Tag Archives: learning

This Incredible Machine

In my last post I wrote about the magic and wonderment of learning and being in awe of everything around me. I am thoroughly enjoying myself learning about nutrition. Even though I am not vegan, I want to learn about these options and how to apply different diets so that they fulfill the nutritional needs for those who choose them. I am fascinated by the effects of food and our environment has on our bodies, even changing the expressions of our genes. Not only are we what we eat, but everything has an effect on us, good or bad. Learning how our bodies change and react constantly to all the forces on us convinces me that there must be an intelligence behind us. I find these internal mechanisms too sophisticated and beautiful to come about by chance.

Our bodies are incredible machines, evolving and adapting every moment. The more I learn, the more amazed I become. I am not only learning this for my own health and satisfaction, I truly want to share this new found health with those that might be hurting. I am a long way from being able to provide any professional services and I hope that the passion for this does not wane.

Do you want to see something incredible? Look in the mirror. You are an incredible creation. You are an incredible creature adapting and changing every day. I hope that you like where you are today. If not, you can change it. No one knows the future, but it can be more assured if you take the steps to get to the future you want.

I know there can be tough circumstances, we all have had them. But think about how you came through those circumstances, usually stronger and wiser than before you faced them. You are an incredible machine, a living miracle. Have an incredible life. I wish happiness, love and health to you.

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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.

Carb Sense

Carbohydrates are essential for good health. They give our body energy. But, we must be aware of how carbs effect our body. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly into the blood stream, whereas the body has to work at releasing the carbs in their more complex forms. Both enter the blood as glucose. How quickly they raise blood sugar is behind the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load numbers.
The increase of sugar in the blood stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, which is a hormone that the body uses to regulate the blood sugar by informing your body it is time to store the sugar as glycogen and fat. Simple carbs cause a higher sugar load and causes a higher insulin response.
But aren’t their good carbs? Yes. Eat more fresh vegetables, more fresh fruits and less grains and cereals. Vegetables have sugar but it is harder for your body to get to it and causes a gradual absorption into the blood stream. Fruits have more sugar, in the form of fructose, which usually has a higher glycemic load than vegetables. Nature usually pairs these sugars with fiber.
Fiber is not digested by your body, so these carbs basically pass through you. These can be subtracted from the total carbs to get your “net” carbs, also sometimes called impact or effective carbs. If you eat something with a Total Carb count of 16g, with 4g of fiber, then this food would have 12g of net carbs.
You may notice that the fiber and sugar carbs listed on the label do not add up to the total carb count. For instance, a sweet potato, 5” long (130g) has 112 calories. It has 26g of Total Carbohydrate, 4g of fiber and 5g of sugar. So what is the other 17 grams? Those are complex carbohydrates or starches. It has a medium glycemic load of 11. Foods with a glycemic load of 10 or less are considered to have a low glycemic load. High glycemic load (20 and higher) foods increase blood sugar the most.
Keep your net carb count low by using fresh vegetables, supplemented by fruit. Not only do fresh vegetables offer complex carbs, they are usually packed with lots of nutrients. Foods such as raw cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, and even celery are very nutrient dense, make you feel full and accomplish all this with limited calories.
Happy eating. You don’t have to necessarily count carbs, just realize where they come from. Stay away or limit obvious starches as they quickly turn to sugar and increase your insulin (storage hormone) response. Good health to you.

What’s Different?

What is the difference between my current diet and the ones that I tried before? First of all, only time will tell how successful this diet will be. The purpose of this diet was to improve my digestive symptoms. I am currently in my tenth week of Gluten free dieting which includes a month without any grains. My stomach is finally beginning to feel better.

But one additional effect of this current diet is that I am losing weight. I again, emphasize, this was and is not the main focus of this diet. But, hey, I will take it. Since I need to lose weight anyway, it is a most welcome addition.

My previous diets were just a lessening of the volume of food and calories that I was eating before. Even increasing whole grains and fiber were part of those diets. I now understand the effect of glucose spikes in the blood caused by wheat and other grains. Two slices of whole grain wheat bread raise your blood sugar levels higher than a Snicker’s bar. This in turn creates an insulin reaction that ends up storing the sugar as fat.

Even though I was tracking my calories and eating less of them, I felt deprived. The wheat and grains caused me to be hungry and stimulated my cravings for starchy foods. I would lose weight for a short while, but as soon as I began eating again, the weight would come back on, and sometimes even more. I was caught in the same endless cycle that many people are in.

So what makes this different? Removing the wheat and grain from my diet has caused me to seek out other sources of nutrition, namely fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Vegetables, especially, are low in calories but high in nutrition. You can consume several cups of baby spinach and broccoli and barely break 150 calories. I have purposely tried to keep my carbohydrates below 100g per day. I am eating between 90 – 150g per day.

Again, what’s different? Because of the food that I am eating, I feel fuller on less calories. I am not hungry as often. Since my blood sugar is being kept stable from the naturally low glycemic effect of most of the foods I eat, I avoid the sugar crash and subsequent cravings that come with it. I am simply not hungry all the time as I was in the past. That is be big difference when it comes to hunger.

My past diets made me hungry or feel deprived. I really didn’t feel much better, even when I did lose some weight. Since I have stopped eating grains, I have experienced many benefits, many unexpected. I knew about the brain fog, as it happened to me before almost after every lunch. I did not expect my energy levels to go up as much as they have. I did not expect my arthritis pain to go away. I did expect my stomach pain to go away, but it did not while gluten free, but is now much improved as I am grain free.

Yesterday, I took a 5.5 mile ‘forced march’ hike with my son. My joints did not bother me. I was a little sore when I got home but it wasn’t arthritis pain, it was a ‘dang, that was a hell of a workout’ kind of pain and it felt good!

Benefits so far: more energy; more alert; no arthritis pain; less hungry; less cravings; fresher foods; cooking adventures; better mood; and better sleep.

When I tell people that I am grain free, they sometimes ask, “Then what do you eat?” That is a very fair question. It is a question that I would have asked myself if someone told me they were grain free. Wheat, corn, soy and rice is in the majority of foods in the American diet. The diversity in the store is actually based on a limited set of ingredients. So once you explore the outside aisles you can begin creating vegetable and meat dishes that are not only delicious but very nutritious and healing to your body.

Is there a difference this time? You bet there is. I am feeling better in so many different ways; it is absolutely amazing how diet affects your overall wellness. Of course we know what you eat is important, but until you experience such a change in your life, you will never understand just how important.

My wish is for a better health, better foods, and a better life for you.

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.

Struggles and Triumphs

A son was born. Freshly arriving in this new world of ours. Eyes bright and in wonder of everything he saw. His mother held him close to her chest, beaming with pride at the incredible miracle she held. Young parents, inexperienced in the ways of these kinds of miracles, were happily concerned with the welfare and safety of this frail little human.

A little more than a year later, a second child was born to this couple. Again, seem as a blessing and gift, but it was a challenge to keep up with these two small boys.  As both boys grew, it seemed that the second son was progressing more quickly than the first. This observation and later concern was borne to be true. The oldest son was diagnosed with a developmental delay, learning disability and a turned leg that mildly affected his walking. This was not good news. What did it all mean? How would they cope? What did it mean for their son? What would his future be like? And where would they turn for help.

The parents found help through a local organization called the Happiness House. The staff at the Happiness House assured the parents and helped them with the necessary paperwork to petition family court to provide the necessary services for their son.

Later their son was diagnosed with ADD, OCD and suffered tics under the tourette’s umbrella. Braces were fashioned for his leg to straighten out his walk. Again the questions peppered the minds of the parents. Physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and other professionals worked with their son.

When this young boy was old enough to enter the educational system, he received a new team of professionals. He had difficulty learning school basics. But with steadfast persistence by his team, patience by his parents and, at times begrudging cooperation by the young man, he did learn.

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ by Robert Kraus was a favorite book used by his teachers. The book carried a powerful message of hope. This young man continued to struggle all through school. Eventually the most visible tics subsided. He had learned to read and write. He enjoyed video games, riding bikes and taking walks.

Unfortunately, before he graduated from high school, his mother decided that she needed a different life away from her family. This was an incredibly difficult adjustment for the boys and their father. But with patience and courage, they moved on.

His high school counselor helped his parents find continuing services after school. New York’s VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) provided referrals to the ARC of Ontario County. Their services placed him in a work program where he earned some money, learned to socialize with co-workers, and helped to develop his self-esteem. He blossomed there.

Along with his experiences in working, he wished to extend his life adventure by learning how to drive. After several years with a learning permit, he finally received his license. He continues to explore his growing independence.

It had been incredible to watch this young man push against these difficulties. Even though these conditions still exist, he still pushes gently against them. I am very proud of him. I am not sure of all the potential within this young man. But I hope that he knows that I will be in his life as long as I can to witness his further victories. This young man is my son, Brandon.

Brandon, if you are reading this, do not be angry about the challenges you face. Be proud of yourself, like I am proud of you, for all that you have accomplished. You are an incredible young man.

It’s Always Been That Way

As humans, we usually look for patterns. Even if we go out and look for the exotic, we still find comfort in the routine. We feel comfortable in knowing that things will be as we expect them to be. Life is challenging and ever changing. Events and relationships have a way of upsetting our comfortable setting.

Many times at work, I question why we do things a certain way. The answer I usually receive is that it is just the way it’s always been done. I might even hear, it works, so don’t change it. I like to try to streamline reporting and tasks to make it easier for everyone involved. It usually works, but sometimes what is easier for me, isn’t necessarily easier for someone else. What I change might make someone else very uncomfortable. I am sure that you have had this happen to  you as well. What makes perfect sense to me might befuddle someone else and vice versa.

This can happen in relationships too. We rely on our experiences from our childhood. Our family worked in a particular way, whether we liked it or not, that is the way it was. Sometimes we don’t think it could be different because it’s always been that way.

In a family relationship, especially in a blended family, bringing all these expectations and traditions together can result in a confusing mix of priorities. What is very important to one person may not be important at all to another. It isn’t right or wrong, it is just different. We bring with us our own understanding of what is normal and natural and how it should be done.

What might be very important to one might make another downright uncomfortable. Usually out of love, we genuinely try to respect and honor the differences. But it is difficult to always be mindful of what is important to someone else when it might not hold such gravity with us. It is part of being selfless, but our minds and bodies will remind us of our own needs.

I think the difference between work and home is that we expect work to dictate our actions and activities even when they don’t necessarily make sense to us. We usually do not practice that same flexibility at home, which is both good and bad. It is good that I can be myself at home but sometimes being myself might irritate others, just as they might irritate me. Any time you bring two or more people together for any reason; there is a possibility of conflict. It takes concerted effort to agree to goals and actions and move forward. It’s always been that way.

So we need to be mindful that everyone comes from their own series of experiences that colors their behavior and beliefs. In a work environment, it is to recognize the talents and strengths of those around us. We need to offer our own strengths and talents to lead to success.  In our family relationships we need to recognize that each of us have traditions ingrained in us by our childhood. It is up to us to decide which traditions to keep, which to discard, and which to meld into the tradition of others. In a sense, we need to make new traditions that not only work for us but for those around us.

Change is tough. Challenges are real. Opportunities to be better exist. It requires us to be mindful. It requires us to be present. But then again, it’s always been that way.

Nature’s Splendor

I was on vacation from work last week. I took this opportunity to explore nature’s splendor. I did not visit my favorite botanical gardens this year as I have done the last 30-some years. That would be Longwood Gardens; in Kennett Square, PA. It is a beautiful expanse of gardens and conservatory in the Brandywine Valley.

I took a 7 mile hike with my son at Letchworth Park, the Grand Canyon of the East. We hiked the Gorge trail which followed the gorges carved out by ancient glaciers. We saw waterfalls, cliffs and some smaller forest animals. It was a wonderful way to connect to nature, the awe of creation and spend time with my son.

Next, my son and I drove several hours to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, OH. It is an incredibly beautiful conservatory, combining passionately designed floral exhibits accented with the glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. And if that were not enough, the conservatory also has a wonderful Butterfly area in the Pacific Island Water Garden. So we saw the splendor, beauty and diversity of both flowers and butterflies. It was truly a living rainbow of colors. The breezeway of the conservatory had a zen garden with koi pond and bonsai trays on placed tables.

Lastly, I visited the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens in Buffalo, NY. It has a three dome conservatory building holding 12 different areas. It has the largest collection of English Ivy in the US. I loved their Bonsai collection. They did have a rose garden but they were fading in the heat. Our own roses have come and gone as well.

I really enjoy botanical gardens. It just blows me away as to the incredible colors, shapes, and varieties. The diversity of the design contained in them is almost too awesome to comprehend.

In a world where we are reminded everyday of the gloominess, the darkness of humanity, it is so incredibly refreshing to see such splendor in colors and beauty. It is refreshing to know that there IS beauty in the world. You can see the passion put into the floral and artwork exhibits. You could feel the beauty of their souls and their vision. There is good in the world and it is all around us.

My trip allowed me to see very concrete examples of beauty but I know that beauty occurs every day, everywhere. It is not lost on me the beauty of a spouse when they make dinner for the family. The beauty of a parent cheering on their child. And let us not forget the beauty of those millions of random acts of kindness that occur every day.

Spring Forward

It is that time when we move our clocks ahead one hour. These events allow me to stop and consider time. It is very subjective. There are days at work when I arrive at work in the morning, look up at the clock and read 11:30 and swear that only 20 minutes went by, and other instances when the same time feels like a week long. Of course this has happened to you. As I grow older, time seems to slip by faster and faster. I actually wish it would slow down. Time passed so slow when I was very young and at times, I wish I had that again.

There are different calendars around the world. Even though the world at large recognizes the Gregorian calendar, native calendars are often used for religious and national holidays. In the Thai Buddhist calendar, the year is 2556.  It is the Chinese Year of the Snake (Gui Si Year).  It is year 1419 in the Bengali calendar. The current year of the Jewish calendar is 5773. So your concept of where we are in time depends on which calendar is on your wall.

As humans, we want to measure things, what’s bigger, what’s smaller, what’s better, what’s more valuable. Time measures when, how long and in what order. Time is fleeting. Another way we can measure time is the amount we spend with the ones we love. I read today a post of a boy who offered his father an hour’s pay so that he could spend more time with him, as his father worked all the time. I thought that was sad. But, I’m afraid that I could relate. I did the same thing when my sons were young. As the sole earner in the family, I dedicated much of my time working to support my family. Even though this is quite laudable, I believe I missed some valuable time with my sons. I needed to work but I do miss the time that could have been.

Fast forward to now. I try to make sure that I take the time to spend with my loved ones. I have dinner with my son and his wife at least once a month. They live over an hour away. My son works two jobs but still finds the time to have dinner. We meet him at a restaurant that is half way between us. I really appreciate that he understands how important it is to gather together.  It is important that we work and provide. It is important that we let the ones we love know that we love them and spend quality time with them. Your employer can replace you readily but your loved ones can miss out on you for the rest of their lives.

Time slips by quietly and quickly. Don’t let the opportunities to spend quality time with your loved ones slip by as well. Spring forward to new opportunities. The future is made by the choices we make today.

The Magic Isn’t Gone

I watched a movie last night called the Secret of the Wings. I wish I could have watched it with all the ones I love. Not because the movie was so wonderful, it was a good movie, but because it had magic. I am not talking about the kind of magic that witches have or the magicians want to trick us with, but the magic of the imagination.

Some would relegate this kind of movie to children. I believe that we should be reminded daily that the awe and wonder that we had as children is just as important and wonderful today as adults. We seem to be so busy and preoccupied that we miss out on the magic that happens all around us.

If we have young children or grandchildren or otherwise interact with small children, you will see that spark in their eyes as they explore the wonder around them. Think about the magic of the machine that dispenses frozen custard or the other machine that dispenses cash. As an adult you know that there is no magic but to a child, it is almost miraculous. And it is miraculous, these everyday occurrences started out as an idea in someone’s imagination. Through talent and perseverance, these things came into being. I think that is magic.

Every snowflake that falls is magic; the flowers that burst from the ground in spring fill the air and our views with magical splendor. The birds exercise their magic of flight and the children chasing butterflies exercising the magic of creation and beauty.

My children are grown. I may have grandchildren one day and if I do, I will enthusiastically explore all the wonder and magic with them. So many people complain about how the media is so wicked that all TV and movies should be done away with. Yet, I feel that there is some  good there. There are stories of love, family, courage and determination in all different forms if we care to look for them.

I enjoy “children’s” movies and programming. It reminds me to be childlike in my wonder and awe of everything around me. It reminds me to look for beauty and miracle. Yes, life is hard, it can be miserable. But life can also be filled with beauty, wonder and magic. So don’t be afraid to watch a “children’s” movie, even if you don’t have children or youngsters around. Have the attitude of looking for the magic that you once had or may still have from your childhood.

A life without magic, wonder and awe can be very dark indeed. To block out magic is to stifle the spirit. It has been said through the ages and in many ways to stop and smell the flowers. There is much for our senses to observe. Look for the magic there because the magic isn’t gone, just not always believed or remembered.