Pose

I started my first round of beginner’s yoga at the end of February and am now half-way through my second round of beginner’s yoga. I’m loving every minute of it and needed round 2 for a bit of confidence.  Once I wrap up this series I think I will be ready to venture out into “open level” class.

I always wanted to take a yoga class and for a plethora of reasons (mostly focused on “time”), I never did. I tried to do it on my own with “Yoga for Dummies”, a bunch of DVDs, and the ever-popular yoga expert, Wii Fit. The downfall of trying it at home is that you don’t have anyone to say if you are doing it right. The Wii Fit board was the closest thing I had to an instructor — it was really good at telling me if I was tipping over!

And let’s face it… all the other times I tried this, I was heavier and not nearly as healthy.

I thought it would take a lot longer to actually feel a difference in my body, but in reality, I noticed a difference in only one week. Two classes and a couple of practice sessions in between and I could feel a difference in the strength of my upper body and lower back. So now, after 8 classes, and practicing on my own, I notice a difference in everything I do.

The first night of class, my arms shook so badly, I thought I was going to fall on my face! Now, I’m able to a pretty decent chaturanga dandasana, and a whole slew of other poses! I can’t say my arms (or legs) never shake, but it’s rare. And as a person who almost never sweats, I find myself working up quite a sweat at yoga. I feel like I’m on fire (yes!  Let’s get that metabolism rolling!)!

I have to be honest that my favorite part of the class is at the end, when lying in corpse pose, when the instructor massages lavender oil on our temples and forehead. Bliss.

 

When I leave class, I feel both energized and relaxed! It feels awesome! It’s so nice to be able to take my self-care to a whole new level. Thanks to my yoga partner, my sister-in-law, Sandy, because  I probably would never have gotten there without someone holding my hand.  :)  Here’s to taking our yoga practice to the next level — and managing our stress in the meantime!

*****

IMDb: Pose (2010)

Check and Double Check

Today I had a six month check up with my radiologist. Everything was great — physical exam, vitals, etc. But my doc spent a lot of time talking about why we do these exams.

As he noted, I had an “aggressive” form of breast cancer and, if it were to return, it would most likely occur in the infamous first five years. It doesn’t mean it can’t recur later than that, but the likelihood is higher early on and so they like to monitor periodically.  I do see my radiologist twice a year, my oncologist twice a year, and my surgeon annually. Check, check, and check again.

You might wonder why they are all needed.  I certainly wondered if I needed to do them all. But both my surgeon and radiologist believe that the more people that can see me and check things out, the safer I am. The appointments are spread out throughout the year, so every few months I get someone to ask me questions, do a physical exam and give me peace of mind. While it’s sometimes a pain to get to all these appointments (throw in the gynecologist, the dentist, the eye doctor, and the urologist…), it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t give up this particular trio for anything; if something were to happen, I am confident they would find it early.

Physical exam, blood work, tumor markers, and normal vitals all tell a part of the story and are very important.  Just as important, my doc explained to me, is the dialogue.  My answers to his questions help him to identify potential issues.

Today, I passed with flying colors, and I can breathe for a while.

As an aside, I actually always love going to my radiologist’s office. They are the absolute nicest people and my favorite doctor’s office. Everyone is super nice, you never wait, and they actually care about you as a person. It’s the only place I go where the nurses and techs actually hug me! Such a warm feeling. All doctors’ offices should model whatever these guys are doing!!  (FYI – It’s NROC in Dunmore for the local peeps.)

*****

As a follow up to my recent blog on stress management, I am currently trying the Stress Away essential oil from Young Living. See my friend’s blog for more information!

*****

IMDb: Check and Double Check (1930)

Stress

Stress management is so important — any time, really, but especially so when dealing with cancer treatment or prevention.  While there’s no direct proof that stress can cause cancer, it’s certainly a contributor to lowering your immunity. And a compromised immune system impacts your ability to fight off disease. Also, when we’re under prolonged stress, we tend to make poor lifestyle choices.

I have found myself under a lot of stress the past month or so.  Oh, who am I kidding?  It’s probably more like the past year or so… Across all facets of life, the list of stressors is many. Even some of the good stuff feels stressful because it’s just more on the plate. I have been trying desperately to get my head above water by spending more time on work and other responsibilities, but this has led to not having time to do the things that de-stress me.

Books are sitting unread. Blogs are unwritten. I’m lucky if I can practice yoga more than once or twice a week. And I don’t get to talk with people who love, support and de-stress me (as they are typically in the same boat as I am).

As for the poor lifestyle choices… for me, stress results in increased caffeine, alcohol, and sugar consumption. These all contribute to poor sleep, which contribute to increased caffeine, sugar… etc. You get the picture.  It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of once you’re caught in it. And, let’s face it, none of those options are providing any nutritional benefit.

I’m definitely working on trying to get my stress under control (acknowledging it’s a problem is the first step, right?). Meditation and prayer help me, as does time in silence. This quiet time might only occur in the shower and in the car, but I use that time to do some deep breathing and clear my mind.  (As an introvert, this quiet time is especially important to me.)  I’m trying to carve out time for friends who lift me up and have my back, and I’m actually looking into “tapping” (or EFT…Emotional Freedom Technique). While tapping might seem “quacky”, we’ve actually had presentations on this at work and I figure it’s something I can do on my own, any time, any place. (I will let you all know what I learn.)

I’m also looking into essential oils as another means of stress management.  More to come on this topic, also, in future blogs.

I know many of you can relate to this topic. We live in a society where we always need to do more and more, where social media has changed how we communicate, where “stories” are more important than fact, and where even the most inane topic becomes polarizing.

As a two-time cancer survivor, I try to remind myself every day that I need to “let it go”… to just walk away from the drama. I pray for peace in my life and meditate on positive affirmations. I give it my best shot every day, not holding myself to some unattainable perfection, and I try to remember just to breathe. I truly believe my life depends on it.

*****

 IMDb: Stress (1984)

Fiddler on the Roof

“Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!” One of my favorite songs from Fiddler on the Roof!  At each holiday season, I can’t help but think of all the family traditions of my life. It is this familiar pattern that makes each holiday special, even if we don’t always remember the origins of the tradition.

And yet, as time goes on, there are traditions that we need to let go of as the circumstances of our lives change.

Growing up Roman Catholic, Holy Week meant 4 successive days in church playing my flute with our music ministry. (I did this for about 35 years!) There was beautiful pageantry and symbolism, moving music, flower filled altars. I always loved the Holy Thursday washing of the feet, and, of course, the celebration of Easter Sunday.

On Holy Saturday, we had the blessing of Easter baskets filled with all sorts of wonderful foods — ham, kielbasi, eggs, butter… This was a tradition shared by my mother and me. We would take the basket to the church together for the blessing, and it was a great time to catch up with family. After the blessing, our family would share in these foods. Last year, the first without my mom, my Dad and I still continued this tradition. But this year we have decided not to do it. First, I don’t even eat any of those foods, and it seemed a lot of additional work for us both. It’s sad to let go of something I did my whole life, but it was the right decision. Quite honestly, since I no longer go to that church, I feel a bit like an outsider, so perhaps it was time.

Another tradition that bit the dust this year was our Good Friday “fish fry”. Since I was a youngster, we always dyed our Easter eggs on Good Friday afternoon, and then we would enjoy pierogies and fish for supper. For many years, we got our fish, and all the trimmings, from the local fire company. Alas, this year they stopped this annual fund raiser, which was a surprise, so we ended up with pierogies and pizza.  Turns out, between 2 vegetarians and a few who didn’t like the fish anyway, we probably should have ended this tradition a few years ago. Ethan, the shark, was disappointed, but no one else seemed to mind.

Despite the lack of fish, we did color some eggs. In years past, we would dye 3-4 dozen eggs. This year, only 2. Dad said he didn’t want his traditional pickled eggs, yet another tradition gone by the wayside, so 2 dozen made sense. (Here are my sad attempts at minion eggs.)  IMG_1245We will attend church tonight (we have been attending a non-denomination church for the past six years, so that is different as well), visit my mother-in-law in the morning, and then enjoy our traditional Easter egg hunt and dinner at my Dad’s house. Despite the baby of the family being almost 14 years old, the kids still maintain this tradition and it’s always a blast. I’m glad they hang on to it.

One newer tradition for me is time spent with my two favorite aunts, Theresa and Pauline. I don’t see them nearly enough but make time to see them around the holidays. I got to spend about an hour with each of them on Friday. Our conversations are reminiscent of those I had with my mother, and we remember her in our discussions. While I have always enjoyed time with them both, it is particularly comforting to me now.

So whatever your traditions this Easter season, treasure them and your loved one!  Happy Easter!

*****
IMDb: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

 

The Birthday Cake

Tomorrow is my baby brother’s birthday. Every year my mom made his birthday cake… vanilla cake, with crushed pineapple, vanilla pudding and Cool Whip. Every single year. And so last year, I took over the cake-making responsibilities.  For today’s birthday celebration, I figured I would make the vanilla pudding (yes, the instant kind) using almond milk. For a brief moment, I wondered if it would work but thought I was being silly.  Of course it will work!

You know where this is going, right? No. It did not work. I had a bowl of vanilla soup. Once I realized it was never going to thicken, I decided to Google my blunder and, sure enough, it tells you it won’t work… unless you use half the almond milk. That wouldn’t have left me with enough pudding anyway, so I had to make an emergency run to the store for more pudding mix and “regular” milk (aka “cow’s milk”).

Yes, I understand that none of this was really vegan or healthy, but it’s not something I do every day and I’m not going to sweat one piece of cake. My brother was happy, and that’s all that matters in this case. :)

*****

I’ve written before about how I find pennies all the time. These pennies from Heaven appear in unlikely places and at unlikely times.  The other day, I found a penny in the coin return at the car wash. I was putting my quarters into the slot when I noticed the penny sitting there. They do always make my day!

*****

No new recipes from last week and none planned for this week. My schedule has been hectic so there’s been no time to review cookbooks. I’ve been picking the quickest of my existing repertoire because I have been getting home from work late and then rushing off to band, yoga, church group, or some other appointment. I’m trying not to let the frantic pace of my schedule stress me out, but it’s not always easy to remain calm. It is important though, so I will just try to remember to breathe and do the best I can.

IMDb: The Birthday Cake (2009)