A Princess No More :(

June 25th, 2012

But then, I never truly was one , was I?

Still, when a huge part of my on-line life was suddenly stripped away ; when my contact with  people who are loving and supportive as well as creative ,imaginative,  playful  and encouraging abruptly disappeared, it left an aching hole in my heart!  These are people I may/may not have ever met in person, but I know their likes & dislikes, the names of their children and pets and what troubles them and pleases them.  They have unique personalities (some are chatty, others prefer to sit quietly and observe), and all of us have felt we were part of a very special, cohesive  group.  We Were!  We loved each other and cared about each other, understood when one of us was feeling lonely and ignored by RL (Real Life) loved ones or overwhelmed by RL problems!

When I was invited into GSOLFOT  (“Green Sock on Left Foot on Tuesday”. . . . . .it’s a long story!), there were “too many royal titles already granted”, so I adopted the title of  “GSOLFOT Contessa of Useful Bits, Bobs & Specks & Protector of the Roof Runners #%Z P.I., Office # 17″.  (Dashing my hopes of being a princess, but sounding rather lady-like.) Some members had much grander,more  elaborate titles and others had simpler ones, but we all had a wonderful time in our fantasy world (we adopted Neuschwanstein Castle as our ‘virtual clubhouse’!)  We shared miniatures we were creating , construction obstacles we encountered, workshops/studios we were attempting to carve out space for in our real homes,  and supported each other through serious illnesses, surgeries, chemo, loss of pets and deaths of spouses.  We also found time to see to the proper training of our pet dragons, made sure the various cats, raccoons & parrots (including my”Chunk”, aptly named after he took a good-sized bite out of a roving intruder) were well fed and cared for.  We had fun,  teased each other unmercifully, and were saddened when any one of us was sad.

There has been an ominous, troubling silence from the leader of this madcap Yahoo group (and owner of our web site “home”) for several months now, but none of us expected what we read when we turned on our computers this morning.  Just a tersely worded message saying “All over – all done.” No goodbye to those of us who thought we were her friends, no explanation – nothing. The web site is gone.  Suddenly, we are  adrift and alone, our titles stripped and the castle gate barred against us :(





Long Dresses & Tall Grass

June 7th, 2012

With Stage 2 water restrictions in place and a humid high of 93 degrees predicted, I hauled my stiff and unwilling joints out the door at 7am, planning to water all three lawns, the sun & shade gardens, and the ever-expanding collection of potted flowers, foliage and herbs. (I have never met a gardening center I didn’t like – LOL!)  Stage 2 allows sprinkler use one day each week, beginning and ending in the pre-dawn hours; that might be doable with a in-ground sprinkler system, but we don’t have one. Hand-held (hose) watering is allowed at any hour, and I try to finish the task before the mercury climbs too high. This morning’s watering costume was a colorful floor-length (ergo grass-length) halter dress; totally unsuitable for a 64 year-old, but then I do not expect to wear it beyond the boundaries of my yard 😀

I gave the back lawn, sun garden, pots and shade/tropical bed (along with the hem of my dress!) a thorough soaking , and then took leave of whatever good sense I claim to have!  What I should have done is move to the front lawns. . . they were thirsty, too.  What I did do was put away the hose and grasp the pruning shears. We have a 40- 50 foot long wall of red-tipped photinias against our back fence; it provides shelter for white-wing & Inca doves, cardinals, blue jays, wrens, house sparrows, finches, pileated woodpeckers,  black-capped chickadees, titmice and starlings, momma squirrel and her two juvenile offspring  plus the odd grackle and mockingbird  –  a secure place to await their turn at the three feeders or birdbath or make up their minds to forage around the base of the feeders. However, the “bushes” are over two storeys high now, and many of the branches were extending well out beyond the feeders. into the yard.  As well fed as our adopted managerie is, they don’t need branch-bridges to reach the seed!  With pruning shears in hand, I set about trimming everything I could reach back to the boundary line.

The arbitrary boundary is the edging which our landscaper installed last year to separate the bushes & river rock from the lawn; apparently, there has been quite a lot of forward growth since Jesse and his team put that edging in place!  Crouching down repeatedly to tame the bottom branches quickly became a problem; my kneess and hips  announced that they would make me pay dearly if I did not stop immediately, and the water-line on my skirt climbed to knee level. The lower part of the dress was actually becoming quite heavy.  Bend down, prune branches, grab dress bodice, stand up – repeat for length of “hedge”.  Then I made a pass at everything from knee-level to eye-level. . . certainly less challenging (and painful), though I had to keep pulling my bodice up avoid ‘flashing’ the avian & rodent audience!  Tired, sore and with the temperature now in the high 8o’s, I went totally daft! “Everything from eye-level to full upward arm extension must be cut back.”  Do you have a picture of this idiocy in your mind?

This evening, I am confined to the sofa with a heating pad on my upper back and shoulders and an ice pack being shifted between right knee and left knee. It hurts when I try to reach my keyboard , even though it is sitting on my lap. However,  the bushes have been tamed (they look quite nice, actually) and the higher, out-of-reach branches form a very pleasing canopy. Will I try this again?  Not until I completely forget how much of me hurts right now!  Oh, the soggy & heavy dress coupled with over-the-head pruning?  Yes, the menagerie got flashed. . . . . several times!

Tomorrow. . . . the lawns need watering. Sigh!


A Tuscan View

May 25th, 2012

Class taught by Vikki MeekerA few days ago, several members of the Inching Along Club of San Antonio, TX were privileged to have artisan Vikki Meeker as our instructor for a one-day class. I am still in the early stages of recovering from my recent gastrointestinal surgery, but so very glad I hauled myself out of bed for this!

The theme was “A Tuscan Still Life” (my finished vignette is pictured here), and we had a wonderful time creating our project and learning new techniques under Vikki’s helpful guidance!  She showed us how to build the shadow box and bench seat and create an aged-plaster look to the interior surfaces.  Then we made our choices of drapery material and color of velvet, labeled  and placed our wine bottles, and arranged our fruit & cheese platters. We antiqued our frames, and one of the  prints Vikki provided for the frame looked very much like a photo my husband took while he was traveling through Europe!  I added a turned malachite candle stick (created by Gerda van Dijk) with a real wax candle and a rather battered/well used pitcher to my vignette. Great fun – thank you again, Vikki!

P.S.  Comments welcome – I don’t think anyone is reading!

Confessions of a Miniaturist (aka Organized Chaos)

May 23rd, 2012

Um . . . . . How and when did I manage to accumulate eight  X-Acto (craft) knives?  Oops, recount; I just opened another drawer – eleven X-Acto knives!  Yes, I have been involved in the wondrous world of scale miniatures (usually 1″ = 1′) since 1978, but. . . . .eleven knives?  Truth be told, I have a couple of project boxes downstairs (things to do while watching movies – cannot bear simply sitting idle and watching) and two. . .OK, three. . .workshop tool boxes here in my studio. I haven’t inventoried them in awhile, so it is likely that the count is actually higher – glurk!

I have a multitude of storage bins, several rolling drawer units and lots of under-counter cupboards, not to mention the closet, in the “studio” (my grandiose name for my workroom), but they seem to only somewhat contain the chaos. My discovery of the embarrassing knife collection was made during an in-depth search for one small nugget of copper ore to mount in a miniature (3″ x  1  5/8″) shadow box of rock & mineral specimens.  It is a very small piece of copper ore – 26 different specimens are going to be mounted in this limited space, each in its own compartment. I know it is tucked safely away somewhere ~ I even have a photo of it, taken when I catalogued my purchases after a WWW-T (Wonderful Workshop Weekend – Temple, TX).  Never did find it, but I definitely know I won’t need a new craft knife for at least two or three. . . . decades!  Now – does anyone know where I might have stored the #11 blades?  No?  Ah well, it was worth a try.

*****   “Inspector Cat” (aka Diva) knows where it is. She watches my every move in the studio, sometimes so closely that a bit of wood or a tiny paper flower petal destined for a new creation becomes glued to her whiskers, much to our shared consternation. She knows, but staying true to the Cat Code of Ethics, she will never tell.  Sigh – there’s never any pixie dust around when you need it!


The Subject is Shoes!

May 22nd, 2012


Finally - size 5 shoes which stay on my feet!


Yes, I know. . . after letting the Blackburn Digest languish for nearly nine months, I reappear with shoes as a subject?!  No, I haven’t lost any (more) of my marbles, and I promise to do an actual  catch-up post in the near future 😉  But today, I Found Shoes!

(Back Story) Being trapped in over-sized (8) &  heavy orthopedic shoes w/thick custom inserts for many years has put any somewhat attractive footwear rather high on my interest list, frankly.  Until my mid-thirties, my shoe size was 5 AA. – somewhat small for balancing  my 5′ 7 1/2″ height and very difficult to find at a reasonable price, but a lot of hunting and a sense of adventure  provided the needed items.  Because  Rheumatoid Arthritis caused severe dislocation of my toes , any pretty/stylish/sassy/sporty shoes have been off-limits for a couple of (a few?) decades – I’ve lost track. A few of those years were spent with braces attached to the shoes and velcroed just below my knees; they helped keep me upright, but did zero as a fashion statement!  I’m not vain, but dressing to the standards my job required (before I retired in 2005) was made very difficult by the no-choice footwear.

In 2008, I was blessed in finding an orthopedic surgeon who’s opinion matched the one I had held for several years; all ten toes needed to be amputated. I walked with far less pain during the early recovery period from that surgery than I had experienced daily for many years!  However, my dreams of ‘attractive shoes’ were dashed when the surgeon informed me I would still need my size 8 clod-hoppers with a toe-cap attached to the custom-made insert :(   I have been zipping around our house & yard (and a few over-long conventions) barefoot since then. . . . NOT surgeon approved behavior, but virtually pain free .something pretty.  I’ve found some slippers/moccasins which were amenable to remaining attached to my feet (as opposed to my walking right out of them) . . . apparently, the dislocated little monsters had been serving  some useful purpose after all!  Shoes to leave my house in were more elusive, until today :)

I had wine, cat treats and butter on my shopping list and decided to brave the brand new and incredibly  h-u-g-e HEB Plus supermarket which recently opened about 3 miles from Casa Blackburn.  (I think 180,000 sq. ft. was the space quoted in the grand opening announcement!)  Quite an adventure; sparkling clean (of course), lovely wide aisles, a full butcher’s shop and fresh fish market. . . . “specialty shops” (electronics, outdoor furniture, very large plant nursery, toddler-to-adult clothing section, etc.) around the side walls.  Altogether, a very dangerous place to visit; you could walk in looking for Salem bleu cheese and a quart of milk and return to your car with a flat-screen TV and a service for eight of china or enough sun/shade loving trees & plants to completely re- landscape your yard!  It’s a rather overwhelming,  upscale version of a Target or Walmart.

Locating the items on my short shopping list provided lots of walking exercise (and a lantana plant and a potted parsley found their way into my cart), but best of all, they had cute shoes in one of the Seasonal aisles!  Size 5 and laced far enough up the foot to keep them in place – Yay!!!  It’s so cool to look down at my feet and see just a bit of the shoe peeking out beyond the hem of my slacks instead of my usual view of bulky black “boats”.  Hmm – I may need to go back to the ‘mega-market’ tomorrow. . . . . they have this style in blue, too!

Speaking at various Arthritis Association? Cool!

August 26th, 2011

Could be!  The Cimzia seems to be preventing new joint & organ damage. After almost two weeks sick with an upper respiratory infection complicated by COPD, I bounced back 4 days ago and have been powering through errands, garden care and miniature projects.  I’m still at 99 lbs., but that’s well up from the 93 lbs. that I dropped to, and my Rheumatologist is quite pleased with everything.  He asked if I would be willing to speak at various functions about the importance of persevering, the importance of pushing through pain to remain mobile and maintain dexterity despite RA .  I could really, really enjoy this!

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

July 2nd, 2011

This year (after an embarrassing number of years of planning, collecting and creating stock), I am proudly displaying “1776 – Fireworks Stand and Americana Souvenirs”.

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday:)

My "1776" Fireworks standAmericana Souvenirs

Americana Souvenirs

Osama Bin Laden

May 1st, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is dead and his body is in the hands of US officials!!!!!!!

They Faxed What To You?!

April 1st, 2011


This could be a funny entry, but I think I have lost my sense of medical humor after many years of erroneously trusting doctors staff to use old-fashioned common sense, basic powers of deduction and/or simple reasoning skills. Yes, I know. Trust me, I know it’s a silly (and sometimes dangerous) assumption; I just continue to expect intelligent file handling and proper sharing of the correct information when my physician refers me to another specialist! To be fair, most of the staff get it right most of the time, but??????

At my last appointment with my RA doc (the follow-up appointment which had originally been scheduled for November 2010 and cancelled/rescheduled so often that it took place March 29, 2011!), the in-house lab did an extensive panel of blood tests. Several hours later, one of the nurses called to explain that some of the results were back – my ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) was sky-high & Doctor W wanted me to see a Gastroenterologist soon. (Hmmm – same story about 12 months ago.)

I’ve put off contacting the Gastro’s office as I am still fighting a nasty bout of IBS. (Actually, I am betting that is why the lab work came back wonky.) Someone at Dr. W’s office sent my lab results and contact info to the Gastro; his nurse called me today to set up an appointment. A hint of puzzlement in her voice tipped me off – – – -something wasn’t adding up for her. Not sure why, but I asked “What is the date on the lab-work you are referencing?” “Uh, erm, it seems to be July of 2010!” No wonder she was confused!

I immediately called Dr. W’s office, went through the customary dance with the automated phone service and managed to snag a real, live person. (Pressing “0” sometimes over-rides the system and lets you contact a person instead of a “leave a message, we’ll get back to you” recording.) As briefly as possible, I explained that someone at their office had contacted Dr. G’s office and supplied them with July 2010 lab results instead of the relevant March 2011 lab results! I expected some embarrassment and an apology – what I received was a blithe explanation along the lines of “Oh yes, that happens often. The lab results do not reach a patients file for a couple of days ~ if our staff contacts another physician right after we’ve seen you here, the current results aren’t available to them yet.” OK. . . .so this seems to be common knowledge throughout the practice? With that in mind, it doesn’t occur to the staff to seek out up-to-date lab results before contacting another physician? Groan! Somebody, anybody, please tell me this sort of error doesn’t occur with predictable regularity with this clinic!!! (Except, obviously, it does!)

I Kid You Not!

March 28th, 2011

I Kid You Not!

I did the two-week shopping alone a few days ago. That is an activity normally shared with Tom, as it doesn’t take long for the cart to gain enough weight to start pushing me around the store, instead of me pushing it. However, the weekend sort of got away from me. Tom agreed to pick up the “Christy Cripplers” (aka 20 lb. bags of birdseed for the outdoor flock, 27 lb. tubs of cat litter for the indoor herd and multiple 12-packs of Dr. Pepper) on his way home from work so that I could tackle the rest of the list solo.

Along with the usual milk, butter (well. . . .almost butter), paper products and ingredients for 14 meals, there were the finally-ran-out-of items such as horseradish sauce, lemon juice. . . .and Tom’s deodorant. I knew what aisle it was on (they haven’t shuffled the store recently – I hate it when the market decides it is time for that selling gimmick!), I knew what it looked like……. or did I? I stopped the cart at the appropriate location, reached for the item, and – Oh, wonderful! Someone thought it would be a great idea to change the packaging design of the entire Old Spice line! Instead of grab-and-go, I found myself staring at a sea of unfamiliar labels, attempting to locate Old Spice High Endurance Fresh Scent! Finally found the item in its new ‘uniform’, and proceeded to the other items and aisles on my list.

Today, Tom pulled out the new dispenser and paused to study the label; I assume his first thought was “this isn’t right” :) Then he started laughing and showed me the reason why: on the front label, in very small letters, are the words “Same Stuff: Different Label”. Cute, but it pales in comparison to the new verbiage on the back label! I can only assume that Proctor & Gamble hired the writers at www.thinkgeek.com to “spice up” the text: “Contains odor-fighting “atomic robots” that “shoot lasers” at your “stench monsters” and replaces them with fresh, clean, masculine “scent elves”. I kid you not! Wonder if the powers-that-be at Old Spice/Procter & Gamble are sitting at their desks waiting for the first commentaries to arrive? LOL – at least someone on the team has a sense of humor :)