Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ms. Hattie

My Siamese cat, Hattie, deserves a mention on my blog since she is so very dear to me and is a unique character in her own right. She is a petite, 71/2-pound seal point with a very light chest and dark caboose and will be turning 18 this spring. Amazingly, she doesn't look like she's aged a day since she reached maturity. She is still quite spry and takes pleasure in chasing a crumpled piece of paper around the house, occasionally overshooting and going into a tuck and roll. Her passion for hunting has dimmed, however, much to my husband's and my relief, as she was a most accomplished hunter.

She is quite sociable and when she wants your attention, will climb upon the arm of the chair you are sitting in and stare deeply into your eyes, daring you to ignore her. If you do, she will reach out with a paw and tap you on the arm in order to get the attention she feels she deserves and if you ignore her still, she will unsheathe her claws just enough to make her point. Tucked in beside you or on your lap is the final objective.

Last week my husband bought her the first pouch of catnip she'd had in quite some time and we were very curious to see what our old girl would do it. While we watched, she bit it, rolled it around and did the usual rubbing up against and sliding over it that most cats do. She then did something I've never seen a cat do before. After staring it down for a minute or two, she walked over to it and sat on it as if she were staking a claim. Since that first encounter she has chosen to use it as a rest for her front paws or to sleep on. It seems that, in her dotage, she is a rather passive cat when she's wrecked.

Sadly, I have no pictures of her antics to share with you since my digital camera is kaput. I am hoping to find someone who can repair it before Christmas

Monday, November 19, 2007


My ALS clinic was last Wednesday and the good news is that I am still doing better than expected after three years into this disease. The good news is that although my voice has been affected to some degree, it is still fairly strong (my singing sucks but that's not a big change, ask anyone). I can still eat and swallow with ease and my facial muscles are minimally compromised. The good news is that although my arms and legs can no longer carry me through my days, they still have the ability to jive a little to a good Dixie Chicks tune and my core muscles can still keep me sitting up straight enough and strong enough to do a mini chair dance.

The bad news is that I am only moving half of the air in and out of my lungs as I was a year ago but the good news is that I am getting all the oxygen I need from the air that I breath. There are times when I am uncomfortable, but it's nothing I can't handle. I do have to see a pulmonary specialist for a more refined test and a second opinion, but all in all, my doctor and my team of therapists were impressed with how well I am managing.

So this Thanksgiving I am giving thanks to a body that keeps on fighting, to a spirit that believes in living each day to the fullest and to the people who help keep that body and spirit strong whenever I need them to. And thanks to all of you who come here and share my days, it means more than you know.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and always… peace.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The First Weekend of Hunting Season

Introducing the hunting widows,
clockwise from bottom left: Kathy, Kathy,
Joanne, Carol, Mary and Susan.
You know the gal in the middle...

...And my new friend and caregiver, Barbara (I had to
wait until I had a picture she approved of!)
That's Susan peeking out from behind.

Once again it's hunting season in Vermont. On Friday night the men headed to hunting camp for a night of camaraderie before the opening of the season on Saturday morning and, as we always do, the hunting widows got together for an evening of the same. Since we are all very busy with home, family, grandchildren, and jobs, we don't always have the opportunity to get together in a group as often as we would like and this was a chance to catch up. My home was filled with the warmth of good friends, great conversation and the ring of laughter.

My caregiver, Barbara, joined us this year and was a wonderful addition to the festivities, adding her humor and spark to the mix. She spent the night with me and my kayaking buddies, Susan and Kathy, came back the next morning and joined us for breakfast. Thanks to Kathy we were treated to raisin, cinnamon French toast with Vermont syrup, a favorite. Following breakfast we went for a walk in the crisp morning air before they had to head home.

Saturday afternoon my daughters and granddaughters came to spend the afternoon, night and following morning with me and we spent our time going through all my old photographs, watching my home movies from the years when I took care of my grandchildren and playing Scrabble. Sunday morning my daughters touched up my highlights, straightened up the house and got me dressed. My granddaughters took on a job started by my friend Lolly and finished printing the pages of my blog, putting them in plastic sleeves and into the half filled notebook. My granddaughter, Paige, designed my cover, but that's another story.

Sunday afternoon my husband's daughter, Angela, came over to keep me company. We chatted and watched a movie while we waited for her father to come home and he and I were treated to a delicious meal of enchiladas that she had made and brought with her.

It was a wonderful, WONDERFUL weekend and I want to say thank you to family and friends!

Tomorrow I head to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital for an ALS clinic. My breathing and overall progression will be tested and any problems I'm having will be addressed. Although I have good doctors and I like them, I'm not particularly fond of clinic and grateful that my daughters and Barbara will be along for support.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Friends, Old and New

It's been a little over a year since I started blogging and in that time you have read quite a bit about my family and friends, all the people I love and who support me in my battle against ALS. This post is about one of my oldest friends and my newest friend.

I met Lolly almost 28 years ago and we took to each other instantly. On the surface it would seem that we have nothing in common. She is soft-spoken and quietly passionate, I tend to be very animated and overly exuberant about my passions. She doesn't like to drive; I used to travel all over the place alone, including cross-country. She's not nuts about outdoor sports, I love them. There are these outward differences but fundamentally, where it counts, we are very much alike and she is my soul mate.

We are both artist's, not just because of what we create but also because of how we see the world. We are oversensitive to everything around us and care deeply about the human condition. We share a sense of humor, a fondness for the same kinds of movies and music and a burning passion for the beauty of nature. We can talk endlessly or sit in comfortable silence, happy in each other's company.

Barbara came into my life towards the end of summer and is my caregiver. She is also a friend. I can do very little on my own and she tends to my needs with compassion and caring, never making me feel like less because of my illness. As important as that is, it's not why she means so much to me. What counts the most is the person that she is, a warm, exuberant woman with a heart as big as her enthusiasm for life.

She enters my house every morning with a positive attitude and a sense of humor to equal my own. We share a zest for living and the inane, and often find ourselves overcome with laughter, tears streaming down our faces.

Every day these women are a part of my life, helping me to stay balanced, helping me to fight my disease, holding me up when it all seems like too much and listening when I need to talk.

I cherish the constant presence of Lolly in my life, my dear old friend, and welcome Barbara’s, my dear new one.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Stoked on Art

Photoshop is a Pandora's box of goodies. It lends itself to endless hours of experimentation with a multitude of techniques and possibilities. I recently discovered a new application, one that makes it possible to create Photoshop fractals and I have just begun to explore its potential. I am super stoked! Rather than bore you with words, I'll share my excitement by posting some of my "first try" images. Artistically, this is a whole new direction for me and I can't wait to see where it leads!

Untitled I

Venus Flytrap


Red Dragon


Night Spirit

The Butterfly Effect

Midnight Garden

Blue Pearls

The Drugging of America

It is a fact that the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow the kind of drug advertising that we are exposed to on our televisions on a daily basis. The kind of advertising that plays on emotions and fear. The average person sees 10 or more drug ads every day and the message is very clear. If you've got a problem, they have a drug for it.

I have nothing against drugs; they save lives, smooth out chemical imbalances, kill viruses and are a necessary part of our lives. What I am against is doctors issuing prescriptions before they consider diet, exercise, rest or environment. And parents who think, with the first sneeze or sniffle, that their children need to be rushed to the doctors and put on antibiotics.

Our immune systems were meant to build up resistance to the many bugaboos that constantly attack it but with the over use of drugs, the only thing that's building up a resistance are the bugaboos. Witness the new, virulent strain of staff that has doctors and people on edge.

And then there are all those possibly dangerous side effects. This is of special concern for our children, whose bodies are small and unused to alien substances. Instead of Ritalin and the like, many parents are discovering that a change in their children's diets can make all the difference. By eliminating foods full of chemicals and refined sugars and by examining the possibility of allergies, many parents have realized dramatic changes in their children's behavior. Yes, sometimes drugs are necessary, but why start with the drugs? Why not start with the other possibilities first and then, if the holistic approach fails, administer drugs. There's a lot to be said in defense of proper diet and exercise and consideration of the whole being.

I place much of the blame for a drug-oriented society on our drug companies. They have made extraordinary strides with the development of drugs for a wide diversity of diseases and are, indeed, saving lives. But it seems that their bottom line is their focal point as they offer doctors huge incentives to get their drugs out for public consumption, which encourages greedy doctors to dispense drugs before they consider alternative approaches. And their constant bombardment of advertisements imply that anything that is wrong with us can be fixed with a pill and that there is no need for us to be uncomfortable or unhappy. A quick fix. Unfortunately, a lot of what is wrong with us is our diets and a lack of exercise, and there is no quick fix.

To the drug companies I say this: your profit margins are huge so if you want to impress me, spend less of your money on your bombardment of advertisements and pill pushing and more on making necessary drugs more accessible to the elderly and low income families by making them cheaper. And spend more of your profits researching cures for orphan diseases, the ones you don't see as profitable.The business of drugs is not just about business, it's about our lives.