Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kale chips are not potato chips and the beauty of mindfulness

For at least a year I've been reading on different blogs about delicious kale chips. I bought two big bunches of organic kale at Whole Foods and finally, yesterday, I set about making my fake potato chips. I found a recipe online that was five stars, it was kale, olive oil and sea salt.

After carefully washing my kale, putting it in the salad spinner to remove all moisture, tossing it with the olive oil and sea salt, then spreading it out in a single layer on my biggest cookie sheet, baking ten minutes at 275 degrees, flipping each piece of kale over and baking another ten minutes, I sat down for what I expected to be a delicious treat.

They were crunchy and beautiful. I took a bite and my conclusion, YUK! Are you kidding me?! I had a mouthful of nasty, powdery, KALE. Disgusting. I don't know how anyone could say they taste "just like potato chips". They tasted just like...well, baked kale.

I went back and looked at the recipe and reviews again. I had followed it exactly and there were over a 1,000 reviews with an average of five stars out of five stars ( I guess you really can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I ended up crumbling the "chips" into my beef-barley soup I had made before I knew I had cancer. Beef is off my list of cancer-fight foods I can eat, but I had made this soup and froze it over a month ago. There's only about two ounces of beef per serving so I'm finishing it off since it's so good. Next time I'll make it with free-range organic chicken and chicken broth. The crumbled kale added a vegetable to my soup so that was good, but baked kale chips eaten as potato chips are an urban myth.

Life is good right now. Even though I found out yesterday my husband's defense attorney is going to request a continuance of the June 11 criminal trial, which frustrates me, I'm still feeling the calm of peace after my cancer diagnosis.

I'm really focusing on mindfulness these days which is truly amazing. It really makes you stop and smell the roses along the way. I even put the mindfulness bell app on my cell phone (get it at the Google Play Store). It chimes at me periodically during the day. This makes me stop and take stock on where I am, what I'm doing and what I'm feeling. It amazing at how beautiful life is when you actually pay attention to it.

I've missed too many wonderful moments in life because I was too busy to notice and rushing through life, as though it was something I just wanted to get through. I really think cancer changes a person's life for the better. It's hard to explain until you experience it, but I've really been appreciating the small moments of beauty in my life. Whether it's the beauty of a bouquet of simple pink carnations or my blooming cherry tree in my front yard or the sun on face during these gorgeous spring days or my kitty sitting on my lap, purring as I stroke his fur, it's all good, and I finally feel a peace and happiness I've never experienced before. It's as though the cancer has been a blessing. Mindfulness. Try it, you'll like it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Be gentle with yourself

Be gentle with yourself. How many times have I received this advice over the years? From my friends, my relatives, my coworkers and my blog friends (who I consider real friends).

I heard the words, but I didn't listen to them. I didn't know how to be gentle with myself. I didn't know how important it was to really live these four little words, "Be gentle with yourself".

The diagnosis of cancer is opening my eyes to so many things. Staring my own mortality in the face is making me take stock of my life. I'm seeing things so differently now. I never would have done this without cancer. I would have continued stumbling through life, dealing with things like I always have, filled with anger at the unfairness of it all. I have always stressed out over the smallest things, and the bigger the event, the bigger the stress reaction. Now I have to step back, re-evaluate and think about what I'm doing to my body internally when I react to external forces.

I'm reading a couple really good books, one is about dealing with cancer (or any serious illness, but the focus is on cancer), and the other one is preventing cancer. Preventing a recurrence of cancer is the same as preventing cancer.

Love, Medicine & Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. is an amazing book. Dr. Siegel is a traditional medical doctor and writes about patient empowerment and the choice to live fully and die in peace. I love this book! The other book that I highly recommend for everyone, even if you don't have cancer (and especially if you don't want to get cancer) is The Definitive Guide to Cancer by Lise N. Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn A. Gazella. This book takes a holistic approach to cancer prevention (and recognizes the benefits of traditional medicine). It focuses on nutrition, diet and stress reduction. It's also an excellent book. I love how they talk about the 80/20 rule. Eat clean 80 percent of the time, and it's okay if you bend the rules other 20 percent. In other words, a cookie now and then won't kill me.

Here's an excerpt from The Definitive Guide to Cancer, page 40-41. This is from chapter three, Prevention is Paramount:

"But for those of us trying to prevent cancer recurrence, enhancing our overall health will help add quantity and quality to the years we have left. The first step in making changes and setting goals is to access where you are right now. So to that end, and without judgement, take some time to evaluate your life. On a piece of paper, write down your answers to these questions:

1. How many hours a week do you spend working?

2. How many hours a week do you spend playing?

3. How many hours a week do you spend doing some type of spiritual practice (praying, mediating, volunteering, connecting with nature)?

Next, make a list of activities, things, and people that make you feel happy, at peace, and fulfilled. How many hours a week do you spend with those people or doing those things? At the end of your life, no matter when that occurs, what will you cherish more:  money or moments, power or peace; chaos or caring? A life well lives is a life well loved, and that begins with self-love. Don't let everyday obstacles get in the way of such devoted self-love."

Now if that doesn't make you want to buy this book, I don't know what will. It's filled with this type of thinking, as well as a lengthy discussion on nutrition and diet.

If nothing else, cancer is life changing. Even if I only have a few years left, I intend to make those the best years possible. Whether it's five or twenty-five, I intend to have a life well lived.