I remember playing the game, Risk, with my brothers when I was a kid. I don’t remember much about it except that I think the goal of it is world domination. That’s probably why I stopped playing it. I don’t like, Monopoly, either. Go ahead, call me a socialist. What I do remember is that the game board is a map of the world. Being a word lover, I was taken with some of the place names. One of them was “Kampuchea”.

I haven’t thought about the word, “Kampuchea” for a long time until recently, like last month. I was in Cambodia and silly me, I did not know that the Cambodians call their country, “Kampuchea”. When I was informed of this, I thought back to the game.

I also thought of the risks people take in life. We hired a driver in Cambodia, Tong. Tong is a man in his 30’s, married, with two children. He was obviously smart, knowledgeable, and very personable. Tong had to work full-time on the family rice farm after he finished elementary school. His parents were from Phnon Penh and had lived through the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, the genocides of the Killing Fields, a secret (not to them) war waged by the U.S., and civil war.

Cambodia has been through unspeakable horror. Although they are currently in a period of stability, they are still a country with four millions landmines, yet to be located. Every year, people are harmed or killed by landmines, leftover from the past. Tong told me that his parents do not like to talk about war times or the genocides that they witnessed first hand. Tong, however, took the risk of telling me about it. He took us to a Killing Fields outdoor memorial exhibit in Siem Reap. Tong told me the stories. He told me the details. I asked questions. At one point, he gently asked me to speak more softly.

Tong later explained to me that the area was a temple and the monk that is in charge of the temple has close ties to the Communist Party.  Although Cambodia is supposed to be a democracy, it is not. It is controlled by the People’s Party and the elections are not fair. There is no freedom of speech in Cambodia. Tong, from the safety of the inside of his car, explained to us that he has to have “pineapple eyes”. Telling us about his concerns of corruption on every level of government, even in the public school system. (School is supposed to be free but the teachers charge the families money.)

Sometimes we seek out risks. Other times, we cannot escape them, because of war, violence, natural disaster, or disease. It is fascinating to me how the scared part of my brain can put all risks into the same undifferentiated category. I am learning to get perspective. All risks are not created equal.

Some risks just involve getting past discomfort or manageable amounts of stress. To be honest, though I love to travel, I had put off taking a trip to Asia. The flight seemed way too long, I don’t know any of the languages, and Asia is crowded! Further, Cambodia is an extremely poor country. Though it’s economy is growing, the average annual wage is $7500 USD. I had to face the discomfort of my own wealth and privilege, which is really just luck.

I got past this and we had a fabulous vacation. I also contributed to the economy of countries that need it. As for Tong, the tip that we gave him paid for three terms of school for his daughter. He is working for more opportunities for his children. Tong is making sure that they learn English and Mandarin, for example.

Maybe I’ll even start playing, “Risk” again. It’s not real world domination. It’s just uncomfortable. It’s just a game.

DSC06455 revDSC06459 revDSC06474 revDSC06478 revDSC06493 revDSC06497 revDSC06546 revDSC06565 revDSC06588 revDSC06653 revDSC06668 rev

DSC06061I am two weeks into our trip to Thailand and Cambodia. The current time is 14 hours ahead of Seattle. The current place is 500 miles north of the Equator. It is almost always tomorrow here. This is the closest I have been to summer, while still being in winter.

There is much about time and space here. There are so many sacred spaces. I have visited amazing temples of the past and the present. Some of the temples are centuries old and currently in use.

One of the things I have noticed is that there is often clock next to the main buddha statue. Some clocks are antique. One that I saw was a large electronic clock with green L.E.D. letters, surrounded by antiquities. I thought, “What is THAT doing there?”

To my sensibiities, it didn’t fit. It was an anachronism that harmed the aesthetic and spirit of a holy place. Then I started wondering about many similar scenes that I’ve witnessed during this short time in southesast Asia. I started asking questions about my own culturally influenced aesthetic. I observed how different I am about having my photo taken in front of antiquities. I appreciate having maybe a photo for the day to remember how I felt about the experience, but mostly I think of inserting myself into the scene as detracting from it’s beauty. I am an anachronism in my performance sneakers and modern dress.

Tourists from many Asian countries are vastly different. Getting one’s photo taken in front of every key area of a building is very common. People wait in long lines to do so. There is usually two or three young Chinese women at each major site wearing fancy modern dresses, getting many pictures taken at each stopping point, model style, by a young man taking the photos with a smart phone. I will admit that in addition to bemusement, by week two of having the frame of my shot blocked by an amateur model making five poses in a doorway, I felt minor irritation.

In the west, we treat time differently, I think. The past is something to be preserved and unchanged. It is something to be worked for in the future. It is fascinating to me to think about how this view may have impacted our aesthetics, our sense what belongs where.

I did a Google search about the clocks in the temples, by the way. I don’t know if the little bit of information I found is true or not but it indicated that the clocks are there to help monks avoid meditating through meal times. The anachronistic clock helps the monks keep the past in the present.

Peace to you, friends.

 

We had a dinner party for friends last Sunday. I had planned to make crab and shrimp. There were some gorgeous shrimp on sale at the store. I decided to buy four pounds, which is the most shrimp I have ever purchased. I thought, “That’s a lot of shells. I bet I could make a soup stock out of those.”

This is the way many of my cooking inspirations start. I take a manageable menu and decide to make one more dish. As it turned out, the whole menu was manageable and the soup was really quite good. I have a new thing to make! You can make it, too.

First, the shrimp stock. The recipe makes about 8 cups.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 cups shrimp shells (from 4 pounds of shrimp)
  • 2 unpeeled red onion sliced into large pieces
  • 2 unpeeled carrots, sliced into thick rounds
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/2 cup of tomato sauce): Note: I substituted 3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and about 1tablespoon of Sriracha sauce.
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 2 or 3  bay leaves
  • 12 cups of water, or to cover.
  • salt
  1. Saute shrimp shells in olive oil in a stock pot. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except water and salt. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, over medium heat, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add water and deglaze the bottom of the pan by scraping the browned bits (the fond) with a spoon, and combining them with the rest of the stock ingredients.
  4. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Strain stock with a colander set over a large bowl or pan. Add salt to taste. Use immediately, refrigerate, or freeze.

    Here’s my stock, right before I strained it. Look at the color!

    20170220_132933

Now for the soup!

 

  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 8 cups shrimp stock
  • 1, 28 ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomato
  • 3 or 4 medium-sized potatoes, diced. (I used Yukon Gold and kept the skin on.)
  • 4 pounds of clams, in their shells, rinsed with cold water.
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  1. Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat. Cook until translucent or if you prefer, until they brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  2. Add shrimp stock and deglaze onion and garlic bits from the bottom of the stock pot.
  3. Add canned tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and potatoes. Bring to a slow boil.
  4. Cook until potatoes are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Lower heat, add clams, and cover the pot. Cook, checking every couple of minutes until clam shells open.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parsley.

 

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A week from Thursday, I leave for a three-week-long trip to Thailand and Cambodia! It is a two-year’s belated 25th wedding anniversary trip. I am so incredibly excited. My husband and I have been planning this trip for months. I typically pack too much and check a bag. However, for this trip, I will be paring down to the essentials so that I can to with just a carry-on suitcase and a personal bag.

It is winter here and we live about as far north as a U.S. citizen can live, at least ones who do not live in Alaska. We are traveling far east and considerably south, close to the equator. It will be very hot and humid. A certain level of modesty is requested when visiting temples, specifically that legs and the tops of shoulders be covered. Having lived in Florida and traveled in Egypt, I also know that there are advantages to being covered up in loose long clothing. It’s cooler and it provides sun protection. I have chosen my travel clothing carefully, for maximum versatility. We are also taking a short tour in Beijing, China on our way back home, and it will be considerably colder there. I have a lot of light clothes that can be layered.

One of the bigger challenges to packing a carry-on bag has been fitting all of my liquid toiletries into airline approved containers that all fit into an airline-approved-sized plastic bag. I have sensitive skin. I am picky about what kinds of cream I use as well as sun protection. Some of my skin creams are prescription and not something I could easily buy overseas, anyway. I am not the only one who is challenged by this because there now appears to be a whole industry devoted to providing liquid products in solid form, for travel. I have solid shampoo and solid conditioner. Did you know that there’s mosquito repellent available as a solid, in the form of a bracelet? There’s toothpaste that comes in pill form. Last, but not least, I have SPF 50 facial sunblock that’s  a tinted powder.

I have also found room for a few luxury items. I have not taken a really long flight since I was a 24 year-old newlywed, flying from Cairo to Seattle, in a series of many flights, including crossing the Atlantic. The flight from Seattle to Beijing will be 11 hours with no stops. That’s a long time to be sitting on a plane. We bought our tickets with frequent flyer miles but paid for an upgrade to business class, which means that our seats will fold down into a bed. I am bringing a memory foam neck pillow (I may want to drift off while in the airport), a sleep mask, and noise-cancelling headphones. I typically have a terrible time sleeping during travel. I hope this will help.

As I’ve spent the last few weeks, narrowing my choices, preparing for places I have never traveled, I think of how I’ve spent the last few months of my life. My country has scary people in charge of government. I am preparing for the times ahead by deciding what is most important in my life and where and how I will spend my resources.

Self-care is something that has been a challenge these days. I am committed to being an activist and to make enough time to do that. That is helpful but it can also be stressful. But I am doing my best and I see benefits from my efforts from the simplest actions such as no longer reading the news or engaging in social media while I am in bed. It really wasn’t a good idea before but now it makes the difference between a restful night and a stressful night.

My husband doesn’t know this but I actually thought we might have to cancel our trip when I learned who had been elected our 45th president. I felt a flash of shame at being a U.S. citizen, even though I know that I am not responsible for this mess. I can always be a better citizen of my country as well as the world, but this election result and the current administration are beyond the pale when it comes to bad choices on the part of many U.S. voters. More often than not, it is like living in two countries. Actually, that doesn’t really capture. It’s like trying to live my real life while stuck in a badly written James Bond movie.

We are going on this trip to celebrate 27 years of marriage. I am so fortunate to be able to travel and see the world.

As always, peace to you, my friends. (Also, stay tuned for travel photos!)

Breast cancer patients know a lot about trust. As humans, we can see the outside of our bodies rather than the inside. But inside, disease can be growing, imperceptibly. We know what it is like to lose trust of our wellness.

We have to trust other people, healthcare providers, with solving the problem of our disease. And if we do our homework, we know that they have limits to what they can see as well as to what they can fix. The fit of this trust varies. I had wonderful providers. It was scary but I felt well taken care of, oriented, and supported. For others, the trust can be one made of seeing no other options, an uneasy and tenuous alliance.

Most of the time, when people speak of trust, they speak of trusting others with whom they share intimate relationships, spouses, children, parents, etc. We speak less of trusting ourselves, which is incredibly important. The breast cancer community has another trust issue. It is the issue of trusting organizations and institutions who say they are here to help us but who may be here to market our disease, use pink ribbons and such, in order to make money, money that will fill corporate pockets. Add in societal sexism and the sexualization of a disease, it’s a wonder that we trust anybody.

Many breast cancer patients, however, know that without trust there is no forward movement. And trust does not have to be blind. Trust is found in shades of gray just like the rest of life.

There are so many intersections between my breast cancer experience and my experience now in attempting to be an engaged and active citizen to work against the many rights and safeguards that are being threatened by our government. As you know, I was in one of the Women’s Marches on Saturday, one of over 600 internationally, targeting women’s rights and social causes. The groups represented were broad, not limited to women, and not limited to any particular race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identification. However, make no mistake, women led this march. As a member of the breast cancer community, I saw that aspect of my life represented in the support for affordable healthcare, for example.

George Lakoff, Ph.D., a cognitive linguistic and Director of the Center for Neural Mind and Society at U.C. Berkeley, wrote about the women’s marches as a perfect counterpoint to our new president’s inauguration. He called it “The Politics of Care” and referred to the implicit associations we have as a culture between women and care-taking

After a wonderful day of peaceful marches on a global scale, some have already become disheartened. Not everyone trusts the marches. Some criticize the marches because they are not sufficient. Of course they are not sufficient. Other actions must take place. This criticism, in my mind, comes from not trusting that anything else will happen.

Another branch of criticism is about inclusion. Some felt excluded by the march. Some felt overshadowed by the march. There has been some talk of “where have all you white women been before now?” Those criticisms come from a lack of trust.

At this point I could say, “Hey, the solution to this is for us to all trust each other! We want the same thing! Group hug!”

I’m not going to say that. People who have been treated badly for who they are, what they believe, how much money they have, who they love, what they look like, what language they speak, how smart or not smart they are, etc, are not necessarily going to trust easily. And people with privilege are not necessarily brimming with trust, either.

Trust is something we must earn by being reliable and by being truthful, not just once but lots of times. This means that we need to keep working and trying. Keep your eyes on the goal. If someone complains, try to see the truth in what they are saying. This is not the same as agreeing. It is validating their emotions, at a minimum. Agree with parts of the view, if you can.

Find common ground. We are all humans with feelings. Connect on an emotional level. All of us love our families (even if it doesn’t look like it). Connect with shared values. And most importantly, work on the more difficult connections in person, not on social media. Engaging in endless arguments with people online will only deplete everyone involved and more seriously, discourage you from the important work that needs to be done. Don’t drop out of the movement because you’ve stopped trusting yourself.

Show up again and again.

Be open to learning and learn. A lot of us are new at this.

You know your own heart. Others will know your heart through your strong and caring hands.

Peace, friends.

 

Today was the first day of the Trump presidency. It was also the day of Women’s marches on ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS OF THE WORLD! Today, I marched with an estimated 130,000 people in Seattle. My husband and daughter were both there as were two of my friends. The expected number of people in the march was 50,000. The population of Seattle is about 650,000. The march was peaceful and so uplifting.

I am still sorting through this experience and planning my next steps. Marches begin and end with steps. But the steps must continue for change to take hold.

I’m not sure what to write but I am pretty sure that today was a day that will live on. So I am writing something, even if it is not perfectly coherent.

Today I felt a connection with humanity. I felt like a citizen of humanity. This kind of connection is the foundation of compassion.

Today is a very encouraging day. What happened means something. It means a lot. What happens next means more.

As always, peace.

 

When I was a girl in the 70’s, kids played a game at recess. It was dodgeball but I knew it only by another name, “Smear the Queer”. I didn’t understand the word, “queer”, except that it was a bad thing to be because it inspired “smearing”. In time, I would learn what this very hateful term meant. In time, other kids, now older, would use this word understanding what it meant. Word like these and the actions behind them had kept and continue to keep human beings in a dark place, out of the light, for no good reason.

The 80’s brought the H.I.V. epidemic, which originally almost solely impacted gay men. A community, already under fire by our culture, was now under siege by a disease. It was a time of particular crisis. ACT UP, an AIDS/HIV advocacy group started and their slogan, “Silence = DEATH” was appropriately chilling. A few years later, Queer Nation, took to the streets chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

They decided to change the meaning of the word to a powerful one. Taking ownership of hateful names is one strategy used by some activist groups. I find myself bristling to this, given earlier connotations. It takes time to “get used to” a hateful word transformation.

Nearly 30 years later, I have an 18 year old daughter who identifies as “queer” and sings in a youth choir that is labeled as “queer” on their website. The word has a totally different meaning to these youth, who by the way, are very much out in the world, out of dark, and doing their best to deal with the hate that comes from the outside by being truthful about who they are.

The LGBTQ movement intersects with so many more activist movements, including the Women’s Movement. I am old enough to remember the changes that occured in the 60’s and 70’s. I have also observed the increasing backlash against women from a sizable portion of our culture, not to mention institutional sexism, which is pervasive.

Clearly, women in the U.S. have made gains. Clearly, we are threatened, along with so many other unrepresented groups. These are challenging times. We are less than one week from Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the threat is palpable.

The Women’s March was originally conceived by an ordinary woman who, shocked by the election, formed a Facebook event. By the time she woke up the next day, it had over 10,000 participants. Professional women’s protest organizers took the reins and an expected 150,000 to 200,000 are expected to attend the march next week in Washington, DC. There are sister marches planned for the same day, all over the U.S., and even in other countries.

I am attending the march in my city of Seattle. Like the DC March, we are knitting “pussy hats” to wear to the march. They are pink hats with cat ears. Pussy is a reference to President-Elect Trump’s characterization of women, which comes from our culture. Many male legislators also have an obsessive need to control women’s reproduction.

The pink part, well, pink has been associated with femininity for some time now. The word, “pussy”, with it’s crude and aggressive connotations, bothers people. (It bothers me, but I have decided that it is a good thing for me to “get used to”.) Pink, however, has controversial connotations among those of us in the breast cancer community. Komen co-opted the color to market our disease to make corporations rich. Pink has also been used to sexualize and trivialize our disease.

Women are constantly being put in the dark, in the shade. It was not that long ago that it was considered a bad thing to identify as feminist. We are in crisis. We know it.

We can choose to march.

We can choose to wear “pussy hats” or not.

We can choose to unify to use the power we have as a group that comprises over half of the voting population.

We can choose to recognize our chooses and attempt to take back the meaning of words to define ourselves for ourselves.

As always,

Peace

I have a confession to make. I am afraid of a number.  The number is 2017.

Actually it’s not only fear. I also feel an upswell of action. An eagerness to serve and fight the fight of righteousness.

A man, who would be a cartoon villain in an alternate universe, is going to be the President of the United States of America, in just under three weeks.

He is one man. He has his uniquely unqualified staff with him. He has his ridiculously ridiculous fingers that Tweet ridiculously ridiculous sequences of characters.

He is one person. We are many.

This is not a fight I wanted to fight but fight I will.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

The vote is mightier than the Tweet.

See you at the marches.

The path to peace often makes more than a ripple.

Sometimes we need a splash of peace.

Other times, a tsunami of peace is what is needed.

 

My daughter and husband are out tonight. I decided to watch something on television that might only appeal to me. I used to occasionally watch, The Gilmore Girls, a mother/daughter drama-comedy with very fast-paced dialogue. They brought the show back after many years for another season. I decided to watch the first episode.

The Gilmore Girls is a smartly written show with appealing lead actors. In other words, it is not a bad show. That’s not the point of this post. The opening scene of the show took place outside, in the town square. The first thing I noticed is that everyone in this town is white. The mother and daughter characters were drinking coffee from paper cups that were obviously empty. I realize that this is a common use of props in television and film. Without fail, I notice that the coffee cup is empty. I can tell by the way they handle it! There’s no weight in the cup! Why can’t they just fill it with water or something?

The all white town, then the empty cup. Next, they pass the sign for the town, “Stars Hollow”. Really? That’s hollow, too? It’s not a bad show but really, the first 10 minutes were too symbolic for me.

Life is full. If I take a drink of life, the weigh of the cup registers in my hand. It has flavors, colors, aromas, and sounds galore.

The fullness of life is a big part of what makes life so amazing.

A hollow cup is easy to understand. It is easy to master. There are no surprises.

But what, precisely is the point?

Yes, I am a bit agitated today but as always,

Peace, friends.

I attended a sitting meditation two weeks ago. The instructor read a poem at the beginning. There was a phrase in the poem that has stuck with me, “bearing reality.” Mindfulness is about bearing reality, bearing the way things are right at this moment. Daily, there are difficult realities, especially at this time. I keep reminding myself that today’s reality is not necessarily tomorrow’s reality.

But this is when it gets even more difficult. The joy of today can give way to heartache tomorrow. The fears of today can give rise to positive action. This is the bearing of possibility, the what could’s. As a psychologist and as someone who practices mindfulness, I know that living in the future is tricky business. It is important to visit future possibilities in order to plan. However, the future, though a good place to visit, is no where to live.

The challenge, in our country, in our world right now is to bear it all. We must bear reality and possibility in balance. As with “baring it all”, “bearing it all” leaves us vulnerable. Right now I am considering my options for formal activism. I have done individual acts but I have not become a member of a group effort. I have been hanging out on the edges observing possible groups. There are a lot of them, by the way. Some of you may belong to one or more of what must be one of hundreds of resistance groups across the country. Since many of these groups cropped up after the election, there is an understandable amount of disorganization and flux. I am a practical person. I don’t want a “feel good” group. I want to be part of a “do good” group. I want to be effective. There’s a gamble no matter what I choose.

Today, I am bearing reality. I am weighing my options. I am bearing possibility. These are scary and exciting times, these times of bearing it all.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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