My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

My Travels, Health, and Healing my Human Heart

Florida Artist Rita Schwab is holding her beautiful glass mosaic that reflects journey, path, heart 🙂

This is a long post with a long story that begins with just a catch up on our travels including our experience with the flu, and then my cardiology journey and resistance to doctor’s orders. If you have ever felt you and your doctor were not communicating-read this post. Enjoy!!

This year we have done a lot of traveling-California in January, Nevada and Arizona in February, Florida in March and early April, and in May I went on a wonderful and writer changing retreat in beautiful and peaceful Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each of these trips have their own story and lots more to share.

It’s been both fun and exhausting and Steve has set his own boundaries around travel. “I can’t unpack and repack a suitcase without an at home for a while break. “It’s too much!” I, on the other hand have a hard time saying no to life and opportunities to travel, explore and experience everything. Steve reached his limit when after completing a delightful family Caribbean cruise, we embarked for a 10-day vacation to be with friends in Cape Coral, Florida and the second day there he was diagnosed with Influenza B. Poor Steve. For the first week of that trip he was either outside on their beautiful lanai or in the house wearing a mask. Although our friends were wonderful, “like family”, and we did enjoy many great conversations in between rest time, this did take a toll on all of us.  Our dear friends hung in there with us and we all went on Tamiflu. I was the only one who did not have at least a day of the flu.

At the Urgent Care, it was noted that my blood pressure had climbed to 160/90 ­— yikes! I was stressed. I managed my stress by writing daily out in the Tiki Hut down on their deck and canal landing. It is a beautiful and serene place to reflect and write. Some days I would just rest in the hammock or sit and meditate and listen to the many sounds of nature. It helped that the weather was beautiful. I also enjoyed an evening glass of wine, which I noticed did lower my blood pressure. Toward the end of our stay we were able to go out and enjoy the last few days of our trip. One of our outings was an art fair in Cape Coral where I met and photographed the artist, Rita Schwab and her glass piece used with her permission as my photo for this post.

By the time we got home and to our own beds, Steve was exhausted and I was concerned about my heart. I purchased a new OMRON B/P monitor and made an appt with a cardiologist.I continued to monitor my blood pressure and it varied-sometimes high and other times normal.  I really focused on my breathing and although I did not sit in formal meditation every day, I attempted to stay mindful of my thoughts and pace of living.

As I sat in the cardiologist’s waiting room, I felt a bit out of place. The room was filled with elderly people, some in wheelchairs, and the younger patients were very overweight. I “pride” myself in being as healthy as I can “the middle way” through exercise, a plant-based diet, and meditation, yet here I was. I have to admit I have a strong family history of heart disease—Mom, Dad, and siblings. But I thought I was different and was on top of controlling the risk factors, at least that’s what I thought. Yet now I realize how hard it is to control the biggest risk factor-underlying tension and anxiety.

My cholesterol is high but so is my good cholesterol. I used to smoke but quit 36 years ago, and I have not been overweight since nursing school. Why was I there? My primary care physician was okay with me going although he has never seen my blood pressure over 120/70. He takes my blood pressure every time I see him, and he carefully monitors my lipid profile every year.

Long story short, the cardiologist was not quick to put me on any medication (I liked that!) until I had some tests to determine if I, indeed, showed signs of heart disease. He ordered an echocardiogram and coronary calcium scan (CAT Scan of the heart and its major blood vessels). I was game. The heart scan took about 20 minutes and the echocardiogram took almost an hour.

The next day I got a call from the nurse who gave me the results of my tests—the echo was normal and the heart scan showed minimal heart disease, better than most for my age so the doctor would like me to take a daily 81 mg of Aspirin and 40 mg of Lipitor. Noooooooooooooo.You would have thought she told me the doctor wanted to do open heart surgery. I totally reacted with surprise, anger, sadness, and disappointment and asked that she have the doctor call me.

He did, and it did not go well. The American College of Cardiology recommends the aspirin and Lipitor for a patient picture like mine. Actually there are many cardiologists that feel we should all be on a statin.  But that’s it! This doctor really does not know me and I am not a typical patient. I had only seen him one time, and we need to go beyond one size fits all medicine. My primary care physician is an MD with years of alternative medicine experience and for over 25 years has followed my health and prescribed the daily supplements I take. I take no prescription medicine and don’t want to start. On the other hand, I also don’t want to have a heart attack or stroke and would welcome a plan to prevent further heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

When the cardiologist called, I let him know how disappointed I was that the nurse called and that we did not talk before I was given a prescribed plan that included a statin drug without more discussion on its benefits and its risks. Statin drugs do lower cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, but they also come with an array of side effects—muscle aches and weakness, GI symptoms, and more. There is a ton of research that is now questioning the cost/benefit of statins.

I have to admit, I did not give the doctor a chance to explain how we would proceed or how he would follow up with me. When I got off the phone, I felt sad that the conversation did not go well and I wished I had sat in a 30-minute meditation prior to speaking with this doctor. This doctor has an excellent reputation as a cardiologist, is very kind and personable and I am sure he has saved many lives. I wish I could have expressed myself in a better way to be heard by the doctor. I also wish his office would have scheduled a follow up appointment so that he could go over the results with me in his office. Most of all I have used this experience to reflect on my own defensiveness and fear and also trust that there is a blanket of universal forgiveness between both of us.

Doctor patient communication can be difficult. There is fear on all sides. I have a deep respect for the medical profession. I am a Registered Nurse and know how difficult it is to navigate around a system that is frustrating to the patient and the doctor. And I also know that in today’s world of alternative, integrative and functional medicine, there is much that medical schools and nursing schools have failed to teach. The research is often driven by pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in us taking drugs when there are so many alternatives to healing. I will not take a long-term prescription without research and that is my current mission about statin drugs and heart disease prevention and treatment in general.

Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book What Patients Say. What Doctors Hear, states it well:

Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.

 A week later, I went to my primary care physician. He agreed that going on a statin drug was premature, but also agreed that we needed to take the tests serious and take a closer look at my cardiac risks and current status. He was grateful to have the test results for additional information about my health. He recommended beets and cayenne pepper as nutritional support for the heart. He also recommended 1000 mg of Niacinamide (Vit B3 derivative-not as much research on its affect on cholesterol like Niacin). He also said he may want me on a low dose of of Zocor, which is a statin. I might add that my physician knows me well and suggested I relax and balance my chakras.

My lifestyle supports health but there is more I can do. I exercise (making sure I get 10,000 steps a day) but could increase the intensity of my walks and add more strength training. My diet is plant based; no red meat and I avoid saturated fat- but I am far from perfect and need to be more aware of salt and sugar. I do meditate, but I am a hyper personality and need to focus on breath awareness and slowing down in between life’s adventures. But more important than all of that is that I often feel I live in two worlds. On one hand I teach and coach a very deep spiritual path of love and forgiveness and on the other hand I have the same fears of illness and death as everyone else. Our fears fuel our defenses and often cause us to separate rather than join.

In two months we will repeat all of the blood tests that aid in determining my current heart disease risk. Since being more mindful of my diet, exercise and meditation as well as forgiving myself and the doctor,  (Forgiveness is a powerful medicine for the heart), I have noticed my blood pressure has been staying within the normal range and I am hoping my blood tests show that I can reduce my heart disease risks without taking medicine.

In the meantime, I will continue my research, be mindful of my lifestyle, and stay “open hearted”. I have a follow up appointment with the cardiologist in 6 months. I’m not sure if he is the right fit for me, but it would be nice if we could meet again. I will go prepared to listen to him and hopefully he can also listen to my concerns and we can join in a much more productive manner.

In the end, its not about any of this. It’s always about all the lessons we learn along the way and as I continue the journey, I enjoy bringing you along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

I Believe in Magic! Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

“Healthy people eating healthy food should never need to take an antibiotic.” -Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Tis the season for colds, flues, viruses, sinus congestion and just feeling plain yuk! Many run to the doctor at the first sign of illness, which usually is not necessary and simply spreads your germs or sends you out only to pick up some more.

For a virus, antibiotics do nothing but mess up your normal good bacteria in your digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines).

When I get sick there are a few things I do that seem to shorten my days on the couch, but I try to start my natural regime at the first sign of a depleted immune system (scratchy throat, achiness, fatigue, or what I call the eewy geewies when I just know there is a bug in me).

If you have incredibly horrible symptoms like a high fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing and blowing out green or yellow gunk for more than a week – you may need to make an appointment with your doctor but generally rest, stress management, and supporting your immune system with a healthy diet and natural remedies will decrease your time on the couch or bed.

Before you try any of these remedies, although you probably don’t need the doctor, I would at least ask what he or she thinks of the magic. More than likely your doctor will say “whatever works” or “there is some research to show…” or “never heard of it but it can’t hurt” or just take some Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or Aleve and rest. That’s all good advice but is there anything else you can do? Yes! Here are some home remedies you can try.

Natural remedies

First and foremost eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants-vegetables and fruits, green smoothies and soups with added healing herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric. Apple cider vinegar added to your food or taken as a drink has long been known to heal sore throats, colds, and viruses. Horseradish root is an excellent natural antibiotic and decongestant great for loosening mucous or encouraging a blocked sinus to drain. Avoid sugar except for raw honey, which has long been used for its antibiotic properties. Honey added to a cup of ginger tea and sprinkled with a pinch of cayenne pepper is an excellent sore throat remedy.

My favorite natural remedy is garlic. I carry garlic with me when I travel and at the first sign that I feel like there is a bug in me. I eat raw garlic chopped up on bread or mixed with my food. When I am dining out, I don’t hesitate to ask my waitress or waiter to bring me a side of chopped garlic. And yes sometimes you do reek to those around. There is a famous quote “Since garlic then hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath.” – Salerno Regimen of Health.

I can remember a time when I was traveling and while at the airport waiting for a flight, I felt like I was coming down with something. I went to one of the airport restaurants and ordered hot soup and a side of garlic. I ate it all. While on the airplane I heard the people in the seats behind me saying “ I smell garlic. Wow! I bet she just ate Italian food!.” It seemed my garlic ingestion was noticeable.

And speaking of garlic, check out my recipe for Garlic Soup.

MARY’S GARLIC SOUP

Start with Chicken or Vegetable Broth (You can use any clear soup or make your own with bullion cubes). Bring to a boil

Add Several cloves of fresh garlic cut up. (I add as many as 10 cloves to about 4 cups of broth) Use as much as you can stand and don’t over cook the garlic.

Simmer the soup with the garlic for a minute or two. (Another variation is to sauté the garlic in the pan before adding the broth. This makes the garlic more tolerable if you don’t like it raw.) I eat garlic raw so I cook as little as possible.

Remove from heat and add: 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar. Sprinkle with Cayenne pepper. (According to taste -a dash can create quite a tang so add according to what you can tolerate).

Other helpful spices are Turmeric, Cumin and Ginger which all have healing properties.

Another variation is to add a beaten egg to the boiling broth like egg drop soup.

If you want to make a more hearty soup, go ahead and add some cooked chicken, turkey or sautéed vegetables. Onions are always good for healing.

Be sure to chew the garlic pieces when you eat the soup.

Enjoy! And Be Well!

 

 

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Like It Or Not Change Is In The Air

Like It Or Not Change Is In The Air

change-smallstepsbigchanges-com_Yes!! Change is in the air and all around us. In the coming months I am going to be changing the look and feel of this website and blog. I want to thank you all for reading my writing and for your feedback as I go forward. I want to write more frequently and while I will continue to write articles on health and wellness and life, I want to write more articles on spiritual wellness and share some of my story. So stay tuned and feel free to write to me and let me know what you enjoy about my writing and what you would like more of or less of. What are your biggest health, wellness and spirituality questions. Have a cup of tea and join me in this transition and in the meantime enjoy this article on CHANGE.

LIKE IT OR NOT CHANGE IS IN THE AIR

The most successful people are those who adapt to change, go with the flow, and use their creativity to become an active part of a changing world. Rigidity, a tight fist crossed arms have no place in a changing world.

Physically you can stand still and not move, but the universe is changing all around you. How you adapt to those changes will determine how you handle stress, loss, and adversity. Those who adapt to change and enjoy variety in life, do best when faced with a major shift in their routine. However, those who like to stay with a familiar routine, avoid risk, and like the security of staying where they are, can be quite frazzled when faced with an interruption in their routine that comes with change. And that means that those people will be frazzled a lot, since change happens all the time.

You may be stuck in your ways, but the world does not stay stuck. There are climate changes, technological changes, economical changes, changes in politics and changes in health care. Change occurs when we suffer a loss. This could be the loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one, or the loss of something as simple as the familiar way you watch TV now that we are in the digital age.

There are people who change jobs every three years and there are those who stay in the same job for years or until they get laid off. If you can’t handle change a job loss can be devastating. I once lost a job and in my pocket was a message that read, “The universe is supporting your dreams and goals.” And that is exactly what happened. It was time to move on, create new avenues and grow.

If you are someone who finds comfort in keeping things the same, and has remained rigid about moving in a different direction, the world will pass you by as you stay in the rut that will feed your extinction. We like the familiar. It makes us feel safe. Venturing into new territory can be scary and trying new things does not come natural for many of us. However, like it or not change is in the air.

Here is an exercise I do with clients who are faced with change:

1. Take a deep breath close your eyes and then open them and look at your world.
2. Look around you and ask what you can do to make one change in your life.
3. If you could imagine yourself doing something different, what would you do? You might really enjoy this exercise. Nothing has to change yet. Just imagine.
4. You may have kept your creative juices frozen but now you need to thaw them out, get out the crayons and color your world.
5. What does it look like? Who are you? What do you need to do today to go with the flow?

Whether you like it or not something around you is going to change and the sooner you get excited about it, adapt to it, and become responsible in it, the sooner the world will spin in an ever changing, ever growing direction that can be delightful, freeing, and exciting.

Love to Travel but Hate to Pack — Some Tips

Love to Travel but Hate to Pack — Some Tips

My luggage and packing list.

I love to travel, but until my suitcase is packed, I have a hard time getting excited. So I have come up with a plan for packing that keeps the joy in the upcoming journey.

Make a ListI use a master list that I bought as a pad of packing sheets. This sheet guides me prior to packing and also stays in my suitcase when I am packing from my destination to go home. Here is an image.

At the top of my list I write where I am going, how long and the expected weather outlook. Knowing your destination climate is so important so that you pack clothes that will keep you comfortable. Also you can prepare for cold evenings or rainy days where you need an umbrella etc.

Give yourself lots of time. I begin packing at least a week ahead of time. Sometimes I have my suitcase open and ready for clothes two weeks ahead of time. That way I have time to change my mind about my vacation wardrobe.

Carry On – As much as possible avoid having to check a bag. There are many ways to keep the size of your packing to a minimum. For one thing, roll your clothes instead of folding. This allows you to fit clothes in corners of the suitcase and use every bit of room in your bag. You can take two bags. One can be your carry on size suitcase-be careful to keep it within the parameters designated by the airline. Make your other bag an expandable shopping bag. For women you can put your purse inside this bag. You can also put a brief case inside a larger shopping bag.

Soft Shoes-My favorite travel shoes are Mary Jane looking flats. I have both Keens and recently bought a pair of Campers flats. I can walk miles in these shoes and they pack without taking much room in your suitcase. You can wear a bulkier pair of comfy shoes or boots to the airport. Other comfy flexible shoes that pack well are Toms. I also pack a comfortable pear of walking sandals.

Color coordinate-pack light. Pick a color and coordinate around it so that you can mix and match outfits. I also pack with layers. Vests, skirts, and leggings take up little room but are very versatile wardrobe pieces that can help you interchange outfits.

Chargers and Electronics AccessoriesIf you are like most people, you will be taking your cell phone and possibly a camera. Chargers are very important. I keep a small accessory bag for electronic chargers and accessories. If you go to a country outside the United States you will need electric outlet adapters. We have a kit that has a variety of adapters for a variety of countries.

Download tourist books-We went to Paris this fall and I really wanted to take several tourist guides. Some of them were small books that could easily be packed, but one that I thought would be especially useful was Rick Steve’s Paris. This book is over 3000 pages. Not a practical pack on. I purchased the book on I-books and it was downloaded to my I-phone and I-Pad. Voila-Rick could go with us easily as we traversed the streets and museums of Paris.

Prepack toiletries Have two of everything so you can have most of your toiletries in your suitcase ready to go. Travel size toothpaste, hair gel, and moisturizer, packed with a new toothbrush. That way you don’t have to throw in toiletries at the last minute.

Medication and Supplements are trickier. What I do is sort my vitamins and put enough in a container for the days I will be gone. If you take daily medication, do the same. Pack enough of your daily meds for the days you will be away. Also have a copy of your prescription, in case you run out of medication or lose some pills.

I take Metamucil every day and while I was on a vacation in Germany, I dropped my whole container of Metamucil on the bathroom floor of the bed and breakfast. Trying to find Metamucil or the equivalent in Germany was tough. Finally I did find psyllium powder in a German pharmacia, so my recommendation is to take extra.

Glasses. Make sure you have both your regular glasses and a pair of sunglasses.

Travel documents –make copies of all your important documents and leave a copy with someone back home. Pack a copy.

Plastic bags-Put extra bags in your suitcase. I pack both quart size and travel size zip lock bags. You can use these bags for snacks, packed liquids, and the bigger bags are good for shoes, and for smaller dirty items.

UmbrellaAlways pack a compact size umbrella. This way the weather will not get in the way of your plans


BON VOYAGE!

Returning Home and Unpacking-Take your time

When the vacation is over, it can be depressing to unpack. Don’t rush. Give yourself time to unpack and wash and put away your clothes. If you plan to travel again soon, start thinking of what you need for your next trip and start your list.

 

 

 

 

How many times did you say Happy New Year and what does that really mean?

How many times did you say Happy New Year and what does that really mean?

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I just finished my holiday cards so naturally rather than Happy Holidays, I wished everyone a “Happy New Year.” As I was saying it or writing it this year, I thought more about the words and wondered, what does that really mean?

Who can predict what a year will be. Does that mean there will be no sadness, no grief, and no loss? I know this past year was hard for many of our friends and acquaintances. One of our best friends had heart surgery. Another friend lost her husband only 6 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer and then her mother died just a week after her husband’s funeral. We know several people who lost their jobs and many who lost their health insurance. The government shut down didn’t help 2013 very much and although Obama had the best intentions, 2014 will still be a struggle for many.

So does that mean all those people did not have a Happy 2013? What does happiness mean anyway? Certainly we will all have something go wrong this year, but I bet a lot more will go right. So when I say Happy New Year, I remind myself to find the happy throughout the year. To me happy means being mindful of what I am feeling and experiencing. Even if it’s sad or anxiety provoking, I can still find peace by allowing myself the space to feel without judging it as unhappy or bad.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “ You have 24 hours to live. Don’t waist your time.” He teaches that in 24 hours we breathe several times a minute, we notice all kinds of things; we experience our experiences if we are mindful.

For me I am happy when I take the time to practice meditation and mindfulness regardless of what is happening good or bad. If we get too excited about something good we will certainly be disappointed when things don’t turn out quite as we would like. If we get too down when things are bad, we may not notice all that we do have and how fortunate we are in so many ways.

So if I wish you a Happy New Year, take it to mean, notice every moment or as many moments as you can this year. Let go of judging and simply be in that experience. Take a deep breath. Be grateful for that breath and then watch what is going on around you and sit with it. Be curious about it. Smile and let it be. And if things are not going so well, remember tomorrow is another day so just wish yourself a Happy New Day.

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

Don’t Miss the Moments. Slow Down the End of the Year Rush

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First snowfall on top of autumn leaves

What is your vision for the rest of the year? Before you know it, we will be celebrating a new year. Are you looking too forward without enjoying the days we have left? I know this is an overwhelming time-busy with Fall cleanup, preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas, business deadlines, and for many struggling with a budget or health issues. But this can also be a very peaceful time if we savor the moments right in front of us.

Let’s stop a moment and see if we can put our activities in slow motion.

Autumn is such a pretty season. The leaves certainly take their time revealing their colors and the leaves fall at their own slow and flowing pace. Sit under a tree and wait for a leave to fall in your hand. The task of raking leaves seems never ending especially if you have a large oak tree in your front yard like we do. And our red maples are almost ready to shed their glorious crimson leaves before our first snowfall. (Which came last night). Yet autumn leaves can be magical when a child jumps into a pile just raked or we feel their crispness under our feet as we walk.

In a couple of weeks, we will all be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is not about material gifts but rather the gift of gratitude and family blessings. December is the month of gift giving, which we do for both Hanukah and Christmas. However this year is different. The first day of Hanukah is Thanksgiving. We light the first candle the night before. This means that we will be celebrating both holidays on Thanksgiving.  No problem. I will decorate sooner and perhaps have potato latkes in addition to mashed potatoes and gravy. For the grandkids we normally give a book each night of Hanukah. So this year they will get to open book with all of us after dinner.

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Loved the leaves covered with snow. If you look close you can see the leaves falling.

I always enjoy the first snowfall of the year. Like the leaves, snowflakes take their time falling on the prettiest snow days, flake after flake, each a different shape and identity. Remember the song- “Here comes Suzy Snow Flake. Look at her tumbling down. Bringing Joy to every girl and boy as Suzie comes to town.” Can Suzie bring us all joy? (Full lyrics below)

Soon there will be the lights of the winter holidays as they sparkle in neighborhoods all over the world. I can’t wait-oh, I mean yes I can, but when they shine I will savor each moment of experiencing the joy of the season.

Let’s not rush through these last days of the year with anxiety. I do feel sadness when I think that stores are going to open Thanksgiving night to get a rush on holiday shopping, cutting short quality time and warm conversation.

I know there is a lot to do. I feel the anxiety too, which is why I am writing this. I want to remind myself to slow down, and take note of all I am thankful for including the fall leaves, the holiday experience, and the warmth of being with family and friends.

*Lyrics to Suzy Snowflake:

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Dressed in a snow-white gown
Tap, tap, tappin’ at your windowpane
To tell you she’s in town.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Soon you will hear her say
Come out ev’ryone and play with me
I haven’t long to stay.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three.
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

If you want to make a snowman
I’ll help you make it, one, two, three
If you want to take a sleigh ride
Whee! The ride’s on me.

Here comes Suzy Snowflake
Look at her tumblin’ down
Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy
Suzy’s come to town.

*”Suzy Snowflake Lyrics.” Lyrics.net.
STANDS4 LLC, 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
http://www.lyrics.net/lyric/3592509

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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