Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Small Regrets

As we get older it's only natural to look back over our lives and take measure. What did we accomplish that we are most proud of, what do we regret? Although I do not believe in living in the past, it is not a thing to be forgotten for it is the sum and substance of who we are today. And I do not believe in dwelling on the negative, it only impedes our progress forward.

But I do have one regret that stays with me, and that is not having a chance to complete my education. As I came to the end of my high school years and had to think about college (Massachusetts Institute of Art, Rhode Island School of Design and RIT came to mind) I knew I wanted to pursue an education in art. Unfortunately, my family and the times did not encourage four years of college for girls. The women in my family had laid out my future and although I was allowed two years of junior college, it was more in preparation for marriage and motherhood than a career.

So off I went to what was, basically, a glorified finishing school and proceeded to drop out after the first year to marry a bad boy. (This in a foolish effort to get away from abusive and controlling parents.) Four years later I had two little girls, a divorce from the bad boy, who didn't pay child support, and a job to support my children.

Admittedly, I regret the marriage to the bad boy, but have never regretted the two beautiful children that the marriage produced. They hardly know him, but the three of us have a very special bond and as adults they are my dear friends as well as my incredible daughters.

Which, in a roundabout way, gets me back to education. I never did have the time or the finances to complete my education and, as an artist, I am pretty much self-taught. I am proud of the accomplishments I have made on my own but am well aware of the fact that the proper college would have made a very big difference. I would've learned much of what I needed to know in a considerably shorter period of time, I would've had the experience of college, which helps us grow in other ways, and I would've had a degree. Which would have meant a lot, for, you see, I would have loved to teach.

To my grandchildren, who read their Mimi's blog, I will reiterate how important I think education is. I believe that something beyond high school, be it college, trade school, apprenticeships or hands on learning, is important to the success of your future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thank You

Saxton's River, VT

Thank you, everyone, for your condolences and kind words on the loss of my dear companion, Hattie the cat. I miss her terribly but have wonderful memories to warm me.

I'm taking a short break. My sister, Lynn, is coming for a four-day visit (woo hoo) and we are having another "ladies night" on Friday night to wish our Mary a bon voyage and to congratulate her on a clean bone scan. She has survived two bouts of breast cancer and, after a bit of a scare, is now cancer free. All the girls will get to meet my sister, and to complete the festivities, Barbara will be joining my sister and me for an overnight.

My broken camera is a goner, it can't be fixed but I have a new one and am looking forward to sharing pictures of the coming weekend with you next week.


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Not too long ago, I wrote about my very spunky, beautiful and loving Siamese cat, Hattie. I am writing now to say goodbye.

On Saturday afternoon she came and sat on my lap for an unusually long time. I know now that it was her farewell to me, her last gift, for when she left my lap she curled up in her favorite spot and refused to get up for food, water or love. She died of end-stage renal failure, and we were stunned. She had shown no signs whatsoever of discomfort or distress.

She was with us for 18 years and I will miss her more than I can say. She has been my constant companion, always ready for a snuggle, a tummy rub, a walk in the woods or a game of hide and seek.

Goodbye, my sweet friend, sleep well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Barbara has been helping me finish the job of cleaning up and straightening out my studio. I have given many of the tools of my profession to my grandchildren and artist friends, and although I hated to see them go, there was a certain satisfaction in seeing people I love take pleasure in working with the bright colors and textures I have enjoyed using in my creations over the years.

It has also been a journey of discovery. We have found scraps of paper with notes or sketches of ideas tucked into textbooks, stacks of paper and supply drawers. Small jewels from the past, bright lights of memory.

I have always tried to photograph my work and when I was given a digital camera, I started taking pictures of finished pieces and burning them onto discs. This last week the process of reorganization brought us to my stacks of discs. I have been going through them and am posting a few of my favorites. The following paintings were all done with colored pencils, a medium I discovered about six years ago.

Morning Gold

Just Pink

Sunlight and Petals

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Quality of Life

Quality of life is not a subject I ever thought I would be writing about, especially not at the age of 65 and not about me. But it has been on my mind for three years now, ever since my ALS diagnosis (about four years symptomatic.) I have learned a lot in those three years and because it's an important subject for most of us at some point in our lives, usually because of parents, but sometimes because of siblings, friends, our children or ourselves, I have decided to share my thoughts.

In the beginning, trouble with my hands or difficulty on the stairs didn't seem to be such a big deal and denial was easy. This couldn't be happening to me. But as time passed and I had to quit a job I loved, give up kayaking, hiking and the like and relinquish my driving privileges, reality began to set in. When I started falling down and had to purchase a walker and wheelchair, I came face-to-face with some very hard truths.

What's worse, I was alone most of the time during the week as my husband had to work, everyone in my family works and my friends work. I was terrified and although I swore I would fight with everything I had and promised myself to keep a good attitude, there was too much time to think. And one of the things I thought was that if I ever reached the point where I could not take care of myself and became a prisoner in my own body, could not go to the bathroom, wash, feed or tend to my own needs, I would be done and would not want to go on. I knew at some point I would have to get someone in to care for me, but that made me feel worse rather than better because I could not picture myself helpless in the hands of a stranger. I was trying hard but could feel the smothering blanket of depression coming down around me, I was looking into the abyss.

Then Barbara, my caregiver, came into my life and I learned something very important. I believe that quality of life is a personal thing, we each have to decide what we can and cannot live with, but I now know that quality of care can make or break how you feel about living. Some of the people who care for the elderly or the infirm are not what I would call true caregivers, there is a difference and that difference makes all the difference. For those of us who need their help, we also need to keep our sense of pride and emotional independence. Barbara has a heart that is huge and a giving soul and she has become my friend, we are in this together and she is helping me to fight on. Instead of the helpless, self-conscious feeling of embarrassment that I had expected, I find comfort in her ministrations, camaraderie and empowerment. She helps me to keep my sense of self; I am about me, not my disease.

As my dear friend Tammy and a few others have proven, sometimes ALS stops progressing for no apparent reason. And there is always the hope for a cure. What I didn't know before but know now is that with the right caregivers by the side of those of us who need them, it is easier to fight, easier to hold onto hope, easier to live a worthwhile life. Family and friends are extremely important, but the caregivers are our lifelines.

Friday, January 04, 2008

It's All In De Feet!

Since my camera was broken at Christmas time this year, I am waiting for photographs to filter in from the family. The first to arrive was a photo of my favorite gang in their bunny slippers, given to them by Angela, Willie's daughter.
We had a delightful, wonderful Christmas, all of us gathered together Christmas Eve at my daughter Debbie's house, in high spirits and good humor.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy New Year and all of us another year of friendships over the net.

Peace, everyone.