Monday, November 26, 2012

Sex, Drugs, & Rock n' Roll, Part 1: Sex

Attitudes about sex changed just about when we boomers were coming of age sexually. Now they tell us that a good early sex life leads to a good sex life later, so I guess we had it right from the beginning, no matter what our parents tried to tell us. By the time we reach retirement age, we know exactly what we want, and we know how to get it.

People are ageing better now than we used to. We are more fit, we look and feel better, and we are more interested in sex. Seventy-year-olds are healthier than they were thirty years ago. They have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about pregnancy.

Many people remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s. A Swedish study that reported on seventy-year-olds said that 58% of the men and 62% of the women were sexually satisfied. Another study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine said that of people aged 57 - 64, seventy-three percent had recently engaged in sexual activity. In the 65 - 74 age group, it was 53%, and for those between 75 and 85, it was 26%. Just look at what we have to look forward to!

Seven Reasons Why Sex is Better After 60

This is adapted from Jim Selman's blog on Huffington Post:
  1. We have more patience; we can slow down and relax.
  2. We know that the more we give, the more we receive.
  3. We have better conversations - before, during, and after.
  4. We are less judgemental in the bedroom.
  5. We are present in the moment with no worries about past or future.
  6. We are more about the journey than the destination.
  7. We understand love. We can relate to others without needing to be in control. Sex is a gift that we give to each other.

The Relationship between Sex and Happiness

In a study of married couples over the age of 65, in the group that had sex at least once a month, 80% said they were very happy with life in general. If they hadn't had sex for the past twelve months, only 59% reported that they were happy with their lives. And of the ones who had been celibate for more than a year, it was only 40%. I have to wonder if the sex makes them happy or if a couple who is happy together naturally has more sex.

It doesn't just happen all by itself; it takes some effort to keep the passion alive. It helps a lot if you can talk to your partner - share your hopes and dreams and your sexual thoughts. It will probably never again be like it was in your twenties and thirties, but it can be better. At this stage of our lives, intimacy and love are often more important than orgasm.

Nine Tips for Hot Sex After 60

This is adapted from Joan Price's Eldr blog. (There were 10 but I missed one.)
  1. Slow down. Foreplay can last for hours.
  2. Kiss, kiss, and kiss again. It helps you bond with your partner.
  3. Appreciate, decorate, and celebrate your own and your partner's bodies with lingerie, feathers, massage oil & candlelight.
  4. Do sexy things together. Dance. Buy sexy clothes. Go to a sex shop.
  5. Make love during high energy times. Try a morner or an afternoon delight.
  6. Explore sex toys.
  7. Use a silky lubricant.
  8. Enjoy quality snuggle time before, during, and after.
  9. Laught a lot.

When Problems Arise

Loss of libido, or just not being interested anymore, can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, such as depression, stress, diabetes, low testosterone in men, or as a side effect from some medication.

Other problems can come from heart disease, arthritis, surgeries, medications, high blood pressure, anithistamines, anti-depressants, or acid-blocking drugs. Erectile disfunction can be dealt with by taking Viagra or Cialis. They may be expensive but can be well worth the expense.

Viagra has only been around since 1998, but it is one of the most prescribed drugs out there. It only works if the man is sexually aroused, just like normal. Possible side effects include headaches, long-lasting painful erections, and heart attacks, which is why it requires a prescription. It cannot be taken with nitroglycerine, though. The good news is that Viagra's patent expired in March of this year, so generics should bring the price down.

A huge part of sex is the desire to be desired. When women report sexual disfunction, it is usually from lack of desire, which is often connected to a woman's sense of intimacy with her partner. Experiences from her past can add to the problem. Medical conditions can also affect libido.

If the Thrill is Gone...

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, talks about viewing our partners, both men and women, as beautiful flowers. When we first get together, we want to do anything that is possible to keep our flower happy. We give it lots of love and attention and our flower responds to that love by thriving. 

But over the years, we get kind of lazy and take our flower for granted. We get busy with our own lives and forget to pay any attention to our flower. Our flower responds by getting kind of droopy and not so pretty anymore. Then maybe we don't like our flower so much anymore. Maybe we think about throwing it away and getting a new flower.

But what can happen when you remember the old days and how much you loved your flower. Remember how happy your flower was and how it thrived? And when your flower thrived, weren't you happy, too? Maybe if you start paying attention to your flower again - give it some of the loving care that you used to - it will respond by perking up and becoming happy again. And then you can be happy again, too.

Play Safely

I've heard a rumor, completely unsubstantiated, that the 81,000 seniors living at The Villages in central Florida can give the youngsters a run for their money in the sex department. They have ten women living there for every man, and the competition is tough. One night stands and quickies in golf carts aren't unheard of. The market for Viagra is thriving, but so is the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Most of them spent the better part of their lives married to their first love who has now died and left them alone. They don't have to worry about pregnancy and are too old to have had sex education at school, so they never learned about STDs. They need some young people to go stand on the corners passing out free condoms in lots of pretty colors.

And finally, the Mayo Clinic's Senior Sex Tips

  1. Talking with your partner can help you both enjoy sex more.
  2. Talk to your doctor if there is a problem. He or she can explain if it is a medical condition or medications.
  3. Expand your definition of sex. Orgasm isn't necessarily required; contact and intimacy are really more important.
  4. Adapt your routine to your needs. Try different times of day. Try new positions. Try it in a golf cart. (No, they didn't say that.)
  5. Don't give up on romance after death or divorce, but practice safe sex.
Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy. Stay active. Don't drink too much alcohol. Don't smoke or use illegal drugs.

Thanks for reading. And have more sex!

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

I had planned to write this yesterday, on the day that the US celebrates Thanksgiving Day, but then I decided to wait. Many people think about thankfulness and gratitude on that one day of the year; but what about the rest of the time?

If for no other reason, we should pay attention to gratitude for the benefits it offers to our brains and bodies. According to Dr. P. Murhli Doralswamy of Duke University, optimism and feelings of gratitude actually have measurable and beneficial "effects on multiple body and brains systems."

According to Harvard Health, when we acknowledge the good things in our lives, it helps connect us to the people around us, to nature, or a higher power. It "helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

Many studies have shown that a positive outlook leads to less depression and a long life expectancy. Here's a list of 31 More Benefits of Gratitude.


I learned this phrase when I lived in Japan. The literal translation is "I humbly receive," and it is often said like a grace before eating. But it is really more than that. Itadakimasu expresses gratitude to everyone and everything that had something to do with getting your meal to you.

You are thanking any animals or even plants that gave up their lives so that you can eat. You are thanking the rancher who raised the meat, or the hunter who brought it home from the wild. You are thanking the farmer who planted and cared for and harvested the plants you are eating. You are thanking everyone who participated in transporting the meal to your home. You are thanking the person who cooked the meal and set the table and served it to you. You could even take it further by including thanking the earth that supported the plants and animals, the sun that gave its energy, and the rain that kept everything hydrated.

The problem with something like this is that it is easy to just say the words and not really think about the meaning. But by really running the whole thing through your mind, it keeps you much more aware of what it took to get that food to you.


Expressing gratitude is nice for whomever you share it with, but it is even more important for what it does to you. It can change your whole life. Gratitude focuses your attention on the good stuff in your life.

Think of the old sayings we are all familiar with:
  • Look at the bright side.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Count your blessings.
Looking for things to be grateful for will make you notice things that you have been taking for granted.

Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to notice the things that really matter. Mindfulness can help us to pay attention to that good stuff. And if you are concentrating on the good stuff, the bad stuff has a hard time getting through. There are some steps you can take that will help you focus on those positive emotions, like keeping a Gratitude Journal, writing letters of gratitude, and meditating on things for which you are grateful.

A Gratitude Journal

Whether it is some small notebook or a place on your computer, keeping a gratitude journal focuses your mind on looking for positive things in your life. You could write an entry every day or once a week or even a weekend marathon. I like the daily idea because it assures that you are thinking about it every day. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate - a single word would do. Or you could write a whole page to explain. It's your journal.

My friend Angelique has been posting her gratitude journal on Facebook all this month. Going public with it might get others to think about the good things in their own lives, but I prefer privacy. I like to let the ideas run round and round in my brain and finally come out through my hand and my pencil onto the paper in front of me. Somehow, writing it longhand seems more personal and from my heart than typing on the computer.

Another version of this is the Three Blessings Exercise. Every night before you go to bed, write down three good things that happened to you during the day.

UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center has a  Fourteen Day Challenge for you.

Letters of Gratitude

I didn't get to go to college until I was in my late 30s. It was a tiny community college, and I took writing classes from the same teacher all year. Mrs. Widmer taught me to write poetry and essays and research papers. She was the most encouraging teacher I've ever had in my life.

Early this summer, I happened to run into a notebook containing every assignment I did in her classes. That notebook brought back that entire year of classes to me. It gave me such a good feeling that I wanted to share with her just how much she had changed my life. So I sat down a wrote an email of gratitude to thank her for all she had given to me.

I wanted her to know that I am still writing and that I am also tutoring college students with their writing projects. Hopefully, I am passing on not just the knowledge she shared with me but also the encouragement that made so much difference in my life.

I had never heard of a letter of gratitude at the time, but that's exactly what it was. Writing the letter made me feel wonderful, and I hope that receiving it did the same for her.


As you meditate, focus your thoughts on what you're grateful for - just simple things like the sound of waves breaking at the beach, the warmth of the sun, the patter of rain on the roof, or a fresh snowfall. Think about the love you feel toward your partner, your children, your grandchildren, and your good friends.

See how this type of meditation helps you to manage stress, sleep better, feel more satisfied with your life, show kindness toward others, especially your partner.

Nothing to be Grateful for?

Imagine having no home, no food, no money, no family or friends, a terminal illness. There is always someone who is worse off than you are. Noticing simple pleasures changes your focus from what you lack to what you have.

I'm going to leave you with a link to a site that I think is wonderful: Gratitude. I have linked to this before, but I think it is so great that it is worth watching over and over again. While you are there, be sure to watch the other amazing movies from Louie Schwartzberg and Moving Art.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Simplify: How Much Is Enough?

I think that most of us have lost sight of the difference between wants and needs. Everyone just has to have the newest iPad and iPhone and whatever other toy has come out this month, even if they already own the prior version that is only a few months old.

In the middle of what is supposed to be a bad recession, even the children walk around with phones that cost hundreds of dollars and have their own iPads.

I could hardly believe it when the people who know this kind of stuff said that Americans were expected to spend $370 million this year on Halloween costumes - for their pets!

Watch Out for Afluenza

Affluenza is a term for conspicuous consumption - the deliberate consumption of goods and services intended to provoke the envy of other people as a means of displaying superior status. People with this 'disease' tend to be overworked and stressed - in pursuit of the American Dream and trying to keep up with the Joneses.

This leads to a disfunctional relationship with money. No one wants to wait to buy something until they can actually afford to pay cash for it. It is so easy to pull out that credit card and get it right now. They somehow forget that they will end up paying so much more for the item when they include the interest.

Even very wealthy people constantly struggle to earn more, gain more, and get farther ahead. And yet they continue to feel unfulfilled. It is an unending struggle because someone else will always have a bigger house, fancier car, or more toys.

Diseases of Affluence

Diseases of Poverty are infectious diseases. They are caused by poor hygiene, unclean drinking water, lack of healthy food, and no vaccinations.

Diseases of Affluence, on the other hand, are non-communicable diseases. They are caused by too much of everything: too much sugar, too much fat, too much food, too much alcohol. The result is heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, gout, depression.

Be The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy surprised the world when it told the truth. The real millionaires are quiet about it. They tend to drive older cars, live in modest homes, and resist wearing the latest fashions. They are frugal. Their modest standards of living are one of the main reasons that they are millionaires.

Reducing consumption - buying only what you need - can allow you to pay off your debt, save more to retire early, or spend less time at work. You can use that extra time to pursue hobbies, read good books, and play with your children or grandchildren. Don't deprive yourself, but save your spending for the things that really matter. Buy quality and use it until you've used it up.

Some people forget what's important in life. They get so caught up in the pursuit of money and things that they don't leave time to spend with family and friends. Remember that the more money you spend, the more time you have to spend earning more money. It is important to maintain a good balance between work and life. Work to live rather than living to work.

Winning the Lottery

I once had a neighbor who had won $85 million dollars in a lottery. She was a young college student, single and pregnant. She lived in our neighborhood for about six months while her new custom home was being built. No one in the neighborhood ever got to know her, but it wasn't because we didn't try. She was invited to parties and picnics all the time, but she always turned down the invitations. She was sure that everyone was after her money. Later, I heard that she had complained to someone that she hated living there - everyone was unfriendly!

When I used to buy lottery tickets, I dreamed about what I would do if I won. Of course I thought about buying a new house and a new car, but I never pictured anything big and fancy. The thing I really looked forward to was all the good I could do with that money. I thought about how good it would feel to see or hear about someone who needed help and actually be able to offer that help without worrying about going broke myself.

Just Refuse to Play the Game

Well, I'm not going to win a lottery because I don't buy tickets. But I do own a modest home free and clear. I love this house and have no desire to live in anything bigger or fancier. I make small improvements each year - I can hear the man putting in my small fireplace right now as I write - and each year I love it more and more.

I drive the ten year old Honda Accord that my mother bought a year before she died, and I hope it will last the rest of my driving life. (It only has 70,000 miles on it.) It's kind of beat up on the outside from eight years of driving and parking on narrow cobblestone roads that were never designed to handle so many vehicles. But the inside is almost like new, the ride is very comfortable, and the mechanical parts are reliable.

While some people feel like they need a big house and a new car, I would rather spend my money on experiences, especially travel. And even there, I don't waste my money on fancy hotels and meals. I'm there for the history and the culture and to meet the people. I'd rather travel cheap and travel often.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Travel Tales: Looking for Buddha in All the Wrong Places

I have been interested in the Buddhist religion/philosophy for many years. My interest probably started in the 1970s as an extension of my following the Beatles and a boyfriend into Transcendental Meditation, but I don't honestly remember. I never had a desire to join an ashram or anything like that, but, from what I could learn, what they said made sense to me.

Because I have also had a long-time interest in Japan and Japanese aesthetics, my reading had leaned toward Zen Buddhism for quite a few years before my trip to Japan.  It seemed to me that the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh were somehow different from the Zen of Japan. There was a lot I didn't understand, and I was looking forward to the opportunity of exploring it more while I was there.

Kyoto Temples and Their Gardens

Beginning my first week in Kyoto, I set off almost daily to explore one Zen temple after another - Ginkaku-ji, Kinkaku-ji, Nanzen-ji - really, I visited just about all of the famous ones. Almost all of them had beautiful gardens that I would have happily volunteered to work in - working meditation - for the rest of my life. All of these gardens would have been perfect sites for meditation. But I never saw a single person meditating in any of them.

Honestly, I was becoming very confused because I never saw any sign of any Buddhism at all being practised at any of the temples in Kyoto. One day I met a Canadian guy who had been living and working in Japan for a few years, and so I asked him if he knew anything about it. He began telling me that he thought the whole Zen idea had turned into a big business. Monks were driving fancy cars and having children. He thought it was a big fraud.

I soon escaped from my new friend, wondering what had happened to make him so bitter. I just could not accept what he was saying. How could it be possible? I crossed the famous bridge in Arashiyama to start on my walking tour of the area.

The very first stop on the tour was the Tenryu-ji temple. As I approached, I could not help but notice the Mercedes Benz and Jaguar in the parking lot along with other very nice cars. I have no idea who those cars belonged to, but they sure made me think again about what the guy had said. As I continued to visit various temples, I looked at them differently - I guess you could say I took off my rose-colored glasses.

I realized that the reason I never saw anyone sitting in a temple garden and meditating was that there were no places to sit in most of the gardens. Many of the gardens were actually set up as a one-way path that visitors had to follow. There was usually no place to step off the path to linger or contemplate the scenery. The next visitor was right behind me; I couldn't hold up everyone else.

There was someone at the beginning to collect the 500 to 1000 yen fee ($5 to $10 at the time),  and then there was a path for everyone to follow that led through the garden and out the exit. The few people selling tickets and working in the garden did not even appear to be monks. I suppose they collected enough money from both Japanese and international tourists that they didn't need to work anymore.

When I had this 'Zen moment' of realization, I quit going to temples that charged an admission fee, disappointed by my glimpse behind the wizard's curtain. Fortunately, I didn't stay completely away from temples because I found one that put the others to shame.

Finding Buddha After All

Honen-in was not the kind of temple to attract tourists. I saw people here and there  and no one was collecting money. In one of its buildings, I saw a long piece of hand-dyed cloth suspended from the ceiling. All around the room where various objects made of hand-dyed cloth. As I was admiring the fabric, a man approached and introduced himself as the person in charge of the project. He explained.

Originally, the piece of cloth was thirty meters long. All of the temple members had gathered around and stretched out  the fabric, suspending it in the air. Each person quickly splashed his or her section with fabric dye, then everyone ran and danced around, still holding the fabric suspended above them. The colors ran together and mixed. Once the dye had set, each member or family took home one meter and made something out of it. The man explained that the project was meant to show the temple members that the people can do great things when they work together, and that both the temple and the people can benefit from cooperation. My faith was restored.

Chance Encounters with Loving Kindness

After a few months, I began exploring beyond Kyoto. My first trip was to Ise, and since the transportation was new to me, I was kind of lost. A woman insisted on helping me carry my suitcase up some stairs, led me to the correct ticket booth, acted as translator as I bought my ticket and then led me to the platform. She wasn't going the same way, but she wanted to help. And the next day was amazing! First, my hostel roommate gave me a ride to the shrine I wanted to visit so I didn't have to take the train. Then, as I stood at the shrine watching a ceremony I didn't understand, a man approached and began explaining everything to me in English. Later, I was sitting on the seawall enjoying the view out over the water when a young woman approached and began talking to me. Before long, she offered give me a tour of the area. She drove me to an observation area on the mountain above Ise from which we could see almost forever.  Then she took me to have tea in a jazz club in a very old converted warehouse, all the time telling me about everything, before finally taking me to catch the train back to my hostel.

In Kitakyushu I was met at the train station by Sayuri and her husband Masasaki and their two boys. We had exchanged emails for a few months and they had invited me to stay with them when I traveled south. Over the next week, I got to experience life with a young Japanese family. Sayuri's mother-in-law insisted on giving me eight kimonos - some 50 to 75 years old - to use in quilts.

Sayuri introduced me to other women who invited me to their homes and fed me wonderful meals while we talked about quilting in Japan and the US. At the Kitakyushu International House I met Chidori. We managed to communicate - her in Japanese and me in English - for an hour and she invited me to stay with her the next time I was in town.

One day I was at a crowded event at a shrine. I had purchased some items and had my hands full trying to carry it all and get some hot lunch to warm my very cold body. When I finally found a place to sit down, a young woman walked up and handed me a can of hot tea. She barely gave me time to thank her before she smiled and then turned to rejoin her friends.

One day I had a long conversation with two little old ladies that couldn't have stood much more than four feet tall. They didn't speak any English and I still only knew a few words of Japanese. The conversation was mostly sign language and smiles, but it was really sweet.

I had some very special friends, too, that were so wonderfully kind. Junko, also a quilting teacher like me, and I had exchanged emails for six months before I went. She invited me into her home, introduced me to all of her quilting students, helped me to find an apartment to rent, and was always available to explain things I didn't understand and to help me get things done.

Itsuko was my landlady. She loaned me furniture to make my apartment more comfortable. She introduced me to her Ikebana teacher, who put on a tea ceremony in my honor and then insisted on giving me some silk scraps for my quilts. And Itsuko also introduced me Miyama, a friend who quilted. Then Miyama introduced me to her teacher who also gave me gifts and introduced me to her teacher.

Remembering the Buddha's Teachings

He taught that we don't need to go looking for the Buddha, that he is inside of each of us. I learned in Japan that Buddhism isn't really in the Zen temples; it is in the love and compassion of the Japanese people.

So many of them touched my life so profoundly. It was kind of crazy of me to set off alone to a foreign country where I knew no one and didn't speak the language or understand the culture. Ten years later, I still remember well the places I visited and the experiences I had over those six months, but it was the people I met that made my trip so special. Thank you so much to all of you!

Quilts for Sale Blog Launched!

For my readers who have been waiting patiently, I finally got my quilt blog started: Quilts for Sale. I began with four quilts, in four different posts, and plan to add one more each Sunday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simplify: Cooking

We certainly don't have seasons here in Mexico like those north of the border, but at 5,000 feet, it does cool down a bit and houses here rarely have heaters in them. I see that as an opportunity to cook. Make something delicious while warming up the house. 


Step one
Today I decided to make a southwestern chipotle vegetable soup. When I make soup, my goal is always to fill my largest pan to the brim. This soup is going to take a while to make from scratch so I want it to last a long time.


First, I cover the bottom of the pan with extra virgin olive oil and heat it up. Then I toss in:
  • one chopped onion
  • 2-3 stalks chopped celery
  • one chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 sliced carrots
I love the way that looks in the pan - like I'm cooking a bit pit of confetti. While that is softening, I cut up:


Step two
  • 2 courgette zucchinis
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 small can of corn (or an ear's worth)
Stir it all together and continue cooking until everything is getting soft. Now it has even more colors.

This soup doesn't have any seasoning at all in it at this point -- not even salt or pepper. But the wonderful aroma is already filling the house and making me very hungry. I like making soups like this that require me to cut up lots of fresh produce. I find that kind of work to be very relaxing - a mindfulness meditation.


I want this soup to be a complete meal when I get done with it: vegetables, grains, and legumes. It will be full of fiber and protein and antioxidants. The next step is to add:
Step three - it's starting to look like soup
  • a liter of tomato sauce  
  • a liter of water 
  • a cup of rice.
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chipotle sauce
I like to use a rice blend that has brown rice and red rice and wild rice. Now stir everything up and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is about half-cooked.

Now is a good time to clean up your mess from all the chopping and wash the few dishes you have accumulated.

One bad thing about covering the pot is that it holds in the smell instead of letting it drift out to fill the house, but we don't want the water to evaporate and we want the rice to cook. We'll let the smell out again pretty soon, though. By this time I'm really hungry so I grab a piece of fruit for a snack to hold me over until the soup is done.


Step four
You need something to do for the next little while, so now is a good time to chop up a half of a head of cabbage into small pieces. You can also open and rinse two cans of black beans. 


You could make the beans from scratch, but you would have had to start yesterday to get them soaked overnight and then cook them for however many hours it takes. I usually use canned.


When the timer goes off, you can take the lid off and stir in the beans. 


Finally done!
Then you are going to pile the cabbage on top of the soup. I always try to push it down into the soup but it just keeps floating back up to the top. You have to be careful because the pot is going to be very full, but somehow that cabbage always cooks down and everything fits eventually. As soon as it's all down into the soup, cover the pan and let it continue cooking until the cabbage is soft. 


Removed the lid occasionally to give it a stir, but be careful because it is probably very full.


It's too hot to eat yet, so take a few minutes and clean up your mess again. I always make big messes when I cook so I always try to clean up often as I work.


Lunch time!
After I've dished up a big bowl of this colorful healthy soup, I like to cut up some avocado on top. So far, this is a vegan soup. But if you feel daring, you can always sprinkle some crumbled goat cheese on top. It's up to you.


Even though I was starving a little while ago, this big bowl of soup is very filling. It's tastes wonderful and it makes me feel good to know that something that tastes so great is really healthy. 


This would have been a lot of work if I were preparing it for just one meal, but my next step, as soon as it is cool enough, is to divide the remaining soup up into containers so I can freeze it for future meals, too. So I not only got a great lunch, I also have enough for nine more big bowls full of soup. Usually though, I end up making each one of the containers into two cups of soup and serve it with a salad, or a sandwich, or a quesadilla.


And next week, I'll do this again with a different kind of soup. Pretty soon my freezer is full of containers (labeled in black marker) of different soups and other containers of ready-made meals. 


Last week it was a gluten-free vegetarian lasagna. Next week, it might be a cream of potato-leek soup made with soy milk. 


These containers have been used over and over again; I just scratch out the old label and add a new one beside it. It has to cool a bit before I put on the lids and pop them in the freezer.


Even if you don't eat vegan or vegetarian, I hope you'll give this recipe a try. You might find out that vegetarian food can be really good. And I might have spent a couple of hours making the soup, but my house is nice and warm, and I have enough packed away for nine more meals.


Thanks for reading and bon appetit!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Simplify: Take Control of Your Health

Whether you are a fan of Obamacare or not, you have to admit that something has got to be done about the state of health care in the United States. The cost of health insurance is rising at an astounding rate, our doctors don't have time to talk to their patients any more, and our out-of-pocket expenses keep going higher and higher. In reality, we are paying more and more and receiving less and less.

Some proudly boast that we have the best health care in the world, but the facts show that that just is not true. When compared to other developed nations, we lag behind in more areas than we like to admit.

You Are Responsible for Your Own Health

It sure as heck isn't your doctor's responsibility. He or she can't follow you around to make sure that you do what they recommend. Your doctor may know what you need to do to stay healthy, but they also know that you probably won't do it. I think it's time to grow up.

Smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, and obesity cause the worst health care problems in the developed world. We all know this. We've know it for years. Yet is just keeps on getting worse.

If you smoke, stop. End of discussion.

Alcohol can be healthy because it helps us relax after a stressful day. But it becomes unhealthy after two drinks for men and only one for women. Really, how many times do you need to be told? And no pouring larger glasses.

Why is it that Mexico and the English-speaking countries (all of them) have so much more problem with overweight children and adults than the rest of the world? It all boils down to calories in vs. calories out. Just like in accounting class, the columns have to match or you have a problem. Exercise daily. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat, fat, and processed foods. Yes, it IS as simple as that.

Unnecessary Tests and Procedures

The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation asked doctors from nine specialties to list the five tests and procedures from their area that are overused and most likely to be unnecessary. They came up with a list of the top 45 tests and procedures that could actually cause harm instead of helping, including two that I've always questioned:
  • Pap smears for women who have had hysterectomies for non-cancerous reasons.
  • Pre-op chest X-rays without any reason to suspect problems.
You can see all of the lists at Choosing Wisely. They don't say that you should never have the tests, just that you should question the reason for it and discuss it with your doctor before you agree to it. Don't agree to a test or procedure until you understand:
  • Why do you need it?
  • Exactly what will they do and how do they plan to do it?
  • What are the possible consequences or complications?
Don't agree until you feel comfortable that you understand what they are saying. It is your body and you have the right to make the decisions. That's what "informed consent" is all about -- you can't give it unless you know what they are talking about.

Hospitals are Dangerous Places

A hospital is the last place I want to be if I'm sick. Those places are full of germs, no matter how hard they try to keep them clean.
  • Between 25 and 35 percent of hospital patients suffer harm from adverse events during a hospital stay.
  • Every six minutes a patient dies in an American hospital from a hospital-acquired infection.
  • Medication errors happen every day in the hospital.
My youngest child was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was three. Her doctor did everything in her power to make sure that she had a private room if it was at all possible so that people visiting another patient wouldn't bring infections into the room. She also strongly encouraged her patients' parents to stay at the hospital with their child. I hate to think of the number of times that someone wanted to do something that I just knew was not what her doctor had ordered. My daughter needed me there all the time to be sure that things were done right.

But adults need someone, too. A person who is sick enough to require hospitalization is often not in any condition to be making important decisions or keeping track of what medications or treatments the doctor has ordered. Everyone needs a mommy sometimes.

One of the reasons that hospital care in Mexico is less expensive than in the US is that patients here are expected to bring a friend or family member with them to take care of day to day stuff. Nurses don't waste their time helping patients to bathe or dress or even eat -- that's what the helper is for. Nurses clean wounds, change dressings and administer medications.

Take Charge of Your Life

In the end, we must all take responsibility for our own health. Avoid all of these problems by doing everything in your power to stay healthy.

Be proactive. Look everything up on the Internet. Ask a lot of questions. Find out all you can. Make sure you know what is going to happen and why.

Insist on receiving copies of the results of every test you have. You paid for them. You have a right to them. Be sure that every doctor you see knows:
  • What other health care professionals you are seeing and why.
  • What tests you've had and why. And now you have results so you can share them.
  • What medications you are taking. How much? (And know the side effects, danger signs, and possible complications.)
If your doctor has only five minutes to spend with you, he sure as heck doesn't have the time to contact your other doctors to find out all this stuff.

And don't forget... Don't smoke. Drink less. Get lots of exercise. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Take a multi-vitamin. Wash your hands more often.

And keep reading my blog!