Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sorting, sorting, sorting

What have I found? Memories of so many events in my life, so many friends, so much love in my life. As a multiple-time cancer survivor, I have been through my share of troubles and remember laughing out loud when I first read Winston Churchill's quotation "If you are going through hell, keep going!" However, on balance, it is enjoyable finding past parts of my life, deciding what to keep, what to recycle, what to (gasp!) send to the dump, what to even re-gift. My younger son said it best when I asked him what I should do with his favorite thermos from grade school (DuckTails). He said thinking about it gave him good memories, and then he told me that he would like me to donate it to the Ann Arbor Thrift Shop so that someone else could have good memories, too. What a thoughtful response. Done!

I also found the box of all my class outlines, tests, case studies, resources, etc, etc, etc from a course I taught to undergraduate dietetic students back in the mid-90's. Oh, now that was hard to decide what to do with, however, I quickly wrote a good friend who was my grad assistant for that course, asking her for "permission" to recycle all that paper. She quickly and wisely responded "It's out of date - get rid of it!". Ha, ha - I didn't even think of that, only all the effort and love I put into that course and those students. Thus, it was then easy to simply remember the good memories and let the paper go. :-)

However, I did find within that heavy box of paper the transparencies (yes, another sign of being "out of date") of the quotations I had used to start each lecture. There were 12 of them I had selected to share with these undergraduate students. I enjoyed reading all of them; here are four that I still love:

Progress always involves risk
You can't steal second base
and keep one foot on first.
~~ Author Unknown

In the middle of difficulty
lies opportunity.
~~ Albert Einstein

Challenges can be
stepping stones or stumbling blocks.
It's just a matter of how you view them.
~~ Author Unknown

The larger the island of knowledge,
the longer the shore line of wonder.
~~ Ralph W. Sockman

I used this last quotation at the final session of my teaching that semester, in effect telling my students that everything I tried to expose them to that semester was just the tip of the iceberg of the knowledge needed for practicing at the cutting-edge of the dietetics profession and hopefully would lead to a lifetime of having more questions than answers. I hope it did for some, even most of them. :-)

Back to sorting, sorting, sorting. Step by step by step, we are getting closer to actually moving out to the farm!

By the way, my husband actually heard two groups of coyotes yipping and howling back and forth last night at our farm. I missed them as I had already gone back to our Ann Arbor house to make supper, but I heard one group yipping this afternoon. Although neighbors at the farm had told us about seeing and hearing coyotes, this was our first time to hear them in the nearly two years we have owned this property.  We can't wait to get out there full time!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Web viewing of "Changing the Way We Eat"

I wasn't able to view these TedX Manhattan - "Changing the Way We Eat" talks yesterday either with a local group or by myself as we keep repairing, painting, sorting stuff and moving ourselves out to the farm (we still don't have internet or phone service out there yet). So I can see that I will have "viewing" to do instead of night-time reading when I get home at nights for the coming weeks.

I highly encourage my readers to view these talks and think about what you may be learning. Even without seeing them myself yet, I would be surprised if someone said something with which I completely disagree. You can tell by my reading list on the left side of this blog where my time, energy,  thoughts, and efforts have been for some time now.

I would LOVE it if any of my readers saw these talks (or was actually in the audience!) and shared their views (thumbs up or down) on what you heard. If you have a favorite speaker for any reason, please let me know and that is where I'll start with my viewing rather than just automatically starting in the beginning and hearing them sequentially.


TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat”
February 12th, 2011
10:30am – 6:00pm (webcast); 9:30am-6:30pm (in person)

All videos can be accessed at

Event Program

9:30am (All times eastern standard)
Registration and light breakfast

10:30am (Webcast begins)
Session 1 – What happened?

- Laurie David, Environmental activist, producer and author
- Carolyn Steel, Architect and Author – How Food Shapes our Cities (TEDTalk Video)
- Cheryl Rogowski, Family Farmer and McArthur Genius Award recipient
- Karen Hudson, President Dairy Education Alliance, co-founder ICCAW (Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water)
- Ken Cook, President and Co-Founder Environmental Working Group Performance
- Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, Co-Director George Washington University Weight Management Center, Clinical Director S.T.O.P Obesity Alliance, Faculty George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Kathy Lawrence, Program Director School Food FOCUS

12:15pm (Webcast offline)

1:30pm (Webcast returns)
Session 2 – Where are we?

- Dan Barber, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Blue Hill Restaurant – How I Fell in Love with a Fish (TEDTalk Video)

- 2011 TEDxManhattan Fellows
a) Brian Halweil, Senior Fellow Worldwatch Institute, Co-Director Nourishing the Planet, Editor Edible East End, Publisher Edible Manhattan and Brooklyn
b) Lucas Knowles, USDA Coordinator Know Your Farmer Know Your Food
c) Barbara Askins, President & CEO 125th Street Business Improvement District
d) John Fraser, Chef/Proprietor Dovetail and What Happens When restaurants
e) Dr. Melony Samuels, Founder and Director Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH)
f) Ian Cheney, Co-Founder Truck Farm, Peabody award-winning filmmaker
g) Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA

3:15pm (Webcast offline)

4:00pm (Webcast returns)
Session 3 – Where are we going?

- Dr. William Li, President Angiogenesis Foundation – Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? (TEDTalk Video)
- Dr. William Li update
- Michael Conard, Assistant Director Urban Design Lab and Adjunct Associate Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University
- Britta Riley, Artist and Co-Founder, Windowfarms
- Elizabeth Ü, Founder and Executive Director Finance for Food Performance

TEDxManhattan Challenge
- Frederick Kaufman, Professor CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
- Curt Ellis, Co-Founder FoodCorps, Peabody award-winning filmmaker
- Michel Nischan, Chef, President/CEO Wholesome Wave Foundation, Owner/Founder Dressing Room restaurant, cookbook author

By the way, while painting the bedroom doors upstairs yesterday, I glanced out a window to see one lone bluebird (again) sitting in a nearby tree, spending a lengthy time looking in at me. I pointed it out to my husband and said to myself "Hi Kaya! Thanks for coming again to visit me. I hope you're warm enough, I hope you're finding enough food and open water to drink. I still love you and miss you alot. You're beautiful, did I say I still miss you?, but I'm ok, and it's ok for you to fly to find your other bluebird friends. " Yesterday was happiness seeing my one bluebird, today there were a few tears reviewing Kaya's memories, but not a bucketful.

I love the following words from Emily Dickinson:

I hope you love birds, too. 
It is economical. 
It saves going to Heaven.

I just had a quick laugh and a long smile the first time I read those words. As much as I love good food, my husband, family and friends, a few other things, I also love birds and always have. I am always (I really mean it) either looking up or, when weeding, actively listening to see which birds are near me. Birds bring me happiness, which I think is at least one meaning that Emily Dickinson is trying to convey with her words. Find your happiness here and now, please don't wait until heaven. Having that one lone bluebird come twice to peer into our farm windows has brought me extra happiness after Kaya's death last month. I'm thinking that she has brought a big slice of heaven down to me, right now. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Less is more, or at least equal

In case you're a day or two behind with 'big news', yesterday really big news regarding standard breast cancer treatment was released indicating that there is no decrease in life expectancy in women diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the axillary lymph system who have only a sentinel lymph node removed versus those who have had a full lymph node dissection.

This is important information for all women to know, and thank goodness these researchers went ahead with their study to evaluate "conventional wisdom", even though some cancer centers refused to participate, saying it was unethical. (I suggest reading the full article from the New York Times and/or JAMA for further information about the women included in this study and discuss with your own doctor how these results may or may not be applicable in any specific breast cancer case.)

I am glad science (and resulting medical care) keeps marching on and changing based on more thinking and understanding (someone asking "why not?" instead of just "why?"), in this case, changing to be less damaging to women undergoing this drastic surgery of removal of large numbers of (potentially healthy) lymph nodes, leaving them with increased risk of developing multiple physical problems. Even though I have been very fortunate to not have had to suffer with the development of lymphedema since either surgery (1984 and 1995), I know that it could still develop, and I am one of these women for whom neither right or left shoulder, arm, or hand function or sensation has ever returned to normal.

I have been left with limitation of the use of both of my arms (and I had to beg for physical therapy in 1995 to even get back as much range of motion and function as I have in that arm and shoulder). in addition, I had significant pain in my arm after my 1995 surgery for which my surgeon offered no post-op explanation, advice, let alone any sympathy.  Eventually 3+ years after my surgery, I casually mentioned this pain to a massage therapist (I had gone for another reason) who worked specifically with shiatsu therapy on that pain. Even though I was pleasantly skeptical that anything would help, and almost did not go back to the second appointment because the first session initially increased the pain level in that arm, I burst into tears during the second session when I could actually feel the pain traveling down my arm, leaving my body through my fingers, never to return. I still have all the same movement and sensation limitations I had developed post-surgery, but at least I continue to be pain-free, which has been a huge quality of life improvement.

Oh my, that experience sealed the deal with me to be forthright in saying our 'conventional medicine' as practiced here in the US knows just the tip of the iceberg about how the body works, how the body heals, and how to prevent or treat illness with minimal 'collateral' damage and in a manner that takes into account a person's humanity.

I share all this not for sympathy but to share a real life example of why this finding is important, why the research itself was important, and to say thank you to the researchers who initially questioned the conventional standard of care and pursued the study (in spite of challenges) in order to provide data that will now allow more humane treatment for many women diagnosed with breast cancer without sacrificing long-term life-expectancy.

I have just received a copy of all the research projects being funded by The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) for 2011, from among which I will choose the one where money from The Diana Dyer Nutrition for Cancer Survivors' Research Endowment at AICR (funded by proceeds from the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story) will be focused. I have not even glanced at them yet, they are always all very interesting, but this year I think I will look at them thinking which one is asking "why not?", i.e., which one is questioning standard of care. Of course, since for so long the lack of nutritional care during and after a cancer diagnosis has been considered the standard for cancer care, it is likely that all of these studies could fit my thinking this year!

No, no, I'm not a cynical person, in spite of how that last sentence may have sounded! I'm always looking forward with hope and action. Hopefully (hope), you or someone you know will be able to put this information to use (action), too. My endowment was founded for those two reasons. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Recipe: Black Olive - Fig Tapenade

Oh yes, oh wow, oh yum! I found this recipe on my friend LIz's blog Liz on Food a few days ago and knew I needed to make it (and make it soon!). I love Black Olive Tapenade and have a favorite recipe on my website that I have made over and over again. It also is one of the two most viewed recipes on my website (Tabouli is the highest viewed recipe year after year). However, sob sob sob, I have had to nearly give up eating all salty foods because of the heart problems I have developed as late effects from my multiple cancer therapies.

As I looked at Liz's recipe, I realized that it likely had approximately half the sodium that a traditional tapenade would have since figs replaced a significant amount of the olives. So I decided to give it a try for a gathering of a few of my neighborhood women friends this afternoon.

This dish completely lived up to my expectations. I still cannot "pig out" of course, but I felt content knowing I could easily make and consume a small amount of this tapenade variation. Thanks, LIz!

I served it with crackers and vegetables first but then spread a small amount along with some left over fresh vegetables over some pieces of halibut that I baked in the oven earlier this evening (about 1 Tbsp. per piece of halibut).  I don't have a pix of the fish, but some photos of the tapenade follow.

Black Olive - Fig Tapenade

15 Black Olives (pitted) - I used Kalamata
5 Dried mission figs (cut into quarters)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup walnuts (or any type of nut - I actually used pecans)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

I used my mini-food processor to make this.
1) Combine nuts and garlic - chop a bit
2) Add olives - chop a bit more
3) Add dates - chop a bit more
4) Add olive oil and chop until well mixed but not pureed

Best made ahead so the flavors have time to thoroughly blend. Serve at room temperature.

(Photo: Black Olive - Fig Tapenade, made in a mini-food processor)

(Photo: Black Olive - Fig Tapenade served with rice crackers and fresh vegetables)
This recipe can easily be doubled. It is simple plus tasty and likely to be different from most anything else you've eaten. Liz actually used dates instead of figs, which I think might taste too sweet for me, but adding figs was just perfect! How would you use this tapenade?

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

My husband's handwriting

I find that when I have had a day with disappointments (like getting my car stuck in a snowdrift and needing to call a tow-truck to extricate my car because all of my usual 'tricks' did not work), the best way I have found to get myself out of that funk is to visit the blogs written by two friends right before I head to bed. Granted, I know that getting stuck in my own driveway at the farm was the best place to have that inconvenient event happen, but surprisingly it took the lustre off what was otherwise a great day. So after getting out, getting home, having dinner, and settling down, I finally am ending my day with a quick visit to Dandelion Haven where I enjoy viewing Kateri's beautiful photos, realizing after a minute or so that I recognize the handwriting on the garlic tags as that of my husband!

Yes, this is our garlic, in our barn that we built this summer just for drying and storing our garlic, and these are the tags my husband made to keep our 40 varieties separated, identified, and organized. What memories seeing those tags and that garlic brought back to me - all our work to start the farm and to repair our house at the farm, all of our successes, all that still needs to be done, but most of all, all our love of what we are doing together and all that went before (troubles, happiness, and successes) during our 38 years of marriage to finally allow us this wonderful opportunity, sense of purpose, and adventure together.

Followers of this blog have seen plenty of garlic photos, but I don't remember if I ever pointed out my husband's hand-writing. Normally, it is nearly unreadable to me, but seeing these tags so clearly written, speaking to their importance, gives me an enormous sense of gratitude and happiness and an overwhelming sense of wonder at all we have accomplished since purchasing this land and house in May 2009.

I intended to head to bed an hour ago in order to get up at a reasonable hour, shovel our snow at home, and get ready for friends coming over in the afternoon and then settle into watch the Super Bowl (Go Pack!). However, these photos just grabbed me and would not let me just jump into bed without sharing them along with my thoughts.

BTW, the other blog I love to visit at the end of a day when I need a lift is by my friend Elaine, a dietitian who takes stunningly beautiful photos of her garden and world around her, mostly from her balcony in Vancouver, BC. Check out Greens & Berries, clicking on Greens for Elaine's photos and Berries for her interesting nutrition information. 

Now I can put my head down with a smile, thinking of the great day I had as a whole, not just the maddening ending, running into our own snowbank in our own driveway at our farm (D'oh!).

Oops! First I need to get some beans soaking for the baked beans and kale recipe I am making for our Super Bowl dinner tomorrow. OK - now off to bed. May your team win tomorrow, but I have already told you that I am a life-long Packer fan, even living in Michigan. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD