Remembrances on Sunday

Today would have been my friend Angie‘s 65th birthday and I just sent a contribution to her memorial fund. In the brief note that I sent to her family, I noted that I can’t imagine that Angie would have “retired” because she was all about love and service and would not have stopped doing that. I am honoring her memory today and remembering her family and friends who have been without her physical presence for over ten years.

As it happens, two of my college friends lost their mothers this month, one unexpectedly and one after a long period of illness, so I am sending thoughts and prayers out to Sally and Tricia, their moms, and their families.

Two friends are dealing with a sudden medical emergency with their loved ones. One’s husband’s life was saved by emergency open heart surgery. The other’s asymptomatic brother was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at his first screening colonoscopy at age 50. Both men are facing a long road to recovery and I am holding them and their whole families in thought and prayer as well.

Yesterday, I attended vigil mass at St. Joseph’s, which was the long-time church home of my friend Marcia, whom we lost to ovarian cancer several years ago.  Last month was ovarian cancer awareness month, with several big fundraising events. There has been some progress in detection and treatment since Marcia died and I hope that the advances will help her descendants to lead long, healthy lives.

It’s a quiet Sunday morning. Soon, B and I will head up to Good Shepherd Village to visit Grandma, Nana, and Paco with an extra measure of thankfulness.

Poem: Sturbridge, Massachusetts

corey
Sturbridge, Massachusetts
by Joanne Corey

people envision honeymoons
in romantic cities
     Paris
     Rome
tropical islands
     Caribbean
     Hawaiian
wonder-of-the-world-and-traditional-honeymoon-capital
     Niagara Falls

we chose an 1830’s living-history museum
     village green with church and general store
     blacksmith, cobbler, potter
     draft horses pulling a hay wagon through a covered bridge
     water-powered sawmill, grist mill, carding mill
     pastures, fields, barns
     farmhouse kitchen with creamery attached

perfect for a pair of New England history buffs
with limited time and budget
on their first-ever vacation together

*****
This poem and photo first appeared here:  https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/sturbridge-massachusetts-poem-by-joanne-corey-my-perfect-vacation-series/ . I decided to post it today as I am trying to struggle through my email backlog so I can get back to writing blog posts, including some more about our recent Third-of-a-Century anniversary getaway. This at least is in keeping with the wedding anniversary and travel theme. And, yes, that is B and I cutting our delicious spice with buttercream frosting wedding cake.
— JC

SoCS: still away

I am still away on a long weekend trip with B to celebrate our Third of a Century wedding anniversary. We had to be apart on the anniversary date in June, so we – okay, I – came up with this commemoration plan instead.

We had a lovely breakfast at the B&B this morning, featuring fantastic apple cider pancakes and a maple apple crisp that was one of the most delicious things ever. The innkeeper joked that because they didn’t serve it with ice cream, it was a breakfast food rather than a dessert. Of course, we agreed. As native New Englanders, we know things like fruit pies are perfectly acceptable breakfast foods!

Not sure what else we will be doing today. I still wanted to participate with SoCS, but didn’t want to devote much time to a long post.

Can you blame me?  😉
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week is “still.”  Join us! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/10/16/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-1715/

SoCS badge 2015

Third of a Century

B and I were not able be together for our 33rd anniversary in June, so we decided to take a few days away for our 33-and-a-third anniversary, also known as a third of a century anniversary. Well, not really known as that, but humor me…

We took a lovely drive to Lenox, Massachusetts. I had thought that the foliage might be past peak as we travelled north, but it was not. While there are patches where the leaves are down, for the most part there is still a lovely mix of red, yellow, orange, and green, both from evergreens and from trees that have not changed.

We are just back from a lovely dinner at Alta and I thought I’d share a couple of photos from Lenox.  This is the view from our balcony:

view from our balcony

This is from our walk before dinner, just down the street from Alta.
Lenox MA

Indian Pudding recipe

Yesterday, I posted about my poem “Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding” which precipitated several requests for the recipe. So, here it is, with various notes, because I can never seem to share a recipe without side commentary. Sorry that the measurements are all US ones.  The recipe is pretty forgiving, so if you do have to estimate amounts, don’t worry about it.

Indian Pudding

2 Tablespoons cornmeal*
3 Tablespoons tapioca
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 quart warm milk
1 cup cold milk
butter size of egg

Add first four ingredients to molasses – then add cold milk and mix well. When the quart of milk is thoroughly heated, add gradually to above mixture. Pour into buttered 2-quart casserole. Add butter and bake two hours at 300 degrees F.  Stir occasionally first 1/2 hour.  Serve with ice cream.

*For a thicker texture, increase cornmeal to 6 Tablespoons and stir occasionally for the first hour. I’ve been doing this variation lately.

Other notes:
I’ve made this with whole milk, 2% milk, skim milk, and lactose-free milk. I have absolutely no idea what would happen if one attempted it with soy milk or almond milk.
It’s best to bake this a day ahead and then store in the refrigerator. The flavors seem to meld better after they set.
You can reheat individual servings in the microwave or reheat the whole casserole dish in the oven or microwave. You definitely want to serve it warm so that the ice cream melts over it as you eat it.
You can experiment with adding spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. I happen to like this recipe without them, but many Indian pudding recipes do add them.
Indian pudding is deceptively filling. Don’t try to eat a large bowl unless you are very hungry.

Poem: Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding

I am very pleased to announce that I have another poem published today!  The blog of Silver Birch Press has published “Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding” as part of their “My Sweet Word” series. You can find it here: https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/making-aunt-gerts-indian-pudding-poem-by-joanne-corey-my-sweet-word-series/

Enjoy!

Update:  The recipe is now available here:  https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/indian-pudding-recipe/

SoCS: both expected and unexpected

This past week’s calendar was filled with lots of expected tasks and commitments, with fall activities back in full swing after summer hiatus. Of course, the unexpected has a way of springing in. Here are some of the unexpected things that cropped up this past week.

  • One evening I got back from an activity and put on my Chromebook to see an instant message from my daughter warning me that her hair was now purple. She wanted me to know before I saw it on Facebook. This led to a Skype call so I could see it better than in the photo – and also so we could visit as she is thousands of miles away. Her hair looks nice purple, but it is not a long-time commitment as it will fade out in six weeks or so. This is helpful as her hair is quite long, so a permanent color would take a very long time to grow out.
  • I had expected to have an appointment for a flu vaccine study that I had agreed to participate in, but it got cancelled so I got to attend an excellent lecture on climate change and its impacts in our state instead. This also gave me material for a poem that I wrote from a prompt at Binghamton Poetry Project this week. Serendipity strikes again!
  • My spouse B had an unexpected day off on Friday. Upper management gave them the day off to reward them for the release of a recent product, so we scooted off to Oneonta to attend the opening of an art exhibit that featured works of a college friend of mine. I had not told her that we would be there – and we almost missed her as we arrived early and she had had quite a drive after work to reach the reception – but it was fun to see the look of surprise on her face when we connected.
  • Unfortunately, this week also afforded the both expected and unexpected news of yet another mass shooting here in the US. The details and timing are unexpected, shocking, and tragic. That it will happen again is sadly expected. And disturbing. And tragic. I can’t understand how the interpretation of the Second Amendment to our Constitution has become so warped that some people think it means that anyone can have a gun anytime, anywhere. These people totally ignore the first clause of the amendment, which talks about a “well-regulated militia” and sets the context for the part that follows about the right to bear arms. At the time, the United States did not have a standing army, so the defense of the country was left to state militias. The men who made up the militias were not professional soldiers, but farmers or tradesmen or whatever, so they had to have guns available in case they were called on to defend their town, state, or country. The amendment didn’t intend that any person could have any weapon anywhere anytime. The mass shootings get attention, which masks the smaller scale tragedies of gun violence that happen every day across the country, and nothing happens to reign in the problems. Definitely, people who hunt or target shoot or have guns for legitimate needs should be able to have them, but we need to get them out of the hands of the mentally disturbed and those intent on killing people, whether strangers or family or neighbors.  [I can’t bring myself to write any more than this about mass shootings, but I will provide this link to a piece that I wrote about a mass shooting in my area and how it relates to other similar-but-different tragedies.]

*****
This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. This week’s prompt was “expect/unexpected.” Please come join us!  Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/10/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-315/

SoCS badge 2015

New poems published!

The fall quarterly of Wilderness House Literary Review (Volume 10 #3) is now available for free online. I have three poems in this edition and this marks my first publication in a literary journal. So exciting!

WHLR includes art, essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews. My poems are accessed through the link for my name, Joanne Corey, in the poetry section, which is charmingly arranged alphabetically by first name instead of last. I hope that people will peruse the issue, but the link here for my name will open the pdf of my poems. The link that begins this post will go to the most current issue of WHLR, but the link to my poems should be permanent.

The three poems are:
“(Not) the aunt I remember” which is based on my aunt who passed away earlier this year
“Fifty-four” which is in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the death of my friend Angie 
“Downy” which is about a woodpecker in our backyard.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have on these poems. Please feel free to comment here, on Facebook, or by email for those who know my address. (Sorry but I don’t want to make my personal email public.)

– JC

IC September

I am not only an eclectic blogger, but also an eclectic follower and reader of blogs. While I follow other eclectic blogs, I also follow blogs focused on travel, food, photography, poetry, the environment, and many other topics.

I follow several blogs where people write of dealing with illness, particularly invisible illnesses, such as fibromyalgia. I do sometimes write here about being the parent of a child with fibromyalgia, but what I haven’t written about is dealing with invisible illnesses of my own. Today, in observance of Invisible Illness Awareness Week  and the close of IC Awareness Month, I have decided to write about interstitial cystitis, which has been part of my life for many years.

Part of the reason I don’t tend to write about having some hidden medical conditions is that I feel fortunate that I do not have the more severe symptoms that some others endure, although, if I am honest, I have to admit that my symptoms, especially when I am having a bad flare, do interfere with what I am able to do and where I am able to go. Again, I am lucky that my personal schedule is usually fairly flexible, so that I can arrange to stay home if I am uncomfortable or tired from being kept awake by symptoms. I am acutely aware that others have it so much worse and I am writing this not as a complaint but in an effort to share some information about a condition which, although relatively common, many people are unaware.

What is interstitial cystitis (IC)? 
Interstitial cystitis, also called bladder pain syndrome, is a condition that can cause recurring bladder and pelvic pressure or pain and increased urinary frequency and urgency.  The bladder lining often bleeds and, in more severe forms, develops a kind of ulceration called Hunner’s lesions. It is more common in adult women but can and does affect children and men, too. The symptoms often vary over time, with more severe flares cropping up from the baseline level.

What causes IC?
Researchers don’t know for sure. They think that some trigger event damages the lining of the bladder, with particles in the urine then further damaging the lining and causing chronic nerve pain. It is believed that the bladder lining is unable to repair itself because IC patients produce a protein that prevents the repair.

How is it treated?
Because the cause is undetermined, treatment centers on trying to alleviate symptoms and prevent flares. One of the most important things people with IC need to do is control acids in their diet. (For me, drinking soda or undiluted fruit juice is the equivalent of pouring lemon juice on a cut.) There are a few oral medications that help some people. Physical therapy can be prescribed. When the condition is more severe, there are medications that are delivered directly into the bladder, surgical treatment for Hunner’s lesions, and use of electrical nerve stimulators.

And for more fun and games…
IC often appears alongside other conditions, many of which are also poorly understood as to causation. People with IC often have allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and sensitive skin. (Check, check, and check for me.) Other conditions that may occur alongside IC are vulvodynia, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, and lupus. I’ve actually taken part in research looking into genetic predisposition in IC patients, which is interesting as I have family history with some of the related conditions besides my own diagnosis.

For anyone who would like to learn more about IC, I recommend this site:  http://www.ichelp.org which is full of helpful information and links to more resources.

Please remember…
There are many, many people who deal with hidden medical conditions. Many of these cause chronic pain. And many of these people do not look “sick.” Please, have compassion. Be understanding. Don’t blame them if they have to change plans at the last minute or aren’t able to go out of the house because they are having a bad day – or an exhausted day because they had a bad night before. Remember that you are lucky to be having a good day and realize that a day may come when you need the same kind of support and caring that your friend or family member needs now.

– JC

This month a year ago…

Warning:  I haven’t been sleeping well, so rambling is upcoming.

I’ve done some posts about this being the tenth anniversary of some huge losses in my life, but today I am reflecting on a year ago.

Last September, I sang with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus for a choral homecoming weekend with Alice Parker.  One of the posts I made afterward was about visiting the memorial tree for our friend Beth who died during our senior year and the chapel where I had spent so many hours.  I had always intended to write another post about friendship and Smith women, but didn’t for reasons that will probably become clear later on in the post. I’m hoping to give a taste of that topic now…

I love to spend time with Smith women, especially back in Northampton. It is always special to me to see my roommate Mary with whom I share such a deep connection that we pick up conversation as though we weren’t a couple thousand miles apart the vast majority of the time.

I was blessed to renew ties with two women, each named Cathy, whom I had known during my Smith years, although they were in different class years so I didn’t know them as well.  It may not come as a surprise that our best times for sharing revolved around food. Cathy R. invited us to a lovely farm-fresh al fresco lunch with her family who had travelled with her and we talked about farming and New England and family and medicine and art and photography and how some of us would have been at the Climate March in NYC that day if we hadn’t already committed to being at Smith for the weekend.

Cathy K. lives in the next town over from Northampton and invited us to her home after the concert for appetizers before going out to dinner.  Her family owns a couple of local stores that sell specialty foods, wine, prepared foods, and more. Everything was so plentiful and delicious that we never did go on to dinner but spent hours eating, talking, laughing, and sharing. Family, education, politics, losses, music, career changes, hopes, the future, new directions.  It is so seldom that one has an opportunity to discuss with such depth and breadth. I am profoundly grateful that being with Smith women so often leads to these heart-mind-and-soul-enriching conversations.

I was also grateful to have re-connected with Anne, who is a wonderful poet and who graciously accepted a copy of the chapbook I had assembled the prior year for a local contest, even though neither the individual poems nor my editing abilities were advanced enough to warrant doing so.  She sent me valuable feedback and advice and has since looked over other poems for me. She is one of my poetry godmothers!

Now, a year later, the Alumnae Chorus is coming up on a deadline to sign up to tour in Cuba next July.  And I can’t do it. Within this next year, both E and T plan to finish their master’s degrees and our travel time and resources need to go to supporting them. I also must admit that the thought of touring Cuba doesn’t really appeal to me, especially in the heat of late July.  I am such a delicate flower that I would probably wilt!

And yesterday was Grandma’s (my mother-in-law) birthday. She has a problem with admitting her age so I won’t reveal it here, but this year was especially difficult for her because last year at this time we were in the throes of trying to determine what was wrong with her back. It turned out that an osteoporotic compression fracture in a vertebra led to its collapse and a long year of pain and complications and medications and therapy and ups and downs. Well, a lot more downs than ups.

Her elder son and his daughter came to visit for the weekend, which was nice, but it also was a reminder of how much she can’t do anymore.  Grandma was trying to wish away the last year, which is painful to watch.

It’s also a reminder of how stressful the last year has been. Exhibit A:  my outbreak of shingles last December. Lucky for you, I’m not going on to the rest of the exhibits. I am doing better with giving myself a bit more distance, but it is still sad and concerning and draining.

Especially in September.

I’m working on getting myself back into a better place. I actually managed to sleep a five hour stretch last night.

I’ll take all the progress I can get.