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I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

Oct

30

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 | 8 comments

SpeakOutForYourself_RobinDance

Long ago and far away, or so it seems now, we lived in South Carolina. A few years after we landed there, a young couple moved to town, life-friends of my younger brother-in-law. We welcomed them with open arms; friends of family are friends of ours. They were barely out of newlyweddom when baby Dylan arrived. Stephanie and Trey loved him fiercely and completely, the way we all marvel at those firstborn, or let’s face it, every child we call our own.

Breastfeeding was a priority to Stephanie, and like any new mom, she expected to have questions along the way. When she complained to her doctor about a knotty sore place, she readily accepted his plausible explanation: a blocked milk duct (I massaged my way through a few of those painful devils). It was good news that satisfied her questions and concern, but this is what I would categorize as hearing what you want to hear (which is rarely a good thing).

Six months later Stephanie was dead, leaving behind a grieving husband and a son who would have no memory of her. She was 23. Cruelly, cancer cut her life short–six months from diagnosis to death.

My mother was 34 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer; she died at 38. Her mother died when she was 22, cancer again robbing a baby of knowing her mama. My sister is a survivor, creeping up on almost 20 years (thank you, Jesus).

I’ve lived under the Dark Cloud of Cancer Possibility my entire life (or at least as long as I remember). But as aware as I am for myself, taking all the preventive and proactive action I can for early detection and best health, I am even more aware for my daughter. She is 25 and has lived three years longer than her great-grandmother.

Medical opinions vary about when women with family histories of breast cancer should have their first mammogram; one popular suggestion is ten years prior to the diagnosis of first-degree relatives. While my daughter has no first-degree connection to breast cancer, her grandmother and great-grandmother died young, and her aunt endured aggressive treatment for DCIS and a malignant lump.

There are several methods to predict or evaluate your risk (for example, here or here). But I’m of the strong opinion it can serve you well to get a baseline early for future reference. 

Here’s the thing: no one wants to have a mammogram. They aren’t exactly painful, but they’re incredibly awkward and contort and smash your body into positions you didn’t know were possible.

Know what I say to that? So what? Get over your fear or dread or excuses. Early detection could save your life.

 

Continuing a streak of awesome adulting, my daughter recently decided to schedule her first mammogram (she’s a plane-ride away from me so if it’s going to happen, she has to make the effort without me dragging her kicking and screaming). She questioned me about anything she might need to know before she called a local provider, and I explained to her since it’s preventive (and given our family history), it’s covered under her insurance.

Well.

The office she called told her she did not need to have a mammogram yet, that she was too young and it wasn’t necessary. Of course, Rachel was thrilled and felt like she was off the hook for now. It was like they had handed her a “get out of jail free card.”

My response was volcanic.

 

“YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO TO A DOCTOR’S OFFICE THAT SUMMARILY DISMISSES A HISTORY LIKE OURS! FIND ANOTHER ONE! THIS IS NOT A TIME WHEN YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE SATISFIED HEARING WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR! YOU COULD BE DEAD! YOU’RE JUST ANOTHER PATIENT TO A NEW DOCTOR, SO IT’S UP TO YOU TO BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR HEALTH! DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO MINIMIZE YOUR CONCERN!”

or some manner of poked mama bear vitriol.

I want my daughter to benefit from my experience, to learn how to make herself heard when others aren’t listening. It is too damn easy to accept a medical professional’s advice BECAUSE THEY’RE THE PROFESSIONAL. We want to hear the easy, not scary thing. But this I know:

I am my best advocate for my own health. So is my daughter. So are you.

 

We cannot afford to be passive when it comes to our bodies. We must be brave enough to press in and ask hard questions and resist the temptation to back down if there’s something still disquieting in our spirit. We must speak loudly until we are heard. Doctors are not perfect – one friend helped me put it in perspective by reminding me that they’re practicing medicine and don’t know everything -but if your doctor isn’t listening to you or quickly dismisses your concerns without relevant explanation, find another one.

We’re nearing the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month aka When Athletes Wear Pink; you don’t have to get a mammogram during October, but you DO need to have one if your age and/or family history warrants it. Even if your insurance won’t cover a baseline mammogram, it’s worth it to pay for one. Better yet, be on the lookout for free screenings. Most cities and towns host health fairs at some point during the year where you can receive a mammogram at no cost to you.

Just do it.

/end of rant

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Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

17

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 | 13 comments

A good thing to file away about empty nest

i.

I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface.

Until it isn’t.

But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health.

Isn’t that the way it goes?

Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place.

Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.

So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years.

It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today.

We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet.

And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am: 

You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change. 

So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.

 

Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence.

But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad.

Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better.

Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.

 

I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually you’ll spring back.

If you don’t, you need to get help.

Two things are helpful, important and maybe even necessary when you’re approaching or in the season of Empty Nesting.

 

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your identity has been wrapped up in being a mother for a lot of years; while that will never change, your role will. Transitions can be tricky…. Remember that while there may be loss of young humans under your roof, their departure is one measure of success as a parent. You’ve been raising children to be independent young adults, not grown children who need you to survive. Their leaving might not be your only end-goal but it certainly should be one of them.

2. Collect friends in this same stage of life, and even a few years ahead of you. When you’re a new mother, it’s vital to be in community with other young moms; whether to encourage or advise or just listen, having others going through this same life stage is sanity-saving. It’s equally important, if not more so, to have women who can speak life and experience into this new season of Empty Nesting. What you’ll learn soon enough is, at this age, it’s not one thing going on (kids all leaving), it’s many things (aging parents, health issues, sickness among friends, marriages falling apart, career issues, financial pressures, etc. etc. ETC.) and you NEED others who understand from living it that you CAN get through it. It makes a huge difference and I’m so thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage, champion and challenge me…and even let me be sad.

To be continued…this is at all what I intended to write about when I started. Oh, the mind of my fingers sometimes… :) 

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The Wonderful Thing About Growing Up

Jul

16

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 | 11 comments

  ~ please take a moment to subscribe? ~

 

Jump - Renaissance Park in Chattanooga

I’ve arrived at that ambiguous age where people tack on a little qualifier when they say something about you, to you–

You look good for your age

Your wrinkles aren’t bad for your age…

You’re exercising as well as you can for your age

A lot of people have insomnia at your age

At your age, just about everyone looks all over the house for their glasses and finds them on their head.

There are certain things cliched by age and I’ve noticed myself snarling more than just a little sometimes when I slip my foot into that tattered shoe and it fits. One morning you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and the next day you feel like someone took a bat to your spine while you slept.

A big wallop of What the heck?

But here’s the thing I’m happy to share when your body begins to betray you and you feel the weight of your years:

Age is gain and not loss.

 

Age is gain and not loss.

Repeat this phrase until you believe it.

I love how Jean Fleming in her fantastical little book Pursue the Intentional Life altered the way I view my own body’s betrayals: they’re a reminder this world is only temporary. Signs of aging point to eternity in that my current body is perishable but the one to come is not.

It blows my mind and I can’t think about it too much, the same way I can’t look at the sun for long. Its incendiary.

The Wonderful Thing About Growing Up - Robin Dance

Don’t fall into the sinkhole that believes already having lived more years than you have remaining is “less than.” Instead consider the accumulation of those years and all they represent. Value your experience and experiences as wisdom builders and memory makers. 

Look back at 30 and acknowledge all you learned since 20. Think about 40 and all the milestones realized since 30. Celebrate 50 by regarding the highs, and yes, even the lows, of your 40s. Consider the relationships you’ve made during each decade, the people you’ve met and your mutual impact to one another.

I’ve said it before and I believe it with all my heart:

Age is the price we pay for life and it’s not a privilege everyone has.

 

I love how Madeleine L’Engle says it–

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

She gets it. Age is gain and not loss…not in the ways that matter most, anyway.

Which, at my age, is important to remember.

 

  ~ Thank you for taking time to subscribe! ~

 

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The Perfect, Most Delicious Way to Cook a Steak

May

20

Posted by on May 20, 2015 | 3 comments

The Perfect Way to Cook a Steak

Google “How to cook the perfect steak” and you’ll have 6.7 million returns telling you how to do it. Pioneer Woman, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Gordan Ramsay, Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine – even Martha Stewart – all have recipes and methods touting theirs as the best steak in the world.

But then there’s Wes. The guy next door you’ve never heard of. Wes, who makes the best steak I’ve ever had. Wes, who also happens to be my neighbor.

Lawsy, we hit the jackpot.

Wes is an analytical kind of guy who appreciates the science of cooking. He understands the relationship between acids and bases and what happens to food on a molecular level. I understand as long as Wes understands, it’s all good.

Really, REALLY good.

If you’ve already signed up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge, you know it’s not all about beef–that just happens to be my favorite type of protein. (Which made it a no-brainer to work with the Georgia Beef Board during Georgia Beef Month to promote the #ProteinChallenge.)  A slow-cooked roast with carrots and potatoes is practically my love language. Beef tacos is a family favorite. And burgers on the grill? Well, no one does ’em better than my own husband.

One of my favorite discoveries during the 30-Day Protein Challenge is all the delicious-sounding and good-for-you recipes they have. If you’ve been reluctant to try the challenge because you think you’ll be eating the same thing three meals a day for a month, you should sign up for access to so many meal ideas (all the other information is bonus).

Except for cooking a good ol’ filet or rib-eye. For the perfect steak, you’re going to want to do it Wes’ way. Anything else is sloppy seconds.

Wes’ World Rocking, Life-Altering, Magical
Way to Cook the Perfect Steak*

Preparing the perfect steak

 

  1. Buy high quality steaks from your favorite grocer. My favorite is a filet but my husband will choose a rib-eye for the marbling every time.
  2. Lightly coat steaks in corn oil, about a teaspoon per side. Wes uses Mazola, which works out just fine for us, because that’s all I’ll use for the Best (Apple Pie) Crust in the world.
  3. Season heavily with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, coarsely ground.  Apply equal amounts of both the salt and the pepper, and be careful to season with respect to thickness of the steak.
  4. Heat a large, seasoned cast iron skillet to very hot on a propane burner outside; you’re going to sear the steaks, and at this high of a temperature, it’s best to do so outside because they will smoke.
  5. Sear at high heat two minutes per side or until outside is a nice dark brown (not black).  After taking them off, allow to rest at least 5 minutes.
  6. Finish in 500° oven or grill (indirectly only) 10-20 min until desired temp is reached.  I use a baking pan, but a rack on top of a pan is ideal.  Finishing will take some practice; each steak is different–i.e., ribeye cooks different than filet. Or you can feel the steaks with your finger to judge the doneness. A meat thermometer can help as well.

My friends at the Georgia Beef Board suggest medium rare as the optimal level, cooking to an internal temperature of 145°.

During the searing process the steak should reach approximately 100°. At this point you can actually put the steaks in the fridge and finish them in the oven later or even the next day.

Make sure to allow time for your steaks to rest at least 5-7 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

Be sure to sign up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge for daily tips, recipes and great inspiration to eat better, in order to feel better. 

Also, if you haven’t yet entered to win one of four prize packs sponsored by the Georgia Beef Board (including $100 toward beef at your favorite grocer’s), there’s still time! Enter here.

NCBA_PC_FeelTheDifference_300x250

 

 

*Which Wes actually got from his friend Laurence…which is very similar to Alton Brown’s method of preparation.  

 

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10 Reasons You Should Be Joining the 30-Day #ProteinChallenge

May

13

Posted by on May 13, 2015 | 3 comments

What is the 30-Day Protein Challenge? Click to find out more or to get started!

Be sure to enter to win one of FOUR giveaways!!

10 Reasons To Join the 30-Day #ProteinChallenge

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend with my college-age son. He had been sick for close to two weeks, unable to shake what ailed him. Strep wasn’t even the worst of it.

Of course I took this rare opportunity to be his Mommy – not just his Mom – and one of the ways I actually babied my baby was to cook him breakfast. Both mornings, it was a platter of scrambled eggs, homemade sourdough toast and juice.

Mid-day after the second morning he made a comment that I later remembered when I was asked to work with the Georgia Beef Board on promoting the 30-Day Protein Challenge and all things beef —

“I really do feel different, better, when I eat a decent breakfast.”

I think he finally believed what I (and most every other mother) has been preaching for years. In this case, he was getting over 18 grams of protein to start his day.

You know how it is when you make an important discovery and YOU WANT TO TELL AND CONVINCE ALL THE PEOPLE YOU MEET to get on board with you?

That’s how I’ve been about a high protein, low carb diet since my husband and I shifted the way we eat a little over a year ago; diet, not in the sense of restricting calories, but wiser, healthier food choices. Had the 30-Day Protein Challenge been on my radar then, it would have perfectly aligned with everything we learned while doing Whole 30. In fact, it would have made it easier.

Most people concede that a high protein diet is good for you but stop short of acting on it.

Protein Quote

Will you consider with me 10 reasons you should consider joining the 30-Day Protein Challenge?

 

By the time you get to the tenth, I’m hoping you’ll be up for the challenge!

1. The 30-Day Protein Challenge is a small package of dynamite.

This is the best thing I’ve seen out there of its kind. Daily emails are brief, to the point, motivating and actionable. If you’re serious about improving your diet by incorporating more protein, the 30DPC is as easy as it gets.

2.  Bonus content. 

In addition to the daily emails, there are links to tools and resources that will help you monitor your progress and set a table for success.

3. Inspiration awaits.

Need meal inspiration? Check. The 30-Day Protein Challenge offers you innovative recipes that are not the “same ol’, same ol’.” But need community inspiration? Check check. Inspiring quotes from others who have taken the challenge. Also, search the #ProteinChallenge hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and share your thoughts and experience during the challenge. Your encouragement might be what someone else needs!

4.  You’ll notice the difference.

Because this challenge is steady and deliberate, you have time to look at your own habits and to evaluate how you feel before and after meals and as you add more protein to your diet. Because you’re paying attention, you’ll start to see how much better you ARE feeling when you have plenty of protein. (Just like my son did after eating breakfast high in protein.)

5. Protein is a macronutrient; this means your body needs lots of it.

Because protein cannot be stored, there’s no reserve when the body needs it. Other macronutrients like fat and carbohydrates can be stored by the body in the form of glycogen (carbs) or triglycerides (fats). But for your body to have the amount of protein it needs, it must be a key part of your daily diet.

6.  Bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood all depend on protein. 

Every cell in the body includes protein in its composition. Protein is also used to make enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals in the body. 

7.  Bite-side education.

One of my favorite things so far in the challenge is a cheat sheet with foods and their related protein content. At a glance you’ll discover foods rich in protein, simple additions to all three meals of the day. It’s gold, I tell ya.

8.  Protein is a source of energy for your body.

Boot Camp is hard. Boot Camp at 5:30am, 3 days/week is harder. I don’t want to waste my time burning sugar during my work outs, so every single morning I eat one egg before I go to Boot Camp, and two eggs when I return; when I’m planning ahead, I make Egg Muffins. That’s almost half my daily recommended requirement of protein. Maybe it was in my head, but the few mornings we’ve been out of eggs, I lacked energy during exercise, and didn’t feel as good. But maybe, just maybe, it was in my body.

9.  Protein is yummy. 

I’m a meat and potatoes girl, so working with the Georgia Beef Board is almost not fair. They’re “forcing” me to learn about something I already like, and giving me reasons to experiment a little. When you look at the protein cheat sheet I mentioned in #7, you’ll realize you DO already like what’s going to improve your health. That’s a winning combination, isn’t it?

10. Bodyful Benefits.

When you begin eating more high quality lean protein as a result of the 30-Day Protein Challenge, you’ll be lowering the bad kind of cholesterol, reducing the risk of chronic disease, and reducing high blood pressure. You’ll feel more full and satisfied which might just keep you from over eating. And as you add exercise, you’re in a better position to build and strengthen muscle.

Convinced? Please click here to sign up to join me for the 30-Day Protein Challenge!

Then be sure to enter here for one of THREE $150+ prize packs (including three certificates good for $100 in protein-rich beef, must be used in Georgia) and an extra giveaway for good measure.

30-Day-Protein-Challenge-logo

Be sure to share this post with others and invite
your friends and family to join you in the 30-Day Protein Challenge, too!

 

HT to WebMD, and beefitswhatsfordinner.com for lots of the content sited on this page.
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WHAT is the Whole30? (Plus an EASY, delicious compliant recipe)

Jan

21

Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 | 6 comments

It Starts With Food - Whole30

I have never been better at numbering my days–

Day 20 of Whole30; Day 8 of 18 sessions of Boot Camp.

Neither is easy for me and there are days I am ready to quit ALL of it.

But I won’t and here’s why: compelling motive, accountability, fun (are you kidding me?) and ripple effect. 

I discuss those things over at The Art of Simple on Thursday, but it occurred to me I’ve been presuming “everyone” already knows what the Whole30 is. Based on the number of times I’ve had to explain it to friends in real life, I thought it would be helpful to elaborate here.

Whole30 is the program based on the New York Times Bestseller, It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. It got on my radar last year after my husband discovered it. Cute story: He stumbled onto it searching “how to cook a sweet potato” when I was out of town one weekend.

I looked at him like he had grown another head when he, excitedly, started telling me the ground rules. Thirty days without:

  • potatoes or pasta (potatoes, boil or baked, were added in August of last year but not when we did this in April)
  • sugar or sugar alternatives, added sugar or did I say SUGAR yet??
  • dairy including cheeses, yogurt and ice cream
  • grains including corn (I will not do Whole30 when Silver Queen corn is in season)
  • legumes
  • carrageenan, MSG, sulfites
  • alcohol
  • gum
  • basically nothing with ingredients you can’t pronounce

And while that seems like you can’t eat anything “good,” in essence, that’s all you can eat!

  • meats
  • seafood
  • eggs
  • veggies
  • fruit (not in smoothies, but whole or sliced)
  • “good” fats from fruits, nuts, oils and seeds

I told him I could never do it.

And then we did it.

Rather than me plagiarizing the Whole30 Program Rules, pop over to their site and skim the details (and then buy the book. Seriously. Its appeal to logic, sound reason and physiology just makes SENSE).

What the Whole30 Program is NOT about is calorie counting; never once did I worry about how many calories I was consuming in a day.

 

Because everything I put in my mouth was unprocessed, fresh food, calories were never an issue.

Doing the Whole30 is not about weight loss (though I lost 8+ pounds during the month); my personal goals were jump-starting an anemic metabolism and trying to get better sleep. Apparently my food choices were sabotaging both and I was amazed to learn how much what I eat is adversely affecting hormone levels. And while I didn’t feel great while I was on the program (many people do experience that), I could tell I felt worse after returning to some of my favorite junk foods. For me, afterwards was when I could tell the difference.

Anyway, it’s really worth five minutes of your time to find out more. This is NOT a sponsored post in any way, shape or form; I sincerely want to be a cheerleader for good health and better lifestyle choices.

Are you already a subscriber? If not, please do by clicking here & adding your email!! 

 

One of Whole30’s goals is to encourage trying new foods; and while I’ve always loved cauliflower, my favorite way to prepare it was steamed then bathed in a creamy cheese sauce. Because of Whole30, now we eat it roasted, a much healthier alternative. There’s not much to it, but I can’t believe I never tried it until a year ago.

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients for roasting cauliflower

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Head of Cauliflower, washed, patted dry and cut into florets
  • 2-3 Tblsp Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Toss florets in a large bowl together with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Don’t be afraid of the browning, it adds a rich buttery taste to the florets.

You can add garlic or your favorite herbs, but I’ve found I like it simply prepared best. Remember, no cheeses on Whole30 so Parmesan is a no-no.

 

Roasted Cauliflower

 

 

I’d love for you to share your favorite Whole30 compliant recipes. Tell me your stories, too, about how you’re pursing better health. It helps me to remember I’m not in this thing alone… :)

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