Thursday, January 31, 2013

Adaptive Living – Adjusting Physically

Empowerment is the name of the game when you have experienced a total permanent disability.  You may not be able to change the fact that you are now living with a physical impairment, but you can (and must!) change the way you interact with the world to overcome, work around, or adapt to your new physical disability

Fortunately, there are myriad and amazing new technologies available to help enable the disabled.  For all the many types of physical disability, there are products on the market to make your life a little easier. Whether you are experiencing paralysis, failing eyesight, complete blindness, hearing disabilities, general immobility, or stroke-related impairments, resulting in speech or muscular disabilities, there are enabling gizmos and gadgets designed for you.

The internet is your friend

The Web is particularly valuable for those who need to adapt to a disability. The very fact that the products are available online and shipped directly to you is a wonderful benefit if you are experiencing problems with mobility. And the selection available online will inevitably be far superior to whatever a local store might have in stock. Of course, for some types of products, getting the right fit is critical. In those cases, do go to a local store or, more likely, you will work through your physical therapist or occupational therapist. But when a customized fit is not necessary, finding and ordering specialty items is where the Internet shines brightest.

To find an online store that specializes in products for the physically disabled, try using "products that help the disabled" in the search box of Google, Bing, or Yahoo. You will find more providers than you could ever need.  

Products for the physically disabled,
like this large print keyboard, make
it easier to live with a disability.
(Image from:

While site search tools make it easy to quickly find a particular mobility product, also try browsing a site. After the injury that left me with right-arm paralysis, I found it very helpful to simply browse the products that are out there on the market. There were many mobility products that I never thought to ask about – products I wouldn't have guessed existed – but that have since proven to be essential parts of my daily life.

Here are some fascinating examples of solutions and products design to enable the disabled:
A rocker knife for people with
mobility impairments helps you
stay independent.
(image from:
  • A chopping block designed for a person who has only one good hand. What makes it unique? The chopping block has guardrails on two sides, which allow you to "corner" the food you want to chop. It also has a spike sticking up in the center of the board, which allows you to skewer the food item you want to cut or chop, since you cannot use your other hand to hold the food steady.
  • A rocker knife, useful for cutting through meats with one hand. The knife's blade is curved – quarter-moon shaped, if you will – which allows you to cut the meat by rocking the knife back and forth through it.
  • Voice recognition software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking – which I'm using to "type" this article right now – allows you to speak words, phrases, and sentences aloud into a computer headset, and then the voice recognition software translates your spoken words into ordinary, editable text, just as if you had typed the text into your favorite software program. Anyone with hand mobility issues can benefit from voice recognition software. This technology is a good example of helping you do more than simply cope; with a reasonably powerful computer, a good quality headset, and a little practice at speaking clearly (pretend you're a newscaster, and you'll get great results), you can expect to get vocal "typing" speeds in excess of 100 words per minute and with an accuracy rate of 99.5%. That makes you virtually bionic: far more capable than the average typist!
  • The JAWS reader is a popular piece of computer hardware designed for those with blindness. It reads aloud from the computer any text from websites and computer programs to help the user navigate through software menus and websites.
Other mobility technologies include alternative computer keyboards that only require one hand, car and motorcycle adjustments that let you accelerate, change gears, and brake with your hands, and more.

Watch and learn

Beyond products, the Internet is a wonderful resource for learning how to adjust physically to a permanent disability. Many people with physical disabilities have posted how-to videos online, demonstrating how to function with limited mobility. For example, you can watch a demonstration of the JAWS reader, a demonstration on how to get back in the wheelchair from the floor or from tipping over the wheelchair when you have leg paralysis, how to go down a staircase in a wheelchair, how to do dog-walking from a wheelchair, how to make your home wheelchair accessible, how to get dressed with paralyzed legs, and more. You can even watch a video I created on how to tie your shoes with just one hand.  

Videos like these can help you to feel more mobile and capable, and without requiring the assistance of a physical or occupational therapist. Often the best mobility teachers are those who have a disability similar to your own.   

While nothing beats having your ability back, the fact is that you are living in a time when there is an endless array of accessibility products, accessibility laws, and accessibility online aids to help you regain your abilities.

Have you experienced an immobility and then benefited from adaptive living tools, techniques, or websites? If so, please use the comments tool below to share your experiences with us and our readers. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Adaptive Living–Adjusting Mentally

How do you explain yellow to someone who has never seen colors? Likewise, how can a person truly understand what it’s like to have a significant disability if all they've known is ability? I suppose you can daydream about what it would be like to, say, have no legs or no hearing. Still, it’s a whole different animal when you experience a physical or mental event that leaves you unable to do the things you used to do. Let me tell you my story.

I was in film school, directing a short movie that I had also written. A knife throwing stunt went terribly awry, with the knife becoming embedded to the hilt in my shoulder. As a physical therapist would later tell me, "That's one hell of a shot – the thrower couldn't have done more damage if he was purposely aiming!” That single knife throw managed to sever the arm's main artery, as well as severing nearly every major nerve trunk in the brachial plexus. The damage to the artery nearly killed me (I literally lost more blood from my body than I kept), but the damage to the nerve plexus caused complete paralysis of my right arm below the shoulder. 

The neurosurgeon's prognosis was bleak – Expect permanent paralysis. Over the course of the following year, some of the nerves successfully regenerated, restoring full upper arm functionality and partial forearm functionality. However, nerve damage to the hand was permanent.

Living with a permanent disability doesn't have to stop you.
(Photographer:Scott Heavey/Getty Images from

Moving on after permanent disability

With a traumatic and permanent injury, it's inevitable that the injured person will go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But how quickly one passes through these stages can vary dramatically. For me, I had to go through the five stages twice. The first time – immediately after the injury – went by fairly quickly, within just a few days. There are couple of reasons why I feel I adapted quickly:
  • Several years earlier, I was in a major auto accident in which a close friend suffered a neck fracture that resulted in quadriplegia. Because of this, I had spent many hours in the years following that crash wondering how I would cope if I ever became a quadriplegic. Frankly, it was very hard to imagine coping with something so tragic. But the process of imagining somehow prepared me for my own paralysis, making it seem insignificant by comparison.
  • When the doctor told me that my stabbing accident would likely mean I would never use my arm again, I found I was able to accept that fate rather quickly by looking at what I wanted to do with my life. In truth, my career goals (writing and directing) and most of my personal interests and hobbies did not necessarily require me to have two good arms.
I experienced the grief cycle more profoundly about a year and a half after the accident. Why? About six months after the accident, I began experiencing some muscle movement in the upper arm. That got me quite excited, thinking that maybe the nerve damage would not be permanent. While the neurosurgeon said that I was lucky to regain anything at all, he cautioned me not to get overly optimistic: that nerve regeneration often fails to complete its course all the way down the arm to the fingertips, and that whatever regeneration I would experience would have to take place in the first 12 to 18 months after the accident.

He was right. About 12 months after the accident, the nerve regeneration stopped about midway through the forearm. I waited anxiously for several months, and then finally realized that some paralysis would remain forever (which it has, in spite of two or three follow-up surgeries over the years). Coming to accept the loss as permanent after a period of hope took a lot more work for me than it took to accept the original no-hope prognosis.

Adapting mentally to permanent loss of function

Many of us have disability stories to tell. Hopefully, yours is less dramatic than mine. But the stories are varied, sometimes being about mental or physical abilities that became inabilities; sometimes about the disability happening suddenly; sometimes about the disability developing gradually. No matter how dramatic or extreme the acquired disability is or is not, or what types of physical disability, it will always be a loss from which a person must either reach a point of acceptance or wallow forever in self-pity.

Choosing the latter course creates the most profound of disabilities. History is full of amazing stories of individuals who have overcome a disability to achieve greatness. But none of those victors achieved greatness without first coming to terms with their loss, and then moving on: Moving forward. Here are four effective ways to help you move on with living:
  1. Consider professional counseling. You may be able to surmount the mental challenges to developing a permanent disability, so I won't say that it is a mandate. But a professional counselor is almost always better prepared to help you overcome and move forward than any of your friends or family. Often, those who are closest to you are also too close to your loss, and are therefore too absorbed in their own reactions to your disability to provide you with meaningful psychological support.
  2. Find a community of support. Sometimes, nothing seems to help better than talking things out – or even just hanging out – with others who have experienced a permanent disability similar to your own. Many communities have such support community groups (a professional counselor can often steer you in the right direction to an appropriate support group for you).
  3. Connect with a "virtual" community. Even if your town does not have such a disability support group, remember that the Internet is your friend in times like this. There are countless online support groups where you can find those who understand what you are going through and can offer advice, encouragement, or a (virtual) shoulder to cry on.
  4. Give yourself a goal. Creating a "what's next" plan was perhaps the most effective way of moving forward for me.  I didn't want to be known at the USC film production school as the guy who got stabbed and nearly died. Rather, I wanted to be the guy who “got ‘er done" – who recovered and moved on so successfully that he finished his film in time for the end of semester screening. Having this what's-next goal immediately turned my focus away from my disability, giving me something positive and constructive on which to focus my energies.
Oscar Pistorius, paralympian, double amputee,
competes despite permanent disability.
((c) D Luckett/ from
In follow-up articles on adapting to total, permanent disability, we will look at other important aspects of adapting, such as adjusting physically (adaptive living) and how to be a more effective support when you are the friend, family member, or employer of someone who is dealing with a physical disability. Meanwhile, know that your physical or mental immobility issue need not limit you nearly as much as you might think it will.  Just ask the famous quadriplegic painter Joni Eareckson Tada or Oscar Pistorius, the 2012 Olympian runner who has no legs. And let's not forget President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was paralyzed from the waist down after a bout of polio, yet when on to become a United States president.

Here are some good resources that I personally found helpful in adjusting mentally to permanent disability
If you have any recommended resources you've come across on your own, please share these using the comments tool below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are Your Heating Bills Chilling You to the Bone?

Keep your home filled with warmth this winter, and
don't spend an arm and a leg on your electric bill!
It doesn't matter if you use electric, gas, or oil to heat your home they are all expensive, especially if you live in an older home. The good news is that insulating homes has improved over the years and it is now less costly to keep your home full of warmth

Did you know that double pane windows were first invented in 1935? They became more popular and affordable throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's. Some people still buy single pane windows to save money, but in the long run this costs more in heating bills because they don't provide the insulation that your home needs. Triple pane windows are more efficient because they provide more insulation. However, they are more expensive and very heavy. 

We built our home nine years ago and, fortunately, my husband, who is in construction knew the ins and outs of a well built home. That has kept us very warm with a lot less cost. You can also reduce your heating bill by taking some quick and easy steps, that don't cost much! Many HVAC companies post great tips for winterizing your home, in addition, here are a few steps my family takes:  
  • Check Insulation - Do a little home insulation inspection to make sure your current insulation isn't too old and that it's doing its job. If it looks brittle you may need to replace it.  Spending money on new insulation will save you a ton of money on monthly utility bills.
  • Check Your Doors - I have walked by many doors and felt a big draft on my toes because the weather stripping is bad or missing. Make sure all your doors have stripping as this helps keep the heat in. Also check your door alignment. Over time a house can settle and it causes doors to sag which causes small gaps.These small gaps allow cold air to seep in.
  • Invest in a Ceiling Fan - We have ceiling fans in all of our rooms for two reasons: To keep us cool in the summer and keep us warm in the winter. Most ceiling fans have two settings, one draws the hot air towards the ceiling to keep you cool in the summer, the other pushes the hot air down to keep you warmer in the winter. Installing a ceiling fan is a very practical and cost efficient staple in any home.
  • Average electric bill
    Don't turn your house into a
     money pit this winter.
    Checking your insulation
    and weather stripping
    can reduce your heating bill.
  • Want the Sun - Let as much sunshine light in as possible throughout the day. This will add more warmth in your home and cause your heater to run less. Keep your curtains open during the day and close them at night to keep the cold out too. Curtains will also help block unwanted drafts coming from the windows.
Most of us use electric to keep our houses warm which can get pretty pricey. Many utilities offer a monthly budget plan that averages your usage for a year, and allows you to pay the same amount each month. That makes it easier to budget, so there are no monthly surprises, such as an electric bill that has suddenly doubled! Being on a plan helps when the average electric bill is already around $200 per month, no one wants to see a $600 surprise bill during the winter months! This will also help you budget for the whole year.

The Familywize website now has a Community Resource page that links to the utility assistance programs in each state. From our main website, just click on Community Resources in the upper right corner and then choose State Resources from the pop up menu. You can then click on your state and scroll to Utilities and Weatherization. There are also links that can help you find low cost or free health resources, food and housing assistance. In additions to helping you save on your heating bill, Familywize can also help you save up to 75% on prescription drug costs by downloading the free discount drug card. Please pass it on!

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Monday, January 28, 2013

National Stalking Awareness Month - January

January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

Many of you may not be aware that January was proclaimed National Stalking Awareness Month. This designation was made nine years ago.

According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men in the United States have been victims of some type of stalking, fearing that they or someone they loved could be harmed. January has been set aside as the month dedicated to educating the public about the serious and at times deadly crime of stalking. 
You may ask yourself just what IS stalking? According to Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice, stalking  occurs when harassing or threatening acts occur repeatedly, for example, following, showing up at your job or home uninvited, harassing phone calls or written messages, leaving objects for someone, or vandalism. It is a form of terrorism to an individual. 

While Federal laws criminalize stalking, state laws vary based on the level of victim fear and emotional distress, as well as the intent of the stalker. Some states require that the victim actually feels frightened, while other states criminalize the behavior if it is enough to frighten a reasonable person.
Stalking between intimate partners is widespread and often associated with lethal abuse. Despite the enactment of anti-stalking laws in every state, relatively few stalkers are cited or arrested by law enforcement, even fewer are prosecuted!
Stalking endangers the physical and emotional well being of millions of American men and women every year. Too often, stalking goes unreported because people still do not believe it is a dangerous crime or they feel that somehow the victim brought it on themselves. Many think it's easy to get rid of a stalker. "If you ignore them, they will leave you alone," is often what victims of stalking are told. Sometimes ignoring this danger can make the problem worse, if the stalker is seeking attention.

Cyberstalking and harassment are unfortunately becoming more prominent. They are defined as using the Internet or other forms of electronic communication, such as texting or email, to threaten others. The intent of this type of stalker is to take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet to make threats or harass others. Most victims of cyberstalking never know the identity of their stalker. 
National figures indicate that females 18-29 tend to be victims of cyberstalking, but women are not the only targets. A survey of 765 students at Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania found 45 percent of stalkers to be female and 56 percent to be male. National figures show most stalkers to be male by overwhelming margins (87 percent.) Men represented over 40 percent of stalking victims in the Penn-Rutgers study. Many stalkers use some form of social media to stalk their victims.
What Can You Do?

Remember that if you are in imminent danger, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not try to handle a stalker by yourself, whether on line or in person. Report any threatening behavior to police immediately. 

  • Don't share personal information such as your address or phone number online in emails or on social media. 
  • Be sure to understand and use the privacy measures offered by social media, such as Facebook. Don't trust people online if you don't know them in person. Remember that the Internet provides anonymity; people might not be who they say they are.
  • If you feel someone is stalking you online, report that person to the administrator for the online site. Disable your account and delete all pictures and personal information from the account.
The National Center for Victims of Crime lists ways to keep yourself safe from in person and on line stalkers on their website. 

Stalking can cause
emotional distress in

Share this article with friends and co-workers. Discuss stalking with your children. Make sure they know what to do if they are being threatened or harassed. Spread awareness by tweeting or using 31 Days of Updates to help people understand this dangerous crime. The National Center for Victims of Crime has many tools available to you to spread awareness and educate others about stalking.

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Fun-Don't Hibernate

When winter hits we all seem to hibernate and veg out in the house because the weather doesn't allow us to carry on with our normal outside activities and it is just too cold outside! But there is no reason to just sit on the couch and watch TV through the rain, snow and sleet. Get creative and find some fun winter activities that you and the whole family can enjoy through the winter months.

There are plenty of winter activities for kids to keep them busy and away from the TV and video games. It can be as simple has making a snowman, to finding some good old fashion board games. Finding activities in the winter should be fun not tedious so I have made a list of some great ideas that the family should love, especially the little ones.
winter activities
Finding family activities in the winter is
easy and fun!
  1. Make a Scrapbook - If you have teenage girls this is a great project to keep them busy. It seems like all teens like to do in this day and age is take pictures of themselves and their friends. So why not supply them with a book and some good scrap booking ideas to get their creative juices flowing? They will also have a great feeling of accomplishment when they are done.
  2. Engage in Winter Sports - If you live in a snowy climate you have more options to get outdoors to keep everyone in the family busy. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and ice skating are always a fun time and you can't go wrong.  
  3. Family Game Night - Everyone loves to play games so why not make your winter months a time to incorporate a "Winter Board Game Night?" Pick a board game that the whole family likes or have each family member pick the game  they would like and take turns every week.  Games are addicting and once you start playing its hard to stop. It will bring the whole family together before you know it.
  4. Make a Reading List - For you older family members that are wanting some quiet time make a reading list of books that you have been meaning to get to. Its always nice to nuzzle up with a good book by the fire on a cold winter's day and get some reading in. Not to mention that if your children see you doing this they may follow your example!
  5. Cooking and Baking Experimenting - Winter is always a perfect time to experiment with cooking or baking. By experimenting I mean, grab your cookbook, close your eyes, and then open the cookbook to a random page. Whatever is on that page, make it. This is a great activity for kids if you have a cookbook of easy recipes. If you don't have a cookbook, look online; there are many sites that have easy recipes. Just click on one and make it. Your kids will get a kick out of the suspense and be really excited to try it again.
  6. Make a Spring/Summer Activity Chart - Get you and your family thinking ahead in the slow winter months by thinking of what you want to do in the spring and summer months.  Spring break will be here before you know it and knowing what kind of things you want to do will make vacation planning even easier. Start by having each family member write down what they would really like to do on vacation or just on the weekends. Next get a calendar and do some planning. You can limit each person to 3 "realistic" choices and then talk it over. Of course you will get some pretty big ideas like going to Disneyland or taking a trip to a tropical island but at least you are coming together as a family and discussing it and everyone is involved. 
  7. Write a Short Book - Encourage your child to write a short book. It can be about what they did over the past year or it can be completely off the wall and be about some far away land. Either way they are thinking outside the box and using their imagination. They can illustrate it with pictures they draw, or photographs they take. There are even online companies that will print your book so you can make it a keepsake, or order multiple copies as a gift to grandparents, or a teacher.
There are plenty of fun January activities for kids and special days and events that I have come across that you can celebrate. I haven't even heard of some of these, but they look like fun! There are too many to list so I have provided a link below for all the winter Months. 
spring break
Board games are anything but boring and can
provide fun winter activities for the family.
Remember I talked about family game night at the beginning? Well here are some oldies but goodies that never go out of style and I'm sure some of these will bring back fond memories of your own childhood.

Now go and have a fun filled winter and if you catch yourself sitting around and wondering what to do for fun, remember, there is always something to do and you don't have to go far to find it! 

Great Games that Never Get Old
  • Checkers
  • Scrabble
  • Parcheesi
  • Monopoly
  • Slap Jack Card Game
  • Sorry
  • Battleship
  • Trouble
  • Mouse Trap
  • Clue
  • Boggle
  • Uno
  • Operation

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Healthy Weight Week

Weigh yourself no more than once a week
to avoid getting discouraged while on a diet.

How often have we told ourselves that we need to take off that extra ten pounds only to have a year go by, and then we are looking at taking off twenty pounds? 

Most of us have, more than once in our lives, tried to diet and jump on the next fad diet that hits the market.  Many of us have tried them all at one time or another and not had a lot of success at keeping off the weight. We are inundated with subliminal images of thin people every day on television as the media hypes the newest diet trend, just to sell their products!

Well, this week is Healthy Weight Week, and there's no time like the present to get started on a healthy new YOU! 
We all want to lose the weight quickly and hope for dramatic weight loss almost overnight. The facts show that those who follow a plan and lose 1 – 2  pounds per week will have far greater success in keeping the weight off. Your course should be slow and easy allowing your body to adjust to the changes it will go through in your quest to get healthier. Getting to that healthier you is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle change. You must examine your overall living habits and decide that you want to make changes. These changes don’t just involve the food that you are putting in your body. It also includes the amount of physical activity you engage in during the day. You will be surprised that even a slight increase in your activity level will help tremendously. Making the decision to lose weight, change your lifestyle, and become healthier is a big step to take. Start simply by making a commitment to yourself.
Two years ago, my husband and I started living healthier and we were successful with losing weight. We retired a few years before that, and retirement was agreeing with us, and it began to show, physically! We gradually added that dreaded 10, 20 and then 30 extra pounds. Something had to change if we were going to live that long healthy life we always dreamed of. We knew that there would be other health complications in addition to the discomfort of carrying around those extra pounds. We started our lifestyle changes in order to achieve a healthy weight. We needed to lower our cholesterol, blood pressure and avoid type II diabetes; all three of these illnesses are becoming epidemics in our country.

In order to lose weight you must decrease your daily caloric intake. One pound is equal to 3500 calories. Therefore, if you want to lose a pound per week, you must reduce your daily caloric intake by 500 calories.  Most of us are really not aware of EVERYTHING that we eat on a daily basis. The Internet is full of very helpful information to assist you when setting up your healthier you plan. WebMd has some good charts including calorie counters and a healthy portion chartThere are charts that will tell you just what your ideal weight should be for both men and women. It will help you establish your BMI (Body Mass Index) range for your body type and age. BMI measures your body fat content. 
The key to our success with reaching a healthier weight was keeping a journal of everything we ate each day. We charted it keeping track of several factors. We wrote down each food item along with the number of good and bad fats, sugars, fiber, cholesterol, proteins and calories. This required a lot more label reading on my part while shopping, but it helped me get to know just what I was buying. Keeping track became easier as time went on. This is just one way to start making a lifestyle change, WebMd has a great slide show with 22 diet tips to help you stay on track.

It also made me more aware of just what is in the food I am buying, and my buying habits changed drastically. We limited red meats and only ate leaner meats, like chicken and fish. We cut down on high calorie side dishes and increased the fiber dishes by adding more beans and brown rice dishes.
We started to lose weight slowly and after a couple of months the weight seemed to just fall off.  My husband's cholesterol levels fell along with a dramatic change in blood pressure. It has been almost two years now, we are still at our ideal weight, and we are much healthier overall. 
So even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination.You'll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle.These habits will  help you maintain your weight loss over time. You will feel great and look forward to a long, healthy life. Our whole outlook changed to a more positive view about ourselves. So get started now and don't put it off any longer! You will thank yourself many times over while you are enjoying all those extra years of a healthy, active life!

fad diet
Make a healthy lifestyle change for a
healthier new YOU.
Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cuckoo for Coconut Oil

healthy fats
We've gone coconuts! For coconut oil...
it's one of the "good fats".
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest sources of fat, though few people know it. Did you know that coconut oil is touted by many respected doctors, including Doctor Oz and Doctor Joseph Mercola, as a heart healthy dietary fat source that keeps the body running smoothly, and as the oil you should use to replace other oils in your kitchen?

First Things First – Fat is Phat!

Here’s the skinny on dietary fat; trying to go completely fat-free can be bad for your health. In this modern age of low fat labeling — of trying to remove all fat from the American diet — you may be surprised to know that the jury is still out on several matters related to the risks and benefits of dietary fat. For example:
  • Does fat beget fat? The notion that consuming fat necessarily causes you to get fat has been brought into question by numerous studies that seem to indicate otherwise.
  • Do we need fat? Actually, and absolutely, yes! A certain amount of dietary fat is necessary for proper growth in children and for health maintenance in adults. And fat is a valuable source of energy, carrying fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and supplying essential fatty acids.
  • Is fat good or bad? That depends on what kinds of fat, how much dietary fat, your personal health and age, and more. But at the very least, you should know that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fats are “essential for normal body function,” while adding that some fats are better for you than others (specifically advising you to avoid trans fats).
Getting the right kinds of dietary fat, and the right amount of dietary fat, is important for good health, and a great topic for a future article, but too rich a subject to cover in this article, zeroing in on one kind of healthy fats—coconut oil.  So, for now, you can do some more digging on your own about healthy and unhealthy fats with the aid of the websites and articles listed at the end of this article.

What’s great about coconut oil in particular?

While several oils are considered to be good for you, such as olive oil and canola oil, there are certain unique qualities to coconut oil that justify its position in the list of healthy fats, even though it’s a saturated fat.

trans fats
Adding coconut oils to smoothies kicks up
the taste and nutritional value.
  • MCT’s — If you are confused about how coconut — a saturated fat source — can possibly be good for you, it’s likely because researchers have advised us for years to minimize your saturated fat consumption. And, yes, virgin coconut oil is more than 90 percent saturated fat. But coconut oil’s fatty acids are largely medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the human body can easily metabolize and make good use of.
  • Hot stuff! — Unlike some of the other healthy fats, you can cook with coconut oil. It can handle much higher heat before reaching its smoke point, staying stable up to 350 degrees.  By comparison, canola oil, flax seed oil, and sunflower oil all become unstable at 225 degrees.
  • Pleasant taste — Most coconut oils have a mild, enjoyable, nutty, and slightly sweet taste.  This makes it easy to use in recipes.  I often add a tablespoon of it to my green and fruit smoothies to make it more filling and to enjoy its other health benefits. You can also use it as a substitute for butter on toast or melted over cooked vegetables and in popcorn instead of butter.
  • Good cholesterol  — Most studies agree that virgin coconut oil does not raise cholesterol or that, at most, it primarily raises the good kind of cholesterol — HDLs — which is a good thing because it improves your ratio of good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol. In fact, researchers have found that Pacific Islanders and Asians with coconut oil in their diets have very low rates of heart disease.
  • Good for what ails ya’ – Studies indicate that adding coconut oil to your diet may help you resist bacterial infections, viruses, yeast and candida infections, and fungus problems. As well, coconut oil can boost thyroid function, improve digestion, aid blood sugar level management, and facilitate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Smooth operator – Coconut oil is also good for you topically. It’s a common ingredient in skin lotions, and is often used “straight up” as a skin-healthy massage oil.

good fats
Substitute coconut oil for butter on steamed
vegetables for a change of taste and a
healthier meal!

Choose the Best Coconut Oil

Not all coconut oil sources or providers are of the same quality and health value. To make sure that you’re getting as much of the health benefits of coconut oil, here’s what you should look for on the label:
  • Cold pressed — made without heat processing to form the coconut emulsion.
  • Organic — an assurance that the coconuts were grown without pesticides or chemicals.
  • Extra virgin — when the oil is produced by a simple pressing, without using chemicals to extract the oil from the nut. 
Even if the label includes all the right stuff, the taste can vary from one brand to the next.  Fortunately, it’s easy to look online for consumer ratings of the various coconut oil brands.

Dietary Fat and Coconut Oil

Here is an easy way to expand your knowledge on two topics brought up here: coconut oil and dietary fat. First, information on coconut oil:
And here are good resources for learning more about health and dietary fats, including dietary cholesterol, saturated Fats, trans fats (trans fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats):
You can find virgin coconut oil at most health food grocery stores and through many popular online retailers. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Water Water Everywhere????

Water bills got you down? There are ways
you can save.
Glub Glub Glub…..Are you drowning in water bills?  You know that many years ago we didn’t really worry about running out of water or about being able to pay our water bills. We always thought that water was one of those resources that (pardon the pun) never went dry! Well we now know that isn't necessarily true. In 2005, groundwater levels were lower than they have been in 20 years, affecting the wildlife that depends on rivers and wetlands - fish, birds and rare plants.
We have seen so many changes in our water supplies across this land, in fact, it's not just in the US, but worldwide as well. Water is a precious commodity that is necessary for our survival and we need to pay very close attention to this issue. 

For a number of years now, researchers have come to realize that there are a lot of things being dumped into our drinking water that pose a risk to our health. For instance, just washing expired over the counter and prescription drugs down the drain is dangerous, and federal drug take back programs aim to end this danger. We now have laws prohibiting the dumping of toxins in our water supplies. This is not to say that it doesn't still happen in many places, unfortunately it still does. At least we are more aware of cleaning up the streams and rivers that provide our drinking water.
In trying to provide the cleanest water to the cities around the country, many municipalities have had to take measures to purify their water supplies and filter their water sources before it is made available to the public. This has, of course, caused an increase to the cost of providing water. Many areas have seen water costs skyrocket in recent years. 
If you have found yourself wondering how you are going to pay those rising costs for your water, I would like to provide a few tips on how to conserve on your water usage to help keep those costs as low as possible. The Indiana University Office of Consumer Counselor also has tips for reducing your water bill, and a detailed list for conserving room by room at home and outside.
Water - Use it Wisely website lists 100 ways you can cut down on your water usage. Here are some of my favorites:
·        If you have a dishwasher in your kitchen, run it only when full. Don’t fill it too full though as the dishes won’t come clean and will have to be rewashed! 
·         Thaw your frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave instead of using water to thaw them.
·         Get rid of your garbage disposal and compost your food waste. It not only conserves water but is great for your plants and gardens and saves money on fertilizer! 
·         In the bathroom, cut your showers from 10 minutes to 5 minutes and you will cut your water use in half. It takes about 40 gallons of water for a 10 minute shower so you will save 20 gallons by taking a five minute shower. And yes, you can get just as clean!!
·         Turn the water off in the sink while you are brushing your teeth rather than let it run.  This is a simple habit to get in to.
·         Run the washing machine only for a full load. Hand wash other items that you might need in a hurry.
Actually practicing what I preach!!
water supplies
Water, so cool and refreshing!!
I have been living in our RV for the past six months on property in Northern California and have HAD to relearn all those conservation measures I just noted above. We have always been pretty conservative with our water usage because we have had well water for a number of years. We are now using reparian water rights from a river. I have found it relatively easy to follow the conservation measures noted above. We all waste a lot of water needlessly, and if everyone would think about conserving every time they turn on the faucet, I think they would be surprised at just how much you can save. Just think of it as doing our planet a favor by conserving when possible and saving ourselves money in the process. Leave a good footprint behind for those that follow us.

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Day of Service - A Dream of Strengthening Communities

Everyone can achieve greatness through
community service work.
"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve...You only need a heart full of grace." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said those words to a congregation in Atlanta, Georgia in 1968. He was talking about serving our fellow man and our communities, regardless of our status or abilities. Everyone can achieve greatness through community service work.

The US Congress designated the Martin Luther King Junior Federal Holiday as a day of service that occurs on the third Monday of January. Through volunteerism, people can use this holiday as a day to start a new project of national & community service, or take that day off to give back to their community as part of an annual tradition.

community service work
One of the most prominent civil rights leaders,
Dr. King, Jr. taught us about strengthening
our communities through service.
There are many reasons to volunteer on MLK day. Dr. King Jr., one of the most well-known civil rights leaders, envisioned a "beloved community" where people worked together to strengthen communities, empower individuals, bridge barriers and create solutions. Our service can be part of a larger, community project, such as helping at a shelter or food bank, or it can be more personal, for example, helping an elderly neighbor with their grocery shopping, or walking their dog. It can even be providing company for someone who is confined to their home due to illness, perhaps reading to them or watching a movie together.

How can you serve on MLK Jr Day? The Corporation for National & Community Service provides a website where you can find volunteer opportunities in your area by entering your zip code on their site. You can also plan your own project using their toolkit. The projects that are listed include educating people in your community about disaster preparedness, providing tax preparation, helping veterans, environmental causes and health issues. Search for volunteer opportunities that fit into your schedule and suit your interests by visiting

If you would like to learn more facts about Martin Luther King, there are many online sources. The History channel's website has a brief biography and links for videos of Dr. King's speeches. Watch and listen to his acceptance speech at the 1964 Nobel Peace prize award ceremony. Visit The King Center online to learn more about MLK Jr.

Did You Know that....

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s real name was Michael? His father changed their first name when MLK Jr. was about five years old.
  • Was named Time magazine's man of the year in 1963?
  • Was the youngest person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, at that time, 1964?

These and other Martin Luther King Jr facts can be found on the CNN website.

Some people tell us they decide to take a more personal view of community service and to do something for friends and neighbors they know are struggling. One reader told us she downloaded FamilyWize cards and kept them in her purse to give to people behind her in the pharmacy line.  Another sent an email with a link to everyone she knew and asked them to help too.

So how will you serve this year? Please share your experience with us in the comments section. Remember, it can be in a big way or a small way, either way, your contribution is making the dream of strengthening your community a reality.

Dream Big, a mosaic of Dr. King Jr.
by artist Pete Fecteau is constructed of
Rubik's Cubes.
(Image from
The image above is made entirely of Rubik's Cubes. Called, Dream Big, Pete Fecteau spent forty hours constructing this work of art. Read the story and watch the video of his creation on his website, along with other images he has created.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Friday, January 18, 2013

National Radon Action Month

You are not a smoker, and you live in an environment that is free from any secondhand smoke. Lung cancer is not a real concern for you then, right?

Wrong. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns smokers and non-smokers alike that something else in our homes may be causing an imminent threat to our lungs. Although smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, causing approximately 160,000 deaths annually in the U.S., radon is a silent source of danger, even beating out the number of deaths caused by secondhand smoke.   

Radon map
image from

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for about 21,000 U.S. deaths annually. This statistic greatly overshadows the 3,000 annual deaths caused by secondhand smoke. Furthermore, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. That is why January is National Radon Action Month.

Do you still think you have nothing to worry about? Whatever this “radon” thing is, you certainly would know if you were being exposed to it, right?

Still wrong. According to the EPA, radon is a colorless, odorless gas produced when naturally occurring uranium decays into soil and water across the entire world. It is a type of ionizing radiation and a documented carcinogen, and the American Cancer Society says that dangerous levels of it are found in every state across the country.

Although it is found outdoors in air and drinking water from lakes and rivers, the highest radon levels are found indoors and in underground sources of water. These levels of radon vary based on the composition of local rocks and soil. When the radon gas leaves the Earth, it can come into your home, work, school, or any commercial area through the floor, a wall, and foundation cracks. The highest levels of indoor radon gas are typically found in basements and crawl spaces because they are closest to the ground. For this reason, living or working in a basement for an extended period of time poses a higher risk.

So how does something naturally found in the soil become a dangerous radioactive gas? As radon decays, it breaks down into solid radioactive elements known as radon progeny. This material attaches to particles, like dust, which are then inhaled directly into the lungs. As radon and radon progeny decompose, they emit alpha particles. The effect of radiation from these particles is damage to the DNA in our bodies’ cells.

This very process could be happening right now inside your home. The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 U.S. homes have elevated radon levels. These levels are measured by units of radioactivity per volume of air, most commonly in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The common misconception is that a radon level lower than 4 pCi/L is safe. Although that is the standard level at which action needs to be taken to reduce radon, a level from 2-4 PCi/L is not ideal, either.

effect of radiation
Make radon safety a priority by testing your home
with a radon test kit.
Image from: National Cancer Institute
To see if your home is at risk, visit the EPA’s website and view a radon map. The radon map will let you select your state and even your county to view the levels of risk. Although this is a great resource initially, one should keep in mind that radon levels can vary greatly even within a single neighborhood. The only way to be sure that your home is safe is to test it, either on your own or with the help of a professional. You can buy a DIY kit, or find a professional by simply typing your zip code into the search on Radon Testing Corporation's website.

If radon is found to be high in your home, you should take steps to reduce your exposure. The solutions to high radon levels include sealing any cracks in your floors, walls, or foundation, or improving the ventilation in your home through a process called “sub-slab depressurization” that uses pipes and fans. The EPA advises that only a qualified contractor should attempt to make these changes because specific technical knowledge, skills, and equipment are required. Trying to fix the radon levels on your own could make the problem worse and result in additional expenses and a higher risk. Recommended professionals can be contacted through state radon offices on the EPA website. Whichever options you find more convenient for testing and correction, be sure to take some form of preventative action. Make radon safety a priority in your home. 

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is There Danger in Your Diet Soda?

heart disease
Diet sodas raise risks for strokes and
heart attacks.
Is diet soda bad for you? Study after study adds more evidence that the most common diet sodas – those sweetened with aspartame – may be less safe than you think. In spite of this, weight-conscious, soda-loving Americans continue to consume tons (an estimated 5,250 tons!) of aspartame annually. Nearly 90 percent of that aspartame is specifically from diet sodas. So, how bad is it really?  Let’s look at the evidence.
  • A 2006 study reported in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information) identified carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered to rats.
  • A 2007 study revealed that even low doses of aspartame increases cancer risk.
  • A 2011 study that followed 2,500 study participants for nine years showed a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks, for those who drank diet soda each day.
  • A study published in early 2012 indicates that aspartame can cause brain damage by leaving traces of methanol in the blood.
  • A study published in late 2012 has linked aspartame to a heightened risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia.This study is gaining particular attention due to its substantial scope, being based on a 22-year data collection period.
risk factors
Sparkling water or with fresh fruit
garnish is a refreshing, healthy alternative to
diet soda.
Can we at least have faith in the assumption that drinking a soda sweetened with aspartame instead of sugar will help us control weight gain or lose weight? No, according to a 2011 study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. This study, which followed 474 diet soda drinkers for 10 years, found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet-soda drinkers. Since an increase in weight increases the risk factor for heart disease and many other health problems, such as, cancer and diabetes, it certainly seems that we are better of drinking the sugar-sweetened sodas. 

So, in short, other than the risk factors that aspartame-sweetened drinks may make you fat and may lead to cancer, brain damage, strokes, and heart disease, it’s not a problem to enjoy your daily dose of diet soda. If you still can.

Weight Gain and Diet Soda

If aspartame is this bad for you, then why do we continue our love affair with diet sodas? Do we enjoy a tall glass of cardiovascular risk factor increase? Of course not  But there are a couple of key reasons for diet soda’s popularity:
  • Let’s start with the obvious – how refreshing it is to enjoy the throat-cooling tickle of a carbonated drink, especially when it’s sweetened with our favorite flavors! 
  • Second, Americans are consumed with physical appearance, wanting the perfect physique, like the ones we see on TV every day. This explains why the diet and weight loss industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing businesses; we all want to lose weight.
Combine those two factors and you get the diet soda – the way we can cut out the calories from sugar while still enjoying the taste experience of a fizzy, flavorful soda. Unfortunately, nearly all diet soft drinks on the market today are sweetened with aspartame.

Does this mean we need to give up completely on carbonated drinks to avoid the dangerous side effects? Nearly all health experts say the same thing – that we would be better off drinking a glass of water instead of soda. But since you already know that, let’s assume that you want what I want – to continue enjoying the pleasing taste of sodas, and yet do so without the sugars and without the dangers of aspartame. The good news is, you do have options.  For example:
heart disease
Add fresh lime, kiwi or other fruit to your
home made carbonated beverages.
  • Check out the ingredients of the diet carbonated beverages available at your local health food store or health food grocery. The diet sodas they carry often include those that are sweetened with alternative sweeteners that have not shown the same level of risks as aspartame-sweetened sodas, such as stevia, coconut palm sugar, sucralose, or sugar alcohols. 
  • Consider making your own sodas. This allows you to control both how and how much the beverage is sweetened. Soda maker machines are becoming increasingly popular for this reason. They can be purchased at many major retailers and online. 
  • Experiment with reducing your sweet-flavored assumptions about sodas by allowing yourself something more fanciful than plain water and yet tastier than water and healthy for you. My favorite recipe: Buy ordinary soda water (unflavored sparking water) and add lemon or lime juice to taste. You still get that delightful, ice-cold throat tingle, but virtually no calories. 
Are soda maker machines safe to use? Or is the soda just as bad as diet soda from the store? The big advantage of the machine is that you control the answer to that question, as it’s up to you what diet soda ingredients you allow to go in there. Just be advised that one of the above studies also linked the caramel coloring used in most typical cola recipes to vascular issues as well. And there are plenty of other ingredients you can add that reduce the health of the beverage, such as caffeine, the choice of artificial sweeteners, sodium, and phosphoric acid. But at least with a soda machine and your own recipe, you know exactly what’s in there. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer