Tag Archives: Happiness

Vitamins for Women: Lay Ladies Lay


Mother hen with chicks02

Image via Wikipedia

Childhood Memories

Image by garden beth via Flickr

My grandpa was a farmer down in southern Minnesota…and his farm in Paradise Valley along the Root River, is the spot of my most cherished, childhood memories.  I loved being there, tagging along with my grandpa and daddy as they did the morning and evening chores, cut hay, harvested crops, and chopped silage.

The dairy barn was an exciting place filled with the sights and smells of larger than life dairy cows and their calves, barn kittens, and hay lofts.

I was specifically warned never to be anywhere near the pig pens, and told dire stories of small children and careless adults– mauled and even eaten by swine herds.

The one place I could go alone was to the chicken coop.  I was given a small pail and told that I could collect all the eggs I could find, and my grandma would make them into breakfast for us when we returned to the house.

Finding eggs was a challenge…my grandma’s chickens were free range birds, only corralled into the coop at night to keep them safe from the occasional fox or owls on the prowl.  So not all the hens obliged and sat on their nests in the roost, many of these barnyard gypsies would casually lay eggs in random spots and walk off without a backwards glance.  It was a grand victory to discover hidden eggs and return triumphant with a pail full of beautiful, smooth, warm, brown eggs.

…Eggs have gotten a lot of bad press over the past few years.  For the longest time they were accused of causing heart problems and high cholesterol…perish the thought of egg yolk passing your lips.

But once again, the pendulum has swung and now studies show that actually, eggs are beneficial for optimal health and weight loss.

First, let’s consider the 2 most popular “villainies” of the egg:

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no significant link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.

New research also shows that moderate consumption of eggs does not have a negative impact on cholesterol. Yup, that’s right: the regular consumption of 2 eggs/day does not affect a person’s lipid profile and may, in fact, improve it. We know now that saturated fat raises cholesterol rather than dietary cholesterol.  Eggs contain 5 grams of fat/egg and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat.

So with those 2 misconceptions out of the way, consider this:

  • Overweight adults who eat 2 eggs for breakfast feel more energetic and lose 65% more weight than those who start their mornings with an equally caloric bagel.
  • Other findings reveal that egg-eaters consume 300 fewer calories per day, adding up to a loss of three pounds per month, due to the fact that an egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids.  The protein just makes you feel more satisfied and less hungry.  “Eggs help level out blood sugar, provide energy-boosting protein and are full of nutrients,” says wellness coach Jessica Smith.
  • Eggs are great for the eyes. According to one study, an egg a day lowers the risk of developing cataracts and may prevent macular degeneration due to the carotenoid content, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin that are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources.
  • Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D.
  • One egg yolk has about 300 micrograms of choline, an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
  • Eggs may prevent breast cancer. In one study, women who consumed at least 6 eggs per week lowered their risk of breast cancer by 44%.
  • Eggs promote healthy hair and nails because of their high sulphur content and wide array of vitamins and minerals. Many people find their hair grows faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they were previously deficient in foods containing sulphur or B12.

I love eggs: hard boiled, scrambled, tossed into egg salad. I’m glad they are being vindicated.

Today, I wax nostalgic in the egg section of the grocery store.  I fondly buy free range, brown eggs, and gladly pay the extra dollar in hopes that this small contribution allows some hen the good fortune to roam at will, being wild and wily, just like my grandma’s birds.

Be healthy, take your women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

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Women Vitamins: Finding Your Voice: the whole is greater than the part


I’m on  vacation in Colorado.  a huge step for me.  I haven’t been on a real vacation in over 2 years, and I can’t remember the last time that I took a vacation all alone.  I dawdled and dithered for a long time before I committed to airline tickets and resort reservations, even choosing a destination was a labor.  I asked close friends if doing this alone was worthy or selfish…I wonder if deep down I thought I didn’t deserve this time just for me.

Then school ended…on a Saturday this year.  It was a hot day in Houston, and I had a flat on the way to the airport.  I was positive I would miss my flight….but I didn’t, thanks to the guys at NTB….and a fast Spot parking van driver, and friendly airline counter servers.

Anyway, landing in Denver was awesome…I was upgraded on my car rental to a Ford Escape (the implications of the name are not lost on me).  Breathing the mountain air as I drove up I70, reminded me of all the things I miss by living in a large urban area.  SPACE…CLEAN AIR….that delicious sense of un-boundedness.

So here I am in Breckenridge.

My first morning started at 2:30 Sunday…yup…was awakened by the yipping of animals unidentifiable to my befuddled brain….I figured it was a local pack of dogs…and I was so ready to complain.  The continued chorus finally forced me up at 5:30.  

And I saw a sight that amazed and compelled me.  4 fox were staving off a wolf, not 200 feet from my deck. They circled and nipped and yipped and worried him, for those 3 hours, until he finally gave up and trotted off.  Later exploration revealed a fox den complete with young kit.  Remarkable, to witness that successful cooperation in the wild.  Of course I did not think of taking pictures until after I had my first mug of coffee in hand.

I thought of our world today, so disjointed, so fragmented….and wondered if we couldn’t take a lesson from these critters.  Nature has made them normally timid and they don’t go around provoking incidents….but they banded together for their common good.  They weren’t necessarily braver but their efforts, each voice,  connected them into a greater force.  Their kit survived, their intruder left, their domain was secure…it was a victory, if only for another day.

Drinking coffee in the early morning, on my deck, with a view of mountain peaks, lodge pole pines, and a local den of fox…. What more could I ask for?  This is my victory.  I found my voice and  took a stand for myself, with the help of friends and strangers along the way, and here I am.

I am savoring each moment, whether in the sunshine, on the road to mountain summits, eating blueberries and bananas by an icy spring creek, anticipating white water rafting tomorrow…. I believe I  hear John Denver in the background…I kid you not….and I am chronicling this journey of my own,  with each picture I take and send on to FB….

I pray you find your voice, stand up for yourself, support your friends and family….together we are so much greater than we are alone.

Be safe, be healthy, take your women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

Mt Quandry, photo by Kersten Conway, WomenVitamins.net

Mt Quandry, photo by Kersten Conway, vitamins for women

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Women Vitamins: To Sleep, Perchance to Live Longer & Better


Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...
Image via Wikipedia

Oh those blissful days of summer. We anticipate more sunshine, more vitamin D,  more pleasurable activities, and possibly less sleep.

We live away from the natural circadian rhythm of light and darkness that ruled our ancestors lives. We are sleeping less, at later times, thinking that we can make it up “some day.”

The truth is, we need sleep and  our body seems to work best with 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep…  We need to sleep during the darkest hours, and we need to sleep regularly.  Contrary to what you may tell yourself, there really is no making up lost sleep.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Americans slept an average of 9 hours, based on available light. Now  the average American sleeps 7.5 hours, a shortening mostly likely to accommodate more working hours or the pursuit of increased recreational and pleasure times.

6 or less hours of sleep falls under the label of sleep deprivation. Although we may get used to feeling fatigued or un-rested, the truth is that sleep deprivation aggravates and accelerates aging and ill-health. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss are common symptoms of an un-rested life.

16 studies involving more than 1.3 million participants who were followed for up to 20 years, has revealed that people who sleep for less than 6 hours each night are more likely to die prematurely.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio, of the Sleep, Health, and Society Programme at the University of Warwick (UK) worked  with the Federico II University Medical School in Naples, Italy. His research found that people who slept less than six hours each night were 12% more likely to die prematurely than those who got the recommended 6-8 hours of rest.

Researchers also found that adults under 40 who typically slept for 5 hours or less each night had a greater accumulation of belly fat, both the “superficial” fat layers just below the skin and the “visceral” fat that surrounds the abdominal organs.  Research suggests that sleep loss alters people’s levels of appetite-regulating hormones — which could  account for the urge to overeat and it’s subsequent obesity.  Cortisol, (a stress hormone that stimulates the storage of fat cells, particularly around the waist area), is also activated by the lack of consistent sleep.

Tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Get regular, daily exercise.  A study by Stanford University revealed that after 16 weeks of moderate exercise, participants fell asleep about 15 minutes earlier and slept about 45 minutes longer.
  • Stop eating after 7PM, and avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars which raises blood sugar levels and inhibits sleep.
  • Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. Protein provides the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin, two components of good sleep.
  • Listen to relaxation cd’s, nature sounds, or white noises CD’s.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and most liquid drinks before bed.
  • Read something religious or spiritual, practice meditation and pray…all these ease the mind
  • Sleep in the dark, unplug electronics with LED red or blue lights, light interfers with the  pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin…even a brief flash of light can disrupt this production.
  • Don’t watch TV before bed, and get your TV out of the bedroom. TV stimulates your brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.
  • During winter months, wear socks to bed. Cold feet affect the quality of your sleep. Wearing socks reduces night waking.
  • Get to bed fairly early.Your body does most of its repair and recovery between 11 PM and 1AM.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, somewhere around 70 – 74 degrees. Your sleep is disturbed if you are too hot.

Sleep well, sleep enough, stay healthy, take your women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

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Women Vitamins: Soap, Soil, and Soul


Making Mud Pies
Image by ‘Playingwithbrushes’ via Flickr

After a long dreary winter, the sun shines bright and hearts are light, deep in the heart of Texas….. Spring is here with the jasmine and roses in bloom, the greening of oak and lawns…. I remember spring days as a child. The joy of being outdoors unfettered by snow suits and boots, mittens and scarves….oh the freedom and pleasure of spring in Dakota.

Making mud pies was an all time favorite sport. Normally, my fastidious mother discouraged gratuitous encounters with dirt. But making that perfect mud pie was an art. Patting that mud into a workable consistency, forming it into the pie shape, using the fore-finger to finesse the edges on that crust….mmmmm.. (I wonder if that is why I love working clay into sculptures and do all my own lawn work?)

I can’t remember the last time I saw a child playing in the mud…..I don’t count my intermediate students who purposefully stride thru mud as players.

I feel sort of sad for them….we are disconnected from our Earth and have lost the cycles of preparing soil and sowing  and reaping.

We don’t put our hands in the soil, we don’t connect with the microbes that support our healthy lives. In fact, we do our best to avoid any and all bacteria, to our own ultimate detriment.

In the art room, kids will ask to go to the restroom to wash their hands. I point at the sinks in our room and say “Ok, wash!” The look at the sink and then at me and say, “But there’s no soap.” I point to the soap bars by the sink, and they look bewildered. Can you believe 12 and 13 year olds are not recognizing soap if it is not in a foam or cream formate?

The most common forms of soap are now anti-bacterial, which sounds great– in theory. But the fact is, we need bacteria. Not all bacteria are bad. Bacteria are fundamental for our immune and digestive systems. We are anti-bacterializing our everyday world, we avoid the Earth; we are cleaning ourselves into poor health and possibly death.

Not only are we targeting bacteria, we are also doing it with a questionable substance. Look at the label on your anti-bacterial soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash,  some common home accessories (plastic dish mats and utensils), towels, and even clothing .  See if you can find a listed ingredient: TRICLOSAN.

Triclosan is a bacterial inhibitor  used since the 70’s. It really works great fighting staph infections. But when exposed to chlorinated water, triclosan converts to chloroform and dioxins.  Chloroform is a carcinogen and dioxins are documented endocrine disruptors. Triclosan is also impacts thyroid hormone concentrations. Triclosan is found in our water supplies.  It kills fish and disrupts hormones in the bullfrog .  It has been found in the urine of 75% of the population, and in 3 out of 5 samples of human milk.

The FDA, aware of triclosan related concerns for almost 40 years, has evaluated triclosan since 2008, and in April 2010, released a recommendation of continued investigation.

A comprehensive analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health indicated that plain soaps are just as effective as consumer-grade antibacterial soaps with triclosan in preventing illness and removing bacteria from the hands.

Alternative cleansing ingredients shown effective include herbs (thyme, oregano), silver and copper ions, and nano-particles.

I say: let’s introduce our children to the fine art of making mud pies.  Let’s put our hands back into the soil,plant our own plants,  and keep our houses clean with Grandma’s organic cleaning methods.

Be happy, be healthy, take the best women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

Soil for the Soul

Reconnecting With Earth

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Women Vitamins: Turmeric vs the Tumor


A while back, I wrote a blog about turmeric, an ancient spice with a lot of modern applications.  You’d be amazed by the vast and varied benefits that turmeric offers.

Turmeric

Image via Wikipedia

Turmeric gets its rich yellow color from the natural pigment, curcumin.  Curcumin has the potential of lowering cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and fighting certain cancers, particularly pancreatic and breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, almost 195,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year, and over 40,000 will die from the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is the 9th most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Pancreatic cancer is initially difficult to detect and it is estimated that roughly 29,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year.

Both breast and pancreatic cancers present in forms of tumors.

Compounds found in spices may reduce the risk of breast cancer formation by stopping the growth of the stem cells that spawn the tumors.

Researchers from the University of Michigan released a study: “Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine” in which they report that curcumin, found in turmeric, and piperine, found in black peppers, decreased the number of stem cells while having no effect on normal differentiated cells.

“If we can limit the number of stem cells, we can limit the number of cells with potential to form tumors,”  Madhuri Kakarala.

The results of the study suggest these dietary compounds could reduce the risk of cancer by targeting stem cells.  While the amount of curcumin and piperine ingested were at doses 20x’s more than would be consumed in a meal, supplements afford a reasonable vehicle for higher dosages.

”The concept that dietary compounds can help is attractive, and curcumin and piperine appear to have very low toxicity.”  Kakarala

Another small study, published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Clinical Cancer Research, was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Curcumin was given to patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.  Although the amount of curcumin found in the blood serum was low, indicating low level bioavailability, several patients did see a decrease in pancreatic tumors.

A 2009 study in German involving the Wilms’ Tumor Gene1, (WT1), showed astounding results.  When curcumin was given with siRNA (silencing RNA that interferes with the gene expression) almost 90% of the WT1 was downgraded. They concluded:

“Targeting WT1 gene expression with siRNA may enhance the efficacy of curcumin to inhibit cell proliferation.”

Turmeric an essential ingredient in curry powder, can also be purchased as a “stand alone” spice.  The rhizome (root) of turmeric has been used for ages in the east (Asia/India) as traditional medicine to help with gastrointestinal upset, arthritic pain, and “low energy”.

I am going to add 2 recipes for turmeric….turmeric tea and golden milk….both are soothing beverages that can calm the mind and the stomach.  Both taste pleasant and you can add honey to sweeten the flavor, if you so choose.

Turmeric Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • lemon (optional)
  • honey (optional)

Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and add ground turmeric. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain into a mug using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  Add honey and/or lemon to taste.

Golden Milk

  • 1/8 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil (organic)
  • honey (optional)

-Boil  Turmeric in about 1/4 cup water for 7-10 minutes – this forms a thick paste, add water as needed, keep stirring

-While this mixture is boiling, bring 1 cup milk & 2 tablespoons almond oil up to a gentle boil

-As soon as it starts to boil, TAKE IT OFF THE STOVE!  (don’t let it scorch)

-Combine the milk with the turmeric mixture

-Add honey (optional) to taste


Stay healthy, take your Women Vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

Turmeric powder 薑黃粉

Image via Wikipedia

This article is purely informational.  As with any new diet or change in health or lifestyle routine, please consult with your physician or health care provider first.
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Women Vitamins- Smile and the World Smiles with You…Longer


Don't give me a fake smile
Image by Jen SFO-BCN via Flickr

I try to smile… a lot…every day…for several reasons:

  1. I like smiling, it reminds me to be happy and to share that happiness
  2. I like being smiled at in return
  3. I think it makes my face look more youthful…I kid you not, go to a mirror smile…look….frown, looked bored or stern…look…smile…reevaluate.  Don’t you look younger?  More interesting?  More like the REAL you?
  4. It alters my reactions….I take things less personally.  I have the, “I grant you my happiness”, nobles-noblige  outlook.

I’ve noticed that as I smile, I am content.  I find myself dwelling on the blessings of my life.  I have a job I love, students spanning the last 20 years who genuinely care about me and seek me out…a nice house, great health….good friends…

Sure, I could make a list as long as my arm about the stuff I don’t have or the things that have been done to me, the wrongs and slights I have endured, the loneliness of being single in a couples world, the pits of aging…on and on… ad nauseum….but why?

When you are truly happy, these negative things are sort of reminders to enjoy the good.

A smile and a kind word can change the day for others as well.  Just greet a teen with a smile and a hug or high-5 and watch the difference in their eyes, in their body posture, and in the rest of their day.

SO-  I was intrigued by a study done and recently released, that hypothesized that a sincere smile, named a Duchenne smile,  reaching not just the lips but also involving the eyes, actually indicates the potential for a longer life.  A Duchenne smile requires the raising of  both cheeks, the corners of the mouth rising (demonstrating contraction of the zygomatic major muscle), and crow’s-feet wrinkles observed around the eyes.  (SEE there is a GOOD reason to love those crow’s-feet!)

Duchenne smilers were half as likely to die in any year compared with non-smilers

Keep that thought in mind when you are frustrated in snarled traffic, in a long line, on hold forever, with your child or your spouse…

Further, 70% of Duchenne smilers lived to age 80, as compared to 50% of non-smilers who survived to that age.

In 2000 the Mayo Clinic released data from a 30 year study of optimists and pessimists, which found that pessimistic patients had a 19% increased risk of mortality over optimists.

On-going research shows that basic emotional conditions, such as happiness and sadness, generate differentially patterned autonomic responses, which then influence physical and mental well-being and longevity.

Emotions affect personalities and life outcomes by influencing how people think, behave, and interact with others. People with positive emotions are happier and have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, and better cognitive and interpersonal skills than those with negative emotions, throughout their life span.

So start smiling…really smiling, ‘cuz that half-hearted smile doesn’t really count.  As that old adage states: Smile and the world smiles with you…and it will– for a longer time…

Be healthy, be safe, take your Women Vitamins and be blessed, Kersten

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