Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Are What We Eat

I see the health effects of poor lifestyles every day at work. Excessive smoking, abuse of alcohol, street and prescription drugs all cause predictable problems. But our biggest health threat is undoubtedly food. I was taught that smoking and drinking were sinful habits, but somehow gluttony never made the list. We receive daily messages in the media about the dangers of too much fat, salt, sugar, processed food and too few vegetables, fruits, whole grains which contain essential nutrients. But for many people, the advice falls on deaf ears even when they suffer from diabetes, arteriosclerosis, fatty liver disease and a host of other food related ailments.

From Feeding Frenzy

Our dietary department is small and the dietitians are kept busy looking after people with exceptional needs such as tube feeds and special textured diets. There is little time for education and “food therapy”. One of my patients who had a severe stroke recently was enjoying a fast food hamburger and a large poutine for lunch this week. Her family brought it in as she didn’t like the hospital meals. Our daughter is a RN on a cardiac surgery unit in a large teaching hospital. Patients receive little or no teaching about heart healthy diets. Instead, medications are dispensed to patch up symptoms rather than dealing with root causes of problems. We expect that people will resist lifestyle changes.

The hospital provides staff treats for special occasions. This week our newsletter reminds us to buy cupcakes for a local charity. The cafeteria has a special Halloween menu of Bat Wings (chicken wings), Spider dogs (hotdogs), Witches Brew (chili), Ghostly Cupcake and Graveyard Pudding...definitely a graveyard menu for staff, visitors and patients!

From Family Fun

Our neighbour is a middle-aged man of German background. He was raised on sausage, schnitzel, the best cheeses and rich desserts. He had an inevitable heart attack a few years ago and had a stent inserted in a narrowed artery. He was on a load of medication and still experienced angina regularly as well as negative side effects from his drugs. He read The China Study as well as books by Dr Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall and decided to eliminate all meat, dairy, fat and processed food from his diet for 12 weeks. I could not imagine a more unlikely person to try a low fat vegan diet. He lost weight his excess weight quickly and with his doctor’s blessing, was able to come off ALL his medications. He feels energetic and healthy and plans to continue his eating plan forever as he really enjoys his new food choices. He is enthusiastic as he shares his journey when people ask why he looks ten years younger and is getting so trim.

His doctor told him to write a book but he stated, “The book has already been written. You just have to read it.”

People can change. They just need to know how to do it.

Some of our backyard vegetables this summer

I wish I could go back and feed our children differently. I would have more courage to eliminate the sweets, processed foods, hotdogs, much of the cheap meat, unhealthy fast food, and the holiday excesses. We always ate plenty of healthy foods, and plenty of unhealthy foods. There are many fun and delicious ways to reward youngsters and celebrate special days that will not set them up for chronic illness. Fortunately it is seldom too late to make changes that will benefit us for the rest of our lifetime.

Easy to make, fun to eat

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

I took these pictures on the same day earlier this month, the first a little after 7 AM and the last a little before 7 PM. The days are shortening quickly as we head into winter and morning frosts beckon the snow that is sure to fall before long. The skies reminded me of the lyrics from the song Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised. 
Psalm 113:3

Monday, October 17, 2011

Elizabeth Rieke Hefley- Nature Artist

Chickadee by Elizabeth Rieke Hefley

A while ago I was contacted by Nebraska artist Elizabeth Rieke Hefley requesting permission to paint one of my photographs which was posted on Flickr. Today she sent me a print of the painting and I love the tones, the detail and the life in the picture. It looks much better than the photograph and I can hardly wait to frame it. Here is her own description of her work.

My work is a combination of my interests in biology and art as I have always enjoyed wildlife. My paintings highlight animal diversity, capturing their character and spirit. I particularly enjoy working on endangered and threatened wildlife. I work with oil paints from reference photos. Particular attention is giving to portraying the textures of the skin, fur and feathers of the animals. The paintings are not only art pieces but also a way to educate on the incredible beauty of animals. I am particularly fond of frogs and am currently working on a show that will be all frog oil paintings. I am primarily self taught after going to college for math and biology and entering graduate school in Entomology. I became very passionate about conservation and education. Painting animals was a way to combine all my passions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Five Minutes from Home

We enjoyed summer-like weather over Thanksgiving weekend with clear skies and warm sunshine for several days in a row. Ontario is a great place to visit to view spectacular fall colours, from the Agawa Canyon in the north to the Niagara Peninsula in the south. Huntsville and Algonquin Park are favoured destinations in Central Ontario and anywhere along the 900 km of the Niagara Escarpment between Hamilton and Tobermory you are guaranteed to find superb of autumn vistas. I read the colour reports in the newspaper and planned several road trips in my head and then discarded them due to time constraints and the price of gasoline.

While driving to get groceries for Thanksgiving dinner, I took note of brilliant red and gold stands trees right in the city beside the shopping centre, the local library and the nearby Tim Hortons restaurant. I decided to drive around our end of town within five minutes from home and look for the fall beauty here.

The next morning before sunrise I took a thermos of tea to a nearby park and watched the golden light illuminate the trees along the river.

Why do we tend to think things will more 
beautiful...richer... inspiring... somewhere else?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Canadian Thanksgiving Prayer

Almighty and gracious Father, 
we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labours of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities 
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord... 

Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Fear Not...

She walked into the coffee shop and sat at the table next to me.

“Hello!” she smiled brightly in my direction.

I looked past the bright pink jacket, fashionable sunglasses and short, stylish white hair and recognized an old patient who was headed for the obituary column the last time I saw her.

“This is the first time I have driven myself into town,” she said proudly.

She was a loner, crusty and irritable at times with staff. Untreated cancer gnawed her flesh and spread to her brain... two falls, two broken bones and two surgeries to fix them. But she refused any treatment for the cancer.

We recommended a move to a nursing home but she insisted on returning to the old farm house and her cats. She had run the farm alone since she found her young husband dead under the tractor decades ago. There were no children, just neighbours down the road who could not be there at her beck and call. She was not religious, nor was she delusional, but fear was a stranger to her. She was accepting of life or death on her own terms.

“I don’t think about what is inside me,” she said.  “The doctor told me the cancer is not growing...”

 “You know,” she said, “I do my own cooking, cleaning and shopping.”

Behind her smile she reminded me that we predicted she would always need help with these things.

She ordered lunch as I finished mine. I could not stop looking at her, sunken flesh filled out again, healthy, strong and independent.

We thought she was in denial of the reality of her prognosis. Maybe we were in denial of the power of fearlessness and determination in the face of a dreaded diagnosis.

I gave her a hug as I left and returned to work, less inclined to judge based on facts and appearances alone. Some things cannot be explained. 

The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?
Proverbs 18:14

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Do You Want Change?

A provincial election is a couple of days away. Some are quick to point out the inadequacies of the current party in power and call for change. Personally, I do not see anyone offstage who would do a better job. Canadians as a whole do not have the political polarities of our American neighbours. We do not claim a particular party as a birthright or a representative of our religious faith. Our Conservatives sit well left of America’s Republicans and Canadian Liberal policies also travel the middle of the road. The New Democratic Party shakes things up a little and they do enjoy growing popularity with our young adults. We accept our social programs and accompanying taxes without much fuss. Canada is a good country to live in and we have avoided the side effects of global economic woes to degree. 

Change on a personal level often brings more reaction than change on the political level. And small changes seem to upset people more than large changes. I hear more complaints about changes to Facebook (a free and optional service) than from a patient who has lost a leg and his independence. Our hospital received funding for new beds requiring staff line shifts and new hiring. There is more whining going now on than when we had bed closures and big staff cuts in the past.

Recently Blogger informed me via a pop-up window that the new “Dynamic Views” template was now available. I fiddled with the latest settings and promptly reverted to my old familiar design. Then I asked myself why I was not willing to give a totally new look a fair trial. After all, the pages load much faster, the template is compatible with all browsers and has more potential with mobile devices and tablets. The clean, minimalist views compete with new micro-blogging sites like Tumblr. (If you really like information in your sidebar or have a commercial blog, these changes are not recommended).

I like it!

Our local paper featured an article on drabble last week. What’s a drabble?
A drabble is a fiction story that’s exactly 100 words long. One of our universities held a competition for the best drabble and the winners’ entries are in the article. The stories are different, even strange and quite a change from the prose I am used to reading. I find the idea very compelling in a world that wants information and entertainment in a nutshell. It matches the new, pared down blogging interface.

After listening to the recent election debates, I wish our politicians would change their style to non-fiction drabble. There is nothing minimalist and clean about this campaign.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Cyberspace Birthday Celebration

We celebrate two birthdays today, a special day shared by our twins who now live thousands of miles apart. A laptop computer, webcam and Skype allowed us to sing Happy Birthday to both of them simultaneously and they "blew" out the candles together on the weekend. They are young, but when they were born we would never have envisioned such a celebration. After all, we were still listening to vinyl records and had just bought our first microwave oven which was the size of a small garage. We sent my parents a telegram to announce their birth and it took several days for the message to arrive in Mexico.

The view out our front door has changed little over the years. I see them run out to play with friends. I wave goodbye as they leave for elementary school, high school, university and then to make their way in the world. The years tumble together and memories leave their mark on the walkways of my heart.

Happy Birthday to you!!