Here’s A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

Here's A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

I’m working to lose a few pounds right now and one of my favorite advisers for this is Dr. Roxanne Sukol, who blogs at YOUR HEALTH IS ON YOUR PLATE. Which in many ways says it all. So if you’re like me and thinking about shedding some weight, let’s explore what might be working against us. Here’s a check list.

  • First think about the very last meal you had. If you grabbed a quick lunch or dinner out, that’s a problem, as when we do that we often have no idea what is ON THAT PLATE–well in terms of corn syrup which Sukol reminds us is in almost everything. We are getting hidden sugar that spikes insulin and packs on fat. Corn syrup is in: yogurt, breads, ice cream, salad dressings, sodas and sports drinks, muffins, non-dairy coffee whiteners, and if you love dark chocolate like I do, and eat it thinking you are being virtuous, corn syrup is even in some dark chocolate.
  • Read labels. I’m in trouble here and need to do a lot more. I insist on a certain brand of peanut butter (which I eat almost daily) because is has NO SUGAR. But I need to do more.
  • Portion control is a major problem in the United States. When I was growing up, portions were so much smaller than they are now. As a wealthy country, we seem to use size as a metaphor for success–bigger houses, for a while bigger cars, and certainly increased portion size. Sukol points out a few changes, some you will be aware of: bagels have tripled in size since the 1960s. There’s always room for dessert. You can get a bucket of soda for ten cents more, so why wouldn’t you?
  • Super size is not the answer. Everyone of us can feel full by eating healthy foods. Healthy solutions to fighting hunger include: fiber, fat, and protein. Fruits and vegetables and beans are delicious and filling. Fat is flavorful and satisfying. Protein keeps you going. Want more info on fat, Sukol’s latest post is here.  
  • Your weight gain might also be attributed to irregular sleep patterns which can derail your weight loss efforts. Sukol suggests learning about “sleep hygiene” to see if you are doing something that is actually making it worse. Are you finding it hard to fall asleep because you can’t turn off your mind? Do you wake up in the early morning hours and have difficulty returning to sleep? Maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep, period.
  • Reconsider the bedtime snack. Sukol reminds us that eating a big bowl of cereal before bed (which I have often done to keep my blood sugar level) or a peanut butter sandwich or a candy bar IS A PROBLEM. Her suggestion: Start working on this issue by trying to eat a bigger breakfast and lunch, thereby getting in more calories earlier in the day. You may still want a nighttime snack, but make it healthier and one that does include fiber. Her suggestion: berries which are sweet and satisfying, but low in practically everything else (except fiber). 
  • Sleep hygiene also includes:
  1. avoiding a nap during the day;
  2. avoiding stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and even alcohol, especially late in the day. Though the latter is know to lead you into sleep, research shows that it interrupts sleep as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol;
  3. exercise can promote sleep, but vigorous should be done earlier in the day and relaxing, like yoga, nearer to sleep hours;
  4. maintain daily light exposure so that when night comes, your body is aligned with the  pattern that darkness means sleep; (Note that people who work night shifts like nurses and other first responders, often have difficulty controlling their weight.)
  5. associate your bed with sleep and create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.

You might have discovered your own methods to control your weight or to lose weight when it sneaks up on you. Please share. Or keep this post and decide how some of Sukol’s ideas might apply to you. Start thinking about the one that resonates the most. Because like anything we attempt–it cannot happen over night. So here are last words to consider:

  • one step at a time,
  • one day at a time,
  • one issue at a time.

There are NO QUICK FIXES. Progress is achieved when we set realistic goals. I’m going to start with changing my bedtime snack. What are you going to do?

 Dr. Roxanne Sukol can be found at YOUR HEALTH IS ON YOUR PLATE.

Here's A Check List To Fight Weight Gain

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A Science Update from a Very Young Source

A Science Update from a Very Young Source

Since he was three, my grandson has been into garbage. At birthday parties he was often more interested in the discarded wrappings than the gift. And boxes? One year while his sister was opening her gifts, he was quietly gathering all the empty boxes and secreting them in his room. There he would stack them or fill them with toys or use them to contain the other things he had gathered–ribbons and tape and crumbled balls of paper. Let me emphasize, he has a wonderful, understanding and very patient mother.

Of course the next step was garbage trucks. He received two that were predominately labeled as trucks for recycling. He got the concept with no problem and with this awareness for his fourth birthday, a friend gave him a video about recycling. He truly enjoyed it and watched it over and over, always intent on sharing it with visitors.

The arrival of the garbage and recycling trucks on Monday morning became a big event–a routine that he looked forward to. Hearing the approaching trucks, he and his mom would go outside and wave to the driver, Santos. This became such a ritual, that when I was visiting and my grandson was occupied elsewhere, Santos waved to me and yelled: “Say hi to Brennan for me.” Loved that.

So when my grandson’s fourth birthday rolled around, I wrote to Waste Management and they actually created a HAPPY BIRTHDAY card for Brennan, citing Santos and saying, of course, that they so appreciated our business! The letter was a big hit at his birthday celebration.

Now Brennan is almost six. Last Sunday he told me: “We need a garbage truck up in space. We need to start collecting garbage in space.” And then today the following headline appeared in the LA TIMES:  SPACE JUNK PROBLEMS SPURS WILD SOLUTIONS. Was some reporter eavesdropping on our conversation? For I immediately jumped into this discussion with him, sharing the little knowledge of the problem I had, probably from the movie GRAVITY more than any other source. In the film, space junk crashes into human-run space vehicles causing damage and even death.

But there we were, Brennan and I, discussing this problem and how to solve it. We got so animated that after a moment I noticed that some folks on the other side of the room were listening to our conversation. I lowered my voice. I have little knowledge of these things, but realized that again–Brennan was interested and to keep up I better educate myself.

One solution: that of Aerospace Corp. states that they would blast thousands of tiny flat spacecraft into orbit to find and hug the bits and pieces of failed satellites and rockets, then drag them into the atmosphere where they would burn up. Wow.

J.C. Liou, who is the NASA chief scientist for orbit debris states that there are more than 7.000 metric tons of material in the near-Earth space environment. Such material can slam into a satellite or spacecraft going six miles per second, so that there is fear that debris the size of a sand grain could be catastrophic.

Another idea: a giant net that would be able to gather space junk and then set off a bomb to knock all of it out of orbit. But certainly finding the technology to clean up space is only part of the problem. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command of which the United States and Canada are a part, are tracking 22,000 pieces of space debris, but only 16,000 of these pieces can be traced to the state or and owner who launched the vehicle or craft where the debris came from. Cleanup needs to be legally run. There are liability issues pertaining to someone else’s JUNK.

Here’s a statement by Brian Weedon of the Secure World Foundation. His words could provide a possible scenario for a film or a book: “Let’s say that you have Bob’s Debris Removal service and you go up there and your mission is to grapple with this rocket body, grab a hold of it and deal with it somehow, and in the process of doing so it explodes because it’s got leftover fuel inside.” Wow again. I wish I felt capable of writing in the science fiction genre–but the scariest part is that this stuff is real and presents real problems. It’s fascinating and yet so complicated.

In our world today, there is so much information swirling around us, things to consider, to worry about or to be excited about. But if my grandson can be considering this issue of space junk at his young age, I’m thinking he just might be part of some think tank that figures it out–maybe much sooner than later. And I applaud Brennan and other children like him–they don’t get stuck on one idea. There minds roam and come up with more STUFF and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch. After all, they are THE FUTURE.

photo:    cartoon:

A Science Update from a Very Young Source


A Science Update from a Very Young Source


When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

We’ve heard it over and over, but it’s still a truism, having a father is good for a girl. Having a father provides a girl with love and protection, encouragement and a relationship that is just WELL different, from what moms provide. Yes, there are troubled relationships between girls and their mothers and they could also occur between girls and their fathers. But for a girl to grow up and navigate the world of love and sex, marriage and children, or having children with a man without benefit of marriage, that father figure if he is loving and understanding, supportive and open-minded, can truly give that girl a head start. And if he is not?

Maybe he has only one of the above qualities. I don’t meant to describe the perfect father that maybe doesn’t exist. But I do believe a girl’s presence in a man’s life can soften his edges, open his eyes to the future of all of his dealings with women in a way no one else can. His daughter is the FUTURE of womanhood–as he relates to it. And he wants the best for her. Yes, he wants that for his wife, but caught in the constraints of time–he now sees more for his daughter. He sees change and advancement stretching out into the future and he routes for her. He begins to believe that girls, just like boys, can thrive.

This all might sound dated. You’re thinking–things have changed–all men are aware of the importance of fathering their daughters. We don’t need songs about it, like Billy Bigelow singing in the musical comedy, Carousel.

You can have fun with a son, But you gotta be a father to a girl.
She mightn’t be so bad at that, A kid with ribbons in her hair!
…But my little girl Gets hungry ev’ry night and she comes home to me!

Both parents prepare for their children and want to do the best for them. But life gets in the way. Families are so different now–with step-fathers and absent fathers and fathers raising children with no mother. The ability to fly from coast to coast, take jobs in different places or work remotely via the internet has also affected the composition of the family. Sometimes the mother is the constant, but sometimes it’s the father. That’s great, as long as there is a constant.

My father died when I was three. But I had a mother who was so loving and understanding, who put her children first, always, that I turned out all right. There were uncles in my life, fathers of my friends. They helped me see how fatherhood worked. Once, my father took me to see his brother, my uncle. But the man had a new television and was more interested in talking about how it worked. My mother related this little story more than once–how my dad came home with me in his arms and said to my mother: THEY JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT WE HAVE HERE. That’s father-love. I felt it then and it  sustained me through the years at some level, because I turned out all right.

The protective role of the father is needed more than ever in a world of Face Book and photo sharing, pornography and the sexualization of young girls. Readers might remember  when five-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in the basement of her family’s Colorado home on December 26, 1996. JonBenet participated in child beauty pageants, because her mother had been a beauty queen and supposedly JonBenet wanted to echo what her mother did.

In an interview in 2012 her father, John Ramsey, reacting to the popularity of the reality television show TODDLERS AND TIARAS, said that letting his daughter compete in pageants is something he regrets. “Only because- that possibly might have drawn attention to us. I don’t know. But-  I think for- for advice to a parent is just recognize that- regardless of where you live, there- there could be evil around you. And- and don’t be naive about it. And keep your kids protected.” Even in death, that’s hard to do as a television series about JonBenet’s life and death will be airing soon.

Writer Naomi Schaefer Riley took a hard look at the reality show TODDLERS AND TIARAS. She wrote: One father, who had a rap sheet of drug and alcohol abuse, sued for custody of his daughter. The girl, now 6, was a regular on the pageant circuit, where she appeared dressed as Dolly Parton, complete with padded bra and enhancements for her rear end. Apparently, her father wasn’t happy about this.

Thousands of girls appear in these pageants, along with hundreds more on television shows glamorizing the whole culture of miniaturized sex objects. Last year, one of the 3-year-olds on the Toddlers & Tiaras reality show dressed up as Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman, before Richard Gere sent her on a shopping spree. Another little girl appeared singing Sexy and I Know It at a nightclub.

(My milllennial son was so upset about this he wrote a song about it.) I can’t imagine this for my daughters and granddaughters. I didn’t even like them watching the film Pretty Woman when it came out in 1990 and they were sixteen and twelve. I recently watched the film again. It is still true fantasy that could never ever happen to a prostitute. And I am sure the film has been used by pimps as a device to lure innocent but desperate girls. But many will still say ah, it’s so light-hearted! Maybe, but crosses a line that’s hard to pinpoint.

In her article Riley stresses the importance of fathers being involved in their daughter’s lives. She states: A protective presence lets girls grow outside the sexualized pressure of our culture. She is so right!

Where once fathers might play ball with their male progeny, now they can pick a sport or an activity that their daughters want to pariticpate in. And if busy work and travel schedules make attending practices difficult (and this can be mothers too) it’s not hard to find time to sit and talk about what a daughter has achieved in gym class or dance, softball or piano. SOMETHING! Attention and time with DAD is what girls need and fathers too. You can’t always know your child while they are part of the larger family crowd. One to one is meaningful and necessary. A game of chess or checkers, a walk, and the always possible drive in the car provides a quiet time to find out what’s going on in your daughter’s head.

Let’s hear it for slowing down the push to grow up; for reaching a plateau of growth that can be celebrated and yet HELD ON TO for awhile. Blink and your daughter (or your son) is beyond your control and you are asking what you did wrong. STOP THE CLOCK. Talk to her. Put her on the pedestal of attention she deserves. Protect her from stupid choices that can bring her sorrow. Love and protection are key. And beauty pageants? She’s beautiful in your eyes. Others eyes can wait until she’s an adult and ready to walk in the wide world.

Thanks to and storyhighlighto and

When Fathering Girls: Love and Protection

Sorry-but this is NOT Cute.

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

When traveling to certain places, we move forward with our bodies and backwards in our memories. In other words, we advance into the past. These are the words of essayist Andres Neuman. Sometimes when I am reading, a sentence like this will strike me and I just want to explore it. Haven’t you found that going to a place, eating a certain food, encountering an old piece of clothing sparks and charges your memory? Suddenly you are in a place, looking at the past from where you stand in the present. It has to be the place, food, clothing etc that quickly opens the file drawer where your memory was stored.

Today John and I took a very familiar walk to the duck pond near our home. Maybe because I was thinking about this post, I was suddenly transported back to the ducks swimming on Dolphin Lake in Homewood, Illinois. The visit that stands out was one my husband captured in photographs–our two daughters feeding the ducks. Did that help store the memory? I think so.

Profound feelings of satisfaction filled me during that duck pond visit long ago. The sun was disappearing in the west, the water changing colors because of time of day and the ripples the ducks created in their excitement–food!  As parents we knew we were doing something ordinary, but the faces of our children told us that these were moments they would remember.

(I need to mention at this point that memory is a double-edged sword. I’m very aware of that. Recent research reveals that post-traumatic-stress-disorder,  PTSD, is all about memory–a very negative experience of being dragged back to a place a person does not want to be. It’s powerful and hard to cure. The file drawers of bad memory easily open and there are reasons for that.)

But today, let’s focus on the positive things we can all do to improve memory. Again, the brain is a powerful file cabinet that stores all of our experience. Often being in a new environment can get our synapses to spark even more–so that the storage of memory is enhanced. The drawer opens quickly and the memory is spread out before us–like my vision of our daughters feeding the ducks.

According to Carolyn Gregoire who writes for the Huffington Post, there are other things we can do to keep those file drawers from sticking (takes time for the memory to come) or from opening all together (we totally forget).

  • if you are a visual learner, take advantage of that; visualize the FOUR BEATLES if you have to be somewhere at 4:00 o’clock; I don’t have a photographic memory, but when studying in nursing school I could often remember details of a disease process, let’s say, by remembering where that list was on the printed page.
  • brain games like Lumosity, Suduko and crossword puzzles are credited with their ability to make memory more supple and fine tuned.
  • the Method of Loci or the “memory palace” was Cicero’s tool for enhancing memory. In this technique, you memorize the layout of some building or geographical entity and then assign to each place a memory. (if it were a street of shops, each shop holds one memory) Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the places you have established. Visualizing those places will activate what you need to remember.
  • Baker-Baker. Remembering a person’s name won’t work as well as remembering what he or she does for a living. The test case was used with the name, BAKER. People associated images of baking like pans and measuring cups–more things to help remember the name. A med student applied this principle using the story of Lance Armstrong to remember complex and detailed information about chemotherapy; Armstrong was the “hook” that helped him retrieve the medical details. When trying to remember paragraphs of information, create a “hook” that will act as a strong association to bring up the information more clearly.
  • take a nap; after storing information, resting the brain boosts storage and memory.
  • eat omega-3s that heighten working memory and fight against the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • label people. FDR was able to remember the names of all of his staff, because he literately pictured their names printed on their foreheads. Another researcher suggests assigning a color to that name makes it even easier.
  • and the last one goes without saying and needs little research to back it up: pay attention and avoid distraction. You cannot remember complicated information for an exam if you are also listening to music or watching You-Tube.

At the end of each day, I always run through a list that I created years ago to organize tasks that I need to complete–maybe not every day, but certainly over time. This helps me keep things lined up and I can then have a working schedule of the next day’s tasks or events in my mind. It works. What do you do, Readers, to keep those file drawers sliding open in a flash??  Happy memory.

Thanks to:;

How To Unstick Those File Drawers of Memory

Taking Those Ten Steps

Taking Those Ten Steps

Ten steps. That is what a twenty-seven year old soldier, Captain Humayun Khan, took–ten steps away from his men and toward a vehicle packed with improvised explosive devices (IED’s). Telling his men to STAY BACK, he approached the vehicle at the gate to a military compound insuring that his moving forward would incite the enemies in the vehicle. They instantly detonated the bombs–his ten steps moved the explosion away from 100 soldiers on one side of the gate and more than 200 people milling the open street on the other side of the gate.

Humayun Khan died. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was buried, like all military heroes, in Arlington National Cemetery.

I learned about this hero from his father, who also shared this: Humayun Khan came to the United States when he was two-years-old. His father said: This country made him what he was.

Those words have stayed with me. Our country, this country, the schools Captain Khan attended, the boys and girls he played with, the neighborhood he lived in, the books about Thomas Jefferson that he read, the ROTC that he joined at the University of Virginia where he earned his college degree–all of this, his father said, MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS. Made him a hero, a man dedicated to his team, a man that made sure that he protected those under his watch. A man who sacrificed for his country.

Captain Khan’s father also used the word STEWARDSHIP. Reader, If you don’t mind, here’s the definition: an ethic that embodies being responsible and protecting something. Khan protected his men and worked to serve his country.

I am proud of my husband’s and my three children, proud of the lives they lead. Proud of the people they have chosen to love and the grandchildren they have produced. And now I have a whole new way of thinking about why they are responsible people who: serve and love their families and friends, work hard to support their lives, continue to educate themselves about life–all aspects of it, protect the environment, help those who need help on many different levels, and have faith and appreciate life’s gifts–nature, art, music, literature.

It’s not simply about what their parents gave them. It’s because they have thrived in an atmosphere of freedom and peace which America has given them. And I know they want that for everyone on our planet.

Captain Khan’s statement that his son is a hero because living here MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS–should be words each of us ponder and hold close. No matter who we are–in all our diverse and amazing ways–we need to now and again TAKE TEN STEPS FORWARD and help someone, compliment someone, weep with someone, and praise someone. And I’ll repeat again what a wise woman once told me–feeling down, confused, angry? Go out and help someone else. It will make your day and beyond.

Photos: CNN

Taking Those Ten Steps

True Memoir: When the Writer Gives You a Gift

And I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don't be afraid. I admire the thoughtful columns of Meghan Daum. Recently she drew an interesting distinction between what writers put into a memoir–stating that it should be an honest report on a life and not a confession. She stated that some writers of memoir treat the form without respect.

“They forget about their audience. They forget that they have a mandate to shape the material into something beyond a diary entry or a rant. They also confuse honesty and confession.” —Salon, January 2013

To simplify, Daum believes

  • a memoir that reads like a confession is asking the reader for something;
  • a memoir that is an honest relating of one’s life is a generous gift, a sharing of a life so the reader will feel less alone.

When I read THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, by Joan Didion, I was transported. Didion worked through the loss of her husband in that book–but she wasn’t asking me to weep for her, she was offering the gift of shared human experience. From her book I wrote my piece THE DAY OF MAGICAL THINKING. I then read her next book, BLUE NIGHTS, about her daughter’s illness and death. I cherish both of these honest and endearing works. Didion from The Year of Magical Thinking:

We all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy. 

So true, and yes lately–we have been reading a great deal about shock and awe on Elm Street. FOR A CHANGE– I’d like to focus on stories that are shockingly wonderful. Stories of success and happiness–because they can happen just as fast as sorrowful events. We all need to work harder at focussing on the positive.

  • So Meghan Daum has a point: let’s focus on those people in our lives who are walking memoirs, the ones who share their lives and their stories with us and give us some joy.
  • They don’t harangue us with negatives, tear down the way we live; they aren’t constantly begging us for attention and complaining about their lot. We do not need their ugly negative thoughts.

Didion was deeply hurting in both of her books; she was in sorrow over the loss of her husband and daughter. But she gave of herself with openness and shared with her readers the JOY of her life, the WONDER of those precious relationships and the POSITIVES of the human experience.

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? It’s more than a diary. It should really be the awakening of memory and the sharing of your soul. When you search Amazon for books on how to write a memoir, there are many to choose from. But this one stands out. Mary Karr, in THE ART OF MEMOIR, writes about memory itself:

Memory is a pinball in a machine–it messily ricochets around between image, idea, fragments of scenes, stories you’ve heard. Then the machine goes tilt and snaps off. But most of the time, we keep memories packed away. I sometimes liken the moment of sudden unpacking to circus clowns pouring out of a miniature car trunk–how did so much fit into such a small space?

I’m no Meghan Daum or Joan Didion, but I did write a memoir over 15 years ago, that like other work I have done is filed in a cabinet. I searched that work today, found a passage that might qualify as GIVING you something–I am certainly not asking for forgiveness or confessing a sin. This goes back to my childhood. I am trying to remember it. Did the clowns spill out of the car trunk?

My mother gives us a record with the story of the PIED PIPER of HAMLIN. I play this over and over. It is a strange story about a town infested with rats, about a piper who can rid the town of these pests, and then, because he is not properly paid for his deed, plays his pipe once more, coaxing the children to follow him out of the town along a winding road, over a hill and eventually into a long tunnel. It leads to a place where the honey bees have lost their sting. This last detail I always remember. It seems to linger with me, the tunnel, the honey bees that don’t sting. I keep picturing all the children in line in the darkness and then emerging into the light at the other end. There are flowers and trees and the warmth of sunshine and these marvelous bees. 

Sometimes, when I lie awake and the hall light is off, I worry that I’ll hear that strange alluring music, that I will disappear into that tunnel. It is in the dark of that bedroom that I discover how dry my lips can get, the existence of uneven spaces between my teeth, the clutching pain of stomach cramps before vomiting. It is the darkness of that room that sheds on me the light of discovery. 

P.S. I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don’t be afraid. 


Got a Doctor Appointment? Check This Out.

Got a Doctor Appointment? Check This Out.

Almost every time I arrive at my annual physical or any doctor appointment, I forget ONE thing. And it’s not my symptoms or questions, no. It’s always a list of medications and vitamins that I take. Almost immediately I am handed forms to fill out and there I am, scrambling to remember names, dosages etc. (This time I’m going to type up a list, save it and print out a few copies.) Take away–want to have a successful doctor appointment? Be prepared. And don’t just jam all your med bottles into a paper bag and bring them along–the approach above is less cumbersome, you won’t lose your drugs and you’ll always have the list. Below, a few more tips for a successful appointment.

  1. Doctors are often late. They don’t want to be, but things happen: a patient is late; a patient does what doctors fear–gets up the courage to say I HAVE CHEST PAIN as the appointment is ending. Extending a slotted time for a patient can happen for a number of reasons, over which you and your doctor have no control.
  2. Keep things moving, don’t make the doctor question why you are there or if something other than a routine physical is required at this appointment. Address your concerns with your doctor immediately. Even if the thing you want to tell him or her frightens you (I have a lump in my breast) say it right away–get the news out so the doctor can handle the issue, put it at the top of the list. When patients fail to do this, doctors call it the OH BY THE WAY, moment.
  3. Be specific about symptoms and when they started and what they are. Dr. Amber Tully MD says if you do that, a full report might even make it unnecessary to run certain tests.
  4. Once you’re related your concerns, let the doctor run the conversation. The questions you will be asked will hone in on the process of determining your care. Relating that this ache started during a volley ball game might be relevant, but keep the details short and related to your symptom.
  5. Doctors will never pass judgment on physical problems that relate to intimate patient concerns. You’re there to get help–tell your doctor intercourse is now painful or that you’re passing gas constantly. Isn’t that really why you are there? The doctor is not a mind-reader.
  6. Doctors want you to understand what has been discussed and what your take-aways are. If you are unclear about anything–ask! And it’s always a good thing when you are given a new medication, to repeat back to the doctor or the nurse the instructions for taking that medication. I like to take notes.
  7. Be honest. Doctors will be able to help you only if they have true information: you took your husband’s antibiotic; you aren’t taking any of your meds; you smoke, drink, do street drugs, have more than one sexual partner.

Dr. John Ely underlines the importance of accurate exchanges between doctor and patient by listing the eight characteristics of a symptom as:

  1. where is your pain (if that’s your complaint) and where does it radiate i.e. move;
  2. this symptom: lasts how long? occurs how often? is getting worse? is getting better?
  3. Describe what you were doing when this pain first occurred?
  4. Do you have other symptoms associated with this symptom, with this pain? Describe them.
  5. Using an example, describe the quality of your symptom i.e. pain is like the stabbing of an ice pick or burns like fire
  6. Now describe the quantity of this symptom i.e. on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst what is it?
  7. What makes your symptom worse? if your were dizzy is it worse when you roll over in bed?
  8. What improves the symptom? Heat, cold, sleep, eating, movement etc.

For more information about making the most of a doctor appointment, please check out my past posts: Bring Your List of Questions to the Docs Office, They have A List Too. And Be Your Own Health Advocate. 

Got a Doctor Appointment? Check This Out.

Got a Doctor Appointment? Check This Out.








Thanks to Parade Magazine and the WELLMARK BLUE Publication




Thanks to and


Think a Positive Story–Live One Too

 Think a Positive Story--Live One Too

If you see your life as a positive story, can you also live one too? Well, the process certainly has benefits, but it also has elements fighting against it. Years ago when I was struggling with some health issues, a close mentor-friend told me to say aloud to myself: every day and every way I ‘m getting better and better and better. I did. And I did. Now, with everything we are facing in the current 24-hour-news cycle, it might be a good idea to steal away some positive thinking time and turn off the noise.

The theory behind the internal monologue is that your subconscious mind, a powerful force, hears things you say like: I’m never going to get that job; I’m a failure; with everything that is happening, life just isn’t going to get better; and these words actually affect your actions so that the negative thing happens—especially if the negative is often repeated or has nothing positive to offset it.

It’s your powerful subconscious that is programming your future either into good luck and success or into the hospital—or possibly the grave. Tell yourself at 50 they you just want ten more years and it’s quite possible you’ll have to struggle with a major illness when you hit your 60th birthday. It’s important to cultivate positive feelings about your life and your life choices.

Skeptical? For one thing thinking positively leads to positive action, action that encourages health, advancement, and success. Examples: caring for the body by following preventative health measures; caring for the mind by exposing one’s self to new ideas, theories, and keeping up with what’s happening on the planet all the while avoiding repetitive negative news that increases your heart rate and makes you yell at your family.

Clinging to the negative (he hates me, he’ll never promote me no matter what I do, we are doomed, things will never get better) can preclude personal growth. Opening to the positive can be transformative.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes today is all that counts–as some reach for the cigarette, the street drug, drive while texting, fail to practice safe sex, ignore new information available to them and balk at taking a class or working under a new supervisor to advance in a career. People want to give in and say, “Forget it. No mater what I do, things are going down hill.” Instead of fighting back, believing it’s a momentary slump, things will improve and the positive will occur.

Seventy-three-year-old Byron Katie, who has been called a Spiritual Innovator for the 21st Century, in her book I Need Your Love—Is That True? teaches that we can create our own reality by believing our own thoughts. And she is talking about toxic thoughts, thoughts that make us suffer. Who wouldn’t want to change that.

She says: “Thoughts are like children. They’re gonna scream till we pay attention. When we do, and when we put these beliefs to certain questions, thoughts we’ve believed for 40, 50, 60 years—the worst stressful thoughts—get popped. It takes a lot of courage. But isn’t it time to get real? Haven’t we conned ourselves long enough?” I love that–the thoughts get popped, we see that they are wrong, that isn’t who we are.

The above process is what happens in Katie’s seminars that she calls The Work. Who should attend The Work? Katie says: “It’s for everyone who wants to end their own suffering and whose mind is open to questioning what they believe to be true.”

Here are four questions you would have to ask yourself at a Byron Katie seminar.

  • Question 1: Is it true?

Katie says this question can change your life if you can be still and ask yourself if the thought you wrote down is really true.

  • Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?

Another chance to open your mind and go deeper into the unknown, finding true answers that might be hidden by what we think we know.

  • Question 3: How does your body react—what happens—when you believe that thought?

This helps you notice internal cause and effect. When you believe the thought, there is a disturbance. It’s stress that can range from mild discomfort to fear or panic. How does what you’ve written about, the thought you believe, make you feel about a person or event? How do you treat yourself or the person you have written about because of this thought?

  • Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?

Imagine yourself in the presence of the person or event without believing the thought. Would your life be different if you could remove the stressful thought? Katie finally asks: which do you prefer—life with or without the thought?

Katie instructs her attendees to Turn the thought around: When you do this, you are able to experience the opposite of what you believe. Once you have found one or more turnarounds to your original statement, you are invited to find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life.

Katie writes: “The Work reveals that what you think shouldn’t have happened, should have happened. It should have happened because it did, and no thinking in the world can change it. This doesn’t mean that you condone it or approve of it. It just means that you can see things without resistance and without the confusion of your inner struggle.”

Katie and my mentor-friend are similar in their approach. Having one life to live should encourage us to find truth and to find a way to live with truth, as some of it—ie chronic illness, the death of a child, the loss of a job—makes living extremely difficult. But we cannot blame it away, deny it away, hate it away. And we should not go through our days telling ourselves that because of the event, the illness etc we are doomed.

My mentor-friend showed me that for physical challenges it helps to talk to your body with love. Example: gently massage your forehead or neck when you have a headache while saying relax, you’re okay, take it easy, instead of throwing yourself into an activity where you attempt to ignore the pounding and just be angry at your body.

And for interpersonal challenges, it’s about approaching the stressful situation staying as calm as possible until you have all the facts. In a huge argument with a teenager you might be able to acknowledge that one choice he made during the event was a good one, while pointedly explaining why the other choices showed poor judgment. When it’s over, you’ve kept the door open and helped him walk away with some pride intact.

Finally, for mental challenges, it might be necessary to seek the help of a counselor, someone who can work with you on an impartial basis and help you see where you are, how you can stop “stinking thinking” and get past your hurt. At the end of each day, meditation with a thank you repeated over and over to Spirit can help you get up and cope again the following day.

Byron Katie says: “On our deathbeds, we’re still saying that he or she ruined my life. People say life is a dream. Well, let’s question the nightmare and have a happy dream. Retiring from stressful thoughts could be the most important retirement there is.” So think a positive story and live one too.

(For more information about Byron Katie and The Work click on the links above.)

Thanks always to Barbara Tennant 

To watch a film where what someone believes affects his entire life, watch:

An Unfinished Life with Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman.

Think a Positive Story--Live One Too

Below, Bryon Katie Above photo courtesy of Google Images

Think a Positive Story--Live One Too

What I Love about America

What I Love about America

Do you remember as a kid having an argument with a sibling or a friend and when they tried to stop you from doing something you responded: Hey, it’s a free country! Those words, if we truly examine them, are incredible words that even as children we so took for granted. Because yes, we were living in a free country and most of us could roam our neighborhoods or fields and vacant lots with impunity–a gift we took for granted. It’s just one of the reasons why I LOVE AMERICA.

Today, as adults, our freedoms still exist, though for some there are challenges. But because we are celebrating the 240th birthday of the United States of America, I wanted to list some things about my country that I love. (And a nod to TIME MAGAZINE who did the exact same thing in this weeks issue.)

There is not a particular order to my list, except that when creating it, I started from childhood and then moved on.

  • Vaccines. I love that as a child my pediatrician provided me with the vaccines which were available at the time.The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) was NOT available, and so I had to experience all of those illnesses and they can be dangerous. But because polio raced through the country affecting many children with death and paralysis, a vaccine was created and was immediately made available to me and my brothers. Anti-vaccinators today need to realize what a relief it was for my mother to know her children were protected.
  • Backyards, sidewalks and porches. Growing up, we spent most of our playtime outside. In any weather. Imagination fueled that play. We didn’t need any expensive equipment to keep occupied. A white dish towel provided me with a cape–so that I could be Snow White. My brother and I played Davy Crockett and shared one coon-skin cap that a generous relative provided. WE MADE STUFF UP–it was and should still be the American way.
  • Public transportation and my bike. If we weren’t walking half miles or more to get to the candy store, the park, a friend’s house–we took the 103rd Street bus and transferred to get to the beach. We had a pocketful of quarters to get us there. Or we often biked–no helmet in those days. And summer jobs? The Rock Island Train was always my ticket to downtown Chicago where I worked in the file department of an insurance agency through some of high school and all of college. Now living in California, I wish public transportation was more easily accessible. The state is working on it.
  • The opportunities for single woman. My mother was widowed with three children, yet forged an opportunity to care for us and work and pay the bills. It got easier as the years went on and women were given more power in the workplace. My two single aunts both had Master’s Degrees and thus acquired excellent jobs in publishing that allowed them to golf and travel abroad. In some countries, my life would have been buried in poverty without a father, a male in the household.
  • Public education. Though I attended private schools, I became a teacher and fell in love with public education. The soft landings in my life did not apply to many children in the high school where I taught, so being a part of that experience made me value what good teachers and administrators and school boards can do to help an entire community and it’s future workers, parents and children.
  • Advancing medical science and research. This American gift has profoundly affected my life. Good medical care (and for much of my adulthood that meant HMO’s and PPO’s through my husband’s employment) allowed me to have healthy children, experience the birthing and newborn care of those children in a fully staffed and well run hospital. It has also meant access to advances in the care of cancer and is the reason my husband is still alive today. Thank you medical research and dedicated doctors and nurses of all persuasions who contribute daily to LIFE.
  • Taxes. Many people complain about paying taxes and often try to get around the system to limit what they have to pay. Bottom line: what if you had a fire in your home and when the firemen arrived they tried to limit the expertise to put out that fire–they tried to pull back and not provide you with all their capabilities. We live in a country where every day public servants deliver our mail, work to keep our cities safe and in California are ready to use any means possible to stop a raging fire that can destroy neighborhoods in an instant. I’m willing to pay my taxes to insure that safety.
  • The power of voting. I have a say in determining a way of life fro me and my family. Millions on this planet have no say.

For sure, this is a very short list. But it might get you thinking about the things that you appreciate about being an American, the reason you are willing to blot out all the chatter, the voices that have nothing positive to say, who fail to acknowledge anything worthwhile that we as a people have built and can continue to build on.

Our forefathers and mothers insured that we would have the freedoms that we live with today. Let’s celebrate that. And let’s be aware that these freedoms belong to every American. Happy Fourth of July. And don’t forget to vote.


Photo Credit:


When You Don’t Get the Window Seat

When You Don't Get the Window Seat

Lately, when I fly, I never get a window seat–my husband is on the aisle, me in the middle. But I have memories of traveling alone from the Midwest to California to see my grandchildren, in the window seat, watching the land drop away, the green fields of Iowa and the mountains of the west below. Going to Chicago, I found the sight of Lake Michigan and the skyline thrilling. Beauty from the air.

This last trip? The young woman in the window seat kept the shade down EVEN DURING LANDING. Nothing to do, I tell myself. This is America where tolerance needs to apply in many situations. Let it go, even if travel might make me cranky and eager to say “Don’t you want to look out at Chicago, watch us glide over this amazing city and land?” I stay quiet. But on some issues, maybe I need to offer some words.

While flying from the west coast to Chicago–I did something.

I read a book. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME.

I will never be the same.

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms, And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me...taken from a Richard Wright poem

You all know Richard Wright! You read NATIVE SON in high school. In this poem, Wright comes upon the remains of a tar, feathering and burning, only to grasp that his future might be the same. But Coates, writing his book to his son, leaps from the scene to the present day. Some things are now outlawed. Some are not.

This is a book about Coates’ fear for his black body. For me, this book is a WINDOW on white privilege, on the impact of words that have come from my mouth over and over: bad neighborhood, ghetto, white flight, gangs with guns and drugs, working the system–.

Go ahead, stop and ask yourself what language you might unconsciously use to denigrate a group of people–and do it casually, like it’s really no big deal. Because it’s so a part of most of us we don’t hear it or see it.

As a child the rhyme, Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a–the object of which my mother changed to tiger. I don’t know when. But I said the original. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I SAID THAT while playing a game! Now it horrifies me.

It was part of the culture, inbred in daily living. Life without thought. Ignorance. Did I ever stop to ask myself why I said these things? No. Did my white body prevent me from digging through decades of pre-judgment–from seeing clearly that some of my choices smacked of fear? Yes. And then finally I asked myself why?

Because it was ingrained from my ancestors, forebears or the populace that came before me. They handed me a well-crafted picture–just handed it over and said:”Here, believe this, because this is how it is for you and how it will always be.” Were they good and loving people? Mostly, yes. Were they the product of the times, the whispered words, the judgments. Yes, definitely. And Christians also.

Separation. Fear. Build a wall–like don’t drive there after dark; don’t shop thereDon’t take the bus. 

My husband took the bus to college through those neighborhoods. NEVER had an incident.

Thank God for NOW because my grandchildren would ask WHY NOT TAKE THE BUS? And since reading BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, these phrases, these tossed off and accepted ideas that are so much a part of the nomenclature stand out in my mind like darts of poison–because I am part of this. So what can I do when my policeman relative tosses it off so casually? Try to understand and yet know I cannot change him; arguments take me nowhere. But my black brother-in-law from South Africa, he gets it. He and my sister-in-law have experience DWB–driving while black.

I taught in a school with a diverse population (one of the best things that ever happened to me). But even so, I brought with me some pre-conceived ideas. My friend Linda M. helped wake me up. Told me, WE NEED TO SHARE THE LAND. Yes.

And not just share a dying neighborhood or a crumbling public housing building. See how they trash everything? I cringe even typing those words, but this is what we hear, this is in the language. We need to wake up and challenge it, never make general assumptions. Or at least try to discern WHY some things happen as they do.

My older daughter’s master’s thesis in Urban Planning was on the rationale behind the housing projects in Chicago–many of which have been torn down, thank God, some of which remain. I read portions of her reference books and they pointed to a major fact: a human being needs to have a say, to identify with a dwelling, a doorway, a garden. That builds pride, leads to care. Pushed in one direction without agency in choice blocks attachment. Ever read RAISIN IN THE SUN? Ever think about living in a building 20 stories high with no sunlight in the stairwell, one or two windows lighting your abode and no ability to step outside on a deck or a patio to feel the sun on your face? Sounds a bit like a prison. It was.

We whites think we have struggled for safety. Here is Coates: To survive the neighborhoods and shield my body, I learned another language consisting of a basic complement of head nods and handshakes. I memorized a list of prohibited blocks. I learned the smell and feel of fighting weather…I recall learning these laws clearer than I recall learning my colors and shapes, because these laws were essential to the security of my body.

Coates emphasizes his fear that someone will destroy his body because he is black–and for no other reason. Thus he references the firm and physical discipline of his parents.The LESSON that all black mothers and fathers teach their children: avoid the police when walking the streets. Be careful. Watch yourself. Your life depends on it.

What thoughts went through your mind, Dear Reader, when you saw a black mother scolding her child in a store, or pulling that child toward her? Negative right? Now read this from Coates as he addresses his son:

Now I understood it all…black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied,of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protective racket. It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand. She knew that the galaxy itself could kill me, that all of me could be shattered and all of her legacy spilled upon the curb like bum wine. And no one would be brought to account…because my death would not be the fall of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of “race”…

Coates recounts his first trip to Paris, a joyful-sad experience for a man bursting from the historical bonds of American society. Sitting in a Parisian garden he writes: At that moment a strange loneliness took hold…It occurred to me that I really was in someone else’s country and yet, in some necessary way, I was outside of their country. In America, I was part of an equation–even if it wasn’t a part I relished. I was the one the police stopped on 23rd Street in the middle of a workday…I was not just a father but the father of a black boy. I was not just a spouse but the husband of a black woman, a freighted symbol of black love. But sitting in the garden, for the first time I was an alien, a sailor–landless and disconnected. And I was sorry I had never felt this particular loneliness before–…far outside of someone else’s dream. 

Yes, we all have dreams. But they have to be ours. SHARE THE LAND, let others have their dreams without a catch. J Beckett says in his Goodreads Review of Coates’s book: The tears came because Coates, in a few pages, captured, exposed, unlocked and translated what so many people of color, so many frustrated and frightened parents, and so many disenfranchised and nomadic youth found so difficult to dictate and explain. For them, the feelings were there but the words simply would not come. I wept because Coates’ story was my story..

And part of Coates story is my story–it’s my inability to fully see and understand. I have a bigger window on that story now, even though what I saw was not my plane landing at Ohare in Chicago, but the words on the page bright and vivid calling out to me.

Read this book. Let me know if his words touch you also.

P.S. Next week, The Terra-cotta Warriors, on display at the Field Museum. If you are in Chicago, don’t miss it.