Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

March 20, 2018

Why Did Your Grandma Make Chicken Soup?

Why did your grandma make chicken soup? Well, she may not have. She may have bought it in a can, but I bet she served you some when you felt under the weather. It’s what grandmas do. Even moms do it. And the good news is, chicken soup really does help you recover from a cold.
Of course, these days grandma may make chicken soup when the grandkids come for a visit because she knows she’ll be needing some. Kids are collectors of viruses that they’re happy to share.

I think DJ recently fed me a poison peach. He had a bite on his fork. He held it out. I leaned in close to say, “Nummy nummy num” and pretend to eat it. With perfect timing as I pursed my lips, he shoved the bite in my mouth. Stupid kid germs! Now I have a really bad cold. I need chicken soup!

So what makes chicken soup good for you when you have a cold?

First, it contains the protein building block carnosine. Carnosine is produced naturally by the body and is important for proper function of the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. Giving your body an extra boost of this dipeptide molecule may help reduce some stress on the body while it’s fighting a virus. Both homemade soup and store-bought soup contain carnosine.

Some research indicates that chicken soup may slow the gathering of white cells in the lungs in response to a virus. This may help reduce the coughing, sneezing, and stuffy nose symptoms that make a cold so miserable.

Homemade chicken soup can be nutrient rich from the chicken and vegetables you choose to include. Carrots add beta-carotene. Celery adds vitamin C. Onions add antioxidants. Button mushrooms add B vitamins, riboflavin, and niacin. Chicken adds protein. These nutrients support your immune system and give your cells fuel to rebuild.

Chicken soup is often fairly salty. The salt helps carry bacteria away from the mouth, throat, and tonsils much like a saltwater gargle.

Get plenty of fluids is the most common advice given to anyone recovering from a cold. If you have a fever, fluids are especially important to prevent dehydration. They also help flush the body. Consuming chicken soup automatically adds fluids to your daily intake.

The warmth of chicken soup soothes a sore throat. The steam helps cleanse the sinuses. The added touch of grandma’s soothing tones when she serves you warms your soul. Or so they say.

Chicken soup may have been a comforting, loving tradition long before we could scientifically prove it had healing properties. That didn’t make it any less effective. Somehow, we know that comforting, loving traditions have mysterious healing properties.

March 13, 2018

Time Is On Your Side

jellyThere’s no need for pressure in the kitchen; time is on your side. If you’re a fan of TV cooking shows, it may seem like cooking is a timed event. That may be true in reality TV, but it is not reality. In fact, taking your time in the kitchen can bring added benefits!

Of course, it makes sense that TV shows time challenges to build tension that will keep you watching through the breaks, but that might not seem so normal if we hadn’t gradually filled our days with more and more activity and more and more distractions to the point that hurrying has become a way of life. If we begin to think of cooking as a challenge to be conquered in a certain amount of time, we may end up with good-tasting food, but we’ll miss the joy of the process.
My grandmother worked, gardened, canned, and cooked. When she made tomato juice, it was no 30 minute process! In fact, it stretched over months. She planted tomato seeds, tended the garden, harvested the tomatoes, cooked them down, pressed them through a cheesecloth lined chinois using a wooden pestle into sterilized jars, then topped the jars and placed them in a pressure canner for about 25 minutes. Whatever time she spent was worth it! It was the most delicious tomato juice I’ve ever tasted and it only contained tomatoes and salt.

You don’t have to begin with seeds to make delicious food. I only relate the story to help put things in perspective. My grandmother thought nothing of spending an entire day in the kitchen canning tomato juice. There was no hurry to her process.

Viewing meal preparation as a hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with experience adds pressure and robs us of the chance to:


Taking time to scout for unique ingredients can lead you to ethnic grocery stores, pick-your-own farms, urban gardens, farmer’s markets or produce stands along the highway. Picking strawberries, choosing blue crabs, or tasting churros at an unfamiliar mercado can be a great way to explore your area and spend time together as a family.
blue crabs

If you’re trying to get out of the kitchen quickly, you’re unlikely to try something new. Experiments are, by nature, less predictable in time and result than dishes you’ve prepared many times. But eating the same thing over and over gets tiring. Why not make cherry upside down brownies? Why not slow roast a pork butt for the neighborhood barbecue? Why not cook the greens from the tops of radishes and beets? Why not try making croissants?


There are tons of lessons to be learned in the kitchen. If you’re hurrying through meal prep, you’ll have no time to teach those lessons. Not only will your kids miss out on learning, they’ll miss valuable memories of spending time with you while surrounded by warmth and the aroma of bread baking.


Kitchen prep time is great for dancing along to your favorite tunes or having a family sing-a-long. Think of it as multitasking in the best sense of the word.


It’s impossible to be fully present in the moment when you’re rushing around. If you slow down enough to smell each ingredient, notice its texture, carve it carefully, or roll it evenly, you’ll have a chance to savor each tactile delight.

I love being in the kitchen. I know it makes me feel better, and yet sometimes I fight cooking. I wait too long to start and get too hungry. I fail to inventory my pantry for ingredients, lack something essential, and refuse to substitute. I wait too long to cook some meat and it’s spoiled when I open it. While this doesn’t make me proud, I just have to let it go.

I know the value of being in the kitchen and I am usually mindful enough to enjoy the experience when I’m there. Lots of new recipes and delicious food have resulted from my less than perfect kitchen attendance. I’m going to let that be good enough. From this point, I plan to take my time and savor more and more joy during my kitchen time.

January 16, 2018

How Many Cures are we Missing?

After happening across a documentary entitled, “Unrest” this weekend, I’m pondering the question: How many cures are we missing?


“You can miss a cure because people are telling the wrong story about you.” – Jennifer Brea

That’s the powerful quote that stuck with me after watching the heart wrenching story of Jennifer Brea and others who suffer from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) also sometimes known as Myalgic Encephalopathy.

“You can miss a cure because people are telling the wrong story about you.” – Jennifer Brea

ME/CFS is a complicated illness affecting the neurological, immune, endocrine and energy metabolism systems. Like Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease, Celiac Disease, and Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS has attracted controversy. For many years, it was a debated whether it was an illness at all. Today, up to 90% of people with this syndrome go undiagnosed. Approximately 75% of those affected can no longer work and 25% are homebound and sometimes bedridden.

monsterUnfortunately, the story we often tell when an illness has vague symptoms, is chronic or intermittent, is difficult to diagnose, has no cure, or is difficult to treat is that the patient has a psychological disturbance rather than a physical illness. Some doctors directly tell patients the symptoms are all in their head.

It has happened to me. During the two years I spent with an intracellular parasite encapsulated in a capped tooth, I was told by two different doctors that the extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, abnormal bleeding, and pain behind my right eye that occurred between each round of pneumonia were all in my head. The story they were telling nearly caused my death.

I had psittacosis that I contracted from pet Cockatiels which unbeknownst to me had been illegally imported. My diagnosis was confirmed by both a blood titer and a positive test of the birds. The good news is, I lived. The bad news is, it was an immense struggle to get medical help until I had 104 temperature, incessant vomiting, and pneumonia. At that point, I was considered ill. The fact that it kept recurring was considered unrelated.

That illness was 30 years ago. Any time I have crossed paths with one of those two doctors since then he asks me, “Are you sure those birds had something to do with it?” Yes, I’m sure. The tests indicated the birds carried the organism. The USDA asked for custody of the birds so they could save tissue samples to use as evidence against the pet store owner. YES, I’M SURE!

I am sure, but he is not. In spite of the supporting science, this doctor who is an animal rights advocate cannot bring himself to let go of his story. In his story, animals do not cause harm.

“You can miss a cure because people are telling the wrong story about you.” – Jennifer Brea

Every time I hear someone condescendingly say, “I believe in science,” I cringe. It’s not that I don’t believe in science. It’s that I recognize that we don’t have as much scientific knowledge today as we will have tomorrow. And what we learn tomorrow may turn today’s knowledge on its ear.

I also recognize that the story we construct around scientific observation may be filled with bias that can do real harm and, as Jennifer Brea so astutely points out, may cause us to miss a cure for a very real disease.

It can be difficult to develop a narrative most likely to cure. Some physical illnesses have associated psychological components. Sometimes depression is a reasonable response to the altered life circumstances we face from physical illness. Some wounds to the psyche manifest as somatic symptoms. There’s no doubt it’s complicated.

Just because it’s complicated is no reason to take a shortcut, rely on assumptions, perpetuate myths, or be dismissive of a patient because they have something outside your realm of expertise or experience. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with the medical community came when no one seemed remotely curious why I got pneumonia every time I stopped taking antibiotics and why I had continual symptoms in between rounds of pneumonia.

diagnosisI wanted someone to be curious to solve my puzzle. I thought that’s how diagnostics worked. I believed getting curious and trying to figure things out were a large component of practicing medicine. I believed that until the point at which I read my medical charts. It was an eye opening experience.

If you have an autoimmune disorder or auto-inflammatory disorder like MS, Celiac Disease, Lupus, CREST Syndrome, or Moersch-Woltmann syndrome, it may take months or even years to get an accurate diagnosis. The same is true of ME/CFS and many other chronic conditions – even common ones.

A study published in 2007 in The International Journal of Clinical Practice (found here on Pub Med) found “The under-diagnosis of common chronic diseases in the developed world ranges from about 20% for dementia and cirrhosis to 90% for depression and osteoarthritis. The delay in the prompt diagnosis and initiation of treatment is associated with increased morbidity and mortality for most of the reviewed diseases.”

There are models of hope: A movement toward Patient and FamilyCentered Care makes the patient part of the care team. Translational Research embraces the input of patients and the community as it seeks to implement scientific research into patient care. Systems that value the input of patients can help shift the story that is told about a disease.

Systems that invite curiosity, innovative thinking, imaginative approaches, and new information (even that which challenges current beliefs) rather than treating them as threats could vastly improve diagnostics and treatment plans.
I view curiosity, a willingness to question, and the willingness to sometimes be wrong as confident qualities. I don’t believe that any physician will have all the answers. That would be unrealistic.

What I do hope for is physicians who are willing to exhaustively pursue knowledge that will help their patients. I hope for doctors who ask good questions. I long for a system that is not dismissive of ANY patient. I hope for physicians who can embrace and incorporate other opinions. I wish for practitioners with enough strength, character, and perspective to recognize areas in which they may be biased and with enough courage to question themselves.

“You can miss a cure because people are telling the wrong story about you.” – Jennifer Brea

Until we begin to question our stories, how many cures are we missing?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

December 27, 2017

Are We There Yet?

I must confess, I’m ready for this year to be over – are we there yet? Let’s close this chapter down and get on with a new one. I’m ready! Some years bring ease and comfort and others throw the book at you. You can make the best choices in the world and still be bowled over by loss, illness, natural disaster, betrayal, or unexpected financial stress.
Today, a post about food will just send me running back to the bathroom. I’ve had 2 stomach viruses in as many weeks. I don’t have any tips to share. I can barely get myself upstairs to take a shower. Once I start following a train of thought, it’s quickly interrupted by my rumbling tummy. I’m typing this wondering if there’s any point in sharing at all? Nonetheless, share I shall.

In the past month, I’ve had two colds and made a trip across the country in addition to the two bouts of stomach flu. I haven’t worked out since I left on a trip December 13. I haven’t cooked since I returned. I had to cancel a trip to see my elderly cousin because of today’s illness. In between, I did a real estate closing and kept my grandson when his parents had an emergency. I’ve reviewed video and built graphics for our cooking show. I am tapped out, exhausted, and generally worthless.

The point is, we all have times like that. Hopefully, they don’t come often or stay long, but no one is immune. When I was growing up, my great aunts would band together to take over duties for an ailing relative. It didn’t require great discussion, they just divvied up the chores and went into action like a well-oiled machine. In my circle of friends, no one currently has access to that kind of family support. Many of us tough it out with very little help.

It can be hard to find reliable friends, partners, vendors, volunteers, and employees. Without those, life can feel like a constant fight to get something done. Many systems are broken or unconcerned about the individuals that depend on those systems. During good times, this can simply feel like a waste of time and energy. During difficult times, it can be the straw that leads to extreme frustration. Sometimes this frustration is expressed as violence – at home or in the community.

When you feel alone and overwhelmed, an ignored request can feel like a slap in the face. Unfortunately, ignoring has become standard operating procedure. Veterans’ physical concerns were ignored in order to enhance performance statistics. Overzealous police departments have ignored concerns of minority communities. Women’s harassment in the workplace has been ignored when the harasser is a powerful man. Clients ignore email and phone calls. Friends ignore invitations instead of responding that they can’t join you.

This year, I was even ghosted by an organization for which I wrote. I made all my deadlines. My posts were getting 10s of thousands of hits per week on Facebook. My editor never gave me any notes. He didn’t ask for rewrites. Suddenly, everything just stopped with no word whatsoever. This passes for professionalism? Not in my book.

There is a certain amount of power that can be wielded through uncertainty, chaos, manipulation, and stonewalling, but it is not the sort of power that inspires loyalty, respect, trust, admiration, or gratitude. In the coming year, I’ll be faced with many choices. I can choose to be a trustworthy and reliable friend. I can choose to respond even when my response is not what a client wants to hear. I can choose to be considerate and listen. I can choose to model patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

Admittedly, making these choices may not always be appreciated or even noticed. But that’s the thing about leading – you lead your children, colleagues, and community by your actions whether that leadership is acknowledged or not. Deciding what sort of leader you want to be determines the mark you leave on the world.

So, it’s time to leave this year behind and embark on the next one. Can I make 2018 better than any year that has come before? While I can’t determine what will happen to me or around me, I can prioritize what I make time for. I can surround myself with things that inspire me. I can determine the sort of parent, grandparent, employer, colleague, and friend I want to be, then make choices that support those values.

These final few days of 2017 when I’m lying on the couch trying to recover are perfect for reflection, truth telling, and planning. Without the stomach flu, I would have allotted less time for that so I am choosing to be grateful for the interruption. I’ll be just as grateful when I feel like eating steak again!

As you wind down your year and prepare for the next, I’m wishing you flavorful food, fragrant flowers, thoughtful friends, and strong, reliable partners!