Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Susan's Helpful Hints--For Ladies Only

Girlfriends, I'm about to go all Dr. Ruth on you. This is especially for the ones who are experiencing menopausal, post-menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms. For those of you who file sex advice (especially from a layperson) in the Too-Much-Information category, please feel free to skip on to the next blog. Well (gulp), here we go.....

I entered into menopause two months before my 50th birthday eight years ago. I had gone eleven months without having a period, but the week my second grandson was born I had a real doozy. Then I never had another. I was more than ready to be done with all that monthly stuff. What I wasn't ready for were the not-so-wonderful side effects. Oh, I'm not talking about hot flashes...yes, I had my share of them and they were uncomfortable as all get-out, but as much as I can recall, they never caused me any physical pain. The physical pain part started later.

As some of you know, menopause can cause hair and skin to become drier, and that includes ALL skin. Sometimes dry-as-a-desert dry. Sure, there are wonderful creams and silicone topical applications that one can use during intercourse, and I did. Tried 'em all. (Albolene works the best of any I tried. It's not just for makeup removal, friends.)

On my annual trips to the gynecologist, she would inquire if I were having any problems with intercourse, and I would sort of touch lightly on the subject. It isn't easy for me to talk about these things...I was raised in the 50's and 60's, y'know. She would suggest that I start taking some form of HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and I would turn her down immediately, especially after the studies came out that linked heart attacks and cancer to estrogen treatment. She even suggested a topical estrogen that is inserted vaginally. I try to avoid medicinal remedies at all costs and usually try to find some natural or herbal. And I would never, ever take the popular Premarin, or Prempro, or Premphase, or Prempac, or Premelle. They are all synthetic hormones that are made from PREgnant MARe's urINe. The way it is extracted is horrible.

What Are the Living Conditions of the Mares?

Since there are approximately 431 current Canadian and U.S. PMU farms (but only 308 producing farms as of 11/1/03), and not having visited each one, HorseAid can only generalize based on the ones we have visited (our last visit was to Canada by our HorseAid founders and volunteers in May and June of 1999, that included a side visit to Minnesota).
Pro-PMU people focus on the fact that the mares live out in 1,000+ acre pastures with their foals for up to six months of the year (on most PMU farms, mares are 175 - 185 days pregnant when the collection period begins. Estrogen production starts to peak between day 200 - 275 of pregnancy, then decreases to parturition. Mares are collected for a period of 160 - 180 days with the collection period usually being from October to April).
Anti-PMU people focus on the fact that the pregnant mares are kept tied up indoors for at least six months out of the year.
PMU farmers work to maintain a constant urine volume to meet both their quota requirements and the urine grade. Mares usually produce 90 - 100 gallons of urine throughout the collection season. On a daily basis, a pleasure horse type mare will produce about 0.5 - 0.6 gallon per day while a draft type mare will produce up to 0.75 gallon per day.
To produce Premarin, these mares are impregnated, fitted with a UCD and normally kept throughout their last six months of pregnancy in stalls just 8 feet long, by 3 1/2 feet wide, by 5 feet high! Just before foaling they are taken "off line" and allowed to foal in outside paddocks (90% of the mares will carry a foal full term). In most cases they are impregnated by natural cover (artificial insemination has been tried in the past to "streamline" the operation, but was discarded as too expensive).
Within six months of a successful breeding, they are returned to the PMU production line again (mares that do not become pregnant within a very short time, cannot be returned to the collection barns and will most likely be sent to auction or straight to the slaughterhouse).
Foals removed from the mare are sometimes fattened on feedlots and then sold for slaughter ("The Foals of August"). The ones not sent to feedlots go straight to the meat auctions, or are sold to resale agents. A small number are sold by foal rescue operations to mostly U.S. rescue organizations.

A filly foal has a less than one in 10 chance of not going to slaughter, a colt foal, less than one in 50!
As far as the use of catheters are concerned, PMU supporters say that they are no more (and in fact our research shows they were never used industry wide, if used at all) -- now "urine collection devices" (UCD's) are used. The UCD's are not very hygienic for the mares, since they allow the urine to soak the skin of the vulva, sometimes causing severe infections and painful lesions.
As for the actual living space they have, current PMU farm guidelines (strictly "voluntary" guidelines that have no consequences, and are not enforceable in any way) state that for horses weighing under 900 lbs. the width of the stalls should be no less than 3.5 feet in width; for horses over that weight, the width is increased to 5 feet.

This may well be large enough for the horses to lie down -- but so is a coffin for a person. Would you like to sleep in one? While pro-PMU people, PMU farm vets included, say that it's enough room to lie down and sleep, some have contradicted themselves in print by saying that "horses can sleep standing up anyway."
Horses can lock their legs and doze, but they must lie down for their essential 'deep sleep' period (in the wild and in pasture, horses lie down approximately three hours for every twenty-four). As for exercise, the guidelines leave that up to the discretion of the farm manager or farm employees.

HorseAid has carefully reviewed the guidelines with leading animal husbandry veterinarians and found them insufficient to protect either the wellness of the mares or the thousands of foals they produce. Our latest investigations reveal that even these inadequate guidelines are not being followed.
Pro-PMU people say, "It's 20 below zero out there in the winter, which is when the mares are confined. It's more humane to keep them inside." However, no indoor arenas or turn-out pens were observed in any of the farms we visited. There are an estimated 125 producing mares on each farm (averaged across all farms - 150, if you include reserves, "hires" and foaling/nursing mares), and to hire employees to hand-walk each one even once a day would not be cost-effective (and so, usually not done).
As a result, the already too-fat mares have problems with stocking up, soreness and hoof/wall separation. At almost EVERY farm we visited, there was some form of respiratory distress evident in the mares "on-line". (This quote comes from the website, linked in the title)

It had been a couple of years since I went in for my pap smear, mammogram, and checkup. I had been wanting to change doctors for a while, so I found a new one. She is young and matter-of-fact, unlike my other doctor who was kind of whispery and not all that informative. As soon as she asked me about any problems in my sex life, I decided to be completely frank about it. "It hurts and no amount of lubrication makes it not hurt," I told her. Before the words HRT were out of her mouth, I told her that I would not, under any circumstances take any of the above substances. She understood completely, then she recommended a completely synthetic topical cream called Estrace, which is not made from horse's urine, to be applied via syringe every night for two weeks, and then twice a week thereafter.

I was horrified at the cost! Are you kidding me? $115+ change for a tube of something I wasn't sure would work? And to top it off, I took the prescription to the pharmacy where my daughter is a pharmacy tech. She wasn't working, but her young, male boss was called over to give me pertinent information. Gawd! I hoped he didn't remember who I am!

The doctor had warned me that it might be a little messy, so I made sure I had panti-liners on hand. Inserting it was no more difficult than inserting a tampon and the forewarned mess was fairly minimal.

How's it working? I know you want to know, so I'm gonna tell ya. I feel like I'm 30 again. The dryness is gone...completely gone. There is no need for Albolene. And it even has a little side benefit...I no longer leak. Yes, you heard more leaking, even when I sneeze. And I'm only about halfway through the tube. To me (and my husband), it's worth every penny.  I even think my mustache may be disappearing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March is for birthdays

It begins with a big boy turning eight years old.  It's hard to fit 8 candles on a dinosaur cupcake.  And, yes, he wanted his hair that short!

The dinosaurs were also party favors.

Nathan was born in Louisiana, and his birthday was the day before Mardi Gras....sooo, the dinosaurs fought their battle on a bed of purple, green and yellow-sugared vanilla frosting topping chocolate fudge cakes.

Best buddy Garrett

There were friends bearing gifts.

Reading circle buddy Tiara. They discuss books. :)

Matthew really enjoyed his cupcake.


Then there was birthday number two, or rather number five, for Lauren.

She wanted a kitten princess cake.  I had to take cupcake surrounds (outside liners) shaped like crowns and put kitty stickers on them. There were also picks shaped like castles and those got the stickers also. She loved it, but immediately asked me where the brown and orange stripes were that she wanted. I'm sorry, Lauren, but I just couldn't do brown and orange with pink and green. Bad Grammy! 

The family was there to help her celebrate with homemade pizza. 

Her best cousin/friend Kaitlyn, who is always by her side at Grammy and Poppy's.

Gaige sporting his visor creation that was the party craft.

Nathan and his winning smile.

Matthew was much more interested in the cake than he was the pizza.

There were a few Disney and My Little Pony characters invited. 

And she was a very happy and excited little girl.

We also have Gaige, Nathan and Kaitlyn's daddy's birthday today. And I have one of my very best friend's BD, two nephews and one niece. It's almost as many as May and October!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shared Intelligence: American Painting and the Photograph

The Columbus Museum of Art holds one of the premier art collections in the midwest. It isn't a large facility, but many major artists have places in the permanent collection. It had been ages since I last visited, and what better time to go but on a Sunday morning when admission is free.

One of the current exhibits is "Shared Intelligence:  American Painting and the Photograph". It sounded intriguing. Do you take so many digital photos that, after a while, you no longer look at the composition? Do you no longer experience the moment, because you are too busy focusing and snapping and recording history?  Shared Intelligence invites us to "counter this numbing ubiquity and resist the growing homogenization of the image".

Many modern artists use photographs as the basis for their paintings. It is fairly well known that Norman Rockwell planned his paintings with elaborately staged photos of each character represented. And, of course, Andy Warhol projected black and white photos directly onto the canvas and then added color with oils, but I had no idea that it went as far back as the mid-to-late 1800's. Such esteemed artists as Edgar Degas, Thomas Eakins, Fredric Remington, and Georgia O'Keefe worked from photographs. O'Keefe used mostly the work of her lover Alfred Stieglitz.

There is Robert Bechtle, whose paintings look so much like the photographs from which he worked that one has to look very closely to tell the difference. And Chuck Close who superimposes a grid over the photograph and, among other methods, uses his fingerprints to "paint" the picture. Their art is known as photorealism.

One of the most interesting things to me was the way that artists like Degas and Eakins composed their photographs exactly as they would the painting, with light being the most important factor. Eadweard Muybridge, whose pioneering work in animal locomotion photography, was essential in Remington getting a galloping horse "right".

More modern artists used photographs, but didn't want their paintings to look photographic. They are sometimes known as "magic realists", or the subversion of reality. Artists such as Henry Koerner created paintings of his family and his hometown in Austria from photos of the destruction after World War II. They are quite moving in their symbolism. Honoré Sharrer and Ben Shahn also are included in this category. (There is no Wiki page for Henry Koerner.)  

An extreme use of photography in modern art is employed by Sherrie Levine, who uses highly pixelated  photos of famous photographs and famous paintings to create her works. To me, they just look like blocks of color, but I've never considered myself to be visionary when it comes to modern art.

This was one of the better exhibits I have seen. I'm thinking of going again, because I'm sure I will learn more from the wealth of material covered there. I wasn't allowed to photograph the show, but I did take a  few photos of the permanent collection. Well, 126 to be exact. Don't worry, I only chose the best ones. Whew!

Inside the grand salon, or Derby Room

Inside the hallway off the grand salon

One of the statuary halls

Dale Chihuly hand-blown glass sculpture

This fabulous painting, titled Sunflowers in the Windstorm, is by Emil Nolde, a German artist, whose works were declared "degenerate" by Adolph Hitler and was forbidden to paint. He painted in secret in his home in Seebüll, Germany, mostly working in watercolors, because the oils could be detected by the smell of the linseed oil. This work is in oils, because sometimes the subject just demanded that he risk his life for his art.

Boy with Cattle by Pablo Picasso, 1906

Schokko with Red Hat by Alexej Jawlensky,
1909 (Russian artist)
(So named because the model loved sipping hot schokolade [chocolate] while posing in the artist's studio.)

Weeping Willow by Claude Monet, 1918

The museum has several Monets in its permanent collection. This is a new acquisition from his later Giverny years, when he was losing his sight. I was fortunate to have seen an exhibit of his later works in the New Orleans Museum of Art in the mid-1990's. It was one of only two showings in the United States. His paintings from that period were dark and angry, reflecting his feelings about his encroaching blindness. Compare it to the following painting from his earlier years.

View of Bennecourt by Claude Monet, 1887

Houses at the Foot of a Cliff
(Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme), by Edgar Degas
about 1895-98
Degas, who is primarily known for his exquisite paintings of the ballet and its dancers, began painting sea and landscapes in the 1890's, "perhaps to spring them on an unsuspecting public". These works were painted mostly from photographs of the seaside resort town of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, where he spent much of his later years. The scene depicted here does not exist. It was created from several photographs.

Bathsheba by Artemisia Gentileschi, about 1636-37

Endeavor by Lino Tagliapietra
Lino Tagilapietra is considered one of the premiere glass blowers of Europe. In the 1970's, glass art was at a crossroads in the United States. The desire to create was there, but the artists didn't have the European technical knowledge available to them. Dale Chihuly brought Tagliapietra to the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle to teach and mentor American glass artists. His impact on glass blowing is significant and immeasurable.

Autumn Leaves--Lake George, N.Y.  by Georgia O'Keefe, 1924

The next three paintings are by George Bellows, a native of Columbus, Ohio, and who studied at Ohio State University. He later moved to New York City and is known for his realistic depictions of urban life in that city.

Summer Night, Riverside Drive by George Bellows , 1909
A Stag at Sharkey's by George Bellows, 1917
One of his many lithographs depicting fight scenes.
Polo at Lakewood by George Bellows, 1910
Bellows was an accomplished baseball player and often painted scenes of sporting events.
One of my favorite pieces of art is this:  Ann Hamilton's "Lineament Ball". It is a continuous strip of sentences cut from, and still connected to in the book, Wallace Stevens' poem "The Planet on the Table". She actually cut the lines as a stage performance act and then preserved it as a work of art. Very cool.

If you would like to see the rest of my photos, please visit here.