When the Bed Bugs Bite

DSC_0767Endearingly whispering “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” in your child’s ears as they drift off to sleep seems to be taking on a new reality.  Once a sing song phrase that was interchangeable with “Mama’s going to buy you a Mocking Bird,” bed bugs seem to have arrived on the scene in a big, unexpected way. We’ve read about them in the press. Hotels are shutting down, retail stores are shutting down.  High end … low end … it doesn’t seem to matter.  Friends who are traveling take pause when booking their hotels, trying to determine which place will afford less risky sleeping accomodations.

I haven’t given much thought to this pandemic, until today.  My high school kids came home reporting that a student at school had brought a bed bug into school in his back pack.  This coincided with a newspaper article from two days ago about two other schools in town where the same thing happened.  Unfortunately, this student happened to be in my daughter’s health class, and she is reporting that she is not attending school tomorrow (“It will ruin my social reputation for life and turn our home upside down if I get bed bugs” she states).

The school called homes this evening to report this occurence, and to say that it was being dealt with in accordance with health department recommendations.   My son appeared out of nowhere in an outfit dug out of our basement that I had never seen before – reporting this is how he would dress for school in the AM, ready to attack.   Some neighbors are talking about stripping down their kids when they walk in from school and throwing everything in the washing machine, others are being a bit calmer and recommending prudent checking of surface clothing and backpacks.  Many high school students facebooks report a boycott of school tomorrow.

All of this has made me question, just where are all these bed bugs coming from … all of a sudden.  It is a bug that has been around, troubling souls, for hundreds of years.  But after WW11, bed bugs were essentially wiped out in developed nations with the use of the pesticide DDT, now banned of course. With the increase in international travel and immigration, bed bugs are back.  And you don’t want them near you.  It sounds nightmarish (on the level of dealing with lice, if not greater) of eradicating these things from your premises if you are one of the lucky ones they decide to visit.

Has anyone had any experience with bed bugs?  Somehow I need to convince my daughter that one bed bug in a large school does not require running for your life.  But I also must admit that my back has gotten awfully itchy while writing this blog…

Wise Women Learning From Wise Men

man-sleepingA local hospital sent me one of those freebie magazines chock full of health advice and fitness tips.

(Confession Time: I’m a sucker for any written material that comes in the mail. I carefully go through the Valu-Pak coupons. I read the local newspaper that is sporadically and mysteriously sent to me. I even read those faux newspapers with pseudo-articles that are touting the latest in real estate trends or kitchen design. I am, in short, a direct mail marketer’s dream customer.)

Back to the health magazine  … One article focused on the healthy habits adopted by women that help them outlive men. The “habits women have right” include: (1) eating right and exercising so they look attractive, (2) practicing prevention from a young age, (3) expressing their emotions and surrounding themselves with friends, and (4) listening to public health campaigns.

But, what I found MOST fascinating was the sidebar that detailed “3 Habits Men Have Right.” Referencing Debbie Mandel’s book Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, the magazine urged women to learn from these wise habits:

  • Men use their free time to unwind.
  • Men express what they want around the house.
  • Men know how to delegate.

Mandel then went on to explain how the above habits reduce stress that leads to cardiovascular problems and increased mortality risk.

To me, the article reframed the age-old tension of how men and women spend their “down time” at home. In many households, women complain that they must scurry around with their to-do’s list while men kick back, usually in front of the TV. After reading Mandel’s list, one could argue that men are taking care of their health by plopping on the couch while women are ignoring their well-being by rushing around until they collapse into bed exhausted.

What do you think of this after-work gender dynamic (how’s that for a fancy phrase?) and the health implications? Do Mandel’s points take any of the edge off the resentment you may experience at home?

Daily Reminder To Stop And Smell The Roses

mindfulI could use a little more mindfulness in my life.

Moments that I pause in gratitude. Time listening to quiet, soothing music. Some deep-breathing to calm my racing thoughts.

If only I could remember to DO these things each day in order to enhance my ability to BE.

I may be in luck. There’s site that offers a daily electronic reminder to help develop new habits: habitforge. Forge new habits. Change your life!

The deal is you enter a desired change you want in your life. The site will send you a daily email asking if you were successful the previous day doing that one thing. If you indicate “yes,” you move one step closer to developing the habit. The goal is to get to 21 days of “yes” replies with the belief that, after three weeks of the new behavior, you’ll be well on your way to permanent change.

I’m going to give it a try.

Starting May 1st, I will use habitforge.com to help me pause and be mindful each day.

I’ll let you know when I reach the 21 days-in-a-row point. Hopefully, that day will be May 22nd, but, if I skip a day, the counter resets back to “zero.”

The new habits can range from the sublime (like the DC unemployed man who gives away $10 per day to strangers) to the mundane (shutting off your computer each night).

If anyone else decides to jump on the new-habit bandwagon in May and uses habitforge, let us know how it goes!

A Woman’s Secret to Longevity? Friendship.

make_female_friendsI was recently forwarded a landmark study conducted at UCLA about the magic of friendships among women and the amazing ability these friendships have on our ability to deal with stress.  While most studies on stress have focused on males, a handful of scientists through observation decided that women’s relationship with stress and how to deal with it is far different from that of the typical male – which led them into an in-depth study focused on women.  This study purports that women respond to stress with brain chemicals that propel us to make and/or maintain relationships with other women.  It’s a study that turns decades of stress related research upside down.

“Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible,” explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Bio-behavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors.  In women, the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the normal reaction to stress, which buffers the “fight or flight” response and instead encourages women to seek out other women or exert a greater focus on their children.  When these actions are undertaken, more oxytocin is released, which counters stress and produces a calming effect.

Interestingly enough, this same calming response does not occur in men.  As Dr. Klein says “testosterone, which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress, seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin.  Estrogen seems to enhance it.”  The discovery that women respond differently to stress started by a simple observation:  a woman under stress tends to seek out others, go have a cup of coffee, and discuss the problem.  Men, on the other hand, tend to go off on their own, and hole up behind a closed door.

Study after study shows that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart disease and cholesterol.  ”There’s no doubt,” says Dr. Klein, “that friends are helping us live.”  A well known Nurse’s Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends a woman had, the less likely she was to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be living a joyful life.  The results were so significant in fact that the researchers concluded that not having close friends was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

Our primary watch-out?  When our lives seem crazy, when we’re busy with life, work and tending to our families, it’s our friendships that get put on the back burner.  As one researcher states:  ”That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other.  We nurture one another.  And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women.  It’s a very healing experience.”

So if anything, be cognizant of the power of our dear friendships with other women, and continue to find the time and space to connect with those who are dear to you.  It’s a proven life saver!

Step On the Scale, But Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

man-and-woman-back-to-backI hope you don’t mind my commandeering the policy slogan “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for a different purpose.

As you know, the phrase is commonly associated with the military policy that forbids openly gay people from serving their country, yet also prohibits commanders from asking about their subordinates’ sexuality. In last night’s State of the Union, President Obama called for a repeal of this current cop out compromise practice, a law which satisfies neither liberals nor conservatives.

But, that’s a topic for a different day.

Today’s post is about the startling difference (at least to me) among men and women when it comes to the topic of weight loss – their own or another person’s – and whether they ask/tell or don’t ask/don’t tell.

I can’t tell you the number of times men have announced in my presence (unsolicited and sometimes out-of-the-blue) that they’ve lost “x-number” of pounds. Case in point: during pre-staff meeting chit chat yesterday, my male boss shared with a group of us that he has lost 13 pounds recently. Great news, to be sure, but what really caught my attention is that his self-disclosure seemed apropos to nothing we were discussing at the moment. I’ve heard similar weight-specific boasts (and dispirited confessions) from other men.

What’s up with that?

Women rarely volunteer this level of detail about their weight changes – at least voluntarily; they don’t tell. And most women seem loathe to press others for such details; they don’t ask.

I’ve pondered the differences between men and women and how they handle weight discussions before … to myself. Now I have the chance to share my observation with you all, and get your perspective/feedback.

What have you noticed about men and women and their tendency to ask/tell (or not) when it comes to weight changes? Are there gender differences? Or, is it only me and my hyper-sensitivity?

Adventures in LASIK Surgery

corneal-surfaceI’ve been eying LASIK surgery to correct my nearsightedness for a few years now. Let me walk you through my LASIK adventure through the lens of the “stages of change” model.

Precontemplation stage (ignorance of the problem). I can’t read street signs when I’m driving, and that’s a problem. However, for the last two decades, I’ve worn contacts, and street signs and anything else that’s more than 10-feet away are crystal clear. After the initial bumbling of learning how to put contacts in, the daily routine of wearing contact lenses became a breeze. Insert, take out, clean, store – it all took me no more than five minutes per day. I heard about people going through eye corrective surgery, but I was puzzled. Why go through such a risk and expense when wearing contacts was so easy?!?

Contemplation stage (ambivalence). Except, over the last few years, wearing contacts hasn’t felt as easy. I fumble with them more, and am forced to search desperately for a fallen lens on the counter top, sink, floor or hanging out on the side of a stray container sitting on my counter. It can be challenging to tell up close whether the lens is poised “the right way” on my finger tip. At night, sans contacts, I have to now squint at the alarm clock to make sure I read the right time. My love affair with contacts is over. It’s time to consider a change.

Preparation stage (collecting information). “So, tell me more about your LASIK surgery,” I ask friends and family. I research the process (cringe!) and cost (ouch!). I ask people if they’d recommend their doctor. I narrow in on a busy practice and attend its information session. Meet the surgeon (as in I and the other 20 people at the session ask probing questions) and deem that he’s competent. It’s time to get off the fence …

Action stage (taking direct action toward the goal). I sign on many dotted lines acknowledging the risks associated with the surgery. I have my corneas scanned to determine whether I’m a good candidate. I’m told that my corneas are a little thin, but that’s probably due to my wearing contacts and the inevitable friction of taking them off (darn those contacts!). Wear your glasses, I am told, and return in three weeks. For 8 out of 10 people, that does the trick, and the corneas are fine.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”

Maintenance stage. This is the last stage of the change process. The period when I maintain the change by being a good doobie and following the doctor’s orders to not rub my eyes and diligently use the post-surgery eye drops. However, there was no surgery. That “EEEE” sound above is the sound of a screeching halt. When I returned after three weeks of wearing old glasses (from two prescriptions ago), I was told that the thickness of  my corneas had not improved. In fact, one had worsened. I was not a candidate for the LASIK surgery, but I could have PRK surgery, the older technology which requires a longer recovery period.

Uh, I don’t think so.

It’s back to stage one of the change process for me. Ignorance is bliss (and a whole lot cheaper)!

New Year’s Resolutions & Strategies On Keeping Them

ist2_2024989-new-year-s-resolutions-dieting“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”  (G.K. Chesterton)

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope all had a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday (I write this a bit tongue and cheek, as while many of us have a break from work and enjoy wonderful family time, there is no end to preparations!)

So we have another opportunity to start a new, and set goals for ourselves.  Almost half of us set personal goals, and while many people do not carry through with their resolutions, about 46% of us who make resolutions are still working towards our goals after 6 months.  That statistic was better than I expected.

Despite this fact that the majority of those who set resolutions do not keep them, the above quote from Chesterton caught my attention, because even if we don’t all follow through to the end, New Year’s at least gives us the push we need to stop and reflect and SET goals for ourselves that hopefully we’ll keep.

Michael York, a business consultant to selling organizations, says that when it comes to resolutions:

1. Most people expect not to keep a resolution

2. Most don’t know how to truly set goals or don’t believe it matters

The secret of achieving goals is as follows:

“Hidden in our everyday lives is the real truth.

Architects know it.

Coaches know it.

Builders and rocket scientists know it.

Blueprints and game plans and models WORK!”

The only New Year’s resolutions I’ve been successful at achieving were ones that I set 3-4 years ago that were about getting friends together on a regular basis with a common focus – a gourmet cooking group, for example.  Of course, in those situations, I had friends that I involved in my goal there to keep me on track.

I must say my annual goal of exercising regularly always falls by the wayside.  That goal is still a top priority, so it behooves me to figure out how to break down this goal into small manageable parts on a weekly basis so I can achieve them – a blueprint as Michael York points out.  So as a beginning, I’ll write out exactly what I need to achieve on a weekly basis, and what exercises (and length of time) I’m going to commit to it.  And maybe just maybe, it will become a routine, and I’ll actually enjoy it!

I also received two vegetarian cookbooks for Christmas, and while I’m not sure I can or want to go all the way to that side of eating, I do love the idea of adding more vegetarian meals to the weekly planning.  This is called being a Flexitarian (as penned by freelance writer Lambeth Hochwald – and very clever I might add).

Anyone else have resolutions or wisdom on how to keep their resolutions to share?

Letting Go And The Pretzel Test

pretzel

‘Tis the season … of inescapable stress, unattainable expectations, fitful sleep, poignant memories, and increased time with those who share your genes and are doing their own version of this pressure-filled holiday dance.

One way I monitor my stress level during the holiday season – and throughout the year – is to do The Pretzel Test. As I plan, coordinate, orchestrate and otherwise attempt to control life, I will sometimes (unfortunately, not always) stop and ask myself, “Am I twisting myself into a pretzel on this?”

I know the answer is yes when my nerves feel brittle and ready to snap, just like a pretzel. Or, I’ve twisted and turned all my desires/priorities and subjugated them to someone/something else in supposed service of the “greater good.” Or, I finally recognize that I’m more invested in the outcome than the person who actually should.

When the realization hits that I’ve reached pretzel status, it’s time for emergency action. Sometimes that involves chocolate (again, unfortunately). Other times I pull out the quote below and read carefully. Inevitably, the line I need to be reading jumps off the page at me.

Are you feeling a little crunchy this week? How and what can you let go?

Let Go
To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means I cannot do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I cannot control another.
To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
To “let go” is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate everybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To “let go” is not to regret the past but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and to love more.

Squeeze Me Tight … Or Not

mammography-machineOn my to-do list this month is to schedule my annual mammogram for January. I like to begin the new year with a hopefully “all-clear” on my health, even when it requires squeezing my 36-D breasts into the form of 1-inch pancakes. This year’s resolve, however, has been challenged.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued new recommendations about the timing and frequency of mammograms. I know that every time I’ve opened, flipped, clicked on a media device in the last few days, there’s been a vociferous roar reacting to the suggestion that we change the current practice of annual mammograms for women 40 and over.

In its review of scientific evidence, the USPSTF recommended that regular screening mammograms begin at age 50 as the panel “did not find sufficient evidence to specify the optimal screening interval for women aged 40-49,” given clinical considerations.

For a rational and hyperbole-free take on the recommendations, I turned to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure site for its position. The site lays out the risks and benefits of routine screening, urges women to react “calmly,” and recommends talking to your own physician to make the choice that’s right for you.

Well, I know that the choice that’s right for me is having the girls tightly squeezed once again in 2010.

What are other Wise Women’s reactions to the controversy?

Having A Bad (Chase, Falling, Test, Teeth) Dream?

teeth-smileYou know that classic bad dream people have? The one when – regardless of your age – you show up to class and walk into a surprise test. I’ve certainly had that one before. But more regularly I have a dream where my teeth fall out (unexpectedly and for no reason) as I desperately try to catch them in my hand. Gross, I know.

Turns out that falling teeth dreams are very common, according to Dream Moods. The loss of teeth can signify anxiety about appearance, fear of embarrassing oneself, or sense of powerlessness (ding, ding, ding on that last one).

What’s your personal, classic bad dream? And why can’t our classic dreams be happy and involve winning the lottery?!?!?

Joy in not in things, it is in us.
Richard Wagner

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