My Journal

The Darkness : (from left) Dan Hawkins, Justin Hawkins, Rufus Taylor and Frankie Poullain

Welcome to The Darkness...

 I have been a fan of the rock band Queen since I was in college.  I absolutely adore them, they are one of my favorite bands.  I recently re-ignited my passion for the band thanks to some weekly Beatles and Queen rock trivia with a friend.  In my quest to find challenging questions, I learned a lot about them that I didn't know.  I listened to all of my favorite tracks and found new favorites as well.  

Through my research, I discovered that Roger Taylor's son, Rufus, was also a drummer and playing with a band called The Darkness.  I was curious, so I decided to check them out.  I listened to songs from their latest album, 'Last of Our Kind', and I was completely hooked.  All of the members of the band are phenomenal.  Frontman Justin Hawkins has an incredible vocal range as well as a stage presence reminiscent of Freddie Mercury or Mick Jagger.  Justin's brother, Dan Hawkins, is the lead guitarist and can bust out some impressive riffs in addition to his technical talents in producing.  Frankie Poullain not only rocks the bass and adds a cool, funky element through his demeanor and sense of style, but he also contributes a fantastic vocal on the last track of the album called 'Conquerors'.  Last but not least, Rufus Taylor is an incredible drummer who has clearly inherited serious drumming ability from his dad.  He certainly has no need to trade on his name as his talent speaks for itself.  He has an exuberant, hard-hitting style that makes him so much fun to watch.  The combination of these four guys is really something quite special.  Please check out their website,  Their music is available to listen on Spotify and for purchase on iTunes.

*The album 'Last of Our Kind' was released on June 1, 2015.  The previous drummer for The Darkness, Emily Dolan Davies, had already recorded the tracks for the album when she departed the group in May.  She was replaced by Rufus Taylor shortly afterward.  Rufus can be seen playing with the guys on their 'Blast of Our Kind' tour.*

Rock on guys!



 Hey Everyone!

Just an update to let you all know how I am doing sans pain meds.  I never thought it would be possible to recapture myself, to once again recognize the outgoing and fun-loving girl I was prior to LPHS.  However, I am rediscovering that person and am so grateful to have the chance to reacquaint myself with that aspect I thought was lost.  I am still dealing with my kidney pain and am also currently battling my first flare/crisis since stopping the meds.  It is interesting how the crises have evolved over time.  This current flare mirrors those I had at the beginning of my journey.  I believe that the meds played a role in altering the frequency and characteristics of the flares, possibly making them worse.  I am just trying to take things as they come and deal with them the best way I can.  Overall, I truly just feel grateful to, in a way, have a second chance at life.  Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and amazing support.  I love you all more than you will ever know.

Much Love,



 New Beginnings

Hey All,

I made an anouncement to my friends on Facebook several days ago about some changes I am making in my life.  This past Friday I had my most recent doctor's appointment.  The doctors are wanting me to go into a program where they would use a medication called Suboxone in order to transition me to another medication called buprenorphine.  They admittedly knew nothing about either medication (which inspired absolutely ZERO confidence in me).  They told me multiple times that the medication I have been on is very strong and that I could die.  After the appointment and for the rest of the day, I kept having the feeling that this proposed treatment was not the right thing for me to do.  I am convinced that it was God telling me not to go through with it.  I made the decision that I am not doing it.  I immediately ceased taking my as-needed pain medication and I began tapering myself off of the other pain medication as well.  I know that it will not be easy, but I am strong.  I am just tired of this roller coaster ride, and this is where I get off.  

Today marks Day 4 of my new beginning and I am doing pretty well.  I am already starting to feel more like myself than I have in years.

I can't even tell you how excited I am about the future.  It feels like I have been dormant for a long time and I am just waking up.  As a kind of disclaimer, I will say that if you are considering a similar change to do so with the approval of your doctor.  Your prayers, positive vibes and good karma are so appreciated!

Also, I have been listening to an album I just discovered called "Conscious Revolution" by Cipes and the People.  It has a pop/reggae vibe and I absolutely love it!  It has been the perfect score to accompany my fresh start.  The lead singer, Greg Cipes, is a well-known voice talent, actor and surfer.  It is perfect for summer (or anytime, really) and infused with positivity and love.  I would encourage you to check it out on iTunes and to also check out his web page,  Much love, Greg, much love!


 Hey guys!  

I am putting on my Sherlock Holmes hat, digging out my magnifying glass and setting out to get the 4-1-1 on the search for the tomb of Cleopatra.  I am doing research for my current art piece (yes, you heard it here first!  My next project is none other than the beguiling Queen of Egypt herself.).  As with all projects I do that are based on historical figures, I conduct research in order to learn more about the person and to gain some perspective on their life.  I found several articles from 2009 that reported on research and excavation being conducted at a place called TapOsiris Magna, near Alexandria, Egypt.  Dr. Zahi Hawass was leading a team of archaeologists and experts in the search for the resting place of Cleopatra and her star-crossed lover, Marc Antony.  Dr. Hawass had hope that their tombs would be found in some of the deeper chambers at the site.  The most current articles I found were dated 2011.  As those who know me will tell you, I am absolutely fearless when it comes to contacting anyone.  It doesn't matter whether they are celebrities, people in power, or individuals at the top of their field.  At the end of the day, they are all just people.  If you are respectful, most likely they will be too.  Anyway, I proceeded to contact one of the people mentioned in the articles from 2009.  Dr. Roger Vickers, who is an expert in Geophysics, conducted a geophysical survey of TapOsiris in order to get a clearer picture of what may lie underground.  The survey revealed several underground chambers, in which Dr. Hawass hoped he may find the tombs of Cleopatra and Antony.  I asked Dr. Vickers if there had been any developments since 2011.  He said that he did not have any information as to the current status of the project, but suggested I contact some of his colleagues.  I have emailed Dr. Hawass to see if there is any new information on the search.  If I am able to learn more, I will post the info here.  Take care all!

Your faithful intrepid reporter,


*Update* - I have been continuing my research and have learned that the archaeologist at the forefront of this project is Dr. Kathleen Martinez.  She was the one responsible for the expedition coming to fruition.  It was her idea to look for the tomb of Cleopatra in a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.  The reason for this is that Cleopatra believed she was the incarnation of Isis and that Marc Antony was the incarnation of the god Osiris.  Dr. Martinez is truly an amazing woman and I believe that she is making history in the field of Archaeology.  I have been talking further with Dr. Vickers, who has been extremely kind and helpful.  When I find out more, I'll let you guys know.

Diagram of a subcutaneous port

      I have been wanting to post an entry about subcutaneous IV ports for some time, but just haven't gotten around to it until now.  First of all, let me explain what a subcutaneous IV port is and for what purposes it is used.  Subcutaenous means "under the skin", so a subcutaneous IV port is an intravenous access point located underneath the skin.  IV ports are used in patients who require permanent access for IV medications.  Cancer patients often have ports for use in chemotherapy treatments.

     I have never had the best veins.  Nurses have always told me that they tend to roll, which makes blood draws and IV placement difficult.  When I started having symptoms in 2010, my out-of-control pain flares made frequent emergency room visits necessary.  I always dreaded getting stuck for the IV, because more times than not, the nurses had to stick me multiple times in order to get a vein.  As time went on, my veins only got worse.  I told my doctor about the horrors I endured and she said that I may need to have a port installed.  A solution that meant I would no longer have to suffer endless poking and prodding?  Sign me up!

     I went in for the outpatient procedure which took about 45 minutes.  When I left the hospital, I had a little bump under my skin on the left side of my chest.  The incision smarted for a few days, but it wasn't too bad.  (Especially considering the kidney pain I have to deal with, a little incision was nothing - piece of cake!).  The first few times my port was accessed, it did hurt, but it was much quicker and easier than the alternative.  The more my port was used, the less it hurt.  I was so relieved that I didn't have to worry about painful sticks and veins blowing, which consequently meant even more sticks.  I am so very grateful for my little piece of hardware!  It makes dealing with LPHS a little bit easier.

     If you are dealing with a chronic illness that requires frequent IV access, talk with your doctor to see if you would be a good candidate for port placement.  It has been an absolute blessing for me!

Take care!



     There are many women, from different points in time and walks of life, that I admire.  As an artist, I enjoy drawing portaits of these various women.  My most recent piece has Marie Antoinette as its subject.

     Most people know that Marie Antoinette was the Queen of France from 1774 until 1792.  She was famous for her extravagant spending, wardrobe and hairstyles, which garnered her the nickname "Madame Deficit" from the struggling Parisian populace.  The late 18th century was a difficult time for the people of France.  Food shortages, specifically bread, plagued the majority of the citizens and incited resentment of the priveleged monarchy.  In an effort to influence public opinion, rumors were spread that the Queen, in response to the plight of the starving citizens, said "let them eat cake".  This greatly angered the people who believed either that the Queen was so out of touch to think that the poor would have access to a delicacy like cake, or that she was simply cruel and uncaring.  The truth is that Marie Antoinette never uttered that phrase.  Many untruths about the Queen were circulated during this time to fuel the fires of insurgency.  King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were removed from power and imprisoned along with their children, Marie-Therese and Louis-Charles.  The Parisian mobs, so consumed with hatred for the royals, sought to tear them apart.  The Queen's suffering and anguish is best explained in her own words.  "I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children.  My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long."

     It is easy to view her as simply a shallow caricature, but if you take a closer look you will find a strong, courageous woman.  

     I documented the progress of the piece in photos, with the finished product at the end.  I decided to turn those photos into a slideshow.  I am hoping to offer for sale prints of my art here on the website in the future.  When the time comes, I will make announcements on social media, so stay tuned!  I hope you all enjoy it!

Take care!



      When I was young, I never understood why Good Friday was called "Good" or why the crucifix was one of the most common and beloved images of Our Lord.  I couldn't imagine why anyone would have good connotations with the suffering of Our Savior.  Now that I'm older, and especially after becoming Catholic, I understand.  While the agony Our Lord endured is horrible and not something we like to think about, the purpose of it and the result are beautiful.  Jesus humbled Himself by coming to the earth in the form of a human baby and living amongst imperfect people in an imperfect world.  At the age of 33 He suffered on the Cross and died so that, upon our deaths, we may hope to join Him in Heaven.  Isn't it wonderful to know that someone loves us that much?  Whenever we look upon the image of Christ on the Cross we see His suffering, but more importantly, we see why He suffered.  By dying on Calvary, He won for us victory over sin and death.  That, my friends, is very good indeed.  Happy Easter to all!

Much love and God Bless,



 The ASMR Phenomenon

     I recently watched a segment on Good Morning America that I found very interesting.  The subject of the piece was Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, as it is more commonly referred.  ASMR is defined by Wikipedia as "a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli."  There is not much that is known scientifically about this modality, but it has shown to be effective as a relaxation or meditative technique.  Many insomniacs and anxiety sufferers have found relief thanks to this therapy.

     In the GMA news segment, they featured a woman who has her own YouTube channel where she posts ASMR-specific videos.  Maria is an ASMRtist, or one who employs techniques to elicit or evoke the ASMR response in others.  These techniques include but are not limited to whispering, tapping, flipping pages and roleplay.  The sound of brushing hair triggers the tickling, tingly feeling in some, while roleplay situations such as getting a haircut or makeup application work for others.  Her channel, GentleWhispering, has many videos posted from which you can choose.  

     When people hear about the whispering and role-playing videos, some may believe that they are sexual in nature.  In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.  Remember when you were young and your mother would read to you before bed?  Think of how it relaxed you and always seemed to lull you to sleep.  Well, this is just like that.  

     I am going to be experimenting with some alternative therapies to see if there is anything out there that can provide relief from the pain of my LPHS.  As I try different things, I will write about my experiences here in the journal.  I happened upon ASMR quite by accident, but I am very glad I did.  It has helped me to relax and fall asleep, when before I struggled many nights with insomnia.  Maria is one of the best ASMRtists out there and I would encourage you to check out her channel on YouTube.   At first it may seem a bit odd, certainly different, but if you give it a chance it may just pay off.  I know it has for me.  You can click here, or you can go to the Helpful Links page on my site for the link.

     I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a safe New Year's.  Here's to a happy and healthy 2015!

Much love,


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Created by Ali Baldridge