My Incredible,Unpredictable Friend

Meet Sivvie Lio.  I can’t tell you how many years I’ve known her or even when I first met her. I do know she is just who I needed to help me through this long month of January, with its ups and downs.

Sivvie is a package of dynamite packed into a pint sized human being. Her head is so packed with knowledge that one would think it would weigh down the rest of her body.

But let me tell you about yesterday. Sivvie said she might be in the area and stop in to see me. Yes!!! Company!!  Now, not only has Sivvie been a pharmacist for fifty years; she also owns The Vermont Herbal General Store in West Rutland, Vt. You just know that any visit with Sivvie will bring not only great conversation, but maybe a sample or two of her many creams, ointments, name it.  

The woman knows her herbs! Of course, she knew my RA condition and so brought along a sample of her Derma Healer pain lotion. Slapped a bit of that on the back of my aching hands and within a few minutes, the pain had diminished so it no longer bothered me.

Now Sivvie and I are both Pisces; both Legends of February as Facebook likes to call us. When we start talking, we don’t stop. She is a Master of Reiki and Lord only knows what else. The woman is phenomenal and if you listen, you can learn about almost any plant and what it does for you.

Yesterday …well, maybe it was because it was a dreary day or maybe two February people get bored easily. She mentioned Holy Fire Reiki and I just had to know about it. So,naturally, she said she would even demonstrate if I wanted to try it ( and was probably wondering if I could sit still that long). 

Since this was unplanned , we made do with what was on hand. I wheeled the computer chair into the middle of the floor. Sivvie turned on some very soft,( to my ears, unusual) music.  Her hands touched my shoulders ( where I am bothered the most with RA) and it felt as though her hands were burning through my shirt into my skin. Then there was a soft touch to the forehead and slowly she placed her hands on my biceps, wrists , hands and especially my thumbs. She placed her on my shoulder and one on my knee ..each side…where there in inflammation. Her hands were very , very warm.  I could feel myself relaxing and secretly hoping I wouldn’t nod off and fall out of the chair. ( Always the worrier).

I have no idea how long the demonstration lasted. I do know that I felt better all over and for the rest of the day had no pain comparable to what I had been feeling for months. Hey, there has to be something to this, I said to Sivvie. ( I think she rolled her eyes). She explained that the music was synced to some of the moves she had made, which was interesting.

When Sivvie comes to visit, I never know what will happen…that is the great part.  Her herbal store is located at 518 Main St in West Rutland , VT. and anyone stopping in , will be mesmerized by the products she makes up herself. Tell her what is wrong and she , I bet, can give you something that will help.

Her website is but she apologizes for not keeping it up to date as she is so busy between her pharmacy job and the store, she can’t find the time, but is trying. She balances a world between pharmaceuticals and Alternative and Holistic Health Science.  She also has a Facebook page. Just type in her name or the Vermont Herbal Store and you got it!

I call her the “mad scientist” and she laughs. There are always skeptics about alternative ways to health and no, I am not going to stop seeing my cardiologist and rheumatologist, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep an open mind and see how many plants, vegetation of any kind could aid in keeping us healthy.

If you’re ever in the West Rutland area, and really it is worth the trip just to see the Herbal Store, stop in. You might want to call ahead (802-438-2766) to get her hours, but you won’t regret it.

There, that is my January adventure…so far… unless Sivvie comes for another visit. Had to let you know that I received the Holy Fire Reiki and lived to tell about it. 

Hmm..if I have another, you will be the first to know.


January Thaw circa 1950

dogI am 14 years old and sick of Winter. I’ve been cold since last October and enough already. We are out for winter vacation and time is hanging heavy on my hands.  Yesterday, the sun came out and seemed a bit warmer and Dad said it was slowly getting higher in the sky. Well, I wish it was July high. Icicles are melting off the porch roof and the heavy snow from last week is falling with thuds from the pine trees by the front yard.

I would like to go skating on Twitchell Pond, but usually wait til evening when we can burn the cast-off tires that the neighbors give us.  They don’t mind the awful smell as they burn, as long as they can get rid of something they don’t need.  It isn’t much fun skating alone, and mind you, I am not a good skater. My ankles want to go in one direction and the rest of my body in another.  I grab the skates that my brother, Tink, gave me for Christmas and start for the pond. He said they were second hand skates but they fit me and are white and look sharp. Makes me look as if I know what I am doing even with the flopped over ankles.

I leave my old boots on the pond shore and the skates are firmly planted ( I hope..). I don’t like the sound of the ice …it seems to be making strange noises and I have always thought of cars and people going through. Dad has always stressed to us not to get near the opening of brooks leading into the pond, because of what he calls “air holes”. Seems to me that by now everything should be frozen is the middle of January and we’ve been living like Eskimos for months. Well, the strange noises don’t help my enthusiasm. Who would be home that might skate with me? There are no girls in the neighborhood, so I am thinking Hank Bowers might be at home.

He lives down the road a bit, so if I skate in that direction, he might see me and come out and at least we can kill some time, falling over each other as we attempt to stay upright.  I start the skate, going by Wagner’s camp, sitting there, looking pretty lonely this time of year and round the corner where I sit in the summer, with my fish pole and thinking cap. I am about to start the straight away when I hear a noise behind me and there is Keno, our Norwegian husky, trying to keep up with her paws in all directions.

Keno is a wonderful guard dog and will not let anyone near my brothers and me if she senses any danger. I wonder if she thinks I am going to go through the ice; whatever she thinks, she is not going to leave me. We have had her since she was a puppy, when my Dad surprised Curt with her as a Christmas gift. I slow down and ask her what she thinks she is doing, way out here on the ice with me. Her tail wags and she snuggles up to my leg as I stop.  I give her a pat and then skate slowly as Hank’s house comes into view.  I circle around so Hank can see me if he wants to come out.

The sun is warm and yet no Hank. Knowing boys as I do, he is probably propped up with a comic book or watching television. Keno and I linger awhile and then decide that boys are not worth that much time and start our skate home.  So far the noises from the ice have not let us into the cold briny deep and we are safe…I don’t know why I do not feel as safe in the day time as I do at night. Maybe it is because there are more of us and if I fell through, someone would try and fish me out.

We are back at the starting point and I sit on the cold bank and get the skates off. That was a waste of time, I think to myself. Keno sits beside me and I am sure she echos my thoughts. My legs are tired, so hers must be as well. The sun sure feels good on my face though and there is no nasty wind blowing from Moose Cove to set the chills going.

We climb the bank to head back to the little house when I hear a voice. “Sandra, have you got a minute?” My Gram Martin has her porch window open a crack and is calling. Slinging the skates over my shoulder, Keno and I walk up the driveway hill to see what she needs. Ha!  Gram doesn’t need anything really…she has been cooking and hands me a fat cookie and a little mug of cocoa. ..made with real milk, not the evaporated kind!  I can smell soup on her cook stove and she has a bone saved for Keno, who has waited patiently outside the front door.

January isn’t bad when you have a nice thaw to warm the bones and a Gram who comes to the rescue when she wants nothing but company!! Grams get lonesome, too!


It’s cold; the blankets are pulled up under the chin …no need to get up. Retired..what a wonderful word!  I note the time is 6 a.m. and a series of yawls echo down the hallway to  our bedrooms. Breakfast time!  My son makes his way to the kitchen, fills a dish and stumbles back to his bed for at least a cat nap. I pull the blankets tighter around me and ask the Sleep Fairy for at least another half hour. Remarkably, it is given and a series of small little meows beside my bed awaken me the second time. I look down at the golden eyes and groan aloud, “Sam, arrghh…”. He stops, sits, starts grooming as if he has a play date shortly and waits patiently for me to slide out of bed, sit until my senses come to me and I can remember my own name. I go out to notice he has not touched the food given him at the six o’clock hour, but waits until I fix my breakfast and we eat together.

I should sputter and probably do under my breath, but the bright golden eyes are shining as if to say, “hey I’m lonesome, time to get going…” and underneath it all , I am very happy.

You see, my husband,Dick and I went to several shelters that September in 2007 and found nothing we really wanted to replace our cat we had lost months before. At the last shelter, shavings or whatever were being put down and Dick had to leave the building because he had an allergic reaction. I looked and looked and was ready to leave when down in the corner, were two golden eyes looking at me from a little cage.

“Well, what do we have here?” I asked and the lady replied that he had never left his cage since he came in April unless someone took him out. I knelt and they opened the door and out he came, in and out of my legs and brushing up against me. Amazed, the lady held him and said he had adopted me and almost started to cry. By then, it was a done deal. I thought I had myself a bona fide five year old cat. Ah, but that was not to be the story.

The name tag said “Sam” and we left it the same. He slept all the way home, gently stepped out the carrier and made himself at home…but with Dick, not me. Oh, no. I was the cat lover. Dick sat at the computer that night and Sam perched on a chair arm and kept putting his paw out to touch his shoulder until finally Dick took him in his lap. That was his favorite place to be for the next nine years.

If Dick took a break in the rocking chair on the deck, Sam was in his lap or in the chair next to him. If he fell asleep in the recliner, Sam stretched his entire black and white body over the lap til both ends sagged. Where one was, so was the other. If Dick sat on the sofa to watch NCIS, his favorite show, Sam would hear the theme song and come running and with one giant leap, land in his lap for the entire show.

Then the day came when Dick became ill. At first, Sam would tentatively edge over and hop gently in his lap for a short while, until he had to be disturbed. Days and nights passed and the times in Dick’s lap became few and far between. Sam seemed to sense it and gingerly walked around his master.  Although he continued to eat, he became withdrawn and his golden eyes seemed to fade.

Months passed and the day came when Dick left the house for the hospital. Sam was unusually quiet and existed, but showed no interest in anything but a little food, water and curled up in a corner.  Soon after, we lost Dick and the days to follow were those wrapped up in the usual manner after such a loss. Sam continued to just eat, drink and curl up in a corner, asking for no affection from anyone or acting as if he really wanted any attention.  The offering of a new catnip toy from our neighbor didn’t arouse his interest.  He seemed to act more indifferent and remote when we moved Dick’s special chair to another part of the room as if he realized that Dick was not coming home.

I have to be super careful when I walk with my RA condition, so use a cane most times and when I nudged him so I wouldn’t trip, he  turned  around and almost snarled at the cane. This was definitely not the Sam I knew who walked with me in the back yard and played peek a boo around the trees a couple years before…

After some more rearranging this year, the chair was moved back to its former position. One night, my son sat down and Sam approached the chair very slowly. Alan patted his lap and Sam jumped up and laid his body across my son’s legs. After a few minutes, he fell fast asleep.  Not long after we found him digging his toys out of his private little box and tossing one in the air..not bad for a 15 year old cat.

Each day, Alan takes a little time to sit in Dick’s chair and Sam walks over and up he jumps. He has started to hide his whole face in Alan’s hand the way he used to do with Dick.

The most beautiful thing I notice is that his golden eyes shine again. It is as though he is saying, “It has been a terrible year. I miss him, but now I know you all love me.” Once in awhile I look over in the evening and he is curled up all by himself in the chair that once belonged to his master , as if to say, it’s ok now.  No one can ever convince me that a pet does not grieve when it loses its master.

So do I mind if he gets lonesome in the morning and acts as my alarm clock? Not as long as the golden eyes still shine. —and by the way I don’t hold him because I am allergic to his black fur. Ironic, isn’t it.

Sam is back!!