I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be,
but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see.
— Douglas Pagels

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Workshop Recovery Mode - Activate

Due to the INSANE FLASH FLOOD that came outta nowhere, three of my students didn't show up. However, I still had seven students and we had a good time. It was hard to make it through the class and I couldn't seem to get my thoughts together, but my students encouraged me and told me that I was a great teacher. I love my students. :)

As usual, I can barely walk. My body hates me for doing any kind of activity, so teaching a four hour class and being on my feet for six really knocks me for a loop. There is no way that I could teach classes back to back, or even one day after the other. Every two weeks seems to be about all that I can handle, but I am in the process of adding another Saturday so that will have me teaching three times a month...twice at Hobby Lobby in Mobile and once at the Rec Center in Mississippi. Which Rec Center is still being determined, but it's looking like I will either move to Moss Point or resume in Pascagoula. I'm desperately behind on bills and can't afford basic necessities at this point, so I am praying that this will work out and that I will be able to physically do this. Ultimately, I need to teach four or five workshops a month. Maybe someday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bob Ross Workshop Update

My experience at Hobby Lobby couldn't be better. I had a packed class yesterday, and will have another full class on the 28th. If interest grows, I may have to double my schedule! No clue how I would physically handle that, but I'm gonna do what I gotta do and see how it works out!

In other news, one of my paintings that was on display in the store is MISSING! Nobody knows what happened to it. I don't know whether to be upset or flattered!

*Goes to see if it's for sale on eBay*

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On this Valentines Day, I would like to profess my undying love for babies, puppies, and cheese!

And cereal. And sleep. And Panera Bread. And music. And babies again. And did I mention cheese?

And Florida. And happy trees!!! And Italian food...Greek food...um...ok just food.

And Hershey's chocolate. And hummus. Oh wait...that's food too.

And road trips. And charity work. And my wonderful, beautiful friends! Ok that's all. Oh wait...sweet precious BABIES!

And cheese.

The end. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Embracing Aloneness

I was going to write something heart-tugging today. I am supposed to be working on an essay for a friend who is writing a book on overcoming abuse. And this also being what used to be my anniversary, I have many thoughts.

But words...fail me.

So for now, I'm sporting my awesome Eeyore pajamas, snacking on a butterfinger (albeit, sugar free), and basking in the fabulousness that is singlehood!

I wish all of my beautiful friends, single, married, and everything in between a happy Valentines Day, and EVERY day.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meet Bob!

This is Bob. He's crazy.

Since I moved in, Bob has taken a liking to my car. Ok it's a little more than a liking...it's an obsession. He sits on it daily. And when he's not sitting on it, he's sitting BY it. And when he's not sitting by it, he's rubbing up against it. He sprayed it today, and wouldn't budge when I tried to move him out of my way so that I could clean out my car. He also doesn't want to budge when he's sitting on it, even after I start my car. He waits until I actually start pulling out of the driveway and then he conveniently falls off...feet first, of course. He made his way INTO my car one day, and it took an act of God and Congress to get him out of it. He cussed me up one side and down the other, in catspeak of course. In this pic, he's having an afternoon snack, but his eyes are fixed on the car. Bob is nutso. Loony. Bonkers. He needs cat therapy.

And he's crazy, too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunshine in the darkness

I'm back on the heavy stuff again...the meds the doc prescribed for my worst days, and lots of menthol pain patches wherever I can find a place to stick them. I wish I could make people understand this pain. Heck, I wish *I* could understand it. My entire body is screaming. There is just no other way to describe it. I feel like I'm carrying an elephant...I'm just so heavy. Through the night I switched back and forth between praying and crying, until I didn't have the strength to do either one anymore. I dozed off but couldn't be still and I woke myself up moaning...something that I do often these days. I cannot escape it. Even with sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and pain pills, there is no relief in sight. I had to go to the store this morning to buy some OTC meds and a part for my walking cane, and I almost had to ask for help because I couldn't lift my arm to the shelf to pick up a box of cereal. I walked in slow motion towards the front of the store, and the greeter saw me and brought me a shopping cart to lean on. Needless to say, my quality of life is rather poor at the moment. Regular every day living that is so easily taken for granted is but a dream to me. And let's not mention the agony involved in simply wearing a bra. Yeah, let's not talk about that.

I do what I can to distract myself from it. I spend a great deal of time online, reading stuff and connecting with people. And of course, I blog all over the place. I have made a habit of finding a reason to laugh every day, which usually leads me to funny websites. Humor has become a life jacket for me. It is absolutely necessary to my survival.

As is music, which since the day I was born has been a source of security for me. At birth I was given a little musical sunshine that played "You Are My Sunshine". I carried it with me around the house, and one of my earliest memories in life was giving my sunshine to my mama when she was crying on her bed. At the age of 2 or 3, however old I was, I recognized that she needed comfort, and gave her the object that I loved most, that seemed to carry me to a better place when I needed it to - my little sunshine. She, of course, gave it back to me, and when Hurricane Katrina ruined ninety percent of my city in 2005, my little sunshine fell victim as well. I remember finding it among the debris, and refusing the throw it out, I hosed it down, scrubbed it, washed it...whatever I could do to save it, but to no avail as the music box inside of it had rusted. I still have my little sunshine, though, and every so often I'll find the song running through my head:

"You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don't take
My sunshine away."

Growing up, although not musically inclined in the least (I'm not even capable of bad karaoke...ha), music was so much a part of my life and seemed to carry me through many tough times. I would spend hours in my mom's room sometimes, listening to her record albums (yes, RECORD ALBUMS, kids!) and letting the songs take me to another time and place.

Now as an adult, I still find myself using music as an escape from the real world. In an attempt to get away from it all, I get in my car and drive with no particular destination in mind. I turn up the radio or a CD, and I sing to the top of my lungs as if I'm live on stage. I cannot stress enough how terribly I sing, but I don't care. And it could be a really sad song...it doesn't matter. I sing it loudly and proudly, and even when life is going horribly wrong, I find the strength to cope.

And I did so today, driving to the store in utter agony. I turned on my CD and sang to the top of my lungs. It was hard. I didn't feel like singing. But I made myself do it, and eventually it became a little easier as time went on. It was my stubborn, life-long way of telling myself that I am not giving up, even though I want to.

Music has been a gift to me. It is my sunshine in the darkness. I believe it is God's way of saying "Hang in there, girl, I'm not through with you yet. Just keep on singing. I'm listening."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Friends don't let friends eat Chicken McNuggets

Ingredients in a chicken mcnugget from the McDonalds website:

Chicken McNuggets®:
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent).

There has been much debate over the Chicken McNugget for years now, including a book that came out a couple years ago which went as far as to suggest that McNuggets cause cancer as well as contain lighter fluid. I decided to do my own research, and here is what I found:

I found that they made a couple of changes to the ingredients over the past 4 years: They eliminated dark meat, and removed triglycerides from the list (although mono and diglycerides are still used). As of 2007, it is being reported by a multitude of websites that chicken mcnuggets are 56 percent corn-derived products, which includes the chicken flavoring and seasoning itself and not just the breading (see "natural flavoring of a botanical source" in the ingredient list above...that's there McLanguage for it). There are a total of 38 ingredients in the mcnugget as a whole, with a variety of phosphates being used to hold the mcnugget together. The ingredients that are sparking the most debate are TBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane. Dimethylpolysiloxane is a chemical that prevents the nugget from foaming when heated. I haven't done any research on this ingredient. TBHQ, however, is Tert-BUTYLHYDROQUINONE, a petroleum bi-product and type of phenol that is used as a preservative. A few sites, including the book that I mentioned, suggest that TBHQ is butane, aka lighter fluid. That is incorrect, although it's not too terribly far off. There have been reports of TBHQ being a carcinogen, so I dug a little deeper and pulled up some lab reports, which can be found HERE.

In reading the report, I found that TBHQ as well as BHT (also a preservative) tested positive in carcinogenic behavior in a variety of animals including rats, hamsters, and dogs. It also tested positive for mutation of DNA cells, lymph nodes, as well as cells of the lungs and ovaries. The FDA has approved TBHQ and BHT as preservatives in mechanically processed foods such as mcnuggets, but gives a limit to the amount that can be used due to the risks found in research studies.

For the record, their other fried chicken products contain many of these ingredients as well, including TBHQ.

From previous research on free-range chicken vs chicken with phosphates and other additives, I found two U.S. brands that are 100 percent chicken with no hormones or phosphates: Tyson and Sanderson Farms. I'm not sure about Pilgrim's Pride but I think they are also free range.

Just thought I would share the wealth. Be well, everyone.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A little update on things

I hope to visit Art With Heart tomorrow and sign up as a volunteer. I am very much looking forward to helping them reach out to troubled and underprivileged kids and adults. I have been working on plans for some of my art to be shown/sold at local shows with the money going to charity. This is a great thing...I can't wait.

Hobby Lobby has given me the green light to teach there twice a month. My students are gung ho and I'm excited about teaching. I have informed them of my health issues, but told them that I would do my best to be there as often as they want me. I'm still brainstorming about kids classes too. I think it would be a blast to have a kids club. Still trying to work things out with Pascagoula as well, and hope to teach there at least once a month.

After talking with several people, I've decided to change my school plans once again. USA accepts almost all academics from MGCCC, and MGCCC is less than half the cost of USA. USA has so many extra fees...it's incredible. A Pell grant would only pay for one semester at USA, but would pay for THREE semesters at MGCCC. I could possibly take every single class online there as well. They have a packed schedule, unlike the schools here in AL. So honestly...the practical choice is to take my academics at MGCCC. Fall, Spring, and Summer...then I can go from there.

I'm going to talk to them this week about CLEP exams. I hope to knock out at least one class, if not three or four, via CLEP. The more I knock out, the more breathing room I'll have.

Friends, have any of you taken CLEP exams? If so, please tell me about it. Thanks!