Friday, February 24, 2012

Cuck Fancer!

When my nephew in-law was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread throughout his abdomen about 18 months ago, this phrase "Cuck Fancer!" became quite popular in our family. He even brought my mom (a triple-threat cancer survivor) a silicone bracelet with those words on it for Christmas.

We recently celebrated the first anniversary of him being cancer-free. The irony was that another member of the family was given the news on the very same that cancerous cells has been found during recent tests. The latest news of cancer in my family made me start counting up the numbers.

  • 75% of my grandparents had cancer. 
  • 66% of them died OF cancer and one died with cancer. 
  • 100% of my parents have had multiple types of cancer over the years. Both are survivors. 
  • 57% of my immediate family has been diagnosed with cancer. 57%. That is unreal!

That last number - as I uttered it to my husband - made me gag. The look on his face matched the thought that had just... at that very moment... come home to roost in my head. "If more than 50% of my immediate family has had some form of cancer, the chances of me getting cancer of some type at some point are quite high." Here's the good news. 57% of my immediate family diagnosed with cancer kicked the Hell out of it and survived it.

I eat well - lots of veggies, water, very little red meat, mostly organic when possible. I drink in moderation. I don't smoke (and never have). I exercise. I expose myself cautiously to the sun. I am careful about the chemicals I expose myself to, what I breathe, and the atmospheres I allow myself to be in. I don't use drugs or have any other high risk behaviors... but it seems that there may be some predisposition to cancer that I may not be able to avoid. But then again... maybe I can.

Here is the choice. Dwell or deal. My mom will read this and say "I know my Polly - she will let this sink deep into her head and worry over it." Well Mom... don't worry. The answer is "Deal".

As Dad says, "If you're born to hang, you'll never drown." I've never known exactly what that means or how it is relevant in the ways that Dad uses it... but it doesn't really matter because unless I visit some very convincing mystic (why would I do THAT?!?), I won't likely know until I KNOW how I am going to die.

So... the "deal" part means that it's up to me to manage the risks. Keep eating healthy, maybe drink a little more red wine (it's GOOD for me!), keep exercising and shrinking my backside till I reach my goal weight, continue to reduce the amounts of chemicals and toxins that I am exposed to... and enjoy life (while keeping an eye out for suspicious changes). I can live with that. The alternative would pretty much feel like I was inviting cancer in and that is not happening.

Part of this sudden slap in the face with this reality also came to the forefront this week because on two days ago I learned that a good friend from college passed away quite suddenly of a heart attack. She was 42 years old. I am 42 years old. She lived life to the fullest though and in some ways really modeled making the most of the time you've got. She didn't know that she had a heart problem - that was just who she was.

So anyway... Cuck Fancer - you don't scare me! (Okay - yeah, you do. We don't need to meet in person ever. Really. And just in case you are listening, you really need to start picking on the rapists, pedophiles, serial killers, and other miscreants and leave the good-for-this-world people alone!)

Here's to living a good life as long as we're kickin'. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy VD!

When I was about 14, my oldest sister said that to me - "Happy VD". My hormonally-impaired brain thought it was hilarious and... Apparently the impairment stuck with me as I've said it at least once per year to someone - often her. I doubt she remembers saying it but she made me laugh then and she still does today.

Today's post about Valentine's Day is about finding love in unusual places and being open to its possibilities.

I met the love for my lifetime in nursery school. Yes, nursery school. I was too busy running over his head with a tricycle to recognize that he was my husband-to-be. I was also in nursery school in the days of not rushing your children to grow up too fast. NEVER was I asked the questions that adults ask kids these days before they can even read "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" (I think that this kind of suggestive question regarding adult-like relationships is completely inappropriate and shoves kids headlong into roles they aren't ready for - but I digress...).

My husband and I went to school together through 8th grade (minus a few months in first grade for reasons too complicated to explain right now) and then went off to different high schools, college and beyond. He was a (self-described) bit of a pest in grade school. I didn't have patience for the pestiness but I liked him just the same. We spent many, many hours playing together after school as I lived across the street from the school and his dad worked at the school. Living in a rural area left few other options for playmates and despite a few scuffles here and there, we got along nicely. My mother adored him.

As we reached "crush age", he developed an unreciprocated crush on me which lasted through 8th grade. I liked him but not "like that". His hopes were dashed upon the rocks for the final time while we were on our 8th grade class trip to Cape Cod where we stayed in his grandparents' houses for a week. His BFF Steve approached me one last time on A's behalf but there was nothin' doin' on my part. (Ironically Steve grew up to marry A's first cousin.)

We saw each other once when he came to a party at my house in high school and then didn't see each other for decades although I saw pictures and got updates about him, his marriage, and his son.

In 2004 I received a call from my mother. She was breathless and so VERY excited to tell me that she had seen A and his son at the grocery store and he was DIVORCED (and sooo handsome and sweet - she didn't leave that part out.) She quickly gave me his email address and phone number and urged me to contact him.

Knowing Mom would ask if I'd contacted him yet every time we talked, I emailed him later that night - it was a nonchalant "How ya doing?" email. He responded the next day with an articulate, well-written, thoughtful response. "Hmmm" I thought. Rarely had I run into a man that could actually write well or bothered to take the time if he could write well. After exchanging a few emails and then instant messaging for a while, we quickly progressed to talking on the phone for hours on end... Finally we made a plan and he came for a visit. In theory it was a huge risk as he was driving 6 hours to see me. If it was a disaster, it was a long way to get home!

We later both admitted that we each knew there was something wonderful happening between us before he even arrived at my house. And... The moment he walked into my apartment in Stowe, VT on February 6, 2004, I wrapped my arms around him and we've never let go.

So... If you are wondering where you might find love, be assured that even the most unlikely person - The one you would have told everyone you would NEVER end up with - might turn out to surprise you! Be open to it. I'm glad I did as it's been an amazing journey!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fitness by Brody...

He's only 4 1/2 years old but he's the best trainer I've ever had. Well... I've never actually had a trainer so he doesn't really have to be that good to be the best but he's pretty great!

In an effort to get back in the groove losing weight and training for a week-long hiking trip to the Adirondacks this summer, I've begun walking 3-5 miles four (or more) times per week. One of those days I go to my friend's house and we walk dogs and her pony for several miles through the woods. The rest of the days I head out into the 300+ acres of conservation land across the road from our house. These are the days Brody loves because he can stretch his own legs and coax me into kicking my workout up a notch.

For instance, today I went for a walk with him and had already walked about two miles zigging and zagging through trails and roads that wind through the conservation area (the well head protection area for the entire town) leading to the various pump houses by the time I let Brody take the lead. We had passed only one person on a horse and another person way off in the distance when we crossed the power line road. I did also see four boys from my neighborhood who were goofing around trying to convince me that they were a pack of coyotes - shortly after hearing something similar to the yelping we often hear at night, I spotted them dashing into the woods ahead of me. Brody was not to be distracted though.

Shortly after we ducked back into the woods I let Brody decide where we were going. He quickly realized that he was in charge for this part of the workout and he takes his work very seriously! He led me directly to what I affectionately call "Ass Thrash Alley" (ATA). It is basically a big X inside a roughly round series of trails. The X is a criss-cross of trails that begin with a steep climb and then drops abruptly downhill in a steep pitch to the valley where it sharply turns uphill at another steep angle. No matter how you approach it, you get a good workout with up-down-up and of course, you aren't allowed to turn right around, you have to complete the circle and cross back through the other leg of the X to complete the cycle. I didn't make the rules, Brody did. I just follow them because he seems to know what he is doing.

I'm not sure if he was torturing me today or if his brain just got stuck in a loop but every time we completed the cycle and I thought we'd bear right on the trail and head back toward the abandoned cranberry bog that begins the last 1/2 mile home, he'd turn left again and dash back into ATA only stopping at the top of the first hill to make sure that I was going to follow. I did. I had to. He was the boss for the time being and I had to take my lead from him.

Five cycles of Ass Thrash later, I had had it for the day and when he dashed to the top of the hill for the sixth time, I breathlessly said, "Really?". He paused, admitted it was enough for the day and came back down the hill and headed toward the bog. When we reached the edge of the bog, he went right again - the direct route back to the trail head to home but I went left. I figured that if I wasn't going to do another pass through the canyon, I could at least walk the long way home around the bog. Brody was very happy with my decision.

We arrived home and he promptly flopped on the floor in his favorite place in front of the wood stove. Apparently being a trainer takes a lot out of a dog!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lens Envy and the Bunting

Earlier this week I had to go to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for work. It just so happens that there was a birding treat in progress when I got there. I'm not much of a birder but when the dozen or so "real birders" came in to see the Bunting, I admit to getting caught up in the moment and taking the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

I did not take this picture. Turns out that there are many
different types of buntings. This is the one that most
closely matches what I saw.
The Bunting is a little, non-descript brown bird with no remarkable markings or colors. Had I seen it myself I wouldn't have thought a thing of it. But "real birders" know what a rare occurrence this is and apparently have been flocking (ba dum bum) to WBWS since the little bird first appeared over the weekend. The word spread quickly in the birding world and people came from 3, 4, 5 hours away to see the little guy.

Luckily I didn't have to work very hard to find him. I just had to wander across the nature center to the bank of windows with 12-15 people standing/sitting/crouching absolutely silently with eyes and binoculars trained on a bird feeder about 15 feet outside the window. Again luck was with me because some kind soul had printed a large picture of the Bunting and posted it  so that rookies like me didn't get all excited and point out a Chickadee or a Sparrow thinking I'd seen the wondrous Bunting.

I stole quietly to a corner with a great view of the bird feeder where he had apparently been all morning and assumed the role of "patient birder" (a role not ideally made for me as I'm not always that patient). I keyed in on the gaze of a nearby RB (Real Birder) to try and figure out if the spectacle that we were looking for was indeed there or we were just waiting for its return.

The one on the right is similar to the object
of my desire this week.
As I waited, I noticed the cameras of one couple that had come in while I was visiting with one of my volunteers at the front desk. They each had lenses that had to have been 12-14" in length and heaven only knows what the magnification was! I soon realized that I was no longer studying the base of the bird feeder or the RB's but I was now vying for position so that I could get a better look at their cameras. Neither had their digital display on though so I never got a chance to see just how close their zoom lens got them to that little bird. I'd venture to say that they could have done a thorough inspection of a flea on a bird's feathers at 100 yards with that lens! I had major lens envy.

Lens envy is not a new phenomenon for me. My husband gave me an amazing camera for Christmas last year and we had spent the first several days of our Alaskan vacation last summer wowing ourselves (and overwhelming my hard drive with HUGE format photos) with its abilities. Then we took a glacier cruise with a woman whose lens was probably 16-18" long and must have been zoomed in on the barnacles on the Humpback whales that we saw a half mile away. It was my first bout of lens envy and we still talk about it today. Of course I'd have to sell my car and take out a second mortgage on our home for that lens (I googled it...) so there won't be one of those gracing my camera bag any time soon!

So... back at Mass Audubon... As I ogled the lenses, I was suddenly stirred by the excitement that blazed through the room when the Bunting arrived at last. (Okay... Blazing excitement from birders is the most mellow hushed rush I've ever experienced (molasses in December comes to mind) - far from the leaping and yelling when the Patriots looked like they might win the Super Bowl this past Sunday... But that's another story.)

Although I wasn't impressed with his markings or his color etc, I was impressed with the dedication and passion it must take to be a real birder. I'll admit that when he arrived, I watched him (or her - who am I kidding?) carefully for several minutes and then let my eyes wander to the rippled effect that the gust of wind had in the empty birdseed shells and the wave of the tips of the branches after the fat Bluejays vacated them. I realized that my brain is designed to be an observer of nature with ADD-like focus - taking it bits of stimuli from various sources - Not a passionate birder with steely focus on one thing. And I realized... That's okay with me because while those real birders were busy checking bunting off their list of lifetime birds spotted, I'll they never noticed how the wind made the seed shells flip like a school of fish skimming the surface of the water and that's okay because we all see joy and art in the world in different ways. I'm glad I didn't miss the  wind's artistic waves... or the Bunting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Bowl menu

Each year I endeavor to make healthy treats for the Super Bowl. This year was no different and except for the brownies that my step-son's girlfriend brought over, as my mother would say, I done good!

My husband was in the midst of working three back-to-back days of double-shifts with just enough sleep time planned to be able to see the game and go back to work. Therefore the cooking was left to me... which I really don't mind. I like puttering around in the kitchen whipping up tasty creations. It's at least a quiet activity that I can do so that he can get some sleep.

I started off with a tray of veggies - carrots, celery and fresh peppers. My husband and I were the only ones tat ate them though because I skipped serving any "dipping goo" that makes veggies appealing to my step-son. I thought about making homemade hummus but ran out of time.

The appetizer was organic blue corn chips and homemade salsa. It's the easiest salsa in the world and I will now ALWAYS make it (or some variation of it) instead of buying the expensive and not-so-great stuff in a jar.

The recipe is:
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (I'll do fresh in the summer time when tomatoes have flavor)
1 whole (mostly seeded) jalapeƱo pepper
One med onion roughly chopped
A handful of cilantro
A dollop of agave (recipe called for honey but I used agave and loved it)
Six or so cloves of garlic roughly chopped (love garlic!!!)
A whisker of salt to balance the agave but not too much if your chips have salt too

Put it all in a blender and pulse it till its all combined - about 30 seconds. Letting it sit in the fridge overnight is great but you can also just dive right in! This recipe makes about 2 cups of salsa.

The four of us plowed through a bag of chips and made a big dent in the salsa pretty quickly. (I can still taste the garlic... Well... To be fair... I ate the rest of the chips and salsa for dinner last night. Yum!)

The main event was Asian meatballs which I make with turkey instead of pork or ground beef. It has a hoisin sauce that makes you want to carve out a meatball and use it as a sauce-dipping-vessel.

The recipe includes instructions for the meatballs and the sauce so I'll link to it later.

Part B of the main event was carb-less pizza. I love pizza. I miss pizza. Sometimes I dream about pizza. So when I found the recipe for carb-less pizza on, I fixated on it. Of course I had to "healthify" it by changing a few of the ingredients. At the end of it all, it was okay. I'm not sure I'll rush to make it again... Next time I'll just skip lunch so I can have enough calories to eat "real" pizza. It wasn't terrible though and it actually got better as it got colder.

The crust is made from cream cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, and pepper. You make that in a 9x13 pan and then cool it. Then you add sauce, shredded cheese and toppings and bake it. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese in the crust, turkey pepperoni and low fat mozzarella for the topping. It was kind of salty (Parmesan in the crust kicked that up too much) and rubbery (that's what low fat mozzarella does, unfortunately). With that sales job, if anyone wants the recipe, let me know.

The finale was supposed to be Skinny Cow ice cream. If you are an ice cream fan and are watching your calories, run - don't walk- to the store and buy Skinny Cow frozen treats! We prefer the mint sandwiches (or vanilla or chocolate sandwiches), the truffle pops or the little cups with varied flavors - Dulce Leche is my FAVORITE cup! They are 100-150 calories each and TOTALLY satisfying for even the sweetest of teeth!

As I mentioned, my step-son's girlfriend had brought brownies though so we skipped the Skinny Cow and had a brownie.

By the third quarter we were all stuffed but at least we were stuffed with good stuff rather than junk!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yukon-induced joy...

Who is Yukon? Well, he is a lucky four-legged creature that has been rescued by Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue in Mystic, CT.

A week or two ago my friend posted on Facebook that she was looking for donations of grain, equipment, or money for this organization. She rarely gets involved with anything half-arsed so my husband and I pitched in a couple of bags of grain. Later when I learned that a local store (Dennis Agway) would donate as many bricks of shavings as she could carry, I offered to bring our truck and haul a load.

So Saturday morning we loaded up two big trucks and headed to Mystic. When we arrived, I instantly was grateful that we hadn't brought a horse trailer as I'd have loaded it with donkeys and ponies with little thought as to where they would live once we got home. My willpower when it comes to animals is low. Very low.

Meg has been there a few times before so she made the rounds greeting her old buddies while I made friends with a couple of old, very sweet and curious donkeys.

Then I saw him. He was majestic. Regal. The king of the donkey pen. His forelock was tufted and his mane was long and flowing. He was Yukon and I loved him instantly. Meg said "I'm pretty sure he's actually a miniature unicorn - just look at him!" and she's right. It explains why I was so captivated by him instantly!

Yukon is actually a miniature Appaloosa horse who had been used as a stud for a few years and later rescued by Beech Brook. I'm not sure what his circumstances were but he is a little guy that commands attention but is also very sweet! He's not too crazy about anyone near his hind quarters (I wouldn't be either if I'd been milked for semen!) but otherwise he's beautiful!

The rescue director brought him out for us to love and showed him off trotting up and down the lane - I just fell for that guy big time!

So... Now I've added another "want" to my Some Day Farm... Yukon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unfaithful thoughts regarding my wife...

Here is the question I have been pondering... Can I really leave my "wife" of three years? She's been good to me. We've been simpatico since day one. Really... we hit it off instantly and have been together nearly every moment except once when I forgot her at a convenience store and once when my two year old great-nephew stuffed her in my sister in-law's purse and I couldn't find her for a few hours. Thinking that I lost her nearly paralyzed me. She knows too much...

Of course I'm speaking about my iPhone. My husband calls it my wife because she keeps me organized, productive, and always - with a few keystrokes - has the answers I need on the fly. Apparently, among other things, that is how I am a good wife to him (except the answers part... We both have a Google mistress to turn to) and everyone needs a good wife - including me... Without all that messy third-wheel polygamy stuff, of course. (No offense to polygamists - it's just not how we roll.)

The use-it-till-it's-dead, raised-by-parents-of-the-Depression, cheap-arse adult in me has been winning this argument... until lately. Recently the gotta-have-the-latest-and-greatest-because-surely-I'm-missing-out kid in me is making a strong play. I'm not sure which one will win or, quite frankly, who I'm rooting for.

Here is how the youngster's argument got a foothold... I've been spending time with people that have the newest iPhone... The 4S. I have a 3GS - a bit of a dinosaur compared to their wives. Mine still does everything I need... But their wives do things that I think I want! For example... My friend B took some video of us making silly faces etc to send to her husband and kids while we were on our girls weekend a few weeks ago. She just hit a button and the viewfinder faced us rather than me holding it at arms length and guessing if it was aimed at our faces, the lighting fixture above us, or our pigeon toes. She also took crystal clear pictures of various things while my wife took fuzzy, barely discernible photos (okay - so cleaning the protective case now and then might help this a bit too).

And then there is Siri. I honestly can't think of any question that I need to ask Siri right now but she's full of good information! How do I know? Because my hilarious nephews spent some time trying to stump her by asking a variety of increasingly challenging questions and she was helpful with each one. The last question they asked her was "Where can I dump a body?" (Hold on! No need to run off and call 911 - these are good boys with imaginations - not scoundrels with an actual body to hide!) Siri answered "What type of place are you looking for? An abandoned mine, a cave, a forest...?" Now can you see why I need a wife like that? I mean... Not that I have use for an answer to a question of that sort but if she can answer that, she can probably answer just about anything!

Now with every time that my current wife hiccups or dumps me out of an app, I think "Oh... maybe this is it!" It's not. I just looked up how much the new 4S will cost me and the cheap-arse adult has just pulled into the lead again.