Thursday, October 16, 2014

All Aboard!!!!!!

Hello there friends!!!!!

Just a note to let you know that I have moved my blog to my website!!!!!!
My Website is
My latest blog is about my recent adventure . . . my first train ride.  Please follow me over at the new blog site.  Here is the link to the actually lastest blog post there.

blessings and hugs to all of you faithful followers!!!!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Ribbon Art From The Heart"

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving"
                                                                 ----Mother Teresa

We've all heard it said that virtually everyone is touched by cancer.  I do believe that is true.  In my own life, I have seen both of my parent’s lives ended by cancer, watched my son-in-law, Josh, battle colon cancer, seen numerous friends walk their cancer journeys, and of course experienced cancer first hand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996.  I was reminded this year that cancer is experienced worldwide when a young friend of ours in Australia was diagnosed with it. 

Thankfully, I also know people working on the research end of cancer.  One of my friends is a world renowned cancer researcher at Georgetown University.  I’m happy to report that her cutting edge treatment is having great, clinical trial, success.  I’m also happy to report that my friend, Mike, is successfully battling esophageal cancer thanks to an amazing new treatment.  All in all, things have come a long way, Baby.  Progress is being made thanks to the people who are funding and to those performing the research.
One of the organizations I most respect is the American Cancer Society, .  For 14 years I worked closely with them as a volunteer with their Reach to Recovery program, the most successful patient service program in their history.  I also did media (television and radio), and corporate speaking for them to raise awareness and educate others to topics related to cancer and health.  I know them to be trustworthy in the information they share, on top of the latest cancer developments, careful with how they allocate and distribute their contributions, AND one of the largest funders of cancer research in the United States.  They fund research for ALL kinds of cancers.

Recently I made a decision to try and do six amazing things, (one for each decade), before I turn sixty in January.  So far I have hand feed wild birds (yup it was amazing) and watched the sunrise over the tidal basin and cherry trees while eating a picnic breakfast with my family.  I have some other fun things in my mind, and one of the goals is to only do things that cost little or nothing and are amazing, so far, so good with that goal.  As I have thought about my six amazing experiences, I realized I wanted one of them to be some type of “give back” project.  I don’t want it to be all about me, because I don’t want my life to be all about me.  I kept waiting for some inspiration and just this week, it happened.  I figured out the perfect “give back” project

For quite a while I have thought about designing note cards using the pink ribbon prominently used to promote breast cancer awareness.  I have seen these designs in my head but not put them on paper.  Finally, just a few days ago, I made time to get the designs out of my mind and see them in front of me just as I had envisioned.  One is a vase made from the pink ribbon, holding a bouquet of pink flowers.  When I was walking through my cancer journey many times, just when I would hit a low spot, someone would deliver a beautiful bouquet to my door and it truly lifted my spirits.  That design reminds me of those moments. The second design is of a hand, wearing a pink ribbon survivor bracelet, and delivering a bouquet of flowers made from pink ribbons.  This picture reminds me of being a survivor and paying forward all the kindness shown to me during my journey..  As a Reach to Recovery volunteer, I visited and walked along side many newly diagnosed cancer patients; this drawing reminds me of those times.  The third design is of a butterfly, it is soaring upward.  This is a symbol of those who fought the battle and are now free of cancer, free to soar again.  I've been happily soaring for almost 18 years now!  Finally, there is a notecard bearing a crown set with three jewels, those jewels represent the three most important support systems I relied on during my cancer, my faith, my family, and my friends.  That picture reminds me of how blessed I am to have all three of those things in my life.

Now that the notecards are designed I’m ready to launch my “give back” project.  I have printed 200 sets of what I call “Ribbon Art From The Heart”.  They are $6.00 per set, and for every set I sell I will donate $1.00 to the American Cancer Society.  Although the art features the pink ribbon which figures prominently in my own journey, I am donating the money to the ACS because they fund ALL types of cancer and I have many friends battling many different types of cancer right now.  If you feel led to help me reach my goal of selling these 200 note cards, you may leave me a message on my personal Facebook page, my business Facebook page, BK Pen and Paint, or order directly from my website  .  If you are local, ordering directly from me will save you the shipping. 

I have never undertaken a project like this (although I have donated to other projects) and it was a step of faith for me to order the 200 sets of note cards without knowing whether they would sell or not.  I will not be using this blog again to solicit donations of any kind, but I’m happy I could feature “Ribbon Art From The Heart” here, because I wanted my friends to share in the adventure.  For all who saw me through my cancer journey, thank you, I’m forever indebted.  For those who have fought and won the battle already, I’m thrilled for you.  For those who are currently in the midst of their cancer journey, I’m walking with you in prayer and here if you need a shoulder to lean on.  Walking forward, stepping out on faith with this third amazing experience, I’m half way through the year, and this project is half way through my six amazing experiences, so delighted to mark the halfway point by “giving back”!

Please feel free to share this blog and my website with your friends who might be interested in supporting the "Ribbon Art From The Heart" project.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunrise And Cherry Blossoms

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
but only God can make a tree
 Joyce Kilmer, "Trees," 1914

4:30 AM and the alarm sounds, time for amazing experience number two of six leading up to my 60th birthday next year.  Thankfully, I prepped the night before!  Clothes laid out, picnic ready, camera with new batteries charged up, and best of all, my family also up and dressing.  We meet in the kitchen to fill our cups with coffee and hot chocolate.  Bleary-eyed, but excited, as we talk and laugh in quiet tones so as not to wake others in the house still sleeping.  This morning, Bob, Jean, Ellie and I are off to watch the sunrise over the blossoming Cherry trees on the Tidal Basin in DC.  A twenty minute ride away, we finish gathering cameras, jackets and the picnic basket and head out the door.

It’s still dark as we drive out of the neighborhood and head toward the District.  Over 40 years I have lived in the area now.  The roads are forever etched in my mind; I know five ways to get to the same destination (which helps when the traffic bogs down).  This early, traffic is flowing well; it’s the calm before the morning rush hour storm.  We head down the Clara Barton Parkway, mist rises off the C & O Canal, snaking along beside us, the mule path just barely visible in the dusky pre-dawn light.  Beyond the canal we can glimpse the Potomac River, high from recent rain, running by the most powerful city in the world.  We are getting close to the District, the towers of Georgetown University rise above us and we are almost there. I’m excited as the city unfolds in front of us; we follow the line of red tail lights entering the city streets ahead of us.  After all these years I still wonder how I could be blessed to  live so close to this beautiful city. I still smile when the tip of the Washington Monument begins to peek through the buildings, still marvel at the Kennedy Center reflected in the river, still feel my heart skip a beat when I see the Capitol dome shining above the grassy Mall.  This morning, watching the sunrise down here will be an experience I've thought about for many years, the city looks particularly beautiful this morning, it’s clear and perfect as the stars and the sun begin the dawn dance.

We find parking amazingly close to the Tidal Basin and grab our things.  We are not alone, not by a long shot.  Couples, families, bicyclists, old folks, young people, runners, walkers, police officers, news crews and Photographers are all moving in the same direction toward the Tidal Basin.  Before we can see them, we smell the Cherry Blossoms, sweet and delicate, the scent hanging softly in the morning air.  And then, we see the still water of the Tidal Basin, and the silhouettes of the beautiful trees. The Washington Monument is lit in the pre-dawn darkness, the Jefferson Memorial is surrounded by blossoms, still just outlines in the dark.  Camera’s flash in amazing numbers around the Basin, and we set up our blanket and basket and watch the news teams sharing this peak day of blossoms, this special dawn.  I watch them from my blanket as I sip hot chocolate, I know that no matter how good their photographers and film crews are, their viewers won’t see the sunrise like we will, it makes me smile.

We've brought our cameras, and we also capture these moments. We shoot the monuments in the pre-dawn light, we take pictures of each other and the news teams, we take pictures of early morning crewing teams on the Potomac, beautiful art elements on the nearby bridge, the water in front of us, the sky slowly changing from black to blue and then the sky growing lighter behind Mr. Jefferson.  It’s almost time for the new day to dawn!!!!!  And dawn it does.  The sky behind the Jefferson Memorial is on fire as the sun makes its appearance.  The light changes the Tidal Basin into a glowing mirror, the reflections of the monuments and the Capitol dancing on the water.  The Cherry Trees are stunning; they wear their fragrant attire beautifully and truly make the early morning trip well worth the effort.  I am so filled with contentment as I take it all in.  My family, the city, the trees, the sky, the people, the experience, It was all I hoped it would be.  People begin to move away as the sun rises higher, the” big event”, has come and gone and they have places to go and life to get on to.  I sit on the blanket and munch on the ham and Swiss cheese croissants Jean made, and some strawberries and fresh pineapple.  Yup it couldn't be more perfect.

As we pack up and head to our car, I am still reliving and enjoying the whole dawn experience.  We settle into our seats and are back on the road heading toward home and I feel like praying.  I pray for those who will be making important decisions just down the street in that big domed building today, I pray for my family and thank God for blessing me with such amazing daughters and husband, I pray for my family not able to come that morning.  Then, as we retrace our route and leave the city I start thinking about these first two experiences I've enjoyed, and how really, the moments that matter, the most amazing moments, the really important moments in life are FREE.  I have recently had two truly memorable experiences and neither cost me a thing.  In this one morning, the things that made this experience so memorable, so amazing, so fun, so awesomely beautiful were free.  My family, laughing, posing, eating and enjoying making a memory together, free! The Cherry Trees, the fragrance, the history, the blossoms, the beauty, free!  The sun, its light, warmth, and power, free!

The trip into DC is just a memory now as we drive past Roosevelt Island and onto the George Washington Parkway.  Traffic isn't flowing well heading into the city, but we are already outbound, we have beaten the storm. Bob is talking business on the phone, Jean is anxious to get home to Lucy so that Josh can get off to work, Ellie needs to go to an early morning event at her children’s school and I have to make a mid-morning appointment. Sunrise and Cherry blossoms were a great way to start the day, a respite from all the norms, a wonderful second experience, but the time has come to get back to our every day routines.  Thankfully the memories were made and I know through the normal hours ahead my heart will still be soaring! I am already looking forward to the next amazing adventure, won't cost a dime, because the best things in life are FREE!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Bird In the Hand

"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings."  Victor Hugo

For months my friend Lisa has been training wild birds to come and eat from her hands. Regularly she would write about her progress on her Facebook page, I loved these posts, entitled "As the Bird Turns".  It made me want to have the experience that she was having. To feel those tiny feet land on MY hand and eat from MY palm. And so I asked Lisa could I come, could I feed her birds. Graciously, my friend said yes. When my alarm woke me early this morning, I couldn't layer up and head out the door fast enough, mittens, heavy coat and husband with camera in tow.

We arrived at Lisa's and I finished bundling up. The morning temperature was 26 degrees and I wouldn't be moving. Lisa gave me her hat, which the birds were already familiar with, instructions not to move, how to hold my hand, and a reminder not to look around or move my eyes, and then we were on the porch. Lisa settled me on the chair, gave her familiar bird “hello”, to her feathered friends, and then left me, sitting, not moving, my mittened hand full of fresh walnuts.

All was still. Snow still on the ground and chill in the air. I took slow, quiet breaths. I felt myself melting into my surroundings. And I waited. The minutes stretched on. 10 or 15 minutes passed and although I could hear tiny, feathered friends flitting and stirring around me, none approached to feed. My fingers began to feel numb. I was not giving up yet. I began to pray. I lost track of the time, and then the unmistakable rustle of wings nearby broke the silence.

Suddenly a little Titmouse appeared. Thoughts tumbled through my mind, stream of consciousness, "Don't be afraid little one, come and feed, I have good things here for you. Stop fluttering about, don't hesitate, I won't hurt you, come and rest and enjoy these blessings."  The feeling of tiny feet on my fingertips will never be forgotten;  my heart soared. My facial expression never changed, I barely dared to breathe, I made no sound, but, my heart was singing, my spirit was smiling. All the long minutes (about a half an hour) of silent, stillness, and waiting, were for that one moment, worth it all. The experience repeated itself over and over again. The thrill never abaited.

I would have sat there much longer but my hand was starting to shake and the cold was taking its toll. As much as I wanted the experience to continue, I knew I needed to stretch and move, even though doing so would mean ending this amazing encounter. I had to warm up. Reluctantly I stood and my new feathered friends scattered to nearby branches. A squirrel who had ventured a peek scurried down the trunk of the snowy tree hanging over the railing. These special moments would never be forgotten.

This experience was Holy on so many levels. The closeness to the tiny, perfect creatures warmed and amazed me. Their fragility, and their courage, their beauty and perfectly equipped feathered bodies were stunning. The stillness, mine and the world around me, altered my being, drew me into a quiet state of worship. As I looked at the fresh bounty in my palm, I thought how God stretches His hand laden with blessings out to ME and to ALL of US. I realized how often I flutter around, too busy, or too afraid to reach out and receive God's blessings. I realized how His heart must soar when I (and you) rest and refresh in His hands. God spoke to me in the stillness this morning and through the beauty of His creation.

As I approach my 60th birthday next January, my goal is to enjoy 6 new experiences, one for each decade of life.  Today was my first. Hoping each adventure will be as amazing. Praying each one of you finds rest and refreshment in the hands of The Lord. He's sitting very still, and very patiently waiting to bless us all.

Many thanks to my friend, Lisa Schnoor for sharing her birds with me, and to my amazing husband for capturing these precious moments.  You both blessed me abundantly.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

In The Blink of An Eye

You would think that, at my age, I would no longer be surprised when my seemingly normal life becomes unraveled in the blink of an eye. I received a phone call seventeen years ago, informing me I had cancer; results indicating a life threatening infection a couple years later; an unexpected summons to assist with a sudden medical crisis; and in the last three years, three separate missteps that have left me with painful injuries and even the need for surgery. But for some reason, surprise me it does!

It's amazing how easily I fall back into "normal" between each life-altering jolt. Maybe I'm a slow learner. Perhaps I'm not picking up on the "lessons" these unexpected and grind-to-a-halt challenges are meant to teach me. But with this latest fall, broken wrist, and upcoming surgery I'm ready to take a really close look at what it is I need to glean.

I have learned some things from the hard (and often painful) experiences I have faced. I think I'm more compassionate, take less for granted (like having two strong arms for example), enjoy the small things in life more, and enjoy the big things in life more (like a day without pain). But every time I'm up against the wall, I realize I still haven't learned all that I am meant to or need to.

Last night was a long one for me. I spent hours in the dark, pushing back all the fears rising in me and threatening to swallow me up, as I face surgery tomorrow. I know that "perfect love casts out fear". But even as I grow older, I still haven't learned how to rest and be peaceful in that perfect love, no matter the situation. I still wrestle at the onset of these unsettling and unnerving experiences, although I do think my get-to-the-point-of-total-surrender-and-trust times are shortening.

I usually do reach that moment of peace. That moment where I realize there is nothing left but to trust and believe that The Lord will bring me safely through, whatever trial I'm facing. I wish I could say my break-through moment comes faster with each experience, but I can't. I wish I didn't struggle and wrestle with my fears and anxieties with every life-altering challenge I face, but I do! Thankfully, God isn't standing over me with a stop watch timing my process. But I feel sure He is standing solidly by my side to see me safely through every scary and painful moment, and is heartbroken that it takes me so long to rest in His grip.

I have walked closely with The Lord for almost 38 years. I know that these tribulations are not God sent, but I have learned that He does meet me and teach me in the midst of them. Please pray that I will be a better student when it comes to finding peace and calm in the stormy seas of fear and anxiety. Pray that I can feel His strong hand and healing spirit when I am wheeled into that sterile operating room tomorrow. And pray that when the next unexpected challenge occurs (and it surely will), I will clasp His strong hand more quickly with my newly repaired right hand and a peaceful heart.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Forty Years and Forty Pounds Later!

"Good friends are like stars. . .you don't always see them, but you know they are there."

                                                         Sorority Picture "Penguins" 1971

 For the past few months, Bob and I have been planning a trip to my hometown, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Nestled in the Cumberland Mountains, it’s an amazing town, nicknamed “The Secret City” for the role it played during the Manhattan Project. My family arrived in Oak Ridge about twelve years after the end of the war. My father was a research scientist, my mother a homemaker, and I was eighteen months old. The third of four daughters, you can imagine how lively our home was. I spent the next sixteen and half years enjoying the benefits of this unique community, making friends and memories.

When I was eighteen, just out of high school, my father made a move to Maryland, to finish his career with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. My younger sister and I moved with our parents to another amazing town and state. The beautiful area just outside of Washington, D.C. has been my home for the last four decades.  In all those forty years I have only been back to Tennessee a handful of times, but next month there is a special event luring me “home”: my 40th high school reunion.

Social media, Facebook specifically, has allowed me to reconnect with many of my high school friends. When I heard about the reunion I was both excited and nervous. A lot about me has changed in the ensuing years. In many ways, maybe most ways, I’m a very different person. And I quickly realized that reconnecting via Facebook is very different than reconnecting face to face.

As I debated with myself about attending, I was reminded of a fad that many of us enjoyed during our Jr. and Sr. High years called the “come as you are party”. This fad usually involved an early Saturday morning call. Typically the invitee was still asleep, no makeup on, hair in curlers, and still wearing pajamas. Accepting the invitation to come for breakfast meant walking out of the door immediately.  It was fun and funny to see everyone, sleepy-eyed and fresh out of bed, in oversized T-shirts, orange juice can rollers, and fluffy bedroom slippers. Somehow, these spur of the moment get-togethers allowed us to see each other a little more clearly, without the weekday effort put into keeping up, being hip, making the right impressions. In the midst of reminiscing, I realized that reunions are very much like a “come as you are party”—especially as we get a bit older and more comfortable with who we are, where we have come from, and where we have landed. I became excited about attending the reunion.

I feel confident that many of my classmates and friends had similar reactions when they heard about the 40th. None of us are the same people who walked the halls of ORHS, cheered the Wildcats on crispy fall nights at Blankenship field, danced till midnight at the Civic Center, and applauded each other across the stage the night we graduated. We’ve married, had children, divorced, buried loved ones, survived life-threatening illnesses, found faith, lost faith, and with each experience we’ve changed. We all have scars, some visible, some not; but each wound, and every life experience, has made us the people we are, the people I’m so looking forward to seeing for the first time in many years.
                                              Graduation on Blankenship Field

I’m grateful for the wonderful work the planning committee has done to coordinate a weekend of gatherings. I’m looking forward to seeing the changes made to the high school and sharing the best pizza in the world at Big Ed’s. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to reunite with amazing people who shared the unique experience of growing up in a most extraordinary place. No matter how much we’ve changed, our shared memories of early Oak Ridge live on collectively.

                                                      Book Signing, 2013

Bob and I will be driving from Maryland to Tennessee for the big event. I’m still excited, and yes still a little nervous. Look out class of ‘73, here I come forty years and forty pounds later, just as I am! Hoping you’ll be there too, none of us should miss this ultimate “come as you are party”. Let’s roll, Wildcats!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"May Your Real Life Be As Perfect, Someday, As Your Life Is On Facebook"

Have you ever heard the sarcastic blessing that goes something like this, "May your real life be as perfect, someday, as your life is on Facebook"? I enjoy Facebook. I like looking at all the smiling faces, people enjoying vacations and dinners with family and friends, it makes me smile. I like celebrating new births and weddings via my different friends on Facebook's pages and the photographs they post there. Facebook can make life look perfect; however, most folks over 10 years old, who are breathing, know that life isn't perfect, that every day can mean some new challenge or difficult problem to face. Honestly, many people find turning 11 and starting middle school tough, kids that age can be pretty cruel. Life gets more "real" around that age , middle school might well be called the "first level of the school of hard knocks" where we began developing the tougher skin  needed to navigate through the twists and turns ahead of us..

I know some people feel the need to be what they call "transparent" or "real" on Facebook.  Not me, I feel like most adults know life isn't perfect, and so I choose to take the glass is half-full attitude when posting. For example, the other day I posted a picture of me and my oldest granddaughter out to lunch.  It was a special one-on-one time. What I didn't post was, we were actually trying to pass the time pleasantly until she went to have her wrist x-rayed. Just that morning a few hours earlier, she had slipped and fallen while shopping with her mother and re-injured the wrist she had broken last spring. Thankfully it was just a sprain and not another broken bone, but our time together was special, and that was the part I wanted to focus on that day.

Most marriages have ups and downs, most people suffer themselves, or have friends and family that suffer from various illnesses (some very serious), people lose jobs, business owners deal with the ebb and flow of fickle economies, and the list of hardships is endless. I am thankful for friend’s posts that alert me to areas in their lives that might be helped by prayer.  Every morning I spend time praying for friends and family who are in need of prayer for healing, for improved job situations, for many types of difficult challenges. My prayer list only seems to grow it never seems to get shorter. .  Hard places and difficult challenges are rarely unique to individuals and finding others who have experienced, faced and even conquered various obstacles can be comforting and encouraging, but if there’s a blessing in the midst of misery, I try to focus on it. Each day has its challenges, but each day also has its joys and blessings too. Thankfully my days are filled with the beautiful smiles of my grandchildren, the blessing of my husband coming home each evening from work, and sharing time together with friends and family.  Even little blessings, like the hummingbirds coming to my feeder throughout the day, bring me joy and lift my spirit.

In the Bible there are many instances where the Lord blesses or delivers his people from difficult situations and in thanks they piled-stone upon stone to create a memorial, and remember and commemorate his grace and mercy in their lives. I feel like my Facebook posts are kind of like those stones, they commemorate the blessings and the grace and the goodness that the Lord bestows on me daily. So when I make my posts,  I realize my friends and my family know my life isn't perfect, but I do have a lot to be thankful for.

 In the future when you see my posts on Facebook, I hope you'll think of them as, “stones”. When I see your posts on Facebook I'm going to ooh and aw over your pile of blessings as well. Besides, lifting all those "stones" will keep our attitudes in great shape during the ups AND downs of life!!! Happy hefting (er, posting) see you on Facebook.

Just a little postscript:  My oldest grand daughter, Taylor, is starting middle school this year, feel free to lift her up as she begins this new chapter in her life, she's a wonderful kid, I'm praying it will be an awesome time for her.