Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sugar is everywhere.

And I'm not talking about sweet thoughts!

As I was eating my zero sugar cereal yesterday morning, I happened to check out the Trader Joe's unsweetened rice milk I pour over it -- 12g! I picked up the 1% milk that my husband uses, and it's 11g. Ugh. And there's high fructose syrup in my English muffins. So I guess I'm going to have to shop a bit more carefully. I know I said I was just going after desserts, snacks and other obvious forms of sugar, but I think I have to refine that just a bit more now. I'm not turning into a sugar cop, but I am going to try to be more careful.

Leroy says the key isues are "fresh" and "not more than 3 ingredients" and "look out for most forms of "-ose" in the ingredient lists. He patiently explains to me that the body can't live without sugars and that they are in all fresh fruits and vegetables. As a diabetic, he has studied sugar in more depth than most doctors, and was taught by an endrocrynologist and a dietician.

He reminds me that Irish whiskey certainly has a fair amount of sugar, which I know. It's the one over the top exception I identified at the outset, along with promising him and myself that I would not become a sugar cop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"The only joy in the world is to begin." -- Cesare Pavese

This may sound a little extreme, but I think it's true. Life is made up of many new beginnings. Some of them are called "changes," and may include elements of fear and anxiety. Many of them are filled with joy, if we could just slow down long enough to recognize it. How hard is that, really?

Too often we substitute relief for joy, saying, "there, but for the grace of god, go I." That's just a peverse form of smugness and wrongful pride, though I am as guilty of it as anyone else.

Joy, real joy, is when you feel deep down like you've moved a big rock, like the world is your oyster, like you and the music are one. Like Beethoven's "Ode to Joy, " that fills you up to overflowing. It's not containable.

Cathy at the Santa Fe Group says that it takes six months to get past exhaustion and closure once you leave a position you've loved. I left my old job at the end of March, and so I'm seven months out right now. I don't know if it's saying goodbye to that job, or to sugar. I am sure that it's directly related to defining what I like, what I want, and then doing it.

That's JOY. It's there if you take the time to find it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"So how's that sugar thing going?"

I said goodbye to sugar in at least its most overt forms over a week ago. I'm doing just fine without it, though the withdrawal symptoms during the first three or so days were interesting to say the least -- fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, or, as another site called it, "flu-like symptoms."

Now that I'm through those days, I find that I have a lot more energy. Best of all, I'm not feeling deprived. A couple of years ago at Canyon Ranch, I learned that people often use sweets as their consolation or reward, depending upon how their day is going. These days, I'm finding my rewards and my consolations in people and in doing work that matters. It's amazing how that shifts the perspective!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rest in peace.

Leroy's first professorship was at the University of Rochester, in New York, where I was with the local public television station, WXXI. Our closest friends were Matthew and Sabine Marino. Their children Colin (left) and Klaudia (right) spent a fair amount of time with us in those years, particularly when Cassandra and Sabrina were with us in the summertime. I think this is a photo from either late 60s or early 70s, perhaps in Michigan, before the Marinos moved to a farm outside Rochester.

Our friendship has remained for nearly 40 years. Even though divorced, Matt and Sabine remained parents of two wonderful people. Matt and I drove to Tyler last spring when I was staying in Austin, so that I could spend time with Sabine for what would surely be the last time. Sabine had a brain tumor, the same sort as Senator Kennedy's. It affected everything she had previously been able to do as an independent spirit. I had about four good hours of conversation with her. We were able to reminisce, but also to talk about what was surely to come. She was so proud of her grown children and regretful that she never could seem to say that to them properly. With cancer, she learned about patience; and her sense of humor was often directed at herself.

Colin is an ER doctor at one of the finest trauma centers in the country, in Tyler. Klaudia is a marketing executive based in Austin. Sabine continued to live outside Tuscaloosa since the 80s when she and Matt divorced, teaching part time, and living on the farm where she took care of around 20 horses, many of which were her own. She has lived in Tyler with Colin for the past year. The loss of her physical capacity and the boredom that comes from resting all the time had to have been hardest on her. She could not envision giving up the farm or the horses, even with a brain tumor. On the other hand, she was happy to be taken care of by her children.

She died last night, outliving the statistics for the tumor by nearly a year. I hope that her restless spirit will now rest in peace. And every time I take a walk, I will continue to think about her and the others also gone because we do not yet have the tools to eliminate cancer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Live strong.

Thank you to the Young Survivors' Coalition, in particular to my friend Anna Warren Schumacher.

Live strong, indeed!

"To Change Effectively, Change Just One Thing" -- Peter Bregman

I've been thinking a lot lately about sugar. Just finished a Harvard Business Review short piece by Peter Bregman, in which he recounts his decision to stop eating sugar -- and the 18 pounds he lost in a month. I have several friends who gave it up long before Peter. Last week, I read an article I can't find now on natural ways to deal with strains on the immune system, and it was suggested that giving up sugar actually strengthened one's natural immunities.

Sugar has been my last frontier since 1996 when I became a vegetarian, giving up all meat and coffee as well. (I had given up cigarettes in 1981.) I said in 1996 that I was giving up sugar, but show me an enticing dessert when I'm out in public and I've never been able to resist it. It's not that I don't know its effects, including short term energy surges, but it's that I give myself the "well, just this once" pass every time.

So for this flu season, particularly this H1N1 season, sugar is going to become the one thing I can change, at least in its most obvious manifestations as candy, dessert, or breakfast ingestions. Making this change saves me money, and boosts my immune system. I'm less concerned about losing the weight, though I would guess that will happen, as I am about long term consequences for my health. The list of what I have given up, though impressive, will not include either my sense of humor or Irish whiskey. Not now, not ever.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The library belongs to all of us.

I'm never too busy to help keep library branches open. KING-TV covered the city council budget hearing on Monday, in which the library offered up 5% or $2.8 million in cuts that the mayor requested. Reporter Linda Brill got right to the heart of the matter with her story, which you can click on here to read:

Here's my testimony in full:

Honored Council Members –

My name is Annie Searle, and I am a member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation Board. I have used the library for over 30 years, in particular the University, Green Lake and Northeast branches. The Mayor requested cuts to the Library’s 2010 budget of 5 per cent. That’s $2.8 million for a public institution that provides basic services to the entire community and is our most democratic of institutions. I do not envy your deliberations, but think it is as important to present a full case for not making these cuts as it is to maintain our public safety budget.

We have now completed work on 27 new or expanded libraries, including the Central Branch. Citizens, as we saw last month, expect their libraries to be open.

Every essential service is stretched thin in this economic climate. When I was last here, I talked about those who are out of work and their dependence upon the library to prepare resumes and perform job searches. Since then, the branches have begun to feel the impact of students whose school library services have been reduced in the current climate. In this environment, library services like the homework center become even more important as teachers and parents are stretched.

Susan Hildreth will explain the calculation that she and library board made on reducing hours past a one week closure. To me, these reductions are as unacceptable as any cuts to the library’s materials budget. It would be a different story entirely if we had seen use of the libraries decrease, or if we had not invested heavily in the library’s infrastructure so as to serve greater numbers of people.

I ask the Council to decline the Mayor’s request for these cuts, and to restore the budget so that the citizens of Seattle, especially those out of work, can depend upon the tools and resources that the library offers to each of us. Thank you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

“Plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope" - Jeremiah

I was very pleased to be invited for a second year by cancer survivor Julie Hillers to a lunch that supports Swedish Hospital, where she receives such excellent care. The Women's Wellness Lunch attracted around 940 people, who were presented with an extraordinary program.

Here's table captain Julie (center) listening to KOMO-TV's Kathi Goertzen, the mistress of ceremonies. From the program: "Over the past few years, Kathi has had several surgeries to deal with a recurrent non-cancerous brain tumor. She continues to recover from the effects of surgery and radiation on the nerves that control her voice, swallowing and facial movement. She has been open about her experiences and tries to help others faced with similar health challenges."

Nancy Abramson offered up her lessons learned as the featured speaker, noting that many cliches are actually true. She wittily used nearly every cliche I have ever heard in describing how much she had learned (and gained) from cancer.

Finally, a note about the lunch's chair, the estimable florist Martha Harris, a non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor. Martha appeared in person rather than on video because she developed a cold last week that kept her from having a (second) pulmonary transplant today. She will be in the thick of that surgery tomorrow. I was so shocked to hear that news that I indeed hope I understood it properly. She reminded us all that funds raised at today's lunch will help raise the $4 million more needed for the True Family Women's Cancer Center that Swedish is building. All cancer providers will, for the first time, be housed in the same place.

The blessing was offered beautifully by Father Paul Fitterer, who found some of the most elegant and moving passages from the prophet Jeremiah to cite and reflect upon.

But it was oncologist Dr. Hank Kaplan who drove home a key point: today, every cancer patient has options, has cards to play and, most importantly, should have hope. This is a man who changes every person he touches, and offers a combination of realism and hope that must surely be compelling.

I hope that Julie will invite me back again next year.