Monthly Archives: October 2013

Words to Live By

Today marks the beginning of my Dad’s third round of chemotherapy. (In case you missed it, he was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma which is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.)  I texted him this morning and wished him luck and cheerfully reminded him that after tomorrow, he is half way through his treatments. Three down, three to go.

Guys, I honestly cannot convey how proud of him I am. I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of this journey with him and very clearly, he didn’t either. Through the process so far, I have reconnected with my long, lost half sister to keep her updated, worked on getting them to talk again and have been in touch near daily with my Dad. My Dad, that I went 2.5 years without speaking to once. Not on purpose mind you, we just…didn’t talk.  I honestly cannot fathom that the way things stand right now.

I text him and email him regularly. I call him every couple weeks to check in and man, is he just kicking ass and taking names. Considering that he is getting some pretty strong shit and has no insurance so sees the numbers quickly adding up, I can’t believe how strong he is.When I talk to him, other than a few days post white-cell-boosting-shot where he feels like he has an AWFUL flu, he is just…tired. That’s it. He’s not ill. He’s not bemoaning how he is. He is outside ‘trying to be productive’. He is shopping with his girlfriend. He is watching his friends all chip in to help him with firewood and cooking. Dad said yesterday that he almost forgot he was sick during the last couple days, he felt so good, until he saw or felt the massive port on his chest. I mean REALLY NOW!? He has cancer cells in his bone marrow for crying out loud and he’s just all “oh yeah, I felt so good I almost forgot I had cancer.” He has such an amazing attitude about it all. Stellar I tell you. I just cannot explain my pride to you.  I have that DNA in me. How can I ever think of quitting when I have THAT in me?

Just as an aside, cancer ain’t cheap folks. If you have insurance, or live in a country with a single payer system, please thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to heal and recover with hundreds of thousands of medical bills piled on top of you. It is a travesty, this system of ours, where one shot can cost $14,000 in one town, $7,000 in another and yet $4,500 in the same town but a hospital over. Or a whole $2,500 in Canada. I know, I digress but…ugh. My Dad. I worry.

I know I’ve written about Dad before on the blog.  Some of you might have even seen this piece that I am incredibly proud of. It’s just that our relationship continues to grow and morph into something I never could have possibly expected. A loving relationship with zero expectations.  Dad doesn’t expect me to call every 5 days or text daily. He doesn’t expect emails from me five times a week and doesn’t get bent out of shape if I don’t respond. I don’t expect any of those things from him either. We text, call or email when we are thinking of one another and it feels special that way. Nothing is ever a duty or a chore. It’s never something I have to do and because of that, it’s a joy. It’s a joy to text him or call because I know there are just no strings and no expectations attached.

That sort of relationship seems so rare. Even when you think something has no strings, there is guilt if you don’t keep the contact, or hurt when they don’t keep up with  you. It happens. I’ve had so much of that in my life. I treasure the friends that I don’t keep up with but when I call, they love me just the same and are happy to hear from me. This is what it’s like with my Dad.  He checks in before each chemo treatment to see how I’m doing so he has ‘good thoughts’ before he goes in. I am hoping I can help heal his relationship with my sister too, since the silence is purely due to issues with anxiety over expectations. When I spoke with her on the phone for the first time in over 20 years, she seemed shocked that I didn’t care about the 20 years. The truth was, I didn’t. What does it matter? I was just happy to talk to her and share our Dad’s struggles with her. Dad wasn’t expectant either that she rekindle her relationship with him. He was just happy WE were talking.  I spend a lot of time lately thinking about this relationship and how I can create or cultivate that freedom and that love in other relationships.

Just today, Dad and I checked in. He’s tired after the six hour treatment today. Naturally. He asked how I was and I was honest – I am anxious, tired and stressed. His response was so sweet guys, I have to share it with you. His words, knowing how soft he is, how loving and sensitive he is – actually brought tears to my eyes.

“Hang in there. Everything will work out with a little patience and understanding. It is all new. I love you. You will find your way.”

Thanks, Dad. I just love you a lot.

Friday Feelings

I have had company for four nights and three full days. My company has been lovely, low key, low maintenance and really a good time but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely LOVING the quiet of my apartment right now. I have been 100% alone for about four hours now, I have not uttered a single word but to the cat.  Blissful I tell you.

I know three days doesn’t seem like much (and I feel horribly guilty that I have so little staying power), but then again, the kids playing outside of the school next door might not be much to you either. A normal day for me involves a little bit of time, retreated into the bedroom with a game or a book. It sometimes has a long subway ride where I sit quietly by myself, or next to my husband, not talking. Reading. Just zoning out to myself.  For introverts and highly sensitive people a like, that quiet recharge time is SO important. It’s taken me a long time to learn this about myself, but I really do need a LITTLE alone time in my life. It helps me. It resets me. It allows me to take a breath and get back up and moving. Without it, I feel frazzled and exhausted. Yesterday morning, I was on the verge of tears because I just felt like I could NOT get up and sight see one more minute. I got up, we got food and it got better but it was touch and go for a little bit.  Add to all of that, that I live in less than 500 square feet and my friend slept on my couch in my livingroom. Add to that, that I am the only person who cooks. Who gets up and says, “Okay let’s go out!”. Who gets anything moving or makes plans.

Friends, I am toast. I really am and I am looking forward to emptying my DVR and barely leaving my apartment this weekend.

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A very close friend of mine has been ill, on and off for years.  He was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a year or two ago and while avoiding gluten made him feel better, there were still things that did not clear up. I just found out today that they are waiting on blood test confirmation, but that he most likely has Lupus.  I feel so bad that I have not been around like I should have been for him.

He can’t talk about this with his wife as she is expecting any day now and has a whole host of her own issues due to her maternal size and so forth. I worry about how prepared they are. I worry about her health (or lack there of) and their baby being healthy. I worry that she now has to deliver in a completely different town because her BMI and size has made it so that no doctors want to deliver locally. That they need to go where there is a better NICU.

All of this I’ve been worried about too. Just, lots of worry for my friend, his wife and their baby waiting to be born.

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My doula training starts two weeks from TODAY. I suddenly got a huge jolt of energy just thinking about it. Thinking about the fact that while a good chunk of my life is in chaos and is not perfect, I am taking ONE step just for me. Not for anyone else but for me. One step that will be the first of many to get where I want. At least one of the places I want to be.

I’m excited. I am hopeful. I just really want to be the support that women deserve. I want to share the love and care that I have in my heart.

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I am going to get back into writing poetry. I wrote when I was younger quite a bit. I droned on and on about lost love when I was a teenager. I loved writing.  I rediscovered it a couple years ago and have since fallen out of practice.  I’m not one of those people that words just come to. It takes work. It takes writing down things every day even if they are just a phrase or two. Even if they never make it into a ‘proper’ poem.

I really loved being able to express myself in that manner and I would like to get back into it.  I think it’s a good part of my self discovery and this journey that I am on. This path.  I have a page where I share my poetry here. As I read over the past, I realize that they are some pretty violent and sometimes graphic images. Maybe even a bit emo, so, be kind please. They are snippets from moments in my life. Some of them.  Others are simple wordplay without a deeper meaning.

I hope you like what I have written of my past and what I will write of my future.

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I think of a lot of people, often. People I’ve never met. People I have grown to love and cherish over time. People I’ve learned about by scouring their blogs, reveling in their honesty and the vulnerability in their words or perhaps their humor or way of being. I think so, so often.

I don’t think I speak up enough so I am going to try to do that. I’m going to send the emails waxing poetically about how amazing this person is when I think it.  I’m not going to worry about how odd it might sound, I’m just going to do it because I know what a difference a kind word can make.

So if you think no one is listening or watching. If you think no one is reading. Just trust me. I lurk a lot. I think a lot and I love a lot.  I’ll try to tell you more often that I saw something your child would love or that I am amazed that you are still standing. I’ll do my best to tell you that I thought of you this morning, and was proud you got out of bed or that I am proud of you for going to the Doctor.  I will work hard to tell you how SORRY I am that you’re going through so much, that you are so strong for taking care of everyone, that I see where you’re hurting even though you keep going and that I love you. I promise you that I will let you know the little things that I seem to censor day in and day out.

If you’re reading this – you’re lovely. I will try to tell you more often. I don’t want to miss my chance to let you know you’re loved and that you matter.

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Food Finds – Vegetarian Friends Edition

Howdy friends!

I’m back with a whole new round up of food stuffs. I am going to try to make this a bit of a regular thing if I can manage.

Firstly, this magazine. I’ve always loved it and so many of Eating Well’s recipes are in my favorites rotation but could rarely stomach spending over SEVEN DOLLARS on it in Vancouver. (Insert rant about the cost increases on books/magazines in Canada vs. US here. Even E-BOOKS!) The photography is so gorgeous and while it isn’t vegetarian, I still love the inventive recipes and quality food tips. It just so happens that a Groupon came around a month ago, offering a subscription to this magazine for $5.00 and I couldn’t help snatch it up. If you get an opportunity, or desire a regular subscription, I’d highly recommend it. I have yet to crack this cover but it has this weekend written all over it!

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I have been doing quite a bit of recipe sharing with some fellow vegetarians and foodies lately and some seriously good food has come out of it!  Two meals from this week came from Ashley, who I am very quickly learning to trust when it comes to dinner!

First there was this vegan corn chowder from the ever lovely Isa Chandra, from her Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook. I omitted the red peppers and used fresh poblanos that I found at the farmer’s market. It was delicious with a sweet bite of heat that I loved. I served it with a cabbage and carrot slaw, tossed with this sweet tahini dressing.  Probably not a match made in heaven but both the dressing and the chowder were fabulous. (I have yet to make the full rainbow slaw, but I bet it would be amazing! I’ve been obsessed with the dressing as is.)

Then, my favorite of this week (or so) was this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie.

Honestly. It was SO. GOOD.  As usual I did make a few tweaks for my own taste buds. Your mileage may vary. Instead of just onions, I sauteed the full holy trinity (diced carrots, celery and onions) and I also added some minced garlic and mushrooms to the pan before tossing in the lentils. I increased the sauce/flavoring ingredients a little to make up for this extra volume. The best part of the whole thing was the sweet potato and white potato mash. It was so delicious and worked perfectly with the savory filling. This will absolutely become a staple here. I’m already thinking that it would make a great Thanksgiving entree.  Thanks for the recommendations Ashley!

This Smitten Kitchen recipe for Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowls was also a smash hit in this apartment. I added some sauteed tempeh to the mix and it was such a perfect bowl. I can’t wait to eat it again. Can you tell I’m loving tahini in everything?

There are a couple things I’m loving lately when meal planning too.

Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils – As usual, TJs takes the work out of just about anything. These are such a perfectly easy way to throw some protein and fiber into your meal. I’ve added them to quinoa and veg with a bit of dressing for dinner. I’ve tossed them into savory bread pudding for a protein boost. I’ve warmed them in a bit of olive oil, tossed with goat cheese and paired them with some crusty bread.

Forbidden Rice – Oh boy, do I love this. It comes out chewier  yet softer than brown rice and not as…woody. We love it and have been using it a lot. It certainly holds up to heavier sauces like miso gravy and tahini dressings and cooks just like regular rice does. It was perfect in the miso bowls.

This post is long, I know but it shows you just how much I think about food! How about a few (okay more than a few) tasty food links that I am itching to try?

Pumpkin & Black Bean CasseroleFat Free Vegan
Easy Vegetarian CROCKPOT Refried Beans (without lard!)Kitchen Treaty (I guess I’d better get moving with buying a crockpot!)
Hot Cheesy Roasted Brussels Sprout DipCloset Cooking
Homemade Pumpkin PastaMinimalist Baker
Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake BarsAverie Cooks
Balsamic Onion & Roasted Garlic JamDinner with Julie
30 Super Fast Vegetarian Dinner Recipes in 20 Minutes or Less!Kitchen Treaty

Lastly – a little food for thought from my favorite food writer, Mark Bittman. How to Feed the World. 

What are YOU itching to cook or eat? Are there any old standby recipes you’re bringing out or maybe some new ones you’re looking to try? Please! Share!

I Never Liked the Rain Until…

Yes. I’m pretty sure I just quoted a country song from the 90’s. This is a first and most likely a last.

This morning was a bit lazy, but earlier than they have been. It was still cool and dark in my bedroom, I was cozy and warm with a book and it took a bit to rub the sleep out of my eyes. It could have also been the makeup I forgot to remove before bed last night, but I digress.  It was a perfectly lovely morning. The ones where you take big, long, gasping stretches to wake your body up. The ones where you’re content to sit with a cup of coffee, no music, no tv, just you and the cup held between your warming palms.

It was peaceful and striking. I couldn’t shake that there were words here, a beauty I wanted to capture without my always present phone camera. I couldn’t shake it. It almost made me sad that the sun would soon start to filter into my apartment and the noise of children arriving rather loudly at the schools would soon make the air busy. Breaking the calm, patient silence of my morning.  It was in that moment that I realized, I knew this moment.  I’d had moments like this before. In Vancouver.

In Vancouver, everyone is always complaining about the weather. I think it’s a ‘thing’ in the Pacific Northwest in general because we live with dreary, drizzly rain and sombre gray skies for oh, 8 months out of the year. It’s a constant, a common thread and something that is just persistent in our lives. It changes how we dress, where we go, how we walk, what we carry and where we park. I found winters in Vancouver to be rough at first and then somewhat resigned myself. It was worth it for the amazingly gorgeous summers, the sprawling ocean and the majestic mountains that meet the shore.

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The rain was something we just had to get through. When local weather people would say how the rain made our skin beautiful and kept us young, I rolled my eyes in an irritated, annoyed fashion. Yeah. Sure. And schlopping around in galoshes was good for my thighs? We just had to get used to being damp, musty and muddle through until the spring when we would all forget what we just endured, exclaiming, “It’s this the most beautiful place on earth?”

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I never appreciated it. Until this morning.

There is peace in the grayness. There is a slowness, a stillness that comes when there is no sun to wake you up. There’s an acceptance of a lingering way of life, a lengthened moment over coffee, a lack of pressure to get up and out. When the sun isn’t beating in your windows, it’s almost like nature giving you permission to cozy up on the couch with a blanket and a book. It’s nature giving you instruction to throw on a pot of soup and stop worrying for the day. Whatever it is?

It can wait.

I felt such a deep longing for Vancouver this morning. Such an appreciation for the rain and the comforting cocoon it created for me. I have missed so much about Vancouver while learning to appreciate so much about New York. Restaurants. Views. People. Things. It just never felt like it did this morning. A feeling like I couldn’t wait to feel the rain again. To hunker down when nature told me to. A deep, deep appreciation for the clouds and dreary skies.

For now, I have sun though and I can appreciate that too.

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