Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Does Life Have to Teach You?

Have you ever wondered when and how your life became what it is today? All week I have been in an introspective mood, probably due to lack of sleep over the last three days. No matter what the reason I wanted to share some of what I have been thinking about. Those of you who have been reading for a while know a lot of this, though there is some new information, but I wanted to talk about it in a different way in the hope that something I write will resonate with more people.

I have always believed that ideas are what make everything happen. Without ideas where would any of us be? What do I mean by this? When the oncologist said there was nothing that we could do to keep the cancer under control I viewed that as a challenge. I knew in my gut that lifestyle mattered and I was not going to stop until I understood the science behind how it could make a difference. Additionally, I was determined to show the oncologist that lifestyle could impact cancer. I am not sure that I have gotten through to the MD, but everything for us is going great so that doesn’t matter as much to me now. It took me a while but I now realize that all people see what they are ready for and no more. Maybe one day more doctors will be open to treatments that include lifestyle change. I know many people listen to their doctor religiously but fortunately that doesn’t describe us. We are practical about treatment but are also open to ideas that most MDs think absurd, like lifestyle changes.

If there was one thing I knew early on during this journey it was that what I do (and what you do) matters in life. Every moment each of us has a choice to make. What are we going to do? How are we going to react to something that happened to us? We each make decisions all day long that we don’t give much thought to. Going back to the last post, if you hate your job and it makes you miserable that is a decision that you made. The job doesn’t create your misery you do.

Cancer happened to us, and it sucked, but that didn’t mean that we had to allow it to take control of our lives. Also it didn’t take me long to realize that I could learn from cancer and use what it taught me and share it with others. I have always believed that when you learn you are obligated to teach. Additionally I think that all of us are here for a reason. My reason at this time is to share what I have learned about nutrition and how it impacts health.

I can imagine some of you are reading this thinking, where the heck did this come from? I completely understand why you would have that reaction. If I had read this pre-cancer I might have had the same reaction. Cancer has a way of cutting through the noise, the garbage, and getting to the heart of what really matters most. While cancer is a horrible scourge it can also be the ultimate teacher if you are open to the lessons it brings. In my case cancer has taught me many things including:

• Life is short, don’t waste it whiny, complaining or hating
• Don’t bother to get upset about little things which don’t matter
• You don’t have control over anyone but yourself (this was really tough for me)
• When you make sense people will listen, though they may not change
• If you truly care about others you will reach them on some level

Once I started learning from cancer I knew that I needed to do something with my new knowledge but I didn’t actually know what that meant. In the beginning it was enough to share recipes and teach people that they could eat healthy food that also tasted terrific. Initially I thought that food was all that I had to share because it was something that I was comfortable writing about. However it didn’t take long before writing about cooking became boring for me. After all cooking isn’t exactly mentally stimulating stuff. That is why I share so many links to scientific studies on my Facebook page. At least that stuff makes you think and keeps your mind engaged. Not to mention I love learning since it helps me to put more pieces together. However I also thought that I should go beyond food and science since I know that attitude and mood make a big difference in terms of health.

Back to cancer, it has taught me that I cannot survive in this world relying on myself. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Before cancer I thought that I was island and that as long as I took care of myself that was all that mattered. Of course that was short sighted and selfish. My excuse for that behavior is that I was young and immature then, okay younger not exactly young. ;-) As I have gotten older I have started to realize that what we all put out into the world really does make a difference. That is why I try to share things that go beyond food. I also believe that life is about growth and change. When you are no longer growing it is time to change. That is another reason that my blog continues to morph as time passes.  I will still be writing about food but also about other things as well.

Additionally good luck, or bad luck, is not really something that I believe in. In terms of good luck I think that what people call luck is actually better described as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Everything that has happened in your life is preparing you for the moments that are to come in your life. Additionally I believe that everyone’s life has a pattern and those patterns leads all of us to our purpose. Where do you feel most at home? Knowing where you are comfortable will lead you to your purpose. I bet you already know what my purpose is; it just took me longer to figure it out because I am stubborn.

I also believe things show up in your life that you are supposed to notice. In my case what kept showing up in my life was health, nutrition, and caring for other people. For decades I have been interested in food and the impact of food on health though I had no idea what to do with that if anything. It took me a long time to figure out what I should do with the idea. However on some level I knew that I needed to stay true to what was important to me, what I now see as my purpose in life.

I also believe that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every thought that we think is going to create an action that will come back. In my case early actions resulted in “bad luck”. Of course it wasn’t luck at all it was my actions causing other actions which I didn’t like. Fortunately I figured this out before it was too late. I am pointing this out in case it causes you to think about your actions and whether they are leading you in the direction that you do not want your life to go. A perfect example of this would be hating your job and dreading going there each day. With an attitude like that is there any wonder why your day would be less than stellar?

For years I would joke and say that I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I must be a slow learner because it was in my 40’s before I had any inkling what I was passionate about other than cooking. In the process of teaching myself everything that I could learn about health and nutrition I started to understand what it was that I loved. A funny thing happens when you love what you are doing. When you are happy you tend to spend more time on things and you naturally do them better. Additionally when you do things well people tend to notice which is what continues to happen for me. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who ask me questions about nutrition and health. I also believe that whenever you work hard and do your best you are preparing yourself for opportunity.

During my path to learn about nutrition and realized this was something that I would love to turn into a career. After all since I was happy doing it for free getting paid to do it would be even better right? Are you starting to see where this is going? ;-) I have decided to put my nutrition knowledge to work and to see if I can turn it into a career. Exactly what that career will look like I am not 100% certain yet though I have some ideas. However I am working on that now and as soon as I have it completely worked out I will let you know. Assuming that I stick to my schedule I should have things worked out in the next month or so. Wish me luck as I think I am going to need it. If you have any suggestions or ideas please feel free to share I would love to know what you think.

Since I suspect some of you are wondering …. yes, I am planning to continue writing this blog. In addition to this blog I am planning to have a second blog for the business that I am working on. I will also be writing a newsletter that will be free and when I have that ready to go I will let you know how you can sign up. There is a lot going on in my life at the moment as you can see. Good thing I thrive on being busy huh? ;-)

Feline Update:

Like the last time the cats had to fast Nicco (Binky) is certain that he is going to starve overnight without any kibble to eat. I should lock the cats out of the bedroom but that seems so mean since they like to sleep in the bed with us and I can't do that to them. I am paying the price for that decidions in terms of lack of sleep exactly like the last time. Dan was sweet enough to drive Luca to the hospital and back Tuesday. Good thing because I was too tired to do it safely.

Luca Belle had two molars removed and she was not a happy girl Tuesday night. However she usually isn’t a happy cat so her behavior isn’t markedly different from normal. ;-) She is on two medications now, one for pain and an antibiotic. Let’s hope she continues to be more cooperative about taking these meds compared to how she behaves about her asthma meds.

Overall she seems to be doing well just a little sore from the operation. She is feeling good enough to swat at her brothers which she seems to love to do based on how often she does it. Since Tuesday night I have been trying to keep Luca out of the crunchy kibble. I am taking that a sign that she is feeling well. Clearly her appetite has not been impacted by the surgery based on her often I have been feeding her Wednesday and Thursday.


I have been remiss in my food photography duties lately. I guess this is what happens when you are operating on 4 hours of sleep or less for three days in a row. After I drive my father to the orthodontist today I am going to relax and maybe take a nap this afternoon. I can feel myself really starting to drag now.

I did photograph a snack of peaches and cinnamon raisin hummus. This hummus I bought at the farmers’ market but I will be making my version of this soon because it is really good. Who knew sweet hummus would be so good? I am usually more of a savory girl but I am enjoying sweet flavored hummus much more than I ever expected.

I also made an eggplant and shitake dish in curried tomato sauce. To this I added a few diced dried apricots for a little sweetness. I served this over quinoa and finished it with cilantro and cashews

There was also a “crème” of lentil soup with shitakes that was made similar to this split pea soup. I flavored the soup last night with Spanish seasonings including: sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, and lemon. I added some leftover bulgur to the soup just before serving. The soup was topped with fresh cilantro and sliced almonds.

Of course there was salad too.  This on was shaved zucchini, tomato, marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers, basil, nutritional yeast, red wine vinegar and fresh basil.  Since I like to finish my salad with nuts or seeds this one had pine nuts.

Happy thoughts:

• It was a huge relief to hear out little fuzz ball Luca Belle came through surgery fine. We were both concerned about her undergoing anesthesia because she is a little chubette. Thankfully there was nothing to worry about. In fact she seems to have bounced back faster than Massimo which I didn’t expect.

• Having a low key week is something that I am very thankful for. Three days with little sleep has been much easier to take when I can play things by ear.

• Things are going well in Grenada which also makes me very happy. We might have a small paperwork delay to contend with but that is not the end of the world. Our girl will be here soon and a potential short delay is certainly not worth getting upset about.

• We have another concert coming up in August which I am starting to look forward to…of course it is more jazz. :-) For my fellow jazz fans the next concert is Euge Groove. I love listening to live jazz in case you hadn’t noticed.

• I am looking forward to Saturday because all the cats will be eating the same food again and that means I will be able to leave the dry kibble down. Having kibble available for the fur children to free feed means I will get sleep again. *woo hoo* Sleep is definitely something to be thankful for.

• Additionally I am also extremely thankful to all of you who take the time to read. It makes me very happy that so many of you are interested in eating a better diet and that I can offer you ideas for what to feed your family.

Signing Out:

Now it is time for me to get a little rest before Dan gets home from work. We started watching “Wind” last night for the first time since it came out. I guess it isn’t a surprise that we would like movies about sailing.

Wish me luck getting some sleep tonight. I am doing my best to get back to daily posting but without sleep that hasn’t been possible this week. Talk with you again soon.

If you any thoughts about this post please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks! :-)


  1. Interesting updates, Ali! I found an intriguing website last week -- perhaps it has connections to what you're interested in doing:

    Also, here's a post from Barb, a blogging friend from the Dr. Fuhrman community:

    A local friend and I have mused on the idea of offering educational videos and a mini-spa-day kind of thing with healthy foods and walks in my gorgeous rural neighborhood, but not really as a business. ( I don't want to worry about health codes, etc. )

    I look forward to seeing your ideas!

  2. Cindy,

    Thanks for the links I will definitely check them out. I am always open to new ideas. :-)

    Any business with food involved does bring up a lot of health dept regulations. Good idea to stay clear of those.


  3. Ali- I'm glad to hear you're turning your passsions into a career. You are a gifted writer, teacher and cook. Also one heck of a researcher. Many have and many wil benefit from your efforts.

  4. Megan,

    Awww, thanks! I really appreciate the encouragement. :-)


  5. "It took me a while but I now realize that all people see what they are ready for and no more."

    so true. you have given me advice nd so have other people. when you take good advice, good things happen!!!

    "I know many people listen to their doctor religiously but fortunately that doesn’t describe us."

    as for your new career! how exciting! maybe you could be a personal cancer coach working with people that want to do things differently like you guys did!!if i cant coerce you into doing a cookbook:) this would be just as good. i really believe that when you stop thinking the world revolves around you, life gets better. i had that pounded into me by my best friend when i was 17. i was a selfish nugget.

  6. OMGOSH luca is just like me!!! after i got ALL FOUR wisdom teeth removed i wanted a burrito. despite the fact that when i tried to take my pain meds it fell/drooled out of my mouth because everything was so swollen.

    because i thought you would want to know....


  7. Michelle,

    If it makes you feel any better I still have to remind myself that people will hear when they are ready. That is tough one for me. ;-)

    I am considering working with cancer patients but I don't know that I am tough enough for that. I only get through cancer by thinking about it in the abstract. Somehow I think surrounding myself with cancer patients may be too hard for me.

    The cookbook idea is not completely out of the question yet. First though I want to focus on helping people.

    It is difficult to imagine you as selfish.

    Luca is eating again now. That child has a voracious appetite. LOL, I will tell her you understand. ;-)


  8. I love this post, Ali. Thanks so much for sharing your process and your path. The beauty of life is that we never stop learning--I love how much you (and I) value those learning experiences.


  9. Laura Jill,

    Thank you for letting me know that you liked this post. I am never quite sure what to write these days and have been winging it, more or less.

    I love learning! Clearly I could have been a college student forever and would have loved that life. Too bad I didn't get my PhD since I probably should have been a teacher. On the bright side had I done that it would have been in finance of organizational behavior and that is not where my passion is now. The universe was trying to tell me business would not be my lifelong focus years ago when I opted to stop at my Master's degree.

    talk to you soon,

  10. I really appreciate you sharing all the knowledge you've acquired on nutrition and health. I suspect you will do very well with your new business/career. I'm so looking forward to seeing how it all develops. I am a fan and I will be following you all the way. Good luck!

  11. Elizabeth,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, that means a lot. This was tough for me to decide to do since I am mostly self taught. But friends have been bugging me to do this for a while. It just took me a while to realize that I knew enough to make a go of it. I tend to be overly cautious and overthink things in case you hadn't noticed. LOL ;-)

    thanks again for the encouragement,

  12. Ali, I love your "winging it." The post right before this one was excellent too, and I could really relate to it from when I was in a rock bottom place just a few weeks ago. And now everything is awesome, though nothing changed. NOTHING. Except for my attitude. I may have been lying to myself at first when I started telling myself that I love my job, but now I actually believe it--three great weeks in a row, my students can see the difference, my colleagues can see the difference. It's amazing. Attitude really is everything.


  13. LJ,

    It took me a long time to figure out how much attitude mattered in life. I wrote that post hoping someone else would learn that lesson much younger than I did.

    Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. :-)

    big hugs,

  14. What about teaching a cancer prevention class? You could target groups who are at higher risk of getting cancer. That might allow you to work with the population you most relate to without the stress of working with folks who are currently receiving treatment. Just a thought...

  15. Traci,

    Brilliant idea! Thank you so much for sharing it. I will definitely do some research on that! :-)



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