Lupus & Me: Mirror Mirror

Words and art by Estela Caballero. The journey,  well that was written by life and the talented director was hope.  Now, Take II ♡

Moon face.  It’s an incredible change to your face that seems to happen overnight when you are pumped full of things to suppress your own immune system. My chipmunk cheeks are one of the final reminders that just a few weeks ago I was in the hospital.  When I woke up that day, I felt fine.  It was lupus again with a reminder that fine was only skin deep.  Not even skin deep if I made the mistake of letting the sun rest on any part of my face for too long.

The last several months were peppered with visits to the emergency room and follow up visits–  if I didn’t have a diagnosis of lupus already, it would have been understandable if my family questioned my sanity.  My fingers would turn a scary shade of grape for a while.  My feet began to play dead, well that’s what it felt like.  They were cold which was no problem, right?  I love fuzzy socks.  A few days before being admitted to the hospital I grabbed the brush on the dresser near my bed.  My legs stretched out still on the bed as I sat up and scooted back against the headboard.  I leaned forward and tapped the brush handle against my ankle bone.  I could see it make contact but nothing, I could feel nothing.  One foot playing dead and the other unsure of it’s next move.  This was new but as unwelcome as the old ways lupus usually surfaced.

Symptoms like arthritis are easy to describe and not too hard to confirm.  Even without tests, you can feel swelling of joints aflame. Weird things like a bulging hot fluid bubble hanging off your elbow are quickly identified. This lady on the bus asked if she could feel it.  She seemed harmless so I agreed.  “Bursitis,” she said, “it’s called bursitis and it hurts like hell doesn’t it?” There is comfort sometimes in having a name, something to call what keeps you up at night.  My sleep wasn’t chased away by the unknown anymore, it stopped needing a reason to escape me a long time ago.  More than 10 years ago I fell into a hole.  It was dark day after dark day, mostly because no one close to me knew what was wrong.  Doctors are just people and sometimes a case becomes too much so they give you a referral and wish you the best.  They don’t want to see you again and it’s nothing personal.  When systemic lupus attacks the brain it can resemble anything from a forgetfulness, demonic attack to straight up insanity .  They are called neuropsychiatric disorders and can leave as quickly as they start.  Most of the time it doesn’t come on full force.  It can progress slowly over weeks and months.  In some cases, like mine, it was a rapid descent that took over in a matter of days.  It would only take a few days to emerge once the steroids and chemotherapy hit my system.  I think we all have at least one experience in life that becomes more than a collection of memories.  You tell your life story and there is a before and after that time– sometimes because it’s easier to reference it but stick to talking about every other thing around it.  It’s not a bad strategy and in my case might have worked–  maybe lupus was offended I had started referring to it as , “….the time I got really sick.”

I’ve never really seen the spot where the needle entered my spine.  The doctors were searching for an answer to explain the sudden onset of behavior that began as peculiar and peaked at frightening.  The spinal tap ruled out certain bacteria and some types of infection.  My fingers twitched and locked in the most unnatural way.  The television in my room crashed to the floor after I disconnected it from the wall, then from the satellite dish and DVD player.  Anything to make things stop, things I knew were only possible if I was crazy.  A commercial that started out harmless fooled me and was the last thing I remember before pulling the tv this way and that way trying to shut it up.  My husband and mother ran to the door and since the doorknob had been removed earlier that week, the chair I put in front of it was no good.  I thought I was protecting them from whatever demons lived in my room and followed me everywhere except to the mailbox.  I took to checking the neighbors mailboxes at all hours to get relief from talking shadows and something I am certain was the devil.  Even though all of this is crammed into, “…the time I got really sick,” talking around it really only made me question if it all really happened.  Everyone gets sick, right? Not everyone ends up in a padded room, literally in a padded room.  It was a hard return to normal last time.  After, I remember being afraid to smile too much or be too happy–  what if people thought I was acting weird.  The little square of emotions I decided were safe and didn’t make me stand out became my normal for a time that lasted much longer than the prescriptions and weekly treatments.  That was last time.

I’m sure if I opened up that yellow envelope holding medical records from the months surrounding what the doctors called a flare, I would find answers.  Answers and reassurances that I wasn’t crazy.  That envelope has sat in the same box for a long time unopened–  I think the part I know is enough about the last time.  Flares are for the road, to warn people.  I always thought they looked like dynamite and marveled at the magic when I saw the light crack through the red papery skin of the dynamite stick.  The time leading up to my flare that changed my life was painful ignorance.  After the days searching a mirror for a glimpse of me, it was still painful.  Losing control is like a falling feeling. I dislike falling and I came to despise feeling.  In those younger years I was like most, pondering life in the way only the young can.  I’m fortunate to have been rattled awake and minimize the wastefulness of such an idle search.

I can’t get rid of lupus but it can get rid of me.  It’s as much a part of me as the veins and synapses that translate forgotten memory to whisper to sigh.  There is no magic pill to kill lupus.  There is no test except the one that brings you within an inch of death sometimes and unmasks what you wish remained unseen.

I kept the news that I was in the hospital quiet this time. In a few days, it will be the 1 month mark.  The day I woke up and went to quick doctor’s appointment during an early lunch from work and found myself in a hospital. Honestly, I don’t know why I asked the few people who knew to give me space.  Maybe because sometimes I think it’s harder for people I care about.  Maybe because it makes it easier for me to tell myself a nice lie I need once in a while.  There isn’t anything they can do.  Their words and feelings conveyed to me over a lifetime are enough to sustain me through darkest times.  I live each day since the time I got sick in a way I can only hope confirms that for them.  That’s one thing about coming to terms with your own mortality early in life, you lose whatever it is that keeps us from telling people we love them and it changes your entire life. It did mine anyways.  I’m still technically in the flare and my purse sounds like a rattlesnake with all the medicine bottles. I went back to work and each time I look in the mirror, I see a little more of me each day.

I decided for isolation this time.  It was different than the other times lupus tried to take over.  The first few days, especially that first one, I was in denial.  I felt fine, I had just went to the doctor for a regular visit and somehow mistakes must have been made that landed me in an emergency room with a bag of infusion magic chemo on standby.  I decided to take a picture of the changes– real pictures.  I cropped them here and there but for the most part, they are unedited.  This was a particularly hard day of acceptance.  They are hard to look at and I thought long and hard about posting them with the story.  It captured something my words can’t.  Take what you can from it. This time was different.  Don’t let anything stop you grasshopper.  I’m not.


20150828_142328estela_caballero_1394183263_07 aEC Estela Latina Blogger

IMG_0169Before the 4th20151003_18444620150826_11432620150826_11512020150821_13224820150821_13241020150821_153027

Another Year, My Son

Days and nights

Was that you asleep

On the steps of the store

Just tired, so you seek

Things you don’t have

Things we don’t need

I’m tired too

A heavy sleep

And then

Tough love

Life moves on

My tough heart

Heavy heart

All I can do is weep

Tough love

Should I have bended more

Like the proverbial tree

Will you knock on my door


I fear you are in the prison of my dreams

Tough love my son

Doesn’t feel like love my son

Have I lost you

Once again to the streets

Tough love

The cycle son

Is killing you and me

Tough love

Hurts you

Hurts me

I swear that was you

Down the street

Tough love

I look away

It’s not you

I see

Tough love

My son

Is this really what must be

Tough love

Look where it’s got me

Tough love

Heavy heart

And a boy with no place to sleep

Tough love

As hard as I can be

I see your face everywhere

Please wake from

The seemingly forever sleep

Tough love

I love you

I need you to love you

Please come back to me


Dedicated to my son on this special day.



Fluffles 2.0 has wagered $20.00 that are as good as mine.  I told him Snow is gone.  As I shook his paw he smiled and asked, “Is anyone ever really gone?” and settled in for the wait.  Last night he whispered, “The night is dark and full of terrors,” before he went to bed.  I told him to cut it out because he was giving me the creeps.  He should be considered a suspect if I don’t show up to work tomorrow.  He hasn’t been the same since we marathoned all 5 seasons of Game Of Thrones.  I told him there was no other way to fully appreciate the premiere tonight.  He became especially interested in the house of black and white and where he could get his paws on some playdough…..



Sunday Morning

Look guys, I don’t remember anything after we drank that blue stuff with the fruit floating around it.  All I know is I was having this dream that I was at the dentist and I wake up and there’s a cat with it’s paws in my mouth asking me how good my insurance is and if I was serious about what I said…..

How Much Did I Drink?

Look guys, I don’t remember anything after we drank that blue stuff with the fruit floating around it.  All I know is I was having this dream that I was at the dentist and I wake up and there’s a cat with it’s paws in my mouth asking me how good my insurance is and if I was serious about what I said…..

My Uncle Spock

By Estela (Probably Part Vulcan) Caballero

Even though the show always said Spock was Vulcan, I was sure he had some Mexican in him.  Side by side pictures of Spock and my dad beg the question, “Might they even be brothers?”  Don’t go nuts Trekkies, I know his mom was human and his dad was Vulcan.  Spock was a weekly visitor into our home.  Sure, it was just a show but we only had three channels, maybe four if we made my little brothers take turns holding the square shaped antennae just right.  The good shows were something we looked forward to.  It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t remember a time when you couldn’t pull up your shows, anything really, at any time.3665471071_0f59d3e248_b

Before I could tell time, I used tv shows as a reference. An old broken watch rested among my most treasured belongings in the corner of the closet.  As my mom would hurry out the door after making us food to eat while she was at work, she would ask me to recite the schedule of what she needed to make sure I did while she was at work.  I would quickly retrieve my watch from the closet and tell my mom not to worry, I knew what time everything needed to happen and show her I had my watch. If the potato processing plant she was working at needed extra people to cover the next shift, they would give employees little or no notice, often waiting until the last hour to tell them it was their turn for mandatory overtime.  There were no cell phones to call and check up on us during her breaks.  We didn’t always have a working land line.  “When________ ends, make sure you check you’re brother to see if he needs to be changed” or “Make sure you brothers and sister go to bed after ________.”  The only time I saw my mom sit still was when she was driving–  that didn’t seem to count since she was driving.  Aside from that, she was on the move always preparing and readying.  She rarely spoke of her own childhood and would quickly change the subject when I asked her how she learned to tell time or what her favorite shows were when she was my age.  I came to understand that I should stop asking.

Star Trek was a marker and it’s possible the reason those old shows occupy a special place in my memories was because they were sometimes the only constant in rough waters.  Spock helped my dad learn English and he inspired me to think in a new way.  He gave my mother comfort. She knew his visit to our home would ensure her youngest got a fresh diaper if her oldest forgot.  I was the keeper of time and in charge during those hours but I was still a child, a relentless day dreamer and my mother knew that better than anyone else.  Spock helped a little Mexican girl watch over her brothers and sister.  A mental map would activate at the first sound of the theme music reminding us all of our pre show duties.  One brother would go grab a bottle for Buddy, the baby.  My sister would drag a large heavy blanket from the room and we’d all climb on after it was stretched close to the rickety table holding the tv.  Certain shows warranted a temporary peace between us and this was one of them.  In order for peace to be real, all of us had to like the show.

The baby  was named Buddy by my father.  Just before my mother went into labor, we were watching a Jerry Lewis movie with a suave character named Buddy Love.   Buddy was number five and by then both my mom and dad had several chances to draw a line in the sand over who would chose the name.  They already had two boys and two girls and Buddy didn’t sound too bad.  She worked all the way up to the day Buddy was born and her maternity leave would last little more than most people took off over the holidays.  She was tired and had only enough energy to firmly convey Buddy was fine but my dad was pushing his luck if he told the nurse Buddy’s middle name was Love one more time.  I was happy his name was Buddy.  When people asked why we called my chubby littlest brother Buddy or “Booodgie” as my dad’s family pronounced it, the story would bring laughter even if they had heard the story many times before.  My mother and father would laugh.  As things went from bad to worse, as they too often do, I would try to retell the story and break the harshness permeating everything from the air to their looks at each other.  Even the silence sought refuge from the heartbreak of a family breaking apart for good.

I learned to tell time that year.  Spock and I grew apart for a time.  The possibilities learned in those days as the keeper of time never left me, even as I eventually joined the masses at the factory myself. I found little comfort in the cell phone tucked in my lunch bag. It was night and my tiny daughter should be sleeping.  At lunch time, I didn’t eat.  I was certain I could work 20 years and still not feel right eating my lunch at 2 am.  Instead I sat there and remembered sitting in front of the small screen, a tattered blanket became a magical carpet.  I got to travel through space and go where no man has gone before.  A rapt audience sat quietly on the floor in front of the tv and couldn’t wait to see what strange new worlds were waiting.  Anything was possible, that’s for sure.

As you can see, Spock is probably at least half Mexican and/or my dad is half Vulcan.  Don’t go all Mendel’s cross pollination on me.  The way it happened or percentages don’t matter–  look at those eyebrows.  I couldn’t photoshop it that close even if I wanted to. Live long and prosper–  and dream.  Dream big, then do it.

Spock Nacho and Spock Buddy



Another brother– Jaime Spock with my dad.




Photo To Wood Transfer Tutorial

This photo to wood transfer tutorial is one of the most popular posts on Hello Creative Family. It was one of the very first projects that I did on my original blog, Sew Creative. I think people love it so much because of the step by step photos and instructions. It’s a fun project, but does require a bit of patience. You’ll notice as you go through my instructions that I actually did this project twice. I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it turned out the first time, so I scraped the wood and tried again. It’s not a fast project, but if you have patience and stick with it, you’ll get beautiful results. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions! -Crystal



What you need:

-A piece of wood (mine was a small cutting board from the thrift store)

-A laser printed copy of your photo on copier paper, the copy should be the mirror image of how you would like it to appear on the wood. This ONLY works with laser copies. It won’t work with ink jet. (Make sure this is printed on regular paper, not photo paper.)

-Modge Podge

-Gel Medium (I used Martha Stewart’s Gesso. You can find Gel Medium at any Michael’s or Joann’s stores… don’t forget to bring your coupons!)

-A sponge brush

-Scissors to cut out your photo

-A rag to soak your photo

-A cup or plate to pour your gel medium and modge podge into

-A boning tool or plastic card to get the air bubbles out with


Step 1: Print out the image you would like to transfer using a laser printer. Unfortunately ink jet printouts won’t work for this project. Most copy stores (Kinko’s, Staples) use laser printers. You may want to mirror your image as the transfer will make your image the reverse of how it is printed.


Step 2: Trim your image to the size that you want it to be on the wood.

Step 3: Put a layer of gel medium on the printed side of your photo.Photo-to-wood-transfer-at-Sew-Creative-gesso-step

Step 4: Put a layer of gel medium on the wood, then lay the paper photo side down onto the wood. Use your plastic card or boning tool to remove any bubbles of gel medium from between the paper and wood by smoothing the card over the paper pushing excess to the outer edges. Make sure all of your corners are stuck to the wood with the gel medium. If it’s not stuck it won’t transfer.

Step 5: Wipe away excess gel medium from around photo then leave to dry for at least 4 hours.

Step 6: 4 plus hours later, once the paper has completely dried, dampen a rag with warm water and and lay it over top of your photo. Leave for approximately 5 minutes.Photo-to-wood-transfer-at-Sew-Creative-soaking-step

Step 7: Once the paper is damp comes the fun, but time intensive part of this project. Stand over a sink, wet your fingers and slowly start rubbing your finger over the paper, almost using your finger like sand paper. The photo copy is going to appear to split in half. The white part of the paper will start to lift away and the paper with the ink will stick to the wood. Take this part very, very slow. If you go to fast the ink will lift away from the wood and you will be left with bare patches.

*Note- having done this step several times now I have come up with the following technique. I stand at the sink and slowly remove the top layer of paper using circular motions with my fingers. I am constantly wetting my fingers and lightly rinsing the wood under the sink to wash off clumps of paper. Once I think I have the first layer of paper off I set the wood down for a couple of minutes and clean up all of the paper bits. This will give the transfer time to dry. When you look at it you will probably see that there are still places where there is a thin layer of paper left, the image will look cloudy. Wet down your fingers and start “sanding” away again. When you can’t see any white cloudy bits anymore set aside again, clean up a bit while it dries, pick it up again and “sand” some more. I wet down and let me project dry 5-10 times before I was done.

Step 7: Leave your project to dry for about an hour then look at it to see if you are satisfied. Grab your boning tool and rough up the edges a bit if you like. You can take a gray sharpie marker and lightly dot in areas where the transfer doesn’t look quite right. If you need to you can wet it down and “sand” down some more if there are bits of paper that you missed. In my case I decided that I would prefer if my photo filled the entire front of the wood so I wet the wood down, scraped the project off and redid it.


Once your modge podge has dried you have a beautiful photo impact piece that will be commented on by everyone who enters your home. They also make great gifts!


I hope you enjoyed our Photo To Wood Transfer Tutorial. If you have any questions please ask and I’d be more than happy to try to answer. I would love to see the results of your Photo to Wood Transfer projects.


The Blasphemy of Frida

Speak not of who I married.


In my own right.

Imitation grand

So flattering

Begin tonight

Step back

Forget what Frida likes


Let it be.

After all,

Who do you think had to die

The day

The known Frida found life?

Be present,

Be alive.

If I remain sleeping

Who rises to fight?

Small wonder,

Crossing into insanity

Imprisoned but able to fly

Critics and plain old apathy

It’s hard to look at her straight in the eyes

The lady

The strange one with nothing but time.

Countless skulls now painted in tribute

Let them be,

This is your time

Let Frida rest

Names, remains

Stake claim,

Ignore the games

Dear Frida, dreamed this way.

A time when little daughters

Walked bold and fought the crimes

That happen

Time and time

The prize was not fame

It was legacy born of a day

Who would have faulted a broken girl

Had she chose to stay hidden away?

Before you give your voice away

Or bow to self imposed shame

Consider for a moment

This was yours

Her legacy

It’s your day,

when Frida remembers your name


Estela Caballero

Escrito para mi hija, sobrinas, hermanas, mama, primas, abuelas amigas y las que todavia no nacen.

If you want to know more, I’ve succeeded!

The bio and chisme sobre


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