Good Jobs & Bad Jobs

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Palette Knife Workshop

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Worx of Art Class

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Discussing the next step with a student.

The definition of a bad job is a bad employer.   I have had teaching jobs, illustration jobs, drafting jobs, retail or any type of job, that were horrid simply because the employer didn’t respect me or failed to pay.  I’ve worked in manual jobs where I enjoyed the work because what I did was appreciated by the employer.  When you don’t have respect or you worry about being paid for your efforts, the joy of working is not there even if you love the work.

These days I’m an artist and art teacher, full-time.   To be an artist full-time you need support – financial back-up or become famous.  As I am not famous I have back-up.  Every day I am thankful that I now have back-up and I don’t take it for granted.

In the past I played a game in my head to keep the work challenge fresh, when going to work was hard.  I thrive on challenge and I made my various jobs into daily challenges.  I also looked for jobs that used the skills I have.  The skills I have are all art related and when you work in a discipline that is artistic – many employers feel they don’t need you and your job is always at risk.  You also don’t get the respect other workers get.   For many years I took on Illustration jobs and Design jobs that were done at night after a full day of work.  It was hard work.  But I remember many times not wanting to go to my day job. I struggled with my art – which floundered.  Now I look back and hope I don’t have to relive any of that.  I love to teach.  I love to see the art that my students do and the satisfaction they have when they are creative.  It is the freedom they have and that I did not have that is the difference. In teaching you have to be awake and focused on your students all the time.  It is harder than it looks but the challenge is always there and the payback is great when your student does well.  Working freelance has no benefits or retirement funds.  I think I will be teaching until I can’t get out to teach.

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Weight – The Obsession & The Resolve

Weight always seems to be an issue – whether you are thin or not.   When I was younger I was always too thin.  I do know it changes you to be one or the other.   When I reached my mid thirties I began to get heavy.  Perhaps it is the foods of today or the activities.  Maybe it is the nature of the animal.  How many slim animals turn heavy as they age?   Because I see slim and healthy older dogs and people I know we don’t have to be this way.

Pete & Me

Pete & Me

When I was thin no one could understand my big energy and appetite. They went together is how it worked.  I was burning those calories recklessly.  I rarely strolled anywhere.  I did however rest a lot because I’d wear myself out.  Unfortunately I wasn’t immune to the trends for women in the 60’s on to be as thin as possible.  I began to think I must be thinner.  I became critical of myself and worked to keep my adolescent thinness.  One thing that stood out from the beginning was my relationship with hunger.

I remember having food dreams.  They were fantastic dreams – colourful and mouth-watering.   They go back as far as I can remember.  I woke up every day hungry and eager to eat.   I seemed to be an anomaly.  No one I knew ever wanted to eat first thing in the morning, nor did they have food dreams.  As a teenager I experimented with hunger.  I would eat a big breakfast and then the smallest lunch possible.  I was hungry at lunch.  CG3EI explored that feeling – not as an adversary but as a researcher.  It was a pattern I kept for many years.  I would enjoy an apple or avocado until every thing was gone – this represented a lunch.  Supper was often a meal I hurried home to have but one that was late enough not to encourage snacks later on.

I don’t have those dreams any more.  I think I stopped having them when I was too busy at university and started to wolf lunches and dinners and even skip breakfast because I’d sleep late after partying or study.  We only had desert when I was growing up.  I say this as ‘snacks’ were unheard of.  Students use snacks as meals.   In the working world snacks are everywhere.  They were at the pub, the office, at parties and at friends homes.  In the past twenty years of trying to keep my weight stable I have had to look at my beloved snacks. CG26 They have ruled me.  Even when the snacks are ‘healthy’ ones.  I love watching TV at night and the commercials are mostly about snacks.

Like my dog I would gladly eat [almost] anything, any time.  I would love to wallow in my calories and enjoy the plumpness.  When I hear how big my ass is or someone says I’ve ruined my dog – I seethed.  It is one thing to let yourself go and another to be admonished for it.  The last time someone said my dog was fat I said. ‘I am so tired of people saying this”.  It stopped them and made them think.  Then we talked about perceptions.  Yes my Vet has said my dog should have a waist.  She has also said my dog is healthy.  I want health for my dog and myself.  My dog loves exercise and helps me.  She also is helping me with my snacks.  This is because I share.  I can’t share something that will hurt her so I must not eat those things either.

It has been over twenty-five years since I have been slim.  In that time I have struggled.   My metabolism is very different from my youth.   I notice the weight when I move my body and try to fit into my regular clothes.  Weight gain is unpleasant because your body no longer seems to be you and your clothes become a big disappointment.  Recently I have begun to look back at my reaction to hunger.   I’m not saying I have found a perfect way to address my weight.  I eat a bit less.  My walks are more frequent and brisker.  I try to resist snacks – even if I make 20 trips to the kitchen and visit the fridge too often.  If I fail I try not to beat myself up and resolve to do better tomorrow.  This goes for me when I eat too late in the day or overfed the dog the chicken scraps.  My weight seems to be stable and that just doesn’t cut it – not for me or my dog.

Hunger should be your body telling you its empty.  Many times I haven’t even felt when I am too full.  I indulge myself when I am even a little hungry.  Now I wonder at my ‘lazy’ attitude.   Yes we can’t be stressing out our bodies but who says a little hunger is a bad thing?  As a migraine sufferer I can’t miss meals.  I am allowing hunger back in.  My dog has shown the way.  She kicks her food bowl when she’s ‘hungry’ – even though I know she’s eaten well.  This made me question my actions.    Yesterday I had corn on the cob and a bagel for lunch and was still hungry at the end.  Today it was a salad and a bagel and I am satisfied.  Perhaps tomorrow it will be a salad and half a bagel.  I know bagels are not diet food but this is better than a burger or pasta for lunch.  Now both of us are experiencing hunger and at least in my dogs’ case I am seeing results.  Perhaps I am too, but being bigger it may take longer.

Bad Weather = Bad Migraines

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Mag Illustration by J.Crawley

Spring has always been a mixed blessing for me.  Along with all the changes in weather, from the winter cold to the hot late spring, I can have many days of migraine.  When I was a student it often left me stranded at school unable to get home or even have the strength to walk to class.   As an employee I often worried it could cost me my job.  I still work away from home but thankfully not everyday.  I have been laid low for up to 4 days.  Laid low is a gentle way of putting it.  Intolerance to light, smell and strong neck pain are the usual symptoms.

2013 - 5 077RszdThe big weather we have all experienced in North America over the past 5 days has been tragic for our neighbours in the United States and I am personally horrified by the images of devastation.  Here in Ontario we have had some  thunderstorms and flooding.  Luckily I was able to teach last week and didn’t even have to take any pain meds for my head.  I guess I got lulled into thinking I am beyond the big migraines at my age.  They say they diminish with age.   It is true that I have less migraines.  On Saturday I thought I might drive to my parent’s home for a visit but events changed that, luckily.  I would have been stranded.  I started to lose my balance and felt dizzy.  I lay down and I realised I was in trouble.  The heat and the up and down of the weather [high winds and sudden heavy rains] were a backdrop.2013 - 5 080Rszd

Earlier in the spring I had escalating pain from the back of my head, rising to the top as I walked from my bed to the door, quickly doused with pain meds.  This weekend I was almost unable to walk around my home, make dinners, walk the dog, converse, do any of my art projects, or read.  I was taking pain relief every 4 hours.  I walked and talked like someone on a bender.  Today I still have it but I am able to get outside.  Tomorrow I work out-of-town and I am very worried about the long hours driving and standing.  I will rely on my headache meds, taken strategically to avoid any issues on the commute.  Today I will continue to rest when I can.

2012 - 9 217Migraines are exhausting.  A bit like the flu.  When they are over you are worn out – even though you’ve been bedridden.   Years ago I learned that there are many triggers to migraines and learned the ones that affect me.  Weather is a big one for me.  I almost never have any in the winter – none that I can’t squash with a pill.  The month of May is often my least favourite because of the storms – the high and low pressure.  I am a human barometer.   Hydration is a huge factor.  You must stay hydrated and never skip meals completely.  Any stress on the body can cause a migraine one or two days later.  As a young woman my hormones played havoc with these issue as I ate less and was quite dehydrated during menstruation.  Poor posture is also a big deal.  If I have been working and fail to notice my posture, my neck will start to ache and start-up the tension that can create a migraine.  I knew a migraine sufferer who went to a chiropractor to readjust her neck to stop hers’.   Hers were extremely harsh and long-lasting.

So if you are a migraine sufferer the only advice I can give is for each person to try to find your triggers.  Hydration and poor posture are big for most sufferers.  I am not a qualified person to talk about the pain meds available.  I have experimented over the years and I hate pills generally.  I try to take the least harmful and not get carried away with the amount.  To fellow sufferers – good luck.

Running – don’t stop

     Running is all about the experience.  Walking is more meditative.  When I walk I tend to think about things in a dream-like way.  Sometimes I forget about my posture which leads to some pain or twinge.  Walking allows me to reflect on my surroundings and all I see, hear and breath.  Running is very different for me – although the pauses and the blood pumping do heighten the visual.  When I’m running I am very focused on my form.  I have weak ankles and must stay focused so as to stay upright.  I also suck in my gut and hold my spine up to protect it from my not so elegant running.  I hate running like a girl.  I work on that too – trying to power up my stride and form.  The results are all good.  I am finally rediscovering my waist and a firm musculature to my legs and but.

I haven’t run in years – many years.  I remember running as a youth – just for the fun of it.  Surprisingly it wasn’t  very fun in gym class.  I can only say that gym made it a chore and I hate chores.   I would run down the gravel road or the dirt lane-ways with abandon. When I lived north of San Francisco I got into running – ran for 10 then 15 minutes at a time until I built up to a 1/2  hour.  I never got higher than that as it was a good amount to stick to.   My son was another motivator when he was quite young – we’d run a lot.  Two years ago I got  a dog to get me out of the house and to be a companion.  When I’m alone I tend to read or paint – neither exercises anything but my eyes and hands.  It is working.  Dali and I go out every day – multiple times.

I live in an urban area that can get boring after a year of walking in the same parks or streets.  I have used the baseball field for running as it is kept really smooth and has a stone-chip outer edge to the field, like a lane-way. After 2 years, even the dog is not too motivated some days.  Out of desperation one day I took to running in the soccer field.  For some reason it is more fun – perhaps because it is full of surprises [holes] and it is something new.

At first my running was pretty sad.  One trip from goal post to goal post just about killed me.    Now in the soccer field I feel elation. I can run up and down and across many times just trying to keep my legs pumping and staying upright.   A few days ago I thought I instantaneously sprained both feet when I was in a real sprint.  Humbled I limped along until I could try again.  There is a sort of stiffness that has settled in to my tendons as I have aged – probably due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Naturally my dog loves the running.  I trick her when she’s sniffing at something and not paying attention – I sneak away as fast as I can.  Naturally she’s at my side in no time.  It is fun to look around and see her ‘flying’ across the field.  She loves the challenge of not losing me.  Running with her off leash is best for us both.  With the leash she seems to think she has to win the race so it may look pretty funny with me running behind a Chihuahua in full-out running mode.  It is even better to run around in the country.  My parent’s collie thinks so too.

I turned 60 recently.  It has really made me think about aging and taking your body for granted.  I love going to the soccer field and  running around like a nut while the local kids are playing nearby.  They don’t seem to take any notice of me but they love the dog.  As I look around I can see that I am the only adult having fun.  Perhaps I am a less mature individual – I’ve always been a bit different.   It shocks me that as we age we think we can’t be exuberant.  Is there a rule?

All the dog-walkers in my area stand or stroll – no power walks or running.  Their dogs must be very upset.  Their inactivity makes me want to scream. Any adults I’ve asked have declined the idea of running with their dogs – they say, ‘they can’t run any more’.   Of course you see runners in the park – if they have dogs they seem very happy.