Our fruit trees

Our fruit trees 032316

A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside enjoying the sun shining on my face while I read a book and dreamt about life. The wind blew and a sweet fragrance filled my nose. I glanced up and saw that the plum and peach trees my mother had surprised us with last spring were blooming. I smiled and snapped a picture for my mom. They were beautiful and filled with buds. These buds were filled with the promise of fresh fruit in a few months.

Today, I walked outside and looked at those same trees again. Most of the flowers are gone and in their place are baby fruit. The once pink flowers of the peach tree are now filled with green fuzz-covered peaches the size of a quarter and the once white flowers of the plum tree are now filled with smooth green plums the size of a dime. They are magnificent.

As I watered the trees and watched them sparkle slightly in the afternoon sun, I thought back to when I first planted these trees. It was a warm weekend afternoon in late spring of last year. I pulled back my long curls with a hair tie and bandana, put on some active wear and stepped into my sneakers. Putting on my sunglasses, I ventured into the backyard to do some yard work. Prior to our neighbors putting up the fence, I had always wanted to spruce up the plants that lined our backyard but I wasn’t sure how the politics of backyard easement worked. Once they put up the fence, I was excited to spend some time and energy on this part of the yard.   My mom buying us two fruit trees was exactly the motivation that I needed to get started.

With Joe spending time inside with little man, I spend the entire afternoon sweating in the backyard. I raked up tons of leaves, pulled apart thorny vines from overgrown weeds and swatted bugs. I filled bag after bag of lawn debris. Eventually, I cleared out the overgrowth enough that I was ready to plant the trees. I grabbed a shovel and dug deep holes, wet the soil and planted my new trees. Standing back, I smiled at my accomplishment. A few hours of work and I had cleared some land and planted new trees. I was proud of myself and excited to watch the trees grow. The thought of little man picking his own fruit in our yard excited me greatly.

The next day I woke up sore, as I expected. One of the areas that I was sore was under my left armpit. I figured I pulled a muscle and tried to take it easy on that particular arm for a few days. The pain never went away and eventually I learned that the pain was not from the yard work, though the yard work may have triggered the pain.

Looking back, life was simpler then. Breast cancer rarely crossed my mind, and when it did it wasn’t because I had it. Life was a series of daily routines, random struggles and a predicable future – or so I thought.

Things have changed drastically since the day that I planted these trees. My life, my daily routines and my struggles are all different now. There is a new norm and yet I am still in awe of these trees. The way that they have continued to grow, despite my lack of nurturing in recent months, and how they went from just a few leaf covered branches, to blossoming flowers and to now producing an abundance of baby fruit. They continued to grow and change throughout the seasons, just like me.

I can’t help but wonder how I’ll reflect upon these trees when they bloom next spring. Something tells me that there will be a new norm yet again. And this time, it will be an even better one.

Food basics – help!

So I have a slight rant today. This isn’t a typical post but I’m bothered and feel the need to share. I mentioned earlier this year that I wanted to focus on getting healthy, which involves a hard look at the foods that my family consumes. Yesterday I put together my grocery list based on the sales ad, planned my meals for the week and headed to the grocery store. I have been pretty good about not purchasing processed foods and checking out all of the labels for things that I do purchase.

When I was pregnant, I did a lot of research around what foods are safe to eat. I became quite brand loyal for things like milk and eggs, among others. I quickly fell into a routine for the things that I purchased regularly, especially once little man started eating regular food. It occurred to me though, that I haven’t been checking the labels on many of my staple items, especially the things that I am not quite as brand loyal to. This may sound silly, since I check labels on so many of my purchases but I realize now that I have been a little naïve to how tainted food actually is. I was shocked and angered by what I found.

Since I didn’t make it to my local farm this weekend, I picked up my typical fruits and veggies, trying to buy organic where I could. Then I moved on to the meat, which I only needed a little of and opted for organic and grass fed there as well. Yes, the price can add up quickly but after doing some research on the hormones and antibiotics that are often used, it is a non-negotiable for me. I have learned to watch the ads and purchase the organic versions on sale then freeze whatever I’m not using right away. This has been working well so far.

Then I ventured over to the dairy section. I am pretty good about checking out the labels for most things but cheese isn’t one that I have looked at recently. I mean, the ingredients should be pretty basic, right? Um…no. I spent some time googling the ingredients that were listed on a lot of the cheeses that I picked up and was horrified at what I found. There are a lot of unnecessary ingredients and a lot of preservatives. Thankfully, I found a couple of brands that only use the basics and opted to buy those (also on sale, whew!). I headed over to the bread section and felt a little overwhelmed by all of the ingredients on the packages there and actually decided not to even buy bread. I need to do some more research before committing to that. I also opted not to purchase chicken stock because there were so many ingredients listed on the carton. For something that seems like it should be relatively simple, I was scared of the long list. I left the grocery store feeling deflated, as there are so many things that I typically buy that contain a lot of junk.

You may be thinking, what’s your point? Having recently beaten breast cancer and wanting to live a long, healthy life with my family, I can’t help but wonder what impact how big of an impact the ingredients in the food that I consume actually has on having cancer at such a young age. For the majority of my life, I have blindly purchased foods that I assumed were the real thing. It was only a few years ago that I realized maple syrup wasn’t even real unless you buy real syrup. Same thing with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise…the standard things that we have in our refrigerator are full of hidden preservatives, tons of sugar and frankly, crap. Go look, seriously. It’s scary.

If I want to purchase real food, not foods that are full of additives and fake ingredients, I have to spend time researching. And even then, I feel unsure about whether or not I am actually getting the whole story. There’s non-GMO, preservative free, no artificial sweeteners, organic and so many things in between that it’s hard to keep it all straight. As much as I want to get back to the basics, it’s hard to trust what the basics actually are now.

I just feel a little overwhelmed with keeping it all straight. So, I’m wondering what you all do to stick with the basics. Are you brand loyal to companies that you know you can trust? Do you avoid dairy entirely? What about meat? Are there blogs you follow that offer guidance or break it down in a way that it is easy to understand and remember? I’m anxious to hear what tips and tricks you all may have to help guide me on this path to food basics. Thanks for reading and putting up with my food frustration today!

The Love Jars Outreach

Love Jars Outreach Event 032016

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Compassionate Hands and Hearts Outreach event. I was blessed to be a recipient of this organization last year. Each month, this organization supports local women (and men) who are battling breast cancer. The recipients are provided a financial gift to help with their journey along with a gift bag filled with lots of items to help make life a little easier.

When I attended the outreach with this organization in November, it touched me in a way that is hard to describe. These people, these warriors…they’re amazing. They volunteer their time, their minds, their ears and their hearts to help people like myself. They offer support, encouragement and friendship. They understand the battle and have survived it themselves.

I wanted to give back to this organization, for the love that they shown me and my family. Thanks to the support of Team Red Phoenix, I brought Love Jars to the outreach for each of this month’s recipients. They were placed in the gift bags alongside other wonderful items that were donated to help during their journey. Listening to each of these six women share their story, and knowing that they are all right here in my town, brought tears. My heart aches for each of their stories and the struggles that breast cancer has brought them. I can simply hope and pray that through the support of organizations such as CHHO that these women find comfort in their journey.

And perhaps the Love Jars help them to know that they are not fighting alone.  Spread the love.

Marked

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So I misunderstood somewhere along the way. I thought after being marked up today for radiation, I would then actually start radiation if I felt up to it. Not quite. Joe had the same understanding as me though, so I’m not entirely crazy.

Today was my setup, or mapping, appointment at the radiation oncology office. First step, the nurses had me lay down to get ready for the CT scan, with a nice view of the beach to look at above me. There was a pillow lying flat under my head that was filled similar to the way a bean bag would be. My arms were raised above my head and my head was turned to my right. The radiation oncologist, along with the help of the nurses, increased and decreased the air inside of the pillow while moving me around a bit. The air was then removed and the beans inside the pillow formed a mold of my head and arms. This will help ensure that I sit still throughout the treatment.

Next was the scan, which was done in a number of different ways. I had a regular scan done initially, where I sat inside the machine while it scanned and was then pulled back out. Next I had to hold my breath for 30 seconds while they marked certain areas of my chest. I had to hold my breath for another 30 seconds to verify whether or not I am consistent in the way I move when I hold my breath.   Then I had to hold my breath for 30 seconds while inside the machine. Thankfully, the doctor had told me this ahead of time so that I could practice holding my breath prior to today. It was challenging to expand my chest fully after surgery and after each expansion so I’m glad that I had the weeks to practice. When I have the actual radiation, part of my treatment will require that I hold my breath for 20 – 25 seconds at a time. This helps to lift my chest and lower my heart so that it is not touched by the beams.

After the scans, I was pulled back out and they made some additional markings on my chest and then placed waterproof clear tape over the areas they marked and took pictures. Three down the center of my chest and one on each side, for a total of 5 marks. If the tape falls off or starts to peel, I need to contact the doctor and have them align the tape again. Lastly, the doctor confirmed that the scans were sufficient for her planning.

Next, the doctor will review the scans and determine exactly where the radiation needs to be directed. The markings will be used as the initial roadmap for my next appointment. I will eventually have small tattoos, each about the size of a freckle, which will help guide the radiation beams as well. As you can imagine, their allotted margin of error is miniscule so many precautions are taken to ensure accuracy.

So, that’s that for today. Once the doctor has put together the final plan, and my insurance approves the treatment, the office will call me to schedule the radiation. I should start within 7 – 10 days. I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, since it will be Monday through Friday for 6 weeks.

Side note, why are my glasses always crooked in the pictures that I post here?!  Are they always crooked?!  Eek!

Dolphin view

Dolphin view 031716

Their jumps appeared random, tossing them out of the water for just an instant before they plunged back down into the blue surf. The waves were light that day, though they swam so close to shore that they seemed caught at the sand bar, between the sets of waves breaking. They didn’t seem to notice the current though, as they swam about freely; their dorsal fins bobbing up and down sporadically.

The swimmers didn’t seem to notice how close the creatures were, despite how many were just over the water’s crest. She imagined herself swimming amongst them, splashing throughout the ocean in search of food. The speed in which they traveled today, slow and circular, was nowhere near the speed of which she knew they were capable.

She wondered what dolphins think about. Do they have dreams, goals, ambitions? Or do they live for the moment, relying on instinct that has been perfected? Do they wander freely throughout the ocean, without care or concern?

A movement to the right caught her eye and she looked in time to see a small figure jump completely out of the water, causing her breath to catch at the magnificence of its leap. Glancing up, she peered at the sky above where the dolphins played. Though it was clear now, she could see the clouds rolling; their darkness casting a shadow across the sand behind her.

Sitting for another moment, she then waved good bye to the dolphins and the seagulls that fly overhead. Holding her sandals in her hand, she began walking away from the peaceful sound of the waves rolling up the shore. Unsure of how severe it will be, she braced herself against the storm, ready to take on whatever came her way.

Breaking down goals

Yesterday I asked what keeps you all motivated to meet a goal. I received a bunch of great suggestions and advice to help with achieving goals, ranging from different apps that help to changing how you view your goals.

One of the responses that I received was in regards to having enough discipline to continue working towards your goal. For me, motivation itself is not always enough. Sometimes the goal can be slightly overwhelming because of the level of effort that is needed to achieve that particular goal. The thought is that when you demonstrate good discipline towards your goal and subsequently make it a routine, you then generate good (or happy) feelings as a part of the process versus relying solely on your initial motivations or feelings to continue forward. Eventually, your discipline turns into habit and it is simply second nature to work towards your goals regularly (21 days, right?).

Another idea that I learned about was breaking your goals down into smaller sub-goals. These sub-goals can be broken down into daily, weekly or monthly targets that you want to reach, which eventually add up to your larger, or end, goal. If you are a visual person, as I am, then you can put together a goal board for each step of the process. It’ll help you stay on track by reminding you of the goals that you have committed yourself to, but it will also allow you to see your progress along the way.

I find both of these thoughts intriguing and quite doable as well. There are a handful of goals that I want to work towards but the end result of what I am trying to accomplish seems daunting. Though it may seem obvious to some, the tips that I’ve received for how to attack these goals has helped me to break them down into more manageable tasks that will quickly add up. Writing it all down will also help me to see the progress that I have made over the weeks.

I wanted to share, in the hopes that some of you may be able to utilize some of these ideas. I’m off to create my goal board. Thanks to everyone who commented!

Goal planning

When Joe & I were engaged, I knew that I wanted to lose weight prior to our wedding. According to the BMI calculator at my doctor’s office, I was considered obese and my blood work was beginning to show areas of concern. A lifestyle change was needed and I knew I needed to fully commit to those changes in order to be successful. I talked it over with Joe and we decided to make the change together.

We started by setting a date that we would begin making these changes. We became engaged in October and the holidays were right around the corner so we opted to start after the New Year. That particular year, New Year’s Day fell on a Friday. Knowing that we would need time to prep for the changes, we opted to begin the first Monday of that year.

Every Monday after that became our “weigh in day”, where we would track our progress. Using excel, we inputted what our healthy goal weight was and the timeline that we wanted to reach it by. In addition to holding ourselves accountable, I asked one of my best friends to hold me accountable also. Having her cheer me on was a huge help.

Joe & I decided to track our food intake in order to help hold us see the food choices that we made each day. Every weekend, we researched recipes, grocery shopped and prepped meals for the entire week. We used a notebook to write down everything that we ate.

We also began walking. After work each night, we would go for a short walk around our neighborhood and talk about how our days went or what our weekend plans were.

By the time our wedding date arrived, we both had reached our goal weight and were happy with it. We had each lost the weight equivalent of a young child and were now within the normal healthy weight range for our heights. Our blood work was even showing drastic improvements and we were able to shop for new clothes to take with us on our honeymoon. I even wore a bikini, something that I had not done since I was a teenager.

For me, this was successful because I was able to see the progress week over week. Prepping ahead of time, setting realistic expectations and tracking progress along the way helped me to fully engage in the changes and better understand what worked and what didn’t. Writing everything down forced me to acknowledge what I was eating and how much (or how little) I was exercising.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about goals that I want to set for myself and I’m curious what other people do in order to help them achieve their goals (they don’t have to be weight related). How do you hold yourselves accountable? What keeps you motivated? Do you use a reward of some sort as the prize for achieving your goals?

Comment below and share with me! I’m anxious to learn the tips and tricks that others use to reach for the stars. Hopefully your tips will help me to achieve my goals too. 🙂