Sunday, 27 April 2014

Our Lady of the Roses

"Our Lady of the Roses", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014


Here is a new drawing for which I once again used, as my model, a painting by John William Waterhouse.  

Waterhouse (born 1849, died 1917) was an English artist whose works were labelled "pre-Raphaelite".  Artists whose works fall under the description of "pre-Raphaelite" felt that art had lost its way with the work and style of Raphael. They particularly rejected any painting style which they felt was "lax or sloshy".  Instead, they sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art (the art of the late middle ages and early Renaissance).

Although Waterhouse is less well-known than other pre-Raphaelites (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt), I find that I keep returning to his paintings for inspiration and the use of his works as models for my own drawings.  My works, of course, do not do his works justice, but my attempts to copy something of his style gives me great pleasure and helps me to forget -- just a bit -- the pain which is now my constant companion.

The Waterhouse painting that I used for my model for this drawing is entitled: "The Soul of the Rose".  For me, I saw the painting as one of Our Lady -- especially under the title of "Mystical Rose" and, thus, I called my drawing "Our Lady of the Roses".    


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DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

Not only is this Divine Mercy Sunday, but this is -- as I am sure you are aware -- the day of the canonizations of St. Pope John XXIII and St. Pope John Paul II.  What a wonderful day for the whole Church.


Did you see well over a million people thronging the whole area around the Vatican?  So many happy faces on this wonderful day.  I have not yet been able to watch the actual ceremonies, but plan to do so later when they are being replayed for members of the North American audience who can't cope with getting up so early in order to watch the events on Rome time!

Of course, Divine Mercy Sunday was very special to St. JPII as was the whole teaching on Divine Mercy given to, and through, St. Faustyna (Faustina).  Hanging above my desk is a large picture of Our Lord of Divine Mercy with those wonderful words underneath: "Jesus, I trust in You".

"Jesus, I Trust in You", drawing by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


St. Pope John XXIII and St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us.


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MORE EASTER STUFF

Braden's mom sent me a number of photos on Easter Sunday and so I can't help but share a couple of them.  He is such a cutie-pie and he appears to have a cow-lick in the same spot as his "Auntie" Sallie!  

The first photo shows Braden after more Easter egg hunting (remember the photo from last Sunday's posting showed him with only one basket, not quite full).  That basket was actually in the original copy of this photo, but I cropped it out so that Braden would appear larger.  So, even though you can't see it, he ended up with three baskets full of goodies!


Braden after the Easter egg hunt!

This next photo was taken the week before Easter Sunday and really shows what a grown-up boy Braden has become in almost two years!  I simply cannot believe that the time has passed so quickly. What a joy he has been to his family and friends as we have seen the development of the delightful personality and the uniqueness that is Braden.


I can't believe that he is almost 2 years old!


Serbian Orthodox Vaskrs (Pascha) eggs and bread.
Notice how the eggs are decorated with the leaf 
design -- beautiful work, Amra!
I also received an Easter photo from my friend, Amra, showing the bread and eggs that are part of her family's Serbian Orthodox Pascha celebration. The eggs are red -- traditionally a caramel red colour -- symbolizing happiness, joy, rebirth and the blood of Christ. The sweet egg bread, similar to chalka (the Polish bread that I have shared when celebrating Easter with my Polish friends) except that the red-dyed, hard-cooked eggs are nestled atop the braid.     


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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki settling in for her morning snooze
in her one of her favourite chairs
Well, thanks to the suggestion of a good friend, Suki's days of sleeping on the laptop keyboard may now occur less frequently!  At least that is my hope.

When my friend, Jessie, came to visit on Thursday this past week, she mentioned that she had read my recent posting about wishing there was some way to provide Suki with heat for her painful joints -- some way other than my laptop keyboard -- and my concerns over trying to use a heating pad since Suki's claws and electricity seem a dangerous combination!

However, Jessie mentioned that her son, during a time when he had a cat needing extra warmth, had come up with the idea of putting a heating pad between the layers of a blanket and then turning the heating pad on high for a time so that the blanket, itself, could become warm to the touch.  Afterwards, turning the pad down to medium (or even low, depending on the "power" of the heating pad) which would allow the blanket to remain warm indefinitely while protecting the heating pad from the cat.

I was so taken with the idea that I had to try it out right away -- even before Jessie left!  I used a big towel rather than a blanket and placed the heating pad, wrapped carefully in the towel, in one of Suki's favourite chairs.  After making certain that the towel felt pleasantly warm to the touch and turning down the heating pad to low, I found Suki and gently placed her on the warm towel.

She was delighted with the arrangement and stayed in the chair for about four hours straight, first on her right side (right hip joint) and then her left, turning every hour or so.  She finally awoke and left the chair when she suddenly decided it was time to eat again.

I was so pleased about this arrangement and was almost ready to consider it a victory won, happy that my laptop would no longer be subjected to 12 lbs of Suki sleeping on it every night.  Fortunately, I know enough not to assume victory with Suki too quickly -- and that turned out to be a wise decision.

The following morning I discovered that Suki had been on the laptop again during the night.  I could tell this with certainty because she had somehow managed to take 12 screen shots of my "resting" screen with the screen capture software I have!  As Queen Victoria is supposed to have said:  "We are not amused"!

I have not given up, however, and I will continue to encourage Suki to use the chair "pad" rather than the laptop as a source of warmth on her painful joints.  Last night was the third night since I started teaching Suki to use the heating pad arrangement and when I checked the computer early this morning, it appeared that nothing was amiss. This means that Suki chose to stay on the warm chair last night rather than the keyboard.  Of course, it is still far too early in this game for me to declare victory -- especially when dealing with a cat as frustratingly smart as Suki!

As for myself, I do have some news from my most recent doctor's appointment.  As the doctor said, there is both good news and bad news.  

The good news is that my bones are in amazing shape for someone my age!  Evidently, the majority of my "lost" height is due to the way that my neck and upper back curve now ever since my neck was broken a few years ago.  Not being able to hold my neck up straight means that my standing height appears to be almost three inches lower than prior to the accident.  My bones, on the other hand, show no signs of osteoporosis.

The bad news is that my potassium is out of whack again! Somehow, it has gotten much too high once more and so I am back on these unpleasant pills I must use in order to bring the potassium back to within the normal range.  I stopped eating any foods high in potassium back last fall when this problem first occurred and have never returned to eating them.  At that time I took the prescribed medication until the week after my blood test on the 30th of December, 2013. When the doctor phoned the results the first week of January, 2014, saying that my potassium level was normal again, I stopped the unpleasant medication immediately. In blood tests over the past few months, the potassium level has remained "within normal limits".  Why it has suddenly spiked again, I don't know -- nor do the doctors -- but I am now back to the only treatment that seems to work -- this unpleasant medication. Oh, well....

Otherwise, everything else is much the same.  I do have some medical appointments this coming week; however, these are follow-up appointments and I do not expect to hear anything new or surprising.
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Let us try to remember that while God is just, He is also always merciful.


Now, may the peace of God fill our hearts in the days ahead and may our lives be full of joy.  Amen



Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday, 2014

"Easter Lilies, 2014", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

Happy Easter to you all.

The regal white lily (Lilium longiforum), a mark of purity and grace throughout the ages, is a fitting symbol of Easter. The genus Lilium includes European and American, Asiatic and Oriental bulbs, but not day lilies, water lilies, canna/calla lilies or lily-of-the-valley. In fact, the Easter lily is more closely related to the tulip and to asparagus than to these other so-called lilies. A list of true lilies includes more than 1,200 species that vary in size, form and colour.  
Easter lilies were native to Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, as well as the island of Okinawa. In 1819, Easter lilies were introduced in England. In 1853, commercial production of bulbs began in Bermuda. Such a stronghold on the market developed there that the species became known as the Bermuda lily. In 1898, however, an infestation and virus obliterated the Bermuda lily industry. About the same time, lily bulb production began in the southern United States. Japan still produced the lion’s share of bulbs, but during World War II, the U.S. eliminated Easter lily bulb trade with Japan and centred production in the Pacific northwest where it remains to this day. 

“History, mythology, literature, poetry and the world of art are rife with stories and images that speak of the beauty and majesty of these elegant white flowers.” Often called the “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies were supposedly found in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony, growing where the drops of Christ’s bloody sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress. 


Since the beginning of time, lilies have played a significant role in traditional stories concerning motherhood. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was said that the lily sprang from the earth in the spots where the repentant tears of Eve fell as she and Adam were sent forth from the Garden of Eden. 

The pure white lily has long been closely associated with the Virgin Mary. In early paintings, the Angel Gabriel is pictured extending to the Virgin Mary a branch of pure white lilies, announcing that she is to be the mother of the Christ Child. In other paintings, saints are pictured bringing vases full of white lilies to Mary and the infant Jesus. St. Joseph is depicted holding a lily-branch in his hand, indicating his own purity. 

Since the earliest days of Christianity, the story has been told that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was visited three days after her burial, it was found empty save for bunches of majestic white lilies. Early writers and artists made the lily the emblem of the Annunciation as well as the Assumption of Our Lady. 

For almost 100 years now, the Easter lily has been worn at Easter by Irish republicans as mark of commemoration for Irish republican soldiers who died during, or were assassinated after, the 1916 Easter Uprising.

Of particular importance to me, Easter Lilies (as well as day lilies, Tiger lilies and Stargazer lilies) are extremely toxic to cats. All parts of the lily – including the stem, leaves, petals, stamens and pollen – are poisonous to cats. Simply chewing on a leaf or getting pollen on the fur and licking it off is enough to be fatal. Lily poisoning causes acute renal (kidney) failure and death within 3-6 days.   

Much of the above information was taken from the ASK website, including some direct quotes.


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BRADEN and NOTES OF POSSIBLE INTEREST


Just received a video of Braden a short time ago which shows him hunting for Easter eggs at home.  I captured a picture from the video which explains why it is so grainy -- Braden was really moving quickly about the house as he searched for those eggs! Anyway, you can get some idea of what a big boy he has become.

This hunting of Easter eggs is serious business!


Here is a copy of a poster that I recently made for the Seniors' Group at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto.  Any of you who are seniors and live in the area are welcome to attend.


Poster advertising upcoming retreat at St. Michael's Cathedral (St. John's Chapel)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


As well, I received an email from my friend, Rose Marie, telling me about a course called:  ART 'JOURNAL' ING.  The information reads:  "[It] is an easy way to do small art pieces and chronicle your personal thoughts and/or experiences. Come join our class Mondays 1 to 3 pm at Beaux-Arts Brampton starting April 21st for 6 weeks. Hope you can join us.  For more information go to their website (although it says that the first class was the 14th of April, I understand that the course was delayed a week and so will be starting tomorrow, the 21st): 
http://www.beaux-artsbrampton.com/arts/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=401%3Amixedmediacollage&catid=26&Itemid=23 


This painting by my friend, Rose Marie, of an Arbutus Tree is one of my all-time favourites.


This is the sort of course the younger, healthier, pain-free version of myself would have loved to attend!  So, if you live in the area and are interested, please attend and then let me know how much fun it was!

   
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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki has started sleeping on the computer!
(drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014)
Even though she has to suffer some extra pain to achieve her objective, Suki seems to be willing to do so in order to sleep on my laptop computer!

To get to my computer, Suki must first jump from the floor onto the seat of my desk chair. Then, from there, she must jump up onto the desk where the computer sits.  My computer is a laptop and I never turn it off, so it is always warm.  I am sure that it is the heat that now attracts poor Suki to make this painful effort.  It must feel to her like a heating pad for kitty-cats. I, too, know how comforting something warm can feel on arthritic joints!

Of course, I do not approve of Suki sleeping on my laptop since she tends to cause strange things to happen involving my software! Whenever I find her on the computer (and after I gently remove her), there are always messages on the screen asking me if I really want to move this, go there or delete something!  This is not good! If, for example, Suki should move just a certain way in her sleep or press down on a certain key while lying down or getting up, I could have a real mess to clean up.  Yikes, I could even lose some of my art files!!

I thought about sharing my heating pad with her; however, I immediately realized that this was far too dangerous a thing to do. Like any cat, when Suki settles down to sleep, she has to do a bit of "bathing" first and she doesn't hesitate to use her nails when positioning herself to wash the more difficult parts of her anatomy. These nails, even when newly trimmed, are still sharp enough to easily go through the cover on a heating pad and that could lead to

some serious consequences for poor Suki.  She could suddenly get much warmer than she ever intended to!




I have tried explaining to Suki how very unhappy I would be if she accidentally caused me to lose lots of valuable computer files, but, so far, she refuses to understand my legitimate concerns.  I  have even offered to allow her to spend the entire night sleeping on my head (so long as she refrains from trying to wash my hair with her tongue!), but even that hasn't kept her off the computer.  

So, I have decided that I will just have to start shutting the computer down and closing it up for the five or six hours I am able to get some sleep most nights even though this means I will have to re-schedule some of the cleaning and backup software I usually run during that time.  Perhaps, once she finds that the computer is no longer warm, she will decide it is not such a comfortable place to sleep after all!  I can only hope.

As for me, I am much the same.

I had a couple of tests this past week, including the upper endoscopy to see how the ulcers were doing.  Actually, they seem to be healing -- that's the good news.  The bad news is that I have a new ulcer which is not a gastric ulcer but my first duodenal ulcer! The specialist is convinced that if I continue to use the medication he prescribed and watch my diet, things will finally improve even though I will still be taking the anti-inflammatory medications. We'll see if he is right.

I have more appointments with doctors this week and should get the results of my bone density test.  Speaking of which, I was most distressed to learn when I went to take that test this past week that I am no longer 5'10"+ in height; rather, I am now only 5'7"+!!  Of course, part of this decrease in height, I think, is due to the fact that since my neck was broken a few years ago, I am no longer able to hold my head up straight.  Were I still able to fully extend my neck, I think I would be just a bit taller.

My height was always such an issue while I was growing up, especially for my mother.  She wanted all of her daughters to be "southern belles" and how could I possibly be a proper southern belle at 5'101/2" in height?  Unfortunately, there were no serious organized sports for girls in those days in rural Alabama.  If high school girls' basketball had been as serious a sport then as it is now in the States, I might have experienced my height in a much more positive way -- maybe even gotten a basketball scholarship as I was pretty good at making free throws and the occasional jump shot when I bounced the ball around with some of my friends in the gym -- when the boys weren't around, of course!



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On this Easter Sunday, I think longingly of the joy it would give me to be able to be at Holy Mass today.

One of the things about the Easter Liturgy that I miss the most is the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday just before midnight. 
The atmosphere in the church is so different: the holy water fonts are drained,  all the lights are out,  the tabernacle is empty – there is no reason to genuflect. How empty and dead it all seems.  

Then, outside the church, the Liturgy begins as a new fire is lit and blessed. 
Next, the Paschal Candle is prepared. As the priest marks the candle, he says: 
Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, all time belongs to Him and all the ages, to Him be glory and power through every age and for ever. Amen
Now the 5 grains of incense are inserted into the candle and the priest says: 
By his holy 
and glorious wounds, 
may Christ the Lord 
guard us 
and protect us. Amen. 

The priest now lights the candle from the new fire, saying: 
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds. 
The candle is then processed through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: Lumen Christi (The Light of Christ) and the congregation sings in reply: Deo gratias (Thanks be to God). 
Everyone in the congregation is holding a taper and these are lit from the Easter candle and from one another’s tapers until the whole church is alight and the darkness is dispelled. 
The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.

Finally the ancient and beautiful hymn, the Exsultet, is sung by the choir and so ends this symbolic representation of what Easter is all about -- Life unending which death and darkness will never overcome.  
15th Station of the Cross (optional)
"The Resurrection of Our Lord"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010





May the blessings of this Holy Season fill our hearts and minds. Amen.   

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.

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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.


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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 C├ómara (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.


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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.    


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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.