Friday, July 29, 2011

Another Way of Looking at Things

Yes, this year brought a horrifying cancer scare, more pain than I can begin to describe, and ultimately a shocking diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis.  Still, I can't help but reflect on how my life has changed for the better.  

Because of AS, I:

- Started this blog.  
- Reconnected with so many old friends and made some new, fantastic ones.  
- Became a vegetarian.
- Started juicing.
- Learned how to slow down.
- Appreciate every moment with family and friends.
- Renewed my love and passion for writing.  
- Understand God's grace.  
- Live intentionally.
- Believe something great is on the horizon.  
- Am honest with myself.  
- Choose joy.    
- Started to grow my own food.
- Don't have time to fear.
- Pray without ceasing. 

And while I look forward to a day without pain, I know that I am stronger for it.  


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beet Quinoa Salad

I chose this week's recipe based on what I pulled out of the garden.  It was a toss up between carrots and beets.  The beets won.  If you're ready to stop reading, hold on.  Give me a chance.  

Beets are a power food:
- Sweet but low in calories
- High in fiber
- High in iron
- Cancer fighting beta-carotene 
- Folic Acid

Today's recipe comes from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Life website.  You can find the Beet Quinoa Salad recipe here. If you haven't heard of Kris Carr, you're missing out.  She is the incredible light behind Crazy Sexy Diet and a whole new health revolution.  Her story is amazing - diagnosed with an incurable cancer 8 years ago, she went on a healing mission.  She still has cancer but she is thriving and changing people's lives, one green juice at a time.  

Whenever I cook beets, I always roast (bake) them in the oven.   I cook them at 375 degrees for 45 minutes - 1 hour (depending on the size).  You know they're ready when you can pierce them easily with a fork.  
Remove the beet tops, clean the beets and place in a piece of foil (this keeps things clean) and drizzle with a little olive oil.  

This salad is power packed with the incredible nutrients of the beets and the quinoa.

Mmmmmm!  A really yummy, refreshing summer salad.  A great change from your typical green salad.  I think this would be perfect with some fish as the salad alone wasn't that filling.  

Let me know if you try it!   

Happy Power Cooking, 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This is what passion looks like...

You know it when you see it.  You've heard it, experienced it.   It moves you, drives you, takes you from a place of existing to a place of truly living.  It propels us to heights we never knew existed, gives us purpose beyond our wildest dreams.  We sometimes dismiss it, but can't live without it... Passion.

When I think of passion, there are a few people that immediately come to mind.  Each of them live out their lives in a way that is wholly unique, beautiful and inspiring.  I am so happy to introduce you to these incredible ladies.

Kelia "Sister" Moniz is probably one of the most beautiful, down-to-earth, talented 18-year olds you will ever meet.  She exudes a confident grace beyond her years.  You just have to do a quick Google search to find that she has made quite a name for herself. There is no question that her natural beauty, raw talent and amazing style lands her on the cover of magazines, ad campaigns and store windows.  But it's not just her pretty face or surfing success that makes her star shine bright, it's her incredible love for life, for her family and for all those around her. I am so glad that my little girls have Sister to look up to - truly a young woman that exemplifies passion, both in and out of the water.  Keep your eye on this one - she has an amazing life ahead of her.

My dear friend Vanessa is one of the sweetest souls I know.  She is a rare find - genuinely loving, compassionate and kind, but equally intelligent and creative. She is the artistic force behind Little Dew Drops, an organic children's clothing line. Vanessa creates all her own designs and hand-cuts them into stencils. Her designs reflect her passion for children, the environment and her faith.  What started as an idea has flourished into an amazing clothing line that can be found on-line and in retail stores across Hawaii.  Not only has she grown a business, but she did it while raising three incredible children. Visit her store and see for yourself what happens when passion picks up a paintbrush.

Ten years ago, I met Marion Reyes-Burke.   Radiant and smart, with a contagious laugh you could hear from across the room, Marion became one of the top students of our law school class.  I loved her energy, her ability to smile through the most grueling lecture, and her style - always dressed like she had somewhere to go, she carried herself with confidence and grace.  I wasn't surprised when she became an associate attorney at one of the top law firms in Honolulu.  I must say though, I was a little surprised when she completely reinvented herself and became a triathlete.  As though being a wife, mother and high powered attorney isn't enough, the woman who learned to swim shortly before starting law school and never ran seriously decided it would be "fun" to start training for triathlons.  The rest is history.  

Coming out of a 400 m swim at her first triathlon in May 2008

April 2009 - First race back after a bike crash
 resulted in an injury to her left arm
that required surgery and rehab.

June 2010 - Marion's first half-Ironman.
Sprinting to the finish line to beat 7 hours.
The look on her face says it all.

These women are among many others in my life that continually inspire me.  They turn ordinary surfboards, paintbrushes, and bicycles into something beautiful.  That's the power of passion. 

Who inspires you?  


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sitting Strong

Oh, the irony of it all.  Since my last post, my pain has been the worst it has been in weeks.  Difficulty sitting straight or breathing deeply, pain and tenderness along my spine, stiffness throughout my body.  It's frustrating, because it seems like you should feel a certain way when the numbers say you're "doing better".  Still, I meant every word of what I said and continue to believe that healing is in progress.  I have to.

Even as I sit here to type, I am conscious of my posture and the effort it takes to sit completely erect.  I breathe deeply and intentionally,  feeling the pull along my rib cage.  I take a break every few minutes as my hands begin to stiffen.  I watch, almost at a distance, as my body and mind adjusts to accommodate my new normal.  I am aware, incredibly aware, of everything.   Somehow, this awareness makes me feel more connected, more compassionate, and strangely, more resilient than ever.  Yes, the irony of it all.  At times when we should be at our weakest, somehow there is strength.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Caution: Healing in Progress

Good news!  My latest labs came back and my inflammation levels are finally "normal".   They are still on the high end of the normal range, but it's the biggest improvement we've seen in 9 months.  We're talking from over 100, down to the 60s and now 20!  Can I get a woo hoo!  Basically this means that my Enbrel shots are doing their job.  While I'm not pain-free, it is good to know the inflammation is under control and not creating more damage.  I still have a love-hate relationship with the medication, but my mindset has changed.  I am thankful for the shots and see it as a way of buying me time until there's an actual cure.  

Speaking of cures, I've had some thoughts recently.  Is there a difference between being cured and being healed?  Technically, it's probably the same.  Personally, I think one can exist without the other.  Here's why:  While I still have a disease, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that I am being healed.  Each day, each moment, healing is taking place.  It's happening throughout my body, but also in my mind and spirit.  Health is not just about normal lab results and the absence of disease.  I think health and wholeness are synonymous; it's your body, mind and spirit living and thriving.  

Healing is not completely out of our hands.  There are choices to make each day. I choose to nourish my body with foods that promote healing.  I choose to move and exercise in such a way that will bring back strength and vitality.  I choose to pray, worship and be still.  I choose joy.  I choose life. 

While my charts read "no cure", I know that by the grace of God, I am being healed.  And with that, I continue to move forward, thankful and unafraid.  

Love and Healing, 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ready... Set... Stop.

I just got back from 5 days of camping.  It was a great time with old friends and the beautiful outdoors.  While camping with kids isn't exactly relaxing, I did have some quiet moments here and there.  Amazingly, I hardly thought about AS.  Maybe it's because I felt pretty good, just achy all over, but that might be the new normal.
I was looking forward to getting away from our regular routine and excited to be surrounded be nature.

One afternoon I took a short walk along the lake.  I thought that it would be a good time to think about the next steps.  I sat on a bench and looked out at the water, the trees, the clouds.  I sat and I waited.  Waited for a revelation, an answer, clarity, inspiration.  I waited, but nothing happened.  I must have looked so silly, staring up at the sky in anticipation.  It's like I was expecting God to throw me a line with a message attached.  A message that would outline the answers to all my questions:

What am I supposed to do with my life?

How should I proceed from here?

What kind of work should I be doing?

Where am I going?

You know, little questions like that.  Yes, I sat there expecting an answer (or at least a hint).  I got nothing.  I started to walk back to the campsite, disappointed. As I walked I began to feel pretty ridiculous.  I just missed out on 20 quiet, peaceful minutes.  Did I even see the beauty that was around me?  Did I breathe the fresh air?  Hear the birds sing?  Feel the wet sandy gravel beneath my toes?  Was I present for any of it?  Was I looking at life or just looking for answers?

And then it hit me.

Maybe all the answers are staring me right in the face.  Maybe they look different, sound different, are packaged different from what I'm expecting.  If I could be still long enough, maybe I would recognize them. Therein lies the challenge:  To be still.

At a time when I feel a sense of urgency, a need for action, it seems counterintuitive to be still.  And yet, I'm realizing that clarity, wisdom and purpose is refined in that stillness.  So here I am, learning once again to quiet myself, believing that in this moment, it is the most productive thing to do.

Sitting in Silence,

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Happy Place

I used to go to the ocean to hear myself think, to quiet myself, to listen.  Now I go to my garden.  

Instead of buying me flowers, my husband builds me "cages" and plants cucumbers for my green juice.  Now that's love.  

Watching your garden grow is really pretty amazing.  One day there's nothing but leaves, the next day there are little tomatoes sprouting up everywhere.

Slowly expanding and taking over our once flawless (but useless) yard.

Remember our little sugar snap peas that we planted back in April?  Look at her now.  Sweet and crunchy right off the vine.  

Bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini

You never know what might bring you joy in life.  Our garden lets me breathe, think, pray.  I am so thankful.

Where is your happy place?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

When in Doubt... Dinner in a Bowl

Today was one of those days where I looked up at the clock and it was 5:30 p.m.  Where did the day go? Anyway, I didn't exactly have dinner planned so this is the perfect time to introduce my go-to dinners (aka:  dinner in a bowl).  They are great because they're quick, easy, delicious and relatively cheap.  

Tonight I started with some quinoa at the bottom (usually I use brown rice but quinoa takes 20 minutes to cook vs. 50 minutes for brown rice).  I topped the quinoa with sliced carrots, edamame, shredded cheese, avocado and strips of roasted (Korean) seaweed.  So good!  It sort of tastes like a California Roll in a bowl.  

If you don't have the time or desire to make your own dressing, here are two great options.

Open Nature's Asian Sesame Ginger dressing is perfect for this bowl.  I bought this one at Safeway.

If you live near a Trader Joe's (sorry Hawaii friends and family) the Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette is a must have in your refrigerator.

The best part about this dinner is you can get creative.  If you don't have carrots, use tomatoes.  If you don't have edamame, use black beans or azuki beans.  Need more substance?  Add some fish or grilled chicken.  I love recipes where you don't have to measure or stick to certain ingredients.  Just have fun with it.

Eat well!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons from a 3-year-old

Last year, when my daughter was about two and a half, we were walking out of a grocery store when she said, "Mommy, the lady in there was really pretty."  I told her that when she thinks nice things like that she should say it out loud because it would make the person really happy.  Well, she took that to heart and since then, doesn't hesitate to tell someone what she thinks.  I've seen many an adult turn teary-eyed, many an awkward teenager turn beet red, and every single person smile from ear to ear.  It's simple little things that make such an impact on the receiver.

I love your shiny long hair.

You have pretty earrings.

I like the way you laugh.

Thank you for being so nice.

Your dress is beautiful.

I love your sparkly eyes.

I witness this at least once a week.  The power of saying something nice to someone just because - because you're three and you have no reason not to. The reaction is almost always the same:  first the person is taken aback, then their demeanor changes, shifting between embarrassment, insecurity and gratitude.  When they finally end up saying "thank you" the sincerity is touching.  It's not just a 3-year-old giving someone a compliment.  It's one person speaking life to another.

Words are powerful.  They are rarely neutral.  They can heal or hurt, empower or demean, bring joy or pain. And really, it doesn't just affect the person on the receiving end.  Speaking words of life is just as powerful as hearing them.  I see this in my 3-year-old.  She is confident, unafraid, radiant.  She makes me want to be a better person.

What's the use in thinking nice thoughts about someone?  Tell them.  Whether it's your spouse, your kids, your boss, a complete stranger.  Tell them.  You'll be amazed at what your words will do - to both of you.

Love and Gratitude,