Pollen for All! And some natural remedies.

If you are like me, you love the colors of spring but recognize that comes with the cost of dealing with physical symptoms and allergies from the pollen in the air. I live in North Carolina and the pollen here is serious business! I thought I knew pollen, but it turns out that Chapel Hill, NC is one of the worst places in the U.S. for pollen because we have winter and due to the warmth and humid climate so many gorgeous plants, trees, and flowers bloom! And we have lots of pine trees!

My fist spring in NC I literally spent indoors whenever possible. This was good for my allergies, but not good for my mind or soul. I have learned through trial and error what works best for me. I tend to take the natural route and for me I have found a few simple solutions that work!

  1. I pay attention to my foods to avoid foods that are high in histamine during this time. Here is a list: https://www.histamineintolerance.org.uk/about/the-food-diary/the-food-list/ There is no need to avoid these all year, just during allergy seasons.

  2. I make ginger and honey to fight inflammation - See my method here: https://www.ecothriver.com/blog/2016/3/24/spring-and-pollen-is-in-the-air-a-natural-approach-to-allergies-that-works

  3. I take this homeopathic remedy: https://amzn.to/2WX4k53 It is $26 but you don’t take it daily. After 3 days, I can take a break and just take 1/week. (check with a doctor if needed!)

  4. Shower before bed and change clothes after being outside. Pollen stays in our hair and this is an easy way to eliminate breathing in pollen through the night.

  5. Use a Netti Pot for an effective way to clear your nasal passage. https://amzn.to/2IljPQk

  6. Another product I use is Gaia Turmeric Allergy https://amzn.to/2IgtWWx

  7. Take off shoes in your house to keep your floors free of pollen. Wipe off your dogs paws when they enter the house.

  8. Keep windows closed on high pollen days or just open an inch for some fresh air (if it’s not windy out!)

  9. Look at the beauty in the Spring Colors and it may help realize that it’s is just a temporary downside to Spring growth and the beautiful trees and flowers! Chapel Hill has one of the prettiest spring seasons (I may be a bit biased :)

  10. Remember this is temporary and pollen season does not last forever! Last resort is use a mask! This is my go to because it is machine washable: https://amzn.to/2KnRVpv

The evidence of pollen is everywhere

The evidence of pollen is everywhere

My why: This is the reason I am an educator and consultant!

Here I am 1 year post finishing chemo. This smiling happy mom is enjoying time with her family but is also living in fear instead of through empowerment!

Here I am 1 year post finishing chemo. This smiling happy mom is enjoying time with her family but is also living in fear instead of through empowerment!

Why do I consult and help women green their homes and lifestyle? This is my why: 9 Years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young mom. I had surgery, chemo, more surgery, and learned I carry a BRCA mutation. I was blindsided by cancer, scared, tired, anxious, unwell physically and emotionally, overwhelmed and trying to heal from surgery and chemo. I was working to be the best mother and wife that I could be, while trying to restore my health, and did I say I was SCARED and OVERWHELMED?

When I finished chemo my children were 1 year and 3 years old. My mother died of metastatic breast cancer 4 years after her diagnosis and I wanted to learn and do whatever I could to FEEL BETTER, LIVE LONGER, LIVE HEALTHIER, and to TAKE BACK THE CONTROL that cancer took from me. I thought I had 4 years and I made a choice to do whatever I could to at least have those 4 years!

Empowered at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. I am lucky to have the best in the state.

Empowered at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. I am lucky to have the best in the state.

I remember asking my oncologists what I could do to reduce my risk of recurrence (I was lucky and diagnosed at stage 2b and not metastatic.) Their responses were “everything in moderation”. I remember thinking, '“WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?” I would ask specific questions and this was 9 years ago so even the studies on exercise weren’t out yet. I wanted answers, I wanted someone to tell me what I could do, what I could control. I knew well enough that I couldn’t eliminate my risks of getting cancer again, from being diagnosed metastatic, or from a secondary cancer. What I did want was to FEEL HEALTHIER, FIGHT SIDE EFFECTS, and to do what I could to REDUCE MY RISK.

This is the book where I first learned that Food can be medicine and could help me with side effects and to heal.

This is the book where I first learned that Food can be medicine and could help me with side effects and to heal.

I started researching and came across a book written by Rebecca Katz, ‘The Cancer Fighting Kitchen.’ Now I was on to something! Steps I could take to at least limit my chemo side effects! I read about certain foods that could help with nausea, building back my cells, nourishment for my sick body! That book became by bible and my stepping stone. I started taking local classes on food and nutrition and my father in law had a generous friend that sent a nutritionist to my house that was helpful with some recipes and quick swap in foods I could purchase when short on time to cook. The more nutritious food I ate the more my energy levels increased and I was somewhat hooked, but…

DID I MENTION I WAS SICK, AND TIRED with two young children? Cooking new foods and learning recipes was exhausting. I spent hours on the computer and then at the grocery store reading labels. No joke, my husband would say where have you been? And literally I was at the grocery store for 2+ hours trying to pick out the safest snack option or cereal option and had to ask employees to help me find vegetables and foods I had never hear of, like Swiss Chard, Kale, Jicama (I asked the grocer where the ji-cama was) , quinoa (I pronounced it queen - oh - a). I would leave exhausted and needed a nap after each food shopping experience!

I ditched my Teflon pans and purchased cast iron, I am grateful there was Le Creuset outlet store by my house! AND I COOKED! I nourished my body and I started to take control for my family. Now I would like to say that this process was calm and empowering but IT WAS NOT! I was anxious, worried, controlling about my food and what my children ate. I was powered by FEAR instead of EMPOWERMENT! And here it is:

Grateful for my FRIENDS that were BY MY SIDE THROUGH THE ANXIETY AND THE CALM and EMPOWERMENT AND WATERMELON Summer SMOOTHIES!

Grateful for my FRIENDS that were BY MY SIDE THROUGH THE ANXIETY AND THE CALM and EMPOWERMENT AND WATERMELON Summer SMOOTHIES!

MY WHY: I WISH I HAD ME AND MY KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL SET AFTER I FINISHED CHEMO! I wish I could have had a professional to come to my house or to chat on the phone to tell me how to live greener and healthier!

I wish I had ME to say the process doesn’t have to include fear. To say, “YOU have more power than you realize. This change is going to EMPOWERING! Don’t believe the story that you are powerless.” Don’t believe that “everything causes cancer so you don’t have any power.” Empowerment is STRONG, fears leave us weak. We can shift our story.

I look back at that SCARED, ANXIOUS, WORRIED mom and I wish I could just tell her to embrace the journey because she was on a path of doing better for herself and her children. It DID NOT have to be overnight. SHE COULD have taken it step by step. She could have realized that every step was a step towards feeling better, towards taking some power back, towards alleviating the collateral damage from chemo and surgical menopause.

I wish I had a young mother that went through cancer and understood how to take some control back for health and to help reframe thoughts from “You have to do this” to “You GET to do this!” That simple statement is more powerful than you could believe.

Each step I took towards a nourishing and less toxic life involved hundreds of hours of research (and some panic attacks!) All that time spent can work for you. I want to help you take action to feel better and have more energy, and make less toxic choices in make-up and household products you buy each week. I want you to bring nutrition back to your kitchen to feel better, feel empowered, stronger, and healthier!

Here is a flashback memory: I remember my husband ordered Chinese Food take-out one night a few months after I finished chemo. I ate it and enjoyed it for about an hour and then had the thought that I could never eat that again and I would bring my cancer back. Is this rational, NO! Was this my irrational thought process then? Yes it was. I was fighting what “I couldn’t eat” instead of empowering myself to nourish my body and take back my power, my health. Self care is how I took my power back!

It’s about educated and empowered choices. So if you want to eat Chinese food, or not, or the bacon or not, it is all OK! Education and EMPOWERED CHOICES is what is important. You GET TO focus on what to add, instead of what you take away. Start with adding a few more bites of vegetables, with swapping out your deodorant or your glass cleaner. Small changes matter!

I have learned knowledge is power and empowerment feels WAY Better and Healthier than fear! I choose to limit my risk of recurrence through nourishing my body and reducing my exposure to environmental toxins and to let go of what I can’t control.

Are you in a place where you could use some help? Does any of this resonate with you? Do you want to make changes but just don’t have the time? If so I would love the opportunity to help you with targeted, time and money saving tips to live a greener, healthier and less toxic life! No judgement, no fear, just empowered choices! Let’s set up a time to chat! katerina@ecothriver.com

In health, love and light,

Katerina

Pink Became My Color, A Reflection

This week I celebrate 9 years of Cancer Survivorship and I am filled with gratitude and reflection. It has been 9 years since I heard the words that literally sent me crashing to the floor, “The cells are malignant, you have breast cancer.” 9 years since I was filled with questions like, “Will my children know me? How many years do I have left with Jay? My mom had 4 years, will it be the same for me? Where do I find the strength to get though this? ”

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A sweet moment with Nate after surgery and before chemo started. I thought the worst was behind me, I was wrong.

A sweet moment with Nate after surgery and before chemo started. I thought the worst was behind me, I was wrong.

Breast cancer was not a new word for me. I knew it well. My mother died of metastatic breast cancer when I was 20. I assumed one day I would get breast cancer, I just thought it wouldn’t be at the age of 32. I thought I had more time.

Following my diagnosis I woke up every morning thinking it was a nightmare, then the reality would sink in. Reality of long days of Dr. appointments in New York City, reality of the pain after my bilateral mastectomy and removal of lymph nodes, reality of the sickness from chemo, reality of the anxiety of having triple negative breast cancer that had high recurrence rates. The reality of being a young mom and wife through all of it. Lillian was 4 months old and Nate was 2 1/2 when I was diagnosed, I was overwhelmed and anxious while trying to just welcome each day I had the best I could.

This cancerversary seems to be occupying more mind space than other years. I have such immense gratitude and there is a part of me that wishes I could talk to that scared young woman.

I remember I didn’t want my picture taken and in hindsight I am glad I have some photos of those difficult days. Sometimes I feel like I lost 2 years of my life due to cancer, but when I look through photos I am reminded of the joyful moments and smiles and beauty of life.

The only photo of me bald, spending time on a weekend away, doing one of my favorite things!

The only photo of me bald, spending time on a weekend away, doing one of my favorite things!

Photos also remind me how far I have come, how many bonus days I have had. Facing your mortality at a young age is hard and trying but also has brought many blessings. It is a true dose of perspective whenever I need it. It has made me more compassionate, empathetic, a stronger and more grounded mother and wife, and reminds me of what is important in this beautiful life we all have.

When I thought of what I would tell myself after my breast cancer diagnosis I immediately thought of the photo below. It was the night that I shaved my head. That morning I woke up to clumps falling out and knew I needed to take back some control so out came the buzzer. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I asked Nate if he wanted to help me and he was overjoyed to. We were in his bathroom and he was giggling and said, “Mom, you look silly.” I asked him if I could shave his and he said, “No Way!” Ha! We continued to laugh and I looked in the mirror, cue the scene from The Legend of Billie Jean and Pat Benetar…

The night I shaved my head with Nate and baby Lillian had more hair than me

The night I shaved my head with Nate and baby Lillian had more hair than me

“We are strong 
No one can tell us we're wrong 
Searching our hearts for so long 
Both of us knowing…”

What would I tell that scared young mom in the photo smiling through her fears?

Seriously though, why didn’t anyone show me how to “paint” eyebrows on?

Seriously though, why didn’t anyone show me how to “paint” eyebrows on?

First, I would tell her she is going to be o.k. “No matter what happens, you are going to be alright!" The truth is there is no other choice. We can’t choose our circumstances but we can choose our reactions and our next steps.

I GOT TO TURN 40!!!!!! Bring on the birthdays and more candles!!!!

I GOT TO TURN 40!!!!!! Bring on the birthdays and more candles!!!!

I would tell her that her children will know her! “They will know your smile, your crazy kitchen dancing, the love you and Jay have and what is important to you. They will know you like listening to Jack Johnson and your love of the salt air. You will get to annoy them by limiting their sugar and they will challenge you on why our family is so healthy. You will get to visit new places with them and they will have you there for the start of Third Grade and Middle School!”

One year post chemo in OBX.

One year post chemo in OBX.

“Yes, they WILL see you at your worst, but also your best! They will know a mother’s love and your hugs and reassurance.”

“THERE WILL BE DAYS WHEN YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT CANCER! It will take some time, years, but one day you will realize, ‘Wow I didn’t think of cancer today!’ That day you will know another layer of healing has taken place.”

I would tell her that healing isn’t linear. That there are layers upon layers of healing. “One by one they will peel back and you will feel whole again. Like you, only better.”

Healing through a Cancer survivorship camp, Camp Koru in Maui 2012

Healing through a Cancer survivorship camp, Camp Koru in Maui 2012

“You will be grateful for everyone that has been a part of your life journey. Your husband, sisters and friends will be your lifelines. You will learn kindness like you never knew and you will learn how to ask for help and to accept it!”

I would tell her that she will have other health challenges, but she will get through, as she did with cancer, one day at a time.

“You will deal with anxiety, and even some panic attacks, but will fill your toolbox with more tools than you ever though could fit in one! You will even learn to meditate and enjoy it.”

“You will know more joy than you thought possible and you will feel healthier than you ever thought possible.”

“You will learn so much about self care that you would not believe me if I tried to tell you at the moment! You will create a healthy home for your children to reduce their risk of cancer. You will be overwhelmed, but if you just slow down, you will be o.k. Take small steps, the more you force being o.k. the longer it will take to achieve healing. Embrace it instead of fighting it. Give yourself time to heal. The cancer cells are gone, but survivorship is even more challenging in many ways.”

“You will become a cancer and wellness advocate, helping and empowering other young women along the way, as you were helped by other survivors and amazing organizations! Your passion will be helping others choose a healthier way of living.”

My beautiful younger sister Dina during chemotherapy

My beautiful younger sister Dina during chemotherapy

“Your younger sister will be diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after you and you will want to shield her from the path of cancer. Watching her go through it will be harder than you think. You will learn that it is her journey, not yours, and she will be one of the lucky ones too. You will both deal with the collateral damage of cancer, different after effects, but you will both make it years without recurrence.”

“You will lose friends and see other friends deal with a metastatic diagnosis. There will not be a cure soon enough! But in the meantime stay present and continue to find peace in your own journey.”

So here I am at 9 years from that Friday night when I heard my diagnosis and my life was forever changed. I had headed into surgery a short two weeks later and chemo started 4 weeks after that. It is a path I wouldn’t have chosen but it is how Pink became my color. I feel such deep gratitude for the past 9 years, what I refer to as my bonus years.

Wherever this post finds you on your life journey I am sending out peace, love, light and healing!

In health, Katerina

Eliminating Odors the Healthy (and Cheap) Way!

I was inspired to write this blog post in response to community questions. “How do I get the smell out of soccer goalie gloves? cleats? How do I help my parents get rid of the toxic air fresheners they use to cover dog smell? How do I freshen the carpet my son crawls and sits on? How do I freshen the air quickly?”

At my Acupuncturist yesterday I saw the “Real Simple” magazine and I was curious to flip through to read the article, “Secrets to a Good Selling Home.” I wanted to see if they were choosing safe REAL ways to deodorize or if they were going to suggest burning candles. What I read gave me HOPE that the tide has shifted and as a SOCIETY we are ready to embrace natural and healthy instead of advertising and fake scents! Did you know that products like Glade plug ins and Febreeze add chemicals to your air? If you have an odor problem, go to the source! Thank you to Real Simple for your article and for reiterating that, “clean does’t have a scent.”

5 Tips for Eliminating Odors in a Natural and Healthy Way!

  1. Good Ventilation is Key. Open Windows to allow fresh air in. During our hot and humid North Carolina summers this isn’t always possible but any opportunity I get I let fresh air in. We also have an ERV unit.

  2. Baking Soda is cheap and effective at eliminating odors. I use a mason jar with a shaker lid. Sprinkle on carpets and put in laundry. You can even add a few drops of essential oil and shake in the jar.

  3. Stinky soccer and lacrosse gloves - Put (cheap) vodka in a spray bottle. Vodka eliminates odors. It is the alcohol content that does the work. I suggest not diluting for this purpose, although you can try with 1/2 water as well. You can also put in newspapers or a cotton cloth to absorb extra dampness after use.

  4. Air freshener - First open windows when you can. Second spray the air with 1/2 vodka and 1/2 water.

  5. Vinegar also absorbs odors. I use it to soak my clothes when new, in my wash to get out perfumes from scented spaces, to clean my dishwasher, and washing machine.

Kudos to “Real Simple” Magazine for their article, “Secrets to a Great Smelling Home”. The article shared true, cost-effective, and HEALTHY advice also sensitivities to scents and chemicals!

Kudos to “Real Simple” Magazine for their article, “Secrets to a Great Smelling Home”. The article shared true, cost-effective, and HEALTHY advice also sensitivities to scents and chemicals!

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Reusable spray bottles are great, or purchase a glass one!

Reusable spray bottles are great, or purchase a glass one!

5 Simple Cost Effective Ways to 'Clean and Green' Your Kitchen

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Here are 5 ways to clean and green your kitchen space while reducing your ‘kitchen footprint’ on the earth. Many of us spend a lot of time in our kitchens with our families. Cooking, doing homework, eating meals and gatherings with family and friends. Everyone always seems to gather in the kitchen space. These simple steps will help you ‘clean and green’ your kitchen making it a healthier space to be in! It is also friendlier to the earth and your wallet :)

Green Your Kitchen!

  1. Create an all purpose kitchen spray with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water. Use with cotton cloths on counters and stove. If you prefer a scented product you can add lemon essential oil or make your own oil infused vinegar. In a glass jar, place orange peels, lemon peels, grapefruit peels and cover with vinegar. Store for 2-3 weeks and add to your bottle! These are my go to glass spray bottles. For a larger bottle you can use a reusable plastic spray bottle purchased at the supermarket or any local home store.

  2. Use less Paper Towels! Americans seem to be obsessed with paper towels. They are expensive and reusable cotton cloths can be used instead. I also have these Skoy Cloths in my kitchen. They absorb spills and I use them for cleaning as well. I like this pack with it’s different colors for different uses.

  3. Add a houseplant or 2! Houseplants brighten spaces and help oxygenate the air. You can go big or small depending on your space. Kitchen windows are also great for small herb plants such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano! Click here for Great Kitchen Herbs.

  4. Go unscented with your garbage bags. You can deodorize with baking soda. JUST SAY NO TO FEBREEZE PRODUCTS! They are toxic in nature. Scented garbage bags just add chemicals into your kitchen that you shouldn’t be breathing in. Compost what you can to reduce your weekly trash!

  5. Go natural with your dishwasher (and dish washing) detergent. Popular store bought brands contain bleach and those chemicals get released into the air and also sit on your dishes and drink ware. I prefer making my own dishwasher detergent due to cost but there are better store bought brands. Ecover unscented has been my store bought go to. Look for an ingredient list! Do not buy household products without ingredients. You can check safe products here at EWG’s Cleaning Guide: https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners

Citrus Peels in Vinegar - cheap and effective!

Citrus Peels in Vinegar - cheap and effective!

How "clean" are your cleaning products? Go Green with your Cleaning Routine!

How Clean Are your Cleaning Products? Did you know that making your own house cleaners can be fun, thrifty, and keep hundreds of chemicals out of your home?

Today’s recipe is for laundry detergent. It is safe, effective, and cheaper than store bought options. It takes 5 minutes to make and keeps chemicals off your clothing (and your skin!) I have tried a few recipes for both powder and liquid detergents and this one is my favorite.

Here are some advantages:

Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent Ingredients

  1. Healthier for your body! Remember your clothes lay directly on your largest organ, your skin!

  2. You will buy less plastic, keeping plastic bottles out of landfill!

  3. Gentle on sensitive skin!

  4. Nontoxic cleaners are healthier for our waterways! Save aquatic life.

  5. Saves Money!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 Cup Washing Soda

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

1 Gallon Hot Water (from sink)

3/4 Cups Dr. Bronner Liquid Castille Soap (I use unscented, but you can use a scented version!)

DIRECTIONS:

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  1. In 2 Gallon Bucket put in Washing Soda and Baking Soda and mix to combine

  2. Add 1 Gallon of Hot Water and mix until both are dissolved into the water

  3. Add in the liquid Dr. Bronner’s Soap until combined well

  4. Use funnel to fill containers. I use old Castille Soap Bottles and an old Laundry Detergent bottle.

  5. Use 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup per load. For my front loader I fill to the Regular Load line. I pour directly in from the bottles so it eliminates a measuring spoon!

HAPPY GREEN AND TRULY CLEAN CLEANING! The advantages? It is nontoxic, fragrance free, effective, green and safe for our water systems, our skin, and reusing plastic bottles means less waste!

The Ostrich Effect and Why it Matters to Our Health

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"A person should never avoid information about health or finances because information can never hurt a decision." 

I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast this week: The Ostrich Effect: We Shouldn't Stick Our Heads In The Sand, But We Do It Anyway." It immediately resonated with me as I have been contemplating how I can better assist others in eliminating toxins in their life and taking control of their health, both short and long term.  I hear from many women and moms that they are just not feeling WELL. They are tired, have digestion issues that they have just accepted, have headaches, migraines, and other auto-immune issues. It is true that we can not pour from an empty cup, yet that is what many of us are doing in our daily "grind". 

As stated in the podcast, "avoiding information doesn't mean you're a fool, it means you're human". Research shows it can be difficult to process negative information because it seems too overwhelming or it can make us despondent. It seems like everyday there is "news" about something deemed toxic, or harmful, or grave environmental concerns. Unfortunately it is the current state of our world, BUT we can become empowered instead of fearful. We can make a few changes in our lives that can lead to feeling better, happier, and help us live longer lives. We CAN focus on adding in more healthy and nontoxic food, items, people into our lives.

Health is not a topic to ignore information about but fear tactics are leading Americans to do just that. Maybe you can ignore the fear tactics and just agree to make one change towards a less toxic life. What step will you take? Will you introduce a new vegetable into your weekly cooking routine? Will you switch to glass storage? Or maybe a glass straw? Share photos of any small steps you have taken to #ecothriver.  Small steps bring big changes

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551901221/we-shouldn-t-stick-our-heads-in-the-sand-but-we-do-it-anyway

New Business Model: Get One, Gift One Consulting Sessions

I am so excited to announce EcoThriver's new business model for consulting services. For the next year (and hopefully beyond!) We will be offering a Get One, Gift One model. My business goal is to reach the most amount of people I can and help them lead healthier, less toxic lives. I love what I do, helping others through education and empowerment for wellness and less toxic living. 

FOR EVERY PAID CONSULTATION ONE WILL BE DONATED TO A CANCER SURVIVOR.

I will have a page set up for cancer survivors to learn more about the free consultation, and how to apply. Those of you that know me personally, know how passionate I am about spreading knowledge about the importance of our health and wellness through product choices. 

I hope you will join our hive on our journey to wellness and less toxic living. We have two homes, our bodies and our earth! Let's protect them both while living a more nourished life. 

Do you know a cancer thriver (survivor) that wants to make healthier choices but is overwhelmed by the conflicting information? I give targeted suggestions based on personal goals. Gift card services are available

FOR SURVIVORS: UNTIL THE PAGE IS SET UP YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR UPDATES AND THEN EMAIL ME AT katerina@ecothriver.com with the following information

Name

Address

Which consulting package you are interested in

Type of Cancer and treatment facility/treating doctor with phone number for verification

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Simple Ways to Calm Down Fast

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Life can be very difficult, but it is up to us how we choose to react to it.  Last week due to external stressors and chemical exposures I found myself down the stress rabbit hole. I recognized it and moved through but not without fallout on my family and physical being.  I realized I was zipping through the grocery store at too fast a pace, operating at too high of a frequency, was low on patience with my children and husband, and needed to rest more.  Post cancer I have actively worked to compile quite a toolbox of various techniques and I am always adding to it. The KEY is to reach for the tools as quickly as possible to rid our bodies of mental and physical stress before fallout happens to ourselves and our loved ones. 

Stress seems to be ingrained into American life.  As a culture we seem to pride ourselves on being busy, wanting more than we have, and not allowing ourselves time and space to just be. This puts our body into a state of dis-ease, the opposite of wellness. Stress can be useful if we need to be on alert but in today's modern society much of our physical stress is created by us.  Historically humans needed physical stress to keep them alive. If a lion was chasing someone they needed an increase in adrenaline and cortisol to escape. That person would run and through exercise their hormones would return to normal. In today's society this scenario looks much different. Our stress hormones rise, but without proper outlets stress becomes chronic. We all have various stressors in our lives (busy schedules, school stress, health issues, financial worries, aging parents, work duties, raising children, job loss) and we may feel out of control in dealing with them. 

Although we can't control situations that bring us stress,  we CAN control our response. We can consciously acknowledge the warning signs when stress physically enters our bodies and use several strategies to Calm Down Fast. These strategies may not come natural to you but practicing will make them easier to access. 


STRATEGIES TO CALM DOWN FAST

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1. Recognize the first truth of stress: ONLY WE CREATE IT.  Stress is your physical and mental reaction to external stimuli. We can't change a crazy hectic world, but we can control our response to it. We can choose to react to stressful situations with grace, calm, humor, and humility. Just like alcoholism, 50% of the cure is admitting there is a problem to work on. 

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2. Seek Connection. When you are frustrated, stressed, or at wits end, call a friend, ask for a hug, or simply share that you are feeling stressed.  Connection, both physical and emotional, is scientifically proven to be an important factor in health, wellness, and longevity.  Connection helps prevent stress hormones from escalating. 

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3. Intentionally clench and unclench your muscles. Tense your hands and feet for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 3 times. You can also tense your face and jaw and then release. Legs, butt, and feet can be tensed easily under a table or desk, but save the face clenching for home, the car, or your bio break :) 

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4. Practice Gratitude. Wherever you are, whatever you are thinking, think of or write down 3 things you are grateful for. Gratitude directly leads to hope. Gratitude replaces negative thoughts, patterns and actions. We tend to engage in unhealthy behaviors when we are stressed so before you choose something that will cause more dis-ease in your body try to choose gratitude first. Practice makes this an easier tool to reach for. 

5. List 3 things you see that you like. No matter where you are notice 3 things around you that you find interesting, bring joy, or you simply like. This will focus your brain away from stress and negative thoughts. Beauty is where you find it! 

6.  Get outside.  Look up and notice the clouds, sky or tree tops. Fresh air and nature can shift your perspective in just a few minutes. A long walk is even better.  A change in our literal view can change our perspective. 

 

WEEKLY STRATEGIES TO CREATE A LOWER STRESS LOAD

Try one at a time, practice and remember it is best to anchor new habits to existing ones. For example complete your 3 deep cleansing breaths as soon as you shut off your alarm and before you check your phone.

1. Before you get out of bed take 3 deep breaths, making sure to expand your belly. This will wake up your lymphatic system, support your nervous system and immune system. You can create a morning mantra. Mine is, "Thank you for today." Maybe you can list 3 things you are grateful. Some people start their day with a gratitude e-mail thanking someone, or a quick text or phone call.  

2. Incorporate intentional breathing 3 times a day. This can simple be 3-5 deep breaths or more focused breathing exercises. I close my eyes and breathe in for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8.

3. Incorporate intentional breathing, yoga or mediation into your week. You can take 5-10 minutes a day and you should notice a positive difference.

4. Plan for at least 6 hours a week for relaxation time. This is time that there is nothing scheduled. Your only task is to be. You can ask yourself, "What would I like to do?" You can rest, meditate, read a book, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea, knit. GUARD THIS TIME AS YOU DO YOUR ATM PIN.

5. Eat to support your nervous system. Sip tea, eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and be aware of your alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed food consumption. 

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Remember you can't pour from an empty cup! Self care is important, especially during this busy time of year. There are many ways to calm down fast and to live a less stressful life. Choose which options best work for you! 

Sources and additional info on ways to reduce stress:

https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/

Your Brain on Nature  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/music-and-health

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#9bf9d7f183c0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/

M.D. Anderson https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/december-2014/how-stress-affects-cancer-risk.html.html

American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/

http://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.php?aid=3429

40!

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I GOT TO TURN 40! I wrote the following entry the week of my birthday and still reflect on it. As I get ready to launch something great with one of my closest friends I think, "I get to be here on this beautiful earth. What will my continued impact be?" I want to have a greater impact teaching and inspiring others to live their best life and to use products that nourish our bodies and our entire selves. 

Stay tuned: It is my belief that the best is yet to come!

This week I have the joy and privilege of turning 40. 40! At age 32 I was living as my body worked to actively destroy cancer cells with the help of surgery and poisonous chemo drugs. I thought I only had a few years and that soon I would be actively dying. 

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It is a common sentiment among young cancer survivors, especially those that have had a parent die young. We think our story will be as our parents. That cancer cells will come back and take our health, and eventually our body. I thought I had only 4 years, as my mom did.

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Many think that as soon as treatment is done and someone lives a few years past active treatment that cancer is cured. In some people it is and they get to live to an old age. However for many young (and older) survivors, that is not the case. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, never taking my life for granted, as I know any day this gift of life could be taken away.

Once active treatment ends there is new phase of life to navigate, survivorship, or simply “life after cancer.” It can still be filled with dr. appointments, medications, additional surgeries, anxiety, physical limitations, chronic pain, and hormonal changes. For young survivors we are living with this phase of survivorship for more years which is a beautiful thing but brings its own challenges as the months pass. 

This week I GET to turn 40 and I am ecstatic. I get to celebrate my LIFE, my FAMILY, and my FRIENDS. I am so very grateful for what I consider bonus time on this earth. Every year brings joy, sadness, new challenges, and celebration and I am open to it all because I get to be here. I get to be alive on this earth. I GET TO TURN 40.

I try to live my life with intention and in my 40th on the earth I vow to live with deeper intention, kindness, and joy. I invite you to do the same and share the joy of life with me.

Thanks for reading, love, joy, friendship and wellness to you all,

Kat

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Pink, October, and Pinkwashing

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Last weekend I took a flight to visit dear friends and to celebrate another 40th Birthday. The morning of this above photo I was with one of my closest friends and her family in NYC. We left the house a bit late to catch some very important soccer games :) at different locations in the city. With my travel I remembered my glass water bottle, but forgot my ceramic coffee mug which led us to a coffee shop where I was handed the above coffee. Darn! First annoyance was I purchased one use plastic, and second it was PINK! 

As I sat in a cab I snapped this photo reflecting on the absurdity of this PINK plastic lid in the name of Breast Cancer Research, supposedly saving lives while poisoning us with BPA, hormone disruptors, and other chemicals and killing marine life. Hmmm... I can not wrap my head around this one. (For the record I did not drink from the lid.)

Here are some facts that a plastic pink coffee cover does not address:

1. In 2017, an estimated 255,180 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men and women with an additional 63,410 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer (also known as carcinoma in situ). 

2. About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

3. Overall, African-American women are 42% more likely to die of breast cancer.

4. Only 7-10% of breast cancers are based on hereditary gene variants. 

So the pink plastic coffee is an example of pinkwashing. Companies profiting from slogans such as "for the cure" while contributing to the lack of significant funds for metastatic research and actually causing harm to our bodies and immune system. Here is a list of questions to ask, created by the Think Before You Pink Campaign: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/resources/before-you-buy/ 

I am so grateful for my life, grateful for my family and friends, grateful I have had the opportunity to turn 40 and to celebrate with my friends as they turn 40. I am grateful every morning as I wake and as I see my children's smiles, and help them navigate through their difficulties. Pink plastic lids are lost on me, and I can only hope that it led to at least one woman doing a self exam and minimal funds raised making a difference somewhere. 

In October we swim in a sea of pink, yes we are aware, yet there are still harsh treatments to treat a terrible disease with the hope that it does not spread to metastatic cancer, or come back as recurrence. And there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, too many of our friends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and aunts are losing their lives to this terrible disease. 

So how can you honor survivors? Do a self exam, as this is how most breast cancers are detected. Be your own health care advocate and even if you are young, know that young women can and do get breast cancer even with no family history. Exercise! Did you know that being overweight is the number 1 risk factor? Find one new way to eliminate toxins in your home. Eat one healthier meal a week.

Many women are currently battling metastatic breast cancer and THERE IS NO CURE! If you are looking to donate money to help support research you can donate to www.metavivor.org.  

I am a volunteer local outreach coordinator for FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and a State Leader for Young Survival Coalition. I also co-lead a young support group in the Chapel Hill/Durham N.C. area. I work to empower young women and it is fulfilling in many ways. It is also difficult as I connect with more women each year, newly diagnosed, in treatment, dealing with the harsh aftermath of surgery and treatments, and navigating the world of metastatic cancer. This is why I can't help the resentment when I see a company profiting from a pink plastic coffee lid, (even if a very small donation is made by the plastic producing company) while I know young women actively dying of a terrible disease. Research and health advocacy is needed, not smiling Instagram photos of people with toxic pink coffee lids.  

Resources and Links:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/tritan-bpa-free-plastic-styrofoam-estrogen/

http://www.metavivor.org

http://www.breastcancer.org/

http://www.facingourrisk.org

http://www.youngsurvival.org

http://bcrf.org

 

Ditch the plastic Week 3 - Bring your own travel coffee or tea mug

This week to ditch some plastic in your life, use a reusable travel coffee or tea mug instead of styrofoam or plastic coated paper. I used to think the inside of paper cups was wax, nope, it is plastic leaching into your hot beverage of choice! Reusable cups can work for iced coffees and teas as well! I brew coffee in the morning and bring with me in this reusable mug with silicone cover. I also use my travel mug to get coffee on the go. I have never had anyone turn me down on a refill in my reusable ceramic cup. A win for your health avoiding leaching toxins. A win for your tastebuds because coffee and tea just taste better in glass! Using a reusable coffee/tea mug is also a win for the environment and sea turtles! 

Refill with delicious Joe Van Gogh Organic coffee at Weaver Street Market, our local Co-op  in Carrboro, NC  Cup was purchased from World Market.

Refill with delicious Joe Van Gogh Organic coffee at Weaver Street Market, our local Co-op  in Carrboro, NC  Cup was purchased from World Market.

Four Facts About Plastic:

1. Americans throw away 25 billion cups each year (363 millions pounds of waste) and using a ceramic mug is associated with 30 times less solid waste and 60 times less air pollution than the equivalent drinks in a disposable or foam cup. 

2. Plastic items contain and leach endocrine disruptors which produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans and wildlife according the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

3. There are 5 areas of floating plastic wastein our oceans, a plastic soup if you will, with the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, estimated at 386,000 square miles. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash)

4. A 2008 Yale study showed BPA cause loss of connection between brain cells. BPA was found in the urine of over 90% of adults tested. 

Sources and more info:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36882799

http://www.carryyourcup.org/get-the-facts

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash

"True Green@ Work" McKay, Bonnin, Wallace

Ditch the Plastic Week #2 - Just Say No to the Straw!

Four Facts About Plastic:

1. Eating Fresh Foods not packaged in plastic can reduce your BPA exposure by 50% in just 3-5 days!

2. 50% of plastic is used for single use and remember only 7-8% is recycled in the U.S! (10% is recycled worldwide).

3. Plastic makes up 60-80% of ocean debris.

4. Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. That’s 175 Billion a year filtering into landfills (environment) and littering our waterways and oceans. o understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That's 46,400 school buses every year! (https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

Single use straws are an easy way to cut down on single use plastic. "JUST SAY NO" to the straw when out at dinner, lunch, or whenever you are offered one. OR purchase these reusable straws and carry them in your purse. They are healthier and will HELP SAVE SEA TURTLES! My mouth burns when I have put a plastic or stainless steel straw in my mouth. These silicone straws have been great for my family and I have had them for 5 years and counting... 

Sources and where to read more!

https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/4/28/are-drinking-straws-dangerous

 

 

Ditch the Plastic Week #1

Four Facts about Plastic:

1. Only 10% of plastic that is discarded is recycled world wide (8% is recycled in U.S.) 

2. Eating more real food equates to less plastic in our body and in landfill (think leaching and packaging waste). As a scientist stated, "If you don't have any chemicals from plastic you are not living in the modern world."

3. Using less plastic helps limit ocean pollution and helps to SAVE THE SEA TURTLES! 

4. Americans consume more plastic than any other nation (326 pounds per person in 2010)

Weekly Tip to Reduce Plastic! Use glass and stainless steel containers for food storage. Ditch the Ziploc bags and containers. I use these glass storage bowls for leftovers and food storage: Pyrex Glass bowl set with lids. I also use this Glasslock set, also available at Costco sometimes: Glasslock 14-Piece Oven Safe Box Set with Lids. Stainless steel is a good lighter weight option, but at home I prefer glass due to zero leaching.  I use various stainless steel containers for packed lunches. This one is great for a sandwich or quesadilla or salad and 2 snacks: Lunch Bots Trio. These pair great with: Stainless Steel Nesting Containers great for snacks. 

Amazon Affiliate Links: If you purchase these products through this site EcoThriver will get a small percentage to keep the site going! 

Bento Box Container:


Sources and More information:

Plastic Purge: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save the Sea Turtles! by Michael SanClements

http://saferchemicals.org/

https://www.livescience.com/32232-can-plastic-bottles-make-you-sick.html

 

 

 

Simple ways to ditch plastic: weekly tips

Reducing plastic use can feel overwhelming, especially since in many ways it is more convenient and cheaper in the short term. However, there are many reasons to ditch plastic. Starting next week I will focus on one way to ditch (or reduce) plastic each week. I will briefly discuss the "why" and "how" to switch out plastic for reusable eco-friendly and healthier options! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the weekly switch from this to that! I have chosen to present one product each week to give you time to incorporate the change! I would love to hear stories about your switch! Hope you will join us! 



Eat Collard Greens - Why does Kale get all the love?

Prior to meeting with a nutritionist post cancer I had never heard of collard greens. I was a New Jersey girl whose greens included spinach and lettuce, that was it. Post chemo I added Kale and swiss chard into my diet. 

After learning I had osteopenia (stage of bone loss prior to osteoporosis) I had to increase my calcium.  A nutritionist told me to think of my daily green smoothie as my calcium drink to keep my bones strong and to add collard greens into my diet. Now, I am hooked! 

Kale gets all the attention these days but Collard Greens are another important leafy green vegetable. They contain calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C are immune boosting, and anti-inflammatory.

When I moved to the South I learned Collards are a part of southern cooking and I learned they are almost always cooked with pork fat or bacon. If you go out to eat this is not listed on the menu, it is just known that a side of Collard Greens will include pork of some kind. I learned this the hard way as I thought it was "safe" vegetarian dish. 

So I make my Collard Greens at home. I usually saute them in the morning with my eggs, add them into my smoothies, or sprinkle them on whatever I am eating for some extra calcium.

Collards can be a little bitter raw, but everyone in my family enjoys them sauteed with olive oil, onions, garlic and sea salt. Kale is another super green, but let's not forget about Collards as well! See if you can incorporate them into your meal planning this week. If you do, share your recipe! 

Cookbook Suggestion: Updated version of a cookbook that began my eating to nourish journey! Delicious recipes!

Water, Water, Water

As a child and young adult I didn't pay much attention to the taste of water or whether or how it contributed to my health. I remember drinking out of our dirty plastic hose daily during the summer, and tap water for most of my life, until bottled water became popular. I remember drinking water that tasted like plastic without flinching. After I became pregnant I started paying more attention to water and following chemo I could really taste the difference in clean water and I began to feel it in my body as well. I had a refrigerator filter for my home water and then I remember being at a friend's house and literally spitting out the water because I had a mouthful of chlorine.  So I started researching and sorted through lots of research and products and put off buying a water filtration system because they were expensive and I couldn't decide on one! When we moved to North Carolina I brought glass 5 gallon water bottles to Whole Foods to fill with Reverse Osmosis Drinking water. 2 Years ago we finally selected a drinking water system and it was WAY cheaper than the thousands of dollars I was quoted by "water experts". 

Water is the elixir of life and there is no doubt the cleaner the water you drink the healthier you will be. Flint, Michigan has put the dangers of toxic water to the forefront of our national conversation again. Locally, our local NC water company dealt with a 24 hour water emergency due to an error that over fluoridated our local water supply. We could not use any water due to danger of further contaminating our water supply. 

Water out of the tap or water fountain contains pharmaceuticals, chlorine or chloramine, heavy metals, VOC's, phthalates, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and more fluoride than is needed. These chemicals disrupt our bodies in various ways including early puberty, decreased immune function, higher cancer rates, obesity, migraines, endocrine disruption, increased allergies. I have attached links for more scientific information at the bottom of the blog. 

For optimum health we should all be filtering our drinking water (and our shower water too!) We are bombarded by toxins in our daily life and this is an important way to limit toxins. 

Bottled water is quite frequently filtered tap water and the plastic leeches into the water so it contains BPA and other chemicals. This is especially true if the plastic sits in heat in a warehouse or in your car. Also, bottled water is a great expense and the plastic creates waste that pollutes our waterways, soil, and endangers wildlife. Did you know that there is currently more than 8 million tons of plastic dumped in our oceans every year?

So how do you improve your drinking water? There are various water filtration systems on the market from pitcher type to whole house systems. Which system should you buy to make drinking water safer, to optimize your health and immune system and the health of your family?  You have a few options and depending on your home situation you can decide which is best for you! If none of the options below work for you a cheaper pitcher system can be purchased or the refrigerator filter will work some, but check specifics for which each filters out. If you would like additional consultation, I am available through my consulting services. 

My best recommendation is to purchase an under the kitchen sink reverse osmosis water system. This is what I use in my home and it delivers fresh, clean water! How do I know? Because for better or worse I can sense chemicals in my body. If I drink water that is not pure I feel ill immediately. I feel great with this water, it is the same quality as the filtered water at Whole Foods. I used to fill glass containers at Whole Foods however it got to be cumbersome and a few times I got home and the water smelled like chlorine. At home, I know when it is time to change the filters. 

My husband installed this filter Home Master Artesian Under Sink RO Water Filter at home 2 years ago and we are still happy with it! We drink a lot of water and I think we are replacing the filters on average every 8 months, but on average every 12 months is recommended. A plumber can install it as well. 

Another option is this counter top water system, Big Berkey. It is better suited if you are renting or you just don't want to deal with installing something. I have a travel version that I use when away from home. 

If you know you will be staying in your home for years it may be worthwhile to consider a whole house system. Then your shower and bath water is filtered as well and you can drink out of any sink. This is my recommendation: The Home Master Whole House Filter. This can also be used for well water, although you should always have your water tested to determine specific filter needs. 

And don't forget about a non-toxic reusable water bottle! This is my favorite and I have various sizes for the kids. I haven't had luck with the straws or flip top as they both have leaked for me. But these are one of my favorite products! 

 

If you decide to purchase, I have linked through the affiliate program so EcoThriver will receive a small percentage of your purchase, which will help support more content :) 

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for these suggestions. I am not liable for the suggestions made or for the product in any way. These are simply the products I use and recommend. 

Links for additional info: 

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/08/unsafe-levels-of-toxic-chemicals-found-in-drinking-water-of-33-states/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/pharmaceuticals-in-the-water/

WHO Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water  http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44630/1/9789241502085_eng.pdf

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/13/broken-system-means-millions-of-rural-americans-exposed-to-poisoned-or-untested-water/94071732/

http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/09/20/water-chromium

https://www.plasticoceans.org

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/

hornafjörður, Iceland - One of the few places you can drink the world's purest water right off the glacier or right out of the tap. Delicious, clean water was a treat in Iceland! No joke, this was one of my trip highlights! The water was amazingly delicious! 

hornafjörður, Iceland - One of the few places you can drink the world's purest water right off the glacier or right out of the tap. Delicious, clean water was a treat in Iceland! No joke, this was one of my trip highlights! The water was amazingly delicious! 


 

Warming Sweet Potato Chili Recipe: Autoimmune Allergen Friendly

The weather is finally getting colder in North Carolina and we are expecting snow which means being at home for possibly a few days (yes even a sprinkling will cause the state to shut down!). It is a great time to make a yummy, immune boosting chili recipe! I have tried various recipes and have created a hybrid of various recipes. This is a recipe that my entire family gobbles up. It can be served with simply a spoon, in a taco shell, or scooped up with tortilla chips (my family's preference). You can top with fresh cilantro for a splash of color and taste. Happy Cooking! 

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ALLERGEN FRIENDLY SWEET POTATO AND TURKEY CHILI RECIPE

  • 2 cups diced sweet potatoes

  • 1 cup butternut squash or carrots 

  • 2 cups chopped onions

  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey meat (use kidney beans or chick peas for vegetarian version)

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 jar diced tomatoes in glass (Jovial Brand is my go to, cans leach BPA and other chemicals)

  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup water or veggie broth (can add more if you want it more of a soup)

  • 1 tsp greek oregano (any oregano will do, but I prefer Greek)

  • 1 tsp coriander

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

1. peel and dice the sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, onions, garlic (chop to preference)

2. heat some olive oil and cook the garlic and onions until fragrant and translucent (5-8 minutes)

3. add the spices, vegetables, tomatoes, and water. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender.

4. while chili is simmering, cook the ground turkey or chicken in a pan until no longer pink. 

5. Add in meat or cooked beans and simmer for an additional 5 minutes and salt to taste.

6. ENJOY a healthy, immune boosting, tasty meal!

OPTIONS:  you can add green beans or sliced okra, red or green peppers, top with fresh cilantro and add avocado slices.

Beauty through the Sadness

There are tulips from a beautiful bouquet my mother in law sent Lillian for her 7th birthday in a vase on my counter. They brought such joy to her face as she opened the door, which immediately brought joy to mine. Yesterday I noticed the tulips began to droop and I decided to take them out of the vase as they were stretching for sunlight. I moved them to a new vase and put them on the table and I immediately thought they looked a little sad, but beautiful. They matched my mood this week as the weather was damp and the sky dark, I had to schedule some cancer related dr. appointments, Jay was traveling leaving the house quiet, October (Pinktober for me) will be here soon,  and I was fighting sickness all week.

Though they looked a little sad, their beauty still shined through. The vibrant shades of purple color on the petals, the bright green stems, their strength as they delicately hung over the vase grasping for light all created beauty for my heart. 

Sadness has been a theme for me in my life. Grief has come in various waves, through my mother’s battle with metastatic breast cancer and death, my own diagnosis at 32 and the subsequent damage treatments and surgery have done to my body, my sisters’ BRCA status, surgeries, and my younger sister’s diagnosis at 31. Additional waves of sadness and grief have overtook me more recently dealing with my chronic illness of mold sensitivity and environmental illness (MCS).

The greatest lesson this has all taught me is there is always beauty in the sadness. In my darkest days when I couldn’t get out of bed, I would think of the joyful, beautiful moments that had yet to come. Seeing Nate and Lillian go off to Kindergarten, dancing with Nate and Lillian at their weddings, taking them to beautiful places in our country when they were older, and holding grandchildren in my arms one day. These joyful moments pulled me through.

Without sadness I wouldn’t know the extreme joy I feel when I am well and happy, in nature or with my husband, children, and those I love most. Yin and Yang. You need one to enjoy the other.

Sadness still comes and I have learned not to fight it. If you are not familiar with grief, it comes in waves. It has a way of sneaking up on you sometimes, as a wave does when your back is to the ocean. Other times I can feel it coming. Like a storm. I have learned to ride out the storm, to let the waves crash over me instead of knocking me over. Sometimes jumping into the wave is the best way to keep from getting knocked over. When I ignore the grief that is welling up into my being it knocks me over. I am tired of getting knocked over. Cancer and my chemical sensitivities have done enough of that.

So I rest when I need to. I nourish and listen to my body. I say no when I need to and yes whenever I can. I allow the grief and sadness to come and go, as it always will. No emotion lasts forever, they pass like the wind and waves. I can choose to hold onto grief and sadness or I can choose to hold onto the joy. I choose joy. 

When I feel the waves of grief rising, I know it will pass and when joy is imminent in all the cells of my body, I hold on, knowing it won’t last forever.

So yes, I am thankful for sadness. I am thankful for joy. I am thankful I am alive, because so many women have lost their lives before their life was fully lived. I carry joy as I see  my children grow and I get to grow older beside my husband. 

The beautiful purple wilted flowers are still on my counter, drooping a little lower each day. Their drooping beauty reminds me of the beauty in sadness. The beauty in grief. The beauty in joy. 

Spring (and pollen) is in the air! A natural food approach to allergies that works!

Spring in Chapel Hill is a colorful, beautiful time of year. Rebirth, renewal and lots, and lots of pollen in the air. We have about 1-2 weeks that will be approaching soon when it literally rains pollen. Since we relocated to North Carolina I learned that this area is one of the worst in the nation for allergies due to the short winter and warm climate that allows for many varieties of plants, molds, grasses, and trees to bloom. What I love about Chapel Hill, NC is also what makes my body feel terrible. 

Some people get congestion from allergies but for me and others the response is inflammatory and neurological. What I have found is a great remedy that I use throughout the day to fight the inflammation in my body. I take Gaia Turmeric Allergy Supplements when needed as an extra boost however this is my go to to combat my allergies. Last season I spent much of it indoors, however this year I am enjoying Spring! I have continued to hike, walk, garden, read outside, and enjoyed a beautiful event welcoming Spring at the Eco-Institute at Pickard's Mountain last night symptom free! 

The secret? Ginger elixir with turmeric! A ginger elixir with honey and lemon was recommended by my acupuncturist and I added in turmeric for an extra anti-inflammatory boost. The health benefits of ginger are numerous, including reducing nausea, indigestion, inflammation, viruses.  I first began having ginger tea during chemo and it did wonders for my nausea. Here is some great information on this healing food from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/ginger

The method:

 1. Peel about 1 cup of ginger (just learned a new hack of using a spoon!)  

2. Put in food processor until grated, or you can hand grate. 

3. Using a fine mesh sieve or tea infuser, pour 1.5 cups of hot water over the ginger (a large mason jar works great for this) 

4. Enjoy! Drink as a shot or sip throughout the day.  You can add some local honey (or manuka honey), lemon, or 1 tsp turmeric (another super food that is anti-inflammatory) if you would like

I leave it out in a mason jar and sip throughout the day or you can heat if you store it in the fridge. You can make it on Sunday and have it throughout the week. Mason jars travel well to work or play.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.  What do you do with the ginger after the elixir is made? Use it for soups, chicken, fresh salad dressings,  smoothies, or sautee greens with olive oil, ginger, and garlic. YUM!