Community Quilt Project

Community Quilts are a way of sharing care, compassion and support for community members who are facing illness or other hardships.
  • I Recently Accompanied My Young Friend To Switzerland...To Die...With Dignity.

     I met Robin in the waiting room at the Denver hospital. She has just finished an infusion, and i was waiting whilst my friend Maise was in with the doctor. I’ve been accompanying Maise to appointments for a while. Noticing my yarmulke, she told me about a wonderful Kosher deli near the hospital that had a dozen kinds of kugel(!), and would we join her for a nosh? We did. What a delightful and delicious introduction.

     Both had/have multiple sclerosis. Progressive forms of the disease. The prognosis for Robin was complete paralyzation accompanied by near constant pain. And emotional trauma. At the time, she was 31. No family aside from a nice but emotionally distant father. A little savings and no ability to work,..the neurological implications made even sedentary work impossible. Her Masters degree would not be helpful when her remaining and dwindling funds dried up, and medicaid and poverty set-in. She was in great pain. And in great fear.

     After a correspondence of close to a year, she wanted to visit my town of 2000 year-rounders, three hours south, being known for having 38 spiritual centers, of different paths and lineages, all harmonious with each other, under the largest cluster of 14,000 ft peaks in the country. She no longer could go trekking through Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet..but she could meet the indigenous of those countries here and learn the practices of their lineages. To help with those inner questions that her condition brought to the surface. By then, which i was unaware..she had planned to die before the disease made it impossible for her to follow through and act on her wishes.

     In the United States, there are five states that have death with dignity laws. California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and my own, Colorado. must have a terminal illness..six months to live. Diseases like M.S...well, they’re terminal without being terminal. One can live for years, in pain and paralyzed. Hence, alas, not terminal under the laws of the land.

     After a month here, she moved into my home. I’m a natural care giver, having  seen friends, family, and at times mere acquaintances, through physical and emotional hardships. I had the inclination and experience. My home has a lot of room for the coming necessity of a wheelchair, and a ramp was acquired. For 10 months. We went through the trials and tribulations of this form of combat. She communed with Maise, a kindred soul also afflicted.  We frequented the many Stupas, Ashrams, Ziggurats, Lodges, Sanghas, Zendos, and Centers of my community. We often visited the Great Sand Dunes that can be seen from the windows 12 miles south. Bucket List trips to Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc. Multiple trips to the wolf sanctuary in Ramah, N.M. She loved the wolves. No hunting is allowed anywhere near our vast area, so the deer, antelope and elk are plentiful and daily visitors to my land. And their life gave Robin much solace. All animals gave her peace. She switched over to my vegetarian diet, and one-upped it by eating almost a raw food diet. That really deescalated the pain, thankfully..but not the progression. It was so advanced. And we times of her decision.

     There are three countries in the western world that will assist with the difficult decision of dying with dignity. Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. With medical proof, all three will help assist one to die if one has a serious but non terminal illness. All three will help any person over the age of 85 die..even if they are healthy of mind and body. All three will, in many cases, help the physically healthy partner of an ill patient also die(!!!), die alongside their loved one if their grief is inconsolable. Belgium and the Netherlands will help one with a mental illness die. Switzerland will do so only if the mental illness is caused by the disease in question..for example, depression or a neurological disorder. Belgium will only assist those from Belgium. Netherlands, from residents of the Netherlands. Only Switzerland will take foreigners from any country, due to a law regarding civil liberties and civil rights, that has been in place there since 1942. Dignitas and Life Circle being just two of these Swiss organizations. Euthanasia, which is where a lethal injection is administered by a physician, is legal only in Belgium and the Netherlands...whereas Switzerland only permits assisted suicide, i.e. giving the patient the liquid medication for them to take themselves. In America, in those five states, for those is also assisted suicide. Usually a powder that dissolves in water, given to the patient to take home to be taken at their own choosing.

     Robin sent her medical records to one such organization, and after being accepted, she became a member. She sent in her deposit. The knowledge that she was accepted really put her at ease. She really thought this though. She loved life. But she didn’t want to live in the circumstances that were soon to await her. She met many that were in that condition...and the thought made her visibly shudder.

     There were some that thought she should live with her pain. That she shouldn’t have a choice. To her face. To those, she said...and pardon for the bluntness,

     “ Soon i will be completely paralyzed, and chances are that i’ll end up in such a state, in a dingy section-8 apartment near an overpass in South Denver, waiting for an underpaid service worker to come in for three hours a day, and to digitally disimpact my bowels, as i won’t have the ability for even that”…. that always shut them down, and rightfully so.

     She asked me to accompany her.

     Of course.

     The above picture described the flight to Switzerland.

     On arrival, we met the staff,...they were extremely caring and thoughtful. The head of this particular organization is a noted human rights attorney. Most that take this journey spend a week or less at the comfortable accommodations made available, before they did what they came to do. However, we spent 6 weeks living near the Italian border in a beautiful, picturesque town. Raw food was abandoned for the gorgeous cuisine. She truly felt at peace with the Monks and Brothers at various mostly Catholic monasteries and cathedrals..most ornate and grand. They were particularly loving and kind to her, the Brothers at St. Anthonys. The Vatican, especially the Basilica of St. Peter, had her in tears. Without the thought of politics or history,..and being completely in the present with a friend that will soon was indescribably beautiful. Art of majestic beauty.

     Then..when she was truly ready..she told me that it was time. ‘Are you sure’?, i asked. ‘We can always go back’. She smiled. It was time.

     Let’s just say that those last moments, when the medicine was given and she drank..and the harpist she requested was playing at the back of the room ( this was Europe, after all...playing  Jefferson Starship (!) )..was most difficult for me to hold it together. I was a paramedic a thousand years ago in the 80’s, and holding on to life was in my makeup. She seemed at peace. There was a large cat in her lap. We held hands. She smiled.. a very short friend was gone.

     I honored her requests on what to do with her items, who should get what. What to do with her ashes. Some to be placed here. Some there. She wanted some ashes to be thrown off the Cliffs of Mohair in Ireland, which she had visited during her school years abroad. It was there, whilst tossing her ashes into the air, that i felt an overwhelming sensation of gratitude and love. I felt her presence as vivid as if she were there in the flesh. She was say thank you.

     I left to Ireland directly from Switzerland, and then back home to Colorado. Strange.. flying one direction with my friend in the seat next to me, and the other direction her being in a wooden box in my carry-on.

     Though my home is teeming with life...various pets seemed so very quite. So quite. Internally..i was quite.

     And then the phone calls and visits. From Maise. She’s wheelchair bound. 38 years old. Also with progressive M.S. Bleak prognosis. No family. I’ve known her for years. The disease has now become unmanageable for her on her own.

     She moved in three months ago.

     She’s tentatively planning on Switzerland in December. And if indeed it was so...would i accompany her?

     Of course.

    Of course.

  • Community Quilt for Puddytat - Round 2

    Our friend, Puddytat, is in treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  Chemo is not an easy ride, by any means.  We want her to know that we are with her, holding her in good thought, and sending her healing wishes every day.  We can do this by wrapping Puddytat in a community quilt!  It will be a very special gift from the community to an awesome activist, someone we love and appreciate deeply.

    Leave a loving message in the comments and I will transcribe it in archival ink on muslin, to be stitched into Puddytat’s quilt.  She will be able to take it with her to treatment, rest under it at home, and draw strength from it any time she needs a lift.  There is great power in loving words!

    Rb608's quilt, basted for quilting
    rb608’s quilt, pin basted for quilting

    It takes time and material to make a community quilt and it is a living for me and my sister.  If you would like to contribute toward its cost, here is a PayPal link for Puddytat's quilt — or message me for an address if you prefer a check.  $20/message is suggested but no worries if you cannot afford to donate.  We still want your message!  This is a crowdfunded thing and some always give more to cover messages for those who are short on funds.

    Please note, if you leave a quilt message in PayPal rather than in the comments below, please Kos mail me as well to let me know.  The way PayPal is now configured, it is easy to miss attached notes. 

  • The Zen of Art, and the Art of Giving Back to ZenTrainer

    Asterkitty here, reporting for community duty. As a recipient of ZenTrainer’s extreme thoughtfulness in a time of need, and along with fundraising to help her recover (see below), I am offering five brand new paintings for sale at a fraction of their usual value, to assist with her post-surgery recovery while she is not able to work. My overhead expenses will be covered, domestic priority mailing will be included, and ZenTrainer will receive the balance. I am donating my time and labor. She and I have already discussed this. Everything is good.

    Each painting is 8x8 inches square, acrylic on a treated board meant for artwork, and are ready to hang as is. They are selling for $200. each, at this price through midnight on January 31st only. Comment below, Kosmail me here, or email me via my website for more info on the artwork or to claim one for your very own. I will compare time stamps on emails and messages in case two of you want the same painting. All will be as fair as possible.

    Scroll down to see the other four fundraiser paintings. Let’s call the one above “Single Tree”, for now.

    ZenTrainer is also accepting cash donations to help with her care. See further below for how to do this.

    Paraphrased from Sara R’s diary of two weeks ago:

    ZenTrainer is a breast cancer survivor – and she lives in a red State (Tennessee) which did not accept the Medicaid expansion. She was able to get limited insurance last year on her low income – but unfortunately, Blue Cross/Blue Shield pulled out of Tennessee for 2017. She is now only covered for catastrophic care. ZenTrainer was extremely fortunate to be able to get her breasts reconstructed before her coverage ended. But her healing is going to take awhile and she will need medical care in the meantime.

    Healing from this surgery is no small thing. While she is healing, ZenTrainer is forbidden to lift anything, raise her arms above her head, or even sit for any amount of time. She is not supposed to drive. Needing a ride the other day and unable to get one from friends, she drove herself to an appointment and hurt herself badly doing it – setting her healing back a couple weeks at least. ZenTrainer cannot work for a couple more months – she makes her living cleaning houses and working with dogs, both very physical jobs, neither of which she can do right now. So ZenTrainer has no current income.  None. She is going to need:

    •     to hire help for housekeeping, pet care, and errands
    •     some visits from a home health care provider
    •     prescription medicine and presciption bras
    •     doctor visits (no longer covered by insurance)
    •     some cushion for bills and living expenses

    Please help this lovely woman who has done so much for many here. She has been a tireless advocate for downticket candidates through 90 for 90, she has been a pillar of the Monday Night Cancer Club, offering support and advice to those afflicted by cancer, and she has freely offered advice to pet owners whenever it is needed. The PWB Peeps know her very well!

    Paraphrased from ZenTrainer’s email to me on Monday:

    I do need to buy special bras, though I hesitate to call them bras. They aren’t anything a Victoria’s Secret Angel would wear. They are a cross between a bullet-proof vest and one of those whale bone contraptions women wore in the Outlander days. I have to wear these 24 hours a day and for at least a few more weeks! [She only has one such bra, as they are very expensive.] On the upside, it seems my surgery has had a weather predicting effect on my poor boobs, so there may be a future for me on the weather channel.

    I am trying to do everything my doctors say, but jeez, no arms over my head, no bending, no lifting over 5 lbs. I can’t even do things like wipe a counter or sweep a floor – no repetitive motion stuff that could cause something such as a blood clot, although not exactly a blood clot – it’s called something else, and it would put me back in the hospital.

    I knew this was going to be hard and take a long time, but it seems to be going by in dog time, every hour is seven hours. And I knew there would be pain... For other people, but not me. I have been really nauseous, the flu is going around and I thought that was it. No, turns out it was because I was ignoring the pain and the pain was causing nausea. Why is it that I can ignore the pain, but not the nausea? Beats me. I am very tired, is all I can say.

    This recent diary, “I predicted this: Republicans freaked by Daily Kos. Thanks to David Nir.”, by ZenTrainer was on the Rec List with 464 recs, and was unusually short for a ZT diary. Go to her page, where there are so many excellent down-ticket diaries. Helping her now is like ZenTrainer getting paid for all the work she does, for Daily Kos and for the Democratic Party.

    And the following is paraphrased from my December pre-surgery dairy for ZenTrainer:

    Nobody has done more at Daily Kos for down-ticket candidates than ZenTrainer. According to her page here at Daily Kos she has written nearly 100 diaries with the tag 90for90, with the aim of promoting Democrats in local races. Everything she has done for these candidates, and therefore, for all of us, she has done without pay. ZT does it because it’s the right thing to do, and although exhausted at times for health reasons, she is absolutely tireless when it comes to doing this very important work.

    ZenTrainer is super-generous, and super sweet on a personal level. She’s funny and super-sharp, too. She’s an amazing human being and I am honored to count her among my friends. And then you add in all the work she has done to help make this a better country, with a better informed electorate; all this work has gone unpaid. She lives paycheck to slim paycheck, but she keeps on giving to others. So far. It’s now time for our dear ZT to receive. Her job now is to heal. We’ll take it from here.

    Some really good money has been raised since early December, pre-surgery. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. At this point, and to cover all of ZT’s necessary expenses, we still have another $1800 to go.

    Here is where you can send funds directly to ZenTrainer. Any amount, large or small, is greatly appreciated. Even the tiniest amounts add up sweetly.

    •     PayPal: send using the “family and friends” option to zenpaws AT msn DOT com
    •     Check: make to Tracy B. Ann and send to P.O. Box 293372, Nashville, TN  37229

    Thank you all so very much!

    Yellow Trees, © 2016 Alexandria Levin (asterkitty)
    Yellow-Green Trees, © 2016 Alexandria Levin (asterkitty)
    Autumn Trees, © 2016 Alexandria Levin (asterkitty)
    Blue Trees, © 2016 Alexandria Levin (asterkitty)
  • Community Quilt for Puddytat

    Yesterday, the community was devastated to hear that Puddytat has been in treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  Chemo is very, very rough — as she said in her diary:

    I’m finally home, kidneys back to normal, Magnesium and Calcium levels coming down slowly, and knowledge that all of my miseries of the last year were caused by the same thing. Current weakness and exhaustion caused by low blood counts, but I’m not too weak and tired to fight. I may be unsteady on my feet, in fear of taking another sinker to the ground, but cancer is not winning at my house.

    We can help her fight with the strength of our well wishes and love.  We can put those well wishes into a quilt which she can use at home or take with her to treatment.  She can rest under it, cuddle it, or cry into it if necessary — all our love will be in that blanket, with her when ever she needs it.  Leave a message in the comments below for Puddytat and I will write your words on muslin in archival ink.  It will then be stitched into something colorful and warm that Puddytat will treasure.

    Quilt top for Mother Emanuel

    It takes time and material to make a community quilt and it is a living for me and my sister.  If you would like to contribute toward its cost, here is a PayPal link for Puddytat's quilt — or message me for an address if you prefer a check.  $20/message is suggested but no worries if you cannot afford to donate.  We still want your message!  This is a crowdfunded thing and some always give more to cover messages for those who are short on funds.

    Please note, if you leave a quilt message in PayPal rather than in the comments below, please Kos mail me as well to let me know.  The way PayPal is now configured, it is easy to miss attached notes. 

  • Pootie Pad Party: Facebook Page Push!

    There’s lots going on at Catnip Manor — and we promise to catch you up in a new episode of the Catnip Chronicles soon.  But this is about our post Kickstarter progress for Pootie Pads, the little catnip quilts for cats that had their genesis right here on the Pootie diaries of Daily Kos.

    Our website redesign is proceeding apace in the capable hands of asterkitty and linkage — more about that soon.  While this is going on, you can still buy Pootie Pads from our online store, however! 

    Meanwhile, back at Kickstarter, with the exception of three lap throws which will be done within a week, all of the rewards have been sent least, every backer who has responded to the reward survey has been sent their rewards.

    We’ve been getting some feedback comments on the Kickstarter page:

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