Sunday, March 14, 2010

We, the People Can Heal America

Poppies blooming in the Southwest

I don't know about you, but I think it's frightening what's going on with this health care bill and the billions and billions of dollars that are being thrown around like chump change. So I've decided to throw out my two cents as Mrs. Average American who is advocating paying attention to a lot of things anyway. This isn't a 4,000 page document; it's pretty simple, requires hard work, will take some time to see the results, but in the end is really a large part of the only answer that makes sense.

It isn't a 100% fix, but if we could accomplish at least this, we can have our America back again, the way our founding fathers intended it.

So here goes:

1. No amount of money is going to fix health care. But what if we, the people, made as much of an effort at getting healthy again as we make at work every day? What if we make it our job to regain good health? Being at a healthy weight, eating only healthy foods, exercising almost every day and just paying attention to how we are doing will, over time, reduce disease, reduce health insurance experience which will in turn reduce premiums. And this, as uncomfortable as it may seem, will also require peer pressure on those around us who aren't taking personal responsibility for their own health in any way.

2. What if we the people worked with health insurance companies to lower the cost of maintenance drugs and treatments - the ones that assist us in never getting to that heart attack, stroke, full-blown diabetes, kidney failure, asthma, etc. If they were cheap enough for anyone to afford, most people would take them and vastly reduce the number of expensive medical procedures in this country covered by the same health insurance companies. Instead of paying billions of dollars to treat the symptoms of an expensive health care system, let's use a very small fraction of that to reduce the cost of maintenance medications and treatments? If we actually did this and people really did what they are supposed to do, even the number of maintenance drugs needed will go down over time.

3. We, the people can choose to cap medical malpractice liability and lower malpractice insurance premiums so good doctors can practice again. These insurance companies are still run privately, not by the government. They can choose to do this on their own, or someday they may not have the luxury of choosing.

4. We, the people need to stop borrowing money and live within our means. That includes us personally as well as our government.

5. We, the people need to give our children the quality and quantity time they need. Parents, take back our roles as parents, not friends, buddies or absentee guardians.

6. We, the people can vote in legislators who can vote to pay teachers what they deserve so they can teach our future generations how to be smart, productive, upstanding citizens. Pay them well so people who could be great teachers don't choose some other profession over teaching only because they can't afford the low pay.

7. We, the people can choose to act ethically and honestly again.

8. We, the people can start taking care of our own and stop expecting government to fill the gap. We used to do that fifty years ago before welfare. Let's support the churches and the nonprofits not only financially but by giving of ourselves and our time.

9. We, the people can decide that we are responsible for our own lives and stop looking for a handout, expecting others to take care of us. Hard, honest work grows many fruits.

So, these are my offerings. You could probably add to them - please feel free! Like I said, it isn't going to fix everything, but if we could make these changes, we might not have to fix everything. Maybe things would start fixing themselves. Can we try?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

They Say it Never Rains in Southern... Arizona

Our little tin burro is wondering where all this rain is coming from!

Wow, it is raining cats and dogs here on Sunday morning; another long shower in a month of downpours. While it isn't that very unusual to get some rain in January and February in Arizona, this much rain is almost unheard of. In fact, we are now officially out of our drought according to "authorities." Yea! no more bricks in the toilet tank.

Our driveway under water

It even snows here!

The saguaro cacti are just as fat as little butterballs and trees are already starting to bloom. My flowers are lovin' it. My dogs and horses aren't. I walked out in the rain to feed Smokey and Hershey this morning and clean up all the doodoo in their stalls (since they don't want to ruin their lovely long coats out in that cold, nasty rain), and my umbrella was something they'd never seen before apparently. They weren't that thrilled with it, so I got wet feeding them and that was fine and dandy with them. Even my dogs barked at my umbrella - even though it has DOGS on it!

The Cockers are hoping they can go outside soon

The rodeo finals are supposed to be today and I wonder if they'll be bucking around in the slop or what they'll do. I don't think the little mini cowboys and cowgirls will be out there mutton bustin' or roping goats though. They might be lost in the mud!

If you have read bestseller "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan (and you'll want to if you haven't), you might have been left with the feeling like "Wow, there is so much to remember here about how we need to eat! I need to go back to the book and make a list as I reread the chapters!" Well, he has saved you from having to do that with his new book "Food Rules." It might take you a whole half hour to get through it, and you will still want to read "In Defense of Food" to get the whole picture. But "Food Rules" is a perfect tool to remind yourself often how you should eat and help you stay on track. It's a small book and easy to keep with you or keep on the desk, nailed to the refrigerator, etc. One of his rules is "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." I was trying to read it to my husband and laughing so hard trying to read his example, Les couldn't understand what I was saying. Funny example but true!! Check it out!

I am also currently listening to Crowley and Lodge's "Younger Next Year" audiobook for the third time. It's another fact-filled, entertaining book that will definitely take way longer than a half hour to get through, but it very worth it. It was originally written for men over 50, but frankly the content is appropriate for women about 95% of the time. The did write one for women, but having read that one, too, I thought they should stick to the gender they know best. Your call. It has helped me change my behavior mainly because I need to know why I should change and I typically won't change just because someone says to. This book gives all the foundational information you need and makes you laugh on top of it. Great book. It's one you will want to read or listen to over and over again just to get all the content.

Hope you are staying warm and dry wherever you are today! Last night I made low-fat cream of mushroom and wild rice soup from scratch. Mmmmm. I think we'll curl up and have some more of that today and maybe make something with the fresh blueberries I bought yesterday! Have a great week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Lot to be Grateful for!

Grateful for my girlfriends!

First, I want to say I'm sorry for being away from my blog for so long. I've just had so much going on between my career, my family and everything else, I have hardly been able to sit down in front of my computer, much less visit your blogs or write my own. And I've really missed seeing what is going on in your lives. It's been like I have been carrying around this empty space inside for a month at least!

Well, so I wanted to write about gratitude today. I like to relate whatever I write on in some way to the point of this blog - Aging Lite. Lots of components to being able to do that, age lite, and one of them is having a sense of gratitude in one's life: the ability to see the silver lining in difficult situations, the sense of "wow" about all that you do have no matter how bad things are.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology and the man who brought to light the influence that optimism and pessimism play in our lives, has a great website that offers a number of self-tests. One of them is on gratitude - your gratitude quotient! It's a great test and well worth taking to see where you are in this area.

Mr. Les

I have numerous super reasons to talk about this topic today. First, my husband, Les and I celebrated our 7th anniversary this January. That may not seem like any great shakes, but two months after we were married, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Down the road we found out it was stage 4. He lost his left lung and three years later his left adrenal gland and two years after that, his left kidney. We joke with him that if he gets much lighter on the left side, he's going to start folding over that way!! Lots of chemo, biologics, radiation and even experimental drugs that almost killed him were thrown into the mix, but he just kept on truckin'. We have been fortunate that he has had all the things that doctors point to as giving him the best chance for survival and they were definitely all contributors. But he continues to look to the future, is grateful for every day he has and that has been huge. We call him the energizer bunny. Today he is cancer-free and we are praying he stays that way. I'm grateful that God put him in my life and that we have been able to do this journey together. Not easy, but we've grown from it without a doubt.

During a particularly difficult therapy time in Les's life, he made this cross for our new church building. It hangs right in front over the main entrance. Amazing.

On March 6, a company team that my best friend and I are co-captaining will be walking 100+ strong in the Climb to Conquer Cancer. And Les will be there to help get us started in the morning. We've already raised about $7,000 and still have two weeks to go. How fun is that? I am sooo grateful he will be here to celebrate it and for the many people on our team who committed to raising money and walking for this cause. His story has been up on the Climb homepage for several weeks and that's been kind of fun, too.

Besides being grateful every day for God watching over me, a great job, health insurance, my wonderful extended family and friends, my sweet dogs and horses and so much more, I have one very new thing to be grateful for. Yesterday, we found out we're going to be grandparents again!!! Gina and Andrew are going to have their second child late this year - sister or brother to Layla who was born in June of '08. Layla is a little corker and just loves our "neighs." Not one bit afraid of them, already loves to ride and cries when she has to say goodbye to them. She's an angel and now we're looking forward to another!

Making sure Layla gets her ride in for the day and one of my Cockers,
Dizzy hoping for a belly rub.

I have to say that personally, I don't think a day goes by that I don't thank God for even simple things like making a green light or walking my dogs on a beautiful day or laying my head on my pillow at night knowing that there are many who don't have a pillow to lay their heads on that night.

A beautiful end to the day!

Recognizing your own gratitude is one of the first steps to another checkbox on the road to health and that is deciding to do something about it. When you feel so much grace in your life, it's natural to want to give back, have something to live for besides your own needs. It another area/component I cover in my book. But that's a discussion for another day...

My dog Lucy and I visiting a local nursing home. Lots of mutual love goes on there!

I'm grateful for you and the rich life tapestry you weave into my life. Thank you!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Desert Critters Around Me

Harris Hawk

Mexican Gray Wolf


Bighorn Sheep

Our resident Bobcat kitten

We are blessed to have plentiful wildlife in and around our state, including this little bobcat kitten posing in my front yard. (Mom is around somewhere close.) Bobcats seem to be having a banner season here this year. The javelina run in herds, smell a lot like skunks and its fun to see them, but not run into them! The Mexican wolf is far up in the mountains towards New Mexico, so we don't see them except at the Desert Museum. The Bighorn Sheep seem not to be that plentiful, but you might see one while you're hiking. We ran into a herd of them while in the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Harris Hawks hang out in families, hunting rodents together, perching on the tops of saguaros to get a good look. Not pictured are the many coyotes, foxes and the occasional mountain lion we see closeby. I hope I never see a mountain lion right in my neighborhood however. Some of my friends have, though. Yeeesh! We also have a multitude of lizards, snakes, toads, insects, hummingbirds, the roadrunner and more.

I love living here because I have to pay attention to my environment. Keeps you on your toes. Arizona is a beautiful place to live.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not Too Old

So last weekend at the end of my nice long vacation, my husband and I met his daughter Jamie and their family at Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is beautiful no matter when you go there, but winter is especially so. Jamie's family was planning to ski the whole time and Les and I were going to sightsee mostly and just relax. I had toyed with the idea of skiing a little but I didn't have any equipment or clothes.

But the first full day we were there we drove up to Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics to check it out, take the gondola up to the restaurant, share lunch with the fam. I hadn't really planned to ski, but I was shooting pictures outside there and watching everyone having a great time skiing and snowboarding and snowboarding caught my eye.

Jamie is just learning how to snowboard and Gary and Ramon were also snowboarding that day. So that little tickle of interest started growing.

Jamie getting ready.

So many of my friends who knew I was going to Lake Tahoe and had only skied years ago said that they would personally never attempt skiing "at this age" because what if they broke a bone? Some of these women were in their forties! I love them all , but wow! One of my best friends ski races and she's in her mid fifties. I may be 59 but I just don't believe I should start limiting myself like that - I mean maybe when I'm 80 or 90. But common sense does rule. Would I start out on a black diamond hill with a snowboard I've never been on before? Of course not. Deciding I had to snowboard before I left Tahoe was a well calculated risk. But I knew that if I didn't do it, I would regret it for a long time.

Was I physically fit? Yes.
Am I fairly coordinated? Yes.
Did I want to learn how to do this? Yes!
Was there an opportunity to do it where I could minimize my risk? Yes, a class.
Did I have access to the right equipment? Yes. Thanks, Gary for the pants and to heavenly for the rented stuff.

So Jamie and I took a beginner's class at the Heavenly ski resort for three hours the next day while the boys went fishing. The snow was great. Our instructor gave us good instruction although I could have used more time on the beginner slope (like weeks). It was fun and it was scary, but scary really only because after I landed on every possible impact point multiple times, it was starting to hurt falling down. So I was motivated to stay upright as much as possible. But in the last hour we went up the regular ski lift on a green run and I made it down the last half of the hill only falling a few times. Yea! I snowboarded! I didn't break anything. And to prove I did it I have pictures. There's me in the blue, Jamie in the pink helmet. Do I look like a cool snowboarder? LOL

I don't care if I was 20 years older that the next oldest person in the class - I did it and it was worth it and I so appreciated my stepdaughter Jamie for doing it with me. She did great. It was fun sharing the experience with her. Now that the soreness has worn off, I would do it again in a heartbeat! : )

Try new things; don't limit yourself by using someone else's limit. Personal best - remember? Allow yourself the freedom of continuing to LIVE and EXPERIENCE life. Do you have a bucket list? Get on with it.