Tag Archives: health and fitness

Rapt: Attention and the Focussed Life

I had to return Rapt: Attention and the Focussed Life


 to the library recently, and I finished it just under the (pay no fine) wire.  It’s an excellent read, and I’m considering buying a copy to keep and mark up.  A few excerpts:

According to the under-appreciated mid-twentieth-century psychologist Nicholas Hobbs, the way to ensure this calm but heightened attention to the matter at hand is to choose activities that push you so close to the edge of your competence that they demand your absolute focus.

This would explain my gifted son’s distractibility with his school work.  Most of it doesn’t push him anywhere near the edge of his abilities.

Further on, Gallagher talks about leisure time, reminding us that “evolution has primed us to focus on the thrills of the savannah”.  She explains our tendency to waste time thus:

If left to their own devices and genetic programming, and without a salient external stimulus to attract them, most people go into a mode of low-level information processing in which they worry about things or watch television.

And a final shout out to those of us who revel in our work lives:

If most of the time you’re not particularly concerned about whether what you are doing is work or play, or even whether you’re happy or not, you know you’re living the focussed life. 

I’m putting this one on my Christmas list.

Flu vaccine insanity

Excellent commentary in today’s National Post about the “the stunning amount of misinformation being bandied about” about the H1N1 vaccine.

Joe Schwarcz, Director of the McGill University Office for Science and Society, writes:

No rational person with a plumbing or electrical problem would seek help from a former Playboy centrefold, a comedian who specializes in facial contortions or a retired neurosurgeon. We would seek out a licensed plumber or an electrician. Yet when it comes to immunology, a field more complex than plumbing or wiring, many see no conundrum in being swayed by the rhetoric of Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey or Dr. Russell Blaylock, none of whom are immunologists.

After debunking the vaccine-mercury link, he goes on to comment on the Guillain-Barré symdrome issue:

The anti-vaccine crowd commonly brings up the possible link between vaccines and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare but potentially dangerous neurological disease. That possible connection arose in 1976 when 48 million Americans were inoculated against the swine flu and 532 developed Guillain-Barré. That means roughly 10 cases per million vaccinated. No such relationship has been found with any vaccine since that time, suggesting that there was a problem with that specific vaccine, perhaps bacterial contamination. But here is the important statistic. The flu itself can cause Guillain-Barré — somewhere between 40 and 70 cases for every million people who get come down with influenza. In other words, the risk of getting Guillain-Barré from the flu is 40 times greater than the risk of getting it from the vaccine.

I’m a strong supporter of evidence-based decision-making in medicine.  The next shit-to-hit-the-fan will be about the new guidelines coming out of the US for mammography, an opinion that I have held for a number of years.  It’s already starting in my Facebook news feed.  But it’s hard to convince people in a sound bite that there are downsides to screening.  More to come.

A quiet day

I awoke early this morning with a horrific migraine.  I’m not sure what the trigger was….I once again forgot to turn on the air purifier in our bedroom and I’ve noticed a correlation with morning headaches.  I had a beer, wings, and ceasar salad before seeing a movie last night, and didn’t go to bed particularly late. So who knows.

But I took a Zomig at 4:30 this morning and the acute stage had passed when I woke up again around 7.   But the post-headache body-ache and general feeling of malaise kept me at home from choir and mass today, and I’ve spent much of the afternoon lying on the sofa, reading and napping.

I’m in the middle of Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life


 by Winnifred Gallagher, an important book for those of us who feel scattered and have difficulty focusing.  At the end of the Introduction, Gallagher writes:

Perhaps the most important things I’ve learned are that it shouldn’t take a crisis to show you that your life is the sum total of what you focus on or to make you question the notion that your well-being depends on what happens to you.

The books explains the science behind focus and how we can teach ourselves to live a more focussed life.  It is am important reminder that we have, every minute of every day, the opportunity to make our lives:  that our lives don’t just happen to us.

And so ends Week 2 of NaBloPoMo!

Another important message

A few days ago, I posted a video about the problem with sugar, particularly fructose, and management of weight.  Today, I watched another video of a lecture given at UC Berkeley by award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes.  This provides an alternative hypothesis to the calories in/calories out standard.  It’s VERY compelling watching.  Also available in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health



You can watch the video here.  It’s an hour and a half, but has completely convicted me of important changes that need to be made in my diet and the diets of my family.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth (video)

This is an extremely worthwhile video, even at an hour and a half. Demonstrates some profound truths, and talks about what has gone wrong in our food system and why. The biochemistry in the middle gets a little heavy, but he makes his point.
My family still has some distance to go to reduce these sugars in our diet, but I have some pretty concrete ideas about next steps.

Lupina Lecture: Professor Sidney Callahan

For my Toronto-area readers…

The Lupina Centre for Spirituality, Healthcare and Ethics at Regis College are pleased to host a lecture on November 4, 2009.  Professor Sidney Callahan, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University will present a lecture entitled “Considering Suffering and Caregiving:  A Theological and Psychological Inquiry”.  This free public lecture will be held at Regis College in St Joseph Chapel at 100 Wellesley Street West, Toronto at 7:30pm.

Further information and Prof. Callahan’s bio are here.

Adventures in Dermatology

I took Michael to a dermatologist this afternoon to have her look at a couple of his moles.  We’d been to our family doc and he was unsure enough to refer Michael on, so today was the day.  The mole that I was most worried about (she referred to it as a “fried egg” style) was not worrisome to her.  The other mole, the one that he’s had for years on his upper arm, was deemed “interesting” and she suggested that he have it removed.  We had the option to have it done today so we went ahead.

It was something to see.  She gave him a little local anesthetic, used this long, skinny, cookie-cutter instrument to cut out the mole, injected a little more anesthetic, and then inserted a stitch into the incision.  The mole will be sent to pathology.  He’s to keep the incision covered with a bandage and antibiotic ointment for two weeks when she’ll remove the stitch.  He also needs to avoid strenuous activity with that arm.

I also asked her about a little cluster of spider veins on his cheek, about an inch below his eye. She said that she would try cauterizing the feeder veins, and if it didn’t improve (over the next six weeks), she’d try a laser treatment.  So he had that done too.

We were in and out in 30 minutes and it was a very pleasant experience, unlike the other dermatologist that Alex has seen in the past, who is routinely 45 minutes to an hour late and doesn’t relate well at all to teens.

Things are looking up.

I had my annual physical yesterday, and dumped all my problems on my dear doctor.  It was cathartic, to say the least.  But even more importantly, he listened really well, and responded with kindness, compassion, some proposals, and an invitation to return and talk some more.  

It’s that time of (my) life when lots of women go a little mental.  Or really mental.  I think I’m somewhere in between.  Sometime, over the past year or so, I lost my mojo and I need it back.  Badly.  Life has faded to grey recently, and it’s be a whole lot nicer in kodachrome.

A number of health issues got kinda connected for me yesterday, and we have a plan, doc and I, to go forward towards (my) sanity.  

I think this will become my theme song.  Kodachrome starts at 0:30.  


Update on the injured one…

Further to this incident:  Z has somewhat more movement in his arm, so that’s good news.  He worked at home yesterday and managed to slowly get his shoulder moving a little.  He has recovered some range of motion, but still needs some assistance with things like socks.   He went in to the office for a while today as he has a face-to-face meeting and has some things to bring home before the holidays.  

He has an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow first thing in the morning, so we’ll get further insight into what happened, and what kind of treatment he needs.  My guess is that it will likely be physiotherapy of some sort.  

The “good thing” is that he has booked off until January 5 so that will give him time to rest and recover.  We’ll have a nice relaxing holiday.

Late-breaking news….

While I was merrily singing-along to Tafelmusik’s Messiah at Massey Hall yesterday, Z took the boys to Lakeridge for some winter sports.  He skiis.  The lads snowboard.  

As I was leaving the concert, I noticed a missed call on my cell from Alex who was slated to pick me up at the subway station close to home.  When I called, he said he’d meet me, and that “Dad is waiting for us”.  I asked for clarification and he said “Dad’s at the hospital…he hurt his shoulder on the hill.”.

So, we drove over to the ER and hung with my sweetie while he waited to be seen in Ambulatory Care.

It appears that he tore some ligaments in his shoulder and will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon in the next couple of days.  He’s got a simple sling and has almost no range of motion in that arm.  It’s also hanging kind of funny…it’s as if his shoulder has disappeared.  They did an xray and there is no dislocation.  

As long as he doesn’t move the arm, there’s no pain, so he’s working from home today and we’ll hope to hear from the surgeon soon.