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The Bucket List

I was never one to have keep a bucket list and I always thought the concept was silly.  Why would you need such a thing? Just enjoy your life!

And then I had cancer. Twice. And I really started thinking differently about the whole bucket list concept. If I was living on borrowed time, what were the things I really wanted to do and see?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling pretty healthy these days but the idea of a bucket list seemed more appealing. I don’t have anything formal or written down; it’s all just in my head.

One of the things on my list is whale watching. We just returned from vacation in Maine where whale watching was part of the plan. Alas, Mother Nature was not cooperative and unrelenting dense fog resulted in excursion cancellations multiple days in a row. This was the closest I got to an actual whale (we were on the lookout everywhere!):

 

Better luck next time. While disappointed, we did find other great things to do in Maine and we had a fabulous trip. Maine is truly gorgeous and, if you’ve never gone, you might want to add it to your bucket list!

Most of my list is made up of experiences and trips — and are family-focused. None of it involves acquisition of stuff (quite the contrary, if you know me!). And maybe the idea of writing a book!

How about you? Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?

IMDb: The Bucket List (2007)

The Retiree

Today is my birthday.

My 55th birthday.

My age now officially matches my status: retired.

After a whole 4 days of official quasi-retirement, I’m still struggling with this label. Since I didn’t really “retire”, (rather, I was “retired” – as in out to pasture), it feels disingenuous to describe myself as a retiree. It implies choice, of which I had none.

When you actually choose to retire, people throw you a party. There’s cake and balloons. You get to reflect on accomplishments and people say nice things about you. You may even get your own fun Powerpoint presentation (true at the last retirement party I went to!).

When retirement is thrust upon you, you just fade into the sunset. (Well, after a few drinks at happy hour with friends!) One day you just aren’t there anymore.

When you choose to retire, the typical plan is not to work anymore. And that’s not the case for me. Since I was 16, I’ve never not worked, and my 55 seems much too young to not go back to work. Quite honestly, since I’ve been home, I feel like I’m working harder than I did at work! But the pay sucks.

The retiree label makes me feel like I should be older than 55, and who wants that? In my brain, I’m stuck at 26 and I’m just not sure how I got to 55 already.

I don’t like the label very much at all. I’m a retirement fraud and so I declare that we should no longer use the term! I think I’ll use entrepreneur. Dreamer or princess. Maybe superhero (as suggested by one friend)… something a little more fun and interesting. Something that speaks of action and possibilities. I’m open to suggestions!

I certainly don’t want to imply that I’m bitter or resentful about the whole thing. I’m not. Disappointed by how and why it was done? Yes. Disappointed by people I thought would reach out and didn’t? Yes. But disappointment is about the only negative emotion I can muster about the whole thing. I just feel to young, too healthy and too ambitious to be here.

But it’s only temporary.

IMDb: The Retiree (2015)

The Catalyst

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“When one door closes, another one opens.”

“Nothing happens by chance.”

* * * * *

We’ve all heard these platitudes. Heck, we’ve all said them hundreds of times. I know I certainly have. But do we really believe them to be true?

Does everything really happen for a reason? I mean, “everything”? I can think of many examples of things that appear to have to no reason whatsoever. And yet, I can see how some things might spur one in a new direction. I might feel better if this statement said: “Some things happen for a reason, but not everything. And it might take you a while to figure out.” Rolls right off the tongue!

Does the other door open because it’s supposed to? Or does it open because you selected a door, turned the handle and pulled it open? Don’t we make our own reasons? Open our own doors? (No, I’m not covering the debate of free will versus destiny.)

I have been thinking a lot about this since the middle of May when I received notification that my job had been eliminated and I had only 60 days left in Corporate America. This was not a surprise to me given some other events that had transpired, so I was emotionally and mentally prepared for it. But since then I have had so many people declare the quotes listed above. I’m not saying I completely disagree, but I view this change in my employment status as a catalyst (“an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action”) rather simply fated.

New things aren’t just going to happen to me. I need to do something with this change. I need to come up with a plan, take action, educate myself, and work hard if I want to look back on this and say, “there was a reason this happened”. It’s not going to just happen to me – the door will not just open all by itself. (Although it would be fabulous if it did!) J

So what doors will I be pulling open? What direction is my catalyst sending me?

I plan to pursue a career that focuses on my passions – plant based nutrition, coaching, and writing. Stay tune for more information over the next several months because I need to do my homework first. What are my options? What’s the financial investment? What’s the market? I don’t know what I don’t know about starting my own business, so education must come first.

I already started with my certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell that I completed last week. I have also already started working with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton, as well as taken several courses with a career-coaching program offered by my (soon-to-be-former) employer.

I’m super excited about the opportunities ahead and I guess none of this would be happening if not for this reason, this catalyst.

I do prefer the following platitudes, however:

“When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” ~Dale Carnegie

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” ~ Dr. Seuss

“Life is what you make it” ~ Anurag Prakash Ray

original_life-is-what-you-make-it-wall-sticker

IMDb: The Catalyst (2010)

Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest

Just to get things started: a reminder.  Given the “lights cancer action” theme of my blog, every blog title is an actual movie term or title.  So, yes, this is actually a movie.  🙂

And, as you can guess, our topic is tofu!

I have indicated several times in the past that I have completely avoided soy since forever, but even more so since my diagnosis. There was so much debate as to whether tofu was healthy for a breast cancer survivor of an estrogen positive tumor, it wasn’t worth the risk. I changed my mind after reading Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The chapter on breast cancer, and his supporting research, convinced me that soy is actual beneficial.

I read that book months and months ago, but, despite giving myself the green light, I remained intimidated by tofu.  That is until this week!  I finally braved purchasing and cooking with it.

I have my Scranton Beets group to thank for getting me over my hurdle.  I tried this yummy dessert two weekends ago and loved it SO much that I made it for a party I attended this past weekend.

Pina Colada Banana Coupe’

1 pound can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2 T. of a sweetener (I used brown rice syrup; other options: honey, agave, etc.)
1/2 cup silken tofu
1-2 small, ripe bananas

Put all ingredients (except the bananas) in your food processor and blend until very smooth.  Layer the banana slices with the pudding and chill it before serving.  (For a bigger group, double the recipe.)

Inquiring minds might want to know: It’s called a coupe’ because the original recipe instructions suggested that this dessert be served in stemmed wineglasses or some other individual serving cup.  I had to Google coupe’, which means “a shallow glass or glass dish, typically with a stem, in which desserts or champagne are served.”

The dessert was a hit at the party for vegans and non-vegans alike!

After this, I was feeling quite brave and moved on to a dish with firm tofu. Purchasing the tofu wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. It was in a refrigerator in the health food section and was clearly labeled “silken” and “firm”.  🙂

Tonight’s recipe was, again, from my go-to book “Isa Does It”: Shroomy Hot & Sour Soup. It was pretty easy to make and was absolutely delicious!  The fact that my 15-year-old ate FOUR bowls will give you some indication of just how good it was.  The tofu was tasty and the texture didn’t freak me out.

I plan to continue experimenting with more tofu recipes and, in fact, will be attending a “tofu 101” class offered by our Scranton Beets leader, Jean Hayes.  If any local peeps are interested in attending, you can check out the Scranton Beets Facebook page and sign up for Tofu Demystified on Sunday, February 26th, 2-4:00 pm.

Hope to see you there!

IMDb: Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest (2007)

Last Goodbye

It’s been about two months since I last posted. I think of writing all the time and just haven’t had any opportunity. It’s been a crazy two months and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

As you all know, my Dad went into a nursing home in June and was under the care of hospice. He had been declining steadily, becoming mostly non-verbal in the final few months, and he passed away on November 14th. I am grateful that I got to be with him in his final moments, thanks to the awesome nursing staff that called at 2:30 a.m. and said “come now”. His death was peaceful and gentle, and I am glad that he never appeared to be suffering.

To give you insight into who my Dad was, I share below my older brother’s Facebook post from that day. I couldn’t say what he said so perfectly.

It’s with a heavy heart I say goodbye to my Dad, who lost his fight with cancer early this morning. As my brother so correctly stated, Gus taught us everything we needed to know about life and treating others right, all before we left home, though I didn’t realize it until I was in my 40’s and didn’t thank him until I was in my 50s. Never one to say much, he would do anything for anyone, stranger or friend. Looking back, so much of who I am was due to his silent lead. Gus, I raise a can of Gibbons in toast and quote part of a poem I stumbled upon ages ago; 

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men

Nazdrowie Dad.

He truly was a kind, generous, hardworking man and he is greatly missed.

*******

Since I last posted, the original sale of the family homestead fell through. This was very disappointing, as I very much wanted this woman to live in my parents’ home. I was very upset with the whole process and worried about now having to maintain the house over the winter, with the likelihood of a sale slim to none.

And then on November 30th, I got a call that we had an offer — cash deal, no inspections, no fuss… title search and close. Thank you, Lord!  And so, today, I closed on the sale. I am dealing with so many different emotions right. I’m glad to have this responsibility off my shoulders, to not have to maintain and heat the house over the winter, and to be able to finalize my Dad’s estate. But  it’s hard knowing that I will likely never set foot in my childhood home ever again.

I walked through the empty house one final time last night, said my last goodbye, and cried — sad for the people who are now gone from my life, scared for the realization that “we” are now the adults in the room, nostalgic for all the wonderful memories, and grateful for all the blessings bestowed on my life.

The holiday season has been bittersweet so far, with many wonderful times coupled with bouts of tears. I am missing my Mom all the more with Dad also now gone, and in some ways the world seems a bit lonelier.

I know I carry the memories in my heart and mind, so I can say those last goodbyes with peace and a few final tears.

IMDb: Last Goodbye (2004)

Staying Alive

I’m reblogging a post from my dear friend, Lisa. It’s not just anyone I re-blog… but Lisa and I are part of the sisterhood that is breast cancer and we have had very similar journeys. Lisa is the one who educated me about Estriol and she also got me using essential oils — both a great benefit to my health. She will be holding a Facebook class on Monday night, “Essential Oils That Have Let Me Thrive in Recovery”. If you’ve had any interest in essential oils, I Hope you will check out her class. You can see the details in her post.

P.S. Lisa, nice job on the post name! 🙂

NOWHERE TO RUN

john travolta staying alive

It’s been many, many moons since I wrote a post. But when I had someone reach out with a personal e-mail asking for advice and hoping I was still doing well, I knew I had to get back to writing regularly. It’s nice to have folks care about how I’m doing after all this time.

Last weekend marked 3 years since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The day came and went without much fanfare, until I sat down that night and realized what a huge milestone that actually is. I know that 5 years is the magical number for survival odds to greatly increase, but hey, I’m on the downward slope now and I can see the prize.

I guess you could say I’m doing fantastically well, which is part of the reason for my long blogging hiatus. There hasn’t been much to report other than the…

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