Suttons Bay

Over the July 4th Holiday our family took a mini vacation to Suttons Bay, Michigan. It is one of the small towns along the infamous M22– a 116 mile stretch of highway along the beautiful Lake Michigan coastline in the upper lower peninsula.

Located in gorgeous Leelanau county, famous for its 27 wineries, Suttons Bay is 20 miles North of Traverse City and is a small quaint waterfront town with specialty shops, eateries and it’s own beach.

I was able to snag a cute little 2-bedroom apartment for us that allowed dogs. It was located above an art gallery right on the main street. We arrived in the early evening and after getting settled in, we explored the town, ate a delicious meal outside at the historic V.I.Grill and then capped off the night with amazing ice cream from 22 Scoops!

The next day, July 2nd, was my husband’s birthday. Lucky dog– his birthday always coincides with the national holiday and we frequently do a little get away given the extra time off of work.

For that day we decided to check out Torch Lake. If you’re not familiar, this long inland lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Midwest”. Although it is quite deep in areas, it boasts an enormous sandbar where the water is only about 3′ deep — a haven for boaters and partiers! And in these shallow areas the water sparkles under the sun, even the deeper lake is a gorgeous blue!

While the main beach/park was closed, we found a small little outlet to swim. It was extremely refreshing after the 90° heat wave we were experiencing.

Afterward, B and I toasted his birthday with margaritas and we all enjoyed a Mexican dinner in Traverse City.

The last couple of days we did a bit of local shopping, drove along M22 to explore the other waterfront towns around us, visited the Grand Traverse Bay Lighthouse, went to the local Suttons Bay beach and ended each night with a giant scoop of ice cream from 22 Scoops!

Fifty

Happy Birthday To Me

So, I finally turned 50! I can’t really believe it. Mentally I still feel like a kid most days and physically– well, physically I feel 100! So, I guess 50 makes sense! Having a milestone birthday during this Pandemic is a huge letdown. I’d told my husband years ago that I wanted to do something big for my 50th; like a hot air balloon ride over some gorgeous place — Italy-Paris? Or vacation in the Maldives or do an African Safari – just the two of us. Or perhaps a tummy-tuck with a side of liposuction? If I was able – I think I would love to try skydiving!

Needless to say none of those occured. The day was quite uneventful but my boys made the best of it. They snuck out and brought me Tim Hortons in the morning. In the evening I was treated to Chicken Shack ribs and a spinning musical flower with candles atop my favorite carrot cake from J. Alexanders — Yummy 🙂

The table was decorated with really beautiful champagne-colored balloons with tiny LEDs inside that stayed lit for days. My friends and family had sent flower arrangements and my husband gave me two sweet necklaces that fit together — representing our family. While it wasn’t the birthday I’d hoped for, we made the best of it — and years from now I’ll always remember turning 50 during the Great Pandemic of 2020.

RIP K2

So when I started to re-blog again and update this site, I checked all my links to make sure they’re still working. When checking the links to my art teachers/mentors on my resume, I ran into a conundrum. Kathy Krupa’s site said it didn’t exist anymore. That’s odd, I thought, but then I remembered I haven’t seen her posting on social media or commenting on any of my posts — like she usually did.

Kathy by Kathy

I dug a little deeper and finally reached her obituary page. I’m still shocked and saddened typing this some two months later; to learn that this wonderful lady, mentor, teacher, had passed at such a young age. Apparently, she had a heart condition, unbeknownst to me, from a young age and experienced an episode that ended her life in September ’19 at 58 years of age.

Kathy is someone I owe a lot to, in terms of my art. I met her about 14 years ago and began taking classes from her shortly after when my oldest son was about 2 and my now teenager wasn’t even here yet. She taught me how to stipple with inks and how to use pastels. I took classes from her– on and off– for several years. She was such a wonderful soul, had a great laugh and smile, loved animals, and was a gentle graceful teacher. She was the person who led me back into art again as an adult and help rekindle my passion for the medium. I wrote about her on a previous post.

I think of her often and fondly and know that she’s now in Heaven surrounded by all the animals that she brought to life for her clients and friends.

RIP Kathy Krupa — you will be remembered and loved always.

–Jen

My Artwork Under Kathy’s TUTELAGE

Feeling Better

After 7 days in the hospital I was good to go home at last– to my family; people, fuzzies and friends– to recuperate. With the help of my loved ones, a little red wine and some medicinal herb, I was able to put the past week behind me and heal pretty quickly.

After a week or so at home, the surgical pain was gone and I was eager to get back to painting. Although I was still in a cast, my arm was bandaged nearly straight (approx 90° angle) which allowed me to paint– broader, looser strokes anyway. I managed to work on the farm animal diptych begun in November from the Painting With Attitude class with Nancy Mitchnick. A couple weeks later, the stitches were out and I was freed from the cast. I completed the painting, which my older son has endearingly named, “Barnyard Surprise!”


In early March the “Gang of 4” met up for a luncheon at the BBAC in my honor. It was so great to see my art friends and catch up. The girls brought/made little thoughtful gifts for me — I was so touched! Nancy gave me two metal Milagro pieces; a small arm and a larger hand.

Milagro translates to “Miracle” in Spanish and these small trinkets have been part of Latin American culture for centuries. Traditionally used in religious prayer, a Milagro may be given to a loved one to convey a sense of well-being or well- wishes.

I strung them together with a personal zodiac necklace of mine and added a few extra colored beads to create a new piece.


In addition to the Milagros, Nancy gave me an awesome palette knife and a mini Isabey painting brush! One of my favorites!! Laura brought delicious strawberry preserves for everyone, Kristen painted a mini-milagro canvas of an arm, and Cynthia (who is an incredible dressmaker) hand-knitted a pair of arm cozies for me!! You can see all the wonderful gifts in the last picture — Zoe the cat approved! It was such a wonderful afternoon and I truly feel blessed to have these incredible women in my life!

Elbow Revision –Part II

January 13th, after 5 days in the hospital, while awaiting my new elbow components, my poor body had had enough! Early in the morning my IV began to really hurt – it hadn’t been moved since first placed on the 9th. My nurse had a terrible time finding a new vein that would cooperate — after two or three tries she found a spot that finally succumbed. I’m pretty used to this as I have very small veins, but it still hurts a lot. This episode would set the stage for what would be the most difficult day of my life…

The young phlebotomists came next for my morning blood draw. Once again, my veins were playing hide-and-seek. Every time they found a potential candidate, the vein would collapse, this went on for a while, until finally, maybe after 3 or 4 tries, my body finally agreed to play nice. By this time I was in tears, partly from the physical pain, but mostly from the emotional pain.

Pressure Sores

In the late afternoon, my splint/bandages began to pinch, hurt, and itch. I gently pushed aside a couple of layers and to my horror, this is what I saw…

… I slowly peeled back a few more layers… I was horrified. I called the nurse and showed her what I discovered and demanded she call my doctor. She called the orthopedic resident on staff — who of course was nowhere to be found — after he/she didn’t answer the call for what seemed like hours, I asked her to call MY residents who were part of my surgical team; of course they were in surgery!

Around 7PM my two residents finally appear. After showing them what I discovered, Dr. F began documenting on the computer, while Dr. L, who seemed annoyed and unmoved by my situation, took a closer look. He said they just looked like swelling/ pressure sores — basically no big deal. I told him it was really bothering me and uncomfortable and asked if they could please loosen the bandages — after all I was going into surgery the next morning. He quickly pulled out his cutting shears, cut through the top of the bandages and then ripped them apart in such a manner that I screamed in pain. No apology, no nothing… Dr. F came over, carefully took a look and seemed genuinely concerned about what he saw. They finished up the documentation, took a few pictures, and just left. They didn’t bother to put a clean dressing on or wrap my arm back up — they just left.

I sat there in disbelief about what had just happened; tears running down my cheeks, anger and sorrow in my heart. After a few minutes I worked up the courage to slowly pull all the torn, shredded pieces of dressing and bandages off my bloody arm and saw the full extent of the damage…

As I lie in the hospital bed, waiting for morning to come, the day of my second surgery, I started thinking about everything – everything this stupid disease has taken from me — all the things I could never do — and would not ever be able to do in the future — knowing full well that things will only progress and I will probably die young from some related heart issue. People with RA have a higher incidence of inflammation around the heart and typically die about 5 years earlier than their peers. When I was younger and more stupid, I asked a psychic how old I would live. 54 was her answer. I know it’s foolish to believe her, but who knows… it’s been in the back of my mind ever since. There are days I welcome the thought. When you live with a chronic disease all your life, your view on living and dying are very different than most. I recently read a quote from a lady in my situation, she said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of getting older.” I couldn’t have said it any better.


January 14 finally arrived and the poor phlebotomists arrive to take my blood early in the morning. I took one look and said vehemently, “NO!” I must of scared them, by the look in their eyes, I felt bad and explained that my veins had collapsed the day before and I’m barely hanging on here by a thread, and unless they ABSOLUTELY NEED MY BLOOD, THEY ARE NOT GETTING A DROP! They double-checked the order, confirmed it with the nurse and left!

A few hours later, it was surgery time. By now, my husband had come and joined me. I filled him in on the trials of the day and he felt horrible and wanted to kill Dr. L (me too!). While I was getting ready to head off to the pre-op room, the pre-op nurse, comes barreling in, exclaiming that I need a pregnancy test! My nurse was there as well, getting all the pre-op documentation done on the computer, I’d surmised. By this point, I had had enough, was so lethargic, and depressed, that I basically ignored her, muttered underneath my breath that I wasn’t pregnant and headed off to pee one more time. She comes to help me and I’m like, Bitch Please I’ve been doing this 10 times a day since I got here, all by myself, I DO NOT need or want your help!!! She kept insisting. I finally broke and yelled, “I am not pregnant! I am 50 years old and had a tubal 20 fucking years ago!” This time I didn’t feel bad — I’d had enough incompetence for the day — week — month — year to last a lifetime!!! My nurse came to my rescue and the two of them got into it – I must admit, as I sat pissing on the toilet – I small smile came across my face!

As I was in the bathroom – the two porters came to take me down to the pre-op. As you can imagine, I was in NO MOOD for jokes or humor. One of the guys kept trying to make me smile or laugh, I know his heart was in the right place, I just wasn’t having any of it! I wanted to punch him in the face as we boarded the elevator. You could tell the other guy could “read the room” and knew I was NOT happy. They delivered me to the pre-op room. My “lovely” nurse joined us. I apologized for biting her head off as did she. It was probably late morning/early afternoon by now and of course, by surgery was delayed. My OR was busy and my surgeon was at a different hospital finishing up surgery with another patient. So, we waited for a while. It was a nice breather after all the chaos.


An hour or so later, the pre-op stuff begins. Once again, the short respite flew out the window— My IV had stopped working properly and needed to be replaced, again, for surgery. The nurse tried without success, a few times. The anesthesiologist resident tried, unsuccessfully, a couple times. The chief anesthesiologist – who was in my first surgery was standing at the end of the gurney – I was staring into his eyes as the pokes continued – tears now streaming down my eyes then (as they are now as I relive this), I could see him tear up as well. Even after the ultrasound was called in so they could locate my veins – it wasn’t working. He finally sent the resident away and jumped in – locating a viable vien– eventually. All the while, I was praying for the Lord to just take me! Take me away from this life, from this pain…

By this time, Dr. Wiater had seen the images of the pressure sores. So when he arrived, an hour or so later, during our pre-op consult, he said he wasn’t sure if he could proceed with the surgery as planned; it would depend on what they found once in there — the extent of the skin wounds. I was so “dead” by this time, but I could feel my blood pressure rise as I glared into his eyes; I was speechless. Eventually I agreed to whatever he deemed best. Shortly afterward, as the drugs entered my bloodstream, I was able to find sweet peace…


Hours later, in post-op, I awoke to the most horrific pain — it was as if nothing was getting through or into my veins. I was crying and yelling. The nurse claimed they had given all they could, “I gave you Fentanyl, I gave you Dilaudid, I gave you the strongest stuff we have!” It wasn’t working. It wasn’t until she added Oxy to the cocktail that I began to feel any relief. Eventually, my pain subsided, my blood pressure calmed down and I was able to breath again. Once things were under control, I learned that indeed my elbow had been replaced; the wounds, though nasty, were superficial.


I went home two days later to rest and recuperate from the surgeries; my nightmare– my D-Day– one of the worst weeks of my life — was finally behind me.

Elbow Revision–Part I

This is gonna be a tough one to write about – but hopefully it will be cathartic. Although I’ve shared the details with my family and close friends, it’s still hard to relive it again. Red wine is poured — here we go…

Going into my elbow revision surgery on January 9th I wasn’t too phased or worried, I just wanted it over and done with so I could be back home, recuperate, and get back to life and painting again. Afterall, this would be my 10th surgery related to my arthritis/autoimmune issues– I could practically sail through it in my sleep – or so I thought.


Prior to the 9th my doctor was concerned about an infection being the reason for the loose components, even though I shared with him that I had probably caused it from overuse and lifting over my limit of 10 pounds. I had preliminary blood work done to check for any signs of infection — all cultures came back negative. We had talked about the possibility of a two-part surgery; the first to remove the damaged components while antibiotic spacing beads would secure the arm and the second, a month or so afterward, to place the new components. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled with that idea but agreed that we needed to do what was best. On the day of surgery, he proposed a revised plan.

On the 9th, while in pre-op, Dr. Brett and I discussed the surgical plan. He would remove the components today, place the antibiotic spacers, run more tests to be sure I was infection-free, and if all went well I would have the 2nd surgery in about 5 days. All while I stayed in the hospital. I agreed that this was a much better plan and we proceeded.

The first surgery went well. He was able to remove the components and place the antibiotic beads without trouble. I did learn however, afterward, that the anesthesiologist had a difficult time with my airway. I was not surprised, my neck is severely limited and this wasn’t the first time I’d heard this. I did tell him this fact on the pre-op screen, but it was more difficult than he’d planned. So, now officially I have, “A Difficult Airway” going forward. Just great… Another thing to add to the list…

My surgery was a bit delayed, so by the time I was out of post-op and in my room it was evening. I don’t know if my nurse was new or just bad, or both, but it’s really not the sort of thing you want just after surgery. She kept referring to my “shoulder replacement”, would forget things I asked for, and never seemed to be available when I needed her.

And maybe I’m hypercritical or spoiled because for all my other surgeries at this hospital my stepmother was the well-liked and well-respected CNO (Chief Nurse Officer) for the entire hospital system – I was treated very well! She retired last year and still had many friends, but the hospital had recently gone through many changes. I still had a private room and a few of her friends came to check on me – but it didn’t feel the same this time.

Anyway — besides my first nurse being a complete ditz, the hospital didn’t have my main anti-inflammatory medication on formulary and worse yet, an anti-inflammatory wasn’t even listed on my post-op orders. If you’re not familiar – things move very slowly in a hospital. It took many hours before I had my medicine and at the next shift change — I had to go through it all over again! It wasn’t until a few shifts later that they finally got it right!!

If you have a small bladder like me – make sure you get a catheter or bring your own Depends because it takes the nurse or assistant F-O-R-E-V-E-R to come once you press the Call button– If they come at all!

Here I am, drugged up and being pumped full of giant bags of antibiotics (just in case) and medicine intravenously, I’ve got the “sucky-blowy” anti-blood-clot things on my legs, IV in my left arm, giant heavy splint on my right arm with attached drain port to a machine on the floor, and I have to pee every freaking half hour! It sounds comical now, but believe you me, it was anything but funny at the time. Eventually I got the hang of doing it all by myself — I had to — there was no other option!

The food wasn’t too bad, once they got my order right! For the first 2-3 meals I was sent up a tray that I didn’t even order. And I was starving!! Again – someone screwed up! My order had gotten put in the system twice or something screwy like that – anyway – again, it took forever to get that corrected! And speaking of food and eating – do you know not one person – nurse or assistant – offered to help at least cut up my food? I know it sounds petty, but when you have surgery involving your dominant arm/hand/elbow, wouldn’t you think they would make a note and at least offer to help the patient? Again – I managed to figure it out by myself. Of course my food was always cold and kind of gross by the end – but I managed.

About 3 days after the surgery, the splint/bandage began to really hurt and feel as if my circulation was being cut off around my wrist and hand. A PA on the floor was able to loosen the contraption for me and it felt much better for a while.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, just so you get the full picture here – I was having full blown awful hot flashes during this time — like every hour out of the blue I would be drenched in sweat. They were able to provide me with a small portable fan that I kept on and I had turned down the room temperature really low just so I could survive. Every time someone came in they’d say the same thing, “It’s freezing in here! Are you O.K.?”


Going a Bit Stir Crazy

Between cat-naps, daily blood draws and Heparin shots, gallons of IV fluids, 5 a.m. doctor rounds, and a gazillion bathroom trips, I eventually fell into a bit of a routine while waiting around for my next surgery. My family and friends visited and would bring me real food and Starbucks and I even wore my own comfortable clothes from home. I caught up on a few movies on my IPad and watched the HBO docu-series Chernobyl. (Outstanding, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, please do!) All my results were coming back negative for infection, as I knew they would, and things were looking good for the second surgery.

But then things took a turn for the worse…

Detroit – Part II

Detroit Industry Murals, Diego Rivera,1932, Detroit Institute of Arts

The Mitchnick “Gang of 4” continued onward to the Detroit Institute of Arts; one of my favorite places in the city. Nancy had set up a private presentation of the Diego Rivera murals. If you’ve never been to the DIA or seen these incredible murals in person – you really must! I wish I could remember the name of the docent — he’s a lawyer by day and volunteers at the DIA part-time. What a crazy dichotomy! He was so knowledgeable about the Murals — Not only did we learn about the rich history, he also showed us the hidden symbolism Diego had painted into his work and told us a few stories to boot. I wish I had recorded it!

Four walls. Twenty-seven paintings. Nine months of labor-intensive work.

In 1932, Diego was commissioned by the DIA and Edsel Ford to paint two large murals for the Garden Court with the understanding that the work must relate to the history of Detroit and the development of industry. The investors knew hiring a Mexican artist during the Depression would be controversial, but the men were very impressed with his work and went forward. Frida and Diego packed up and headed East in the summer of 1932 and were in Detroit for almost a year.

Using the ancient fresco technique, Rivera and his workers created the complex murals spanning the four enormous walls. Diego depicted multiple modern industries and technologies historically rooted in the ancient Mexican Aztec people. All while weaving in controversial scenes that questioned technology’s place in the world — both socially and politically.

When the murals were finally unveiled in 1933, many people objected and said they were crude, vulgar, and blasphemous. Apparently, Edsel Ford never publicly commented on the matter, but he did issue a statement saying “I admire Rivera’s spirit. I really believe he was trying to express his idea of the spirit of Detroit.”

When Frida and Diego arrived in Detroit, she was pregnant with their child and she hated the city! It was hot and stinky near the Rouge Factory where they stayed, and she was bored! Who could blame her? Sadly, Frida lost the baby shortly after they arrived. This proved to be a turning point in her art — after the miscarriage Frida began to paint about her personal life and all its pain — surviving polio as a child and suffering in a horrific bus accident — had left her body a painful mess. This is the Frida that we’ve come to know and love – sometimes I feel that we are soulmates – or the same soul…