5 Healthy Habits Seniors Can Adopt in the New Year

Please check out this excellent article written by Karen Weeks, which covers healthy habits which seniors can adopt in 2021.

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By Karen Weeks of elderwellness.net

A brand new year is ahead of us, making it the perfect time to adopt healthy habits like eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, and spending time with loved ones (whether in-person or virtually). Below, Dr. Stacey Naito offers five senior-friendly habits that can be adopted in the new year — and how seniors can go about incorporating them in their lives.

1. Eat Nutritiously

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, seniors need adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, B12, dietary fiber, healthy fats, and potassium in order to lead long and healthy lives. And fortunately, seniors can get all the nutrients they need by consuming plenty of fresh leafy greens, lean meats, beans, and healthy fats like avocados and fish. Supplementation may also be necessary if calcium, B12, B6, or vitamin D levels are low.

 

If you’re looking for some ways to eat better this year, try buying a new cookbook or two, purchasing a grocery delivery service, or visiting your local health foods store to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, healthy grains, and lean proteins. If you’re thinking of paying for a grocery delivery service, some of the best options for produce include Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, and Farmbox.

2. Exercise Often

Like good nutrition, seniors need plenty of physical activity — including strength training activities, exercises for balance and flexibility, and aerobic activities such as walking, biking, swimming, or dancing. And fortunately, there are several things seniors can do to increase their physical activity in the year ahead:

 

  • Following along to exercise DVDs or online fitness classes.

  • Walking or biking alone or with friends (while practicing social distancing, of course).

  • Parking further away from store entrances when shopping.

  • Purchasing an elliptical machine, exercise bike, or treadmill.

  • Starting and maintaining a garden.

 

If you have a medical condition or you’re experiencing body aches or pains, a physical therapist can help you to select the best exercises for you. Plus, many physical therapists are offering virtual services amidst COVID-19.

3. Socialize With Loved Ones

Socializing is tough in the age of the coronavirus, but it isn’t impossible! With senior-friendly video chat software, online multiplayer games and apps, and safe in-person gatherings (like outdoor activities and walks with loved ones), seniors can safely spend more time with their friends and family members in the new year. Regular socialization keeps seniors physically, mentally, and emotionally well — and reduces their risk of cognitive decline and depression.

4. Keep the Mind Sharp

Speaking of cognitive decline, seniors should also make time for brain games and activities in the new year. Brain games keep the mind young and healthy, fight boredom, and improve overall mental well-being. A few brain training activities for seniors include:

 

  • Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and word finds.

  • Classes on cooking, foreign languages, dance, or music.

  • Arts and crafts like knitting, scrapbooking, and upcycling.

  • Reading, coloring, and drawing.

5. Clean and Declutter

Clutter is harmful for a number of reasons. Not only does it create tripping hazards at home, but excess clutter often triggers anxiety, concentration issues, irritability, and even depression. So, if you’ve been feeling especially negative or depressed as of late, the new year is the perfect time to freshen up your living space by cleaning, decluttering, and letting in as much fresh air as possible. Redfin shares a checklist with some ideas for cleansing your home and creating a happier and healthier living space.

New Year, New You

It’s never too late to adopt healthier habits and take steps to improve your life, and these five tips will help you to tackle everything from changing your diet to eliminating excess clutter at home. No matter your age, the start of a new year is the perfect time to reinvent yourself and improve various areas of your life.

 

Looking for more health tips and advice? Visit Dr. Stacey Naito’s blog at staceynaitoblog.com.

Are Your Plants Making You Crazy?

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Copyright : lightfieldstudios

 

I know there must be a whole slew of you who have jumped aboard the plant-obsessed bandwagon, and who treasure your new jungles as much as if they were your children.  Trust me, I can relate, though this isn’t the first time in my life that I have gone plant crazy and filled my home with living green things.

The first time I went overboard with buying and maintaining plants was back in 2000, when I amassed a collection of over 70 indoor plants in a 2 bedroom cottage-style apartment, and I loved it.  The idea of being surrounded by lush greenery was incredibly appealing, and I was swept off my feet until I went through a divorce which shifted my priorities and pulled me away from my plant hobby.

I took such a sharp about-face that I only had six indoor plants for many, many years, leading into the spring of 2020.  Then shortly after lockdown hit, I found myself at a plant nursery in May and purchased three lovely plants.  Little did I know that I was about to fall deep into plant obsession.  By July, I had over 40 indoor plants, and now, I have about 60 indoor plants.  Some were purchased through Etsy, many were purchased from a local supplier (@Brandontheplantguy on IG), and I even bought some from eBay and Amazon.

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Copyright : Olga Yastremska

 

Though I feel a certain amount of embarrassment over the fact that my home now declares to everyone that I am a crazy plant lady, I take great comfort in knowing that such an obsession is almost trendy these days.  The truth is, houseplants are more popular than ever, especially in millennials who are pushing against the idea of having children, and who are instead opting for a collection of Hoya or Senecio plants which will never demand that the plant parent pony up for a college education.  That being said, having a plant habit can set one back quite a bit, not only in the cost of the plants, but also the planters, spring water, plant food, insecticides, etc.

Those of you who aren’t captured by the idea of collecting a bunch of potted living things might be scratching your heads and wondering why people have suddenly gone plant crazy.  The COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns forced us all to stay at home, which meant that suddenly, our home environments took on a greater significance.  This is why there was a surge in home improvement projects which kept the big box home improvement stores packed during a time when many other businesses were floundering.  Plants certainly can beautify a home, and they also clean the air, but probably the most compelling feature about houseplants which appeals to most folks is the fact that they are living things, and with a bit of nurturing, they will grow and thrive.

That being said, plants don’t always thrive, and when they start to droop or otherwise show that they aren’t happy, plant owners may find themselves dealing with a lot of frustration.  Another thing I have noticed about now being responsible for a brood of 60 indoor plants is that I often get pissy when a plant decides to become finicky.  It can make a plant parent downright neurotic to try to determine what a failing plant needs. Maybe there’s too much sunlight and the leaves are getting scorched.  Or maybe there isn’t enough sunlight.  Could it be that the plant needs more/less humidity?  Is the plant getting too much/not enough water? Are there pests on the plant which need to be eradicated? What, what, WHAT does this plant want or need?

Even the task of taking care of the plants which are doing well (thankfully, 99% of my plants are doing extremely well) is a daunting one.  The one day per week when I look at all my plants and determine which need to be watered is a day I have begun to dread, because it takes a full hour or more for me to complete the task, all the while lugging jugs of spring water, plant fertilizer, orchid plant food spray, neem oil, my watering can, my plant log, and a stepladder all throughout the second and third floors of my home.  It’s exhausting.

I know that plant people can relate to what I am about to say regarding plants which stubbornly refuse to do well despite everything, especially popular plants which are supposedly “easy care” plants.  When a plant begins to show that it isn’t happy, I honestly feel like I have failed the plant.  I get frustrated and want to figure out the solution to the plant’s woes.  If the plant refuses to rebound, and is close to its demise, I adopt a very “fed up” attitude, and will very abruptly dump a plant in the trash or banish it outside.  It’s the best way for me to disconnect from that irksome creature and get on with my life.

I now have a trusted list of plants I gravitate towards so that I don’t tear my hair out in frustration.  Here are the plants which I truly do enjoy, because they are all doing well in my home:

  • all my Zamioculcas zamiifolias (including zenzi, raven)
  • all but one of my Hoyas (incuding shepherdii, pubicalyx, retusa, australis, multiflora, tricolor, carnosa compacta, lacunosa, and obovata)
  • my Monstera adansoniis
  • my Philodendron brasils
  • the one Scindapsus pictus which didn’t die
  • my Sansevieria starfish
  • my Pachira aquatica
  • my Beaucarnea recurvata
  • my large Senecio rowleyanus, my Senecio herrianus, and my Senecio radicans

In stark contrast, there are plants which I have had little to no success with despite all my efforts.  The plants which have stirred up a great deal of frustration include ALL peperomias, n’joy pothos, Tradescantia multiflora (quite possibly the messiest plant ever), Othonna capensis (tried two of these plants and finally gave up), and Begonia maculata.  I now avoid those plants in the same way I would avoid a person I didn’t like, and certainly would never welcome them into my home again.

In conclusion, the healthiest way to approach plant ownership is to educate yourself on the particular needs of the plants you have, and if a plant begins to falter, just let it go instead of beating yourself up for not being able to save it.  I actually found out that many nurseries will keep stocking certain plants because they know that the plants will be fussy.  Since many people are stubborn about trying to succeed in nurturing a plant, they will often purchase the same type of plant repeatedly in hopes of somehow figuring out its needs.  I know I did this with Scindapsus, Begonia maculata, Pilea peperomioides, Hoya wayettii, and every time one of these plants would die, I would take the loss personally, as if I was totally responsible.  I’ve learned that it is not worth the heartache, not to mention the financial expense, to keep buying those plants.

 

 

Establishing New Boundaries With People

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Image ID : 79920748
Copyright : Andriy Popov

 

I was compelled to re-post this article, with a new title, because it always seems to have relevance.  Lately, I have noticed that I have been spreading myself thin more than ever before, agreeing to donate my time and resources to people and projects I don’t necessarily feel are worthy of my attention.  Though I have a very generous nature, I also become extremely annoyed when I notice that someone is taking advantage of my kindness and assuming that I will always open my door and my heart.

There have been a couple of situations I have allowed to get out of hand recently, in which I have sacrificed time which I need to devote to paid endeavors and life balance.  It’s always difficult to pull back the reins and say no to good friends, but I have become increasingly resentful after finding myself rushing to get my chores done in time to donate my time on a regular basis.

This new determination to say NO when I have a plate which is overflowing is still something I struggle with, but enough is enough. Whether it is a brand requesting that I create a post for pennies, a friend asking me to provide personal training right smack dab in the middle of the day several days a week for free, people contacting me for curbside consults which they don’t want to pay for, or a supposed friend nickeling and diming me about my charges for medical treatments, I’m not nearly as amenable to doling out the favors as I used to be.  I am mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially drained from saying yes altogether too often.

So do you find yourself agreeing to do something when you are either completely unmotivated to do it, or are so over-burdened by other responsibilities that you know you are taking on an impossible schedule? Maybe you’re known as the “nicest person” who always manages to make time for everybody no matter what. And maybe you don’t want people to think otherwise about you, despite the fact that your energy and your patience are worn thin by people who always seem to drain the very lifeblood from you, and expect you to do everything for them at the drop of a hat.

Have you ever considered using the word NO once in a while? By setting limits and boundaries, you will keep energy vampires at bay, and you give yourself a chance to balance out your life so that you don’t burn yourself out. I am sure that the people who have taken your availability for granted will be stunned when you respond to a request with NO, but they’ll get used to it. Whenever I gather the courage to refuse a request, a feeling of complete relief washes over me, especially if I feel like I am drowning in the wide expanse of my to-do list.

When you refuse a request, task, or invitation, you finally allow yourself to take a break. As long as you aren’t shirking responsibilities, you absolutely should feel like you deserve to clear the space around you, especially if you are in dire need of recharging your own batteries. There’s something I say to patients quite frequently, and that is, remember to put the oxygen mask over your OWN face. If you don’t nurture yourself, you won’t perform as well in all the roles you play in your life, whether it’s employee, boss, parent, spouse, etc.

It’s completely acceptable to draw the line in the sand, and to establish boundaries which preserve your sense of self and which keep your life, and your spirit, balanced and happy. If you are having difficulty asserting yourself and getting to the power of NO, then try this: whenever someone asks you for a favor or invites you somewhere, just say that you need to think about it or check your schedule, which is not a lie, and that you will let that person know soon. That gives you a window of time to evaluate the situation, and to determine if you have the time or the resources to accommodate the invitation or request.

Another important consideration is whether you have the inclination to take part in the task or event. Be honest with yourself! I see too many people agree to do things they don’t want to do, then they are steeped in misery. This doesn’t give you permission to be difficult, selfish, or uncooperative, but it certainly gives you some breathing room. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it!

Remember that you will be better equipped to serve others if you take care of yourself first.

Let Your Heritage Lead You To Travel Destinations

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Image ID : 35177538
Copyright : Borislav Marinic

 

Though I thoroughly enjoy international travel for a multitude of reasons, the most meaningful trips I have taken have admittedly been the ones I took in an effort to learn about my ancestral roots.  The first time I went on a heritage trip was in September of 2014, exactly six months after I had ordered genotype testing through 23andme.  Despite the fact that I already pretty much knew the bulk of my heritage (Japanese and Hungarian), I was even more determined to visit Japan and Hungary after I received the test results.  It took me a full six years to visit Japan, but I was able to do so in March of this year, and made a point of visiting both prefectures which my grandparents were from.

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Image ID : 8705805
Copyright: ginasanders Budapest, castle hill and castle. city view

 

It turns out that my determination to visit my ancestral countries, occurred right at the beginning of the surge in heritage travel which has swept the globe.  One of the driving forces behind this boost in travel to ancestral lands has been the popularity of genetic testing kits such as the ones offered by 23andme. From personal experience, I can definitely tell you that a trip which is taken in an effort to learn about one’s heritage is definitely different from a trip which is taken for vacation purposes.

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Image ID : 121655857
Copyright : pitinan
Beautiful morning at Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street in summer, Kyoto, Japan. Yasaka Pagoda is the famous landmark and travel attraction of Kyoto.

 

Thanks to AirBnB, people can stay in dwellings which are more reflective of the culture which they are visiting, and thus more authentic and rich.  According to AirBnB, there has been a 500% increase since 2014 in travelers who use the AirBnB service to book accommodations and experiences.  Close to 80% of these trips are taken either with one travel partner or alone, which suggests that these treks are indeed meant to establish connection with mother cultures.

It’s no surprise that AirBnB and 23andme have joined forces and are offering services specific to heritage travel on their websites.  On 23andMe, customers who receive new ancestry reports, are now able to click through to their ancestral populations and find Airbnb Homes and Experiences in their countries of origin. Correspondingly,  Airbnb has dedicated pages which correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations, making it a breeze for customers to book accommodations in the countries which emerge on their reports.

If you’re thinking of booking a heritage trip but are hesitant, take it from someone who has not only visited her two main countries of origin, but who has also visited the other countries (Italy, Greece, Germany, France) which had popped up on the genetic testing report, and just GO.

Why Some People Ghost

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Has someone ever just completely disappeared from your life, without any explanation?  It is an incredibly confounding experience, and has occurred more than once for me.  What blows my mind is that older adults, people in their forties and fifties, have exhibited this bizarre and rude behavior in recent years, so the phenomenon of “ghosting” cannot be pegged as a young person’s habit.

I honestly think that when a person ghosts anyone for reasons such as, they’re not feeling the same way about the other person (usually a dating scenario), or they have become bored with someone, the act of ghosting is truly a sign of immaturity and lack of emotional availability, which means that the ghostee is actually lucky to be cut loose.  However, when someone completely disappears without an explanation, whether it’s a dating situation, a more serious relationship, or a friendship, the person being ghosted often grapples with extreme mental anguish because there is no closure.

Even if the explanation for the person’s ghosting on another might be painful to hear, I bet most individuals would prefer to hear that explanation instead of scratching their heads in bewilderment, thinking, what in the world HAPPENED? I completely understand that feelings can change, but I also was raised to believe that you should offer a reason why you no longer wish to talk to or associate with someone.  If you don’t respond to texts, etc., and the ghostee can clearly see that you are doing fine, you are basically indicating to that person that they aren’t even worthy of any bit of respect. And while there are situations in which the ghostee might have done something egregiously wrong, in most situations, the person doing the ghosting is merely fickle, disrespectful, and narcissistic.  That’s been my observation in every situation in which I have been ghosted.

What are your thoughts on being ghosted?  If you have ghosted someone in the past, why did you choose to ghost someone instead of providing a reason why you wanted to discontinue communication?

 

 

 

How Coronavirus Has Changed Our Shopping Habits

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Shopping habits have changed dramatically since the appearance of COVID-19 and the subsequent scramble to socially distance and protect ourselves.  Grocery stores and retail pharmacies now have plexiglass shields at the checkout stands, and there are shoe stickers on the floors as visual reminders of the six foot distance we are urged to keep from each other.

Malls are nearly empty, and many merchants haven’t even dared open their doors.  The days when you could just hop over to a local store and pick up a couple of items have been replaced with long lines of people waiting to get in, and staple items which are perpetually low in stock or completely depleted.  Let’s not forget about all that toilet paper hoarding which defined the earlier part of 2020.

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Image ID : 146199996
Copyright : Ida Åkerblom

 

The new normal when it comes to consumer spending is largely confined to purchasing only the essentials, but there has also been a peculiar yet predictable surge in what can reasonably be described as online retail therapy.  Since we’ve basically been forced to become homebodies, our shopping preferences have changed to reflect this lifestyle shift.  Online streaming services have increased dramatically in popularity, as people search for shows and films to chew up some of their time at home.

Industries which have seen an uptick in their sales since the global pandemic hit include food delivery and takeout services, alcohol, exercise equipment, health supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, and beauty and wellness products.

Some people have been compelled to stock up on bundles of essentials like pasta, toilet paper and the like, while others have fallen into the habit of purchasing unnecessary items, perhaps a long coveted item which was purchased with the attitude, life is short, might as well buy it.

The following excerpt from an article by Leanne Italie is an excellent description of the purchasing habits which many of us might find ourselves falling into as this lockdown continues:

“Shopping as therapy has been shown to reduce negative moods and boost overall happiness,” he said. “The big downside, however, is that such relief is very short-lived. That good feeling very quickly dissipates.”

Mr. Galak said some research points to “shopping while bored” as a variation with less emotional payout.

“Browsing for things that one doesn’t need fills the time and then clicking `buy now’ just naturally follows,” he said. “Consumers may find themselves on page 20 of a search result for a new pair of shoes, a place that when engaged and not bored, they would never reach.”

Jennifer Salgado, 42 of Bloomfield, N.J., is a shopper with many heads these days.

“Resourceful me has purchased: a pasta roller and drying rack, because now I’m Ina Garten; stuff to make hand sanitizer, because I’m now a chemist; and dog nail clippers that my 76-pound bulldog noped out of real fast and is now looking like Snooki from the ‘Jersey Shore,’” she said.

There’s also “luxurious me,” Ms. Salgado said, snapping up 96 macarons from a bulk-buying store, along with the Jennifer who needed 24 pounds of frozen peas.

“Most of the time, I forget what’s coming,” she said, echoing others who accepted long delivery dates out of fear. “And most of the time, I realize I never really needed these things in the first place.”

Kellie Flor-Robinson of Silver Spring, Md., just may be a combination of all of the above.

“I ordered a case of Moet,” she said. “I’m not sure that it was an accident, though — this thing has me buggy.”

 

 

Physicians (Including Female Physicians) Are People Too

I am posting a compelling article written by Nina Shapiro which calls attention to an article which went viral, then was retracted due to uproar and outrage.
The original post can be found here.

Viral #MedBikini Response To Controversial Manuscript Leads Editor To Retract Article

Remember that time you saw your teacher at the grocery store? Maybe you’re still recovering from the trauma. Even though nine-year-old you knew that your teacher was, well, human, the idea that he or she engaged in human behaviors similar to those of your own family was a tough pill to swallow. Spotting a teacher on vacation? Perish the thought. What about your doctor? Your surgeon? They don’t actually eat food, do errands, or (gasp) go to the beach like the rest of us, do they? Well if they do, just hope you don’t have to witness it, right? With social media, oftentimes a click of a button will save you a trip out in public to peek at the private lives of those who care for you or your children. One group based in Boston sought to take their own peek into the lives of young surgeons via fabricated social media accounts. And they wrote about it in a highly respected academic journal.

In the August 2020 issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery, a manuscript entitled “Prevalence of Unprofessional Social Media Content Among Young Vascular Surgeons,” was retracted by the journal’s editorial board yesterday. The article sought to identify what the authors consider to be “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” behavior on various social media platforms by young vascular surgeons, in efforts to recognize and, in turn, discourage, any such behavior which could have a negative impact on patient respect for physicians. While some of the issues addressed are clearly critical for patient care, including patient privacy violations, slander of colleagues, and illegal drug use, many of the other issues addressed can be construed as privacy violations into the lives of young physicians. Particularly female physicians. The investigators focused on recent vascular surgery residency and fellowship graduates, putting the average age of the study subjects (who did not give permission to be studied) at around 30-35 years old. They created “neutral” (translation: fake) Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to search the social media feeds of young surgeons.

  • The three fake accounts to search for unprofessional behavior were created by male students and fellows, ages 28-37 years old. Included in what they considered to be unprofessional behavior were photographs of “provocative” Halloween costumes and poses in bikinis. In addition, any reference to politically or socially-charged issues such as abortion and gun control were included as unprofessional behavior. The real social media world got word of this publication, and responded loud and clear. The notion that the focus was targeting young female surgeons on how they dress during their non-work time was met with disgust and uproar. The hashtag #MedBikini went viral on Twitter and Instagram, bringing countless women (and men) to proudly post pictures of themselves in bikinis or other casual attire, along with the #MedBikini hashtag, in mutual support of so-called “unprofessional” behavior outside of the operating room.

While the authors did address issues of patient privacy and uncollegial behavior, the focus on female surgeons wearing bikinis, especially tracked by male students and fellows under fake social media accounts, raised the “creep” factor to higher and higher levels as the issue came to the public. Hearkening back to the #ILookLikeASurgeon hashtag, which began in 2016, pointing out that, yes, even bikini-clad, all-shapes-and-sizes, all-genders-regardless-of-identity can be and are surgeons, #MedBikini is a trend to humanize, not de-professionalize, women in a traditionally male profession.

Dr. Mudit Chowdhary, a Chief Resident in Radiation Oncology at Rush University, shared his concerns with the study and on social media. When asked why he felt so strongly about the manuscript, he stated, “I have issues with the definition of unprofessional behavior…it is inappropriate to label social issues as unprofessional. We are humans first before physicians. Plus, the issues they label as controversial (gun control, abortion) are healthcare issues. Physicians are taught to be community leaders in medical school and we need to speak up in order to help our communities.” When asked about whether or not physicians should be held to higher standards, even on social media, he responded, “I do believe physicians should have some higher standards. For example, disclosing HIPAA information is something nobody else has to deal with. However, much of the issue is that the medical field is highly conservative and misogynistic.”

In response to such widely disseminated disgust with this publication, one of the lead authors, Dr. Jeffrey Siracuse, issued a public apology on Twitter:

And soon after, the editors of the journal issued a public statement with plans to retract the article from the journal. In their statement, they reveal that there were errors in the review process, including the issue of conscious and unconscious bias on the part of the investigators, as well as failure to obtain permission from national program directors to use the database in searching private and public social media accounts of recent graduates of training programs. Their retraction statement concluded as follows:

“Finally, we offer an apology to every person who has communicated the sadness, anger, and disappointment caused by this article. We have received an outpouring of constructive commentary on this matter, and we intend to take each point seriously and take resolute steps to improve our review process and increase diversity of our editorial boards.” (Peter Gloviczki, MD and Peter F. Lawrence, MD, Editors, Journal of Vascular Surgery).

There was some favorable response to this statement and retraction, yet many continue to feel that an assessment of professionalism was carried out in an extremely unprofessional manner, underscoring the irony of such an endeavor. Not to mention the lack of diversity in the editorial board, comprised of two male surgeons who happen to share the same first name.

While the issue of professionalism on the part of physicians should remain paramount, and does, indeed, require further exploration, monitoring, and careful attention, especially when it comes to patient privacy, social issues outside of the medical sphere should, perhaps, remain just social. But if you do see your surgeon out at the grocery store, or even at the beach, all that should matter right now is that they (and you) are wearing a mask.

The journal’s editor, Dr. Peter Gloviczki, commented that the paper had gone through the journal’s standard editorial review process, with three reviewers accepting the manuscript after major revisions. While the board is racially diverse, Dr. Gloviczki acknowledges that it lacks gender diversity. Soon after the concerns for the paper were made public, the editorial board “immediately reviewed the data collection, methodology, gender bias, results, and conclusions. It was obvious within our board that we found issues, including the fact that the list of doctors obtained from the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery is designed for internal society use, not for clinical data collection.” In addition, Dr. Gloviczki noted the journal’s failure “to identify definitions of unprofessional behavior and we missed the issue of subjectivity and bias in the review process.” He emphatically apologized for the errors, stating “We learned from this. We will be changing our review process, initiating a series of changes, including expanding the editorial board to include more women.”

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Genetic Ancestry Tests And The Rabbit Hole

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If you are considering ordering and completing one of those genetic ancestry tests (popular ones are 23andme, Ancestry, and MyHeritage, all of which I have now completed), be prepared for the possibility that you might be on the crest of a journey down into the rabbit hole.  I’ve heard far too many stories of people who made startling discoveries relating to their genetic background and genealogy which at times resulted in conflict within the family.  Mysteries may unfold which leave you with more questions than you may have ever had about your family members or your ethnic makeup.

If we consider the phrase, going down the rabbit hole, we can enter said rabbit hole without thinking that the journey will be as long or as confounding as it can be.  That’s how it was for me initially, and now I find myself searching more than ever before for the puzzle pieces which could solve the many mysteries my biological father left when he died. Although I knew the circumstances surrounding my conception were akin to a soap opera, I never in my wildest imagination expected my story to unfold the way it has.

Before I dive into my own story, and wiggle through the proverbial rabbit hole, I’m going to share this passage from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”:

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

`Well!’ thought Alice to herself, `after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think–‘ (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `–yes, that’s about the right distance–but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?’ (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)”

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Image ID : 42904359
Copyright : Eugeniu Frimu

 

Thanks to 23andme, a half sister I had never known about contacted me at the end of January with the startling news that we were indeed siblings.  Three days after our initial contact, another half sister surfaced on the site, and we slid down the rabbit hole even farther.

It took some time for the other half sister to respond to our connection requests, but we three are all now in communication with each other.  I have met one half sister and was even able to help her celebrate her latest birthday in February.  The other half sister is lining up a visit so that we can all three see each other face to face and forge the bond we never got a chance to develop as children.

We also have a half brother whom we are trying to locate, but there are numerous barriers, including the fact that we don’t know his name or birthdate, are unaware of which country he currently resides in, and the fact that he evidently is the type of person who would not welcome the news that he has three half sisters.  I have known about this half brother since our father’s death in 1997, but he never signed up for genetic testing analysis, which means we don’t have the convenience of a genetic testing service to do make the connection for us.

We want to find out more about our family tree, but it will be difficult at best to ferret out such information because I have limited knowledge of our father’s mother tongue (Hungarian), and I have no idea who would be privy to such information.  Our father’s place of death is also a mystery, which also means that it will be challenging to discover where he was interred.

Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter

I absolutely love this TED Talk by Christen Reighter, who talks about the resistance she met with when attempting to obtain approval for tubal ligation. There are two statements in particular which struck me:

“I’ve always believed that having children was an extension of womanhood, not the definition.”

“I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her of her entire identity as an adult unto herself.”

The resistance which Ms. Reighter encountered during her consultations for tubal ligation was unfounded in both my opinion as a woman, and also as a physician. It’s astonishing how medical colleagues refused to hear her argument for the ligation, and how her primary doctor kept insisting that she would change her mind at some point. What infuriates me even more was that the doctors abused medical paternalism, infusing their own beliefs about what a woman might be feeling about the idea of motherhood, and essentially stripping this woman of her rights.

Similar to what Christen Reighter believes, I have never bought into the lie that it has been my duty as a woman to have children. I have always bristled when people would try to pressure me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny?

I have never experienced anything more than a brief and passing curiosity about the idea of having a child, and now that I am post-menopausal, I no longer have to concern myself with it. I don’t feel that I am incomplete or less of a woman because I chose not to have a mini-me. I essentially chose to be childless for a number of reasons, and I had the right to make that decision regardless of what anyone else thought.

Bravo to Christen Reighter for proclaiming her strong beliefs and standing her ground.

A Great TED Talk On Clutter

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

I absolutely love this brilliant quote by Barbara Hemphill which Kerry Thomas mentions in this TED Talk video, because it is completely true. No matter what type of clutter plagues you, it may be impeding you in a profound way from living a free and peaceful life.

I hate physical clutter and fight it all the time by conducting purges throughout the year. But physical clutter is only one type of clutter, and Ms. Thomas breaks down the different types into the following:

Physical
Mental
Emotional
Digital
Spiritual

Although I feel that I have a good handle on physical clutter in my environment, the other categories are more challenging. I control digital clutter by going through my email inboxes on a daily basis, consolidating images and deleting old text messages on my phone. I also think I have a decent handle on spiritual clutter because I meditate daily, take meditation and yoga courses, and also practice breathwork. I try to forgive those who upset me, and I also make sure to avoid toxic people.

The areas where I get hung up (and I suspect many others do) is with mental and emotional clutter. Ms. Thomas states that mental clutter consists of fears one might have, and it also could stem from the judgmental words of others, while emotional clutter consists of negative thoughts and behaviors. The thing is, I have fears which keep my mind racing, and I also fall into the trap of negative thinking from time to time, especially when I am in the middle of a crisis. So by no means am I completely free of clutter. However, I constantly strive to clear up anything which is depressing me or slowing me down.

It’s incredibly liberating to get rid of items which are damaged, unused, or worn, and it’s also wonderful to let go of all the mental blockades to happiness and freedom. One thing I always try to remind myself is that worrying about things will never bring about a solution. The only thing worry ends up doing is eroding one’s demeanor and sparking anxiety.

I suggest that you think about the different areas in which clutter might be adversely affecting your life, and adopt behaviors which counteract such clutter.

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