Gifting from Your Treasures

**Time for this post?  Reading…8 minutes. Unearthing your treasures…up to you.

In 1994, Stephen Covey co-authored First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy. There are many concepts in that book that informed my thinking, but it was the subtitle that really stuck with me. Here’s how he explained it:

There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.”

The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economic well-being, health.

The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved.

The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow.

And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.

For an expanded description, go here.

To leave a legacy…

I was about forty-eight when I read First Things First. I didn’t really understand the legacy part. Now, twenty-four years later, I get it. I’ve reached the stage of life when leaving a legacy becomes the focus. When the horizon seems near, we think about leaving a mark, about being remembered when we are gone.

Often we think of a person’s legacy as a large body of work that keeps them in our awareness long after their death. Think of Wayne Dyer, Elvis Presley, Jane Austen. But being remembered is not reserved just for famous people. We all live in association with others, and the connections we foster in our daily lives become a significant part of our legacy.

A legacy of experiences…

My dear friend Norma was a dietitian and professional home economist, passionate about her profession and her family. When Norma’s granddaughter Katie spoke at her memorial service, it was clear that cooking with Gran was a significant experience. Katie recalled standing on a stool at the kitchen counter, learning what goes into cakes and cookies, and practising how to measure accurately. Today she bakes in a gourmet doughnut shop and is complimented by her employers for her depth of knowledge. Norma was a kind, generous, and quietly determined person. I imagine Katie learned a lot more than baking techniques in the time she spent with her Gran.

Sometimes these memories stay top-of-mind, but often they fade over time. Most families have photos of good times and seminal experiences. As our children move through middle age, I think it’s constructive to reconnect them with who they were when they were young and hopeful. We can do this by sorting through the family photos and sharing the treasures.
Gifting Ideas

A legacy of material possessions…

For many people, financial inheritance comes to mind when they hear the word legacy. Money is one of the physical things we leave behind, but not the only one. Most of us have a combination of family heirlooms and our own precious objects with stories of how we acquired them.

The stories are an important part of the objects, yet they are lost when we don’t make a conscious effort to pass them along. Without the stories, our belongings become just old things.
giftinh Ideas

A legacy of what you know…

How many of us have said, “I wish I knew how Mom made _____________. I found the recipe when I cleaned out her kitchen, but it doesn’t turn out the same when I make it.”
A few years ago, it hit me that my family would put “fudge” in the blank. I learned the principles of sugar crystallization in a food science lab at university, then developed and refined my fudge-making method over the years. I use the recipe from the lab book, which is the same as almost any basic fudge recipe.

The magic is in the unwritten techniques such as washing down undissolved crystals with a pastry brush while the mixture is cooking, transferring the cooked sugar syrup to a clean bowl, cooling until barely lukewarm, and having a strong stirring arm. All of these support the formation of fine crystals. The result is, my family will tell you, the smoothest most-gorgeous fudge you will ever find, says she in all modesty 🙂

Everyone has these recipes. Think about it and I’m sure you’ll come up with at least a few of yours that can’t be duplicated without extra instructions. Maybe it’s something you learned from you mom and it has never been written down. Which reminds me, I must get my mom’s potato salad recipe down on paper with the particular methods that make it like no other. My kids ask me to bring it to family meals, and they will be disappointed if they can’t reproduce the unique texture and flavour when I’m no longer here to do it.

Sharing our treasures…

Here’s my share. Click on the snowman to find out how to make the fudge that’s in the tin. You’ll get a copy of the recipe sheet (maybe more properly called a booklet!) that I prepared a few years ago so my kids can make fudge as I know it.

So…what treasures do you have to share? Not just recipes, but anything that came to mind as you read this blog. Delight and inspire us by leaving your shares in the comment box.

Seize the opportunity…

**Time for this post? Reading…8 minutes. Viewing…5 minutes. Implementation…undoubtedly the hardest part.

Seize what opportunity?

I’m thinking of the holiday advantage of having family members all together at some time during the season.

And do what with that opportunity?

Use it as a chance to talk about your wishes for body disposition when you are no longer using it. Or—if you are an adult child of living parents—it’s a chance for you to find out what they want.

What would I talk about?

Continue reading

Eco-friendly Cremation

**Time for this post? Reading…10 minutes. Viewing…24 minutes. Assimilation…up to you.

Last week I wrote about green burial, and what options are available where I live. Today we’ll take a look at cremation from a similar perspective.

Cremation is inherently more environmentally friendly than burial because it does not require land and doesn’t leave toxic formaldehyde leaching into the soil.

Even so, cremation is not a perfect solution.  It is done at temperatures of 1400-1800°F for 45-90 minutes. This consumes large quantities of fuel, releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. There are toxic emissions from lacquers and glues in the containers that are incinerated with the body. Toxic mercury vapours from amalgam fillings also come out of the smokestack. According to sevenponds.com Continue reading

Natural Burial

**Time for this post?  Reading…10  minutes. Listening…2 minutes. Investigating…up to you.

I taught a course in consumer issues for many years. Early on, I recognized that there’s a difference between information and access. In other words, it’s one thing to know about something you’d like to have, it’s another to be able to get it.

This is true with natural burials, as I discovered when I began asking about what’s available where I live. What follows is not a definitive treatise on green burial. It’s a working paper to give some direction to your own thinking and investigating if a natural funeral appeals to you.

I live in Calgary, a Canadian city of 1.2 million people. I gathered information from staff at one of the city-run cemeteries as well as an alternative funeral director. I also did some reading to discover the key aspects of a green burial. Here’s what I learned.

The greenest of green…

The Natural Burial Association describes it like this: Continue reading

Do you find it depressing?

**Time for this post?  Reading…3 minutes. Video…12 minutes. Thinking…up to you.

Now that I’ve started thinking about the ins and outs of dying, I find myself in conversations about what I’m learning and considering.

Last week, I had one of those conversations with a long-time friend. We discussed my developing ideas about donating my body to medical education and writing my own obituary. As we were wrapping up, Barb said, “Do you find it depressing, all this planning for dying?” That’s a fair question, especially given our cultural denial of death.

My answer: “Not at all.”

Continue reading

Thinking about dying…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dying. Not that I’m planning to do it any time soon, but because I realize how little I know about dying…and about what it would take to die well.

You’d think I would be well-versed on the subject by now, considering that my parents, four grandparents, and one sister have all died during my adulthood. But my ignorance is no surprise, considering that dying isn’t talked about in Western culture except perhaps in hushed tones and very private conversations.

Because we don't talk about death, we don't know what to expect—and we certainly don't know how to help somebody who's in the midst of the dying process.

Yet 100% of us are going to die.

Continue reading

Life happens.

Having been the Class Historian at my high school graduation, I was invited to speak at our 50th reunion. That got me thinking about the 18-year-old me and what she thought life was about. As I recall, I had the impression that I would “do what I was supposed to” and life would proceed on an upward climb until I got “there.” Then it would level off to a smooth and comfortable plateau.

That was the plan. And then life happened.

As life threw me one curveball after another, I learned that it’s full of ups and downs. None expected or planned for. No cushy plateau.

As I learned how to move forward in the face of these experiences, I began to see that they were growth opportunities.

That’s life.

At the moment, I’m in the midst of yet another growth experience.  Unlike Frank Sinatra, I haven’t given myself a deadline. But I do need some time to experience and process rather than write. So this blog is on hiatus for a while.

Energy work is a big part of what has allowed me to grow from my experiences. Here are some insights into how this has worked for me…

And…if you’d like to know when I start writing again, enter your email address in the box on the right-hand column of the home page. Click the button and you’ll get a notice in your inbox when the next blog appears.

In the meantime, may all our growth experiences be no more than we can handle.

The Precautionary Principle

In this culture, where technology makes a lot of things possible and affordable, we North Americans are inclined to embrace new things wholeheartedly. Some would say we’ve thrown caution to the wind in the rush toward new and improved.

If we stopped to take a breath, we might decide that sometimes the precautionary principle is called for. The Canadian Environmental Law Association defines it this way: “The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in.”

Instead of asking how much harm we are willing to permit, the Precautionary Principle asks how little harm is possible.

Sometimes it takes a number of years for harm to show up. By then, many people have been affected. By the time we experience these unintended consequences, the product is entrenched in such a way that banning it becomes an epic struggle. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one example. Read this blog for more about toxic ingredients in non-food items we use regularly.

We’d like to think that scientists can do a study and find definitive proof of the safety (or not) of a product. Not so. Scientific uncertainty is a fact of life, and scientists word their statements cautiously.

Years ago, when I was investigating the relationship between food additives and children’s behaviour, I watched a film in which a highly placed Canadian health official talked about food additives and safety. He said, “We can never definitely prove safety. At the most, we can say that, in the quantities given and under the conditions of the test, a particular additive is probably not unsafe.”

I remember his statement so vividly because it was one of those pivotal moments when a bubble burst for me. Before then, I had lived under the happy illusion that if something had been tested and approved, then it was clearly safe for consumption. In that moment, I realized this is not true. Stating that something is “probably not unsafe” is quite different from providing an assurance that it is safe.

Preventing harm…

By allowing new products to be widely used until proven harmful, we become inadvertent test subjects. What if we changed our attitude and created a culture of preventing harm instead? We could ask how little harm is possible instead of how much harm we are willing to permit. The precautionary principle is based on this important distinction.

Instead of waiting for proof that something is harmful, what if we created a culture of preventing harm?

Originating in Germany in the 1970s, the precautionary principle has now become part of international law. We can hope that our governments will use this principle to guide their decisions and avoid unintended negative consequences from new chemicals being introduced into our food and environment.

In reality, this doesn’t always happen. Many products in the marketplace are detrimental to our health and well-being. So it’s important that we take individual action to look after ourselves. That’s what healthy deviance is about.

But we need to keep a sense of proportion…

Conscious consumption challenges us to choose judiciously rather than react in a knee-jerk fashion. We need to keep a sense of proportion. Automatically shunning everything new is as shortsighted as mindlessly adopting everything that comes along.

Someone who generally takes a balanced view is Dr. Alan Christianson, a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) who writes a useful newsletter. One thing I appreciate is that he’s an independent thinker. Rather than repeating the common wisdom, he investigates by reading research studies and forming his own assessment. Sometimes he does a direct investigation himself.

In the video below, he is looking into the level of electromagnetic fields generated by appliance and devices in his house. Many of us wonder if we should turn our wi-fi off when it’s not in use, or if we should be concerned about carrying a cellphone in our pocket. He measures these and much more.

The video received a lot of response, so the following week he posted another one to answer the questions that arose.

I’m curious what you think. Looking forward to comments.

Normal is not something to aspire to

For a long time, I have thought that we live in a culture where “normal” is the lowest common denominator and, therefore, not something I want to aim for.

Food for thought...It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Krishnamurti

I thought I was alone in my opinion—until I heard and interview with Pilar Gerasimo. She is a health journalist and change agent best known for her work as founding editor of Experience Life, a whole-person healthy living magazine that reaches more than three million people nationwide.

In an article titled “The Making of a Healthy Deviant: Choosing a Healthy Life in an Unhealthy World” she says,

Becoming and staying a healthy person in our culture is tougher than it ought to be. You can’t just roll merrily along with the unhealthy status quo, or you’ll become part of it. You have to maintain a base level of hyper-vigilance just to avoid getting sucked into the dominant-culture machine.

Healthy deviance is a term she coined. According to Pilar, it means “being different—in a weirdly healthy, happy way.” She elaborates…

Choosing to be a healthy person in an unhealthy world means becoming an outlier. It means frequently walking against the traffic of a mass-hallucination — and that’s not something most people are prepared to do.

The good news is that we can live outside the “normal” culture without moving to a cave or shunning the good things in modern culture. According to Pilar, healthy deviance is a change in awareness and behaviour that involves…

  • Waking yourself up and noticing what’s going on within and around you.
  • Reclaiming your energy, attention and autonomy.
  • Learning to think differently, choose differently, be different in ways that please you.
  • Hopping off the conveyor belt and tossing some well-placed wrenches into the dominant-culture machine.
Healthy Deviance is choosing to become and remain healthy even in the midst of an unhealthy culture. Pilar Gerisimo

The Living Experiment

Pilar has recently teamed up with Dallas Hartwig to produce a podcast called The Living Experiment. Dallas is co-author of The Whole30 and It Starts With Food. He’s a functional medicine practitioner, Certified Sports Nutritionist, and licensed physical therapist

The Living Experiment is one of my favourite podcasts. I appreciate their thoughtful conversations about the issues we encounter in trying to thrive in an unhealthy world. These are some of my favourite topics, but there are many others so scan the list and see what appeals to you.

  • Purpose vs Pleasure
  • Eating Meat
  • Conscious Language
  • The Health of Others
  • Conscious Eating

So…I’m interested in your thoughts on the concept of healthy deviance. Can you relate or not? Do you have experience in trying to thrive in an unhealthy world, even though you didn’t call your actions healthy deviance? I’d love your comments if you have anything to share about this post.

Exploring all our options gives us an edge.

Because I write about alternative approaches to health, I suspect some readers may think I’m opposed to everything conventional. Today I’d like to set the record straight.

Out-of-hand rejection of conventional medicine would be as shortsighted as never considering alternative practices.

When I’m working toward resolution of a health issue, it’s so much more constructive to consider all available options and adopt those that best suit me and the situation at hand. The considerations could include surgery and prescription medications offered by conventional medicine, in conjunction with the holistic perspective and nutritional knowledge of functional practitioners.

Case in point…

I recently had cataract surgery. Removing a cloudy lens and putting in a new one is an amazing procedure. I greatly appreciate living in a time and place where this surgery is readily available.

Cataracts are not an emergency; they develop over time. When the optometrist first noticed mine, I asked if there was anything I could do. “No,” she said. “When they progress far enough, I’ll refer you to an ophthalmologist for removal.” And that’s what she did.

In the year I waited for the ophthalmologist to have an opening in his surgical schedule, I had time to think. And I kept coming back to the idea that there must be something I could do. If not to change the course of the cataracts, then at least to help my eyes be as healthy as possible before the procedure was undertaken. I needed advice from someone who took a holistic view.

I spoke to my functional medicine doctor, who referred me to a functional optometrist. A functional optometrist has traditional training as a doctor of optometry, with additional courses in functional medicine. She knew everything my previous optometrist did, and more.

When choosing how to treat health issues, a both/and mindset gives us a huge advantage.

From her broad base of information, the functional optometrist advised me that my somewhat-fragile eyes would benefit from specific supplements. I brought the list home, muscle tested to find out what would be optimum for me, and took them regularly.

It’s now two weeks after the second eye was done. The procedures went well, and I had no pain at all. I’m both continuing the supplements and applying several eye drops multiple times a day as prescribed. So far, so good.

Different thinking…

I’ve been told that I don’t think like other people. I take that as a compliment. Since the way I think comes naturally to me, I sometimes puzzle over what is different and why.

What’s different? I think it’s that I’m eclectic. Here’s the first definition that came up when I searched. I’d say both aspects apply to how I think.

ec·lec·tic

1. deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. “her musical tastes are eclectic”

2. PHILOSOPHY: of, denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected…as they wished from various schools.

I draw from the resources around me, and bring together elements that are best suited to me in my situation. This means that I don’t buy into any particular point of view. For example, when the first optometrist said there was nothing to be done, I recognized that as the conventional mindset. I knew it had a limited focus, and didn’t accept it as the only possibility. I was open to finding more options than were offered by that practitioner.

Researching options…

A lot of my blogging has been about alternative means of resolving health issues. I present this information with a view to helping others expand their sense of what is possible. In the works: A resource guide to bring these resources together in one easily accessible, user-friendly format.

Checking options against your needs…

As I mentioned in my eye story, when I was given a list of eye-related supplements to take, I checked to see what my body needed at the time. Recommendations are always based on averages, so checking allows me to optimize the information as it applies to me. Doing this enables me to proceed with confidence. For more about how to check what your body needs, refer to my blogs here and here.

Pre- and post-operative care…

In my experience, which includes two major surgeries before the above-mentioned cataract procedure, patients receive little advice about what they should do before or after surgery—other than no food or water for a specified time before going to the hospital, and taking any prescribed medications once you are sent home.

Because it’s treated so casually, we don’t really appreciate how invasive and disruptive the surgical experience is. Yet there is so much we can do to reduce the impact of surgery and foster healing afterwards. Restorative measures include:

  • Nutrition and supplements
  • Probiotics to mitigate effect of antibiotics
  • Herbals and homeopathics
  • Meditation to reduce anxiety and discomfort
  • Energy practices like Chi gong and tai chi
  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Movement and gentle exercise

There’s plenty online material to expand your awareness of what to consider. If you search for “pre-and post operative instructions” you’ll get lists of standard recommendations from hospitals, clinics, and universities. If you want to tap into alternative approaches and holistic thinking, try “functional approach to recovering from surgery.”

Here is a comprehensive article from a website I respect. This site focuses on paleo eating, but don’t let that throw you. The article covers important aspects of recovery and contains plenty of sensible advice. I would add…ask family and friends to help, both before and after. What you need will depend on many factors.

Be realistic and plan accordingly as one of my friends did when she was scheduled for a procedure that required a day of rigorous and unpleasant advance preparation. Although she probably could have toughed it out and made her way through it alone, she enlisted help from two friends. One came to spend the day, facilitating the process in a number of ways. I arrived late in the afternoon, stayed overnight, took her to the hospital in the morning, brought her home, warmed up some lunch, and stayed until I was sure the sedative had worn off and she would be okay on her own.

A few days later, she commented how much better the experience was than it might have been. I was glad to help, and she gets full marks for recognizing what she needed and asking for it. This little plaque, and the Beatles, remind us that we all need a little help from our friends sometimes.

Help from our friends...

Enlist an advocate…

We should also think about who we can ask to advocate for us in the hospital. The need for such a person isn’t top of mind before surgery, when we are clear-headed and feeling capable. But once we are in the hospital, that changes.

The system is set up to be disempowering. I was surprised how much I lost my get-up-and-go once I had changed into the short ugly gown that gaped at the back no matter how tightly I tied the two pairs of strings. And once I’d had anesthetic and pain killers, I felt feeble in both brain and body. Certainly, I wasn’t in any shape to effectively look after myself and my interests.

For more about the systemic issues, read this article by David Katz, a medical doctor with a 25-year clinical career, writing on the topic after a family member was hospitalized. His experience is in the US, so there are some structural differences from what we experience in Canada. But the fundamental premises and resulting attitudes are similar.

The system – overwhelmed, understaffed, and itself a victim of misguided priorities ― is an inadvertent threat to you and your loved ones needing in-patient care…In the current context, our so-called “health care system” is really a system about disease, and money rather than health and caring.

Eye supplements

In case you’re curious, here’s the list of recommendations that were given to me, with amounts where they were specified.

  • ~ DHA 1000 mg, from Omega 3
  • ~ Glutathione
  • ~ N-acetyl cystine  1800 mg, split doses
  • ~ CoQ10 100 mg
  • ~ L-carnitine
  • ~ ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) 100 up to 800 mg
  • ~ Lutein 20 mg  …3 cups dark leafy greens will do it but be sure to have 1-2 tsp saturated fat with it (butter or coconut oil) to ensure absorption