Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Special July 4th Celebration

Recently, our family has been spending July Fourth with my disabled son, who in a nursing home in Charleston, AR, about 30 minutes or so from the Oklahoma border. Charleston is one of those towns that are disappearing slowly from the American landscape--too bad! Most everyone knows each other and neighbors meet daily to talk.

Every July 4th, the City of Charleston (population 3500) and Greenhurst Nursing Home, where my son is cared for, collaborate on a 4th of July picnic. Everyone in surrounding towns come! The kids have a good time playing in the yard, fishing in the pond and relaxing on the porch til the party starts. The Nursing Home family council, to which my wife belongs, serves the hot dogs, popcorn, ice cold watermelon and drinks. The front lawn is filled with families on blankets and children playing frisbee and running around. A local rock band plays and, when darkness sets in a first class fireworks exhibit (accompanied by classical music emanating from the speakers) entertains the crowd.

My son is so disabled he can't do much, but he certainly can enjoy and wonder at the music and smile contentedly while he watches the fireworks display erupting around him. I daresay there aren't many American towns left that conduct a fourth of July celebration like this one--and that's too bad as it was one to remember. Jordan and the other folks in the nursing home, as well as the families and town people appreciate the effortand will look forward to next July!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Calorie Restriction and Fasting, Keys to Health and Longevity

A 2 day conference was held at UCLA recently on the lastest research on increasing health and longevity. Lots of things are being looked at, including understanding the very biology of how and why we age. Right now, the only proven way to increase health and longevity is through calorie restriction. Eat less, be lean and live longer, assuming you eat the right things, like vegetables and grains with the right protein, complex carboydrates and unsaturated fats.

Mini-fasts, or not eating for 12-24 hours, is also gaining attention. Many Mormans fast one day each month, only taking in water. In a study presented at the American Heart Association annual conference, those that do this have a 40 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease (clogged arteries). Similar benefits have been found in those who practice the Islamic fasting of the Ramadan season (12 hour daylight fasting for about one month).

The bottom line here is that in our modern society, we eat too much. Food is abundant, even if it is getting more expensive. We eat out more than ever before and many studies show that when we eat out more, we consume more fat and total calories.

The evidence for calorie restriction and brief fasting is mounting and I think you will hear and read much more about this. Anyone can cut down on calories and eat the right things, we all know about that. It just takes discipline. If you want to fast more than skipping a few meals, talk with your physician if you have diabetes. Your medication may need to be adjusted.

I'm going to be 58 next month, and while I exercise a lot, I know that my 190 lbs are too much (I'm 5 ft, 11 in). My goal is to get to between 165 and 175 this year. How about you? This is not just about losing weight and looking better. This is about living longer and healthier.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Making the Most Out of Our Moments!

A few days ago, my sister sent me one of those e mails which, at the end, says: "send this to 8 people you care about". Although these types of messages are usually a nuisance, one line caught my attention: "Don't count the rest of your life in the number of breaths you have left, but in the number of moments that take your breath away". That same day, my wife, who has had a bone marrow transplant for treatment of lymphoma was overheard to say: "Maybe I'm celebrating too much, but I have made a decision to 'go for the gusto', so I'm not worried about it". Then, the very next day, some close friends of mine were in the Emergency Room because Mike had chest pain and nausea and his wife, Bonnie, wanted to make sure he hadn't had a heart attack. While we were waiting on the lab work to come back, they were talking about an expensive bass boat they had just bought and were recounting the headache they had deciding between two boats. The ended up getting the more expensive one that they really wanted. She said, if we hadn't gotten this one, I would have regretted it the rest of my life and I wonder how many other decisions I need to make so I won't look back with regret.

All this got me to thinking about how we live and how important it is to make the most out of the present. With all of our worries and cares, this can be really hard to do. But, yesterday, I started tweaking my thinking:

I didn't have a meeting scheduled at work until 10:30 a.m. So, instead of going in to the office early as I usually do, I went for a 20 mile bike ride. It was one of those mornings, clear, cool, low humidity, birds singing loudly. The Arkansas river was high and beautiful, everyone on the trail was in a good mood and saying good morning with a smile on their face. I stood up on my bike, picked up my pace and, smiling inside, remembered that this was one of those moments that I need to create more often by not allowing myself to be a slave to the schedule, to stop fretting about the mistakes of the past, worrying about the problems of the future, and enjoy this wonderful, but temporary moment.

Then, last night at dinner in our favorite Sushi bar, the manager was there with his wife and three delightful children. They didn't know me from Adam, but I grabbed the 1 year old little girl and lifted her up as she giggled and cooed, then picked up the 3 year old boy who, with a total stranger, rested his head on my chest in a short tribute to the precious value of human contact.

So, whether its being surprised by an unusually delightful morning bike ride, picking up a child to affirm them, or simply making sincere contact with a co worker, let us remember to stop living in the past and worrying about the future long enough to do a better job of enjoying our moments!

How about you? Do you have story to share about enjoying your moments?