Friday, April 09, 2010

Places that elevate my blood pressure

Number one on the list: oncology offices.

I thought I was doing well at the doctor's office today, as Michele and Ryan (who surprised me by showing up, a very sweet gesture) took good care of me. Still, when the nurse took my BP, it was 151/93. Good grief. Imagine what it would have been if they weren't there!

I have a follow up appointment in a few weeks to make sure that what appears to be a minor lymph node thing goes away with antibiotics, so I will get to visit the lovely doctor again then.

In the meantime, I'll just sing my favorite song:
All will be well,
all will be well;
All manner of things
Will be well.
(Meg Barnhouse from Mango Thoughts in a Meatloaf Town)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Garden beginnings

I have accomplished pretty much nothing in the past 48 hours. As my appointment looms, I get more and more frozen. Joy, joy. (Sarcasm.)

But I did finally get into the garden. I planted a row of carrot seeds, a row of swiss chard seeds, and two rows of mixed lettuce starts. I got three pea plants into the ground, and put sweet peas in pots mixed in with the strawberries for bursts of color (the blue pots look good even when they only have an inch of green sticking up).

I can start to imagine how the garden will look in a month or two. The herbs are growing already, the tulips are bigger, and the roses are fuller.

Maybe this will be a good spring.

Poll: How much time do you spend cooking each day?

I am distracting myself. Less than 24 hours 'til my oncologist appointment. Ugh.

I heard on a podcast recently that the average woman used to spend an hour and a half in the kitchen each day, but the average woman now spends 8 minutes a day on meal preparation.

8 minutes? REALLY?

How long do you spend cooking each day? Hands on time, plus time in the oven....

Here's how my day usually looks, cooking wise:

- boil water, grind coffee for French Press coffee: 5 minutes (less?)
- boil water, add oatmeal, cook for 5 minutes, add berries, cook for one minute, add yogurt and maple syrup: 10 minutes
- Home made granola....10 minutes prep and 35 minutes cooking, but it makes a big batch that lasts at least a week

- Tessa: grilled cheese sandwich (5-10 minutes), plus sliced apples or other fruit; or macaroni and cheese and fruit; or some other random thing
- Me: tossed salad with avocado, goat cheese, sliced veggies, and some home made balsalmic dressing: 10 mins; or leftovers; or a sandwich 5-10 minutes
- Ryan: leftovers plus fruit and nuts; or a salad with grilled chicken or salmon or steak or shrimp added (10 minutes)
....on the weekends we eat together, could be anything, often ploughman's platter of cheese, crackers or bread, smoked salmon, fruit, cut up veggies 10 mins

The most variance of the day is dinner, and it's also where I spend most of my time. Here are some common meals at our house:
- Pizza: home made pizza dough (10 minutes), home made pizza sauce (10 minutes), sliced toppings (5 minutes), plus salad (10 minutes)= 35 minutes plus cooking time of 20 minutes
- Stirfry: make marinade 5 minutes, chop chicken or steak, marinate (anywhere from half hour to all day), chop veggies 10-15 minutes, cook rice 1 minute prep 40 minutes cooking, do stirfry, 10-15 minutes= 45 minutes total
- Soup: make stock (40 minutes for veggie stock, or a couple hours for chicken stock, of which most of the time is just occassional stirring); chop veggies (15 minutes); saute onion, carrot, and celery (10 minutes); put together and simmer (30 minutes) =95 minutes total
- Grilled salmon: quick season salmon (2 minutes) and grill (12 minutes); chop veggies and steam or stirfry (10-15 minutes); chop potatoes and toss with olive oil and rosemary and then roast (25-40 minutes)= 40 minutes

This, of course, doesn't count setting the table or clearing it, and cleaning the kitchen. I spend a lot of my life planning for, shopping, preparing, eating, and cleaning up after food.

In short? I am not an 8 minute girl! I am not even counting extras like baking (made cookies this week, banana bread last week) and bread making (do it all the time), and the like. Plus, on weekends we'll have friends over and make something more elaborate, and I'll make dessert, and appetizers. I'll often make a salad to go on the side, and that's all about chopping (plus, I like to make my own dressing).

I know lots of women who cook more than I do, and lots who cook less. But 8 minutes? Really? Is that microwave meals and cereal? How on earth do you do that? Making a salad with more than a couple of ingredients takes longer than that!

There are days when I spend all day in the kitchen, and there are days when I demand that we go out to eat, but I figure I easily spend an hour or two in the kitchen preparing food each day. Easily. Add clean up time and it's closer to two hours.

How much time do you spend on food each day?

The storm before the calm

Now that I have an appointment with my oncologist, I have that panicky feeling that the situation always brings me these days. I haven't been since my major scare in the fall, and I'm overdue. Now I remember why I procrastinated: I feel frozen at the mere thought of walking in the building. Paralyzed.

When did I become like this? I remember cracking jokes before my mastectomy. I used to think of myself as so brave, and sometimes I still do....but when I have to go back to the oncologist these days I feel small and powerless, like a mouse in a field with a hawk circling above. I just hope I can find a big enough leaf to hide under, knowing that the leaf isn't real protection but if I'm lucky the hawk won't spot me.

I am so very, very glad that when I entered Cancerland I didn't know how long my mind would stay there, and that I didn't understand the length of the journey. I thought it would be a long-gone part of my past by now, and yet it remains part of my present.

Deep breaths. I truly hope that this is the storm before the calm, and that by the time my appointment is over on Friday, I will be able to laugh at the feelings that are behind this blog post. I just want to get an "all clear" and then get the heck out of there! Dear friend Michele is going to drive me so that I don't get into any traffic accidents on the way, and to hold my hand, and that helps a lot. I did chemo by myself a lot, and I don't know why. (Certainly, I had friends enough to come.) 'Chele will help keep me from going any further insane.

So, further lists of things I love to calm my soul:
- listening to Mozart in the mornings
- hot, strong, dark roast coffee
- the lilac bush under the window - with the window open, the spring breeze is blowing lilac scents into the house today
- blue skies with just small, pure white puffy clouds (and today, that is what I see)
- reading to Tessa in bed in the mornings, her warm body snuggled up to me, her arm clutching Special Bear
- Special Bear. This is the bear that "Uncle" Paul gave to Tessa on the day she was born, and she has only spent two (accidental, and very sad) nights without it since her birth. He is worn so that he looks like he's made of fabric, not fur, and it's hard to tell that he was once a warm he's more or less a dull gray. Tessa has hundreds of stuffed animals, fluffy, soft, new, and beautiful, but we both know that Special Bear is worth more than all of them combined.
- Friends who accept me for who I am. Oh, this is such a gift.
- The pillow that my mother-in-law made for me, that sits on my Arts & Crafts style rocker.
- My alter in the middle of the house, which holds a chalice, a cross, and a seated Buddha figure.
- The trees in my yard, including two maples with brilliant fall colors, a white dogwood to remind me of my B.C. heritage (and yet it was planted by a previous owner), the giant pink flowering dogwood, the gorgeous old styrax, the lilac that has grown so much since we moved here, the two poplars that give a wonderful sound when their leaves rustle, the funny tree in the front that blooms pink flowers in winter, the pear which is in full blossom right now, the Japanese Maple with the hiding spot under it for Mo in the summer, shady and hidden.
- Decorating for holidays, large and small. Today I will take down the Easter decorations, which include an egg candle, an "Easter Tree" decorated with pastel eggs, a couple of ceramic bunny dishes, and the like. Mostly I put these things up for Tessa, who just adores it, but it makes me smile, too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

More things I love

- Hiking to Talapus Lake
- Sarah McLachlan's music
- quiet time alone in my house
- the feeling I get after I do yoga
- lit candles in a dark room
- the smell of fresh lavendar or freesia or roses
- bookcases overflowing with books
- Botticelli, VanGogh, Renoir paintings
- girls and women wearing dresses
- the sound of waves, whether lapping softly or roaring and crashing
- the feel of smooth driftwood in my fingers
- finding seashells or robin's eggs
- the way Mo (cat) sleeps on my foot at night
- pulling carrots out of the garden
- playing board games or doing puzzles with Tessa
- any shade of blue with white
- girls' night in
- having a guest room (when I was a kid I dreamed of it, and it came true in adulthood)
- chatting with my mom
- sleeping in
- chocolate (shhh don't tell anyone but I like milk chocolate better than dark)
- bleeding heart, lady slipper, ferns, and hostas in shady corners
- tea parties, simple or elaborate
- making my own bread
- the moments of silence in church
- singing a hymn I know by heart

Today I'm super tired and it helps to make lists of lovely things.

I made an appointment with my oncologist for Friday - I'm overdue for follow up. Wish me luck at remaining calm, as just driving by the building makes me feel a bit panicky.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A good, but tired, life

I have fallen off the blogging wagon, though I have plenty to say. We had a great spring break, with a trip to Chelan with Grammy (my mom), and a trip to the tulips in Skagit Valley with friends. The Easter Bunny came and left lots of chocolate. Cookies have been made and decorated in the shapes of bunnies, chicks, eggs, and tulips.

It's a good life. Filled with simple pleasures every day.


I am so tired. So, so, so tired. Normal activities just wear me out in a way I can't quite describe. I get bursts of energy that make me think "AHA! I'm back!" but within a couple of hours I find myself flagging and thinking "no no nonono!" because there is always so much to do (both fun and chores). I have fallen off the planet sometimes and haven't been in touch with dear friends because I get tired and then I just sit on the couch and do nothing, too tired even for a chat with a friend. This is not my best side, but it is what it is and I'm working on managing it.

I get my thyroid tested regularly and I take thyroid meds (and have since 1989), so maybe it's off. Or maybe it's the tamoxifen. Or maybe it's cumulative cancer treatment and too many surgeries.

Whatever it is, it is what it is. I am grateful for the incredible blessings in my life, even when I'm too tired to fully appreciate them.