Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday, 2013

"Christ is Risen, Alleluia" drawing by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013
Suddenly, like the Resurrection itself, everything is changed.  Yesterday we waited in silence by the tomb and today, today the tomb is empty!  He is risen!  

Christ's days of teaching the apostles and disciples which will follow now for the next weeks until Pentecost, were the weeks and words that finally fully established the Church that Christ came to build.  His words, life and witness and the coming of the Holy Spirit changed His followers from frightened men and women into people of deep faith and conviction.  We know this must be true as only a completely foolish person would willingly lay down their life to preserve a lie.  Peter and the others knew beyond any doubt that the Master had risen and in His glorified body moved among them until the day of his Ascension -- He disappeared from human sight but had made a way to remain with us forever in the presence of the Holy Eucharist, in His priests and in all those of us who would believe in Him throughout the centuries -- all of us who make up the Body of Christ.  

Can we really comprehend the fact that these teachings have remained unchanged for over 2,000 years.  In spite of the "culture of death" in which we now live (which seems to be determined to kill as many of its children as it can), the Church remains and through it, the crucified and risen Lord.  Death has been defeated.  The battle has been won!  Alleluia!  He is risen.  He is risen, indeed, Alleluia!



"Hibiscus -- Coral", drawing by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


Here is my Easter flower drawing for the Risen Lord.  I would love to fill every Christian church today with masses of Hibiscus and Calla Lilies.  What a glorious sight that would be.  Such wasteful extravagance some would say -- just as Judas Iscariot said about Mary of Bethany's extravagance as she poured out perfumed oil over the head and feet of Jesus.  

Can love ever be anything other than extravagant with the beloved.  Not real love.  I don't think so.  This is how our God loves us.  Do we even notice how extravagantly He pours out His blessings on us each day?  Even when we reject Him, He still goes on loving us extravagantly, foolishly.  I pray that we may all rejoice as we allow ourselves to experience that Love today.  Alleluia!



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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki carefully watching furniture being moved --
and she is not happy about it at all!
This morning, soon after I arose, I started moving bedroom furniture around again!  I am still not satisfied with how Joycelyn and I have arranged things.  Now, however, I have a new arrangement and while it still is not perfect, I think it may be the best of all possible arrangements for the time being.  We'll see.

Anyway, those of you who know cat behaviour, can imagine what Suki thought of all this moving.  She looked at me as if to say:  "I thought you had finished with this awful behaviour back on Wednesday!"  Poor kitty.

Anyway, one of the main reasons for changing things around again was in order to create a way for Suki to get to the window sill and then into her crow's nest bed.  Neither were really possible the way it had been arranged.  Just now, I helped her discover that a way has been provided for her to get from the floor, to my desk, to the window sill and then to her bed.  After checking this all out, she left and went to eat some of her crunchies -- evidently satisfied with the arrangement as she did not complain and did not give me any dirty looks.  So far, so good.

The other main reason for changing things around was so that I can now see the TV again while I am working at my desk.  This is important to me as often I only want to watch certain parts of shows on EWTN or Salt and Light TV.  This way, I can easily sit at my desk watching what I like and then muting the TV for the stuff I don't like.  Those of you not addicted to Catholic TV may not understand what I mean, but just take my word for it -- it matters to me.  Now with the new arrangement, I can do this once again as I had done prior to getting my new bed.  Of course, when Joycelyn arrives on Tuesday, she may well be able to help me improve the arrangement even more -- she is very good at that sort of thing.

Otherwise, things are going much the same with me.  My eyes continue to trouble me and the Restless Leg problems seem to be getting worse as I try to learn to live without taking any medication to control them.  Eventually, I am probably going to have to take some kind of medication for these silly legs as I am now having to spend too many hours each day trying to find some relief -- some days I cannot even do any kind of art work as the problem gets so bad.  Remember, if you hear of any natural remedy that might work, I would really appreciate your passing it along.

As I end today's posting, I would like to quote a passage from the Easter Vigil homily of Pope Francis.  I found the following very meaningful:

"Let us ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection.  May He open us to the newness that transforms, to God's surprises that are so beautiful.  May He make us men and women who are capable of remembering what He does in our personal lives and in the history of the world.  May He make us capable of hearing him as the Living One, who lives and is at work amongst us.  May He teach us every day, dear brothers and sisters, to not seek among the dead for He who is living. Amen.”


Alleluia!  He is truly risen!


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wednesday of Holy Week

Well, it seems as though Google decided that there was nothing too offensive about them in my re-submitted blog (see previous blog for details) as they did not remove it.  I think the mistake I made in the original posting was to have a paragraph about my difficulties with Google in red which must have made them see red!  

As well, I must apologize for the lateness of this posting.  I had such a busy Wednesday that I was only able to start working on this submission last night.  I was just too tired so I went to bed, had some sleep and am now ready to write!


Icon "The Sorrowful Meeting", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

I came across an icon several months ago which seemed to show the dead Christ in the arms of His mother but to me she appeared to be standing, holding her Son.  Christ's eye were closed (very unusual thing to see in an icon) and the marks of His crucifixion were on His body.

I hope the writer of the icon I worked from will contact me so that I can give him or her credit for their contribution to my drawing.  Unfortunately, I found their icon in someone else's work with no artist's name attached.   

I was very intrigued by this icon and wanted to copy it but I felt it had to be a scene where the two of them were standing and it also had to be before the marks of His passion were showing in His body.

Eventually, I came up with a scenario where I imagined our Lady being there just after Christ had been stripped in preparation for His scourging.  The soldiers, uncharacteristically, allowed the two of them just the briefest moment together. Mary had to embrace her Son as his hands are tied.  This embrace is what the icon is trying to depict.

Working on such an image this close to the Passion of our Lord has been very beneficial in helping me to remain aware of the price that had to be paid for my salvation and the salvation of all people, of all creation.  As we enter into these final, terrible but blessed days of the Lenten Season, may we be ever more aware of how much God loves each and every one of us.


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BRADEN UPDATE

Braden is doing well these days -- sleeping through the night (much to the relief of his parents) -- and gradually getting his baby teeth.  The teeth business, of course, sometimes makes him cranky, but I understand from a reliable source (his mom) that he continues to be a happy, healthy boy ... thanks be to God.




"Hello world!  Are you ready for me?"


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SUKI AND SALLIE



"Why are you moving MY furniture?"
Yesterday was a very traumatic day for Suki -- very traumatic.  Much of the furniture was being moved around and now a number of items are in new locations.  Everyone who knows cats also knows how much they hate for the furniture in their homes to be changed -- cat do not like change!

As for why all this moving was occurring, I will explain.

I got a new bed!  As many of you know, I ended up being forced to sleep in a recliner for the past couple of years after breaking my neck in 2011.  There was simply no way I could get enough neck support with regular pillows -- or so it seemed at the time.  This, as you can imagine, has been very difficult as recliners were made for naps, not bedtimes.  Finally, with the help of some nurses at the hospital, I found out how to arrange pillows in such a way that I could get the support needed for my neck.  This meant I could once again sleep in a bed.  Oh, happy day.

So, even though it is only a single bed, its arrival meant that many pieces of furniture had to be moved in order to accommodate it.  Joycelyn offered to help me and she did the majority of the work.  (She is amazingly strong.).  So we were all ready by the time the bed was delivered and once it was assembled, she made the bed for me so I was able to sleep in it for the first time last night.  It was quite an experience.

Suki, once all the moving stopped, began to settle down, no longer looking so wild-eyed as she had for most of the day.  After she had sniffed each piece of furniture that had been moved and then carefully sniffed the new bed, she jumped up on it and took a nap!

After resting for a while, she got up and began exploring again.  As her route for getting into the bedroom window had been changed, she quickly discovered a new way to get there as well as to her "crow's nest" bed.  In no time at all, in fact, she had discovered where all her favourite sleeping places had gone and seemed delighted that she actually had a new one:  my bed!  What a cat!!

As for me, in the midst of all that activity yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment at St. Mike's.  First they did a new breathing test for me and re-confirmed that I have classic asthma and need to be back on my puffers.  I have been so involved with other medical issues over these past few years that I had allowed myself to stop using them even though I could tell the difference in my ability to breath properly.  Thankfully, I did not have any asthma attacks during this time.  So, now I have promised to use my puffers faithfully.

I also saw the sleep clinic doctor who was pleased with the progress we are making in keeping me awake during the daytime.  She adjusted that medication which medication, I must say, is making a huge difference these days in my quality of life as I am able to basically sleep at night and be awake during the day -- something I have been unable to do in any normal fashion for the past six years!

Now, all that is left, at this time, to work on are my eyes and eyebrows (or lack of eyebrows might be more accurate!).  That appointment will be on the 8th.

Otherwise, all else is reasonably well at the moment.  I am hoping to be able to get to Mass on Easter Sunday.  I would love to attend Holy Thursday Mass and the Good Friday liturgy, but that will probably not happen.  I keep praying that someone will come along with a car who offers to pick me up for these events and bring me home, but no one has offered thus far.  So, I will just keep praying.

Speaking of praying, I am praying that all who read this blog will be blessed according to their need.  As well, I want to wish all of you a joy-filled and happy Easter (and a blessed Passover to those who are Jewish).  May we all experience deeply that peace which God alone can give.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Palm Sunday and Donkeys


I am sorry folks, but somehow the posting I published yesterday has disappeared.  The powers that be say it isn't possible, but it happened.  I know that some of you have even already seen that post as there were 7 recorded viewers who had checked it out prior to its disappearance!  So, I am just going to publish the draft that is left which was from early yesterday morning when I stopped writing to take a break.  The story I wrote about Suki and the update about myself will just have to wait for another time.  Sorry about that.  If any of you made a copy of the Suki story or of my update, please email it to me and then I will add it, but now I simply cannot handle trying to write all of that again.  Hey, I just had a thought... in the first publishing I had some rather unkind remarks about Google -- no bad language, just grumbles.  Now I am wondering if they deleted my posting because they didn't like what I had to say!  Surely not!  Well, if this one also disappears ...
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Palm Sunday always makes me think of donkeys!  They can be so difficult and obstinate at times and yet our Lord took a mother and her colt, who had never been ridden before, and rode through the crowds who were crowding around Him, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna.  Personally, I consider this to be another one of His miracles!

"Jesus said:  Go into the village ahead of you and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her.  Untie them and bring them to me.... This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying:  Tell the daughter of Zion, look your King is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey..."  Matt. 21: 2-5

The drawing above is a quick sketch I did of a donkey.  I have sketched a couple of donkeys now in preparation for trying to do an icon of Our Lady, pregnant with Jesus, riding a donkey as Joseph walks along beside her.  The drawing below by an unknown artist is one of the many pictures I have been studying as I prepare to begin work on this new icon. 


This was the first time that Jesus our Lord rode on a donkey  -- on the road to Bethlehem...
I have never seen an icon of this scene so I have to give myself lots of time to pray about each aspect of it prior to beginning.  You will know by next Advent what the results are!

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Below is the icon that I had planned to feature in this posting.  For those of you who are tired of the many images of Our Lady that I keep presenting you with, I apologize... but as I have said previously, I find comfort these days in working on icons of our Blessed Mother.


Icon "Our Lady of the Comforting Hands", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013
The title I have given this icon is my own creation.  I decided to give it this name as Our Lady's hands were what I focused on while I was working and they did give me comfort -- just as I am sure they gave comfort to her little boy, Jesus.


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BRADEN AT PLAY

Google continues to play around with their format, etc. which continues to create problems for users such as me.  When I inserted these photos of Braden, I was given the wrong code so I cannot manipulate them at all.  Normally, I can make them the size I choose and place them where I want to on the page.  As well, I can add proper captions.  For some reason, the system stopped working when I reached this part of the page.  I plan to complain, but that doesn't help matters now!  So, I will just have to make do with what is.

By moving over to Google+ I find I am able to manipulate the photos properly so please disregard the above paragraph.

So here are three photos of Braden happily at play.  I understand he is beginning to have better sleep patterns now and, of course, getting sufficient sleep makes us all feel happier!


Braden's fantastic toy!



His mom said he was making a noise kind of like you do when you let your lips go loose and then blow!
Evidently, this is the sound that his truck is making at this point in time!




Here is sweet Braden looking almost like he is wearing a halo!




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May the peace of God be with us all as the Church enters into this holiest week of the Church Year.  

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Datura -- Moonflowers

"Datura Explosion"  (Datura stramonium), drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Datura is a genus of nine species of vespertine (flowers that open or bloom in the evening) flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are known as Angel's Trumpets sharing that name with the closely related genus Brugmansia. Another name that Datura shares is the name of Moonflowers referring to the fact that they bloom at night.  The particular member of this genus, however, that I will be describing below is Datura stramonium.

"Angel Trumpet and Butterfly", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010
 You may recall this drawing (on your right)) which I did a few years ago of an Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia) flower.  As you can see,  the shape of the flower is similar to the unopened "trumpets" above, but the difference is immediately obvious:  Datura flowers grow up (erect) while Angel Trumpets flowers grown down (pendulous).

Datura belongs to the classic "witches' weeds," along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and Datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of love potions and witches' brews.

The genus name, Datura, is derived from dhatura, an ancient Hindu word for a plant. Stramonium is originally from Greek, strychnos στρύχνος "nightshade" and maniakos μανιακός "mad".
For centuries, Datura has been used as a herbal medicine to relieve asthma symptoms and as an analgesic during surgery or bone-setting. It is also a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, which is used spiritually for the intense visions it produces. However, the tropane alkaloids which are responsible for both the medicinal and hallucinogenic properties are fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage, and careless use often results in hospitalizations and deaths.  As well, Datura can be used to assist in the process of breaking drug addictions, by reducing the symptoms of delirium tremens and morphine withdrawals. Other medicinal uses for Datura include providing relief from sore throat or toothache. Personally, I am not sure I would want to risk the danger of overdosing or hallucinating just to try to relieve a sore throat!




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BRADEN UPDATE

Here are two recent photos of sweet Braden showing him continuing to discover new things in the world around him.  These early months and years are a time when a child's brain soaks up new information as quickly as a dry sponge soaks up water -- a time when they learn so many things so quickly.  Yet, most of us do not remember these years at all -- other than an occasional scene or image.  I wonder why?


Braden puzzling over his toy!




Braden with his Dad on St. Patrick's Day -- Notice his "way cool" Green Eggs and Ham T-shirt!
And how about those nice green socks!!



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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki sitting in the shower.  I don't know why she likes it in there since she,
 like most house cats, intensely dislikes water (except in her water dish) !
 Well, things have been fairly quiet around our place since the broken vase episode.  Suki has been unusually well behaved for the past few days so I cannot complain about her behaviour.  In fact, she has even allowed me to sleep until 6 a.m. a couple of times recently!

Suki says "hi" to all her fans and promises that she will try to do something interesting before this coming Sunday's posting!

Actually, yesterday I would really have liked for her to have awakened me at what she considers one of her normal feeding times:  3:30 a.m.!  Fortunately, I was able to awaken on my own around that time as I wanted to witness Pope Francis' Inaugural Mass.

Did any of you watch it as well?  I found it to be quite beautiful.  Sadly, I feel asleep right after the Holy Father's homily!  Typical for me, of course.  I did get to hear the homily and later was able to read the complete text of it as I now subscribe to VISnews.  That way I was able to experience Pope Francis' presentation of it as well as reading a good translation and having time to really reflect on what he felt it was important to say to the Church on that auspicious occasion.  I remain very grateful for our new Holy Father and am looking forward to seeing where he takes the Church in the days to come.

Otherwise, I continue to do much the same as I have previously reported.  The same problems continue to bother me -- sometimes a lot and sometime not so much -- but each day has its many challenges.  I will finally see the doctor at the sleep disorders clinic again next week.   Although the medication he put me on has been a tremendous help in enabling me to stay awake for much longer periods of time during the day, once the medication has worn off, I am right back to having sleep attacks as before.  So, we will have to work on adjusting the dosage, I presume.

As for my poor eyebrows, they have simply disappeared into the scars created by my most recent surgery.  Sadly, they are showing no signs of reappearing.  Sometimes when I forget and glance at myself in a mirror, I get this feeling that I am actually disappearing -- maybe I will eventually become like the invisible man and simply disappear entirely!!  Yikes.

That's enough rambling for now.

It is difficult to believe that Lent is almost over for another year.  My favourite season of the Church year and it will be finished next week, Holy Week.  All those powerful days to pass through next week where we experience in our hearts and minds the Passion of our Lord Jesus.

May the days between now and Palm (or Passion) Sunday be days filled with the peace of God for us all.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Our Lady of Good Comfort

Icon "Our Lady of Good Comfort", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013
In an effort to find comfort when the days get difficult and the ongoing physical problems seem almost overwhelming, I turn, as so many millions have throughout the centuries, to Our Lady, Blessed Mary.  This icon, which I am calling "Our Lady of Good Comfort" (I just gave it that name as comfort was what I was seeking during the creation of it) is very special to me.  The reason why is that during the time I was working on it, I kept "pretending" that Jesus was asking me to join Him in His mother's embrace. 

Wonderfully, every so often I did feel comforted as I almost imagined myself into Blessed Mary's arms -- for just a moment, now and then, I really felt that everything was going to be all right some day before too much longer.  Why is it often so difficult for us to really believe the promises of God when He has proved Himself in our lives over and over again?



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OUR "PAPA" FRANCIS


Our new Holy Father shown after he had asked the crowd at St. Peter's to pray for him before he gave them his blessing
 As I was telling my friend, Eugene, earlier this past week, this is a very exciting time in the Church -- but it is also a time of great uncertainty.  Our new Holy Father is not going to be predictable.  He has definite ideas and we will just have to see how he develops them over time.  Thus far, I have been deeply moved by a number of the things Pope Francis has said and am full of hope for the future of the Church.

Cimabue's St. Francis showing something of the REAL St. Francis
 I would recommend that we all find a good account of the life of St. Francis to read (or re-read).  Our new Holy Father has taken the name of Francis because of St. Francis' love for the poor, his love of Lady Poverty.  The "poor man of Assisi" was not some kind of flower child or environmental activist.  He was a radical follower of Christ who truly took the promises of Jesus at face value.  One book I can recommend is G. K. Chesterton's Life of St. Francis.



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RECENT PHOTO OF BRADEN

It is difficult to believe that a little over three months from now Braden will be 1 year old!


Isn't he just the cutest thing?  (The correct answer is "yes"!)

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SUKI AND SALLIE


Bad cat


 Suki, as my friend, Joycelyn, would say, is a "real piece of work"!  Let me tell you what happened Thursday morning and you will understand why I am saying that.

Early Thursday morning, I had awakened (with a bit of help from Suki) around 5:30.  The first thing I did after arising was to feed Suki in order to turn off her "meow mouth" -- which was going non-stop at that point.  After feeding her, I set about getting a bit of caffeine into me and then preparing to pray Office of Readings using my iPad app.

I was setting up my iPad so it could listen to the Office while I had my beverage.  The easiest place to put it in the living room is on the shelf of the room divider.  As I set about doing this, I noticed that Suki had finished her breakfast and seemed to be feeling very frisky, running around and stopping every so often to chase her tail.  Thinking nothing of it, however, I proceeded setting up the iPad. 

Suddenly, I see Suki running along the back of the sofa and I realize that she is going too fast to stop.  Instead, she does something she never normally does -- she tries to jump from the sofa onto the shelf where I am getting the iPad ready.  Her jump is too far and off balance.  The next thing I know, Suki falls back to the floor but in doing so, she hits a decorative candlestick which in turn hits my beautiful blue vase.  Everything falls.  As I watch this happen, it seems as though time has slowed down for a second, but then the crashing of the heavy glass vase to the floor quickly brings me out of that sensation.  I listen as the vase breaks into hundreds of pieces.

I yell at Suki -- as though that is going to do any good at this point -- but she has already disappeared into the bedroom.  Then, all is quiet.  I survey the mess, dreading the work that is before me and saddened by the loss of the beautiful object.  After a moment, I dismiss the sadness and inertia and get the broom, dustpan, mop, etc. and start the process of trying to get all those tiny pieces of glass off the floor and into the garbage.
The vase that was.


Here is a photo of what the shelf used to look like and you can clearly see the blue vase.  It wasn't an expensive vase, but it was the colour of blue which I enjoyed so much.  Even after having it in my possession for the past 15 years, I still found joy in looking at that vase -- especially when the afternoon sun would shine on it as it came through the living room windows.

 Ah, well, all things are passing.


Otherwise, I am doing much the same.  My eyes are slowly healing.  One side seems to be healing nicely, but the other side continues to be problematic.  I can only continue to hope that both sides will eventually heal completely.

I try not to look at myself in the mirror unless it is absolutely necessary.  Instead, I seek to keep my thoughts elsewhere -- listening to books and attempting to keep doing my art whenever my eyes are not weeping so much.  It is really just impossible to see clearly when your eyes stay full of tears!

Please keep praying for me.

One of the things I read recently which has occupied my thoughts and prayers is the following quote from C. S. Lewis:


Finally, not to forget whose feast day it is....  St. Patrick, please pray for us

Icon "St. Patrick" by the hand
of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
(from St. Patrick's Breastplate)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Butea monosperma


"Butea monosperma (Flame of the Forest)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Butea monosperma is a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, ranging across India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and western Indonesia.

Common names for this tree include Palash, Dhak, Flame of the Forest, Bastard Teak, Parrot Tree and Keshu.  In West Bengal, it is associated with spring, especially through the poems and songs of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who likened its bright orange flame-like flower to fire. In Santiniketan, where Tagore lived, this flower has become an indispensable part of the celebration of spring.

Historically, Butea monosperma forests covered much of the doab area between the Ganges and Yamuna, but these were cleared for agriculture in the early 19th century as the English East India Company increased tax demands on the peasants.  It is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and dye. The wood is dirty white and soft and is durable even under water. Good charcoal can be made from it.  The gum from the tree, called kamarkas in Hindi, is used in certain food dishes. 

The leaves are usually very leathery.  In poorer regions, this tree provides leaves that are used either with many pieced together to make a leaf-plate for serving a meal on, and, for example,  a would-be son-in-law was in times past was tested on his dexterity in making a plate and bowl (for serving more liquid parts of the meal such as daal or stew) before being declared acceptable by the would be father-in-law.

The flowers are used to prepare a traditional Holi colour. It is also used as a dyeing color for fabric. This plant kills mosquitoes. They are attracted by the smell and color of the flower. Eggs that are laid into the liquid within the flower will never hatch. Any mosquito that touches the fluid can never escape from it.



"Butea monosperma (Flame of the Forest) Tree"

I would love to see these trees in their natural habitat.  Can you imagine the colour explosion you would experience in a grove of such trees with the sun shining brightly upon them?  It would, indeed, look as though the trees were on fire!


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BRADEN GOES SWIMMING

Braden and his Dad went swimming recently and, as you can tell from the photos below, Braden seemed to be enjoying himself -- but he was really tired by the time they started for home!



"Don't worry, Braden, I've got you"




"See, swimming is a lot of fun!"




"Did you enjoy going swimming, Braden?"


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SUKI AND SALLIE


Add caption
Suki is very puzzled this morning.  She cannot figure out why we are up so early!  Normally, we would still be sound asleep at 5:30 a.m., but not today.  Instead, I am at the computer, writing this post while occasionally glancing at the muted TV across the room.  I am on "smoke watch"!  Suki is watching me.

Suki has made it very clear that if we are going to be up so early that the very least I can do is feed her.  But I have told her that I will feed her at her regular breakfast time -- that she doesn't need to eat until then.  She does not agree and so she sits and watches, waiting for any sign that I might be about to get up and go into the kitchen!  Hope, indeed, does spring eternal even in the kitty cat breast!

Otherwise, there is really nothing new to report as Suki has been reasonably well behaved of late -- which doesn't make for interesting stories, but does make my life easier.

Speaking of my life, I feel I must confess that I have not been very happy over these past few days -- in fact, I have been downright grumpy!  Let me explain.

From the time I posted to my blog this past Sunday at 9 a.m., I spent the next 36 hours without any Restless Leg problems.  Since I have been suffering so terribly from this neurological disorder of late, I was cautiously delighted.  I was almost convinced that the natural remedies I had started using several weeks ago were actually working.  Perhaps I had found the right formula that would keep me distress-free indefinitely!

Well, Monday night about 8 p.m., the symptoms returned with a vengeance -- I could not do anything except try to find relief from the distressing symptoms -- I could not watch TV, I could not read, I could not work on the computer, I could not draw on the computer and I could not sleep.  Hour after hour I tried every remedy at my disposal until the symptoms finally eased a bit and I feel into an exhausted sleep.  During all this, I was crying out to God as Job did.  I even told God what St. Teresa of Avila had told Him:  "if this is how you treat Your friends, it is no wonder that You have so few of them!"  I was just plain tired to trying to accept whatever God was allowing into my life and wanted to complain -- which I did, much to my sorrow as by Tuesday morning, the symptoms had settled again and I still remain symptom free this morning -- almost 24 hours later.

Now, as I try once again to return to that place of peaceful acceptance of whatever God permits, I keep remembering all those unkind things I said to our dear Lord when the suffering seemed as though it would never end.  All I really needed to do was to look at the crucifix so that I would be forcibly reminded of how agonizingly our Lord suffered hour after hour -- not for His own crimes but for mine -- and yours.  I simply still do not understand that kind of love.  I pray to God that someday I will.  Meanwhile, I will try to pick up my cross once again and follow Him.  Please pray for me.

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Now, as I continue to wait for the "smoke watch" to begin in earnest on my TV screen, I wish all of you true joy -- the joy that is a gift of the Holy Spirit and which enables us to say:  "the joy of the Lord is my strength"!

The kind of joy that will fill our hearts when we hear those wonderful words:  "Habemus papam" and know that the Church once again has a Holy Father, Christ's visible representative on earth.

May peace be with us all.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The First Pope

Icon "St. Peter, the first Pope", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

As the Church gets closer and closer to the selection of a new Holy Father, I have been thinking and praying a great deal about the the Papacy, about the various popes who have been a part of my life and experience and about my gratitude to God for the gift of the Magesterium.

I spent the first 30 years of my life outside the Catholic Church and although I looked longingly towards Rome for much of that time, I remained outside the wisdom and authority of Holy Mother Church.  During all those years as I tried to convince myself that it really did not matter where I worshipped so long as Christ Jesus was my Lord and Saviour, I found over and over again that I continued to be plagued by the questions of "authority" and "whose truth is the real Truth".  Time after time, when I went to my Anglican pastor to ask for help in understanding Scripture or defining the truth about faith and morals, he would give me his opinion and then direct me to various books for further study -- the majority of which were written by Catholic priests!  I clearly remember the day when I said to myself:  "this is ridiculous -- why not just go ahead and prepare myself to enter the Roman Catholic Church!"

I came into the Church during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI.  I was there during those troubling days after he issued Humanae Vitae and listened to all the controversy surrounding it.  By then, however, I had already come to believe, and believe deeply, that I could rely on the Church to guide me rightly in all areas of my life.  That conviction has never changed, in fact, it has only grown stronger as the years have passed.

And, so, as we prepare to welcome the Holy Spirit's gift of a new Pope, I push aside all those voices speaking worrying words about who it might be and whether he will be the right person for the job.  I know that our God is trustworthy and able to accomplish all things according to His loving will. 

I have been praying for the cardinals, of course, as we all have, but last week I came across a web site for supporting a particular cardinal in prayer.  This is how it works:  you go to the web site, pray for God to lead you to the very cardinal He wants you to pray for particularly and then, after entering your name and email address, you click the send button.  Without a few seconds, you are sent an email telling you which cardinal you had chosen.  My result was José da Cruz Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal! He is unknown to me, but as a voting member of the Conclave, he needs prayers as well. If you are interested in adopting your own cardinal, just go to https://adoptacardinal.org/  The Vatican has given their blessing to this German web site.

Just think, by the time I post again, we may have a new Pope!!

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BRADEN GOES TO A RESTAURANT

He is such a well-behaved, young man -- or so it appears in these two photos.  For the whole story we would have to ask his parents! 

Lately, both Braden and his parents have been suffering as Braden continues the process of getting his teeth.  Teething does not seem to be an experience that either Braden or his parents are particularly enjoying!


First things first -- get something into Braden's tummy so that his parents will have a
chance to eat their meal in peace!



Next comes a thorough investigation of the toys provided -- but wait, what is this?  A
placemat that seems to be made of paper and it tears easily!  (I have it on good
authority that Braden thoroughly enjoy destroying his placemat while his parents
enjoyed their meal!).



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SUKI AND SALLIE

The look says it all ... "why are you disturbing me while I am
watching my favourite 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons?"
I have known cats who seem to thoroughly enjoy watching television.  I have never had such a cat, however.

Suki generally ignores the TV.  Occasionally, she will watch it carefully for a few seconds but that is usually when there is a lot of movement across the screen or when something on the TV is emitting a sound that is similar to that a kitten makes -- or an angry cat.  But the majority of the time, she simply ignores it just as she does my computer screen.

The majority of the time she is sound asleep and thus is not even aware of the TV screen or of any noise coming from it.  She is very careful about getting in those necessary 15 hours a day.  In fact, she apparently wants to make certain that she gets just a bit more than the minimum requirements for sleep!

So, Suki is doing well -- sleeping and eating and enjoying life.  She had a wonderful birthday on the 8th, by the way,  as I fed her every time she asked for food!

As for me, I would have to say that I am doing reasonably well -- all things considered.

The "stay awake" medication seems to be continuing to work well so I am having more time when I am alert and functioning each day.  This is really quite wonderful after all these years of spending so much of each day trying to stay awake hour after hour.

My face is continuing to heal -- although the right side is still lagging far behind the left.  My eyes, however, continue to give me a lot of discomfort and the weeping I do when my eyes begin to get tired of trying to focus on things is quite frustrating.  This problem still has to be dealt with but will have to wait until the incisions around my eyes have healed.  Hopefully I will look halfway normal by the time I leave on my trip to the States at the end of May.

The Restless Legs are the only problem area which does not seem to be responding to treatment that well.  Every afternoon, evening and bedtime I try to remain positive -- thinking to myself "today things will be better" -- but thus far this has only been wishful thinking.  I was really hoping that the iron supplements would finally put an end to this distressing Syndrome; however...  Oh, well, I intend to keep fighting it until I find something that works and that doesn't harm me.  I am determined.

The only saint I can find so far that seems to be a patron for such problems is poor St. Vitus.  I am asking for his intercession now so you will probably be seeing an icon of him in the weeks to come!

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Three weeks from today is Easter Sunday!  So, as we continue through this time of penance and prayer in preparation, I pray that we may all know that peace of God which passes all human understanding and which keeps our hearts and minds ever open to the grace of God.  Our God who loves each and every one of us passionately and eternally.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Asclepias physocarpa (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

"Asclepias physocarpa (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


Asclepias physocarpa (also known as Gomphocarpus physocarpus, commonly known as the balloon plant) is a species of milkweed. The plant is native to southeast Africa, but it has been widely naturalized. It is often used as an ornamental plant. The name "balloon plant" is an allusion to the swelling bladder-like seed pods.

Asclepias physocarpa is a perennial herb, that can grow to over six feet. The plant blooms in warm months. It grows on roadside banks, at elevations of 2800 to 5000 feet above sea level.

The terminology for this plant is a little confusing. It is a native milkweed of South Africa and in 2001 its name was changed from Asclepias physocarpa to Gomphocarpus physocarpus to reflect that it is in the family of African milkweeds. Now its true scientific name is Gomphocarpus physocarpus but most people still know it and refer to it as Asclepias physocarpa.


A Monarch butterfly is ready to emerge from a chrysalis on
Balloon plant  Source: Sandy Austin reproduced
under Creative Commons




A Monarch butterfly is ready to emerge from a chrysalis on Balloon plant Source: Vicky TGAW reproduced under Creative Commons

The plant is a food source for the caterpillars of Danaus butterflies, and is a specific Monarch butterfly food and habitat plant. It is also popular in traditional medicine to cure various ailments.

All of the milkweeds are named for a milky sap in the plant's stem and leaves. After the Monarch caterpillar has metamorphosed into a butterfly, the alkaloids from the sap they ingested from the plant are retained in the butterfly, making it unpalatable to predators.

The two photos above are taken from the web site:  http://www.joyfulbutterfly.com/articles/asclepias-physocarpa.html  They took them from Creative Commons (see link under pictures above).

The have a fascinating web site filled with information of all sorts for all ages, especially regarding the relationship between plants and butterflies.  I would recommend that you take a look there if you or your children are interested in gaining more information on this subject.


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WATCHING THE CHILDREN PLAY!

A delightful photo taken by my good friend, Glen Clifford, at the Toronto Zoo back in 2006.
The photo shows two adult  (Olive-coloured) Baboons tending their youngsters (I see a little arm behind the baby in front)



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SUKI AND SALLIE

 
A photo of a younger, slimmer Suki
I was talking to Suki yesterday about the weight she has gained over the past 4 years -- she has a birthday coming up this Friday and will be turning 4.

I was trying to convince her that she needed to watch her weight now that she is getting a bit older as there is nothing more embarrassing than an obese cat!  Everyone who sees the cat has to tell you about the dangers of having an overweight cat -- that it is actually animal abuse to allow a pet to get overweight, etc.

I have already started getting such comments from occasional visitors and I must admit, they do make me feel guilty.  Of course, the person giving me the lecture is not here at 10 p.m. when I want to go to sleep and am unable to because Suki is hungry!

I know, that is just an excuse for why I give in too often to her frequent requests for food.  Even though I only give her small amounts each time, she still seems to be packing on the pounds.

Of course, part of it is my fault as I have just been too ill and fatigued to play with her for such a long time now.  I used to spend a lot more time letting her chase the laser light or shaking the fishing pole with the dangling feathers over her head while she jumped for it. 

I have tried to get her interested in playing on her own and she does do a bit of it each day, but soon tires and either feels it is time to eat again or time for another nap.  Woe is me -- I feel like such a bad caregiver.  Maybe I should go and have a bowl of ice cream or something to make myself feel better!!

Seriously, I am doing reasonably well and have no plans to have a bowl of ice cream at this time of day.

I had the sutures out on Monday and while I am feeling a bit better, I still look very funny with these eyebrows composed of suture marks and red splotches.  I still have a good bit of bruising on the right side of my face which I hope will disappear before Easter gets here.

The best news is that I continue to be able to walk more than I have in years.  Not sure exactly what has happened, but I am grateful for any little blessing that comes my way.  I find that I am not using the wheelchair at all now -- just the walker.  I continue to amaze myself each time I go out now by how far I am able to walk without any discomfort.  God is indeed so very good to me.

As well, the new "stay awake" medication seems to be working well and giving me more awake time each day than I have had in years.  It is really quite wonderful to be able to sit here at the computer without constantly having to fight to keep from falling asleep over and over again.  I had forgotten what it is like to be awake during the day!

So, let us give thanks to God for all His goodness to us.  As well, I will continue to ask St. John of God (whose feast day is on the 8th, Suki's birthday) to pray for us all -- asking God to grant us true peace and joy.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Shelter from the Storm


Icon "Our Lady: Shelter from the Storm", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

I apologize for only offering you new icons of Our Lady these days, but that is where my heart is -- and when it comes to "writing" icons, I must follow my heart. 

The real issue is what verses from Holy Scripture are running through my head -- it is often these verses which determine the saint or incident that my heart is drawn towards.  The scripture that has sustained me through so many of these long and difficult days is the short but powerful statement made by our Blessed Mother at the Annunciation:  "Be it done unto me according to your will."  I know that translations of the last word of that statement vary according to which translation you read; however, I have chosen the version which says "will" as that needs to be my focus these days!

Even now when I seem to be nearing the end of this difficult segment of my life, I am aware of how many things there are to which I continue to need to say FIAT.  I will say more about this in the "Suki and Sallie" section of this edition of my blog.

Meanwhile, let me just ask for your patience and understanding as you continue to see more icons of Our Lady in the days ahead!


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Our Pope Emeritus


My friend, Eugene, forwarded some photos to me on March 1st that he had received from another friend.  When I opened them, I was amazed and delighted to see that our Pope Emeritus is a true "cat person"!

As you can see from the photo below, the cat sleeping in his lap trusts this man absolutely -- a very telling sign usually that a person is truly fond of cats.  This image immediately became my absolute favourite photo of our, now, Pope Emeritus.

Speaking of which, I was able to watch all the details of Benedict's exit from the Vatican, his flight to Castel Gandolfo and his final comments to the 1,000 or so well-wishers gathered outside the residence as well as to the world.  He has now entered into the seclusion that should mark the rest of his life.  By his actions he has made a statement to the Church and to the world that in his view, prayer is a powerful thing.  His actions say:  "I can do more good spending the rest of my years in prayer for the Church than in remaining the Pope".  What a huge encouragement for all those in contemplative communities and for all of us who intercede for one another and for the Church -- especially all those who can do little else due to age or disability. 
  
My absolute favourite photo of Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI
 I had no idea how to locate the owner of this photo so if anyone knows how I might find out, please let me know as I would like to seek permission to post it to my blog. 

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MY NEWEST LITTLE GIRL!


Let me introduce you to Esterline.  She is 8 years old and is from Haiti.  I am sponsoring her through CHALICE, the Catholic sponsorship organization through which I have made contact with all the children I assist.  Their website is:  http://www.chalice.ca/


The newest addition to my family!

I have wanted to sponsor a child from Haiti for such a long time now and finally Chalice has been able to work out arrangements with a religious community in Haiti to oversee the sponsorship program there.  Chalice is such a good organization and they never take on a new location until they have been able to establish really good people on the ground in that country to oversee the program first-hand.  That direct contact of those people (almost always a religious community of women) who oversee with those who benefit is so important if the poor are really going to be helped to the full extent of your donation.  Otherwise, it is too easy for money to be wasted or used inappropriately.
I will give you an update on Esterline when I receive my first letter from her.


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SUKI AND SALLIE


Interrupting Suki praying the Divine Office on her iPad!!
(Actually, I was the one praying the Divine Office on MY iPad
when I had to get up for a moment -- you can see who
immediately took over my chair!)

Suki, as you can see from the photos, is up to her usual tricks -- always on the lookout for a good warm chair seat to try to lay claim to whenever the owner of that chair has to get up for any reason!

I was in the midst of praying Midday Prayer when the phone rang in that way that indicates that someone is buzzing me from the entryway in the lobby.  Unfortunately, the only phone that allows me to open the lobby door is the wall phone in the kitchen.  So, up I got and quickly answered the phone.  It was Canada Post with a package.  I waited by the front door until the package was delivered, checked the address to see what the contents might be, placed it on the counter in the kitchen and then headed back to my big chair to finish praying Midday Prayer.

What should I see as I entered the bedroom but Suki comfortably curled up in my chair, pretending to be asleep!

"OK, out of the chair, Suki." said I.  She replied:
"Pl-u-u-ease, can't you see that I am saying my prayers here?"
"OUT!", said I.  Then she finally moved.
I spoke to her quietly to see what her response would be and she looked up with that expression which she has when she is trying to get away with something. 

Actually, I thought it was so cute that I couldn't help reaching my my camera and taking a couple of photos.  But then I was ready to sit back down again and I told this to Suki. 

She looked at me as though she did not understand what I was saying -- another trick of hers.  After asking her nicely to remove herself and getting no action, I said "OUT" in that voice which tells Suki that I am nearing the end of my patience and will soon be bodily removing her.

At this point, she slowly got up and slowly removed herself from the chair.  As she exited the room, she gave a low "meow" which, if it could have been translated into English, would probably be a word that I couldn't use in a Catholic blog!

Now to continue with my comments from the beginning section of today's posting regarding FIAT. 

My face is continuing to heal but is still a long way from looking "normal".  It will take another month at least for me to begin to see what all this will actually leave me looking like. For now, my expectations are very low.  Tomorrow I go to have the sutures removed and to get the verdict on how things are going from the surgeon, himself.

Then, there is the ongoing saga from the sleep disorders clinic...
I have been put on a medication to help keep me awake during the day.  It seems to be working reasonably well and the only side effect thus far is a bit of stomach distress.  It is really quite wonderful to not be falling asleep all the time and to not have to worry about falling asleep while standing.  If a bit of stomach distress is the price I have to pay, I am willing.

One interesting result of all the sleep clinic studies is that they were able to tell me that my asthma appears to have gotten worse again.  So I am waiting to have another complete pulmonary function test sometime soon.  My last one was 10 years ago at least. 

But the greatest struggle at the moment has to do with the Restless Leg Syndrome.  As you may recall, I was taken off the medication that was actually causing me to have those awful sleep attacks and the occasional bad falls that often accompanied them.  The doctors then decided that they would like to see if one of the more natural remedies would solve the problem for me before they prescribed another drug to put into the mix! 

People who suffer from RLS almost always have low iron as I do.  So, I have now been  put on supplemental iron tablets in order to see if my problems with RLS improve once the iron level in my blood is raised.  Of course, during this time, without any medication, the RLS is attempting to drive me crazy!  In desperation, I am researching all kinds of home remedies in hopes of getting some relief.  Thus far I haven't found anything that really works but I am desperate enough to keep looking and trying.  One of the basics regarding RLS is no caffeine -- none.  This is very difficult for me as I love my coffee and pop.  But I am willing to try.  So for the moment, no caffeine.  Of course, this leads to caffeine withdrawal headaches which can, for me, turn into Migraines! 

So the saga continues.  Do you see why "fiat" is such an important word for me?  Please continue to pray with me and for me as I do for all those who read my blog. 

May the peace of God descend upon us, surround us and fill us today and every day.  Amen.