The Weight

My husband can always tell when my anxiety is getting the better of me.  I will assume that I’m doing a fine job at keeping my disorder to myself but he knows differently.  This past week while I’ve been awaiting word regarding my upcoming eye surgery I guess I’ve been dropping clues like breadcrumbs.  I’ve been edgy, nauseated, and having a difficult time concentrating. When I sit down I must be moving ‘some’ part of my body so that nervous energy can release itself and hand-wringing begins.

If things had just gone remotely smooth I wouldn’t feel nearly as lousy as I do right now but I’m beginning to learn that when insurance is involved, things rarely go smoothly.

As I mentioned in my prior post, I was awaiting an appointment from the eye surgeon.  Yesterday morning I received my appointment date: mid-September – and this was ONLY for a consult.  I called my dermatologist’s office and told the nurse that it was my understanding that since this mole on my eyelid needed to be removed and tested for melanoma, that it was imperative I have the surgery as soon as possible.  Sorry, she said.  That is the soonest appointment he had available.

‘Is there anyone else in the surrounding area that can do this surgery?’ I asked.  She said that she would make some phone calls and get back with me.  A while later the phone rang.

‘I can get you in to the surgery center fairly soon but your surgery will be considered and elective procedure so you’ll have to bring cash with you when you come.’  Cash?  Elective? I asked for clarification.

‘Well,’ she continued.  ‘Your insurance company is looking at this as a cosmetic procedure and insurance will not pay for these kinds of surgeries.’  I said, ‘but this isn’t an elective procedure – it’s a medical requirement because of a suspect mole!’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But because there is no diagnosis as of yet, it’s technically an elective procedure.’  Sigh.  But I can’t get a diagnosis until I have the procedure.

…and it gets worse.  If I choose to be sedated I’ll have to pay nearly $3000 out of pocket as opposed to having the surgery with a local anesthetic.

Guess who is being forced into being awake for this surgery?  This girl.

The date has been set for July 10th at 1:30 PM.  Between now and then I must find a way to get through this as calmly as I can.  Right now all I feel like doing is bursting into tears but I realize that much of this is out of sheer frustration and being forced into playing ‘the waiting game’ for another month.

I finished my painting.

theWeightTalk about symbolism.  A covered eye.  A brightly colored headdress to distract from the worry on her face, and the horizontal line above the covered eye which resembles that of a scar.

Title:  The Weight

…a fitting title at that.  You can tell that she is anxious, on alert – waiting for direction.  Yet the look on her face also indicates that she has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Anxiety will do that to a person.

 

 

 

 

 

One More Scar

Yesterday marked my two year anniversary since my hysterectomy. Normally on ‘important-to-me’ dates such as this I spend a bit of time reflecting but I was too busy mentally preparing for my dermatology appointment.

I’ve had a freckle on my eyelid, above my lash line for over a year. A couple of weeks ago as I was removing my eye makeup I noticed that it had a raised feeling to it. I called my husband to come and look at it. Sure enough, it looked significantly different than it had just weeks prior. The color of it had also changed and it had grown very dark in color. I called my dermatologist’s office to see if I could get an appointment.

“You already have an appointment in August for your bi-annual exam,” the receptionist said. I explained to her that I had a rapidly changing mole on my eyelid and needed to see the doctor as soon as possible.

“The earliest I can get you in is August 6th,” she said. We went around and around for a while until finally I asked for my doctor’s email. “I’ll just send a photo of the mole and if he thinks I can wait until August, I will.”

Her response: “We aren’t set up to receive email.” You’ve got to be kidding. “What is your fax number?” I asked. She gave it to me and I sent a fax with my photo attached and addressed it to my doctor. The copy came back with a photo that was nearly black; my eye was unrecognizable. Great.

My last ditch effort was to print out a photo of my eye and send it priority mail directly to his office. I got a callback the next day with an appointment set for June 5th.

I spent the next several days wringing my hands and awaiting my appointment. I knew what he would say as I’ve been through this a dozen times.

Sure enough when he saw me he stated that it needed to be removed and checked for melanoma. The many times I’ve been through this conversation and subsequent ‘mole-cutting’ ceremonies I’ve been left with small chunks of skin missing and stitches. This was my eyelid. Near my eyeball! I became disheartened.

“I could block out some time and do this in my office but I think you should likely see an eye surgeon,” said my doctor. The only catch was that it would take a bit longer to get an appointment because the surgeon comes into town only twice weekly from Chicago. “Would I be sedated if you did it here?” I asked, hopefully.

“No, I’m afraid not. I’d numb your eye with some drops and slip a plastic shield under your eyelid and then…..”

I already started shaking my head. “I can’t be awake for this,” I said, starting to panic. I suddenly felt like a bit of a coward as I let my fears dictate my decision. I thought of my friend Sal who had an abdominal hysterectomy with an epidural as her as her only form of anesthesia. She was awake for the entire thing. Oh, how I wished I had that kind of courage. But I don’t. I get very squeamish when things go into my eyes or my ears. I’ve been that way since I was a child.

“It’s fine. I think you’ve made a good choice here, and the surgeon is extremely good. He will do a great job and everything will be fine.” Everything aside, I truly love my dermatologist and I trust him completely. He’s been saving my life for many years now and I just needed to realize that if he felt I shouldn’t wait he would have said something. So……I wait.

Hopefully I will have an appointment on the books early next week. I have no idea how this will happen, if I will lose part of my lid or whether I’ll look like a pirate for a while with my very own eye patch, but until then I’m trying not to let these images grow into something too big to handle. Still, I worry if this will now be something that I’m going to have to encounter on a regular basis for the remainder of my life. I know very well the dangers of melanoma; I know someone who has died from it, and I also know that my risk of developing it in my lifetime is fairly high.

Logically I have a complete understanding that I could just as easily die from a car accident or choke on a carrot stick; but I’m not constantly being tested with minor fender-benders or repeated Heimlich Maneuvers then, either.

My distraction over all of this has caused me to nearly ruin two separate paintings this week, so this morning I pulled out a clean sheet of watercolor paper and just started painting. Remember when I told you that my artwork was like a visual diary and that one only need look at my work in order to get a glimpse of how I’m feeling? Today’s work in progress was no different.

Watercolor

I love the fact that I can pour my emotions into my artwork; I feel very fortunate to have that kind of creative outlet.  However,  I need to make a point to spend more time discussing my feelings out loud.  I’m finding that I’m not very good at that.  Outside I am vibrant with beautiful aquamarines and deep sunset corals, but many times, inside I am a swirl of putrid greens and jaundiced yellows. This has come from my years of continuous studio work and spending so much time alone.  I’m afraid I’ve regressed in this area of my life and I need to seek some balance.  Like this painting, I am also a #wip.

 

 

Let’s Review: Coppertone Clearly Sheer and Arctic Zero

With summer finally here I decided to review a couple of new-to-me products that are now out in the majority of stores across the country. The first is for a new sunscreen and the other, a calorie-friendly frozen dessert.

 

Coppertone ClearlySheer Sunscreen

I’m a pretty tough critic when it comes to good sunscreen. Having had skin cancer in the past (most recently on the bridge of my nose) it’s imperative that I keep my skin protected at all times. I have certain requirements before I’ll consider purchasing the same bottle twice: good coverage, non-greasy feel, pleasant but light scent and easy on sensitive skin. This Spring I found my new favorite – and its actually affordable!

 

 

Coppertone Clearly Sheer in SPF 30 exceeds all of my requirements – outstanding news for me! So far it’s the first sunscreen I’ve tried that I can add multiple times without having to worry about breakouts or skin irritation. The scent is very light with just a hint of citrus and coconut. The best part for me though, is the feel of it on my skin. It glides on but sinks in quickly, leaving my skin feeling soft and smooth like a moisturizing lotion would. Another plus is that I can apply it under my makeup. In fact, this is the first sunscreen that I have used both on my face and my body, and even though I am rarely seen at the beach it’s waterproof up to 80 minutes. I truly love the stuff.

 

Arctic Zero frozen dessert

Next, Arctic Zero Frozen Dessert in Chocolate Peanut Butter. I have been wanting to try this ice cream substitute for some time but until recently it was only available by mail order, and anything that needs to remain frozen generally costs a fortune to deliver. While at my local supermarket the other day I was surprised to find it in the ice cream section so I bought a pint.

 

 

The first thing that you’ll notice about this dessert is the calorie count. You can eat the ENTIRE pint if you so desire, all for 150 calories. Arctic Zero products are Gluten friendly and Lactose-Intolerant friendly.

First, the ingredients: PURIFIED WATER, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE (MILK), ORGANIC CANE SUGAR, CHICORY ROOT, SUGARCANE FIBER, DUTCH PROCESSED COCOA POWDER WITH ALKALI, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL PEANUT FLAVOR (PEANUTS), SEA SALT, MONK FRUIT CONCENTRATE

The taste: Not the worst frozen dessert I’ve tasted but if you’re looking for something that tastes just like ice cream, this isn’t it. It does have the faint hint of peanut butter and/or chocolate (I’m not sure which because the taste is very mild) and the consistency is more like ice milk than ice cream. To be fair however, if you want something that tastes just like ice cream you should just buy ice cream.

This stuff is not going to be your ‘sneaking spoonfuls right out of the carton every time you pass the freezer’ kind of dessert, but it could be a worthwhile purchase if you have limited options – and a good imagination.

It would be a good choice if you were to, say, want to save calories yet splurge on toppings. I could see this as a satisfying dessert with the right topping and/or nuts so that would be an option to try. Personally, however, I found that the best use for Arctic Zero was by scooping it into my Nutribullet and blending up a pretty darned good milkshake with the addition of pumpkin, a banana and a teaspoon of unsweetened coconut.

Bottom line – if you see this at your supermarket and want to give it a try I say go for it, but it’s salty at over $4 a pint so I suggest having a Plan B in the back of your mind so you’ll get your money’s worth if you don’t like the taste by itself.

That’s it for today. Have a great week!

 

**I purchased Arctic Zero with my own funds and was in no way compensated for my review.**

**I received a complimentary sample of Coppertone ClearlySheer from BzzAgent however my opinion about the product is entirely my own.**

 

 

All this running around

I have been participating in Kyra’s monthly Chase the Stars virtual 5K run/walk and the clock was ticking – today was my last day to get it finished for this month.  I admit, I was not keen on the idea of running today, so I didn’t.  Luckily walking is an option so I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my husband and dogs and together we went on a 3.1 mile hike this morning. I am glad to have finished it (and with a few hours to spare!) but more importantly if I HAD chosen to run it on my treadmill like I was planning then I never would have found this little guy trying to cross the road:   Turtle Crossing the Road Turtles are really moving right now and it’s not uncommon to find one attempting to make a long trek across busy roads in order to mate or find a place to lay eggs.  Whenever I see them I always stop to help them get across safely.  Doesn’t he/she have the prettiest markings?  (how DO you tell the difference between a male and a female?  Anyone know?)

Today you can also find me as a guest poster for Laura at her blog, The Gluten-Free Treadmill.  If you’re not familiar with Laura’s blog, head on over and just read a few of her posts – you’ll see that she’s not only a brilliant writer but she’s also an expert on all things running and clean eating (you totally are Laura, so don’t deny).  Yep, she’s kinda my hero.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

~Ellen

Art and Photography – the complete image

I wanted to pop in and share the final image of my Mother Earth photo/painting collaboration with Ashley Beige Photography.  I think it turned out brilliantly!

I am usually not one to explain my artwork to viewers because really, isn’t that one of the beautiful things about art?  It speaks to each person differently.  In fact, I would absolutely hear YOUR thoughts about this piece – what is it saying to you?  How does it make you feel?

If once you’ve seen it and still find yourself scratching your head, feel free to read our thoughts on the meaning; it will be at the bottom :)

 

‘Mother Earth’

Mother EarthEtsy

~~Mother Earth is being portrayed here as the nucleus of Life. She embraces a tree struck to its core by lightening. With her loving arms around it and by using color as symbolism, she radiates life back into the ravaged area.~~

xo,

Ellen

A very humbling experience

I am always humbled by every encounter I have when someone connects with me here on my blog, via Instagram or my Facebook art page; however, the other day I noticed something that, to me, was extraordinary.  I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I noticed this:

I cannot begin to explain how deeply humbled I was to find that Eckhart Tolle Liked one of my yoga paintings.  I’m still in a bit of shock, a GREAT deal of awe and filled to the brim with happiness over this.

For those of you who are not familiar with Eckhart Tolle, he is one of the greatest spiritually influential people in the world.  His teachings include the key to obtaining inner peace and learning to be in the present moment, both of which are the cornerstones of yoga. He is currently working with Oprah on a series called The New Earth which I highly recommend.

 

Lynn Bonelli, who is a good friend and fellow blogger in our lovely community (and has been writing over at Learning Curves for as long as I’ve been around) has recently had several articles accepted in Elephant Journal.  Lately she has had some wonderful recipes published that I want to share because not only are they amazing but they’re healthy versions of some not-so-healthy eats – AND they’re both vegan, though you don’t need to be vegan to enjoy them because her husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and he gives them both a thumbs up.  My advice:  Try the pudding recipe first.  Definitely.

Nacho Ordinary Cheese Sauce

Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding

Have a great weekend :)

 

 

Stubborn Pounds

I put on a few pounds over the winter.  Shocker.  This was THE most brutal winter that I can ever remember and my painting literally kept me sane, I think.  On the down side, there’s not many calories to be burned from moving a paintbrush around a canvas or piece of watercolor paper.  I caught the gain early enough (or so I thought) and went back to my tried-and-true weight loss routine of counting calories and using my pedometer.  This time though, it didn’t work.  Two weeks passed and I didn’t lose a single ounce, so I decided that instead of my ‘usual’ plan I’d best mix things up a bit.  So, I bought a Nutribullet and replaced my usual breakfast with a smoothie.  Slowly, the weight started to come off.  Thank goodness for my friend Laura’s blog because she posts some pretty fantastic smoothie recipes; she’s also the one who gave me the thumbs up on the Nutribullet, too.

The last couple of pounds that I needed to drop ended up coming off, basically because I worried them off.  This was around the time of the photo shoot and I swear my stomach was so tied into knots that entire week I simply couldn’t eat very much.  When I did get my appetite back I started craving peanut butter.  I wanted to slather it on everything!  Up late one night I found myself at Katie’s dessert blog over at Chocolate Covered Katie.  If you have a massive sweet tooth like I do and are trying to eat clean, head over to her site IMMEDIATELY.  She is such an asset to our community here.  When I used to diet I would simply avoid foods that were triggers, instead finding an acceptable substitute (powdered peanut butter).  While I do still eat powdered peanut butter, I’ve found that I can be completely satisfied by having a little of the real stuff when it’s combined with a banana.  Taken directly from Katie’s site, all I do is cut a ripe banana in half and add two tablespoons of peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon.  Mash everything together and then start whipping it with a spoon.  Before you know it, you’ve got peanut butter frosting that you can add to toast, Vitatops, english muffins, waffles, or just eat it right off the spoon.  It makes quite a bit and has a real peanut butter flavor to it, and it lasts me a couple of days.

I have started the painting for my part of the project with Brooke (my friend and photographer).  I decided to use an image from the shoot that was NOT released to the public.  Here’s a peek of this week’s work:

IMG_2004

I will be done with the painting next week and then it will be handed over to Brooke so that she can do her part.  I cannot wait to share the finished image with you!

 

Photo shoot Part Two

Two more images from Sunday’s photo shoot were released this week.  I think that overall, these were well received and gave Brooke some much deserved exposure.  Getting seen/noticed as an artist, whether a writer, fine artist or photographer – is incredibly difficult because the market is over saturated and, therefore, competitive.

I will be starting my painting this week. I have decided which one I’ll use for myself and Brooke and I have made the decision as to which one would work best for our collaborative project.  I’m glad I didn’t have to make that decision alone.

A couple of small tidbits of information that you might find interesting or amusing:

~ my ‘costume’ was a series of curtains (yes, window curtains) that I’d ruined by putting them into the dryer on high heat.  They came out looking like thin gauze.  I cannot remember what the original material was, though I do remember getting the fabric in bulk because I didn’t have any money to spend on curtains at the time.  I’ve since been using them as Halloween curtains because they look like they belong in a haunted house.  haha.  The gray scarves around my shoulders are also Halloween curtains, though those I actually purchased those at an after-sale at Target.

EllenTree2

The photos were taken in my backyard against our cottonwood tree that we lost to a horrible storm many years ago.  The tree was our most magnificent in the yard and measured over 5 feet in diameter.  It had been struck by lightning and is now split in half.  I mourned the loss of that tree and couldn’t part with losing the rest of it, so there he sits while the squirrels and woodpeckers live and play around him.  He is still beautiful to me.

MotherEarth3

If you think I look pretty natural in these photos, you have the ‘real’ Mother Nature to thank.  The moment I laid down next to the tree, a titmouse perched over one of the nearby branches and began to sing his heart out.  He remained there for much of the photo shoot.

In the image of me submerged in water you will see a leaf in the shape of a heart, resting on my hip. This was not a prop.  The leaf floated down stream and clung to me.  Even though the water was cold (it was only in the 50s that day) the photos with that leaf are among my favorites.

 

My first photo shoot

As any introvert will tell you, spending time at a party with people you don’t know while being forced to make small talk is a most difficult task.  Think nails down a chalkboard while being stuck in an elevator with a baby crying kind of difficult. The anxiety I feel on the days and hours leading up to such an event can sometimes be downright brutal.  When I finally arrive and settle in, I nearly always have a fantastic time and come home feeling a deep level of satisfaction.  Why?  Because I need to be social and I genuinely like spending time with my friends.  It also allows me to stretch me beyond my comfort zone and allows for the possibility of meeting new and interesting people.

Such was the case last Halloween.

Brooke and I met while at my friend Mel’s house for a Halloween get together last year.  Brooke, I learned, was a professional photographer who was extremely passionate about creating art through photography.  We chit-chatted a bit about cameras and that was about the extent of our conversation.  Little did I know that our meeting would lead to a lovely friendship and teach me a valuable lesson about myself.

For the past few months Brooke and I have discussed the idea of collaborating on a project together.  I’ve been working on a series of mixed media pieces featuring Mother Earth/Nature as the subject and she proposed the idea of doing a photo shoot of me as a ‘living’ Mother Earth.  I eagerly said yes and was incredibly excited about being involved in such a creative project. When the day of the shoot came, I started to panic.

Believe it or not, I hadn’t really given much thought to the idea that people would actually be seeing these photos.  Even though we’d discussed it.  And decided that we’d cross-promote our project on each others website/social media pages.  I suppose I didn’t allow myself to think about the complexities of this venture for fear that I would chicken out, so I just didn’t think about it at all.  Period.  As the day arrived however, I started thinking plenty!

I spent most of my twenties and beyond dodging the camera at every opportunity because of my self-esteem issues and morbid obesity.  I suddenly realized that I was about to expose myself for all to see.  True, the weight has been off for over 8 years but the loose skin remains – and I would be in a strapless costume. Oh, boy – what did I get myself into?

Brooke has the kind of personality that immediately makes her subjects feel comfortable and safe. That should have been enough for me to trust her completely but instead, I felt compelled to warn her about my ‘problem’ areas.  I stood in front of the mirror with costume on and pointed out my upper arms, my stomach, my –

I stopped.  What was I doing? This was not the person who admires women who age gracefully.  Where was the woman who’d recently applauded the strength of a cancer survivor for baring all her scars for the entire world to see?  Talk about hypocrisy at its most raw form.  I was ashamed of myself.  Fear, as always, is a dark horse.

I decided at that moment that I was not going to mention another word about my body. I wasn’t going to think about sucking in my stomach or reconsider stretching my arms out to my side if I was asked.  I was simply going to go out there, be grateful for the moment, for this opportunity – and appreciate the gift of being able to work with another artist.

When the shoot was over I felt exhilarated.  Without having seen a single image (except for one or two on the camera screen) I genuinely felt good about myself.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  Brooke sent me a message stating that she was about to to Live with the first of the images.  I became both excited and full of panic.  My friend Kyra and I were in the middle of a conversation and I texted her that one of the first photos was coming out and that I was feeling a bit exposed and way out of my comfort zone.  She was very supportive and reassuring.  She gently pressed a bit by asking a very, very good question:

“Why does THIS picture make you feel exposed?”

I had no idea how to answer that question; I’ve been pondering it since.

The photo went Live at 6:00 PM this evening. Brooke wanted me to know that aside from fixing an issue with my eyelash she did not photoshop any other part of the image –  and I’m glad.

ellentreeAshley Beige Photography

 

Transitions

Spring has finally arrived around these parts and I could not be happier.  It is still quite cold yet –  certainly too cold for planting flowers outside, but on the plus side it hasn’t snowed in over a week. The most brutal winter in my memory is starting to fade as the buds on our weeping cherry tree start to form.

I am currently sitting in my family room waiting for my painting to dry and trying to find a quiet place to get away from the constant banging of hammers and saws outside as a crew of workers puts siding on our house.  The woodpeckers have caused so much damage in the wood it was too expensive to replace and so our tired old house is in the process of a major facelift.  A perfect time to pick up the laptop and revisit my blog – that piece of me which I’m sure feels a bit slighted here as of late, yet loyally, patiently awaits the slightest bit of attention that I’m willing to give.

Despite my lack of communication, I have been giving a great deal of thought to my little blog  and how much of an impact it has had on my life over the last four years.  I sit here and wonder if I stopped writing altogether, if anyone would really notice. Life marches on, interests change.  Writing, which used to be my main outlet has slowly been replaced with my deeper love of painting.  Honestly, to me, anything that one might want to know about me can easily be read in my current work.  It has become my visual diary and one that I’m very proud of.

I have no intention of shutting down my blog. This is the place where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing people in my adult life, people with whom I still maintain friendships with to this day.  I am so moved by this thought, I cannot begin to tell you.

I suppose I came here today simply to say this: even though I have transitioned from a regularly scheduled poster to an intermittent one, it (and I) will still be a presence here; a beacon, if you will – for the old and new.  What cannot be said in a painting will surely be written about here, and I consider myself very lucky to have that option.

Lastly, to those of you who’ve hung in for the long haul, your faithfulness and loyalty does not go unappreciated. Thank you for being here with me throughout the months/years.