Friday, May 30, 2008

Caregivers

I've shared a little with the blogging world about having cancer and how it has changed my daily life. People feel sorry for me and want to hug me all the time. I am not a hugger. One social worker asked what were the best and worst things about having cancer. I said the worst was being hugged all the time. The best, if you'd like to know, is that I will never go through menopause; everything just stopped working.
What I haven't written about is the wear and tear my illness has had on my family and THEIR daily lives. I am single with no children. That is good for me, because I don't have to worry about caring for a household when I am sick. However, it also means I live alone, which worries people when one is sick. My parents live 2 hours away, and my younger sister, my only sibling, lives 15 minutes away. That's great for me, right? Not so much for her! She has a husband, kids, dog and house to take care of! When you have a child, you know you are signing on for life. When you're born a sibling, it gets shoved on you.
I am very lucky that my sister, K, is usually available to go with me to appointments, run errands, and generally help me when needed. But that's not her job, she just does it because that's what family does. It's important to have someone with the patient at the "big" appointments where test results are explained, but for regular appointments I go alone. Oncology appointments can take all day, and she has kids coming home from school.
My BIL's life is also effected by my illness. He has taken days off work when we needed to be at the hospital all day, rearranged meetings so he can be home to put kids on the bus or off, run out for food, all those good things. For a workaholic like him, this is HUGE! I appreciate so much what they both do for me. I've also invaded their home a number of times, coming to stay during potential big snowstorms, when I was let out of the hospital but the doctors said I couldn't be alone, etc. This means that my niece gives up her room, everything has to be cleaned top to bottom, and no one can use the same bathroom I use. So it's a lot on a family with young children.
This has been our life for 5 years now. For Frieda, my niece, she probably can't even remember when Auntie wasn't "sick." It's just the way things are. With the kids getting older, they are now big helpers to me, also. On weekends the boys come over and help with laundry, cleaning, big projects like organizing the basement, all the things I can't do because of breathing difficulties. They sure don't do this at home! When I've been hospitalized suddenly, Frieda helps her mom get a bag together for me in the hospital, and they've cleaned my house and done my laundry while I am in the "lock up" as I like to call it!
The boys put up my new curtains for me last weekend!
Three years ago our mother had a recurrence of breast cancer after 15 years survival. This happened at the same time as preparations for my first bone marrow transplant were beginning. K went to our parents' and stayed with them for several days, knowing that not only the emotional but the physical would be wearing our dad down. Again, she had to reorganize carpools, meals, etc. She may not technically be "sandwiched" in her caregiving, but she's pulled in 3 directions. In addition to these daily and small changes in her life she has missed out on social events, weekends at the lake, and even attempted to cancel vacations with her husband and children when I was having a procedure, much to my horror!
Even though my parents are two hours away, they are here as soon as I need them, day or night. With their wildman dog, by the way! They have been financially and emotionally supportive through all of this, which I know is hard on them at their age, especially my mother who is primary caregiver to my dad (You may know him as the Hoarder from other posts!) who has many mobility and health issues.Family, extended family, friends who treat you like family are all so important when you are really ill. I do what I can to show my appreciation, having the family to dinner, taking the kids for sleepovers so the parents can have a romantic evening, things like that! I also know that I would do the exact same thing if situations were reversed. I can't understand families that don't speak to each other or celebrate holidays, etc. We're not perfect, we're the loudest, fighting-est, disagreeing-est family around. But we know we're a family and that's the way it is, to quote Walter Cronkite!
JUNE IS NATIONAL CAREGIVERS' MONTH!
Appreciate your caregivers, and if YOU are the caregiver, remember to take care of yourself first or you can't take care of anyone else!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursdays: Wallace Nutting

I am participating in Vintage Thingies Thursday. On her blog, Lisa the Apron Queen gives full instructions for participating. Vintage is anything more than 30 years old. Antiques are also welcome, so it's pretty much all old stuff! It's fun to visit the lists of the week's participants and see what kind of neat vintage things they collect or even sell! Maybe you'll find something to add to your own vintage collection, or you'll realize that something you thought was junk is collectible to others.

Again from my dad's basement . . .
2 Wallace Nutting photos that belonged to my great-grandparents. They are in their original frames and mats, too! My sister and I each received one as a Christmas gift many years ago, and we have both purchased more to create groupings in our homes. We have found that buying the photos in vintage and antique shops is pricey, but eBay is very reasonable. This is probably because we live in New England and these prints are highly collectible in this area.Dr. Wallace Nutting was a New England Renaissance man! He was a minister in the late 19th century. At age forty-three he was forced to leave the pulpit because of poor health. He described this experience as, "The greatest sorrow of my life, almost a killing sorrow, to cease from the regular duties of a pastor." Nutting started taking pictures in 1899 while on long bicycle rides in the countryside. He would illuminate his photographs with paint to enhance the image. In 1904 he opened the Wallace Nutting Art Prints Studio on East 23rd Street in New York. After a year he moved his business to a farm in Southbury, CT. In 1917 he moved to Framingham, MA and explored his interests in reproducing antique furniture and publishing. His studio was one of the most prolific of the early 20th century.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ogunquit

Every summer, I am fortunate to enjoy a week in Ogunquit, Maine. Ogunquit is an Abenaki word meaning Beautiful Place by the Sea, and it truly is, being rated one of the most beautiful beaches in America. It is one of only 2 public beaches in the state of Maine. Ogunquit is rich in history, having been a fishing village since the mid-1600s, and of course a strong Abenaki culture dominated before the arrival of Europeans.
One of the many wonderful things about Ogunquit is how this tiny town, situated on Route 1 between Wells and York, has managed to keep national chain businesses from moving in. Other than a couple banks and gas stations, with a Cumberland Farms mini-market, there are no other large corporate businesses that I have seen. Because Ogunquit is so tiny, visitors who desperately need Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, or Dairy Queen can zip 10 minutes north to Wells. For those of us who enjoy a time with no neon or familiar logos, we stay in the village.
Another thing that makes this a great place to visit is the trolley system. Buses that look like trolleys, all with cute names such as Lolly, Wally, and Molly, stop throughout the town and are very reasonably priced. Each year, we take a round-trip on the trolley, just to see what has changed in town. Because this is an old New England village, roads are narrow, curvy, and crowded; using the public transportation is the best way to get around.
The Ogunquit public beach is gorgeous and well-maintained. The majority of visitors to the beach are respectful and keep things clean. Because Maine is so far north, there are long tides, so if your day's timing is right there will be tidal pools and hard-packed sand for thousands of yards. This is important, because on weekends the beach can get really crowded. It also makes it great for playing bocce, flying kites, and the inevitable digging holes to China! Sunbathers on the beach have their backs to the parking lot, but on the other side of the lot is the Ogunquit tidal river. Families enjoy the tidal river because the water on that side does not have crashing waves, there are rocks to look among for sea life, and there is more soft sand for building. There are also kayakers in the tidal river and water birds.
Originally Ogunquit was settled by Europeans as a fishing village. Over time, it's beautiful views brought many artists to its shores. Ogunquit and the Southeast Maine coast offer many art shows, galleries, and museums. With its artistic year-round population, the area is very culturally diverse. There are fabulous antique shops, salvage yards, and live theater all over the Southern Maine coast.
When people think of Maine, they immediately think of lobster, I know! I'm not a big lobster fan,
myself, it's too much work. I'm more of a crab gal. Get it: crab: evil overlord! It's not really a joke, I do prefer crab. One summer I did a "crab roll tour" of my own invention. I ordered the same meal at every restaurant every night and took a few little notes on what I thought about each crab roll meal. The final conclusion is that they were all excellent in different ways. Some had celery, some chopped the crab more than others, some toasted the roll, all different ways of making a yummy New England sandwich.
Besides eating lobster, visitors can catch a boat at Perkin's Cove and go on a lobstering tour. This is a really fun way to see the coastline from the ocean and learn about lobstering. There are also different sunrise or sunset tours.
As I wrote, there are no chain restaurants in the village, but there are also no bad restaurants. Besides seafood, there is Italian, Chinese, family fare, gourmet, diners: it's all available. As my family enjoys this trip as a tradition, we have certain places we like to eat, and certain activities we do each year. We eat several meals in a section of town known as Perkin's Cove. There are great views from most of the restaurants of the fishing boats, the famous draw bridge, and the Marginal Way path. The Marginal Way is a 1.3 mile coastal walk, going from the Cove to just outside the Village Center. There are benches where walkers can sit and enjoy views, the pathway is paved for ease of strollers, and you will walk past beautiful historic beach homes. Our family likes to take the walk from the Cove after dinner and then get an ice cream in the Village Center. The adults stick to the pathways, but the kids like to hit the rocks for a bit of the time!
In addition to varied activities and restaurants, there are all sorts of accommodations. Condo hotels, house rentals, motels, B & Bs, there is something for everyone's needs. Most of these places do not have restaurants, but often serve a continental breakfast. Many do not have pools, and most require a 48-hour notice of cancellation or the visitor will be charged for the entire stay. This is because there is such high demand for rooms and so many people book several weeks for the summer each year.
My dad loves to go to Ogunquit, but he doesn't like beaches! He enjoys sitting in the covered pavilion at the top of the sand and reading his magazines. He's right by the trolley if he wants to go home, and he can see the kids playing in the sand and waves.
The famous Perkin's Cove drawbridge connects foot traffic from one side of the cove to the other. When a ship with tall masts needs to go under, she blows her horn and anyone who is on the bridge needs to get off and one person will hit the button to open the bridge. Some kids wait around for hours for the thrill of pressing the button.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's Nice to Meet You!

Congratulations to Rachel at The Rose Room on 100 Posts! She is sponsoring a 100 Hour Party with some cute giveaways. Even if you're too late to participate, stop on by and visit Rachel's crafty blog!
To participate, post a blog filling in this simple questionaire. Then post your link at Rachel's site.
Relationship: single
Children: None, but I am very close with my twin nephews and my niece.
Pets: Sadly, my beta fish, Captain Hickey recently passed away. He was 4 years old, ancient for a fish!

Age: 41 but I'm pretty sure I'm about 13 inside!
Star Sign: Taurus
Fave Food: a really good cheeseburger
Fave Drink: limeade
House Decor Style: Cottage/Country
Collections: Longaberger baskets, Depression-era glassware, vintage medicine bottles
How Did You Get Into Blogging: I had 2 bone marrow transplants and have been on a medical disability for 2 years. The Internet has become my new best friend because I am not supposed to go to places with large amounts of people. I've been on some chat boards and lurking in the blog world, but just set up my own blog in the last couple of months. I blog from my computer corner in the craft room.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Sunday Nightstand

Last Sunday there were 2 books on the nightstand to be read, The Miracle at Speedy Motors and The Beekeeper's Apprentice. This week, I read and really liked both. Speedy Motors, part of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, was what I expected. Stories of a simple life helping others, and learning more about the global world. I read Beekeeper for a book club. I had last read it about 8 years ago, and I am NOT a re-reader at all. I enjoyed all the books in this Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series, but never intended to go back to them. Well, it was BETTER the second time around! So many things from novels later in the series jarred my thoughts as I was reading and made things more intense and interesting. Now I think I might tackle them all as my beach reading for the summer!
I have really been enjoying the world of the book blogs! I have found out about books and authors of which I may not have know otherwise. I went online Thursday to my local library site and put a number of books on hold. Saturday I went to pick up what was ready and was thrilled with a huge pile waiting for me! Because so many of these books are several years old, they were readily available and I can keep them for a much longer time and renew them, too! In an earlier blog, I wrote about how I try to never pay for books, because I go through them so quickly. The library is my financial savior!

So here's my new TBR list, and how they were chosen.
Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen and The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper: both of these 2 were recommended by my friend Deborah, and I enjoy everything she's ever recommended. Also, I am always looking for new series books to plow through!
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf intrigued me with her Reading Journal on this book.
The Gods of Newport by John Jakes: In 3 places lately, I have been reminded of John Jakes, so I think someone wants me to read him again and this is one I've never read.
All Creatures Great & Small by James Herriott: recommended by my friend Rebecca for our book club.
Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman: I always read her newest release.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: recommended by my friend Diane. We are both avid readers with very different taste, but she's tried some of mine, so I'm trying her's!
I'm going to read Another Thing to Fall first, since it is due back at the library first. Then All Creatures Great & Small, since it is a book I have a commitment to with others. From there we'll see where the mood takes me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cottage Charm Giveaway

I'm joining Kim at The Twice Remembered Cottage for her second annual Cottage Giveaway. I thought this would be a fun way to meet other bloggers interested in the same things as me, and maybe I'd win something! The last thing I won was Air Supply tickets 25 years ago! And my mom didn't let me go!
I am giving away this adorable, special-edition Longaberger Horizons of Hope basket. This was only given to sales reps as a gift. It includes the pretty pink & white "Hope" fabric liner and a plastic protector. Its size is about 6"w x 4"hx3'd, perfect as a catch-all, for notepaper, or hair do-dads. The leather handles on the sides of the basket are formed into awareness ribbons! Inside the basket is a notepad and pen for breast cancer awareness. I believe there is going to be a little sweet treat in the basket when it arrives at the home of the drawing winner! You'll have to wait and see!
To win this cute basket, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post, with your email address, or some other way I can contact you if you win. On Saturday, May 31 I will put everyone's names into one of my many hats and select one to be the recipient. Unfortunately, I can only ship to US residents.
You can participate in the Cottage Charm Giveaway in 2 ways: first by visiting the other blogs that are giving away items on the 31st and following their instructions to win, and second, doing your own Giveaway. All of the giveaways and instructions are listed on Kim's site.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Recovery

So, I had cancer. I wrote about this is my Cancer Story entry when I first began this blog, letting people know a little about me. I am NOT looking for sympathy, I just think it's important to talk about cancer and other long-term illnesses and not hide them. It helps educate others and gives them a support network if they need it. So today here's something very few people, even medical professionals, know much about, Graft vs. Host Disease.
Cancer is awful for many people. It wasn't for me. I did not feel sick before I found the lump in my neck. I was up and about through all the initial testing to "stage" the disease, and since I knew my hair was going to fall out, I had it shaved off and donated to
Locks of Love.
The chemotherapy for the first part of the treatment went very well. With all of the great medications for nausea now, I never felt sick, so I was able to take myself to the treatment center every other week early in the morning for chemo. Then I went out and got a manicure or pedicure and had a nice lunch. I missed no other work than that for treatments!
18 months later, when the cancer came back, the treatment was stronger, but I still did great as far as it affecting my daily life. After my first stem-cell (bone marrow) treatment, I was back at work in 2 months. Again it came back, and this time the stem-cells came from an anonymous donor. The first time they were my own cells, but as I said, it didn't work. The transplant process was very easy, I was home the next day, I felt a little tired/weak for a few weeks, and then I started feeling normal again.
Why couldn't I go back to work?! I am a teacher, which is a very social job, so there are many people who could be carrying germs and bacteria that could kill me. I have no immune system, less than a newborn baby! All of my immunizations from childhood are gone, so I am susceptible to mumps, measles, tuberculosis, all that stuff! Besides work, I cannot go to movies, the theater, be in close crowds such as a party at someone's home. If I have to go to a store, I must wear a surgical mask and rubber gloves, and of course Purell as soon as I'm out of the store. Once I am no longer on the medications that help the bone marrow settle into my system I can have all of those immunizations again and be part of society.
The doctors told me this could take several years. All of my recovery processes in the past had been basically non-existent, so I didn't believe them! 6 months after the transplant, I was itching to return to work like crazy, but this was actually a huge turning point that I didn't realize until just about now! A "rash" started on various parts of my body. I call it rash, but it doesn't itch or burn, it's just an easy way to describe it. My face started becoming very brown, like a strange suntan, then my chest and arms.

This was the beginning of
Graft vs. Host Disease, which is as serious, if not more, than any cancer. The tests had shown for several months that the cancer was gone, but after 2 reoccurances, I wasn't believing anything. The GVHD proved the cancer was gone! The new cells had no cancer to fight off! Yeah! But, these cells knew they were not in their own home, they had a new host, me, and they didn't like it. So they started fighting my body. The largest organ in the human body is the skin, so that's where you see it first. A rash, then stiffening and hardening of the skin, similar to scars, which then grow and can affect movement and mobility. Next it goes after your lungs. I have had this problem for about 5 months now, and it's way worse than having cancer was, at least for me! The hardening is in the lungs now, so they can't take in as much air as in the past.
The only cure for this is to wait; oxygen doesn't help, and cardio-vascular exercise won't change anything, either! The growth of the GVHD is held back by prednisone, that dream steroid that so many take for 10 days or so with join problems or sciatica. I have been on it for over a year, at extremely high doses. The side effects of the prednisone have joined the GVHD to basically shut down my normal life. My hands shake, my eyesight is changing, of course my face is swelled up like a Thanksgiving Day balloon, and the side effect most people don't know about is that it is weakening all my muscles. So in addition to not being able to breathe well, I can't move as confidently or as quickly as in the past. It isn't just a little breathing problem; when I walk from the house to the car, I have to sit for about a minute to recover my breath! The doctor even got me a handicapped parking permit, which I did not ask for, so I can at least do my own grocery shopping. The speed of my walk does not change how fast the breathing gets bad, but having something to hold on to like a grocery cart makes it a lot better. I can get through the grocery store and then sit in the car for a few minutes.
Because my body has weakened, everything is a big effort. Standing to make a sandwich is a milestone, when I vacuum I feel like I've won a war! I put in small pieces of exercise to keep the muscles moving, going upstairs at least twice a day, doing at least one errand a day, and in nice weather I walk in the park. It's not really a walk, I go to one bench, sit and read a little, then the next, until I've gone around twice.
I am currently trying a new treatment to possibly help get rid of the GVHD faster. It is a chemotherapy used for kidney cancer that has been noted to cure GVHD. I am the second person in the country to try it, and it's been going well for almost 3 weeks now. This is a clinical trial being run at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I am very fortunate to live only an hour from this major cancer center. People come from all over the country and world for treatment; I meet so many interesting people in the waiting rooms there!
Again, this post is not to garner sympathy, but to educate. Everyone has trials: unemployment, natural disasters, foreclosure, deaths of family members. Everyone will have to deal with something horrible in their lifetime. It's how you handle it that matters. Play the cards your dealt and play them well!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursdays:Cameras

It's amazing the things people hold on to. In an earlier post, Collecting vs. Hoarding, I wrote a little about the glories of my dad's basement. It is Vintage Heaven! In some ways this is cool, because people love to see the things I pull out of there. In other ways it is frightening, because there are things that are NOT collectible or valuable, but are just hoarded. For example, the cardboard boxes from every small appliance ever purchased in that home, 1965 to the present. The idea was to have the box to put the appliance back into, I think. But if I was putting it back into the box, wouldn't that mean it was broken and should be tossed or repaired? And where ARE the appliances for all of these still-empty boxes? You see what I mean?!

With Vintage Thingies Thursdays I hope to showcase some of the cool things that have been found in Daddy's basement. Don't worry, no box collections! This week it is cameras. We all know how camera technology changes so quickly, so even if it isn't broken, it gets put away. Why don't they get put away in the same place? Over the course of 5 or 6 years, my dad would bring me boxes from his basement of things he thought I would like. My sister didn't want anything to do with his "junk", so it just started piling up in my basement. I would go through the boxes and get rid of stuff that meant nothing to me, or had been eaten by mice, etc. After about the fifth box, I remembered that in two of the others there had been a camera. My father had always been into cameras and movies. I went back to the old boxes, and sure enough, I had 3 old cameras. This was the start of a collection!
I asked my mom to look around the house for any cameras that had been ours as children and got 3 more! My sister, Kathleen, had one really old box-style camera that Daddy had given her as a gift at some point. I asked if it could go in the collection, thinking that they should all be together, making it all more valuable. I didn't care who had the collection, just that it stayed together. I lived in a small apartment, she has a lovely, large home, now it's her collection. People love to look at it, take down the cameras and reminisce about their own memories of taking pictures, and look at the more unusual items, such as the light meter and the big reflective light disc.
So, if you've got a hoarder, remember, if you have 3 of anything, it's a collection! And if you dig through their cache, there might be a set of something great!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Berkshires

Living in New England, I am very fortunate to have 4 distinct seasons and a variety of drivable vacation destinations. This has been especially relevant for me in the last few years, because I am not supposed to fly due to the tight conditions with so many people and their germs, and the same goes for cruise ships.
One of the great places to which I can drive is the
Berkshire Mountain Region of Western Massachusetts. Although it is full of antique shops, outdoor sports opportunities, museums/galleries, and theaters, I have never found it to be congested or tourist-y, the way I might if I traveled to Cape Cod in mid-July. That's something I haven't done in over 12 years, and never want to do again! I try to get to the Berkshires once or twice each summer. Currently, I enjoy staying at the 1896 House in Williamstown. This picture shows the pond that is next to one of the buildings, aptly named "Poolside." There is also a "Brookside" building.
One of the great things about the Berkshires is the quality of the accommodations and activities. Only 2 hours from NY City, these small towns in the hills have long attracted city dwellers who wanted to get away from the heat of summer. It welcomes many cultured visitors who expect certain standards. I have not stayed in one motel, guest house, or B&B that was bad. Of course, The Days Inn is always what it is, but it was the nicest one I've ever been in! And the restaurants are amazing, foods I never would see combined in my local restaurants. I feel like I'm a judge on Top Chef when I'm there!

The Hancock Shaker Village is a great way to spend the day for the entire family! It is famous for its round barn and gardens.
Historically, when the major theater-goers left the cities in the summer, the ballet, symphony, and many theaters would close. They would travel to other, more temperate climates and try out new performances. The Berkshires is one of those Meccas for theater. I have been very lucky to see performances by many well-known actors at a variety of theaters. There is something for everyone, musicals, drama, Shakespeare, children's theater. There are also several great theater camps to cultivate our future thespians. My two favorite theaters are The Berkshire Theater Festival and the Williamstown Theater Festival. Williamstown has a gorgeous new theater, only 3 years old, and the Berkshire is one of the oldest in the country. They rarely publicize their famous performers in advance, making it so much fun to show up to see a play and there is Bebe Neuwirth or Blythe Danner. The Mission House in Stockbridge was built in 1739 and features colonial-era antiques along with amazing heirloom gardens. I must confess that my mother took some holly hock seedpods from the garden. They are growing fabulously along her chimney!
Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Pops! What a great night out, picnicking on the lawn and enjoying the music. These aren't ordinary picnics of course! People bring chairs, wine or other beverages, and a repast of some of the fresh fruits from the local road stand, along with meats, cheeses and breads from the great area boutique grocers. The Mount was built by author Edith Wharton in 1902, based on principles she set forth in her influential book, The Decoration of Houses. My niece is such a good sport! Most 5 year olds don't enjoy garden tours, but she was patient with me! During the day there is something for everyone to do. If you are into outdoor activities, there is hiking, biking, hot-air ballooning, and swimming in the local ponds. I am NOT into these activities, so I enjoy the museums, shops, and historic home tours. The largest collection of Norman Rockwell's work is housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Clark Art Institute has an amazing natural setting for a collection of wall art, sculpture, china, and furniture, as well as being a major center for art research.
Naumkeag is an amazing "cottage" home built in 1885, with a variety of gardens designed by Fletcher Steele. I think it's my favorite place, I could sit in those gardens and read while looking out over the town for days!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

Am I a simple woman? I don't know, but I try not to be too complicated! Peggy at The Simple Woman has a great idea, The Simple Woman's Daybook. It is a chance to stop and think about the beauty of life, family, and all that is around you. Each Monday you can visit Peggy to see her thoughts, or even better, participate!
FOR May 19, 2008
Outside my window
the wind is blowing the trees gently. From my 3rd floor window I can see all the little white puffs of dandelion blowing out over the neighborhood. There are so many at first I wasn't sure what it was! It looks like little magical fairies floating off to grant wishes, not gross seeds dispersing all over town!
In the kitchen I am making a big pasta primavera salad with chicken that will last several days. I like having something more than a sandwich if someone stops in. I am not a big chef, being a single person, but I do like to have some home made things each week.
I am wearing cotton capris, my Birki thongs, and a t-shirt.
I am creating an organizational system in my craft room. Then it's on to the next proje
ct!
I am reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, a great story about Sherlock Holmes in his later "retirement" years.
I am hoping to meet a friend for an ice cream cone this evening! Homemade waffle cones are a big treat!
I am hearing my neighbors playing badmitton. They are laughing and having so much fun!

Around the house there is only dusting left to do!
One of my favorite things is sitting on my deck sipping iced tea and reading in the mid-morning while the rest of the world is at work!
The Rest Of The Week: A busy week in store as we head into Memorial Day weekend. I will be going to the doctor in Boston for most of the day Tuesday, volunteering at the middle school on Wednesday and Thursday and cleaning up to get ready to go away on Friday!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Sunday Nightstand

I am a huge reader! I like many different genres, and often try new (to me) authors based on what I read in Book Page or see in my local book stores. Before I began blogging and using message boards I read about 5 books a week. Now I am down to 2 or 3. As a teacher, I also try to keep up on the award winners for middle school students, as well as the trends in what the kids are reading, so there's a lot of books and authors of which I need to keep track.
Like most people I do my organizing and cleaning on the weekends. I stack up the books that need to go back to the library by the front door, and the books that need to be read on the nightstand. This week there are 2 sitting there: The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith and The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. Speedy Motors is a new publication, part of the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and The Beekeeper's Apprentice is about 10 years old. I am re-reading it for a book club. They are both books in a series, and both are considered mysteries, yet they are completely different in almost every way!
I enjoy reading books in a series because I know what to expect from the characters. Some series have well-developed characters that grow and change with their life experiences, which is true of both these book series. I like that Mma. Ramotswe, the main character of Mr. Smith's book stays true to her traditional African values, while being accepting of a modern life for those around her. I enjoy the discussions and challenges between Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, the way Holmes learns to trust and respect the intelligence of a young girl, and how Mary grows into an adult throughout the books.
These are both best-selling series around the world. What gives them such universal appeal? They do not feature sexual situations or graphic murders, and they are written in a way that would appeal to both women or men, unlike some other books. For me, one of the appealing things about both series is that they take place in a world so far from my life that I feel like I am on an exploration of another place or time. The Ladies' Detective series takes place in modern-day Botswana and is about a woman who opens the first detective agency run by a woman. She uses the money she gets from selling her father's cattle herd that she has inherited. Mma. Ramotswe is wise and very traditional. The books are told in a lilting language and often include what the main character is thinking, making for an interesting rhythm to the story.
The Mary Russell books are an interesting "what if"! What if, after Sherlock Holmes disappeared from public life, he met a teenage girl so intelligent and interesting that he took her on as an apprentice? The year is 1915, the country is England, and as the years go by Holmes and Mary embark on adventures that range from exposing false psychics to spying missions in Egypt. I love all of the creative ideas Holmes has for blending in with different societies, being prepared for any outcome of a mission, and of course his famous disguises!
I am excited to dig into one of these books tonight! I can't decide which to start! The new one I've never read, which I anticipate enjoying and learning more about my friends in Gaborone, Botswana, or the one I read almost 10 years ago and remember being intrigued throughout the entire book? I'll let you know if it's as good the second time!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What is Art?

A friend recently asked a group of us, "What is art?" That is such a big question! IMHO art is creating something new that touches someone else emotionally. It may be music, clothing, sculpture, jewelry, movable, stationary, a functional object or decorative alone. Many people say if a creator uses a pattern or works with something originally created by someone else, it is then a craft. What if you make your own patterns? If you silk screen? If you take gears, pipes, and other detritus of life and design an amazing garden sculpture?
This little sculpture by rymcwilliams is interesting to think about. Using found materials, paint, and what appears to be clay for the head, he has created a kind of goth little creature that he is calling Insect god. As a middle school teacher, I can say that this would really appeal to many young people! And for some reason it really appeals to me!
iamikanart has created this totally original painting and then covered it with resin and epoxy to create a surreal, floating effect, that really cannot be captured well in a picture. Is this more art than Insectgod? I love the reflection of what I see as a sunset over water, but it could be a fire, or something else to a different person. Whether they are art or not, I would definitely put both of these pieces in a collection if I were some type of a collector of artistry. They both speak to me somehow.

I am in no way an artist, but one of my good friends says I have an "eye" for putting things together. This makes me good at scrapbooking, putting up bulletin boards, making PowerPoint shows, etc. I can't draw ANYTHING that anyone would recognize, and that's OK. I try to do something creative several times a week, and when I am given a pattern or idea, I always tweak it in some way to make it "mine". I like to make jewelry, but I don't make my own beads. So is stringing a bunch of hand-made beads together art?
One of my recent creative endeavors has been learning to use Photoshop in more ways. It has great filters and effects where the user just has to click a button to change the photograph in some way. It also has artistic elements where the user can draw things in, make smudges, "pour" paint into certain areas, etc. This is a stock photo of a yellow Lamborghini to which I applied several filters and then painted, swirled, burned, and smudged in the background. I made it for my nephew who loves cars.
I don't know if the things I make are "art". I know that I like them, my friends and family like them, the process of creating brightens my day, and the things I make brighten the days of myself and others. I hope to share more of my creative endeavors with you in the future.

To answer my friend Rhonda's question, I don't really know what art is, but there's that famous quote, "I know what I like!" And I definitely like her artwork, which is beautifully framed and displayed in this home!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Collecting vs. Hoarding

Why do people collect things? Is a group of things that someone gives you truly "your" collection? Do you have to add to it all the time to keep it alive? Is hoarding actually collecting in a messy form? These questions came to mind recently when a group of online friends tried to guess from photos who owned which collection.
Some people collect because something calls to them; maybe you have 100 pairs of shoes, and 50 are different kinds of black pumps! China roses to be displayed in the dining room might appeal to someone else. Often it goes back to our childhood, and what we saw being collected by family members.
My mother has a great collection of pewter serving pieces and another of milk glass. In the 80s and early 90s, my dad used to collect Happy Meal toys. When McDonald's started having the toys all tie in with films or toy companies he stopped. Some of these sets are really cute and seasonal!
I have a collection of Longaberger baskets which I use for entertaining all the time. I used to belong to their Collector's Club, and I try to have my purchases be the monthly specials, so they are only available for a short time. I also have a collection of Depression-era glassware, that I rarely use. Why? It's pink, which doesn't match anything in my home decor, and it's not really my personal style. Then why do I have it? It was a family collection, and as a teenager I really appreciated the floral, pink, Victorian aspect of the set. To top off the family set, I started to buy pieces to continue the collection, and received many for gifts. Big problem with collecting glassware: it makes guests nervous! People are afraid they are going to break the thin glass of drink ware, and go looking in my cabinets for more modern glasses! So it's 20 years later, and I have boxes of this glassware. Do I get rid of it? Just the stuff I bought and hang on to the family pieces? Who knows! I try to use at least the serving pieces whenever I can! It really is beautiful and delicate.
A collection I really love is my medicine bottles. This brings to mind the hoarding aspect of collecting. The initial collection was a bunch of old bottles found laying around the basement of a Victorian-era family home that we had to clean out to sell. I loved the sepia labels, engraved glass, and cork bottle-stoppers. Over the years my father has added pieces to the collection by finding things in his own basement. Now, why would a house built in 1965 have toothpowder tins and other items from the 1950s in it?!! Because someone is a hoarder and actually moved these items from home to home! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having these items to make the bottle collection more colorful and interesting. But did he really save these things for 50 years thinking that some day his grown daughter would want to display them in her guest bath? They weren't even stored together, they were just found in random spots when looking for other things!
I guess that hoarding can help with collecting in the long run, but does the hoarder benefit from holding on to all that "stuff"? I've rarely heard of one who has, usually because they will only give up their items to family or friends who promise to keep it as a collection. They rarely will sell any of it, and throwing it out would just be crazy talk in a hoarder's world!

Here is the official hoarder, circa 1986, in his lair!

I think after all this rambling about collecting and hoarding I've made a decision. If I'm holding on to something in a box for someday, it needs to go! There is someone out there who will use it and keep it out and have some great conversation pieces to share with friends, while with me the items will just stay in a box and be sad.
For those who have a collection which you love and add to, I'm sure eBay is one of your best friends! I have 2 other sites that specialize in collectibles. GoAntiques and Collectibles Today. They are also good for getting pricing ideas.If you are interested in checking out some of the things I've found in my dad's basement, check out any of my Vintage Thingies Thursday posts, listed on the left sidebar.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Cancer Story

When people find out a person has or has had cancer, they get nervous. They don't want to "intrude" but they are full of questions. How did you find the cancer? Aren't you young for this? How long have you had it? Did you lose your hair? What is the prognosis?
For me, I think the story begins in January 2003. I had a horrible cold, which developed into what I thought was bronchitis. Of course, being raised to be tough, I didn't go to the doctor. After a week I was feeling better, but noticed that what I had thought were swollen glands in my neck, had not decreased on the left side. I continued to monitor
this bump, making jokes and calling it my lymphoma friend. Little did I know that's what it actually was! I had friends who were nurses feel it, and of course they all said to go to the doctor, which I still didn't do! Finally, in early June I was forced to the doctor to get my allergies checked or she wouldn't give me new prescriptions!
I knew this was something serious when the doctor said I couldn't wait 3 weeks for a CAT scan. Like most teachers, I wanted to wait until school was out for the summer to do all my appointments! I had the CAT scan the next day and was told a few days later that there was "activity". Don'tcha love that word?! My GP sent me to a general surgeon who was going to "explore the mass". I still didn't quite realize that they thought it was cancer, until I said to the doctor, "Isn't that a nice term for biopsy?" and he finally used the word!
The doctor was great telling me it was
Hodgkin's Disease when I woke up in recovery. He was very gentle, had already spoken to my family in the waiting room, and explained about the different kinds of lymphoma. If you have to have cancer, this is the one to have. Very high remission rate!
BUT... I am one of the exceptions! I did the standard ABVD chemo plus radiation treatment. It went pretty well, the radiation really burned me up, but the chemo was fine.

In February 2005, a year after I was told I was in remission, spots started appearing on scans again, and I was sent to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for an autologous bone marrow transplant, also know as a stem-cell transplant. Autologous means they used my own bone marrow, after extreme radiation. At first it seemed like it worked, but it didn't; now sludgy stuff was showing up in my lungs on the scans! I was hopeful that it was "just" fungus, instead of cancer, but a lung biopsy told us it was cancer again. BTW, of all the things that have been done to my body in these 5 years, the lung biopsy was by far the worst and most painful with the longest recovery.
Now I was switched to a new doctor at Dana Farber and got prepared for an allogenous transplant, from a donor. Of course you first have to find a donor, and this is not "House"! My only potential match would have been a sibling, and she didn't match. We waited about 6 months until a donor was found. I did not feel or act sick during this time, exept after I had the maintenance chemotherapy I would be a little weak for a few days.
The transplant took place on October 5, 2006 and I went home the next day! This picture shows me w/ my "bag o' blood." It's just a simple transfusion, no pain at all!

The transplant was a success, so I have been in remission for over 18 months, but now I have something that can be as lethal as cancer, Chronic Graft vs. Host disease. Basically, the donor bone marrow has killed off the cancer, but does not yet recognize its new host (me) as its home, so it is now fighting my organs. This is something that will just take time, and the goal is to keep it at bay and keep me alive until the new cells realize they are in a permanent home!
Of course there's lots more information about medications, treatments, clinical trials of new treatments that I've tried, my hair (which is what so many people care about) how it has effected my family and my overall quality of life, etc. I can address those things in future posts if people have any interest.

My Craft Room

This room is about 12x12 and is meant to be the master bedroom in my condo. There's no attached bath or walk-in closet, so who cares, I made it my craft room! It is so great to have a space where I can keep out my mess and guests don't see it!
This view is taken from the doorway. I have 2 great plastic-top folding tables, which I can always use elsewhere, and can't be destroyed. I keep them in an "L" configuration so one is my workspace and one is my supply space when I am doing projects. If I have friends scrapping with me, or the kids doing crafts there is room for about 5 people. For those who care, that is a fine-whale corduroy roman shade in a deep red. The walls are Behr "cup of cocoa".
Straight into the room is my computer corner, which I plan to move so I can see the TV from the computer. I use the bottom wall shelf as my catch-all for things that I am working on at the computer. I also need to put in another support bar for the shelves because my things are heavier than I thought. These shelves are 4' long.
When I am at the computer, my back is to the TV and these raw pine cube shelves. I got 4 of them late in the fall, and I'm going to paint them white very soon now that I can go outside to do that. I have my decorating magazines and books separate from crafting. The empty shelves on the right are all the space from the photos I sorted yesterday! WOW! I'm good! Here's the true mess, all the supplies! Inside the closet I keep season clothes as well as seasonal crafting things. You'll notice that some of my open bins are actually hospital basins! They are very sturdy. The projects in progress that you see here are a decoupage "E", my striped box of card making supplies, and my jewelry tool box for some wine charms I just made as a gift.

Save $ on Books

People who are big readers, often go through several books a week. At $20-30 for a hardcover book, that could be a lot of cash-ola, and I'd have to get a second job to pay for my books! Then I'd have less time to read! So, I trade paperbacks with my mom, as well as at work we have a shelf for trading. I also go to Annie's Book Stop, which are all around the country. The only problem w/ Annie's is that you can't transfer credits from one store to the next because they are all independently owned.
Sometimes a place of business will have a shelf where you can swap paperbacks. My local library and bank each have one. My mom's hairdresser and doctor have them. Not only are you saving money, you're helping the environment! Regarding magazines, I take all of mine to the doctor with my name torn off as soon as I finish with them. I have a couple that go to friends and they are responsible to get them to somewhere else where they will be read.

Thanks to my friend Dee who turned me on to PaperBackSwap! This is an online community where members swap both HC and PB books and just pay for shipping.

Another neat place to trade books online is Book Mooch. Members list books you have to give away and people will contact you for them. Users earn "points" and then get more books with your points. Members can also post a list of books they would like to have and then others browse the lists.

For the newest releases, I get all of my books at the library now. I can go to my library's network site and see what is new and place holds. I get an email that the books are in and then go pick them up! Easy-Peasy! I also check out what's new at the book store and make lists. Then I put those books on hold at the library.