Category Archives: Uncategorized

Still Much Good

We are constantly bombarded by news from everywhere about every bad and evil thing that is being done. I am sure that if aliens are tuning into our news to see what life is like on earth, they would be convinced that we are one of the most vicious, violent and barbaric creatures in the universe. The news almost celebrates the gruesome because it generates the best ratings, following the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ mentality.

There are truly horrific acts performed every day. This, I do not deny. But of the billions of people that live on earth, the acts of these few in the big scheme of things is not a large percentage of the population.

Every day, people go about their routine lives, dealing with a traffic jam or two, or maybe a rude cashier, but generally not dealing with the incredible violence that the media would predict for us. There are some terrible atrocities going on in the world right now. There are brutal acts that must be stopped. I do not understand the lack of fervor to curtail these acts. How many thousands of innocent people must die before the world takes real action? I don’t know, but apparently more than the thousands that have already died.

Even so, there are many good people in the world. Some go through life quietly lending a hand here and there, smiling and welcoming. There are volunteers, charity workers, teachers, peace-keeping soldiers and other do-gooders working hard each day to make the world a better place. There are government and organization workers who try their best to care for those in need, supplying food, clothing, medicine and shelter. They find purpose and meaning in helping others, even if it’s just one person, or one family, or one small part of a community.

There is still much good in the world amongst the horror stories. There is good news out there, but one has to look for it. The media occasionally tells a story of bravery, of goodness, but not nearly as much as they should. They should emphasize that even though there is evil and cruelty in the world, there is still much good being done, even in the smallest of ways.

My thanks goes out to all of those that try to make the world a better place for all in a most respectful and humane way, regardless of their religion, faith or lack thereof. I thank those who fill each day trying to show the passion they have for the well-being of others. I thank you because you teach us quietly, that there is still much good.

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Tired

For most of us, the stress of work, home and life leaves us tired. Sometimes the stress leaves us exhausted. It is often hard to get motivated when the weight of the world seems so heavy on our shoulders. Stress and fatigue often accompany each other. Not only does stress cause emotional exhaustion but can cause physical exhaustion as well.

There are other reasons for feeling tired. Long hours can certainly make you tired. I often find that long hours of mental work is more tiring for me than long hours of physical work. At least with physical fatigue, you find being tired quite reasonable. However, when you working in front of a computer with stressing mental activities, you do not rest the same. Muscles rest and feel better, but the brain can go into hyper-drive and cause interrupted or unrestful sleep.

Of course lack of sleep can cause you to be tired. I find that lack of sleep is usually the culprit in my tiredness along with stress at work and home. Both medicines and medical issues can cause recurring or constant fatigue. I take medicines that cause drowsiness. I take these at night so those effects actually help me sleep. Chronic pain, like neuropathy or fibromyalgia, can interrupt sleep and cause one to be tired.

My son works an overnight shift and struggles with tiredness. Humans are naturally diurnal. We are naturally affected by the light of day. The dimness of evening actually triggers the release of hormones that help us to sleep.

I hope that you are not tired. I am not continually tired, and for that, I am thankful. But, it has been a long week with lots to do and lots more to do. Work is naturally stressful and home life can be too. Tomorrow, I will wake up, thank the good Lord that I woke up on the right side of the grass and start a new day. I hope that you have an incredible day and a wonderful tomorrow.

Why I Give Blood

I participated in a blood drive recently. When I was done donating, I rested, as instructed, with a small can of cranberry juice and a small bag of raisins. The manager asked me why I give blood. This was my second donation, my first donation took place on 4/25/2014.

I would have started much earlier. I first entertained the idea of donating blood in late 2005. I was told that because I have a heart condition, I was not eligible to give. What prompted me to consider giving is that my father was a cancer patient and required occasional blood transfusions. I wanted to give back to the community and have a chance to help others, like my father. I was disappointed that I could not donate.

Then earlier this year, I read an article that pointed towards a study in Europe that showed that men who donated blood reduced their own risk of heart attack and stroke, and not by an insignificant amount. So, I think of this as a gift of life, not only for those who might receive my blood but for myself as well. And being a gift of life, it is also a gift of love. I will never know who might benefit from my donations. I am not looking for them to thank me personally. It does make me feel good to know that I have helped, and possibly saved someone’s life.

On April 25th, 2014, I decided to walk into a blood collection drive location. I read the literature there. I asked if I would be eligible. I had also read that the requirements are reviewed time and time again to protect the blood supply. The receptionist recommended that I go through the screening process and I would learn for sure if I was eligible or not. I followed her suggestion. Much to my surprise, I was eligible. There was some concern, but after checking their computers, they decided that my condition did not prevent my donation.

Now, why didn’t I consider it before 2005? I am not sure. I probably was: too busy; afraid of the needle; afraid of the process; not concerned with mortality. None of these were good reasons then or now. The procedure is safe. I don’t like needles, so I just don’t watch. I take a book with me and read during the donation process.

Each donation of a pint (you have 10), can help or even save up to three persons. Blood is constantly needed. The Red Cross Blood services began in 1940, and now supplies about 40% of the blood needed in the US. 41,000 blood donations are needed each day. 38% of the population in the US are eligible to donate blood but less than 10% actually do.

So think about giving the gift of life. You can visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more. You never know, someone might be alive tomorrow because of your gift today. The need is constant. If you are eligible, it is a gift for them and for you.

A Walk in the Park

I was on vacation this week and had the opportunity to take an extensive walk in our local canal park. Our canal park features Holley Falls, Salt Port pond, a playground, pavilions and grass areas for picnics and sunning. There is also a gazebo that features music on Friday nights in July. I have been in various parts of the park before but I took advantage of my renewing health and walked the major paths in and around the canal park.

The length of the trails that I walked was 3.24 miles. My son tells me that it would be rated a moderate to strenuous hike. Except for a small portion on the actual canal, the rest of the trails are hilly. He belongs to a hiking group and visits various parks and trails in Western NY. I sometimes accompany him as his guest. I am slowly building up my strength and stamina for these adventures.

Exercise is important. Even though my current diet was not purposed for weight loss, I am taking advantage of this wonderful side effect. I find that losing additional weight has been easier when I exercise. There have been occasions where hiking with my son wipes out all the calorie intake I had prior to the hike. This helps to speed up my metabolism, strengthen my muscles and add to my energy.

I am fortunate to live in an area with lots of green space. Not only do we have parks in many of the towns, there are trails that follow abandoned railway lines. These create segmented paths between roads establishing very visible start and end points.

Walking the greenways is a calm and relaxing way to exercise. I enjoy looking at all the different types of plants and trees along the path. The sounds of nature surround you. Whether walking alone or with others, you still get the benefits of the creations that abound. It is nice to feel the breeze when it kicks up as it rustles through the leaves. I may even be fortunate enough to see some wildlife.

So put on your most comfortable shoes and take a walk. It will be good for your health. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. If you are not use to walking, then start slow and work your way up. Walk for 10 minutes and then turn around. Do that for a week, then increase the time to 15 minutes out and 15 back. Before you know it, you will have reached the 30 minutes of daily exercise recommended by most health practitioners. Even if it isn’t every day, you can work up to that too.

See you on the trails.

Lifelong Learning

Whether we try or not, we learn through our experiences every day. Some of us not only experience life each day, but we strive to learn more and more as each day goes by. The quantity of learning is not important, but the fact that we further our education, our knowledge, and our skills every day adds life to our living.
I am a voracious reader and avid learner. I am a curious creature. Even simple things like learning a tip for Excel or using an Excel formula that I hadn’t previously used is a cause for excitement. I do a lot of data compilation at work and sometimes that can get quite boring. When it does get boring, I like to listen to TED radio or listen to TED and TEDx presentations on my smart phone. I prefer TED radio, though, because I never know what subject I will hear next.
Lately, I have been reading lots of materials on nutrition. I find the chemistry and the intelligence of our body and its cells absolutely fascinating. My target subjects change from time to time, again, keeping life interesting.
Albert Einstein once said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Michel Legrand said, “The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” I wholehearted agree with Michel on this one. There is so much that can be learned. That is why I am excited that we have the internet. It is like having every library in the world at your fingertips.
I am not a scholar, but I have a great deal of respect for those who are. They can, at times, spend their entire life seeking to fully understand a subject. Their passion impresses me. It convinces me that certain subjects are so remarkable that even lifetimes are not enough to truly grasp them, subjects such as cosmology, religious writings, and even how our own body and brain works. Julia Child said “You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
I hope that you take the opportunity to learn as much as possible but anything that might interest you. It keeps you young. I truly believe that. It keeps our brains active. It keeps us curious. It makes us more than our experiences.

Is Messiness a Character Flaw?

Hi. My name is Harry and I am a slob. If you were to compare my life with the Odd Couple of years past, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, I am very much like Oscar. Also, like that same couple, the other side of the relationship, my wife, is neat and organized. I do not go out of my way to annoy her with my disorganization but it happens that way.

For some people, a bed freshly made in the morning is the perfect beginning of the day. It makes all things right in the world. Humanity can continue on its journey forward. But it really makes no difference to me if the bed is made or not. It doesn’t even occur to me that an unmade bed has any impact in my day.

Clutter does not bother me. I do not like filth, but I do not mind clutter. I have always been disorganized. I was always scolded by my teachers for being disorganized. I could never remember the combination to my locker (so I jammed the lock, so it wouldn’t fully lock). My desk at work is a mess, but I get my work done, meet deadlines and exceed expectations. Albert Einstein quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

“We have a tendency to think of messiness as a character flaw, but these people are generally more productive than neat people since they spend more time getting things done than they do straightening up,” David H. Freedman explains. “Plus, they’re often more imaginative than neater folks, since creative people usually find a bit of clutter to be stimulating and expressive.” David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson were co-authors of the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

So, is messiness a character flaw? Maybe, but I do not think so. Are messy people immoral? You know, the whole cleanliness is next to godliness thing. I do not think that is the case either. I honestly think it is just how my brain works. It just may be that I am constantly distracted by more interesting things, at least more interesting than tidying up. Or, maybe, the cost of tidying up may be less than the potential benefits. On one occasion at work, an employee was filing daily order papers, in order, after entering them into the computer system. The organizing, sorting and filing took about an hour out of her day. Almost no one ever needed to see those papers. I changed the system to a 31 day file, where she simply stuck all the papers in the file, unsorted, by day. Searching once in a while took a few minutes to half an hour, but it saved 20 hours of filing each month.

Neat people are fine too. The organizations help them feel in control. I know I control very little and I am in no way interested in being the general manager of the universe. My wife has files and places and she likes to know that everything is where it should be. I depend on her organization skills and am very glad she has them. As a side note, almost everything I put in a place so it would not get lost ends up never found. I almost always forget where that perfect place was. Oh well, it certainly is safe from me.

I think the difference is personality and how our minds are wired. I have accepted that I am messy. I am happy to be me. If you are neat, then I am happy that you are. It would be really great if we were accepted as we are. Sure, we have flaws, we all need to improve. I do make the bed because it makes my wife happy, not because it means anything to me. Making the bed really is an act of love. Besides, I’m just going to mess it up again later when I crawl into it. Such is life. This is Oscar, signing off.

Gluten Free Adventure – Part 2

Like many things in life, plans morph into something unexpected. My overall pain and arthritis pain has greatly subsided on the weeks of avoiding wheat, barley and rye. However, my stomach was still very much bothering me. Always being the inquisitive one, I began seeking information as to why my digestion discomfort continues. On this information search, I discovered a short video as to the number one mistake people make on a gluten free diet. Well, of course, that piqued my interest. The mistake was to not avoid all grains. The doctor spoke of a condition called Leaky Gut, or more clinically, intestinal permeability. Since my gut was not feeling any better on the GF diet, I decided that I would go on a Grain Free (GrF) diet. So I am now making it a point to have no grains, no nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant), no peppers, and very limited legumes. I am also cooking all vegetables so that they will be easier to digest.

My current goal is to eat no more than 100 grams of carbs per day, mostly from vegetables and consuming low glycemic index foods.

Is it working? I have been on this diet for two weeks and my stomach has calmed down a little. More time will be needed to see if this is the right path. In the meantime, my wife and I are having an interesting time preparing very low carb meals that are satisfying. What we have discovered though, is that our cravings have subsided. We are less hungry even though we are consuming less calories. A side benefit is that we are losing weight.

Losing weight was not the plan or purpose of this adventure. The plan was to feel better and gain more mobility as well as heal our guts. My wife has digestion issues as well, but not the very same issues. Her gut is actually reacting better to the diet more quickly than mine. I am so very glad for her.

I am becoming more and more convinced that inflammation is generating a large host of problems for individuals. I am glad that the science is beginning to accumulate to help people find the answers they need and are right for them.  Body chemistry differs so blanket answers are difficult to form. Just like persons react differently to medications, the same can be true for foods.

One group of professionals is telling me that they have no answers and yet I seem to be finding them.  The internet is a wonderful tool to seek out those who looked for answers before. Are they all right? No. What works for them might not work for me. What works for me, might not work for you. Each of our bodies is unique. Differing blood types, differing sensitivities, and metabolic profiles require differing approaches. I believe the best way to achieve success is to try these different approaches, paying close attention to what our bodies tell us. There are so many diet ideas out there. The A to Z Diet study compared four popular diets showed that the subjects reacted differently to the same diet. So far, on my current path, my body is reacting positively, so much so, I do not want to do anything to reverse the progress.

I will gladly listen to a hundred differing opinions and seek out a common thread and test it for truth then to listen to just one voice which has already proven to me that it just isn’t working. But even with that said, I want to give thanks to all the friends, family, professionals and internet contributors that are accompanying me on this journey. It isn’t over yet and just may last the rest of my life.

My Gluten Free Adventure – Part 1

In late August of 2013, I suffered a terrible pain in my abdomen. It was on a Friday. I suppose that I will blame my gender for not having it checked out right away. I went to work, but didn’t last very long. I ended up going home sick. Resting during the weekend did not help because I asked my wife to take me to the urgent care center on Monday morning. Urgent care directed me to the emergency room of the hospital.

The doctors at the hospital and my own doctor could not determine what my issue was, but after taking an anti-spasmodic drug for a week, my stomach reached a tolerable plateau of pain. In December, I expressed to my cardiologist that I did not feel up to taking the scheduled stress test because of my stomach and arthritis pain. They did an echo-cardio instead. My cardiologist suggested I try a gluten free diet, just for a month, to see how I would feel. He had other patients that expressed improvement while on that diet.

On January 4, 2014, I began my gluten free adventure. I had decided that I would try the diet for two months instead of one. This is my fifth week on the diet. My stomach still bothers me, maybe relief will come later, maybe not. But, my arthritis pain has greatly subsided. The numbness in my right foot (neuropathy caused by statins) comes and goes instead of being constantly numb and painful. Overall, I am feeling much better.

I removed statins from my life a couple of years ago. Statins caused my entire body to ache and my joints almost too painful to move. It became a struggle to move. I was using a cane to walk around and thought that I would soon need a wheel chair. After reading anecdotal articles on the internet about statins, I announced to my doctor that I would no longer take them.  In 2 -3 weeks, my mobility returned, my pain levels dropped but still had evidence of arthritis. The numbness in my right foot never improved. I thought I had lost that forever.

The gluten free diet has changed even this. It is not an easy diet, especially when one such as I love the tempting treats at Dunkin Donuts. I am not a Celiac. I certainly appreciate how hard it is to avoid gluten completely. Celiacs have to avoid cross contamination, which is extremely difficult. It restricts where they can eat. Dining out is even more difficult. I can clearly see how this is a very real burden.

I am not even sure that I have a gluten sensitivity. But one thing I know for sure, is that eating gluten free for the last 5 weeks has drastically reduced my overall pain. I just saw my doctor. My cholesterol numbers, especially triglycerides has fallen and my good cholesterol HDL has gone up. I have no doubt at all that gluten raises cholesterol in my body.

My wife has joined me on this adventure, even though she did not have to do so. We have been experimenting with stir fried vegetables, fruit salads and parfaits, using meats as a flavoring and adding fresh fruits and vegetables to all our meals. Our Wegmans store has a Gluten Free (GF) section. It is quite nice. But I am not sure that gluten free necessarily means healthy. The GF items seem to be loaded with sugar and high in calories. I suppose they did that to make them taste as good as the gluten containing food.

When I started the diet, I actually gained weight. I believe that the gluten was inhibiting my body’s ability to take in nutrients. After three weeks, my weight had begun to plateau and now for the last two weeks my weight is beginning to fall slowly.

The other challenges are getting enough fiber and nutrients usually obtained from gluten foods such as enriched flour. I have been using supplements to make up the difference.

The pain reduction has convinced me that I want to stay on the GF wagon for the long haul. And my experience with statins is to never take them again. I am convinced that gluten and sugar cause inflammation throughout the body and raise cholesterol levels. The GF diet helps in areas that I would not have considered connected.

Wishing you well. Wishing you peace. Take care.

Isolated but Connected

My wife and I have had an ongoing discussion concerning whether our ever connecting technology actually isolates us or connects us with others. My wife’s view is that technology isolates people because it precludes interpersonal interaction with others. Does technology interfere with people learning social skills and interacting with a diverse group of individuals? So the question is this: Does social networking isolate or connect individuals to other individuals? The answer to this, like so many others is, Yes. And if they do connect, is it a real connection?

Certainly, those individuals that are already uncomfortable with interpersonal relations can find a retreat in communicating over a social network. It allows them to communicate, connect but reduces the practice they need to be comfortable around others. Some very outgoing people love the social networking because it increases their influence. Although it may allow some people to avoid personal contact. I think there are many ways that technology keeps us connected. We can now connect to relatives that in the past, we only saw at weddings or funerals, or those that live far away. We can keep connected with our loved ones throughout the day with fast messaging.

And then there are those that stay connected. They want us to know where they are at all times, what they are doing and even what they are eating, I am glad that they are that excited about their life.

My stance is that people who wish to isolate themselves find the internet and social media a useful tool to be by themselves and yet have a window on the world. Which in my mind, is better than just isolation without connection, even without personal interaction.

So what do you think? Does social networking isolate or create real connections?

Two Sides

My mother was deaf. Her deafness came as a result of whooping cough when she was just three years old. She had worked for my father as a housekeeper. He would leave her instructions by leaving notes on the kitchen table. She had only learned finger spelling when she went to school at the Rochester School for the Deaf. She learned sign language much later. My father had never bothered to learn finger spelling or sign language. Even as I was growing up, he continued to leave written notes if I was not around to translate for him. My mother taught me to read early. So as soon as I became somewhat proficient at spelling, I took on the role of interpreter for my mother. I wasn’t always happy in the role then, but now I really appreciate what it did for me. My role also made it easier for my father to communicate with my mother.

Along with regular interpretation, I also became the mediator between my parents in the midst of their arguments and disagreements. Each would try to win me to their side, all the while, I was translating between them. At the time, I feared siding with one side or the other for I did not want the anger to extend to me. But one important thing that I did learn was that there is always more than one side of an argument.

Any time more than one person is involved in anything, there is a chance of conflict. I listened to my mother’s reasoning. From her point of view, her stance made perfect sense. And many times, I could see her side of it. I would also listen to my father’s reasoning. From his point of view, his stance made perfect sense, too. I could see his side of it too. This occurred more often than not. My mother was right and my father was right. How can that be? Based on their own experiences, their own thoughts, their own values, and the information that they had at hand, they were both right – yet they disagreed. Many times, they disagreed passionately.

The majority of times, my father would simply acquiesce. Then what would confuse me was when he did, it made my mother even more upset. She wanted to win because she felt that she was right, not win because he simply gave in. It was yet another lesson for me to learn.

I try to be mindful that when someone disagrees with me, that they are not wrong but merely hold a different viewpoint than mine. That is all that it means, that we think differently. I believe true communication happens when we are allowed to share viewpoints between each other and move towards a common ground. Even if we agree to disagree, it is an excellent learning opportunity.

‘If I do not believe as you believe, it proves that you do not believe as I believe and that is all it proves.’ – Amish Wisdom

It isn’t always about right or wrong, sometimes it means just different ways of thinking and holding differing opinions. If there were only one side to an argument, then it wouldn’t be an argument. I surely hope your arguments are few and your communication is rich. Take care.