Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.



When Water Was at a Premium

I remember two times as a child when water was at a premium, not in financial cost, but by a lack of water availability. The first place was when we lived in a summer cabin. There were six of us. Mom, Dad, my three siblings and I. If it didn't feel too creepy we could take baths in the creek water that came through the faucets.

Mom, having been from an area of Pennsylvania where this was not considered unusual convinced us this was normal and quite safe. Waterways were not so polluted as they are today. All we had to do was go back out to the dock and look straight down to the bottom of the creek through that clear water. So, what harm was there?

However, we were forbidden to drink this water. The only drinking water came from a spring up a steep hill from where we lived. My father and older brother used to go up there and fill up large containers of water and bring them home. A bucket sat in the corner of the kitchen with a long-handled cup in it. I'm sure in olden times a family might share this cup, going over to it to take a drink. However, Mom poured it into a Tupperware container and put it in the refrigerator so we could pour ourselves an individual glass of water. Otherwise, the long-handled cup was used to add water to cooking pots or for heating up for washing and rinsing the dishes.

The second circumstance where lack of water was an issue was when we lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse out in the country. The wide creaking floorboards of the kitchen housed a large trap door that led down to the storage cistern, our only source of water storage. Winter snow melt and rain helped to keep the cistern partly full. But, it was necessary to go out to the well as summer passed and the cistern went dry. We had to pump water into large pails which we used to wash dishes or mop floors. (not very sanitary, but we never thought about that).  At first, we all shared in pouring buckets of water into the cistern. But it seemed an unending chore until my big brother rigged up a rain gutter beneath the spigot so we could pump water directly into the cistern. My big brother was a really clever guy! At one point, though, even the well went dry and my father had to order water and have it delivered in a large truck, which then emptied water into our cistern.

When I think about it today, I shake my head in wonder. I live in California now. I lived in Western New York in my childhood. I expect to experience drought here, but not in New York. It makes me wonder what people did in times past when water was at a premium. The world I live in today makes it appear that water is abundant, yet not all that safe to drink. Therefore, it is popular habit to buy drinking water by individual bottles. Truck delivery is done by five-gallon jugs.


What to Expect from an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaginging)

If you have ever had an x-ray where they have you lie down on a table. having an MRI is a little bit like that except the "table" is narrower. However, you will be snug as a bug in a rug once inside the tube, as your body will be comfortable embraced and supported by the MRI machine. If you have ever had a CT scan you know that your body is automatically guided through a large hole without you having to move or anyone having to move you. An MRI is similar in the same way, except the hole is smaller and is longer. If you have ever slept in a top bunk with the ceiling above your head, it is similar to that, except the ceiling is closer. For some people, this can be intensely claustrophobic. If you know that you can't tolerate tight spaces like a too small public bathroom cubicle then you should arrange ahead of time to have something to calm you. Perhaps a tranquilizer pill, for example. Occasionally an IV can be given if necessary. Be sure to discuss these issues with the ordering doctor.

One of the best MRI experiences I ever had was when the ceiling of the space I was lying inside of was painted sky blue and had clouds. They gave me a pair of earphones to wear and I got to choose the music to be played. I had soft pillows under my knees, a warmed blanket laid over me and a pleasant recorded Lady-Voice speaking to me whenever instructions were given. There was a soft breeze wafting that came from behind my head. The banging and rat-tat-tatting of the machine never bothered me. I played a fantasy in my mind that I was hiding inside a hollow tree as a child while a woodpecker tapped on the tree.

One of the worst was when I had to lie flat, no pillows, in a cold room with just a single sheet over me. They insisted I wear earplugs. It was dark inside with a little row of mild lighting on each side. The ceiling was gray. A fan blew cold air right up my nose which started up a Migraine Headache. Because they insisted I wear earplugs, the extra loud, commanding, recorded male voice telling me to hold still, even though I was frozen into place, was the most annoying of all! I had a fantasy of being the "Incredible Hulk" and wringing the neck of whoever had set it up that way. Just kidding about that part.

Now, whenever I go for an MRI I wear sweats, or a jersey t-shirt type fabric, pants, and top with no hooks, buttons, zippers, etc and ask to wear them. I wear warm, thick socks. I see no reason to strip down and lay there freezing beneath a skimpy hospital gown when I can be humanly comfortable. It makes no difference to the reading of the MRI, I have been told. I ask for double sheeting (if there are no warm flannel blankets) pulled up around my cheeks and shoulders. I tell them I don't like the earplugs as they aggravate my sinuses. (They do.) And could they please turn down the volume on the voice. Since I have done modeling for artists in the past, I do have the capacity to lie completely still for long periods of time, even though parts of me get tingly and numb, and sometimes painful. I spend the time praying, meditating, thinking beautiful thoughts, and/or fantasizing. I make sure that I have taken sufficient medication beforehand to allay my pain if I have any. That is if I am not required to be without food or drink overnight. If that is the case, I have used a mind-over-matter technique with pain,  and have found it useful for getting through situations like this.

That first time with the music has never been repeated and I have never been able to get permission to bring in my own. So, I never ask about music anymore. If it is really cold inside, during a break in the machine noises, I will ask for the fan to be turned off, sometimes. Some people think it gets too warm and stuffy without it. But, I've never had a problem with it. During longer breaks, I do move ever so slightly to take in a very deep, slow breath and stretch a tiny bit, but never disturb the part of my body they are focusing on. The main thing about holding still is to not hold myself stiffly. That's what causes pain to arise. When I hold still, I try to think of myself as soft as butter melting in sunlight.

The staff are usually quite accommodating if I ask politely. I always apologize ahead of time for being too bothersome, explaining that I have been through so much medical trauma in the past, and would appreciate it if we could do these things. I always thank them each time some request has been agreed with, and remind them how kind they are. I think they do appreciate it and will go the extra mile for a patient that is not complaining and bitching at them. They have to take that kind of treatment all day, every day, from some patients who are really unable to control themselves while they are suffering. And it can be refreshing to be treated as sweet angels of mercy for a change. (Male staff, too.) It can often bring out the best in people that way and bring on a more nurturing experience.

That is my personal philosophy about it. It may be different for others. Sometimes there are people who do not respond to this kind of treatment and remain aloof, cold, remote, sometimes arrogant, and so forth. That is their problem if they want to act that way. I am not going to let them turn me into a helpless little patient, even if they do have me in tears. I do complain to the right people if I have received unkind, inhumane or unprofessional treatment. I have been known to get up and walk out of a situation and leave them open-mouthed when I have been treated in less than a humane way.


Vera sat in the car staring out over the cliff, seagulls dipping back and forth on the breeze. She took the rest of her sandwich, broke it into pieces, and began throwing them out the window one piece at a time.

Soon gulls squawked and dive bombed her car. Vera quickly threw out the rest, and when the fighting started, she raised the window and numbly watched, not able to look away. Her intent to do a kindness, to feed some hungry birds had turned into a violent free-for-all as the bigger birds pecked at the smaller ones taking the food right out of their beaks.

Vera was sorry she came out here. Sorry to see the gray waves sloppily sloshing the shore. It reminded her so much of herself... gray waves. Not even waves, just gray. Gray like the dreams that didn't make sense. Vera didn't just feel it, she was the essence of it, like the heavy fog beginning to creep toward the cliff. She felt like she could dissipate and seep right into it like dust swept into the air. Except she didn't have the energy to move. Just sit and stare and be nowhere.

Vera knew she was depressed. She had been here many times before. Despondency... her old friend/old foe never went too far away, always lurking in the background of her life somewhere. "That's the way it is when you've got brain chemicals out of whack," she said to the last departing seagull.

The oddest things triggered her mood swings. It wasn't anything that Paul said. He could say the same exact thing ten days ago and it wouldn't pierce her heart, draining all the blood of her self-esteem away. No. It wasn't what Paul said. It was the brain chemicals.


A Little Rain Must Fall

I was living in Indiana from '85 to '95. During that time period, California was experiencing drought where my daughter lived. My grandson came to visit me when he was eleven and wandered around, wide-eyed, at all the green grass and trees. Half his life he had not seen such verdant lushness!

We had plenty of rain all summer in Indiana. One time we had someplace to go, and just as we got out the door, it started pouring. I said a few rudely chosen words about the rain as we got in the car soaking wet.

"Granny, you shouldn't complain about the rain!" my grandson admonished. "It is sooo BEAUTIFUL to me!!"

Out of the mouths of babes...


Eye Candy Flower

Around here it's called a Poor Man's Orchid. I've seen it also been referred to as Australian Fairy Iris. I like that! More commonly, African Iris, (Moraea grandiflora).

It's a common "filler" plant. People plant them just to fill space in their gardens. But they are not noticed much amongst the long spiky leaves and everything else that grows abundantly here in California.

When I took this picture, it was late in the day and the flower didn't show up very well. But after cropping everything else out and just the flower sat there in the shading it's fragile beauty struck me. It's like candy. So sweet. I've heard the expression "eye candy" before, usually in relationship to handsome boys or pretty girls to be admired. But, this was candy for my wounded soul (a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down).


Washing Dishes by Hand Saves Money

This all started with my observance of how I wash dishes. Was I wasting water? I thought so, but didn't know exactly. So I began to experiment, test out my theories, figure out how to wash dishes, save water, and wash them clean and sanitary. Hot soapy water, cold vinegar water.

I really had not paid much attention to how many gallons I used. After all, on the bill I am charged for units. But, I didn't know that a unit was 748 gallons.

So, I've been on a quest lately to be more aware of my water usage. As I mentioned in a few previous posts, I have been looking at how I wash dishes. So many have told me it is better to use an automatic dishwasher instead of washing by hand. I was told it would only use thirteen gallons of water as compared to an unknown amount for hand washing, considered to be at least twice as much. Perhaps that is true for large families who have large loads of dishes. But, as a senior citizen living alone, I couldn't accept the idea that a dishwasher would use more. So I took a serious look at just exactly how much water I was using to wash dishes. I had long ago given up letting the faucet run while rinsing dishes. I had no way to determine how much water it would take to rinse my dishes. I suppose I could put the stopper in the sink and see if it overflows during rinsing. but I haven't done that.

In the meantime I thought about the size of my double sinks which measure on the inside as 14 1/2 in. x 13 1/2 in. x 5 in. For the sake of measurement of the water, I deducted an inch on the depth. five inches is where the top of my water line is. If I fill one side for washing and the other for rinsing, I have determined the most I would use is approximately 5 gallons. I filled up one side with my soapy water until there was enough room for my dishes, then I measured how much water was in there, about 2.5 gallon, so two sinks filled with that much water is approximately 5 gals. If I were to wash dishes every day that would be approximately 150 gallons per month usage. However, I was only once or twice a week. Washing once a week comes to 20 gallons a month. Washing twice a week comes to 40 gallons a month. This comes to 240 or 480 gallons a year.

So, then, I thought, I have two plastic wash pans somewhere. After a little hunting around, there they were crammed up against the back wall underneath the sink. Why did I buy them in the first place if I didn't use them? So, I dug them out and hoped the bottom would give the exact gallons they were supposed to hold. It didn't. I realized very soon that they didn't quite fit into my sink as the length was a tiny bit longer, so that must be why I sacrificed them. They do not lie flat in the sink. They are slanted at maybe 5 degrees or less. So I got a large metal pan out of my cupboard, and a large glass bowl. They suffice!


Pissed Off Patients

When we come into this world we act out as freely as we want to. As time goes by, we get messages from others that to freely express ourselves is not okay. Whoever said one must be a "good" (insert name of disease here), patient? What the hell is that anyways? If we are "good" does that mean we get to stay on this planet longer?

I know that there is a LOT of rhetoric about "keeping a positive attitude" and not "being negative" will help one to have good health and survival. Oh and don't forget organic vegan lifestyle. If you didn't eat it before how is it going to take over and heal you? Maybe you like that style of food. But, wouldn't a hot fudge sundae be nice?

If it's true that not thinking positive, having a negative attitude, not eating certain foods, then I would have been gone a long time ago, because I was a very "bad" cancer patient.

My inner child was pissed off. I went against the rules every chance I got, kicking and screaming and swearing at nurses (well, some of them deserved it) and telling people out loud that I had the forbidden "C" word and I was going to die.

Whoa! But those doctors were wrong. Maybe I was close to dying (had two Near Death Experiences), but no one can predict your future, really. Not even a doctor.

I was obsessed and talked about the "D" word to whoever I could get to listen. Most would get out of it, but some were cornered and I probably scared them to death. That was a time when the C word or D word was not discussed.

I wrote out my will, I don't know how many times. Well, that is, every time I had a recurrence. I really didn't have much to leave, some books, some artwork, some poems, some favorite things. I wrote it out with pencil and paper from a 3 ring notebook; one time leaving my art to my sis, next time to my brother. There was something cathartic in it for me.

Realizing I didn't want a "funeral", just a "wake", a party maybe, where people would play all my favorite music, (wrote that in the will, too) and I went around making people feel uncomfortable when I told them, "Don't buy flowers for me after I am dead, Give them to me now, so I can appreciate them." What a bad girl I was. I can laugh at it now, but I was pretty indignant back then. Why put hundreds, maybe thousands of flowers on a casket that is put into the ground the day they are arranged? It seemed so selfish to me. Love me now, not when I'm dead!

So, when we come into this world and we are cute little babies, we can get pissed off and scream our heads off and let everybody know just how unhappy we are. And we get away with it. We know what we want and when we want it, like, I want that milk, NOW! and yummy that is really good!! and then we are happy for a while, and then later we are miserable again, or sleepy, or giggly, or sad.... yet free to express whatever we feel. And people love you and care for you and for your feelings.

All I am saying is, I hope you will give yourself the right to feel however you want to feel and don't let anyone else pass judgment on you, and most of all, don't pass judgment on yourself for not being a "good" patient. Be whoever you are!

If it is true that your time on this planet is coming to a close, then why not do what you want? Well, maybe, not use that bludgeon you were thinking of. But, maybe take a stick and beat up the sofa. Listen to the music you want, eat popsicles and pizza or cereal for dinner and pudding for breakfast, wear all mismatched clothes or draw tattoos on your arm or get out your old Barbies and dress Ken in Drag or your old Legos and build castles. And, yes, protect yourself from those who are still stuck in their old ways, if you need to. You have no obligation to keep them in your life. It's your life after all, whatever is left of it, even if it goes long term. Clear out all the things that do not matter to you. It's very freeing to let go.

Take care of that little baby you once were who expressed yourself so freely. And in the meantime grab up all the love you can get for that which is inside you feeling empty and let it fill your heart until it is overflowing. You will be very surprised as the overflow floods those around you, and whether or not you healed of the disease which might kill you, your heart will be healed with the fullness of love as it grows like a jungle garden. Your love and others intertwined in the leaves healing each other.


Chopstick Gardening

I visited the captivating garden of Robert Stoll in Santa Cruz. Originally from Brooklyn he came to California in 1951. Robert and his wife, Therese, have worked together transforming their all but barren plot, into a pleasurable piece of paradise. Now retired, they are able to benefit from their labors by purely enjoying their garden which is adorned with stained glass and picassiette art created by the talented, Therese.

The only living thing on the property when they first moved in was a Satsuma Plum tree (Prunus Salicina Satsuma) thought to have been there since 1939. Robert has always been fascinated with Japanese culture, and this ancient tree seems the perfect backdrop for his Bonsai. Upon entering his garden, one is amazed by the enormous arbor of Kiwi vine (Actinidia Chinensis) growing on  an overhead trellis extending around a corner about twenty feet or more.

Robert has decks and an elevated wooden boardwalk upon which one may wander this lush garden. Everywhere you look is another focus of interest. Within what used to be a Koi Pond, Robert has created an Island of striking Mexican Weeping Bamboo (Acuminata Aztecorum) as the centerpiece. Several other unique species of Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata, Phyllostachys nigra) are showcased in large ceramic pots. A lovely Hachiya Persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki Hachiya) and Espaliered Apple trees round out the plantings.

“Life began in a garden. Robert says. “What better way to spend my days, but working in one?”

Beyond Robert’s work shed (a charming replica of a Japanese Tea House) is a small forest. Literally.

Robert says, “Bonsai is an Art. It is the ancient art of training small plants to look like miniatures of very old plants.” He doesn’t think they need a lot of care compared to other types of gardening. Though he admits they need frequent watering because the small pots can dry out fast. Though they can sometimes be brought inside for a few days, he says 99% need to live outside, unless they are a subtropical Ficus Benjamini or Schefflera. Robert uses no automatic watering techniques, He says he is very old fashioned. He enjoys walking through and hand watering, as it helps to see each plant individually and helps to assess its needs.

“To maintain, simply do the work as it needs to be done. It’s not so much”, Robert says. Some people think that Bonsai are small because they are not well-fed and have stunted growth, which is not a true understanding of Bonsai. Robert fertilizes regularly every 2 weeks with fish emulsion one time and miracle grow, next time.

Among the many trees that Robert has nurtured, the smallest are less than 8 inches and the largest are about 3 feet. The oldest are twin Junipers (Juniperus Californica) rescued from the property of an old Victorian house demolished on River Street some years ago. As with many Bonsai, they were reduced in size over time.  In order to do this, they were lifted out of ground, roots and branches cut, and planted in a large wooden box. This process continued until they were small enough to put in their present Bonsai pots. Robert  also has a Santa Cruz Mountain Oak Bonsai (Quercus Parvula var. Shrevei)  which has remained healthy and has not affected by Sudden Oak Death.

Robert has an interesting assortment of tools used for trimming, shaping, sanding, carving and caring for his trees. Nippers, and cutters and pliers and special benders and anodized copper wire of all sorts are at hand. But among his collection of tools Robert has found most useful, his chopsticks.

As a member of the Santa Cruz Bonsai club, Robert trades off  with other members to tend the garden when he is out of town. They meet monthly at the Live Oak Grange Hall. Because it is a training club, experts are brought in to teach and demonstrate techniques.

Robert is recognized for his accumulated knowledge. He has spent over 40 years, developing his abilities and learning Bonsai techniques.  He is a member of two bonsai clubs; the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai and the Midori Bonsai Club in San Jose. He is past president of the Santa Cruz Club and presently the Editor of the Santa Cruz Club's Newsletter.

Note: The Bonsai trees depicted with this article were on display at the Watsonville Bonsai Club Bonsai show from May of 2004 and are not those of Robert Stoll.


Living for Now

A friend of mine and her husband were talking about retirement. As a young woman she had cancer and learned to not delay living life to the fullest in the hopes of enjoying it after retirement. Because of that she decided that if she had to choose a time in life to be broke, she'd choose retirement. Probably because of her cancer history she wonders if she would even get there. Some people put away a ton of money and live cheap now in order to save for retirement. Perhaps that makes the most sense, to give yourself a "cushion" for those waning years. But, I agree with my friend. Life is for enjoying now, as much as you can. I'm not saying don't save, don't plan for the future. Just don't put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak

Due to cancer in my twenties and thirties, I was forced to live on disability income only, long before retirement age. When the savings are gone and there's not a spouse or family member to give support, the choices become easy. Don't go shopping. Stop wishing for "things". Find the real value and joy in life. Try not to let being "poor" get in your way. Learn how to navigate the social services system in order to get food, a roof over your head and transportation. Accept that soon people who might have been friendly to you in the past will not be the people who would not want to be in your life now. 

Note: Even if you've had a healthy life, and healthy finances, there is no guarantee those funds will support you in your declining years (unless perhaps you are a millionaire). One heart attack, stroke, prostate or breast cancer can quite quickly diminish your funds. Even if you have the type of cancer that is "curable" or can be managed, you can lose your home before you are cured. Even if you have good medical insurance, they balk at paying $8,000 a month (or co-pay) for the rest of your life if you have Leukemia... for example. Living in the style to which one has become accustomed is not the American Dream. 

Speaking from experience watching my own parents and the parents of my life partner these last decades proves it's the American Nightmare. I don't think the elderly are bent over and have sagging jowls because they are old. I think it's because their self esteem has been stripped away and their new found poverty shames them. 

Sorry....  I didn't mean to sound so negative, but that is the way I perceive it. Planning for a more secure future would take great sacrifice and a will of steel, yet without covering every possible contingency. all that putting the enjoyment of life aside would be for nothing. Enjoy life now while you can. That's my philosophy.


Herbal Sleep Remedies

I've been looking for a natural way to get better sleep. Prescription sleeping pills make me quite ill. So, researching the ingredients of a popular over the counter remedy has revealed the following. I'd rather not spend a small fortune on a few weeks worth of manufactured pills. But, I figure I can try out some of the ingredients by making a simple tea before bed time.

Melatonin -A naturally occurring compound that is secreted in the brain. It's available in pill and liquid form. I prefer the liquid drops. The pills upset my stomach. I don't think this would be a good tea. I love melatonin. It puts me to sleep quite easily. Unfortunately, it doesn't always KEEP me asleep. So I would have to combine something else.

L-Theanine -Commonly found in green tea. I found a reference that said theanine has been shown to help reduce stress levels as well as produce a calm and soothing effect. That's interesting because most think tea has caffiene and therefore would have the opposite affect. I love my green tea, and always feel soothed by drinking it. Perhaps there is soemthing to this Theanine stuff.

Valerian Root Extract -Valerian root has long been used to treat insomnia.  You can find valerian root in many different forms, including sprays, elixirs, drops and tea.  It is my understanding that the molecular components have been refined by chemists to create the drug, Valium. Don't know how true that is, but thought I would mention it.

Hops -Hops are actually the primary stabilizing agent in beer, but have also been shown to have the same effects as Valerian root.

Passion flower - The components in passionflower have calming, sleep inducing, and muscle spasm relieving effects. In one reference I found, it is compared to Lorazepam. It looks like I could get this in a liquid extract, which would be nice, because I could titer my dosage instead of guessing with a tea. Perhaps I could just grow my own on the backyard fence. It is a very pretty vine!

Lemon balm contains components that seem to have a sedative, calming effect. High doses of purified lemon balm extracts were found to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects, producing "significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness."

Chamomile Flower - There is Level B evidence to support the claim that chamomile possesses anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties and may have clinical applications in the treatment of stress and insomnia.

Catnip - Though not known for producing sleep, is considered a relaxing herb as well as useful for calming the stomach. Though it gives excitement to cats, it does not have that effect for humans

Lobelia - In the photo above that I took in my garden, I do not particularly like it. Even though it has some sedative properties, it takes a larger dose to produce that effect. Since, in larger quantities is is known to be toxic, I do NOT recommend it for assistance to sleep.


2016: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Beautiful

In January 2016 I found loving homes for two of the darling little girl kittens I had fostered, and one, I selfishly kept as my own. His name is Pinky. He has grown into a magnificent hulk of a cat.

Since 2016 was an El Nino year, there were many warnings from local weather forecasters that flooding would occur. Since I live near the levee of the Pajaro River, I learned how to be prepared. My car was packed and ready. My biggest concern was how could I get six cats into my car and drive away in enough time after being given the instructions to leave the area. As it turned out, even though there was a little flooding in the county, nothing terrible serious happened.

In March, Kats took me on a vacation to Sacramento. We rode the train to get there and spent the nights in a paddle wheel boat docked in the Sacramento River. We spent a day in Old Town, and another, enjoying the Railroad History Museum. Since three generations of my Grandpas were railroad men, I've got it in my blood. It was a thrilling vacation.

April brought the public to view my catio in the first annual catio tour for Santa Cruz County. Kats worked on it a bit more to make sure the folding winter protection doors worked well. And we cleaned up the back yard (YAY!) and planted a garden.

In June I was enthusiastic about taking free Spanish classes at my local library. I immersed myself for about a month, but then had a serious medical problem arise which kept me from attending. I'd been having cortisone injections in my spine and sacroiliac joint for years. But, this last year even after having the medically legal limit, I was still in pain and having trouble walking well. So I agreed to have something called Radio Frequency Ablation to the S.I. joint. It was a big mistake and I ended up in excruciating pain that lasted for the rest of the year until I had surgery in December. Three titanium rods were placed in my iliac bone and pushed through into my sacrum in order to hold the two bones together. I am still recovering from that procedure right now.

July 22nd, as I was driving home, I looked across the Monterey Bay and saw a familiar large mushroom cloud of brown smoke. I knew immediately it was the start of a very big forest fire, down my Big Sur about 45 miles south. This fire continued to burn until the end of October before fire crews could finally quell it. Well over 130 square miles of national forest destroyed. It breaks my heart. Not only were trees and other plant life destroyed, but so many wild animals are gone too. Deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and bears, not to mention the smaller critter, raccoons, possums, etc. The fire was started by humans who were camping illegally.

Warning: this part is sad cat news. I cannot remember now what month it occurred. I have a mental block. My precious black cat with the incredible yellow eyes, Ninja-Boo, sneaked out behind me at night when I went out of the catio door to pick some catnip. I thought all the cats were inside of the house and I had not noticed him still in the catio.

As soon as I realized he was out, I tried to catch him, but he seemed to want me to play chase and catch with him. I was up until 3 or 4 in the morning following him through the neighborhood. I finally dragged myself home exhausted. I could only hope that Ninja-Boo would find his way home. Kats was not with me that night otherwise I know he would have kept going.

The next day, Kats and I put up signs, and advertised, then searched the neighborhood for three days when a woman called to tell me she had seen a dead black cat on a nearby street corner. When I got there, it was gone. The local shelter had picked him up. I went there and saw him. He did not appear to have any serious injuries. It must have been quick. I hope. I said my goodbyes and went back to the car in tears. Good thing that Kats was driving. I would not have been able to. I still miss that clever, mischievous fellow. Picture is of Ninja and Timmy "kissing".

I'm proud to say that I was requested by San Francisco musician, Amy Obenski, to do some art for her new album, An Emptiness to Fill. Additionally, several of my drawings were selected for a coloring book she published. I also took up a new art hobby of painting cats on rocks, which I continue to enjoy creating. I have even sold a few to friends.

In September, I survived my fifth year of living with Leukemia thanks to a relatively new chemo drug that keeps it controlled.

In October, my son flew me to Austin, Texas to attend my grand-niece's engagement party. It was wonderful to see her and her friends having such a good time, and to know that she has found her true love. Her mother, a tattoo artist, extraordinaire, was able to cover an old spider web tattoo I had gotten 30 years ago which looked ready to be retired. She covered it with a beautiful rose. Dare I call it a moon rose?

In 2017 I am looking forward to more of the good, bad, ugly and beautiful and.......

I just want to celebrate another day of living!
I just want to celebrate, another day of life.


Deane Family Origins

I've been going through some old photo albums and sorting last night. Oh my! I've never seen that picture of my family. It had me giggling. That's the worst pic I have ever seen of us! But, so true to life! My Dad, the proud dad. My mom looking over us, and us kids all aimed in our own directions. Solidarity was not a commonality for us and this pic says it all. 

This is doubly funny because I just wrote a piece on how united we are as a family! Maybe the table we were seated upon is representative of our joined strengths. It was hand-made cherry wood by Morris Evans, father of Mary Jessie Evans, our grandmother on my father's side.. 

This is what I wrote: 

My family is descended from those who were on that first ship who came to this land for freedom's sake. The next generations shed their blood during the Revolutionary war, the war of 1812, the civil war, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm. Today part of my family is descended from those who arrived here on slave ships and gained their freedom only recently.  

The blood of my family is soaked into the soil. First, with those early arrivals on the Mayflower, the other Pilgrims to follow, the Revolutionaries, then those who arrived unwillingly and whose blood was shed in cruelty. As the generations have mingled, the blood of the first people who lived here for millennia, and the blood of legal and illegal "aliens" is part of the DNA of my descendants. And right now, the blood of one of my grandchildren is on the line in readiness to protect freedom and liberty in the army. We have all fought for our right to exist in the USA. 

To me, the word United has a very deep, all encompassing meaning. When we are all partying and watching fireworks during independence day, I hope we can all remember what those "bombs bursting" in air were all about.


Barbara and Denise Fairchild

When I was a little girl, living on Cayuga Island in Niagara Falls, New York during the late 1940s and early 1950s I had a best friend. Her name was Denise Fairchild. I think she was maybe a year younger than me. Basically, we played with dollies. Denise had a little sister who was younger, named Barbara. I don't remember playing with her though she may have been nearby. It seemed at the time, she was too young to participate. When my family moved off the island about 1951, I missed my friend and didn't understand why I couldn't visit her. I never knew the youngest baby sister. I believe this picture was taken after we moved. Though my parents kept in touch with the Fairchild's for a while, I never saw the Denise and Barbara again. I always thought they were very pretty, and wished I had curls in my hair, too.  I found this photo among my mother's belongings after she passed away in 2006. Imagine keeping it all these years, with no further contact.


Chronic Pain - Friend or Foe?

Grandpa was an amputee. He lost his leg while working on the railroad as a young man. When "coupling" two railroad cars together, he fell and his leg was crushed between the couplers. He was hauled into the railroad station. A doctor sawed off his leg right there and then (according to what my dad said) after giving him copious amounts of alcohol.

I never knew my grandpa until I was a young adult. I went to live with him and other family members 3,000 miles from home as a young air force wife. I was pregnant at the time, and afraid of the pain of childbirth. I knew grandpa still had pain from his amputation, even in his 80s. I asked him how he could tolerate it so I might have an idea of how to prepare myself for labor. He told me he "made friends with" his pain. He said, he learned to accept his pain better when he decided to stop hating it. I thought that to be very odd. I knew amputees had something called phantom pain that could be quite intense. I admired him for his strength and fortitude.

A couple years after grandpa died I was facing major surgery for bone cancer. (Chondrosarcoma) The doctor told me he would have to amputate half my pelvis, plus my leg. This is called a hemipelvectomy. Quickly, I decided I wasn't going to let this amputation destroy me. I told myself, "If grandpa could do it, so can I!!!" Otherwise I would have been devastated.

As it turned out, I only had a portion of my pelvis amputated (internal hemipelvectomy). I didn't lose my leg after all. Nevertheless, I still have pain now almost fifty years since diagnosis. Like grandpa, I've made friends with my pain. I pay attention to the need to rest. I respect the messages I have gotten over the years that there are certain things my body cannot do, no matter how hard I push. I accept those limitations regardless of what others think. After all, I appear to have a normal body to them. I pay attention to the degree of pain I experience and when I need to medicate myself to help it be relieved, I take something for the pain. Though I prefer to not take opiates.

The pain never goes away entirely. It's always there to some degree. My friend. My shadow. My pain. Lately the pain has been intensified these last few months. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. It suddenly cripples me in the midst of walking. I can barely tolerate it. I calm myself, take a breath, unclench my teeth and I remind myself that hating it will do me no good.

Right now, I have to hang on two more weeks. I have an appointment for an epidural infusion into my spine so that my pain will (hopefully) go away. I have had this procedure many times before over the years. I have always had relief. It helps me stay off the opiates. But now, the epidurals are almost an annual occurrence. You can only have so many epidurals within a certain period of time. Waiting out the time for the treatment has been very distracting. But soon, my friend and I will part ways. I wont miss her at all. Thank you grandpa for teaching me to deal with pain in your unique way.


America, the Ugly - Independence Day Rant

Someone I know posted something on Facebook that I found offensive. I was so angry, I posted a very careless sarcastic comment. The statement she posted was:

"We have illegal immigrants who are staying here on a military facility while homeless veterans are outside the gate with no shelter and no food."

My sarcastic comment was: "Yeah just kill those kids and be done with it!"

I steamed and fretted about it for an hour or so. Then, also thought better of my comment, for the sake of the relationship between me and the person who posted, as well as the fact that someone might actually take me literally and agree! Heaven forbid.

So, I went back to the posting. No one else had responded yet. And I then posted the following.

"I'm sorry. That was rude of me. I just get so sick and tired of the hypocrisy of statements like that. Yes, we need to care for our homeless, veterans or otherwise. I go to my local homeless shelter regularly to donate clothing. I hand out money on the street corner. Not much, but a dollar is a dollar.

These children seeking refuge from us are starving, sick and courageous for traveling all that way to seek asylum in our country that has a statue of liberty with a statement on it. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Either we are proud Americans willing to stand up for the human rights that we supposedly believe everyone should have or we are hypocrites and believe it is only for US citizens.

Note: I got a little personal here and have changed the name of the person I was addressing.)
How quickly we forget our own history. Griselda, what's the history of your mother's people? How did they get here to the land of the free? Do you know?

I know my own family history going back for generations. We came here for the same reasons those kids are coming here. Did you hear about the one they found dead yesterday?

Do you have friends who were refugees from another country? I do. In fact, the father of my grandchildren came as a child refugee from San Salvador. I have friends who came from Russia as children. They are now grown up and committed American Citizens. I have a young friend who escaped from rape and torture as a child. She now takes care of a little old lady and bicycles 20 miles round trip daily to attend college classes to make a difference in our lives. A dear friend who came to our country served in the military and sacrificed his life during the Viet Nam era. My own son's grandparents came into the U.S. and never applied for citizenship. Does this make all those people unacceptable members of society. I would be very surprised to know others would think that.

I cannot believe how cruel, insensitive and un-christian people are towards these "Illegals". I'm ashamed of our countrymen."

Note: This is the end of my rant. Sometimes I am so ashamed to call myself an American.