Sunday, March 31, 2013

TARDIS - Art and Science

To Hear an Ocean in A Whisper
Artist: Nathalie Miebech
Scientist: Jonathan Finke
The fourth and final day of my Artist Retreat. Check out at the hotel was at noon, but the Young One wouldn't be done at the Con until 7pm. So the plan was Himself would pick me up along with my bag, and assorted bags and laptops of The Young One and one of her teammates. I thought I'd take Andy Fish's advice and visit the ICA, Institute for Contemporary Art. I had never heard of the ICA, and not sure how I feel about modern or contemporary art. Part of this retreat was to do things outside of my comfort zone (like eat at a restaurant all by my lone). The ICA was in the same area as PAX. As an added benefit, World of Wheels was at a convention center across the street from the ICA, and the Batmobile from the 1960s television series, Batman, was on display along with a couple of other Batmobiles from recent movies. I thought Himself would like to see the Batmobile and that would take the sting out of being dragged around art museums. Himself is a most excellent good sport.

At the last minute, as it turned out, The Eldest decided to tag along on the trip in to Boston. She's not much for visiting art museums and would definitely be bored by the Batmobile. What would keep two scientists happy for the day? A trip to the Museum of Science. Besides all the fun of the science museum, Himself found an exhibit called Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science. This was a collaboration between artists from Cape Cod and scientists from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The scientists explained their work to the artists, and the artists visually interpreted the work in unusual and creative ways from large paintings, sculptures, and using light to create a painting. Art and science, hand in glove.

The last time we visited the science museum, we weren't able to see the lightning show, but we did get to see it this time around. I love this show. No matter how many times I see it, the show never gets old.

After the lightning show was over, the demonstrator turned on the singing Tesla coils. This is electrical energy used to make sound and produce music. I was hoping the musical selection was the theme from Doctor Who, but the coil was programmed to play The William Tell Overture.

If you've never heard a Tesla coil used as a musical instrument, watch this Youtube video of the group Arc Attack as they use the coil to play the theme song from Doctor Who

Saturday, March 30, 2013

TARDIS - Adventures of Magellan

Day Three of my Artist Retreat. I had to leave Boston Friday night to return home as I had a class to teach at WAM on Saturday morning. After class and a visit at the nursing home, Himself dropped me off at the subway station and I took the trolley into Boston. The hotel was across the street from Arlington Station. It was getting close to dinner time so I played with an app called Around Me to find some places to have dinner. When The Young One came in around 7pm, she said she was tired, didn't really want to go out.

Great! According to Around Me there was a sub shop right by the hotel. I'd run out to get sandwiches and bring them back to the room.

I have left-right issues, and a poor sense of direction. Left-right was so bad when I studied karate and was learning Three Combination. Three Combination requires one to step with the left foot first to avoid a strike. I tend to lead with my chin. Sensei got so tired of seeing me make a fatal error, he tied a cloth rope to my ankle. When I stepped in with the wrong foot, Sensei yanked the rope (Bless), and I still led with my chin. I learned Three Combination a lot faster after that.

No worries on the sub run. Around Me showed a little red pin, near a Ben and Jerry's. I had passed the Ben and Jerry's on an earlier excursion. Both pins were right by the hotel, around the block from the main entrance. Off I went around the block. The fancy shop, Au Bon Pain (pastry shop), a few more steps, Ben and Jerry's and I'm back at the hotel entrance. What? I must have walked past it. Once more. Off I went around the block. The fancy shop, Au Bon Pain (pastry shop), a few more steps, Ben and Jerry's and I'm back at the hotel entrance. Panic set in. My baby was tired and hungry, and I was in an episode of Twilight Zone.

I stopped at the Concierge desk to ask directions. Go out the door there, walk til you see the PF Chang sign, there's a big food court. The sub shop is right there. Off I go. The fancy shop, Au Bon Pain (pastry shop), a few more steps, I'd pass Ben and Jerry's and be back at the hotel entrance. Where was the PF Chang sign?

I texted The Young One. I can't find the sub shop. Cmon back. We'll go together said the child becoming the parent.

With The Young One leading, I gave her the Concierge's directions. Go out the door there, walk til you see the PF Chang sign, there's a big food court. The sub shop is right there. We passed the fancy shop, Au Bon Pain (pastry shop) and reached the end of the block.

"But there's no PF Chang sign", I wailed.

"You mean the big, red PF Chang sign, right there?"


"Look up."

And there it was, big as life in red neon. Beside left-right, apparently I don't look up.

We crossed the street, found the entrance to the food court, and went to the sub shop. Workers were milling around. One was sweeping. He looked up as we approached the counter.

"We're closed."

What? It was around 7:30 or 7:45 pm. We were in Boston! A major U.S. city. The state capital and a sub shop was closed at 7:30 pm, on a Saturday night?

On the other hand, after reading Andy Fish's experience with fast food, maybe skipping the sub shop was a good idea.

The Young One and I went back to the hotel. There was a nice restaurant there. We had a really nice dinner (and I tried not to think about food preparation in the kitchen). The Young One told me about the convention and how well the booth was doing. Her professor had stopped by and told the team they did a good job. And we had a good laugh about my skills as a navigator.

Do you have a good sense of direction?

Friday, March 29, 2013

A TARDIS Friday Five

Day Two of my Artist Retreat last week was spent at The Boston Public Library. This was an old haunt of mine when I was a student at Boston University when Adam was still in short leaves. Five things I did while at the BPL

1. I greeted the lions that are in the foyer of the old library (McKim building).The two lions that stand guard over the foyer were carved to honor Massachusetts Civil War dead. The lion to the right of the staircase, is called the Harvard lion as the Massachusetts regiment was mostly made up of young men who attended Harvard. The lion to the left of the staircase with one of his paws curved in, was dedicated to a Massachusetts regiment made up mostly of working class men from Irish descent. My family lore states that my great-uncle Manny, a stonecutter, worked on the lions. The lions look like they are carved from concrete, but they are carved from unfinished Sienna marble. Charles McKim, the architect, was heavy into symbolism. Since the young men who died left unfinished lives, the lions were not polished. Over the years, people have rubbed the tails of the lions for good luck and the oils from human hands has polished the marble.

2. At 11 am, I went on the free Art and Architecture tour of the old library (the new library was built during the 1970s). This was my third or fourth time on the tour, but by far the best. The docent, Miles, had a million back stories which I had never heard. Before the tour, I asked him if he knew where I could find info about Uncle Manny and he suggested the Louis Saint-Gaudens (sculptor of the lions) Museum in NH. He said they might have records of the sub-contractors Saint-Gaudens used. A good lead.
Don't Blink!

Enlightenment stands over the doorway to the main reading room.

Besides the lions, my favorite room on the tour contains the mural paintings of The Quest of the Holy Grail by Edwin Austin Abbey.

The masterpiece of this tour is the Triumph of Religion murals on the third floor painted by John Singer Sargent. I was so busy looking at the stunning murals I forgot to photograph them. (What a maroon!) You'll just have to be content with seeing  them at the link above.

3. The third floor also houses the Rare Books and Manuscripts room. Any library patron with a valid BPL card can visit the room and request to view the rare books and manuscripts during library hours. You don't need special academic credentials in order to see the books. The receptionist had me fill out a card, and then directed me to a coat room where I could hang my coat and put my bag in a locker. No bags, books, or pens are allowed. I was allowed to bring a pencil, a loose sheet of paper, and I was told I could photograph (without flash) the books to my heart's content. I was then directed to the Rare Books room. The librarian asked what book I wanted to look at, but since I had no clue what was in the collection, I asked him to pick something for me. Truthfully, I was going to be happy with anything he chose. It's not often that one gets a chance to view a manuscript up close and personal. He got me a wedge to support the book and a pair of white, cotton gloves.

Then he brought out a 15th. century (circa 1420, 30 years before Gutenberg invented the printing press) missal, a book that is used during the Catholic service and ritual.  According to some notes, the book was thought to have been made for a lady. The book had 150 pages done on vellum (calf skin) with 13 miniatures and heavily illuminated borders. Whoever commissioned the book had beaucoup de bucks as each page was lavishly decorated with real gold leaf.

The book was so beautiful, I almost cried. Each page was ornately painted in brilliant colors. Red and blue acanthus leaves, fruits like strawberries and pears, small blue flowers which I thought might be forget-me-nots, holly

As I was looking through the book, it occurred to me that I was looking at a medieval graphic novel. I was amused with the miniature of someone being laid to rest in a grave. I love the little Alas, poor Yorrick skull in the lower right corner at the feet of the mourners. Sometimes the artists painted the patron in the book as an homage. I thought perhaps the lady owner of the book might have been a widow. This miniature dedicated to the memory of a loved one. I only speculate this because the decorations in the illuminated "D" are heraldic in design.

Before I left the Rare Books room, the librarian emailed me a draft copy of the library's Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript collection. He said on my next visit, I can just ask for whatever call number I would like to see.

4. I traded in my electronic library card for an old-fashioned library card. I can still access the library from the comfort of my home, and will be able to use it on my next trip to the library.

5. After feasting my eyes, it was time to feast my stomach and rest my hurting feet. Though I had test driven my new girlie shoes before the trip, they caused problems with walking city blocks. Tea is served Wednesday through Friday from 2pm to 4pm at the Courtyard Restaurant in the library. So I treated myself.

All I had to do was order the kind of tea I wanted (Earl Grey, hot) and then the waitress brought an entire selection of tea sandwiches, assorted desserts, and a currant scone with fruit marmalade and Devonshire Double Cream.  The tea fare was absolutely delicious especially the Devonshire Cream, but I wish the waitress had let the tea steep a bit longer before pouring my first cup.  The first cup was tea colored, hot water and not Early Grey tea.

Tea would have been a lot more fun if there was someone to share it with. The ritual of tea isn't so much about the beverage or goodies, but is also about the company. Who wants to come to tea with me next time?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Early last Thursday morning, after dropping off The Young One and one of her teammates at the exhibitors' door of the PAX-East convention, I was able to begin my Artist Retreat. Himself was my chauffeur with me and since check-in at the hotel wasn't until 3PM, we had pretty much the whole day. Himself asked what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to visit the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts). It had been a long time since I was there (a class in manuscript study while attending Odyssey 2001, the international calligraphy conference).

I had my Worcester Art Museum credentials with me, and we were given a free pass as a professional courtesy which is a nice perk. The museum is huge and with so much to see, it's impossible to see the collection all in one day. On the suggestion of guest reception, we went to visit the new Art of the Americas wing which we were told opened a couple two or three years ago. We started on the top floor and worked our way down. We saw works by Jackson Pollack, Georgia O'Keefe, John Singer Sargent, John Singleton Copley, just to name a few.

By the time we made it back to the first floor, it was time for lunch. There are several dining options in the museum, but lunch was right in front of us at the American Café. Himself and I are sometimes on opposite schedules so it was nice to be able to have a real date. We had a leisurely lunch in the beautiful glass enclosed courtyard. Even with the snow flurries outside, the space made me long for my sun room. Is it July, yet?

After lunch, we did a quick look and go tour of the Medieval Gallery, the Luxury on Paper: The Art of Surimono, and Blue and White. We made a quick stop at the gift shop where I purchased a couple of Illuminated Initial magnets and a Magic Pencil.

We plan to return to the museum when Samurai opens. The exhibit will be a nice reward for Himself as he will be testing for his fourth degree black belt in karate this June.

After the museum, Himself dropped me off at The Little Princess hotel, better known as the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The hotel used to be the Statler Hotel built in 1927. The grand dame is showing her age in places, but the Young One and I had a comfortable and quiet room. (Got a great room rate through Kayak). PAX offered a free shuttle to the hotels so the Young One was able to easily get to and from the convention center. The Park Plaza is pretty much in the heart of the Back Bay and Boston is an easy city to get around by walking or taking the T.

The hotel is also across from the Boston Public Gardens. I had hoped to spend some time walking through the gardens and sketching, but it was too cold and there was still snow on the park benches from the February and March blizzards and storms.  Another time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Section 12

Another fall, a wound on her shin that wouldn't heal (Ma is diabetic), and then turned gangrenous (because Ma wouldn't let me take her to the emergency room, and she thought the necrotic tissue was a scab) landed Ma in the hospital to have the wound debrided. After the three day stay, the hospitaler, the doctor in charge of discharging patients and signing forms, was reluctant to send Ma home. A trip to rehab to transition to long term nursing care wasn't going to fly. Ma was sent home with complicated instructions on how to care for her wound. The visiting nurses would stop by to see how she was doing.

Of course, Ma wasn't doing. She wasn't taking her medication. She wasn't able to care for the wound by herself. She wasn't cooking so she and Dad weren't eating properly. I received daily complaints from the visiting nurse manager and then a follow up call from Julia, the state social worker because of the Elder at Risk report filed by the visiting nurses.

After several of these calls and at my wits end to get Ma the long term care she needed, I asked, "You have enough Elder at Risk reports to wallpaper a small office. At what point does the State step in to help the family? If my parents were children, the State would have removed them from the home a long time ago. I'm sick at heart every time I leave my parents to go home because I am leaving children home alone." She agreed, and because there was no healthcare proxy in place and more importantly power of attorney, she started the ball rolling for the legal procedure known in Massachusetts as Section 12: An emergency restraint and hospitalization of a person posing risk of serious harm by reason of mental illness.

Once the visiting nurses heard the okay was given for the Section 12, they immediately sent the police and fire department rescue to forcibly remove Ma from her home and to take her to the geriatric psych unit of the hospital. As you can imagine, the procedure turned into a horror show. For Ma, the stories she had heard of people being removed from their homes in Nazi Germany during World War II became a very real nightmare for her.

The visiting nurses in their zeal to get Ma the proper medical care she needed, never informed me or Julia how quickly they were going to move. I was never told the police and rescue squad would be sent on such and such a day. I was never told so I could have been with Ma to perhaps remove some of her fear and soften the blow. In hind sight, the outcome wouldn't have changed.

I did get a call Wednesday, 9. March 2011 at 7 pm from the ER doctor to tell me Ma had arrived, what had happened (Ma fought tooth and nail), and I had better get to the ER faster than right away. Himself and I made the hour trip. Ma was madder than a wet hen, and beyond being able to be calmed down by me.

The ER doc also informed me that the hospital's geriatric psych unit couldn't accept Ma as a patient because patients admitted to that floor had to give their consent or a power of attorney had to be in place. So Ma would be put on another ambulance that would take her to a state hospital about an hour away from her home.

Next Week: Becoming My Own Grandmother

Monday, March 25, 2013

Netflix Vs. Amazon Prime, Which One?

I've reached the end of the Netflix trial period. I'm not sure if I want to sign up. Netflix has been great, don't get me wrong. Himself has enjoyed Deep Space Nine, I've loved watching my favorite  Doctor Who episodes and the girlies have enjoyed their favorite anime. But...

I'm disappointed with the lack of old movies. I did a search for Spencer Tracy. I love Spence. He made acting look effortless. The only movie that came up on the search was The Mountain. It's an ok flick, but not nearly one of Spence's best. Out of all Spence's movies I couldn't figure out why this one was the only one listed. Why not some of his best? Inherit the Wind, Judgement at Nuremberg (a two-fer for me as my beloved Richard Widmark is also in the film), Broken Lance (a three-fer with Richard Widmark and Robert Wagner), Father of the Bride (so much better than the remake).

So, I don't know what to do. Does Amazon Prime have a better selection of old movies? Are any of the other services like Hulu any better?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Altering A Book

Western movie book altered to My Favorite Westerns
On Monday, Sherrinda asked:

I have always wanted to do an altered book, but it just looks like way too much work for me. Do you gesso every single page? Do you leave all the pages in the book? How long do you think it will take for you to finish filling up the book?

Like any project, such as refinishing an old chair, there is a lot of prep work to be done. An old chair may need to be scrubbed down, sanded, stained, or painted with whimsical designs. The question to ask is what will the chair be used for? Will it be put in a formal dining room? A child's room?

Altering a book takes the same approach. What will it be used for? Will it be a journal? A photo album? A shadow box frame for an object or a secret compartment for trinkets?

Depending on uses, pages may have to be removed, or not. If the book is to be used for a shadow box frame, you don't need to remove any pages. Just glue all the pages together and cut out the size hole you want. If you aren't planning to add text, you wouldn't need to gesso the top page.

If  you want to add embellishments (pictures, stickers, charms, buttons, ribbon..) then pages need to be removed so the book will close flat or not! I usually start by removing every third page or every fifth page of the book. Save the pages in case you need to add a page or use the book paper in some other way.

If you are adding embellishments, and/or the book pages are thin, you will need to glue pages together to give the paper strength. Glue two or three pages together.

If you want to paint or add your own text to the book, you will need to gesso your glued together pages. Gesso is a primer used to prepare canvas or other substrates. How many coats you need will depend on whether you want the original book text visible or not. I use one coat if I want the original text to show through or two or three coats if I want to make sure the text doesn't bleed through my work.

You can also cover the pages with decorative papers or fabric in which case you wouldn't need to gesso the pages. Just be sure you can close the book with the extra thickness of the paper or fabric.

How long an altered book project will take will depend on you and/or what the book is to be used for. Will you use the altered book as a scrapbook? A journal? A never-ending project? Do you have a definitive theme and know exactly what you will write, draw, paint, collage on your pages? The time it takes is up to you, and the drying time needed for gesso, glue, and paint.

The best way to test the waters is to give altering a book a try. You don't need to start with a tome. Start with a children's book like a seen better days Golden Book. You'd end up with a couple two or three pages.

What may seem like a fussy project in the beginning, may turn out no fussier than repainting a chair. You'll have saved something from the trash and given it new life as a piece of treasure.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Friday Five

The Young One, age 4, and Mrs. Mallard
I don't have any specific plans on what I'll be doing on my artist retreat. The hotel I'll be staying at is right in the heart of the Back Bay. Most of the things I would like to do are a short walk or trolley ride from the hotel. I may do some, all, or none of these things as the mood strikes. I may just hang out in my hotel room.

1. Visit the Boston Public Library and go on their free Art and Architecture tour, and see the lions my Great Uncle Manny carved. Trade in my electronic library card for a real library card.

2. Have afternoon tea at the BPL

3. If it's not too cold (doesn't look promising) spend time in the Boston Public Gardens drawing and sketching.Walk along the lagoon (too bad the Swanboats won't be in service until May), visit the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, and the Frog Pond.

4. Spend the day at the Museum of Fine Arts

5. Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

6. and maybe visit the Mapparium at the Christian Science Library

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Bag is Packed

I'll be spending Thursday through Sunday in Boston with The Young One. She'll be manning the WPI IMGD booth at PAX-East, she and her teammates put together as part of their IQP (individual qualifying project, one of the 3 project requirements to graduate) I get to tag along because the school isn't going to reimburse the team for their hotel rooms. The Young One didn't have enough money for the room, and the hotel requires an individual to be over 21 in order to book a room.

While The Young One is busy at the booth and hobnobbing with the Gamer Geeks at the Con, I'll be having my own private, artist retreat. My new, blue bag holds my art journal, a box of 12 Derwent Inktense watersoluable ink pencils, a tool bag with  few toys (assorted pens, eraser, pencil, lead pointer, and a waterbrush). There's also plenty of room for the iPad.

If you're in Boston this weekend to attend the Con, stop by the WPI IMGD booth and say "hi" to the team, collect the swag they are giving out, and play the games WPI students are working on. Also tell them they did a great job on their booth. They put a lot of time and effort into it.

If you're in Boston to see the sites or to shop, and you see a woman with a cobalt blue bag roaming around, that will be me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday with Elders - Elder and Protective Services

As I said last week, any time visiting nurses, doctors, home health aids, feel that something is wrong with an Elder, they are required by law to contact the state's Elder and Protective Services. There were calls because Ma wasn't taking her medication, food was left out for hours at a time, or not properly stored. Ma also had a fondness for lighting bonfires in the fireplace, or the day the house was filled with toxic smoke when Ma decided to burn Styrofoam plates in the fire place, and because she was always cold, she refused to open the doors or windows.

I was nervous when I got the first call from the Social Worker. Well-meaning friends had passed along horror stories such as the children of Elders could be held responsible for the Elders condition. There were stories about going to jail for Elder abuse. Not true since I wasn't living with my parents. Though there were days I wished the authorities would take me away, and then the responsibility and worry would fall to someone else not me.

I really didn't have anything to worry about the social worker, Julia, contacted me (again the blind eye regarding the Privacy Act) and became my friend and ally. Julia wanted the family to meet together. The agency's goal was to keep the Elders in their home for as long as safely possible. But. Elders were encouraged to take advantage of services. Poor Julia, tried to convince Ma and Dad to have Meals on Wheels. They refused because "it's not our food." (Italian). Ma reluctantly agreed to having the personal care aid, but never paid the bill. As an Elder, Ma felt an entitlement. She would agree to these services, but she wasn't going to pay. She also didn't like us coming into her home and telling her how to cook, what to eat, how to do things, or how to spend her money. She had a point. But.

My parents were like children. My mother was a Terrible Two. Everything with her was No! Dad happily accepted rides from strangers when someone found him wandering around town. Dad had been very active in town politics so some of the police officers on the force knew him. Dad especially loved getting rides home in the squad car. The police officers that knew Dad told their buddies in the fire department to look out for an old dude with a hat and cane. Dad relished the rides in the fire truck. Dad was a very amiable four year old.

So after I received complaint calls from the Visiting Nurses, or the police, I knew I would be getting a call from Julia. My role shifted from adult child to parent of elderly children. Julia made suggestions or listened to me whine until the day things spun out of control.

Next week: Section 12

Monday, March 18, 2013

Project Preparation

So much planning takes place before pen is put to paper. In the altered book project, there's a lot of testing of materials. How badly will wet media warp and curl the pages? How many coats of gesso (like a primer) will be needed to give the book pages some strength, but not totally obscure the print? I decided I rather liked the look of the old book pages so after the gesso dried, I dyed the pages with tea. Old books sometimes had gilt edges. Could I paint the edges of the book to "gild" it without the paint seeping onto the pages? What would work best gold watercolor or gold mica powder mixed with gum arabic? How many book pages would be needed for the text?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

After you've enjoyed your corned beef and cabbage, you can soak up some Irish culture by perusing the Book of Kells. The library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has made the entire text free to view in their digital library. There's also an app in the iTunes app store, too. It's not free, but well worth the $12.99

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sone Duit!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birthday Greetings

A belated birthday card for my friend, Lambie. If cards are inadvertently sent after the birthday, I prefer to think of it as prolonging the celebration and not a belated card.

Pigma pen, Inktense colored pencils on Arches Text Wove

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Friday Five

Five classics I have not read and never will.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (or any of her other books). Everyone, well, women mostly, seem to rave about Jane Austen. I'd never read any of her works so I thought I'd give it a try with a download of a free e-book. I barely got through a dozen or so pages before I had to give up. Talking heads is just not for me.

2. Moby Dick by Herman Mellville. I had to read this novel in college for a philosophy class. The final exam was a blue book essay on whether the white whale was evil incarnate or was he just being a whale. I made it halfway through the book before I couldn't take it anymore. Fortunately for me, a week or two before the final, the 1956 movie starring Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart was on. I watched the movie and passed the final. This is definitely a case where the movie is way better than the book.

3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy makes an excellent doorstop or paperweight.

4. War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. I really wanted to like this book. My dad had told me he had listened to Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio production Halloween 1938 that caused a panic. (Dad was 19 years old) The 1953 movie with Gene Barry is one of my favorite go to movies. Books are usually so much better than the movie, but the pace of this book was so slow, I didn't get very far.

5. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien.  I really wanted to love this book. I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Read that through 3 times (long before the movies). But The Silmarillion?  One word: boring.

Have you read these novels? Did you like them? What did I miss?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Visiting Nurses and Assistance

One fine, September day, Ma decided she had to get to the bank. She wasn't going to wait until I got there to take her. She wasn't going to take the elder bus all through the town, and God forbid would she spring for a taxi. Ma decided she would walk to the bank, and she convinced Dad he had to go with her.

At her age, 91, you're probably thinking, good for her, and it would have been if she had just pushed her walker to the end of the street and back to the house.  Nope, she pushed that walker, with Dad holding on so it wouldn't get away from her, a mile to the bank. She fell twice halfway there, but Dad managed to get her up on her feet. They were a block away from the bank when she fell again. Two kind young men helped her. They wanted to call an ambulance, but she refused. They did help get her to the bank, and it was obvious she had injured herself. The bank manager called an ambulance. Ma had dislocated her shoulder.

After a short stay at rehab, Ma was sent home. Visits from the visiting nurses were arranged along with a personal care aid who would stop by two or three times a week to help Ma bathe and get dressed.

In December of the same year, on a midnight run to the bathroom, Ma slipped on the bathroom floor and hit her head. Dad helped her up, gave her some aspirin for her headache, and she went back to bed. Ma must have been in pain and worried because when the aid showed up, Ma told her about the fall.  The aid called for an ambulance.

I received a call from the ER doctor who informed me, Ma broke the 2nd cervical vertebra in her neck, and the hospital was sending her to a hospital in Boston. Rather a long trip for me to make, I asked if her injury could be treated at UMASS in Worcester, closer to my home.

After this injury, I was sure Ma would end up in a nursing home, but she and Dad refused.  So after another rehab vacation, Ma went home, and I received lots of calls from the visiting nurses. Ma needed long term nursing care. Preaching to the choir. Ma said there was no food in the house. I just took them shopping yesterday. An interesting note, is the visiting nurses shouldn't have been calling me. Health care professionals will ignore the privacy act when it's convenient for them to do so. No complaints. The VNA were my eyes and ears and confirmed alarming things going on that I suspected but didn't have proof.

The VNA also pressured me into taking legal action against my mother. Ok, but legal action isn't free. How much does it cost to have a person committed? Four grand. And I had two people because if Ma was the engine, Dad was the caboose. Legally, my hands were tied because we did not have power of attorney, and even if Ma understood what that entailed, she would not grant that to me in my lifetime, in my children's life time. And so my family rolled along on square wheels. We were rolling, but it wasn't pretty.

Every time, the VNA, police, fire department finds Elders in precarious or dangerous situations, they are required by law to file an Elder at Risk report with the state Elder and Protective Services.

You guessed it in the cheap seats, next week, Elder and Protective Services.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tools, Widgets, and Gadgets - Storage Idea

Don't have any twist ties to store leftover chocolate chips? How about this clever idea from 50 Life Hacks to Simplify Your World

Cut the top off of a water or small soda bottle. Thread the bag through the bottle top. Fold the bag down and replace  the cap.  Tada! Leftover chocolate chips are stored, and you have a handy pour spout when you need to use them again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

April is National Poetry Month

To celebrate, Masscribes, the Massachusetts and Rhode Island calligraphy guild is having an exhibit  called New England Poets, Calligraphic Interpretations. The exhibit will be on display at the Norfolk Public Library during the month of April. All guild members in good standing (i.e. your dues are paid up) are invited to participate.

Warnings about checking copyright were in the guild flyer. Supposedly, things written before 1923 are now in the public domain, but there's a big caveat. Just because something was written before 1923, doesn't mean it can be used without obtaining permission.

 I came across the poem There Is No Frigate Like A Book by Emily Dickinson, but the copyright is held by the Harvard Press which holds the copyright to most of her poems. (Thanks, Andy for answering my questions about copyright). Bummer because I really liked the poem. Some of her other poems are in the public domain, so I chose In A Library another appropriate poem to interpret for a library venue. I thought I would use an old book for my substrate, but a call to the exhibit chair nixed the idea. The library doesn't have any sort of display for a 3-dimensional piece. All work submitted must be framed and ready to hang. Bummer.

When I did some rough calculations as to the size for this poem to be framed, I came up with a 16 inch by 20 inch frame with a writing area roughly 11 inches by 14 inches. I don't have the wall space in the dollhouse to hang something this big, and I don't have any place to store it. Besides, I like the poem, but I'm not in love with it as a framed piece.

I thought long and hard and have decided not to enter the show. I still want to interpret the poem by altering an old book. I had one of my dad's college textbooks. The spine is broken and torn, and has no value beyond its sentimental value. I'll rescue the book from the trash and give it new life.

I have some library contacts so when the piece is finished, I'll see if one of them would like to put my book on display. Hopefully, the librarians won't have a heart attack to see a book used as a canvas.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Forward

Daylight savings time begins. Don't forget. Spring forward. Turn your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed tonight, unless you have "smart" clocks which sync to an atomic clock, then you don't have to worry.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Friday Five

I think I'm about the only person on the planet not watching Downton Abbey. Five shows I watch during the week.

1. White Collar

2. Arrow

3. Supernatural

4. Suits

5. Doctor Who

What are you watching?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Healthy Scones, Sort Of

Another nasty weather day ahead as the storm that slammed the Midwest gears up to plow into my area between today and tomorrow. No matter. The family is home. So, while the weather dudes go back and forth about rain/snow lines and accumulations, I decided to bake scones.

I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen's blog. I'm not a fussy cook. I left my Earth Mother days behind me long ago. I like to cook the way I used to write computer programs, quick and dirty. So I made some changes to the original recipe.

I substitute fat-free Half and Half for the heavy cream hoping that the end product will be a little healthier. On this go-round, I didn't have any currants or scones. I substituted mini-chocolate chip bits. In the picture, they sort of look like currants, but using them probably negates the healthy savings from using the fat-free Half and Half.

Cutting the scones into rounds or patting the dough into a cake pan, and then turning the cake pan on a cutting board and cutting the dough into triangles is too much effort for me. Not to mention extra items to load into the dishwasher. I just pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4 - 1 inch thick. I cut the rectangle in quarters and cut the quarters into triangles, ending up with 8 triangles.

This morning on Andy Fish's blog, I read some health tips to increase longevity. One of the tips suggested standing was better than sitting, so I shall eat my scone standing up thus negating the use of the mini chocolate chips.

What are you doing today?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Missing Signs

Image from
Sometimes we're so immersed in caring for one person, we overlook problems of another.  That's how it was in my situation. In technical, medical terms Ma was nucking futs. We all knew it. We knew she had dementia. She saw things that weren't there. Men sleeping in beds in the yard in the dead of winter, animals and people coming through cracks in the floorboards or through the fireplace, a couple building an apartment over the garage and stealing electricity from the neighbors.What we missed was what was happening to Dad.

He was befuddled, sometimes. Who wouldn't be? As primary care taker, he was the target for Ma's mood swings. If she pecked at him, he would get out of the house to get away from her. He'd walk to the store to buy a gallon of milk. An hour errand would turn into five or six hours out of the house. Or, he'd decide to go buy the milk at their favorite grocery story a 16 mile round trip. And yes, he walked there, but got a ride home from a stranger!

He had his own language for things and rarely used nouns with antecedents. Not so unusual for Italians. Get us in a group and we seem to have a psychic link.

"You'll never guess who I saw the other day."

"You're kidding."

"No, not him. The other one."

So it wasn't much of a surprise when Dad called to tell me Ma had taken his "people" and hidden it on him. In English, he meant his telephone directory. It made sense especially if the directory was missing and Ma was winding him up. Dad would call to tell me Ma was going through his things and had taken and hidden his...he'd struggle to find the word: my book, my people. When The Brother and I lived at home, Ma would go through our things on search missions to make sure we weren't up to no good. I'd just laugh and welcome Dad to the club.

Dad would tell the same stories over and over again. It didn't really bother me. I'd smile and nod in all the right places. I knew this was Dad's legacy to me, the oral tradition of family history. He told the stories so often, I thought the memories were mine. If he stumbled to remember a word, person, or situation, and I was impatient for him to wind things up, I could fill in the blanks for him.

Dad couldn't remember how to complete simple tasks. The Nephew gave Dad a television when Dad's tv bought the farm. Himself had to stop by the house on his way from work every day for two weeks to go over the instructions on how to turn on the television. We wrote the directions down. Either the papers went missing (with the people!) or he complained he couldn't see them. He had the same complaint when writing out checks at the grocery store. Not only couldn't he see very well, but he couldn't remember how to write out the date or the dollar amount in words. The cashiers knew Dad so they'd fill out the check for him. Dad would carry a $20 bill with him to make small purchases. He couldn't figure the amount of change coming back, but knew he should get change.

Dad complained to his doctor, how sometimes Dad felt like he was losing his mind. At 92, the doc just chalked it up to old age, but it was really more. The doc did prescribe Aricept, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's. The cost for a month's supply was $200.00, well out of Dad's budget and mine. I called the Veteran's Administration to see if Dad could get the prescription at a reduced rate of $8. No such luck at Aricept was not on the list and there was no generic substitute for it. There was also no guarantee the drug would work.

Check to make sure your Elder is not exhibiting signs of dementia or Alzheimer's (the most well known of the dementias) Look for

inability to perform routine tasks (cooking, bathing, dressing. If he's wearing a pajama top as a dress shirt, that should be a red flag.)
loss of vocabulary (not just forgetting someone's name once in a blue moon)
wandering especially at night.
inability to make simple decisions (we spent 20 min. in the pickle aisle debating the qualities of Dill pickles versus Polish Pickles)
inability to handle money (sending money to telemarketers, lotteries, scammers)
constantly misplacing things (wallet, watch, phone directory) and not being able to retrace steps
seeing people or animals that aren't there
finding lost or missing items in stupid places (eggs and heads of lettuce in the freezer, handicap parking  placard in a canister)
repeating stories or constantly asking the same question over and over.

I'm not a physician. I don't play one on television, either, but these are some of the things we learned the hard way.

Next week: Visiting Nurses and Other Services

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Reflector

When teaching, I usually demonstrate on a chalkboard or white board. At some venues, the chalkboards are just a little bigger than an old-fashioned school slate. I usually end up blocking the students' view.

Himself told me about a pocket projector which could be connected to a tablet or smartphone. Whatever you want on your tablet can be displayed large on a white wall. I thought this would be great until an Amazon search showed me devices that were around $300.00 for what I wanted to do. Bummer. At this point, I can't justify the cost, and I'd like to see a demo before I shell out that much money.

A Google search brought me to Reflector, an app that allows you to mirror what's on your iPad2, or iPhone4S to your Mac or PC via Wi-Fi. This sounded too good to be true. This company is very sure of their product because they allow a free 10 minute trial. I like a company that allows me to see what their product will do before I buy.

I downloaded the program, opened up a doodling program on the iPad and miracle of miracles, what I was doodling showed up on my laptop. I now had an overhead projector I could use to teach when teaching small groups. I could sit anywhere in the room and my hand or body won't block the display. The $12.99 price of the program was worth the money.

The doodling program wasn't going to help and after reading and hearing about people using Sketchbook Pro, I went to investigate that. Again, a $5 investment that would be a great tool since one of the brushes has a chiseled edged like the calligraphy pens.

The downside to Reflector is the reflection doesn't fill the entire laptop screen. One sees a tablet screen in the middle of the laptop screen. This device will work with a small group (under 12 people) that can sit close to the laptop, but I can't see it being any better than the chalkboard for a larger group.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


For Christmas, The Eldest gave me a Doctor Who themed journal. I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for. I have other journals in various stages of completion. I have a notebook in which I write down quotes or songs.  I had no idea what I was going to do until now.

More about that in two weeks. For now, the title page. The Doctor's time travelling ship is called the TARDIS. Time and Relative Dimension in Space. I reworked the acronym Travels and Ramblings Done in Style.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Graceful Envelope - Finish

Background and bus glued down to the front of the envelope. I used Yes paste and a brayer to make sure no bits would stick up and get caught in postal machinery.

With stamps in place, it's hard not to second guess the design. Does it need more? Should I add words? What are the judges looking for?

Good or bad, this was it. The entry had to be postmarked by 25. Feb. so it's not like I had a lot of time to come up with something else.  Off I went to the post office. N was manning the counter. Before I absolutely hand the envelope over, I always ask if there is enough postage. I usually have another spot I can put another stamp, if needed. N measured the envelope with a template. He pushed the envelope through a slot in the template to make sure it wasn't too thick to go through a mail slot. All entries have to be delivered through the US Postal Service. No outer wrapping or putting the entry in another envelope are allowed. Pronounced it had sufficient postage, N carefully hand cancelled both stamps, made sure the postmark date was clearly visible, and placed the envelope in the pick up box. The only thing left to do now is to wait for May when the results will be made public.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Friday Five

Another Facebook meme. Name 5 fruits that don't contain the letter "a". This one was a little harder.

1. Blueberries

2. Cherries

3. Persimmon. (I've never seen or had one)

4. Kiwi

5. Honey Dew Melon

Can you add to the list?