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hospitals are …

Well, I have been driving back and forth to Springfield this week to Mercy Hospital because my mother had a bad occlusion in the veins of her left leg, so bad that she was in danger of losing her foot.

First the surgeon tried a stent, but that opening of the veins didn’t even last all night.  So this morning they did a bypass using a vein from a cadaver.  Surgery took over 4 hours, she took over an hour in recovery.

My sister and I saw her in the ICU where she is incarcerated for the night.  She looks pretty good for someone who is 90 and just had a major surgery.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, my older sister was also in the hospital.  She is in the process of getting over an episode of leukemia.  She had extensive chemo last July and has had several rounds of consolidation chemo.  This pretty much wipes out the immune system as well as the platelets.  This last round went well, she went home and her cat got pissed off with her and bit her badly.   She has been on IV antibiotics for several days to keep the ensuing infection from becoming systemic.

So while my mother was trying to keep her foot here in Missouri, my older sister was trying to keep her life.

I’m ready to not have anyone in any hospitals for a while.

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Snow day

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It was a very white start to Martin Luther King Day here at the Havens.  When I awoke, it was snowing, but the precipitation has stopped for now.   There was no water aerobics this morning, and I am not really excited about getting out on the roads.  While I cut my “driving teeth” in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado; and then developed them experiencing the roads of Alaska, I still stay off the roads if I don’t have to go out when the weather is like this.

Around here people get way excited when a couple of inches of snow fall and there is a light rime of ice on the roadways, conditions that would make a seasoned Alaskan or Colorado mountain driver simply slow down a bit.  Around here, they close school and the weather people have regular conniptions about how dangerous it all is.  I have no qualms about my ability to negotiate the highways here in the Ozarks.  It is the REST of the drivers that give me pause.  They are so unpredictable I am reluctant to put myself in their vicinity.  Many of them seem to believe that since they have four wheel drive they can still drive over the speed limit and also stop on a dime if they need to. (She shakes her head…)

So I am home, and wondering if I will have any clients this afternoon.  There are three scheduled, whether they will show up is another question entirely.  It makes earning a living very unpredictable.

Meanwhile, the view from my kitchen window is splendid.  The little birds surely did appreciate me filling the feeders this morning.  There was a huge crowd of them at breakfast time.  The hawk flew through and scattered them, afterwards the yard was devoid of birds (and squirrels) for a good half hour.   I did not go out and investigate, but usually that means that the Cooper’s hawk was able to secure her breakfast.  She seems to view the pond area as her dining room.

The petite prairie is looking quite fine, as you can see from my opening photo above.  I love to go out there and inspect the environs after a few hours of no snow fall.  That is when it becomes evident just how important that cover is to the residents of the yard.

There was a small flock of cardinals hanging around after the hawk scare ebbed.   Here is a shot of them I took from the porch.

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That is not all of them, several of them were availing themselves of the sunflower seeds while I was taking these images.

There are more of them in that bush than meets the casual eye.  Here is a closer shot of the same group.

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Aside from the trio of juncos there is one male cardinal and four females sharing this bush.

The male is very suspicious of me.  Even though I was a good 30 meters away when I took this shot, his demeanor tells me “I know you are there and you are probably up to no good.”

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“Just stay on your porch and everyone will be happy.”

 

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Every once in a while, my clients say something profound.   Actually, they say profound things on a regular basis, but I don’t always remember them when the massage is over and they have left the premises.

The other day, however, one of my clients said something that really stuck in my mind.  He is 87 years old, and a farmer.  His daughter turned him on to my services, and the work I have done has made a huge difference in his pain level and mobility.   It is really fun to see someone experience massage for the first time.

Now, I am the first to admit that perfection eludes me, even though I set a high standard for myself.  Every once in a while, I really screw up the appointment book.  I cannot blame these events on electronics, because my appointment book is a hard copy upon which I write with one of those nearly obsolete things that deliver ink to paper.

I occasionally toy with the idea that perhaps I should move into the 21st century and embrace the electronic appointment software that is out there.  I am reluctant to do this, largely because I feel like electronic doohickeys already dominate too much of our lives.  Also, I have witnessed people standing at my counter, entering their next appointment into their phone along with alarms and reminders, and still have them neglect to come.  They are frequently confused because their phone did not remind them of their upcoming appointment.   And they show me the empty date…  This is exactly what I fear would happen to me if I were so unwise as to commit my work schedule to a data base.

Besides which, I read articles over and over that tell me that in order to be successful these days I MUST have on-line appointment making available, because the millenials don’t want to deal with actually talking to real live people.   I call bullshit.  I have plenty of millenials who are my clients who have no problem making their appointments with me without using an on-line app.  Personally, I want to have more control over my schedule than a computer run appointment book would give me.   Call me old fashioned. Call me a luddite.

That all being said, I am perfectly capable of messing up the book all by myself, with no help from computers!  And I did that early this week.   I had two people scheduled at the same time for reasons that I will not go into here, but involved making an appointment for someone when I was not in the presence of my book.   Big no no.

So, when my older man showed up while I was working on the other client, Jim had the job of telling him that I was double booked.   He came for an appointment later in the week, and when he arrived I apologized profusely.  He said, “You’re fine.  Things happen, it is just fine.   I always like to say, ‘If you don’t do nothing you won’t make any mistakes.” Then he added, “I am still mad at myself for picking up your phone and walking off with it the other day just because it looked like my phone.”

If you don’t do anything, you will never make any mistakes.   The fear of making a mistake can lead us to paralysis.   Good to remember.   The corollary is a common saying in art journal circles:  There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.

Go ahead, be brave!  Act!  Do not fear your mis-steps.  They could lead you to wisdom, and possibly better art.

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This is my latest art journal page, completed this evening.

There has been some interest expressed in seeing my process, so I actually took some pictures as I created this one.  The first thing I did was cut up some left over pieces of card stock and put them onto the page using soft gel medium.

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Once the gel medium was dry, I covered the whole page with white gesso.  It looked so barren I got out my PearlX copper pigment and scattered it on the wet gesso.  Then I smooshed it around with the brush I had been using to apply the gesso.

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I let that dry, then put more texture on using modeling paste through a stencil.

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Once that was dry, I had a conversation with a client who wanted to know how I glued all those little pieces on.   I wound up demonstrating glass bead gel and fiber paste by smearing them around on the piece.  Once all that was dry, I used some paints to color the textures.  After that, I sprayed a stencil and printed it  on the page.   Once all that was dry, I covered the whole thing with clear gesso so my sprays wouldn’t move.

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Then I had to do a couple of massages.  When I was done with that, all the gesso was dry. So I got out my DalerRowney pearlescent acrylic inks and did drippage.   I experimented with some alcohol ink drops too, but didn’t really like where they were going so I wiped most of that off.   A little bit of that color remained behind, though (the blue splotches in the middle).DSCF6516

I finished off with some stamping, using stamp pad ink as well as some acrylic paint on a stamp.  Final touches were the addition of butterfly embellishments I made in November, and a simple border.

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sand

I have spent quite a bit of time in various sandy locations:  beaches and deserts.  Sand is such an amazing commodity.  Depending on the fineness of the grit, and whether it is damp, it can be an amazing record of what happened during the night.  Here is evidence that a bobcat walked up and down a beach.DSCF3793

There was a lizard here.

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And this is the den of a kangaroo rat, who has been in and out a few times.

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I also am fascinated by the patterns that grass draws on sand when the wind blows.

You can build castles with it.

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Mostly though, I think about how this…

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…can turn into this…

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…given enough time and pressure.

We spent a few days down near Corpus Christi, Texas, visiting the Padre Island National Seashore.  It is a truly magical place, a 60 mile long beach you can drive on at low tide when the sand is packed.  This is the view looking south at about mile 15.

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It is a fantastic place to walk next to the water and pick shells up.  Unlike many of our national parks, at Padre Island you are allowed to collect shells, no more than five gallons a day.  They must not have anything living in them, including hermit crabs.

It is also an amazing place to watch birds.   While we were down there I saw a golden eagle sail over the dunes one morning.   There were many northern harriers, red tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons hanging around.  This area is one of the places they winter over.   North of the Island is the place where the whooping cranes winter over.  Many sandhill cranes are also in the area.

The week we were there it got so cold that there were a two mornings when all the shore birds had departed for warmer weather.   There were not even any sea gulls, which seemed eerie.

We did see some pelicans, however.   Mostly they were not interested in flying.  The fish had all gone very deep and it wasn’t worth the effort to try to fish.

There were also quite a few grey herons that stuck around.   One day it was quite windy, and I caught a shot of this gentleman with his feathers ruffled.

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A couple of days later, the wind had died down but it was still very cold.   One of his brethren was posed heroically against the skyline.

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My favorite thing to do was wake up just at dawn and watch the sunrise.  Then take off for a couple of miles on the beach before breakfast.   This was possible because low tide was happening right around dawn during the period we were there.   At high tide, there is no beach to walk on.

There were some grand sunrises.

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That day, when I turned around the gibbous moon was smiling at me.

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The next day we had another fine sunrise.

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That day, the sun was kissing the waves beautifully.

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I love the ocean.   Jim and I both miss living next to it.

I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  I would say it even became an addiction.  One of the things that enabled my addiction was my iPad.  Not only did I spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through crap on that social media platform, I also discovered  that it was possible to spend  literally hours playing inane games.  In the process I also managed to gain 20 pounds, probably because I became so sedentary in the pursuit of these activities.

I have been flamed far too many times, and been sucked into being not very nice myself. I am tired of that game.  I have enough to deal with without people telling me how awful I am, especially when I am NOT.  I don’t have to participate, although it seems like Facebook has become ubiquitous and it is almost impossible to communicate and connect without it.   It is so damned EASY.  But I deactivated that account, and hopefully some of my friends will find me here.  If not, I suppose they weren’t really friends at all.  It isn’t like I didn’t tell them I was moving to my blog.

I am still working on the game addiction.  It helps that I have removed them all from my iPad, but of course it is quite easy to reload the ones I am most addicted to.   Or just play them on Jim’s iPad.  However, slowly but surely the need for that dopamine fix is getting dealt with.  And right now I have no games loaded, and don’t feel a real need to put them back on.  So.

So, now I will give a short update on the major events of my/our lives.

For me, the most salient one was the loss of all the cartilage in my right hip.  The resulting pain was crippling, to the point I could not even maintain my garden and could barely manage to do massage.   I had a total hip replacement on June 8 this year, and the result is miraculous.  I have scar tissue, of course, but it doesn’t bother me particularly.  The change in state was amazing.  I can garden, walk, do massage again.  Hallelujah.  It occupied my life totally for about two months, though.  The loss of massage income during that time was sobering.  We made it through, though.

Another very important event which I talked about on Facebook but not here was the discovery that Jim had a very active and invasive prostate cancer.  A complete removal of the prostate was indicated and performed in July of 2016.   Several lymph nodes were taken as well, and were found to have cancerous cells.   Following recovery from the surgery, the indicators showed that not all the cancer had been removed.  So he underwent 5 weeks of radiation this last March.   The indicators went to zero for a few months, but have now started to rise again.  We are waiting for them to be high enough that it might be possible to image the tumors and find where they are.  Until then, we just wait for the cancer to grow.

The surgery for Jim had pretty horrific side effects.   The removal of the prostate was done carelessly enough to destroy nerve function in the area.   The surgeon pointed out that he was more interested in getting all the cancer than preserving nerves, but the resulting complete lack of sexual function has changed our lives forever.   He is also incontinent while his pelvic floor becomes strong.  The radiation really set that healing back, plus he got radiation colitis for a while and had really bad diarrhea.  Fortunately that has abated, and the incontinence is slowly getting better.

Let’s pass over the treatment with Lupron, which shut down all his testosterone for about a year.   I’ll just say he discovered just exactly why I was such a bitch while I was going through menopause and having all those hot flashes.   Fortunately, both of us seem to have finished up with that activity, thank God.

No wonder I was depressed and needed dopamine from an external source.

Meanwhile, our son developed severe pain in his back, injured by wearing body armor while he was stationed in Iraq for two tours and Afghanistan for one.   He came home with PTSD too, which has improved significantly.  He did get a medical discharge from the Army because of his back.  And his feet.  I guess carrying 80 to 100 pounds of gear constantly is bad for them.

He and his wife are presently working on their educations.   She is one semester away from a masters in Library Science, and he is pursuing a Business Administration degree.  We bought a house in 2016 that is on the next street over.   They moved there and rent it from us while their town house in Georgia is being rented out.  It is very convenient to have that beautiful little family so close by.   Not only do we get to see our grandchildren on a regular basis, we exchange care with them.  For example, when we travel they look after our house and pets.  And when they want to go to a convention or have a date, we look after their house and our grandkids.

Life is pretty good despite the travails.   We have been traveling.   We went to Europe again, spent a week in Lisbon and made an Atlantic crossing to come home.  We also did a couple of short Caribbean cruises, one took us partway through the Panama Canal.  In September of 2016 we took a two week raft trip from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other.   Later on I will do a post that includes some photos from that.  It was AMAZING.

So that is it in a nutshell.   We are looking forward to the next year, hoping that all will be well.  I am thinking of retiring from massage in the next few years, much to the dismay of my clients.   We’ll see.

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