Taking a Much Needed Break #SpringBreak

Taking the week off because my sister is visiting. My extra living room underneath my covered patio is cleaned up, all set up with my couch and chair, dining table in the corner. My summer goal will be to enjoy the colors of the sun setting, listen to the breezes gently swing by, music from the Riverside Hotel Resort or Telaya Wine Co., the geese as they squawk as they fly overhead. Just started the season, wrapped in a blanket, sitting outside, thinking about everything I am grateful for.

Talk to you all next week!

Be Careful If You are Doer #BossyPants or #Leader

This past weekend I took it upon myself to put together committee descriptions for a non-profit that I volunteer for. The fact that we do not have staff makes us a working board as well as an all-volunteer organization. So, who does what? We are growing, so the time had come to begin the conversation of guidance and direction.

If you have ever served on a board, you may know that burn out can be real and happen fast. We don’t want that! However, we are a phenomenal group that is currently adjusting to change. And, with change brings finding ways to go with the flow and make it work for the situation at hand.

I took a Leadership Academy class in 2010 before I served as President for the Ada County Association of Realtors (now Boise Regional Realtors) The main takeaway I learned was and to this day, to use the word “we” instead of “I” and I cannot stress enough of just how important this is when working with others, especially volunteers.

The lesson here is that the word “we” is inclusive, that “we” are a team, that “we” work together, that “we” can get things done collectively. Using the word “I” this and “I” that will surely dismantle any sense of group efforts. One person cannot do it all without alienation.

Getting involved and volunteering is rewarding and the best advice I can give you is to listen. That’s it, simple: listen. Listen to others, listen to the needs of the organization that is expressed. If you have the skills to lend, find others to recruit to help you with input. If you can observe others with the skills, encourage them to help out, listen to why or what holds that person back for committing.

Just so you know, one of my friends today reminded me that we forgot a committee. Social Committee. We want to have parties! And, by goodness, we will!

#teamwork #volunteer #listen #lifelesson #givingisreceiving

It’s a Staff Appreciation @SaintAlsHealth #ThankYouSoMuch

There must be something in the water at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. I’m not kidding, either. Believe it or not, I had the distinct pleasure of two different staycations in a thirty-day period. Two good outcomes: I finally got to the bottom of why I have been feeling lackluster. Serious enough to land in the hospital overnight. Conditions that were discovered and now we have a plan to take care of both.  I learned on Saturday it takes patience to be a patient. I can’t go home until my numbers are steady. One issue is having issues with the other issue. Go figure.

Sunrise, sunset. Flowers. No kidding, I went with one bag and left with four.

The second outcome is a deep appreciation for each and every person who treated me with kindness, professionalism, caring support and best of all, laughed at my joking around. They all told me I was a great healthy patient.

I want to list the wonderful staff that took care of me, and let Saint Alphonsus Boise know they should be commended. I know the value of staff that excels in service. Recognition is in order:

The two nurses on my first visit were Elizabeth and Beth. Elizabeth has a warm smile and gentle manner about her that put me to ease immediately. On the day I was admitted, I had to wait for a room for quite a long time. Once I got to my room, Elizabeth made me feel as if I was in my own room at home, but with attention. It can be daunting when you are feeling so poorly and you have to spend the night in a hospital. As my condition improved the next night, Elizabeth became my shining light of encouragement. Beth was a delightful unassuming person that seemed to just know what I needed every time. I happened to be on a busy floor with special monitoring. I always felt that I was getting attention despite the fact I was in a much better condition that the other patients. It’s just where they had an open room.

Two weeks later, I had symptoms that led me back to ER. This time I baffled the staff for 24 hours, but their determination got to the bottom of it all. I would like to thank the med student, Ethan Fry, Dr. Severinson, Dr. Nugent, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Matthews. I discovered that there were all levels of students, interns, residents as well as floor hospitalists at St. Al’s. Impressive, to say the least. I looked forward to their visits and tried my best to make each visit one that I could get smiles. Laughter is the best medicine, right?

My night nurses this time were Monique and Amy. Monique was my bright light of sunshine. I am so sorry I scared her in the wee hours of the morning when she came in for vitals. We both laughed about that for days! Amy took over in the same caring attitude that helped me sleep well each night. My day nurses were Danielle and Katie. Danielle was my day nurse when I first arrived, and all I can say is that her smile and attitude helped me get through another day that I did not get to go home. Katie is sweet travelling nurse that was here in Boise from Pennsylvania. She taught me a few tricks of administering shots subcutaneously in case I was going to go home with that. As luck would have it, her self shot lesson came in handy. Then there was Julie, who filled in on a day of more than one nurse. Julie was exceptional in the fact that once I was moved to another room, she brought my dinner food tray to me. WOW! Maybe because she knew I was really looking forward to the Pork Carnitas that I had ordered. Oh, did I mention the food here is great? And, Sarah, my last day nurse that felt my pain when she told me a test number that I knew would keep me one more night. {heavy sigh}. But Carla, the day nurse that checked me out: she was meant to be my goodbye girl when I was discharged. She took time with me to explain everything I needed to know, even if we had to go over it twice.

Adding to the incredible list were the ER staff that I can barely remember since I was not feeling well at all. But what I do remember is that they constantly checked on me, always asking what they could do for me. That helped keep my fears at bay. Next, the techs that drew my blood, the staff that wheeled me to my tests, the pharmacy students that came by to explain my new meds, the student nurses from Boise State University, and all the wonderful and attentive CNA’s on both shifts: Jaquelyn, Sarah, Melissa, Marah, Shalai, Candis, and Pam. And Imelda, who cleaned my room daily. We shared recipes! Then there was this guy some called the Wizard who did an EKG. He was on my left side, and a CNA was on my right taking vitals. He quipped, “Wow, this is just like a NASCAR pit stop!”. Never a dull moment for this girl!

I strongly feel that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated. When you do get that kindness, compassion, professionalism in return, it deserves recognition. I want to thank Saint Alphonsus Medical Center for the wonderful staff that took care of me. And, I want to thank each and every staff person that came to my room that always and I mean always had a smile.

That means everything to me, because a positive experience is the path to healing and wellness.

I kidded my sister a monitor was my personal night light!

#gratitude #hospitalstay #thankyou #SaintAlphonsusBoise

Why is Asking for Help So Darn Difficult? #AskForHelpWhenYouNeedIt

Sometimes I have to give myself a palm to forehead slap. I have to knock the sense back into place in that stubborn mind of mine. Life can be just like a tug of war in life, especially when you are a strong person like myself. I now need more than I am asking for these days. But it’s hard to get the words out….

“I can do this!”, I say to myself until I damn near faint from physical weakness because I did too much again. Being sick is a pain in the you know what for determined individuals such as myself. I am not going to make you feel sorry for me, but suffice to say that our bodies manifest in ways that force us to slow down. Mine went on strike.

But that is a good thing because in the long run, and with the help of the excellent medical expertise we have in the Treasure Valley, I finally figured out why I was feeling lackluster. I questioned everything for a few months. Was the benign tumor getting me down? Was it my sweet dog that I thought was getting better but questioning his mannerisms? Was it the inversion? Seriously, the inversion was even suspect!

zeke-collage-4-blog

I can take care of myself with new focus, but it is my dog that cannot tell me how he feels that has me in tears. But my Zeke. Damnit, he is not getting better. We went to West Vet after hours a few weeks ago. His heart is bigger than last May when he was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure. He was doing well but our ER visit concluded a change we were unaware of. I am not sure I am ready for this after all.

Change can be daunting for us when we think everything is going “just fine”. How do we deal with change when it comes to loved ones? When we have family or friends diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, do we mean what we say? Will be there present to help? Or will we allow fear to make us retreat?

When we are faced with a roadblock, what do we do? Do you ask for help or do you retreat? We cannot be afraid to call out and ask for help. Little do we know that we all have some kind of village that will step up to the plate. You just have to ask.

I felt I would be strong enough to be present in Zeke’s process, and I know I can do this. But I am going to need help. I just wanted you all to know that.

#lifelesson #askforhelp #whatisaroundthecorner

Carne Guisada Slow Cooker #ComfortFood #HeartyNotSpicy

Craving a comfort food sort of meal, I purchased a beautiful chuck roast. Problem was I did not want to make the same ole same ole beef roast recipe full of too much sodium. This Carne Guisada popped up in a search, and me being me, I had to tweak what I found to satisfy my yearnings. Two substitutions: from my pantry, I chose a very mild salsa that I had canned last Fall, and just the right size jar of tomato paste I froze, both made from tomatoes that grew in my garden. Everything else possible for the rest of the ingredients is organic except for the beer.

I researched a number of recipes, and they all called for chipotle. I also wasn’t in the mood for spicy. I just happened to have a jar of Herdez Mexican Sauce, Roasted Pasilla Chile. Perfect, hearty not spicy. Yes, I have left overs and no, you are not invited over for dinner this week.

carne-guisada

Ingredients:

3lb. chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat All-purpose flour to coat seasoned roast
¼ tsp sea salt

Olive oil

1 tsp Gephardt’s chile powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon roasted pasilla chile sauce (I used Herdez) 1 large onion, ends cut, cut in half, cut in half again, cut in quarters
1 clove garlic, minced 1 large red bell pepper, cut in 2” chunks
1 bottle beer, light colored 1/3 cup tomato paste
4 carrots, cleaned and cut in large chunks 1 can Rotel tomatoes w chiles

Directions:

The night before, combine your organic dried herbs – salt, garlic, cumin, oregano – with the chile powder, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix well. Using a large platter to accommodate the roast, rub the roast with your spice mixture thoroughly. Place in glass dish with cover or gallon quart zip lock bag. Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, pull the roast from your refrigerator to bring to room temperature. Prep all the ingredients and have them ready for your recipe. Everything needs to be ready to add.

Using a large platter, add 1/2 cup of flour, spread evenly. Coast the seasoned roast on all sides. Take a quarter of the onion and mince finely, add minced garlic, set aside. Place the rest of the onions and bell pepper in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Use a heavy pan or large pot to fit the roast with room. Heat 1 tblsp. oil at medium high. When the oil is hot, carefully place the roast in your pan. Let the roast sear for about 4-5 minutes on a side, depending on how hot your range cooks. Do not turn until that 4 minutes is up. Then turn the roast over. Place roast in slow cooker on top of the onions and pepper.

With the temperature still on medium high, add a bit of olive oil if you feel you need to. Add the onion & minced garlic, saute for about 3 minutes. Mix the pasilla sauce and the tomato paste well, and now add to the pan. Your paste mixture will caramelize and turn a dark red brick color. Saute for about 3 minutes. NOTE: if you do yearn for more of a spicy taste, use one chipotle in adobo sauce, finely minced.

Pour the beer into the hot pan, stir and scrape to help loosen the bits of meat etc. which have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Keep scraping until you feel your mixture has all those intense flavors from the items you have cooked in the pan, about 3 minutes.

Add this mixture to the slow cooker. Now you can add the Rotel tomatoes and surround the roast with carrots. Cover and set on Low for 8 hours.

Serve with Cilantro Lime Rice, Black Beans with Green Chilies and tortillas.

Bon Appétit!

Emotional Roller Coaster #NotWhatIExpected

I had a heck of a week the past seven days. Monday brain MRI. Tuesday meet with neurosurgeon. Then, met with veterinarian cardiologist for Zeke. I went from worried to relieved to worried to wow, all that in less than one week. The aftermath of emotions was in all directions, and yet I am completely at peace with everything.

wordcloud-lb

Tumor not growing, so why cut in to my skull, right? Neurosurgeon pointed out that I am not experiencing debilitating symptoms such as paralysis, so why do surgery? I replied because I am worried about affordable health insurance in the future. That is a lousy reason to elect to have brain surgery, isn’t it? But the bottom line is that I should not have worry about the future. The decision to put off a serious surgery brought me right back to reality with a heavy sigh of relief.

Which leads to the next dilemma. I now get to live with an uncommon and yet benign tumor in my head. What do I do about that?  It’s so unsettling, but as much as I am relieved, I am let down because I was all prepared to have the procedure. That was the beginning of the roller coaster. It took a few days to sink in my thick, stubborn skull.

I’ll tell you what I am going to do: I will reach out for that silver lining and take heart that it this not cancer. What I have learned about my life challenges is that I must look at the positive aspects of each and every situation. To get past feeling sorry for myself, I take the time to look at what is happening in my life, and sooner or later the lesson comes to light.

It’s not cancer. They are not going to drill my skull. It’s not cancer.

Besides, just last week I wrote that my diagnosis would not define me. To be honest,  my plan is to open that door of relief and going on with my life. I am considering running for a local office position in the city I live in. (Should I?) Oh, and also with the bucket list for Zeke. Happy trails, folks!

#lifelesson #nosurgery #healthmatters #behappy

Your Attitude is What Should Define You #BePositive

I have a second brain MRI today, and I am a bit nervous about learning the results. Well, I need to know what is going on, I need to make decisions, I need to move on. I want this damn tumor out of my head. It’s benign. That is what gets me over the anxiety.

attitude-defines-you

As I walked with my dog Sunday, I thought about my breast cancer diagnosis and how my life changed after that. What was important no longer took center stage. What was not as important was front and center. My priorities changed as I realized how much of life I was missing because I forgot about the simple things.

So, after my treatment 21 years ago, I became an advocate, got involved in breast cancer groups, was on the board of directors for Expedition Inspiration Fund, even went to a cancer science class so that I could lobby in Washington D.C. for cancer research dollars. I told friends back then that breast cancer did not intimidate me, but rather it inspired me.

On my Sunday walk, I thought about whether or not life a threatening illness or rare diagnosis can define a person. It’s all you think about, all you worry about, all you research, all you talk about. Then, you have surgery, you go through treatment or therapy, and years down the road you are not so preoccupied.

For me, becoming an advocate gave me the inspiration to do something about breast cancer. Becoming an advocate gave me purpose to focus on non-profits whose mission was only research in the hopes of finding a cure. We are still not at the cure point, but we sure are on the road to know a great deal more genetically about cancer. That is a very big deal in just 20 years.

I now have an acoustic neuroma, technically called a vestibular schwannoma. It’s in my inner ear canal behind the facial nerve and cochlear nerve. I can’t even describe how I felt when I saw it for the first time 6 months ago, on the big screen at the neurosurgeon’s office. I looked huge even though it’s probably the size of a walnut.

You know what? This is a benign tumor. It’s not cancer. This type of surgery has been refined by technology. And, I am not going to let this diagnosis define me. It is what it is. It’s brain surgery, and the best of the best are right here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not cancer.

What will I do? I’m going to become a new advocate for acoustic neuromas. With the right attitude, healing is just around the corner. If you know me, you know I am a positive person. It’s how I live and how I will get through this. Most importantly, my attitude is how I heal in every life challenge that knocks on my door. Hello!

#acousticneuroma #advocacy #lifelesson #positiveattitude

The UnMeatloaf Muffin #TacoMuffinCups

I went through a very old, tattered file folder Saturday night that had printed recipes from a collection of 20 years. Now, I either save recipes to Pinterest or pdf the recipe I find online. I found Diner Meat Loaf Muffins from Cooking Light, and quickly realized that there is a reason I gave away my meat loaf pan a few years back. I really don’t like meatloaf. But I love tacos! So, I decided to adjust a few ingredients, add some ingredients and find out what happens. Yes, I am a risk taker, even in the kitchen. The result? YUMMY, they were great!

taoco-muffins

Ingredients
1.5 lbs lean ground beef
1 cup finely minced onion
½ cup finely minced carrot
1 small can diced green chiles
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
¼ cup Bella Luci sun dried julienne cut tomatoes, minced
¾ cup organic ketchup
¼ cup Tapatío sauce
1 cup finely chopped corn tortilla chips, I used Juanita’s
2 eggs
Combine the following dried herbs/seasonings:
1 teaspoon Gephardt’s chili powder
½ teaspoon organic oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon sea salt & ground black pepper
Large muffin pan

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Coat muffin pan with canola cooking spray, set aside
  • Prep all ingredients as follows:
    • Dried herbs/seasonings as directed above
    • Combine organic ketchup and Tapatio sauce in small bowl, mix well
    • In batches, finely mince onions and carrots in food processor, set aside in medium bowl
    • Garlic cloves in garlic press, add to onion mixture
    • Finely chop tortilla chips in food processor
    • Finely chop sun dried tomatoes
  • Heat medium skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil, sauté onions, carrots, garlic for 2-3 minutes, add pinch of the spice mixture as you cook until soft but still crunchy. Cool as much as you can, 5-10 minutes, in that medium bowl
  • While vegetables cook, mix lean ground beef, finely chopped tortilla chips, sun dried tomatoes, diced green chiles, 2 eggs, and spice mixture well with your hands in large bowl. Add ¾ ketchup to meat mixture, blend well.
  • Add onion-carrot mixture and blend well with using your hands.
  • Spoon meat mixture in 6 large muffin pan Top each with remaining ketchup mixture.
  • Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 160°
  • Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from muffin pan

Day at Idaho State Capitol #ACSCAN

I missed posting yesterday morning because was busy! I joined dozens of volunteers at the Idaho State Capitol with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. We were present to talk to our State Representatives and Senators about making effective change on the lives affected by cancer. This all starts with volunteers on state levels, which is an important grassroots action.

lobby-day

To influence real change, you must take the time to speak, call, write your elected officials. We all know this, right? One of the action steps that I take annually is to participate with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) on a lobby day in Boise. ACSCAN has a major impact on the state level and Washington D.C. with volunteers and staff that take the time to explain why certain bills are so important on each state level.

Here in Idaho, our main concerns were ACSCAN’s Millennium Fund Grant request for $194k to be set aside in the Governor’s budget. The funds would be used for evidence based interventions as well as best practices to increase breast and cervical cancer screening rates and decrease the rates of tobacco use. The funding would provide education and outreach for the Woman’s Health Check program. If awarded, the funds would also help low income women get breast and cervical cancer screenings, and treatment if needed. By detecting cancer earlier, we save lives.

Another issue we were supporting is a Medication Synchronization rule. Believe it or not, we have to ask for a rule that would allow multiple medications to be synced for one single pharmacy visit. This is a critical need for Idahoans living in rural areas. Next, we discussed Oral Chemotherapy Fairness. By tell our personal stories, we shared why cancer patients should have affordable access to effective prescribed chemotherapies regardless if the drug is intravenous or pill form. For many patients, this is a problem due to insurance companies denying the physician’s prescribed order. 42 other states have enacted this. It’s time that Idaho gets on board.

If you want changes in how we live as cancer patients and survivors or caregivers of relatives with a cancer diagnosis, we must speak out. Get involved!

#ACSCAN #cancer #cancerissues #LobbyDay #community #healthcare

It Occurred to Me That I Forgot, But So Did Others #PastIsPast

I realized last week that my siblings and I did not acknowledge our parent’s anniversary. Which is my crowning boast because I always tell people that I am a honeymoon baby, 9 months and 5 days later. Yes, I have something to brag about!

Kidding aside, I have come to accept that after 11 years since their passing, we now hold our memories to ourselves and our hearts. There is not a day or week that goes by when I think about them, talk to them, or smile about something that reminds me of them.

think-first-be-mindful

Which brings me to the point of my post. Things, events, occurrences, breakups, meetups, trials, tribulations. These are in our past, but often we tend to hold on to the events and that can harm our hearts, literally health-wise and figuratively mind-wise.

I learned an odd lesson Sunday afternoon after I had commented on a Facebook thread. The next thing I knew I was being attacked and called names. The written form of verbal abuse. Well, guess what? I am not going to allow that behavior in my life. And, yet, I had to let it go.

I learned that the only way to move past the hate is to move past my reaction first. I replied with facts, concise, and politely. No name calling. It is truly sad how angry America is right now. But if a person can be steady then hopefully the other person can learn.

Getting back to my parents, I can tell you that their death pushed me into learning more about myself than I thought I needed, let alone possible. I still remind myself to count to ten before I respond. Sometimes no response is better. It just depends.

Think first, be mindful.

That phrase is one of my daily affirmations. Here is another one:

It’s better to be kind than to be right.

Amen to that.

#lifelesson #communication #