Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Weekend of Hope

At first, I really didn't want to go. This was not something I like to focus on, especially for a whole weekend. Cancer is something I prefer to keep behind me. This would be a weekend for cancer survivors and for those in treatment. 

Then I thought that maybe I could share with others about some of what I've gone through, and maybe this would be helpful. Besides, Geo and I could use a weekend get-away after a very long winter. So we signed up and packed our bags.

There was a huge banner over the main road in Stowe, VT to welcome the participants. There were many signs in town about the event.

I learned that the Stowe Weekend of Hope has been happening for 18 years and draws people from many states and even Canada.

After registration, we checked into our hotel. Our room had a deck with a view of the river. Wow!

The schedule, beginning early on Friday, included a selection of presentations, activities, and entertainment. 

I chose an art activity that was held up the road at the Von Trapp Family Lodge. We were shown how to do an etching with a pencil on styrofoam, color it with markers, then transfer the picture to dampened water color paper. This was a fun project that anyone could do.

While I was here, I took a walk to enjoy the views. I had been here before, but I had never seen the grave site where the Von Trapps are buried.

Back at the main venue, there was a group gathered for hula hooping. I was surprised I could still do this after all these years!

Entertainment during the day included The Boobie Sisters, and they were hilarious. From New York state, they are all breast cancer survivors who share their stories with song and a lot of humor. They had everyone smiling and laughing about a cancer diagnosis and the changes it brings into patients' lives and of their families.

The keynote speaker was Tim Kavanagh and "The Shit Show." Yeah, I thought that sounded pretty gross. I found out that he is the owner of an award winning entertainment company, including TV, film and variety shows. He is a survivor of rectal cancer. He gave a light-hearted, comical presentation of what he went through, and a lot of one-liners, that had everyone in the audience laughing. Speaking so openly brought out a lot of "me, too," reactions, helping others to share about their own personal experiences. 

Another event I truly enjoyed was the "Survivors Walk" on the Stowe Rec Path. The views along the way were stunning, and it was an opportunity to meet and get to know others. We shared about where we were from, the diagnosis we had and the treatments. I found there were many similarities in how we felt about it all, even though diagnoses were so different. And it was so good just to be out in nature and enjoying the fresh air, the fields, the river, the mountains. The signs of Spring are finally happening here in Vermont.

Would I do this again? Absolutely. And I think I'll invite other cancer survivors I know. It was an opportunity to continue to process what can be an overwhelming experience, to meet new people, and just have a lot of fun along the way. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Story of Stella

It has been over a year now since Lucy is no longer with us. I've missed that little canine presence in our home. Geo thought it was too soon for another dog. We did look at a few, but none of them seemed "right" for us. I really wanted a dog, so...

I prayed for a dog for Christmas. I began watching and waiting to see if God wanted to bring another dog into our lives. It was on the last Day of Christmas, the feast of The Epiphany, that I met the little beagle. She seemed "right" for us, but was this really the right time to be bringing her into our family?

The dog rescue offered to let us foster her for awhile before we would adopt her. In the meantime, they would not advertise her to the public. So Addie and I picked up the chubby little beagle and brought her home. I thought that with the right diet and good exercise, we could get her into shape. Because she was from the South, and because she had a skin irritation, and because there was a question about whether or not she had been spayed, the dog rescue asked if I could take her to the vet. We thought that was a great idea.

The vet examined her and said, "This dog is going to have puppies." !!!

I told the dog rescue that we were in no position to adopt a dog and manage a litter of pups. The dog rescue found a wonderful family with little kids who volunteered to foster the little beagle until she delivered and the pups were weaned.

On the morning after Superbowl Sunday, I received an email that the little beagle had six puppies. Despite my calls and leaving messages, I heard little, if anything, for the next week. Then I learned that the little beagle could only nurse two pups at a time, and to keep them all alive, the foster family was bottle-feeding them formula every two hours around the clock. Now that's true dedication.

So the little beagle mix pups should be available for adoption sometime in March. And the little beagle will be ready to come home to us sometime before my birthday. What a wonderful gift. Spring seems to be the "right time" for a new dog.

I named her Stella. The meaning of the name is "star." Her story in our lives began on the Epiphany, the feast of the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi by the sign of the star. I am eager to see how her story unfolds with us.


                                Stella's Puppies

Monday, February 05, 2018

Blueberry Pie

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday, and I wanted to make a special dessert for Geo to enjoy while watching the game. With lots of blueberries in the freezer, I decided to make a blueberry pie. I would make the filling on the stovetop, instead of baking it in the crust.

My favorite crust to make is one using all butter. To keep it from melting into the pie pan in the oven (yes, I've had that happen), I roll it out quickly, place it in a cold pie pan, then put it into a 450 degree F. oven so that it sets quickly. When it's in the oven, I set the heat to 425 degrees F. and bake it for 10 minutes, or until done.

From the scraps of dough, I made a few cutouts that I also baked in the oven.

While the crust was baking, I made the filling. I used about 5 cups of frozen berries, added a sprinkle of cinnamon, a squirt of lemon juice, sugar, a dusting of cocoa powder (totally optional), and two tablespoons of cornstarch that was mixed with 1/4 cup water. I stirred and cooked this mixture until it thickened. 

By this time the crust was done. I let it cool completely while I put the filling in the refrigerator so that it also could cool.

Then it was time to spoon the filling into the prebaked crust.

I added the baked cutouts. 

This was the first time I made a fruit pie in this way. It was a fun way to make a pie.

There was a request for whipped cream to go with the pie. A perfect topping!

(Don't tell Geo, but I plan to make a cherry pie like this for Valentine's Day.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pumpkin Fruit and Nut Bread

I am always looking for new and easy recipes. When someone told me about how she makes pumpkin bread, I knew I wanted to try it. All there is to it is adding to a favorite pumpkin bread recipe about one cup of any dried fruit and nuts. I bought a package of a variety of fruit and nuts, so it was easy to measure and add to the batter after it was mixed.

Here's the finished product:

I divided the batter into two loaf pans, so I am able to wrap one loaf for the freezer. 

Geo give it a "thumbs up," so I know I'll be making it again. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

From Chemo to 5K

I have hesitated in sharing my story, how much and with whom. Getting an unexpected diagnosis of cancer is deeply personal, yet it also has had an effect on those who know me. I am still mentally and emotionally processing the changes in my life.

On October 14th, I met Karen Newman, a champion triathlete who also has had a diagnosis of cancer, and she encouraged me to be more open about what’s been happening in my life.

So here goes…

Both of my parents had cancer, so this disease is no stranger to me. If anything, I thought just maybe I’d be at risk for breast cancer. But bladder cancer? I never even heard of anyone who had this.

My family knows that I’ve avoided doctors. As a gift to one of our daughters, for her birthday in May 2016, I promised to go for a check-up. She had been bugging me to go for quite some time. Maybe I had a small suspicion that something wasn’t quite right physically, but I felt great. The exam went well. Even the urinalysis was negative. Before I left, however, my Primary scheduled a CT scan, only because she felt there may be some abnormality she felt in the intestinal area. Very reluctantly, I kept that CT scan appointment. As it turned out, there was no intestinal problem. Surprisingly, it was when the radiologist looked at the scan that some kind of thickening, or growth, was discovered in the bladder. That’s when my life took a dramatic change.

I was diagnosed with stage 2, invasive, high grade non-metastatic bladder cancer. The treatment plan after surgery on July 14th - taking out the tumor and putting a stent in the ureter, was for a series of chemotherapy treatments, and then the removal of the bladder, uterus, and urethra. Wow. I would be the one going through all of this. How would it affect my family? I had felt so healthy. Now I had cancer. I was determined I would “rock” this. I wanted to survive. I wanted to thrive.

After the first surgery, I felt relieved that “they got it all.” I was scared of chemo. I didn’t want to be nauseous and weak. I was grateful to my daughter who accompanied me to all of my treatments. This opened a whole new world to me of patients and medical staff fighting this disease. Each time we left the chemo clinic, I felt better than when I came in. There was a true spirit of optimism there. Everyone we met seemed so positive, understanding and friendly. And I think the steroids gave me a boost.

My oncologist said I was getting really strong chemo and that I was tolerating it very well. The big bump in the road for me was that I had developed a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics did not work. It was a nightmare. Pain and needing to use the bathroom every fifteen minutes or so did not help me get the sleep I needed. I told my oncologist that chemo was “a piece of cake” compared to this. I knew all the public restrooms between UVM Medical Center and where I live, sometimes stopping two more times on the twenty minute drive home. Cipro finally helped, but the need to frequently use a restroom became part of my life. I became housebound, except for my appointments, and more and more tired.

The other new world that opened up to me was the overwhelming support from family, friends, and even complete strangers. It was like living in a warm bubble of love, and the bubble was huge. People shopped for us, cooked for us, prayed for us and with us. Our library offered to deliver books to our home. When I’d wonder what we’d have for dinner, someone would show up at the door with a hot meal. One time one of the priests we know came to do the door with a hot dish and with the Holy Eucharist. Receiving cards and gifts put a smile on my face everyday. It made me even more determined to get well and to become as healthy as I could be, just to begin to give back to others so much of what was given to me.

During this time I needed a goal – something to strive for, to kind of reach into the future to keep me hopeful. Our daughter who came with me to chemo inspired me to think about First Strides Vermont, a women’s walking/running group that meets up in our town in Spring. I said, “I’d like to be part of that group.” Recovering from chemo treatments, I’d pace around our bedroom for exercise. I told myself I was in training for First Strides. My daughter bought me a really cute hot pink running skirt. I kept it on a chair in the bedroom so I’d see it often.

I had always considered myself as the strong one, the healthy one. I didn’t need a doctor, right? Now I keenly felt my need. I felt for my husband and family who would need to deal with the outcome of this disease.

The prospect of living without a bladder is daunting. I met with the ostomy nurse to learn what it would be like. She was all smiles; I was uncertain. She assured me there was no reason why I could not participate in First Strides.

I prayed a lot. I discovered St. Peregrine, patron saint of cancer patients. I found out that I was not only on the prayer list of our neighborhood parish, but that I was on other prayer lists as well. Sometimes I felt almost like I was floating on prayers. I was never depressed. I did cry a few times. The diagnosis can feel overwhelming, but so is the support I was blessed with.

I participated in a healing service at the nearby Catholic parish. This strengthened my hope. When the Bishop visited the church, I told him of my diagnosis, and he prayed for me. I received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Friends I connected with on facebook prayed for me and asked others to pray. A friend, who is not Catholic, happened to be at Fatima during a pilgrimage; he lit a candle for me there and brought me a rosary. I was blown away by this. I knew I was not alone on this journey, but united and made strong in this community of believers.

After recovering from chemo, I tried to make an appointment for the major surgery. I did not have peace about this, but I thought it was the necessary next part of the treatment plan. It would happen either just before or after Christmas. When I called to schedule, the urologist asked me to come to see him. He had studied my recent scans and decided to change the treatment plan. Instead of surgery, he determined it was best to treat me “aggressively” by examining me every 3 months and have scans every 6 months. Whew! A great relief. I had a reassuring peace in my heart about this. If the bladder is healthy now, why remove it?

I still had inflammation and I still had to time my car trips and know where the bathrooms would be. The infection was finally gone. The urologist said that the bladder would never be 100%. I was looking for continued improvement.

While going to chemo treatments, I learned about oncology rehab for cancer patients to work out at the gym with trainers, part of the UVM Medical Center. I signed up. During this time I had a treadmill stress test. I was told that if I wanted to become any more fit, I should start running. I took this as a challenge. I started on the treadmill at the gym, encouraged by the staff. That was a turning point for me.

Then it was time for the three month checkup with the urologist. I had another cystoscopy test. By now I was getting used to this. Then I heard him say, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but...” The inflammation was decreased, but he had seen something in the bladder that was not there before. He wanted to schedule another surgical procedure to remove whatever it was. After the procedure was over, it was an anxious time of waiting for the results of the biopsy. I went to see him for my post-op appointment. Good news! No cancer! I cried with relief. For some reason, after that procedure the bathroom issues I had been experiencing greatly diminished. Continued improvement.

Within the week I was back on the treadmill.

I’ve always admired runners. Both of our daughters run. I remember watching one of them during high school cross-country meets and thinking, “I wish I could do that.” I recall cheering our other daughter who ran a half-marathon, and was truly impressed. I thought it was for them to do, not for me.

When it was time for First Strides to begin in May, I was somewhat nervous. There were about 100 women there, including a few I knew. We did a timed mile, and I was placed in a small group of those with similar timing to mine. It was the first time I openly shared with strangers that I had been diagnosed with cancer. They were most supportive. Our group did intervals, walking and running. At first it was more walking, and as the weeks went by, we did more running. I was enjoying this.

Running became important to me. It was like putting a distance between me and the cancer.

After First Strides, I kept up a running routine mostly around the neighborhood recreation path. It was familiar and comfortable for me. Other runners were always talking about 5Ks. Could I do this? I tried stretching out my distances to see if I could run a full 3 miles, maybe more. I was determined. I signed up for my first 5K at Shelburne Farms for October 14th. It would’ve been my Dad’s birthday, so the date was meaningful to me. I didn’t tell anyone, just in case I’d back out. One of my friends from First Strides also signed up, so we decided to go together.

On the day of the run, I was happy to see most of my First Strides group there, including our mentor. There were men and women of all ages. It was a brisk and sunny day. I’d be running in an unfamiliar area on unpaved roads, in the fields, into the woods, and along Lake Champlain. There was a steady increase in elevation along the way. On the run, the women from my First Strides group were ahead of me, but I kept them in sight. I passed one woman, then she passed me, then I passed her, … I heard cheering up ahead; it was the two mile mark. When I saw the finish line come into view, I took off like a bullet. I crossed the line as fast as I could. I did not feel as exhilarated (as I expected), but exhausted. But I did it! My first 5K. All of us in our First Strides group came in very close in timing. I was thrilled to receive the award of coming in first in my age group 70 + years . Well, I was the only one in my age group, but 38.08.7 was a respectable finish. A highlight of this 5K for me was the privilege of meeting Karen Newman.

I continue to run because I CAN do this. I do it because I am grateful for the physical fitness that I’ve been blessed with. I do it because of the wonderful and inspiring people I meet along the way. I do it to stay as healthy as I possibly can be. I do not know what the future holds. I want to be ready for whatever comes my way so that I can meet any situation with good physical health, hope, and grace.

Each person has his or her own challenges. Being diagnosed with cancer, dealing with this, is mine. My heart goes out to anyone with this disease. I look forward to major advances in treatment so it is no longer such a scary disease for so many individuals and families.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mad River Walk

We took a drive today to Waitsfield, Vermont, and found a favorite spot to relax near the Mad River. We brought along our chairs and books to read. I took some time to walk along a path near the river.

The path led me through a wooded area and down to the river.

walked on the stone path and enjoyed seeing the wildflowers along the way. 

A perfect peaceful day, down by thriver.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Art at Hand - Ogden Pleissner

Today Geo and I were at the Shelburne Museum for an Art at Hand presentation. Art at Hand is for persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired, The museum guides describe the artwork and provide sensory experiences of art - auditory, tactile, and even aromatic.


This morning we learned about Ogden Pleissner, an artist who worked in both oils and water colors. During World War II, he was an artist embedded with the troops. He sketched and then painted scenes of the war.  He was also an avid sportsman who painted about fishing in rivers in the wilderness.

At the museum there is a room that shows Pleissner's studio as it may have looked when he painted in Manchester, VT.

Some of his fishing attire is on display. It was described by the museum guides.

One prominent painting is of a salmon "striking" at a dry fly.

This painting was described by the guide. She then passed a raised tracing of the salmon so everyone could feel its shape.

Next we felt a very authentic- looking wood carving of salmon. The colors happened to be the exact colors of the fish in the painting.

Here's a dry fly that could be used in catching salmon.

There were several works on display of men fishing from guideboats. 

Misty Morning - Salmon Fishing, 1938

To help put us into the scene, the guides played sounds of birds singing and they even passed around branches of greens with the fresh smell of pines.

This was an informative, accessible and fun way to experience art. 
We look forward to the next Art at Hand that will take place in June.

Ernie, a service dog, just chillin' out.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter Eggs

Dying Easter eggs is not among my favorite Spring projects. All those messy cups with the vinegar and all the dipping of the boiled eggs with a wire egg holder or spoon...Ugh.  Sometimes I'd add oil to the colored water for a swirly effect, but for me the eggs never turned out that great. When I saw directions for using old silk neckties, however, I was intrigued. I'd give it a try.

Step #1. Convincing hubby to give up a few of his many ties he seldom ever wears.

Step #2. Cut squares from the ties, large enough to cover the eggs. Make sure the right side of the fabric touches the egg. Wrap each egg in the fabric. Secure with a twist tie. To make sure the fabric was tight against the egg, I wrapped the eggs in yarn. Next, cover the wrapped eggs with pieces of any white fabric, like pieces of an old pillowcase. I used an old white t-shirt. Secure each outer wrap with a twist tie.

Step #3. Place eggs in a pot and cover them with water to reach at least two inches over the eggs. Add about 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a full twenty minutes.

Step #4. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon or tongs. 

Step #5. When the eggs are completely cooled to room temperature unwrap them. To make them shine, polish with a little vegetable oil. Refrigerate until you are ready to display them.

I found that the dark ties worked the best. For the sharpest imprint, the silk needs to be very tightly wrapped around the egg.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dutch Pancake

We were out for lunch with friends when one of them mentioned something about Dutch pancakes. This reminded me that I had a pan that I had purchased for just this purpose: oven-baked pancakes. It’s been in storage for more years than I care to remember. Time to bring it back into the kitchen.

I followed the recipe on the box. All the ingredients are stirred in one bowl, so there is no need for an electric mixer or blender.

I poured the batter into my special pan, but any nonstick ovenproof or well-seasoned iron skillet should work well. Make sure the bottom of the skillet is greased well, so the baked pancake easily slides out of the pan. Bake until the pancake is puffed and golden.

Top with any fruit. I used frozen organic blueberries, thawed and slightly warmed, with a little maple syrup. I sprinkled the pancake with powdered sugar before serving.


2 T. butter
6 eggs
1 cup flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup milk

powdered sugar
maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat butter in pan in the oven for two minutes. Spread melted butter to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, slightly beat the eggs. Stir in flour, sugar and salt until mixed well.
Add the milk gradually and stir until very smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the  400 degree oven for fifteen minutes. Turn down the temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for an additional 40 - 45 minutes, or until the pancake is a deep golden brown. Immediately loosen from the pan and slide onto the serving platter. Top with fruit, sprinkle with sugar, drizzle with maple syrup. Slice into wedges. Serves six.

The pan will not be going back into storage. For me, making this was a lot easier than regular pancakes, and also higher in protein because of the number of eggs.  Next time I'll try hot apples with cinnamon as the topping. A great way to start a weekend morning!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Today's Soup - Broccoli Cheese

We had leftover broccoli from dinner last night. Why not make soup for lunch?

Today's soup is Broccoli Cheese.


2 - 3 cups cooked broccoli
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 slices cheese
pepper to season
croutons (optional)


Mash the broccoli.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.

Blend a small amount of milk with the flour.

Add the remaining milk to the soup and bring to a simmer.

Next add the milk/flour mixture.

Simmer while stirring for about five minutes, 
until soup is slightly reduced and thickened.
Add pepper to taste.

Stir in the cheese until it is well incorporated.

Ready to eat!

Top with croutons.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Soup's On - It's Mushroom Kale

When I was growing up, we had soup on the stove almost every day. For my Dad, the day was not complete without soup, mostly some kind of beef or chicken.

Today I made mushroom kale soup, very simple and tasty on this cold, gray February day. 

I started by lightly sauteing the mushrooms and kale in olive oil. 

I then added 2 cups of vegetable broth and brought that to a simmer.

Next I measured 1 cup of milk. I added a small amount of that into a jar with some flour. I shook the flour and milk together until they were blended.

The rest of the milk went into the pot with the mushrooms and kale.

I brought that to a simmer, then slowly added the 
milk with flour.

Salt and pepper were added for seasoning. Then I stirred and simmered the soup for about five minutes until it was slightly thickened. Before serving I added a pat of butter.

Serve with crusty bread. (Glass of wine, optional.)

6 - 8 very large mushrooms, chopped.
1 handful of fresh kale, shredded
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Cups vegetable broth
1 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons flour
1 pat of butter
salt/pepper to taste.

Saute mushrooms and kale in olive oil. Add the vegetable both and bring to a simmer. Blend flour with a small amount of milk. Add the rest of the milk to the soup mixture and bring to a simmer. Add the flour with milk. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer while stirring for about five minutes. Swirl in 1 pat of butter before serving.