Tag Archives: Health

Working From Home

Some notes from our daughter…

Snapshot of life in our house:

22 year old is on her laptop at the kitchen island dialed in to a 3 hour college course where everyone in class is talking with each other for 3 hours. Quiet required. Every Monday morning.

Husband is sitting at the kitchen table on his laptop dialed in to his Monday morning meeting (NASA). Totally not important stuff.

13 year old is *also* sitting at the kitchen table on a laptop emailing his teachers (upon my instructions) and asking for clarification as to what exactly they are expected to do during this time at home because he is certain the packets are optional. Mom is making him get confirmation from his teachers before throwing in the towel. Because, clearly, I have been misinformed. Big sigh. Eye roll. Walk away.

20 year old sits in the next room 10 feet away (no doors) on the desktop dialed in to her new online college experience. Have fun doing this for the rest of the school year kiddo.

15 year old sits in the next room (no doors) on the desk top dialed in to his online school which he has been doing online for the past 3 years…completely frustrated by this new LOUD learning environment he is expected to function in with *seven people* under one roof. Unacceptable. This is clearly not going to work, mother.

The 9 year old and I are having a late start to our day in my bedroom watching cartoons while waiting for an electronic device to open up so he can start his school day. My new playmate

We have implemented 3pm Monday – Friday as our “quiet time” cut off. Trying to be more respectful of everyone’s needs. Which, of course, requires a rule. This experiment is crazy making, at best. Pray for big families who struggle with “quiet time” on a good day. We are a LOUD family people…I’m not sure how this apocalypse is going to work

I forgot to say that I am used to being alone. And now I am NEVER alone. I know there are a few of you out there who can relate. And that doesn’t even begin to address the GLOBAL PANDEMIC happening outside our doors. Lord, we ask that you give us strength to survive this. All of this.


Getty Images | iStockphoto | Christian Chan


Government Nutrition Information Posters

How I See It

This poster was created in 1919. The government thought this constituted a healthy meal. A lot has changed about our dietary needs. We have had years of carb loading as an official government policy. The USDA has again changed its guidelines. The food pyramid asking us to eat six to eleven servings a day of bread, cereal, rice and pasta has been replaced. Since 2011, we have a simpler graphic of a plate divided into sections for vegetables, fruit, protein and grains. You can have a little dairy on the side.

What have been the past recommendations by the government for nutrition? What other posters have been issued? Do you think we are now making the best recommendations?

The U.S. government early on recommended few fruits and vegetables. The focus was on having enough protein. Workers needed protein for energy to do a hard day’s work. Vitamins were discovered in the early…

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Snow Hike | First Time This Year

by Jim and Melanie

It snowed about a foot last weekend. The temperature dropped to -3˚F with 35 mph arctic winds by the next morning. Today, it warmed up to 25˚ with no wind. We strapped on the snowshoes and headed for the trail behind our house. Trails in town wind through the neighborhoods of town and make for great excursions all year long. Join us on this hike.

Strapped on and ready to go.


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Did You Get Your Flu Vaccination?

Yesterday we got shot. Vaccinated. Flu vaccine. Have you had yours?

Some people don’t get vaccinated for specific health reasons, while others don’t for fairly vague notions that their general good health will keep them safe. (They may as well count on their natural good looks to keep them healthy.) Still others contend that you can get the flu from the vaccine, and they won’t take that chance. Others go with theories that vaccinations, in general, are more dangerous than the illnesses than they’re intended to prevent.

Last time I had flu was in 2000. Our son had a go-round one week in March, and I was the next victim. I never want to do that again, with a week of near helplessness, fever and fatigue. Being young and healthy didn’t protect either of us. So since then I’ve had a flu shot almost every year and haven’t been sick. Sure, it’s true I might not have gotten sick anyway. That’s okay. I’ll still choose to be vaccinated.

Below I have quoted liberally from the CDC, with links provided to specific pages where possible.

Flu can be a dangerous illness. Recent history shows a range of from 3,000 to 49,000 people dying in a flu season. Most of those deaths are people 65 and older, but anyone can be struck down.

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. “Flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

What are the symptoms of flu? Flu typically comes on suddenly. Most people have fever (with or without chills), cough, headaches and muscle aches, and fatigue. For most people, diarrhea and vomiting are NOT associated with influenza. They occur with other viruses or bacterial infections.

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

You don’t have to have symptoms to spread the disease. A few facts from the CDC about how flu spreads:

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

Who is at higher risk for complications from flu?

And what should you know about flu vaccinations? Can it give you the flu?

No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are attenuated (weakened), and therefore cannot cause flu illness. The weakened viruses are cold-adapted, which means they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist.

People have any number of reasons not to get the flu shot because of some health concern. The first thing most people say is that you can get the flu from the flu shot. As stated above, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Or that they got the vaccination and still got flu. This is possible. The immunization effect isn’t immediate, and it’s also possible to get a different strain of flu than the one immunized for. But you are far less likely to get flu with immunization than without. There can be side effects, as well. For most people the side effects are minor and pass quickly.

However, most reasons given to dodge the shot are based on faulty understanding, or on pure misinformation. See this great post with 33 myths about flu vaccination. Each myth provides accurate information refuting the claim.

If you need any other reasons to get the flu shot, consider the financial impact of getting sick. According to the Wall Street Journal, flu is expensive for the household and the nation.

The CDC estimates that the flu costs the U.S. more than $87 billion a year and results in 17 million lost workdays. A typical flu-related hospitalization for a child costs $4,000, and an emergency visit is about $730, says L.J. Tan, chief strategy officer at the Immunization Action Coalition, a nonprofit that educates the public and private sectors about vaccine-preventable illnesses.

If you have questions, check with your doctor to help you make the right decision for you and those around you.


President Obama receiving his flu shot.

I’m glad we have our shots. Have you?

For Better | For Worse

by Jim and Melanie

They were married in August 1933. This picture shows them at a family Christmas potluck dinner in 1999, well into their 67th year since exchanging their vows. A week later, Mom drove the eighteen miles alone to go to mass on New Year’s Eve at the country church they always attended. Dad wasn’t feeling well enough to go.

Some at church noticed how strange it was that Mom didn’t take communion during mass. On her way home, she made a wrong turn into a driveway and got the car stuck at the edge. A farmer stopped and helped get her going again. Several miles closer to home, she turned into a farm lot with a large white building that looked vaguely like their garage at home. She opened the door of the car and starting walking down the road in the ditch. Someone saw the car with lights on and door open and alerted authorities. They soon arrived and found her. She was taken to the hospital 75 miles away. Diagnosis was a stroke. She never went home again.

See The Stroke of Midnight for more about Mom and about stroke symptoms and risks.

And more of their story…

The Stroke of Midnight

Stroke. Disoriented at church. Stroke. Lost on the way home. Stroke. “Will this happen to me again?”

December 31, 1999. The world held its breath, watching whether global computer systems would crash due to the 4-digit year problem. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was transported from her small county hospital to a larger medical center. The computers were fine. She was not. She’d had a stroke, also known as a Cerebral Vascular Accident, or CVA.

At age 87, she insisted she would go to New Year’s Eve mass at the same church she’d attended all her life. My father-in-law wasn’t feeling well enough to go, but well enough that she could leave him alone at home for a couple hours. Later we heard from others that she hadn’t taken communion at church. It was a noticeable omission.

She headed for home afterward. She was a good driver, and I never felt unsafe when she drove. But she got lost traveling the same route she’d driven for more than 20 years, since they’d moved into town. Stopping in front of a shed on the dark country road, she tried to get in, but it was locked. Confused, she set out along the edge of the cornfield in the cold night air. It was not frigid. There was no snow. We do not take this for granted in the Midwest, this time of year.

In a rural area, people notice the out-of-place, and someone noticed her car parked where no car should be parked. Dispatch to the county sheriff, license plate number reported, was overheard on scanner by one of her sons. A grandson was called by someone else. Forces were activated; she was found.

We were able to see her the next day as she spoke with a doctor. She asked, “Will this happen to me again?” The doctor told her there was no way to predict it, but the fact she was lucid enough to ask the question was encouraging. His prognosis for her recovery was optimistic.

Discharged to the nursing home back in her own county, she recovered substantially as the doctor predicted. There were a lot of problems, though, including physical and mental ones. She recognized family and friends, remembering events from long ago, though not recent ones. The brain attack had left her with aphasia, the inability to fully understand or express speech. Conversations with family members went on, but the aphasia always made us wonder if she understood more than she could convey. Her physical needs were too complex to care for her in her own little house. She never lived there again.

February 2000

At the time the photo above was taken, she and her husband had been married more than 66 years. She was well enough in the spring to enjoy the wedding shower for a beloved granddaughter, hosted in the family room at the nursing home. But over the next five years, we lost her, pieces at a time. While at first she had good facial recognition, it wasn’t long before she only could say my name if someone else said it first. That made me a little sad, but I was heartened that she always knew my son’s name, always until the last time she called it, mistaking him for one of her own sons.

In May of 2005, her body gave in to its ongoing deterioration, and at age 93, she died. We miss her still, this remarkable woman who bore and reared nine healthy, fully functional children, who enjoyed without reservation all 21 of her grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, who accepted me into her family readily and lovingly. We miss her still.

Stroke. It can kill quickly or slowly. For the lucky ones, it is a temporary set-back. “Luck” often requires speed in diagnosis and treatment. We all need to know the signs of stroke and what to do if we suspect it.

To identify possible stroke in someone else, use the F.A.S.T. acronym.

Face: Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one arm drifts downwards.
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check to see if the words are slurred and the sentence is repeated correctly.
Time: If the person exhibits any of these symptoms, time is essential. It is important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Call 9-1-1. Act FAST.

How can we prevent stroke? The National Institutes of Health provides stroke information that includes risk factors. These include
High blood pressure or hypertension
Cigarette smoking
Heart disease
Warning signs or history of TIA or stroke
Cholesterol imbalance
Physical inactivity or obesity

See your doctor for assessment of your risk.

A stroke is also known as a Cerebral Vascular Accident, but it is rarely an accident. The underlying conditions that contribute to risk may be present for years before a stroke. Know your risks and manage them where you can. Know the symptoms to help those around you, as well as yourself. Speed in diagnosis and treatment during or immediately after a stroke is essential.

Charlotte’s Clubfoot

by Melanie and Jim

Someone very near and dear to our family found out last winter that her unborn baby girl was going to be born with a clubfoot. In her words…

I received a phone call from my doctor that no parent ever wants to hear. ‘There was an abnormality on your ultrasound. It appears that the baby’s right foot is a clubfoot. I’m going to put in a referral for you to be seen at Walter Reed in Maternal/Fetal Medicine.’

Umm, what? There’s something wrong with my baby? What does a clubfoot mean? Does she not have toes? Can it be fixed? Will she walk? Is it a sign of a more serious abnormality? Is it my fault? These are just a few of the questions that flooded my mind as my eyes filled with tears.

She set about finding out all she could about it and the best course of treatment. She hoped, by telling her story, that she would be better able to cope with the future appointments and treatments for Charlotte. She also hoped her story would be a reassuring one for other parents who are faced with the same diagnosis.

Everything has turned out well and as expected at this point in time. Charlotte’s story is documented in her mother’s blog. Her archive of posts begins in July and goes to August this year with twelve entries. Each post describes a stage in the treatment regime and includes pictures and thoughts from the heart. I asked if it was alright for me to share this. More exposure to other parents would be a good thing. She said to go ahead.

Here is your link to begin with The Backstory. Once you are at the bottom of a post in the blog, go to the next posts with Newer Post button. They are heartwarming. Charlotte is beautiful. Share this story and re-blog as you see fit. Thank you Charlotte and her parents.

Homemade Yogurt!

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Creamy, pure white, smooth and rich. Add fresh fruit and a little drizzle of honey, you get a small piece of heaven. Jim and I have been making our own yogurt for the last month or so.

Why not just buy it? Several reasons, actually. My main reason is that purchased yogurt comes in plastic tubs, and the way we’ve usually bought it for years is in individual servings. I cringe to think of all the plastic waste we’ve dumped into the world, just from our yogurt cups. (And yes, we recycle!) Making our own yogurt reduces our plastic footprint.

Another reason is because I’ve been trying to take better control of the food I eat.
-Click here to find out more, including how to make your own!>