Tag Archives: Multiple Myeloma

Recipes: Lawns, Laughter, Cancer and Carrot Cake.

carrotcake

My husband and I have lived in the same house for over thirty years and have had the same neighbors, to the south of us, for that entire time.

Throughout the many years that we have lived on this earth side by side, our neighborhood has celebrated, cared and cried for each other.  We have watched our children grow; play; squabble; graduate elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  Then, move away and begin families of their own making us proud grandparents. In many ways, I am closer to my neighbors than I am my own siblings.   No one on this earth could have asked for better neighbors.

My neighbor’s wife has always been our neighborhood adult.  A finer person, I have yet to meet.  My neighbor, on the other hand, is a combination of wise sage, smart-ass, and political guru.  When that man was young, I swear, he could mow the lawn with a beer in each hand and still have the straightest lawnmower lines on the block. Outstanding talent!

There are two things that I can count on from my neighbor.  He always tells it like it is and he makes me laugh.  During my thirty-year career in politics, my neighbor would share his political opinions, whether I liked them or not. Then, he would tell me who was going to win the election and he was always right. He has an uncanny ability to read the electorate and pick the winners.

Then, too, no matter how bad things get, he makes me laugh.  During my cancer battle, when I was crippled up in pain with multiple spinal fractures, I was stuck in a gosh awful body cast for over eighteen months.  Now for those of you who have never seen this contraption of uncomfortableness and torture, I will describe it. It is a hard piece of plastic from chin to hip with the chest cut out so that you can breathe….a little. I could not be out of bed without the body cast on.

One day, when I had no make-up on, hair uncombed, and was wearing that cast while hunched over my walker making a herculean effort to push it a few feet further down our street than I had before, my neighbor comes by to say hello.  He takes one look and me, points at the cast and exclaims with a broad smile, “That thing is kinda sexy.”   Laughter hurt, but it was a good hurt.

My neighbor has also bailed me out of several near disasters. Like when he patiently sat by his backyard fire and scraped all of the melted Tupperware, which looked like melted marshmallow, off of all of my oven racks.  I look inside my oven now, before I turn it on…most of the time.

Then, there was the time he got a fine for helping me burn my trees that had been knocked down by a tornado.  When he saw the police office on a mission marching across his backyard towards us, he whispered, “Patricia, have you ever been arrested?” I sadly shook my head no and quickly informed him that I had never even had a parking ticket, but did once have a late library book. He grinned at me, said that is what he thought, and went over to greet the cop.  It was only this past spring, many years later, that he told me he got actually got fined.

My neighbor has always been very complimentary of my baking, which is high praise as he is a very accomplished cook.  Last winter, he actually helped me and another neighbor learn to make our own cheese.  After successfully completing the project, looking at all of the dirty dishes and messy kitchen, us two women decided that while the fresh cheese tasted outstanding we’d stick to purchasing our cheese.

No matter how awful, bald or sick I looked, during my cancer battle my neighbor would tell me I was looking good, cheer me on and would often shout, “Hurry up and get well so you can get back in the kitchen!”

I have returned to my kitchen and can again bake most of my favorite recipes.  In June, just about two weeks before I was to leave on my long planned cancer victory trip to Montana to hike in the mountains, I noticed that both my husband and my neighbor were up early mowing lawn.  I had some blueberries and decided to make the boys some blueberry coffee cake.

When I walked a piece of warm cake over to my neighbor, he was all smiles.  He said he just had poured himself a cup of coffee and the cake would be perfect.  I responded, “See you’d have missed me if I had croaked!”  He responded that yes he would have missed me and my baking a lot.  We both laughed and agreed that it was so very nice that our neighborhood was somewhat back to normal.

The very next week, my dear neighbor developed stroke like symptoms.  He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The worst kind. A very aggressive Glioblastoma. His prognosis is challenging.

It isn’t supposed to be this way, he is exactly my age.  Oh, I always figured that my neighbor would die young.  That I accepted long ago, but I always figured he’d go out in a blaze of glory by getting struck by lightening on the golf course, or by electrocuting himself by severing another power line with his digging spade, or falling off yet another ladder, or going bird shooting with Dick Cheney.  Not like this, never like this! Not, MY neighbor!

When my neighbor’s wife told me the news, I immediately offered to cancel my trip to the mountains, but neither of them would hear of it.  I was told to go, enjoy myself and not to give them a thought.  Well, I went, I enjoyed myself, but I certainly prayed and thought about both of them and their only child often.

True to form, my neighbor took on his cancer battle with a stellar positive attitude.  He would do no less. However, despite the amazing care provided by his wife, that poor man has had nothing, but one horrible side effect after another during his cancer treatment.  While I cannot do much about any of his other side effects, there is one side effect that I can do something about…he has developed an insatiable sweet tooth.

So, while I have been neglecting my blog this summer, I have been in my kitchen baking for my neighbor, his wife, son and his sweet tooth.  My friend’s favorites…pie, cheesecake, chocolate-zucchini cake, orange chiffon cake, caramel and sweet rolls, lemon zucchini bread and a variety of cookies are frequently delivered to his home.

This week I had planned to make his favorite cake, carrot cake, as a special treat to celebrate his last week of radiation.  However, yesterday, my buddy, took a terrible turn for the worse and is back in the hospital.  Regardless, I have have decided that I am going to go ahead and bake his cake.  That way, it will be here when he comes home.  However, if you could, would you all pray for my dear neighbor who right now is so very sick, anxious and pain ridden, and for his dear wife and son.

Thank you and God Bless!

The World’s Best Carrot Cake  from the kitchen of Kathy Warrick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small mixing bowl stir together:
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 cup of oil
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 whole eggs

Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and combine completely.

Stir in:
1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup of raisins

Optional:  1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

When batter is completely mixed, pour into greased 9 X 13 pan or into two greased and floured eight-inch layer cake pans.   Bake the 9 X 13 cake for about 45 minutes and the layer cakes for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and cool completely.  If you are making a layer cake, let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. When cooled, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a small mixing bowl whip together with an electric mixer:
1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups of powdered sugar

Add and mix until completely combined:
2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Garnish cake with 1 cup of shredded coconut.

Blogger Update:  I just learned that he has had a better day today.

 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today? I Have Climbed the Mountain…The Trip to Montana

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Yellowstone Mountains

I remember the call from my oncologist so very clearly.  After months of battling brittle bones and being injected daily with bone hardening drugs into my stomach, just as I thought I had begun to make progress, he called me to tell me that my bone marrow biopsy was positive for multiple myeloma…a bone marrow cancer.

My first thought was thank God they finally know what’s slowly killing me.  My second thought was like the words of the song says, “Lord, this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain that I may never climb.  It isn’t a hill any longer. You gave me a mountain this time.”

It isn’t surprising that my first thoughts were of God and mountains. Throughout the four years that I battled multiple myeloma, at first just to survive, then to get mobility back, I would often mentally picture walking in the mountains of Montana.  Mountains have always been where I have felt closest to God and found peace.

Multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, destroyed my bones.  They became so brittle that all of my thoracic and lumbar vertebra sustained compression fractures.  I once had six new fractures in my back at one time. I also endured several cracked ribs.

I would break my back doing the simplest of tasks including flossing my teeth, lifting a toilet lid and trying to pick a shirt up off of the floor.  For over 18 months I was imprisoned in a chin to hip hard body cast.  I spent over two and a half years confined to a hospital bed in my living room staring out of my living room window at a small oak tree in my front yard.  I was unable to stand or walk without using a walker for over three years. So, being able to hike in the mountains of Montana was a pretty far-fetched goal.

If in reality I couldn’t get to mountains, I could in my mind. I dreamed, I was in those mountains, often.  I was there when I was encased in that body cast. I spent time in them when imprisoned in the hospital bed in my living room. I was climbing those mountains the day they put the Hickman chemo port into my chest.  I visited those snow covered peaks each time they bored holes into my bones using only local anesthesia before they used a massive syringe to suck out bone marrow samples.

Those mountains were in my nursing home, rehab and hospital rooms. They were there the day I watched, “the nuclear bomb” of chemo for my stem cell plant slowly enter my body.

There were times during those years of battling cancer, fear, depression, chemo therapy and stem cell transplant side effects, mobility loss, and pain when my only contact with the great outdoors, for this outside farm girl, was dreaming of mountains and their meadows.

To beat my cancer I did everything the doctors asked me to do, except for one thing. I refused to use a wheelchair.  I had no intention of being trapped in one of those. For, I had decided, like Winston Churchill stated in his greatest and shortest speech to  “Never, never, never give up.”  In fact, I bought a silver dog tag engraved with those words to always wear around my neck on a necklace that included my cross, a silver family tree given to me by my grandson on a Mother’s Day long ago and the first ring my husband ever gave me.

After making the decision to fight on, no matter how sick I was, whenever someone helped me out of bed, I would push my walker around my kitchen island until I was too tired to go any further. First one, then five, 10, 20 and eventually a 100 laps a day.  I wore a trail into my hardwood floors.

During the long months that stretched into years when I was too sick and weak to leave my home, occupational and physical therapists would come to bathe me, and help me relearn the simplest of tasks.  First, I had to learn how to get out of bed without breaking more bones.  As I would sit up I could feel my weak spine bend sideways just like a willow branch and would pray that it would not snap and paralyze me.  It didn’t.

Eventually, I re-learned how to do stairs. Then, after months of being totally house bound, with two therapists, one on each side, I was allowed to go outside and push my walker to the end of my driveway and back.

There were many trips to the end of my driveway.   I can still remember the sheer terror of trying to step down from the driveway to the street for the first time without jarring my spine.  I did it, though, and my world began to grow. First just to the edge of our property line, next came the end of our street and eventually laps around the block pushing a walker with tennis balls on the bottom.  As I grew stronger, I mastered using a walker with wheels, next came two canes and eventually just one cane.

I walked and walked. I walked with shuffling feet, bent over, with a broken back.  I walked sick and exhausted from chemo. I walked bald.  I walked masked.  I walked on flat streets, inclines and hills.  I wore out many tennis balls.  I have worn out many rubber stoppers on the bottom of my canes. I climbed stairs many times a day just to strengthen my bones and leg muscles. Each step I took was me telling my cancer to go to blazes.

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Pushing my walker on a hiking trail at William O’Brien State Park

After such a hard and long cancer battle, you cannot imagine the joy of traveling out of state for the first time in almost six years; being in Great Falls, Montana, to visit and hug my dear Aunt Margaret who faithfully called me weekly throughout all of those years to lead me in Bible study; and to at last stand on a hiking trail in Montana and see a horizon filled with snow and wild flower covered mountains.

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Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie

As I stood beneath a snow-capped footstool of God, the bible verse that I clung to throughout my cancer battle was again prayed.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

It did not matter whether I could only lift my eyes to the top of a small oak tree in my front yard, or the summit of a great mountain, my help always came from the Lord….who never left me or forsook me.

With baby steps, a bit a grit and by the grace of God, I climbed the mountain!!!

***************

I hope you enjoy these vacation pictures!


Lots of Wild Horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Beautiful Wild Flowers

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Animals galore! Bear, wolf, elk and antelope too! 

 

Geyser basins.

Waterfalls 

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Mountains!

Doug!

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Me!

It was a great trip. We hiked from sun up to sundown and I never even got sore muscles….Bully!!!!!

What Is On My Mind Today: My painting was awarded a cash prize at the Gallery 96 Art Center Spring Show!

I have two paintings exhibited in the Gallery 96 Art Center Spring show at the Shoreview Library.  The show lasts until June 17.

The big news is that my painting, “Anger” won a cash prize.

Wind in the pasture
“Anger”

Desert Blooms is the other painting of mine on display.

Blooming Cactus
“Dessert Blooms”

The sister painting to “Anger” which is not on display is “Peace”.   My cancer battle inspired both of these paintings.

moonlight
“Peace”

What Is On My Mind Today? Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Doilies

ukranianeggs

I have always loved looking at Ukrainian Easter Eggs.  I know precisely where I saw an Ukrainian egg for the first time.  It was at my Great Aunt Doris’s farm home.

Someone had given her two Ukrainian eggs.  After she showed them to me, she often caught me looking at them.  I was mesmerized by the colors, perfect geometry, fine workmanship and artistry.

It wasn’t too many years after Uncle Ing died before Aunt Doris sold her farm and moved into town.  Those eggs went with her.  There behind the glass of her china cupboard in her dining room those eggs remained prominently on display.

During the winter of my freshman year in college, due to circumstances beyond my control, I lived with my Aunt Doris.  Many times she caught me admiring those eggs.   Well, Aunt Doris had no idea how to make Ukrainian eggs, so she decided that I should learn how to crochet lace doilies instead.  Both were symmetrical, required skill and a certain amount of artistry.   However, where those eggs beat doily making hands down, was in the department of color.

Not to be deterred, Aunt Doris produced a skein of bright gold crochet floss and said, “Here you go!.”  As she handed me a pattern book, string and crochet hook, I immediately forgot farm rule number one, panic never helps, and exclaimed that she must be dreaming if she thought I could make one of those complicated things. We had a good laugh and then she responded, “Nonsense, just focus on one stitch at a time and before you know it, your doily will be done.”

Sure enough, that is exactly how it went.  Never again was I ever intimated by a lace doily pattern.  Over the years I have probably made over a hundred doilies. Many of which were quite complicated.

I bet the one stitch at a time rule of Aunt Doris, could be translated to one stroke of paint at a time in Ukrainian egg making.  I do know that whenever I have had a major project or challenge in life, Aunt Doris’s doily management skills have often come to the rescue.

Whether it was getting legislation passed at the Capitol; project managing Minnesota’s World War II Memorial Dedication; formatting a four-hundred plus page statutory legislative manual; working on voter outreach; being a press secretary; being bedridden for years with Multiple Myeloma and a broken spine; or any number of other situations that have been thrust upon me in this life, staying focused on the present and not becoming overwhelmed by the future made all the difference between success or failure, and happiness or or distress.

If I added up all of the times I forced myself to focus on just one project, one event, one committee, one bill, one legislator, one candidate, one campaign, one press release, one voter, one constituent, one veteran, one child, one word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one day, one step, one stair, one medical test, one round of chemo, one illness, and one pain, the sum total would be equivalent to a very strong person who has lived a remarkable life one stitch at a time.

Of course, there were moments when doily management skills were just not applicable. The horse was let out of the barn before you got there, kind of times. The Franken-Coleman Recount comes to mind. For those times I fell back on some good advice I once received from a young air force pilot who was trying his best to convince teenage Pat to accompany him on a ride in a jet.  He asked me if I was too scared to go with him? When I replied in the affirmative, he gave me the cutest grin and said, “What do you have to be afraid of?  All you have to do is hang on and remember to breathe.”

What Is On My Mind Today: A Capitol Trip by A Lucky Duck

I have always believed that a promise given is a promise kept. Yesterday was all about memories and keeping a promise to myself.

When I was incapacitated from the fractures in every thoracic and lumbar vertebra in my spine caused by the cancer Multiple Myeloma, I found it heartbreaking that in only six short months I had gone from Assistant Communication Director/Press Secretary/Blue Book maker for Secretary Mark Ritchie to lying in a hospital bed in the Capitolview rehab center at Region’ hospital looking at our beautiful Capitol out of a window. At that time, I was very convinced that I was never going to get to go in it again, let alone climb any of the beautiful marble steps that I had raced up and down for so many years.

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Where I spent almost two years.

One day the social worker came to visit me. She picked up a notebook that I had been using as a journal.  My body at that time was broken and there was nothing that I could do to make it heal, so I focused on preventing my mind from slipping into depression.  After losing a baby, years before, I experienced a severe postpartum suicidal depression.  During the weeks that I had be hospitalized at Sister Kenny Institute’s Young Adult Depression Unit, I had been taught coping skills.  Boy, did that training pay off!

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Getting new stem cells

In my journal the therapist found I had written, “I will have better days!.”  Over and over again. She commented how amazed she was to find an affirmative statement under the circumstances.  Right then and there, I promised myself that some day I was going to again climb the stairs to the Minnesota Senate Chambers at our State Capitol. It may have taken almost four years, but yesterday, was the day!

The day began with a trip to see my oncologist.  I had already seen my labs so I knew it was going to be a good appointment.  He said that I should remain healthy indefinitely.  That’s just what I wanted to hear from that guy!  Then, we chatted about how far my physical recovery has come.  He recalled the first time we met in the emergency room at Regions and how very fragile I was.  My young Irish doctor noted that I was basically a conscious vegetable, completely incapacitated.   When we had finished our reminisce, I gave him the cookies that I had baked for him and his staff.  They all had worked so very hard to save my life and help me regain good health and mobility.  I felt they deserved a treat.

My next stop was the infusion room.  If you have never been in a cancer clinic’s infusion room, it can be quite overwhelming.  These rooms are lined with many, many reclining chairs filled with people of all ages, genders and ethnicity just like you getting chemo. Cancer does not discriminate.

Sitting next to each patient’s chair is their IV stand hung with a multitude of bags filled with blood products, liquids and drugs.  Some of us are bald and some of us are not.  I have been both. Scattered about the room are baskets filled with donated stocking hats of every color imaginable free for the taking. Chatting the patients up are the worried and tired looking family members and friends that accompanied them.

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World War II Buddy El Ewert and I enjoying our bald heads

My infusion was just for a bone hardening drug. For some reason, yesterday my oncology nurses all came by to remind me of the “fragile state”I was in the first time they met me.   Maybe I got their attention when I asked one of my favorite nurses where her bright green hair was today.  During St. Patrick Day’s past her green wig was a big hit.

The nurse got a hold of physical therapy. The therapist came to assess my movement and help with some trouble spots in my neck and back.  I still cannot completely lift either arm and have lost considerable motion in my neck .  Whenever I move my head from side to side or tip it back, I get pain in my spine, right between the shoulder blades.  Not being able to turn my head is what prevents me from driving and was going to prevent me from seeing the top of the rotunda at the Capitol.

She knew exactly what the problem was and went to work.  I had a muscle that was looped and a lot fascia that was being very stubborn. Then,she exclaimed, “Pat, you have adhesions sticking your muscles to your skull!”  Which explained my incredibly unpleasant under the chin Charlie horses. She went to work. Finally she said, “There it goes!”  At that moment, for the first time in years I could turn my head from shoulder to shoulder and backwards.  Bully!

With my doctor appointment, infusion and physical therapy behind me, my husband dropped me off at the side door of the State Office Building.  Fondly known to those of us who have called it home…the SOB.   That door is the one I used for many years when I worked in that building.

As I stood in front of that door I noticed two things.  Time had just been rolled back and it had been refinished.  Loaded down with a bag filled with my friends’ favorite cookies, I headed for the Secretary of State’s Office.  I barely got through the door when I was greeted by one of the two Brads.  I asked for Bert.

Bert came and he took me on a complete tour of the office.  It was wonderful to see all of the changes and meet new staff.  So many of my friends were still there and they all looked so good.

Then, Bert and I  had a good visit in his office, just like we used too. Bert used to keep me out of mischief when we worked together.  It was a necessary role and he hasn’t changed at bit. He felt that it was alright for me to climb the Senate stairs, but all other stairs were strictly off limits and elevators to be used.  When we worked together, he knew that I could rarely be found in an elevator if I could get some exercise taking the stairs.  I promised him, I would follow his advice, and that if I got too tired I would be back to sit with him in his office until my husband could pick me up.

My next cookie stop was House Supply.  I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Bill’s face when he saw me standing there.  I didn’t get to see Jess, but found Steve later.  I was introduced to Danny’s son, he looks like his dad, and was assured that one of the over a dozen gingersnaps I had made for Danny would be saved for him.  I bet he does only get one.

Next, I headed out for the Capitol and those senate stairs.  Bill was concerned that the incline to the Capitol would be too steep for me, but it wasn’t at all.  Heeding Bert’s advice, I took the elevator up to those stairs.

Stepping back into the Capitol after an absence of almost five years affected me a bit. Then, I headed for the Senate stairs.

Capitol steps by Pat
I took this picture myself from the top of the stairs. 

Stairs never looked so beautiful. There they were, just as I remembered them.  I had thought of them so very many times.  They were before me when I sat in a chair with a therapist helping me to lift one leg then the other.  They stood tall when I tried and tried to go up those four little steps in the physical therapy room.  I dreamed of those stairs when day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year were spent in a body cast trapped in a hospital bed in my living room.  Those stairs taunted me when I wanted to give up.  Those stairs helped me conquer my cancer and it was finally time for me to conquer them.

As I stood before my nemesis, I took a deep breath, said a prayer of thanksgiving to a merciful God, held on to the railing and up I went.  It wasn’t even hard!  When I got to the top, I took a picture.  Then, I found one of those big old oak Capitol benches and just sat for a bit to savor the moment.

It will surprise no one that, that did not last long. Soon,  I was back on the trail to find my senate friends. Many of whom had no idea where I had disappeared too so long ago.

After a great visit with John in the information office.  I went into both the House and Senate chambers.  I had worked in both.  It was then time to just take in all of the Capitol renovations, especially the artwork.  I walked into the rotunda, tipped my head way back and took in the whole dome.  Magnificent! The colors of the murals in the Supreme Court chambers were particularly glorious.  I did not go into the governor’s office, on purpose, because it leaves me a reason to return.

Next, I decided that I needed to explore the new Senate Office Building and see where Senator Mary Kiffmeyer had hung my painting of U.S. Grant. That building is so light and roomy and marvelous.  I was impressed!  As I headed out to find friends, they just seemed to find me.  David found me in the hall, then Ward showed up and Troy.  We had a good chat.

As I turned to continue on there was Glen.  He showed me where to find the other Sergeants at Arms.  Those guys have always been some of my favorite people.  Not all of them were there, but I got to see Herb and Bob.  Bob and I were always good friends, and he escorted me up to see my painting.  When I was standing next to it, as he took my picture, I noticed that I had painted it in 1997.  It was twenty years old!

Capitol painting

Bob and I continued our tour ending up in the Senate offices.  I saw Steve, Sven, Marilyn and of course Nick Thompson.  Since, they did not know what had happened to me, they were surprised to learn of my challenges. We shared memories and laughs.  Then, Nick gave me one of the best compliments ever.

After working in both the Senate and House for Republicans, I think many people were surprised when I went to work for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie a Democrat. Nick said that it had surprised him.  However, after he thought about it a while he came to the conclusion that the decision to hire me was probably one of the best decisions Secretary of Ritchie ever made.  I, sure, hope the Secretary felt the same way.

By this time I must have looked tired.  The infusion I had received that morning always causes fatigue and I had been wandering around the Capitol for hours by this time.  I told the folks that I was going to head back towards Bert.  Nick asked me several times if I needed help.  I am sure that he would have had the wheelchair out in a shot if he thought for one second that I did.

On the way back to the SOB, I needed to find the new press pool.  I had been in the old one many times and wanted to see if those hardworking folks had finally gotten better digs.  I could not find it!  Just then, I spotted Bill Werner, a reporter.  He pointed me in the right direction.

Several of the reporters that I used to work with were there.  It was so nice to see them again.  One of them, sadly told me that she’d had just lost another friend to cancer the day before.  We agreed that cancer sucks.  I did miss seeing my friend John from KARE 11, down there, but he was on vacation.

When I got back to the SOB.  I headed upstairs to see my House friends.  Rebecca and I had a great chat.  Seeing as how I am no longer an employee of that place, I feel there is no need for me to be politically correct. Making Rebecca laugh has always been one of my favorite pursuits. Success was mine!   I stopped by to see Mark’s office and where Alayne and I used to work.

Then, I went downstairs to get something to drink and ran into one of my favorite people Sean.  Sean, Michelle and Valerie have worked at the SOB cleaning up after all of us since my Senate days.  Sean looked great.  His little girl, that I used to help tutor, is now 17 years old and will graduate next year.  He has two more children.  He caught me up on the news of Michelle and Valerie.

By the time I got back to the Secretary of State’s Office, I was locked out.  It was almost five p.m. and I had been walking and chatting for over four hours. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for my husband.

Who should show up? Travis Reese.  Travis had worked with me in the Secretary of State’s Office doing outreach.  He reminded me of all the fun, he, I and Sara had working together at the State Fair.  He then reminded me about my being Minnesota State Fair Reserve Grand Champion in Animal Calling in the Ag Olympics two years in a row. Both years I was beaten by a team of folks from the Department of Ag doing musical animal theater.

ribbons
My state fair ribbons for animal calling. 

You might think that I lost because I was out numbered, but I cannot ever remember being outnumbered.  Far be it from me to cast stones, but scripted group animal calling was clearly a violation of Ag Olympic rules.

Interestingly enough, one of the years I competed, one of the other contestants was a former preschool student of mine who was then Princess Kay of the Milky.  I had both her and her sister as students and they both became Princess Kay’s. Yes, she recognized, “Mrs. Detergent.”

Then, too, only I would work for Mark Ritchie at the state fair, and be on Republican Lt. Governor Carol Molnau’s team for the Ag Olympics at the same time. I had forgotten that I used to practice my cow mooing and chicken crowing in front of Sara and Travis. Travis hadn’t forgotten at all!

Bert came out into the hall right about then.  He told me Becky was back  and we went back into the Secretary of State’s Office to say hello.

Bert gave me a hug and then Doug was there.

My magical day didn’t end there though.  When I got home, I went to the mail box and there was a letter from my cousin Chris.  Uncle Myrwin’s daughter.  In that envelope was the most perfect picture of my dad and Uncle Myrwin.  The two brothers are sitting side by side.  I will get a frame for it.

Travis’s comments reminded of my State Fair Ribbons.  I went to look for them, so that I could put a picture of them in this blog.  When I pulled open the drawer, there he was, right on top….my lucky Duck.

lucky duck

When I worked for the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs it was my honor and privilege to be the project manager for our state’s World War II Memorial Dedication.  It was a neat day and we had over 25,000 people attend.  One of the events that day was a flyover by World War II bombers and fighter planes.

About a week after the event, I received a package in the mail.  The package was from one of my pilots. In it was a stuffed toy duck with a note telling me this was a lucky duck, because he got to fly in the cockpit of a World War II bomber on the day of our dedication.

As long as I am sharing memories maybe this is the time to report that the morning of the World War II Dedication Memorial I was informed that one of the pilots flying over our large crowd of men, women and children would be a World War II pilot flying his own plane.  I paused.  Asked if he had passed his flight physical, then informed the lads that he could fly as long as he did not fly over the crowd.  That is why one plane was slightly out of formation.

You know, I think I am probably still the only Capitol employee that ever had to get gun permits from the City of St. Paul for a tank, muskets and machine guns.   Or who, had Civil War cannon placed in the Rotunda.  We never scratched that beautiful historic floor even a bit!

Yes, there definitely are lucky ducks, I own one and am one.

Moral of story: The view is definitely best after the hardest climb. 

 

 

 

 

Just Saying…Cancer, Capitol and Grizzly Bear!

A view

My cancer battle against multiple myeloma was a very long and painful one.  It began in earnest during the Christmas holiday’s in 2012 when I first broke my spine taking the turkey out of the refrigerator.  Over the next four years, I would have many new unpleasant experiences.  Such as being in a body cast for 18 months, confined to a hospital bed in my living room for years, months of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, baldness, drug withdrawal and other physical, emotional and mental challenges.

Having cancer is just plain tough.  I have now done it twice. Thyroid and multiple myeloma. No matter what your age, a cancer diagnoses is terrifying.

Cancer patients suffer.  They become quick friends with much of the worst that life has to offer. Their new companions include the fear of death and dying; pain; nausea; anxiety; depression; isolation; loneliness; and job and financial loss.

Cancer patients lose.  They lose body parts, hair, appetite, mobility and independence. While most of those things can often be compensated for or regained, there are permanent losses.  Relationships change. Friends and relatives drift away, because they are either too busy to be bothered, your situation is bringing them down or they just cannot stand to watch the suffering.  Some of those relationships will never be made whole again.

In addition to physical, mental, emotional and financial loss, cancer patients often miss out on everyday things that most people take for granted.  Like being there for the special children in your life as they grow up. Then, too, due to circumstances beyond control special events cannot always be attended. When I was in chemo and still in a body cast due to my broken spine, I missed my only daughter’s wedding.

Cancer patients surmount.  This morning when my latest round of cancer tests indicated that I am still cancer-free, I told my husband that it is time for me to experience the things that for so many years were beyond reach and only dreams.

Capitol Steps
Stairs to the Senate Chamber at Minnesota State Capitol

When I was hospitalized for weeks for physical rehab to relearn standing, walking and stair climbing. I vowed to myself that not only was I going to conquer those five steps in the rehab room, but that someday I would, again, climb the steps to the Senate Chamber at our state Capitol.  After four years, God willing, next Friday, March 17,  after my oncology appointment and infusion at Regions, I am going to return to the Capitol.  I am going to visit friends, deliver some cookies and check out all of the changes. And, I am, again, going to climb all of those beautiful marble steps.

Later this spring,  I will need to complete a short test run of a trip. So, my husband plans to take me to see where my daughter was married two years ago.  Then, I am going to return to the land of Lincoln to visit my daughter and her husband and finally see their apartment.

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Our last trip to Illinois before my cancer struck. 

If my back can survive a car trip to Illinois, then, later this summer I am going to Montana. I am going to visit my dear Aunt Margaret in Great Falls, Montana, who spent so many hours in prayer on my behalf. When I was totally bed bound, with not much light at the end of my tunnel, Aunt Margie called me every week, for months on end, to lead me in bible study.  I need to give her a hug.

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Great Falls, Montana

Then, I am going Glacier Park.  I am, again, going to stand outside of the cafe at Swift Current, look up at those God made granite cathedrals and hear the Lord whisper in the winds that race around those cliffs.

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Glacier Park, Swift Current Lake. 

After, I get my fill of the view,  I am going to take on a few trails with just as much determination as I did my cancer while trying my best to avoid a  bear.
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Although, after all I have been through, the bears would be wise to watch out for me.

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….just saying.

 

 

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

The recipe for Oatmeal Molasses Bread was on of the first blogs I ever posted . I will make my grandmother’s recipe today for my Thanksgiving table. Whether it is potatoes and corn from my dad, black berries from my husband, apple pie from my mother-in-law or apple jam from my son. Even those who cannot be with me are present in my home during the holidays through treasured recipes and garden produce.

When I re-read this blog, when looking for my recipe, it reminded how much I really do have to be thankful for this year. I have been so very blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

The strutting rooster

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

I just returned from three hours of chemotherapy to fight my multiple myeloma. With my limited mobility due to last summer’s multiple spinal fractures, I have been doing a lot of writing and artwork to strengthen my weakened back and core. While cancer has temporally robbed me of my ability to even lift a tray of cookies from an oven, I refuse to let it steal my love of baking.

I have decided that now is a good time to post many of the recipes I have collected from family, friends and those I interviewed when I was a recipe columnist and recipe editor for ECM Publishers.

Yesterday I posted a recipe about blackberries and included a reference to a wonderful bread made with oatmeal and molasses. The recipe for Oatmeal Molasses Bread has been passed down for generations in my family. My great grandmother who came…

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