Saturday, July 16, 2016

Taking Charge of Wellness

So I've had my blood sugars rechecked and am happy to report I'm now out of the diabetic range! However, my weight is still well over where it needs to be, and even though I did complete the Couch to 5K running program (which was amazing, by the way), I felt like I needed to do something to continue keeping me accountable to working hard on regaining my fitness.
With that in mind, Steve and I took the plunge and joined the Rex Wellness Center. At first I was hesitant because my limited experience with gyms was not exactly pleasant from the perspective of an overweight middle aged woman surrounded by a lot of uber-fit 20-somethings. However, the Wellness Center seems to be less like a gym and more of, well, a wellness center. So far in my first week of membership, I've taken two group classes - Aqua Barre and H20 Cardio Barre, both of which were an absolute blast - have had a fitness assessment to help me figure out where I am fitness level wise, and have tried out the free weights, a couple of the exercise machines, saltwater lap pool, warm therapy pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and the indoor track. I'm planning on taking more pool classes, yoga and meditation classes, as well as some of the stretching and strength/fitness classes, and will look into some personal training as well at some point. According to today's fitness assessment, I do need to work on losing weight and gaining flexibility as I already knew, but my strength is not too bad and surprisingly enough, my aerobic capacity is better than I thought. I think the Couch to 5K Program that I completed back in May really helped with that, and I've actually continued running a couple of times a week since then!
I have had a flare of some old plantar fasciitis issues, but picked up some PF sleeves which seem to be helping, along with PF exercises. Having our beautiful greenway so close to home is a dream come true - it's perfect for running and bicycling, not to mention providing incredible inspiration for paintings! And when the weather is just too bad to workout outside, there is always the gym with indoor track so I can stay on track better with my exercise now - no excuses! Yeah, I think this Wellness Center membership is going to be a good investment for my health and wellness. :-)

Another Art Blog Cross-Post

This is another cross-post from my art blog, so please bear with me!

Among my greatest joys as an artist are discovering that a painting of mine speaks to someone's heart, and being able to help animals in need by doing something I enjoy, this time painting. So with that in mind, I'd like to introduce Painting for Paws! I want to encourage anyone interested to make a donation to one of the animal charities on my list below and as a thank-you gift for your donation, I'll give you one of my landscape paintings absolutely free (except for the cost of mailing if applicable). Most of my artwork is available as part of this Painting for Paws promotion, and the works may be seen on my artist website at The donation amount is totally up to you, and you can select from any of my chosen charities listed below. There is no minimum donation requirement, and every penny will go to the charity. The paintings will generally be unframed, and I would also request proof of the charity donation, just to ensure the charities are getting something.

And what do I get out of this, you ask? My reward is that I get to paint purely from my heart, with the satisfaction of knowing my artwork is being adopted into happy new homes while also doing some good in this all too often difficult world. So if this sounds like something that may interest you, please contact me and together let's do something wonderful.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Catticus Finch - soft pastels on UArt 7" x 7"
My charity choices currently include the following, but others may also be added:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Time to Get Back to It

Yikes. When did one easy hour on the bike start making me so tired afterwards? Time to get back into a regular routine of exercise and hopefully regain some measure of endurance and fitness...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Raining Sunshine - Repost

This is a repost from my Art Blog, but it's such a big deal to me, I wanted to post it here as well. :-)

The weather outside may be frightful here this week, but it's definitely raining sunshine in my life right now. To put the magnitude of this into perspective, let me start from the beginning.

In late June 2013, I decided on a whim that I wanted to try my hand at painting for a hobby, so got a cheap student grade watercolor set and a pad of paper and set about attempting to learn to paint. It didn't take long for the art bug to bite for real, though, and I began experimenting with a variety of media including acrylic paint, charcoal and graphite. Frustrated with the student grade paints, I moved up to artist quality watercolors and acrylics, then expanded to Gouache and colored pencils which worked much, much better and were a lot more enjoyable to use.

As much fun as I was having, however,  I still felt like something was missing so in September of 2013 I picked up a small set of student grade soft pastels and a little pad of pastel paper just to see what they were like. After my first two attempts, I was more frustrated than ever and decided perhaps soft pastels just weren't for me. Luckily, I was intercepted by some other pastel artists who noted that my frustration was in all likelihood due to the lower quality of my pastels and the very challenging paper I had selected to use with them rather than an innate inability with the medium. Never one to give up too easily, I picked up a small set of artist quality pastels and a little sampler of sanded paper - what a difference! It only took a couple of test mini paintings and I was hooked. Determined to learn this medium, I gradually expanded my collection of high quality pastels and surfaces, and studied everything I could find on them - books, online tutorials, other artists' websites. Ever since, I've been painting like a woman possessed - at least several times a week consistently. Most of my earlier works were mediocre at best, but I was putting in my time with  painting and getting practice making marks, learning about color, values, temperatures and composition. I studied everything I could find on pastels and painting in general to help me learn. I checked books out from the library, purchased online training courses and joined the local pastel society.

Ever so slowly, things began to happen. I got juried into several shows and even won first place at the State Fair. But I wanted to continue improving and growing as an artist, so I was delighted when, at one of the local pastel society meeting, I met another member who had given an incredible demo earlier in the year and discovered that she taught and, even better, was willing to travel to my home to teach me! After hiring Addren Doss and studying with her this year, I saw noticeable improvement in my painting, which carried over even into my other mediums, and I began to dream bigger. I had heard about the Pastel Society of America - the premier organization of serious pastel artists. Unlike the other art organizations I had joined, membership in PSA are offered only on a juried basis, and I had heard how high their standards are so I knew it was going to require even harder work on my part if I were to have any hopes at all of getting in. So I continued to study and practice and work harder than I ever thought I could at my painting. It was difficult and frustrating at times, and other times things just clicked. I turned out some paintings I felt very good about and some that went directly into the "studies to maybe repaint later" bin. But I never stopped working at it, and I never lost sight of my goal. By the October PSA jurying session, I finally had five paintings I felt good enough about to submit for consideration for membership.

This weekend, roughly 26 months after that first frustrating attempt to draw something with a stick of pastel, I got the letter that validated all my hard work. The letter welcoming me as a juried Associate Member of the Pastel Society of America. But this is not the end - rather the beginning. Now the even harder work begins and I'm intensifying  my efforts with lessons and practice as I pursue that next ever more more challenging step on this artistic journey, the quest for Signature status.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Those Two Little Words

"You're diabetic." I was speechless as I heard my doctor say those two little words to me over the telephone. Two little words that turned my life upside down. Two little words that explained so many of the symptoms and issues with which I've been struggling for the past few years but with no real explanation, until now. Two little words that I never expected to hear. After all, I have no immediate family history, no evidence of heart disease, no high blood pressure. I eat an excellent diet relatively free of processed foods and excess sugar or carbs. I try to exercise regularly, and was an endurance athlete throughout most of my adult life for crying out loud! So with no real identifiable risk factors - and the fact that every single one of those little online health tests indicated no diabetic risk - diabetes was simply not on my radar.

I'm still in that "lost" phase of early diagnosis where I'm trying to wrap my head around what all this means and how to come to grips with what my new normal is going to have to be. My diet was already quite good, but I have begun cutting out any processed sugars and "white carbs" wherever I can. I've also made it a point to schedule regular intense exercise for one hour per day at least five days per week. This has been quite a challenge due to the overwhelming fatigue and weakness I continue to experience. Hopefully that is just my body adjusting to the new routine and diet and will improve soon. I'm definitely putting it on my list of questions for the diabetic nutritionist when I go in for counseling though. I am trying to "eat to my meter" in order to try and maintain blood sugars in the appropriate ranges and avoid extreme peaks and valleys if at all possible. And, being a needle weenie, learning to test my own sugar has been an adventure in itself (but I'm managing to do it, even if it is less than the most pleasant part of my day). I'm so grateful to the diabetic bloggers who have been so willing to share their experiences managing their disease without medications, as my personal goal is to control my own diabetes using only diet and exercise, avoiding medications for as long as possible, ideally never having to resort to chemical drugs for treatment.

Right now, the hardest part is surprisingly enough the exercise thing, although don't get me wrong - I miss my flavored coffee and ice cream like mad). It's not that I don't enjoy exercise, because I do. But it's difficult with the extent of the overwhelming fatigue and weakness that comes with it so often - on many occasions, after a mere 15 minutes on the bike, my feet start feeling like they are strapped to cinder blocks, and soon after I begin to feel like I've swallowed a brick and then the mild waves of nausea, headache and dizziness follow along soon after. This does tend to resolve somewhat, at least enough to finish out my hour, but it's definitely a struggle as I never seem to fully recover until after a solid period of complete rest (of course, I seem to always be exhausted, so "fully recover" is maybe not completely accurate). Steve suggested I carry my meter on rides and check to see if my blood sugar is possibly crashing during heavy exertion, so I'll try that next time.

In the meantime until I get in to see the dietitian and follow up with my doctor to see where things are in a couple of months, I'm working very hard on maintaining a strict diabetic diet and being faithful with my exercise schedule in the hopes that the verdict will be that my diabetes is well controlled using only those and there will be no need to add medications.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Helping Animals in Need

Despite a brief setback with multiple episodes of vomiting on Monday, Frylie is doing much better today after the addition of an anti-nausea medication. With his ever rising medical costs, however, I've realized just how lucky he is that Steve and I have been able to afford his medical care. Far too many animals are not that fortunate. In light of this, I've decided to use my opportunity to have a guest artist show of my original paintings here in Wake Forest to try and help those animals in need of urgent medical care. My art show will hang throughout the month of July at The Artists' Loft in Wake Forest, and I've decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from all sales to the Good Samaritan Fund at the Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care.
The show's Opening Reception is Friday evening, July 10, from 6-9 p.m. at The Artists’ Loft above Wake Forest Coffee, 156 South White Street, Wake Forest, NC, phone 919.554.8914. I hope to see you there - let's help some needy animals!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ticked Off

Wow - did not see that coming. I took Fry to the vet this morning due to him having difficulty walking. He had returned from running the mountain bike trail with Steve last evening, apparently having torn the largest foot pads off full thickness on three of his feet. This was concerning enough, and we treated them with the standard medicated ointment the doctor has suggested before when this has happened. But even more worrisome was the fact that he seemed to be experiencing significant pain that kept him from walking or even wanting to stand up. My first guess was that he might have strained a back muscle while running - he is a very athletic dog who likes to do a lot of fast sprinting, jumping and twisting (also how he likely tore his foot pads; doing that stuff on sandy rocky bike trails). We let him rest last night, and decided to see how he felt after some rest. He wasn't better this morning, so I called the vet's office as soon as they opened. They worked him in right away, and the vet suggested performing an x-ray of his spine under anesthesia to get a better picture of what might be going on, so Fry spent the day at the hospital, and I spent the day worrying.

When we picked him up this evening, the vet told us Fry did in fact appear to have a very slight pinched nerve in his low back, but her biggest concern was what his labs showed: Lyme disease. I was stunned. I mean, I know he runs on the bike trails in the woods, and I know Lyme disease does occur in this area, but it honestly was not even on my list of suspicions for Fry's symptoms. We use flea and tick preventive on him, and are very careful to check him over carefully after any outdoor activity. Yes, he does have the occasional tick, but we always remove them promptly with tick pullers designed to remove the body and head cleanly, and never really thought about Lyme.

Fortunately, the vet believes we caught the disease early, and started him on a three-week initial course of powerful antibiotics and pain medications, along with antiseptic foot soaks and antibiotics for his ripped pads. Needless to say, no running or exertional activity for a while either, which is going to be tough on such an active little guy. He's still unwilling to stand or walk unless absolutely necessary, and I'll be monitoring him for the next few days to make sure he's able to tolerate his medications. The vet says it's critical that he take (and keep down) his full dose of antibiotics to manage the Lyme disease since untreated it can lead to liver and kidney disease or even failure. He is scheduled for a return vet appointment in three weeks to assess his progress and decide on the appropriate course if additional treatment is needed at that time.

Our little boy is resting at the moment, under the influence of very strong IV pain medications, and hopefully he will be able to tolerate his oral medicines well and be on the road to full recovery soon.