Sweeping Out the Old Year

December 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

As a child I lived in West Berlin for almost 4 years,  from 1952-1955. It was a very interesting and informative experience for me being in a different country and learning a new language and learning about different cultures and customs, among other things. Christmas was a really big deal in Germany. Lots of fancy decorations and such. We loved to go downtown to the big department store, the KaDeWe to see the really fascinating, high quality  animated window displays. The toys in Germany were fabulous, having been beautifully crafted in the old world tradition. My brothers got fabulous train sets one year and I got a pretend store, completely stocked with perfect miniature products. Wish my parents had saved that for me. Anyhow… One New Years Day a chimney sweep came to our front door, and we were told by our German housekeeper that it was good luck to see a sweep on New Years Day and that we should shake hands with him for luck in the coming year, which we did. Whether or not we had good luck, I can no longer recall, but I’d never seen a chimney sweep before so it was a pretty interesting and memorable event, regardless.

Here is a photo of that very sweep from 1953. I hope he brings all of us some good luck. I know I could sure use some this year. Happy New Year!

Dancing Into a New Year with Missie and Samba

December 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

On one wall in my studio there are four naive pet paintings. Paintings painted by amateurs who loved their pets enough to want to immortalize them in pet portraits.

The first I found  at a garage sale — a little black and white cat sitting on a pink pillow against a purple background with orange flowers. Although it is not a very good painting, I think I bought it because I could see that it was done with love, and I just didn’t want it to end up in the trash.

The second is another of a striped cat  lying on a quilt, found in a thrift store. After all, I already had one pet portrait, and I needed to add to my new collection.

The third one, also from a thrift store, was purchased sometime in 2007. It’s a scary little dog, but there there is an amazing story attached to this painting.

In January of 2008 a woman bookbinder from Ireland, who found my book clasp site on the web through a Google search, contacted me and wanted to come by my studio to look at the book clasps, and the set up and talk. She was in Chicago visiting family. Her brother in Chicago drove her to my studio, and came in and with her. He was a little odd and kind of edgy.

As I was showing her around he started to get agitated and she asked him what was wrong. He had noticed the painting and was nearly freaking out. I was a little afraid he was going to have a psychotic break or something. However, It turned out that he was the artist who had painted this portrait as a commission for one of his neighbors. He was shocked to see the picture in my studio out of it’s original context, especially since I was a complete stranger to him, and we were located far from their neighborhood. I was also absolutely stunned by the coincidence. In fact, I didn’t  even believe him until I looked on the back of the painting and there was his signature. I took a photo to document the event.

A very strange circumstance indeed. I can’t imagine the probability against such a convergence of circumstances.

I nearly died laughing when I found the last painting, acquired just this year, at another thrift store. It is my very favorite, though. These two dancing chihuahuas must have been much loved, and you can see that they loved each other as well. I give you, Missie and Samba, immortalized by Lula M. Galbraith, Jefferson City, TN., 1983.

I just love these guys! How can I ever stop looking for these paintings and adopting them? Or are they looking for me?

Dancing into a New Year with Missie and Samba.


December 30th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

For a year filled with so much, I am at a loss to explain why I’ve had so little to say here. Perhaps writing it all down means I’ll have to read it all in black and white and then I will actually have to confront the reality of it all, and at some level I think I am trying to avoid that as long as possible.

When I was a child, when all my old relatives got together on holidays, inevitably talk turned to their illnesses and medical problems. There was nothing more boring to a kid, but now that I’m getting older, I find that those things have taken on a new importance. Like old cars, we begin to require constant repairs as we age in order to keep ourselves running.

For some of us it’s worse than for others.

I’m generally pretty healthy, and except for the arthritis issues, I don’t even feel all that old. My husband, Chuck, on the other hand, got dealt a bad genetic hand, and has had a variety of physical breakdowns over the last several years as a result of having asthma, diabetes, and heart and kidney issues.

In early November Chuck had what we thought was an asthma attack, and couldn’t breathe. I called the paramedics, and he was taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital. The doctors weren’t completely sure what all of the issues were, but asthma was not really one of them this time. One issue was that he apparently had pneumonia, another was likely related to his heart disease and yet another was definitely due to his failing kidneys. No more putting it off dialysis, he had to go on the machine before the night was over.

It wasn’t a complete shock since we already knew he was going to have to go on dialysis any moment, but we’ve been hiding our heads in the sand with regard to all that dialysis will really mean and to the impact it will have on our lives. In fact, even though I am the queen of medical Google-ing, I was hiding my head in the sand so much that I hadn’t bothered to look it up. When I did, I felt knocked for a loop.

He was in the hospital for five days and now he’s now on dialysis and that is a big change complicating all aspects of our lives for the moment. Dialysis is permanent, requiring that he go for three days a week for four hours at a time, and have all his blood run through a machine which acts like a kidney, removing the impurities as best a machine can. He is doing it in the late afternoons in the hope that it won’t interfere too much with our business, but it really does take a huge chunk of time out of our life.

Adjusting to the loss of time is hard, but I’m finding out that coping with all the dietary restrictions kidney failure and dialysis brings is even more problematic.  Certain foods are forbidden, and there are a lot of rules about things like calcium, potassium and phosphates, and sodium intake. The first time we went to the grocery store post dialysis, we both nearly started to cry since we had to put back just about everything we chose because it did not fit within the proper dietary guidelines for dialysis patients. The only good thing is that he now gets to eat a lot more meat, and he is definitely a carnivore. It’s a small consolation; gotta hang on to what you can.

Dialysis has helped though. It seems that a lot of what we thought were heart related issues turned out to be kidney issues. Some mysterious symptoms have disappeared entirely and he feels better and seems a lot healthier. And a lot of what seemed like excess weight turned out to be water retention. Although he looks great, it’s a hell of a way to loose weight. Dialysis is very serious with a certain degree of life threatening risk attached no matter how strictly you follow the rules.

The permanent solution of course, is to get a new kidney as soon as possible, and he’s working on getting approval to be on the kidney transplant list at Northwestern, but there’s a lot involved in that process. Even if we already had a donor lined up, it wouldn’t be something that could happen soon because in order to actually go through a transplant, he has to be maximally healthy considering all of his existing health conditions — bottom line, it’s very complicated.

Meantime, I’m on the hunt for internet resources and I did find a recipe site here and I am looking for more. If anyone out there has info or links, or, hey, even a kidney to share, please let me know.

Art Therapy?

December 10th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

What else is knee surgery but another opportunity for an art project?

Turning 65 back in March meant that I became eligible for Medicare. I spent the previous 5 years without any health insurance, whatsoever,  as nothing was affordable for us due, in part, to pre-existing conditions. So I was more than ready to fully embrace my Medicare moment, as my knee problem had gotten worse and worse, to the point where it was greatly interfering with my mobility, and I was using a cane much of the time.

After sorting through the Medicare paperwork and jumping through all the hoops —not an easy task—I signed up, found a doctor I liked and made an appointment. She was great and she thought cleaning out the loose bodies behind my kneecap might buy me a little more time before I needed to go through the total knee replacement. I went for it, and it seems to have worked very well for me. In addition to all of the small fragments, she removed huge chunk of ossified cartilage which she gave to me.She thought that was probably responsible for the lockups and said that it had done a lot of damage rolling around in there for all those years.

After only a few days of recovery, I was able to walk pretty well, and I could definitely tell the difference in knee function. My doctor also prescribed some physical therapy which helped a lot more. When I was through with that, I was even able to climb stairs one at a time, some of the time. OK, so not perfect, but so much better! I’m still going to have to have a total knee replacement, but this should be good for a couple of years. The best part, though? Medicare, plus my supplemental insurance, paid for all of it, with not a bit of a problem. I do hope that whatever National Health Insurance plan they come up with will be at least as good as Medicare is for me.

Oh, the art project?

Well, I’ve made a plan to make a book-reliquary-box-thing-or-other utilizing the piece of cartilage the surgeon removed, but I haven’t done that yet. However, I did I make a little thank you book for my Physical Therapist, Adam. He purloined the patella from the skeleton model and loaned it to me so I could use it as a model to make Sculpey kneecap covers for the book. I turned the covers into  a little kneecap accordion book and made a little box for it. I leave you with some photos of that first project, “Adam’s Book” You can click on the pics for a larger view.

Box top

Box top

Inside box

Inside box

Book and box

Book and box

Open, front and back covers

Book partially open.

Accordion Book Open

Where am I?

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