Nothing, By Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer

Photo: Lorie Sheffer

A day dedicated to doing nothing. That is what I proclaimed the day after Thanksgiving to be. After spending time grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up after The Big Day, I wanted to have a day devoted to absolutely nothing. Then I found out that my daughter was scheduled to work on Black Friday and she wanted to know if my grandson could spend the night and the day. Sure, I would be happy to have him, but I was not going to have the energy to entertain.

When Carter found out we would be spending the day together, he was thrilled. He was even MORE thrilled when I told him my Day of Nothing plans. In fact, all he kept talking about on Thanksgiving Day was how he looked forward to tomorrow, the REAL holiday! I hadn’t realized that with school, homework, three nights a week of karate class, trumpet lessons and everything else that makes up his schedule, he was actually looking forward to doing nothing. No plans, no schedule.

It’s great to have goals in life. It’s necessary to be responsible. But it’s also necessary to recharge. We don’t make rest, or sleep for that matter, much of a priority. It’s almost noon, and as I type this, I do so in my pajamas. I’ve been awake for a grand total of an hour, and my kitchen floor shows signs of the apple crumb pie I baked on Wednesday evening. It can wait. It will still be there tomorrow. As for today, I have a grandson, a DVD and a plate of leftovers waiting for me on the couch.

Guest Blogger, Lorie Sheffer: You CAN Teach An Old Dog New Tricks!

Photo: Courtesy of Lorie Sheffer

At some point around the time I hit the half-century mark I developed this sudden fear of becoming a fogy. As in “old fogy”. We all know a few – those crabby old people who refuse to budge in their ideas or give an inch when it comes to anything even slightly resembling change. They live in a rut, doing things the same way day in and day out.

Learning something new or trying something different need not be exotic. Stepping outside of your comfort zone doesn’t have to involve parachutes or grappling hooks. It doesn’t need to be done with the risk of public humiliation, ala Dancing With the Stars.

Today, I finished a project that I am very happy about. I have a sense of satisfaction that only comes with accomplishing something you weren’t sure about.  It all began with a vision of fabric for new kitchen curtains. After endless searching I realized that although my dream curtains didn’t exist, the dream fabric did. I found it one day while randomly searching a vintage fabric website. I thought of the sewing machine sitting in the spare bedroom. In a moment of self assured weakness I ordered six yards, quite certain I could not only make the curtains, but also pillows for my window seat. Not long after placing the order I was filled with self-doubt. I had flashbacks to the day in high school home ec. class when I  ran a sewing machine needle straight through my finger.

What was the worst that could happen? I would end up having wasted money on fabric. But that’s not what happened. Tired but satisfied, I hung the curtains this afternoon and placed the first pillow on the window seat. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

This experience makes me want to try something that I have not had the courage to do: Enter a Christmas cookie contest. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Considering some of the things I have done in life without ever batting an eye, a cookie contest seems pretty tame. The irony of the things I am doing in order not to be an old fogy isn’t lost on me. I mean really; sewing and baking? But then I think of Project Runway and Ace of Cakes, and I realize that everything old is new again!

Self Serving, By Lorie Sheffer, Guest Blogger

Photo: Lori Sheffer

Sometimes we must think of ourselves. It’s hard to do when our main concern is to help others. We are taught early on that putting the needs of others before our own needs is virtuous. We learn that “selfish” is a bad thing to be. And yet if we don’t care for ourselves we really can’t take care of anyone else.

Incredibly, in the last few weeks I have been through a hurricane, an earthquake, a flood and a medical emergency. In fact the flood was the same day as the medical emergency. Days were spent cleaning up our flooded basement and then driving to the hospital. Some days I forgot to eat. Last night I noticed that my hands were shaking and I felt lightheaded. I had been going on too little sleep, too much stress and very little food. I also found the order for my yearly mammogram tucked into the rungs of the stair rails. I didn’t schedule it because I didn’t want it to interfere with my father’s outpatient treatments that required me for transportation.

How stupid to allow ourselves to become rundown and tired, the result of trying to put the needs of another before our own. If we really want to care for someone else, we have to care for ourselves. We have to remember to eat even more healthily, try to get extra sleep, and keep up with our own medications and appointments. Even when stress is high and our appetite is low, foods like hard boiled eggs, cereal bars, peanut butter on whole grain bread or small cans of vegetable juice are easy to grab on the way out the door and can be eaten in the car or stashed in a purse or backpack. When sleep is hard to come by, even a 30-minute nap can be a huge help. I type these words while my eyes are heavy, but a nap awaits me. If I get sick, who is going to step in to take over? Not caring for myself would, in fact, be selfish.

Rhetoric vs Reality By Lorie Sheffer, Guest Blogger

Photo: Lorie Sheffer

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” -Eeyore

When it comes to life expectancy, Japan takes the top spot, with Switzerland  #4, France #10, Canada #11 and the UK at #20. All of these countries have Universal Healthcare, with a few of them also having privatized insurance as an option. The United States, “the greatest nation in the world”, ranks #36 in the world in life expectancy.

The #1 reason for bankruptcy in America is inability to pay medical bills. As of September 2010, there were over 59 million Americans who were uninsured. Roughly 22% of children in Texas have no health care coverage. This is a real problem in the United States, and politics aside, it has to be addressed. It seems more a moral issue than a political issue.

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of rhetoric about the “typical” person who is uninsured. It seems that there are folks who either really do believe, or who for some reason are trying to convince their listeners, that the majority of the uninsured are lazy and/or irresponsible and/or trying to milk the system. They want a handout.

My son is a physician at the hospital in Philadelphia that has the highest number of uninsured patients in the state. I asked him if his patients are lazy people who just want to have the rest of us pay for their care. That is what we hear from politicos and talking heads alike. I wanted to hear the real low down from someone who is actually treating these patients, as opposed to someone who is sitting in a radio station or standing behind a podium. I wanted the word from the front line, so to speak.

The reality that my son faces every day is quite different from the picture that is being painted by those who oppose equal access to healthcare. Yes, there are a few people who would love to grab at any handout they could get. But that is the very small minority. What I hear are stories of people who lost their jobs. People who are trying to work two part time jobs to support their families. People who are doing jobs the rest of us wouldn’t want. They are the folks responsible for us having our dinner brought to our table, for us having clean public restrooms; people who clean up after we leave a concert or a sporting event. They are the person who takes our drive thru order, who carries our new appliances into our homes, who mows our lawn and who delivers pizza to our door. They are the people who can’t afford private health insurance. Blue Cross/Blue Shield runs about $900 a month for two adults. These people cannot pay those premiums, but they earn slightly more than the cut off point for Medicaid. They are the working poor. Some have been laid off from jobs, sometimes after having been employed for years by the same company. Some of them choose putting food on the table for their children over medications to treat their own chronic health conditions. They can’t pay for screening tests like colonoscopies and pap tests and blood sugar screenings and mammograms.

This country has mandatory, universal education. We have public schools, which are funded with a combination of local, state and federal tax dollars.  Private schools are available for those who choose them and can afford them. Really, is public healthcare that different a concept?

Zen, By Lorie Sheffer, Guest Blogger

Lorie Sheffer's Aunt Ruth (left) & Grandmother

“Did you know I’m 100 now? I think since I made it this far I’m going to try for 105.”

My brother was sitting in his regular restaurant/bar last Friday night when he saw two familiar faces. Our dad’s aunt and cousin were getting up from their booth, having just finished their dinner. Dad’s aunt turned 100 years old in January. Although she never smoked and never drank that I know of, she also has some of the characteristics that we are being told do not lead to longevity. She is an “apple” shape, carrying most of her weight in her midsection. She never ran or swam or joined a gym. She eats pretty much whatever she wants, which is mostly Pennsylvania Dutch home cooking. Her mother died at a young age from cancer, and her sister-my grandmother- also died of cancer. Not fantastic genes on that. And yet…… here she is. Not only has she made it to the century point, but also she has a pretty darned good quality of life.

What I’ve always noticed about Aunt Ruth is that she seems to be sort of laid back. I’ve not spent a tremendous amount of time with her, but the times we have spent in one another’s company she always seemed to be calm. She hits me as someone who just takes life for what it is and kind of rolls with it. She enjoys things and doesn’t seem to dwell on the negative. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. There is no question that there is pretty conclusive medical evidence as to the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet. Perhaps we need to add to that the benefits of stress reduction. And the optimism of a 100-year-old lady deciding there is no good reason she shouldn’t shoot for 105.  I’m betting she reaches her goal.