My Garden Runneth Over

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My Garden Bounty

As a cancer survivor, healthy eating has become paramount to my survival. All the research points to the fact that a diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables is the key to preventing not only cancer, but a myriad of other diseases. Look around you at the people walking down the street and it will become crystal clear that you are what you eat. See a few Big Macs out there?

I’ve always been fairly conscientious about what I put in my mouth, but I do have a sweet tooth. I can remember watching “The Biggest Loser” a few years ago with my ice cream bowl on my lap. Ironic, huh? I wasn’t seriously overweight, but I was enjoying a form of denial. After all, I did cut up fresh fruit to put on top of my dessert. 

Shortly after that. I started running and got serious about my diet. I was fairly strict during the week…no dessert and no alcohol. I ate lean meat and tried to cut back on my carb consumption. But I never tried to live with complete deprivation because I believe that this leads to failure. I allowed myself to indulge that sweet tooth on Saturdays, usually in the form of some decadent ice cream shop creation involving lots of chocolate and the word “fantasy”. 

So there I was, proud as punch about my healthy new lifestyle, and I got cancer anyway. I was in shock at the seeming unfairness of it all. What about all these yahoos smoking and drinking while double-fisting Krispy Kreme doughnuts?! They’ll probably live forever! 

My diagnosis made me realize a couple of things. First, cancer is a sneaky, relentless disease that has many causes. Even if you do everything just right, you aren’t immune. Second, you can always take steps to give yourself a little more insurance. I was eating better than most, but I was still nowhere near the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, which is still inadequate.

Since my ordeal, I have made a concerted effort to scour vegan and vegetarian blogs, books, and other resources to find new recipes. I still eat meat, but I’ve cut back, and I try not to use any products from large commercial farms. I also limit dairy, but cheese is a tough thing to give up! 

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Squash Casserole with Garden Cukes and Tomatoes

This year, I raised an organic garden, although it has been very challenging lately with all the rain. Asheville is trying to become a suburb of Seattle, I think. I’ve had yellow squash and phallic cucumbers running out my ears. I made my own pickles, and a vegan blackberry cobbler. Right now, I have green beans, watermelon, and pumpkins trying to take off. The tomatoes finally lost the battle to the weather, so I’ll be pulling them out this weekend. 

Overall, the garden has been a success, and not only from a food standpoint. There’s something soul sustaining about digging in the dirt. At the end of a really crappy day, I can’t help but feel better standing among my veggies.  

I feel pretty good about my choices most of the time. I’ve come up with a supplement regimen that works. I’m getting more creative and healthier in the kitchen. That mental piece is still a work in progress, but I’m trying to figure out my path to happiness and fulfillment. The only thing I can ask when I look back on my life is that I did everything I could to change the outcome and survive. The rest is out of my hands.

Weekly Photo Challenge: ZIGZAG

My children think I’m crazy sometimes, but they’ve learned to embrace it and even appreciate pieces of my offbeat personality when they catch themselves acting like Mom. This photo was taken on one of those eye-rolling occasions. 

We had been enjoying a sunny afternoon stroll downtown and had just returned to the parking garage. As I started to get in the car, this scene caught my eye on the parking level just above us. My teenage daughter was feeling particularly salty that day and insisted that we go home. I had to risk her wrath when she realized we were going up instead of down toward the exit. I think it was worth it:)

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Summer Lovin’ Take Two

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Ahhh summer, how I love you. I pine for you on cold, dreary December days. I rejoice upon your return and bask in your embrace, unashamed. But your flirtation is brief and intense, like a butterfly landing momentarily on a bloom. Soon you will depart once again, and I will cling to your memory, as it is all that you have left me.

Another One Bites The Dust!

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Have you ever had what seemed like a great opportunity on it’s face, but something in your gut was gnawing at you and twisting you up inside? I’ve been contemplating just such a move for a couple weeks now, and the truth of the situation finally became apparent yesterday.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I am a chiropractor stuck in a job not at all related to chiropractic. I work in a hospital lab, which was what I did before my graduate degree. I took the job in 2007 while I was waiting to take my national boards in 2008. I needed the money, so I decided that it made sense to do the lab thing for 2 years, save money, and then open my own practice.

Well, that was obviously 7 years ago, and so much bad shit has happened in that interval that I’m beginning to wonder if I was someone truly offensive in a previous life, like Hitler, or Justin Bieber. Is this the payback? Hmmm.

Also, I have what I like to call the “zero boundaries personality”. Once I get stuck doing something for a period of time, it becomes a habit. Even if it’s miserable, like, I don’t know, sliding down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol, I continue to do it, year in and year out. Familiar misery is always better than the cold, dark alley at the corner of Risk and Change, right?

Now, what I just said kind of even blows my mind. If I get into a really horrible, life-threatening new situation, like cancer, I’m a trooper. I will step out into the unknown, guns blazing, and win a medal for bravery every time. But give me something terrifying like changing jobs, I’m a bowl of gutless jello. Can’t do it; wouldn’t be prudent. I want to kick myself in the ass sometimes.

So, I’ve been talking to a very successful established chiropractor about the possibility of joining his practice as an associate. It was kind of amusing, actually, because I turned him down initially and he pursued me. It felt almost scandalous, like being wooed by a potential lover.

He took me to lunch twice, he brought me to his office and let me use his shiny machines. He said he was so excited about us working together and potentially selling his practice to me when he retires in 10 years. I admit it. I was basking in the attention.

However, I was also curious as to why he was so enthused about little old me. After all, I have next to zero real-world business experience, and my tiny home office wouldn’t really even be called a “practice” in most circles. The IRS laughs every year when I send in my business tax forms.

But, I am smart and I have a pretty good personality, so I thought maybe I had charmed him into thinking we would be great together. Also, his wife just finished treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer, so I think he could relate to me.

It was all moving like a train on rails until we started talking money. I made the mistake of telling him what I earn part time at the lab, and he quickly jumped all over that as a full time base salary for our arrangement. He said I had the potential to earn a bonus as well, but when I pressed him on the amount, it was still going to be about $15,000 less than what I could make now.

I really agonized over this decision for days and days, to the point where I couldn’t eat and felt knots in my stomach much of the time. I had to weigh the vast amount of knowledge I could get from him against a substantial pay cut, at least the first year.

Meanwhile, once the salary figure was on the table, the chiropractor went from a “no hurry” attitude to a bum’s rush. He was e-mailing daily about taking new photos for the office to include me, doing training courses, etc. It’s as if he thought he had already hired me.

I couldn’t decide, so I found an associate who had worked for him previously and called him. He was very gracious in telling me that his experience with this man wasn’t “super positive”. He said that the chiropractor was extremely “profit-driven” and that I would be a source of income for him. He felt that he had gone into the arrangement expecting one thing and that it had turned out to be something very different. He couldn’t make the money he felt he deserved there.

Not being one to judge immediately, I decided to write a long e-mail to the chiropractor outlining some of my concerns. It was honest but respectful. I told him that I would love to find a long-term opportunity and that I felt he had a lot to teach me, but that I couldn’t justify the move at that salary without more opportunity for bonuses. I also wanted to get some basic answers, like how many patients I would be expected to see, what my marketing obligations would be, what kind of hours would be required, etc. I hit send and waited.

I didn’t hear anything until the next night at almost 10 pm. I then got an e-mail with the subject line “Thanks for your interest!”. Not a good start. He told me that he had enjoyed getting to know me and that I was a delightful person, but he felt that it wasn’t the right time to work together. He signed, “Dr. R*****”, when all the previous correspondence had ended with just his first name.
Cool.

I was really surprised. I expected a counter-offer, a sit-down meeting, something, since he had already offered me the job. But the curtain was removed, and the great and powerful Oz was revealed. He had only been interested in me because he thought I would work for nothing, apparently. That kind of stings. I hate to think about it, but I really hope he didn’t see the cancer thing as a vulnerability, thinking that it would make me more likely to accept his offer.

So, I’m back to the drawing board, looking for the next big opportunity. I did find something positive in this whole experience, though. There was a time not too long ago that I would have caved and just said “Ok, sure, I’ll be glad to work for that. And, please, let me wash your car and take your kids to school.” I valued myself enough to question what didn’t seem right, even if it meant not getting the job. And that is a very good sign.

 

Red, White, and Blackberry Blue

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So I had a rather unconventional 4th of July weekend. It started out in the usual way with a spectacular fireworks show Friday night over the lake. Saturday, we were invited to a friend’s lawn party. And that’s when things started to go downhill, literally.

All of the party guests were supposed to bring a dish, so I decided to try out a brand new vegan blackberry cobbler recipe. We have a huge wild blackberry bush behind the fence in the backyard, and it has been bursting with fruit this past week. 

The recipe called for 3 cups of berries, and as I measured out the batch my husband had picked earlier, I was a cup short. I went outside to see if I could round up some more ripe berries, but all of those at eye level had already been taken. I asked my husband to bring me the ladder from the garage so I could reach the top of the bush where many more fine specimens were sitting. (Insert dramatic music here)

If you’ve ever picked blackberries, you know what a chore it is. Those little boogers are protected by thorns about half an inch long all over the branches. It is a labor of love. Well, I decided it would be easier just to lean the ladder against the fence than to open it. After all, it’s a fence; it wasn’t going to fall over. 

Just as I climbed to the top rung of the six foot ladder, I had a fleeting thought. “This is probably not a good idea; it feels a little…” Game over. Evidently, I forgot those two semesters of college physics, where I learned about the fulcrum. When I put all my weight on the top of the ladder, the bottom flew out from beneath me. I was catapulted like a circus act head first over the fence.

It happened so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to brace the fall with my hands. I landed on my forehead, twisted grotesquely on my neck, and landed on my back. My first thought was that I might be paralyzed. I wiggled my fingers and toes. Good sign. My next thought was that it hurt like hell, my arms and legs pinned in place by the thorns sticking through my skin.

My husband sprinted into the garage to get the clippers and then fought the thick brush to get to me. I couldn’t move for the brambles, and he literally had to cut me out of the bush. I was finally able to stand and survey the damage. My arms, legs, and hands were scraped up and my face was bruised and bleeding, but I thanked God in that moment for letting me walk away. My husband told me later that I landed a foot away from a large rock.

I think there was a lesson in that fall, besides the obvious ladder safety review. We get so caught up as cancer survivors in doing all the right things to prevent a recurrence. If we can only eat the right foods, take the right supplements, do the right amount of exercise, everything will be ok. I realized Saturday that my life, anyone’s life, can be over in an instant, cancer or no cancer. Maybe we should spend less time worrying and more time savoring each day, doing things we love with people who matter.

As for me, I’m pretty stiff, but I saw the chiropractor today, so hopefully my neck will be on straight again soon. I’m covering my face pretty well with makeup so I don’t look like I’m a battered woman. 

By the way, I laid down after the great blackberry caper for about 20 minutes with ice on my head and neck. And then I made that damned cobbler! And it rocked.

Step Into My Cave…

I’ve been a very bad blogger lately. It seems like the warm summer days are flying by in a blur of activity, one melting into the next. I’m surprised each night to find that I’ve barely had time to sit down before bedtime rolls around. And I’ve been working more, somehow, instead of less. Things on that front are very stressful and insanely busy due to staff shortages.

On a happier note, I have managed to squeeze in some scenic and interesting family day trips. The photos you see were taken at Linville Caverns, which is inside a mountain about 2 hours northeast of Asheville, NC. These are a few of the formations that have been created by water pressure over eons. The colors are the product of various minerals and semi-precious gems.

The caverns actually have 3 levels, but the public is only allowed to tour a small portion that has been stabilized. There is a “bottomless pool” that runs beneath the structure. Apparently, scientists have tried to measure it’s depth on several occasions using various tools, but they have yet to find the bottom. A nifty part of the tour involves having visitors wiggle their fingers in front of their eyes and then turning off all the lights. This is said to be one of only two places where one can experience the complete absence of light, the other being the bottom of the ocean.

I think they were mistaken, however. The third place would be a hospital lab:)