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Miller December 2023 Update

Monthly Updates are told by Michelle. Emailed Newsletters are by John.



We love our little Chonk Sherlock. She is the best catto ever!!


Now this post is going to focus on what happened in December. We may a huge summary of our change from Jan 2023 to Dec 2023 and the leaps and bounds of progress we have made both professionally and personally. I hope you read it!!!


We've been prepping for this upcoming year since November of last year. We haven't fully filled this out yet but January is when we plan out our year finally having some time. So if you have plans or events you'd like to invite us to, now is a better chance for us to accept! Wednesdays are going to be our rest days. We will schedule NOTHING. Sundays were supposed to be our sabbath (our day of rest) but going to Church meant being around people and not at home, so NOT restful. How could we have a day of actual rest while required to do extremely non-restful activities? We require 24 hrs a week to have a chance to recharge as we don't get rest at night. Last year we hit burnout too often (almost once a month to twice a month). We are hitting for NO burnouts for a year before we push ourselves in any area of life. Year attempt of changing lifestyle to fit our health? Year 3. Progress greatly hopeful!



We will have to work with 4 different calendars in our home to try and keep on track this year. One to carry around with me, one for business only which stays at home, one focusing only on the week, and this one focusing on the full year. Originally we tried two and it wasn't enough. Though it causes a little more extra work, it has fared better than our previous years of attempts. We are trying to eat better and adjust to the seasonal food cycles but since we are so disconnected with time we tend to forget what is in or isn't in. So we just stuck it on the calendar! By this time next year, we hope to have greatly improved our diets while sharing some personal recipes (Why go out to eat when John cooks better than they do, a fraction of the cost, and we can trust the quality of cleanliness in our own kitchen?). This past year the biggest find that helped us: Protein Powder. Our brains and bodies process extremely quick and need this to keep functioning. Best part? We can order it on Amazon and use our EBT!! ($75 for 5lb that lasts us 2 months with 2-3 shakes a day!!!) That's almost 42 cents per shake that gives us level energy for 2 hours without a sugar spike followed by a downward spiral!


oops I got a little too excited there. I know we went over that last month or the month before...but it's still such a fun consistent find for us. Either way, let's keep going~


I think I want our updates to have a little more...structure. (teehee...good luck) This past year was a year full of experiments and "research" as we tested many aspects.


Two big ones are pushing against our barrier of "perfectionism" and "being seen". Both of us would be paralyzed out of fear of not reaching so many set standards far beyond our normal abilities. Being seen as a child may not have been a good thing either as it equaled situations that could have been internally damaging. We would sit dazed in the same spot panicking about where to start and unable to start. Snap out of it realizing you didn't do anything and notice that 1-6 hours could have passed. Rinse and repeat every day for as long as we can remember. So let's keep going and keep adjusting our lives until we find something that works for us and works for our intended long-term goal.


I'll cover, generally, these topics in each update (based on last year's updates):



Feel free to click to skip to that part you are interested in or just keep scrolling through it all.



How We Are Personally Doing


We usually find a lot of relatables like these online in the thousands...but here are some that strongly relate to both of us we want to focus on this time.


Well, we are both doing great and still struggling. How strange that two people who fit being 'disabled' pretty heavily in society are required to try and stay alive while greatly suffering from chronic health conditions. We still have to wait a month or so for a call to get help on our disability paperwork. Then once submitted, we can wait up to a year for it to be brought to court to judge on...That's a lot of struggle still left before help, isn't it? Without the said assistance govt INSISTS we are entitled to....we are oddly making it. Not well, but hey, we are still one step better than last year. Though luckily for us, we enjoy most of our life indoors at home. We don't like spending money we don't have to, so please don't take it personally if we back out of anything requiring money.


Due to our health, we have to take life extremely slowly. Such as you have plans for a party? We need about a month in advance to plan it into our schedules and emotionally/mentally/physically prepare ourselves for being around people and needing to fit "societal" rules. As well as the necessary hours afterward to unwind from any time out of the home. We...we have our own language that does not quite work for anyone else. Some may see what we say as "offensive" (relative term). We talk about our own life experiences very bluntly and make jokes about it which we typically don't explain beforehand or else ruin the humorous effect. Some may misunderstand us and cause unnecessary conflict. So please understand we try to be very careful not to step on toes or have our random thoughts slip around others as much as possible. It takes a LOT of effort to evaluate each moment and filter them through so you understand, then process it back out through more filters to make sure it's taken the right way with the right meaning. What you do and say matters, How you say it matters, What you DON'T say or what you DON'T do also matters. We are trained to always go through this in every interaction...and it is EXHAUSTING.


Recently we have found that while trying to explain much of this, I have hit a language barrier. It's a bit difficult for me to talk about parts of our struggles as I'm missing some understanding of words and their connotations to others I seem to speak to. Now I'm not just talking about friends, family, and people we happen to come across...I'm talking about my actual MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. So this year I hit a communication barrier that John and I have been trying to figure out...why is it when I speak...I'm overlooked or ignored so often? Then John will repeat the SAME thing I say right after I say it and others will immediately respond to him. This has gone on most of my life, in my family, friends, classmates, teachers, at church...to where I cried so many nights wondering if I even existed. Could people even see me? Being gaslit so many years where you question your own existence makes you wonder if people even remember you once you are no longer in front of them. With this discovery of a still persistent pattern...some new tactics and methods are needed. I want to take back my existence. So more steps are going to be needed this year.


(I'm leading up to something here...stick with me!)


We are still working on Truama work. It's a long and difficult process....we also found out that CPTSD does not do well with Talk Therapy long-term...which makes sense since we haven't made much progress in a few years. Especially since most professionals I've spoken to have hit dead ends....CPTSD is different. It's a bit more complicated where issues may NEVER disappear as they have permanently reformed our brains and body structure. How can you go back to a time of calm and regulation when you may never had it? What does that even feel like? It's foreign and impossible to reach a goal you can't comprehend. These are typically repetitive traumatic experiences before the age of (was it 9 or 11? Either way quite young). Some of these could be age-inappropriate experiences or sights a child witnesses too early, and not being taught how to manage the impact. If not managed and processed, the emotional/sensational impact becomes ingrained into the body to be processed later. However, if too extreme before their growth is ready, it will severely impact their future maturity.


Generally, trauma work is going through those events, experiencing the emotions, and allowing the feelings to be fully processed before they can be released from the body. How I read it, it was explained in an analogy as if you are taking back that time of your life and fitting it back into your timeline history. What was disassociated from time but held as a memory with stored body pain, needs to be reintegrated. We aren't saying we are proud this is part of our story, but our story from that point changes drastically because of said traumatic events. So by default, we view the world differently and have to function differently. No shame in stating that as that is part of our history and it is very normal in human development and adaptation to traumatic experiences.


So that's what we are doing. We worked with multiple medical professionals, social workers, therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and even psychiatrists to hit many dead ends last few years and most of this year. For CPTSD (and even PTSD) you want to search for a trained Trauma Therapist...well now the search begins for me which will take time. Though luckily for me, I do have a therapist helping me with resiliency specifically. (My emotions spike too quickly from visual stimuli where I can go into a worry/panic/anger/jealousy within half a second, JUST from visually seeing something that happens to be in a stranger's arms). John has luckily found a GREAT therapist through our friend/former OT so he has been making great progress! But that also means he has to rest a lot more. Recovery is long and tedious but with consistency, we will get better.


I went through a striking event this past month I do want to bring up to help give some context. (I think it also explains a bit of my hoarding issue which I've been working on this past year too.) So Who Gives a SCRAP tends to have 10-cent grab bag events every so often. When certain areas of the store become too much, they have a deal where *said specific items* are sold ten cents each. So knowing we don't spend much as is...this fits our budget! (And I had to swing by to drop off more free kit bags anyway). We ended up getting there about 2 minutes after the store opened with about 6 other ladies already at the spot grabbing items. This time I had to be conscious of not looking at anything in anyone's hands or arms (or carts) or else my emotions would drop. I have to internally talk myself down, reasoning out of the emotional connection to STUFF. Stuff that wasn't even mine. The last time this happened (and why I chose this method to cope) is that the emotional drop I experienced last time took me a full 24 hours to completely let go. And by "let go", I mean that the intrusive thoughts of that memory stop popping up and causing my emotions to respond in a spike of that same event over and over). Something as minor and foolish as wanting craft supplies... This happens multiple times a day. Every day. So time-consuming. So much energy is required. I'll even break down crying watching movies or shows I've seen before...my emotions are just so sensitive to stimuli I can't predict nor control.


I fully understand it all (the patterns, the physical shifts/changes, the flow, the ingrained responses from childhood, my years of trying to 'retrain' myself from those responses), but my reactions are far beyond my control and so far no medical professional I have encountered in my 10 years could help me with this. This emotional dysregulation is so severe that I just get slapped with "anxious" or "depressed" and pushed aside. Just because I can speak to say what I try doing....doesn't mean it's having a big enough impact to let that advice be "it". There has to be more...if not...is this my limit? Have I hit an impasse and will have to suffer like this for life? Working on myself may be at a pause. So working on our environment and lifestyle is the next goal.


I know we seem to talk a lot about us processing our Trauma...but it's a 24/7/365 for our whole lives kind of burden. We LIVE in this...not something we put on occasionally here and there. Chronic suffering is different than a large incident that happened to you (i.e. insomnia from PTSD vs a broken leg from an accident). One doesn't usually have an ending with the best option is to "minimize the pain and minimize the frequency" and not "suck it up until you can break through it!".


Heard a heartbreaking comment from a friend of mine yesterday about how she struggles with so much and yet someone told her to "snap out of it". It's a very different level of health and I hope to shed some light using art through ATCs and Art Therapy. It's like suddenly having to be very aware of how often you breathe each day for the rest of your life. It's so much and extremely distracting, taxing, and important to keep regulated that you can't just stop when you are tired.


There are so many health struggles that are hard to describe and visualize unless you yourself, are living through it. So for this next year, I am going to do a 365 ATC Art Therapy Challenge.


Sorry, it seems I talk about my side a lot here, far more than John's but I still feel like this is really the only place and time I can talk about myself and what I'm going through. Not like I can go too much into his info anyway due to privacy so I'm going to leave it to minimal to almost none until he specifically says I can or should add. So just FYI~ I'm not talking over him or ignoring him. He'd prefer talking about his face-to-face if he is open to talking at all.


Our Health / Discoveries


Continuing with the 365 ATC Art Therapy Challenge idea, I have had so many issues trying to explain what I go through daily...even by the second of each day. John and I both live a WEEK'S WORTH of events and emotional rollercoasters in a single day. So we have some struggles pointing out all of the overlaps we experiencing within such a short amount of time.


Even three times I have directly spoken to my medical professionals about being talked over and not listened to... to have them completely ignore what I said and push on to the next topic. I'm speaking English, but I don't think my English is the same as everyone else's. I grew up mostly alone, learning most of my socializing from people in set settings (school, office, church), or TV shows, or movies, or books, or even games. I rarely spent time with people my age to where I could interact smoothly with them.


I spent almost 100% time outside of school hours inside my room. All of Jr. High, all of High School, and all of College. Usually peak socializing years for stable teens and young adults. I hung out with people maybe once or twice then never again. Minus Denise who was probably the only stable person I looked up to in junior high and could generally trust. She wasn't judgemental and put up with my oddities. But I couldn't talk to her about most of what I was going through. So I ended up just not talking to anyone about my internal struggles, letting it fester for years. But even with Denise...I only manage to contact her once maybe twice a year. (I mean to contact more Sorry! And I'm still working on your Oct bday card...I'll try to be on time this year~)


My therapist, after showing quite a few of my past Art Therapy ATCs, suggested I turn some into a book to share....so I'm going to work on that! Every day I'm going to draw out ONE thing I have to struggle with on either daily, weekly, monthly or seasonly...to even childhood memories I have. I feel like I need to explain a bit of my childhood experience, how I was parented, and how a lot of my life set me up for so much struggle. Because I want to be proud of my struggles, and not feel guilty I'm "not doing enough". I'm doing far more than anyone can see at face value.


John is my translator and has been the only person I have ever encountered who actually listened and understood me. To where we function as if we do we share the same brain. We want to share our story because of what we went through...how much of a struggle it is to just do basic daily functions...and yet we have managed to survive, start to thrive, and be able to find out the other half to keep going. If it can happen for us, I hope for it to be as encouraging for others as it was for me many years ago.



Our Latest Musings


Our past year has been full of so many changes, discoveries, growth, connections, and more! We think we have had our first year where we have had more happy events/moments than negative!! Most of the struggles were from past memories and not current events! So we want to celebrate this accomplishment and hope for greater things next year!


We will write a year summary of what improvements we have gone through for those who just joined us this year. We want to do a 2023 recap, but not sure where to start. And not sure if taking on another project would be a good idea...


This year is going to be about "Completion" meaning that we are going to try and focus on completing projects and not starting new ones. I don't think any of you really understand just how many...projects we have started....and haven't finished....I still have some I've been keeping with me for 10yrs!!! So yes. "Completion" is our word goal of 2024!



Artist Trading Cards




So many exciting things to share about Artist Trading Cards! My main goal with this is to get more of Colorado Springs creating and trading artwork. I heavily emphasize Art Therapy and that the process of creating can be therapeutic to the processing of hidden emotions. What you ultimately choose to do: what utensil you use, what type of first marking you do, heavy-handed or light marks, what colors are chosen, to how does your hand flow when creating? What you, not only choose to want to do but what you actually do says a lot about who you are and how you are in that moment.


This year I'd like to make more contact with businesses, groups etc to start putting up more displays. (Now that we have a better idea of what we are doing and what to expect). I'm hoping, down the line, we have multiple up and can create a fun "Artsy Tourist Map" around Colorado Springs for people to visit and trade their art for other people's art. As well as view the establishment the display is located in!


I host monthly trade events so people can make cards all month and have a place to trade for someone else's art. Many people can't make it so why not try putting some closer to where they are so they have that opportunity? Each location with our Trade Display (or our officially approved display with our Top Hat Tom) will also receive free monthly kits to get people started.



WHO GIVES A SCRAP TRADE DISPLAY



Our poor Top Hat Tom fell and we forgot to bring the right stuff to stick him back up...so if we are keeping the trade display up in 2024, we will pop him back up. We aren't sure of the status of whether this will be staying or not. Holidays got busy and haven't been able to speak with the store for a bit. More on that later~


We have made some new adjustments to the kits: new curated sets, sets that focus on either collage or drawing (people are generally split between these specifically or like both), and less printing for us so we attached QR codes with the instructions, and started making video instructional pages on our website!



Squeegee Kits, Watercolor Kits, and even group game kits! Branching out into some more unique sets to try other media and techniques too. John is working on the editing of the videos so we have some starting quality vids for people too! We are looking for anyone to help volunteer some time to help put some of our videos together (about 1-2hrs a month if possible).



THE NEXTUS TRADE DISPLAY

We DO have a little trade display at The Next Us! Candice hosts her own crafty group here weekly and you can pick up different kits here. We may or may not have a larger display take its place at the entrance of the building. Plans in the possible works. We shall see~ Join her (and us occasionally) at her Crafter's Clique get-togethers on Sundays from 11am-1pm!




FREE KIT COUNT


Want to know what 173 free ATC kits look like? Well, that picture says it all. I made these in one and a half weeks...maybe two weeks. John helped a little but mostly did the editing stuff which I can't really do.


But how many kits were made in December of 2023? Well I'm glad you asked!


For Who Gives a SCRAP in December I made 262 kits!!


I probably would have made more but I ran out of paper bags. WGAS I think was running out too so I wasn't able to get any from them for a few months leaving me short. We met our quota anyway and found a second means of making kits to answer the challenge! (envelopes!!)


For the Year to Date amount of kits I have made, you'll have to read our YEARLY update blog post that should come out this week. I'm eager to share our progress and accomplishments!


I have about 50 kits set aside waiting to be put together, may need a few more paper bags (though thanks to Candice for donating some!!) I hope to keep sending out art supplies!



MONTHLY ATC EVENT



This last month's ATC Event went so well! We had the most attendees ever and luckily had the perfect size room just to fit everyone. We had 12 people come in, two popped by for a short period, grabbed a few things then headed out. The rest happily enjoyed the designated focus! I spent about 7 months collecting these free binders and storing them for this event. I'm so glad people were as excited to pick and decorate them as I was collecting for them to choose from!


So December's focus was on Storage and Displays. How to store and display your ATCs. Storage AND display can include a binder with Trading Card Insert Pages. Attendees got to come in and pick a free one offered to decorate and/or fill with ATCs. Each binder came with a free card page insert so they could start making and storing cards right there and then. They also got to grab a means of displaying it such as a frame or magnet display. I came up with one that works and could look really nice on your desk! Photo corner stickers, stuck on chipboard, and set into one of those photo stands.




Another popular option that is cheap: Get a trading card sleeve (or clear plastic pocket that fits your card), pop in a magnet (like the ones attached to the Yellow Pages), slide in the card you want to display on top of the magnet in the sleeve, and then attach it to your fridge with your card facing you! The possibilities are endless and sometimes just looking at art you like helps change your mood!


Let's see some binders (and their artists) that were decorated!!



I'll have to post another picture on our IG of one lady's binder (she was too shy for a picture) but I think I loved her decorations the best. For some reason, it didn't transfer over and I'm running out of time to submit this post! lol



CRAFTY CARD COLLECTIVE 2024


We are continuing next year!! Every last Sunday of the month at The Next Us from 11am - 1pm. All other Sundays are for Candice's Crafter's Clique group so either way, come at the same time every week at the same place and you'll always encounter some crafty time!



New Monthly Event 2024
.pdf
Download PDF • 9.96MB



I gotta say, I have a LOT of fun planning things out. It's the doing things that usually is my issue. But we managed to succeed last year so here we go again! Some of the same topics as last time, but will have a little variation. Do any of these seem interesting to you? Will we see you there!?





TOP HAT TOM RETURNING!


So...sad that Top Hat Tom disappeared in Oct? Nov? We can't seem to find the one we took with us to our monthly events. So we will be making a new one. Not only that...Top Hat Tom business ATCs are going to be back! This time with a fun monthly twist~ You'll have to get your hands on one to find out why!!



I'm also going to try and go back to if you attend our Monthly Events, you'll always get a card from us. Top Hat Tom Style!!



Our Art


We made art this month! We've been trying to take it a little easier this month and stay in where it is warm. Process through our materials and projects lying around. This past month, I cleaned up the apartment quite a few times, reorganizing and moving everything around. We are focusing on art to relax and process other emotions/memories.



John made this!! He wanted to do something similar to the Halloween one he made in Oct so he created this. SCROLL TO SEE IT LIT UP! We hope to see more of these in the upcoming year. Any theme you'd like to see?




I drew some ATCs! I used the Squeegee backgrounds I made to make cards for my family and the ones on the right are us finally using those POSCA pens we have hoarded for over a year. We have certain art supplies we don't want to use *JUST* yet and waiting for that perfect time to use them. We finally decided to use them! And wow do the feel of POSCA pens feel so different! Also a lot less smelly than the previous paint pens we had last year. We will HAVE to make sure to have a set of these at all times. It just draws so smoothly with the colors coming out solid and clean!!


I really want to emphasize the FEEL of the materials you are using and how it makes you feel while in the process. Sometimes it's the littlest things that make the biggest difference. The pens were so fun I made 9 in one sitting. I think we just sat drawing for an hour and completed so many!



John's amount is usually 1-4 depending on the material we are using. So you can see that he even enjoyed these pens quite a bit. We have very different styles, don't we?


So since I have gone through the whole apartment again unearthing old projects, I've been trying to get those done. Most are I just needed to GLUE THEM DOWN to be completed and I haven't! Then they get shuffled around for almost a year until I finally get to it. These suckers I started in 2022...thought I was going to make at least a few last year (I mean I have bags of pieces sitting in bags I literally just need to arrange and glue...). So yeah. Rest days (days we will not schedule ANYTHING and stay indoors) are days we are giving ourselves free rein to work on any project we want without guilt! We can zone out or disassociate for hours and not feel guilty about some scheduled time we had to keep.



So I did! This is about the chunks of items I do at a time.


Oh with that...there are reasons why I do things in 'bulk' and struggle with doing things individually....I won't go into that here but it's a funny barrier I never realized I had and just worked with the past few years. The epiphany only popped up in December of 2023 so yeah! I'll be adding that to my 365 binder.


Everything with me has to do with Psychology, Health, and Human Development...so just be aware that my mind is 24/7/365 processing everything in terms or in connection with the above. You are talking about a Party on Valentine's that includes this and that? Well, I'll be observing how people interact, items available, what types of items, the abundance vs scarcity, people's responses to said items and activities...etc etc. Being stuck in my own world and realizing I don't process or function like most people...I'm obsessed with understanding the differences in people's brains and how their DNA impacts their daily life vs long-term trauma factors with gene flipping, family home dynamic, nature vs nurture in general, and childhood experiences all lead them to where they are today. With another layer of: how is this societal group event accepted and what is not accepted? Is there an outlier with the next generation that usually initially has pushback but starts becoming more of a norm down the line? Such as singles day on Valentine's Day or even Friendsgiving for Thanksgiving. Is this group interaction a decent predictor of societal direction and what does that tell us?


This is what John and I think about ALL THE TIME. We have so much fun going home and analyzing everything we have picked up. We both are wired very differently so he is aware of people and looks at them to take note of their expressions. For me? I notice NONE of that. I have to disassociate from people to step out the door. It's so bad that gunshots could go off nearby and I won't realize why people dropped to the ground. I've experienced this twice in Oakland, California. So when I disassociate, danger may not even register. Which is why John is extremely important for me to have around.

oops, I digress again.


WE MADE ART.



John and I painted rocks! I was taking pics of mine and John didn't put his in...so I'll just have to add his painted rock pictures later. Top 4 to the upper left (clockwise: vines and leaves, tons of dots, "you are amazing" and the little potion bottle) I made. John made the little heart in the upper right. He had two others that were awesome I'll add when I can.


We made other art but I wasn't able to take pics yet. Home is still a mess and not photo-friendly. lol Progress tho. We are hoping by Feb we will have a designated spot for photos.


Ok this isn't really Art John made in Dec but it was finally completed and sent out to Church! John's Bible Sticker Chart looks amazing and the next step is to write a matching curriculum. The curriculum this was based on belongs to another company. We made the charts for our Church that paid to have access to that curriculum so for them there isn't an issue. But we are hoping to sell these as a great package for families wanting to study the Bible together with our written curriculum.



Doesn't it look so professional and AMAZING?! It comes with a HUGE chart and almost 250 stickers~ We are also going to improve the packaging for these lovelies this year. So keep an eye out for our ready and completed product!!



Upcoming Events


Only upcoming event we have is the Crafty Card Collective happening this last Sunday (1/28/24). So stick with us to see how it all went!


Also...we are going to really focus on getting this website on its feet this year. Especially this month. So if you come across any errors, glitches, issues, etc, PLEASE let us know!! We usually have no idea until someone tells us. We have a lot of fun stuff to add and are hoping for some extra assistance soon to share it all!


Thanks for reading our Monthly Newsletter and our Monthly Update Blog!


We are very grateful for your time and patience with us. We hope to see you in the next year and let's get creative!


---


(P.s. If something I wrote confuses you or you think you may need clarification on the meaning, please ask. I'm trying to find where some of my blind spots are. John is the only one who can properly translate me about 99% of the time. And even he is confused why only he seems to hear what I've said but others don't.)


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