M is for Migraine

This post is for those lucky humans out there that have never had the experience of a migraine headache.

The reason I am writing this post is because of something that was said to me recently by someone who has never had the experience of having a migraine headache.  She said, “You need to go to the doctor.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could find some medicine, or change your diet, or an exercise or something to make these ‘headaches’ go away.”

Having recently read a post about choosing to be offended, I thought long and hard about whether I was offended and whether I should be writing this post.  I am not offended by the speaker’s words.  I realize that they didn’t understand because they haven’t experienced a migraine.  It is easy to be critical of others when you don’t understand what they are experiencing.  I felt the need to write this post to help this person and others understand.

Migraines are NOT the same as headaches, a friend, who also gets migraines, reminded me recently.  Migraines can cause someone to vomit.  Smells and light can make them feel nauseous.  Some people when experiencing a migraine cannot stand any noises.  Others experience an aura.  Migraines can cause someone to be sensitive to hot or cold.  Cluster migraines are a series of migraines that can continue for several days in a row.  A migraine may have certain symptoms, but they are different for everyone who experiences them.

My typical migraine often starts with my eyes feeling weird and the onset of an aura.  Once the aura has finished, the pain and nausea begins.  I am often overly warm and need to keep cool during a migraine.  Sometimes I throw up.  I often cannot stand light, sounds or even smells. I have to lay down in a cold dark room.  This is a typical migraine for me.  However, a migraine can be different each time a person has one.

I have been to the doctor.  My migraines are triggered by excessive stress.  I have tried a couple different medications.  Ibuprofen taken at the onset of the aura often lets me manage my migraine.  But not always.  Certain types of coffee cause me to have what I call an insta-migraine.  I don’t drink them and avoid them.  Too much processed foods with dyes can cause a migraine.  I try to avoid those as well.  Linen scented candles and room sprays cause me to have a migraine.  I don’t purchase those products and try to avoid them if I smell them.

A bad migraine year for me is five to fifteen migraines.  I have been migraine free for years at a time.  I have friends who have three to five migraines a week.  For one of them, Botox injections work.  The other friend gave up dairy and grain.  That was three years ago and she has a lot fewer migraines.

Be kind to someone who is suffering from a migraine.  Depending on their symptoms, even speaking to them could be causing them pain.  Understand that having a migraine is not something they can control and their isn’t a quick fix.  They probably have been to see a doctor or doctors.  The person who is having the migraine knows what they need to help get their migraine under control.

If you do not experience migraines, I hope that you found this article helpful.  If you do and would like to add to this post, please leave a comment.

At the Mountains of Madness

I finished the novel At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft a little over a week ago.  I would love to discuss this book.  No one that I know has read it.  I’ve asked friends, students in my art classes, and family members.  Because I can find no one to talk to about it, I feel compelled to write a post about it hoping that someone will comment or contact me and want to talk about At the Mountains of Madness.

I did not have much to go on when I ordered this book.  I think there was a sentence or two about explorers on the continent of Antarctica unearth an unspeakable evil.  That could mean anything in the horror, science fiction genre.

When reading a review about the movie “Color Out of Space” based on another work by H.P. Lovecraft, the author of the review had stated that the director Guillermo del Toro loves the book At the Mountains of Madness so much that he wants to make it into a movie.  I do not have such strong feelings about the book.  In fact, there are a couple of things that really bother me.

Some of my less than enthusiastic response may have to do with this being my first introduction to the writing of H.P. Lovecraft.  On occasion I found his writing to be archaic, even for the period of time he was writing in.  There were allusions to other books Lovecraft had written.  I think that if I had read the book about the Cthulhu or the Necronomicon, I may have had better appreciation for the horrors that the protagonist experienced.

At the time this novel was published, 1936, we did not have as accurate maps of large parts of the planet.  Antarctica was one of these areas of the world.  So the expedition to explore and track the geology and geography of Antarctica would be a very real expedition for that time.  However, knowing what is known of the geography of the continent today, I was simply unable to suspend my system of disbelief and accept the authors premise of a mountain range higher than the Himalayas on the continent of Antarctica.  This is a small thing but it bothered me.

I have never been a fan of technique of telling a story from the point of view that the protagonist has already survived and is now recounting what he experienced.  To me it is much scarier, if as the reader, I am participating in events as they are happening to the protagonist.  Not as an after the fact recounting.  It takes the edge off knowing that the individual survived.  The horror doesn’t get him because he is telling the story in past tense.

I acknowledge that there is a lot of mystery surrounding the continent of Antarctica.  There is so much about that place of ice and cold that we do not know.  There are theories about tunnels and pockets of life that were trapped and developed independently under the ice.  Scientists are learning new things about our planet all the time, why should the continent of Antarctica be any different.

Although I did not find At the Mountains of Madness to be scary, it was dense with dread.  I imagine a movie version of the book could be very intense and scary.  I would be very excited to see a film version of At the Mountains of Madness directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Ability – Creativity Series

“Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

The other day I was going through some art papers, notes about classes, ideas on sticky notes and quotes.  I came across a folded up little piece of paper that had this quote from Albert Einstein.  It really spoke to me and I found it to be the perfect inspiration for my second post in the “Creativity Series.”

Some of the lessons that we need to learn about being creative are not learned through doing an activity or by reading a book.  They are learned by changing our perspective.  In this case the perspective we are changing is allowing others to hurt us or judge us with their opinions and harsh words.

Just like the fish in Albert Einstein’s quote, we are not going to be good at everything we attempt to do.   A great pastry chef may not be able to grill the perfect steak.  And then again maybe they can grill a perfect steak but are unable to speak in front of a crowd of people.  What is being said in this quote is not to allow yourself to be judged by the things that you have trouble doing.  The chef is still an amazing chef even if they can’t do public presentations.  If the chef is content with their life, does it matter what others think?

Enough time and practice can help anyone to gain a basic understanding and minimal skill set in any area.  For example, I took an accounting class in college.  For me, it was a tough class.  I did fine, I got a C.  I am perfectly capable to do basic book keeping for my art as a business.  But I will not be remembered for my interest accruing skills on a spread sheet and I am more than okay with that.

Take a moment and think of how you have been compared by others or yourself in doing something that you are not proficient at.  How did it feel?  Did it hinder your ability to try to do the task in the future?  Did it alter how you felt about yourself?

I have shared this story in the past, but it fits so well with the Albert Einstein quote that I have to share it again.  I had a student who was in her seventies when she took my creativity class.  She shared a story about one of her creative blocks.  She had always been very tall for her age.  In her school choir classes she would stand in the back row and sing with her whole heart. When she was 12 or 13 a teacher told her that she shouldn’t sing.  That she should just mouth the words instead.  My student was devastated.  She never sang out loud again.  The words of one person had the power to quite literally silence a voice.

My student shared that she still wished to sing.  We talked about the fact that the teacher who said that had become her internal critic when it came to making a joyful noise.  We talked about ways to silence this critic.  We talked about ways that she could sing and feel comfortable.  Her church choir was recruiting “new songbirds.”  She auditioned and was accepted.  She was finally singing again.  After sixty years of thinking that she couldn’t sing, she had auditioned and was accepted in a choir.

I leave you with these final thoughts.  You are a genius!  You are a creative, imaginative, amazing human being.  Believe these words.  Believe in yourself.

Risk = Growth = Rewards

All of the artwork featured in this blog post was created by students of the Art Sampler class that I taught in the fall of 2019 at Flathead Valley Community College.  The paintings are pallet knife paintings.  Two of the students had previous painting experience but not painting with acrylic paint.  None of the students had painted using a palette knife before.

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Painted by Amy Kanewischer

In college, I took a class on American women’s history.  The class started with the  colonization of the original 13 colonies.  It focused on women who settled in the north (the area of what is now Massachusetts) and women in the southern colonies. 

The women who settled in the north were primarily wives and daughters.  They arrived with their husbands and fathers.  As long as they stayed within the confines of society and family these women had comfortable lives and very little risk.  

The women who settled in the south were wives and daughters also.  But most of the women who settled in the south went as indentured servants (their voyage is paid for by a third party [usually farmer or landowner in the southern colonies] and then they had to work for a certain amount of time to pay off the debt).  Once the debt was released, they were free.  They could buy land, start businesses, etc.  These women faced huge risks but if they survived the rewards were big and they had the opportunity to make choices for themselves.

One could argue that settling in the original thirteen colonies was a huge risk in and of itself.  And they would be right.  Some parts of those colonies were wilder and riskier than others.

The bonus question on the exam for this portion of the class asked where we would live if given a choice?  Would we live in relative safety of the civilized north?  Or would we live in the wild south?  We had to explain our reasons for why we made our choice.  I chose the south because if I could survive, I would earn my freedom and the ability to make decisions for myself.  There were only two of us in a class of 20 who chose settling in the south or greater risk for greater rewards.

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” -Geena Davis

Where is all this talk of risk going?  Creativity is about risk.  I was talking to a friend recently about how the images in the sketchbooks doesn’t always turn out like the finished piece of artwork.  That the artwork is often better than expected.  Creating a piece of artwork, writing a poem or a novel, acting in a play, taking a photo, any and all creative pursuits are about risk.

Think about it like this, if everyone only listened to the music of Mozart it would get pretty boring after awhile.  But there is a lot more than the music of Mozart to listen to.  There is rap, jazz, blues, polkas, chants, rock, pop, etc.  You get the idea.  Here is the important part to remember the next time a song that you like comes on, the artist who wrote that song and the artist who is singing it (it may be the same person) had to take risks to get that music on the radio.  They had to have faith in their creative choices.  They had to be willing to grow creatively to reach the rewards.

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Painted by Judy Territo

Speaking of creative choices.  My friend Samantha was at a point where she needed more business cards.  When she went to reorder ones like she already had, they didn’t have that design any more.  Samantha felt that she was at a crossroads.  She had branded herself with the old design.  Did she want to keep the old images?  Could she still keep her brand and create new and exciting business cards?

Samantha chose to take a risk.  She created new business cards, using new images and her original business name.  And the new business cards turned out beautiful.  So beautiful that Samantha ordered a banner with the same design.

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Painted by Diane Whited

Teaching art classes can be a challenge.  Teaching often forces me to grow as an artist and an individual.  As an art teacher, I take risks in teaching my students.  There is standard techniques that one can teach over and over to each class.  And teachers often do this to make sure that their students learn the basics.  But teachers can take the time to really get to know their students and tailor the class around the skills and abilities of the students.  It is these subtle additions that really makes the difference from an okay class to an amazing one.  I decided to teach the acrylic technique of palette knife painting with this group of students because I knew it would be a positive challenge for them.  My taking a risk, helped my students grow and the reward was to see the amazing artwork they produced. 

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Painted by Arnold Kanewischer

Just because you take a creative risk does not mean that you will not have anxiety and fear.  Part of taking a risk is learning how to manage the fear and anxiety that comes with it.  Not every risk you take will produce a reward.  Some risks will turn into creative disasters.  That is okay.  There is opportunity to learn from failure and that is one of the ways in which we grow.  That growth helps us reach future rewards.

What do you need to do today to take that next creative step?  What risk will help you grow regardless of success or failure?  How can going further with your art and creativity provide you with an opportunity to learn and challenge yourself?  What reward are you seeking? 

Remember risk causes growth.  Growth helps one reach rewards.  Risk = Growth = Rewards