How to find a trustworthy doctor for a dental implant

Your smile is one of your greatest personal assets. If you’re looking for a way to replace missing teeth and restore your beautiful smile, implants are a terrific solution. Regardless of which tooth (or teeth) you lost, implants can be a great way to create natural-looking replacements that are customized to you.

Vietnam granny with the playful spirit of a child. Photography by Heward Jue

Vietnam granny with the playful spirit of a child. Photography by Heward Jue

The most important step in getting a dental implant is finding a doctor who’s right for you. It’s equally important that you find a doctor who will help you understand the process and what to expect along the way. Dr. Wen Fan, an oral surgeon practicing in Silicon Valley, provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on dental implants:

Who do I go to?

Dental implants typically involve two doctors: your general dentist and an oral surgeon. The surgeon removes the non-restorable tooth (if necessary) and places the dental implant. Your general dentist places the dental crown on the dental implant to make sure it has appropriate esthetic form and function.

The best way to find a surgeon is to have your dentist recommend a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon or find one through the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

How long does it take?

Typically, the oral surgeon will first remove the bad tooth and and place a bone graft. The bone graft helps to strengthen the area so that your dental implant will be secure. The average bone healing time is about 3-6 months. After the bone has healed, a the oral surgeon can do the dental implant. The newly placed dental implant will need 3-6 months to integrate or “fuse” to the bone. Once this is complete, you go back to your general dentist for the crown.

Can I get a “tooth in a day?”

In some cases, dental implants can be placed at the same time as removing the bad tooth. This is considered an “immediate” implant. For front teeth that affect your smile, temporary crowns can sometimes also be immediately attached to the dental implant as well. This technique works very well in the right situations. This type of temporary crown is short-lived and needs to be replaced with a permanent crown once the implant has integrated. Be aware that this technique should only be used in very specific situations.

DensitsHeliumCartoonIs it painful?

Most people have some mild soreness for a few days after the tooth is pulled, but most surgeons prescribe some pain medications to help ease the discomfort.

Surprisingly, most people have less discomfort after the dental implant placement than their initial extraction. Most patients will have some mild soreness for 1-2 days that is relieved with over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen.

How long do dental implants last?

Everyone’s biology is different so there is not guarantee on the longevity of dental implants, but many believe that a healthy dental implant will last a lifetime. Since our current form of dental implants was not introduced until the early 1980’s, there really isn’t enough data to make a blanket statement that implants last a lifetime. A lifetime can be 20 more years for some, but 50 or more years for others. We do have good data that shows healthy implants can last 20-30 years, but will they last longer? Probably, but we just don’t have good long term studies yet.

What should I watch out for?

If you feel that the doctor is pressuring you to get an implant . . . be wary. Successful, established and experienced surgeons love providing their patients with dental implant care, but never pressure them. Choose a doctor who takes the time to educate you and allow you to make an informed decision. Make sure you find surgeon who’s willing to take the time to communicate and allow you to digest the information.

Be wary of dentists (non-surgeons) who claim to have “implant certificates” or “special training” in implants. These “implant training certificates” or special implant training are not recognized by the American Dental Association, and often times consist of a few weekend classes that practice on an animal jaws in a classroom.  Your best bet is to seek out a Board Certified Surgeon.

Be wary of any doctor who tells you that implants are free of complications or that they have not personally had complications. Any surgeon that works with implants routinely will have complications. Granted the complications may not be significant, but they do happen from time to time.

Be aware of discount pricing that’s routinely advertised. Practitioners who offer discount prices may be using knock-off or generic implants. These lesser brands have issues with quality control and long term stability. Find out if the surgeon is using a reputable implant system. The three most popular and reputable implants are: Nobel Biocare, Straumann and BIOMET 3i.

Dental implants are an investment in both your health and appearance. If you don’t feel quite right or comfortable with your surgeon for any reason, get a second opinion. Not all patient-doctor relationships are a good fit, so there is no need to force it. Before making your final decision, you may also want to check for reviews on Yelp or other sites specifically designed for doctor reviews.

Why we need to do doctor reviews on our last doctor visits

A patient sat in a dental chair with a broken front tooth. After discussing the restoration procedure, the patient said, “Before we begin Doc, I gotta know if I’ll be able to play the trumpet when you’re finished?”
“Of course you will,” the dentist said.

“Great! I couldn’t play a note before.” Dental India

Wen S. Fan, DMD, MD

Wen S. Fan, DMD, MD

Dr. Wen Fan obtained his DMD from Harvard School of Dental Medicine and his MD from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He has special interest and expertise in the field of dental implant surgery, orthognathic/corrective jaw surgery and pathology. He practices in both San Jose and Cupertino, CA. He’s fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese. He’s also a diplomate on the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.



When’s the last time you did a check up on your dentist? 



9 Ergonomic tips from a Silicon Valley chiropractor

My neck and right shoulder were really bothering me, especially on days when I spent a lot of time on my computer. That’s when I finally decided to seek professional help and get an ergonomic assessment from Dr. Jackie Casab.

“What kind of computer do you use?” she asked.

“A Mac,” I said. “I often work remotely using my laptop.”

“Apple products are all about style and looking pretty. They have nothing to do with ergonomic correctness at all,” she told me. “When you’re looking at products, don’t pay attention to the brand name. Pay attention to what will work best for your health, especially if you’re working on a computer every day.”

monkey man evolution

monkey man evolution

“Many products are interchangeable these days. Just because you use a Mac doesn’t mean you need to use their mouse or keyboard,” she said. Then she continued on with a number of suggestions on how to improve work posture. Here are the ergonomic tips she recommends for anyone who feels achy or stressed after working on a computer all day:

1. Trash your stylish mouse.

Put the palms of your hands flat on your keyboard. This is called pronation. It’s an unnatural position for your hands and wrists. Now put your palms together. This is a natural position for your hands. It should feel better.

Are you attached to your mouse much of the day? If so, use a mouse that requires as little pronation as possible. Pronation causes irritation to all your wrist and arm muscles.

It can be especially irritating if you rest your wrist on your computer or desktop. Your chances of causing carpal tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, extensor tendonitis or rotator cuff tendonitis are all increased. If you mouse a lot, trade your stylish mouse in for one that’s more ergonomic.

2. Make sure your arms are as close to your side as possible.

When you hold your arms out too far, you put stress on your rotator cuffs. This is most likely to happen with your dominant mousing arm.

Holding your arms out can cause shoulder irritation, pain and disfunction. Eventually it will cause numbness and tingling into the fingers. It can also bring on carpal tunnel-like symptoms. To avoid this, try one or all of the following:

  • Use a keyboard without a 10-key pad on the right side of the keyboard.
  • Alternate your mouse back and forth equally between your dominant and non-dominant hand. Only about 1 in 100 people are ambidextrous. If you’re one of them, this solution may work well, but if not, just realize there can be a learning curve involved.
  • Add a Humanscale keyboard with a clip mouse to your desktop so that you can adjust your keyboard and mouse for custom support and comfort.

3. Relax the angle of your elbows.

Keep the angle of your elbows between 100-120 degrees. If you don’t, you’ll constrict nerves causing increased muscle tightness and irritation which leads to symptoms such as muscle ache or elbow pain that may be construed as carpal tunnel.


How not to sit when working at a computer. See how the angles formed by the joints in her arms, legs and hips are too small.

 4. Sit straight with your shoulders rolled back and down.

When you lean toward your computer, you automatically hunch your back. This increases the tension and irritation in your shoulders.

When your shoulders roll forward, you’re automatically raising them. This tightens the muscles along the tops of the shoulders and increases symptoms such as lower neck pain, fatigue, headaches, and other common stress symptoms.

Next time you feel stressed at your desk, lean back and relax your shoulders. It will go a long way in helping to reduce the tension in your body.

5. Relax the angles of your lower body.

Have a slight downward angle in your seat so that your hips form an angle that’s greater than 90 degrees. Let your feet sit flat on a surface below your chair. Your knees should be at an angle of 90-100 degrees.

Your knees work the same as your elbows. If you close the angle too much, it causes constriction of your nerves and blood flow. This can lead to decreased blood flow throughout your lower limbs which may make you feel cold. It can also cause muscle tightness or cramping.

hold your head up high when working at your computer

6. Hold your head up and back.

Dropping your head angle more than 30 degrees is considered excessive flexion of the neck. This increases the tension across the top of your shoulder and in the muscles in the back of your skull.

It also greatly increases your chance of sprain, strain, fatigue, and the likelihood of getting tension headaches.

7. Make sure your eyes land in the upper third of your screen.

“Laptops are never ergonomic,” Dr. Jackie says. “You can’t possibly have your screen and keyboard in the right place at the same time when using a laptop.”

Make sure your main screen is sitting high enough so that when you’re looking straight out, you’re looking at the upper third of the screen. This works easiest if you have a second screen at your desktop or a detached keyboard.

If your desktop is high, use a keyboard on your lap. Choose a tent keyboard or one with a bit of an ergonomic wave, such as the Microsoft natural ergonomic keyboard.

8. Use the 20-20-20 rule.

Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes when working on a computer. One of the reasons people have sight problems is that their eyes get fatigued from staring at screens too long.

When you look at least 20 feet away it allows your eye muscles to completely relax. This decreases your amount of eye fatigue and your chances of vision degeneration. Set a timer to help you remember to do this every 20 minutes or download a 20-20-20 app.

But what if you work in an office with no window? Plan reasons to get up: take a bathroom break, walk to lunch, take a water break, walk while you’re taking a phone call, schedule meetings outside your office. Keep your eyes and your body active throughout your workday.

9. Get up and move at least once an hour.

If you sit too long, the ligaments in your back and spine start to stretch. They’re like rubber bands. Over time, they can’t recoil as easily. This can cause instability and lower back pain. A lot of people resort to pain medications, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants that mask the symptoms. But because these drugs don’t solve the problem, their physical condition continues to go downhill. Get up every hour to do some stretches, even if you work in a cubicle.

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

If you’re concerned about the cost of purchasing products to support good ergonomics, be sure to ask your employer. In many cases, companies will pay for these tools. In the long run, they’ll have more satisfied employees with fewer sick days. For more information on employer responsibilities and worker rights on ergonomics, see the OSHA guidelines for prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.


Dr. Jackie Casab of Casab Sports & Wellness Chiropractic

“Keep in mind that you can’t put a price on your long-term health,” says Dr. Jackie. ” If you ignore your body and its symptoms, your aches and pains will only get worse.”

You don’t need to change everything at once. It takes time to adjust to new habits. There’s a bit of a physical learning curve. It’s better to make small adjustments over time until you reach a point of feeling comfortable at the end of each workday.

After the initial adjustment with Dr. Jackie, I felt a lot of relief in my neck and back. In the following days, I also began to incorporate her recommendations in my home office and I started feeling immediate benefits.

“Be proactive and health will follow,” Dr. Jackie says.

After years of unexplained spasms and back pain, chiropractics gave Dr. Jackie relief she hadn’t felt in years. And it all happened practically overnight! Her personal experience, along with the amazing benefits that chiropractics had on her horses prompted her to pursue a career as a chiropractor. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.


Dr. Jackie Casab

“That sense of how amazing the world can be when things are working correctly in our bodies is what I want to return to all my patients,” says Dr. Jackie.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of stress and overall tension at the end of each workday, call or text Dr. Jackie Casab at 408-372-8469 for an adjustment and personal ergonomic assessment at Casab Sports & Wellness Chiropractic.


“In addition to these tips, there are many other solutions to consider such as: foot rests, document holders, chair ergonomics, desktop height, rounded edges on desks and more,” says Dr. Jackie.


How to lose 5 pounds in 5 minutes while grocery shopping

I love to go to the farmers market once or twice a week to stock up on fresh organic fruits and vegetables. My husband and I often go to the Campbell Farmers Market together on the weekend. It’s a bustling market, especially in the summer.

Campbell Farmers' Market

Campbell Farmers’ Market

If you want to make the most of your time, you have to work out a strategy, especially in the summer when it’s super crowded. We take the light rail to the market, do all the shopping and get back on the light rail within an hour. I do all the shopping and he oversees the cart. We work well as a team. It makes for a pleasant morning walk and community experience. It’s especially nice when we run into a friend.

Campbell Farmers' Market draws a big crowd in the summer

Campbell Farmers’ Market draws a big crowd in the summer

Sometimes we buy a lot and sometimes we just buy a little. We buy less when: we’re traveling together, my husband has a business trip on his own, or we have a week when we’re planning on eating out with colleagues or friends during the week.

Today was one of those days when we didn’t need to buy a lot, so I suggested that we take our smaller Roadrunner cart which helps me to visually see when I need to stop shopping. Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables at this market are fresh and enticing, so sometimes I buy too much. So today I talked my husband into taking the small cart.

After purchasing about $90 worth of fresh produce and fish for the week, the cart was full, but we still needed to get some oranges. Our last purchase was oranges. I carefully chose each one. My mouth was watering as I thought about how good the fresh orange/peach smoothies would be this week. As I walked up to my husband with a 5 pound bag of oranges, he snarled at me knowing that the bag wouldn’t fit in the cart. I offered to carry the bag, but he insisted on carrying it.

We walked to the light rail station which is only a few blocks away. He pulled the cart and carried the bag of oranges. When we got to the station, we had about a 5 minute wait.

We sat down as usual, glanced at our Samsung smart phones and my husband helped me with an app on my phone. I was distracted by a woman toting a newborn in a baby carrier and pushing a stroller with a talkative little boy who was quizzing his mom with an endless flow of questions:

Mom toting a baby and boy in stroller

Mom toting a baby and boy in stroller

“Where is the train?”

“Can I have a strawberry?”

“Why can’t we walk home?”

“Is daddy home?”

Then we all heard the train bells.

“Why do we have to take the train mommy?”

“Can I get out,” he asked as he tried to escape the stroller.

I suddenly became more concerned about how this young mom was going to get her babies and stroller, loaded down with produce, onto the train.

Normally when I stand up after being seated somewhere, I have a habit of looking back to make sure I didn’t leave something behind: a water bottle, jacket or pair of glasses. But this time I didn’t look back.

After my husband and I boarded and the train got moving, he suddenly realized that the 5 pound bag of oranges was back on the bench at the Campbell Station, but it was too late for us to turn back.

We unintentionally left behind a nice surprise for someone.

At first I felt frustrated not only with this $9 loss, but also with the fact that I didn’t have oranges to go with the peaches I bought for our morning smoothies.

But then I did a little mental gymnastics. I thought about how many times I purchased too much produce and ended up with wilted cilantro or soggy zucchini simply because I bought too much. I also reminded myself how minor this was in comparison to other things that could have happened. Anytime I catch myself going down a pathway of negative thoughts, I shift my thinking in search of a positive outlook.

Although I lost 5 pounds of oranges in 5 minutes, I gained several valuable lessons:

  • Stay focused. Anytime we lose focus, we risk losing things, but more importantly, we risk losing time, one of our greatest assets. This also reminded that I need to exercise more focus in each of my work days.
  • Set reasonable limits. Having too much is almost as challenging as having too little of something. When I buy too much produce or too much of anything, it only adds clutter to my life. It’s easier to navigate through life with just the right amount. If the bag of oranges had fit into the smaller cart, we’d be enjoying those oranges this week. But because I tried to push the limit, we had a breakdown in our process.
  • Try new things. I make an orange based smoothie almost every morning, but there are many other ways to make smoothies. This week I can experiment with different smoothie recipes. Yummly is a great source for locating recipes.

My husband was a bit more practical.

“Next time, we need to take the big shopping cart so everything can fit,” he said. He’s referring to our cart that can carry 150 pounds of stuff.

Martin Shovel

Martin Shovel

The most popular New Year’s Resolution in the US is to lose weight. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid eating things in the first place. I’ve faithfully lived by this habit for many years when grocery shopping. If I don’t want something in my body, then I don’t want it in my shopping cart, and I especially don’t want it in my kitchen. This has been one of my biggest strategies in maintaining my weight within a 10-pound range all my adult life life.

Even at the end of potluck dinners, I always make sure that people don’t accidentally leave behind stuff I wouldn’t feed to myself or my family.

How to get happy now via habits, goals and resolutions

If you want to lose 5 pounds in 5 minutes while grocery shopping, leave behind the stuff you shouldn’t eat anyway. This will help to eliminate all the food-like products in your kitchen. Pay attention to everything you eat.

Most SAD (Standard American Diet) grocery stores sell about 80% processed foods. This is immediately evident when you walk in the store. If it’s in a can, box or bag, take the time to read the ingredients. If they’re full of sweeteners or you can’t understand the words, lose the weight before you ever put it in your body.

If you have the opportunity to take walk or take public transportation to your local farmers’ market, you’ll benefit even more by getting exercise while you shop.

Sick of diets? Film diet plan will help you escape the fat trap

Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul – chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth! Anne Tyler


Dreaming of ways to minimize your allergy symptoms?

If you have sleep issues caused by allergies, it’s a good idea to look for solutions before your minor symptoms snowball into bigger health issues. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways you can strengthen your immune system and combat allergies symptoms such as: sneezing, coughing,  snoring, dry mouth, itchy eyes, runny nose or difficulty breathing.

Sleepy Woman

After having a bad “allergic” reaction to Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress topper, I decided to consult with an expert on ideas for how to make our bedroom a better place to sleep. In case you or someone you care about is sleeping on a Tempur-Pedic product, be sure to check out this post:

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

After I got rid of the memory foam mattress topper, I called Kirsten Flynn of Sustainable Home to ask her to do a checkup on the rest of our bedroom. Before she came to our home she sent me some terrific advice about mattresses. Check out her answer to the following question:

I’m shopping for a new mattress, preferably natural/organic if it’s affordable. Any advice?

Although we had already gotten rid of the Tempur-Pedic about a month or two earlier and our symptoms had drastically improved, I had a gut-feeling that our Gateway Mattress and box springs may need to go as well. It was simply based on some of the symptoms my husband and I experienced since the time we got the bed.

So when Kirsten sent some information about organic mattresses (ones that have not been sprayed with flame retardants), I immediately started searching for a new bed and we even purchased one from The Futon Shop before she came to do the consultation on the rest of the bedroom.

When Kirsten got to our home, she asked a number of questions to understand our lifestyle and what might work best for us. After doing a walk-through, she concluded that the main thing we needed to do was to minimize the accumulation of dust in our bedroom.

We live in a city and we like to keep good air flow through the apartment. She mentioned that this allows a lot of the outdoor air to enter our sleeping space. Although I didn’t think of it as an issue previously, as soon as she mentioned it, I suddenly saw dust everywhere.

Not only is there a lot of dust from the road outside, it’s exponentially worse on the days when the landscapers come through and use their blowers to clear away leaves and other debris. Kirsten mentioned that they cause even more pollution when they use gas-powered blowers rather than electric. The gas powered blowers put out exhaust causing even more harm to the environment, and especially to the operators.

Here are a few tips that Kirsten suggested to help reduce the dust in our bedroom and to minimize some of the allergic reactions my husband and I were experiencing:

Wash bed linens and other textiles regularly

You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of washing your bed sheets regularly. It helps to minimize the risk of bed bugs as well as any allergic reaction you may have to the dust and particles that accumulate on your pillow and sheets.

Keep your window treatments simple, and easy to wash. If you prefer to sleep in a dark environment, buy washable room darkening curtains or blinds that are easy to clean.

Minimize the number of soft surfaces where dust can settle

CD1631CCommon soft surfaces in the bedroom include: clothing, curtains, bed linens, stuffed animals, cushions on chairs or benches.

One of the biggest issues Kirsten found in our bedroom was the fact that my “closet” was out in the open. She suggested that I find ways to cover the clothing. Although we have a small walk-in closet, it’s not big enough for both my husband and me to store all our clothing, luggage, shoes and so on.

InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover

One thing I love about this sort of open rack storage system is that it makes it easy to see all my clothes at once. The shelves are easy to adjust, unlike closet shelves which are usually screwed into the wall. We’ve had this wire shelving garment rack system for years. These sturdy racks break down into flat parts making them very easy to move. But the biggest issue is that they’re completely open.

She suggested that I cover the open clothing racks since each individual clothing item becomes a place where dust can settle. There are many places for dust to enter the room and settle in between the open shelves of the clothes. She suggested that I find a way to cover the clothes better to help keep the dust from accumulating in the clothes.

With a little searching, I found this InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover. It was just what I needed. I also incorporated Sterlite stacking drawers to keep dust off my folded clothes.

Minimize the main source(s) of dust

Some of the common things that increase dust in your bedroom include: pets, children, clothing, shoes, open windows or doors, and possibly even food. You can curtail most of these sources from the inside of your home, but you also need to consider what’s going on just outside your bedroom doors and windows.

off-the-leash-1-dogs in bed

If you’re like me and you like to open your windows, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you have pets, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you wear shoes indoors, you’ll have extra dust in your home.

We all have personal preferences. You may want to keep your windows open, sleep with your cat or wear shoes in your home, but consider making slow changes toward a cleaner sleeping environment.

All my clothes were open to collecting dust and I had a lot of shoe boxes and shoes stacked on top of boxes. Not only do the shoes and their boxes collect dust, but shoes can bring other toxins and bacteria from outside into your home.

Why your home should be a shoe-free zone

Can you begin by making your bedroom a shoe-free zone, for example?

Clean the floor

Kirsten recommends vacuuming frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you have hard surface flooring, you can vacuum up the dust and then wet-clean the floor. Wet-cleaning is the best way to remove all the dust.

Vacuuming also helps to pull dust out of carpeting. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much you vacuum, you’ll never be able to get all the dust out of the carpeting. It settles deep into the carpet and padding, and just keeps getting dirtier over the years.

housecleaning cartoon

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, it’s best to replace it with hard surface flooring. But if you’re renting or don’t have the budget to switch out the flooring, the best solution is to vacuum frequently.

Dust regularly

Dust tends to accumulate on nightstands, headboards, and on less accessible areas such as the tops of armoires, mirrors and door frames.

You have to decide what “regularly” means to you. If you take steps to reduce the sources of dust in your bedroom, then “regularly” can be less often. If you want to spend less time dusting, try to simplify your bedroom as much as possible. Less stuff means less dusting.

When you’re dusting, be sure to use a nontoxic spray. Check EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for ratings on common household cleaners.

Use an air filter

Kirsten suggested that we purchase an Austin Bedroom Machine air filter so that we could keep the air as clean as possible. According to Austin, clean air offers a number of benefits:

  • sounder sleep
  • reduced snoring
  • stop sneezing
  • reduce nighttime allergies and asthma attacks
  • strengthen your immune system
  • reduced coughing and wheezing
  • eliminate dry mouth and runny nose

Buying a quality HEPA air filter might seem a bit extreme at first, but think about it for a minute. Smokers and people who live in highly polluted areas increase their risk of health issues. The cleaner the air, the better. If you have allergies and you’re extra sensitive to air borne pollutants, clean air may be the one thing you need most to help get a good night’s sleep.

I’m a big believer in drinking pure water to flush the inside of my body:

Drink distilled water daily to detox and defend your body

The same logic applies to flushing out your lungs. If you sleep in a clean environment for about a third of the day, it gives your lungs and body a chance to rejuvenate every night.

But what about the cost? A good air filter is a small investment in comparison to the cost of poor health, not only as it relates to your daily productivity, but also to the cost of long term illnesses that occurs because your body doesn’t have the chance to regenerate each night.

Looking for other ways to minimize your allergy symptoms and improve your indoor air quality throughout your home? Check out more suggestions from Kirsten at:

5 Ways to Improve your Air for a More Sustainable Home

Even Rodney Dangerfield believes that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. “I asked my wife, ‘last night, were you faking it?’ She said, ‘No, I was really sleeping.'” Just-One-Liners


AAFA logo - Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

How to have a very happy birthday

In the summer of 2008, my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a week. On one day of that trip we signed up for a 4-wheel drive excursion. Our tour guide was a friendly local guy who agreed to show us around his home town, Palo Blanco. We had no idea what we were about to see.

My husband and I have a tradition of traveling during our birthday week. Our birthdays are two days apart in July, so it has always been a good time of year for us to get away together. Although we’ve gone on lots of great trips throughout the Caribbean, South America, Hawaii and Asia, this 4-wheel drive excursion stands out as one of the life-altering experiences I’ll never forget.

Our guide took us through town where we saw people carrying large loads on their heads. We saw laundry hanging on makeshift fences and children sitting along the roadside.

2008-07-16 at 14-17-28

We saw overloaded trucks passing by people on donkeys. As we got further out of the town, we saw cows, horses and chickens walking along the road.

2008-07-16 at 13-45-38

One of our first stops was at a farm where my husband and I got to ride a donkey. The man with the donkey didn’t speak English, so our guide translated for us and told him that we came here to celebrate our birthdays. Although I was curious to hear what his response might be, I didn’t ask this man what he would like to do on his next birthday.

2008-07-16 at 12-48-51

We saw his family’s home which was built with concrete block and rusty metal sheeting. When I asked if I could use their outhouse, one of the women ran into her home to fetch me some toilet paper. They had so little, but it didn’t stop them from being considerate and generous.

This was the scene from the outhouse. I assure you this is much prettier than the picture of the outhouse. This view is better than any I’ve ever had from any of my bathrooms! I suppose they let the stench fester just so people don’t sit around too long.

When it came time to leave, we exchanged waves with them and they greeted us back with smiles. I wished my Spanish was better.

2008-07-16 at 13-37-40

Next we rode through the hills to an area where our guide’s family lived. When we showed up at his home, we were welcomed by this adorable babe. He invited us to join them the outdoor eating area where his mother offered us some food.

2008-07-16 at 13-03-59

On the side of the house, there was a table and a few plastic chairs in different colors. From here I could see a fireplace where they cooked in the back. I’ll never forget stepping into his family home. It was a small structure made of concrete block. The floor was compacted dirt. There were a few beds and small tables inside. There were some books on a shelf and a few other items scattered around, but it was virtually empty by western standards. Yet his niece and mom seemed so happy.

2008-07-16 at 14-10-44

Next we stopped for a snack. We bought some bananas from a man who was probably about 50. Although he was wearing a New York hat, I doubted if he ever visited the USA or any other country. He told jokes we couldn’t understand. He was proud and at ease.

Some people have a (natural or learned) tendency to chuckle away their disappointments. They enjoy the small pleasures of each day, regardless of what they have or what circumstances come their way. It’s easy to spot people like this, especially as they get older and their smile becomes etched into their cheeks.

Happy people live among grumpy people in both modern and developing countries, I thought. 

Today I have the good fortune of reaching my 50th birthday. It sort of feels like a half-way point, but it also feels like every other day of life: a starting point.

After we ate some bananas, our guide took us to a water hole where locals go to cool off, bathe and socialize.

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Teens were jumping into the water from a cliff. I’m guessing they probably had very few possessions, but they all seemed to be practicing teamwork, challenging themselves, and overcoming their fears while having fun.

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Younger kids watched and kicked around in the shallow water. These kids didn’t have any plastic princesses made in China, but they seemed more content than many kids I’ve seen at Disney.

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When these kids started climbing into our ride, our guide tried to shoo them away, but we told him it was ok to let the kids play. We were having just as much fun watching them!

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On the sideline, one of the older girls was teaching some of the younger ones to dance.

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Several hours later, we ended our trip back at the surf. Our bodies were dirtier than when we left, but our spirits were cleaner. I felt sad and happy at the same time.

Although we only observed everyday life during this excursion, the overall experience planted a thought-seed in my mind and that seed quickly sprouted and began to grow. It’s possible to be simply happy. In the years that followed, my husband and I chose to drastically downsize our possessions and simplify our lives.

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Would you like to lift your spirits on your birthday? Here’s how. Go someplace intentionally to make a list of the things you appreciate most. This experience works best if you put yourself in an environment surrounded by people of a lower socioeconomic situation than you. You don’t need to go to another country to do this. You can probably do this a short distance from your home. I assure you that you’ll gain priceless insights.

Although I first considered writing a post about the 50 people I appreciate most, such as my husband, I quickly realized that it could upset some people who didn’t make the list. That’s why you won’t see family members, teachers or friends on this list.

Make a list: the goal here is to take your age in years and have that number be the same number of items you include in your list. You get to list 35 items on your 35th birthday and 75 items on your 75th birthday, for example. It’s sort of along the lines of a gratitude journal, but even simpler since you don’t need to write full sentences.

Your list probably won’t look anything like mine. We all go through very different life experiences that affect what’s most important to us now. But you may find it interesting to glance at my list to get your creative juices flowing.

If you really want to challenge yourself, try to prioritize the items in the order that they matter most to you. This isn’t an easy task!

I like to ask people on their birthdays what they hope for most in the upcoming year. The most common response is “good health.” Although this is a top priority for me as well, I avoided esoteric things like this on the list. Saying that you want good health is like saying you want to be rich. It’s all relative. Good health and riches are effects and pursuits that are never fully attained.

Here is a list of things I appreciate most in life as my oldometer rolls over to 50. Some of them include links to blog posts I’ve written.

  1. fresh air – Free fresh air: Hurry! Offer ends soon
  2. clean bodies of water – Dear Diary, this is the day I decided to drink distilled water
  3. indoor plumbing
  4. home – Michael Mobbs offers 9 tips for a more sustainable home 
  5. safe and comfortable bed – WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress
  6. community centers
  7. organic vegetables
  8. fresh fruits
  9. whole grains
  10. legumes
  11. spices
  12. sharp knives
  13. heat
  14. recipes
  15. toothbrushes
  16. sunshine
  17. electricity
  18. smart phones
  19. lightweight computers
  20. eyeglasses
  21. lights
  22. comfortable furniture
  23. handbags
  24. farmers markets
  25. wheels (on carts, luggage and so on)
  26. tea – Ten terrific reasons to drink tea
  27. bikes
  28. books
  29. trees
  30. blenders
  31. squat toilets – Why you ought to squat a lot: 7 benefits of squat toilets
  32. comfortable shoes
  33. backpacks
  34. public transportation (subways, light rails, buses, airplanes)
  35. healthy restaurants – Popular restaurant rating apps are missing some stars
  36. green design
  37. cultural diversity – WARNING: Old people and frogs may trigger culture shock
  38. documentaries
  39. plants
  40. refrigerators
  41. clothes made with natural fabrics – Choose natural fabrics over synthetics
  42. washing machines – Laundry study shows Americans have few hangups
  43. nonprofits
  44. music
  45. jokes – Jokes for your friends who are sick and tired
  46. lifelong learning – Tips on aging for all ages: more museums, less food
  47. henna
  48. photos
  49. art
  50. mirrors

Once you start making your list, you’ll see that the things you like most (nouns) tend to be the things that give you the opportunity to do the things you like to do (verbs) with the people you like to be around. So you could easily continue on with a list of the things you like to do, for example.

If you decide to make a list each year on your birthday, it would be interesting to save them and see how they change over time. What’s most important to you when you’re in your 30s will surely evolve by the time you’re in your 50s or 70s.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself each year on your birthday is time to reflect on the things that matter most to you. This exercise is more valuable than acquiring random gifts that clutter your physical and mental space. As you conduct a mental review of how much you have, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that you can get rid of some stuff.

After making my list, I gained clarity about some things I had to let go and some new things I had to put in place in order to accomplish my purpose. This year I realized that I needed to make some improvements in my work area so that I could be more efficient with my writing time.

After you make your list, please let me know what insight you discover.

I wish you a very happy birthday followed by many more happy and healthy ones!

How to make oatmeal when you’re in the shower

Have you been searching for a quick way to make a super healthy breakfast without too much fuss? You just found what you’ve been looking for!

When you make oatmeal on the cooktop, you have to continue stirring it or else it won’t cook evenly and it’s likely to burn. I recently discovered a tool that allows me to hit a start button and then take a shower or go on about my morning routine without any worries. In 20 minutes, just about the time it takes me to shower and get dressed, breakfast is ready.

make oatmeal while you're in the shower

make oatmeal while you’re in the shower

Here’s how you can make quick “old-fashioned” oatmeal that’s just as nutritious as it is delicious. If you love oatmeal, but feel crunched for time in the morning, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make with a VitaClay cooker. I used to make oatmeal on the cooktop, until I discovered the VitaClay Smart Organic Multicooker. Now I always make it in my VitaClay, but I still use my same favorite oatmeal recipe:

Dr. Lorraine’s Oatmeal

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 heaping tbsp steel cut oats
  • 2 heaping tbsp oats or multigrain hot cereal
  • 1 banana, diced (the riper the better)
  • 1-2 tbsp dried apricots (or dates or figs) chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt

This recipe makes one large serving or two small servings. Double or triple it if you want to make breakfast for the family.


Here’s how to make oatmeal in a VitaClay: Place all the ingredients in the cooker. After experimenting with different settings, I’ve found that it works best to cook it for 20 minutes using the soup setting. Select the “Slow Cooking”setting. Click on Hour to select 0 and then click on Minute to select 20. After the 20 minutes are up, the cooker automatically switches into warm time mode, so your breakfast will be warm, even if it takes you some extra time to get to it.


Oatmeal made in a VitaClay turns out with a delectable creamy/chewy texture much better than anything you can make in a microwave or cooktop. Some of the oats do stick to the bottom of the clay pot, so you need to scrape it out with a large spoon or spatula. Don’t worry about the fact that it sticks a little–it adds a terrific texture to the oatmeal.

I like to add about a teaspoon of Manuka honey to the oatmeal and then douse it with some soy milk. If you’re strictly vegan, you can skip the honey or replace it with stevia. If you’d like some crunch or extra protein, add some pecans or walnuts.

There’s no need to wash the VitaClay pot right away. I usually let the ceramic pot cool off while I eat. And then I put it in the sink and add a little water. Later, it washes out easily with a soft brush. I’m so happy with this new time-saving tool for making a great breakfast!

Time-saving tip #1: If you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, mix the dry ingredients together in the evening so that you only add the coconut milk and fruit in the morning.

Time-saving tip #2: You can chop up a supply of bananas on the weekend, freeze them, and pull them out as you need them.

Time-saving tip #3: You can chop up a supply of apricots, dates or figs, keep them refrigerated, and pull them out as you need them.

If you don’t already have a VitaClay, buy one now. It’s an easy way to take one step closer to achieving better health by starting your mornings with a nutritious boost.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power to achieve your fitness goals. This is how you can begin living the life you've always wanted to live.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power to achieve your fitness goals. You can begin today to live the life you’ve always wanted.


Ten terrific reasons to drink tea

This afternoon I went to Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis. I was impressed not only with the number of teas they had to offer, but also with their beautiful display. It reminded me of the many benefits of drinking tea.

June 14, 2014-06-04 Drink Tea Hard Times

Here are ten great reasons to drink tea:

  1. Have your favorite tea anywhere. It’s easy to carry a few tea bags with you wherever you go.
  2. Many teas are good for your health. Check out Health King Enterprise to learn more about balanceuticals.
  3. It’s a great alternative to sugar-filled drinks. Add a little manuka honey or stevia if you want to sweeten your tea.
  4. Some tea blends are natural remedies. It’s an important component of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  5. Tea is easy to make. Just add hot water.
  6. Reduce your grocery bill. Bottled beverages are more expensive than teas.
  7. Save money when you’re eating out by bringing your own tea bag. When you’re placing a food order, most restaurants don’t charge for hot water.
  8. Drinking tea reduces pollution. Tea leaves are lightweight, therefore the distribution has less environmental impact than much heavier bottled beverages.
  9. Enjoy tea with or without caffeine. Drink caffeinated tea during the daytime to boost your energy and herbal tea in the evening to relax.
  10. Minimize your exposure to toxins. Make organic tea with distilled water.

Dear Diary, This is the Day I Decided to Drink Distilled Water

barbara-smaller-herbal-tea-party-new-yorker-cartoonThree old couples were having tea one day. They were all chatting and whatnot when one of the men said to his wife, “Pass the honey, honey!” Getting the chuckles he expected, he carried on. A moment later, the second man said, “Pass the sugar, sugar!” This got a bit of a bigger laugh, so the third man, although not quite as clever or quick-witted as the other two, decided to join in on the fun. He waited for the right opportunity, cleared his throat and then confidently said, “Pass the tea, bag!” AJokeADay

International Tea Masters Association ITMA logo

5 Ways to Improve Your Air for a More Sustainable Home

If there were a good chance that a few basic tips could add weeks, months or years of better health to your life, would you be interested?

“I love my business and I love my clients. I want to tell them what’s most beneficial for them. When my clients make decisions about what to put in their home, they don’t always realize it, but they’re also making decisions that can affect their health,” says Kirsten Flynn.

Following are five suggestions you may never hear if you hire an interior designer. But you will learn about these things if you hire Kirsten Flynn, the principal designer at Sustainable HomeShe describes herself as an interior designer who has “an extra layer of knowledge in addition to the passion for design and product that all designers have.”


Here’s her advice on a few ways to improve the air in your home for a safer living environment.

1. Use zero-VOC paint.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that disseminate from paints and other solids and liquids that contain them. Although you may not notice any immediate health effects, long-term exposure can have a negative impact on your health.

When you’re buying a piece of painted wood furniture, ask about the paint or varnish. If the seller doesn’t know what kind of paint was used, keep looking for other options.

“Anytime you’re making changes to your home, you should enjoy it,” says Flynn, “but it’s equally important to consider the health effects.”

When you’re painting a room, look for low-VOC paints. They’re readily available in most places that sell paint and you can get them in any color. Before you start your next paint project, look for companies that specialize in zero-VOC or environmentally friendly paint such as Yolo.

YOLO paint colors

2. Keep your home as formaldehyde-free as possible.

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Check out the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to learn more about the health effects of this toxic chemical. When it’s in your indoor environment, it becomes airborne. You may not be aware of it, but it ends up in your body when you breath.

When you’re buying wood products, ask if the wood materials are formaldehyde-free. When formaldehyde is in your indoor environment, it affects your indoor air quality. It’s commonly used in glues to adhere things to floors, including wood flooring.

It’s also used in wood furniture and cabinetry. It tends to off-gas over time so if you buy older things or things made of solid wood, it helps to minimize your risk of exposure.

The next time you’re looking for new cabinets, look for a company that cares about the health of their customers and doesn’t use formaldehyde. You can get high end custom cabinets from great companies like Bamboo Cabinets, and you can also find more affordable pieces at companies like IKEA.

BambooCabinets kitchen

If you’re skeptical about the dangers of formaldehyde, consider what happened to thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims who were exposed to hazardous levels of formaldehyde when they were living in temporary housing made by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer manufacturers.

Many of the people who trusted FEMA to help them after they lost their homes, went from being homeless to living in toxic temporary housing. Check out to hear some of the stories about how formaldehyde affected these adults, children and even pets.

3. Keep flame retardants out of your home.

Before you purchase anything that has foam, such as high chairs, upholstered furniture or cushions for chairs in your kitchen, read the labels carefully or check with the manufacturer before bringing these products into your home.

Flame retardants mimic hormones. They can have a long term effects on how the body develops. They can be especially detrimental for pets, children and pregnant women, all of which are particularly sensitive and vulnerable. Children and pets tend to get even more exposure because they’re more likely to breath in dust near the floor or even lick things that have been on the floor.

“Do what you can to protect yourself, but don’t worry about what you can’t control because that will only stress you out and make you sick anyway,” says Flynn.

Arlene Blum is a biophysicist whose research was instrumental in banning cancer-causing chemicals used as flame retardants on children’s sleepwear.  She advocates against Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) and other chemicals harmful to humans. Check out her talk to learn more about some of the health effects of flame retardants:

4. Vacuum often.

It’s best if you can get a vacuum with a HEPA filter. It can help with even ordinary allergies. It helps to minimize your exposure to pet dander and pollen and it can even help to filter out some flame retardants.

Flynn happens to use a Miele vacuum with a HEPA filter, but there are many other good brands that can do the same job.

HEPA filter benefits

5. Use an air filter or purifier in your home.

If you already have a filter on your furnace or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, check the MERV rating. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating is a scale used to indicate the effectiveness of air filters.

It’s best to choose a filter with a rating of 13 or higher to get the most particulates out, but you also need to be careful not to over-stress your HVAC system. A filter with a higher MERV rating can cause your HVAC system to work harder. Check with the manufacturer to see what level filter your system can take.

Free Fresh Air: Hurry! Offer Ends Soon

If your HVAC system can’t accommodate a good filter, Flynn recommends getting an air purifier from a company such as Austin. If you can only have one unit, begin with your bedroom where you can purify the air you breath for about a third of your day.

 Sustainable Home logo

You can’t control everything, but you can take steps to minimize your exposure to toxins when you’re at home,” says Flynn.

Kirsten Flynn works mainly with residential projects in the Silicon Valley area. She enjoys creating functional and beautiful interior spaces. She also teaches and speaks about green building as it relates to interiors.

She was the first recipient of the Green Design Certificate from Canada College. She’s a Certified Green Building Professional. She’s also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Coop America and the American Society of Interior Designers.

kirsten portrait outdoors

In her free time, Flynn enjoys giving tours of the green buildings at Hidden Villa. She is a lifelong environmentalist and artist who enjoys traveling, gardening and pulling out non-native plants in parks.

air quality cartoon

Want more advice from Flynn? Here are a few ways to connect with her:

One final tip from Flynn: anytime you’re bringing consumer products into your home, check Environmental Working Group Consumer Guides to check the safety rating before you make your purchase.

EWG logo

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

About nine months ago, my husband and I purchased two twin Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Topper Supreme Mattress Toppers (that fit well side-by-side on a king bed) at Bed Bath & Beyond. We’ve slept in a number of comfortable hotel beds when traveling and we were hoping to get that sink-into-the-mattress super-soft feeling.

If you own, or you’re considering purchasing a Tempur-Pedic or memory foam product, I urge you to keep reading . . . especially if your children are sleeping on these products.

Over the course of the next several months, my husband developed rashes that started in his torso and progressed to his arms and legs. I was waking up with headaches that got progressively worse. I started making changes to my already healthy diet thinking that maybe I was developing food allergies. I’d often wake up with hot flashes. I brushed this off thinking that it might have something to do with my hormones.

We would sometimes feel stuffy in the morning. When I woke up, my eyes would be irritated and foggy. We thought we might be experiencing some seasonal allergies or sinus issues. My husband and I are quite healthy so I kept searching the web for what might be going on with us.

cartoon sick in bed

Eventually, I noticed that I’d start to feel congested as soon as I laid down in bed at night. I sometimes felt queasy in the morning, but better as the morning went on. And I knew I wasn’t pregnant! I kept Googling for answers to what might be going on until one day, I stumbled upon a number of articles and books on the dangers of polyurethane foam, the very thing we’d been sleeping on for the past six months.

The day I discovered these resources, my husband and I stripped the memory foam mattresses off our bed and within a few days all our symptoms began to fade away.

It had already been more than six months since we purchased these at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I was determined to get the $600+ back for these items that had such a negative impact on our health. I called and explained the situation to the manager. He was very kind and told me that I could return them despite the fact that they were past the return date. I’d been in this store a number of times and I always find the staff to be very friendly.

I sincerely appreciate that the manager approved our return with no hassles, but if the corporation really cared about their customers, they’d get these products out of their stores so others wouldn’t have to go through what we went through. Or worse yet, that others sleep on these for years with subtle, but mounting health effects, only later to hear from their doctor that she or he doesn’t know what caused their illness.

Bed Bath & Beyond executives need to be aware of the affects of their products not only on their customers but also on their employees who are breathing in this stuff for hours when they’re at work. Something this serious should be addressed in their Corporate Responsibility Report.

Bed Bath & Beyond offers a number of useful household products, but when I go in their stores, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. There are a lot of strong odors being emitted from cleaners, plastics and the bedding. I don’t like the odors or the feeling I get when I’m in their stores. And because they’re packed with products from floor to ceiling, the air is especially thick with who-knows-what particulates.

After the experience with the mattress toppers, I’m even more convinced that I should avoid going in Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

Tempur-Pedic has a number of attractive phrases on their website, such as: “your best night’s sleep, what we believe, buy with confidence, and TEMPUR love stories,” but they carefully seem to avoid any promise of providing beds with safe, non-toxic materials. Buyer beware!

Peel the sheets of your mattress and pillows and read the materials on those labels that say:


mattress label

But even if you’re a label-reader, Dr. Robert Bartosh of Pro-Active Wellness & Injury Centre warns that your mattress or mattress topper may contain additional materials or chemicals that are not required by law to be listed on the label. Before you buy your next mattress, take a few minutes to hear what he has to say about the potential risks of memory foam:

CVS recently vowed to stop selling tobacco products because they’re harmful to their customers. It’s time that Bed Bath & Beyond makes the same commitment to pull hazmats out of their stores!

If you’d like to replace your bed, be sure to shop at a store committed to providing all natural mattresses that are free from toxic chemicals, such as Sleep Essentials in Roanoke, VA, or the 100% organic wool mattress from The Futon Shop.


Chemical Sensitivity Foundation logo

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

Do you hate to exercise? What if you could find a way to work out for four hours solid every week and not mind a bit?

Miriam Nuney, a transplant from the flat plains of Illinois, has lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Once the hiking bug bit her, she dragged her husband out with her, convinced the exercise would do them both good. After shedding many pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives, they started inviting people to join them to discover the joys of getting above the stresses that technology can’t cure, but nature still can. Here’s what she has to say about hiking:

Ever go hiking with a group of friends?  There’s nothing like chatting the hours away, huffing and puffing up the hills and skipping along the trails, breathing fresh air, and staying blessedly away from all those handy tech-gadgets and cell phones that seem to be running our lives instead of making them easier.

Hikers on bridge Miriam Nuney IMG_2235

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

You’ve probably even seen hiking venues along your commute route and not even been aware hidden paths are calling for you to tread on them next weekend. I should know. You were me.  And boy was I surprised to find dozens of parks and designated open space areas ribboned with public trails just waiting for me to explore. So I did.

After years of hiking in the hills above California’s famed Silicon Valley, where the burning desire to escape confining cubicles and intrusive technology reaches dire levels, I can assure you there is nothing better for your physical and mental health than escaping into tantalizing wilderness and letting your cares and worries drop away for a few hours.

Hiker in woods Miriam Nuney DSC_0221

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

I’ve hiked with people who’ve achieved significant weight loss (we’re talking forty+ pounds!), recovered from spinal and knee surgeries, reduced to the bare minimum medications for chronic asthma and diabetes, and recuperated from bike and running injuries.

All from simply putting one foot in front of the other–again and again.

Walking is a natural human activity, so . . . if you can walk, you can hike.

Hiking generally means getting out into a large park and walking on dirt trails, usually including climbing hills, and occasionally crossing streams and clambering over fallen tree limbs. Yes, nature has a way of reminding us it has an awesome power we can’t control, but hey–humility is good for the soul. Learning to let go of problems we can’t do anything about is one way to alleviate unnecessary stress.

Hikers crossing stream Miriam Nuney DSC_0352

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

And don’t make any excuses about being too old–or young.  I’ve hiked with 10-year old kids who had more energy than me at the end of the hike, and a frail-looking 72-year old Chinese woman who carried water from her wells at home to keep fit.

In fact, she had the last laugh on us on one of our more challenging hikes at the Pinnacles National Monument in central California. This hike includes clambering over incredibly steep steps carved into a sheer volcanic mountainside, fortunately with sturdy handrails for those of us with a fear of heights. Afraid she might fall and break her hip, we dogged her every stride despite her protests she was “quite capable, thank you.”  

2012-03-10 Miriam Hiking Pinnaccles 058

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

We made it safely back to the parking area for a picnic lunch, and wouldn’t you know it–the youngest in our group slipped on a quarter-inch of low-lying water on the pavement and went down on her hands and knees!

A few minutes later we squished together on a picnic bench. I perched next to her on the very end and crossed my legs, only to find myself teetering off bench and onto the ground. Our Chinese friend couldn’t stop laughing at me. Trail hazards be damned!  It was the modern conveniences that got the better of us.

HIkers checking the trails Miriam Nuney DSC_0322

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

Before you head off hiking, here are ten safety precautions you should follow:

  1. Check the park’s website for trail conditions, maps, and entrance fees.
  2. Bring one friend…or more!  It’s unwise to hike alone.
  3. Estimate your time on trail–generally you hike at half the speed you walk.
  4. Bring 16 oz of water per hour on trail, and bring snacks such as nuts, granola bars and fruit.
  5. Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and socks (jacket and gloves as needed). 
  6. Pack a basic first aid kit with bandages, a pain reliever and any special meds you need.
  7. Hike in the daytime. Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk due to bugs and critters.
  8. Check weather forecasts and be prepared for even the slight possibility of bad weather. 
  9. Pack a spare change of clothes and extra water, and leave in the car.
  10. Anticipate making your way out on your own. Most trails do not have cell phone coverage, so don’t assume help is a quick phone call away. 

hiking cartoon

Don’t let the unknown outdoors stay unknown for long. Get out there and embrace it!  There is nothing more real than getting out into the hills and meeting head-on the challenges of nature and, best yet, overcoming them.

Hiking Group Picture--Miriam Nuney

Photo courtesy of hiker W. Douglas Lamb.

If you live in Silicon Valley or you’re planning a trip in the area, be sure to check out Miriam’s eBook, 101 Great Hikes Above Silicon Valley, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. To join their hiking group at no charge, send an email to For comments or suggestions about this blog post or her ebook, email Miriam directly at

101 Great HIkes Above Silicon Valley by Miriam Nuney s260x420

Book cover photo by Robert L. McQueer.

Tips on aging for all ages: more museums, less food

Would you like to prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s or other diseases? If you know friends or family members who have experienced the effects of these diseases or their treatments, you may be wondering what you can do to help minimize your risk. But you may not have considered searching for the answers in a museum.

My husband and I purchased Balboa Park Day Passes on a recent trip to San Diego. MetLife had a terrific display at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Of everything I saw in several museums this day, this display was the most practical.

DSC_6678 Aging for all Ages MetLife

This contents of this display would make a terrific outline for an adult health education course on how to:

  • maintain the health of your brain, bones, lungs, and skin, or
  • learn how to reduce the risk of common diseases such as Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and cancer.

Did you realize that eating less, for example, may help reduce your chance of disease and extend your life? Here’s some advice from the writing on the red wall.

Less Is More!

Calorie restriction is a diet consisting of 25 to 40 percent fewer calories than normal but includes all the needed nutrients. Research in animals has shown this to have a remarkable effect on reducing disease and the result of aging. 

However, calorie restriction is difficult to do over a lifetime. Scientists have yet to determine how safe it is and to what degree, if any, it will extend our life span. But studying calorie restriction offers new insights into the aging process and the biology of aging that could influence healthy aging as well as provide clues on how to prevent or delay diseases associated with aging. 

To help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, keep your brain active:

Just as physical activity keeps your body strong, mental activity keeps your mind sharp and agile. That’s why it’s important to continue to learn and challenge yourself–whether by learning a foreign language, switching careers or even doing crossword puzzles. 

Regardless of age, an active brain produces new neural connections, the connections between nerve cells that allow these cells to communicate with one another. The new connections help you store and retrieve information more easily, even if your grey matter is topped by gray hair. 

To continue expanding your mind, try these tips: 

  • Take classes. 
  • Read regularly and keep a journal. 
  • Stay up-to-date on technology. Learn about computers and connect to the Internet. Consider using e-mail to stay in touch with friends and family. 
  • Join a book club or other discussion group. 
  • Explore the cultural life of your community. Attend concerts, lectures and plays. 
  • Continue musical or artistic talents or develop new ones. 
  • Volunteer to teach others your skills or knowledge. 

One way to help keep your brain active is to go to museums to learn from informative displays like this. This exhibition Aging for All Ages is funded by ongoing support from the MetLife Foundation Partnership for Lifelong Learning. Additional support is provided by Aging & Independence Services, a division of the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency.

You don’t have to be a MetLife patient or a San Diego resident to benefit from these health tips. This smart partnership benefits not only the organizations who pulled together the display, but also the people who visit the museum.

You know you’re getting older when your energy runs out before your money. AgelessFX

Fountain of Bacon cartoon Diffee

Next time you’re traveling and you’re torn between heading to a museum or restaurant, choose to feed your mind before your belly.

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Why You May Need a CryoHelmet in Your First Aid Kit

What on earth is a CryoHelmet? And why would you want one in your first aid kit?

Dr. Doug Farrago is glad you asked. Here’s what he has to say:

For the past two years I have been consumed with the treatment of concussions. I personally had three bad ones in my own life. My son lost a full year of football after a head injury as well. At that time, his teachers didn’t even give him a break from schoolwork as they would now. I’m glad we’re getting more knowledgeable about head injuries and that public awareness is growing, but my concern is that no new treatment has been added.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD

All we do is keep these kids out of activity and that’s what really drives me crazy. I knew there had to be more we could do. I started to scan the research and found something very interesting. Cooling the brain seems to really help control the damage and help it heal. That is when I teamed up with All-Star Sports to create the CryoHelmet, a portable ice unit for head injuries. 

Study after study I looked at showed that head injuries could be treated with therapeutic hypothermia or icing. The rat studies are phenomenal and the human studies in severe traumatic brain injuries are positive as well. Minor head injuries, of which concussions are a part, unfortunately have not been studied much. That is changing and the CryoHelmet is proud to be a part of it. Until the CryoHelmet came along, there was nothing efficient, effective or portable to use on the field or in research studies. Now there is. 

CryoHelmet may be effective in reducing inflammation from head injuries, lowering body heat and lessening migraine pain.

CryoHelmet may be effective in reducing inflammation from head injuries, lowering body heat and lessening migraine pain.

As the protocols stand today, the athlete is just required to rest. While I believe rest is crucial, I also feel icing the head and cooling the brain has enough healing properties that warrants its use. Why? 

The potential benefits such as decreased brain inflammation and decreased neuronal death, are huge, while there are no known negative consequences. That’s why a few different concussion clinics around the country are already putting the CryoHelmet to use, one of them being Dr. Marc Hilgers.

If your child or grandchild plays a sport that involves any contact, then please look into getting a CryoHelmet. If you’re an athletic trainer or know one at a school, explain why a CryoHelmet (at least one) should be frozen and ready to go at each athletic contest in case a concussion occurs. Encourage them to check out to learn more about the benefits of therapeutic hypothermia for concussions and other head injuries. 

Please like us on Facebook@CryoHelmet and follow us on Twitter@CryoHelmet to help spread the news. This costs you nothing and really helps us out.  As a bonus, we’re posting new information as it comes out, so you’ll be updated continuously on the latest research.

Mike Keefe concussion cartoon

Oh, one more thing. The research on using ice for migraines and insomnia is really impressive as well. Instead of meds, why not try the CryoHelmet? Once again, there are no side effects! If you don’t already have one in your first aid kit, check out the CryoHelmet website to learn why you might want to get one soon.

A man staggered into a hospital with a concussion. He had multiple bruises, two black eyes and a 5-iron wrapped around his throat.

“What happened to you?” the doctor asked.

“Hmm . . . I was golfing with my wife when she sliced her ball into a field of cows. I found a ball stuck in a cow’s fanny. Pointing to the cow’s rear end, I yelled to my wife, ‘this looks like yours.’ I don’t remember anything after that.” JokeBook

If you want to learn more about how to prevent concussions and other sports-related injuries, check out Sports Medicine Institute, Aspen Sports Medicine FoundationAmerican Sports Medicine InstituteNational Center for Sports Safety or other similar organizations dedicated to preventing injuries.

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