It's probably a little cliche to spend time this time of year reflecting on what I'm grateful for. In all honesty, it's a practice I need to weave into my daily life even more so that gratitude carries over through seasons of life to become engrained as a natural first response. That's the hope at least. This year has been a year of change! Just shy of a year ago, I went back to being a side-hustle artist and accepted a full time position working at HoneyBook to manage community support for Rising Tide. Travis started a new job with Stryker. We moved across the country! And for the first time in more than a decade, I live just a few hours away from my family.
I'm grateful for...
Moving to the Pacific North West! This year has been the biggest surprise and blessing in our lives in so many ways. When my parents first moved to Washington in 2015, we told them there's no way we would ever be able to move to the area. I had only heard horror stories of MG patients in the PNW trying to find adequate care. There are very few specialists who are MG experts and equipped to manage long-term treatment of the disease. Periodically, Travis would check open territories in areas nearby our respective families just to see what was happening. Good sales territories are hard to come by, and don't open up often. One day in March he took a look, and two surgical territories happened to be open. His manager, who we had committed 5-10 years in South Carolina to, was fully supportive of Travis applying for those positions. He had a handful of fantastic interviews, and was offered the Olympia territory within a few weeks of finding the open territory. The online MG community helped me find and secure an appointment with a fantastic neurologist that I had no idea was treating MG patients in the area. Everything fell into place for me health, which was the biggest hurdle.
I also fell in love with the landscape here. For anyone who has never visited this area... it is breathtakingly beautiful. Every day, even just walking past empty lots, I am completely taken with the plants, the terrain, the moody sky, the mountains and volcanoes that look entirely unreal to me.
Falling back in love with watercolor. Taking part in the September 30 paintings in 30 days challenge helped me fall back in love with watercolor as a medium. For years, I resisted claiming it as a primary material. With its easy clean up and accessibility, it always felt like "not a real material" — I cringe typing that! Even after taking an independent study in watercolor in art school, I felt like I would only be taken serious as an artist if I maintained acrylic on wood panel as my primary materials. While I still paint with acrylic (happily!), I feel like I've finally found the material that fits me right now.
Help. I'm grateful to live near family and have my mom, dad, and sister take turns coming down for my infusions to help with the dog (and to be with me in case of emergency). Travis did an incredible job managing as my primary caretaker in South Carolina. It was not easy by any means, and it helps so much to have extra helping hands who can take turns with my infusions and appointments.
Treatment. I've been on IVIG regularly for a year and a half, and it was just about a year ago when we finally found the right routine to make side effects manageable. I'm grateful to have access to comprehensive health insurance, and to now be with a provider that recognizes the validity of IVIG as a treatment. I'm also grateful for my port! This year was the year I finally had a port placed. It's made treatment so much easier.
Trust in my capabilities. Working full time for the last ~49 weeks has been... indescribable. As a person who has experienced discrimination in the workplace as a member of the disability community, working for a company that supports me, trusts in my capabilities, and accommodates my health needs without shame is more than I could have ever asked for. When I started Larkspur + Laurel in 2015, I had no intention of ever returning to work in a "normal" capacity. Granted, it's still far from normal. I work 100% remotely, and every 14 days I work while hooked up to a 6 hour infusion at home. I've only visited my office twice (what!). But I've never felt like I had to prove that I am worth employing as a disabled person. To sum it up, it's been entirely unexpected and one of the most rewarding and enriching work experiences.
Opportunity to share. Sharing any type of personal information on the internet is terrifying. Because people can be mean, let's be honest. And it can feel inauthentic. On more than one occasion, someone I knew fairly well made hurtful remarks about sharing openly about my health. This year, I pushed myself to do more to share more to encourage other creatives who are trying to balance health and their own creative businesses. In 2017 I have continued blogging and using social media (mainly Instagram) to do this. While it may drive away some potential art collectors, the relationships made through the decision to share openly about my health have far outweighed any potential "loss" by those who are uncomfortable with disability and illness. This year, I've also had the opportunity to interviewed for a podcast, interviewed for articles, and even gave a talk on creativity for the chronically ill at an online summit!
More than anything, I've been grateful to continue to paint and bring accessible art to homes around the US. Thank you for supporting me every step of the way!