Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Continuing Play-doh Creative Endeavors

I created a few more Play-doh Disaster Magnet moments that I wanted to share just in case I don't have time for a drawing today. Sometimes, these are just.. well.. easier - in the grand scheme of creative endeavors. The first one (lightbulb-guy) was done when I was really stuck on a stumper of a programming problem at work one day. Oddly enough, shortly after creating the lightbulb, I actually came up with the solution to the problem.

PDDM fashions himself into a lightbulb
to solve his latest problem

Bad day at work?
(Note: background music during this was "Bad Day" by REM)


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Visions of Physical Therapy

I just started seeing a physical therapist to fix whatever is wrong with my left hip. On the referral, my orthopedic doctor wrote "capsulitis"-- according to my PT, this is a very general term identifying inflammation of the "capsule" surrounding the hip joint. I think it sounds like I'm taking too many drugs (capsules?). Either way, I haven't been to PT in almost 20 years. It's been so long that I almost didn't recognize my physical therapist (but it was really great to see him again). I told him I hadn't had a problem since last time he fixed me, but I finally broke everything he did and that's why I was back in his office after all these years. He promised to fix me up again (too bad what's wrong isn't all physical).

The first thing he did was identify a major weakness on my RIGHT side. I was blindingly aware of it -- embarrassingly, every time I tried to balance on my right foot, I must have looked drunk. Who knew? He also did a manipulation to rebalance my pelvis which was rotated on the left side. He told me to go running and note how I felt.

So I went home and ran. And something must have changed because the excruciating pain came flooding back into my left hip. But, as usual, as I ran, it didn't get any worse and it didn't get any better. The rest of my evening was spent sitting on an ice pack and listening to the pain shoot all the way down to my ankle. But, progress has been made. And I can continue with the "pain" drawings.

Here are my latest two -- calling them the "physical therapy drawings." The first one was the day before my visit, the second one was during yesterday's ice-pack recovery.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

If it's not the Weather, I'm in Trouble

I keep wanting to feel more motivated, and I keep doing things to try to motivate myself, but lately I feel like I'm in the biggest rut of my life to date. I'm no longer an athlete, my work is starting to bore me, and now my commitment to drawing is wavering. The light at the end of the tunnel is dimming. We've been stuck for a week in snow and extremely cold temperatures so I'm wondering if that's affecting me. I'm mentally and emotionally shutting down and I feel more introverted every day. I disappointed myself even more by doing only two drawings in four days. The first was a reaction to my husband telling me how the RA is now affecting his feet. The second was right after I watched a program on the History 2 channel about a volcanic event 250 million years ago that wiped out 95% of species on earth (they kept referring to it as the "greatest mass-extinction event of all time"). I don't even know why I'm even posting this stuff anymore.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Fix-it Things

Yesterday, my husband Jim said his knee was hurting more than usual (from arthritis), so I told him I would draw something to fix it. This is what I came up with (I'm not sure he liked it - but I'm not sure whether it's because he didn't think it would do the job or if he was just generally mortified as usual):

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fixing Things that Hurt

Sometimes while drawing, I try to come up with solution to my injury problems. This is what I came up with yesterday - for my hip injury.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013, for Starters

It's been a while since I wrote a proper blog - and I don't know how many of my readers care about my delusional artistic endeavors. But to be fair, I always said I was doing my daily drawings for me - the only reason I'm posting them is to keep me honest. I'm hoping my drawings evolve into something, anything, but for now, they just keep going aimlessly. The exercise has taught me several things:
  • Drawing is therapeutic. This is why I have always needed it and sometimes it's where I turn when I can't run. 
  • The most satisfaction in creating art (if you can call it that) comes from doing it for myself and no one else. If you force it (several times I sketched just to get one done for that day), it will be a disaster.
  • I still love drawing and I have a new-found love of pen & ink - I'm even working on a large-scale (i.e., non-sketch) work to enter in the staff art show this year at The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Enough about that.

In the other realms of my existence, I've been riding roller-coasters. I've touched on some of the ups and downs with my daily drawings but offered little explanation. I suppose I should write more about them for those who might care. From my web hits, I can see that there are about three people left who (may or may not be) interested in what's going on (or in my art). At this point, I write for myself just to work things out in my mind, and I'm currently dealing with the following three things: a shoulder injury, a hip injury, and a "dental" injury.


You may recall that I slipped and fell while running on a sidewalk last summer (a mishap of which only the Disaster Magnet was capable), and my right shoulder took the brunt of the fall. I was in the middle of the season, and after many weeks of pain, I went to see my doctor and his recommendation was to medicate and ice and cut down on the swimming to heal it. It hurt, but when I took time off, it never got any better. When I swam, it never got any worse. So I dealt with it. Pain. Every day. It was always there - when I lifted things, carried things, reached behind myself, tried to scratch my back (I can't), or put on sweaters and coats (a much bigger issue in winter). My doctor finally ordered an MRI with contrast and the injury was diagnosed: a labral tear. It probably won't heal without surgery because of the lack of blood flow to the area. But after five weeks of no swimming, I wasn't willing to go through another six weeks off. So we're trying an aggressive ice/anti-inflammatory treatment to get me through this season. And there's cortisone waiting in the wings.

In the meantime, I've continued my run as the Disaster Magnet this month by falling down the stairs and once again causing trauma to the right shoulder. Falling down the stairs wasn't the reasoning for the "DM" nomenclature. Falling down the stairs after leaving work early to avoid a driving disaster in the rapidly-approaching blizzard was the "DM" part. Only me.

I've recently started swimming again only to prove one thing to myself: I can still whip myself into swimming shape in less than two weeks with only 2-3 swim sessions per week. Sure, it'll take a LOT more than that to get into 2.4-mile Ironman shape, but I'm not doing Ironman this year, so I'm encouraged that I'll be able to do the necessary swims to at least be "in the race" in September. I'm not deluding myself: percentage-wise, the swim is much more important in Olympic-distance racing than in Ironman.


The hip is still an enigma. Like the shoulder, it never gets worse, and it never gets better. Some days I'm breaking down in tears from the pain, and some days I'm wondering where it went. My doctor theorized that it could also be a labral tear (wouldn't that be coincidental? especially since there are only two places in the body that have a labrum - the hip and shoulder joints). But, after extensive movement-checking, this was thrown out as a possibility. We've also dismissed sciatica. The next step is to bring in a physical therapist (and if that doesn't work, another MRI). I'm encouraged by the ruling out of two major hip problems. Back in 1993, I saw a physical therapist for my piriformis, and he determined that I have a rotated left hip that was directly responsible for all my running injuries. Could it be that all I have to do is get back into balance and strengthen the area as I did before? (I'm hoping - but also being realistic and not expecting miracles.)


Plaster model of my teeth
This one will take some explanation, but I'll try to make it as short as possible. I rarely talk about it because it's been with me for most of my life and I've already done all the crying about it.

In short, my jaw has a deformity known as an "open bite [malocclusion]." As a kid, I was mocked as "buck-toothed," and despite four years of braces in high school, the problem was never corrected (we didn't know then that only surgery can fix it). To make matters worse, I've had two major traumas to my jaw.

As of this week, I've theorized that the first one might be responsible for the malocclusion. When I was 10, in an attempt to replicate a circus act in my room while my parents had company, my brother launched me off my bed, and I landed on the floor, on my face. My front left tooth broke in two places and was left in a spike shape, like a fang. It was a horrible, horrible day for me AND my parents, and the only thing I remember was the sympathy I got from my cousin's wife who held me in her arms crying for pretty much the whole rest of the day.

The broken tooth was capped with a temporary crown, but for more than a year, the sensitivity to hot and cold was so severe that I developed a way of eating and drinking to avoid anything touching that tooth. The pain was so bad that sometimes my mother just pumped me full of aspirin and sent me to bed (because that's what you do when kids complain). I remember the breaking point at a junior football game (my brothers played, I cheered - which means I had to be out in the *cold* with my mouth open every weekend). I remember starting to cry, and I must have finally made my point because the next week I was at the dentist only to find out the tooth had an abscess and needed a root canal. I think years of trying to protect that tooth with my tongue and odd chewing habits may have created the situation I'm in today.

The second traumatic injury to my jaw came in 1994 in a running accident (you KNEW running would factor in). The accident was one of those weird flukes - something that could only happen to a Disaster Magnet. I was running on a sidewalk that had a little zig-zag in it to continue over a small bridge. As I turned the corner, I collided with a guy flying along on his mountain bike (yes, on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood). His shoulder hit my lower jaw and we both ended up on the ground - me, eventually, in an ambulance. It wasn't broken but I had to see a TMJ specialist, who surmised that the accident completely destroyed the delicate balance that had evolved in my jaw with the open bite. He finally explained this: only two teeth in my mouth ever came together (two back molars), my front teeth would NEVER come together, and this WASN'T normal.

Shortly after that I started grinding my teeth in my sleep - your guess is as good as mine why it hadn't started years before. My current dentist believes it's my subconscious trying to level everything out and make all my teeth come together. I ground down my molars on one side so that now four teeth are hitting, but because I chew primarily on one side and grind at night, I'm continuing to damage my back teeth and gums. I've already broken one of my wisdom teeth. For many years, my dentist has been encouraging me to consult with an orthodontist so that I don't destroy what's left of my teeth. I finally did that two months ago.

Here's the solution to my jaw problems:
  • One to two years of braces to position my teeth for the surgeon
  • Depending on my crowding situation, possibly removing my wisdom teeth
  • Jaw surgery - which consists of removing bone from my skull and repositioning my top jaw, breaking and moving my lower jaw forward so that it's positioned properly below, possibly widening my palate to alleviate crowding, and possibly removing part of my chin bone for aesthetics (big whoop)
  • One more year of braces to even everything up
  • Retainers for the rest of my life
I was not sold on this procedure for two reasons: (1) it's a drastic treatment and I've lived with my situation for most of my life, why change it? and (2) The cost is ridiculous (and includes having gum grafts), and I will have to pay most of it out-of-pocket because insurance companies tend to regard this as "elective" surgery even if it's necessary to solve a functional problem.

However, when my husband Jim and I went to see the surgeon, a strange thing happened. Before I said anything (he had already looked at my plaster models), he told me what my problems were. They extended FAR BEYOND my jaw. He told me I slurred my speech. (Jim laughed and said "yeah, even when she's NOT drinking.) He told me I had trouble breathing at night. He told me I had sinus problems. He told me I was a mouth breather and a tongue thruster. He told me that I can't bite into pizza or sandwiches without leaving stuff behind. And he told me about all my goofy chewing problems and gum recession. And I hadn't even said a word to him yet.

He also said "jaw surgery can fix ALL of that." (I felt the tears welling up because it really did seem "too good to be true.") I never talk about these issues because they're just a part of my life - it's all I've known for so so many years (maybe not when I was five because my jaw was still growing, but most of my life). Who knew that they were all connected to the shape of my jaw and the way it's positioned in my skull?

I guess, then, the big decision is upon me as I meet with my orthodontist this week. Should I go through with it? The surgeon explained that the whole jaw reconstruction is HARD work. I'll even have to see a therapist to talk and use my jaw after the surgery. My whole sinus area will be in really bad shape until everything heals. He also said I will look different (which freaked out my husband) - my face will be shorter, my smile will be different. And I'll talk different. Jim told me last night that he thinks the way I talk is "cute." (So, do I really want to change it?)

It's really scary to face this decision. If I do it, I think it will make a good story to blog about and show pictures of the changes if only to help someone else facing the same situation. (But Ick. I hate taking pictures of myself.) The biggest dilemmas for me are whether I'm worth the expenditure and whether the changes will make me less attractive to my husband. He says no. But, as usual, I still worry.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It May not Look Like Teeth

But teeth are exactly what I was thinking about when I started this drawing. And my jaw. This may be the first of a long series of tooth-drawing moments in my future if I decide to go ahead with the whole braces and orthognathic surgery thing (yep that's what they call it, I can't even pronounce it). I'm thinking about blogging the process - but only if I can get comfortable taking pictures of my face.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Days of Drawings, Three Days of Maxing Out

It's been a rough week - work stress as usual and three doctor appointments (periodontist, oral surgeon, and orthopod). Treatment of my shoulder may require surgery but for now we're just doing anti-inflammatory stuff because I don't want to miss 6-8 more weeks of swimming. My hip will require a physical therapist - to start. Mostly, I just want to be free of the pain. Seriously, I've been running/swimming/biking in pain for so long, I can't remember a time it didn't exist. I just expect it. Bracing myself for it is now my routine. But I told my doctor today that I'm mentally frazzled, I'm losing the ability to keep a lid on my emotions about it. I hope this new regimen has an effect or I'll be begging for stronger drugs, cortisone treatments, and surgery.

The other round of doctors was for my teeth (and, as I found out today, a lot more). Before I can get my open bite fixed with braces and surgery, I have to have gum grafts to further protect my teeth and stop any additional recession. That will cost over $3000. The braces will be over $5000. And the surgery on my jaw will be almost three times more (I could buy a pretty nice car with what this thing is going to cost). We just found out that most insurance companies won't pay more than 20% of the surgery because they view it as elective surgery even though the surgeon says I need to have this done to solve the functional problems with my bite. I actually wasn't sold on the whole deal (mostly because of cost) until he delivered the kicker: almost ALL of my problems with speech, chewing, gum recession, breathing, sinuses, and general health above my neck will be solved with this braces-surgery combo. And he knew what they all were. I hadn't yet said a word in the surgeon's office when he spewed out an uncanny list of the issues I have with my mouth, my speech, my nose, and my breathing. He guaranteed he could fix all of them. He also guaranteed it would be a long process requiring hard work - but that I would be very happy at the end of it. My husband Jim seemed worried about one major thing: I will look different when it's all done. (And it does unnerve me a bit to think in the future I might be seeing a different face when I look in the mirror.) Talk about stress!

But by far, the very worst thing that happened this week was getting an email from a dear friend, a man I greatly admire and value, that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That pretty much floored me. Despite his reassurance that they may have caught it in time to do surgery, I've been on the verge of tears for days now.

But I kept my commitment and found time to draw some stuff - very quickly:

The response to the cancer news - my friend told me his tumor
was the size of a nickel, so I drew something to devour it.

This was my Wednesday drawing.

And this was today's drawing, executed while wallowing in
shoulder pain from my doctor visit.

I also snapped a picture this week that I wanted to share. Yesterday while working late, we saw this looking out at the city of Cleveland from my office at the museum. My iPhone didn't quite capture the amazing depth of color, but it did well enough to show (seriously, we all stood around with our mouths hanging open - as though this was the first time we'd ever seen a sunset).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Knots and Dives

My husband thought today's drawing looked like a knot - specifically the "one in his back." I think I was distracted and worked on nothing more than a blob because my new pen was somehow destroyed overnight while soaking in cleaning solution (it appears the plastic part dissolved - well either that or someone or something dismantled it while I was asleep).

In the 3-D realm, today's Play-doh disaster is my answer to a question pondered during a meeting at work today. We discusses whether it was better to dive into a project feet first or head first. This is my representation of the head first result.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Daily [Pain] Drawing

It never gets better. It never gets worse. It just always hurts, and I'm getting tired of it. And tired of canceled doctor appointments. And tired of doctors in general. I'm not giving up the thing I love to do until I cannot do it. So I live with the constant pain.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Out of Season

Today the temperature hit an unseasonable 60 degrees F in Cleveland and I almost realized how slow I am on the bike due to lack of training and some serious weight gain. I averaged 16mph on the way out but when I turned around I was then "with the wind" and averaging well over 20mph. Who knew? I also confirmed what I already suspected: Peanut Butter Gu is one of the all-time greatest treats. I'm still sad about how heavy I am these days, so I drew my fat. My husband Jim says it looks more like a pile of poo (which is how I feel lately, so it's a good representation I guess).

Friday, January 11, 2013

More 3-D

My limited mental time these days has allowed me time for only one non-work-related creative endeavor, so I've been continuing to have fun with Play-Doh. Here are my 3-D sketches for yesterday and today.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lack of Focus

I started this drawing thinking about trains (after listening to a song involving a train), but I couldn't stay focused and it all went to hell from the top down and it was done when I finally ran out of ink.

And I made another Play-doh disaster at my desk today. This one was a skiing disaster.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

3-D Drawing?

Today during lunch I got creative with Play-doh (a Christmas gift from my supervisor). I'm counting it as today's drawing - kind of a 3-D sketch.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Injury?

As of today, out of the blue, during my run, I had pain in my right leg resembling that of a stress fracture. I should know, I've had five. This drawing is what it feels like.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two More for the Weekend

One whimsical (although my husband used the term "disturbing"), and the other one of my hip pain that flared up during my run today. I called the first one "Finger Lake" (silly I know).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Feeling Strangled

Feeling up against a wall - in life and in sport. I guess this is what it looks like in my mind's eye. I drew it in about 45 minutes (fast) and with a bigger pen tip (.3mm) than what I've been using lately (.25mm)

Thinking of Water

I went swimming yesterday for the first time in about five weeks. I drew this last night.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Last Drawing of 2012

I tried to be more whimsical with my last drawing of 2012 - drew it yesterday while waiting for friends to arrive for our New Year's Eve gathering.