Movie Review: Loving Vincent

A cold kept me from seeing a one time showing of the independent film Loving Vincent Tuesday evening in the Joplin area. I was very disappointed, as I have long appreciated this amazing and often misunderstood artist. I checked to see what nearby cities might be showing this unique movie. Springfield, Missouri, a little more than an hour away, had a 3:30 showing today, at a arthouse theater in the historic downtown area. Feeling much better, and armed with natural elderberry and zinc cough drops, I had the privilege of watching this beautiful film this afternoon, in a very cool setting. I am grateful to Greg for encouraging me to go and for accompanying me on this adventure.

Loving Vincent, while not a live action movie, used actors to portray the characters and supply the voices. The filmed scenes provided the artists who created the movie with foundational material. Actors include Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Cezary Lucaszewicz. This biographical animation was written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. It carries a PG-13 rating, for mature themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

What makes Loving Vincent so unique is that it is the first story depicted entirely in oil painting animation. Over a six year span, more than 100 artists created the paintings, in Van Gogh’s artistic style, that became the 65,000 frames of the movie. Van Gogh’s landscapes and buildings come to life, and his portraits become the characters who are telling Vincent’s story.

A year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh (Gulaczyk), a young man named Armand (Booth) travels to the artist’s last hometown, at the request of his father (O’Dowd), who is a postman. He carries a letter that Vincent wrote to his now deceased brother, Theo (Lucaszewicz), in hopes of delivering it to a close friend of Vincent’s, Dr. Gachet (Flynn).

The doctor is away, allowing Armand time to explore Auvers-sur-Oise, and talk to the people who knew Vincent. He meets Adeline (Tomlinson), the honest barmaid who became Vincent’s friend, and the not so honest Louise (McCrory), housekeeper for Dr. Gachet. The Boatman (Turner) shares stories about Vincent and strong drink, while the doctor’s daughter Marguerite (Ronan) prefers to keep her stories to herself.

As Armand listens to the villagers’ tales, his curiosity turns to a realization that Vincent was more than a crazy or sick man. He recognizes the artist’s genius and his complexities. By the time he meets Dr. Gachet, Armand questions whether Vincent’s death was a suicide, or an accident, or even murder.

What an extraordinary film about a creative and enigmatic man. Visually stunning, Loving Vincent is a work of art, literally, and also a work of the heart. It was thrilling to see familiar Van Gogh paintings come to life through animation.

As the story unfolded, the present was depicted in color while Vincent’s backstory was presented in black and white images. I learned about Vincent’s unhappy childhood. And I felt his loneliness as an adult as he struggled first to belong somewhere and second to be appreciated for his art.

A prolific artist, Vincent created more than 800 painting in eight years. Although he gave away many paintings, and sent most of his completed pieces to his brother, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. He died unrecognized as an artist, not knowing the value of work.

And that has always broken my heart. I love the colors and energy in Vincent’s paintings. His words inspire me. For he was not only a prolific painter, he wrote hundreds of letters to Theo, detailing his life and his thoughts and his torments.

I did not realize, until I saw this movie, that there were suspicions around Vincent’s death. There is no proving any of them, then or now. But is comforts me, thinking that perhaps this talented, earthy and sometimes unsettled man didn’t take his own life.

The Moxie Cinema, in downtown Springfield, was the perfect venue for this film. Known as an arthouse theater, The Moxie has two intimate theater rooms, occupancy 88 people each, that feel more like home theater rooms. The seats are ultra comfortable, and the ticket prices and concessions are very reasonably priced. They offer healthy snack options, such as bottled water and almonds, or you can even sip on a glass of wine during the movie.

The Moxie showcases independent, artsy, classical and documentary films. I am thrilled to discover them and appreciate what they have to offer. I am grateful as well that locally, Route 66 Theater in Webb City is bringing in more independent films. Loving Vincent played there Tuesday evening. I look forward to seeing what they present next.

Greg and I arrived an hour early. We were joined later by more movie goers, of all ages.

Loving Vincent…worth the drive and the time invested. Because I do love this artist, and his authentic heart and work. I had tears in my eyes as the film concluded, with one of my favorite Vincent quotes:

“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply’, ‘he feels tenderly’.

You have, Vincent. I say, you did feel deeply and tenderly and you saw the world in fresh ways. I hope, oh I hope, that you know how much you have touched people with your art and your life. And you fit in, you belong and have a place, in the hearts of so many who appreciate your contributions to the world.

We are…I am…loving Vincent.

Bedside Reading

Today I felt drawn to spend time reading. Although getting lost in a good book is one of my favorite things to do, I don’t indulge in this past time as much as I used to. Nevertheless, I keep a stack of books next to my bed, and typically read in several concurrently. You can tell a lot about people, by peeking at the books on their bookshelves or bedside tables. What interests them? What troubles them? Where is curiosity leading?

I actually have 15 books on my bedside table at the moment, fiction and nonfiction, covering a variety of topics. This evening I read in five of those, jotting down a quote from each book, that grabbed my attention.

A Mind at Home with Itself by Byron Katie

This is the fourth book that I’ve read by Katie. She has done much to free me from stressing over reality. When I can clearly see and accept what is, without creating stories around it that are not true, fear and worry, anger and frustration fall away.

“But the mind can never be controlled; it can only be questioned, loved and met with understanding.”

By questioning a troubling thought with the words…is that true? and answering honestly, I can prevent my mind from getting caught in a loop of endless angst and turmoil. What a gift Byron Katie offers.

Ageless Soul by Thomas Moore

This new release by the author of The Re-Enchantment of Every Day Life, comes at a good time in my life.

“We fear growing old when from a more subtle point of view, we were old from the very beginning. We’re just discovering our age or putting it into practice. In this way of picturing it, aging is a fulfillment of who we are, not a wearing out.”

I am appreciating Thomas’ insights. He suggests aging is more about growing into the person we are rather than becoming less than ourselves because the body ages.

Thyroid Healing by Anthony William

I have shared briefly about this book already. As I read, I am more and more convinced that we are all becoming sicker and sicker. Sadly, the disorders and diseases that are plaguing us are showing up earlier, in youth and children. There is hope. We can heal.

“Stage Four Epstein Barr Virus is not a life sentence. When you learn the true cause of what’s keeping you ill, and when you learn to use the tools contained in this book about how to resurrect your health, you hold the power to rebuild your immune system and regain control. It is not solely about getting back your liver or your reproductive system or your thyroid or your nervous system…it’s about getting back your life.”

I love that. It’s about regaining control of your health and getting back your life. Everyone would benefit from reading this book and putting Anthony’s protocols into practice.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I need something magical to read, amid all the life changing books! I’ve seen the Harry Potter movies many times. I am enjoying reading through the series of books for the first time. And there are life lessons to be learned from the boy wizard and his friends and teachers.

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” Dumbledore

A great reminder that we grow into the person we are meant to be. Our life is a journey of becoming.

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

I confess this is the first Brené book I’ve read, although I am familiar with her teachings. It was the subtitle that drew me to this new release: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.

Brené: I’m doing that thing I do when I’m afraid. I’m floating above my life, watching it and studying it, rather than living it.

Murdoch: I know. But you need to find a way to stop and bring yourself back here. This is a big deal. I don’t want you to miss it. Don’t study this moment. Be in it.

The conversation above was between Brené and her manager, a Scotsman, on the eve before her first appearance on Oprah. I can so identify with Brené’s words about floating above her life. I learned to deal with fear by doing the same, taking myself out of the moment.

Brené realized the next morning that she needed to write herself a permission slip, as she would for a child going on a school trip, giving herself permission to have fun. That was the first of hundreds of permission slips she would write for herself. I like that idea and I will be playing with the concept.

I enjoyed my time of reading tonight. And although the books are very different, topic wise, there was a flow to my reading and a thread that ran through each one, connecting them and connecting to me. I vowed to do this more often, once a week at least, read a chapter in several books or several chapters in one book, with a steaming mug of hot tea in hand.

I’d love to know…what books are on your bedside table, or next to your favorite chair?

Vintage Ironing Board Makeover

When we emptied Greg’s parents’ house, after his father passed away, one of the items I carted home was a vintage ironing board. I could tell, without removing the cover, that the board was made of wood. I hated to throw the old ironing board away. I figured eventually I’d find a new use for it. That ironing board has been tucked away for more than two years. This week, it suddenly popped back into my awareness. Today, I repurposed it.

This is how inspiration works in my life. The ironing board has been in my house for almost 2 1/2 years. I don’t see it most days or think about it. Two days ago, without looking at it, the board suddenly came to mind. I’ve been wanting to do a creative project. Apparently, it was time to do something with this vintage piece.

As I thought about the ironing board, I got a visual “download”, images of how I could transform the board into a table, where to put it and even what items to place on and near it. This is the kind of information that I most often receive when a project, literally, comes to mind. My work, then, is to create in reality the idea I’ve been given.

Here is the fun process of making over the ironing board.

This is what I started with. I knew I wanted to set up the ironing board table in my creative studio.

I had to remove some modifications that Greg’s dad made years ago, to protect the floors or to prevent slipping. On the foot of the longest leg of the ironing board there were scraps of carpet secured with black electrical tape and wire!

I did find a wooden top after I removed the cover and an old foam pad, which had crumbled into dust. I was surprised to discover a huge paper label attached to the surface of the board. It is brittle with age and I considered removing it. I was able to look up the ironing board, though, thanks to the label. This model of ironing board was produced in the early 1940s. Greg speculated that his parents, who were married in 1941, received this practical necessity as a wedding gift. I left the label attached.

At one end of my repurposed table I placed a lamp, and a couple of rustic pieces. The minnow bucket turned candle holder normally lights my garden. It is the first item that I saw on the ironing board when I visualized this project. The concrete bird holds a tea light, and also moved indoors from the garden. I frequently use stacks of books to create height.

The framed quote by Elsie de Wolfe, “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful…that will be my life”, moved from a vignette in my bedroom to my creative studio.

At the other end of the ironing board table is a collection of books, with an old iron and a jar candle as bookends. I added a metal bowl with colorful fabric balls.

Beneath the table I’ve used a vintage metal olive bucket to hold an adorable scruffy looking tree, pulled out of my Christmas collection. Another stack of books is topped by my journee sign and another metal bucket with a tea light tucked inside.

And this is what the table looked like, after the repurposing process was completed.

I am quite pleased with the finished results! I enjoy using vintage pieces in fresh ways. I’d much rather use them and see them daily, than have these keepsakes packed away in a closet. The old ironing board reminds me of Greg’s mom and dad, who both shared in the chore of pressing clothes and linens.

I don’t need another ironing board. I rarely use the one I have. However, I can always use another table, another surface to create upon. I am very happy with this one.

Series Review: Stranger Things

I had to roll to Plan C today. I am a bit sad that I missed a one time showing of the film, Loving Vincent, about painter Vincent Van Gogh. I figured movie goers would not appreciate my coughing outbursts. I hope I can catch the movie later on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Plan B was a creative project, that I simply lacked the energy for today.

The truth is, I spent most of the day in bed, nursing myself through a nasty cold. That is what my body needed most today, rest. I’ve sipped on an antioxidant rich smoothie, thyme tea, ginger water, and hot water with a drop each of Young Living Thieves essential oil and lemon essential oil.

Plan C matched my day of self care. I tuned in to the extremely popular Netflix series Stranger Things. I’m a little late to the Stranger Things party. Season 2 released last month. The great thing about Netflix is, one can easily catch up on a show by watching the earlier seasons. I am now two thirds of the way through season 1.

Stranger Things stars Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Matthew Modine, and Noah Schnapp. This fantasy drama is written and director by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. The episodes have a run time of 55 minutes each. This Netflix original series premiered in 2016.

Nothing much ever happens in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, until the night of November 16, 1983. That evening young Will Byers (Schnapp) disappears, after a day of playing Dungeons & Dragons with his best friends, Mike Wheeler (Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (McLaughlin) and Dustin Henderson (Matarazzo).

Sheriff Jim Hopper (Harbour) feels he must be under a curse, when a friend dies seemingly by a self inflicted gunshot shortly after the disappearance. There hasn’t been a missing person reported in Hawkins since 1921 and 1961 was the last suicide. As the sheriff begins the search for Will, the whole town starts to experience strange occurrences.

More people disappear. Will’s mother Joyce (Ryder) is sure her son is alive and in horrible danger. She is convinced Will is communicating with her via electrical lights and bizarre phone calls. At first everyone thinks Joyce is crazy. But gradually her elder son Jonathan (Heaton) begins to believe her. He recruits Mike’s older sister Nancy (Dyer) to track down a menacing faceless monster that seems to be behind the disappearances.

The trail Sheriff Hopper is following leads to a well guarded facility, Hawkins National Laboratory, run by Dr. Brenner (Modine). With a history of experimental and questionable practices, Hopper feels there is a connection between the lab and the chaos engulfing the town.

And only the three remaining friends know about the existence of the most mysterious person in Hawkins. She appeared the night Will disappeared. With closely cropped hair and clad in a hospital gown, the girl goes by the name Eleven. She has that number tattooed on her inner arm. Mike sneaks her into his family’s home, where she takes up residence in the basement. Eleven rarely speaks, but she has amazing psychokinetic abilities. The boys consider her gifts to be superpowers. She promises to help them find Will.

There is much going on in Hawkins, in the seen world and the unseen. Eleven seems to hold the key to the door between worlds. What will happen if that door is opened?

I have heard nothing but enthusiastic words about Stranger Things. I’ve deliberately not read detailed reviews about this series, so I could watch without a preconceived idea about the story.

I love this show!

Stranger Things is a campy cross between X Files and the 1986 movie Stand By Me. That’s deliberate. The creators wrote Stranger Things as a tribute to sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies and series of the 1980s. Several of the themes in this series were inspired by Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter. I enjoy the genres of fantasy and sci-fi, and a good horror flick if the focus is on the story and not blood and gore, so I found much to appreciate about Stranger Things.

The cast is phenomenal, especially the youth. Eleven’s portrayal by Millie is perfectly delivered. And my heart was pierced by Winona’s Joyce, the mom who refused to give up on her missing son. When evidence seemed to prove he was dead, Joyce stubbornly trusted her instincts that told her Will was alive. Her actions and beliefs appeared crazy to everyone else, and yet she was actually following the guidance she was being given.

I have three more episodes to watch in season 1, and then I am ready for season 2, which released in its entirety. This is easily a binge worthy show. I couldn’t stop after each episode, thinking Just one more…

I don’t know how this first season plays out. I haven’t looked ahead to season 2 at all. I’m watching the story of Stranger Things unfold one episode at a time. I am already hoping there will be a season 3.

Healing Ginger Water

I’ve caught a cold…a full on, sneezing, fever, aching, coughing, lots of congestion cold. It’s the first one I’ve had since going plant based. Although I was disappointed when I realized I was getting sick, it is not the end of the world. Rather than whining about it, I’ve switched into self care mode…again. My knee has healed nicely under my own ministrations. My clogged head and chest will heal too.

I’m taking cold meds as I need to. However, I love the quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine…” I’ve spent time in Life Changing Foods by Anthony William, looking up which foods help with those three C’s…cold, cough and congestion.

Here’s my list of helpful, healing foods:

Common Cold

Ginger, garlic, grapes. NO dairy products.

Cough

Cherries, dates, grapes, lemons & limes, radishes, oregano & thyme, garlic, ginger, turmeric, rose hips NO wheat

Congestion

Apricots, grapes, lemon & limes, cruciferous veggies, radishes, oregano & thyme, cilantro, garlic, ginger, turmeric, dandelion NO dairy, corn or wheat

These foods will be the mainstay of my diet the next few days. I already avoid the NO foods. They all tend to increase mucus production and I don’t need that, ever.

Today I’ve been preparing pots of thyme tea, and tomorrow I’ll try rose hip tea and then oregano. Cilantro goes into my morning smoothie and I drink a dairy free turmeric milk before bed.

The foods that are on all three lists are garlic, grapes and ginger. I have organic grapes that have been very good for snacking on or tossing into a smoothie. I cook with garlic. I’ll have to think creatively to include more garlic in my meals. Ginger. I just saw a simple recipe for Ginger Water, in Anthony’s new book, Thyroid Healing. This afternoon, I made up a pitcher of this healing drink, to sip on throughout the evening.

Ginger Water Makes 2 servings

• 1 to 2 inches fresh ginger

• 2 cups of water

• 1/2 lemon

• 2 teaspoons raw honey

Grate ginger into 2 cups of water and add juice of 1/2 lemon. Allow to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain water and add honey and more lemon, if desired. Ginger can also be chopped and squeezed in a garlic press, rather than grated.

I doubled this recipe, mixing the water, ginger and lemon in a small glass pitcher. I added a teaspoon of raw honey to my glass of ginger water before drinking.

This is such a refreshing drink. I’ve come to appreciate the zingy taste of ginger and frequently add it to my juices. The ginger water reminds me a bit of a cold ginger ale, without the carbonation and sugar. I love it and found it difficult to slowly sip. I wanted to chug the drink down. My head immediately cleared up and I could breathe easier.

Ginger is the ultimate antispasmodic, relaxing tension in the body and calming an upset stomach. Ginger helps with muscle spasms and cramps throughout the body, digestive disorders, and…congestion, cough, and sinus pain. It also combats the Epstein Barr virus and a host of other conditions.

I am already on my second glass of ginger water. This is good stuff. And best of all, it is good for me. I am going to kick this cold to the curb.

Star Trek Discovery Fall Finale

I’ve already written about my excitement over the launch of this newest series in the Star Trek franchise. Tonight is the fall finale for Star Trek Discovery, as Episode 9 streams. Because I catch another show at 8:00 Sunday evenings, for one more week, I wait and watch Discovery after the hour long episode is over. The midway point in this year’s season provides the perfect opportunity to post an update about why I absolutely love this Star Trek.

Sunday evenings used to be my favorite night for television. For nine years, The X Files drew my viewing loyalty. Sunday night I was there, with Mulder and Scully. And while the original Star Trek and The Next Generation both aired on prime time television, the three series following TNG did not, at least not in Joplin. I watched Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise on Sunday nights at 10:30.

I didn’t mind the late hour. Everyone else would go to bed or to their rooms and the TV was mine. I am, and will always be, a Star Trek devotee. I watched it, whenever and wherever it was showing.

Which is why Sunday nights have become my favorite night for television again as Star Trek Discovery claimed that weekend spot. And why it was a no brainer for me to sign up for CBS All Access so that I could watch. That is the only way to catch episodes as they air. The cost for a year subscription was nominal. It is worth it to me.

It is SO worth it to me. I am loving Star Trek Discovery, with a passion that rivals my fondness for the original series. I am fully on board. The episodes are incredibly engaging, with movie quality cinematography, sets and special effects.

The crew is the most diverse yet, and that is high praise because all Star Trek series strive for that quality. The actors and actresses portraying those characters are just as diverse, extremely talented, and for being new at working together, have already developed strong connections with each other.

What I appreciate most about Discovery is that it is an edgier, darker Trek. I’ve only just figured out what it is that causes me to anticipate each episode, and set aside Sunday evenings to join the Discovery crew.

In the Star Trek timeline, Discovery’s events take place ten years before Captain Kirk steps onto the bridge of the Enterprise. By then, the starship functions as an exploratory vessel, charged with keeping peace in the universe and discovering strange new worlds as they boldly go.

Discovery is a war ship. The Federation is at war with the Klingon Houses. They aren’t boldly going on discovery missions so much as they are trying to survive and safeguard the universe. And here is what I am loving. This is a time of expansion and growth for the Federation. Captain Lorca doesn’t always take the moral high ground. He is a warrior more than a diplomat. He is a strategist, and he and his crew will do what it takes to win peace for the Federation.

Each crew member has his or her struggles. Michael Burnham, the series main character, is a mutineer who faces a life prison sentence. Tilly is full of doubts about her abilities. Lt Stamets wavers between snarkiness and self sacrifice. Saru is hardwired to feel fear every second of his life. These people…humans, non humans, androids…are in the process of becoming. It’s not always pretty. It’s messy and dark sometimes and gritty. But it has the ring of truth, of authenticity. That’s how lives…and organizations and Federations…transform. And that is what Discovery is all about, growth and transformation.

I can identify with that process, as can we all.

In Discovery’s time, we are seeing the huge shifts that take place in the universe that usher in the time of Kirk, Spock and Dr McCoy on Enterprise. For me, it is a journey worth taking. It gives me hope that fiction and fantasy aside, humanity is capable of making these same huge shifts that will ultimately bring about a different universe…or a different Earth at least. And like Discovery’s trek, ours can be just as gritty and edgy, and oft times it is fraught with perils.

We have to boldly go though, into that future, and we will figure it out as we go.

Star Trek Discovery returns for the spring season on January 7. I’ll be waiting…

Restaurant Review: MacCheesy

My grandson Dayan made a surprise trip home from college this weekend. He spent a fun day with his happy mom and step-dad, Josh. And we all made plans to meet for dinner tonight. Dayan suggested a new restaurant in Joplin, MacCheesy.

I love experiencing new places in town! It took my grandson, who lives in Columbia, Missouri now, to bring my attention to this recently opened diner. I am so glad that he did!

MacCheesy, featuring gourmet mac & cheese, is located at 116 North Range Line Road, Suite 101, Joplin, across the street from the Northpark Mall. Restaurant hours are 11:00 – 9:00 Monday through Saturday. They are closed on Sundays.

Although this restaurant offers many variations on the quintessential comfort food, mac & cheese, as one who adheres to a plant based lifestyle, and avoids dairy products and gluten, I was prepared to sip on water and visit with family while they dined. However, before meeting at MacCheesy, I checked out the online menu on their website. I was encouraged to see a “build your own” option. Dinner was on!

Greg and I met Elissa, Josh and Dayan at the restaurant. MacCheesy offers a couple of traditional mac & cheese options, and gourmet choices such as lobster mac, BBQ chicken mac, pesto chicken mac and taco mac…17 delectable selections in all. Plus, there is the build your own option, allowing for endless possibilities. The mac & cheese is available in a regular and large size, both served in cast iron skillets, and combo meals include a dessert.

Chicken bacon ranch mac

Pizza mac

Dayan sampled the chicken bacon ranch mac, while Elissa and Josh tried the pizza mac. These arrived piping hot in their skillets. The appreciative murmurs, and the speed at which these mac & cheeses disappeared indicated how good they were! There were discussions about trying the other options…and stopping by after work for carry outs.

Greg and I opted to share one of the small build your own skillets. At this time, MacCheesy does not offer gluten free pasta, however, owner Sharif Magd assured me that will soon be an option. My skillet included regular pasta, marinara sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, green peppers and onions. I omitted cheese and meat and any additional sauces or toppings.

Build your own skillet, without meat or cheese.

Our skillet arrived…and it was so good! We didn’t miss the cheese or meat at all and didn’t feel like we missed out on the experience. Sharif stopped by our table, checking to see that we were happy with what we had ordered. He offered to make us something else if we didn’t like our meal. What a generous offer. We not only loved our dinner, we appreciated his concern and personal follow up. It was with great pleasure that I turned to give Sharif a thumbs up after my first bite!

I highly recommend MacCheesy. The restaurant is clean, has ample seating, and a friendly and helpful wait staff. They are a reflection of the excellent owner. The menu offers a lot of variety, for being built around mac & cheese! And with more vegan and gluten free options coming, even plant based eaters can enjoy this specialty restaurant. Prices are extremely reasonable and the portions are perfectly sized.

I am so glad Dayan suggested MacCheesy tonight. Now that my other hand isn’t clutching a fork, I give it two thumbs up!

Windows of the Soul

I was excited this evening to return to the Manga Artist’s Workbook and practice sketching an important facial feature. Before I move to drawing expressions, the workbook provides opportunity to focus on the most expressive part of the face…the eyes.

I had missed this section of the book when I peeked ahead. I thought the next assignment was the drawing of expressions. I understand, though, the importance of spending time capturing the eyes. So much of what we are feeling and thinking is reflected here. The eyes are the first thing I notice about a person. I can tell whether the person I am looking at is open or guarded, happy or sad, fearful or confident, by studying the eyes.

As I prepare to create an upcoming cartoon project, I know that much of what I hope to convey will be made evident through the eyes.

Tonight’s exercise was to sketch in the eyes, on a teen girl and teen boy, using the manga style. The girl’s eyes are drawn overly large.

I lightly sketched in guidelines.

I tried darker irises and lighter ones. I definitely like the darker better, as they are more distinct.

For a boy, the eyes, while still oversized, are not as large as the girl’s eyes. There are less details too.

As with the girl, I prefer the darker eyes.

William Shakespeare wrote “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Not only are we given a peek into the soul through the eyes of another. Our souls gaze out through the eyes as well, in all its states of being, from joyful confidence to beseeching invitation to hardened defiance.

As I sketched this evening, I was grateful for a lesson in mindfulness about what story my eyes are telling.

Thyroid Healing

I was so excited to receive book three this week, in the Medical Medium series. Nothing has impacted my healing journey more than the writings and teachings of Anthony William. His first two books became my roadmap back to health, after suffering from chronic sciatica for 22 years. To my great delight, I have also healed from a variety of other ailments.

I had time this afternoon to read several chapters in Anthony’s third book, Thyroid Healing. As I sipped on a cup of hot chaga tea, I began the next phase of my continuing health journey.

I will be sharing more about this remarkable book as I finish reading it and undertake the 90 Day Thyroid Rehab, included in Part III of the book. Today I learned more about the thyroid, the small gland located in the front of the neck, and about its importance in maintaining a healthy body.

There are so many misunderstandings about the function of the thyroid and the cause of thyroid disorders. A healthy thyroid isn’t something most of us think about, until we feel bad, suffering from a wide array of symptoms, or we get a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease. I have received such diagnoses, being told by my doctor that I had a nodule on my thyroid (it is benign) and hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive condition. No treatment was prescribed. I was told my thyroid would eventually “burn out” and become under active. In the meantime, I was encouraged to learn to deal with heart palpitations, night sweats, jitteriness and excessive energy.

But…what if there is another cause for thyroid disorders, and a host of other symptoms, other than a malfunctioning gland and/or the body turning on itself, creating autoimmune disorders? Anthony explores the effects of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) on the thyroid as it invades that gland and reproduces. He then offers, in this wonderful book, ways to heal from the virus and restore the thyroid.

The culprit…the Epstein Barr Virus.

This is what I will be learning about in the upcoming weeks…EBV and how to eliminate it completely from my body. These last 16 months I have focused on ridding my body of the shingles virus, which attacked my sciatic nerves, creating my chronic pain and inflammation. I am so much improved, as a result, so much healthier, that it makes me giddy. I have adopted a plant based lifestyle, thanks to what I have learned from Anthony.

Many of the foods I eat and supplements I take to rid my body of the shingles virus also combats EBV. However, while I will continue with those foods and supplements, my focus now is shifting to the elimination of EBV. Because, I still have some symptoms of a problematic thyroid. It is time to take my healing to the next level.

I noticed this afternoon that as I read in Thyroid Healing my eyes would slowly fill with tears. As a non-crier, teary eyes alert me to the fact that something deeper is taking place, something is stirring at a heart and soul level. I sat quietly, alone with my thoughts, and went inward.

I realized the words in this book, as in the other two books in this series, bring me such profound hope. I have learned what healthy feels like. In me, it translates to a feeling of euphoria and heightened energy. This is a new sensation in me. Two weeks ago, hobbling about after I injured my left knee, I was abruptly reminded of the way I used to feel. The thing I have learned as my knee heals, and it is about 90 percent there, is that I don’t want to return to feeling unhealthy. Okay, I also learned patience and to tune in to my body so that I would know how to heal an injury. But mostly, I have been reminded of where I was, not so long ago. Nothing, no food, drink, or dessert, is worth compromising my health. I’ve come through this time of healing more determined than ever to stay the course, maintain a plant based lifestyle, and stay open to ways of continually improving my health.

Holding Thyroid Healing in my hands today supported those desires that I have and infused me with hope.

Tonight, before I began my blog post, I flipped to the back of Thyroid Healing and looked through the recipes there. There are so many excellent ones to sample. I decided to try the Thyroid Healing Tea. I still have lemon balm and thyme growing in the herb garden and I had fennel seeds on hand.

As the tea steeped, filling my kitchen with its earthy aroma, I opened the book at random. I read the section called Butterfly Sun Soaking. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly. Anthony wrote that the thyroid collects sunlight on those “wings” much like a butterfly does. When you allow the sun to shine on the front of the neck, even for a few minutes, the gland stores up that light energy. This sunlight helps to power the thyroid, balances the production of hormones, keeps EBV from proliferating and stimulates and strengthens the immune system. Anthony provides a soothing and restorative meditation to accompany soaking up the sun.

I was reminded that Greg’s dad, who was in his 90s, would sit daily in the sunlight, his head tipped back, soaking up the beams. It gave him energy, he said. He didn’t know that the thyroid benefits from sunlight. However, he instinctively knew he needed the energy the sun gave him. How amazing.

As I sipped my freshly brewed Thyroid Healing Tea, which is fragrant and delicious, I glanced down at my glass mug. There is a butterfly etched on the mug, which was a gift from my daughter Adriel. How serendipitous. What a wonderful, and insightful, synchronicity. Those telling tears filled my eyes again.

This is going to be an incredible new journey.

Get your copy of Thyroid Healing here!

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For the Love of Cats

Truthfully, every day is Cat Day at my house. However, this week is National Cat Week. I felt this created the perfect opportunity to do an update on my fur babies.

I currently have three felines, which officially removes my title of “crazy cat lady”. I believe you have to have at least five cats to qualify! My three are siblings, a brother and two sisters, litter mates brought to me four years ago by their momma. These babies were feral, born in the wild, or at least, in the neighborhood, and unused to human interaction.

It was a freezing cold November day when momma cat brought her litter to my front door. I had been feeding the little family for weeks, out on the porch. But on this frigid day, I opened the front door and one by one, momma cat brought her youngsters in. They’ve been here since. Momma cat, later named Momba, moved on a short time later, after I had her spayed. I think her offspring got on her nerves. And another little tomcat that she had, that I kept, has gone to live with another family.

Most of my life, I have been a dog person, and I still like canines. However, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for cats. They are more independent, making them easier to care for. If I have a long day away from home, I know they will be okay outside, hanging around the house and garden, as long as they have fresh water and a bowl of dry cat food available. They don’t have to be walked, and my cats have short fur, eliminating the need for brushing. All three are spayed or neutered, which means they don’t wander far or get into cat fights. They are basically self sufficient, and yet always glad to see me when I get home.

These are my cats:

Shy Boy, or Shy for short, is the male. My granddaughter Aubrey named the cats when they were kittens, and she chose apt names. The only name that would suit Shy better would be Fraidy Cat. Shy was the last of the litter to allow me to touch him. It was a long process, requiring gentleness and patience, before he would let me pet him. He is a cuddler now and has the most ingrained habits.

Giving the term “leg warmer” a new meaning.

Shy often sleeps in the prayer pose. Who knows? Maybe that is what he’s doing.

He is still very shy about strangers and afraid of many things including the trash truck that comes by on Thursdays, ceiling fans in motion, thunder and loud appliances such as the vacuum cleaner. Shy adores Greg and wants to be held on Greg’s lap at least once a day. With his sisters, he is not so timid. Shy is almost twice their size and at times he can be a bit of a bully with them, chasing them away from his napping spot or nudging them away from the food dish. But overall, this boy is a sweetheart, affectionate now, and wide eyed like he was as a kitten.

Sleeping in his favorite chair, on his favorite blanket.

Angel is the different one in the litter. Her sister and brother are both black and white. Angel has short, thick silvery gray fur that is beautiful. This girl is unusual in many ways. She is very vocal, communicating with a variety of meows, chirps and mews. She responds to words, plays the most, likes to watch television, and although she is now the best hunter, her first catch as a young cat was a piece of styrofoam, which she proudly brought to Greg and me while we were working in the garden. Yes, we praised her!

Angel is the cat who most enjoys being on someone’s lap. She will curl up, or stretch out on her back, and sleep for hours on a lap. She is also the most social, visiting the neighbors regularly. One of my neighbors grew concerned when she didn’t see Angel for several days around the 4th of July. The cats don’t like fireworks and hide out in the house or under the porch. Judy missed Angel’s visits and was relieved that she was ok. This beauty also has a dog-like trait. She begs for table food and will eat almost anything. Angel is the easiest of the cats to care for, in that she doesn’t do the “I want to go outside/I want to come back in” routine as much as the other two.

I was unboxing Christmas decorations. Angel was watching football. I’m not sure which team is her favorite.

Greg created this hilarious pic of a napping Angel.

Rilynn is the smallest of the three cats, the runt of the litter. And although she be small, she is fierce. The day the kittens first appeared at the house, at about six weeks of age, she was the tiny tigress who bounded out from beneath the front porch, to say “hello”. Her sister and brother stayed in the safety of the shadows. I laughed then, and still smile today, at her cute face. It looks like she dipped her nose into an ink pot. Although she is brave and very curious, she is the least likely to curl up on my lap and she does not like to be picked up or cuddled.

Flower girl.

Of the three, Rilynn seems to enjoy the gardens the most. She loves to hide in the ornamental grasses. And most days, she stretches out atop the picnic table in the backyard to catch the rays of the setting sun. When I am working in the garden, Rilynn is the cat who follows me around and checks out every new planting. She has some unique habits. If she wants to go outside and no one notices she’s at the door, she does something bad or annoying to get attention. In the winter she lays directly on the heater vents. And sometimes, if she wants to go outside, she rings a bell in my bedroom, by tugging on a long needlepoint pull. What is funny about that habit is that my granddaughter, who gave this cat her own middle name, also rings that same bell when she is headed to the bathroom! Rilynn is my funny girl, adorable and sleepy eyed, who seems to enjoy getting into mischief.

She rarely sits on my lap, but plop a doll into a chair and Rilynn is there.

I can’t end a post about National Cat Week without including these foster “cats” who think they are pets too. And why would they think otherwise? They get fed and have even come into the house several times, which is why the cat doors have to be closed and locked at night.

These guys behave in very feline like ways, having been around cats all their lives. I often come home to find possums waiting on the porch. One likes to sit on the pillows on the porch swing. Another has the (bad) habit of climbing up onto the table near the front door, the better, I guess, to survey the world.

Yep, this one is in the house, eating cat food like he belongs there.

I have to admit, I have a fondness for the possums. The cats accept them or at least, tolerate them. I can look out most evenings and see two or three cats and at least two possums, all sharing the front porch companionably. And because they have grown up eating cat food, these possums have the most gorgeous fur! It is long, thick and luxurious, nothing like the stringy rough looking fur I’ve seen on their wilder cousins.

Andre Norton wrote, “Perhaps it is because cats do not live by human patterns, do not fit themselves into prescribed behavior, that they are so united to creative people.” Maybe that’s why I am drawn to cats, or cats are drawn to me.

Or perhaps it is something more basic and simple. The well known veterinarian, James Herriot, said there is no greater gift than the love of a cat. They choose you, and then they love you, on their terms, in their own unique ways, but there is no denying that they bond with their humans and love them, and accept love in return. I do love these cats and I am the recipient of their love and affection. I guess that makes me a cat lady, after all.