Hi, Neighbor, Can I Borrow Your Rototiller?

We’ve lived in our neighborhood for four years. There was no welcome wagon, no neighbor showing up to say hello with a pie. We did however meet one neighbor the day we moved in, but only because our toilet got backed up and we needed a plunger. That neighbor moved away the next weekend, before we could return the plunger…hmmm?

Slowly we’ve been getting to know people though. When our grandchildren were living with us and going to the neighborhood school, we got to know a few folks, mostly parents of the other kids who took the bus with Izzy and Kash. We still wave and say hello as they pass by walking their dogs or stand at the bus stop each weekday morning.

eggplant galoreOne of our neighbors is actually the custodian at the elementary school nearby. We didn’t realize that right away, it wasn’t until the kids came home one day and told us. He’s another of the neighbors that we acknowledge occasionally over the fence that separates our two yards. Over the past year Steve’s struck up a enough of a friendship with the custodian to actually borrow yard improvement equipment.

rototillerSteve had wanted to rent a rototiller to expand the garden so he could include a wider variety of herbs and vegetables. He’d started the seeds in the garage, keeping the seedlings properly lit and heated for weeks before putting them in the ground (I have the electric bills to prove it). Over the fence one day Steve and our neighbor were talking about how difficult the soil can be and he offered Steve the use of an older model rototiller. Steve worked the soil like any good farmer, tilling and then sifting out all the rocks and bones and other particulate matter that might not provide the appropriate growing environment for our crops.

great pumpkin
The pumpkin our neighbor
grew this year!

Our neighbor’s generosity has helped us to be in tomatoes, herbs, watermelon, and spaghetti squash beyond what we could have expected. For that, I’d like to thank our neighbor and we’ll share some of our homemade tomato sauce with him sometime this winter.

Girls Gone…Amazing

There are times, as I’ve experienced and been told, that the inspiration for writing something on a daily basis can be hard to come by. Today, I decided to for a muse by scrolling through my list of Facebook friends. I noticed as I made my way down the 2-column page that I’m connected to many of the women that were friends and acquaintances with me in college. I loved being in college, I had a blast for the most part. I learned about what I was capable of doing, what I liked and didn’t like, and what I was willing to try thanks to these women.

As undergrads we faced the challenges of pulling all-nighters to get coursework done on time, finding the best cure for a hangover, supporting each other through relationships beginning and ending, enjoying happy hours (even if someone got sick on us on the way home–Barb), running for student leadership positions, applying to be RA’s or SOS leaders, and showing support for each others’ athletic endeavors. Many of the women I spent my days and nights with I looked up to then, and find that my admiration continues to grow with so many of the Facebook posts I read.

Since graduation, more than 30 years ago, these women have faced enormous and life-altering challenges that have included: brain tumors, breast cancer, deaths of parents, divorce, marriage, babies, grandchildren, blizzards, hurricanes. They have started, sold, and lost businesses. They’ve built careers as teachers, principals, nurses, athletic trainers, coaches, businesswomen, and community leaders. I hope that they know how terrific they are and how important it is they continue to be role models for young women everywhere.

And, if no one has thanked you lately, consider yourself thanked, you are all amazing!

Libby, Tari, Eileen, Barb, Phyllis, Kim, Monica, Karen, Debi, Andrea, Brenda, Renee, Beth, Bridget, Pam, Suzy, Janet, Penny, Lori, Pam, Diane, Mary, Sandy, Jenny, Carrie, MJ

Kash’s Teacher

I began today to clean up the basement. We have more junk and clothes and toys and crap down there than we will ever use. The nice thing is that we can have a pretty terrific yard sale in a couple of weeks. The Lego’s alone have the potential to bring in a enough to pay for a weekend getaway. I figure if we haven’t used it in the four years we’ve lived here then out it goes!

As I was sifting through the toys, books and puzzles our grandchildren used when they were living here I came across some books that my grandson’s third grade teacher had given him. Kash loved his teacher that year: Mrs. Tavitian. She was kind and had patience that was so far beyond any I’d experienced, ever, I can’t begin to describe it. After 22 years of teaching, I’m not sure I would have been so patient.  Kash was more than a handful–constantly in motion and also one of the smartest kids in the class! A fact that would frustrate Mrs. Tavitian, the school’s principal and me, pretty much every day.

sandy tavitian
Mrs. T made one of these for each of her students as a year-end gift!
Isn’t it beautiful!

I met with Mrs. Tavitian probably once a week for the first several weeks of the school year. We worked together on action plans that could support Kash both at school and home; consistency, we both knew, was the name of the game and the key to Kash’s success. Mrs. Tavitian balanced the needs of the other thirteen students in her class with keeping Kash in check in a way that no student felt slighted and Kash didn’t feel called out in front of his classmates. She told me she never could have been so patient and given Kash the level of attention she did if the class had been any bigger.

When it came time for our grandkids to move back to Arizona it was still summer break. I didn’t want Mrs. Tavitian to find that Kash was not in school in September when he didn’t show up, so I called to tell her. We’d decided to have a little party for the kids’ friends and our family to say good-bye to them and I invited Mrs. Tavitian to come. Kash, in a way only he could, told her what a great teacher she was and that he’d miss her. She gave him an envelope with her address and stamp on it and asked him to let her know how he is doing in school. They hugged. She cried. And said good-bye.

Thank you Mrs. Tavitian!

Lost and Found, With A Little Help from St. Anthony and A Co-Worker

Have you ever lost something–out of the blue, you know you had it one moment and then several minutes, or hours, later you realize it’s not where it was supposed to be?  The feeling of panic of having to tell the person who gave you the beautiful gift, that you now fear it has gone the way of socks in the dryer; it can be enough to make you just sick to your stomach.

The Actual Bracelet!

During the last Christmas season our boss took us to lunch as a holiday gift.  Every year we go to a posh Italian restaurant downtown, the kind that has valet parking and the waiters wear tuxedos, it’s quite lovely.  On the particular day of the luncheon last year, as I was getting dressed and choosing some jewelry to wear,  my husband suggested that I wear the beautiful charm bracelet he’d given me for my birthday the previous year.  Pandora-like bracelets were all the rage at the time and he wanted me to have one with charms to remind me of our relationship, as well as our grandchildren.  Little red beads, our initials “S” and “K”, two little girls and one little boy, a couple of more decorative beads, with a heart for the clasp completely fill the bracelet completely.  It’s heavy enough to know you’re wearing but not so heavy it is distracting. He even fastened it securely to my wrist before I left the house.

We were sitting at the table waiting for the last of our party to join us when I folded my hands on the table and realized the bracelet was not on my wrist.  I was horrified, sad, worried all at the same time; and this continued throughout the meal.  Over and over again I found myself saying a prayer to St. Anthony to help me find it by the time the day was over. I texted a coworker to look around my desk and up and down the stairs and hallways, in case it had fallen off in the building.  I asked the maître d’ if it was found to call me as soon as possible as I handed him my business card on the way out of the restaurant.

One of my coworkers who’d been a passenger in my car for the quick trip downtown asked on the way back if I’d ever lost the bracelet before?  I recalled it had fallen off once before when it caught the edge of my jacket as I slid my arm down through the long sleeve.  She suggested that when we got back to the parking lot at work that I look on the ground were my car was parked…good idea.

Back at the lot behind the building I was able to pull into the exact spot I’d occupied before we left for lunch.  I stepped out, along with the my passenger who’d made the excellent suggestion to look on the ground near the car.  SUCCESS. The bracelet was right there, just under the car but easily within reach.  I admit I shed a tear or two, breathed an amazingly long sigh of relief and gratitude, and gave a huge hug to my coworker to thank her!


Baking, as you may have read previously, is a hobby I enjoy. Even more than enjoy I find baking to be an almost spiritual experience. During stressful times in my life I’ve found the simple processes of measuring, pouring, mixing, rolling, cutting, and then inhaling the tantalizing smells of the final product as it comes out of the oven, to be grounding. I have trusted favorite recipes and enjoy trying new ones. I even have recipes that, no matter the amount of begging and pleading, I will not share with anyone (I figure why create the competition).

When I was living in Vermont I picked up a few incredibly tasty and successful recipes. One of the absolute foolproof and easiest is an apple pie that’s baked in a paper shopping bag. I haven’t made it in quite some time particularly since hopping on the bandwagon of bringing my own bags to the grocery store. I just don’t have paper bags hanging around the house anymore.

The recipe, Superb Apple Pie, came from a student who was part of a peer mentoring group I advised at the college where I worked. She wanted to desperately to make pie that fall of her sophomore year and baking in the dorms was no easy feat. Small stove that you could never be sure would work and no space for actually spreading out with all the ingredients. And then there is the matter of everyone in the dorm wanting a piece of the action; one pie does not feed the masses living in a college dorm.

The pie is just as easy to make as using a pre-made Pillsbury crust, and just as good if not better. The crumb topping is buttery and sugary and beautiful as it comes out of the bag still hot and smelling of fresh orchard goodness. I remember how Rachel looked when she presented her pie to those of us who waited anxiously, salivating, in my living room. I’m not sure it was exactly cooled enough to eat, but we needed to cut into it within several minutes of it coming out of the oven. It was heaven!

Rachel, I hope you don’t mind if I share the recipe here. It’s apple season and everyone should enjoy this recipe! Thank you for introducing it to me and I sure hope you’re still making it!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup salad oil (don’t use olive oil)
2 tbsp. cold milk

4 cups sliced apple
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar

No rolling of the crust – baked in a paper bag. Combine flour, sugar, salt, oil, and milk. Mix until well blended. Pat mixture in bottom and sides of a nine-inch pan. Do not roll out. Combine sugar and spices. Toss lightly with sliced apples and pour into unbaked pie shell. Combine flour, margarine and sugar and mix together with fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of pie. Place pie in brown paper bag and seal. Bake at 350 degrees 1 1/2 hours. NO peeking! Slit sack open with sharp knife. Cool pie on rack. If oven bakes rather hot, reduce to 325 degrees.

No Such Thing as “The Good Cancer”

It is thyroid cancer awareness month.  There are just a few more days left in September; a few more days to draw needed attention to “the good cancer”.

Of course there is no good cancer! The Merriam Webster Dictionary on-line defines cancer as:

can•cer noun \ˈkan(t)-sər\: (1) a serious disease caused by cells that are not normal and that can spread to one or many parts of the body: (2) something bad or dangerous that causes other bad things to happen.

Does this sound like it’s a good thing?

My diagnosis and surgery happened in the spring of 2011. There was such much going on in my life at the time the realization of what was going on in my body didn’t happen, really, until the past several months. The time between diagnosis to surgery to RAI treatment and the ultrasound to say I was all clear, was only about seven months. So, the “good” cancer, maybe, but for the rest of my life I will take medication to act in place of my thyroid.thyca logo

Others are not nearly as fortunate as I have been in terms of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. The nodules in my thyroid were found and monitored for seven years before a complete thyroidectomy was necessary. Only quite recently have I come to know just how “lucky” I was; a few weeks ago I joined a Facebook group: Light of Life Thyroid Cancer Survivors. The stories and information shared by so many survivors has done a couple of things for me. First, it’s affirmed a great deal of what I was feeling during my diagnosis and recovery stage–the frustration, exhaustion, depression, fear…apparently all “normal”. And second, I have come to the realization of just how insanely serious this disease can be for so many people.

Was I lucky? Who’s to say. I had cancer and now I don’t. I was one of the very lucky few for whom thyroid cancer was the “good cancer to get”. Today I thank the brave men and women who will continue to struggle with their diagnosis and treatment, and to share their very stories that will inspire and support others in the fight.
Folks, check your neck! There’s no such thing as good cancer.bannereventbrite2

My Yoke is Easy

I mentioned the other day that I learned how to sew when I was in my early teens. After that wraparound jacket with the miles of braid along all the edges, I’m sure I was a bit turned off to the whole process. I didn’t do too much sewing actually, until I got to college. My work-study job was in the costume shop in the theatre department. When I went for the interview there were three other students also vying for the few work-study jobs that were left on campus.

The director of the Shop was Jan, a tall women who commanded the room as she waltzed in with kaftan and long brown hair flowing. She was talented, smart, a perfectionist and just a bit temperamental. She designed costumes and some of the sets for all of the shows. The year I worked for her the fall performance was a musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Company. In one scene the entire cast was to sing the title song as a chorus dressed in choir robes. Although the theatre department had a huge costume closet the choir robes needed to be all of the same style, and that just did not exist in the vast cavern of dresses, suits, shoes, hats, and just about any other item a wardrobe mistress might need.

Enter Kelly, the newbie when it came to working in the wonderful world of The Theatre. Couple that with the fact that I may have stretched it a bit when I told Jan that I had mad skills when it came to sewing. My first assignment: twelve choir robes, full length, made from sheets and then dyed several different pastel colors. I had about three weeks to get them made, and remember, I still had to go to class–this was just a part-time work-study job!

Jan critiqued each one as I completed them. The first was probably the most difficult and Jan didn’t pull any punches when we were talking about the quality of my product. What she did do was show me how to do it correctly; finishing off seams, steam pressing edges, managing the mountain of fabric on top of the sewing table. At the time I became an expert at sewing choir robes. Subsequently the skill has served me well. I’ve made some of my own clothes, fun arts and crafts projects, and I’m about to embark on making pillows for the porch swing my husband currently has under construction.

It may have been the nice lady at Sears who initially taught me to sew, but it was Jan who taught me about being a seamstress. Thanks, Jan.