Monday, May 18, 2015

Irreplaceable: My Mom

Hey all
Today I was going through my inbox, looking at old emails.. then I found the one where I sent my talk for my mom's memorial service.
Mom and Aunt June, they must be raising hell somewhere up there..

Dated March 2006, I had forgotten how much I had said and how I said it.
Mom, Denise, Me and Ron early 70's

I miss my mom every single day. I wish she was here to see Jazmine and Sam growing up, to share our lives, to talk to and run things by. I hope she is watching it all from wherever her soul is. I love you mom. Forever in my heart.

Here is what I shared at her memorial:

Denise and I want to thank you all for being here.  My
mom would be happy to see you all together.

I have been trying to focus and hone down what I will
say today, to not be too wordy, yet not too brief
either.  It is an impossible task. Who my mom was and
what she meant to us is too enormous to put into one
short speech…it would take a lifetime to tell it all.
I will do my best with this.

My mom loved giving, as all of you know who have
received gifts or a card or lots of cards!  Of all the
things she gave us, the gift of herself was the most
precious and enduring.  She was always thinking of
others, even strangers, before herself.  Hers was a
perfect example of a selfless life; a life devoted to
others needs, striving to help whenever and wherever
she could.

She loved people; from the mailman to her best friends
they all mattered.  Mom knew all the details of their
life and if they were having trouble, it became her
trouble too. You could not meet her however briefly
and not unwittingly unload some of your burden.  She
would talk to anyone about anything and be fascinated
and genuinely interested in his or her stories.

Even with her many friends, family was first to Mom.
She raised us with the bedrock knowledge that she
would protect us like a mother bear would her cubs.
We always knew that she was there for us, even if she
was miles away. She was the Easter bunny, Santa Claus,
the tooth fairy and Wonder Woman to us kids.  You knew
where you stood with her yet she never held anger for
long. If you could make her laugh then that all was
forgiven and forgotten. Maybe that’s one reason she
married Dad, he was so good at making her laugh.

Her laugh was memorable too.  She laughed often and
loud, as it should be.  Mom did not miss a chance to
tell a joke or send a funny email or card.  Humor came
easily to her and she shared it just as easily.  She
enjoyed silly things, like a cute cartoon or a funny
stuffed animal.  Mom saved everything, every card she
ever got, and every gift.  They all had meaning to
her, brought a smile or a laugh.  It was rare to see
her cry, I can only remember a handful of times, but I
will always remember her laugh.

Mom had many gardens where she grew vegetables and
flowers.  She loved visiting Huntington Gardens and
Descanso Gardens.  You could usually count on an
onion, a cucumber or tomato finding its way home with
you.  She adored roses and often left us beautiful
fragrant bouquets on our doorstep. She often walked in
the neighborhood and worked in her yard, chatting with

There was never an animal Mom would not take in.  We
had at least a dozen cats, 4 dogs, assorted rodents,
snakes, lizards, frogs, fish and birds over the years.
She cared for animals very much and could not bear to
see one that was hurting or sick.  Her last cat Smokey
was a stray, found by mom at the post office.  Smokey
has been adopted and we hope that she will live out
her days peacefully.

As our family grew, my mom took on the Grandma role.
I don’t think she pictured herself as a granny type,
but she was a wonderful Gram.  She always remembered
the girls when she traveled with little gifts and
postcards. Jazmine spent many afternoons at the
playground with grandma when she was little and many
more in middle school doing homework together.  Sam’s
favorite place was lying on Grandma’s lap reading
books together and often, taking a nap there. Mom
loved to spend time with them.  She taught me how to
be a good mom and for that I am so grateful.  We are
all very blessed that we got to see her daily for the
last years of her life, the most precious time for the
girls and their Grandma.

Mom was a true believer in freedom and independence.
She took the bus to Pala casino every Wednesday by
herself.  She mowed her own lawn and took out the
trashcans if we didn’t stop her first. Often times I
saw her walking to the corner store or post office.
She was a voracious reader who loved to talk politics
and current events.  As kids growing up she gave us a
chance to be independent, to roam, to make mistakes,
to take on life’s challenges.  Giving up was not in
her vocabulary; she would fight to the end for her
freedom. She never stopped fighting, even in her last

The greatest gift we ever received from her was one we
would never wish for, that of caring for her in her
last months of life.  Throughout that time we never
gave up hope that she would recover and be able to
enjoy all the things she loved.  Mom let us care for
her much in the same way she always cared for us,
completely, with love and devotion. 

Thank you Mom for all your gifts and the rich
wonderful legacy you leave us with. We wish you peace
in heaven, holding Dad’s hand, surrounded by loved
  We love you always and you will forever live on in
our hearts.
Mom as a WAVE in Navy in the 50's

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

Crazy Heart!

 I have been told I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Not sure how old that saying is but basically it means I am easy to read. I show my feelings quickly and I am pretty transparent. When I am passionate about something I tend to get super excited and think that just maybe every single person I know will want to know about it too. So to some I am probably super annoying. In fact, a few people have shared that with me over the years, that perhaps I can take it down a notch, settle down, be less loud and just not share so much.
Or not....

Lately I have really felt a pull towards pulling a bit of a curtain over my heart at times and just keeping my feelings to myself.  Thinking more before I say things out loud. Tempering my vitriol or excitement. Curbing My Enthusiasm.
 Truth is not everyone is so interested in what you are thrilled or upset about. And sometimes, it is better to keep it to yourself or to share with a friendly audience. In other words, to hang on to your heart but not show it all around to everyone.
Some people love burritos. Some do not. Know who you are speaking with before you speak.
Dogs on the other hand, they listen no matter what. Perhaps that is how they got that title, man's best friend.
Not everyone can handle an 11 on the emotional scale. Not everyone needs to. I guess that is the heart of the matter, know when to show it and know when to hold it.
So I am trying and it's hard for me. To not yell at the crazy driver who cut me off. To not talk too loud in public about private matters. To just feel things  and yet not share when it's not a good time to do so.

I trust you will tell me how I'm doing :-)

Ciao Bella
Deb xo

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Slow Down Life

Aloha from Honolulu!

We are here for our annual visit to see family on the island of Oahu.  When we arrive here, life seems to slow down and get more laid back right away.

The hectic pace of LA life with work, home , school and all of that fades away.  In it's place are the trade winds, humid air and sudden showers, turquoise waves, white sand and fluffy clouds.

We eat too much, we sleep a lot , we lie on the sand and walk in the waves.

It's a seductive siren call. I always ponder what living this way full time would be like. I don't like the crowded big city of Honolulu, but this year we are staying in Kailua, a bit outside the big city.  We love it here. They even have Whole Foods and Target, what's not to like? 

Have you ever taken a vacation and had a fantasy of not coming home?
I love where we live. I am a Cali Girl born and raised. I don't really think island life is for me. 
But.... the thought crosses my mind every time we come here.
May your week be filled with the sweet smell of flowers and the taste of wonderful fresh fruit. Get outside, take a walk, vacation in your own town. Who knows, you may decide to stay. 
With Aloha From Hawaii
Deb xo

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Things We Keep

Some things hold us in their allure.

How many mismatched spoons do you have in your silverware drawer? Don't Lie.

 What is it about some possessions that make them special to us and no one else? I keep too much.  I know it. My family knows it. And my daughter does it, too. So did my mom. No, we are not 'hoarders' not that much stuff! But too much- enough that some of our closets really need to be emptied out to be useful again. Do not mention the garage. Please.

My friend Pru  of Creatively Paleo and creator of the delicious Ayni Chocolates recently did a 40 bags in 40 days challenge. So a bag a day to be thrown out or donated to charity. One bag. It sounds impossible to me. But I am going to do it.

Notes from Pru:
  'Accountability really helps - so although it may be boring, IG or tweet the proof every day! Even if it's 11.55 grab a small bag and just fill it - that can be the best time to get motivated and be ruthless. Just keep at it, even if you're just chucking out a tiny bag of junk mail, it's making a difference even if you can't see where yet. 
Make sure to get it out of the house as soon as you can - especially if it's charity shop stuff that you (or children/spouse) might be tempted to reclaim.' Thanks Pru!

If you want to join me, just post your bag a day dreams here in comments.

How will you know what to get rid of? I struggle with that, obviously.

Some reasons things go in the bag:

1. You have not touched or used an item in over one year.
2. It's broken ( come on, you know super glue is not gonna do it here).
3. It does not fit. Do not do the 'I will fit into this soon' dance. Just don't.
4. You have someone in mind that would really get good use out of it.
5.  It belongs to someone else and you thought you would keep it for them when they have kids. OK I DO THIS ALL THE TIME< IT'S ME>

Here is the original challenge information from the White House Black Shutters Blog and there is a print out there for those who need more direction.

 Please share how you were successful or a dreadful failure at crap clearing in your home or car or yard or wherever things live with you.
Love to you all and good bagging
Deb xo
PS To prevent future occurrences, I rarely go to garage sales, thrift stores, only buy what I need and keep things pretty simple. Not acquiring as many things in the first place is really the best way to avoid clutter happening.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Fork In the Road Part 2: The Healing Mindset

  In Part One, we were looking at a post by Coach Scott Abel on using illness as an excuse to escape responsibility. In Part Two, we will look at how you can actively participate in your healing and improve your life.

Here is the last part of his post:  Healing was never meant to be a passive thing – something that happens “to” you. Healing was supposed to imply something you actively participate in. There should be more to treating illness than “swallowing pills” which has the potential for reward in it, by using the “sick” label to remove personal responsibility and expectation from your life’s working equation. Regardless of any ill or disorder – the identity formed in someone as being “limited” “sick” or “victim” should not be reinforced in a way that makes you passive in your own life’s ownership!
Every person should own up to the fact that you are responsible for choices and for your own pursuit of happiness. And in that, you must at least “consider” the possibility that some obscure, hard to define “diagnosis” may be something that rewards you by removing responsibility and expectation from your life. Hard to accept - but so common to witness' 
Some Roads are Full of Dips

Own up to your own pursuit of happiness... let that one simmer in your cranium a bit.  Passive healing.  Is that even a thing?

 Live Like Bill Murray. Relax. Be Yourself. That's it. 

Funny how it works that your best self, what you do for fun and what you care about is the most incredible thing about you. Whenever I try to be something or someone I am not, it leads to so much anxiety and tension I abandon it sooner rather than later. 
um. yeah. Don't.

 You should know that I make worrying into an Olympic sport. And it's really a bad sport to be good at. When I see that I am getting into this area of "nothing bad has happened but what if it did" thinking I have to stop. Breathe. Talk to friends and run my thoughts by them. 9 times out of 10, ok 10 times out of 10, they tell me my worries are useless, unfounded and just plain silly.  So I take my Alfred E. Neuman mask out and try to chill.
What, me worry?          

 If you find out something is going really wrong, in your body, your life, with a  loved one, what then?  What is the road to healing, peace and relaxation Bill Murray style? The road away from worry is not on the map, so how do you get there from here?

Here are my top tips from what I have learned along the way these last 8 years.  If you would be so kind as to share yours in the comments I would stop worrying if anyone is reading this. ;-)

1. Relax. Seriously.

But it's an EMERGENCY I have CANCER/LUPUS/DEPRESSION etc. Yes, some of these require urgent treatment, it's very true. But here's a well kept secret by most doctors, usually, it's not an emergency.  Take my case for example. The online information told me I could expect to die within 2 years, worst case scenario. I would burst into tears reading things like this, really lose it. But I kept reading and I kept working on me. Guided or transcendental meditation is the number one way to relax. Other things help, being in nature, walks, yoga, biofeedback, but meditation is hands down the fastest way to ease both body and mind. Remember, they are connected on a continuous loop, imagine a mobious strip.  You cannot have peace of mind and an uptight tensed up freaked out body. Or vice versa.

 I am so squirmy that guided meditation is the only way to go. I do love me some Meditation Oasis and it's free on iTunes. First thing in the morning, last thing before bed, try it. Headspace is also great, 10 days for free that ease you into meditation with quick 10 minutes sessions.  While we are at it, your staying up late/getting up early days need to end as well. Sleep is your friend so do all you can to get rest in a darkened room for 8-10 hours a night. The body does magic while you sleep but like the Tooth Fairy,  if you are awake you will not get any money under your pillow.

2. Smarten Up
Read, read and then read some more.  Question what you read and research. If you can find a website you trust or a person who has already climbed some of the hills you face, that much the better. Information is Power. I cannot stress that enough. Do not fall for promises of miracle cures, keep your common sense intact at all times. Been there, done that, more in the future on my falls down rabbit holes filled with false promises. Read on healing, books like Getting Well again ( find it on Amazon, link in right hand margin here >>>) can apply to any issue and the techniques are invaluable for getting your mind focused. Read about all sorts of people that have overcome issues, start with Helen Keller for example. If you can find people that have what you are facing, read their stories. Find blogs by people who are in the midst of treatment or in similar boats, check out my blog favorites for some super ones. Their journeys can inform yours. Use their knowledge, build a library of wisdom.
Reading is a Super Power

3. Reach Out
Dwelling on illness is bad enough but doing it alone is the worst. Join support groups to find people in similar situations, many are online or in your city. Check out Caring Bridge, a place to journal and to read others journals. Talk to friends and family but be ready for advice and worry or fears that may be hard for you to handle. Just know that all they want is for you to be Okay. And let them know that all you want is for them to be Okay with you not being totally Okay. 

There are support groups for every possible situation or disease, find a few to try out and see if that helps. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then try a different approach, maybe reaching out to people who share common interests, say cooking or hiking using local Meet Up groups. Don't hole up at home, be sure and let people know that meeting up for tea is a good thing.  Assure them you are interested in their lives too,  even if you feel that your diagnosis may be the elephant in the room. Most folks want to help so let them know that their friendship is the biggest gift they can give you.

4. Move It
That's right, you need to move. Walking in nature or around the block is medicine of a very specific kind. Get a dog if you can, walk one if you already have one, get out and get fresh air. Smell the flowers, meet your neighbors, be in the world. Sunshine in the morning is said to help regulate your sleep. Getting into jogging or marathons is not necessary, just walk. Listen to music or podcast, I prefer to listen to comedy podcasts on my walks. Yoga is great as are all other exercises that get you moving but don't involve you getting so overworked that you end up sidelined by injuries. Weight training is something that is super important for keeping muscle on but don't go in like Arnold. Do go in at your level and don't try to compete with everyone at the gym. Find what works for you. Get a trainer to show you the ropes if need be, but by all means, Do It!
Pump YOU up!

5. Today Is The Best Day
I will keep this one super short. Don't wait. Today is the best day to start. One small change is all it takes, one day at a time, to change a life. What have you been putting off? Do you have a mental list that you have titled 'Someday'? Do it now, plan it, make it happen. Even if you are still under the illusion that you will always have time later, don't wait.  None of us know what tomorrow will bring. So now is always the very best time. Make things happen, there is power in action.

Share your tips in the comments. I need your brains too, no zombie.
xo deb xo

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Fork In the Road: How Diagnosis Affects Mindset Part 1 of 2

 Great things happen when you spend too much time on Facebook. You met the most interesting people, like  Coach Scott Abel, someone I have followed for a few years now. Read more about Coach here
Coach Scott Abel

He's a very smart guy and his background in body building along with his current work is really quite compelling. Coach cuts to the chase, he does not mince words. When I saw this post it really hit a nerve with me, here is an excerpt from his post:

    'Hard Talk is sometimes necessary: Remember basic psychology teaches that if a behavior is reinforced, then it will continue – behavior that is not reinforced will likely cease. It’s how we train all animal species – and humans are also animals. That monkey will do whatever trick it is taught if it is rewarded with food – even intermittently rewarded. If the reward stops, the behavior stops.
People operate the same way – only sometimes the term “reward” may be harder to distinguish. People have many burdens and responsibilities – numbing routines, dead-end jobs, unsatisfying relationships, whatever. And for some, when no other relief from these things is available - then “illness” or “disability” - become an enticing alternative – and a socially acceptable one at that. It is a way to remove yourself from personal responsibility in your own life.
Once diagnosed, “normal expectations” are lowered for you. Now, of course many people with various degrees of “debilitating” illness – obviously are preoccupied with the disadvantages of that illness. And frankly they are insulted by any hint or notion of secondary gain in their lives from their diagnoses.....' 

When I read this I thought 'Wow, is that me?'  I suppose there are people who might fall into what I would consider a trap, that of making their illness who they are. Are there 'secondary gains' from a debilitating disorder? What happens when you are ill but no one can tell?  What is it like to have to tell someone about a less than great or simply awful diagnosis?
 I am guessing that all of you have been on either the giving or receiving end (or both) of that conversation. The saying 'Cancer is a gift but I would not give it to anyone' comes to mind.

Let's go further with Coach Abel's thoughts:
'..... But when people’s “illness” relieves them of work, duty or other real life normal expectations – then it must at least be considered that this is a “payoff” for them – a reward – an escape from drudgery – and just like with rewarding animals – the possibility that their illness also serves as a reward – that possibility must at least be considered. And constantly rewarding and reinforcing this “illness” label can also prolong the unconscious desire to be a willing participant in serving the “sick” role – and engaging in victim status. Over time, thinking of your illness as part of yourself becomes part of your identity – and you become resistant to even want to change.
After a certain amount of time you must entertain the question - what and who are you without your disorder to define you? Treatment for illness was never meant to induce a state of helplessness and dependency – especially at the “expense of” personal responsibility.....'
( To find the full post go here.)

Tough words indeed. And perhaps, a wake up call.  There are illness that are so disabling that  movement of any kind is impossible. There are painful conditions that never give a moments respite and emotional or mental illnesses that make thinking rationally out of the question. I get that.  There are treatments that knock you on your ass too. Through all of it, we need to remember who we really are, really were, before diagnosis, before the crap hit that fan called life.  We all know about Steven Hawking , we have seen Olympians with missing limbs triumph in their sport,  children born blind who grow into incredible artists such as Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder. Coach's post made me think, what is different about these people? What makes them rise even higher with their issues? What is the 'thing' that defines what they do with their life situation?
Bethany Hamilton

   For me, I took the diagnosis and made every effort to overcome it, to not let it define my life. To be honest, my life has been so enriched by all the research I have done, the people I have met  and the personal growth I have experienced. But I am one of the 'invisible' ones, you cannot look at me or even talk to me at length and know that I have an incurable blood cancer. Yet having it has given me such inspiration, such gratitude for the time I do have here on this orb. When an oncologist gives you a 'good' prognosis of 7-10 years, as mine did,  you have a choice to make. And no time to waste.
Expiration Dates are for Milk Cartons

So far, I have not had to swipe my 'cancer card' but I would not hesitate to do so as gracefully as possible if the time comes that I need to. I have had someone swipe theirs on me. At my step daughters graduation it was first in gets the best seats. I was trying to protect my mother in law from getting pushed around as she has osteoarthritis and is pretty fragile. A middle aged woman, closely shaved head held high, pushed us aside and when I protested shouted at me " I have Cancer!" Without even thinking I yelled back "So do I!". It was a surreal moment as my cancer bore no outwards signs yet I would never dream of acting as she did even if  mine was visible.  I would call that using your illness as an excuse for rude behavior,  for not following the rules that all others have to follow.

 Take a look at 'When I Walk' by Jason DaSilva for an idea of what that 'thing' is that defines a person beyond their illness. I highly recommend watching this film, it is simply amazing. (Available on Netflix streaming or dvd.)
Jason is a person who took the cards he was dealt and kept on playing. He could not even finish editing his film on his own as his hands were no longer functional, but here it is with the help of his wife Alice Cook. I am guessing if you met him, MS would be about the last thing he would want to talk about. Unless it was about curing it,  improving peoples lives who have it or wheelchair accessible taxis and buildings.
More on Jason Here
Jason DaSilva In Action

So on diagnosis, I first thought I must fight, I must find a way to get this thing out of my body, a way to live. Then a friend suggested that rather than fight I accept that this illness, this CLL in my bone marrow and blood was actually a part of my physical body. So why would you fight yourself? Rather, he suggested to make peace with it, accept it if you will. That does not take away responsibility in fact, it makes it very clear that action is needed and that is it up to me, not anyone else, to figure out what that action needs to be.  That is a different mindset than letting my illness 'be' me. Of using it as an excuse, as Coach suggested some might do.
On a Saturday Run

What have you done upon learning you had a serious illness? Think about what you would do if you received a diagnosis of a disease, which path you would take at the fork in the road of life.  Share your thoughts in the comments and either you disagree or agree,  that's ok, debate is good for the soul.. and stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion next week. You know I have more to say on this!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

8 years and holding CLL Stage Zero

You may know me as the former blogger on 'Debbie Does Raw' or even my second incarnation as 'Grass Fed Momma'.  Those were different times, and I am still here. Yep. Still alive and well.

    As I head into my eighth year since that fateful meetup with a very large biopsy needle, I am feeling pretty great actually. I see my oncologist every six months and my last blood test was the best ever. Yes, Ever. Since diagnosis in April of 2007 where the white blood cell count hovered around 17k ( normal is 4-10k) this was my best yet. In October of 2014 my white count was 12.9, as close to 'normal' as I have been.
That does not mean I am 'cured' nor does it count as remission but it does mean that my cancer is not progressing at all and that is a very good thing.

  So, how does this effect my daily life? Not that much. I do get tired but I am an older lady now, 56 in May. I am active but not as manic as I used to be thanks to figuring out that all that spinning, weight lifting for hours and running lots of hills was not really better for me. I have to give big ups to Matt Stone of the infamous 180 Degree Health for a lot of my changes for the better. That includes eating a lot more variety of foods and relaxing about food in general. Not the material for a best seller perhaps, but the truth. Some odd bruises pop up here and there, I probably sleep more than the average bear but all in all, if I had not had that biopsy I would still not know that I have CLL.
CLL Cells in Bone Marrow

   I work full time from home, walk my dog a lot, lift some weights, do a bit of this and that. But writing has always been my thing, my favorite next to reading. The urge to write, share, converse on life and all it's crazy loops and turns is pulling on me hardcore. So here I am. And I hope you join me here as well and share your crazy straw of a life with me and everyone else. We need that. Otherwise it's just so lonely to be in the world.
Thank Goodness for my friends and family, they keep me in line and from really being nuts.