Stinking Cute Really Is The Best Description

Stinking Cute

If you’re a regular reader you’ll recall that my dog Riley was diagnosed with an oral mast cell tumor the day after Christmas last year. I was devastated not just because of the highly probable outcome of death but also because we had subjected him to two unnecessary surgeries based on a misdiagnosis from multiple veterinarians.

When Riley died in January, I gave everything dog-related to the local animal shelter; my car was packed full. I swore I would never own another dog because the loss was just too overwhelming.

Seven months later a dog with the royal-sounding name Tatiana showed up at the SPCA shelter where I had begun volunteering. She had just been surrendered a few days before the hot August day my daughter Laura and I stopped by to walk and socialize some of the shelter dogs.

A little beagle mix of three, she acted more like a puppy. I could feel the little tugs on my heart as this full-of-life dog ran to fetch the ball as often as Laura would throw it. But I tried to stand firm since I didn’t want to take another chance of loving a dog.

Had it not been for Laura’s insistence to go back a second day to play with Tatiana, as well as her urging me to take a set of adoption papers with me, I do believe our home would still be dogless.

I’ve heard stories through the years of people whose dogs have died who then go out and replace their pet with as close to the original as can be found. And others have told stories that their new dog was as different as possible from the dog they had lost.

We renamed her Grace, and she is quite different from Riley. While he was quiet and aloof, she is rambunctious.  A friend kept her today while my husband and I took a day trip. The friend texted me shortly after we dropped her off. “She is so stinking cute!” That made me smile since it’s my own catchphrase for Grace.

This dog has an inexhaustible exuberance for life. I believe that’s the quality I admire most in Grace. Like most other humans, I can slip into a physical and mental laziness without even realizing it’s happening.

But when I see Grace make her own fun by tossing a stuffed animal from the bed and then pouncing on it, or throwing her head back to release a ball from her jaws so she can chase it, that reminds me that it’s good to move and play and have fun.

Loving is a risk. People can disappoint us, betray us. Our children are supposed to outlive us and pets are not. Sometimes the ones we love (human and animals) get too sick or injured to recover and leave us before we’re ready to let them go.

But love outlasts death. Love helps us find our way back to discover joy in a changed life.

Love is definitely worth the risk.


Article on why owning a dog is beneficial to your health

Article on loving your dog more than you love other humans


Hook, Line, and Stinker


If you go online at all, I’m sure you’ve seen the hooks to get you to click on a story. You know…hooks like these:

See for yourself why What’s-his-face’s last video is cringeworthy!

Remember What’s-her-name? You won’t believe what she looks like now!

When this photograph went viral, it sparked major reactions!

Experts insist that you need to STOP doing THIS right now!

In my head the hooks, said aloud, would be in the over-the-top perky voices of female early morning newscasters. May I just say those voices get on my last good nerve? I usually leave the room when my husband insists on watching early morning television. The news people want us to believe that anything else that’s happening in the world is much more exciting than our plain vanilla lives.

One titled something like “20 Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing!” tricked me into reading it the other day. I stopped at #3 because the myths were so ridiculous that no one in his/her right mind would ever have believed any of them.

My friend Stephanie announced this week that she deleted the Facebook app from her phone. Since she is a social media consultant, this was a brave step for her. Facebook is important to her business and to her clients’ businesses. So she hasn’t given up Facebook; she simply went from being tied to it as close as her phone might be to checking it just once a day on her laptop. Stephanie says it’s a great relief and that she feels a sense of freedom. And PS – she hasn’t missed anything of earth-shaking importance.

If you want to have more time in your day for what’s really important, just stop clicking on these trickster headlines. Although when I was searching for headline examples on MSN, I did come across the nutritional value of eating a banana every day and it’s included here. Just because!

If You Don’t Eat a Banana Every Day, This Might Convince You to Start

One More Star In The Sky

One more star in the sky

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Until I saw the tiny blurb in a magazine at the doctor’s office, I had never heard of Avicii. If you’re over 35 and have never been in a dance club, chances are the name is unfamiliar to you as well.

But I’ll bet most of my readers would recognize the 2013 hit So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over. At 124 beats per minute, it’s one of those catchy tunes that gets you bopping along to the beat. Released as a single from Avicii’s debut album True, the song charted at #1 in 22 countries and sold over four million copies.

Avicii was the stage name of a young Swedish man named Tim Bergling. His career strikes me as unusual. He wasn’t a singer, but a musician, record producer, and a DJ in the genre of electronic dance music. So his albums—all credited to Avicii—were a collection of his songs sung by other people. For instance, Wake Me Up is sung by Aloe Blacc, who along with Avicii and Mike Einziger, wrote the lyrics.

His career skyrocketed early and bright and burned out. His first record release was in 2009, but he had already retired from touring in 2016, having suffered for several years from health problems related to excessive drinking. Acute pancreatitis in 2014 led to the removal of both his gallbladder and appendix. Prescribed pain killers became a problem for him as well. He continued to endure poor mental health, anxiety, and stress. He took his own life on April 20, 2018.

According to an article on, Beyond his exhaustion, it seems Avicii suffered from a kind of social anxiety, which was greatly exacerbated by the demands of fame. “I don’t think he knew what it takes to be as successful as he became,” the director says. “He was never comfortable as the center of attention. He felt stardom is something that human beings have made up. It’s nothing real.”

Avicii wanted to retire from the stress of touring well before he actually did. I watched one video where his manager was going through the list of touring events, and you could see Avicii/Tim just looking at him and saying things like, “I can’t do it. It’s causing me anxiety.” When Tim did actually cancel the tour, the manager is heard saying, “He doesn’t understand the value of money.”

After his death, his parents issued this statement:

 “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who traveled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”

I remember a moment in a long-ago high school health class when the discussion centered on mental health. The teacher said, “Everyone has a breaking point and sometimes the dividing line isn’t very clear.” That has stayed with me all these years.

I’m going to repeat this reminder: PLEASE…if you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). This is free, confidential support that’s available 24/7/365.

Life is precious. Please seek help if you feel you are in a hopeless situation.


So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

Documentary on Avicii


You Don’t Lose Weight By Eating Donuts

Eating Donuts

Image courtesy of Barbara A. Lane on

If we’re personal friends on Facebook, you probably saw this post of mine from June 7:

This is not an event I had on my calendar. Indeed, the only reason we ended up at Duck Donuts in Bristow, VA that morning was simply by chance. Honest.

I haven’t always been a huge fan of donuts; really, for most of my life, I could take them or leave them.

The saying goes the older we get, the wiser we become. So if you are on the younger side, dear reader, let me impart some knowledge to you.

Wisdom Point #1: Losing weight becomes more difficult the older you are and (on the same thinking trajectory) gaining weight becomes much easier. Sadly, I decided I actually like donuts around the time the “harder to lose/easier to gain” stage kicked in.

Wisdom Point #2: We are what we eat. And that’s why eating donuts makes us round and fluffy. The hole in the donut’s middle represents the hole in our heads if we refuse to believe that donut eating poses a major threat to staying at a healthy weight.

I don’t believe there is one single positive aspect of a donut. At least with pumpkin pie or apple crisp we’re getting the benefit of some fruit. And we have to cross our fingers that the blueberry muffin on its way to our table is absolutely loaded with nutritious little balls of purple plumpness so that we don’t feel as guilty.

But donuts? Nope, sorry. The site lists these ingredients for a Dunkin Donuts glazed specimen: DONUT: Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast. And then less than 2% of fifteen other items.   Whoops…almost forgot the glaze ingredients: Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor.

ALL of this is why I think the next book written on healthy eating to control weight should be titled, “You Don’t Lose Weight by Eating Donuts.”

So imagine my surprise when I found two sites that mention both donuts and weight loss.

There is actually a diet called “the donut diet.”  The founders are not specifically pushing donuts. The idea behind this “diet” is that for two weeks you pick one food item you love and that would never be on a normal diet’s “allowable” list. Along with whatever else they want you to eat, you’re allowed one serving of this item per day and you have to agree not to feel guilty about eating it. This is supposed to “reset” your relationship with food.

Umm…no comment.

Then there’s a guy who swears he ate 500 Krispy Kreme donuts in two months and lost 20 pounds. It seems his wife worked at Krispy Kreme for a short period and employees got to take home a dozen donuts at the end of each day. The man ate all twelve each day.

He says he lost weight because when you eat a dozen donuts, you’re not hungry for another 24 hours. This concept sounds seriously dangerous so please do NOT try this!

As long as I’ve made you smile or laugh, I have no regrets about writing a blog post on donuts. Although I am sorry if you have a sudden longing for one.

In the profound words of Homer Simpson, “Mmm…donuts!”


The Donut Diet

Story of the man who ate 500 Krispy Kreme donuts and lost 20 pounds in two months


Transformation Gameplan


Photo by Foundry on

Someone had posted this quotation without attribution on Facebook last week.

Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.

The quotation resonated with me in a powerful way so I researched it.

Embarrassingly enough, it was from a book I had already read. I say embarrassingly because not only had I read the book within the past two years but also I had written about it in this post from June 24, 2017.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst contains many gems of wisdom. In my mind, the Inspiration / Information / Application / Transformation quote has to be one of the most universally applicable pieces of advice ever.

Consider these three scenarios:

You’ve been stuck in a horrible work environment for several years. A friend gives you some great advice about a new job-hunting website. He also gives you a pep talk about your many outstanding characteristics. So you have the information and you’ve been inspired. BUT unless you apply yourself and actually go to the site and do the work of finding new employment, you’ll still be in that life-sucking job this time next year.

You read an article about getting back into shape after the age of ___ (fill in the blank). The article is saturated with easy-to-understand information about the many benefits of exercise at any age. Not only that, but there are links to free online videos to help you perform the movements correctly. “I can do this!” you shout. But neither your body nor your health will be transformed unless you do the work.

You’re interested in deepening your faith and/or spirituality so you sign up for a study group at church. The group is amazingly supportive and the book being used is rich in fascinating information. But life happens. You skip a homework assignment, then you don’t find the time to read the next chapter, and decide to drop out. No application = no transformation.

We watch TED talks, read books, research online, and attend classes and seminars that inspire us and provide the information needed to take whatever step we’re considering taking. But when we just let that information seep out of our brains and allow the inspiration to languish, it’s as if it never even happened.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers and holding up myself as a sterling example of accomplishment, uh, no. Sorry to disappoint you.

In the past, I’ve stayed too long in a joyless job. I’ve worked my way into shape and lazily watched it slip away several times. I purchased the book Crafting a Rule of Life two years ago and haven’t gotten farther than Chapter 3.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Attributed to various people including Buddha.)

And Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

In my case, often I WRITE best what I most need to learn.

So thanks, Lysa TerKeurst, for the words of wisdom. I promise this time I’ll remember them.


About the book Uninvited

Let’s Give The Hands A Hand


Photo by Di Lewis on

A friend was recently lamenting that her hands look older than her face does. She’s in her late 50s. “How did THIS (holding up the backs of her hands to me) happen?!”

We may not consciously think much about our hands. But our hands are out there, taking the brunt of sun exposure, wind, cold weather, hot weather, cleaning solutions, dish liquid, and water. Women especially may have excellent routines for taking care of our faces, but our hands are most often forgotten.

Even if we take preventive methods to care for our hands, aging by itself wreaks havoc with them. To quote Amos Lavian (found of Dermelect Cosmeceuticals), “As you age, the elasticity of the skin on your hands as well as the abundance of collagen begins to dissipate, making the skin on your hands look and feel more fragile.”

It turns out that the skin on the backs of our hands is thinner so it is more prone to wrinkle anyhow. And our hands have fewer sebum-producing sebaceous glands than our faces do. Sebum is the oily stuff that helps keep the skin moisturized. How ironic, right? There are those of us who complain about our faces being too oily, when in fact we could use that extra oil on our hands.

Here’s the advice from experts on keeping our hands looking their best:

  • Use sunscreen on the backs of your hands and wrists year-round. Remember to reapply throughout the day. Although I do this now, I wish I had known that advice when I was 20. Currently, I use Aveeno Protect+Hydrate Face, SPF 50 on my hands.

  • Choose a hand cream that contains ceramides. These are molecules that help to retain moisture by creating a protective barrier. CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream (about $11) is a good choice.

  • Use a mild exfoliant once or twice a week. I am crazy about the product Aveeno Positively Radiant 60 Second in-shower Facial. So twice a week after I apply it to my face, I use it on the backs of my hands and my elbows. A minute later I massage it off as I rinse.

  • Use a hand cream just as you’re getting into bed when you know it won’t be washed off. Because my nails currently need some attention, I just started using Vaseline Healthy Hands Stronger Nails with Keratin. Too soon to tell any effect, but it feels luxurious going on and I really like the calming fragrance.

You’ll notice I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on any of these products. They can be bought at most drug stores or places like Target or Walmart.

My husband says that should I ever be noted for offering advice on a subject, it would be this: There isn’t much that a good cream can’t cure. Since I do sound rather zealous on today’s topic, maybe he’s right. Please don’t tell him I said that.


A Real Simple magazine article on the topic

Sticking Out Your Neck (or Head) Isn’t The Best Idea

Neck forward head

Image by Amandad on

Sometimes when I’m driving, I suddenly realize that my head is sticking out in a forward position, almost as if there is something stuck on the windshield that I’m trying to see. I’ll pull my chin back in and straighten my posture. That lasts for a few minutes until I realize I’m doing it again.

It turns out that I’m not alone in this bad habit.

The condition is called Forward Head Posture and driving is only one of the areas where it becomes apparent.

Several experts have commented that this is becoming nearly an epidemic since the effect has origins other than driving. Typing, whether on a phone or keyboard, and texting are huge causes. Looking down while reading or scrolling on a phone also causes trouble. Even reading a book with your head tilted down is problematic.

Correct posture would have our ears positioned directly above the shoulders with our shoulders back and our chests open. This is the neutral position where the head’s weight is resting on the cervical spine. Here’s a good analogy: think of a golf ball resting on a tee, perfectly balanced.

Have you ever thought about the weight of your head? It turns out that the average human adult head weighs around ten pounds. The brain accounts for approximately three pounds, then we have the skull, the eyes, the teeth, the facial muscles, and the skin that holds it all together.

Consider a bowling ball. The lightest one weighs 6 pounds and the heaviest legal bowling ball weighs 16 pounds.

Yes, you have a mid-sized bowling ball being carried on the top of your spine.

So as I incorrectly hold my neck and head forward, my cervical spine has to support an increasing weight. Some spine experts say that for each inch the head is held forward, an additional 10 pounds of weight is added to the burden of the cervical spine. This causes many physical problems when some muscles in the neck and upper back are forced to overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the shifted-forward head.

Mayo Clinic states that forward head posture leads to “long-term muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis, and pinched nerves.”


Letting our heads lurch forward typically also has effects elsewhere. We hunch up our shoulders and round our upper backs which just adds to the pain and stiffness.

And newer research shows that poor posture not only impacts our physical health but also our mental health such as our mood, memory, and feelings of stress.

I am going to work on correcting this bad posture habit in myself. Like anything else that we want to change about ourselves, the awareness that we’re doing it is the very first step.


One chiropractor’s suggested exercises to correct the problem

NIH article on rounded shoulders and forward head position

Information from article on poor posture in general


Color My World

Color my world with snow

Photo by Norma Thatcher

My spot of Virginia had an end-of-winter snowfall on Friday. The temperature was just right to produce picture-perfect snow; every single tree branch and bush was deliciously and thickly coated in white. The soggy marsh that’s supposed to be my yard was painted a pristine pearl except, of course, for the tracks of Mr. Fox who came by to see what I had left out for him.

Winter can be so dreary. The brief interlude of snow made everything bright again—for one day. Now we’re back to the blah sameness of grey.

I know Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real illness, a type of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause is unknown but it’s believed that reduced sunlight is a major factor. I’m wondering if it’s not just the diminished light but also the lack of color that depresses people in the bleak winter.

According to the website, there is an Eastern medicine field called Color Therapy. While it’s not recognized as valid in the West, some people swear by it. The site says, Color therapy has been around at least since the time of Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed in the power of light and used different colors of light to promote healing. Color therapy has continued to be important in some cultures. Even in Western societies that tend to prefer modern, institutionalized medicine, natural healers have continued to use colors to help people improve their physical and emotional health.”

What if rain actually looked like this card by American Craft?

Color is important to me. I rarely wear neutral shades any longer, and when I do, you can count on sparkly jewelry or a bright scarf to offset it.

Seeing designer all-white kitchens in magazines makes me break out in a sweat. To me, these look more like a sterile operating room instead of a home’s kitchen. I can never envision a family cooking, baking, doing dishes, leaning against the counters laughing at something in that environment. Well, maybe if they were masked and gloved. I can’t imagine making a mess in an all-white kitchen. The thought of my bright red homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling up and splatting against a white wall is enough to keep me up at night.

Nope. I need my colors.

Do-it-yourself coloring card by American Craft


Color My World song by Chicago

Color Therapy website


This Thing Is A Killer

Sepsis is a killer

Photo courtesy of from Pexels

What do you know about sepsis? Until yesterday I didn’t know much about it, but coming across three articles in a row within a couple days got my attention.

When I get that many messages on a topic, I know I’m meant to write about it.

I realized I’d been hearing of increasing numbers of people hospitalized because of sepsis. Then it struck me that I actually knew a few people who had died of it, but I hadn’t taken the time to find out what it was.

Sometimes sepsis is incorrectly referred to as blood poisoning, but the term for that is actually septicemia so you can understand why they get mixed up.

According to an NIH publication, sepsis “is caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection. The body releases immune chemicals into the blood to combat the infection. Those chemicals trigger widespread inflammation, which leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. As a result, blood flow is impaired, and that deprives organs of nutrients and oxygen and leads to organ damage.”

Massive organ damage can, of course, lead to death.

An article in Vim & Vigor, a publication of the University of Virginia Health System, was one of those recent articles that got my attention. The article began as follows: “Each year, almost 260,000 lives are lost to sepsis—only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths in the U.S.”

How could I NOT know more about the third leading cause of death in the US? I felt like I was disconnected from the world.

Then I decided to fact-check. The half dozen sites I reviewed do indeed show heart disease as the #1 killer at 635,000 people in 2017, with cancer right behind at 598,000. But accidents showed up as #3 at 161,000, chronic lower respiratory issues at 154,000 for #4, and stroke at 142,000 rounded out the top five.

Sepsis was not named in the top five. I didn’t think that UVA could make such a blunder.

Then in further checking the National Institute of Health informational page on sepsis, I found this: “Severe sepsis strikes more than a million Americans every year, and 15 to 30 percent of those people die.”

Hmm…I think I can do that math in my head. 15% of a million is 150,000 and 30% is 300,000 which would indeed place sepsis in the top five. And using the 30% figure would make it #3.

I cannot explain the disconnect as to why the “leading death causes in the US” sites don’t talk about sepsis.

NIH does state that both awareness and tracking of sepsis are increasing. People are living longer, and the chronically ill and the “elderly” (don’t get me started) are more prone to develop it. But anyone at any age can get it.

Sepsis is sneaky in that it’s not easily diagnosed. Many of the symptoms are common to other conditions: fever, shivering with chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, pale skin, pain, disorientation.

The disease is treated with antibiotics and fluids as doctors try to stop the infection while protecting the vital organs. But NIH tells us that, “Despite years of research, scientists have not yet developed a medicine that specifically targets the aggressive immune response seen with sepsis.”

And the treatment currently offered is expensive, usually involving intensive care stay and high-cost therapy. Again, NIH notes that “The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists sepsis as the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals, costing nearly $24 billion in 2013.”

Certainly, not everyone dies from sepsis, and yet we see that it indeed can be a killer.

Be informed. Gain additional information from the sites below, and for Pete’s sake, take care of yourself.


Center for Disease Control statistics on causes of death in the US in 2017

National Institute of Health informational page on sepsis

Next Avenue article on the death of Patty Duke from sepsis


Take a Deep Breath, Will You?


Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

Raise your hand if you’ve consciously thought about breathing over the last 24 hours. Unless you have a breathing issue or have recently participated in yoga, Pilates, or mediation, you likely may not have given your breathing a single thought.

We take breathing for granted. Our wonderful autonomic nervous system keeps our heart beating and our lungs filling and releasing without any thought or specific effort from us.

But what if we would make a conscious effort to be better breathers, especially if it can improve our health?

The first time I heard about Heart Rate Variability (HRV), I thought surely I misunderstood because it seemed so counterintuitive.

HRV is the slight variation in the intervals between our heartbeats. And get this: the greater the variation, the better. A high variation indicates a state of calm. Is it just me or does that strike you as backward?

Why do we want to increase HRV? An article from Harvard Health Publishing calls HRV “an interesting marker for resilience and behavioral flexibility.”

It helps us deal with stress. It makes us more resilient and flexible in difficult times. Some studies show it lowers our blood pressure.

An article from the National Institute of Health Library says that, “Over the years, reduced HRV has been found to be associated with the development of many cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, chronic heart failure, and myocardial infarction, as well as poorer cardiovascular outcomes in those who already have disease. In contrast, a heart rate that is variable and responsive to demands is believed to bestow a survival advantage.

A survival advantage!  I want one of those.

We can learn to increase our HRV through practiced slow rhythmic breathing for about ten minutes a day. The second link below can guide you through the practice of taking six breaths a minute. Most healthy adults take between 12-20 breaths per minute, so a practice of slowing down, taking just six per minute will feel different at first.

The chart below shows how this works. On the left-hand side is the inhalation breath. Then there is a slight pause. On the right is the longer exhale, also with a pause before you inhale again.

There are various pacers online. If you choose another one, be sure to use one that includes the two pauses and has the exhalation longer than the inhalation.

I’ve included four links because it’s likely a new topic for many of my readers. The first link is Dr. Gevirtz lecturing while a volunteer is demonstrating biofeedback while practicing this rhythmic breathing. While he isn’t the greatest speaker, he knows his stuff.

Obviously, we cannot breathe like this all day long. What I found is that after practicing the breathing pattern for a couple weeks, I no longer needed to watch the pacer. Now whenever I need to be calm, need to reset my thinking, want to “settle down,” I slip into the breathing pattern. When you are able to do this on your own (without a screen), it is a wonderful method for falling to sleep.

Obviously, if you have existing health issues, consult a doctor before you make any changes to your routine.

“Our life is defined by breath. We take our first the moment we are born and our last the moment we die. Our breath is the means by which we are connected to the universe.”  — Dr. Robert Fulford

So yes, please do take a deep breath.


Demonstration & Explanation by Dr. Richard Gevirtz

Respiration pacer 

Harvard article explaining HRV 

NIH Library article