A lot has changed

I moved across the country.  I changed my specialty to the emergency department.  I changed my mind about NP school.  I’m applying to grad school to study forensic nursing (long story) and I did a little show for Betsy Greer of Craftivism.download

I think about deleting this blog all of the time.  I would just die if any of my coworkers found it.  I have absolutely no friends here, but I’m constantly worried about revealing myself to anyone.  I keep the blog around for the knitting patterns, but part of me really cringes that I ever shared my feelings with strangers this way.

I’ll think about it.

How can I explain?

How can I explain?

I’ve been busy. We got hit by that awful tornado on May 20 in Moore, OK. This is my daughter’s classroom. Her desk is under that truck. She was in that school when it got hit and she was pulled from the debris.

I don’t feel good. I went into Addisonian crisis during the tornado. I’ve been on extra steroids for months. I blew out my thyroid. I’m still in school full time, but I don’t work right now. I’m starting nurse practitioner school in the Fall if my health doesn’t get any worse.

I’ll be making some art for a show in May. I might post to this blog, or I might delete the whole thing. When I start seeing patients as a ARNP, I probably won’t want anybody snooping into my private thoughts. That wasn’t something I thought about when I started blogging in 2007. My name is all over interviews and artwork. I didn’t hold anything back. Sometimes I wish I could take it all back. Can you think of anything worse than having your most raw emotions show up when someone Googles your name? I didn’t know that I would grow up to have a license and patients.

Old Abe



Untitled, originally uploaded by Drucilla Pettibone.

Here is a piece from the lovely and amazing Drucilla Pettibone for the Gay for Eagles show. I love her. I love that her artwork has her hand all over it. I can tell by looking at a thumbnail that something was made by Dru. She mixes vintage fabrics with rich embroidery and makes frickin’ awesome stuff. Check out the texture. My goodness…

More show info here: http://www.hotelhadleystudios.com/?p=453

Owl-Eyed Athena

I finished my portrait of Penny Nickels.

It took a long time.  I had a mostly finished portrait for a while, but I just wasn’t happy with it.  I couldn’t get the phrase Owl-Eyed Athena out of my head when I was working on it.  Since so much of Penny’s work is about mythology, I thought of her as a warrior/genius with big, creepy, owly eyes. 

I’m confused about this portrait.  I hate it because I’m shaking with self doubt all day every day lately.  I feel like a fraud artistically.  I also love this.  Honestly I think this is the most beautiful portrait I’ve ever made. 

Whatever.  It is what it is.  Now I need to make peace with my life and art and move on.

A lot going on

Many good things are happening these days.  The lovely and talented Dru curated a show based on my Gay for Eagles piece.  Check it out!  A couple of my pieces didn’t make it to the studio, but I have some weapons and a self-portrait hanging. 

I’m extremely depressed that I spent my day taking a miserable Mental Health Nursing exam instead of attending the show at Hotel Hadley Studios.  If I had known how bad the test would be, I’d have tried harder to go to NC.  School is such a beast right now that I can’t even schedule a doctor’s appointment.  I can’t miss 5 fucking minutes and non-nursing students have a hard time understanding that.  The end is in sight, but it feels farther away than ever right now.  I graduate June 10, then I get to sit for the NCLEX-PN.  Then I get to do another year of this to become an RN.  I’ve decided that taking some time off to just work as an LPN is the best decision for my mental and physical health right now. 

Every LPN to RN career ladder nurse I’ve met says that the RN (care plan writing school) portion of the ladder is much easier than the LPN portion.  I didn’t respect LPNs the way I should have.  I thought they were just glorified CNAs.  I had no idea how hard the schooling was.  I had no idea how hard they work.  With the exception of hanging blood, pushing certain IV cardiac medications, and writing care plans, LPNs do full nursing duties.  They just don’t get paid much to do it.  They also don’t get the respect they deserve.  God bless nurses no matter what letters follow their names!

In other news, Leanne Prain wrote a book about unexpected embroidery to be published this Fall.  I am so honored to be interviewed in this book.  The Amazon page is up.  Add this baby to your wishlist!  Here is the publisher’s description:

Hoopla, by the co-author of 2009’s bestselling Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, showcases those who take the craft of embroidery where it’s never gone before, in an astonishing, full-color display of embroidered art. Hoopla rebels against the quaint and familiar embroidery motifs of flowers and swashes, and focuses instead on innovative stitch artists who specialize in unusual, guerrilla-style patterns such as subway maps, feminist Girl Guide badges, and metal band letterforms; it demonstrates that modern embroidery artists are as sharp as the needles with which they work.

Hoopla includes twenty-nine innovative embroidery patterns and profiles of contemporary embroidery artists, including Jenny Hart, author of Sublime Stitching; Rosa Martyn of the UK-based Craftivism Collective; Ray Materson, an ex-con who learned to stitch in prison; Sherry Lynn Wood of the Tattooed Baby Doll Project, which collaborated with female tattoo artists across the United States; Penny Nickles and Johnny Murder, the self-proclaimed Bonnie and Clyde of embroidery; and Alexandra Walters, a military wife who replicates military portraits and weapons in her stitching.

Full-color throughout and bursting with history, technique, and sass, Hoopla will teach readers how to stitch a mythical jackalope; needlepoint nipple doilies, a ransom note pillow, and mean and dainty knuckle-tattoo church gloves; and create their own innovative embroidery projects. If you like anarchistic DIY craft and the idea of deviating from the rules, Hoopla will inspire you to wield a needle with flair!

I’m a little over 1/4 of the way through my 1000 miles of running.  I’ve been struggling with keeping my blood pressure high enough with my Addison’s Disease and the stress of nursing school, so I don’t run as often as I want to.  I had an adrenal crisis in March and had to take massive doses of steroids for weeks and they make me feel like crap.  I’m seeing a new endocrinologist who is going to try to keep me healthy and energetic, so I have a lot of hope that I’ll be back on track soon.

Enough about me!  What have you been up to lately?

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 285 posts. There were 52 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 75mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was May 13th with 305 views. The most popular post that day was Mission Accomplished.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were kniterdone.blogspot.com, ravelry.com, flickr.com, feelingstitchy.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for suicide notes, crochet bags, cervical dysplasia, pictures of cervical dysplasia, and sewing blog.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Mission Accomplished May 2010
5 comments

2

Crochet Pattern: Stethoscope Cozy June 2010
2 comments

3

Interview with Penny Nickels June 2010
8 comments

4

Crochet Pattern: Papa’s Hobo Hands November 2008

5

When I had Cervical Dysplasia… May 2009
2 comments

Showtime!

I’m a little late announcing this, but here is the information on the show where you can buy a Pez portrait.

The theme is childhood holiday memories and consumer consumption.  Artists with very different media all contributed.  I was pretty impressed with David Todd Trost’s ceramics (below).  The whole show is really fun, though.  You can purchase by contacting Jordan through   http://www.360seegallery.com/exhibit/door_busters_bigtime

 

This candy necklace by Rebecca Zemans is pretty fun, too. 

Check it out.  Stop by if you live in Chicago.  There is free Christmas Eve/Hanukkah delivery within 20 miles for all purchases.

From the Flickr Group

1. Lace portrait with cast shadow, 2. Untitled, 3. The Ladies of Aeschylus are complete!, 4. I Bleed, 5. For the Craftivist Collective’s bed-in quilt, 6. thank you note for my hosts, 7. Amyclae Commemorative Stamp, 8. Broke a Man’s Heart, 9. “You Are Cordially Invited”, 10. Untitled, 11. I was never fully comfortable…, 12. color test

Add your work to the pool! (If your privacy settings don’t let me share I can’t post your work here. You can still join the group, though.)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!  I get 3 precious days off from school.  I plan on running 5K and eating my weight in pie.  I’m starting with this recipe.

Submersed in the culture.

The best way to learn a foreign language is to be submersed in the culture.  You need to order your breakfast, ask where the toilets are, and pay for movie tickets in the native tongue.  Medicine is the same thing.  You can’t dip a toe.  You have to dive in.

closeup

If you’ve never been to nursing school, it’s nothing like college.  This is hard.  You study (yes, even the really smart people who never have to study have to study) like a maniac, then get up at 5 in the morning for rounds.  You take care of actual live human beings and try really hard not to fuck up and hurt them.  You work until you want to cry some days.  You run every time there is a bedpan to empty or a bed to change because you have to prove yourself.  You have to want to succeed and you have to prove it to your instructors and the hospital nursing staff.  You clean up puke without gagging, you do procedures that hurt the patient and you don’t cry.  You suck it up and keep going.  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.  Then I remember that drama isn’t going to help me, so I get out my books. 

This piece is called “Waiting Room.”  It is hand embroidery with cotton and linen floss on a scrub smock from the Army hospital where I was born.  This shirt used to be a deep burgundy, but it has seen countless surgeries, lives and death.  This shirt has seen blood and vomit and tears.  It’s been washed too many times to count.  Now I see the blood and the scrubbing and I watch to see how it will change my colors. 

I’m just plain grateful to be a part of medicine.

5 foot 2, eyes of molded plastic

I’ve been a little busy.  I’m in clinicals 3 days a week and working my butt off studying for two tests a week.  I mean I’ve literally been working my butt off.  I’ve lost 48 pounds.  I average over 10,000 steps per shift at the hospital.  My pedometer doesn’t measure moving patients, making beds, and generally shaking in my boots as I try new skills on actual human beings.  Then I come home and run (okay I jog) a few miles. 

I’ve managed to finish these two pieces.  I’ve always wanted to do portraits of Pez Dispensers.  They have a personality all their own.  I was playing with the concept of hero worship when I decided to use repuposed USAF uniforms as backgrounds.  They turned out okay!  I really can’t believe that I found the time to finish them.  They are headed for a show in Chicago this November.  I’ll post more details when I get them. 

In other news, I found out that I have Addison’s Disease.  I’ve probably had it for over 15 years as my body slowly attacked my adrenal glands.  It’s rare and incurable, but very managable.  My body quit making cortisol, the “stress hormone.”  You can’t live without it.    The symptoms are:  fatigue, weakness, dizziness, hyperpigmentation (my armpits turned coppery brown), low blood pressure, hypoglycemia and…depression.  I was weak and sick and exhausted.  Now that I’m taking steroids to replace what my body wasn’t making, I feel so much better.  The medication makes me hungry, but I am exercising so hard that it doesn’t matter.  I’ve also started taking some thyroid hormone.  I’m finally on a level playing field and it’s amazing what I can get done in a day with a functioning endocrine system. 

Life is good.  I wasn’t lazy and dwelling on my depression.  I was really fucking tired.

That said, I had issues.  I still have issues.  I can’t just give up on exploring my emotions because I found a physical reason for my overwhelming fatigue.  I know that a lot of you still have depression that won’t have a “quick fix.”  (It only took 15 years!)  For years and years doctors treated me like my exhaustion was my fault for not going to counseling enough, exercising enough, for eating too much sugar, because I didn’t drink enough water, because I didn’t forgive people fully, because I lived in the past, for feeling sorry for myself, for being too negative, for not wanting to get better, because I’m such a hypochondriac, etc.

I don’t think that anybody should suffer for years because medical staff act like the illness is the patient’s fault.  I was tired of hearing how my fatigue was due to my noncompliance and piss-poor attitude.  I follow doctors’ orders.  I blamed myself.  I struggled.  I sincerely hope that you don’t put up with it, whether your problem is physical or emotional.  Nobody deserves to suffer.  Keep trying.

The Identity of Recovery and Some Work from LUKE Haynes

[Gifts #12] Secret
[Gifts #12] Secret 

This piece by LUKE Haynes has been on my mind a lot lately.  Secrets vs. Revelations is an intriguing battle.    

You should check out his work if you haven’t seen it yet.  He is a quilter unlike any other.  His images are bold and photographic.  His lines are clean and striking. I haven’t seen anything from him that didn’t elicit an emotional response.  I love an image that holds you for a while.  (I can’t stand extraneous crap on artwork–the reason I usually don’t like “art quilts.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love quilts–just not “art quilts” with “quotation marks.”)    

He recently opened a gallery in Seattle but I didn’t get my poop in a group soon enough to direct you to the opening.  My bad.  Nursing school is kicking my ass.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about health lately.  I spent over 20 years of my life struggling with depression and now it’s gone.  (Actually, my first memory of depression is from kindergarten.  I remember thinking that my mom would be happy if I died.  Then I cried until I fell asleep.  This is one of my earliest memories.  You can see how deep these thoughts and feelings are rooted.)  I’m so grateful to be healed that I often start crying with relief and joy when I think about it.  I am different now.  I am better. 

Recovery is a strange process.  So much of my life’s work has been to understand the identity of illness and bring awareness to psychiatric disorders, using my life as an example.  Who am I now that I’m well?  The memories of my depression are still twitching and kicking like a phantom limb.  The disease has been amputated, but my body can’t forget the pain.  How much longer am I going to wake up in the middle of the night scratching a leg that doesn’t exist?

I know that I must learn to identify myself as a well and healthy person to stay that way.  The devil I know is only 6 months in the past.  The devil I don’t know is the future.  I refuse to go back, so I need to accept that the future could be great–that the other shoe might never drop.

The irony of all of this madness is that I’ve found out recently that a lot of my depression symptoms were caused by endocrine problems–it wasn’t all in my head.  Correcting insulin and adrenal hormones fixed me.  I’m really not sure what to think about that.

Here is another LUKE Haynes quilt.  Go look at some more.
[The-American-Context-#1]-American-Gothic

Checking in

Nursing school is going well.  I’ll soon be on site at my first clinical experience.  I’ve learned to do amazing, healing things with my hands and I get to use my skills to help people.  It’s pretty damn exciting.

I’ve lost so much weight that I had to buy new scrubs.  My prepregnancy jeans (circa 2003) are getting too loose to wear.  Damn exciting.

I’m not running to lose weight.  I’m losing weight so that I can run better.  My running is changing my life.  I look forward to my runs like a dog looks forward to a walk.  My body is getting stronger every day.  My jiggly bits are getting firmer.  My husband can’t keep his hands off of me.  My body composition is much leaner than it was last time I was at this weight.  My resting heart rate has dropped 10 beats per minute.  I have more energy.  I’m alive and it feels great.

I updated my Etsy shop.  Shipping is free to the US, UK, and Canada. 

I recently received an award for having a great art therapy blog.  I was nominated by my readers, so thank you!  People send me messages telling me what an inspiration I am.  The truth is that my readers inspire me.  There are times when I feel uninspired and untalented, but I always have friends waiting to share their work.  You guys keep me going.

Top Art Therapy Blog

I’m working on a couple of pieces for a show this winter.  It’s really hard to find the time to work on it, but I like what I’m making.  I won’t be posting pictures until after the show opens.  I don’t want to spoil the suprise.

I Love My Dead Gay Son

I’m so busy. I only have about 2 minutes to blog, but I wanted to share some awesomeness with you guys.

Here is a WIP from Schindermania (Ellen Schinderman.) She’s working on one of the suicide notes from Heathers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathers

Click through to see the rest of her photos. Her blog is here: http://www.schindermania.com/.

I got an A in Nursing Concepts. I’ve lost 32 lbs and my running routine is getting easier and more rewarding. We move into our beautiful new house this Friday. (We got the corner lot with a fireplace.) Life is still kicking ass.

Now I need to pack lunches, study A&P, and get the kiddos ready for the first day of school.

She must be a narcissist.



waiting room WIP, originally uploaded by alexcateye.

This self portrait is about 50% done. You can see how I build my colors if you click through and view the larger size. Part of the reason that I work so slowly is that every piece is embroidered in layers. Some parts are stitched 5 or 6 times to get the effect I want. My pieces are very thick, up to a half of a centimeter in places. It just feels “right” to me.

I didn’t really want to do another self portrait. It feels dirty, like art masturbation. I need to do this, though. I am trying so hard to love the face I’ve been given. I’m trying to love the body I’ve hated all of my life. I’m finding beauty that I didn’t know I had and it has nothing to do with my looks. It’s a wonderful experience.

We just closed on a new house and I’ve started school, so blog posts will be a little slower for a while. My husband seems to think that packing and studying are more important than embroidery.

Don’t forget to add your work to my blog Flickr pool. (http://www.flickr.com/groups/1396676@N24/pool/) I’ll be blogging about my stitchy friends even when I don’t have time to finish projects of my own.

Papa Badger’s New Stripe

My husband is getting promoted August 1st.  I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ve been getting ready for the ceremony.  We’re also looking at houses.  Our VA loan came through and I have my eye on a 4 bedroom on a corner lot with a fireplace. 

I love Sgt. Walters.

I know that this blog uses a lot of emotions–most of them painful.  I want to make it clear that my life is full of joy.   I’m tired of keeping my happiness a secret because I’m afraid to hurt the feelings of someone who is miserable.  I’ve done that for too long.

So many good things have been happening.  I’m in nursing school.  My husband is getting a brand new stripe on his arms.  We are buying one of three beautiful houses.  I am getting close to seeing the end of 20 years of medical problems.  I’m off Prozac.  I’ve lost 25 lbs since my birthday.  I’m training to run a 5K in November.  I have the most beautiful, smart, and hilarious second grader.  My husband loves me more now than he did when we got married.  I have two of the best dogs on the damn planet.  Life is really good.

Art works.  It’s the best form of therapy in the universe.  I am a whole person.  My past doesn’t hurt.  I embrace my mistakes for making me Alexandra.

Blah, blah, blah…whatever.  I hope you readers are doing well, too!