and owner who, by that time was knelt down in the street next to his companion.  As for me, I suddenly felt like I was going to crumble to my knees.  When I finally willed my legs to move, I headed straight for the house where I broke down and sobbed.

I was upset for the dog, most certainly. Heartbroken for the owner, definitely.  But the majority of my uncontrollable crying came from deep within.  I was having flashbacks of my mother’s accident a few years ago when she was struck by a car (the first of a 2 part post can be read here)

I always thought that people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) suffered because of something that happened ‘to’ them.  I was ignorant to the fact that one can be afflicted with this disorder by witnessing a horrific event.  It wasn’t until I went to therapy shortly after my mother’s accident that I learned more about this condition.

The accident involving the dog (whom died within 5 minutes of being struck) caused me to come to terms with certain things about myself that are likely to remain for a long time to come.  No longer am I able to watch the News.  Reports of sad or depressing stories seem to wound me deeply.  Shocking photos or videos in my Facebook newsfeed are quickly eliminated from my view, for once I allow my mind to accept what my eyes are seeing I find myself grieving for days.  Even movies with too serious a storyline are off limits.

It’s been a week since the unfortunate accident with the dog but I am still having flashbacks.  If I allowed myself, I could easily use those feelings and make them tangible in the form of new artwork.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to explore that part of myself within the safety of my studio, but for now I distract myself with images that bring peace, happiness and love to my mind.  This latest piece is a result of that place in my mind which I reserve for beauty and comfort.  My place of solace:

Serenity of SpringEtsy

Title:  Serenity of Spring

Life 1.0

Thank you Vickie for prompting me to connect with my blog this week. I have had little inspiration on blog material these last few weeks due to family issues but since it’s Friday and I’m breathing a bit easier for the moment I thought I’d check in.  I wish I could go into detail about what’s been happening but unfortunately, I cannot.  I am a mere bystander in all of this mess (mostly) and anything written here could be considered gossip so it’s best that I just leave it at that.

I am still pushing onward in my painting and trying to get ready for my next show which (thankfully) isn’t until July.  However, things are constantly changing around here it seems so who knows what the next couple of months will hold for me.  Especially now that the gallery which houses/sells my work down in Indianapolis is closing at the end of the month.  The building has been sold and the new owners will be turning it into a bar :(  I have three weeks to pick up all of my inventory.  Very sad for everyone involved but on a good note, I was able to meet some extraordinary people through this venture and that is priceless to me.

My husband came home ill earlier this week. Today he is back at work and now I am beginning to get ill.  Likely it is the same thing he had.  I have a feeling I’m in for a long weekend ahead.  I pray it does not involve vomiting.  Ugh.  It is a fitting end to a rough week which involved witnessing my neighbor’s dog get hit and killed by a car.  I am still aching over that and have been having flashbacks of my mother’s car accident ever since.

I leave you with a progress pic of what I’ve been working on this week.

Peeking

I’m pushing myself to do more faces because its the one area in which I feel incredibly inadequate.  She will be another mixed media piece and hopefully finished sometime early next week.

Have a good weekend.

E

 

Ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you’re living someone else’s life?

I am not a fan of real life drama. I don’t regularly associate with people who’s lives are comparable to that of a living soap opera. I think it’s terribly inappropriate to air dirty laundry on Facebook. My little life is generally quiet; I’m the co-captain of a very smooth, stable, well-built ship. Rough waters and wind are not welcome here.

Having said that, you’d think that I was bragging about how calm my life is, but right now the opposite is happening. It’s been a rough few weeks around here with lots of changes taking place – both within my household and with nearby family members. I am not digging it.

Life is unpredictable though, and the only thing to do is try to maintain some sense of stability and just hang on until the storm passes.

My mother hasn’t been feeling well all week. She’s nearing 81 years of age now and while aches and pains are a part of growing older, the symptoms she was describing to me the other night sounded like she was having a heart attack. At 9 PM my husband and I drove over to take her to the emergency room where we stayed until after 1 AM waiting to see what the diagnosis was. Nothing was found in blood work or the EKG; the diagnosis: GERD, which can mimic symptoms of a heart attack. Interestingly enough, the doctor on call asked my mother’s age and then said that if a woman lives to the age of 70 without being diagnosed with heart disease, the odds of her ever getting it are incredibly slim. Huh. I never knew this.

Spring has STILL not arrived in Indiana. Usually by this time of year we are seeing regular temperatures of nearly 50 degrees but that is not happening. I’m retaliating by painting Spring-inspired art over and over; it’s as if I’m willing spring into existence. I do hope we get a break soon. They say things feel at their worst just before it’s over. Hopefully this means that my life is on the cusp of better days ahead.

Here is my latest painting, finished yesterday. Title: In the Wild Blue

FlowerGirlortonFB

Etsy

have a good weekend, everyone. I hope that Spring has Sprung wherever you are :)

From Me to You

Is it possible to be a great fan of someone’s work and not have any idea who they are? (A resounding YES echoes in my head). Sue, my yoga teacher, reads an uplifting passage right before class ends – one of the many reasons I love her to the moon and back. During Wednesday’s class she read a poem that touched me deep within my soul. I couldn’t wait until class was over before asking, ‘Who wrote that poem?’
‘Mary Oliver,’ she said. I’d never heard of her before, I responded, but Sue often reads her poetry – I’d just never made the connection that these words, so passionately written, were all by the same person.
I was a huge fan, never knowing it.

I must share the words read to me on Wednesday. It is very fitting to leave them here for you to savor, for as I listened my thoughts were immediately drawn to my good fortune and the many beautiful souls I’ve met over the past few years. This of course, includes all of you. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

Of Love

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some — now carry my revelation with you —
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world — its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself — I imagine
this is how it began.

Mary Oliver

A Flipagram Time Lapse Video: A Peek into painting.

My belief as to why I’ve been working such long hours is because once the weather finally breaks and we see some warmer days, I will be taking some time off from painting.  Maybe.   Well, certainly I won’t be painting as much as I have these last four months. I wanted to share a time lapse video that I took of my latest painting.  I am getting better at doing these; they are actually very therapeutic because whenever I feel like I’m in a slump or creative block I can refer to these and see that creativity has ebbs and flows like anything else.  There are days when the thought of running three miles seems hopeless; the same goes for thoughts about if I’ll EVER be able to successfully achieve a King Pigeon Pose.  Visual progress I’m finding, in ANY practice is a reward by itself.  It allows you to see the progress you didn’t know was there. The app I stumbled across to mark MY progress is called Flipagram.  You can download it for free in the App Store.  It’s also for Android.  It is quite possibly, the easiest app I’ve ever learned to use.  You just take a series of photos and then pick and choose which ones you want to add for your montage.  Flipagram does the rest. Here is my time lapse video.  I hope you enjoy. Title:  Mother Earth – Spring Rain.

 

Sea Queen Painting and Back Update

It was late December when I read Dr. Sarno’s book on TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) and I thought I’d give an update on how things are going.  As you may recall, since my discovery that my back pain was actually sucking the life out of me, I made the decision to attack it head-on by doing anything/everything that I’d previously added to my ‘no-can-do’ list out of fear that I’d make it worse.

Two and a half months later I can happily report that my back pain is still holding at being 80% better or more.  I have taken trips in the car, I’ve started running again and I’ve practically eliminated my need for pain medication for my back which is a huge deal.

The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy in our household.  My husband started a new job which means that he will no longer have to suffer through the extreme heat and cold that we have here.  No need to wear layers upon layers of clothing in the wintertime, no more working out in traffic, and the best part: no more excessive wear and tear on his body.

Before taking this job (it is with the same company, just different department) we sat down to discuss the fact that even though he would make the same amount of money, his pension will take a hit.  It wasn’t a long discussion, however, because we agreed that his health was more important than drawing a full pension.  Honestly, what good is money if your body is too broken to enjoy the benefits of having it (other than paying off surgeries for torn rotator cuffs or blown knees).  Adjusting finances is a small price to pay if he’s happier and healthier – which he is, I’m glad to say.

As for me, I had another skin cancer scare while at the dermatologist several days ago.  This time on the right side of my nose.  More cryosurgery was in order and we are carefully watching the site for any signs of return.  In the meantime I have to figure out exactly how I will go about severing my relationship with the sun.  I haven’t sunbathed in well over a decade but sitting in the sun for brief periods of time (especially when I’m cold) is something I desperately miss; now I have to make it my mission to find myself a large, floppy hat that doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a mushroom on my head.

Paintings have been coming fast and furious these last few weeks.  Here is my latest:

 

seaqueen1

 

This is a mixed media painting.   Title:  Sea Queen.  The lace on her arms is real (click on the image to see a closeup).  The hair comb and the whale were painted, cut and adhered to the painting.  I’m starting to do time lapse videos on my paintings and I have on on my Facebook art page if anyone is interested in seeing it.  It’s a poor edit as it’s my first but I plan on doing more of these in the future and will therefore hopefully improve upon them.

Have a great week :)

 

Runner Art, Color Run and 5K Challenge

Last week I had Running on the brain.

After several requests to attempt a painting geared for runners I decided to dive in and see what I could come up with.  I worked for days on end, got stuck, quit – then came back to it until I finally finished it:

I am a Runner

 

 

I wanted this piece to be for anyone who runs, whether competitively or for fun, young or old. I researched popular quotes and none of them really seemed to fit with the piece so I took a few words from here and there and added a few of my own.  In all, I think it turned out pretty well for my first try.

Another reason why running was on my mind is because I joined Kyra’s Virtual 5K Challenge as a means to help keep me in shape since I spend so much time sitting and painting.  This challenge she’s created is pretty fantastic and SO organized – she has a Facebook Group set up so that runners can talk with one another, she’s offering prizes (including a print from my painting above) and she even had merchandise made (t-shirt, anyone?)  You can find out all about it.  Just click on the icon below:

 

Little did I know that joining this 5K would not only keep me motivated to get regular exercise but as it turns out, it’s also going to help me train for an ACTUAL 5K race!  No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes – you read right.  I signed up for my first 5K race, right here in town:  The Color Run.  Now, to those of you who’ve done this race before I know it’s not the same as other races because participants spend more time getting splattered with paint than they do run, but still, I’m terribly excited.  I even put my own team together, including my husband who is not a runner at ALL!  The race date happens to be our wedding anniversary, so that will make it extra special.

A few of you might be wondering how all of this training is affecting my back since I gave up running several months ago because of my back issues.   Well, I am working on a post that will serve as an update on how things have been going since I figured out what was actually wrong with my back (if you missed it you can read that post here) and I’m eager to share my progress with you.

Have a good week, everyone.

 

Pick Me Up

Its been a while since I’ve posted any photos of gratitude, so here is something that I hope will inspire you to find your own moment of gratefulness this week.  We are in for another frigid week with below zero temperatures here in Indiana.  Winter blues has set in for much of this part of the country.   This is when I pick up my camera and carry it with me wherever I go, taking photos of things that bring me peace, make me happy and remind me that  even among the cold and dreary weather, beauty is everywhere – sometimes I just have to be patient and wait for it to appear.

 

Taken from my back yard yesterday afternoon:

 

 

deerinyard

 

 

I came across this poem this weekend and wanted to share it with you.  Beautiful words, always worth remembering.  

tumblr_mpwpquk3ZF1r0r0vvo1_1280

source

Have a good week, everyone.

Beauty Underneath

Do women still lie about their age?  When I was small I was taught to never, EVER ask a woman’s age.  ”That is rude and inconsiderate,’ my mother used to say.  A woman telling you her true age was about as likely as a woman telling you that she was wearing her natural hair color.  It just wasn’t done.  Some things fortunately do change though, and from my experience women are more comfortable sharing their age these days and don’t bat an eyelash about going from blonde to brunette.

Some things though haven’t changed.  Every so often I receive an email from someone asking about how I deal with loose skin from losing over 100 pounds.  Recently one woman wrote saying that she was embarrassed about her body after losing weight and that she felt unattractive and unworthy of love. How I wish that women would embrace their bodies regardless of what age they are or what battles they’ve gone through.  In such a ‘beautiful’ society it’s not acceptable to talk about the real world that we live in.  Why?  I believe its because the truth is sometimes scary and people don’t want to be burdened with it so they continue to strive for the unattainable: photoshopped models and the leggy, gorgeous exercise instructor at the gym.  But the truth is, our bodies are not designed to look voluptuous and taut throughout eternity.  That is simply not its job.  The body is designed as a vessel to serve us as we pass through this life; its bound to get a bit worn, a bit bruised and beaten.

 

 

One of the best photos ever taken of me (in my opinion) happened to be at the art show I participated in earlier this month.  From this photo you would never know that underneath I have excess skin from my weight loss or that I carry a pretty prominent scar on my belly from my hysterectomy.  Nor do you see the scar on my breast from a lumpectomy or the multitude of scars on my shoulders and back that removed cancerous cells which saved my life.  Yet my smile, my look of contentment – my happiness is genuine.  I am, for the most part, comfortable with my body.

I recently came across an article from The Huffington Post about a woman who has launched a project called Under The Red Dress.  Beth Whaanga is a cancer survivor that bravely and gracefully speaks out about the physical toll that cancer takes on a human being.  The link above will take you to her story.  The following link will take you 7 images of Beth.  The first one shows her in a beautiful dress, hair done and wearing makeup, however as you scroll through the photos you see another side of Beth – a woman whose body has been through cancers, surgeries, rapid weight loss, reconstruction.  The images are not meant to shock but to educate.  You can see these images here.

While the Under The Red Dress project is to bring awareness to cancer survivors I felt compelled to share Beth’s story here on my blog for anyone who believes that she is is somehow ‘less than’, whether it be loose skin from weight loss or heavy scarring from major surgeries.  No body is perfect.  We all have flaws.

I hope the above photos, though they may look extreme, shed some light on what’s hidden beneath and that we continue to break the stereotypes that manipulate women into believing that we have to be perfect in order to be an accepted part of society.  I commend Beth Whaanga and fully support her project.

 

Hear her roar – she’s forty-four

Age is a funny thing.  Kids can’t wait to tell you how old they are, and they’ll even cheat a bit by rounding up to the next number. Teenagers can’t wait to be older.  I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received as a 16 year old was being told, ‘really?  You look at least 19!’

But somewhere in the mid twenties, things start to change.  Suddenly we aren’t so keen on telling people how old we are anymore.

 When I was a small child I had a doll named Johnny.  He and I were inseparable.  I carried him with me everywhere and when he wasn’t with me I cried.  I loved him to the moon and back.  Last year while helping my mother unpack her belongings in a new apartment she’d recently moved into I opened up a box marked winter clothes.  There inside was Johnny.  ”I found him up in the attic and thought you’d like to have him,” she said.  “You were given lots of pretty dolls when you were a little girl but they just sat on the shelf while you played with Johnny.”  I picked him up and looked at his worn, plastic face.  His stuffing, once tightly fitted in crisp yellow flannel pajamas was now lumpy and sparse.  His body was now worn and tired; two fingers appeared to have been slightly chewed – signs of a child trying to break herself from the habit of sucking her thumb.    

I thought about what my mother said about the other dolls in my room, all waiting to be played with while instead, I clung to Johnny.  Most of them had long flowing hair, perfectly smooth skin and frilly pressed dresses.  My baldheaded doll-baby may not have been the prettiest thing to carry around but I can assure you that he was the envy of all the other toys in my room – we went places, he and I: vacations, car rides, grocery store outings, restaurants, you name it.  He’d been dragged though the snow, sat in the dirt, left out in the rain and if I remember correctly, vomited on a couple of times but truthfully, as I held him that day at my Mom’s apartment he still looked pretty good for being over four decades old.

Today is my birthday and I have no reservations whatsoever about telling you how old I am (forty-four).   As I reflect on what this new age represents, I guess I’m kind of feeling like my childhood doll: some places are looking a bit worn (wrinkles around the eyes), the stuffing is now a bit sparse in some key locations (slightly droopy breasts) and a few chewed up areas (some pretty impressive scars).  Recently I was scouting for a quote to pair with one of my paintings and came across one that I really connected with; I put it in a little notebook that I keep handy so I will always remember it:

I don’t want another girl’s body.  I want my body – happy, healthy and strong.  

How true this statement is for me.  Sure, there’s still that tiny part of me that wishes I had beautiful, long hair or lean and perfectly toned arms but at the end of the day I’m just grateful for the things my body does for me.  It’s likely that all this wisdom has something to do with the aging process and feeling more comfortable in my own skin; it’s positively true that I’ve learned to appreciate my body through the practice of yoga. I’m just feeling pretty darned lucky to be here I guess; that’s a feeling I never intend on taking for granted.