Chemo Club

Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on

My mother paused before she pushed the door open to the chemotherapy treatment room and said in an excited voice “Maybe Carol will be here today.” We first met Carol three months ago on my mother’s first day of chemotherapy. On that day, I had walked into the room carrying a grilled cheese sandwich from the medical facilities’ cafeteria. My mother was sitting next to a balding woman around my mother’s age.  She introduced me to Carol and said. “Carol has really been helping me. She has had my cancer for 11 years. She used to be a nurse and has lots of great ideas for managing side affects. She is still alive and has been able to be with her grandchildren. So maybe this will work”

Carol explained that when she spoke to the doctor that morning she learned that there was another woman being treated with peritoneal cancer. They were the only two in the practice with this rare form of cancer and fate had put them in side by side chemo chairs. Through Carol we learned that Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia was the best remedy to counteract the constipating effects of chemo. She showed us a brochure from the American Cancer Society that offered inexpensive wigs and explained that she preferred not to wear one.  Carol also told us that she was unable to walk long distances and we discussed the merits of Target and Walmart and the scooters that they provided for disabled shoppers. Although I know that my mother hates the idea of being in a wheel chair or a scooter, I know that Carol will be able to yield more influence in getting to her to try it than I ever will.

I met Carol’s daughter and over the next months we learned about each other’s families. I showed her pictures of my single friend for her divorced son. By the second visit, I was bringing Carol Atkins Mocha shakes to sustain her for the next few days after chemo and Biotin to help her to regrow her hair. We arranged for a son and law to help my mother with her computer.

This last round I brought my mother and Carol the famous grilled cheese sandwiches from the cafeteria. These sandwiches and Carol were the things that my mother looked forward to help through boredom and pain of a seven hour hook up of toxic drugs being infused into her body. We discussed finding a support group that they could both attend and Carol wanted my mother to call so they could exchange news on their CA125 markers.  Today my mother called me up with “the most horrible news”. The doctor planed to do another round of chemo. “This is never going to stop” she cried. We decided that she needed to call Carol.

Previously Published on Open Salon Under Snarkychaser May 25 2011

An Intuitive’s Collage Reading for a Blogger

My Finished Collage

I was here at the ARE* in New York City psychic fair for just one thing. I wanted to have a meeting with a woman, Frances A. Smolkowski**, who made intuitive readings of people using the art form of collage. My close friend, Wendy, had an intuitive reading with her last month and described the experience as truly unique and “remarkable” and yet was unable to articulate why. Wendy is never at a loss for words or insights, so I knew that this was something I would have to experience myself.

The readers today had volunteered their time and proceeds were to benefit the ARE organization. In the large room, I could hear all of the various palm readers, tarot card readers, astrologers and Reiki healers talking. The room had been partitioned off with folding rice paper screens but I heard snatches of advice from angels and some poor woman was destined to end her relationship according to the death card. I hovered near Frances, the collage intuitive, who was in the corner with a client. It was time for me to have my reading. I was told by a volunteer that she would be running overtime and was asked if I would like to have a tarot card reading instead at this time. “No!” I cried (and I might have stomped my foot). “I want to have my reading with Frances. It’s the only reason I came here today!”

But waiting for Frances was taking too long (so far it was only five minutes). I could barely contain my excitement. I wavered between telling Frances that she was running over (I was sure that she did not know) and not wanting to make her mad at me for interrupting. I settled on peeking my head to the side of her screen with a questioning look. Frances lifted her head up to me and said “I am finishing up shortly”. I couldn’t hide my type A behavior from these psychics for too long. Of course, I was already making my self an “easy read”. However, I was to discover that this was not at all what Frances was about.

Frances was still cutting paper for the person hidden behind the screen. At what seemed to be a snail’s pace (Frances reminded me later that this was only my perception), Frances finally led her client out and ushered me behind the screen. When my impatient body sat down, I looked across from me and saw a woman who clearly did not easily get ruffled. She calmly said “I may be running overtime but I promise you that you will get all of your time – or at least what you need to have.”

Frances explained that she was creating a collage for me “My collages are beacons and also energetic bridges from the present state of functioning to the desired new state of preferred experience. They let folks experience in the present the energy of their fulfillment”. This was for the future not the past. Frances was an intuitive healer or empath.

She placed a solid blue block of paper on a folded card. This was the foundation and color that was right for me. Blue is the color that is “about communication…throat chakra, speaking & writing. It also represents a clear sky, as in space without challenges, inclement weather, so to speak. It is right for you as it sets a tone of clear communication, that joyous blue sky feeling”

Next Frances started cutting out the most gorgeous golden pieces that looked like sun rays. She explained that these represented “OUTPOURING” they were my need to express myself creatively. Frances said that I had a lot to say and express…perhaps with writing or painting.

The golden rays were placed in a special order by shade and she told me that this was my need to “PRIORITIZE”. At this point, I asked Frances about blogging as an appropriate venue for self-expression. She loved blogging and noted that with blogs “there is an audience.”  I told her that I already had a muse. I write my blog for him and he is my audience.

Intuitive College
Frances Smolkowski cutting my collage


I explained my belief that creativity comes from conflict. There is yearning for the unattainable and in the conflict and pain comes the art. “How 19th century!” Frances commented. (Frances later explained that there are newer models of new models of creativity coming from joy and not conflict.) I explained that the creativity, for me, comes from the chase, it was (for me) like shopping for the perfect thing. Frances agreed that shopping was a good metaphor but she saw me creating an original item as opposed to just looking from a set of existing items in a store. “Ah ha but that is where I begin to create” I exclaimed! “If I can’t find what I want, I make my own thing with what is available”. Frances suggested that I could make the “manifest an uncatchable muse, if you need or want it to be that way.” This is something that I will need to evaluate at great length.

I noted that she was not gluing any of the pieces down. She replied “I only do that when we are sure that they are in the right place. Some people can even feel it when I put the glue on. Others are so sensitive that can feel the colors and me cutting the shapes.” At this time I asked if I could take some pictures for my blog and she said “Not yet. I want you in the here and now” ( She did seem to get me)  Next she cut out a cup of blue and pink and said that these were feminine and playful. She said could see that I had a childlike delight (she really did get me). Frances explained that my approach was to take the serious matter and use irony, dry humor and play in getting my point across (Okay how did she know?) which she added could be very effective.

Frances added a handle to the cup and firmly added a fastener to keep the handle from slipping. The handle was the key to keeping control. We discussed how much more efficacious a bucket was than a cup for any kind of OUTPOURING. Frances affirmed that I was the kind of person who was most alive when I was giving. Others need to fill their buckets but I had more than enough to give and did not run the risk of going empty.I would always be happiest giving. I would continue to be sustained with the material: money and health as long as I stayed in line with my purpose. She advised me to keep the collage on my desk and meditate on it to keep me focused. Frances, I am so glad I finally took a picture because I lost the collage under the clutter on my desk. I hope I can still manifest my dream***.




* A.R.E. is the Association for Research and Enlightenment is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1931 by Edgar Cayce

**More information on Frances A. Smolkowski can be through her

*** As for losing my finished collage under clutter…here is what Frances has to say: the collage as a thing operates as a portal or facilitator for you to reconnect to the positive feelings you had in the session…so you can perpetuate and extend the positive feelings & metaphors. You can reconnect by remembering the image, even if you lose it or destroy it. The art object is a tool to accelerate manifestation of positive things, if you choose to use it in meditation. But, you don’t have to ever look at it again. Some people use it by feel and sit with it, eyes closed. Others use it for focus by drawing the outlines of the shapes with their eyes or staring at an element they particularly want to manifest…like the handle for control. So, no joke, you can bury yours anywhere….and it can still work for you!!

Previously published on Open Salon November 23 2011 as Snarkychaser

The Phoenix of Record Stores

sound station fire

After the fire, I stopped by and promised the owners, Bob and Liz and their friends, that I would write a post about the burning of our town’s only record store. That was two months ago and this is the first time that I have sat down to put their story in writing. Why did I wait so long? I am still waiting to see how the story ends.

The day of the fire, my teenage daughter called me in tears to tell me that the Sound Station was burning up. She was going to stay until the fire was put out. She was there all afternoon. The fire that burnt the record store was one of the largest that our town had seen in a while. My husband, son and I stopped by to join her and her friends to watch the firemen put out the fire that took at least two buildings and several business. The owners of the record store did not have insurance.

Sound Station Vigil
Sound Station

Sound Station was a meeting place for many teens and young adults. My daughter went to see bands and even did her homework in the store. Within days, a website was put up to raise money so that the owner Bob and Liz could re-establish themselves in town. The site was able to raise $10,000 within the first two days. When I went to see the damage the next day, I saw Bob and Liz there to collect some items before the building was gated off. One of the men told me that they were going to compile a CD from the bands that played at the record store to raise money for the fund. I suggested that my daughter do the artwork for the cover.sounstation

Sound Stadium Flyer

Ironically two years ago, my family had banned me from coming to the store ever since I had commented to Bob that his store looked less “cluttered” since he had added new lighting. I really upset him. He prided himself on having a neat and organized store to the point where (I was told) he might got upset when the used CDs table got out-of-order. I clearly had put my foot in my mouth that day. I think what I really meant was that the new lighting made the store look just a little more like the other well-lit “mall stores” that we have in our down town like the Gap, Coach and Williams Sonoma. I’m sorry I didn’t see the beauty then in the record store. It was a labor of love and got its life from the owners and the community and we need to have it back.

Last weekend, my daughter came home with the booty she had won from the raffle at the Sound Station fundraiser at the Knights of Columbus. She won items that had been retrieved from the burned store. They had several local fundraisers and my daughter’s rugby club even emailed us that a local microbrewer had put out a Sound Station special brew. The Fundraising CD is about to come out. My daughter has done the artwork -which was inspired from a 70s styled mural that was on the back wall of the store. She even arranged to help with High School distribution for the sale of the CD. The money raised will be given to Bob and Liz on April 21st   National Record Day. I will let you know how it turns out.

Previously posted on Open Salon March 27, 2012 as Snarkychaser

Post date 2020. The record store never reopened and all of the people who raised money to support the owners felt horrible and used.

Was Elizabeth Loring Patriot or Whore?

Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art- Velvet bodice and satin-skirted robe mounted on jointed steel panniers
from the painting Les Adieux by Moreau Le Jeune ; Gift of the Museum of the City of New York, 2011

Elizabeth Loring is cited in some contemporary history books on the American Revolution with a small sentence that she was General William Howe’s mistress during his active duty in the thirteen colonies as Commander in Chief of the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth Loring was married to Joshua Loring, Jr. who was appointed to the lucrative position of commissary general to the prisoners (it is speculated) in return for his acquiescence of the affair.

That they were reportedly lovers is hearsay and speculative gossip since we have no way of really knowing what went on behind closed doors. However, they were in each others constant company gambling and drinking. It is titillating to wonder what kind of husband could allow his wife to openly spend so much time in the company of his commander even earning herself the title of “Billy Howe’s Cleopatra”. New Jersey congressman, Francis Hopkinson penned his famous poem called “The Battle of the Kegs”

Sir William, he, snug as a flea,

Lay all the time a-snoring;

Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm

In bed with Mrs. L____g.

Some disgruntled Loyalists of the period have even insinuated that Loring was the cause for the negligence that Howe showed as Commander in Chief. There were so many occasions that Howe could have wiped out the Patriot army, yet held back.  An anonymous handbill was delivered to parliament concerning Howe’s failure to quash the rebellion: “General Howe was at New York in the lap of Ease: or, rather amusing himself in the lap of a Mrs. L____g, who is the very Cleopatra to this Antony of ours.”  This reticence to act prompted even the Patriots to wonder what game Howe was playing. Patriot Israel Putnam was to note that Howe was “either a friend of America or no General.”  Patriot General Lee also wrote of Howe: “He shut his eyes, fought his battles, drank his bottle and had his little whore.”[1]

What was Elizabeth Loring like? How could she have captivated a decadent titled battle worn career military man? I have not been able to find one image of her. She was a young 25 year old mother of two. Loring was described by her contemporaries as a “a very handsome woman, and noted for her love of play”. She was a” blue eyed flashing blonde” and “the favorite sultana lost 300 guineas at a single sitting”. What is even more interesting is that in 1778 she moved to England, reunited with her husband Joshua Jr. at the end of the war and had three more children with him.

What kind of man was Elizabeth’s husband, Joshua Jr.? In the words of a Loyalist contemporary “Joshua had a handsome wife. The general …was fond of her. Joshua had no objections. He fingered the cash, the general enjoyed the madam.” Joshua Jr. was described as a vile sociopath in Ethan Allen’s  words:

This Loring is a monster!…There is not his like in human shape: He exhibits a smiling countenance, seems to wear a phiz of humanity, but has been instrumentally capable of the most consummate acts of wickedness…(clothed with the authority of a Howe) murdering premeditatedly (in cold blood) near or quite 2000 helpless prisoners…(at N.York). He is the most mean- spirited,cowardly,deceitfuland destructive animal in God’s creation  below.[2]


[1] Revolutionary Ladies by Philip Young Copyright 1977 Alfred A. Knopf,Inc page 59

[2] Revolutionary Ladies by Philip Young Copyright 1977 Alfred A. Knopf,Inc p.71


Revolutionary Mothers Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence by Carol Berkin (First Vintage Books Edition Copyright 2005)

1776  by David McCullough (copyright 2005 Simon & Schuster Paperbacks)

Revolutionary Ladies by Philip Young Copyright 1977 Alfred A. Knopf,Inc.

Blog post: The United Empire Loyalists of Canada

“Loyalist Trails” 2010-31: August 1, 2010

Previously published in Open Salon under Snarkychaser May 17 2012

What Kind of Car Do I Need to Pick Up a Corpse?

Honda Odessey 2011


Last week, I was just about to ask the hospital security guard where to check in for my out patient procedure, when both of us looked at a man walking purposefully through the lobby with a very strange smile. He had left his car on the drop off horse shoe and the guard yelled to stop him.

“Sir you can’t leave your car there. You have to park it in the garage.”

The man halted and then started walking toward the elevator.

“You can’t park there that is for drop off and pick up” The guard shouted.

I was mesmerized because there was just something so odd about his wrinkly khaki pants and the fake smile. He looked like gamblers that I have seen coming out of Atlantic City. There was something unsavory and stale about him. He walked back to us and said

“OK I’m here to take out a body. You asked for it I didn’t want to say it.” The man  continued walking. The guard quickly said “sorry” to me.

At the time I doubted that the man really was picking up a body in such a hurry. I have never yet seen a body carried out of the lobby before. I suspected that he was hoping that we would be too shocked to stop him. Besides, he had some SUV or something. Was he going to crumple a stiff in his back? When my husband caught up with me (after dutifully parking the car in the lot),I asked him what kind of car the man in back of us had and he said, “Dodge Caravan” .

The next day I called the hospital and spoke to security. I asked them about their policy for body removal. “Well, usually the morticians take them out of the back”. The guard told me. I pressed and asked if any families just dispense with the morticians an stuffed them in their cars. “Well not usually but sometimes I have seen people using Dodge Caravans.” Hmmm. Today I spoke to a security guard of another local hospital and he told me that they have never allowed corpses through the front door. People collecting bodies need to go to the hospital morgue. We agreed that the body collector that I met was just trying to get over and avoid parking.

But if I did want to collect my own body, what kind of car would I need?  I have noticed that this year’s 2011 Honda Odyssey looks like a hearse.

I was recently at a red light with a new model Chrysler Town and Country hearse and noticed that it was very compact- maybe even smaller than the Odyssey.

Previously Published on Open Salon 2011

The Intuitive

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on

Last Friday, I was in the orthopedist office with my daughter for yet another rugby  injury. To pass the time we tried to spot all of the models in this month’s Marie Claire who looked like David Bowie. My daughter criticized the fact that I passed all of the political and sports articles. To spite her, I started reading (out loud) the article on the new breed of psychics who have re branded themselves as intuitives. One of the intuitive -to the stars- helped a former newscaster start her own business and write a book.

This was my psychic! Sixteen years ago before he became famous, I went to see him. At that time, he told me that I would start my own business and be in high demand. I would also write and that people from all over the world would see my work on the computer. I had seen him on the suggestion of friend, who had just sold a treatment to Disney. I suspected then, that this psychic must have assumed that I was a writer because my friend was. After reading theMarie Claire article, I had a nagging feeling that perhaps it was possible that most people wanted to write books and start their own businesses. However, for me sixteen years ago, nothing could have been further from the truth.  When I told him that I was not a writer, he did make the suggestion that I might be an accountant which was, and is, laughable.

What is more laughable (and sad) is listening to the tape that we recorded 16 years ago. I had saved it in a box in my closet and listened to it that night after reading the Marie Claire article.  I not listened to the tape in the ensuring years. Over those years, I just remembered a few of his predictions for my future:

1.      I would be very comfortable financially. This has given me much comfort over the years. When I worried about money, I just remembered that I was supposed to be rich and was not meant to be poor. The worst part about not having money is worrying about not having it. It helps to know that it can magically appear at any moment.

2.      That I would have two kids. At the time that I saw the psychic, I had a seven month colicky baby and was determined not to try it again. I believe that my words to him were “She is very colicky and difficult. Could she be reincarnated from a war torn country?”  The psychic was adamant that I would have two loves. I suggested that it might be two husbands but he was sure that they were children. After six more years, the memory of sleep deprivation wore off and I did have another baby. I think I suggested to my husband that our destiny was to have two children so we should not waste any more time.

3.      I was really reincarnated from an alien race. Eventually I would come to understand this more. This must explain why I have been unable to participate in past life regression exercises. Everyone else has so many fond memories of ancient Egypt and I just get leg cramps.

What I actually heard on the tape, aside from the three predictions that I remembered, was a man grasping for information from me. I never told him what I did and after 30 minutes, he said “I still don’t know what you do”. In fact, listening to the tape made me cringe because so much of what was said was off the mark.

In the tape, I also stated quite clearly that the reason I came to see the psychic was to find out where I should move. I hated the house that I was renting and did not feel “safe”. I used the word “safe” and the psychic jumped on the need for me to resolve “trust” issues.  I am sure that trust issues  are a safe bet for most people, however in my case, I really felt that the suburbs were isolated ,creepy and unsafe without the safety of numbers. The security and fire alarm went off constantly during my three years in that rented house. The owner had done his own renovations and I think he may have done a poor job with the electrical system. Someone even jumped through the open bottom window and took my purse early one morning when he must have seen that I walked up the stairs. It was a beautiful old house in a neighborhood that had seen better days. We got to live there for the bargain rate of $800 per month on the condition that we would take care of it.

The psychic suggested that I clear the “bad energy” out of the lower floor. I could use sage, fresh flowers, prayer and ammonia. The house was not evil but had vestiges of bad energy. I would grow to love the house, according to the psychic, and then we would move in two years to another state to a house that we heard about through family. We did move in two years- to a house two towns over in the same state – and we used a realtor. The couple who owned the house did have bad energy and divorced as did the owners prior to them. I did not ever grow to love the house; however, I do see that I could have been more positive about the whole adventure.

What the “intuitive” did do was to give me comfort at the time. I would be rich and we move soon. I also had some power to change my environment with a little cleaning. In retrospect, I think that the thing that I needed most was an attitude shift about all of my sudden life changes. It is ironic that I actually am more willing to believe a psychic than I would a therapist. I mean anyone can become a licensed counselor. How many people are in touch with their spirit guides?

I wish that I had never pulled out that tape after all of these years. I would really like to believe that my “intuitive” was right. The few things from that meeting that I did selectively retain, was all that I needed to remember (except maybe the alien part). Besides with Open Salon, people from all over the world are able to read what I write on the computer so maybe he was right after all.

house in plainfield

Our rental house for $800 a month in 1996.

Previously appeared in Open Salon August 1, 2012.

A Mom’s Advice to Halliburton

Photo by u0410u043bu0435u043au0441u0430u043du0434u0440 u041cu0430u043au0435u0434u043eu043du0441u043au0438u0439 on

To Missing Items Department at Haliburton:

I was reading today’s Wall Street Journal headlines out to my teenage daughter this morning (I would link to it but you would have to pay to read it). I happened to notice that you may have lost a very small radioactive tube located in West Texas. Of course my daughter is particularly snarky and said “Can’t Halliburton do anything right? They are like Russia. They seem to hurt a lot of people by doing things so poorly”. Well you know teenagers- they can be so judgmental. I suggested that losing a 7 inch radioactive tube must be easy for such a big company. We lose things all the time in our house. 7 inches is just the size of a screwdriver- something that we always lose in our house. I know that you have lots of teams searching for the tube but did you try looking in the bathroom stalls to see if someone may have left it on top of the toilet paper?

 In any event, I wouldn’t just leave a thing like that locked up unguarded in a little metal shielding with a radioactive sign. That sign alone would be tempting to so many teenagers -locks can always be broken.  I have one screw driver that I have managed to keep in my junk drawer for years. I think it is less tempting to my husband because it has a flowery handle.

Screwdriver available at

I suggest that you disguise the tube- when you find it again- with flowers. Instead of a placing it in a flimsy metal shield with all of those cool yellow and black danger signs, place it in a Children’s Vitamin container. Remember that EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE.”

Published in Open Salon September 14, 2012