Archive for the 'Health' Category

I Am Going to Kick This Cold

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Good news: my swollen finger joint is better.

Bad news: After over a week, my on-again/off-again cold has dug in to stay. I have a small colony of frogs living at the base of my throat and they get really active at night. I am determined to kick this thing to the curb. I’m going to throw so much $h1t at it that it will have to bow down.

I am still in pajamas and convinced my 9yo to make his own lunch (his dad helped) and my husband worked from home today, and took the kids to the bus stop so I didn’t have to. I don’t plan on leaving the house for the foreseeable future. Laundry and cleaning can damn well wait till I’m solidly better. Like, next week, maybe. Also the Tournament of Books started today, so I better get reading.

I used to chew a raw clove of garlic, but the last time I tried it I vomited it right back up (it’s that gross), so, lesson learned, no more of that. I may make myself grape Jello water instead.

I have finished all my Cold Calm, which is really just homeopathic sugar pills and makes my husband G. Grod crazy that I buy them, but aren’t placebos supposed to be effective, too? I’m taking a packet of EmergenC, 1000 iu of Vitamin D, a multivitamin, fish oil, some herbal sinus pill (Sinus Take Care; what a terrible name), Yogi’s Cold Care tea, honey, Sambucol, and a new twist on my favorite cold tonic:

Moxie’s Cold Cure-all, from Bon Appetit January 2013
A warming drink with echinacea, plus a kick of ginger and cayenne to clear the sinuses? We’re in.

Makes 1. Recipe by Moxie Rx in Portland, OR.

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey or light agave syrup (nectar)*
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger**
1/4 teaspoon super echinacea extract***
Pinch of cayenne pepper

*Screw agave. It’s a fad. Sugar is sugar, except when it’s local honey, which is better for you. Use local honey.
**Use your Microplane grater. If you do not have one, fix that.
***Super echinacea extract can be found at natural foods stores.

Combine all ingredients in a mug with 1 cup boiling water, stirring until honey is dissolved. Let sit for 1 minute before serving.

Wound Care for the New Millennium

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Remember the advice we got growing up on how to take care of cuts–. dab some antibiotic ointment on it, bandage loosely, then leave it open to the air and let it alone to form a scab? Nope. This actually increases scarring.

For big cuts, like the set of stitches I got last week when I had a non-melanoma mole removed, here’s the modern protocol to heal faster and prevent scarring, which was news to me:

1. Keep the wound covered with a bandage until it heals. Change the bandage daily. You can let water or soapy water run over it, but don’t aggressively clean it.
2. When replacing the bandage, do cover the wound with a thin film of something like Aquaphor or Vaseline, to keep in moisture. Don’t use antibiotic ointments like Bacitracin and Neosporin. These can cause rashes and reactions. Avoid Target-brand bandages–they all contain antibiotic ointment.
3. Get the least adhesive bandage that will cover the wound and stay in place for a day. Tough and waterproof strips will irritate surrounding skin quickly. Paper tape to hold gauze in place sticks less well, but is far less irritating.
4. Avoid fish oil supplements. They’ve been shown to slow down healing.

And, for the record, this is a reminder that tanning beds, which I used often when I was young, are bad for you. Stop pretending they’re not. Real sun, in moderation and with sunscreen, if at all. The end.

Achieving My Target Weight, Kinda Sorta

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

This is not the story that the title makes it sound like it’s going to be, so don’t dismiss it if you think this is going to be an inspirational story about losing weight.

My insurance company discounts rates for things like not smoking, having good cholesterol levels and low blood pressure, getting health screenings, etc. One of the boxes to check is a BMI in the not-overweight range.

Last week at the doctor, I took off my shoes and weighed in. When the nurse plugged the number into the calculator, I came in at 25.1% BMI, when 24.9 is the top limit of what they term “normal.”

“Can I take off my clothes and try again?” I asked the nurse.

“Sure,” she said, then advised me not only to take off my jeans but also my watch, bracelet and eyeglasses. Down to my underwear, we got a new number, plugged it in, and the new BMI was 24.7%. Success! We both cheered and laughed and clapped. The doctor also found it pretty funny when she came in.

Alas, I thought getting the target BMI would get me out of blood tests for cholesterol and glucose. Turns out I have to do those anyway. I’m not a fan of the blood draw; I’ve had some horrific experiences over the years. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s no way to jigger those tests to hit the target retroactively.

Weighty Matters

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I’ve been thinking about weight, lately. Sometime within the last weeks, something prompted me to write about it. Now I can’t remember what that was. Perhaps it will come to me as I write. But in any case, weight.

(Maybe it was watching the Oscars and thinking Angelina and Rose Byrne needed to eat more?)

In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which I recommend, in the section “Remembrances of Being Very Very Skinny” she writes,

For a brief time at the turn of the century, I was very skinny.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.

The next section, “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat” starts

For a brief time at the end of that last century I was over-weight.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.

The Tina Fey comments reminded me of something I’m pretty sure I read in O. Which is a better magazine than you might think if you just recoiled, and for better or worse, I’m the demographic. Anyhoo, an article about weight suggested charting your weight’s peaks and valleys over your life and noting how your life was at that time, and how your life probably isn’t at the same point it was when you were your skinniest, and may never get there again. If you read the sections in Bossypants, Tina Fey says pretty much the same thing with anecdotal evidence.

(Wait, maybe is was how I went to a party a couple weeks ago and got many compliments on how good I looked, and wondered if it was because I’d lost sudden weight after just coming off the stomach flu.)

So, in my life, in the middle of the 00’s, I was skinny. For pretty much the first time in my life. I went to a doctor because I had some bumps under my skin and she said, “Those are lymph nodes. Most people can’t feel them but you can because you’re so skinny.” I didn’t feel skinny. People would tell me that I was and I wouldn’t believe them. It was only years later, as I gave away the clothes I wore during that period (goodbye, size 6 Long N Lean jeans), or saw pictures of myself from that time, that I could acknowledge, yep, I was skinny.

At the time, my husband and were DINKs: double income, no kids. I went to a power yoga class about 3 times a week. We lived half a mile from our jobs, so we walked to work. I didn’t eat gluten, because a holistic chiropracter told me I shouldn’t, so I was extremely mindful of what I did eat.

(Maybe I was thinking about weight after I walked into the boys’ room in the morning to tell them to get dressed. I had on a shirt and underwear, but no pants. 6yo Guppy pointed at me and said, with delight in his voice, “Fat legs!”)

A funny thing was, around this time, I went to visit a friend of mine who had also lost a lot of weight. She looked lovely. Yet I thought she’d looked better before, and was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in Bridget Jones’ diary, when she finally loses the weight she obsesses over, puts on the LBD, goes and out and all her friends ask if she is ill. Maybe losing weight isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

In the wake of Guppy’s birth, I became generally depressed and anxious. As my crack team of medical professionals tinkered with this and that solution, I first lost a bunch of weight then gained it back after a med switch. When we reversed the switch, I thought I’d lose the weight again, and said so to my doctor.

She laughed, not unkindly. “Welcome to 40, honey,” she said, with sympathy. And I’ve been pretty steady since then, back at the same point I was for a long time in my 30s. Rounder than I’d like, but within the bounds of health.

(The most likely answer is that I was reacting to something I read on Sally McGraw’s excellent blog, Already Pretty, because last week was body image warrior week.)

I don’t own a scale. For a long time, I didn’t have a full-length mirror. I don’t obsess about my weight, yet there are still times when it bothers me, like when I have to hop up and down to get in a pair of newly washed jeans.

My point, and I do have one, is that it’s complicated, isn’t it? I wish I were without judgment, for myself and others, and while that judgment has softened over time, it’s not gone. Perhaps I can just aspire to Fey’s words: “We should just leave people alone about their weight” and include myself with that, then recognize when I fail, pick myself up and start over again, possibly a bit wiser. That’s life in general, though, isn’t it?

Willpower and Decision Making

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

There have been several articles in recent months on willpower and decision making, all of which have intrigued me. This is from “Why willpower matters — and how to get it” at The Guardian, link via The Morning News

Baumeister’s big idea, now borne out by hundreds of ingenious experiments in his and other social psychologists’ labs, is that willpower — the force by which we control and manage our thoughts, impulses and emotions and which helps us persevere with difficult tasks — is actually rather like a kind of moral muscle.

I recently gave up my morning toaster pastry, and I’m still pretty bitter about it. But perhaps I’ll be a better person for it since I’m applying considerable willpower every time I pass them in the grocery.

The Answer to the Question…

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Many, many people asked “what are you going to do with yourself when Guppy starts full-day kindergarten?”

As if filling the time would be a problem.

FYI, all those people who told me to enjoy their baby- and childhoods because it goes so fast? My experience is spending actual time with babies and children can be tedious. The kid-free peace and quiet? THAT flies by.

I’m doing freelance writing now for three different places, so filling the time isn’t even confined to housewifery. And Oprah and bon-bons were never on the table.

I started this week with the desire to get back on my bike and get strong. After a couple recent physical setbacks, including a strained back the past few weeks (I grow old, I grow old…), I’ve fallen off my never very consistent exercise horse. When I get winded carrying the laundry upstairs, I figure it’s time to get moving, literally.

Monday I biked to meet a friend for lunch at a restaurant I’d long been wanting to try. In spite of bike map and smart phone, got lost, was late, but made it eventually. Total ride, 20+ miles.

Tuesday I met friends for coffee and breakfast at one of my favorite spots. Total ride, 10 miles, plus 2 more later in the day when I biked to and from yoga.

Wednesday, I thought I would rest till I saw the weather. Being Minnesotan now means seizing the weather when it’s good. I didn’t have anything in the fridge for lunch. Decided to bike to the falls and an eatery I’d never tried. In spite of smart phone and map, got a little lost. Total ride, 20+ miles.

Thursday, I realized we were almost out of espresso beans. In spite of debilitating wind, decided to bike to a fancy bike and coffee shop. Once there I ogled fancy bike gear (could EASILY have spent $500 just on clothes, gloves and a bag) and enjoyed an expert cappuccino and chocolate chip cookie. Started home. About halfway there wondered what the noise was. Had a flat. Walked to a nearby transit station, missed the train, wondered if I should ask anyone of the biking folk around if they could help me change it (I did have a spare tube). Saw a friend! He would be late to work if he helped me change it, but a bike shop was only a few blocks away. Went there, got the tube replaced, got a lesson so maybe I can change my next flat myself, then finally got home. Total ride, 20+ miles.

While I’m exercising, I’m also riding to high-calorie destinations, so this is not a weight loss regimen. However, now that I’ve begun, I figure I should keep going. I always thought what I would do when Guppy started school was write more. Turns out, for now, at least till the weather changes (heh, probably next week) it’s biking.

And so, I’m off on my bike to meet a friend at a bakery I’ve long wanted to visit, then maybe hang out downtown to check out the food truck vista.


End of Summer

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Summer doesn’t officially end till mid-September, but my older, Drake, starts 2nd grade tomorrow, and Guppy starts kindergarten on Wednesday, so today was really it for the season.

It’s been a long crazy summer with several car and home repairs, a family trip, some health issues that have been addressed, swim lessons, soccer, day camp and I’m sure there was more in there. Nothing serious.

Here’s what I thought I’d do this summer: get to the bottom of the mending pile. Clean the whole house at least once. Stop the thistles in the backyard. Read about half again as many books as I did. Catch up with friends. Ride my bike a lot.

Didn’t happen. I darned a few socks. Cleaned a little here and there. Read some books, saw some movies, hung out with friends and rode the bike, though not nearly as much as I’d hoped. I did my best, and will try to let go of all the rest that didn’t happen.

I’m not sure how to make next summer less crazy than this one. Do less stuff isn’t necessarily the answer. Unless I kept my boys occupied, they fought. And one or both ended up crying. Not fun for anyone. There’s got to be something between exhaustion and pugilism, right?

The Downsides of Diets

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

From “Food Crazy” by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl at Experience Life:

when Ancel Keys analyzed his study subjects, he concluded that these effects were simply that of human physiology: If you feed someone 1,500 calories a day, his mental health will be jeopardized; he’ll exhibit strange, obsessive behaviors; and he’ll end up fatter than he was before he started. It’s just science.

We all know the right things to do: make better food choices (eat more whole, unprocessed foods), exercise more and sit less. Simple, but NOT easy for this coffee/carb/writer gal.

New Old Bike

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Last weekend I traded in my big yellow Sun Cruiser for a used Schwinn Sprint I’ve named Pepper. I live atop a big hill, and getting a lighter, more wieldy bike made sense now that I’ve established a riding habit. I’m sore from the new saddle, as the old was was wide and cushy, but I will persevere.



Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I am laid up in bed with a spot of pneumonia in my right lung, diagnosed right after I voted on Tuesday. I’ve been resting since then, since I think it’s the result of a cold/cough that I didn’t rest enough for over last weekend, and which seized the opportunity to invade. Since Tuesday, then, pretty much all I’ve done is read, be on the computer, watch TV, and sleep (or rather, TRY to sleep, since the painful lung makes it as hard to find a comfortable position as advanced pregnancy did), and lie abed. I did take a short walk yesterday, in the balmy afternoon. It left me panting and exhausted.

Unfortunately, my boys have the next 2 days off school for conferences. Fortunately, so does their babysitter, who is here all day so I can stay abed and she can run them outside. Somewhere after 4yo Guppy was born, I learned that resting and self care were not frivolous indulgences, at least for me, but necessary at times to keep going, both in the short and long term. This lesson took me a long time to learn. As I’ve written before about napping, I didn’t think I was capable of it for a long time, till I practiced. Now I’m queen of the 20-minute snooze. Same thing with resting and taking care; it’s a skill that takes practice.

This time, at least, I’m helped by my husband G. Grod, who was able to work from home the past 2 days, and who keeps reminding me that if I don’t rest now, all of us will suffer for it later.


I’ve fortified my sickbed well. I’ve got a warm duvet, Euro pillows for back propping, a yoga bolster for knee propping, a lap desk and my computer. Books, comics and magazines to read, throat drops, lavender spray, books to blog about, notebook, journal, tissue box, water bottle, giant mug of ginger tea with honey and baguette slices with butter. I am dressed warmly in comfortable clothes. I have a scarf wrapped around my head to keep my ears warm. I plan only to leave the sickbed for bathroom breaks and lunch, and possibly a little smackerel of something around 3.

Here’s what I’m not doing: making phone calls, making lunch for the kids, mediating their fights, keeping them to the usual limit of one hour of screen time/day, catching up on insurance paperwork, doing laundry (even though the boys don’t have clean socks–they’re wearing dirty ones), putting away laundry, straightening, puttering, stressing out. I do have the lurking feeling I should be darning socks, or rather learning to darn socks, then doing so. But I’m gently pushing this aside for now. I’m sick; if I don’t rest I’ll likely get sicker. So might as well rest, since I’m fortunate enough to be able to do so. And since I’ve practiced it enough that I’m actually capable of doing so. Sounds quiet downstairs. I think I’ll sneak down and heat up some soup.

Nap Tips

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Whoa, I am seriously out of the practice of blogging, and intend to get back to it, right now. A busy summer combined with many deadlines for other writing work meant a new routine. I still don’t have the hang of things even though school’s been in a month already, but I’m going to give it a go.

With limited time, items on my to-do list get removed in favor of others (as writing for my weblog has, of late), and this provides useful insight into what I value. Yes, of course, there’s always the fooling-around-on-Facebook factor, but in general, if I have a few things to get done a day, the list will go something like this:

1. Food
2. Sleep/Nap
3. Work
4. Reading

On some days, I would probably put sleep ahead of food.

I wasn’t always like this. Most of my life I considered myself incapable of napping. I would go and go and go until I collapsed. Even having a child didn’t make much of a dent in this. I tried to nap, but didn’t know how. Instead, I drank more coffee. But when I was pregnant with my second child, and my first was a toddler? THEN I finally needed to nap. So I practiced. I learned. And I got good at it. Both kids have stopped napping, but I try to have one every day. I am certain that even this small bit of extra rest is good for my body and mind. Here are a few of the things that help me to nap.

1. Lay down at a regular time. 12:30 to 1:30 is a good ballpark. Much later and you risk interfering with night time sleep.

2. Plan a light rest, not a marathon. You and your body benefit from reaching the second stage of sleep, not deep sleep. Twenty to thirty minutes is a good amount of time.

3. Quiet your mind. Turn off the TV, radio, computer. Read a little. Loosen restrictive clothing. Here’s a technique that works for me: Close your eyes. In your head, name five sounds that you hear. Next, name five things that you feel. Open your eyes, and name five things you see. Now repeat this cycle from four, to three, to two, to one. The person who taught me this technique swore that by the time I got to one I’d be asleep. I’ve proved her wrong more than once, but not very often. This is a good meditation to slow down my monkey mind.

4. Set an alarm if you’re worried about missing something. Give yourself about thirty minutes. Resting the body and trying to quiet the mind, even if you don’t fall asleep, are beneficial.

5. Hack a nap. Drink an ounce of lukewarm coffee or tea. Lie down, try to fall asleep, and twenty to thirty minutes later you’ll wake as the caffeine hits your system. I’ve seen this called a caf-nap or nappuccino. I’ve tried it. The benefit is I wake alert and ready to go. The downside is sometimes it’s harder to drop off to sleep, and I don’t get to enjoy the coffee.

6. Practice. Napping is a skill. Sleep is important. Don’t give up.

No Apologies

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Every day at 4pm, Mary Lucia of the Current plays a “No Apologies” track. One day, it was Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” which I sang to my bewildered kids at the top of my lungs. I hadn’t even known I knew all the lyrics.

I was reminded of this idea of no apologies when I read a piece on failure by Elizabeth (Eat Pray Love) Gilbert in the 10th anniversary edition of O magazine, which I borrowed from the library. Yes, I sometimes read O. Turns out I’m their demographic. Guess what? Not gonna apologize for it.

Anyway, the piece isn’t groundbreaking or revelatory.

Can we lighten up a little?

As we head into this next decade, can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect[?]

But I liked what I was left with when I finished, which was the sense that not only should be expect to fail and forgive ourselves for it, but we should laugh at our ridiculous expectations of universal success, and maybe even actively embrace failure. In that spirit, then here is a short list of things I’m currently failing at:

1. cutting back on caffeine and sugar
2. keeping my house minimally clean (e.g., ungross bathrooms)
3. blogging regularly
4. managing money
5. weeding the yard (not only did our thistles spread, then flower, but they went to SEED)
6. being even tempered with my kids and not calling them idiots on occasion (deserving occasions, IMO, but still)
7. keeping up with my online feed reading
8. managing my inbox (1300 in my home box, dunno how many in the blog box)

I’m sure there’s more. I’m far from perfect. I don’t get it all done, or done well. And I’m not going to apologize. So there.

Safe Sun?

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Some breaking news for those who like to bask in the sun. The Environmental Working Group has released its 2010 Sunscreen Guide. The not-so-good news? Nearly all commercial sunscreens contain ingredients the EWG says to avoid, including oxybenzone and vitamin A. There are only a few dozen the EWG recommends. You can search for their recommended sunscreens, or you can plug in the name of the sunscreen you’re using for you and your kids. Warning: the latter is likely to be worrying and discouraging. All of the ones I had in the house were there.

Is there cause for alarm? This piece, from the Huffington Post and with the advice of a dermatologist, says no. In spite of what alarmists may say or imply, if you’re going to be outside, properly applied sunscreen will help protect against skin cancer, so it’s better to use it than not. What’s safer than that? Staying out of the sun entirely, wearing protective clothes and headgear, or at least avoiding the peak hours.

Is there cause for concern? Yes. The FDA has not established guidelines for sunscreens, so there’s not regulation on dodgy ingredients. Further, there’s almost always conflicting information on what’s a good or bad ingredient.

What I did was throw away the old, badly rated sunscreens, then bought a tube each of two of the EWG’s recommended brands, Badger Unscented SPF 30 and Vanicream SPF 30. I got the Badger at my grocery co-op, and the Vanicream at Target, so neither involved a special trip.

And, for those still delusional that tanning beds are safer than the sun, a new study from the U of MN shows they increase the risk of cancer, even with the investigators looking at new types of tanning beds, which use a UV spectrum different from the sun and alleged to be safe. (The latter detail is from a scientist friend, though not included in the article.)

So, to sum up. No sun is safe sun in regard to skin cancer, though it is the best source of Vitamin D. Enjoy the sun in moderation. Be safe and smart about your choices. Use a safer sunscreen, and use it correctly. Reapply as needed. Stay out of the sun between 10 and 4. Wear a hat. Cover up.

I started using tanning beds when I was 17. I worked in a tanning salon for 9 months when I was 20. Then I had to see a dermatologist about a patch of skin; he cut it and several others out and found they were dysplastic–possibly pre-cancerous. He told me to never use a tanning bed or lay out again. Since then I’ve had more than a dozen patches of skin removed. Usually a patch has to be cut out twice. Once for the initial test, and again for complete removal. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is unpleasant and painful. I’ve been lucky–no melanoma. Yet.

Be careful out there.