Archive for the ‘Living a Healthy Lifestyle’ Category

The Show Must Go On?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

‘Never let ‘em see you sweat!’ was something I heard every day when I was in acting school. This phrase was so embedded in my psyche that when a heavy wooden ladder fell on my foot during a premature blackout on stage last year, I stifled a scream and ‘acted’ as if I wasn’t in the searing pain that made it very difficult to scurry offstage for the next scene change. After all, ‘the show must go on!’

Thinking the pain would go away on its own, I lived with an aching foot for months. Instead of getting better, though, the pain progressed to the point where I began developing a slight limp. After finally seeing an M.D., I learned that I had fractured my foot that night on stage, and because I never had it treated, I now have post-traumatic arthritis that will most likely be with me the rest of my life. Hey, I always thought ‘time heals all wounds.’ No?

I have a friend whose father abandoned her when she was 5. In the 25 years I’ve known her, she’s only mentioned it once, and when she brought it up, she acted as if it was no biggee. Nobody ever sees her sweat, by golly. Yet while her ’show’ goes on, I can’t help but visualize the emotional arthritis and stiffness setting in like protective walls around her heart. While the results of my untreated ‘wound’ can be seen in my walk, hers are seen in troubled relationships and compromised health.

When it comes to wounds both physical and emotional, oh, how we want that quick fix, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year, it’s that the ’show’ doesn’t go on just because we stifle our screams and act like everything’s okay. Conversely, it seems that if we don’t grieve and don’t seek help when we’re hurting, we end up carrying around an unhealed wound that can be just as crippling as any fracture in our physical body, oftentimes leading to secondary complications down the road.

My hope is that each of us can identify what we’re truly feeling and express it–that we’ll uncover what needs to be uncovered, grieve what needs to be grieved, heal what needs to be healed, and move on to a new day! While we don’t need to let everybody see us ’sweat,’ may we all be blessed with those certain dear souls with whom we can share our pain. Wishing us all a year of deep healing and better times!

Let someone who needs comforting know how much you care with this lovely heart-shaped pillow designed to bring comfort and healing.

When you’re grieving a great loss, it can be such an isolating time. You’re too exhausted to read, you feel as if you’re too much of a killjoy to be around friends, and even the thought of leaving the house drains you. Still, you crave comfort and long to feel that someone knows what you’re going through.

That’s the beauty of giving or receiving one of these Healing Hearts, which are designed to bring emotional comfort and healing. The weight of the heart when placed on the chest is comforting, like the hand of a loved one placed on the heart to soothe or encourage. Made of sumptuously soft fabric with a delicately lavender-scented stuffing, they’re just as soothing to hold as to look at.

Years ago when we carried these, we heard from so many of you. One was the mother of a young man who died of AIDS who told us that her son kept the Heart with him to the end. His mother now has the Heart with her. Women have carried their hearts into surgery; sisters have mailed the heart back and forth across country whenever one needed it the most. I can’t think of a more comforting or tasteful gift to let a loved one know you care. (Semi-sheer crushed polyester with a lustrous sheen.)

Marry the Disturbance

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Recently I went to an evening of brilliant storytelling by Laura Simms. In the midst of this astonishing night, one line stood out above the rest, staying with me for days. Laura was in the middle of telling one of
those classic shipwrecked-sailor stories in which a man must use his wits to overcome obstacles and demons and to somehow find his way out of impossible circumstances so that he may return home. Danger
and peril mark every turn he takes. In the middle of the story (when the man was asked to marry a demon’s ugly daughter or lose his life), Laura paused to say, ”Whenever you are on a journey, you must marry the disturbance.” Marry the disturbance? Wow! Now there’s an idea! What did she mean, exactly? I carried those words around in my heart for a few days, knowing they were profound and wishing to understand them better. The whole idea of ”marrying the disturbance” struck me deeply.

How much of our lives do we spend running away from or trying to otherwise escape the disturbances of our lives? For most people, the answer is ”a lot!” What does it mean to ”marry the disturbance”? My
sense is that it means to take our troubles to heart, to accept what is, to simply be with what is. Instead, many of us try to change others so we don’t have to experience our disturbances. I thought of how easy it is to discount a child’s feelings or try to tell her that she isn’t feeling the way she is obviously feeling, just to move forward with the day. ”Oh, you fell down; you’re okay now.” Marrying the disturbance in this instance would require a different response. It would mean stopping what I was doing and consciously acknowledging what was really happening. ”Yes, Aidan, you fell and it hurts. I’m so sorry you are in pain.” (Even though he has been crying for what seems like an inordinate amount of time over a little thing.)

Who am I to determine how long is enough for someone else to cry over his pain? Is not my job as a mother to be there as a kind witness to the pain and a source of comfort; not lending undue attention,
mind you, but offering just simple comfort? How long would he really cry about a little owie if I held him close on my lap and didn’t say anything, if I just listened to his woes and offered him my heart? Would it
take all day? Can I do this without reserve?

(more…)

Healthy and Whole Foods on a Budget

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


When my children were young, my husband and I were on the verge of being “poor.” One of the ways we kept costs down was to avoid buying packaged and processed food. Now recognized as not the most nutrient-filled items to eat, packaged and processed food didn’t give a grocery-shopper much bang for her buck back then (or today). So I attempted to cook using as many whole foods as I could get my hands on.

Trust me, I didn’t spend my days in the kitchen! I’d make a pot of legumes to use over the course of several meals, or freeze; a larger-than-needed serving of rice so that I could add some to soups or serve for breakfast with fruit, yogurt, and maple syrup; as many fresh vegetables available at a given time of year to use every which way. It really wasn’t very complicated. My family ate well and without spending too much money on food.

I bring this up because I think adults tend to believe that kids need their food jazzed up in some way and several generations removed from its natural state in order to eat it. Maybe kids believe that, too. (Madison Avenue has surely had its way finagling us into thinking we absolutely need what they are selling.) But truly, children are born with unadulterated taste buds and the real flavors of real food suit them perfectly. An apple slice is a fine treat to most. Almond butter on a whole grain cracker is a pleasure to eat. Sparkling water with a touch of unsweetened apple juice is an infinitely better choice than a soda, and unless your child has already consumed sickeningly-sweet soft drinks and thinks that is the way liquids are supposed to taste, will suit her just fine. Truly, unless and until we get our children addicted to food that has “flavoring” on the label, or is packed with sugar, they are generally delighted with many foods that are real and unadulterated.

To this day, my own kids, now adults, appreciate a piece of fruit from the farmers’ market and a sandwich made with real whole wheat bread more than they do something out of box that you have to unwrap. And they know their way around the kitchen and how to use basic ingredients to create meals.

There are many things I wish I could go back in time and do differently as a parent, but feeding my children real food from the start is one thing I know I did right.

Swine Influenza and You

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Are there human infections with swine flu in the U.S.?
In late March and early April 2009, cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, Texas. Other U.S. states have reported cases of swine flu infection in humans and cases have been reported internationally as well. An updated case count of confirmed swine flu infections in the United States is kept at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/investigation.htm CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

Is this swine flu virus contagious?
CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water. or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. we recommend that when you wash your hands — with soap and warm water — that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.

Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

710 Games and Activities for Ages 12 Months to 10 Years
by Bobbi Conner

You will never hear the words ”I’m bored” again from your children if you own this extraordinary book. It would take years for anyone to play all the games and do all the activities within its pages, so there’s the grand feeling of always having something new and marvelous to play, learn, or create. It is set up so you can begin when your child is a year old and keep going for ten years, adding more and more ways to imagine and create, run, jump, skip and exercise, be outside with nature, laugh and be silly, and share good times with others. All this instead of watching TV, surfing the Net, or playing video games that aren’t really about being connected, happy, and alive.

What a gift this book is. There are great pages with information about what children need at every stage of growing — how creative play helps children develop healthily and with joy. Each age range has sections: Solo Play, for the times you need children to play on their own; Play Ideas for Parent and Child to do together; Playing with Others, and Birthday Party and Group Play. The appendixes support family game nights and creating a well-stocked toy cupboard to be ready for fun at any time. I can’t imagine a childhood without this book now, so I am giving one to every child I know and love.

TV-Turnoff Week: Take the Challenge!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Take the challenge—keep your TVs turned off this week. After you go through that initial media-withdrawal, you just might see a glimpse of the possible rewards of a TV-free lifestyle, most notably having more time to really connect as a family.

Continue in the spirit of TV-Turnoff Week by scheduling one unplugged day or evening a week when the only things you’re tuned into are each other. Chinaberry can help you to unplug from electronics and tune into family and community. Check out our wide selection of games, crafts, activity books, puzzles, and outdoor/active play toys and free yourself from TV for at least one day a week.

Words of Wisdom from Groucho Marx

Monday, April 20th, 2009

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” –Groucho Marx

Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

When creating a rhythm for your days, think of this rhythm as if it were a rubber band. The rhythm is there as a pattern to hold something in place, to add stability to your day. Yet it’s a pattern quite capable of stretching, of being flexible to meet the needs at hand. Like a rubber band, our daily rhythm can only be stretched so far before it loses its structural integrity and everything falls apart. So, nurture a rhythm that allows for both stability and ease. Stability provides the boundaries that small children need to feel safe. Stability creates a comforting sense of predictability, of knowing that naptime always follows lunchtime. A rhythm with general predictability deeply reassures a child’s soul that all is well. At the same time, we must avoid the trap of being too rigid by creating a rhythm that allows for ease. A rhythm that is gently flexible makes room for the unpredictable and helps children learn to be adaptable. Flexibility encourages a comfort with life that allows people to flow from one experience to the next, even when things don’t go exactly as planned, which, in these radically changing times, is a highly useful trait.

Henry the Three-Legged Cat Helps Sick Children and Wounded Veterans

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Henry, the Three Legged Cat

Henry, the Three-Legged Cat

I ran across this inspiring article about our favorite three-legged cat, Henry. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Henry the three-legged cat’s ‘Just Me Project’ extends his healing paw to children and wounded veterans

San Diego Pets: A Lifestyle Magazine for Pet Lovers
DECEMBER 2008–JANUARY 2009
By Nicole Sours Larson

A homeless mountain kitten, Henry was taken in by a family staying with Cathy Conheim and Donna Brooks at their Julian home after the family was burnt out by the Cedar Fire. When he showed up with a dangerously dangling left front leg and needed an emergency amputation, no one would have imagined the transformative effect he would have on so many lives.

Conheim and Brooks, confirmed dog lovers, had not planned to adopt Henry, but he came into their lives at a time of great loss and grief. Henry, like many pets, filled an unrealized void. Kind-hearted animal lovers, rather than euthanize the trusting kitten they chose to pay for Henry’s life-saving surgery and promised to find him an indoor home. Henry rapidly wormed his way into their respect and affections and inspired them to publish his story to benefit other injured and disadvantaged animals. Now, having raised more than $50,000 in four years through sales of his books and other publications to support animals and animal welfare organizations, Henry has become spokescat for a new crusade, partnering with his poodle sister, Dollydog.

Henry’s Just Me Project taps into the powerful human animal bond to extend the three-legged cat’s healing message of overcoming obstacles to help both ailing children and their siblings as well as wounded war veterans and their families.

Conheim, a psychotherapist and Henry’s “cat scribe,” and Brooks, a retired physician, thought they disliked, even hated, cats until Henry took over their lives. The La Jolla residents began to comprehend the power of Henry’s story once they received an overwhelming response to Conheim’s initial email sent to 20 of their friends detailing the indomitable kitten’s tale of survival and triumph. That email boomeranged around the world. (more…)

Detoxing the Kids’ Rooms: The Dirty List

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The following excerpt is taken from Squeaky Green, the Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home, written by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry:

The Dirty List: Kids’ Rooms
This is the nasty stuff that you should be eliminating from your life, if you followed all of our tips and suggestions.

  • PVC Plastic Toys
    Toys made from PVC and vinyl contain phthalates that leach into the body through the skin and when placed in the mouth. Solution: ditch any plastic with the number “3″ and be suspicious of any soft plastics. Generally the harder the plastic, the less likely it is to leach. A good test is to smell the plastic; if you can smell plastic it means it is off-gassing and you are breathing it.
  • Diaper and Wipes Bleached with Chlorine
    Diapers and wipes that are bleached with chlorine (which is how that diaper gets white) can rub onto your little one’s skin. Solution: reach for nonbleached or chlorine-free instead.
  • Nonbiodegradable Wipes
    While the eco-diaper dilemma is a tough one, it is easy to switch to biodegradable wipes. Most of the traditional wipe brands are full of plastic filler so they live in landfills for centuries. Solution: befriend biodegradable wipes.
  • Mattress and Bedding Residue and Off-Gas
    Traditional mattresses and bedding can contain synthetic materials that can transfer residue or off-gas while your child sleeps. Solution: demand natural options such as organic for anything that goes into the bed. Same goes for those fluffy stuffed animals.