Packing up and Letting Go

Packing up and letting go. “It’s cathartic”, “It’s freeing”- these are some of the things that people told me about how I’d feel when going through my belongings and getting rid of clutter. Whether my stuff was going in the garbage, to a charitable organization or to a friend in need, I still found it hard to say goodbye. Nearly 25 years of marriage and 17 years in the house we are selling- is a long time to accumulate “stuff.”  There were even a few boxes that had never been opened when we moved from our apartment to the house. I could never seem to find a place in the house to display my music box collection. It didn’t matter that most of the music boxes stopped playing music. What mattered was that I shlepped the swiss chalet that once played “auld lang syne” all the way from Switzerland. A wise person once advised that you must “choose your battles.” I chose to concede this battle to my husband, Jay.  In return, I kept two of the six boxes filled with the kids’ nursery school creations.

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Packing up is a nostalgic event in itself. Even Jay softened up when looking through old photos of us with the kids. “Wow, look at all the hair on my head,” he said. “Why didn’t we ever get our son a haircut?” we both laughed. Were we bad parents for allowing our daughter to wear her hair in pony tails for two years?

Jay and I, both type-A personalities, set packing goals and tried hard to achieve them. We’d conquer the living room and dining room for three days and then spend four days packing the kitchen, basement and garage. The mood was light while flipping through our high school and college year books. We tried to ignore the fact that it was 75 degrees and sunny outside while we were relegated to the basement. As the giveaway piles surpassed the moving boxes, we felt accomplished, maybe even “cathartic.” We were embarking on a new chapter in our lives in a book that had already been filled with pain and much happiness.

Box after box, memory after memory, it was a slow process. “I can’t throw away that napkin holder, that vase, that beaded necklace”- I pleaded. But in the end, I could. I weeded through what to keep and what to get rid of. And then I found it, the kale salad recipe that my cousin Beth and Aunt Debbi sent me. They promised that it was so delicious and easy to make. Since it was nearly break time, I stopped what I was doing and drove to the store to buy the ingredients for the kale salad. And since I was out, I decided to get gas because it was supposed to rain the next day.  Wow, I was turning into the anal retentive chef from that Saturday Night Live skit.  Circa 2008, Dan Hartman played a chef who is constantly distracted with other things that he can’t get through his cooking segment. Very funny and worth watching. But I digress.

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Tuscan Kale Salad with Walnut Parmesan Dressing

I made this salad in a ziploc bag because I inadvertently packed all of my bowls. Since all of my sharp knives are also packed, I tore the kale leaves into pieces with my fingers.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
10 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 bunches Tuscan kale- washed, dried, center ribs removed, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

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Place sliced kale in a large bowl or gallon size ziploc bag. To prepare the dressing, in  a medium size bowl, whisk together garlic, lime juice and red pepper flakes.  Slowly drizzle in both oils and whisk vigorously. Stir in the parmesan cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Pour dressing over kale, tossing well to coat. Let sit at least 10 minutes at room temperature before eating. I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator and it was even tastier the next day.

Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed, Jay turned to me and said, “Seriously, that T-shirt that you’re wearing is older than our kids.” “This Barcelona Olympics 1992 shirt is a classic,” I said. Jay replied, “It’s old and faded and clearly falling part, isn’t it time?”  I said that it reminds me of our one year anniversary when we met in Spain and traveled through Barcelona and the coast.

In the summer of 1991, I had taken the bar exam and traveled alone through Europe for two weeks. Jay and I met up in the Barcelona airport to travel through Spain for two weeks. Think pre-cellphone times.  The night before Jay and I met up, I had moved out of my room to share a room with another woman who was also traveling alone. She had just taken the Texas bar exam and we thought it wold be fun to stay up talking on our last night of the trip. What transpired set the stage for a bad romantic comedy. Jay had been trying to contact me in my hotel room the night before his arrival to let me know that his flight was four hours late. I never got his messages and I woke up with an earache that left me without hearing in one ear. The language barrier prevented me from finding out from the airport personnel about the delayed flight.

Bad romantic comedy alert- Jay and I spotted each other across the crowded terminal, think hundreds of sweaty travelers carrying farm animals- we ran towards each other. We hugged and rambled on about cancelled flights, an empty hotel room and a clogged ear. Besides the rocky start of our trip, we ended up having a fantastic time in Spain.

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Jay said that he doesn’t need an old shirt to remind him of the amazing time we had on that trip. As he rolled over and fell into a deep sleep, I listened to the sounds of his light snoring. I whispered, “No, it’s not time for this T-shirt to go.” At that moment, I decided that some things are not meant to be discarded- not yet- at least not tonight.

 

Live And Let Live

Seriously- why do people have such a hard time keeping their negative thoughts to themselves?  Has anyone ever heard of the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

It seems that lately, my co-workers, my gym friends and even my relatives, are compelled to give their unsolicited negative opinions about everything. A few months ago, I received negative feedback regarding my blog post about legumes. I know, I know, shame on me. To hell with all the vegetarians and health conscious people out there who eat beans as part of their diet. Apparently, whether or not beans are inherently poisonous is a debatable topic.

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Similarly, with certain oils- there are negative and positive articles about the virtues of all types of oils.  However, it is my belief that experts in the field are entitled to hold differing opinions as to just about anything if it is backed up by research. Lately, whenever I mention a topic that is remotely debatable, I am faced with an unprovoked chastising.  I have encountered this superior attitude more and more recently.

I never proclaimed to be a nutritionist or a medical professional. In writing my blog posts, I do a significant amount of research and it is my perogative as the writer, to choose to present the data as I wish. I do not take issue with the fact that someone has a differing opinion or theory based upon their “scientific evidence.” However, I do take umbrage when the person fails to see both sides of the issue. Agree to disagree. Live and let live.

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I understand in today’s society that consumers are more educated and more aware about everything than they were even 5 years ago. If you want to make it your life’s mission to only eat grass-fed beef and never eat in a restaurant for fear that they will serve grain-fed poultry in -gasp!- vegetable oil, I say, “more power to you!” If you want to grow your own fruits and vegetables, raise and slaughter your own chickens, I say, “Hallelujah.” But don’t disparage the rest of us who work long hours and don’t have the time or inclination to care about whether our salmon is wild or not. Don’t ram your Paleo philosophy down our throats when we don’t want to follow you. And finally, don’t look at me like I’ve just committed a heinous crime if you see me eating yogurt- yes- I still eat some dairy and I don’t deserve to be criminalized for doing so.

Tolerance and an appreciation for another’s beliefs and lifestyle is what makes a harmonious world.

“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”- Albert Einstein

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“The highest result of education is tolerance.”- Helen Keller

 

 

Acupuncture For Relief Of Pain

I have been wanting to try acupuncture for a while to help alleviate the low back pain I sometimes experience. I was inspired to write this post about acupuncture because I have always heard positive comments about the practice.  Lately, my husband has been suffering from low back pain and radiating leg pain caused by several bulging and herniated discs in his back.

With the approval of his orthopedist who specializes in sports medicine, my husband has been back at the gym, lifting (not with his maximum weight) and vigorously working out. He is stretching religiously and going to a weekly yoga class.  Needless to say, he is trying to avoid pain relief injections and hopes to not have to consider surgery for this problem. Hence, the acupuncture discussions. Besides my minimal low back pain, at times I suffer from upper back/bi-lateral shoulder pain. During a recent massage session, the masseuse explained that I will continually suffer from this shoulder/back pain as long as I carry such a heavy work bag. I can’t help it. I like to be prepared. Always, no matter what the occasion. Admittedly, the work bag that I commute to the city with is so packed with essentials that a family of four could use what’s in my bag to camp out for a week.

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Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine dating back over thousands of years . Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain but is also useful in treating many conditions. Acupuncture involves inserting extremely thin, metallic needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. It is a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force (known as qi or chi)- believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points along these meridians, it is believed that your energy flow will re-balance to bring about a healing response. As the acupuncture needles are inserted, most people feel nothing at all, or a mild tingling. The thin needles are then manipulated by the practitioner’s hands and/or through electrical stimulation.

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for more than 35 diseases, illnesses and conditions, including the following:
chemotherapy-induced nausea
fibromyalgia
headaches
low back pain
teeth grinding
cognitive issues- ADD and inability to focus
energy problems- lack of motivation and chronic fatigue syndrome
insomnia
asthma

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Acupuncture is also used to stimulate the immune system, relieve drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, aid in weight loss and to help stop smoking. Acupuncture treatments are often used with aromatherapy, massage and meditative exercises to enhance the healing benefits.  Most traditional medical doctors believe acupuncture is not an effective treatment, however, clinical trials have indicated that acupuncture can assist in pain relief.

Like any medical or alternative practice, there are risks involved in acupuncture treatment. However, the risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified practitioner. The most common risk is infection at the injection site or sites, especially if the practitioner does not use clean needles. It is important to ask your acupuncturist if he or she uses disposable needles. These are the safest type of needles when it comes to limiting the spread of infection. Diseases like hepatitis can be transmitted by using dirty needles. Acupuncture may be dangerous for patients who have bleeding disorders because they can bleed profusely from a small needle puncture. Also, someone who is taking steroids may not be a good candidate for acupuncture since they may have a compromised immune system and be less equipped to fight against needle-borne infections.

For more information, speak to your doctor or contact a reputable medical facility that is  known for acupuncture treatment like Johns Hopkins Medical Center or the Mayo Clinic Health System. When choosing an acupuncturist, ask people for recommendations and check the practitioner’s training and credentials. Most states require that non physician acupuncturists pass a certification exam. It’s a good idea to find out what the requirements are in your state. Interview the acupuncturist before treatment and ask what is involved in the treatment, how it will help your problem and how much it will cost. Find out whether the treatment is covered by your insurance.

After doing the research for this post, I realize that there is almost no down side to trying acupuncture and I will definitely give it a try. Stay tuned!

One Month After New Years…….

So it’s one month into the new year and I’m wondering how everyone is doing with their New Year’s resolutions. Did you vow to exercise more or eat healthier? Did you promise not to keep hitting the snooze button on your alarm so that you can get to work earlier and be more productive? Well, if you did resolve to make some sort of change in your life -one month in, why don’t you assess your progress or lack thereof.

I am doing moderately well with my resolve to eat healthier and practice what I preach. I have to work harder so as not to let personal setbacks and road bumps get in the way of the goals I have set for myself. My father had a heart attack last month (thank goodness he is fine now) but that shouldn’t give me free reign to eat chocolate for breakfast lunch and dinner. Well, I didn’t do that- but you get the idea. Then my trip to Florida to see my in-laws, who are rapidly declining in health, did not go well.  Unfortunately, this bad situation prompted a winefest like you’ve never seen.

When life throws us curve balls, we need to swerve so as not to get hit. We may need to re-adjust our plan- but keep going forward. Don’t get hit by the ball. Although my poor eating and drinking choices were offset by copious amounts of exercise, you can’t exercise away a bad diet. When I wasn’t by my father’s hospital bed, I was at the gym or running. One of the highlights of visiting my in-laws was that my husband and I were able to swim laps in their community pool and run outside. With triathlon training approaching, I tested the waters, so to speak, by swimming a continuous half-mile. And then I got sick, a respiratory infection that made it painful to breathe. Non-stop coughing forced me to take a break from cardio for a week. Again, not a reason to engage in an unhealthy eating free-for-all.

So what if you promised yourself that you would work out more and that hasn’t happened? Ask yourself- “What is preventing me from achieving my goals?”  Maybe you are in a fitness rut. If you live on the east coast- are the unending days of sub-zero degree temperature getting to you? Maybe you just need to change things up. If you can afford it- throw in a new fitness class every other week or once a month. Check out what cool fitness classes are in your area.

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In my neck of the woods there are many drop-in classes to choose from: Soulcycle (spinning), Zumba, kickboxing, hot yoga (bikram yoga done in a room heated to 105 degrees), swim laps at your local community center, try indoor volleyball, try Crossfit or a boot camp class. Groupon and Living Social are always offering fitness deals.

What if some days you don’t even want to leave the house? Workout at home. There is no excuse!  Try this workout:

5 Rounds

25 air squats
25 pushups
25 sit-ups

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Remember, if you haven’t started to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself….. start now. Everyday is a fresh start and a new opportunity to begin your journey. Good luck!

Why Is Strength Training Important?

I have been a cardio girl for over 20 years- biking, running, swimming, playing tennis, using the stair master and elliptical machine. Why should I incorporate strength training into my fitness routine at this point in my life?  Why should anyone add strength training to their workouts? Well, I did some research and I found that for men and women, strength training is an important component to overall fitness. It helps to reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass and helps to burn calories more efficiently.

Studies have shown that muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. According to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, “[i]f you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body.” He further adds, “[b]ut strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass- at any age.” Strength training also helps to develop strong bones, boost stamina, control weight, improve attention and sharpen your focus.

The good news is that you do not need to belong to a gym to enjoy the benefits of strength training. Exercises that you can do without any equipment include: pushups, sit-ups, abdominal crunches, air squats and lunges. Exercises with free weights that can be used at the gym or purchased for home use include: dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. At the gym (or you can invest in weight machines for home use), various resistance machines are effective for strength training.

According to Dr.Laskowski, “[t]wo to three training sessions a week lasting just 20 to 30 minutes are sufficient for most people.”

It is important to consult with your doctor before beginning any strength training program. The following is an example of an at home strength training workout:

Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can:

5 push-ups
10 sit-ups
15 air squats

If you have access to a kettlebell or a dumbbell, below is a tough strength training workout:

Perform 7 burpees before and after each set:
Do reps of 50-40-30-20-10 of: kettlebell swings and sit ups. So your workout should look like this:

7 burpees, 50 kettlebell swings, 50 sit-ups, 7 burpees, 40 kettlebell swings, 40 sit-ups, 7 burpees, 30 kettlebell swings, 30 sit-ups, 7 burpees, 20 kettlebell swings, 20 sit-ups, 7 burpees, 10 kettlebell swings, 10 sit-ups, 7 burpees.

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A Boston University School of Medicine study concluded that weightlifting helps to”regress obesity and resolve metabolic disorders.  “Weightlifting also increases an athlete’s power by improving the coordination of muscles working together. Working out has been scientifically proven to decrease stress. Researchers found that for a period of six months, people who performed three weight workouts a week, significantly increased their anger level and overall mood.