Not too long ago, I posted a text message to thirteen of my immediate family members. The text included a simple greeting and acknowledged the challenge of living with heart disease. The text message read:
…as you already know, some of our family members regretfully suffer with heart conditions. Heart disease is known to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The disease is currently rated as one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It affects all ages but particularly adults according to researchers at Cedars Sinai Hospital, Beverly Hills, California.
Based on my 20 years of training as a researcher, I would like to share with you some of the information I found concerning heart disease: trends, care, and current treatment protocols. I will provide informational links from top ranked medical centers and other related agencies over the next few weeks on my Facebook social media page.
I believe that knowledge is power. I pray that this knowledge will help us better understand the disease and support those affected by it.
As my family continues to face the challenge of a life-threatening disease, my hopes are reinforced and strengthened through our love for each other and our confidence in God. A confidence revealed through a gentle word or embrace, a home cooked meal or encouraging phone call. As my older sister often remarks: Dear Christ have mercy on us as we try to be of help.
The following link may be of general interest to many and sets a foundational footing for the information on heart disease that will follow over the next few weeks.
The first sign of Christmas holidays began a few weeks ago. The temperature dipped, sweaters and jackets worn, and colorful light displays hung. Directly across the walkway, my neighbors had finished decorating their courtyard with strings of lights swirled around two of their palm trees. Blinking lights hugged the framework of windows and doorways. The holidays had arrived.
Last year, I spent most of the holidays at my brother’s house enjoying turkey, gravy, stuffing, a fresh apple pie, and decorations.He’s received several city awards acknowledging the beauty, design and layout of his Christmas-themed lighted yard. My favorite was the electronic mailbox that opened by itself revealing a letter addressed to baby Jesus. It was regarded as the best display by most of the neighbors and their kids.
This year, I made the decision to spend the holidays at home, put up some decorations, and, when possible, avoid public travel. I chose to go minimalist this year with decorations. I wanted to create a small display in my kitchen area that celebrated family and friends. My creative engine started to engage. Handmade decorations? Green and red floral cutouts? Glittered paper balls? Gold papered garland?
As I looked through the bins of decorative papers, paints, stencils, and wrapping accessories, I noticed a red, shoe-sized box in the guest bedroom closet. It was a box that had followed me through the various apartments, rented houses and rented rooms over the past ten years. I was surprised that it had made the trip and all the wanderings with such little wear and tear!
With the box open and sitting on the guest bed, I pulled out the items one by one. The cardboard container was full of old Christmas cards and letters sent to me by family, friends, students, and colleagues. The senders wished me well. Some of the cards described in short fashion the joy, the work, or the interests that we had shared between us.
Each card was a reminder of a special and unique relationship. My first-cousin sent his best wishes the Christmas before he passed. Colleagues sent family updates after we graduated from our doctorate program. Family sent photos and annual news letters. My daughter celebrated moving into our new place. And, my son sent a picture of an alpaca from a farm they had visited just before the holidays. There were many more cards filled with holiday cheer from friends and church members I’d come to know. My smile grew broader with each found treasure. I decided to string the cards like garland across my patio sliding door. Without a doubt, the holidays had arrived!
Yesterday morning, sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand, I watched as the garland of cards sparkled in the morning light. And, I did not hesitate in my answer to: What did I learn this week? I learned that love holds up throughout the years; the cards acted as a reminder.
And, in response to the lesson I learned this week, I wanted to create a special greeting to honor all of the well wishes sent to me. I am also very grateful to all who sent their greetings of joy over the years and kept me in their prayers. God bless you greatly. Thank you for sharing your love with me.
Additionally, I wanted to try my hand at a mixed media project. The pencil drawing at the top of this post is a thumbnail of the concept. Below is the completed mixed media journal entry with text. The title of the piece is: Found Treasure. The theme is celebrating Christ and love.
A week before Thanksgiving holiday, I received an unexpected knock at my front door. It was Charles, a neighbor who lived just one courtyard over to my west. As I opened my door, I noticed that he held a dog leash loosely in his hand along with a small disposable waste bag. Kingsley, his small cocker spaniel companion dog, however, was absent from his side.
“I’m going on vacation,” said Charles with a squinted look of anxiety mixed with anticipation in his eyes, “and wondered if you might be interested in sitting Kingsley.”
“Yes, of course,” I replied excitedly, “I’m available Saturday early afternoon before the holiday. Would that work?”
Dog sitting has been a hobby that I’ve enjoyed as I’ve gotten older. As a young girl and later young woman, however, dog sitting was not always my top choice of things to do. I had been bitten as a young girl of 7. I did not know the dog; it was a stranger; and so was I. During a visit, the dog snuck up from behind me and sank its fangs into the back of my left thigh.
Not much attention was given to the bite as it was a neighbor’s dog, not a deep bite, and the bleeding stopped after a few minutes. Once home, my mom washed it out with soap and water, applied a bandage, and kissed my forehead then sent me on my way. Although inspected, cleaned, bandaged, and comforted, the bite continued to be sore for sometime. I’ve never quite got over the animals first response to me and my inability to clearly communicate.
What I noticed immediately about Kingsley, however, was that he was not the type of dog that used his teeth as first response to strangers. I was glad to learn that he liked fur brushing and petting better. Our first walk together went very well, however, I learned that his second defense was stubbornness.
As we walked together, I in lead position, Kingsley followed behind me by three steps. We walked well together until I passed the first small bush to my right. At this point, he stalled. “Come on, Kingsley. Come on, good boy!” I said gently with a short quick snap of the leash. He replied by sitting, front paws dug into the ground beneath him.
Kingsley had gotten it into his mind that he was on his own. Freedom had made him stubborn. The garden had become his kingdom. I tried to reign him in with a few clicks of my tongue. Evidently, tongue clicking was not in his vocabulary. For despite the many times as I clicked, there simply was no response except for the strong pull on his leash to the right.
“Come on, Kingsley. Come on, boy!” I said with a slightly quicker and stronger tug. Kingsley remained distracted; he had forgotten that our original plan was to walk around the gated community of approximately a quarter mile. Although it took several tries to communicate with Kingsley my desire, he showed himself as a smart and gentle animal.
Through our walks together that week, I learned that like Kingsley, there are those things around me that distract, detour, and disturb from my objective. Some distractions are lovely: the smell of a flower, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the birds; these should be especially appreciated when life seems to be racing. And then again, some distractions should be simply ignored.
Once Kingsley realized that I was communicating my need to move along, I was very thankful for having him at my side; it was like having a good friend and companion. After Charles picked him up, I wanted to do a mixed media project that would present the wonder of a walk with a good companion.
What does companionship look like, what does it feel like? I’ll use one of my monoprints as a background; add some pattern and texture; an object; and, see if I can capture the element of companionship that only a dog like Kingsley can offer. The title of this piece is: A Walk With Kingsley. The theme is companionship in life. The thumbnail at top of page is a rough draft of concept. Here is the journal entry with text: