The Happiness In Between

2

We all mark our time here on earth by dates and events, don’t we?  Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and especially January 1st all signify that a certain amount of time has passed.  We like to think about what we have accomplished, who we are as of this date, and who we want to be in the coming year.

I don’t mark my time that way much, anymore.  In fact, I try not to mark time at all.  It is difficult, especially because my brain wants to count the days in between scans, and make plans around them.  So I do my best to just live each day in the present; which doesn’t mean that I don’t think that there will be a future of course, it just means that in order to get the most from it, in order to feel good about the future, I feel that I need to be really here.  Grounded.  Anchored to the day.  What will happen today is what’s most important to me.  What to be grateful for today.  Who to see, who to talk to, confide in, laugh with.  How will I take care of myself and others?  What will my joy look like today?

Still, as the New Year approaches, it’s normal to think about the year 2014, and understandable to think about what 2015 will bring. Thinking ahead is what we humans were built to do.  I wrote at this time last year about “remembering the light,” and I stand by that in 2014.  That there can most certainly, through the dark, be light.  I think (and hope) that I am living proof of that.

Last year I wrote about not just the pain that I had suffered in 2013 (which still resonates with me) but also the joyous moments as well.  This year I think what I am most grateful for is that I only had to have treatment once, and that it was successful.  I thank g-d for that.  I am thankful that I got to spend so much time with my loved ones; whether abroad or close to home.  I had others care for me, but I also learned a great deal about how to care for myself.  This is an ongoing process—one that I’m not sure that I’ll ever have completely down, but I am proud of the fact that I have come such a long way this year in nurturing who I really am, on so many different levels.

In fact, just over this past week or two, I’ve come to not just see, but truly feel the benefits of taking the time to listen to my own body.  My mind is grateful that I’ve listened, that I’ve found the time to tune out what the rest of the world may be doing, and march to the beat of my own drum.  We’re trained to always be moving forward, to be monitoring progress with how much money we have or how many plans we have on the calendar or what our house or car looks like.  Those are nice things, but I now realize that the joy in life seems more obtainable when I am mindful of the gratitude for the things that complete my life every day.  The things that we can so easily take for granted.  Love.  Friendship.  Work. A good, long, hot shower.  Amazingly fresh produce.  The ability to be in touch with each other in a matter of moments.  Hearing your cat purr. And last but never least, g-d willing, good health.

Amazingly, what I’ve found is that the more that I connect to what I actually want to be doing (giving myself permission to release the guilt of not doing something else), the more in-tune I am to what my mind and my body needs.  When I “give in to that” (i.e. take care of myself), I am happier.  I feel healthier. Part of that I realized this weekend is disconnecting from social media, emailing, and texting.  I am that person who always has her phone on her; at work, while exercising, in my car, and it’s always on my nightstand so that first thing in the morning I can check it.  But for what?  I love keeping in touch with my friends and family, but the other parts of it—checking Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, even my own blog stats—well, it becomes consuming, doesn’t it?

On Sunday I decided to leave my phone upstairs for most of the day while SHL and I juiced, read, watched TV, napped, worked out, meditated, and did some writing.  I can only say that the combination lately of resting, spending time with my hubby at home, blogging, juicing, exercising, making time for meditation, and reading has made me feel more centered and I think in-tune with my body than ever before.   During the year when SHL works on the weekends (perhaps because I don’t want to be alone?) I tend to make plans every second of every weekend.  I’m either exercising, doing errands, cleaning the house, having brunch with friends, at a yoga class, cooking, grocery shopping, or blogging.  I love all of these things.  I love being busy, and clearly I love being around others (I miss my friends when I don’t see them often).  But rarely do I find the time to just rest.  I’m finally getting back into reading.  I’ve now napped two weekends in a row.  Instead of watching TV at night I’m looking through cookbooks. Something has shifted.  It’s as if with SHL home more, I’ve finally given myself permission to just slow down.

So 2014 has been filled with all kinds of things—fear at being told that my tumors were growing, having to make a decision about what kind of treatment to get, being scared that my body may not repair itself, that my knees wouldn’t strengthen again after my liver ablation, that my back would ache, that I wouldn’t find the commitment to juice.  Lots of fear.  Anxiety.  Making tough decisions (at least for now) that push up again my rib cage making me lose my breath when I think about them.  But it’s also the year that my body got stronger.  That I started exercising.  Juicing.  Cooking.  And, towards the end of 2014, resting.  It’s the year that my relationships strengthened.  The year that I got a best friend’s girls weekend in the Dominic Republic where all we had to worry about was whether we were going to the beach or the pool that day.  The year that my Mom and I drove up to Maine and took long walks and ate good food and relaxed at the spa and wandered around museums in autumn.  The year that SHL and I explored Europe together for the first time; that we had authentic Greek cuisine and went on a gondola ride in Venice and drank real Turkish coffee near Ephesus.  I haven’t lost my passion for traveling and seeing the world with my loved ones.  I will never lose that.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds.  I am eager to find the happiness in between the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and vacations.  I believe that as wonderful as those events are (and I truly love them), the sweetness of life actually lies in the nuggets of our every day lives.  I want to continue listening to my body, soothing my mind, taking risks, and meeting goals (if I could get something published in 2014, what can I set my mind to for 2015?).  Where will we travel to?  What adventures will we have?  How will I help to nourish others, and how will others help to nourish me?  Will my words continue to resonate with others?  What new foods may I be eating in the next year?  How much more will my spirituality grow?  I continue to strive towards being a curious, healthy, adventurous, and loving person who lives authentically.  I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.  But time on this earth is what we make of it.  Whether you keep track by days, months, or years, make every day count.

Having said that, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t believe that when the clock strikes midnight we can just all of a sudden change something major in our lives (and if you can, then more power to you!).  It’s not a bad thing to try and change something in your life that you may be unhappy with.  It’s more the “overnight/resolution” thing that I find holes in.  If I’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that we need to set intentions for ourselves every day, January 1st or not.  We need to be kind to ourselves and others, we need to listen to our gut and have more faith in our inner-ally.  I don’t intend to all of a sudden wake up on January 1st and become the most organized person (though that would be nice) or stop craving chocolate or vow to call my Aunt Edna every week.  I try every day to be the best that I can be, for myself and for others.  Sometimes I nail it.  Most of the time I don’t.  But I’m learning that’s OK.   The goal isn’t to get it perfectly.  Strive for lightness and not stress, and the feel of the whole day (and year) may shift.

So as we watch 2014 come to a close and we open ourselves up to a brand new 2015, I just wanted to wish each and every single one of you a very happy and very healthy new year. Though I try to incorporate gratitude into my every-day practice, it does also seem like an appropriate time as the New Year rolls in, to let you all know how grateful I am for your friendship, prayers, support, and love.

This year, SHL and I have decided to end 2014 and begin 2015 with rest and renewal. We are listening to our inner-ally (who said that we were tired!) and instead of traveling as we were planning to do, we have chosen to take a “staycation” instead. We hope that these few days will be filled with lots of fun and adventures (as only we can get ourselves into!), but we also hope that it will be brimming with relaxation, quiet time, and connection as well.

Having said that, I am going to be trying something:  Disconnecting from social media, texting, and emailing. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be off the grid entirely, I’m sure (I may even post here on the blog once or twice, but please forgive me if I don’t, and be sure to check back after January 5th). Basically, I want to try and “unplug”and not have my phone with me wherever I go (in fact, as I write this, I’m not even quite sure where my phone is at the moment.  Victory!).  I want to feel like I’m out of the country (we won’t get our mail, do any chores, pay any bills, or basically do anything that we don’t want to do during our staycation, hopefully!).  My goal is to re-connect with SHL and continue to give myself permission to slow down and enjoy some peace and quiet. I know that you’ll all approve.

Wishing my magnificent Team loads of happiness, good health, green juices, quiet time, love, peace, good food and drink, rest, renewal and laughter. Happy New Year!

Love,

Sam xoxo

Doing Nothing = Feeling Everything

0

“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing.  We worry too much.  We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”  — Nhat Hanh

This was the best Christmas ever.  OK, so we don’t celebrate Christmas (we celebrate Chanukah), but I still love the festivities of the month—the stockings and the holiday parties and the festive cheer.  I love all of the romantic comedies on TV like The Holiday and Love Actually (which I could watch any time of year, really), the silly movies on TV like a Christmas Story and Bad Santa,  and my favorite non-silly movie It’s a Wonderful Life (makes me cry every.single.time.  Why can’t George and Mary just have the honeymoon that they deserve?  I cringe every time Uncle Billy is at the bank, even though I know what’s going to happen. And oh that evil Mr. Potter!).  December is made for shopping, partying, eating, gathering, socializing, dancing, and laughing.  Nothing wrong with that.

So on this Christmas, even though resting is not exactly “intuitive” to our society these days, SHL and I both agreed that this holiday and the day off of work would make the perfect time to actively “rest” and disconnect.

Did I mention that this was the best Christmas ever?

We woke up leisurely—no alarm needed!  We made our way from the bed to the couch.  SHL gave me the “good spot” on the couch (which I never knew was so great because we each just naturally have our owns spots that we always gravitate towards and so I one day I just happened to lie there and was like, “oooh!”) and covered me in blankets.  He made me a delicious spinach-carrot-apple-clementine-lemon juice and we mindlessly watched TV.  Then he puttered around the kitchen while I stayed snuggled up on the couch switching between reading and watching The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce (a.k.a. GG2D), all the while drinking my juice.  I finally roused myself to eat one of the greatest breakfasts of all time—egg burritos made by my hubby (he takes these things very seriously, so the onions and garlic are first sweated out in the olive oil, the rice is toasted to perfection, my whole wheat tortillas are flawlessly steamed–never, ever microwaved—well, you get the picture).  Eggs and beans and tomatoes oh my!  Heaven.  I poured the coffee and sprinkled some cinnamon on top for that extra-special today is Christmas-and-we-don’t-have-to-go-to-work-even-though-it’s-a-Thursday.

Back to the couch we went.  We caught up on some great stuff on our DVR and flipped through whatever else was on TV at the moment.  We went back to reading.  We napped.  Late in the day I made my way into the kitchen and made some homemade cranberry biscotti with dark chocolate, pecans, whole wheat pastry flour, honey, and fresh cranberries.  I also decided to try a brownie recipe with less butter, honey instead of sugar, almond flour, and cocao powder. Later on as the sun set and we began to yawn (from doing nothing), we made dinner and then listened to some of the music that SHL and his band have been recording during their jam sessions.  We crawled into bed and marveled at how a day doing almost nothing (except just the things that we wanted to do) could feel so awesome.

And while it may seem that this post is a take on Seinfeld’s episodes about “nothing,” I gently nudge you to think about the last time that you really and truly just rested, and how it felt.  You may be surprised at how much it replenishes not just your body, but your mind as well.  I highly recommend it.  Since Christmas is such a busy time of year for so many, then my wish for you is that when the last of the decorations have been put away and the fruitcakes have been eaten, you consciously take a day (or two, or three) to do nothing (except just the things that you want to do).  xo.

A Moment to Remember

0

Happy almost Christmas Eve to those of you who celebrate!  SHL and I will be lighting the menorah for the last night of Chanukah tonight and then eating some potato latkes.  But I wanted to let you all know that the bakeapple pie was a success!  The crust, however, was not.  (That is, if you measure success by appearance, which I think I’ll end up proving is actually not the definition of success).  To look at the pie you would have thought that it resembled just berries with some shrunken crust laying on top.  But I think I know what I did wrong:  I was afraid to put in too much ice water, so perhaps I didn’t put in enough.  When I took the discs wrapped in Saran out of the fridge and tried to roll them out, they were a little bit crumbly and the top wouldn’t fit across the whole pan!

A few hours later SHL came home from work.  He opened up his cards and gifts, took some birthday calls, devoured the mac ‘n cheese, and then I shooed him out of the kitchen so that I could warm up the pie.  I wish that it looked graceful and Martha Stewart-like, but in my heart, I know that kind of stuff isn’t really important to SHL.  So I placed a candle in it and brought him in.  He seemed intrigued, and not just because there was just a little pile of crust in the middle of all of these berries!  He loves pie, but he didn’t know what kind it was.  When I told him that it was bakeapple, his face went from confusion to delight.  “But… how?”  He asked, knowing full well that cloudberries aren’t something that are on every grocery shelf here in the States.  I had him make a wish (something that I think is really important to do on your birthday) and quickly served him a big piece of birthday bakeapple pie, then watched him begin to tear.  “It tastes just how I remember it,” he said softly, closing his eyes as he took another bite.  I could see in that birthday moment that what was a bite of pie had quickly become childhood memories that resounded with love and comfort, transforming itself into marital joy for the gratitude of knowing him well enough to know that this would be special to him.  It was one of the best moments of my life.

It truly felt like a testament to what not just food can do for us, but what putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes can do for us as well.  When I think about the fact that SHL left his life in Canada to come here and be with me (albeit, he definitely wanted to), I feel that bringing in some aspects of “home” for him in little ways is just one way to show that I value him– and that I value his family, his culture, and where he came from.  I love the memories that we’re making together as a married couple living here, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a past where important things happened with his friends and family back in Canada (bakeapple pie included). Living here, life has mostly been about my friends and family.  I guess this was a way to say, “Hey, I know that you sometimes miss home.  I know that you have fond memories back there.  Let’s remember them.” Mostly, I just want to make him happy in whatever ways that I can, and it’s not even that selfless, because of how happy it makes me in return.

I suppose that this is exactly what I mean when I write about the “little moments,” that in fact, aren’t really that little at all.  I cherish celebrating birthdays with my husband (and with all of you), and I proved to myself (and anybody else who needed to hear this) that just because something doesn’t look perfect on the outside, doesn’t mean that it can’t create a perfect moment on the inside that you’ll always remember.

 

 

The Nooks and Crannies of Joy

0

Today I get to have an “ideal” day.  A cold wintry Sunday, the shortest day of the year (extra Vitamin D today!), is such a good time to just curl up at home and not have to go out.  This is the first weekend probably since May (or maybe it just feels that way?) where I don’t have a ton of plans.  Though all of my outings the last few months have been invigorating (I really take advantage of the weekends to connect with friends and family, maybe go into the city or take a yoga class), I am so relieved that I can just spend this one at home.

I plan on spending the day in my pj’s as much as possible.  This morning I’m going to be baking my first ever pie– so “holiday-ish,” right?  It’s actually for SHL’s 35 birthday, which is today.  6 years ago I went up north (wayyy up north) to Goose Bay Canada with SHL to meet his family for the very first time during Christmas.  It was so cold the whole time and there was just so much snow on the ground that we didn’t even venture out that much (not that there is that much to see, sorry honey).  One of the things that he was really excited to have me try was his Mom’s bakeapple pie.  Yum, I thought.  An apple pie?  During Christmas, in the cold?  Sounds lovely.  I could picture myself all curled up on the couch with a slice of the pie and maybe a little vanilla ice cream and a fire roaring and the smell of apples and cinnamon wafting throughout the house.  Negative.  Bakeapple pie has nothing to do with apples (to this day, I still don’t understand why they call it this).  It is actually cloudberries, whatever the heck those are.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I almost wanted to spit it out!  Maybe because I was expecting apple and got something else (if I remember correctly, very tart), or maybe because cloudberries are pretty gross (or just not something that we’re used to eating)– whatever the reason, my daydream of a warm winterish apple pie suddenly vanished into something non-edible.  But SHL ate it right up, this cloudberry “thing.”  Turns out that it’s a special dessert native to Labrador, where he’s from, and he still talks about it sometimes when we talk about our favorite foods (I later found out that cloudberries can survive really cold temps, which is probably why they’re so popular in that neck of the woods).

So on his 35th birthday, I decided that I wanted to make him this bakeapple pie.  After all, he moved to the States for me and misses his Donair pizza and beef jerky.  I had to order the cloudberries off of Amazon, as apparently they’re really hard to get in the States.  I looked up a recipe online, and this morning, I’m going to bake my first ever pie.  The question is, to make the crust, or not to make the crust?  I like a challenge.  (I bought a pre-made one just in case I mess up the homemade one).  We’ll see how it turns out.

I can’t wait until he comes home from work so that I can watch him open up his cards and his presents.  Then I’ll make him another favorite– homemade mac ‘n cheese for dinner!

Birthdays have always been super important to me.  I’ve always loved celebrating mine, and those that I love.  It’s important to be there for each other in the tough times, but it’s also important to celebrate the good times, too.  And with my eyes wide open to those good times, I realize now that they’re abundant.  It doesn’t just have to be in a birthday, holiday, or anniversary.  It can be in a cozy night at home giggling with your spouse while watching TV, or having a long chat with an out-of-state friend.  It can be in the gratitude of something major like a clean scan, or it can be celebrating the fact that you took care of yourself, that you took care of somebody else, that you love and that you feel loved.  If we can find the joy in the nooks and crannies of the everyday life, then I think we’re just one step closer to figuring out that happiness lies within us.  It’s not in that new car, promotion at work, or pair of earrings that we just bought ourselves.  It’s in us.  It’s always in us.  And if we believe that, if we strive towards that and live it, then we’re more likely to be happy, more of the time.  (Rather than seeking it elsewhere).  I struggle with this because I’m probably just like everybody else: finding happiness in a vacation or wearing a new outfit or buying something for our house.  But the more I tap into the notion that happiness isn’t a “thing,” that it’s within me, the closer I think I am to feeling happy for no reason at all.

That doesn’t mean that external influences or circumstances can’t also make us happy, though.  I had a goal for 2014 to have something of mine published for the very first time.  It took me months of writing and re-writing and talking about it (and talking about it some more) before I could actually gather the courage to submit a piece to a website.  “They’re probably not going to accept it anyway,” is what my “gremlin” told me (you know, that inner voice that tells you that you’re not good enough).  So when I got an email back that they wanted to publish it, I was elated.  I was told that they would probably put it up on their website before the end of the year, and while anytime really would have been amazing, I was bursting with pride that it happened this past Thursday!  I had met my goal of doing this in 2014!  What truly amazed me was the feeling of meeting that goal.  For so long, I have been scared of failing.  Or is it a fear of success?  I’m not sure.  But the outpouring of love and support for my first ever published article filled me to the brim with a sense of purpose that I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt before.

If you missed it and would like to read it, please go to www.tinybuddha.com and click on the article that says, “You Have the Strength and Wisdom to Thrive Through Hard Times.”  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/strength-wisdom-thrive-hard-times/.

From that article sprung so many lovely things:  heartfelt comments on the website, my gut telling me that it was going to be OK, safe, and even important, for me to live authentically and share it on Facebook (woa, that was major.  Telling the FB world that I have cancer).  But I think I did the right thing, and people were so supportive, it was heart-warming.  Somebody who linked from Tiny Buddha posted a question on my blog and it had nothing to do with cancer, but with making a life decision about taking a job offer.  I was in awe and honestly, over joyed that even people without cancer had taken something from my article.  That it could reach a wide audience, not just those who are living with a chronic disease.

And if you believe in the universe reaching out, as I do, then you’ll love this:  On the day that my article was published, the non-profit organization that I volunteer for (The Cancer Hope Network) emailed me to ask if they had my correct updated address.  It occurred to me that perhaps they would like to read my article, so I sent it on.  They quickly responded with asking if they could publish it not just in their quarterly newsletter, but on their blog as well!  I was so touched.  Then they read You Can Handle The Truth and asked if they could take some of my posts and re-post them on their own blog!  So if you’re interested to see what that looks like, please go to the Cancer Hope Network’s blog, found here: http://blog.cancerhopenetwork.org/.  I am thrilled and honored that what I have to say speaks to them, and that they want to share it with the CHN community.

I know that the holidays can be a crazy time of year.  Pressure to find the perfect gift, to perhaps spend money that you don’t have, to make everything from scratch, to be in 3 places at once– But do me a favor.  Take at least one day before the end of this year to do something that you want to do (I want to make the mac ‘n cheese and the pie, but I’m also going to take some time today to curl up with my book as well).  It doesn’t matter if it’s calling up a friend and having a good laugh, bundling up and taking a walk by yourself just to get some peace and quiet, or making a pact to add some fruits and veggies before the fruitcake:  Just remember to take care of you (I’m here to remind you that you’re just as important as anybody else!).  I am trying to practice what I preach, so I realize that it’s not easy.  But if the notion of taking good care of ourselves is at least a seed planted in our minds, then we’re more likely to strive towards getting that seed to grow, and then bloom.  xoxo.

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Juice

1

When you go looking for answers, expect to find them in unlikely places.  While there is no answer as to why I have cancer at the age of 37, there is an answer as to how to feel more connected to your body.  More empowered.  It’s a sense of control, really.  Cancer can make you feel so out of control, but nurturing yourself can feel so good.  Like, “Why I haven’t I been doing this forever?”

In a world (or at least a country) where it’s totally normal to be sleeping less than 8 hours a night, eating packaged foods on the go, and living paycheck-to-paycheck, it almost seems “odd” or “hippy-like” to slow down and want to live more in-the-moment (yoga and meditation have taught me so much!).  To not want stress to overtake your life. If you caught me letting lots of people into traffic ahead of me or taking my time ordering my Starbucks coffee in the morning, you would think that either I lived in the south (love that take-it-easy-mentality they have down there) or that I was just being annoying, and you’d want to tell me to hurry it up, I’m sure (because up until recently, I would too).  So when our bodies tell us to slow down, is our instinct to listen?  Not always.

I have been trying to tune in more lately as to what my body needs, what it is trying to tell me.  Is it tired?  Depleted?  Energetic?  Content?  How do I know if I’m just “normal tired” or there is something else going on?  Am I getting enough nutrients? Antioxidants?  Iron?  And is it really OK to take things more slowly?  Will those in my life be accepting if I don’t immediately return texts, phone calls and emails?  Can I sit on the couch after dinner instead of doing the dishes?  And perhaps most importantly, can I really say “no?”

One key thing that I have learned over the past year is just how much I love being with my friends and family.  I always knew this, of course.  I always considered myself a grateful person for all of the loving relationships that I have in my life.  But now, I really soak it in.  And I gather energy and strength from being with all you, which I need.  I don’t find it tiring to have dinner with my parents or go shopping with a friend, I love it.  I realize so much more now than I ever did before that this.is.what.life.is.really.all.about.  Fun is not overrated!

So when I look at my calendar that is filled constantly with social plans, whether it’s going to see a play downtown with friends or have brunch to celebrate somebody’s birthday or host a gathering at my house, I feel fulfilled.  At least, my mind does.  I know that I’ll have the companionship of those that I love; that I’ll laugh, that I’ll listen, and be heard and supported.  That it will be fun!  Yet at the same time, my body is saying “Yikes!  Your weekend is going to be great, but when will you rest?!”  Rest?  What is that?  While I sleep at least 8 hours every night, I don’t exactly “rest.” (As I write this blog I am working late from home, so if the phone rings, I’m on call.  Then it’ll be on to dinner and maybe an hour of watching TV and relaxing, if I’m lucky).  If I’m not at work then I’m exercising, catching up on emails, cooking, blogging, cleaning up the house, paying bills, hitting the town with my hubby, or going to a yoga class.  (Just like all of you, right?). And it’s all great stuff!  I love having a job, moving my body, eating well, connecting, fueling my creativity, spending quality time with my spouse, and taking care of my home.  But I’m not resting a whole lot.  And is that overrated for anybody, let alone somebody who is living with cancer?  I know that I need to do everything that I can to keep my immune system strong, especially when I travel or in the wintertime and being around lots of sick people.

So I struggle a little bit with when to say no.  I want to see everybody, do everything.  I want to be Jim Carey in “Yes Man” and say yes to everything!  I don’t want to miss out on anything.  It’s about finding the right balance between not just nourishing the mind, but the body as well.  For the first time in my life, cancer has given me the reason to purposely say “I’m just going to have fun today,” or “I’m going to actually do what I want today, and not what other people want me to do.” (Most of the time.  Still working on that one.  It’s not about being selfish, but putting yourself as a priority only gives you the rejuvenation that you need to be present with everybody else in your life who needs you as well).

Today I got my very first juicer for Chanukah, courtesy of my parents (the best ever).  They are so incredibly supportive of anything that I want to do that is health and wellness related (not to mention anything else).  Yoga?  Great.  Eating zucchini noodles? Awesome. Juicing?  I’m a wack-a-doodle, but they still think that its fabulous nonetheless (they eat plenty of fruits and veggies, they just don’t tend to drink their kale).  (interestingly enough, if you asked them, I would think they’d say that they just want me to rest more!).

I was super excited about the juicer.  Those that know me know that this is a testament that change is possible.  That at any time, any day, we have the power to change our mind-set.  If you had asked me B.C. (before cancer) if I would ever have juice with spinach in it for breakfast, I would have laughed until I fell off my chair!  It’s not that I was eating pop-tarts for breakfast, but I was more a toast with peanut butter, yogurt with granola, kind of girl (if I ate breakfast at all).  And then Kris Carr happened.  I had heard of her, but when I was diagnosed I really reached out to her as a lifeline for wisdom and strength. The beacon of hope.  The light in my sky.  I knew that I needed to eat more fruits and veggies, I just wasn’t quite sure how to get in that 5-10 servings a day (it can be a lot of chewing if you really think about it!).  So I started making smoothies in my blender, which was OK, but a little bit thick for me, and a lot of cutting and chopping of the produce (I kept asking SHL this morning, “are you sure that we can just put the whole piece of fruit in?!”  It was astonishing to me to be able to put a whole lemon in the juicer!).  And if you’re wondering what the difference is between blending and juicing (it’s OK, I didn’t know when I started out on this journey either, and there’s still so much more– excitedly– to learn), it’s this:  Juicing removes the pulp.  Now pulp is great for you because it has fiber and slows down the absorption of sugar, but it can also slow down the absorption of nutrients as well.  So if you’re getting enough fiber in other parts of your diet, then juicing seems to be a pretty cool idea.  My juicer says that I am extracting about 70% of the nutrition right into my glass, and without the insoluble fiber, your body absorbs 100% of these nutrients!  Plus Kris says that giving your digestive system a break means that your body can focus more on… Wait for it… Resting!

Cheers to that.

Love and leisure,

Sam xoxo

Sam juicing First juice Sean juicingEven SHL got into the juicing!

Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards!

0

If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.”   ~ Kris Carr

Lately I’ve been thinking about stress.  I am willing to admit that a little bit of stress is more than just normal, it can actually benefit us.  “Say what?”  You may be thinking right now.  “But I keep hearing about how stress is bad for me.  It’s bad for my health.  It’s bad for my mind.  Bad, bad bad.”  Well, that can be true, but think about it:  A little bit of stress can also motivate us to meet that deadline, right?

But how do you all handle not just the “meet a deadline stress”, but the “I just want to pull the covers over my head kind of stress?”  I myself, not so well (it usually results in me calling my Mom crying).  Trying to juggle multiple tasks all at the same time can definitely make me want to just hibernate.  Or snap at my loved ones.

What I tend to say to myself is this:  If you aren’t going in for a doctor’s appointment or a scan, and you feel OK physically, then you have nothing to complain about.  The reality?  How can I never, ever get upset or stressed or angry or anxious about other things going on in my life?  It’s just not human to ask that of myself (I know this intellectually).  And while gratitude is an amazingly helpful practice to having a healthier and happier life, it is also “normal” to sometimes feel overwhelmed, which in turn can make you cranky, throw off your sleep, and make you want to reach for a cheeseburger.

Within the last couple of weeks, I have had at least 6 cases at work of either suicidal students, employees, or management consults to discuss somebody that was potentially in crisis.  As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of energy that goes into trying to help people in such dire situations, and by the end of the work day lately, I’ve just been exhausted.  On top of all of these tough cases, I also have my “regular” cases of people looking for counseling for other reasons (depression, anxiety, holiday stress/family issues, financial issues, drug addiction, you name it), managers or supervisors calling to consult, gathering resources for clients, going to meetings, etc.  And if I get caught on, say a management consult where the HR director wants to read me every.single.email.exchange between two employees so that I can help her to best think about her next move to help her employees, and it’s almost 5pm, well then it’s my job to of course to stay late and take care of it.

But throw that in with trying to eat healthy at every meal, our blender breaking, getting a match from the Cancer Hope Network where I volunteer, beginning the process of planning a fundraising event for the spring, exercising 5 days a week, trying to keep up with what my friends are doing (I don’t like feeling out of the loop with any of you), our oil running out, cooking for a luncheon at my house with friends, and well… Pull the covers over my head time.

I know that you’ve all felt the same way!  I know, because you tell me.  Your boss is a mess.  Your kid has the flu.  Your husband is working around the clock.  We all have stress.  But my question is:  Can we be handling it better?  I’m not sure that I know the answer, but I can think of a few things that I myself can potentially be doing to pick myself up from not just the stress of life, but also from the winter blues as well. Do any of these resonate with you as well?

1)  Break things down into pieces.  When I think about the next month, about how short-staffed we are at work, about how sometimes things get really busy right before the holidays, about the traffic lately and how I have plans every single weekend (albeit, awesome plans, and I’m grateful and excited about that), I just want to crawl into bed and see ya on Jan 1st!  That’s if I look at the next month + on my calendar.  If I just look at today, I need to finish some online Chanukkah shopping, publish this blog, eat dinner, get my laundry out of the dryer, and everything else is gravy.  It’s easy to look ahead, but let’s just look at today.  After all, today is all that we really have to do anything anyway.

2)  Keep up with moving your body– somehow, someway. I know that a lot of you with kids don’t really have the time to be doing these things, let alone every day.  My biggest challenge right now isn’t mentally, actually, but physically getting myself downstairs to my arc trainer to work out.  I find mentally that it’s really where I want to be, I almost crave it now that I’ve started doing it so often.  Mentally I’m in my workout gear and watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother while working out, but physically?  Physically, all I really want is to get into my PJ’s and plop down on the couch.  It’s so cold out and always dark by the time I leave work these days.  So I try to do the best that I can.  I work out when possible, so that on the days when I literally just can’t do it, I don’t beat myself up about it (well, that’s the goal anyway).  Is there anything that you can do to move your body?  Is 10 minutes better than nothing?  Does even stretching while you’re watching TV help?  Apps like Daily Yoga (free) or even Office Yoga (for .99 cents) can help you to make the most of your limited time.

3) Meditate– or do something else that speaks to you that is calming, relieves anxiety, and feels grounding. #self-care! Lately I’ve been finding it hard to meditate at night because when SHL comes home, we have such little time together that all I want to do is just hang out with him, so I’ve begun practicing sometimes even during my lunch break.  This feels like a good use of my time, because I could usually use a little bit of “calming down” during the day, in between the tough calls. Perhaps pick just one thing that speaks to you, like taking a warm shower, doing 5 minutes of yoga stretching, putting a warm compress on your neck or back, or calling me to bitch about your day!

4)  Eat well.  This is a challenge, especially at this time of year with all of the holiday parties.  It requires a lot of planning and thinking ahead, something that I struggle with a lot, and perhaps you do too.  (I’m the kind of girl who can go to the grocery store 4 days a week because I can only think about the next 2 meals coming up, and no farther than that!).  Plus our blender broke!  So the beating that I’ve been giving myself for not having my smoothies has not been fun.  (*By the time this blog went to print we had replaced it, yay!).  But instead of tearing myself down for not having green smoothies right now, perhaps I can remember that I am still eating well, fueling my body enough hopefully with other goodies like veggies, beans, nuts and seeds, to be able to handle what the day throws at me.  I didn’t eat what I had planned on eating today at brunch with friends (the buffet really threw me for a loop), but I also said no to ice cream last night coming back from plans in the city.  It’s always a give and take with what your body needs versus what your body wants (and what your mind wants/needs).  And if I know that I have a work holiday party this week, maybe I’ll go easy on other outings the weekend before.

Pick one—realistic—thing that you think could help your stress levels to decrease, even just a little bit, and try to implement it.  We all have to start somewhere, and thinking that it’s not “good enough” unless we do it all is just self-defeating (been there, done that).

3)  See the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon I’ll have 6 days off in a row for the holiday– the most since last July.  I can recharge my batteries.  I don’t have to see my office or look at my phone or set an alarm!  Woohoo!  What’s your light?  Your kid will feel better.  Your boss will stop tweaking out (eventually).  You’ll get a good night’s sleep.  You’ll talk to a friend.  You’ll have 10 minutes for a walk or a bath or some retail therapy. Give out good energy to the universe, and it will give it back to you.

4)  Have an outlet.  I swear peeps, if I didn’t have this bog to spill the beans to, I don’t know what I would do.  Poor SHL gets the brunt of it, of course, but sometimes, you just need another sacred place to be able to say:  Hey World, I love you, but I am stressed!  Journal, talk to a friend, go see a therapist, call a family member for support.  Isolating is normal when we get the winter blues or feel stressed/overwhelmed, but don’t isolate for too long.

5) Go easy on yourself.  Having said all of the above, there are going to be days when you just can’t.do.any.of.these.things.  This is perhaps what I struggle with the most.  I tell my friends to be kind and gentle with themselves, especially during challenging or overly tiring times, but then I turn around and have words with myself because I didn’t do x,y, or z.  And is it just me, or does winter = carbs?  I wish that there was a way to turn mac ‘n cheese into the nutritious goodness of a bowl of kale, don’t you?  Is anybody working on that yet?  Mac ‘n cheese flavored kale…. Mmmmm!

I want to hibernate this winter like I do every year, but g-d willing, I also want to feel glorious and energized when the spring rolls around– ready to take on the universe in the sunshine!  And guess what?  I had a bite of dessert today at brunch with friends and didn’t work out.  So I’m breathing… Because I just told you to be kind to yourself, right?  Maybe I should take my own advice.

Slice, sprinkle, or pour

0

OK my friends, the spriralizer has arrived!  You’ve heard about this new thing where people are getting really crazy and wild and using veggies instead of pasta, right?  I saw a great recipe for zucchini noodles recently, which prompted me to order this cute little spiral slicer off of Amazon.  There are a lot of vegetables that unfortunately I don’t like (Brussel sprouts?!  Pul-eease!), but zucchini happens to be one of my favorites!

Then a light bulb went off in my head:  Instead of using the dressing recipe that they suggested (which did sound very tasty and healthy), why not use Sean’s homemade pesto?  We pretty much always have a batch in the freezer, courtesy of my hubby who loves to make it with all kinds of different things like arugula, watercress (my favorite), and even rainbow chard.  So that’s exactly what I did!  While SHL was waiting for his pasta to boil, I took a zucchini and made it into swirls of “vegetable noodles.”  (The recipe also called for corn, but I didn’t have any).  I put the zucchini in a pan with some olive oil and salt and heated it, then mixed in some pesto until it was warm.  I transferred it to a bowl with a little bit of Sean’s leftover pasta water (just to get the pesto to adhere better to the noodles and to thicken it a little bit), and put in some cherry tomatoes halved and then sprinkled some basil leaves and a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese on top.  Delish!  While there’s certainly nothing wrong with pasta sometimes (I like the whole wheat fusilli), this proved to be a great alternative.  You can pair it with a salad too for a really filling meal!

Zucchini noodles

If you want to try it with the dressing that they recommend (champagne vinegar, olive oil, etc.– But I would omit the sugar), check out www.thekitchn.com.  The recipe is here: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spiralized-zucchini-with-tomatoes-and-corn-recipes-from-the-kitchn-206812.

Oh!  I also think that other veggies would be cool with the spiralizer.   Maybe carrots, apples, potatoes, onions, and cucumbers?  Have any of you tried this yet?

While we’re on the topic of alternatives, I think I found a great one for a new coffee drink.  While I love coffee (but wish that I had loved it back in college during those all-night study sessions!), I’m hesitant to drink it all of the time because I can’t seem to drink it without some kind of sweetener in it (I seemed to solve the milk/sugar/lactose intolerance problem and just use almond milk now, which I’ve grown to really love).  I’ve tried organic stevia, honey, and agave, but any way you slice ( sprinkle, or pour) it, we’re talking about sugar here.  My nutritionist has told me that she isn’t too concerned about me having 1-2 packets of Stevia a week, so I just try to keep it at that.  But this coffee drink still caught my eye—instead of using Stevia, I can use dates!  Now dates still have a lot of sugar, but I think that using a fruit is more natural and having a few dates a week is probably OK!  What I also liked about this is that it’s a little bit of a “mocha treat” if you will, without the added extra sugar that you’d get at say, Starbucks.  I used cocao powder (though they call for cocoa powder) and almond milk, and that combined with the dates and the ice made kind of a special iced coffee (which I can happily enjoy, even in the wintertime.  Oddly enough, I don’t love ice cream in the winter). We actually don’t have a coffee pot (gasp!) because we’ve never really been huge coffee drinkers.  But we did get a Keurig for our wedding, which is perfect for us, the 1-2 cups of coffee if that a week couple (and SHL hardly ever drinks it now anymore because it actually gives him the jitters!).  However, it broke.  Frowny face.  So I just bought a big bottle of Starbucks Iced Coffee at the grocery store the other day, which lasts me a long time. If you’re interested in the recipe for the “damn good iced coffee,” check out Eat Life Whole. (I just stumbled upon them while doing cooking/baking/juicing/blending research).  www.eatlifewhole.com. 

Iced Coffee

The recipe is found here: http://www.eatlifewhole.com/2013/08/damn-good-iced-coffee-recipe-a-healthy-frappucino-makeover/.

So what should I try next?  The sweet potato brownies (finally?!) or the Tuscan white bean soup?  (Beans?  Did somebody say beans?!).  Please let me know if you make any of these things and if you like them or find other ways to creatively tweak them, and please also share your recipes for good health and happiness with me as well!

From my kitchen to yours,

Sam xoxo

Living authentically may just mean falling apart

0

There are times when you just want to let yourself fall apart, and others when you want to be strong.  But how to know which is which?  I for one have had tough times when there is nothing that I can do but take long hot showers, long enough until my tears are dry, and I feel warm enough to brave the cold.  There are other times when I think that falling apart could be perfectly acceptable, but I somehow “pull it together” and march forward.  Is one right, one wrong?  One better, one worse?  If we don’t let ourselves feel grief, pain, anger, and loss, can we truly move on and live authentically?  But if we do fall apart, what if we can never put ourselves back together again?

I’ve been contemplating a lot lately what my life is going to look like.  What my “purpose” is.  If I am not who I thought I was going to be, then who am I?  Am I still valuable?  Worthwhile?  Can I sustain happiness?  The good news, from my point of view, is that nobody knows what their life is ever going to look like.  Nobody knows what my life is going to look like, and nobody really knows what your life is going to look like, either.  One second you could have a cup of fresh lemonade, and the next, be parched.  One second you could be thirsty, and the next, opportunity to drink is at your doorstep.  But what I’m slowly learning through the haze of cancer is that if we tell the universe that because something bad has happened, more bad things will happen or that we’re “cursed”, we are closing ourselves off to the positive energy that awaits.  I truly believe that.  Yes, I’m struggling with a life-changing experience, but I want to believe that other good things are in store for me. I do believe that. That the positive energy that I put out into the world will come back to me.  I once years ago burned a picture and asked the universe to help me find the person that I was meant to share my life with, explaining and feeling with all of my heart that I was really ready for that.  I had to let go of the past in order to take control of my future.  About a month or so later I met my husband.

I always thought that I had a vision for my life, and it didn’t seem so out of reach.  It seemed to be what most people (at least in my world) have:  a significant other, children, a house, a job, friends, hobbies.  When I was little I knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother, just like my Mom.  I knew that I wanted to take care of others, and as I grew older, I felt the love inside of me grow as well.  I just knew that I had so much love that I wanted to share with a family.

Things feel really differently now than they did when I was a little girl playing with my easy-bake-oven, sticker book, and Barbie’s.  I am a wife, and I have a house, a job, friends, and hobbies. I don’t have my own children that I can give my love to, but I cherish my nephew and the other children in my life, like my best friend’s three little ones (who also call me Auntie Sam, and it melts my heart each and every time.  And I plan on my now 4 year-old nephew thinking that I’m his “Cool Auntie Sam” as he gets older). And yet I wonder: Will things be out of my reach, now that I have cancer?  Or will the center of my vision reveal itself in a different but still beautiful way?  One that I never could have even imagined?

Nobody knows what will happen, and I take comfort in that, because I choose to see that as an opportunity for incredibly magnificent things to happen, that we could never predict.  I can’t prepare or control certain things.  Life will unfold, and I will hopefully not “handle it,” but I will be excited by it, curious by it, learn from it, and bounce back from the negative, if need be.  If you think of yourself as a “thriver” rather than as a “victim,” things feel a lot more wonderfully positive and powerful.  Can you feel that way all the time?  Nope.  Do I feel that way today?  Not particularly.  But I find comfort in knowing that I could always feel differently about it tomorrow.

But that still doesn’t erase the pain, at least not for now. The real question is:  What do I want for my life?  Not what do other people want for me, what do I think things have to look like with cancer, but what do I really and truly want?  Am I the person that I want to be?  (For the most part, yes).  If I won the lottery and/or didn’t need health insurance, would I be working so hard?  Maybe not.  But on the other hand, could I fill up my time wisely juicing, cooking, and doing yoga?  It sounds amazing– for a couple of weeks, but eventually, I think I would miss helping people.  Being challenged intellectually.  Brainstorming and gossiping with my-coworkers.  (Is there a way to do these things from the comfort of my own home, in my pj’s, while still having the time to blog and cook and exercise?  That would be the jackpot-of-a-job! Oh, and traveling too!).

I also wonder:  Can I do things without wondering what other people are thinking of me?  Can I be happy if my life unfolds in a way that I never expected?  And then I realize:  I already am. This isn’t the life that I had planned.  There is pain, yes.  Grief.  Loss.  Anger.  Uncertainty.  But there is also love.  Understanding.  Freedom.  Fun.  Adventures. I am a very different person than I was a year ago; though my heart and soul are still the same Sam, my outlook on life (most of the time), and my self-care have grown leaps and bounds (and still have a long way to go, but I’m not trying to get it perfectly). My heart is telling me that I need to let myself fall apart and that unlike Humpty-Dumpty, I will be able to be put back together again (probably not by myself, but with the help of others).  If I can live an authentic life and truly be myself, then maybe I have a real shot at this adventurous and love-filled life that is now taking center stage.  It may be a different life than the one I had envisioned as a little girl, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be wondrous.