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!

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

Monday, May 24, 2021

Backyard Book Club & Signing for The Focused Fight

Backyard Book Signing 
Even though it was hot at 91 degrees in the neighborhood yesterday (Sunday), there was a breeze coming through at the start of book club this afternoon—featuring the author of The Focused Fight… me! I am thrilled that my neighbor two doors up suggested that “one of our own” would be discussing her book. She was also prepared with delicious food (some of RyGuysBBQ smoked cheeses), along with thoughtful questions plus a bit about post production and self-publishing. The whole book signing party was lovely (I even sold a few copies!).
What I thought was also very kind was that I was available to chat with some folks individually, who then were able to articulate to me how and what the book meant to them. I was touched with their sincerity. Some of the ladies have health challenges now that did not have them when my son/family was going through hell 20 years ago. They were also a large part of the power of community I discussed in the book (though a few thought they did not do enough.)
I will be forever indebted to my neighbors! One even said when she passed my house all those years ago, she would offer up a prayer to me or my son or the family…depending on the day. I was floored! However, those silent prayers offered moved mountains for us time and time again. We would not be standing proudly today without those unscripted efforts of so many.

Angels in my community...and a huge shout out to Mary Kay Carlo for hosting the entire event! Delicious food and camaraderie with our neighbors rounds out this great afternoon. I was over the moon!
Me & Ewa Gorski

Me & Tammy Wates

Friday, May 21, 2021

MONSTER Traeger Grill

As a prolific quilter I am in love with all things fabric plus the tools that go along with my avocation. Of course I have several sewing machines, but I simply love scissors and hot irons. I typically have a fleet of irons that I use for different purposes. So when my son decided to purchase a bigger and “better” Traeger grill to add to his fleet of outdoor cooking ware (he does most of the family’s cooking of late rain or shine), I was all in on his decision. I know that feeling of providing the best tools for the task at hand. He does too!

To me his new grill is a monster grill (I don’t have monster iron but my long arm sewing machine could be considered one). It’s much larger than the entry level grill he bought himself a few years ago. There is nothing wrong with the original grill, but he wants to spread out the grilling space needed to cook a meat/fish dish plus a decent size side. Apparently, this bigger grill can do just that. He saved up for a year to purchase it and deliberated for quite some time to finally pull the trigger and buy it. It was on order for a few weeks and was able to pick it up this week. He is just as delighted with his new purchase as I am with a new iron. They both get hot and make our jobs a lot easier to accomplish, mine with fabric, his with food. We are kindred spirits like that. 

One of the most delicious things he smokes are cheeses. They are a fan favorite. However, his smoked macaroni and cheese is out of this world. It’s rich, creamy and smokey and he adds the right punch and combination of spices that truly makes it mouth-watering (are you getting hungry and have a hankering of mac-n-cheese now?). The whole neighborhood knows when he is grilling something delectable as the intense smells plus wafting scents rise from his grills and flat top to noses near and far. He’s actually become a somewhat of a master griller. He got that way with trial and error, of course, and not only are his smoked cheeses spectacular, his grilled/smoked chicken are the bomb! 

I am thrilled he is in the ‘business’ of manufacturing sunshine in the form of appetizing food for his waiting customers - his family. Sometimes we could be considered guinea pigs for trying a new dish he’s working on, but once he’s perfected it, we have a front row seat at the table of divine scrumptiousness!



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Creating Weekend Adventures with Linda Linda

As the "coast is clearing" a bit for travel, we were blessed to have a visit from our dear friend, Linda Misencik, now residing in Colorado! She came for a long weekend, and it did not disappoint. Interestingly, Linda Linda (it's what we affectionately call her) was fascinated with the emerging cicadas coming up and out of the ground in our backyard. We sat and watched the birds swooping in for a tasty bite of an emerging cicada, or flying off with their treasured catch to eat elsewhere. 

In addition to all the animal watching, people watching by taking a stroll (fast walk) with "The Best Daughter" on the mall in DC was also a big highlight for us. It was a beautiful Sunday morning that we had to take advantage of. The beauty of Washington and Maryland alive with deep green plants, shrubs and trees showing off as they burst on the scene with leaves forming canopies, as well as their cousins, azaleas and knock out rose bushes, all dolled up with their abundant colors. A riot of color was busting all over the city, much to our delight. 

I'd love to give Mother Nature a big hug right now!



Saturday, May 15, 2021

Cicadas Brood X

The East Coast ground is bursting with the 17 year Cicadas, and of course, bursting through my weeds, er grass, in the backyard with great delight. They are inching they way out of the ground and into the trees to mate and proliferate for another 17 years. They are the most defenseless creatures on Earth. Birds and snakes are on a feeding frenzy. 

Apparently, they are as tasty as shrimp sautéed in butter, but we have no takers in my household for this supposed delicacy. Maybe next time in 2038! 



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Marigold Hunting

My hunt every spring is to find flats of marigolds that don't break the bank. I’d rather not buy them in a one quart pot or anything larger, but in a four-pack of various colors like orange, yellow and a combination of yellow and orange (looks red sometimes). For the past week I couldn’t get my beloved marigold flowers out of my head. Thankfully, I was lucky to work in my flower beds on Mother’s Day, with help, but that did not include going to a store or nursery to buy them.

Today when I went out to return some extra split rail fencing I purchased a week ago that we did not need, I checked the garden department for marigolds. I was on the hunt, and this big box store had nary a marigold in sight. About a half mile away though, another big box discount store that has a garden center just had to be my next stop in my quest for what I’m thinking is an illusive flower. 

I was tickled to see that this next stop store had overflowing racks of flowers along the brick front near the garden center entrance. I was thinking there had to be marigolds somewhere here. I pulled out a nicely wheeled cart from the cart corral, and perused all the flowers along the front of the store very carefully. Still, no marigolds. Now I am getting suspicious with no marigolds in sight. Are they always that popular every spring? It’s early-ish May, I know, so am I late in purchasing them? Maybe all the presidents of the local garden clubs put out a memo that they are wonderful, colorful and very hearty flowers to grow. But sheesh, nada so far. 

Maybe the word is out too that there is no annual flower more cheerful or easier to grow. Maybe people know that they can bloom from April to November in the Mid-Atlantic in gold, copper and brass color-ways and they don’t really have to be watered. Can the attraction be that they thrive in full sunshine and can withstand very hot summers? Maybe they are all out because they grow pretty much in any soil and have very few pest problems. In fact, they are companion plants in gardens and farms all over the world. Honeybees love them too! Hey, they even repel snakes, whiteflies, Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, tomato hornworms, and, the biggest nemesis of all: mosquitoes! Marigolds are a definite crowd pleaser I’ve come to reason. 

After my mental rant, I entered the outdoor garden area of the store. There just had to be some marigolds here, I was convinced of it. Once I entered the sacred area, I was met by a friendly staff member. I wanted to find them on my own, but after looking down several rows of flowers, I came up short. The friendly staff member was happy to assist me when questioned about my flower choice and where were they hiding them. He laughed and said,” you are bit late for them.” What? I didn’t know I could be late for the marigolds? I guess one learns something new every day—this was my day to learn when to plan to buy marigolds in the future. He then pointed out the only rack I did not look over. Sure enough, there were my marigolds - low on the rack. There were not many flats of four-packs left, but I am proud to say I was able to purchase (8) packs! I was thrilled to do so, and since I was so elated, I decided to buy a few begonias and spikes for my pots too. 

If I learned anything today, it’s to get your annual marigolds early in the season! I’ve tried growing them from seeds from the previous year (keep them dry and in a glass ball jar), but they never germinate for me. 

So how about those geraniums?  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's Day 2021

No one would be here on Earth throughout time without a Mother. This is the first Mother's Day without mine in the world...but she left a great legacy of three daughters and seven grandchildren.
Happy Mother's Day to one and all!

Here’s one of my all time favorite photos I ever took (Feb. 2015) - a baby elephant with her Mom and Aunties!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

A Mother's Day Story of Manufactured Sunshine

South Africa 2015 - On The Fly Cooking in the Drakensbergs

When one of my college buddies, Helen, and her husband, Dan, moved to South Africa in 2014 (her husband was transferred there by a large US company), several other college friends wanted to pay them a visit. Not everyone was able to go once the dates and times were set. However, three were left standing ready and willing to go. Laura from Michigan, Jodie living in Amsterdam at that time, and me on the East Coast. Laura and I coordinated our trip and met in Atlanta to fly to Johannesburg, SA. Going that far, we went for two weeks which left plenty of room to visit a lot of places throughout South Africa. Our fun included a Safari, hiking in the Drakensbergs, and visiting Cape Town as well the wine country of Stellenbosch and Franschhoeck. It was a wonderful trip with lots of memories made with smart, funny and compassionate women (and two husbands for some parts of the trip). 

Helen planned the entire trip. She utilized the fact she was living in SA to pay rates and travel expenses under Rand instead of USD. Smart girl she is! Since we are all very active, a trip to hike in the Drakensbergs Mountains (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000) was high on our list. Helen secured accommodations in a cabin there, and after our Safari in northern SA, we headed southeast near the Lesotho border. The mountain range was spectacular! They are kind of like the Rockies of Colorado in the states. 

On our way down, we stopped at a grocery store to buy our provisions for several days. We never thought about purchasing salt/pepper/spices or any type of butter, oil or spray for cooking purposes. But ... we had plenty of wine! After one long and grueling hiking day we came back to our cabin hot, sweaty, sore and hungry as bears. Jodie volunteered to cook that night. For the four of us, everything was quite seamless in KP duty. One made a salad, another set the table and poured wine in four glasses and the last gal would clean up and wash the dishes. 

Once Jodie started making the chicken in the frying pan she realized we did not have any oil/butter etc to help with flavor or stickiness on the old beat up pan. On the spot she began frying the chicken very slowly so that it would release some fat. And here is where she manufactured sunshine…in cooking. She opened another bottle of wine to assist her in cooking the chicken. It served a dual purpose. It brought an unbelievable and unexpected flavor to the chicken, and nothing ended up sticking to the pan.

Since we were in baboon country, these cabins were empty of any food supplies. Not even a packet of salt was found in any drawer or way back in a cabinet. Nope, those baboons can open doors and windows and can do a lot of damage in the cabin if no one is occupying them. They would even destroy cleaning supplies, and of course we did not have, or buy, proper cleaning supplies either. I don’t think anyone of us got the memo about the baboons and their crazy behavior. We used soap from our toiletry bags for our personal use, as well as all the cooking clean up. Our cabin did provide kitchen towels and bed linens, so that helped. Apparently, baboons don’t mess with towels—but they do jump on the beds we heard! 

Necessity is the mother of invention - a good story for this Mother’s Day Weekend! 

BSoleille! I'm shouting a huge Happy Birthday to Jodie's 60th today! 

L-R: Laura, Jodie, me & Hp 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Publicity for The Focused Fight

When you self-publish a book, guess who has to do the publicity? If you guessed the author, you are correct! It's super helpful for folks to share the book on social media, but then what? A review on Amazon is helpful and is one of the best compliments you can do for any author. I am thrilled and very thankful for those who took their time to write beautiful reviews on the Amazon platform, and it's never too late to write one and post—for me or anyone of your favorite authors!

This has been an exciting week for me with PR work. I am a newbie at all of this, but slugging through the nuances every day. Yesterday, I did an hour long Twitter Chat with #indieAuthorChat host, Tim Lewis, of London, England and https://stonehampress.com/  (spreading the love over the pond). It was exhilarating but I felt like I was in the middle of the three ring circus answering questions and remembering to include the hashtag with each answer I gave. It was a little hard to keep up with some of the extra questions posed by those on the chat as well as the host's questions. I did my best. The hour flew by at lightning speed. I let out a big cleansing breath at the top of the hour when we were all done. My fingers never flew so fast over my keyboard! Ha! I was thrilled to be a part of Tim Lewis' Indie Author Chat (his chats are every Wednesday at 3:00pm EST).

I met Tim Lewis through a woman named Clarice Lin who my husband Bill met on LinkedIn several years ago. Bill liked Clarice's posts so much that they started chatting via social media. When we traveled to London two years ago, we met up with Clarice for breakfast and had a delightful time with her. She actually gave some sound business advice to "The Best Daughter" that was invaluable. Fast forward to a month ago, and Clarice reached out to me on whether I'd like to meet her friend, Tim, who does frequent Twitter Chats for Independent Authors and thought I would be a good fit for his program. I was! 

Today, I did a recorded Zoom chat with the Executive Director, Maureen Coburn, with the Just Tryan It  foundation that will be aired in a few weeks. https://justtryanit.com/ 

This is all new and exciting! However, my ultimate goal or hope is to reach that one person or one family, or one community by reading The Focused Fight. We can all do small things with great love to help others—Mother Teresa



Sunday, May 2, 2021

May Day - Love is in the Air - Pagon Wedding!

Attending a wedding no matter where in the world is a sacred time, not only for the beautiful bride and groom, but their respective families, friends and guests. I felt honored to be invited. Well wishes for a happy life floated over the venue like the endless and abundant sunshine that their day provided (a great thing for typical Ohio weather in early May!). 

My travel partners embarking from Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio, Debbie M. and Sarah M., made the adventure all worthwhile! With three talkative chicas, the almost two hour drive breezed on by. We traveled to celebrate this wonderful occasion of the marriage of Nicholas and Rachel Pagon; along with Nick’s parents, Kata and Len. It was a very lovely day - from soup to nuts! 

The stunning venue at Oak Grove at Jorgensen Farms was the perfect backdrop for the bride and groom to say their, “I do’s.” I always feel weddings are one of life’s loveliness of being human and making a connection to another human to share a life together. There is something that is cherished that wedding day for the couple and their families, and the feeling of starting something anew. 

Love was certainly in the air! BSoleille! The bright side of a newly married couple - Nick and Rachel Pagon!