Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Take a Break: Draw Anime/Manga

Quite a few summers ago, my oldest son wanted to drop out of his art camp because they weren’t teaching him “anatomy,” which was his pronunciation of the Japanese art of animation “anime.” While my son watched various shows on television that sparked his interest, I became hooked on Japanese animation when I watched Hayao Miyazakis’s “Spirited Away,”

Manga, which are the Japanese comics, is often linked with anime, so links for both appear below.

Anime cubed

How to Draw Manga: Head Shape & Facial Features

Japanese Animation to Watch on-line
Spirited Away

Masanobu Hiaoka On the Table

For something completely different, watch Janet Echelman at TED. She found her true voice as an artist when her paints went missing -- which forced her to look to an unorthodox new art material. Now she makes billowing, flowing, building-sized sculpture with a surprisingly geeky edge. A transporting 10 minutes of pure creativity.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The importance of vacation and taking time off

I’m watching a friend slowly dissolve in their continual need to work 14 hour days, seven days a week. Not only are they unpleasant to be around at times, they are plain and simply miserable. The more productive they think they are being, by working every minute of the day and night they possibly could, they are becoming less productive. Mistakes increase and any type of true perspective of the situation is lost.

With this being the official start of the summer season, today’s a good reminder to take breaks, use vacation time, and get away from things for a while.

In Europe, where vacations are practically a religion, workers have on average 20 days of paid leave, compared to Americans who have 12. Interestingly, half of Americans don’t take their full vacation. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap, as people with chronic conditions are already dealing with stress on their bodies. Whether you are living with a specific condition, or are a caregiver, you more than anyone else needs time off.

The health impacts of living such a life are enormous. They can lead to all types of health issues, since the body is being kept in a continual stressful situation. Interestingly, the Framingham Heart Study, found that in 12,000 men who were at risk of heart disease and were followed over nine years, those that took vacations had increased life expectancy.

I can just hear my friend say, “but if I go away, there will just be more for me to do when I get back.” That may or may not be true. Having a break from the daily grind can give you new insight and boost creativity to say nothing of what it does to your body by relieving stress.

Another comment my friend is apt to make is, “I take time off and in a few days I’m so crazy again it’s as if I never went away.” While that may be true, think of it like sleep. It’s essential for your body and well being, but a good night’s sleep doesn’t preclude being tired the next day and needing to sleep the next night.

Many people can’t afford to take a vacation and go somewhere. However, it’s important to take the time off and staycation, vacation at home.

If you are a caregiver, you may feel that vacations are beyond your ability. Consider the following from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) Vacations can help caregivers get back on track. While small breaks and relief from daily routines are important, they fall short of the revitalizing effect of a longer respite. The result of a vacation is not just getting away; it is a ticket for caregivers to change their focus, interact meaningfully with others and improve their own emotional health. To answer all those questions caregivers have, such as “No one takes care of them the way I do,” AFA has some good answers and suggestions.

Don't postpone fun and enjoyment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Take a Break: Put some magic in your life

When was the last time you talked about an experience saying, “It was pure magic?” If it’s been a while, today’s “take a break” is all about putting some magic in your life.

Magic has many meanings and can be experienced in many different ways. For purposes of today’s “take a break,” magic is some thing, place, event, smell, feeling, sense or activity that transcends the ordinary. It could be watching a video of David Blane, who is just the most amazing magician. It could also be a walk in the forest and coming across a unique spot, where the sun glistens through the trees on a dewy morning, making you believe you have stumbled on a fairy circle. What ever it is, magic takes you out of the ordinary. For a moment in time you are totally absorbed and in awe.

Below are a variety of things to consider to increase the magic in your life

Xplore Magic: This site offers you thousands movies of free magic tutorial, magic show, documentary, and fun. In this site you can watch various documentaries about magic, enjoy free funny clips, and amaze yourself with outstanding performance of World Champion of Magic.

• Create Tessellation art (M.C. Escher style art)
Tessellation Organization
Escher Web Sketch
Design a tessellation online

• Take a walk in nature-in the woods, by the ocean, lake or stream

• Smell flowers just after they bloom.

• Star gaze

• Watch Close up Card Magic at TED

• Listen and watch Magic Music

• Enjoy the magic of a “flash mob.
Flash mob in the Copenhagen Metro. Copenhagen Phil playing Peer Gynt
Opera Company of Philadelphia “Flash Brindisi” at Reading Terminal Market
I Believe She’s Amazing Flash Mob-Toronto Eaton Centre

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Mayan Prophecy: You don’t need to worry about this

Recently, a person living with a number of chronic diseases asked me if I thought the Mayan Prophecy was true. If you aren’t familiar with it, various groups are saying that the Mayan Calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and it will be the end of times. It became clear, that this particular “doomsday” prophecy was increasingly of more concern to this person than the seriousness of their health issues. I tried to reassure them that the world wasn’t going to end on Dec. 21, anymore than it did last year when Harold Camping predicted two different dates for a “rapture,” or in 1884 when William Miller also predicted end times. That said, there is a lot more press, and even a movie, about December 21, then there was about Camping.

Today’s post is to help debunk this myth, as a recent Reuters’ poll estimates that 10% of the world’s population believes it. While concerns about the end of the world have obsessed human thinking since day one, those living with chronic disease, who often deal with “worse case scenario, “ can be even more fearful then most.

So how did this myth start? At least one Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Mayan elders as well as scholars of Mayan history, have been trying to counter the growing popular interpretation that this means the end of times. As one scholar noted, the calendar is a bit like the odometer on your car, which resets each time you’ve gone a certain number of miles. Recently, there have been reports on a Mayan calendar that goes well beyond 2012.

The Penn Museum has mounted a new exhibit Maya 2012 (it runs through 2013, so they aren’t taking the prophecy seriously). They describe the Maya Calendar as follows: The ancient Maya created several interlocking calendar systems. The Sacred Round of 260 days is the longest lasting, since it is still in use in some places today. In former times, it was often combined with another system, a 365-day Vague Year, to create a cycle called the Calendar Round, in which a date would repeat once in every 52 years.

Another system, called the Long Count, was used to record longer spans of time. It tracked the passing days from a single starting point many trillions of years in the past. If we look at a single Maya date written with all three systems, a Sacred Round, a Vague Year, and Long Count, we have a time-reckoning that is not unlike our own days, weeks, months, years, decades, and millennia.

No matter what we hear about the truth versus the myth, many will use it as an excuse to engage in behaviors they might not normally do, even if it’s a joke. As one person noted, “well just in case I’m going to eat a lot of pizza on Dec. 20 because if the end of the world happens the next day no one will care if I’m fat.” This isn’t the time to run your credit card debt up, as the judge isn’t going to accept the Mayan prophecy as a rationale explanation when you have to file bankruptcy. And yeah, if you celebrate the December holidays, you need to pick out those presents as you normally do. Of course, this year, you can do them with a Mayan theme.

More Information
Mayan Prophecy: The World Won’t End, as a Newfound Calendar Goes on and on and on

Rapture Follow Up-What Happens When Things Don’t Work Out as Planned

Maya 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Take a Break: Enjoy the Activities of Your Childhood

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting post from Martha Beck about “radical fun.” She writes, fun is a skill. Most of us are terrible at it. We immediately turn to tired stereotypes, clichés like sleeping on the beach, drinking, eating too much, and spending a lot of money. I have nothing against these activities, but they’re pathetic attempts at creating genuine exuberant joyful feelings…. What did you do for fun as a child? Our fun preferences appear very early in our lives and tend to remain extremely stable over time. What was fun for you at age 2 will probably be the most fun you can have at 92.

In reading that last sentence, I found myself transported back to my childhood in Baltimore, MD. The summers were long, very hot and there was little air conditioning. I spent many happy hours reading on my friend’s porch while lying on a “glider.” When it was cool enough, particularly in the spring, summer evenings and fall, we played countless rounds of “tin can jimmy,” which is very similar to “kick the can.” On winter nights, we played a variety of games with our parents, our favorite being “Scrabble.” When it was just the kids, “Monopoly” ruled. We had games that lasted for days.

I think that Beck was right as I still love to play games. Since our home has been a popular place for the kids to come, I’ve found myself wanting to go out and join them for a game of “kick the can.” Lately, there has been some discussion among the adults of playing “laser tag” and “paint ball.”

So today’s activity is to remember the times in your childhood when you were having the most fun and try to incorporate some of these activities into your day. Some ideas to consider:

• Go to your local park, particularly when the kids are in school, and swing.

• If there no one to play board games with, you can do it on-line. Here are just a few examples:

• There are lots of arcade games to play on-line.

• Play your favorite music from childhood.

• Re read the book you most loved as a child.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hypnosis: Does it have a role in treating chronic disease

In April, two studies were published that found that hypnosis significantly reduced symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. "The treatment involves the patient learning to control their symptoms through deep relaxation and individually adapted hypnotic suggestions. The idea is for the patient to then use this technique in their everyday life," says one of the authors Magnus Simren. One of the studies followed up seven years later after initial treatment, found that 85% of those had been helped by hypnosis were still benefiting from the treatment and reduced their use of the medical system by 70%. "Overall, our studies show that hypnotherapy is an effective method of treating IBS, even when provided outside of specialist 'hypnotherapy centres'. The conclusion is that hypnotherapy could reduce both the consumption of healthcare and the cost to society, and that hypnosis therefore belongs in the arsenal of treatments for IBS," says Magnus Simrén. (The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2011; 107 (2): 276 DOI: and Long-term effects of hypnotherapy in patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2012; 47 (4): 414 DOI: 10.3109/00365521.2012.658858)

So just what is hypnosis? Can you hypnotize someone to make them act like a chicken every time the phone rings?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Hypnotherapists use exercises that bring about deep relaxation and an altered state of consciousness, also known as a trance. A person in a deeply focused state is unusually responsive to an idea or image, but this does not mean that a hypnotist can control the person's mind and free will. On the contrary, hypnosis can actually teach people how to master their own states of awareness. By doing so they can affect their own bodily functions and psychological responses…. Since 1995, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recommended hypnotherapy as a treatment for chronic pain.

Note that in 1958, the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed hypnosis but in 1978, the AMA rescinded almost all the policies it had endorsed from 1891 to 1958 including their position on hypnosis. Currently, they have no opinion on this topic.

Contrary to popular culture, hypnosis is not a form of brain washing and you can’t make a person do something they don’t want to do. So the person acting like a chicken every time the phone rings is a myth. The greatest risk appears to be the creation of a possible false memory.

Research indicates that hypnotherapy might have a useful role in chronic disease as it appears that it may improve immune function, decrease anxiety and fear and increase relaxation. It also may help improve the success of other treatments, such as those for pain management. For years now, many people swear by hypnosis for helping them change behaviors they want to change, such as stopping smoking or losing weight.

There are similarities between mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and hypnosis, and a number of hypnotists are using MBSR techniques. You can read an interesting conversation about these two topics at Mindfulness and Hypnosis: Conversations in Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Hypnotherapists are generally licensed medical doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers or family counselors. If you are interested in pursuing such treatment, check for referrals at one of the following sites:
The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis
The American Association of Professional Hypnotherapiests

One of the big issues is payment, since sessions are generally an hour long and can take place for 10 weeks or more. You will need to check with your insurance company about whether they cover hypnosis.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Take a break: Celebrate the Triple Crown/Animation Video

Growing up in Baltimore, Md, May was all about the Preakness and Triple Crown hopefuls. The Preakness is the second of the three race series for three-year old thoroughbred horses. The other two are the Kentucky Derby (Churchill Downs in Kentucky), held two weeks before Preakness and the Belmont Stakes (Belmont Park in Elmont, New York), which takes places five weeks after the Derby.

Even though I now live in a part of the country where there isn’t a week dedicated to a horse race, many people still have Derby or Preakness parties. In keeping with this idea, below are ways to celebrate the various legs of the Triple Crown.

Kentucky Derby: I’ll Have Another won on Saturday but I’m still including some traditions that will be fun to try out, if not this year, maybe next. Of course if he wins in Baltimore, you might want to add a few items for the Belmont Stakes, since there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Ladies in big hats sipping mint juleps seems to sum up the first leg of the Triple Crown. However, there are other lovely traditions, such as derby pie, which is really pecan pie.

• Roses are the traditional flower, so make some out of duct tape, if they aren’t in season (or affordable) where you live.

• . Follow along with the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.” Notice how dressed many people are.

Ride the Kentucky Derby Winner (virtually)

Make Your Own Derby Hat

Check out some of this year’s Derby Hats

Preakness: Having spent more than one Preakness performing in the infield of Pimlico Race Track, the single biggest thing I saw was the consumption of Black-Eyed-Susans. While some folks in the grandstands may have worn hats, I was a lot more familiar with the baseball caps and “beach attire” of the infield. With BBQ’s going and people playing volleyball and tossing the Frisbee, it felt like a day at the beach more then a day at the races. That said, here are some “traditions” to try out:

Sing along with Maryland My Maryland. If you think it sounds like “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,” you are correct. In 1861, James Ryder Randall, a native of Maryland, was teaching in a Creole school in Louisiana during the early days of the Civil War. On April 19, 1861, Union troops marching through Baltimore to the President Street station were attacked by a crowd of men hurling bricks. The troops opened fire, killing several in the crowd. Outraged by the news that his friend, Francis Xavier Ward, was among the casualties, Randall articulated his Confederate sympathies as a nine-stanza poem entitled "Maryland, My Maryland." The poem was immediately popular throughout the south and was set to the traditional tune "Lauriger Horatius" ("O, Tannenbaum"). Teaching American History in Maryland

• Black Eyed Susan is both the official flower of Preakness, as well as the state’s flower. However, it doesn’t bloom until mid to late summer. In Vermont, it’s basically considered a weed. They are a hearty perennial and grow in many different climates. Purchase some seeds, plant and enjoy for many years to come.

• Crab in any form is the choice for many during Preakness week. There is nothing like a good crab cake. I’ve done some searching on-line and found a recipe close to the one I grew up with. When I can afford to make crab cakes, there are some givens that are required-saltine crackers (not a lot though), Old Bay Seasoning, egg, light on the mayo, Worcestershire, salt, pepper and dried mustard. Use whatever type of crabmeat you can afford. I’ll often get special as I like a stronger crab flavor. While many pan or deep fry, I put the crab cakes in the oven along with the Old Bay seasoned potato wedges that I’m roasting. Served along with Cole slaw, sliced tomatoes and some tartar sauce, the crab cakes are a perfect anecdote when I’m homesick

Watch Secretariat: This movie is about the triple crown winner in 1973 and includes footage from his Preakness Race.

Belmont Stakes: With each leg of the Triple Crown, the mood becomes more relaxed and easy going. Well that’s true unless you have a horse that’s won the first two legs and is now a Triple Crown contender. Here the “blanket” for the winning horse is made of white carnations.

Make tissue paper carnations. Use pinking shears to get the jagged edge so familiar to the carnation.

Sing along with Frank Sinatra the official theme song for the Stakes New York, New York.

• While the official drink is Belmont Breeze, it doesn’t have the following of the Mint Julep or Black-Eyed-Susan. Instead the crowd tends to drink beer.

• Make some cupcakes that are frosted with green or white icing. Decorate with the official logo of 2012.

If you aren’t a Triple Crown fan, watch the most amazing medical animation video.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Confidentiality, HIPAA and Getting What You Need

This past week I watching a very sad story unfold. Just before heading into emergency surgery, a patient called a close friend, and asked them to come to the hospital. Being a good friend, Sal (not the real name) headed to the hospital, where they were informed by the staff that they weren’t allowed to see the patient, or obtain any information. It seems that the patient’s spouse, who wasn’t present and wouldn’t be for several days, had left strict orders that there were to be no visitors.

For the patient, things were going from bad to worse. In fact, the only information the friend could get to repeated requests to the medical staff of “but what can I do,” was “pray.” Calls to the spouse by several friends of the patient were met with the same response, “no visitors.”

While I explained to the friend the rules of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and confidentiality, it didn’t help with Sal’s very realistic fears that their friend was going to die alone. I did suggest that if the patient should have any wakeful periods, “Ask the staff to let the patient know you are there and whether they would like to see them.” If the patient’s response is “yes,” the staff could allow the visit. Since the patient was able to speak for them self, the spouse’s permission was not needed.

The take home point of this story is that hospitals and medical providers operate under a set of guidelines regarding patient information confidentiality that have been set forth under HIPAA. However, each provider and organization will implement policies and procedures that they believe best meet their needs. For example HIPAA does not require that you give your health care provider written permission to discuss your health information with family, friends or others involved in your care. Yet, many providers and hospitals will require it.

To avoid the situation described above, as well as ensure that your wishes are honored and your confidentiality kept, please consider the following:

• Be very careful who you select to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. Called power of health attorney, health proxy, or medical power of attorney, this individual can make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so. States vary about the type of forms required, which can be obtained on-line.

If you are checking into the hospital, the person doing the intake will ask who can speak for you and will make a note in your chart accordingly. It can be confusing, since this question is often asked by saying, “in the event of an emergency whom should we contact?” Some hospitals will ask if you have a medical power of attorney. This person may not be your spouse or partner, so be as clear as you can about who should be contacted. They will want a phone number if they don’t have one on record. I have been in situations where the admissions department would not use the most appropriate person simply because the patient didn’t have a phone number with them.

While it would seem logical that your spouse or partner should speak for you in the event that you can’t, there are many people who recognize that differing viewpoints as well as emotional strain may make it best if someone else serves this function.

• In general, providers can not discuss your condition with family or friends unless you have given them permission. However, in certain cases, such as an emergency, they will. In the situation described above, the spouse had spoken for the patient to the medical staff and so “no visitors” had to be observed by the hospital.

• Download and Read “A Patient’s Guide to the HIPAA Privacy Rule: When Health Care Providers May Communicate About You with Your Family, Friends, or Others Involved in Your Care.” Consider taking this document with you to your next medical appointment and discuss it with your provider.

• Complete Advance Directives (Living Will). This is a legal document, which varies by state that outlines your decision about what kind of end-of-life care you are willing to have or not have. This includes things like dialysis, breathing machines, tube feeding etc. You can also specify if you want to be an organ or tissue donor.

Download your states form. While some states have on-line Living Will Registries, others do not and in some cases, the state has discontinued them. There is a private company that offers an on-line Living Will Registry. In the event you do not use an on-line registry, make sure you form is completed, signed and dated, with copies being given to medical provider(s), family members, hospital where you receive care and attorney.

• If a family member, neighbor or friend accompanies you to the hospital for an emergency, if you don’t want them privy to conversations between you and the medical staff, ask them to wait outside. Otherwise, the provider can assume that since they are present with you, it’s okay to discuss your medical situation in front of them.

• Use an advocate. Learn more about being an advocate.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Take a Break: Make a Bookmark

Truth be told, I’ve had some nice bookmarks over the years, but I’m forever loosing them. More often than not, I use a scrap piece of paper (such as the shopping list I forgot to take to the store). Every now and then someone gives me one that I keep for a while. If they are really nice, they don’t end up in the trash, and eventually I’ll find them again and use them until they once again mysteriously disappear.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, a book with a customized bookmark might make a very nice present.

Below are some fun bookmarks to try:

• Take a photograph of someone. Glue to a piece of cardstock and then cut out the person, as close as possible. Cover and back with clear contact paper. If you like, punch a hole to attach a tassels. My husband made a birth announcement for our youngest, just before Christmas, using the same technique. Instead of a bookmark, his idea was an ornament. It’s really fun to see his baby face on our friends’ Christmas trees, particularly now that he’s 18. Check out bookmarks with tassels, for a good tutorial on making tassels, as well as a variation on the photograph bookmark.

• Have some odds and ends of jewelry? Repurpose it into a book mark. Using a 16 inch piece of ribbon, sew or glue, a “jump ring” to each end, to which you can add a few odds and ends of jewelry, charms or whatever else sticks your fancy. Also check out the tutorial, Charming Bookmarks.

• For someone that’s always painting, be it their house or an artist, use a paint chip card. You can punch a hole at the top and string some rattan or a tassel at the top. Write or draw something clever on it.

• For the person that needs “readers,” the bookmark/glasses holder will solve that problem. Use an inexpensive glasses case (Dollar Store), or make one. Sew or glue a ribbon to the top edge and make it sufficiently long enough loop around most books. For an all in one project, try Eyeglass Bookmark Tutorial.

• I know that my cookbooks are filled with scraps of paper to mark favorite recipes. A set of cookbook markers would be very helpful. You can make your own by putting different cooking related items on each bookmark, make your own template or download a set for free.

• It’s really frustrating to be using a new recipe, only to have the cookbook page refusing to stay put. Solve that problem by making a magnetic bookmark. Take a 9 inch strip of cardstock (width depends on what you want to put on the bookmark), and fold in half. On the inside of the bookmark, attach a magnetic strip about a half an inch from the bottom, to each side. Make sure they line up correctly. You can pick up magnetic stripping at any craft store as well as hard ware stores. Since I love making things out of duct tape, think I’ll try this with some of the new designer duct tape.

Check out 16 Creative and Cool Bookmarks