Sunday, October 19, 2014

Final Great Adventure...

At the age of 70, Colleen Erna Sutherland of Seymour, WI passed away on Saturday, October 4, 2014 after a nine month battle with cancer.  Colleen was born on March 17, 1944 to the late Robert and Viola (Reetz) Doersch, the third of six children.  One of her fondest childhood memories from life on the farm was when maple syrup season came and everything smelled of the sweet boiling sap.
After graduating from Seymour High School she began her professional career working for companies such as M&M Mars and Chicago Title and Trust where she handled the escrow for the Sears Tower.  It was in Chicago where she met and married Roger Sutherland.  During their travels they lived briefly in South Dakota where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in teaching at Vermillion University, later moving to Illinois where they had a Son (Christopher).  After a few years they returned to Wisconsin where she taught high school English, French, and History at Pulaski High School and then finally settled back in Seymour.  After their divorce, Colleen raised Chris while working as a singer/storyteller, performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and internationally as far away as New Zealand. 
Colleen was a published author and contributor to the arts having acted and directed community plays as well as directing choir, singing, and playing piano in church and worked with developmentally disabled children at Syble Hopp School.  Later in life she was elected to the Seymour city council and drove such community projects as establishing a farmer’s market and a tree lined walking trail between neighboring communities.  Always an environmentalist, Colleen was a regular at the crane counts and sturgeon guard.  She attended peaceful protests supporting teachers and the environment.  An avid gardener, she was always happy to cut flowers from her front yard for children passing by on their way to school.  In her retirement years, she took great joy in spending time with her Grandson Evan and camping with Gary, her partner of 30 years.
She was known to say that if something didn’t go wrong while traveling that there would be nothing to write about.  All mishaps while traveling the world were great writing material.  She had many amazing stories to share with everyone she met.
She is survived by her son, Christopher (Tisha) Sutherland, grandson Evan Sutherland, her partner for over thirty years Gary Harms, sisters Karen (Raymond) Nellis, Jeanne Doersch, Joan Downs, and brother Carl (Sue) Doersch.  She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Diane Doersch, great-nephew Tony Loniello, and brother-in-law Dee Downs.
To honor her wishes no services or memorial will be held.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to support organizations such as Wisconsin Public Television, Fox Valley Brain Tumor Coalition, the Nature Conservancy, or The Sierra Club.
The Sutherland family would like to thank the doctors and nursing staff that provided such excellent care during her final months and Colleen’s friends and family who were a part of her extraordinary life.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Still here...

A quiet day at Peabody Manor this Easter.  No Easter Services, no ten pounds of potatoes to peel for a big Easter dinner.  Spring is here.  Birds are singing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paacking for the operation

Today Chris, Tisha and  Evan took me out for my last meal before hospital food.  We went to a Chinese buffet, my favorite. There was even ice cream. We discussed Evan's new found interest in math and science. He is now doing sudoku puzzles.  As usual, he coninues to love reading.  I am so proud o my family.  They are all doing well.

Th fortune cookies boded well.

While we were gone, Gary did the laundry so I would have  the clothes I need for the hopital.

Beause I don' t like he flapping hospital gowns that leave too little o the imagination in the nether region, so I am takiing some fleece pajama bottoms.   I have a pair of suede slippers with rubber bottoms.  Crocheted slipper are nice ut slippery and I don't want to take a umble in the halls.  I know I willl be sent off to walk to get some exercise.  The ule is usually that the patient cannot leave the hospital until they have "expressed gas" (farted) and I intend to get that accomplished as soon as I can.

A couple of book s to read andng sudoku and crssword puzzles to work on.   I  am still trying to engage my brain.

I am hoping to continue to post on this blog but will have to borrrow a computer for that.  I'm not taking my notebook.   No money, no credit cards.  Gary, Chris and Tisha will be dropping in from time to time, but since mostly I will be asleep, there will be no time.

Tonight, Downton Abbey and early to bed.

Tomorrow I hope this pesky tumor is gone and I can get back to writing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Every day, Gary "airs" m out by taking me or a ride in the sunniest part of the afternoon.

This day we went over to Green Bay and the Pullein Plant which provides electricity for the city partly by generating power from the fast flowing Fox River whch reaches Green Bay here, but also from burning coal.  Hot water from from the plant flow off leaving open water for birds.  That makes it a winter birding spot.  

hHigh up the employees have placed boxes that lure in peregrin falcons though it is oo early for hem to be here now.  Yet it is one o ou earliest birding spots a we watch with binoculars as the young are fed bits of fish.  But not today.  If eggs hve been laid, they have not hatched.

There were birds.  In the bit of open ater, there were Canada geese, scaup and mallards.

What there were eagles, too, at least 17 of them  perched in the trees.   How were they making a living?   We assume by fishing, byubut they have friends.   On the ice was a carcass.  We assume that some of the employees are hunters who bring remains of deer.  The eagles were feasting on one.

From the Pullein Plant, we drove over the Frigo Bridge which was in danger of collapsing last year. The repairs were finished a f couple of months.  It's in fine shape now.

It was when we stopped to shop for some men's pajama bottom i ran into trouble.

On Monday, I will be issued one of those hospital gowns, the kind that leaves one's nether regions flapping. I wanted a pair of pajama bottoms o cover the rear. The problem was that I left my wallet at the counter.  Gary paid for my purchase.

Having a tumor is trouble enough.  It ha eroded my confidence.  Everything becomes incredibly difficult.

Gary has been good about taking charge of my treatment but along iwth that has come a sort of paternalism that is difficul for me to deal ith.  Today he went on and on about my purse and howI should have a different one.

I hate being told hat to do.   He sees it one way, mea nother.  But if this operation works,I am going to need some time off  to restore  who I am.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Birds,T umor, and Writing

We continue to work toward the operation on Monday.  Today the scheduling nurse called o tell me what I need to do efore I arrive.   First is to watch hat I ingest. I seem o e low on sodium.  I am to drink less water. Clohes are important.  I found agood pair of slipppers with rubber soles but Gary has to clean them up. My roe needs o go hrough he laundry.  I need some things o do, bu the umor has affected my eyesite so that requires a little thought. Everything goes into the little case I meant to take toKauai next month.  Oh well, things change.

To take my mind off things, Gary took me for a sunny drive to the Oconto Breakwater.  We've found winter birds there before.  Not so many today.  Usually, part of Lake Michigan has open water where ducks hang ou, but not today.  The lake is frozen solid.  I had hopes of at least seeing a northern shrik, but no.

Fact is, if there where ice fishermen in their shanties, they would be cleaning the fish they caught hrough the holes drilled hrough the ice.  They would hrow the innards out and he gulls would be waiting.  Not today.  It is even too cold for the ice fishermen.

But it was a sunny day.

Wisconsin is a green state but we wait or spring.  But Wiscosin's green includes the many conifers so it was still a lovely trip.  

I've been writing about authors ho kept at it in spite of health problems.  Today, I think of our most prolific American author, Stephen King.  Despite  his macular degeneration blindness, he coninues to write one book after another.  

So fter Monday, I hope to keep working on about  dozen books.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's finally happening

After I had  mypre-operation physical today, the decision was made.   That tumor comes out  on Monday.  So now a few last minute decisions.  If nothing else, I have to pack a bag for the hospital stay.

By the way, other than that pesky tumor, I am very healthy.

It is likely his operation will extend my life by a few years, but what to do with them?

I have been thinking lately of authors who had health problems yet went on to write.

Tonight I think about Ulyssess S. Grant, Civil War general and President  of the United States.

At the end of his life, he suffered fom cancer of the throat, probably caused  by the cigars he smoked most of his life.  he knw he was ill and worrried bout his family who would be left penniless.  It was Mark Twain who came to his rescue  with a publishing venture.  Grant would write his memoirs and  Twain would publish them.
Grant sat down with paper, pen and ink and began to write.  Month after month and even year after year, the old man wrote down his expeiences in the Civil  War.  He wound up with  a best selling book   that took care of his family.   But more important, his book is still onsidered one of the best military histories ever written.

So I figure on going on with my own writing.  it is not the money for me, it is telling the stories.   I have no idea how many months or years are in my future but they will be used writing.

Once we get past next Monday.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


This afternoon, Gary presented me with a sheet of paper with all my coming appointments.  It looks like this:

Tomorrowmorning I have my pre-operation physical with my primary MD.  I've had a lot of this kind of appointment this winter and find that winter has this advantage.  I am ready for them without  lot of worrying bout clothing.    I don't wear a bra because I can't have anything metal in the machines.  Yes there will be a CT scan tomorrow.   For the top all I need is a a turtleneck sweater, warm enough for the cool offices but with sleeves thin enough so the nurses can test my blood pressure.   Pants are fleece so they slip on and off easily.

So that is tomorrow.

The big show happens a week from today
where I will put ino into a sleep state.  At 2:15 pm the doctor starts the operation which will take around three hours.  Then it;s back to sleep.   I am sleeping this winter away and that is just fine with me.

Then a week later I'll have my first post Op and we decide what to do then during the recovery period.

And five days later it will be March.  The migrations will have started.  The tundra swans and sandhill cranes will be flying in.

I guess a brain tumor is one way to pass a Wisconsin winter. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Consultation The

Today was the day I've been waiting for, the day when decisions finally would be made after weeks of testing. Chris metGary and me t Neuro Spina to dicuss what we knew with Dr. Washer.

The tumor was growing, not shrinking.  We decided to follow his advice, surgery, which will happen next weekweek, perhaps as early as Wednesday.  Dr. Washer showed us the results he has had.  These days, a doctor doctor must have figures to show what we can expect.  
The fact is, I will be living with that darn tumor from now on, but I can add months to my life.  We looked at the stark figures and at the images of the tumor and its surroundings.   I will have the operation, but it is obviousthat for the rest of my life I will have trouble on my left side and it won't be a long life.  But then my family has never been long lived, not like Gary's who seem to go on and on and on.

I've always lived a if each day were my last and that has added to th quality of my life.  So nothing new here.


So by next week Wednesday, I go in for the cut.
Chris and I had some time o chat. I told him that I was slowly clearing up things.  Perry, our lawyer, had suggested I make out funeral instructions and write an obituary.  I've done both before but they need updating. I told Chris I don't want a memorial service or funeral, but suggested we do a digital memorial/obituary.  I hav 41 scrapbooks full of photos.  We could put my life on a DVD with photos, dates, and perhaps some of my favorite music.   Anyone that wanted one could either download it from his server or we we could send them out.  Perhaps Tisha could help me with this, she is tech and camera savvy.  We'll see how that goes.  If nothing else, they can finally throw out those dusty old scrapbooks some day.

I came home and went down for a long, long nap.  When I woke up there were two words rolling around in my head: "Joy" and "Possibilities".   I decided to live each day left to me with joy which would happen anyhow because soon the spring migrations will begin, one of the happiest times of the year.   Any time I am in nature, there is joy.  My family and friends are there, too.  Today, Pat Stone had soup delivered from Sissy's and bless and Sandy decided to add scones, cookies and other treats. Gary brought me a Blizzard from Dairy Queen I told him if this keeps up, we can call off any pall bearers if the time comes.

And Susan delivered two rocheted hats to cover my shaven head after the operation.

So now I go to take a nap with visions of posibilities swirling around in my head.  There still  will be a canoe trip down the Wolf River.  Gary does all the paddling anyhow, so I will have nothing to do but sit there and watch the water go by.  Come on spring!   There are still trips to plan, short ones, but to some lovely places.

Possibility after possibility.

During the AIDS crisis gays said, "These are not days of dying, these are the last days of living.   I thought that brilliant.  

So I go on living with all I've got.  I have a long way to go.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Moving On

The brain tumor does slow me down. Some days I do little but sleep.

But today I accomplished so much I want to celebrate.

Th first thing is to is to list it all.

I got all my 2013 reeipts together and got them mailed to my accountant in Florida.  I've known Tom since he lived in Green Bay and kept with him even after the move. He understands my odd life as a storyteller, journalist and author.  Accountants and tax preparers in Seymour do not have a clue, merely asking for forms that self-employed people don't have. So once a year, I must explain a year to Tom, who says he tells his wife all about me, how I live on next to nothing yet manage to travel the world.

I stopped at the bank for a 2013 statement of what went on.  Then it was to the Lutheran church because I needed to get an evaluation on my burial plot in the Lutheran cemetery.   Then another sotp home for my 2012 tax form.  All of this was necesssary to apply for  Medicare to help pay for my sugary costs.  We took every thing to my attorney who went through the required documents and made sure everything was in order.  Then the whole thing was mailed to the county offices.   If all goes well, I should make i through financially.

This is important because tomorrow, Chris, Gary and and I consult with the doctors, look at test results, and figure out the next step.  We hope by the end of the week, that nasty little tumor is gone.

There was another saving.  I was going to get a haircut this week but there is no point since my head will probably be shaved.   Friend Susan is crocheting a hat for me until the hair grows out again.

Gary took me off on what he calls an "airing".  I love these outings.  This one took us to Bonduel.  About the only birds out these days are turkeys, who huddle together for warmth and crows whose black feathers collect the heat of the sun.

But what we were there for was to look at modular homes, built by Amish in Indiana.  Once the house was here, the Bonduel Amish work on the cabinetry.  The work is good.  We are interested because Gary has his eye on a piece of property near Ashland and would like to put a house on it.  So we explored homes and dreamed of summers at a lake.

I came home to a long nap and during it, came up with an idea for a new short story.

And then I looked at everything I had blogged or journaled about the tumor for the past two months and realized I had almost enough words for a book.  I'll be editing that for the next month, surgery permitting.

So I move ahead, day by day.