Sunday, 13 April 2014

Farm Life and Other Stuff

"A Moment's Rest on the Farm", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

This drawing went through a number of changes before ending up as it is now!  Let me explain.

The idea for the drawing came from a painting done by Charles E. Perugini, (Charles Edward Perugini, 1 September 1839 – 22 December 1918, originally Carlo Perugini, an Italian-born English painter of the Victorian era).  His painting was entitled "At the Well".

As I begin my drawing, however, I realized that I really did not want to do another drawing of a "woman at the well".  Whatever Perugini had in mind when painting "At the Well", for me "a woman at a well" could only refer to the Samaritan woman who encountered Our Lord at the well (see John 4).  I had already done an icon on that subject (see the final section of the posting from March 23, 2014).  So, I decided that, instead, I would use the woman in this painting as my model but arrange the elements of the drawing to suggest that the young woman was a milkmaid.  At one point, I even drew a cow in the background!  The cow was later removed, however. 

Eventually, I decided that while I liked the woman's pose, I really just wanted to draw her standing in a field of flowers with a tree in the background.  It was at this point that I decided that I would call the drawing "A Moment's Rest on the Farm" and allow the viewer to figure out what she might be up to!  Having grown up on a farm myself and spent time with other farm families during the formative years of my life, I felt comfortable with this designation. 

So, now, the finished drawing shows a woman standing in a pastoral scene carrying a covered bucket on her arm.  The bucket can possibly contain one of any number of things, including:  warm milk from recently milked cows; feed for the chickens; eggs from the hens; or, less pleasantly, "slop" for feeding the pigs!  The decision for exactly what she is up to is left up to the viewer.  

Personally, I find I still think of her as having just come from milking a couple of cows -- something I had to do often during my teenage years!  Milking cows is one of the few pleasant memories I recall of my home life -- the cows were gentle creatures who never yelled at me, the rhythmic action of milking could calm and sooth any agitation I might be feeling and, for those of us who love milk, there is nothing quite as good as fresh milk.

You may recall that I posted another drawing inspired by this same Victorian artist several months ago -- December 22, 2013, to be exact.  My drawing is entitled "A Young Woman Daydreaming".
As well, I used another painting by Perugini ("A Capri Girl") as the model for a drawing I did last month of Our Lady dressed for the betrothal  ceremony to St. Joseph.  Here is that drawing:


"The Virgin at Her Betrothal Ceremony to St. Joseph"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

The assumption is that Our Lady would have been a teenager (maybe about 14) at the time of the betrothal (the signing of the "ketubbah" contract).  This contract pledged that the couple would marry although there was still expected to be a waiting period, giving the bridegroom time to fulfill the requirements of the contract.  This waiting period could actually last up to seven years but was more likely to be no longer than one year.  Once the bridegroom had raised the required portion of the money stipulated in the marriage contract (along with any other requirements that might have been included), he would then notify the bride's father. 

Then the date would be set for the ceremony but not the time! Rather, the bridegroom, accompanied by male companions and others, would ride to the bride's parent's home sometime during the night on the date selected.  As I understand it, this event was dramatized by having the bridegroom act as though he and his friends were "abducting" his bride so the exact time of the bridegrooms arrival was not known -- you had to be ready and waiting when the cry was heard "the bridegroom is coming"!  Once everyone arrived and had entered the home, the door to the house would be shut and then the "nissuin" (the taking) of the bride would occur.  After this, the bride would be taken to the groom's father's house for a time of privacy.  After this, the couple lived together as husband and wife.

______________________________________________________________________________


SUKI AND SALLIE

"Is it time to eat yet?"
Sadly for Suki, this diet business is turning into a real problem for both of us!

There are two new issues, as far as I can tell, which are making it even more difficult for Suki to live with less food.  

The first is the anti-inflammatory medication I am now injecting each week.  Like many of these medications, they make whoever is taking them feel even hungrier than usual!

The second new issue is that when Suki awakens from that deep, deep sleep that she appears to experience after taking the strong pain medication she has been prescribed, she acts as though her memory is gone!  What I mean by this is that even though she may have just eaten prior to falling into this kind of sleep, when she awakens she doesn't seem to remember that and begins to beg for food -- even though it may have only been a couple of hours since she had a big meal!  

When you combine these two factors with the fact that Suki has always been a big eater, I think you can begin to imagine how frustratingly difficult it has been to keep her on a diet.  Some days I handle her constant begging pretty well and just try to ignore her until she finally gives up for a while and takes another nap.  On other days, however, especially when my pain is particularly bad, I just give up and give in.  

I know it is important for Suki to lose a bit of weight and then maintain that weight -- excess weight only makes her pain worse -- but that is far easier said than done!  In spite of my complaining, we do seem to be muddling through all of this reasonably well.

Of course, Suki's need to diet constantly reminds me of my need to diet.  Since I have been unable to be active for almost six months now, I have gained weight and this weight is increasing my pain problems as well.  Excess weight always makes arthritis more painful.  Like Suki, I do get hungry and so I eat, but without any real exercise, those nasty calories just turn to fat!  As well, I now take several medications that are known for having the side effect of causing weight gain.  How depressing.

As for the report on my eyes, there is good news, sort of.  The CT scan did not show anything growing behind my left eye.  This means that all my symptoms are glaucoma related.  So, now it will just be a matter of continuing the drops and having my eyes checked regularly.  There doesn't seem to be any actual explanation about why my left eye can become so painful after a short time of being on the computer or watching TV.  Whatever is causing it, I guess it is just one more pain to add to the vast number of painful body parts I now seem to have.

I do have another upper endoscopy scheduled for this week and will find out if my gastric ulcers have gotten better or worse.  They are still hurting occasionally so I doubt that they have disappeared! As well, I am scheduled for a bone density test.  This is one of those tests they like to give to old folks in order to see how much osteoporosis they are experiencing!  I haven't had one of these tests for several years now, but hopefully the mild osteoporosis I was diagnosed with then will not have gotten any worse.


__________________________________________________

PALM SUNDAY

I have no idea how we could suddenly be celebrating Palm Sunday. It seems like Ash Wednesday was only a couple of weeks ago and now here we are -- the Sunday before Easter.

Let me wish you all a blessed and holy Passion Week as we go from the joy of today's jubilant welcoming of Christ to Jerusalem as the long-desired Messiah to the terror and sadness of Good Friday with its rejection and disavowal of Christ by almost everyone.

May we all turn aside from the temptation to deny Our Lord and instead have the courage to stand with Our Lady at the foot of the cross -- never doubting, but rather accepting all the suffering of the Crucifixion (as well as our own sufferings) and trusting that we will see that all things have worked and will work together for good when we view them through the eyes of Love, God.  Peace be with you all.  Amen.

"Moonlight Reflections", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Warm weather will soon be here.  Hooray!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lantana camara

"Lantana camara", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Lantana camara is a species of flowering plant within the verbena family, Verbenaceae.  It is native to the American tropics. 

L.camara has spread from its native areas in Central and South America to around 50 different countries where it has become, in some places, an invasive species. It spread from the Americas into the rest of the world when it was brought back to Europe by Dutch explorers and cultivated widely; soon spreading into Asia and Oceania where it established itself as a notorious weed. 

According to Wikipedia, L.camara will often out-compete other more desirable species, leading to a reduction in biodiversity. It can also cause problems if it invades agricultural areas as a result of its toxicity to livestock as well as its ability to form dense thickets which if left unchecked can greatly reduce the productivity of farm land. 

The name Lantana derives from the Latin word Viburnum, which is a genus whose flowers closely resemble Lantana.  I am uncertain as to the exact reason for the use of "camara". I do know that Câmara (meaning "chamber") is a common surname in Portugal and Brazil, including famous people from both these countries. Its use may refer to one of these -- especially some of the early explorers.   


Lantana camara with berries

The fruit of L.camara is berry-like and turns a deep purple colour when mature. 

Up to 12,000 “berries” can be produced by each plant which are then eaten by birds and other animals. They, in turn, can spread the seeds over large distances, facilitating the spread of L.camara.  While the plants are considered toxic to certain animals (see following paragraph), there is still some debate as to whether the ripe berries are poisonous to mammals, including humans.  I would really rather not take a chance on them, however!

The entire L.camara plant is known to be toxic to livestock such as cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and goats. The active substance causing toxicity in grazing animals is pentacyclic triterpenoids which results in liver damage and photosensitivy (sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation, especially light; abnormal sensitivity of the skin to ultraviolet light, usually following exposure to certain sensitizing chemicals and resulting in accelerated burning and blistering of the skin).

As for other uses, L.camara stalks have been used in the construction of furniture such as chairs and tables; however, the main uses have historically been medicinal. Studies conducted in India have found that Lantana leaves can display antimicrobial, fungicidal and insecticidal properties. L.camara has also been used in traditional herbal medicines for treating a variety of ailments, including cancer, skin itches, leprosy, rabies, chicken pox, measles, asthma and ulcers. Perhaps I should try some of these Lantana leaves on my ulcers!

To me, this plant will always be associated with Florida.  During the years I lived there as a child and on my many, many visits there while my sister, Betty, was alive, I would see these flowers everywhere.  Not only were they in cultivated gardens, but I would find "escapees" along any back road that I wandered in search of flowers, fauna, reptiles and amphibians.  The bright colours of the flowers always made me feel happy for some reason.

I have done two previous drawings of Lantana.  If you are interested, these can be found in the postings of January 11, 2009 and August 11, 2009.


________________________________________________________________________________


SUKI AND SALLIE

Suki's most recent ploy to try to get me to
give her extra portions of her favourite food!
Suki is nothing if not clever when it comes to trying to get me to weaken and take her off the diet the vet has put her on!

Here you see an example of her latest attempt to get me to feel sorry for her.  I told her that I thought the crutches were sufficient and that the orange-coloured cast was just a bit too much!  

What next ... a kitty cat wheelchair?  I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Seriously, Suki's illness has not been easy on either of us.  She no longer sleeps as well even when she has been given both the anti-inflammatory as well as the opioid prescribed.  When she doesn't sleep, she thinks it must be time to eat.  So, now she tries to awaken me more frequently than ever during the night.  

The result is that neither one of us ends up getting enough sleep during the night. While Suki makes up for her lack of sleep by taking numerous short naps throughout the day, I, on the other hand, do not!  If I do allow myself to nap, then I have even more trouble getting to sleep at bedtime.  If I can't get to sleep at bedtime, then my legs starts to act up.  The longer I go without falling asleep, the worse my legs become and then I can end up not getting any sleep at all! Thankfully, this is only happening every other night or so at this time.

So far we seem to be managing.  I do know that I am going to have to find some better arrangement, however, for settling this sleep issue. Closing Suki up in another room is not the answer as she seems to have an unlimited capacity to cry for hours at a time, non-stop! How can I possibly sleep when I can faintly hear Suki piteously crying in the next room?  And even worse, if I allow her to cry for too long, she then starts knocking things to the floor in an effort to get me to let her out!  

I have considered doping her up at night -- saving all her meds for bedtime -- but I certainly don't want to do anything that would cause her to become more ill.  I plan to give the vet a call tomorrow and see what he recommends.  She certainly does deserve to have her pain managed properly and we both deserve to get a good night's sleep on a fairly regular basis once again.

As for the update on my eyes that I promised to give you, there is still not a whole lot to tell.  I saw the specialist at the hospital on Monday.  He was concerned enough to order a CT scan.  The scan was done on Friday afternoon and so now I am awaiting the results. I asked the technician if she saw anything, but you know how tight-lipped those technicians about whatever they see on those pictures  -- understandably so, I guess.  I am sure that if anything of significance has shown up, the specialist will contact me within a few days -- he is a really good doctor (he is the one who did the surgery on my eyes this time last year).

Otherwise, there is nothing new to report -- all my other problems continued unabated.  Thankfully, I do not have any medical appointments scheduled for the coming week!  Any week now that is free of visits to the doctor seems to me to be something like a holiday.  And, with the weather gradually improving day by day, it may soon even begin to feel like holiday time!  What a happy thought that is.    


____________________________________________________________________________

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT


The Gospel reading for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 11, verses 1-45.  This is the account of the "raising of Lazarus" who had already been dead for four days when Our Lord arrived!  I can really understand why Martha was so concerned about Our Lord's order to "roll the stone away".

There is a portion of this Gospel that I have always loved:  the exchange between Martha and Our Lord prior to their going to the tomb of Lazarus.  In fact, I have told my family that when the day comes for my own funeral Mass, this is the Gospel selection I desire. Following is the actual passage I am referring to: 
"When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  Jn 11: 20-27
What wonderful words:  "...whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live..."

I only have one icon dealing with these three siblings from Bethany in whose home Our Lord always felt welcome.  The icon, below, shows Our Lord in conversation with the sisters, Mary and Martha. I do have an uncompleted icon of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb which, for some reason, I have never yet been able to complete... I'm not sure why.  Perhaps the Spirit will move me to finish it in the days ahead.

At any rate, here is the one icon I did in 2012 showing Our Lord in conversation with Mary and Martha...

"I am the Resurrection and the Life", icon by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012


May the peace of the Lord be with us all and, in these final days of the Lenten Season, may we be ever more open to the "Resurrection and the Life".  Amen.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Another Madonna & Other Drawings

"A Precious Child", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

As you are now well aware, I can't resist the impulse to try my hand at new "Madonna" drawings.  I love the image and it does always remind me of Our Lady and her precious Son.  "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us."

In this latest example, the fringe on the shawl was probably the most difficult part of the drawing to get right.  I am still not really satisfied with the shawl since I do not have the means, as yet, to make the texture look like something that has been knitted.  

I also enjoyed working with all the varying shades of blue.  Blue is the colour we associate with Our Lady and it is also one of the most satisfying colours for me, personally, to work with.  While I really enjoy the bright colours, especially the orange/coral/red shades, blue seems to touch something deep inside and leaves me feeling peaceful and satisfied.  How good of God to give us so many, many shades of blue in Nature!



"Water Lilies and Boat", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

 I also remain intrigued by reflections in water.  As I have mentioned before, reflections and shadows are so difficult to express using this computer software, but I seem to be gradually getting better at finding ways to "make it work".  I guess every artist has to develop "tricks" to fool the viewer's eyes no matter what the medium may be.  

I often feel an almost desperate desire to grab a brush and oil paints and apply them directly to my computer screen "canvas"!  What a mess that would be.



"Tulips Art Nouveau", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Finally, I continue to find drawing Art Nouveau stained glass windows to be very satisfying.  In my mind, the flowing lines found in Art Nouveau always remind me of the flowing lines of Calla Lilies.  These flowing lines, like gently flowing water, soothe me and give me great pleasure even though I am simply following the pattern of another, and much better, artist.  

I wish I could take these Art Nouveau-themed drawings and magically convert them into stained glass.  All my windows would be filled with such beauty and colour!  Of course, poor Suki would then be unable to watch the pigeons, starlings, House sparrows and sea gulls as they fly about outside the windows!  (Fortunately, now that Suki is somewhat crippled, she is still able to get up on the low window ledge in the living room).

_________________________________________________


BRADEN

Braden's parents are, as are all parents these days, extremely busy and so I really appreciate any photos I receive.  Recently, I was the recipient of two short videos of Braden.  In one he says "Hi" and then, with his father's prompting, says his first and last names.  In the second video, he shows me how he can now count to 13!  I tried capturing a section of the video and you can see the very fuzzy image below.

Kids these days are so advanced, so early.  He won't even be two years old until the end of June.  I expect he will probably be reading before he is three -- I was four and a half before I began to read and that was only because my big sister decided that she wanted to play at being a school teacher -- a very strict school teacher, I might add!  I guess the whole world goes a lot faster these days.  

Of course, none of Braden's achievements surprise me as I have always thought him to be the smartest boy I have ever met.  Of course, there is just the slightest possibility that I may be a bit prejudiced in this matter!



Photo of Braden captured from a video.  He is shown here with his Dad just as he is saying "hello" to the viewer -- me!  He actually says "Hi" and then he says his first and last names!

_________________________________________________


SUKI AND SALLIE 

Suki remains as interested in the world
around her as always!
Suki update:

Suki continues to limp noticeably -- some days worse than others. However, she certainly doesn't allow her disability to keep her from doing what she wants -- that is to the degree that she is able. Let me explain.

Suki is determined to continue to sleep on her favourite chairs in spite of her disability.  I can't help but watch her now whenever she moves from one sleeping place to another.  She readies herself to make the big jump from the floor to the chair -- a jump that once she would have done without even thinking about it -- then after a moment's consideration, she jumps.

Usually the first try is unsuccessful.  She falls and has to try again. Since I can't help but be very alert to her efforts now, I will often get up and carefully place her in the chair where she settles down for another nap.  I usually will get a tongue lick to the hand in thanks for my help.  

However, if I am unable to get up in time to help her or am in just too much pain myself at the moment, Suki will try the jump again. Sometimes it takes her three tries before she is able to finally force herself to put enough weight on that back leg in order to make the jump -- but she always does it...eventually.

This is one of the reasons why I say that if Suki become crippled in both back legs then my options become very limited.  Not only would she be unable to jump, but she would have to drag her body across the floor and would have to be helped, in a major way, every time she needed to use the litter box.  I really don't think Suki would enjoy having to live like that -- especially since she prefers much privacy when it comes to using her litter box.

So, meanwhile, we will continue to enjoy one another's company as long as we are both able.  Suki is still content in her own way. She is eating well -- surprise, surprise.  Also, if I sneak up and drop a string down in front of her, she is immediately ready to play -- even though she plays while lying down now instead of jumping up to chase things as she did until recently.  She remains a wonderful companion for an old lady like me even though I sometimes feel as though I am unable to care for her as carefully as I once did.

Now, to my update... Well, I saw the ophthalmologist this past week and he found that the glaucoma seems to have returned with a vengeance -- in both eyes this time. As well, there seems to be something else wrong with my left eye causing it to ache most of the time.  He did as much investigation as he could in his office and then referred me to a specialist at Mt. Sinai.  My appointment there is for tomorrow, the 31st of March, and I will see what this guy has to say.  Meanwhile, I am supposed to be using drops twice a day for the glaucoma; however, while the drops may be reducing the pressure in the eyes, they also cause the left eye to ache even more! So, I hope to get this dilemma resolved when I see the specialist tomorrow.  I will give you an update next Sunday.

Otherwise, all else remains the same with me -- none of my ailments seem to have gotten worse, but then nothing seems to have gotten any better either!  It is amazing how "hope springs eternal in the human breast".  In spite of all the pain and unhappy diagnoses, I find I still remain hopeful that I will feel better one of these days.

___________________________________________________

LAETARE SUNDAY

The fourth Sunday of Lent was previously known as Laetare Sunday.  The word "Laetare" is Latin for "rejoice" and the entrance antiphon for this Sunday, in English, begins: 
"Rejoice Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment..."

Lent is half over and Easter is so very close now.  The vestments for the priest are rose-coloured instead of the usual, Lenten violet. We are called to remember, in the middle of the austerity of Lent, that things will not always be as they are now -- that the Resurrection is ahead of us!

Following is a section of today's Gospel reading (John 9:1-41) with an icon of mine from 2012.
  
“As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ...  [Jesus] made a paste with clay ... [and] put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him, 'Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam' (the name means 'one who has been sent'). So he went off and washed and came back able to see.”


"Jesus Put Clay on his Eyes and the Man Could See",
icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012


May the peace of the Lord be with us all in the week ahead. And may we all be able to see more clearly in the days ahead. 
Amen.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Brazilian Plume Flower "Jacobinia"


"Brazilian Plume Flower, Stylised", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Justicia carnea (formerly Jacobinia carnea) is more commonly known by such names as Brazilian Plume Flower, Flamingo Flower, and Jacobinia.  It is native to South America, particularly southern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina.  Justicia carnea is a shade-loving, soft-wooded shrub (height approximately 1.5m) with large, lush leaves. 

Justicia is a genus of flowering plants in the large family, Acanthaceae. There are roughly 420 species in this Family and almost all of these are native to tropical/warm temperate regions of the Americas. 

The generic name, Justicia, honours Scottish horticulturist James Justice (1698-1763).  Internet searches on this plant will often refer to it still as "Jacobinia" -- its previous generic name.

In summer the plant covers itself with large, showy spikes of flowers. The colours available include shades of rose, magenta, pink, orange, purple, coral/apricot and white. Dense clusters of tubular flowers shaped like tongues make this plant unique. (See the image below)


Brazilian Plume flowers 
I am planning on doing a second drawing of Justicia carnea which will show these "tongues" as they really are -- not the stylised version I have posted above.  I would like to use one of the less common flower colours such as coral/ apricot.

The idea for the stylised drawing of this flower shown at the beginning of this posting came from a computer wallpaper design I came across while searching for images of this plant to use as my "model" for a drawing.  I was so taken with the wallpaper image that I decided to try to create my own design in a similar fashion.  What I ended up with bears only a slight resemblance to the actual Brazilian Plume Flower, but I do find the stylised symmetry appealing.

___________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki resting in her favourite chair
(this used to be my favourite chair!)
Well, in this section of the posting most of the news is going to be about Suki. Poor Suki is sick.

You may recall that in last Sunday's posting I mentioned that I was considering finding a new home for Suki -- as difficult as I knew this would be for me.  As I mentioned, I was considering this because of the amount of pain I now experience when I clean up after her and I thought that it might bring down my pain level just a little if I no longer had to do all that bending and lifting of the litter box, etc.  Well, as my friend, Joycelyn, said, "it's almost like Suki understood what you were saying, Sallie, and decided to see to it that she did not have to leave her happy home!"  

What happened was that late Tuesday morning, I suddenly noticed that Suki was walking with a very pronounced limp -- not wanting to put any weight down on her right, back leg at all.  I was immediately concerned as I know that limping can indicate all sorts of diseases in cats.  So, I grabbed poor Suki up, placed her in the carrying case and called a taxi to take us to the vet.

A couple of hours later, after examinations and x-rays, the vet was still uncertain as to the cause of the problem.  She gave me opioid pain meds for Suki and sent us home with the promise that she would discuss the x-rays with her fellow vets at the clinic.  The pain meds worked well and enabled Suki to have a very restful night, although she continued to limp quite noticeably and did ask me -- in her unique kitty-cat way -- to lift her in and out of the litter box when she needed to use it.  

The vet called me the next afternoon to tell me that after careful scrutiny of the x-rays by some of her fellow vets, they had been able to determine that there were bone "mice" in the joint of Suki's right back leg!  I had never heard of such a thing before but promised to bring Suki in the following day for blood work and further examination.  Sadly, they requested that Suki fast from midnight until her blood was taken at 10 the next morning!  I am sure you will not doubt me when I tell you that even a sedated Suki was still hungry!

So, Thursday morning I bundled us both up again, called a taxi and arrived at the animal clinic at 9:45 a.m.  Soon thereafter the blood was taken from a vein in Suki's leg.  Thankfully, she submitted to all the poking and prodding with quiet dignity.  Afterwards, the vet explained to me that these bone chips in the joint were the result of feline arthritis and they were causing Suki to suffer quite a bit of pain.  

After discussing all the options, it was decided that Suki should be started on an anti-inflammatory medication which must be injected once a week.  I actually gave her the first of these injections right there at the clinic as I told the vet and the assistant that I wanted to be trained to do this so that I would not have to subject Suki to weekly visits to the clinic.  All went well with the injection and now, three days later, the anti-inflammatory medication does seem to be helping.  Suki is still, obviously, in some pain, but she is moving around a bit more easily.

I was also told that I could continue to use the opioid medication for Suki as well if and when she started showing signs of being in more serious pain. Fortunately, she does not seem to be requiring this medication at this time for which I am very grateful as I know from personal experience how hard morphine derivatives can be on the body. Of course, I realize that I have to be really careful when trying to determine the pain level for a cat. Cats, like most wild animals, try not to show any signs of weakness or pain since such signs, in the wild, act as signals to a predator that this animal might be easy prey.

At any rate, this disease means that Suki is with me for the duration as I could not ask anyone else to take on the cost and effort of taking care of her at this point. Thankfully, I do have pet insurance and so the majority of the costs for Suki's continuing care will be covered.  

I do not know how quickly this form of arthritis will progress or if it is also affecting her left leg -- she does seem to favour it sometimes as well.  Hopefully, she won't become completely crippled anytime soon even though she has already had to give up jumping up on most things.  She still makes the supreme effort to jump into her favourite chair (shown in the photo above) and onto the bed (fortunately the bed is not too high), but such things as her "crow's nest" bed are now beyond her ability.  High jumping with only one, relatively-good, back leg and one very painful, lame back leg is not something Suki seems to want to try!

The vet also wants me to help Suki lose a couple of pounds as any extra weight on these joints increases the pain level.  Suki presently weighs about 12 lbs. and the better weight for her would be about 10 lbs.  As you might imagine, Suki is not particularly pleased about the smaller amounts of food I am now giving her!

Anyway, all of this extra activity has not been easy on Suki or on me.  Aside from the emotional aspects of seeing Suki suffering, I am also exhausted from the trips to the vet.  Thankfully, the clinic is only a short taxi ride from my place and the folks there were very helpful when it came to getting myself, my walker and Suki in and out of the taxi and in and out of the clinic!

Otherwise, things remain much the same with me.  As I mentioned last Sunday, I had no medical appointments scheduled this past week -- thank goodness -- but this week I will finally be seeing the ophthalmologist.  Hopefully, he will be able to find out what is happening with my eye and provide the means for me to treat it so that the pain and discomfort levels in the eye decrease somewhat.  I will let you know the outcome of the visit in next Sunday's posting.

___________________________


THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT  

Meanwhile, the days of this Lenten Season continue to roll quickly along. Here we are already at the halfway point.  The Scripture passage below includes some of the verses from the Gospel reading for this Sunday.  

This passage always amazes me in that Our Lord reveals so much about Himself to this woman of Samaria.  Most amazingly, He says plainly that He is, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah whose coming was foretold.  Yet this woman is not only a "hated" Samaritan -- she is also a woman who has had numerous husbands and is currently living with a man to whom she is not married.  As well, she is a village outcast who chooses to come and get water in the heat of the day so that none of the other village women will be there to mock and insult her.  Yet, look what Our Lord reveals to her and how powerfully it changes her life and, through her, the lives of all the people of her village.  

This encounter reveals so clearly something the Church has always taught:  no one, no matter how terrible their sins, is beyond the redeeming love of God!  Amazing. 


" [Jesus] came to the Samaritan town called Sychar near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  Jacob's well was there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat down by the well. It was about (noon) the sixth hour.  [T]hen a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Give me something to drink.'  His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew. How is it that you ask me, a Samaritan, for something to drink?' -- Jews, of course, do not associate with Samaritans.  Jesus replied to her: If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me something to drink,' you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water. Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again; ... but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.  'Sir,' said the woman, 'give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty or come here again to draw water.'  'Go and call your husband,' said Jesus to her, 'and come back here.'  The woman answered, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right to say, "I have no husband";  for although you have had five, the one you now have is not your husband. You spoke the truth.... ................ But the hour is coming -- indeed is already here -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.  The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah -- that is, Christ -- is coming; and when he comes he will explain everything.'  Jesus said, 'I am he, the one who is speaking with you.' " (Jn 4:5-10, 14-18, 23-26).


As you may recall, I did an icon of this scene a couple of years ago. This is a revised version, but it is basically the same icon I first posted in 2012.

"The Woman at the Well" icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012


In closing, I pray that the week ahead may bring us all some measure of peace and well-being and that all those who read this posting and gaze upon these drawings will be blessed -- just like the Woman at the Well. 
Amen.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Good Shepherd Revisited

"The Good Shepherd with a Ewe, Ram and Ewe Lamb",
drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Inspired by a picture of a stained glass window I came across on the Internet, I decided to do another drawing/icon of The Good Shepherd.  The actual stained glass image had about six sheep around the feet of the Shepherd; however, I felt that would make the scene too crowded for the space within which I had to work. Thus, I only included a ewe lamb, a ewe and a ram.

After posting the image here, I have now decided that I will revise the image by adding the title "Good Shepherd" in Greek.  Although this drawing is not an icon -- in the sense that iconographers use the word -- I feel I could justify treating it as one.  Therefore, the Greek title would not be inappropriate.

As I have mentioned in the past when posting other images of the Good Shepherd, this type of image was one of the earliest artistic depictions of Christ by a Christian artist of which we have any record.  I do not find this surprising at all since the passages in the New Testament in which Our Lord uses the image of the Good Shepherd are some of the most appealing and comforting -- at least they have always been for me.

Remember, sheep, on their own, make foolish choices, are easily frightened, quickly confused and very stubborn.  This sounds quite a bit like a description of me!  Perhaps you may recognize something of yourself in these descriptive terms as well.  

At any rate, I am fully aware that every time in my life when I have wandered away from the Good Shepherd, thinking I knew best, I have always ended up in some terrible state from which I desperately needed rescuing.  Thanks be to God, He has never failed to find me in the nick of time, often pulling me back with His shepherd's crook just before I fell over the precipice into the darkness below.  I pray that He will never give up on me or on any of His sheep.


__________________________________________________________________________

SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki studying up on strategies for getting fed more frequently!
On Facebook this past week, I came across a photo which was taken from a video and showed a ginger and white tabby appearing to read a copy of The Art of Military Strategy.  It gave me a good laugh at the time.

Later, while thinking about how cleverly the photographer had captured an aspect of the nature of Cat, I decided it would be fun to do a drawing of Suki based on the photo -- and so you have the drawing above.

Speaking of the cat with whom I share my home, I feel it is time for me to mention a serious issue that I have been struggling with over these past few months -- what to do about Suki?

As my health issues have gotten worse, it has become more and more difficult for me to take care of Suki.  Each day now as I struggle to clean her sand box, for example, I find that I often have to rest several times during the process as the effort leaves me so tired and winded.  After I finally finish and sit down to rest -- trying to recover some measure of strength -- I find myself wondering just how much longer I will be able to continue doing this.

The idea of having to try to find a new home for Suki fills me with distress, but I can't help but think how much better it would be to try to find a new home for Suki now while I am still able to take care of her basic needs.  If the day should come where I can no longer care for her, then I might not have any choice except to give her back to the Humane Society!  At least this way I would be able to seek out a good home for my dear friend without having to act in haste.

So, I am putting the idea out there and hoping that those followers and readers of this blog who live in my part of the world will be on the lookout for a possible new home for Miss Suki. 

Of course, the very thought of having to stop sharing my life with Suki makes me feel even less well -- so if you were to ask me how I am feeling at this moment, I would have to say "rather poorly"!

I did have several medical appointments this past week, but they were just follow-up types and resulted in no new information -- just renewed prescriptions.  Meanwhile, my situation continues to be much the same with the usual complaints:  the pain level remains high, the sleep problems seem to be increasing and the pills I was given to help my stomach don't seem to be doing anything at all! As most of you are aware, so much of medical "science" seems to be guesswork whenever it comes to managing the health of seniors who have multiple, often quite serious, medical issues all at the same time.

Thankfully, this coming week does not include any doctors appointments at all.  The week after, however, includes an appointment at Sunnybrook Hospital with a specialist in sleep disorders plus a visit to the ophthalmologist for a new and increasingly uncomfortable eye problem!  Who would have guessed that a new problem might occur?!


However, let me finish today's posting by looking ahead to a couple of joyful events:  St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, March 17th, and the Feast of St. Joseph on Wednesday, the 19th.  Following are my favourite icons of each.

"St. Patrick of Ireland", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
This icon was done originally as a gift to my godson, Patrick. The writing on the right-hand side is Gaelic and can be translated more or less directly as St. Patrick of Ireland.

If you have never read a biographical account of the life of St. Patrick, I would highly recommend that you do so.  His life, especially his boyhood years spent as a slave in Ireland, make the story of "12 Years a Slave" pale by comparison.  In the process, St. Patrick became a saint and led Ireland out of its rather barbaric paganism and into the beauty of Catholicism.



"St. Joseph the Carpenter with Jesus",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

This "icon" of St. Joseph and the Child, Jesus", was done in 2013 and, I say with embarrassment, never even completely finished! As you can see, I failed to put on the title or the names in Greek and English as I always do.  It does remain a favourite of mine in spite of that, however.

This drawing is another of the more recent drawings of the saints which are, to some extent, more "picture" and less "icon". 

As you may recall, there were several comments from viewers back at the end of 2012 which seemed to imply that they were getting tired of seeing my drawings of mostly icons.  So, beginning in 2013, I made a point of trying to do more western-style art work rather than continuing to develop my icon-drawing skills.

At any rate, these images are simply reminders of the wonderful lives these two men led in discerning the Will of God for their lives and following Christ to the best of their ability.  This is, of course, what makes them saints -- an option open to us all as well -- something to reflect on as we continue moving through this Lenten Season.

So, let me end by asking St. Patrick and St. Joseph to pray for us all in the week again -- asking that we may accept the graces God constantly pours out upon us so that we, too, may one day be saints. May the peace of God be with us all.  Amen.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Brazilian Candles -- Pavonia x gledhillii

"Brazilian Candles - Pavonia x gledhillii", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Pavonia × gledhillii is an evergreen flowering plant in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The generic name honours Spanish botanist José Antonio Pavón Jiménez (1754-1844).  The epithet gledhillii come from Dr. David Gledhill, curator in 1989 of University of Bristol Botanic Garden.   

Pavonia × gledhillii, a 19th Century hybrid of Pavonia makoyana and Pavonia multiflora, is a shrub which tends to grow to a height of 2 to 4 feet with dark green leaves and pink or crimson bracts growing around the flowers in an upright vase shape. The actual flowers are bluish-purple in colour with dark blue stamens. The combination of these gives the appearance of a “flower” not yet fully opened. The dark blue stamens eventually protrude above the bracts, which makes the blossom look as though it’s sticking out its tongue!   

One of the more interesting and unusual aspects of his plant is that it exudes plant juices on the stems and leaves which, after the liquid dries out, leaves what appear to be very attractive “crystals” shining in the sunlight. (I tried to find a photo of this phenomenon  but was unable to do so).  This plant is very attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

"Brazilian Candles - Pavonia x gledhillii (detail)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

The better know common names for Pavonia x gledhillii are Brazilian Candles and Many Flowers.  The latter refers to the fact that during its season, Pavonia x gledhillii is often covered in a great many blossoms.

The reason I ended up doing two drawings of the same plant is that I was so fascinated by the construction of the blossoms with their small bluish-purple flowers and pink or crimson-red bracts that I wanted to show everything in greater detail than is possible when showing a great many blossoms.  I also wanted to work with both of the usual colours of the bracts -- pink and crimson.

This is another in a growing list of unusual Brazilian/South American flowering plants, including Brazilian Firecrackers (July 10, 2013), Brazilian Fireworks (July 31, 2013), Cockspur Coral Tree (January 12, 2014) and Brazilian Cherries (February 23, 2014).  I do enjoy trying to draw the unusual!

_________________________________________________

OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST

I have received a couple of new requests for the use of my art.
 
Stations of the Cross, Twelfth Station,
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009
 
The rector of an Episcopal church in the U.S. contacted me, asking me if I would grant permission for him to make prints of the Stations of the Cross I drew back in 2009. 

Evidently, he plans to place these in his parish church during Holy Week for the use of his parishioners.  I, of course, said "yes" and have sent him the necessary materials.  




"Holy Family - Stone Wall", drawing
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

 As well, a staff writer for a U.S. Catholic newspaper (state level) wrote requesting permission to use one of the Holy Family icons I have done over the past years as the logo for a series of articles the paper is planning on running regarding the many issues we face these days regarding "family".  I sent him the file for this icon with permission to use it, but whether it gets used will depend on the decision of his editor!  I will let you know what happens.



Cover of birthday card for my grand-niece, March 8, 2014

Finally, I used the elements of this year's Chinese New Year card to create a birthday card for my grand-niece who was born in the Year of the Horse twelve years ago!


Thanks be to God, in spite of my poor health these days, I continue to be able to create and to share the results of that creativity with others in meaningful ways.

__________________________________________________

SUKI AND SALLIE 

Suki needs a manicure!
Well, the time has come to cut Suki's nails again!  This is not a day I have been looking forward to, however. Actually, I had originally planned to do this yesterday, but then I remembered that the 8th of March is Suki's birthday! She turned 5 years old yesterday. Congratulations, Suki!

Now, back to the nails business.  Suki, like most cats, does not appreciate having her nails clipped.  Actually, let me re-phrase that.  During the process, Suki hates having her nails clipped; although, once the ordeal is finished, she does seem to appreciate the fact that she is no longer getting caught by her too-long nails in various fabrics around the house!

Just in case you are not a cat person, let me explain.

When a cat's nails get too long on their front paws, they tend to get caught in whatever fabric the cat is climbing on -- whether leaping in or out of a chair on maybe just taking a moment to "knead" the thick covers on the bed.  This predicament is often a cause for a cat to yowl in pain as he or she tries to extricate themselves from the situation.  

In Suki's case, I am often required to come to her rescue. Unlike that folk tale where the child removes the thorn from the lion's paw and the lion is forever grateful, Suki sees me as the source of pain she experiences while I am removing her nail (or nails) from the fabric and it takes all of her willpower not to bite me during the process!  I say "willpower", but I am not really sure what stops her from actually biting me as I can see that she really wants to.  For some reason -- maybe because I yell at her whenever I see her teeth getting too close -- she has never bitten me yet (knock on wood).

For the past few days, I have been called upon to help Suki out of this kind of predicament 3 or 4 times and so I know, with certainty, that the clipping of the nails cannot be put off any longer.  This task is scheduled for later today and, hopefully, will not require me (or Suki) to make a quick trip to the emergency room!

Some people and some cats simply cannot deal with the stress of nail clipping and so a visit to the vet must be scheduled.  I have always been able to clip the nails of the cats who have shared my home -- perhaps because I started the practise with each cat when they were young and newly arrived in my home.  Maybe it is just my "school-teacher" type, authoritative manner that enables me to do this task without getting scratched or bitten. 

At any rate, Suki still has a few hours to go before the time for clipping arrives as I find it best if I do it when she announces that she is hungry and ready to be served supper.  Maybe this is why she tolerates my actions -- she really wants to get fed and knows that I will not feed her until the clipping is finished!

Now, as for my news, I did hear from the gastroenterologist this week regarding the biopsy.  He informed me that there is no sign of cancer nor is there any sign of the H. pylori bacterium!  

Evidently, the ulcers are the result of all the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs that I must take in order to keep the arthritis from putting me back in a wheelchair again.  The plan, for now, is that I will use diet and anti-acid drugs to reduce the acid level as much as possible.  The doctor will be doing another upper endoscopy towards the end of April, I believe.  Then he will have a better idea as to whether this approach is working.

Otherwise, I think I may be feeling a bit less weak and have a wee tad more energy -- I am hoping that this may mean the beginning of some sort of recovery from whatever it is that has caused me to experience these problems over the past months.  Of course, today I am sorely lacking in energy but that is always the way it is for me with the "spring forward" time change.  My body really dislikes this Daylight Savings Time business!  

I am of the opinion that much money could be saved by doing away with Daylight Savings Time since I am convinced that every business experiences a real loss of productivity when we go through this each year.  I say this because I know so many people, like myself, who take a week or so to really get over this kind of change which affects sleep patterns, energy levels, concentration and all sorts of other things.  Oh, well... I don't think anyone in authority is listening to me or to my friends.  Too bad.

There you have it -- my gripe for the day.

_____________________________

Now, let's return to things that are of lasting importance. Today is the first Sunday of Lent and the people from the Cathedral were here a short while ago to bring me Our Lord in Holy Communion. What a blessing these folks are -- so faithful and dedicated.

May the coming week be filled with many blessings for us all.
Amen. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Another Mother and Son

"Mother with Son Wrapped in a Quilt", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Well, here is another drawing of a mother with her child.  There is a bit of a difference in this drawing, however, from those other "mother and child" efforts done recently.  The difference is that my concept of what I was attempting to illustrate was not the same as previous efforts.  In this drawing, I was thinking of a mother trying to care for her very sick son.

I am not sure why this seemed to be important to me -- maybe because I have been so sick and am having such difficulty getting better.  At any rate, whatever the reason, I hope some of what I was feeling comes across to you, the viewer.

As is obvious from the way the woman is dressed, the painting that inspired my efforts and which I used as my "model", was done in the 1800s.  I mainly used the painting for the placement of the two figures and not much else.  The wicker chair I added, is drawn in an attempt to depict a style popular during the "Victorian" era. Such chairs were often used for patio and lawn furniture during that time -- just as they are today.

The child, in my mind a boy, is wrapped warmly in a quilt.  Even though the scene shows a sunny day, warm enough for sitting outside, the child still feels cold and so his mother has wrapped him warmly.  The mother's face shows, I hope, that kind of inner reflection which hangs onto hope while the boy's face shows some of that tiredness which comes with prolonged illness.

As I worked on this drawing, I realized that the story I was trying to tell in this work has an uncertain ending -- I did not know if the child was going to get better or die.  The ending of his life is an uncertain as the ending of each of our lives... we always think we have plenty of time and yet each additional day can be seen as an undeserved gift from the hand of God -- a gift that may be equal to 24 hours or not...

So, I will leave it to you, the viewer, to decide how the story will end. That should be the option of any art work that depicts the human condition: the viewer is given the opportunity to decide what the images mean, what story the images are telling and how that story will end.


_________________________________________________

ASH WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2014


And so begins another Lenten Season.

Inside the parish bulletin that the kind folks from the Cathedral brought with them today, there was an insert about Lent.  The insert did not contain anything unexpected; however, it did point out the aspects of Lent in a very succinct manner.  I quote:  "Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving -- are the three things we need to work on during the season.  Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days... Fasting is actually a form of penance that helps us turn away from our usual self-indulgent lifestyle... [and] Almsgiving is about reaching out to others in compassion as we seek to share in the experience of God's unconditional love." 



Icon "Mother Do Not Weep for Me", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


Lent is a time of "giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial which, we pray, will bring us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us."

I pray that we may all enter upon this Lent's "way of the cross" so fully that come Easter Morning, we, too, will share, in some meaningful way, in the Resurrection of the Lord.  Amen.



_________________________________________________________________

SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki in one of her favourite chairs!

I apologize, but I am not going to try to say too much today either about Suki or myself -- I am really just not feeling up to it.

Suki continues to look after me and stays with me day and night as I try to get comfortable and get a bit of sleep each night -- neither of which come easy for me at this time.  

Patiently, she follows me from room to room as I make my way through each day and night.  This is especially apparent late at night until the early morning hours when I often end up having to change my place for sleeping every little while.  As I move, Suki moves -- taking up her position nearby. Each time I awaken, I see her eyes open and watching me.  What an excellent companion I have been given.

I should be getting the results of the biopsy this week and, then, hopefully, the doctors will be able to begin some kind of treatment for my stomach that will bring a bit of relief.  I will let you know in next Sunday's posting.

Meanwhile, I will continue to pray that we may all experience that peace which is beyond human understanding in the days ahead -- that peace which God alone can give.  Amen.