Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Man, A Can, A Plan

I am NOT a good cook. Let’s get that straight. But I like to play with food and I LOVE cookbooks! I have tons of cookbooks, which always makes guests laugh when they see the shelf in our kitchen. But, for me it’s all about culture, language, history, and social psychology.
Tonight I made a meal from one of my favorite “weird” cookbooks. I have a whole category of weird cookbooks: The Beet Cookbook, The White Trash Cookbook, and today’s pick, a cookbook called: “A Man. A Can. A Plan.” 
This is a cookbook for men who can’t cook—bachelors of a certain era, divorced guys, etc. It’s written in very guy language—explains what utensils are—“grab one of those big spoons with holes in it”. And it’s made of that very thick, shiny cardboard, the kind of pages you
see in books for babies. But the cool part is that all of the the recipes are based on food that comes in cans. Yes, my dear friends who only eat organic or local or vegan will just die thinking about this book. So die. There is good food in this book—
Think Grandma. Think church supper.

Tonight’s yummy casserole was “Spaghetti Western”:
Two cans of Spaghetti O’s. One can black beans. Half pound ground round, two chopped scallions, 2T grated cheddar, 2T chili powder. Cook all in one pan. Six minutes tops.
Add nice salad: Baby spinach, Bibb leaves, a tomato, (sure, organic) salt & pepper, juice of half lemon and olive oil.
Dinner was ready in under ten minutes and it was delicious. And there are leftovers.One serving: 450 calories and 14 grams of protein. Which means I can have biscotti and ice-cream while we watch another episode of “To Serve Them All Our Days.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

Conversations at Thanksgiving

This week we are preparing for Thanksgiving. There is a lot of shopping and cooking in the next few days --but there are also emotional preparations to be undertaken this week. Like many, you may be torn between the happy anticipation of a good meal and seeing family, but also the dread of family feuds that leave you wishing to hide in a corner of the living room. 

Along with the usual  “issues” that each family faces around the turkey table—the in-laws, sibling rivalries, and adolescents with attitude—we can stir in some raw feelings about national politics this year. It’s Thanksgiving in the REAL America and nobody’s very happy.

So many of us so want it to be the other Thanksgiving, the one we imagine that other
families have, but which really only happens in made-for-TV movies.  We think that our Thanksgiving is just not what it used to be-- But then again, it never was.

It seems that we can’t shake our romantic idea about that first one with the grateful Pilgrims and the wise Indians, but it’s safe to say that most of us wouldn’t have been comfortable at that dinner either. The truth is that the Pilgrims, with their cute buckled shoes, weren’t innocent refugees from persecution. Rather they were religious zealots and not exactly tolerant.

Here’s the history: After the Protestant Reformation and the split from Catholicism—creating the Church of England--there were many who felt the church still needed to be “purified” of Rome’s influence. Those were the Puritans. Among the Puritans were some folks who were even more extreme and who wanted complete separation. These were the Separatists--we know them as the Pilgrims. These were not folks who believed in freedom of religion. What the Pilgrims believed was that the Church of England was corrupt; that Catholics were the Devil’s spawn and that they were superior in knowing God’s truth. 

We still have some emotional resonance of those ancestors and their vibe is with us at Thanksgiving. So be prepared. 

Part of the problem is that religion permeates this day directly or indirectly; someone or something is being thanked for the good in our lives, but there are political tripwires from the stuffing all the way through to dessert. Most of us will be sharing a meal with folks who not only mix their potatoes with their peas but who mix politics with their religion:  Every current event, everything in the headlines—the election, terrorism, the Middle East—touches religion in some way. And that intersection of religion and current affairs will cut right through the dining room table on Thursday.

Even saying grace is tricky. When the blessing includes a prayer for peace someone at the table will be listening for what kind of peace? And for whom?

On Thursday we may be humming, “We gather together…” but in our heart of hearts we want to insist that OUR team should win, that OUR recipe for stuffing is the best, and that OUR candidate was right.

So if you find yourself dreading the doorbell, or if Uncle Harvey mentions the President when he says grace, you may want to retreat to the kid’s table or sit in the den to watch the game. But instead, give thanks that this holiday comes only once a year, and remember--- it’s all in the spirit of the day.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Care and Survival

In today's Albany Times Union newspaper, Claire Hughes writes about the racial gap in both cancer
Claire Hughes, Times Union
care and out comes.

"Zipcode predicts your health better than genetic code."

All of us in CancerLand can pay attention to this and be supporters and advocates.

Here's the link to the Times Union story:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cancer and Financial Toxicity

We typically connect the word "toxicity" to cancer via concerns with radiation and chemotherapy---but here is research showing the serious concern--and health impact--of the real life worry about money for cancer patients and their families.

The additional stress of worrying about money is a factor in cancer care and recovery.

Take a look at the link below to read more:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

What You Can Ask For--And What You Can't

I heard a great piece of relationship advice recently. This bit of wisdom really got my attention and gave me a way to assess whether I am being reasonable
or unreasonable when I get into that “wanting him to change” mood.

It goes like this: "You can ask a partner for a behavior change but not a personality change."  You can ask for behaviors you want from your partner but You can’t ask them to be different on the inside or to develop the characteristics that will cause them to think like you do.

For example, you can ask your partner take a turn doing the laundry or ask him to clean the bathroom on Saturdays—those are behaviors—but you can’t ask him to notice when the bathroom is dirty or when the kids need clean socks—those are aspects of personality. You can ask him to buy and mail his sisters birthday gift (But please, don’t judge what he chooses--don’t sabotage yourself.) But you can’t ask him, “Why don’t you remember your family’s birthdays?” That is personality.

Similarly, you can say, “I’d like you to give me one compliment each day.” –that’s a behavior. But it’s not fair to say, “Why don’t you appreciate me?”—That’s personality. And probably the start of a fightJ.

That’s pretty much like saying, “Why don’t you become me?” And really, would I ever want to be married to me? I don’t think so.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

There is Only the Dance

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

(from TS Eliot, Burnt Norton II)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reading & Writing Cancer

You would expect Susan Gubar to be a good writer. She is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English at Indiana University. So yes, an English teacher should know how to compose a compelling lead, and how to structure sentences, and support and illustrate an argument.

But Gubar’s gift to us in CancerLand is that she brings her writer’s gift to some of the most unspeakable parts of cancer. 

Gubar was the author of seventeen academic books, but her first book about cancer was: Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer.

In that book she made us care enough about her—and other women--to stay page after page through descriptions of surgery, depression, medical negotiation and treatment mishaps. We cared about her and we learned exactly what treatment for ovarian cancer looks like.

We also got to read her New York Times “Living With Cancer” column—where she brought practical info, education and the unanswerable questions too. Those columns helped patients, caregivers and medical specialists. Always of service, and always good writing.

And now, a lasting and last gift, in her last book: Reading & Writing Cancer-she teaches us to fish (and write) by showing how literature about illness and cancer can give us perspective and language, and also, crucially, she invites both the experienced writer and the “Oh, never me” writer to begin writing about our own cancer experiences as a way to heal.

The healing may be of the physical cancer, or of the acceptance of a terrible diagnosis, or of the grief, or over the existential reality of a body’s limitations. 

This story book and writing manual and teachers tool is a final gift, and our challenge to take up the pen that Gubar has laid down, as she encourages us to keep reading and writing about cancer.