Monday, January 25, 2010

The Power of Half

I've always been one to live simply. Stuff is just....well, stuff. I live in a little house in a fun area in the city. I'm only a few blocks from a couple of lakes, close to downtown, and have lots of great places to walk. I'm a renter with no real desire to own a home. Maybe that is weird in today's world, or maybe it is just that I moved around so much as a kid. Or maybe it is just the free-spirited redhead in me.

I like a warm, comfortable home as much as anyone else. I like my books, need my clothes. But the fact is, I get to a point every so often when I go through what I have and give away what I have not worn or am not using. I hate the fact that something is collecting dust in my house when someone else might really need it. I do not have garage sales, I do not sell it. I give it away in the hopes it will help someone else. I prefer to keep it simple, and to make a difference at the same time. To quote Thoreau, "Simplify...simplify."

I came across a new book recently which is based on a family who took their teenage daughter's suggestion to heart. They sold their home, bought a smaller home, and gave fifty percent of the proceeds to charity. This led to other things....and the story of The Power of Half:
Through The Power of Half, our family set out to make a small difference in the world and ended up transforming ourselves. We found that creating a "half" project was an amazing powerful tool to building deeper connections and trust among us. While the book tells our family story, this site is designed to help you learn more about giving and hopefully to better bond your family, community or any group through a unified sense of purpose.
Let's face it, in a very materialistic world where people compete to have more stuff - bigger houses, fancier cars...maybe we need to remember that old saying of "you can't take it with you." There are actually people who have such a huge accumulation of belongings that they can't park their car in their garage or have to keep getting more storage space.

The truth is, someone with a normal size apartment in America actually looks very wealthy to many other people throughout the world. So, appreciate what you have, give what you don't need or use, and learn to live more simply. Because, seriously, more and more stuff, actually just becomes clutter. Or, as stated in one of my favorite quotes by Steven Wright: "You can't have everything, where would you put it?"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Vow to Get Back to Fit, Part 5

In my continual effort to get back in shape and back to myself, I will continue to make posts and be accountable. After a fall on the stairs (and a hurt foot), this week was my week to get back to it. Unfortunately, I did not do as well as I had hoped this week. I did have a birthday (which I took off), then had a day I didn't feel too well. But the other days I missed just for the plain old reason of blowing it off.

So, in my vow to pay $5 for every missed workout, this week I paid $15. My fiance enjoyed the cash (he is the recipient of the $5), but as always, was supportive and felt bad taking it. But I say a deal is a deal. So, he was somewhat happy about the extra cash in his pocket - me, not so much.

Next week is a new week and I'll get back on track. This time for real. Really.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New MS Drug

So many people with Multiple Sclerosis have to deal with a lack of movement and daily injections. The FDA has now approved a new oral drug for MS that will hopefully be of help for many. According to CNN News:
Two phase III clinical trials of Ampyra showed 35 and 43 percent of patients experienced, on average, a consistent improvement in their walking speed, increasing it by about 25 percent.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, even a modest improvement in walking ability could mean that thousands of people could benefit from the drug.

Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of Research & Clinical Programs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, says the drug can be used by most people with MS. However, the drug is not for people with a history of seizures or people who have moderate to severe kidney disease.

Richert says approval means patients can now skip the compounding pharmacy and get a consistent, exact dosage in a guaranteed time-released formula, which would lower the risk of getting a toxic dose instead of a therapeutic dose.

Drugs work differently for different people, but hopefully this new oral medication will help many in allowing more to be ambulatory and give them back their independence.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hiawatha Yoga

A friend of mine just recently opened up her own yoga studio in Minneapolis. What is cool about this studio is that the caption "yoga and wellness for every body" is actually true. Some studios can be a bit pretentious and can scare people away who aren't as flexible or as skinny or as perfectly posed. The point of this place is that you can learn to be more flexible and be healthier. Yoga is a unique exercise in that it is good for you physically, spiritually, and mentally.

Coming from many years of "I have to work out with weights and swim laps to be in shape," I'm learning that practicing Yoga does a lot for your health. I'm also learning it has been shown to improve balance, and make for a sleeker, more toned body. As Sue, the owner, states "I have really seen a difference in the people who have been practicing with me for a couple of months." Her classes are small, personable, and comfortable - and her prices are reasonable (4 -pack: $36, Drop in: $11).
Mondays: 7:00-8:00 PM
Saturdays: 9:30-10:30 AM
Sundays 4:00-5:00 PM

Intro to Yoga:
Saturdays, 2:00-3:00 PM

Call for 1-1, small group, and yoga parties

Go to to register
Yoga and wellness for every body... so maybe you don't have to look perfect when you first walk in the door, but my guess is that - if you stick with it - you will look, and feel, better when you walk out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MS...And My Vow to Get Back to Fit, Part 4

I'm slowly getting back into workouts after my fall on the stairs. I tried to convince myself it was just a clumsy slip, that it was my natural gracefulness - same reason I never should have been in ballet - but I have the feeling it is more about being a bit unbalanced with the MS.

Stairs, escalators, they all take a bit of a toll on people with MS. We tend to be a bit unsteady at times and sometimes those long beautiful twirling stairs are not quite as beautiful as they used to be.

I don't like some of the symptoms I am having....waking up with numb hands that I can't shake awake right away, trying to walk on my feet and feeling pins and needles, but that is part of what I have. My injured foot seems to be taking a long time to heal too, and the pain is a little sharper on that side.

But I will perservere. Even if I have to start slowly with yoga and Pilates and then incorporate the weights back in. I think my dream of picking up running is out though...with icy sidewalks it is unbalanced enough. But it is also knowing your limitations. There are plenty of other ways to get fit again...once I'm back to "normal" I will also incorporate swimming laps again. Floating seems a bit easier than falling...and the water is much softer.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayers and Help to Haiti

My prayers are with all the people in Haiti right now. A country that was already very poor and struggling, is now dealing with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. On Strong Progressive, there is an excellent list of ways to donate and help out:
There are several ways to send aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti:
What: The quickest way to provide monetary relief to those affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti is mobile giving. By texting a keyword to a designated short code via a mobile phone, a micro-donation of $5 or $10 can be made to aid the millions of people affected by this tragedy. 100% of your donation goes to the recipient charity, and the donation appears as a charge on your carrier bill, standard rates may apply.
Who: There are several organizations that are responding to this urgent need with mobile - giving efforts, including the following:
Text the word "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5
On behalf of the Yele Foundation, the leading contributor to rebuilding Haiti founded by Wyclef Jean
Text the word "Haiti" to 85944 to donate $5

On behalf of the Rescue Union Mission and MedCorp International

Text the word "Haiti" to 25383 to donate $5

On behalf of the Internal Rescue Committee

Text the word "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10

On behalf of the Red Cross in the U.S.

Text the word "Haiti" to 45678 (In Canada Only)

On behalf of the Salvation Army in Canada

When: Please contribute now.
You can also send donations to:
Heart to Heart International [...] regularly sends humanitarian aid to Haiti and just this week shipped $2 million worth of medicines and other supplies to the country.

The organization expects to send more aid in the coming days.

“Haiti is a nation of tremendous need, even before the earthquake struck,” said Jon D. North, the organization’s chief executive officer. “We’re planning to send medicines and supplies that address waterborne and airborne illnesses, as well as minor injuries.”

People can donate financially to Heart to Heart online at or by phone at 913-764-5200.

The organization is also asking groups or businesses to assemble care kits made up of personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, bandages, washcloths and hand towels.

The Salvation Army operates schools, clinics, a hospital, feeding programs, children’s homes and church-related activities in Haiti.

Spokesman Bob Brady said the Salvation Army was committing $50,000 to the relief effort and was preparing for a greater financial commitment along with providing food, water and other emergency supplies.

The organization is accepting donations for the relief effort at or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769).

Please keep everyone there in your prayers and send any help that you can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rest in Peace, Miep Gies

I was an avid reader as a kid - and as an adult, for that matter - and one of the books that touched me the most was The Diary of Anne Frank. It was an example of the horror that the Jewish people went through at that time. When I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, we went by the house where she and her family had been hidden for so long. It was a skinny, tiny structure and they were in a tiny annex of the place.

My Uncle Bill was a solider in the first U.S. Army unit that marched into Dachau and was shocked by the absolute human tragedy of what they saw in just one concentration camp. All these years later, he still will not talk about it. His work with many rescue operations over the years, including the Salvation Army, was sparked by the need to always continue helping people and how dangerous prejudice is.

Anne Frank's diary and papers were protected for years. Her father, Otto, survived the war and had the diary published - which, of course, became famous. An incredibly mature young girl, one can hardly imagine the pain she faced. The entire family was wiped out, except for her father, along with approximately six million other Jews at the time. It is a horrible part of history.

According to BBC news, "Miep Gies, the last surviving member of the group which helped protect Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis, has died in the Netherlands at age 100."

She and other employees of Anne Frank's father Otto supplied food to the family as they hid in a secret annex above the business premises in Amsterdam.

Anne's diary of their life in hiding, which ended in betrayal, is one of the most famous records of the Holocaust.

It was rescued by Mrs Gies, who kept it safe until after the war.

Miep Gies died in a nursing home after suffering a fall just before Christmas.

Speaking last year as she celebrated her 100th birthday, Mrs Gies played down her role, saying others had done far more to protect Jews in the Netherlands.

She and her fellow employees kept Anne and the seven others supplied for two years, from 1942 to 1944.

What a giving, humble woman. This is someone who truly deserved to live a long life, and really made a difference. May she rest in peace and may her memory live on.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Planes in the Middle of the City on Lake Calhoun

In a funny news item today, I drove right by Lake Calhoun today and somehow missed this. In a lake surrounded by traffic on all sides, walkers and bikers on the paths, and perhaps even a couple of ice houses in the middle of it, there are two small planes sitting on it today. According to the Star Tribune:

Two small airplanes have landed on frozen Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis for a lunch Monday afternoon and are parked there awaiting federal clearance for takeoff, authorities said.

Park Police Capt. Robert Goodsell said that the two single-engine planes are sitting on very thick ice on the north end of the urban lake, and both pilots were ticketed. The planes landed about noon on one of Minneapolis' most famous bodies of water and went to eat lunch nearby, Goodsell said.

"The pilots are cooperative ... and contrite," the captain said.

A Federal Aviation Administration official was on his way to the scene to size up the situation before the planes can take off, Goodsell said. That clearance was expected later this afternoon.

City ordinance says that the landing or taking off of aircraft of any kind is prohibited from park land without first receiving a permit.

Goodsell said the city would never grant such a permit unless it were for a special event. He said that while landings on lakes in cities as close as Plymouth or White Bear Lake might be common, planes using lakes as runways in Minneapolis cause too much disruption with traffic and pedestrians.

First of all, I never think of the ice being all that thick there - although it has been especially cold this year. But airplanes? When the lake isn't frozen over, I've seen it full of many things...windsurfers, canoes, and sailboats. But, to see two planes sitting there, that is a first.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Vow to Get Back to Fit, Part 3

After a little fall on the stairs, and a very bruised up right foot and toes, I am back to the workouts this week. Slowly at first. Perhaps with just Pilates at first until the foot is really better. I seriously thought my big toe was broken and it is still hard to walk without a limp, especially once I slip on boots and go out in this crazy cold weather. But, back on track...

And, on the cold note, it got up to 17 degrees today. It actually felt warm after temperatures hovered below zero for what seems like forever. And the temperature is supposed to keep climbing all week until we hit (gasp!) the lower 30's! It will seem like a heat wave!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kale...Who Knew?

While on the radio show yesterday, I learned a few things. One of which is how great Kale is for you. Being a vegetarian, you would think I knew this. And perhaps I've had it in things before, but never just raw and never to purposefully eat a lot of it daily.

The following is from one of my fellow authors, Dr. Terry Wahls. On her website she not only talks of kale and other vegetables and fruits for brain health, she also gives some great recipes as well. In this particular section, "What You Eat and Do Not Eat Affects Your Brain," I found a lot of information that is good for anyone, with or without MS. Here is just a portion of the section:

"The likelihood of acquiring a disease affecting your brain has steadily increased in the last 100 years. Furthermore, the age at which these problems are being diagnosed is steadily dropping. This includes the neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Multiple Sclerosis. It also includes psychiatric disorders like depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity, autism, antisocial, and conduct disorders.

We are finding a variety of genes which are associated with each of these diseases. Yet, not everyone with the incriminated genes, get the disease. There a number of environmental factors, such as infections, toxins and nutrition. Of the three, our nutrition is the one which the individual can most easily control.

The brain is dependent upon mitochondria for energy. The efficiency of ATP production and the burden of toxic free radicals created during the generation of ATP are dependent upon the available B complex vitamins, coenzyme Q 10 and antioxidants. In addition, the brain needs omega 3 fatty acids for the cell membranes and to create healthy myelin, the insulation around the nerve cells. If the mitochondria are not healthy, the brain is stressed, and less healthy. If the myelin is not healthy, then thinking is slower, and impulsivity greater.

The brain however is more plastic than we realized, and has more healing power than has been appreciated. Providing intensive nutrition is unlikely to be harmful, and will likely be beneficial over time. While supplements have been studied – and found to be helpful, it is important to note our clinical understanding of nutrients is still limited. It is likely that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of different compounds which are helpful to our mitochondria and the trillions of cells which make up our bodies. Therefore, foods, rich in micronutrients, are always preferable to relying on vitamins and supplements."
Hmm....I think I not only got a little reinforcement on what I already know about nutrition, but I also found even more importance in certain nutrients - besides finding a new staple in kale!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Authors on The Exchange

Tomorrow The Exchange will be talking to three authors from the book "Voices of Multiple Sclerosis," Jessica Lipnack, Dr. Terry Wahls, and myself. Fellow author Jessica Lipnack, did a great post on it in her blog, Endless Knots:

"Voices of MS" authors on The Exchange, Fri, 1PM EST--@IPRTALK

Ben Kieffer-TJ-06Photo of Ben Kieffer by Tom Jorgensen (thanks!)

Please join me, along with two other authors who contributed to Voices of Multiple Sclerosis, on Iowa Public Radio's The Exchange with Ben Kieffer, tomorrow, Fri, Jan 8, 2010, at 1 PM ET (GMT-5) for an hour-long live show. Here's the copy from the IPR site:

Ben Kieffer talks with individuals who have offered their compelling stories in the new book, 'Voices of Multiple Sclerosis'. The book offers candid, heartfelt, and inspiring testimonials of 40 diverse individuals who have been affected by the crippling disease. Among the guests is Dr. Terry Wahls of Iowa City, who overcame secondary progressive MS through intensive nutrition and exercise coupled with electrical stimulation.

In addition to Terry, whose courageous story, "Telling the World," of revealing her MS to her medical colleagues while maintaining an active clinical and teaching practice, is worthy of its own book, and me (my original essay, "Feeling Numb," from which the one in this book was extracted), will be a third author, Caryl Hunter, whose story in the book, "Tough Year," still haunts me.

Thanks, Jessica, for a great post. I look forward to chatting with you, Terry, and the team at The Exchange.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Green Room at KARE 11

It is always cool when you can connect with other artists. I had a great time waiting in the green room at Kare 11 yesterday until my interview. There were some noticeable oddities: 1) The TV had a very snowy reception - at the TV station, and, 2) the room was far from green - much more of an unflattering yellow...

The best part was the people I met. The people at the station were great - friendly from the receptionist to the interviewer. But it was inside the famous green room where I met the really interesting ones. There was a very funny comedian from New York, Steve Hofstetter, a great band with a fantastic singer/songwriter, MJ Kroll, and my chance to meet fellow red haired author, Sid Korpi. Sid authored the book "Good Grief, Finding Peace After Pet Loss."

Anyone who knows me is aware of what a huge animal lover I am. My favorite part of my other job in social services is the work with therapy, companion, and service dogs. I had to buy Sid's book on the spot. From what I have read so far, it's a good one. I highly recommend it - and Sid's blog!

She also especially made me feel at ease before going on television. Not only was she nice as can be and funny, but a fellow author. Besides that, she is a fellow red haired author and we have to stick together and support each other...I mean, really, if there is only something like two percent of the population that are redheads, can you imagine the percent that are also authors?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Showcase Minnesota

This morning I had the opportunity to appear on "Showcase Minnesota," a local program in the Twin Cities. The book, "Voices of Multiple Sclerosis," was talked about, as well as my story and LaChance Publishing. The book is available at LaChance, as well as at, and in bookstores.

It was a lot of fun doing the show, and it will hopefully get the word out there about the book and MS. One of the best things about this book is that it is 33 different stories and lots of different perspectives. This is the write-up they put on their website:
Voices of Multiple Sclerosis: The Healing Companion

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn.-- Voices of Multiple Sclerosis:The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength features 33 heartfelt descriptions of people's experiences-from their troubles to their everyday triumphs.

This anthology compiles powerful narratives of those affected by the autoimmune disease including stories by caregivers, doctors and MS patients, the message the writers share is clear: there are always choices to be made and hope to be had.

This morning Caryl Hunter, author of "Tough Year", a story in Voices of Multiple Sclerosis anthology, told us more about it.

Voices of Multiple Sclerosis:The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength is available in bookstores everywhere.

I also mentioned a post I made when the book came out in November. Here is the direct link: "No Longer Silent." Thank you for this opportunity and congrats to all my fellow authors! I hope this is one more step for people to hear our stories, dispelling myths and fears about the disease, and having all of our voices truly heard.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another Great MS Blog

Another great blog I came across from one of my fellow authors in "Voices of Multiple Sclerosis" is Joan Wheeler's "A Short in the Cord." Her piece in the book is really inspiring too. I can't tell you how nice it is to read, again, about a story from someone else who really gets it.

Once again, it is an honor to be a part of a book with such talented writers. Thanks, Joan.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

A very happy, healthy, blessed, and prosperous New Year to all! May 2010 be the best year ever!!
New Year's Eve, Times Square