Archive for April, 2008

Quick Update on the Benefits of Drinking Water

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

I wrote a post about ten reasons why drinking water is good for you based on my experience with drinking more water. I want to update you about a recent article in the NY Times (my favorite source for scientific and health information) which reported results of a review of clinical studies on the benefits of drinking water.

They found there were few benefits except:

  1. Drinking water helps the kidneys to clear sodium, which can reduce the risk of dveloping high blood pressure, and
  2. Drinking water could help control weight gain by decreasing your appetite.

So is water the magic elixir that will solve all of your health problems? No. But the studies do show some benefits for weight loss and reducing risk of developing hypertension. In addition, my own experience tells me that it helps my skin, my digestion, and improves my exercise tolerance. Relying on clinical studies for evidence of the benefits of water assumes that the studies have been done. I think clinical studies on skin texture are not likley to get funded, nor likely to be done by researchers interested in finding cures to more critical health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

So all of this is to say that while drinking plenty of water may not be the panacea cure for serious medical conditions, but It does help you to maintain good health and well being–and we all need more of that.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Sunday Unplugged

Posted on April 28, 2008. Filed under: Stop the Drama | Tags: , , |

Today is about Stopping the Drama

A couple of weeks ago, I convinced my family to have an Unplugged Sunday. This is a day with no electronic use–no television, no computers, no video games, no electronics, no nothing. The motivation came to me after reading an article in the NY Times by Mark Bittman regarding his experiences with being unplugged. Bittman is better known for his work on minimalist cooking, however he did share his unplugged experience in this particular article, and said:

“Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, I experienced what, if I wasn’t such a skeptic, I would call a lightness of being. I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.”

Lightness of Being? That may be asking for a lot, but being unplugged did sound like something worth trying. My first hurdle was convincing my daughters. “You mean no TV! But it’s the weekend!” Yes, girls no TV. No computer. No nothing. “Well could we go out and see a movie?” This was going to be harder than I expected. I realized my vision for being unplugged was not getting through to them, so I decided to get my husband’s help.

My husband is a CNN/video game/iPhone/web surfing junkie. However, he did buy in to the idea of being unplugged for a day and immediately turned everything off when I shared the idea. He lasted for 20 minutes: “What are you doing with your iPhone?” “Oh I was just looking for recipes for dinner tonight” “What’s wrong with the 30 cookbooks in the kitchen?” “Nothing, it’s just that I’d rather look it up on the ‘net”

Finally after a lot of cajoling, and a little policing, I was able to convince everyone to turn everything off and unplug. And what happened? We had a nice quiet Sunday at home. Our day was filled with reading, chatting, playing games, a slow cooked dinner, and really feeling like Sunday could actually be a day of rest. My husband bought the original game of Risk for Christmas last year, however our family has not had a single chance to sit down and play the game. Perhaps after a few more Unplugged Sundays, our family will find the time to sit together and play the game.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to try having just one day per week where you are unplugged. What I found is you read, you talk. Life happens.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Lego Fun at Lyndhurst Castle

Posted on April 20, 2008. Filed under: Things to Do, Westchester | Tags: , , , , , |

Today is about Things to Do

The warm weather is FINALLY returning, and I am headed back outside with my kids! One of the good things about living in Westchester is there is a lot of outdoor public space available for exploring, playing, and learning. One such place is Lyndhurst, which is a beautiful Gothic Style mansion with surrounding grounds that overlook the Hudson River. They have events open to the public throughout the year, and this weekend held a LEGO festival.

Admission cost $7 per adult, while kids were free. LEGO activities included seeing LEGO Robotics League submissions from NYC school children. After talking with a couple of the teachers who were there with their teams, I learned that there are no teams from Westchester schools, and there are few girls who get involved. My husband is an engineer, so I came home and immediately launched into why he should start a LEGO League Team in our town’s school and reach out to girls to participate. He just nodded and smiled, as he often does when I come home really jazzed about something.

Other activities included seeing the work of master LEGO builder Arthur Gugick, who told me he is a math teacher by day, and LEGO Builder by night. I asked him how he created his designs, and he told me he designs everything on paper and devotes lots of time to mapping out his designs before he begins. I also learned he gets his parts through a huge Ebay trade on LEGOs pieces, and there are 4,000 different LEGOs pieces he uses for his creations.

Other activities included open tables with loads of LEGOs pieces for the kids to build and create, a treasure hunt through the property, and a tour of the Mansion. While there was food available for purchase (bring cash, no debit cards accepted), the weather and the grounds were so beautiful, it would have been a perfect venue for a picnic. Overall, it was a fun and inexpensive outing, with lots of running around, which was great for inducing a good afternoon nap in my four year old.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Just Say “No”

Posted on April 17, 2008. Filed under: Stop the Drama | Tags: , , , , |

Today is about Stopping the Drama

Photo by Clearly Ambiguous

Learning how to say “No” is a critical skill for leading a simpler life. People make demands on your time, your attention, and your energy and will continue to ask for more until your tell them “No”. While it is such a simple word, it can be so hard to say because we want to help out, and don’t want to disappoint others. However, having a simpler life requires having more time, and being in control of your time so you can spend it doing things that add value to your life. Instead of running around meeting the needs of others, it’s better to be relaxed, spend time with people you love, and give yourself enough time to get the things done you need to do. While saying “No” can be hard, I do have a few points to share that will make it easier.

  • Don’t give a reason, just say no. If you give a reason, then that opens the door for negotiations to overcome your reasons. At work, I get asked to give a lot of talks. They often provide no real professional benefit, are inconvenient, and I don’t want to do them. I asked an older colleague how she handles requests she doesn’t want to do, and she told me “treat it like when you were dating; you just said no and didn’t need to give a reason” I don’t know why that resonated with me, but it made a lot of sense. So when a request comes in that I don’t want to do, I thank them for the request and say no.
  • If you must give a reason, then make it impersonal. My sister once asked if she could borrow my passport since we look alike and she needed an I.D. to get into a club. It was not a hard sell to tell her I don’t give my passport to anyone. You can use other excuses that say “it’s not you it’s me” like “I don’t loan money to friends or family”, “I have already decided where I will be making donations (or volunteering my time) this year”, “I need to slow down and am not traveling for holidays”, “My kids are allergic, and we cannot keep any pets in the house”. You get the point, these are all general statements, that are great ways to say no, and would not be offensive to most reasonable people.
  • Consider the cost of saying yes. What will it cost you in time, energy, lost opportunities to do something else, time with your friends and family? I once heard someone say “if you had six months to live, how would you send your time? If the thing you are being asked to do is not on that list, then don’t do it”. Fortunately, most of us have more than six months to live. However, the point is well taken. Life is short and you should not spend it wasting time on things you do not enjoy. If a request does not make it on to your “six months to live” list, then don’t do it.
  • Let go of guilt. Most of us want to please others and when we can’t we feel guilty. However, a huge plus-side of guilt is that it is an emotion that is entirely within your control. Other people can make you feel sad or happy, but only you can decide to allow yourself to feel guilty. Exactly what is it that you owe the other person? Why do you feel obligated to them? Why is it so important to please them? Will fulfilling this request really please them that much? Do you think that you are so special that they cannot get someone else to do this task? If you don’t want to do something that is being requested of you, don’t feel bad that you cannot address someone else’s needs.
  • Get it over with quickly. I am guilty of procrastinating on saying no because it is unpleasant and I don’t want to let someone down. Also, I want to make it seem that I have given some thought to the request. However, if I let too much time pass before I give an answer, I feel more obligated to say yes because they have less time to find someone else to do the task. If you know the answer is no, just say it as soon as possible and get it over with.
  • Practice saying no. You can start with small requests that are easy to turn down. You can get used to saying no by starting with simple requests and learning that people will not think less of you, they will still like you, and they will be able to get someone else to do it. After you have had some practice and learned that the world won’t stop with the little “no”, then you can move up to saying “no” for bigger requests.
  • Don’t succumb to flattery. Whenever someone starts out with a statement about how great, smart, knowledgeable, informed, eloquent, or beautiful I am, then I know it’s going to be a major request. Don’t fall for it! In fact, I get annoyed. I am not so easily swayed that basic flattery will get me to engage in an activitiy that causes me to fall behind at work or spend less time with my kids — unless their flattering statements are true :-). Although they may tell you that you are extremely bright, smart, efficient, effective, organized, and thorough, trust me there is someone else out there who is equally talented and can take on this task instead of you.
  • Take time to appreciate the benefits of saying no. My biggest challenge is getting requests to go give talks, which often require travel and being away from work or my family. When I say no to these requests, I still keep the date in my calendar as a reminder of what I was asked to do. When the day comes, and I end up using the time to catch up at work, or play with my kids, or eat dinner with my family, I remind myself that this is what I could do because I was able to say no to a request for my time.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Physical Therapy for Runner’s Knee

Posted on April 15, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

I have started physical therapy for my runner’s knee and was told that it will take me about four weeks to build enough strength and flexibility to get back out and running.

Although there was a recent article in the NYTimes which reported studies that found stretching does not reduce your risk of injuries, most of what they have me doing right now focuses on stretching with a little bit of strength.

I am listing the procedures that are part of my physical therapy, and will report back whether they help or not. So far, my pain is diminished and I can now go down the stairs without pain.

  1. Apply warm pack to knee for 10 minutes
  2. Massage the patellar tendon and the iliotibial band.
  3. Stretch your quadriceps muscles, that is the thigh muscles in front of your legs.
  4. Hamstring stretch, the muscles in back of your thighs.
  5. Stretch the iliotibial band.
  6. Piriformis stretch.
  7. Using a soccer ball held between your knees, go up into the bridge pose and hold for 30 seconds, Repeat three times.
  8. Do leg lifts. Lay on your back with one leg bent with your foot on the floor. Straighten the other leg along the floor. Now lift your straightened leg being careful not to lift it higher than your other bent knee. Do three sets of ten on both sides.
  9. Side leg lifts. Do three sets of ten.
  10. Balance on each foot for thirty seconds. Repeat three times
  11. Using a leg press, press away from you with both feet. Then return to your starting position using one leg, the one with the affected knee.
  12. Ice your knee for 10 minutes.

So this is my routine, and time will tell if it helps my runner’s knee.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )

Ten Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Posted on April 8, 2008. Filed under: Stop the Drama | Tags: , , , |

Today is about Stopping the Drama

I procrastinate. A lot. Especially when I have to do something that I don’t enjoy, am scared to get into, or just feel overwhelmed. However, I recently had to write a report, and it was the kind that I often avoid or procrastinate doing. This time, I had a quick deadline for finishing the report, so didn’t have time to do my usual procrastination, and just jumped right in. As a result, the report got done quickly and I didn’t waste time mulling over the work, procrastinating about it and having it hang over my head. Deadlines can be good that way, but everything doesn’t come with a deadline that forces us to avoid procrastination. So here are some tips that I have used which help me to avoid procrastinating.

  1. Just start. It can be very useful to simply start a project, but make no promise about being perfect or getting finished. Instead, I just jump right in, but limit myself to one hour of work as a way to get started. So whether it’s cleaning out my basement, or writing a major report, the job doesn’t seem as big if I just get started and promise myself that I will work for only one hour.
  2. Make a decision. Projects can sometimes sit indefinitely because you need to make a decision to get it started. Painting your living room? What color will you choose? Making plans for summer camp for your kids? What camp will you pick? Again, just taking that first step to gather information you need to make a decision helps. However, set a deadline for yourself to gather enough infomation and then choose. Then you can move towards action to execute your choice.
  3. Use bribery. Give your self a treat — it can be a piece of chocolate, a massage, or a weekend away. Promise yourself a a reward once you have finished a task or project you are avoiding.
  4. Use denial. Withhold something until you have completed that task. When I am at work, I often don’t allow myself to go to lunch until a specific task has been completed. This forces me to get it done, and then I can reward myself with food.
  5. Don’t try to be perfect. It’s sometimes hard to start a job that you want done perfectly. How can anyone live up to that expectation? In stead of perfect, try for “good” or “good enough”. Besides, many projects can go through draft stages so that getting to perfect is almost possible. For me, the hardest part is getting started. But when I let myself off the hook and say it doesn’t have to be perfect, but has to be something that I can improve perfect, it makes it easier to get started.
  6. Work with someone else. People do this all the time to get in shape by hiring a personal trainer. I recently did this by training for a half marathon with a partner. Knowing that she would be waiting for me at 7AM was all that I needed to get out of the bed to go and meet her for a run. So whether it’s working out, or writing up a report, collaborating with someone else can force you to stop putting it off and starting getting it done.
  7. Face your fear. Sometimes people procrastinate because they are afraid of the outcome of their work. Visualize the worst case scenario–what would happen if you fail in this task? When you address it directly, it is often not as bad as you imagined. Then knowing how bad it can be, frees you up to imagine how good it can get–and work towards making that a reality.
  8. Unplug. No food. No music. No nothing. Eliminate any distractions so you can simply focus on the task at hand. I have seen people spend so much time setting up the right work environment–the right drinks, food, music, temperature, whatever–that all their energy goes to set up and none goes to their work. Just keep it simple, and keep things away that could distract you. If you want to eat or play music, use that as a reward (see #3).
  9. Just let it go. There are some tasks that sit for a long time, not getting done. Then when you turn your attention to it, you realize it is no longer important or timely or simply needs to not be done. When that happens, just take it off your “to do” list and use your energy for another current project.
  10. Don’t start a blog. I often end up here blogging, instead of doing some work or project that I am supposed to. Blogging is fun. Going through my work email is not. Recognize where you let yourself get distracted and try to avoid that situation. With that said, I will get back to work……


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

  • About

    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...