The Skin I’m In


I’ve been hesitant to share this because of the infamous Facebook happy birthday syndrome. I don’t want everyone to go OMYGOSH! If you were to think positive thoughts, pray to your holy entities, or burn a swatch of herbs and dance naked on sacred stones in the light of the full moon to signify to the universe that healing vibes should come my way, then please do. Use your bandwidth to save the world, OK?

I don’t know how long this mole had been behind my right knee, but about two months ago I noticed it. I was holding up my leg doing a stretch and felt it when I clasped my hands behind my knee. Hmmm, a bump. You know how it goes: I guess I better get this checked out. And then you forget about it. About three weeks ago I thought it looked bigger, so I went in for a full-body skin check. The dermatologist used the CO2 can to freeze some spots and the treatment of other strange things were postponed because of the mole that stole the show. A punch biopsy was taken and it was determined to be a 1.13mm melanoma. My dermatologist stitched it up nice. Then she referred me for surgery. On Tuesday the stitches came out. I have a scar about the size of a dime.

Surgery is Monday. The newly healed skin will be cut back open and then some. Am I full of dread? Not really. As you might guess, I’ve been reading a lot of stories about melanoma, lymph nodes, the stages of cancer, alkaline vs. acidic diets, baking soda cocktails and tales of survival.

After having met my Kaiser Permanente surgeon, I am completely confident in how things will go. A nuclear medicine doctor will inject a dye to determine which lymph nodes are involved; I’ll meet with the anesthesiologist and get poked for general anesthesia; I’ll get a cut that might look like this: <===O===> (that’s an eye shape, in case you don’t see it). The procedure will end with a skin graft from my other thigh. Why? The site is too close to the bend in my knee and my skin is too taut for it to be sewn back together without limiting the movement of my knee. I wonder if I’ll need crutches? Maybe I can convince them to take a piece off my butt, where there is a little spare skin. J/K. #Triathleteproblems. #Muscularlegs. #Smoothskin.

It won’t be for another two weeks until we know if melanoma is in the surrounding skin or lymph nodes. My surgeon said I have an amazing 92-percent chance that it’s all gone. Isn’t that great? If I fall into the 8-percent realm, I will be placed in a clinical trial and/or immunotherapy.

Life is on hold, and admittedly, I have cabin fever. Not being able to work out, ride my bike or go for a swim is kind of driving me crazy. I go to the Boca Hawaii studio on Tuesdays for the turbo bike training so I can hang out with my friends, encourage them and fill their water bottles. Sometimes I dance. They let me be the DJ.

School is out, so I’m not missing work. I look around and see things I really should take care of, but, instead I have to find a happy place, ignore the weeds and enjoy this summer before the total high school experience happens with both girls at Kaiser HS.

Dark moments come and go. But more often than not I don’t even think about it. I feel pretty good. It would be great to surf along at “pretty good” while all this is going on, white knuckling through the bumps, and coming out stronger at the end of the ride. Stronger and wiser.

If you see me, chances are I’m in cooling-arm sleeves and capris. I wear a hat. Pretty soon I’ll shop for bottoms and tops with UV protection for swimming and riding. I’ll be that woman in the North Shore Swim Series next year covered from head to ankle.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a peeling nose and sunburns every summer in New Jersey. Here in Hawaii, I’ve surfed and swam sloppily smeared with sunscreen. I am sure this has its roots in small-kid-time summers in just a swim team suit at the pool or the beach from dawn till dinner.

This always happened to others. If you are fair like I am, or if you worked on your tan ever, then you should get your skin checked. What if this were somewhere else, like on my scalp? Things can go undetected for so long. Are you scared yet?

Two Easy Swiss Chard Recipes

Fun Guy and event organizer Chris Gardner over my left shoulder. Third place, winners' circle. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age.

Fun Guy and event organizer Chris Gardner over my left shoulder. Third place, winners’ circle, Haleiwa Triathlon earlier this year. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age. I’m thinner now.

I have a friend who calls me Kale Gal because I grow kale in my gardens, pluck leaves for my husband’s smoothies, make kale chips, and find any excuse to incorporate them into meals. I love red boar curly kale raw in salads and sandwiches. I like dinosaur or Tuscan kale as chips or in soups and other savory dishes. Kale chips taste great when made with either coconut oil or olive oil, with a little sea salt.

Fresh from the garden, a rainbow of Swiss chard.

Fresh from the garden, a rainbow of Swiss chard.

But Kale Gal also raises Swiss chard in red, yellow, and rainbow hues. These have become the overachievers in my garden as of late. The leaves are massive and tender, and the stems can be chopped, sauteed and incorporated into recipes.

Here are a few Swiss Chard recipes that I created to make use of the garden bounty. Let me know if you give it a try and tell me what you think!

Smells delicious!

Smells delicious!

Stuffed Swiss Chard

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup uncooked rice
4 Swiss Chard leaves, split in half, stems removed and reserved
1 half head of cabbage, cut into small chunks
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 sweet onion, diced
Dash of Italian herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, marjoram, fennel seed).
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 tbsp Italian herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, marjoram, fennel seed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup or more of shredded mozzarella

Raw ball ready to roll.

Raw ball ready to roll.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Dump into a big bowl the turkey, ricotta, half of the diced onion, rice, 2 tbsp Italian herbs, salt and pepper, and mix by hand. Set aside.

Saute half the onion and garlic in olive oil, add canned tomatoes and cook off juices, add tomato sauce and remaining 2 tbsp Italian herbs, simmer on low.

Drizzle some olive oil onto the bottom of a roasting pan. Spread the coarsely chopped raw cabbage into the pan, with big chunks intact. Set aside.



Set up a broad skillet with about an inch of water to parboil the chard. Have ready an ice bath and a colander.

One at a time, dip each half of chard leaf into the boiling water for about 20-30 seconds to soften. With tongs, take each leaf and dip in the ice bath. Drain in a colander.

Take each parboil chard leaf and spread it out on a cutting board or other work surface bottom side up. Shape the ground meat-rice mix with hands or an ice cream scoop into balls about 2.5 ounces each. This should yield eight balls. Place the mixture onto the leaf and roll gently, tucking the ends in so it looks like a neat little purse. Arrange the purses on top of the chopped cabbage in the roasting pan.

Pour the tomato sauce all over the purses and cabbage in the roasting pan. Top with shredded mozzarella. Cover and bake in oven for an hour.

Alternatively, the cabbage can be placed in a slow cooker, purses on top, sauce poured all over, and left to cook for 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. About 45 minutes before serving, add mozzarella cheese on top, cover and turn off and let cheese melt.

This will be very juicy. I like to serve it over pasta and crusty bread.

Golden and bubbly quiche.

Golden and bubbly quiche.

I made this quiche late one night, refrigerated it, and microwaved slices the next morning for a quick brunch after a 25-mile bike ride.

Easy Swiss Chard and Manchego Quiche

8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
6-10 Swiss chard leaves, separated from their stems
Swiss chard stems, diced
1/2 diced onion
2 cups shredded Manchego cheese
1/2 stale baguette or other bread, sliced thin
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Thinly sliced stale baguette.

Thinly sliced stale baguette.

Sautéed stems and onions.

Sautéed stems and onions.

Rolled and sliced chard.

Rolled and sliced chard.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Drizzle a pie plate with olive oil and place the bread slices on the bottom to serve as a sort of crust.

Sauté diced stems and onions in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Let them reduce until the liquid dissipates. Spread on top of bread slices in pie plate.

Roll chard leaves into a big cigar and slice thinly. Oil skillet and add chard to sauté. Turn down the heat and let the liquid from the chard dissipate. Spread on top of the sautéed onions and stems.

Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups Manchego.

Beat milk with eggs until a mellow yellow.

Beat milk with eggs until a mellow yellow.

Mix eggs and milk in a big bowl with a rotary beater until smooth and so that no yolks or whites can be discerned. Whip in some air while you’re at it. Give it two or three minutes of beating.

Pour into the pie pan. Sprinkle remaining Manchego on top. Sprinkle paprika all over. Place in oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbly, and the center is set.

The pour.

The pour.

Quiche perfection.

Quiche perfection.

Take out of the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Serves 6.

Waiting for the Right Fit

Relax. Enjoy this time off. How many times have I heard those words in the past few months? It has been amazing being off for the summer with the kids. I completed my first Ironman 70.3 on the Big Island. I have time to train for my next triathlon. I relax working in my garden right in my own yard. I do more home cooking than buying fast food. I sleep in. I sleep well. I am grateful. And the added bonus of getting to write at my out-door office next to the garden while enjoying the Hawaiian trade winds? Priceless.

But sometimes I get a little edgy, a little worried and a little freaked out. It makes it impossible to truly relax. Thank goodness for my triathlon training. I would probably be bonkers without it.

I have been given valuable advice in my search for the next great thing: Don’t settle. Find something enjoyable. Find an organization that appreciates your skills and perspective. Don’t underestimate your abilities and skills. Realize how unique and special you are.

As I enjoy this Independence Day and look forward to the fireworks over Maunalua Bay this evening, I give thanks to the radical liberals who stuck out their necks for the future of this great nation. I am always, always, ALWAYS in awe of our Founding Fathers and the foresight in which they created our Constitution. Human rights, freedom from oppression, and the checks and balances of our government keeps our nation somewhat balanced. I am so very grateful for my friends on FB who agree to pleasantly disagree with me politically and are so generous with their virtual hugs.

America: Love it, protect it, and be grateful. Where else would we fit? Peace!

Swim, Bike, Run, Mom. Yes, Me.

I bought this book a few months ago and last night I picked it up again. It’s by Meredith Atwood and its called “Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be A Triathlete. Yes. You.” Kona triathlete Bree Wee wrote a preface (she’s my mini hero, tiny and fast and funny), as did Chrissy Wellington, triathlete extraordinaire. And since I’ve been doing a few triathlons over the last couple of years, and still feeling like the fat old lady out there, I thought getting an autographed copy from Meredith might inspire me. I LIKED her Swim Bike Mom Facebook page, and I recommend you do the same if you’re a woman toying with the idea of loving yourself through the pain of swimming, riding bicycle, and running, without stopping, until you’re through and it’s dark and you’re not quite sure there’s anything left inside your mind or your cells or your feet.

That could be me. I’m doing the Honu Half-Ironman in Kona on June 1.

Because I’m so busy and so exhausted and so frazzed all the time, I skip around when I pick the book up. I know, I’m sorry, Meredith. I’m doing what I can! Last night while waiting for Kid1 while she was in her viola lesson, I sat in the van and read the chapter about nutrition. And a lot of it was about the SCALE. The. DREADED. SCALE. Meredith talks about how that mofo drives her up the wall. She spoke of disconnecting from the scale, and she addressed the input she got from others of how they couldn’t give up the scale.

This morning, I wish I had not gotten on the scale. But I did, and I’m pretty sure there’s a dark and gray cloud hovering over me now.

Why did I get on the scale? Well, for the last three weeks I’ve eliminated white flour. I’ve made whole-wheat thin pizza crusts, whole-wheat, home-made pasta, ate more fruit and veggies than ever, cut back on sweetened coffee, and even drank less wine (ME!). My waist looked a little thinner this morning. The fat pants slid on and had room. But I’m still in fat pants. So I got on the scale. And I could have cried.

But let’s put it this way: My fat pants have always been the same size: 12. I really like being a size 10, and that can’t be too hard to get back down to. When I weighed 30 pounds less I wore a size 12. You see how weird this is? To weigh tons more and still get to say fat pants are size 12? And give me this: I’m 54 and my body has been sticking its toe in the menopause pool for two years now. I think I’m in the middle of it, or getting through it now, but you can never be sure. It has thickened my waist. I cannot stand it. I have friends, fellow women triathletes, who are older than me and have slimmed down. I’m hopeful.

On March 12 I begin Honu training with my TryFitness sisters. We’ll meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sundays. Kid1&2 can’t wait! Mom will be working out and maybe start feeling better about herself again. I know my husband likes the after effects of a wife who’s worked out. He’s looking forward to getting his happy wife back.

I’m a little terrified about the Honu. Last Saturday I was in the Haleiwa Sprint Triathlon. While swimming among the thrash of other swimmers, I thought how much I hated it. But I knew I had to get through it, and so I incorporated some of the training Joe and Tom Lileikis taught me during Masters swimming at The Oahu Club: I moved my arms up and down along my body, keeping them close, avoiding connecting with the other swimmers, it worked and I moved efficiently through the water. Despite the dizziness as I emerged, my swim time was pretty good. I knew that once I was on my bicycle I could get a jump on how slow my run would be. My leg problems (healed burst tendon, knee pain, swelling, excess fluid, and now plantar fasciitis in the other foot) are a bit of a pain to work out. My sports doctor says I should just stop running, but he says it’s OK with him if I do triathlons because it’s not all running.

About those fat pants: Surely, the new eating habits will pay off, right? I can’t give up.

The Honolulu Marathon Game Plan


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Distant Journaling on a Bad Storm.


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