slow down, detour ahead

April 29, 2013 § 6 Comments

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My encounter with cancer almost two years ago changed me. An obvious statement perhaps, but I’m not talking about the remnants of treatment – scars and other body changes from surgery, the neuropathy (lack of feeling) in fingertips or toes from chemotherapy, more frequent forgetfulness and loss of words that I attribute to “chemo-brain” rather than aging, and the cloud of worry that slowly dissipates as time moves you further away from the milestone of NED (no evidence of disease), more commonly known as remission, but never known as cured. My “core” has changed too. I try to be more patient with myself and with others, more accepting and less judgmental, more joyful and less worried, forgiving and forgetting small injustices and inconveniences, appreciating life daily. As I gradually re-insert myself into the world of work, I’m less concerned with the size of the paycheck and benefit package, and more with the mission and ethics of the company I’ll keep and the amount of good we can do. And work needs to fit into the rest of my life, rather than the reverse which was how things were B.C. (before cancer).

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I flew into L.A. three weeks ago for a long weekend visit with my parents. Although I had only planned to stay a few days, my dad who’s nearing 90 ended up in the hospital the day after I arrived. He came home three days later, but the cause of the loss of consciousness that sent him off in an ambulance was still a mystery. It was time to check-in online for my flight back to Denver. But wintry weather and snowy conditions prompted Southwest to offer passengers the opportunity to re-book their flights up to two weeks later and waive any fare increase. I took the detour.

That extra two weeks ends soon; I fly back this Wednesday with another forecast of Front Range snow, but probably not enough to delay travelers this time. The time, as the popular refrain goes, was well spent. Dad’s back at home and gradually getting back to his old self and routines minus driving. He, mom and the whole family are much more aware of the need for better health and wellness self-care for both of them. We three sisters made calendar commitments to visit often for fun and just to see how they’re doing (and not just take the “We’re fine!” in a phone conversation at face value). Dad had several follow-up appointments after his hospital stay, so mom and I got to meet his medical team of “regular doctor, heart doctor and kidney doctor” as he calls them. And although our family dynamics can sometimes/often be annoying, irritating and downright messy, we almost seamlessly pulled together to make things better right away and for the future. Best of all, we re-connected, shared the love and had some fun too.

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I had some quiet time on my own strolling in a beautiful and funky Venice Beach neighborhood under a clear blue sky.

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Venice can also be charmingly retro and just plain bizarre.

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Of course I had to swing by Santa Monica and hang with the farmers market crowd. I lugged home three heavy bags of the most diverse load of produce I’ve ever bought at a farmers market. My haul represented what would normally be three seasons in Colorado and included

  • Winter – tangerines, grapefruits, a pomelo (of course these don’t even grow in my state), potatoes
  • Spring – mizuna, ruby streaks mustard, arugula, sugar snap peas, radishes, baby turnips, spring onions, spring garlic, strawberries
  • Summer – tomatoes, eggplant, baby zucchini, bell peppers, daikon radish, green beans, fennel

Although my mom no longer prepares elaborate meals for just the two of them, she instilled in me and my sisters the love of good food, well prepared and artfully presented. Here’s a few of the dinners and dishes we enjoyed together over the past several days with that cornucopia of vegetables.

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Sister and niece served a Chinese dish of bean threads and minced pork called “Ants in a Tree” with gently steamed green beans and rice one night. A salad of fennel, orange and slivered onion was a side dish for dinner on another.

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Mom made soba (not pictured) and shrimp tempura, while I prepared the vegetable dishes of blanched mizuna (cut and served cold with ponzu, a light citrus soy sauce) and seared Japanese eggplant drizzled with a miso-sesame sauce. Another night minced chicken in lettuce wraps repeated the Chinese theme of “ants”, small bits of seasoned meat.

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Tofu soup, radish tsukemono (quick salted pickles) and a chicken-egg-vegetable donburi (over rice) made a lovely and delicious meal. I found a frayed and well-splattered recipe in one of mom’s old cookbooks to make one of the best lemon meringue pies we’ve ever eaten!

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Memories refreshed, I happily return home.

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§ 6 Responses to slow down, detour ahead

  • Megan says:

    Wonderful :)

  • Mary Hirsch says:

    Welcome back. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this Post. Everyone should take that first paragraph of yours and post it where they look at it everyday. Why does it take something like cancer or a decade of Alzheimer care or the premature loss of a loved one to make us re-evaluate how we live our lives. Human nature, I suppose. I know it felt wonderful, after experiencing the past three weeks, to write about it. And, you did that in such a lovely way. Your food looks, as always, magnificient. I know your husband will be glad to have you home. I am determined that you and I shall meet this Summer. And, I expect to count on your good advice as I re-acquaint myself with the food agricultural community in the Grand Junction area and beyond. Marilyn, was that a Better Homes & Garden Cookbook? I’ve been pleased to see your Blog pop up in my e-mail alerts again.

  • Beverly Winchester says:

    A beautiful homily & the food was even more so; may you continue to be well.

  • So nice to read you again Marilyn. You have a way with words that I find very centered. It´s very real how our priorities change when faced with true adversity. And now you have to see to your parents and can do so from an entirely different perspective.
    The diversity of food you all prepared is wonderful! Hope to see you soon again.

  • Marilyn, what an absolutely inspiring and touching post – I so enjoyed reading it and I am amazed at all the wonderful pictures of the dishes that were cooked by you and your family while you stayed with your parents! The asian dishes that you prepared really caught my attention (I adore eggplant, asian style, I found a recipe a few years ago in Bon Appétit) but the picture of your mom´s recipe is even more adorable.
    I am looking forward to all your up-coming posts – do take good care of yourself and “see” you soon.
    P.S.: Could I please have a taste of that fabulous Lemon Meringue Pie?!

  • Tammy says:

    My favorite kind of post to read! Glad to hear your father is on the mend, and I love the photo of that tattered recipe. If the recipe looks that wrecked, you know the pie’s got to be amazing. Perhaps you can recreate it for double pi day (6.28 — we’re throwing a party, of course!)

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