Thursday, July 14, 2011

Social Networking at it's Best

I've been thinking recently about how much my life has changed for the better due to social networking sites, specifically Facebook and Meetup.  This is so strange to me because while I've always been very interested in computers and have used them since the early 80's (my first system stored data on a cassette tape!), I was also leery of meeting people via the computer, having heard so many horror stories.  
True, I met a long time boyfriend this way but we all know how that ended!  (If you don't know - just suffice it to say 'not well').   But this social networking thing really works... especially when you find a group that focuses on a subject that has meaning for you.

Facebook in particular brought me hundreds of new friends, many of whom I've met in person due to our mutual connection to MS and CCSVI.   In fact, I would not know anything about CCSVI had it not been for Facebook, and that is true for almost all the people I know who had the CCSVI procedure.
It allowed me to publish a book with a woman in Rhode Island who I've never met in person but has become a close friend after many phone conversations and online chats.  It allowed me to meet friends from all over the country when we traveled to Tampa a few months ago for a symposium and walk to raise money for CCSVI education/research.  And now, I've become involved with two other groups where I've met a whole new group of friends.  is a site where you can find people who share your interests and also live in your area.  You gather in a public place and spend a few hours together doing whatever it is your group is involved in.   I found this by accident but figured I'd give it a try.  I joined 3 groups and waited to see where they were meeting next.  Wow - who knew I'd get so involved!  

The first group is called Ft. Lauderdale Folk Singers Sing Out Jam Out or SOJO.   What a mouthful - but it's actually just a bunch of people in the area who like to sing folk songs and get together twice a month to sing and play music together.   Right after I joined the group's organizer resigned and a new guy stepped up to take over.  He asked for help and I volunteered to be on a committee.  I ended up hosting a meeting here at my condo complex in one of the public rooms and 15 people showed up - now they want to have all the meetings here!   Each and every person who was there was a total stranger to me (and to each other) but we all left as friends.  Three hours of making music together and laughing and sharing some history brought us together quickly.  It was so amazing how compatible we all were and what a good time we had.   Everyone has already signed up for the next meeting and we're hoping for an even greater turnout.   This is social networking at it's best - used to bring folks together in real life; a tool, not as an end in itself.

The next group I joined is called South Florida Games and Gamers.   Now this group is well organized and has a lot of people who arrange events in different areas.  Since many of their meetups are pretty far north of me, I hadn't gone to any, but last night I attended a Trivia Contest in Hollywood, about 15 minutes from my home.

   It was basically just a bunch of people who formed a team to participate in a trivia contest that is held in a local watering hole every Wednesday.  The meetup group was just one of many teams that were there.  I love playing trivia so I thought I go see what it was about.  

But here's the amazing part:  the day before the meetup, one of the members who lives near me in Pembroke Pines sent me an email and offered to drive me to the meeting!  He didn't know me and wrote a very sincere email, saying he hoped I wouldn't take his offer the wrong way, but he'd noticed that I was new to the group and that I also belonged to another meetup group that he also had joined.  He sent me his phone number so I called to get a feel for who he was.   Now maybe it was foolish of me to get into a car with a perfect stranger, but I trusted my old HR instincts and was proven correct:  Alan was a perfect gentleman, sweet and helpful, and when he heard that I had MS was really happy he had offered the ride since it's hard to park in that area - this way he said he could drop me off right at the bar and then he'd park the car.  I mean - a total stranger reached out to help me get to this meeting, not even knowing that I had difficulty ambulating.   And when I got to the place, the 5 other people from the group were just as nice!  People who enjoy playing trivia games are generally bright - and this group was smart, funny and fun.   I fit right in and they treated me as if I'd been there for years!   Made 3 new friends and I know I'll be seeing a lot more of them.  Incredible!  Social networking again bringing people together.

Today I'm going to Boca to meet two women I went to High School with!  We reconnected last year through Facebook and have become friends anew.  I got involved arranging a reunion for graduates of Forest Hills High School now living in South Florida and we'll be meeting with the banquet manager to choose the menu for this September reunion.  Over 30 people have signed up on Facebook to attend this dinner~again, social networking at it's best, reuniting old friends and meeting new ones.  

So while many people lament the trend of people sitting on their computers all day connecting with strangers they'll likely never meet, I propose that you can do more and use the social networking sites to get yourself out in the world and meet new people and do new things.   Give it a try - you may just surprise yourself and gain some new friends in the process. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Art Class Updates

I've really been enjoying my art classes and I hope my Facebook friends have enjoyed seeing my classwork.  For those not on Facebook, I thought I'd put some of my work here for you to see.  I'm very open to constructive criticism since I'm just learning so feel free to tell me what you think and why.  Here are some samples:

 Drawing class - Lebron James of the Miami Heat.

 Watercolor - Farmhouse and Lighthouse
This was an exercise in shadow.  Not real happy with it but it was one of my first watercolors.
 Koi Pond - Watercolor - Free exercise

This was done by wetting the paper and pouring color on, then letting them run in a controlled fashion.  Final details like eyes were added with a brush.

This watercolor was just to learn how to properly apply a smooth wash.  I didn't do a good job here - there are streaks within the colors but this is how we learn.
 Watercolor Collage - This watercolor started out badly but here's what I ended up doing:  The first time my background came out all muddy and yucky (that's a technical term).  But the Flower and Butterfly came out OK - so I took another piece of paper - just plain sketch paper not meant for watercolor - and put a purple/pink wash on it.  Then I carefully cut out the parts of the other painting and pasted them all together on a larger piece of watercolor paper.  Voila - a collage.
 This is a watercolor exercise from a book I got out of the library.  It is supposed to be to demonstrate transparency of watercolor and glazing.  I got it right with the small yellow circle over the blue circle to make it green where they intersect.  The blue and red intersect to make purple (doesn't show up well here but it does).   But the orange over green didn't work - make too many passes.  Glazing is just one pass with the color.
 Winter Beach-Montauk   Watercolor   This is Zack and his friend Cortney at the beach.  Taken from a photograph.   Courtney wants it for her apartment so I'm sending it to her.

 Rain in the Forecast - Watercolor
 This is an exercise in painting pattern - it's from the same book as the circles.  I had fun doing it and it looks much better in person - you can see much more detail than the photograph shows.  It was suggested to me to make notes cards from this.  I may take a section and do that.  I wasn't happy with upper right corner so I'll leave that out.

 Boats in the fog.   Watercolor.   This was one of my first watercolors done in class.  It's all done with one color (phalo blue) and the different values are done by the amount of water used.   Again, the photograph doesn't show the detail such as the tree trunks or texture of the dock.
 Yellow Butterfly - Pastel
This was my last pastel class for the year.

It was taken from a photograph on an old calendar I had and gave to the instructor.  He assigned different butterfly pictures to each student. 

 Deconstructed Flower and Vase - Watercolor

This also was an exercise in free expression.  We wet the paper, poured on three colors of paint and let the paint do it's thing.   We could not use brushes but could use our fingers.   Mine was actually turned upside down  (purple flower was at the bottom).  When I started turning the paper around I was able to see a flower but the yellow center was not attached.  Then I saw where a vase could be so I drew that with my pinky.  I kind of like this even though it's weird.

 This is just a detail from the butterfly collage picture - taken when it still had an messed up background.
 Ready for a fight - Pastel

This pastel piece is one of the ones currently in an exhibition at the center where I take lessons.    When I get it back it's going to my friend Barbara in Tampa.  Her husband's nickname is Rooster.

 This is my first attempt at a charcoal drawing.  I didn't really enjoy working with charcoal - way too messy for me and very hard to make corrections.  I'm still at a stage where I NEED to make corrections!

 Silverware - Watercolor.  This was successful in that I was able to capture the shine of a spoon and the cast shadow was done correctly - but the drawing itself isn't good.  Spoon is too fat and the fork is too bulky and not very elegant.  So I give myself B+ for the painting and C for the drawing.

 This is my latest watercolor and I'm sorry that the photograph isn't better because the color is great in this.  It was a study in elongated form and I was happy with the way the vase came out - less happy with the flower but then, flowers are not really my thing.

Well that's it for now - hope you enjoyed seeing some of what I've been up to.  You can see more of my work in some earlier posts and even more on Facebook.   TTFN

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Book Has Been Published - Finally!

The gadget on the right is a 19 page sample of our book, A Year of Hope.  If you're reading my blog, then you are most likely aware that my friend Sandra Forbes and I have been working on this for a long time.  We are very proud of the result and the profits from the book are all going to the CCSVI Alliance and to the BNAC CCSVI Research Project.  Sandra and I will not profit from this work - we did it to honor and show respect to the CCSVI pioneers - patients and doctors - who took a leap of faith in the hope of alleviating suffering.

I hope you'll buy a copy and support this cause.  It was created with love and joy and I think it will make you smile... and who couldn't use a smile these days?  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bubbas Big Adventure

This morning started out just fine.  Woke up early, glanced at the clock and went back to sleep.  Bubba was out like a light and didn't stir.  At 6:30 am I decided to get up and once I was out of bed, Bubba was in the kitchen right behind me, as usual.  I got his leash on him and headed out the door for our first walk of the day.  He got on board the scooter which is his new trick (I couldn't have taught him that if I tried) and we rode downstairs.

Bubba was fine, walked alongside the scooter and did all his business so we headed back to the house.  The condo powers-that-be decided at that moment to turn on the sprinklers full blast and the sudden shower frightened Bubba for a minute, but he recovered quickly when he spied the ducks.

Now Bubba is a terrier so it's his nature to chase anything that moves.  He goes after squirrels, cats, and especially the ugly Muscovy ducks that inhabit Hollybrook.  Some people love them and some hate them.  I'm in the second category.  They poop everywhere and we are forever cleaning up after them.  A few neighbors throw bread out for them which we are not supposed to do and of course, this attracts them to our building.

Behind the building is a lake which is surrounded by a golf course with steep hills and deep valleys.  The lake is a natural lake and is about a foot lower than the grass, due to the golf course built around it.

So Bubba spied the ducks and took off like a bat out of hell.  He always chases them but today for some reason the leash didn't halt him and he was able to slip out of it.  And now the fun begins.  Here's the scene:  me on my scooter, yelling Bubba! Come!  Bubba!  No!  Bubba!  Sit!  all to no avail.  The ducks scattering and finally flying off and landing in the safety of the lake.   Bubba barking at the top of his lungs, running around the edge of the lake, below the grass where I can't get to him.  My scooter goes on grass but grass and hills together - not so much.  It kept cutting off and I had to stop, remove the key, press the circuit breaker, and try again.  So I had to worry about the scooter, as well as Bubba, and the condo commandos complaining about all the barking at 7:00 AM.

I thought I'd just stay there with eyes on him until he got tired of this game or the ducks flew away - but to my shock Bubba jumped in the lake!  The muddy, dirty, lake!  I had no idea if he could swim or not so my heart was in my mouth but he paddled about half way out, barking all the while, until he turned around and scrambled on the shore.  My little white dog was now black.  I was so glad he was out of the water but then, he tried again - plop - there he was back in the lake.  In and out - this went on for about half and hour.  Why wasn't anyone coming out to see what all the barking was about?  Why didn't anyone call security?  Where are the condo commandos when you need them?  Why are these damn ducks even here?  Muscovy ducks are bred for food - just look at this link:

Click here to order some yummy duck meat!

Finally, finally, a man comes out of his back door and waves at me... really?  Waving?   OK, he was old but anyone could see I was freaking out.  I scooted over to him and asked if he could call security to help me.  He went in the house and came back with his grandson who was about 12 or 13 and spoke English (I later found out the man spoke Spanish and I would have asked him in Spanish had I known that, but as I said, I was freaking out).  The grandson, bless him, took my leash and walked down to the lake shore and tried to get the leash around Bubba's head.  But the darn dog was slippery from being wet and muddy and now the kid was getting dirty too!  He finally got it done and dragged Bubba up the rise and handed me the leash.  The poor kid had to go change clothes to get to school!  I thanked them profusely and then got the hell out of Dodge before Bubba could start chasing the ducks again.

When I got to my front door, a new problem presented itself.  How to get him in the house and into the bathroom shower without destroying my beige carpet or my clothes.  I decided the clothes could be washed so I picked Bubba up and we quickly, (well as quickly as I walk), went into the bathroom and I threw him in the shower.  Then I disrobed and joined him. Bubba likes to get bathed or showered so that's lucky for me.  We got nice and clean which took a while, and then I dried him off best I could and kept him in the bathroom while I got dressed and proceeded to gather up the towels and dirty clothes for the laundry.

It was quite a morning - and Bubba had no idea what he'd put me through.  He came out of the bathroom happy as a clam, tail wagging, and calmly went to eat his breakfast.  I was exhausted and collapsed on the couch.  Just another day in paradise!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day and such

For those of us who no longer have their Mom's with us, Mother's Day can be difficult.  There's not a day goes by when I don't think about my Mom, Sylvia Wulkan, who was truly my best friend and always my champion.  She was there for me in times of joy and troubles; even when she disagreed or disapproved of my decisions, our love and respect for each other never got lost in the mix.  She was a unique individual with a huge loving heart and is missed by many.

I have many photos of her but none are digital, and I need to work on that so I can add her beautiful face to this post - but for those family and friends who knew my Mom, I know she is not forgotten. 

I hope everyone reading this takes a moment to remember their Mom - and appreciate the love and care we receive from our mothers.  They shape us and make us who we are, more than we realize and whether we like it or not!

So, my son just called to wish me happy Mother's Day and my newest 'child' Bubba, is sleeping at my feet.  He is such a good dog (most of the time) and I'm so glad to have him at this point in my life.  

Here's a sketch I made yesterday - not great but it does really look like him!  (I need to work on the mouth a bit more).  Of course, he didn't "sit" for this portrait.  I did it from the photograph shown in my previous post.   It looks grainy here but in person it's crisp and clean.

I was really surprised that I could capture his face but I'm happy with the result, considering I've only been drawing for a month.
Here's another sketch I started in class and finished at home.  It's going to be put in a show at the Senior Center.  The horse and my pastel Rooster were requested for the show - pretty amazing!  Who knew??

Off to meet a friend for coffee and desert - our Mother's Day treat to ourselves.   Enjoy your day too!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brief Bubba Update

Carpet allergy may not be the problem, according to three neighbors who had similar problems with their pooches.  Evidently, the grass here is treated with some type of chemical that a few dogs don't tolerate well.   The answer would be to put a little sweater on the dog so the grass doesn't contact their belly.   One kind neighbor gave me a lovely little black jacket for Bubba to see if it helps.  He looks ridiculous in it, so I'm not going to embarrass him by posting a photo of him all dressed up - but here is a new portrait I took the other day.  I'll check with the vet about the grass v. carpet debate.  I hope he doesn't have to wear this silly jacket all the time - the poor thing will get bullied for the way he dresses if that happens.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bubba and Me - a Love Story

I love animals.  I always have, and have had pets for all my adult life.  When I left Puerto Rico and moved to Florida, leaving Biscochita, my beloved long haired Doxie, behind broke my heart.  I left her in good hands with friends and knew it was the right thing to do but that didn't make it any easier.  She was used to being with me 24-7 and that would not be possible in Florida since I had to get a full time job.  In Vieques, she came to work with me every day and had the run of Casa Cielo, the beautiful 9 acre guest house that I managed. 

So when I retired last November, I casually commented to a neighbor with a cute little poodle named Buddy that perhaps I'd get a dog now that I'd be home to care for it.  I meant it and kept thinking about it but was busy with rehearsals, disability paperwork, doctor's appointments, and I just never took action.  Plus, my friend has been looking for exactly the right dog and I promised I'd help her with whatever dog she got.  (It's been more than a year she hasn't found one yet, but that's another story for another day.) 

"Buster" from the flyer photo.  12 lbs. of solid muscle.
Exactly three weeks ago today, Buddy's owner knocked on my door.  He had a guy with him and a flyer showing photos of two dogs who needed a home.  Both dogs were adorable but the little white Jack Russell won my heart instantly.  The dog was 6 years old, 12 lbs. and potty trained.  The friend explained that his girlfriend rescues, fosters, and then finds homes for dogs and cats. They needed to make room for more foster babies.   I made plans to go and visit the next day.  Terrylynn had 6 cats and 4 dogs in her home, one of each was hers and the others all needed homes.  When I saw the Jack Russell there was no going back.  We were meant for each other!  Only problem was that it was the chorus' performance week and I'd be out every night.  When I explained this, Terrylynn's daughter told me she is a flautist and her boyfriend a music major in keyboards and composing, so I invited them to the Verdi Requiem concert that Sunday.  Since they wouldn't take any money for the dog, I bought tickets for them and they were thrilled.  I committed to taking the little guy home the following Monday.  "Buster" as he was called, became "Bubba" which I thought befit his muscular little frame and Florida origins.

Chillin' on the blanket.

sBubba and I became fast friends and everything was going great.  He made loads of new doggy pals at my condo complex and I met more people in the last two weeks than I had in seven years here!  Dog people are generally very friendly, even if their dogs don't always play nice.  I was delighted that Bubba worked and played well with others and he quickly figured out how to trot alongside my scooter when we went out.  He was already potty trained, learned the "sit" command quickly, didn't jump on people or furniture, didn't bark unless there was a reason and was clearly a very intelligent dog.  He was also quite calm for a Jack Russell which suited me just fine. We were a perfect fit.

How cute - but his poor belly was suffering.
Only problem was on day four he started this weird habit of dragging his belly on the carpet and propelling himself around the room that way.  How brilliant I thought.  He's figured out how to rub his own belly!  As cute as this was, his poor belly was getting red and raw and I feared he'd get an infection.  He needed a vet check up anyway, so this morning we went to see Dr. Melissa.

One hundred and thirty two dollars later I learned that Bubba was healthy and had no internal parasites. He needs a really good teeth cleaning, plus distemper and Parvo shots which he'll get on his next visit.  However, that weird belly rubbing was because he was itchy and he could scratch the largest area with this maneuver; I told you he was brilliant!  But why was he itchy?  Well, ... wait for it... Bubba seems to be allergic to my wool carpeting!  His rubbing was making the allergy worse (so OK, maybe he wasn't as brilliant as I thought), but really, an allergy to wool?  Sheesh!  Of course, it's only her theory but we've excluded most other things that would cause him to scratch that much. Contact Dermatitis seems to fit.  He's on 12 days of medication to stop the itching and so far so good.  Dr. Melissa said to keep him off the carpet and since 3/4 of the condo is carpeted, this will be a challenge.

At the moment part of my living room and den is covered with a large blue Fema-type tarp.  Another area has some fleece blankets and a pillow.  He'll need to be confined to the kitchen overnight or when I'm out, but Bubba seems content to stay within the tarp/blanket  area while I'm watching TV or on the computer.  But when I get up he follows me around the house.  I can't carry him and walk without losing my balance, so I fitted the basket of my rollator walker with a piece of leftover foam board to provide a base.

Bubba on day 5 in his new home. 
Then I plop him in the basket (which he's not too sure about but he allows it - good dog), and off we go to the tiled kitchen or hallway, Bubba nervous in the basket and me trying not to trip over the tarp.  Once there I take him out of the basket and hangs with me on the tile!  I tried to get a photo of this but he freaks out when he sees the camera;  I figure he's been through enough so I backed off on the photo op.

For a rescue pet that I got for free, this will get  expensive!  But Bubba is worth it.  He is a blessing and a joy, and makes me happy every day.  I see many more years together and new synthetic burber carpeting in our future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catching Up

Just some bits and pieces and random thoughts since I haven't posted in a while.

 I love this quote from Marc - his blog is amazing and everyone with a chronic illness can benefit from reading Marc's take on his own disease.  He is real, brutally honest, and very very smart.  Here's a link to the Wheelchair Kamikaze's Blog.
"I can advocate for and educate myself, but the actual healing is out of my hands. The only control I do have is to take the journey moment by moment, focusing on the good contained within each passing now, and accepting the bad as a particularly unpleasant traveling companion. With each day there is night, with each peak there is valley, for every gain there must be loss. Such is the way of nature; such is the way of life…"    Marc Stecker aka Wheelchair Kamikaze

The Tampa CCSVI Symposium and Walk 'N Roll was a huge success.  The Alliance exceeded their goal and both the lectures and walk were very well attended - far greater than expected.  Everyone who spoke did well and we were warmly received.  The auction was wonderful with a lot of fabulous items.  I worked the auction and registration tables until it was time to speak so I missed some of the doctor's talks but I believe the CCSVI Alliance will be posting the video of the symposium.
Nicki Watts did an incredible job of organizing this pretty much on her own with the support of Michelle Brown (long distance from Connecticut).  Congratulations to everyone for a very successful event and thanks to all the sponsors and donors who participated.  And thank you to everyone who donated to my walk page, allowing me to far exceed my goal.  I raised $985.00 and am sending in another $15 just to even it up!  Here are the links to two photography sites who donated their services.  The photos are wonderful and capture the spirit of both days. 

Symposium Photos by Kimberly Yau Studios        Walk Photos by Lucy Perl Photography

One week of rest before 'hell week' starts again for our Verdi Requiem performances.  We're performing with the Lynn Philharmonia in a partnership that will save us some money because two performances will be in the University's new theater which is gorgeous, and we don't need to rent space or hire an orchestra!  Their conductor, George Schram, is very well repsected and I'm excited to meet him next Monday.  We rehearse Monday through Wednesday and perform Thursday through Sunday.  Hopefully we'll all have some voice left by Sunday because this is a demanding work, but one of my very favorites to sing.  The seating arrangements may be better for me as my section is on the end, so I can sit for a lot of the performance and not stick out like a sore alto.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am a feature article on the CCSVI Alliance website.

I was honored to be asked to write a patient perspective for the CCSVI Alliance.   They just published it as the March feature on that section of their website.  They used a photo I sent them but it looks so large!  I thought the one I sent was smaller :)   To read my story, along with my friend Michela's companion piece, just click this link:

       Andrea's Patient Perspective

  Note:  the page can be slow to load so please have patience.  (Probably that huge photo!) 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bocelli, Art, and Gabrielle Fauré

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to update this blog, so here's what's been going on.

Click Here to Hear the Nessun Dorma finale
The long awaited performance on Feb. 14th with Andrea Bocelli has come and gone.  It was a surreal experience for many reasons.  
  •  We didn't get a real rehearsal with the orchestra or Bocelli as we did for the Christmas '09 concert.  This was because Mr. Bocelli was in NY the day before our concert for his Metropolitan Opera 'debut'.  I'm not even going to comment on that.  Click the link and read the NY Times review which speaks for itself.  Then he arrived late for the short rehearsal time we did have on the day of the concert... and we didn't go over all of the pieces.   In fact, midway through the rehearsal they added a piece of music about 2 hours before the show!  
  • The conductor, Eugene Kohen, was a very nice man but a very strange conductor!  Some of his arm movements were nothing like I've ever seen.  He almost never cued our entrances and we needed the cues since we didn't have any rehearsal time.  To their credit, Orchestra Miami did a fantastic job and to our credit, we managed to not screw anything up too badly.  The videos show we sounded really good!
  • The stage of course was elevated, but the chorus was in the back of the stage, elevated even more - I'm guessing we were about 50 feet above the ground.  Getting to my seat was a challenge because part of the stairs didn't have any handrails.  A nice guy from the Bocelli road crew helped me but it was a little scary. I was smack in the middle of the first row, but once in my seat all was fine.
  • I'd forgotten what it was like to see 21,000 people looking at us on stage!  It was just awesome and yes, surreal.  The sound of their applause was overwhelming.
My FaceBook friend Laura came from New Orleans to see the show and she was thrilled that I got her backstage before it started.  She took some fantastic photos and videos, as did others.  The audience of course went wild for Bocelli - he has very loyal fans - but the highlight for me was hearing and meeting soprano Anna Maria Martinez.  She is just glorious and looked amazing in her red satin dress for Valentine's day.  The photos can be seen on my FB page and videos abound on YouTube.  Laura and I had fun and she stayed for another day which we spent at the flea market.

Pastel Classes  -  I signed up for this class at our local senior center and was pleasantly surprised that Daniel, our instructor, is a wonderful artist who knows how to teach.  I always said I could not draw a straight line and that is still true - but I'm learning how to draw curved lines that somehow morph into actual paintings!  I'm now in the second session of these 6 week classes and I'm amazing myself with what I'm able to do.  I can clearly see the progress from my early sessions and the challenge this week is a very difficult one.  We are using the portrait of Mary Cassatt's Girl with White Bonnet as the model for our drawing.  Drawing a face is much more involved than a landscape or still life and I didn't know where to begin, but another class member who is a 'real' artist gave me some hints and incredibly, I actually sketched in the face!  Now, it doesn't look like the girl in the Cassatt original, but it is a recognizable face of a child.  (The 'real' artist finished hers in the 2 hour class and it looked identical to Cassatt's!  I told her I want to buy it!)  When it's done, I'll post it here - but meanwhile, here's another study I did of a Van Gogh landscape.  (There's some glare on the bottom of the photo that's not on the original.)  Bottom line is I'm really enjoying the class, the other students and the teacher.  Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Gabriel Fauré wrote some beautiful music but I have to confess that other than the gorgeous Cantique de Jean Racine I'm just not a big fan of French romanticism.  The Master Chorale of South Florida is rehearsing Faure's Requiem and my plan is to rehearse and learn the piece but not sing in the performances because I think it will be too difficult for me to stand for entire performance which is what will be required.  Plus, I don't love the piece and further, our conductor has placed me in the lower alto part which for this piece means I'm actually singing the Tenor I part in the tenor register which is killing my voice - it's too damn low!   I'm not a second alto - if anything I'm a second soprano so this just feels wrong to me.  I can't sing it that low with any kind of decent tone and I don't think my one voice will be missed in the sea of 100+ so I'm opting out.  It will be fun to sit in the audience and hear what the chorus sounds like - something I rarely get to do.

But first, we have the Verdi Requiem coming up March 24th through the 27th.  I love, love, love the Verdi Requiem and am looking forward to being back at the beautiful performing arts center at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Saturday night is already sold out so if you are in town and want to see a great performance of a great masterwork, let me know and I'll be happy to invite the first 2 people who reply as my guests to the night of their choice - Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Boca!  

Next week I'll be in Tampa for the CCSVI Alliance Symposium and Walk.  See my previous post for more info.  Will report on that when I return. 

Addendum:  I finished the portrait - it needs some tweaking but basically this is it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tampa Symposium and Walk-N-Roll

Please click here to see my walk page and donate to this worthy cause

It's time to START NOW - March 4-5 will be an exciting weekend in Tampa for the first annual CCSVI Alliance Walk-N-Roll fundraiser.  I will be one of the speakers on March 4th and will be 'rolling' on March 5th.

Here's what's being planned:

Day 1 - Presentations by CCSVI treatment providers, Dr. Bulent Arslan, Moffitt Center,  Dr. Michael Dake, USF,  MS neurologist Dr. Stanley  Krolczyk, neurologist Dr. Mark Cascione, four patient perspectives, reception and silent auction. 

Day 2 - Walk-N-Roll (2 miles) on Saturday morning, from 8 am - 12 noon
             Food, friends and fun in the sun (get that vitamin D).

If you haven't already done so, please visit my walk page by clicking link on top of the page to read why I'm passionate about this cause.  As a fledgling organization we really need all the support we can get.  If you can't contribute but want to help, how about an in-kind donation for our auction?  Or if you have a business, why not be a sponsor?  Any support will be appreciated and used well - I promise you that.   Help us make this first event a huge success.  I'm counting on all of you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Beginnings

Dr. Salvatore Sclafani
A new year naturally brings new beginnings but January, 2011 was the most exciting January in my personal recollection.  What has me so excited is the time I spent this week at the 23rd Annual ISET in Miami Beach.  The International Symposium On Endovascular Therapy meets each year to share advances in ET, watch actual procedures, listen to expert presentations on technique and findings, network, and see the many vendor booths showing the latest tools for their profession. 
 This year I was very fortunate that all these things converged:
a) the ISET was being held  at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, less than an hour away; 
b) the organizers chose to showcase a number of presentations on CCSVI, inviting the leading doctors in the field to participate;  
c) the organizers graciously donated space for an information booth to the CCSVI Alliance; 
d) the Alliance asked me if I could help cover their information booth at the event!

Since ISET is not open to the public I would never have been able to have this experience without the Alliance and I am forever grateful to Sharon Richardson, President for inviting me.  It was great meeting Sharon and I immediately could see that the Alliance has the right woman for this daunting job.

Me and Dr. Dake - CCSVI Pioneer
Monday:  Woke up at 5am.  Left home at 6, got a bit lost driving to Miami Beach (only I could get confused on this straightforward trip), still arrived in time to meet Sharon and chat and the presentation began at 8am.  
Dr. Zamboni, Dr. Sclafani, Dr. Dake, Dr. Haskal, 
Dr. Machan, Dr. Benenati, Dr. Katzen and Sharon (!) were all on the podium and each made their presentations.  Over 700 people filled the room and some even sat on the floor in the back to hear about CCSVI.  It was amazing.  The presentations lasted through the morning at then broke for lunch.  I tried to take some photos but they didn't come out too well - although I did get to meet Dr. Dake when he stopped by our table later in day.

Sharon Richardson & Dr. Arslan
Sharon went off to do some video interviews with Dr. Zamboni and Dr. Haskal and I went to cover the Alliance information table.  Sharon's friend Nancy also came along to help.  We had a good number of people stop at the table to ask questions, get literature and to tell us how much they enjoyed Sharon's talk.  We had some lunch, went back to the table and then my doctor, Dr. Arslan stopped by to say hi and give me a big hug! 
By 3:30 it was quiet so I made my way home.  (Well actually since it was Monday I went to my choral rehearsal and didn't get home until 11 pm.  A very long day but amazingly I had ENERGY!  Thank you Dr. Zamboni and Dr. Arslan.)

Wednesday Sharon called to say things were quiet and she and Nancy could handle the table so I had the day off.  But Thursday, the final conference day, there was a technical panel on CCSVI and I was welcome to come.  I wasn't going to pass that up so I arrived (didn't get lost!) at 8:30 for the 9:00 session. 
Same doctors on the panel (minus Dr. Dake who had to leave early) and this time I had a great seat closer to the podium.  The mood after all the presentations was one of hope and forward movement - and new beginnings. I took photos and learned a lot;  loved Dr. Haskal's ideas and Dr. Zamboni was excellent.  

So, they're all leaving the stage and there I was!  First I got to speak with Dr. Katzen who told me to email him about my follow up Doppler!  Here - in Miami!  Then I got to talk to Sal Sclafani who was just the warmest, nicest guy ever.  Dr. Arslan came over and together we approached Dr. Zamboni and the group that was around him.  He noticed me and came over to my scooter!
  I was able to say, "Thank you for changing my life and the lives of so many of us with MS."  He held my hand and smiled that amazing smile and said "I hope you keep getting better."  Oh wow.  I moved on, as there were many waiting to talk to him.  Dr. Arslan stayed and on my way out I found myself next to Ziv Haskal.  I said to him, "I enjoyed your talk and agreed with everything you said, especially about ... " well, no need to recreate the conversation.  We spoke for about 10 minutes!   

Sharon left to catch her plane and I went down to the lobby preparing to leave when I realized I'd left my notes in the salon.  I went back to get them and on my way out (for the second time) there they all were!  Standing around, informally chatting, and I decided I had to get a better photo of Dr. Zamboni.  I took out my camera.  Dr. Arslan saw me and said, why don't you get in the photo and I'll take the picture.  I think Dr. Zamboni heard him because he motioned me over!  OMG!  I was a nervous wreck and you can see it in the photo.  I didn't get close to him and my expression was awe and shock!  Thank you Dr. Arslan!  That photo would not have happened without you.

What a wonderful way to begin the new year.  Renewed energy, CCSVI gaining more acceptance every day, doctors agreeing to collaborate and develop protocols so research can have standardized procedures, and a once in a lifetime experience for me.
My personal 'new beginnings' include exercise classes, an art class, and I'll be editing and publishing a book.  I learned a lot in 2010, and 2011 brings more to learn, more to share, and more hope for everyone.  I wish you all wonderful new beginnings.

Addendum:  After I posted this I got an email from The New World Symphony here in Miami.  (If you're not familiar with NWS, they are America's orchestral academy, founded and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT).  After fellowships at NWS, these musicians go on to play in the best orchestras in the world.)  I won two tickets to the January 30th performance at their new concert hall designed by Frank Gehry!   A new beginning for them and a great end to an amazing January for me!