Wildflowers in an Urban Environment

Next week the OneWeek100People challenge starts, where you try to draw 100 people in five days. I participated in the challenge last year and really enjoyed it and found it to be a great way to practice my portrait sketching. This year I plan on participating but as my hands are still far from 100% well (my neuropathy has gotten better but still hasn’t left me and brushwork is a bit of an agony), I will take more than 5 days to draw 100 people.
Meanwhile, I went on a walk and sketched a bit today. Here’s the resulting spread:

Sketch on Stillman and Birn Alpha with Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolours, De Atramentis Document Ink Grey, Caran d’Ache Saffron and Diamine Festive Joy

Garden Centre and Jaffa

Sketched this spread despite my hands killing me throughout the sketch. I still have poor control over the brush but I sketched it despite that because I really missed drawing. So glad that I got it done.

Here are some process photos:

Initial sketch with watercolour pencil.
First pass with colour.
Second pass with colour and ink.
First pass for the drawing on the bottom right.

Strange Palm Trees

I finished the Ramat Hanadiv spread today, drawing the second page from photos, as I had a few moments when I could sort of feel my hands.

I wish I knew what these palm trees were called. They looked amazing.

Hanadiv Gardens

Drew this today and it was super painful to draw. Here’s hoping that things with my hands improve soon because I miss drawing.

A Day at Chemotherapy

I’m having my (hopefully) last round of Chemo today and I’d thought I’d document the procedure as I go through it.

4:45 – Woke up and started taking care of my cats, making breakfast, getting ready to leave for the hospital. I need to drink at least two glasses of water before I go, one of then with Normalax. The water is because I have to have a blood test before the Chemo starts. The Normalax is to prevent one of the less pleasant side effects of my Chemo: constipation. As in all the rest of the adverse effects, prevention is easier than treatment.

6:00 – I leave my house and set out for the hospital. My dad is giving me a ride as there’s little chance that I’ll be able to catch a cab in this weather. I’m wearing athleisure clothes (sweatpants, t-shirt, hoodie and a coat because it’s raining). I never wear jeans to your Chemo, because logistically they’re harder to manage one handed, and depending on where you have your IV inserted, you may have to manage your pants one handed. It’s the little things.

6:30 – I’m at the hospital. At 6:45 the line opens up for the secretaries of the Hemato-Oncology outpatient treatments. The secretaries themselves start working at 7:30, even though the nursing staff is here largely by 7:00. The Oncology secretaries start working at 7:00, and I have no idea why. The Oncology outpatient treatment area is across the hall from the Hemato-Oncology one. Usually when I get here at 6:30 there’s 3-4 older gentlemen already waiting to get a number in line for the secretaries. I have no idea when they arrive (I joke that they must have spent the night here to be first), but they’re almost always here, and once they get their number they start a parliament of news analysis and general gossip. Why arrive so early when at the earliest you can start pre-treatment procedures at 7:30? Because this department has outgrown this building a while ago and the new building expansion won’t be ready for 2-3 years yet. That means that there’s a dearth of seating areas for treatment, and and even bigger shortage of good seating areas. When you spend 4-5 hours at least sitting getting treatment getting a good place is a thing. There are two rounds of treatment – the morning one and the noon one. I’m always here in the morning, and if I don’t get here by 6:45 at the latest, I’ll be 10-11th in line and with little chance for a decent spot. You snooze, you lose. Although this time, maybe because of the weather, I’m the first one here.

6:50 – I’m the first in line! The parliament of elderly gentlemen arrived, but arrived later than usual. A lot of sour faces that I beat them to the punch. 😂 As usual, I’m the youngest person around by a pretty large margin. I only once saw a person my age getting treatment while I was here.

7:47 – got my IV in (from a fantastic nurse), blood test done, got a great seating place (private and near a window), and I’m now waiting for my blood test results and to see my fantastic doctor.

8:10 – The usual technician that analyses blood tests isn’t here, so my blood work is delayed. It’s going to take a while.

8:20 – My blood test results are back and they’re good enough for me to get treatment. Yay! Going into the doctor’s office. My brother is saving my seat downstairs, and will be my escort for today. There’s a 30 minute interval where I’m not allowed to move, and during that time I need someone at my side to help me out and call the nurses if they’re busy and don’t hear the call bell to change IV bags. Also, I need help in general once I’ve started the treatment, and it’s nice having someone around to talk to.

There’s a festive feeling now that it’s the final treatment.

8:30 – done at the doctor’s office, and brought my prescription to the nurses. Took my Akynzeo pill, which is a strong anti-emetic with an effect that lasts for 5 days.

8:40 – first IV bag starts – 10mg of Dexamethasone (steroids). It used to be 20mg but I asked for it to be lowered during the last three treatments. It’s still a lot of steroids. They serve as an anti-emetic and to help me survive the treatment.

9:05 – first IV bag finished. Spent the time talking with my funny and entertaining brother.

9:10 – it’s not a busy day here, so the pharmacy fulfilled my prescription quickly. They prepare the IV bags for me specifically, on the spot. I get a paracetamol pill (only one, because it’s part of the protocol, nobody is sure why), and two nurses cross check my personal details against what’s printed on the IV bags and is the computer. I get connected to my first chemo IV bag, Adriamicin. It’s a red fluid that can burn my veins if the IV isn’t in properly, so my nurse checks the IV. This and the next bag are given without the use of a machine, just gravity and my veins. I’m not allowed to move while it’s being given.

9:20 – second IV bag, also outside of the machine and of potentially burning chemicals. It’s Vinblastine, which is what causes the neuropathy side effect. I’m also not allowed to move during this. My favourite nurse came to say hi, and congrats for getting to the end of my treatments.

9:30 – Scary IV bags are done. I get a vein wash and am connected to Bleomicin, my third IV bag, this time through a machine. In 10 minutes I can move and go to the bathroom.

9:50- had my first bathroom break. It’s always a bit of sensation because the pee comes out red because of the first chemo bag. I didn’t know that the first time so it kinda freaked me out. I will be getting two litres of water as part of my chemo (the chemicals are diluted in water), and I’ll be drinking at least another 0.5 litre this morning as one of the chemicals really dries my mouth out. That’s on top of the two cups of water and one cup of coffee that I had this morning. So lots of bathroom breaks in my future, though I won’t be documenting them.

Not a great view outside but at least it’s a view.

10:05 – third bag done. Now waiting for the nurse to change my IV bag. The last chemo IV burns when you get it, so they administer it slowly, and I might need a hot compress on my arm if the vein is narrow.

10:10 – connected to what is hopefully my final chemo bag. Decarbazine.

10:18 – the IV hurts so I get a hot compress (a water IV bag heated in the microwave and placed in a pillowcase) to press to my arm and expand the vein. The alternative is to lower the IV rate, but as it is this bag will take 1.5 hours.

Me and my hot compress.

11:00 – still on my last chemo IV bag. There will be a water IV to rinse out my veins in the end. Got my compress reheated, and I’m reading “Harlem Shuffle” on my Kindle. I’m still using only one hand, so the Kindle is the best for reading under the circumstances.

11:30 – finished the fourth and final bag of chemo. Waiting for an IV flush.

11:45 – I’m done. One of the fastest treatments yet. 🎉🎉🎉

How I Use My Notebooks: Daily Planner Update

I last posted about my planner and to do list setup here. To recap, my planning system includes two large Moleskine hard cover squared notebooks, one in which I plan my week, and one in which I use as a daily to do planner. I started using this setup once Covid hit and I started working from home. It worked very well for a year and a half.

Then I got cancer.

I was hospitalized for a month, in which I discovered that I have zero control over my time or how my day will shape out. When I got out I was already on a Chemo regiment. I had to make adjustments to my life, this time because of my personal health, not a global pandemic.

Score (another) one for self-made planners.

My old system was generic enough that it fit into my new lifestyle with very little adjustment. The weekly notebook stayed mostly the same, as you can see below. The main difference is that I manage less stuff there and more using reminders in Fantastical. It’s not that I don’t like paper planners any more, it’s just that Chemo Brain is a possible side effect of my treatment and I don’t want to risk not getting something important done because I forgot to check my weekly planner at the right moment, or I saw something there but didn’t remember it after I’ve seen it.

So why keep the weekly planner at all? Because it helps me see how the week is shaping up, and because it allows me to do a little long term planning, despite everything. All my plans at the moment are in two week batches (dictated by my chemo regiment), and this layout allows me to manage them.

Another addition to this notebook is a few tracker pages, marked by tabs. Some track purchases that I’m waiting for, some track bureaucracies that I need to take care of, others list things that I want to get done eventually but I haven’t decided yet when or how.

As for my daily planner notebook, I just finished one and started another. Here’s the finished notebook:

Moleskine Large Hardcover squared with a Star Wars The Last Jedi decal on the cover.

Here’s the new notebook. I love using these decals to make these notebooks my own:

Moleskine Large Hardcover squared with a Star Wars Chewbacca decal on the cover.

I used to manage every day on a full spread, with personal to dos on one side of the page and professional ones on a another. Since my life is less busy now than it used to be, I’ve downsized my to do to one page per day, with personal and professional mixed in (I work from home). This is a sample of my least busiest day: it’s a chemo day and I wasn’t planning on working after this treatment since it was a long one. Door to door I was in the hospital from 6:40 to 14:00, and completely wiped out after it. I don’t usually list my meals or naps in my notebook, but chemo days are so crazy (in terms of what my brain does on steroids) that I have to write everything down. Things that I didn’t do get a strike in them and are moved forward to another day.

Everybody has different needs from their planner, and those needs oftentimes change unexpectedly, and out of sync with “planner season”. It’s one of the reasons why I find making your own planner, working just a few days or a week or two ahead is the best and most consistent way for me to manage my time. There are some great planning systems out there, but if you’ve struggled with using them, or if your circumstances make you need a very flexible system, I highly recommend picking up a squared or lined notebook and creating your own.

How I Use My Notebooks: Three Good Things

I’ve been going through a rough time lately, and as many people have been so kind to say, staying optimistic despite all the bad things that I’ve had to deal with lately is key to getting through this terrible time. That is, of course, easier said than done. My mind tends to latch on to the painful and scary parts of the day, to the bad feelings, anxiety and doubt. It doesn’t help that we are all living through difficult times, and it’s hard to see and end in sight.

So I’ve started a new habit during the past month, and it’s helping me end the day on a positive note, with an added bonus of helping me use up some of my many notebooks.

I end each day by writing at least three good things that happened that day. I dedicate a page for each day, in my Dingbats notebook, with “Three Good Things” as the title, the date and day, and then the list of good things. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to find that day’s three good things, and for most days so far I’ve managed to find more than three good things to reflect on. They are usually conversations that I had with friends, or moments where I felt like my old self, or things that I enjoyed reading or watching.

Writing these down has been so helpful in getting me to see the good in each day, and in trying to stay positive when life is pretty tough.

City in Grey

A5 Stillman and Birn sketchbook spread with two watercolour drawings, one on the lower left side and one on the upper right side (with ink), and two text blocks, one in Hebrew on the lower right side and one in English on the upper left side. The palette is grey and muted.

In early January we had a bout of very foggy days and I took photos of various city scenes in the lockdown and the fog thinking that I’d later draw them. I thought that drawing fog in watercolour would be pretty straightforward, because what is easier than just drawing wet on wet and letting the watercolour do its thing? But after looking more closely at the photos I realized that fog isn’t just grey sky melting into the landscape, it’s also a muting of colours, a flattening of the landscape, the lack of shadow. In the end I drew two small landscapes, one urban and one of the park, and although they were challenging I enjoyed drawing them enough to want to have the same experience with the text. The grey writing in Hebrew in the bottom right corner is a line out of a well known rock song that embodies a lot of the spirit of Tel Aviv. It was written using Diamine Silver Fox on a semi-wet background, to facilitate ink spread.

These drawing also showcase a shift I have made in my palette and my mixing over the past few weeks. Once things settle down I’ll probably post about my new palette.

Lego Architecture Trafalgar Square

I created this page as part of Liz Steel‘s excellent Sketchbook Design course. I remember drawing it while listening to a live Q&A with the Mischief Theatre improvisors on Instagram. I got back to building Legos after more than 20 years because I saw how much joy Adam Savage took in building Legos and I decided that I wanted some of that childhood joy back too.

I discovered that legos have become much more sophisticated these days, especially the Ideas and Architecture sets, and that building Legos puts me into a zen like mood that beats anything I’ve been able to achieve with meditation so far. My mind becomes calm and focused on the step that I’m on and I can utterly forget about my problems for a few hours. If I didn’t have budget and space limitations I would be knee-deep in the giant Millennium Falcon set as we speak.

Today I discovered that a local Lego guru is collecting money to buy sets for kids that are going to spend Passover in the Oncology departments of various local children’s hospitals. For years he’s been purchasing sets for kids, teenagers and young adults that are hospitalized for long periods of time, at first entirely from his own pocket, and now with the help of donations as well.

If you can, treat yourself and someone you care for to something like a Lego set, or a nice pen, or a cool notebook or just a half hour of listening to them talk about whatever they want to. I think we could all use a little kindness pick me up right now.

Cat Comfort

Another spread from my sketchbook, also created as part of the Sketchbook Design course. I still need to find a way of drawing my black cat without him turning into a dark blob on the page.