I bet you didn’t even know that unicorns could be left handed, did you?! Well, to clarify, I’m actually pretty sure that unicorns are ambidextrous. It’s one of their magical powers. As for someone who’s (sadly) NOT so ambidextrous? This girl.

Since I’ve had to lay off painting due to my repetitive stress injury, I figured I’d try my luck at completing today’s folk-art Friday creature with my left hand. This took me 4 times as long as it normally would and it still is painfully evident that this guy was completed with my non-dominant hand.

I went to one of my favorite open air cafes the other day to read and placed lefty unicorn on the wicker table.

I hope the next customer was inspired to try something new and fun – whether that involved ordering a different item on the menu or painting a mural with their left hand. (I would be positively gleeful if that latter option actually happened.)

Here’s hoping the same for you and yours this weekend – that you step outside your normal routine in some delightful way. It’s good for you!

A  few years ago, I majorly screwed up my wrist by doing a massive Project Life catch-up. I wore a wrist brace for awhile, had to completely lay off of crafting/writing/using my right hand AND ended up going to physical therapy for awhile. There, I had to tell the physical therapist that I’d developed the pain via Extreme Crafting. I don’t think she’d ever heard that one before.

Since then, I’ve been more careful about doing massive amounts of repetitive activity with my wrist. I never wanted to return to that place again. Buttttt as time has passed and that sad, grey time in my creative life started to fade from memory, I’ve started to creep into the more extreme zones of crafting again. Now that I have my Etsy shop, it’s not unusual for me to sit down and hand paint 10 cards in one sitting. That’s a lot of fine motor movement happening in a concentrated amount of time.

Well, it all caught up to me again. Blast! I started to feel acute pain in my hand last week. Holding a pen or a paintbrush was torture. Even trying to put on pants hurt. It turns out that I’ve given myself a repetitive stress injury. The main cure is rest. Rest as in: no painting, no writing letters, no project life, no other crafting. These things bring me so much joy AND are a big part of my business. I was not pleased to get this diagnosis.

After lamenting this fact for a day or two though, I’ve started to see the silver lining of this injury…it’s definitely slowed me down in some areas, but allowed me to crank things up in others. Here’s a rundown:

1) Researching healthy habits for moving forward.

As an artist, writer, and creative, my hands are my primary tools. I’ve realized that I have to take better care of them, just like a chef would consistently sharpen their knives or a truck driver would get regular oil changes. And just taking small breaks, while better than nothing, is not going to cut it. I need to do some serious self-care.

During my desperate research, I stumbled across this article that sets forth some concrete suggestions for treating tendonitis and repetitive stress injuries. I watched the video about self-massage techniques for your arms and hands and have been trying to do that daily for myself. I also ordered the book that was recommended, titled Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Stress Injuries: A Self-Care Program. It hasn’t arrived yet, but when it does, I’ll be taking it seriously.

I’ve decided this isn’t just an “oh that would be a nice thing to do for myself,” it’s a “this is a non-negotiable if I want to keep producing art for years to come.”

2) Time to finally GO PAPERLESS!

Since my regular activities have been put majorly on hold, I’ve been channeling some of that freed up time into (finally) going paperless. It’s been a long time coming and Bobby’s been very patient with me as I was SO excited about this over a year and a half ago, bought the scanner, paid for Evernote, bought TWO separate eBooks telling me exactly how to go about things, and then got lured into other projects before I ever truly got everything organized digitally. We’ve been carting file folders filled with documents back and forth with us during each move.

Every couple months, Bobby will gently mention it and try to see where I’m at with things – to which I respond something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m DEFINITELY going to get on that! I just have so many other things that are on the go right now! But NO we mustn’t cancel Evernote or sell our scanner! I’m totally on board with the paperless thing!” (Let me be clear, we both decided long ago that I was the Nixon Peterson CFO of the family, so it’s not as if Bobby is abdicating any responsibilities here. We both acknowledge that the paperless project is much more in my wheel house.)

With this prescription of rest for my hand, the universe has basically forced me into staring the whole Paperless Project in the face. So far I’ve sorted through a ton of our papers and documents, gotten rid of a BUNCH of them, and am ready to start scanning the important documents that should be kept. This is far overdue, and I’m grateful that so many other activities have been put on hold so that I could finally start tackling it.

3) Reading and I are finally becoming good friends again.

Reading is such a faithful friend but I have a tendency to ditch it for other activities. With this injury, though, I’ve started to dive into books again. Every time I get back with the reading program I think, “How did I ever veer away from this? I love reading!” And reading just sits there and shakes her head at me and says, “Welcome back you slow learner, you.” She’s very forgiving like that.

So there we have it. Multiple reasons why this pain-in-the-butt repetitive stress injury actually has multiple silver linings.

If you’re someone who uses your hands a lot – whether it’s for typing, drawing, painting, surgery – I’m curious whether you’ve developed any routines to keep your hands and wrists in tip-top shape. Please share in the comments if you have any wisdom!

For Lent, I’ve been trying to read every day from a devotional called Savor by Shauna Niequist. (If you’re looking for some life-affirming words in your life, I would highly recommend any and all of her books – that’s an affiliate link if you decide to try her out!)

The other day, the reflection had this thought: “You are significant with or without a significant other.” That phrase kept on bouncing around in my brain and I knew it had to accompany a narwhal for Folk-Art Friday.

I’m very aware that Valentine’s is an easy, fun holiday for me since I have Bobby in my life. I’m also very aware that I’d probably have conflicted feelings about February 14th if I was facing the day as a single, 30 year-old woman. I’m pretty sure there would be jealousy and longing and some loneliness associated with the day.

If you’re in that spot, please know that you’re in my thoughts. I know I can’t scrub away those heart pangs with a simple blog post or a watercolor narwhal – but I hope that you’ll write this phrase on your soul today: “I am significant with or without a significant other.”

I decided to leave Mr. Narwhal in the grocery store today as I was running a couple errands. The second I walked through the sliding doors, there was a huge display of red and pink balloons, flowers, and chocolates. It looked like a good spot to post this little reminder of hope for someone to find.

As I walked away to do my shopping, I was bombarded by MULTIPLE displays of valentine candy, plush animals, champagne and chocolates – and I thought how simply going to pick up groceries during this time of year must be like walking through a minefield for some people. Constant reminders of the holiday.

I now realize that single people probably won’t be spending time looking at the excessive display of Valentine’s flowers…so my narwhal may not be positioned in the best spot to reach his target audience. Alas!

Regardless of whether you’ll be holding someone’s hand this Sunday, rest assured I’m sending you love and virtual hugs – this weekend and always.