26.2 things to be grateful for on a 26.2 mile walk

IMG_1696On September 21, for the fourth time, the members of Team Diane participated in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. And then, as always happens, life came rushing right back in, and I didn’t get to write the blog post I’d planned for the next day. But what stands out in my mind even now, two weeks later, is one over-arching feeling: gratitude. And I realize that even as I walked I was making a mental list in my head. Writing it down just now, it was hard to stop at 26. What was I grateful for? Well, among other things:

  1. You! My dear friends, your words of encouragement and support filled my soul and gave wings to my feet. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express my gratitude!
  1. You, again. Thanks to your generous donations, I exceeded my own fund-raising goal this year. But more importantly, all the money raised by our group – over $30,000 this year alone — goes directly to Dana Farber oncologist Dr. Ursula Matulonis and her team of researchers, dedicated to finding better treatments for women’s cancers. Together, we’re making a real difference, improving the odds for every woman being diagnosed or treated today.
  1. Team Diane! I feel blessed to be a part of this spirited band of women walking arm-in-arm for a cause that’s touched all our lives.finish line
  1. Marching orders. How proud our friend would be to see that we’re carrying on this work she herself began with such passion. This was the legacy Diane hoped for and the instruction she left us with: To live our own lives fully, and to do whatever we can to ensure better futures for all women with ovarian cancer.
  1. Husbands. You know who you are: the ones who willingly got up at four in the morning and caravanned on the Mass Pike out to Hopkinton to deliver the members of Team Diane to the starting line. And my own husband, Steve, who not only took photos from start to finish but trailed along the route as sweep, ready to offer a ride to any one of us who needed to bail out. Hats off to you guys!
  1. The heavens. They opened, the rains poured down for a solid hour and then, as if by magic or grace, the skies cleared at 6 am. We balled up our un-used slickers, tightened our sneakers, and put our hands together for a “Go Team” salute.
  1. My new chiropractor. “No, it’s not a pulled muscle,” she said a few weeks ago, when I first arrived at her office, after limping with a mysterious hip and leg injury for over ten months. “I’m pretty sure it’s referred nerve pain from your L1 vertebrae, and that you’ll feel better after I adjust you.” She was right. I did. (Still mending, but at least I’m walking without wincing.)


a friend, a walk, a cause, a book, a thank you

Diane and KIn two weeks, I’ll turn 56, a birthday my dear friend Diane did not live to see. The photo above, my favorite of the two of us, was taken the year before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

As always in the early fall, Diane, our friend Carol, and I had used my birthday as an excuse for a girls’ getaway at my parents’ house in Maine. For years we celebrated our time together with the same fool-proof menu: old Jackson Browne music on the stereo, lobster risotto (a collaborative culinary effort) and champagne for dinner, Diane’s scones and fresh fruit for breakfast, long walks, and no-holds-barred late-night conversations – the kind that can only happen between the most intimate friends, away from home, with no kids or husbands within earshot.

I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about how Diane spent her 55th year. It was she who originally inspired the phrase “the gift of an ordinary day,” for her delight in simple pleasures and time spent with her family and friends only deepened as she bravely faced both her devastating prognosis and a heartbreaking series of “lasts.” Diane negotiated the realities of ovarian cancer with the same determination and clarity she brought to everything she did – continuing with aggressive treatment for her disease while fully embracing the joys of her own everyday life. Under the care of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, she was able to do both for nearly four years.

During that time, she also worked tirelessly to support ovarian cancer research. As her own journey came to and end, Diane made clear her desire that her loved ones might carry on this effort in her memory.

Team Diane was formed in response to that wish.

Team Diane 2013Walking together in the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk over the last three years, our small group has raised over $125,000 for Diane’s cause — money that, by Diane’s design, goes directly to her beloved Dana Farber oncologist Dr. Urusla Matulonis and her dedicated team of researchers. It’s a great achievement, but of course there is much more work to be done.

Next Sunday, on September 21, I will join Team Diane for the fourth time to walk in this event that’s become a touchstone of my life. I’m proud and grateful to be part of this committed group of walkers – some of us who knew and loved Diane, others who have joined because they’ve been moved by her story or touched by cancer themselves.   We are mostly women in our forties and fifties and sixties, and so we walk despite our own individual challenges – sore knees and cranky backs, cancer and Lyme disease, tight hamstrings and tender heels, the usual aches and pains of age. (Although I’ve got my own tricky back and gimpy leg to deal with this year, I didn’t for one moment consider dropping out!)

IMG_3186 - Version 2As always, we’ll begin the day in the dark, eating homemade scones on the pre-dawn ride out to Hopkinton (another Diane tradition, happily continued). We’ll hold hands for a moment at the start and then set out together, joining the more than 8,500 others who will be walking for a cure that day. En route, we’ll share our BlisterGlide, sunscreen, and Ibuprofen. We’ll urge one another on and catch up on one another’s lives. We’ll take plenty of stretching breaks and pit stops and remind each other to drink more water. And late in the afternoon we’ll cross the finish line arm in arm, with cheers and tears, remembering our friend, knowing how proud she’d be to see us carrying on her mission. And knowing, too, that we are making a difference. Collectively, working together, we can improve the odds for every woman who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

1235289_10151642734492304_1068429755_n - Version 2 (1)Once a year, I reach out to you, my dear readers, to join me in this cause that means so much to me and to so many others. For, as we all know, cancer touches each of us. As I write, my dear friend Lisa is being treated by an extraordinary team of doctors at Dana Farber, while another is celebrating her recent recovery from ovarian cancer. And so, it’s little wonder that I’m more committed than ever to doing my part to help conquer this disease. I am deeply grateful for any support you are able to give. Together we’re walking and giving and working to change lives — and perhaps to save them.

Thank you. Your support and your presence in my life means more than I can say.

how to donate – and a special thanks from me

Each year when I invite you to support me and Team Diane’s efforts, I like to choose a book to give away here, one that has some special significance to this cause. I can think of none better than the first volume of Mary Oliver’s collected poems, perhaps my favorite poetry book of all time. Four years ago, Diane borrowed my copy and found deep solace in these poems; later, when the book came back to me, her slips of paper were still in it, marking the ones that spoke most deeply to her. This too was part of her legacy: she wanted to remind us to pay attention, to love life and to live it fully, with gratitude and awareness and wonder.

So, if you do make a donation, make sure to also leave a comment below and let me know.

On Friday, Sept 26, I will choose one winner at random to receive Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Volume One. (Needless to say, I wish I could send a copy to each and every one of you.)

Donating is easy.

        Go to my personal fundraising page by clicking here: 


Or send me a check: Make your check payable to “Jimmy Fund Walk.” Write DIANE’S FUND on the memo line. Send it directly to me at: 101 Middle Hancock Rd., Peterborough, NH 03458.

Note: You may wish to check with your employer’s Human Resources department to find out if they  will match your gift and double the impact.

Every single contribution is both meaningful and deeply appreciated.  Onward, with gratitude and love!

this life

Sept dawnWe’re all only fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make. ~Jerry Ellis

didn’t intend to go silent, back in July.

And here I am all these weeks later, hesitating, not sure how to start again. Writing anything after a long time away is a bit like trying to reconnect with an old friend who hasn’t been part of your every-days for a while. Where to begin?

Perhaps just here, now. On this quiet Sunday afternoon, the house is empty. The low, constant thrum of crickets signals the change in season even as the nasturtiums sprawl exuberantly across the stone wall, the sunflowers stretch ever skyward (no blooms to speak of, but that’s what I get for allowing the spilled seed from the bird feeder to go wild in my garden), and the temperature hovers in the seventies. My bathing suit and towel are still in the backseat of the car; driving past the pond earlier, I was tempted to swing in for a swim, knowing that cooler days are just around the corner and any plunge I take now may well be the last. Instead, I came home, cleaned the kitchen, and carried my notebook and laptop out onto the porch.

It’s time to sit, to be still, to gather up at least a few thoughts here and put them into some kind of order. The slant of the sun and the already-deepening shadows tell the story: summer has ended, as it always does, too soon. Time marches on and the only constant is change itself.

Since the day – it feels like a lifetime ago — when I last sat on this screened porch writing a blog post about a youthful trip to Paris and a lovely new cookbook, life has unfurled in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What I remember about that sultry July afternoon was that I’d just finished writing when I took a break, picked up my phone and saw the screen was full of missed texts and calls – several from a dear friend’s husband and several more from my own. I called Steve back first, gazing out at the mountains, hands trembling a bit, already sensing something was amiss.

This is how life turns, right? You are chugging along, doing whatever it is you do, your mind full of plans and intentions – the work at your fingertips, the grocery list, the to-do list, some petty annoyance, the eye you must keep on the clock, the dinner you have to make, the movie you want to see — and then news arrives that shatters one reality and, in an instant, constructs another.

The words “inoperable brain tumor” are life changers. [continue…]

Buvette–food to love & a cookbook to win

photoSummer, thirty-five years ago. I was nineteen — ripe for adventure, ready to be inspired, in love for the first time, and headed for Paris.

My boyfriend (of whom my parents quietly, firmly disapproved) and I had worked and saved for a year to come up with $4,000 — enough, we hoped, to get us overseas, pay for a cheap used car and fund a summer of low-budget travel. I had my first passport, a few semesters of college French under my belt and a head still swimming with a thousand carefully memorized Art 100 slides.

For months, my more practical (but no more worldly) companion had studied the Michelin green guides and pored over road maps, planning possible routes across the continent.

My own self-assigned homework was less useful but considerably more titillating. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, A. J. Liebling, Henry Miller, Colette, M.F.K Fisher were my tour guides, and their descriptions of all things French– from oysters on the shell to sex to the light in the sky at dusk — had filled me with hunger and anticipation. 

I’d read everything. Experienced nothing.

KK in paris 1979For a small-town girl from New Hampshire, Paris was a coming-of-age story, an irresistible invitation to leave my old unformed self behind and become someone altogether new – a person who broke bread instead of sliced it, who carried a cheese knife in her backpack, scribbled in a journal at sidewalk cafes, drank diminutive cups of espresso at dusk and pitchers of vin de table in the Latin Quarter by night. (Why I didn’t peel off those ankle socks along the way, I can’t say.) [continue…]

bucket list

photo copy 6On Tuesday afternoons this past year I’ve been a traveling yoga teacher, lugging a bag full of straps and foam blocks and lavender eye pillows to a small elementary school in a nearby town.

My students, a dedicated handful of regulars, are all in their sixties, including the school principal and her now retired husband, who once taught English to my son Jack. We work gently together, accommodating a tricky hip (mine), chronic back pain, osteoporosis, balance issues, and the inevitable assortment of aches and injuries that are simply part of the territory now that we are no longer young.

Last fall, on the first afternoon I arrived at the school to teach, I was surprised by a few sudden tears the minute I walked through the front door. It hit me – suddenly, although certainly not for the first time — just how far down the road I’ve traveled from all that transpires each day in this tidy, welcoming brick building.

Everything I saw brought back a memory: The box of lost-and- found baseball caps and tangled sweatshirts, the collection of canned goods for the food pantry accumulating in the foyer, the children’s bright artwork on the walls, the sight of a lone L.L. Bean backpack forgotten in a corner, the distinctive smell of kids and chalk dust and used books and half-eaten lunches.

The question rose up hot and fierce as a reprimand in my chest: “Had I loved my life enough?”

The honest answer? Probably not. [continue…]