Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 43

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On Week 43, I’m departing from my usual self-imposed prohibition of disseminating  specific political information. The week has been filled with newsy highs and lows, the lowest lows being when supporters of an accused pedophile cite the Bible to justify this skeevy, illegal and unethical behavior, and many use that, “If these allegations are true…” meme which discounts the words of the accuser. Blame the victim. Hadn’t we gotten better than this? I guess not. And the accused is blatantly trying to raise money off the story!

But then there’s another low that rips into the surface of decency and scars all who consume and buy into it: Minutes after the horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Russian bots apparently promulgated the falsehood that the shooter was a member of the anti-fascist group “Antifa” on social media, and it was spread for hours before being taken down.

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And now for our diversions. First, to cleanse the palate of the foregoing paragraphs, here are some words to live by.

 

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Another diversion that may have relevance in your life: It’s Open Enrollment season in the US for health insurance. This is the time individuals and families can shop for health insurance plans and switch to plans better than what they have now, or sign up for the first time. This includes Medicare recipients as well as those shopping for commercial plans. Several people I know have reported to me that, despite the dire predictions, they’ve gotten plans that are saving them money and still provide good coverage. Medicare recipients can elect to switch to Medicare Advantage plans that may save them money but vary greatly from state to state. It’s supposed to take a lot of the stress and cost out of medical costs not paid by Medicare, which includes the 20% and can include deductibles for a variety services and treatments. But the plans often dictate which healthcare providers their insureds can use, called “in network” providers and charge them more if they go out of network. As a psychologist I have had to turn down clients with some Medicare Advantage plans, while being paid by others. So listen and learn and ask around. Make some calls, go online and see what’s what. For all Medicare options, seniors and those on Social Security Disability can visit Medicare.gov, and most people under 65 should go to HealthCare.gov.

All is well with us, getting settled in our winter snowbird nest! Friends are visiting today and we look forward to showing them around. First stop will be Pinchers at Tin City, then a stroll down the ritzy 5th Avenue that leads right down to the beach. And then, who knows?

Yesterday we were eating lunch at our local Tropical Smoothie Café, and as usual they had great tunes playing. So I usually open my SoundHound app to see what we’re hearing. I have always loved this Duke Ellington song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and Gabin does it up brown, as my dad would say. I hadn’t heard this version before, and I love it! Enjoy!

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 42

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It’s Week 42 and between current events, the change to daylight standard time, aches and pains from a challenging gym workout, technical difficulties in the house and other distractions, I almost forgot to publish a post this week.

Okay, diversions coming right up. Have you I noticed that the latest slim cable boxes no longer feature digital clocks? Sure, we wear watches and have our phones and tablets nearby, but still. So we decided to look for a reasonably priced, analog, table top clock. They aren’t so easy to find! Nothing except wall clocks and digital clocks at the local Bed, Bath and Beyond. Only a few we didn’t like at our TJ Maxx. Decorator outlets and fine jewelry stores have lovely ones at more than we wanted to spend. So we checked on Amazon and found some good ones.

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Here’s one we liked enough to buy

 

I checked through the ideas I save on Google Keep for future posts and thought this piece on the herb turmeric might be interesting to my readers.

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There have been so many wild health claims made about turmeric that I was pleased to see that Memorial Sloan Kettering covers it here.  Turmeric is a rhizome, similar in appearance before slicing to ginger root. I use it in soups and stews and egg dishes and believe it adds healthful benefits. It’s nice to know that it can, provided cautions are observed.

I just love Sam Smith, and his new 2017 album is great. Here’s him doing “Pray”, one of the numbers he performed a few weeks back on SNL. Did you notice how slim he is? He lost over 50 pounds dropping dairy, gluten and sugar and doing much of his own meal prep. Enjoy his delicious voice!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Weekly 37



Now we find ourselves at Week 37. It’s been quite a challenge for the planet and for human kind. My mom’s 92 year old baby sister just fell and broke her pelvis. We are all praying for her healing and return to the active life she loves. Then my cousin finally got down to her home in Florida only to find leaks and other damage. Another cousin found that her Florida art gallery and museum and all the contents survived undamaged, although trees and plants on the grounds were devastated. Friends with property and family in Puerto Rico are anxious about their wellbeing. And then there’s the political circus with its twirling and gesticulating, gyrating and posturing, bellowing and sanctifying its innocence in the face of a blunt reality that begs to differ.

Painting  by Yukon artist Natalie Parenteau

Do you smudge? If not, here’s why you might want to start. Science backs up the belief many share that smudging is good for our health and can be good for the air we breathe. I do it in the office between clients sometimes, especially if the vibe has been especially intense or just to give me a lift. The wonderful work of Canadian artist Natalie Parenteau as seen above can be found here.

The colorful seaside neighborhood of La Perla in Puerto Rico inspired singer Luis Fonsi to write and perform his iconic “Despacito”. Before you get to enjoy the video make earlier this summer, here’s how La Perla looks after Hurricane Maria, in a sobering video clip.

Now, the joyous “before” to remind us all how much work will need to be done for the people of Puerto Rico and this pastel paradise to be restored to gain. “Despacito”:

                                                            Namasté

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 29

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On week 29, I’m wearying of the ongoing drama. Aren’t you? I guess the interviews with people who picked the current leader and still believe they did the right thing, that all their needs will be met, has done me in for now. So I’ll choose “Cake Boss” or “Waterfront Bargain Hunt” for now and leave the political punditry for another day.

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This week I want to bring a health threat to your attention. I have become aware that much if not most of the rice sold in North America contains high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen and very dangerous. The main reason it’s so high in rice is that in the American South and other areas where cotton was raised, arsenic was used as a pesticide and contaminated the soil. Those areas are also good for growing rice. Although pesticides with arsenic were banned in the US decades ago, the soil in these areas remains contaminated. The problem exists in many other rice-producing areas around the globe, too.

9/24/12 Daily Dose arsenic in rice CREDIT: Globe staff; iStockphoto

Dr. Michael Greger of the website Nutrition Facts has devoted a number of his videos to this topic. He urges against drinking rice milk or giving it to children. He said that crisped rice cereal isn’t safe for children, as it is probably the food highest in arsenic in a typical child’s diet. He warns against using brown rice syrup, a popular substitute for high fructose corn syrup in health store treats. Washing raw rice, as well as boiling it and then draining off the cooking water the way you cook pasta, greatly reduces the amount of arsenic in the cooked rice. And as you can guess, where the rice you buy was grown makes a huge difference. Consumer Reports addresses this issue as well. Both sites say the safest sources of rice are California, India and Pakistan because the arsenic levels are lowest in rice from these locales.

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Today we went food shopping at Aldi. Do you know about the Aldi stores? If not, see which Aldi store is closest to you and check it out. We have one here, and the prices are amazing and the quality of the products is first rate. I’ve shopped there three times in the past three weeks and still haven’t spent $100. That’s not per week. That’s adding the three trips together! I do stop elsewhere to pick up a few items they don’t carry, but that’s okay. They maintain low prices by not advertising or playing mood music, by charging for plastic bags so people bring their own, and charging a quarter to release a shopping cart from their corral, which you get back when you bring it back and connect it to the next one in line. They pay their employees pretty well and give decent benefits. Aldi plans to open 900 more stores in the US by 2022. They are in Europe as well as North America and are based in Germany.  The Aldi corporation also owns the more tony and well-known Trader Joe’s. Today I looked for safe rice, and they had a nice-sized bag of brown basmati rice from India, so I bought it.

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We’ll end with “Sunnier Days” by Diego Garcia. Let us enjoy the good in each of these days, and have faith that even sunnier days are ahead.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 26

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Welcome to Week 26 of our circus. Our monkeys have been swinging wildly from tree to tree, spinning, obfuscating, flirting, lying, blaming, chattering about nonsense, and it all makes my eyes roll in my head.

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I need diversions, and I’m sure you do as well so here we go. First, we need cake! Yes, we do, and we need confetti cake, with or without Elmo and friends.

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Or maybe we need Iced Lemon Pound Cake (vegan). I’m not sure which I’ll make first.

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Now that we’re drooling, I have good news and bad news for us. The bad news: Cheese is addicting. Dr. Neal Barnard has been exploding our craving with facts we don’t want to hear. Apparently certain aspects of cheese are transformed into a morphine-like chemical that reinforces our desire to have more cheese. The advertising world and restaurants know this. Witness the oozy, cheesy ads for pizza and other foods. As a vegan who began eating cheese again, and I feel guilty about it because I do know about the pseudomorphine stuff, and I know dairy is inherently cruel. A calf has to be taken from his mother so humans can have the milk. There’s a lot of suffering in that unnatural separation. The good news:  Miyoko’s Kitchen. She’s making cultured Buffalo Style Mozzarella we need to try.

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We can also enjoy Field Roast Chao cheeses that are produced  in Greece from coconut milk and tofu. I know it sounds weird, but it’s the tastiest, meltiest, sliced vegan cheese available in most supermarkets. It makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, especially when the bread is slathered with Just Mayo egg-free mayonnaise before grilling. And I totally trust this product which we use exclusively at home.

Who knew this would be another food blog? Well, it is what it is, and food is a great diversion, isn’t it? Yummy food isn’t called comfort food for nothing. So, we have to eat, so why not eat healthy and eat happy, too!

This week we sold all the CDs that Decluttr.com would buy and donated the rest. We listen to satellite radio at home and in our cars, and Amazon Music via iPad and Bluetooth speaker, so they’ve just gathered dust. I saved one out to give a friend. It was “Shteyt Oyf (Rise Up)” by the  Klezmatics, and I’m going to share now “I Ain’t Afraid” in English and Yiddish, originally written by Holly Near, that I’ve loved since I first heard it. Don’t you think the world needs to hear this? Please share!!!

Namasté 

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Getting to Cloud Nine

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I’m not sure where to start with this. So I’ll start where I think it begins. We moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania last summer. We eventually got a new MD locally. Then in May I was hospitalized with diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal infection. I was given excellent treatment in our local hospital and I was out the next day.   My primary doctor had been concerned about a serious abdominal condition other than diverticulitis, so in the ER they did a CT scan with contrast and found a couple of possible problems while confirming the diverticulitis diagnosis. I was discharged with referrals to cardiologist, colorectal surgeon, and pulmonologist. The pulmonologist referred me to a neurologist due to migraines. I saw them all.

I was off asthma meds for the first time in many years while in the hospital. I imagine they were waiting for me to complain of breathing problems to give them to me, but I didn’t have any, even with the gorgeous, big floral arrangement my colleagues at work sent me. Time was when I would have been sneezing and wheezing with flowers in the room.

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When I went to the pulmonologist and told him I hadn’t used any steroids or rescue inhaler, or even any allergy meds, in a week, he was impressed, but he also ordered pulmonary function tests and a CT scan of the lungs. I went to see him yesterday for the results. He brought out copies of the tests and said to me, “You do not have asthma!” and he explained the numbers. He said I no longer need any asthma meds, not even a rescue inhaler.

I’ve taken a lot of medications, many very expensive, for asthma and respiratory allergies over the past 35 years, which is over half my life: albuterol and its newer spinoff ProAir HFA, Advair (at the highest strength), Breo, and Symbicort (also at the highest strength), Singulair, Zyrtec, and Flonase, and others both over the counter and prescribed. I’ve been to the ER with asthma attacks, although thankfully not for decades. I’ve been on inhaled steroids and courses of prednisone for about 15 years and other asthma meds since my son was in grade school. I have the skin of an 80-year-old, in that it tears and gets purple bruises incredibly easily, and about five years ago I sustained a spontaneous fracture of the femur at the knee, all probable side effects from long term corticosteroid use for asthma.

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So I’m on Cloud Nine that I’m so much healthier than I used to be, and I credit this to several factors:

  • Being vegetarian for the past 8 years and almost totally vegan for 5 ( two of my new doctors are vegetarians, so I have solid support to continue a plant-based lifestyle).
  • Meditating almost every day for the past 6 years, a practice known to boost immunity and improve health.
  • Following the spiritual practice of Buddhism that helps me cope with stress and keep life’s challenges and changes in perspective.
  • Having wonderful and supportive friends, many of whom like myself are healthcare providers who have stressed to me the importance of self care and getting answers.
  • Working out regularly in the gym and taking more walks over the past year.
  • Meeting a holistic New York medical doctor before we moved, who urged a healthier diet, exercise and supplements over prescriptions whenever possible.
  • Moving out of the city and into a less stressful, more rural life.
  • Closing my solitary New York psychology office and opening one in East Stroudsburg, PA where amidst wonderful colleagues and staff I thrive.
  • Getting a whole new look into my health with all new medical providers, including the very thorough medical work up I was given at our local hospital.
  • Having access to good healthcare, thanks to Medicare and before that employer-provided health insurance. At this time of uncertainty over affordable health coverage for millions of Americans, I am most grateful for this and hope that goodness and compassion for those in need will prevail.

So I do like to end some of my posts with a good tune. This one feels just right, and I choose it in part in memory of a good and soulful man I treated for nearly 20 years, a man who grooved to the Motown Sound and whose passing I sadly learned of today. Danny, this one’s for you.

 

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