Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Food glorious food

Oh what a week! Who amongst you looks forward to a gathering of loving family ties, a table laden with otherworldly delights, a day (or two!) off from work, the pleasures of creating culinary genius in your kitchens? Right. Same here. I'm jagged midway between my hourly conviction to welcome such goodness along with my DNA hounding me otherwise, from memories of rabid dysfunction to outright paranoia about what I will and will not be tempted to throw down my gullet. Peace and joy are not too far away, however!

May I pause right now and wish you reading this a truly blessed occasion of giving THANKS to God as you understand God. Gratitude IS big medicine!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22. (NIV)

I was shown that Old Testament line over a year ago in the home of the people whose healthfully laden table you see in my photo. Yes, I regularly boast about Kevin and Jennifer Van Kirk at Hallelujah Acres in prosaic Golden, Missouri, about 45 minutes from Branson.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22.

I suspect that every blog of a fighting cancer warrior includes their path of food and nutrition. How 21st Century hospitals can put multimillion-dollar equipment in their wards, require the most stringent training of all nurses and doctors and yet pile the cafeteria plates with such wretchedness is beyond me! I complained in BOTH of my hospitalizations! My friends brought me organic meals from Whole Foods when they visited! So this post is about Food, Glorious Food - giving thanks to God for God's bounty and sharing a smidgeon of my own "experience, strength and hope" as I continue to rebuild all of me as wisely as I know.

If you have any form of cancer - and I avoid generic references to it as each one is VERY different! - and are searching the Web for wisdom, I pray that the core of your search involves a Divine Source of guidance that informs all of your actions as well as building a team of people you can trust to the depths of your being. I'm not doing this on my own, believe me.

Awright awright - so what do I eat?

After 4-1/2 months as a "high-raw" vegan, two of my now-four holistic healing practitioners made some noises about including meat in my diet. I was appalled. The great and not-so-great thing about running with the raw vegan crowd is that they err on the side of "our way or the highway." Do I think it's a worthy way of nourishing oneself? Absolutely, if you're of a physical and even psychological constitution to benefit from it. I have doubts as to its efficacy as a long-term path. There are raw vegans out there who write books, give lectures and look FANTASTIC. Lord, bless them! And if anyone is on anything that resembles the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD), after some detoxing symptoms, they are going to feel GREAT going raw and vegan. For awhile at least! For myself, having been raised on animal protein from the local Jewish butcher shop, I responded positively to slowly adding it back in.

Being a high raw vegan did not help my blood counts. As it's my bone marrow I'm on a path of healing, that is pretty darn important.

Meaty Caveat: I will not touch feed lot meats of any kind nor fish that is taken from oceans or lakes in a non-sustainable manner. Please see the movie End of the Line regarding the latter comment, and do any amount of online research on "organic meat" to show you how poisonous is eating the flesh of any poor animal tortured in a feed lot environment. It's bad juju and it's bad for the human body, period. I gratefully enjoy organic ONLY red meat and poultry and thank them for helping me to grow in health.

ORGANIC is my rallying cry and commitment to health. Rarely do I touch anything grown commercially with pesticides. I admit that it's in my better interest to eat a non-organic apple (well washed!) than a wholesome organic brownie, even though a part of me will probably always try and steer me towards the latter. Sigh! Fruits and veggies - yeah! - both raw and cooked. The salad bar at Whole Foods and I are very good friends.

NO SUGAR, period. Yes to moderate use of honey, occasionally to agave (current controversies aside), never to Stevia 'cause I don't like the taste.

Almost NO dairy. I simply can't justify it, and as well being a Church singer, I don't want to clog my pipes. Do I yearn for rich creams and cheeses? Duh! I believe that I can get my healthier proteins and fats elsewhere. If it's refined, I look the other way. I lean into wholegrain or sprouted bread and grains, although I endeavor not to overdo.

Plenty of pure filtered water and herbal teas! Hydrate hydrate HYDRATE but not during meal times as it dilutes healthy digestion. I admit to a current run on aged pu-erh teas, which while caffeinated seem to have some health benefits. I haven't had a regular coffee or espresso in over a year, although I do treat myself to Swiss Water Process decaf.

Will I sample yummy naughties on Thanksgiving or other celebratory occasions? Yes.

The most important thing I can say about food is giving thanks. Blessing one's food, every morsel, transports their molecules and healing properties to a goodness I call God's Grace. I try to listen to the unction of the Holy Spirit in how I nourish myself. What good is fanaticism or glowering rigidity? Likewise I pray for Godly discipline, since inside of me is a little cookie monster who will justify and gussy up any chance for a treat. The checkout line at Whole Foods is a particular weak spot for me, with their overpriced organic chocolates whispering, "I'm so small… you've worked so hard for me today!" Nearly 24 years of continuous sobriety ain't got nuthin' on my recovering sugar jones!

If you have any form of cancer, it is crucial how you nourish yourself. Find spiritual and nutritional wisdom that resonates with you. And use common sense. I do not believe that diet alone can cure this monster, however Twinkies and Big Macs are not the way to restore a broken body.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine…" Proverbs 17:22a.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

silk flowers for four

"What do you call the place in the wall where one's ashes lay?" I asked. "At a cemetery, it's a grave. What is this?"

"Well," said the nice woman in the second instance of a tone of voice I can only describe as intended delicacy. I'd phoned earlier to ask if certain bits would be there on the grounds. The folks didn't come across as false, but I'm aware that they probably feel they HAVE to be this gentle.

Death. Grief. Loss.

Be nice.

"Well, the wall is called a mausoleum," she said. "If the burial site is large, it's called a crypt. If it's small, it's called a niche." She pronounced it "nitch" and not "neesh."

"Really," I said. "A niche?" My mistrustful issues still churning, I later Googled it. I'd never heard of that before.

{Just now - I am so ADD! - I found a website describing 'solutions for cremation'. Suddenly I'm planning my funeral. Hello! Back to the present moment!}

This is about my mother. And this is about me as well.

My Dad and my brother are buried at Mt. Olive Memorial Park in a gawshawful part of L.A. that used to be near what once may have been called the City of Commerce. I chose that place for my father's burial because he and my mother chose it for little David's funeral. Yes, I've thought of having them moved elsewhere, but that's really taking control issues out into way way left field. After my mother died in August of 1997, three days before Princess Diana, I asked if she could be buried there. "No."

It's a Jewish Mortuary. She's not Jewish.

My half-sister and I found Pacific Crest Memorial Park for our mother Helen. It's in North Redondo Beach. I don't remember why we decided upon it. But I have visited it over the years, mostly perfunctorily. On this most recent trip to L.A., I almost admitted to myself that in my mere 48 hours there, I'd not be visiting my Dad and brothers' sites. I knew however that I needed to visit where mom's ashes lay.

When I last visited in June, it was during an absolute whirlwind L.A. la-la whoosh. For 9 days I dashed from one thing to the next. On that day I was on the phone in the car and while walking over to her corner. That's not on. This time, I very much wanted to be present. I wanted to leave silk flowers for her. There are funky little plastic urn-vases they sometimes have hanging around and other times do not (hence my phone call of the day before). Yes, they would make sure a supply of the little vases were out nearby. Yes, they would make sure the pole was there too, since I can't reach the vase holder.

I went to Michael's Arts and Crafts - you know, the chain that's everywhere - and found some fall offerings on sale for 80% off. I took at least 15 minutes trying to find the perfect combination. I was drawn to their attractiveness rather than the allure of scoring a deal. They had to feel right and look right. Four little bunches for the four of us. I paid $1.71 for them. A dollar seventy-one. They felt as though they were worth much much more.

I don't recall if I always cry when I go there, but I did this time. It was very important to me to have those silk flowers firmly anchored into that nondescript vase. "Stay," I breathed. "Stay. Let others see that someone cares for this woman who lived and died, whose own mother came to this country as an immigrant." I imagined her saying, "I really like these, Danni. Thank you for bringing them for me." Danni was my nickname. My brother David couldn't pronounce "Dianie" when he was very little.

"I'm sorry we had such a hard time," I said.

"Yes, I know," I imagined her saying back.

It was a gentle visit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

far away places

I don't believe I will ever visit L.A. and be solely in the present moment, bug-eyed as a young alien stumbling anew onto a fresh planet. Zenlike presentmindedness eludes me. As long as I am alive I will go and I will remember. My heart will breathe in and out its episodic heaviness.

Tuesday morning I jogged in the sands in Redondo Beach. Back in the days I lived there I didn't jog.; I pumped iron and pranced aerobics at the gym while chasing skinniness. My 40-minute beach run framed itself into the ahhh yes of the pungent ocean air and the pounding waves [a bit rambunctious that morning they were]. I left my shoes and socks on a ledge and jogged barefoot. I played tag with the waves. I let my feet get wet.

I love the ocean. Growing up in Venice I will never forget falling asleep listening to the sounds of the waves, their distant rhythms soothing while family life crackled. Years later the boardwalk got dirtier and I longed for escape, especially after my father died. But as a child I listened to the waves breaking.

I jogged and breathed deeply. I thought of my life then in my early twenties. Why didn't I move back to the Westside to live closer to my beloved father? I kicked myself inwardly as I ran on the sand. What was I DOING here? Why in the hell wasn't I living in Venice?

I'm not sure what I was doing living in Redondo. I was beginning a long slide downhill and didn't know it. I went from being raised mostly in Venice Beach to a mid-teens parental split casualty with me 'n not-quite-together mom winding up in Palos Verdes. This was not a good move. Neither of us fit in. After two miserable high school years I went screaming out of the house as soon as I was of legal age and moved into in an 8x10' basement room of an elderly English couple in exchange for thrice weekly housework. I earned a pittance as a part-time Church secretary. A few years later I had my own apartment on the Esplanade, had said goodbye to Jesus and the Church, and thought that Top 40 bar bands were an exciting "calling" after my originals band disintegrated. I worked restaurants, offices and those L.A. bar bands. My father always filled in the blanks financially so I never starved - except of course in another delusional left turn.

I lived in Redondo until I didn't. And on this trip, for the first time since the early 1980's, I drove north along the beach roads to Venice in my rented Chrysler convertible with the top down. The last time I drove that route I was going to see my dad. It was and is embedded in my beingness. I drove and held my breath. He wouldn't be there this time. He died in 1988.

I found a parking spot on Pacific Avenue and walked the back streets to 28th and Speedway, the alley behind Ocean Front Walk. I looked at the hyper-priced cement monstrosities that were put up in place of the apartment building my father built in 1950. I walked past them slowly. "I used to live here," I thought-said to them, "and so did others… my mother, my father, my brother David… we all lived here and others did also. You don't know that. The old building is gone." Who knows what was there long before my father bought two oceanfront lots for $5,000 in what was known as a poor beach town?

I strolled northward along the boardwalk to the vendors and then walked "home." I don't know how to walk along there without feeling that I'd soon see Dad. He'd be there. He was my anchor. I loved him and never told him until after his stroke.

He died too young, before I could ask him enough questions, before I could listen more to his Brooklyn-tinged Yiddish accent, before I could let him load another bagful of groceries for me to take away. He was 73; I was 32. He is in my heart and prayers every day but I long to hug him and hear his voice once again.

Seems as if where I've lived isn't as important as what and who continue to live inside of me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I'll be in soCal soon - this coming Monday through Wednesday. A very short visit. I pray that it all unfolds according to God's Will. I don't have to keep reminding God that I'm His; however I notice I need to remind myself.

My trip was planned with an intention that may not take place. I'm still showing up. Southern California is where I'm from. I'll be in a little B&B cottage a block from the sands in Redondo Beach, where I lived from 1974-84. I am always revived being close to the ocean. I am always revived by surrendered closeness to God.

So here I am, posing in mid-jump on my Urban Rebounder. Daily I give my lymphatic drainage and goofball ka-boing quotient an 8- to- 22-minute bounce on this mini-trampoline. It's part of my wellness protocol along with many other things I'm entering into a willingness to be more open about.

Today I'll just write about exercise, leaving other entries for healthy nutrition, customized herbal supplementation and my Christian path. If I say nothing else, it is to proclaim that my Risen Lord Christ IS the core of my aliveness today. This doesn't mean I won't die someday, even of AML. I loathe writing that but I need to be real here. I consider my life and well-being as absolute gifts of God, as well resulting from the "things I do." If someone Googles "MDS," "AML" or "leukemia" and finds my blog, may there be morsels that are edifying! May the clearest be that my life is in God's Hands. May they also be firmly convinced that this is my path and that my purpose is simply to share my experience (& strength & hope!). Have your own wellness team, whether conventional or holistic! I suppose even an atheist can "beat cancer" but I'm not here to be the queen of diversity. This is my blog and my path - and for that I give thanks to the LORD God.

With that said - here's me on the Rebounder! I learned about this a year ago when I stayed at Hallelujah Acres in Branson, Missouri. Further studies on how Rebounding was fabulous for lymphatic drainage put me on the trail to buy my own. It's a brilliant at-home break as well as discipline since I work at home. That does get claustrophobic after awhile, so…. out I've been on the jogging trails over the years! My best in the past two years (post-hospitalization) has been 30-minute runs. I then bought a bicycle, the first I owned in aeons. I wanted both local eco alternative transport plus that wind in my face fun that only comes with bicycling, although if anyone hopes to catch a glimpse of me pedalling up Mt. Tam, think again. I'm a beach girl and flat works for me.

I joined a wonderful health club in mid-September, the Marin Osher Jewish Community Center (JCC). I'd been a guest several years ago so it was always on my radar. I found myself sharing with a dear friend that I was trying to max out what I thought would be "the wisest" way of getting my exercise. I think myself into corners like this on a regular basis, sometimes with good results and other times just painting myself into corners. "It's Spring and Summer; you SHOULD be out jogging and hiking! Look at all of this gorgeous northern California weather! Mush, l'il doggie, mush!" Boy, where did I learn to be such a pendantic glum-o-mat? Well, mush I did…. out in the local neighborhood and even driving to more adventurous jogging trails such as on the local Mt. Burdell.

One of my issues is, I don't really like jogging. Oh, I did it! {Effusive pat on head}. It was hard. Ka thump ka THUMP I went 2-4 times a week, listening to my goonball collection of 1970's and '80's dance music. Yes, I downloaded and work out to the likes of Play That Funky Music, White Boy! I filled in the remaining blanks with Rebounding and an occasional vigorous (sic) hike, which is not always fun by oneself.

It was time to find a gym I liked and this one rocks. It's clean. They don't blast offensive pop music over the speakers. It's not a pickup joint. It's family-oriented. And I felt it was - and it is! - I place I would GO to. I'm even working with a marvelous personal trainer named Robert Werner. Muscles are being shaped. Endurance is slowly increasing. A few more names around the club are remembered. And my half-Jewish heritage is always triggered when I go there. There is a primal part of me that will never forget that, I feel it in my bones and in my blood… those parts of me being held and healed on a daily basis.

Yes, I look in the mirror and am sometimes aghast I don't see the 30-year-old I remember. After 6+ weeks of fairly consistant work, I think my triceps and glutes should at least be a little bit tighter! But I feel it. Hey, I work at a desk… I stare at a computer and try to make sense of market mayhem. To get off my butt and move it is a gift.

One of my newer practitioners tries to caution me not to overextend myself. I'm finding my own push point without turning it into unhealthy exhaustion. I'm not an effusive fan of pain or even discomfort, so honestly I'm not that worried even if he is. It took me being a prayer rebel to step away from conventional oncology in February 2009. I wish to be completely obedient only to God. With humans I'll wrestle a bit.

I'll write future posts about how I'm living. A huge part of this is shifting my focus OUT of the paradigm of "trying to beat cancer" and more fully into the affirmation of a Spirit-filled life. I don't wish to be in denial here; I'm in remission with a serious-ass blood cancer from which I pray for a complete healing. However if I stare at it long enough, fear will swallow me whole. It's not much better if I put my hands on my ears and holler, "La la la LA LA, I can't HEAR you!" My love of the Lord is not as the big daddy in the sky who does my bidding verbatim.

Wretched things happen.

So does Grace.

Today I'm being given an opportunity to LIVE, to give Him praise and to say a few words about it. Do not look to me; look to the Giver of Life. And while I'm still here, I'll let you know what's helping me. It starts with putting God first.

It ends with that, as well...

...world without end, Amen.