Refresh Your Look!
Standout Trends for Spring and Summer 2020
Every year, the arrival of spring brings the opportunity to step outside without all those heavy winter wrappings, smell the budding trees and flowers, and feel the warm sun on our faces. It also gives us
a chance to look forward to what designers will have to offer in the realm of fashion for the warmer seasons. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite, very wearable trends for this spring and summer.
Mega Bags. After so many seasons of the incredible shrinking bag, we gals who like to carry a water bottle, lunch, and maybe a pair of flats with us at all times are in luck. At the forefront of bags offered this season are the oversized tote bag, the large satchel, and the big bucket. These bags can hold everything—even a smaller bag that has just a few essentials inside. Be careful, though; its high capacity brings the risk of overfilling. Don’t make it so heavy that it makes a ridge in your shoulder and hurts your back!
The High-Waisted, Dark Wash, Boot Cut Jean. While all cuts of jeans are still wearable, this cut is making a flattering resurgence. We welcome back the boot cut that’s a little longer, creating a lean look. The high waist is a no-brainer for comfort, and the dark wash can be dressy or casual! This style of jean is definitely one you should invest in.
Well Vested. Vests were all over the runways this spring, offering a fresh addition to traditional spring looks. A vest can dress up practically anything by bringing a little tailored funk. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it works! Wear a buttoned-up vest with no shirt underneath and pair it with a flowing pant or skirt for a dapper yet alluring look. Top a beautiful silk blouse with a vest to look like you mean business. Wear an open vest over a tank top for a fun yet pulled-together outfit. Whether you prefer woven fabrics, knits, or leather, you will find a vest that fits into your wardrobe!
Going Dotty! Designers have dug in their heels when it comes to bold polka dots, and the trend continues into this summer. You will find dots in all colors and sizes, from oversized patterns all the way down to a micro dot. Who doesn’t love a fresh, youthful polka dot? We all need to have at least one polka dot touch in our wardrobe!
Not Your Grandmother’s Crochet. Crochet is getting a cool update this year. Modern but with a touch of homemade appeal, airy crochet is perfect for spring and summer. Pair jeans with a crocheted top or dare to wear a crocheted dress—with an appropriate slip underneath, of course! Crochet adds a little whimsy and personality to any outfit.
The Bermuda Suit. Introduced last year but slow to take off is the Bermuda suit. Designers believe in this look, and I think it is a great summer business wardrobe look. Don a vest with a tailored jacket and a pair of matching Bermuda shorts for an updated suited look that will keep everyone on their toes.
Dress in Tiers. I have always loved the look of tiers of fabric. What’s not to love? It is ultra-feminine, has great movement, and hides what we may consider our flaws. Endlessly flattering, try a dress or shirt with tiered ruffles. You will love it!
Modern Folklore. Maxi dresses and boho looks are always good for spring and summer. Nothing is more comfortable and flattering than a long, flowing dress. It lets the air swirl around you, and you don’t have to worry about what your legs look like. This year, designers have pulled out all the stops, using embroidery, lace, and earthy colors and prints. Great with a pair of comfy sandals and a big floppy hat, a flowing skirt makes you look endlessly romantic but chic.
White Sneaks. This is one of the biggest street-style trends to have come along in years. Women have embraced it, and no wonder! Just think, comfortable sneakers are now super fashionable! From Jimmy Choo to Adidas, the sneaker is available in a plethora of creative designs. Now, we’re not talking about an athletic shoe—this shoe is more fashion than workout. From the basic white summer sneak to cool high-tops with metallic accents and glitter, it is time for a new indulgence!
A good closet cleaning and inventory is always necessary in the spring. You can’t fit the newest trends into your existing wardrobe until you know what you already own! It’s a great feeling to be ready for when the sun shines relentlessly again.
Editor’s Note: Holly has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years as a buyer, boutique store owner, visual merchandiser, and fashion show producer. She is currently the owner of a modeling agency. Holly regularly appears on local TV doing fashion segments.
By Holly Bell
Grill Scrubbing, Patio Sweeping—Let’s Eat!
Clean and trim 1 pound of fresh asparagus. Arrange the asparagus on a foil-lined pan. Mix together 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic. Pour over the asparagus. Roast at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or put on the grill until done. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese.
Beat 4 eggs, 2/3 cup of flour, 2/3 cup of milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt until smooth. Put 2 Tablespoons of butter into a 13x9-inch baking pan and heat for 3 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Pour the batter into the hot butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with glazed bananas, fruit jams, fresh strawberries, cinnamon apples, or just powdered sugar.
My Mom’s Best Quiche
Line a pie pan with a pastry crust (purchased or homemade) and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and add 6 pieces of crisp crumbled bacon, 1 small can of diced chilies, and 2 cups of grated Jack cheese. Mix 4 eggs with 1/2 cup of whole milk or half-and-half. Bake at 350 degrees for 30–40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes clean. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.
Brunch Quick Bread
Mix 2 eggs with 1 cup of buttermilk and 4 Tablespoons of melted butter. In another bowl, whisk together 2 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Add 1 cup of diced ham, 2 chopped green onions, and 1 and 3/4 cups of grated cheese (Swiss, sharp cheddar, you choose). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until
combined. Pour into greased bread pan. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45–50 minutes.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large cast iron skillet. Sauté 1 cleaned and chopped leek (or 1 diced sweet onion), 1 pound of sliced mushrooms, and 1 pound of cleaned and chopped asparagus for 5–6 minutes. Add 3 Tablespoons of water and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper and your choices of herbs. Stir in 2 ounces of your choice of grated cheese. Remove from heat. Roll out a single pie crust dough (prepared or homemade). You may need two crusts if you have tons of veggies. Fill the center of the pie crust with the vegetables and begin folding the edges of the crust toward the middle. You will not be closing the crust like a pie—the veggies are exposed. Paint the crust with an egg wash, if desired. Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 45–50 minutes or until golden brown.
Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken
In a zip-top bag, place 1/3 cup of vegetable or olive oil, the zest of 2 lemons, 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice, 4 cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon of parsley, tarragon, or any of your favorite herbs. Add 4 chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
Remove chicken (throw out the marinade) and grill over medium-high heat for four minutes on one side. Turn and grill another minute to get grill marks. Flip over and grill for another 5–6 minutes, then turn and grill another minute to get good grill marks. Chicken is done at an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Make a sauce with 4 Tablespoons of melted butter, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (adjust for taste). Brush the chicken with the sauce and serve.
Mixed-Up Mashed Potatoes
Peel a 5-pound bag of russets and cut each one in half. Cover in water and boil until tender; drain. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of warm milk and begin mashing—by hand or with a mixer. Add 1/4 cup of butter, 6–8 strips of crisp crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, and 3 trimmed and chopped green onions. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Add additional warm milk, if necessary, and mash until you get the desired consistency. Serve now or place in a greased casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.
Whisk together 2 and 1/4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix 1 cup of soft butter with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips, 1 cup of butterscotch chips, and 1 cup of shredded coconut, and mix. Pat into a greased 15x10-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool. Cut. Eat. Ice cream optional.
Bake and cool a pie shell (or use a graham cracker shell). Mix 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 cup of sugar. Pour in 1 cup of water and cook until clear and thickened. Add a box of strawberry gelatin powder, stirring until dissolved. Add 4 cups of cleaned and trimmed strawberries. Mix well and then pour into the pie shell. Make a design on top with another 1 cup of cut strawberries. Chill. Serve with freshly whipped cream.
Editor’s Note: Kate has been an Omaha area culinary instructor since 1997. She attended The Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.
By Kate Beiting
Taurus April 20–May 20
Happy birthday, Taurus! Overall, you can expect a positive month. Emphasis will be on activities that interest you. Continue your fitness routine and proper dining habits to maintain good health. Your personality helps shape the course of events in your life, allowing a decent chance for plans you were originally concerned about.
Gemini (May 21–Jun 20) Health should be excellent during the month. Avoid undue stress by reducing your workload. Engaging in a regular fitness routine will give your immune system (as well as your mood) a real boost!
Cancer (Jun 21–Jul 22) Good health brings with it a lively and enthusiastic disposition! If you have a personal goal to achieve, the predictions for this time are optimistic.
Leo (Jul 23–Aug 22) Your energy level is improved by leaps and bounds! You will feel youthful and energetic, with good health forecasts for the month. This month is also very encouraging for finances!
Virgo (Aug 23–Sep 22) Although good physical health can be maintained with rest and exercise, it is also important to keep your mental well-being strong. You may do well to engage in some meditation or yoga practice.
Libra (Sep 23–Oct 22) Because of your excellent health, your nature will be cheerful and optimistic! To maintain your health and mood, don’t forget to take time for yourself to relax.
Scorpio (Oct 23–Nov 21) Regular exercise and good meal planning are always helpful when striving to stay healthy. What an opportune time to treat yourself to new equipment—in the home gym or the kitchen!
Sagittarius (Nov 22–Dec 21) Limit stress by taking time out of your day for meditation and relaxation. Enhance your body’s ability to heal. Your immune system will thank you for it!
Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) Terrestrial aspects are encouraging for your health! You are doing a great job keeping up with exercise and nutritional needs. Avoid things that cause unwanted emotional strain.
Aquarius (Jan 20–Feb 18) Keep your eyes and heart open for adventure, and you will find it wherever you are! Be sure to bring your family along for the ride.
Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) Meditation and proper fitness go a long way toward maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul! Harmony is maintained in your family environment, which helps keep stress at bay for your entire household.
Aries (Mar 21–Apr 19) Your forecast suggests excellent prospects for your health! Good health makes you optimistic. You are exceptionally strong in finances, which increases your chances for adventures!
Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) This month will feel more carefree and cheerful! Stay on task when it comes to professional goals. You will notice improvements with your career prospects.
Aquarius (Jan 20–Feb 18) If you are aspiring to further your education, this is an excellent time to do so! You should also carve out some time for personal enjoyment.
Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) You are creating your own destiny, and others support your efforts. Finances will be excellent!
Gemini May 21–June 20
Happy birthday, Gemini! Take some time to unravel! Recharge your batteries, sleep in longer, and spend some time doing absolutely nothing. Your brain will thank you when you hit the pillow! What a great time to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit. Reboot yourself and save your energy…then, on your special day, do whatever you love most!
Cancer (Jun 21–Jul 22) The pace of life is about to pick up! At the end of the month, a plan falls satisfyingly into place, allowing time with family to be very relaxing and enjoyable.
Leo (Jul 23–Aug 22) You may be using all your leonine flair to socialize with people you know and love. This can be both exhausting and surprisingly satisfying! Enjoy your time together.
Virgo (Aug 23–Sep 22) Waste no time moving onward and upward. Set your sights on your aspirations and ambitions! There are excellent opportunities coming your way.
Libra (Sep 23–Oct 22) You are about to feel very relaxed. Your mood is pleasant and calm. Stay motivated, though—Don’t put off until tomorrow things that you can accomplish today!
Scorpio (Oct 23–Nov 21) Your family life is predicted to be fantastic! Relationships seem delightful. There will be plenty of family time and enjoyment around the home.
Sagittarius (Nov 22–Dec 21) Sparks are going to fly in the romance department this month! As with any fireworks display, it will be exciting, wonderful, and maybe even breathtaking!
Capricorn (Dec 22–Jan 19) Try not to allow your sensible characteristics to be overly influenced by the whims of others. Remain calm and focus on solving problems. You will find peace within yourself and can then bring peace to others.
Aquarius (Jan 20–Feb 18) When life seems to be moving slowly, take a look around! If you stay open to possibilities, you will find interesting developments everywhere.
Pisces (Feb 19–Mar 20) Listen to your intuition but remember to balance it with logic. Spend extra time on your favorite interests. You will make great progress and feel very inspired!
Aries (Mar 21–Apr 19) Your physical and emotional energy are getting a marvelous boost, which only comes your way when you move forward, not backward. Don’t apologize for spending time on the things you love!
Taurus (Apr 20–May 20) This month will end with you receiving the announcement you have been waiting for! Breathe, wait and be patient. You will experience some blissful moments and unforgettable occasions!
A Woman's Work
The Niceties of Life
Manners vs. Etiquette
When was the last time someone held a door open for you? If you remember the event, you probably welcomed the gracious act. “Is chivalry dead?” you may ask. Gracious acts are not completely a thing of the past, but they do seem to occur less frequently. Good manners really are the glue that holds society together. Akin to diplomacy, well-polished manners make everyone feel better. They lighten up even the most tense situations, and they offer the opportunity for all of us to think more clearly and behave more charitably.
The difference between manners and etiquette is somewhat similar to the comparison between wit and humor. Wit is a “right now at the moment” type of thing, while humor is long-lasting. In wit, a topic might be funny today, but it falls flat on its face as time passes. With humor, the subject is always topical and relevant, both now and in the far future. Good manners are pleasing at the moment, but etiquette is a long-term lifestyle—it’s a fashion that never seems to lose its potency. The need for good etiquette, with its elements of style, respect, consideration, and loads of honesty, never changes. Without the underpinning of these ethics, society might just become tumultuous.
Manners are a good habit; etiquette is a way of life. Naysayers seem to believe that good manners and etiquette alike have flown out the window, and they blame it on our recent tech-based forms of communication. There is some truth in the belief that when we don’t communicate face to face that it is easy to forego the pleasantries and niceties of life. Although I am no Emily Post, I enjoy polished manners and impeccable etiquette. However, I once committed a horrific etiquette crime by typing an e-mail in ALL CAPS and in large font, unknowingly insulting my reader. ALL CAPS and large font translate into electronic screaming and display rudeness. My true intention was to create a document in large print so my visually challenged coworker could more easily read it. Upon discovering my error, apologies followed. Whether or not we intend to insult, good manners offer the opportunity for a swift and heartfelt apology. Fortunately, my “victim” accepted my apology with good grace.
When we think of good manners, the first civilities that come to mind are “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,’’ and “you’re welcome.” These niceties are learned during childhood and are the building blocks of politeness. Today, it is not uncommon to hear phrases such as “You need to…’’ or “You must…’’ instead of “please,’’ but please and thank you always garner such wonderful results. Without them, requests sound more like orders from some power-crazy sergeant! “Excuse me’’ or “pardon me” erases many social sins, ranging from barging in front of someone else to committing a verbal affront. Good etiquette would never allow such a blunder.
There really is no method to cover up the use of bad manners or thoughtless expressions. Saying the wrong thing and attempting originality have become very common but still remain inappropriate and often hurtful. Many bereaved people have been told. “It’s for the best,’’ which almost trumps “She’s in a better place now” in rude sympathy. No amount of polished manners, good etiquette, or fast talking can get you out of this jam! Maybe your intention is sincere, but speaking in platitudes when offering sympathy, giving unwarranted advice, or presenting personal compliments is a dangerous and unforgivable practice.
Euphemisms are always offensive, harsh, and too blunt for any situation. Again, although the intention is not to be rude, there is no room in etiquette for practiced phrases. They simply are not hon-estly offered, and they will always be ac-cepted grudgingly. Euphemisms are always dropped into our laps during life’s most delicate moments.
Compliments are a form of tribute for all forms of good judgment, new apparel, weight loss, and changes in lifestyle. For many of us, giving and accepting compli-ments is tricky and is often not very sat-isfying. Those offering compliments often resent the fact that they have not properly charmed their recipient. To volunteer a compliment can be scary, especially if it is not offered in a favorable manner. “You look terrific,” is a delightful compliment. “You look terrific. Have you had some work done on your nose?” is not a delightful compli-ment. “That’s a beautiful suit,” is appreci-ated. “That’s a beautiful suit. How much did it cost you?” will not be appreciated.
Silence and insincere compliments are not using good manners. On the other hand, many of us do not appreciate comments on our personal grooming habits, such as changing our hairdo or buying new glasses. Good com-mon sense and an honest endorsement of your relationship with your coworker or friend before speaking up is the best policy in these situations.
By Sharon Knierim
Vein Disease Havoc
Get Beautiful, Healthy Legs!
More than 40 million Americans suffer from varicose veins. Those gnarly, twisted veins that wind their way through your legs and feet are not only unsightly, they can be a source of pain and discomfort that can lead to health risks. Vein disease can stop you from living a healthy lifestyle. For example, if your legs hurt when you get home from work, you may feel too achy to go out for that evening walk. Maybe you don’t sleep well because your legs jump at night, so you don’t feel rested in the morning and decide to skip your workout. One problem spirals into another, keeping you from well-intended and enjoyable activity. If the pain, discomfort, and unsightliness of varicose veins are taking over your life, it’s time to take control and see a physician.
The deepest veins in the legs are located close to the bones and are covered by muscle. When we sit or stand in one place for a long period of time, the muscles relax, and the valves within the veins close up to stop blood from flowing back into the legs and feet. About 90 percent of our body’s blood returns to the heart through these deepest of veins. When there’s little movement, varicose veins and worse can result.
One of the risk factors that contributes to developing varicose veins is obesity. Eating a high-fiber, low salt diet alleviates pressure on your veins. Many risk factors for varicose veins, such as age, family history, or sex, are beyond our control. Varicose veins tend to increase with age for a simple reason: Like many body systems, the valves that regulate blood flow start to wear out over time. Blood that normally flows back into the veins and to the heart instead pools in the legs. That pooling often results in venous disease. Women are more prone than men to getting vein disease from hormone fluctuation (hormones weaken vein walls), especially during menopause or from birth control pills and hormone treatments. The hormones of pregnancy can also wreak havoc on leg veins, as does the increased volume of blood your body produces during pregnancy.
Symptoms are easily visible—those purple or bulging veins. Most often, they’re painful, causing your legs and feet to feel heavy. They ache, burn, throb, and sometimes cause muscle cramps. Complications from these irritating veins can be serious. Ulcers are rare, but they do occur. Signs of an ulcer start with discoloration, usually on the ankles. Also rare, blood clots can originate from deep veins within the legs as they become painful and swollen. Diseased veins may burst near the skin’s surface, resulting in minor bleeding. All of these complications require immediate medical attention.
Preventative measures like regular exercise, watching your weight, and elevating your legs after a long day in high heels are important, but they only go so far. Compression stockings also help with symptom relief, but they won’t make the problem veins you have go away. These prevention strategies can help reduce your risk of developing varicose veins, but what if you already have them? The answer is simple: Find a physician who specializes in vein treatment to take care of your problem veins before they get worse.
There’s positive news! Once a problem vein is successfully treated, it won’t come back. Those ailing varicose veins that snake their way around your legs can actually be destroyed or removed without jeopardizing leg circulation. Research backs surgeries like laser ablation and other treatments to close off diseased veins. Let’s take a look at the most common treatments.
Minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation uses heat to damage the wall inside the vein, creating scar tissue. The scarred tissue actually closes the bulging vein. A local numbing agent frees you from pain during the process; afterward, you can go back to your activities with few restrictions. Laser ablation serves the same purpose, closing the problem vein with laser energy rather than radio waves. Minor and (usually) temporary complications like bruising, numbness, and a sensation of tightness can result. Less common are burns, nerve injury, and—very rarely—embolism. As with any medical procedure, you should discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Using energy to collapse a vein is a tried-and-true treatment, but alternatives are available. With VenaSeal, medical adhesive is inserted into the troubled vein with a dispensing gun attached to a catheter. Another newer procedure is foam sclerotherapy. A foam agent is mixed with air, giving it the consistency of shaving cream. Small amounts of this foam are injected into the troublesome vein with a tiny needle. The treated vein then shrinks and closes.
After all of these procedures, the body naturally reroutes blood flow to the remaining healthier veins. Your tired legs lose their heaviness, gaining buoyancy to carry on with the day’s activities or help you get a good night’s sleep. In addition, those unsightly bulges fade away!
Most patients walk out of these vein treatments and go back to work or home, usually wearing compression stockings (recommended for a week or two). Depending on the treatments administered, some doctors say no to lifting more than 50 pounds or taking long car or plane trips until 7–10 days have passed. Daily walks are highly recommended.
Your vein specialist can also physically remove the bulging veins just beneath the skin’s surface by plucking them out with a small scalpel or needle. No need to feel squeamish—the incisions are tiny and only require a bandage afterwards. This is a separate procedure from the heat, glue, or foam treatments, in case you want those snaky veins gone for good. Phlebectomy (vein removal) is considered safe and effective, with rare side effects which may include redness, irritation, bruising, swelling, or infection.
Health insurance covers most vein procedures if you have health symptoms but will not likely cover procedures done for cosmetic reasons alone. Some insurance companies may require a few weeks of wearing compression stockings and a round of over-the-counter pain medication first, before committing to coverage. Coverage is best if you choose a surgeon that specializes in vascular surgery or an accredited vein clinic.
Varicose veins aren’t the only kind of unsightly vein trouble that might appear. Troublesome surface veins show up as clusters of tiny blood vessels that seem to sprout up in hues of red, purple, and blue. These “spider veins” are actually small, damaged veins that pop up when the deeper valves inside of the veins stop functioning as they should. The bulging varicose veins can, over time, branch out into unsightly spider veins. Although they are usually painless, many people want to zap them before shorts season is in full swing. Spider veins are often erased with multiple treatments, usually laser therapy or sclerotherapy. Treating those smaller spider veins is often insured if the treatment is thought to be medically necessary.
Sclerotherapy for spider veins uses a fine needle to inject a saline solution into visible veins. Once the saline solution enters the surface veins, the treated vein gets irritated and collapses into the vein wall. That allows blood to be rerouted to other parts of the body through healthy veins. Sclerotherapy involves multiple injections per treatment, depending on how many veins need treatment. Expect to feel a little burn during treatment, and plan to wear compression stockings for several days afterward. The compression stockings promote healthy blood flow and can give you better results. Side effects from sclerotherapy are usually minor, fading out in a few days. Treated veins may look red where injected. Less common side effects include a lumpy feel or local skin discoloration.
Laser therapy also requires multiple visits but is less invasive than sclerotherapy. Instead of needles, unwanted spider veins are treated with a high frequency laser applied directly to the surface veins. Results can be seen after four weeks. Side effects from laser treatment range from discolored skin to burns or even nerve damage. These are more uncommon, but talk to your doctor with questions and concerns.
If your veins are giving you trouble, talk to a vein specialist (you can ask your primary care provider for a recommendation). Your ankle swelling, burning, or throbbing will be reduced, if not completely gone. That dry, itchy skin will disappear, too, not to mention the unsightly bulges you’ve been hiding with long pants and tights. You can help to keep those legs healthy by staying active. Walk, cycle, swim, or immerse yourself in a yoga class and keep those veins pumping blood toward your heart!
Sources for this article included: mayoclinic.com, usnews.com, americanvein.com, and healthgrades.com.
By Janette Calabro
Skin Cancer Awareness
Comfort in Your Own Skin
The season of sunshine is upon us once again. Whether you’re relaxing in the yard or digging in the garden, the warm sun feels great on your skin! However, it’s important to remember that your skin needs protection from those rays, even when they don’t feel that hot. Keep in mind the usual tips: wearing protective clothing, putting on sufficient sunscreen, and staying out of the sun during the brightest part of the day (late morning to early afternoon). Your skin does need some sunlight to make vitamin D, but too many UV rays can also lead your skin to develop something else: skin cancer.
Skin cancer is fairly common, unfortunately, particularly in people of certain ages groups and skin types. Luckily, it is often successfully treatable. Those most susceptible to developing skin cancer include individuals with fair skin and red or blond hair as well as people who regularly use tanning booths. Forty to fifty percent of fair-skinned people older than 65 years will develop skin cancer at least once in their lifetime. This doesn’t mean that those of us with darker skin tones don’t need to take precautions! Anyone at any age with any skin tone can develop skin cancer.
The easiest risk factor to eliminate is the use of tanning beds—just don’t use them. Many self-tanning products can safely enhance your lovely limbs. Another way to protect yourself is with clothing. A wide-brimmed hat that shades your face is a fashionable safety item that will also help prevent wrinkles. When you’re out in the sun, also consider long sleeves and gloves. Summer clothing often takes that need into consideration; you’ll likely be able to find loose-fitting sleeves that keep out the sun without keeping in the heat. Be sure to apply sunscreen liberally to any exposed skin. An SPF of 50 or above is your best bet.
Some people are at additional risk for developing skin cancer, including anyone who works or spends a great deal of time outdoors, along with those who have a low-functioning immune system or a family or self-history of skin cancer. If you fall into a high-risk category, visit your dermatologist every 12 months.
There are many types of skin cancer, the most common being basal cell carcinoma. This cancer develops in the basal cell skin layer, typically on areas of the skin that are exposed to the most ultraviolet rays. The good news is that this type of cancer doesn’t usually spread; on the other hand, it’s likely to recur within five
years. It’s often characterized by flat, firm yellow areas on the skin that are similar in appearance to scars. A dermatologist will perform a skin biopsy to determine if the spot is cancerous and then will surgically remove the affected tissue. This type of skin cancer is highly curable if caught and treated early.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most frequently diagnosed form of skin cancer. This cancer develops in the outermost layer of the skin (commonly, on the face, neck, or ears) and is more likely to invade tissue beneath the skin. It’s caused by an abnormal growth of squamous cells, exacerbated by sun exposure. It may appear as a flat red or brown patch on the skin and may have a crusty surface. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell is highly treatable if detected early.
Melanoma is only the fifth most diagnosed form of skin cancer, but it causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. This form of cancer happens when pigment-producing cells called melanocytes mutate. Again, sun exposure is usually the culprit—even as few as five sunburns across a lifetime can double your risk of developing melanoma. Warning signs include wounds that don’t heal or moles that ooze or bleed.
Early detection is key to successful treatment. If you develop a new mole or skin spot, or if an existing one starts to itch or hurt, consult your dermatologist immediately. (You might keep a list of significant spots on your body so you can note if they change or develop over time.) Other warning signs to look for include multi-colored spots; moles that are large or asymmetrical; and rough, red patches of skin.
There are several treatment regimens, usually beginning with surgery to remove the affected tissue. Other treatments may consist of topical chemotherapy-like medications, oral medications, or intravenous treatment. For example, intravenous Bavencio is a synthetic version of the body’s natural immune system chemicals. Some treatments combine hyaluronic acid and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Targeted skin cancer therapies are administered by mouth.
Skin cancer is not to be taken lightly. We all love the sun, but it can be our worst enemy. Preventative measures are a must, as are regular dermatology visits. Let the sun shine—safely!
Sources for this article included: cancerrcenter.com, cancer.gov, skincancer.org, and cancer.org.
By Loretta McCollum
Go Cold Turkey!
No News Is Good News
I have a confession to make. I have been “following the news.” I had gone cold turkey from the news back in the mid-1990s. Back then, I came to the realization that when I watch/read/listened to the news, my attitude became more negative. I became…shall we say…less of a joy to be around.
“Negativity is cannibalistic. The more you feed it,
the bigger and stronger it grows.”—Bobby Darnell
Over the last couple of months, I have woken up every morning, grabbing my phone to find the latest information on the VIRUS. I had many solid, logical reasons to do what I was doing. After all, Women’s Edition has been around for 34 years, with the intent of helping small businesses. I was simply looking at reality. I was trying to get ahead of the curve, to see what I could do to help our customers. It was all very logical…
“Bad news travels fast. Good news takes the scenic route.”
I am now back on the wagon and off of the news. I made the decision only a couple of days ago. I already feel happier and lighter, and I’m working on being more fun to be around. (I think that’s going to take while, though—ask my staff!)
However, I will say that I learned a lot about the news. Like I said, I hadn’t really followed the news in 25 years, and the news has changed since then. I was so confused in the beginning. I would read something from a “legitimate news source” and then go to another “legitimate news source,” where they reported the exact opposite. It made my head hurt! What is a person supposed to believe?
So I started a new habit. When someone says: “So and so did this and that,” I ask the question: Have you verified it? It truly has become an inside joke with everyone who knows me. What is amazing is how many unverifiable falsehoods are put out there as newsworthy. Why is this happening, I wondered? I came to the conclusion that this is happening because we have created a population of gossips. You know the worst thing I learned? I had become one of them!
“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself:
is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”—Buddha
Each morning, I use my phone to check the weather…and yes, I read my horoscope! The rest of it? Nope. I’ve gone cold turkey!
“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth.”
By Janet Van deWalle
Twenty Years of Kids Comments
Twenty years ago this month, my first Kids Comments column was published. Jim Van deWalle advised me to “write with a light pen—don’t preach.” He suggested that my subject matter for that first May column be mothers. I tried my best to be clever and witty in my debut presentation, titled “You Know You’re a Mother When…” Reading that column today, it seems pretty lame. It contained gems like, “You know you’re a mother when you have more kid snacks and toys in your purse than personal items.” I don’t know what I was thinking.
Over the years, I’ve honed a few subjects that I think are universal. When I’m asked what “kids comment” on, I reply that I’m the one making comments about kids…and we’re all kids inside. I write about family. I write about people. I write that “kids are people, too.”
A frequent subject has been sportsmanship. I see people disrespecting fans, players, and officials at sporting events. This is not good sportsmanship and is definitely not a positive model to give to kids. Parents assure me that kids don’t pay any attention to adults. I suggest they look around. Listen to and watch the kids your kids hang out with. How do they talk? How do they act? How do they treat each other? Where do you think they learned that?
Over the years, my private tutoring students have told me that teachers have inferred they were dumb. “Girls can’t do math,” was a comment reportedly made to one student. I said, “Show me what you’re doing in math.” She did.
“See?” I told her. “You know it. You couldn’t show me how if you didn’t.” Her mother later told me that the student’s grades improved after that…she just needed a shot of confidence. Another student wanted prep help for a vocational abilities test that was designed to determine career aptitude. “Dad says I must be pretty dumb if I need help preparing for this,” he commented. “Anyone should be able to pass.” I explained that the test was to determine what he already knew and was interested in. Some test-taking strategies might help, but I wouldn’t teach him any content. He proudly told me later, “The test seemed easier this time. I didn’t stress out.” Confidence restored!
Respect is also a theme in my writing. Think of how you want to be treated; then treat others that way. Even toddlers like to be treated with respect. “I want to do it myself” is a common child’s refrain. Kids learn by doing and making mistakes. It’s important for parents to help them build confidence. That doesn’t happen when we do things for them.
A final theme: Keep in touch with the child within. Keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep daring. You’re setting an example. Have fun, and happy Mother’s Day!
Editor’s Note: Marge has three children, two grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. She holds advanced degrees in education. Her life’s mission is to teach everyone that kids are people, too.
By Marge Shoemaker, BS, MS
Interiors By Design
The Latest in Lighting
Creating the Perfect Atmosphere
Interior lighting has the power to dramatically change the way a room looks, feels, and functions—essentially, it has the potential to entirely transform a space. According to interior designers, most people simply don’t realize the central role that lighting plays in a home’s design. Without good lighting, all the well-planned interior design details—sumptuous finishes, opulent furnishings, and luxurious flooring—will be lost. That said, lighting isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. What works in the kitchen may not work at all in the dining room or bedroom. The type of lighting fixture, or how it’s positioned, can also make or break a room.
While getting lighting right can be tricky, it’s still one of the most cost-effective ways to freshen a space and make the most of your home. So whether you’re building new or remodeling, it’s time to rethink your lighting with the year’s best trends, smart technology, and room solutions.
Top trends for lighting in 2020 focus on functionality and style. Homeowners everywhere are falling in love with the idea of creating a wow factor with lighting. The large pendants and oversized chandeliers dominating the current marketplace do more than simply provide a light source; they act as centerpieces designed to attract instant attention and are particularly well-suited to open living spaces and tall ceilings. We’re also seeing the single chandelier over the table in dining rooms replaced with multiple chandeliers or pendants. Other homeowners are opting for less fussy fixtures, with clean lines in brushed nickel and soft gold, designed to blend well with decorating styles from modern to farmhouse.
When updating a room, think about how to use lighting to improve the atmosphere. Ideally, lighting should reflect the feel and function of each space. When making a lighting plan, consider the purpose of each room. How will it be used primarily? What activities will take place in the room? Consider any articles you wish to highlight, how you want the room to feel, and the type of ambience you wish to create. For example, the key to achieving proper lighting in today’s multi-functional kitchens requires the use of multiple sources of lighting. Layering kitchen lighting with different types of fixtures provides the right balance of general overhead, task, and ambient lighting for the cooking, eating, and entertaining that goes on in modern kitchens.
This year’s lighting trends for bedrooms and bathrooms increasingly reflect homeowners’ desire for a sophisticated retreat. Elegant chandeliers and mirror-flanking sconces are increasing in popularity. Night lighting is perfect in a bathroom, and LED tape lighting provides just the right lighting without the blinding glare.
Ceiling fans equipped with lighting are a stylish way to enhance a room while serving another practical purpose. The best fans are beautiful, powerful, and whisper-quiet. Overhead fans are an economical way to lower heating and air conditioning costs. The United States Department of Energy states that if you use a ceiling fan and air conditioning system simultaneously, you can raise your thermostat by four degrees or more and remain comfortable. A ceiling fan doesn’t actually change the temperature in a room; it makes you feel cooler or warmer by moving the air. Reversing fan blades in the winter pushes warm air downward, allowing you to turn the thermostat down a few degrees, maintaining comfort while reducing heating costs.
Smart technology is becoming increasingly integrated into our lives, and it is now a top request for residential interior lighting. A whole-house control system allows you to live efficiently, economically, and conveniently. The installation of an automated home lighting system enables you to control your home’s lighting even when you are away through the use of phone apps and voice activation. New technology has the ability to connect with your GPS location, activating your lights as you approach your home.
One of the most important considerations for homeowners updating their lighting is whether to choose LED technology. It’s good to know that the higher upfront costs of LED lighting are dropping. Thanks to its efficiency, longevity, and durability, investing in LED lighting will prove cost-saving in the long run. Understanding the differences between LED and traditional lighting poses a bit of a learning curve, especially in terminology. Local lighting stores are a great resource to inform you about LED lighting and help you make the right choices for each area of your home.
There are so many choices available to update your home with interior lighting. Enjoy the process! Remember, the best interior lighting choices for your home are the ones that illuminate your personal style and brighten your days and nights with beautiful lighting!
Sources for this article included: huffpost.com, consumerreports.com, and forbes.com.
By Robyn V. Powell
Exterior Home Makeover
Ideas and Benefits
It’s fun to keep your home’s interior up to date with the latest trends and styles, but what about the exterior? Giving your home an exterior makeover is a great way to boost your curb appeal and even increase your home’s overall resale value!
Before you get started, don’t forget the basics. Even if you’re not looking to make any big-budget changes, just basic maintenance can do wonders to maximize your curb appeal. Simple things like giving your home a power wash, touching up paint, regularly mowing your lawn, and keeping your flower beds freshly mulched can really go a long way.
However, if you’re looking for more of a wow factor, landscaping alone can increase your property value by up to 12 percent! To further increase your home’s value, you may want to consider replacing windows, doors, garage doors, roofing, gutters, gutter guards, siding, or your driveway.
Windows give obvious signs when they need replacing. Be on the lookout for windows that are warped, cracked, or feel drafty. Well-maintained windows should last you a good 20 years or so. If your area recently went through some heavy storms or if you live in a more coastal area, that lifespan can be shortened drastically.
Front doors can add value for aesthetic reasons just as much as for maintenance ones. Like windows, doors should be replaced when they exhibit wear and tear. You can purchase new doors as slabs (which just includes the door itself) or pre-hung (which includes both the door and the frame that supports it). Replacing the entire assembly with a pre-hung door can save you the trouble of running into hinge and lock positions being off, as well as any possible wood rot you may have in the existing frame. Taking the correct measurements is absolutely essential, which is why you may want to hire a professional to make sure everything is measured and installed right the first time.
Replacing your garage door can also bring a lot of curb appeal, especially if it’s an attached garage that faces the street. Insulation isn’t always as important for garage doors, since garages aren’t typically heated. However, if your garage is attached to your home, an insulated garage door can help your home’s energy efficiency. Depending on the size and material of your garage door, prices can range from $750 to $4,000, which often includes the cost of installation.
Barring any extreme weather damage, your home’s roof should last around 20–25 years. If there’s a leak that’s getting into your living space, it’s easy to tell you have some damage. Other types of damage, like cracked or buckling shingles, gaps in flashing around vents and skylights, and chimney cracks, can be hard to see from the ground or even on a ladder. You’re better off calling a roofing company to do an inspection; many roofers offer this service for free.
Gutters should last about as long as your roof, but you can tell if it’s time for replacements by watching for cracks and stressed seams (on the gutters themselves) or peeling paint, wood rot, and mildew underneath. One way to help alleviate your need for regular gutter maintenance is to install gutter guards. Gutter guards come in many types, but they all serve the same basic function—to keep debris out of your gutters. This means you’ll spend less time cleaning them, and it will extend their natural life.
Great-looking siding is possibly the most essential part of your home’s exterior. Take a careful walk around the house periodically to check for things like rot, cracks, and gaps in your siding. If maintaining your existing siding is getting to be a bit too much work for you and your family, it may be a good time to consider upgrading to a lower maintenance material. One example of long-lasting and low maintenance siding is faux stone, which—barring natural disasters—should never need to be replaced.
Last, but not least, is your driveway. Replacing your driveway is no small undertaking, so it may be a smart idea to have repairs made (if you can) to maintain your curb appeal. Cracks that are less than a quarter inch wide are usually just products of the normal freeze-thaw cycle and can be easily repaired. Larger amounts of damage, such as excessive cracking and pitting, can make or break a home sale and are usually indicators that you should look into resurfacing or full-on replacement.
It may seem like a long list of things to consider, but regular maintenance and care go a long way toward maintaining a level of curb appeal that would make any homeowner proud.
Sources for this story include houzz.com, ahs.com, forbes.com, washingtonpost.com, bobvila.com, and hunker.com.
By Anne Yankus
To Your Good Health
Stem Cell Therapy
A World of Potential
Stem cell therapy, also called regenerative medicine, is a relatively new and promising field of medical and cosmetic treatment. It can help repair diseased or injured tissue and rejuvenate damaged cells. Many treatments are not yet approved by the FDA, but it’s good to be aware of current and potential uses of this type of therapy. A great place to start is learning what stem cells are, what stem cell therapy is, and why the medical and cosmetic industries are excited about its potential uses.
Stem cells are the cells from which all other cells that have specialized functions are generated. Stem cells divide to form more cells, called daughter cells. The daughter cells either become new stem cells or become specialized cells such as blood cells, brain cells, or heart, muscle, or bone cells. Basically, stem cells are the only cells that can generate new cell types.
Right now, stem cells are generally harvested in three ways: from adult blood, from bone marrow in the hip bone, or from umbilical cord blood. It may be possible to remove stem cells from your own blood or bone marrow, store them, and transplant them later to help treat damaged or cancerous cells.
Embryonic stem cells have the advantage of being able to grow into any type of cell (compared to adult stem cells, which may only be able to grow into cells of the same type, like blood to blood or muscle to muscle). However, scientists have successfully transformed regular adult cells (from bone marrow or fat) into stem cells using genetic reprogramming. Researchers have also identified stem cells in amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood.
Today, the most common medical use of stem cell therapy is treating arthritis in the knee, back, or shoulder. This therapy can offer relief that lasts anywhere from six months to several years. The therapy decreases inflammation and can slow down or repair the damage caused by the arthritis.
In this minimally invasive procedure, the stem cells are injected into an arthritic joint. It is believed that the stem cells turn into cartilage cells and can release proteins (called cytokines) that slow degeneration of cartilage and reduce pain. More research is underway to show how this treatment works. Most importantly, it can help patients delay or even avoid knee replacement surgery. The average cost for stem cell treatment for knees is approximately $3,000 to $5,000 per knee. Like most treatments that are considered experimental, the cost is not currently covered by insurance. However, as more research is done, insurance companies may decide to cover the cost of this treatment.
Stem cell therapy is also used to treat certain cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma. The stem cells help replace cells that are damaged by the cancer. They also aid in recovery after intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Some insurance companies cover stem cell therapy for cancer treatment, but others do not. It is always best to check your own policy.
Stem cell therapy is also being used in the cosmetic industry and by dermatologists. You may be surprised to learn that many of the creams and serums you find on the market actually contain stem cells from plants. Plant-based therapy does not appear to provide the rejuvenation and youthful skin many expect after treatment—that’s why human stem cells are being investigated.
Researchers are hoping that the next big breakthrough in the search for younger-looking skin will involve stem cells harvested from umbilical cords. This is a switch from the recently popular “vampire facials,” in which dermatologists use cells from the patient’s own blood. The blood cells are injected back into the patient at a cost of about $3,000 to $6,000 per treatment.
Although most cosmetic stem cell therapies use adult stem cells collected from the patient, these therapies are not yet FDA-approved. Therefore, it is especially important to ask a lot of questions before undergoing stem cell therapy for any cosmetic issue. Currently, the only stem cell treatments approved by the FDA are products that treat certain cancers, blood disorders, or the immune system. However, the FDA is working with clinics in approving clinical trials and gathering research to be FDA-approved in the future. Researchers are optimistic and see a great deal of potential for this therapy.
If you are undergoing medical treatment for a condition in which stem cell treatment is already approved, you may already have talked to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the treatment. However, if you would like to try stem cell therapy to treat an arthritic joint or for a cosmetic use, ask your doctor about whether or not stem cell therapy may be right for you.
Sources for this article included: bioinformant.com, mayoclinic.org, and cancer.org.
By Marge Shoemaker
Focus On Finance
It’s Getting Hot in Here
The War on Investment Fees Heats Up, Again
For the past several decades, the cost of investing has declined because of competition in the financial services industry. Over the past few months, that war has intensified. The most recent skirmish began when Charles Schwab and TD Ameritade, the two largest discount brokers, announced plans to merge. They then announced plans to provide free trades to their clients. Several weeks ago, Morgan Stanley, a major Wall Street firm, announced plans to purchase e-Trade (America’s third largest discount broker) and reduce their commissions to zero. Last, but not least, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs began plans to launch a new stock exchange with the goal of reducing trading costs for the brokerage firms.
What does this mean to Main Street investors? In the words of Warren Buffett, “If you’re in a poker game and you don’t know who the patsy is, it is you.” The collective value of America’s 401(k) accounts is $7.4 trillion. Last year, American workers paid the financial services industry around $140 billion—billion!—to have these accounts serviced. The changes described above have the potential to reduce those fees by as much as 70 percent.
In a recent study, the Federal Reserve found that the financial literacy of the public is so limited that we are vulnerable to potential abuse by the financial services industry. According to the study, less than 15 percent of investors knew how much they were paying for their 401(k) account and even fewer knew what the fees were for. The Fed study stressed the need for the public to become aware of the fees they are paying for their retirement accounts in order to avoid being overcharged by the financial industry.
Every 401(k) plan consists of several components, each one of which is the responsibility of a different service provider. Each provider receives a fee for these services. The first part of a 401(k) plan is the accounting/bookkeeping function. The provider of this service may be a stand-alone company whose only business is 401(k) accounting. This provider prepares participant statements and files the necessary government paperwork for the accounts.
The second component is a broker dealer who has custody of the plan’s assets and provides participants access to the mutual funds listed in the plan’s investment menu. This can be a discount broker or a full-service broker dealer.
The third party in a 401(k) plan is the broker responsible for deciding which funds to list in the plan’s investment menu. In most plans, these people are compensated by the funds they recommend. Their compensation is a portion of the maintenance fee charged by the fund. Thus, the broker making the recommendation has an incentive to recommend funds that have high maintenance fees. This is good for the broker, but the costs reduce the participants’ investment returns.
The fourth part of a 401(k) plan is the educational component. It is generally assumed that the broker who selects the funds will provide training for the participants on how to pick the funds that are best suited to their personal circumstances.
All of these parts come with individual pricing structures. The party that pays these costs varies from plan to plan—sometimes it is the employer, sometimes it is the participants. In all cases, a mutual fund’s maintenance fee is paid by the participants.
How the fees are calculated has a significant impact on the cost of the plan and, ultimately, on the investment returns of the participants. The traditional method is a percentage of the value of the plan’s assets. As the value of a participant’s account increases, so do the fees, but the services remain the same. Thus, investors pay more and get nothing additional in return. It also means that employees with large dollar amounts in their 401(k) accounts will pay more than their colleagues with smaller account balances, but they all get the same service.
Over the past few years, there has emerged a group of service providers that offer their services on a flat fee basis. This means that all participants pay the same fee for their government filings and statements regardless of the balances in their accounts. It also means that accounts grow faster because of the lower cost. As these changes are coming about, it is critical for plan sponsors and plan participants to make an effort to understand the fee calculation methodology.
At this point, there is no peace treaty in sight. The way the 401(k) program is structured means that plan participants must fend for themselves. Don’t be the patsy! Make yourself aware of the upcoming changes in fees. Tune in next month, we’ll have more information on this topic.
Editor’s Note: Professor Morgan has over 40 years’ experience in the investment field, both as a university professor and as a financial advisor. He currently serves on the faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he directs a program designed to educate 401(k) plan participants on how to improve their investment strategy.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.
By George Morgan
Seasons of Life
Exams Crucial for Healthy Vision
Focus on Technology
An estimated 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older need vision correction. This means that regular vision exams are of vital importance, though better vision is only one of the benefits. Early detection of certain diseases and conditions allows for treatment at a time when it is most effective.
An estimated 61 million adults in our country are at high risk for vision loss. An eye exam can identify cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye), which is the most prevalent vision impairment in the United States. Examination can also detect diabetic retinopathy, the top cause of blindness in our country. Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are also serious issues that can be identified at an eye exam.
Even infants get a vision screening soon after birth. Screenings are recommended again at about three and five years. It is especially important to have a child’s eyes checked prior to entering kindergarten.
A typical exam starts with a medical history. Visual acuity will be measured to determine what, if any, correction is needed. Drops to dilate the pupil are often used to get a good view of the back of the eye.
Technology is helping eye care professionals do their jobs better and more efficiently. A thorough exam looks at both eye health and visual function. Computerized tools help test the field of vision while digital retina imaging provides a clearer view of the back of the eye. Macular degeneration, a gradual breakdown of light-sensitive tissue, is revealed in this way. Eye pressure, important in discovering glaucoma, also uses newer technology with better accuracy.
Digital eye exams use the latest technology for better eye health and vision care. Retinal photography provides images that can be saved for future comparison or shared with a specialist, if needed. Early detection of potentially serious conditions is just one advantage over traditional methods of examining the interior of the eye.
Digital methods measure more of your visual system for improved correction. Contact lenses are fitted with higher accuracy. To determine a correction for contacts or glasses, computer refractors aid the process, making it faster and more precise. More technology and less, “Which is better: One or two?” Better technology equals better vision. When measuring for glasses, digital measurements are more precise than traditional handheld, low-tech tools. Technicians are better able to locate the optimal spot for best vision with prescription lenses.
Who should you see for your eye care? That depends on what kind of care you need. Optometrists complete at least three years of college and four years of optometry school to receive a Doctor of Optometry degree. They do eye exams and vision tests, detect abnormalities, and prescribe and dispense contact lenses and glasses. They prescribe medications to treat some conditions.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors specializing in eye and vision care, with an undergraduate degree and at least eight years of additional training. They can practice medicine and perform surgeries. They treat eye disease and do eye surgeries. Many specialize in such areas as pediatric eye care, glaucoma, or macular degeneration.
Eyeglasses and contact lenses each have their pros and cons, but everyone needs regular eye exams. It is important to check the health of the cornea. Issues can include chronic dry eye, corneal abrasions or infection. Treatment can make contacts more tolerable.
We have many contact options, such as soft for comfort or semi-rigid for better astigmatism correction. Daily disposable or long-term wear lenses are also available. I prefer the clearer vision I have with contacts and no frames blocking my vision. Contacts are now available with bifocal or multifocal correction for both near and far vision. I opted for mono vision: left contact for near vision and right contact for distance.
Eyeglasses can be less expensive and require less care than contacts. Fashionable frames make glasses fun to wear. Improvements in lenses include bifocals and trifocals in transition lenses that blend so there is no line between the vision areas. Optional processes make lenses more durable or anti-glare. New materials make it possible to have thin lenses even with strong prescriptions.
High-definition lenses are the latest improvement in glasses. Digitally customized for your unique eyes and prescription, free-form lenses are manufactured using computer-aided design. The result is exceptional visual clarity, reduced glare, and sharper contrast and color. Even trying on glasses is easier with digital technology. Finding the perfect frame is actually fun. When you try on frames the old-fashioned way, you have to take off your current glasses and try on new frames in a blur. Now, you can see photos of yourself in a variety of frames.
Take advantage of the newest technology in eye care to take care of your precious eyes and enjoy great vision.
Sources for this article included: americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org, optometrists.org, and cdc.gov.
By Leslie Byrne
Healthy Pathways to Fertility
Keep an Open Mind to Options
If you have struggled with fertility issues, you are not alone. An estimated 12 percent of couples of childbearing age in the United States have dealt with infertility. Most information we read about fertility treatments focuses on female biology, but the truth is that the issues are spread very evenly between the sexes. One third of fertility obstacles originate in women’s bodies, one third in men’s, and one third in both (or in unidentified factors).
Infertility can be defined as a couple who has experienced two or more miscarriages, those under age 35 years who have not conceived after trying for 12 or more months, or those over 35 years of age who have tried for 6 months or more without success.
The causes for infertility are as varied as the individuals it affects. In women, it is often a problem with ovulation due to a hormone imbalance or a blocked fallopian tube that does not allow the sperm and eggs to travel freely. The fallopian tubes might be impassable because of an infection or scarring from past surgeries.
In men, the causes may include erectile dysfunction, problems with the number of sperm or incorrect sperm movement, or blocked tubes that do not allow the sperm out of a man’s body. Another possible cause is varicocele, which is when enlarged veins overheat the testes and damage sperm.
Your primary doctor, gynecologist, or urologist will probably conduct a number of basic initial tests that include measuring hormone levels in the blood and various imaging techniques. At some point, your doctor may refer you to a fertility specialist. Fertility clinics differ from other doctors’ offices by offering assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization or pairing patients with potential sperm or egg donors. Fertility specialists may also suggest a number of alternative therapies to try before, or in conjunction with, assisted reproductive technology.
NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology) is a type of fertility therapy that incorporates many of the alternative therapies that traditional fertility clinics suggest, such as nutritional, chiropractic, massage, and herbal therapies. They do not provide medical procedures that some individuals find contrary to their religious beliefs. NaPro Technology pays special attention to tracking a woman’s ovulation cycle to maximize (or minimize) the potential to conceive.
All fertility specialists will advise men and women to stop smoking, avoid alcohol, and keep diabetes and other chronic illnesses under control. They will also likely discuss the basics of nutrition, but a nutritionist can be a great resource for a more in-depth analysis of how your body may be reacting to your diet. Eating foods rich in antioxidants is of proven benefit, and a nutritionist can suggest specific sources. You may also be asked to cut down on refined carbohydrates, trans fats, caffeine, and soft drinks.
Chiropractic care is another option for those hoping to improve fertility. Pinched nerves and misaligned vertebrae can adversely affect your breathing, blood flow, and digestion, which can, in turn, affect your overall health and reproductive system. Chiropractic clinics often incorporate other services in-house, such as therapeutic massage, herbal therapy, and energy work such as Reiki and acupuncture.
Acupuncture is a therapy with origins in traditional Chinese medicine. For centuries, practitioners have believed that acupuncture can increase blood flow to the reproductive organs by stimulating certain points on the body’s meridians, or energy pathways.
Massage therapy allows your body to be manipulated while you passively focus on your breathing and relaxation. Massage stimulates blood flow throughout the body and creates an environment in which to de-stress. Stress is inarguably a contributing factor to infertility in men and women, so it’s important that couples find ways to relax.
Practicing yoga aligns and strengthens the spine and the whole body through movement, breath, and relaxation. Some yoga studios offer specific fertility and prenatal classes, but any gentle or restorative yoga can be beneficial.
Prayer, meditation, and hypnosis are all ways to practice relaxation and mindfulness. Prayer and meditation have the added benefit of being available to us at any moment. Hypnotherapists act as meditation guides to lead our minds into a peaceful, receptive state. They can also teach self-hypnosis techniques to use outside of a session.
Dealing with infertility issues can be emotionally exhausting…which causes stress that can further complicate fertility problems. If this time-consuming quest leaves you or your partner feeling despondent, be sure to reach out to a mental health professional. Individual or couples therapy can be an opportunity for you to share your grief and frustration. Feeling supported and heard is an important part of the process. Keep the lines of communication open, and explore these diverse and nurturing options together.
Sources for this article included: hhs.gov, womenshealth.gov, nichd.nih.gov, and mayoclinic.org.
By Maria Harding
Is Your Vehicle Ready for the Road?
Preparing for Time in the Car
Whether you’re taking a short drive for a change of scenery or looking ahead to your next family road trip, make sure you and your vehicle are prepared before you hit the road. Here are some great year-round tips for keeping your car road-worthy.
General maintenance is the best place to start. Hopefully, you’ve been seeing your mechanic regularly to make sure that all of your car’s major systems are in check. If not, make an appointment to have everything looked over and repairs made, if necessary.
One particular category to keep in mind is fluids. A vehicle has six essential fluids: oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid. You’ll want to check that your fluids are full (your mechanic or owner’s manual can show you how) before setting out. Bring extras of each kind in case your vehicle uses them faster than expected. Oil is a vehicle’s most essential fluid, and it’s important to change it regularly. Schedule a professional oil change before any long trip.
It goes without saying that you won’t be going anywhere without your tires. If the tread is looking worn down, you should replace your tires before a long trip. You should also check their inflation. Underinflated tires lead to poor gas mileage and affect stopping distance. Be sure to keep a tire pressure gauge in your car at all times. Check tires for proper inflation every time you get gas. (The ideal inflation should be posted on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s side door.) Most gas stations have self-service air hoses to re-inflate tires.
Your vehicle almost certainly came with a spare tire known as a “donut” spare. This tire is smaller than a regular tire and is only intended to get you to the nearest tire shop. If you are going on a long trip, you should purchase a full-size spare—that is, a spare tire that is exactly like the tires already on your vehicle. You can drive as long as you need to on a full-size spare.
Other items to consider before you leave include your brake pads, air filters, light bulbs, and hoses. If you don’t know how to check these, your mechanic can show you. One way to tell whether brake pads are wearing down is listening when you brake. Good brake pads don’t make much noise during regular braking. If you hear grinding or squealing, it’s probably time for new brake pads. Air filters should be replaced about every 12,000 miles.
We all know what a burned-out light bulb looks like, but many of the bulbs on a car are outside the vehicle, which is not where you usually are when the car is on. Walk around the outside of the vehicle when it’s on to check for burned-out bulbs. If possible, have a partner sit inside the car to press the brake pedals, shift gears, and turn the blinkers on and off.
It’s often easy to tell if a hose is leaking somewhere because it leaves a drip or puddle on the floor of the garage. It’s less easy to tell which hose it is and how to fix it. This is generally a job better left to the professionals.
We’re used to packing light for air travel, but a car can hold many items that you hope to never use but are essential in emergencies. Stock your vehicle with safety items, including an atlas—yes, a physical atlas. Your smartphone works wonders, until it doesn’t work. When your smartphone loses reception or the battery dies, you need an old-school backup. Other items include flashlights (and batteries), heavy-duty jumper cables, phone charger, safety triangles, emergency hammer and seatbelt cutter, first-aid kit, tow rope, flat fixer or patch, tire inflator, extra water and food, and blankets.
Need extra storage for all those safety items or other specialty gear? Consider a roof carrier like a roof box, roof rack, or fold-up carrier. For even more room, you could tow a trailer or use a hitch cargo carrier bag. If you plan to use any of these on your trip, be sure to install them well in advance. If there’s a problem, it’s better to discover it in your driveway than on the side of the road.
On long trips, it’s important for everyone in the car to entertain themselves so the driver can concentrate on the road. In addition to bringing books, car games, and music, you can also have a DVD player installed to keep the back seat passengers entertained.
It’s always smart to make sure your car is ready for the road. Tackle some of these tasks while you’re dreaming of the road ahead!
Sources for this article included: popularmechanics.com, travelingbroad.com, and etrailer.com.
By Brennan Hallock
The Good Life
A Gift of Relaxation and Rejuvenation
The International Spa Association defines spas as “places devoted to overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body, and spirit.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? What a great way to give yourself or someone special a day filled with pampering and relaxation. You may already have a favorite spa, and now is an excellent time to buy a gift card and let someone you love look forward to a future service. If you’re still on your search for a spa, you’ll need to understand the difference between a day spa and a medical spa—two popular types of spas that offer different things.
Day spas offer a wide variety of services, such as massages, body treatments, facials, and nail treatments. Licensed massage therapists, aestheticians, and cosmetologists provide services in a day spa. Available massages might include Swedish, deep tissue, aromatherapy, hot stone, and reflexology. Facials can help with skin issues such as acne, clogged pores, and dry skin. Body treatments such as scrubs, masks, and wraps are like a facial for your entire body. Nail services are a treat for both hands and feet.
Swedish massages are usually whole-body massages that use soft, long strokes combined with movement of the joints. This energizing massage relaxes and relieves muscle tension. Deep tissue massages use more intense pressure to release chronic muscle soreness and tension. Aromatherapy massages use essential oils to achieve relaxation and other effects. Hot stone massages include heated stones, which may be used as an extension of the therapist’s hand or placed at various points on the body. The heat from the stones warms up muscles and promotes relaxation. Reflexology involves the application of pressure to the feet or hands, which helps alleviate stress and promote relaxation.
There are several types of facials, but a typical facial usually involves cleansing, steaming, exfoliating, extracting, massaging, masking, and moisturizing. Specialty facials target specific needs such as fine lines or acne.
Body scrubs are exfoliating and hydrating treatments in which an exfoliating material (like sea salt) is combined with oil and aromatics and then rubbed into your skin, leaving it soft and smooth. Body masks and wraps are detoxifying treatments in which your body is covered with mud, seaweed, or algae and then wrapped in a thermal blanket.
Nail treatments include manicures and pedicures. Standard manicures include filing, shaping, and buffing nails; nail polish is actually optional. A shellac manicure is a polish-gel fusion that is applied like nail polish but lasts longer—up to 14 days or more. Gel manicures use a gel-based polish and last two to three weeks. Acrylic manicures involve mixing a liquid and powder to form a hard acrylic compound. They usually need to be refilled every three to four weeks.
The American Med Spa Association defines a medical spa “as a hybrid between an aesthetic medical center and a day spa.” In other words, dermatological services are added to spa services. These spas provide noninvasive aesthetic medical services under the general supervision of a licensed physician. Services should be performed by trained and qualified practitioners who are supervised by an on-site licensed healthcare professional. Popular med spa services include chemical peels, facials, hair removal, Botox and filler injections, microdermabrasion, and photo-facial pulsed light.
Chemical peels use a chemical solution that is applied to the skin and causes the skin to exfoliate and peel off, resulting in generally smoother skin that is less wrinkled. Hair removal services include electrolysis and waxing. Botox and filler injections reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate aging skin. Microdermabrasion uses an instrument to “sand” your skin, which can treat light scarring, discoloration, and sun damage. Photo-facial pulsed light involves a handheld flashgun that uses light-based technology for hair removal and facials.
A spa day offers much more than pampering and relaxation. Studies have found that massages may reduce stress, improve circulation, alleviate fibromyalgia pain, improve sleep, and reduce muscle tension. Facials provide hydration and improve skin appearance. Chemical peels and injections treat wrinkles and promote a more youthful appearance. Hair removal services remove unwanted hair and promote smoother-looking skin.
Many spas also have hydrotherapy or whirlpool tubs, steam rooms, and saunas. A full-day spa package may include services such a massage, body treatment, facial, manicure, and pedicure, or a combination of any of these services. Each experience can be tailored to ensure a unique, relaxing, and enjoyable day.
We all know someone who deserves a little relaxation and indulgence. A spa gift card is a great gift for Mother’s Day, a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation…or just for yourself! It’s a gift that provides something amazing to look forward to, and recipients will remember the feeling of rejuvenation long after the day has passed.
Sources for this article included: amtamassage.org, americanmedspa.org, experienceispa.com, and mayoclinic.org.
By Angella A. Arndt
West Coast Hot Spots
If you have ever had the experience seeing an amazing, enormous mammal like a whale up close, then you know the exhilarating feeling it brings! These magnificent creatures migrate in oceans all over the world, fending off predators to mate or give birth. If your timing is right, you can spend a few hours with them and their calves. While you can go all over the world to spot different species and even swim alongside them, you do not have to travel internationally for this exquisite experience. Take a quick trip over to the west coast of the United States. From north to south and beyond, there are opportunities to go whale watching whenever you are ready.
After talking with the naturalists aboard different whale watching boats in Southern California, I learned that different species of whales are migrating all year. They make their way from the cold waters of Alaska down to the warm waters of Baja, Mexico, to give birth, and then they head back. The best times of year for whale-watching, the naturalists tell me, are March and April because you can catch more mothers and calves swimming together. It’s such an exciting moment when you spot these huge whales next to your boat. Some are curious and swim along to get a closer look, and some are protective mothers who guide their babies away from the ship. Either way, there is excitement in the air when you hear an on-board announcement of a whale spotting or when you see your first spout of water.
Starting from the northwest, you can do some fantastic whale watching on an Alaskan cruise. You have options to see different species of whales, depending on the month you go and what areas you travel.
Travel south, toward the San Juan Islands off Washington, and find one of the best places in the world to see orcas. Just off South Beach is Salmon Bank. You can also go whale watching in the spot where the orcas, humpbacks, and other marine life enter and exit the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. Check out the Interpretive Center to learn more about the orcas at Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park), one of the best places to watch from land.
The next destination is the Oregon coast. The little town of Depoe Bay is the Oregon state capital for whale watching. They even have a historic Whale Watching Center that offers free binoculars to use and staff to answer questions about spotting whales. It is the perfect spot to watch from shore as the whales blow, dive, spyhop, and breach. Whale watching is a year-round activity in Oregon, but the best time to go is during Whale Watch Week (in either winter or spring), when some 20,000 gray whales migrate just offshore.
Time to go to California! Killer whales frequent Monterey Bay more often during the spring, mostly because they are searching for the gray whale pairs. The Monterey Submarine Canyon is like the Grand Canyon, but underwater. These exceptionally deep waters near the coast allow deep-water species of whales and dolphins, along with shallow water species, close to the shore for an abundant amount of whale watching. Depending on the season, there are plenty of varieties to see, from gray, blue, and humpbacks to killer whales and fin and minke whales.
Travel to Dana Point in Orange County for more whale watching fun. Dana Wharf Whale Watching & Sportfishing has plenty of whale watching trips to choose from. They even offer full-day cruises that take you behind Catalina Island, where you can see entire pods of whales! It is not uncommon to see 30 whales. Keep in mind, this trip is for the seasoned boat rider. Most tours last just a few hours, which may be a more comfortable length of trip for those less accustomed to spending all day on a boat.
Another option is to go to San Diego. Flagship Cruises & Events has guaranteed whale sightings—or your money back. Hornblower Cruises & Events is another outfitter. Both set off in the same harbor and offer large, comfortable boats for whale watching.
Taking a whale watching cruise is not as expensive as it might sound—tickets can cost as little as 10 dollars. You can usually bring food and drinks aboard and have the option to buy them on the boat, too. Remember to dress in layers and wear sunscreen. Being out in the open waters can get colder than you think. If you’re prone to seasickness, keep in mind that morning tours usually have calmer waters. Wherever you choose to travel along the coast, enjoy yourself exploring the coastal towns and cities that let you get a look at those beautiful whales!
Sources for this article included: alaska.org, visiscalifornia.com, and oregonstateparks.org.
By Jackie Williams
The Green Thumb
Spring Has Sprung!
Perennials for Beginners
After some hesitation, you’ve decided to let your imagination run wild and plant a garden. Now what? The choices and possibilities are almost endless. All gardeners are basically only limited by two things: space and budget (that includes time and money). Don’t fall into the trap of making a plan that is too ambitious or complicated—you’ll end up spending hours during the week or on weekends laboring in the garden. Be realistic in deciding how much time you really can and want to devote to this task. Remember to keep it fun.
First and foremost, figure out the actual dimensions you have for your precious piece of ground. Next, consider the light. Is your space in a sunny location, a shady spot, or a combination of both? Many plants are designated as preferring “full sun.” This means direct sunlight for at least six hours per day.
Now, consider the soil you already have. Is it sandy, clay-like, or loamy? (Loamy soil is the perfect combination of sand, silt, and clay that gardeners strive to obtain.) Good, fertile soil feels crumbly like cookie crumbs. You can add organic materials to your soil to make it richer if you are unsure of its potential. Organic materials can be grass clippings, coffee grounds, manure, and composting materials. The key here is to not disrupt the soil too much and to till and dig as little as possible. Put the organic matter on the top inch of soil and let the ecosystem take over.
When you’re starting a garden, remember to start slowly—patience is rewarded. Why not begin with a sunny perennial garden? You will get continual blooms all summer and fall as well as an immense amount of pride that you accomplished such enduring beauty. In the Midwest, we often think of May 15th as the last possible date for a hard frost. Occasionally, Mother Nature tricks us with a late frost, but this date is reasonably reliable, so now is a great time to get plants in the ground.
Here are some humble suggestions from experience that are amazing performers and practically guaranteed to raise themselves. Purple coneflowers are a spectacular plant with vivid colors and the ability to rise to three feet. They will bloom from early summer through fall and provide immensely gorgeous blooms for you and the butterflies to enjoy. Coreopsis is a brilliant addition to a sunny setting. This long-season bloomer is a yellow beauty that grows to about eight inches and is spectacular in beds and borders.
Black-eyed Susans are happy, daisy-like bloomers that show off their cheery appearance all season. They also make wonderful cut flowers in arrangements, so you can bring their cheer inside to enjoy for days. Salvia is a hardy perennial that can take the heat and keep on blooming—while some other species may wither in the summer weather, this champion keeps on thriving. Another suggestion for your foray into perennial gardening is the blanket flower. This beauty can grow to three feet and blooms all summer and into the fall. This dramatic, eye-catching flower is also drought-resistant and would be a sensational accompaniment to the other species listed above.
Last, but certainly not least, your perennial grouping will need a splash of greenery brought to you by a blue-green foliage known as Indian grass. Tall grasses always make an extremely attractive impression and will be gorgeous even as the first snow changes the landscape in the winter. Many experienced gardeners leave them standing through the cold seasons, cutting them back in early spring.
When you’re ready for a trip to the garden center, be sure to bring a detailed list. Garden centers can be a daunting experience, and you’ll be tempted to buy plants that are beautiful but are simply not suited for the space you have so lovingly prepared. Set yourself up for success by calling ahead to inquire about availability and sticking to your list when you’re in the store. Some centers may even be offering curbside pickup!
Once your plants are in the ground, it’s time for you to put patience to work. Plants grow at their own pace! In addition to planning and patience, keep in mind that gardening success is also due, at least in part, to trial and error. If a plant absolutely does not thrive in the place you chose for it, simply swallow your pride and move that unhappy plant elsewhere. If, after being given a second chance, the plant still doesn’t thrive, you might have to swallow your pride again and eliminate that plant from the garden. Gardening is a process, and you should look at every planting failure as an opportunity for learning. That’s how experienced gardeners get their experience!
Sources for this article included: thespruce.com, gardenloversclub.com, and backyard boss.net.
By Linda Sutherland
Pet Boarding and Day Care
Selecting the Right Care for your Pet
Being away from our pets can be difficult, but it is sometimes simply unavoidable. Work, travel, and other commitments can make it hard to be there for your animal 24/7. When this is the case, there are some alternatives available for responsible pet owners, including pet boarding and day care.
When you’re out of town and your pet can’t go with you, you’ll need to hire someone for proper animal supervision. One option is pet boarding, where pets stay at another facility overnight. Most boarding facilities require that animal guests are up to date on vaccinations like rabies and distemper. Preventative medicines for heartworm and fleas may also be required. Ask the staff what is necessary at each facility you’re considering for your pet.
Your pet’s veterinarian can be an excellent source of information when it comes time to find a boarding kennel, stable, or facility for your animal. In fact, some vets offer pet boarding services themselves. This option can be beneficial, especially for animals with chronic medical conditions, because your vet will know your pet’s health and behavior history and will be able to respond immediately in an emergency. If your vet doesn’t offer boarding services, the office will surely have a few places to recommend to you.
Different boarding facilities offer different services. Some places might be minimalist in nature (just offering basic food and exercise), while other facilities are reminiscent of a spa for animals (with luxurious private quarters and extensive grooming options). Before making a selection, it’s important to visit each potential facility and ask questions. Make sure the boarding environment is clean and friendly. Make sure you understand what is being offered in terms of exercise and play schedules. Will your pet play with other boarding pets? Also, if special dietary or medicinal arrangements need to be made for your pet, ensure that the facility’s staff will be happy to accommodate them.
Even when you’re not out of town, you might not always be able to care for your pet during the day due to work or other responsibilities. If your pet needs regular care during the day when you’re not available, consider the option of pet day care. It is essentially equivalent to day care for young children, offering structured activities, meals, free play time, and quiet time for resting. Group day care can be especially fun for social and energetic pets who like to play (nicely) with other animals. You’ll know that your pet is being properly tended to and isn’t bored throughout the day.
Whether you plan to leave your animal for a few hours or all day long, it’s important to investigate each potential day care before dropping off your pet. Many locations will allow for an initial assessment, during which an owner and pet can visit the facility and interact with staff and other animals. It’s critical to ensure that staff members are overseeing the animals at all times and that there are enough staff members to adequately supervise the number of animals at the facility. It’s best to choose a day care that enforces sick days for animals who are under the weather, as pets can catch illnesses, too. Pet day cares should be insured and bonded, in case of an accident at the facility.
Prior to attending day care, pets should be well trained and should answer basic commands. Some facilities may even ask that obedience training be completed before accepting an animal. There will also be policies in place that require animals to be current on all vaccinations. Be sure to ask staff members for their facility’s specific requirements.
Like children, animals can be nervous about entering a new environment. It might be wise to ease your pet into day care by starting with shorter stays. This allows pets to adjust and become familiar with their new surroundings. It also helps them understand that their owners are indeed coming back for them. Once a pet is enrolled in day care, some facilities will offer live cameras or even provide photo updates throughout the day. This can be a great perk for owners who like to be kept informed.
Circumstances in life make it impossible to be around your pet at all times, which means that hiring proper pet care is essential. However, trusting someone else with your fur baby can be overwhelming. Research and referrals are the keys to finding the perfect match for pet and owner. In the end, finding the right pet boarding or day care facility can make life much easier. It’s a great feeling to know that your pet will be in good hands even when you’re not around.
Sources for this article included: merckvetmanual.com, vcahospitals.com, and hillspet.com.
By Brie Christensen
When Love Means Confrontation
“Laughter is poison to fear.” —George R.R. Martin
Over the last 60 days at Women’s Edition, we have had to think outside the box regarding how we communicate with our readers, our customers, and our coworkers. Roxy Orr, our Operations Manager, who has been with Women’s Edition for 32 years, started a daily ritual of making sure that we laughed…I mean, belly laughed…every day. We stuck to that routine most days. In my humble opinion, it has been the highlight of the entire experience.
“At the height of laughter, the Universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”
Laughter changes the energy in a way that nothing else can. When we laugh, our brains switch into a new mode—a mode where we get our minds off of the worry, off of the concern, and off of the drama.
A lot of what we have laughed about had a basis in the challenges that many of us are experiencing and trying to survive. The isolation, the restrictions, the moms and dads who are now working from home—being teachers and trying to work remotely at the same time.
“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”
Now, I would guess that some of you may feel that laughing during this challenging time may be inappropriate. I respect your opinion. What I have learned from this experience is that everyone has a very definite idea of how they should deal with all of this. I have become mindful of the importance of respecting one another. This is a good thing. The heightened awareness of how we can help others get through their challenges, while still respecting our own beliefs, is vital to moving ahead.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” —Mark Twain
My wish for each and every one of you is that you have found something that…at the very least…brings a smile to your face. I hope that you have been able to focus on what you have to be grateful for. I hope that you have been able to connect with family and friends…via Zoom, FaceTime, or sitting on the end of a driveway just to say hi. I hope you and your loved ones are well, and I hope we all realize that we will get through this. Just look for that something that makes you laugh. Things will be better…they really will be.
“Fear itself is not the impediment to your joyful life,
but fear is pointing at the impediment to your joyful life.
And just as the feeling of fear is within you, the
impediment is within you also.” —Abraham/Hicks