Wednesday, December 29, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 24

This morning while watering the potted plants spending winter on our screened porch, I suddenly felt so lucky to have that space.  Unless temperatures fall below 30 degrees, plants are fine without being covered.  And if we do need to cover them, it's so convenient to have all the plants
in one central area.

There are more potted plants living on the porch, but these were the better pictures.

Yes, I'm grateful for our screened porch!  It's just the right size for our various activities.  In the warmer months, our kitties, who aren't allowed to go in the yard, love to bask in the sun, watch birds, lizards, and bugs, and sniff the breezes.  
It's also home to the feral kitties in the winter.  They have baskets with wool blankets and a heating pad where they can sleep out of the cold and damp.
Sprout, Colonel Popcorn, and the late Larry
We are also fond of porch-sitting and visiting with friends.  For that purpose we have seating elements, or chairs.
 We particularly enjoy sitting in our chairs and having a cold beverage after working in the yard, but almost anytime is good for porch-sitting.
 Sometimes friends join us for a meal on the porch.  This is Allan last spring with lettuces from our garden.
Ellen examining the lettuce.

We also enjoy making things.  Sometimes we like to make things that create a big mess.  The porch is the perfect place for messiness!
 We made concrete stepping stones with Morgan's mom and Dad last spring.  
I think Morgan's dad was having more fun than this picture might indicate.  
 Our messiest project to date was the quikrete birdbath that we decorated with beer caps.  

 As you can see we made quite a big mess, but loved every minute of it!  

So on this lovely winter day, I am very grateful that at about 4 o'clock, I'll be sitting on the porch watching the last of light.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 23

Say what you will about big pharma, and I'll agree with the worst of it.  The big pharmaceutical companies are pretty corrupt: marketing drugs that haven't been tested thoroughly, not releasing information regarding drug side-effects, and charging far too much for drugs people's lives depend upon, etc.  Pretty evil.  But today, I'm grateful for pharmaceuticals.  Months of chemotherapy have left me with neuropathy*  in my hands and feet.  I figured I was just stuck with it for a while.  It tends to linger for months after the chemotherapy treatment that caused it ends.  Today I got a prescription for a drug called Neurontin  (Gabapentin).  Gabapentin is often used to treat different types of neuralgia as well as epilepsy, but the cool thing about this drug is that it also treats symptoms I frequently suffer from:  hot flashes, migraine headache, social anxiety, and restless leg syndrome (with virtually no side effects).  It also deepens sleep and aids in sleep onset and sleep maintenance.  Wow!  I could stand a few months without hot flashes and and social anxiety!  Of course, it may take a few weeks to start to work, but I can live with that.  

Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system,[1] which may be caused either by diseases of the nerve or from the side-effects of systemic illness.

The four cardinal patterns of peripheral neuropathy are polyneuropathymononeuropathymononeuritis multiplex and autonomic neuropathy. The most common form is (symmetrical) peripheral polyneuropathy, which mainly affects the feet and legs. The form of neuropathy may be further broken down by cause, or the size of predominant fiber involvement, i.e., large fiber or small fiber peripheral neuropathy. Frequently the cause of a neuropathy cannot be identified and it is designated idiopathic.
Neuropathy may be associated with varying combinations of weakness, autonomic changes, and sensory changes. Loss of muscle bulk orfasciculations, a particular fine twitching of muscle, may be seen. Sensory symptoms encompass loss of sensation and "positive" phenomena including pain. Symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected (motor, sensory, or autonomic) and where the nerves are located in the body. One or more types of nerves may be affected. Common symptoms associated with damage to the motor nerve are muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. Loss of balance and coordination may also occur. Damage to the sensory nerve can produce tingling, numbness, and pain. Pain associated with this nerve is described in various ways such as the following: sensation of wearing an invisible "glove" or "sock", burning, freezing, or electric-like, extreme sensitivity to touch. The autonomic nerve damage causes problems with involuntary functions leading to symptoms such as abnormal blood pressure and heart rate, reduced ability to perspire, constipation, bladder dysfunction (e.g., incontinence), and sexual dysfunction.[2]

Monday, December 27, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 22

I am grateful for bandanas.  I've tried wigs and they always feel hot and scratchy.  It's rarely cold enough for a wool cap, and often I feel silly wearing a hat indoors.  Hooray for the versatile, comfortable, practical bandana! Did I mention that they come in many colors?   

Sunday, December 26, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 21

Our hosts, Luke and Kathleen

I'm grateful for Christmas this year.  Our sweet friends, Kathleen and Luke, invited us to Christmas dinner and I had the best time!   Kat's a wonderful cook, and she made the most delicious roast beef I've ever eaten with gravy, beautiful potatoes, two salads, green beans, her family's favorite mac and cheese (also possibly the best mac and cheese I've ever had!), and an orange spice cake and brownies for desert.  It was seriously yummy.  

Since my parents are gone now, it's often a comfort to be with people I love and their families during the holidays.   I love being with Kat's artist mom, Pat, and  sweet, smart, nine-year-old son, Carter.  What a great kid.  Funny and entertaining, he played the piano for us after dinner and then regaled us with jokes, of the nine-year-old variety. When we left, I felt as though I'd had the best Christmas in recent memory. 

On Christmas eve, we'd gone to Laura and Greg's and had another of their fabulous dinners (a Mexican feast), exchanged gifts, and enjoyed a cheery visit with them and Laura's sister, Suzy, and her husband, Stuart. It just doesn't feel like Christmas to me if I don't spend some holiday time with Laura, Greg, Suzy, and Stuart.  After 20+ years of friendship, they're family.   
me, Laura, and Suzy
The night before that, we had a great visit with Vandy and Ellen (I know, so much socializing, right?)  after work.  We hadn't seen them for such a long time. We were seriously overdue!  They may have a big fire in the back yard this week, which sounds like winter perfection to me.  

So this year I've seen more friends, eaten more good food, and felt happier than I have in the last few Christmases.  For me, Christmas is about spending time with people I love and I'm very grateful that I got to do so much of that this year.   

Saturday, December 25, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 20

I'm grateful that there's a bit of blue sky peeking out on this chilly Christmas Day.  How lovely that the cold weather got here in time for Christmas. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 19

I'm so grateful that my incredibly hard-working husband has today and next week off for the holidays.  Thank you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

30 Days of gratitude--Day 18

I'm so grateful that we not only have the income to pay for shelter, food, clothing, cars, and medicine when we need it, but also for outrageous luxuries like pets, eating out, art supplies, home entertainment options, and travel.  

We are so fortunate to be able to go to the grocery store or farmers markets and buy what we like. 

We live in a climate-controlled environment so that we never have to be too uncomfortable in the summer or winter.

We have cars that we can afford to put gas in so that we can go to a movie, to visit friends, or on a road trip.

We have cats that we can afford to take to a vet when they become ill or just for check-ups.

We have so very much.  I often feel that we have much more than we really deserve when so much of the world lives without the very basics needed for survival.   

I am deeply grateful for all that I have.

So when I begin to feel sorry for myself because I have to endure chemotherapy treatments and their side-effects,  I try to remember how very lucky I am to have good medical care, and how very lucky I am to live somewhere where a cancer diagnosis doesn't mean death.  For that I am also deeply grateful.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 17

I'm so grateful that my dear friend, Carrie, sent me a Christmas card with her return address!  I've had that address for years, but I had thought she was going to move, so I'd didn't use it.  I'd done a number of google searches for her hoping something would turn up.  I feel very silly, but mostly happy that she didn't give up on me.  
Back in the day when we both smoked.

Carrie and I met many years ago when she was working as a sessional proofreader at the Legislative Council.  Happily she stayed on for awhile and I got to find out what a brilliant, compassionate, spirited, and talented woman she is.  Some years later I lived next door to her in a wonderful old Victorian Duplex in Hyde Park.  Wish I'd stayed there longer.  She's always been a true and loyal friend and we've been through some difficult times together.  I will always appreciate her kindness and her constancy.  I miss her and think about her often.  I'm so grateful that I've located her right where she's always been.  Love you, Carrie.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thirty days of gratitude Day 16

Morgan's job makes great vacations possible.

I'm so grateful that Morgan loves his job and works for a company that values him, respects him, and continually rewards him for his hard work. That said, he works a ton of overtime and genuinely cares about doing quality work, so his employers are right to appreciate him. It's a good company.  Each employee gets a month a year in vacation time, which is rare for a private sector employer in the U.S.  Yay Morgan!  Yay Home Away!    

Sunday, December 19, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

Feeling incredibly grateful for my friends, old and new, who have taught me so much, have given to me so generously, made me laugh, held my hand when I cried, and been with me through the thick and thin moments of life.  I hope I have given half as much to all of you as you have given to me.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 14

I'm grateful that I've got only four taxol treatments remaining.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 13

I am so grateful for my crooked little tree and all of its special ornaments.  Either really old, handmade, or given to me by friends, each one is special, and many have stories.  Each year when I pull my tree out of its bag I'm reminded of the people I love.  Morgan made the big star on top out of paper and then I painted it and sprinkled glitter on it.  There are lots of sequin and button balls that I made, and two that Melinda made.  There's my dear friend, Carrie's, exquisite marbled glass ornament, the antique Czech glass ornaments that are so old they're almost clear now, and a few really special ones that were my mom's.  I made a rule for myself a few years ago that I could only buy one really special ornament a year.  By last year I decided that I had to make the ornaments or they had to be given to me or they could be from a garage sale or thrift store, but only if they predated the 70s and were glass--I know that's a lot of rules, but I only have so much space to store Christmas ornaments!  

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 12

I am decidedly grateful for cold weather.  I like it brisk, not too breezy, and a little sunny.  Yes-siree-bob, that's the weather for me.  Today the temperature won't make it up to 60, and that's fine with me.  I wish it would stay that way for awhile. I like wool socks and I like to wear them every day.  I have a few nice sweaters, but I still can't wear them because it's not cold enough for wool.  It still hasn't been cold enough to wear a coat.  But it's Texas and I should be careful what I wish for.  Last winter we had days in the 20s and 30s and most people weren't happy about that.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 11

I am grateful for antibiotics.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 10

I missed posting for a couple of days because I got a mean case of Strep throat, so I'm going to play catch up today.  

Saturday I went to the Cherrywood Arts Fair and was so grateful that Austin is home to so many amazing makers!  Several of my friends were exhibiting their wonderful work and I was able to find quite a few fabulous gifts that day.  I so wanted to buy things for myself because there were fabulous things: jewelry, handbags, pottery, knitted and crocheted hats and scarves, wonderful upcycled tire planters and mirrors, and some great drawings, but, alas, I'm going to have to wait for self-giving! I'm linking to a few of the artists I particularly liked  at Cherrywood so you can see their work and maybe do a little shopping, too.

One of my favorite Austin jewelers is my lovely friend, Christine Terrell, making fabulous and unique pieces from upcycled tins, many of them vintage: 
From Christine's blog, which is terrific--both amusing and informative, you can find links to websites and local stores selling her jewelry.  Her work can also be found this holiday season at Blue Genie.

Another jeweler I just discovered is Lindsay Field of Lindsay Field designs (  She specializes in handmade torch-worked glass beads and fused art glass that is then made into beautiful jewelry. Lindsay's work can be found on Etsy.  I ended up buying two pairs of her earrings as gifts and it was really difficult to stop there. I wanted everything!  

Then there's Holli Brown of Holli Brown Mosaics. I saw her wonderful work first at the East Austin Studio Tour, then again at Cherrywood Art Fair.  Holly makes everything from frames, platters, bowls, and art pieces to pendants, earrings, and rings.  Watch this cool video of Holli at work (, then check out her website:

One of my favorite local artists is my dear friend, Laura Maclay, who makes the most beautiful handbags you've ever seen. 
 Intricately machine embroidered and/or hand painted, Laura's bags are meticulously crafted and are truly works of art.  She's been making bags for around 15 years, having sewn since childhood.  For the past several years, she's been creating fabulous paintings and making gorgeous quilted wall hangings as well.  Laura's next show will be the American Craft Council's flagship show in Baltimore in March.  When she launches her new website, I'll let you know.  

Clare Pousson and Mark Wolter of Bluehaven Porcelain make the most exquisite ceramic pieces!  Much of it white porcelain with transparent matte glazes and simple, graphic black designs.  I  first discovered them at the Gruene Clayfest this past fall.  This time I actually bought a couple of the black and white dishes.  Mark makes the pieces on a potter's wheel and Clare does the painting and glazing.  They make a dynamite team.  You can see some of their work on their Facebook page:

I met delicate English beauty, Lucy Begg, a couple of years ago at Arthouse at the Jones Center through our mutual friend, Alexa, then we downed a few pints at Lovejoys and I felt like I'd known her for years.  I knew Lucy was a Cambridge/Berkley-trained architect with a pretty diverse background and that more recently she was closely involved in the Design Build Alliance, which is a start-up comprised of architects and students designing low-income housing.   I'd never seen her wonderful drawings until this past weekend at Cherrywood.  Her landscapes are my favorites. I want to see them on my walls. Here's a link to Lucy's website, sproutfarm ink, 

Think turning tires into planters is tacky?  Well think again.   Flippin Retire is the brainchild of Lee Gardner-Warrenfells.  Lee turns trash tires into the most marvelous planters, and does everyone a great service by upcycling waste into functional art. Trained as a graphic designer, of course she has a great eye for color and design and her planters are just fantastic!  I especially love her mirrors.  Well, you need to see her work, because I just can't describe how cool it is:

I am grateful for the makers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 9

Today I'm grateful for color:  reds, blues, greens, grays, browns, yellows, purples; I love them all.  

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 8

Today I am grateful for sleep, preferable in 8-hour stretches.  I like it all: the magic meanderings of dreamtime, the blissful relief of being unaware for hours, and the mystery of the body's night-time healing rituals.  I am glad that thanks to a little blue pill, I can now sleep for eight hours at a time instead of four, five, or six.  I wake, if not refreshed, at least not exhausted.   Ah sleep.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 7

I'm so grateful that aging brings with it some pretty significant and positive psychological changes.  Although I still consider myself a fairly impatient person, I'm definitely more patient than I once was.  I don't hold onto anger long.  I get mad, then it's over.  I'm happier and more able to be in the present, which may help with the happiness angle.  I'm better at planning and better at organizing.  I can take things in stride and move on, for the most part.  I have fewer unrealistic expectations of myself:  I will probably never be a great artist, but I can enjoy making things.   I will never be as fit as I was from 40-45, but I never want to be that obsessive or work that hard.   I may not travel to all the places in the world I've wanted to see, but I can explore West Texas almost every year and it's grand.  Life is good.  Life is rich.  I'm so grateful for my life, for Morgan, for my friends, and my home.  Things aren't perfect, but rarely does a day go by that I'm not aware of how fortunate I am--thanks to getting older.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 6

I forgot to post this yesterday, although I thought about it all day.  I'm grateful for holiday crafting.  I'm almost always in the mood for it no matter how crappy I feel.  I leave a lot of my hangups about making behind and just play.  I'm not as worried about the perfection of a Christmas ornament. 

 I was a little more concerned about the wreath, but I managed to hang it on the door yesterday in all it's imperfect glory.

Today, in between doctor visits, I plan to make more Christmas balls.  I found some on the internet that I liked quite a bit:
I like the use of pretty ribbon and colors she used.  
Here are a few of mine:

The button balls a little wackier, with odd sizes, and larger buttons overlapping smaller ones.  They're looser, and much quicker to complete, however, you do end up with more bits of styrofoam showing through than with the completely covered sequin balls.  Since I have some new and exciting sequins to work with, that's what I'm making this week.

I'm grateful that there are always a lot of things I want to make in the days before Christmas:  ornaments, a wreath or two, maybe a few Christmas cards, and something knitted or crocheted.  When my hands are busy, I'm so much happier.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 5

Today I feel a bit sad and a little lonely.  Feeling crappy most of the time is boring--to me and to friends.  What I am grateful for are the friends that continue coming over, continue e-mailing, and continue calling. Those people are the ones I will hold in my heart forever.  Thank you darlings.  You are the best.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 4

I'm grateful for these guys:


30 Days of Gratitude: Day 3

I am grateful for books and for the ability to both lose and find myself in reading.  

I am grateful for all the places and people I've discovered through reading, the knowledge I've gleaned, and the inspiration that's fueled my imagination. I'm thrilled each time I discover a "new" writer and happy to travel with him for awhile, discovering a new view of the world. 

  I'm grateful for having an appreciation of words: their beauty and power.  

 I am grateful for the invention of the printing press. 

  I am grateful to my mother for reading to me as a child, for teaching me to love and cherish books, and for encouraging my appreciation of the art of writing. 

 I am grateful for having the time to read.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 2

Morgan and Pollock

I have infinite gratitude for my husband, Morgan, who is wise, kind, tender, and patient, and who has battled cancer with me for the past 6 months. He has held my hand when I've been afraid, held me while I cried in frustration, watched bad movies with me, and brought me countless cups of tea, smoothies, and vitamins.  He gives me excellent council, makes me laugh, cheers me on, and puts up with me when my disposition is less than sunny.  When life gets tough, he's not afraid to do the necessary hard work.   He's a gift.  

I wrote about some of his amazing abilities some months ago: Miracle Man

Friday, December 3, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 1

My dear friend Kathleen, brought this to my attention via a facebook post this morning.  It's a 30-day practice of gratitude:

And as Kat pointed out, this seems to be the perfect time of year to begin this practice.   And who knows, maybe I won't stop after 30 days.  

I'm grateful to be alive--to breathe, to move, to think, to experience life through my senses. This dance with cancer hasn't been much fun, but I've learned from it.  I'm grateful that my cancer was caught early, that the surgeon was able to remove all of it, and that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments ensure that there's is an 89% chance that it won't recur.  There are a few post-chemo days of flu-like symptoms, food tasting crappy,  shortness of breath, and depression.  Then I wake up in the morning and the sun is shining in that clear blue winter sky and I notice that my body doesn't ache.  I take my temperature and I don't have any fever.  The bad taste in my mouth doesn't seem so bad.  Ah, this feels more like what feeling good feels like.  And then I realize that by spring I will feel good again.   I'm grateful for the days of feeling strong and for all the future days of strength I'll have.  Today I'm grateful that my body doesn't ache and I don't have a fever.  That's a very good way to start the day.