Sunday, 28 April 2013

Undoer of Knots

"Our Lady, Undoer of Knots"drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


When I first heard, soon after his election, that our new Pope has a great devotion to this image of Our Lady, I immediately went online, searching to find a copy of the painting.  Fortunately, it was an easy search and so right away I had a "model" to work from.  There was only one other painting that I could find which was based on this original and it is extremely well done and worth taking a look at online.

In doing research on this image and its origin, I came across the following information which the author kindly gave me permission to reprint here.

How this devotion started:
To show us the mission granted to the Virgin Mary by Her Son, an artist Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner painted Mary Undoer of Knots with great grace. Since 1700, his painting has been venerated in the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Augsburg, Germany. It was originally inspired by a meditation of Saint Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyon and martyred in 202) based on the parallel made by Saint Paul between Adam and Christ. Saint Irenaeus, in turn, made a comparison between Eve and Mary, saying:“Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it”.

What are these knots?
They are the problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution … knots of discord in [the] family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. They are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude…Ah, the knots of our life! How they suffocate the soul, beat us down and betray the heart’s joy and separate us from God.

Day after day, more and more Christians kneel to pray to her as soon as they meet the [Our Lady, Undoer of Knots]. Many families have become reconciled! Many diseases have been healed! Many spouses have returned to the Church! Many jobs have been given! Many conversions have taken place! Many Catholics have been on their knees praying and giving thanks for graces received from our sweet Mother. For that reason, Mary who undoes the knots, who was chosen by God to crush the evil with Her feet, comes to us to reveal Herself. She comes to provide jobs, good health, to reconcile families, because she wants to undo the knots of our sins which dominate our lives, so that – as sons [and daughters] of the King – we can receive the promises reserved for us from eternity. She comes with promises of victory, peace, blessings and reconciliation.

Used through the kind permission of Edson Bosetti, Mary Undoer of Knots, Brampton, Ontario, www.maryundoerofknots.com novena@maryundoerofknots.com


The same drawing framed -- not really as this is the result of my playing around with Photoshop type software

Here are some insightful comments from Dr. Taylor Marshall:

Pope Francis's Devotion to 'Our Lady Untier of Knots'
Our new Pope Francis has been one of the chief promoters of "Our Lady Untier of Knots." When Pope Francis, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was studying in Germany, he was stunned by a Bavarian painting of "Holy Mary, Our Lady Untier of Knots." He acquired a copy of the painting and brought it to Argentina and promoted devotion to Mary under this title. Apparently it has caught on with the faithful of Argentina.
It is interesting that this Marian devotion of Pope Francis is rooted in Bavaria - it therefore creates a bridge between the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and that of Pope Francis. In fact, Cardinal Bergoglio had an image of Our Lady Untier of Knots engraved into a chalice and presented it to Pope Benedict XVI.

The Theology of Our Lady Untier of Knots
The theology of Mary untying knots goes back to the second century - less than one hundred years after the death of the Apostles. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wrote "the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith." (Adversus haereses, 3, 22) This is one of the earliest examples of describing Mary as the "New Eve." Eve, standing next to Adam, is the "co-peccatrix" (co-sinner) Mary, standing next to Christ crucified, is the "co-redemptrix" (co-redemptress). This does not mean that Mary directly saves or redeems us. It means that Mary consents and participates in the redemptive action of Christ. Her role is congruent and relative to the ... absolute role of Christ. Our Lady Untier of Knots is Patristic and may be the way forward for establishing and expanding Marian theology. The doctrine of Mary's universal mediation and her subordinate role to Christ in human salvation is beautifully summed up in this saying of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. The fact that it goes back to the second century reveals that this is not a medieval accretion. It's a doctrine deriving from the Apostles themselves.

From the Blog of Dr. Taylor Marshall, 
http://www.taylormarshall.com/2013/03/mary-untier-of-knots-pope-francis.html


"Mary, Undoer of Knots", by Artist Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner.  Since 1700, his painting has been venerated in the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Augsburg, Germany

Above is the original painting by Schmittdner which has had such a profound effect on Pope Francis and on so others as well.



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BRADEN

I only have one new photo of Braden this week and it shows him being a very defiant young man!  He did not want to take his nap -- no matter what his mom tried.  This is not a good thing as it makes for a cranky baby and a tired mom!  Ah, well, that self-will begins to exert itself so early and from the beginning causes us so many problems since we tend to exert it so often to our detriment! 


A defiant Braden -- "No, I will not take a nap!"


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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki -- ever watchful
I have yet to figure out why Suki gets so anxious whenever I open the balcony door -- even just a little bit.  

On a day like today when it is not really warm enough to turn on the A/C, but just a bit stuffy in the apartment, I like to open the balcony door just a bit to let in some cooler air.  Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Well, the minute I open that door, here comes Suki.  She may have appeared to be deeply asleep just moments previous, yet, in an instant she is awake and on the move.  She comes near the open door very cautiously, sniffing and listening, ready to jump at the slightest loud sound.

If she is hungry and I give her food while the door is open, she can only eat a little bit and even that is eaten while stopping to listen carefully between each bite.  After just a few bites, she can't stand it any longer and leaves her food unfinished and creeps back toward the open door as though creeping up on a dangerous foe.

It's not like I haven't tried to leave the door open many times over the years that she has been with me; however, Suki's reactions have always been the same!  Sometimes I just open the door and then try to ignore her behaviour.  But no matter how long I leave the door open, Suki never seems to be able to settle down.  Eventually, I start to feel guilty and so I go and close the door so that Suki can finally let herself go back to her all-important sleep.

Just another oddity of my funny cat.  Strange as she is, I wouldn't trade her!

As for me, I continue to be much the same -- no improvements, but no new problems.  For this I am very grateful as you can imagine.  I will be seeing my family doctor this coming week and, hopefully, she won't find anything new either!

The most exciting thing that will be happening this week is the appointment I have to meet a dear, dear friend on the day before her birthday.  This means that we can celebrate her special day with little gifts and some treats.  Anyone who knows me well knows how I feel about birthdays -- my own and those of all my family, friends and acquaintances.  Once I find out when your birthday is, watch out, you may be getting one of my homemade cards!

As I come to the end of this post, I would request that you join with me in asking Our Lady, Undoer of Knots to pray to her Son that the "knots" in all our lives may be undone through His grace.  That we may learn to trust in Christ and in the prayers of His dear Mother Mary and so know that peace which God alone can give.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Some Repeats

PITCHER PLANT

"Zebra Pitcher Plant", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013
Even though I have already featured Pitcher Plants recently, I did want to show you an additional drawing I finished just last week.  To me it is possibly the prettiest of all the pitcher plants with its striking black and white "zebra" stripes.  Of course, it, too, is rigged to eat whatever it traps in that "pitcher" sitting there, appearing so innocent and yet so deadly to things that creep, crawl and fly!


ORCHIDS

"Orchid (type unknown but similar to Ghost Orchid)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

"Ghost Orchid", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Here are two more orchids.  It seems that I just never get tired of trying to draw orchids even though I am not very successful at it.

These two new ones were just listed as Orchids so I don't know their proper names.  Because I had the common name, Ghost Orchid, (which I have posted previously), I was able to locate its proper name of Dendrophylax lindenii.  But when a photo is only labelled as "orchid", there is really nothing to work with!

I remember telling you once how many different species of Orchids there are in the world -- in fact, I remember reading that they are not even sure that all the different species have been found and catalogued! 


"Orchid (type unknown),", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013
If anyone reading this posting has any idea as to either the common names or the proper names of these two "unknown" orchids, please let me know so I can do a bit of research on them.


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BRADEN UPDATE

Braden is starting to crawl!  Another milestone.  In the first 3 photos below, he is listening to his mom explain to him why it is almost impossible for him to crawl on highly polished wood floors.  He appears to be a very attentive listener!  (BTW, isn't he adorable!).

















Later, we find Braden back in his play pen watching a bit of TV and playing with his toys.




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SUKI AND SALLIE


"Mr. Ginger and miz k.d.", photo taken 1994
Kittens are adorable to most people even when they look a bit funny like the white kitten in this photograph!  This photo, by the way, was lost (or so I thought) and was just re-discovered by me recently.  I wanted to scan it into my computer as it is one of the few I have now of the white cat as a kitten.  

Let me introduce you to these cats:  the striped cat was called Mr. Ginger. Mr. Ginger was my first cat in about 15 years and he came to live with me in 1993 when he was already about 4 years old.  The following year, someone talked me into adopting the little white cat who was about six months old at the time.  I named her miz k.d.

When I first brought miz k.d. home, she was fearless, getting into everything.  I used to say that the H on top of her head referred to the fact that she was undoubtedly the cat from Hell!  However, I noticed over time that her personality changed completely.  She went from being fearless to being one of the most fearful cats I have ever known.  I simply could not understand what was going on with her.

During the next four years, she grew into a large and beautiful pure white cat.  The black H on the top of her head simply disappeared soon after her first birthday.  Life settled into fairly predictable ways with the cats appearing to get along reasonably well, but miz k.d. never regained her boldness.  Then one day the mystery was solved.

I was standing in another room but just happened to be in a position where I could just see the two cats in the other room, reflected in the mirror beside me.  As I watched I saw Mr. Ginger walk up to miz k.d. and hit her hard across the face.  miz k.d. just cowered and did not retaliate.  Then Mr. Ginger hit her again, even harder -- he was, by the time, a really big ginger cat -- close to 18 pounds -- and he wasn't fat -- this time I heard miz k.d. whimper.  The sound practically broke my heart.

I yelled and Mr. Ginger quickly moved away and started nonchalantly grooming himself.  miz k.d. did not even move.  I was really distressed and truly did not know what to do.  It was obvious that he must have been abusing her since she was a kitten, but never in my presence!  The only solution seemed to me to be to permanently separate the two of them.  I was pretty sure that Mr. Ginger could adjust to a new home easily so long as he was the only cat.  miz k.d. on the other hand was an abuse victim and I knew that any move would be very difficult for her as people would expect her to act like a regular cat and I was pretty sure that she was never going to be a regular cat again and as it turned out, I was right!

So, I spoke with my vet and she started looking for a new home for Mr. Ginger.  One turned up quickly.  A couple of guys, who only wanted one cat, were delighted when they met Mr. Ginger and he was quickly adopted.  I heard that he settled in nicely as I was sure he would.  

miz k.d. stayed with me and I accommodated her fears and phobias for the remainder of her life.  She lived to be 15 when she experienced kidney failure.  After her death, I told myself that I was going to wait at least 6 months or more before bringing home another cat.  About a month and a half later, Suki came to live with me!  So much for my resolution.

"How Suki might have looked as a Kitten", 
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Suki was already one year old when I brought her home.  You are all familiar with her story.  Wisely, I have refrained from trying to have another cat at the same time although I think Suki would actually be OK with a younger cat around.  However, it would really be much too much work for me.

Speaking of me, I am doing much the same.  I saw my new  ophthalmologist for the first time today and it was basically a good experience.  He wants me to get new glasses to accommodate the double vision in my left eye.  This should give me some relief from these daily eye strain headaches.

Otherwise, all is as well as it can be for the moment.  

I apologize for the lateness of this posting; however, the doctor put those drops in my eyes which really enlarge your pupils and so I had to wait a while after coming back home before I could continue working on my blog posting as everything was so blurry.  Things are still not back to normal, but I can see much better than I could a few hours ago.

So, I will end today's post with a wish that the blessings of God may be poured out abundantly on you and all your dear ones.

May the peace of God be with us all.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Behold, I Stand at the Door 2

"Behold, I stand at the door, knocking", drawing by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Some of you may recall the icon I did a couple of years ago of Jesus standing at the door and knocking (see Rev. 3:20).  It was done in the style of a Greek icon.  If you want to take a look at it, I posted it on January 25, 2009.  Recently, however, I was reflecting on this passage from the Book of Revelation again and felt an urging to try to draw another version of this powerful scene ... but this time I wanted to try drawing it in a more traditional western art style.

(I finished this work some days ago and noted that while what I have done is definitely not an icon in the regular sense of the word, I always now seem to prefer to use certain techniques which I have acquired while learning to draw icons.)


The best known of the western images of this scene is the painting entitled "The Light of the World, (see painting below) an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt (1853–54) representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". 


According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject." The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind". 

Hunt felt he had to explain the symbolism. The original, painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford. Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul's Cathedral, London, after a world tour where the picture drew large crowds."  [Italicized text taken from Wikipedia.]


William Holman Hunt's painting "The Light of the World"

Like many people, I love the symbolic details in this painting.  If you take the time to enlarge the painting and go over it carefully, you will discover so many symbolic items -- any of which could be the subject of a meditation as you reflect on the passage from Scripture which prompted Hunt (and me) to try to present in artistic form what the imagination sees so clearly.  So, I would recommend that you take a closer look at Hunt's painting and as you discover things hitherto unseen, stop and ask yourself why the artist chose to include each item in his painting. 


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BRADEN'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES

These photos were not all taken on the same day, but I decided to put them together in order to make another little story.  While it doesn't have the excitement of last posting's account of Braden's first date, there are some really delightful photos here.  

For example, the look on Braden's face as his father holds him close to a parrot's cage on his first visit to a pet store, is a look so full of total absorption while taking in every single aspect of this totally new creature.  The same kind of look comes over his face as he stops swinging in order to observe the older kids playing on the big swings.  Again, he is so obviously taking in every detail of something totally new to his experience thus far in his life.  How precious these looks are for they indicate the wonder a child expresses over and over again as he or she explores their world where everything is new and (hopefully) wonderful. 

And now, here are Braden's excellent adventures: 


The day began with waffles and fruit.  Yum!



Braden's first visit to a pet store is so exciting.  He wants to look at everything!



Braden enjoys the small swings in the park as he experiences that 
wonderful feeling we all get when we go back and forth on a swing.





But, wait, what is this?  He has to stop and watch the big kids on the big 
swings as he wonders if he will ever be big like that!



Home again!  Surrounded by everything familiar, his loving parents and all his toys, 
the adventures continue!




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SUKI AND SALLIE


A cat's favourite activity
(after sleeping and eating):
watching the world go by!
I am getting a bit worried about Suki.  Lately when she awakens from a deep sleep, she begins meowing and meows constantly in a way that lets me know she is looking for me. I call her name and once she is able to locate me, she slowly makes her way to wherever I am, meowing all the while.

This in and of itself is pretty routine as she has been behaving this way ever since she came to live with me.  What is different now is that once she has found me, she demands to get into my lap!  It doesn't seem to matter to her where I am sitting or what I am doing, she practically demands to get into my lap -- no matter how awkwardly she has to perch herself on me.  

Once in my lap, she then proceeds to settle in for another long nap and she seems to get very distressed when I put her back down on the floor.  Not deterred, she keeps trying to get back in my lap.  Sometimes I give in and then try to continue whatever I am doing.  Of course, unless I am sitting in the recliner watching TV, it usually proves to be impossible to hold her and so often I end up giving in and moving to the recliner so that she can go back to sleep.  

Like a baby, once she is asleep, then I can carefully pick her up and place her in one of her beds and she will usually just continue to sleep.  At this point, I can then return to such activities as drawing on the computer or whatever.  The next time she awakens, however, we will go through the same process.  

Do any of you have any ideas as to why she has suddenly become such a baby again?  For a while, I thought it might be because she sensed that I was preparing to take a trip, but now that all trip related activities and talk have ceased for the time being, she continues to behave the same way!  A puzzling situation indeed.

Otherwise, things continue as usual.  

As often happens these days, I had another sleepless night last night due to the restless legs problem.  I think I finally got to sleep about 3:30 or 4 a.m.  Last night was the first time I had gotten desperate enough to try my new medication ... the only side effect was some dizziness.  Sadly, it really didn't help me at all.  So not only is it not a problem for me to ingest, it also appears to be pretty useless at the strength prescribed.  Oh, well, back to the drawing board as they say...

My other health issues remain pretty much the same and since you are all familiar with the problems, there is no need to repeat them.  

I continue to hope that the day will come when my chronic pain level is low enough so that I feel like tackling the gym once again.  I really miss my exercises and fully intend to try to return to the gym if it is at all possible.  Not only does the exercise make me feel  better, but it also seems to help me just a bit in controlling some of the pain issues.  Perhaps if the spring ever arrives, I will have just a bit less joint and spine pain and then I could head for the gym once again.

I must admit that I have spent more time than is necessary watching U.S. news channels this past week.  My heart goes out to all those people who have lost so much in both Boston and West, Texas.  I think particularly of those in Boston who lost both a family member as well as a leg like the mother of the young boy who was killed.  So tragic and senseless.  

This Sunday as the Church thinks about Christ as our "Good Shepherd", let us beg the Good Shepherd to protect all our loved ones and to please find a way to change the hearts and minds of all those people throughout the world who feel that is is their right to kill and maim all those who do not agree with them.

Although I realize that in today's world fewer and fewer people believe that sincere prayer can actually accomplish anything, I know that it can.  I have seen miracle after miracle occur over the years in response to continued prayer.  So, please join with me in asking God daily that peace may reign in the hearts of all people. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Pitcher Plants

"Madagascar Pitcher Plant", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

The Pitcher plant is, perhaps, the most mysterious leaf "flower" in the entire plant kingdom. With its unique ability to obtain food, it has inspired multitudes to question their concept of plants as being unable to act in acquiring food as animals do. These plants actually form a "tool" which enables them to hunt in place.  This tool is what we refer to as the pitchers.  The “pitchers” formed by the plants' leaves resemble old fashioned water pitchers or goblets of all shapes and sizes! 

These meat-eating pitcher plants belong to two large families —the Nepenthaceae (Old World) and Sarraceniaceae (New World). The “New World” family is native to the United States and Canada with some species found in Latin America; the other, to Southeast Asia, Australia, and Madagascar. These plants are very common to the bogs of eastern Canada -- so much so that they have been named as the provincial “flower” of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador! 

The pitcher plants of the Old World clan live high above a tree. Because there is not much of a food source up there, the plants resort to finding an alternative source of nutrients. What it does is to fold the ends of its leaves like a cup or a goblet and thus concocts nectar juices and waits for its victims. Meanwhile, the New World family members enjoy the attention of many more insects while staying on the ground. Unlike its relative who lives up in the trees, these pitcher plants actually form a whole “pitcher” out of their leaves. 

The food for these plants usually consists of insects of all kinds who, upon falling into the “nectar” are then unable to escape and thus give nutrients to the plant. Some plants are large enough, however, to consume frogs, mice and small birds who get trapped by falling into the “soup” and then being unable to free themselves.  Just to reassure you, however, none of these plants are big enough or powerful enough to consume an adult human as we have seen occur in the movies and on stage!

Most of these cups or pitchers actually have lids. These lids are not needed to trap the food inside the cup but are needed rather to prevent the plant from being drowned by too much rain water!

The so-called "New World" plants are normally simply referred to as Pitcher Plants in English although you sometimes hear them referred to as Huntsman's Cup.  The "Old World" plants are widely known, in English, as Monkey Cups.  This is because monkeys have often been observed drinking rainwater from them.  I would suppose this may also be the reason for calling them "Huntsman's Cup" on this side of the ocean; however, I would think that a hunter would have to be desperate to drink rainwater from the pitchers considering the amount of bacteria the water would contain!


"Green Pitcher Plant", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013



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BRADEN'S FIRST DATE

As you can see from the series of photos below, Braden is already quite the flirt!  Recently he went on a play date.  According to his Mom, Braden wanted to kiss the little girl first thing, but she was having none of it.  After seeing the photos, I couldn't help but create a story as though Braden was actually going on his first date. Hope you enjoy the captions.


Braden:  "I hope you are not offended that I brought you a flower on our first date, but I just wanted to do something special for someone so beautiful!"



Braden:  Isn't it amazing -- we both like the same DVDs and the same cartoons.  We have so much in common.  It is almost like fate brought us together !



Braden:  "What do you mean you don't want to give me a kiss?  I mean, I brought you a flower, we like the same DVDs and TV shows.  Doesn't that count for anything?


His Date:  "Braden, will you please remove your hand from my leg!"
Braden:  "Oh, was my hand on your leg?  I hadn't even noticed!" 



His Date:  "Look, Braden, you are just moving too fast for me.  You seem to be a really nice guy and you are certainly handsome, but unless you are willing to take some time so we can really get to know one another, I think this may be our first and last date!"

I wonder what Braden would have said at this point... 

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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki in HER place on the back of the sofa.  From here she often 
keeps an eye on me and on the balcony as well -- 
always watching for those pesky pigeons!
As Suki becomes better acquainted with my new bed, I find she is developing new techniques for disturbing me -- always in hopes of getting fed, of course.

The past few days, she has suddenly felt the need to jump up on the bed around 2:30 a.m.  She does this in a way that causes her to hit my legs very lightly as she jumps over me -- a jump that would ordinarily be easy for her to make without touching anything!  

This maneuver awakens me just enough to let me know that she has gotten on the bed.  I usually say something like "go back to sleep, Suki" and then fall back to sleep myself.  The next thing I am aware of is Suki crawling onto my body pillow until she is up near my head. 

This also awakens me.  I say something like "Settle down, Suki" and then usually I am able to fall back to sleep.  Suki's next move is to attempt to crawl from the body pillow to the top of my pillows in order to place herself directly behind my head.  This action is one I know and dread as I am well aware of what is coming next!

I am proven correct, once again, as within a couple of minutes I feel Suki's tongue starting to groom my hair.  This is something she knows I absolutely hate!  It is also something that brings me fully awake instantly!  I sit up quickly while saying unkind things to this crafty cat.  Suki, only concerned at this point about possibly getting fed, is purring and begging for food.  Usually, all of this combined causes me to give in and feed her even though by this point it is only about 4:30 a.m.

After feeding her, I find that I also am feeling hungry and so I have something light like a yogurt bar and then sit down in the big recliner and begin praying the Divine Office.  If I am able to do so, I try to let myself fall asleep just as I finish the long Office of Readings.  

Suki, meanwhile, has finished her breakfast and has settled down for a wash and a nap.  This gives me some time to sleep undisturbed.  Unfortunately, if it happens to be a day when Joycelyn is coming or I have an early doctor's appointment, then I really cannot afford to go back to sleep.  Those are the days that require an afternoon nap if possible.

At any rate, you can see who runs my household!  When I get any of those forms from the government to fill out which start with the question "Head of Household?",  I am always tempted to put Suki's name in ... one of these days I just may do that and see what happens!!  After all, it's only the truth.

Things remain pretty much the same for me.  My scars continue to heal, slowly and poorly in some places, but they are healing.  Sadly, it becomes more and more obvious that due to the nerve damage which occurred in the October surgery, my face is always going to look a bit lop-sided from now one.  Oh, well, it will give me something to talk about at social gatherings!!

Otherwise, I am trying to be grateful for all that I still have that does not depend on how my face looks -- like family and friends whose love doesn't change simply because of surgical nerve damage.  As well, my faith tells me that in eternity none of this will be of any consequence.  What will matter there is how willingly I accepted whatever God allowed to happen to me and whether I went on loving and forgiving in spite of everything.

May we all know that peace of God which passes human understanding -- that peace which God alone can give.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Good and Faithful Servant


Icon "Christ, the Just Judge -- The Book of the Gospels is Closed",
by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

The passage below from St. Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 25:31-46 (RSV-CE) is one I thought of frequently as I was working on this new icon of Christ the Judge, ready of the final judgement.  

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This statement by Our Lord is both good news and bad news.  It reminds us very directly that Christians must seek to always remember that in serving others they are really serving Christ.  This means that all our acts of kindness, mercy and love have eternal consequences -- as do our failures to act.  This alone should not be our motivation for doing them, of course.  Our motivation should be love -- that mature love which is not a feeling but is a decision made anew each day.  The bad news, obviously, is that if we are content to always focus on ourselves and ignore others unless they can benefit us in some way, then we would never even want to be in a place like Heaven where people are always reaching out in love to others, forgetting themselves.  

I am sure that many of you have heard the Chinese version of Heaven and Hell:  in both all the participants are seated at a sumptuous banquet; however, the chopsticks they must use are too long so even if they pick something up, they cannot get it to their mouths!  In Hell, all those seated at the table are starving to death as they foolishly attempt over and over again to get their chopsticks to their mouths. In Heaven, meanwhile, there is only happiness and joy at the banquet table as each person, upon arriving at the table, immediately assumes the task of feeding his brother or sister sitting nearby while they, in turn, feed him. 

I love the thought that each time I do a kind act for another, I am doing it for and to Jesus.  And, this is what I thought of often as I worked on the icon, trying to draw both love and joy into His face.  The icon which I used as my model has a face whose expression is much more loving than mine, but I felt a strong desire to try to "write" this icon anyway and so I present you with "Christ the Just Judge".

By the way, this icon is in the tradition of those called Pantocrator:

The word Pantocrator is of Greek origin meaning "ruler of all". Christ Pantocrator is an icon of Christ represented full or half-length and full-faced. He holds the book of the Gospels in his left hand and blesses with his right hand. The icon portrays Christ as the Righteous Judge and the Lover of Mankind, both at the same time. The Gospel is the book by which we are judged, and the blessing proclaims God's loving kindness toward us, showing us that he is giving us his forgiveness. Although ruler of all, Christ is not pictured with a crown or scepter as other kings of this world. The large open eyes look directly into the soul of the viewer. The high curved forehead shows wisdom. The long slender nose is a look of nobility, the small closed mouth, the silence of contemplation. It is the tradition of the Church to depict "God is with us" by having the a large Pantocrator icon inside of the central dome, or ceiling of the church. The oldest known Pantocrator icon was written in the sixth century. It remains at the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai.   

As I have mentioned in the past, when the Book of Gospels is shown in an open position in the icon, it makes the statement that "there is still time".  However, when the book is closed in the icon, as it is in the one shown above, this means that there is no time left and it is, in fact, time for the Last Judgement!


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BRADEN IS ALWAYS LEARNING NEW THINGS

Young children are amazing.  If you observe them, they appear to be living simple lives of eating, playing, sleeping and crying when they are ready to eat again.  However, we know that, actually, they are in the process of taking in and processing a tremendous amount of information each day as they learn about themselves and the world around them.  It is obvious that this is the process that Braden is involved in as he eats and plays and plays some more!

In this first photo, his mom has given him three different kinds of fruit and he has to decide which one he wants to eat first!  I would go for the mango, but those are my taste buds, not his.  I will have to ask his mom which piece he decided to eat first after this photo was taken!



"Mango, grape or watermelon -- which do I eat first and which do I save until last?"




"I like playing with my truck 'cause I get to make funny noises that make Mom laugh!"




"Soon I will be walking -- then 'World watch out!'"



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SUKI AND SALLIE


This look always leads to some something unexpected!
I have decided that I must do some research and find out the photographer's trick that enables them to get good photos of cats without having all sorts of distorted pupils or glassy eyes.  

Anyway, here is Suki watching me very carefully  so that when I give the slightest indication of moving from where I am sitting, she will know that it is time to begin her "please feed me; I am starving" routine!  She knows that it rarely works unless it is time for her to be fed, but just in case a miracle might occur, she always tries to convince me anyway.

I am just returning to writing this section after about an hour's break.  During that time Suki was fed and is now happily asleep.  However, I did not stop on her account; rather, I stopped to meet the Lord in Holy Communion.  It is such a blessing to have such dedicated people come to me each Sunday bringing the Lord,  I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to them.

At the time they arrived, Suki had not yet been fed and so she was still very much awake.  She was reasonably well behaved, but did show that she is a truly Canadian cat!  What do I mean by that?  Well, it is part of Canadian culture that the moment you enter a person's front door, you immediately remove your shoes or boots and leave them in the designated place in the entry way.  If you don't do this then you must at least ask the host or hostess whether they mind your keeping your shoes on.  If you do not remove your shoes and do not ask, you are considered to be very rude and run the risk of being asked by the host to please remove your shoes -- very embarrassing.  What does this have to do with Suki being a very Canadian cat?

Well, Suki has observed this practice ever since I brought her home from the Humane Society.  So, as soon as she hears people arriving, she rushes to sit quietly near the front door watching them remove their footwear.  Once they have all left the area, Suki then proceeds to carefully sniff each pair of shoes or boots until she is satisfied.  Then she slowly makes her way to the living room where she unobtrusively makes the rounds of all the people, carefully sniffing their feet.  I can only assume that she is matching the footwear with the person.  

After all this is done, often with no one even noticing other than myself, she makes a decision about which pair of feet she prefers and sits herself down beside them for a while.  One interesting note is that if there is anyone in the group who doesn't like cats or is somewhat fearful of cats, it is always that person to whom Suki attaches herself -- sometimes even going so far as to climb up on the sofa beside them!  How does she know?  Can she tell from the smell of their feet?  I do not know but I do know that all of this can sometimes be very embarrassing for me.  Occasionally a guest will notice Suki sniffing their shoes or their feet and become quite uncomfortable.  The reason, it often turn out, is that they are very self-conscious about foot odour!  I try to reassure them that cats don't think in terms of good and bad smells, just smells, but too frequently I can tell they are not convinced!

Of course, if the person is a regular visitor, Suki will just take a quick whiff of their shoes and then ignore them -- except for a couple of my friends who are afraid of cats.  These poor souls have to endure friendly overturns from Suki until I remove her and dump her quite unceremoniously in the bedroom!

There is really nothing new to add about myself as far as my health is concerned as nothing has changed is my Wednesday posting.  The big news concerns the fact that I have decided to cancel my planned trip to the States in late May (sorry, Gene).  I finally had to admit to myself that I am just too overwhelmed with health matters at the moment to try to make a whirlwind trip through Tennessee and Alabama.  I will still be recovering from this most recent surgery and be very aware that I will be facing another surgical procedure as soon as I return -- plus all the other health issues I would be taking with me.

So, instead, I now plan to try to go and visit my sister and her family in early October by which time it will have been almost a year since this whole process started with the first operation.  Surely, by then I will be doing better!  Anyway, I can only hope.

And so I come to the end of another posting.  
May the peace of God be with us all.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Desert Rose

"Desert Rose, Adenium obesum", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013  


Adenium obesum or desert rose is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. In the Philippines, due to its resemblance to the related genus Plumeria, and the fact that it was introduced to the Philippines from Bangkok, Thailand, the plant is also called as Bangkok kalachuchi.

The desert rose (Adenium obesum) is a striking plant with swollen succulent stems and deep red/pink/white flowers. There is no part of these plants that doesn't command interest: from the dramatically swollen stems (technical name for these massive stems is caudices) on older plants to the bright flowers to the tight clusters of narrow, green leaves. These swollen caudices, by the way, can hold water for the plant to use during dry times.

While it is a fascinating plant, you must be very careful when handling it as the sap of the desert rose is poisonous and should never come into contact with children or pets. If you get sap on yourself while handling the plant, wash your hands immediately. This sap of Adenium obesum and other varieties of Adenium contains toxic cardiac glycosides and is used as arrow poison throughout Africa for hunting large game.

A. obesum is native to sub-Saharan Africa from The Sudan into Kenya and westward to Senegal, and south to Natal and Swaziland. A few occur in the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsular in such places as Yemen. In their native environment the plants are variable in appearance and floral display, but are usually slow growing and long lived, surviving for hundreds of years.


"Desert Rose growing in the wild", sketch by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013




The sketch above gives you some idea of what the plant looks like in the wild with those massive caudices, bright flowers and green leaves all appearing in a desert environment!


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SOMETHING NEW ABOUT BRADEN

I just learned yesterday that Braden l-o-v-e-s blueberries!

His mom sent me a video of Braden being given blueberries one at a time.  Whenever he was given another one and plopped it into his mouth, you could almost see the delight his taste buds were experiencing.  As soon as it was swallowed, this pleading look came on his face which, without words, said:  "more, more."!  The following two photos are stills taken during that same meal.  Unfortunately, it seems impossible to put a blueberry on his tray and have enough time to pick up the phone and snap the picture before the blueberry has gone into his mouth and been eaten!


"Please, mommy, may I have another one of those yummy blue things"



"Thanks, but that one is already gone and so I need another one, please,  please!"

This little guy just naturally loves those antioxidants!


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SUKI AND SALLIE


I haven't really said very much about my new bed.  First off, I am very pleased with it as is Suki.  She, of course, thinks I got it just for her -- one more of her many special sleeping places!  There is one specific part of my new bed, however, that Suki has truly claimed for her own.  Let me explain.
Suki in one of her many beds!

In order for me to sleep in a bed since breaking my neck back in 2011, I have to arrange the pillows in a very particular way.  I use two regular bed pillows, a square pillow, a neck pillow and one body pillow.  Suki shows little interest in the first four, but the body pillow is a different matter.  For some reason, she seems to think that this pillow is truly her possession and she looks at me quite unhappily each night as I arrange it with the rest of the pillows before settling in for the night.

However, during the night she reclaims the body pillow and makes me pay for using it in the first place!  She usually waits until about 3:30 a.m. before starting anything.  At this point, she climbs over me and onto the body pillow which, because of the way I have arranged things, enables her to climb into a position just above my head -- a position in which she is safe from my long arms unless I actually get up and reach for her!  Once she is in position, she begins her diabolical attack!!

Actually, what she does first is start purring loudly just above my ear.  As you may recall, I have exceptionally good hearing so this sounds like thunder just outside my ear and this noise quickly brings me from sleep to consciousness.  Once I realize what is happening, I tell Suki to go away (which she doesn't do) and then try to return to sleep, pretending that the sound I am hearing is actually the pounding of the surf.  

After a time, I am awakened again, but this time by something I really dislike:  Suki is "washing" my hair!  In other words, she is grooming my hair as she would that of another cat.  She may actually have the best of intentions at this point; however, I have my doubts as she continues doing this in spite of my yelling at her to stop.  Finally, in aggravation, I rise up slightly and push her away.

Often, thankfully, at this point, she just gives up and goes to sleep herself -- still on the body pillow -- and we both sleep until about 6 or 6:15 a.m.  By this time, Suki is beginning to get desperate to eat so she usually starts trying to groom my hair again.  By this time I am ready to get up anyway and so the battle for another night is over.

Other than that, my bed is great.  

As for me, I am doing reasonably well also.  I did see the surgeon on Monday and he agreed that my right eyelid is still not right and so, in time, he will "tack" it up just a bit more so that both eyes will appear to be the same size.  As for the eyebrows, he did not feel that they were healing as well as he would have liked.  So, he injected some steroids (I think that was what was in that needle) into both eyebrows (very painful) in an effort to break down some of the scar tissue.  Now I have to apply a special ointment each night and then forcefully massage my eyebrows for a few minutes before going to bed.

I also finally received the medication from the doctor at the sleep clinic which I am to use only when the Restless Leg problems get so severe that nothing else will help!  At first I thought "this is great -- now I can do something the next time things get to the point where I am about to go crazy from these leg problems."  However, I made the mistake of looking up all the possible side effects of this drug and now I am not sure I am ever going to feel that things are so bad that I should risk taking such a powerful pill! 

So, as you can see, each solution to each problem only seems to lead to more problems!  Ah, well, I am learning a lot in the process.

One thing I continue to learn is how much God loves me and all the people He has created -- and not only the people, but the entire universe with all it life forms.  When I doubt His love, I recall:


And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38 (Living Bible)
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:19-23. (NIV)

These are two selections which give me great comfort whenever things get really difficult.  The first (Rom. 8:38) is one I recall often in times of distress; while the second selection (Rom. 8:19-23) is a section of scripture that I love to meditate on as I try to imagine what it will be like when we have our glorified bodies (like Jesus after the Resurrection) and all the heavens and the earth have also been restored and made new again.  As the old hymn says:  "What a day of rejoicing that will be...".

I have rambled on enough for today.  Let me ask our dear God to bless us all with His peace, joy and love until we meet again in Sunday's posting.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday, 2013

Icon-type drawing of "Christ Jesus, Divine Mercy", by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Most of you will recognize the above drawing as one I posted several months ago.  However, I know you will understand my posting it again today as today is Divine Mercy Sunday in many parts of the world.

Personally, I do wish it was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Toronto; but, at present, this is not the case.  However, since I watch a number of Catholic television programs from the U.S. where this Sunday is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday, I can't help but be very aware of its significance.  

Our dear late Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, decreed that the first Sunday after Easter could be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  He did this, if I recall correctly, at the time when he declared St. Faustyna (Faustina in English) of Poland to be a saint.  In her writings, she talks about the repeated requests of Our Lord that this Sunday be declared Divine Mercy Sunday as a way to make the whole Church more aware of the infinite mercy of God.


A Photoshopped photograph, source unknown
Here is a photograph which I assume has been "Photoshopped" -- of course you never know....!  Anyway, I find it very meaningful as it shows the same merciful heart in the monstrance as St. Faustyna saw in the image of Jesus which appeared to her numerous times in the early part of the 20th century.

Sometimes now when I am looking at the monstrance during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I try to imagine that I can actually see these rays representing the blood and water which flowed from the pierced heart of Jesus as He hung on the cross.  As well, I occasionally try to imagine those rays coming all the way to where I am sitting and surrounding and enveloping me.  This can be quite a powerful and humbling experience when I am given the grace of a moment of un-distracted contemplation.  

So, after saying all of this by way of explanation, let me simply add:  May we all experience an awareness of the mercy of God on this Divine Mercy Sunday.


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ANOTHER KIND OF ICON

Below is a recent drawing of my great-niece.  She is a beautiful, young girl just at that point in life where she is 21 one minute and 12 the next!  It is a crazy time in a girl's life, but it is such an important time as well as the decisions you make during those years can affect the rest of your life.  Thankfully, she has wonderful parents (and two sets of wonderful grandparents) to guide her along her way.


Drawing of  my great-niece "EG", by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


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KAREN'S VANCOUVER, SPRING, 2013

My friend, Karen, moved out to Vancouver a few years ago and I missed her very much.  During the first year she was gone, we really had no way to communicate due to various circumstances; however, after about a year, she purchased an iPad.  She learned quickly how to use it and, as a consequence, we now correspond frequently.  I still miss her, of course, but it is not quite so bad now as we send emails and photos back and forth.  

I must say, however, that sometimes her photos make me feel a bit envious.  If you look at the ones below, you can immediately understand why if you are living anywhere in the northeast of Canada or the U.S. where winter continues to hang in there.  I think to myself some days "has winter ever really been this long before?" So, when I look out and see are still leafless trees, I can just go and enjoy Karen's photos.  I hope you enjoy them as well.


"What a view!"

"Can you believe it, the blossoms have already come and reached the point of falling?!"




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SUKI AND SALLIE


Suki hiding in the closest once again is not pleased
when I open the door to check on her and then,
indignity of indignities, take a photo!
Poor Suki!  She had just settled down yesterday for a long afternoon nap when, suddenly, the building's fire alarm went off.  Whenever this happens, Suki always makes a mad dash for the bedroom closet and her box in the back of it.  It is, in fact, probably the least noisy place to be during the time we have to wait for the fire department to arrive, check things out and then, finally, turn off the fire alarm.

As usual, it was a false alarm. Although it is normally a false alarm, I try not to allow myself to get too blasé about it all.  I always look out at the balcony to see if I can see any sign of smoke coming from other apartments on my side of the building.  Next, I check my front door (without opening it) to see if there is any sign of heat or smoke there coming from the hallway.  Finally, I turn my TV to the "lobby view" channel where I can see the two main entrances for the building and observe what is happening or not happening.  The reason I do not simply leave the building as we are supposed to is because I am designated as one of the building's disabled tenants and am supposed to wait to be rescued from my balcony!  

I sometimes let my imagination play with the different images that come to mind.  I see myself and Suki being rescued by a very strong fire fighter -- considering my size, he (or she) would need to be really strong.  Then I try to imagine how this would be accomplished and it really gets rather funny.  I also realize that if there was a serious fire in my vicinity of the building or in my apartment, I would take Suki and go down the stairs on my bum if need be!  That is another image that can make me laugh.  Thankfully, we have not yet ever had a serious fire in this building.

However, getting back to poor Suki in the closet, once the fire alarm was turned off, I opened the sliding door to tell her that she could come out now if she wanted to.  You can see from the look on her face what she thinks of that idea.  Actually, this particular photo was taken the last time this happened -- a month or so ago -- but she looked the same each time when I told her she could come out!  In fact, both times, she chose not to come out, but to stay there and sleep the afternoon away.

As for me, I am doing reasonably well at the moment -- mainly because my friends from the parish came by a short time ago, bringing with them our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  We had a lovely communion service and then  we prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet together.  That made everything feel just perfect for a while.

I was supposed to be starting some new drug this weekend which was prescribed by the sleep clinic doctor and was supposed to help me with the Restless Leg Syndrome (now officially known as Willis-Ekbom disease).  Her secretary called me late Friday afternoon to say that she had just faxed the prescription to my pharmacy.  I waited a while, expecting to get a call from the pharmacy at any moment; however, the phone did not ring.  Finally, I called the pharmacist to ask about the fax.  After checking, he informed me that no such fax had arrived!

I spoke with him once again before the store closed for the night and the fax never arrived!  All I can figure out is that the secretary tried to send it using the phone number instead of the fax number and since it was her quitting time, she left before the fax was actually sent.  Thus, I spent the weekend with no relief from this disease which over time can really help a person to become psychotic!  No, I am not there yet, but some days....  So, please continue to pray for this poor old lady.

I finally see the eye surgeon tomorrow and will let you know what he has to say about the way his handiwork is turning out.  I have discovered if I just hold my head sideways, you don't really notice that my eyes and eyebrows are no long aligned!  I have been practicing walking around this way, but find I have a difficult time trying to see where I am going on my right side.  After crashing into a number of things -- some of them quite hard and painful -- I decided that holding my head this way is too big a price to pay for vanity!  

Enough of this... I want to wish all of you a blessed and joyful Divine Mercy Sunday.  May our Lady, the Mother of Divine Mercy, gather us under her mantle as she intercedes for us with her divine Son.  Blessings to you all.