Arts and Health, Sisters is devoted to exploring creative problem solving and coping strategies in our world, especially the links between artistic expression and personal and spiritual growth. It is also dedicated to honoring the value and power of women.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

To Do List becomes Not To Do List

This article is the start of helping me find a useful way of structuring my time, so that I can get things done when I'm able to, and not find myself gasping for air by the end of the day.

Sometimes not doing is more important than doing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Walking is one way I lower stress. It allows me to get exercise, it provides lots of mental stimulation as I am surrounded by a variety of sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations. Also it gives me a chance to bond with my dog, Uma and a friend if I'm lucky enough to have human company. 

I plan a series on local walks in the Charlotte, NC and York County, SC area. My plan is to have a general description of the walk, and to include Uma's opinion (as far as I can discern it! ).
So we will see how it goes.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Perils of Desk-Top Publishing: Consider Using a Professional

I had the gall to print my own graduation announcements "for" my son. Really it was for me, as every mention of this project has led to outright smirks on his part, if not protests of how idiotic graduation announcements are. He has tolerated the process since it has involved no effort on his part and out of affection for me.

I enjoyed the design aspect of the cards, although my photo editing skills leave quite a bit to be desired. I ended up with 2 designs, both of which use some professional senior pictures. One which has a montage I created with his assistance (he was walking towards me). I did some hand lettering and overall I like the design.

My "mass" card making efforts of the past have been less ambitious, using only black and white and a copying machine at the copy shop, with slightly above average quality paper. This time I used real card stock. I was going to use an Avery template, but the whole thing was geared towards people who wanted a more set motif, or who have much better computer graphics formatting skills than myself. (No slur against Avery intended, I've happily used their templates for business cards in the past.) Eventually I gave up and did an old-fashioned lay out with painters tape to hold pictures in place. I used my very simple all in one HP printer. The results are fine by my folksy standards, but I know some of the intended recipients expect a more typical graduation card... oh well. They will just have to smirk a bit, like my son, although for completely different reasons.

If you should decide to embark on such a process I have a few pieces of advice:

1. Have a copy shop or real printer type person with better equipment do this.

If you still insist on doing this yourself...

2. Keep everything very clean and have a microfiber cloth at hand to constantly wipe down the glass and every other area of your printer.

3. Get new color ink in a LARGE size, get brand name, new cartridges and if you are printing any quantity, get several cartridges. I did not do this. The cartridge was running low by the end of the run (and I only printed 15 cards). This led to variation in the depth of color and changes in the color even at the start of the run. Also the refurbished cartridge leaked ink on one card. I adjusted the cartridge, made sure the tape was firmly affixed, blotted the bottom of the cartridge and the rest  of the run did not have this problem.

By now you may be suspecting that the "outrageous" price for color printing at the copy shop or printers is not so outrageous.

4. Watch the whole printing process so that you can catch any problems right away, cancel the job, adjust anything that's awry, and restart the job.

So this was a learning process. One that I won't repeat unless I have a very desperate situation, or an expensive, fancy laser printer and loads more experience.

The inside of one card may sum up the situation nicely!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Apps for Memory Training

We all want to preserve our ability to remember. Even if there are things we wish we could forget!

These are some of the memory apps I have tried so far:

1. Lumosity: The presentation and quality of the games are fine and varied. I'm a bit skeptical of the science involved since the goal for most people is to prevent dementia  and maintain function, not just improve function. Unless you have a stroke or some other cataclysmic event, dementia generally develops quite gradually. It is this silent, slow progression which makes it so creepy and frightening. 
Putting that aside my other complaints are that I found the puzzles either so challenging as to be frustrating or too easy. It may just be me, but emotionally I found the experience to evoke feelings either of smugness or incompetence. To me that is not helpful. Also I didn't like their model (which may have changed since I played) of so many free sessions and then no access. Naturally one of their goals is to make money, so I can't say I blame them, but to expect someone to really see results and appreciate their product over 2 weeks is unrealistic. 

2. Clockwork Brain: I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game, and the artwork, Steam punk themed, is gorgeous. I got it when it was newish, and was frustrated by the lack of new challenges. Since that time they have expanded.

3. My current favorite is Elevate. It focuses on verbal skills. It has definitely helped me tackle some of my chronic spelling weaknesses. It automatically makes challenges more difficult or more simple depending on how you are doing right at that moment. You play each game until you finish the mission, whether it's making a small flock of birds fly, reaching a distant planet in the Space Shuttle, building a shape, etc. This makes the emotional feeling one of success and of overcoming a realistic challenge, even if the score for the day is worse. As you play your score ranking (across all users) gradually goes up, if you play regularly. It keeps track of your playing streak. It does not take a lot of time to get through the 3 games a day you can play for free, and there is a lot of variety in terms of the games, some are auditory challenges, some more visual, some use a combination of visual and auditory techniques to improve memory. I have no idea if it "really works" in a scientific sense. I remain skeptical since I believe we are still in the baby stage of learning about learning. I do know that I look forward to my several minutes of "training" each day. 

As I find new apps I will update this post and "bump" it.
And if anyone has similar apps they enjoy, please post a comment. I review the comments before they appear so you won't see it right away.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Understanding Illness: The Spoon Theory

I wanted to add this link because it is a great description of how anyone suffering from a chronic illness eventually starts to use as a strategy for living. It is interesting because I believe it used to be a part of general human consciousness before people started to believe that we could just run like machines, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with ocassional off days for maintenance.  The Victorians in particular saw personal energy as limited and something to be carefully meted out. Of course, this didn't apply much or at all to lower classes, and was misapplied to middle class and upper class women, who had to reserve all their energy for child-bearing and rearing. That aside, there is a certain logic to acknowledging that no one can do it all, and for many of us there are additional challenges that sap the day's energy away.

Hope it is helpful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Anger Thoughts

ANGER. We all feel it, it's like what Erasmus said , "Bidden or Unbidden God is present", only substitute anger for God. Fortunately, I am not angry ALL the time. However I am often angry and do not realize it or pay attention to it. I often think I'm angry about one thing that more acceptable for me to be angry about, when actually, my anger is about something else entirely. 

I wrote this word poem about my typical trigger for anger:

Not Seen or Heard

The irony is that often I am the person least willing to acknowledge and accept my own anger. So I try to be more aware of even annoyance. For example today I was training my dog and I started to feel impatient. I noticed my impatience and (this time at least) did not fuss at my dog. Instead I noticed that my neck was hurting and decided training was over for the moment. 

I made a list of anger queries for myself:

- Do I listen to my anger, with compassion? Without judgement? With curiosity?
- Do I remember that anger increases energy, focus and motivation (not necessarily bad)?
- Do I use the products of anger (i.e. that focus, motivation and energy) well? 

Often I stuff or ignore my anger which means that whatever triggered the anger, like my sore neck, gets ignored  and worsens. It's so much better when I listen, see if there is something sensible that can be changed. Surprise, suddenly I have the best dog in the universe again! (except of course for your dog).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coping :Companionship

Yesterday I spent time with a friend, which felt like college, although college was many years ago for me. It felt like college because our getting together was spontaneous, she was finishing up some work, I was drinking coffee. Later we went for a stroll, going nowhere in particular, talking about whatever came to mind, staying up later than either of us intended. Then we happily went our separate ways with no drama.

To me the ideal companionship is just enough "it's us against the world", with enough, "actually I like the world for the most part" to make plotting for social revolution an unlikely outcome.* It's conversation with enough depth to face the eternal question of "I wonder where I fit in this particular universe" knowing that one's compatriot wishes one well as she too ponders her place in her current life, perhaps the life she never expected. This sort of time together gives me courage and energy to face whatever comes next.

I highly recommend it as a way of coping with chronic illness or just being alive. Oddly enough it can be hard to come by.

*In general I have nothing against social revolutions, I just don't find them helpful in dealing with chronic illness (at least not for me!)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Coping: Distraction

So, now I've had to quit my day job due to poor breathing. Once I clear up the debris from my business, I am hoping to find something else lucrative to do. For the next 2 to 3 months I will be clearing up debris, streamlining my life and expenses, and spending more time blogging.

Today I am going to share some of my methods of coping with being ill. My first go-to is distraction. Sometimes distraction can be very positive as a coping method, sometimes it can be disasterous or at least not vey helpful.

Ways Distraction is Helpful:

- Keeps my mind off physical pain, boredom, loneliness.
- Keeps me calm.
- Reminds me of all the pleasant things in life I can enjoy.
- Brings up positive memories of the things I've enjoyed in the past, whether or not I still enjoy them on this particular day.
- Reminds me that the world doesn't always revolve around me and my "little" problems.
- Reminds me to be grateful.
- Can inspire me by the awesome things other people are doing.

Ways Distraction is Sometimes Harmful

- I ignore my physical symptoms and don't take medicine, eat, sleep, exercise and so forth, sometimes with bad consequences.
- I use a harmful distraction, like alcohol or foods I shouldn't eat (intolerance or allergy).
- I distract myself in ways that make me avoid people when I am well enough (even if just barely) to socialize in some way.
- In distracting myself, I forget to do more productive distractions in favor of less stressful distractions (e.g. solve crosswords rather than pay bills).
- I ignore my symptoms and play super-woman instead of addressing my symptoms. That is I go out, work more than I can tolerate and pay the consequences for several days after.

I'm realizing that this is a sort of trial and error thing. I can't always know how much I need to rest and how much I need to push myself. It's like the what I've read on commentary on the serenity prayer, the wisdom to know whether one can change something or not is partly through trying, but instead of "try, try again" endlessly, I am better off following WC Fields advice: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it." My son who is an admirer of Camus would remind me that there is no shame in acting like Sisyphus, however I would venture to suggest that Camus wouldn't insist that we always have to push the same boulder up the hill over and over again.

I invite you to comment on how distraction affects you... good, bad or as is so often true for me... who knows?