Tuesday’s Treat—Black Beans, Salsa and More

A doctor couldn’t have ordered anything better… a weekend getaway for this tired Pennsylvania Dutch gal. Tired from running a business, stressing about finances, fighting with my husband and parenting three energetic boys.

A friend invited me to go with her (and a few more friends) to see her sister in Marblehead (right above Boston). It took the first half of the drive to destress enough to relax, then I fell asleep and woke up with a stiff neck, but in a perfect weekend world.

Their house was perched on a street corner an arm’s throw from a cove overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with a porch that I wanted to claim as my new home. I sat in the first chair I found, breathed as deep as I could and realized life was still good.

We talked. Laughed. We kayaked. Explored a local fort. Sat on the sea wall. The air was salty. The friends funny. The music was good. I’m not a musician, but I appreciate good music.

One evening it was a short walk up the winding curvy street to a park to listen to a band with the ocean as their backdrop. Another evening it was a collection of their friends gathered on the porch with their instruments, again with the ocean as a backdrop. What’s not to love?

And then there was the food. The best! My friend and her sister have a way with food. We walked to the local market for a few items, but mostly they took basic ingredients from the cupboard and created goodness. It was all good, but my favorite (and new to me) was the black beans simmered with salsa and served over rice and grilled salmon (pre-vegetarian days).

This began a relationship with this dish that continues to this day… when I’m in hurry, I simply open 1 small jar of salsa and 1 can of beans, simmer them for a short time and eat it over salad greens with a few tortilla chips crumbled on top.  When I have more time, I turn it into a festive dish of color, nutrition and goodness.

Somedays I get daring and also add a can of drained garbanzo or pinto beans. I’ve also been known to throw in any leftover vegetable that is in the fridge.


This is one of my standbys… what’s one of yours?
Posted in Your Story

Russell Selkirk—Enjoying Life on a Roll, Because He Can!

My life continues to be enriched because the IM ABLE Foundation sponsored me to do a marathon this past fall. I will be forever grateful to them! Not only is my life enriched, but other’s lives have been enriched also.

I was part of a team of five, together this team raised over $15,000! 

IM ABLE uses those funds to provide resources to allow people with various physical abilities to be as active as they want to be. It was an honor to be present recently when they gave a new hand cycle to their latest recipient, Russell Selkirk.

Some of IM ABLE’s directors and runners with Russell Selkirk

In chatting with Russell, I was impressed with his desire to do what he can after unfair and difficult circumstances changed his life. He can’t change what happened, but he’s doing what he can to enjoy what he has.

Both in person and online, I have an amazing group of cheerleaders and many of you supported and enriched my marathon experience with encouragement, money, cheers and more. On behalf of IM ABLE, Russell and myself… thank you! And today I want to give you a glimpse inside one person’s story and how his life will be affected by your goodness.


Janet: Tell us a little about yourself.

Russell: I was very active physically when I was young, even into my teens and then a little less once I was in college. I didn’t get my license until I was 19 because I just walked or rode my bicycle most everywhere I needed to go.  I was never into running, as my frame and build wasn’t really conducive to it, but I had a mean sprint.  I loved to swim, hike and climb, occasionally took lessons in martial arts, and loved to wrestle and roughhouse.  Even though college slowed me down quite a bit I still was pretty active, but once I got into the work force it really slowed down quite a lot.  I gained a good amount of weight over the following years

Not long after college I met the woman who would become my wife through mutual friends, and after a short time I moved to PA and we started building a life together. I worked hard, had several good jobs along the way and a few not so good ones, and eventually got into a comfortable place with myself and my life.  I started working on both my physical and mental self, cutting down on the bad foods (less junk food and I cut out caffeine altogether), eating more of the good ones, and trying to have a better mental attitude (I was previously a classic pessimist with a temper) and living more in harmony and understanding with the people who intersected my life.  Things were going great and life was good!  I even managed to lose a few pounds here and there, but I was still too heavy.


On the morning of September 8th, 2010 I started my nearly 30 mile journey to work and my life changed forever.  I was stopped, waiting behind a “work truck” at a red light listening to the radio program I always did when driving to work when I just happened to look up into the rearview mirror as a pickup truck slammed into my car from behind.  As I started getting my wits back about me, I remember thinking to myself “Oh great, now I have to find another car” “How am I going to get to work?” “Damn, where did my glasses go?” and “I need to call my wife” all at the same time as it usually goes after something like that happens.

I’ve been in a few accidents before, so this was just another I’d have to deal with, right?

Then I realized my seat had broken and I had the lumbar support jamming me in the back pretty hard.  The acrid stench of the airbag having gone off filled the car, but the windows wouldn’t go down.  I tried to sit up to maybe open the door so I could get some air, but I was having a hard time doing that, and the pain in my back was pretty bad.  I thought the damage to the front end from the second impact of hitting the truck in front of me had trapped my legs under the dash.  It took awhile, but eventually the fire-rescue guys showed up and ended up having to remove the doors & cut the pillar out to get me out ‘safely’.  *That* was painful.  And by that time I had already been informed that my legs weren’t trapped by the dash.

Here’s something few people outside my family and close friends usually don’t know: My little brother had some issues during high school and after, (I wasn’t around since I was already married by that point) but he had made some poor choices and ended up getting in a bad accident.  He is a quadriplegic, and my wife has both a quad and a paraplegic in her extended family. So of course some of the things running through my head at that point were not good.  How was my Mom going to deal with hearing this?  After a very painful ambulance ride to the hospital, a helicopter ride downtown to a specialist hospital and then at my request transport to HUP (because my wife works for them and our insurance requires us to be at one of their facilities), I was told what the situation was and was put into surgery.

My L1 vertebra had sustained what is called a burst fracture.  That’s a fancy way of saying it was broken in several pieces.  They didn’t know how severe the damage was to my spinal cord at that point, but they were hopeful as I could just barely move my right foot slightly 6 or 8 hours after the event.  So they did a couple operations (at the same time), one to rebuild and bind the damaged vertebra and one to fuse it to the two adjoining vertebrae above and the two below to keep it stable enough so that it could both heal and prevent me from reinjuring it after. I was in the hospital for a week, on a whole lot of pain medication, and mentally numb.  The final diagnoses was that I was an ‘incomplete’ paraplegic, one where the spinal cord was bruised sufficiently through impact or swelling to impair function, but not always permanently.

Then I started inpatient rehab at Good Shepherd/Penn Partners.  I was still in a bit of a funk, but my wife knows me well and pretty much told me to knock it off in a tone that took little argument.  She was right of course, but it is so big of an adjustment to deal with. Instead of dwelling on it I threw myself into rehab as best as I could, I think even to the surprise of my therapists.  I did my best to maintain a positive outlook, always do my best at whatever tasks I was given and eventually even started to give encouragement to other patients that were having a hard time.  I was in for two months before I was ‘ready’ (though I was very much ready myself by then) to come home.  By the time I got home I had lost almost 40 lbs. just from my regimen at rehab.  It was a good start.

I had an orthosis for each leg, a full length one for the left and one for the right ankle, and with a lot of work could get around my house with a walker.  My house was too small to use a wheelchair, so that’s part of why it took a bit longer to get me ready to go home.  They had to make sure I could handle getting up and down stairs and wait for my orthotics to be made.  At first I had a Home Health Aid come in 5 days a week to help me dress, and shower, and get food for breakfast.  I did in home therapy twice a week, and was getting around a bit better.  I hit the limit of in-home therapy, no longer needed the aid (though I still needed my wife’s assistance for showering at that point) so then I went three days a week to a local establishment that had aqua therapy.  Eventually even the therapists there had done “about as much as we can do for you” so I continued to go a couple days a week doing supervised exercise, and still getting my time in the pool.

A few months later I got a call from my therapist downtown.  They were starting a support group and wanted me to come be a part of it.  It was a long way to go for a support group, but my wife took the time off each month to take me down.  One of the guests a few months in was a gentleman from a group called The Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports, which does all sorts of activities designed to get the disabled involved and active in physical activities.  They do rowing and hand cycling in the summer months and swimming and skiing in the winter, as well as some boating and kayaking here and there.  He was letting us know that cycling season was almost here and wanted to get some of us to come down.  My therapist there was a volunteer for the organization, and I always loved riding. Heck, I still was having trouble shedding more weight, so it was a win-win and I decided I was going to at least try it.

Russell on a roll!

I took to it pretty quickly.  It wasn’t the same as what a regular bike was, but it was fun and got me out and about by myself (on a closed course, but a pretty big one at that).  I even volunteered to participate in a race using one of the groups bikes.  I came in last, but I still managed to do pretty well.  I was a bit jealous of the guy who won.  He had a really nice racing hand cycle and lapped me every lap I did except the last one.  I want to be that fast.  I wasn’t going to be able to do it only cycling once a week like I had been.

So I applied for a grant to the IM ABLE Foundation so I could get a bike of my own.  It took a bit of work and some soul baring, but I just received my hand cycle, bought a training roller and have started riding regularly.  I’m going to be ready for the coming season. Next race, I am going to do my damnedest to not be in last place.  I may even manage to get rid of some more weight in the process!

Russell’s new bike (on a training roller) from IM ABLE

There’s a common thought that we can overcome obstacles… I’ve found that sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but we can learn to live well even with difficult obstacles. What obstacles have you been able to overcome?

Well, I can shower by myself now.  That was a big one for me.  Even getting up and down the stairs fairly well was a big challenge at first.  My wife would hover behind me (I always face the stairs, even going down) and assist me if I was having trouble clearing a step in the beginning.

What obstacles have you learned to live with? 

Not being able to drive.  That was difficult for me as I’ve always loved driving.  I logged over 1 million miles by the time I was in my early 30s.  I am looking forward to using a vehicle with hand controls someday, but it is an expensive prospect to go about.


What do you do that others are surprised you do?

Some people, even those I see fairly regularly are surprised at how well I move around, but really I suppose the biggest thing is that people are usually surprised at how well I deal with the whole situation, that I can have such a good mental attitude about such a lousy turn of events.  I have to say that there are days that it isn’t easy to do, but as I always like to say…

“It is what it is, so why not just enjoy what you have?”


In what ways do your obstacles affect your daily life that others might not be aware of?

Not just the legs were affected… Most people tend to forget there is a lot of other function from the hips down that gets affected.  I still don’t have sensation in some areas of skin, and even going to the bathroom is something that becomes a challenge to deal with, especially when going out.  When I am not actively working out I spend a lot of time on the computer writing, keeping up with family and friends, and playing the occasional game, so keeping the weight off can be a challenge if I am not vigilant.


What goals have you reached that you didn’t know if you could?

With this determined look, I’m thinking not much will stop Russell!

Not really anything so far… Now, if I ever get to the point where I can walk without a walker?  Then we’ll have something to put down for this category.  Everything I’ve done so far has been a lot of hard work, but I always figured that would be the case from day one.  Well, maybe from day eight (when I started rehab) ;)


What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

Driving again someday of course.  Being a bit more competitive in races; I do expect to do better, though I am realist enough to know I am very outclassed by those at the top.  For now anyway.  To become as self-sufficient as possible.  I’ve come quite a ways, but I always view it as there is more to do, so my overall goal is to keep going as long as I can.

What does a well-lived day look like to you… or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?

Not much different than I generally do now, but I suppose if I was dying I may want to have a fun day of movies and games capped off by a really excellent meal, and I’d want to have my friends and family by my side.  Family and friends are important to me.  Most of my family is physically distant, and while I don’t get to see some of them as much as I’d like to, I have some really great friends that have been here for me through everything.  I don’t know that I could do as much as I have been able to without that support.


Russell, thanks for sharing your story and here’s a few of my thoughts.

First: It was a pleasure to meet you and an honor to have you share your story here.

Second: I know you can’t do what you did pre-accident and adjusting to that sucks and it is hard. (freaking hard!) And I know you have many goals you want to reach and I applaud your desire and determination.
Having said that, I want to help you reframe one of your answers for this interview. You say you have nothing for the category of goals you’ve already reached.

You do Russell, you really do.
You are doing what you can, with what you have, where you are!

You made a choice to have a positive attitude.
You always did your best.
You threw yourself into therapy.
You encouraged other patients.
You walk with a walker.
You do steps.
You shower by yourself.
You’ve done aqua therapy.
You joined a support group.
You’ve competed in a cycle race.
You’re involved with The Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports.
You did the work to apply for the IM ABLE grant.
You came to the IM ABLE marathon send-off party.
You did this interview.
You got a roller for your new cycle.

You are doing what you can, with what you have, where you are! 

Third: Keep cranking on that cycle because we have some rides to do this spring and you don’t want me leaving you in the dust! 


Roll on Russel, Roll on!!
Because you are ABLE and because you CAN!


If you have any thoughts, encouragement or questions for Russell,
leave them in the comments.


*More of Your Inspiring Stories 
Brian Simpson—From Disability to Marathons, Because He Can!
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing, Because She Can!
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! 

Tuesday’s Treat—Hot Toddy and Cabbage/Vege Soup

When I decided to start sharing recipes each Tuesday, I didn’t plan to start with two hot drink recipes (last week’s Chai tea recipe) but thanks to the tundra-like weather we’re having and also to the bus flu that ran me over. (omg, that was the worse flu I think I’ve ever had! It was awful!!! I rarely use more than one exclamation point, so you know it was bad!!!!)

I’m not totally anti-meds, but I try to find other options whenever I can. So when sick, instead of popping meds, I look for natural alternatives. And one of the best I’ve found is a Hot Toddy taken whenever needed. Unless alcohol is a problem for you, don’t get hung up on the idea that you can’t drink before noon or 5pm or whatever your okay-hour is, you’d pop a pill at 8am, so why not drink a hot toddy and go back to sleep?

Sleep is the best thing for your body when you are sick. 

Thanks to Facebook, my friends knew I was sick (did you expect me to suffer in silence?) and my friend Tess, who is almost a neighbor (and on her 1,000th good deed of the year already) offered me some of the soup she was making. Jerry stopped in and picked it up on his way home from work (I am one blessed gal).

Many people suggest chicken noodle soup when sick, but since I eat a plant-based diet, this is a perfect alternative (and a better choice I think, because it has more vegetables in it)


Tess’s Cabbage/Vegetable Soup 

Tess’s Cabbage/Vegetable Soup

1 head of cabbage
1 sweet onion
A couple stalks of celery
3-4 carrots
1 or 2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans vegetable broth
1 envelope onion soup mix
large bottle of V8 or store brand vegetable juice
water to cover

Slice and dice veggies, add other ingredients and any spices you like (Italian, seasoned or sea salt, pepper, garlic, etc.) and simmer for a couple hours.

It’s usually better the second time you heat it up, so heat some up and savor the flavor a time or two each day.


Thankfully I’m feeling better now and I think I can resume life again without being surrounded by a mountain of tissues, cough drops, etc.

What are your favorite drinks/food when you are sick? 

Posted in Your Story

Brian Simpson—From Disability to Marathons, Because He Can!

I have the perfect story to inspire your mid-January day. Here is the first of YOUR STORIES for 2013. As you read Brian’s story, you’ll see why I was impressed with how he’s doing what he can, with what he has, where he is… because he can.


Janet: Tell us about yourself:

Brian Simpson: I am a RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist) and Exercise physiologist.  I have been an asthma educator for over 20 years.  This is something that has been near and dear to my heart as I have been a life-long sufferer of extremely severe asthma.  As most asthmatics seem to “out-grow” their asthma as they enter adulthood, mine did the opposite and progressed to a more severe lung disease known as COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

By the time I was in my mid 20’s, I was wearing supplemental oxygen most of the time.  In 2000, after many years of fighting to continue working, I finally gave in and went on full-time disability, at the age of 30.  The last 6 months that I worked as a respiratory therapist, I was wearing nasal oxygen to care for my patients.

Brian – 2009 (350 lbs)

After being disabled for almost 3 years, I was strong enough to return to work.  I had renewed my interest in music while being disabled.  I began playing the oboe, a musical instrument that uses a double reed to make sound.  This double reed produces great resistance to breathe against.  This, in time, strengthened my lungs and allowed me to return to work.  I remained living a life of “ups and downs” over the next 6-7 years.  The most important thing to me was that I was able to work full-time.  All of my efforts were placed on staying healthy enough to work.

On my 40th  birthday, I decided I was no longer going to accept just “sitting by and watching life go by”.  As a result of 20+ years of chronic prednisone use for my lung condition, I had watched my weight balloon to 350 lbs!  I had tried over the years to lose weight, but my lungs just did not allow any consistency in exercise.   I made a promise to myself to try one last time……this time I would succeed!

I found a wonderful personal trainer. He was an exercise physiologist who had just returned home and was seeking full-time employment as a Health and Phys Ed teacher.  I committed to training with him 3-5 times a week.  Initially requiring supplemental oxygen to walk on a treadmill.  Over the next 6 months, I had lost over 90 lbs.  Not only was I walking on a treadmill, but I was running!  It was unbelievable to me.  I had gone from barely being able to walk 5 minutes to running my first 10k ( in 59 minutes and 45 seconds, which I was quite impressed with!).  It was through the inspiration of this young man that I began my Masters degree in Exercise Science, which I completed in 2011.  In this March, I will begin a Doctorate in Global Health Policy.

First finisher’s medal!
with his friend Barb

In  the following months I did my first half marathon, then a second.  Then I decided to train for a marathon.  In September of 2011, I ran my first full marathon on Presque Isle, in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Since then, I also did the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2012 and several half marathons, including the 2012 Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon.  It was at the expo that I came across Janet.  I introduced myself to her and purchased her book.  What an inspiration she is to so many.

I am currently training for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, OH in May.  I am going to have the pleasure of running with a dear friend of mine, Teri Dahl.  This will be Teri’s first full marathon.  The interesting part of my friendship with Teri is that she was my hospice nurse when I was so ill in 2002-2003.  That is when I wasn’t expected to live and see the end of the year….that was almost 10 years ago.


There’s a common thought that we can overcome obstacles….I’ve found that sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but we can learn to live well even with difficult obstacles.  What obstacles have you been able to overcome? 

Well, despite still having stage IV lung disease (graded I-IV, mild to very severe) I have returned to work and am doing things I never thought possible.  I had never done so many things that most people take for granted.  I now hike, kayak, canoe, run, lift weights, and even can cut the grass.  None of these things had I been able to do as an adult.  I still have many limitations and must listen to my body on a daily basis.  I have good days and bad days.  I do as much as I can on good days, and I relax and focus on my health on bad days.  I have overcome the fear of dying. I now live and enjoy as much of life as I possibly can.


What obstacles have you learned to live with?

The main thing I have learned to live with is that no matter how great I feel, and how strong I may thing I am I still have extremely severe lung disease.  I went from being too ill for a lung transplant, to not wanting one because I feel so much better than I did.  When I had to stop working, my FEV-1% ( how much of your total lung volume you can exhale forcibly in one second ) was 9%.  Anything below 30% Is considered very severe.  Well, even though my FEV-1 may only be 20-25% now, that is still a more than double of what is use to be.  So, to me, I feel awesome.  If I were willing to accept it, I could still be on permanent disability….but, can a marathoner be disabled????  So, even though I still have to take many precautions, I am still here, still doing it…BECAUSE I CAN!


In what ways do these obstacles affect your daily life that others might not be aware of?

I think that all of my friends and family members that have seen me over the years, not to mention many patients I have cared for, don’t realize how poor my lung function still is.  Even though I look so much better and can do so much more than I could for years, I still have bad days.  Even a simple cold can require me to wear oxygen again.  My medication regime is still ridiculous in that I use nebulizers at least 4 times a day, still take high doses of prednisone, and carry a barrage of nebulizers with me at all times.  I receive a monthly injection, at the price of $1800 per month.  I must still pace myself with all of my activities.  One example was the Bird-In-Hand half marathon last fall.  I was not feeling well, it was very humid and overcast.  My PR for half marathons was 2:12.  That day, it was a struggle from mile 7 til the end.  I was so very short of breath and wheezing from miles 10-13.  I finished in a very disappointing 2:50….but I finished.  That Is what I need to remember.  10 years earlier, I was wearing oxygen and traveling in a wheel chair.

But, for the first time in my life, I am thrilled that people who see me, don’t know I have severe lung disease.  It is a great life to be treated as everyone else.  It is very difficult to take when an elderly lady offers you her seat in the middle of a shopping mall when she sees how much trouble you are having breathing, wearing oxygen.  That is not my life anymore!


What goals have you reached that you didn’t know if you could?

Well, first of all, I was not supposed to live to 35, let alone see 40…and now 43.  I actually think I will see 50 one day!

I never thought l could lose 10 lbs, let alone 120 lbs.  I never thought I could walk a 5k, let alone run a 10K (especially in under an hour).  I never thought I could run a half marathon, let alone 8.  And, most certainly never thought I could finish a full marathon, let alone two!  So, I guess other than staying alive, continuing to work full-time, and running there might not be anything else that I could surprise myself by doing.

You are amazing Brian! You’ve come so far!! 

At mile 25 of his first marathon on September 18,2011 wearing a shirt in his mother’s memory. She had passed just 2 weeks earlier from lung disease.


What do you do that others are surprised you do?

People that know me cannot believe that I run.  My friends and family have been at my bedside while I was being mechanically ventilated on a respirator.  They have seen my struggle with breathing and have no comprehension how I can run 1 mile, let alone 26.2 miles.


What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

My immediate goals are to fun another half marathon next month, in Phoenix, A, to begin my doctorate in March, and to run the Flying Pig Marathon in May.  As part of my training guide for the Flying Pig, I will run a 28 mile long run.  This has lead me to dream of completing an ultra marathon this year, so that is the next milestone: THE ULTRAMARATHON.


What does a well-lived day look like to you….or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?

Ummm, that’s a tough one….But I know what I would do:  I would get a few friends together (and of course my best friend, Duke, my 4 year old English springer spaniel) and do one last lovely run here in northwestern Pa.  Perhaps a beautiful 15 miler.  I can’t think of a better way to spend my last day.  I would do this, for one reason…BECAUSE I CAN!  I live each day to the fullest. 


If you have any thoughts, encouragement or questions for Brian, leave them in the comments or connect with him on his Facebook Page: Brian Simpson


*More of Your Inspiring Stories
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can

Running Truly is for all Ages
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Roni Noone does Fitbloggin’—Because She Can!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! 
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing, Because She Can! 


Tuesday’s Treat—Chai Tea

In about half of the world, we are dealing with some level of cold winter weather and/or sickness, which means many are flocking to cafes, shops or restaurants for hot drinks. If chai tea is a one of your hot drink choices, how about heading to your own kitchen?

You will not only save money, but also be able to tweak your chai tea to your exact tastes. I first saw a recipe similar to the one below in a magazine in the winter of 2005 when I was in the middle of my physical recovery after the accident.

At the time, I’d rarely, if ever, had a cup of chai tea, but a few years earlier I had cardamom tea made by a woman from India and I loved it. Plus, I remembered reading that cinnamon helps with healing, and knowing I needed all the help I could get, I copied the recipe. After a trip to the store for the ingredients I didn’t have (warning, cardamom isn’t cheap) I began making it.

The taste of this chai tea can’t even be compared to chai tea powders or bags!
chai tea recipe
Sit back, relax and enjoy!


For the next year or so, I drink a few cups of this a week, even in the summer because I grew to love it and I felt like it helped with my healing. Sometime later, I served some to a friend visiting from Kenya. He was surprised that I made chai tea from scratch, because it’s popular in Kenya (though they tend to like it much sweeter) but he rarely had any here.

I mentioned my theory that I thought it helped with my healing. And he said, “Yes, it does! In Kenya whenever anyone is sick or injured, they drink more tea because all the spices in it help with healing.” Who knew?!

I’ve experimented with the spices and my preferences are…
Cinnamon stick instead of the ground (there is a serious difference in taste)
Ground cardamom instead seeds (I can’t tell a difference in taste and the ground is easier)
Fresh ginger instead ground (though I often use ground because it’s easier than fresh)

Cheers! To staying warm and to healing well!

Experiment, enjoy and let me know what you think of it.


Posted in Personal

Will You Discover You’ve Turned into the Wrong Person?

“Once upon a time,
there was a woman who discovered
she had turned into the wrong person.”

Anne Tyler, opening line of Back When We Were Grownups


I’ve not seen the movie or read the book this quote is from, but now I want to. But in the meantime, this quote made me look back over my life and think about the different times when I made deliberate changes, because I didn’t like the person I would have turned into had I stayed on that path.

'I'm a child because I don't want to grow up' photo (c) 2013, Adrian Serghie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Until age 20 my strict mennonite family and the community I grew up in ruled my life. Everything was done for the collective good, there wasn’t much discussion about individual choices, other than each person was highly encouraged to make a choice to follow the status quo without question. Everyone was expected to fill predefined roles. The only choices available for a girl were to be a wife and mother. If (god-forbid) that didn’t happen, a girl might become a school teacher, nurse or another caregiver rule.

The boundaries and limited choices felt suffocating to me,
plus while I like people, I’m not exactly caregiver material.


Early 20s: I got married and left that world to explore life outside those boxes.
Mid 20s: I had three boys. Mothering three toddlers is tough for anyone, and especially for someone who is not a natural caregiver.
Late 20s: Needing something for my sanity, I made some changes and started running.

I began discovering glimpses of the woman I’d like to turn out to be.

Early 30s: Boys, bills and a business ruled my life.
Mid 30s: Life was good, but it wasn’t what I (and my husband) wanted.
We took a hard look at our reality and decided it was time to make changes.
Late 30s: Sold business, property and house.
Along with our sons, we moved into a motorhome for a long slow trip around the country.

Then a 6-vehicle accident caused me to almost lose myself (in all respects)


Early 40s: Injuries and depression ruled my life.
Mid 40s: Growing old as a miserable, depressed bitch didn’t thrill me. So I took a hard look at my reality and did what I had to do to live well again. Counseling and running helped.

Late 40s: I’m loving life. It’s not perfect, but living in the tension of celebrating all the good that happened, while being honest about all the disappointments I live with is helping me not only survive, but thrive. And I’m again discovering glimpses of the woman I’d like to turn out to be.

I hope I will always be willing to look at my reality and be willing to make choices and changes if I have to… so I will never discover I’ve turned into the wrong person.


Are you willing to honestly look at your reality? And then make choices and changes if you need to, so you don’t discover you’ve turned into the wrong person?
Posted in Uncategorized

Get Outside Every Day and Other Great Rules for Life

The post below was written by Regina Brett for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. Last year I had the honor of meeting Regina when she spoke at a local event. Then she interviewed me a few months ago for a segment called Gratitude During Tough Times for her NPR Show.

The post below has been circulating via email and on Facebook. In many of the posts, Regina Brett is said to be 90 years old. If Regina is 90, I sure hope I look as good as her and am as fit at her at age 90! Truth is Regina is not 90, she is in the 50s. Info here.

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it..

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.

9. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

10. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

11. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

12. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

13. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it…

14 Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

15. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

16. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

17. It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

18. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

19. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

20. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

21. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

22. The most important sex organ is the brain.

23. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

24. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

25. Always choose life.

26. Forgive but don’t forget.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does..

31. Believe in miracles.

32. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

33. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

34. Your children get only one childhood.

35. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

36. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

37. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

38. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have not what you need.

39. The best is yet to come…

40. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

41. Yield.

42. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

- Regina Brett


The statements I have put in bold are the ones I like the best…
What are your favorites?


Will There be Obstacles when Pursuing a Dream?

I wanted to feel better.
I wanted to not be depressed. 
I wanted to have more energy.  
I wanted to feel carefree like I did as a young child. 
I wanted to run again, but I didn’t want to go through the process of starting to run.

After some time of wishing, but not doing, I got it through my thick skull that nothing magical was going to happen. If I wanted those things, I was going to have to do something. There was no other way. So tentatively, slowly, and carefully, I started running. A few times a week, I’d put running shoes on and try to ignore the voices in my head.

Can I?
What if I fail?
Can my body handle it?
What if I start and then give up?  

Compared to many, my workouts were nothing spectacular, but for my body they were impressive. I’d alternate 2 minutes of walking with 30 seconds of running for a mile…
or depending on the day, my body or my mindset, I’d only manage to go half a mile.

It was hard.
Extremely, difficult, hard.
Adjusting to my post-accident body was tough.
I had aches and pains from numerous massive injures.
Countless times I debated why I was even attempting it, but I kept going.
'Obstacle Race - Dornoch Highhland Gathering 2007' photo (c) 2007, John Haslam - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Then another hurdle. Real life doesn’t stop as we pursue dreams and for a time my walk/runs became even more sporadic. My sister Rosene developed health issues that summer, so I spent more and more time with her.

On many of those days, running was the farthest thing from my mind and
on the days I did think about running, I wondered if I would ever return to it.

That autumn Rosene lost her battle with life. As I grieved, I was drawn to what makes me feel better. And that’s being outdoors. Since the temps were getting colder, it was more comfortable to walk than just sit. So walks it was. And I found that the walks helped both my mind and my body feel better.

So I stopped thinking about it so much. About whether I could or couldn’t do it. About what the outcome might be. Instead I did what I could. I went for walks because they helped me get through the day. Slowly I added some running to my walks again.

Rosene had always inspired me. Even though she lived with Cerebral Palsy and other health obstacles, she had always lived life to the fullest. So in her honor, I wanted to do the same.

I knew living life to the fullest involved being active.
And for me being active meant running.

Yes, there were obstacles and the odds were stacked against me, but I kept going. I ignored the voices in my head (and occasionally from others) and pursued my dream of running. I read running magazines and books, especially about running with a body that seemed unsuited for running. I knew if I could get pass the hurdles of starting, running would be good for me.

So I kept going.
Cautiously and carefully, but I kept going.
Making adjustments to my pace and stride, I kept going.
Without knowing where this journey would take me, I kept going. 

So will there be obstacles when pursuing a dream?
When wanting to make changes?
When keeping a resolution?
Hell yeah! But don’t quit.

Day by day, Choice by choice, Step by Step.
Keep going…

Posted in Health,

Resolutions, Routines and Kitchen Staples

Do you see any of your resolutions in this list of the
Top Ten New Years Resolutions for 2012?
  1. Lose Weight
  2. Getting Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

 from Statistic Brain


As you can see more than one of the top ten involves food. So if you made resolutions, chances are one of them is about your food choices. The interesting thing about the food we consume is that some (most?) of what we eat to due to our routines.

We routinely grab the same snack.
We routinely make the same meals.
We routinely stop at the same fast food restaurants or convenience stores.
We routinely buy many of the same things every time we go to the grocery store.

So changing your routine could be the key to keeping your resolution.

This week, buy at least one different healthy item when you go shopping, find a tasty way of preparing it (google only has a few zillion recipes, so I think you should be able to find one you like) and add it to your meal routine

I aim to eat food as close to it’s natural source as possible, which means I keep certain healthy staples in my kitchen to prevent myself from falling into the routine of eating junk food due to time and convenience.

Basic Healthy Kitchen Staples List

If your kitchen more closely represents a chemical factory than a garden, don’t try to buy everything at once. Focus on one or two things, buy them, add them to your daily routine and then try a few other things.

Note the items that might be staples in your house (oreos, soda, candy, snack crackers, cupcakes, etc) that the list doesn’t include… and only buy them for birthdays or other special occasions.

Happy Routine Breaking and Happy Resolution Keeping!


This list caters to my food preferences… what healthy staple is in your kitchen?