Wednesday, December 3, 2014

You've come a long way, Baby!

I have been wanting to write an update for a while, but I just haven't had the inspiration. Most of the time, I blog for one of two reasons. I either have something I want to share with you (N's Whims news) or I have something on my heart. The problem is, there is only a little happening with N's Whims (I create sporadically, when I have energy), and only little changes in my health. On the one hand, there are great changes that I am very thankful for, but day by day, the changes seem so small and I get impatient that I am not all the way there yet. I guess I was waiting for the day that I could shout from the mountain tops that N is back. In the meantime, time passes and I am not updating anyone. It starts to feel like I am not grateful for the changes that have occurred. 

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you found yourself in limbo, looking forward to an event in the future, imagining how much better everything would be when you just got to _______? I have caught myself thinking this way near many milestones in life (graduating college, getting married, Mike finishing residency, having a baby). Every time, I had to consciously make a decision to stop living for the future and enjoy the now. 
Well, that is where I have been for awhile now. Leading up to my surgery to remove PITA (the pituitary tumor in my brain), I was running out of options to help myself feel better. Every day, my symptoms worsened and I struggled, realizing that I just had to let time pass until it could be removed. The problem with that was that I didn't want to just waste my days--we all know we are given a limited amount of time here, as are our loved ones. I didn't want to waste away the only summer I would have with my family when my girls were 9, 8 and 8! So, we enjoyed the moments we could and made the best of it. 
Day of surgery, 6 weeks out, 12 weeks out--See, I have come a long way!
Since the surgery, I can look back and see how far I have come. Less than a week out of surgery (4 days spent in the neuro ICU), I felt better than I had in a year. Three months out, I have lost 1/3 of the weight, have more energy, have been able to take on more family responsibilities (lessening some of the Mike's stress), and rarely yell anymore. I no longer have symptoms of PCOS, and have been off all meds for that since the surgery. I have also been released from Lyme treatment (we think we got it all)! This is all HUGE! Most days, I am so thankful to be here,  because it is doable. Most days, I feel that if this is the best I get, I will be thankful for the rest of my life. Most days, I feel incredibly lucky. 

And then, there are the days when I long to be 100% me again. I long to have that seemingly endless energy. I long to be connected with the community, teaching fitness classes, encouraging others, volunteering, pouring into others and making others feel beautiful. I long to be my best self. And yet, I am not sure what my best self is anymore. Turns out, the tumor had an impact on many parts of me for longer than we realized. It was slow growing, and the impact increased with time, but it was affecting me internally and externally way before I was aware of it. My PCOS and infertility was caused by the tumor, beginning in high school. My endless energy was probably also a by-product. My inability to focus may have been as well. The thing is, it isn't yet clear what was really me and what was PITA. It is very odd to be 40 years old and wonder who I really am. These thoughts and more have bounced around in my head the last 3 months as I notice more and more things that are different. Even my Myers-Briggs personality score has changed (which is usually very constant throughout life). 

At the end of the day, there are things that haven't changed. These things are the very core of me, and have been since childhood. I still care deeply about others. I have lost some friendships through this journey--sickness is so hard, and some friendships just don't survive. Even though I understand this and have to let them go, I still care and hope for their happiness. I also want to use the energy I do have to make a positive difference in the lives of others--and to raise my girls with this same desire. Doing things for others brings me so much joy. 

So, to sum it up, the tumor appears to be gone and my body continues to heal and change. My pituitary gland is not yet functioning as it should, but is starting to show signs of waking up. I don't yet have the energy to work out or create with consistency, but am finding pockets of energy to do those things on occasion. When I do, I have been encouraged. I love everything I have made recently, and am doing very little repetitive creating, mostly new designs. The strength and stamina I still have when working out is encouraging. I have started working on occasion at The Regal Find, which is a lovely little store full of unique hand-made gifts in Middleton. This gives me an opportunity to feel connected to others, and to forget that I am not yet well. And, I am having a Trunk Show for N's Whims at The Regal Find next Wednesday, the 10th from 7-9pm. I will have all of my new creations there and can't wait to help them find new homes! As I type, I am reminded that I have come a long way baby--and yet I still need to relax and give myself the time I need to heal. 

Thank you all for your patience, encouragement and support on this journey. I have been overwhelmed on many occasions by the goodness and love you have shown!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Don't cry for me, 'tis just a tumor....

I have gone over and over how to start this blog post, and nothing seems to flow. It isn't something I even want to talk about--yet, I am not good at ignoring the elephant in the corner. Never have been. As hard as this is to type about, the few conversations I have attempted haven't been smooth, either. Humor helps me, but not everyone else, it seems. So, I figure, you can choose to read or not--and then we can talk about it later or not--the elephant is out and life can go on. Here goes nothing.

If you read my last post, you know I am currently being treated for chronic lyme (which, by the way, is going well). During the process of getting diagnosed, my physician ran a bunch of tests. One of the tests that came back atypical was my cortisol level. Long story short, after many more tests (of both my patience and my body), we have found a pituitary tumor. Before anyone freaks out (brain tumor tends to do that in the best of us), as far as tumors go, this is not a bad one to have. He is just a little guy--about the size of the beads I use most, 4x6mm (the irony is not lost on me). He is assumed to be benign, but is most likely secreting hormones and wreaking havoc on my body. So, as cute and little as he is, he must come out.

While there are plenty of bad things about this--fatigue, weight gain, memory loss, surgery, inability to live my life to the fullest right now, etc., there are also many really good things.

One, it is removable. It is not pushing on anything or growing into anything, as far as we can tell. AND, they can go in through my nose, rather than through my skull--so the recovery is not as long (nor does it seem as scary).

Two, the new theory is that I may have never had PCOS (my previous health issues that weren't solvable, only managed). Rather that I have always had this tumor and it is just slow growing. So, that means that if we remove this tumor, I may not need to be on meds for the rest of my life for PCOS.

Three, there is a plausible and reversible explanation for my memory woes--other than just growing older. This has been really frustrating for me--I used to have an excellent memory (I was once falsely accused of cheating on a test because I remembered the sequence of answers from the identical pre-test given and scored in class the day before). Just this last week, I failed to remember an entire story from one of my closest friends until she came to the end and it triggered the memory. I had heard the story only two weeks prior. As a former therapist, stories are fascinating to me--this was troubling. It is not the first time in recent years that I know of--who knows how many other things I have forgotten. On this note--I can't remember who I was training in my basement when I found the tick that caused the Lyme disease. If it was you, please let me know. That would help me pin down the timing of onset. Thanks! On a similar note, if I owe you money, you might have to remind me. If I don't owe you money, you could still remind me and I might not know any better, LOL! So, there is hope that I could get some of my memory back.

Four, if you have to get two diseases that both affect your energy levels, cause a lot of pain, affect memory and focus and keep you from exercising, you might as well get them both at the same time! If you are going to take me out--just get it all done at once. It should take 3-6 months to wean me off of the high cortisol levels following surgery (which should be this summer). I will need to take a tapering dose of a steroid pill for several months. My lyme treatment could very likely be wrapping up at about the same time. Therefore, come Christmas, you could all be getting your N back :).

Five, there is an explanation for everything--it isn't all in my head--lazy, hazy and crazy--well, it is in my head (technically), but not in the way I was beginning to worry! I have gained 30 lbs at this point. Which, when you go from a very fit and muscular 5'3" to 30 lbs heavier with less muscle, it is a big difference. Not easy to take for a fitness instructor--or anyone else for that matter! I am learning humility, patience and to love myself no matter what.

Truly, in the end, that is the best outcome of all. I have slowed down my life, removed unnecessary clutter and distractions, lived in the present and learned to love myself without all the achievements. The deconstructed N is still the same--big heart, living my life with intention, to the fullest I can muster. Aren't we all, really?!

Sharing a little tumor humor--feeling loved!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Curly hair--who knew?!

I have been waiting to update you all on my health because I am ever hopeful that next week will be the one that I can say, "I've got this!" All good, clean bill of health, on top of things again, full of energy, a creating madwoman, WOOOHOOO! But then, are we ever really there?! My husband, the astute man that he is, once said that in order to truly excel at one thing in life, you have to let the others go a bit. Instead, he has decided to aim for pretty good in all areas. Not a bad goal, if you ask me ;). And, frankly, in doing so, he actually is amazing and not too stressed out. Yes, I will admit, I can still learn a lot from him--beyond appreciating sushi, scotch and chocolate! 

I also realized that in not updating at all, it has left many of you wondering how I am doing, possibly worrying that things haven't improved. The reality is that things have improved--immensely, even! My energy levels are at about 80% of normal (which, if you know me in real life, is probably about normal ;). I feel better than I ever have on a day to day basis without gluten and milk or cream in my diet. I am much less crabby, which is great for those of you who do know me in real life. And, the bleeding from the fibroid has diminished greatly. Every time I get a week that is free of bleeding, I am ready to declare this battle over--only to wake up one day to more. So, it isn't over, but this is so much more doable than before. Acupuncture, chinese herbs and a diet change have been the keys to this improvement. I have actually been able to lower my medication levels to half of what I had previously been taking to control the PCOS. 

As I am typing this, I am realizing that once again, it is the hardship that has pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to find a better alternative. I was previously on the highest levels of medication to control my PCOS. It was allowing me to live symptom free, but it left no "big guns" to pull out when I relapsed. I was able to maintain my weight, but dropping weight was terribly difficult. This left me hovering about 5 pounds below my relapse weight (weight can be a trigger for PCOS symptoms). But, through acupunture and diet change, I am now sitting 15 pounds under my relapse weight and my body appears to be functioning along the normal calorie in, calorie out scenario! I currently don't have to work out like a crazy woman just to maintain! Woot! Another crazy development is that my hair is currently curly. All of my life, my hair has been straight. Curl-resistant straight. In humidity, straight. In dry air, straight. Straight, straight, straight--as in NO body! Well, all of my life except two other times, both lasting about 9 months. You guessed it, during both of my pregnancies. In case you are wondering, I am not pregnant. Yes, I am sure! However, this is another sign that my hormone levels are changing and in a good way. For those of us with PCOS, we have low female hormone levels and high male hormone levels. The only time my hormone levels are in the normal range for women is when I am pregnant--or, now maybe! 

So, long story short, I need to count my blessings. With acupuncture and a few diet adjustments, I am feeling really good. I am not sure yet what to do with this crazy mop of hair, but I will happily deal with that over chronic fatigue, irritability, sweating like a man and any other number of symptoms! I will beat this fibroid eventually--because I am ridiculously stubborn. 
What does all this have to do with N's Whims, you ask?! Well, seeing as how N is the heart of the whims, you should know that I am itching to get back in the studio. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will get my current creative project completed and then my girls will be back in school. I have truly enjoyed this summer, playing with them and pouring a bit more of N into our home. Would you like to see some of the projects I have completed? You would? YAY! 

This is my St. Vinnie's lamp project. When I purchased it, the lamp was a lovely 70's mustard yellow. While I do enjoy mustard yellow, it did not work in my living room at all. So, I thought I would spray paint it turquoise. Turns out, the turquoise was too blue, and the lampshade I fell in love with at Target was just a touch too small. So, this summer, I finally got around to round 2 on the lamp. I spray painted it again with a cream color. Then, I got out the shoe polish (which we rarely use anymore on shoes) and darkened up the details. I found this shade at World Market, which was surprisingly economical! However, the shade was not made for this type of lamp connection. So, I found some wire in my studio and rigged it so that it would stay level on the base. What do you think?!

My next project was to paint this beautiful sideboard that I found on craigslist. It had actually been painted and was a beautiful shade already. But, the color was off for the living room--it had too much red in the paint and turned a bit purple next to my shade of sea green. So, there is sat, taunting me for months. Mike helped me tackle it a few weeks ago and now it is lovely! It houses all of the stereo equipment AND hides the gaping hole with wires that was never finished in the middle of our living room wall (seriously, who does that?! the wall has a hole, 12 inches up, smack in the middle of the room). I now walk into my living room and exhale. It is lovely--it is as therapeutic as yoga when a room comes together, don't you think?!

My current and last project for now is in our covered porch. There were some beams that our porch builder, Matt Parnell, suggested I do something whimsical on. While it has turned into a bigger project than I thought, it has been fun and exciting to see it come together. My mother-in-law donated her scraps from stained glass projects (boy am I glad she didn't just throw them away), and I started making glass murals on the beams. My mom came up yesterday and helped me for a bit. I am hoping some of the other creative people in my life will do a section, too. Won't it be fun to look at and see the work of others that I love while relaxing on the porch?! 

Once again, thank you for reading, your support during this summer of flux, and every single sweet and encouraging word! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

N's Whims--who knew the name would be so fitting?!

As most of you know, several months ago I announced that I would be taking a hiatus from N's Whims. I wasn't sure at the time if N's Whims would continue to exist--and, if so, what it would even look like. This hobby turned business had taken over more and more of my time and attention. And, as it did, I spent less time being creative and fulfilled and more time just getting product out. My life, my loved ones and myself were getting neglected and I was exhausted keeping up. While it is a good problem to have, a business that is successful and continues to grow, it was not what I wanted for my life. I knew that in order to figure it all out, I needed to take a step back. I needed to sit with and grieve for the loss of N's Whims, if that was to be. You see, N's Whims had become such a part of me--my self-esteem, my social outlet, my justification for investing in learning were all tied to N's Whims. I needed to find me again and then see if I could work N's Whims back in on some level. It was really a tough time for me--N's Whims was my fourth baby! 

However, as tough things usually are, this was so good for me, so freeing. Then, this summer my health decided to shake things up a bit more. I have a chronic, annoying disease called PCOS. I am so lucky that it is not terminal, nor debilitating. I am also very fortunate that more often than not, I have been able to keep it controlled and relatively symptom free. However, this summer it has been unexpectedly wreaking havoc on my body and my lifestyle. I have had to greatly lower my expectations for myself, slowing way down in life. For those of you who know me well, you know it is hard for me to live life casually. I am usually attacking life with a crazy level of energy and intensity. I have had to greatly reduce the amount, duration and intensity of physical activity (I recently had to ask a friend if we could slow down on a bike ride and had to discontinue training for a triathlon--gasp). My house is more often than not embarrassing these days, and energy and creativity for jewelry making has been lacking!

I have noticed that as I slow down, there is more room for thinking and processing. A few weeks ago, it hit me that I am thankful that I took a hiatus with N's Whims and  processed my feelings before my health issues began. If I hadn't, I would probably have resented the lack of energy for creating. Instead, I don't feel pressure to make anything. I am able to let go of the need to be creative and know that when it is there I will enjoy it again. I have also realized how thankful I am that my body has told me to just slow down, reduce the unnecessary pressures of life and enjoy my kids this summer! Instead of spending so much time cleaning and working on projects, I have used the energy I do have to do fun things with the girls. Then, when the energy isn't there anymore, we snuggle up and read together. We are working our way through the Harry Potter books right now. I am learning that I don't have to be the high energy, fun and entertaining mom to enjoy my girls and have them enjoy me. Surprisingly, with this lemon I have been given, I have found several positives (which is great, because without this I might find my attitude turning sour).

Anyway, I think I have finally figured out what N's Whims looks like to me--exactly that, my whims. I can't tell you precisely, because it will be ever changing. I will not be doing custom orders anymore. If you need something custom with wording, check etsy--there are loads of artists who do that sort of thing. If you live nearby and want something custom done with vintage pieces, Stacey Barmore has such a cool style and makes beautiful pieces. You can find her at Old Soul

As for what N's Whims will look like, I have way too many beautiful beads, metal pieces and
discarded vintage bits begging to be made into something beautiful to stop creating! I will make pieces as time and creativity allow. I will probably post some as I make them, but I may not always get to that. Of course, anything created is available for purchase at any time. I may have open boutique hours sporadically and post them on the page to let you know. I will probably have a few open houses a year with other hand-made local vendors. As always, if you have a jewelry need and would like to shop, let me know. I would be happy to find a time for you to shop and would love to get to see you! I really enjoyed the jewelry class I taught in my home recently, so I would love to do that as it fits as well. That being said, if you really want that hand-made family necklace, you could come and learn to make it with your own hands (how cool is that?!). If you have a fun group of friends or family who would love to learn together, let me know and we can set up a time for that. I may also auction a custom family necklace every once in awhile for DAIS--who knows! Basically, when it works, I will, and if not, well then I won't. How's that for N's Whims?! Not the best plan for running a business, I suppose. But, who knows, it just might work--and if not, I am sure I will find another whim. 

Hopefully with this new model, you will find the new creations to be more inspired. It is my hope that my whims will continue to make the women who choose them feel beautiful and unique--because every woman is.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Almost there--more new artists at the Open House!

Some of Connie's infinity scarves sitting in Wayne's bowl
Today I get to tell you about the final set of artists who will be selling at the Open House. One of my friends in the neighborhood told me about a local Waunakee gal who knits gorgeous things. Well, I contacted her and she has agreed to sell at the open house! Her name is Connie Burmeister. She really enjoys knitting with silks (wait until you get to feel her scarves), but uses other types of yarn as well.

LOVE these scoops--everything about them--the weight, feel and color!

After confirming with her that she could be here, she mentioned that her husband is a woodworker. I stopped by their house one day after teaching spin (yes, they put up with my stinky self :) to see his work. Wow, was I amazed. It was clear that Wayne really loves what he does. The scoop handles pictured above were designed by Wayne and they have such a nice feel as you hold them. His pieces are definitely works of art--he lets the unique natural patterns in the wood sing in his finished pieces. 

This piece is for serving olives and is such an innovative design. You put the olives in the base of the piece and close the lid of the upper bowl (which is open for the picture). As you eat the olives, you drop the pit into the upper bowl. No piles of unsightly pits laying around :). Super idea, if you ask me. The bottom is expertly shaped out of one piece of wood. 

See you Sunday 2-5pm at 1418 Blue Ridge Trail.
Just a few more days to wait! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Badaxe Design is in the house!

I am so excited to let you know that Badaxedesign will be at the N's Whims Open House this Sunday from 2-5pm. For the first time ever, we will have things that are geared toward the men in your life who love to fish (although, I must say that Jonathan's wife looks adorable in his t-shirts)! Jonathan Marquardt lives right here in Waunakee and he has effectively combined his passion for art with that for fly-fishing and the results are so cool. 
One of Badaxedesign's most recent prints.

Johnathan uses a linocut block printing to create his designs. "Linocut block printing is akin to Japanese woodcuts and intaglio.  I use two gouges to carve the surface of my linoleum covered blocks upon which I sketch reverse images for my final pieces.  

Once I have finished carving, I roll the surface with acrylic or oil based ink and press artist's paper down onto the block using a hand held press (someday I'll have a rolling press.)  When the paper is pulled away, the final image is visible.  Each one is created through a hand-made process.  There are many blade sizes but I use primarily two for creating designs.  The depth and width of each cut dictates the final appearance of my image.  A skipping blade can ruin many days of careful work." You can see pictures of the process on Badaxedesign's website.

 Badaxedesign has been featured in several fishing magazines, including The flyfish Journal. Let Badaxedesign be your one-stop shopping for the fishermen in your life who don't need any more gear! 

Mike has a hat, a shirt (excellent quality, by the way) and several framed prints from Badaxedesign, and loves every one of them! To be honest, when it comes to fly-fishing, I have no idea what to buy him--but I can pick out a t-shirt ;). You should definitely head to Badaxedesign's facebook page, to see more. 

At the open house, you will be able to purchase t-shirts, hats and prints of varying sizes at Badaxedesign's table. Jonathan also has a fun series of prints that feature different states and the fish associated with that state. I am thinking that Mike might need an Illinois one for Father's day, since that is the state we lived in when we met :). Shhh! Don't tell him!

This blog in a nutshell--Open House, 1418 Blue Ridge Trail on Sunday, May 5th from 2-5pm. You don't want to miss an opportunity to shop Badaxedesign and many other local artists. Be there! 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

N's Whims Open House is just one week away!

Yep, next Sunday, May 5th from 2-5pm, you will find a unique shopapalooza at 1418 Blue Ridge Trail in Waunakee! Not only will you get 10% of anything N's Whims, you will also find some N² items (made by Nicole Mihalas and I), some Craft to Give Back items (all proceeds go to DAIS of Madison), hair accessories and other items by the MihaLutes ladies, Caroline's Vintage, A Mother's Art Photography and Cdel, you will also get to shop Dede's latest designs.

This is a piece Dede made us, I love how it reminds me of the beach--sand, baubles and blue-green ocean waters....
Dede Kauffman will be at the open house this Sunday, 2-5pm. If you have ever noticed (or heard me going on and on about) the stained glass in my windows, you know Dede does beautiful work! If you haven't, here are two of my favorite pieces that sit in my boutique windows.

Pure happiness when I walk into my studio to begin working and see the sunshine coming through my windows, lighting up the office and casting shades of orange! These two are just perfect for me--down to the swirls and the cracked glass jewels!

This is one of my favorites in my living room--it reminds me of all the jewels and blessings in my family tree....

Dede will have some abstract pieces similar to these, as well as some smaller fun pieces.

Oh, one more excellent gift idea--Dede makes crash glass collages--here is one she made for me. Bring a favorite picture or two, and if you have a favorite quote printed (scrapbooking items work great for this) and she'll design one for you, too! 

I have a few more artists to tell you about in the next few days, including some that are new to the N's Whims open house. We will have fun gift ideas for mothers, fathers, teachers and graduates (or anyone else on your list in the next few months). We will also have many fun things to update your house and wardrobe--springing new life into yours! Make sure you save some time to come and shop next Sunday.