Healthy food will keep us healthy. What is healthy food?

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Those who have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness. Edward Stanley

My youngest sister called me up yesterday. “What do you think of oatmeal for breakfast?”

“I think it’s great and is one of my go-to breakfasts.”

“Dr. Hyman says oatmeal spikes our blood sugar and makes us hungrier.”

“I uh, well…” I didn’t know what to say to her.

Three and a half years ago my son challenged me to the three-week vegan challenge. He introduced me to the book The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall.

I took the challenge not because a vegan diet is healthy. It can be, but just cutting things out of your diet doesn’t mean it is healthy. Following Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution is healthy. By loosely following The Starch Solution, staying off dairy, eating very little meat, I lost 25 lbs in three years of not dieting.

Dr. McDougall believes all healthy, long-lived populations live on starch as the main ingredient in their diet. This is rice, beans, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, and grains. He believes we are “starch eaters.”

His starch-based diet differs from a vegan diet and a plant-based diet. We have an enzyme in our saliva which digests starch. We differ from apes and chimpanzees in this regard.

The glycemic index is an index which measures how fast a food spikes our blood sugar. The idea is that foods that spike our blood sugar are bad, and foods that cause less of a spike are good. Sugar which is 50% fructose spikes our blood sugar less than starchy foods.

Dr. McDougall’s table on the glycemic index.

Low Glycemic Index doesn’t necessarily equate with healthy

Junk food with GI less than 40                

Chocolate cake (38)

Nestle Quick Strawberry Drink (35)

No Bake Egg Custard (35)

Sara Lee Premium Ice Cream (37)

Chocolate Mile with Sugar (34)

M&Ms with peanuts (33)

Pizza Supreme (30)

Egg Fettucini (32)

Fructose – a pure sugar (19)

Healthy Foods with GI greater than 80

Nabisco Shredded Wheat (83)

Corn Meal Porridge (109)

Jasmine Rice (109)

Brown Rie – Calrose (87)

Corn Thins (87)

Baked Potato (85)

Boiled Potato (101)

Parsnips (97)

Carrots (92)

Dr. McDougall believes fat, not sugar causes diabetes. From my own experience, it seems weight gain happens when high fat, and high carbohydrates are eaten in the same meal. This is why low fat, high carbohydrate (starch) and high fat, low carbohydrate diets both works for weight loss.

Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments. Bethenny Frankel

There is a lot of division on which of these two diets are the healthiest. What appears to work for me, makes me feel better, lost weight, etc. is the Starch Solution Dr. McDougall recommends. Starch is satisfying.

After about forty when the weight started to creep on, I started watching what I ate. Food journaling became one of my strategies. Low carb is very hard to stick to. It sounds great in the beginning all the meat, eggs, cheese, and green vegetables you want. This way of eating gets old very fast.

Suzanne Somers has a diet which is a combination diet. A meal can be either a starch/low fat or high fat/protein low carbohydrate. Fruit is eaten separately on an empty stomach. Food combining is not a new concept Harvey and Marilyn Diamond introduced this concept in Fit for Life in 1985. This way of eating did not keep me as slim or healthy as I wanted. One of the reasons is it isn’t necessarily a diet focused on health. Suzanne Somers recommended not eating the starchiest foods. It could be healthier, but often my mindset was, how can I eat “that” and get away with it.

The Starch Solution is focused on health. Dr. McDougall has many articles free on the internet which talk about how changing to a starch-based diet deals with most of the health concerns we have, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. If you have a health problem and Google Dr. McDougall and that health concern he probably has a video or article on it.

The mistake I made was cutting starch out of my diet as I tried to keep slim and trim. Bringing starch back into my diet has made me slimmer and trimmer. Somehow starch has been equated with bad carbohydrates. Bad carbohydrates are processed foods, high sugar foods, no nutrition foods. Let’s bring back potatoes, oatmeal, grains, rice, beans, lentils, corn, yams, and bananas. Cut out the high sugar no nutrition foods, the processed foods.

Dairy and meat are not recommended by Dr. McDougall. We will not get healthier by not eating something. We will get healthier by eating good nutritious food our body can digest. Can we all digest the same foods? Probably not. Figuring out what works for us is part of our journey.

One of the things mom told me is not to diet. I followed her advice after a few years of trying to diet and not getting what I wanted. When I quit dieting I was slimmer. Then when forty came I got on the roller coaster of dieting. Now, no longer dieting, eating starch, I am healthier. We don’t do well when we are hungry and dieting makes us hungry. Eating starch is satiating, gives us energy, vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, everything our body needs.

We were healthier as a people when we embraced starch. As we’ve gotten away from starch we’ve become less healthy. We don’t need a new way of eating; we need to get back to the old way of eating. If we have a little meat with our starch or don’t, it isn’t a deal breaker.

The answer to my sister’s question is eat more starch, oatmeal is a starch. The glycemic index may have its use, but what it did is make the healthiest food we were eating (starch) into the villain. Those of us who followed those dictates are less healthy because we took the starch out of our diet.

The McDougall challenge is to eat more starch.

To take his challenge, simply add to your diet any one or a mixture daily of the following without taking anything away and see how you feel.

4 cups of steamed rice

4 cups of boiled corn

4 mashed potatoes

4 baked sweet potatoes

3 cups of cooked beans, peas, or lentils

4 cups of boiled spaghetti noodles

12 slices of whole grain bread

Finally, someone telling us to eat what we love. Don’t slather it in a lot of fat, because too much fat with your starch will make you fat.

Are we as healthy as we think we should be?  Through experimentation, we can find what works for us. Are we up for the starch challenge?

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Michael Pollan

The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good! Paperback – Jun 4 2013









Food is medicine, medicine is food. Choose the right food most of the time.

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It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet. Margaret Mead

We don’t know what we don’t know, sometimes we don’t acknowledge what we know and sometimes we pretend what we know isn’t how it really is.

I’ve been doing this lately with dairy. Probiotics are good for us and probiotics are in cheese, so cheese should be good for me, and even though I know I’ve done better while being off dairy, maybe I could bring back cheese.

One of the ways to see if something bothers us is to not eat it for three days and on the fourth day eat quite a lot of it. If the food is something you could go into anaphylactic shock, do not do this! I would like to be the person that can eat anything and it doesn’t bother me. It seems I’m not that person.

If we find we have a nagging or worse pain after an indulgence of some kind. Especially if that indulgence keeps calling its siren call to us we may have a problem. Let’s have more, more, more. It may be one of our favorite foods. We even may say to our self, as long as it doesn’t bother me too much, I can have it once in a while.

If we want to live a happy, healthy, pain-free life as we age, we have to listen to our bodies. We have to figure out what the peculiarities of our system are, what affects us, our mood, soreness, stiffness. Our body is trying to communicate with us, we need to listen.

Our family may think we are crazy but we need to stick with our detective work. Keep a journal of what we eat and how we feel. Don’t accept that we should just take pain pills, instead try and figure out what is causing the pain. When we believe we should feel good, and there is a reason when we don’t, we are half-way to solving our problem.

The more processed foods we eat the more detective work we will have to do. We may even have to do an elimination diet. My mother would only eat cream of wheat porridge while she figured out what bothered her. Cherries are something she hasn’t eaten for years because even one cherry bothers her.

Food has the power to heal us. It is the most potent tool we have to help prevent and treat many of our chronic diseases. Dr. Mark Hyman

When we become overstressed our body releases hormones and other chemicals including histamine, the powerful chemical that leads to allergy symptoms. Stress doesn’t actually cause allergies, but it can make allergic reactions worse. Stress and allergies go hand in hand according to Los Angeles based ear, nose and throat doctor Murray Grossan MD.

It could be when we get flare-ups, we have too much stress in our lives, and we are reaching for those comfort foods that cause us problems. Sugar is also fuel to allergies. Refined sugar causes inflammation and stresses our immune system. It is enticing to reach for a cookie or chocolate but that may only fuel our downward spiral.

Valentine’s Day was just last week. I know sugar is a problem for me. The chocolates were a gift, no one else likes those white chocolates so I finished them off last night. We talk our self into eating things we shouldn’t all the time. Just one won’t hurt, but often it’s never “just one.” It is probably true that “just one” wouldn’t hurt us. Our body could tolerate “just one.”

Many of us tend to “binge.” We will stay away from the things we should until we break down. Then we scour the house looking for a fix. The more we eat of the offending substance the more of it we want. When we find the foods we can’t have just one of, we may have found something we have a problem with.

We may fight with our self. Do we have to give that up too? We tell our self, life isn’t fair. It’s too hard to be healthy, pain-free, or in a good mood. Until we wean our self off the offending substance and enjoy life without pain, moodiness, stiffness, etc. Then we become complacent, we forget how bad we felt when we last indulged. We tell our self yet again, we’ll just have one, and we are back on the roller coaster.

We know we should let food by our medicine, and medicine be our food. Our health is created with our fork and spoon. This is the good news! It is also good news that healthy food is the most economical food. When we get rid of the foods that don’t make us healthier our food bill most likely goes down.

We may not all agree on what the healthiest diet is. Most of us are in agreement on what the unhealthiest things we eat are. We should eat more plants is pretty much agreed with across the board. Beans, rice and potatoes, vegetables and fruits should make up the bulk of what we eat. Most of us know this, yet we succumb to the siren call of foods we know we should stay away from. If we at least acknowledge when we are off-course we can take charge of what we put in our mouth. We can make better choices.

If we don’t take responsibility for what we put in our mouth, who will? Eat better, feel better! The good news is it gets easier the longer we make better choices. We are what we eat, how can we be anything else?

We pay the Doctor to make us better when we should really be paying the Farmer to keep us healthy. Rethink health care. Robyn O’Brien


To sleep perchance to dream. We need the rejuvenation of sleep.

To sleep perchance to dream. We need the rejuvenation of sleep.

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Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world. Heraclitus

My son’s girlfriend came over on Saturday with a pillow she bought him. A Bamboo memory foam pillow. On the radio, we hear the host  waxing poetic over “My Pillow” which he uses and endorses. After she scrunched it to get it to pop up to its natural shape and popped it in the dryer on low for 15 – 20 minutes, we all touched it and thought we want one too.

A Kitchen Warehouse store has popped up at a mall where they are selling these pillows. My husband and I went there yesterday. All we could find were the King size pillows. We asked an employee do you have these in Queen size? She said, “no.”

I asked, “have you ever had them in Queen size?” She said, “no.” We were going to take the King size pillows even though they would be huge. My husband found the bin with the Queen size pillows. The only ones left were lavender scented. We grabbed two and put the King size pillows back. Why would the staff not have said she didn’t know, instead of lying?

The problem with these stores is they have so many things that are useful you can walk out with more than you went for, and of course, we did. We bought a solar scale. I hate getting on the scale and it no longer works because the battery is dead. These are first world problems, but still irritating. The spring scale worked for years but everyone in the house complained about it. Here’s to hoping this solar powered scale works for years.

Yesterday morning my son reported he liked his new pillow. This morning I can report I like my new pillow as well. We watched a YouTube video comparing the bamboo memory foam pillow to My Pillow and the reviewer didn’t like either. He thought they were too high and would give him a crick neck. He didn’t appear to sleep on either of them, so what kind of a review is that? My neck is fine this morning.

My husband’s glowing review is, “it’s a pillow”.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. William Blake

Anything that can give us better sleep is likely to improve our health, our mood, our life.

Poor sleep is linked to obesity. I thought it was the chips and ice-cream, and not walking enough. Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.

Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. When we get adequate sleep we tend to eat fewer calories.

Good sleep improves concentration and productivity. It has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.

Good sleep can maximize athletic performance.

Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In a short study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes.

Poor sleep is linked to depression. Mental health issues such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleep disorders.

Sleep improves our immune function. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. Too many late nights can make us feel like we are getting sick.

Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep deprivation is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage and is strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. One study researched sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease and they were twice as likely to relapse if they were sleep deprived.

Sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Studies have confirmed this using facial recognition tests. Another study found people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. Poor sleep may make it harder to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

Looking at recommendations for pillows, Consumers Reports say almost 70 percent of us are side-sleepers. A firm or extra firm pillow is recommended to give us the proper alignment or curve of the neck and head. The most comfortable height is about 10 centimeters, about 4 inches off the mattress.

Sleeping on our back is often associated with snoring or more seriously sleep apnea. Here’s to hoping this pillow keeps me sleeping on my side which may lead to better sleep for both of us. Anything that helps combat the little irritants in our life is worthwhile.

The pillow we bought is firm but very comfortable. Touching it makes one want to lay one’s head on it. It is probably a pillow best suited for side sleepers, which we are.

In the end, it is just a pillow. If it can help us sleep better, with all the benefits that entail, then it is a small thing that can make a big difference. In life, we need to change the things we can, live with the things we can’t, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Finding a better pillow is one of the things we can change.

Do we sleep as well as we could? Would a change to our routine, pillow, mattress, or temperature make a difference? Is lack of sleep keeping us from being all we can be? Are we accepting as normal something we can change? Don’t we long for sleep perchance to dream?

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. Victor Hugo

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Loving and living. Love with your whole heart.

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Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes the other, each is enriched by the other. Felix Adler

If you woke up beside your great love, give thanks. If you’ve ever had a great love, give thanks. If we can smile because it happened, even while we cry because it’s over, that’s a step.

Valentine’s day isn’t a happy day for everyone. It punctuates what we may no longer have, may never have had, or recently lost. We are somewhere in the circle of life. A new beginning may be around the corner.

Today is another day where unmet expectations rear their head. It may be better to focus on what we can give, than what someone gives us. Chef Gordon Ramsay says, “If you are going out for a romantic weekend and they offer you the Bridal Suite, don’t take it.” You are just setting yourself up for more unmet expectations and you probably have enough of those to deal with on a “romantic weekend.” Especially if you haven’t decided beforehand what a romantic weekend means to you. Does one of you want to stay in? Does one of you want to go out?

At one time I thought women have more unmet expectations in the romance department than men. I don’t think that anymore. We long for great love affairs, we deserve them, and we are told everyone else gets them. We don’t always see through the laundry, paying the bills, and keeping body and soul together that this is part of “our great love.” We thought it would look different. We grew up in families where real life was lived, yet when it’s our turn we think it will be different.

Love isn’t cards, chocolates, roses, champagne, or nights in fancy hotel suites. Those are tokens of love. Love is looking at each other over your sleeping baby, that kept you up all night. Love is getting to the hospital and having loving arms enfold you. Love is looking up from your bills and realizing they pay for your life, the life you love, the life you’ve provided to give those you love security amid peace and plenty. Love is painting your home and looking at each other’s paint splotched faces and hair, knowing you would do it all again. Love is being in the puddle, trench, or whatever we may call it, facing the same challenges, and seeing their point of view, not just our own. Love is making choices that don’t only put our own interests forward. We make sacrifices for those we love. What hurts them hurts us, what makes them happy, makes us happy. We are part of a team, we become us.

A loving heart is the truest wisdom. Charles Dickens

Love is looking at the stars, and being grateful for someone to share your life with. Love is making plans for the future. Love is in the doing, creating, embracing each other through the fun and funny, the sweet and the bitter, the ups and the downs, the happy and the sad. If we can find romance in the ordinary, enjoy the fleeting moments that add up to a well-lived, well-loved life. Then we too can say we’ve had a great love and may it long continue.

We need to get in the trenches with our beloved. We need to feel what they are feeling, we need to be there for them and know they’ll be there for us. We need to know they won’t be perfect, they won’t get it right every time, and nor will we. We need to love each other through the worst to enjoy our love at its best. Nobody just gets the good times, we are all in, or we aren’t in at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The leader of my writer’s group asked us to write a poem about love.

              Living and Loving

Love softly came and called my name.

I gaily laughed, it was a game.

But soon I realized no game I played.

This was a love that came and stayed.


We laughed and loved in our twenties

Lots of love and parties plenty

We said our vows and settled down

Looked about and said, “What now?”


Thoughts of babies came to mind

And soon reality was kind

A little boy came to be

We were overjoyed at being three.


It wasn’t long and we were blessed

 A little girl joined our nest.

Our life filled with laughter was complete

It took the patter of tiny feet.


When our daughter was six we got a dog

We felt blessed sleeping like a log.

Work, school, and soccer was our life

Life was full, there was no strife.


Our daughter got married this August past

We hope she has a love that lasts

What happened between then and here?

We were young, now retirements near.


Life sped by in a blink

Forty years go by faster than you’d think

We’ve had a love affair for thirty-eight years

Celebrated with champagne and beers.


We’ve weathered storms

Lived through changing norms.

We pray we’ll have many more years

Filled with laughter and a few tears.


We never know what life has in store.

We are always reaching out for more

Enjoy what you have because you never know

When winter comes and cold winds blow.


You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back. Barbara De Angelis

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship by [Barks, Coleman]
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Life is a journey, stop and smell the roses, and give a hand when you can.

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Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu

Yesterday my brother called me and we had a lovely long conversation.

We talked about anything and everything. He told me about two books he’s been reading about sailing around the world. The authors of one of the books met a man sailing solely around the world who said, “I’m going to be the first person that sailed around the world and didn’t write a book.” It’s a shame he didn’t because people who love armchair adventures are missing out on his.

My brother tells me “the girls” at the library he goes to want to read my novel. It isn’t published yet but he has a printed copy. How great is that? Like Drake said last night at the Emmys, “if you can get people out in the cold and the rain to hear you perform, you don’t need an Emmy.”

It may be, some of the artists and writers that remain connected with their fans, who never become famous enjoy their experience more. My writer’s group would probably love to have a famous author join. It would change the dynamic, would J.K. Rowling, Daniele Steele, or Stephen King fit into our writer’s group? Probably not, but not because of them, but because of how the rest of us would react toward them. The feeling of being trapped by our own talent is a phenomenon written about in the Harvard Business Review May/June issue in 2017.

Once talent turns into a set of expectations is where people feel trapped. When stars can no longer live normal lives it is isolating. They become defined by one small part of who they are. This also happens in organizations where someone becomes “the star employee.”

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. Walt Disney

Some people quit at the top of their game or on the way to the top because somehow their success is robbing them of being themselves. They are becoming only what their talent is and they are no longer seen as a rounded human being.

Once you become a star by definition you don’t fit into the group. Most of us think it would be a good problem to have, but a lot of us spend a lifetime feeling like outsiders. Belonging is important; not wanting to rise above the pack may be something we unconsciously engineer into our lives.

I just took a quiz on my wolf personality. I came up as “the wild one”. ‘You are almost always happy and optimistic. You would fit easily into a pack but would also do fine by yourself. You like to cheer and help whenever you get the chance. You are a fragile flower and easily swayed by love, though you don’t let it rule you.’

It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s interesting. The more we learn about our self, what feeds our spirit, what motivates us, the more we can become the best us. Learning to love our selves, how we are, embracing our talents, our gifts, and our contributions. We have our contribution to make to the world. Someone else’s contribution we may envy, but it is not our contribution.

If all of humanity is like an entity, a body so to speak. We can’t all perform the same task. We can’t all be hearts, or brains, or fingers, or toes. Whatever we are to do, we can do it to the best of our ability. Embracing who we are, loving our self and others, this I believe is our task. Finding our place in the world and making our contribution is the journey we are on. Where are we on the path?

I told my brother I would recommend the books he told me about. He especially liked that they talked about what was going on in the world during their adventure. He was young and remembers that time as well. We can’t find all the great books out there by our self. It is through other people’s recommendations we find some of the books that speak to us. It is one of the great joys in life to recommend a book that touched us and have it touch someone else too.

The journey is never-ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment. Antonio Brown

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Finding inspiration and creating our life with mind, body, and spirit.

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What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Henry David Thoreau

Where do we get our inspiration? Where do we get the resilience to keep on going, creating, doing what needs to be done?

We create a life with mind, body, and spirit. It takes energy to be the mother, father, partner, employee, entrepreneur, politician, artist, writer, musician, athlete, we want to be. Where do we get the inspiration and energy to build the life we want? We can’t just make withdrawals, we have to make deposits.

What we eat is a deposit, what we think is a deposit, how we exercise is a deposit, what we think about and what we read is a deposit. If we are alive we are depositing enough to stay alive. Are we depositing enough to create the life we want?

Are we eating the best food to fuel our body? Do we move, exercise, walk, and stretch? It will be hard to live our best life creatively if we can’t move because of pain, and stiffness.

Do we get enough sleep? Research tells us hardly any of us get enough quality sleep. Are there things we can do to improve this? Do we watch what we eat and drink before bed? Have we created a good bedtime routine? Do we have a good morning routine?

Everything we do supports everything we do. On days we don’t bother to cook or eat nutritious meals we won’t feel as well, we won’t have as much energy, we won’t have as much to give.

If we stay away from exercise our energy flags, we get stiff; we develop aches and pains caused by inactivity.

It takes discipline to create the life we want, to cook the food we need, to read the books to feed our mind and to stay away from negative thoughts. We need to create positive habits to create the life we want.

Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results. Robin Sharma

We can start at any point in our life to be the person we feel we should be. It all starts with a decision, and the easiest way to change our life is in small increments, hanging a new habit on something we already do.

We need to congratulate ourselves for something we start doing that is good for us. Today at The Writers Group a new person attended and she had never read her poetry out loud to an audience. She was encouraged to do so by my friend, she got up and read a poem when she sat down she looked like she had conquered a fear, and taken a step. She says she will be back. None of us know if that was a huge step for her or just a small step. It was a step. If we keep taking steps, big and small we accomplish things.

If we put ourselves out there we need to be able to accept criticism and grow from it. A friend’s daughter performed a one-woman show recently. I had another engagement and couldn’t attend. Last night at an event I ran into her, she started going after her dream years ago of acting and singing. As she was leaving she said, “The work of being self-employed never stops.”  I think she understands cultivating one thousand true fans. She is doing what she loves; it isn’t about fame and fortune so much as following our path, creating something meaningful and living the dream.

Last night at the event a performer sang, she isn’t an artist I recognize. She has a powerful voice, put on a good show and I heard a guy in the audience say to my husband, “finally, the song I came to hear.” This was another example of someone who has a following of true fans. We went because our friend was one of the DJ’s.

Someone I grew up with is promoting a Country Festival in my hometown; I have never had the pleasure of attending, yet. I hope the stars align and one year we can attend. She and others are building something. It takes work to create and promote an event year after year.

It might seem like a leap to think of yourself doing what you dream of. After you start doing it, it becomes part of you. You grow and morph into the goal and dream you’ve set for yourself.

At the writer’s group yesterday one of the members had her photographs on the cover of two anthologies put out by the writer’s group. The speaker suggested she get a picture taken of her holding the two books and find a space on a wall where she could hang other pictures of her accomplishments and see what pictures end up populating her wall. What a great suggestion for all of us. Isn’t this why we take graduation pictures, and wedding photos, we are celebrating the beginning of something.

What accomplishment can we congratulate our self on? What picture could we frame that will continue to inspire us as we continue on our journey? My daughter gave me two framed pictures for Christmas; one was me holding her when she was about three. The second was her and I on her wedding day with foreheads touching. It was a lovely, thoughtful gift.

Celebrating our achievements is part of the journey. We should acknowledge the moments that build our life, big and small. It may be a big or small step that leads us somewhere we want to go. Every journey starts with a single step. Aren’t we all on a journey? Don’t we all have something to celebrate?  Can we find inspiration if we look around us? Is it other people, nature, other great works of art, writing, or music? Many of the great works of art were created by depicting Biblical scenes. Finding what inspires us is part of our creative journey.

When the awareness of what is achievable brushes your life, your journey has begun. Lorii Myers

Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by [Dyer, Wayne W.]
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Our thoughts create our life.

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Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale

Do old hurts run through our mind? Do we chew on them like a cow with its cud? Ruminating, going over the same old thing, over and over again. We are told there are two things we can control, our thoughts and our behavior.  It doesn’t always feel like we have control of these. Our mind is flooded with thoughts we don’t want to think. We don’t want to keep thinking about that hurtful event, those hurtful words, our fears, but they won’t go and stay away.

Why do we appear to have a problem trying to stop thoughts? Why don’t we have an off button in our brain? Our feelings follow our thoughts so negative ruminating generates negative emotions. When we worry we become anxious. Could we change our negative emotions by doing something that elevates our mood? What if we choose to go for a run, exercise, dance, or call a friend who always makes us laugh? When we do things that elevate our mood we feel better, and it can also distract our brain from the problem we’ve been ruminating about.

Are we worried about something happening and we can’t let go of the worry? Maybe we should sink as deep into that worry as possible and write down what we would do if the worst happened. If we look at the worst that can happen and realize we can handle it because when the worst happens we do handle it. We may handle it well or poorly but we handle it. Digging deep into the worst that can happen may show us we could handle it well. We may think we couldn’t possibly ever be happy again if the worst happened, but that is rarely true. Research tells us we are as happy in six months after something happens as we were before. Even if that something is our wildest dream coming true, or catastrophic our level of happiness is back to what it was in about six months.

Can we turn that thought around in our head? Is there another way to look at it? Do we have a part to play in it we do not want to acknowledge? If we take one hundred percent responsibility for the situation bothering us, what could we do, and what could we change?

Chewing gum research tells us helps eliminate “earworms” those thoughts that go round and round and round.

Maybe we don’t have enough going on in our life if we keep going over the same old thoughts. Maybe we need to feed our mind something else to think about. Do we need to find a project, a plan, something we could focus on that is positive? Could we memorize bible verses or great quotations to ponder? Would keeping a journal help? Sometimes getting our thoughts on paper helps to figure things out. We could ask our self-questions, then we could ask our self more questions.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

Studies show devout people have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as a better ability to cope with stress. A 2005 study of older adults in San Francisco Bay area found being religious served as a buffer against depression among people in poorer health, with the highest levels of depression among those who were in poor health and not religious. A 2013 study found patients who were treated for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety responded better to treatment if they believed in God. Another study by Dr. Harold G. Koenig director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center, found that more religious people had fewer depressive symptoms.

One of the reasons given is because religion gives people a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and that helps them to make sense of negative thoughts that happen to them. Religious communities also provide support and encouragement through hard times.

Studies suggest that meditation and meditative prayer activate areas of the brain involved in regulating emotional responses, including the frontal lobes. A 2010 study by Dr. Andrew Newberg that included brain scans of Tibetan Buddhists and Franciscan nuns found that these long term meditators had more activity in frontal-lobe areas such as the prefrontal cortex, compared with people who were not long-term meditators.

It could be possible that the beliefs and teachings advocated by religion like forgiveness, love, and compassion – may become integrated into the way the brain works. The more certain neural connections in the brain are used, the stronger they become. Some religions also advocate staying away from high-risk behaviors like smoking, drinking, or overindulging in food. Could staying away from these unhealthy behaviors also be beneficial for brain function?

We have choices to make, about what we think, what we do, what changes we will make in our life. Our life will be built on what we focus on. Are there thoughts we need to reduce our focus on, so we can focus on better more positive thoughts? Does our thinking make it so? Is it true when we change our thoughts, we change our life?

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Anais Nin

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The Power Of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide To Mastering The Problems Of Everyday Living Hardcover – May 26 2002

Planning productive lives. Our choices make our life.

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A goal without a plan is just a wish. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Yesterday was a productive day for me. I opened an Instagram account, but I couldn’t figure out how to post anything on it. I also opened a Pinterest account. Last night I finally made it down to my art studio.

The background is painted and the subject is chosen. I’ve decided to do two paintings simultaneously of the same subject using different techniques.

It’s always exciting to have a project on the go. Part of the anticipation is knowing they can become a success or a disaster. Sometimes they are one until they turn into the other. It goes both ways.

Did we get everything accomplished in January we wanted to? If not February is a reboot. As one of my book buddies says, “she likes monthly goals.” Monthly goals are more doable, we can do anything for a month. They are measurable, and we aren’t likely to forget them. We can focus on one or two goals instead of everything we want to change in our life.

I looked up Fly she shows us how to get our house out of chaos. She breaks our cleaning and organizing into daily, weekly, monthly tasks.

Today is Renew our spirit day. Cleaning zone is zone 2 the kitchen. This month’s habit is decluttering for 15 minutes a day.

Each month she has a new habit of the month:

January – shining our sink.

February – decluttering for 15 minutes per day.

March – getting dressed to the shoes.

April – making our bed.

May – moving. I think this means our bodies.

June – drinking water.

July – swish and swipe.

August – laundry.

September –  before bed routine.

October – paper clutter.

November – menu planning.

December – pampering.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

It is easy to focus on one habit, but trying to do all twelve of them every month would be hard. Of course, the idea is to develop a new habit and keep doing it every month. She breaks everything into small doable projects. I remember my efforts early on of cleaning the pantry. I would empty the whole pantry onto the kitchen table and it would take a day and a half to sort everything, discard or find a home for things.

This happened to me not long ago. We have a cupboard over the fridge which is not convenient to use. Over the years that is where the school pictures, soccer pictures, appliance instruction manuals, report cards, and paint we got for touch up when we bought our house as well as other sundry items were stored.

My son asked if he could have the cupboard over the fridge for his food. He’s six-three so it’s useful to him. I said yes, and to my horror, I came home from a writer’s group meeting to find all the contents of that cupboard on the kitchen table. “I looked after what I could, Mom. You’ll have to do the rest.”

I don’t empty the complete contents of cupboards anymore. Now I do a shelf at a time. I’ve learned to break it down into doable tasks. It’s frightening to have all the contents of your kitchen out of the cupboards and hear a knock at the door.

I started meal planning and I keep track of our dinners in a monthly calendar. It makes it easy to look back when I don’t know what to cook or see what we haven’t eaten in a while.

One of the things I’ve done this year is purchased numerous planners for different projects so I can keep all my notes and thoughts about that subject in one place. I’m forever making little notes and wondering what happened to it when I want to find it a week or a month later. It might be overkill, I’ll see what I think as the year goes by.

Being organized is a skill we need to learn and even when we know what to do it is easy to let a little pile, become a big pile. My daughter’s wedding dress is still hanging in the spare room, waiting for something to be done with it. No matter how much storage we have, we can always have it full to overflowing.

I have an aunt who has air between her clothes in her closet. I can’t imagine emptying my clothes closet enough to have air between the items. They tell us less is more, but we have a hard time believing that.

Capsule wardrobes are a thing. I even pretend I’m building one. My closet is still overstuffed with items. Maybe March – getting dressed to your shoes is a good month to declutter, revamp, and plan a wardrobe.

It makes us feel we’ve accomplished something just scheduling when to look at the situation. The journal I didn’t buy, is for home care. Could a trip to the book store be on my agenda today?

What are our February goals? If we haven’t made any, a whole month awaits. What can we plan? What can we implement?

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) by [Kondō, Marie]
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Gratitude and happiness, loving what is.

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Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie

Last night a really stupid thing happened. I was roasting my sauce for lasagna I’m taking to a games night. After taking the pot out of the oven I grabbed the hot handle with my bare hand. This is what happens when we aren’t mindful of what we are doing. Doing things automatically isn’t always okay.

I remembered hearing butter was good for burns. We were in the middle of a movie so I put butter on my burn. When I got ready for bed I washed the butter off and my burn started to hurt again. I went downstairs and put more butter on my burn. This morning I have one small blister on my middle finger and a slight red line on my index finger.

I was able to do my sun salutations without pain. I am grateful it isn’t worse. When I Googled butter and burns this morning they say it’s an old home remedy that’s a bad idea. My burn looks better this morning than it did last night, does that mean butter works?

I’m grateful my burn is better. I’m a big believer in home remedies. Yesterday my daughter had a sinus headache. I told her when my sinuses bother me I drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with a heaping quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper in warm water.

I’m a big believer in trying things; I’ve had the after-effects of antibiotics so they are the last resort for me. I took them for strep throat and since it can be pretty serious taking the antibiotics was probably worth it. The after effects of the antibiotics were a lot to deal with.

It is with gratitude I surf the web finding home remedies and remember Mom’s home remedies . Too often we mask symptoms instead of healing them. Pain is our body’s way of letting us know we have a problem. What if I couldn’t feel pain when I touched the hot handle of the pot? How bad would the burn be?

I watched a video about a girl that didn’t feel pain. It was not good. She hurt herself in big and small ways because she didn’t feel pain.

I am happy because I’m grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy. Will Arnett

There may be instances where we can do nothing but mask the pain so we can function. The underlying cause may not be fixable. It is not true that we all have to feel a lot of pain when we get old, healthy eating and exercise will keep many people pain free even in old age. It works for my mother.

We can’t agree on what good eating is, but we can all agree that junk food, sweet drinks, processed foods and empty calories are not the answer. If we start there we can quibble over whether we should only eat plants or mostly eat meat and greens. I’ve read about people doing equally well on both of these extreme ways of eating.

The middle road is more the road I want to be on. Eat healthy, mostly plants and not too much is my motto. An indulgence like I’ll have tonight  I don’t sweat. I enjoy and then get back to plainer fare.

This week I talked myself out of going to the gym because of the cold. Telling myself, that is when I get a cold, coming out of the gym into the cold. It’s okay to skip a week, but next week, back to the gym.

I miss the feeling of ease when I don’t go to the gym. I felt a strange pain in my side this week. Keeping limber by doing sun salutations, keeping strong by doing weights, and walking makes me feel at ease. Without exercise I begin to feel pain, it usually starts in my back or like this week in my side. If we don’t use it we lose it. We lose it quicker than we think.

I remember watching a documentary about two over 100 year old women. They exercised every day and their motto was if they could do today what they could do yesterday they were good.

Ageing well with humour, grace, strength, and courage is my goal. I am blessed with a fabulous role model. When I go to the park in the summer a group of older adults mostly Chinese are doing Tai Chi. They look fit, happy, and flexible. Role models are all around us.

People overcome diabetes with food and exercise. Other diseases are overcome or mitigated with diet and exercise. There is a rub; we have to be careful not to be judgemental. Just because my elderly mother lives without pain does not mean every older person who does what she does won’t have pain.

Everybody with type 2 diabetes may not be able to eliminate it with food and exercise. We may do what worked for everyone else and it doesn’t work for us. That’s life; we have to deal with what is. It isn’t always nice, or fair.

No matter the circumstance we find our self in I think gratitude for what is good in our life is positive. We may feel this situation we are in is unending, and unchanging, but that is rarely true. No matter how grave our circumstances may be, our attitude is important.

Can we live with an attitude of gratitude every day, knowing that no matter how dark what before us seems, finding something to be grateful for will make it better in some small way? Are we the example we would like to see? Is being happy a kind of gratitude? Does gratitude lead to happiness?

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

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Real life more inspirational than movies.

Photo of hibiscus flower by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last night Toastmasters didn’t disappoint. It is a warm group of people on a cold winter’s night. We had three speakers last night, I was one of them. One of the ladies spoke about how it isn’t our wins but our challenges that make us strong. She gave a story about a man watching a butterfly struggle to emerge from its cocoon. After watching the butterfly struggle, and struggle some more. He decided to help the butterfly out. When the butterfly emerged its wings were small and it could not fly. The butterfly needs the struggle to force fluid into its wings so they can stretch and open.

Is this a metaphor, not only for those of us who are encouraged in our struggle but also for those of us who want to take the struggle others have away from them? This is a tough one as we struggle with giving and receiving. When is our giving not letting someone become the butterfly?

The third speech was from a woman who is on her way to becoming a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster).  She organized a group to run for the CIBC run for the cure last year. Her father died of cancer, one of our other member’s wife died of cancer, and most of us have been touched by cancer in some way. Her father is the light beneath her wings. He lived for thirty years with cancer.

He said on his deathbed, “My candle is burning out.” His candle lit her candle and other’s candles, which are lighting candles. In this way, the impact of his candle may never burn out. Wouldn’t we like that to be said of us?

My niece was in a car accident over a year ago and not given much chance of walking again. She is going back to work, and she is walking. She is an example of grit and determination. Her husband says he couldn’t be prouder of his wife. Isn’t that something we love to hear? She was faced with a situation where her will and the encouragement of others had to be enough to keep her working at healing and becoming mobile.

Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. Bernice Johnson Reagon

There are so many stories out there that encourage and uplift us. Heroes and sheroes walk among us. Sometimes we know what their struggles are, often we don’t. We need to keep making progress in our life, make the best of what is, and help others where we can. Can we teach others to fish, and give encouragement along the way? We never know when we may make a difference in someone else’s life. We don’t even always recognize who has made a difference in ours.

Yesterday a video about using stories and myth to help young urban men find their way was on YouTube. Stories and myths have always been used, that’s why every culture has their stories and myths. We learn to be tough, strong, loving and caring by hearing about others whose hearts were broken but not their spirits. Who suffered immense losses but didn’t lose their humanity.

When we hear about people who have turned their scars into stars it gives us hope. We learn about the things they’ve overcome or how they’ve lived with things that bring us to our knees.  People who fell down seven times but got up eight, help us when we are going down again. If they could do it, maybe we can do it too?

A psychiatrist said, “He was humbled hearing the stories of what his patients dealt with and overcame”. Stories of overcoming are all around us. January is mental wellness month. Mental wellness is not just the absence of mental illness; we can also improve our overall mental wellness for a better and healthier lifestyle.

Mental wellness is for all of us.

Interim Inc. gives us many factors that affect our mental health and well being including:

Our genes

Brain chemistry

Physical health


Coping skills

Life Experiences

There are many factors that can negatively affect our mental wellness including:

Poor diet

A high amount of stress

Excessive smoking or drinking

Avoiding problems

Trauma or abuse in our life

Negative coping skills

How can we improve our mental wellness?

Exercise and eat a healthy diet

Appreciate our self by learning to recognize our personal strengths and weaknesses

Build resilience to cope with and recover from negative events

Develop and maintain healthy friendships and relationships

Get enough sleep

Help others

Learn to be thankful for the good rather than focusing on the negative issues

Get professional help if needed

We can’t change what happens to us, we can only deal with what is. but how we deal with it shows other people how to deal with the things in their life. People we admire showed courage in the face of great adversity. Isn’t it true, although we never want to face the challenges they’ve faced, we hope we would have the courage they’ve had?

It is with gratitude we learn from others what we hope we never have to learn from experience. If what doesn’t kill us makes us strong, it is helpful to believe we too can face whatever comes. We learn from the heroes and sheroes in our life.

Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them. John C. Maxwell

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