Looking Back – Day 5

Today is Day 5 of the Art Apple A Day Retrospective – for information on the project click here.

Day Five – October 5, 2010

Looking back 10 years ago today…

I woke up so relieved I had survived Day 4! But here I was again and I realized I had better come up with some plan to spark inspiration or I’d be burning the midnight oil far too often and I’m a bed by nine kind of gal!

Thankfully I had received my first request two days earlier. My friend Sandy was in the midst of Breast Cancer treatment and wondered if I could create a pink apple for her. My first thought was, “wait, aren’t these apples for AS awareness? is it ok that I create one for Breast cancer?” And just as quickly as the thought entered my mind it was replaced with, “I’m creating an apple for Sandy” because of course I would!!! (Her request is on Day One in the comments)

If you click to see my original post for Day 5 you will see that the October 5th apple did not end up being Sandy’s apple however… I did create one you will see later this month!

Shifting to today in 2020 I’d like to share some thoughts on resting. I rest my body most afternoons from around 4pm until the time I feed my dog Lucy and cat Bittie, typically around 5:30pm. Obviously there are days I can’t do this but if I’m home and finished with my work I do. It’s a habit that helps me manage the resources of my body and disease. In my 30’s and 40’s I didn’t want to share with people the amount of time I needed to rest because during the crisis years it was a LOT. Now, it is about maintenance and balance and really, it’s habit too – now I’m writing my daily post while I’m laying down which makes me VERY happy.

Taking the weight off my spinal column for a bit before making dinner or doing evening activities really helps me enjoy my time at night with my husband and if I go too many days without this schedule I can feel the difference so this is part of my approach to maintain as healthy a life as possible. I’m active and move in the morning, I am productive for the day, I rest for a bit late day, I enjoy my evening, and I get to bed early. The list of things I do to be as healthy as possible is long and it has been developed over the last 15 plus years. Getting a diagnosis and being put on medication isn’t a magic pathway to remission – it takes work and exploration and then it takes more of the same and an openness to adding new items to the list as new approaches are tested. In fact, I’ve had more success in reducing pain and fatigue just in the past two years than any year prior and that’s because I continue to explore new things.

If you hear someone say that something helps them, consider trying it out. I add something new one at a time as much as possible so that I can evaluate its effectiveness. This isn’t a one and done type of disease – it takes a multi-pronged approach and it takes a lifeboat (more on the lifeboat at a later date) and it takes flexibility of thought and attitude. Beware of people who say something doesn’t work because that is ONLY their experience. I’ll share all of my long list as the days go on but today’s tip is rest mid day (preferable lay down to take the weight off your spine) because your back will thank you and if you flare – shut it all down full stop. Flares mean something is really not going right and rest is the first prong of flare fighting.

And the story will continue tomorrow…

Side note: My friend Sandy is cancer free and doing great!

Day One – Retrospective Post

Today is Day One of the Art Apple A Day Retrospective – for information on the project click here.

Day One – October 1, 2010

I had just been reading one of Seth Godin‘s books (who at one point I emailed and actually received an email response – gosh I wish I still had that email)

And that’s when I got a wild hair.

Truly, that was what it was because seriously… what was I possibly thinking? A piece of art every day paired with a blog post? I had no idea what I had just set myself up for.

Anyway… I had been reading his book, The Bootstrapper’s Bible, because I was at a point after years of struggling with my health that I was finally seeing that life might be able to go on. I had to figure out what the heck I was going to do with myself. I had managed first a part time job, then a full time one that required two hours of commuting a day and occasional travel and getting those jobs required some major finagling having been out of the workforce for so long. The pace I was managing is extremely difficult for anyone I told myself but I desperately did not – could not – go back to where I was before the therapy and medications started working. I realized I had to design my future in a way that could accommodate my limitations. I quit the full time job with no clear path forward.

(There is actually more to this point in the story and I’ll share it at some appropriate time during the next 364 days – it’s a doozie!)

During this crossroad, reading Mr. Godin’s book and manifesto to hopefully figure something out, the first two sentences caught me and sparked the idea:

“I am a bootstrapper. I have initiative and insight and guts, but not much money.”

~ Seth Godin

The job realization beat down what little self confidence I had built back up and I now know that being a Bootstrapper with a chronic degenerative disease was a book in and of itself and the one that might have been more appropriate but I’m the ‘leap and the net will appear’ kind of person.

Here I was, I had no money and no job. Thankfully my husband cared for me all those years I wasn’t working but we didn’t have the resources for me to launch any kind of endeavor and the what ifs were piled so high I couldn’t see past them. However, the me from “Before AS” was a bootstrapper at heart and I’ve always been called to create. Reading the manifesto I realized that if I shared my story in a small and joyful way it could be an entré to building confidence and finding my way back to myself which would lead me to design that life I was looking for.

And, so, I quickly created this extremely simple digital apple on my phone (you can see how low the quality is – this was a phone app from 10 years ago!) and posted it immediately so I wouldn’t lose my nerve! I was afraid if I waited to the following day to create in the traditional way I was proposing, that I would talk myself out of, “Art Apple A Day” and I can’t even imagine my life now, without this being a part of me and the AS community.

To see my first post from 10 years ago click here or on the image above.

And the story will continue tomorrow!

Apples For A.S. ~ 10 Years Later

On October 1st it will be 10 years since I took a giant leap into a year long project to raise awareness of a disease I have called Ankylosing Spondylitis or Axial/Undifferentiated Spondyloarthritis ~ A.S. for short because those full names are ridiculous!

My story is like so many who have A.S. It’s about the challenges we face when our health becomes compromised and severe pain & fatigue invades our bodies. I’m not over stating this – it is extremely scary to see your young body shut down. A. S. strikes people in the prime of their lives so a huge part of the issue is we are not believed. In fact, we’re told many demoralizing things like,

“Yeah, my back hurts too.” or “Try Turmeric, it will stop your joint pain!” 

I even had a Doctor from Stanford ask me how my marriage was. Seriously.

Many of the suggestions for overall immune and joint health are well meaning and valid – I now incorporate many into my health regiment. 

BUT… during what I call the crisis years… when your body is in such revolt and you have no answers – these suggestions are actually very hurtful. What we need is educated doctors and empathetic family and friends. We need to be heard so that we can get back to our lives.

For many with AS it takes almost 10 years to receive a diagnosis. Our search for answers is exhausting, frustrating, and long but I was finally referred to a Rheumatologist who kept working on sorting out the symptoms and believed me and didn’t give up. After finally receiving a diagnosis the long road to being “better” ~ but unfortunately not cured ~ can finally begin. 

With a treatment plan I started to feel improvement ~ the worst of the crisis was past ~ I could move again and think again.

But I was angry!

I wanted to scream at the unfairness that most of my 30’s were basically a bust. At this point I was trying to figure out how to move past the hurt and do something constructive with the new understanding of what I had just endured. 

I wondered how I could share my story to help others. Ten years is too long to be in such pain and basically disabled – I was almost bed ridden for the couple of years before finding help. (Those who knew me before AS and those who know me now find this very difficult to imagine and it is a difficult truth to share). If you are struggling with any health crisis I hope my story gives you strength and hope. A.S. treatments aren’t magic, the disease is difficult; it fluctuates from day to day and year to year and for many the treatments aren’t effective or accessible but there is hope to find your way to a better place.

I wanted to share hope most of all so I came up with the idea to use art as a way to focus myself and gain interest in learning about A.S. 

“Art Apple A Day”  was created! I chose apples because they are a symbol of health. 

Each day for a full year, via my blog and social media, I shared a piece of apple art along with stories of challenges, thoughts, and successes and sometimes all I could manage was creating the artwork. My apples became a vehicle to discuss difficult topics in a mostly positive manner and to my surprise I also found friendships online with so many amazing people who understood what I had gone through because they too had A.S. Over the course of the year and since that first apple, the community of strong, courageous, and loving people have become like family.  

{{{ I LOVE you guys!!! }}}

The year was a huge challenge in so many ways but I wouldn’t change it for anything and I am stronger for it! Now after all this time, I will share the journey once again, along with new insights, stories about what happened in the background, and 12 new apples – one for each month this time! I hope you’ll say hello and join me once again or for the first time because An Art Apple A Day might not keep the doctor away but I promise you it will be something interesting and positive in your timeline!

You can find me here as I take a retrospective look back each day or on Facebook and Instagram. Please don’t be a stranger – stop by and say hello!

See you October 1st!

Art Apple A Day – 365 Apples Created Everyday For A Year!

Hello & welcome!


Thank you for your interest in the Apples For AS. The Art Apple A Day project was created by Jennifer Dye Visscher to help raise awareness of a disease she has called Ankylosing Spondylitis.

The apples are posted in blog format so you will see the last apple first. To start from Apple ONE please visit here.  Each apple is posted with thoughts, ideas, and in a blog or diary format. If you are looking for specific information related to this project or about spondylitis you will find a search box in the top black bar for your convenience.

To stay up to date on the latest happenings with Jenna, please stop by her current website JenniferVisscher.com 

All my best, and thank you for learning a bit about my apples and their significance!


Day 364 – One More Apple

One day to go.

I can’t believe it. Only one apple left after tonight. It’s been a crazy few days and to be honest – I’m feeling exhausted. Between the event preparations of this last month, the travel and jet lag, and the early morning today to get ready for being at KPIX at 7:00 am has been a bit much. When you have AS, you prepare and plan. How long can I do something, how long can I stand, sit, or walk. We think of contingencies and then prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But what happens is that sometimes we go to New York city and spend the day in the hotel room.

I expected this would be the schedule but I hoped for boundless and endless energy! Oh well – I know I’ll make it through the Apple-A-Thon. Resting today was just a little bit of added insurance. My family and friends will be with me – holding me up and cheering me on. I love you all so much for doing this with me, for taking your time and your energies and sharing them with me, for my dreams. I love you all so very much.

Until tomorrow.


Day 364 was created in acrylics and graphite.

***For any of you who haven’t seen the interview yet – here’s the link! Make sure to take a look at the great article the station did for us below the video!

***When we got to the station – two things happened that I thought I’d share. First, the producer said “wow, we wish you could paint an apple while you talk” – can you imagine! I’d love to paint an apple on t.v. but no one would have heard a word I said about AS. Maybe if I’ve got 10 minutes on a show and not 2! How bout next time??? Second thing was that they said all of my apples were too small (I thought we’d gone over that!) and did I have something bigger? Quick call to my Dad back at the hotel and he jumped in a cab and brought over the Apple-A-Thon Poster which ended up being perfect – and Dad got to see the inner workings of the t.v. station too! All in all, it all worked out and it was a great experience. Hopefully a little bit of knowledge and awareness about AS was spread today!

***Here’s a photo of me resting with my niece Parker and nephew Beckett. Parker picked out this beautiful magnet for me today – it’s an apple and I adore it!

***My thoughts today with my friend Amanda and her daughter Alexandra.

Day 361 – Happy Apple Day!

Today is Johnny Appleseed Day!

I for one will celebrating and thinking about the glorious apple.

They have come to mean so much to me and hopefully to you all as well. Maybe I had apples on the brain all those months ago because it is simply the time of the year for the apple harvests. Perhaps it was that the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was so meaningful at the time but for sure the idea sparked in me for a reason.

What do you think Johnny Appleseed would think of blue spondylitis apples? I have a feeling he’d approve!

Until tomorrow.


Day 361 was created with a few separate images of an old Johnny Appleseed $.05 postage stamp pieced together to make into a square instead of a rectangle as the original stamp was created. Ink and watercolors to give it a bit of paint and color!

*** My Mom asked me to add a note to today’s post that she plans on responding to every comment that you all made on her guest blog post from Day 350 – My Mom’s Perspective. She was so touched by your comments that she wanted to have the time to respond thoughtfully to each of you. I will post here once she’s done in the next week or so. In the mean time she’s says she’s looking forward to the Apple-A-Thon!

Day 360 – We Feel It

“A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.” – Japanese Proverb

Last week a great article was written in the Huffington Post by Daniel P. Malito who writes about Rheumatiod Arthritis in their health section as well as for Creaky Joints.

His article explains in clear terms what happens in the body when Autoimmune Disease is triggered. I was stunned by the comments – I had to weigh in myself because people turned his article into a three ring circus of ways to “cure” us and all of the things we’ve done to bring these diseases on ourselves. These comments we feel deeply. Very deeply. Like arrows in our hearts.

It’s time for us to fight back – shoot those arrows back at them. One comment here and there won’t have an effect but if we bundle our shots together, we can change this perception.

The comments could wound me if I let them. I choose to not let them anymore.

Until tomorrow.


Day 360 was created in graphite and watercolor.

Day 359 – Our Skeleton Key

A skeleton key has come to symbolize something that can unlock a mystery.

Sometimes I think that Ankylosing Spondylitis will always remain somewhat of an enigma to me.

I wish I could unlock each door I have to pass through on this journey with my health and know what was on the other side. I wish we all had a magic key – an AS key to be a symbol or talisman to help us get through times of change with courage and strength. It might look something like this!

Until tomorrow.


Day 359 was created in gold ink and watercolor.

*** I’m stunned and awed by the support that is coming in. A big thank you to everyone who has donated to the Apple-A-Thon fundraiser.

*** We received our first corporate donation today in the amount of $500 from BJC Health in Australia! who will be putting their commissioned apple in the lobby of their Spondyloarthritis Clinic – too cool.

*** Thank you Tom Contrino for your $150 donation!

In The Studio

Thank you Doug for working tirelessly today.

Thank you to my parents for working tirelessly today!

Thank you to Bill Beckwith of School House Farms for donating a bushel of apples for the event!

Day 358 – Don’t Be Fooled By The Calendar

Don’t be fooled by the calendar.  There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.  ~Charles Richards


Every day is made use of even the ones where we rest, reflect, and chill! I remember the days on end when all I wanted was some relief of my symptoms. I know many of you are still in that place and I so wish it weren’t so. I still have those days although they are fewer between. I am feeling a huge responsibility to make sure that I express correctly how difficult most of the days with Spondylitis can be.

Please know I will do my best in my upcoming interviews. If you can express for me how you would say it – it would help me.

Until tomorrow.


Day 358 was created in watercolor.

*** Thankfully computer issues resolved!

*** Thank you to the Spondylitis Association of America for this wonderful page sharing the Apple-A-Thon

*** Have you seen the donations page? Holly set up a great page – please take a look!

*** Guest Apples are flooding in – please send in yours too. Here all the news that’s fit to print.

Day 357 – A New View

Take in a new view – you never know the wonders you might see.

Until tomorrow.


Day 357 was created in watercolor.

***Update on my computer issues – they are official. I’m posting tonight from Doug’s computer. So frustrating.