Note: I wrote this story for Sunday's New Castle Courier-Times. Breast cancer survivor Kandi Rutledge remains so moved by attending a Casting for Recovery fishing retreat, an experience that changed her life. She pays it forward as a volunteer for the unique organization that helped her so much. She wants those with breast cancer at any stage to know that they may apply to attend these free retreats.
KNIGHTSTOWN — Kandi Rutledge remembers how touched she was by the warm cookies.
The memory of the unexpected treats brought to her at a 2005 retreat for breast cancer survivors reminds her of why she volunteers for Casting for Recovery, a national nonprofit organization that offers support and educational programs for breast-cancer survivors.
There are two annual two-and-a-half-day retreats each year in Indiana. “This is just like being in a unique world, a perfect world in a way,” Rutledge says of the retreats, which take place at Wooded Glen Retreat & Conference Center in Henryville.
Breast-cancer survivors at any age or stage can still apply for the Sept. 7-9 retreat. Applications are due by June 29. Fourteen are chosen randomly from submissions. To apply online, visit www.castingforrecovery.org.
Since she attended as a survivor, Rutledge has returned once since then as a team member to serve guests.
“To fish is hope,” says Rutledge. “Whether you catch, whether you fish, it’s being in nature and being with others who are survivors."
She says much of the retreat’s joy, in fact, is being with those who have been or are going through what you have. She had fished for years but had never fly-fished until the retreat. Fishing is a reason to get together, but it doesn’t have to be the main reason. In fact, it probably isn’t for most or many who attend.
‘Like a queen’
Rutledge talks about “being treated like queen,” and she mentions the lavish meals, comfortable rooms, bonfire, walks on the trails and yes, instruction in fly fishing, that were part of the weekend. There are also professionals such as psychologists and an oncology nurse or doctor there, and information about support groups and other aspects of the breast-cancer journey.
There are even reunions with the survivors you meet during the weekends. This is the 13th year for the Indiana retreats.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including individual, organization and corporate donors and grants. She mentions that at the retreats, there have been women as young as 28 and as old as 80, a mother-daughter duo and a woman who is blind.
Along with the emotional connection she finds with other survivors, Rutledge points to experiencing the newness of life in nature and the development of range-of-motion skills often needed by survivors, found with the motion of fly fishing.
If transportation there is a problem, Casting for Recovery will find them rides. She says if selected, it is important for the attendee to compile doctor clearance and the proper medical paperwork.
At age 72 now, Rutledge is a 21-year breast cancer survivor. “If that would give somebody hope, just seeing that someone is 21 years out, that’s what I can do,” she says.
Rutledge worked in the medical field and is now retired. Married to Don, they have a son, Matt, and two deceased daughters, Tami and Anneke. The couple also has nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
She says the good Lord has been with her in her struggles. “He’s been the anchor all the way through,” she says.
Stephanie Probst, also of Knightstown, attended the Henryville retreat last summer. Like Rutledge, she is doing well physically, four years out from HERS2 Stage 4 breast cancer.
She found out about the retreats from information in her doctor’s office.
What she likes best about the experience is having “14 brand-new lifelong friends.” She also loves to fish and has found that the motion involved in fly fishing has been helpful to her own arm movements.
“Fly fishing showed me I can work at it and get it back,” she says.
What she learned about fly fishing at the retreat has led to a new hobby which also serves as therapy. Probst, 55, works in quality control for Keihn in Greenfield. She is married to Jeffery and they have three sons: Bret, Anthony and Nick, along with two granddaughters.
“The retreat made me see how therapeutic fly fishing is; not only physically but it is very relaxing too.”
For more about Casting for Recovery, contact Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-465-5570. The national website is www.castingforrecovery.org.
Like flipping a switch, dark to light, I saw central Indiana go from winter to spring yesterday. On a warm but windy day, I witnessed the change when I stopped at the grocery store after work.
I couldn’t get through the entrance without noticing the change. There, bringing color, refreshment and, yes, spring, were flats of annuals. Vibrant purples, reds, yellows and oranges abounded. After a winter and early spring of browns, grays with the occasional white dusting on top, this moment could have been inside a botanical garden, but no, it was only Kroger.
Still. I’ll take one of each. Oh wait, no I won’t. But I wanted to as the frail-looking, but deceptively hardy pansies danced in the breeze.
This morning I got up to go to Weight Watchers, sliding into my spongy flip flops until I got ready to leave. By then, I realized that yes, something had changed, and I could wear them out! Never mind that I haven’t gotten around to painting my toenails yet in 2018. I was in flip flops and not freezing. And I will continue wearing them until one October day when I realize that it’s time for socks and soles with leather uppers.
The sun shone, there was a loss on the scales (best news of the day) and I greeted a snowbird from my church who is back. We chatted about the day and the sunshine. I mentioned the wind. She wasn’t fazed, the sunshine overriding any such inconvenience. “I’m solar powered,” she beamed.
Also in the course of getting ready to leave the house this morning, I got a call on my cell phone from a reader with a story idea, and an instant message from another with information about a story idea of her own.
So it’s not just me. Midwesterners, tired of the late snows, the winter coats still on the racks by their doors rather than swathed in dry-cleaner bags for the summer, are coming back to life! As I type this, I hear roofers down the street working on a house. Last night as I pulled into our neighborhood, there was the delicious, distinctive scent of newly mown grass, an Irish green right now from all the moisture.
Sometimes spring comes late to these parts. But it’s here. It’s finally here.
The calendar has read "spring" for a while now, but only yesterday did I feel that familiar spring in my step that comes with the year's second season. The sun was shining, and those gathered at Senior Living at Forest Ridge formed an attentive audience for my program, Posted From Home Row.
This was the roll out of a new speaking program that isn't focused on my books, or their themes, but on an assortment of essays or blog posts chosen to fit the occasion or the interests of those to whom I am speaking.
My thanks to LauraLisa Stamper of Senior Living for inviting me a couple months ago to put yesterday on the calendar. Topics covered included a post about my mother's best advice -- to take typing my freshman year of high school, saying I'd always use it; one about my dad's best advice, not to wish time away (and a heavy dose of basketball included as the set up for his memorable comment) and a piece about shopping with my retired husband (who now likes to accompany me but still maintains that he's "not ready to solo."
We had a lively discussion following my reading the essays, and I look forward to the rest of my spring schedule of programs. Back in the saddle!
If you or your organization, club, church or book club need a program, you can find me here, email@example.com.
Today is sunny again, and Friday it's supposed to be in the 70s! Looking forward to warm days, sandals and all good things that the warmer months offer.
Yesterday a letter (and pop-up card) arrived from a woman named June whom I have never met, but who saved newspaper clippings of my articles as well as copies of her magazine for women, to share with a friend of hers, Linda, who lives in Liberty, my hometown.
I should say lived in my hometown, because June's letter yesterday was to tell me that her friend passed away in February. June had told me that Linda had been to one of my signings, and asked if I would send her friend an encouraging note. I did just that a couple times, wishing her well in battling her illness. I am sorry to hear that she passed.
In this throw-away as well as often paperless society we live in, I'm touched to know that someone would actually take the time and effort to save articles that I write and that someone else would be happy to get them.
Yesterday's letter, which arrived in the bright green envelope above, is the latest in my stack of reader snail mail. This stack was started when my second book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, came out approaching two years ago. I filed away the mail that had arrived after the first book, up until summer 2016.
The envelope on top of the stack is what I mailed back to June. You'll notice a sticker of a bird. I like to put stickers on my mail because I like getting letters with stickers on them. I always tell them at work that when I get a handwritten envelope with a sticker on the back (or sometimes on the front in one or more corner), I know that person "comes in peace."
Often I'm asked if I'm working on a third book. I can't say it won't happen, or that it will. But I can promise you that not a day passes when I'm "not" writing one thing or another: features for the newspaper, emails to a variety of friends, upcoming programs and something new in recent months: Wednesday devotions for Ovid Community Church. I have the Wednesday slot and I'm trusting the Holy Spirit for continued inspiration. If you are interested in seeing them or other devotions and posts, let me know and I'd be happy to add you to the group. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Meanwhile, I invited June, and I'm inviting you too, to my free program at Senior Living at Forest Ridge in New Castle at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10. There's a free brunch, then program and the promise of a "lively discussion." I'm bringing a door prize and yes, a few copies of my books, if anyone is interested in buying signed copies or visiting with me after.
If interested, give Senior Living a ring at 765-521-4740 and tell them you'd like to attend. If you don't know where it is, put 2800 Forest Ridge Parkway in your GPS. The program is for the monthly Social Society and community members are welcome.
Meanwhile, let me say I'm grateful to those who continue to read these posts, take The Courier-Times, read my books or inquire about what I'm working on. Read on and I'll write on, good Lord willing.
So it's the February that won't end. But it's April, you say? Yes, that's pretty much my point. It's cold and snow is flurrying just beyond our central-Indiana windows as I write this.
Indeed, it's a perfect day to talk about summer shoes. I'd rather be walking in them, but since that isn't likely to happen until, oh, about August, the way things are going, let's at least talk about sandals.
Believe it or not, I'm not a shoe person. When it comes to feet coverings for fall, winter and early spring, my shoe wardrobe includes one brown pair, one black pair, one pair of sneakers and some boots. The irony is that I have no odd sizing issues, wearing either a 7.5 or an 8 M. There are tons of shoes to choose from on the market and I don't like any of them.
But sandals? The shoe's on the other foot. For one thing, my feet love summer. They particularly like thick, spongy flip flops and open air all around. Most of these models tend to come with bling on top, which I could do without, but I'll take them for their comfort and ease of wear. Even though the spongy ones are my comfort zone, my favorite personal pair of sandals are the black patent-leathers in the upper left-hand corner.
When I was a small girl, I had a pair of bright green patent leather sandals. I loved those shoes! Patent leather isn't the easiest shoe to find for an adult, but these remind me, somehow, of those shoes. Plus, they are amazingly comfortable. More so than a sneaker. I am not a sneaker person.
I like the red shoes. They make me feel stylish, but the color is limiting in what I can pair with them. The ones that get the most wear for church and work are the two neutral-toned pairs, platform-cork numbers that are pretty comfortable and make me feel of normal rather than short of stature.
The black ones, lower middle, are in a bit of a rough state. These will likely be my yard shoes this summer. They're comfortable but well-used.
My least favorite among the summer roster are the coppery-tone ones with the beads in the upper right-hand corner. I've had them two or three years -- maybe longer -- and I think I paid more for them than for any in the group. They aren't particularly comfortable. But they are well-made and I will probably still have them around a decade from now.
I put the sandals together for a photo not originally for this blog post. In fact, the photo inspired the blog post. The idea is to photograph the abundance of my summer shoe inventory so I'm not seduced by shoes I spot and don't need. This way I can call up the phone photo in the midst of temptation.
How about you? Are you a fan of summer sandals? Is an inventory of nine an obscene number? How many summer shoes are in your closet?
So it's around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Suddenly arrives a new thought for the day: It's Wednesday! Blog day!
That's right. And until then, I had no thought about what I would post. You see, Tuesday was a sick day, a 100-percent time out. I almost commented to Brian a couple days ago that we had made it through to spring with no flu. I suppose that is technically true, given that we're now supposed to be in spring.
Then at 5:30 Tuesday morning, I felt terrible cramps grip my upper abdomen, a wave of nausea, and then .... oh, come on. You know good and well what happens next. And yes, I made it to the bathroom in time.
A few repeat performances took place and by 7, I texted my boss to say I wouldn't be in. Sick day. I slept quite a bit of the morning away, my consciousness and remote in and out of daytime TV. I learned from an interview with Tatum O'Neal that her mom is the actress Peggy on The Andy Griffith Show. I might have giggled over a preview of the new Roseanne show. Brian didn't think much of either of my tidbits of information when he got home and urged me to get back to work ASAP.
I had the chills, and sweats, but my stomach settled and the best news of all was that because I had no body aches and no headache nor neckache (my neck is always the first thing to go when I get the flu), things were looking up.
I was able to sleep well last night and by this morning, I was good to go back to work! I actually had a good day and had a reserve of energy come day's end.
So what did I crave during my illness? 7 Up and chicken-noodle soup. A classic remedy for what appears to have been a classic 24-hour bug.
Even though it was only a day in la-la land, it sure feels good to be back among the living. And away from daytime TV.
March is quite the fickle month and never has that been more the case than today. The best way to describe today’s weather forecast across the state would be to draw a weather map and across it put in bold letters, “WHO KNOWS? LOOK OUT THE WINDOW THROUGHOUT THE DAY.”
We left a clear and dry-skied Pendleton at 10:20 a.m. this morning, bound for Indy and a belated-birthday breakfast for our younger son, Ben. As we approached Marion County, the snow was falling heavily. By the time we got to the diner, the flakes were HUGE and the snow thick.
Was this a January Throwback Day? Diners wearing thick parkas and snow boots waited on their coffee and eggs while we waited on the Birthday Boy, followed by Sam and Allison.
We had a nice brunch where we spoke of jobs and birthdays, Colts schedules and March Madness.
Happy 27th birthday to our Benny Boy! Still our ray of sunshine on any day, snowy or not.
Sam got a chicken-breast breakfast sandwich. Brian chose a burger lunch.
Back in the winter, (don't you like using the word winter in the past tense?), LauraLisa out at Senior Living at Forest Ridge invited me to speak to the April brunch of the Social Society. It's free to any retiree who would like to come by. Just call to let them know you are coming so they will have enough food.
I decided to switch things up and do a new program for those attending. I've selected three posts from right here on my Home Row blog, and tweaked them for a "live audience." I'll be talking about basketball, newspapering and grocery shopping with the husband. There's time for questions about these or other topics, and yes, I'm bringing along a door prize. Best of all, it's free! So come on out to beautiful Senior Living at Forest Ridge, the place I tell folks that I'd like to be put in layaway.
While I'm plugging an upcoming program, here's a run down of some places I'll be speaking this busy spring. As I've said before, I could never have guessed that the "tour" continues, but it does, and it takes on new aspects. Maybe I'll see you on the road. We have a good time.
Note: I wrote the following for today's New Castle Courier-Times. I've seen these adorable tiny libraries in Hagerstown, Knightstown, and Irvington but this is New Castle's first, we believe.
New Castle's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Matt Masko says his challenge is not so much how to get people inside the church, but how to get the people inside the church to go outside it in service to their neighbors.
“The church exists for the sake of the neighbor,” he says. “We gather in worship to be sent into the world.”
A new project along those lines is the church’s new Little Free Library, located outside the front of the church at 535 S. 14th St., New Castle. It is open to one and all. The wee library is stocked by members with Bibles, study guides and other wholesome books, all available 24/7 for folks to borrow – or even keep if they wish.
The library opened Thursday, March 15.
“I was quite pleased with the donations we’ve gotten,” says Marti Allen, chair of the church’s evangelism committee that put the project together.
Committee member Callie Yanos said everyone is welcome to use it.
The committee members believe this to be New Castle’s first Little Free Library. Funds were acquired through a grant from Thrivent Financial. Church member Ron Kaufman designed and built the two library boxes. Once installed, the boxes were blessed after worship by Masko. All materials were donated by members.
Along with the Bibles and study guides are Christian materials, good literature for both adults and children, fiction and nonfiction books.
According to information from the Little Free Library organization, there have been more than 65,000 of the libraries installed around the world.
Have you ever heard of a sunshine box?
More than 50 years ago, sometime after Grandma Jobe came to live with us, the ladies from her church, probably the WSCS group (Women’s Society of Christian Service, predecessor of the United Methodist Women) sent her a sunshine box.
The tall cardboard box appeared wrapped on the outside with a collage of paper flowers but the top of the box was open. I’m thinking they made the collage with pages from seed catalogs. As a little girl, I thought it was beautiful.
Inside were a variety of personal-care products Grandma could use. I’m picturing a pink container of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, for example. There was a devotional book – and I have it today on my bookshelf and a variety of other small gifts that Grandma could use or enjoy – such as the bright pink peppermint discs she always kept in her candy jar.
Of course being a little girl I was very interested in these gifts to Grandma.
But the takeaway was and is that I thought it was wonderful that they thought of Grandma in this way. More than the gifts, it was the thought that a group of friends thought about my grandma and cared for her. Each individual gift wasn’t costly or all that significant. But when gathered in that pretty box, they made an impact that I remember half a century later.
Last week I assembled a sunshine box for a friend who has a long-term illness and won’t get to return to her home for a while.
I gathered some books from my own collection that I thought she would enjoy reading and that I don’t need back, some envelopes, postage stamps, a clipboard with a notepad, some hand sanitizer, and small packets of tissues, some of my favorite teas and a new product I recently found and love.
Then I wrapped most of them singularly, just for drama. I gave her a choice to open the packages all at once or to open one a day. She chose to open one a day to stretch out the fun. A little something to look forward to.
One can’t have too much sunshine, can she? My friend lives in another part of the state and I can’t get over to see her much. But through these small tokens, she’ll see that I care. And that I’m sending her sunshine.
Have you ever heard of a sunshine box? Or received one?