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Miller July 2023 Update!

It's been quite a month. As we are about to finish something, more than one project or task pops up. Quite busy and still doing our best to schedule a time to rest. Michelle ended up taking a few days to just sleep because she couldn't function anymore. You know the state where you look at words and nothing will process? Or your arm is in so much pain you HAVE to not do anything? So a few things have had to be delayed. But still on track!

Many things are still in the works but progress has been made in every area. We attended our first Skyway Artisan Market which we think went really well! Unfortunately, we stressed ourselves out working on one big project with our church trying to make a deadline of about three days before market day. So once we had our meeting and were told we had some extra time, we switched gears and pulled everything together in record time! Yes, there were things we wish we could've changed but all-in-all, quite pleased. We also realized we have WAY too many items to sell. So sorry if you stopped by and were overwhelmed. We forget how much we do and haven't tried to sell anything for quite a few years. So our products have vastly increased in number and in style.

For the last Artisan Market, we wanted to work on presentation and packaging. So we pulled out these papers we have had since October of last year and decided to finally use them. We LOVE these designs and are sad that they are limited editions from Michael's. Since these really match Michelle's artwork style, may have to check back again at the end of the year to see if they come back. Pretty aren't they? John custom-cut these with his laser cutter and then I folded them. So each of our artworks will hopefully have a matching box to sell in!

We are trying to focus on packaging quality and how to make items more appealing. It was a step we haven't been able to focus on before so this year is a little bit of a different take. After the Entrepreneurial class, we took a few months ago at our church with Al McCausland, we have a road map with steps we can follow. (Which Michelle is strongly adamant was better than her 4yr business degree). This followed up with some key advice from Daniel Holt: Just do it and make adjustments as you go along. You don't have to be perfect but you have to be trying. Not word-for-word but the message was clear. WE had been holding ourselves back. Yes, we are super anxious, but would we rather be anxious and successful (self-sustaining) or anxious and living in misery? The effort is almost the same. But with the benefits of productivity!!

So a lot of reframing our situation to look more...hopeful.

That and....the sheer math of how many people you need to show you and your products exist to find people willing to look at your products will give you a percentage of those INTERESTED in your products which will give you a percentage of those WILLING to pay money to money for your products....and within THAT are those that WILL and actually DO buy your products. So to get an amount you can live off of requires tons of people to see it. You'll find your niche and people, but they need to know you exist.

Which kind of conflicts with our social anxiety. It's extremely difficult to just sit and talk to others for both of us. This is why we spend all our time together, we both are the first people we have ever met that has not drained us. Even people we would love to be around, make us exhausted from 24hrs to a few days of recovery afterwards. Being around strangers can have us knocked out for a week. Barely able to get out of bed and eat anything. It ain't easy being in tune with so many stimuli all the time.

But since our health isn't going to be able to be changed that quickly, we are trying to change our environment to help support it. This has been beneficial and we are improving quite a bit. With every little shift we try to make for ourselves, there is always society INSISTING things be run this way or that....and we just can't keep up. We understand the world works on days and weeks...but when we experience a day differently, that doesn't work. In one day we can experience as much as what normal people experience in a WEEK. And we are required to process all of it at rest (which we can't easily) within a night.

We both have insomnia and PTSD, we cannot rely on nightly sleep to recover. It is rarely restful. This can stretch for weeks as we struggle with 4hrs of sleep daily....still required to keep up with everyone else. Michelle still has nightmares where she is up on her feet working some kind of 12-hour wake up and FEEL all that pain and stress. The stress can be so bad that she literally cannot put her arms under her body to lift up as her whole back becomes one knot and incapable of self-controlled movement. John has to give massages for 30 minutes to loosen it up for her to just roll out of bed herself.

This normally happens much more frequently during the winter, but this summer we are still struggling to keep up. Michelle is doing full-time to handle her health concerns. Is also a full-time caregiver for John, doing full-time taking care of the home and connections, and then squeezing in part-time trying to start up our business so we don't have to sacrifice our health to make our minimum bills. John is trying to keep up with his full-time health struggles while doing his best with household chores and parts of the business.

We haven't been able to see the doctor for months as our last one just suddenly left the practice. We are on Medicaid and most offices HATE people on Medicaid and will say they can schedule out 3-4 months out. Then the day OF the appointment they will call me to say the doctor isn't in and to schedule me out again for another two months. (Why they scheduled me on a day that didn't have a doctor or not notify me of this ASAP is beyond me). This has happened over and over in Colorado for the past 6 years. We finally got a Care Coordinator to help us get an appointment in less than 2 months. I called back in Mar on my own to be told they were scheduling out in Sept. Called again with a care coordinator in late Jun to get an appointment in mid-August. Our issues require a doctor...but specialists only. Not PCP level. However, we NEED a PCP as a gatekeeper to reach those experts that understand our issues. We also apparently need a PCP to help us write for our disability case. Though we are both disabled, we would HAVE to have a PCP long enough with us to collect all the results with the specialists to compile for our case. So we have been floundering a bit on our health which was supposed to be a top priority. We haven't been able to see at least 4 different specialists to help us with various areas that are all overlapping. The guilt of not being able to do enough has been pushing us down since childhood. We wanted to state this because it has never helped us and hurt us more. We are trying and deserve to be proud of our accomplishments thus far.

I digress a little. Just to summarize: our health is a HUGE factor that interferes with our daily lives. It is considered more severe because it prevents us from eating, sleeping, interacting with others, and the ability to self-manage ourselves so we don't collapse. This isn't an occasional thing. This is daily for the last....ever. We are realizing how much we have had to push this as kids and it was damaging to us then. Adjusting our lives to fit more of a monthly schedule instead of by week, allows us to try and set times aside to let ourselves rest. Every day could be completely changed based on if we are able to get any sleep or not and how much pain we are physically in from overnight. Michelle still has three herniated discs so is required to lie down, not sit, but fully lay down to release pressure throughout the day. Scheduling anything consistent is almost impossible. The body doesn't work on our human concept of 'time'. The body says 'Now' she better do it or she will need the hospital again. And after a decade of going in and out of offices or hospitals. we don't want to go back. After encountering so many subpar doctors, we are very wary about their ability and sincerity in helping. Those that DID help, sadly left the practice within the year of us being established with them to a location we cannot follow. I think about 3 out of 20 doctors we have encountered were ones we are amazed by their genuine care. The rest wasted our time and brushed us off. We also have posts going over many encounters with medical professionals under "Medical Unprofessionals".

So as you can see there has been a struggle with getting the RIGHT help for our health struggles. It's been an ongoing problem since, at least for Michelle since 2012 back when she lived in California, and with the hospital structures here in Colorado, much more difficult. We are trying but not quite there. And this is only a few layers of what we are working through. Not getting the right help and having to claw our way daily to make things happen as we wait for who we need. Still suffering but wanting to be working towards a better future. I've gotten a lot of advice this past month but most don't work for us in our situation. So we just wait until the right help finds us too. We appreciate the assistance from those who care and don't have any sort of medical background, but it comes to us as a double edge sword. Just painful reminders that THAT advice doesn't work. That advice hasn't seen our everyday struggle for years using every piece of advice in medical books. therapists/doctors, research, etc for (now for Michelle) actual decades trying to utilize to appease the suffering.

Our struggles have started since birth (Autism and ADHD), and grew much more due to toxic environments, abusive partners, insomnia, PTSD, working ourselves to death, and frequent flippant medical professionals. So it's VERY complex and something we are aiming to work on and unravel so we aren't suffering daily.

Ok, back to what we've been focusing on. So sorry for such a heavy intro. We tried to keep it light, but these blogs, it goes more in-depth about how WE as an Autistic couple are doing. We also want to record how we are during this time, so that hopefully in 5 years we can look back and compare the improvements that have been made since today.

I mean...we already have made HUGE improvements within the last 5 years together. We aren't suicidal, we can get at least one day every other week of GOOD rest and decent sleep. We haven't needed to go to the ER in the last two years. We haven't needed to be inpatients at any hospital for any reason. We have been able to somewhat manage our health when it gets bad and learn to set boundaries of letting and making ourselves rest when needed. We are more positive and upbeat. We have a little bit more energy. So this is already HUGE!

We have already made great lengths to get where we are today. With these blog posts, we hope to go more in-depth to show the journey we have taken, prior to us probably even meeting you. (Ok well that doesn't apply to family specifically but generally to everyone else reading). We both are really hopeful and excited about where we will go and what we can accomplish.

Designer Papers! John has been creating some more designer papers for our business. We even created some for Crafter's Clique who will be offering a few designs for free every month! On our website, we will be selling both the tile files and the tangible papers. We ran out of time this month to get to putting up the tangible paper products but take a look at what we DO have: [Designer Papers]. Right now it's mostly just for fun but we have plans on working with groups or people that are looking for custom paper designs. With also the use of adding them into our ATC kits. If there are designs you are wanting us to put up, please message us and let us know! We can certainly put those up prior to the others we have in the queue. We have about 200 designs in wait so let us know ASAP!

We also had a lot of fun at this month's Who Gives a SCRAP Art Swap! This time we had a lot more interaction with the attendees which made it enjoyable. We also met with Belinda who is working with a few Girl Scout Troops and we were able to provide free ATC kits for them!

The room was pretty large so we got to take a decent spot in the corner!

With all of our raffle entries this month, our winner for July is HENRY!

Henry will get to pick this month's following choices: an ATC Acrylic Size Guide, an ATC Jar Kit, or one of our designed stickers! (Choice of sticker will be based on what we currently have available) We will email you directly to let you know you won and we can plan where to pick it up! Congrats!

Our event this month went well too! This month was a focus on Mixed Media. Though it's optional and many just wanted to do what they usually did. Which was fine! Had a young boy and his family come in and he had so much fun creating. This is why we have these events. =) It was worth hauling everything to the library for! He had fun drawing cards from a Roblox game he loves and now his art cards are in the trade binder for anyone else to grab! This was finally an event Michelle was able to relax at and MAKE stuff! She tends to stress easily so for the past 6 events it's just stewing in 'what did I forget? what did I still need to do? What do I need to say?' so I think we finally hit the point where we have generally figured out what works for us and for our event. With that relief, we created! We all made such vastly different cards, didn't we?

Next month our event is August 25th with a focus on "Player Made ATCs". We are going to try and create a game based on certain card types. More will have to be explained during the event! So hope to see you last Friday at PPLDs East Library from 3:30-5:30pm! Drop-ins welcome. Michelle has a special ATC kit for this month so make sure you come and snag one while supplies last! There should also be a bunch that will be at Who Gives a SCRAP for pick up after as well if you can't make it.

Here is an adorable picture of Sherlock. She brings us joy even when we don't want to smile. <3

An update on our kits: we made 178 ATC kits in July alone. This now brings up our total amount to 312 FREE ATC Kits since we started 3 months. ago. To be clear, Michelle does 99% of the ATC side of the business on top of everything else. John is solely focused on a large project with our Children's Pastor.

Can't go into that too much now as it is in the works, but once we have ordered everything and are about to build the sets, then we can let you in on what he has been working on. Our skill sets mean we work best on long-term projects. Projects that take months to years to complete. Which doesn't appeal to rent or utility bills. So we are kinda stuck trying to live in a society that harms more than hurts us. We do make the money to pay, but it always tends to show up a week AFTER the deadline.

Like John completed a research study for a few hundred in payment. They said it would take 6 weeks for us to get payment. After 6 weeks they told us..."no, 6 weeks from the end of our research period and NOT 6 weeks from when you finished your part". So now that's another 3 weeks of waiting for the payment we needed for July. Things like this happen to us just about monthly for almost 5 years now. We luckily have made all our payments, sometimes having to get a little help but generally making it to not get kicked out. We would LIKE a more consistent means of making money, but our health has proven that isn't an option for us and our complex health issues. We gotta be creative since we can't count on gov't disability though we fit all criteria for having it.

When we try to bring our issues up during the interview for any job (The whole inform them and ADA will help) doesn't help. We have been upfront with them and STILL thrown under the bus when our struggles become more apparent. And unless we were RECORDING the incident (they won't look too far into written messages between us and them either), ADA or even EEOC won't do anything. Yes, this has happened to us multiple times. Adapting to our health isn't selfishness, it's a necessity so we can function. And many just don't want to have to adjust to what we need. Heck, WE barely want to adjust to what we need. We also see it as an inconvenience but our collapsing on the floor due to exhaustion and pain is telling us this is a MAJOR thing we have to take seriously. It has to become a lifestyle and not just an adaptive coping mechanism.

Moving along~

Fathers in the Field! A great ministry we are hoping to be a part of and went to their weekend conference in early July. Michelle was basically bawling the whole time. She drew 54 ATCs during the event to help process the heavy information which we will share in due time. This ministry we have been looking for and waiting for specifically for YEARS. Michelle has been wanting to see this Christian support and intention since junior high after learning how much of an impact fatherless homes had on children. Her dad showed her research and reports and since then it has been stuck in her mind that THIS exists. After over a decade of just watching this pain grow is so alarming. Especially on young boys. There are some boys who have HAD a father in the house...but they weren't actually there, creating a rift and a hole in the child's heart. This grows and becomes more violent, both inwardly and outwardly. Our society is DROWNING in fatherlessness. And we are all feeling the impact. Being a girl is easy, you can let things go and grow up fine. (not saying with no damage but you can find who you are despite that). As a boy, you need a male figure to help challenge you and build you into who you need to be. Not just rough and tough 'boy' stuff, but a challenge of how to approach difficult situations, what you can do about it, and then the action of DOING something. Men are built to DO.

I love the saying that came from the event: "Mothers raise boys, Fathers raise MEN." Mothers are not built to be fathers. No matter how much a single mom wishes she could be for her child. That is not her role and she shouldn't force herself to be who she isn't. It also conflicts with the child's mental state if the mom tries to do both roles. Not saying there aren't moms that can't do it. They are special people who are to be commended. But that isn't the norm, and shouldn't be expected of single mothers. Nor should they put that expectation on themselves either We want to be a part of the church that goes out into the community and DOES things. We are proud to finally be a part of one that walks the walk that matches their talk!

Highly recommend going to their website and seeing what they do. We have both signed up to be a part of this. They are looking for churches to sign up and for couples to work together to help mentor a fatherless boy. They have put a LOT of thought into every step of the process. Created and founded by someone who grew up with that pain and knows firsthand the damage it causes. You are focusing only on the boy, the church has a mediator to help with the single mom and her needs. We were called to be a part of this so we are waiting to see where we are needed.

With that....we feel like we are needing to stay in the springs. There are many things in motion that will require us to stay put. Many of you may have heard we were planning on moving out of state to ocean level due to our health concerns. Which we very well may have to at any point our health drops. But until then, we are planning on finding a house to move into here. Or a basement. We would rather try finding a house since we know a few who are needing a place to escape to and we really want to help. We can't just send them to someone else's home as their background has some complexities that we cannot divulge and only we are specifically prepared for based on our past experiences. We are just powerless right now to offer anything they really need.

So yes, we are praying and waiting for that time. We want to help others and would love to do more. Perhaps we find a house that is in another state instead? We would be up for that. But it's not our call. We follow where we are led. For the past 5 years, that has led us to the best options for us, far more than we could've planned for ourselves. Having faith is difficult. Especially as Autistics who slip into a panic when we don't have our day-to-day scheduled a week in advance.

It's a learning experience. This is all just a learning experience and we are doing our best with the cards we are dealt with. How far can we go? =)

Stick with us and find out!

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2 Kommentare

Fellow artist here. I‘m fused from T10 to S1 and have chronic pain so I can surely relate to Michelle’s back issues.

Unsolicited advice: Might want to consider a different name for “tile file”. They are called something that contains the words “digital download“ on Etsy, like clip art, pdf, printable, handmade.

Also, I’m not sure if the casual public knows what ATC means or what they are used for.

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Michelle Miller
Michelle Miller
01. Sept. 2023
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We will definitely keep that in mind for a future redo! Now that it is on our list of to-dos, we hope to role out that change within the next few months! Thanks for your feedback! :)

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