Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Challenges in the New Year: All Efforts Count

Walking is so good for you–try to get outside and walk even in winter.

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to
be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” ― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

I love this quote of scientist Hope Jahren. She is so correct. Each day is precious.  Each day is an extension of our BEING, so know that all efforts count. If each of us is inevitable, we should renew and reexamine our destinations and how we are affecting others as we go on our journey. That journey is certainly ours alone, but we bring children and family along with us, so we must be gentle and aware of how our lives are affecting theirs.

In this new year, are you eager to discover new things, work new ideas, make decisions that benefit you and those you love?

Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

LOVE THIS. In many ways, when we are out in the world talking to people, being kind to people we are spreading help. Wouldn’t it be great if we left some kindness, however brief, with each person we encountered during the day. The world would feel more open and generous.

Yet here is another thought. “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Hope Jahren has a great handle on things. Discovery changes us. So what can we discover each day, you might ask.

Here are some suggestions.

  1. Discover your feet. Walk daily for 30 minutes, with a friend to forge a relationship or by yourself to meditate, work out a problem, listen to music. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE. This is mental conditioning and also aerobic conditioning. Walking gets your heart to pump oxygen and nutrients to your brain. If you are with a friend, a conversation will further strengthen neural circuits. But avoid the phone call routine–it once again ties you to a device. Break-away when you can.
  2. Discover plants. In what way? First, eat more of them! Consume all kinds of lettuces. Learn how to make potatoes, onions and green vegetables the center of your main meal. Bring carrots, cucumber slices and radishes to enhance your lunch. Remember that colorful fruits and vegetables provide lycopene, folate, Vitamin A, phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which protect your vision, cancer fighters flavonoids, ellagic acid and anthocyanins. For more details go here.  
  3. Second, start a garden. It could be in a window box, pots along the window ledge or any size garden in any part of your yard. Choosing what to plant, working the soil, watching the growth of your garden and harvesting produce–all contribute to your health i.e. good food, sunshine and fresh air.
  4. Discover sleep. Eating, relaxing and then going to bed at a regular time each night or most nights contributes to better health. Irregular schedules are a major source of stress on your body. If you work nights, try to maintain as normal a schedule as possible when you do come home–and include in that schedule 6-8 hours of sleep.
  5. Discover something new. Your brain and your human need for interaction with others love new activities. They can stimulate you physically, mentally and socially. They provide a challenge that increases feelings of well being. Whether you take up something in the arts, sports or sign up for a class where you read books and listen to lectures or work on a computer–you are challenging yourself. Go for it.
  6. Discover that being with people at least part of the day is better than being alone. We are social beings and require the stimulus of personal interaction to “get our juices” flowing. Volunteer. Attend lectures. Go to museums and libraries were talks are presented and you can interact with people who have interests similar to yours.
  7. Discover the ONE STEP AT A TIME RULE. You can’t start a garden, sign up for a six week class and totally change your diet on a dime. Go slowly. Make careful choices and enjoy educating yourself as you go: like reading gardening catalogues, or checking out what adult ed classes will be available to you next semester or going to the library to study cook books until you find one that you want to own and use–so if you slop tomato sauce on it–no big deal. And of course the internet can always provide you with many of the answers you would find in books. CLUE: getting out to the library requires movement, walking maybe, meeting other people–ie you are discovering that personal interaction that staying at home often cannot provide.
  8. Discover that after a while you won’t need the following: cigarettes; feeling lonely; ignoring bodily symptoms; taking daily painkillers; not exercising; being angry and worried and stressed more often than being happy.

Wishing you healthy change in 2017. And this from poet, Mary Oliver, from her collection of essays UPSTREAM:

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was and what I wanted to be.   I submit this is true at any age. Go out there and discover more about the world and about yourself. Happy New Year.

Thanks to: AARP.ORG Bulletin

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale

Really sick kids are not just in commercials on TV. They exist. They suffer. Sometimes they die and sometimes because of poor or nonexistent healthcare, their health is forever compromised. Children should always be one of the first things a government remembers to protect and take care of. Children deserve good healthcare. They are our future. And parents, grandparents reading this post–you might know more about these issues than I do, but bottom line: a sick child changes your day or your week. A chronically sick child changes your life.

The Beginning of the Story–The Symptom

During the time when Andrew had developed the symptom, the first thing I thought about when I awoke each day was the results of the blood test. If a neighbor called, I could barely concentrate on the conversation. I wanted the answer. I kept creating the conversation in my head. The blood test would be normal. His symptom would be normal. Our lives would be normal again.

“How long has he had this pain in his feet?” the doctor casually asked. Thank God we had a general practitioner who saw Andrew for high temperatures, immunizations, a checkup after a broken arm–you name it. Now this.

“I don’t know. He’s growing. I can’t keep him in shoes. He’s going to be tall.”

“How long,” the doctor asked again. I looked at my notes. This doctor was a step up. a podiatrist, a specialist. “A month, longer.”

She nodded. She was continually prodding, pressing, massaging Andrew’s feet, appraising his reactions. She picked up the X-rays she had ordered and looked them over again. “In order to be sure, I’m going to have to do blood work. Or we really could just wait and see.”

“What are we waiting for?” I asked. She had let go of Andrew’s feet. He was pulling on his socks. What twelve-year-old boy likes all this fuss and about feet, no less.

“To see if he has rheumatoid arthritis. It can develop at this age and the pain he is describing is symptomatic.”

“Or his feet are growing,” I said with emphasis. I was fighting back with my own logic. I didn’t want her forcing me down this path of chronic illness, but the purpose of my story is to relate how fortunate I was as a parent to avoid delay, to see a doctor. I had access to healthcare. I could take care of my child no matter what the answer would be.

Remembering Sleeping Beauty

In the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty–a christening party is planned after a princess is born. When the King realizes that he has only twelve golden plates to serve 13 fairies, he invites only 12. But during the party, the 13th fairy arrives. Angered by the slight, her gift is a curse: the princess will later prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. But the youngest fairy, who has hidden behind a curtain so that she can give her gift last, is able to alter the old fairy’s wish. She promises that the princess will only fall asleep and that after 100 years a king’s son will find her and awaken her. This was early healthcare–the best she could do.

And Now the Conclusion to the “Andrew’s Feet” Story 

After a long five days, the podiatrist finally called me. The blood work was normal. No signs of rheumatoid arthritis. My son was growing rapidly and I needed to make sure that he always had proper footwear to support his bones and tissues. I thanked the doctor more than once. A few years later when I needed a podiatrist, she became my doctor.

Healthcare Should be a Gift from Birth

So what’s the connection to the fairy tale? Every child born in our country is a gift. And regardless of their pedigree and financial abilities–they should be given the gift of good healthcare–from the start. Each child born in the U.S. should not need a fairy hiding behind a curtain–they should be able to grow and develop into a healthy adult. We are not a third world country. Everyone of us deserves the proper immunizations and periodic checkups. Every child should be assured the gift of health at his or her birth.

Changing the Ending

In our creative world today, television shows and some books allow the reader or viewer to change the ending. So let’s do that now. Let’s assume that I could not afford a general practitioner to see Andrew. Or let’s assume that he saw a medical person who was not particularly skilled at figuring out what might go wrong with a 13-year-old’s feet! And then let’s assume that Andrew did have rheumatoid arthritis. Check out basic info from the Mayo Clinic: the most common signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis:

Pain. While your child might not complain of joint pain, you may notice that he or she limps — especially first thing in the morning or after a nap.
Swelling. Joint swelling is common but is often first noticed in larger joints like the knee.
Stiffness. You might notice that your child appears clumsier than usual, particularly in the morning or after naps.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can affect one joint or many. In some cases, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the entire body — causing swollen lymph nodes, rashes and fever. Like other forms of arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by times when symptoms flare up and times when symptoms disappear.

If Andrew had developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, his life would have radically changed, but he also would have had healthcare. My message today: not everyone in the U.S. is as fortunate as Andrew. So…help those who need the following information.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HEALTHCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN NOW Click on this link to learn more. There’s a video on the site to explain the relationship between the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and CHIP, Children’s Health Insurance Program. On the site you will read: Don’t Wait to Enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program
Under ObamaCare kids, there is no reason to wait to make sure kids are covered. Millions of children qualify for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) 365 days a year. The CHIP program provides free or low cost coverage to kids and other family members, even kids whose parents make too much money for Medicaid coverage can qualify for CHIP. Over the past 15 years, CHIP has done an excellent job in reducing the number of children without health insurance and under the Affordable Care Act even more kids are covered.

Even states that didn’t expand Medicaid still tend to provide good CHIP coverage. In many non-expansion states, parents who wouldn’t normally qualify for Medicaid can qualify if children qualify for CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP cover:

  • Children and teens up to age 19
  • Young people up to 21 may be covered under Medicaid
  • Youth who have “aged out” of foster care can be covered under Medicaid until they reach age 26

More information here. Health Insurance for Children and Young Adults Under 26.

Every mother or father who has ever drawn breath worries about one thing and one thing alone–the inability to help their sick child. I no longer believe in fairies, but I do believe in government taking care of its citizens. Stay informed. Reach out and give those who need the information provided here. Seeing the photo of a cute kid on television can lead one to believe that everything is all right with the world of children. It is not. But this would not be the United States of America if we fail ONE CHILD–let alone the over eight million that are currently taken care of by (Children’s Health Insurance Program) CHIP.


Child Healthcare Should be a Right, Not a Fairytale


Reading Stories Can Change Your Psyche

Reading Stories Can Change Your Psyche

On November 11, 2013, I published a post about research that revealed that reading literary fiction can make a person more empatheticThe study was based on having readers look at photo’s of subject’s eyes (the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test or RMET) and then identifying what that person was feeling.

Does reading fiction make you more empathetic?

Now that conclusion is being questioned. Sarah Begley writes in the current issue of TIME, that this past September researchers tried to replicate that study only to find that there is no significant connection between reading a short fictional passage and having one’s empathy increased. They did find that study participants who scored high on the RMET recognized the names of real authors on a list versus fake authors. Conclusion: being a devoted reader of fiction might make you more empathetic as opposed to reading a short paragraph for some study.

A Study Author Weighs In–Conclusions

Maria Panero who worked on these studies concludes: “It’s hard to know whether reading literary fiction increase theory of mind (empathy) of if people who naturally have higher theory of mind (empathy) are just more drawn to literary fiction.” Or to say it another way, it’s possible that high empathy and a high interest in literary fiction feed off each other.

Some Fun Facts about Our Involvement with Characters 

  1. One study found that READERS, those who read at least 18 books per year, like to line their bookshelves with their “reads” and communicate that they are readers to others. Reading is part of their identity and self-expression.
  2. Reading can also create a social bond between people. We see that online–large numbers of readers follow certain book reviewers and share their enthusiasm for a particular novel. It’s not unlike tweeting about a favorite television series or becoming so involved with a character in a novel or a film that we feel real grief while reading about them or seeing how their story unfolds.

But let’s take it farther than that.

Can Reading About a Character Affect Future Behavior?   

In her article, Begley reports on a 2012 Ohio State University study. The study “had registered undergraduates read different versions of a story in which the protagonist overcomes challenges in order to vote–like car troubles, bad weather and long lines. Those who read a version that led them to identify strongly with the character were more likely to vote in the real election a few days later–65% of them said they voted, compared with 29% who read a less relatable version of the story.” Conclusion: in a small way, reading affected their behavior.

Identifying with Characters or Bibliotherapy 

Ella Berthoud, an artist and Susan Elderkin, a novelist, though not registered therapists, have created a service for clients who are having emotional or life situation problems. They have the client complete a questionnaire about what is happening in their personal lives, but also what they like to read. The bibliotherapist creates a prescription at the end of the session and follows up by sending a list of 6-8 books and why they feel that reading these works will help the client solve problems and feel better about their lives.

Most of the books are fiction. Berthoud states: “Inhabiting a novel can be transformative in a way that using a self-help book isn’t.”

Eldurkin says: “There are certain books that have been really life-changing books for me, and it’s generally a matter of luck whether you hit on the right book at the right time of your life, which can open a door and help you to see something in a new way, or just give you that next leap up into new maturity.”

Curious? Examples of What These Bibliotherapists Prescribe

  1. career crossroads: Patrick deWitt’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS
  2. whether a woman should have a child: Ali Smith’s THE ACCIDENTAL
  3. struggling with divorce: Zora Neal Hurston’s THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD
  4. struggling with a so-so relationship: Elizabeth von Arnim’s THE ENCHANTED APRIL


When you think about it, each one of us has probably recommended a book or an article to a friend who was going through a rough patch in life. But usually those recommendations are nonfiction–self-help books written by people with some letters behind their names. Berthoud argues that a truly great novel, “gets into your subconscious and actually can change your very psyche from within.” That is so different from a non-fiction self-help book that lists steps to take to deal with a problem.

All of this–the science that might be able to prove that reading helps your mental health–is limited. But researcher Maria Panero states: “I think we all have some sort of intuitive sense that we get something from fiction. So in our field we are interested in saying, ‘Well, what is it that we’re getting?'”

To riff off a quote from Eldurkin, think of it this way: how many times have you immersed yourself in a novel or a story that provides proof that something you have always felt about your own life is true?

photo credit: Andres Tardio’s Creative Branches – WordPress.com2923 × 1957Search by image Los Angeles: The Last Bookstore

And thanks to Sarah Begley and TIME MAGAZINE.

You’re A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc

You're A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc

The health of the two candidates running for president has certainly been in the news. But the question is–how do you find a good doctor if you’ve just moved or if you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition or something else that requires a specialist? Word of mouth is very often the way someone starts the process, but how one doctor relates and helps your friend might not be the best choice for you. And you don’t want to waste your time and possibly your health simply starting out with any doctor and finding that down the road you made a hasty and wrong choice.


First keep these two things in mind:

  1. know what type of insurance you have and if there are any limitations connected to that insurance. Some plans send you a booklet of doctors in their network. You are limited to those.
  2. YELP and other internet reviews of physicians are often driven by a patient who didn’t improve. The complaint might be related to the doctor’s care, but it also could be related to how compliant the patient was. Something to consider.

Second, when searching for a new physician after a move or a diagnosis, make a list of the things that you truly want in this future doctor and the provided care you are seeking. Here’s a list to consider:

  1. What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital–all or one?? Is this physician’s office and the hospital where she has privileges close to your home or a long drive? In an emergency situation closer will always be better.
  2. Is this doctor board certified in the speciality that you need? Internal medicine board certification is a good place to start if your general health is good. But you may need a cancer or cardiac specialist etc, and that will narrow your choices. (Note: often getting an internist in a university group is the best way to go as that physician can then refer you to say an ear, nose and throat, a surgeon or an orthopedic doctor etc in his group.)
  3. If you have trouble speaking English, that’s also a consideration. It’s always good if you are terribly worried about your physical health or running a fever or vomiting or a cancer patient etc that you bring someone with you to your appointment. But it’s not always possible and if language is an issue, you need to make sure you will always be able to communicate with your doctor. Misinformation can lead to your getting sicker or even hospitalization and death.
  4. The age of the doctor you choose or his or her years in practice might also be on your list of concerns. Some people want an older doctor who they feel they would be more comfortable with or who would know more. Others want a younger doctor who will be up on new advances in medicine. All physicians are required to stay up-to-date in their specialty through reading and testing and participating in hands-on programs for recertification.
  5. The gender of your physician might also concern you. (Certainly in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology there has been a major shift–more women in that practice now than men.) But that shouldn’t rule out the skill of male OBGYN’S. When my husband created this list and followed it, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
  6. It’s very important to discover if the doctor you are researching is taking on new patients. You might get all excited that you’ve found one, only to discover the practice is closed.
  7. Once you have found one or two you are considering, you can verify their board certification here. You can also go to your home state department of consumer affairs to check for any negative reports about this doctor.
  8. And of course you can Google them. Most doctors will have an online presence, often with a personal photo, phone number, office hours and map to get you to their office.


My husband has specific health issues, so after doing his research he made an appointment with the doctor he was considering, telling her receptionist that he wanted to interview the doctor. Here’s what he learned at that first meeting:

  • she was on time and open to discussing his health needs;
  • he brought his medical history with him so that she could examine lab results etc and understand his past and present health;
  • he determined that she had excellent listening skills and she did not rush him;
  • at the end of that 45 minute meeting, she also made a referral for him as he had another health issue that needed immediate attention.

Botom line? He had made the right choice and her care of him has been excellent.


So what criteria is important to you when choosing a doctor? It will vary from person to person, but for me, I have to feel that the doctor values me as an individual and will take the time, if only five minutes, to discuss my concerns. I recently changed a specialist, because the tests I needed had been scheduled way down the road and I wanted information sooner than later. Maybe I panicked a little, but I am very happy with this new doctor who did all the tests that first appointment.

I have also found that being informed and prepared for a doctor visit just might be noted in your chart–you’ll become a so-called favorite patient. So on your end, a few things to do:

  1. be on time and if you are delayed or cannot make an appointment CALL;
  2. bring your list of medications with you;
  3. bring a list of your concerns with you and don’t wait until the appointment is almost over to say I’ve had some serious chest pain!
  4. if you have to wait, try to be patient; WHY? because your doctor is dealing with another patient who just said “I’ve had some serious chest pain” or something like that.

One final thought. Often your condition will move you to do some internet research before you walk into the doctor’s office. That’s okay. As a nurse, I have done that for years. But a few things to keep in mind to cement a good working relationship with your doctor:

  1. WAIT. Let your doctor explain first what she feels is your diagnosis. Don’t walk in waving a piece of paper with YOUR conclusion about your case. As the appointment proceeds, use what you have learned on the internet to further explore your condition and ask questions. Depending on the site you used, you might be totally off. And building a good relationship with your physician requires TRUST. To make it very basic, when you have an electrical or plumbing problem in your home, you are eager to have the technician tell you what’s wrong. Most of us don’t research electricity and plumbing before this person arrives. Give your doctor the floor.
  2. WAIT again. Yes, I’ve had concerns about my health and brought in that piece of paper with my questions or some info from the net. But I ease my way into the question and often before I can even ask it–she’s answered it.

So I’m wishing you the best as you continue your relationship with your doctor or find a new one. The ground work you do is extremely important. You are a candidate for good health and hopefully once you have done your research, the doctor you choose will get your vote.

Thanks to my husband and to Val Jones, founder and CEO of Better Health

You're A Candidate For Good Health & A Good Doc



The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

If you ask the evolutionary question: why do women continue to live after they are no longer able to bear, birth and breastfeed children, you come up with a researched and very interesting answer. They continue to be part of the evolutionary plan because they become grandmothers. And that is terribly important.


In the 1980s, anthropologist Kristin Hawkes and her colleagues studied the Hadza tribe, the last known hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Africa. Their findings:

1. the tribe’s old women did not just rest, they worked, digging up a deeply-buried tuber which provided the main source of starch for the tribe’s diet.

2. though the young women also dug for the tubers, the older women spent more time at this task, leaving early in the morning and coming back late in the evening.

3. and because of the presence of this food in the diet, the grandchildren of these older women had better growth rates.

From these observations, came the “grandmother hypothesis.” Simply stated: women past childbearing age help not just their children, but their children’s children. They strengthen the genealogy of the family, insuring that the line will continue. Having such a role or purpose eventually lengthened their own life span. When no longer required to carry an infant around, they were freed up to do work that helped their progeny. And very importantly, by foraging for more food, they prevented their grandchildren from dying. All generations were aided as the lengthening of the life span was then passed on.

The researchers added that the “grandmother hypothesis” clarified why humans are able to have children in quick succession, whereas in other species there are long gaps. Example: chimp mothers wait 5 or 6 years to give birth to another neonate. But with tribal grandmothers available, the younger women could continue to have children. This collaborative child-rearing allowed the young woman to focus on the next baby while the grandmother took care of the toddlers.

In her piece in the New Republic that analyzes the “grandmother hypothesis” Judith Shulevitz writes of another very positive reason for grandmothers –As the grandmother effect spread throughout the population over thousands of generations, it changed humans in another way. It made their brains bigger. As life lengthened, so did each stage of it. Children stayed children longer, which let their brains develop a more complex neural architecture.


It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century, says Roma Hanks PhD. There is much to substantiate that claim. In a society where many women have to work or choose to work, daycare centers, schools and grandparents often replace the role of the parent. Hanks is referring to the gifts that grandparents can bring to children whose parents are stressed and often emotionally unavailable because of work schedules and the worry of providing basic needs. In these cases and in families where life flows more easily, grandparents are vital in helping a family thrive.

Children need guidance, love and someone to listen to their fears and worries. Grandparents easily become that source and a bond forms, allowing for future communication.
Grandparents can babysit, allowing stressed moms and dads a chance to get away and relate to one another.
Grandparents can relate family stories, creating a history that forges a bond and provides a child with a sense of place and security.
Grandparents can be a source of information, providing advice, guidance and just plain helping out–like locating the phone number of a doctor.
Grandparents can be role models for their children’s parenting and for their grandchildren’s relationships with others. The love and gentleness found in the home is the first step to forming good citizens of the world who will have their own relationships and build their own families in the decades ahead.
In the end, grandparents can offer a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, or gentle reassurance to both their children and their grandchildren.


Kate Fogarty, PhD, stressed the importance of the protective role grandparents can play when grandchildren are cared for by a depressed mother. Her research showed that the formation of loving bonds between grandparents and those children could help develop positive behavior, increase cognitive development and prevent behavioral problems. She even went so far as to say that the possibility of the depression being passed to these children could be broken by the grandparent/grandchild relationship–a win win.

And though Fogarty’s research was with grandparents, certainly the role of loving aunts, uncles and friends will always make a positive difference in a child’s life.


There’s the familiar line: “If I’d known how wonderful it is to have grandchildren, I would have had them first.” What is that all about? Probably that with grandchildren comes experience, confidence in the role to be played, freedom from the harder aspects of child-rearing and the amazing chance to see once again the future in a child’s eyes.

Certainly some grandparents have more nitty-gritty responsibility for their grandchildren than others. Some are doing much of the raising and rearing. Some show up only for the fun times, like birthdays and holidays.

But hopefully most grandparents find the middle acceptable ground–they are eager to role up their sleeves and help when needed and they are always desirous of telling family stories, reading well-loved books, taking exploratory walks or singing well-loved songs. It’s a little like reliving your parenting. It’s a lot like looking into the future and once again having that uplifting feeling of knowing something of you will live on. That’s truly important.

Celebrate Grandparents day, Sunday, September 11th, 2016

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

Thanks to Google Images and

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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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

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

Your Future Could Be: What? Could You Please Repeat That?

Your Future Could Be: What? Could You Please Repeat That?

When my friends and I get together for a glass of wine and good talks, at some point the topic of aging usually arises. And it might stop right there with: Hey, we’re still here, as the wine is passed and we begin to plan a trip or chuckle over the recent news of our grown children. Then again, we might focus on aspects of aging that we’re dealing with—thinning hair, the latest skincare tips, the need to go up or down a size, foot surgery—that seems to be more and more common after years of flip flops and high heels. But so far I haven’t noticed any one of us asking that we repeat things. Hearing loss is subtle and it’s easy to smile and pretend you heard everything.


Hearing loss is rarely discussed. I remember my friend Cathy, during a more philosophical talk we were having, saying that loosing her hearing would be worse than loosing her sight. When I expressed the exact opposite opinion and asked her why she took that stance, she immediately said how painful it would be to not hear music. Yes! And bird song and your granddaughter’s first word.

Hearing loss and the use of hearing aids is a delicate topic and we’ve often ignored it. That’s not to say that it won’t be a hot topic in the future. I’m predicting that it will be! And when one of us has to get some form of a hearing aid, I’m hoping it’s not hidden away, that we can talk about this, share information.

Consider: people born with eyesight can get glasses when needed or have eye surgery. People born with hearing can get hearing aids when needed. Hearing aids offer the ability to again partake in a conversation even though hearing loss has occurred. But unlike glasses, it is taking us a long time to consider them a cool thing. With new technologies, that is definitely changing. For more information, go here.


After a noisy family wedding back in 2001, I tried to fall asleep, but began to realize that I was experiencing a humming or buzzing that could only be tinnitus. A few months later an episode of vertigo that I experienced on awakening sent me immediately to my very kind doctor. He ran a bunch of tests, even checked me for Lyme disease. A few weeks later, being concerned about Meniere’s disease, I had a hearing test and physical exam with an ENT. Diagnosis, not Meniere’s but minor hearing loss and BPV—benign postural vertigo. (see definitions below)

I was relieved, but tinnitus can be extremely annoying. I read about it, and like some of the articles emphasized, I realized that relaxing into the condition instead of focusing on it helped my brain block the annoyance. I could hear and that’s the bottom line. I still have tinnitus and always will. Most often I am no longer aware of it, except when in a very quiet room. AND, after being around loud sounds for a long period of time like a concert or a wedding. Then it becomes exacerbated. Ear plugs help. So does avoidance of sounds from motors. I wear ear plugs when I vacuum or use machines doing yard work. (My goal is always prevention, no matter what aspect of my health is affected.) Sometimes I just plug my ears with my fingers if I pull up next to a car blasting whatever.

The diagnosis of tinnitus also underlined that hearing aids were probably in my future. I am fortunate to have longevity on my mother’s side of the family–grandmother, aunt and my mother all lived into their nineties. But all wore hearing aids.


The commonly stated range of human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. In a sound laboratory, which blocks out interfering sounds, humans can hear sound as low as 12 Hz and as high as 28 kHz. Individual hearing range can vary depending on the general condition of a person’s ears and nervous system. Women typically experience a lesser degree of hearing loss than men, with a later onset. Men have approximately 5 to 10 dB greater loss in the upper frequencies by age 40.

My husband and I are about the same age, but I have noted that I can hear high tones that he cannot hear. You can take a hearing test on your computer, but it might not be very accurate depending on the condition of the room you are taking the test in and the quality of the headphones you use. (I recently did a test of identifying musical notes. I did this for my nephew and did very well. I was pleased.) And once again, age and prolonged exposure to loud sounds can significantly lower your ability to hear high frequencies. Sensorineural hearing loss means that the loss is related to a problem with the cochlea or the inner ear. An exam done by an audiologist can usually determine the degree of hearing loss and why it is occurring. Educate yourself about hearing loss.


Every one of us is aging. You might be 30, but yes, you are aging. It’s the human condition. And yes, I might have some years on you. So what am I doing about it? Lots of physical things to avoid immobility, which is the real killer. But also brain things. I read. I research. I write this blog. Being informed about hearing loss is better than doing the old HEAD IN THE SAND trick. Keep track of your health. If more and more you find yourself saying, WHAT, COULD YOU PLEASE REPEAT THAT? It is time to see your doctor or a specialist. And have those earplugs handy. You never know when your wild nephew might show up with his band.

Meiniere’s Disease: a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes in which you feel as if you’re spinning (vertigo), and you have fluctuating hearing loss with a progressive, ultimately permanent loss of hearing, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. In most cases, Meniere’s disease affects only one ear.

BPV: Benign Positional Vertigo: develops when small pieces of calcium crystals that are normally in another area of the ear break free and find their way to the semicircular canal in your inner ear. This causes your brain to receive confusing messages about your body’s position.

Make Some Noise for National Tinnitus Awareness Week

Your Future Could Be: What? Could You Please Repeat That?

Make Some Noise for National Tinnitus Awareness Week

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