Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mammogram Celebration

Today I had my annual mammogram. Since having breast cancer, mammograms create a degree of anxiety for me. I had Paget's Disease ( , a rare form of cancer that was noticed by my gynecologist and diagnosed by my dermatologist just two months after a normal mammogram. After two surgeries and a series of radiation treatments, I was told to get biannual checkups and a diagnostic mammogram yearly. I saw my oncologist in November and he said all looked well and wrote the scrip for this test. Once you have had cancer, the odds of getting a second cancer are higher than the odds of getting your first. So, even though Paget's Disease is not found by mammogram, something else could be. 

The beauty of a diagnostic mammogram is that the doctor reads the test while you wait. A smiling nurse appeared with the good news, all clear!

When I left the hospital I realized what a beautiful sunny day it was. It was just as sunny when I went in but things seem clearer, brighter, more intense when fear is lifted. I decided to go home, get one of my Yorkies, and head out for a walk on this crisp, cold, beautiful day.

I headed to nearby Englewood Reserve, one of our fabulous Metro Parks ( They do an exemplary job clearing the road through the park, including the bike path that runs along side, so I thought it would be easy to find a place to walk.

Englewood Dam, cars traverse the dam on top to the left
Why the dam was built

When I parked in the lot there were two couples entering a snowy path. When a guy exited the same path a few minutes later, he said the snow was packed but not slippery. Being deep in the woods instead of on a road, even one with limited traffic, was enticing so Buddy and I ventured forth.

Buddy leading the way on the snowy trail

Metro Parks signage, we chose the River Trail

The peace and solitude of the woods was blissful. It was so quiet that the birdcall was crystal clear, calling Buddy to attention. I could identify chickadees, cardinals, and finches. If was so good to be in this place, feeling this way, so alive, so fully present in my body.  I was aware of my breath, my heart beat, the sun on my face, my stride. 

Captivated by birdsong

 When I am not seeing everything about my body that needs to be improved, when I step back from judgments imposed by others, when I can see how healthy and fit I am, I glimpse what it is like to be fully at home, at peace, in my own skin.

Self portrait of one grateful woman

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Solstice Meal

The Winter Solstice Sisters

After the Solstice ceremony, the revelry begins! It is a time to embrace the feminine, enjoy good food, celebrate friendships, and share creative endeavors and plans. This year's menu included peach sangria, sparkling waters with fresh fruit, regular and vegetarian chili, spring greens salad with cashews, cranberries, and garlic vinaigrette, country rustic and corn bread, and for dessert, Lori's amazing Italian Cream Cake. The only thing richer than the food was the conversation. The creativity and passion of each women enriched and inspired us all.


Lori and her Italian Cream Cake

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Turning Toward the Light

Fourteen women, candles, intentions, and sharing from the heart make for a magical solstice. I sent evites to my women friends whom I thought would embrace the celebration of the return of the light. The winter solstice marks the longest night and therefore the shortest day of the year. Each day forward we have a bit more light until the Summer Solstice when the cycle turns and the nights lengthen again. I asked them to wear something white or sparkly. I asked that they think about what they would like to leave in the darkness and what they would like to embrace in the light. My final request was that they select a word that best represents their intentions for 2011.

This is how my guests were welcomed. The wreaths were custom made for me with bay leaves and the fresh, crisp smell was as inviting as the candle lit sidewalk. The heart shape above the wreaths is my garden goddess. She stays out year round, watching over my plants and trees. Three early arriving friends set out and lit the luminaries. The recent snow added to the light and the night birds were stirring.

Candle lit path

Bay leaf wreath

Owls' eye view

We formed a circle, each woman holding a white candle. After passing the flame one to another, the ceremony began. We recognized the day and spoke into the circle the names of three friends who could not be present but were in our hearts. All listened attentively as each spoke what was being left, what was being embraced, and her word choice.

 Each woman's chosen word beautifully reflected her intentions. I provided each with a locust pod as a keepsake on which to write her word with a silver Sharpie. The seed pod represented rebirth and renewal. I then offered to make a second pod for each woman, marked with her word, that I would add onto a wreath and place in my writing room where I would honor and hold her intention with as my own.

Locust Pods

My Chosen Word

I'm looking forward to spending a morning after the holidays assembling this wreath and thinking with love and affection about my Solstice sisters. It feels good to take time to connect with the cycle of nature, to pause and reflect.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Preparing for the Solstice

Last year I began a new tradition, a gathering of women in my home to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Inspiration for this came from Charlotte Kasl, author of many books including the classic  Women, Sex and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power as well as her series If the Buddha Dated, If the Buddha Got Married, and If the Buddha Got Stuck. Charlotte shared her way of celebrating and I used that as my starting point.

I began food preparation yesterday, making a traditional meat chili. Today I decided to add a vegetarian chili for my women friends who choose to not eat meat. I found this recipe in Real Simple magazine and decided to try it. The odd spices and the inclusion of a sweet potato made me think this would have a decidedly different taste.

Vegetarian Chili
Real Simple, November 2010
Serves 4-6

I medium red onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (I omitted this)
I medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
4 garlic gloves, peeled and minced
2 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 t unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ t cinnamon
1 - 15 oz can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 – 15 oz can of kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1 – 28 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for seven to eight hours.

The sample batch I made today filled the house with a wonderful sweet smell with a spicy undertone. It tasted even better than it smelled so I’ll make another batch for the Solstice. The slow cooking over night means that tomorrow I’ll wake up to this heavenly aroma. Maybe chili for breakfast? I’m thinking chunks of corn bread on top and a mug of Earl Gray tea. Yum. A simple delight for a snowy morning.

Breakfast Chili

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Deer

I got home kind of late from a basketball game and after parking in the garage and leashing the two Yorkies opened the front door to take them out. On my front lawn was a large deer! I live on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs and I sometimes see deer in a nearby open field during early morning or twilight walks. But this one was in my yard only twenty or so feet from my front door. I think the deer and I were both startled. After the briefest of moments she suddenly bolted away. It was thrilling. I felt my heart expand with pleasure and gratitude. The dogs bounced out and sniffed the ground a bit but seemed unimpressed. 

By the next morning I began to wonder if it really happened. When the dogs and I went on our first walk of the day I looked in the snow and found deer tracks. In a few I could clearly see the hoof marks.

A perfect hoof print

Later I walked through my back yard where there are a number of bushes and found more tracks.

Grazing tracks

 How I wish I had a young enough child to show them to and suggest the possibility of Santa’s reindeer doing a practice run for Christmas! The deer, the snow, the moonlight, and the tracks… an early Christmas gift from nature.