"Think Before you Pink" - A Movement

Like so many other traveling singers out there, I take to Netflix when I have a free day and feel the need for some good old fashioned rest and relaxation.  And probably also like not quite as many of you, I am a documentary junkie.  Name a social injustice- the food industry, the banking collapse, the U.S. prison system, animal cruelty, global warming- give me a documentary that tackles the topic, and I’m there.  That’s why I’d been telling myself, as the daughter of a breast cancer patient, that I needed to finally sit down and watch Pink Ribbon, Inc..  Well today, on a gray day in Brussels, after a hard week of rehearsals, I finally got the chance.

For the millions of husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, friends and countless others whose lives have been affected by a cancer diagnosis to either themselves or their loved one, the feeling of isolation and panic can be overwhelming.  I remember this feeling all too well when my mother received her Stage IIIB Breast Cancer diagnosis- for those of you familiar with the numerical staging system, as far as diagnosis go, this is not a promising one.  As compassionate human beings, of course we want to turn our feelings of helplessness and despair into the action of doing something, anything to help the cause, so that our children and grandchildren will not have to suffer through this same fate.  This is where organizations and corporations that bear the Pink Ribbon logo step in and make themselves readily available to those of us who want to help.  From pink vacuum cleaners, pink golf balls, perfume, lipgloss, pink buckets of fried chicken (no, I’m not kidding), to name just a few of the products sold in the name of breast cancer research, to thousands of annual Runs, Walks, Races, Marathons held to raise money for awareness, to NFL players donning pink shoes and gloves, the Pink Ribbon logo and it's influence are everywhere.

We all know the message of hope that is synonymous with the symbol of the pink ribbon, but do we really know where all this money is going and what these organizations are actually accomplishing?  Despite billions of dollars a year being donated in the name of Breast Cancer Research, the incidence of Breast Cancer in the United States since 1965 has nearly quadrupled, and continues to rise every year.  Of the 200,000 plus women diagnosed every year, only approximately 20% of these cases can be explained by proven risk factors such as family history, the presence of the BRCA gene, exposure to radiation, etc.  So what is causing the other 80% to get sick? And why haven’t these billions of dollars given and the 30 plus years of research that they have funded gotten us any closer to the answers?  This is just a small sample of the plethora of questions that Pink Ribbon, Inc. takes on in it's film, and the results are astonishing, riveting, and at times, infuriating.

I passionately urge anyone who has been affected by a Breast Cancer diagnosis, has bought any product bearing the Pink Ribbon logo, participated in a Walk for the Cure, a Race for the Cure, a Marathon for the Cure, jumped out of a plane for the Cure, or just given a few of your hard earned dollars to helping women around the world conquer this terrible disease: Watch this film!

 

Pink Ribbons, Inc - Youtube version, The film is also available on Netflix

I am extremely blessed to have my beautiful and courageous mother with me today and rest assured she is thriving, enjoying life to the fullest, and doing what moms do best, giving me advice on a daily basis!  For those of you who have survived the disease, and especially for those who weren’t as fortunate, I hope that we can strive to do better in prevention and getting to the root of what is causing a rise in ALL types of cancer.  If you want to get involved now, here are a couple of organizations that I think are worth taking a look at:

 

Breast Cancer Action: www.bcaction.org

Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org

What's that, 7 Minute Workout you say?

If you knew me anywhere from say the years 1997 to 2012 you probably would also know that I hated to exercise.  Yes, that's right, hated it.  But that all changed a little over a year ago, when after an extremely stressful and overwhelming year of traveling and high pressure gigs, I decided it was time for a change.  I started gradually on the treadmill with alternating walking and running, lifted light weights in the gym, practiced as much yoga as I could fit in, and slowly but surely got myself back into the swing of things.  

I had tried so many times in the past to commit to regular exercise, and it was always a short-lived endeavor in which I would soon find myself falling back into my previous couch-dwelling ways.  What was different about this time?  How did I keep it going? Well, I believe that it was the fact that I gave myself permission to fail.  That may sound a little backwards, but hear me out.  I used to believe that my workout was a failure if I couldn't make it through a 30 minute jog with out stopping to walk, or if I didn't spend quite enough time working each muscle group, or if god forbid, I skipped a day when I promised myself that today had to be a work-out day. However, once I gave myself to permission to just start walking when I couldn't run anymore, or quit my weight routine a few minutes early, or if I was really just having a bad day, skip the gym all together.  And bit by bit, I found myself actually enjoying exercise!  Eventually the benefits of how I felt after a workout, no matter how little or much I did that day, started to outweigh just how hard it was at first.  

But enough of this inspirational soapboxing!  Let's get to the point of this post.  About a month ago I discovered something that revolutionized my workout, and more importantly, drastically improved the results I was seeing.  It was an ariticle published in The New York Times called "The Scientific 7-Minute Workout."  It really does take just 7 minutes of your time and the best part about it, especially for us traveling folk, is that you don't need a gym or any equipment, just your beautiful self!  I saw more changes in my muscular structure in just the first 2 weeks of doing this workout than I did from anything else in the entire previous year of my varied workouts.  I have never had definition in my arms before, and I do now!  How exciting is that?! Ok maybe not as exciting as the thrill of hearing Pavarotti sing the high B Natural in "Nessun Dorma" live, or discovering you've just been upgraded to First Class for the rest of your life for FREE, but pretty darn exciting, for me at least.  

The gist of this workout is completing each exercise below for 30 seconds each at a high intensity level (about an 8 on a scale to 10) and taking a 10 second rest in between each exercise.  And if you can't do every exercise at first, that's ok, cut yourself a break.  When I first started, I could not complete one regular push-up, so I did them first with my knees on the floor, and after a few days, the real ones started to come. Oh, and just a side note, there is actual science behind the "Scientific 7-Minute Workout.  Would you expect any less from The New York Times?  Here is the original article where you can read in more detail about said science, and also here is an Iphone app (don't worry it's free) that I use which counts out the exercises so you don't have to keep referring back to the picture below, gym whistle included.  

Like I said before, give yourself permission to fail, take it slow, and eventually you may find yourself, bit by bit, actually enjoying YOUR workout.

The Vibez of Charleston

As many of you know, I spent most of this past May in Charleston, South Carolina playing cheerleader to my better half in his debut with the Spoleto Festival.  As usual, whenever I arrive in a new city, I am on an immediate quest to find healthy and unique places to eat.  Charleston is full of upscale Southern Comfort restaurants where you can get killer Shrimp & Grits. Unfortunately, most of these places cater to the tourist crowd, and when you're trying to make a temporary home in a new place, sometimes the last thing you want to see is a bunch of tourists lining up for the latest fusion fads. Thankfully, Charleston has a couple places that, in my opinion, really get it right:  

 

Dellz Vibez

If you're exploring the quickly changing neighborhood north of Calhoun, you could easily walk right by this gem and never even know you missed it.  However, the deliciously unique smoothies and juice concoctions that owner Nikki whips up are well worth the trip.  We found ourselves extending our daily run a few times to end up on the Dellz Vibez doorstep.  Offerings include the ever popular "Spicy Coco Boy" which combines the vibrant flavors of Cayenne and Chocolate with your daily greens, the "Grandma Vera," which is an original Green Smoothie recipe passed down from Grandma herself, and limitless combinations of freshly squeezed juices and juice shots.  As an added bonus, if you're feeling hungry, pop around the corner to Dellz Deli, the delicious vegan/vegetarian friendly Deli opened by Nikki's very own Mom!  It truly is a family affair for these budding businesses.  

 

The Green Door

Something you may not know about me is that I adore Asian cuisine.  Pretty much any kind I can get my hands on from Indian to Japanese to Vietnamese.  Living in South Jersey, I am extremely fortunate to have a plethora of establishments to quell my eastern cravings, and almost everytime we go out, I opt for Asian!  So you can imagine that in the sea of Soul Food options that Charleston has to offer, even this Georgia girl was getting a hankering for something a bit more exotic.  Enter The Green Door.  

The Green Door's eclectic menu takes some of the best flavors and traditions of several Asian cuisines and combines them with familiar American dishes, all while using fresh ingredients from the low country's best local farmers.  And the best part, they do at all at an extremely reasonable price point.  How do they do this, I don't know, but a single glance at the menu will tell you these chefs are a creative and innovative bunch.  

If you ever find yourself in Charleston wanting to look a bit further past the cornbread, chicken and waffles, and fried oysters, you won't be disappointed with these offerings.  Enjoy!