The best I can do is paint a picture with words about the Wise Women of Diabetes retreat at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center in upstate New York. Pumpkin Hollow is nestled in the foothills of the Taconic mountain range close to the Berkshires. The terrain is hilly and woodsy with a meandering stream that winds its way through the 130 acre grounds to a waterfall next to the meditation dome. Rustic guest cabins are nestled in strategic spots. Since the Hollow was originally a farm there is a big old main house which lodges a comfortable salon with a welcoming fire place and cozy chairs, a library that beckons readers to explore its quiet bliss, and the kitchen commissary and dining hall whose windows open out to welcome in the greenery of tall trees. Up the rickety winding staircase one finds small bedrooms and baths to house guests. The carefully tended organic garden is in close reach to the kitchen and provides the delights of harvest squashes and a myriad of delicious and nutritious greens for our meals. The old red barn has been converted into a meeting room and another small structure houses a meditation center. There are trails to explore in the woods. If you make it up to the very top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with a magical labyrinth. I hope I have given you a sense now of what Pumpkin Hollow looks and feels like. This is the setting for our Wise Women of diabetes annual retreats. Hope you can make it to the next one.
So who are these wise women and what makes them wise? Well it all began at the first Diabetes Sisters conference in Raleigh Durham, NC in 2010. It was a wonderful event for women with the common bond of diabetes coming together as sisters to celebrate themselves and share with each other the many facets of living life with diabetes. One part of the gathering was devoted to exercise and movement with belly dancing and tai chi sessions. In the course of coordinating their programs, the instructors, Connie Hanham-Cain MSN, RN, CDE and your humble author, discovered they shared another common bond of Schenectady, New York. They felt there was something serendipitous about them meeting like this at a DS conference and the two chatted about pursuing a venue in upstate New York at a future date.
Fade to black - months later Connie reached out to Judith and other Diabetes Sisters who had attended the Raleigh-Durham meeting, with news of a very special spot called Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center that had the potential to hold a meeting for any DS in the area. Janet Doucette, MA, LMHC loved the idea and the group of three decided to check out Pumpkin Hollow. Right away they knew it was the perfect spot. Plans began. After months of marathon conference call conversations, a mission statement and model was created.
D.A.R.E. to Self-Care
Diabetes Self -D.A.R.E. (Discovery, Awareness, Respect and Empowerment) became the model for the retreat. It would address the needs of women who might struggle to remember to check their blood sugar and those who put everybody else’s needs before their own. It would emphasize the importance of adequate rest and exercise, making healthy food choices and those women who sometimes feel misunderstood or overwhelmed by diabetes. The retreat would offer holistic experiential learning focusing on diabetes self-care, dance, movement, hiking, meditation, tai chi and evidenced based classes in energy field therapy, self- awareness, biofeedback and stress management all facilitated by expert practitioners who themselves live with diabetes.
The first retreat took place in Fall of 2014 with a three -day adventure of mindful and holistic paths for diabetes self-care. This September we held our third annual retreat. Here’s a little glimpse of what went on. Friday night after enjoying a delicious dinner from the garden we headed up to the media center where we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, learned about writing a journal with Janet, developing diabetes body awareness with Connie and ending with a few minutes of sleep inducing tai chi stretches with Judith (me). Early morning wake-up bell called for energizing our bodies with exercises by the stream followed by a hearty and nutritious breakfast. Breakfasts are always a major meal at Pumpkin Hollow based on the philosophy of “breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess and dinner like a pauper.” We needed that big breakfast to give us stamina for the busy day ahead. Classes on meditation with Janet, joyful eating and managing food cravings with Gita Patel RS, RD, CDE, CLT and practical diabetes wisdom with Connie filled the morning.
After another delightful meal at the welcoming commissary we attended more practical diabetes classes including the importance of getting a restful sleep. After a Qi Gong breathing break some of the women tried their hands at art work with Ann Marie De Nino, some walked up to the labyrinth and others opted to linger for a snooze in the lazy hammock. Time for dinner and an evening of letting go with creative belly dancing with Connie followed by a meditative “soul journey” with Janet. Sunday morning, a final stretch, a cooking class, session on giving self-kindness to oneself and soon the day began to wind down. Time to gather and contemplate the aspects of wisdom learned from this retreat experience. Then there were hugs and singing and wishes to each other for the gift of sisterhood bolstered with a new energy and vitality that sent us forth as strong and wise diabetes sisters who D.A.R.E.