Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Don't Wait

Friday morning started with a text from a colleague that said “Eileen passed away this morning”

Eileen and I worked in the same building for years although she worked in a department I rarely had to coordinate with.  Mostly we saw each other in staff meetings.

We were diagnosed with the same type of  breast cancer at the same time and became friends as we supported we other on our medical journeys.

My cancer was found by a routine yearly mammogram - 3 tumors, 2 in the left breast, one in the right. Within a week I had 3 biopsies and, learned the type and grade of the tumors.

Eileen had felt a lump in her right breast months before and waited seek medical care.

I immediately had a bilateral mastectomy and a couple of nodes removed that showed that the cancer had not spread.

Eileen had one breast removed but her nodes showed that the cancer had already spread.

I recovered from the surgery in a few weeks and started a regimen of estrogen killing drugs that gave me wicked hot flashes.

Eileen had to start chemo, was sick as a dog, lost her hair, her energy and a couple of months of work. But she never quite bounced back from the chemo and quit working.

I had had lunch with her  a short while ago and she was saying that she still was not feeling well and was going to call the doctor soon. Turns out that the cancer had spread to her bones.  By the time she went it was too late.

Friday morning Eileen died. She was 55 years old.

Saturday morning my daughter Beaner and I went to New York City to see a Broadway show. In a couple of weeks I am will be hiking in Sedona with Peachie.

Sunday afternoon Eileen’s her children gathered to mourn her.

I can’t help but think of the different ways our lives went all because she was too frightened to get medical help when she knew something was wrong.  Cancer is not like a cold. It will not go away with a good night’s sleep.  

I urge everyone to keep up with their routine screenings and preventive wellness. And if you suspect something is not right, get medical attention immediately.  Early detection and treatment does save lives and even in the 5 years since my cancer, they have made huge strides in treatment.  

While my daughters and I are out making memories, Eileen’s are burying her.  

Please don’t wait.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Full of Grace - Maple Sugaring Time

As is our yearly tradition - and I do love traditions - it is maple sugaring time in the northeast which means going to an All you can Eat Pancake Breakfast.

We try to visit a different farm each year - this year coming close to the Green Mountains of Vermont.

While sugaring used to be very labor intensive, having to tap trees, hang buckets and manually collect the sap daily, today’s large operations now do it with tubing and collections systems.  The sap is then put in wood burning boilers to cook off the excess water until it becomes nothing but sweet, velvety syrup.  

An interesting note - Before the days of boilers, Indians used to hollow out tree trunks and place the sap in the hollow. At night the water content of the sap would freeze and they would peel the layer of ice off. Done repeatedly until fully reduced to liquid gold.

Maple sugar farms open their sugar shacks for one or two weekends in March to give tours and serve their products.

This year’s choice provided some really great fiddle music.

There may be nothing better than being out in the woods on a cold Sunday morning, enter a steamy sugar shack, sit at a communal table to drink a cup of hot coffee and stuff yourself with steaming pancakes and sausage topped with fresh maple syrup straight out of the boilers.

And then going home with a collection of maple sugar products and recipes to try.

Unfortunately our warm winter has slowed the flow of sap and production will be low this year. In fact, they say climate change will eventually move maple sugaring further and further north, the impact already showing in just one generation. It makes me so sad to think that my grandchildren may not be able to enjoy this centuries old tradition.  

Or enjoy maple syrup straight from the tree

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wildflower Seeds to Help Honeybees

Have you noticed that Buzz the bee has disappeared from many Cheerios cereal boxes? General Mills has removed the mascot’s as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of real honeybees.

Bees of all stripes are currently in big trouble. The Center for Biological Diversity has found that more than half the species are in decline. Almost one in four is in increasing risk of extinction. The wide-spread use of bee killing pesticides are particular threats for honeybees and wild pollinators, and severe loss of formerly wild spaces due to development have all taken huge bites out of bee populations. This is bad news, even for people who don’t care about bugs— honeybees are responsible for pollinating 70 out of the 100 biggest human food crops.

The average person sitting down to dinner probably doesn’t realize the important role bees played in preparing that meal. Here’s something that might surprise you: One out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination—from fruit to nuts to coffee beans. And because bees are dying at a rapid rate (42 percent of bee colonies collapsed in the United States alone in 2015), our food supply is at serious risk. (National Resources Defense Council)

Things you can do to help bees.

Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard. ...
Weeds can be a good thing.
Don't use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden.
Buy local, raw honey.
Bees are thirsty. Put out a small bowl of water
Get involved politically. Ask your representatives to pass, enforce and keep laws that will protect the bees.

To help in the effort, General Mills is giving away 100 million wildflower seeds. Go sign up, I hear they are going fast. And then get planting. I will have to wait for the 2 feet of snow this blizzard is dumping on me first. But as soon as Spring arrives, I will be doing my part.

 To further spread the word, General Mills is giving away 100 million wildflower seeds.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Full of Grace

I’ve never had a lap cat and now I have two!  They are snuggled on me all the time. No matter how crazy the world is outside my home, this grounds me and makes me giddy happy. Although it is hard to get anything productive accomplished.

A new pair of high top, leather hiking boots. I am loathe to ever give up a pair of comfortable hikers, but my last pair went through a mud soaked hike and were so worn that I could feel even small stones through the soles. I am just breaking these in but have a good feeling about them.

Of course, I realized that they are great for the Adirondack trails I am used to, but my next hike will be in the red rocks of dry, hot Sedona. So I bought a pair of low, breathable hikers.  Then I read about rattlesnakes in April so I think I will bring the high tops too.

My daughter sent me this picture from a Greek grocery where she lives. And then brought me all three to taste test.  Yes, Merenda is very good, but does not beat Nutella.  Still, to be fair, I am giving them all a chance, every night, by the large spoonful.  

Flowers on the left. Veggies on the right.  I love planting from seed and anticipating Spring.  In my zone, we shouldn’t plant outside until Mother’s Day but I am too impatient and start on May 1st.

Just 8 more weeks!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Picking my Passion

I used to be a news junkie.  I have always been involved in activism and have degrees in political science, public policy administration and community planning.  These days though news is breaking so quickly, 24/7, it feels impossible to keep up. And almost every new story brings a new sense of outrage.  A few weeks into the new administration and I found myself having to totally withdraw from the news cycle just for my own sanity.

Then I read an article over at Medium in which attorney Mirah Curzer suggests a few tactics for staying engaged with social issues without losing your mind. Curzer suggests:

You can’t show up to every march and donate to every cause...If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them...Important caveat: I’m not saying we collectively should pick a few issues and let everything else fall by the wayside...This is advice to individuals, not the party or the movement as a whole.

It’s also not to say other issues are less important or that you should turn a blind eye to them. Curzer’s point is that, just like anything else, too many options can lead to analysis paralysis. As she puts it, “Sure, retweet and share on Facebook about your peripheral issues, but focus your real energy on the things you care about most.”

With this is mind I decided to focus my energies and passion on the one issue that has always been near and dear to me - the environment.

While I was working I had daily opportunities to protect open space and farmland from development. I wrote local laws to protect streams and wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas. Now retired, I need to find more ways to resist the and mitigate the impact of this administration's desire to eliminate environmental regulations.

I used to live in the New York metropolitan area and until I saw this graphic I didn’t remember that we used to receive daily air quality reports as routinely as we got the weather.

I am fortunate to live in a state where environmental regulations are now strong and my representatives almost always vote the way I think they should. I do not need to spend my time writing and calling them, although I do occasionally send them a “thank you”.   So I will be finding more ways to reduce my own environmental impact, donating to and volunteering for environmental causes, and probably harassing representatives from other states.

And I will be spending a lot of time outside enjoying the natural landscape, not only because there is a much needed restorative aspect to that, but also because I want to appreciate nature as much as possible. It may not be here for the next generation.

If you get a chance, head over to Curzer’s post at the link below—the full post is definitely worth the read. Then go pick your passion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I don’t know about you but I am having a great deal of trouble trying to stay on top on the news. Fake news, alternate facts, executive orders, cabinets appointments. It’s all coming at me like a bomb exploded.  

Until I found the phone app Countable

You tell it the issues you’re interested in and it keeps you up to date with any actions happening in Congress on that issue. It will send you notifications if you'd like.

It gives you the details of every bill before Congress and will tell you how your representatives voted.

You plug in your zip code then if you have an opinion on an issue the app will send it to your representative for you. Easy peasy.

I have not yet used it enough to sense any bias, either way, in it’s content. But if you are looking for an easy way to stay on top of the avalanche of changes, and to make your voice heard, I highly recommend trying this.

I have not been paid for this post. I just really like this app. And it's free!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Full of Grace

Our new kittens:  Mazie and Jager

They are more than enough Grace for this week.  In fact, it is very hard to have any concerns at all while playing with a kitten or puppy.  I highly recommend it.