Mindfully healing

it’s been five years since I was diagnosed with cancer.

Five years …. It’ a magic number – it means I am truly a cancer survivor.

My oncologist had me on every month visits these past five years. But last summer he let me know that I could stop taking my estrogen blocker when my prescription ran out in February. My next appointment at Dana Farber happens in midsummer.

My cancer is still part of my life. It left me with a feeling that life is certainly too brief. And that what is important is love, family and friendships.

When I first coped with the thought that cancer was growing in my body, I felt frightened and worried, thinking my life was heading in the wrong direction. But I spent time talking with other women who had already faced breast cancer and that’s when I began to realize there is life after this disease.

For me treatment was a double mastectomy followed by years of little white pills. My life changed. I became someone who read labels and choose organic anything over chemically altered substances. I tried to exercise, following the physical therapy prescribed as a part of aftercare.

i still pay attention to my diet. I sleep more and have found ways to avoid worry.

It feels really good to know I’ve survived. It feels as if life sent me a blessing  – a chance to continue living.

i’ve come to see that my cancer diagnosis was a gift.

Life moves quickly

I remember being a young woman – it seems as if I were young yesterday.

Since my last post, my nonagenarian mother died, after a lengthy illness that affected her body and mind. I think she died of cancer but it may have been the drugs they gave her for the pain that ended her days.

She lived in Milton MA her entire life. My sister Kathy was her prime caregiver I her last days. Of course we all did what we could but Kathy, who has been retired for more than 10 years, was the source of my mother’s strength in her last months.

But much more has happened. My daughter-in-law, a woman of incredible kindness, wisdom and generosity is living with cancer. Her cancer is being bombarded by doses of chemotherapy and other treatments coordinated by a medical team from Dana Farber. Annie, my son’s wife of five years, should be enjoying the best years of her life.

Before her diagnosis, Annie was a fulltime mother whose precocious two-year-old had never gone to bed for the night without his mother.  Two operations later my grandson, Finnegan, is still advanced beyond his years. I’ve tried to fill in for his mother. He loves me and everyone else in the world. I just don’t cut it as a 37-year-old these days.

Being a young mother was a joy. I only had two years off work during my days of intense motherhood. I didn’t appreciate them enough when I lived through it.

But I finally realize today is the only day I have.  Finnegan already knows that. I think that’s why he loves everyone.

 

Changing the pace

So the Blizzard of 2015 hit Milton on Jan. 27 and for the first time in the history of the Milton Times, we closed the office due to weather.

The difference didn’t come from the intensity of the winds and snow. It came from changing priorities – mine.

So I am sitting at home today, typing on my computer, while my grandson sleeps in the next room. It’s his first nap of the day. He and I were up at 6:45 a.m., playing. Watching the snow dance outside my window, watching it pile up on the marsh, watching the river turn white. It’s a good day.

I’m not sure whether the office will reopen tomorrow. It just doesn’t seem to matter right now. What matters is finding where we left the “Wheels on the Bus” book before Finn wakes up.

Thinking about my future

Time passes all too quickly for those of us who have passed the middle years.

Most of the time I love my life. Today I realized it is time to create a succession plan for my newspaper.

It’s something I’ve known I needed to do for about 10 years. And there were times in those 10 years when I thought I had a plan in place.

Over the years one of the plans I’ve toyed with is the creation of a non-profit group to take control when I retire. There are two newspapers in the United States that use this model. One is The Day in Connecticut. That paper, a daily, has succeeded with the model for more than 100 years.

It’s something to think about.

Another possibility is for me to search out a buyer who would want to take control of the paper. Over the years I’ve had a few offers but they were from major chains. I hope the paper can remain independent and totally local.

 

 

Back on Track

So it has been months since my last post.

The regular business of running the Milton Times has taken some time and I wish I could blame my distraction on the paper.

Truth is I have been spending more time with my three grandchildren who live in New Hampshire. If only it were as simple as a trip or two.

My youngest grandchild is a year and a half. He is amazing and filled with love. His energy is over the top. This week Finn and his parents are visiting his other grandparents in California.  Finn’s favorite word is Up. He uses it to explain who it is he wants to hold him.

My granddaughter Hayley is a senior in high school. She lives about three hours away from Finn. Like all young women in her age range, she wants to enjoy time with her friends.

My other grandson, whose name is Desmond, is just beginning high school. Like most young men in his age range, he keeps his thoughts to himself.

Being a grandmother is much more fun than being a mother. But just like parenting, the time is brief.

 

 

Winter Slides into Tomorrow

The snow continues to fall tonight.

Making travel unadvisable.

The branches outside are laden with white stuff, thick white particles.

The storm creates a space of peacefulness.

I am not sure that I am enjoying this cold, snowy winter. But I do appreciate a season where it is impossible to rush about.

 

 

Santa Came to Town

The weather was perfect for Lighting the Holiday Tree in East Milton Square.

All three of the town’s Selectmen were on hand.

Santa had spent two hours at Abby Park talking to the true believers before the simple ceremony.

This year the Milton Chamber of Commerce decided to push the event to the weekend before Thanksgiving to make room for all the other holiday parties that are in the planning stages. It was a fantastic event.

Vance Welch of Abby Park provided cookies and milk for all. But Santa brought the magic.

Tate Isgrieg and his wife brought their son dressed as an adorable elf to add to the party.

M. Joseph Manning was scheduled to flip the master switch on the holiday tree but unfortunately he fell during the past week and was hospitalized. Everyone on hand wished him well.

The number of little children who worried and teared up while facing the big guy made the afternoon all the more interesting. What is it about a man in a beard that worries very small children.

But the number of youngsters who offered Santa small tokens of their appreciation was at an all-time high. Bob Marotta, a freelance photographer, who helps keep the Milton Times graphically excellent, was on hand to snap one photo after another of youngsters telling Santa all their hopes.

Tom Pilla shot a bit of video.

Al Thomas sponsored the lights with the help of the town’s DPW. The Milton Art Center added a massive star to the top of the tree. Again that was done with the help of the DPW.

By the time the event was done, I had decided I need to lose weight. I was thin once, very long ago. I’m not expecting to revisit those years. But it is time that I don’t look like Santa when I walk down the street.

 

Myles Connor Tells a Few Stories

Myles Connor Jr. and Suzette Martinez Standring get ready to talk.

Myles Connor Jr. and Suzette Martinez Standring

He thought he was heading to a reunion of the Milton High Class of 1961, but Myles Connor, self proclaimed art thief, had a series of stories to tell the crowd at the Milton Art Center Sept. 26.
So, if Connor is to be believed, the art taken in the Gardner heist in 1990 now sits somewhere in Saudi Arabia.
He said he actually planned the Gardner theft but couldn’t participate in the robbery because he was in federal jail in California. His three friends, who carried out the plan, were ready to give back a Rembrandt in exchange for lessening Connor’s jail term.
All three died before that could happen and Connor went on to say it is unlikely the art will ever be returned.
Suzette Martinez Standring who was originally scheduled to headline the talk as part of Milton Reads invited Connor to present his views on the Gardner caper after finding that former Milton attorney Fred Barry represents the admitted thief.
Barry set up the appearance and Connor’s friend and manager, Al Dotoli, sat at his right side during the hour long discussion.
Connor, who now lives on a farm in Blackstone, smiled frequently as he told his stories of art thefts and other escapades.
He grew up in Milton, the son of a kindly and honest Milton police officer. He said his first art theft back in the 1960s at the Forbes Museum was carried out as “payback.” As he saw it, his father was being blamed by the Yankees connected to the local museum for the theft of some antique firearms. Connor said his father would never have done anything of the kind.
And so he planned his revenge. His entry into the Adams Street museum happened between 6 and 8 p.m. as he knew the schedule of the caretaker, who had a habit of visiting his girlfriend nightly at that time.
He smiled large as he said that was the only security.
One of his funny stories unrelated to robberies involved his breaking a friend out of Medfield State Hospital. His father had specifically ordered him not to visit the hospital. Of course he went there the next day and his friend told him how he was locked in the mental hospital because he was trying to impress a girl. His friend had faked a suicide attempt using a hose from the exhaust pipe of his car into the interior. The problem was a police officer came by instead of the young woman.
Connor stole a truck with a chain on the back and used it to pull down the bars at the mental hospital. He laughed as he explained that about 30 of the inmates climbed on the back of the truck with his friend.
He was vague as to how he chose a life of crime. His answer to the question from the audience relayed how he made friends with some hardcore criminals the first time he was in Walpole State Penitentiary. He was there on a shooting charge.
He said he has some regrets – small ones like letting a dog out – and larger ones involving the pain he caused his family.
He went into some detail denying any involvement with the murders that he has been charged with. He went into some depth about the various frames. One involved the FBI agent that was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice in connection with his work with James Whitey Bulger. In the other case involving the death of two young women, Connor said he was accused by the people who committed the crime.
Connor’s life hasn’t been just crime and punishment. His autobiography, written with the help of a crime novelist Jenny Siler, has been sold to a movie studio. Dotoli continues to handle the sale of his rock and roll, available at mylesconnor.com.
But Connor suffered serious damage after a heart attack a few years ago and is no longer able to play or sing.
By the way, he said he is waiting to find a widow.
Milton Cable Access filmed the entire talk and will be running it in near future.

Girl with the Purple Hair

My granddaughter has the most amazing look for the fall.
She decided to become the girl with the purple hair. It’s a good look on her.
When I was 16 it didn’t occur to me that I could change the color of my hair. Of course I knew people did that. I just didn’t have the style or energy.
But Hayley has more than super style, she has imagination and dreams.
What does it say to have purple hair?
I think it says “the world is changing and I am part of the change.”
I hope so, anyway.
HB
Hayley, her Aunt Annie, and cousin Finn

Summer Benefit

The Fr. Bill’s 19th annual Food Fest brought a crowd of happy donors to the Ocean Club at Marina Bay on July 30.
I didn’t win anything in the silent auction and I didn’t bid on anything in the live auction. But the food was spectacular and the company was fun.
Therese Desmond, my sister, came to the party with me. Therese as been a vegetarian since sometime in the 1970s. I became a near vegetarian little more than two years ago.
Our favorite food came from the Punjab Cafe. The Indian restaurant, located in Quincy, has long been one of my favorites. It’s vegetarian offerings can fill me.
Staff of the Fruit Center was on hand along with people from the Common Market and Phillips Candy House and many more.
The gentle winds and great views of the Boston skyline made the event extraordinary.
Jim Wells was event chair – he did fine work inching up interest in the live auction.
There was a time when the problem of homelessness seemed confined to the big cities. It appeared the people who slept on park benches were those with mental health issues like alcoholism or other drug additions.
Back 10 years ago we seldom saw a foreclosure notice make to third publication. It was a different economy.
Is there homelessness in the suburbs today?
Are there people who are hungry?
It’s the reality. Can we do something to change the problems?
Certainly. It takes caring and thought.