Saturday, June 07, 2008

At the end of the church year (this month) the kids are putting on a "Spirit Play" for the congregation. Tessa told us that she is the red promise....and I wasn't quite sure what that meant! Here's what I found out - they're enacting the UU principles.

For those unfamiliar with such principles, here they are....with the kids' version below.
(Copied from: )

We, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta and other congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association covenant to affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at learge
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

RAINBOW PRINCIPLES (Children's version)
As Unitarian Universalists we believe that we should:
RED - Respect others
ORANGE - Offer fair and kind treatment
YELLOW - Yearn to learn
GREEN - Grow by sharing your thoughts and feelings
BLUE - Believe in these principles and act on them
INDIGO - Insist on peace, liberty, and justice
VIOLET - Value nature
In UUCA's Religious Education classes, we help children remember the seven Unitarian Universalist principles with the rainbow acronym "ROYGBIV" and associated phrases. As children grow and explore UUism deeper, they will learn the adult version.

Thank you, Heather, for finding me this link.

And on another note, I'm better today. Still sad, still reeling from my bad week, but better.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Another less-than-stellar doctor's visit today.

Today I went back to my plastic surgeon for a follow up.

I already knew that my left breast is migrating upwards, that it is misshapen and deformed, that the skin is tender to the touch, that it's ugly (okay that's a personal opinion but it might just be me on this one).

Today my PS recommended that I have an intermediate surgery this summer, "if needed." He measures that the breast mound (officially, that's what these fake things are called: they are not breasts, they are breast mounds) has moved upwards about 1.5 cm. This has happened with each successive surgery (this is my fourth breast mound: first, expander, then, implant, then another implant, now another expander) and each time it's done the same. He believes it will stop migrating, and I"ll be okay. I don't see it slowing down, and I suspect that I'll hit the 2cm threshold before I see him next (July 8); each of the other attempts continued to migrate until surgical correction, and I don't see why this will be different. At 2cm, it needs corrective surgery. I will be SHOCKED if I don't pass the 2cm mark, based on previous results and current happenings.

When he told me that I needed another surgery ("Oh, don't worry. It's just a half hour procedure in our office OR," he said; but when asked if I could lift, exercise, hike, camp, or swim he said, "No, not for several weeks" and I know from experience that "several" means "six" and that would be the entire summer!) I about broke down.

He recommends this correction in July, and then he recommends postponing the next surgery until December.

I made my July 8 appointment to re-evaluate, then slunk away.

First, I cried. Then, I vented to friends. Then, more crying. I have a heavy pit in my stomach just thinking about it.

But I have made some conclusions of my own.

Except for anything life threatening, I do not want more surgery. I will do surgery #10 in October as planned, but I will not add surgery #11 or postpone another surgery. Frankly, I thought that last October was my last surgery; then, upon finding a new PS I was prepared for "just one more" and that quickly got negotiated to two more. I will not negotiate again.

My PS will argue, he will say, "You didn't get this far to stop now!"

He has a valid point, except this: I can not take it any more. And I am not at ALL convinced that "just one more" will do the trick. I am convinced that my body does not like foreign bodies. I am convinced that each surgery wears on me, causing further fatigue, and wearing my soul. I am tired of giving away weeks of my life to pain and fatigue and surgical complications and doctors appointments. I have wasted far too much of my one "wild and precious life" by pursuing breasts already. I am just about done.

So, one more surgery, and I will take what I get, and give up on any hope of a normal chest. I will accept that the results are not optimal. I will move on.

I have decided to go down two cup sizes. Initially, I asked for a "large B, small C" and I've received Ds. (Don't ask me why: I don't know. Yes, I've complained. To no avail.) Now, I'm demanding a middle-of-the-road B. That's what I was before, and what I want to be again. It will be easier on my body (less skin stretching etc., and since the radiated side is "angry"), and it will draw less attention to my chest. Ds scream "look at me!" on my frame, and frankly, I would rather people look away. I certainly don't want to draw attention to scarring, deformity, and plastic.

(Don't think I don't see the irony of my plastic insides. Okay, so it's silicone,but you know what I mean. I'm refusing to use plastic Tupperware style containers, but I am filling my body with plastic blobs? Not my choice, is all I can say.)


I have also decided not to get nipples. Initially, I wanted nipples because they are part of normal breasts. Well, I don't have normal breasts, and I never will. Another surgery isn't worth it. Maybe I'll get tattoos of fake nipples, but I'm not doing more surgery.

Enough. I have had more than enough.

And I'm really sad.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Here is the thing.

Cancer is a bogeyman.

Cancer waits around every corner, trying to scare me.

Just when I'm in the middle of something else, I hear the growling, "BOOOO!" and I practically pee myself in terror from the first sound.

I can calm myself down after that, but I can't control my initial adreneline surge; I can't control the sweep of fear that washes over me when I hear that growl.

I have learned to talk myself out of the tree. I have learned to sternly say to the bogeyman, "Get lost," as I hold my head up high and walk away. I've even kicked some bogeyman ass a few times, just to make my point.

But still, when I hear the growl, I also hear "Gotcha." The bogeyman knows how to get me, knows how to make my skin prickle with anxiety, how to make my heart race, how to confuse me, how to turn a happy moment into an unspeakable one.

Bone density. Teeth. Cholesteral. More and more surgery. Aches that might be something more. Pain picking things up, opening things, lifting my arm. All of them are bogeyman reminders.

Yes, it's a bad day.

Yes, tomorrow will be better.

Today, however, is hard.

(And I'm blowing through WW points like mad. I'm having a bowl of Dreyer's Light Ice Cream - made with half the fat - and ohhhhhhh it's yummy. I'm afraid to read the label....)

Feeling glum

I just got back from the dentist.

I have six cavities - my first since childhood.

I have lost much bone density in my teeth.

Thanks a lot, chemo. Thanks a lot, aromatase inhibitors. Thanks a lot, breast cancer.

Just when I'm feeling somewhat normal, just when I think I'm leaving breast cancer behind, these really REAL reminders come to bite me. I'm not your average 38 year old. I have an abundance of health issues that are permanent. Bone loss is serious, especially if I hope to live a long time.

I need to go to the dentist lots more times after this. I didn't get to the fluoride treatment. I didn't finish the deep cleaning. I didn't get any cavities filled. I was there for an hour and forty-five minutes (all I had available to me before I picked up Tessa). It's a good thing I wasn't there more, because that was all I could deal with.

Oh, and did I mention that I have TMJ due to bone loss? And that it's permanent? And that it could get worse? And that I am advised not to eat anything where I have to open my mouth very wide (like a sandwich or a burger)?

This sucks.

What I did not tell Tessa, is that I sat in the chair and felt like crying. I had at least a dozen shots of lydocaine, but still felt things. My mouth looked and tasted like blood. My mood was worse than the discomfort of the mouth-work.

The dentist was fabulous (he's new to me and so far I really like him), and within walking distance of home and preschool (I walked Tessa to school, then walked to the dentist, then walked back to preschool, then walked home with Tessa; Shep got to join the morning walk to and from Weight Watchers but sadly had to stay home for the second walk because he would have cried and barked for such a long wait.

I had a pastry at Bakery Nouveau to placate myself with food. I have the points, and I really wanted it. So there. (It was incredible, topped with fresh raspberries, and worth every point.)

Tonight is the Alki Elementary School Picnic, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. But I really,r eally have to get out of my mood first. I feel like crying.


(I listened to my iPod while the dentist scraped disgusting things off my teeth. Funny enough, during the worst of it, "Big Girls Don't Cry" came on. So I'm a big girl today.)

Broiled Cheese, Bread, and Bean Soup

Last night the weather was cold and damp, and so I was in the mood for soup. Never mind that it's June, this is definitely soup weather.

I turned to my favorite WW cookbook, "Ultimate Flex & Core" (what a dull name for a book that actually has delicious recipes), and found this recipe. It's great!

Broiled Cheese, Bread, and Bean Soup

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: About 15 minutes
Serves: 4

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 teapsoon freshly ground pepper
2 15.5 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces Italian bread, cut into chunks
1/2 cup shredded manchengo cheese

1. Heat the oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook, stirring requently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, spinach, and pepper, bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occassionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the flavors are blended, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook until hot, about 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Stir the bread chunks into the soup, sprinkle iwth the cheese. Stand the Dutch oven on the oven rack and broil 4 inches from the heat until the cheese and bread are lightly browned, 1-2 minutes.

Per serving (1 3/4 cups):
401 calories
8 g fat
14 g fiber
Points value: 8

My notes:
I didn't have vegetable broth, so I used beef broth. My assumption is that any kind would work.

I didn't have herbed tomatoes, so I used plain ones, and added fresh basil and oregano from our garden, and doubled the garlic.

I would have preferred fresh spinach, but our garden spinach isn't doing well, and 10 ounces owuld hve been $6 fresh (organic), so I stuck with frozen (organic for $3.49). I chose not to drain it, as that green water is full of nutrition and hey, it's soup! A little extra liquid wasn't noticable.

The notes said that other types of cheese could be used as well, and since the Manchengo at Thriftway was $10 for a small-ish chunk, I used standard Tillamook cheddar, which we already had. It was great. (Trader Joe's sells Manchengo for a reasonable time I make this I'll plan ahead and get some there, because the stronger flavor woudl be good.)

I added a chopped fresh carrot, and I think that just about any additional veggies would be great, too.

And finally, I didn't stir in the bread, I placed it on top, with the cheese on top of it, so that it made a nice crust like a French Onion Soup. Looked much better, and when served it got stirred in and soaked up the good liquid anyway.

This served our family's dinner last night, and Tessa and I had it for lunch today as well. Ryan and Tessa, who are not on WW, supplemented theirs with additional slices of bread with some sliced cheese....I managed to hold off, which was tough for me, but the soup WAS filling so it was worth it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Caleb's Birthday!

We were delighted to attend Caleb's birthday party, and despite the chilly weather, we all had a great time.


Weight Watchers - Wednesday

I have stayed true to my Weight Watchers goals this week. True, I had chocolate cake, but I accounted for every bite and I've been honest in my tracking. (I AM tracking, by the way. If you're doing Weight Watchers, and you're not tracking what you eat, you are not doing Weight Watchers. They have a "Core" plan where you don't count core foods, but you still have to track every non-core food that enters your mouth. I'm doing their flex plan, which involves tracking everything, though some foods have a "zero" point value - like vegetables, for example.)

I have not weighed myself since Monday morning, and I'll go to my first meeting and official weigh in tomorrow morning.

If it works like it did last time, I will be happy with my results. By August I'll be feeling my best self again. Of course, I wish that it could be faster, but there it is.

But if I lose five pounds in June, and five pounds in July, I'll be ecstatic.

Okay, back to folding laundry. Oh, and eating watermelon. :-)

Nearly Perfect

Yesterday, Tessa and I enjoyed a wonderful day downtown - we took the bus to the aquarium for the preschool field trip, then enjoyed lunch at the aquarium, then walked through Pike Place Market, and then visited the Seattle Art Museum before coming home. It was basically free, it was fun, and it was great bonding time.

At the aquarium, we learned about all kinds of things (did you know that a starfish puts its stomach outside of its body, wraps it around its food, and then eats that way?). At the art museum, we saw all kinds of things (including Tessa's favorite exhibit....a ceramic toilet with quite realistic looking fecal matter inside....YUCK but the girl thinks it's hysterical).

And then today, to follow up from our day at the aquarium, we went to the low tide/naturalist talks at Alki's Constellation Park. This was a 75 year low tide, and we saw the most amazing creatures and things: a Lemon Sea Slug laying eggs; hundreds of sea cucumbers; countless sea stars (starfish), including one that was eating a kelp crab; innumerable sea anemones. We found lots of moon snail shells but left them behind because it's a protected marine sanctuary. We found one live moon snail, as well, and were even able to point it out to a naturalist who was saying "I can't find any today!"

The beach naturalists did a fabulous job. One asked Tessa lots of questions, and told me that she was startled at how much Tessa knew about the creatures we were discussing. (When Tessa is interested in something, her memory is remarkable. "Sea creatures" fall in that category, and our recent studies at preschool and aquarium trips were helpful in her lessons.) Tessa asked thoughtful questions, and I was incredibly proud of her. (Marine biologist in the making? Well, she still says she wants to work in a horse stable for a living, but we will see!)

We dined in high style, sitting amid all of this on a waterproof blanket. We ate tuna sandwiches, and as we ate, we pointed at things beneath the rocks "Oh, look, that sea star is such a pretty purple!" and "Look, Mama, under that rock are FIVE sea cucumbers!" and "What kind of seaweed is that?"

This was the kind of day I live for. I didn't take it for granted.
PS I have never before seen so many different patterned rubber boots! Tessa's are hot pink with circles and polka dots; mine are shades of brown and white plaid. But every variety made seemed present today on the beach.
PPS Perfect tuna sandwiches!
Two slices home-made whole wheat flax bread
One can dolphin-safe albacore tuna
Several good dollops of fat-free organic Greek style yogurt
a good squeeze of lemon juice
finely chopped capers
Mix tuna, yogurt, lemon, and capers; add sea salt to taste if desired. Spread on bread, add tomato slices. Cut on the diagonal. Yummm!

Monday, June 02, 2008

more poetry

This is actually the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I recently rediscovered it in, of all places, a Sarah McLachlan album. She sings a beautiful version of it.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Spiritual Growth

Tonight was a meeting, at our home, for new lay leaders. At our church, Rev. Peg leads the service twice a month, and on the remaining two services per month we have guest speakers and lay leaders. The lay leader's job is to hold the service together, lead the unison affirmation, share opening words, lead the sharing of joys and sorrows, lead the congregation in prayer or meditative thought, etc.

I was asked to be a lay leader (along with two others), and tonight I received my training as such. It is a big responsibility, and one that I don't take lightly. I will lead my first service in about six weeks, and so I'll have to get to work on that.

This is a part of my spiritual growth. I have never truly belonged to a church before; I've attended, but I've never been a true member. My soul feels at peace with the church we have chosen, and with each day that passes I feel the fit even more. I know that I have a great deal to learn from Rev. Peg, for I believe that she is a wise woman and teacher.

I am embracing this, and I already feel the rewards.

But now I'm tired, and bed calls. Good night!

How does this work again?

Day one, hour 3 of Weight Watchers.

How do I do this.....hmmmm!

I'm remembering a few things.

Breakfast is important.

Lattes are really good snacks because the milk protein is filling (and they're only 2 points).

Scones (a weakness of mine) are a rare treat.

Time to break out the Weight Watchers cookbooks - tonight I'll make a family favorite (chicken souvlaki: I have all of the ingredients at home, thanks to our herb garden).

I need to plan picnic lunches for when we're out and about so that I don't fall into the "oh well there's nothing else to eat" trap and end up eating something calorie-ridden.

I can do this! I just have to get back in the good habits....

I weighed myself this morning. Oh, it was terrible. But maybe I have water weight...? ;-)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weight Watchers Part II

It's time again.

Okay, maybe it's overdue,but there is no time like the present to start one's future.

What's past is past, but what lies ahead lies in my own hands.

All this philosophy....about weight.

I am up about 10 pounds, and on some days the scale says that I'm up about 12 pounds. (I wouldn't dare step near the scale tonight, after all the food I ate this weekend. I didn't mention my home-made quiche lorraine on Saturday night....) I am too near my pre-cancer weight - and I have some pretty scary photos of myself from that time, with a tummy sticking out, and my face far too full. I lost 40 pounds after cancer, so I'm nowhere near my all time high, but I also don't plan on getting to that high ever again.

So it's time.

Money is tight (how American!) but I have my own spending money, and I'm going to (bad pun coming) put my money where my mouth is, and sign up for the Thursday Weight Watchers meetings that I used to attend. There is something about the support of the group, about writing things down, about weekly weigh-ins, that is magical to me.

This is a great time of year to lose weight - soon I'll be eating from the garden, and the stores are full of fresh, delicious produce.

I want to feel good about my body, and there are a LOT of things that I do not feel good about, and probably never will feel good about. (Even with acceptance, I don't feel good. It is what it is, but I would never choose this....) But I can control how my body looks in size 6 clothes. I'm probably, realistically, in an 8 right now, and I still have a healthy BMI. But I look better in a small size 6 than squeezed into my sixes. Yes, I'm wearing the same size, but man it's uncomfortable! I am not goign to buy new clothes in larger sizes....I'm going to get back into my favorite clothes instead.

On Weight Watchers last time I was successful. I will be successful again, I'm sure of it.

I plan to go to my first meeting on Thursday morning (though I'll have to look into it to see if they still meet at the same time) to be inspired by Shelly.

I joined Weight Watchers two and a half years ago. I hit lifetime two years ago May 25. They call it "Lifetime" because you spend a lifetime working on it, tweaking it, continuing with the eating styles/habits taught during the weight loss phase. I am no different than anyone else: I will need a lifetime of working on it, too.

Starting NOW!

PS Today is my three year diagnosis anniversary. Though statistics are liars, my statistics improve as of today. Never out of the woods, but I can breathe a bit more. I am grateful.

Garden flower pictures

We didn't just put in veggies - since we're caring for the garden, we're trying for flowers, too.

The rose bushes (planted in previous years) are thriving: the bright pink, yellow, and fuscia ones are doing particularly well. I can't remember what color one of them is, but it was surrounded by tulips and so got a little stunted and isn't blooming yet; the coral and yellow one was overtaken by the pampas grass which we removed yesterday so with a little luck it will bounce back to life.

The African Daisies I planted a few years back are rewarding me for the addition of vermicompost by beautiful blooms. Grandma Tess's daisies are full of green foliage, and I'm told will bloom in fall. We have a whole row of lavendar, including two new ones donated by a neighbor who was thinning theirs (thanks Rick and Christy!). I've planted nasturciusm, cosmos, and sunflowers, and so if my dreams come true, I'll have a wild riot of color in the summer....all with squash growing underfoot.

Edited to add: Blogger won't let me upload photos....? Maybe later.

I want to be green, true, but I haven't forgotten beauty. And while the lettuce may be beautiful to me, some flowers are a nice touch.

Garden picture update

The garden is coming along nicely!

- 3 healthy cabbage,2 smallish ones and 1 died

- 2 rows of carrots, limping along (Romeo, Dragon, and Scarlet Nantes)

- 7 tomato plants of various assortments, all thriving (Black Krim, Black Prince, Sungold, Early Girl, Red Currant, and others)

- 25-30 strawberry plants, exploding with green fruit (Quinault, Rainier, Shuksan, Alpine, and other varieties)

- 1 "northern red pepper" plant

- 7 heads mixed lettuce, doing well

- 6 rainbow Swiss chard plants, thriving

- two rows onions, green tops growing so I assume the onions beneath the soil are, too (Walla Walla and cioppolini)

- 10 or so sugar snap peas, thriving

- one row of very sad, small spinach (I think it needs more water, so we're rectifying)

- several garlic plants, one with a long stalk of green

- three basil plants, looking so-so

- dill, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary, oregano, curly parsley, cilantro in pots, doing very well; chives in a pot, overtaken by the oregano so I'll need to switch out

- newly planted flat-leaf parsley seeds - we'll see!

- one row of radishes, looking great

- one row of golden beets....well, I planted them, but I can't see a darned one, so I don't know what's up!

- several squash plants (zuchinni, patty-pan, acorn, and buttercup) with nice green shoots poking up through the mulch

- 4 blueberry bushes, all flowering, so maybe we'll get a few berries

So, some things are growing better than others, but I don't need 100% success, just SOME success. We haven't harvested anything except herbs yet, but we will, and that is enough. :-)