Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

We've been blasted lately with snow storms and three more are expected before the week is over. Our winters have been so mild here for the last several years that I almost forgot what it was like to live in serious snow country.

All this snow arrived just in time for our annual family snow trip, so I'm off to play in it for a few days and drink hot chocolate and sit next to a roaring fire. It's my winter break and I count on it every year. I guess the all this snow couldn't have come at a better time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hold My Hand, Forever

Thirty-nine years these two have been together. Next year is the big 4-0. I can hardly believe it. Two strong, independent, remarkable people who have lived lives of integrity and peace. They gave me the best foundation--a happy, loving home--and I'm so glad to call them mine.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I hope I can grow up to be like you.

Here's a vignette that I wrote about them last year. It was part of my first published piece in a tiny campus journal.

Sagebrush Wonderland

As I crested the hill on I-84, the little valley opened up before me. The dry, flat land was pockmarked by sagebrush and ringed by low mountains that looked blue on the horizon. Cattle grazed the prickly greens that edged the conquered fields of soybeans and sugar beets. And that fine Idaho wind left every tree leaning, branches forced in a salute to the east. My mother came here as a bride at 21, a California girl used to sand clutching her flat belly. They settled on a little farm where she learned how to irrigate, drive a tractor, and chase stray bulls from the garden on a Sunday afternoon in her heels. She birthed six babies through sixteen years on that dusty acreage west of town. All because one Saturday afternoon while watching a football game and drinking root beers, a dark-haired, earnest cowboy named Ralph held her hand and she never wanted him to let go.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Farewell to a Prophet

I heard the news last night after Sunday dinner when my family was gathered around chatting. I was shocked. I guess I shouldn't have been considering he was 97 years old, but President Hinckley was so full of vitality and humor that I was hoping he would make it to 100 years old.

I'm happy he is with his sweet wife again. I think he must be thrilled to see his mother, who died when he was in college, and his father, who was his hero.

One of my brothers said last night, "I'm not ready for this era to end."

I'm not either.

UPDATE: Excellent article from Newsweek on the succession of prophets in our Church. The reporter explains in detail the process and is very thorough and precise.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blueprint Haven

My best friend in 9th grade, Matt, and I used to spend hours drawing up our ideal house plans. Sounds kind of nutty, doesn't it? Two adolescent drama geeks who liked nothing better than mapping out our future homes and sharing those plans with each other.

Whatever it was the bug bit me. I love looking at house plans, I love looking at house plan books, I love looking at houses under construction, I love looking at existing homes. I love seeing how space is utilized and beautified.

Right now, I live in a little place that's about 500 square feet and it fits me just fine. But I imagine at some future date, I'm going to want something a little bit bigger and more accommodating to a crowd.

© Image courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

This is a house plan I found the other day on the Better Homes and Gardens website. I love it! It has something to do with the garage placed in the back of the house as well as the breakfast area being placed near the front of the house. I also still like formal living and dining rooms. I've always had a fantasy of turning a formal dining room into a dining room/library where the table doubles as a dining spot and study spot and the walls are lined with dishes and books. It seems like a perfect use of space to me.

Now on the ideal scale too, I would turn one of the bedrooms at the front of the house into my study. I grew up with my dad having a study and I've always wanted one. I think it has to be semi-near the main living area and not tucked away in a far corner. Also, if I had a family, I would tack a second story on to the house with bedrooms and bathrooms and if I could squeeze it in, I would want to find a spot on the main floor for a toy room near the kitchen. (I know I'm asking for a lot, but I can dream.)

© Image courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Check out to peruse more house plans. But I warn you: You may lose an hour or two if you fall in too deep. It is a distracting hobby.

UPDATE: You must check out my friend H's house plan. So beautiful. If you are not a subcriber to her blog, you can still check out the plans here. Thanks, H.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Born Business

I cannot wait to see this film, The Business of Being Born. It has received a lot of hype because actress and talk show host Rikki Lake is an executive producer on the project and is featured in the film. I think that is fine--as long as it brings attention to the subject.

In my desire to design a creative life, health is one of the central and reoccuring themes that I will touch on. Part of health includes for women child-bearing and child-rearing, themes that while not in my immediate realm of daily life are still deeply intriguing to me.

I have a lot of friends and neighbors who are currently pregnant. Last year, I had five sisters and sisters-in-law who gave birth. All of these women are amazing, outstanding, dedicated mothers with a lot more experience than I have. They all birthed in different ways and I respect each of their decisions and preferences for birth. What matters most is a healthy baby and a healthy mother.

What I want to delve into though is natural childbirth and the support or lack of support women experience who choose this route.

I think that birth is such a mind-altering and perspective-changing experience that we need to give women every opportunity, every advantage, and every option available to them to make their birthing experiences positive and empowering. And that is where I think a movie like The Business of Being Born is a great introduction to the discussion.

Newsweek recently latched on to this subject in an excellent article "Birth, The American Way".

Amid the controversy over what constitutes an ideal birth experience, doctors, researchers and natural-birth advocates agree: Caesareans save lives when medically necessary. But defining medical necessity is complicated. Natural-birth advocates cite a "cascade of interventions" caused by hospitals' practice of using the drug Pitocin to stimulate labor. The drug can cause painful contractions, which doctors treat with an epidural painkiller. The epidural can then retard contractions and lead to more drugs, fetal stress and the doctor's recommendation of a Caesarean. Natural-birth advocates say that hospitals, driven by profits and worried about malpractice, are too quick to intervene.

Instead of a "cascade of interventions" that women who want natural childbirth may face, we need to note how to best assist, comfort, and support a woman during childbirth.

I've never been pregnant or delivered a child. But I've participated in one remarkable birth and been a loving supporter of other women who have been through childbirth. One thing that I find stunning is what happens when I talk to some of my pregnant friends who want to deliver naturally. They say things like "I hope I can do it without drugs" and "I'm going to try to do it naturally" with the emphasis on words like "hope" and "try." In the modern medical practice of birth and delivery, most women are not supported if they want to give birth without the aid of drugs or intervention--hence words like "hope" and "try."

I used to think that giving birth naturally meant a woman would go to a hospital, lie on her back in a hospital bed, grit her teeth and scream loudly with all of her force and willpower until she pushed the baby out victoriously. She had to do all of this while refusing drugs and most of all without the support of her doctors or the nurses attending her. It seemed a very solitary journey.

I had it all wrong.

How I envision natural childbirth now is a woman choosing first a health-care provider who is not only knowledgeable and experienced in natural-birth practices, but also a whole-hearted supporter of them. Then she has to choose a location for childbirth--whether it is a hospital or birthing center or her home--where the support team (nurses, doctors, midwives, family, friends) is behind her 100% in her decision and assists her in every way to have the experience she desires.

That means these professionals have to be knowledgeable in techniques--water birth, birthing balls, birthing stools, massage, counter pressure, visualization, relaxation, dimmed lights, gentle music, soft voices--and positions--walking, sitting, squatting, hands and knees--so they can truly assist the laboring mother as she focuses on her body and her baby.

This new vision sounds and feels like a remarkable journey--one I would like to participate in some day soon.

L'chaim! To life!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vitamin Wheel of Fortune: Can I Get a D please?

I've heard or read two things about vitamin D recently that have me intrigued. Why? Because in the last year at a visit to my doctor's office, she tested my vitamin D levels and then reported to me that my current level of vitamin D was the lowest she had ever seen in a patient.

I didn't even know what the fuss was all about.

What I soon found is that vitamin D is an essential nutrient that affects not only calcium absorption but also the development of autoimmune disorders. Our bodies produce vitamin D when we spend time in the sun. People who suffer from low vitamin D usually live in northern climates with less exposure to the sun year-round and/or they don't spend a lot of time outside. Skin color also affects your vitamin D production. People with darker skin tones (i.e. African-Americans) require longer periods of exposure to the sun to produce enough vitamin D.

Low levels of vitamin D are now being linked to the development of autoimmune disorders like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and more.

We can also increase the amount of vitamin D in our bodies by not only spending a half an hour in the sun each day without sunscreen, but also by eating fatty fish that is wild-caught like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Cod liver oil is another great source of vitamin D (our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were on the mark when they dosed their children with cod liver oil at the first sign of illness). My heritage is Danish, so my ancestors lived in a high northern climate with more limited exposure to the sun year round. Yet they ate lots of fish which would have supplemented their more spotty sun exposure.

Anyway, back to where I started. I came across two articles items recently that reinvigorated my interest in vitamin D.

The first was from Dr. Christiane Northrup who wrote a fabulous book called Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. She was on Oprah recently talking about women's health and in connection with a discussion about osteoporosis, she mentioned vitamin D deficiency and the effect it has on people.

What I liked about what she said wasn't printed in the text above. She said when a woman gets increased amounts of vitamin D in her system, her overall health improves and she has energy and vitality again. She said it is an essential nutrient for our bodies.

Then I read this blog entry, by Dr. Mark Hyman who wrote Ultrametabolism. This book mostly addresses nutrigenomics--which is the study of how different foods turn on and off genes and gene expression in our body. Here Dr. Hyman discusses why vitamin D is such an important nutrient in our overall health.

There's no doubt about it: Vitamin D is an incredible asset to your health.

First, it reduces cellular growth (which promotes cancer) and improves cell differentiation (which puts cells into an anti-cancer state). That makes vitamin D one of the most potent cancer inhibitors -- and explains why vitamin D deficiency has been linked to colon, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.

What's even more fascinating?

How vitamin D actually regulates and controls genes.

It acts on a cellular docking station called a receptor that then sends messages to our genes. That's how vitamin D controls so many different functions -- from preventing cancer, reducing inflammation, boosting mood, easing muscle aches and fibromyalgia, and building bones.

Those are just some examples of the power of vitamin D.

Essentially we want daily time in the sun, some great dietary sources of vitamin D (like wild-caught salmon and mackerel), and a whole foods diet that will turn on the right gene expression. This entry on Dr. Hyman's blog at goes further in depth about the effects of low levels of vitamin D.

My vitamin D tested recently at 18 ng/mL and my doctor told me that low levels of vitamin D seem to be a high indicator in the development ofl autoimmune disorders. She has me on 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily (2 pills) and I have to take it for at least 6 months. I can already tell it is making a difference.

My other goal is to spend more time every day in the sun. I gained an early and healthy respect in my teens for skin cancer when some acquaintances in our little town had a beautiful young adult daughter that passed away from skin cancer. After that, I was vigilant throughout my teens about not becoming a sun worshipper who liberally applied baby oil and then fried myself for several hours under a 95 degree sun. I think in retrospect I swung too far the other way. I was more comfortable indoors reading or watching tv instead of outdoors where my lack of physical prowess would be tested. What started as a preference developed into more of a habit and now my goal is to be outdoors more--for work and play.

So, despite the cold January day it is, I think I'm going to eat my lunch on a bench outside. Want to come join me?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Health and the Creative Life

In my focus on designing a creative life, health comes up a lot for me.

I think central to all creativity is wholeness and wellness. I think it is hard to think about living my best life, my best creative life when I'm not feeling well emotionally or physically. And good health doesn't seem to just happen--it requires study, thought, physical exertion, and really good food.

So, I want all of those topics to be part of designing a creative life. I have a really strong bent in my health research to go for all things natural, whole and fresh. And I say that with a big, fat grain of salt. (preferably the less processed sea salt or kosher salt, if I can choose that grain of salt)

For while I may be a great supporter of good health, I'm not a great practicioner of it. In fact as in most things in my life, my intellect seems far in advance of my actions. I'm always behind.

I think though despite the far lengths that I have to travel on the road of good health, it can only help me to talk and explore the topic and my preferences and biases within it.

I've thought of diverting all my writings on health to another blog, but for now I decided to just keep it all in one place. Maybe if my entries become overly saturated with all things health, I will do that. For now, don't be shocked if you see several topics crop up that captivate my attention on the health front.

Maybe all this writing will also improve my actions. I can only hope. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Healthier Fast Food Options

photo © Filippo Lodi for

I was thinking about healthier fast food options in regards to a health challenge my family is undertaking for our trip to Denmark this summer. Many of us want to feel strong and healthy for this big trip and so we are working on some goals together--goals like exercising, eating more fruits and veggies, staying away from refined carbs and sugar, and drinking lots of water.

I've found in my past attempts at improving my health that unless I walk out the door with a bag packed full of good food and some water, then I will likely make some mistake with my eating that day. Meaning usually that I won't eat until 3:00 or 4:00 pm in my work day when my body is screaming for food and then I will eat the first thing that I can lay my hands on--Snickers, bagels, yogurt, nasty dried-out sandwiches from the vending machines, candy on a co-worker's desk. Just something or anything.

In an attempt to find a middle ground between always packing a bag of food or eating only chocolate all day long, I've come up with a few healthier options for eating out. Now, mind you, I say "healthier" with caution. I know this isn't ideal food. It isn't home-cooked where I can control the additives and oils added to my food. But it is a nice way station on my trip to healthier lifestyle.

1. Subway--you can order any sandwich on whole wheat bread with lots of veggies or you can order any sandwich as a salad. If you go light on the mayo and sauces, you end up with something relatively healthy that will give you lots of veggies. I like the oven-roasted chicken breast on whole wheat--then toast it to up the yum factor. They have several sandwiches under there list of 6 grams of fat or less that you can see by clicking on the Subway link above.

2. Carl's Jr.--They have something that's either called low-carb style or protein style where you can order any sandwich and ask for it low carb and they will wrap the whole sandwich--meat, veggies, cheese--in lettuce leaves rather than the bun. I'm sure this isn't the healthiest thing out there to eat, but it could help you if you are in a bind one day. My favorite is their grilled chicken club.

3. Cafe Rio--has great salads and tortillas with lots of fresh veggies. They also offer stone-ground wheat tortillas! As long as you don't overdo it on the rice at a place like this, this turns out to be very healthy meal. Because they are so packed with people usually, you can call ahead with your order and pick it up a few minutes later without having to wait in line. No brown rice here.

4. Bajios--they have great salads too. They have one--their Chicken Green Chile salad--that doesn't have rice and is yummy with the mango chutney. They also offer small whole wheat tortillas if you want to use them (that means they don't have large whole wheat tortillas that would come with their big salads or their enchiladas, but you can just have most of their salads without the tortilla if you want to). As long as you go light on the rice and the tortillas, you can have a great meal. No brown rice here either.

5. Taco Time--has a chicken and black bean burrito that is pretty good if you are in a pinch. I just ask them to hold the rice and ask for a whole wheat tortilla and you come away with an okay lunch. You can order a whole wheat tortilla on any of their items.

I can hope that with foods like this to help me in a pinch or a bind so that on a bad day I can keep up with this health challenge and actually make baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

To Health!


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