Do Me A Solid?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, No Whining, Soulful

So, I like boobs and I’m guessing you do, too. Because of this common bond, I’m going to ask the following favors of you:

1) Get a mammogram if advised or, if not advised (male or too young), encourage a woman that has been putting it off to get one.
2) Only buy pink crap in October if you are buying it anyways. Otherwise, donate the money directly to a worthy cause. Then 100% of your money will go to the charity, instead of 2%.
3) Do a monthly breast screening, females and males. In the shower, with soap, grope yourself. Men get it, too. And boys, check out your danglies while you’re at it!
4) Realize that you are your own hero in cancer prevention, breast or otherwise. If you see something suspicious, regardless of where it is, GET IT CHECKED OUT!

I personally thank you for following the above steps, if you choose to. ♥

Unlike my FB and G+ posts, I’m going to add an additional favor:
Please give a moment of thought as to whether or not you have anything you would like to voice in my Breast Cancer Anthology. I have a few amazing works already, and have been promised more. I would love to include more writing, however, including images. If you are afraid you will not make it into the book, write it and send it along anyways. Sometimes sending things out into the world can be very cathartic. Also, you can submit as Anonymous, although, if selected, it adds a level of complication for the compensation.

Rock Concert and Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Chooch, Music

On Friday, April 22nd, my husband’s band, Ditched by Kate, will be playing at Axum’s Level X Lounge in DC. They will generously donate their profits for the evening in a split between myself and two other ladies that are raising funds for breast cancer charities.

For the $10 cover charge, you get entry to the concert where you will enjoy a delightful show by Ditched by Kate and Shana Tucker (ChamberSoul cellist, singer-songwriter). She has a great vibe and truly lovely music.

And while having all this fun, you will have the knowledge that you have contributed to the very worthwhile cause of giving hope to the dream that our daughters and granddaughters will never die of this horrible disease.

There will hopefully be an opportunity to buy raffle tickets for a prize that is currently being determined, but I’ll post details when that is decided.

There will definitely be Ditched By Kate merchandise on sale. Come and enjoy this celebration of life with us!

Vegetarian Leanings

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Health, Chooch, Cooking, Cooking, ExperiMENTAL

As a bonus of all the amazing people we’ve met in the last four years, my palate has grown immensely. What with food allergies, diabetes, vegetarians, vegans and all manner of eating preferences you must either be willing to try new foods or choose to eat crap from a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to the event.

We’ve tasted a long list of new foods, most delicious but some not. One particular day in February, I had my first cucumber sandwich, my first artichoke dish and my first ever Ethiopian restaurant. My favorite? The Ethiopian cuisine, and along-side it, the Ethiopian honey wine (mead). Thanks to Mia, John, Thomas and Andrea for the experience!

When hosting or attending pot-lucks, I typically feel the need to bring dishes that most, if not all, can enjoy. Because of this I’ve done a lot of experimentation with vegan/vegetarian cooking. Some dishes have been utter failures and some have been successes. Luckily, I’m not alone in this quest since those friends are eager to share what they’ve learned over the years. Whether tips, tricks, products, or explanation of concepts, I eagerly try to absorb all they say.

One of the biggest surprises? Marshmallows aren’t vegetarian because they contain gelatin. Oops! You can make or buy vegan/vegetarian marshmallows, but you have to work hard to find them or make them. I’ve decided it’s just not worth it for the only things I use marshmallows for: Rice Krispie treats and dipping in the chocolate fountain.

Another surprise was that granulated and brown sugar are not always vegetarian. Sugar cane is frequently processed with bone char to remove color. Artificial sweetners (Splenda and the like) are also off limits because of the animal testing that was done to get them to market. That leaves some raw sugars and agave nectar. I’m finding that converting existing dessert dishes is problematic, especially since my cheesecakes are a big part of my repertoire. I’m mainly trying new recipes that already call for these ingredients, and have found great success there.

And while I know there is controversy, I use meat substitutes when I cook vegetarian. I have to. My husband doesn’t eat beans of any kind, and I have to get more protein in the dish somehow. I only use the ones I think are tasty, and only in ways that I think are flavorful. Thanks again to friends guiding me to the better products and how to best use them.

There are breast cancer risk concerns about having too much soy, but we don’t eat soy meat substitutes more than maybe twice a week.

If I’m cooking vegan or vegetarian and my husband isn’t going to be there, I happily use beans. He dislikes them intensely and will not eat them because of an allergic type reaction. Growing up, I had beans a few times a week, so this has been a big sacrifice. I miss beans in some family favorite recipes, but I still get them a few times a week.

Favorite Products:

  • Earth’s Balance as a butter substitute. For years I used Smart Balance, but thanks to Andrea Gideon I now use EB instead as a spread and in cooking/baking. It has a truer butter flavor, even in pralines! You heard me, pralines!
  • Paulette Jaxton introduced me to Field Roast brand sausage substitutes. The Italian variety tastes better than any other Italian sausage I’ve ever had, possibly because there are no weird hard chunks that make me wonder what part of what animal it came from. They also offer an apple sage and chipotle variety that I have yet to try.
  • Fake meat crumbles, again thanks to Paulette – Morningstar crumbles are great in spaghetti/nacho cheese/soups. They break down more than ground meats, so you won’t keep that chunky texture. But you will add low fat protein, and it absorbs flavors wonderfully.
  • Gardenburger’s black bean/chipotle patties are seriously tasty. When I need to eat something quickly, this is what I reach for. A patty on a whole wheat sandwich round is filling and delicious, especially topped with romaine or spinach and salsa. It also packs a nice protein/fiber and nutrient-rich punch.
  • Beans – Black and Pinto are my favorites. Both are loaded with antioxidants on top of protein and fiber. I use them when eating alone at home. I typically toss them into a salad or season them chili powder and cumin as a meat replacement in Mexican food.
  • Egg replacer – Ener-G is the one that I keep seeing referenced. Of the two baked dishes I’ve made, one turned out great and the other was disgusting (family brownie recipe) and tossed out. I’ll continue experimenting, but only at home.
  • Thanks to Keith and Jenn of Ditched by Kate, I’m now a huge fan of Maple Agave Nectar. It’s a delicious and much healthier replacement for traditional maple syrup. I’m also converting us from Splenda to Agave, once and for all. I think it’s worth the modest calorie increase to alleviate concerns about dangerous risks when using sugar substitutes.

For ourselves, I’m finding that we have about 3 “meatless” nights a week now, and we’re eating far more chicken and turkey than beef these days. The overall result is that we’re eating healthier and I’m feeling better. While I still enjoy meat, I’m finding that I’m tipping ever closer to vegetarian living. I’ve never liked fish, no longer eat pork, and won’t eat anything on the bone or resembling what it came from. I buy boneless/skinless chicken breast ONLY and never look directly at the Thanksgiving turkey that I don’t cook. And how I love those little packages in the meat section, I can almost pretend that it’s not from an animal that way! I even have to be careful of seeing others as they chow down on things like shrimp, drumsticks, mussels (thanks Chooch) and the like, or I’ll lose my appetite. I’m just one bad experience away from being a full-on vegetarian, I think.

It will be interesting to see how my sons react to our increasingly different menu items, as only a few of the regulars they are used to remain and have typically been altered somehow. Naughty Bear experienced a wide variety of choices this weekend, but I don’t know how much he actually tried of the vegan/vegetarian variety.

Although, if I were to go vegan, I’m pretty sure Chooch would sacrifice me to his love of cheese, and I just can’t risk that. I’m pretty sure our unconditional love would suddenly have a condition attached. But I love my mouse!

Update on Charity Book

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Firsts, No Whining

I’m definitely moving forward on this. I intend to meet with my father as soon as he’s able to discuss and hopefully attain the rights. If I’m unable to get them, then I have a story in mind to use as the center piece in its place.

I’m also considering following the advice of a friend to shop the book around to publishers. There are significant pros and cons to this, but I’ll make that decision once I have the completed manuscript in hand.

For those interested, please email me at VivMuse@gmail.com to join my contact list. Once I have more information I will contact those folks first, and will then post here as well.

Many thanks for the stories shared with me from the few that showed interest in this project. It’s definitely motivated me to move forward and inspired me to seek out works from other venues.

And extreme gratitude to those that have offered assistance in the hopes of helping to make this a successful venture.  It means so much to go from a whimsical thought to knowing that I have the help of seasoned professionals to keep me from ruining the noble intention of this book.

Breast Cancer Promotion Rant

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Consumer Info, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Health

In recent years, there has been a tremendous pink ribbon marketing push starting around the middle of September. It’s great that corporate America has taken an interest, and now you can’t go anywhere in October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) without being inundated by pink ribbons and pink, well, everything.

The cynic in me says the corporations only real motivation to do this is because they will make more money by offering spatulas and kitchen knives that people already own, but will buy again because they want to support the cause. At this point, you can buy nearly everything tinted pink or with the pink ribbon on it. I myself bought a chef’s knife with a pink handle a few years ago, even though I had plenty at home. I bought it for cathartic reasons, but still. *chop*chop*

As I did last year, I ask you to take a moment before plunking down money for yet another set of shears or pen set. Read the fine print on the item to see how much they are actually donating to charity from the cost of the item. In my experience, it’s been between 2-5% and rarely, if ever, higher.  So if you spend $100 in October on breast cancer awareness stamped items, you’ll likely only have $2 to $5 actually going to the charity that the faceless corporation chooses.

My preference is to instead find a charity that I think is reputable and trust-worthy. Care should be taken to ensure that a majority of your funds go toward the cause itself, rather than overhead. Charity Navigator seems to be a good site, as they evaluate over 5,500 charities from a financial management aspect. There are other sites, simply search on “charity overhead percentage” or other terms that are of concern in your decision making.

The reason I have always preferred to give my money directly to the charity itself is quite selfish. I want to make sure that every penny leaving my hands is going to make a difference. Yes, it stimulates the economy to buy stuff. It also fills your home with things that you, in some cases, don’t need duplicates of, or don’t need at all. Another point on selfishness, is that you don’t get to claim the cost of a waffle iron with a pink ribbon on your taxes. You do get to claim a deduction to a non-profit organization, if you itemize. And make sure you get a receipt to document it, in case you are ever audited.

If you still want to buy the items, go for it! I particularly like clothing items or car magnets, as they serve as a reminder to others of the needs of women and men suffering from this particularly devastating disease.

Another favorite is items that are already on the shopping list, like yogurt or cereal, that support the cause. Yoplait has been a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure sponsor for ages, and their pink lid promotion has raised over $25 million dollars over the years. (Warning for those that care, they do still have HFCS in their yogurt, the last time I checked.)

And no, I don’t feel this way only over pink ribbon items. In this tough economy, I believe that most, if not all, charities are feeling the squeeze as folks have less money to share. So even if your cause of choice isn’t breast cancer awareness, make sure you spend your donation dollars smartly.

Watch this site for a tax deductible and highly recommended charity that you can donate to with a few mouse clicks and keystrokes.

Breast Cancer Confessional – Pink Terror

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Chooch, Friends, Health, Mom, Soulful

Following my Mom’s passing from breast cancer in 2006 (Jesus, how could it have been so long?), I felt a sharp stab of pain every time I saw a pink ribbon. As you can imagine, after her 2+ year fight she valiantly put up on this second occurrence, almost everyone at both of her services was wearing a pink ribbon in honor of her battle. I spent a lot of time looking at the ground.

I even took my sons and nephews shopping because they wanted to get a pink item for their suits. Two chose pink shirts, the other two chose pink ties. I was never more proud of them for that, proudly laughing in the face of potential mockery and homophobic comments (I’ve got a rant on this I’m saving for another day), in order to honor their bigger-than-life and beloved grandmother.

It’s actually a blur to me if I wore any pink at all, maybe Chooch remembers as he is my memory bank for the few months before and after she passed. The family talked about everyone wearing one, but I didn’t. It felt wrong to me for some reason that I can’t really explain. It was like kryptonite to me and I quite literally winced every time I saw a pink ribbon.

I can quite clearly remember the first time I wore a pink ribbon again, as it was on my participant T-shirt at the 2008 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Richmond. I can tell you I wouldn’t have made it ten steps without Chooch and good friend Paulette Jaxton there that day. Although I don’t think she really knew what she was in for when she decided to join us. It was more than just a fundraiser and 5k for me; it was a crucial step in my healing process. And what a painful step it was. Talk about immersion therapy.

That was a huge day for me, as I had enough distance from the loss to be able to embrace the community once again and proudly take steps for such an important cause, when my Mom could no longer do so. We did several Races for the Cure in Washington, D.C. after her first diagnosis in 1991. Hell, she even stood on the stage with other survivors one year, lined up in their pink t-shirts as the opening ceremonies were held. She truly believed that doing the Races made a difference, and not just for raising donations. It also raised awareness and was an awe-inspiring sight, that sea of pink on the news that night.

My hope is to raise funds for breast cancer research every year, in her name. I’ve done this since that first race in 2008, with Paulette and Chooch at my side. When I was physically unable to do the race this year, I signed up for the Sleep-In for the Cure. This allowed me to raise funds even though I was unable to attend. They even sent me a t-shirt. I’ll be doing the race, every year, and am considering adding other Komen races in different places. Even if I don’t raise any money through donations, they still get my registration fee, after all. And every penny counts. Someday, I’ll work my way up to the 3-Day race, as I’ve wanted to do for years and am freshly inspired to finally reach that goal. Who knows? 2011 may be the year.

It’s taken me weeks to write this post, and it’s more confessional than I first intended. All I really wanted to do was:

  • Remind you to do a breast self exam. Male or female, you need to know how your breasts feel to be able to determine if and when something changes.
  • Urge you to immediately get to your physician to get it checked out if you find anything that concerns you, no matter how small. You have a brief window for early detection, and it can be the difference between life and death.
  • Ask you to get another opinion if you feel your doctor is dismissive of your concerns. If you don’t have health insurance, check into local programs for a free or lower cost mammogram. It won’t go away just because you don’t have insurance.
  • Tell you NOT to rely on youth for protection. You’d be surprised at how many people get breast cancer in their 20’s and 30’s. In fact, my ex-husband’s sister recently won her battle against breast cancer, and we went to school together. She’s 41, just like me.

Every race I’ve done has been wonderful in its own way, and each time it is a bit less difficult staring down the pink ribbon.

I’m including some pictures from breast cancer fundraiser races I’ve done, starting with May of 2008. Other folks in the photos include Paulette Jaxton, Allison Duncan, Mae Breakall and Jett Micheyl.

Sleep In For The Cure / +1 to Awesome People Tally / Earth Day

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Dizzy, Friends, Health

I finally decided against trying to walk the 5k in the Richmond Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Having done the race in past years, I know that I’m screwed if something happens because there’s no easy way to get assistance back to the car.

I’m instead doing the stay at home version, and raising donations in my Mother’s name. If you would like to make a tax deductible contribution, please contact me at vivmuse@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link to the donation site.

My goal is $500 dollars, which I’ve exceeded in previous years. I’m hoping that even in this cash-strapped year that I’ll be able to meet my goal.

Also, if you know Greg and/or Carrie Seidman, please take a moment to pray, reflect, or whatever you are comfortable with today as they are at the hospital for the delivery of their first child. I know I’m sending my blessings for a safe and swift delivery and the health of the baby and mother.  This will be one cool kid if her parents are any indication of what she’ll be like.

Happy Earth Day, all! Show your Mother some love today. Whether familial or planetary, she’s the only one you’ve got.