Most nights now I sleep so well, but I still have occasional bouts with insomnia (once or twice a week) like tonight. I usually just lay in bed for and hour, two or sometimes three until I eventually fall asleep, knowing that at least I am resting. I won’t allow myself sleeping pills very often, or allow myself to get up and wander into the computer to write or read as then I know I will be up and awake even longer. But tonight I woke up early, it is only 1 AM and I decided that I would get up and write a long over-due journal entry. If need be, I will take a nap (probably in church) later today.
If you have been reading Joe’s journal, you know that we have been extremely busy lately with the sale of our old home, moving to the “new” one and now that that is done, me working like crazy in my studio every day but Sunday to paint for a show that will open at David Ericson Fine Art, SLC on March 28. Joe has been to MO and back to attend to his father and mother and witness his father’s passing and funeral. I decided to stay here and paint. We had a wonderful visit with Joe’s parents and siblings this last July at a Bennion reunion in OK that none of our girls were able to attend, so we put our finances and efforts in getting all three of them to the funeral.
My time in the studio has been wonderful. My first batch of 7 paintings are near completion and I am already casting my eyes at the next set of prepared, empty canvas. I hope to get another batch of 8 or so done during the month I have left to paint for the show. I need to reserve most of March for carving and painting the frames. I think the paintings are good, and I am hopeful about them. The most important thing is that painting hasn’t felt this good in years. I passed my 3-year anniversary for my pituitary surgery for Cushing’s disease in December 2007 and am amazed that I am still making progress in recovery. The improvements this year are subtler. I have lost a few more pounds, but the biggest improvement is my stamina, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I remember my Endocrinologist telling me that it would take me as long to get over Cushing’s as it had for me to get sick. Since I didn’t really know how long I had been sick this didn’t mean much to me then, but it does now. I can look back at photos of myself back as far as 2000 and see hints of a Cushinoid face then. I know I was already having other symptoms, but just chalked them all up to being pre-menopausal and trudged on.
Lee day before surgery 2004
The first year after surgery was very hard, but by the time it had been a full year, I felt so much better that I figured I was “all better”. I had lost 30 pounds, and did venture out to my studio some at about that time and I did complete a few pieces. It did go better than it had for a few years, but ultimately, it was still a lot harder and frustrating that I could take and I continued to avoid the studio most of that year (2006). That was also the year that my Mom’s mental health started to seriously decline, and 2006 was one of the hardest years of my life. Way too much stress. I cried so much I should have drowned. I was far enough in my recovery to manage it, but just barely. There was nothing left to give to my studio after family. I felt physically better, but had little endurance either mentally or physically and I often felt like I was dangling from a short rope over a deep abyss.
2007 was a lot better. My Mom is not really happy except in the moment, but she has stabilized somewhat and she is safe and well cared for. I am adjusting to that. I see her often, and am still very affected by her condition, but have started to feel an itch to paint during this last year. In September I participated in the Spring City Arts organization Plein-air painting competition, something I have never done before. I wanted to support the group’s efforts and thought why not try. I was surprised at how much fun I had and how well it went for me painting all day for three days in a row.
When Dave Ericson approached me in early November 2007 about having this show in March 2008, it didn’t take me too long to decided that yes, the time had come that I could work that hard and that long in my studio and produce a new body of work. It has been since June 2004 that I have been in any kind of show where I had a chunk of paintings. That was a group show or invitational of some kind at the UVSC Woodbury Gallery. I had to borrow a few pieces from collectors to round out my portion of the exhibit. I just couldn’t finish enough new work. Painting was so hard then. I would go out to my studio and just sit and stare and sometimes cry for hours. I felt so stupid and unproductive. My brain felt like half set cement. I remember as I drove the show up to the gallery thinking that was the last time I would ever have a show, that I was done for as a painter. It was just too hard and I had lost what ever it was I had.
Shortly after the show opened I got a diagnosis of Cushing’s and at least I knew that there was a reason for me not being able to paint without monumental frustration and effort. That was a relief of some kind, but still, I didn’t know if I would be back in the art arena again or not. I just focused with what diminished brainpower I had on understanding my disease and on getting well.
In April 2006 The Salt Lake Tribune did a nice piece about me, my struggle with Cushing’s and return to my studio. The writer did a great job of raising awareness for Cushing’s, which is what I had hoped for. I scrambled to do some work the month or so before she came down for the interview, and it did go better than before my surgery, but it was still harder than I cared to admit. That summer is when things got really tough with my Mom. My forays to the studio after that were brief and usually to get something done that I and promised to do, and I intentionally kept that list very short.
Of course a week after I accepted Dave’s challenge and invitation to have a show (He said that I should consider having a show this year before people forget who I am), we got the offer on our home and I lost 6 weeks of my painting time to “the move”. My typical day since we closed on the sale of our home is I get up between 6 and 7 AM, get a fire going in the stove here, do a little yoga and house work, get dressed in my winter chore duds, and head over to the old place to feed the horses and cats and start a fire in my studio. I then come home and do some more chores here and pack a lunch so I don’t have to break to come home and get back to the studio, with three dogs in tow between 9:30 and 10:30 AM. I feed the horses again around 5 PM and most days I stay and paint until 6:30 PM when I can let Tiki out of his separate feeding pen and head home.
Joe came over to my studio today and took these photos of paintings in progress. They are almost done, but not quite.
I have been turning down all invitations for lunch or attending meetings of any kind in the day. I haven’t been on the back of a horse since late November. It’s been too cold and the footing is poor for riding anyway. I did take time today (I mean yesterday - Saturday) to trim all three horses hooves. The temperature got up to 40+ degrees! After the first horse was done, I was working in a tee shirt!
I haven’t been able to go up and spend a weekday with my Mom since I started painting for this show. I did keep that up during “the move”, but I just can’t right now. Zina usually covers for me by spending a half-day with her during the week. I go up on Saturday evenings after painting all day and spend the night with her and then stay most of Sunday. This week I am not going up until Sunday afternoon as Mom has a PET brain scan at the Huntsman center in SLC Monday morning, so I will spend the night with her and get her to that appointment Monday. I need to stop by an art supply store and pick up a few items that I need on the way home.
So this is the background for this latest venture in my studio and why I say that for me the most important thing about it is that I am enjoying painting again! Yes, it is still work and I come home tired, but I feel like I can do it, and most of the time its pretty fun! I don’t feel like I have hit a brick wall with in an hour after arriving at the studio. I am actually happy to go to work each day. I didn’t know if I would ever feel this way again, and I am so grateful.