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23 Oct

Stress Much This Season?

‘Tis the season… for stress? NBC Dateline reports that 41% of people interviewed said that the holidays are as stressful as a job interview. In other words, “very stressful.” It’s not hard to imagine why this is the case. Besides our normal work schedule and routine, add to that the traditional holiday obligations: office parties, cooking, eating, shopping, wrapping, traveling, visiting and general socializing, and our capacity for stress tips the scales on the verge of overload.

Then of course, there’s the economy. A Los Angeles radio station does an annual poll of its listener’s resolutions. Every year “Get Fit” or “Lose Weight” ends up being the most popular goal. But this year “Get Out of Debt” ranked the highest. How do we reconcile this with the barrage of store catalogs and television ads broadcasting all the great deals we can get on all kinds of stuff? It’s enough to make a person cringe every time Jingle Bells plays in the grocery store.

We can’t fast forward through the season, even if we wanted to. But we can manage our stress, and find ways to relax and enjoy the beauty of this special time of year.

1. Fold your hands in prayer behind your back. When we get stressed we tend to tense up, and cave our chest in. This opens up our chest, so we can breathe more freely. Pull the shoulders back, tilt the head back, and breathe deeply.

2. Rub the circumference of each ear with your hands. Right hand rubbing the right ear and left hand rubbing the left ear. According to Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old Science of Life, there are marma points (like acupuncture points) in the ears that correspond to the various parts of the body. Rubbing the ears in this way is like giving yourself a little mini massage!

3. Stop and smell the flowers. Keep some lavender essential oil in your desk or purse. When you feel stressed, bring it out. Close your eyes and breathe in the fragrance. Count to 5. Then exhale through your mouth to the count of 5. According to Aromatherapy, lavender is very calming, and when we close our eyes it isolates the sense of smell so that we feel it more intensely.

4. Present moment awareness. Most of the time, when we’re stressed it is because we are living in either the future or the past. Bring yourself into present moment awareness by focusing on the now. Use your senses, which connect us to our environment. Hug yourself, to be more “in your body” instead of in your mind where the stress is. Look at something beautiful, a flower, a bird, the sky, and just be with that for a moment. Take a sip of sweet tea, and really taste it, and enjoy it. Be grateful in that moment, and stress just washes away. Gratitude and stress cannot be present at the same time!

5. Sit in your desk chair, or kitchen table chair – left foot on the floor, put your right ankle on your left knee, and learn forward with a stretch. Hold it as far as you can go, then bend forward a little more. This opens up your hips, and again balances that tensed up muscle feeling. Do each side equally.

6. Pay attention. Understand that it is our choice where we place our attention. We can look at the source of our stress, or we can look at the white snow, the blue sky, the green pines, the twinkling stars.

7. Release expectations. Simplify. Is it important to send out 100 cards with personal notes? Or would you be happier contacting a few close friends? Do you need to have the house decorated like something out of a magazine? Do you need to make a seven course meal? What expectations do you have of yourself, and of others? Rather than striving for perfection, allow things to just be, however they are. Know that whatever it is, it’s all good.

8. Remember these words: love, peace, joy. This is what the season is all about. When those other words creep into your consciousness, the ones that set off stress, replace them with what you know to be important: love, peace, joy.

Wishing you love, peace and joy this holiday season, and always.

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19 Oct
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16 Oct
15 Oct

13 Romance Ideas to Warm Up the Fall Season

1. Join In On Football Season

For many men, “Fall” is just another name for “Football season.” Since you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em! Get tickets to a local game, pack a tailgate picnic and head out to the stadium. Be sure to bring a warm blanket for the two of you to snuggle under, and maybe a thermos-full of hot chocolate laced with coffee liqueur for half-time.

2. Take Advantage Of Pumpkin Season

Jack-o-lanterns aren’t just for kids — this Halloween, pick up a couple of extra pumpkins and spend the evening carving them up together! Maybe you want to work together to create an amazing masterpiece, or maybe you want to work solo to design special “his and hers” messages for one another. Some ideas: a big set of lips and some false eyelashes on a girl pumpkin for him — an “I love you” message that lights up when the candle is inside for her!

3. Play High Stakes Board Games

Take a traditional board game and make up your own rules. Yahtzee can become “Strip Yahtzee,” by simply adding that for every three of a kind you roll, your partner loses a piece of clothing. For every four of a kind you roll, you get a “wish”: a kiss, a foot massage, etc. And for every Yahtzee, set the timer for 5 minutes (and only 5 minutes!) of “high scorer dominance.” You can do something similar with Scrabble – earning extra points for sexy words, or Monopoly – paying for properties with “favors” rather than cash.

4. Share Firelight

There’s nothing more inviting than the glow of a fireplace on a crisp Fall evening. Spread a blanket out in front of the fire, toss around a few fluffy pillows, and serve up some warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Relax and enjoy each other’s company. Soon you’ll be toasting more than your tootsies!

5. Dance In The Dark

Set up an impromptu dance floor in your bedroom. Light some candles, turn on the Harry Connick Jr. CD and hold each other close. Dance the old-fashioned way, cheek-to-cheek, and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Let the music move you, and melt into each others arms.

6. Want To Make It interesting?

When the weather’s crummy and he wants to spend the day watching sports on TV, make it interesting for both of you! Place bets on how many car commercials are shown in the next station break, which team’s cheerleaders get on camera next, how long it takes five minutes to really play. Bet kisses, massages, sweet treats, etc.

7. Puzzle Him

This takes a little forethought – get a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on a piece of cardboard. Put another piece of cardboard on top of it and flip it over. Now write a message to your significant other, or make it an invitation! Be creative, even naughty! Then flip it back over and pull the pieces apart. Keep one piece hidden in your bra. That night, ask him to help you with the puzzle. If you have a glass top table, do the puzzle directly on the table. Once the puzzle is all assembled, have him look for the missing piece under the table. When he can’t find it, crawl under the table to help, and show him your message. It won’t take long for him to find that missing puzzle piece now!

8. Create Your Own Starry Nights

Get a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling over your bed. Have them spell out a love note to your honey. When the lights go out, you can lie under the stars and cuddle.

9. Wash Your Cares Away

How about a soothing bath for two? Make bath sachets by wrapping cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in pieces of fabric and tying with a ribbon. Drop into a hot bath, add a few capfuls of almond oil. Indulge!

10. Tea For Two

Take a little time-out with an afternoon tea party. De-stress over chamomile and banana bread, and take turns with the shoulder rubs.

11. Recipe For Romance

Cool Autumn breezes call for simmering stews. Spend time in the kitchen together chopping up herbs and veggies and create your own cold-weather feast! Serve with corn bread and your favorite wine.

12. Bicycle-Built-For-Two

Enjoy the last few sunny weekends by renting a bicycle built for two and cruising the neighborhood!

13. Story Time Together

Grimm’s Fairy Tales take on a whole new meaning when read aloud by the one you love. Curl up on the couch and revisit some of your favorites, and love happily ever after.
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02 Oct

Health Care Reform And Mental Health Services

Years ago, when my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), my life changed. I went from being a mother to also taking on the additional roles of advocate and mediator. In order to help my son get the help he needed and the services he was entitled to in school, I had to learn everything I could about the educational system, the healthcare system, and the law. It is a challenge, yet it is essential in order to work with teachers, administrators, doctors, and therapists as part of a team. I learned a lot, thanks in large part to an organization called CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. This is a national, non-profit organization with local, volunteer-run chapters. Our local chapter held monthly meetings, which allowed parents to keep up with the various issues and changes. Most importantly, the meetings provided a forum for parents to network with each other and share experiences and resources.

We got over all the hurdles, and managed to get through the system despite the complexities. My son is in college now, and he has the tools to advocate for himself. But there are new kids coming up, and new parents who are starting from scratch to figure all of this out. Luckily, CHADD is still on it, providing us with the ongoing information we need to help our kids.

Following is an e-mail I received from CHADD regarding the current Healthcare Reform Legislation. I am happy to share it with you, and hoping that it will encourage all of us to look at the many children and families who will benefit from healthcare reform. To those of us working so diligently to take care of our children, this is most welcome, and long overdue.

“House of Representatives Passes
Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Legislation

Many Provisions Will Benefit
Children and Adults with AD/HD and Related Disorders

On Saturday, November 7, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) by a vote of 220-215. It is expected that the full Senate will debate and vote on its version of the bill in the coming weeks, which will then be followed by the House and Senate having its leaders meet in a conference to reconcile differences and produce a final piece of legislation that can be sent to the President.

CHADD, through its membership in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Campaign for Mental Health Reform, and the Mental Health Liaison Group has sent letters to members of Congress in support of the bill. CHADD’s views on and support for healthcare reform legislation can be viewed on the Healthcare Reform 2009 webpage and CHADD’s Leadership Blog. CHADD has no position on many of the provisions contained in the legislation. The three primary disability coalitions CHADD participates in, believe there are significant key provisions warranting support of the legislation.

A few key provisions in the final House bill that will benefit children and adults with AD/HD and related disorders include:

* Requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, and mandating that most employers provide insurance to their employees, but also providing substantial federal subsidies to make coverage as affordable as possible;
* Providing coverage of critical services for people with disabilities in the new Health Insurance Exchange’s essential benefits package including behavioral health treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services in compliance with the Wellstone-Domenici parity law, rehabilitation and habilitation services, equipment and supplies for children under 21 years of age;
* Inclusion of “disability” as a category for purposes of health disparities;
* Inclusion of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a new national long term services insurance program to help adults with severe functional impairments to remain independent, employed, and a part of their communities; and
* Not allowing individual or group health insurance policies to establish lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of benefits and the elimination of discrimination based on health status or a pre-existing condition.

CHADD continues to actively monitor developments in healthcare reform. Updated information on the legislation, CHADD’s 13 principles for healthcare reform, children’s mental health coalition’s five principles for healthcare reform and CHADD’s work with other partner coalitions can be viewed on CHADD’s website: http://www.chadd.org

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24 Sep

Watching The World’s Water Quality And Quantity

Water is something that many of us take for granted. It is a necessity, and it is readily available to us. We turn on the faucet and there it is, clean, safe, drinkable. We shower in it, water our gardens with it, and wash our clothes with it. But for many people around the world, clean water is a luxury they can only dream about.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 884 million people are without adequate drinking water, and 2.5 billion people are without adequate water for sanitation. Waterborne diseases are the leading cause of death for children under age five. Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from waterborne diseases. The World Bank says that 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

How did we get in this situation? The world’s population tripled in the 20th century, and the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. The population is expected to increase another 40-50% in the next fifty years, and this will have an inevitable impact on the environment. Water resources are stressed. There is less water available for agriculture as well, which means that our food supply is threatened, which contributes to the hunger crisis. And the water crisis and the climate crisis are closely related, one affects the other.

Fortunately, there are some amazing organizations doing something about this. Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, focuses on water and sanitation. One way they are helping is providing loans to individuals and families so that they can use the money to connect their homes to a water source. When people don’t have to spend their time walking long distances for clean water, they have more time to work and earn money for their families. And the children are more likely to go to school, which means they’ll be able to have a better future. The microfinancing loans are paid back very quickly. Water.org has another program in place where a $25 donation will give one person clean water for life. For a $100 donation you can help an entire family. The money goes towards community organizing, hygiene education, geological surveys, project costs, and maintenance.

Water.org also has several amazing downloadable lesson plans for schools and teachers to coincide with World Water Day, an annual event March 22. The site also lists several ways that kids can get involved in helping to find solutions to the water problem.

Guy Laliberte, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, has created a wonderful video to explain the water crisis, and what we can do to help. It’s definitely worth a visit to his website onedrop.org and it’s free.

I live in Southern California and we’re currently experiencing a drought. Of course this is nothing compared to what is going on in Africa and Asia, but knowing what we do about the importance of water to our own survival, it is difficult to fathom how we could still be building and maintaining so many wasteful private swimming pools, golf courses, and elaborate decorative fountains. Excess is out, people! Downsize, conserve, simplify. We need to stop thinking like consumers and start thinking like citizens. We need to watch out for each other, and future generations. There are lots of things we can do, and most of them we know about already, we just have to be mindful and take action. When my washing machine conked out after years of wear, I purchased a front-loading washer that uses 14 gallons of water per load, compared with my older top-loading washer that used 40 gallons of water per load. That adds up to a big difference in water savings over the life of this one appliance. When we moved into our home four years ago we replaced all the original 1970’s era toilets with new ones that use a lot less water. If you still have an old toilet and can’t replace it just yet, you can install devices that reduce the amount of water that is used. Here are some other things we all can do to help conserve water and protect the quality of the water we do have:

  • Rather than flushing unused or expired medications down the drain and into the public water system, return them to the pharmacy to be disposed of properly.
  • Use both sides of a sheet of paper. Save a tree and you also save water.
  • Use environmentally-friendly hygiene and cleaning products. Think about the chemicals that are going down the drain and into the water system.
  • Carry your own reusable water container rather than buying bottled water.
  • Eat at least one vegetarian meal a week. For the most impact, consider going vegetarian. If everyone in the U.S. are vegetarian just one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water.
  • Take shorter showers, and install low-flow showerheads. Every minute you shorten your shower by saves about 5 gallons of water.
  • Turn off the water while shaving, brushing teeth, or washing your face.
  • Make sure that your home is leak-free. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. It the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak somewhere.
  • Operate the dishwasher and washing machine only when they are fully loaded.
  • Compost instead of using the kitchen sink disposal when you can.
  • Insulate water pipes. You’ll get hot water faster and also avoid wasting water while it heats up.
  • Plant smart. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain your plants and irrigation system so that you save time, money and water
  • Water your lawn only during the early morning hours when the temperatures and wind speed are the lowest to prevent water loss from evaporation.
  • Sweep, don’t hose down walkways and driveways.
  • Raise the lawn mower blad to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture more efficiently.
  • Mulch to retain moisture and also control weeds that compete with plants for water.
  • To wash your car, use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • Spread the word about the world water situation, and set an example for your friends and family.
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