Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Lunch is so damn what?

I don't know about you, but inflation pricing is scaring me.  I still remember going out to lunch on $5-$10 for a sandwich, drink, and chips.  I've found that now I can't eat at even one of the usual fast food places for less than $20.  So I need to get better at packing my lunch.  Most of these things can be eaten at room temperature which is also a plus if you don't have access to a microwave for lunch. 

Here are some of my new favorites: 

1. Bento Boxes (adult lunchables):
You can look up bento boxes on amazon, and they sell them at pampered chef 

Each box should have five things (at least that's my style).  You probably want to include 1. fruit or veggies, 2. cheese, 3. nuts, 4. meat, and 5. some type of bread cracker or pretzel.  I also like to add something sweet like a cookie, granola bar, muffin, etc.  

Here are things I like to eat in my "bento box" lunches:
Mini Carrots
Peanut Butter
Nuts - peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios 
Sliced Cheese (sharp cheddar, pepper jack, gouda, dill havarti, etc)
Grapes, apple slices, orange slices, Pitted Cherries, Peach slices, etc.
Spinach (salt and pepper, lemon juice, or a bit of extra virgin olive oil)
Grilled Chicken pieces
Deli meat
Broccoli and Dip
Chips or corn chips
Tuna or Chicken salad  - goes nice on crackers. 

2.  Stir-Fried, Grilled,
or baked chicken (or turkey breast that I sometimes see)  - flavor with spices (love this seasoning salt for mine
Add to salad
Add to pasta that you will eat cold (like pasta salad)
Chicken Salad Sandwich
Add bbq sauce which is not as volatile as mayo. 
For a unique treat, I also sometimes mash up banana with mine.  I've also made it with salsa or guac instead of mayo.  

3. Sandwiches or wraps or pita pockets - The better the ingredients, the better they are.  I find that I like to keep the parts separate and put them together just before I eat.  It makes it seem fresher (using my bento box or little jars to keep them separate.  I also love my reusable ziplock bags. 
Good bread
Fun cheeses  - pepper jack, provolone, dill havarti, gouda
Good meat like grilled chicken, real turkey, meat loaf. pot roast, etc.  
I find that pesto, pepper jelly and guac add some zing. Bbq sauce, honey mustard, etc. without me

worrying about salmonella. 

What I like to do is find sandwiches I love at a fancy restaurant or deli and make my own version. 

4. Sushi - veggie or cooked shrimp.  I sometimes pick up sushi and maybe would learn to make it.  

5. Salads - This can be just about anything.  I like five bean. Pasta salad, potato salad, etc.  The key is that green salads might get soggy.  So I keep soggy things separate from the greens and other veggies.  Then I put it together when I'm about to eat.  The key for me to not be hungry soon after is to make sure you have protein with it.  So potato salad needs a side of grilled chicken or something.  Make sure that stuff with mayo stays cold.  I prefer salads that have vinegar or oil based dressings. Green goddess dressing is fun too. 

6. Sometimes I just eat a bowl of roasted veggies (sweet potato, butternut squash, roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.) 

7. Tacos can be fun - same thing...make it into something you'd enjoy.  Tacos can be anything inside and any type of shell.

8. Spring rolls using rice wrappers with veggies and some type of meat inside and a peanut dipping sauce or sweet sauce etc. example here:  I would make mine with carrots, spinach or lettuce, maybe cabbage, and throw in some cooked chicken or shrimp.  I also love them with sliced apples or pears inside.  The peanut sauce makes it fun. 

9. I also like making things like Caprese salad, or prosciutto wraps (cooked asparagus or tubes of cheese wrapped in ham, turkey, prosciutto, etc.)

10.  I also have used pillsbury crescent or biscuit dough with some meat and cheese baked in using muffin
tins. They remind me a bit of those wrap roll ups you make with wraps and then cut into disks, but I like the dough better.  They are just one of the many things you can make with muffin tins.  For some reason, I prefer mine square rather than round and use this brownie pan.  I've done crab cakes, ham and cheese bites, sausage biscuits, spinach "rolls", mini-pizza rolls, mini quiche, little lasagnas, and so much more.  

11. Lettuce Wraps - I love these as my new obsession.  Boston Bib Lettuce is the key.  Then cook up a protein (ground pork is my go to) with some garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy, and season.  Then eat in wraps with peanuts, shredded carrots, scallions, or other shredded veggies. 

12. Quiche - I love making a quiche on the weekend.  I usually use the pre-made crust, one cup of shredded cheese, one cup of cooked veggies (love roasted broccoli), 1/2 cup of cooked meat (bacon is my go to), 8-10 eggs.  I just beat it all together and then bake till the middle doesn't jiggle.  

I hope this list helps you with some ideas.  What is your go-to lunch that is easy and fun (or different).  Comment below :) 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Stop fucking asking me "How are you feeling?" Cancer Tips to support me and others (maybe)!

So I'm working through some major stuff here. I've tried to be honest about it. It's not easy, or fun. I know that I don't have it as bad as others, but fucking fuckity fuck this shit is scary. And that's just the cancer.  

Since finding out that I've got melanoma in March, through surgery and recovery, immunotherapy, more cancer, and more immunotherapy, I've been trying to be strong. I am strong, dammit.  

I'm also scared, anxious, pissed off, sad, depressed, and overwhelmed. I have days when I can't get out of bed and other days when I can slow jog a 5k with my dear friend, Brian. Some nights I sleep more than 12 hours and others I just cry all night and can't sleep.  

I wonder if I'm going to make it. I try pep talks. There are mantra's written in dry erase marker on my mirror. I'm praying. I'm speaking the good. But this is still really fucking hard. That's just part of it. Like so many of you, I also have a job that needs me where I want to succeed. I've got family who loves me and have relied on me for years. I'm trying to get through the end of my marriage and juggle grad school. I want to be the inspiration, not the reason for worry. I'm trying to keep up with the things I love like singing, hiking, and costume parties.  

As I go through this, the hardest thing to answer up to a few hundred times a day is "How are you doing?" or "How are you feeling?"  

Do me a favor and don't ask me that. Please. I'm already reminded of the cancer with bouts of exhaustion, nausea, and vertigo. The random skin rashes that itch like crazy also like to pop up in case I forget. Do you really want to know all these details? Do you want to listen to me rant about the fact that my doctor's missed this through four appointments over six months? Hear about my anger? My sadness? My depression? My diarrhea? Even if you do, I don't want to talk about it again.  I am posting updates on my caringbridge if you really want to know.  

Instead, try: What's new? How's it going? What's going on? Then if I feel like talking about treatment or prognosis, I can choose to add it into the conversation. 

Otherwise, you'll get a pat answer that makes neither of us feel better: "good days and bad days." 

Also, for fuck's sake don't talk to me about a fad diet or something you read on the internet that cures cancer that you have no idea if it actually works because you DON'T KNOW ANY REAL PERSON who has tried it with success. Just because you read it works on the internet doesn't mean I should give up what trained medical professionals know about my cancer to try this stupid shit. Look at what you are sending me. See if there are any studies out there that show it works beyond those done by the same people who are selling this diet or that herbal supplement. And even then, I DON'T WANT TO SEE IT. I've got a team of doctors at two major medical centers. Both are open to alternate therapies. We are already talking through them all.  

It would also be lovely if you didn't tell me about the friends you had die of cancer. Or those that had a dozen surgeries and are still fighting melanoma or other cancers. Neither one of these things makes me feel any better. I don't want to be reminded of the fact that I might die or the fact that I might have to have a dozen more surgeries to fight this. One was enough. I promise.  It's good to tell me you had friends beat cancer, but please don't tell me a friend had a melanoma cut off and is fine.  These are very different things.  

And if I haven't talked to you in 20 years or we are only Facebook friends because I made out with you at a bar one night before I got married, your offer to be a listening ear is just plain creepy. Honey child, if I thought we were that close, I'd have talked to you about this and all of the other crazy shit with my failing marriage, my depression, my job worries, and my other problems over the years.  

Don't share my address with strangers and ask them to send me get well cards or gifts.  It's fucking weird to get a note in the mail from someone I don't know, or even worse one that isn't signed at all and just says "We're praying for you."  

Please don't suggest that I should be laying in bed wallowing in pity either. If you see me out at a concert or going to an event, cheer for me. Trust me I took an extra nap and will pay for it later with more exhaustion. It's much better for me to live my happy moments and sleep around them then fall into a depression because my health is declining.  

So what does help me in all this?  

Send me postcards or notes or cards. My cousin and a few friends have been doing this and it's lovely. Hell, it doesn't even have to be a postcard or note. I love kid art for my fridge and bathroom mirror. Or your own art too. You can still color me a picture from a coloring book to make me smile. 

Emails from old friends (like one of my college professors) also really make my day. Especially when they just say things like, "what's new with you?" It's ok to mention that you hope things are going well with my treatment. Tell me about you, too, though. I want to hear about your garden, your kids, your hobbies, your life. I want to be reminded why we are friends. I want to read about our memories together and the new memories you are building. I want to live vicariously through you as you run races and travel since that part is hard for me right now. I'll update you on my treatment/health on days I feel like it. I'm not shy, but don't want to be reminded about it. 

Post great photos, jokes, or send me funny tik-toks or instagrams. I love that stuff. Kittens, puppies, cooking failures, dad jokes......I'm all eyes and ears. 

Offer to meet me for a meal or set up a game night or craft night. As my treatment gets tougher, I'm sleeping more and getting out is no longer easy. If you know me, I'm a super extrovert. I'm usually the convener, the person making the plans, and I'm missing seeing friends right now. I've not got the energy or clear brain to make the plans to see people that I used to. Even just offering makes me smile, whether or not we set a date. 

I want to hold your babies, pet your puppies, and feel your cats purr too. Those are all good things. Some of my greatest moments of joy lately are playing with the puppies in my building on the elevator. 

Love on and with your loved ones. And tell me about it. Remember to live every moment to the fullest and not let work become your life. Just hearing those stories in a phone call, email, Facetime, or in person makes me happy.

Pray for me and/or send positive energy my way. I believe that it helps and buoys me up on rough days. 

Although not necessary, meal gift cards like door dash and grub hub are awesome. Even better if you are local is to offer to pick up a meal from a local place and come eat with me. Eating alone can be pretty lonely, and even worse when you are going through it.  

Accept and understand that for me, I'm going to probably be more self-centered than you've ever seen me before. Even if your life is horrible, I'm working on focusing on me. That might mean that I'm not the listener I once was. It may also mean that I seem short with you. I may cut you off when you start to talk about something that I know will trigger tears or anger, sadness or depression. Indulge me in this for a bit. I feel like I've been a pretty good listener for the first 45 years of my life. I'll try to get back to it once I'm through this hard stuff. 

Tell me I look great and you are glad to see me, preferably without mentioning the fact that you are surprised I have hair.  

Offer to meet me for a walk, hike, or stroll.  

Make sure to advocate for yourself and your family members in medical care. You know your body better than any doctor or nurse. If something feels off, trust your gut and get checked. Insist on that biopsy or test rather than being poo-pooed by a doctor.  

Those are my own personal wishes for how you can help me beat this. Maybe they will be helpful to others too.  

Friday, February 18, 2022

Kicking Depression's A$$

For decades, I've struggled with winter depression.  It usually sets in on or about December 1 and runs through the end of March-ish.  I'm not sure of the cause.  It may be that I'm separated from my other half, my twin.  I could also be affected by seasonal affective disorder.  Maybe the craziness that is year end giving at work also impacts me, and the fact that there is so much going on that I neglect self-care. 

During the pandemic, my depression management was even worse. 

I was not seeing people, my marriage had fallen apart, I was worried about my family, and the list continues.  As the pandemic intensified and my home life got worse, I started running regularly to alleviate stress.  I ended up training for and completing a marathon for charity and running a half marathon a month....something I'm continuing into 2022.  

My first half marathon in years in 2021

But the entire reason I wanted to write this blog post was because of my cheer chart.  What I decided to do as the pandemic got worse and I saw winter coming, was to make a reminder of what to do to pull myself out of it.  

I made a list of things that either make me happy or are good for me and put it on a chart on my refrigerator.  

I had a bunch of random round magnets left from craft projects that I put on there.  Each morning, I try to make sure I do at least three of the things on the list before I start work.  At the end of the day, I aim to do two more.  On weekends, I want to use all seven magnets at minimum.   This sounds silly, but it has really made a difference in my day.  When I'm feeling down, I look at the chart and try to do at least ONE.  Some of these are super easy, like drinking a pint of plain water or taking a photo to post online.  Soon, I'll update the chart with other things, but my cheer chart has helped me fight depression this year.  

My current 2022 Cheer Chart

Here are some of the things that are on the chart or help me:

Running/Gym/Exercise - If I get 30 minutes of exercise, I usually feel better.
Stretching - some days I just can't motivate to exercise and stretching is good.
Brushing, Flossing, Vitamins, Drinking Water, Eating my Veggies - these are things that I am whiny about, but I know they make my life and body better when I do them.  They are easy wins on days when I can't seem to even get out of bed. 
Crafting - I love making sea glass art to send to friends or doing other crafty things with my hands.  
Cooking/Baking - Making my own food, once I can get started, is good for me and makes me happy.  I just have to get started. It also helps me sell pampered chef stuff for an added benefit. Another bonus is when I can make food to share with friends.  
Friends - Seeing friends for a walk, game night, meal, or just to chat over tea always makes my mood better.  
Writing  - I love writing postcards or note cards to mail to friends.  I imagine them seeing it in the mailbox and smiling.  Getting real mail makes me smile as well.  
Adventure - This one is hand-written on the bottom in case you can't read it.  I love trying new food, activities, new hikes, going thrifting, or exploring.  
Reading - Encouraging my brain to explore another world with a good book also is something that helps me escape negative thoughts.  

Other than the chart, here are added anti-depression measures I've been utilizing. 

Mirror Reminder

I purchased wine glass markers and write quotes, scriptures, and sayings on my mirror in the bathroom to see each time I am there.  

My current mirror quote. 


Sleep seems to be super important for me too.  There are nights when I can't get out of my head.  Two things have helped with that.  First, I stumbled on magnesium cream at a farmers market.  I don't use it all the time, but a little dollop on the bottom of each foot before bed knocks me out on most rough nights.  If my crazy thoughts attack earlier in the night, I have been drinking a bit of cbd simple syrup with some seltzer or sprite.  On occasion, I follow the recipes on the bottle and make a cocktail.  However, it puts me to sleep within 20 minutes, so I don't do it often.  

Future Planning

The other thing that I've learned to do is to find crazy things that I look forward to.  In some cases, I focus on not letting people down by missing something.  Other times, I find things that bring me so much joy that I think about them on rough days.  

This is my winter plan most years:
Thanksgiving With Family
Christmas Gift Making (crafting and more from list above). 
Birthday - connecting with my twin
New Year's Day Run
Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in February

These activities are supplemented with other races, game nights with friends, concert and show tickets, trips to sunny places or adventures on the calendar.  

If I've got something on my calendar to look forward to, I can usually muddle through the ugly stay under the covers and feel like crying days.  

Polar Plunge 2022

Then as the flowers bloom and the days are longer, I seem to be better.  I still have tough days where I don't to get out of bed or talk to people.  However, it's easier to run, find adventures, see friends, get fresh air, and live my life.  I go hiking more often with my friend Kristen, flea market shopping with my sister, camping, sea glass collecting, national park exploring, cocktail drinking, speedo racing, and so many of the other things that bring me joy.  Seeing all the posts lately about depression makes me think I'm not alone.  Hopefully you can make a chart that helps you too.