Saturday, January 29, 2011

Update on New Year's Resolutions made in 2009

I first wrote this piece in January 2009 - the update is at the end of the post.

Did you make any new year’s resolutions/goals? Usually we start off well, keep on track for the first 30 days and then it all becomes forgotten in the hurry-scurry of life. Another good intention started with enthusiasm and soon gone by the wayside.

I did not make any personal goals this year until I received the following news.
On Jan 6th I had my annual physical and the Dr. informed me that I have high cholesterol. She explained that too much cholesterol in the blood could be serious and poses a risk of getting heart disease. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

I was surprised to learn that only about 20% of cholesterol comes from the foods you eat. Your body makes the other 80%. Things such as age and family health history affect how much cholesterol your body makes. Unfortunately, there are usually no signs that you have high cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test.

She explained that this is a serious diagnosis and should not be taken lightly.
I took a long look at this information and decided that I had to make some changes in my lifestyle. The doctor suggested a change in diet and exercise.
I do not eat meat and my diet is already low in cholesterol but I took a look at what I eat and realized that three things had to go: cheese, egg yolks and desserts.
I recently read that there are eight healthy foods that are essential to eat every day. So I plan to work these into my daily diet along with 30 minutes of moderate exercise.

Here is the list of eight:

1. Spinach: 
A rich source omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease. 1-cup fresh spinach or a half-cup cooked per day. SUBSTITUTES: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce.


Helps boost your immune system, provides protection against cancer. Make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” One cup a day. SUBSTITUTES: Kefir, cottage cheese. Plain fat free yogurt is also a perfect base for creamy salad dressings and dips. 

Tomatoes: packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene which can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, breast, skin, and stomach cancers, and coronary artery disease. Eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice per day. SUBSTITUTES: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava.

4. Carrots: are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as a reduced risk of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Aim for a half-cup a day. SUBSTITUTES: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango.


Blueberries: Host to more antioxidants than any other North American fruit, blueberries help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes. Rich in fiber and vitamins A and C can also boost cardiovascular health. 1-cup fresh blueberries a day, or a half-cup frozen or dried. 

SUBSTITUTE: A├žai, an Amazonian berry.

Black Beans: All beans are good for your heart and brain. They’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily half-cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber, and is low in calories and free of saturated fat. 

SUBSTITUTES: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans.

Walnuts: Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine. A serving of walnuts is about 1 ounce, or seven nuts. Substitutes: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, (all unsalted).

8. Oats: Awarded the FDA’s first seal of approval. They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Oats have 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, they deliver steady muscle-friendly energy. 

SUBSTITUTES: Quinoa, flaxseed, amaranth, and pearl barley.

So now my goals are written down for the world to see. Change my diet and exercise. The pressure is on. I will report back to you (and my Dr.) in 90 days. ☺

It is hard for me to believe that it has been two years since I wrote this post.
I did follow this food program and the good news is that I lost 40 lbs and my cholesterol is no longer elevated. I did not take any prescribed medications for the problem It was suggested to me that if you don't want to have high cholesterol don't put any cholesterol into your body. I read all labels very carefully and usually will not eat anything that has cholesterol in it.
So there you have it, even though I am reporting back to you much later then the 90 days I am in good health and have discovered that I have come to really enjoy the foods that I eat. Plenty of fruit and vegetables daily, and yes, I accept a dessert every now and then when I am at a social event - I just don't have them in the home.

Haven't been as diligent with the daily exercise but will try harder with that this year :-)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

If it is Thursday it's Going Green - Reduce Heating Costs

Remember the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy states, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Children learn by observation and watching what we do. Conservation should become a natural way of life for them.

We are in the depths of winter and experiencing extreme cold temperatures. Have you done an inventory of your house to check for drafts and areas of energy loss? Try the following suggestions, you may be surprised at the results. Get the children involved , have them check the house with you.

HEATING: Your furnace will work most efficiently if you keep it clean. Change disposable filters monthly; or use a reusable filter, which should be checked monthly and washed in the sink or outside if it’s clogging up. An oil furnace should be cleaned and serviced by a licensed technician annually; a gas furnace every two years. The inspection will guarantee your furnace is running as efficiently as possible and will also reveal any dangerous leaks, including carbon monoxide. Set up an appointment today.

REDUCE HEATING COSTS: If your furnace is more than 10 to 15 years old, or your boiler is more than 20 years old, replace it with a model approved by the federal government’s Energy Star program. It will pay for itself in energy savings in 5-10 years.
Set a programmable thermostat. It will automatically adjust the heat to match your daily patterns. You won’t waste energy while your home is empty, and you won’t have to remember to turn the thermostat up or down. Even better - turn it down a few degrees in the winter anyway.

SEAL YOUR HOUSE: - Close the fireplace damper; install a timer (available at hardware stores) on the bathroom exhaust fan; seal ductwork.

- Vacuum radiators and baseboard heaters because dust cuts down on their efficiency.
- Close off all heating vents and doors to unused rooms.
- Keep your curtains closed at night to cut down heating costs. Close all closet doors.
- Place foam draft blockers under all external wall electric outlets, to prevent cold air coming into the home.
- Applying caulk or weather stripping to gaps around doors and windows can reduce energy loss, save costs on heating, and make your house more comfortable.

To my friends who live in warmer climates some of these suggestions apply, especially controlling your thermostat to avoid your air conditioner working overtime.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The View From My Window

The Snowfall Is So Silent
by Miguel de Unamuno
Translated by Robert Bly

The snowfall is so silent,
so slow,
bit by bit, with delicacy
it settles down on the earth
and covers over the fields.
The silent snow comes down
white and weightless;
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
It covers the fields gently
while frost attacks them
with its sudden flashes of white;
covers everything with its pure
and silent covering;
not one thing on the ground
anywhere escapes it.
And wherever it falls it stays,
content and gay,
for snow does not slip off
as rain does,
but it stays and sinks in.
The flakes are skyflowers,
pale lilies from the clouds,
that wither on earth.
They come down blossoming
but then so quickly
they are gone;
they bloom only on the peak,
above the mountains,
and make the earth feel heavier
when they die inside.
Snow, delicate snow,
that falls with such lightness
on the head,
on the feelings,
come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.
A perfect day for reflection on recent events.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

U,S, Military Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan - 5,896

U.S. Military Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan - 5,896 total

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan 1,461

Iraq - Since war began (3/19/03): 4,435

Total Wounded: Over 100,000

U.S. Wounded

320,000 Vets Have Brain Injuries

War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked

More than 18 Vet Suicides Per Day

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq 318

Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan 840

Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq 1,487

Journalists - Iraq 348

Academics Killed - Iraq 448

Sources: DoD, MNF, and

TOTAL US military: 5,896

"Despite all our differences, there is, I believe, a powerful connectedness to our humanity—a deep desire to reach out with kindness, with love and great caring toward each other, even to our supposed enemies, and to bring forth “the better angels of our nature”—that is undeniable and cannot be extinguished, even in death." Ron Kovic (Viet Nam veteran and peace activist)

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. (Psalms 23:5)


We are now in the year 2011 and still at war - almost 6,000 US deaths recorded and more than a million in Iraq and Afghanistan - please take a stand against the wars and let your politicians know that these wars need to be stopped - in the name of humanity.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'Mother of Mothers' - A Poem to the Mothers in Haiti

photos from AP

Mother of Mothers

When a brave woman's out walking
she's Mistress Life's spitting image
(Michel-Ange Hyppolite)

The faces of mothers of mothers,
their cheekbones gleaming against
taut skins; their eyes glazed
with the scarring of so much loss.

In Haiti, the mothers
of mothers have lamented for so
long—all that is left is the
sturdy presence of grace,
the wide open heart of knowing
how much a casket weighs, how
it feels on the open palm.

The mothers of mothers
march through the congregation
while the children of men
clap their hands, beat
tambourines, scratch the grater
and sing the flat harmony
that shivers the air.

Beneath a cascade of flame yellow
and red flamboyants,
she stalks the outskirts of the
feet worn worship ground—
the outer limits of the congregation
where the weeds and stones
have accumulated, here, where
the excavation of rubble takes
us as far as weary arms
and the creaky wheel barrow
can go.

These women draw a pattern
of circles with their heavy planted
feet, their arms raised high, their
voices continuing with greater
ceremony and occasion;
that conversation that began
with Jesus at four in the morning.

Oh, the mothers of mothers
who know too well the hottest
sorrow—the broken bodies
of children, the boy who covers
a jaw full of maggots, and the
tall lanky son, whose spine
gives under the weight of concrete
before he is pulled out,
laid under the soft blue light
of a wayside clinic, waiting
to go; and quietly, with the flies
returning to his skin, he is
still, though he must wait
there until dusk, before they
notice, before a procession
of mothers leads the body out
into the night, and mother of
mother, she hears her child
wake, look around, and speak:
"How nice the air is out here,"
before he dies, this time for good.

Mothers of mothers,
in your bandana and with your
holy testament, you must
draw the line of defense
around the beleaguered souls,
and speak a torrent of curses
on the beast lurking in the shadows. – Kwame Dawes

Poet, Kwame Dawes, born in Ghana in 1962. The images from post-earthquake Haiti a year later remain hauntingly powerful, the facts strikingly sad — yet somehow, the USC professor and poet who has traveled there several times to document the aftermath among people with HIV/AIDS through poetry — finds as much hope as horror.


A tribute to the mothers in earthquake torn Haiti.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on this day

Remembering Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 82nd anniversary of his birth.

Dr. King's words are still relevant today:
"If we assume that life is worth living and that humans have the right to survival,
then we must find an alternative to war.
In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space, and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war.
The church cannot be silent while humankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation.
If the church is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race.
I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never ending reign of chaos.
Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti - One Year After the Earthquake- 1/12/11


Delaware and Haiti are about the same size. Last year Haiti's population was estimated at approximately seven million. The country's demographic statistics reveal the effect of extreme poverty and an HIV/AIDS epidemic. These conditions have reduced life expectancy to 49.2 years, contributed to high infant mortality and general death rates, and slowed population growth.

Haiti's population is a young one, with 41 percent estimated to be between 0 and 14 years of age. Most Haitians are of African descent.

The National Cathedral - photo by David Albers

Today I heard that the people of Haiti gathered in a memorial tribute in Port au Prince, the city where so many died on that fateful afternoon one year ago. It seems that every family lost someone, a spouse, a sister, a child, a cousin or a friend in the earthquake. Haitians marched down empty, rubble-lined streets singing hymns and climbed broken buildings to hang wreaths of flowers. The nation held a minute of silence at 4:53 p.m., the moment when the earthquake ripped the ground on January 12, 2010. The government has stated its death toll estimate is more than 316,000.

Thousands gathered around the city to be with loved ones and pray. They flocked to the ruins of the once-towering national cathedral, to soccer stadium that served as an open-air morgue and later housed a tent camp, to parks, hillsides and the neighborhood centers.

Workers are still finding bodies in the rubble. Neighborhood-sized camps look like permanent shantytowns on the fields and plazas of the capital. A cholera epidemic that erupted outside the quake zone has killed more than 3,600 people, and an electoral crisis between President Rene Preval's ruling party and its rivals threatens to break an increasingly fragile political stability.

I have been wondering what it would be like to live in the earthquake portion of Haiti today. Tent camps were erected for people who lost their homes – they created little tent communities, some of them quite small, some of them very large, where an estimated one million people still live, unable to afford new homes.

If you live in a tent village with a million others what are your expenditures? No public utilities are available, no toilets, no telephones, no electricity, no running water. There is still the need for money for food and clothing.

Everyone has that desire for his or her own personal space. Many of us can seek refuge in our homes, in our bedroom. In the tent camps the living area is incredibly small, hot, constructed out of canvas and metal, and whatever else they could find. It is reported that less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed.

The current cholera epidemic is mostly in the extreme rural areas, in the mountains and in a river valley where the outbreak began. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of people who just weren't able to get to a treatment center in time.

This past week I watched a TV documentary about a private person from the US who took his personal 60-year-old plane and got the local people, who live on a mountaintop in Haiti, to create a landing strip for his aircraft so that he could bring medical personnel and supplies to help the people who have cholera. Many lives have been saved by the actions of this one man.

Cholera victims just need rehydration and antibiotics, and most people can be taken care of. But the problem is, so many people live out in rural areas far from treatment centers. Nearly 3,000 people have died of cholera and more than 100,000 were infected.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of political turmoil. They had an election for president in the fall, but the results are still disputed months later. There were all kinds of allegations of fraud. There was violence in the aftermath of it that shut this city down a couple of days last month, in December.

Another problem that has surfaced is that on the day of the earthquake the local prison collapsed and hundreds of seasoned criminals escaped. There are reports that they are intimidating people and taking control of some areas. The police have been trying to round them up and have re-arrested about 700 who are being detained in a facility where there is no room for a man to lie down, so the inmates have to sleep standing up. They report that their legs are swollen and that there is a lot of fighting within the facility.

The United States and many other countries have helped to rally international support for Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction.

Over the past year, countless lives have been saved and many Haitians affected by the earthquake now have better access to food, water and health care than they did before the disaster. However, rubble continues to clog the streets, too many people are still living in tents, and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough. It has been said that helping the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere recover from one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike our hemisphere will take years, if not decades.

From the slums of Port-au-Prince to the rural Central Plateau, this impoverished country continues to need assist. Right now 90 percent of the quake devastation still remains. Many people, including orphanages still live in tents and families struggle to survive on less than two dollars a day.

The bottom line is that the people of Haiti and the volunteers are living in nightmare conditions. Poverty, illness, famine, lack of adequate water, homelessness and an unstable government. But there are consistent reports of the stamina and courage of the residents who live there. In spite of their current conditions the majority maintain a sense of dignity and hope.

What to do? What to do? I don’t have the answer to that except that we should make sure that we keep ourselves informed of the circumstances in Haiti. We can contact U.S. elected officials and the United Nations to let them know that the world is watching. We can continue to support relief efforts financially or by volunteering, and for those who believe that prayer can change things – PRAY for the people of this little country who have such strong spirits and hearts.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....Dead Birds and Fish

There are some things in the news that really catch my attention. The following headline “Thousands of dead birds and fish in Arkansas leave many scratching their heads” , did just that.

On roads, on roofs, on lawns, up to 5,000 blackbirds fell within a one-mile area. Most of them were dead.

The report stated that approximately 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky over a mile of land near Beebe, a small town in northwest Arkansas, and observers spotted the fish kill near the town of Ozark. The recent wildlife deaths in Arkansas that happened around New Year’s Day is definitely a mysterious incident.

No one seems to know what caused the deaths, but there are many theories and various conclusions from local authorities:

  • "Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail."
  • Because it happened New Year's Eve, some officials suggest that revelers shooting fireworks may have spooked the birds, to the point that they died en masse from stress-induced cardiac arrest.
  • "It is unlikely they were poisoned but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin." Tests were to begin Monday.
  • A state veterinarian states that preliminary necropsy results show that the birds died of multiple blunt trauma to their vital organs.

This is not a rural gravel road. It's a Louisiana waterway, its surface completely covered with dead sea life -- a mishmash of species of fish, crabs, stingray and eel. This incident took place in a stretch of coastal Louisiana that was hit hard this summer by oil from BP's busted Gulf well.

This massive fish kill occurred 125 miles west of the site, wildlife officials say that the estimated 100,000 drum fish discovered by a tugboat captain over a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River appears to be a natural occurrence that isn't tied to the bird kill in any way.

According to news reports fish kills are fairly common along the Gulf Coast, particularly during the summer in the area near the mouth of the Mississippi, the site of this kill. The area is rife with dead zones -- stretches where sudden oxygen depletion can cause widespread death. But those kills tend to be limited to a single species of fish, rather than the broad sort of die-off involved in this kill.

  • And therein lies the concern of Gulf residents, who suspect this may be yet another side effect of the catastrophic BP oil spill.
  • Various species of single-celled plantlike organisms flourish in waters enriched with chemical nutrients -- organisms that go on to vastly deplete the oxygen in the water they inhabit.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries investigated the fish kill and determined that it was the result of low oxygen levels caused by low tides and high temperatures.

So there you have it - more than 5,000 dead birds and more than 100,000 dead fish, crabs, stingray and eel. All died during New Year's Night without any immediate explanation.

(Information compiled from various news reports)

It certainly gives me plenty to ponder about.

What do you think? What is your theory?

Definitely comes under the heading of "Things that make you go hmmm!"


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Reflection - Seeking Solitude

When I lived in El Salvador I learned many things. Water was in very short supply and I learned how to appreciate water and how to conserve it so that others could share. I also learned how to live with no car, television or radio.

I lived in a small village called Milagros (the Miracle), there was very little in the way of printed news. I missed books the most -it has been my lifelong habit to read two or three books a week. I had no books in English available to me - except one - the Bible. I spent hours reading it every day. At first, because it was there and I had nothing else to do to fill my evening hours. But the more I read I discovered that the Bible is filled with some amazing stories. Yes, I had some knowledge of the Bible before I went to El Salvador but I found the Bible to be an exciting and enjoyable read and I learned a lot.

While there, I became very comfortable with solitude. Some have a fear of being alone but being alone and being lonely are really two different things

I learned to appreciate the gift of having long hours of silence and being alone with my thoughts. I came to understand why Jesus often sought solitude.

This is mentioned several times in the Bible:

Right after Jesus was baptized he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted. (Mt 4:1-11) As Jesus began His ministry he knew the importance of having that time with God.

There were other occasions:

- He spent the night in prayer before choosing the disciples (Luke 6:12-13)

- When He heard John had been beheaded he withdrew to a solitary place (Mt 14:13) (where 5000 people went ahead of Him to hear and he fed them all)

- After feeding 5,000 he sent his disciples off and went up on a mountain to pray alone. (Mt 14:22-23)

- The Scripture says, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16)

- And it was alone with His disciples nearby that He prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane just before being betrayed (Mt 26:36-46)


There are few things that are as powerful as solitude to help you get in touch with your inner self – especially when that solitude is accompanied by silence – no television, newspapers, magazines, cell phones or computers, etc. Get comfortable with being alone. We all need time to recharge every now and again, not only to nourish our spirit, but so that we have new energy to give to others.

On this first Sunday in the year of 2011 I plan to spend the day in reflection of the events that happened during the past year and on the joy of expectation of the new year to come.

Solitude, meditation and prayer can give you peace of mind, serenity and the opportunity to connect with your soul.

Give it a try -why don’t you?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year - Welcome 2011

2011 is here!


Looking forward to many new adventures in 2011

To my family and friends: wishing you good health, happiness,

peace of mind and good fortune in the upcoming year.