Where I Confess I am a Thief

I am a thief. Well, not in the traditional sense – I don’t go around breaking into houses, and I haven’t stolen candy from the grocery store since I was 5 years old.  But, I am doing the things Austin Kleon suggests I should be doing to unlock my creativity and produce some good stuff – I’m stealing like an artist.

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin’s definition of stealing is not unethical, illegal,or plagiarism. It’s about finding ideas out there that are good and stealing them, or “embracing the influence”. It’s the way art is done.

david bowie quote

art is theft

 

 

 

 

copy.

According to Austin, what to copy is tricky. He says,

Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds.

He continues,

That’s what you really want – to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.

I love this book because I suck at art, yet I am still an artist.  Aren’t we all artists?  The writer, blogger, dancer, chef, painter, mother, student, gardner, speaker, teacher, preacher, singer, photographer. This book is for all of us.

Whatever you love to do, do it! Appreciate the creative work of the masters or the rest who have mad talent and can serve as your muse. It takes commitment, drive, and persistence of practice to find your own unique artistic voice. Just don’t give up. Instead let’s get busy stealing, and in turn we will find our voice in the process.

Let’s Talk About Weight

Unless you live in a cave as deep as Krubera, you already know there’s an obesity epidemic and odds are you are part of it. I am.

The United States leads the world with the most obese individuals, 67% of adults are either overweight or obese, with nearly 30% of our kids as well.

If you happen to be in the minority with a BMI of 24.9 or less, props to you! Keep up the good work and tell me in the comments what has helped you keep your weight ideal.

Besides those who are super successful at weight watchers, no one likes to talk about their weight. But we need to do it. I’m overweight. I wasn’t always that way, my nickname growing up was skinny-minny with the meatball eyes.

I know, it was goofy but I loved it! It was wonderful being able to eat whatever I wanted and stay toothpick thin. Fast forward to present and I am much older, and 50 pounds heavier. Diets haven’t worked for me. Jogging and rigorous exercise just left me sore and discouraged.

What am I to do? I can’t keep denying the truth. My weight has negatively impacted my health and this problem is not going away on its own. We all need accountability, education, and encouragement if we are ever going to make serious progress in becoming a healthier nation.

Our bodies weren’t meant to carry so much weight.  You would never drive your car with 95 extra gallons of gas in your trunk just in case.  That would be dangerous and stupid. All that stored fuel is a fire hazard, will rob you of good gas mileage, and contribute to extra vehicular wear and tear.

The same applies to our bodies. We are the vehicle. The excess fat is stored fuel (energy). When we eat more calories than we burn our body stores it for future use. Consider it the same as the extra gallons of gas. Carrying too much weight is a major risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and a host of other negative consequences.

Don’t keep your head in the sand. You don’t have to feel guilty, get angry, or make excuses. Why not acknowledge the problem and choose to do something about it?

My weight, your weight didn’t get to where it is suddenly.  It has accumulated gradually over the years. And it is going to take a lot of time to get rid of it. It takes mindfulness, planning, commitment, and patience. It’s easy to gain, harder to lose, but this is your life, my life we’re talking about. Our breath, well-being, psychological, spiritual, and physical health.

19th-century American humorist Josh Billings once said,

Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.

Don’t let your health get bankrupt. Wherever you are, whether you are suffering from the effects of too much weight or not, do something now.

Where do we start? Our eating habits are ingrained in us, and so much of who we are and how we enjoy life is centered around food. The holidays, birthdays, celebrations, fellowship, food surrounds us and is full of fat and sugar. We bargain with ourselves, It’s a special occasion. I deserve a treat. I can’t let all this good food go to waste. I’ll eat better tomorrow.

No you won’t. Unless you make the decision to right the wrong choices today.

Eat less. Move more. Repeat. It has been and will always be the only thing that works. Calories are energy, energy needs to be expended.

Talk to your health care provider and get the help you need to make positive changes in this area of your life. If you haven’t already, get some baseline blood work – lipid panel, thyroid, glucose level. I know it is hard dealing with this, I am right there with you! But consider the alternatives – diabetes, heart disease, low self-esteem, fatigue, maybe even depression? Will you join me in making and keeping  healthy lifestyle changes? I guarantee it’s a step in the right direction, and we won’t regret it.

To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life  ~William Londen

Facing Death Every Day

Today's guest blogger is Pastor and Author Charles Spurgeon

I say this, Christian brothers, I have joy in what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for you. That is why I face death every day. -Paul the Apostle

We die daily, said the apostle. This was the life of the early Christians; they went everywhere with their lives in their hands. We are not in this day called to pass through the same fearful persecutions: if we were, the Lord would give us grace to bear the test; but the tests of Christian life, at the present moment, though outwardly not so terrible, are yet more likely to overcome us than even those of the fiery age.

We have to bear the sneer of the world–that is little; its blandishments, its soft words, its oily speeches, its fawning, its hypocrisy, are far worse.

Our danger is lest we grow rich and become proud, lest we give ourselves up to the fashions of this present evil world, and lose our faith. Or if wealth be not the trial, worldly care is quite as mischievous. The devil little cares which it is, so long as he destroys our love to Christ, and our confidence in him.

The Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame.

Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true-born children of the living God.

Christian, do not think that these are times in which you can dispense with watchfulness or with holy ardour, you need these things more than ever, and may God the Eternal Spirit display his omnipotence in you, that you may be able to say, in all these softer things, as well as in the rougher,

we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Do you want the truth no matter what?

Does this dress make me look fat? How did you like my presentation? Did you enjoy your meal? Are you mad at me?

We all ask questions like these, but do we really want the truth no matter what?

When I was a teen I remember asking my dad if he liked my haircut – it was 1978 and I got the trending cut at that time, “The Dorothy Hamill” wedge. 

It look darling on her, but not so much on me. My dad validated what I already knew when he responded with, “Do you like it? If you like it that’s all that matters”.  No, I didn’t like it, and I was hoping he could convince me that I did. Instead he delivered the truth in the gentlest way he knew how.

Are you familiar with the old testament story of King David and Bathsheba?  David was the boy who slew the giant with a slingshot, and years later was appointed King of Judah. He was rich, beloved, and well, had everything a man could want, but I guess that wasn’t enough. One day he spied Bathsheba bathing across a distant rooftop. He immediately desired her and had her brought to his palace. He slept with her and she got pregnant. He later had her faithful husband Uriah murdered and then Bathsheba became his queen.

David’s advisor Nathan saw the evil in David’s actions and soon made him see it as well by telling David a parable about a rich man who stole from a poor one. David was livid that the rich man could be so heartless! Then Nathan dropped the bomb: you are the rich man.

David knew what he had done was reprehensible. He could have cast Nathan out from his court – but he didn’t.  He needed accountability and although it was painful, he wanted truth.

Sometimes we can be too involved or blind from our own denial that we don’t see things as they really are. Do you want the truth, even if it stings? My fingers are paused on home row. It’s a tough question.  I want to say yes because I know it’s the wise choice.  I can’t grow without truth. Yet it’s in my nature to avoid pain.

I think the best you and I can ask for is to have people in our life who are honest, but not brutal, who speak the truth in love

The more I think about it, truth trumps pain.  I may not like it, but I don’t want sugar coated lies.  Does this dress make me look fat? Obviously or I wouldn’t be asking. However…don’t be too quick to say yes lest I drop three sizes in self-esteem. Tell me it doesn’t accentuate my best features, or it’s a nice dress but I look stunning in the black one.

At the end of the day, I want truth. Not half-truths, not sugar-coated-beat-around-the-bush blah blahs. The truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God!  How about you? Truth, as in a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like? As in that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality?

I may not always like the truth, but it’s only the truth that will set me free.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C.S. Lewis

Could Your Headache Be From Something Life-Threatening?

Headaches are a common complaint. The cause is usually minor, such as tension in the muscles, lack of sleep, allergies, or hunger.

Many people experience incapacitating migraine headaches, yet even those aren’t considered life threatening.

So when is a headache more than just a headache, but a sign of something more serious like a stroke?

concussion-in-sports-15-638

Any headache that is different than what you are used to, occurs in the very young or old, is accompanied by a stiff, painful neck, is preceded by a bump to the head, wakes you up from sleep, or comes on like a thunder clap, needs immediate medical attention.

when in doubt

Consider meningitis, an inflammation of the brain that causes sudden onset of headache, fever, and a stiff neck. Would you recognize it if you had it?

Any new headache is potentially worrisome. Add on other symptoms and there is no question there is a need for prompt, further investigation.  If your headache seems in anyway unusual for you, or is accompanied by any change in neurological function, an emergency consultation is necessary. If need be, call 911.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

I love to watch my dog sleep.  He curls up on our couch or his fluffy doggy bed, head and paws touching, tail tucked close to his body and falls asleep in what seems like seconds.  Soon I hear little woof-woofs while his nose twitches and paws move gently as if running through air. Is he dreaming? Is he chasing the bunny, playing at the dog park, or running to greet me?  Or, is his twitching and sleep barking nothing more than reflexive? What does science say about dog dreams?

He hears something, I think it was a car horn. He wakes, pops his head up and looks around the room and our eyes meet.  He seems confused, probably wondering,

How did I get here?  Wasn’t I running with the deer in the woods? Didn’t I chase the squirrel up the tree? I came so close to the edge of the forest where I have never been before.

IMG_2289

His head drops back down and he sighs deeply, sometimes he yawns, then he slop slops his mouth and swallows.  Maybe his dream gave him a juicy steak or his favorite –  a hot dog.  Whatever may have happened, or not happened, he is off to sleep again.

I love my beautiful, gentle, boy, and I adore him when he sleeps. I’m convinced he dreams, just like you and I dream. I laugh when he sleep-barks and am contented by the sound of his rhythmic breathing.  I have to resist the pull to snuggle him close, to stroke his back, scratch behind his ear, and lay my head on his chest.  The boom boom of his heart moves me and the single lick to my face is a sweet gift – he tells me everything is alright, I am loved, I am safe. And in case he had a bad dream and needs the same reassurance, I tell him everything is alright. I’m right here buddy. You are safe, go back to sleep and dream those doggy things.

And just-like-that, he does.
P1060526

Summer Cold or Allergies? The Number One Tell-tale Sign

A sudden onset sore throat.  Fine one minute, and just like that, your next swallow feels weird.  You think maybe you imagined it so you swallow a few more times and confirm, it definitely hurts. A little while later you notice your nose is getting stuffy, your ears feel plugged, and come to think of it – you are feeling run down. Crap – a summer cold! Or is it?

Your average cold (viral rhinitis) and seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis/hay fever), have similar symptoms:

  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • post nasal drip
  • ticklish cough

Except for one tell tale sign…

the itch factor

Generally the key in distinguishing whether your crappy symptoms are a cold verses allergies is that itchy feeling of the throat, nose or eyes.  That itch is a tingling or irritation of the skin or mucosal lining that compels you to scratch, rub, or make annoying rumbling hisses and growly sounds that drives your mates and coworkers batcrap crazy.

itchy=allergies

That nasty itch is caused by a protein in pollen produced by grasses, plants, and trees. Other culprits include cat and dog saliva, dander, mold, and dust mites.

The allergic reaction is actually an inflammatory response by your mast cells and basophils. When triggered, these cells produce histamine, which causes the uncomfortable symptoms.  Over several hours, the histamine activates other inflammatory cells and this cycle repeats until the allergen is removed or the histamine release is blocked.

Allergies can make you feel miserable. The good news it they are highly treatable, depending on how severe your reaction is, you can do several things,

  • Avoid trigger allergens: If you know what you are allergic to, do your best to avoid exposure. Pollen counts high? Wear a mask.  So what if you look like a doofus –  it beats sneezing and feeling miserable. Other things that might help: shower before bed and use air-conditioning.
  • Antihistamines: Most are now available over-the-counter. Talk to your friendly neighborhood pharmacist if you need help deciding which one to try.  Side effects are possible (sedation with some), and if you take prescription meds you need to talk to your primary care provider before adding on another med due to potential drug-drug interactions.
  • Prescription nasal sprays: If your allergies last a season or all year round, prescription sprays such as fluticasone or mometasone are a great treatment option.  They control symptoms and are less likely to cause serious side effects.
  • Allergy Shots: Certainly the underdog, allergy shots are something to be considered. If you want to get to the root of your allergy problem and have the patience to do allergy testing and immunotherapy, treat your allergies using this route.

Allergies are not just kid’s stuff.  Some allergies take years of exposure before they finally develop, which explains why adults surprisingly become allergic when they never were before.

If that “cold” seems to be lingering, you are overly tired, and you can’t stand that itchy throat or nose, your problem just might be allergies.

As always, your healthcare provider is your best source of medical information for questions and concerns related to your health.

What Abe Lincoln Taught Me About Suffering

Abraham Lincoln is well known for his quips and clever words. Whether it be advice on civil rights, character, freedom, or success, our 16th president had simple, yet profoundly wise words that are timeless and still worthy of our attention.

Such as…

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt

 And this one that I hold dear,

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Though he couldn’t have known it when he said it, his years were cut short at 56. And much of his life was suffering. He was born poor, he was plagued with melancholy and suicidal thoughts, his wife had mental health problems, and three of their four sons died young.

Yet, he persevered despite these terrible life circumstances.

Thinking about that made me wonder-

Why is it that some people can’t cope with disaster or difficulties, while others with similar troubles thrive despite?

It blows me away when I meet people with things like terminal cancer, disfigurement, chronic pain, traumatic childhoods, or great loss are able to adapt and cope despite the atrocity of their situation.

They don’t give up. They still believe that God is good. That life is precious, and that they will overcome.

Others with similar circumstances groan how miserable they are and believe the world is a wretched place and life has no meaning.

I know life is unfair and full of pain and suffering. It makes no sense.

But life is also full of love and hope.

Bad things happen. But you and I have a choice –  to rise above, or to drown in the muck.

Yes, I do believe we can live and thrive in spite of an awful childhood, a debilitating disease, or a loved one gone too soon.

Lincoln with his son Willie

You may wonder,

How can I go on? How can I be happy? You have no idea what I’ve been through! 

You’re right. I have no idea what you have been through.  But I can try to understand. I only know what I’ve gone through, what I have wrestled with, and I’m still here.

  • I believe good triumphs over evil.
  • I believe there is a God who loves us, despite what the majority may believe.
  • I am sure we are not abandoned. 
  • I don’t think everything happens for a reason, rather life is fragile, an accident is an accident, and we will all die someday.
  • I can say broken hearts heal, and the pain lessens in time.  
  • And I am certain that no matter what, life is always worth living.  

When you arise in the morning – let your first thought be what a glorious privilege it is to be alive. To breathe, to think, to create, to hope, to love.

Be the person, like Abraham Lincoln, who carries on despite suffering. There are many who stand by us, offering us their example as a comforting embrace and reminder.  Like Abe, who wrote these loving words to a friend who just lost her father. ALquotescover-JPG-18

No matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened – let me, like Abe, alleviate some of your suffering. You are not alone. You are more resilient than you think. Life is what it is. Suffering is inevitable, but misery, existing in wretched desolation, is optional.

Although Lincoln’s melancholy “dripped from him as he walked“,  his hardships and intense distress gave him an unlimited supply of sapient guidance and an innate ability to truly empathize with anyone. If Abraham Lincoln was able to endure countless tribulations on top of his lifelong (untreated) clinical depression, surely you can, and most definitely I can too.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to 
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

Can You Really Get the Flu From the Flu Shot?

Nope.

THE FLU SHOT DOES NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT, DARE NOT GIVE YOU THE FLU.

Flu shots are made either with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no viruses at all.

why the hey

Most likely because you were already exposed to the flu and the shot didn’t have enough time to work.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

It is possible to get minor side effects (low grade fever, aches, and a sore arm at the injection site).

If you are anti-vaccine, that’s your choice, but I hope you don’t spread your agenda to the point where some one who really needs a vaccine doesn’t get it because you told them not to. That’s shameful, and deadly.

What you should do is encourage others to discuss their concerns with their own health care providers.

In regards to the myths, Gizmodo has an excellent post  that addresses all that crazy talk like the flu shot contains antifreeze, causes Alzheimer’s, and weakens your immune system.

All flu-vaccine naysayers allow me to remind you of a time,

14th century Europe,

when germs were copious.

No immunizations, no anti-viral medications,  filthy oozing with death environments, and an average life expectancy of less than 30 years old.

And then there was the Spanish flu pandemic... of 1918.

Our lives are far better, and longer because of vaccines and other advances in medicine.

The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it beats taking your chances and potentially succumbing to an illness that could have been prevented.

And besides, the worst thing you’ll get is a sore arm because you really can’t get the flu from the flu shot.

Can Panic Attacks Be Life-Threatening?

Panic is a sense of overwhelming fear, triggering physical and mental reactions so severe that a person might believe he is dying. Symptoms include palpitations, pounding fast heart beat, shaking, sweating, choking, dizziness, rapid breathing, and tight chest.

The cause of the panic can be real, or imaginary.

We all have felt panic before – before a speech or performance, when pulled over by police, stuck on an elevator, or forgetting your anniversary.

In those circumstances, your panic is normal, it is not pathological and you will quickly return to a non panic state once the stressor passes or the situation is dealt with. On the other hand, if you experience recurrent episodes of panic, often for no apparent reason, you may have a panic disorder.  Some common symptoms are

shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain, blurred vision, tunnel vision, out of body feeling, pounding heart, trembling legs, spinning sensation, dry mouth, suffocating or smothering sensation, and a feeling that death is imminent

In his book, The Loss of SadnessDr Kenneth Kendler writes:

If an individual experiences a full-blown panic attack when he looses his grip and falls 40 feet before his rope catches him, no psychiatrist I know would consider this to be a psychopathological phenomenon. A panic attack is not—in and of itself—psychopathological. It only becomes pathology when it occurs in certain contexts—at times and in places when it should not.

One panic attack, not a problem. A couple more here and there, still can be dealt with.  If your panic is often, or is starting to interfere with your lifestyle or work, you need to see a clinician.  There are medical conditions that can mimic a panic disorder, and you should have those ruled out.  Also, it is safer to err on the side of caution.  If you feel you are having a heart attack, call 911. Chest pain or tightness should always be taken seriously!

The good news: you don’t have to be a victim of panic.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help, panic disorder is way more common than you think, and is very treatable.