Monday, May 1, 2017

I Went Away Again

So I disappeared again. Hopefully this will be the last time for a while.

So where'd I go this time?

Basically, I ended up back in the hospital. Which sucks. A lot.

Why? Well basically it turns out that my hemoglobin deficiency wasn't fixing itself like we thought it was because, apparently, I had no iron. Pretty much none. At all. So my hemoglobin had dropped back to where it was when last fall when this whole mess started.

And I passed out at work. Which also sucked. A lot.

So, I've spent the last 2 months resting and recovering and doing only what I absolutely needed to do to get by. I posted a brief note to this point on Facebook, but never made it here to post either. Oops. I blame lack of oxygen to my brain. Totally legitimate. Because, you know, even though I had lots of red blood cells, I didn't have iron, and iron's necessary for hemoglobin. Without hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying part of our blood) I was not getting enough oxygen to function.

Anyways, I'm feeling better now, and hopefully it's going to stay that way.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 4

I've been working on more of what you saw last week: Angel is almost finished (at least for this part--the entire print has a lot more to it). The Magic Girl commission is finished. This one was fun. I was given a lot of creative license to come up with the design--I was given red hair, blue eyes, bare midriff, wields a great sword, and uses the element of steel. Also the yin-yang symbol because this character's normal form is a guy--he becomes a girl when he transforms.

Monday, February 27, 2017

My New Diet

Anyone, who has been around me for any length of time will know that I am not a health nut. Not even close.

Although I never really overate, my eating habits were pretty abysmal. It's only slight exaggeration to say that I happily lived off of bacon and chocolate, although not necessarily together. Just kidding. Needless to say though, what we ate didn't qualify as a well-balanced diet.

Early last fall, my youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD. After a ton of testing, they determined that his brain was either missing or not making enough of a chemical that is key to brain function. This chemical essentially slows down incoming impulses for processing so that it can be forwarded to the proper part of the brain to create an appropriate response. That means that impulses come in, and they go straight back out as a response, but without the processing that makes the response appropriate and effective.

Now during that time, I had started researching the gut. I was having problems with fatigue and brain fog, and I flat out didn't feel good--not sick, but off. Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that nursing school was taking 60+ hours a week, I was still a homeschooling mom of 4, and I still had a husband that needed some attention. That had nothing to do with it at all. *rolls eyes* It probably didn't help, especially the high stress parts. Anyways, I was learning a lot about intestinal absorption and brain function, so when my son came back with ADHD diagnosis related to chemical imbalance I made a connection with the food we were eating.

So, just after I got out of the hospital, after Thanksgiving, we started a reset diet--the whole family participated. We removed all gluten, dairy, sugar, and processed foods from our diet. That didn't leave a whole lot, especially considering 90% of what we ate were carbs. That first week or so was challenging in that we had no idea what to fix. Plus, buying real foods on a budget is another challenge. After 3 weeks off of everything, we added back in gluten in the form of whole grains. We also added back in some dairy in limited quantities. We continue to strictly limit sugar. When we want to sweeten something we try to use raw honey or maple syrup instead of sugar. We have learned to read and understand labels. We have learned that some of our old favorite recipes still work with some adjustments.

My son is a lot like the stereotypical 9-year-old kid. All he wants to live off of is macaroni and cheese (and we're not talking good homemade stuff, but the boxed stuff that is only one step up from plastic). This change was really tough on him. He has been particularly stubborn about this, but we have noticed a profound difference in him. So, he may not be eating much (we're still working on that), but there is something he is not eating that is helping him to function so much better.

I also saw improvements in myself. I am less fatigued--I still get tired easily (and given the circumstances, that's to be expected), but it's different from that bone-weary dead-on-my-feet fatigued feeling. My brain is clearer. Now, if anything, I have the problem of too many thoughts and ideas flying through my brain. I'm having trouble processing everything; it's like my brain is trying to play catch-up from the last couple years of being MIA (I think it was replaced with a Gelatinous Cube). On the plus side, I have so many amazing ideas for my art studio and other things. On the down side, it can be a little overwhelming to sort through and try to focus, so that something actually gets finished, and this doesn't add to my 2 million started but unfinished projects that I have in my craft room. (2 million is only mild exaggeration.)

Anyways, December was tough. January was  better. February is about over, and I think we've made some positive lifestyle changes. I am also super appreciative of my husband, who is the primary cook in this family. This would not have been possible if he had not been on board. <3 No lie, I have the best husband in the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dr. Strange

Warning: This post might contain spoilers.

So, I mentioned in my Anniversary Post, that I went to see Dr. Strange. Yes, I know we're late to the scene. We almost missed it completely in the theaters. In my defense, I hardly ever go to the theaters anymore. I've never been a movie person--much to the chagrin of my husband who loves movies. It's expensive, and I can usually think of lots of other things I'd rather be doing than spending an hour plus in the car to go see a movie... like crafting. But anyways.

I loved this movie. Benedict Cumberbatch plays arrogant jerk so well. I loved him in Sherlock, in spite of the fact that his Sherlock Holmes was not all that likable. His version of Stephen Strange was not all that likable either. I had no trouble feeling that he was getting what he deserved with the wreck and the aftermath. Instead of being thankful to be alive, he lashed out cruelly at those around him. Seriously, it took some suspension of disbelieve to accept that he had survived the crash at all, although maybe he didn't, and everything that followed was some weird afterlife thing or coma-induced dream. There was no life-changing perspective thing at that point. No life flashing before the eyes. No re-evaluation of purpose. Just Stephen Strange, arrogant jerk.

I do like intelligent men though (I stand by that; I even married a college professor). I think this movie celebrates study (life-long learning FTW) and creativity. Both are things I appreciate. At least, this is what I think the movie highlighted. Of course, that could be my own personal bias rearing its head there. In any case, in spite of the unpleasant personality of the main character, especially early in the movie, I really liked this movie.

I will also add that I loved the extra at the end with Thor. <3 <3 <3 I do hope I will get to see Dr. Strange interacting with Loki--as friends or enemies. I don't care. I expect a significant amount of satisfaction from that.

I also think that my husband should cosplay Dr. Strange. It seriously needs to happen. He looks a lot like him already, except that he has long hair right now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 3

In the last week, I've been working on a commission and art for one of my Archetype print sets. The commission is for someone's original character. It is a magic-girl character they use for roleplaying including a D&D/Pathfinder game using the rules for the Anime RPG book we released several years ago. The other art is for a print involving the Angel archetype. This image is only part of the picture--it's going to be kind of like a compilation picture. I'm super excited about the set.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Where I've Been

This is going to be a bit of a tough post for me to write. I've been gone for what feels like forever. I've done some drawing, some posting, but I've overall been absent from the art world, social media, and all kinds of other things. So, where have I been?

Well, to start with, in 2014 I went through a early second trimester miscarriage with twins and traumatic treatment at the hands of an OB/GYN during one of the three emergency room visits during the 2 days it took to completely resolve the miscarriage and the complications from it. Emotionally, I was upset (and that's putting it lightly). Physically, I felt violated. I found out a year later that I could have taken the doctor to court for assault and battery, but I didn't know that at the time. I did call to complain, but was told that my story did not match what the doctor charted (big surprise), and they were going to go with what was in the chart. This is a very brief summary of those events. Women's health has always been something that is very important to me. There's a lot of talk about abortion rights and birth control and what not, but my focus is more on the other side of that coin. Women have few options and are often mistreated by the medical industry during the prenatal period and labor process. I'm not even going to talk about the general lack of postpartum support in our country because that could be a whole post in and of itself. My experience in 2014 pushed me to start training as a midwife. In my state (North Carolina), the only legal way to practice as a midwife is as a licensed Certified Nurse Midwife under the charge of a doctor. This meant going back to school becoming a licensed RN, getting a bachelors in Nursing, and a masters degree in Midwifery--seven years of school all told. Ok. I was fine with that.

Later that year, I started school working on prerequisites for nursing. The next year, I got into the ADN program at my local community college (this would have gotten the RN stage completed). That ate a ton of my time. I struggled to manage school, which took up easily 60 hours a week and I wasn't even full time, and my family. Needless to say, there was no time for art or any of the fun things I enjoyed doing. I was working for something that was very near and dear to my heart, so I felt it was worth it. This accounts for a huge chunk of where I've been.

You'll note the verb tense I used to describe my program--"would have gotten." In September I found out I was pregnant again. I was excited. I love my family, and I love my kids, and I was thrilled that we might have another child. That was not going to happen though. At an appointment the end of October, we found out there was no longer a heartbeat. She (yes, this would have been a sister for little Sophie) had seemed so healthy. We even had genetic testing done and everything came back fine, even though it wasn't. I was devastated. At the time, I went ahead and took a medical withdrawal from school because I needed time emotionally and there was a chance of repeat complications. Jump ahead to November. There were complications. I hemorrhaged. I lost 2/3 of my blood volume in about 3 hours. I am here now to write about this because I have an amazing OBGYN who is respectful and listens. We'd been in communication through her practice's website, so she knew what was going on. She was able to meet me at the hospital and start the surgery to fix the problem without the usual testing that has to be run. If I'd waited the 2-3 hours necessary for the testing, I probably would have died. My doctor is living proof that not all doctors in the birth industry are awful. Anyways. Once surgery was over, I went home within an hour. At the time we weren't aware of exactly how much blood I'd lost. I was able to get myself up and dressed, and was able to communicate coherently, so we knew my hemoglobin was low, but it didn't seem that bad.

So, yeah. We were wrong. Some of this was on  me, and I accept that. I told my doctor I did not want a transfusion or any other intervention unless I really needed it. Based on how I felt, she felt safe sending me home. Fast forward to about 36 hours later. I was back in the emergency room. I had experienced a couple of instances of severe chest pain during the day, and that night my OB's office told me to go back in to check on things. They checked hemoglobin and found out how low it was--turns out it was at a level where I shouldn't have been able to walk; they expected me to be barely conscious or not conscious. Except, I was conscious, talking, and walking around. Anyways, the chest pain was related to a mild-to-moderate level heart attack triggered by the extremely low blood volume and the strain that put on the heart. How bad was it? I don't think it was that bad now based on what information I've been able to glean from the cardiologist office, but they've been less than helpful with that. Anyways, this led to a period of hospitalization while they tried to figure out what exactly had happened and what needed to be done by it. Many thanks to those of you on Twitter who responded to my request for some fun, happy shows to watch while stuck there. Those days were miserable. I felt well enough after the transfusion (that was ordered as soon as the hemoglobin number came in) that it was really hard to sit there in bed.

Moving on, I went home with very little information and no clear idea of what had actually happened (I was not happy about that--there are a lot of things that I am unhappy about regarding that experience related to problems I have seen in the medical industry as both a patient and a nursing student). Things have been on the mend, minus a hiccup because of a severely nasty reaction to one of the medications they put me on. I am completely off the meds they put me on now, and things seem to be going okay. Blood volume is still low, but it is improving--it takes time to rebuild that volume. I think it should be back to normal in a few more months. Recovery is slow though because of the strain the incident caused on my heart. I have to be careful because it's super easy for my heart rate to get too high thanks to the low blood volume. When I say easy, I'm talking walking up one flight of stairs, switching laundry from the washer to the drier, doing dishes... all of those things will send my heart rate through the ceiling now. This is why I said in my post on Magfest I had to be really careful about my activity. Going outside was a thing because I'm not supposed to be out at all in anything under 40 because of how blood vessels respond to the cold, and it was in the teens. I may  have ignored that order one day, and I felt it later that day. Needless to say, I did not push that point again that weekend.

On the plus side, I'm back. I have more time for art now, since I'm still moderately restricted on activities, and I'm not in school anymore. Anyways, if there are days where I miss posting, or if things move a little more slowly (than I'd like)... it's related to all this medical stuff. Recovery is taking time. I have to be patient with it, and I hope my followers will be patient with me too. I'm looking forward to being "normal" by summer. I plan on applying for lots of conventions for the fall/winter 2017/2018. I've applied to Animazement this year, and I hope I get in. I'm going to be spending my recovery time preparing lots of new things for my table. I'm excited about what's coming. There have been a lot of crazy things in my life, but I'm not going to let them stop me.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Magfest 2017

Magfest was my first 2017 convention. I went as an attendee--no table. I have to say I had an absolute blast. I'm not super sad that I didn't have a table either. I can't remember if I even applied for this year or not, but if I did, I'm glad I didn't get in. Things went so crazy last fall that there is no way I would have been prepared for it. I look forward to tabling there again. =D

I think I had more fun at this year's Magfest than I have at a convention in years--closest comparisons were Animazement 2008 (I think, it could have been 2009) and Anime Weekend Atlanta 2011 (I'm pretty sure on this one). Animazement 2008 was fun because we cosplayed Avatar: the Last Air Bender (I was Mae and my husband was Zuko <3 <3 <3), and there was a really fun photoshoot. This was the year I discovered that I really liked doing group photoshoots. Ok... thinking back that was actually Animazement 2011 not 2008. I remember now because that was the year I left my friend's Azula cosplay on our couch. Oops--she was super forgiving of me (best friend ever). But, that was the only year we lived at the house where that happened. Yep, clearly my memory has some issues. My excuse: age, plus I've been attending conventions since 2000, so it makes sense that a few of them might run together, right? AWA 2011 was fun for similar reasons. My cousin and I cosplayed Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. Again, I took a break from the table to go to a My Little Pony photoshoot. It was great, and included an unplanned sing-along of season 1-2 pony songs. It was awesome. I remember getting asked to leave the hotel because there were too many of us, and we were clogging up the lobby area. Fun times. 

I loved this year's Magfest for entirely different reasons though. There were no cosplays. I don't think I could have put one together even if I had the means. I'd only just been cleared by my doctor to even attend without a wheelchair or anything (severe activity restrictions). It was a little stressful because I did have to monitor my heart rate, and I could not go outside for the most part (this probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but I promise I'll explain; that needs to be its own blog post though). I did hurt a lot by the end of the convention because I probably pushed my limits a little too far. All's well that ends well, right though? I did not re-hospitalize myself or kill myself or otherwise cause any serious damage (as far as I can tell, so far). 

Now on to the fun stuff: I played all the board games. Ok, maybe not all--that's a bit unrealistic, but I did play a lot. I also joined a one-shot 5th edition D&D game. I had an absolute blast. Not only did I have a lot of fun, but this also revitalized my flagging motivation to finish some of the game projects we have had sitting on the table for a couple of years now. This includes a 5th edition version of the Anime D20 book. We are super hyped about that now. We're even thinking about trying to pull off another print run of the book. With the rise of crowdfunding options, it makes this possible. It took a heavy investment for the 4th edition version we printed, and we felt it was beyond our means to print the Pathfinder version, which has only been available for digital purchase. We'll see where this goes, but I see fun times ahead. There are also a couple of other tabletop games in progress that I look forward to finishing too. 

Magfest 2017 highlight: By far this was the Escape Room we participated in. It took sitting in 3 lines for over 5 hours spread over the 3 lines to get a spot--first 2 times waiting we missed the cut off, and the room events filled up before they got to us. Got in for Saturday evening. I have no words for how much I enjoyed this experience. The room's theme was Portal. There were 7 of us in there (5 from my group and 2 others). It was very well put together. Everyone was able to contribute. There were all kinds of different puzzles, some that would appeal more to 1-2 of us, while others would be better for say me, but stumped the others. We beat the room with less than a minute left on the timer, and we even found the cake (optional bonus thing). The cake was fake, so yeah, there was a cake, but it was still a lie. Loved it. On so many levels. 

We did some other things. I bought a bunch of prints, a t-shirt, and new dice. I always buy new dice. I have more dice than I could ever use. I probably have a dice problem. There could be worse things though, right? (I do use my dice--I design my characters to fit one of my sets based on the feelings evoked by the colors.) Maybe I'll put up a post featuring all the awesome stuff I got. Anyways, great time. Very motivating: for finishing games, ideas making new cosplays, and even some art stuff (although that was more the drive home).