A daily record of gratitude; from quilting to photography to a mix of technology, books, movies and the musings of life!

Welcome to my Blog of my daily gratitude and photo of the day!

Since January 1, 2012, my goal is to write a daily sentence or two (or paragraph or two) about gratitude of the day and to include one photo (at least) that I took that day (but will add others from time to time). It has definitely been a challenge most days throughout the past eight years, and welcomed the challenge again this year - 2020 - Covid and all. I hope you will continue the ride with me!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sunshine, Water and a Butterfly

I am over the moon that I've been able to get back into our local pool to swim laps. It was my first time swimming in 2021 a couple of days ago. When I pulled into the parking lot I happened to notice a lot of cars. It was late afternoon, the sun was up and hot, and it was nearing dinner time. I was still clueless to the loud screams coming from the pool and knew there couldn't be a swim or dive meet that soon after the pool opening Memorial Day Weekend. What I didn't realize, or totally forgot, was I went to swim my measly laps smack dab in the middle of swim and dive team *practice*.

I looked at my watch when I first entered the pool deck - 5:15pm. I asked three lifeguards when practice will be over and they didn't know. The temperature was 91 degree Fahrenheit and I wanted to get in the water. The fourth guard on the chair was able to reveal that they'd be done by 6pm.

I hesitated for a moment on whether I'd turn back and go home, or wait it out 45 minutes where all the screaming mimis would be exiting the pools and going home for dinner. Of course my swim bag had the necessary gear as goggles and a towel, but it was also laden with a magazine and my current book—*Wired For Story* by Lisa Cron. I decided to jump into the book first.

That laughing, screaming and 100 kids splashing in the water were tuned out once I started reading. I never heard a thing, which is something my mother or my family can't figure out that I can really tune out everything else when I read—even music.

As it neared the magic hour of 6 bells, I carefully put on my new goggles and stood at the pool edge waiting for the last swimmer to exit "my" lap lane. Once his last foot was out and up on the deck I jumped in the coolish water. In no time my swim stroke was in rhythm and I felt marvelous! I took it easy this first time out. My plan is to build up 10 laps each time out until I reach 64 laps, or one mile, where I'll stay for the rest of the summer.

The rush of the water over my back with each stroke felt divine. I am home in the water. There's nothing else like it. However, all good things must come to an end (or the body confirms it's time to exit). I gathered my belongings and left - it was time for me to go home for dinner.

As I walked out toward the parking lot I noticed the tall daylilies on the path stretching as far as they could go. In fact, some were so tall they almost touched my shoulders. I was feeling exhilarated from my workout and happy. My attention became more mindful of the daylilies. I noticed a "flick" coming from one I almost brushed against. I saw it from the corner of my eye and stopped to check.

I am so glad I stopped. The “flick” was a beautiful swallowtail butterfly, nose down in the middle of the flower. He or she was sucking out the nectar like it was their job (perhaps it is!). I continued to watch and silently pulled out my phone from my bag, my intent to hopefully capture the moment without him or her fluttering away.

The photo below is the tender moment that I was able to share in with one daylily, one butterfly and me. A magical moment indeed!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Thirty-four Years of Manufacturing Sunshine and a Whole Lot More!

With this guy named Bill Tomoff - TODAY! Happy Anniversary to US!

Like the Barry Manilow song says, “It Looks Like We Made It.” We sure did. I’m betting we have many years ahead for more fun and adventure starting down our 35th lap together—hands clasped or double fisted in the air pumping wildly and cheering each other as a couple…and as individuals. The roller coaster of life…and marriage!
We all know, and have read that marriage has its ups and downs. But with our team approach coupled with deep love, commitment and respect for each other all these years, certainly helped us from the moment we said our “I do’s.” Looking back and pulling out another song, “Reminiscing” by the Little River Band (it so happens I’m full of song today), we’ve not only manufactured a hell of a lot of sunshine the past 34 years, but rain, snow and sleet whenever it was needed. I like to think the two of us has weathered the weather (not necessarily what is happening out-of-doors, rather the climate within our bubble) more times than we’d like to admit.

Our daughter, Olivia, spent some time with us this weekend, getting a quick walk around the Crofton, Maryland Parkway (4 mile loop) to “celebrate” with us. Our son has designs on making us a delicious meal on the barbie. I couldn’t justify going out for dinner when Ryan’s delicious meals and cooking skills put most restaurants to shame (and we know the ingredients that are in/or not in for healthy eating!).
Volunteering at Camp Fantastic Registration at NIH

Lockdown run around the Crofton Parkway April 2020

Special Love's Parent Getaway Weekend-Winchester, VA
White Oak Canyon Trail, Syria, Virginia

Battle of leagues: Washington Nationals gave vs. Cleveland Indians

Saturday, June 12, 2021

#CelebratingOthers with Christine Flanagan - Recent Bone Marrow Donor!

In my recently self-published memoir, The Focused Fight, on page 172 I mention that if an age qualifying person donates saliva through a cheek swab, they could eventually become a bone marrow donor. There is a 1 in 430 chance to donate blood or marrow to save someone’s life. On Thursday, June 10, 2021, a born and bred Crofton, Maryland, 29 year-old lovely young lady by the name of Christine Flanagan, donated her blood and plasma (PBSC or peripheral blood stem cells) for a child with cancer. Her efforts in sitting in the hot seat at Georgetown University Hospital manufacturing sunshine through her blood donation...was all to save a life! 

The same blood-forming cells that are found in the bone marrow are also found in the circulating (peripheral) blood. The only detail Christine knows and shared is that the recipient is a 16 year old girl living in the United States with a diagnosis of ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia—same as Ryan’s). She told me that our family’s story and Ryan’s cancer journey inspired her to do the cheek swab at University of Maryland Baltimore County Campus (UMBC) donor drive, as well as the free Chick-fil-A sandwich coupon given to every student that walked through the clinic doors. Free food will catapult a starving college student to donate a quick cheek swab hands down. No one at that age realizes they could be called up for duty despite the free sandwich giveaway. When Crofton had the huge bone-marrow drive in 2004, Christine was 12 years old then and not old enough to be in the registry (need to be 18 years old to register).

Christine was a PBSC donor (blood removed from one arm and then after apheresis/through a machine) the blood goes back into the other arm) instead of a bone marrow donor. She revealed that her procedure took (5) hours, a lot less than the typical donation of close to (8) hours. Apparently, she has good polys (large white and red blood cells - especially for a woman). Christine further explained that for (5) days leading up to her blood procedure, she had to be given injections of filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells/stem cells in her bloodstream. She admitted that the shots were the hardest part compared to the donation, but was extremely honored that she was a great match for someone, somewhere.

The entire process was about two months. Christine was first notified on April 1, 2021 that she was a potential match. Further testing was needed to confirm she was a good and viable candidate. When she was processed into the program, time passed quickly until her donation this past week. 

Our family has known Christine and the rest of the Flanagan family since we moved to Crofton in 1996. She is one of five children born to her parents, Georgia and Richard. She is the second oldest of three girls, then two boys followed up to round out the crew. They are all awesome and we’ve remained close to them throughout the years. Her dad, Rich, in fact, has three Guinness Book of World Records on a wheelie/one wheel (bicycle).  He dedicated one of his rides to Ryan in May of 2016. If you’d like to read more about this feat - please click on my older blogpost.   https://quiltsfromtheheart.blogspot.com/search?q=richard+flanagan

All the Flanagan kids are great athletes. Christine and our daughter, Olivia, played on the same local soccer for a couple of years, as well as swam on the local pool's swim team. A grade ahead of Olivia, Christine graduated high school in 2009 and then graduated from UMBC in 2013 with her degree in psychology. She currently works for the Applied Physics Lab in Columbia, Maryland, as a financial manager. She loves her job and is good at it too. She currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with a couple of roommates and her dog, Cliff, a German Shepard mix. She added she has had a wonderful childhood and is enjoying her life and adventure at every turn. Her greatest joy is being Aunt ‘Tine (pronounced Teen) to five nieces and nephews (some cannot pronounce Christine!).

If my family is excited and proud about Christine’s recent PBSC donation, her family is off the charts happy and very proud of her too! Who wouldn’t be? 

Due to Be The Match’s https://bethematch.org/ time constraints on when a donor and recipient can meet up (after one year from transplant), they are, in fact, allowed to write cards and notes to each other anonymously through their cancer centers. Christine plans on doing just that—keeping in touch. She added that she will wait patiently through the next nine months because after that time period ends, she will be able to get an update on her recipient. 

I hope and pray this all will be a miracle! When they meet up eventually, my hope is through Christine’s willingness to donate and create sunshine for someone else, she will be able to see how her donation brought sunshine (life) into a 16 year old girl with a new lease on life!  

Christine with her Red Stem Cells

Red stem cells and White Plasma (recipient needed plasma too)

Flanagan Clan

Christine and Cliffy

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Oh What a Week! Kelleys Island Respite 2021

Remember those vacations of years past, and last year a bust for many? Hopefully, not this year as we are ready to move about the cabin...and more. A trip to our beloved Kelleys Island, Ohio, was a perfect segue to get back on the horse of being with our tribe of family and friends. Except for one day of liquid sunshine, we had a grand week of stellar sunshine (mostly) with fun, laughter, bike rides, visits and the KI annual 5K and 10K races. A good time was had by all. 

Laughter...what a great medicine!



Can't beat an Ohio sunset (#nofilter) 

Shell Beach, Lake Erie with Tom/Rosalie Franek and Jodie Smith

Jodie and me

Go Speed racers! 5K and 10K'ers

Welcome to Lake Erie - Rosalie and Tom

Last dinner together at the Island House Restaurant

Medal winners/placers: Olivia (5k); Rosalie (10k); Beth Tomoff (10k) Bill (5K) in their respective age brackets!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

#CelebratingOthers with Susan Myhr Fritz's Memoir Recently Published!

Bill and I had so much fun writing in the Akimbo's Writing In Community 1 and that signed up for WIC2 over two months ago. We 'met' people all over the world writing powerful words with the hope that those words will be published. It's a big deal for that day to finally arrive and I would like to shout out Susan Fritz with her moment this past week.

Hot off the press is Susan Fritz’s memoir Everything Relevant Has Already Been Said. A Cancer Love Story. Susan’s book was the first thing packed in my backpack for our vacation. Now it’s a toss up on who reads it first and we are “fighting” over who gets that pleasure. From the photo below, it looks like Bill has the advantage. Not so fast.

On the Kelleys ,Island with Lake Erie all around us, unpacked, fed and watered I'm ready to sit back with a good book- Susan's book. A nice bike ride around the island is already under our belt too. 

Bill and I are thrilled for Susan and her book that is now out to share with the world! Her words are poignant, powerful and very “Susan-esque.” 

I can’t wait to dig into it pronto! 


Friday, May 28, 2021

Fighter Moms...

There are fighter jets and fights on the playground during lunch time. There is always some type of fight going on, most of them not good. Cancer fighting moms are in a league of their own. They are in the trenches with their child on good days and bad days. Then they have to deal with or take care of the siblings as well. 

The photo below are two of the cancer fighting moms, Marilyn Eichner and Patty Lubin, that shared the burden of that distinction with me from the beginning with my son and their children in 1996-1997. We have formed an unbreakable bond. There were times no words needed to be exchanged as we went into our own battles. We understand (or understood) all the feelings and goings-on in our hearts and minds. A sisterhood, if you will, that very few moms (and dads), thankfully, have to be a part of.

So on a beautiful Annapolis evening, we celebrated our friendship with an outdoor meal on the water. It feels so good to "move about the cabin" once again. We caught up with our lives since being in lockdown and it felt great to be together and just hang out for a spell! 

My hope is that we can all re-acquaint with the various tribes we belong to as the summer unfolds. This can only help our psyches and definitely our hearts after fighting through the madness of lockdown and the other "C" word and all that it entailed... worldwide.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Focused Fight Zoom Chat with the Just Tryan It Foundation

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Maureen Coburn, executive director of the wonderful foundation Just Tryan It. JTI is a kids triathlon fundraiser that helps families in financial need. My family and I have been involved with the foundation over the last 10 years as volunteers at their super fun/family friendly races. https://justtryanit.com/

Maureen and I had a lively conversation on my recently published memoir, The Focused Fight. It was a delightful zoom call that I was able to share further about the story of advocacy and resilience and what it took to fight through the ferocious fight of our lives. It's 30 minutes long if you decide to watch it (I hope you do). 

The interview flew by like a New York minute! If interested, you can tune into the candid chat at: https://youtu.be/By8nRstyuTw

I cannot thank JTI enough, as well as Maureen, in spreading our message of families fighting through courageous battles like Ryan's and Co. 

The photo below was at the Germantown, Maryland Top Golf kick off fundraiser for JTI on May 16, 2021. 



Ryan, me, Olivia, Bill and Linda Misencik