Category Archives: psoriasis

Wisdom From a Writer’s Life

Don’t get too excited.  I searched every box, trunk, bag of tricks, safe, closet, and jelly bean jar that I have in my rusty old memory.  I didn’t find much.  In fact, the old saying is rather applicable, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing just how much of a fool you really are.”  The little pile of bottle caps and marshmallows that represent the sum total of my wisdom is infinitely tiny compared to the vast universe of things I will never know and never understand.  I am a fool.  I probably have no more wisdom than you do.  But I have a different point of view.  It comes from years worth of turning my ideas inside out, of wearing my mental underwear on the outside of my mental pants just to get a laugh, of stringing images and stupid-headed notions together in long pointless strings like this one.

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Mason City, Iowa… where I was born.  River City in the musical “The Music Man“.

One thing I can say with certainty, nothing makes you understand “home”, the place you grew up in and think of as where you come from, better than leaving it and going somewhere else.  Federal Avenue in Mason City looks nothing now like it did when I was a boy in the 1960’s going shopping downtown and spending hours in department stores waiting for the ten minutes at the end in the toy section you were promised for being good.  You have to look at the places and people of your youth through the lenses of history and distance and context and knowing now what you didn’t know then.

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Grandpa Aldrich’s farm in Iowa is now Mom and Dad’s house.  It has been in the family for over 100 years, a Century Farm.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  If I look back at the arc of my life, growing up in Iowa with crazy story-telling skills inherited from Grandpa Aldrich, to going to Iowa State “Cow College” and studying English, to going to University of Iowa for a remedial teaching degree because English majors can’t get jobs reading books, to teaching in distant South Texas more than a thousand miles away, to learning all the classroom cuss words in Spanish the hard way, by being called that, to moving to Dallas/Fort Worth to get fired from one teaching job and taking another that involved teaching English to non-English speakers, to retiring and spending time writing foolish reflections like this one because I am old and mostly home-bound with ill health.  I have come a long way from childhood to second childhood.

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If “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really true, I should be Superman now.  I look like I’ve seen a lot of Kryptonite, don’t I?

Six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983 have left their marks upon me.  Literally.  Little pink bleedy spots all over me are the mark of psoriasis.  The fuzzy-bad photo of me spares you some of the gory details.  The point is, I guess, that life is both fleeting and fragile.  If you never stop and think about what it all means then you are a fool.  If you don’t try to understand it in terms of sentences and paragraphs with main ideas, you are an even bigger fool.  You must write down the fruit of your examinations and ruminations.  But if you reach a point that you are actually satisfied that you know what it all means, that makes you the biggest fool of all.

If I have any wisdom at all to share in this post about wisdom, it can be summed up like this;

  • Writing helps you with knowing, and knowing leads to wisdom.  So take some time to write about what you know.
  • Writing every day makes you more coherent and easier to understand.  Stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace comes with practice.
  • Writing is worth doing.  Everyone should do it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it well.
  • You should read and understand other people’s wisdom too, as often as possible.  You are not the only person in the world who knows stuff.  And some of their stuff is better than your stuff.
  • The stuff you write can outlive you.  So make the ghost of you that you leave behind as pretty as you can.  Someone may love you for it.  And you can never be sure who that someone will be.

So by now you are probably wondering, where is all that wisdom he promised us in the title?  Look around carefully in this essay.  If you don’t see it there, then you are probably right in thinking, just as I warned you about at the outset, “Gosh darn that Mickey!  He is a really big fool.”

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Filed under autobiography, education, empathy, goofy thoughts, humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies, psoriasis, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, wisdom, writing, writing teacher

Drawing Nude

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God didn’t really want me to write this post.  How do I know this?  Well, my computer is old and quirky (sorta like me) and it constantly spits up and farts when it is most inconvenient.  I had half of this post already written when it decided to release some toxic venom.  By its own volition it suddenly highlighted and erased the whole post except for the title and a random letter “r”.  And WordPress automatically and supposedly helpfully did its little “save the changes immediately” thing.  The whole post was gone in a flash.

Why did God do this?  Well, this isn’t really a “How to Draw Nude Figures” post as it may at first appear.  It is, in fact another in a series of “Why I Am An Artist And Not A Pervert” posts that attempt to justify why a potential “dirty old man” like me spends so much time drawing pictures of naked girls.

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My latest art project is a picture of Brekka, the Telleron tadpole, completely nude.

I am currently drawing the illustration above for my novel Stardusters and Space Lizards.  It shows the scene where Brekka, admittedly a female, although not a human female, has just been accidentally swallowed and then regurgitated by Lester, her friend who is a man-eating plant from an alien solar system.  So excuse number one would have to be, “She’s naked because it fits the story.”  I will stand by that one for matters of illustration.  And you will note, there isn’t anything even remotely sexual about the situation… er, I think I would rather not be subjected to Freudian analysis on that one.

Here are three previously posted nude drawings that I used for previous attempts to corrupt the minds of readers and viewers.  I got a lot of views for these posts, and may at least partially benefit from using the “naked” and “nude” tags on those posts.  Illegitimate excuse number two, then is, “drawing and posting nudes increases the number of people who pay attention to my work.”   My most popular blog post this year has been Be Naked More in which I rationalize my interest in naturism and walking around naked, even though I am certainly far from brave enough to do so in public.

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And I further claim that it is not a sexual thing to draw someone naked.  One of the fundamental truths about art is that every person I draw or paint or write about in a novel is really me.  The only person who stands revealed by the work of art is me, and it is a portrait of what is inside my head.  Of the five nudes in this post, only one of them was not drawn from a real life model.  (And no, I am not counting the butterfly, or the Gryphon, or Lester as nudes… so stop thinking I’m just playing word games.)  (Lester isn’t even a real thing… man-eating plants don’t exist… so stop it!)  But none of the subjects were ever uncomfortable about posing for me.  Of course now that I have suggested that lame excuse number three is, “All nudes are really me.”  I probably have you thinking about the real meaning of the title of this post.  I have psoriasis, I do tend to feel more comfortable with no clothes on, and do tend to write and draw when I am sitting on my sickbed naked.  But I am wearing clothes at the moment.  Considering the content of this post, anything else would just be creepy.  So, stop trying to picture me all hairy, fat, scabby and nude.  After all, you chose to look at and read this thing.  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to explain why I am an artist and not a pervert.

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Filed under aliens, art criticism, artwork, autobiography, drawing, humor, nudes, Paffooney, psoriasis

Walk the Walk with Diabetes

Today during the school-drop-off downpour, I was forced to pull into the Walmart parking lot and pass out for a few rainy minutes.  Good times, huh?  But life is like that with diabetes.  I have been a diagnosed diabetic since April of 2000.  I have learned to live with my sugars out of whack, my mind potentially turned into Swiss cheese with cream gravy at any moment, and a strangely comforting capacity to weather headaches, both the heartbeat in the temples like a timpani kind, and the red-hot needles of Nyarlathotep boring into my skull kind.  I suffer, but I also survive.  In fact, the terrible incurable disease most likely to kill me is, in some ways, a sort of a back-handed blessing.  I certainly don’t take life for granted with it.  I am more conscious of how food can affect me and make me feel.  I have had to learn how to take care of myself when taking care of myself is tricky like an Indiana Jones’ adventure  in the Doomed Temple of Mickey’s Body.  I take going to the doctor seriously and have learned what questions to ask.  I have been to the heart specialist and the endocrinologist and the dietitian more than most people, though not more than most people should see them.  I have also learned how to make fun of dread diseases… a skill I never imagined I might develop later in life.

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My first experience of diabetes wasn’t even my own illness.  Back in 1984 I had a boy in my seventh grade class who seemed to be falling asleep constantly.  He was a shy little Hispanic boy with curly hair who was usually whip-smart and very charming.  But I couldn’t seem to keep his head off his desk.  So I asked him what the matter was.  He was too shy and worried that he had done something wrong to answer me.  So I asked him to get some water to wake himself up.  The reading teacher across the hall told me, “You know, Juanito is diabetic.  His blood sugar might be low.”

So I asked him, “Is that your problem?”

He nodded and smiled.

“The office keeps some orange juice in the refrigerator for him,” the reading teacher said.

So, I saved his life for the first time in my career without even knowing what the problem was or how to solve it.  He came back from the office perky and smiley as ever.  And I realized for the first time that I needed to know what diabetes was and what to do about it.

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Juanito became one of a number of fatherless boys that adopted me and spent Saturdays hanging out with me to play video games and role playing games.  He was one out of a pack of kids that swarmed my home in the off hours and would do anything I asked in the classroom no matter how hard.  He was a juvenile diabetic, the son of a woman with severe type-two diabetes (adult-onset).  His older sister had become a nurse at least partly because of the family illness.  Juvenile diabetics, though their lives can be severely at risk, have the capability of growing out of it.  As a seventh grader he didn’t really know how to take care of himself.  Teachers who unknowingly offered candy as a motivator could’ve put him in a coma because he was too polite and shy to say no.  But I fed him a few times, befriended him a lot, encouraged his interest in sports, and he grew up to be a star defensive back on the high school football team.  He gave me the portrait I share with you here for attending so many of his football games and rooting for him to overcome the odds.  When he visited me at the school years later, he was basically diabetes-free.

Juanito’s story gives me hope.  I know I will not overcome the dreaded Big D disease of South Texas.  I will live with it until it kills me.  It caused my psoriasis.  It gives me episodes of depression and chronic headache.  But at this point, I am still controlling it through diet and exercise, not taking insulin or other drugs.  (In fact, it was one of those other drugs that was making me pass out at work constantly from low blood sugar.  Diet works better than pharmaceuticals.)  One day it will give me a fatal infarction or a stroke and be the end of me.  But until that time I will continue to do the difficult dance with it  and get by, because, after all, dancing is exercise, and exercise overcomes the effects of the disease.  Just ask Juanito.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, humor, illness, kids, psoriasis

Psoriasis, the Disease of Choice for Sith Lords and Zombies

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Of all my six incurable diseases, psoriasis is the one least likely to kill me, and also the one I hate the most.  It tortures me daily and makes me wish I could take off all of my skin and switch it out for an entirely new set, like a suit of clothes.  Seriously, does it come in Brad Pitt?  How about blue?  That would be special.

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Psoriasis, for those of you lucky enough not to know this, is a skin disease where the skin develops little volcanoes of dead skin cells.  They become white or silvery or red flaky patches that continually erupt, crack, and embarrass me to no end.  People like me who suffer from the disease become rather paranoid about letting our spots show.  I look like a pink and white Dalmatian at times, and I end up wearing long sleeved shirts in summertime Texas where it gets to be 104 degrees in the shade on a regular basis.  No more swimsuits for me.  No more shaving or haircuts either.  I accept being called a hippie or a dirty bum now because it is easier than making people understand about my disease and its consequences.  I itch constantly.  Whole areas of my body burn with skin irritation and make people draw back in horror if they see it, mostly because of the erroneous perception that I might infect them too.sith skin

It is a disease of the body’s immune system, and it can’t be transmitted by contact in any way.  It is more of an inherited thing passed on from my parents or grandparents… though it probably was greatly aided in plaguing me because I am also diabetic.  I cannot infect anyone with the disease… though I don’t enjoy the reaction I get when someone sees the large patch of psoriasis I have on my lower back.    It is a horrible, decayed-looking open sore that takes practically forever to go away.  I also enjoy a healthy crop of psoriasis patches on my private parts… the reason I often spend alone time sitting naked at the computer, writing and complaining about stuff, and trying to be funny about stuff like death and psoriasis, while all the time trying to avoid the urge to scratch and make it worse.  There is probably a snowbank of dead skin flakes under my bed by now… I’m afraid to look and see what might be growing under there.  If I decided to be a Sith Lord like Darth Vader, I don’t have to burn off all of my skin before I put on the suit.  The crusty patches and scarring are already in place for the big take-off-the-helmet scene.  I could also probably win a part on the Walking Dead TV show because I wouldn’t need as much skin make-up.  But I would certainly be willing to forgo these wonderful opportunities if there were a way to suddenly get rid of this disease.  Unfortunately, I think that is not exactly what the word “incurable” has in mind.

So what’s the point of sharing this beyond the gratuitous gross-out value of the humor?  Well, that’s probably exactly what I had in mind, but I hope you will also realize that I am not the only person in the world who has this disease.  Many people have it worse than I do.  Children have it far more often that seems fair by the standards of karma.  Maybe, when you meet someone who has the problem, you could be a little nicer to them.  They are not lepers or plague-carriers.  They are not infectious.  And they could use a little more understanding…a little more love.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, psoriasis