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What breast cancer has taught me…

Breast cancer awareness month is nearing its end. I often spend September and October reflecting on my life after my breast cancer diagnosis, mostly because I was diagnosed right at the onset of breast cancer awareness month.

About 10-12 years ago, when my mom was attending to her breast cancer treatment, I had no knowledge of the disease. She told me she was struggling with how to proceed in her course of treatment considering how much her breasts meant to her. My mom had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction with an implant. I didn’t think she needed to get a breast implant. Admittedly at the time, I thought it was odd my mom was talking about her relationship with her breasts, considering she was in her late 60’s. I thought she wouldn’t care so much since she was in a different phase of life. Looking back, I was insensitive.

She wasn’t sure what to do and I wondered if she was repeating what medical staff might have told her to consider in her decision making. It’s possible I wasn’t accepting her position because I had never heard my mom discuss how she felt about her own body. The procedures took a toll on her. There was a complication with the breast implant, so she had a repeat surgery. She got through it. My mom is my finest example of a strong Haitian Queen.

Three years ago, I was faced with contemplating what my breasts, and LIFE, meant to me. Upon initial cancer diagnosis, doctors arm you with so much information. In a week’s time, I had met with my primary care physician, two different surgeons (one who would remove the tumor and one who would perform the breast reconstruction), and the oncologist. It was overwhelming. I presume they do this to ensure you know all of the options because of the unknowns about the cancer until the initial surgery to remove the tumor is performed.

There are different regimens of breast cancer treatment – surgery to remove the tumor, plastic surgery for breast reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and oral medications.  These activities don’t necessarily occur in this order and one may not need every type of treatment. Characteristics of the tumor, and whether or not the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, determine the course of treatment. The initial surgery to remove the tumor is the main treatment. Tumor pathology results further dictate the course of treatment.

Ultimately, I had a lumpectomy, followed a week later by breast reconstruction of both my natural breasts, then radiation therapy daily for 3 weeks, and finally (I pray), due to my age, I take oral medications for another 2-7 years.

I have a long complicated history with my breasts, but not as long as women who are diagnosed around the average age of 55 years old. I’m an anomaly, along with other women diagnosed at younger ages – twenties, thirties, and forties. We may no longer be anomalies in coming years given younger women are diagnosed every day. Much of that has to do with the increase in breast cancer screenings and earlier detection thanks to breast cancer awareness campaigns.

I developed breasts early. I was around 11 years old. I remember my mom’s friends at times whispering to her while pointing at my breasts. It felt awkward. I was getting the messaging I was developing early.  This caused me to be self-conscious. By the time, I got to high school, I really noticed how the boys reacted to my breasts. They gawked at them, which made me even more self-conscious. I recall my first day as a freshman, waiting on classes to start in the gym. A boy said “hi” to me. We chatted for a bit, then he whispered to his friend (not really a whisper), “Nice cherries!” They both nodded and snickered.

It never occurred to me that I should love or be proud of my breasts. I was conflicted about them for sure. I knew boys and men loved them. They would just stare. I knew this type of attention is what girls are taught is not good attention. Plus, it also made me uncomfortable with my sexuality and how to process the attention I was getting.  Growing up in a religious environment didn’t really address body image issues and sexuality. Sex occurred after marriage and that was it.

Fast forward, I got married and had my two children, both of whom, I breastfed. I loved I was able to breastfeed my babies. I was doing what was best for them. However, breastfeeding two babies left me with sagging breasts. It wasn’t long before I started wishing for the beautiful size C cups of my youth. I was left with some large, lanky size double D’s. I had to double up on sports bars for my workouts. I would complain to my husband, Bryan, I needed a breast reduction. We would joke about it…”one day, when we got a lump of money…”.

Three years ago, I was in my plastic surgeon’s office listening as he explained plastic surgery options. By this time, I had shown my breasts to every doctor/nurse I had seen in a week’s time and this continued for a year. The awkwardness of showing strangers, especially male doctors my breasts can’t be fully explained. I already had a love/hate relationship with my breasts.

If I chose to get a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction, fat could be removed from my stomach to rebuild my breasts. The surgery is 8 hours with a minimum of 1 week in the hospital and 1 month recovery post surgery. I could opt to get breast implants too like my mom. I would need to make a plan for nipples because I would lose them through surgery. But there was a resolution for that too….tattooed nipples. I’m as squeamish as they come, yet he was showing me before and after pictures. I could hardly stand it. My preference with my body is to always pick the least invasive approach.

I didn’t want to go through any surgeries. I wanted to be alive for my children. However, the path to wellness was surgery. Also, I was finally going to get a breast reduction and my size C cups back, but this was the farthest from my mind. I couldn’t imagine how I would get through all that was ahead of me, but I did by taking things in small bites – day by day.

When I told my mom I had breast cancer, she wailed, pleaded, and even told me on repeated occasions, she couldn’t accept it. Her reaction was as if she blamed herself. The fact is, I may have quite possibly gotten it through her genes, considering my grandmother, my mother’s mother, also had breast cancer. Genetic testing results came back negative. Genes are a trip. I’m thankful my siblings didn’t get it. It’s the luck of the draw. My children do have a real risk of getting breast cancer.

By the time, I told my mom, I knew I had a positive prognosis and had full faith I would be healed. I think I surprised her with my calm demeanor and positive attitude. I knew I had to get through my treatments to get to the other side. I was determined to do just that. I showed her how brave I was.

There is no question a cancer diagnosis brings you face to face with your own mortality and makes you consider what’s really important in life. You often will hear people who have had a sudden onset of a serious health condition say things like they know what’s important in life now, they don’t sweat the small stuff, they are more grateful, etc.

I agree with all of those things, but I still have a hard time with overachieving and overall doing too much and feeling guilty when I do try to do less. I’m working on it though. It’s takes awareness and deliberate action daily.

Ultimately, breast cancer has taught I can brave any storm and my one body is beautifully flawed. How people process their diagnosis varies and should be respected. Breast cancer has also reminded me of the need to:

  • Fuel my body daily with nutritious food and liquids
  • Reduce stress
  • Move daily
  • Think kind thoughts about myself
  • Have self-compassion
  • Slow down
  • Do things I love
  • Ask for what I need
  • Say what I mean to say

What have life challenges taught you about yourself?

 

 

 

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It’s Finally Here!

Hi all! It’s finally here! Yippee! Fall in Texas finally came…even if for just a few days! See what I mean below. We’ll be hot again before you know it, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. The weather unpredictability factor is pretty high this time of year. But I’m so happy the season has finally caught up with my meals because I’ve been cooking comfort foods for a while now. You can read more about my favorite comfort foods here and here.

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I was so excited to find canned organic pumpkin on sale for $1.50 at my local grocery store last week. I bought several cans so I can make my delicious pumpkin green smoothies. I’ve already enjoyed a batch of pumpkin/pineapple/spinach and pumpkin/mango/super greens. In all of my green smoothies, I add some power foods depending on my preference such as flax, chia, and/or hemp seeds. I choose a liquid depending on what I have a taste for such as brewed green tea, coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or plain water. I wrote a post about my love of green smoothies a while back which you can read by clicking I love green SMOOTHIES.

In Chicago, I didn’t grow up eating pumpkins. Everyone I knew ate sweet potatoes, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years, I’ve become more interested in the nutritional benefits of certain foods. I’ve learned that pumpkins are very nutritious and have a high amount of Vitamin A, so when they are available at a reasonable price, I purchase them for smoothies.

I don’t remember eating sweet potatoes all year around in Chicago like I do now. I enjoy a plain baked sweet potato with a pinch of salt whenever I want – no butter and no sugar. On occasion, I also enjoy a sauteed sweet potato and onion hash as a breakfast side.

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Hardy breakfast: sauteed sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, & bacon. LPC

For the holidays in Chicago, family and friends made sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole, which usually included marshmallows. We didn’t eat pumpkin pie. I do believe this is cultural because my inner circle consisted of Haitians and black or African American friends.

Sweet potato pie

My Sweet potato pie-LPC

In my first few months living in Texas as a new bride, I bought a Texas holiday cookbook. If the book weren’t so worn out, I’d share a picture. I never learned how to make the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. My sister, Gina, makes a fabulous sweet potato casserole. I’ve had many a delicious sweet potato casserole. They tend to be really sweet as you can imagine. It’s almost like eating a dessert.

There is a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes in my Texas holiday cookbook that I’ve been making for 22 years. It’s so good, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE! I always get compliments when I prepare it for potlucks or for my guests during Thanksgiving. It’s so simple, it’ll blow your mind. The secret ingredient that takes it over the top is brandy. Yes, indeed – ALCOHOL. The brandy allows the sweet potatoes to SHINE. Therefore, no marshmallows needed.

Thinking about my wonderful holiday recipes is making me excited for Thanksgiving, but we have a little ways to go before we get there. In the meantime, my weekends are spent prepping delicious meals for the upcoming week. I work to please my family’s palate as well as my own. Cooking is soothing for me. It is also gratifying knowing I’m doing something beneficial for my body by preparing healthy meals.

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Love, love, LOVE my simple salads. LPC

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The best mess. LPC

I had a taste for cashew cream, which is a versatile, vegan substitute for sour cream or whipped cream. It can be used for sweet or savory. I’ve come to really love cashew cream and have gotten quite good at making it. This last batch was the fluffiest I’ve ever made. I used it in my vegan Waldorf salad with apples, roasted walnuts, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cashew cream. I omitted the celery because I’m not a fan of it in the salad.

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Cashew Cream. LPC

I bet the cashew cream will taste delicious with my sweet potato pie and a dusting of cinnamon. I may try it this Thanksgiving. What do you think?

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I usually reserve stir fry for during the week because it’s quick to put together, but last Sunday, I made a scrumptious chicken stir fry with fresh pineapples and brown rice.

Mid week, I made crock pot chili before work. Here’s a funny story. I tasted all the ingredients before I left for work, so I knew it was going to be delicious after a 10-hour simmer. My trick is to layer the flavors. I was only missing the chili seasoning packet. I left a “honey do” list for my husband, Bryan, to pick up a packet at the grocery store along with hot dog buns for their chili dogs. Before I left the office, I had asked him to put a baked potato in the oven for me. I was looking forward to my chili cheese baked potato.

Of course, the chili was delicious. I grabbed my plate and loaded up my baked potato. I noticed the chili seasoning packet on the table. I asked Bryan if he bought more than one seasoning packet. He said no. I asked if he’d put the packet in the crock pot. He said no. He said I only told him to buy the chili mix, but he didn’t know I meant for him to put it in the chili. Really???

I have to admit my chili was seasoned so well I didn’t need the chili seasoning packet, but REALLY, Bryan!

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It’s that time again

It’s that time of year again. I have a 3-D mammogram appointment in the morning, just in time for breast cancer awareness month in October. I’m a little terrified; therefore, I’m utilizing the coping skill that has never failed me…writing. I’m also taking you with me for the ride. This post will serve a couple of purposes: 1) to give myself a pep talk and 2) to give you some light lessons on how to cope with life’s beautiful messes.

D-Day

Three years ago on 9/28/16, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) and my life changed forever. Some beautiful and strange things happened in 2016. We had to forego a trip to Jacksonville, FL for my cousin’s wedding in May because my husband came down with an illness we had never heard of (hydrocephalus) that resulted in brain surgery.

In July, I spent my 25-year high school reunion in Ocho Rios, Jamaica with 60 of my classmates, but more EPICly, with two of my dearest friends. Then, my friend and I’s departure flight was canceled so we had to stay in Jamaica an extra night. That SNAFU ended up being the best part of the trip because the airlines arranged for us to stay at a 5-star luxury hotel and we spent quality time together.

My mom visited me in September for two weeks and she didn’t seem to be doing well in that she was very agitated. Later in the month, (the day she flew back to Chicago, IL), I was diagnosed (D-Day) with breast cancer. The treatments in the form of two surgeries that occurred a week apart were in November and included a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy and breast reconstruction. My mom (my biggest supporter) came back to Austin, TX, a month after she left, for my surgeries. By December, I had started radiation therapy. What a year!

The Mess

You’d think that was the worst part, but it was not. I was prescribed an intense radiation regimen for a truncated time frame because the math said my body could withstand it. I attribute it to how healthy my body was prior to diagnosis. I was very healthy…oh, with the exception of the breast cancer and my compromised immune system (see below). My breast cancer was Stage 1 because it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes and the tumor was small…about an inch, but almost two inches by the time I had surgery (rapid growth per my oncologist). I took my radiation treatment daily, over 3 weeks, like a CHAMP. Radiation treatment is like a slow cooking process. The worst part of the treatment are the days following the last treatment because the radiation has built up over time. The burning was deep and painful.

I slowly got better. My kids seemed to be okay. They didn’t seem too affected. My husband was still recovering from his brain surgery, but seemed to be getting better. However, he got laid off work. My dear friend took me on a rejuvenating spa weekend retreat, which you can read about here. A few months later, I received a promotion. Two months later, my mom passed away. By the fall, I could really see my husband’s health was declining. I tried to work with his doctors, but they weren’t listening to me. The day after Christmas, I took him to the ER and he subsequently spent 17 days in the hospital. Shortly after, he underwent 4 months of cognitive, physical and speech therapy. He couldn’t do much, not even drive.

The Come Back

Despite my husband’s brain condition, he is a fighter. Who am I kidding? I’m a fighter too. In the midst of taking care of everyone, I maintained my appointments with two oncologists, two surgeons, my primary care physician, my endocrinologist, my gynecologist, and my urologist. I did have to let my neurologist go. He treated me for optic neuritis, which is an autoimmune disorder that happens to be a precursor to multiple schlerosis. I had been seeing him, but he never diagnosed me with multiple schlerosis. He had me on a regimen of a high dose of Vitamin D. I had more pressing health issues anyway…cancer. I also maintained all my husband’s appointments with his therapy team and doctors (neurologist, neurosurgeon, and primary care physician). Not to mention our kids appointments with doctors and school.

My husband has been slowly getting better, but his symptoms fluctuate. He was eventually released to drive again. He’s taken more control of his health by exercising every day and eating better. I’m not the only health guru in the house anymore, which I like. My number one priority is to keep my health in top shape because I have people depending on me. I can’t afford to get sick and I rarely do. I now even get flu shots (please don’t send me articles).

Although I still see my oncologist every 6 months, my primary care physician annually, my gynecologist annually, and my endocrinologist (just saw her today) annually, I no longer see the radiation oncologist (no longer required) , surgeons (no longer required), or urologist (she was a luxury in the list of priorities). As you can imagine since our diagnoses, we have incurred massive medical bills, so I’m only seeing doctors who are absolutely necessary.

Again, our kids have been TROOPERS! My son did have some difficulty his senior year, but he graduated high school. We’ve all been through so much and we have each other. Just by writing this post, I can appreciate our progress because things are getting better.

So how do I manage my beautifully messy life. Here are a few pointers that I think you will find useful:

  • Rein in
  • Lean on your support
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Ask for what you need
  • Eat and sleep well
  • Move every day
  • Do things that bring you joy
  • Do nothing
  • Pray

These are my go to strategies that immediately come to mind. You may have more or others.

Something about cancer is that once it’s in your life, it never really goes away despite the treatments. There’s always the underlying fear of re-occurrence, no matter how positive of an outlook you have on life. Once you’ve had cancer, you become more susceptible to other cancers and illnesses. I take an oral medication to prevent the re-occurrence, but there are risks.

Going through the mammogram exam takes me right back to the day I learned of my diagnosis. It was traumatic hearing the words from my doctor. I had a scare in 2017 where they found some scar tissue on a mammogram they weren’t sure about, so I had to get not one, but TWO biopsies! I was mortified, but got through it.

My faith tells me I will be fine. For reassurance, I’m leaning on my support and have asked my husband to accompany me so I won’t be alone. I’ve also mentioned to at least two other people that I’m nervous about it. I’m also sharing my story with you.

Light Lessons

The light lesson here is life is a beautiful mess. Joy is interwoven with pain. Life is also short. It’s too short to spend time worrying about things that don’t matter. It’s too short to not enjoy the little things. It’s too short to not fulfill your dreams. It’s too short to wish you had somebody else’s life. It’s too short to spend trying to be perfect because there is no such thing. It’s too short to not take charge of your health and demand the best care for yourself and your loved ones. It’s too short to not love on yourself and the people you love ALL day, EVERY day.

What tools do you use to manage life’s beautiful messes? I’d love to hear from you.

If you haven’t already, feel free to follow my site to learn more about how I navigate life’s beautiful messes.

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Spice in my life

I was tickled reading my blog post from back in March 2018 called Spicey Escapade. I love being able to find the lesson in any story, even in one about an ordinary trip to the grocery store. I hope you find a lesson in this post about using spices to create delicious food.

I debated about sharing this picture because, as you can see, some jars have labels, most don’t. A couple of jars have torn labels from the packaging I bought them in. Some jars are stained. It’s on my to do list to buy a package of labels for uniformity and run the jars through the dishwasher, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. My spice rack isn’t perfect, but it’s beautiful to me because I love my spices. I’ve filled these jars many times over the years. This spice rack is one of my favorite purchases from IKEA.

Although this post is about spices, I will take the opportunity to share a light lesson pertaining to perfectionism. The significance of me posting this imperfect picture points to my progress with releasing the desire to be perfect. Don’t get me wrong I still struggle and suffer because I’m constantly fighting the ideals and pressures to be perfect. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect….Period.

Our culture seems obsessed with everything “looking” perfect: perfect produce, perfect meals, perfect houses, perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect cars, perfect children, perfect relationships, etc. Trying to be perfect kept me in bondage for many years, but not anymore. If I continued to wait for perfection, I would never be able to share my stories through my blog posts. I’d be too consumed with perfect grammar and perfect pictures. Since I’m more concerned about sharing a piece of myself through my blog site, you get to see my imperfectly labeled spice rack with the knowledge that I intend to buy labels in the near future.

Purchase from my “spice run” earlier in the week. LPC

My love for spices has surpassed the amount of jars on my spice rack. The cover photo shows the extension of spice jars in my spice cabinet. I do love a couple of spices from Trader Joe’s. Another money saving tip I use is to repurpose the Trader Joes spice jars, once used up, for other spices. This allows me to expand my spice collection.

The benefit of buying spices in bulk is that you purchase only what you need, which helps reduce wastes. When I learned that spices have a shelf life and lose their potency after a while, I invested in a spice rack and only bought what I needed. This is another tip to ensure I’m optimizing my grocery budget. There are a few spices I buy in large quantities because I use them often in my cooking: salt (my new favorite is Himalayan), black pepper, and taco seasoning.

Shrimp Stir Fry. LPC

Technically, I don’t think I can call this dish a stir fry because I used a cast iron skillet instead of a stir fry pan, I didn’t use traditional stir fry vegetables, and I used creole seasoning on the shrimp. The creole seasining is a blend created by the store where I buy my spices. It’s delicious!

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For a dish with multiple components, I season every layer. For example, I roasted the broccoli and cauliflower with a sprinkling of spices, I marinated the shrimp in creole seasoning and other spices prior to sauteing, and seasoned the other vegetables as they were sauteing. I taste constantly to ensure everything is on track to taste amazing, then I add salt at the end. I served the shrimp stir fry dish with jasmine rice.

Warm spiced almond milk. LPC

Warm spiced almond milk is a soothing “must have” at the end of a busy day. It’s a daily habit I’ve carried over from my vegan cleanse. I’ve given the drink my own flare by steeping a cinnamon stick in the liquid and adding turmeric (if I feel like it). The other basic ingredients are maple syrup to sweeten, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, a pinch of cayenne, and a tablespoon or two of almond butter. Once warmed, you can blend these ingredients in a blender. I tend to omit the almond butter and blending. It’s a soothing night cap.

I encourage you to experiment with spices. It will change your life! Spices will take a simple dish like stir fry to another level…I promise!

As an extra side note, don’t let the impossible goal of being perfect stop you from achieving your goals!

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Healthy food on a budget

I’m a cook. I cook healthy and nutritious meals on a budget. I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing on my blog site secrets of how I manage to cook high quality meals on my household’s one salary.

We’ve been living on one income for over a year and a half. I make a decent income, but when your household is used to two, being downgraded to one can be a challenge regardless of how much you make, in my opinion.

Because eating healthy is important to my husband and I, we haven’t sacrificed our food budget too much. I realize some people have a smaller budget than ours. It sucks that eating healthy is expensive, but it is what it is and we do what we need to do. One big thing we do is cook homemade meals often. We’ve drastically reduced “eating out” at restaurants, which means we cook at home. As I share more of my recipes in this blog, I’ll share my tips on saving money.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. LPC

If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Never Say Never”, then you may appreciate that I’ve said many times what I’d never eat by way of food, but I had to change my thinking. Here’s an example. I’ve said I will never buy chicken thighs or chicken legs. Yet, I’ve also learned from renowned chefs of various cooking shows just how flavorful the dark meat of the chicken is. They love it!

I’ve preferred white meat for many years. I think mostly because I was so burned out from the “pinwheels” (leg/thigh combos) my mom used to buy when I was growing up due to their affordability. I’ve been cleaning chicken since I was about 12 years old. In the summers, it was my job to cook dinner for the family before my mom came home from work. Cleaning the dark meat of the chicken grossed me out.

Building the foundation for my meal. LPC

For years, I’ve said I’d never buy dark meat chicken, then I found myself considering dark meat chicken because it’s much more affordable. I love chicken wings, but have you seen the price of chicken wings? They’re expensive in Texas. I also love chicken breasts, but you have to find them on sale. I’ve found dark meat chicken is always less expensive than white meat. In the past year, boneless, skinless chicken thighs have become my staple. It’s much more messier to clean them from the bone than the boneless, skinless kind. I can cube the boneless, skinless pieces in a breeze for a chicken and mushroom teriyaki dish like I made this evening.

I don’t know the history of how Trader Joe’s started, but MAN!!! I love this store for quick meal ideas. Tonight, I also made an udon noodles stir fry. I simply used a bag of broccoli slaw as a vegetable saute. I added onions and a jalepeno, which I add to most everything. I also added two eggs, soy sauce, and spices. Another secret is I shop at several different stores to get the best deals.

Today, I attended a 2+ hour Zumbathon for a special cause and tried a new exercise platform called Kangoo Jumps. It was AMAZING and scary!

Kangoo Jumps Demo about to start. Be brave and try new things! LPC

When I returned home from the Zumbathon, I was so happy to drink the watermelon kiwi banana green smoothie I made earlier. Although this smoothie was made with all fresh ingredients, I buy large bags of frozen fruit from Costco for my green smoothies.

Watermelon kiwi banana green smoothie. LPC

Two or three frozen fruit bags from Costco will last me through the month. It’s much more affordable to buy fruit for my smoothies this way, especially since I drink them daily. Also, my usual grocery store had some varieties of their store brand organic frozen fruit on clearance. I bought a few. I have a variety of healthy add ins on hand such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. I purchase from whatever store has the best deal. I also buy a large piece of fresh ginger and freeze it so it doesn’t spoil before I can use it all.

Tonight’s meal was delicious. I seldom cook from recipes, except when I’m cooking vegan or baking. By the way, I haven’t found vegan cooking to be less expensive than cooking with meat. I do a 21-day vegan cleanse about once or twice a year. It can also get expensive (variety of nuts, fresh produce, avocados, specialty ingredients like nutritional yeast, etc.)

I literally create meals and get inspiration from a variety of sources. I also use a lot of delicious spices and herbs to layer on the flavor. Yes, I have two starches on my plate (jasmine rice and udon noodles), but I only added a small portion of rice. I burned hundreds of calories today, so I can afford the carbohydrates.

O Organics Jasmine Rice. LPC

I’ve found store brand organic and non-organic foods to be less expensive than the name brand versions. The day I bought this rice, I had an online coupon for a 36 ounce container of Organic Texamati Jasmine rice for about $4.55. It just so happened it wasn’t on the shelf. I kept looking and noticed this 32 ounce of store brand organic rice for $2.99.

I’ve had a Sunday that made my heart and belly full. That’s what I call a Happy Sunday!

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Back to basics self-care

I know “self-care” is a buzz word right now and you can find plenty of articles defining and identifying strategies for “self-care”. I’ve even seen articles questioning the possibility of effective “self-care” for certain groups like parents of small children. Whatever the case, I BELIEVE “self-care” is absolutely essential to survive and thrive in our personal lives.

Whatever strategies you employ, it has to work for you, whether that be taking bubble baths and/ or participating in therapy. There are so many things you can do, some I may not have considered or am not interested in, so I’m not going to make a list.

I will say some facets of self-care are very basic. I’ve noticed my team and myself doing things that point to a lack of basic self-care. I will share a couple examples with you.

  1. Holding your urine for extended periods of time. Go pee! Stop doing the pee pee dance at work. I’m guilty of this one right here! My work days consist of being in meetings all day, planning, problem solving, and collaborating. On one level, I drink plenty of water for health reasons, but what good is it to destroy my already weak, aging bladder because I think I’m too busy to stop what I’m doing to take a much needed restroom break? Really??? I’ve been working on changing the narrative in my head from “It’s so annoying I need to go to the restroom right now!” to “Thank Goodness! Relieving myself will make my body very happy!”
  2. Not preparing for basic needs like food. What do I mean by this? I mean bring snacks and lunch to work, or while running errands, to avoid being hungry. Yes, I know there are articles on the benefits of intermittent fasting, but I’m not referring to intermittent fasting or any type of fasting, for that matter. I’m also not referring to poverty related hunger. I’m referring to basic planning to have food on hand, especially if you don’t like to be hungry. Not eating when you need to can contribute to other problems such as binge eating, brain fogginess, and the “hangry” attitude.

I don’t have this issue because I take breakfast, lunch, and snacks to work EVERY SINGLE day. I’ve made the mistake of not bringing food, thinking I would have time to grab a lunch from somewhere. Silly me! With the nature of my current position, I learned early on I may not be able to leave the office to pick up food because of an impromptu meeting. Since I don’t like to be hungry for lengthy periods plus I enjoy eating healthy, I bring all my meals and snacks to work. It doesn’t help there aren’t many appealing restaurant options near our current work location. This is actually probably a good thing. On the weekends, I find having small packets of mixed nuts and a bottle of water life-saving when running errands.

Plan ahead people! Take care of the basic functions of your body: eat, drink, eliminate, and sleep. You have more control than you think! Your body will thank you. And ultimately it demonstrates self-love and self-care.

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Product junkie

Over the years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy products free of harmful chemicals. This was prior to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2016. Since then, I’ve amped up my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle by way of foods I consume and products I use to take care of my body.

On my social media page, I post a lot of my healthy food choices. There’s a push for buying all organic, but that can get expensive. I would love to get to a point where I can buy organic meat, but it’s not cost effective for my family. I find myself considering when I’m at a place like Costco. However, I end up going conventional when looking at my budget. What I do buy organic is produce noted as the dirty dozen. I need to add to my routine to go to a farmer’s market on the weekends. I’ve heard this is another cost-effective option for buying organic.

Dijon dressing ingredients. LPC

I’ve gotten more vigilant about ensuring my physical environment is free from harsh chemicals. In my quest to be healthy, as much as I work to control the things I can, I don’t believe any of us can control everything. Just in our home, it can be overwhelming in considering all the possible places of chemical exposure: carpet, paint, insulation, toilets, new clothing, etc. However, one small thing I’ve done is make a commitment to refrain from purchasing any more scented oil warmers and refills.

Scented Oil Warmers. LPC

I’ve read how harmful scented oil warmers can be for the environment because of inhaling harmful chemicals. I’ve collected so many oil warmers over the years and don’t want to waste them. I found a hack on Pinterest where I replaced the liquid with essential oils, but it hasn’t worked for me. The oils and liquid won’t diffuse, so I may end up trashing all my oil warmers anyway. Bummer!

When I shop for soaps, facial products, and hair, I purchase products free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oils, and other harmful chemicals. I look for products that have essential oils, shea butter, and other healthy ingredients. As part of my self-care routine, I love to give myself facials, so I’m always on the lookout for affordable masks and scrubs. I’m the type of shopper who loves to take my time reading ingredients and touching the product. I do online shopping on occasion, but I prefer to go to my favorite specialty stores to buy what I need.

We’re all going to die at some point, but I don’t see anything wrong with living a good quality of life. In the quest for health, I think we all just need to keep things in perspective, control what we can and let go of what we can’t, and make healthier choices that make sense for our budgets. As my husband says, you’ll either pay for it now or pay for it later in poor health and medical bills. Again, I want a good quality of life, so we’ll do what we can to pay for it now.