Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Andi & Dave's Wedding Photo

Chandler's Wharf, Portland, Maine

Thursday, September 25, 2008

of Faith and Pumpkins

"Being a person of faith is like being a pumpkin.
God lifts you up, takes you in, and washes all the dirt off of you.
He opens you up, touches you deep inside, and scoops out all the yucky stuff...including the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc.
Then he carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside you
to shine for all the world to see."
~from the Johns Hopkins Pathology Ovarian Cancer site

I came home from school today to find that Hank had been decorating the outside of our house for Fall with pumpkins, gourds, hydrangeas and berries from his garden here at Winn Farm. Seeing his work reminded me of the poem above, which I have hung on to since I first found it in 2005, the year Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. I thought I'd share it with you.
Nancy has had a really good week. This is her "week off" from chemo (week three after chemo on weeks one and two) and she is feeling good. The weather has been beautiful and she has had the energy to get out and enjoy it. Last night, a group of her teacher friends from Wells took her to see "Les Miserables" at the Ogunquit Playhouse...what a nice surprise! And on a few afternoons after school, I have been teaching her how to make Penny Rugs...a craft I learned at Fiber College. Needless to say, Nancy's first project is a penny rug with a cat motif!
So, like the pumpkin in the poem, we feel as if we have been carved a "new shiny face", and, at least for this moment, however brief it may be, we'll enjoy it.

Sadly, Nancy's friend, Deb Reid, has not been doing as well. Her cancer has spread and she has been moved to Seal Rock Nursing Home in Saco, where Nancy and Betsy continue to visit her as often as they can. This has been really difficult for Nancy. So...this poem goes out to you too, Deb...may you have the faith of pumpkins and feel the love of all of your friends.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nancy!

"Sisters are different. They lived through all your triumphs, all your favorites, all your loves and losses. They have no delusions. They lived with you too long. And so, when you achieve some victory, friends are delighted - but sisters hold your hands in silence and shine with happiness. For they know the cost. A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost."
Love you, Nancy...Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

to Deb

One of Nancy's oldest and dearest friends, Deb Reid, is in MMC right now, battling her own gynocological cancer. So, in spite of the side effects from yesterday's chemo, Nancy has been by Deb's side at the hospital. Deb, Betsy Seavey and Nancy have been best friends since their days at Kennebunk High School together. The three of them have always been there for each other. In fact, when our Dad died in 2005, it was Deb and Betsy who took care of all the food when we went back to Nancy's house after the funeral.

Deb, the whole "Smith" family has you in our thoughts right now...hang in there!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Your Comments for Nancy

Nancy has had a rough few days...the side effects from Tuesday's chemo have kicked in and, although it was expected, it sure has not been much fun for her. The nausea and fatigue are back full force so Nancy is taking it easy this weekend and trying to ride it out. Her next chemo is coming up Tuesday 9/16 and she is hoping to get her strength back by then.
Nancy checks this blog every day and I know she looks forward to comments from you to cheer her up. If you would like to send a comment, just click next to the icon of the pencil at the bottom of this, or any, post and follow the directions on the screen. You will assign yourself a Google screen name (your e-mail address - it won't be shared) and password and then you're all set to go. Write your comment and then click the "Post Comment" button.
Nancy would love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Patchwork of Memories

Sometimes you just need to get away to recharge your batteries and take time to do what you love...that is what "Fiber College" is all about. Every year, on the weekend after Labor Day, a diverse group of women come together for an incredible few days of camping, crafting and weaving memories on the shores of Penobscot Bay in Searsport, Maine. This year my old friend Barbara (Ekeland) Smith drove up from Connecticut to share the experience with me. Barbara and I first met as new teachers at North High School in Worcester, Mass. in the fall of 1969. We have remained friends through four decades, four children and an equal number of marriages. Over the past ten years though, life got in the way and we rarely saw each other, only keeping in touch through our annual Christmas cards. Until Fiber College...and our decision to spend three days reconnecting with each other and the common interests that originally brought us together.

At Fiber College, we learned to appreciate the frugality of our grandmothers, who saved scraps of wool to create beautiful penny rugs and crazy quilts. We wove cat tails and sunflowers into outdoor art. We survived the remnants of hurricane Gustave together in a tiny camper just feet from the ocean. We petted goats, picked basil, and hitched a trailer. We drank wine by a campfire and shared 40 years of memories. And from these experiences, we managed to add a bright new patch to our forty-year-old quilt of friendship. If something good has come out of sharing Nancy's cancer journey, it is the reminder that life is short and it's never too late to reconnect with the special people who have woven their lives with ours.

The Newlywed Game

Yes, I did indeed get married---again, on May 30, 2008. My husband is David John Donnelly, so I'm back to an Irish surname. We met about 5 years ago via match.com. When we met, he lived within 3 miles of my home in Yarmouth.

We discovered a lot of coincidences in our lives. David grew up in Fairfield, ME. When I first met him, I lived at Fairfield Court. His mother's maiden name is Smith, and my maiden name was Smith. We both have 3 grown children. Even more amazing is that through my geneology research, I discovered that both our mother's families came from Bradford, Yorkshire, England. In fact, in the 1901 English census, his relatives and mine lived 2 doors apart on High St. in Great Horton, Bradford, England.
His dad's family immigrated from Ireland, and we all know, Grampa Smith (alias McCarthy/Shannahan) was Irish by proxy.

Dave's Grampa Smith left him a tape of ditty type songs he'd sing to Dave as a boy. My Grampa Smith also made a tape recording of his songs and dance steps and loved the old ditty songs, like, "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree", "Harrigan", and "Daisy".

We both went to the University of Maine in Orono, Me, and both have master's degrees.

Dave has 3 daughters. They are: Ericka, age 36, a nurse. She has two boys age 5 and 7; Emily, age 31, an actress and film producer in LA; and Elizabeth, age 24, a professional photographer. Ericka lives right near Cheryl in Falmouth and Elizabeth also lives nearby. Dave's daughter Emily used to live and work in Scottsdale, AZ: very near my old home there.

As you know, my two oldest children, Kevin and Kelly, are in AZ. Katy is in Maine.
Kevin, almost 25, is working as a kitchen manager/chef in a newly opened restaurant in Surprise, AZ. He and his girlfiend, Kym, had a baby boy on July 18, 2008. He is named James Patrick Cagney. So, yes, I'm a Granny now!!

Kelly's doing very well. She is now 23 and lives in Phoenix. 2 years ago she finished her HS GED and took the college entrance exams. She tested so well that she was awarded a Presidential Scholarship which pays her full tuition, room and board for four years of college. She's already finished her first two years of college, and is now working on her third at ASU. She is studying to become a pharmacist or MD.

Katy, age 20, lives happily with her boyfriend of two years, Shay. They have both worked at Target for 2 1/2 years. She wants to start some college night courses.

Dave and I decided to get married quietly. A freind of mine at work is a notary, so after work on Friday,May 30, 2008, she and her husband, and Dave and I met at Mom's at Chandler's Wharf under the guise of wanting to "show Mom my engagement ring.". We really fooled Mom, who became a witness at our small ceremony held at the end of the pier. We didn't want her to be forwarned as she'd feel she had to get all decked out, clean the house and make treats. Katy and Shay were in attendence, as was Dave's daughter, Elizabeth, who was also our photographer.

We didn't invite anyone else because we didn't want people feeling they had to get us gifts or put on a party. We just wanted to get married. We did call the sisters that evening to alert the presses of our marriage.

We didn't take a honeymoon then. Dave works as the houskeeping manager at the Hilton Downtown Waterfront Hotel in Portland. He's really busy in the summer. I work at Unum as a Long Term Disability Claims Specialist.

Last week we did go off for what Nancy calls our "Honeymoon." We took a week long cruise on the Norwegian Dream from Boston through New England and Canada. It was my first cruise. We stopped at St. John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Sydney in Cape Brittan; and Bar Harbor in Maine.

Well, now I have blogged. I am in the process of scanning to image many of my Mom and Dad's old photos and letters. I will share these and my geneology finds in the future. My love to all.

Andi Donnelly

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chemo today...and some good news!

Nancy began her second round of chemotherapy at 9:30 this morning at MMC in Scarborough. After a much needed "chemo break" last week, she was given her second infusion of Carboplatin and Gemzar. It went well and Nancy was done by noon.
Here is the good news...Nancy's blood work revealed that, since the first round of Carbo/Gemzar three weeks ago, her CA 125 level has gone from 83.9 to 59 to 23! That's a very good thing. CA125 is a protein that is a so-called tumor marker; it is present in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells. The normal range is 0-35. So Nancy's CA 125 is back into the normal range for the first time since her recurrence and the drugs are working. She knows that she will be sick for the next week or two (and that is definitely nasty) but is feeling much more positive now that she knows that the reward will be remission!

What a Wonderful Staff--Thanks!

Today I got the most wonderful card and photos from Bonnie Dill, a teacher at Wells Junior High. They found out that Friday, September 5th, was Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day and to show their support for finding a cure for this terrible disease, many staff and even students wore Teal! I am so moved by the support I have received from the Wells schools! Thank you can't begin to cover it. The people of Wells are so lucky that their children spend their days with such dedicated people!

Nancy's Major Award

Last Saturday morning, Nancy called me and screamed into the phone, "Oh,my God! You won't believe what just arrived!" It seems that the UPS man had just come to her door struggling under the weight of a huge carton. As Nancy watched in surprise, he managed to get the box through the doorway and drop it in her foyer. She couldn't imagine what could be in such an impressively large box and was reminded of the famous scene from A Christmas Story during which the leg lamp is delivered to Ralphie's father.

Now it seems that a few days before, Nancy's visiting nurse had told her that a "wound vac" had been ordered by her doctor to help speed up the healing of her incision. The nurse had assured her that this was a small device that she would wear against the wound under her clothing. In fact, the pamphlet the nurse gave her explained that, "A convenient carrying case is provided to allow discreet delivery of therapy". Nancy was aware that her discreet little wound vac would be delivered by within a day or two. So she thought, "OK, well that doesn't sound too bad...I guess I can handle that" and didn't think much more about it...until last Saturday morning.

When she called me, Nancy hadn't dared open the box yet. She was simply trying to imagine walking around with whatever was in that carton attached to her stomach. She asked me if I thought we would need a flatbed cart if we went shopping together so that I would be able to push both her and her wound vac through the aisles. Needless to say, we got laughing pretty hard as we imagined the future impact of the wound vac on her already crazy life.

So...Nancy is now wearing her latest major award (as if Cancer wasn't a big enough major award!) and she's doing so with her typical good humor. After all, it did come with a handy ten foot extension cord!

As Gilda said, "It's always something!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Equal Time for the Armstrongs!

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Mom has two sisters, Marion and Doris. Marion and Arthur had 7 children, Stephen, Lynne, Jeannie, Arthur, Paul, Jimmy and Trisha. There was always fun in store when the Armstrongs came to visit, at least for us kids! Now Mom, I'm sure she might have had another opinion! It's not that she didn't love her sister and nieces and nephews (and still does!)-it was just "different". See, Mom and Dad still have the furniture pieces they bought when we were a young family, 60+ years ago. It wasn't like there was a velvet rope keeping the living and dining room "off-limits"-it was just clear to the four of us that the play room or family room was were we belong unless it was a special occasion. The living room was "the one room in the house where we can entertain our friends without kids". Well, all that flew out the window when Marion and our cousins arrived, and we loved it!
We'd cheer (and Mom would probably cringe) when the green VW bus pulled in the driveway! Out they'd pop one after another with Auntie Marion following behind. Mom used to say that before the last one made it from the van to the house, Paul would have been standing on the kitchen counters going through cupboards looking for something to eat! Auntie Marion always brought lunch for her brood, a loaf of Wonder bread, mayo, some lettuce, and one can of tuna! Yes, one can! And somehow that can, (some what like the loaves and fishes) was able to make a lot of tuna sandwiches! Then after lunch we'd play and run like wild Indians from room to room and in and out--pounding on the piano (we were NEVER allowed to do that!) and having a grand time until it was time for them to go! Mom probably had a giant headache by then and I'm sure we all beat feet outside to stay out of the way until she recovered!
Much more fun than them coming to our house, was going to theirs! They lived and still do, in a cape in Plantsville CT. And with so many kids it was always an adventure to be part of their gang! Auntie Marion, just to help you get the picture worked nights as a nurse in the ER of the local hospital as a "break" and some "peace and quiet!" And not just from the kids, Uncle Arthur was a riot too! He smoked a big stogie cigar (when he could get away with it!) and at all special family occasions, especially with little coaxing from a few beers or family members would recite the complete version of Casey at the Bat from memory! Some random memories from the Armstrong's house--Lynne sitting on the window ledge of the second story bedroom window screaming to the neighbors she was gong to jump because she was mad at her father, Paul got permission to paint the his bedroom and choose the color--he chose black--and painted walls, ceiling, floor and all furniture (and maybe the windows, too)! Auntie Marion once got so mad at Uncle Arthur for having to wait for him to put a new window in the bathroom, one day she just got fed up and while he was at work she sawed a hole in the bathroom wall so he'd HAVE to put in the window! Stephen, of course, being the oldest and most responsible at an early age would save his money from jobs for things he wanted--that is when the rest of them didn't steal the money! I remember he saved up for a transistor radio when they were all the rage and Paul decided the batteries needed to be "heated up " so it would work better and put it on the gas stove and melted the whole thing! At Joanne's wedding, and all grown up, Paul was doing some kind of "funky dance" of his own creation and ripped the entire crotch out of his pants--did it stop him? No way--he danced on in the video with underwear showing for the whole party! Wonderful memories that are all part of our terrific, crazy, loving, family. But not all memories are happy ones--sadly for all who love and miss them, Uncle Arthur, Stephen, and Paul have passed away. Auntie Marion even placed a couple of big cigars in Uncle Arthur's suit pocket--I'm sure he appreciated that--she wanted to put them in his hand, but was afraid the priest might be offended! Their memories live on though, and I'm sure they are up in heaven creating some new ones to share with us all some day when we are together again! Sometimes when I'm outside all alone, I even think I hear a little "Casey" in a soft breeze. XOX
Until next time, (remember no one is safe!) Nancy

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tomomi!

Otanjoubi Omedatou, Tomo!

Back to School

After a beautiful Labor Day weekend, tomorrow will be the first day of school. It's always a bittersweet time...the end of another Maine summer coupled with the start of a brand new school year. Although we teachers have been back for a week or so, the official "first day" is always exciting. I love to watch the kids come off the bus in their carefully chosen new clothes, shiny new shoes, and LL Bean backpacks stuffed with more school supplies than they'll ever use. It brings back memories of our first days of school...that's my old red plaid lunchbox in the photo...circa 1954 or so. Every year, when we returned from our first day of school, Mom made "Back to School" cookies and we loved them! In honor of the first day tomorrow, I thought I'd share Mom's recipe. You'll find it at the end of this post.
Hank and I went camping this weekend at Winslow Park in Freeport, Maine. We had a beautiful site overlooking South Freeport Harbor. Yesterday afternoon, Nancy and Aaron came up to camp and surprised us with a steak dinner and all the fixins'...garlic bread, green beans, and amazing steak tips from The Meat House in Scarborough. Nancy said she wanted to surprise us with the same dinner that she and I had made when we camped together at Searsport Shores on our Road Trip last year...happy memories.
Even better than the amazing dinner was seeing Nancy out of the house! She is feeling pretty good this weekend after almost a two week break from chemo. She will see the oncologist tomorrow morning to discuss when she will begin chemo again...probably next Tuesday, the 9th. In the meantime, I hope she can enjoy the next week without the nasty side effects that have plagued her the past two weeks. I know she will miss her own "first day of school" tomorrow - a lot - but I'm sure that all of her students and friends at Wells Elementary School will be thinking of her as the new school year begins.
Happy last days of summer to all!

Back to School Cookies
from Alice Smith
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup shortening
2 squares melted baking chocolate
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup chopped walnuts

for vanilla icing:
¼ cup shortening
2 cups confectioners sugar
4 teaspoons hot water
½ teaspoon vanilla
dash salt

for chocolate icing (in addition to above):
1 square baking chocolate
1 Tablespoon hot water

Cream sugar and shortening. Add chocolate, egg and milk.
Stir in dry ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheet.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes in 350 degree oven.

To ¼ cup shortening, add 2 cups confectionery sugar, alternate with 4 tsp. hot water, dash salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla.
Put half of icing in a separate bowl. Add 1 square melted chocolate and 1 T. hot water.
Spread cooled cookies with vanilla icing. Dot with chocolate icing.