Friday, July 29, 2011

Keri's Pesto Pasta

I do not eat a lot of pasta but who can deny that it is just really good sometimes. I like to make raw pasta out of zucchini but tonight I wanted to keep it simple and use what I already had at home.
So tonight I tried quinoa pasta and made a basil,walnut & tomato pesto. It is really pretty good.

Cook the pasta per the directions on the package
In a food processor combine
Approx. 1 cup fresh basil leaves
Approx. 1/4 cup walnuts (maybe a little more)
1 small tomato, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic

Process and serve on top of the pasta drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and black pepper to taste.
Spinach leaves would work well in place of basil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Last night in Sangha (my Buddhist community gathering) we reflected upon the people or beings who have been our great teachers in life and are no longer with us in body. It was especially poignant because I had placed a photo of my husband, Paul, on the alter next to the Buddha. The photo is one that was taken in 2008 on a vacation to Portland to visit friends. We went with our friends Dana & Jordan to visit the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Living with cancer was still fairly new to us at this point. Paul was on a break from chemo and we were feeling good about being back in the Pacific Northwest with our good friends and out of the chemo room and doctor's offices. Dana is a fabulous photographer and suggested that Paul pose like he was pushing on this large rock that was jutting out into the walking path. In so doing he looks like he is keeping it from falling. At the time we just thought it was a funny photo but as time wore on and to me now it is a symbol for the strength and sheer will and determination that Paul possessed and the lack of fear that he would later attain. This photo gives me strength and courage everyday. I regard as others do crosses that hang on their walls. After all, the higher power is a part of all of us. My husband was and is my greatest teacher. He walks with me everyday. He is a part of me. His love is my guide and it lifts me so that I can fly. I have a few more great teachers: my father, my oldest sister Sue, my friends Melecia and Daryll. My dad, what can I say, he was my hero even when I was 36years old. My dad taught me that I was special just by being myself and that I deserved respect from myself and from the people in my life. He also made me believe I could do anything. Thank God he instilled that in me and that my husband reinforced it because without that belief in myself I would have sunk into a very low and dark place over the past few years. My sister Sue was freakin' funny all of the time and she expressed a love and care for me in my late twenties and thirties that was new between us. She told me many times how proud she was of me. Besides my parents at these times in my life she was the only other person in my family to say that and I will never forget it because I needed it. When she was dying she was still able to crack a joke usually at inappropriate times about inappropriate things or so we thought but after all I have been through I now realize that they were extremely appropriate. Melecia and Daryll were my first experiences with strength and courage beyond measure. Melecia had cancer and Daryll was HIV positive. These two possessed a peace and light that still drops my jaw. He was only 24 when he died and she had already survived one round of cancer and had been clean for a year, I believe, when it returned with a vengeance. Melecia and I had a special bond. I consider her a gift from the source of life. We met on our vacation to Portland in 2008 to visit Dana and Jordan. Melecia and Dana were friends and when she heard about Paul and found out we were coming she asked to meet us. I fell in love with her. She was cancer free at the time and very positive. She spoke to Paul and I with hope and compassion that could only have come from her experience. Melecia was Native American and I am partly too so we bonded over that. We kept contact with each other which was aided by Dana when Melecia got sick. Melecia lead me on a spiritual journey without even realizing it.
I love these people and am so grateful that we shared in each other's lives. They all changed mine and I am so happy that I accepted their lessons. I find happiness knowing that they are all together in the next life and that at any given time they are walking with me in this one.
We also spoke about transitions last night. Life and death are doors we must walk through but in between there are many other transitions that occur in our lives. Like being born or dying they usually require the letting go of something in order to move forward. I think about this as it applies to my life. There is a BIG picture. I needed to go through my near fatal illness in order to be capable of handling my husband living with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Because we changed just about everything in our lives in order to live "as if" or fully and healthy with cancer I have been able to be mostly positive and move forward into my new chapter of life after Paul's passing. I had to let go of comfort and being disappointed with life in order to survive my illness and I definitely utilized this in dealing with Paul's cancer and, of course, in dealing with his death.
Dealing with his death has caused me to release many things and to take refuge in myself. As we say in sangha sometimes we have to go to the island within, that is were we seek solace. If we can't take refuge in ourselves we don't truly have a grasp on who we are and in the power that is inherent in each of us.
Last night was a night of much insight and I am grateful that I am able to incorporate it in my life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Perfect Day

Today has been a perfect day and it is all because of my husband Paul. He taught me many lessons and today I put one of them to use in honor of his one year rebirthday week. He wrote a piece of prose about it that has been published. I will share it with you
The Good Traveler
"A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
This idea implies that we focus
and enjoy the journey more than just
having a goal to reach the destination.
People we encounter, views we never
have seen before-sunsets framed
by snow-capped mountains- could all
be missed without the intention to observe.
Hoping on a train, bus or taxi and
telling the driver to just head "that way,"
you could feel alive, spontaneous,
throwing caution to the wind, trusting
life will open you to the possibilities,
ones that possibly wouldn't have taken place
without your presence." (Paul Hakan My Tree Called Life)
I woke up at 4:30am today ready for my day on the coast. I had decided awhile back that during this week I wanted to return to a place called Cape Mears on the Oregon Coast. In 2005 Paul and I went there together while on our first vacation to Portland. It is a beautiful place and special to me because while we were there we were given the gift of seeing a female gray whale with her two babies. That alone was a life affirming sight and it touched us both deeply. All of this took place before either one of us got sick. I headed out of the city around 7am very excited to be going to the coast. I took a scenic route through a state forest and it was a magical drive. As I entered the town one must pass through before hitting the Cape I began to cry because on my left was a beautiful, green pasture full of cows grazing and I remembered seeing that same sight when Paul and I drove into town six years earlier. I made it to the lighthouse lookout at Cape Mears bright and early and stood there looking out over a calm green/blue pacific ocean. Amazing! As I stood there alone I said out loud "Baby look where I am" and a few tears fell down my cheeks. Then a voice whispered to me "don't you cry look where you are." It was Paul. I stopped immediately and exchanged those tears for a deep smile. After awhile I was ready to move on and it was still pretty early so I decided to just get in my car and head up the coast. Why not? I am free to do what I want this day. I turned onto the 101 or Pacific Coast Highway and just drove stopping to explore several beach towns, beaches and viewpoints along the way. I had done a little homework ahead of time and Googled vegan restaurants so I could have lunch somewhere. Make a note that although Portland is full of organic, vegan options that has yet to spread to the small Oregon coastal towns. I did find a few though. But before stopping for lunch I decided that since this was my day I would stop off at the winery that offered wine tasting whose signs I kept passing. I am not a drinker any more so this was a "treat" and the small samples they give out at tastings were plenty. I discovered a tasty new red called a Foche but was not wanting to purchase any bottles and was grateful to the 15 or so people that came in as I was finishing up. They allowed me to have my tasting and slip out. Lunch was along the Neahealm (sp?) river in a town of the same name. I sat on a deck overlooking the still river. The sun was shining bright in a brilliant blue sky. My waiter was very attentive which I assumed was because the place was pretty empty. When I went to the restroom on my way out I discovered what was most likely the reason for 6 water refills and several questions about the taste of my veggie sandwich. I had chosen top wear an old, comfy t-shirt that admittedly has a deep plunging V-neck. When I refer to it as old that is not necessarily in age but you see I have lost a considerable amount of weight over the past 4 years. Let's suffice it to say that I am no longer as top heavy as I once was and apparently this V-neck t-shirt required my former figure to keep the plunge in the right place. So for about 30 minutes or so it was like I was sitting on the deck of this small town restaurant in my bra and jeans. I had no idea. At least I know I won't see those people any time soon. I am pretty sure Paul was loving the show. Luckily, in Oregon you don't leave home without a jacket and I wore mine for the rest of the day.
I ended up at Cannon Beach. In 2008 after Paul's diagnosis we came to visit our friends Dana and Jordan in Portland. They took us to Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock on that vacation. I have framed photographs of us all on the beach in front of that huge rock that juts out of the ocean. Today it was just me on that beach, in front of that rock. I thought I would be sad but I was not. I felt pretty happy to be there and confident. It was just me and that was ok. I felt at peace as I walked along the beach. Something inside me was telling me to sit down and just watch the water and feel the sand. So I did and an overwhelming sense of awe came over me as it usually does when I am at the beach. I realized that this is what life is all about and it is so much bigger than we realize. That is also when I heard a voice again this time telling me how beautiful I was sitting on the beach and how happy I looked and how that made him happy because that is all he wants for me. I responded with "I know." I felt the sun and wind kiss my face and knew it was Paul and ocean's song carried his sweet voice to me. I sat there for a long time watching the waves roll in and thinking about all of the possibilities that I might of missed out on today if I had only one destination in mind.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

a few summer eating tips focused on the kids

Today on my second trip to the co-op I wound up sharing a table in the shade outside with a woman and her two young sons. They were having snacks. The boys were probably 3 and 5 years old and I was super impressed because they were chowing down on rice crackers with locally made arugala pesto, vegan green smoothies and 1 rice dream ice cream bar split between them. So naturally I complemented this woman on the way her boys were eating and we had a nice conversation about children and thier eating habits. It reminded me of two of my nieces and the way thier boys eat and another nephew of mine on my husband's side, Noah, who all eat as their parents eat and not all of the marketed kid junk that is on the shelves. It inspired me, a nonparent but aunt, great aunt, and honorary aunt to many, to give a few kid friendly summer eating ideas. Let's face it kid friendly means adult friendly too. We all want cooling foods to contrast the summer heat. Ice cream, popcicles, etc. all sound yummy and I admit taste yummy in the summer. When the kinda creepy song of the ice cream trucks come humming down the street who doesn't want to run out to it: big kid or small kid. So My suggestion to satisfy those sweet toothes and watch that truck roll on by is to purchase some of your favorite fruits and freeze them. Grapes, berries of any kind, pineapple, bananas and mango will all freeze and make nice healthy treats this summer. If you want to cover them in chocolate go ahead. Melt some unsweetened carob(my preference but maybe not the kiddos) or unsweetened dark chocolate(you can sweeten it yourself with honey, agave, date puree, maple syrup, etc.) and put a wooden skewer or Popsicle stick in the chunk of fruit, dip it, put the dipped fruit in a parchment paper lined dish with a lid suitable for the freezer and enjoy in a few hours. Let the kids help. It will give them a little greater appreciation for the food they consume if they are able to participate in preparing it. Plus they will want what they made over the other usually. Please remember that fruit is sugar and too much is not healthy. Balance your sugar intake with healthy fats and protein. I learned this the hard way last week. After going on a fruit binge for 3 days and not balancing it out I ended up fainting because my blood sugar was out of whack. It is easy to loose focus with food. I know these facts and I did. My excuse: for years we ,my husband and myself, had to be very vigilant about fruit consumption because we were eating to fight cancer and too much fruit equals too much sugar which the tumors love. That being said many fruits have cancer fighting properties so it is a matter of education and balance. So after years of conservative fruit eating I decided I was going to chow down and boy did I. Anyway, I also want to encourage you to drink coconut water to keep hydrated when you or your kids are out in the summer heat. Plain old water cannot be beat but when you need those electrolytes boosted nothing holds a candle to coconut water. So leave the sports drinks on the shelf. They are full of crap like artificial colors, flavors, sugars and preservatives. Raw Snap peas make a wonderful, crunchy and sweet snack but these too are high in sugar so balance them with a fat or protein like olives, avocado, almonds, walnuts, sesame, hemp, chia or sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds or coconut. Have fun with food this summer. Try to make it the food that mother nature has provided.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Rebirthday

I have had some great revelations this morning after a mostly sleepless night. As July 7th nears my feelings towards this 1 year anniversary have gone in hundreds, if not more, directions. At this moment I am sitting in a good place and hope to carry that through the week. Last night I was looking through my Jin Shin Jyutsu (a Japanese energy healing practice) stuff and was dumbfounded by the fact that I stopped practicing since there are flows for just about everything I have been and am currently dealing with emotionally and physically. I used to do it everyday sometimes with Paul and sometimes on my own. I even wanted to become a practitioner but when Paul got sick last spring I stopped doing it because there was no time and he needed all my attention. So last night and this morning I started it up again and I feel great. As I was doing it this morning I was flooded with some insight that I plan to carry with me forever but especially through this week. I understand now that I am extremely fortunate because I was given the opportunity to see Paul off into the next world and it was a beautiful, peaceful thing. The circumstances surrounding it were hard but the end result was beautiful. He fulfilled his purposes and it was time for him to move on. Cancer was the catalyst for this move. It helped him find himself holistically. He handled it all with such grace and peace. I think at some point he knew. I know, looking back now, that he had made peace with it. I had not and that is why the last thing he said to me in the hospital was "Keri, you have to let me go". He was was looking me in the eyes and was very calm when he said those words and then went into cardiac arrest. He had been anything but calm just seconds before. Right now when I remember those final moments I spent with him I remember the complete calmness that was in the room and the beautiful sunset that was rising in back of us through the windows. Paul was at peace. I remember seeing it then in him and he came to me a few days later to assure me of that. It really was a beautiful moment albeit for me and our family a painful one but it was his rebirthday and I was there for it. I got to be a part of it. What a gift that is to me. I also got to be apart of it for my dad, one of my sisters and a friend. I feel pretty blessed by this and by this insight.
Some of us get sick with life threatening diseases and survive them or "cheat death" because our catalysts have come prematurely and we still have work to do to fulfill our purposes on earth. So July 7th is a painful date for me but it is actually a day to celebrate because it is Paul's rebirthday! So this July 7th celebrate my husband. Listen to some loud, guitar driven music, strum a guitar, beat a drum, have a Heineken, take a looong walk, jump on a skateboard, a bicycle or a motorcycle and just ride. Live life fully that day as he did everyday!