Category Archives: Environment

Blasting the Fascia

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For me, it all started when I had some  MFR (myofascial release therapy) done on my right calf. Myofascial release (MFR) therapy focuses on releasing muscular shortness and tightness. There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial release therapy addresses.

Fascia is the head to toe, arm to arm, inside-out connective tissue. It divides our muscles and penetrates them like the internal skin of an orange. It also surrounds virtually every structure of the human body. If we were able to peek inside our bodies and only see the fascia, we would look like a human form of cotton candy with mummy-like bandages running throughout. The entire fascia system is connected in ONE piece like a 3D spider-web.

When my daughter-in-law, Katherine, started talking to me about her experiences with the new fascia guru, Ashley Black, I signed on to a Facebook group that pertains to the topic of “fascia blasting”.

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Fascia blasting consists of using specific tools to loosen the fascia throughout the body, from head to toe.  It is accredited for doing everything from restoring hair loss to body sculpting, to getting rid of neck “waddle” and crows feet.  In 30 days, it can make a person go from a pockled cellulite carrier to a smooth sailing, fit-looking body babe, as shown in the pictures below.

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The Fascia Blasters, as these tools are called, come in a variety of sizes, all intended to do the same thing.  That is, release the fascia that binds fat to bone.

Ashley Black  explains there are 4 types of fascia:

  1. Structural fascia- Runs in long strips through the body. Visible in chicken meat just below the skin. The white silky membrane.
  2. Inter-structural fascia- Is present inside muscles and connects muscles to other muscles and to the bones. Visible when eating steak, the cobweb-like material.
  3. Visceral fascia- The “goop” inside our abdominal cavity that surrounds our organs and digestive system.
  4. Spinal fascia- the straw like thick casing that surrounds the spinal column

The fascia has a brush point with literally every other system of the body. It is as, or more significant than any other system. Having loose, healthy fascia is vital for overall health and well-being. Healthy fascia also makes us look, feel, and function better!

SO…..

I purchased a fascia blaster.  I also purchased a mini fascia blaster and a “fake” (not Ashley Black brand) facial fascial blaster.  I have to say, the results have been amazing!  I have redistributed the tissue around my knees to be much more attractive than it was before.  I have completely rid myself of a slight double chin.  I have carved out my abs and the under side of my arms.  I am making progress over my entire body.  Fascia Blasting really works!

The idea is to heat the fascia via a sauna or hot shower, then to blast away using the above-noted tools. Expect bruising at first, but that just tells you that the fascia blasting is working.  You can use arnica to heal the bruises quickly.  Ashley also recommends that one drink a good detox tea, because blasting fascia releases all kinds of toxins in the body….so expect to feel a little wimpy at first, but this quickly goes away, and the practice becomes pleasurable.  It feels great to fascia blast these days.

Here are a few videos that tell more:

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Retreats, Yoga….and

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I went location scouting for a place to hold my first retreat yesterday and ended up at a cool place in Damascus, Oregon.  Scenic location…beautiful sanctuary, dining hall, great vegetarian catering…many many good features.  This might be the place.  Still looking. screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-53-49-pm

Started a new yoga class last night that was unlike any I’d participated in previously.  Really enjoyed it.  The theme was focused on gratitude, which we talked a little about as participants, and tried to integrate it into our practice.   I have so much to be grateful for in this life, and it seems to just get better and better, as I settle into this heartfelt happiness.  All areas of my life have improved over the last year.  My friendships/relationships/the family I have here….all so good and better and   best.  Really. I am so thankful.

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The yoga was an hour and a half, and by the end of it, I had begun to feel slightly nauseated. Thankfully, I live nearby, so rushed home and no sooner walked in the door when I got very sick. I investigated why that would have happened after yoga, and it said that sometimes the liver is prompted to release toxins during yoga. I threw up because I was poisoned by these toxins. Today, I feel a little “meepy” (as my old friend, Peggy Spott used to say), but better.

So today was a productive day, work-wise.  I fulfilled some interesting writing orders about various subjects….”the dangers of Aspertame”, “coping with loss,” “how drones can be used in the construction industry…” Just enough to earn a few bucks and get my brain charged up.

Anyway….namaste….and until next time…be sweet now.

Brain Training & Other Ways to Improve Brain Function by Stacy Alexander

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Human health depends largely on the brain’s ability to function properly. The brain is the most important organ in the body, as it controls all functions, including the ability to heal. However, when it comes to health, the brain is largely ignored. There are certain things one can do to help improve brain function, including nutritional intake, brain training, meditation and other brain exercises.

Nutrition

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According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, what one eats directly affects the function and structure of the brain and, ultimately, one’s mood.

Like a precision-built luxury car, the human brain functions optimally when it gets only the best, high-powered fuel. Consuming high-quality foods that contain a lot of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, serves to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress.

Just as that precision-built luxury car will not run well on inferior fuel, the brain can actually be damaged if one ingests anything other than premium fuel. Eating refined sugars and highly processed foods can harm the brain. In addition to harming the body’s ability to regulate insulin, they promote oxidative stress and inflammation.

Multiple scientific studies have found a relationship between a diet high in refined sugar and negatively impaired brain function. Additionally, there has been a worsening of the symptoms of certain mood disorders, such as depression.

Exercise

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Exercise prompts the human brain to work at optimum capacity by prompting nerve cells to multiply, which strengthens their interconnections and protects them from damage. When one exercises, his or her nerve cells release neurotrophic factors, which are types of proteins. One of these proteins in particular, triggers numerous other chemicals that promote brain health and that positively benefit cognitive functions, including one’s ability to learn.

Exercise also results in:

  • The production compounds that protect the brain’s nerves
  • Increased blood flow to the brain
  • Improved development and survival of neurons
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke

Sleep

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Sleep is essential for creativity and problem solving. Another study conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that people are as much as 33% more likely to infer connections between distantly related ideas after sleep, but that most people do not realize their performance has improved. Sleep can enhance memory and help improve brain function with regard to challenging skills. The study found that one night’s sleep lasting from 4 to 6 hours can positively impact one’s ability to think clearly the following day.

Brain Training

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One of the easiest ways to boost brain function is to continually strive to learn new things. The structure and size of neurons, as well as the connections between them change as one learns.

Learning is not limited to things one necessarily learns from books. It can also include such activities as traveling to new places, learning how to play, write or sing music, learning to speak a language other than one’s own or becoming a part of community and other social activities.

Challenging the brain with various mind training activities and exercises can keep the brain fit as one ages. These exercises do not have to be elaborate. They can be as simple as trying to recall the names of all of the states, or attempting to recall as many names as possible that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. Crossword puzzles are great ways to exercise the brain, as are playing the types of board games, such as chess, that require contemplation.

Research suggests that even surfing the Internet activates specific regions in the brain that are related to complex reasoning and decision-making. Unlike passively viewing television, surfing the web is more engaging and can actually help improve one’s brainpower.

Stacy Alexander

MS Psychology

The Excitement of it All

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This is, perhaps, one of the most exciting times in my entire life.  I am paving the way to begin walking an entirely new path toward new goals and it feels great.  I am probably busier than I’ve been since my children were little, but I have stores of energy, and tons of enthusiasm that keep me going each day.  I have a supportive partner….two supportive partners, really….and I feel like a million bucks.

One thing that I’m doing that might seem a little wacky for a woman my age, is I’m taking a singing masterclass from Christina Agulara.  Yep.  You read that correctly.

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While I do have a strong singing voice and I do sing, from time to time, I do not aspire to be a famous pop star.  Instead, I am taking the class to learn her teaching approach and methods. Virtually everything I do these days is to prepare for my new business, and this is far from all I am doing .

I have found a dedicated business partner who complements those areas that I lack, and I complement hers as well.  We are planning our first workshop/retreat for next April, and it is exciting indeed!  I’m running around like crazy looking at venues, working on marketing, taking pictures, writing curriculum, developing products, writing …writing…writing…networking…making new business connections.

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A lot of my workshops will be centered around music and musicians  (as this  is an important, special  part of my life,) so I am learning the inner bones….the when, where, why and how of the technical aspects.  Those things, combined with my background in psychology are what have me so geared up and ready to go with these workshops.

While I do have my masters in psychology, I am now actively working to enhance that with life coaching certification classes from the Integrative Wellness Academy.  I feel that the two credentials integrated will help me with my workshops. Should take a few months to earn my certification.

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In other news….my songwriting efforts are progressing in leaps and bounds, as is my guitar playing. Taking classes for both.   I have really had a breakthrough and feel as though I am soaring.  I am so happy.  I love my life.  Honestly.  It is a good life, one that is far from perfect, but that is filled with and operated by love.  I could not ask for a better and more supportive family-family AND family of friends. Being confident in my love is a wonderful feeling.

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I have signed up for a new yoga program that will also be integrated into our workshops.  I am making art by the hour.  I am on a roll…..like butta.  Man, this is good.  I have never felt happier.  Love helps. 😉   It is what I live for.

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A Guide to Converting a Tub to a Shower

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My husband and I both renovated houses before we knew one another.  In fact, when we lived in Houston, we were both doing it at the same time, within 3 blocks of one another, without any knowledge of the other person.  We didn’t meet until years later, when he taught a Shakespeare class that I enrolled in at the University of St. Thomas, where I did a lot of my undergrad work.  Anyway….we are both into do-it-yourself home projects, so I wanted to share some information about that with you.

It can be a fun project to convert an old bathtub or tub/shower combination into a nice walk-in shower. A conversion of this nature can come in handy for people with mobility problems, or for anyone who would simply like the convenience of a shower rather than a tub.

Each tub-to-shower conversion offers many different choices, such as the type of shower door that will be used, if any, and whether to use a fiberglass unit or to waterproof and tile the walls.

Generally speaking, the following steps are entailed, but may differ from job to job:

  • Removal of the original tub
  • Removal of faucets and other plumbing, adjustments to supply lines and wastewater drains
  • Shower base installation
  • Wall repair
  • Re-installation of plumbing fixtures
  • Waterproofing of wall installation
  • Shower door installation

    I  have put together a handy guide to converting a tub to a shower to help owners make all the right decisions.

Relocation

The job of completely tearing out a tub in favor of building a new shower is not necessarily an easy task, but it is one that can pay off later on by increasing the value of the property.

Ideally, a professional contractor should be called in initially, to help assess the space, to devise potential solutions and to determine the best place for the shower’s location. It is also advisable to get a formal bid this time for price comparison purposes if one is considering a do-it-yourself project.

The main issue with relocating a shower lies in the underlying drains and pipes. Even doing something as simple as relocating a toilet by only a few inches can entail a major plumbing overhaul. There are also very specific physical limitations dictated by local building codes.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground floor bathroom with a raised foundation, new pipes can be run under the floor joists. The joists are easily accessed through the bathroom’s crawl space or basement.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground-floor bathroom that is built on a concrete slab, things can be moved around. However, the concrete will have to be broken up in order to install the new drains. Doing this, of course, will incur additional costs.

Second-story bathrooms are a whole different ballgame. New pipes can be run under the floor joists. However, this entails ripping up sections of the first floor ceiling, which will then have to be rebuilt, again, incurring additional costs.

In the majority of cases, the place where the tub stands originally will provide plenty of room for a shower. However, a solid surface curb will have to be built to prevent the water from splashing out onto the bathroom floor.

Another thing to consider is the choice of a shower door. If a door is to be used, there should be room for it to swing open without hitting something like a sink or the toilet. There are many types of shower doors, but having one is not necessary.

There are also partial  panels made of glass that can keep the water contained. They have the disadvantage of letting in cold air, however, so should only be installed in a bathroom that has a good heat source.

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A real disadvantage to tearing out a bathtub to replace it with a shower is the house’s potential resale value. Many prospective homeowners prefer a tub for bathing their small children, especially if the room being remodeled is a space shared by the whole family.

A retrofit of the existing plumbing is the less invasive remedy for creating a shower. The wall will need to be opened up (typically from the adjacent room) and plumbing will have to be brought up to code. A water-resistant, concrete dry wall, Hardibacker or Wediboard will need to be bought, along with tiles for the walls.

Regardless of the chosen solution, the conversion of a tub to a shower also affords the perfect opportunity to upgrade venting, lighting and other built-in amenities that improve the area, such as shelving, a bench or built in niches for shampoo and other shower items.

The conversion of a tub into a shower involves many variables and a lot of planning, regardless of the size of the bathroom, but especially if the room is a small one.

The preliminary stages of a tub-to-shower conversion do not begin by ripping out tiles and buying paint. This type of project should start by writing all the proposed changes on paper. This is one of the most crucial steps, as this information will be referred to time and again throughout the process.

The area to be converted should be measured, the final design decided upon and research conducted before anything else happens. Then, a to-scale blueprint should be drawn.

Costs

When planning a renovation, the costs of a tub-to-shower conversion can be tricky. Generally speaking, the fewer changes made, the lower the cost will be.

A plumber may charge up to $3,000 to remove the original tub and associated plumbing to install new wall surfaces and a new receptor. The cost will be considerably higher if the homeowner decides to upgrade the shower enclosure material to a ceramic tile or solid surface.

DIYers with carpentry and plumbing experience can dismantle and tear out the original tub and fixtures and purchase a receptor and wall surround kit for around one third of a plumber’s cost. The installation, in this case, is free, saving a considerable amount of money.

The size of the bathroom can be a major determining factor in figuring costs. Fixtures come in a wide variety of prices, as do tiles, dry wall and other things needed in the conversion. Roughly speaking, a shower installation can cost as little as $250 and as much as $10,000 or more.

One-piece, curbless shower enclosures cost between $2000 and $4000. Shower kits with fiberglass sides and hinged doors average from $250 to $2000.

Hiring a plumber tends to be the more expensive option. However, doing so can be the more economic plan, time-wise. An experienced plumber is also much less likely to make costly mistakes. However, the costs of raw materials and the sweat equity involved in producing a do-it-yourself job will cost, in most cases, considerably less money.

The decision on which way to go should depend on the homeowner’s level of remodeling expertise, and the amount of time he or she wishes to take working on the project. The homeowner should also check local building license requirements. However, his is an area where a professional plumber is most knowledgable.

Tips Before Remodeling

What to measure

In most cities, building codes dictate that the shower floor should measure at least 30″ x 30″. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends, at minimum, a 36″ x 36″ shower stall. Using these standards will probably require a tub alcove modification. For example short wall partitions may be added to result in a shower space that is 36″ deep.

Other important measurements:

  • A ceiling height of at least 80″.
  • The distance between the center of the toilet to the wall should be at least 18,” and the distance from the toilet’s side to the shower wall should be a minimum of 15″.
  • Calculating the distance from the front of the toilet to the shower or any wall should be a minimum of 21,” and ideally, at least 30″.
  • Calculate the swing of the shower door, making sure that it is clear from all obstructions. Pay particular attention to the vanity cabinet and toilet. If there is a problem, sliding glass doors or the simple addition of a shower curtain and no door can solve the problem.

Types of Showers

Showers are available as full showers or as shower-tub combinations. If the resale value of the house is a consideration, the latter choice is the better one for a house that only has one bathroom. This compensates for the possibility of a family with children eventually buying the house. This demographic tends to lean toward having at least one tub in the house. So long as there is another bathroom that has a tub, the choice of a shower alone should be fine.

A regular shower is the better choice for a small bathroom. They are more room efficient and can look quite impressive with only a few simple upgrades. A tub/shower combination is easier to replace with a shower, since the shower uses less space. The other option costs more because of the extra plumbing requirements.

Curbs or No Curbs

The shower floor makes a definitive statement about the style and cost of a tub to shower conversion. Showers with curbs tend to be simpler and less expensive to install than curbless installations. The common curbed shower has a 6″ step at its entrance. People who are seeking a more sophisticated, streamlined bathroom seldom take into consideration how that curb will stand out when the job has been completed.

People in wheelchairs can have great difficulties getting in and out of a curbed shower. A curbless or “zero threshold” shower was once thought of as a convenience for people who had mobility issues. Today, they are considered stylish additions to any home.

A zero threshold shower is a fairly easy project for a new home. However, it can be less simple when remodeling an older home, as structural issues often come into play. In some cases, the floor structure will need to be reworked to achieve the needed recess for proper drainage. This type of shower can improve shower accessibility considerably.

Boutonniere Inspirations for a Wedding

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Long ago and far away, I worked as a freelance wedding planner.  My specialty was economical weddings in dramatic settings, such as beach weddings, foreign destination weddings and weddings in authentic Texas locations.  I once planned an elegant wedding in an old Austin Texas  barn, attended by some famous C&W musicians.   As they invited me to participate in the wedding celebration, we all had the times of our lives. The juxtaposition of elegant finery contrasted with the rustic elements provided by the barn was just perfect, and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts.

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As part of my promo literature at the time, I gave tips about wedding attire, honeymoon accommodations and other useful things.  What follows is some advice I had for boutonniere inspirations.:

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Nothing can quite add the panache to a groom’s wedding attire  like the classic style embodied his boutonniere. This traditional symbol worn on the lapel of the groom’s jacket is a gesture brimming with meaning that reaches  far beyond the flower itself. Boutonnieres symbolize beauty. They symbolize the fragility of life, and love undefined all captured in a single blossom.

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Classic Wedding

A classic wedding calls for a classic symbol. A single red rose boutonniere with, perhaps, a tiny spray of baby’s breath embodies all of the characteristics any bride could wish for in a groom. The red rose symbolizes courage, sincere love, respect and a hearty congratulations to the happy couple. The baby’s breath symbolizes everlasting and undying love.

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Beach Wedding

Keeping things natural at a beach wedding is the way to go. Tiny white lily boutonnieres trimmed with raffia and miniature seashells can add a nice touch, or for something more ornate,  earthy boutonnieres with lavender, green blueberries, wax flowers and rosemary can add a subtle, yet beautiful touch the blends right in with a stunning ocean environment.

Western Style Wedding

A sunset wedding on the ranch, or at the beach, calls for shades of yellow with a boutonniere made from dusty miller, billy balls and handmade wooden button flowers tied with twine. This is a winning combination that can dress up any groom’s lapel without going over the top.

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Castle or Mansion Wedding

Any  groom can  look like a prince in a beautiful purple boutonniere made of royal ranunculus buds and rose hips that are wrapped with white or purple velvet ribbon.

High Desert Wedding

Ranunculus and rice flowers in soft desert pinks, corals and yellows are a perfect combination for a high desert wedding boutonniere. An alternative choice is silvery brunia and tiny, mint green succulents wrapped in a pale pastel ribbon.

Elegant Cocktail Lounge Wedding

Imagine the beauty of an elegant cocktail lounge wedding atop a skyscraper overlooking the glittering lights of the city. What better boutonniere could adorn the groom’s lapel than one inspired by the fresh ingredients and herbs found in the fine spirits that are served there. An aromatic boutonniere made from cinnamon sticks, Douglas fir, hops, bay laurel, grains, juniper and rosemary will be the highlight of the groom’s suit.

Hawaiian Wedding

Hawaii is one of the most popular destination wedding locations in the world. The groom will fit right in with a simple orchid boutonniere, or, for a little more flare, a boutonniere made of astrantias and jasmine blooms against a background of local foliage.

Remember, a successful wedding celebration is all about the details.  The marriage?  That’s all about the couple.

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Protected: My Happy Campers

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D- Cisisions

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If you make an appointment with your doctor to  complain about  a backache or joint pain, chances are, you will end up with a prescription for a potentially-dangerous painkilling drug.  Oftentimes,  your doctor may recommend surgery.

If you have risk factors for heart disease, as my husband has, you will probably be told to take a statin drug for the rest of your life.  The side effects of taking the drug will most likely  be downplayed.   And what about depression?  Has your doctor prescribed some massively dangerous antidepressant for that?

Do you have weak, brittle  bones?  Oh, there’s  pharmaceutical “solution”  for that as well.  Trouble with retaining memories?   Your friendly  Pharma has a pill for that too.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 12.47.05 PM Granted these are real issues that go along with many other common “age-related” health issues.  However, the possibility exists that they are also just symptoms of a common vitamin deficiency, so if you see a doctor, make sure that it is one who has had thorough nutritional training, because the majority of doctors do not.  Most medical schools only require 3 hours of nutritional training, and some don’t even require that.

Vitamin D  deficiency can lead to all of the above-mentioned symptoms.  They can all  be corrected very  easily, quickly  and inexpensively.  Before you stop reading because you’re under the impression that you are getting sufficient D, please consider this.  According to my own doctor,  an amazing 75% of adults in the United States have insufficient vitamin D levels.

Too few doctors monitor their patients’  vitamin D levels.  As previously mentioned, learning about nutrition in med school and, therefore, gaining the ability to accurately diagnose nutritional deficiencies is an almost a non-existent part of their medical  training.

Vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic proportions for one simple reason:people don’t get enough sun exposure.   Our bodies can only produces vitamin D in response to ultraviolet rays.  The human body is designed to spend most of the time outdoors, yet most people spend the largest percentage of  our days inside.   Additionally, public health officials declared war on the sun decades ago, urging people not to go outdoors without first slathering themselves in sunscreen.   The truth is, moderate sun exposure is actually good for you.  While sunscreens do protect the skin, they also block 100% of vitamin D production.  Also, most brands contain toxic chemicals that do more harm than they do good.   A solution?

I only use Pangea Organics cosmetic  products that contain an excellent all-natural sunscreen.  Additionally, I take 10,000 IUs of Michael’s brand of Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K2.

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Now I’m not recommending a dosage for anyone because I am not qualified to do so.  What I do recommend, however, is that you do seek out a nutritionally cognizant physician or Naturopath and discuss this matter and ask for a recommendation about how much you should take for your specific body type and weight.

My own life has changed exponentially since I increased my dosage….for the better.

The Writing Life

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The Mills Brothers  released their hit  “Too Many Irons in the Fire” in 1946.  70 years later, this song could be designated my theme song. Yet, how many irons are too many?  I suppose that much is subjective.

I live a multi-faceted existence and always seem to have a lot of irons in the fire.  With the onset of the new year, however, I find myself busier than ever, but I am also happier than ever, and with great hope for the future.

I am working on opening a new business and have been developing workshops and programs for that, gathering partners and finances, and creating a dynamic endeavor that may take a couple of years to get off the ground, so  I continue to work on other things as I focus on getting this done.

A friend, who is a former celebrity client from a decades-ago stint I did with an entertainment law firm, contacted me over the holidays to ask if I would be part of a $25 million capital raising campaign with a view toward producing 5 new independent films.  I will be working in the capacity of a consultant, designing social media promotions and campaigns, but won’t know many details until some time next week. This will be my first MOIP-related, salaried work I have done since I received my masters degree, and while I’m excited about the work, this is not what I’ll be doing professionally, in the long run, but that is another story for another time.

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In addition to my art work, a large part of my vocational time is spent writing.  I have my various creative writing projects going on….my cookbook, my novel, my poetry and short stories, all of which take the back burner too often in favor of the writing work that I get paid for.

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Over the last 48 hours, I have written essays on the world-renowned Monte Pascoal cigars, Missouri fly fishing, eyeliner, the Bakken oil fields, Maternity photo shoots and the merits of portable ballet barres.  I have written essays for a graphic design company, two criminal law firms, a judge, an artist and a physician whose specialty is the treatment of diabetes.  I have a long list of articles to complete today, and another list of articles that I will have to complete from our retreat at Lake Tahoe.

I have honed article writing down to a fine art and can knock out what my editors designate as “high quality” writing in a very short period of time.  My research skills were honed to perfection while I was in graduate school, and I am able to produce many articles in a short period of time.  All this, is in addition to writing the Chinese fashion catalog that provides an endless stream of work.

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Admittedly, I do not feel a lot of passion about the paid writing that I do.  My heart lies with my creative work, but the paid work provides a good income, and I rather enjoy it.  It isn’t what I intend to do over the long run, but for now, it is fine.

I work through a number of different agencies.  Over the years, my ranking has risen to the top with many of these agencies, and I have received a more noteworthy status than I once had as a hack writer.  Today, I am frequently notified by editors and former clients, so that the majority of the work I do is for private clients or special projects.

My work involves long hours and intense concentration, and, therefore, results in my having to make a special efforts to exercise and stay healthy.  This work can be all-consuming, and it is as easy to forget to eat and exercise as it is to breathe.  There have been days when I have started work before the sun came up, and ended it well after midnight.

In this new year, I shall endeavor to moderate my writing into a more manageable enterprise.  I vow to place my health first, and to exercise twice a day, beginning each morning with  yoga and a long walk, and doing a concentrated aerobic effort each afternoon. I have been doing this three times a week, but I am going to up the ante.

This freedom to arrange my schedule as I want it is the primary reason I continue to pursue the writing life.  This freedom to travel.  This freedom to begin and end work when I want.  The freedom to take off a half hour when my best friend calls, or the freedom to stop what I’m doing to pick Ingrid up from school.  These are the reasons that I write.

Tomorrow, as my friends go to their offices and get snagged in rush hour traffic, I will be departing for Reno/Tahoe.  THIS is why I engage in the writing life.  This freedom to leave when I want or to sleep as late as I want …..although I am an early riser….this freedom is why I write.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me

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We celebrated my birthday two days ago with a beautiful array of activities and interactions with friends and family.

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The day began with a beautiful 3 a.m. text  message greeting that made my heart sing, accompanied by a funny, musical phone message so garbled that I could barely hear it, because of the bad connection, but it still made me smile.   Things just kept getting better and better throughout the day. Phone calls….gifts….beautiful gestures made by various people.  I truly felt loved.

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John had arranged a beautiful brunch cruise along the Willamette River aboard a yacht.  The weather was cold and overcast, but the sun broke out from time to time, making the trip absolutely perfect.  The yacht was three stories tall, and we periodically strolled from deck to deck, enjoying live jazz and beautiful scenery.

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Here is a little video of the cruise:

Ingrid , shown below with her glass of sparkling apply juice, was the star of the show when she sang happy birthday to me.

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I cried from the sweetness of this gesture, which was something that she cooked up herself.  As you can see, the crowd was also touched by this.    I love how she bends that note at the beginning of the song.  So cute!

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John enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as much as I did.

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The food was exquisite, and we had delicious, fresh mimosas to go with.

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The whole trip lasted around 2.5 hours.  It was peaceful, beautiful, and much appreciated by this birthday girl….and by a little piggy (shown below).

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Afterward, we attended an awesome art show, which I found wholly inspiring.  Then, we went to my daughter’s house for a traditional dinner.  She baked the most delicious coconut cake for me, which Ingrid decorated with pretty gold candles.

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I felt truly blessed this year….truly loved and deeply happy, knowing that those who took the time out of their lives to acknowledge my birth really love me.  Sometimes, I feel like the luckiest woman alive.   This was one of those perfect birthdays that I will never forget.  Many thanks to my family and to my friends who made it all possible.

Sick All the Time…..

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Sick All the Time…..

Have you ever known someone who was sick virtually all the time?  Not REALLY sick…such as an illness caused by a life threatening disease such as cancer or kidney failure …but someone who spends most of his or her life in bed complaining of unspecific symptoms?  It could be a headache…or a backache….or a sore thumb….or heart palpitations.  It could manifest as allergies or cold symptoms or low energy or even a mild fever.  This is what is known as Somatic Symptom Disorder or Hypochondria.   These people are often anxiety ridden, fearful, angry or all three, and they do not know how to remedy their situations, so they take to their beds with virtually every symptom under the sun. The illnesses and symptoms frequently shift from one thing to another, all in the name of avoiding something in their lives that is unpleasant…whether past, present or fear of something in the future.

While the symptoms of Hypochondria are not, in and of themselves, dangerous, convincing oneself of an illness that doesn’t exist can actually lead to that or other diseases occurring.  A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, suggests that the anxiety associated with Somatic Symptom Disorder can actually lead to the physical manifestation of the malady being imagined.

What causes Somatic Symptom Disorder?  Well….There are many causes, and many of them go hand-in-hand.  For example the person in a bad relationship where there is physical violence, verbal abuse, threats, public humiliation, embarrassment can fit into several different categories and can manifest the symptoms of Hypochondria in various ways.

Here are some of the causes:

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  • A History of Physical and/or Sexual Abuse Observing or experiencing physical and sexual abuse, particularly as a child, but also as an adult, can result in a heightened sense of physical vulnerability and lead a person to suspect serious health issues when they are not present. A history of abuse can also lead a person to feel a sense of insecurity in their interpersonal attachments, which causes them to engage in compensatory care-seeking behavior.
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  • A Bad Relationship  Hypochondria can occur when someone is part of an abusive relationship, especially if one is does not have strong coping skills.  People who have difficulty expressing their true emotions, whether it is due to the way they were raised to behave or to traumatic past experiences or fear of their current abusive  situations may develop symptoms of feigned illnesses as a coping mechanism.  The illnesses they manifest take them out and keep them under cover (literally) until they can feel safe again
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  • Unhappiness   Chronically unhappy individuals can also manifest symptoms of Hypochondria to take their minds off of their problems.  For instance, a person who is unhappy in her job, or the man who is hooked up with a woman he doesn’t want to be with can convince herself or himself that a true illness exists as a means of coping with his or her unhappiness.
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  • Serious Illnesses or Deaths of Family Members or Friends Seriously ill family members or friends can create an environment, for a child especially, where love and attention are directly linked to illness. Observing this, the child may assume that they must be ill to deserve love and attention, and continue to hold this belief subconsciously even into adulthood. When a close family member or friend dies, at any point in a person’s life, the shock and grief related to the death can easily trigger fear and obsessive concerns about personal health.
  • Difficulty in Expressing Emotions People who have difficulty in expressing their emotions, whether it is due to the way they were raised to behave or to traumatic past experiences that caused them to feel “safer” at an emotional distance from other people, may find that the only way to connect emotionally with others is to provoke concern in them regarding potential health problems. A person who does this may not even realize they are doing it, apart from being aware on some level, perhaps even subconsciously, that being sick and having people worry about them makes them feel better.
  • A Hypochondriacal or Overly Protective Parental Figure or Spouse   Learned behavior from a hypochondriacal caregiver is a prominent cause of hypochondria. Behaviors taught to a person during childhood are likely to persist into adulthood by helping to form their beliefs about the world around them.  A child with a hypochondriac as a caregiver is likely to believe that it is healthy to constantly question one’s health, and that a primary feature of the world around them is that it is a highly dangerous and unhealthy place. An overly protective caregiver instills many of the same lessons into a person during childhood, while also teaching them the notion that people who care about them ought to worry constantly about their health and be highly receptive to their health complaints, even when they are minor.

Learning the specifics of the cause behind a person’s hypochondria is the first step towards addressing their core beliefs about why illness “needs” to be a part of their life and cultivating healthier beliefs to replace them, so that eventually they can be healthy, happy, and even happy to be healthy.  If that doesn’t work, antidepressants might.

Life is a Balance

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Life is a Balance

Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.

Things have changed.

I used to walk into a room and wonder if the people there would like me.  Now, when I walk into a room, I wonder if I will like them.     The need for external validation is not important to me, at this point in life, and I don’t have to actually like someone for them to have value in my life, nor to have value in theirs.  If there is a job to be done, I simply do it.   I have optimized, categorized and am moving full speed ahead.  I am letting go of the negative and embracing those positive relationships that are good.

The relationships that remain are solid.

 I have learned to let go of the people and things that do not serve my best interests…the ones that hurt and deceive me ….and this has really helped me to stay focused and to do  good work.  This has freed up a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy.   It can be difficult when one lets go of family members or of  people who were once close friends…..but as things turn out, letting go of those with whom your values, ethics, morals and beliefs do not align, can help propel you forward and free you to do what you are best suited to do in life.

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The people that *really* matter to me are functionally in my life, although I am forced to use that  term  (“functionally”)  loosely when referring to one significant person.  That is an unfortunate situation that I cannot talk about here.

The solution was simple.  I let go of the drama and embraced all of the many good things that I hold so close to my heart and things have never been better.  I now sing about my happiness to other audiences and I go to bed every night with a smile on my face, knowing that I am loved.                                   

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My husband has returned to Portland, full time, from the Bay Area and we have immersed ourselves into a plethora of creativity.  His health is much better than it was, even a year ago.  He attributes this to our being together so much of the time now.  I am watchful over is health, feed him good, home-cooked food and make sure he gets lots of exercise.  He seems so happy, and I’m glad he is home. He is writing plays and working with a partner on creating original musical scores for his plays.  I have the biggest art commission of my life,  am working on my novel every day.  I have successfully completed the composition of two country and western songs that will soon be ready to shop.  I  and am putting a new business together and am also spending lots of time with Ingrid in these last days before she is immersed into French school.  I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful city where we live.  John and I are reorganizing our home and getting rid of possessions that we no longer need.  Everything is about moving ahead and being happy.

Everything that we are doing,  together and individually, can be either directly or indirectly attributed to making the best choices about letting go of the dead weight of the crazies.  I cannot believe I ever hesitated.

Life is so uncomplicated now.  Why didn’t I make these decisions years ago?

“You’re Not Getting Enough Vitamin D”

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A few years ago, we had a particularly dark winter here in Portland and I found myself with some real blues.   I made an appointment to see my doctor who informed me that I was far from the only one.  She said, “I’m willing to bet you’re not getting enough Vitamin D.”  She went on to tell me that virtually everyone who doesn’t walk around in the sun naked most of the time, is probably also Vitamin D deficient.   She asked me if I’d like her to prescribe an antidepressant.  I told her I’d rather up my daily dosage of Vitamin D.  It worked….and it worked quickly.

In the video below, Michael Holick, MD, discusses vitamin D relating to bone and muscle health and the prevention of autoimmune and chronic diseases.   Very interesting stuff.  Watch it.  It will compel you to get your D levels tested.  I assure you.

If You Are A Regular Smoker of Tobacco You Are a Drug Addict

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Why has availability and use of tobacco continued in spite the medical evidence that it is a health risk?  It’s because Nicotine is a powerful drug and smokers of tobacco are drug addicts in exactly the same way that junkies that shoot up heroin are also drug addicts.  In terms of drug abuse, it is the same thing, legal or not.  If you are a regular smoker of tobacco, you are a drug addict.  End of story.

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The United States became  ‘addicted’ to the revenues produced by taxes placed upon tobacco products, which is why the fed has not stopped its production.  It is all about the money…..and if you continue to smoke, you are not only a drug addict, you are also contributing to corruption.   Gee, you must be SO proud of yourself!

  “As an instrument of financial policy tobacco is unique. It is not clear why this should be, but the tradition is now well established. In fact tobacco has two distinct functions, one as a consumable article and the other as a revenue earner, which at times appears to secure conflicting official treatment” (Akehurst, 1981, p15).

The dishonest tobacco industry has fought the professional medical studies, informed opinions,  and the interpretation of the data relating to health. They have established a set of strategies to counter the news from the medical community and, of course, druggies (tobacco addicts) do everything in their power to continue to help the tobacco industry along….BECAUSE THEY ARE DRUG ADDICTS.  Drug addicts love their drugs.  They will rationalize their drug addiction until the end of time, BECAUSE they are addicts.  They will downplay things by reminding us that like gun ownership, smoking is a personal choice.  Really?  I beg to differ.  Most drug addicts can’t just stop their addictions.  It costs big money to get off of drugs….and much more willpower than the typical smoker has.

The current anti-tobacco climate started with medical and scientific research that links tobacco use to a wide variety of health problems.   These health problems are often left as responsibilities to the smokers’ family members.  They count on family and friends to care for them when they get sick, and they bleed government resources because their illnesses are serious.  The first action of the tobacco industry after all of this negative information came out about smoking,  was, of course,  to dispute the research findings. They still do it….and the stupid smokers just keep on puffing….

The images conveyed is that tobacco industry leaders are these well educated, concerned professionals that cautiously examine all of the issues. They will not let hysteria or public opinion sway or cloud their judgement. “We also believe that until scientific research can establish what actually causes the diseases with which smoking has been statistically associated, it would be unfair to advocate any law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes” (RJ Reynolds, 1987).

Based upon the apparent definition of cause or proof none of the 40,000  (!!!) or so research studies on the tobacco and ill health link seem to live up to the definition of “harm” as defined by the tobacco industry leaders.  Smokers are just as bad.  The drug that is Nicotine enables them to safely deny…deny….deny….and one of the things that they deny is the fact that if they smoke, THEY ARE DRUG ADDICTS.

You can look at a picture of a heroin addict and see how horrible he or she looks, but for some reason, the addict never has an accurate idea of what THEIR drug addictions are doing to them.  Here are some ways in which smoking contributes to making people ugly:

Bags under the eyes

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If you smoke, you’re four times as likely as nonsmokers to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep, according to Johns Hopkins study. Nightly nicotine withdrawal can cause one to toss and turn while trying to sleep.

 Psoriasis

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To be fair, psoriasis is an autoimmune-related skin condition that can show up even if you never touch a cigarette……BUT   if you do smoke, your risk for the scaly skin condition goes up—a lot.  I know one smoker that uses an app called, Facetune” to erase all of her wrinkles because the smoking has ravaged her skin and she has to look better for her selfies.  I am assured by her roommate that she does NOT look all peachy in person.

According to a 2007 study, if you smoke a pack a day for 10 years or less, psoriasis risk goes up 20%; 11–20 years and your risk is 60% higher; and for those who pass the two-decade mark, the psoriasis risk more than doubles. (Even secondhand smoke during pregnancy or childhood is linked to a higher risk.)

 Ugly Teeth and Receding Gums

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The nicotine in cigarettes that can stain teeth and also contribute to receding gums. So in addition to the escalating costs of buying and smoking cigarettes,  add in the cost of tooth whitening. A professional procedure to clean your teeth costs an average of $500 to $1,000.  However, if your gums are also receding, as is the case with a certain smoker that  I know of, the whitest teeth in the universe won’t improve your appearance.

Sure, smoking gives you stinky breath. But did you know that, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), nearly half of all smokers will suffer from gum disease and that the preponderance of them will lose teeth by the time they’re 65? It’s true.  Oh, and have you heard that according to the American Cancer Society 90 percent of all the people who suffer from oral cancers (mouth, lips, tongue, throat) are smokers?   Yup….and the majority of time, their spouses, children and the Federal Government PAY for their care.  What a selfish, selfish thing to do to one’s family and country.  It is downright abusive and unpatriotic!

While both of those effects may take a while to manifest, the yellowing of your teeth becomes readily apparent. Here’s why. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that the 4,000 toxic chemicals found in tar deposit a “sticky residue” on the surface of your teeth. Couple that with the fact that the same chemicals coat your teeth with plaque and your (formerly) pearly whites don’t stand a chance.

Yeah, but surely those stains can be easily removed, right? Not completely. According to the ADA, the discoloration caused by tar and other chemicals in the tobacco are harder to remove than other stains because the smoke actually penetrates the tooth enamel.

If the fear of yellow (or no) teeth doesn’t propel you to quit, how about a hairy tongue? (That’s not a typo.) Hairy tongue or black tongue is a condition that arises in heavy smokers when the cells on their tongue stop their normal shedding patterns. It results in an overgrowth of bacteria and the appearance of dark hair-like growths that are a combination of fungi and old skin cells. Enough said.

Premature Wrinkles and Aging

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 Experts agree that smoking accelerates aging, so that smokers look 3-5  years older than nonsmokers, on average.  Why the wrinkles?  Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which deprives your skin of oxygen making it lackluster and dull. Also, nicotine, (the addictive troublemaker that it is) restricts blood vessels, which slows down blood, oxygen and nutrient flow to your skin leaving it sallow and dry. And, to make matters worse, because smoking damages your lungs and other body parts, most of your body’s vitamin C supply is dispatched to help try and repair the harm to those parts leaving little, if any, left over to fix your skin, which is a lesser man on the totem pole.

Thinning Hair

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Experts agree that the chemicals in smoke are so toxic that they wither/damage hair follicles. And Dr. Wilma F. Bergfeld, head of clinical research in the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic, says that smoking also constricts blood vessels and hampers circulation, which prematurely ages those same follicles. The result? Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have thinning strands. Add in the fact that smoking also increases the levels of DHT (a hormone that is a major contributor to hair loss) and you may be shopping for Rogaine before you know it.

Ok….now about stopping….

The best essential oils for quitting smoking

I am an advocate of using natural healing remedies for many, many different things.   More and more evidence is accruing that suggests the effectiveness of essential oils.   There are certain essential oils that are shown to be quite effective when trying to stop smoking.  One of the most scientifically substantiated options is the essential oil of black pepper.  This is the one to use for those horrible cravings that cause you to fail time after time, when you attempt to stop.   Black pepper actually simulates the feeling of smoking, which in turn curbs your cravings.

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In fact, there have been studies showing that black pepper essential oils effectively helped smokers decrease their cravings. One study in particular investigated the effects of a cigarette substitute providing a vapor of black pepper essential oil. A few details from the study:

  • 48 cigarette smokers took part in an overnight deprivation session.
  • There were three conditions where participants smoked the following out of a device: black pepper oil cartridge, mint/menthol cartridge, and an empty cartridge.
  • Cigarette cravings were greatly reduced in the black pepper condition.
  • Symptoms of anxiety were also lessened in the group that inhaled the black pepper essential oil.

In another study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20 nicotine users (including cigarettes, snuff, and chewing tobacco) were asked to try aromatherapy instead. Those who inhaled the black pepper oil  went significantly longer without a craving than those who did not partake in the oil.

To Help Reduce Related Smoking Cessation Stress-

Rub Lavender Oil or Doterra Grounding Blend on back of neck or rub on feet.
Put a drop of Lavender Oil on pillow before going to bed.
Diffuse Calming Oil Blend in the air or rub Grounding Blend on the bottom of your feet. Since it’s on your hands, cup your hands over your mouth and breathe in deeply.

Now….STOP SMOKING!  Stop being a drug addict, smoker!  You won’t regret it!

The Sexiest Thing I Have Ever Seen in My Entire Life

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I kid you not.  I almost fainted when I watched this the first time.  It is divine….in every possible way.

On Being Politically Correct

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Best thing for Aches and Pains

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This stuff is great. It contains all natural essential oils and works very quickly for minor aches and pains such as pulled or strained muscles. I recommend it to all my friends, who, without fail, sing its praises after using it.  It smells heavenly, too.    It is expensive..$29 a container….but worth every penny.  I assure you.     CLICK HERE to buy your own from Ajhan Life. 

Day #28 – Looking In

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