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Christmas Ornaments

Have you wondered where and how the tradition of decorating Christmas trees came from? According to the Old World Christmas website, the tradition started in 723 while Saint Boniface was traveling through Germany, he met a group of people who were dancing around a decorated oak tree. They were preparing to sacrifice a baby in the name of Thor (a pagan god).

He was angry and very upset. He copped down the oak tree proclaiming the act in the name of Jesus Christ. When the oak tree fell, legend states it revealed a small fir tree. The priest explained to the astonished group that the fir tree is a symbol of the one true God. Its leaves are forever green and will not die. The needles point to heaven. The evergreen trees were then brought into the homes and decorated in the name of Jesus.

The first decorated trees were adorned with apples, white candy canes, and pastries shaped in the form of stars, hearts, or flowers. Glass-blown ornaments were added in the mid-1500s.

Many people put a star or angel on the top of the tree, Lights are added as symbols that Jesus is the light of the world and the star that led the three Wisemen to Bethlehem. in a new tab)

Families have favorite ornaments that have special stories or meanings. We had three stars of red, white, and blue that were hung next to each other in honor of our WWII veterans.

Our exchange student from Switzerland was surprised that we decorated our tree 1-2 weeks before Christmas. His family always decorated on Christmas Eve and used lit candles. (They never had a fire)!

What ornaments have special meaning for you? Are there special traditions you follow when decorating the tree? Please share your stories.

Christmas Trees

Why do we have Christmas trees at this time of year? How did this tradition start?

In ancient times, before Christianity, many people believed that those plants that remained green during the winter protected them from evil spirits. It was a common belief that the sun was a god who became ill and weak causing cold and dark days to remind them that the sun god would soon be well.

In the early history of Egypt, the sun god, Ra, had a hawk for his head and a bright sphere in his crown. The people used green palm fronds during the winter solstice to celebrate life’s triumph over death.

The anticipated return of green farms and orchards in early Roman times was celebrated by decorating their homes with evergreen boughs.

In northern Europe, the Celts and Scandinavians celebrated everlasting life by decorating their temples with the greenery of evergreens.

From a cancer patient: On that Chemo Christmas Eve of 2014, I made room for that sparse little tree in our portrait because no matter how crappy I felt, I wanted to capture the promise it symbolized in the moment — it’s cold and dark out now, but green survives. I will survive…Even during my personal season of darkness, I never stopped searching for the smallest hint of green in a world with cancer — and with that green, a promise of life.

Please read this article about a man who helps cancer patients get free trees for Christmas.

According to Dr. Jill Sidebottom of NC State University, there is no higher risk for cancer for those living in or near the forests of NC. In fact, cancer rates in NC mountain counties are for the most part lower than other counties in North Carolina. This has been true since the 1990s. Read more at:

When you decorate your home with a tree, wreaths, and garland, think about the promise of new life, healing, crops, and sunshine that evergreens have represented for thousands of years. Due to the arctic blast affecting most of the continental USA, we need the warmth, smells, and promises of Christmas trees and garlands.



You might think, “I do not want to read or hear about cancer when this is a season of joy, family, food, and gratefulness. THOSE ARE THE VERY REASONS WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT CANCER AS WE PREPARE FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

Wishing you each a blessed Thanksgiving filled with love, compassion, peace, and gratitude.


When providing care when someone is ill can be overwhelming. This is a presentation on three such roles: caregivers, caretakers, or care partners. These are strictly my definitions based on my own experience as a nurse, mother, wife, and patient.

To me, a caregiver is someone who gives care based on what he or she thinks the person needs or wants. This is a common definition and is often performed by nurses and medical staff personnel. Outside the medical community, the caregiver provides basic help in the home and tends to the personal needs of the patient (bathing, walking, exercising, cooking, etc.).

One who is a caretaker (not at the cemetery), provides care based strictly on what he or she thinks the patient wants or needs. Time for a bath, go for a walk, you must eat this, take these pills, and so forth.

At the beginning of my cancer journey, Jim was a caretaker. Based on my personality, I wanted a caregiver. We talked and he understood and became the best caregiver any person could want or need.

November 2008

Over the past 14 years, he has moved into the role of a care partner. Such people give care based on what the patient says or needs, and what is most helpful and safe. They listen to the patient. They share their thoughts about what is needed and wanted, coming to a decision that is best for the loved one. They are truly partners.

The important lesson to be learned when a loved one needs care is to provide safety and loving care. It is vitally important to encourage their independence…do not enable them. The goal should always be encouraging healthy choices, independence, and full recovery.

Learn more in my book, Outshine, An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. All proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research.


I have deleted my account on Facebook for a variety of reasons. It was not an easy decision, but one I do not regret. Here is a little history:

  • Facebook was launched on October 28, 2003, under the name Facemash.
  • Then it was relaunched as The Facebook on February 4, 2004.
  • It was founded by Mark Zuckerman and his friends at Harvard University.
  • Initially intended for only Harvard students.
  • In September 2006, it was open to everyone with an email and to those at least 13 years old.
  • The original purpose was to help college students connect with one another.
  • Today it has 2.5 billion users.

The disadvantages or cons of FB:

  • Some people are addicted to it.
  • Others are on FB during their work schedules.
  • An easy target for viruses
  • High incidence of identity theft
  • It can lead to antisocial behavior
  • Can put a strain on a relationship

The number of scams, bullying, stalking, and harassment is frightening. Once a photo, statement, or threat is posted, it is there forever. Too often, the lives of young people have been damaged or driven to suicide.

My small voice will not change the FB mania and its control worldwide. I may well lose contact with potential followers of this blog, readers of my books, or happenings with family and friends.

I plan to stay in touch with family and friends through emails, this blog, and phone calls. Safer, friendlier, and no risk of identity theft.


The storms of life can occur in many forms: an unexpected death, a life-threatening diagnosis, or a natural disaster. When any of these events occur, we are often like a ship in a storm with our sails and rudder unused.

We struggle with such questions as:

  • Why me?
  • How will I get through this?
  • Can anyone help me?
  • Where is God?

Our son-in-law died unexpectedly at the young age of 59. Though he was the specimen of perfect health, he was unaware his heart was dangerously in need of surgery.

The storm of cancer has been in my life for 14 years, ebbing and flowing with intensity. My lessons are the same: taking good care of my body and living in the moment with love.

These events and the devastating hurricane Ian did prompt me to look at my life. How have I reached out to others? Have I been judgmental? Have I been prejudicial? Have I lived in the moment with love?


  1. Gratitude…shows us that real joy can come in the midst of the hardest time.
  2. Family & friends…storms bring. people closer together
  3. Change behaviors…be more patient, understanding, humble, loving, etc.
  4. Storms show us who we are and about those around us.
  5. New strengths can be developed
  6. Storms remind us of what is truly important.

As we face various storms, we may well need to adjust the sails and steady the rudder. We can be better, stronger, and more loving.


In her award-winning book, Last Acts of Kindness, Judith Redwing Keyssar, writes about her experience in the field of palliative care providing emotional and spiritual guidance and support. She describes how she helped people in their dying processes.

From the preface: I have watchedpeople change drastically and open to life in new and unexpected ways, after being at the bedside of a loved one. The simplest and most profound lesson that I have learned ver and over again is that love is truly all that matters, and in the end, a force much greater than our small human lives connects us all.

 Ms. Keyssar is an author, Palliative Care Clinician, poet, and educator. She is an advocate for the understanding and acceptance of palliative care and care for the dying.

She leads three poetic medicine workshops each week. These workshops are all virtual and are being attended by people all over the world. No writing experience is required.

Here are the links to the three workshops:

Food for Thought Poetry for Resilency

Loss, Losing, and Loosening poetry for grief and loss.

Wounded Healer 

I am honored to call Ms. Keyssar a friend. We first “met” through the Internet since we are both ovarian cancer survivors, authors, and public speakers. When she came to the Orlando area to receive an award, we had a wonderful in-person time together.

It is my great pleasure to feature her on this blog. Her website is She welcomes your comments or questions. She can also be reached at UCSF Meri Center for Education in Palliative Care at Mt. Zion. or 415-509-8645

Just as a side note: I have closed my FB and Smashwords accounts.


The recent storm, hurricane Ian, left devastation to many. Lost property, loss of lives, and large economic impact.

So many homes lost...where will the people go?
Dreams to rebuild them? to safely travel by car?
Food, clothing, basic possessions to replace
Family photos and momentoes...irreplacable!



Thank you for your help and your prayers.


The last three days of September are a mixture of uncertainty and joy. Hurricane (Himicane) Ian is creating a large amount of uncertainty and it has yet to reach land here in Florida. The different models are now in agreement it will land in Florida, but exactly where is unknown.

Regardless of where “he” comes ashore, “he” is going to create havoc throughout most of the state. I think of the 3 pigs and the big bad wolf. The one pig had a house made of straw, the second one made of sticks, and the third pig’s house was made of bricks. Just as in real life, the wolf is portrayed as a hurricane that will blow down those homes that are not as sturdy. Flooding and storm surges are a threat to any house, and tornadoes that are within the hurricane can destroy even the “brick homes,” but less likely.

My joy in September is the beautiful support people have given as they have learned more about gynecologic cancers. On Monday I received a call from a friend whose cousin was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This lady is an RN and has worked in hospice for many years, but did not know about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. This is the very reason why I (and others) work so hard to get the message out.

My deepest thanks to each of you who read my blogs, donated to my “Teal Takeover” fundraiser, and forwarded the information to your friends and family members.

Let’s be like the pig who built a house made of bricks: he educated himself to know how best to protect himself. We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves from the storms of life and share our knowledge with others.


Meet 5 amazing women who share about thie journeys with one of the gynecologic cancers:

LYNN’S STORY: Uterine cancer survivor. Diagnosed at age 32. Symptoms: change in the menstrual cycle, fatigue, then profuse vaginal bleeding. She was diagnosed with clear cell carcinoma and had surgery and radiation. Her advice: I learned to write down all my questions in a notebook and take that with me—and to take someone else with me to hear it. Listen to your body—it does tell you things. Don’t pooh pooh something. It’s really just about listening to your body. It’s about knowing yourself.”

TIFFANY: Ovarian cancer diagnosis at age 32. Bloating and unexplained weight gain were the initial symptoms. The doctor ordered an x-ray and an upper endoscopy, followed by a CT scan one month later. A hysterectomy was performed followed by chemotherapy. Tiffany wants women to know that the PAP smear does not detect ovarian cancer. My advice to women would be listen to your bodies; don’t assume that it’s just nothing. Make sure that it’s just nothing. Remember you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else!

ANA R.: Cervical cancer diagnosis at age 36. Abnormal vaginal bleeding. For 8 years she had abnormal PAP smears and she was not told she had HPV. After some surgeries and chemotherapy, Ana is cancer free. I want women to know they need to take care of themselves. Don’t skip your annual exams, and if you feel something is amiss with your body, don’t worry about bothering doctors or upsetting them. This is your life! I also want people to know that my generation could potentially be the LAST generation to have cervical cancer. We can eradicate this disease by vaccinating our children, daughters AND sons. This is my mission now: to share my story so that others don’t have to go through what I went through.

TERESA: Vulvar cancer diagnosis age 40. Her symptom was a large and hard bump, which required two surgeries to completely remove the cancerous bump. It was caused by the HPV virus. Teresa stated Vulvar cancer might manifest in a way that causes shame, because you could conclude that you have an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and not want to get that embarrassing news. But I’d much rather be embarrassed and alive than modest and dead. Early detection is key. And if you have children who are preteens or teens, please get them vaccinated against HPV.

SARAH: at age 38 diagnosed with vaginal cancer. Her symptom was spotting after intercourse. She tested positive for HPV. Her treatment was radiation and chemotherapy. My message to other women is this: ask your doctor about Pap and HPV tests. Screenings are important to catch any problems early, when they are more treatable. Do not let fear, embarrassment, or shame prevent you from finding the help you need. You are not alone!

Thank you for reading these stories. For more stories go to,,,