My Journal

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 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,

Ali


*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.

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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!

Ali

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     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!

Ali

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      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,

Ali

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 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,

Ali

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      When December 23rd arrives each year, it brings with it mixed emotions for my family and I.  When I was just 8 years old, my house burned two days before Christmas.  We lost everything except each other and our beloved Labrador Retriever.  It was an extremely traumatic event that caused many nightmares and paranoias for years.  It remains to this day one of the worst days of my life.  However, there was a silver lining to be found amidst the rubble.

     Very few things were salvagable from the total loss I used to call home.  Suddenly, we were homeless and only two days before Christmas.  I wondered if Santa would be able to find me.  Would we have a Christmas at all?  As it turns out, we did.  That year we had so much to be thankful for and we were reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.  My elementary school surprised my mom, who was active in the PTA, with gifts and household essentials.  The church we attended collected items for us, friends from school sent me cards and brought me presents, and our family helped us as well.  It was so touching how everyone rallied around us during our time of need.

     Presents and gifts are nice, but we all need to be reminded of the reason we celebrate.  There is perhaps no greater explanation of the meaning of Christmas than Linus' speech to Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas.


         " And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."


     May you all have a wonderful Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Boxing Day.  (If I have inadvertently left out a holiday, I apologize and wish you many blessings also!). Happy New Year to everyone, may we all have a happy, healthy and blessed 2015!


Much love and God Bless,

Ali

                    

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Maurice and Robin Gibb

      On this day in 1949, a pair of twins were born to Barbara and Hugh Gibb.  They, along with their older brother, would go on to become music legends.  Robin and Maurice Gibb, with brother Barry, formed the Bee Gees.  Their beautiful three-part harmony and God-given talents in songwriting catapulted them to superstardom and cemented their place in music history.  I could talk about all of their successes and honors, but I won't.  Anyone can google them to read their discography and statistics.  As good as they were as musicians, they were even better people.

     I count myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Robin, Maurice and Barry.  They were so kind, taking time to sign autographs and take pictures as well as chat with my mom and I.  For them, it was a little bit of time out of their day.  However, for me it was an experience that I will carry with me and remember fondly for the rest of my life.  My story is not unlike many fans who had the chance to meet them.  They were truly genuine and gracious.  Through the years, I would occasionally send a card or note to Robin.  Without fail, I always received something back from him.  One year, he sent me a Christmas card from he and his family.  One of the envelopes he sent was clearly written in his own handwriting.  Maurice passed away in 2003 and Robin passed away in 2012.  Today, which would have been their 65th birthday, I give thanks for their lives and remember the wonderful people they were.

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President John F. Kennedy

     Today is the 51st anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  It is a day that will live in infamy, seared into the minds of all who were old enough to remember.  Just as the shocking and tragic events of September 11, 2001 are to members of my generation, every person knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when the horrific events took place.

     I have always been fascinated by our charismatic 35th President and his beautiful family.  They represented such hope and vibrancy in a time of great transition in our country.  President Kennedy dared to dream of space exploration and did more than any president before him to ensure that this dream would become a reality.  Our hopes of expeditions to Mars and commercial space flight are possible because of John F. Kennedy.  This is why the NASA space center in Cape Canaveral, Florida bears his name.

     President Kennedy's forward thinking and desire for change made him beloved by American citizens, but very unpopular in certain circles.  Those who opposed civil rights, members of the mafia, as well as those who were pro-Castro and pro-Communism wanted Kennedy out of power. 

     On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, traveled to Dallas, Texas for events supporting his run for a second term in office.  We all know what happened that fateful day in Dealey Plaza.  There are, however, many theories as to exactly who was responsible for killing the president and why.  It is likely that we will never know the whole truth.  Every time I watch documentaries which feature footage from bystanders, such as Abraham Zapruder, I find myself hoping that the outcome will be different.  Each time, I hope that the car makes its way through the plaza without incident.  Of course, my mind knows better, but it is harder to convince my heart.

     Let us then remember, not those who were responsible for the ugliness of that day, but the man who challenged us to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

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Created by Ali Baldridge