Friday, November 20, 2009

Where does the time go?

It is late November. Nearly December. SO far from the ride. SO far from anything resembling the training regimen I was undergoing at this time last year. Gosh, at this time last year I was writing donation inquiries, going to spin classes, wondering who was going to take care of my dog and my house, and worrying about the tanking economy.


Now I'm done with the ride. Things are going on at work which are making it essential that I be there quite a bit at the moment. I am not in biking shape right now. I would have a hard time doing that ride if I had to go today. But, on the other hand, I'm really in the thick of my work and that feels good, right, better than tolerable. And that, to be sure, is a fine place to be.

Today I spent time on the phone with someone I do not know, trying to help her find some support for her newly diagnosed cancer. Yesterday I was in the hospital, visiting my little four year old friend, who is dealing with cancer. Another friend has cancer. Another one too. And another.

I'm trying to stay above it, above the fear, above the feeling that it is closing in on me. I'm trying to believe that I can be a supporter and not have it land on me, infuse itself in me. I do believe it. Mostly.

I think about the meaning of the ride for me. I have met many people who have told me that my ride was meaningful for them. I follow a couple of folks whose epic journeys speak to me so I can understand that mine might too. And at the same time, I wonder if it's done. People ask me what is next. I keep saying that work is the important thing for me right now, but their questions make me wonder if I am going to do another big project like the bike ride and if so, what it will be. And when it will be. And if I SHOULD be driving myself toward something.

But right now does not seem like the time. I got a hint the other day that there might be more to this ride for me. I sense it. Feel it hovering even though I don't know what exact form it will take.

Anyway - this is all popping in and out of my waking and sleeping thoughts. And, as usual, I wonder if it matters that I tell you. But just in case it does - here you go.

Happy Thanksgiving.
I hope to say more soon.

With love and in deep appreciation.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hi hi hi.

Long time with no posting. Sorry. I've been in my kitchen, at parties, at home 9a little bit) and not doing much that has anything to do with my bike except passing it as i stumble to the washing machine or dryer.

Actually, things have been fun, full and interesting. My life right now continues to be good. My sister talks about The Flywheel Effect which is all about things taking a long time to get started but then, once the momentum takes over, there is less effort and more movement, seemingly all on its own. Of course it is NO all one its own, it still takes effort, but it might appear that things are happening with less effort. Sort of like the "Overnight sensation" who has actually been studying and practicing and trying for a long time. We are not experiencing a "sensation" but I do feel a noticeable uptick in energy in my business and it does feel like less effort is required to keep it at this new, higher level.

I traveled to New York a couple of weeks ago and spoke at The Culinary institute of America. I did not attend culinary school so it felt particularly fun to be a guest speaker. An affirmation, of sorts, that the paths I took to get here are valid after all. (I know this, of course.) I shared the bill with three other women chefs who are successful restaurateurs. All of us spoke with deep conviction about our work and I felt especially good, hearing them, about this work that I get to do. Finally, after all these years, I feel proud and good. This is new, very new for me and I like it.

On my way back to North Carolina I had two short but lovely visits. First I was able to spend one hour with a close college friend who is now a successful orchestra conductor. Conductors travel all over the place, guest conducting here and there. he was at the Manhattan School of Music and I had a great time sitting and listening to a run through of that night's concert. We've known each other since college and there is nothing like deep, old friendships to fill me.

And then I had the great good fortune to have a brief rendezvous with Roz Savage, a British woman who just finished rowing from Hawaii to Tuvalu, a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I followed her blog, wrote to her often, and filled myself with HER story. Our paths connected on my way home and we had a terrific conversation, one hour long, about rowing and life and biking and work and trying to live a good life. She is certainly one of my inspirations and I left, filled with warmth at having had that time with her.

Now I'm back to cooking and imagining things. Right now seems to be the time to put things in order. I'm painting my shop, having trees trimmed at home, replacing broken equipment in my kitchen, making things nice. I'm not sure why but it seems to be the right thing to do.

Sorry for the long pauses in my notes. This, truthfully, is the first time I've had time to sit and reflect in quite some time.

I'll write again before long.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where've I been?

Oh me, oh my. Time seems to have flown, or crept along (depending on one's perspective) and I look and see that it has been a month since I last wrote. REALLY?

Let's see:
I fired my chef - caught him doing things that are against the rules of my business. The unfortunate thing is that I was not prepared for that to happen and had NO back up plan. I even thought, when I was firing him, "How do you think you're going to make it through THIS one?" But MY integrity was on the line and he was out, which left, um, ME to be "in." Yipes!

I have not cooked, really cooked, in a long time. Sure, I go to parties and arrange food, but starting from scratch, as it were, is not something that I'm in training for. Of course I have not forgotten what to do - just got way out of practice. But food needed to be made and everyone else's days off loomed and so, I dusted off my chef pants and got to it.

The reality of this new schedule was that I got up really early, cooked until the kitchen seemed under some sort of control, and then went into my office to start THAT work. Nothing really got dropped. A LOT got added.

A few days after the chef was booted, I found a new fellow who is terrific and who has joined us. I stayed in the kitchen, however, because he was so new to us that I don't think he'd even eaten our food before coming in. But he's catching on quickly. One of my other cooks went away for two weeks and I filled in for her.

And then two of my managers, who are married, have just left for about 4 months - off to take care of their little boy who has a serious medical condition. More juggling. Someone moved up to cover one of them, someone else moved up to cover for the other one. Others moved to take over for the people who moved to cover the missing managers. It has felt like one of those little puzzles where you shift one tile which makes a space for another to move, which makes a space for ANOTHER to move. Hopefully, at some point, you have a tidy, orderly picture.

We haven't felt very tidy or orderly - but we're getting there.

In the meantime, I've started a cooking class series, have continued to do one day of early cooking, have filled in for the delivery guy (who is leaving shortly - he has been replaced (yay!) and have covered for another delivery person who got hurt recently.

It's been kind of crazy.

Fun things have included getting ordained by the Universal Life Ministry and conducting my very first wedding (!) and also winning third place in the WORLD Gee-Haw-Whimmy-Diddle contest.

Oh - and we won Best Caterer in Asheville.
And last night there was a bear in my yard.
And a flock of chickens.
And, just down the road, a flock of huge wild Turkeys.

Now I can see why I have not written very regularly, can you?

I'll try to be better.
I have not been on my bike hardly at all, though I AM going to go to The Culinary Institute of America next week to talk about the ride. On we go.

Good night for now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cards, sent. Letters, written.

So my new favorite pastime is imagining I am on the Ellen show. I watch old shows of hers and get a quickened pulse as I imagine walking out onto the stage with some pounding bicycle song in the background. I laugh to myself as I imagine this, but isn't this what the Law of Attraction is all about?

Yesterday I found a list of a whole bunch of supervising producers and senior producers and executive producers and sent two postcards to each one of them. I also sent e-mails to the executive producers and have been asking everyone I know to write to Ellen if they think putting me on the show is a good idea.

From the moment I started this ride idea I felt that I would get on the Ellen show to tell her, and her viewers, all about my ride. For some crazy reason I still think it will happen. Everyone I know thinks its a great idea.

"She'd LOVE you!"

"You two would hit it off!"

"That's a PERFECT idea!"

And the more they say these sorts of things, the more I persist and allow myself to do things like writing and sending 30 postcards to people I don't even know, introducing myself and saying that I would like to be on her show.

WHY do I want to be on her show?

Well, the main reason is so that more people hear about those subtle early warning signs for ovarian cancer:
abdominal pain,
feeling full quickly
feeling the need to pee more than normal
AND - most of all
having something be wrong for more than a couple of weeks.

Early detection can be a life saver.

But also I want to be the very visible symbol of the story of survivorship. When I was sick it helped me a LOT to meet someone who was out there ahead of me, surviving longer than I had. 20+ years is a long time to be a survivor in this club and I want people to know that there is hope.

(Okay, and I want to meet her.)

So if you want, send something to her. Tell her how much she would like me! And then get ready! It WILL be fun to be on her show. Except today I started wondering if they would make me wear a lot of makeup.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


So, once again I find myself getting ramped up about the idea of appearing on Ellen, the Ellen DeGeneres show. I had this as a goal all during the ride, and before it too. The idea faded away as it became clear to me that I was not getting her attention. But now it comes up again because September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month and, well, this ride was largely about that and so, um, I'm going to give it another go.

Thinking about talking with her about my bike ride is, I admit, a diversion for me too. Work is hard. Things are hard. Thinking about talking with her is easy. In my imagination it is fun. And good. And I want to. I want things to be easy. I want to go tell her about my bike ride.

In the course of this week I am going to be putting together some packets of photographs and links to my video and some words and some ideas and I'm going to send them in. I'm also going to write to her and to everyone affiliated with her show. And if this sounds like a good idea to you too, well, I'd love it if you would go on her website and write to her telling why you think I would be a good guest. Her show starts up again pretty soon after her summer hiatus so the time is right.

My video is getting increasing attention. If you haven't seen it, please do take a minute to watch. Here's the link.

One really nice omen is that I have seen the Great Blue Heron almost every day recently. I say THE rather than "A" because this one is at the lake where I walk Tye. Tye loves lunging toward the graceful bird, scaring it and making it take off. I never see it until Tye does her lunge. But then I see it for the entire duration of my walk. It guides me, soothes me, beckons. This bird has always been a sign holder for me, a "it's all going to be fine" messenger. I need that comfort and so it's nice to see it. Tye doesn't need any comforting but she really likes the acrobatics. Sigh.

Anyway - if you're so moved, thanks for jotting the Ellen show a note.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Calm now

After the whirlwind of this past weekend things are feeling much more manageable. I've found a new fellow to work in the kitchen so my days of EARLY mornings are now numbered. I have liked being in the kitchen. I like kitchen clothing. I like playing kitchen dress up. I even bought new clogs since my old ones have a hole in them. And I like the early quiet. The turning on of the ovens. The glance at the day's list, the scan of what is left after yesterday's sales. I like going into the walk-in and seeing what's there. I like talking with the farmers and I like carrying in their boxes of picked-that-day produce. I like making food. I like this.

I have been almost keeping up with my own job too, curiously enough. It's not really sustainable for me in the long run, doing both jobs, but for now it's okay. Still fun. A spark of new in returning to the old place.

Tomorrow we have a dinner with some of our local farmers. I'm jazzed about it. I'm thrilled to introduce the guests to the farmers. The farmers to our guests. Both are my friends. It's like introducing one set of friends to another. And the farmers are excited, as are the guests. I want this to become a big thing. Sold out. Waiting lists. That's on my radar screen.

And I'm beginning to find the energy to imagine the "NOW what?" of this bike ride. I think it's a book. I want to put in parts of my trip log. I want to expand some of the days' entries to make them stand alone chapters. And I want to interview some people who inspire me. I'm compiling a list.

But right now I'm TIRED. So off to bed it is for me.

I'll say more soon.
For now -

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Nighttime now. Cicadas are singing away. Pup is sleeping. Cat is carousing. All is right with the night's life.

Today I served food to 420 people. Yesterday, 375. Big numbers. Big work. Pretty big fun. I worked hard and then dragged myself home, changed chef's clothing for nap clothing and crashed out. It was one of those all out, complete loss of consciousness, naps. I woke up dazed after an hour, took the pup out for a walk, stumbled around with her as she sniffed and poked and explored.

Then we went to hear some music at our downtown Saturday night music scene. I bumped into a number of people who all said, "Where's your fiddle?" My fiddle, I told them, was at home. It IS out of its storage spot. I HAVE been playing it. True, I only recently started playing it again. But I AM playing.

Similarly, when I was at Penland today doing that big party, I saw some glassblower friends. "How's glass?" I heard. Glass, I answered, is off the list for the moment. It's too hot. No one's studio is open right now. And I'm fully engaged at work. I'll get back to glass. Just not right this second.

And so, when I think of riding, and I hear, "How's the bike? How's your weekly riding going? How many miles are you riding these days?" I try to say, well, I am not riding a lot right now. My body is still sore. I need a bit of a break. And I also am, as I said, fully engaged in my kitchen. I'll get back on the bike. Just not right now.

So it goes. Off and on with the fiddle. Off and on with the glass. Off and on with the bike.

There IS time for it all. Maybe just not all of it all the time.

Right now it is time for bed.

I'll be in touch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Video fever

My friend John came in for lunch today. John has an iPhone. And he is the one who made the video of my ride. He is a photographer. And he is the proud designer of an iPhone "app" which will tell anyone what kind of light to expect. I think anywhere in the world. He might, say, be flying to San Diego to shoot a project for someone but he wants to know about the angle of the sun at a specific time of day on a specific date. Well, he created a program to figure that out. (I think I have this right.)

Well ANYWAY, today he came in and I saw him as he was standing in line and he showed me that he has my Live. Love. Bike. video on his iPhone. I immediately grabbed it out of his hands and went prancing through the kitchen, showing it off. (I'm very pleased with this video. It feels like I'm bragging about my kid who just hit a home run or something. I forget that it is ME. And it's not really bragging about myself. I just love the Jason Mraz song. I love looking at the shadow of the biker (me) riding across the United States. I just love the video.)

Later I was supposed to go across the street to our Wednesday afternoon market to do some cooking demonstrating. But just when I was supposed to go, the skies opened up and it POURED. The demo, I decided, needed to be postponed.

It has been an odd week for me. I fired my chef. Caught him doing things he should not have been doing. He was a friend and it hurt. The whole thing hurt. And the other part is that that meant that I had to step up and get my cooking clothes on again and had to pull out my knife and get busy. As it turns out, I'm having an okay time - after getting over the hurt. I do LIKE cooking, after all. And it has been some time since I've been back in my kitchen for more than a few minutes, or hours. I'm working on a couple of new ways of doing some recipes and in the middle of the afternoon Martha looked up from her work area and said, "Are you having fun in your little laboratory?"

And I realized I was.

Funny about all this.

I came home to rest a little bit and arrived to find a deep pool of water in front of my downstairs area. So now I'm soaked because I got my red boots on and bailed out all the water so it would not run into the basement. And it's been awhile since I've been soaked by the rain and right now I'm enjoying being wet.

And being the cook.

And having this life. Even if I get hurt here and there.

Tomorrow I am speaking to a group of retirees. I'm the featured speaker. "You ARE the entertainment!" the hostess told me when I inquired about the program. Eeps! More talking about this wonderful trip and another chance to show my video.

And a day of cooking will precede all that.

Off to it I go.

I'll be in touch soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm on You Tube!

I've written a LOT of letters to Jason Mraz and I finally got a response from someone in some PR firm that represents him. They said I could put my video up on You Tube and it's now up!

Go me!

(Actually, I'm not sure if you can see it or find it (go ahead and try - I'm curious.)

It's listed under Live. Love. Bike. Of course, I just put it up here on this blog so you can easily scroll down one post and can find it and can see it (I think) right here. But I feel very smart - getting the video done and now posted on You Tube. It's kind of a rush, to be honest.

Things have felt kind of rough lately. For one thing, my left hip has really been bothering me. I'm trying to make it stop hurting and have been to my chiropractor and to my Pilates teacher and to my rolfer. Right now it's REALLY sore but I had to work today in my kitchen which involves picking things up and twisting and turning and standing for a long time. I hope it will all calm down. Right now it feels fiery and not good.

For comfort and inspiration these days I've been reading the blog of a woman who is rowing across the Pacific Ocean. Right now. Today. She already rowed across the Atlantic and already rowed from San Francisco to Hawaii. Now she is trying to row halfway to Australia. She'll finish the trip later on. Her name is Roz Savage and you can find her by googling her name. I'm finding her posts compelling and uplifting.

Today she was writing about taking a long view of things. From a close view, things seem very hard to her, like she is going nowhere and is just going in circles - maybe. Really she has rowed over 2000 miles and has been rowing for 68 days. She's made a huge amount of progress.

I've had a couple of extremely difficult days at work. I just discovered that one of my employees did a very bad thing and so I am now back in the trenches, doing the job of someone I trusted. I feel terrible, betrayed, hurt, sad, angry. Pissed off that so little consideration of me and of everyone else who works at my place was taken. And I'm worried about how I'm going to get through this latest situation. It feels impossible.

And I need to remember that it is not impossible, that I have handled much worse, that I can figure this one out, that I HAVE made a huge amount of progress and that this is merely an example of a stupid thing done by a thoughtless person. I need to remember that I have gone many miles on my adventures and there have been many days of peace and calm and there will be many more.

Roz's words today helped me pull out of a very dark place. I hope to get her to come to Asheville sometime. She's now saying she will. (She called me the Eco Champ of the day the other day for saying that I am going to stop selling water in bad plastic bottles.) She's my hero.

Anyway, see if you can see that video and pass it on if you like. I'm happy its there. I'm happy to remind myself that I did this big bike ride. And I'm energized and renewed by reading and thinking about Roz and hers.

For now -

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My video

Here it is! My video!!!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Night time again

A whirlwind of a day - again. Whooshing around, getting ready for tomorrow's cooking class, going to the market, meeting with people to talk about a class I am teaching in two weeks, beginning to think about a speech I am giving in three weeks, and about another that will be in four weeks, and another that will be in two months. All are about the same thing. And all will be different.

I don't plan well in advance. I am really one who responds to the thing that pops up in front of me. I am really good at that. And I am trying to train myself to look ahead a bit more. Looking ahead pushes me and makes me uncomfortable. Things that pop up are more to my liking, even though they mess with my long range planning. Funny about that.

Today I had taken a look ahead at my day, had made a plan, had things in order in my mind. But the phone rings and I answer it and sometimes that means I have to do something with the caller, like plan a party or something. And that messes with the order of my list. Ha!

I had not really done a very good job at getting ready for the things I needed to get ready for when Annie showed up, ready to get me to take me to a show a friend of hers was doing - here in Asheville. I had, in actuality, just started really collecting the things, ingredients and pots and pans, that I will need tomorrow for my class. But then it was time to go. I went, but then realized that we were 1/2 hour EARLY - which gave me 1/2 hour to cram in some shopping - for tomorrow's class.


The show was fun, worth seeing. Her friend is a goofball and has written a goofball book called Stuntology. Goofball stuff. My mind was on my class - sort of. Sam was funny and I did like his show. Goofballs unite! As soon as the show was over, my mind went back to the class-100%. Annie took me back to work where I planned to squeeze in one more hour of work before leaving to meet her for some music and then dinner and then a concert.

All was fitting in pretty well.

But then, back at work, a customer of mine came up to me and told me he'd just crashed into my car.


Whoosh. Look at the car. Figure out what to do. Do it. Feel perversely excited at the suddenness of it all, of the ability to feel comfort in this unexpected thing. And, yes, feeling ANNOYED at my car getting banged up. I don't have time to have give up my car to have it fixed. Not today anyway.

But then my sister came by and helped me slow down enough to REALLY get everything organized for the class - which I managed to do.

So I don't know what to say about this. Is it my nature to resist planning? Even my VERY best laid plans get tossed to the winds. Almost always. So do I just say, well, I am a spontaneous person and I work best at the last minute? But that does not take into consideration wanting to be more calm and to have things laid out.

A conundrum.

But now, finally, I am at home and part of teaching a good class is going to bed.
Which I will now do.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quiet afternoon

I'm home. Today was a day of struggling with a bad mood. I kept telling myself to get over it. I kept not getting over it. I felt surly, moody, impatient. I caught myself on the verge of snapping on a number of occasions. I had to take myself out for a walk a couple of times and I had to take deep breaths a couple of times.

Nothing worked. Nothing made me snap out of it. And I did not have a good reason for being surly or impatient. Finally I said, "Okay, if this is the way you are going to be, so be it. I'll just sit here and watch."

And that seemed to work. I mean, there was no good reason to be impatient or surly or in a bad mood. So.

I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk the other day. If you go to the TED website you can listen to it for yourself. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. I don't know a whole lot about it right now except that people, all sorts of people, give an 18 minute "speech of a lifetime." The speeches are meant to inform, inspire, surprise, and delight. I might give an 18 minutes speech at our TEDx conference later this summer. We'll see what they say about my proposal. Someone sent me a link to Gilbert's talk. And it resonated in an unexpected way.

She's the person who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. Truth here. I didn't really like that book. I did not relate to a beautiful woman's tale of a search for meaning. I didn't think I could use the kinds of strategies she used (primarily, it seemed to me as I read her book, by being so beautiful) to make my way through a time of upset. But her book spoke to many women (and men, presumably) and she was a raging success with it. Her TED talk is about the inevitable question of "now what?" She spoke about creativity and demons and such, and she also spoke about the kind of pressure she felt to write something as successful, as well-received, as, well, amazing, as that first book. And I found her talk to be surprisingly genuine and sincere and touching.

I'm still in the grasp of my own "now what" questions. My two month jaunt is quickly receding. Time speeds along and an experience like a two month long bike ride quickly becomes yesterday's story. People want to move to tomorrow's story. I, frankly, want to move on to tomorrow's story. But I also feel myself clinging to THAT story, the "old" story, the bike ride story. A big part of me does not want to let it go. I cling. I push away the "now what?" questions. A big part of me does want anything new. A big part wants to re-live, re-ride, re-dream, re-experience that OTHER story.

I'm in touch with a few people from my ride and a few people who have done the same ride I just did. When I meet one of those other riders we hug and look into each other's eyes and know that we have done something different, at least in our own minds, and we alone know how important it was. And we also probably know that it was really probably NOT as important as we think it was but we are reluctant to let go and allow our memory disintegrate.

Today I re-read a piece written by Christine Kane who is a singer here. She wrote about maintaining one's sense of confidence when one is surrounded by fear. The fear, as she referred to in this piece, of a recession, a collapse. The fear that drives us to shrink, hide, retreat. She suggested we take a different approach. That we don't pull back but that we push out more. She suggests we follow our own inner voices, the ones that can really provide a whole lot more reliable comfort than those scary voices in the news can destroy.

That seems like a good approach. Following the light. Following the light.

So I've decided not to let go of this bike ride that meant so much to me. I'm still not at all sure what to do with it. I'm doing a bit of speaking these days - I have four or five talks on my calendar at this point and that may be all there are. Or it may be that I'll trust my own ability to leap (like I did by even going on the bike ride to begin with) and will plunge in further, with even more energy and more confidence that the outcome will be more like my real truth than hiding out and succumbing to the fear would be.

And maybe by saying that holding on is just fine I'll let go some - and that will be all that I need to have it forever. It's hard to say.

We'll see.

For now I think I'll take my pup for a walk. She is one to make much simpler choices than me and so I think it is time to let her be the teacher. At least for this afternoon.

with love,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The speech for OCNA

I'm now back from Washington. Some of you have asked to see the text of my speech. Okey doke. Here it is:

Remarks for OCNA by Laurey Masterton
July 8, 2009

To start with, let me say that the last time I was here, speaking to a group of ovarian cancer survivors, I had two minutes on the program. I was preparing to embark on a big adventure. I did not know if I could accomplish what I had been dreaming about doing. I did not know.

I live in Asheville, North Carolina where I own Laurey’s. Laurey’s is a catering company and also a cafĂ© (coming to Asheville? Come see me.)

I am a 20 year ovarian cancer survivor. Okay – truth. I’m now a 21 year survivor. I’m also now a 30 year uterine cancer survivor.

Last year I turned 54. I was born in 1954. That means that last year was my Golden Year. I’m big on symbols and I’m big on finding the meaning in things. I googled “Golden Year” and read that one might feel compelled to do something significant in one’s Golden Year. I like doing things that are significant.

For my birthday, when I turned 54, I gave myself a one week long bike ride on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And on May 14th , on my actual birthday, I decided to take a bigger step. I decided to do a longer ride – I decided to ride my bike all the way across the United States. And, realizing right around then that that was my 20th anniversary of surviving ovarian cancer, I decided to try to make my ride a fund and awareness raiser – for ovarian cancer.

The hard part started pretty quickly. How would I get in shape for a huge event like that? How could I leave my business for over two months? How would I pay for the ride itself? Could I raise a significant amount of money to donate? Who would take care of my house? My dog? My cat? And what organization could I work with? Where might the money go?

I wandered around, trying to find the right group, and finally, in late August, I connected with OCNA, with the help of some of my chef colleagues at Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. We had a conference call which is when I met Karen Orloff Kaplan, Executive Director and Faryl Greller, Director of Public Relations for OCNA. I really was still stumbling along at that point. I mean, it all seemed like a good idea but that was as far as I had gotten.

But Karen, talking on the phone with me on that day in late August, asked if I knew the significance of being a long term ovarian cancer survivor. “Well, I guess I do,” I mumbled. “No,” she insisted, “Do you have any idea how remarkable that is? Twenty years is a long time. You are in a very small club.”

And she started naming the long term survivors she knew.

I was floored. She knew their names. Their individual names. In that instant I knew that this ride was more important than ever. I had somehow managed to live for this long. And now it was time to take it to the next level, to do something very significant, and to help spread the word that it is possible to survive. And more than just being a living example of survivorship, I wanted to help spread the word farther. The word about those early warning signs ( I had early warning signs.) The word about early detection (I was miraculously diagnosed in stage 1 – two times). Yes, I wanted to help OCNA spread these messages. It seemed like a perfect fit.

I started writing fundraising letters. I started training. I found a house sitter. My staff told me they’d step up and take care of my business while I was gone. My sisters and our local hospital offered to help fund my portion of the ride. It started to work.

So by now you know that I did the ride. Frankly, it wouldn’t be much of a story and I wouldn’t be much of a closing speaker if I had NOT done it, right? It was very hard. Very. The journey across the United States WAS significant. Very.

Just so you know, it was also a lot of fun. I met 21 other women who were riding for their own reasons. We ranged in age from 42 to 70. We had many levels of fitness. We rode for 48 out of 58 days. Over 3100 miles. We rode through California starting out in San Diego. We rode into and across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (and Texas and Texas and more of Texas) and then through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and then across the panhandle of Florida all the way to St. Augustine. The Pacific to the Atlantic.

We got to eat like crazy. We got to spend our entire days doing nothing but getting ready to ride, riding, recovering from the day’s ride and getting ready for the next day’s ride. That is a heck of a way to spend time, my friends.

But it was much more than that, of course. I’d like to tell you about three especially memorable days on this long ride.

The first was the day we climbed to the highest point on our ride. We rode from Silver City, New Mexico up and over the Continental Divide, and up and over Emory Pass, over 8,200’. We climbed 5,000’ that day and finished in Kingston, New Mexico. The up was really long and really hard. At one point I think we rode for 12 miles. Up. I mostly rode with my new friend Connie who is an insulin dependent diabetic. She stopped every hour to check her insulin levels. I waited for her, which was not merely an altruistic move on my part. I was beat and stopping was mandatory for me too, not just for her.

At the top of Emory Pass, after congratulating ourselves and jumping around with glee at having crested the highest part of the ride (“It’s all downhill from here, right?”) we had a ten-mile screaming descent. What a blast! Ten miles of steep curves, through a magnificent forest and on to an old lodge where a real Thanksgiving dinner got cooked and spread out for us. Did you remember I told you about eating? That was a fine meal. Memorable. Yes, hard going up. But what a blast of a downhill romp.

The second memorable day was the day that I was careless and did a foolish thing by trying not to make my ride buddies stop and wait for me. I wrecked my bike when I dropped an arm warmer into my rear derailleur and very nearly wrecked myself. I lost 9 miles of riding that day, but found a deep pool of support among my riding friends, one of whom loaned me her bike. And Michael, the boyfriend of another rider happened to be visiting and he ended up spending his whole day taking my wrecked bike to be fixed. While I was switching bikes and patching my cuts, my friends rode on. But when Michael dropped me off a little bit later, my friends waited for me and administered soothing words and more ibuprofin and made sure I was okay before we all took off. I could say a lot about that day, but the third day matters more this afternoon.

That third day was the longest day for us. 111 miles. Sanderson to Del Rio, Texas. We knew it was going to be hard. It was hard. Very hard. And long. Very long. We started riding just before the sun came up. We begged our guides “PLEASE let us start!” and they, anxiously looking at the horizon, looking for a glimpse of light, finally let us go. We rode the first mile at the crack of dawn. (Um, we called it, irreverently, the butt crack of dawn…)

The first 30 miles were easy. We had a gentle downhill. We had smooth roads. We saw beautiful rocky buttes and gorgeous turquoise dawn skies. The sun came up as we were gliding down a perfect road. Connie stretched out her arms and seemed to soar. We did too. “Look Ma! No hands!!” (Not bad for me and my 60+ year old friends.) Nothing could stop us. This day was off to a fine start and I felt certain that I would ride every mile.

But at mile 31 the wind picked up. The calm morning turned breezy and that breeze came right into our faces. We entered a new county. Each county, we discovered, is responsible for its own road maintenance and the one we entered was wealthier than the one we left - which meant that the road surface became “chip seal.” We’d heard about Chip Seal. Chip seal describes a road surface wherein gravel is poured onto a smooth road and the smallest amount of sealer is sprayed on top to stick the gravel on. Chip seal lasts a long time. And chip seal is expensive. Poor counties have smooth roads. Richer ones have chip seal. Chip Seal is horrible as a biking surface. Imagine riding on an old-fashioned washboard. For a whole day.

The breeze became a wind. The chip seal got rougher. The map, which indicated a downhill trend, was deceptive. With the chip seal’s friction and the wind, by now a 20+ mile an hour headwind, moving forward meant that we had to work hard even on a steep downhill. And a downhill trend is NOT the same as a steep downhill. It was, to put it mildly, a slog.

At lunch a number of riders quit for the day, loading up their bikes and getting into the SAG (support and gear) vehicle. Connie and I and Jan and Sherry and Lois and Marci kept going. Everyone else got into the van.

I wanted to get into the van. My feet ached. My arms ached. My neck ached. My butt ached. The chip seal’s vibration meant that I was also numb in all those places. Not fun.

But I kept riding. After all, I pointed out to myself, I was not undergoing chemo therapy. And I was not hearing a diagnosis for the first time. And I was not, like a little 4 year old friend of mine in Asheville, undergoing a bone-marrow transplant. I kept riding.

The wind got stronger. SAG breaks got more frequent. Instead of stopping every 20 miles, we stopped every 10 miles. Sherry and Connie got a burst of speed and took off. Marci went with them. Lois slowed down and decided to stop at mile 100, making the day a personal best for her.

I wanted to stop at mile 100. But I kept riding.

Jan and I stuck with each other. She’s 65 and was doing the ride to prove to herself, simply, that she could. We stopped, at that point, every 5 miles, ate something, drank something, peed. Got back on and kept riding.

“Surely you know you can do this,” an inner voice began repeating. “Keep going. Keep riding. Do not quit. Keep going.”

Those last 11 miles were the hardest riding I have ever done. I wanted to stop at the end of every mile. I wanted to stop with every single pedal stroke. Ann, our SAG drive, took every extra thing we might have been carrying. I gave up my water bottle, my spare tire, my jacket. And I kept riding. The wind did not stop. The road did not get any smoother.

Jan and I were the last ones out on the route that day. Three miles before the finish I lost her in the dusk. But it didn’t seem right to finish without her so I waited. She finally caught up, having had trouble with her chain. We rode in together. It was so dark we could hardly see the motel sign. We had been riding for 12 ½ hours. We held hands and rode those last yards together. And we both completely lost it when we finished, collapsing into the arms of our friends who had ridden, one way or another, to the finish of the day.

Many of you know about days like this even if you do not ride a bicycle. Since I’ve been home I’ve had days like this. It has been really hard coming home. I loved being on that ride. And I have not had an easy re-entry.

But those difficult re-entry days, those days that YOU know about, of chemo or of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to hear a diagnosis or of hearing a diagnosis and wondering how you are ever going to make it through - are real. It’s a matter of getting through them. A matter of seeing if you can find something positive in the midst of something so challenging, so unbearable. It’s a matter, most of all, of not giving up.

Doing that ride, for me and for you and for women and men out in the world, WAS a significant event for me. A lot of people kept up with me on my blog and told me how inspirational I was to them. And I kept a lot of you in my heart and want you to know how inspirational you were to me. And, by the way, how inspirational you are, still, to me, as I stand up here and chirp about riding across the United States.

Riding across the United States is nothing compared to the challenge we have here. The challenge to get through the next chemo or the next conversation with the doctor or the next conversation with our elected officials. Riding across the United States is nothing compared to trying to catch President Obama’s attention to ask him to move this cause up to the top of the list, or at least higher up on the list. Maybe it helps that his mother died of ovarian cancer. It’s an awful thing. But I hope it helps.

And yes, by the way I raised a bunch of money. I have a check for OCNA and in a minute I’d like Karen and Faryl to come up here so I can give it to them.

And then I’d like to show you a little video I made. The fellow who did all the work is a friend of mine and his mother died of ovarian cancer. The editing and production was a gift to me – and to you. My sweet girlfriend Annie made postcards for me to send to the folks who donated to my ride. I have sent out almost 300 of them to the folks who helped me raise the money I’m about to give OCNA. People pulled money out of their wallets to give to me. People gave me things all along the way. Just as you have by having me here today.

So thank you for having me come and speak. Thanks to the women I have met who are longer term survivors than me. You inspire me. I only hope that I can be that kind of an inspiration for some of you who are younger in your survivorship.

Keep it up. Life is a grand thing. It is filled with love and that makes it all worth living for, now doesn’t it?

Karen? Faryl?

And, cue video.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Two months

It is now more than two months since the end of the ride. Closing in on July 4th. Closing in on July 8th, the date for my talk in Washington. I'll be the closing speaker at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's annual conference. I spoke in February, just before the ride and had two minutes on the program. This time I get twenty.

I feel that the time I've been given is precious. People's time is precious. I have a brief window in which to say something that might stick with these listeners.

While I did my ride, my jaunt across the United States, one friend got diagnosed with and had surgery for breast cancer. One friend underwent chemotherapy for lymphoma. One little new friend had a bone marrow transplant. And now, back from the ride, I have another new friend who is trying to figure out what she has. It's something big but they don't know quite yet what it will turn out to be.

I'm sick of hearing about cancer. I'm sick of this being the focus, of so many people having it, of it becoming almost normal to hear about the next one who got something that is, yes, cancer.

I think about how hard my ride felt while I was on it and it seems like nothing compared to these stories of sickness and struggle and who-knows-if-they-are-going-to-make-it tales. I drew on these folks when I was having a hard day. But at the end of a hard day, I took a shower, ate something, and went to bed. These friends don't have that luxury.

So on the fourth I'll get in my car and drive to Washington to get ready to talk to some people I met on the ride and some people who I've never met. I'll speak in front of people who followed this blog and to people who don't know how to use a computer. I'll see if my comments make sense to the folks who are listening. I hope they are not too tired. And I hope that I make sense. I hope what I say matters. I hope it does.

And then I'll drive home and keep going. Onward. The journey did not finish in St. Augustine. In many ways it has just started.

I'll let you know how it went when it is over.
Thanks for being with me on this whole trip. It has been quite a trip, all in all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I told my sister Heather today that I feel 100% back. Saying it out loud caught even me by surprise. SHE exclaimed. I exclaimed. But it felt true today. Back. 100%

It has been an incredibly rocky ride. I've shared some of that here. Some in my other bits and pieces of writing. I've felt weighed down by the re-entry and by how unsuccessful I have been in just simply coming home. It's not that I don't WANT to be here now or that I haven't wanted to be here. I HAVE. Just couldn't feel much joy or clarity or calm.

I've been trying a lot of things:
I started listening to Eckardt Tolle (but couldn't get through the introduction, just lost it listening to how badly he had felt before he found peace). Maybe if I'd have been able to keep listening I would have found peace.

I have tried to just breathe deeply whenever I felt overwhelmed. I almost passed out the other day with all the deep breaths...(not really.)

I've tried going out into my garden but it is so overgrown that it has been too daunting a task to even start until very recently. The other day I cajoled my sister to come help and that actually worked. I tricked myself in the process and started in on the weeds. It is beginning to look better.

I've tried to eat differently.

I've tried to read and be distracted.

I've tried...

The other day, however, I went to see Sally, my acupuncture friend, and she did a session which marked a turnaround for me. I'm not sure if it was the treatment she did or if it is the combination of different eating and more involved positive thinking or more planning for the future or filling my life once again with things that make me feel good. But I am feeling better. Almost, well, pretty close to my old familiar self.

My friend Ellie told me that re-entry frequently takes as long as the experience took. When she said that my heart really sank. I did NOT want to feel bad for two months. But it is now almost two months and I have to say, it has taken this long to come back to myself.

It is also helping to finally be getting a bit of perspective on the whole ride. I now have a video which I like a whole lot. (When I figure out how to do it, I'll link it here so you can see it too.) I now have a speech all ready to go for the ovarian conference that is coming up next week. The bike ride in DC IS going to happen.I have about four other invitations to speak and I feel like I have something to say.

However, just like cresting Emory Pass, the high point of our ride, it is probably not simply a smooth coast downhill now. I'm sure there will be plenty of rough spots, headwinds, poor road surfaces, and sore body parts. There will be easy times too, probably. Boring times, probably. Good times, probably. Who knows, really.

I do know that it is a gigantic relief to be able to say, simply, "I feel better."

with love,

P.S. This is Willow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The bend in the river

When I was an Outward Bound instructor I became aware of a characteristic of mine that I had not really thought about. My zone of comfort has always been "crisis control" that place of being very able to deal with the things that pop up with no warning. I have historically not been very good at crisis control's opposite: long-range planning.

On the river portion of our courses we often talked about the differences in these two ways of being. And the person sitting in the bow was generally referred to as the one who had to do crisis control. On a fast moving river, especially around here, rocks pop up with little warning. The bow paddler is the one who has to react, make sure the boat misses the obstacle.

But if the boat is to make it downriver, the person in the stern needs to keep an eye out for the distant course and has to steer and plan and decide what to do - way ahead of time.

I've always been much better at the crisis control. In a boat I LOVE being in front. I LOVE the feeling of keeping an eye out, watching for surprises, doing what it takes to make sure my boat gets safely past. I'm really good at it.

I am not nearly as comfortable being in the stern. I am so focused on the immediate situation that it has been an almost insurmountable challenge to look way downstream. Just as I start to, a rock pops up and my instant response reflex kicks in.

I'm trying to train myself to be more long-range and less crisis control. I'm trying to imagine a future picture, trying to pick my head up and look way downstream. It's harder than it seems. Rocks pop up. I respond. And lose my long picture.

But knowing I want to transform is a good start, I must remind myself. Because even in this picture, the bend is there, just below the sky and the water is moving and we are moving too and my head is up more and I am beginning to see that I can change and can create a different picture.

After all, a year ago the bike ride was a VERY faint, blurry image on a barely visible horizon. And NOW look! A lot can happen in a year. It'll be interesting to see how it all develops.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Things grow

We planted these tomatoes just a few weeks ago. I went away. Just before I left, they seemed to be growing steadily, so I put cage supports around them. They were only about two feet tall at that point. But the other day, when I got home, I was amazed to see them towering over the tops of the cage supports (which you can't even see in this picture), loaded with blossoms, filled with promise of tomatoes to come.

Similarly, everything else here is loaded with promise or, shall I say more simply, everything is growing like crazy. We're having a very rich season, with plentiful rain, lots of sun, and plants that, after being overwhelmed by drought and, in my neighborhood, cicadas, are now going bonkers.

Last summer was awful here. It was horribly dry. And we were in the middle of one of those 17 year cicada cycles. I felt like I was going mad. Really. The drone in the air was so loud I really could not think. I felt like I had landed in a space ship movie and the doors were about to open and the aliens were about to descend and grab me and take me to their mother ship where they would perform evil experiments. Trust me. It was bad.

This summer feels different. No cicadas. They will come in August but only in the same way they do every year. Tolerable. But right now the fireflies are coming out at dusk and it is truly beautiful to see my lawn filled with little glows of light that lift up and then tuck into the trees. It is lush here in my yard and it feels good.

When I think about all that is growing here I think about all that I have planted, both in the ground and in my life and in the ether. It can be so easy to forget, to be in a drought and think that nothing will ever grow and nothing will ever be any different than the dark place that the present sometimes is. But this yard reminds me that that really is not always the way it will be. Seeds, planted, do grow. A drought ends. Life returns.

I'm feeling like life is returning to me after a long drought. It is creeping in, trickling in, sometimes even pouring in. And it feels good.

I'll tell more as I figure it out.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Finding balance

I just realized that it has been a while since I last wrote. I haven't felt much like writing. I have been mired in not knowing much of anything at all. I have felt very out of balance. I have not felt good. And I didn't really want to write about that.

I just came back from a week in Bend with my girlfriend. It was a lovely week. And more than IT being a lovely WEEK, SHE is a lovely person. So that made it just a fine time. She took me to many of her favorite places like the beautiful Metolius River, which magically bubbles right out of the ground. No mountain run off there - nope, just a bubbling beginning.

She took me for a paddle on the Deschutes River. We took her pup, who curled up in the bottom of the canoe and made all the other paddlers Ooh and AAh. Haven't you always wanted to go in a canoe with your dog? I have.

We hiked and explored and gardened and I met some of her friends. We went on a tour of appetizers in Bend's restaurants one night. We visited the farmer's market and made some great dinners for ourselves (she's a cook too.)

But for much of the time I thought about balance and about being back from my bike ride and about finding my footing again and about moving along and taking the lessons and spreading them out. I thought about inhaling the lessons, keeping them for myself. I thought about exhaling them, sharing them.

In a couple of weeks I am going to Washington, DC where I will be the closing speaker for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's annual conference. I have not been able to find any clarity about my ride. I have felt stuck in this swampy place of not knowing anything. Not knowing why I did the ride. Not knowing if it mattered that I did. Not knowing if I can take the lessons and make them meaningful for myself. Not knowing if I could find the clarity to make them meaningful for anyone else.

But I just now wrote a first draft of my speech and I think I might have found a bit of clarity. It's not ready to be shown yet. It's not ready to be shared yet. But it is a good start.

Today, after spending the night in a trashed out motel room near the Atlanta airport because I got stuck flying back here from Bend, I stumbled home but, instead of collapsing into darkness and sadness and more not knowing, I went out, checked my bees, weeded a bit, mowed the lawn, petted my dog, did some laundry, and then called my girlfriend.

I still feel there is a lot of not knowing in my life.

But it is good to begin to feel a glimmer of something else too. These rocks, for instance, almost stacked themselves. After sitting on the ground up on the slopes of Mt. Hood for who knows how long, they let me pick them up and showed me where they needed to go.

And maybe that's a little tiny bit of what is going on in me right now too.
I sure do hope so.

I'll write when I have something more to say. Thanks for keeping up with me. Thanks for being on my side. Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Night time. Again. It is now the 14th. 14 is my favorite number. So today must be my lucky day.

I was at the pharmacy today and was waiting in line. An older woman looked at me. She looked right at me, connecting. I did not know her.

"You're Laurey, right?"


"Congratulations on your bike ride," she said.

And then, "I'm a survivor myself."

"Oh?" I said. I was just in line, there to get my pills and hurry to meet my sister at the baseball game. I was late. But then I made myself slow down.

"What kind?"

"I had brain cancer," she said.


"It has been 15 months" (I think she said).

By then I was completely with her. Stopped. Waiting. Standing still. Ready to listen. In line at the drug store.

She told me about her drugs and her appetite and about a few other things. I told her to come eat at my shop. To stay in touch. To keep it up.

We parted. I hurried out of the store, crying. Moved by her finding me, by her stepping out to talk to me about this time she had had. She did not know me but had seen my picture in the paper at the end of the ride.

I still haven't figured this whole thing out, but it seems to me that just being, just standing up, just listening is a good thing, a valid thing, maybe enough of a thing. I think it was for her, today. And for me, today, it was too.

I feel jumbled up still. Very. But these kinds of things crash into me and make me stop in my tracks and set all the worry about anything else in my mind aside. This, right now, is the most important part of my life. And yes, I get to do other things, and yes I have to do other things, but this, this right here, is the main thing right now.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Poster Girl!!

Whoo Hoo!

I'm on a poster! As my little friend David would say, "Su-WEET!"

I am the closing speaker at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's annual conference this summer. July 8th, to be precise. Live. Love. Bike. Talking about the bike ride and about living and about sticking with something that is unbearably hard. Of course sticking with a life-threatening illness is a heck of a lot harder than going on a little bike ride, or even on a big bike ride. But I think there are valid comparisons to be made, lessons to be shared, conclusions to be reached. That's my charge.

If anyone is going to be in the DC area, I'll be doing a fun bike ride on July 5th at 10 in the morning and you're invited to join in. The starting point is Temple
Ohr Kodesh at 8300 Meadowbrook Lane in Chevy Chase. We'll ride 14 miles to Needwood Lake, have a bite to eat and then ride back. A scant 30 miles. In my dreams I see this becoming something very big. A gent named Michael Montheit is the true brains behind this event. The First Annual Ride for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Do come.

I've been working on a video to show at the end of my talk. The great part about it is that I thought about it for a LONG time, imagining it way before the ride even started. I shot little videos all along the route, imagining the final product. Then I met with John Warner, a photographer here. He's VERY smart, and put my ideas into a real video. I'd suggest cutting HERE to THIS shot and then dissolving HERE to THIS bit and he'd manipulate the mouse and there it'd be.

I've now watched this video a BUNCH of times and I like it very much. Which I consider to be a very good sign. I've shown it to a few people and THEY'VE liked it very much too. This afternoon I will work with John on tweaking a few things and then it'll be done. Which makes me very excited about getting to show it here and there.

So now it's time to get going on this day's fun.

Today the events seem like fun. It has been a rough bunch of days and weeks, trying like mad to figure out how to take this gigantic experience and carry it with me into and through my life. I feel like I am beginning to figure that out. And that really is helping smooth out the roughness. Things begin, slowly, but surely, to feel smooth.

I'll be in touch.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I'm up too late. Messing around on my computer. Clearly I should be in bed. Tomorrow is a full day. Today was a full day. The rest of the week, too, is full. I should be in bed. Instead I am up, playing on my computer, playing with making pictures of myself look like the Obama poster. Oh my.

I'm enchanted with this picture. It has been more than a month and I need to keep looking at it to force myself to believe that I actually rode my bicycle across the country. There it is, on film, well, digitally captured, and so I, remembering this picture being taken, must believe that it did happen. This ride.

I've been thinking about this "living in the gap" idea. The place in between what one was and what one is becoming. I was talking with a friend today and she spoke of it by saying "it's the music in between the notes." Yes. What a description. The last note has played and the next note is being imagined. One has to retain the memory of the note that was just played so that the pitch and tone and volume of the next note will blend in well. But the new note cannot be played fully until the previous one is done. I guess they can overlap, but eventually one dissolves into the other and then, somehow, the new note is the dominant one.


I spoke on the radio tonight. For some reason I had thought we had an hour. The show, as it turned out, lasted only 1/2 hour. I had been pretty thorough in my answers and then, just like that, it was over. I felt odd about it, like I had said too much or that I had been too graphic or that, well, I should have just kept my mouth shut. But of course that is not what this whole thing is about, keeping my mouth shut and NOT saying anything. I have chosen to speak out. And as I do, it is sometimes very uncomfortable for me. But I hope it is the right thing to do. I can only trust that this IS what I am supposed to be doing.

I came home, petted my dog, sat still, watched the video that is now almost done, and then played with my bike picture. And now, tired, very tired by this day and these thoughts and this review and processing, I am going to go to sleep.

One thing that I know, sort of, is that when something has ever made me feel like I am pushing on the edge of my comfort, it is usually a time when that pushing has resulted in that thing having a bigger than normal affect on a reader or listener. So I hope that is the case with this radio show. It was hard to say all that I did. It is hard to stand up and talk about this cancer stuff. I don't want to talk about it. I jsut want it all to go away, to be gone. But it is still here and I keep thinking and feeling that this, this talking or writing or sharing is what I am supposed to do. So there you go.

Monday, June 8, 2009



I'm very excited tonight because I spent the morning working with John Warner who knows a LOT about making movies. He took my files of still shots and little videos and we put them together and now I have a video. It still needs some work to make it as perfect as he and I want, but I think it's going to be very good. Yay!

I'll be speaking in Washington soon and it will be the finale of my speech. I'm the closing speaker so that's pretty cool. This little video will mark the end of the conference. I spoke in February and had a fat two minute on the program. Now I get to be the closing speaker. Whee! (And it's especially nice to know that those little videos I took all during the ride will turn into a pretty good little movie. As I was writing the storyboard last night I was stumped for a time, faced with the blank page it seemed overwhelming. But I knew a few things and started there and then I added a few more things that I knew and pasted bits in here and there and filled in and now, today, I have an almost finished video.


Got some other news for you too:

Tomorrow night on WCQS, 88.1 I will be David Hurand's guest on his radio program "Evening Rounds" talking about the ride and ovarian cancer and early detection. This was something that I imagined doing before the ride even happened, so it feels good to know it's actually going to come true. If you don't live here, I think you can do the streaming feed and listen to it. 6 pm Asheville time.

In a couple of weeks I will be the guest DJ on Laura Blackley's program "Local Color" which is broadcast on Friday nights from 8 - 10 pm. I'm not sure of the date on that one yet, but I'll keep you posted.

And I would love to have you join me in a fun fundraising bike ride in Washington, DC on the Sunday of the July 4th weekend. July 5th is the date, to be precise. We'll ride about 30 miles from Silver Spring. I'll get back to you with the details, but do come ride, say hello, and get a chance to ride off some of that post firecracker lethargy. I'll be in the area for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's national conference, speaking on Wednesday the 8th.

And, in other news, do stop in to my shop. Things are bustling with really delicious local food and fun things to eat and drink. We're serving breakfast 6 days a week, not to mention all kinds of other great foods for other times of the day. I'll be cooking at the tailgate market in July, the north Asheville one. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway - just wanted to let you know about a couple of things. Good stuff. Good stuff. Oh, and I have two meetings this week to talk about making all of this into some published project. I am wide open to their thoughts. For now, as I said, right here is just fine.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back on the bike

I rode again today. Funny, now just plain RIDING merits a note here.

I joined a sanctioned ride today and had a nice time, feeling pretty strong, almost back to my normal place. I forget that I have written so much here and, even if I don't forget, I forget that there are people reading my words. Today on the ride a number of people asked how my back was doing and how my re-entry was coming along. It comes as a surprise, always, to hear these questions.

"Fine," I say.

"Better, thanks."

And, perhaps because I've been pretty open about all of this, the conversations quickly go below the surface.

"I was a bit worried about how you would be when you came home," a friend said today. "I mean, what a huge transition. To go away. To be so different. To come home and have everything the same. Especially when you feel so different. Sometimes you just have to go away to another place and just start all over."

Hmmm. That one caught me off guard. Most of these comments do. I don't feel guarded right now. Frankly, it'd be better if I was ABLE to be more guarded, I think. I don't hold much under. It bubbles out and there I am, pouring out again. And again.

I've been thinking about many things. Meditation. Being present. Silencing the inner critic. Grasping at bits of help wherever I see or hear it. Things are sticking and today I am feeling like I've climbed up a half a flight of stairs out of the dark basement. It's good.

I came home and started coming up with a storyboard for the video I am putting together. But GOSH that's hard to do. I'm much better with a slate that is not completely blank. This slate was BLANK. But now, many hours after starting, I am ready to go meet my friend who is the editor. I am excited. I think I have a story, flow, emotion, things that will captivate a variety of audiences. I'm also exhausted by it all, but in a good way.

This is going to be a good series of days. Friends for dinner. A bike ride. Work things. Two meetings with people to talk about writing. A dinner at work with some of our farmers. And getting to hear Anna Quindlen speak. Wow! Good stuff. A full, good time.

For now -
g'night. I'll post the video when I finish it.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Home and work

I guess that it is only fair, if I am going to go on and on about not feeling centered and not feeling grounded and not feeling good, that when I DO feel movement toward the center and toward the ground and toward feeling good, I need to say so.

I'm saying so.

After crashing yesterday, letting fear take over, letting emotion run me, I felt in a better place today. There is no denying that things feel strained. Anyone with a radio or tv can hear the pounding bad news. It is really hard to stay up above all that. It is really hard to feel positive and optimistic when every single damn news story is heavy and dark and awful. I usually turn the thing off when it comes to all that. On the ride I was the one who came into the breakfast room and immediately turned the tv off. When I didn't everyone would come into the room and stop talking. Any hope of interaction was squelched by the gloom and doom.

Like the reference I made to being drawn to a car accident, I have been unable to resist glancing at the headlines or squeaking in a snip of the radio's disastrous news. It is insidious and takes a toll on me.

So today, after long conversations with friends, sisters, the people I most care for, I managed to grab hold and stop the slide. I hope. On the advice of Annie, sweet girl, sweet inspiration, I thought about good things, wrote them down, folded up the paper, and have carried it with me all day in my back pocket. She just sent me a box of postcards to send out and I wrote the reminders on one, the one of me holding my bike over my head at the Atlantic Ocean. Doing that made me feel better.

Tomorrow I cook dinner for a small group who are celebrating the 40th anniversary of two men's union. They never got married, wear no rings, never celebrated in front of other people. Tomorrow they will do that. The rings are ready. Simple words to each other have been written. A small group will gather to celebrate them and this life that has been shared for 40 years.

Many of their friends are no longer alive. Many of MY friends are no longer alive, victims of AIDS, unlucky enough to have gotten really sick just before the drug cocktails were developed. My best friend is no longer alive. He missed it all by a couple of years.

I look forward to being a part of their celebration tomorrow. I am the cook. And I'm excited.

Annie pointed out that I get to be a part of people's joy. She's right. We bring food to many occasions. Last week we were part of two funerals. This week, two more. For one we had a big banner made. And balloons will be delivered too. It'll be a party. And my dear friend Ken called to ask me to cook for his daughter's bat mitzvah in Ann Arbor in December. An occasion. A time of joy.

"Sure thing," I said.

I rode today. I have new tires and they worked just fine. Then I came home and took my pup for a walk. And then worked on my video for the ovarian cancer conference. More videos are in the works. A bike ride/fundraiser in Washington, a big day of the celebration of miracles at Jubilee, my spiritual community, will happen in August.

Yes, I'm almost home. The fog seems less oppressive today.

Thich Nhat Hahn said, "Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile."

If you live in the Washington, DC area, do plan to come ride with me on July 5th. I'll let you know more about it as the time nears.

Thanks for joining me in this journey.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In the bees

I smell like smoke right now. Smoke from my bee smoker. There will probably come a time when I don't use it, but right now it is a bit of a safety net for me. The ritual of lighting it, puffing the bellows, waiting for the paper to catch, waiting for the fuel to catch, and puffing the bellows again settles ME down before I head up the hill to the bees. They say that the smoke calms the bees down, or, shall I say, makes them run for cover. Thinking about them running for cover makes me know that there will come a time when I don't use the smoke. But right now I do.

Last year I was a nervous wreck about the bees. I was not sure if I was doing anything right. And I made the mistake of having three or four people I was asking advice from. The joke is that if you ask four beekeepers a question you'll get seven answers. It made me wild, balancing the discomfort and uncertainty.

I lost my bees this last year. Maybe it got too cold or maybe there was not enough food or maybe the colony was not big enough or maybe something else happened. I don't know. But while I was on the bike ride a local beekeeper brought new bees to my hives and they seem to be doing well.

At this time of year it is essential to make sure they have enough room to expand. If you don't give them enough room, they will swarm and leave and that's all well and good if your intention is to send bees out into the world. But if, like me, you want to have a strong hive right here, one that makes honey enough to keep the colony alive through the winter, well, you don't want them flying off in a not-enough-room swarm.

Today I looked to see how they were doing and to see if I needed to add another super to either hive. The hive on the left already has a shallow super stacked on top of the two hive bodies. The one on the right is not far enough along to need that super yet. And after looking I decided that they are okay for now. I'll check back in a week or so.

After I looked in the hives I sat in the rickety chair I keep up there and just watched. It's a magical, mysterious, miracle to get to sit that close to wild beings, watching them fly in and out, filled with pollen on their legs and with so much nectar that they sometimes miss the landing board and fall to the ground. We're in the middle of a good strong honey flow and the bees are very busy.

I am finding that belief comes slowly. Belief that this shall pass, that this path I am on is the path, not a detour or a dead end or anything other than exactly where I am supposed to be. That's a hard one to absorb, feeling so wobbly and foggy. But this IS the path. This, this right here IS the Golden Thread and that is the truth. The Golden Thread is not always light and breezy and fun and easy. But this, this harder time is what you need to be IN, fully IN, in order to get to that other stuff.

I think. I don't know.
I might be right. Or I might not.

I do know that bee smoke smells good and bees sound good and look good and calm me down. One bee walked around in my hair and when I noticed the tickle I brushed it off, thinking it was a stick. It was a bee and it flew off. No stinging necessary.

That much is what I do know. It's not a whole lot. But it is a start. If they make enough honey this year I'll ask them to share it with you. The Golden Thread. Beautiful.


It rained last night. As I drove home the sky split open with lightning, huge streaks of light that made the entire world pink. That was heat lightning, though, and nothing came of it, right then at least. Later, in the middle of the night, the rain arrived. Yesterday was hot and muggy and close and I feel relief from the rain.

These are more flowers. Lychnis, or Rose Campion. They are in full bloom right now, right outside my door. I took the screen off the other day. I never ever closed it, and it seemed like it was about time to just take it off. I feel a bit exposed now, which is funny, because really, truly, that screen was always open. But the other part about no screen is that I see a lot more out the kitchen door than I did before. I can sit in the kitchen and look out the door and see my whole yard, including this Lychnis.

I planted a small pot full a few years ago in the upper garden bed which is surrounded by a dry-stacked stone wall. Right now there are three distinct clumps of Lychnis, all full, all lush, all healthy. One, the most healthy, is growing heartily outside of the stone wall's limit. I did not plant anything on the outside of the stone wall but there it is. Growing strong.

Lately I have had to pay someone to mow my yard because if I don't, I get stung by yellowjackets and get a big reaction. I like mowing my lawn but have had to let it go. The Lychnis growing on the outside of the wall has not been mowed. I like thinking about the lawn mowing guy avoiding this patch of flowers that is clearly not where it belongs.

I feel like I am growing outside my own boundaries too. Some seeds fell on the other side of my wall and here I go. I'm not as big as the Lychnis yet but I am planted. The curious thing is not knowing where I'll grow. Or if I'll get trimmed or moved back or if a seed will get carried away by some bird or bee and I'll be in a completely different place. It's one more thing I don't know right now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I look at these buds and think about faith. I've actually been thinking about faith a lot these days as I work through this re-entry stuff, which slams into me sometimes, knocking me flat.

There are times when I wonder if I'll ever feel better, if I'll ever just feel ho-hum, la-di-dah, rosy and light. My friend Jennifer, as I said, counsels living in the gap as a place that can be amusing. And Annie calls it "interesting." Ha. Amusing it is not. Interesting, perhaps, in a glimpse of clarity, perhaps, in a glimpse of, "this will pass" "this will go away" "you WILL get through this time." Mostly I do not feel interesting or amusing or anything other than slammed.

My friend Connie sent me some words from an author who, after rowing across the ocean, went through a time of deep introspection, a difficult re-entry. Today, talking to my friend the baker at the tailgate market, I heard about a friend of his who had an enormously difficult time after finishing hiking the Appalachian Trail. I keep thinking I'll wake up perky and chipper and I AM feeling better and more like myself, but there are times when I really do not.

So today, just now, I came home. I have to go back to work in a little bit to run a meeting, but I am home for a spell, a short bit. And there in my garden are these daisies. They are huge. A big fat bunch. Three times bigger than they were last season, or the season before, which is when I planted them. Right now that whole garden bed is green. Lush and lovely, to be sure, but all green. By next week it will be filled with color. White, in the case of these daisies, and pink for the Echinaceas. The Daylilies will pop out in orange. Who knows what else is in there. I plant things and then forget about them.

So when I planted them I didn't know what would happen. And now, here they are. Now here I am too. Seeds, plants, have been tucked in or shoved in, or, without my knowing it, snuck in. I do not know, right now, much of anything. But these plants remind me that something is growing, whether I can name it or not. And faith is trusting that.

So I shall try.

Things ARE happening. Just now more slowly. Now is the time to stop and let the revelations wash in, let the buds open - when they will.

Big deep breath.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Living in the Gap

This bombed out house is in Tuscany. When I first saw it I fell head over heels nutso about it and felt like it was the answer to all my prayers. I wanted to buy it, fix it up, move into it. I tracked down the woman who owned it in Switzerland and went so far as to make plans to meet her. And then it all fell through, once I realized it was outrageously unrealistic. I keep the picture on my computer and look at it all the time. I still remember that first sighting. But I also know that when I went back and really looked, and saw that it was in the middle of a busy dirt road and that it had no privacy NOT TO MENTION the fact that it has no roof or walls or floor or, well, anything, it was not a smart thing to pursue.

Which has nothing to do with what I have been thinking lately, but I don't have many photographs on this computer at home so there you go, a cool picture and a little story, unrelated to the gist of my night's thinking.

Living in the Gap. This, as I understand it, is the place we find ourselves when our minds have moved on and our bodies are still in the place we were in before our minds moved. Clear?

I feel changed by this ride and by the experience of it. It was easy, it was enormously hard, it was fun, it was awful, I miss it dreadfully, I'm so glad it is done. All at once. Mostly, though, I feel that I am in a different place and I want to be doing different things AND YET I still am at work and I still have things to do, things I want to do and things I need to do. And, at the same time, I want to have moved ahead to be living this other, transformed life.

How to do both? Bridging this gap is not easy. I'm feel torn, crazy, frustrated, berserk sometimes, wanting to KNOW how it's all going to go. Wanting to BE different, to live differently, to have it all figured out. No such luck.

My friend Judy did this ride a few years ago and we talked yesterday about the challenge of coming home. She told me about her experience of homecoming and equated it with "pentimento" that painting technique whereby layers of old paint are removed, revealing a new painting underneath. Who KNEW it was there? And who knew, or knows, how to remove those layers?

I have been feeling tension in this gap place. It does not feel easy or even good. But my guide suggested I look at it with humor. And my girlfriend suggests I call it "interesting." Those are good suggestions.

For now, I carry on. Bridging the gap.
I'll say more when I can figure out more.

Good night.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Riding and not competing

I went for a ride today with some women from here. I rode with them before I left for my big ride and could not keep up with them AT ALL. That ride was no fun, embarrassing, verging on miserable. I wondered how it would be to ride with them again. I actually thought about them a few times while on some hard bit of the big ride.

Today I had my chance.

I did pretty well. I was not the very last one. I managed to keep up for most of the time. There were times when I had to really give myself a boost, a "come on come on come on" rally. At one point I was saying, "catch up, catch up, catch up" out loud to myself. I put out a bit more effort and caught up. It IS much easier to ride when you are right behind the rider in front because the drafting thing works and you get sucked along a bit.

On today's ride there was a wind and that got me at one point. And there was a time when I was feeling pretty weak and annoyed that there they all were, getting farther and farther ahead of me. There was no catching up. And even more frustrating was watching them and getting the impression that they were not expending any effort at all. That's probably not true, but it sure seemed it.

I am really not competitive when it comes to this riding thing. And I was riding with a bunch of women who actually ARE. They race. They win. Today was their "easy" ride but it was a big deal for me.

On the way back we started up a hill that has been a VERY hard one for me and I DID manage to go right up it so that was good. And we passed a single rider who caught up and rode very close to me, admitting that she was using me and us as motivation. That kind of made me ride a bit harder. It's funny. I do not want to race and I do not want to win or beat anyone and there is not a big, "I've got to be first!" bone in my body. But I also don't want to be last.

I guess I like being strong in myself, but it is only a comparison to myself, not to anyone else.

And now I am sore again and have spent the afternoon finishing putting bee hive pieces together. At some point my bees will be far enough along that I will need to bring these new pieces up to my apiary and will need to add them to what is there. The bees just work. I have two hives and one is quite a bit ahead of the other one but they do not pay any attention to that at all. Why do I?

This week I will work on putting together the video of my ride for the presentation I am doing in Washington in July at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance conference. I'm the closing speaker. A big deal for me. Very. And it looks like there is going to be a bike ride just before the conference. Maybe we'll turn this into an annual ride. This will be the first. A ride for ovarian cancer awareness.

I have been aware all day long that this is my 21st anniversary of finding out I had ovarian cancer. A 45 mile ride and putting bee hive components together seems to be a good way to celebrate and to honor being alive. That and writing more. So here you go. I'll be in touch.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


It is Saturday. May 30, 2009. I am at work waiting for catering staff to show up so they can collect the things they need for the party they are serving tonight. Normally I would have gone home by now but some communication lines got crossed and so here I am, waiting for the staff. Which, if you look at it differently,as a positive thing instead of an "ugh I want to LEAVE thing" gives me time to write a note about today.

Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of me getting surgery for what turned out to be ovarian cancer. I remember going to deliver a breakfast-in-bed basket to a guy's wife and then driving myself home where I picked up my girlfriend and we went to the hospital so I could have my operation. When I went to the hospital I did not know how the surgery would turn out. When I woke up many hours later my girlfriend told me I had cancer. Again.

Ironically today I was delivery babe for a last minute drop off catering for a funeral. I am pretty sure that today's delivery was to the same house as that breakfast gift basket went to those 21 years ago. Funny.

Cancer hovers too near me these days. I have two friends who are in treatment right now. I have friends who are in the clear, but just barely. And I have friends who are waiting to hear the results of tests. This is too much. Too much for me sometimes.

One thing that happened as I started this ride project was that people starting coming to me and telling me their cancer stories. In the beginning I was filled with a certain fear whenever these conversations would start up. It's sort of like driving by an accident. I never want to look but I sometimes do anyway. In these conversations I never wanted to know but I found myself right in front of the horror and had to stand still and listen. I have learned to be supportive, to be a quiet listener, to hope that I can be some sort of example for someone just because I am alive. But what I had, I had. I'm different. We're ALL different and really how can MY story mean anything to anyone else?

And it got pretty scary and too close sometimes and I found myself closing off, shutting down, imagining clamping my hands over my ears and not letting anything in. I didn't want the warnings that people were sending me. I didn't want the fear. I didn't want the subject matter.

But at the same time, I'M the one who chose to add the layer of "cancer survivor" to this bike ride project and this is where it leads. Being the one who can, maybe, help. Being the one who is, maybe, the inspiration for someone not this far along in their recovery. Being the one who is learning how to be brave enough to talk about this, trusting that the talking is not going to get me sick again. But I feel my pulse race even as I write this.

The reality is that every time someone I know gets sick I get scared. And every time an anniversary comes up, a rush of gratitude - and fear - courses through me. Every doctor's appointment, every conversation with a cancer patient or survivor, every single one elicits a big, noticeable reaction in me.

So tomorrow is my 21st anniversary. The ride was all about my 20th anniversary, my 54th year, my Golden Year. I did it. I did the ride. I celebrated my Golden Year by doing a big thing. Now it is the beginning of another year. I am now 55. And I AM healthy. And I AM feeling braver and braver. It helps to have completed the ride. That was a pretty brave thing to do, mostly in ways I did not expect. Having done it makes me feel like, well, like I accomplished a big thing. And, more, that I have an obligation to do something more. Maybe this is it.

Maybe. I'll just write about that for a while.

I'm going to pick this up and write more again. I've missed it. Here's the first note. I'll be in touch now on a regular basis.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Today is a beautiful one. I'm back on my bike, slowly and surely riding. Slowly and surely finding the balance, the route, the direction. Slowly and surely.

I'm surprised to be so creaky. I'm surprised that it takes this long to settle back to my home and this life. Surprised. Impatient. I want to wake up and pop into things and say, "wow, what was all THAT about?"

Instead I open my eyes, take a pulse, look at the light, wonder some more. It is an interesting time.

I have a fountain in my garden that I made last year. It's a big, deep blue vase that I rigged. I got some thick rubber for a lining and then got some silicon caulk. I cut and patched and filled and rigged and turned it into a little bubbly thing. It was not easy. It was not hard either, but I now remember that every single step of the process involved asking a lot of questions, getting a lot of advice, going to a few different stores, coming home, trying it out, and, finally, having a water-filled pot, all ready for plants. I found a water hyacinth at the nursery and it seemed to have a nice summer, bubbling away, providing a place for the bees and adding a soft background song to my home.

This project started as a way to give my bees a place to drink. Last year my bees were new. Me too. New as a beekeeper, new as a fountain maker. New as a water plant gardener.

We had a drought last summer and it was cold in the winter and I did not feed my bees nor did I drain the pot of its water. The plant died. The bees did too which also happened to a lot of very experienced beekeepers who DID know what they were doing and who DID feed their bees. The silicon liner froze too, cracked, leaked out all the water. So it goes.

Earlier this week I got out the extra rubber liner from last year and cut a new circle for my fountain. I bought new caulk and pasted the new rubber liner in. I put a dish in the bottom of the new liner so that my brick plant supports would not cut into it. I filled the pot, hooked up the pump, and enjoyed one evening of burbling song.

The next day my fountain was completely empty.


I found the leak, re-caulked it, waited, refilled the fountain, waited and, seeing the water holding, just went and bought some new little plants. So far so good.

Today is a holiday and I am going to go down into my bee work area and I am going to assemble more bee hive parts. Last year during a time of disconnect, when I was feeling very unsettled, I did that too. When in doubt I put bee hive parts together. At the end of that project, after those many days of bee hive assmbling, I was ready for my bees and was feeling better.

Pretty soon it will be time to add more hive parts to my hives. They need to be put together now, while there is time so that they will be ready when I need them.

So today is a bee hive assembly day. Slowly and surely. Later I'll go for another bike ride. Then I'll take Tye the pup for a walk.

Slowly. Intentionally. Patiently.

One frame at a time.

I'll be in touch.