Healthy Lifestyle Expo Day 2 Afternoon Session

Irminne Van Dyken, MD

Biohacking the Immune System

Dr. Van Dyken is sharp. If you ever have the opportunity to see her speak I would highly recommend going. She is young, bright, sharp and very articulate. 

Some key points from her talk:

  • Healthy immunity comes from good nutrition.
  • The immune system is overly complex
  • Chronic inflammation compromises the immune system. Acute inflammation is good. It means the immune system is working.
  • Diseases are the consequences of inflammation- Cancer, Inflammatory bowel disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Atherosclerosis, etc. 

Whole foods that decrease inflammation

    o Circumin – the most active ingredient in turmeric
    o Chili and Capsaicin
    o Ginger
    o Black pepper
    o Cinnamon
    o Green Tea (ECCG)
    o Berry Polyphenols
    o Pomegranate
    o Grapeseed extract
    o Glucosinolates (broccoli spouts, cruciferous veg)
    o Milk Thistle

    Factors negatively influencing the microbiome

    o Medications – NSAIDs, Antibiotics, chemotherapy
    o Food
    o Stress
    o Soap, things we put on our skin
    o Infections

    • Hygiene hypothesis: less exposure to bacteria and parasites increase risk for illness.
    • You are only as healthy as your gut bacteria

    To create a healthy microbiome:

    o Eat a diet high in fiber
    o Eat fermented foods like miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, rejuvelac
    o Shower less and avoid antibacterial soaps and products with laurel sulfate
    o Avoid antibiotics
    o Get a pet
    o Open the windows in your home as often as possible
    o Use probiotics – if you buy over the counter probiotics be sure to get one that is enteric coated, has 7 different strains and 50 billion CFU of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium
    o Prebiotics – non-soluble fiber in dandelion greens, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, lentils, beans, chicory, flax

    • Cardioviva is a probiotic that has been prescribed in Canada and has been proven to lower LDL by 11.6%.
    • Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Every time our cells divide we lose a little at the end of the cell. Telomere shortening is linked with inflammation and aging

    Avoid things that speed up telomere shortening:

    o Smoking
    o Obesity
    o Environmental pollution
    o Stress
    o Fatty diet

    How to biohack telomere shortening

    • Increase fiber
    • Decrease waist circumference
    • Decrease protein type and consider changing the type of protein you eat
    • Omega 3
    • Antioxidants
    • Dietary restrictions, fasting
    • Exercise

    Through telomere maintenance we can change the rate at which we age

    Key point = decrease inflammation in the body

    Jane Esselstyn, RN
    Health Care is Self-Care

    Jane is the daughter of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, best known for his cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Jane is an accomplished educator as well as co-author of the book The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook.

    Jane is a natural speaker. Her lecture was interactive and visual. She started by getting us all up and out of our seats for a little moving and grooving. I’m not shy, I shook my booty!

    Jane spokeabout a research study she assisted with published in the Journal of Pediatrics – Plant-Based, No Added Fat or AHA Diets: Impact on cardiovascular Risk in Obese Children with Hypercholesterolemia and Their Parents.

    The Plant Based diet resulted in more positive effects though both did demonstrate weight loss for the participants.

    Jane references 3 influential names in the WFPB movement:

    1. Dr. Neil Barnard – runs the PCRM and his research on Type 2 Diabetes has shown that a WFPB diet can reverse the disease.
    2. T. Colin Campbell – author of the China Study proved through his research that cancer is preventable. Read Chapter 3. 
    3. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn – His research on heart disease led him to begin treating the cause to prevent and reverse heart disease.

    Dr. John McDougall
    The eat more starch challenge…

    Dr. McDougall suffered a stroke at the age of 18 with resulting paralysis of his left side for 2 weeks. He still walks with a limp. After medical school he began practicing medicine in Hawaii. He grew frustrated with the lack of healing amongst his patients. His work on a sugar plantation brought him in contact with elderly immigrants from Asia where rice was a staple of the diet. He noted that as the generations progressed the diet became more westernized opting for meat, dairy and junk food rather than rice and vegetables. The third generation was obese and sick. This experience led Dr. McDougall to treating the modern day illnesses with nutrition and a return the diets of our ancestors. He can demonstrate that throughout time diets were based on starches – potatoes, rice, oats, etc. People were never as sick or as obese as they are today.

    What changed? Our food changed.

    Dr. McDougall advocates more starch in the diet for optimal health. Starches are low in calories (calorie dilute), low in fat and highly satisfying.

    He has been advocating a WFPB diet with emphasis on eating starch for more than 30 years. He has proof that his methods work through research, his patients, and the many people who have participated in his program.

    Dr. McDougall is cantankerous and sometimes downright rude in his response to questions. It was a bit of a turn off, but in talking to others who had seen him before he was apparently in a good mood at this conference. I’d hate to see him in a bad mood. His talk more than the others really got under my skin and after pondering it I realize it was because of his attitude. He speaks the truth. All of the speakers do. Their research and the research they reference proves what I know deep down, but sometimes don’t want to admit to myself because it would require me to make more changes. The way we eat is wrong. Food is not supposed to come from a package. We are not meant to ingest chemically produced food. We are supposed to eat carbohydrates in the form of whole grains. We need them to survive. We eat too much, way too much and we don’t move enough. Dr. McDougall is simply telling the truth, but I can imagine it gets exhausting repeating yourself over and over knowing most of it falls on deaf ears. 

    Bottom line for Dr. McDougall is “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.”

    I think this video says it all with very little words. 

    Healthy Lifestyle Expo Day 2 Morning Session

    I woke up bright and early to begin the day with a short meditation, yoga and a five mile run. It was rather dark until almost 7am so I stuck to well-lit main roads, safe but boring. I stopped for a kale, peach, lemon and ginger smoothie.

    I had a full day of lectures ahead, but I will try to summarize the key points from each talk. 

    James Bennie, MD

    Plant Based Changes in Real World Medicine

    Dr. Bennie specializes in nutrition and was hired by Whole Foods years ago as their physician in Los Angeles. He later returned to his practice at Redding Family Medical Group in Redding, CA and now works at the Redding Rancheria Tribal Health Center. The Tribal Health Center has a full time plant based dietitian on staff.

    · Health is the state of being free from disease.
    · Most people do the diet they want to be on rather than eat the way they should eat for optimal health.
    · Dr. Bennie had no nutrition studies in medical school.
    · Our current medical system in not healthcare it’s sick care. I say frequently one day I hope to work in wellness as opposed to sickness.
    · A whole food plant based (WFPB) diet has been shown to reverse autoimmune disorders like lupus, RA, fibromyalgia and MS. It has also been shown to prevent and stop early dementia.
    · No medication for chronic disease has ever been shown to stop or revere the disease. It only slows the progression at best and suppresses the symptoms.
    · To change your health you must be an active participant in your healthcare.
    · Lab work may show “healthy” numbers, but the results may not be indicative of health status. If someone is overweight and has pre-existing cardiac issues a normal LDL and total cholesterol does not signify that person is healthy.

    What diet does Kaiser Permanente, the largest health care organization, recommend for its employees? A WFPB diet because it yields:

    1. Less sick days
    2. Increased productivity
    3. Better overall mood
    4. Healthier employees ultimately yield more profit and that is the bottom line

    7 habits of highly healthy people

    1. Don’t smoke
    2. Eat a WFPB diet and eat 3 meals including breakfast – the brain needs carbohydrates to function
    3. Include 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 20-30 minutes of resistance training to maintain strong muscles and bones
    4. Drink water not soda, juice or other sugary drinks
    5. Limit alcohol to no more than 2 beers, 1 glass of wine or 1.5oz of hard liquor
    6. Get 7-9 hours of sleep
    7. Be present in the moment – seek emotional support, meditate, pray and do yoga

    One theme that seems to be running through the first couple of lectures is that it is really important to meet people where they are at.

    This was a great presentation by Dr. Bennie. He was very animated, knowledgeable and clearly very passionate about what he does.

    Dr. James Weiss of Ethos Health

    The World of the Physician Farmer

    · Dr. Weiss’ father was diagnosed with end stage cancer with metastatic tumors all over the abdomen which prompted Dr. Weiss to return home and start seeking other options of treatment for his father. He discovered a book about macrobiotics and brought his father to Boston to meet with Michio Kushi, a renowned leader in the study of macrobiotics. 

    Within 3 weeks his father was running 2 miles daily. 90 days later Mr. Weiss had a CT scan which showed a 30% reduction of tumors. In 9 months there was a 50% reduction of tumors. Mr. Weiss lived another 18 months instead of the 3 months he was initially given and he continued working and enjoying a good quality of life until 2 weeks before he passed away.

    · Dr. Weiss has a degree in botany as well as a medical degree

    · Feeling disillusioned with healthcare Dr. Weiss sold his assets, left his practice and bought a farm. He said, “Today I practice medicine right from the middle of this farm.”

    · Epigenetics – Researcher Michael Skinner said, “There is not a type of genetic mutation known that’s not potentially influenced by environmental epigenetic effects.”

    · Plant secondary components aka flavonoids or phytochemicals lend flavor and color to plant foods.

    · Without angiogenesis a tumor will only grow to the size of the tip of a ball point pen.

    · The most powerful anti-angiogenesis factors are plant secondary compounds

    · There is a proven increase in survival rates for breast cancer survivors who drink one glass of soy milk daily. Genistein the phytoestrogen from soy empowers the BRCA gene. BRCA gene suppresses and kills off breast cancer cells. You want to have the BRCA gene.

    · Whole foods act through a symphony of mechanisms to thwart a constellation of human illness.

    Final thought of the lecture – “Plants just fix us.”

    Healthy Lifestyle Expo

    I’m in Valencia, CA attending the Healthy Lifestyle Expo. I’m determined to post at the end of each day. 

    I flew in on Thursday night. I had a long shuttle ride to the hotel, but met a few really nice people and we chatted the whole time. One was a 70 year old woman who looked incredible and was heading off to a month long trek in Tasmania with her Australian boyfriend. Go girl! She was a hot ticket. She has trekked in Indonesia, Cambodia and climbed Kilimanjaro. 

    Friday morning bright and early I met a small group in the lobby for a bus tour around the area. We started at the Getty Museum. The grounds were just as interesting as the exhibits. 

     My favorite exhibit was the photography exhibit by Ishiuchi Miyako called Post War Shadows. It was fascinating. I enjoyed the Degas exhibit as well. 

    The views must be gorgeous on a clear day. 


    Lunch at Sharky’s was the secret menu item, the Chef AJ burrito which is vegan and oil free, but you would never know. 

    Unfortunately we didn’t go to the iconic LA sights. Time was short and traffic was abundant. But we did drive down the famed Rodeo Drive. 

    Our last stop was Universal City Walk which is nothing more than a shopping center and Universal Studios. Not my thing nor the others I was with so most of us convened at Starbucks and chatted. I was the youngest in the group, but I was easily welcomed and found a lot in common with most of the people. Ironically about half of us had either lived or spent time in Africa. One woman has climbed Kilimanjaro twice. This is my second mention of Kilimanjaro in this post. I’ve been saying since I was in my early 30s that I will climb Kilimanjaro when I’m 50. In June when I ran the Vegan Power 25K I talked with a woman who summited the mountain as well. I really don’t think this is a coincidence. I have 8 years to prepare for this expensive and physically challenging endeavor and I feel as though the path is beginning to form leading me towards my goal. 

    We returned to the hotel around 4 and had some time to rest before dinner. 

    After a really delicious vegan buffet we headed into the conference room to hear key note speaker Irminne Van Dyken MD.

    First of all she is a beautiful well spoken young woman. Her message is soft spoken but presented with confidence and ease. 

    She is a surgeon. She explained “Many of my patients have diseases that could have been prevented through dietary and lifestyle changes. My goal in life is to put myself out of business.”

    The theme of her talk was:

    10 Ways a Plant Based Diet Will Help You Avoid the Scalpel

    A few notes before beginning the list of 10:

    Leading causes of death in 2014

    • Heart disease
    • Cancer
    • Chronic resp
    • Accidents
    • Stroke
    • Alzheimer’s
    • Diabetes

    1900 vs 2010

    Leading cause of death in 1900 was infection

    Heart disease and cancer were largely nonexistent then. What changed? Our diets and lifestyle. 

    There is a magic pill/silver bullet – it is eating a whole foods plant based diet (WFPB)

    This does not apply to a junk food vegan diet. 

    Exercise is an important component that exponentiates a WFPB diet. 

    List of 10 ways to avoid surgical intervention:

    10. Avoid Atherosclerosis

    • Direct result of inflammation
    • Fatty streaks-endothelial dysfunction-plaques
    • 15-20 year olds are developing fatty streaks 
    • Dean Ornish MD – Lifestyle Heart Trial took very sick people and put them on his program which included dietary and lifestyle changes rather than meds and 82% had regression of their disease
    • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on how to reverse CAD

    9. Avoid breast, prostate and colon cancers 

    10 recommendations for cancer prevention

    • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
    • Be physically active for at least 30 min daily
    • Limit energy dense sugary foods
    • Eat more variety of whole foods
    • Limit red meat
    • Limit alcohol 
    • Limit salty foods 
    • Don’t use supplements to prevent cancer. Get nutrients from whole foods.
    • Breastfeed for 6 months if able
    • After cancer treatment follow above recommendations to prevent recurrence

    As far back as 1907 an article was published announcing the incidences of cancer increasing among meat eaters. 

    Neil Barnard, MD advocates diet as a preventive agent to decrease risk of cancer. 

    Breast cancer is most common cancer among women. 

    Exercise will decrease rate of recurrence of breast cancer. 

    Hula and Breast Cancer Survivorship – introduced hula dancing as a means of physical activity to breast cancer survivors in Hawaii where Dr. Van Dyken works. The study just closed but already finding better survival rates 

    Prostate Cancer 

    Like breast cancer it’s very hormone responsive. 

    Data driven studies to prevent prostate cancer note the following preventive measures:

    • Eat WFPB diet
    • Lycopene 
    • Yellow and orange vegetables
    • Get folic acid from foods not supplements
    • Avoid fried foods
    • Exercise at least 3 hours a week
    • Supplement with a conservative amount of zinc

    8. Colon cancer (CRC – colorectal cancer)

    • Preventable and detectable early by colonoscopy
    • Increased risk correlated to red meat intake. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with an increase in CRC. 
    • Preventive measures: fiber rich foods, grape seed oil, milk thistle (promoted cancer cell death), turmeric root (very important antiinflammatory properties), green tea (antioxidant)
    • Limit alcohol intake because it is metabolized into a carcinogen in the GI tract and supresses B vitamins
    • Tobacco is directly related to increase risk of CRC

    Circumin (turmeric) benefits in the body are enormous. Lots of research being she and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in this root. Combine with black pepper for even more benefits. 

    7. Avoid obesity

    • Liver can be replaced with fat cells causing inflammation and eventually cirrhosis with liver failure. Fatty liver is an unwanted product of obesity and our lifestyle. 
    • Obesity predicts risk of complications during and after surgery 
    • Vegans have a much lower BMI than people who eat everything 
    • Hara hachi bu engrained in Okinawan culture which means stop eating when you are 70% full

    6. Eating more fiber reduces risk of constipation, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids

    • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
    • >3 million cases of hemorrhoids in the US. They are painful and cause misery.
    • One formed BM is a misconception. 
    • Diverticulitis are little poured in the colon. 200,000-3 million cases. Not found in less developed countries. Directly related to fiber in the diet. When diverticula burst it is an emergency and may result in a colostomy. 
    • People in the US need to be looking at fiber intake rather than protein. We all eat much more protein than we need. 

    5. Have more constant blood sugar to avoid type 2 diabetes 

    • All risk factors for type 2 diabetes except height are modifiable by dietary and lifestyle changes. 
    • Complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease, decreased kidney function, neuropathy, infections

    4. Decrease cholesterol

    • Vegetarians have little to no reported cases of gall stones which are made primarily of cholesterol. 
    • Gall stones are preventable with WFPB diet

    3. Decrease degenerative disc disease and the need for joint replacement surgery

    • WFPB diet relieved the symptoms of osteoarthritis 
    • Nutrition and activity should be first line treatments for osteoarthritis not medications
    • Obesity, inactivity and otsteoarthritis are pro-inflammatory factors. 

    2. Have more radiant skin, feel your best and have more self esteem 

    • Nutrition is a causative factor in acne
    • Avoid plastic surgery by changing diet and activity 

    1.  Epigenetics – pass the health on to your progeny

    • What I eat today may affect my child and grandchildren 
    • ITC is chemical term for broccoli sprouts – epidemiological studies link a high intake of broccoli related vegetables with a lower incidence of cancer. Chemopreventive effects. 
    • EGCG is green tea and possesses antiproliferative, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and chemopreventive effect
    • This is an up and coming area of study. If you want to know more check out Epigenetics Explained

    Dr. Van Dyken ended by stressing that it’s important to meet people where they are at. I couldn’t agree more.  The WFPB movement should lead by example and not impose judgment. I present this material as information to anyone who might be interested. I eat a WFPB diet, but it has taken me a long time to arrive at this lifestyle and as always I admit that I am a work in progress which is why I’m constantly seeking wisdom. I welcome questions and encourage curiosity. 

    9-4-14 and 9-5-14

    Have you seen Patrick the world’s oldest and largest wombat? Well now you have. Your welcome! Creepy or cute? I’m camp creepy.

    Patrick the giant Wombat

    Patrick the giant Wombat

    On Sunday, Carlos and I hit up a spot I’ve wanted to hike for ages. These our photos from our hike at Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA. It was about an hour away from where we live. The rocks in the chasm are like a little boy’s dream playground. We had a blast climbing rocks and hiding in the crevices. We even found a geocache on one of the trails above the chasm. At the entrance of the park is a really nice playground for the kids.

    Yesterday I went for a nice run after bringing Carlos to school. I finally turned on my Map My Run app to track my mileage for the first time in ages. I’m running in a new area and wanted to have an idea of how far some of the routes are that I’ve been running. I was pleasantly surprised with my pace. It’s not quite as slow as I feel. So that was great!

    Then I hit up my favorite Vinyasa yoga class. There were only 3 of us. I love the instructor. I move along at my own pace and just keep trying to improve on my poses. Savasana is hands down my favorite part! I swear it’s the best rest I get some days. I always feel like it’s been hours when in reality it’s really only 5-8 minutes.

    After yoga it was time for a delicious almond milk latte at my favorite local cafee, a pedicure and girl talk with my friend Mary. This happened…

    Blue sparkly pedi

    Blue sparkly pedi

    I’m usually much more of a plain Jane pink toenail polish kind of a girl, but I decided to go into fall with a bang.

    In the afternoon Carlos and I had an impromptu mom and son date starting with our town’s Farmer’s Market. After tasting these we bought two seasoning sauces from locally based Tortured Orchard. They are amazing. Carlos had the Sweet Apple Blush on his waffle this morning.

    Tortured Orchards

    Locally made Lemon Ginger Twist and Sweet Apple Blush seasoning sauces

    After the Farmer’s Market we had a bite to eat at Autentica Mexican Food. A veggie burrito for me, one to go for Orlando and kids quesadillas for him. We ran into friends from swimming lessons, chatted away with them, ate and then popped into the Odyssey Bookstore next door. I could look at books all day. I asked the woman who was working what her favorite books have been recently and she told me about two of her favorites, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman and “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller. I’m reading Harry Potter 2 as I mentioned and my friend Mary just gave me the book “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman. So many books, not enough time!

    I received a fun delivery in the mail yesterday. We got our concert tickets for Angelique Kidjo.

    Angelique Kidjo Tickets

    Angelique Kidjo Tickets

    It will be Carlos’ first real concert. We are excited to expose him to an amazing African artist, Angelique Kidjo from Benin in West Africa. If you’ve never heard of her you might have heard her voice as she has collaborated with Dave Matthews and Carlos Santana.

    Iwoya, Angelique Kidjo and Dave Matthews

    Adouma, Angelique Kidjo and Carlos Santana

    We’ve seen her once before and she is incredible. In October she is coming to UMass Amherst and the day before she will be participating in a talk at Mount Holyoke College which is in my town. The talk is being moderated by my friend’s husband who is a music professor at Mount Holyoke. I am really looking forward to both events.

    After working 8 nights in a row I was appropriately exhausted by last night. Carlos and I read together in his bed for a little bit. He was reading his new Jedi Academy book from our trip to the Odyssey. He lives, sleeps, eats and breathes Star Wars. I am reading Harry Potter 2. Carlos and I are reading the series together and he is much further along so I’m trying to catch up.

    What are you reading?

    Another Year

    Today would have been my grandmother’s 88th birthday. It is my 41st. Birthdays are bittersweet for me now. This is my second year celebrating without her. I love sharing my birthday with Noni. I wish I could say I was more like Noni, but I’m not. I share her strong work ethic, but I believe that is where the similarity ended. Noni was the kindest person I knew. She was genuinely nice to everyone she met even those who weren’t so nice to her. Noni was happy all the time and I truly mean all the time.

    As a teen I decided I wanted to do some volunteer work at the hospital where she worked. She worked in the colonoscopy department and was responsible for cleaning the equipment. This is not a job most would envy, but Noni did it with great pride. I began my job as a volunteer, but I’m not sure I ever did more than accompany my grandmother around the hospital. She knew everyone and everyone loved her. As we walked down the corridors all you would hear were voices saying, “Hi Mary! Hey Mary! Mary I’ll meet you for lunch. Mary!!”

    Noni never had a bad word for anyone and she was a master of forgiveness. She was devoted to the Catholic church, her family and her work. She worked until about a year and a half before she passed away at the age of 86. She was a lunch room and recess monitor at a nearby elementary school. All the children called her Grandma. After she died my mom and my aunt set up a fund to be donated to the school. This spring the school dedicated a colorfully painted outdoor shed to Noni, calling it Grandma’s shed where they store outdoor play equipment.

    She left her mark wherever she went. She was graceful and quiet about it though. Her path of kindness was genuine and unforced. She had the patience and tolerance of a saint. She truly loved her life despite some of the bumpy roads she endured. I have always felt as though I was one of those bumpy paths in her life. I wasn’t an easy person to be around for many years. I don’t have her kindhearted spirit. My years of angst and frustration made me quite the opposite. I was very impatient often times with Noni. My sharp tongue still gets me into trouble from time to time, but not nearly as bad as it was in my younger years.

    Despite my imperfections Noni loved me. She was honest with me and didn’t really let me get away with my bad attitude. I adored her and wished more than anything I had inherited her personality along with her birthday. How could two people from the same genes, born on the same day be so different?

    This birthday is quiet. The age doesn’t bother me. I’m just in a reflective place right now. I need to decompress after the busy summer. This summer was a whirlwind of activity and as much as we played I also worked that much too. I’ve done overtime every week except the two weeks I was away. My husband is also working like crazy. For him it’s feast or famine so he has to take the hours when he can because the winter layoffs have been consistent and long lately. This nonstop schedule left little time for anything else including running, yoga and meditation. I did what I could when I could fit it in, but I also reached a point where I just said ENOUGH, I’m one person doing the job of many. I decided to just focus on Carlos, keeping up the house and my basic needs. 

    It is fitting that Carlos started second grade today. He is growing up so fast. I will never regret the choices I made this summer even if I lost track of me for a little while. I kept as close of a grip as I could, but I slipped backwards a bit and have some pieces to pick up now…and I will pick up the pieces. This morning I dropped Carlos off at his new school, more on that in another post. I went for a 40 minute run and then straight to Vinyasa yoga which I’ve missed so much. I’m pretty sure I was out like a light and snoring during savasana! I feel like I’m starting all over again with fitness, but I’m excited to get back into the groove. For my birthday today I am taking the hours while Carlos is in school to focus solely on me. I’m taking lots of deep breaths and silently giving thanks for all the wonderful people in my life, for my health and for the health of those I love most. 

    I am thinking a lot about Noni today. I hope she knows how hard I continue to work to become a better person, to become more like her. I couldn’t have asked to be born on a better day. This will always be OUR birthday. Happy Birthday Noni!

    “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Bernard M. Baruch


    This weekend was my first weekend off in a month. Aside from the indecisive weather, rainy one minute…hot and humid the next, the weekend was glorious and busy. I was off Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday afternoon was the dreaded swimming class. I decided to take Carlos one more time. He became upset upon the mere mention of the class. He insisted on clinging to me all the way to the pool. Then he sat and watched the entire class. We approached the instructor at the end and informed him that we wouldn’t be coming back. Carlos seemed instantly relieved.

    Thursday evening I went to the 6 pm Zumba class in town. I love Zumba. I am not the least bit self conscious in this class.  It helps that the class is in a big auditorium so there are no mirrors encircling the room. I love the music and the dance moves. It’s just fun.

    Friday was a busy day. I brought Carlos to school and then had to make a snap decision about where to do my long run. The misty drizzle turned to a light rain and I decided to head to the gym. I cranked out 11 boring miles on the treadmill in about 2 hours 10 minutes. My strategy on the treadmill is to just go with the speed that I am comfortable with. I increase when I feel like it and decrease it when I feel like it. I never go below 5 miles an hour and I try to stay more in the range of 5.5 to 6.5 miles per hour. I take a quick water break at a walking pace after each mile and a slightly longer break off the treadmill after 3 or 4 miles. I brought two little boxes of  raisins with me which I ate after mile 6 and mile 9. I refilled my water bottle 3 times. Once I was finished I felt great, even better when I realized I wouldn’t have to worry about doing a long run all weekend. Friday night after putting Carlos to bed I made a pilgrimage to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart (don’t judge). I picked up the juicer that I had ordered on Orlando and I have wanted one for a while. I have yet to open the box, but I think today will be the day. I also picked up lots of goodies at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The weather was wild and at one point while driving there each side of the street looked an entirely different climate.

    Sunny side

    Stormy side

    As I drove off after taking these photos lightning cracked across the sky in one of the most brilliant displays of nature I have ever seen. I wish I could have captured a photo of that.

    On Saturday morning we met with a financial advisor, someone we have been working with for a few months to tweak our retirement and life insurance plans. It was a very informative and productive meeting. The afternoon was consumed with a benefit for a family member with leukemia. There was a blood drive and bone marrow donor registry. Orlando and I did the cheek swabs to be placed on the bone marrow donor list. Unfortunately we are unable to donate blood because of our recent visit to Mozambique as it is a malarial country. It used to be that you could donate after six months but now you have to wait a full year after visiting a malarial country. I used to donate blood as often as I could and I was also a platelet donor.

    After the benefit we went to dinner at our friends’ house. We haven’t seen this couple and their two girls in a long time. It’s terrible how quickly time flies. It was such a nice night, lots of chatter, a glass of wine and great food. The kids got along really well even though Carlos is much younger than the girls. He was a little pesky at times but they didn’t seem too bothered. He loves playing with the big kids.

    We all slept a bit late on Sunday and by late I mean 7 am! Carlos and I hit the grocery store around 10 am. By the time we got home the sun was out and we were all anxious to do something outdoors. The three of us decided on a hike at a nearby hiking area. We ended up on a trail that was new to all of us. It led us up Mt. Norwottuck and eventually we came upon this gorgeous view…

    View from Mt. Norwottuck

    It was a great hike. I am always impressed by the stamina that Carlos has at four years old. He loves to hike and charges right up any incline. He lets us know when he needs a break but they aren’t frequent or long.

    Here are few more pictures from the hike.

    Carlos and Orlando at the top of Mt. Norwottuck

    After our hike we stopped at one of our favorite ice cream places Flayvors at Cook Farm. I was intrigued by the special flavor Hadley Grass. I was offered a sample of their homemade asparagus ice cream! It was delicious and intriguing. You could see pieces of asparagus but it didn’t have a strong asparagus flavor like I expected. I ordered a kid size cone. Carlos even tried a bite!

    Hadley Grass (Asparagus Ice Cream)

    It was a productive, fun family weekend. I returned to work Sunday night and Monday night. Now I am off for two before I begin a long seven night stretch at work. This is not the norm for me, but I am working Memorial Day for a colleague so that puts me on for seven nights in a row. I have a weekend away in Plymouth and a half marathon to look forward to the following weekend.


    Carlos has always loved the water. Even as a baby he loved playing in it and playing with it.

    Just chillin'

    Bath time was just an excuse for more play time in the water.

    Fun in the bath

    As much as he loved the water, Carlos was always a bit hesitant to “let go” in the pool. Last summer Carlos took swimming lessons in our town. Our elderly neighbor continues to teach the lessons that he has been teaching for at least a half century.  The parents of many of the kids in the class had Mr. Houton for their swim instructor. Carlos felt comfortable in the class even though he didn’t know any of the other kids. The class was only two weeks but he went every day and progressed quickly. They didn’t use any kind of flotation devices and the goal was for each child to swim from the deep end to the shallow end on their own. While Carlos didn’t achieve that goal he did feel much more at ease in the water and he has been excited about taking the lessons again this summer.

    Orlando took Carlos to family swim night every other Friday while I was sleeping before work. While on vacation in Mozambique this winter I was shocked to find Carlos swimming on his own in the deep end of the pool at our hotel. Orlando was not too far away, but they had kept it a surprise that Carlos could now do the doggy paddle on his own. I was so proud of him.

    In the deep end

    Carlos attended day camp at the YMCA during April vacation. He loved it. They did swimming lessons first thing and then had activities all day. After that week I signed him up for a seven week session of swimming lessons at the Y.

    The class started four weeks ago. He did great at the first class. At least I thought he did until he got out of the pool at the end of class with huge tears streaming down his wet face. He was so upset and he couldn’t seem to explain why. First Carlos said it was because the lifeguard “yelled at him.” Well that’s not quite what happened. The lifeguard reacted swiftly when Carlos let go of the wall, but when he saw that Carlos was fine he gently scolded him. The lifeguard even came over after to see if he had upset Carlos.

    Then Carlos told me that he didn’t like the teacher because he was big and has tattoos. Apparently Daddy made some offhanded comment about people with tattoos being bad when four year old Carlos remarked that he wanted one. Suffice it to say that Carlos’ favorite person in the entire world just happens to have a tattoo that he is well aware of and he adores me her. Orlando and I had a little chat about that!

    Carlos was anxious about the class all week. At the second class he refused to go in the water at first and would only sit on my lap. Finally the Aquatics Director, a very sweet woman, offered to take Carlos in herself. He finally went in and participated in the remnants of class with intermittent tears in his eyes.

    Before the third class Carlos decided that we needed to talk. Here’s how that conversation went:

    C: “Mom do I have to go back to that swim class?”

    Me: “Yes.”

    C: “Well I don’t think that I will.”

    Me: “Why not?”

    C: “I just don’t want to OK.”

    Me: “Carlos please tell me what it is that you don’t like about it.”

    C: “Mom how about you just sign me out of the class OK. I think that’s a good idea.”

    I was left speechless. “Sign me out”…Where does this child get this stuff? I called the YMCA to talk to the Aquatics Director, but she was unavailable. I was considering switching Carlos to another class with one of his close friends which I found later was full. Herein lies my dilemma. My head was swirling in three different directions. I didn’t want to allow Carlos to simply quit the class. I was hesitant to “fix” things by switching him into the other class. I also hated to see my child so anxious about something like swimming lessons.

    I allowed him to skip the third lesson because he was so worked up over going. I figured that it would give me time to think about how to handle the situation.

    On Monday and Wednesday this week I took Carlos to open swim at the Y. We went with his friend. They had a great time and he swam great. This morning I mentioned that swim class was soon and all hell broke loose. His story today is that none of his friends are in his class and he doesn’t like that. I tried briefly to explain that his friends are in classes with kids they don’t know, but they still go. I offered him a pony ice cream. I made threats up stories about him not being able to go swimming all summer if he didn’t go in the pool. He finally put his bathing suit on crying all the while. He clung to me as we entered the pool area and wouldn’t let go until I agreed that he could just sit and watch. Only one mom was nice enough to sympathize with me. It was probably just my imagination but I could feel the other moms judgmental glares burning into my back.

    At the end of the class we approached the instructor and explained that we wouldn’t be coming back. I commended him for the wonderful job that he is doing with the kids. Carlos was beaming with relief as he said goodbye. He is my happy, agreeable toddler right now. I am left torn in pieces by my decision to ultimately allow him to quit.

    I have tried to tell myself that in the grand scheme of life this is not a fight worth fighting. Carlos loves to swim and he is comfortable swimming on his own without a bubble. He is excited to go back to the swimming lessons here in town given by our neighbor. The anxiety was never about fear of the water. I truly believe that it was just a bad fit and while many times in life you have to play the hand you’re dealt there are times that life is a little more flexible.


    I am running this half marathon in two and a half weeks. Running has almost come to a standstill. I don’t have any excuses just matter of fact reasons why I haven’t been able to run as scheduled. I have been working a lot of overtime. Every now and then I actually do chose sleep over exercise. This past weekend was full with family obligations that couldn’t be missed. Sunday morning I left work with a nasty sore throat and I knew that if I didn’t rest and take care of myself all day then it would most certainly develop into something worse. I had an adorable 4 year old “nurse.” He loved doting on me and eating popsicles with me in my bed (covered with a towel of course in case of drips!). It was a perfect day for staying in the house. It was rainy and cold. We lounged around, watched kid shows on Netflix, downloaded preschool age appropriate apps on my iPhone and played Leapster games. I dozed on and off. My husband went grocery shopping, cooked dinner and brought us popsicles whenever we demanded politely requested. By morning I was feeling better and ready to run.

    The weather, however, has decided to be uncooperative all week it appears from the weather forecast. Rain, rain and more rain. I will take advantage of the gym tomorrow morning while Carlos is at school.  Hopefully there will be a clearing long enough to get a long outdoor run in either Friday or Saturday.

    The half marathon will happen. I will run it and I will finish it. My training plans have slowed down but they haven’t stopped. After the half marathon last October I really never quit “training,” so to speak. I continued running 1-3 days a week including speed work and a long run most weeks. I have done a double digit run each month since last October. I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch. I also did a lot of strength training over the cold winter. This spring I’ve added Zumba and yoga into my repertoire of activity. I do not in any way feel unprepared for this race.

    I attended my third yoga class on Monday. I love it. It is a beginners class. The flow of the class is slow and informative. I am learning how to ease into poses. The two instructors I have had are kind and patient. It is a perfect fit for me. I feel challenged yet I want to do it again the next day. I plan to go the next four Mondays while Carlos is still in school. I will have to take a break over the summer, but I will definitely resume the class in the fall when Carlos is back in school.

    Life happens and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Trust me I’m not great at doing this but I’m learning. I am definitely not beating myself up over the lack of structure in my training plans. Things have been busy and very active around here. It’s not as though I am sitting around. I’ll be reworking my training schedule and I will do an 11 mile run before Saturday.


    I have to go to a wake today and a funeral tomorrow.

    I have to work again tonight and tomorrow night.

    I have to clean my house, all of it, from top to bottom.

    I have to vacuum the front porch.

    I have to buy a new vacuum.

    I have to go for a run…but it won’t happen today.

    I have to train for a half marathon that I am running on June 5, 2011.

    I have to sleep at some point today.

    I have to stop eating peanut butter by the spoonful.

    I have to stop blaming PMS.

    I have to stop blaming myself.

    I have to remember that I am only one person and I can only do so much.

    I have to take a shower.

    I have to take a deep breath.

    I have to press pause for just a little bit.


    Sometimes I feel like I’m never full.  Yesterday I was like a grazing cow. I picked and grabbed and snacked my way through the day. It didn’t help that I bought three tubs of Trader Joe’s cookies for a play date we had at our house yesterday afternoon…ginger cats, meringues and ABC Cinnamon cookies were all calling my name. I also made Anne’s granola bars again. Fortunately I froze almost the entire batch so I couldn’t eat them all.  They are a favorite in my house.

    I ate an early dinner because I had plans with a friend.  We went to the Odyssey Bookstore to see Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, two Young Adult authors, speak. They both live in the area and have quite a big following, both young and old(er). My friend introduced me to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I just finished the first book.

    I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I’ve been introduced to so many different books and authors this year. It has breathed new life into reading for me. So fun!

    I got home around 8:15 pm and I could feel that ravenous monster rising up inside. I opened a cabinet and then I quickly shut it. I went upstairs and got into bed. I needed to just stop. I wasn’t really hungry. I just wanted to eat. I laid in bed feeling lots of negative feelings about my behavior. I woke up this morning still thinking about it. I felt instantly “fat” as though I had instantly gained 20 pounds as a result of extra snacking yesterday. I felt guilty about what I had done on top of the fact that I didn’t exercise Thursday or Friday. Oh I knew when I made the conscious decision to skip those work outs it would come back to haunt me. I chose to take a break because after working 7 nights in a row I felt like I really needed to slow things down for a couple of days. We also had plans that made it difficult to sneak in a workout.

    I have been trying to remind myself that one “bad” day does not mean that I have to continue down that road. I need to move on. Today is a new day and I can make better decisions. I had a healthy breakfast of yogurt, pumpkin and oats. I have plans to go to the gym and I will tackle the workouts I missed on Thursday and Friday since it is pouring out today. I will move my 9 mile run to tomorrow because the weather looks beautiful and Sunday is normally a rest or light run day anyway.  I am going to stay clear away from the kitchen for now. I’ve got lots to do around the house that should keep me busy.

    Just out of curiosity would this annoy anyone else…I made 12 of Angela’s In a Jiffy Spelt Veggie Burgers for my husband and brother-in-law for dinner. There was also a bean salad and roasted potatoes. I ate one of the burgers before I left. This morning I noticed that there were no veggie burgers left. They ate 11 veggie burgers??! and everything else. Talk about ravenous. I’m annoyed because I would have loved one for lunch today and also because they can eat whatever they darn well please and not gain an ounce.