Becoming Well

In May of 1999 I fell down a flight of concrete stairs.

This seemingly disastrous occurrence actually saved my life, for at the time I had a ream of health problems that I was busy ignoring.  In the end – and after a couple of months of harrowing hospital stays and specialist visits – I  had become one of those people who had a list as long as her arm of all the things that were wrong with her.

Some were hospital diagnosis:

I’d had several unreported heart attacks

I had unstable angina

I had several Deep Vein Thrombosis [DVT’s] in both legs, but most were in the left

I had a malformed bone in my spine that was responsible for the searing pain I suffered throughout my adult life

Some health issues were GP diagnosed:

My thyroid was under-active

I had high cholesterol

I had high blood pressure

Medication was prescribed for all the above diagnosis.

There were side effects of the medications, some of them so severe that I decided to take myself off them. Some I stayed on.

Some health issues were diagnosed as ‘give them time’:

My left knee and right hip were damaged in the fall and never came right – walking was painful.  My left leg became shorter.

I was deep in menopause.

My lymph system was a disaster area, I retained water as if in danger of imminent drought.

My eyes wept every morning and in the cold and in the wind.

I had violent attacks of sinusitis.

I had headaches

backache

hip pain

neck ache

acid reflux

thinning hair

puffy eyes

low energy

poor sleep patterns

And a raft of undiagnosed un-wellnesses that left me drained, exhausted, irritable and putting on weight at a rate of knots.

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It wasn’t quite that extreme but it felt like it!

The years passed and I made many changes to my life.  In an attempt to recover completely and to reassess who I was and what I needed to do with my life, I quit teaching and training and administering and moved 800 kms away, to a place where I knew no-one except my youngest daughter, who had accompanied me.

I spent a year living by the sea and painting and quietly and almost imperceptibly regained my inner equilibrium.

In the way it does, life stepped it up a notch and I found myself back in the work force in a role that was different yet the same.  I was still teaching only now it was unemployed youth and unemployed women.  This role segued into opening a community centre for women where I ran courses in employment skills and life skills and self empowerment.

This work led me directly into life coaching.  When the government withdrew all funding for my kind of community care work and channeled their attention into youth unemployment – which they did as the global recession hit, my little centre came to a stop as well and I had to try and make it on my own.

All this happened over a seven year period and throughout this time I was developing a deeper understanding and relationship with myself and my own health.

I ate healthily and despite that still had that never-ending list of on-going painful maladies in my body.  I had got myself a a treadmill and despite the pain and discomfort in my hips and joints, walked every morning and every evening on it.

But still I never felt well and I never lost any weight – in fact I was slowly and steadily putting more on. I consulted naturopaths and doctors and specialists.  All kinds of tests, drugs and potions were tried and nothing helped.  There was one quite spectacular moment when my doctor actually threw his hands in the air and said he didn’t know what else to do.  I was on my own.

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I knew that most of my health issues were caused by inflammation, I just didn’t know what to do about and it seemed the professionals didn’t either.  The doctor had prescribed various diuretics and diet pills that did nothing much and came with unpleasant side effects.  The naturopath had given me herbal tinctures to take that made little difference to my health.

I resigned myself to the fact that the best was over.  I didn’t like that thought at all.

My life had taught me that my core beliefs held the answer to my health issues.  The experiences of my early years had driven me out of my body and into my head.  I was well aware of my thoughts, my phobias, my spiritual path; I was less aware of what my body was telling me.  It was the thing that was often in pain and slowed me down and stopped me doing what I wanted to do.  I sailed on despite my body, not because of it.

And then my very clever ED gave me a book for Christmas 2112.  ‘I Quit Sugar’ by Sarah Wilson.  The premise of the book is relatively simple – society’s over consumption of processed sugar is the cause of rampant ill-health. In the author’s case it was ‘a life time of mood swings, fluctuating weight issues, sleep problems and thyroid disease’.  I could relate!

The time must have been right, for I read it, it made sense to me, it struck a chord – and immediately I began to prepare for a change in life style.

It wasn’t so much that I consumed a lot of sugar, I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, I don’t drink fizzy drinks [sodas as Americans call them] I’ve always thought they were a really bad call given that coke can be used to make a rusted on cap move.  But the book had reminded me and made me really aware of the hidden sugars in prepared foodstuffs and that was what needed to change.

Really what was being called for was a return to eating foods I prepared myself from good old fashioned whole food ingredients.  Returning to the way I used to eat before I got busy and didn’t have anybody to cook for except me so I didn’t always bother – I’d just grab something quick or convenient that I could slap in the oven while I did something else.

Having said that I didn’t have that bad of a diet either.  I ate a lot of salads, they were always quick and easy and convenient.  But I also ate a lot of bread – sandwiches for lunch, sometimes toast for my evening meal …. and bread contains sugar.  I never ate breakfast.  I sometimes grazed in the evening, looking for a pick-me-up I’d end up with my head in the fridge – or worse the freezer, because that was where the icecream lived……

I didn’t know if I would last very long with this new regime of eating breakfast, snacks of activated spicy nuts, a  salad lunch, evening meals that required some forethought if it wasn’t going to be another salad ….. but I was prepared to give it a go and see if my health issues would be alleviated.

I quit sugar sometime in late February 2013.

I never noted down the exact date – I didn’t expect a mind blowing transformation in my health or that I would have any reason to talk about life BQ or AQ. [Before Quitting and After Quitting]

I decided a couple of weeks later that seeing as how it appeared I was going to stay off sugar I might as well quit wheat as well.

I never said I would do it for forever, or even until next week.  I simply said, I will do it today.  And today.  And today.

And now it is a year later and I have changed my lifestyle completely and discovered that I like it this way and that because I feel so good I would never, never consider trading that in for the wrong food choices again.

It changed my life!

I have no illness.  I feel no pain.  I take absolutely no medication.

Without dieting or following a rigorous exercise programme I’ve dropped 4 dress sizes.

I live well, sleep well and eat well.  I have a stable emotional life, a pain free physical body and am inwardly quiet and serene.  For the first time in my life I am in tune with my body, I listen to it, respect it, care for it and nurture it.  It’s a little miracle really and I am in awe at its ability to reclaim health.

For me personally I discovered that I am extremely sensitive to sugar, even natural sugars found in fruit and root vegetables can be tough on my system.  I can only eat one piece of fruit per day – any more and my body suffers.  The very foods that I was happily ingesting, believing I was being healthy were in fact poisoning me.

I stay quite far away from sugar these days, but of course now and again give myself a ‘treat’ and indulge in a dessert.  I’ve found that if I don’t do that very often my body doesn’t suffer too much – but the instant onset of  severe ADHD is hilarious to anyone observing this calm serene, middle aged woman who abruptly and without warning becomes a wriggling, jiggling maniac who needs to fling her arms around like a windmill and do jumping jacks just to get the sugar rush out of her system.

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I’ve done a lot of research over this past year into the food and health industries.  I am very clear about what is going on, I am very clear about how the food we eat affects our health and general well being and I am very clear about my responsibility for my own health and well being.

I have learned that we are all different, there is not a one size fits all solution to our health.  Fad diets are not the answer.  Boot-camp exercise programmes are not the answer.

We must eat and we must move.  We must find the foods that give us health and ensure that our bodies are allowed to move in a free and healthy manner every day for the amount of time that our particular body best benefits from.

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We are all different and so are our food and exercise requirements.

We have to pay attention.  We have to observe how certain foods make our bodies feel.  If there is ill-health there may well be a dietary reason for it.  It is a consideration worth considering.  I have learned that there are three main food groups.

1.  Foods that give me health

2.  Foods that are neutral for me

3. Foods that are poison to me

I eat mostly the foods from group 1.  I can eat a small selection from group 2, but as they do not add to my sense of well-being I do not use them as a major part of my meal planning.

I can and sometimes do choose to eat foods from Group 3.  I then have to suffer the consequences.  🙂  But mostly I choose not to eat them any more, I don’t like the consequences!

But, when all is said and done, I’ve simply chosen to be responsible for my own health.

There’s a great and empowering freedom in that.

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Please do be aware, this is just my own journey, my own experience.  My life has taught me that when I get my head straight, when I understand what is required of me, when I listen to what my body is telling me, I can get myself a bit more sorted.  This is just another step on the path I’m walking, taking responsibility for my own well being as far as I am able.

If you have questions please feel free to ask them.  If you have something to share and contribute, please do  – don’t be shy.

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Thanks for coming by today.

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Experience Is What Happens To Us …….

Hi there my bloggie friends,  just a quick post to round off my weeks work – I set to and finished my mixed media girl.

Here she is to remind you:

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I painted the background viridian green and when it was dry over painted it with cerulean blue which I then wiped back getting a lovely aqua colour.  I stamped randomly using a brown ink to give the pristine background the worn look of experience, collaged a flower into her hair and gave it a glittery centre for a touch of bling, ran white chalk around the outer edge of the paper ……….  And finally gave her a mantra that I have learned in my life to be so true:

‘Experience is what happens to us,

Freedom is what we do with what happens to us.’

She’s gorgeously bright with her purple hair and red dress and blue-green background and will look fabulous in a frame!

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I think she will make nice cards and postcards too, do you?

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!  🙂

A Mostly Pictorial Walk Through My Week

It sure has been a busy week!  I thought I’d share a few of my little adventures with you all …..

First up, I’ve been taking a class with Claudia Rossi.  [Don’t, whatever you do, Google her – you will get a million listings for a porn star of the same name!]  If you know of the mixed media Claudia Rossi, you will be familiar with her ‘pretty girls’ and her art journals. I’ve been watching her on You Tube for at least a year on and off, she is verbose and funny and real and I enjoy her random prattling and gorgeous artwork.  Claudia’s girls are kind of opposite to mine – I draw big eyes – she draws big mouths……. I decided to take her class, not because I want to draw a ‘Claudia Rossi’ pretty girl – though I have – but because I think that learning is important and the more skills you pick up and add into your kete [a woven bag] the better, it all helps define your own style.  Besides I got a discount coupon offer and so couldn’t resist!

It’s been slow going for me as I have so many other things I am busy doing.  But when I can I work in the evenings and use my TV as a giant computer screen while I watch her and then work on my own version.  I still have to finish my girl – but here is what I’ve done so far.  This is the pencil sketch, following a quite complex grid pattern:

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Here she is with her shadowing in place – you may notice I made the mouth smaller as I made it much too big in the first place:

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And here she is with the skin-tone glazing done, the eyes and lips and hair too: for once underway I could not stop:

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You can bigify it by clicking twice if you want to see all the minute detail – shes not too bad for a first attempt.

I think Claudia is a good teacher and I enjoyed taking this class – if you happen to be thinking of it – or just want to learn how she does her faces – I do recommend her class!

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Next I got some more happy mail this week too – only this time it was something I had bought for myself.  I splurged big time and bought myself a present that I had lusted after for a long, long time but never thought would be available to me – then ‘Fishpond’ one of our on-line book-and-everything-else-you-could-ever-possibly-want-or-need stores came up with an Ikea Raskog.  An IKEA RASKOG people!!  It was one of those moments when while the voice of reason was saying ‘Oh dear, what a shame you can’t afford it’ the impetuous bohemian artist had already stuck her fingers in her ears and was singing “La-la-la-la-la!” at the top of her lungs whilst hitting ‘Buy Now’………..

So, many, many weeks later and after a lot of restrictive belt tightening, on a wet and gloomy day this arrived:

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I’d already ripped into it with a knife before remembering to a) take some photos and b) practise ‘anticipation’ – but blow that – too late, sorry Linne 🙂

His Little King-ship had already retreated to a safer place

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And there he stayed until ….

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the clanging of metal on metal became too much for his sensitive sensibilities and he is about to do his Elvis impersonation and ‘leave the building’…..  I am about to put something together with just a pictorial diagram:

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And I did – thirty minutes later:

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And off we go to the Create Joy room and fill her up – here she proudly poses alongside my other indispensable – my pretty bucket of paints

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Everything I use on a daily basis sits in the top within easy reach

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Middle shelf holds containers of coloured pencils, pens, glazes, mediums, tapes and watercolours

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Bottom shelf holds a selection of my favourite and regularly used stamps, stamping paraphernalia and masks and templates:

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And of course the Day Card commemorated the event:

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It’s fabulous, I not only have everything to hand beside my work bench – and more free space on my work bench –  but when I want to play around in the evening and watch a You Tube video, or a movie, I can wheel it in to the lounge.  Well worth going without a few meals for 🙂

And His Little King-ship also gets a wee treat:

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If you are a relative of mine and go by the blog pseudonym of ED stop reading and go away now please.  [Yes Joanna, it’s you!}

Some of you may remember my ‘Box to Book’ project which is now into its second year – the beginning of the story can be found here and here and, sigh, here.  It was put aside when I went back into mixed media painting, not altogether forgotten though – I had made the decision to keep it for a birthday gift rather than the Christmas it was originally planned for.  I’ve been working a bit on it whenever I can find a decent block of time:

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Still got heaps to do – must keep at it, must keep at it, must keep at it ……….

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And the week has concluded extremely happily with the unexpectedly early arrival of more ‘Happy Mail’ of the real variety.  From the lovely Fran and the even lovelier Steve at Serendipity Farm comes this bit of gorgeousness photographed on my table in the early morning sun:

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Can you see that heart shaped point on the handle end of the bowl?  It is just exquisite and makes my heart sing!  It is like the point of a heart so I will think ‘Love’ every time I go to use it and all my cooking will be done with an extra added ingredient and we will all grow lovely, just like Roald Dahl said we would!!

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Look at the bowl of the spoon – it is exquisite craftsmanship!

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It feels smooth and satiny, it looks beautiful and it smells good too – how can I possibly use this to stir my pot of rice or my cheese and oat cakes?

Here it is sitting in the broken plastic jug that serves as my utensil holder beside the newly made weeks supply of cheese and oat cakes, which I had just finished making when the mail arrived [and which is my bread substitute, just in case you are interested].

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So now I’m in the market for an uber posh utensil holder to match this gorgeous spoon!

Thank you to Fran and Steve at Serendipity – what a great swap!!  I feel like I got the better end of the swapping deal yet again!

I think that covers the highlights of my creative and blogging life for the past week what a great time I’m having!!

Big hugs to you all, thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

Unexpected Gifts

‘What day is it?” asked Winnie-the-Pooh

“It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

“My favourite day!” said Pooh.

I popped out for just a short time late yesterday afternoon and when I returned home a box was sitting at my door.

Not being a slacker when it comes to opening packages I had it opened and emptied in a flash, then I took a moment to check the address [an ever-so-slight tinge of concern had raised its head: was it actually meant for me?] and my eyes fell on a name I know well, so I continued ………

I pulled out the packaging and found two tiny envelopes

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and inside, two tiny cards:

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Beautifully hand made with care and attention to detail:

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After reading the beautiful messages and with tears in my eyes, I began unwrapping the parcel, and immediately knew what was in it.

You know sometimes in life you just have those moments when the thoughtfulness and caring and generosity of spirit shown by another rips your heart wide open – this was one of those moments.

In December last year I read and commented on a post published by the lovely Alys over at Gardening Nirvana.  Alys had just made her first mixed media banner and I was inspired by it, but eventually ran out of time to create something similar – we had a bit of a conversation around it – if you really want you can read it here:

http://gardeningnirvana.com/2013/12/03/watercolor-hummer/

The creative work of Alys Milner from her very first mixed media class now lay spread out on my table

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Orlando popped up for a look-see and I moved it out of his way and we had a small, quieter version of our happy dance before I, in a soft and thoughtful mood, began preparing my evening meal.

Soon I turned around to see this:

“Whaddya mean I can’t sit on it?”

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“I can’t see you so you can’t see me!”

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Only thing for it – hang it up somewhere – I have just the place!

[But please, ignore the mess – there are several projects in varying stages of completion at the moment – it’s hell in here!]

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Isn’t it just perfect?

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And there it shall stay until there is a need for it somewhere else 🙂

Now, at the risk of sounding maudlin or soppy I will finish with these thoughts:  I have long been a fan of and participator in many Random Acts of Kindness.  It has only been in recent months that I have been the recipient of so many RAKs from so many people whom I have never actually looked into the eyes of or actually touched – yet feel I know quite well.

I am left almost, but not entirely, speechless by the kindness, the generosity and the creativity of our blogging community –  Yes, I have been the recipient of so many wonderful gifts recently – yet the greatest of these gifts is the wide flung arms that give virtual hugs on a daily basis and the friends who uphold and meet my spirit with theirs in complete openness and acceptance.

It surely is a wonderful thing!

Blessings to Alys and all my lovely Bloggie friends!!  🙂

Orlando Gets A Friend

We got Happy Mail today

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Oh! Big broad smile as we discovered a new ‘Mini Orlando’ a tiny crocheted kitty, especially made for us….

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Isn’t he gorgeous?

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Our friend gentlestitches and I did a swap – and we got the better deal 🙂

The detail is amazing – he even wears a collar and identity tag like the real Orlando used to until he lost it  couple of weeks ago….

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This is the most amazing little hand made animal I have ever seen!  Sharon’s pictures of her work are always quite mouth watering, but when you actually get to hold one in your hands – it is quite spectacular!  The colour, the detail, the character – it is quite wonderful and words are failing me!!

Orlando was also quite impressed, Mini Orlando was given the seal of approval, a gentle head bump – which is, I believe, the feline version of a high five!  I get one every morning at breakfast time 🙂

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The two friends then commenced to sit and stare out the window at the Saturday morning activity …..

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….while I wrote a blog post!

Thank you Sharon – if you haven’t gone by her blog yet, it really is worth a visit!

Thanks for coming by today, I’m so happy that you did 🙂

365 Days – January

Didn’t the first month of 2014 go quickly?

I completed the first mile-stone in my year long project [whew!] it was a challenge at times, but I’m getting more and more into the swing of it.  What I have found especially interesting is to see where my attention goes in any given day – there is definitely a theme for the month.

I showed you the first 14 days here if you want to have another peek – and here is the rest of January’s cards – read them as you would a book and double click for enlarged views:

Jan 1

The second card with the sun celebrates the second sunny day of the year – the back has a note ‘two out of fourteen ain’t bad!’ a wry nod to Meatloaf.  The inception of my ‘Choose Joy’ painting is noted, and my brother and other siblings carry the last three.

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These next six begin with a reminder to keep my thoughts clear, continue with the painting and past memories and end with the gypsy making her entrance into my consciousness.

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I kept peace for my brother, birthed the gypsy and created a new garden as January ended.

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Just one month complete and I begin to wonder how big is this project going to get?

Here are some thoughts from looking at these cards this morning.

My brother’s health is ‘stable’ and I continue to hold him in my thoughts.  It is such a wonderful thing to see that when we deal with our human mortality our instinct is to balance this with life.  Over the years I have lost many loved ones and been at many funerals and noticed that the conversation often turns to birth – stories of birthing and new-borns for example – and have come to see that this is part of our grieving process, for life and death are so beautifully entwined.  And here in January I see I have done the same thing, entwined as the month is with memories of siblings and aunts who were loved and lost, and who I felt draw near from time to time, while I grieved for lives cut short and unfulfilled potential, I birthed my own inner Gypsy [Narf7 gets full credit for her midwifery skills!] and ended by creating a new garden.  🙂

Life and death, life and death – being and becoming, experiencing and letting go, living and dying.  We experience it every day in a hundred different ways yet only become fully conscious when it is our own mortality we are faced with.  Personally I remain convinced it is just another door way we walk through, which unfortunately, once closed cannot be reopened for us to have another shot at this particular life.  Which is why I also think it is really important to learn the lessons we are here to learn and to love one another.  All the rest is rather unimportant and simply the means by which we learn [or do not learn] our lessons.

Right, down off my soap-box, things to do, lessons to be learnt and another day card to be created……

Thanks for coming by, I love that you did!  🙂