Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 156

Janet says She looks like she's smiling - but I know that look. My brother has a dog that does it, too.

Mindy says Is she part beagle? I love beagles!!

Akelamalu says She thinks she's won! LOL

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 158 - Moose Jaw?

Heading for Canada Day, I thought I'd share a poem about a rather iconic Canadian city.

This was written by Poet Laureate for the City of Moose Jaw, Gary Hyland.

Moose Jaw?

Moose Jaw? And they attempt to hide
derision. How can anyone claim
this Podunk, Hicksburgh, Blahville
place home? Wasn’t this the place named
after former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney?

The Name: the Moose Jaw river
is shaped like the jawbone of a moose.

Rich Little once got a laugh saying.
“Moose Jaw is so small they don’t have
weather there.” People with names like
Rich Little shouldn’t make jokes about
the size of anything.

Comic Strip artists can’t keep their pens
off Moose Jaw: Broomhilda, Get Fuzzy,
even Marvel Comics released a special
Wolverine and Cable comic in which
the superheroes battle with a gross mutant
on the streets of Moose Jaw, a town
just outside civilization.

The name: the place where Lord Dunmore,
Earl of Mulberry, fixed his cart
with the jawbone of a moose.

When they want to designate nowhere
important, unendurable plainness,
or a certain weird quaintness
authors summon the name—
Murder in Moose Jaw; Still Circling
Moose Jaw; All the Moose, All the Jaw;
The Moose Jaw Book

The Name: from the Cree Moosoochapiskun
meaning Moose Jaw.

When they want a comic-exotic touch
authors site Moose Jaw. J. K. Rowling
in Quidditch Through the Ages names
one of the world’s top teams the Moose
Jaw Meteorites. Homer Simpson conjures
a Moose Jaw baseball team as the bottom
of bottom rungs. Atomic Betty, Teletoon
defender of the universe, resides in
Moose Jaw Heights

Hollywood dumps on Moose Jaw.
In Slap Shot an incredibly
dumb and violent defenceman hails
from Moose Jaw. In Atlantic City
a florist asks repulsed lover
Burt Lancaster where to send
the flowers now. Hurt, disgusted
Burt replies, “Moose Jaw.”

The name: from the Cree moscatstani-sipy
“river of warm breezes.”
Now you’re talking.

- Gary Hyland

Photo by silvabelle

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Janet says An interesting poem, Julia. And being a Saskatchewanite (and a proud one, at that), I must promote the beautiful city! Funny name, but awesome city :)

Travis Cody says I'd live in a place called Moose Jaw.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Stock Sunday - 20

A vintage look at summer for Summer Stock Sunday, hosted by Robin at Around the Island.

This picture was taken by my grandfather in the mid-1940's, when my mom and her brother were taken to the travelling circus when it visited Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

I've always thought this shot looks like a still from an old film.

Mama Zen says It does look like a still from an old film. That is so neat!

Patty Reiser says This photograph reminds me of "The Little Rascals." Wishing you a wonderful Summer Stock Sunday! Celebrate Life and Capture It!

Robin says Certainly nothing says summer better than cotton candy at the circus.

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 13

Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' boyhood back story. For the first twelve scenes I've posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we've followed him as a seven-year-old, when he outgrew the nursery where he'd been brought up with the other children of the blood.

But when no one from his family came to claim him, Scorpius was released to serve a falcon master as an apprentice.

You can follow the progress of this dark fantasy story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 13

The falcon fussed on his perch. Scorpius sighed sharply but carried on, ducking out of reach of the bird’s wings as they beat the air in irritation. This was the third mews he’d cleaned today, with nine more waiting for him.

Refusing to settle down, the hawk instead beat its wings even faster, whipping up dust and feathers. Scorpius barked at it to calm down just as two men entered the small building.

Dressed down for hunting, they were nevertheless clad in handsomely-worked leather and finely-woven wool. Swords hung from their hips and jewels glinted from their fingers.

Dropping to one knee and bowing his head in the smooth motion he’d perfected, Scorpius said, “My lords” in a clear voice. The nobles were just like the falcons, Richolf had taught him. Handle with the deference they demanded, but show no fear if he wanted respect in return.

“Your master about?”

“Yes, sir.” He stared at the lord’s polished wine-red boots.

“Fetch him, then – there’s a lad.”

From the corner of his eye, Scorpius watched the nobleman move toward the bird. He bit down on the words that wanted to warn him away from the already moody falcon. But he’d been dismissed. There was nothing for it but to obey.

As he dashed through the door into the sunlight, the falcon screeched and the lord cursed.

His master’s intention for the day had been to inventory and bundle the fur pelts he took to the estate for trade. Scorpius headed for the shed where the pelts were cured, but when he breathlessly rounded the doorway, the shed was empty.

A sinking feeling gripped his belly. The nobles hadn’t given prior notice, but that wasn’t so out of the ordinary. However, he felt certain they would not take the news well if he couldn’t locate his master and they were denied their hunt.

Taking off at a run, he sped to the cottage, not expecting to find him there but hoping for it anyway. “Sir?” he called as he burst through the door. “Sir?”

An idea surfaced but he rejected it as he hurried back to the noblemen. He’d never been instructed in such a plan. It could make things worse.

But his mind worked quickly and boldly over all the preparations he’d need in order to lead the lords to the hunt on his own. He’d take the large red-tail. They would get a guaranteed kill, and Scorpius had a good rapport with the bird.

When he re-entered the mews and saw Richolf gathering up the very bird he’d planned to use, he swallowed disappointment to focus instead on the relief that spread over him.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Ann Pino says Ah, poor kid. He almost had a great opportunity there. Maybe it's for the best, though.

Janet says A more mature Scorpius, but one who still has a streak of independence! And then to discover his master would use the same bird he had planned to use - yep, Scorpius is certainly growing up :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 on Friday - Set 20

For this week's set, I'm presenting six hipstresses (one of the five are actually a sister duo.)

For more marvellous music, visit Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - Secret - The Pierces

Got a secret
Can you keep it
Swear this one you'll save
Better lock it
In your pocket
Taking this one to the grave

If I show you
Then I know you
Won't tell what I said
Cause two
Can keep a secret
If one of them is dead

- Allison and Catherine Pierce

2 - I Wanna Be Your Dog - Emilie Simon

Now we're gonna be face to face
And I'll lay right down
In my favorite place

Now I'm ready to close my eyes
And now I'm ready
To close my mind

Now I'm ready
To feel your hand
And lose my heart
On the burning sand

- Dave Alexander / Ron and Scott Asheton / Iggy Pop

3 - Chick Habit - April March

Hang up the chick habit
Hang it up, Daddy
Or you'll be alone in a quick

Hang up the chick habit
Hang it up, Daddy
Or you'll never get another fix

I'm telling you it's not a trick
Pay attention, don't be thick
Or you're likely to get licked

- Gainsbourg / March

4 - Cascade - Deluka

I want your temper when it's burning hot
Cause it hurts me like a thousand watts
You spit fire and it makes me run away
It cuts deep like a switchblade

Fade in, fade out
And don't make me shout
When words hit walls
The lights go out
Nights crash, eyes flash
You don't know
You don't even know me

- Brasco / Innocenti / Kovacs / Palmer

5 - Watching the Clothes - The Pretenders

There go the whites
Gettin whiter
There go the colors
Getting brighter
There go the delicates
Into the final rinse

There goes my Saturday night
I go without a fight

- Chrissie Hynde

Jamie says Every time I hear Deluka it surprises me how much I like her. May have to get an album at some point.

Linda says All new songs and singers for me this week with the exception of The Pretenders. THIS is why I love this meme of Travis', it gives us the chance to expand our musical horizons a bit!

Minnesota Mamaleh says What a fun, creative compilation! All new to me!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 164 - 13 Creative Works by My Grandfather, Charles Doucet Sr.

As I state over in my sidebar, 'I love to showcase creative works by artists of all stripes.'

Here at A Piece of My Mind, I've had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to my own family. I've posted art shows featuring:

My mom - Paulette Phillips

My uncle - Charles E. Doucet

My sister-in-law - Anna Baccin

My other sister-in-law - Violetta Smith

For today's Thursday Thirteen, I'm opening my Art Gallery doors to feature my late grandfather, Charles Doucet Sr.

When I was old enough to start noticing what characteristics made up the different members of my family, I knew that one grandfather played the fiddle, and one grandfather painted. Grandpa Doucet was the painting grandfather, and anytime I smell turpentine or oilpaints, I automatically think of him.

He made his living as a portrait photographer, but didn't leave his passion for photography in the studio.

I have very affectionate memories of him constantly sketching in numerous sketchbooks with colored pencils or pastels. I remember being fascinated as he mixed the colors on his artist's palette. I remember all the rags and the brushes in his basement on the shelf outside his darkroom.

His art work graced the walls of his home and of his children's homes. I've never lived anywhere without an art piece of his upon the wall.

So I'm pleased to share a small selection of his work with you, in honor of his birthday, which is coming up on the 27th. Feel free to stroll about the gallery - I'm going to see about that tray of fruit heading this way.

- 1 - A depiction of the Sacred Heart

A very early piece done in colored pencil, dating from his boyhood in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

- 2 - Cheticamp rug hooking

The town where he grew up is known for creating fabulous, intricate hooked rugs. In later life, he gave lessons on rug hooking.

- 3 - My circus clown

When I was little, this hung in my bedroom.

- 4 - Yarmouth Harbour

My grandparents moved from Canada to Michigan in the 50's, and back to Canada in the 70's when he retired. They settled in my Gram's hometown of Yarmouth, which has really incredible sunsets. He painted a lot of silhouette landscapes during this period.

- 5 - Moonlight

He also did quite a few snowy scenes, especially set at night.

- 6 - Bluenose II

He did this one especially for my Uncle Warren, who served in the United States Navy.

The Bluenose II has its home port in Nova Scotia, and is featured on the Canadian dime.

- 7 - Cottage with Birches

This always hung in my grandparents' living room.

It was definitely hanging on the wall beside Gram's rocking chair during her last decade here.

- 8 - Cape Breton scenery

This piece was painted on the outside of the shed at their Yarmouth home. It became a bit of a landmark for awhile.

- 9 - Portrait of Simon Doucet

Grandpa concentrated mainly on landscapes, but he was known to paint figures from time to time. This is a portrait of his father.

It was painted from this photographic portrait, also taken by Grandpa.

This is an amazing shot of my great-grandfather, since Grandpa was very keen on posing his subjects for studio portraits. The naturalism and candid moment is quite atypical for my grandfather's photography.

- 10 - Turkish Coffee

- 11 - Abstract Autumn Colors

Grandpa didn't create too many abstract pieces, but this one is a favorite of mine.

- 12 - Snow Scene

- 13 - Sunset, Yarmouth

Here's my grandfather with his wife, Juliette - my Gram. This was taken at his portrait studio for their 25th wedding anniversary.

Also here at the gallery, in spirit, is my Aunt Sheila.

Nabbed for a picture are Charles' children, Louis, Warren, Paulette and Charlie.

We'd all like to thank you so much for dropping by my grandfather's art show. ((hugs)) It's been great to see you here!

Shelley Munro says I particularly liked the Turkish man and the snow scenes. Very nice!

Kelly Boyce says What a great show! I love the candid photo of your great grandpa.

Akelamalu says The scenery on the side of the shed is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. no wonder it became a landmark!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 155

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 157 - Simon, What Do You Think Of The Weather?

For Father's Day, I've taken a piece of journal writing from my grandfather and fashioned it into a found poem.

That's my grandfather in the seen-better-days photo, with his father. My mom and I found this on a piece of notepaper, in amongst a box of photos. Since he was a photographer rather than a writer, this memory was an absolute delight to come across.

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Simon, What Do You Think Of The Weather?

I went out
To sleep with my dad
At their fisherman's shack

So we would be ready at five o'clock

We would be ready
To go fishing mackerel
At five o'clock

I could hear the fishermen talking

I could hear outside from different shacks
The fishermen talking about the weather
Then I would hear someone call "Simon (who was my father)

Simon - what do you think of the weather?"

He would answer, "Well,
It doesn't look too good.
Might as well go back to bed."

To bed...I felt very disappointed
I said, "Dad
How come we're not going out this morning?

The stars are all out
The sky is clear
And it is very calm."

He said, "Son,
Do you hear a funny noise?
A noise like the wind blowing.

That's the sea
Making that noise.

And the calmness
The calmness in the air.

That is a sure sign
Of a big southeast wind."

And by gosh

Within the hour
You could feel the wind picking up
You could see the white caps
Forming on the water

- Charles Doucet

Please join me this Thursday when I post an art show of thirteen pieces of my grandfather's art work, in honor of his birthday.

Janet says Brilliant! Loved it Julia :)

Systematic Weasel says Beautifully written!

Charles E. Doucet says Thanks so much, my wonderful niece!! The Found Poem moved me a great deal... I imagined myself standing with my father and grandfather in the darkness, with the fish shacks and sea at Grand Etang, waiting to go fishing for mackerel, listening to both of them talking... you gave me a real moment in their lives...thank you!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Stock Sunday - 19

Just in time for Father's Day - a vintage look at summer for Summer Stock Sunday, hosted by Robin at Around the Island.

This is a picture of my grandmother, Juliette with her father, Eugene, taken about 1938.

Juliette was one of ten children, so a moment with her father all to herself must have been a moment to savour. As well, this was taken during the same summer that she married my grandfather, so this photograph is an interesting one.

First of all, my great-grandfather had spent much of Gram's young life chasing work all over Canada. There was no such thing as Employment Insurance back then, so men went where they could get a job, and sent back money for the family.

The fact that he's on a motorcycle ready to head down the road, with Gram's arm tucked into his for the moment, is an eloquent symbol of their time together.

Hanging onto her family ties while ready to start a family of her own is a common summer rite of passage for women the world over. The likelihood that her future husband - my grandfather - took this picture, places another layer of meaning onto the shot. She gazes at the camera with sureness, while her father feels free to look down the road, since his son-in-law-to-be is taking care of the photgraphy.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there! You can visit Robin for more summertime photos at Around the Island.

Robin says LOVE the goggles :)

Ms Snarky Pants says I agree about the goggles too. Everything about that picture screams steam punk! :-D

Anna Matthews says Such a great family photo, such a great photo period. And thank you for sharing the story behind it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 12

Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' back story.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood back story of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 12

When the nobleman had finally drunk his fill, his chin tucking low on his chest, Richolf opened the door and motioned to the weary guard without. They filed inside, wordlessly lifting their master from the chair to settle him insensible on Richolf’s bed.

With a loosening of neck cloths and buckles, Lord Zorjak’s men found places around the falconer’s table. Richolf fed them all, pouring ale this time as Scorpius watched through the woven panel screen that served as the cabinet doors. His stomach growled, but his master had made no move to let him out of his sanctuary. Best stay put.

Eventually, it was decided that two of the guard would wrap the body and haul it towards the pillar rock. The others would wait for their master to restore himself. How odd that the men assigned to the more grisly task seemed relieved.

Scorpius stared intently at one of the guard in particular, pressing his eye close to the tiny holes so he could see better. Had Richolf failed to explain about the dragon?

The cabinet door cracked open without warning. A boiled root tumbled into the darkness beside him even as Scorpius’ heart leaped into his throat. The door shut and his view of the table was blocked entirely.

He listened as plans were agreed upon and the two groups collected their gear to make ready. Whoever stood before the cabinet did not budge. Scorpius sat in complete darkness, the scent of the root filling the tiny space. He felt about blindly until his fingers hit upon the cooled root skin, his guts rejoicing noisily.

Scorpius raised it to his mouth, his teeth sinking greedily into the rich flesh. He’d never been overly fond of this type of root before. Strange how an evening in a cabinet could change things so drastically.

Satisfied for the time being, and with nothing to see through the blocked peepholes, Scorpius curled onto his side and closed his eyes. When he woke again, Richolf was pulling him out of the hiding place.

The men were gone. Lord Zorjak was gone. The body no longer lay outside the cottage.

Scorpius stood blearily before the open cabinet door as Richolf crouched before him, eye to eye. He cupped one roughened palm against Scorpius’ cheek, his tired gaze shining with pride. A warm happiness spread through Scorpius’ chest.

His master chucked him on the head and stood. “Let’s get this put away, now,” he said, turning to the cups and dishes littering the table and sideboard. Yawning, Scorpius collected the bowls and stumbled for the wash basin.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Apprentice Writer says Still really love the name Scorpius.

Alice Audrey says Those lords must be real pieces of work to be scarier than a carnivorous dragon.

Ann Pino says Nice wrap-up to the scene. I'm looking forward to where this is going - I have a feeling something big is coming soon.

5 on Friday - Set 19

A big Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there - and for this week's set, I've put together five songs that always make me think of my dad, the moment I hear them.

1 - Roadhouse Blues - The Doors

Dad used to sing the opening lines to this song when he drove. Or thought about driving. He was a car lover. Car mechanic. Car salesman. He loved cars.

Keep your eyes on the road
And your hands upon the wheel

Yeah, we're goin to the roadhouse
We're gonna have a real good time

Let it roll, baby, roll

- Densmore / Kreiger / Manzarek / Morrison

2 - Mystery Train - Elvis Presley

Dad was a big Elvis fan. And he was also a big fan of the Chet Atkins sound, so the early Sun Records combine that feeling for me.

Train, train
Comin' down, down the line
Train, train
Comin' down, down the line
Well it's bringin' my baby
Cause she's mine, all, all mine

- Parker / Phillips

3 - Birthday - The Beatles

He always called me on the phone when I lived in Toronto and sang this to me on my birthday.

They say it's your birthday
Well, it's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy Birthday to you

- Lennon / McCartney

4 - Our Love is Here to Stay - Billie Holiday

This was our father-daughter dance at my wedding. I'd prepared a recording of Cleo Laine's version, but my sister secretly switched it with an accapella one of herself singing, which she recorded with the help of my brother-in-law, Jeff.

CLICK HERE to listen to the song

It's very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year
But ever and a day

The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies
And in time, may go

But oh, my dear
Our love is here to stay

Together we're going a long, long way
In time, the rockies may crumble
Gibraltar may tumble
They're only made of clay
Our love is here to stay

- George and Ira Gershwin

5 - Go Down Gamblin - Blood, Sweat & Tears

Once upon a time, back when the Superbowl had marching bands for the half-time show, my dad turned the sound down on the TV and put on his Blood, Sweat & Tears album. The visuals of the marching band matched the blaring horns of Blood, Sweat & Tears so perfectly we were all in tears of laughter.

Besides which - the it-ain't-over-till-it's-over philosophy of this song pretty much sums up my dad.

Down in a crap game
I've been losin' at roulette
Cards are bound to break me
But I ain't busted yet

Cause I've been called a natural lover
By that lady over there
Honey, I'm just a natural gambler
But I try to do my share

Go down gamblin'
Say it when you're runnin' low
Go down gamblin'
You may never have to go

- Lipsius / Clayton-Thomas

For more fabulous musical sets, visit Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

Jamie says Oh those are all wonderful picks and very nice dedication to your dad.

Travis Cody says I had never heard Mystery Train. Thanks for bringing me some "new" Elvis.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 163 - 13 Things About My First Year of Acupuncture

1 - Last June, my life was ruled by the all-encompassing migraine. I'd been captive to pain for years, and couldn't see a way out of it. Ever.

For my 45th Thursday Thirteen, I opened the door slightly on this aspect of my life by posting 13 Things About Chronic Migraine Pain.

Art work by Clayton Campbell

2 - I also had chronic knee pain from an injury I'd sustained in 1993. Sometimes it was so bad I had to borrow my gram's cane. This was after I'd had physiotherapy and surgery on it.

Basically, I was in pain 24-7.

3 - A woman from my office went to see an acupuncturist here in Halifax, and my close friend and co-worker asked her if the acupuncturist could treat migraines.

Of course, said our co-worker.

And does our health plan cover it? my friend asked.

Of course, said our co-worker.

So my friend made me call the acupuncture office, which was nervewracking for me, because I have phone-out phobia. But I persevered, made the appointment, and so began the most astounding year in my history here on planet Earth.

4 - Wei Yuan began my treatment with two sessions a week, treating my whole body literally from head to toe, generally using about 30 needles a session.

She focused immediately on my knee, and in a matter of weeks I regained strength in that joint, which used to give out on me without warning. The perpetual swelling which stiffened the knee disappeared. The unending pain which made touching the knee impossible faded away. Now I can actually tap my knee, which a year ago was unthinkable.

5 - When I first arrived at their clinic (she treats patients along with her husband, Tom Tian at I Stop Pain in Halifax) Wei sat with me and went over my symptom history, establishing what had brought me to her in the first place.

She asked me what my goals for treatment were.

I said I wanted to stop missing work (my migraines made me at the least, late on hideous days, and absent when I just couldn't take it any more.)

Last year at this time I took painkiller with codeine every four hours, nearly 24 hours a day. This had been going on for years.

When my migraines reached a shrieking crescendo of agony, I had narcotic painkillers to turn to. But one must have experienced that level of pain to understand that it never actually goes away, opiates or no opiates.

6 - You'll have to excuse me for inwardly scoffing at Wei's stated goal to get me off those painkillers.

But hey - who am I to get in the way of anyone else's dream? Sure, I thought to myself. Like that is ever going to happen.

I didn't even have that little glimmer of hope perking up inside of me at the idea. I had a full-time job I had to keep. Painkillers kept me upright and functioning, and prevented me from hurling myself off of tall things when I just wanted it to stop.

7 - One year later, my treatment with Wei has radically altered my life.

Though I hadn't expected to be completely freed from the Iron Maiden of my pain-filled life - had hoped for some relief, but not freedom from it - one year later I have gone entire 24-hour cycles without any painkiller at all.

Imagine the power in these tiny, fine needles, and their placement at specific meridian points on the body. These needles spoke to the dormant energy inside of me, known as Chi.

Wei asks my body to listen to itself as she treats me. I am called to participate in my own healing.

8 - After Wei places the needles, she sets a heat lamp over whichever area needs a little extra nudging, dims the lights and leaves me to heal.

It's during this time that I use my own powers of visualization. I meditate on whatever my body brings to my attention. To begin with, I say a prayer of thanks for being given this opportunity to heal. Then, whichever section of my body aches, feels heavy or blocked, I focus on that area and imagine all sorts of things to break up the blockages:


Swirls of butterflies


Beams of light

9 - After she removes the needles, Wei often treats me with cups, which are placed over meridian points and the air vacuumed out of the cups.

These are left in place for awhile, but not as long as the needles, which generally stay in place for about 20 minutes.

10 - Because I knew I wanted to document my healing, I've been taking pictures of the myriad patterns that appear on my body after my treatment. This particular set of marks came from a session of moving cupping, where she rubbed the cups up and down my meridian line.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, marks are expected after treatment, as the body responds to the stimulation of blocked Chi. The types of bruising and redness, how dark or bright they are, informs the practitioner of the state of the body being treated.

What has been fascinating to me is what marks show up where. Not every cup will produce a bruise. Sometimes there's no mark at all. Sometimes it's incredibly dark.

As you can see from my back in this shot, the left side of my spine has no marks - yet she used the cups there in just the same way as on the right side. But the left side had no blockage.

Here are some of the cupping marks that appeared on my husband's back after one of his sessions with Wei.

Because he could see the incredible results I was getting with her, my not-so-great-with-needles husband actually began acupuncture treatment.

Brad has bipolar disorder and has been on powerful medication for two decades. We're both hoping to preserve his liver health, because he has no option but to take his sanity-preserving drugs. So he began whole-body treatment with a view to keeping his body in balance.

I have to say, I never in a thousand lifetimes would have imagined my husband receiving acupuncture. But his first session was on his birthday last November, and in these seven months he has missed two major depressions which generally hit in the winter and in the spring. They generally last for a month, and so far he has had episodes this year that have lasted about a week. We're heading into the summer now and normally that would bring a third month-long downer. So we'll see how it goes.

11 - This is the Gua Sha tool used to rub in a scraping motion along the skin to promote healing through stimulating the blood. It helps to break up blockages in the body system. It's often used for people with chronic conditions, such as my pain levels and asthma.

As well as cupping, Wei uses Gua Sha in my treatment. Sometimes I get the Full Meal Deal: needles, cupping and Gua Sha.

Below is the photo I took after my first Gua Sha treatment. You can see I had a lot of chi blockage in my neck, and along my spine.

Here is another treatment with an altogether different pattern showing up - although following along the energy meridians and focusing again on my neck.

This is my husband's first Gua Sha treatment - check out how dark the mark is on his neck! He looked like he'd been in a motorcycle accident.

Here is another pattern of healing for my husband, including Gua Sha and cupping marks.

12 - I have also been treated with Chinese herbal pills, which are perfectly round like tiny, 18th century grapeshot. So far I've had herbs for my lungs, my head pain and my stomach/spleen/gall bladder. As opposed to western medicine, symptoms aren't always what they seem. Currently Wei is concentrating on treating my stomach area, which has been the root of my chronic pain.

Who knew?

13 - As I embark on my second year of treatment, I no longer doubt the possibility that my life will no longer consist of four-hour blocks counting down the seconds until I can take my next painkiller.

I've discontinued a daily pain management drug (that I was surprised to discover was more effective than I'd thought.)

I've downgraded to extra-strength acetaminophen - something I haven't taken for at least a decade. Without the pain management drug, my pain levels shot up over these past two months, but still not in the same league as when I began treatment. Even though it felt like two-steps-forward, twenty-five-steps-back for awhile there, I had the memory of what we had achieved very solidly in my mind.

By next June, I may very well be truly pain free. Who could have imagined it?

Janet says Not only have you shared a most personal journey, but in that sharing, you will have opened someone else's eyes to the possibility that is Eastern Medicine.

Deborah Hale says Doing Toaist Tai-chi for the past year has certainly given me a great appreciation for the Oriental view of health and healing.

Akelamalu says I haven't tried acupuncture or cupping but I have tried reflexology (amazing) and of course I am a Reiki practitioner so I know the benefits of that. It's a shame that some people dismiss alternative therapies so readily.