I’m Still Standing

Yes, I’m still here. Or at least a part of me is.

I still do not know what is wrong with me. The doctors have given up. They’re calling it fibromyalgia for lack of any other diagnosis.

The good news is that I have nothing “serious” like ALS, RA, MS or cancer.

The bad news is that I still have limited use of my hands and arms, need help dressing and am in constant pain — although it varies from extremely light to near crippling depending on how much I am using my hands.

Fortunately I have found a wonderful pain management and rehabilitation doctor who is turning to some alternative forms of medicine for treatment. He assures me that once the pain is gone and toxins are removed, function will return. I don’t believe him. I think something is wrong and the doctors are looking in the wrong places, but I am told any further testing would be futile — by two different specialists.

In fact, I’ve been told to ride it out and see if the pain management doctor can help me and then we’ll look into it again in another six months …

So, my disbelieving self is going along with the plan, because there are no other options. My intellect has given up hope, but I believe my deep inner emotions still have some sort of faith because without some hope, what is the point of continuing?

We begin acupuncture and cupping today and aqua therapy tomorrow. We shall see how it goes.

For now, I am enjoying summer without my two favorite outdoor hobbies — biking and kayaking.

Matt put a few tomato plants in pots for me to watch grow. He also planted a couple of cucumber plants, some swiss chard, two mini sweet pepper plants and a couple of green onions, along with a few herbs. Everything is in either a pot or a small raised garden right outside the back door, so there is no weeding. Obviously it will only generate enough food for a dinner here or there, but it is something.

On a good day, I am able to water the pots and fill my bird feeders. On a bad day, my husband does it for me.

Speaking of birds, I spend a lot of time outside just sitting and watching them.

Last week, I happened to have my camera with me and was privileged to witness this red-wing blackbird putting on a marvelous display. All of the photos were taken from my back porch, where I was sitting. He was prancing and showing about 20 feet in front of me on my swing and around one of the bird feeders. He went on for about 10 minutes, with lots of breaks in between to call, dine and rest.

It was so incredible to see. I so thankful I had my camera so I could record the moment!

Take care.

Updates

No, I’m still not able to craft, but I thought I would let you know that I haven’t forgotten about you all.

In case you hadn’t heard, I have been unable to use my hands for much of anything since Dec. 4 of last year. I have lost my fine motor skills and, some days, any skills. There are days when I can do the dishes with little to no pain, but also days when I need help showering and getting dressed.

Obviously, I can no longer teach or make videos, but I also gave up driving in February because gripping the steering wheel was painful and one shouldn’t be in control of something that could kill people when they aren’t sure if they can control it. At the same time, I resigned from what was left of my job at Joann. (I had already scaled back.)

I still do the weekly newsletter and some blog posts for Mosaic Moments — they give them too me far enough in advance that I can do them when I feel up to it, since some days I can’t type at all. I am so thankful for their support and encouragement and understanding through all of this.

So, what does an unemployed person unable to cook, clean or do any of their hobbies do all day? Well, my sister took me to the mall one day, so I made her get our photos taken with the Easter Bunny.

I’ve had a couple opportunities to do a bit of photography — mostly with my phone since I don’t always have the strength to hold up my camera.

And, I play with these babies a lot … from the left, that’s Whiskey, Irish and Bourbon. Irish had a green spot on her when we got her and, well, in my crazed state, that’s what I named them. To each his own, right?!

Matt has helped me immensely — washing my hair, tying my shoes, and cutting up my food, in addition to taking over all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking care of the animals. He’s also made some modifications around the house to make some things easier to do. Yep, he still calls himself Minion Bob.

I’m still not sure what caused all of this, if there is a treatment, or if I will ever get better. It came on suddenly, spread and then stopped. The pain and swelling is intermittent, but seems to be triggered by use of my fingers or gripping anything. Pain can be sharp, burning, shocking, aching or squeezing and can be in the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows or right shoulder. My muscles give out after a few minutes and then tremors set in. It’s worse on the right side, but both hands are affected.

I’ve been to a handful of specialists, including one at the Cleveland Clinic, who all say the same thing … it’s not my area. I can’t help you. Here’s a new drug to try. Go see so and so.

I can tell you it’s not arthritis, MS, lyme disease, or any other auto-immune disease. I can tell you they did find a case of carpal tunnel so minor, it’s not viable for surgery and isn’t causing any of these problems. They also found a genetic heart condition that will need fixing 20 years from now, but isn’t causing any issues at the moment.

I’ve tried physical therapy, wore two different wrist braces, had a steroid injection, a dose of oral steroids, and had two different wrist compressions, with little to no help.

And, we’ve been trying all different sorts of medicines to try to find some relief — at least of the pain. So far, the only thing that really helps is rest. If I sit with my arms up on the arms of my sofa or propped up with pillows, I am completely pain free. Of course, that only allows me to watch tv, so it quickly gets boring!

I see another specialist at the end of April and am getting a second MRI — this one of the neck. Hopefully one of these will have an answer. The EMG saw no issues with nerve compression from the neck, but the doctor at Cleveland Clinic said this could be misleading, so I guess there is hope. Something has to give since I’ve gained 20 pounds since January!

Personally, I am no longer looking to the future. I’m just living each day as it is … taking one day at a time and doing whatever I can. I’m on another dose of steroids due to an allergic reaction to one of the meds. Thanks to their help, I’ve typed more today than I have in the past month — with very little pain. And I feel like the Energizer Bunny with sore wrists and elbows. So, I’m off to attempt to do the dishes …

Keep me in your thoughts and drop me a line here, via email or on Facebook to show me what you’re creating, the new techniques you’re learning and fun you’re having. Happy Crafting!

Long time, no post and bargains galore

Just an update to let you know why you haven’t heard from me in months …

First, I closed up my retail business. I just had too many irons in too many pots and I something had to go. As soon as I finally put that behind me, my hand started acting strange.

You may know that I retired from teaching Copic classes earlier in the fall because I was no longer able to color at a professional level. I couldn’t seem to stay in the lines and my blends were uneven. I could still color good enough for personal use, but not good enough to teach.

That little problem spiraled out of control in November when my hand swelled to twice its normal size. I thought perhaps I had sprained or pulled something and went to the ER. After several appointments, X-rays, a steroid injection and a few wrist braces, we are still unsure what is going on. The swelling is gone and the pain is manageable, but my fine motor skills are gone. I can barely hold a pencil and the more I write, the worse my writing gets. Picking up small things like buttons, pennies or pieces of paper is slow and painful.

The good news is my doctor assures me it is fixable, once we pinpoint the issue. The bad news is I haven’t been able to do any sort of crafting since November. All of my classes have been put on hold since I haven’t been able to make any samples.

At this point, I have no idea how long I will be out of commission. I have a test next week see if they can pinpoint the nerve damage and then we’ll go from there.

Until then, I have decided to clear out some of my stash — namely stamps, papers, dies and embellishments. I try to always work with the newest products and I figure by the time I get going again, there will be new stuff to use. So, I’ll be participating in a huge New to You Sale on Saturday, Feb 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Swartz Creek.

I will be selling some discontinued and duplicate dies, paper packs that were never opened, stamps that were never used, as well as lots of leftover and/or gently used products. If you’re looking for Christmas stuff, I have tons … I overbought to make cards and then wasn’t able to use any, so I have plenty to choose from!

I hope to see you there … and until then, please keep me in your thoughts and show me pictures of what you create. I’m going crazy not being able to do anything and I would love to live vicariously through each of you!

Retail Store Closing

It’s been five years since I began selling retail products at crops and events around the state of Michigan.

It’s been five years of fun — I love getting in new product, setting up displays, making samples and meeting people who share my passion. I’ve even made a few friends along the way.

It’s been five years of bringing you products you cannot get in the big box stores — and some you cannot buy in specialty stores.

But, that time has come to an end. After months of debating back and forth, I’ve decided to officially close the retail side of my business. Candy Scraps will still exist, but it will be used exclusively for teaching, both online through my blog and YouTube and in person at stores and events around the state.

This decision was not made lightly, but there are several reasons for the closure.

  1. I began after independent stores closed because I wanted those customers to still have access to the products big box stores do not carry. As online shopping has become more prevalent, it is not as difficult to get those specialty products anymore. And, several independent stores I work with will ship products to you for a small fee.
  2. Candy Scraps had grown as much as it could without major investments, including a new truck, trailer, displays and a storage unit. I just don’t have the funds needed to become one of the big fish traveling the convention world, and I was maxed out on space.
  3. There aren’t enough events, with enough different people, to operate Candy Scraps as a full-time job. As much fun as I had in the spring and fall, I was essentially without income from December to February and all summer long. And, when I did go to a different crop every weekend, I was finding many of the same people. Since everyone is on a budget and can’t buy every weekend, sales plumeted and I was actually losing money.
  4. That said, I got a “real” job, that pays less, but offers a steady paycheck. I enjoy it, but it leaves me even less time to work on my retail business. And, it’s hard to come home from work and work at home until it’s time for bed. I can say, if it wasn’t for my amazing husband, I probably wouldn’t have clean clothes to wear or decent food to eat half of the time.
  5. I love to teach. I love to share new products and techniques. There is absolutely nothing more rewarding to me than seeing the lightbulb come on as someone understands what I am explaining. And, there is nothing more exciting than seeing them take what I have taught them and modify it or put their own spin on it. When my hours are spent ordering, pricing, making samples and paying taxes, I don’t have enough time to plan classes, which is what I really want to do.
  6. It’s time for Matt & I to do some of the things we’d like to do. Candy Scraps has allowed us to travel, but not sight see. We would love to bike through Boyne Highlands or kayak in Traverse City, but our time there is always too busy. So, we want to step back and be able to enjoy life before we become too old to do so!
  7. The two companies that are near and dear to my heart, Elizabeth Craft Designs and Mosaic Moments, often offer sales and low-cost shipping, so it is easy for you to get the products you want that way. And, several independent stores, including Bayview Scrappers in Traverse City, Paper & i in Marshall, and Scrappy Chic in Livonia carry some of these products, as well, and I am working on teaching at all of them. For those of you who enjoy shopping from me at crops, Bayview Scrappers will soon be carrying both companies on the road and I will be working with them teaching and doing demos at some of their events!

So, yes, it is sad to say goodbye to the retail side of my business. But, I am so excited to get back the few hundred square feet my store took up and to get away from the stress of researching and ordering products, filling orders, scheduling events and paying taxes. And, I’m looking forward to working on some of my own projects, rather than just samples, as well.

You will still see me … I’ll continue traveling around the state to teach. And I’ll still be at my favorite crops — I’ll just be cropping instead of running my booth.

And, maybe I’ll find time to post to my blog again — can you believe it’s been two months since my last post? WOW! Even I didn’t realize I had been that busy.

So, this isn’t goodbye … it’s just a new hello. With the stress of running a business on top of everything else gone, I am expecting the creativity to begin flowing again. Look for more classes to be scheduled soon!

Oh, and my last crop as a vendor will be this weekend at Camp Scrap at the Oakland County Fairgrounds. Stop by, stock up and say “hi”!

Traveling Centerpieces

I was put in charge of the centerpieces for my sister’s June wedding. She wanted everything super simple, so I designed a two-sided card, made from photos of her travels around the world.

For each table, she selected two photos from her trip to that location.

I took each one, made it into a 5×7, pulled it into Microsoft Word and added the location and the year she visited and then printed them out.

Together, we cut a sheet of black cardstock and then adhered a photo to each side.

Some were horizontal and some where vertical … we didn’t care which was which as long as both photos on that table went in the same direction.

Once complete, we tucked each one into a strong photo clip and placed it in the center of the table.

We surrounded each one with blue lights, keeping the centerpieces elegant, but simplistic.

This is one a guest took of their table, with the coordinating placecard.

There is only one continent my sister has not visited …

She is going here, along with her new husband, in December for their honeymoon. I “borrowed” these photos off of some online travel sites and we put them in the trunk that held the card box, to show the guests what their generous gifts were going to pay for …

My sister and her husband loved the centerpieces, as did the guests. She told me later that a few took them home as souvenirs from the big day.

Just goes to show you, art doesn’t have to be time consuming to be beautiful!

Back To School Notebooks

I’m on the Paper Mill Store’s blog! It’s been fun to work with a company and see my creations on someone’s blog, again.

In this one, I made altered notebooks that are perfect for teacher’s gifts, friends, neighbors and more.

Check it out … http://blog.thepapermillstore.com/crafter-spotlight-celebrate-back-school-candy-spiegel/

Honoring Bishop Baraga

I’m not Catholic, nor a religious person, but I couldn’t help but to be curious about the final resting place of Bishop Baraga in Marquette, Michigan. The Bishop, a Roman Catholic missionary to the Upper Peninsula, chose the site for St. Peter’s Cathedral way back in 1853.

Baraga taught the Ojibway Indians, while protecting their rights and learning from them at the same time. He even put together a dictionary of their language.

Baraga served throughout the UP, often traveling between communities on snow shoes during the harsh winters. He died in Marquette and is buried in St. Peter’s Cathedral, where a beautiful room with stained-glass windows show some of the works that he did.

To record our visit, and some of the beautiful details of the cathedral, I created this page. The one at the top is the left side, with a pocket to hold the pamphlet from the church. The page above is the right side. I used the arch die repeatedly across the two pages … repeating elements makes for an attractive layout, but it also helps the two pages blend into one layout.