Please forgive this delayed Thanksgiving message. We were in the throws of a floor tiling project in advance of Christmas company and the time slipped away. Although the day has passed, I am reminded by my friend David at Snipers Skate Shop, that we need to celebrate Thanksgiving as a “Mindset…not just one day of the year.” Please take a moment to enjoy and share this message from one of our most inspirational Presidents, Abraham Lincoln:
As some of you may have already figured out, I get a little non-traditional during the holiday season opting for seafood over stuffing, chocolate over cherry pie and tofu over turkey most Thanksgiving meals. Maybe it’s the non-conformist, rebellious side of me that strikes out against the routine of familiar fare. My guess is that we all feel that way on occasion, although there is something to be said for the comforts of tradition especially when we are far from home and loved ones. This year, while I’m still not tempted to prepare a turkey, I have decided to be bold and daring in other endeavors, namely punching up my Thanksgiving spread with pomegranates. Don’t let its quirky exterior fool you, inside this exotic fruit is packed with non-traditional nutrients that are sure to make your body thankful for years to come.
In the past few months, I’ve had the honor to work closely with remarkable Veterans and civilian leaders who fully committed to creating a permanent Veterans Family Center here in Maine. It was the vision of Staff Sergeant, Travis Mills, one of only five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, to have a permanent, handicap accessible camp for Veterans and their families to relax, rehabilitate and rejuvenate among fellow Veterans. This week, Travis retired from his military service and will be moving his family to begin a new life away from the familiarity of 19 months in rehabilitation at Walter Reed, his unit, squadron and fellow veterans. Like many veterans and their families, change can bring exciting opportunities but it can also trigger stress and anxiety especially for those dealing with PTSD.
As teenagers go, I was a pretty good kid. I stayed active in sports, was the editor of my yearbook, acted in theater productions, stayed on the honor role, and was always home by curfew. But, like all good kids, when you fall, you sometimes fall hard. A day after graduation, I told a little lie in order to attend a dinner and a play in the city. By midnight, we had crashed the car in the median after the driver feel asleep behind the wheel. I ended up in the hospital with a severely broken wrist and hand. Beyond my mother’s wrath, I also suffered terrible flashbacks. For years, I couldn’t get into a car without tremendous anxiety and the sound of a gravel road would completely freak me out. It is remarkable how traumatic experiences affect our physical and emotional state and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for our military and veterans. While I won’t presume any fool-proof solutions for the physical and emotional complexities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there are some helpful healthy choices that are easy to incorporate right now that may help alleviate some factors that aggravate PTSD.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an investor, squirreling away my hard-earned lawn mowing and babysitting money in my passbook savings account at our local bank. At a young age I knew the importance of compounding interest and the benefit of investing in my future. The same rules apply to your health — the more you invest in it at an early age, the better return you’ll get on your investment in the future. Are you well-invested? If not, there are some simple investments you can make right now to ensure you’ll reap those healthy dividends.
For nearly a year now, I haven’t watched any news and it is amazing how much I haven’t missed. While I can appreciate the role of the media to keep us informed and connected, I wonder it if sometimes does more harm than good. A snappy headline here and there catches our attention especially, it seems, when it comes to our health. For whatever reason, soy has been much maligned in recent years as a dangerous and harmful food. This week alone, I had two people express their concern over soy and their vow never to eat it. Let’s stop the insanity and get at the real truth about soy.
For those of you who connect with me regularly, you know my passion for our military and our veterans. From the bravery, courage, and inspiring leadership of my amazing veteran husband, Mark Gauger LtCol USAF(ret), to the thousands and thousands of everyday people who have risen up to serve our nation so valiantly, I remain in awe of your service and sacrifice. Recently, working here in Maine with the Travis Mills Project and the expansion of the National Veterans Family Center, I have become acutely aware of the unspoken needs of our Armed Forces. No where is that need more evident than in the tragic death of Marine veteran, Clay Hunt, in 2011. This article is a spotlight on a team who has taken up Clay’s torch to inspire leadership and provide mentorship for our veterans.
Now, I’ve never been one to dream about food but I have to say that after living in New Mexico for a few years working at White Sands Missile Range and Holloman AFB, I developed quite a taste for green chilies. As a meat & potatoes midwestern girl, spicy foods seldom, if ever, made it to my plate. So, it must have been the captivation of the high desert, the thin air, majestic mountain ranges, or even the expansive, clear night sky that drew me into not only the scenery but the culinary delights of the southwest. Little did I know that my indulgence into these potent peppers was a healthy one!
Have you ever had moments in your life when you’ve met someone and you knew that the meeting was more than just coincidental — like fate or faith had something to do with it? Recently, while on a wonderful anniversary trip to New Mexico, Mark and I met a terrific couple whose anniversary is the same date as ours. In just a few short days, we became fast friends and look forward to seeing them again soon. Was it just a coincidence.…or was it something else? There is a saying that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When you keep yourself open to possibilities, it is remarkable how many pivotal people will enter your life at just the right time. Recently, one of those pivotal people in our lives has been Dr. Alfredo Galvez. I thought you might appreciate spending some time with this genetic genius as he answers important questions about your health.
Laughter and fun have always been a theme in my family. After dinner, we often got a case of the giggles and wacky improvisation ensued. From our trademarked moves as the Zucchini Brothers to my youngest brother’s Elvis impersonations, evenings ended with us all in stitches. Last night I found myself in an extra silly mood and spent the better part of the evening laughing to Youtube clips of comedic geniuses like Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams and Steve Martin (three of my favorites). Isn’t it amazing how great you feel after a good chuckle? There’s actually more to it than a well-delivered line. Laughter can help you feel better, live longer, and what a way to go!
I am a sucker for old movies and, speaking of suckers, one of my favorites is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — the original with Gene Wilder. I watched it this weekend and rather than focusing on the river of chocolate (yum!), I paid close attention to the even sweeter message this campy little movie conveyed. You see, the lead character, Charlie, had a vision to win a golden ticket. He held onto that vision and ended up getting everything he had ever imagined. Walking through his wacky chocolate factory where anything and everything seemed to be possible, Mr. Wonka invited Charlie, and us all, to “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.” It made me realize that we have the same imagination within all of us and that paradise may be right in front of us after all.
For as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity for water. Maybe it’s because every state I’ve lived in from the time I was born was near a body of water. From the expansive Great Lakes, the calm shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the rocky coast of the northern Atlantic ocean, I love the water. As a sports enthusiast, water is the one medium you can enjoy year round. Last Christmas, we had the rare occasion to skate on “glass ice” at my parents’ lake home. In college, I lived on the shores of Lake Superior. Chilly for swimming but an incredible snow maker in the winter. Living in Maine, I have even bigger reasons to love the water…I can get lobster year round! For those of you who love surf more than turf and think crab, lobster and other crustacea are rare indulgences, it’s time to put it back on your plate!
Sorry to have missed you last week. My parents were in town for a visit and we had a very full schedule of activities. One thing I notice about spending time with my folks is how many characteristics we share. I love working on projects with my dad as much as I love shopping adventures with my mom. This photo is from a trip I took with my mom to Eastport, Maine — the easternmost city in the United States — how cool is that? I’m fortunate to have amazing parents who are kind, loving, generous, fun and loaded with talent. You may or may not be in the same boat with your folks — the good news is that you have the power to do something about it.
Update: Have you ever had a moment in your life when someone or something changed you forever? Yesterday, I had that moment. In a rustic dining hall packed with veterans, lobster, laughter and an whole lot of camaraderie, I met Travis Mills. His jovial spirit and engaging smile don’t serve to mask the tragedy he’s been through…those traits are who he is and who he has always been. Travis has a divine spark within him which manifests as a burning desire to support, encourage and lift others up especially during difficult times. This is his story of help and hope for fellow veterans and their families.
Last week I had the remarkable opportunity to visit with the First Lady of Maine, Mrs. Ann LePage, at our state’s capitol in Augusta. My mom was the mayor of our hometown for several terms so the idea of someone committing themselves to public service, especially at the local and state levels, has always inspired me. As I walked up to the front entrance of the Blaine House, in the shadow of the Capitol Building, I felt a sense of awe and reverence for those willing to serve. Mrs. LePage is a passionate supporter of our military service men & women as well as military families and veterans. Her commitment along with the vision and dedication of so many military, veterans and civilians has resulted in greater awareness of some remarkable individuals and organizations who support our nation’s finest. In this two part special, I will profile groups whose desire to serve is met with their dedication to make a difference in lives of our veterans and wounded warriors. (Photo: Travis Mills, SSG, US Army, 82nd Airborne)
Like all good Italian families, we had a huge garden when I was a kid. My inventive father cleverly created an outdoor carpet template with holes cut strategically to allow the plants to thrive while keeping the weeds at bay. As a result, our garden was a veggie producing machine! With an overabundance of produce, I learned about 100 different ways to prepare zucchini. Little did I know just how good it was for me and can be for you too.
For most of North America, August ushers in the dog days of summer. Here in Maine they usher in the beginning of autumn — I am not kidding you. Our temps have already dipped and, just yesterday, I saw a maple tree whose leaves were already turning — come on, tree, seriously? It would make sense then that you never find a parked car with the windows cracked this time of year. Actually, it’s not the weather that keeps them shut. Around here, if you leave your windows cracked open, you’ll be met with a seat full of cucumbers, squash and zucchini! Every Mainer knows about twenty ways to use a zucchini and the rest leave a trail around the state. The good news is that these healthy harvests produce some great nutritious dividends as well. Today, we’ll focus on the cucumber.
Have you ever learned another language? My parents made us take a foreign language course in school likely because their parents made them. My dad grew up in an Italian family with relatives who did not speak English so he was exposed to another language and culture his entire life. He was still required, however, to take Latin — uhg! My mom took French in high school and does a great job speaking it today when they travel. My brother took German has maintained his ability to speak fluently. I took Spanish in school and am now teaching myself Italian. It all reminds me of my favorite comedian, Steve Martin, who quipped, “It’s like they have a different word for everything!” While you may not be inspired to learn another language, you may be surprised to find out just how powerful your own words can be when it comes to your health, fitness, motivation and success.
Did you ever see the animated movie, The Incredibles? It’s about a family of superheroes who must keep their super powers secret in order to fit into a suburban lifestyle. Of course, when evil threatens, you can’t keep good superheroes down! My favorite character is Edna, or “E”, a tiny yet extremely high strung designer tasked with creating costumes for “gods” as she described the cast of super heroes she clothed. Her biggest gripe was “no capes” after several super heroes met their demise with tragic wardrobe malfunctions! As kids, I’m sure we all had fantasies about becoming superheroes. Maybe a super you isn’t so far off thanks to the exciting new world of Epigenetics.
After an exceedingly cold and long winter, I promised myself that I would never again complain about summer heat…until now. It is hot and its sticky here already and it isn’t even noontime. In any other part of the country, a hot, humid day is bearable when you can flip on the a/c and chill out, literally. Unfortunately in Maine, the closest thing we have to air conditioning is opening a window. Am I complaining too much? No wonder my thoughts are turning to the tropics. Summer is one of the best times to experiment with tropical fruits that cool you down and improve your health at the same time. Here are a couple you can add to your summer dishes and drinks.