IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD

When I set out to do my best to reinvent retirement, it never occurred to me that one of the things this would involve would be our eating habits. I mean, ever since I was diagnosed with cancer I have focused on healthy eating. But, over the last several months, we have entered a new adventure of experimenting with the Paleo lifestyle. We are not fanatics by any means, but lean toward this lifestyle whenever possible. And what is fun is that both Kelli and Matt are doing the same thing so we are constantly texting and sharing recipes. The last couple of nights have been phenomenal.

First Kelli shared a recipe she made that sounded so good it turned out that we and Matt and Sara both tried it on the same night…Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Zucchini Noodles. IMG_2034It was unbelievably good and we will definitely make it again. It is Zoodles with a sweet red pepper and goat cheese sauce to which we added broiled garlic shrimp.  What’s not to like…right?

Tonight we experimented with a recipe that Matt sent…Buffalo Chicken Casserole. Crazy good and unlike anything we have tried before. It is spaghetti squash with chicken, veggies and eggs plus HOT SAUCE.IMG_2037

It is so uplifting to have the time to research and experiment with new cooking venues. I love to cook. I love knowing exactly what is going into my body. I love that Ken is getting into not only experimenting with new healthy lifestyles but also is getting into assisting with the process. It is healthy and it is social. It is FUN!! I may, from time to time, share additional recipes that we experiment with. It is a NEW twist on life. It is another example of Reinventing Retirement.

Later.

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VIENNA WAITS

My initial post on this blog almost a year ago now, announced my impending retirement. blog quote smallA friend commented by welcoming me to Vienna with the lyrics to the entire Billy Joel song. It’s a great song about slowing down and taking time to live….hence retirement…and my favorite part of the song is

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old”

I bring this up now because that friend, Howard Jones, released his second book today…”Searching for Dunderhead” and that is an inspiration to me to push forward on my own project. It has long been my dream to write a book. In Howard’s case, retirement has allowed him to climb mountains, sail the seas, go on safaris, become an accomplished photographer and write two books. (I think it’s two) He personifies the lyrics, “You can get what you want or you can just get old.”

I follow numerous blogs on the subject of reinventing retirement and, regardless of the names…Encore Voyage, One Mom’s Journey, Out of the Frying Pan, they all seem to have one common thread…the quest to live this new life we’ve been given to its fullest. For many people, that means travel. For others, a second career path, adventure, or following a dream. Regardless, it seems we’re all searching for Vienna via our own path. And that’s pretty exciting.

“And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
… Vienna waits for you”

Later.

YOU’RE GOING TO COOK WHAT??

PouringCrawfish2Continuing some of the tales of our latest Texas adventure today, I can’t fail to mention our Superbowl Eve experience…our very own Crawfish Boil, compliments of Kelli and Brett.

They had introduced us to crawfish a couple of years ago when we spent a week-end in Galveston during one of our visits. We went to an outdoor bar where we were served two big buckets of crawfish. Talk about a “Big Gulp”! I had never eaten crawfish before and was not at all certain that I wanted to, but I’m a player so I decided to dive in. Well…partially dive in, I guess. I’m told that diehard crawfish eaters suck the head. I just could not wrap MY head around that so settled for just pulling the meat out of the tail. It was GOOD and I count that as one of my more memorable experiences. But this year, Kelli and Brett wanted to take it one step further. My sister and brother-in-law were driving up from North Padre for the Super Bowl and we were planning our own Saturday night Crawfish Boil. What an adventure!

With crawfish season just getting underway in Texas, Brett was able to go out and buy a HUGE bag of crawfish – 15 pounds to be exact. They put those in a big cooler and washed them thoroughly. They would be added to a very large pot of boiling water later. We would use the grill for that in order to keep the entire operation outdoors. Crawfish Boils can be messy affairs.

We added small red potatoes and small ears of corn to the water and brought it to a boil. The crawfish are added last. I have to admit that I had almost nothing to do with the preparation of this meal. This was all Kelli and Brett and they did an awesome job.  Since eating crawfish can be a messy experience it is best done outside with newspapers spread on the tables. So, that is what we did – except that we ate in the sun room rather than on the patio. February evenings can still be a little cool.

They brought in large platters of the delicious critters and we all just dug in. Does this not look like a great adventure? Like many other things, it is as much about the experience as it is about the food. It was a first for most of us and what a great time we had.

As I said yesterday, retirement is not a time to just sit back and rock. It is a time to get out there and explore – to experience new things. It’s a time to have fun and enjoy life. And that is exactly what we are doing.

Later.

 

FORBIDDEN ZONE – Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

 

686108749_51165706df_z[1]Having the freedom to spend some time traveling now that we are retired/semi-retired, is allowing us to experience some new things which from time to time will pique our curiosity and offer just a bit of the spirit of adventure, no matter how small. Like these signs we saw posted every few feet on a several mile stretch of Texas highway 287. Suddenly it was like we were being transported into the Twilight Zone. (I’m sorry – I guess you have to be old to understand that reference) But we couldn’t help but wonder what in the heck the Forbidden Zone was. So, of course, I googled it – several times. Never did get a clear answer. I did find one response that indicated there are some massive pigs in there. Another reference mentioned Big Foot but I’m sure that was tongue in cheek. One forum suggested that someone claimed that he knew the secret but was afraid to post it. The best I could determine is that it is some sort of Water District and there is research of some kind being conducted there. But if so, why not put up signs that say water research area. Why Forbidden Zone? So very odd, yet interesting.

Speaking of odd. While walking the beach one day, my sister and I noticed two ladies engaged in, what seemed to us, to be very strange behavior. One had what appeared to be a piece of pvc pipe which she was using to fling sand at the other. And, they weren’t kids. They were every bit as “senior” as we – maybe more. As we got IMG_1966closer I could see that the one with the pipe was sticking it down into the sand and then as she pulled it out she flung sand and water toward the other lady who then bent down and picked something up.  I just couldn’t walk by and not ask, so I questioned them about what they were doing. Turns out, they use this pipe to suck Ghost Shrimp up out of the sand and use them for bait. They offered to let us try it but we declined, knowing how foolish we would look. However, after talking about it and googling it, we decided it might be kind of fun to try – not to mention a source of free IMG_1963bait. So we did. What a crazy scene that was as we attempted to figure out how to suck those things up out of the sand. It’s more difficult than it looks, let me tell you. We all tried our hand at it, with, eventually, some success. But, my son-in-law, Brett, is the one who really got into it. He even drew a crowd of people who, like Susan and I had done, approached him to ask what in the heck he was doing and to watch him do it.

Little things – both of these – but so interesting and so fun.

IMG_1984Yep – retirement is not a time to just sit back and rock. It is a time to get out there and explore – to experience new things. It’s a time to have fun and enjoy life. And that is exactly what we are doing.

BTW – did you know that you can drive and camp on the beaches in Texas?

Later.

Smoky Bacon Chili

Smoky Bacon Chili – love the stuff. And, I just happened to mention that on Facebook last night. I had actually forgotten the fact that it is a Paleo recipe until my son Matt reminded me.

So while walking on the treadmill this morning, I got thinking about that. My treadmill time is my quiet time. It’s when I think about things I should be doing or writing, etc. I’m kind of weird that way. I don’t work out to music or reading a book or watching TV. I like my quiet time. And, this morning I realized two things. One – right next to the treadmill is an elliptical, which never gets used. I tried it a few times right after we got it and found it very difficult. It has just sat there quietly next to the treadmill ever since. For years! So, I decided that this year I will give it another chance. I may or may not change my opinion of it, but everyone deserves a second chance, right?

And, while I do a pretty good job of preparing healthy meals, I’m sure I can do better. So, that brings me back to the Smoky Bacon Chili. It is a Paleo recipe and I sort of do Paleo but sort of don’t. If you’re not familiar with the Paleo lifestyle, my understanding of it is that it means reverting back to the foods that our bodies were meant to consume and to process. This means, I think, eating seafood, meat from animals that have been properly raised, vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy oils and fats. Doesn’t sound too bad. It also means avoiding all grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, refined or hydrogenated oils and processed foods. That’s the part I’m not necessarily crazy about.

But, I want us to enjoy retirement to it’s fullest, so one of my new projects this year will be spending time trying out more of the recipes that support a healthy lifestyle. If a recipe contains wild and crazy ingredients, it won’t make the cut. But, if, like Smoky Bacon Chili, there is nothing about it that is not to love, it will. And, we will still eat grains sometimes and legumes, too, for that matter. I love my yogurt, so dairy stays too. I WILL give the elliptical another shot, but I will never be a workout fanatic nor will I be a diet fanatic. However, a little effort is better than none at all. Right?

So, last night was Smoky Bacon Chili. Tonight, maybe a chopped seafood salad. If you’re interested in the chili recipe, check it out here. You can just scroll down past the crap about the purse if you want. And, if you’re interested in learning more about Paleo, check out Against All Grain. I’m not a big fan of the few baking recipes I’ve tried, but there is a lot of good, healthy eating here. Let me know how it goes.

Next up, oil pulling!! 🙂

Later.

Chapter Two

I’ve been working on some research this morning for Chapter Two, but find my thoughts wandering to the enormity of the project itself and how it all came about.

One day you’re supposedly healthy and the next day you’re diagnosed with cancer. That is a tough thing to wrap your head around – not only for you but for those around you. You’re the same person you were the day before, but you suddenly feel like you are defined by cancer, People are concerned, but most feel awkward. It is hard to know what to say, so many resort to platitudes…you have to stay strong…you are going to be fine…God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…you don’t look sick…etc, etc., You reach a point where you want to talk about anything but the cancer…not because you don’t want to share your journey, but because it is exhausting to feel like you have to be strong for the rest of the world so they will feel more comfortable.

When I began treatment, I began my first blog. That was my way of giving myself an outlet where I was free to express myself and also a means of sharing with family and friends without having to retell my story over and over. I’ve been a quiet person all of my life. I never sought to be the center of attention – never liked to get up in front of the class…never wanted to feel like all eyes were on me. But the strangest thing happened as I made my way along this journey.

While I never believed that cancer defined me, it somehow gave me a voice. In May of 2011, I was named the first honorary chair of the Komen Siouxland Race For the Cure. honorary chair I was also named the Komen Siouxland representative on the New Balance Breast Cancer team, I was later selected to drop the puck and ride the Zamboni at the Sioux City Musketeers annual Pink in the Rink. I was interviewed numerous times on local television and was the subject of a feature article in the Sioux City Journal. To this day, I have no idea how all of that happened, but the even better thing that happened is that I found myself being placed in situations and crossing paths with friends and acquaintances who were themselves now touched by cancer and were in need of someone to talk to. I was able to give them a voice in an atmosphere where they could feel comfortable to talk freely and to express their feelings. This continues to this day.

That is why I am determined to pursue the writing of this book. I believe that if you’re given a song, you should sing it. If you’re given a story, you should tell it. And, if you’re given a voice, you should use it. I’ll leave the singing to my talented husband, but I do have a story to tell and a voice with which to tell it. And, I now have the time, so that is what I hope to do, no matter how long it may take.

Chapter One

I PROMISE that I won’t bore you by force feeding every chapter of this book as I write it through this blog or through my Facebook page, but just had to share this today for two reasons…that milestone moment when the first draft of Chapter One was actually in writing and two – to hopefully garner feedback and suggestions for what I have done and what I should do.

I shared this quote on my Facebook business page a few weeks ago. “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

So, once she completes a first draft, she shares it with her trusted advisors in order to get their feedback. I figure if an acclaimed writer like Anne Lamott does that, perhaps I should too. At least today. SO, here goes. Chapter One.

The Tunnel Re-visited

Chapter One – Diagnosis

Is it irony, the hand of God, or mere coincidence that I am sitting at my computer this morning, Thursday, October 22, 2015, to finally begin the book I have talked about for the past six years?

The story actually unfolds back in the fall of 2009. Blessed with good health, I had not visited a doctor’s office in more than five years. However, I was feeling myself being pulled in the direction of finding a physician I could feel comfortable with as I aged, someone I could establish a medical relationship with, prior to it becoming some sort of emergency. My husband, Ken, had been forced into making that same decision the year before, following a serious health issue. He was very comfortable with the physician he had selected so, I decided to follow his lead.

I called to schedule an appointment and was told that the doctor required all new patients to undergo a complete physical. I didn’t know it then, or even suspect it, but I now know that call may have saved my life.

I went in for a consult, exam, and the entire battery of tests that could be done in-office. He then scheduled me for additional tests at the hospital….x-rays, DEXA Scan, colonoscopy and a mammogram. That appointment would be later that same week, on Thursday, October 22, 2009.

I reported to Radiology first thing in the morning.  Things moved quickly and went relatively smoothly, and before I knew it, we were in the elevator headed to 6th floor for the dreaded colonoscopy. Once upstairs, we were told that the doctor was running late so we would have some time to relax in the room before someone came in to set up the IV. It was shortly thereafter that a bizarre chain of events began…a chain of events that leaves me shaking my head even today.  How did I not suspect something?

A nurse knocked on the door and came in to tell me that I had been requested to return to radiology for one more picture. I do admit to finding that somewhat odd, but, not once did it cross my mind that there might be a problem. I just went back downstairs and followed their instructions.

Later, there was another knock on the door. This time the nurse told Ken that someone was there to see him. I might have found that even more bizarre than I did had they not been on the third attempt to get an IV going at the time and that was occupying most of my attention. Who would be stopping by to see my husband in the colonoscopy prep area at Mercy Medical Center? Seriously? I asked him that when he came back into the room and he just shrugged it off. He said the nurse from the doctor’s office (which is there at the hospital) had just stopped by to remind him he was past due for a blood test. Seemed odd, but I took him at his word.

Finally, they came to wheel me in for the exam. I heard the tech say to the doctor, oh, this is the mammogram. Apparently word was spreading quickly – to everyone but me. The gastroenterologist then asked me if I get mammograms. Seems pretty random, but I told him that, as a matter of fact, I had just gotten one that morning. He dropped the subject. I was given the anesthesia at that point and remember very little from then until late afternoon.

……….

I was still very groggy when we got home and Ken had to get to class, so I laid down and went to sleep. Next thing I knew, he was waking me up with the news that I had breast cancer. They wanted to meet with us at the doctor’s office at 4:00. Apparently, when he had gotten called out of the room, it was, indeed, to talk to the nurse from the doctor’s office, but, it was not about his blood test. It was to tell him that the mammogram had revealed breast cancer and they didn’t want to tell me personally since I was just getting ready to go in for a procedure. They set up an appointment for us to return later that afternoon, and he was forced to keep that information to himself until he came home and woke me up.

In retrospect, I don’t know if it was the fact that I was still feeling the anesthesia or if I was already disengaging from all that I was about to go through, but, I had almost no reaction to what he had just told me.

We went to the office and were shown the photos of the unmistakably cancerous tumor. She asked if we had a preference for surgeon and then scheduled an appointment with him for the following Monday. That would be the beginning of a total whirlwind of events that would wind up with me fighting to find my way through a very dark, long and winding tunnel.fight

We had made plans to take a week-end trip to Omaha for Ken’s birthday and I saw no reason to cancel. I know that Ken spent the week-end thinking about cancer. I thought very little about it. I was already putting up the walls that would shelter me from an emotional rollercoaster that I was apparently unequipped to handle at the time.

——————————————————————————————————-

So, there you have it. Chapter One. I welcome any and all constructive criticism. And, oddly enough, just as I completed the first draft of Chapter One, I received a call from the Cancer Center, wanting to schedule me for a mammogram. Hmmmm.

Later.

Cathy’s Tunnel Re-Visited

As I looked down at the dashboard on my treadmill last night, I noticed that without even realizing it I had just broken the two mile mark, arms pumping and my head reeling with thoughts and emotions. Usually I am checking every little bit to see how far I’ve gone and calculating how long it will be before I am finished. Also, I never walk on a treadmill without holding on. My balance, especially since chemo, is not that great and I have never been comfortable with the idea of face planting myself onto the belt before slamming into the concrete wall behind me. But, last night, the adrenaline was so powerful that, without even thinking, I walked the entire two miles without grabbing the rails.  l had just completed Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and it was as if the fog had suddenly lifted. The uncertainty had been replaced by a manic enthusiasm. It feels as if I now have a clear picture of what I need to do and why I need to do it.

In one of the closing paragraphs of the book she said, “No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen.” Those of you who follow my Facebook business page may also recall this quote. “I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” **

I realized that I had become paralyzed by the pressure to get published. I have long wanted to write this story. I have talked about it for years. But, it was much easier to talk about when I was not really in a position to do so…when I was “standing there doing some job into which I had fallen.” But, once I left that job – once retirement made this challenge a real possibility, I found myself silenced by insecurity, laden with excuses and totally unable to shake that “deer in the headlights” feeling.

What I have now come to grips with, though, is that I have never said that I want to publish a book (though it would be nice). I have always said that I want to WRITE a book. And, I need to write this particular book for ME. If it would turn out that, once completed, I felt it might be worthy of publication and that ended up happening, it would be great. But, I have given myself permission to remove that pressure.  And, this is why.

Cathys TunnelTwo weeks from today, on October 22, it will be six years since I received my cancer diagnosis. And, I am just now admitting to myself that from the moment Ken told me of the diagnosis (yes, he was the one who gave me the news) through the entire 2+ years of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, diagnostic procedure after diagnostic procedure, the emotions, the terror, the uncertainties, I never allowed myself to truly feel. I never allowed myself to grieve. I put up a brick wall between myself and what was happening to me. I woke up every morning and just put one foot in front of the other, doing whatever I needed to do that day. I never questioned God, never blamed God, but never turned to God either. I was totally removed from the experience in my mind. I was playing a role. I documented everything in a blog – Cathy’s Tunnel. It was a means of keeping family and friends informed of all that was going on. But, I realize now, that it was also a way to record what was happening to me without having to actually experience all of the raw emotion. It was something I could go back to later when the fear had diminished, to remind myself of the journey and to thank God for bringing me through it. It is time now for me to face the demons that I didn’t face during those years and, I believe that re-writing my story in book format will allow me to do that.  It’s funny, but I have never gone back and re-read that blog. It’s still out there in bloggerspace, but I have never gone back except to grab the above photo. It was taken in California on a family trip to celebrate my birthday in 2007 and subsequently became the face, so to speak, of Cathy’s Tunnel

When setting up my new office space, I selected that same photo, different view, for my wall. revised tunnel photoIt allows me to stay focused on just how far I’ve come in the past six years. I’m a different person now, I know that. So many people have told me how strong I am. Of course – a brick wall is very strong. But, the wall is coming down and it is with that manic enthusiasm mentioned earlier that I will now re-visit Cathy’s Tunnel. I have no idea where that visit will lead. And, I have no idea whether or not I will someday write other books. But, I do know that starting now, I WILL write this book. Who knows, maybe portions of this very blog post will become the “shitty first draft” (see the October 3 post on my Facebook business page) of the Introduction or Forward to that book. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Later.

** Bird to Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott 1994

INSPIRATION

I found my inspiration! I came across these books, today, written by my son, Matt, when he was seven years old. He wanted to write a book, or several books, and JUST DID IT! He was author, illustrator and publisher. Nothing holding him back. He just moved forward and made it happen. Since we are well into October and it will soon be Halloween, I thought I would share one of my favorites with all of you. And, just maybe, in the process, I will also be inspired to JUST DO IT!

How could I not be inspired by the creativity of my seven-year-old son. Enjoy.

Later.

The Three R’s

Last night I was blessed to receive a resounding sendoff into my new life. Ron McManamy, Kevin McManamy and United Real Estate Solutions hosted a wonderful retirement dinner on my behalf at Bev’s on the River. Nearly 60 people, friends and family, were there to celebrate and that we did.

So, today, I’m left to reflect on retirement – the first R – which allows you to be totally random…the second R.  Random, as in renting a cabin in the Black Hills for a few days, a place we haven’t visited since our kids were little. I’m picturing us relaxing…the third R… in the hot tub on the deck at that cabin enjoying a view of some beautiful fall foliage. Yep – reservations made. Love my new life.

Later.